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Posts Tagged ‘Odin’

Odin, Shapeshifter

Clothed in feather and in furs

Walking worlds in wolf’s ways

Wings wheeling over weathered peaks

Slithering snake in secluded paths

Battling berserk in bear’s body

Fang and fury, frenzy and freedom

Wending the way of wilderness

 

Living Religion

January 6, 2014 5 comments

On days like today I make prayers and offerings not only to the Sons and Daughters of Muspelheim, but the Sons and Daughters of Nifelheim.  I smoke to the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits to keep me safe as I go to work.  To keep me on the road.  To keep me safe from harm.  For the snow to be gentle with me, to work with my car.  I smoke for my car, that it carries me well, and gets me safely to my destination.

This is where my metaphoric rubber meets the road.  When I engage with the world I engage with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.  There is no, can be no separation.  If there was, then the cold Ice around me as I walk to my car would not touch me nor inspire equal worship to the Fire I cradle in my hand as I light my pipe when inside it.  If there was truly separation the cold could not touch me in heart, or body, inspiring words that praise the pristine beauty and fierce bite, and the heat would not inspire words or prayer to praise the warmth in my hands or the small flame I put to tobacco to say my prayers.  There can be no separation because the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits are all around me.

Yes, even in something so mundane as starting my car there are spirits: the spirit of my car, the spirits of all those that fill its tank, the spirit of Fire that makes the engine go, the spirits of Earth that form the car, the spirits of Water that lubricate the car, the spirits of animals whose bodies line the cars’ various innards, the tires themselves made from rubber with spirits of their own, the spirits of Ice that keep the car cool in the summer, and the spirits of Air that help to warm my car.  There are Gods and spirits of roads and crossroads, local and large, great and small.  There are Gods to pray to, to worship everywhere one turns, if one but pays the mind and chooses to.  I could split myself into a million millions of me and still not have enough of me to pray to, offer to, worship all the spirits great and small that surround me.  So, I do what I can.  I light the tobacco after a prayer to It and Fire, and smoke and pray to all Who wish to hear to my words, praying to my Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, speaking to the breathing, living Jörð and all Who share this time and space with me upon Her.  I pray to Odin, my Father, through His heiti Gangleri the Wanderer and Traveler to help keep me safe and keep me keen, first among the many Gods I will pray to quickly before I pull out of the drive.

There are the landvaettir all over, some I would call local Gods, such as the rivers that run near town, and Others that live in the heart of parks and Others that live with humans, landvaettir and housevaettir.  There are spirits, vaettir, all around, and though I may not worship Them all (how could I, They are so many?) They all are due my respect as I pass through Their homes, territories, holy places.  I pass what I view as a herme each and every day on the way to work; one of my neighbors has 3 large stones set one upon the other, and there is a spirit there that, when it catches my eye, I nod to in respect as I drive past it.  The ground I walk on is full of life, covered in snow.  The sky is alive with little spirits that twinkle in my headlights, some landing on my windshield, melting from the heat of my car.

There is no place I, or anyone can go where the spirits are not.  I am truly blessed.

Expanding Altars and Changing Shrines

November 21, 2013 2 comments

These pictures were taken back in 2012 when I moved back home.  This was prior to my son and Sylverleaf coming to stay with us.  At the time I lived in the basement, as the entire living arrangement had been changed since I moved out.  I finally had a bit more room to make altars and shrines, and much of my parents’ resistance to such things in their home was gone.  They recognized my need for space to set out devotional space for worship, and I will always be grateful to them for this.

I made an altar to the Gods, a shrine to the Ancestors, a shrine to the Earthvaettir combined with the Moneyvaettir and Warrior Dead, and a shrine to the Animal Spirits.

The Gods’ Altar

At this point in time my Gods’ Altar was still fairly squished, at least compared to how it is now.  It is also a lot more simple; the Gods’ Altar as it is now has a lot more statuary and representations on it, whereas this was me trying to get back to some simplicity.  For example, the Chaos Star got packed away, as at the time I felt I’d had more than what I had needed of that.  The drum I made my journeys with was placed on the Gods’ Altar as I did a lot of journeywork to Their Realms at this point in time with Its help.  There are two chalices on the altar here: the pewter one I dedicated to Freya as our relationship was going very well, and She was teaching me a lot at this time.  That, and the chalice, which, if memory serves I had picked up at a thrift store, had at one point been given to someone as a Valentine’s gift back in 1985.  I found not long after I started using this that anything placed in the chalice would degrade and mold quick, despite repeated cleanings.  It has since been retired from service to any Gods since I can’t get it stop doing weird stuff to the contents within a few hours of being in the thing.

There’s also more prominence to the Valkyries’ representations here, with Brynhilde being directly behind Odin, and another to Her right.  The blue vial to the left of the pewter chalice long contained the last of a Dansk Mjød Viking Blod that I eventually ended up offering that year.  The crystal in front of the altar is selenite, a crystal I and my family still use to cleanse ourselves before some evening prayers.  The Negative Confession is on this altar in front of the vial and pewter mug.

The Gods' Altar 2012.

The Gods’ Altar 2012.

The left side of the Gods' Altar.

The left side of the Gods’ Altar.

The right side of the Gods' Altar.

The right side of the Gods’ Altar.

A closeup of Anpu, Mani, and Sunna on the Gods' Altar.

A closeup of Anpu (center), Mani, and Sunna (left) on the Gods’ Altar.

A closeup of Odin with Sigurd and Brynhilde behind Him on the Gods' Altar.

A closeup of Odin with Sigurd and Brynhilde behind Him on the Gods’ Altar.

A closeup of Freya, Brighid and Bres, Freyr, and Jord/Nerthus' representation on the Gods' Altar.

A closeup of Freya (center), Brighid and Bres (left), Freyr (front center), and Jord/Nerthus’ representation (right) on the Gods’ Altar.

Left to right: Brighid and Bres, Freyr, Jord/Nerthus, Sunna, and Mani, closeup up before the statues of Odin and Freya.

Left to right: Brighid and Bres, Freyr, Jord/Nerthus’s representation, Sunna, and Mani, closeup up before the statues of Odin and Freya.

The Ancestor Altar/Shrine

The Ancestor Altar/Shrine had finally come into being.  I had not been able to have a separate shrine for Them due to space issues, so being able to give space to the Elements as part of the Ancestors was wonderful as well as connective for me.  With this came a sense of connecting not only with Them individually as Elements and Ancestors, but in the space of the altar/shrine itself, each Element having Their own space in the way it is laid out.  This time also marked, roughly, when my Ancestors started asking for semi-regular tobacco offerings.  I started doing smoking offerings in 2009, 2010.  I had long held a taboo in my mind because of my parents’ smoking habits.  The deal I made with Them was that, so long as I was not going to become addicted I would smoke for Them.  So, cigars and cigarettes became part of the Fire area of the Ancestor shrine at this point, but that ended when Sylverleaf, our son, and I, transitioned as a family into the whole of the top floor of the house.

A long shot of the center of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

A long shot of the center of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

The center of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

The center of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

Left side of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

Left side of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.  Leftmost is the Fire area, and next to it, the Water area.

Right side of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

Right side of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.  The Earth, represented by the bowl of stones, and Air, with the incense holder, are here.

The Earthvaettir, Moneyvaettir, and Warrior Dead Shrines

This was the second shrine I had set up for the Earthvaettir and Moneyvaettir; Their previous places had been set into a bookcase on a whole shelf.  I do not believe the Warrior Dead had a shrine before this, and if it had, it had been rather squished in between everything with the Earthvaettir and Moneyvaettir.  Here, again, I felt a sense of being able to breathe, of expanding not only my physical limits, but practice.  Of having space to actually physically acknowledge Their place in my life, Their Presences, and to honor that not only with space, but with prayer in that space.  Of giving offerings to those beings, whereas once They may have been lumped all in together with a single offering chalice between all of these great, diverse Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir otherwise, now I had space and ability to honor each closer to Their own ways and desires.

The Earthvaettir, Moneyvaettir, and Warrior Dead shrines all on one surface.

The Earthvaettir, Moneyvaettir, and Warrior Dead shrines all on one surface.

The Animal Spirits’ Shrine

It was relieving to finally have space to do this.  I honor a great deal of animalvaettir not only as representations of the Gods (i.e. the snake as Bolverk), but as the animals Themselves who have come and shared wisdom and training.  Some of these representations pull double-duty; for instance, the wolf in the top above the center of the shrine is representative of both wolves, and Lupa, the Wolf Goddess who came to me early in my journey as a Pagan and in my self-discovery, helped me to realize a lot about myself.  More, She helped teach me how to not only explore it, but integrate it into my life as best as I could.  As the Wolf has been a central figure in my life as a whole, and as I mark It as kin, it forms the center of this shrine.  The patch of fur and wolf bones were gifts by the wonderful Shin Cynikos.  I keep these as sacred items to this day.  They still lay upon the animal spirits’ shrine.

The Animal Spirits Altar in 2012.  It sat on an old steamer trunk a friend gave me.

The Animal Spirits Altar in 2012. It lay on an old steamer trunk a friend gave to me.

It wasn’t long before I transitioned out of this kind of layout.  When I moved back into my old room upstairs to live with my family, there was a lot more room to expand, and express the changing relationships and growth in our lives together.  The next post will go into the expansion that occurred at that time, and what the altars and shrines tend to look like nowadays.

Altars and Shrines Change

The next few posts I will be going over how altars and shrines can change over time.  My hope is that this will give people different ideas of how altars and shrines can be made, what can go on them, and help people see a different way of doing things.

When I lived in the dorms this is what my altar/shrine looked like.  Everything was together onto this little dresser.  The only other flat surface I had needed to keep my desktop PC and studying desk.  So, my Gods, Ancestors, and spirits all shared space on this tiny little thing.  I wasn’t supposed to light the candles or use the censer in the back.  There was a single offering chalice for all the varied Gods, Ancestors, and spirits present, and when liquid offerings needed to be poured out I either did so in the sink, or took it out to the trees near to the dorm rooms.

Starting on the left was my tarot and my athame/working dagger, and behind them the mead I gave for offerings.  In the back, to the right of the mead, was water I had collected from a lake, and a Chaos Star I had won in a raffle to the right of that.  The box beneath the censer contained things like prayer beads, as did  the box behind A Book of Pagan Prayer.  To the right of the chalice was my representation of the Ancestors (it still serves that purpose) and of course, Odin with representations of Geri and Freki.  The little pouch before the Ancestors to the left of the Wolves was given to me as Gebo for help I gave to someone. Thor’s Hammer, Mjolnir, sat resting before Odin’s feet.  In front of the Wolves to the left is Brighid’s Candle, and to the right is Her Cross.  In between the wands and Wolves were two sigils to the angel Haniel, who I asked to help me in my relationship at the time.  The silver skulls were what I used as representation of the Dead and as prayer beads (if memory serves) to that purpose.  In front of the Dead representation are wands, while the ceramic container was used to hold herb offerings.  To the right of the skulls was an offering of an apple, which, after a day or three, was taken outside and put under a tree.

The altar/shrine was near the door to the dorm room, and since I didn’t want to get brained every time I came home, the staves were set on the left of the altar.  A lot of this altar was put together the way it was out of necessity.  It taught me to use space effectively, and making sure I knew what was essential to me, both in terms of representation, and what I was worshiping and working with.

My Altar/Shrine in my dorm room back in 2010

My Altar/Shrine in my dorm room back in 2010.

A side shot of my Altar/Shrine in my dorm room back in 2010

A side shot of my Altar/Shrine in my dorm room back in 2010.

Relating to Odin

October 4, 2013 1 comment

*Another draft brought to life.

I am reflecting on a few posts I’ve read, started by Beth at Wytch of the North, in how I relate to Odin.

Some of the blogs I follow feature Odin prominently from the perspective of Godspouse, a way of being with a God or Goddess that I feel is at once both powerful and incredibly intimate.  I feel privileged to see into the lives of those who call Odin, or any God, Goddess, or spirit Beloved.  However, this is not my path.  Odin is my Father, and as such, our relationship is in many ways very different.

To borrow her terms, the Odin I encounter can vary wildly between the ‘more human’ and ‘less human’, but tends toward ‘more human’ in more of my interactions with Him.  Yet, even in this, there is some of that ‘less human’, as it seems there is an overall push in our relationship to move me towards something.  Perhaps a better way to put it is that there is purpose in everything He does, including being patient and fatherly with me.

One of the greatest strengths of polytheism is that none of us need have the exact same relationship as another.  I do not need to do the things a Godspouse does, nor they what I do, to be part of the same community, sharing respect and experiences.  Learning, and being willing to express my experiences, especially if they are different from others’ has, at times been hard because of a fear of judgment, reasonable fear or no.

So what does being an Odinsson entail?  For me, it is a good chunk of extra work when He calls me to it, a good deal of it spontaneously and without a lot of direct explanation.  Sometimes it is being in the right place at the right time, and He gives me an inward or outward sign to do something.  I have walked around the city close to where I live, and He has reached out and had me strike up a conversation.  After half an hour’s worth of conversation my Work will be down and I can get back to what I was going to do, or go home.  At other times He is silent, letting me work out what needs to be done between subtle clues or vague feelings.  At others, He lets me be, doing what needs to be done.

I find there are times where He is very deeply warm, generous, and kind, helping to mind where I ‘step’ and correcting me with patience.  There are others where He is very distant, callous, and allows me to blunder until I find my way.  It is not unlike times with my own son: there are times to be warm, and gentle, and there are times to be hard-edged and distant.  Yet there are other times where He is some mix of the two, logical, warm, and intimate as a caring Father is to a son, and yet with that steel edge that lets you know where the hard limits are.  These words fail to convey the fullness of our relationship, but I find myself trying nonetheless.  Given how reading others’ accounts of being Godspouse to Odin have helped me see my Father in different lights, maybe talking about things from this perspective can help another.

There are times where He will set me up to fail, not in some cruel sense, but in the sense of placing me in situations where the only or best decision I have is to not act, to finally get it through my thick skull that I cannot be all things to all people, or that yes, failure is expected; giving up is not.  He is not my self-help guru.  Everything I do in this way is in service to Him.  If it helps me along the way, so be it, but I am not the end-goal.  My life itself is a service to Him, from my work as a shaman and a priest, to my work in school towards my Master’s of Social Work.  My life was not always this way, but especially since following Him full-time, and now especially as His godatheow, I recognize how much my life is turned towards the Work, from raising my son to the relationships I hold to the services I give in my communities.  Truth be told I do not always know what reasons He has me do some things, but I am getting better bit by bit to recognize in the moment and my duty to do them.

Sometimes those dry spells between hearing from Him can be hardest for me, especially after long periods of continuous contact.  It is times like these that falling back to the daily prayers and the cleansing work is best, because it gives me a base to start from.  While I do this, sometimes He is simply busy doing other things and leaving me to my own devices.  Yet, I find in this there is purpose.  The silence is often there for me to wrap my head around something, or to leave room so I am forced to cut down on my workload by finishing projects in my life so I have room for more.  For instance, I am somewhat in such a period right now while I finish up the Ancestor Anthology book, and write two essays on top of other work/Work.  Come November I will be doing poetry and writing each day for Him as I did for Loki in July.

Odin, I find, is nothing if not patient, even if He does not seem it in the moment.  In my view He takes to crafting people not unlike bonsai trees or well-tended oaks: slowly, snipping off bits here and there until the essential tree is fashioned or revealed.  He does this by what means He has handy, what means I give Him readily, and what means He demands of me.  I don’t always like how He prunes me, but then again, what being likes to lose limbs?  I do trust Him, wholly, even if I am scared and uncertain while waiting to see where the shears will snip.

A Small Prayer to my Gods

Each day may I come

To know You better

In the small ways

The ways You know to reach

That no one else will see

That no one else may believe

But I will know

and in that knowing

I will be content

 

A Prayer to Odin: On Sacrifice

Let me remember nothing is without sacrifice

For Wisdom, an Eye

For Runes, a Life

 

Let me be mindful that Wyrd guides me

For action, a consequence

For work, a result

 

Let me remember that Gebo exists between all things

For gift, a gift

For sacrifice, a change

Odin Stormbringer

I hear You in the rolling of the clouds

The wind sweeping up over trees

The soft whisper of rain as it strikes my face

I can feel You in each drop

Cleaning my face this morning

With a gentle touch

I feel You sweep over me

Like the storm you ride, I am so small

All I can do is stand, kneel, thank

That you surround me

For all the blessings You have given

For the joys and pains that placed me here

Kneeling to you in the grass

Your hands around my shoulders

The kiss of cleansing rain on my brow

Like the rain You embrace all I am, Father

The Religious Implications of Peak Oil

April 22, 2013 4 comments

For those who do not know what Peak Oil is, a quick summary:

Peak Oil is a term that means that we have hit the peak of oil production which can meet global demand for it.  Simply put, a peak occurs when demand outstrips production.  There are plenty of online resources, some of which are here: The Oil Drum and Peak Oil, among a great many others.  For a great, ongoing discussion of the implication of Peak Oil and his own exploration of the religious implications of Peak Oil, among a great many other topics, Archdruid John Michael Greer’s The Archdruid Report is one of the best I have seen.

Rather than discuss the science and charts and such, since I have, compared to others, a limited layman’s understanding of Peak Oil, I wanted to dive right into what Peak Oil can mean for us as Pagans.

What are the religious implications of Peak Oil?

Gebo is Foremost

Gebo means gift for a gift, and for a long time the West has been able to, by and large, ignore its share of Gebo to nature and the poor.

If Western society has a chief ill it is that it seeks something for nothing.  Capitalism’s strength is predicated upon infinite exponential growth when, realistically speaking, this is not possible.  There are hard limits to growth, whether it is the forest providing timber, the mine providing gold, or the computer number-crunching.  All things have their limit, and without respect to that, disaster is inevitable because all future hopes and plans hinge on a single method of interacting with the world.  So, my understanding is that the first implication of Peak Oil is that Gebo must come before all else.

Naudhiz is the Measure of All Things

Naudhiz translates to need or distress.  In this, I am primarily thinking of need, and the maxim “What does it do?  How well does it do it?” becoming the measure by which all things will be measured.  Do I need this electronic device?  Can I break it down or build it up into something more useful?  Will this get in the way of me being productive?  If it breaks down, what can I do with it?  Can I repair it?  Do I need it or a replacement if I cannot repair it?

Naudhiz is the rubbing together of two sticks to make fire.  It is the necessary work needing to be done to survive, if not begin to thrive.  It is the laundry getting done, the garden planted, the animals fed, etc.  Whatever work is needing to be done so things progress.  Getting busted down this hard to basics is not something a lot of people in America are used to, though with half of America officially in poverty that is quickly changing.  What can I truly live without?  What am I willing to do to make it?  Hard questions that more are asking, and many more yet need to ask.  Once we know Gebo it is easier to measure what must be done.  It is far better to voluntarily start the process of asking these questions when you may have abundance than to wait until you must get answers on the fly.  Naudhiz is a good measure to budget by once Gebo is known.  In knowing the limits of what is asked, and what you can deliver via Gebo, you can best know what you need, and from there, determine how to meet that need in exploring Naudhiz.

Right Relationship

While this is part of Gebo it also deserves direct mention.  Right relationship is the idea that there is a way we should interact with and within the world.  It means not dumping chemicals on your lawn just so it looks green.  It means not ripping up every bit of habitat around us for more parking structures or development space for single-story, large, wasteful, polluting businesses.  Right relationship implies that we not only understand the aforementioned limits of our society, its reach, or the environmental impact we have, but respecting that limits and staying well within them.  It means remediation of wild places and a radically different way of life.  In respecting that we have stretched much of our environment to its breaking point, local, as well as State and national ways of doing things will need to change.  Each person’s situation will be different, but one way we can reduce rampant consumption and its many branching effects is conservation.  Conserve electricity, water, food, everything your life depends on that you need can, past a certain point, be conserved.  Even if you yourself do not garden, conserving food where possible and composting it where it is not, or handing it to a neighbor or friend, will make much better use of food and landfill space.

More than anything else we need to reduce our rampant consumption here in the West, especially America.  We consume 25% of the world’s resources with only 5% of its overall population.  This equation needs to change if we are to live in right relationship with the world around us.

Looking to Our Ancestors

Modern society provides very little actual grounding for living.  Unless you are taking classes in school with practical application, such as a Home Economics course, or if you are in a homeschooling situation where people are preparing you for the real world, modern society has more or less thrown up its collective hands in teaching or instilling much in terms of practical lessons.  Most Americans do not know how to grow food, much less how to make fire.  Repairing things is almost entirely a lost art; rather, we are encouraged to buy the new thing.  Repair shops used to be a nationwide phenomena.  If something broke, you fixed it.  Without throwing on rosy-colored glasses or romanticizing the past, either recent Americana or further back, there were a good number of practical skills a person, or someone close to you, might know that make sense for us to retain into a world beyond Peak Oil.

What does this have to do with Ancestors?  Everything.  Our Ancestors at some point or another had to live off the land.  The occupation for 90% of Americans, at one point, was farming.  In a post Peak Oil time, while we may not get back to that 90%, we are going to need to devote more of our energy to it.  This will mean regaining skills we have not used, or wholesale reskilling ourselves to the task at hand.  My grandfather collects old farm tools.  Seeing these I can see the Ancestors’ hands on them, and how these tools are ancestors themselves to the electrical and gas-powered machines we have today.  Far better we learn to use these older machines, and start demand for them now, than having to completely reinvent the wheel and/or play catch-up.

This can be a form of working with, if not worshiping our Ancestors in a very direct way.  Everyone has Ancestors who were farmers.  They tilled the soil, they knew how hard it can be to grow things.  Does everything they did work for us?  No, certainly not.  My German Ancestors worked different soil, but many of the lessons translate well.  The point is, is that by and large farming itself has not grown by leaps and bounds in terms of its basic ingredients or complexity.  It is merely the scale that has become so huge, so complex.  Our Ancestors hold many of the keys to future prosperity, whether we find that in how we raise our crops, our houses, or our communities.  Will everything our Ancestors did be right for our age?  No, but the collective wisdom They hold is worth at the least considering, if not employing in our lives.

Industriousness

Using a hand-cranked masher, I made pear sauce last year and sealed them in mason jars.  No sugar added, just three large, sealed mason jars full of pears that will keep for a good long while.  This is something my parents and grandparents have done most of their lives, something that was not passed down to me until I demanded to be taught it.  Will it keep me alive through a harsh winter?  Well, no, not just on canned pears, but it, and similar skills will, even if the post Peak Oil future is a generation or so down the road, save me a lot of money.  Think of how much we spend on canned goods, frozen goods.  Growing it yourself is a savings of a large chunk of money, especially if you can do it well.  Money does grow on trees because food is real wealth you can put in your mouth.

What does this have to do with religion?  Religion is a framework through which we understand our place in the Worlds.  Industriousness, what we do with ourselves on a regular basis, is an important part of that.  We have, in our Pagan traditions, Gods of the hearth, the home, and certain crafts.  When I clean I dedicate that work to Frigga and Frau Holle.  When I till the Earth or plant, I dedicate that Work to Jörð, Freyr, and Gerda, depending on where I am planting and what I am planting.  I speak with the landvaettir as well as  Jörð, Freyr, and Gerda prior to planting, when setting up the space, when working within the space, and when harvesting.  I hail Nidhogg and Hel when I take out the compost.

The point of a religious life is that the Work of that life does not stop at the temple, church, or shrine.  It is enlivened by the Work done in the temple, church, or shrine, and extends into every area in which one lives and breathes and works.  The world is full of holiness if we would recognize it.  So when you put yourself to work, whether at a computer, a field, someone’s home, or the living room, it is a time that the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits can be honored, praised, and involved in your life.  In this way, I see Pagan religion not so much practiced as it is lived, and industriousness is one key way in which we can connect to the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.

Wealth

I mentioned something in the last section that I want to dig into a bit more: Money does grow on trees because food is real wealth you can put in your mouth.  Most ancient societies judged the wealth of a person by how much stuff they had.  In the Germanic and Norse case, it was cattle and grains.  They, rather than currency, were markers of wealth because if you had lots of cows and/or grain you had lots of land, people to work that land, raise those animals, etc.  Food and land equaled wealth.  What is often remarked upon as wealth, calculated in numbers that most human minds reel at fathoming, is basically numbers in a computer.  I cannot eat the ones and zeroes any more than I can the paper they are now represented by.  It is not what I would call ‘real’ wealth.

Peak Oil destroys the concept of fiat currency, which is the economic regime we currently live under in most of the world, because the US dollar is predicated on growth and is not backed by anything.  It is essentially a thoughtform which we have agreed upon, saying that ‘the full faith and credit of the US Federal Reserve is so good it can be used to pay debts’.  It is, in essence, a massive act of faith that keeps the economy chugging along, and all it would take is something like Peak Oil, or people switching en masse over to the Euro to destroy a good deal of its so-called wealth.

Cows, meanwhile, do not lose inherent value because the dollar tanks, the Euro rises, or the whole global economic system comes crashing around our heads.  The cow will still eat grass, chew cud, produce milk, and be a viable meat source.  The grain in the field will still grow, be able to be produced into bread and countless other things, regardless of how commodities pricing is.  Both still have inherent value not propped up by a largely fabricated economic system.  When a fiat currency’s users no longer have faith in it the currency has no value period, and it never had inherent value, beyond perhaps being able to be smelted in the case of coins, or burned in the case of fiber-based paper currency.  The ones and zeroes in a machine have no lasting impact upon us or use for us when the system collapses; it does not produce more money, does not regenerate, and has no connection to real wealth once the glamour is broken.  It is telling that the Germanic/Norse God Freyr is a God of agriculture and of wealth.

There are several warnings about wealth and greed in ancient Pagan religion, but using the Hávamál as an example, it is more concerned with wealth in terms of coins and gold, in other words currency wealth, in these warnings, and often reminds the reader/listener that this wealth is transitory at best, and fickle.  Meanwhile true wealth stays with one long-term and is found in friendship and good company.  It is that understanding of wealth that is key.  To not only understanding what is more important in terms of material wealth, but what is true wealth, and what will truly help in the long term.  One may stock food for some eventuality, but once that store is gone, what use is it if there is no one to lean on, no food to grow?  You starve.  As Freyr is the God of both agriculture and wealth, I see one of His lessons is that if one establishes a good relationship with the land they live on, one may truly be said to be wealthy.

 

So where is wealth to be found?  In good friends, in hard work, and in doing well by others.  In working with the land and living beings, and doing right by both.  In other words, by living in Gebo and right relationship with others and the world around you, meeting you and your family’s/community’s/etc. needs, and in being industrious.

Crafting

The religious implication of crafting could be an entire post on its own.  The first Goddess that comes to my mind is Frigga, the spinner, the weaver, the homemaker, Who spins Wyrd.  Wow.  Just think about that for a moment: one of the Asynjur is the one who spins the primal stuff of potential into what was, what is, and what will will be.  It is said She knows all Wyrd but will not speak of it.  That is power.  In a legend Her favored army beat Her husband’s army, Who is a renowned God of battle, cunning, and skill.  Our Goddesses of crafting, of homemaking, and the hearth are neither to be underestimated, nor belittled.  They are powerful, holy, and glorious in Their own rights.

We underestimate craftswomen and craftsmen to our own detriment.  We buy inferior, polluting products from countries who allow their workers to burn when the factory is on fire.  Our food comes to us out of season on the backs of millions of underpaid and exploited farmers from other countries while our own crops rot in the field because large-scale agriculture relies on illegal workers.  Many of the arts that would produce these goods closer to home are becoming more and more scarce despite our wealth of able-bodied workers.  If Peak Oil is to be navigated effectively crafting will need to come back into its own, and the way to make this transition easier and far less haphazard is to support it now, both in terms of the current generation and those coming up in it.  This support needs to be as much from the ground up as possible, including spinners as well as clothing makers, those who harvest clay to those who shape with it.

In short, in supporting crafting the supply chain needs, as much as is possible, to be returned back to the local level and scaled to the local level’s needs to start with.  Sure, we can grow bigger, perhaps this town has an excessive amount of sheep and supplies wool to its neighbors, and they have cows and supply butter, yogurt and milk to theirs.  Still, Peak Oil’s biggest challenge is to stop consuming like there’s no tomorrow and rework our methods of producing back down to local, but scale-able design.

The religious implication here is that in supporting this from the ground up, and reworking our supply chain in such a way, even if our neighbors do not worship the Gods we do we can still bring our religious values in line, particularly in the belief that this world is holy, as is the work we do, and so can the things we support.  In this case we instill that in our everyday life by supporting change, by building up our neighbors so we may all thrive.  We make this change part of an unfolding of our religious values, especially suited to an age where acting in Gebo and right relationship are not just niceties but keys to survival.

Peak Oil as a Whole

Peak Oil is a direct challenge to many of the ideas that we as Americans have gotten used to: that we can spend our way to a better future, that conservation is no longer a needed thing, that consumption is growing the economy, that we can spend what we have like we will have it tomorrow, and that there can be growth without limits.  It directly attacks American exceptionalism, hegemony, empire, and our place in the world.  Peak Oil is our society hitting the limits on our ability to tap the resources we need for our modern lifestyle.  Peak Oil’s coming does not mean we have to all go into a neo-primitive lifestyle, although that is, to my mind, a viable option for some.  What it does mean is that Gebo, right relationship, meeting our needs on a consistent basis, looking to our Ancestors, supporting our crafters, and engaging in industriousness at all levels will be necessary.

To religion Peak Oil is a direct challenge: do your instructions, traditions, orthodoxy, orthopraxy, etc. aid the survival or hasten the destruction of human life and well-being, now and in the future?  Do your religious views, institutions, etc. provide comfort, direction, purpose, and empowerment to living in a way that is geared towards LESS (Less Energy, Stuff, and Stimulation) while providing hope for the future?  Do your religious leaders provide focal points for community building, or are they needlessly divisive and disruptive to cohabitation and cooperation in age where both are key to survival?  Does religious instruction raise children equipped to handle the world as it is, or is it looking forever backward or forward at some mythic Golden Age, trapped in worlds to come that will not arrive?

There are many more questions, and they will be answered by each person as much as each priest, by each religious institution as by each religious community.  Yet they are worth pondering, as surely as it is how we, as Pagans, as fellow citizens in this country, will navigate the near future.

I invite anyone who wants to engage in this dialogue to comment here, to reblog, and start more conversations on this topic.

Question 10: Shaman vs. Priest

April 18, 2013 7 comments

Another question from Valiel Elantári:

What difference do you make between “shaman” and “priest” ?

I had defined a shaman in Question 9 as ‘an intercessor between humanity and the Worlds of the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.’  A priest may be that as well.  Where I see a marked difference is the kind of relationship a priest has vs. what a shaman has in their community.  A priest is a worshiper of a God, Goddess, Ancestors, or spirit, and acts as an intercessor between humanity and the Gods.  When I use the word humanity, this can mean as small-scale as another person or small group or as large-scale as a congregation or worldwide religion.  A priest’s job is, in some way, shape, or form, to bring the message(s) of the Gods, the Gods Themselves, and/or teach and bring right relationship with the Gods to humanity.  A priest’s other jobs may serve the community in a larger fashion, such as performing certain services as intercessory work, like public festivals, public sacrifices, offerings, and the like, or more personal works like blessings at homes, births, funerals, and weddings.

Some of the Work of a priest I do see as dovetailing with the Work of a shaman.  There can be very direct parallels between the two jobs’ requirements.  Both, for instance, need people to be spiritually clean, firm in their religious foundations, knowledgeable in their cosmology and in particular the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits they work with and/or worship.  Depending on the needs of the community, the two jobs may place requirements on the shoulders of a priest and a shaman that are similar, if not the same, such as blessing a newly birthed baby, weddings, fields before or after planting, etc.  The requirements of a priest may be wildly divergent priest to priest, tradition to tradition, the same with shamans, so saying anything across the board means somewhere I am getting something wrong.  The palette has too many colors for me to accurately paint with a select few.

In my own work as a priest and a shaman, my work as Odin’s priest is different from being a shaman in that He may ask me to deliver messages on His behalf as a priest whereas in my role as a shaman I may be asked to do a ritual action instead.  In a way, it seems to me I am engaged more in action serving Him as a shaman than I am as a priest, in which I tend to act more in the role of a passive message-passer.  Then again, as I am both, sometimes the two blend together in terms of my service to Him.  So the only thing I can say for certain here, is that I serve Him as He asks or demands of me.

In my Work as a priest of Anubis this is a bit markedly different from my service as Odin’s priest.  For one, Anubis demands very little of my time nowadays, but I can feel Him starting to really come back to the fore now that I have a new altar to the Dead, rather than, say, just the Military Dead or my Ancestors.  For another, Anubis’ requirement have been to offer Him offerings on occasion, but nothing like the dedication of Ancient Egyptian temple priests.  I have a small statue of Him that I feed offerings to, put water before, and occasionally bathe in similar fashion to how temple priests might have done.  However, that is more or less the extent of my historically-based practice.  Much of my work with Anubis is pure UPG, and when He calls upon me to help a Lost Dead or to deliver a message on a spirit’s behalf on His behalf, I do, and my services are rendered, and I go on my way.  My service to Anubis is more haphazard and as He needs me then I imagine other priests might serve, i.e. those who have permanent temple space.  Some of my Work with Him dovetails well with the Work I do for Odin, for instance, the consistent cleaning, grounding, and centering rituals.  Keeping myself clean, as well as keeping the altars clean, are part and parcel of my Work with Him.  So too, making sure the altar to the Dead is kept well, that offerings are laid out.  I must also be sure that the Dead are not insulted or treated ill in rituals, another place where my Work as a shaman dovetails with my priest Work.

In this way, priests, as with shamans, are intercessors in that those who come to us will learn that there are certain rites to be observed, and taboos to be avoided.  One taboo I have as a shaman is that whenever I do for another I must in some way, shape, or form, have Gebo from the other party.  Another, in my role as Anubis’ priest, is that I must not let the Dead be insulted or poorly treated.  It is on me to establish what requirements and taboos there are to working with these spirits, especially the person in question is coming to me for help or training.  That is part of the Work of any intercessor: you are, in some way, shape, or form, establishing and reestablishing the proper boundaries of and engaging in right relationship with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.  For those who know them, you are reinforcing the boundaries of and encouraging engagement in right relationship.

I think this hits on another aspect of the difference between being a shaman and being a priest.  As a shaman I am often required to traverse boundaries, whether my own personal ones, or in journey work, or in transgressing some unspoken cultural boundary, i.e. Ancestor worship.  A shaman is often a boundary crosser, may be an ambassador of some kind to other communities including other Worlds, and puts hirself at risk so they, their community, and the relationships they hold can flourish.  A priest is often one who reinforces the boundaries, who stays within the boundaries and teaches from that place of power on how to live well, to live in right relationship, and establish communities in the teachings from their God(s) or Goddess(es).

To put it another way: a shaman often must journey to the útgarð for their Work whereas a priest’s main place and Work is done in the innangarð.

 

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