Patreon Topic 40: Developing Culture

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From Leslie comes this topic:

“Developing culture.”

Developing culture starts with relationships. Meaning builds on meaning. Developing a Heathen culture starts with a polytheist worldview within which is an animist one at its base. The whole world is alive; the whole world is relatable. There are more worlds than this one; those worlds are relatable too. So are each and every Being within Them.

We have a Creation Story, myths, and legends however well or poorly preserved, within the Eddas. What I think is key, with all of our information whether derived from archaeology or especially the written sources, is that we are by-and-large dealing with an oral culture. I think this is also the future of Heathen cultures. Not that writing will not be important; it will, if for no other reason than we are part of a literate overculture which places a (sometimes disproportionately) high value on the written word. Rather, what is going to truly make the various Heathenry communities into cultures is going to be the passing of the worldview, teachings, relationships, and so on to the next generations.

Religious beliefs and worldviews alone do not make a culture. What comes out of them is part of that, too. Over time perhaps Heathen cultures will develop distinct styles of dressing, wearing their hair, decorating themselves and their homes, or any other way we could think of making themselves distinct from the largely Christian American overculture. On the other hand most Heathens blend rather seemlessly into mainstream American culture, regardless of the tattoos on their skin or the jewelry, shirts, and other things they wear.

So if we do not see the wide trends regarding dress, decoration, dance, and other outward signs of a distinct Heathen culture, what would differentiate a Heathen culture from the American Christian overculture? Relationships with and to the land would be a big way. Since most Heathens relate to the world Itself as a Goddess, and have a series of Gods They worship as part of/involved in the world, this is a firm push to develop good ways of living with Her/Them in reciprocity.

Most Heathens engage in some kind of Ancestor cultus. That could, over time, take place with actual mounds we raise on our own lands to Them, and provide powerful intergenerational connections to land, and through that to our Ancestors and vaettir. The vaettir Themselves are another powerful connection that encourages the development of culture, both in relationship with the environment and in relationship with how we live on the land. With a world alive with vaettir, spirits, and connections literally all around us, Heathens engaging with the vaettir can develop unique ways of relating to and living with the land. Already some Heathens, myself included, are working to include indigenous wisdom, permaculture, and similarly aligned views so we live well on the land and with the vaettir here.

As more Heathens engage in lived relationships with the Earth Goddesses, Gods of the land, local Gods, the Ancestors, and vaettir, local and regional cultus is beginning to form. Heathens will likely become even more distinct from one another as this goes on over time. We cannot all relate to the Earth the same way when we are living in different parts of America. Even those Heathens living close to each other not have the same relationship with the environment, the Gods of these places, our Ancestors, and/or the landvaettir.

Another vector for Heathens’ cultural development is the way that relationships within as well as without Heathen communities form, and how those are maintained. Having just written on the concept of frið and grið for my latest Q&A, it seems to me that it is both related to similar concepts found in other religions and also distinctly Heathen. Writ large into how we form relationships, personal and interpersonal, individually and communally, these webs of relationships can unfold in ways we are only just seeing.

TikTok’s latest Norsetok controversies actually show us the dark side of this: flame wars and cults of personality being formed around folks based in clan and Kindred structure. However, it also has shown in the same blow that even Norsetok has staying power, as folks have banded together to work against such things and address power imbalances, unchecked ego, and so on. Twitter and Tumblr Heathen communities before them have gone this way, and likewise so have physical Heathen communities. So, what we may be seeing on a far faster scale in TikTok is a larger trend borne from the way Heathens tend to structure themselves.

Heathen communities tend to unfold around shared interests of being in relationship with and worshiping the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. They may or may not share larger interests with the overculture, not unlike a lot of other cultures. There are Christians that play video games like Call of Duty, whereas others reject them as too worldly, or glorifying violence. There are Heathens that play video games like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla or watch the Thor Marvel movies, while others refuse to engage with them. I expect that as we come into second, third, and in some cases fourth generations of Heathens, we will see similar trends to the overculture in terms of our overall place in things. Some Heathens will trend politically left, others politically right, and this will shift over time with general trends based on where they live, how, and with whom they are relationship with. What I think will be politically distinct for Heathens is that most will still carry some kind of emphasis on a good relationship with the Earth, their local environment, and environmental issues generally, whatever source that comes from for them. More than anything else the interconnected relationships born out of Gebo, frið, and grið that are distinct to Heathenry will have unfolding consequences into how regional variations of Heathenry may come about.

There is a big lack of prognostication in this post on exactly how Heathen cultures will come about, develop, grow, and work. Part of the reason for that is that I have no idea how Anglo-Saxon Heathenry, Continental Heathenry, Slavic Heathenry, and other Heathen communities will develop over time because I am not directly involved in them. I do not have the anecdotes to develop even a broad picture of how those communities could shake out over time. The other reason for the lack of prediction on my part is because it is essentially a fool’s errand. There are some Heathen communities that operate essentially as männerbund (warband), others as communes, others as communally connected yet distinct hearths, and some Heathen communities are organized almost entirely online. Some Heathen communities incorporate some or all of these modes of operation together. Factor that together with the understanding that regional cultus and relationships are being made between local Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir with Heathen communities, and predicting anything other than a very broad-based idea is quickly put full of holes.

So where are we going? I have ideas for my local communities. A lot of us are engaging in local cultus, developing relationships with our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir in context of where we are and how we live. As time goes on, I think one of the ways we and the overall trend for the Heathen communities are following one another is that there is going to be more involvement in local and national environmental movements. Something I am seeing the beginning of is communities developing distinct aesthetics with regards to clothes, home decor, tattooing, and other forms of decoration. There are patterns in the Heathen community which are in place that will balance devotion and relationship with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. Some, if not most of those relationships will unfold with how we live on the land. I am excited to experience how Heathen cultures will develop, grow, and maintain themselves.

Authenticity in Heathen Religions

When we ask the question “Is this authentic?” of a view, practice, idea, or experience when it comes to Heathenry that question is fairly loaded. “Authentic to who?” is a useful retort to move this into a more useful direction. After all, Anglo-Saxons have a different worldview, or are at least pulling their worldview from different historical sources than Norse Heathens. Authentic has a few working definitions which are worth digging into before we can even make a useful statement on whether or not something is ‘authentic’.

From Lexico.com: “Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.”, “Made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original.”, “(in existentialist philosophy) relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life.” Of these I think the first and second definition are most useful to our interests. If something is authentic in Heathenry it is “of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine” and/or “made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original”. 

There is a trap in accepting these definitions at face value that many Heathens and polytheists in general fall into: that of our sources of lore dictating our religious paths to us without serious consideration from where those sources originate. If we look to most of the surviving written material it comes to us at least through one if not many Christian or Christian-influenced sources. Our sources of lore were never meant as religious instructions manuals, were never intended to make sure that the Heathen Gods’ names let alone worship survived, and are often quite spotty in terms of what information it does tell us reliably. We know very little for certain. So, with the maps so many use to reconstruct and revive Heathenry already admitted as being quite tattered and weather-beaten, how can we be sure our practice are “of undisputed origin and not a copy”?  Well, we know they are not a copy because we exist so far out of time and, at least where American Heathens are concerned, away from the home countries these cultures were rooted that we can be sure that modern Heathenry is a product of its Gods, Ancestors, vaettir (spirits), its time, and its people. In this, modern Heathenry is a genuine group of religious traditions.

Heathenry can also take the desire for things to be “Made or done in the traditional or original way” to an extreme. There is a lot wheel-spinning going around in a lot of circles as to whether a given practice is genuine to ancient Scandinavian Heathenry. Look folks, unless we are fluently speaking the ancient language and engaging in a culture exactly as they did, the likelihood we are going to be doing anything deeply close to what the Ancestors did is pretty slim. This is not to say that we cannot learn and experience a lot from living as close to the way the Ancestors did, nor is this to say folks who skew closer to historical reenactment and clothing, for example, are wrong. I happen to find older clothing like a traditional tunic and linen pants with wraps a great deal more comfortable, breathable, and gentle than modern clothing like jeans. I am a Universalist Tribalist Heathen, meaning that I believe anyone regardless of background can become a Heathen, but that most of my concerns are with those in my own circles of relationships. 

Many traditional offerings, such as offering the first fruits of a harvest or the sacrifice of an animal, in the way they were made by the Heathen ways we are reviving, are inaccessible to the average Heathen. Even for whom a traditional offering is available, the cost to make the offering may be prohibitively expensive or hard enough to find time in between all the life we’re supposed to lead during our waking ours that a different offering needs to be made. This is not an excuse for those who have the means and ability to make such offerings not to make them, but an acknowledgment that most of the population in the US lives in cities on very little money in very little land, and in very cramped conditions that leave us with very little time available to us to live our lives, let alone give the cultus to our Holy Powers that we may want to.  

What I think is most important in modern American Heathenry lies in the full second definition of ‘authentic’: “Made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original.” There are some things we can be relatively certain that we can reconstruct faithfully, and much of this has to do with material culture. From there we may infer or gain insight to how things may have worked in this practice or cultus, and then apply them to our own. 

We know that flint and steel, and before them various kinds of friction fires, were the primary tools used for making fire for a good chunk of human history. What does our knowledge of fire tell us of the centrality of fire, firemaking, and the cultus that could have existed around hearth cultus? Is fire made from flint and steel better inherently? I would argue, inherently, no. There is a difference of relationship. Convenience often breeds alienation from relationship with the Beings involved. Easy access to fire has made fire so easy to access that it takes real work to feel that one is in living relationship with Fire. Engaging with Fire through flint and steel one opens up to the Ancestors’ ways in a way our ancient Ancestors would readily recognize. This can also take place with what I sometimes dryly refer to as a Sacred Bic, and in no small part because a Bic lighter is flint and steel made small and convenient with the added benefit of accelerant. Most of our Ancestors would have likely deeply appreciated something we take for granted in the form of a lighter. Taking on the Ancestor’s mindset and truly appreciating the seemingly mundane and yet, revolutionary forms we have worked with the Elements themselves breeds an appreciation for Them and the wonders we have. From this baseline of respect for how the Elements manifest in our lives today we can take this understanding, gained from the Ancestors and our own sense of wonder, and carry it into other relationships no matter how seemingly small.

We can see where this has also completely disrupted what has been the physical arrangement of space for time out of mind. Rather than a central hearthfire which would have heated a room or whole lodgings, we now have ductwork that carries heat. The hearth has been replaced by two separate rooms: the kitchen and the living room. The place that would have been the space for meals, prayers, offerings, and so much living has now been split stripped of much of its sacred significance in the modern American home. Two major factors that need to be confronted in Heathenry exist for most Americans in general: the distance of ourselves from the everyday sacred, and how institutional and cultural forces reinforce the rift we are seeking to heal.

Whether something like a Bic existed in ancient Germanic cultures is rather besides the point. I am not living there. I am living here. The map of history is not the territory I walk with my Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and communities. However, that is not to discard the map. Authenticity in Heathenry comes from the tension of taking understanding and inspiration from the past and then applying these things in a sensible way to our lived experiences and the requirements of where we are and how we are to live in modern society. Sometimes the tension here is too great, and we must make choices on what we will do when we our worldview would have us sacrifice a modern convenience or address an imbalance with the overculture. 

Many Heathens, inspired by their devotion to Gods such as Jörð, Freyr, Gerða, Freyja, and so on, make choices in how they conduct themselves and what they purchase to live in an Earth-honoring way. A given Heathen might take the more expensive option of purchasing groceries and support a CSA, or they may plant a garden, help out on a local farm, etc. A Heathen with less time or money may only be able to grow a single plant in their apartment. Each person is a Heathen seeking to live their worldview authentically. Authenticity is not found in making the most expensive offering or living exactly like an ancient Scandinavian. What is authentic is each Heathen is living their worldview and in right relationship with the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and those in their human communities.

These are relatively small and easily navigated issues at this level. Authenticity reaches a new complexity when it comes to spiritual specialists. In part, because American is predominantly WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) there is an entire background of expectations a lot of folks are inculcated with in regard to spiritual specialists. Protestants in this country generally do not have priests, per se. They tend to be incredibly independent, and while most if not all engage in formal hierarchies of pastor and flock for the purposes of organization, each person is expected to engage in ongoing exegesis to some degree alongside devotional work like prayer and observation of holidays. There is not, generally speaking, a relationship between a pastor and their church like there is between a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox priest. These latter spiritual specialists meet the requirement of their Order and go through initiation to engage in their Office. Sometimes Protestant pastors go through some kind of initiatory process, eg the laying on of hands to confer the blessing of the Holy Spirit, but it seems some do not even go through this. What is expected of all of these Christian spiritual specialists is for them to engage with the public, provide spiritual counseling, and be available for religious community events.

Spiritual specialists in Heathenry find themselves in an awkward position. Given so many people coming into Heathenry are converts, many still carry the expectation that the priest will fulfill similar roles in their new religion. The map provided by lore and archaeology is that, unlike pastors, RCC and EO priests, Heathen priests generally served a God, Goddess, group of Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir first. A priest served in a community role primarily through making prayers, offerings, and/or tending a sacred place or animal(s). Among other services they may have made on behalf of the community was to make sacrifices, and/or divine. 

It is incredibly hard to break modern Heathenry of the biases of the overculture when it comes to priests. The societal expectation is one facet, but the other is that our government and institutions that interact with spiritual specialists treat them all as same. This flattening of roles erases specialized initiations and training that exists for our spiritual specialists. It removes expectations of specialties or individual aptitude towards one kind or group of spiritual specialties by reinforcing the dominant paradigm of “all spiritual specialists must act as clergy” as normal. This is contrary to a healthy understanding, appreciation, and furthering of Heathen spiritual specialties. A seiðkona is not a spákona though a Völva may engage in both seiðr and spá. Likewise, a seiðkona is not necessarily a Völva. A Völva may or may not be a gyðja. A given person may engage in seiðr and spá but may not themselves be a seið worker because they do not have the initiation(s), training, or the community role of a seiðkona, spákona, or Völva. If we are to have authenticity in our Heathen practices, and if they are to be carried forward with both meaning and use, we need to have standards under which that authenticity operates.

Where a lot of Heathen religions find struggle with spiritual specialists is that we no longer have long lines of spiritual specialists to carry on the work, though there are new lines developing now. A lot of spiritual specialists, myself included, wear a number of hats in order to fulfill the requests of our Ginnreginn (Mighty/Holy Powers) and needs of our communities.  Authenticity is something we ourselves can struggle with because of the demands of our work alongside all the other issues that the Heathen communities have. Something simple, with deep implications for how we conduct ourselves, is “How do we engage in authentic spiritual work when the sources are sparse and hostile to the practice?” We ask the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir for help, and reach out to those of other spiritual paths. 

My own Ancestor practice has been impacted by African Traditional Religions in how I laid out my first Ancestor altar: a white cloth with a white candle and a glass of water that was changed out every day. My Ancestor altar has changed significantly since then, but the core of it is founded on the idea of simplicity, of starting small and if the Ancestors want, the vé will grow. I took inspiration from how to start the practice but the way I address the Ancestors, the prayers, and the offerings are particular to Heathenry.  Note: I took inspiration from ATRs’ Ancestor altars. I am not practicing an ATR, and I am not claiming to be nor am I taking anything from within those religions. However, I would be remiss not to recognize where that inspiration came from or why I advise others to start like I did. 

In asking our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir for guidance on how They want us to define and carry out our roles as spiritual specialists, we place our authenticity in the relationships we engage in with Them. Here we fulfill both definitions of authentic in that our interactions are “Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.”, and that they are “Made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original.” We have to accept and embrace that modern seiðr and spá may not be historically accurate, but they are authentic because the aims and the ways we revive them are as authentic to history as we can make them.

We cannot say for certain whether the ancient Germanic peoples read the Runes or read Them as we do now. Acknowledging this and embracing that Rune reading as we do them may be modern means that we are not misrepresenting ourselves and are centered in relationship with our Holy Powers and with our communities in honesty and respect. As with modern seiðr and spá, we are reviving divination within a Heathen context that is true to our understanding, and especially with respect to our relationships with the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and then the needs of our communities. These are Heathen spiritual practices being revived within a Heathen spiritual framework with the best information that we have to hand. The experiences of what Elders we have, what spiritual specialists we have, and the guidance of our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are the foremost guides we have from here.

Taking things out of the realm of spiritual specialists and back into general Heathenry, aesthetic is part of authenticity as well. Aesthetic is, per Lexico.com, “Concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty” and “A set of principles underlying the work of a particular artist or artistic movement.”. How do we determine what is a Heathen aesthetic? 

It may be easier to decide on what a Heathen aesthetic is not and then explore what it is. This can be something fairly straightforward in that Nike shoes are not Heathen. A Heathen may wear them, but that does not make them Heathen. What then, of the aesthetic put forward in the TV series Vikings, or through neo-folk Heathen or Heathen-adjacent bands such as Wardruna, Gealdyr, and Heilung? What of the metal scene, such as Tyr or Amon Amarth? What of historically reenacted clothing, style, speech, and so on? I would say that a Heathen aesthetic is one that is couched in connecting a given community or person with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, or is engaged with in service to Them. Without digging into a particular Heathen aesthetic as being the Heathen aesthetic, I would rather see that, whatever our standards of what is beautiful, it serves to connect us and deepen our relationships with the Holy Powers.

I can tell you what my aesthetic is: It skews to the historical reenactment, and that of Wardruna, Heilung, and similar styles of historically-inspired Scandinavian and German neofolk. I find a powerful connection stepping into linen and wool clothing as much as into hide and leather. All of these serve to bring forward connection with animals, plants, and our ancient Heathen Ancestors. There is power and beauty in wearing what our Ancestors wore, or wearing something as close as we can get, to appreciate what Their skin may have felt like walking around each day. Having watched more than a few YouTube and documentary videos on how much work it takes to make flax into linen to begin with, to take up a beautifully crafted tunic and put it on, helped me to physically realize why most homes only had a one or two pieces of linen clothes or bedsheets, and any more meant you were quite wealthy. It embodied for me, quite literally, why inheriting linen was so powerful and important. My wife works with wool in spinning, is beginning loom work, and has crocheted longer than I have known her. She has shown me how much work goes into making a crocheted blanket or hat. I know from experience how much work it takes to skin and butcher an animal. Tanning is next on my list of crafts to pursue. Having done my research and looked at how much effort some of these hides are going to be to tan, it is little wonder why wearing animal skins and their trade was so important to the ancient Ancestors.

An appreciation and furthering of beauty can bring us closer to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. In developing Heathen aesthetics we develop new bridges that can reach out between us and Them, and through this, we can develop distinct identity as we develop aesthetics for our own communities. It may be that modern common dress is simply easier for us to blend in, but let us not forget that modern sensibilities around fashion, beauty, and the body itself are by and large designed for and by a modern WASP or WASP-oriented sensibility. It is also not anti-Heathen to like modern Western dress, but I think that A Handmade Life makes an excellent point on this:

“We are constantly manipulated by design. Industrial production has been a boon in providing many needed things at a lower cost, but unless we are alert we’ll let the machine start teaching us design. For instance, machines can be used to create any form of chair we like, but commercial interests can make more chairs (and more money) if the simplest design for the machines is chosen for production. So we end up surrounded by furniture designed to fit the needs of machines.” (Coperthwaite, 11).

Today, our articles of clothes are distinct not in terms of the overarching design, but in the particular logos or art that graces whatever the t-shirt form is. It is hard to have a cultural identity put forward in terms of clothing when all the basic forms your clothes take is whatever is most convenient for an industrial clothing manufacturer. We live in a time of great abundance, and rather than simply say we should give up our t-shirts and shorts, perhaps another look is due to what we wear, and how it may reinforce our Heathen identity. If we expand Heathen aesthetics from the worn or decorative to the entirety of how our lives are lived in beauty, then we may develop truly rich cultural roots that future generations will benefit from. 

In expanding this idea of Heathen aesthetic, the Heathen appreciation of beauty, into how we form and maintain relationships, this understanding has ripple effects anywhere we may care to inquire. If one of the central pillars of Heathen identity is reciprocity, or as I put it, gipt fá gipt (gift for a gift), or Gebo with the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and each other, then the aesthetics that develop from this understanding ripple out into every facet of our life. If the central ideals of Heathen religion are Gebo with the Ginnreginn and one another, then the entire notion of how we make things changes. If our standard of beauty shifts from ‘this is useful’ to ‘this is useful and was made in accordance with Gebo’ it shifts our entire mindset and understanding. 

A t-shirt may still be artistically beautiful in what it conveys, but a t-shirt made sustainably with homemade materials takes on a unique and powerful beauty that, to my mind, overshadows that of the factory produced designs made without regard to the environment or sustainability. It becomes more beautiful and more in line with Heathen standards of beauty the more it comports with reciprocity with the Holy Powers. It can be a simple solid-colored shirt spun from linen, or a shirt that was left undyed, made from cloth that was spun in the home. A Heathen aesthetic of belts can be a simple leather belt made from hide tanned at home and riveted using one’s own tools. It could equally be a well-tooled and dyed piece, both becoming deeper should the leather be ethically source from well-cared for animals.

Rather than the looks and feel of the material itself being the primary standard, though important, I would put forward that the primary standard of Heathen aesthetic is the relationships it encourages and develops in the creation and use of the thing. The use of Runes and the naming of things is another aspect of this aesthetic. In naming our weapons, our cars, our computers, really any thing we can think of, they transfer out of the realm of mere mundane thing into the realm of Being. They had Their Being from well before we were given Their name or named Them, each thing potentially being/housing a vaettr, a spirit. Here, in acknowledging it and having a name we can relate to it with, we have an added dimension in our relationship with it. We have been given an avenue we can relate to each other with. The car becomes more than just another car, it becomes a car I relate to and I am in relationship with. I am not merely maintaining a thing by putting fuel into its tank, taking it for repairs, I am caring for a car-spirit, engaging in reciprocity with it by honoring and caring for its lyke, its body. 

In developing an authentic Heathen aesthetic based on reciprocity being the primary trait, we will likely find American Heathen communities digging into very different ways of doing things to meet that than those of, say, Norway or Iceland. This is where local cultus will intersect even greater than it does now. I would not be surprised if State or within-State aesthetics developed as well, given enough time. Michigan’s climate, weather patterns, and needs are not like Georgia’s, and Georgia’s is not Alaska’s. I would be surprised if we found a single Heathen aesthetic in the future just as I would if our local cultus would be the same. We might still be offering sweet fruits to Freya, reflecting current share gnosis that she likes strawberries, but what kinds of deeply sweet fruits we can regionally grow to honor Her may change depending on where we live and the growing seasons. If I honor local vaettir by eating what is only grown in season then my entire world of food changes, and so too do the offerings I make.

An authentic Heathen life is lived within a Heathen worldview and culture that contains our orthodoxies, orthopraxies, religious ideas, values, aesthetics, and experiences. These are all lived and expressed. Rather than an authentic Heathen worldview being a static thing, it, as with all of our relationships with the Holy Powers and one another, they must be lived. Heathen worldviews and cultures are themselves living things. They remain solid and unchanging in many areas, such as the polytheist and animist foundation on which the worldviews rise from. They change first and primarily with our interactions with the Holy Powers through gnosis and divination. Then, they may change with one another, with the crossroads of the sciences and our communities, and between generations of our communities as specific needs and relationships unfold.

Patreon Topic 26: On Regional Cultus

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From Maleck Odinsson comes this topic:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patreon Topic 24: Crafting Ritual

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From Alec comes this topic:

“Do you think you could possibly go over how you create a ritual? I understand if maybe it’s too personal but I always find myself having a hard time organizing a ritual and there’s so much confusing information I would love to know what you do, if you’re okay with sharing.”

This is something I have gone over in my blog before, but not quite in this way. The posts on ritual praxis are here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. However, since that was covering specifically Heathen praxis I thought it was worth revisiting it here for a more general polytheist and Pagan audience.

First, to define what a ritual is. According to the OED a ritual is “1 A religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.” Thankfully, this definition tells us nothing of what that religious or solemn ceremony actually consists of, only that there is a prescribed order. The fun part of being a Pagan is that your prescribed order may be entirely worked out with your Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and/or developed on our own depending on the relationships, roles, and the reasons for the rituals we engage in. Likewise, our solemnity may follow either the first or the second definition rather than the first alone: “1 Formal and dignified. 2 Characterized by deep sincerity.”

Rituals may be performed anywhere. I mean that sincerely. We may be more or less prepared to do a ritual in whatever the ideal ways are for us are. Ritual is available to us as a way and tool of connection, power, and relationship wherever we go. They can be incredibly simple, from three deep breaths and a “Thank you” to the Goddess Sunna for shining down on us or as complex as a community-wide Haustblot (Autumn Sacrifice) with animal sacrifice and feast.

To make how I craft a ritual easier to follow I will break it down into steps.

Step 1: The Reason for Ritual

Before we begin to design a ritual we need to know why we are doing ritual, what ways of doing ritual are respectful for my Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir, and what role(s) are in that ritual. Is this ritual’s purpose right? That is, does a given ritual deepen my right relationship with a God, Goddess, Ancestors, vaettr, or group of Them? If it is not a devotional ritual, but something like a rite for empowerment or protection, does the ritual provide some kind of positive result for the ritualist(s)?

Step 2: The Form of the Ritual

This is how the ritual will be conducted and where it will be conducted. The language you use, the cadence, tone, and other delivery of it may change depending on if you are approaching the Gods in a formal way or an informal way, or if you are doing ritual for a group. It can also depend on the size of a give group, or the kind of emotion the ritual is supposed to tap into. In the case of a simple devotional rite, like the one above with three breaths to Sunna and a “Thank you”, it a simple ritual of thanks. With a Haustblót it can be incredibly complex, with many ritual steps including leading a group through prayers, offerings, divination, and sacrifice.

Step 3: Consideration for the Ritual

This is about where the ritual taking place and how best a ritual space can be accomodating to its ritualists and attendees. Can the ritual be performed as desired in that space? Is the place for the ritual accessibile to folks with mobility disabilities? Is the ritual or ritual prep going to take a long time and the ritual crew and attendants need food/drink? Are there special props, offerings, etc that must be included or excluded? If alcohol is at the rite is there a non-alcohol option for folks who do not drink it?

Step 4: Roles for the Ritual

This is about who does what in the ritual. If you have a spiritual specialist, or several, what role(s) do they serve and how do they serve it? If you are doing a solo ritual, how do you create your role within the ritual so that you can enact the ritual while also experiencing it? Are there aspects of the ritual you can ask others to perform or do you need to do it yourself, eg divination after the rite? While this step takes on a bigger function in a group setting thinking about your role as a ritualist in private rituals can be helpful in considering how a given rite might affect you, and what you need to do to be in a good mindset for each part of it.

Once these questions are answered we can get into designing the ritual itself. We will go over my basic ritual outline below.

1. Cleansing. Cleanse yourself, the area, and anything being brought into the ritual not consecrated to the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir. Likewise, cleanse any spiritual or other tools that you bring into the space. Cleansing can be done by tradition-appropriate methods, eg khernips or reykr/recels, or by a simple blessing spoken over water and sprinkled on an area/person/item.

2. Grounding. This is letting go of any excess energy whether accumulated throughout the day or disturbed by the act of cleansing. This can be as simple as three long breaths, letting your muscles relax, and getting ready for the next step, or as complex as a multipart tree visualization where you put your ‘roots’ into the Earth and exchange energy with the Earth and/or an Earth Goddess.

3. Centering. This centering yourself in what you are doing and why you are here. For ritual work this is coming to focus on the ritual. In other contexts centering might be focusing on the hereness of your body, the next step in whatever task you have before you, or being present and acknowledging thoughts as they occur and letting them go.

4. Shielding/Warding. This is present in Wiccan traditions as casting a circle, and while most non-Wiccan polytheist religions do not normally do this, there are definitely ways in which a person is shielded or a place warded. Atropotaic symbols adorn temples as well as people the world over. We wear symbols of our Gods, which not only serve as signs of our devotion, but also may call to our Gods to protect us, and/or give us strength to protect ourselves. The bringing of fire around a space in Heathenry to cleanse a space also serves to set the sacred boundary so it is a two-in-one cleansing and shielding. I put this step here because some folks, myself included, usually have a step where a space is formally declared sacred when it is not at our home altars, shrines, or vé and we cannot use something like fire to cleanse and ward.

5. Set the Intention of the Ritual. This can be a simple declarative statement such as “Thank you, Sunna, for shining down on me. I share this coffee with You in gratefulness.” It can be as complex as “Hail to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir! We come together today to celebrate the Haustblót, to celebrate the Fall Harvest, and to sacrifice our offerings so that cycle of gift for a gift continues! Hail to all of our Holy Ones!” The point of Step 5 is to firmly fix what the point of it is and to get undewray.

6. Call to/invite the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir. Again, this can be as flowery or as simple as your Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, tradition, or style of ritual allows for. Sometimes simple is way better, especially starting out. Be sure if you are calling to Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir by certain titles, epithets, heiti, etc that you know what they are and what calling on Them in that way means.

7. Engage in the ritual itself. Take the time you need to do it well. Immerse in the experience in the moment and analyze your experiences after the ritual.

8. Thank the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir for Their Presence. Make offerings, prayers, and do any work needed in thanks, in reciprocity, at this point.

9. Do any ritual aftercare, cleanup, and take down of the vé, altar, etc if needed.

Especially for new folks or folks who are out of practice it may take doing more than a few to get everything down. The work will teach you how to do the work. If you have questions, comments, or thoughts leave them in the comments or email me and we can work from there.

Patreon Topic 16: Balancing Cosmologies

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From Amanda Artimesia Forrester comes this question:

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

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

To a certain degree I don’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From Maleck Odinsson comes this topic idea:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cutting Ties Pt. 1

There are two parts to this. The first will be a copy of the email I have 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 will be my reflections on things. I have no time right now for when this will be written. This was hard on its own.

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.

“Dear Galina and Sannion,

Over the past few weeks I’ve had time to think and analyze. Both of you have taught me over the long time we have known each other that our choices are just that. That above all, you have said Sannion, that Dionysos values consent and choice. Both of you have taught me that we are not merely in the hands of our Gods, we are co-creating with Them. Not on Their level, but not without agency, will, and choice.

You chose to put on the Sonnenrad, Sannion, and you have continued to defend this decision. Out of my love and belief in you, I have defended you both in your words and your actions. You are people who I have trusted with some of my deepest, most painful moments. I trusted you both to guide my evolution as a spirit worker. You are people who I have respected as Elders and colleagues for that great work you have both done for the Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and the respective communities you have worked within.

I can no longer be your student, your colleague, your ally, or your friend. You have picked up a symbol designed and wielded by the SS who committed countless atrocities and crimes against humanity. You have defended it in private and in public, and I can no longer support defending your words or actions.

I do not condone and will not condone the wearing of, tattooing of, or display of the Sonnenrad or the swastika. The latter, as you have told me several times, Galina, will not be rehabilitated in either of our lifetimes. Yet, you are defending your husband and coreligionist wearing the symbol of Nazis, something you continuously emphasized you want removed from the Heathen communities. Sannion, you have said you are not a Nazi, yet you are wearing, displaying, and defending the symbol of the SS. This is indefensible.

I have been incredibly patient and careful on my end, especially when you, Galina, have not. Your direct attacks on myself and others over political disagreements are reprehensible. I have stood by while you have broken grið with members of the Heathen communities over these things. You have attacked myself and others over our spiritual outlooks outside of politics. Part of my spiritual outlook is I brook no passage for Neo-Nazis, White supremacists, or their symbols.

You both have continued to speak falsely about antifa. I have let this go unaddressed for too long. Antifa is not a formal organization unto itself. Each city or town may have its own antifa organization, but there is no ‘national organization’ unlike the well-documented Proud Boys, 3%ers, or other White supremacist organizations that pose real and continuing threats. These protesters were armed with M16s, AK-47s, and flak jackets on the steps of my State capitol. Again, I find this behavior indefensible, especially in an Elder.

You have both made statements that have besmirched the Black Lives Matter movement as a terror organization. Black, Latinx, and Indigenous Lives Matter. All of these movements are for the sovereignty and rights they are due under the law, things that never should have had to be marched for at all. The pursuit of equality and justice are qualities I require in my Elders, and I find you lacking in both.

You have both expressed your fervent hope that your work would live on after you both were dead. Galina, you have stated that you would rather see everything burn down around you than ‘be infected’ by whatever enemies you perceive in your midst. Now, that torch will never have to be lit. By either one of you. You are watching as the very foundations you have built are burning in the fires of your egos and by your poor decisions. I can no longer support or carry on your work in any of your lineages.

I separate myself from Urðabrunnr Kindred.

I separate myself from the Starry Bull and the Starry Bear.

I separate myself as a student and as a colleague from you.

I separate myself from the friendship I have had with you.

I separate my love from you.

Know that I will always grieve you.

Ves þu heil,

Sarenth Odinsson”

Relationships with Spirits -Part 2

This post was started a long time ago, and I am relieved to have finished it as well as I can. Part 1 is here.

Before we begin to address the question of how to begin a relationship with a vaettr, we need to address why we are forming relationships with vaettir at all. This really cuts to where we find ourselves in cosmology and how we relate to the different kinds of vaettir. Our worldview is vaettir-filled, where we as humans are not central to our cosmology and we live in co-existing and co-creating relationships with vaettir in Urðr/Wyrd. The default stance I take with Heathens and Northern Tradition Pagans in regards to vaettir is that of devotion -we form relationships that are devotional because we worship the vaettir and wish to cultivate right relationship with Them.

Stating the standard for our relationships is that of devotion gives proper place to our relationship to the majority of vaettir we exist in relationship with. We rely on various vaettir for our existence, such as the Ancestors without whom we would not be here in the first place, the vindrvaettir who form the air we breathe, the vatnvaettir that make up the water necessary for our lives, the eldrvaettir that makes so much of the modern world possible with Their fire that flows through our buildings, or the jordvaettir beneath our feet and that make up our homes, just to name a few. We can have a variety of kinds of relationships with vaettir. With devotion as the baseline we underscore our general relationship to the vaettir and can contrast it with the different kinds of relationships that can grow out of or beyond that baseline.

Beginning to Build a Relationship with Vaettir -Ancestors

The easiest way to build a relationship with a vaettr (singular of vaettir, spirits) is to give space for that vaettr. Physical, real space on an altar or other kind of vé, a sacred place. As mentioned in the last post, the least you need is a surface with a cloth, a candle, matches or a lighter, and a cup for offerings. Water, sacred herbs, and food are our most common offerings to all of our vaettir. As you develop relationships with various vaettir They may make certain requirements for offerings known to you. The physical space and the giving of physical offerings given to the vaettr is necessary; it invites the spirit into your life in an utterly physical way, grounding the relationship in one’s life as well as in one’s space.

Before any other vaettir I recommend people start building relationships with their Ancestors, especially the Disir, Väter, Ergi, and Ancestors one knew before They died. This is because our Ancestors, especially the powerful ones, have our best interests at heart. The reason I recommend building relationships with those Ancestors we had relationships with in life is because it aids discernment, and can help smooth the process of reaching out to the rest of one’s Ancestors. I tip my hat to my Brother Jim for this. For those who have had troubled relationships with their recently dead Ancestors, I recommend going back further. If your mother or father were abusive, go back farther in your family line until you are away from the poison of that abuse. If you do not know the names of your Ancestors, do the geneaology research you can, and in the meantime ask the Disir, Väter, and Ergi to help you meet your good and healthy Ancestors.

When you are ready follow the Simplest Altar and Simple Invitation Rite of the last post. Remember that a gipt fá gipt/Gebo relationship is one that honors both participants, and it may take a while for the relationship to get beyond introductions. There is no timeframe you need to have for settling into a comfortable relationship with your Ancestors. It will take its own time. Setting the space and maintaining the right mindset and giving time for the relationship is vastly more important than courting powerful visions or experiences. If you want feedback from the Ancestors and do not get it in direct experiences get some kind of divination system, learn how to use it, and dedicate it to communication with Them. This divination system might only be useful for communication with the Ancestors, or it may be useful to communication with any vaettir. This is something that you will need to learn by experience. Directly asking the vaettir in question if They want a dedicated divination system does not hurt. Even if you do get direct experiencess with the Ancestors I would still heavily recommend learning at least one if not many divination systems.

If you are fully new to Heathenry or the Northern Tradition I would recommend spending anywhere from half to a full year doing regular Ancestor worship before starting any new relationships with other vaettir. Dedicating fifteen minutes a day after cleansing and other preparation to simple prayers and offerings each day, at least three to four times a week will build a solid foundation of devotion and understanding. There will be times when life intrudes; in that case, dedicate time the next day to your devotion. Explain to the Ancestors why you missed, not to beat yourself up or denigrate yourself, but because your Ancestors deserve the respect of an explanation.

Adding new items to the vé does not have to be big or elaborate. The most common additions to my family’s altars come from thrift stores and antique shops. Often our additions, especially with the Ancestor vé, are vessels that hold offerings and serve as representative of certain Ancestors. Whatever you add needs to be connective between you and the vaettir, and respectfully maintained. As time goes on you might find yourself accumulating items representing various Ancestors, but this is only a requirement insofar as the Ancestors make that requirement of you. There is something to be said for simple vé as well as busy ones. What matters is that the ve is a place of connection with your Ancestors.

Beginning to Build a Relationship with Vaettir -Landvaettir

As with the Ancestors it is about giving space to Them so you have a common meeting place. In our home we have two different areas for different kinds of landvaettir. The housevsaettir have Their own space while the landvaettir have Their own on a different altar entirely. A really simple way of making a space for landvaettir is to ask the landvaettir for a piece of Them to bring into your ve. The rock we have on our jörðvaettir vé is a stone we uncovered while preparing our garden. Our housevaettir have a wooden bird feeder in the shape of a house. Our outdoor vé is a sacred grove with a single tree representing Yggdrasil and the landvaettir. Another option is to make a hörgr, a vé made of a pile of stones. You can make the vé for landvaettir indoors or outdoors, though given my experiences I would recommend both. It is far better to pay regular attention and cultus to the landvaettir who have a space on an indoor shrine or altar than to only occasionally visit Their shrine outside.

The Ancestors generally have our best interests in mind and will guide, follow, and walk with us in life. We literally live on and alongside the landvaettir. Having a good relationship with the landvaettir may start simple, but I can assure you that over time it will not stay that way. Having a good relationship with the landvaettir requires us to treat our homes, whatever your living situation, as places that are inhabited by Beings besides us. Thoses Beings have interests that may or may not align with our own. Living well with the landvaettir will probably push you to take a hard look at how you live, encouraging land-healing things like composting scraps, and altering your spending habits so you produce less garbage. Anyone can improve their relationship with the landvaettir by being more mindful of what we consume, how we treat the land we live on, and by growing what we can where we can, dedicating all these things as offerings to Them.

When beginning a relationship with the landvaettir perhaps the best questions you can ask yourself are related to how you live on the land. How can I honor the land I live on? How can I live as low-impact as possible on the land? What native plant species can I encourage where I live? If I cannot grow or raise my own food who can I patronize that can? Ask the landvaettir directly what they want, and go from there.

Beginning to Build a Relationship with Vaettir -Fylgja, Kinfylgja, and Vörðr

In the Ancestor section of this post I recommended learning at least one if not many divination styles. Vaettir like fylgja, kinfylgja, and vörðr are why. As with other vaettir giving Them space in your vé is important. Unlike the Ancestors and landvaettir where you can have clear ideas of who They are, figuring out the identity of one’s fylgja, kinfylgja, and vörðr will likely require divination.

With fylgja, kinfylgja, and vörðr one of the best questions you can ask is: Why are you seeking Them out? Really dig into this, especially since a given vaettr will likely want to know why you sought Them out.

Do you just want to know who They are? Do you want a better working relationship with Them? Do you want to make new connections with a fylgja as a tutelary spirit in a field of magic or hobby you are interested in? Do you want to connect with kinfylgja your Ancestors still have connections with but only you are willing to put in the work for the relationship? Do you want to know your vörðr so you can better work with your guardian? Are you looking to develop power, skill, talent, or a bond that will help you out when you need it? There are a lot of reasons to seek out relationships with vaettir, and the more clear and honest you can be the cleaner you will be in looking for the relationship, and if reciprocated, engage in the relationship.

If you have an idea from divination what kind of vaettr the fylgja, kinfylgja, or vörðr is you can tailor your initial offerings and method of contact to Them.

It may require, either instead of or after divination, some kind of spiritwork. One example of this is utiseta, Old Norse meaning sitting out. One goes somewhere, such as one’s vé or on in a natural spot such as a clearing or grove of trees in a forest, then sits or lies down and enters into trance. Historically utiseta was connected with going somewhere to stir spirits up, do magic, or spirit work. Utisetsa itself, combined with a calling prayer, song, or something similar, may be enough for a vaettr to come to a person. If not, the more dangerous option may be open, known as hamfara, or one’s hame-shape faring forth, or engaging in spiritual journey work. This hamfara may be a requirement to meet certain vaettir, including certain fylgja or kinfylgja in a designated place. Perhaps it asks you to visit it in its home, perhaps on neutral ground. This kind of spiritwork in detail is beyond this post, but I would be remiss to not include it as a method some folks may need to engage in order to find or encounter a given vaettr.

This is not something I recommend for most people -at any skill level. If you can get the work done here in Midgarðr and don’t have to leave your body then you are far safer doing so. While not everything will be out to get you should you fare forth, there is enough danger to your hamr that I recommend folks do a good amount spiritwork before even going to a place friendly to them. I do not see vörðr as likely needing hamfara, but They, or more likely you, will need utisetsa to see them or communicate until the relationship is more solid.

Beginning to Build a Relationship with Vaettir -Alfar

This section is going to be limited purely because I do not work with the Alfar all that much. As with any vaettir knowing why you want to establish a relationship with Them and giving Them a space in your life is key to starting a good relationship. Where the lore is concerned Alfar are often split into two or three separate groups: Ljossalfar, Dökkalfar, and Svartalfar which are light elves, dark elves, and black elves respectively. As I mentioned in the previous post, there is a great deal of confusion over identity and who each kind of Being is.

Wherever I can I try to relate to vaettir by Their own names, understanding Them as separate Beings. So, in my understanding of Them, the Ljossalfar, Dökkalfar, and Svartalfar are all different kinds of Alfar, each with Their own culture. It seems to me on first glance the Dökkalfar and Svartalfar are separate groups, so I will err on the side of caution here. What kinds of approach work for different kind of Alfar will depend on that culture, and on the individual vaettr.

Most of my interactions with Alfar in general have been with regards to visiting Freyr. When I have encountered Ljossalfar I was doing spiritual journeying in Ljossalfheim. This is not true of the Svartalfar, some of whom I have seen in Svartalfheim. However, most of the interactions I have had with Beings in and from Svartalfheim have been with Dvergar, dwarves. So, are the Dvergar Svartalfar? I am just not the spirit worker to ask on this. So, my recommendation is to read as much as you can of the lore and firsthand accounts of modern folks who have journeyed and have good relationships with these vaettir. Much of my advice for developing relationships with the Alfar in general is going to follow similar lines: do your research, learn what traditional offerings there are in the lore and make the ones you can to the Alfar you wish to develop a relationship with.

Beginning to Build a Relationship with Vaettir -Dvergar

The Dvergar or Duergar are generally known as Dwarves. They are said to be or share Svartalfheim with the Svartalfar. In my experience this is a shared world between these two peoples. Shared unevenly, but shared nonetheless.

They are renowned for being cantankerous and the best crafters in the Nine Worlds. Understanding this is why being really clear on why you want to develop a relationship with a given vaettr or group of vaettir is so important. Gipt fá gipt (gift for a gift, aka reciprocity) matters, and the Dvergar in my experience hold it in the deepest regard. That is not to say that developing a relationship with the Dvergar to ask for help in a given craft is a bad idea; far from it. Rather, do not approach Them only as a friend and then begin asking for Them to share secrets of the trade with you. If you want to learn from Them on how to do a given craft better then do it, but do not do it hidden under the guise of friendship. Sure, a friendly relationship could grow from such an interaction, but far better you are clear in your motives both for your own sake and the sake of the relationship.

In my experience the Dvergar enjoy well brewed items, including beers, mead, and liquors. This is especially true if you brewed it yourself or worked with a brewer to make the offering. From my rather limited interaction with this group of vaettir, meats and breads are also appreciated, the less processing done and the more care taken in cooking/baking it the better.

All of this said, my relationship with Andvari has been very different from my other devotional relationships. Mostly, it has consisted of being as clear as I can in what is mine. Apply the idea as broad and as thin as you can of being exceptionally clear on what is mine. This is an ongoing work that I do both for Him and I. Another quite powerful part of my relationship with Andvari has been developing a far better and healthier relationship with money and working at chipping down my debts. You could well ask why, and part of it is because that is what Andvari is really good at, where at least part of His focus lies. The sorting out of my debt is, in a way, sorting out what is mine and bringing back into my hands all that is mine so I can put it to my use. This is not all that different from a crafter making sure they have all their tools at hand and cared for. Money, having its own group of vaettir as well as being the means by which we trade our claim on labor for goods, services, and the repayment of debt, can bring power when we are in good alignment with it.

You may find that the Dvergar you interact with want the same kinds of offerings as other Holy Powers, but given my experiences I would not be surprised to find that They have very specific wants from you should They accept your cultus. Gifts of your hands, made to the best of your ability, may be accepted. Another may be ongoing dedicated work, such as learning a craft, which can vary as far as blacksmithing to knitting, brewing to soapmaking. Whatever the offering, it should be made with and in the spirit of excellence even should you be far from being master at whatever it is.

Beginning to Build a Relationship with Vaettir -Jötnar

Jötnar are perhaps the most maligned and misunderstood group of Gods and vaettir in Heathen religion and the wider Pagan communities. Since this post is about vaettir I will dig into the Jötnar as vaettir rather than going over the various Jötnar Gods.

The notion that Jötnar are uniquely dangerous is rather undeserved in my view. All vaettir are potentially dangerous. Anyone who thinks deer are little more than placid creatures should watch videos of hunters who have had to tangle hand-to-hoof with one. It tends to end poorly for the hunter. It should be remembered no small amount of the Aesir that so many seem to think are less dangerous are actually ferocious and equally, if not more dangerous than many Jötnar. Many are Jötun or have Jötun ancestry Themselves even if the allegiance They hold is to the Aesir. All of the Gods are capable of being ferocious in battle, and anyone who tries to, say, pin the Vanir as uniquely being Gods of peace or specifically pacificity should be reminded that though Freyr gave up His sword for love, He still took up the antler as His weapon and fought Surt with it at Ragnarök. The Aesir and Vanir fought one another to a standstill which was only broken when hostages were exchanged.

So what are Jötnar? Put simply They are vaettir who are tied quite close to primal forces and natural phenomena, though They may or may not be the personification of that primal force and/or natural phenomena. They are often looked at and understood as wilder than Aesir and Vanir, with these two tribes of Gods often looked upon as the ‘civilized’ Gods. My experience with Jötnar is that They do tend to be more outwardly wild than the Aesir or Vanir, but that the claims that the Jötnar are uncivilized is dead wrong. They have cultures, distinct to the regions They live in and/or roam. This ties into the idea of regional cultus, the idea that our location, environment, place in time, and culture’s response to these factors impacts our spiritual relationships, making them unique to an area. Regional cultus has existed because we came to understand our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and our relationships with Them in context of where we live and how our culture’s traditions reacted to and reinforced those relationships. This understanding, to my mind, is a two way street: we relate to our Holy Powers in context of where we live and how, and They in turn relate to us through those ways. So some ways in which we relate to Jötnar may not translate 1:1 with our sources of lore. For instance: Michigan has a lack of mountains (except the Porcupine Mountains, for instance, in the Upper Peninsula) so that I have very little interaction with vaettir in general tied to mountains unless I journey to a place with mountains spiritually or physically.

Beginning a relationship with a landvaettr seems to make sense to people intuitively in an animist/polytheist way. After all, we live on the Earth, the Earth is a Goddess and is also full of spirits of that Earth. Why wouldn’t we want to have a good relationship with the land we live on? When it comes to Jötnar folks seem to forget this mindset, also forgetting that the Goddess whose name is Earth, Jörð, is Jötun. I do find that some Jötnar ride the line or are landvaettir Themselves. Others are Beings who take up space within the context of being aligned with a place, eg Jötnar aligned with bodies of water such as Undines tend to be there. They tend to be of or take up the wildest aspects of these places.

So why do we develop relationships with the Jötnar? They are part of the primal forces that make up our world, and They are found throughout most of the Worlds. We can encounter Jötnar most anywhere we do landvaettir. Additionally, we may find Them in the primal aspects of this world, among them storms, ice, snow, winds, forests, swamps, and animals. Some, given They live in Jötunheim, Niflheim, Múpelheim, and so on, may require a spiritual journey to meet with Them. My previous warnings on journeying apply here even more so considering how much more powerful the Jötnar generally are than us, how extreme these environments are to us, and that in journeying to these places we are entering their realms. If you can meet with Them here that is probably for the best. That being said, Jötnar are renowned in many arts, from medicinal to martial, magic, shapeshifting, and more. Seeking Them out for devotion is slowly becoming more accepted, but whether a thing is accepted or not, devotion to these Beings is a beautiful and powerful thing. They are among our Holy Powers. Seeking Them out for devotion, partnership, or help in an endeavor is a powerful working in and of itself. How much more so when you worship and/or ally with the primal Beings we share this and other Worlds with.

Beginning to Build a Relationship with Vaettir -The Dead

Of any of the various vaettir one could work with the Dead are one I advise folks have a lot of caution before working with Them. It may seem counterintuitive, given how much emphasis I have put in this post and in my blog in general on working with our Ancestors. After all, They are Dead. The Ancestors are, at least in part among the Dead, but not all are the Dead, and for those that are, we hold unique relationships with Them. We do not have this connection with the general Dead. The Dead draw Their ranks from among every Being in every World. Some may retain grudges into whatever Their afterlife is, whereas some change entirely.

So what are the Dead? They are spirits of those who once lived. They come from every World. Some are human; most are not. It is not worth bothering most of the Dead. Most Dead who can be contacted know about as much, sometimes more and sometimes less, than those when They are alive. Likewise for the Dead’s ability to act in the Worlds. Contacting the Dead besides those methods approved by a God or Goddess of the Dead tends to be fairly dangerous. Not only are you risking wrangling with a potentially angry and dangerous vaettr, you may also be risking pissing off a God or Goddess of the Dead. So why develop a relationship with the Dead at all?

We all have Dead people, not just Ancestors, as part of our foundation. The Dead share this world with us. When we get right down to brass tacks, we literally stand on the Dead as the decomposed bodies on the soil of the Earth. Our homes are built on Them, our civilizations’ foundations, metaphorically and literally, rest on Them. We are in relationship with the Dead whatever our religion. Some of these Dead are part of the landvaettir, and others remain distinct. We might reach out to the Dead to form better relationships with the places we live. I live on land that the Patawatome, Ojibwe, Wyandot, Iriquois, and others may have lived on. To be in good relationship with the landvaettir I need to be good to the Dead that are part of Them, that live with or within the landvaettir.

We might reach out to different kinds of Dead as a devotional act. In my own case I give cultus to the Warrior and Military Dead, most of whom I am completely unrelated to. I honor the Dead as a priest of Anpu that come across my altar to the Dead as a kind of spiritual waystation. I maintain it per Anpu’s direction by providing a good place to rest for those Dead who need it, and for others who are ready to move on. This physical space is an offering in and of itself, giving the Dead the use of the waystation to go to where it is They need to. Others worship factions of the Dead because they relate to certain professions, callings, and the like. Whatever one’s reason for forging relationships with the Dead, one should have good relationships with one’s own Ancestors first, and clear ideas of boundaries around one’s relationship with any Dead one would like to make.

The safest way that I know how to build a relationship with the Dead is to first ask permission from Hela if the Dead are in Hel/Helheimr, or the God of whatever Dead you are trying to contact. If you are trying to contact one of the Dead who has drowned then Rán would be the Goddess to direct prayers to. If someone died in combat, then Freyja or Óðinn. I find it a cool and interesting part of Norse/Icelandic Heathenry that there are a number of places for the Dead to go, though the majority will go to Hel/Helheimr. If you secure the permission of the God of a particular group of Dead to contact Them, then, as with other vaettir make a space for Them on/in a vé, make offerings, and do your due dilligence to be sure that contact is made, the offerings are accepted, and the relationship has begun. I highly recommend the Dead have an entirely separate vé from your Gods, Ancestors, and other vaettir. Keeping clear and healthy boundaries is to your benefit and respectful to the Gods, Ancestors, and other vaettir you hold relationships with.

Beginning to Build a Relationship with Vaettir -Elemental

Elemental vaettir are what it says on the tin. Now, an obvious question here is “Are landvaettir elemental vaettir?” and my answer is “Yes.” The way that I figure it, is that all landvaettir are jörðvaettir but not all jörðvaettr are landvaettir. Sometimes a vaettr of the Earth, a jörðvaettr, is not part of or attached to a specific piece of land, but it may be an individual rock, bit of soil, a tree, and so on. So what are the elemental vaettir within Heathenry? They are beings of or related to the elements of Fire and Ice first, followed by Water, Earth, and Air. Fire and Ice, in the Worlds of Múspellheimr and Niflheimr, were the first two Worlds to emerge from the Ginnungagap (often referred to as “the yawning void”, but another interpretation can be the “power-filled space”) and from the meeting of Fire and Ice the Water flowed, Earth was uncovered in Niflheim, and the first stirrings of Air were made, the first breaths taken.

I understand that all elemental vaettir are related to and interconnected with each other. Looking at this from the perspective of Fire is helpful. Each eldrvaettr, fire spirit, relates back to the First Fire that burns in Múspellsheimr. Is that First Fire Surtr? I happen to believe so, but whether Surtr is the First Fire or the First Being that comes from the unfolding burning of that First Fire is rather immaterial. He is the the First God. That Fire that became or is Surtr is the Eldest Ancestor, the First Being that burns still from whom all Fire descends. Each fire, no matter how great or small is related back to that Eldest Ancestor, that First Fire. Each fire, whether an eldrvaettr, a jötnar, or a God associated with or possessing qualities of Fire relates in some way to that First Fire. Each fire, whether a small candle, a firecracker, a wildfire, a volcano, relates back to that Fire.

So how do we develop a relationship with elemental vaettir? We honor Them, we make prayers and offerings to Them just as we do other vaettir. We make prayers and are respectful to the powerful Beings connected to Them or from whom They descend. We understand each Being, no matter how small or great, is or is connected with a vaettr, and treat it well accordingly. We understand that the world is full of and is a vaettr.

Like with other vaettir we make space for it on a vé, and this can be very simple to start with: a simple white cloth on a surface with a representation of ice, or something that can hold actual ice or snow when able. For fire, a candle either a burning candle or LED if you are in a space where burning is not permitted. For water a small bowl or cup filled regularly. For earth a patch of dirt or rock from where you live; do not forget to ask permission and if you get it to make offerings to the landvaettir you take this from. For air an incense burner with incense, a pinwheel, or a bell. Really, what you can make a connection with here is going to matter far more than some examples I can give you. The point is that, whatever vé you set up for whichever vaettir, it should be something you can connect with.

Among the reasons we reach out to elemental vaettir as a devotional act to understand Them better, to have better relationships with Them. In understanding and working with Them better we understand and work with the basic elemental forces that make up the Worlds, that we live alongside, that we depend upon and are part of our everyday existence. We can develop deeper and better relationship with the Beings Whose bodies our modern world is built upon, and in so doing, come into better alignment with where They would have us be, and so, find ourselves embracing better ways of living in this World.

We Are Not the Center

Since we are not the center of our cosmology or the relationships we form within that cosmology, we must recognize that we are not the only ones capable of proposing or forming relationships. Any of the vaettir can reach out to us for a relationship for Their own reasons, reasons which They may or may not share with us. Being most of us are free agents in regards to the relationships we forge with the vaettir, we may accept or deny these connections, and then live with whatever consequences may come from that. Note: I assigned no value to this for a reason. We may have legitimate reasons for not wanting to develop a relationship with a given vaettr or group of vaettir. Your reasons for developing a relationship with a vaettr or a group of vaettir are just that.

There are a variety of factors beyond our basic worldview that can factor into our relationships with vaettir. Among them are the Gods we worship, and what role(s) we take on within our religious communities. Some find that worshiping the Æsir keeps them from worshiping Jötnar altogether, though this has not been my own experience. Some find that worshiping the Dvergar may be a factor in whether or not they can worship the Ljossalfar. Some do not. This is also why we have a broad range of spiritual specialists in Heathenry and the Northern Tradition Pagan religions. We cannot be all things to all the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. If you came to me as a spirit worker and asked for help with the Ljossalfar I would be pointing you in another direction because I do not hold relationships with Them. I coud maybe do some divination for you, maybe something in the realm of yes/no, but anything digging in too deep with how to develop good relationships with Them or what to do when one comes knocking on your door? If you want to positively respond to that I generally do not have much for you. It does not make me a bad spirit worker or that the Ljossalfar bad Themselves, I just do not have a good relationship with Them.

A spirit-worker will likely have different kinds of relationships with different kinds of vaettir from the average non-specialist. After all, a non-specialist can have very deep relationships but carry no baggage from being sworn to a group of vaettir into a given relationship. The non-specialist here then has, potentially, quite an advantage over the specialist since many of us are grabbed up by or have otherwise come into the service of a group of Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir. We may not have the option of engaging with a group of vaettir that a non-specialist could. Being a spirit worker does not make us inherently better than a non-specialist, it just means we are geared or driven towards certain kinds of spirit work. It’s a job title like diviner or healer; some spirit workers get more than one job wrapped up in their job as a spirit worker, and some do not.

What matters, in the end, is that each person is willing and able to develop good relationships with the vaettir that they come to or vice versa. Really, this gets down to the core of being Heathen or Northern Tradition Pagan. Whatever you do, whatever your role, whether Heathen, Northern Tradition, or just adjacent to these communities, you should be coming to the vaettir to develop a good relationship with Them. May these relationships be well-made and well-maintained.

Good luck and ves þu heil!

Patreon Topic 1: Deathwalking Part 2

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 here on my Patreon.

This post continues from the groundwork laid in Part 1 here.

Caring for the Soul Matrix

Some parts of the soul matrix may take care of themselves upon death, especially those tied into the lyke, the body itself, such as the litr (health/vivacity), and önd (sacred breath/sacred energy). Others need coaxing, direction, and help moving on. Now, because the whole soul matrix does not immediately dissolve on the person’s death, each soul part will need respect due to it, and depending on the person, each part of the soul matrix may need to be cared for. For instance, the lyke deserves respect as it is still a part of the person’s soul, so unceremoniously chucking the Dead’s body in a hole disrespects the person’s physical soul part and the rest of the soul matrix as well. Remembering a person well honors a person’s various soul parts, including their munr (memory).

Deathwalking, then, is a process involving the whole of a Being, and to keep this as organized as possible I will be going through the Soul Matrix with ways to do deathwalking with each part of it. Before trying to deathwalk any part of a person’s soul matrix, especially that of a spirit worker or magic worker, do your divination and talk with their community members, especially if they have apprentices, students, and/or living Elders for how best to proceed. It may be they need to do work post-mortem and rather than helping you are interfering.

This is a basic overview of the soul matrix that I work with and my general suggestions on deathwalking with it. I will not be writing much on the particulars of how to do a deathwalk ritual here as I covered that in detail in the last post.

The Lyke

This is the physical body.
Giving the lyke good care after death, eg ritual washing and grooming, dressing and so on, and then a good burial, cremation, or other form of caring for the Dead’s body post-mortem is part of deathwalking. It is among the first steps for both the Dead and those the Dead leave behind in fully reckoning with a death. Hopefully deathwalking steps take place much earlier, eg making final arrangements with a living will, power of attorney, funeral home, and so on. However, most of us find ourselves having to make decisions rather quickly and decisively about how our Dead are to be cared for, so be sure to talk with those you can now and develop plans/outlines for cases where you will be the next of kin or called on to help with final arrangements.

Even here, how a person dies has immediate impact on how their body may be cared for in a ritual context. If their body is damaged beyond repair or if they died of a communicable disease then certain options for viewing or funerals may be entirely closed to you. If a Heathen person died in combat then addressing Odin, Freyja, and the valkyries is sensible when making prayers for the Dead. If a person drowned or died at sea, then prayers should be made for the Dead to Ægir and Rán. If the person died and willed their body to be used for science or medical needs, then prayers and offerings to Eir, Mengloth, and our other Gods associated with healing, medicine, and so on would be excellent. If a person died of illness then prayers to Hela are appropriate; likewise, anytime one worships or works with the Dead and/or Ancestors one should make prayers and offerings to Her.

The Hamr

The hamr is the spiritual double of a person. It could be analogized to the astral body in general occultism.

I find deathwalking with the hamr is usually simple in terms of spirit work. If someone was particularly hamramr, that is, shape-strong, a shapeshifter, they may have one or many forms which were special to them. Giving the hamr good care after death is making prayers and offerings to the shapes their hamr may have taken. I find the hamr tends to hang around at least for awhile after death. As most people’s hamr is just a human shape, then making offerings of food, water, and other things they enjoyed in life are good ways of honoring them and inviting their hamr to move on from their body. If a given person was hamramr then making appropriate offerings to the shape their hamr took may be quite powerful and healing for them. These offerings could be in the form of food, water, and other traditional offerings, and they could also take the form of service offerings. For instance, if a person who died was strongly connected with a raptor then making a donation to a rehabilitation service for them, or for some kind of group that protects them, would be a good offering. Likewise, making prayers and offerings to any Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir that are tied to the Beings whose hamr they had is a good way of caring for the hamr in death.

The Litr

The litr is health and vivacity.

I find that the litr is one part of the soul matrix often extinguished on death. I have yet to encounter an instance where one’s litr outlived the person’s body. Were I to help deathwalk this part of a person’s soul matrix I would likely engage in the activity that brought them the most joy, or that they most dearly wished to do before they died. Deathwalking this soul matrix part is, as I know it, accomplished by those who are with the person as they are dying. Letting go of the litr is, generally, what the body does on death. To cause as little trauma to it and any other soul parts during the dying process, the dying person should be allowed and helped to do what causes them joy, to engage their vivacity one last time. When death comes, encouraging the litr, alongside the ond, and the lyke itself to let go will help the other parts of the soul matrix let go and move on. Simply giving permission, letting the person know that they will be alright, and that their loved ones will be alright, may be all they need. If they are having a hard time accepting death they may need to be walked with spiritually on the Helvegen, the Way to Hel, until they are where they need to be or until a God,Goddess, Ancestor, or powerful spirit comes to collect them. Working with the litr, together with the other soul parts in the rituals mentioned in Part 1 should be a big help here.

The Vili

The will, or the Will, the part of the person’s soul matrix that brings power to action.

I find that the Vili is another part of the soul matrix that goes with them in death. Deathwalking here is especially potent in a similar way to the litr: by helping them come to grips with the understanding that they are dying, they will not put their will to surviving at all costs. Deathwalking engages the vili in embracing death in a way that is accepting of the process before the dying person. Fighting with a person’s vili should be avoided for the same reason that you avoid fighting with their litr: you do not want to needlessly traumatize them or their loved ones. Working with the person on accepting they are dying, and helping them through that process is likely the best way forward for most. Now, if the person was a powerful spirit or magic worker, then they may require more prayers and offerings before they go to help disengage from the lyke and other earthbound soul matrix parts. If the person was a particularly powerful spirit or magic worker then the Vili being especially strong and even present after death would make sense because of the time and development of this in the course of their life. It may even work with other soul parts in a similar way, guiding the hamr to act in certain ways on death. Again, do divination and talk with their community members to see if any work on your part is needed.

The Moðr

The mood and emotional content of the soul matrix.

While you could look at the Moðr as exclusively belonging to the physical body, I also see it tied up with soul parts not tied to the body, namely the Vili, Oðr, Vé, and Goði/Gyðja. If someone dies in a particularly harsh or isolating way, their unresolved anger, grief, and/or other emotions may be enough to keep their spirit in a place. Many hauntings may simply be spots of unresolved Moðr from someone whose soul parts are cycling through the same trauma over and over again. I find that offering a way for that emotion to release can solve the issue. It could be offering the spirit prayers or an offering, and at times it can be just listening to them express themselves. Deathwalking this soul part is letting the dying or Dead person express themselves as fully as they need. It is helping them be as emotionally fulfilled as they can be so they can face the next step of their afterlife.

The Önd

The breath, spiritually akin to chi, ki, or pneuma.

This soul part goes with the person when they die. It is the circulation of spiritual energy, and in my view has ties to all the soul parts while we live. It is part of how we engage with our other soul parts. For instance, someone who works with their önd on a regular basis can engage their óðr in a deeper way because it is done with intent, and the development of skill in doing so.

The Huge

Thought. The way we think, the paradigms of understanding we have, and the worldview we hold.

This soul part goes with the body, generally speaking, unless enough parts of the soul matrix hold together after death. Deathwalking this part of the soul before death is working with the dying person in a sacred way, engaging with the Moðr, and helping the person understand as best they can that they are dying. For a person who has died but has kept their Huge active, this could be as simple as speaking with the Dead at their funeral, inviting Them to join the Ancestors.

A common trope I have heard as both a priest and funeral assistant, one which I get quite angry with, is that funerals are only for the living. No. They are liminal spaces where those who are Dead are mourned, remembered, honored, and invited to join the Ancestors. They are where the living can receive closure, come together in community during loss, and engage with the Dead and one another to grieve and do the right things so the Dead are let go. What does this have to do with Huge?

Sometimes a spirit will stick around if it feels that it needs to stay for the good of a loved one. Final rites, including blesssing the dying, and funerals, allows for the spirit to understand that it no longer needs to stay. That it has, in fact, transitioned from one state of Being to another. This is part of why I advocate for folks to give their prayers orally rather than only in one’s head or heart. Sometimes the act of hearing, the effect of working with one’s önd to communicate a message to a Being who can no longer call on önd as we do, can impart the understanding that a person is Dead. Likewise, the making of prayers, the giving of offerings, lighting of candles, and reykr (burning sacred herbs to cleanse/consecrate/bless) for the Dead. Not only are these made on Their behalf, it is also for us as a bridge to communicate and/or work with Them. Working with the spirits of Mugwort, for instance, we ask the Mugwort to bring Her cleansing and Her ability to communicate to bear so we can bring cleansing to an area, place, or Being. Deathwalking with the spirit’s soul matrix in ceremony not only cleanses and brings the lyke to a state that the Dead person may pass on, it can help bring each soul part to grips with its reality and aid in the disollution of the soul parts that need to go, and the passing on of the soul matrix that remains.

The Munr

The Memory. This is the living memories of the person, and, in my view, those memories that live on after we die.

The Henry Adam Bellows translation of the Hávamál, Stanzas 77-78 illustrate this well:

77. Cattle die, | and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one’s self;
But a noble name | will never die,
If good renown one gets.

78. Cattle die, | and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one’s self;
One thing now | that never dies,
The fame of a dead man’s deeds.

Deathwalking with a person’s Munr is listening to their stories before they die, if you can. After death, it is passing on the stories that best capture their life, the stories that enable them to live long after the Earth has reclaimed them. To a certain degree our Munr are interconnected. We do not determine history on our own, and likewise, our memories cannot be made in isolation. Remembering the Dead, then, is also tied to community. Deathwalking can occur with a person’s Munr at their funeral and a post-funeral feast, and it can occur in the private sharing of amusing anecdotes, songs, and stories of a person’s life.

The Goði/Gyðja

The Highest Self.

In my understanding this is one of the soul parts that will certainly stay around long after a person is dead. The Chieftain that guided the person, that they may or may not have been striving to be, may not respond to the dead person’s name after death because it is moved on from that. Deathwalking the Goði/Gyðja is done by doing well by the soul matrix as a whole. It is engaging the dying person well, if you have the ability to, and when a person is dead, to do the vigil, rites, prayers, and offerings well by them.

The Fylgja/Fylgjur

The Follower, or Followers.

The Fylgja holds an interesting place in Heathenry. On the one hand most folks equate it to the fetch, and yet, it appears in a number of different ways. As I understand it fylgja, or fylgjur, are part of the soul matrix because, much like our hamingja is built in community so our spiritual Elders, allies, friends, and acquaintances are made in community. Since I understand it in this fashion I can only touch on how I might work with the Fylgja-as-fetch: namely, by making prayers, offerings, and thanks for its work. While I follow a similar line of thought with regards to fylgjur-as-spirits-in-community the relationship held between the Dead and the Fylgja/Fylgjur is different. This is where obligation comes in, and understanding the person needing the deathwalking as clearly as possible. Where there are questions this is where being a good diviner and having good diviners as backup or to reference if you are too close to the Dead is a good idea.

My view is that deathwalking is done with the Fylgja/Fylgjur rather than to the Fylgja/Fylgjur. These are spirits with independent existence from any one person’s soul matrix. When I am dying part of my deathwalk will be to be sure that the vaettir with whom I am aligned, have worshiped and worked with ove the years are done well by. This means prayers, offerings, and speaking with Them as I can, or having another do it in my stead. This may also mean carrying over certain relationships with my family, Kindred, apprentices, students, and so on. For instance, my Runes will go to my apprentice that I brought into Runework. He can then pray to Them, work with Them, honor Them, and build different ties in this form that continue our relationship. When a person is dying or has died, a simple form of deathwalking with the Fylgja/Fylgjur would be to ask Them to be present at the vigil, the funeral, and so on. To help inform the passing on of the Dead’s Munr. To help honor well the Lyke and other soul parts of the person, and to be involved.

The Kinfylgja/Kinfylgjur

My view of the Kinyfylgja/Kinfylgjur is along similar lines to the Fylgja/Fylgjur. Treating these spirits well, inviting Them to the deathwalking, the vigil, funeral, and so on is important not only because of the ties of friendship, initiation, and/or community. Kinfylgja/Kinfylgjur are what the word says on the tin: They are spirits, Followers, that are Kin. Relatives. This may refer to Ancestors, to animals or plants especially tied to a person’s family, or to initiated lineage. Treating Them with respect and bringing Them into a person’s deathwalk is not only respectful, They may be actively angry with a person or the family if excluded.

The Megin

Personal might/power.

Often tied to honor, this idea of Megin is the power one has and the ability to put one’s power to use. Each person holds Megin, but how they are able to express it, use it, and work with it differs person to person. It can refer to your ability to do something, guided by the Vili. It can refer to the pull you have socially. Power expressess itself in a number of ways, some overt, eg the ability to move weight, and others subtle, eg the ability to move people to emotion. It can also refer to spiritual power employed in magic. A person’s Megin may not go away when a person dies. The effects a given person has or can exert on a community post-mortem can be quite a testament to the ongoing effects, or ongoing work, their Megin is engaged in.

Given the ways Megin can find expression there are only so many ways I can write on deathwalking and Megin. A person might invest quite a lot of Megin in a given craft or items, such as Runes, ritual tools, and items that have deep connections with certain Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. They might also invest a lot of Megin in the running and operations of a community, though this will intersect with Hamingja as well. Deathwalking Megin, then, is how we work with a person’s might or power and the things it is invested in, in a healthy way. In the case of a community, it is continuing the community’s operation in a good, healthy way, or, if it is not going to outlive this person, to dissolve it with grace. In the case of their things, it is making sure anything they want to be passed on is done so in a sacred manner. For those that are not meant to be passed on, they may wish to take them to the grave or pyre. Burial with one’s prized possessions is an ancient practice, so knowing the person, especially having a list from them in their will or other documents is something I recommend everyone put some thought into. Not only will it help your transition, but having a will and other documents in order to wrap up your estate and disposition will make putting your affairs, including your soul matrix, into as easy an order as possible for everyone you leave behind. You can put in writing how you want any items attached to your soul matrix taken care of, including who they go and how, and make the job of anyone doing your execution of your will and/or any deathwalking that much easier.

The Hamingja

Group luck/power.

Where Megin was power built on one’s own, Hamginja is built in community. It is what we inherit from our forebears, and affects the shape of our Urðr. It is built within the relationships we build well, harmed by the relationships we neglect, and can grow quite strong if we do the work necessary for it to. Each oath kept, each work done that helps the community adds to one’s own and others’ interwoven hamingja.

Deathwalking this part of the soul matrix is honoring the ties they hold and clearing debts a person may have to those in their community. It is atoning as best they can for wrongs done, and acknowledging the things they need to do before they die. It is also, crucially, celebrating the things their life has allowed Hamingja to do and what they have done with their Hamingja. Deathwalking a person’s Hamingja is calling on their community to carry the Dead’s Hamingja well, since this soul part will live on long after death. If a person is dying I would include a part where the person intentionally acknowledges their Hamingja as taking place in and residing not only in themselves, but the loved ones and communities they were part of in life. If they were initiated, in addition to calling on their Kinfylgja, reminding them that live on in the lineage they are part of. Post-mortem deathwalking rites should remind the community and reinforce their mutual responsibility in carrying the Dead’s contribution to their hamingja forward.

The Vé

The sacred place, or, in terms of the soul matrix, a person’s sense of, sensitivity to, and aptitude in working with the sacred.

This part is deathwalked in the rites performed, the sacred objects treated well, and the person’s involvement in the rites. Whether you are doing a deathwalking with someone who is dying or someone who is Dead, the way to involve the spirit is to give them sections where they themselves can take part. Giving a section of a funeral or memorial rite where the Dead is given space to speak can be powerful not only for the attendees, it can be equally so for the Dead.

Crucially for deathwalkers, if a person’s sacred places were violated while they were dying or after they die, deathwalking them can also mean righting wrongs here. Disposing of sacred items in a good and sacred way can avoid a lot of heartache and gives closure to the Dead. Encouraging families who suddenly now have to handle a lot of sacred materials can be a challenge, particularly if the family has no connection or interest in the religion of the Dead. Depending on how acrimonious the relationship was, a deathwalker may need to do some corrective work, or at the least hear the grievances of the Dead whose Vé has been violated.

Good ways of taking care of a person’s Vé would involve taking good care of any shrines or holy places they tended, and taking care of the items that were part of their cultus. As in the section on Megin, this may be figuring out what goes where, or how. It can also be who takes care of what items, or in the case where there are traditions around a dead person’s spiritual items being disassembled or passed on, to do everything one can to honor that. Community connections will be critical here, particularly if a deathwalker has been called in from the outside to provide support. If you do not have the ability to handle the sacred items, either because of your own taboos or those of the religion, then your job is to find the people who can and be sure things proceed well.

The Oðr

Frenzy. The ability of a person to enter into altered states of consciousness, and sacred states.

Deathwalking the Oðr of a dying person could be helping them achieve their altered state as they are dying after anything they have needed to say has been said. Uniting their soul matrix through song or guided meditation, engaging in ritual, calling on their Holy Powers, and so on can help them transition from life to death much cleaner than they might otherwise. It can also give the soul parts places to go (eg Hugr concentrating on the next step), things to do (eg Oðr engaging them fully in the process of dying), and ways to pass on the soul parts that need to be passed on, (eg parts of the Lyke if they are donating, passsing on Hamingja and/or Megin to their community members, and expresssing gifts of Oðr such as a final poem, song, or workings).

Your average person may not need much in the way of direct deathwalking help, since this soul part is not worked with by most people and generally leaves on death. If the person was a poet, worked a lot with altered states, and/or was a spiritual specialist, then directly deathwalking this soul part in ritual may be needed. Again, depending on the particular taboos a person could be under, someone who is in their community, an Elder, co-religionist, or student may need to be present if not running things to be sure things are done correctly.

Deathwalking this portion of a person after death can be quite dangerous -I put the word frenzy as the first thing because it may well be the thing you encounter with a person whose Oðr is still around after their death. If they were particularly potent in working with the soul part you may need to do some serious spiritual work, especially if there is no one available to do the work from within their religious group. This can include contacting and securing the help of Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir the person was tied to in life and is after death. This can also include disassembling, destroying, or reducing harm from objects or tools tied to their Oðr in life, and workings they did while alive that now need to stop. It may also be simply giving space in ritual for their frenzy to be expressed, to be heard, and/or for that gift to be passed on. As with most parts of deathwalking this is going to need to take a willingness on the part of the deathwalker to be careful, to do their due diligence in speaking with the dying or dead person’s community, and doing follow up to be sure the right rituals and actions are done.

The Örlög

One’s personal thread in the tapestry of Creation.

Deathwalking this soul part is tied up in the same rites of remembrance and care mentioned in this and the previous post. Honoring a person’s life and death is part of deathwalking the Örlög. Deathwork can take the form of helping the dying person to die well. Deathwalking this soul part for the Dead to be being sure the Dead is well-remembered and the rituals around their death and final disposition of their soul matrix, and anything they may have left behind or wanted to pass on, is done well.

The Urðr

The tapestry of Creation.

As with Örlög, this soul part is tied up in the rites of remembrance and care. Whereas Örlög is one’s personal thread in the tapestry, Urðr is the place where that thread is and the way this thread fits into the overall tapestry. Each person affects the tapestry differently over the course of their lives, and acknowledging their place in things, as with Örlög. Unlike Örlög, which is about each person’s thread, Urðr is the way each thread interweaves with each other. So, while deathwalking this soul part can be done in similar ways to the Örlög, emphasizing the person’s impact on and relationships within a given community during any vigil, ritual, or memorial is important. Understanding ourselves as being bound up in this great tapestry is a comfort to many. It may help a deathwalker to acknowledge a person’s place in Urðr, and that their time to find their place in that tapestry is at an end for this life.

I have covered deathwalking about as exhaustively as I can without specific questions or scenarios to explore, so if you want me to dig into this further sign up my Patreon for the Uruz, Thurisaz, or above level here on my Patreon.

Patreon Topic 2: When a God Comes

From my first Raiðo supporter comes this topic:

What to do when a god, especially one as terrifying and as pushy as Odin, comes knocking? I think it would be good for future heathens who get called by Him.

Ideally, as a Heathen, you will have your life grounded in gipt-fá-gipt (gift-for-a-gift, aka reciprocity) with the Gods, the Ancestors, and the vaettir. If not, well, now is the time to start!

So this can be pretty delicate or dicey depending on how a God or Goddess comes to you. This is where spiritual specialists, even if you are one, are useful. Getting solid divination done to see if what you have experienced is indeed contact with the God or Goddess you think it is, if what has contacted you in the first place is even a God, what to do and where to go from here all should be asked of a diviner and/or vaettirverkr (spirit worker) you trust. If at all possible the diviner or vaettirverkr should have an ongoing relationship in good stead with the God or Goddess in question, and barring that, be in active good relationships with Gods related to the one in question.

This is not to say you cannot get some good divination and guidance from folks outside of a given religious path, in our case here being Heathen or Northern Tradition Pagan. However, the likelihood is that folks within these religions will be able to give you clearer or more informed answers than those outside of it. Wherever you are, starting with folks you know, trust not to bullshit you, and will partner with you to help discern experiences you have is the first step.

From there, if divination finds that the experience you have had is from a God or Goddess then negotiation is going to be of deep help. Most folks are going to be in a decent place to bargain on boundaries and obligations unless you have done something like made some kind of formal oath to the God or Goddess already. If you have made an oath the best thing you can do is keep it. If you have made an oath to a God that you are literally unable to keep, then appealing to the God directly, or to another God within the God or Goddess’ family as well as your Ancestors is probably the way to go. Again, situations like these are delicate/dicey. They are nuanced and best worked out with a skilled diviner and/or vaettirverkr within your direct situation.

Assuming that you have had a genuine experience of a God or Goddess coming to you, have no big oaths or obligations hanging over your head to go this or that way, what do you do now?

Even if your boundary is “I cannot handle an intense relationship right now” doing basic, respectful cultus to the God is what I would do. It respects the God has reached out to you and you, in turn, give the God the space in your life that you can. As time goes on things can change, whether circumstances in your life open up so you can give effective time to the relationship, or following up on a hobby or interest opens a new door into your relationship with the God. Doing research into the God may open you up to different ways of understanding Him. You may find that a God entering your life is to open you up to other relationships with that God’s relatives or loved ones, rather than engaging intensely or only with Them.

Having a God like Óðinn knocking on your door can be damned terrifying. I think about the worst thing to do would be to ignore Him. If He is there, and divination bears that out, then I would honor Him by recognizing Him, revering Him, and doing your best to understand Him. Negotiate and engage with Him in good Gebo. He has taken time out to reach out to you, and in reciprocity, it is good to reach back to Him.