Yesterday was madcap in terms of stuff to do. It was my first day, and will be my only day, of missing a day of this work. Today I gave offerings of blood to Runátýr and the Runevaettir, and gave an offering of a very special beer: Hofbräu Original. I generally do not like beer unless it is a good quality one. I had one of these at Frankenmuth, MI last Saturday and it knocked my socks of. One of the people I call Brother bought me a sampler case of Hofbräu beers, and I offered this to Runátýr and the Runevaettir, and to Frigga as well. It felt very well received.
The empowerment went very well. There is an odd but good sensation to the talismans when I trace the woodburnings in them. Something like a surge of electricity that makes my arm feel odd as I press my finger to the Runes. Both of them have this sensation, almost identically. There’s a different ‘flavor’ to the wealth talisman from the communion talisman. Just two more days until the beeswax sealing of these two. I’ll be grabbing pots, possibly today, so I can do double boiling from a local thrift store, and keep them for this work.
Today went well, especially after a busy day. I think that it is a good thing that there’s not a lot of new things to write on at this point; this is, I think, where this process should be. In three days I will be finishing the talismans by putting on the beeswax, and blooding the one I am keeping.
Yesterday and today’s empowerment were quicker than usual, and brought with each a feeling of power coursing down through my arm as the empowerment was completed. I’ve had this feeling with each one, but it is becoming especially pronounced now as we near the end of the Challenge. It isn’t like lightning, electricity feeling, more like a warmth spreading down my arm. The Internet has been sporadically up and down, and here’s hoping that cuts out soon. I’m getting tired of posting these one to two days after they happen!
Today was quick but no less effective. Just a feeling of unfolding that has come in the last week or two of this work. I can feel the home stretch, with only 7 more days to go. There’s a bit of excitement to it. A hope, too.
Today was simple and clean. The energies of the talismans are in good forward motion. I’ll be experimenting with the beeswax soon in a double boiling technique with another talisman to see what the process is like, and how easy or hard it will be to coat them when the Challenge comes to a close.
Day 21: Purification Explanation, the Value of Practice and Memorization, and Empowerment -30 Days of Magic Talisman Challenge
I have not found that I have gone very far into the purification work I do prior to the empowerment work.
Generally speaking, if I have not had a shower yet I will take one. My usual routine during any shower is to set aside some time for cleansing, purification, uncrossing, and shield work. I like the flow of Water in the work, given I am physically cleaning myself anyhow. Given how madcap my scheduling can be, having a few dedicated minutes in the shower lends to a good time to do this work. After hailing and thanking the Gods and spirits of Water, and Water Itself. I will staðagaldr Ansuz to purify myself within as I am cleaning my body. I recently incorporated a new step between staðagaldring Ansuz and Gebo: I ground with Midgarð, and work on shielding. I then staðagaldr Gebo to bring myself into awareness, centering myself, and finishing up the grounding and shielding work.
After the shower I will go over to the Runes’ altar, thank the Sons and Daughters of Muspelheim, hail the Gods and spirits of Fire and Fire Itself, then light Their candle, and ask Fire to bless and cleanse me. I take special care when doing this to bring the warmth from the top of my head down to my feet, taking special care to bring it to my lips. I do this so that when I say the names of the Runes, I do so well and am careful, knowing that my words, especially now, should be mindful, and spoken with clear intent for the empowerment work. I will then staðagaldr Ansuz once more to bring myself clarity and cleansing, then Gebo for centering, and grounding in the work before me.
Then I make the prayers to Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir, and begin the empowerment work with Them. Keep in mind that a lot, if not all of this is part of my everyday routine now. It may sound long and exhaustive, but a lot of the prep work is already done, making it so that when I kneel to do the work it goes well even when I am being quick about it. With the memorization of the prayers I no longer have to think overlong about how to formulate the prayers, but to make them in the proper mindset, focused on the work at hand. With the memorization of the ritual actions I have the same result. This works quite well for me, to the point that I will probably follow this formula in the future since I spend a good deal more time on the actual empowerment now than I do worrying about the ritual actions themselves.
Hope is hard. Hope is hard because it asks us to look at the ugliness around us and to dream of more than what we see. It demands we reach beyond the abyss we see when we look upon violence and hate that grips so much around us, in us, through us. Hope is the hard road, the rough road, the road that says “Stand up”.
It is hard to hope. It is hard to hope when so many are arrayed against it. Yet hope is not delusion, is not a honeyed tongue, or a fever-dream. It is reachable and doable, even if only through steep odds. Yet hope, like many roads, begins with steps, and keeps on with determination. It must be chosen. Yes, the skies are poisoned, the seas are choked with plastic, the world roils under the heat we produce. Yes, massacre and genocide sweeps across the world and eats, a furious glutton on the entrails of all who feed it. Even in that there is hope. There are the small steps; the person who seeks alternatives to their consumption, the person who uses less and saves more. There is the person who opens their home to refugees, who squirrels away the children so they will not become child soldiers; it will not stop the war, but one more will not need to suffer. There are the small steps of a person who plants a garden and eats from their own yard, or the person who drives less or is more efficient in their energy use. There are the small steps of a person who stands up and says ‘No, no more’. These are not just gestures but points of hope put into action. That we can and are changing.
Do we need big steps? Yes, of course we do, but these are steps we can take as individuals, then communities. When our resolve becomes to stand before the problems we face, from climate change to genocide, from ecological disaster to the gutting of our communities, hope is there because we stand in our place and claim what power we have. We cede it far too much. No, a changed lightbulb or car route will not halt global warming, but it can inspire change through its demonstration of what action begins to look like. Will a single child saved stop a civil war? No, but it saves that child’s life for something more, one less killer, one less victim, inch by inch building up the hope that there can be a better tomorrow. Hope is generated by action seen through to its conclusion, is shaped by the hearts of those who seed it. So wherever you can, however you can, sow and grow hope.
Sometimes reading through posts on peoples’ blogs, I get inspiration to write. Sometimes it is in addition to what they’ve written, and sometimes it is a rebuttal. Sometimes the post inspires me to write on some aspect of my own life, religion, etc. Sometimes it is not much more than an extended “Hell yeah!”
I read through Mr. Webster’s article. What I found did not so much challenge me as trouble me, as he says he is acting as a Pagan pastor. Particularly since Ancestor work, worship, and veneration are parts of the foundation of the Northern Tradition, I, accordingly, view the Ancestors as part and parcel of the life one leads. As a shaman, priest, and Ancestor worker within this Tradition I find the attitudes Mr. Webster presents towards the Ancestors in the writing concerning.
“Ancestor worship has become a popular topic in the Pagan community, but it is worth noting that it is not universal, or necessarily normative. It can also lead to some problems. . . ”
Not every Pagan will regularly worship Ancestors but I have yet to hear of any Pagan not at the least worshiping, venerating, and/or remembering their Ancestors, at the very least, on or around October 31st.
Ancestor worship can be worship of one’s blood, spiritual, adopted, chosen, lineage, and/or inspirational Ancestors. He notes that there are Asian and African lineage-based Ancestor worshipers that know their lineage and where it comes from. I’m not sure what he is trying to make a point of here, excepting that perhaps they can trace their lineage back to where it originated, or some point in antiquity to where records fail or become irrelevant. The problem with painting with as broad a brush as Mr. Webster does, is that he already is showing inaccuracies and he has only started to stroke the canvas. Mr. Webster notes that “This is a degree of specificity we have yet to achieve,” and yet, I can point to my own Elders, and a great many Wiccans can point to their own lineages. I view this knowledge as a good. I can point to who trained me and how, where this and that idea developed, and provide due reverence for them when they have passed on, while still improving upon the lessons they gave me, and passing on those lessons to the next generation. I find no issue with honoring ones Elders as part of the Ancestors provided those Elders are actually dead.
In his next section he makes the point that not everyone works with the Dead. He is absolutely wrong. Every one of us will die, and we all know or will come to know someone who dies. Whether or not the religion itself acknowledges it, and engenders a positive relationship with the Dead, is an entirely different story. I know that I am picking on semantics here, but if you are going to be a pastor, and an effective communicator as one, the language you use to describe things matters. I’m not saying one must be perfect, but his connection of the Golden Dawn with what may be one of the very few exceptions to the rule of working with the Dead does not effectively make his case or tie it into the main theme he is writing about in this piece, especially in regards to Pagans as a whole. He notes that the Golden Dawn developed during ‘the great age of Spiritualism’ and made strides to divide itself against the practice of mediumship, favoring scrying, and that it actively discouraged contact with the Dead. This is because the main thought of those in the Golden Dawn at the time is that what they would “speak to would not be the blessed and intelligent soul, usually” and were “thought by those Victorians to be reincarnating or possibly passed on to their reward, and so not available for conversation”.
So the main way of viewing the Dead from the Golden Dawn’s perspective, according to Mr. Webster, is that ‘They are dead and we would not want to have conversation with them anyhow even if they were able to be contacted.”
What he says next is both mystifying and boggling to me, as a priest who worships and works with Anpu, aka Anubis. He says that “I generally give no thought to ancestors or even lineage”. This, despite being “a priest of Hermes and Hekate”. It seems he serves a particular role, basically to help the Dead find Their way so They are not lost. He notes that to talk to them “would not occur to me.” It makes no sense to me that someone who works with the Dead would not seek out and cultivate a connection with their own Dead.
Perhaps that is just the work that Hermes and Hecate want him to do and no more. I do not worship either God or Goddess regularly nor have enough regular contact with Them to make a judgment. I am not a priest that works within that culture. Perhaps one who does would have a better understanding and be able to make one.
That all said, I deeply disagree with the next paragraph where he says “ those Dead whom folks are invoking and making offering to might better be considered the Honored Dead or Mighty Dead”. No.
If my Great-Grandpa Datema comes and talks to me it is probably just Great-Grandpa Datema. He is one of my notable Dead, both because I have a name for him, and he has a story that I know, told to me by my grandparents and by him, of how he immigrated to America as World War I was going on. He is one of the Väter (the German word for Fathers that I use rather than alfar, as that word, while sometimes denoting powerful male Ancestors in the lore, it also means elf) as he is one of the great roots that were laid down in my families when he came here to America. He isn’t especially powerful in terms of raw strength, but he has the wisdom from where he came from, and the lessons of how hard it can be to live between two places. By the time he died, Great-Grandpa had lost most of his ability to speak and write in Dutch, and by turns, also did not speak or write terribly great English, either. Yet his wisdom, support, and love for his children is a powerful force in its own right and so I honor him as one of my Väter. Perhaps this is a difference in culture, but I view all the Ancestors as worthy of my communication, as potential helpmeets rather than just calling on the Might Dead, Honored Dead, Heroes, etc. It may be that one of my less notable Dead, or Dead for whom I do not have a name, will have the key that opens up the path before me, or gives me what I need to face a challenge, rather than one of the Might, Honored, etc. Dead.
What he goes into next is his own work and view. Ancestors, to my mind, can imply biological connection but can also imply everything, such as adoption and lineage, that I noted above. I think he insults his own lineages and Ancestors when he calls those who empower or inspire him from the past just ‘the Past’. Especially since he takes refuge in what I see as something those Ancestors, and other Ancestors, are directly involved in. The fact that he has the gall to refer to his Ancestors as a set of resources, as just part of ‘the Past’, as he puts it, is…well, insulting.
His last concern (please note I don’t think he has laid out his concerns thus far effectively or with solid reasoning) is “that folks are performing practices such as seasonal rituals ‘because their ancestors did them’. Seriously? How is that in this day and age meaningful motivation?”
Granted, if I lived in a climate that was totally unlike my Ancestors’, i.e. I lived in Phoenix and celebrated a harvest during the dry season, I could see his point. The objection he has unravels pretty quick given where I live. From what I have been told by those who have visited and lived in Germany, Michigan does tend to have very German-like weather and harvest patterns. So, a lot of Northern Tradition holidays would be fine being repeated in roughly the same times over here because they fit into the general scheme of our own weather and harvesting, minding that a lot of the celebration of holidays were based on local reckoning, such as moon phases, harvest times for local farmers, omens and the like. It would not be impossible or even unwieldy to do many of the celebrations my Ancestors may have done in ancient Germany. Yes, we live in modern times, and I would not expect my military, or my militia to hang prisoners of war. My Ancestors were practical. If it worked, They used it. If it would no longer be acceptable to do something I am sure there would be other ways found, invented, or inspired to.
I find myself rankled at his use of ‘the Past’. The Ancestors are not just ‘the Past’, per se; They were, and are, in some sense, People. They lived. Practicing at least some of the things in the ways our Ancestors did them can give us understanding of how and why. It is like archaeologists who learn how to knap flint; the process of learning how is as important to understanding the questions of how and why, and related questions to them as well, such as “Why this style of arrowhead?”, “Why this method of holding the stone?”, or “Why this flaking style?”. It is as, if not more important than the answers received at the end result of making the arrowhead, knife, carving, etc. By not trying to make these connections, rather than degenerate our rituals, we degenerate our relationship with the Ancestors and become more lazy. The Ancestors’ ways of doing things were frequently challenging, labor intensive, or required a lot of input from many people to be effective. Sometimes spiritual value is lost when we are not asked, or demanded, to put effort in. There is spiritual value in doing things the old way, such as making a Sacred Fire by hand, having experienced this. Our focus for almost every ritual, in my view, should be on the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits and doing right by Them. I believe that for us to have the power that Mr. Webster believes we should have for our rites, it is absolutely necessary for us to do the hard work, personally and communally, that They require whether or not our Ancestors did it this way or that traditionally/according to the lore.
In the end, I did not feel that Mr. Webster made any firm points. It felt rather like he was merely railing against the notion that the Ancestors deserve honor, regular communication, and proper respect. I am an animist and polytheist operating out of a reconstructionist-derived view, and as such, believe that the lore and archeology are jumping off points. The Ancestors’ ways may not all work for the times we are in now, but for those practices that we can translate into modern times, I feel very deeply that we should. There is much wisdom that the Ancestors, as well as the Gods, and spirits can teach us if we would just listen, and especially, do the work. Out of anything that rankles me it seems that this article rails against the work that is needed to effectively communicate with the Ancestors and to bring Their Wisdom into the modern times to be shared with all who would hear and do the Work.
When I last gave a workshop, and when I talk with others on the subject of Ancestor worship and veneration the topic of Christian Ancestors comes up. I have had to confront it in my own work time and again.
So what do you do? If your Ancestors were abusive and you cannot talk to them, whether religion was involved or not, work with someone older than They, or closer to you. You do not have to work with abusive, or formerly abusive Dead. After Odin, the first Ancestors who made Themselves known to me were ancient ones. Then my much more recent Dead began turning Their heads to me. For other people their most recent Dead might grab ahold of Them first and ask to talk with them.
1) Establish Contact
Whether using an Ancestor altar, such as a white cloth with a candle and a glass of water, a rosary, a photograph, a picture of a coat of arms, or something else from your Ancestors, even just your breath, establish contact. It can be as elaborate as a full ritual to honor and invite Them to share your life, or it can be as simple as a spoken prayer or a hello or a cup of coffee. At least once a week make contact with the Ancestors, and take care during the week to especially contact the Ancestors that want your attention.
Perhaps an Ancestor had a favorite prayer, or enjoyed a psalm or song. Perhaps that is, for your work with Them, ‘Their’ song. As with other Ancestors, learning a favorite dish They enjoyed, or other offering may be the key to hearing Them, or feeling Their Presence in your life. Sometimes just getting a name from a relative, or doing your own genealogical research is the key you need to establishing contact. For myself, I wear Ancestral prayer beads, among other necklaces, that I carry with me wherever I go, and I now carry a red New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs book at my Ancestors’ request. Listen as best you can, do what research you are able, and give space in your life to hear Them, whatever road you come to Them by.
2) Ask for a Representative
When my Catholic Ancestors began to pipe up the first thing I asked for was a go-between, an Ancestor who would help to cut down on the ‘noise’. This is very likely going to be a Disir, a powerful female Ancestor, or a Vater, a powerful male Ancestor. Sometimes our Ancestors can give us contradictory requests or confusing divination answers because there are so many Ancestors clamoring for a spot to be heard. A Disir or Vater can help get your Ancestral ‘House’ in order, and give some semblance of organization, if not overt organization; some of my German Ancestors seem to like things “NEAT UND TIDY!”
Remember, many of our Ancestors have had silence rather than regular offerings for quite a while. Even if you do not ‘hear’, ‘see’, etc. or are completely ‘headblind’, asking for a representative voice for the group(s) of your Ancestors can help divination sessions, mediumship work if you go that route, and give better signal clarity on what is desired overall from and for you.
3) Determine Boundaries
What do you feel you can actually deliver on? This is something to be mindful of with every Ancestor, but especially with those who may ask things of you, particularly if They were Christian. In my case my Catholic Ancestors like it when I read from the Bible, or sing Psalms or church songs to Them. Where do I draw the line? Taking Communion for one, particularly because I no longer can say the Nicene Creed, and I would be lying to the Church, which dictates you must be a believer to receive Communion, and I imagine Christ and Yahweh in the bargain. Given all that, I would have to refuse if an Ancestor wanted me to take Communion. Would I step foot in a church again? Certainly. I still have Catholic family members who may well be married in a church, and I would be in attendance. I also had a very, very good, gentle, and wise holy man for a priest, and it would be a real treat to meet the good Father again and see how he is doing.
Gift for a gift. When I do my prayers for my Catholic Ancestors or read a passage I do it so They are happy, They are near, and as a gift to Them. They give me the gift of Their Presence, Their happiness, and I can hear Them clearer. I have also found the little New Testament They asked me to carry around with me to be a source of contact with Them; all I have to do is shut my eyes, let the pages flow along my fingertips till I feel the urge to stop on a page, then let my index finger find a word or passage. The meaning so far has been pretty clear, especially since I read the Bible quite a lot as a child.
Not all of the requests our Ancestors make are easy; certainly, many of my Catholic Ancestors wished I attended Mass once again. Some have fallen out of that, with Death having given Them a wider perspective. While I will not meet all Their requests, my Catholic Ancestors seem to be pleased with things as They are, and more willing to lend Their hands to what needs doing in my life. Doing this, for me, provides a bridge back to Ancestors I thought would have abandoned me, or at least would have remained largely hands-off. While some still do, a great many express a renewed interest in working with me, in hearing me and answering. How can I do less?
I may no longer worship my Catholic Ancestors’ God, but I can show respect to Them, honor Them in word and deed even if my lips never uttered another song or verse. Perhaps your experiences with Christianity and/or its adherents were so abhorrent that they left deep scars. My way of doing things would not be for you. Perhaps in that case asking your Disir and Vater to calm or explain things to your Christian Ancestors, so that old wounds are not reopened is best. These are, like all relationships with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, between Them and you. Above all, give Them the time and space where you are wholly concentrated on Them, whether They raise Their voices or otherwise make Themselves known, or not.
*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.