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Holiness and Sacredness are Rooted Words: A Reply to John Halstead’s I Hold These Things to be Sacred

October 30, 2015 21 comments

For clarity and to keep things as orderly as I can, I will be responding line by line to John Halstead’s post on Patheos, I Hold These Things To Be Sacred: A Reply to Sarenth Odinsson.

Sarenth Odinsson says that, because I don’t believe in gods, nothing is sacred or holy to me. 

I intentionally avoided using names in my piece, Holiness is Rootedness, because I wasn’t talking specifically about one atheist Pagan or another. My entire point is in the first paragraph.

In order to have a sense of what is holy, one must have ideas and concepts related to holiness. In order for these ideas and concepts to be related to holiness, it must have roots in a religion, a theological framework, in which holiness as a concept is able to take root. If one’s religious framework has no Gods, there is nothing to consecrate. If there is no God or Goddess, no Holy Power to consecrate, then there is no holiness just as there is no profanity or things lacking in that consecration.

If you have no theological framework then there is no theology to explain what is or is not holy. If you have no theological framework to discern what holiness is, its qualities and characteristics, then you have no concept of holiness to draw upon. Atheism’s main characteristics are that there are no Gods, and most of the atheist lines in regards to religious thought and phenomena directly state that there is no such thing as a God, Goddess, Supreme Being, etc. Most, though certainly not all forms of atheism, reject religious cosmology. I find it odd that pointing this out is cause to offend someone who identifies as an atheist, though my article was certainly not aimed solely at Mr. Halstead.

You can say all you like that you believe that things are sacred or holy, but those words carry absolutely no theological or philosophical weight when you say them because you don’t actually believe in the Beings nor the cosmologies that imbue them with that weight to begin with.

So, you know that feeling theists get when atheists tell them their gods are imaginary? I think I’m feeling something similar. Something like, “How dare you!”

Here’s what Odinsson says:

If one’s religious framework has no Gods, there is nothing to consecrate. If there is no God or Goddess, no Holy Power to consecrate, then there is no holiness …”

An atheist framework is one in which there is no God or Goddess, and thus, no sacred. One may hold things reverently, that is, with deep respect, but without a religious framework that very concept that one may hold anything as holy has no basis. An atheist claiming to hold something as holy is a person claiming something to which one has no right …”

I was pointing out what I had thought was patently obvious. I find it odd that Halstead is having such an emotional response when he has flat-out stated he does not believe in Gods. It would follow that there is no existent concept of holiness, as there is no theology in which holiness may take any kind of root. Keep in mind when I write Holy Power or Holy Powers, I include the Ancestors and vaettir, or spirits, in this. I don’t think that animists lack a conception of the holy, as in order to be an animist there is some sort of cosmology present, and accordingly, a way to establish things like what is sacred/not sacred.

Atheism cannot be invested in this understanding as it has no basis for holiness and the sacred, as atheism denies both on their face by its very outlook. Atheism denies that Gods exist, and in so doing, denies the cosmology They are rooted within. The notion of holiness within an atheist context, therefore, cannot exist.”

Now, I’ve never really gotten along with Odinsson. (I think he was the same person who once threatened to punch me if he saw me at Pantheacon.) But I don’t think it should be only atheist Pagans or non-theistic Pagans who are upset by what he is saying here. Odinsson is saying if you don’t believe in the gods, then nothing is sacred or holy to you. Implied in this is the statement there is nothing sacred or holy in the world except the gods.

Nothing sacred in the world but the gods?!

Wow! I would have a hard time imaging a less “pagan” statement than that.

I am not the person who threatened to punch Halstead if I saw him at Pantheacon. I’ve never been to Pantheacon, and given the extreme amount of travel I would have to do and time off I would have to take right before ConVocation here in Michigan, I have no interest in doing so.

Note here that Halstead actually does not refute my points here, or anywhere in this post. He quotes me, but misses the point entirely. There is no implication that there is nothing sacred or holy in the world except the Gods. It is not surprising to me that he misses this point, as Halstead has no conception of holiness himself, and I imagine is probably not familiar with Northern Tradition or Heathen cosmologies. To be quick, the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are holy. The Gods and Elements Themselves are among our Ancestors. Many of the Gods directly made vaettir, i.e. Odin and His Brothers formed the Dvergar from maggots burrowing into the flesh of Ymir. Many Gods are part of the vaettir of this and other Worlds, and vice versa. For instance, landvaettir may be seen as being part of Jörð’s Body/Being, Jörð being one of several Earth Goddesses within Heathenry.  Some vaettir have ascended into being or have become seen as being Gods unto Themselves, and some Gods have descended into being or have been seen as being vaettir unto Themselves. There are methods within the Northern Tradition by which an area may be made to be sacred, or that sacredness may be inborn to a place, such as a grove, or a prepared ritual area, altar, and so on.

There is something deeply disturbing, I think, about a paganism which cannot find the holy or the sacred in the earth or in another person.

Certainly, but that is not my position here, nor was it. I view Jörð, the Earth Goddess, as a holy Being. Do I view all the Earth as sacred? No, as I do not find CAFOs sacred, nor do I find the floating garbage that chokes the oceans sacred. Those, I find profane. Wrong. Unholy.

Are all people sacred? No. All people are bound together in Wyrd, but that merely makes you part of reality, not an inherently sacred person. It doesn’t mean people are valueless either, but sacredness actually means something in the Northern Tradition and Heathenry. Namely, that a thing, Being, place, etc. is dedicated to, belongs to, is consecrated by, or is devoted to the Holy Powers. This is why an altar is a sacred thing, a grove where rituals are performed, or a single tree representing Yggdrasil itself is regarded as sacred. These things are devoted and dedicated to the Holy Powers (Gods, Ancestors and/or vaettir) of the Northern Tradition and/or Heathenry. They are sacred.

As for myself, I hold these things to be sacred and holy: all life, the earth, nature, our selves, our bodies, our relationships.

They are not just things that I hold “reverently” or with “deep respect”; they are holy and sacred.

He says he regards these things as sacred, but without any of these things being involved with, dedicated to, devoted to, or consecrated to Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir, what are these words worth? Without the necessary relationship inherent in a cosmology, in which one relates to all life, the earth, nature, our selves, our bodies, our relationships, and so on, saying something is sacred or holy are empty words. Claiming one holds something sacred or holy without any requisite theology to back these words up is intellectually sloppy or dishonest.

Holiness is rootedness,” says Odinsson. My religion is rooted. It is rooted in these things: Life, Matter, Relationship.

How can Halstead claim his religion is rooted when the soil of the Holy Powers is denied?

Indeed, how can Halstead claim to be religious whatsoever when he denies any of the requisite things for which religion itself functions: namely, to provide a framework for and means by which people may establish relationships with, interact with, revere, understand, and worship the Holy Powers? All these things Halstead claims his religion is rooted in has no meaning without an actual theology in which the sacred matters, and so long as the sacred is, in actuality, absent from his worldview and thus, any religion he would lay claim to, all these words are empty.

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Question 11: Life Skills and Being a Shaman Part 2

July 13, 2014 1 comment

Continued from Part 1:

From Andrew:

I know in my own practice that increasingly my work has turned to mastering skills of various sorts: I’ve been building pop-up books and working on my sewing machine, practicing calligraphy and geometry, and doing a fair bit of graphic design; the carpentry/cabinetmaking is rarer, but it’s there. And lately I’ve been doing a lot of cooking. Sometimes the work is phenomenally dull, other times it’s deeply interesting — but then the artwork and the mental acuity that comes from artisanship kicks in when I’m working for someone else. I find I solve problems better, sort out potential solutions more quickly, and settle on one faster. So, the topic I’d suggest is… write a series of posts about how your shamanic practice informs other specific parts or your life, or how skills like cooking or driving inform your experience as a shaman?

Crafting, such as with woodworking, leatherworking, and pyrography, has given me different avenues for channeling aspects of my religious life.  Whether in devotional expression, talisman and amulet construction, bag-making, or constructing Runes Themselves and the bags to put Them in, crafting put my religious life and magic into my hands in a concrete way.  Drawing allows to make Rune mandalas to connect to the Runes and make magic with Them.  This, combined with woodburning has allowed for powerful talisman work.  The 30 Days of Magic Talisman Challenge I participated in has been one such working.  Something I have been rolling around in my head for a little while is making a Rune set, sets of healing Runes or healing Rune mandalas on Birch wood disks.  Making Rune sets in special wood, I find, also brings a powerful character to Rune working.  The material one works with adds a layer to the readings, or the Runework one does.

The woodcarving project I am working on what used to be a garden stake, and slowly working on it to make a small godpole for Odin.  This is a very rough outline, but the idea of His Face is here.

Odin Garden Stake Godpole -Rough

Something that a friend of mine taught me when she first showed me how to carve, is that “If you can do this in small details, it makes the bigger things that much easier.”  That is very true, and was more of a life lesson than I thought of at the time!  Woodworking projects are an ongoing exercise in patience, a virtue I do not have enough of.  This is also why the godpole is taking me forever to carve.  Each strip of wood slowly brings me closer to the icon of Him, and at some point I will need to tell myself, or better yet, hear from Him, “enough” or “this is good”.

With many of my projects I tend to go in starts and stops, especially when inspiration wallops me over the head.  This is true of my writing as much as it may be of my leatherwork or pyrography.  There are nights I will bang out a bunch of Rune mandalas on paper or make a woodburned project, and the next day I will get relatively little in terms of anything done.  There are other days where I can just cut leather and make a bunch of bags.  Sometimes there are dry spells where I have left my crafting tools alone for weeks.  During times likes these this blog may sit without a new article.  Sometimes I need help to get started again, like here with the questions.  Sometimes something pushes me to write or draw or craft otherwise, like a good song, an article, or when I follow a prompt.  This has taught me patience, and it has also taught me that it is okay to take my time.  To let things come out as they will rather than trying to force them.

When I try to force wood or leather to go in a particular direction without paying attention to where the material is trying to lead me is where I make the majority of my mistakes.  That comes with listening not only to where I am, but where the project is, and assessing what I can really do in a given moment.  Sometimes when I am inspired, I have worked on Odin’s godpole for 6 or so hours without really realizing it.  The next time I sit down to work on it, I may be at it for half an hour.  Learning to be okay with that has helped me with my shamanic work; there is no need to do it all at once, but knowing when to put the gas on and when to coast used to be a deep struggle for me.  I liked to go, go! go! not that long ago  I am much more at ease now than I was then to coast, or to let the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir guide me.  Part of that is letting my desire to control go, whether it is a particular project or spiritual work.  Trying to control too much is stifling, and actually can make things take even longer.  Especially in pyrography, not working with the material can destroy all of my hard work.  There are more than a few projects where I was burning leather where I got impatient and tried to do too much too quick.  The edges ended up blackening, and in one case where I was crafting a spell all the way around the perimeter of the leather first, it ruined the uniformity I was going for with the piece.  I had worked on the piece for about four or so hours, and had to start all over again.  I had to step away; I was too angry and devastated to start again right there.  I needed time to calm down and come at things fresh.  When I had, going through all the steps of cleansing and readying myself for the Rune work, it took me awhile to burn, but I did eventually get it done.

Crafting teaches not only skill and technique of the craft in question, but patience, perseverance, and discipline.  Without these things even a sketch is just a few lines on paper.  Letting go of the need for something to look ‘just right’ taught me to apply this patience and understanding in my shamanic practice as well.  In appreciating what I did have.  Even if my work looks nothing like how I believe it should look.

 

 

Question 11: Life Skills and Being a Shaman Part 1

July 10, 2014 4 comments

From Andrew:

I know in my own practice that increasingly my work has turned to mastering skills of various sorts: I’ve been building pop-up books and working on my sewing machine, practicing calligraphy and geometry, and doing a fair bit of graphic design; the carpentry/cabinetmaking is rarer, but it’s there. And lately I’ve been doing a lot of cooking. Sometimes the work is phenomenally dull, other times it’s deeply interesting — but then the artwork and the mental acuity that comes from artisanship kicks in when I’m working for someone else. I find I solve problems better, sort out potential solutions more quickly, and settle on one faster. So, the topic I’d suggest is… write a series of posts about how your shamanic practice informs other specific parts or your life, or how skills like cooking or driving inform your experience as a shaman?

First off, thank you Andrew.  This is a great question.

There are skills I have connected back to and brought into my religious life, like cooking, woodworking, leatherworking, pyrography, and drawing.  There are others which were part of it to begin with, such as raising my son, teaching, listening, and divining.  Where I saw raising my son as part of my duties not only as a parent, but especially as a Northern Tradition Pagan, shaman, and priest, I had to work a little bit to bring cooking into my religious life.

I am not a great cook.  When I first went off to college and lived in a dorm I managed to burn ramen quite well.  I have learned a bit since then.  I at least don’t set food on fire much anymore, and can make something halfway decent when I have good instructions and stay on target.  I was looking around at one point last year for recipes to connect with my Ancestors.  I had not made a full-on meal on Their behalf, and wanted to have a go at a recipe from on the places my blood relatives came from.

So I looked around online for traditional German recipes.  That was when I found a potato leek soup with mushroom recipe.  I wanted to pair it with something else, but by the time I got around to cooking it, it seemed it would be enough on its own.

Here is what it looked like step-by-step:

Step 1 Potato Leek Soup with MushroomStep 2 Potato Leek Soup with MushroomStep 3 Potato Leek Soup with MushroomStep 4 Potato Leek Soup

When it was finished I took some of the soup out to the tree outside to share with the Ancestors.  Doing this not only put a good recipe into my hands and a good offering before the Ancestors.  Cooking pushed me to connect to my Ancestors in a very straightforward and simple way.  This process of cooking for my Ancestors also taught me something else: don’t forget one group of Ancestors or favor Them so strongly above one another.  I had done so much research looking for a recipe for my German Ancestors that I neglected my French Ancestors. They got my attention and let me know in no uncertain terms They were not pleased with this.  Mercifully, They were pleased and much happier when I made Them an omelette using the same kind of mushrooms as I had for the leek soup above.  I thought perhaps I needed to make a more complex dish, like on the order of the leek soup, but sometimes the Ancestors just want a simple staple that They would have had in life.

This life skill is a powerful way of connecting to our Ancestors, and the Dead in general.  Family cookbooks and recipes are, to me, precious heirlooms we pass on to our loved ones whether we have children or not.  It is one more link in the chain between one’s family members and its descendants, and can be as strong as family stories, genealogy, and history.  Above and beyond being a necessary life skill, one which I am grateful my Ancestors have pushed me to cultivate, cooking is a powerful way of keeping the connections with Them alive for all of those who come to our table.

To be continued in part 2.

Question 5: Relationships and Being a Godatheow

March 10, 2013 2 comments

From Dreaming in Smoke and Fire:

How does being a godatheow affect your relationships with your family? partner? child? employment?

Being a godatheow puts my God at the top of my list.  Given how most people feel about children, and how much I love my son, that is not an easy thing to admit.  Mercifully, it is an understanding with Him that my partner understands, and much of my family at home understands.  As for my employment, well, this is may sound odd, but I did not get regular employment until after I became a godatheow.

I had a temporary job in the drought of four years of unemployment.  When I was laid off from that job after about two months, ironically while I was at Etinmoot, where I was told I by Odin that I was His godatheow, it was another year or so before another job so much as reared its head at me.  I worked for the Great Golden Arches for a few months under a wonderful, understanding manager, and now work doing respite care and direct support.   The pay and hours are better, and I am getting practical experience in my degree.  So while there was upheaval in my life from the impact of becoming a godatheow, once I got with the program and started walk with the leash instead of against it, my life, and that of those around me, got easier by several degrees.  I have a budget now, and by and large, have stuck to it.

So much is going right in my life since Odin took me under His leash.  My relationship with my partner has never been better, to the point where she, along with our son, now live with me.  My relationship with my Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and landvaettir has never been stronger, or so deep in my life.  If anything, becoming His godatheow has been a stabilizing force in my life.

Where my being a godatheow may have the greatest impact is on potentials, such as where I might work, the next place I might live, relationships, and the like.

Odin owns me.  Odin owns me.

If He dictates to me, in a manner I cannot mistake as anything other than a command from Him (and I would do goo-gobs of double-checking, discernment, divination, talking with elders, friends, etc. just to be sure) to leave everything behind and to start wandering I would do that.  Not because I want to abandon my family, not because a roadtrip sure sounds swell, but because my God demanded it of me.  Would I try to get out of such a command?  No, but I might ask Him to delay that until, say, my son is out of school or we are in a better place financially.  I would ask He lay that burden on me, but not upon my family.  I cannot say whether He would accept such a request, but I know He loves His Sons and knows how deep I love mine.  The Gods are not without mercy; He has not asked such a thing of me, yet.

Thinking about this is not easy.  Not in the least.  Let no one tell you being a godatheow is easy, because these kinds of choices can loom over you.  I have to think down this line, and talk with my partner and loved ones about this because there is the possibility that someday I may be called to do something that society would deem ‘crazy’, like taking off for 9 days/weeks/months/years and then coming back.  Is that written in stone?  No, but then again I would be a fool not to look at that possibility, and at the least make people aware of it.

While being a godatheow has been one of the most stabilizing forces in my life, it also has the potential, at any given moment, to destabilize it.  It makes me thankful, even if I am not always as vocal as I ought to be in that thanks, for the stability I do have, for what I may have in the future.  It makes me treasure the moments where I have down time and I am not going here and there doing my God’s Work, or my other Gods’ Work for that matter.  It pushes me to be thankful and treasure the moments I have to be a father and a lover.  It makes me treasure the moments I have to relax.  At any moment Odin can say “Time to go this way” and there I will go.

It is not easy to have this kind of relationship.  It is far easier to brush it off, to self-sabotage, and say “I am not worthy” or “I cannot do this thing” and let the charge be.  That said, it is hard to argue with a leash about your throat and feeling a supreme tugging this way or that.  I will eventually get there, wherever He is leading me, but it is entirely incumbent upon me whether or not I make it harder.

Odin owns me, and in so doing, He has direct influence on my life.  My life is my service, and my service is my life.  In understanding this simple truth I have made my life a good deal easier.  Do I still have autonomy?  Yes, and choices  in my life are plentiful, but this autonomy and these choices are within the larger context of what He gives me to choose from.

With my life being Odin’s, doing well everywhere I can in my life is an offering to Him.  Parenting my son well, treating my partner with respect, love, and dignity, and doing well by my clients are all part and parcel of offering to Him.  My work with the communities, great and small, are part of my Work with Him.  There is no aspect of my life untouched by Him, no aspect of my life that cannot be offered to Him.  While being His godatheow may present challenges to me, my loved ones, and my communities, it is also one of the greatest blessings He has given me.

A Note

Being a godatheow is not for everyone, nor am I any better than one who has never ‘heard’ their God.  This is a wholly different way to live one’s life, to worship and to serve the Gods, a God or Goddess in particular.  I do not expect everyone to be a godatheow to have a deep level of commitment to their God/Goddess, nor godspousery, nor even to ‘hear, see, taste’, etc.  Each person’s relationship with their Gods is between them and their Gods, and while there may be community standards one needs to meet to be part of a community, this is not one of them in the Northern Tradition.  You do not need to be a shaman, a priest, a godatheow, a godspouse, or anything ‘called’ to love your Gods with everything you have.  You just need to give the Gods your time, attention, energy, and love wherever, whenever you can.

Oaths, Maegen, and Hamingja

March 8, 2013 13 comments

“Keeping your word is one of the most important things you can do.  Once you break your word it is hard to get that trust back.  Sometimes, it’s almost impossible.”  -My Dad

There should be little more needing to be said for oaths and oathmaking.  I make exceedingly few oaths nowadays.  This is not because I am untrustworthy or I avoid commitment, but because oaths carry maegen of their own, and along with that binding power, my and the other parties’ maegen.  This maegen will affect those communities I and they are attached to through hamingja.

Before we go much further, let us define some terms.

Maegen

Maegen is analogous to one’s personal luck or power.  Where önd is the breath and analogous to chi or one’s personal energies, maegen is the strength by which those energies are felt, how they are wielded, and so on.  We all start with önd, and some work with their önd quite well in context of building it, such as by learning breath control, inner control, meditation, and similar arts.  Maegen is worked with and built by keeping your word, by exercising your Will in ways that build you up.

Hamingja

Hamingja translates, roughly, to group luck or power.  This is built in much the same way as maegen, but it also ties into the group’s recognition of you keeping your oaths, showing up when needed (i.e. if you say you are going to be there you will be there), and being a good member of your communities.  Maegen and hamingja are part of the soul, as much as the liche (body), mynd (mind), and vili (Will).

The Weight of an Oath

When you make an oath or a promise you are literally putting a piece of your soul at stake.  You are saying to the other party “I trust you so much I am willing to wager a part of my soul for this oath.”  When you keep your oath your maegen increases, as may your standing in the community, thus increasing hamingja.  The same may be true in reverse: keeping well with your community may help to increase your maegen, i.e. showing up when you say you will, doing right by the community, etc.  After all, if you are keeping your oaths you are exercising the muscles of maegen, and potentially hamingja if the oaths and promises made were before or to a group.

This is why in the Northern Tradition oathbreaking is regarded as the lowest thing you can do, right down there with being a traitor.  Think of most any mythology where a person breaks their oath to the Gods, or to their kin; there is backlash.  Sometimes there is no ‘good’ choice and it is a tossup of breaking of one oath or another, such as the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t story of Cú Cuhulain who was given the unenviable choice of breaking one or the other of his geas.   It may be you have to keep to established taboos, such as not eating this animal, wearing that piece of clothing, or not speaking certain words.  Keeping to the oaths, the taboos, the expectations is more important than I can say in words.  I have lost friends, and hurt those I love both emotionally and spiritually by not doing so.  I was removed from a group for this.  Take my example as a lesson, and don’t repeat it.  The consequences reverberate through your life and Wyrd.

Oaths in America

Modern American culture no longer respects oaths, if indeed, it ever really did.  Our elected officials make empty promises to their constituents, and once elected, to the Constitution.  Veterans give their lives to a People that sees fit to lead them to lives of plastic bags, cardboard boxes and underpasses when they have given their all.  Companies who pledged money to their employees thirty years ago bilk their workers’ retirement accounts in schemes and scams, leaving people to struggle to keep their homes, let alone food on their table, in their old age.  Marriage vows are no longer held, with some celebrities not even waiting twenty-four hours before divorce.  With oaths and promises, taboos and peoples’ word given such short shrift it is little wonder that we are in the straights we are in.

With as many broken oaths, half-truths and full-on thirty year lies, how much work would the U.S. government have to do to get an inkling of trust back?  Look at all the broken Treaties the United States government signed with Native American Nations.  No really, look at them.  It’s a litter of literally hundreds of broken promises, terrible deals, backstabbing, and genocide.  In the Declaration of Independence it was declared “all people were created equal” then, when the Constitution was ratified, it cast blacks a 3/5 of a person, less than human.  Our nation was part of the creation and ratification of the Geneva Convention, and now We flaunt it shamelessly.  Companies poison our bodies, minds, land, sea, and sky are raking in record profits while bottom-rung workers are forced to take up public assistance.  Any thought to the well-being of the People, and associated promises and oaths to take care of the environment, the poor, or anything other than a bottom-line profit motive are met with scorn.  America’s maegen wanes as we shore up our falling power with an ailing, ill-served military, and Its hamingja dies in our constant ‘might makes right’ pursuit of our ‘national interests’.  Meanwhile we have people all over our country unable to care for themselves, half of our nation exists in or under the poverty level, and the nation’s infrastructure crumbles.  Oaths are as important for the soul as they are for the foundation of any society, and when oaths erode, so does the soul.  No less the soul of a nation.

The Marriage Oath

Getting down to the more personal level, let us talk about marriage oaths.  The most common we are used to hearing is “Til Death do you part”.  Think about that.  You are investing a part of your soul, and what ought to be a significant part of your life in a relationship until one or the other of you dies.  There is no ‘out’ in most of these marriage oaths, no ‘if this person turns out to be a total jackass or doesn’t take care of the kids or is abusive I can leave him’.  At least from the Catholic side, you have to get your marriage annulled before you can marry again, but, from the Catholic point of view, this is not breaking an oath.  It is saying the marriage oath was never valid to begin with, and so the oath cannot be binding.

The marriage oath is particularly powerful as oaths go.  You are combining all your bloodlines into one home, welcoming the Ancestors and their descendants of those bloodlines into your life.  You are putting your maegen into your partner(‘s/s’)  hands, and  through your public oath, whether to a court, a few witnesses, your families and friends, or all and sundry at a Renaissance Fair, you are tying together your hamingja to that person, their family, and to the communities you make the marriage oath before.  You are swearing an oath before the Gods, the Ancestors, the spirits, and the landvaettir.  You’ll be making a home with your partner(s), and you’ll be making it on the landvaettir’s home.  Right relationship with all the Beings involved in making your lives, and in helping you live is crucial.  Keeping the oaths is just one part of this, but a deeply important one.

There are many parts of the marriage oath you can change; heck, you can write your own.  There may be some oaths the Gods, Ancestors and/or spirits want you to change or adapt.  We do not, in most cases, have a singular body of liturgy that has passed down generation after generation, and our Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, especially landvaettir, may have different expectations when we come together to marry than what we have in mind.  So while there is a lack in foundation there, there is also a lack in the ossification of the Holy, of written word and spoken oath.

I do not expect much, if any of my living extended family to show up when I get married, yet my partner(s) and I we will be recognized as married when we visit family.  Yet oaths will be made, and the threads of those oaths will tie together our Wyrd to one another, to our communities, and our families.  The ties of maegen, hamingja, and the rest of our soul(s) will still be there, recognized before the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, and the communities who see fit to be there.

Maegen, Hamingja, and the Pagan Communities

I have spent a good time talking about oaths, so now I am going to switch gears here a bit.

We build maegen and lose it, break it down and send it up, over the course of our lives.  We can use it to exert control over ourselves and others, we can let it shine like a beacon or we can hood the lamp and keep it to ourselves.  We can work with maegen to make ourselves a better person, or fight its pull and make our lives infinitely harder.  Each person’s maegen is different, and is built differently.  My workout regimen may not work for you.  You might need to build up your arms where I may need to build up my legs.  Your Gods may ask you to contribute to your maegen in a thousand ways  I will never have to touch, whether it is the oaths you keep, the taboos you are not to break, or the path you are meant to walk.  We may even walk side by side, but your maegen is just that: yours.

Hamingja is affected by us, but it is also, in parts, distinctly out of our control.  If it belongs to anyone, it belongs with us and those we share our lives with.  We help to build it up in building up our maegen, but it may also help to build maegen in its turn.  It is, in part, our reputation in the communities we exist in.  It is the relationships we have to those communities, and they to us.  It is the building of partnerships and the burning of bridges. It is the life you touch for good that encourages a person to excel.  It is the person you harmed and helped continue a downward spiral.  It is who you are, and how you are known.  It is your reputation, your name(s), your good word.  It is what you have done for your community and what you have failed to do.  It is trusting the community to have your back as much as it is doing for the community.  It cannot be made alone, though each person has their own part in building it.  Hamingja is like a good barn raising: best made together with those you trust not to drop it as it is raised.

Our maegen and hamingja are the chains we forge with each duty done, each oath kept, each taboo observed, each deed that helps ourselves and others, and it is broken, sometimes link by link and sometimes all at once, when we fail in these.  Yet there is hope because it can be reforged.  So if you do screw up, and Gods knows I have, it is not the end of the world even if, in the moment, it feels like it.  Rebuilding the maegen and/or hamingja from this state is started by making the right choice: to rebuild it.  It may be hard and long, and that chain may never be the same, but it is as worthy Work as any we may engage in.  Good maegen and good hamingja promote frith, good peace and social order.

The Pagan communities have an opportunity to continue to reforge the broken chains that had lain at the Gods’ feet for hundreds, if not thousands of years.  The only way that I know of for these chains to stay forged is for us to remain in right relationship with the Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and one another.  This is not a one-shot solution.  This will take time and effort.  It will take patience, starting with ourselves, and branching out from there.  There is no end to this work, really, and no silver bullet, no scrap of lore that will unlock the secrets of this Work.  It is a link forged with the Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and communities one person at a time with each and every Being, human and otherwise, that they encounter.  The metal of the links are shaped by our word and deeds, by how we treat one another, and the devotion we show to our Gods, the Ancestors, the spirits, our communities, and to our own journey with all of Them.  So let us all dedicate or rededicate ourselves to making these links, to making them lasting long after we are gone so that when the link is tested it will stand strong as it once did, as it can, and I believe will, again.

 

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