Patreon Song/Poem/Prayer 21 -For Freya

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 Maleck Odinsson for Freya.

Seiðkona Who shakes in the throes of vaettir

Spákona Who hears the vaettir speak

Ginnregin Who embodies power

Whose mouth is full of blood

Whose hand hold the sacrificial knife

Whose spear is keen and wet

Whose sword is fierce and eager

Whose hair is braided for battle

Whose eyes pierce the foe

Whose wings cut the air

Whose words stir Urðr

Patreon Topic 20: On Worshiping vs Working With

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From Maleck Odinsson comes this topic:

“Working with vs worship. Where is the line, is there a line, how does this dichotomy play into a layperson’s spirituality vs a spiritual specialist’s practice from your perspective?”

I am going to start with the basic definitions of the words and work out from there. I also want folks to bear in mind that the answers I am going to give come from my perspective as a Heathen. In my experiences with Wicca there is a lot more blending of worship and spiritwork vs that of Heathenry, especially for laypeople.

Work is “1 Activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result…2 A task or tasks to be undertaken.”

Worship is “1 The feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity. 1.1 Religious rites or ceremonies, constituting a formal expression of reverence for a deity.”

The fairly bright line between these two is the purpose for which a spiritual activity is engaged in. Is the work with a God a religious rite or ceremony ‘constituting a formal expression of reverence for a deity’, or is it ‘effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result?” Where that line gets a lot less bright is in the shades of gray where a God may have us do work in service to Them. Even so, unless the worship of my God is the point of the activity at hand, then it is work of some kind of work I am undertaking for Them rather than worshiping Them. Work can, of course, be done as a devotional activity, “Of or used in religious worship”, such as dedicating the sweat of one’s exercise as an offering, or the money one earn’s going to a monthly donation to a water preservation effort in one’s State as an offering to the watervaettir.

Can working with the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir involve worshiping Them? Certainly. Every time I engage in Runework I am making prayers of worship and thanks to Óðinn and the Runevaettir, my Dísir, Väter, Ergi, Þverr, other Ancestors, fylgja, kinfylgja, and other vaettir who may work with me during the Runework. I make offerings before and/or after the Runework. However, the overall focus of the Runework is in the name: it is to do work with the Runes. Likewise, spiritwork of all kinds (including Runework obviously) can involve worship even if the worship itself is not the sole focus.

So we could be very stark and say ‘this is work and this is worship and never the twain shall meet’ and just a cursory look at my own practice would not bear this out. I explored this a bit in my August 2020 Q&A 1 where Elfwort asked me about magic.

I think where the dichotomy comes into a layperson’s spirituality is if they choose to engage in spiritwork. My wife very rarely engages in spiritwork, and when she does, it is usually because Frigg or Brighid, has called her to do it. Most of her expression and experiences, religiously speaking, are those of worship. I would say that unless a layperson is regularly choosing to engage in spiritwork this is also their experience.

A spiritual specialist does tend to blend the two, especially in work they are called to do. My work as a spiritworker are areas where I tend to blend a lot of worship and work together. In order to do a Rune reading well I need to have had a developed relationship with Runatýr and the Runevaettir, have studied the Runes, and experience reading the Runes. Initiation into working with Runatýr and the Runevaettir was part of this for me. The set up for doing this work well is to have a good relationship with Runatýr and the Runevaettir, and so this requires to make prayers and offerings. Spiritwork and worship come together into a whole relationship.

Is it necessary for every spiritual relationship in spiritwork to combine worship and work? No. There are some spirits that I may have to work with, eg the spirits of disease, for whom I have no desire to have a worship relationship with. I just want them gone or handled. Here, the line is fairly bright since I have a goal in mind for working with (or working on, as the case may be) a spirit. A spiritual relationship can also be quite different depending on context. My work with Yggr has been “We have things to work on” rather than a worship relationship. Yggr is Óðinn, to be sure, but this heiti generally comes forward when something needs to be done or worked on.

If there is a hard, bright line between worship and spiritwork, I do not often see it. Often my spiritwork is interwoven with worship, and my relationship as solidified through my worship is the backbone of how and why I can do work with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir in the first place. I think this can be equally true for laypeople, since laypeople are not spiritual specialists but can have entire swathes of spiritwork available to them. Where it plays into one’s life is where we choose to go with it, and where we are called to by our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.

Patreon Topic 18: Reflecting on The Culture of Intensity and Spiritwork

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From Fen’harel comes this question:

“I was listening to the AGF podcast episode with Chiron Armand and the topic of “the culture of intensity” came up. What does that culture, in your opinion, look like for spirit workers? Is it something like not feeling one is doing enough work? I hope that makes sense.”

When I first got this question the most recent TikTok stupidity had not yet come to my attention, but now that it has? It is a great, almost perfect example of the culture of intensity. Now, it looks like a bunch of folks are trolling other TikTok folks saying they’re going to ‘hex the Fae’ or ‘hex the Moon’ and similar stupidity. Then there are others how are rising to the trolling/baiting and saying they will counteract this. Keep in mind we are in the middle of a damn pandemic, we are supposed to be socially isolating, and this is probably as close to interacting with peers as some folks are going to get until this COVID-19 crap is done with.

For some, this is what the culture of intensity looks like. You get someone or you yourself get riled up and in arms about stupid shit someone else is engaged in that is not actually hurting you and cannot hurt the Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits in question, just to have something to do. Now, don’t get me wrong. I find the notion that folks would even entertain the notion of hexing the Fae, Moon, or Sun incredibly dumb, funny, and requires more than a bit of hubris. That said? I have no reason to jump out in front of these folks. Go ahead, sew the wind and reap the whirlwind you dipshits.

For a lot of spiritworkers, myself included, the culture of intensity looks like “I need to be doing something important/powerful/challenging right now!” Sometimes it comes from a feeling of not being/doing enough. Other times we are in a transition period. Those are uncomfortable, and patience is not a virtue easily cultivated in a culture where instant gratification is so prevalent I can order a book, sink, or something else and have it arrive 1-2 days later due to just-in-time delivery options.

The culture of intensity can manifest as feeling like “I am not doing enough!” or “Shouldn’t I be doing more?” When your value as a person in the overculture is determined by what you do, eg the job you hold, and how ‘productive’ your hobbies are, eg “Can I turn this into a side-hustle?” then the overculture teaches things that are “not productive”, aka making you money or stepping stones on the way to that, are wastes of time.

Part of the reason so many have a hard time meditating, taking time out to do self-care, or just taking a walk, is that it feels like you are wasting time as it is not producing a product or making you money. It is a vile trap. It devalues peace of mind, reflecting on things, self-care, and a host of other needed things that actually require our input of time, energy, care, experience, and expertise to do well. It also devalues the time we spend with our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, our communities, and by ourselves taking care of our needs and wants. The culture of intensity pushes us to keep seeking the highs while devaluing the lows that make getting there reliably and safely possible in the first place.

The culture of intensity is also quite ravenous, asking for our time, attention, and continuously feeding a variety of time-wasting beasts. For a spiritworker, just as much as your average Pagan, polytheist, and/or animist, spending time praying, communing, and worshiping the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, and doing good self-care work is hardly a waste of time. Because these things are not valued in the overculture and so many of us are hungry for human interaction, it can be so easy to get sucked into go-nowhere conversations whether it be over Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, TikTok, or other places that increasingly serve as distractions rather than points of connection. This is not to knock the very real use that Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, TikTok, etc can serve, but that, as platforms, their primary purpose is to serve as data collection/networking/disbursement rather than connectivity. I find better and more consistently fulfilling connection over personal email, personal chat/text, and programs like Discord and Zoom where the people I am interacting with are not communicating with me through a reference medium (see this retweet, that like, that share, the For You page, etc), but about as close to face-to-face as I can get without being right there with them.

So how do we work to address this? We need to take time out each day so we have that self-care. That self-care does not need to take a long time, be particularly productive in and of itself, nor does it need to tie into anything any more than peace of mind, connection with the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, our communities, and/or ourselves. I take about 10-30 minutes each day. I spend that time doing cleansing, grounding, centering, shielding, checking on any wards I have needing maintenance. I also spend that time making prayers to my Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, and then making offerings. I recommend anyone, spiritworker or not, put that time in each day.

If I have a hard time engaging in self-care, I refocus on doing the preparation work (cleansing, etc) so I can do the prayers and offerings cleanly. It is easier at times for me to think of others over myself, and is a way I engage in self-care so I can do the connective work. Taking my needs out of the equation and engaging with the obligations I have helps my frame of mind at times, because it is no longer my emotions that are center stage, but the obligations I hold. If sitting and meditating is not working for me I may switch it up to walking around the garden and talk with the plants and trees. If my usual methods of cleansing, grounding, centering, and shielding are not working for me, I switch it up. There is nothing wrong with fighting boredom or making adjustments so that whatever you need to do has you more involved in it. This is also why rote prayers and spiritual prep work are useful. Sometimes I do not have the brainspace to effectively make more involved processes and I need to do the motions that are most near and dear to me so I can do my work. Whether you need to switch things up or keep to how you have always done them, what matters is the efficacy of the spiritwork you engage in.

The ‘culture of intensity’ has a lot of ins to influence our lives. Excising those can be pretty tough, especially if you have grown up with a lot of the ‘culture of intensity’ as part of your own value system. So, instead of fully shifting or damming the river, working with its flow may be the more effective option. One of the keys for me is reminding myself that I need to do the ground work so the rest of the work is possible. That the small moments lead to the ability to do the big moments, and that whatever I experience, the moment is not the goal.

The goal is to do the work before me so that the work may be effective and see through to its end. It is like throwing a punch. Your aim is not merely the target, it is to blow past the target so the hit connects with the fullness of the energy behind the punch. In a sense, the blow is ‘behind’ the target. You follow through. The goal of planting a garden is not merely to plant, it is to lead to plants to grow, whether flowers, herbs, or food crops. Refocusing the ‘culture of intensity’ to serve our purposes is a needed repurposing. That ‘culture’, such as it is, is unsustainable and liable to destroy us quite quickly. The follow through of long-term planning is desperately needed more so than the short-term highs. We need to shift the culture from one of intense, short experiences, to one where we can build up from foundations into intergenerational communities.

It will take patience, work, and follow through. It will take concerted effort to refocus the ‘high seeking’ behavior of the overculture and to live our lives as valuable things regardless of monetary or social media gain. It will take us being willing and working to refocus our lives with different priorities than many of us were raised with so the ‘culture of intensity’ has less hold on our own. Intensity is a part of life, but the way things are wired right now to produce the maximum reaction on a consistent/constant basis is leading a lot of folks to burnout and quick. So, we need to channel these things and make them more effective over the long run so we have candles to spare when all the other lights go dark.

Patreon Topic 16: Balancing Cosmologies

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From Amanda Artimesia Forrester comes this question:

“I don’t know if you’ve covered this before, since I’ve just signed up, but how about balancing Heathen cosmology with other Pagan systems? I come from mostly a Hellenic background, with some Egyptian, before Odin snatched me up 4 or 5 years ago.”

If I have covered it, it has been awhile. So, how do I balance cosmologies?

To a certain degree I don’t.

Even if we agree between our various cosmologies that all things are interconnected and that magic comes to us in a variety of fashions, how we understand and interact with the cosmos at large matters. Cultural lenses of understanding drastically affect how we understand and interact with Gods, Ancestors, and spirits. It also affects how we see our places in things, how we access magic, and what ways are acceptable to make use of magic. In some ways, there is no good way to ‘balance’ this, only work with and live with these worldview side-by-side as best we can.

Polytheisms have a lot of agreement between the various cultural backgrounds. We all agree the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits are real. We all agree that Gods, Ancestors, and spirits are, generally, worthy of worship. We all agree that there are underlying spiritual forces beneath our material reality that are acted on, comingled with, and affecting one another.

Where a lot of polytheisms have differences on is the Who and how we worship and otherwise interact with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits. Polytheist religions agree on a lot of the broad basics between one another. Where there is a great deal of difference between polytheist religions is the details. The Soul Matrix in Heathenry v Kemeticism is a great example. Who the magic tends to come through or Who tends to be the initiator into certain spiritual practices, Óðinn and/or Freyja v Heka and/or Isis, would be another.

Balancing between Heathen and Kemetic religions is not something I worry overmuch about. While my primary polytheist worldview is that of a Heathen, when it comes time to do Kemetic things I adopt a Kemetic worldview. I had to make a similar adjustment when Óðinn grabbed me up from Anpu. While some of the cores of my practice changed, eg being very focused on the Dead and caring for the wandering Dead in my work with Anpu, to doing a ton of work with Runatýr and the Runevaettir, my usual practices of cleansing, grounding, centering, shielding, and the creation of wards did not. How my usual practices are done and the specific prayers I made did change.

Part of the challenge in worshiping Gods from multiple cultures is how to respectfully navigate each relationship. I tend to give similar offerings to each of my Gods, Ancestors, and spirits so long as it will not offend one group or another. Where there could be offense or a certain kind of offering would not be good, I make another. For instance, there are some Warrior and Military Dead that I make offerings to that do not want alcohol, so I make separate offerings, usually of water or coffee, for Them. Likewise, there are those Warrior and Military Dead that do want alcohol, so I offer Them that. As the Warrior and Military Dead are on a shrine with Anpu and Wepwawet the offerings I make and the way I pray is distinctly Kemetic in the opening prayers whereas most of the altars my family and I offer and pray at are generally done with Heathen prayers and formulations. As I pray to Warrior and Military Dead from several cultural backgrounds, I tend to address and thank Them in Their relevant languages.

Balancing relationships sometimes means that one worldview becomes your primary for a while, perhaps even the rest of your life. When I was an independent Kemetic priest of Anpu I thought for sure that it was the only worldview I would need or adopt. Then, as with so many folks I know, Óðinn came into my life and upended everything, and I found myself a Heathen in quick order. There may be point where you will find swerving drastically this way and that, offering mead to this God, beer to that, water to this set of Ancestors, and fresh fruit or vegetables to that spirit. What matters is your approach is respectful to the Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and the cultural milieu you are engaged in. For a lot of our offerings this is as simple as making offerings of fresh, cold, clean water in a good vessel of glass or ceramic and making prayers appropriate to the Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits.

As each person has to balance their own relationships, I cannot give broad advice beyond that. What your Gods, Ancestors, and spirits may ask of you may not be that detailed. It is something that if you have questions on, divination and prayer are my go-to. Explore, pray, talk, divine, and experience how best you can strike balance with your Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.

Patreon Topic 15: Pop Culture’s Impact on Polytheist Practice

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From Maleck Odinsson comes this topic idea:

“Pop cultural influences on individual practice. Not just stuff like Marvel, but also the Litany Against Fear, etc.”

For me, there are more than a few pop culture influences that have made way into my view. When I first became a Heathen it took a long time for me to see Þórr as red-haired and red-bearded. For a very long time I saw, and even still on occasion, I will see Him as He appears in Marvel productions with long blond hair and a great golden beard. As small as that influence may seem, it really is not when you think about what iconography should be showing up in my head when it comes to my God.

So what about other influences? As an avid reader of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, I find a lot of use if I am going to bring together a piece of magic to do it in a fashion similar to Dresden when he forms his own. He incorporates as much of the six senses as he can in his magical work. I find this bringing in of the senses to be a powerful catalyst in magical work, and something I found influencing how I approached it whether I wanted it in there or no. Through Dresden, Butcher also examines how headblind power and authority can make a body of even experienced magical practitioners when faced with novel scenarios. How being hidebound for its own sake is a weakness and accepting new, if radical or challenging ideas, is a powerful antidote to fossilization and corruption.

The Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert’s Dune was something that hit me shortly after I got into college. For awhile my Dad had read and recommended the Dune series to me. When I finally did it had a profound effect on me, particularly that Litany. I find it a useful mantra not only in dispelling or working through fear, but also in deescalation, grounding, centering, and even shielding work. It can work as a setting of intention prior to or in a working. As in the books, the Litany can be a meditation unto itself.

Can we really avoid pop cultural influences? No, not really. They shape a lot of landscape of the possible within and without us. No small amount of folks have found their way into magic, animism, and polytheism through movies, comic books, music, and other media. No small amount of us make choices on what media to consume or not consume based on our worldview as animists and polytheists. I still hold we need to be really careful of what from pop culture makes it into our spiritual practices. That is true of anything, though, gnosis included.

Why do I not mind the influence of the media like Dune, The Dresden Files on my magical practice? Because the books and other media are not substituting my experience with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir with what is in its pages, but adding to the ideas I have at my disposal for working with Them and understanding Them. I think that is the positive influence of pop culture on a person: if the media can open new doorways of understanding, experience, knowledge, and relationship between ourselves and the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. The negative is when the pop culture begins to supplant or even deny the lived experiences we have, or the history of the cultures that worshiped our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.

In the end what I would like to see is more conscious interaction with media whether we are incorporating it into our individual practices or not. Does this piece of media make me think, question, respond to things from a polytheist or animist lens? Does this piece of media challenge the status quo and makes me consider my relationship with a given God, Goddess, Ancestor, or spirit? Does this piece of media make sense to the point where trying out a given technique, eg the Litany Against Fear can produce positive results? These are just a few questions we can ask as polytheists, animists, and magical practitioners to make more mindful, careful choices in the media we participate in.

Patreon Topic 9: On Seiðr

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From my third Raiðo supporter comes this topic:

“The distinguishing characteristics of *authentic* seiðr, from your perspective and from the perspective of the medieval sources (as relevant).”

When we’re talking about authentic I think getting to what is vs is not authentic is worth taking some time to define.

When it comes to authentic seiðr I care far less about what may be historically authentic comparative to what is authentic to the requirements of our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, religions, and communities now. This is not to say historically authentic seiðr is something to brush off, but I recognize that we have a handful of sources and one detailed account of what seiðr looked like at one point in time, and conjecture in a handful of other sections. Further, it can be argued in one instance we see, in Eiríks saga rauða (The Saga of Erik the Red), what we are seeing is a spá rite rather than a seiðr rite. Our map of seiðr, like a lot of what we have available to us, is far less complete than ideal.

This comes to how we define terms in the modern age vs how they may have been divided (or not) in the past. Because I like discrete categories for explanation and for looking at things, I put seiðr and spá into two separate categories. Generally, the way I tend to divide the categories is to the purpose of the rite. If the point is only to contact the spirits for divination, it is a spá rite. If divination is involved but the point is to affect change on a spiritual/magical level, it is a seiðr rite.

I likewise will use descriptions for the people performing the magic. If a person’s primary training and involvement in a ritual is for divination/transmission of spiritual messages with the calling in of spirits, it is a spákona (prophecy woman), spámaðr (prophecy man/human). If a person’s primary training and involvement in a ritual is for affecting Urðr/Wyrd then it would be seiðkona (magic/spell/enchantment woman) or seiðmaðr (magic/spell/enchantment man/human). A prophetess then would be a völva. As I usually use the term a völva can do both even she specializes in one or the other.

How I separate seiðr from other forms of magic, eg sympathetic magic, is that seiðr requires the use of óðr, frenzy, both in the sense of the furious rocking back and forth and/or other forms of ecstatic trance, and the working with of the soul part of the same name. It is spellwork that affects the flow/weaving of Urðr primarily through the use of óðr and other techinques and soul parts as needed. Now, that is not to say that you cannot blend seiðr with sympathetic magic, or other works as you need, are called to, etc. You might find blending magic work to be effective. Given each person engaging in seiðr is doing so in a modern context I would hardly be surprised to find a wide variety of seiðr practices.

All of this is to say that how I define ‘authentic’ may run completely contrary to how another Heathen or Northern Tradition Pagan may define it. Since my definitions and ideas of how seiðr is conducted take from the medieval sources we have, I would say that my understanding of authentic is not counter to them, but inclusive of them. This holds with how I treat much of the surviving material. None of what we have was meant as religious instruction and none of what we have is primary source. All is secondary sourcing, and most of that buried behind Christian or Christian-biased writing on the subject.

Authentic seiðr, like any modern Heathen practice, is what schews as close to our Heathen sources, and moreover, what works. We know in the sources that she sits in a high seat and that there is a vardlokkur, a ward song, held before the seiðr rite. What was this song? We are not told, and so, it may be the seiðkona needs to find her own vardlokkur and teach it to someone else to perform, or perform it herself prior to the rite.

What to wear? Thankfully, this is where The Saga of Erik the Red is a lot more explicit.

“Now, when she came in the evening, accompanied by the man who had been sent to meet her, she was dressed in such wise that she had a blue mantle over her, with strings for the neck, and it was inlaid with gems quite down to the skirt. On her neck she had glass beads. On her head she had a black hood of lambskin, lined with ermine. A staff she had in her hand, with a knob thereon; it was ornamented with brass, and inlaid with gems round about the knob. Around her she wore a girdle of soft hair, and therein was a large skin-bag, in which she kept the talismans needful to her in her wisdom. She wore hairy calf-skin shoes on her feet, with long and strong-looking thongs to them, and great knobs of latten at the ends. On her hands she had gloves of ermine-skin, and they were white and hairy within…

…She had a brazen spoon, and a knife with a handle of walrus-tusk, which was mounted with two rings of brass, and the point of it was broken off.”

Now, consider this in the modern age and that many of us are operating on shoe-string budgets and our communities even more so. I think most of the accoutremonts make sense for the time period, and that they were often patronized by the wealthy. A stripped down variation of this would be a blue head covering, or a blue hoody with a black hood. Some kind of necklace with glass beads. A brass-headed staff on the more expensive end (JoAnn Fabrics and hardware stores have pieces that could work here), a simple wooden staff on the other. Mind, I do not think a person needs to dress the part exactly to work with seiðr. It might help some folks to recreate the look of a seiðkona as accurately as possible. It might help others to just work with the suggestions here, or a good blindfold or a cloak to get a similar effect to get them in the seiðr headspace.

How to bring in the spirits? We only have a few hints at how seiðr was done, and these are sparse. We know the seiðkona sat on a highest seat and the spirits came in after the vardlokkur was sung. From my reading it is likely some kind of heavy trance was entered into, and something akin to mediumship work or channeling took place. I am not comfortable talking in depth on this in a modern context for a few reasons. First, is that my process was given to me by Freyja when Óðinn handed me to Her for instruction. Second, divulging how to do this without training brings a lot of risks and it would be fairly irresponsible of me just to outline what to do. Third, whatever I do write may not work for you -at all.

What matters is whether or not a given seiðr working is a success. Does it enable the seiðr worker to contact the Holy Powers they need to? Does it provide accurate, actionable information? Does the hamingja and megin of those engaged in it improve through its use? To my mind the reason seiðr survived so long as it did is because it worked. It is the same reason seiðr is seeing a revival now.

Patreon Topic 5: Working With Wildly Different Paths

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From my first Ansuz supporter comes this topic:

“So how might you work with a student or a client from a wildly different path? How do you, or do you at all, incorporate your own experience with Celtic deities, with Anubis, and with ceremonial magic into your current work and path? To what degree is that breadth helpful, to what degree is it harmful?”

The problem in speaking in generalities is that there’s likely to be some time down the road where something will come my way to challenge it. That being said, if someone is coming to me with a Heathen or Northern Tradition Pagan specific issue at hand I will generally stick to Heathen and NT specific responses. Likewise, if someone comes to me with Celtic or Kemetic-specific questions I will direct them to resources there. My worship of and experiences with Celtic and Kemetic Gods are part of my everyday life. I have worshiped Gods from these culture groups longer than I have the Heathen and NT Gods. My ceremonial magic background generally shows up in some forms of how I do galdr, and sometimes how I approach things relating to magic.

My experiences with Celtic Gods are primarily devotional, and except for Anubis and a little bit with Bast, so are my experiences with the Kemetic Gods. Most of my work history with Anubis is specific to the work He has given me to do as His priest. Since so much of that is one-on-one with the Dead, usually the general Dead than Ancestors, it does not come up a lot with others. Likewise, my work with ceremonial magic was quite specific to working especially hand-in-hand with Michael at first and then with planetary intelligences for the most part. Most of the things I have learned and experienced from my time before Heathenry are background now, or show up in certain ways, eg a galdr method I work with is similar to how I was taught to intone during LBRP and similar ceremonial magic rites.

The way I might work with a student or client from a wildly different path is:

1. Is the person solidly committed to learning about or committed to this wildly different path? If someone is just trying to find solid ground I could be useful to them. The person may be fully new to a given path and just need a guiding hand, even if it is to someone that isn’t me but is a good person for them within a given religious or magical community.

2. Have they followed up with a spiritual specialist within the tradition or path that they want to study? Are there any people within that tradition or path that could do this job better than me? Some folks are being put on wholly new paths and need direction from a useful source, so as a diviner sometimes I get folks who do not really have a religious, magical, or even spiritual community to interact with because building that is actually their project.

3. Do I have the information, guidance, etc that they need? “Is this actually my stuff to teach, to pass or guide them on?” is a good question to ask. I’m not a Celtic-oriented person, and while I am a priest of Anubis, most of my knowledge in Kemetic religion is oriented around Him and Bast. I have not done ceremonial magic on a regular basis in years. I know enough to know I am not an expert in Celtic reconstructionist/revivalist religions, and that so far as a Kemetic priest is concerned, I have only have expert level experience in very specific areas. My knowledge and experience has limits and I need to respect them for the good of the person and myself.

The breadth of my experience is useful in that I at least have a decent enough grasp of resources within the community to guide folks to solid sources of information. I know what I am and am not qualified to teach or give instruction on. So, in this way it is quite helpful because I know where my boundaries lie.

If a student or client in a wildly different religion or path from mine needed to work with me, specifically me, for whatever reason, it would likely be with me as a kind of helpmeet providing input as requested or needed. As a diviner I have little issue working with folks regardless of their path because the client knows going in that what I am doing is facilitating communication between them, the Runes, and Whoever the client wants information from, for, or about.

I would not really say that this is harmful from my angle, but from a student looking for a teacher to give more broad lessons it might not be as helpful as they would like. Since I generally do not teach about Celtic or Kemetic religion, or Kemetic or ceremonial magic, I do not worry too much about it. Given the divination systems I work with most are the Runes and tarot, along with the occasional other divination method, eg smoke/fire scrying, my methods are usually flexible or useful enough to other Gods that They will work with the system I am most comfortable with and give accurate and useful answers through them. The harm would be is if I misrepresented my knowledge, understanding, sources, and so on. The harm would be if I knew I wasn’t an expert or even well versed in a given subject and tried teaching on it anyhow.

Patreon Topic 4: Commercialization, Commodification, and Gentrification of Magic and Spirituality

If you want to submit a topic for me to explore on my blog, sign up at the Uruz level or above on my Patreon.

From my first Ansuz level Patron comes this topic:

“You might’ve written on this before, but I’d like to hear your thoughts on the commercialization, commodification, and especially on the gentrification of spirituality. Magic is the tool of the oppressed, what happens when that tool is turned into yet another weapon used against the poor, as I see all around me now?”

I would say that magic is not only the tool of the oppressed. It is accessible to anyone of any class. Look at ceremonial magic vs kitchen witchery, for instance. How hard is it to pick up and make the traditional materials for those workings? Brass, copper, silver, gold? Those cost a lot of money, resources, and/or training. Meanwhile kitchen witchery may need time, and training, but if the point is to do kitchen witchcraft (in my understanding) with items out of your pantry those are going to be accessible at whatever your income level is right then.

This means that certain kinds of magic, (or at least in their traditional forms) are, by dint of cost of time, materials, training, accessibility, etc, cut off from folks beneath a certain income level. For what it is worth I did ceremonial magic when I was unemployed in college. I used a lot of paper substitutes, printouts, sooo much salt, cheap incense, and the like, becauses there is no way in hell I could afford things like a magic ring or magic tools made out of copper, silver, or gold.

On the commercialization of magic: If the definition we are working with is, as the OED puts it “The process of managing or running something principally for financial gain” then I think that there can be quite a bit lost when we are talking about only working with magic to that end. That loss can be healthy connection between communities. That loss can be between a person and the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir. That loss can be a healthy connection with money and/or the moneyvaettir itself. If the lust of result of financial gain or the desire itself for financial gain overcomes the reason for laying down a piece of magic, depending on the magic being deployed, it can be hugely detrimental to any working one does.

There is nothing inherently wrong with working or using magic to financially or otherwise benefit your community or yourself. I have a far healthier relationship with money and the moneyvaettir, and carry a good relationship with Andvari thanks in no small part to my Elder. I had no idea when Galina introduced me to Andvari what a powerful, dynamic impact it would have on the course of my life to come into better relationship with the Dvergar, let alone the moneyvaettir and through all of this, a better future for my family. I have made plenty of magical and spiritual items for money, among them bindrune mandalas burnt into leather, woodburnt Runes, and woodburnt bindrunes. I have done plenty of money workings for my family, Kindred, tribemates, and I. My family and I keep a healthy devotional relationship with Andvari and the moneyvaettir that extends into our daily night prayers and offerings that we make.

Commercialization is a problem with magic from a few different perspectives. From my perspective as an animist and polytheist when things are seen from a primarily commercial point of view it is far easier to depersonalize those we share the Worlds with. Rather than see a Being like a tree or its branches as part of a Being, commercialization encourages us to relate to Beings and things only in terms of “this branch can make me x amount as a wand, y amount as a bunch of Runes, z amount as Rune charms”. When money is the goal of holding a workshop on magic rather than teaching the magic then the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir may be deeply disrespected in the process. This disrespect, not addressed and continuing to ripple out into the communities touched by it and engaging in it, can sour relationships between them and the Holy Powers.

From my perspective as a (mostly) former ceremonial magician the commercialization can harm magical operations themselves. Just having the lust of result of “I need money, this needs to work” can be interrupting to good flow of magic because rather than focus on the work at hand your focus is on the need you feel to get more money. Commercialization can also harm our relationships with spirits we might work with otherwise in a ceremonial magic setting.

If, for instance, you have partnered with/summoned/compelled a spirit of Jupiter to the end of enriching yourself but do not exercise good judgment, either in the choice of the spirit you contact or the details of how the money comes to you, you can land yourself fairly deep in debt to the spirit(s). This can go to the point where you are having to do some serious work to pay back what you owe to a spirit or spirits before you can get anything done for yourself. This takes away from your magic working for you and instead, you give both your sovereignty and your ability to do work over to someone else until you pay back your debt.

Commodification and commercialization often go hand-in-hand. Commodification is “The action or process of treating something as a mere commodity.”. A commodity is “A raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold, such as copper or coffee” or more simply “A useful or valuable thing.” Commercialization then further objectifies the thing at hand by treating that useful or valuable thing as a means of “managing or running something principally for financial gain”.

Commercialization/commodification can also hit the wider community by cutting entire sections of it out, either by a company or group of people producing cheap things like charms, Runes, and the like without any attachment to the actual processes to make them empowered/useful. Commercialization of magical items, for instance, can use processes to make those items that at least do nothing to help our relationship, and at worst produce ongoing harm to our relationships maintained with/through those items. A given company or group of people only wanting to make money can mass produce Rune sets and bindrunes without thought to the materials, and without offerings to the materials on which the Runes and bindrunes are made. They may make things more cheap and so, easier to access monetarily. They may also make connecting with a given God, Goddess, Ancestors, or vaettr harder by providing a barrier by not having set up the item to be receptive, or worse, if its construction is thoughtless to the relationship, to be an impediment to the relationship

For a contrasting example: if I make a Rune set from a branch my Runes come from pieces of deadfall, generally from trees where I am living and/or from trees I have good relationships with, that I have let season. I make offerings to the tree the branch comes from, and make offerings to the Runevaettir, both before the carving/burning of the Runes into the wood, and as part of my ongoing relationship with Them. I have a living relationship with Them, and the point of offering a Rune set to someone for sale is to establish a good relationship between that person and the Runes.

As I wrote before, there is nothing inherently wrong with earning money for doing magic or making magical and/or spiritual items. I have spilled a good deal of my own blood, dedicated an immense amount of time and work in my relationship with the Runes. This deserves reciprocity on its own. By being paid or exchanging gift for a gift, requiring Gebo for my sacrifices, I also ask for exchange as an honoring of my Elder in Gebo before me, and in honor to Odin as Gebo for His. This is part of continuing right relationship with Runatýr and the Runevaettir, my Elder, and my own relationships.

I understand and know magic as an animist and polytheist as being interwoven in relationship with Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, including our human communities. When magic and the ways we work with magic are themselves commodified and commercialized what this means is the very ways by which we may establish relationships, use power, and cause spiritual effects through those relationships and use of power, are used as sources of income. Often those income streams go out of our communities and into someone else’s pocket.

Commodifying and commercializing spiritual practices, magic, the creation of magical and spiritual items takes from the communities they come from without giving back to them or their Holy Powers. It is a lack of Gebo, of reciprocity. I have no issues at all with buying prepared magical or spiritual items. I have bought prepared Florida Water as a backup cleanser and found it very effective. Likewise, I have bought plenty of sacred dried herbs I have not grown myself. I feel very strongly that I need to mark a big clear line between engaging in trade and transactions that are respectful and based in reciprocity as opposed to commodification and commercialization. Trade and transactions can be done in a way that respects all parties involved whereas commodification and commercialization depersonalize and disrespect the culture(s), the Being(s) that is part of or is the product being sold, and disrupts right relationship.

Diviners, magic workers, spirit workers, and the like should be compensated for their work. That is precisely what I am asking of everyone who contributes through my Patreon and who asks for services through the Shamanic Services section of this blog.

There is a stark contrast between a Rune set made by a person who holds good relationship with Them and a Rune set put together by a person without a relationship with the Runes only because it will sell well. There is a stark contrast between someone who requires a set amount to read the Runes as opposed to someone who is looking only to make money off of people looking for answers. There is a stark contrast between the rootworker or other spiritual specialist charging for a service and someone who is just taking clients for a ride.

Look at the dynamics of the relationships here: The commodification and commercialization of a spiritual practice, item, etc requires none. Commodification and commercialization of spiritual paths, items, work, and so on is nothing less than the appropriation of these things to make someone money. Gebo does not exist here between a commodifier/commercializer and the spiritual paths, traditions, and so on they take from to make money. It is even more heinous when a person within a community goes the way of commercialization and commodification. They are participating, willingly, in the strip-mining of their own religious community/ties and disrespecting their Holy Powers only to make money.

Gentrification goes hand-in-hand with commercialization and commodification. It is “The process of renovating and improving housing or a district so that it conforms to middle-class taste.” In America the default ‘middle-class taste’ is generally what is comfortable for WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants). If the point is to sell a thing to make the most amount of money you appeal to those with the most money.

There is an additional wrinkle, at least for US citizens: In America the idea of the middle class and being part of it is so tied into ‘normality’ and ‘goodness’ that it is claimed by folks beneath the poverty line and so far above it that the very idea of a middle class is less an economic idea and more of a mutable ‘everyman’ that has served to flatten rather than serve as a useful highlight of economic/political class differences. So, appealing to ‘middle class’ in America through commercialization, commodification, and gentrification of religions, spiritual practices, initiations, spiritual and magical items, and so on, requires almost all the rough edges be scraped smooth and most of the teeth removed. Oh, there needs to be enough roughness for it to be edgy or off-center just enough so it is marketable, but not so much so that the person engaging in the religion, the spiritual practice, working with the item, etc is uncomfortable or challenged.

A gentrified spirituality is a wolf on display whose teeth have been ripped out. Robbed of its ability to feed itself, robbed of its ability to defend itself, robbed of being fed anything other than what mush it is given, producing only money or prestige for its displayer and shit otherwise. It exists to make the observer feel good about the wolf being on display, but the wolf makes no material impact in the world as it should. It is there at the whim of the displayer, and put away when it is embarassing or too much for the displayer or their onlookers.

This is not to say that a given religion, spiritual practice, or act of magic must absolutely be red in tooth and claw in all its aspects. Some of the most remarked upon forms that magic took in Heathen lore was with spinning, working with fabric, blacksmithing, things our modern society often look at as only crafts but that the home cultures understood to be sources of and ways to work with power. Some pretty famous pieces of magic involve food and drink. The seemingly innocuous or ordinary can hold great power.

When you understand things from a polytheist and animist perspective, from the Heathen and Northern Tradition Pagan perspective, the potential for magic is in everywhere and everything. That’s a pretty powerful antidote to the consumerist mindset that is encouraged by commercialization, commodification, and gentrification. When the whole world is alive with Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, and we understand that we truly own very little of the Worlds we walk in, it is also a humbling experience. Commercialization, commodification, and gentrification require people to absolutely ignore the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir in order for a thing to be done purely for profit. It requires a sundering of relationship, a one-sided using of a religion, religious community, spiritual techniques and/or tools in order for the profit motive to be the first priority. It is an inversion of priorities for a polytheist and animist: the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and the relationships in which we are all interwoven.

A Prayer of Praise to Holy Healers

Hail Mengloth, Jotun Goddess whose hands heal and wisdom preserves health of body, mind, and soul!

Who knows the ways to knit flesh and bone

Who knows the ways to bring vitality and vigor

Who teaches those who listen in the holy arts of healing!

Whose work staunches the blood of wounds

Who guards the lines of the heart so all is kept free from infection

Whose skillful hands knit the skin and flesh that every wound may become a scar

Whose wisdom of herbs and medicine makes every illness become renewed vigor

Thank You for blessing the doctors, nurses, techs, and healers with wisdom, skill, care, and prudence!

Hail Mengloth!  Ves ðu heil!

 

Hail O Eir, Aesir Goddess of the healing hands!

O Wise Goddess who teaches the eager to learn how to heal!

O Battle Medic whose hands have tended the flesh from the bite of wood, bone, bronze, iron, steel, and powder!

O Careful One who brings the healing teams together in purpose!

Thank You! You have blessed the doctors, the nurses, the techs, the healers with care, caution, wisdom and skillful work!

Hail Eir! Ves ðu heil!

 

Io Asklepios, Divine Physician!

Io to the Son of Apollon and Koronis!

Io Kheiron’s Son!

O Wielder of the Serpent-Staff

Whose hands have healed holy and mortal flesh alike

Whose lessons have instructed the countless lines of doctors, nurses, techs, and all those who heal

Whose work has saved the lives of countless people

Whose wisdom has been preserved that the work and art of healing has continued

At Whose side stands Telesphorus that health and recovery are one in healing

Thank You for blessing the doctors, nurses, techs, and staff with knowledge, skill, care, and wisdom!

Io Asklepios! Khairete!

 

O Imhotep, Divine Physician

Whose words and works have blessed the world

In whose hands and heart Thoth worked good blessings

In whose mind and heart was brilliance and its blessings shared with every doctor and physician, every surgeon and assistant

O Wise Teacher, thank You, for Your lessons and writings that taught all who followed and read of You how to heal!

O Divine Physician, thank You, for your skill has blessed the harmed and sick with health and vigor!

O Divine Surgeon, thank You, for Your skill has delivered life from death!

O Supreme Magician, thank you, for Your Words and Works yet give wisdom, yet give insight, yet strive out sickness, and yet heal!

Em Hotep, Dua, Dua Neter en-ek O Imhotep!

On Ritual Praxis -What and Why?

In tackling the subject of ritual praxis I think it is most useful to tackle head-on what ritual and ritual praxis is, why we have ritual praxis, and then, how and why we develop it.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the definition of a ritual is:

1. A religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.

and praxis:

1. Practice, as distinguished from theory.
2. Accepted practice or custom.

The purpose of ritual praxis is that it is an established body of beliefs and actions rooted in serving a specific end. In devotional work this is fostering right relationship with the Holy Powers, that is, Gods, Ancestors, and spirits. In magic, ritual praxis is established so that enactment of the ritual ends in the aims of the magic being attained. Generally, we will be talking about the former: devotional ritual praxis. If devotional ritual praxis is how we establish and reestablish right relationship with the Holy Powers it makes sense not to have to consistently reinvent the proverbial wheel with each new polytheist.

A refrain I heard a lot when I became a Heathen was that Heathenry is “the religion with homework”. What this ends up meaning is that folks will often throw a book list at people and say “Go read and then when you’re ready to talk I’ll be here.” This approach may be keeping out a lot of folks who could be good community members if the barrier to entry was not there.

Do not mistake me, I actually employ a variation on this approach. However, the diference is that I give people interested in the Northern Tradition, especially those interested in joining Mimirsrbrunnr Kindred a book list with a mix of academic and spiritual work-oriented books rather than merely academic texts. The reason for this is to establish that the person is willing to put in work, is willing to adopt and adapt to a Heathen mindset, and to show that they are willing to put time and effort into the Kindred. In other words, show they are worthy of our time.

This is not where I have seen folks direct the “religion with homework” idea. Often, the would-be Heathen is given an exhaustive scholarly book list with little-to-no instruction on how to be a Heathen. The question is not how useful these resources are to a Heathen, but whether or not their use is to the right end. The ‘right end’ in this case being the teaching of, and eventual integration of a Heathen worldview into a Heathen newcomer’s life. It is worth reflecting on what sources we recommend to those showing interest in Heathenry. It is worth reflecting how useful our sources are to the stark newcomer so that we are not merely flinging books at people or building in an assumption that books are the best and/or only way to learn how to be a good Heathen.

I put far more emphasis in my instructions on working through the reading materials, on the doing aspect of the materials, than I do on the academics. The reason is twofold. First, I need to see that the person is actually willing to join the religion not only in mind but also in heart and conduct. Second, I know that some of the material can be damned challenging if not near-impossible to navigate. I found Culture of the Teutons to be a very useful book, one of the best exploring luck, honor, hamingja, outlawry and the like in ancient Heathen cultures. I do not assign this book in the reading list. I had a hard time working through it, and while useful, many of the concepts within it can be effectively condensed into a talk, lecture, or workshop.

The difference between doing the homework vs consistently engaging in what amounts to amateur debates is part of what I see holds Heathenry back. We have experts within our communities both academic and religious. Rather than have each and every Heathen engage in what amounts to lifetime research projects, I would rather see Heathens and polytheists in general develop materials for children and adults who are becoming polytheists. In ancient times intensive studies would have been for ritual specialists alone. Ritual praxis, meanwhile, was on everyone. Everyone knew their roles, and there was little question as to who did what because traditions, including beliefs and ritual praxis among them, had been passed down the generations. If we are to be lived religions, then this approach is the one to aim for. My long-term hope is that the approach I take to prospective members of the Kindred becomes obsolete primarily through oral teaching and intergenerational transmission of the worldview, Kindred traditions, including the Kindred’s Heathen religion and culture.

Where to Start?

The start of right ritual praxis, aka orthopraxy, is in right belief, aka orthodoxy. Orthodoxy and orthopraxy form the ground from which polytheism grows and matures. The two concepts are not in opposition, but rather, affect and inform one another. Some very basic orthodox beliefs in regards to polytheist orthopraxy are:

  • That the Holy Powers deserve to be worshiped and honored.
  • That ritual is a good way to worship and honor the Holy Powers.
  • That well-done ritual foments right relationship with the Holy Powers.
  • That there are ways of doing ritual correctly and incorrectly.

Basic orthodox beliefs of polytheism includes the baseline of polytheism itself: the belief in and worship of many Gods, and that of animism: that all of Creation is, or potentially is, ensouled. Other beliefs would includes the foundational Sacred Stories of the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir as we have them and/or are taught them. The Sacred Stories we pass on help to inform the content of our worldview and from this, our rituals.

Right belief is vitally important. Without it ritual is rendered without meaning. Likewise, right action is important. Without it, right belief is rendered without root in the world.

This does not mean that one’s belief in the Holy Powers must forever be ironclad. One’s belief in the Holy Powers may not be very strong or well defined. What needs to be strong is the belief that the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir (spirits), the Holy Powers, are real and deserving of good rites. In regards to offerings, the belief that the Holy Powers are real and worthy of offerings is all one truly needs to begin, or begin again, to have a strong connection with the Holy Powers. It is why I recommend making offerings and developing devotional relationships to absolute beginners fresh to polytheism. It is not that the academic background knowledge of the Holy Powers are unimportant, but a matter of prioritizing the development of relationship with the Holy Powers over the development of the person’s collection of books and book-knowledge. Ideally, I would have the two develop hand-in-hand.

Developing Rituals

So if we understand that right ritual praxis is conducted from right belief, then, how do we develop rituals? Baked into polytheism’s cake is the assumption that the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are real and that They are active agents in relationship with one another, the world, and with us. How do They respond to us? Through divination such as sortilege and the reading of Runes, and through spontaneous forms of communication, such as omens or direct communion.

If we accept that the ways the Gods can communicate with us are many and active then it stands that some of the ways They may choose for us to develop rites will differ greatly from one another. With that said, what I lay out here are guidelines for the development of ritual.

Step 1: Determine the basic purpose of the ritual.
What is the basic purpose of a given ritual? Is it celebratory, offeratory, or a magical operation? Is it a very formal prayer, or one given to a Holy Power extemporaneously?

Step 2: Determine what the ritual is about.
What are the specific purposes of the ritual? Is it a celebration of a cyclical harvest festival? Is it a weekly offering to one’s household Gods? Is it a magical operation involving the Runes to a certain end, such as healing of a broken limb or protection on a long journey?

Step 3: Determine if there are special considerations for the ritual.
Are there taboos to be adhered to, special needs for spiritual specialists and/or laity, or specific requirements for the ritual to be done well? Are there to be certain offerings made, or a sacrifice to be held?

Step 4: Determine the set up of the ritual’s space, including boundaries, altar(s), and so on.
How is the space to be set up? Are there certain Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir who need to be present? If so, how? Is the ritual area completely inviolate during the ritual itself, or are people able to come and go as needed? If there are special methods for a person coming into/out of the ritual space, what if any means are there to mark the space and tools/instruments/people to make this so?

Step 5: Determine the order of ritual and the roles of spiritual specialists, celebrants and/or operators.
What kind(s) of purifications are to be done? How are the celebrant(s)/operator(s) to be prepared for the rite? How is the ritual to be blocked, if it involves certain prescribed ritual steps or dramatic enactors? How is the space to be held, i.e. festive, solemn, silence?

Be a Good Host, Be a Good Guest

If a rite is to be more contemplative, such as a meditation space, the ritual space may be more permissive in celebrants coming into and out of space. It may need more seating space, and different kinds of seating arrangements for folks with different mobilities, and potential body restrictions. If the rite is to be festive and wild, then the considerations of places that will be accepting of louder noise, places for celebrants to catch their breath, the provisioning of food and/or water will need to be considered. It may be that some celebrants or operators wish to be part of a rite, and have need of special consideration.

Not all celebrants/operators may be able to handle hours of dancing, but may still wish to participate in a wild, festive rite. Consider this in setting up the ritual that folks with mobility issues may need areas designated for them to be safe such as space for a seat and/or mobility aid, walkways, and so on. Consider that some folks have dietary requirements or restrictions, such as needing to eat at certain times or not eat certain foods, so be sure that everything food and drink wise that you have a list of ingredients for these things on hand so all your participants may be informed and safe. Most of these seem to be common sense, yet simple set up for seating in an especially long rite can be overlooked in the early planning stages and later bring great distraction to an otherwise well-planned ritual.

Clearly laying out the expectations for the spiritual specialist(s), celebrant(s)/operator(s), and/or guests is a must. It may not prevent a disruption in ritual, yet it can help mitigate issues as they come up in a ritual. Letting people know who to turn to if they forget a step, or how to say certain ritual phrases will make the ritualists jobs’ easier and make the rite flow smoother. That said, if people become disruptive or antagonistic to the rite, it is far better to eject a person than it is to try to keep soldiering on. Ignoring a disruptive or rude person may be directly insulting to the Holy Powers, or lessen the usefulness of the working at hand. At the end of the day, for the people involved being a good host to and a good guest is key to ritual going well.

The Small Details of Ritual

If a ritual is a a ceremonial act done in a prescribed order, then it follows that as many great details to figure out, there are small details to consider a ritual ought to go. Should cleansing be done with the right or left hand? Should one enter into ritual space on a certain foot? Should an idol be approached only by an initiated priest? Are there exceptions to these rules, where an idol which is usually only approached by a priest is shown to the laity?

Notice I said these details may be small -not unimportant. Especially as polytheists develop their own traditions of worship with Holy Powers the disposition of small details may become more important to the completion of a good ritual. There may be good reasons related to cosmology for offerings to be laid down a certain way. For instance, in offering to Gods of Muspelheim one may be directed to lay them down in a southerly direction, as in lore it is said that is where Muspelheim may be located. For Gods of the Underworld, or for those spirits who are located beneath the Earth, such as the Dvergar, placing offerings for Them in an elevated place may be insulting, so you place offerings on or in the ground for Them. Rivers may be seen as running throughout the Nine Worlds, and so, disposing of offerings into running water may be seen as near-universal for the disposal of offerings, or only for certain Holy Powers, depending on one’s view and relationships with the Holy Powers. Since all the Nine Worlds hang on or are within Yggdrasil, making offerings at a special tree serving as Yggdrasil’s proxy may be a good place for offering to any of the Holy Powers.

The consideration of the small things may be the entire point of a given ritual or magical operation. If the small things are unattended to, the rite may be spoiled or the operation fouled. Something as seemingly small as not setting down an offering in an exact order, or circumambulating with a censer or blessed water may seem minor to us. If our point is to worship and honor the Holy Powers, then even our small things need to be oriented towards this.

It is worth remembering that in many of our rites we are reenacting cosmological principles in even the small gestures we make. Going sunwise, then, is not just something we do in many of our Heathen rights because it is something we brought in from Wicca. The Sun, through Sunna’s chariot, brings the blessings of warmth, growth, and life through Her cycles. By not following Her rhythm in a ritual, say, to bless a garden, we may be bringing in other cosmological influences that are not in accordance with the rite. In this instance, by passing our hand over the garden against the sun or counterclockwise, we may be asking for Mani and the Moon’s blessing or Nott’s influence in darkness to vegetables that need a great deal of sunlight. The symbolism we employ, whether or not we realize it, is alive with meaning and import to each ritual, even, and sometimes especially in these small gestures.

The Roles of Divination

Divination and other forms of spiritual communication are a good part of how the balance of orthodoxy and orthopraxy is kept in polytheist religions. It provides direct communion and feedback with and from the Holy Powers. The methods of divination available to a diviner are likewise hooked unto orthodoxy and orthopraxy. On a basic level, the orthodoxy of divination, and divine communication in general, is that the Holy Powers are real, and can and do commune with us. The basic orthopraxy, then, is that in the act of divination we are open to change as well as reaffirmation of what has come before, both in terms of our orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

Divination serves a number of functions in the creation and execution of ritual. Among the uses for the creation of ritual itself are:

  • The creation of a ritual calendar/cycle.
  • For whom a given rite may be dedicated.
  • The timing of a ritual/series of rites.
  • Determining the proper order of a rite.
  • Determining the sacrifice(s) for a rite.
  • Who should be doing what before, during, and after the rite.

Among the reasons one may wish to divine during a ritual are:

  • That the set up for a ritual is good and acceptable to the Holy Powers, that things are in order for the rite to begin.
  • Checking in when an incident or accident occurs during the rite, such as someone being burnt during the rite to see that it is merely an error/accident and not a response by the Holy Powers to the occurence.
  • That the offering laid down are accepted.
  • That any messages the Holy Powers have for those gathered are received.

Divination itself is beyond the scope of this post. Like ritual craft, divination is a craft unto itself. Like ritual craft, divination requires you to do it to learn how to do it better.

Bringing the Rites Home

Generally speaking, a good chunk of ancient polytheist religion was lived in the home every day. It makes sense that the majority of polytheists today are in a similar boat. While folks may read everything above and think of it in terms of larger group ritual, such as a Kindred or similar group getting together, it matters just as much, if not more so, to the people in their homes. After all, if the majority of polytheist religion is practiced in the home, thinking about why and how we approach ritual has immediate impact on how we relate to our home cultus.

So why do rituals in our home? It’s where we live when we’re not working or running errands. It’s where our roots are set. Our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, then, should be where the roots of our lives are set. Many of us live in places where going outside to do ritual is impractical, lack an outdoor space which would be undisturbed and kept sacred to the Holy Powers, and/or lack a temple space outside the home. By necessity then, the home is where most modern polytheists do ritual.

For my family the rituals we do as a family the most often are prayers to our Gods each day, each meal, and each night. We have rote prayers we have memorized for these, both because when we started to do them it was far easier to teach than how to do extemporaneous prayers. Doing things this way provided a set of common prayers for how to address our Holy Powers, a common well that we draw from in all our home rites. We do weekly offering rites which incorporate prayers, gestures, and the giving of physical offerings, usually water, food, and/or alcohol. We may celebrate the seasons and holy days doing much the same.

The beautiful thing about polytheism is that no one’s home cultus has to look like another’s. The how of how we do ritual in our home’s is individual. While my Kindred and I share similarities in home cultus, it is unique to each of our families. For instance, our altar setups are different. We use resin statues from Paul Borda of Dryad Design for many of our Gods, whereas another family uses statues from Unicorn Studio. Many of our offering vessels are clay, wood, or glass from garage sales and thrift shops. Our representation of Gerda is a corn dolly that came from a thrift shop with a wooden rake in her hand.

We also place different emphasis on different Gods depending on the household. In our home Odin and Frigga are the head Gods we worship and offer to, and then we offer to the others. Thor and Freyr may be the first Gods in other Kindredmates’ homes. Even between members of our family we have different emphasis on different Gods, even though we collectively worship the same Gods. Our son, for instance, has an altar to Thor and the housevaettir in his room that he takes care of on his own, while I emphasize Odin in my own practice and time where we do not worship as a family.

What unites us as a family and a Kindred is a shared worldview where the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are to be honored and worshiped, and shared ritual structures. What each of our Kindredmates does in our own home will have variations from each other depending on some combination of our relationships with the Holy Powers, what we have to carry out our rites with, and what we are able to do.

The Unfolding is Ongoing

As Heathenry and the Northern Tradition Pagan religions are lived through, rather than merely being set down in a book or series of books, orthodoxy and orthopraxy are continuously unfolding. Sometimes certain orthodoxy are held throughout one’s life and continue on through the generations, such as the Holy Powers being real and worthy of worship. Likewise, orthopraxy such as the giving of offerings for the Holy Powers are held right along with them. Some orthodoxy, such as the belief it is wrong to offer certain things may come to fall away with orthopraxy of divination to determine what are good and right offerings.

In the polytheist understanding of orthodoxy and expression of orthopraxy is that we are in living relationships with our Holy Powers. There is reciprocity consistently between ourselves and Them, lived in every thought we give to why and how we do what we do, and in the doing of the thing itself. There is reciprocity in the asking of “what should we do and how?” and following up on those questions. Why we do this is to live in good relationship with our Holy Powers. How do we do this? Eventually, all comes down to our relationships with the Holy Powers and Their impact on and in the lives of our communities, our families, and ourselves. As our relationships unfold with the Holy Powers, so too will our orthodoxy and orthopraxy, and along with these, our worldview and ritual praxis unfold.

We will explore how one can start to worshiping the Holy Powers in the next post.