Patron Topic 55: On Ego in Spiritual and Magical Work

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

From Maleck comes this topic:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hunt is On

I hear the hoofbeats hammer

I hear the howling on the wind

I hear the gait of sword, spear, and gun

The Hunt is on

I smell the slathering sweat

I smell the steel in the wound

I smell the breath of God, grave, and snow

The Hunt is on

I see the sky split

I see the spray of blood

I see the wend of Host, heroes, and Sleipnir

The Hunt is on

I taste the tears’ trail

I taste the take of the kill

I taste the marrow of the wicked, warlocks, and traitors

The Hunt is on

I feel the fury flow

I feel the frenzy of the Ride

I feel the call of the vaettir, Valkyries, and Fráriðr

The Hunt is on

The Hunt is on

The Hunt is on

A Heathen Prepping -Every Day Carry

The Basics of EDC

EDC is a term meaning Every Day Carry. It is what it says on the tin. This is what you carry on your person every day. Some folks read this and think we are only talking firearms. While personal protection equipment may be part of a given person’s EDC, there are a lot of preppers who do not include a firearm as part of theirs.

I am one of those people. The reason is terribly practical: my job does not allow weapons on our person. Since an EDC is meant to go everywhere we do, and I can spend up to 16 hours at my job, my personal EDC is going to be incredibly limited compared to most folks in the prepper communities. Were I able to, I would likely have at least one weapon among my EDC.

The way that I differentiate EDC from a Bug Out Bag, or BOB, is that a BOB is prepped and ready to go for emergencies. Bugging out is an extreme emergency that requires you to vacate immediately from wherever you are. An EDC is what we carry so we face each day prepared. There is no single one-size-fits-all EDC, and opinions on what should be in it vary. Luckily, City Prepping has a video for this where he goes into his, and I recommend folks watch it. Happy Preppers has their own here.

Everyone’s EDC is different. My ideal EDC is certainly different from what I have to carry to be work-compliant. This should be reassuring, though, because each piece of prep we can do is a work in progress. There is always somewhere we could improve, to tweak to make things function or flow better.

My main perspective on prep comes from hospitality and care for those in your family, Kindred, tribe, and communities. By prepping now, you take pressure off of all those you hold ties with and free up resources for them in the future. One more person with the training and experience to use those resources effectively is one less person who needs emergency intervention and can help others prepare effectively for a SHTF scenario. By honoring the various Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir of the resources and work with them, you build up good relationships with Them. By building up good relationships now you approach Them in respect, and They, in turn, can help you develop your skills, experiences, and wisdom in the use of resources now, rather than in a crisis.

When it comes to EDC many of these ideas are taken into the everyday. My spiritual EDC are what I carry with me as taufr, charms, as well as the spiritual prep that I do before I leave the house. The spiritual EDC are the necklaces I wear and the tattoos on my skin. The clothes I wear, prayer cards I carry, anything that I dedicate to carrying on my person becomes part of the EDC. Since I understand the lík or the body as sacred, physical prep is part of the spiritual prep, and the spiritual prep provide a strong core and focus to the physical prep. Likewise, the mental prep flows with the physical and spiritual prep. So too, the EDC prep and the home prep flow into and between each other. What I need for EDC will likely differ a lot given I will be away from home.

My Approach to EDC

So what is in my EDC? I will break this up into three main areas because of my job’s restrictions. The first will be what I carry on me most often, then what I carry in my bag, and finally, what I carry in my car.

My Personal EDC

My personal carry EDC are my clothes, my wallet which carries my IDs and prayer cards, my leather taufr bag, my phone, my Bluetooth earbuds and their charging case, and any keys I need for work. The charging case can double as a charger for my phone if needed. The earbuds hold a charge for about four hours of music each, and charge in about 30 minutes. My arms are each covered in the Elder Futhark, and I have a tattoo of a Valknut on my left breast and the Ægishjalmr on my right. Each tattoo carries meaning, a physical reflection and fulfillment of my relationships with each vaettr. Given my ongoing offerings to Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir, not to mention the offerings of pain and blood just to get these tattoos, these are spiritual EDC that are consistently cared for. Likewise, these are each spiritual EDC that are consistently involved in my care.

The approach I have with my tattoos is also true of the taufr I carry in my bag: every one was built with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir I carry active and ongoing relationships with, and none require special offerings on their own. So, if for some reason I lose or need to give away a taufr I do not lose something unique in the bag. That is, while I would lose that particular taufr’s carried power, I do not lose all the power of that relationship by losing or giving away the taufr. If I were to make a completely unique taufr with a vaettr I only every worked with in constructing that taufr then I could risk that relationship by losing or giving away the taufr. So, that is why I have the rule of thumb that I make taufr only with vaettir I hold active relationships with.

Clothes should be the first physical item you think about when you put yourself together in the day. I am the kind of guy who is pretty happy to wear shorts and a t-shirt most of the year. My choice of clothes are made with ease of movement and comfort in mind. However, those choices are couched in the comfort of having a comfortable, warm (or cool, as the seasons change) home to live in rather than being consistently exposed to the elements. If I know I will be out and about I will at least wear jeans and bring a coat. My physical items follow the form and function of my clothes: can I keep it comfortably on my person, and are the items easy to access? In a SHTF scenario if I am out and about in clothes ill-fitted to the situation, I am putting myself at risk. Since it is a good idea to have a backup set of clothes in the car and any BOBs, this is something I am working on putting together.

My Backpack and Lunchbag EDC

Since these bags have to go into work it cannot contain items restricted from the facility that I would like to include, so most of the essentials of EDCs you will find on the Internet, like firestarting kits and water purification systems, are out here too. My backpack is a laptop backpack, so the pouch that rests against my back has a bit of extra padding. This section holds my tablet, mobile keyboard, small mouse, book(s), and journal. The journal is a moddable Tūl notebook that my wife found for me in Office Max. You can swap pages in and out, and there are a variety of pages to choose from, including lined, blank, and graph. If I wanted to, say, design a sigil or bindrune and fire it off quick I can. I can also print materials off, use the special hole punch for it that I bought, and swap those materials in and out as I want. If nothing else, in a crisis where I need firemaking materials I will have plenty to hand.

The center section of the backpack has charging essentials for my devices, including lightning cables so I can pass off the cord to iPhone and Mac users. While I do not care for Mac products at all, it has come in handy for coworkers who forget their cables. In the middle of the center section is a nylon bag. It has three blocks for charging outlets and more cables than I have devices for so I, and others, can charge multiple devices at once. Finally, it has a charging brick in it with multiple cable access points. I carry OTC meds like acetomenaphine here, as well as a large bag of sugar free lozenges, hand salve, soap, and toiletries I may need if I get stuck at work or out on the road. This section is fairly big and deep, so the bottom holds a lot of PPE in plastic containers that I have accumulated since COVID-19 hit. I have at least two disposable hazard suits, nitrile disposable gloves, fitted masks, multiple disposable masks, and a mouth barrier for rescue breaths. It may seem like a lot of PPE, but it is all quite compact. My plan is to add a full medical kit in the bottom of this bag so I have it wherever the backpack goes.

The third section is a bit smaller than the first two, and contains a good deal of spiritual items. It has two decks of playing cards that can serve as divination decks or playing cards, a few prayer cards, and a leather bag with a leather casting surface and wooden Runes. Finally, this section holds four plastic bottles, two of which contain salts, one pure water, and the last holds mugwort tea for internal and external cleansing, blessing, etc. This last is replaced as needed.

The fourth section is the front of the backpack. It is the smallest and is just big enough to hold the pens and comb that are in it.  The side pouch holds a small Rite in the Rain field book and the other side has space for a coffee cup -which I usually am carrying there. Nothing like having refreshment and an offering at your hip!

The lunchbag I have is a hard plastic shell in a thermal case to keep things cold. It can hold a good amount of food, which is good since I frequently have to work doubles. It works well for its purpose, since it also keeps my insulin cold and my daily pill box clean and clear. These are in the front pouch along with hand sanitizer, some packs of instant coffee, and utensils. There are two outer areas where I carry coffee cups. I like to carry extra sanitizer, a few sweets to keep up my energy/blood sugar, extra instant coffee packs, lozenges, and other small helpful items in this bag’s front pouch. Better to have it and not need it then need it and not have it.

My Car EDC

What I carry in my car on a regular basis differs from a BOB since my car is fitted for common road emergencies, including a small car battery starter, a small medkit, a small jack, and a spare tire. I am still working on putting together my BOBs. When finished it will be kitted out for an emergency where my family and I could survive for three days with what is in it whether we are in the car or on foot.

The middle of the car holds a small staff that works well as a walking stick and that I have worked with in various rituals. It also has a car plug-in here for charging USB-C devices, and there is one in the front as well. The front has two USB-C cords, and the middle of the car has one. This allows me to keep our devices, including the car starter, charged on long trips.

In addition to the car starter, car jack, and medkit, my car contains a Sacred Firemaking kit which lives in the trunk. This kit is contained in a leather bag that has belt loops and is lightweight. It comes complete with tinder, a flint and steel, ferro rod, lighter, and both conventional and waterproof matches. The car has a log or two in its trunk so if I need to make a decent fire quick I have the means to. A separate metal ammo crate holds extra firemaking and firekeeping supplies, including twine and wood shavings that could make good tinder, candles, various herb offerings, and a book or two of matches. With an axe in the trunk there would be no question that I could easily get a decent-sized fire going at a few moments’ notice.

The trunk holds a shoulder bag with a hardy survival guide, an orange bandana with various guides to using it in emergencies printed on it, a clip-on crank light and charger, its own separate small firekit, a change of socks, paracord, and a multitool. If, for some reason, I needed to get out of the car with one bag this would be like a mini-BOB for it. In such a case I might quickly toss my shoes off and put on the Muckboots I typically carry in the trunk for going to Crossing Hedgerows. They are quite warm, rated for about -40°F, and hardy. They are also quite waterproof, having waded through Crossing Hedgerow’s stream more than a few times in them without issue, and decent in a forest hike.

There are two water carriers in the trunk. One is a red and white insulated container which can hold at least two liters. The other is a Lifestraw water bottle. The Lifestraw water bottle can filter most contaminants and provide fresh water in most any source I could find. In a pinch I could transfer from one to the other without having to light a fire, and have good potable water in short order.

So far as food goes, I keep at least a pack of ramen in the car so if I or anyone else needs to grab a bite it is available. I will be restocking it with things like Clif bars, and other small items that store well and can be broken up into smaller packs or stuffed into pockets. It is a balance between what can fill us up in an emergency, what stores well, and what can easily be carried. Because of wild temperature fluctuations throughout the year packing canned foods is a bad idea. My objective with any food I store in the car is that it can survive in it long-term and I do not have to do much with it to prep it.

Spiritual EDC in the car includes at least one or two sacred pipes that I have used to smoke offerings and commune with vaettir. Tobacco, mugwort, and chamomile, among the sacred herbs I offer, are stored in a big leather bag in the trunk that holds my Wildwood Tarot, Soul Map, and a collection of taufr and other spiritual objects. This black leather bag holds offering mugs, sacred knives, and different stones I have worked with over the years. It also holds a variety of salts, dirts, and its own firemaking kit. Finally, it holds several representations of Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.

Designing EDC in Community

Something not often remarked on is designing EDC in community with one another. If you are involved with community members who are interested in prep it can be well worth your while to talk on the subject. You may have a few fixed items, such as the clothes you wear and your wallet, and beyond that the beauty of approaching things with EDC in mind is how adaptable you can really be. Particularly if you are nesting partners or live in the same neighborhood, collaborating on EDC can help alleviate stress or provide new insights, especially since your fellow community members likely have different skillsets. While mindset behind designing an EDC is different from a BOB, both preps are still made with SHTF scenarios in mind. Designing an EDC with community members can help spread out the stress and make things easier if a SHTF scenario hits.

In my case, having another person able and willing to carry more can make SHTF scenarios easier to bear. Since I cannot carry firemaking or water purification supplies on my person or into work, if someone else can, that shores up the lack of supplies I have on me. I can give Gebo by carrying more long-term stable food and drink powders as part of my EDC so they do not have to carry as much of that. If they are skilled at sigils they could carry more paper/pens to make use of that, and I could carry more offerings. The work that can be done together is far more versatile and adaptable than going it alone and trying to plan for all scenarios. So, if you can, I highly recommend partering with community members no matter the prep at hand.

EDC Changes

Over the years, like a lot of folks who have different EDC for different reasons, my spiritual EDC has changed quite a bit. For one, things used to be a lot less organized. For another, I had only one firemaking kit and did not do much in the way of backups. It took me several years until I included a basic medkit and car starter in the car. My big black leather bag that lives in the trunk now used to be my primary spiritwork bag. Now, that bag is a smaller leather shoulder bag that contains the absolute essentials to my spiritwork. The big black leather bag is a kind of useful hold-all for anything I may need or want to have so all the spiritual EDC has a place to be that is safe, tough, and if needed, can be thrown over the shoulder and taken.

It may seem now that I have an overabundance of firemaking kits. I have owned a lot of lighters over the years, both disposable and refillable. I know how easy it is to forget that the lighter is out of fuel or the matchbook is empty. Far better to have a bunch of quick firemaking kits, whether it is flint and steel, ferro rods, or both, than to only rely on lighters or matches, and not be able to make a fire when needed. Given my years of Sacred Firetending and how quick the weather can turn, I appreciate having backups to tinder and logs. It is not fun getting wet materials to light.

That all said, an EDC is not meant to handle every scenario that comes at us, no more than a BOB or even a home is. Preps are meant to help us deal with situations that are most likely to happen. I am not actively prepping for an EMP strike because it is not likely to happen here. Tornadoes, winter storms, power outages, interruptions to supply chains, and civil unrest are far more likely where I live. So, my EDC reflects that.

The spiritual aspects of EDCs should be the same way: we may have fixed things that we need in our EDC to get us through the day, and beyond that having flexibility in what we carry with us allows us to better approach things. That flexibility leaves us in a better position to handle the challenges life throws at us. So, do not be afraid to change things up. Maybe today you need gentler energy, and carrying a small disk with Berkana woodburnt into it, and asking the Rune to help you, can help there. Maybe you need to connect less with certain Ancestors, so taking Their representations out of your pocket bag and placing it with the Ancestor stalli (indoor altar) is ideal. Something as simple as asking the local landvaettir to help you keep safe or ground and center, asking Them to help you find a stone to carry, and making an offering when you find it can be a great help.

It is a good thing to evaluate where we are now and again, and adjust things to our needs. It is a good thing to ask community members to look at our preps, and take their advice to heart. It is a good thing to ask the Ginnreginn for help and guidance, and adjusting ourselves and our EDC to match it. Being open to change, and willing to do it, is a powerful thing.

When we move into our new house we will be reevaluating all our various preps to align with our new living situation. I expect most of my EDCs will stay the same, but I have wanted to reorganize everything and put it together in a more coherent way where everything has a place. You might find over time you do this as well. It’s a kind of grounding and centering for your prep practice. After all, sometimes we forget we packed something away. Sometimes our needs for EDC change, or our mindset behind having a piece of gear is not relevant anymore. Sometimes we just get better gear or more efficient ways of stowing it. However we design them, EDCs should be adaptable, changing with us as we need them.

My mindset as a Heathen prepper is hospitality and service. Hospitality is practiced by both host and guest. So, prepping is not only to those who can find themselves at my door. By prepping, I am working as a guest to lift stress on a host in a SHTF scenario, just as I am working to help alleviate stress to those who find themselves as my guest. EDC, with the Ginnreginn and my Heathen values and spiritual work firmly in mind, allows me to face each day as prepared as I can be. By prepping in a wholistic way I serve the Ginnreginn, my family, my tribe, and my communities more efficiently, and in good Gebo.

Seiðr Song

Rocking, rocking

It begins small

In the seed, in the seiðr

It erupts from below

The power unleashed

In the seed, in the seiðr

It builds up through the middle

The being grows

From the seed, from the seiðr

It extends to the Worlds

The hamr is strong

From the seed, from the seiðr

It bears fruit to the Worlds

The megin is mighty

From the seed, from the seiðr

Its fruit leaves seeds

The cycle renews

From the seed, from the seiðr

Patron Topic 54: The Calling of Many Paths

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

From Maleck comes this topic:

“How to handle the calling of different paths at once, especially initiated or mystery traditions. It’s often the case that people will be called to initiate into/carry more than one tradition or path at once.”

This is where divination is hugely important. Perhaps more than any other time, when it comes to whether or not a person should initiate into a given mystery, practice, Etc divination provides the way forward. It is the way by which we commune with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. It is how we have an active conversation, not only between the Ginnreginn of a given mystery, practice Etc, but with those we already hold. It is also how we have an active conversation between these Ginnreginn.

If you are being called to multiple paths at once you’ll likely have to negotiate at least some territory, such as how to handle obligations, holidays, what were things you can do with in a given system, what taboos you might hold, what things you may or may not be able to do in terms of things that you want to do. There’s really no way across the board to determine this. It is deeply dependent on each initiate and the particular requirements of each path. Especially if you’re coming into a tradition or practice, a mystery or a pathway that has been established, the expectation is on you to be able to hold to them and the obligations, requirements, and responsibilities within that way. The long story short is whether or not you’re establishing a new tradition, mystery, etc or not, generally you are bending to the requirements of that tradition, mystery, Etc, and not the other way around.

You need to figure out whether or not the various mystery Traditions are going to conflict with the current relationships you have. If you’re interested in a mystery where the god in question has an active ongoing conflict, which is something you as a follower engage in alongside them once you initiate, you need to weigh your current initiations and obligations against it. It may be with divination you can figure out ways to work with, or to avoid conflict with where you are, but it is worth understanding that there are certain relationships that might close or be diminished in the face of an initiation.

You need to determine, if you can early on, whether or not you can handle the requirements and responsibilities of the given mystery tradition, let alone walking multiple problems at once. It might be that your desire to walk multiple paths will bring conflict with one or other. You have to determine whether or not you can meet the requirements, and that you can hold to the particular path obligations within a given mystery or initiation. Far better to determine that a path is not for you then to get years into a teaching, mystery, path, etc, and find out that you cannot do this anymore, and that you have set yourself up for heartache, loss, or more than you/your loved ones can handle.

To that point, it is hugely important that if you have loved ones, whether family or close friends, community and so on, that you talk with them about these things. Your initiation and your ongoing work before, during, and after it, can bring you into serious conflict depending on what the requirements are and how they end up shaking out. This is why figuring out as much as you can in pre-initiation negotiation and conversation is vital. You need to go into the situation with your eyes fully open and rose-colored glasses completely off. It may be that if you follow a given path or tradition long enough you may have to give up things that your family needs from you in order to live well, let alone live comfortably. If you were the sole breadwinner and your path requires you at some point to engage in intentional poverty that will be a big problem. So, part of figuring out if you’re going to initiate or enter into a mystery or path is whether or not your loved ones can afford for you to engage in it, and if what you would be giving up or doing would be worth it to them as well. Now, at the end of the day you have to weigh this and what you are called to, so your obligations, and the way you feel are going to be different depending on your circumstances. In my case, I have a wife and children that depend on my primary source of income and its benefits. If, for some reason, I was called into a path where I had to give up my day job that would be a problem, and I would be far less likely to initiate or follow it. We simply cannot afford that.

Unless you’re being called into a mystery, tradition, practice, or path where refusal is a threat to your ongoing physical, mental, and/or spiritual well-being, and I would call this particular calling rare, then you have the ability to refuse. Even if refusal threatens your well-being in some fashion, you still retain the right to refuse. You just have to deal with the consequences. For some of us we are called to service, and whatever else we wanted to do is nice, but there is work to be done and it’s ours to do. Even so, some folks still refuse to call the service, and accept the consequences of that refusal. It is an option.

Once you figure out that you can meet the obligations of the given mystery, tradition, Etc and you engage in them, then you need to buckle down and do the work. Whatever the work is, depending on the particular requirements to meet the initiation, to engage in the practice, whatever is required you need to actually do it. If you’re going to engage in multiple paths at once you need to do the work of them. I would say in a way you need to take more care than a person engaging in just one path, because you need to be aware whether or not what do you do for one path translates to the other. Perhaps you can do your cleansing work of two paths together in the same rite, perhaps you have to do them separate. Maybe you can do your prayers all together at once, or maybe you have to do them at separate times, and really schedule out your life from there.

Speaking of scheduling, you may need to develop ways of interfacing between your paths so that you can get all of your work done. To that end I highly recommend getting familiar with the Google Calendar and similar apps. Between Google Calendar and Google Keep these have been life-saving and transforming tools for me. The spirit work I do tends to be scheduled well in advance, so that both I and my family know what kind of time I have coming up. This is why I release my monthly reminders a few days before the new month: so folks can get topics, Q&As, and spiritwork requests to me.

I am very lucky in that the initiation work that I have done as a Heathen spiritworker and as an initiate of the Toys of Dionysos have not conflicted with each other. If I had to choose between one or the other, I already know it would be the Heathen spiritwork. Knowing this, I have a clear hierarchy of obligations between various Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, and a clear distinction between what paths and requirements are non-negotiable to my life, and will have the greatest bearing on it. Rather than taking time away from one another, both paths have built on the experiences of one another. Sometimes folks will have that happen, and it is my fervent hope this happens with more folks than it does not. These can make our experiences more rich because we can apply lessons we’ve already learned, deepening our understanding and experiences from them.

Walk into a given initiation, path, mystery, etc with as much information as you can possibly get. Do as much preliminary divination as you are capable of, ask folks who are already in the path as much as you can if possible, and talk with your Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and community members. Especially if you were initiating into many paths do as much research as you can, and be sure of what you do and do not want to sign up for. Be sure of what you were willing and are not willing to give up in order to follow a single path, let alone many. Negotiate within the bounds of what is yours to negotiate if you are going to follow a path. Be very clear on what obligations, responsibilities, and work is yours, and be very clear on what is other people’s.

Be very clear if you are initiating into a path with spiritual specialists like priests, spiritworkers, or any other hierarchy, what your role is, and what their role is. Is the spiritual specialist a container of the mystery or merely a transmitter? Is the spiritual specialist expected to take on certain roles within your training, or up to a certain point are they to provide guidance of a kind? If so what are their obligations to you, and what are your obligations to them? Are you willing to accept these agreed upon upfront? If the spiritual specialist is at all vague about this I would reconsider that spiritual specialist, and perhaps any teachings, initiation, etc they purport to have. They should be able to tell you in clear language what their role is, what they do, and what their obligations are to you and vice versa.

If you are initiating on your own, you need to be especially careful that you are not crossing boundaries by trying to initiate it with system you are unqualified to enter. This is, of course, part of doing your own research and due diligence, but it’s worth repeating here. If initiating on your own, then divination and checking in with peers, colleagues, spiritual specialist, and trusted members of your communities is vital. If you are doing all your own divination, all your own preparation work, you could end up hurting yourself, or overextending yourself unnecessarily. Having a spiritual support network, especially for new initiations and paths is needed. Far better for you to be over cautious than not, especially because you might be the first person to see different mysteries and traditions interacting in this brand-new way. Walking carefully can be a huge bonus for anybody following after you because you have blazed this trail successfully and avoided enough pitfalls to spare people coming after you a lot of hurt.

Whatever your calling, take yourself and your paths seriously enough to fully consider the implications of walking them together. Think hard about what obligations and complications can come out of each. Be careful and considerate to the paths, your communities, your loved ones, and yourself. Do the as much as research, divination, and negotiation as you can. If you accept multiple paths, then do your best to walk them well. Good luck and blessings to you.

Cutting Ties Pt. 2

There are two parts to this. The first is a copy of the email I sent to Galina Krasskova and Sannion so that everyone knows what I have said and there is no mistaking my stance on things.

The second, this post, is my reflections on things.

I am going to ask everyone who is going to comment to fully read these posts first. Know that I do not delete posts unless they are spam. I also make frequent backups of this blog. None of the conclusions I have reached or the actions I have taken or will be taking in the future were arrived at with haste. If anything, this has been a long time coming where I have ignored my internal compass for too long, and I have hit my limit. Now, on to Part 2.

It has been a year since I reached this decision, and I have not regretted my decision to cut ties whatsoever. It does not feel like a year, though. It feels like a lifetime ago.

Looking back, if I regret anything, it is that it took me this long to make the choice to cut ties. In the last few years I knew them, both besmirched anyone even a bit to the left of them, which is fairly far right. For awhile I thought perhaps they were both centrist. In my early friendship with her, Galina and I held a lot of similar views in regards to universal healthcare, the right of a woman to choose, civil rights for LGBTQIA+ folks, civil rights for BIPOC, and on many other issues. Towards the end of our relationship I had a sinking feeling when they both made fun of or criticized pronouns, particularly the use of they and the use of differing pronouns such as that of Spivak, or neo-pronouns. Likewise to their denigration of the Left in general, Black Lives Matter, and social justice in general.

There were a great many red flags that I ignored for a long while. Their insistence that the Gods were either above political machinations, something I have only ever heard when folks want you to ignore the political implications of their positions, or the over-focus on miasma were warning signs. Something Galina said towards the beginning of our relationship, and that I still hold quite true, is that polytheism itself is revolutionary. It is. To then insist, especially as loudly as she and Sannion did, that the Gods are “above” politics, is to completely ignore the history of how enmeshed the Gods have been in them, and quite firmly are. If someone insists that the Gods are above politics, do not just question it. Demand they explain themselves. While a given God or Goddess is not likely a Republican or Democrat, a socialist or a capitalist Themselves, polytheism, and the Gods from whom these religions are devoted to and rise from, have definite leanings, if not views.

The over-focus on miasma is something that I should have understood as a red flag. It is one thing to wish to be clean, but to insist on it, in all areas? It becomes Puritanical. Taken to the extreme it becomes the fascist idea of rooting out all that is unclean and purging it. This is different from being sure to cleanse oneself before ritual, before divination, before hearth cultus, and so on. The focus on miasma and cleansing it that marked their writing before I cut them out of my life had, at that point, reached something of a fever pitch. Ironic, considering that Sannion picked up and wore one of the most contaminated symbols he could possibly have, and that Galina then defended this decision.

There were a lot of red flags otherwise. Red flags that I set aside, and ignored my own internal compass on. I gave passes when I should not have. To be sure, I argued with Galina and Sannion in private, especially with regards to how they spoke about Black Lives Matter, their hatred towards Islam, antifa, and other subjects. I could have and should have been much more public in my pushback. I thought, given we were colleagues and friends, and I was initiated under both of them, that maybe I had more pull with them than what I did. Had I pushed back earlier the letter I wrote would have been different, and written much earlier. I cannot undo the choices I made that led me ignoring my internal struggle with their rhetoric and harm, nor the choices that led me to separating from them in the way I did.

I cannot tell you what has happened to either of them in the interim beyond a few scant details, and I have no big desire to hear, read, or delve into gossip about them nor to be updated on them. I have avoided their media presences, blocked every method of contact, and have not written or spoke about them much until this post. I needed the time to grieve as they are both dead to me, whatever their physical status is.

This amount of separation has given me time to think on Galina’s role in my life as a Heathen. She came into my life not too long after I became a Heathen. At the time there was a fierce divide in the Heathens and Heathen communities I encountered between folks who were more experiential and those who weighed everything by “The Lore”. It was a fierce one too, one I found fairly inhospitable as a good chunk of the latter were composed of ‘blood and soil’ types, Neo-Nazis, and white supremacists. Galina’s books at the time, and Raven Kaldera’s too, opened up my Heathen exploration to experiences with the Gods in dynamic and powerful ways that still affect me to this day.

When I cut Galina and Sannion out of my life I questioned everything. I asked questions like “Is everything I experienced complete and total bullshit? Do I actually have skill with the Runes? Am I really an Odinsson? Am I a spiritworker? Am I a good Heathen?”

Again and again I parsed those questions and those like them, sometimes at intrusive times. They would pop up when I was trying to sleep or relax. When I was in the shower, about to pray, before divination sessions. I could put them aside for awhile, and they would still be there. Eventually, I came to my understanding in conversation with dear friends and in self-reflection.

Galina was my Elder, mentor, and for most of the relationship after the first four years or so, a colleague to me. We knew each other since about 2007. However, she was not the container of my relationships with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. She was a bridge in them, but she did not contain them. She did not make me a spiritworker any more than she made me a child of Odin. Being a child of Odin was a revelation I came to well before I met her, and being a spiritworker is something I have always felt called to in some fashion or another. Whether it was through her, another teacher, or just my interactions with the Ginnreginn I was likely going to be doing something like what I am now whatever else I did. It is clear from my experiences with and feedback from others that I am a good Heathen, a skilled spiritworker, and skilled in working with the Runes. Looking over my experiences, and the effects they have had on others, most of what I experienced as Galina’s apprentice, student, and colleague was genuine. I have enough people in my life who live genuine, good lives who were willing to call me on my bullshit if I were anything else.

The Runes as vaettir, as spirits? It made sense to me, and given the experiences I had of Them before I ran into her work, it hit me like a bolt of lightning. I have no doubt the Runes are vaettir, powerful ones at that. When you cut someone this meaningful to your spiritual journey out of your life, though, you question everything.

Though far less involved than Galina, my experiences and studies with Sannion occupy a similar place. The experiences and initiation I had with the Toys of Dionysos were genuine. The experiences I had with Dionysos were genuine.

Looking back, I think the biggest tragedy between the both of them, and those who have similar stories to them, is the incredible amount of good they could have done. Through their actions they have tainted their work, probably irrevocably. Their work helped provide firm foundations from which others grew. It could have informed many generations of polytheists.

Equally important as the time I have taken to grieve and reflect in the last year is the time I have taken to heal and empower myself. I have kept a regimen of regular cleansing, grounding, centering, and shielding. I partnered with Water in a lot of this work, under guidance from a dear friend and spiritworker. I have done ongoing spiritual work for myself and for others in the community. I have kept up my devotions to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, my Ginnreginn. My ties with my Ginnreginn and communities continues to deepen. The cutting of ties with these two has not dampened my desire to do this Work; if anything, it is invigorated in the face of it. It is clear we need more people public-facing willing to talk about, and especially, to do the Work.

To that end, I will continue to offer my services as a spiritworker, which can be found on my Spiritwork Services page, and through my Patreon. I will keep up my fulfilling work with Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm. I will continue to write here on my blog, which you can support through my Patreon. I will continue to make and hold workshops. I will continue to make videos on Heathenry and other topics on YouTube, and engage with folks on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

I am also working on revamping my first book, my anthology Calling to Our Ancestors. I will be removing everything Galina gave to me for the book. In addition to reformatting it, I will be putting in new work so that the book serves two purposes: as a guide on how to do Ancestor veneration, worship, and work, and as a devotional. It is slow going. After all, it took about 4 years to put this book together the first time, and I have many more irons in the fire now than I did then.

I apologize to my loved ones, my family, my friends, and my community for holding my tongue when I should have spoken out. I apologize to the Heathen, Pagan, and polytheist communities for actively promoting Galina and Sannion’s work over the years. I apologize for defending and going to bat for people I should have recognized as actively harmful and toxic.

I am not who I was. I made my mistakes, and I own them. I will keep on doing the Work that is mine to do. My Work is not here to make amends. My Work is here for the Ginnreginn, and if amends are part of that, then that is what it is here for. All I can hope is that my Work shows my worth and my quality.

The Importance of Being Visible

My arms are covered in Runes and I wear three necklaces, a valknut, a Mjolnir, and a stylized wolf when I am out of the house. What this has done has allowed me to connect with folks wherever I go. They ask questions, they want to know “What do these mean?” Even in the case of folks mistaking my Runes, which are the Elder Futhark, for ancient Hebrew, it is still someone saying “I see this and I want to know more.”

My necklaces and my tattoos are public invitations to have a conversation. I display them for my own reasons, namely as a form of devotion and mindfulness of my relationships with the Ginnreginn. However, I would not have a reason to display them publicly if that were the only reason. I could just as easily carry my valknut, Mjölnir, and wolf necklaces in my spiritwork bag and cover up my tattoos. I wear necklaces, rings, and tattoos to display to others. So that, in some way, what I am is seen. I could just as easily have had the Runes tattooed on my back, my upper arms, or somewhere else easily hidden by clothing. Instead, They asked, and I accepted, that They be tattooed on my lower arms.

Recently, fellow Heathens including Maleck, Snow and Gunny, both of whom are wonderful folks, have talked about aesthetic and how it relates to Heathenry, Heathens, and our place in communities. I can tell you from personal experience that aesthetic can also key into being accessible to others in our communities, both in terms of fellow Heathens and those outside our religious communities. Especially being so outward facing in our aesthetics like this, it allows us to be able to be good and approachable sources of information for those who, otherwise, may not learn about Heathenry or Heathens.

It is also why I tend to stay away from the Vikings TV show aesthetic when it comes to my regular online content. No issue with those who do it as part of their own regular content. However, the aesthetics of the show, and cosplay in general, clash with the Heathenry I want to portray, which is historically-informed and modern. What this does not mean is that I lack for ritual aesthetics, historical Nordic outfits, and only wear t-shirt and shorts to ritual. It just means that everyday wear tends to be my most common worn items because most of my rituals do not require specific ritual wear. My most frequent rituals are hearth cultus, so my ‘ritual wear’ tends to be whatever I have on at home. If I have been working out, doing yard work, or am dirty, I clean up, switch the clothes out, and then do hearth cultus.

Our aesthetics, both what we wear for everyday wear and for ritual, can say a lot about us to ourselves, to the communities we live in, and to our relationship with the Ginnreginn. Perhaps over time as we develop from just religious communities into full-blown cultures we may develop varying ways of dress. However, for the moment, most polytheists blend in to the overculture they are living in.

When we step outside of that blending that is a statement. It can be one for ourselves, our communities, and/or our Ginnreginn, but if we wear something, whether it is our hair, tattoos, or clothes that takes us out of the everyday, it is a statement. It is a powerful act, and a powerful responsibility not only for myself, it is equally so for my family, community, and the Ginnreginn. Even more so than wearing my Valknut or Mjölnir openly, my tattoos have opened a lot of conversational doors that likely would have stayed shut. They are vaettir, power, and magic, embodied in me, a living relationship. They are an invitation to others to conversation, understanding, and wisdom carved into my flesh.

What others will get from conversation prompted by the Runevaettir differs. For a lot of folks I am the first and only open polytheist they have ever met. For some folks this prompts a flood of questions, ranging from “What does that word mean?” to “How can you worship so many?” to “What are the Gods? The Ancestors? The spirits?” For others there is a few moments of contemplation, and then appreciation that lights up their face. For some, fear and apprehension strike their body like lightning, and something about the notion of living ancient Gods, Ancestors who listen and speak with them, and spirits all around absolutely terrifies them. For some, just sharing what these living Beings are opens whole Worlds to them. Others will shrink back.

My body becomes a gateway of conversation. My words become a conduit. My demeanor shares connection. Making the choice to take on the tattoos I have, the Valknut and the Runes, I am not my own, alone; I am also my Gods’, my Ancestors’, my vaettir’s. I am, in a very real sense, a vé walking in the world. That is the importance of being visible.

Patreon Topic 53: Using Tools in Magic and Spiritwork

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

From Maleck comes this topic:

“Can you talk about the use of tools in Magic and spirit work? Pros, cons, appropriate vs inappropriate use?”

Tools can be damned useful -until they get in the way or become an impediment. A hex head screwdriver is only really useful for taking care of hex screws and the like. A claw hammer’s primary purpose is to hit and remove nails from wood pieces. If I try to use a screwdriver to drill a nail it can get the job done, with a great deal more effort, but it likely will not do the job as neatly or as well. A tool becomes a pro so long as it is an asset to the work or working at hand, and a con when it is not. If the only tool I have ever used is a screwdriver then I will need practice to get good at driving nails, but this is a far better use of my time than to get good at driving nails with a screwdriver.

Appropriate tools in magic are those that are useful to the task at hand, do not detract from the working, enhance the working itself by their presence/use, and deliver the best results with appropriate experience and training. Inappropriate tools in magic are those that are not useful to the task at hand, detract from the working, disempower or impede the working itself by their presence/us, and block the best results through overcomplication or by requiring such a high degree of training/work needed to use it that it becomes impractical to work with/use. An appropriate tool for divination could be something like a deck of tarot cards. It could also be used as an appropriate tool for magic.

Let us say you wish to enhance your physical strength, and are doing spellwork to help with this. Now, the first step should be to decide on what exercises or work is appropriate to building your strength. When you select exercises appropriate to your level of skill, understanding, and time, then I would include spiritual work. A simple way to do this with tarot is to combine the imagery in a particular deck with the purpose of a working. In a traditional tarot deck you would work with Strength to this end. If you were to incorporate spiritwork, you might put the card on an altar made specifically for the working as the centerpiece focus, and every time you go to work out you make an offering of water, ask a God or spirit to bless your pre-workout drink, and then go do your exercises. Just working with the tarot alone, perhaps you carry Strength or a copy of the card in your wallet and sing or chant the name three times. Just like reps in a workout routine the chanting builds up your spiritual strength and resolve to do the physical work over time.

It is worth pointing out not every tool need be physical. You can get the effect of ‘reps’ I wrote above regarding Strength by just imagining the card, or even going so far as to incorporate a telesterion working with it. However, I find physical tools tend to have a grounding presence in this world. Not every tool is a tool for grounding excess energies, mind you, but every physical tool grounds the work and working in this world by the act of working with it. It actually pushes us to incorporate more of our souls this way, by not leaving out the lyke, the body, of our souls from spiritual workings. That is a huge pro. It takes it out of ‘upper head’ or thought experimentation. By making gestures with a tool, even a hand, I should be talking actions that carry meaning and add to the work.

An excellent place to talk about the usefulness of tools in magic and spiritwork is the use of staves in seiðr. If I am working with a staff in a seiðr context then the staff occupies a place of invitation, coercion, and/or calling to spirits, as well as directing energies during these and any other magic work that can occur during the seiðr session. Ornamentation, such as metal rings, animal representations, and Runes carved into or attached to the staff can add to its versatility.

The vaettir are not only ‘out there’; with the invitation or compulsion of the staff, They are very much here, perhaps even entering the staff and/or the seiðmaðr. Is the staff strictly speaking necessary for good seiðr work? No, but it helps.

Whether or not a tool is necessary in magic or spiritwork depends on the kind being done. If you are doing sympathetic magic you cannot do it at all without at least one piece of representation for the thing being worked on. Tools are, potentially, both containers and directors of magic and spirits. Staves, distaffs, string, carving tools, weapons, and so much more can not only be a medium for magic, they can be repositories of it. The tools can, themselves, be enlivened by a vaettr or be full of vaettir. Tools can have personal bonds with their owners. Tools can be ongoing conduits of connection between a God, Ancestors, vaettr, and the owner.

Even stripping out every single physical tool from a magical practice and wholly relying on techniques like visualization, song, telesterion/memory palace, and/or astral work, we still use tools. The telesterion/memory palace is a great big damn tool if you think about it. Its original function was to be an imagined mnemonic device, and it has immense spiritual applications. In visualization we still have to use the imagination to link concepts, ideas, and abstraction into more concrete steps and actions. A lot of times visualization uses objects, areas, concepts and the like, that are grounded in our experiences, such as the tree meditation in Trance-portation by Diana Paxson. Our popular culture through Star Trek and Star Wars provides us with examples of what shielding may look like. Likewise, our auditory landscape is shaped by what we put into our minds through our media, and this is true whether the medium are binaural beats, a drumbeat, or something from Heilung.

I think it is pretty hard for us as humans to completely dispose of the idea of tools. They are such a part of our imaginal and personal landscapes that there are very few places I could see where tools themselves would be inappropriate, just inappropriate to a given situation. Perhaps with Pack Magic there is less overt need for physical tools, yet many of the techniques that bring us into better trance states or the like are made easier using tools such as cellphones and headphones.

The biggest con to a tool is it being necessary to the work you want to do, magical or spiritual, and/or not being able to get it or use it effectively. The pro, though, is our tools can make every aspect of the work we have to do easier, more effective, and more thorough. The less work my hugr or hamr has to do, the more I can concentrate on doing the work rather than setting up for it.

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 50: For the Runevaettir

If want to submit a request for a prayer, poem, or song to be written to you privately or to be posted on this blog or my Patreon for a God, Ancestor, or spirit, sign up for the Ansuz and above level here on my Patreon.

This request was made by Maleck for the Runevaettir.


Sounds

Letters

Concepts

Meaning

Magic

Spirits

From the Ginnungagap You screamed, sang, called

From the Ginnungagap You resounded, crowed, howled

From the Ginnungagap You whispered, breathed, spoke

By sacrifice, You were brought into the Worlds

By sacrifice, You allied with the Gallows God

By sacrifice, You ally with us

Each a sound, resonating with power

Each a sound, shuddering with strength

Each a sound, surging with connection

Each a letter, teaching the tongue

Each a letter, building up knowledge

Each a letter, carrying wisdom

Each a concept, bearing cultures’ weight

Each a concept, keeping memories

Each a concept, transmitting understanding

Each a meaning, guarding mysteries

Each a meaning, teaching the initiated

Each a meaning, deepening the depths

Each one magic, giving Ginnungagap form

Each one magic, bringing might to action

Each one magic, flowing into being

Each a spirit, knowing Urðr’s ways

Each a spirit, giving gift for gift

Each a spirit, touching our own

Runevaettir, I hear You

Runevaettir, I see You

Runevaettir, I understand You

Runevaettir, I know You

Runevaettir, I cast You

Runevaettir, I hail You

Patreon Topic 51: On The Ethical Use of Magic

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

From Maleck comes this topic:

“The ethical use of magic.”

The problem with saying “the” at all, especially in the use of such a thing as versatile and nebulous as magic, is that almost any ethical system can be used to justify the use, or the lack of use, of magic. Is your personal philosophy utilitarian? Then the question of “Should I use magic?” comes down to “Will the use of magic do the most good or do the least amount of harm to myself and others?” Likewise, “Should I use magic?” can also be answered by “Will the lack of my use of magic do the most good or the least amount of harm to myself and others?”

Is your personal philosophy based on the common good? Then some of the questions to ask may be “Whether or not my intention is good, will the use of magic cause undue harm to others/society?” and “Whether or not my intention is good, will the use of magic cause the effect that I am seeking and help others/society?”

Is  your personal philosophy virtue ethics? Then the question of “Should I use magic?” comes down to whether or not it is in line with the particular virtues of your virtue ethics to do so.

There is no singular answer to whether the use of magic is ethical, good, or not, because there is no singular ethic that governs magic as a whole. Being a polytheist, I believe that different Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir can and do subscribe to different ethical approaches. Likewise, different polytheist religions, and then adherents within them, can have different ethics systems, and different systems of understanding and deciding what an ethical use of magic is. Rather than give an exhaustive overview of different ethic systems and their approach to magic, I would rather look at what magic is and does, and from there talk about my own approach.

This took me the better part of a month to write, and I want to say how much I appreciate my úlfkyn, Maleck, here. You are a right bastard and a child-of-a-bitch.

What is Magic?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines magic as:

1 The power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.

“Magic: Definition by Lexcico.” Magic: Definition of MAGIC by Oxford, Oxford, 2021, www.lexico.com/definition/magic

The short version of Aleister Crowley’s definition is:

Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.

Crowley, A. (2017, January 22). Chapter I: What is Magick? Magick Without Tears – The Libri of Aleister Crowley – Hermetic Library. https://hermetic.com/crowley/magick-without-tears/mwt_01.

My own could best be summarized as “Changing the weaving or carving of Urðr to an end.” Even simpler “Weaving or carving Urðr to an end.” works. Whether through the application of sympathetic magic, eg the smashing or cutting of a fascimile of a deer with an arrow in order to succesfully hunt the deer, the use of seiðr to bring vaettir to me so we can work on a project, or through galdr with Runes to protect a person, place, or thing, magic seeks to change how things were, are, or will be. I understand magic as natural, accessible to a wide variety of Beings besides ourselves.

Routes to Magic

Magic itself, as I understand it, is not the singular province of any one class, group, culture, tradition, political party, religion, etc. There may be forms of magic, routes to it, that are closed to outsiders, and those boundaries should be respected for many reasons. There may be understandings of magic that do not transend the bounds of a given culture, eg my own definition of magic is specific to Heathenry and may not translate well to others even though it is not closed. Even within open routes of magic there still may be particular routes inside that are closed to folks unless you are brought into or initiate into a mystery, tradition, or teachings with a group of people, culture, or certain Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits.

The closed routes to magic are often closed for the safety and security of the route itself, and the safety and security of practitioners. This is true both in terms of these closed routes often being in traditions and cultures that were marginalized, persecuted, and/or the victims of genocide, and in terms of the effects the Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and/or the effects of the magic itself can have on the practitioner.

Routes to magic are often linked to specific religions and worldviews. Heathen conceptions of what magic is, looks like, how it is done, and the effects that are expected from certain forms of magic conform to what we read about, experience, and practice within our communities. Seiðr, spá, and Runework are all contained within a Heathen worldview and only make coherent sense within it.

Even forms of magic that are said to be ‘without tradition’ often conform to a worldview, eg Chaos Magic itself as it has come about could be said to be only possible within a post-modernist worldview, as most any other form of magic previous has been linked to a cultural worldview. Unmoored as it is from a single worldview as such, and relying more on the questions around “What does this do? Does it work? Can I replicate this result?”, Chaos Magic is one of the most accessible and easily misunderstood ways of working with magic and in/between/across magical systems.

Magic is Power

Let us be clear: when we ask questions around the use of magic we are asking questions around the use of power. Magic is power. The power to get things done. The power to use, and then, enforce your Will. When we take this understanding and apply it to cultures and traditions to whom a person does not belong, has no standing to partake in, and is an outsider, what a person who is insisting on access or using these closed routes ultimately wants to do is steal power from other cultures, traditions, people, and their Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits. There are plenty of accessible routes to power by other means, and where you have a far less likelihood of pissing off entire groups of Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and/or communities by trying to take from what you have no right to. This is not even an ethical argument on my part, but a practical one -if what you want is access to power with lower risk to yourself there are plenty of routes in order to study, practice, and effectively use magic that involve far less risk.

Magic is power, and one of the most readily accessible forms in the modern day are sigils and iconography. This is most readily apparent within the advertising industry. Disney, Nike, and McDonald’s feature such powerful figures here that not only are their symbols ubiquitious, they are immediately understood across cultures and can trigger responses in their targets on sight. Especially so since Disney has effectively swallowed entire sections of culture, namely fairy tales and mythologies, as part of its animated features. Jingles and similar pieces of music serve this function as well on an auditory level. This is why I say access to magic is open to any class. Doing magic, gaining and retaining power through it, is accessible to anyone, and few things are quite as powerful as maintaining a stranglehold on the imagination.

Mere sigils and icons are not enough, though. Anyone can design a sigil, draw an icon, or make a logo. Part of what makes these corporate giants so powerful is that they tap into, interact with, and use as fuel the minds that they touch, whether through the imagination or impulses. People will stay up late into the night waiting for the next Disney/Marvel episode to drop, or stay up and shuck out hundreds of dollars on a rare line of shoes from Nike. It is magic that works out handsomely for the companies that know how to work well with it.

Contrasting Religious and Spiritually-Based Magic with Corporate Magic

We have folks of all kinds practicing magic handed down to them, being initiated into traditions and cultures’ magical traditions, or magic being rediscovered, revived, or made new from personal experiences and/or experimentation. Are they somehow less powerful than the magic of Disney? In a sense, yes. However, this is rather like comparing apples to oranges unless you zero in on exactly what it is that Disney’s magic, or any other company, is aiming for.

Disney has a cultural cache and wields power in our society that religious-based magic, for instance, modern Rune magic, does not. However, Disney is not trying to do what Rune magic does, and, generally speaking, Rune magic is not trying to do what Disney does. What Disney does very well is to make good on entertainment and real estate investments, all of which is empowered by the Disney logo, and the collective weight of ‘Disney magic’ they have harvested very carefully over the years through multiple generations. They do this in order to make money, exercise power, and shape law and the markets they are involved with through these means. It is little wonder that Steam Boat Willy’s Mickey Mouse still has not entered public domain with the amount of power they wield.

Religion and spirituality-based magic have different roots they are growing and operating from. Rune magic itself in the Heathen worldview is working with the forces of the cosmos to achieve results through a variety of ways. Some folks are working with the Runes to talk with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir through divination. Some folks are working with the Runes for their own ends, such as healing, protection, or personal empowerment. These methods are effective for these things in part because the effects the particular operant is aiming for involve a lot fewer spheres of influence they need to control for, and Runeworkers are people whereas Disney as a whole is a gigantic corporation. Disney has a hell of a lot of ability to flex power because of this, and yet, because of it structure and how it operates within society, in some ways it has a limited scope within which it can compared to the average operant. Granted, an operant has to take care of their daily needs and find time between working, eating, and sleeping to devote time to honing their skills and then doing magic. However, an operant’s magic can be quite detailed and beautiful. Whether intricate, or simple, an operant’s magic it can be effectivein addressing a range of needs and wants, human and otherwise.

Disney and other corporations’ magic, by contrast, is fairly crude, easy to replicate, and is maintained by staff across tens of divisions involving tens of thousands of people. Corporate magic is employed to build up the bottom line at the cost of all else. Unlike most magic, corporate magic’s aim is incredibly shallow. A story by Disney might bring up a lot of feelings, and it may even cause you to question yourself or bring new light to your life. Frozen 2 was a good story, and one that happens to align with many of my values. In the end Disney is selling a product whether it is to you or investors. The magic is used to get you to buy the Disney+ subscription, or the ticket to Disneyland and increase their share price, not to bring you that experience. I say this as someone who has Disney+, enjoys a lot of their movies and associated products. However, I am very clear and understanding that while I do enjoy the stories, movies, etc they produce, each of these is, in the end, a product. The experience is incidental. If they could sell you a product without that experience that costs millions to produce and still make the same amount of money they would do it. Disney and its magic does not exist to make you feel, do, or experience anything -it is a route to making money, and in order to do so they have to provide at least adequate if not good experiences for the fields they are in.

This is among many areas where Heathen magic is very different from corporate magic. Heathen magic is rooted in the understanding that we are all, the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, together in Urðr, and that we are co-creating the weaving/carving of that creation as it was/is/will be woven/carved. Engaging in the use of magic, then, is taking an active hand in the weaving/carving whether by our own hand alone or in concert with others’.

In Heathenry magical power, and its gathering, its maintenance, and its use, is seen through a variety of lenses. For certain forms of magic, such as Runework or gandir, gathering power is gaining a number of good, working relationships with vaettir. It is maintained by keeping these relationships well. It can be used to gather information, to harm another, to defend oneself, or most anything else the vaettir will align with the operant on. For others, such as hamfara, gathering power is getting to know and work with your hamr until you can be confident to get to and from where you want to go. Maintaining it can be dedicated time each day to engaging with your hamr. You can use it for the same things as in the example with gandir, and in some cases it may be more effective for you since you are traveling in spirit form to do it. Still, other forms of magic can see gathering power as bringing together different herbs, stones, furs/skins, and a needle together to make a pouch for protection. Maintaining the magical power may be to occasionally changing out, replacing, or adding herbs, stones, or animal pieces.

Commonalities in Heathen Worldviews on Magic

An ethical core to Heathenry would imply there is an ethical framework that fits all of Heathenry. While individual Heathens and even groups may have their own preference, there is no single one that fits. What is common to all Heathens is a worship of and respect for many Gods, Ancestors, and spirits. This animist and polytheist worldview underpins everything within Heathenry, from our relationships with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, to how we treat each other, to how we live. Accordingly, this affects how we use our magic as well.

Some Heathens leave magic entirely alone, some do a little bit here or there, some leave entire branches of magic to experts, some study it as a curiosity, and others use or work with it. What is common to all of us is a respect for it as a practice, a way of interacting with, working with, impacting, and manipulating Urðr/Wyrd.

What are commonalities in how Heathens employ magic?

We use magic for many of the same reasons humans have used magic for time out of mind. We use magic to protect ourselves, whether from harmful spirits, other humans, disaster, or sickness. We use magic to give ourselves a leg up on our competition, whether enhancing our abilities or reducing/harming another’s. We use magic to help ourselves, our neighbors, our communities to keep healthy and to heal in physical, mental, and spiritual ways. We use magic to find, take, maintain, build, and use power in a variety of forms. We use magic to build, destroy, transfer, or use luck. We use magic to find, discover, uncover, reveal, or be shown information.

Because so many of us are reconstructing, recovering, rediscovering, experiencing, and developing ways of interacting with and using magic, there are going to be far more differences on how we experience, understanding, and use it than we will have commonalities between us. It is hard to have common practice when the religious movement got started in America back in the late 60s.

Almost every Heathen I know that works with or uses magic is doing so alongside our Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, so even if we find common threads between us a lot of the particular are likely to look different. An example: Cat Heath’s excellent Elves, Witches, and Gods, and my own understanding and experience of seiðr are close enough that everything she writes about translates well to my own experiences. Morgan Daimler called the book essential, and I agree. There are few sources for learning it as well written or well-sourced like this. and were I to have to learn seiðr all over again her book would be among those I would first want to reference and work through. However, I do not connect well at all with fiber arts and cannot spin well, so a good chunk of her book does not ‘click’ with me. My experience of Freyja teaching me seiðr in the ways I experienced are not inherently better or more valid than Heath’s. What and how Freyja taught me just ‘clicked’ better for me, my needs, and where I was when She taught me In the years since I was first taught the work those teachings have continued to serve well.

Developing Heathen Ethical Frameworks of Magic

Rather than presenting ‘the’ Heathen ethical framework of magic I think it is far more interesting to ask questions about what ethical frameworks may look like and push folks to develop their own. I know what my ethical framework looks like, and I have given some insights into it here. What I cannot tell you is what your own looks like. Perhaps you are an Anglo-Saxon Heathen and the kinds of magic you work with are different, or the entities that you can trust to partner in that work are wholly different. Perhaps you are also a primarily Norse/Icelandic Heathen in your culture background and take different cues than I do from the sacred stories we have. Perhaps your experiences with the Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits have given you different insights than my own.

I would far rather ask questions and maybe be a whetstone to sharpen your own ethical senses on, even if you vehemently disagree with me. A simple question: is cursing ethical?

What does it do? How well does it do it? Are there more effective means of achieving the result? Are there less effective means of achieving the result? This line of questioning may give rise to the idea that I am a consequentialist, and when it comes down to it that is accurate. I care less about the virtues involved with the use of magic than I do about whether or not it works to the end I employ it. Perhaps your own view of the role and use of magic is different. I do not consider this to be inherently better or worse than my own, it is just a different perspective. So, how do we develop these?

Taking Ethical Cues from Cosmology and Myth

What does a given Heathen cosmology and its myths have to say about magic and the use of magic? Is magic wild, dangerous, and/or unpredictable? Is it only the province of wild Gods, dangerous spirits, and/or can anyone learn it?

What do the stories have to say about how magic functions? Is there a cause and effect to it? Is magic a living Being unto Itself, or is it part of everything? Is it both, or neither? What does this imply about the use of magic and the forms it takes? What does it mean to take up and to use magic in these stories?

Are there examples of humans employing magic, and if so, how are these framed? Who is doing the framing, eg is this a Christian perspective? What can we derive from the sources that are definitely informed by Christian bias?

Do concepts around magic have intersection with certain Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits? If so, what does it say that these Beings teach, initiate folks into, and/or govern the forms that magic can take? Are there ethical frameworks built into magic as it exists within the cosmology and myths?

Taking Ethical Cues from Direct Interaction with Gods, Ancestors, and Spirits

What does magic mean to your relationship with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits? How does this impact your view of what magic does, how it interacts with the Worlds? Do the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits share the same ethical guides or do They each have Their own?

Does it change your relationship with the Ginnreginn when you hit a certain level of proficiency in magic or with a certain kind? What about your relationships with others in your community through that relationship and its growth/change in learning and experiencing magic?

Do certain Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits impart some of their viewpoint when teaching magic, and if so, in order to learn a kind of it, will you have to align your ethics or can you still learn it and keep your view on things? Are you willing to set aside your ethical framework to learn, to take on, and to use magic? If you are unwilling, what forms of magic might you bar yourself from learning or using? What changes are you willing to take on in order to learn, experience, or develop your work with magic? What are your priorities and how might they change?

Taking Ethical Cues from Heathen Virtues

What is a virtue? What are Heathen virtues? Are they altogether different from other polytheist virtues? Are they altogether different from non-religious virtue ethics systems? What is most important to a Heathen? Does magic comport with the virtues as you have explored them? Is magic itself or its use virtuous?

Is there flexibility within Heathen virtues, or are these to be solid, unmoving positions from which one’s life is lived? Must there be strict means of using magic or its use becomes without virtue? Is there flexibility in using magic that retains the integrity of virtue?

Are certain forms of magic more or less virtuous? If so, what makes them so? If not, why? Is it ethical to use magic, broadly speaking? If it is, are there occasions where using magic may be out of alignment with Heathen virtues? Would it be unethical from a virtuous perspective to not use magic in the furtherance of a virtue? What would the ideal virtuous operant look like in Heathenry? Would would its opposite be?

Comparing and Contrasting

I could go on at length asking questions of different ethical frameworks and how they may or may not apply to Heathenry for some time and still only get so far. So, I am going to explore my own approach to magic. While I definitely have my own perspective on things, rather than swing you to my point of view, my hope is that exploring my approach to magic may provide you more material to think on how you approach it yourself. We can learn a lot from what does/does not click for us.

My Approach to Magic

I have spent a lot of time building up the background of the conversation to be able to get to the point where I talk about how I work with and understand magic. To refresh my point on what magic is: “Weaving or carving Urðr to an end.”

If that is the whole of magic, then is everything just a matter of technique? Hardly. Anyone can learn to read the Runes; not everyone is going to have a good relationship with Them. Likewise anyone can learn the theory of how to do seiðr, and not everyone is going to be good at gandr or kveldriða. Magic has a lot of factors into whether or not a particular working will go well. The relationships you carry, the health and power at work in your soul matrix, the megin and hamingja you are able to bring to a working, and the vili you can bring to bear to see the working done all play factors. Magic requires practice to get good at and to keep being good at. If you want to specialize in an area that will take time, effort, and work. Even for folks who take to an area of specialty quickly, I find that no matter what natural knack you might have it does not replace consistency of work.

How I Work With Magic

I use more than a few forms of magic. Some of the magic I do is ongoing work, whereas some forms are as-needed. I have a lot of taufr (physical charms) that I have built, both on my own and with help from others. Some taufr I have received as gifts. Some taufr protect, some connect me with certain Beings, some keep certain Beings away, and other taufr enhance what I already have. When it comes to taufr if I feel I need a boost on something or I need a bit more protection, I make one or ask a friend to.

My approach to taufr is a lot of how I approach magic in general. “What does it do? How well does it do it?” are two phrases that I always ask with regards to the approach and use of magic. I use what I need when I need it, and if I foresee a need, then I learn how to do it, or ask someone to work with me on it. That someone could be a God, Ancestor, vaettir, and/or a peer.

If what I need is immediate relief of an issue, say a vaettr has decided it wants to pester me, I will not wait to make a taufr. To start I may talk with the vaettr, unless the pestering is a direct threat to myself or others. In that case I will work with the taufr I already have, employ seiðr, employ galdr, or whatever is necessary, and work with my vörðr to make it stop. If what I am doing magic for is a long-term goal, say getting the resources so a project gets off the ground and succeeds, I do all the physical, mental, and spiritual work necessary so it can, and then look at where best to apply my magic. If you want a good example of what this can look like, look at my 30 Days of Magic Challenge series of posts where I made and worked with the Fehu bindrune.

An Example: Making a Taufr for Protection

What is the taufr for? If it is for protection, I think about what looks and feel protective. I might work with a wood known for its use in the creation of sword hilts, spear shafts, or shields. I may carve or woodburn a sword, spear, shield, and/or protection Runes into the wood. A perfectly good taufr for protection all on its own would be a Mjölnir.

I start with the premise of the magic I am doing, and then build up correspondences. Why use a wood known for its use in weapons? Because if I want to communicate protection, both to myself and others, I do not want to use a punky wood which is brittle and easy to break. The taufr being made of brittle, easy-to-break material would communicate the same thing physically and spiritually to myself and others. If I cannot even look at the wood for the taufr and think “this is strong” or “this is powerful” then there is little point to it. This will make carving it harder if I go that route, but having worked with oak, while it is harder to work it than say basswood, it is very satisfying when it is done.

Would I use a wood such as birch instead of oak or ash for protection? It can work. I tend to associate birch with long term healing rather than straightforward protection like I do the two other woods. However, birch is a hardwood that was used in knife handles and stools.

Now that I know what I am making the taufr for, what wood I want to use and what symbols I will carve into it, we can get to the making of the taufr. How do I ethically make a taufr?

As best as I can I try to source my woodcraft materials from vaettir who have given me permission to work with them. I first try to work with deadfall, and barring that, from living sources of wood I have good connections with. Last would be wood I have no connection with and/or buy. It is not that this wood is ‘less’ in terms of usefulness to the working, but that a piece of wood I buy to make into a taufr was never able to negotiate with me on offerings, the amount of wood that would be taken to make it, or anything else. The personhood and the willingness of the vaettir was never taken into account when it was harvested. Since I am operating out of a polytheist and animist mindset this considering of the vaettir’s wishes is important. They are Beings unto Themselves, and need to be considered such.

Let us say that a given oak tree has denied me the use of their deadfall or living body for this work, but a birch tree has given me permission to use theirs. In this case the ethical choice is to work only with the birch tree’s deadfall that I have permission to work with, make offerings to the birch, and to leave the oak tree, both their deadfall and their living body, entirely alone. If I cannot find a hardwood in my area willing to work with me, or if my circumstances are that working with already-cut and shaped wood is a better option, I will take time out to talk with them when I go to buy them and make offerings for the vaettir.

Another ethical question is one of proportion. Is the protection magic I put into the taufr one that responds to aggression with proportional? Given I firmly believe in the right to defend myself from a threat to myself or others, my ethical stance is that whatever aggression is sent my way I am within my bounds to respond to it proportionally. It would be unethical to make a taufr that sought to kill someone who, metaphorically or literally, stepped on my toes.

Another ethical question I need to answer is one of accuracy. Is the protection magic I put into the taufr going to be an accurate response to aggression/attack? This is less of a concern to me if the magic in the taufr is the equivalent of a shield or generalized protection because the magic is just meant to defend. If you are hitting this piece of protection then you are trying to hurt me and will be stopped. If the magic put into the taufr is a piece of aggressive protection, say I use a spear, a sword, and a shield for the carving and call on on Tiewaz the Rune twice, this taufr needs to be accurate when it responds to a threat. Perhaps I enchant it so the ‘attack’ portion of the taufr activates when I am under active attack, only attacks what is actively attacking me, and ‘sheathes’ when that is no longer the case. When it comes to enchantments this is a far better option than, say, carving a bunch of swords into it and turning the taufr into the spiritual equivalent of a sword tornado at any perceived threat.

The thing to keep in mind when making a taufr, or working with any magic, is that it should not be the only line of defense, attack, mitigation of energies or spirits, or the only thing watching your back. If I walk into a burning building my vörðr is not going to stop me from doing it, though they might give me warnings or directly ask me not to. I have and keep good relationships with many Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and members of my communities who have a vested interest in me being whole, alive, and able to do the work I have. I do not impugn on those relationships by recklessly or needlessly putting myself in danger, and I do not ignore those relationships when it comes to asking for help to keep myself and others safe. You do not have to just make one taufr or do one kind of magic and that is it. There is nothing stopping folks from enchanting a bunch of taufr to take care of a variety of situations. If your creativity, intuition, and drive lead you to do this, that is fine. There is a lot you can do with that, and there many forms of magic you can apply to work on the same problem.

Magic is not a substitute for good planning, awareness, or doing necessary spiritwork. Especially with regards to Heathen magic you will need them. If you are just beginning your journey into working with magic you should have a good working relationships with at least a God or two, your Ancestors, and at least your landvaettir. Get to know your vörðr if you can. Magic takes work to get results, to get right, to be accurate, and to be proportional to what you want it to do. Sometimes, despite all the careful planning and work, it fails, and being able to troubleshoot why is a skill in and of itself.

Considering Kinds of Magic

Is there an ethical consideration to be had when looking at the kinds of magic I employ? Absolutely. Taufr are physical objects. The thing about making or receiving taufr is that, when I die, whatever of them are left are going to need to be buried/burnt with me, rehomed, or destroyed. Consider the protection taufr above. I have a spear, a sword, a shield, and two Tiewaz Runes carved into it. Is the poor bastard who has to take care of this protection taufr going to have to fight whatever vaettir I have contracted with to be in it or to put Their energies into it as well as whatever work went into the magic I have put into it? Will they have to placate the vaettir, say with offerings or sacrifice? What kind of work am I leaving behind for others to do?

Other kinds of remains can result from the use of magic. If I use sympathetic magic to increase my luck when I hunt deer, eg taking an arrow and destroying a clay representation of a deer, what is my ethical obligation to the deer vaettir? How about the clay that the deer is represented through? Since I have built a link with these objects I need to treat both the ceramic shards, the deer, and the arrow itself, with respect. To be respectful I could bury the shards, or put them in a place of honor, depending on what the deer vaettir want.

Let us set taufr and sympathetic magic aside for a while and look into some of the varieties of seiðr. A good reason for why seiðr was often translated as ‘witchcraft’, was both respected and feared, and still should be today, is because a good chunk of seiðr is straight-up nasty to those who are its targets. Consider the stafsprota, a staff used by a spákona which, according to Price, were used for striking an enemy on the face, used to rob an enemy of their memory and instill minor confusion, and may have been used in divination. A munnriða, a mouth-rider, is a seiðworker whose affected the mouth and its contents. A trollriða, a rider of witchcraft or a troll-rider, could be a seiðworker who performed witchcraft and/or could be working with trolls, or a large variety of rougher vaettir. Consider that the -riða suffix was a form seiðr could take and that it could have sexual connotations. This brings munnriða or trollriða into a whole different light in terms of what the magic is supposed to do to its target or how it gets done.

Seiðr was renowned for being used to affect the mind, will, strength, and power. All of these examples do just that. Are the use of these unethical on their face? No. Not to me.

What I think can make the use of a kind of magic unethical is if its use causes harm for its own sake or if if its use is not proportional to a potential or actual threat or harm. While seiðr, whether in the actual performance of the magic or its affect, may not be conventionally acceptable, it is nonetheless powerful and useful. If a person is spreading harmful gossip or libel then to my mind engaging in munnriða against them can be an ethical use of that form of magic. If a person has threatened or sought to harm family, tribe, community, or one’s own person they open themselves up to action, if not retribution. If magic is power then the use of power should be justified.

Magic and Ethics are Works in Progress

People have been writing on these topics for millenia. We are nowhere near settled on them. Part of the reason for it is that we change. Ethical systems change. They get challenged, and some stay while others fade. They are embedded in our religions, cultures, and politics. That is part of why I find them so fascinating and good to talk and write on. They are part of our lives, are bound up in them as surely as magic is in my understanding and living of Heathenry.

We have been debating and working out our methods of magic and what ethics are and how we apply them to one another throughout all of that time. I think that polytheism’s polycentricity, to borrow the phrase from Dr. Butler, means that we will never find one consensus on anything, much less magic. We are in a beautiful and dynamic period where we are all digging deeper into our paths, the way we do things, and why. I think that as we develop our various religious and magical communities it is good to weigh our ethics, and to being open to change when it is warranted, and standing our ground when that is as well.

Both magic and our ethics are works in progress. They are lived experiences, for all that we can intellectually debate the merits of this action, that spell, this curse, or that working. Given magic are routes to, forms of, and expressions of power we would be remiss not to think on it, but it cannot merely be a thing we think about. In the end what differentiates ethics from head games, idle theorizing, or mental masturbation is that sooner or later those things are lived. They have real, lasting effects on others and ourselves. So let us consider how we will bring in, give form, and use magic in all its forms. Let us consider how we will use power in whatever way it is expressed. Let us talk about them, debate them, consider them, yes, and then? Let us work with our magic and live our ethics well.