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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have received another question, this one from Valiel Elantári:
I wonder if you would be open to publicly explain your path : how do you define “shaman” ? how did “it” “happen” to you ? How did you realise you were one, when did you decided to use the word?
I define shaman as an intercessor between humanity and the Worlds of the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits. Given that the Northern Tradition has no appropriate word, the word shaman is the best I have that quickly, and as accurately as possible, sums up what I do. Shamanism is not a religion; it is something that is done and lived. It is not picked up for a weekend, it is a calling that one is bound to for the course of one’s life. I did not come to using the word lightly, and fought against using it for a long while.
I worked with Anubis for about three years before I came to Odin. During this time I was involved in doing quite a bit of ceremonial magic, and was very happy with the neat, detailed rituals I practiced. My Work was going well, when one day Anubis came to me when I was worshiping at His altar. He told me it was time for me to work with Odin, and to pick up the threads of the rest of my Work. Anubis did not give me very many directions, only that I would be following Odin primarily now, and that while I would still have Work by Him, our relationship was now firmly on the backburner, especially compared to the demands He knew Odin would make of me and my time.
Odin gave a simple introduction and told me it was time I followed Him, to do the Work of becoming His priest. He told me that I had taken long enough and had Work to catch up on. So I began to research what I could of Odin. I read digital copies of the Eddas when and where I could, and looked at what resources I had about me. It was not long after that initial contact, and a month or so of research, that He told me I was to be a shaman.
I balked at the idea. I couldn’t be a shaman. Yet, whenever I went to pray or to give offerings, there He was, at some point demanding that I start getting serious about following the path. I had only started officially worshiping Him but a month before; how could He call me to shamanism so soon? Yet, He did. I could not ignore it.
Eventually I was worn down by Odin, but I asked and pleaded for a word other than shaman. I knew it was not from my culture, but borrowed from the Evenks and had found its way into common use. Still, it was the one word I had that described what Odin was setting before me, what I was to become. At His insistence, and after much worry, doubt, and second-guessing, I finally bowed to His wish. I now use it to describe my path, my Work, and myself. Shortly after accepting this path I began to find Raven Kaldera’s books that had started coming out on Northern Tradition shamanism. Things began to click very well for me alongside Odin’s lessons with what I found in the pages of Raven’s books.
In the beginning Odin’s instruction for me was a lot about learning to work with the landvaettir and beginning to work with my Ancestors. A lot of it was low-key, small rituals, much of it rolling off my tongue before a small altar in my dorm room. It was establishing a small, but regular practice of prayer and offerings. Since then my practice has expanded, but it grew from the roots of working with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.
This is the last of the Questions I have in my queue; if you or anyone you know has a question just let me know and I’ll do my best to answer it. Thank you Dreaming in Smoke and Fire, James Two Snakes, and Lokisbruid for contributing questions!
How do you balance being priests of Gods of two widely different pantheons?
It is interesting at times how this works out. While I was Anubis’ priest first, Odin takes precedence. Anubis led me to Odin when I had my eyes and ears tight shut regarding the Norse/Germanic Gods. I was very happy being a priest of Anubis, a ceremonial magician, and helper to the Lost Dead. Worshiping the Norse really hadn’t come into my head until Anubis drug me over to Odin, said “You’re following Him and we will be in touch” and away He went. That was about four years ago.
This does not mean that Anubis has totally left my life, that His priesthood is unimportant, or that I have stopped worshiping Him. Quite the contrary. I do still work with the Dead, but much closer with Them than what I did while working under Anubis. When I was working with Him I kept the Dead as best I could at arms length. I cannot do that anymore. I am very connected to my Ancestors now, much more so than when I was Anubis’ priest full time, and my Work now includes not just the general Dead and the Lost Dead; it also includes the Military Dead.
Most of the way I balance working with these Gods is that I am careful in my ethics. Given I am Northern Tradition I tend towards those ethics and values, most of which in some way, shape, or form mesh with the Kemetic ones. I do my best to follow the Negative Confession, reading it every night and reflecting upon it whenever I am able. It has proven a good guide for me. An area I struggle with is “cursing another in thought, word, or deed” as I see this to mean magically cursing a person as well as saying things like
“I hope that person fucking crashes” when I get cut off in traffic because words take on power. To speak and write is to engage heka. So I make effort to avoid speaking ill, literally or figuratively, of people, places, and things. To speak is to engage my önd. Much of the ethics I approached Anubis with translated well into my Work with Odin.
Anubis has given me many blessings in the time I have been His priest, going on six years. I still pray and give offerings to Him, and He has a place of honor among the Gods on my Gods’ altar. I still carry a brass wand my former teachers helped me put together in service to Him, and it comes with me when I work with the Lost Dead, or to help direct the Dead where they need to go. Anubis has been the Opener of Ways not just in my Work with the Dead, but in my life in general. When things were hard He opened doors for me, though sometimes I refused to walk through them. Four years ago He opened the door to Odin, and in that alone He has given me no small measure of blessing. He has never left me, despite my intense Work with Odin and He remains a patient, powerful force in my life.
As far as balancing relationships between these two Gods go, as I wrote in my Question 5 post, being owned by Odin as I am, He is first and foremost above all others. My Work is with Odin, primarily, and as Anubis desires things, whether it is my attention, Work to be done, or certain offerings, He makes it known to me. He and Odin have an understanding in this regard. The balance in my life is inherently skewed toward Odin, but much of my Work with the Dead dovetails nicely with where my Work with Anubis has been, and is evolving. Anubis introduced me to Working with the Dead, setting boundaries, and giving me hard lessons in that sometimes there is nothing I can do for another as a priest, for the Dead or the Living. Odin took me into working with my Ancestors and the Military Dead.
In Their own ways Anubis and Odin keep me in Their balance. Being in that balance requires me to listen, above all else, to Them and those They point me to, and where I am called to act or speak, to do so. The Work I do with the Dead is Their Work. Sometimes it is to clean graves for the Dead, sometimes it is to speak prayers, and other times it is to sit while a long-Dead spirit talks about hir trouble in moving on. Other times it may be to speak to someone’s descendant or to deliver a message. Sometimes it requires I stop everything I am doing to help bury a forgotten pet. Whatever the Gods need of me, it is my job to be available for that work as a priest. The balance I find between these Gods is in the service I give to Them.
Hail Odin and Anubis!
What do you think is the symbolism/significance of Odin giving an eye to the Well of Mimir as opposed to some other sacrifice?
– Do you think this may or may not have affected his decisions and the potential outcome of Ragnarok?
– Does this affect your enjoyment of pina coladas?
I can see Dreaming is on a pina coladas kick, but the quick answer is no, it does not affect my enjoyment of them. I mean, it might if I had enough, but I’m sure enough pina coladas and anyone’s enjoyment would be affected by the potential outcome of Ragnarok. Don’t mix thinking about Ragnarok with alcohol. Bad things ensue, I am sure.
The significance of Odin giving His eye to the Well, to Mimir, is that He is willing to do anything to ensure He has the power, coming from wisdom, to achieve His ends. Truth be told, all of the sacrifices Odin makes, from His offering His eye to Mimir, to His Hanging on Yggdrasil, to His hanging between two fires as described in the Grimnismal, to sacrificing the solid ground His gender may have stood on to learn seidr (and I think spá) with Freya, His sacrifices are to give Him the power and ability to do what He knows must be done. No less than Loki’s many gifts, are Odin’s many gifts needed to see all the Gods, Aesir, Vanir, and Jotun, through the hard times. No less than Thor’s might, Freyr’s prowess or Skadi’s skill are Odin’s gifts needed to see through the hard times. He goes through pain and torture to attain His goals, and in my experience, and the experience of others who hail Him and follow Him close, He asks much the same of us.
That He gives half of His vision to lay in the Waters of Wisdom is indeed rife with significance and symbolism. One eye to see in the Worlds as it presents itself, another to see in Wisdom. He sees all without from His throne, Hlidskjalf and hears all from His Ravens, Hunin and Munin. His drinking from Mimir’s Well, His sacrifice to Mimir is indicative of the lengths He is willing to go to achieve Wisdom, and alongside it, the Power to do what is best and, more important, necessary for the survival of Gods, and the Beings of the Nine Worlds.
Keep in mind He came to Jotunheim at that time leaving everything, from Sleipnir to His spear, His helmet and armor, aside. He then riddles with Vafþrúðnir, betting His head against the wisest of Jotun to find Mimir’s requested sacrifice in the first place. As Vafþrúðnir tells Odin, no one has yet to make that sacrifice. He has to lay one of His two eyes in the Well of the wisest of all Beings. So He drank from Mimir’s well and saw the future. More importantly, He saw why things happened as they did. Whether one sees Odin as actually still seeing through His given eye or it merely being there as a symbol of His sacrifice in the Well, He gave what no other would for Wisdom. It is a piercing Wisdom that see through veils and bullshit, that cuts away the dross and lays bare the truth as it is.
The symbolism of Him sacrificing His eye, His full vision, is very different from, say, Tyr’s sacrifice of His right hand. If the eyes are indeed windows to the soul, and given we see the liche (body) as part of the soul, then Odin’s sacrifice of His eye has powerful symbolism. He has given a window to His soul, a way for Him to see the Worlds around Him for insight and Wisdom. Tyr sacrificed His oathing hand to bind Fenrir; the symbolism is far different, but no less poignant. Where Tyr bound a danger to all the Worlds (and particularly Odin), Odin unleashed Wisdom, seeking ways to avert annihilation. If nothing else, Tyr’s sacrifice gives Odin the time to gain that Wisdom, to gather the forces, to do what is necessary to avoid the demise of everything. Neither one is a failure; both are needed for the Worlds to be remade at Ragnarok, and both are said to die during the event. They both give Their all to help the threads of Wyrd continue. Both do as Their Wyrd requires, and the Worlds live on.
So for me Odin’s sacrifice of His eye indicates the lengths He is willing to go, the dedication to a course of action, the strength He employs that action with, and the reward such action brings. There is Gebo, despite the pain He goes through to gain that Wisdom, and the pain the Wisdom itself brings. That reward for His pain allows Him to do the necessary Work at hand, giving Him the ability to see that everything that must be done through to the end is, in its own time, done.
Question 6: Offerings to Odin
What types of offerings does Odin like? Do you think he prefers smoked salmon or strong whiskey?
— Do you prefer smoked salmon or strong whiskey?
— Do you like pina coladas?
I’m sure He likes pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, eating salmon, drinking strong whiskey, and making love after midnight, but I am unsure if that is all at once or in stages.
All jokes aside, a good number of my offerings to Him are alcoholic drinks. Among the drinks I offer to Him He seems to particularly enjoy mead and the strong alcohol such as whiskey, vodka, etc. He especially likes mead, and from me He likes Viking Blod where I can afford it. Sometimes He prefers local varieties, and I find He especially likes good homemade mead.
For me, I am sure He would rather have strong whiskey than salmon. I am not practiced at cooking fish, and I would not give Him an offering if I doubt my family would eat it. That said, I love salmon, especially salmon steak, but I have only cooked it all of one time, and that was with help. I have not had pina coladas in awhile; might be time to again.
What types of offerings does Odin like? He has accepted water and crackers where I could not afford much, hard drinks when I could, and a cup of coffee when I made a pot for my Gods and Ancestors. He appreciates time, time spent not just praying to Him, but talking with Him. I asked Him once why, if He could sit on Hlidskjalf and see all, and have Hunin and Munin bring Him news the Worlds over, did He want me to tell Him about my day?
His answer was something akin to this: is it better to talk to your father through your mother or friend, or is it better to talk with your father?
The offerings we give are intimate to our relationship with the Gods. We may have lists of traditional offerings, but unless I slaughter and butcher a horse, or order horse meat from a specialty butcher, the likelihood is that Odin will not have an offerings of horse meat from me. So I give what I have at hand, whether that is water, mead, or beer, crackers, bread, or cake. I give offerings of incense somewhat frequently because leaving out food offerings sometimes is not possible, not appropriate at the time. The same goes for offerings of food and/or water. When I lived in a dorm room I frequently left offerings at trees’ feet since I could not have fires in the room. There is always singing and/or talking with my Gods, and especially listening to Them.
Sometimes He wants something special, or I am inspired to give Him special offerings. Sometimes it is the spontaneous nudge in the wine aisle, and sometimes it is a month of devotional poetry written to Him. It may be that some weeks all He wants is regular contact at the altar, the usual prayers, and not much more. Some times He wants intense devotional work, intense communication during a trance session where it is less about me speaking with Him, but listening very intently to Him. At other times it may be hailing Odin during a public ceremony, especially where the ritualist gives space to call to our Gods.
So there are a great any ways to give offerings to Odin, certainly more than I have listed here. I hope that this post has helped others find new ways to offer to Odin, or to their own Gods. Regardless of how you offer, may Odin, and the Gods, always be hailed!
How does being a godatheow affect your relationships with your family? partner? child? employment?
Being a godatheow puts my God at the top of my list. Given how most people feel about children, and how much I love my son, that is not an easy thing to admit. Mercifully, it is an understanding with Him that my partner understands, and much of my family at home understands. As for my employment, well, this is may sound odd, but I did not get regular employment until after I became a godatheow.
I had a temporary job in the drought of four years of unemployment. When I was laid off from that job after about two months, ironically while I was at Etinmoot, where I was told I by Odin that I was His godatheow, it was another year or so before another job so much as reared its head at me. I worked for the Great Golden Arches for a few months under a wonderful, understanding manager, and now work doing respite care and direct support. The pay and hours are better, and I am getting practical experience in my degree. So while there was upheaval in my life from the impact of becoming a godatheow, once I got with the program and started walk with the leash instead of against it, my life, and that of those around me, got easier by several degrees. I have a budget now, and by and large, have stuck to it.
So much is going right in my life since Odin took me under His leash. My relationship with my partner has never been better, to the point where she, along with our son, now live with me. My relationship with my Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and landvaettir has never been stronger, or so deep in my life. If anything, becoming His godatheow has been a stabilizing force in my life.
Where my being a godatheow may have the greatest impact is on potentials, such as where I might work, the next place I might live, relationships, and the like.
Odin owns me. Odin owns me.
If He dictates to me, in a manner I cannot mistake as anything other than a command from Him (and I would do goo-gobs of double-checking, discernment, divination, talking with elders, friends, etc. just to be sure) to leave everything behind and to start wandering I would do that. Not because I want to abandon my family, not because a roadtrip sure sounds swell, but because my God demanded it of me. Would I try to get out of such a command? No, but I might ask Him to delay that until, say, my son is out of school or we are in a better place financially. I would ask He lay that burden on me, but not upon my family. I cannot say whether He would accept such a request, but I know He loves His Sons and knows how deep I love mine. The Gods are not without mercy; He has not asked such a thing of me, yet.
Thinking about this is not easy. Not in the least. Let no one tell you being a godatheow is easy, because these kinds of choices can loom over you. I have to think down this line, and talk with my partner and loved ones about this because there is the possibility that someday I may be called to do something that society would deem ‘crazy’, like taking off for 9 days/weeks/months/years and then coming back. Is that written in stone? No, but then again I would be a fool not to look at that possibility, and at the least make people aware of it.
While being a godatheow has been one of the most stabilizing forces in my life, it also has the potential, at any given moment, to destabilize it. It makes me thankful, even if I am not always as vocal as I ought to be in that thanks, for the stability I do have, for what I may have in the future. It makes me treasure the moments where I have down time and I am not going here and there doing my God’s Work, or my other Gods’ Work for that matter. It pushes me to be thankful and treasure the moments I have to be a father and a lover. It makes me treasure the moments I have to relax. At any moment Odin can say “Time to go this way” and there I will go.
It is not easy to have this kind of relationship. It is far easier to brush it off, to self-sabotage, and say “I am not worthy” or “I cannot do this thing” and let the charge be. That said, it is hard to argue with a leash about your throat and feeling a supreme tugging this way or that. I will eventually get there, wherever He is leading me, but it is entirely incumbent upon me whether or not I make it harder.
Odin owns me, and in so doing, He has direct influence on my life. My life is my service, and my service is my life. In understanding this simple truth I have made my life a good deal easier. Do I still have autonomy? Yes, and choices in my life are plentiful, but this autonomy and these choices are within the larger context of what He gives me to choose from.
With my life being Odin’s, doing well everywhere I can in my life is an offering to Him. Parenting my son well, treating my partner with respect, love, and dignity, and doing well by my clients are all part and parcel of offering to Him. My work with the communities, great and small, are part of my Work with Him. There is no aspect of my life untouched by Him, no aspect of my life that cannot be offered to Him. While being His godatheow may present challenges to me, my loved ones, and my communities, it is also one of the greatest blessings He has given me.
Being a godatheow is not for everyone, nor am I any better than one who has never ‘heard’ their God. This is a wholly different way to live one’s life, to worship and to serve the Gods, a God or Goddess in particular. I do not expect everyone to be a godatheow to have a deep level of commitment to their God/Goddess, nor godspousery, nor even to ‘hear, see, taste’, etc. Each person’s relationship with their Gods is between them and their Gods, and while there may be community standards one needs to meet to be part of a community, this is not one of them in the Northern Tradition. You do not need to be a shaman, a priest, a godatheow, a godspouse, or anything ‘called’ to love your Gods with everything you have. You just need to give the Gods your time, attention, energy, and love wherever, whenever you can.
From Loki’s Bruid:
I’d like to hear your perspective on Odin Himself actually, perhaps on some of His lesser known aspects. Lots of people get the Allfather or the Asa King, but what about some of His lesser known or called on heiti?
Truth be told, with anywhere between 188-200 heiti, (and I have seen the number bumped up to 300 in some sources) there’s no way I know Him through any more than a few of His lesser-known heiti. Keep in mind that as I write this I am just starting to find heiti that might fit or fit best for my experiences of Him. It may be that heiti are simply a hindrance for one person and a door to deeper understanding for another, and I leave that between the worshiper and Odin. For me, the heiti are helpful in that they provide a door or window to understanding Him, to at least put a name or title to this part of Him that I have experienced.
In terms of Odin’s heiti I look at it very much as experiencing different aspects of the same God; Yggr (The Terrible) still is Odin, at the end of the experience, but He is a ‘face’ of Odin that I do not, mercifully, experience very often. I could see Hóvi (The High) may have come to me while I was writing the November posts to Him in the Hávamál style. When I experience the Alföðr (Allfather) it is, for me, Odin Who is primarily concerned with humanity and getting us where we, perhaps personally but more collectively, where we need to go. Then there is Odin as my Father and Leash-holder, the heiti which sticks out to me that is most apt for this being Haptaguð (Fetter God). These latter two are the aspects of Odin I see the most.
Yet, underneath all of these heiti is Odin, and all of these heiti are also not just descriptors, in my understanding. Much as I am Sarenth Odinsson I am also the name given to me by my birth parents. I am also ‘love’ and ‘sweetheart’ and ‘Dad’. I am in a different role when I meet others as Sarenth, generally speaking, just as Odin-as-Yggr came to me when I was hanging on Yggdrasil a few years ago. That is an aspect in which He has truly earned that heiti. He is the Hanged God, and there was a sense of terror of Him in me that I can only describe as holy terror.
I will never truly know all of my best friends’ personalities. I do not know my friends’ as child or mother, for instance, and there are personality dynamics that will never be ours, ways of seeing one another that will not be ours, at the least, in this lifetime. Even as a friend I will never fully know them. Our Gods will never fully reveal Themselves to us in Their totality. I think to the tale of how Zeus revealed Himself to His lover and she burnt to ash at the power of His Presence. I do not think we can handle the full-tilt power of the Gods revealed, at the least, not Gods like Odin. Perhaps local Gods, i.e. of rivers or forests may be different, but in this too I have doubt. Heiti, from my perspective, give us ways of understanding our Gods in different forms, functions, and relationships that They have to share with us, and that They take on. With all that said, I’ll write about some of Odin’s heiti I have encountered, and my experiences with Odin in context of those heiti.
Karl: The Old Man
There are times where Odin comes to me and He is angry or grumpy with me about a misstep I have taken or a project I am lagging on. There are times where I call Him, and I say this with all due respect to Him, jokingly, the Old Man. Sometimes this is said in a more joking tone, others, a more serious, but there underneath it all is reverence. I figure if I am getting scolded I am getting off easy. It turns out that one of heiti translated to Old Man is Karl. This is, for me, one of His less severe forms, and one He frequently shows to myself and others. It is the Grandfather or Father Who, while annoyed with you and wanting to bat you about the head and legs, takes patience in stride and guides you along the right way. Sometimes He gets you where you need to go by grabbing your ear and dragging you there (or tugging my leash in this case), if you make yourself a nuisance. I find this most often shows up with those who are just coming to know Him or have a familiar relationship with Him. This is not to say that the Old Man cannot or will not be severe, but it is not the kind of severity and fear I have found with Yggr, for instance.
Yggr: The Terrible
The only time I have really encountered Odin in this form that I can remember is when I was hanging on Yggdrasil to take in the Runes as few years ago. It was under His guidance that I do this, and that I fast for nine days, drinking only what would keep my body going and alive without sleeping into issues with my diabetes. When I hung, especially long hours with the rope wrapped around my leg, there He was. He stank to high hell, He was half-Dead, it seemed to me at the time. His voice was as cold as His body, both as the grave. To get an idea of the fear I felt I feel I have to resort to poetic or expressive language because there is no real communicating the sheer fear He imbued in me, even as I was facing my own potential physical Death. He is The Terrible, the Terrible sacrifice that must be made for power, for the Worlds to go on, that sacrifice of Self-to-Himself that is recounted in the Hávamál. He is Dead and Living, has seen and experienced the Ginnungagap, and come back through, and yet, He is always there, Hanging eternally. It makes me shiver just remembering.
Hóvi: The High
When I am writing poetry about Him, especially Hávamál-style verse, this is the heiti of Odin I tend to experience. Sometimes it is the mere brush of His hand or cloak, sometimes it is Him standing over top of me like a master scribe to an apprentice doing dictation. I do not tend to get as much sensory information, for lack of better terms/more descriptive language, than I have with Yggr or Karl. It is more a feeling of Him standing behind me, or His hands or breath pouring into the crown of my head as I write, down onto the keyboard or onto the page.
Haptaguð: The Fetter God
This is a part of Odin that will probably never leave me. Odin holds my leash, as I am His godatheow, and sometimes that hold is slack, and sometimes it is quite tight. As with Hóvi, I do not experience this heiti of Odin’s so much with all of my senses, but as more of a Presence, and a tugging around my neck, particularly around my apple or at times along my crown. There are times when I feel the Presence of this heiti stronger than others, such as when I may be wandering into danger and there is a sudden ‘jerk’ along my neck. There are other times where His Presence in this heiti manifests as a word or a command, sharp and attention grabbing and I find myself following it before I ask “What?” or “Why?” When this latter experience happens it is unmistakably Him, and I find myself compelled to obey.
This, for me, is probably the hardest to write about because it is the most personal. This is Odin at His most personable with me. There are many ways where He shows me affection, some overt and some not. Words of encouragement have come from Him when I have been at my lowest, from a much-needed “You can do this, son; this would not be in front of you if it were impossible” to just a feeling of His Presence that is nothing short of comforting and loving. While Odin is, very often, a stern, rough, demanding God, just as Freya has Her aspects of Warrior, there are aspects of Odin that are less commented on or written about. His sternness does not just ‘go away’ in His Father aspect with me, but it is not as severe as, say Haptaguð tugs my leash. It is not the kind of holy terror I experience with Him as Yggr, or the master/pupil relationship of Him as Hóvi. Just as Yggr contains this part of Him, so too does Odin-as-Father contain Yggr, and it is there, if I look hard enough or if He cares to show me it for one reason or another. Regardless, I feel a love there of father for son. There are times I wonder if this is even a taste of the depth of His fierce, powerful love for His Godly Children.
I find Him His most patient with me personally in this aspect of our relationship. That is not to say the leash slackens or the demands do not grow; not at all. There are times where words fail in the joy that I feel at the knowing I am one of His, not despite the challenges He puts before me, but because He feels I can handle them. Or that particular lesson needs to knock me on my ass enough times for me to get that it is not for me. Odin can be, and may well be in our personal relationship calculating, everything being pushed towards one goal or another.
There are times that His Presence as Father is just that: a Presence, one letting me know I am in His thoughts or that He is near. Sometimes it is a vision of Him, sitting or standing with me, at times with a hat. At times He wears His long white hair down, and at others it is braided in a tight style. His mode of dress when He arrives sometimes seems to do with the whole message He is conveying, whether it is excitement, warmth, disappointment, anger. Others times when He comes to me in one guise or another, it is there as a kind of convenience so I get the message and pay attention to it.
These words only touch what I experience. I can no more give an accurate understanding of Yggr than I can of Hóvi. The experience is, in the end, that of each and every one of us who experiences Odin, in His many heiti, or simply as He, Odin, presents Himself to us. What I have written here may serve you, or someone you know no better than a signpost, or worse, a roadblock. My hope is that the writing I’ve done here will help deepen others’ relationships with Him, provide signposts, show where there may be similarities in experience, or at the least provide comfort in that each and every day, every interaction, I am getting to know my God.
How did you reconcile your transition with Odin from priest to godatheow?
- How has this changed your outlook on spirituality?
For me there was no transition from being Odin’s priest to godatheow; I am still His priest, and I am His godatheow. I am His priest. I am here to do His Work for others, as an intercessor, one who blesses, and helps those who seek Him as best as I can, among whatever else He gives me in that role, i.e. officiating rituals for Him/His people/followers. There are sometimes great lulls in this Work, as there have been with Anubis, and sometimes there’s a great flurry of activity where people wanting to connect to Him, or to the Norse/Germanic Gods in general all come at once. It is kind of haphazard, and I’m not quite sure one moment to the next where the Work will come from or where it will take me. I just try to be ready as best I can, and to be honest when I hit my limit on being able to help someone, and point them in a direction to go before they go their own way.
Becoming a godatheow meant a lot of things that I had taken for granted were locked down. I do not do magic, I do not do divination, I do not horse. This is why my entire ‘Shamanic Services section is shut down. While being godatheow to Odin took away these things, at least for the time being, doing this has instilled in me, through my work with my teacher and following Him closer, discipline, clarity, and a better sense of who I am, what I am doing, and especially important for me, boundaries. So, while I am leashed it has given me a deep amount of freedom. The collar may never come off, but as it was put to me, the best dog you can have is one that does not need the leash, but will do as is needed and come back to your side.
For the years before I became a godatheow it was this thing that other people did, something that would not happen to me. I saw how demanding it was, and I really did not want that. I felt I had enough on my plate. When things in my life came to a crashing halt, and there He was holding the leash, I felt betrayed. Why would He not have told me? Why?
I was full of anger and despair, because when it happened to me I felt as though I had handed over my whole life to Him, and none of my dreams, hopes, or anything would matter. It was true. My dreams, hopes, and aspirations do not matter compared to what He has for me to do. Handing over my life to Him is the best thing I have done. I have clarity, I am happy, I have purpose, and I am a better father, priest, shaman, lover, spouse, and person than I have ever been. While I say my dreams, hopes, etc. do not matter, it is not that they are unimportant per se, but that they are subsumed beneath what He prioritizes in my life. Some of my priorities dovetail with His quite nicely, and those that do not but are not a hindrance to my Work He has, thus far, let alone. My life, and everything I am is His. Even now those words do give a fear to me, a kind of holy terror, knowing that He could call on me to leave everything I have behind and I would do it because He told me to. It is not normal, but that kind of devotion to a God is not normal in this country. Here, devotion to a God is going to church on the weekends and mouthing prayers while still doing throughout the week what is abhorrent to that God. It is not, whatever they may mouth, taking up their cross and following Him. The whole of this country would change quite a bit if they did. Our Pagan communities might be very different if we followed our Gods to where They would lead us.
My outlook on spirituality, from what is ‘normal’ to what is ‘right’ has changed drastically. Normal is a term that is often used to cage or assuage, rather than do the Work before us. It is not ‘normal’ for a person to do prayers before meals, bedtime, a storm, an interview, or just because we want to connect and/or honor the Holy Powers. It is not ‘normal’ for a person to dedicate themselves to a God or Goddess so fully that they would follow Them wherever They led. Yet this is normal for me. It is not disruptive to my life, but adds to its fullness. Sure, it was disruptive at first and I had a lot of anxiety over it. It was not so disruptive that I stopped going to school or seeing my son; if anything, it brought me closer to him, and in doing so, him deeper into my religion, and is a source of hope, comfort, and joy in his life.
What is ‘right’, as I mentioned above, has also changed for me. ’Right’ is really what gets the job done, and for my qualifier, with as little pain to myself and others as possible. Yet it always comes back to the good old standby of “What does it do? How well does it do it?” If something is a roadblock to my journey, rather than hitting that roadblock over and over again in some stubborn attempt to just muscle through it, wasting my and Odin’s time, I find alternate routes.
I do not worry, for instance, about if chakras are based in the lore. They are not, and I know that. Yet they are a good shorthand for the concept, a kind of lingua franca of the occultist, Pagan, and associated communities. It is far easier to say “I see a block in your solar plexus chakra originating in your crown chakra” than to go through an exhaustive explanation of “Your vili is in conflict with your godhi” and what that means, how it is manifesting, etc. That is not to say at times that I should not give the full explanation, but if the idea is to clearly and concisely communicate an idea without the amount of explanation it would take for the meaning to ‘stick’ with the person, well, chakra-talk works. Sure, nuance might be lost, but that’s the way of having a common language. Sometimes it works, and sometimes you need to walk a person through precisely what you mean.
What is ‘right’ has also change in terms of morality. When I first became a Pagan I was a non-denominational Wiccan following Brighid because that is Who my girlfriend, who originally introduced me to this working group, followed. It has been a powerful relationship, one that I am very grateful for. Yet ‘right’ at this point was the Threefold Law and rules familiar to most people, so I won’t go into it here.
‘Right’ for me, morally speaking, is more in line with Gebo: gift-for-a-gift. I’ve heard the old saw ‘eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind’. This is true, to an extent. There are legends of families whose blood feuds raged on for centuries because one party or another had murdered and not paid the weregild. Yet, ‘eye for an eye’ need not always be a negative; sometimes that eye is a necessary sacrifice for wisdom, for knowing, for peace. Gebo is more than just reaction for reaction. Gebo is also weighing the circumstances that an action takes, what the potential blowback is on a decision. Sometime the correct action to take is reactive. Sometimes it is to sit and ponder until the solution or the right idea comes to you that will resolve a situation for all parties. Sometimes the decision is simply unfair for one party, and that party will need to deal with the disappointment, anger, etc. In the end my baseline is reciprocity, and the reciprocity extends to all relationships, including ones with people I do not care for. Do no harm is not part of that morality, but do the least amount of harm necessary to achieve an end would probably be the closest, philosophically speaking.
‘Right’ has also meant looking at all of my relationships and really going about categorizing and prioritizing. There are some Gods I pray to for the blessings They have given, Who are no longer at the forefront of my life. There are some Gods I have active Work with that are more toward the front. At the front of it all is Odin. In right relationship with my Gods, I had to put myself and my practice in order to better align with my God’s needs and demands of me, and it has rippled down my relationships with my Gods, Ancestors, and spirits. I am better aligned and in tune with my Ancestors than I have ever been, and accordingly, with others’, because Odin has pushed me to do that. The same with working with the Military Dead, which would not have happened with Odin’s, and along with that, my teacher’s influence. Right relationship, whether giving the correct offerings, doing the daily prayers, and/or doing for others in the community, among a great deal of other things, is the core of what ‘right’ is now. There is much more insistence on right relationship now, especially because Odin has my ear more attuned than when I was just His priest. If I am not aligned with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits that I serve, what good am I as a priest, a shaman, or godatheow? Especially to Odin, as a godatheow?
As for my outlook on spirituality, I feel the word has become deeply diluted. Nowadays people use it in the context of “I’m spiritual, not religious” which is one of the goofiest fucking phrases I have ever heard. Some of the definitions for spiritual, according Merriam-Webster, are: “of or relating to sacred matters” “concerned with religious values”. If your spirituality, that is, your experience of a religion or a religious figure is not anchored to its religious foundation, what, precisely, are you experiencing?
I think that experiencing the Gods is entirely possible removed from its religious foundations. I have watched a Deist experience not the undifferentiated Whole he had thought was, but a singular God come down and speak to him. They can rock our foundations no matter denomination, outlook, etc. Yet he had no bedrock on which to place the experience. There was no way for him to get his bearings because his religious upbringing did not even have a lexicon for what was taking place. So spiritual experience removed from religious foundations are often confusing, taking longer time to process, to understand, to apply. It is far easier to work off a foundation of some kind than to build it up from nothing. It is also far easier to avoid taboos, missteps, and so on if you work from a more solid foundation.
Spirituality as a word and concept in the modern world is of limited use. Much the same as the word Pagan, it requires that a person delve into the word to explain its meaning to them, which has its uses too. It pushes for dialogue, in many cases. Yet, when used as a shorthand, such as “I am a spiritual person” I say as an animist/polytheist “No shit, so’s the rock.” It communicates a narrow band of information that becomes less useful the more it become removed from its place with religion. I once looked at the word as very useful, but over time I have found it to be less so. Better to speak with concrete words than undifferentiated sand; the former serves better as a foundation than the other.
Some of the main differences between my life as just a priest of Odin and now, as both His priest and godatheow, is that I have more responsibilities, more opportunities to help those He points out to me, and to do more with Him. I am restricted but I am more free, denied more of my free will, perhaps, but pointed in more directions which will be in line with His Work, and, I have found, helps others. I have had to do a lot of self-work as part of this Work, because if I am not clear, clean, and understanding of where I am and how I am, my usefulness as a priest, shaman, and godatheow to Him diminishes. In this I am clearer in mind, spirit, and understanding of Him, and accordingly, the other Gods I serve, because He has pushed me to be this way. Heck, I am even better in terms of my body, working out, eating better, and so on than I have ever been before in no small part due to His insistence that I care for myself so I can better do His Work!
I am closer to Him than I have ever been, and it has brought a kind of peace to my life I have not otherwise found, a purpose that is far clearer and more defined than I had known, and right relationship with Him, who has given me many, many blessings. I am better for it as both His priest and godatheow, doing His Work, than I was meandering about without His guidance. The Work has brought me closer to Him, and the closer I come, the more I find that Him holding the leash on my life, on me, is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
The wolf tore the tender flesh
Madness gripped unbidden
and Death rode within the Child
Whose Godly life was taken
The madness gripped the Wolf
and He snapped and snarled and howled
By magic Odin fettered Him
Mind and form befouled
He knew not what He did
He only knew that when
He ripped His Brother’s stomach out
His madness would not end
How come we to this pain?
How come we to this wrong?
How come we to the cave?
In which You have served so long?
For pain exacts its own price
in wrath will have revenge
and in a Father’s loving lost
Comes the Worlds’ own End
You stand before the doom
of all that once was full of Life
You stand with bowl upraised
a weeping Witness and a Wife
Succor, I pray to Your pain
and to Your Family too
But not prayer nor power can take away
The wrong done unto You
Oh Gods, hear my prayer!
My little mortal cry
May it pierce the depths of Helheim’s Gates
and pierce great Asgard’s sky!
Peace oh peace! Peace!
I pray, with fervent lips aloft
For I can feel the Battle coming
And it is not far off
Great Jord She shakes in agony
with Loki in Her bones
His thrashing wounds Her heart and soul
Sigyn, She stands alone
indomitable and unbowed
Hail to Your Holy Duty
To the thrashing Serpent-Crowned
Hail to You Holy Mother
May frith be offering,
That no other may know the loss You bear
or know Your suffering