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Sharing Ritual, Sharing Community

I did not go to the Polytheist Leadership Conference because I made a promise to Mani.  Between the promise and His gentle presence indicating ‘stay’ when I asked Him if I should ask to reschedule, I followed His lead.  It tore at me; I really wanted to go, and meet people who I have talked online and on this blog with face-to-face, to share in workshops and ritual.  I was asked by people I consider family to put on a ritual in Mani’s honor.  When I accept such a thing, I treat it as a promise to my Gods that They will be hailed, offered to, and whatever the ritual(s) requires.  My friends are the priests of a Wiccan church, Crossroads Tabernacle Church, and rather than keep up walls between our religions, they graciously asked me to put on a Northern Tradition ritual for this last Full Moon.  I was and am honored by their request.  The ritual for Mani went very well, and I am eager to do more Northern Tradition rituals with them.

In doing these rituals together we are drawing the circle bigger, while also drawing it closer to our hearts.  There is no need to compromise our religions for one another if there is true respect for them.  I have been working with this church for several years.  At first I was just attending, and then, for the last four years, I have served as their youth minister.  Never have I been asked to compromise my beliefs, nor break taboos.  My friends have been greatly accommodating, and quite careful regarding them.  They ask what I can or cannot eat, they are mindful of what taboos I am under if I have told them, and their sensitivity to my tradition and to the work I do has been one of many blessings they have given me over the years.

I am a person with his feet in many traditions.  I am a Northern Tradition and Heathen polytheist.  I am a shaman, priest, and godatheow of Odin.  I am a priest of Anpu.  I am a member of House Sankofa.  I am a member of Urðarbrunnr Kindred.  I am a member of the Thunderbird People.  I am the facilitator of a Michigan Northern Tradition Study Group.  I am a member of Crossroads Tabernacle Church as well as its Youth Minister.  None of these groups contradicts or derides my beliefs.  None of them provides harm to my hamingja.  All of these affiliations, alliances, friendships, and group ties, together, enhance our hamingja and help it to grow.

Rather than building an impenetrable wall, the traditions and ways of the Northern Tradition ground my family, coreligionists, and I in a living religion that gives us a solid foundation to build from.  The definitions and ways by which our tradition are defined bring clarity and understanding not only to ourselves in living this religion, but to others in being able to explain and share it.  Rather than being terribly excluding, the beliefs and practices we keep are inviting while also keeping to that solid ground in respect and reverence for the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.  Unless the Gods, Ancestors, or spirits are being disrespected there is no reason to not share in ritual.

How can we be in ritual together and respect one another’s traditions?

Respect and communication.  After the priests of CTC asked me to put together a ritual, I asked permission from Mani if I could do a ritual on His behalf with the church.  When He let me know His approval, I began writing the ritual.  Well before the ritual the priests received a copy of the ritual outline.  They, in turn, asked me if there was anything I needed for the ritual and what offerings to bring.  They also asked me to help write up the announcement.  It turns out this helped some of the youth, because in addition to food and herb offerings, Mani received two math problems as offerings.  One was part of a sequence, whose name escapes me, and the other was a math problem the young person made up on the fly.  There was also a choice: some of the offerings were going to be buried, and others burned.  Both chose to burn their math offerings during the ritual.  Knowing we were able to burn these on-site rather than off-site was a big plus.

These things are not different from when I enter into a Wiccan ritual.  I did not ask each person “Are you polytheist?” before the Mani ritual any more than the priests ask “Are you Wiccan?” before a Wiccan ritual.  I did not say “If you do not understand/know Mani as I do, you are wrong”.  We were there to celebrate Mani together.  That was made plain from the beginning of the ritual.  From the beginning the expectation and the presence of respect for the God is there, and the understanding of what kind of ritual we are engaging in is there.  It is understood if we are engaging in Wiccan ritual we use a Wiccan format for it, such as a circle casting, a calling to the Elements, and the Gods.  Are there common elements to the rituals we engage in?  Yes, although the way of cleansing and setting up of sacred space, and to Whom we call differ.

We came together as we usually did by taking three deep breaths and asking if there was peace in our circle.  Instead of cleansing the space with a broom and lighting incense, we burned mugwort, cleansing the altar.  I made a point of involving my son in this ritual, because, as I explained to those assembled, ours is a tribal religion in which our children are involved as much as the adults.  I knelt to him so he could cleanse me first with Grandmother Una’s smoke, and then I cleansed him in kind.  I then each person.  Instead of a circle casting and calling in the Elements, we performed the Hammer Rite.  I felt it was a good way to invite those who had never been in a Northern Tradition ritual into the rite in a way that felt familiar.  So, we hailed the four Directions, Asgard, Helheim, and Midgard.

One major difference in this rite as opposed to many of the ones the church comes together in, is that there was no Drawing Down of Mani.  Where the God and Goddess would have been called Down, there were offerings made to Him as we all sang, standing in His presence.  There was time while we sang after the offerings were made for anyone who wanted to step forward to speak with Him or ask Him for a blessing.  When all were finished we came back together, thanked Mani for His presence, thanked the Directions with the ending Hammer Rite, and ended everything with Sigdrifa’s Prayer.

Mani was received and treated with the respect and reverence as He is due.  Some who had come to join in the ritual had never known Mani before, and left wanting to know more.  Some had known of Mani but had never been in His Presence.  The ritual left its mark on all who attended, including me.  He was gentle, and patient, yet playful in His Full Moon face.  He was patient as two youths, whom I am very proud of, placed math problems before Him to be burned as offerings.  I could feel His brightness as we gathered in honor to Him, and His happiness at its end.

We do not have to leave one another at the crossroads of our communities.  Rather, we can gather around them, celebrating with one another.  We can sing, dance, offer, and hold rituals for our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir together, drawing the circle bigger, while respecting one another’s traditions.

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  1. Alexis Sólveig Freysdóttir
    July 29, 2014 at 1:53 am

    What are the Thunderbird People? I am very curious because the Thunderbird has meaning to me.

    • July 29, 2014 at 2:01 am

      We are a group of people, Native and non-Native, who have come together to walk the Good Red Road together. I was adopted into the group a year ago.

      What does the Thunderbird mean to you?

      • Alexis Sólveig Freysdóttir
        July 29, 2014 at 2:55 am

        I once met the Thunderbird on a shamanic journey and since then he/her is in my life. I don’t understand it because I have no conneciton to this mythology, beside Iktomi. I am from Europe and therefore far away from the Native Americans, I guess. It’s kind of strange to me. I never did a research about it because I thought it was nonsense of my fantasy.

      • July 29, 2014 at 3:01 am

        It might be worth it to research the Thunderbird, and maybe reach back to It if you are called/feel you can. They are powerful Beings, and being visited by one us a blessing.

      • Alexis Sólveig Freysdóttir
        July 29, 2014 at 3:04 am

        Thank you. I was not aware of this. As I mentioned, I thought it’s not usual for the Thunderbird to leave its culture.

      • July 29, 2014 at 4:21 am

        No problem.
        Just as I believe the Gods of the Northern Tradition can reach out to anyone They choose, so too I believe the spirits of the Native tribes, peoples, nations, etc., can. I think the culture(s) we are in/connected might predispose us toward connection with certain Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. That said, I believe if They want to connect with us then They will. This is not to say that I believe that culture does not matter, though. Culture, among a great many things, gives us the means to understanding and living in right relationship with the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and our communities.

  2. July 31, 2014 at 3:54 am

    Thank you for sharing this–I had hoped you’d be at the PLC and that I’d get to meet you at last, but Mani is damn cool, too! (And I’m becoming more and more interested in him…)

    Also, glad to hear the anthology is coming out soon–congrats on that! I’ve been working on two anthologies for 5+ years, and they’re still not ready…it’s a whole other ballgame than monographs are, alas.

    Some of the local Native divinities have been contacting me on and of over the years, so it is also good to hear that you’re entering into that set of practices as well. At the major outdoor rituals I’ve had here in the last year, we’ve always given tobacco to those ancestors and land spirits first, which I think is important.

    • July 31, 2014 at 4:20 am

      Thank you very much for reading. I hope to be at the next PLC, and I’m already thinking on what I will submit as a presentation. It would be great to meet you in person!

      I definitely encourage more people to connect with Him. Given I am a night owl I definitely see more of Him than His Sister. In my experience He has a Presence that changes with the Moon’s cycles I tend to understand Him as more melancholy and inward, sometimes to the point of silence, a kind of blank silence where He is there, but in a sublime kind of way. When the Moon is full, I feel His Presence as bright, joyful, almost bursting with it.

      Thank you so much for contributing to the anthology. I can’t wait to hold it in my hands. Even more so for other people to! It is a whole other ballgame, but i love how this one has brought together so many people from disparate backgrounds and traditions.

      *nods* I don’t believe we can live on this land, say we connect with or acknowledge as holy, venerate and/or worship the world we live in and not at least give due reverence and respect to the Native spirits, those who have died here, and the land spirits they are part of and/or live alongside.

      I had a similar experience with Mujakiwas, the Ojibwe Spiritkeeper of the West as I had with Odin. He came on strong, and invited me to learn from Him upon meeting Him. Truthfully, He pulled me into the Thunderbird People (fitting, given His is the Direction the Thunderbirds come from) and brought me to walk this road alongside the Northern Tradition. What has fascinated me about my journey on this road so far is that there are a good number of areas where the Northern Tradition and Native traditions of the Thunderbird People align beautifully. Something I forgot to say on the broadcast that I will here, and may expand on, is that the Thunderbird People accept folks from a variety of religions and theological worldviews. At the heart of the Thunderbird People is a sincere respect and veneration of the Great Spirit, the Spiritkeepers, and all Creation. We have members like myself who are polytheist, Christian, and Wiccan yet keep the ways of the Thunderbird People and share in ritual with one another without issue.

      • July 31, 2014 at 11:36 am

        While I like a number of female moon-connected deities (e.g. Diana, Artemis, Hekate, Selene, etc.), I find myself far more attracted to male ones, e.g. Men, Endymion, Tsukiyomi-no-Mikoto, and Mani…and, of course, Antinous, who is a kind of “minor” moon deity (amongst his many other aspects)…and, Cú Chulainn also has something called the “hero’s moon” that appears on his head when he is in his lighter battle-frenzies, which I’ve always also connected more closely to lunar forces (and there doesn’t seem to be an obvious Irish lunar deity, apart from perhaps Midir, which is far from certain…the oft-heard assumption that such a deity must be a goddess is nonsensical, however). So, I think it makes sense that Mani has that attraction for me…also, the images that Galina has commissioned of him on the three different prayer cards are all kinds of hot. 😉 I am hoping what is in her new devotional volume for him will spark something off.

        The main Native American figure that I can identify individually, who has reached out to me (including when I was on the other end of the country!), is Kwekwálelwet, the “Maiden of Deception Pass,” from the Samish people. I am trying to figure out if there is a way I can respectfully approach them and ask more about this; they’re a struggling tribe, that has only had its identity recognized by the government relatively recently, as they were all dispersed amongst about three other tribes quite a while back. In any case…

  3. August 2, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    Reblogged this on Úlfdís Járnviðar and commented:
    This is fantastic – I often find myself the only heathen around other religious folks, and I’ve been very much enjoying finding both common ground and cross-tradition understanding with others, and sharing our experiences. What good does it if we fight and hide away and not let others share, when what truly matters is sharing out devotion to the Holy Powers with others, and sharing in theirs in return? They derive no benefit from us holding ourselves apart, nor does it do our tradition any good.

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