Patreon Topic 26: On Regional Cultus

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From Maleck Odinsson comes this topic:

“Regional Cultus. Not just in the realm of honoring the local spirits, but also in how the gods are reflected differently in different times and places.”

When I first started writing on this I was approaching this purely from an academic perspective, noting the resources we have available to us are mostly coming after conversion and almost all the earliest sources through Christian writers. The scholars and academics who later gave us interpretation and understanding of these sources, and even the archaelogists, all are operating within a Protestant Christian dominated background.

Generally, our Gods in the academic fields are not being approached as Gods. We have living, dynamic relationships with Them. Even over the course of my life my cultus with Óðinn has gone through changes, so I would hardly expect in a generation other Heathens to carry anything like the same relationship as I. When I began to worship Him, He came to me sometimes as Father, but mostly as Rúnatýr, and Yggr primarily. He was fierce, harsh, and a taskmaster in the early times. He still is at times.

How the Gods are reflected differently in different times and places depends on how the Gods fit into the landscape/environment we live in now, and the relationships we hold with Them. I would have a far harder time relating to Skaði if I lived in a place without snow, and relating to the Gods of the ocean is a lot harder for me here in the Great Lakes than it is when I visited the ocean. I still hold cultus for the Gods of the ocean, but it is a more remote one, less in-my-face than that of the Great Lakes Goddesses.

A big difference in regional cultus I can confidently point to is mine with Jörð, Freya, Freyr, and Gerða. I relate to Jörð through the Earth I stand on, and while Jörð is still Jörð wherever in Miðgarð I go on Her, I relate to Her differently here, especially in my home, vs a hotel room. The difference between worshiping Her on land I have helped cultivate vs a hotel room is quite stark. I have no relationship to the land in a hotel room beyond a place to rest my head. My thanks to Her is much more general, eg She is of the place, and I am grateful for Her being the floor and eventually the ground beneath my feet. Contrast this with the relationship I hold with Her being the good, black Earth I helped to till and plant in that our good harvest has grown from. My cultus with Freya, Freyr, and Gerða is embedded in no small part in that same gardening. It is not that I cannot relate to Them outside of the home, the hearth, or the garden, but that it lacks the specific ways in which our relationships flow as they do there.

The asparagus plant is one group of vaettir in which I relate quite a bit to these Gods locally. As before, I associate Jörð with the garden it grows in. The plant itself clearly associated with Freyr given its virility, fertility, and phallic shape. It is also associated with Gerða in that to harvest it, it must be cut down, and this fits in with my understanding of Freyr as a Sacrificed God whose blood renews the fertility of the Earth. Freya I associate with the pollinators, especially the bees and their sweetness, and the preparation work that must go on so the plants can prosper. It is not just through the garden and all the vaettir within it that I relate to these Gods. I relate to these Gods through the actions I take with the land. Tilling, planting, gardening, weeding, harvesting, all of this is done in relationship with the landvaettir, with Jörð, with Freya, with Freyr, with Gerða, and with the Ancestors, especially those who farmed and/or gardened. All of this with just one kind of plant. How much more so with a garden! How much more so with a biome!

Regional cultus grows from our living relationship with the environment, and if I can find that much connection in and through a single plant then we can certainly make them through the land we live on. It is worth pointing out that Yggdrasil holds the Worlds, and the Worlds are also in relationship with one another. Asgarðr and Jötunheimr are across a river, Ífingr, from each other. Jotunheimen is the name of a range of mountains in Norway. The Worlds are said to be in different direction, eg Niflheim to the North, Muspelheim to the South. We can likewise locate our relationship with the Nine Worlds in such ways, much as our forebears did with regard to directions and the landscape. Perhaps rather than strictly in the East, Jötunheimr is in or has connections to the World in the far more wild forest behind the home. A special rock becomes a hörgr, a stand of trees a vé, and from there perhaps new relationships form with Jötun Gods.

It is really hard predict how regional cultus will develop over time. After all, my family has only lived in Michigan for five generations, including myself and my children. Between major predicaments like climate change and peak oil, the unfolding of the next election and the consequences from that, our unique land here in Michigan, and the unfolding relationships we hold right now, it is anyone’s guess how it will develop. Given the ongoing Work and relationship I have with Óðinn, our strong commitment to direct experiences of our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir on the land we live, and our work on the land, we will have many avenues to understand our Gods and develop relationships through.

Patreon Song/Prayer/Poem 26 -For Hyndla

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 prayer was requested from Streaking Fate for Hyndla.

You can trace lines of red back

Back to where the red shifts colors

To light, syrupy sweet sap

Where the branches of lines end suddenly

Where the branches reach into the shadowy places

Where the branches curve, split, rejoin in unexpected ways

You can find them wherever they roam

No matter how hidden

No matter how lost we are

No matter how scattered we are

You, who know all the ways that Urðr has unfolded for each thread woven, each carved tile

You, who knows all the ways Verðandi is weaving now, each tile being scored

You, who cannot see all the ways Skuld will weave and carve

Hail Hyndla, Bloodwalker, Seer, She Who Knows the Lines!

Patreon Topic 23: Found Offerings

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From Elfwort comes this topic:

“Would you discuss found offerings to the Gods and wights in the Viking age and before, such as bog offerings?”

It’s important to note that not all found offerings were found in bogs, though that is certainly one place they were found. Other places, as noted by Claude Lecouteux in his book The Traditions of Household Spirits, were beneath the threshold and beneath the home otherwise. These sacrifices would be snakes, cats, roosters, and the like and were likely to be understood as guardians of the home.

Some found offerings, such as bog people who were clearly strangled or had their head bashed in may have been outlaws or even willingly made offering of themselves, while whole ships and their contents may have been offered along coastlines and interred for high-ranking people. It is not known for certain if the bog people were human sacrifices, as this article from The Atlantic covering the subject states, though my inclination is towards that being the case. This paper, At the threshold of the Viking Age by Sæbjørg Walaker Nordeide, Niels Bonde, and Terje Thun, explores the ship offerings in a particular case in Kvalsund, Norway. Boat parts and whole boats put into the bog would have been known as bog offerings. The famous Oseberg ship is another example of a ship offering.

Why would this have been done? In the case of the Kvalsund bog offering the authors posit that “Because vessels and water are at the core of the activity at this particular locality, and because there is a high risk of shipwrecking in this area, the vessel offerings may have been related to this danger in order to prevent shipwrecks, and therefore save or bring back lives, which is an element of fertility rituals in the widest sense.” The  Oseberg ship, meanwhile, was a burial site. In the case of coastal offerings we could see non-burial ship offerings as made to Norðr, or perhaps to Rán and Ægir. We can speculate that ship burials on land were likely started with elaborate ceremonies that, when finished, would continue to celebrate the lives of those ‘aboard’. The ship itself was a way of securing good passage to the afterlife.

What does all this mean for the modern Heathen? We have a wide variety of ways to take care of our offerings, and that some of these methods of offerings are as old as time. It also points to some interesting ideas about setting up a household guardian. Now, I am not saying every Heathen should go out and bring home a snake, cat, etc to sacrifice to put under their theshold. However, it is important to think about why these sacrifices were made. These were invitations to the vaettr to take up residence inside the house, to guard and care for it. I am all for reclaiming our traditions of sacrifice, though I do not think folks would sacrifice what we now think of as pet animals like a cat or snake.

So, what can we do instead? We could ask the vaettr of a given animal to inhabit a substitute offering, such as one made of bread that we ritually slaughter and place beneath the threshold. Modern vulture culture provides us another way to bring this idea into modern Heathenry. Most of us work with found remains or those that result from a hunt. We could work with the skeleton or other remains of a willing animal or group of animals, and make offerings to them prior to deposition beneath the threshold. While these methods do not have the potency of a ritual sacrifice, for those who lack the skill or desire to these are important modern ways of engaging in practices alike to the old ways.

What about modern boat offerings? Given the proliferation of trash and waste in our oceans, lakes, rivers, and ponds, it is probably not the best idea to mimic our Ancestors in this way. Besides, as noted in the At the threshold paper, “Kvalsund was a bog at the time, not a lake, but the site was turned into a pond due to ritual construction and deposition.” Our offerings literally have the power to radically alter the environment. Taking care as to what and how we offer is important. So, should we carry on ship offerings? No, I would not. Besides, while the boats were made of materials that could decay over time modern boats do not.

Taking into consideration local needs for trees, including the need to retain old growth forest, to keep soil from eroding, and to reduce habitat loss, the use of whole logs to make a ship for the use of an offering, regardless of how impressive or potent it is, cannot be justified. Even seemingly benign rearrangement of stones in rivers to make cairns can have detrimental effects on the local environment, so here too we should be care what, if anything, we leave behind. If we are to leave offerings they should be compostable, or otherwise able to break down wherever we leave the offering without detrimental effect. Consider how much of the Oseberg ship was left intact despite burial and the composition of materials in it.

So does this mean we Heathens should not leave physical offerings? Of course not. It means that we need to be careful in regards to what we offer, where we offer it, and how we offer things. This honors the thing we offer and the Beings we offer it to. This honors and respects the life of the Beings we make offerings of, the Beings we offer it to, the Beings (such as Fire, Water, etc) that we offer through, and the landvaettir from which the offerings came and where those offerings will be laid down.

Patreon Song/Poem/Prayer 22 -For Muninn

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 prayer was requested from Leslie for Muninn.

You and Your Brother wander the Worlds

The wisest of Gods holds Your words

Greater than gold

Loss looms long on my mind

The thief of thought and memory

Whetting its weapons

Runes well-written and words to recall

The deeds and direction of my destiny

Carefully is kept

Fear falls fettered

The ravens return to me

Whispering Their words:

Should you forget, we watch and we wait

Returning to Hrafnaguð we will remember

Patreon Topic 12: Sacred Kingship and Heathenry

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Note: Until now I have referred to folks by their level of Patreon support. For some of Patreon patrons I will now refer to them by a name I have permission to use. This makes it easier to organize and find posts. Thank you to all my supporters on Patreon and to all of my readers!

From StreakingFate comes this question:

“For a topic idea, have you covered sacred kingship yet? Historically in Heathenry, how it is seen present day in Heathenry if it is, or both.”

Before I begin to tackle this question it is important to talk about what we mean by Heathenry. There are a lot of cultural wells from which we can drink. Norse Heathenry is one, Anglo-Saxon another, Frankish another, and so on. Then there are folks that mix their paths eclectically or syncretically, neither of which are wrong, but they tend to be different approachs. Myself, I am primarily a Heathen whose sources lie in Icelandic, Norse, and Germanic sources with a smattering of Anglo-Saxon. My approach to the question of “Is Frigg and Freyja a single Goddess or separate Goddesses?” is to treat Them as separate, with Frigg an Aesir and Freyja a Vanir. This may seem like an odd point of departure, but this matters in terms of how we understand the Gods, and how we understand the impact of lore, including myth and archaeology, on our various religions.

Since I am not writing from a primarily Anglo-Saxon, Frankish, etc perspective, there are a lot of potential answers to this question. I cannot tell you what the Anglo-Saxon Heathen answer is to this question because that is not my primary framework any more than the Frankish Heathen is.

I have not covered sacred kingship much on this blog. It simply does not enter much into my understanding of my place with the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir. I am a goði, a spiritual specialist who is both a chieftain and a priest so far as how we in Mímisbrunnr Kindred use the term.

Let us dig into what is meant by sacred kingship. The Encyclopedia Britannic has a great overview of the concept of sacred kingship, though by no means is it the most detailed or probably accurate overview specific to a given culture. In its article, the Encyclopedia lists three basic forms of a sacred kingship:

(1) the possessor of supernatural power, (2) the divine or semidivine king, and (3) the agent of the sacred.

I do not serve a sacred kingship role as it is often seen in the Fisher King archetype, and only small Heathen, eg Theodish, or Northern Tradition kingdoms, eg The Kingdom of Asphodel, as I have read and understood, hold to such ideas.

Now, if we depart from kingship and dig into sacral status, then this is something most Heathens believe in. However, it is quick to spot that in modern Heathenry that sacral status is not beholden to only a few. If anything differs greatly from historical Heathenry, it is that the goði is not the main arbiter of a community either in terms of how the community runs that they are head of, or that they have inherently more spiritual power than others who live in the community they head. Everyone has access to power through engaging in specific work, eg seið work, spirit work, working with óðr, and so on. A given person may or may not be ‘wired’ for the work, but that does not mean that you have to be born into a certain bloodline to access these spiritual techniques or engage with spiritual power effectively.

Another signficant departure, due in no small part to how diasporic the Heathen communities have become from their historical roots in America and over time from the ancient Heathen cultures we take inspiration and root in, we do not have the kind of passed-on roles that we might have if they had survived until today. Perhaps, had ancient Heathen cultures not been converted, seiðkona and seiðmaðr would have kept up their work they would have passed on the experiences and understanding they had. Had the ancient Heathen cultures not converted, perhaps spiritual techniques like the varðlokkur noted on but not, unfortunately, written out, in the Saga of Erik the Red may have survied until today. We cannot predict how these roles would have come down to us. We can look at the functions they served in the communities they were part of, look at how our own communities are organized, and whether they are still useful to us, or, even more important, if this is even something our Gods are asking to take up and if we are willing to.

From my observation sacred kingship is largely seen as something belonging to the past. This is hardly surprising given America’s history, let alone 1/3 of Americans rent their home, and many Americans who do own land do not own more than than an acre, let alone land in enough acres to justify any kind of kingdom.

Were there sacred kings in Norse or Icelandic culture? Not in the sense of a divine figure akin to a pharaoh of Kemet, no. Not god-kings. Were kings and chieftains seen as particularly spiritually powerful or potent? Yes. So the 1st and 3rd definitions in the Encyclopedia article were certainly part of ancient Norse culture. What about the 2nd? The Ynglings, Ingvaones, Skilfingar, and the Fairhairs were said to be able to trace their ancestry to Freyr, the caste system to Heimdall or Odin (depending on whether you believe Rig is the former or latter), and Frosti was said to be the legendary founder of Skjalf’s line.

Given the practical and political obstacles before it, I am unsure any beyond a few small groups are going to pick up the notion of sacred kingship.

Patreon Topic 10: Being Gods’ Children

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From my first Raiðo supporter comes this topic:

“What advice would you give to those who are the children of gods? I know you’ve talked about what it’s like being a son of Odin in your blog before. But if you had to give advice on how to deal with being a God’s child, what would you say?”

First, that you are not a better person, a better Heathen, a better polytheist, etc than those who do not have this connection with the Gods. Second, that you likely get more, not less responsibilities from such a connection. Third, you may have the capacity to become a useful resource to the community but you likely will not start out that way. You need to do the spiritual preparation (eg cleansing, grounding, centering, shielding, etc) and devotional work same as anyone else in the religion(s). Fourth, this does not make you more or less useful than those who do not have this intimate a connection with certain Gods. It may mean you can make connections with certain Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir easier, and/or do certain spirit work easier, but that does not make you more useful, worthy, etc than another.

Óðinn is still one of three Gods who helped fashion humans after the creation of Midgard. As I attribute the God of the Rigsðula to Óðinn and not Heimdall, potentially everyone is a child of Óðinn. Still, if you take the opposite tack, then Heimdall potentially is related to every human being. In the broad strokes we are all children of the Gods. They are the ground of our Being, the very world beneath our feet, the water of our blood and the rains, in the air we breathe, the ice that keeps us cool and the fires that keep us warm. They are bound up in and part of the Cosmos.

Being a child of a God or Goddess ties you tighter to a God, Goddess, divine pairing, etc. through these connections. These can bring with it uncomfortable obligations, Work, and so on. There may be certain parts of your life much harder or easier in some areas due to the odd wiring of Gods into your soul’s makeup compared to others. Deeper ties of Urðr bring with it can bring opportunities. As we are unfolding in time with our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and communities in the weaving of Urðr, we may be called upon to a hundred different callings. One of the best we may be Heathens, whether we are called to it or not by our parent God, is to be a good Ancestor whether we have kids or not, and to be an example in the conduct of our life.

Patreon Topic 3: Jötun Worship

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From my first Raiðo-level Patreon supporter: “Jotun worship and how it is reviled by the heathen community at large.”

Jötun worship is, so far as how I practice, the same kind of cultus I give to the Aesir. Offerings of water, food, wine, sacred herbs, and so on as appropriate to the God.

How that cultus is expressed depends on what the context is. For our family prayers, we do not separate between the Aesir, Vanir, and Jötnar except that we tend to pray to Gods of the same tribe one after the other, and do not put Gods who are known to have animosity close together. For example, Loki is nowhere near Heimdall on our vé, though we worship both Gods. Neither are near each other in our rote prayers, either.

I think that, for a great many American Heathens who take issue with worship of Jötnar, there may be some basic issues at root. Keep in mind my views on things come primarily out of Norse sources with some bits from Anglo-Saxon and ancient Germanic. An Anglo-Saxon or Friisian Heathen is likely to have a very different cosmological outlook and placement for the Jötnar. Etin in Anglo-Saxon Heathenry, from what I gather, are looked at only as destructive or damaging. That being said, some of the roots at folks’ issue with worship of the Jotnar are:

1. The Jötnar are seen as enemies of the Gods. Jotnar, for those who see Them this way, are utterly opposed to cosmic order.

2. The Jötnar are looked at as agents of or embodying chaos, cosmic disorder, upon whom the Aesir and Vanir wage war to keep that at bay.

3. The Jötnar are believed to be too wild, raw, or alien to us to be trusted to be worshiped, honored, or proptiated.

For those for whom these root issues apply it follows as a matter of course you would not wish to worship, honor, or propitiate Beings opposed to your Gods not only in terms of allegiance, but existential threat to Them and thus, to humankind.

Given what we know of the Jötnar from the sources of lore we have Jötnar were at times openly worshiped. Even if They were not historically worshiped it would not be outside of reason to begin to worship Them. Many of the named Jotnar are or carry some aspect of the natural world with Them, while others are understood as rivaling the Aesir with Their power. Skaði, for instance, single-handedly marched on Asgarð to demand weregild for the death of Her Father Thjazi -and got it. She became part of the Aesir’s council and was wed to Njorðr. She is a Goddess who is Her own.

My view is that to not engage with the Jötnar is to completely cut out a third of the Gods. My life has been deeply blessed to have these Gods in my life and that of my family, Kindred, tribe, and people.

Visions of Dionysus

Strange dreams heralded Your coming

Intense, vivid, real

Ivy and mead, yes, but more:

Drums in the distance, heavy and echoing

Spears and swords gleamed

Fangs shone

Something deeper and darker

Slather and blood dripped

Grinning

You stir them up

Drinking

Dancing

Howling

At first I cannot follow your footsteps

I cannot follow your rhythm

I cannot dance with you

I am too afraid

You stir them up with that bestial grin

That snapping of teeth and pawing the earth

That thudding of Your thyrsus

You stir them up with that roar

That shaking of Your body

That unbridled ferocity

You stir them up

You stir them up

You stir them up

How can I do other than follow my soul

As it leads me to dance

As it leads me to release

As it leads me to rage

Your wolfish grin invites

The forest unfolding

Come and be who you are

Io! Io! Io!

O Enualios!

O Holy Wild One!

O Dionysus!

Thinking on Chris Hedges, Revolution, and Climate Change

I was watching a lecture by Chris Hedges entitled Corporate Totalitarianism: The End Game. In it, Hedges engages with the subject with both frankness and humor, both of which I appreciate. Hedges has, for a long time, spoken quite well on the problem facing us. What he, and most any social or political critic has been awfully short on, is how to address the predicaments we are in.

He rightly points out that the prison systems rely on slave labor to operate and that, were prisoners retaining even a minimum wage salary, it and the industries this work supports would collapse. He rightly points out that our democracy doesn’t function, which by this point is almost “No shit?” passe. He could have cut a huge chunk of his lecture out by just saying “There is no top-down approach coming because the top is going to watch the bottom burn and drown.” It is the same damned song regardless of political party that has been pursued for the entire length of time that I have been alive. This is a point I am grateful that Hedges hammers on throughout his lecture and in the Q&A. The politicians are not coming to save us.

Something a lot of folks watching this lecture are probably going to miss is a very key point I felt was buried in the lecture among all the socio-political commentary. It is something I hammer on a lot in my writing and that folks from the Post-Carbor Institute, JMG, and others have been hitting on the head for some time. Namely, that the oil and natural gas markets are operating on what amounts to gambling to keep money in the system and keep production somewhat commensurate with needed supply. Except the field outputs are down. The Bakkan Oil Shale is being run by large companies with lots of land that they lease to small, risk-taking companies whose primary income is venture capital. The main way most of the large fossil fuel companies here stay afloat has nothing to do with well productivity, but land leasing. When that glut runs out the ability to generate income will also dry up, not because the gas will all be gone, but because the cost to extract and produce it in useable forms will eclipse the revenue from selling it.

In other words, the EROEI (Energy Returned On Energy Invested) is going to go down and bring a good chunk of the energy market with it. The whole system is facing this all at once alongside climate change. We would be lucky, and I use that term loosely, if the whole damned facade of the energy industry fell away before that 12 year mark for 1.5F increase in global temperature hits, because the damned near complete demand destruction we saw in 2008 when oil hit almost $150 a barrel of crude was one of the most effective acts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that we made in this country. It was hell for any of us who were low-income, as I was fired in 2007 not long before the financial chickens of the crash came home to roost. When a gallon of gas hit $4 and was threatening to hit $5 the ripple effect was enormous. So trust me when I say such a thing will not be a picnic nor even desireable for the average person, but it may be something that could save us from our own consumption of fossil fuels.

Hedges’ point in the lecture about going to Scranton, PA where the city is insolvent is happening in every State and damned near every city I can think of in my own State. Hell, the DIA in Detroit almost sold off its collection to pay debts. His point that capitalism eats itself and its own until collapse is what we are in the middle of right now. The economic system is simply unsustainable. I appreciate he hooks this into his point in the lecture where he talks about the money system, especially in regards to how personal and student debt cannot keep churning out new debtors if the means to pay off interest and principle are subject to these interruptions. As he says, 1/3 of the employed people of America make less than $12 an hour and have no health insurance provided by employers. Keep in mind that Obamacare takes another chunk out of that, either directly through one of the health care plans, or with the year end penalty for not choosing a provider. There is a growing swathe of Americans who bought into the lie that a college education would help us become solid middle-class members. Instead, it has indebted us, some of us through our whole lives. Those, like myself, who went into public service with the promise that if we gave 10 years of our lives that our debt would be forgiven are now coming out the other side, having served that obligation, and our debt forgiveness being rejected. With the costs of living tracking to increase with energy costs there’s not going to be a way to pay off the debt, let alone stave it off much longer.

If we are to make any progress anywhere it is in getting that point across. It doesn’t matter if you are a conservative, liberal, leftist, rightist, any of it. The economic system is unsustainable. The energy infrastructure that allows for the modern American way of life is unsustainable. If you don’t get that then there is no conversation to be had. Without energy being available, on which money depends so it can work, the whole house of cards collapses. If folks disagree with basic reality, that we cannot expect infinite growth on a finite planet, then there is no more conversation to be had. The person can be on the same exact part of the political spectrum that I am on and if they deny the basic nature of where we are then speaking with them is completely without merit.

If, as I feel, Hedges is speaking well and pointing out fundamental problems in regards to our political and economic systems why do I feel such a disconnect from him? For the same reason I imagine most folks do. Though he has covered war and conflict as a journalist and lived alongside folks in those horrible situations I get the distinct feeling that his life, given he was educated at Harvard and has taught in prestigious universities, is a world apart from my own.

Hedges is right in saying that we were conned by Bill Clinton and his pushing through NAFTA, stating it would make us countless of middle-class jobs. I can look out into the neighborhoods where the auto industry was king and clearly see this lie on display, as can anyone who has seen similar scenes in coal and natural gas country. He is right to talk about the collapse of societies and bring his experience of what that looks like into this lecture. He got to watch Yugoslavia’s disintegration up close from the sounds of it. He’s right that we could well be facing the same damn thing here for the same kinds of reasons.

Hedges speaks of democracy as though we could possibly save it at this stage in America. His proposal to save America from totalitarianism is “sustained mass acts of political disobedience”. To me this is completely and hopelessly naive. He uses Standing Rock as an example, and I think it is a poor one in the way he uses it. Standing Rock was a powerful example of civil, sustained disobedience because, at its core, there was and continues to be a series of communities, the Standing Rock Reservation peoples, with real spiritual and physical stakes in the care of Standing Rock and in opposing the Keystone XL Pipeline. So long as there is abstraction there is inaction, and for far too many people Standing Rock is and remains abstract. Mni Wiconi for too many people is a slogan, something to put on their Facebook wall and to think about every now and again. If Mni Wiconi is merely words then its impact and its meaning is truly missing. The peoples of Standing Rock, and those who joined them long-term in their work, had real skin in the game and something to lose: sacred lands and sacred water their people were tied to in sacred right relationship.

I was at Occupy Wall Street protests near me not long after OWS started to come together across the nation. I attended rallies and I found them complete and utter wastes of time. Hedges states we need to not be restrained by the tyranny of the practical. I got to see what that looked like with OWS rallies local to me. The decision making process, if ever it could be called such a thing, was long, drawn out, tedious, needlessly time consuming and without any sense of order, duty, or use to the communities in which they were arranged. They actively repelled anyone older than maybe folks in their mid-30s. Even for those in their age group, many OWS folks pushed us out because we could see nothing was going to get done. There was no interest in folks with years of experience in organizing, non-profit work, none of it. The OWS in my area died about as quickly as it appeared.

Not a few moments after this statement regarding the tyranny of the practical Hedges calls for revolution, for ‘the overthrow of the corporate state’. Without practicalities addressed this will never happen, not for all the faith one has. Countless Marxists and Communists since Marx wrote Das Capital have been eagerly awaiting the Worker’s Revolution. So many millenarian, apocalyptic, and radical sects who have had faith in and waited for the coming of saviors and the awakening of ‘the people’ have been waiting for the exact same thing. Whether secular or religious, both groups who have had abiding faith in their salvific movements have ignored that revolutions that seek to succeed must pay attention to the practicalities of things so that not only is the revolution succesful, but that any of its gain can stick.

For anyone that has studied the abdication of the Tzar and the rise of the Bolsheviks, to call that anything like a nonviolent movement is foolish at best and obfuscating history at worst. It also ignores that deep, ravaging pain that the Bolsheviks and later Communist regimes would exact on those people they would be in charge of or conquer. These are not revolutions to look at as examples. Rather, I would see such be avoided.

The Founding Fathers understood that the practical and idealistic had to walk hand-in-hand. They understood the notion very well, organizing on levels that I think anyone thinking of such revolutions would do well to pay attention to. They did not merely speak pretty words. Their necks were, on signing the Declaration of Independence, very-much on the line. Hedges’ assertion that we can have a revolution with non-violence, especially in this country where corporate interests are entrenched with violence, where the State stands as it had with the Pinkerton agency in coal’s heyday times with TransCanada and Enbridge Energy today, and come through to victory, is foolish at best and at worst dangerous for his would-be revolutionaries.

The corporate people who hosed down the Standing Rock protesters in sub-zero temperature were committing violence. That pipeline is still getting its building permits worked on. The company, TransCanada, has not stopped to see that its aims are realized. Non-violent protest stalled the progress of the pipeline, but has it stopped it? No. For all the attention the pipeline garnered, all the protest, needed as it was, for all the symbol it was and how good a victory it felt when it was temporarily stopped, folks need to get that it, and countless B/l/a/c/k S/n/a/k/e/s like it are not done. They are not stopped -yet. These B/l/a/c/k S/n/a/k/e/s still need killing. Thankfully, the Standing Rock people of the Dakotas, the Anishinaabek Line 5 Protesters here in Michigan, and so many others are standing up again and again with folks in and across their communities. Not everyone standing up, proverbially here, will be doing so before a pipeline; not everyone can. There are plenty for folks to do who are unable to be a physical presence, and the best place where people can go to and learn how best they can contribute is to talk to those who live on the land and waters being threatened.

Another source of disconnect I feel with Hedges is that he is still living a very comfortable upper middle class life. Unlike many peak oil folks there is nothing I can point to that comes through in the lectures I have seen or interviews he has given that give me an impression of him like those I have seen of Richard Heinburg, James Kunstler, or JMG who live their values through living as sustainably as possible on the land each lives. He is not showing the future, showing where he has put up solar panels, started community gardens, or grown his own food. For all that he speaks well, he has not shown, even in general, how he seeks to enable future generations to live well in a post-petroleum climate change future. It is one thing to approach a crowd with a good speech. It is another to approach a crowd with a vision of the future where a good life is possible, even if it is not the life we have been sold by countless companies and TV shows. We need more than speeches. We need living leaders whose lives show us how we may live better on and with the planet and one another.

Now is time to do everything we can to live well with our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. Now is the time to organize our communities; the politicians will not save us, and the States are not going to make the coming crises easier to face. Now is the time to learn the skills we can, to pass on what we know, to do everything in our power so the next generation can face what is coming with every possible advantage on their side. We must do the work before us however we can do it. It is not enough to merely write and speak on what we need to do. Each of us concerned with our Holy Powers, our communities, and the Earth we live on will, wherever possible whenever possible, be living examples.

Other Worlds -Veils, Separations, and Thresholds

A friend of mine posed a series of questions for a metaphysical discussion group we both frequent. I was not able to attend that night, but I thought the questions were good and worth thinking on.

Is there a veil between worlds? How much? If not a veil, are there other separations?

To the first question, “Is there a veil between the worlds?”:

The conception of a veil separating this world from the world of spirits in general is not something I ascribe to any more. I certainly think there are times when our perception of the various Worlds is more open, and sometimes this has to due with worldview or mindset, and other times to do with significant events, such as holy days, anniversaries of deaths, astrological events, and other times where spiritual potential for contact is elevated.

It also depends on which ‘worlds’ you are talking about. I think there could well be worlds out there that could be shielded from contact, worlds we may never visit because our minds can’t grasp the place to be able to, worlds so openly hostile to our presence that our spirit is repelled or put at risk, or worlds that we have to have an express invitation to see in the first place. Not so much a general veil as the question asks.

To the second question: “How much?”

A way to think about this would be in terms of effort. Some spirit worlds are completely intertwined with our own, eg Gods whose forms/names/Beings are more immanent, landvaettir, the Dead, and Ancestors. I have a graveyard a stone’s throw away from my house. I can walk to it when traffic is low. I have good relationships with the Dead of this graveyard as these Dead are close and were willing to forge good relationships with me.

Gods whose forms/names/Being are more transcendent, vaettir more distant physically and spiritually from us, Ancestors further back in our bloodline or separated across an ocean would all be examples of Beings who may be harder to contact. Going with the previous example, visiting some the other Dead I have relationships with means I have to drive to get to other graveyards, and sometimes these visits turn more into day trips. There isn’t a veil here, but there is more effort expended to do the physical journey to visit the world of that graveyard.

To the last question: “If not a veil, are there other separations?”

Some spiritual worlds may take more out of us or present us with more challenges that we need to prepare for when we go to visit them. As with the previous example it requires more preparation and better weather for me to visit a graveyard farther away from me than the one nearest me. I’ve visited my home graveyard in the midst of Winter with most of the graveyard being a snow-covered ice sheet. I would not make this kind of trip for a graveyard even a bit further away unless I needed to.

Applying this idea of effort, preparation, and work to get places is part of it. Spiritual worlds are inhabited and it can be seen as rude to outright invasion to try to get into a world you are not formally invited into. Trying to break into Helheim is a fool’s errand. It’s river, Gjöll, has a bridge, Gjallarbrú, to Helheim’s gate which is guarded by Móðguðr and Garm, Hela’s wolf. Asgard has a mighty wall to block anyone uninvited from coming into its walls and defenders on them. Even if a given spiritual world does not have these kinds of defenses, it makes sense to ask to come in rather than barge in. You are likely to have better reception and the relationship begins on a good note.

Turning this around, this is also why warding is so important. If you do not ward then any old spirit that strolls by can walk into your proverbial front door. In a sense you are protecting your ‘world’ from those Beings you don’t want strolling through. It also helps with discernment because if you have good wards you have a safe place free from the energetic and spiritual intrusions of the world around you where you can relax and live, and invite the Beings you will into a far more well-ordered space than if everything was just open.