Patron Topic 57: On Spirit World Politics Part 1

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From Maleck comes this topic:

“Would you mind discussing, as much as you can, your experience with politics in the spirit world, especially with how it can involve practitioners?”

I think that whether or not you understand there being politics in the spirit world is going to come down to your theological position on things. Within polytheism there is a breadth to understanding we can have regarding the way the cosmos was formed and functions. If you understand the Gods as being perfect, whole, unto Themselves and utterly benevolent, then politics as we understand them taking place within the various spirit Worlds may not make much sense. My own worldview is that the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are many, and so, among a great many things, politics varies between and among Them all.

Defining Politics and Exploring the Spiritual Implications

Before we go on, though, what do I mean when I am writing on ‘politics’? The Oxford English Dictionary define politics as “The activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.” I also find 1.5’s definition useful: “The assumptions or principles relating to or inherent in a sphere, theory, or thing, especially when concerned with power and status in a society.” These definitions work for our purposes.

We clearly have different political setups in the various home cultures these Gods were first worshipped by, eg chieftain-style in Nordic, and pharaonic with Kemetic. This can quickly get into “Is it the chicken or the egg?” type of questioning regarding a given political system. Since, as I understand it, the Gods are part of the undergirding of reality in profound ways, whether the political systems emerged from Them or not, all things are grounded in the Gods. I think it is entirely possible that some Gods favor certain political systems over the others, particularly when it comes to Gods who benefit from the establishment of Their order. It is also possible that a God may prefer no political system in particular.

Part of the reason I am not being too cut and dry here is because, while it is possible a given God may prefer a political system, They may have preferred a system They insituted but no longer exists, changed Their viewpoint over time, and/or Their view varies by political subject and Their worshipers at a given point in time. They may just be fine with taking us as we are now. It may also be a difference in interest even within a given God, eg Rúnatýr may not care as much as Óðinn about political organizations, hierarchy, etc, or only care insofar as these things matter with regard to understanding and working with the Runes. I also think it is entirely possible for one group of people to get one answer from a given God or an aspect of that God and for an entire separate group of people to get another answer and still be validly praying to, offering to, and communing with that God.

As if this is not complex enough on its own, add in the various vaettir, including our Ancestors and that of other vaettir such as landvaettir, Álfar, Dvergar, Jötnar, Aesir, Vanir, trolls, and so on. Every single vaettir, since They are a Being unto Themselves, may and likely does have varying political concerns from one another. I am also not assuming we are going to wander the Worlds and find that the Álfar have read and agreed with Kropotkin or the Dvergar with regard to Adam Smith or John Stuart Mills. Indeed, if I understand that each vaettr, that each spirit, is a Being Unto Themselves and the potential that I have as a being living and growing in Miðgarð is no less available to any other, then not only may each group of vaettir have Their own ideas of political theory, these may be more or less compatible with my own.

All of this is to say that anything I, or anyone else would have to say regarding our experiences of and with politics, political bodies, and views we have received from various Ginnreginn (Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir) in our communing with Them is our experience, and accordingly, the interpretation and understanding we have of it. I understand myself as an ecosocialist, that is, my politics’ first concern is right relationship with the environment, ecological care, and ecological justice. My framing and understanding of economics flowing from this: that the means of production should be owned and operated by the People rather than moneyed interests, and that for the People to have a good life the economy must comport with the limits of and be in right relationship with nature. Understanding my political perspectives allows me to compare and contrast between those of Others that I may experience in communing with the Ginnreginn, that is, the Gods, Ancestor, and vaettir. I also recognize that my political worldview may have everything or nothing to do with whether a given Ginnreginn wishes to develop a relationship with me. None of the Ginnreginn are monoliths.

Even to say that the Ginnreginn have politics is controversial. In part, it is because it is often seen as an invitation to Folkish and White Supremacists that they might be right. I want to put that to rest right now: this understanding that the Ginnreginn only can develop relationships with what we in modern times understand as white people unnecessarily limits the Ginnreginn’s ability to form and maintain relationships. It is an unncessary burden placed on Them by racist idealogues. Óðinn alone has crossed what we understand in modern terms to be lines of race, sex, gender, political, and ideological boundaries in His quests for knowledge, power, and wisdom. It is also ahistorical to ancient and medieval Scandinavians, who we take understanding and inspiration from, as going finnfarar or fara til finna to learn seiðr is remarked on in sagas. See The Viking Way by Neil Price, pg 225, for examples of this.

Basics of My Views on Spiritual Politics

So, all of this being said and out of the way, to Maleck’s topic request: “Would you mind discussing, as much as you can, your experience with politics in the spirit world, especially with how it can involve practitioners?”

Part of the core of polytheist and animist religions and thought are the formation and maintaining of relationships. While most Heathens are exoteric, Maleck specifically asks about practitioners, to which I take to mean spiritworkers of all kinds, magicians, and folks I will call heimrgangr, world-walker. In other words, these are folks who are engaged with esoteric practices.

I understand that the Ginnreginn have politics and are bound up in them not only in regard to relationships with us, They also are bound up with each Other in this way as well. I am fairly limited to what I can competently talk about here with regards to Gods and spirits outside of my particular Heathen worldview. In a way, limiting the conversation to Heathenry will help to highlight what politics can look like to folks when you develop and maintain relationships with a variety of Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.

I carry a number of baseline assumptions with regards to how I understand the Heathen Ginnreginn. First, we shall regard the Gods. I generally approach the Aesir, Vanir, and various Jötnar as tribes rather than separate species. Many of these tribes have Gods within them that share attributes, such as þórr and Farbauti being Gods associated with and/or wielding lightning and thunder. How They relate to these things and how They relate to us through these things is also part of our relationships, including political dimensions. I understand that many Jötnar are part of or aligned with natural forces, and so, there are Jötnar connected to Earth, Air, Ice, Fire, Water, as well as those connected with natural places such as bodies of water and mountains, and then there are Jötnar connected with natural Beings such as trees, wolves and elk. Mixed in an among these various Jötnar there are those that are easiest to refer to as being ‘monstrous’.

Many of the members, including but not exclusively Gods from these tribe intermarry, such as Freyr and Gerðr, adding complexity to Their relationships with one another and with us. What I find beautiful is that this complexity adds depth and nuance not only to our understanding of our Gods as Beings unto Themselves, it also adds this to the various things our Gods represent, teach, and impart through Their stories. In appreciating our Gods’ complexities we can better appreciate our own, and the varieties of interconnectedness there.

Coming to understanding that our relationships with our Gods have political dimensions has powerful implications for where we are in relationships with all our Ginnreginn, and all the things that follow from that. A relatively simple example is Jörð. Jörð is a Jötun, the Earth Herself. She is the mother of Þórr. So, anyone who says carte blanche that they are enemies of the Jötnar is literally admitting to being an enemy of the Earth. Anyone ascribing to Þórr a universal hatred of Jötnar is attributing a hatred to Him of His own Mother. So, declaring ourselves or the Gods as carte blanch enemies of this or that tribe, or this or that group of vaettir ignores the complexity of relationships that the Ginnreginn inhabit. By making such a declaration it is entirely to end up an enemy to a good many of the Gods in Heathenry.

This is not to say we need to like, befriend, or worship every God to have good relationships with those in our hearths. You do not have to like or worship Óðinn to worship Frigg or Þórr. Respect, though, is important. We gain nothing by disrespecting the Ginnreginn, especially ones Who are close to those we worship.

As we gain relationships with different Gods our relationships with different tribes or families of the Gods may change as well. In my own case I did not worship Loki or any of His Family starting off as a Heathen. I came to worship Loki after knowing and worshipping Óðinn. From coming to know and worship Loki I came to know and then worship Angrbóða, Jörmangandr, Fenris, and Sigyn. I went from fearing Fenris and refusing to worship Him, to worshipping Him in a “here’s an offering now please leave me the fuck alone”, to “You eat my Father at Rágnarök. I don’t like You for that….but I can understand You.” It is far, far too easy to merely cast Fenris as an out-of-control monster and that is all He is. If I love and count Loki as among the Gods most dear to me, for all the shit He catches from Heathens, let alone His fellow Gods, I should at least be willing to give His Son respect and try to understand His Children.

Not everyone is going to give Fenris that, and I get that. I used to feel intensely antagonistic towards Fenrisúlfr. Over time, though, as I came to deepen my understanding and relationship with Loki I softened, not only because I’m also a Dad, but because I loved Loki. How could I so viciously despise His Son for fulfilling what amounted to a self-fulfilling prophecy that Óðinn helped to propagate by His own actions? I have been in a situation where the weight of expectation has hurt me and then the people around me. If I could see that in myself I can see that in Fenris’ myths too. I found, as I explored these feelings and how I related to Fenris, what I was reacting too was far less Him, and more the feelings He brings up, and my own ‘inner monster’. The personal sure is political.

Ancestors can be a bit more personal. I reckon Ancestors as anyone who is part of our ancestry whether that is by blood, adoption, Ginnreginn, and/or initiated lineage. So, They easily intersect between various Ginnreginn. In my own case I do not understand nor came to understand the last name Odinsson lightly. There is connection with Óðinn as Father there, and it ripples out into all the relationships I have. Some of my blood Ancestors are staunch Catholics, and will refuse to have anything to do with me because of this. Some of my initiated lineage Ancestors happen to be Wiccan because I was initiated into Georgian Tradition Wicca around 2007, 2008. No offense to Them, I just do not interact with Them much. They’re still there, though, and worthy of honor.

I take the use of the word “Brother”, “Sister”, “Sibling”, etc quite seriously. The use of that word implies a closeness, a host of obligations and responsibilities to one another. It means that I would lay down my life for you. It also means that we share Ancestors on acceptance of the term. So, I tend to cringe when folks at work or random Heathens I have never met call me “Brother”. When I call folks “Brother”, “Sister”, “Sibling”, etc that means your Ancestors are getting honored at my Ancestor stalli, and, if you have one, mine should be too.

So politically, Ancestors are interesting. They are flexible in some ways because we can take Them in from others, and get brought into Their circles by Them, other Ginnreginn, and other people. Then, They can also be fairly inflexible -our blood Ancestors are who They are whether or not we relate to these Ancestors. Many Ancestors, especially blood Ancestors, can be fraught with issues depending on the history we have. We may have Ancestral traumas that were dealt to our families that we are dealing with and may need to resolve, or those that our Ancestors inflicted on others. Suffice it to say, our Ancestors’ stories have political dimensions, ones it would help not to ignore.

Vaettir run the gamut of being part of the Aesir, Vanir, or Jötnar, to Álfar, Dvergar, fylgja (follower vaettir), landvaettir, vaettir of various elements, and every variety in between. They can be as big as a galaxy, and perhaps bigger, or as tiny as a grain of sand, and perhaps smaller. They can occupy any of the Nine Worlds. Us flesh-bound human beings are vaettir. We just happen to have physical bodies here in Miðgarðr. All of us, whatever World we are part of, have political dimensions we ought to consider as part of relating to and understanding one another. That would ideally start here, in our own World, and extend outward as we develop and maintain relationships as Heathens with the Ginnreginn.

This post, even as basic as it is, is already getting to the point of being fairly large on its own. I cannot hope to cover everything in exhaustive detail even if I made a series of posts like these though I am finding them fun to explore and develop. In the next post, On Spirit World Politics Part 2, I will explore some of these topics in more detail. Particularly, I am interested in exploring the way politics can shake out with esoteric folks, including the political implications of spirit travel, how magic in other worlds can operate, and how these things impact our relationships spiritually and politically.

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 55: For The Great Mother Below

If 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 Maleck for The Great Mother Below.

Ever-deep dark den

Swallowing maw of the Mother

Ever-birthing Body

Blessed Singer who swells in Silence

Hear the songs of Your scions

Howling cant of the Canid

Ever-roaming rangers

Pack playing upon You

Whisper to us Wise One

Whole-hearted we hear

Ever-speaking Sacred

In Stillness we seek

Death is duty and doom

Home’s hail to heed

Ever-patient promise

Blessing bears the broken Below

Bodies buried and born

Cycles’ ceaseless steps

Ever-turning truth

The Goddess gives Her Gifts

Bring blood and bone

Praise and power to prove

Ever-great Goddess

Right relation our rule

Patreon Topic 56: On Álfheimr

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From Emi comes this topic:

“On Álfheim.”

Before I dig into the topic I want to voice my deep appreciation to Emi for suggesting this topic. One of the challenges of writing for patrons through my Patreon is that sometimes they throw me curve balls like this to where, when you’ve been avoiding certain Beings (Álfar) and Their World (Álfheimr) and now that a patron has asked about Them you not only need to do more research, you need to recall your interactions and understanding of Them.

One of the biggest challenges and joys of the Patreon is writing for other folks on something as powerful and personal as religion and spirituality, particularly as a Heathen spiritworker. It pushes me to talk about things that I normally would not. It pushes me to talk about my experiences with certain vaettir like the Álfar, vaettir that I have not written much about here, and that I have not spoken about much on Around Grandfather Fire or 3 Pagans on Tap. This disclosure could have no effect, or, as I have found with other writings, it can change folks’ perspective, reinforce their understanding of their experience, or just be a helping piece for them. This is the power of sharing our experiences. Writing on our understandings and experiences like this can develop our sense of comradery and coherence. This is especially true for places like Àlfheimr and the Álfar, which have very little in the way of anything written about them in the sources most Nordic Heathens use.

Álfheim is often reckoned as one of the Nine Worlds mentioned in the Völuspá. It has a brief mention in Gríminsmál, and Gylfaginning. The mentions are brief, sparse on information. Where we have a great deal of information on the Álfar from a historical context are the compendiums of stories and writings of folklorists. The Álfar are remarked on by Claude Lacouteaux in several contexts throughout his various books, all of which are excellent.

Of his books that I have read, Lacouteaux’s most useful in our context are in Demons and Spirits of the Land, The Tradition of Household Spirits, The Return of the Dead, and his entry for Elves in Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore. To summarize the Álfar as any one thing seems a fool’s errand. Over time they go from being, in the earliest sources, similar in stature to the Aesir Gods. At some point the Álfar was conflated with landvaettir, the Dvergar, the húsvaettir, and in others with human Dead. Cat Heath explores this in her own work Elves, Witches, & Gods. She devotes a whole chapter to Freyr and clear ways of working with the Álfar in a Heathen context.

If little is known about the Álfar, even less is known from our sources about Their World, Álfheimr. Almost everything we have now is from modern Heathens and Pagans who have traveled to the land or spoken with those who call it home. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, because on the one hand we do not have preconceived notions of what Álfheimr must be from primary or secondary sources. On the other, we have no way of using primary or secondary sources as a guide for discernment of our experiences with this place.

Most of my experiences in Álfheim and with the Álfar are in context of other Work. An example of this World would be when I was assigned travel to the various Worlds by Óðinn to take in lessons from various Gods and vaettir. In part because I have been putting it off for awhile and in part pushed by this blog post, though more of the former than the latter, I was pushed to visit the World.

I found it…unsettling. Inviting and welcoming, to be sure. Yet, it feels like so much is either hidden or just beyond seeing. Almost like the whole time I was there this feeling of something in the place I was visiting being out of the corner of my eye. Not in a threatening way, yet it was there just the same. The way it looks to me is a combination of Rivendell and an Old Growth forest. Old trees taller than you can see sometimes stretching up. Many places, like in front of these old trees, exudes age and yet, there is youth to be felt too. The trees beside them, the road I was walking on, and many of the Álfar I met were this, some old and some young feeling, and some an interesting combination of the two. Some Álfar looked rather like Tolkien’s elves, and others more like those from one of Brian Froud’s Fairy Oracle deck. Some Álfar were not human-shaped at all, but trees Themselves.

An except from my journal:

“Álfheimr was a great Old Forest and there was a feeling of deepness to it, of ancient beyond ancient to it. Yet there was a stone paved road before us and we walked to what I recognize as one of if not the capital of it. Great sloped walls, some of wood and others turf, some of these like the Old Icelandic turf homes and others akin to Earthships.”

Since I have only scratched the surface of the place, and since we know so little about the World Itself from lore, I do not recommend folks visit ‘just to visit’. Granted, I do not think any of the Worlds are wise to visit ‘just to visit’ or without an invitation. If you do decide to engage with the Álfar, I would recommend folks take a good look at Elves, Witches, and Gods by Cat Heath. She dedicates a chapter to Freyr and the Álfar, and has a lot of techniques and workings that folks, especially if you are looking to make contact and do seiðr, would find useful. However you decide to move forward it is well worth taking care in reaching out to the Álfar, especially since most of the sources of folklore we have reference elfshot and the like as the result of angering Them. While over-worrying can be an impediment to good relationships with vaettir, approaching any vaettir level-headed with the desire to do well by Them and good offerings is a good tack to take and will serve you well.

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 54: For the Álfar

If 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 the Álfar.

Lilting tongues and savage scream

Haunting songs surround

Every soul can raise to sing

Yet by silence drown

Taut tans and pine’s pins

Vaettir clothing vaettir

Warms the one to witness

Invites the eyes to linger

Myriad mode and countless clans

Álfar yet fare

Urðr scratched rich reward

Within the heim They bear

Weave well and craft careful

Bonds across Worlds

Few hurts the scorner

As bearer of broken Words

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 53: For Percht Baba

If 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 Maleck for Percht Baba.

You lead, You lead,

Softly stalking

Your army close behind

You seek, You seek

Hospitality’s home

Finally, it is opened

You bless, You bless

Great givers

You give Your gifts in turn

You gather, You gather

Precious pups

Feeding and loving the Lost

You love, You love

Wild Wights

Who dance, run, and Ride

We hail, we hail

Holy Howler

Hail Percht Baba!

Patron Topic 55: On Ego in Spiritual and Magical Work

If you want to submit a topic you would like me to write on for this blog or my Patreon, sign up for the Uruz or Thurisaz level or above here on my Patreon.

From Maleck comes this topic:

“Ego (as understood in common parlance, not Freud) in magical and spiritual work.”

I am glad that Maleck clarified not referencing Freud. Unfortunately, like a lot of psychological and spiritual terms that became popular and used in modern Western New Age influenced spiritual circles, it began as an academic term and has morphed a lot over time. The most common ways I have seen ego used generally falls into one of three ways. The two dictionary definitions, per Lexico which are relevant here, are: “A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance” and “(in metaphysics) a conscious thinking subject.” The third tends to be mostly negative, at least so far as New Age, and communities influenced by them are concerned: the ego is the selfish impulses and this-world concerns, the individual’s desires and Self. This latter tends to be used rather like a cudgel, whether against oneself or others, such as through admonishing others to ‘let go of your ego and embrace [concept]’ or ‘do not let your ego get in the way of your [progress, path, etc]’.

Of these definitions, I find the first most useful to our purposes in talking about ego in magical and spiritual work. It is direct, to the point, and without shaming or adoration of self-esteem or self-importance itself. The second definition, a conscious thinking object, especially when within the realm of animism and polytheism, is a category that is greatly expanded from where most metaphysical thinking is right now. It has incredible potential to widen and deepen the understanding and use of ego out of its mostly negative status in the overculture. However, of the definitions, it is the least used in our communities. The third is toxic in its use in modern magical, occult, Pagan, and polytheist communities. It is often used to denigrate healthy boundaries, a sense of self, or countless other means of protecting oneself or affirming one’s own needs and desires. It also has seen use in sublimating one’s desire or needs (physical, mental, and spiritual) to another person or group, or used as a way to spiritually bypass one’s own needs, boundaries, or issues needing addressing. Unfortunately, this third term tends to be the one used the most in discussions about ego.

The concept of the ego as something to be dissolved or brought under control in aescetic practice is not, in of itself, a New Age concept alone. New Age thinking and practice on this, which stemmed from New Thought, first took these most if not all of their concepts and original techniques from dharmic religions and then twisted them.  People, such as those involved in the Theosophical Society, brought terms and practices from dharmic religion into their groups, and over time, at least here in America, their conceptions of these things became the mainstream use of terms and techniques. I treat these concepts and techniques as separate because even where they are similar, it often proves to be a separate conception between what the younger practice thinks, interpreted, or twisted the older practice into being than what that older dharmic practice is.

Operating from the first definition, “A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance”, ego is utterly important to magical and spiritual work.  While magic can have interplay with spiritual work, and often does in how I execute magic, I also recognize that at least some forms of magic interface, work with, or directly manipulate spiritual energies which have impact on spiritual beings rather than working with spirits directly. I defined magic in this post as “Weaving or carving Urðr to an end.” The post also provides an in-depth look at my understanding of and relationship with magic. However the use of magic comes about, the operant needs to have enough sense of self-esteem and self-importance that not only can they conceive of themselves of being able to carry out change to Urðr, they  do so. Whatever the magic is, it has to cross from “I think I can” to “I am doing this” to “It is done.”

There are literally millions of ways to execute magic, from elaborate to simple, and everywhere in between. What all forms of magic have in common is, from the conception of its use, its execution, and its effects, is that we are using power to get things done. Magic is based in reality. While we may not fully understand, or may even misunderstand the mechanism(s) by which magic(s) works, we recognize that it proves its existence by experience, by cause and effect. Even on a baseline materialist angle, the use of magic allows for better outcomes. By lighting an enchanted candle to get a job, putting a good resume out there, and doing my best on interviews, by being inspired by the power I bring to bear on the situation, whatever the ultimate ontological reality is, I am giving myself a huge edge. I believe in myself enough to light that candle, to put out my resume, to interview, and to keep on doing things that increase the likelihood that I will get that job. I am going through all the effort because I believe I am worthy of that job. Moreover, I am doing active work to ensure that I get that job.

The magic does not work without a positive sense of self-esteem and self-importance. Why? Without that sense I do not conceive of magic being worth the time and energy to execute. So, it does not get done. Without that sense, I do not spend time thinking about and selecting the right candle, or carving it. So, the candle is unenchanted. Without that sense I do not bother to light the candle. So, the magic is never executed. Without that sense I do not search for a job, nor submit my application, nor interview for it. Nothing happens without the forward momentum provided by my sense of self-esteem and self-importance. This also applies if we are looking at things from a more collectivistic stance. A sense of self-esteem and self-importance can be based in one’s community, whether the role one plays in it, or just the fact that one exists in a community. So, rather than a personal feeling of pride and “I deserve this job!” providing momentum to a magical working, I could be working from a feeling of “To be a good member of this community I will contribute through my labor!” or “I want to help, and this is what I can do!” However the motivation and sense of self-esteem and self-importance comes about, it needs to be there for the magic to have grounding in our lives if we are going to conceive of it, execute it, and experience the results of it.

Most of what I have written here applies to spiritual relationships as well. If I do not believe myself as being worthy of a relationship I am unlikely to seek it out or be receptive to them. If I only believe I am worthy of certain relationships then, whatever may be available to me, I will only seek out certain kinds of relationships. However, since the other party is a Being unto Themselves, They may have more than enough confidence in a relationship with me to reach across my own lacking self-confidence or self-assurance and buoy my ego. Sometimes by reaching out, a given God, Ancestor, or spirit can provide the boost to one’s self-esteem or self-importance that we can then be receptive to Them. Other times, it may be that the person derives a feel of positive self-esteem and/or self-importance in a similar way to belonging to a human community, as being part of a spiritual family, clan, and/or community.

The reverse of these things is also true. By having an overinflated sense of self-esteem I could be engaging in fooling myself that my magic is more effective than what it is. I may ignore common sense, such as putting in my resume, cutting off my magic’s ability to do the thing I was executing it for in the first place. By having an overinflated sense of self-esteem and self-importance, I could actively push away spiritual  relationships. I could be overconfident in an approach to Ginnreginn and cause offense, or overestimate my ability to handle a given relationship and overload myself. In executing magic or being in a relationship I could overcommit or not commit enough.

Where I think a lot of the issues with ego is headed off is balance, a proportional sense of self-esteem and self-importance. Originally, I was going to write the word healthy, but that term is so loaded and at the same time not descriptive of what I would look for. This is going to be harder for some folks and easier for others, for a load of reasons. However, I think that balance is necessary in ego for effective magic and healthy relationships. That proportionality is weighed, formed in community with others. That balance can also shift over time, in rhythm with relationships one holds, the magic one works, the experience one gains, and the effects all these things have on and with each other.

When I became a Heathen it was commonplace to see or hear the words “We do not kneel before our Gods!” loudly and proudly declared. I felt then, as I still do, that most of this is a reaction against Christianity rather than a reaction for our Gods. To my mind, this is often an active impediment in Heathen thought to getting to know our Gods, and also our Ancestors and vaettir in some fairly powerful ways. Kneeling, genuflecting, and prostration all can be powerful ways of recognizing another’s power, and aligning our ego with our place in things. Some folks are so hurt by their previous experience with these postures (or their knees/back/etc just hurt doing it) that just doing them brings pain, lowering their sense of self-esteem and self-importance that it becomes a block in the relationship. It may be counter-productive for a person to kneel or prostrate themselves. A bow, an inclination of the head, shutting of eyes, hands on the heart, or similar ways of showing respect may be easier and better in their relationship with the God. I think part of the beauty of Heathenry is that it allows for these approaches in proportion with our relationship with each God, Ancestors, and vaettr. Abasement and denial of our own self-esteem and self-importance is not necessary as part of holding relationships with the Ginnreginn.

Working with magic is working with power. Working with spiritual Beings is work with Powers. Power, whether hard or soft, gentle or firm, great or small, gets things done. “Weaving or carving Urðr to an end” means that we take a hand in working within the Worlds and with the Ginnreginn. Our ego is a potentially powerful ally, one I think we would do well to keep by our side rather than try to be rid of. Treating it like a good ally, by giving good and proportional support to our ego, it in turn can provide support in hard times and be part of why we succeed in a given endeavor. Bringing our ego into magic and spiritual work in a proportial way that honors where we are, how we are, and what our needs and boundaries are, brings more of our whole Self to bear in the magical and spiritual work before us.

For the Ukranian Peoples

Update: for those who want to donate to causes that directly help the Ukrainian peoples, I was given this link by Snow. It has a list of charities and causes that you can give to, the text of the original post was written by the Kyiv Independent.

May the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir bless and be with the Ukrainian peoples.

May the húsvaettir stand strong.

May the landvaettir be mighty.

May the Ancestors inspire, comfort, and uphold.

May the Gods steel and strengthen them all.

Ves Þu heil!

A Heathen Prepping -Prepping for Convergent Crises

We are at a crossroads of convergent crises. At time time of this writing the United States is facing the following: supply chain disruption resulting in delays of goods and then services, health care staffing shortages, shortages in necessary medical goods supplies, ongoing massive infections of COVID-19, and rising inflation. Then there is the civil unrest we have still largely not dealt with since January 6th of 2021. Alone, with the effects of climate change already being felt throughout the food industry, this would be disruptive. With these hitting all at once it is high time anyone holding out on prepping began to take the situation as it stands and make plans to take care of themselves and their loved ones.

This does not mean panic buy. It does not mean pick up as much toilet paper, rice, beans, or the like as you can. What it does mean, is, that if you have delayed until now to do necessary prep for two weeks in a SHTF scenario, then start there. Besides, long-term you cannot survive on just rice and beans though, if you try that, you’ll be happy you bought all that toilet paper.

We have seen gas prices rise on average about $1.14 in the last year, per the EIA. Check the year on year price comparison by the BLS of average goods. The price on average has increased in a steady upward climb the last twenty years. A loaf of bread went from $1.50 to $1.52 October 2020 to October 2021. This means that gas went up about 52% and bread 2% in the last year. Between October 2001 and October 2021 prices on these two goods have gone up, from $1.36 to $3.39 or a 149.26% rise for gas and from $1.01 to $1.53 or a 51.49% rise for bread. All this is to say these are long-term trends, not just pandemic-time increases.

With the crunch of supply disruptions bringing together the basics of your home’s prep into a 2 week, then 1 month, 3 month, 6 month, and a year as you can should be a top priority. At the least, getting this prep together gives you the means to take care of yourself and your loved ones for a SHTF scenario. If one does not hit for awhile, it means that you can stave off inflation. If supply chains fail or things fall apart worse than what they are, you won’t be caught off guard.

Our current round of convergent crises are predicaments that have been ignored until the weight of them cannot be borne by the system in place. All of these issues were ignored or underfunded through several presidential terms. Since 2001 we have spent literally trillions of dollar on war. Resources were simply not allocated to address them. Assigning fault may be useful to some, but not in deciding what to do now that these threats are here in action.

As a Heathen I understand my life woven with that of others through Urðr, whose Anglo-Saxon cognate is Wyrd. I prioritize those webs of Urðr, first with the Ginnreginn (Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir), then my immediate family, then Kindred, then tribe, and then my wider communities. These priorities matter in predicaments like these, as they dictate who my first concerns and obligations belong to. Those closest to me in obligations and concerns are those who I help first in a SHTF scenario.

So for whom am I prepping? For everyone in my circles of concern. It is my responsibility in every relationship I hold, from the Ginnreginn to the wider community, to do all I can to take care of as many people as I can within my capacity to do so. By do so I am freeing resources for others in my Kindred, tribe, or wider community who need to use their resources in support of their own. If all I can take care of is my family and I, then that is who I take care of so resources are available for the Kindred, tribe, or wider communities.

The beautiful thing about prepping, especially starting out and getting a 2 week then 3 month prep as you can, is that prepping is cumulative. The more you do it the better you can weather SHTF scenarios. If you have a 20 lb bag of rice for your two week prep that same bag counts for the 3 month prep, too. So, even if you’re eating your prep as you go, which ideally you should at least in some degree so you’re not suddenly switching diets when SHTF, you are still stocking up in the long term.

Bought a bag of apples and are unsure if you are going to eat them all in time before they rot? No problem. If you have an oven or dehydrator, you can make apple crisps. Put those bad boys in the fridge, mylar bag with an oxygen absorber, or a jar. Congratulations, you have made another stride in prep! Have veggie scraps like carrot tops and peels? These make good compost. That compost can then be used as soil or fertilizer if you let it break down. Old medicine bottles are excellent for holding emergency supplies you can stash in a BOB, the car, or as part of an EDC. Thinking on and working with what you have, where and when you are as part of prep can help stretch or add to what you have for resources.

A lot of convergent crises where I am are going to look like multiple SHTF scenarios that I talked about here coming together at once. In Winter of 2022 I am most concerned about the weather, then supply chain issues, then COVID-19 and the knock-on effects at hospitals, and then the ongoing infrastructure issues. Once we get through Winter and that ceases to be as big an issue, most of my immediate SHTF scenarios stay the same, with the exception of civil unrest being a bigger factor as temperatures climb. On their own each of these could merit my full attention. Together, even doing as much prep as I can, it can be overwhelming, especially at first.

The thing about SHTF scenarios, particularly convergent crises, is the preps are not meant to fix them. Generally, SHTF scenarios are predicaments that you navigate. My power going out cannot be fixed even by getting a Generac generator for the house -it mitigates the loss of electricity. Stocking up on food will not fix the supply chain issues or rising costs. Food prep will help my family and loved ones get through until the supply chain is restored and/or we can bring our own supplies to bear. These ongoing issues need to be fixed systemically since they are systemic issues.

So, what kinds of prep can you do with regard to multiple SHTF scenarios? Beyond continuing with the preps you are on, be sure to build redundancy as you can. Something City Prepping says a lot is “2 is 1, and 1 is none.” Having backups sure does not hurt. If you grab one of something while you’re out on a shopping trip grab a second one. I recently went to the store and picked up some dry milk. At first I was just going to grab one pack, and, remembering the rule, grabbed another. In a long-term SHTF and/or grid-down situation having extras is a great thing. If you find you do not need the extras, having them means you can offer it to others to help, and you have items to trade with.

By and large the basics of prepping for the most likely convergent crises will overlap one another. The big one for our area is power loss. It threatens both our refrigerated and frozen supplies, and makes it harder for us to get through everyday weather. Most modern American homes are fairly poorly constructed and insulated. These glorified boxes require working HVAC units to chug through all kinds of weather. I find it far easier to get through the cold in Michigan than I do the heat, but not everyone will, so even in prepping members of your home you may need different strategies to keep everyone safe.

Convergent crises can challenge our preps. Right now our corner of Michigan’s most likely long-term convergent crises are a long-term power or grid-down situation coupled with our ongoing supply chain issues. In such a case, relying on a refrigerator, freezer, and the electric stove we have will be pretty useless. While we could do our best to convert the refrigerator and freezer into primitive ice boxes, it would be a far better use of time and resources to orient our preps for these crises to food able to be stored long-term without the need for cooling. Canning while we have electricity and a steady supply of jars and lids is one approach which can provide immense amounts of food which will keep for years. Smoking, curing, dehydrating, and fermenting can be done throughout the year without electricity. Thinking creatively about how we face our convergent crises now can save us pain, time, effort, and resources in the long run.

Convergent crises will be a time that test folks. Crises usually do. Part of the power in doing these preps as a Heathen is that each act of prep is an opportunity for building up good relationships with our Ginnreginn and each other. Engaging in prep provides opportunities for devotional work, magic, and co-creating Urðr with the Ginnreginn and the folks in our communities. A lot of us go about creating some kind of stalli (altar in the house), and vé (sacred outdoor space) where we live. The spiritual work does not, and, especially since we are talking about preps, should not stay there alone. Looking at the written and archaeological sources of our Heathen religions it is clear to me that the spiritual perspective of ancient Heathens was part of everyday lived reality, not hived off from the rest of life as it so often is in our overculture. Much of the spells and spiritual practices that have passed down to us now were concerned with survival, the good of the community, and preserving, protecting, or empowering the community and the folks within them in some way.

A lot of ways to bring spiritual work into prep are simple and often overlooked. An example: when you are canning thank the vaettir of the plants and animals, the jörðvaettir that forms the jar, lid, and bands, the vatnvaettir of the water, and the eldrvaettir that boils the water. You can mark the bottoms or put post-it notes on jars or other items you intend to trade with the Fehu and Gebo Runes. You can put healing bindrunes on the inside of your First Aid kit, and ask for Eir and Menglóð’s blessing on it, giving Them good offerings afterwards.

Learn about the various forms of magic and spiritual practices that ancient Heathens would have used and think about why they used it, and how these things apply to us today. An awful lot of thought, time, energy, and power went into protection, not just personal protection but that of the homestead and animals. Why? Survival was dependent on the stores of food and animals making it through Sumar (Summer). For those animals not destined for slaughter, they were often instrumental in making it through Vetr (Winter). A good chunk of surviving medieval manuscripts combine what the overculture today think of as separate disciplines: medicine and magic. Even into the modern age these things were not separate disciplines.

Enchanting our medicines to be more effective, warding our gardens against encroachment as we put up fencing, and laying down protections on our homes is the ancient ways working in a new time. Parterning with the landvaettiir so the plants grow well, asking Þórr to bless the garden with rain, and asking Freyr and Gerðr to bring fertility to the plants and animals is our Heathen worldview alive. Doing these things intertwines our religion and our lives in visceral ways. It is powerful.

Even if we do not face a particular set of convergent crises there is no wasted time or energy with these preps we bring to bear. Remember, preps are cumulative. They can be equally as useful for ourselves as others, especially those who may not have prepared or prepared as well as we have. We build up our megin (might/power) and hamingja (luck/power/group luck) in doing this work. Partnering with our Ginnreginn to face these crises, to prep and do what is in our power to do, we grow stronger. By encouraging our mutual aid networks and caring for those in our Kindreds, tribes, and communities now, we face the future stronger together.

Rest

What is it to not do spiritwork for months on end? It is service to others, whether to the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir, and/or those in my communities. The pause I have taken was to rest. As was pointed out to me by several loved ones, I was definitely burning my candle at both ends and sometimes in the middle too.

Since October I have taken time off from spiritwork. That means no public rituals, no divination work, and almost no spirit travel for others. It has also meant I have done as little personal spiritwork as I am able. This does not mean everything is cast aside, though.

I still cleanse, ground, center, and shield everyday at least once a day. I still make prayers every day. I still make time to think and pray. I still do magic as I need to. Clearly, I still write.

I will not pretend like taking this time off has been easy. It has not. I deeply enjoy doing spiritwork. The writing prompts, whether the topic suggestions, Q&As, or prayer requests, all provide a powerful challenge and incentive to write and do spiritwork on their own. Likewise, the videos I have been producing have pushed me to think hard about how to be informative and concise about the Basics of Heathenry.

Something I have remarked to folks through Around Grandfather Fire and its Discord server is that I struggle with the need to be or feel productive. Rather than constantly fight with myself over this, I have reframed the last few months’ break as a form of service. When it comes to brass tacks, that is what it is. I cannot perform well if I am constantly overworking myself. I cannot do the best work that I can for the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, my communities, or myself, if I am constantly exhausted. Reframing rest as service, as furthering the work, helps to put my mind at ease. I recognize how fucked up that is, that the only way that I feel I can relax and put things aside is by framing them in terms of service to the work. I hasten to point out, though, that no God, Ancestor, or vaettr has put this mindset on me. This is definitely the product of the overculture. Sometimes Odin will push, but He has not pushed me as much as I have pushed myself.

Am I going to start back up with spiritwork in February? I am not sure. I will be doing some talking with my partners, friends, and doing some thinking and praying. ConVocation has been postponed until next year. My two weeks of vacation I was going to take for it are locked in. I either take the vacation or simply lose it. I am seriously considering just taking February off to enjoy the two weeks in our new home, and relaxing.

Funny enough, I started to write this post before the latest episode of Around Grandfather Fire. We are just starting our 4th season with Episode 83. I had not yet decided on whether to take February off. By the end of the episode I had decided that I would. It would mean six months off from professional spiritwork.

Why, if I valued my spiritwork so highly and the work I do for others would I take so much time off? I need it. In the time since I began my break I have encountered heavy mandatory overtime at work, worked on buying our home, and finally, came down with COVID-19 before moving in. We are mostly moved now, and despite the many months off from spiritwork, work in various forms has eaten what would have been the empty space there. Had I been doing spiritwork alongside all the work I am doing as a father, partner, and worker, I would probably have collapsed by now.

What helped turn me around on a lot of this was framing things not through an individual narrative, but a collective one. Being a goði, spiritworker, father, partner, and community means I am part of a whole. I am part of a tribe. I do not live for just myself. If anyone in my Kindred or tribe came to me with my workload what would my response be?

“Take some time off and relax for fuck’s sake!”

I have held unreasonably high expectations of myself for a long while. Part of reframing my mindset on rest was not just ‘this is good for me, Sarenth the individual’. What I needed was ‘this is good for my communities’ and ‘this is good for Sarenth, and this good benefits the communities I am in’. Much of my mindset is not about myself, but about what I can do for the Kindred and tribe I am in. If I crash, break down, collapse, or fall apart I can no longer do my best within those communities. It is not only in my interest, but in my communities’ interests that I care for myself, learn to pace myself, and do right by myself. So, for the time being I will do that: I will rest, so that when I return to spiritwork I can do so with my full faculties and do the best job that I am able to.

A Heathen Prepping -On Violence

I had a friend reach out to me recently, concerned I may have been dipping into more exhausting things during my break, rather than spending the last few months relaxing.

That’s just it, Snow. This is me relaxing.

Something they brought up and I dove into was the concept of violence in prepping spaces, especially those on the far-right. Let me be clear: I did not get into prepping to live out a machismo fantasy of gunning down my neighbors, nor of living out The Walking Dead where I live. Rather, I approach prepping through the lens of hospitality and service. Hospitality extends to those who are good guests. People banging down the door, literally or proverbially, in an effort to harm my family, tribe, or communities have forfeited their guest rights. People intimating violence because of my religion, sexuality, ethnicity, leftist political beliefs, etc or the race, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, etc of those in my circles have forefeited their guest rights.

Peace, Not Pacifism

My prepping is predominantly peaceful. Note, not pacifist. To explain I am going to illustrate my point with three quotes I have found online and the first three lines from the Hávamál, H.A. Bellow’s translation:

The first quote, attributed to Stef Starkgaryen, says: “You can’t truly call yourself “peaceful” unless you are capable of great violence. If you’re not capable of violence, you’re not peaceful, you’re harmless. Important distinction.”

The second quote, attributed as a Chinese proverb is paraphrased as: “It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.”

The third quote, attributed to Sun Tzu in his work The Art of War is: “The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.”

Now, to H.A. Bellow’s translation of the Hávamál:

“1. Within the gates | ere a man shall go,
(Full warily let him watch,)
Full long let him look about him;
For little he knows | where a foe may lurk,
And sit in the seats within.

2. Hail to the giver! | a guest has come;
Where shall the stranger sit?
Swift shall he be who, | with swords shall try
The proof of his might to make.

3. Fire he needs | who with frozen knees
Has come from the cold without;
Food and clothes | must the farer have,
The man from the mountains come.”

Without the skill, ability, and most of all the willingness to commit to violence, peace and hospitality cannot be established or maintained. A given Heathen community cannot commit to being an inclusive place so long as White Supremacist and Folkish Heathens are permitted in it. The very existence of White Supremacist and Folkish Heathens is a direct threat to BIPoC, LGBTQIA+, ethnic, and religious minorities. Truthfully, as we have seen with those who have left the AFA and similar outfits, White Supremacist and Folkish Heathens eventually turn on their own. That’s the way supremacy works: you eat everyone else until all you can do is eat your own.

The very existence of White Supremacist and Folkish Heathens is a direct threat to Heathenry. I do not mean this in some abstract way. I have received death threats for my anti-racist and anti-Folkish stances. Others have been directly physically harmed, harassed, bullied, and doxxed. There is no reasoning with these ideologies nor those who hold to them. They are directly harmful. They seek to legitimize, encourage, and then to engage in genocide. It begins in rhetoric and comes increasingly through to fruition: direct action. They seek to kill the Other, as demanded by their ideology, and seek the destruction of other people and their ways of life. If a given Heathen community is unwilling to make a stand, not with some internet Declaration, but with their feet, and when necessary their hands and weapons, then all their words are air.

The other side is not playacting when it comes to killing those it sees as its enemies. The 3%ers, the Proud Boys, and the AFA, among many others, are not fucking around. For too long Heathens in the middle have pretended there was some middle ground to be had. There is not. You are either on the side of inclusivity or you are in support of white supremacy. There is no negotiation with it.

Bonds and Bounds of Frið and Grið

A simple explanation is that frið and grið are bonds of peace and good social order. Ocean Keltoi has a good video going over the concept here. Frið, as I understand and use the term, is held with family, loved ones, tribe members, and community. In other words, those I consider innangarð, those in my inner yard. Grið is held with strangers as a temporary peace, with those utgarð or in the outer yard. These concepts are then woven into Heathens conceptions of hospitality. While many Heathens may not use the term innangarð or utgarð, I find most of us agree on the larger picture here: hospitality is established through peace and good social order.

Bonds of frið and grið are maintained so we can get things done. We do not always have to like each other. However, we do need to have mutual respect and to give one another honor in such bonds. So how do we establish frið and grið, and what does violence have to do with them?

Frið and grið must be formed in honor and strength. They are a willing acceptance of obligation to one another. In the case of frið, these bonds are made and maintained with those who you are willing to defend with your life and who likewise take on that obligation. Those I understand in this fashion are my personal family, friends, and tribe. I do not extend frið to acquaintances. Insofar as I understand the terms and employ them, they rely on very clearly delineated boundaries of obligation. I aid and defend those I carry bonds of frið with.

In a SHTF scenario this means that those I hold these frið obligations with come first. I do prep to care for those bonds. I work to provide enough supplies, information, and knowledge to get us through the challenges that come our way. I do work to support those I have these bonds with so we can all come through SHTF scenarios safely. Generally, I expect that safety in these situations is ensured through effective prepping, such as making sure we have enough resources on hand to get through a few months. Given the violence we have seen on display from White Supremacists, Folkists, and the far Right, it is not out of the realm of possibility that self-defense is going to be necessary. I was prompted to write this series in part because there is a good contingent of folks in various prepping communities planning to do a good bit of violence to secure resources in a number of SHTF scenarios. Just because something is unpleasant to think on does not mean we should not consider it. This, for me, is a chief concern and obligation with regards to frið. Am I willing to put my life on the line for you? Am I willing to defend you, to kill if necessary? If I answer no or hesitate, then we do not have frið.

This is at the forefront of my mind since I have had a few Folkish and White Supremacist Heathens come across my blog and reblog my last few posts. It seems that none of them have read the content of this blog or they would realize that I am utterly opposed to them. The very act of being a Folkish or White Supremacist Heathens breaks bonds of frið and grið with me. We cannot have peace or good social order if your ideology rests on my death or that of those in my circles. The ideology of White Supremacy and Folkishness prevents grið from being established. For anyone that has ever written the words “No Frith with Fascists”, truly think on what that means. If you truly do believe the words of Hávamál 127, meditate on what it means and the implications of what your actions are:

“127. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,–
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
If evil thou knowest, | as evil proclaim it,
And make no friendship with foes.”

Thinking on Violence

Rather than offer any one way as the way we should prepare for violence, I think we need to approach violence through the lens of prepping as another tool in our tool chest. How useful is violence in a given scenario? What does violence do, and how well does it do it? What training and tools can best deescalate a situation so violence does not need to be used? What training and techniques can reduce or eliminate the use of violence in a given scenario? What training and tools are most effective at preventing harm if violence must be used? What scenarios require a full commitment to the use of violence?

In most scenarios violence is the least desirable tool. It can cause us to waste time, resources, and life. It causes harm which necessitates healing and possibly recompense, or, in the worst of situations, cleanup, and the possibility of jailtime and/or reprisal. The use of violence can sour even the best of relationships even if we, ourselves, are not its target. Violence is often ugly, brutal, and frightening.

These truths should not prevent us from using it.

Rather, I would hope it would inspire folks to be judicious in its use. To be sure of what scenarios we would be willing and able to engage in violence. To be sure and clear in what obligations we agree to in our frið and grið-making. To be sure and clear in what obligations we hold with guests and hospitality under our roof. Not all violence need be fatal, but all violence has that potential. Violence should, in my view, be a tool of last resort. However, it should not be a tool we throw away, ignore, or denigrate. So, I see an obligation on each of us who would use it to have the proper training to effectively carry out violence in whatever way is best suited to our abilities, training, skills, and the situation at hand. I see an obligation on each of us who would keep bonds of frið, grið, and hospitality to be clear on what they will and will not accept within their bounds and to be ready and willing to enforce them.