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From Maleck comes this topic:
“1. Concrete examples, *if* you can share them. Theoretical is great, but examples make shit real.
2. How does reincarnation (as applicable in its varied forms) and otherwise longer-than-human-lifetime-time frames play into how we can/should/do approach these politics? I’m thinking about both the pitfalls and genuine concerns about how past life and possible future lives (plus ancestors etc) show up in practice.”
Since I asked for input I received some from Grimchild, who shared this on the AGF server:
“Not to be a lurker late with Starbucks, but, I’ve been v much enjoying the SpiritWorld Politics series. A couple things I’d be interested in thoughts delving more into how things like inter-spirit politics & such can play out and affect the spirit worker, and how events in Midgard/the earthly realm can affect spirit realms and vice versa. These are things that I’ve definitely experience but not seen a lot of discussion about in a way that’s … I guess I want to say grounded in discernment.”
Spirit Politics in Miðgarðr
Given current events, I will be answering Grimchild’s points first.
In the wake of this Politico article, it should be abundantly clear spirit world politics shows up on this side of things too. Christian hegemony seeks to dominate the spiritual and political spheres together, and through this, seeks to regiment what is moral, and thus, allowed in society. It seeks to dominate and dictate what is allowed to occur in every realm of sexuality, medical rights and choice, and political thought, ideology, and action. Christian hegemony seeks to destroy other religions, and is hand-in-glove with white supremacist movements. It is important to remember even as we fight for them that they are not only coming for reproductive rights. This selfsame Christian hegemony is directly tied to science denialism of all kinds, including those against climate science, reproduction, sex, gender, evolution, and environmental science, and accordingly, all the people, communities, and things that these subjects touch on. It is directly tied to white supremacist movements. Combined with a capitalist system that seeks to turn everything into a commodity, this puts our very futures as a specie at risk.
Now, folks will say that Christian hegemony operates out of a purely political perspective. I could not disagree more. The kind of fervor and zealotry that is brought to bear is kept alive and burning hot with that of absolute conviction that is borne of a religious dogma that seeks to dominate, destroy, and convert anyone not of its ilk.
Whether or not this is a directive, obligation from, or action taken on behalf of the Christian God or that of an egregore, demiurge, or other kind of spirit is rather beside the point. Whatever the Being of the God or spirit, They have inspired a supreme amount of hate in Their followers. This hate has, in turn, spawned direct political impact on those for whom They, or Their followers, are opposed to.
We must resist this. Any Pagan, polytheist, or occultist should be in opposition to these religions, and the politics they seek to carry out on all of us. Ultimately it is our subjection that is being sought, and if we will not bend the knee, it is our lives.
So how do we resist? We have a wider range of resources at our disposal than we may give ourselves credit for. We have the usual political outlets, including the ballot box and demonstrations. That is hardly the limit here, and it would be absolutely foolish for us to limit ourselves to these. Things like this are why I encourage folks to never take tools out of their toolchest. Situations like this are what cursing, hex work, seiðr, hamfara, niðing poles, and all kinds of magic are made for. Doing magic around these situations, whether directed at a Supreme Court justice, a politician, or towards local manifestations of the issue itself, can help.
Calling on the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir associated with abortions, bodily autonomy, herbs, healing, and medicine in conjunction with doing magic and political work are ways of bringing our political actions, our spiritual actions, and ourselves together into the work before us. Doing blessings on food that others take to protests, colored thread with magic worked on them so marchers’ patches provide protection and courage, standing in witness with phones out, or being part of coordinating emergency response teams with BOBs (Bug Out Bags) or kits oriented around physical, emotional and spiritual emergencies, are all ways to bring these things together in political action even if you cannot make it directly to a demonstration or political rally. Buying Plan B or equivalent for others’ use, linking folks to communities and resources, and keeping an eye on local, regional, and State elections linked to these issues. Watching the kids, packing lunches, and bringing funds together to pay bonds are other ways of providing support to the front lines of demonstrations, direct action, and mutual aid networks. Mutual aid takes a variety of forms, and some of the least seen on TV are the most sorely needed.
These Christians are calling on God and engaging in spiritual warfare to enact their political and spiritual will. They are doing this as they engage the wheels of power to turn to their will. They are not shy about this. They are emboldened by it. Many operate under the lie that they are persecuted for their beliefs while openly persecuting anyone who does not believe or look like them. This is spiritual fascism. You cannot negotiate with this. This is not someone who wants to get along or live with you. They want you to bow or to die, and either way, they will feel emotionally superior while you do. Do not give them the satisfaction. Live powerfully, love deeply, and resist in every way you can.
This is how Spirit World Politics hit here in Miðgarðr. Sometimes, when it comes to powerful forces like those employed by Christian hegemony and all their backers, including evangelicals, traditionalist Catholics, and atheist and anti-theist enablers, this is what it looks like. Likewise, us calling on our Ginnreginn, our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir to help us in these desperate times cannot help but cause ripples politically within the Spirit Worlds as well.
Inter-Spirit Politics and the Ancestors
How though? Grimchild asked about inter-spirit politics, and one way this definitely can play out is through our Ancestors. It is entirely possible that our Ancestors are going to be divided on the subject of something as emotionally impactful as abortion. In my own case I have Catholics going back a long way in my family. Some of these folks will not be behind me on abortion rights, and will still support me. Some of these folks will not be behind me on my religion, and will still support me. If the Ancestors at hand are not behind me They don’t get reverence, worship, or offerings from me, my family, my tribe, or my Kindred. If the Ancestors do not have a relationship with me They likely will have little to no influence now, because I am the only spiritworker in my family that I know of, and the only one in my family that I know of doing any kind of in-depth Ancestor work. If They do not play ball with me then They are not likely to be heard, have impact, or be instrumental in this or the next generation. Their ability to impact Miðgarðr is greatly reduced, if not eliminated.
How do I know if a given Ancestor or group of Ancestors is on my side? I talk with Them. I work with my gifts of spiritual hearing, sight, etc. I do divination to commune with Them and to discern messages, and when I am stumped or need help I go to other diviners. I begin with the powerful Ancestors whose names I know or Who have revealed Themselvs to me. I move out from there and develop more relationships. I have good relationships with a few of the powerful Ancestors, the Disir, Väter, Eergi, and Þverr. I have good relationships with Catholic Ancestors, and older ones we could call Heathen Ancestors to keep things simple. I have Ancestors I share with loved ones related to me by blood, and I have Ancestors I share with loved ones related to me by lineage, adoption, and spirit. What all Who are in relationship with me hold is that They are with me, not against me.
If a given Ancestor wants nothing to do with a political issue that is fine, but They do not get to have input when it comes to getting shit done for that topic. If They get in the way, well, I get Them out of my way either by exclusion or asking the powerful Ancestors to keep Them out of my way. An Ancestor does not have to support everything I do, but I get to make my own choices on how my megin (might) and hamingja (group luck/power) gets used. I also get to make choices on what influence They get to have on that megin and hamingja and how they are used. In turn I deal with the consequences of that choice.
Inter-Spirit Politics Between Gods
Inter-spirit politics can take a number of other forms. Some of them can be quite beautiful, and mutually build up good relationships between the Ginnreginn. Contrast this with those that exist between the evangelical Christian God and our own. A form this can take are those that exist between two different Ginnreginn of different Worlds. I will be getting into my own experiences here, with a huge caveat: this is my personal experience, and I have no doubt that they will be controversial, particularly with those who do not believe we should be worshipping Her, or Her Children. However, I have experienced Óðinn and Angrboða, very divergent Gods, reaching out to one another. In my own case, it was through direct contact between the two of Them, being fostered to Her from Óðinn.
A brief explanation: fosterage is an old practice. In the cases that comes to mind, it was most often between a man and his brother, a freeman (karl) and a jarl or góði, and similar arrangements. However, it certainly is not the only kind, and I am finding this kind of thing happening with Gods from the same culture background (Norse and Icelandic in my case), I am also finding it across different backgrounds.
What would the purpose of such a fosterage be? Sometimes to tie two families together, or for help in raising the child. Others times fosterage would be something like a political move to unite two families or work to resolve disputes between them. Looking up fosterage in the sagas, and Gisla Saga, Sturla Saga, and Njal’s come up. In my own case it seems to serve two purposes: first, to tie these two families together in a binding way, and two, as a working relationship to resolve disputes between these families. While I would say that the grievances these two Gods and Their families have with each other are not over in any final sense, that They are willing to have and are engaged in this dialogue is a powerful thing.
With this in mind we have some good reasons for such an arrangement between two Gods, particularly ones that are chieftains of Their respective tribes. Those who are utterly opposed to the Jötnar have already checked out of the conversation. What are the implications if we accept such an experience as genuine? Again, as I have spoken about in previous posts, it is not that I am inherently more holy or better than others. It is that my lot is to be a container of relationships in this way for these Ginnreginn. Potentially anyone could be put into this situation if they accepted it. What it means is that these two Gods are willing to engage in relationship-building at the least through us, the humans, in which They are also in relationship with. It does not mean we have power over our Gods. Rather, we have power with Them.
Part of the power of animism and polytheism is that our relationships can be as varied as they are many. As many ways as we have relating to and with the Gods, why should this be an area where the Gods have no care for us? Why would we seek to limit the Gods in such a way? Why would we seek to limit ourselves in how we can connect to the Gods? Monotheism’s norms should not ever have become our yardstick, and we need to discard them should we ever hope to genuinely come into our own relationships with the Ginnreginn.
This gets to the another side of inter-spirit politics, and that largely starts in our realm and what we limit or open ourselves to. If all we ever accept is a relationship with the Gods like that which was modeled for us in Christian homes and churches then we necessarily limit ourselves as well. I am an Odinsson, and that brings with it obligations and political meaning. Accepting this brings power. It brings power through hamingja, and through all the relationships Óðinn has ever touched for good or ill. Without Óðinn I would not have gotten to know or love Loki. Without Him I would not have a relationship with the Runevaettir. Without Óðinn I would not have touched all the lives I have through those relationships with the Runevaettir, here through this blog, the Patreon, and all the shows I have been a part, including The Jaguar and the Owl, Around Grandfather Fire, and 3 Pagans on Tap, would not have happened. If I had limited myself to what was acceptable as Catholicism had taught me or as later examples in my own Pagan, polytheist, and Heathen communities had taught me, I would not be here doing and writing these things.
Reincarnation and Spirit Politics
Now, to Maleck’s questions. I will be writing on the second question first. “2. How does reincarnation (as applicable in its varied forms) and otherwise longer-than-human-lifetime-time frames play into how we can/should/do approach these politics? I’m thinking about both the pitfalls and genuine concerns about how past life and possible future lives (plus ancestors etc) show up in practice.”
My first question would be: is the life in question relevant? For instance, if you made a deal for multiple lifetimes of service to a God then that would definitely be relevant. However, I think the majority of our lives are just lived through, and while their influences may still be felt on us, such as guiding our actions, our past lives are not any more in the driver seat than our Ancestors are. There is the idea of karma as found in Dharmic traditions. This Buddhist Centre article goes over it from one point of view. To briefly sum up, karma has knock-on effects from past lives to future ones. Your choices affect how you do things as you go on to different lives.
A pitfall here can be to try to ‘make up’ or atone for the actions of your past selves. To a certain degree, particularly if you did some horrible stuff in a past life, that is laudable. However, as with a lot of things to do with past lives, it is far too easy to get sucked into those as opposed to living this life the best way that you can. You cannot change the past. However, you have immediate power with how you respond to the örlog of this life.
I do not worry much about my past lives. I am pretty busy living this one. I will not say there is nothing useful in them, though. They can be a source of power, of obligation, and healing. They can also be a source that you can tap to look for direction in this life. After all, if you can look back and see the bigger patterns or figure out where certain connections have come from, why not work with that?
Just because I do not work much with my own past lives does not mean that they are not of concern to spirit politics. To that point, it may mean quite a bit in what spirits are willing to work with you, what you örlog looks like on this go-around, and what situations in this life may be open to you. It can be worth investigating to see what you have going on, with the caution towards getting sucked into just swimming in the waters of all those past lives vs the one being lived now.
Examples of Spirit World Politics in My Life
Now, to Malek’s first question: “1. Concrete examples, *if* you can share them. Theoretical is great, but examples make shit real.”
Some examples of spirit world politics in my life:
Being the only spiritworker in my family, I get to be the point of contact. Few folks in my blood family are paying any attention to our Ancestors. Fewer still would heed Them if they were. If our Ancestors want to be heard, want a voice, or want Their descendents to listen to Them, I am more or less it. They can disagree with my choice of religion, my queerness, my relationships, all of it. They do not get to disrespect me, my partners, my Gods, my vaettir, or my other Ancestors and still have a seat at the table. Does this cause some chafing? Absolutely. However, the powerful Ancestors are also there to help sort this, so, by and large we have.
In Their turn the Ancestors get to ask things of me. So, the Catholic Ancestors had Their own section on our home Ancestor stalli in my folks’ home, and when we set it up again They will have Their own section for that as well. We have different sections for different Ancestors because folks wanted Their own space. Since our home layout is completely different it is taking a bit of time to find stalli that will work with the layout of our hearth. In the meantime we honor Them on our home’s hearth.
The wearing of the Runevaettir as tattoos on my forearms is in part a political message. It is first about my living in community with the Runevaettir. They are so important to me that I wear Them on my skin and I display Them every day since I seldom wear a long-sleeve shirt. Displaying Them this way is a signal to others that the Runes do not belong to white supremacists. It is also an open invitation to anyone to talk with me about Them, which is part of why the Runes held me to the oath to get Them tattooed onto my body, and chose the location They did. I talked about this at length in The Importance of Being Visible.
Being an Erilaz and being vocal about working with the Runes as vaettir is part of being political. It would be very easy to just shut my mouth and nod along when folks say that They are nothing more than writing. I think, though, that there is a lot to be gained and not just in terms of having solid spiritual relationships with the Runes Themselves. When you understand a Rune as a vaettir They are a whole Being unto Themselves. If we understand our writing, our systems of divination, and one of the ways in which we Heathens bring magic and power into the world as being vaettir, the political implications are enormous. The worldview brings with it an entire wealth of relationships to be considered when we want to do anything from galdr to making bindrunes to reading Runes in divination. It brings Their considerations and insight to the table, not merely what we memorize of the Rune Poems or the meaning of the words that make up Their name. It takes power out of the hands of academia to dictate the bounds of our relationship and puts that power into that of these vaettir.
Think about this. When you start to listen, really listen to these vaettir, Hagalaz is no longer just hail or destruction. They are hail and all the things that brings. They are the destruction that will be wrought, the waters that hail will melt into, and the benefits that brings. They are noted in the Icelandic Rune Poems as being the sickness of serpents, and serpents (attor) are noted in the Merseburg charm as being carriers of disease. Hagalaz can be worked with to destroy disease. Likewise, if we look to Lacouteaux and his examination of serpents in protecting the home, such as in The Tradition of Household Spirits, Hagalaz can also be worked with to destroy protection. So, while Hagalaz does not lose Their aspects of hail or destruction, They cease to just be that.
My relationship with many of the húsvaettir and landvaettir of my parents’ home has continued in my new home. When we moved we made the offer that any who wanted to come with us could. Sometimes vaettir leave a place because of neglect, abuse, or wanting to get away from a toxic situation. In this case, the reason many vaettir came with us, is that while my folks take good care of their house and land they do not offer cultus to the vaettir. To be sure, the landvaettir and húsvaettir that have stayed are happy, and so are the vaettir that came with us to the new home. Not all separation of vaettir from a place need ly to horrible, traumatic, or anything beyond wanting to stick with folks that treat you right.
This kind of positive relationship building with the landvaettir keeps up whether we are talking of my work at Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm or at my own home. The landvaettir talk. They share news as surely as nutrients are shared through the soil and mycelium networks. As sure as connections on the wind. Those political dimensions, including the little things of what I put into the soil, they feed that soil that in turn feeds those relationships. I am showing the landvaettir that They matter by what I put into the ground, how I grow what I grow, and by listening to Them on how They want things to be grown. I am putting my spiritual politics into practice by putting my hands to work in and with the ground beneath my feet as surely and concretely as I am when I make prayers or offerings.
Thank you to everyone who submitted responses, especially to Maleck for getting this series of posts started, their ongoing questions, and to Grimchild for their contributions. I am not sure if there will be a Part 4, yet, without folks submiting questions or ideas on what to cover. So, if folks are interest please let me know what you want me to cover in the comments section, in my email, or on the Around Grandfather Fire Discord server.