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The Harvest is In

October 30, 2017 Leave a comment

The harvest is in
The fields are hewn down
The harvest is in
The lands are cold
The harvest is in
The slaughters are done
All is prepared for the winter is come

The harvest is in
The home fires are lit
The harvest is in
The logs are arranged
The harvest is in
The trees are all cut
All stop for a rest for the winter is come

The harvest is in
The Ancestors gather
The harvest is in
The Disir are close
The harvest is in
The Väter are waiting
All rest by the Fires for the winter is come

A Polytheist Reflection and Response to Convenience, Consumption, and Peak Oil Part 7

March 24, 2016 2 comments

The game of our time is no longer chess. Nor is it truly blackjack or craps.

The game of our time is tafl.  This is a game few people are familiar with, so I will give a basic explanation.  As I am most familiar with hnefatafl, it is the example I will be using going forward.

Tafl is a game of strategy and skill.  There are two sides: attackers and defenders.  The ratio of attacker is 2 to every 1 defender, and a chief that starts in the center of the board.  Unlike chess, all the pieces move in straight lines, and can move wherever they please in these lines.  Both sides capture by wedging an opposing piece between two pieces of the same side or one piece pinning another against a side of the board, or against the center of the board which is where the chief starts.  The chief may also capture.

Hnefatafl11x11.png

An example of a hnefatafl board from Wikimedia Commons.

The object of the game for attackers is to capture the chief.  The object of the game for the defenders is for the chief to escape by getting to one of the four corners.

I see this as the game of our time economically, politically, and environmentally, and understand it as a drastic shift away from the chess understanding a lot of folks apply to how U.S. citizens exist within this country.  The simple reason is that the parameters of the game we all exist within have changed.  It may have changed for many of us a long, long time ago, or you may have been playing hnefatafl from birth.  Because of the ever-increasing poverty line, a majority of people in the United States are understanding this shift in very direct ways.  Very few of us actually ever were more than a pawn in our political or economic system.  Now, we face a future where we must escape the attackers in our midst.  Some of us have or are contemplating taking the opposite approach: taking the others’ chiefs.

The point of hnefatafl is survival rather than complete victory.  Its mindset is wholly different than that of chess.  You are not seeking to crush an opponent, or if you are, you may entirely miss opportunities to help/stop the chief escaping, or become entrapped by your opponent.  No piece once reaching the end of the board can become another, and there are no special moves.  In this way, the potential of the chief is no better or worse than that of the other defenders, save that they are the leader that the defenders are trying to evacuate.  In an interesting twist, the attackers have no leader.  They are all focused on the destruction of the chief.

Unlike chess, in order for the chief to be secure, he must move, attack, and defend himself.  Unlike in chess, which sends other pieces to die so that the king is secured and the opponent’s king captured, the chief in hnefatafl must place themselves in the same danger their fellow defenders face.  The chief in hnefatafl cannot rely on the bishops to leverage diagonal moves, the knights their L-shapes and jumping, nor the rooks their unfettered straight movements, nor the queen her omni-directional moves.  The chief in hnefatafl moves in exactly the same manner and with the same abilities as their fellows.

Similarly, we are entering a period where standing amongst one’s people and understanding ourselves not as inherently special, but as people belonging to a group with leaders rather than despots are requirements for thriving.  Peak oil and climate change render chess’ model of allocation of political/military power to rooks and knights, religious authority to bishops, despotic divine right powers to the king and queen, and all of them using the poor, the pawns as front-line soldiers, moot.  This old way of doing things is a use of time and resources we cannot afford to waste.  We may never be without kings or chiefs, but the old way of doing things that enabled chess to dominate the landscape of political thought is passing on.

The game has changed, and it is time to play.

 

Links for A Polytheist Reflection and Response to Convenience, Consumption, and Peak Oil

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

A Response to Critiques

Thoughts on Pagan Apologetics

October 4, 2013 1 comment

*Note: I am going through my backlog of about 75 Drafts and publishing what I feel comfortable with publishing.  This draft was originally started 05-04-2011!

Some of this was taken from a Patheos.com post I commented on here.

Engaging people who are generally antithetical to your beliefs (or at least not in your ballpark), in my view, is healthy if taken in balance with understanding your own. My best friend of 15 years is going to college right now to become a minister, and he and I’s debates, conversations, and apologetics on both sides hones our abilities to argue our points, defend our faiths, and gain deeper understanding from the other. In his asking me questions, including two interviews for his classes, I am pushed to answer deep questions about my theology, my daily practice, and what it is I do as a Pagan priest and shaman. I also have to formulate arguments against age-old philosophers, evangelists, and his own professors of his faith as to why my faith is the way it is, is fine the way it is, and why I am not accepting Christianity as my path.

I know it’s not as if other religions who have been opposed to us so far are going to ‘up and accept us’, and indeed many simply may not for one reason or another. However, I feel that Pagans owe it to themselves to develop apologetics so we can at least defend our ways in public. Heck, I have had deep conversations with Christian Evangelicals who berated me for looking at Pagan books in Borders who, after conversation, had a much different understanding of what Pagans are, do, and how they should treat us in accordance with their own Scripture.

This is where I think I differ from Bishop Harber, in that knowing Scripture, and arguing our points from their own Holy Books can be beneficial. Many Christians don’t understand their own faith (certainly not all), much less ours, beyond shallow means. However, if they look to the Bible as an authoritative text, you can use it to bolster your argument if you have a good understanding of it. I don’t think quoting their text gives it authority over me or my argument, but I can see where the idea might come from. By legitimizing their text by using it in argument. To me, using their text means more than quoting passages, but also understanding where able what the passages might have meant to those who wrote them, historical context, and whether or not modern-day scholarship backs up claims from the text. So perhaps this is not an avenue that everyone can or should take. Also, if the person is approaching you from an emotional perspective, it may not matter how many verses you can quote back to them. I’ve heard the line “Even the Devil can quote Scripture” thrown in my face on more than one occasion. I just think of this as just one tool among many we can use. Depending on the situation at hand, it can be well or poorly suited to the task of defending our faith.

I also think any who call themselves priests, priestesses, shamans, etc. should build up these and other skills related to functioning as a priest/ess, shaman, etc. such as communication skills, leadership skills, some amount of scholarship (or at least a thorough understanding of pertinent texts), and practice of their faith. It does us no good to have people in leadership positions who don’t understand their own faith, and cannot defend it, much less talk about it. This can also put the community or communities they serve into a stronger standing by empowering the community to come together to debate theology, understand their paths better, and open up new avenues of communication.

This is where leadership roles must mean something.  It means that if you take on a titular role you need to know and be that role.  You don’t need to be extreme or the most studied individual, but you do need to know your spirituality and your spiritual practices.  In my case, I need to know why I use lore, archaeology, and primary sources as jumping off points in my spirituality and practice, and call it a reconstructionist-derived practice rather than a reconstructionist practice.  I need to know why there are parts of the lore that I won’t use in my practice or don’t have a place in my spirituality, such as Odin supposedly being from Troy in Snorri’s Prose Edda tale Gylfaginning.  Given that my Gods are many, I also need to know about how different pathways interplay.  Being that I and others in the groups I worship are polytheists, there’s also steps taken to assure that our Gods are pleased with the arrangement if we feel the urge to call to Gods from more than one Pantheon in a ritual.  We may be eclectic in our spiritual path together, but that does not excuse us from dialogue with the Gods, Ancestors, spirits, etc., and doing right by Them and/or the community.

Thank You

September 11, 2013 Leave a comment

Thank you to the first responders, to the many, many unsung heroes who were there pulling people from rubble, comforting the grieving, seeking the lost. Thank you to those who took care of the Dead, and in that duty, the living. Thank you to all who signed up, gave, did, and worked to make this world a better place in the face of horror. Thank you to all who still do so, in all their ways. Hail to you.

Stumbling for Words

October 24, 2012 7 comments

There are times where I write poetry to grasp the Gods, the spirits, the Ancestors.  When I reach for words to grasp at the ineffable, that which is, to quote a favorite song of mine, “Beyond the Invisible“.  Sometimes there is a feeling in prayer or meditation where I can feel my Gods in a feeling beyond feeling.  Sometimes when I smoke a cigarette to the Ancestors (the only time I smoke), or especially a cigar, I can hear Them, in a way that words do not have words for.  It is more than just ‘They are here’; there is communication on some level, more often levels, that occurs when They make Themselves this known to me and I am paying attention.

Feelings can rush up; images, smells, tastes, sounds, snippets of songs, or a phrase, a word, a sensation of being touched or hugged or the feeling of embarrassment or joy that fills me head to toe.  Sometimes it is an urge, or a deep-down compulsion to dance.  So many words that fail to capture a moment of being in the Presence of a God or Goddess, the Ancestors, the spirits.

Sometimes there is a great emptiness.  Sometimes the Gods are not here, and I wish They were, more than anything.  Sometimes there is a deep aching for that connection that I am denied.  I recognize that this is so, at times, because what I am craving is not so much the connection itself, but that feeling of reassurance or that feeling of  alleviation of insecurity.  Other times the Gods are doing something; They are Gods, and have Their respective things to do, whether one believes that the Gods control or are related to certain aspects of our lives (i.e. Frigga weaving Wyrd, Freyr helping the wild plants to grow, Gerda helping the plants in gardens to grow, etc.) or do things besides (i.e. Odin wandering the Worlds gaining wisdom).

I find that the Ancestors tend to be with me all the time, in some fashion or another.  There’s a lot of Them, after all!  Once I began engagement with Them, especially through regular engagement at my Ancestor altar and my necklace, I could feel Their Presence in some fashion or another.  A big part of everyday engagement with Them is through a necklace I wear made out of bone fashioned into a human skulls.  I use it in prayer, and as a focus throughout the day, a physical reminder.  This necklace is also a physical manifestation of my Ancestors.  What does Their Presence feel like?  Sometimes a warmth that has nothing to do with the environment, others, a feeling of familial love, a touch on the shoulder, a harmonica (particularly if Great-Grandpa is around), and others times just a knowing that They are there.  Sometimes They are the statue on my altar, the necklace around my neck, a guiding voice.  Sometimes words simply fail to convey.

This is why, at times, when someone asks me “How do I know if a Goddess is near?” or “How will I know if the Ancestors are with me at prayer?” I can only suggest and say so much.  Language reaches its limit, as do my experiences.  I’m not the do-all, end-all of anything.  I am a being, a being with a human’s world, limitations, and experiences, and I am just one person.  I am bound by physical laws in this world, same as any other.  Sometimes I get things right on the nose, and sometimes I get things horribly wrong.  I am beholden to Wyrd; I work, I pay taxes, and one day I will die.  My hope is that somehow my words, my actions, my life, helps someone else to be more than they were, to leave this world better than it has been in my time within it.

Despite the limitations of words I still try to capture what I feel, how I envision the Gods, Ancestors, etc. with words.  The Ancestor Anthology is coming together, and there are so many words not my own, words that may be someone’s key to unlocking a deeper relationship with the Ancestors.  Words that I may never have thought to string together, experiences I have never had, rituals I have never been part of, and so much I have not done.  This is the beauty and power of coming together, of crafting books together, of making music and art and ritual.  We may never fully capture our Gods, Ancestors, or spirits  in songs, paintings, or words in a ritual or text, but we can provide touchstones and open doors with them.

Any Ideas or Questions?

October 17, 2012 6 comments

Are there ideas that you want to see explored on this blog?  Are there questions that you would like to explore with me?

Categories: General Tags: ,

“Using” Cosmology

December 9, 2011 1 comment

A while back, I wrote a post for Galina Krasskova’s blog.  Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.

There was a response to it, which I only recently have seen.  One part of the response, specifically this part, which made me think:

There IS a cosmology, which is quite strong, SAFE and very useful: the upper, middle and lower worlds.

This has made me think a bit on the ‘using’ of a cosmology.  When I came to my Gods, I was not ‘using’ their cosmology.  I was interacting with it, understanding my place in it, but not ‘using’ it.  When I became a priest of Anubis, I was doing so in the context of being His priest within the framework of what that means within the Egyptian cosmology, and specifically what He calls me to do in the role of priest.  The roles I serve in that cosmology are different than those I serve in the Northern Tradition.  The cosmology, expectations, and requirements of my priesthood are very different from one another.

As the Merriam-Webster dictionary puts it, a cosmology is “a theory or doctrine describing the natural order of the universe.”

I have no problem with varying cosmologies living side-by-side in my life.  By-and-large, I see the Work I do, and most of my world through the eyes of a Northern Tradition shaman.  Does this mean that my priesthood of Anubis has no bearing on how I see the Worlds around me?  No, but most of my interaction and my Work with Anubis is working with the Dead, and so, it doesn’t affect much of my everyday life.  Most of the Work that I do with Anubis tends to not be as upfront as my Work with Odin.  As time goes on my work with Anubis may intersect with more of my life, but my Work with Odin is first and foremost in my life.  Does this mean I ‘use’ the cosmology of whichever God/dess or spirit calls to me?  No, I interact with Them through that cosmology.  I must interface with it, understand it, recognize myself as part of it (although that is already a given; They have contacted me).  I do not see Gods as trapped in their cosmology, per se, but I think there is a respect due to Them to come to Them in Their fashion, understand Them as best we can through Their ways and cultures’ means.

Does this mean that when I worship Anubis I get up at a specific time every day, attending His statue as a priest would in ancient Egypt?  No.  This is simply not possible for me.  I have neither the social nor the economic networks that would allow me to do that.  I have certain ways, however, that I address His statue.  I do feed it, water it, lay incense over it, and pray to it as an embodiment of my God.  I treat it with respect, as if it was Him standing before me.  I pray to Him, kneeling before His statue, and give Him respect that He is due by being my God.

What about the Afterlife?

I am a hard polytheist, so I have thought from time to time on how I reconcile the Egyptian afterlife, for instance, with the Northern Tradition one.  I don’t see a problem with viewing them side-by-side, so I don’t really see a need to ‘reconcile’ them.  In my personal experience, there are many, many afterlives that are possible, and I still don’t know why a soul might go here or there.  I have seen a soul enter an afterlife by intentional recognition on behalf of the soul that this particular place is where they wish to go or belong, and/or the soul has received an invitation or is promised to come on behalf of the God, Goddess, spirits, and/or Ancestors of a particular afterlife.  Is this hard-and-fast as a rule?  I do not know.

I do not feel, however, that all the afterlives overlap one another or that some are even accessible side-by-side.  For instance, I do not think the Duat and Helheim link up directly.  Perhaps there are meeting places, or places where They overlap, like a Venn diagram, or perhaps there are passages between these realms that I simply have not experienced; after all, I’m not Hermes.  I’d like to other Pagans’ perspectives on this.  What I understand, is that afterlives are accessible based on a wide variety of factors, not the least being that particular cosmology’s rules on the soul, how the person lived in life, how many parts the soul has and which go where, and so on.  Then, that brings up the next question.

What about the Soul?

Beyond the actual places one’s soul may go to in the afterlife, there is also the idea of different parts of the soul.  In the Egyptian way, the soul is split up into, depending of course on the resources you look at and how you interpret them, into nine pieces.  The Northern Tradition has a couple of ideas about how the soul is put together, and what parts move on.  I understand the soul in context of the Northern Tradition by the Soul Map that Raven Kaldera received in his work as a shaman.  Are there parallels?  Sure, you could say there are parallels, but nothing terribly direct.  The idea of the ka might have some things in common with the hame, but they are not the same.  They do not mesh terribly well because they are very different by what they mean in terms of their own cosmology.  The hame is not the ka because these words mean very different things to the users and the cultures these words come from.  However, I won’t say that the hame and ka are not both talking about the soul.  I’m a priest of Odin and Anubis, and so, whether I am seeing the soul through ka, hame, or some other fashion, I am seeing the soul.  What I am seeing is different, however, depending on how I approach it.  What information I gather is quite different depending on the filters of culture, language, etc. that I apply to understanding the soul.

So is all I am looking at nothing more than filters I can objectively select?  No.  I have yet to see Alfar in the Duat, or an akh in Jotunheim.  For all that I believe the Gods, the Worlds, and Afterlives may have fluidity, in my experience, there are boundaries.  There are places where certain Beings belong, such as landvaettir to land.  I am not one to decide where these boundaries are, I just recognize that they are there.

Is there such a thing as a “safe” cosmology?

I have encountered this idea in different places, but I have never been able to accept it.  No cosmology that I know of allows us to escape risk of some kind.  No spiritual practice is without its downside should one take it to that place or be placed in a situation to face that downside.  The Upper, Middle, and Lower World or (as it is often symbolized), the World Tree cosmology, to me, invites no more safety than other kinds of cosmologies.  For instance, in the Siberian cosmology there are spirits that will spread disease and unrest.  These are known as chotgor and they originate from the Lower world.  The ozoor, ongon, and burhan spirits, spirits of the Middle world, may also cause problems for those who are flesh-and-blood humans in the Middle World.  My references in this section come from the book Chosen by the Spirits by Sarangerel and BuryatMongol.org.

While there may be cosmologies that are less obviously dangerous or outright threatening than others, I have yet to find a cosmology that is ‘safe’.  Whether one is interacting with beings from the Otherworld, nymphs and dryads, the alfar or even the ka of the deceased, there is risk.  The risk can be in angering the spirits of certain offerings are or are not given.  The risk can be, for instance, in the case of the Otherworld, being trapped if one eats food from the realm.  Crossing a nymph or a dryad might bring you hard times or even death in their domain.  Wronging the alfar or insulting them might get you elfshot, resulting in illness, pain, fatigue and so on.

Several realms of the Dead are known to be dangerous for travel.  If you eat of the food of the Underworld, in many myths, you are stuck there.  Even without this, there are spirits that may cause you grief during or after your foray, and will gladly follow you and make your life miserable until they are exorcised and/or their spiritual effects on you are removed.  A slip-up in the realm of the Dead may also invoke a God/dess’ wrath, trapping your soul or being forced to perform tasks for Hir.  Slip-ups with the Dead Themselves, such as your Ancestors, may invite negative consequences from Them as well.

I do not think this means that you need to walk around with the magical equivalent of body armor and shotguns all the time, but mindfulness is a must for any Pagan or shaman.  If the whole world is full of spirits then mindfulness of your place in this world is a must.  If the Gods are real, if the Dead are a presence in our lives, and if what we do is more than a thought experiment or a game, then mindfulness needs to be paid to ourselves, the world around us, and the Gods and spirits we interact with.

“Using” Cosmology

To be honest I find the idea incredibly insulting.  These Gods, spirits, and cosmologies do not exist because we think they do.  They exist independent of our recognition and, at times, awareness.  To simply ‘plug into’ a cosmology on a whim, to me, is foolhardy.  If nothing else you might insult the spirits or Gods of the particular cosmology or realm you seek to enter, interact with or ‘use’.  At most you may get the kind of attention that will make your life very, very difficult.  Of course you have to initiate contact with the spirits and Gods at some point, but to barge into a realm and call a spirit to your service, or call on a God you’ve never interacted with smacks, at least to me, of hubris.  Without this respect due to the Gods and spirits, and the cosmology itself, how can you develop a working relationship with Them or work within the cosmology?

When it comes down to it, “using” cosmology is a form of blasphemy.  It is using the Gods, spirits, and essence as things, as utilities in a ritual or outlook.  Sure, integrating a cosmology into one’s life is a lot more hard than simply looking at it as a tool, but it is a damn sight more respectful.  It treats the Gods, spirits and cosmology itself as a tool when each may be a Being unto itself, including, in some religions, the cosmology itself.  A cosmology is something you exist within, not something that you pick up for a moment then discard when it does not fit your notions of what should be.  A cosmology is challenging; it not only contains spirits that may not have your best interests in mind, but even more important is that it may contain spirits that do, and will challenge you in quite deep ways to do what is best for you should you befriend Them or They take interest in you.

A cosmology establishes your relationship to all things, including yourself.  It establishes how you interact with the spirits and Gods.  It establishes your relationship to the Earth, and your human communities.  Sometimes integrating your cosmology into your life does not upset things.  Other times, it may change things in your life in subtle ways.  For instance,  I pay far more attention now as a Pagan than I did as a Christian to the environment.  Things ripple from your basic standpoint in cosmology outward, and may affect each and every part of your life.

To integrate a cosmology into your life is to recognize your place within it, and you cannot do that purely from the outside.  It is also a lot more humbling, in my experience.  You don’t have anywhere near as much control (even if the control was your own imagining), but there can be the feeling of peace and richness in understanding your place in a cosmology.  My point is not that people should feel pressured into accepting this or that cosmology, but understand how revolutionary accepting a cosmology as real, as developing a belief in a cosmology is.  It is a fundamental shift in understanding reality, of one’s place in it, and perhaps, of oneself.  This cannot be done by merely using a cosmology, nor any religious belief.  When you accept your place in a cosmology it is accepting all that entails, including shifting one’s mindset away from outdated ones and accepting what might have once seemed odd.  I feel it also means exploring that cosmology and where you fit in it; not all our old lore and myths tell us the whole of how we humans fit into things.  Just because you’re part of a cosmology does not mean the exploring, and the seeking of understanding ebbs away.  If anything, in my experience, it calls you to dig deeper into it and see what you can see.  It is much more than a light overview in a book, or a small foray into a wood, it is stepping into a whole new way of relating to everything.  Explore, rather than use, and you may find your whole life changed.

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