AGF 112 – The Kami Bring Us Together

Also Available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music, and more! Licensed Shinto Priestess of the Konko Faith, Olivia Kimoto, calls in from Japan to talk about religion, spirits, and Shinto practice. — Time Stamps 00:00:40 Introduction 00:01:25 Opening Prayer 00:03:00 Welcome 00:11:00 Interview 01:58:00 Closing — Send in a voice message: […]

AGF 112 – The Kami Bring Us Together

Reflecting on Social Media and Modern Pagan Religions

I started these musings on Twitter and Mastodon, and wanted to expand on them a bit here.

An important development, one that I think a lot of folks in especially Heathen and adjacent spheres should take note of, is how much more acceptable it is to be experimental with our approach to the Ginnreginn, magic, and forms of spiritwork.

I came at the end usenet’s popularity. 

I never used it myself. 

Most of my Pagan/occult social media experiences are from Livejournal, WordPress, Tumblr, Facebook, then Twitter and now, Mastodon. Overall, I have seen that social media has been a net positive for Pagan religions.

I would not have as many connections to coreligionists, to colleagues, or to those I that are part of my communities. It would certainly make it a lot harder to have the necessary conversations with folks on developments in our communities, and especially across them.

To the end of being in and staying in contact with community, Discord has been peerless. It allows for instant communication or as one can get to them, sharing of images and videos, and the use of both voice and video chat. Certainly there are issues, but Discord has made itself indispensible to the communities I am part of, both locally and across the world, for keeping in touch.

Rather than cursing social media’s influences here, I think that it has actually made our communities both more communicative and *accountable* not only to our own communities, but to one another. It is harder to bury things, harder to baffle with bullshit, and far easier to find true and accurate information than it was when I first became a Pagan.

I came out of the period where we were still beating the dead horse of Margaret Murray’s disinformation. Where we were still hearing ‘Never again the Burning Times’. Where a lot of folks were using 30-50 year outdated written and archaeological information (eg Budge for Kemetic folks was still being pushed in many of the circles I was in) because we simply did not have access to the latest information. So much of it was behind paywalls, like being hidden in academic journals or compendiums. Access to accurate, good scholarship has come leaps and bounds to our communities, and along with it, folks who are developing more thorough understanding of philosophy, religion, spiritwork, and experiences within and across our various religions.

It is easy to get caught up here and now, or with where we want to be, and not appreciate just how far our communities have come in the last 20 years. In the time I have been a Pagan the acceptance and celebration of trans and non-binary people alone has been downright revolutionary. Rather than forcing folks to fit into a man/woman model, energetically, ritually, and socially, many of these models have been modified to be inclusive or have been wholly set aside. That’s *not* a simple or an easy thing, and worth celebrating on its own.

Recognizing we have come a long way is certainly not saying we should merely congratulate ourselves on a job well done and consider things solved or ideal. There is always work of some kind to be done. There is more to do, whether that is the development of Mysteries, the exploration and engagement in various kinds of cultus, the development of communities and infrastructure, and/or each person’s personal walk with the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vættir.

Yes, the stupid Ishtar = Easter, the snakes that St. Patrick were said to have driven from Ireland are Pagans, and similar memes are irritating to post against every year. Grifters and charlatans proliferate through Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram. Thing is, folks, is that grifters and charlatans have always been with us. Whether the memes are based on flawed understanding of etymology, scholarship, or are intentional trolling at this point does not deny that it is far easier now to debunk misinformation than it has in the past. Whether the grifts and charlatans sincerely believe their bullshit, quickers than ever we can identify them and excise them from among us.

With modern scholars not only willing but able to reach out and talk with our communities, whether they are in them or not, and more of us becoming part of the academic establishment each year, we are far better equipped year on year to educate, empower, and enliven our communities. We have seminaries that, while not yet accredited, are working towards these things. We have established religious groups, festivals, and projects that build up our members and communities. We have groups like Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm that are bringing together community events and so folks can see what lived spiritual values on the land look like.

For all that we are facing swathes of challenges in the overculture, particularly from the right wing with regards to Evangelical Christianity, anti-theist fundamentalism, and white supremacists that are among our religions, we are better connected and better equipped to fight against these groups than we ever have before. Not only are we not socially alone, through the work we can do on and through social media we can coordinate, engage in mutual aid in a variety of ways, and help each other through the hard times while celebrating the good. We can build lists of allies, such as Pagan-friendly mental health and medical professionals. We can network and we can brings folks together for mutual aid work projects whether we are looking for help in the garden or to build a shrine, organizing a potluck or ritual, or developing infrastructure for our community gatherings. We can fund each others’ needs whether food, water, medicine, or transport. We can coordinate with each other dynamically, living the value of hospitality and reciprocity with one another in even better ways than we could without it.

Rather than treating it as an enemy or necessary evil, I would treat social media as a tool in our communities’ toolchest. We ignore it at our danger. It will not replace the necessary on-the-ground efforts that go into making a local Pagan Pride, a Kindred, a tribe, grove, coven, or other group, but it can damn make sure it is easier to form and maintain them. Social media may not be an appropriate tool for every need we have, but it is a flexible and powerful tool nonetheless. We have the ability to take hold of it and build useful, lasting things with it for ourselves.

AGF 111 – Theism, Cults, and Journey Work

Also Available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music, and more! Let’s talk about where Jim is on his path, and also answer some questions from listeners! – Send in a voice message: Suggest a topic or a guest: Our Patreon Our Buy Me A Coffee — Copyright 2023 — […]

AGF 111 – Theism, Cults, and Journey Work

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 76: For Máni

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 Cunnian for Máni.

Oh blessed, beautiful, dancing God

Whose gray shirt gleams in the night

Hands that caress the shores and waters

Coursing the wax and wane of magic and megin

Hard-rider from Hati’s maw

Whose trails trace the path of reckoning

Graces the sky with His cargo

Crossing the clouds with the burden of His horses

Oh God Who is desired

Whose Face is sought with passion

By mortal and mána bjarnar

Shine and show love to those who are longing

Pale prophecy-shower

Whose wandering reveals wealth and wisdoms’ ways

Through the course of Your crossing

We schedule when to sew, strike, and seek

Oh dark and shining God

Son of Mundilfari and Brother of Sól

We seek You in moonlight and myrkr

To honor in sacrifice and song

Holy Máni

AGF 110 – Answering Hard Questions

Also Available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music, and more! Trigger warning on this episode. Dealing with your family, both the current family and the Ancestors, can be very challenging. We answer two listener questions about these topics. Family who are fully aware of pagan beliefs but get offended if something is ever […]

AGF 110 – Answering Hard Questions

AGF 109 – Witchcraft Isn’t Safe, Nor Should It Be

Also Available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music, and more! Cat Heath aka Seo Helrune is an author, blogger, Heathen and Witch who does weird, often ill-advised experiments with historical accounts of magic. Author of Essays From the Crossroads and Elves, Witches & Gods, and her blog where themes include filling in the […]

AGF 109 – Witchcraft Isn’t Safe, Nor Should It Be

Patreon Topic 72: On Sacred Herbs

If you want to submit a topic you would like me to write on for this blog or my Patreon, sign up for the Ansuz level or above here on my Patreon. From Maleck comes this topic:

“Localizing practice and sacred herbs. What do you do when your tradition’s sacred herbs aren’t native or are even invasive to your locale? How about finding new sacred herbs native to you (while avoiding appropriation)?”

I think part of localizing our polytheist and animist religions is a bit of a balancing act. It also requires us to ask a profound question, and at least to find a working answer: What makes a particular herb or group of herbs sacred?

What differentiates a sacred herb from another herb is that I hold relationship with that herb in a way that is fundamentally different than other herbs. It is similar to why I may find a rock or grove of trees sacred and not every tree sacred. I also recognize that certain herbs, just as with certain trees and rocks, carry megin within them that facilitates or is itself a carrier of a sacred relationship. An example of a sacred herb is Ama Una, Grandmother Joy, aka mugwort. She is sacred because it is a cleansing herb and we hold a powerful relationship. She acts with my souls in ways that are profound, whether in Her work of cleansing, in providing space and means of communication with Ginnreginn, or in blessing people, places, and/or things. Something that struck me awhile back was that mugwort was known as “poor man’s tobacco” and more recently “sailor’s tobacco”. In the lessons I have been given by Ojibwe friends regarding tobacco’s place, this seems to be a similar way that Ama Una works with me and with most others I have spoken with. That is, She is a cleansing herb, an herb of communication, an herb that assists with sacred dreaming, and a blessing herb.

Now that we have an idea of what a sacred herb is: “What do you do when your tradition’s sacred herbs aren’t native or are even invasive to your locale?”

I have yet to actually grow my own sacred herbs, particularly the Heathen Nine Sacred Herbs as laid out in Nigon Wyrta Galdor (Nine Herbs Charm) in the Lacnunga manuscript. For my part I generally buy my herbs cut and dried locally where I can such as through Twisted Things, or through Adventures in Homebrewing, where they are sold as an additive to brewing. When I need larger bulk orders of herbs, such as when I am going to be tending a Sacred Fire and will need lots of offerings, I go to Starwest Botanicals.

When I was planning on growing sacred herbs they were going to be grown in pots for the most part. Given we have a lot of patio space I may do that this year. I am still looking at what will be the best options for growing them and keeping them from taking over my yard and out of the woods behind our home. Sometimes nonnative plants can be quite useful to the local ecology. However, when they’re invasive or just plain crowd out native species, it’s best to do what you can to avoid that. If all you can do is get the sacred herbs from someone else that is fine.

“How about finding new sacred herbs native to you (while avoiding appropriation)?”

If you want to avoid appropriation then educating yourself on what appropriation is would be the first step. Websites like this one here can be a good starting point. What appropriation is not is noticing the similarities of things such as how my Ojibwe friend and I understand and know tobacco and mugwort. It is not learning from folks how to live well with the vættir. I covered this quite a bit back in January 2021 in Topic 39: Decolonizing Magical Practice vs Honoring Ancestral Traditions. An example of appropriation vs exchange from that post is illustrative here: “Smudging is not merely the burning of herbs in a shell or other fire-safe holder. It is a ritual, one I have not been taught or cleared to do. Offering tobacco, so far as I know, is open to everyone, and a good gift to almost every vaettr I have encountered.”

If there are sacred plants to Native folks that live in your area that you want to establish a relationship with and/or are stepping forward in your útiseta or other method of spiritual contact, then asking a representative of that tribe how best to interact with these plants, if you can in a respectful way, is best. I am lucky in that I was shown sacred ways to interact with tobacco, cedar, sweetgrass, and sage by an Ojibwe friend. While I am grateful for all my friend has shared with me, this is neither a culture I belong to nor can I teach about. In addition, the way I was shown may not be correct for all places or vættir.

For Heathens, finding new sacred herbs native to your area may be as simple as sitting on the land and listening. Because útiseta, ‘sitting out’ is opening yourself up to vættir I find it best to have at least some good understanding of Heathenry, magic, and good relationships with one’s Ginnreginn. I certainly do not recommend folks new to Heathenry do it, by any stretch. It is a powerful spiritual working, in my experience, one that can leave you quite vulnerable. By doing útiseta in a field or a forest you make space for a plant vættr or several vaettir to make Themselves known.

This giving of space and connection with the vættir, waiting to come to know Who steps forward and wants to establish relationship, is animism in action. It respects the agency and Being of the vættir, and allows for Them to make the first steps in choosing to establish a relationship, and how that will initially unfold. We begin engaging with the vættir we hope to establish relationship with in a sacred way.

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 75: For the Nornir

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 Cunian for The Nornir.

Urðr Who arranged the loom

Verðandi Who moves the sword

Skuld Who tightens the weave

Hail Nornir! Hail Nornir! Hail Nornir!

Urðr Who arranged the pattern

Verðandi Who brings in the rows

Skuld Who leaves thread at the end

Hail Nornir! Hail Nornir! Hail Nornir!

Urðr Who fastened the warp

Verðandi Who keeps an even tension

Skuld Who ties up the loose ends

Hail Nornir! Hail Nornir! Hail Nornir!

Urðr Who prepared the weft

Verðandi Who forms the patterns

Skuld Who trims the edges

Hail Nornir! Hail Nornir! Hail Nornir!

Ethics and Animism in Polytheism Part 3

So nine years ago (wow, where did the time go?) I began to write this post. Recently, Snow asked me where Part 3 was. It had been long enough that I could not remember if there was a Part 3. It was a bit of a surprise when I found this, with the first couple of paragraphs written.

In Ethics and Animism in Polytheism Part 2, I left off here:

When we light the Sacred Fire there are prayers and offerings made to Fire Itself, to the Gods of Fire, to the spirits of Fire, to the wood, to the landvaettir, Ancestors, and other spirits. The Gods, Ancestors, and spirits all deserve our respect, especially the Fire Itself since the Sacred Fire is the heart of the festival for three days it is on. We keep it day and night; to do otherwise is to extinguish the heart of the festival, and to insult the Fire, the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits we have asked to be with us in Its heat and light, to sit with us by it and to speak with us when They will. To extinguish It on purpose before it is time is to break our word that we will do all we can to keep It lit throughout the weekend. To throw litter in It is to treat the Sacred Fire as a garbage disposal, which is inhospitable to the communities the Fire represents, and inhospitable to the Fire Itself. To speak disrespectfully of the Fire is an insult to It and the community whose Fire It keeps as we keep It. To treat the heart of the festival, the spirit of Fire Itself, the particular Fire spirit that is the Fire with disrespect, is insulting to the Fire Itself, to each person connected to the Fire, to those who form the community that the Fire is the heart of, and to the Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and so on that have been called by and to the Sacred Fire. As with people, Fire too can be worked with when insulted, and amends can be made, but it is far easier and more respectful to not have to rectify insults and problems in the first place.

This is really where the rubber meets the road. You cannot treat the Gods as if. You cannot treat the Ancestors as if. You cannot treat the spirits as if. The as if is a defense against what truly considering the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits as real Beings unto Themselves would imply. That not only that They have agency, and in that agency is preference, but that there are right and wrong ways of understanding Them, interacting with Them, and being in relationship with Them.

The ethics of animism of and in polytheism ask us not only to consider those Beings we worship, venerate, and interact with. We must do well by Them. To do honor to Them is to do our best to understand Them on Their terms and act accordingly.

Animism in polytheism requires that each Being be treated with respect, in respect to Its Nature, Its Self. I would no more offer a white tail deer spirit a slab of venison than a leaf of grass to the landvaettir. Yet, to certain Ginnreginn, these would be quite acceptable offerings. The acceptability of these offerings, the honoring of giving them, and the good relationship gained in furthering connection through them, depends on the given Being at hand.

Polytheism must be lived; one cannot embrace ethics nor religion solely in the head. To be ethics rather than rules alone they must be lived. To be religion rather than reenactment or mental exercise, the polytheist must acknowledge the Gods as real, and worship Them. To acknowledge the Ancestors, and the spirits is to not only believe They are real, but to act on those beliefs and to hold Them in honor, and venerate, to worship Them.

Polytheism is a lived theology. It is a theology in which mere recognition that there are many Gods renders the person holding the position inhospitable as a polytheist. Hospitality is arguably the foremost of ethical considerations for polytheists. This hospitality exists in lived understanding, both in terms of the personal connections one has and the wider communities one exists in. This hospitality exists in relationship with the Ginnreginn through negotiated relationships, contracts, oaths, and other ties of relationship, such as as in ancestry, through blood relations, adoption, marriage, initiation, and a variety of possible spiritual bonds.

These considerations of hospitality extend not only to the Ginnreginn who we worship, it also extends to the community ties we may make, what things we may or may not accept in our lives, and even on to dietary choices. If a given God who one desires to worship requires adherance to a vegeterian diet, then to accept and follow that, to honor that requirement, is a form of hospitality that invites that God into one’s life through that choice. If a God one worships has been explicitly forbidden from worship in a given venue then, in order to be hospitable one must avoid that venue. This hospitality extends to the God, in that one would not honor one’s Gods by choosing to go to such a space which is actively hostile to Them, and to the community, by not bringing one’s relationship into a space where it is not desired. If such a choice is made with the Ginnreginn in mind/under the Ginnreginn’s guidance, then the community has extended hospitality to their own Ginnreginn and members through this exclusion. Through informing potential guests of venue rules, taboos, and the like, that community also extends hospitality to any visitors who may come into their space by allowing them to self-select whether they can or wish to be involved in that venue.

For good relationships with the Ginnreginn and one another to flourish requires hospitality. That hospitality, then, entails respect. That respect is grounded in ongoing acknowledgment of the personhood, agencies, needs, and desires of the parties in that relationship. That hospitality, then, entails reciprocity between those involved in the relationship. Whether the Being at hand is a blade of grass or a God, a Sacred Fire or a friend, while these ethics may apply in different ways and in different levels of coniderations like ritual protocol, many of these follow similar lines of thought.

Is this choice a hospitable one? Is it one that respects the Being before me? Is this choice one that honors the reciprocity between us? Does this action further good relations between us? Am I being a good guest/host? Am making amends when I fall short of that in a way that is done in respect and restores honor? Am I engaging in good reciprocity?

In my view polytheism, and the animism found within it, is lived based on the answers we receive from the Ginnreginn, and how we answer these kinds of questions.

Reflections on Norfolk Southern

We can clearly see a chain of causality between the decision of the Trump administration to gut Obama-era safety measures that were themselves watered down and then never reinstated by the Biden administration while stopping a strike in which these very concerns were raised.

It is not conspiratorial thinking to look at all of this and think “Someone is benefiting from this!”
It is a natural outgrowth of profit at any cost. Safety measures and routine maintenance are routinely ignored or slashed to the barest minimum so profit soars. Norfolk Southern has made money in the billions of dollars in profit, a feat that most people will never get within a fraction of inside of their own lifetime, or indeed, in several lifetimes. This is intergenerational warfare by the worst actors in our human communities. These communities, mind you, most of these people will never visit, and if they do, will give the thinnest of lip service to.

This is the poisoning and provisioning, the colonization of the earth, sea, sky, and all that lies beneath them for the sake of numbers going up in someone’s portfolio. When the philosophical question of “To what end?” is asked, then folks look, wild-eyed, as though the person in question has proposed the end of the world. Which, in effect, is precisely what is being instigated by such questions. It puts to question that such a paradigm has any right to exist. That its reach is so devastating, so powerful, so crushing, that it has the ability to outright kill the ability of the land, the sea, and the sky to support life, and all in service to something so banal as to make someone’s stock prices rise, someone makes a little bit more money.

When the question “To what end?” is asked, it holds “Why?” within it.
Why are we working so damned hard when we have the ability to automate so much labor? Why are we working harder than generations before us and seeing none of the benefits? Why are we unable to afford food, clothing, shelter, the very basics that allow life to be lived, and further, the things that make life worth living? Why is healthcare, comprehensively including physical, mental, dental, eye, and any other aspect that affects our wellbeing, paywalled when we have the technology and means to provide it?

When these questions are interrogated it ends with the grim determination that the system has been uniquely arranged so a few benefit while the massive amounts of humanity have to work to afford to put food in their mouths, clothes on their backs, shelter over their heads, and beds to sleep on. It speaks directly to the inherent injustice in a system that requires everything of a person and gives just enough to keep them alive, at least, to a certain point. It points to the arrangement of white supremacist ideology as a hoodwink to use those deemed white to keep the other people in line, lest they unite and fight the systems together. It points to the arrangement of antisemitism, transphobia, homophobia, and others forms of extreme hate in this same bargain. You cannot ask why the system exists if you’re actively killing would-be allies because your inculcated ideology demands it. You cannot ask why when you have never been taught how to ask the very question of “Why?”

There is no good point to capitalism. There is no good point to the rampant destruction of nature, and us, who are part of it. There is no good to be had here when the result is our waters are unfit to drink or swim in, when our air is choked, when our lands are poisoned and cannot bear animals, insects, or plants. Capitalism itself is at odds with our future.

So, we do what we can, even as this system rages around us in its death throes working to be something better. To be better Ancestors. To live better with Jörð. To live well with our loved ones, our kin, our clan, our tribes, our communities, our descendants, and leave something better than we started with. We do what we are able, as we can, where we can. We live our best in goood Gebo with one another, with the Ginnreginn, and do our best tomorrow. Take hope from Ragnarök. Yggdrasil burns, yes, and yet, Líf and Lífþrasir emerge in life. The Ginnreginn survive and thrive after the Fire. The Worlds live on. Another, better cycle is possible. We may make it so. Let us weave and grow this new pattern in Urðr together with our Ginnreginn, and with each other.