Beginning the Year of Aun

My Heathen and Heathen-adjacent, animist, and various polytheist folks in my community met for the Year of Aun on January 7th. We feasted as a community. Then, we lit a Sacred Fire. I started with flint and steel on charcloth, and put the cloth in gathered fluff from cattails that grew on my land. We started the fire with cardboard, and added wood another of our members brought. The Fire didn’t come to light until my friend Storm, who is a Sister of mine that I have had the pleasure of starting and tending many of these Sacred Fires with over courses of a weekend, came near. Everything caught in a few moments.

We made offerings of herbs, starting with tobacco since we live in Michigan, and then followed with many of the Nine Sacred Herbs. I explained the Year of Aun again then so we were grounded in the purpose of the rite.

We cleansed with the Fire. Since many could not approach the Fire I took Fire to them and cleansed them.

Josie had made Aun out of bread. We each took a piece, tearing apart Aun, and gave him and his wrongs to the fire, and dedicated ourselves to becoming good Ancestors. We each dedicated, in some way, to bringing balance to our lives, our communities, and to Jörð. When we were finished here, we sang, prompted by our friend Raven, a wordless tune that we all caught up and was drummed with. Folks took turns making declarations, prayers, and the like. When were finished we thanked Aun for his example, reaffirmed our dedication to being better Ancestors, and made offerings to the gathered Ginnreginn (Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir), including the Sacred Fire.

It is a simple and good start to getting the wheel of this year turning, and I look forward to this Fire being carried by each of us, through all our celebrations, through the coming year. Already I am seeing folks begin to come back into balance with Jörð and the various Ginnreginn, with our own communities, and ourselves. Some of these transitions are hard, deeply painful, and even so, they are worth it. May each of us carry that Sacred Fire and the dedication to be the best Ancestors we can through this Aun Year, and the years to come. Hail to all who light their Sacred Fires, to all those who seek to address the damages of Aun, and to rebalance themselves with the Ginnreginn and one another.

Ves þú heil!

A Story of Loss, Meaning, and Mutual Aid

TW: Loss of a pet, grief, working with a body, bodily functions

I don’t kid when I tell folks mutual aid can be some of the most frustrating and inconvenient things. A case in point:

Sometimes mutual aid is helping your neighbors bury their dog when you are sick as hell.

A week before and during the week of Thanksgiving I was sick with the flu. I’ve never been that sick with the flu before, save one time when I was a kid and was so bad off with the flu I was hallucinating. I took those two weeks off from work after having to visit the urgent care multiple times, and sometime after this story’s occurence, I ended up in the ER getting seen. It was a rough illness.

This takes place about halfway through this illness. I am knocked completely out because this flu has kicked my ass up one side and down the other. I get woken up by my partner, Streaking Fate. She tells me that our neighbor’s dog, about an eight month old black pitty mix puppy, got hit by a car. There is a car stopped that is just starting to pull away from our neighbor’s driveway. I found out later they did the right thing and spoke with our neighbor about what happened, and apologized.  So, having just been woken up out of a dead sleep with a flu bug that has completely leveled my ass, adrenaline starts pumping. I hauled over to check after throwing on some clothes, hoodie, leather gloves, and my winter coat. At this point I had no idea if the dog was alive, suffering, or not, so I brought some things along in case I could help their dog out to either get to the hospital or end its suffering.

First, I check on the dog, who is lying on the side of the street outside their driveway. The poor boy was a puppy, a pitty mix if memory serves, and very loving. A bit hyper, doofy, and really enjoyed breaking the rules and running around our yard, but generally a harmless pupper. All of the light is out of his eyes, and he is collapsed on the street, head to the side. I check him, speak his name a few times, and check his breathing and pulse. His eyes are glazed. There is nothing I can do for him.

I then check on my neighbors. They are a man and a woman about my age, not married yet though from what I gather they are working on that. I can see that she’s absolutely crushed, not only for herself, but for her boys and especially her partner, who loves that dog. I hug her for awhile and let her cry. Then, I ask her if there is anything I can do for her. She’s beside herself, and cannot bear to see her dog. I look to my partner who is sitting with their dog’s body. I know what I should do. I ask her if she wants me to take him, get him away from the street, and get him cleaned up in my garage. She agrees, I give her my number, and she lets me go to take care of him so she can break the news to her boys.

I come back and the poor guy has involuntarily vomited. Sometimes when we die, this happens. Sometimes we vomit, sometimes we shit,or both, because the muscles move in such a way on death that evacuation just occurs. So, we grab a tarp from my garage, and carefully put him on it, and bring him up to the garage as carefully as we can. His size belies how damned heavy he is. We get him in and put him on a large foldable clean plastic table.

We make prayers to our Gods of the Dead, to Anpu, to Hela, to Óðinn, and others. We make prayers to our Gods that are Wolves, Dogs, and other canids, including Anpu and Fenrisúlfr, and divine animals, including Hela’s hound Garmr, and Óðinn’s wolves Geri and Freki, among others. Then, after some cleansing breaths, we get to work on cleaning him.

He has pits of asphalt from the impact of the road, scratches, and bits of blood here and there. We clean out the pits and wipe away the blood on him with warm, wet terry cloths. Probably the hardest thing to work with is the vomit, because while we were bringing him inside, and I hauled him onto the table, his stomach continued to empty. To make him presentable for our neighbors, we keep cleaning him all over and especially inside his mouth. We use most of our terry towels over the course of an hour to an hour and a half. As we work we whisper prayers, and we speak with him.  We tell him what a good boy he is and was, and how much his people will miss him, and how much love they have for him. We speak with the Dead, cleaning him, so his Daddy doesn’t have to see him in the state we did. Over time the grime and grit, the blood, vomit, and all the rest come up. I take one of the white cloths that served as an altar cloth, and bring it outside. Streaking Fate puts it beneath him while I lift him up, and we wrap him in it, and wait for his Dad to come over.

It takes him some time to get home, to see his family, and to talk and process things. He calls, tells me he will be over soon. I ask if he needs anything to eat or drink. He can’t, so I just tell him to come over when he is ready to. When he comes over to the garage I can see him barely contain his emotions. I hug him, and can tell he’s a man not used to this, but I am, and I give him a soft squeeze on his shoulder and let him know his grief is welcome. I can see it in his eyes. As much as this puppy was loved by his family, this dog was his boy. He was a member of the family. He speaks to him as a son. For a few moments I watch him, watch as he drapes his hands over the coal-black fur in the most gentle way over his boy, and pet him, whispering words. I tell him to take as much time as he needs, and if he needs to warm up to come into the house. We leave him.

I take a seat in one of the chairs we have upstairs, and breathe long and hard, coughing hard because the flu is trying to make me expel my lungs. I blow my nose on one of my many handkerchiefs (thank you, Grandpa, they’ve definitely come in handy), and clean my hands with soap and water. A while later he knocks on the door from the garage. When my neighbor comes in he lets me know he needs to get some things from his home and to bring his truck around to take his puppy home. He asks if he can leave his boy with us for an hour or so, in order to get some things ready. He mentions wanting to bury him that evening, asking his boys to help him. Given what I saw of him and his family, I knew how hard that would be for them. I felt prompted by my heart and a small push by Óðinn to offer to help him bury his puppy.

He looks a mix of relieved and pained, and says he appreciates that and takes off. I rest with my partner for a while, and we get some dinner. A while later my neighbor gives me a call and it turns out he’s already made progress on his puppy’s grave in the backyard where he liked to be. He asks me for help in loading him into his truck bed. We only have one shovel, and I feel like I need to see this through. So, I grab my coats, gear up again, and help him put his puppy into the bed of his truck. Then, I get my shovel, and head over with him. The truck is warm, real warm, and he parks it with the high beams shining so we can see what we are doing. When we get out the cold kind of feels like it is trying to steal your breath.

We work together for about an hour to finish up the grave. We take turns with the older of his sons; the younger could not bear to be there. His partner watches but lets us work. He asks if I think the hole is deep enough. Considering I am around 5’7″ and having trouble getting into and out of it now, I say yes. So he, his son, and I bring his puppy to rest in our blanket and with his favorite blanket and a toy. Tears are stinging all of our eyes in the cold, but I blink them back, and breathe slow and deep. I get control. This is their time to grieve. I can process later. His Dad hops down into the grave, and asks to put him down into it himself.

I whisper some prayers into his puppy’s ear as I set him down into his Dad’s arms. The other two are openly crying. My neighbor is burying his face into his boy’s fur, speaking to him and finally, when he is ready, puts him down in the mound. I offer him my hand and he comes out of the grave. Then he says a prayer to his puppy, and offers space for the other two. When they say they’re good, we begin to bury him. It is quick work, between three guys shaping and digging with the cold spurring us on. We work it flat as we go, and finally, mound up the grave. When we are all finished he offers to drive me home.

He looks to me, and for another of the countless times that night, says thank you to me. I let him know that this what I was taught neighbors do for each other. This is what my parents taught me, and it is what my religion teaches me to do. When we get out of the car he shakes my hand and we embrace, and he tells me that if I ever need anything to let him know. I let him go and let him know if he ever needs anything I am here too.

This is what hospitality and mutual aid can look like. Sometimes it is sharing food. Sometimes it is defending your community from a common foe. Sometimes it is showing up to a protest or counterprotesting. Sometimes it is showing up when you are woken up from a deep sleep, dead on your feet from a flu, to help your neighbors on the worst day of their lives and bury a loved one. It may not be easy work but I can tell you, from the spirit of my neighbor’s dog to my neighbors themselves, it is good and sacred work. I didn’t show up in my peak condition. I showed up the best I was able. Really, in hospitality and mutual aid, that is all any of us can ask of ourselves or each other.

So, extend hospitality and mutual aid wherever you can however you are able. You may have no idea the impact just showing up can have for those who just need you to show up.

It is enough.

You are enough.

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 70: For Freyr Victorious

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This request was made by Maleck for Freyr, returning victorious from the Mound.

The roads of Hel are known to me

Over the Bridge and through forest and field

I walk with the knowledge of ancient paths

Tread by my blood-soaked feet

The ways between are trod in silence

Vitality in each step, and life springing forth

I walk and life returns in my steps from Death

Antler swaying on a cord at my side

Helheim’s lands roll up to the frozen ground

Ice stretches beyond the horizons and snow blankets all

I walk and little mosses grace my passing

Steam cleansing my warming corpse

Fire graces my bare chest and plants warm kisses

Nerves and sinew stretch and reach and sigh

I walk and ashes cling to my steps

My fingers grace dark wood that breathes new life

The noiseless yawn moves the air

Potential and nothing settle peace in my heart and mind

I walk between a roiling river and the liminal breath

My path winding about the current’s course

The deep dark earth welcomes my journey

Singing picks and voices accompany my torchlit steps

I walk by and see the forges and yards of mighty crafters

Passing, my gaze full of witness to glory and might

Forests line the mouth’s exit

Silvery voices welcome me home and bid me stay

I walk in silence, refusal spoken in my stride

My hof’s door left open for my return

Trackless woods and deep valleys invite me

Animals saunter and monsters track my way

I walk without fear among the Jötnar home

For my gifts bring peace and life to Them as well

Fields of wheat wave in greeting to me

Orchards and lakes and sagging bushes thank my passing

I walk in fertile places that I have renewed

My birthplace heralds my passage and bids me return

The peaks of homes kiss the clouds and the walls open their arms

Work and war clash around my ears, familiar calls ring out

I walk unbound in the halls and gaze upon the seeing seat

Memories follow me on the rainbow road

The expanse of Jörð invites me, finally

The blood-stained sickle gripped in my wet-eyed wife’s hand

I walk and lie in the mound She has made and breathe

Reborn and victorious I rise again

Patreon Topic 69: On Priesthood

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From Maleck comes this topic:

“Your experiences specifically with priesthood, what it means and how it has worked for you.”

Before I dig into this I think defining terms is a pretty necessary thing. Every time I have talked at length, even in polytheist, animist, and Pagan spaces, folks tend to mistake priesthood for clergyhood. I have spent time in previous posts on priesthood exploring this in depth. However, I think our recent in-person conversation illustrate the differences well, and briefly to boot: Priests face the Gods while clergy face the people. The needs and requirements of being a priest are different even if a person ends up having to wear both hats or more in service to their community.

Since I understand priesthood as facing the Gods and serving Them, my experience of being a priest for both Óðinn and Anpu reflect this.

What it means to be a polytheist priest is that you are a servant of a God or many Gods. In my case, I am an independent Heathen priest of Óðinn and an independent Kemetic priest of Anpu. I specify my independence for two reasons: one, most of my experiences of being called to and engaging in priesthood for these Gods is modern and two, disconnected from any mainstream polytheist religions that hold priesthood or clergy status with these Gods. Due to my background, my experiences and practices will likely differ from those who are in more mainstream religious practices. I was brought into these Gods’ service through direct experience and guidance by Their hands, and much of my journey in service with and to Them reflects this. While I have had Elders and such over the years, they have come and gone and much of the Work I engage in for my Gods remains regardless of this coming or going of the people in my life.

For me, this service to Óðinn as a priest has been to make cultus to Him, to teach others how to serve Him, and to engage with the mysteries He shares with me and the spiritual Work He assigns to me. It is working with and understanding the Runes as vaettir, and working with Them in magic. Much of my work over time of being a priest of His has merged with my work as a spiritworker. The bright line between my work as a priest and a spiritworker is that my work as a priest is, primarily, to and for Him. My work as a spiritworker, by contrast, tends to be connective between folks and the Ginnreginn, whether that is making prayers here on my blog, or doing Rune or spiritual consultation.

While the line between being a priest and being a spiritworker is fairly bright at times, there is also a lot of overlap between the two. Many of my acts of service beginning in my priestly service to Óðinn have brought me into spiritwork. Nowadays is there much of a difference?

I think the big difference is that my service as a priest and the focus of that role belongs to Óðinn alone. My work as a spiritworker may involve Him, and involve cultus to/with Him, but it is not solely for Him. Much of my spiritwork is connective for/to others, and much of my work as a spiritworker is in service to building connection, relationship, and/or spiritual consultation and spiritual troubleshooting with a variety of Ginnreginn. Some of these Ginnreginn, that is, Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, may not be part of my regular cultus at all. Many of the Ginnreginn I have made prayers for are not part of my hearth cultus or any of the specialized cultus I personally hold, yet that is part of my service as a spiritworker.

My priesthood with both Óðinn and Anpu may have spiritual skills that include spiritwork components, such as divination, hamfara (faring forth in my hamr or second skin), and/or the construction taufr or amulets, but these are not solely spiritworker skills. The skills certainly stack with each other quite well, even having similar if not the same utility to the user. In many ways being a priest it is far less demanding in its requirements than being a spiritworker. While the time I have devoted to studying the Runes has been involved, and likewise developing spiritual skills such as hamfara, there are less demands on my time by Him in my priest role than there is when I serve others as a a spiritworker. The focus of the skills and their provenance differ, though, from priest to spiritworker. Even if I worked with no physical human beings and only had a community of vaettir, spirits, to work with/for, I still understand the difference is my service as a priest and that of a spiritworker is my priest role’s focus belongs to Óðinn alone.

Much of my work as a priest to Anpu has dropped away over the years. When Óðinn hit my life Anpu intentionally backed away. Much of the intense Work I did with Anpu, including tending His shrine weekly, traveling in spirit to with Him and doing Work He assigned me, and ongoing work with the Dead either stopped or changed forms in my more primary Heathen path and relationship with Óðinn that had come to the fore. My aesthetics changed along with it. I traded in white muslin cloth ritual robes for linen, wool, and fur ritual clothes. I traded in mostly copper and bronze ritual tools for iron and steel ritual tools. Whereas I had few ritual weapons in my priesthood to Anpu, I have many with Óðinn, some of which are shared with my spiritwork. Another large difference is in how my priesthoods are expressed. Anpu’s priesthood was highly regimented and often I encountered it in a strict ritual space, including ritual cleanliness requirements. While I do encounter Óðinn in regimented ritual space, and do keep myself ritually clean, it is not as exacting as Anpu’s, and much of Óðinn’s priesthood is like an ongoing experience where He walks beside me. While both Gods have emphasized ritual protocol of varying kinds over the year, the way They have done so is very different to one another.

In my experience being an independent priest of Óðinn is fulfilling work in and of itself. What I do regularly in service to Him is relatively straightforward: namely I perform cultus, which includes making offerings and prayers to Him. I keep oaths and obligations to Him. I perform other spiritual work as He brings it to me to be done. Sometimes this overlaps with my spiritworker role, and sometimes it does not. The work of a priest is service to and for Him.

Patreon Poem/Prayer Song 72: For Jörmungandr

If you want to submit a request for a prayer, poem, or song to be written to you privately or to be posted on this blog or my Patreon for a God, Ancestor, or spirit, sign up for the Ansuz and above level here on my Patreon.

This request was made by Emi for Jörmungandr.

The waves lap around me

Over me

Under me

Encircle, encircle, encircle

The enchantment drives my paths

Horses small as plankton gallop

Over me

To me

Running, running, running

Desperation nips their feet

Rán and Her Daughters play with me

Over me

With me

Surging, surging, surging

Laughter shared between us

Icy waters soothes me

Over me

In me

Caressing, caressing, caressing

Fiery pain quenches in the cool

Warm waters invigorate me

Over me

Around me

Rolling, rolling, rolling

Tension melts in the heat

Oceans flow about me

Against me

From me

Rocking, rocking, rocking

Waves roll across the waters by my might

Your waters flow from me

Along me

Beyond me

Flowing, flowing, flowing

Waters cross from ocean to river to tap

I flow across the waters

Along them

Throug them

Swimming, swimming, swimming

Miðarðr’s living protection at the oceans’ crossing

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 71: For Freyja Seiðkona

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This request was made by Maleck for Freyja Seiðkona.

Freyja! Freyja! Freyja!

Seiðkona! Seiðkona! Seiðkona!

Varðlokkur-bearer! Seið-teacher! Gandr-wielder!

Teach me what I must do

To sing the varðlokkur songs that bring and ward

To work good and powerful seiðr

To take up and use gandr wisely

Teach me the ways to do

To call vaettir and make magic

To break and lay curses and boons

To bear power and use it with wisdom

Teach me the tools I must have

To wield megin well

To find and fetter my foes

To bless and empower my allies

Teach me the ways You will

To make taufr crafted with skill and megin

To make my Soul Parts strong and resilient

To make me Fjólkyngismaðr

Please, teach me Your Ways, Freyja Seiðkona!

Please, teach me the varðlokkur!

Please, teach me seiðr!

Please, teach me to work and wield gandr!

Hail! Hail! Hail!

Freyja Seiðkona!

Patreon Prayer/Poem/PrayerSong 70: For the Well Spirit

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This request was made by Cynnian for their Well Spirit.

Deep and dark, stone surrounds

Sweet and crisp, cold and clear

The waters collect within me

Buckets, once, and pipes now

Plunge deep into my body and bring up my blood

The water flows from me

Honor my gifts as you take them

To drink, to cook, to clean, to offer

Honor the waters that flow between us

Patreon Topic 68: Jörmangandr

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From Emi comes this topic:

“Could you do a discussion topic on Jörmungandr?”

Sure thing.

Like many of our Gods there is precious little on Jörmungandr, the Miðgarðsormr (Midgard/World Serpent), in our sources. Völuspá, Hymiskviða, and Húsdrapa are among them. Their Wikipedia page is not bad as summations go. There is also the The World History Encyclopedia entry for Them, but I think a good chunk of its commentary is reaching beyond the boundaries of what is in the myths, especially as Jörmungandr is the boundaries of the seas.

I find that, like a great many things he touches, Lecouteux actually has some interesting information that he goes over in two of his books. These are The Tradition of Household Spirits, and Demons and Spirits of the Land. To sum up the most relevant parts to my thoughts here on Jörmungandr: serpents have been found buried in the threshold or in the walls, and understood, as with other animals and people buried in such a way, to be part of the spirit of the home and/or a guardian. Given Óðinn enchanted Them to encircle the seas and essentially become a great barrier unto Themselves, it would seem to me that Jörmungandr serves this function on a larger cosmological scale for us here in Miðgarðr. So, I think it is a good and honorable thing to worship Them and wear/bear iconography in honor of Them.

Jörmungandr is a child of Loki and Angrboða, sibling to Hel, Fenrir, Narvi, and Vali. They have presented to me as male, female, neither, both, and beyond. In respect, I default to They as the pronoun I refer to Them as until and unless They make it clear which pronoun is appropriate.

In demeanor I find Them generally patient with humans. They are utterly aware of how great They are, both in terms of size and power. I do not think it is coincidence that Their name has a number of translations with deep meaning. The first part, Jörmun-, including great/vast/huge. The second part is -gandr, and among the interpretations of it are spirit, magic snake, fjord, and staff. It is worth pointing out that gandr, as explored in The Viking Way by Price, “forms yet another distinct category here, with origins that go back much earlier than the Viking Age. The basic sense of the word is often argued to mean simply ‘magic’, and deVries has suggested that it can be related to the concept of Ginnungagap. This is important, as it suggests gandr to be one of the primal forces from which the worlds are formed, and thus implies that this form of sorcerous power was of considerable dignity.” (Price, 35-36) He then goes on to relate how gandr was also referred to in conjunction with seiðr (Price, 36), another source of and use of magical power.

So, whatever way we undstand the gandr in Their Name, Jörmungandr is a being of great power, and due Their respect. In that regard I consider supporting reptile sanctuaries, rescues, and the like to be ways of making offerings to Them. I also consider prayers, offerings of food and drink, and offerings of herbs, incense, and the like, much as we might make to any of our Gods, good offerings to make.

Patreon Topic 67: On Building Modern Communities

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From Maleck comes this topic:

“How do you build community in the modern era?”

I think part of the issue with writing on this subject is that we have to define what kinds of communities we are looking to build. Kindreds are vastly different in structure, scope, and goals than that of a coalition of leftists, builders of a local mutual aid network, or more formal political structures. What we are trying to build and the focus we bring to it greatly differs even if there are some commonalities built into the idea of community building.

First, you have to figure out what kind of community you are going to build. In this, I would ask a series of questions.

What is the purpose of the community? Is this community oriented around religious, political, or hobby interests? Building a community is based on the foundation you are sharing.

How oriented around a worldview, ideology, or set of ideas does this community need to be in order to be considered a cohesive community with regards to its purpose? A Heathen Kindred or Wiccan coven requires a fairly tightly held set of beliefs, ideas, responsibilities, and expectations of each member in order to function and develop well. Communities oriented around hobbies need to have some set ideas about what hobbies they will be enjoying in their time together, but otherwise each member may have wildly different ideas of religion, politics, and other essential parts of their worldview.

How tight are the ties in this community? Is it a Kindred or a coven? Is it a religious community such as a Pagan or Heathen Discord? Is it a mutual aid network? Is it a hobby-based community? Each has its requirements for how tight those ties are to be included within a community, and the accompanying expectations for how one is to act.

What are the expectations, including responsibilities and obligations of each member to one another and the community as a whole? Are there administrative needs that must be met in order for the community to function well? What are the core fundamentals of organization of the community? Does the community operate under egalitarian, hierarchical, and/or other forms of organization? Even free apps have terms of service, and to leave this idea unaddressed is to leave gaps for serious inroads of issues to occur.

After these questions are answered, in a way, I think the overarching way you build community is quite similar. Whether you are looking to create a Kindred, coven, mutual aid network, political group, or hobbyist group, a community needs to know the fundamentals of what is required for in/out group, what level of buy-in/work is required to be an active member, and a good idea of what the active participation by each member looks like. While the ties may be looser or tighter depending on the obligations, responsibilities, roles, and worldview of the group, there has to be fundamental agreements on how things are done, what is being done, and why.

Communities transform over time. When I started teaching at The Wandering Owl it was started to teach on the Runes. It then turned into a Northern Tradition study class. Then it turned into a working group, and finally, a Kindred. At each step there were discussions around expectations of each member, my role as the facilitator, what was changing in regards to the group, and how we were to be, and what the community was becoming at each step of the way. The Kindred has largely gone quiet in the last few years because of the masive amounts of difference in our schedules and obligations in our lives. Nonetheless, we carry love and care for one another. Much of my focus has shifted specifically from Mímisbrunnr Kindred to my work with the larger communities in Around Grandfather Fire, 3 Pagans on Tap, and the various Heathen, polytheist, and animist communities I am part of and serve.

Another example of change: I was involved as a member of a boards of directors for a nonprofit that handled millions of dollars of donations to help kids connect with technology, computers especially but also programming and basic robot work with Lego Mindstorm kits. Animation was my speciality at this point in time and I won a small award from the nonprofit before they approached me, asked me to join, and I had to stop participating in the competitions. I transitioned from a regular member to a board member, taking leadership classes and other training so I could be an effective youth liason and full voting member. I then began to teach kids how to animate, bringing basic visual design with basic animation as I had learned how to do it.

The various computer clubs in schools we partnered with then have carried on the work we started. Over time we went from a relatively small base of schools to a regional SE Michigan base of schools, and the competitions were bigger, more involved, and amazing to watch. We did excellent, needed work to bring kids into better working relationship with tech, computers, and building life skills.

We had to shut our doors because the donors stopped giving in 2004, the year I graduated. So, we finished out the year with a bang and had our largest competitions for animation and robots yet. Our transition out of the schools meant they had to source their own computers, their own funding, and bring more local focus to the work they did. Some did exceptionally well, and some did not. I am deeply proud of the work we did. If nothing else, we helped launch countless school computer clubs, tech clubs, and robot clubs, and helped teach a generation of students from middle through high school how to effectively work with computers and technology.

The current board of directors I am a part of, Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm, is a growing, beautiful part of my life. I volunteer every other Wednesday, and as I can I make it out to various events we host on Saturdays.

Communities organize, live, and die for different reasons. In the case of Mímisbrunnr Kindred we yet live in a kind of holding pattern. In the case of the nonprofit I was part of as a teen, it died because funding ceased. Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm lives because we are mimicking the environment we are building the sanctuary with: we are playing the long game, adjusting as we need to with regard to the energy and ability of our Board and volunteers.

Of these approaches I think that the approach of Mímisbrunnr Kindred and Crossing Hedgerows are the ones that last the longest and are most enduring because they are wholistically plugged into the members’ lives. They allow for changes in each member’s life while still having identity and direction around which they are oriented, providing guidance over time. They build on the experiences and contributions of each member. Perhaps the biggest weakness of the computer club nonprofit was its necessary reliance on big donors to keep the doors open, and so, those who were relied upon to provide the energy necessary to keep the projects going had no actual community buy-in. They were not part of the communities with direct stake in the projects. Their funding was a philanthropy project, likely more oriented around public relations and tax breaks than anything to do with closing the digital divide, and enabling the ongoing running of computer clubs, robot clubs, and animation clubs.

While far smaller in terms of focus, direction, and impact insofar as greater society is concerned, both Mímisbrunnr Kindred and Crossing Hedgerows have had major impact on their membership and all who come into each. Both of these communities have far outlived the computer club nonprofit. The focus, direction, and impact of these smaller, but tied-in community projects, are ongoing and directly affecting the wider communities they are situated within. Where the computer clubs we touched that were able to survive without us have thrived in different ways, many utterly failed once our support went away.

How do you build community in the modern era? In a variety of ways, and from the ground up its purpose needs to be consistent, shared by its members, and understood well to survive, thrive, and change. Otherwise, it risks being shut down once whatever used to fuel it is spent, whether that is money, people, volunteers, or passion. If you want me to tackle this in more detail, please let me know!

Patreon Topic 66: On Odin and the Wild Hunt

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From Cynnian comes this topic:

“Seasonally, maybe elucidate particulars with Odin and the Wild Hunt.”

It’s funny that I got this question when I did. I am currently reading Phantom Armies of the Night by Claude Lecouteux which goes over things like the Wild Hunt, the Furious Host, and other such phenomena. Lecouteux’s books are just awesome, and I highly recommend this for background on origins and theories around it.

Without quoting large swathes of the book, much of the work that he has uncovered tends to cover ideas that the Wild Hunt are, in part, made up of the Dead. In Christian sources these tend to be the unbaptized or especially sinful, and recounts of them tend to diverge into sermons against sin at varying points. However, Odin’s Wild Hunt tends to be composed of other beings as well. At times, valkyries seem to be implied to be part of it, masked folks who have joined it, folks whose hamr (Double as Lecouteux calls it) have joined the Hunt, as well as many other Beings.

Some useful quotes to this by Lecouteux:

“In Denmark, Odin sets out in pursuit of a supernatural being.” (69).

“One of the principal arguments made by scholars in favor of Odin as leader of the Wild Hunt is the motify of the storm.” (209). 

“The most solid argument in Odin’s favor is undoubtedly the fact that the Infernal Throng sometimes consists of warriors and horsemen. As the god of war annd the owner of the horse Sleipnir, Odin is at home in this context. He also finds a place as master of Jöl (Jölnir), through his knowledge of necromancy and other magical practices that make him the god-shaman who has mastered the trance journey, and by his Einherjar, the dead warriors that make up the army with whom he will confront the powers of chaos during Ragnarök.” (214)

Another interesting quote is “Nicholas Gryse (1543-1614) cites a Mecklenburg custom intended to appearse Odin, he relays the words of a peasant song:

Wode, take now fodder for your horse

‘Tis now thistles and brambles

Next year it shall be most excellent grain.” (219)

This theme ties in themes of fecundity and fertility that Lecouteux goes on to explore in other contexts.

Lecouteux dedicates an entire chapter to Odin and the Wild Hunt and how it differs from things like the Furious Army, Odin’s Army, and related phenomena. What seems to me to be the biggest difference is the function or purpose of it. The Wild Hunt seems to me to be more restorative in its function than the Furious Army, the Diabolical Hunstman, and other motifs. Whether it is hunting a supernatural being such as an álf, or if it is passing over-through places as a host, it seems to be more of a restorative force or a balancing one, which also seems to have ties to fertility and fecundity, than merely dragging the Dead to hell or to the underworld. Many of the members of the Hunt are Dead, but they also can be other beings as well, and many are masked depending on the recounting.

Lecouteux sums this up pretty well, saying:

“What is most striking in the history of the Wild Hunt is its variability, its ability to meld with other beliefs, to draw elements from them and to combine them. The narratives we have read here allow us to see two large vectors. First is the ancestor worship that encourages the merger of the theme and the table of souls, the fairy repast. Next is the cult rituals culminate in masquerades and Carnival-like processions. Grafted upon this trunk are motifs taken from the legend of the wild huntsman and, when the clerics had taken possession of the Wild Hunt and adopted it in accordance with Christian dogm and other elements of medieval creation, the legend of a cursed hunter, which nothing but a miniature version of the Inernal Hunt that has been reduced to its simplest expression.” (237)

To sum up an excellent book and reams of folklore, Odin and the Wild Hunt tends to be a seasonal occurence (though it may also occur nightly depending on one’s understanding/time period) that brings fecundity, fertility, restoration, and balance back to the land and its people. Getting swept up in it is particularly dangerous whether in body or one’s hamr, but it can also be rewarding if you are prepared and able to handle it. This is where modern Wild Hunt cultus and esoteric work, such as I have experienced with Maleck Odinsson, comes into play.

In my experiences of it, the Wild Hunt does carry these ideas of fecundity, fertility, restoration, and balancing in my own experience of it. Our rituals tend to be oriented around the New Moon, and involve meeting the Wild Hunt in our hamr as it makes its nightly rounds. My experience of the Wild Hunt is that Odin is not is only leader, and that role does get passed around with other noted leaders of the Wild Hunt such as Frau Perchta, and I have seen Frigg lead the Hunt as well.

For preparation, I tend to mask up in my lyke (physical body) with my wolf pelt for the duration of the rite, keeping my taufr bag full of taufr to various Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir in my pocket or nearby. Often, I will wear protective taufr and taufr tied to Odin, wolves, Fenrisúlfr, and other Gods, including my valknut, Mjölnir, wolf, and bracelet with úlfheðnar bracteates on them. During the rite my hamr will generally take the form of a werewolf, wolf, or some other similar being, though I have kept a human-like form for the Hunt before. In joining the Hunt, I have found it to often already be in progress. Sometimes I am allowed to hunt certain beings who have caused harm to the community, and other times I am told to stick with the Hunt and hunt who They do. Sometimes it is both.

So what now? You’re in the Wild Hunt. Maybe you’re following it in its round, or maybe you’re being told to go handle something. So you do. Sometimes it is being in the noise of the storm, being the storm. Others, it is a predator on the hunt with your packmates, tearing apart something that has done another wrong. Sometimes it is taking up a spear or a sword and driving it into a vaettr, whether human or not, and letting the blood soak. Sometimes it is merely riding with the Hunt and experiencing it from within. Sometimes the Hunt takes you over and you are a snarling thing, an extension of something, someone else, no longer your own. Whatever it is, the Wild Hunt lives up to its namesake. It is wild, it is chaotic, it is powerful, and it is raw.

Then you come back into a body that feels hungry and tired, and sometimes also so full of energy you feel you could run a marathon. Then the energy crash hits after some food, or a good drink of coffee or tea. The Wild Hunt takes and it blesses. It ravages and rights. It is the use of power to do, and cultivating power to use in the Hunt is, in my experience, part and parcel of doing that Work.

What I find quite interesting is how many of my experiences of the Wild Hunt comport with the writings that are left to us on it. I find it striking in the similarity it carries to other nightly/seasonal spirit flight and spiritwork recountings, such as the benedanti and Thiess of Kaltenbrun’s experiences as a werewolf.

These are my insights into Odin and the Wild Hunt.