Beginning the Year of Aun

My Heathen and Heathen-adjacent, animist, and various polytheist folks in my community met for the Year of Aun on January 7th. We feasted as a community. Then, we lit a Sacred Fire. I started with flint and steel on charcloth, and put the cloth in gathered fluff from cattails that grew on my land. We started the fire with cardboard, and added wood another of our members brought. The Fire didn’t come to light until my friend Storm, who is a Sister of mine that I have had the pleasure of starting and tending many of these Sacred Fires with over courses of a weekend, came near. Everything caught in a few moments.

We made offerings of herbs, starting with tobacco since we live in Michigan, and then followed with many of the Nine Sacred Herbs. I explained the Year of Aun again then so we were grounded in the purpose of the rite.

We cleansed with the Fire. Since many could not approach the Fire I took Fire to them and cleansed them.

Josie had made Aun out of bread. We each took a piece, tearing apart Aun, and gave him and his wrongs to the fire, and dedicated ourselves to becoming good Ancestors. We each dedicated, in some way, to bringing balance to our lives, our communities, and to Jörð. When we were finished here, we sang, prompted by our friend Raven, a wordless tune that we all caught up and was drummed with. Folks took turns making declarations, prayers, and the like. When were finished we thanked Aun for his example, reaffirmed our dedication to being better Ancestors, and made offerings to the gathered Ginnreginn (Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir), including the Sacred Fire.

It is a simple and good start to getting the wheel of this year turning, and I look forward to this Fire being carried by each of us, through all our celebrations, through the coming year. Already I am seeing folks begin to come back into balance with Jörð and the various Ginnreginn, with our own communities, and ourselves. Some of these transitions are hard, deeply painful, and even so, they are worth it. May each of us carry that Sacred Fire and the dedication to be the best Ancestors we can through this Aun Year, and the years to come. Hail to all who light their Sacred Fires, to all those who seek to address the damages of Aun, and to rebalance themselves with the Ginnreginn and one another.

Ves þú heil!

A Story of Loss, Meaning, and Mutual Aid

TW: Loss of a pet, grief, working with a body, bodily functions

I don’t kid when I tell folks mutual aid can be some of the most frustrating and inconvenient things. A case in point:

Sometimes mutual aid is helping your neighbors bury their dog when you are sick as hell.

A week before and during the week of Thanksgiving I was sick with the flu. I’ve never been that sick with the flu before, save one time when I was a kid and was so bad off with the flu I was hallucinating. I took those two weeks off from work after having to visit the urgent care multiple times, and sometime after this story’s occurence, I ended up in the ER getting seen. It was a rough illness.

This takes place about halfway through this illness. I am knocked completely out because this flu has kicked my ass up one side and down the other. I get woken up by my partner, Streaking Fate. She tells me that our neighbor’s dog, about an eight month old black pitty mix puppy, got hit by a car. There is a car stopped that is just starting to pull away from our neighbor’s driveway. I found out later they did the right thing and spoke with our neighbor about what happened, and apologized.  So, having just been woken up out of a dead sleep with a flu bug that has completely leveled my ass, adrenaline starts pumping. I hauled over to check after throwing on some clothes, hoodie, leather gloves, and my winter coat. At this point I had no idea if the dog was alive, suffering, or not, so I brought some things along in case I could help their dog out to either get to the hospital or end its suffering.

First, I check on the dog, who is lying on the side of the street outside their driveway. The poor boy was a puppy, a pitty mix if memory serves, and very loving. A bit hyper, doofy, and really enjoyed breaking the rules and running around our yard, but generally a harmless pupper. All of the light is out of his eyes, and he is collapsed on the street, head to the side. I check him, speak his name a few times, and check his breathing and pulse. His eyes are glazed. There is nothing I can do for him.

I then check on my neighbors. They are a man and a woman about my age, not married yet though from what I gather they are working on that. I can see that she’s absolutely crushed, not only for herself, but for her boys and especially her partner, who loves that dog. I hug her for awhile and let her cry. Then, I ask her if there is anything I can do for her. She’s beside herself, and cannot bear to see her dog. I look to my partner who is sitting with their dog’s body. I know what I should do. I ask her if she wants me to take him, get him away from the street, and get him cleaned up in my garage. She agrees, I give her my number, and she lets me go to take care of him so she can break the news to her boys.

I come back and the poor guy has involuntarily vomited. Sometimes when we die, this happens. Sometimes we vomit, sometimes we shit,or both, because the muscles move in such a way on death that evacuation just occurs. So, we grab a tarp from my garage, and carefully put him on it, and bring him up to the garage as carefully as we can. His size belies how damned heavy he is. We get him in and put him on a large foldable clean plastic table.

We make prayers to our Gods of the Dead, to Anpu, to Hela, to Óðinn, and others. We make prayers to our Gods that are Wolves, Dogs, and other canids, including Anpu and Fenrisúlfr, and divine animals, including Hela’s hound Garmr, and Óðinn’s wolves Geri and Freki, among others. Then, after some cleansing breaths, we get to work on cleaning him.

He has pits of asphalt from the impact of the road, scratches, and bits of blood here and there. We clean out the pits and wipe away the blood on him with warm, wet terry cloths. Probably the hardest thing to work with is the vomit, because while we were bringing him inside, and I hauled him onto the table, his stomach continued to empty. To make him presentable for our neighbors, we keep cleaning him all over and especially inside his mouth. We use most of our terry towels over the course of an hour to an hour and a half. As we work we whisper prayers, and we speak with him.  We tell him what a good boy he is and was, and how much his people will miss him, and how much love they have for him. We speak with the Dead, cleaning him, so his Daddy doesn’t have to see him in the state we did. Over time the grime and grit, the blood, vomit, and all the rest come up. I take one of the white cloths that served as an altar cloth, and bring it outside. Streaking Fate puts it beneath him while I lift him up, and we wrap him in it, and wait for his Dad to come over.

It takes him some time to get home, to see his family, and to talk and process things. He calls, tells me he will be over soon. I ask if he needs anything to eat or drink. He can’t, so I just tell him to come over when he is ready to. When he comes over to the garage I can see him barely contain his emotions. I hug him, and can tell he’s a man not used to this, but I am, and I give him a soft squeeze on his shoulder and let him know his grief is welcome. I can see it in his eyes. As much as this puppy was loved by his family, this dog was his boy. He was a member of the family. He speaks to him as a son. For a few moments I watch him, watch as he drapes his hands over the coal-black fur in the most gentle way over his boy, and pet him, whispering words. I tell him to take as much time as he needs, and if he needs to warm up to come into the house. We leave him.

I take a seat in one of the chairs we have upstairs, and breathe long and hard, coughing hard because the flu is trying to make me expel my lungs. I blow my nose on one of my many handkerchiefs (thank you, Grandpa, they’ve definitely come in handy), and clean my hands with soap and water. A while later he knocks on the door from the garage. When my neighbor comes in he lets me know he needs to get some things from his home and to bring his truck around to take his puppy home. He asks if he can leave his boy with us for an hour or so, in order to get some things ready. He mentions wanting to bury him that evening, asking his boys to help him. Given what I saw of him and his family, I knew how hard that would be for them. I felt prompted by my heart and a small push by Óðinn to offer to help him bury his puppy.

He looks a mix of relieved and pained, and says he appreciates that and takes off. I rest with my partner for a while, and we get some dinner. A while later my neighbor gives me a call and it turns out he’s already made progress on his puppy’s grave in the backyard where he liked to be. He asks me for help in loading him into his truck bed. We only have one shovel, and I feel like I need to see this through. So, I grab my coats, gear up again, and help him put his puppy into the bed of his truck. Then, I get my shovel, and head over with him. The truck is warm, real warm, and he parks it with the high beams shining so we can see what we are doing. When we get out the cold kind of feels like it is trying to steal your breath.

We work together for about an hour to finish up the grave. We take turns with the older of his sons; the younger could not bear to be there. His partner watches but lets us work. He asks if I think the hole is deep enough. Considering I am around 5’7″ and having trouble getting into and out of it now, I say yes. So he, his son, and I bring his puppy to rest in our blanket and with his favorite blanket and a toy. Tears are stinging all of our eyes in the cold, but I blink them back, and breathe slow and deep. I get control. This is their time to grieve. I can process later. His Dad hops down into the grave, and asks to put him down into it himself.

I whisper some prayers into his puppy’s ear as I set him down into his Dad’s arms. The other two are openly crying. My neighbor is burying his face into his boy’s fur, speaking to him and finally, when he is ready, puts him down in the mound. I offer him my hand and he comes out of the grave. Then he says a prayer to his puppy, and offers space for the other two. When they say they’re good, we begin to bury him. It is quick work, between three guys shaping and digging with the cold spurring us on. We work it flat as we go, and finally, mound up the grave. When we are all finished he offers to drive me home.

He looks to me, and for another of the countless times that night, says thank you to me. I let him know that this what I was taught neighbors do for each other. This is what my parents taught me, and it is what my religion teaches me to do. When we get out of the car he shakes my hand and we embrace, and he tells me that if I ever need anything to let him know. I let him go and let him know if he ever needs anything I am here too.

This is what hospitality and mutual aid can look like. Sometimes it is sharing food. Sometimes it is defending your community from a common foe. Sometimes it is showing up to a protest or counterprotesting. Sometimes it is showing up when you are woken up from a deep sleep, dead on your feet from a flu, to help your neighbors on the worst day of their lives and bury a loved one. It may not be easy work but I can tell you, from the spirit of my neighbor’s dog to my neighbors themselves, it is good and sacred work. I didn’t show up in my peak condition. I showed up the best I was able. Really, in hospitality and mutual aid, that is all any of us can ask of ourselves or each other.

So, extend hospitality and mutual aid wherever you can however you are able. You may have no idea the impact just showing up can have for those who just need you to show up.

It is enough.

You are enough.

Patreon Poem/Prayer Song 72: For Jörmungandr

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

This request was made by Emi for Jörmungandr.

The waves lap around me

Over me

Under me

Encircle, encircle, encircle

The enchantment drives my paths

Horses small as plankton gallop

Over me

To me

Running, running, running

Desperation nips their feet

Rán and Her Daughters play with me

Over me

With me

Surging, surging, surging

Laughter shared between us

Icy waters soothes me

Over me

In me

Caressing, caressing, caressing

Fiery pain quenches in the cool

Warm waters invigorate me

Over me

Around me

Rolling, rolling, rolling

Tension melts in the heat

Oceans flow about me

Against me

From me

Rocking, rocking, rocking

Waves roll across the waters by my might

Your waters flow from me

Along me

Beyond me

Flowing, flowing, flowing

Waters cross from ocean to river to tap

I flow across the waters

Along them

Throug them

Swimming, swimming, swimming

Miðarðr’s living protection at the oceans’ crossing

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 69: For Angrboða

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

This request was made by Maleck for Angrboða.

Great Wolf, I hail You

Ferocious and mauling-mouthed Mother

Who leads the Ironwood with care

Taufr-strong, I hail You

Calculating and megin-mighty Magician

Who keeps Her loved ones safe

Bloodhand, I hail You

Sacrificer and woe-wielding Witch

Who knows the secret Ways

Motherwort, I hail You

Leader and hale-whole Healer

Who mends Her peoples’ wounds

Gyðja, I hail You

Leader and hamingja-holding Host

Who guides Her peoples well

Angrbóða, I hail You

Angrbóða, I hail You

Angrbóða, I hail You

Ves þu heil

Patreon Topic 65: On Balancing Having Conversations vs Privacy

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

From Maleck comes this topic:

“How do you personally balance the desire to have deeper conversations, 301 and above, with the need for both privacy and safety in these conversations? In a practical, “what do you do?” sense?”

Whether or not I choose to share something is based on a few factors. First among them are: is this something I feel safe in divulging? Second, am I cleared by oath, bond, obligation, and my own understanding of appropriateness if this is something I can speak with another person on? Third, is this a person I trust with my privacy and safety? Fourth, does this person have the depth to understand this subject on a 300+ level conversation?

If all of these are answered yes, I then ask more questions to determine whether or not a 300+ level conversation is warranted.

Does the person at hand understand what I am sharing? I mean this in a number of ways.

Intellectually. Do they understand the material(s) at hand? Do they have relevant backround to be informed in a discussion? If they do not, are they interested in learning or exchanging ideas? Will the conversation be stimulating to them?

Emotionally. Can they handle my emotions in sharing? Can they handle their own emotions that may arise in response to my sharing, the conversation, or ideas themselves being discussed? Are there triggers associated with the discussion topic that they cannot handle or will need time to work through? Will the conversation be satisfying for them to have?

Socially. Can they keep the conversation between us? Are they willing to suspend judgment/fixing/other responses unless asked? Do they understand the depth of meaning it holds? Would this person appreciate knowing this information? Is this information they have shown an interest in? Will the conversation deepen our relationship, add depth to it, or give us more areas to speak on?

Religiously. Do they understand the subject itself being discussed within the religion’s view? Are they part of the religion or adjacent to it, and if not, can they hold a respectful conversation on the topic? Do they understand the subject’s implications, and the ideas we are exchanging? Will the conversation be affirming, challenging, or both? Will the conversation add to their/my understanding of the religion(s), spiritual technique(s), etc?

Expertise. Do they or I have expertise and/or knowledge deep enough on the conversation topic to contribute, or is this a one-sided exchange? If it is a one-sided exchange is this one they wish to engage in? If one is teaching the other, does this exchange require Gebo? Is this an initate-only conversation? Does special care taken to avoid speaking on intiatory matters, or other considerations? Can the matter be talked about in enough depth for the conversation to be meaningful while avoiding initation-bound material, ideas, or experiences? Will the conversation deepen one or both of our expertise, or contribute to it in some way?

Gebo. Do you and they desire to have exchanges of ideas, techniques, opinions, experiences, and/or just to have comraderie in the exploration of a topic? Are you and they able to exchange well, in whatever capacity the conversation needs, whether it is 50/50, 10/90, etc? Is the conversation held respectfully, with care for the parties involved, and does it deepen understanding, appreciation, and/or lead to other experiences?

This might seem like a lot of consideration for conversations. Remember the points I raised in On The Need for Deeper Conversations:

This is an aspect of the deeper conversations seldom talked about: getting deeper into conversation and moving beyond the 101 requires a vulnerability that laying down the basic theology, praxis, and structures of Heathenry does not require. Even some 200-level conversations on subjects like the basics of how to do magic can be so dependent on one’s home culture, focus, and individual expression that it opens us up to scrutiny in ways merely talking about what magic is in Heathenry does not. For example, how one does útiseta might be a 200 or 300-level conversation. Depending on what comes out of the experiences you have with it, though, you might be having 400+-level conversations. In other words, the folks you hope to talk with about the subject at hand are going to need to have significant knowledge and experience with the topic, not merely a basic theoretical understanding, to have dialogue with you.

If the folks I am looking at having these deeper conversations with are those I feel safe with, trust, and have the relevant expertise/knoweledge/understanding to have the conversation with, generally I will have the conversation. The Heathen Spiritwork Discord I run, which is attached to my Patreon, is an ongoing example of this, especially with our biweekly meetings. We check in, talk about experiences and current projecs, and how things are going with spiritwork. These are folks I am in direct community with, and who have trusted me or trust me now to work with them in spiritual consultation, Rune readings, and the like. The Gebo goes both ways in terms of trust, vulnerability, and conversation.

There are some relationships with Ginnreginn I have that simply are not for public consumption. I have several relationships that I hold quite close to the chest, and have no need to explore with others beyond Them. Sometimes I am still working through the understanding I have of certain vaettir and I am not ready to share. Right now, I can say this about the Álfar. Here is a group of Beings I thought I would not hold much of a relationship with, and thanks to a patron and one of my partners, I am in far more deep with Them than I thought I would be. I am having ongoing interactions, and still experiencing things on my own and with my partner in this area that are still moving things around. Perhaps when things are more settled I will be ready to more publicly talk on them.

When I do find there is something I want to share and the other person is cool with it, then we decide on how and where we want to talk. If the conversation needs to be completely private then face-to-face is best. If the person wants to be able to refer back to the conversation, an app like Zoom, Marco Polo, and the like can be excellent ways to connect. They are among my most common. If privacy isn’t as big a concern or connection is just easier over text, Discord tends to be my choice. Does the conversation need to be public? Then, my first choice tends to be here on WordPress, and more recently, the Pagan.plus Mastodon server.

I hope that answered the question how you were hoping, Maleck!

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 68: For Feasting

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

This request was made by Emi For Feasting.

Thank You Gods and Goddesses

Thank You Auðumla*

Thank You Gulinkambi*

Thank You Gullinbursti*

Thank You Heiðrun*

Thank You vaettir

Thank You farmer and field

Thank You animals and plants

Thank You landvaettir

Thank You Ancestors

Thank You to those who gather here together

Thank You to those who have gathered, cooked, and share this meal

Thank You for your heart, your work, and your presence here

We gather here in frið today

We gather in respect for guest and host alike

We gather in sacred feast

May each of us be nourished

May each of us who wishes to be heard, seen, and known be so

May each of us leave in frið

The first of the meal is for the Ginnreginn

The first of the drink is for the Ginnreginn

The first of the good words is for the Ginnreginn:

May each of You be held in good Gebo, Ginnreginn

May each of You be respected and honored

May each of You be full of joy at this feast

Ves þu heil!

Let the feast begin!

*If the animal is present in the meal, whether the animal’s meat itself or products produced from the animal such as cheese, butter, or lard. Where a suitable animal name is not known from the sources, a close equivalent is used. When we eat turkey we tend to pray to Gullinkambi. If another animal were found, given, or revealed to us as more appropriate we would pray to Them.

A Lay for the Wild Hunt

The horde roaves roads of forests,
Roaming the wild of the world
Across field and fen, frost and flame
The host fairs forth

Gods and great Dead are the vanguard,
Wolves and wild things follow and watch the ways
Above come ravens and crows in the wake
Between are those borne and brought into stride

The sunsets are stained dark with blood
Shadows teem and swallow the night
The sound of their sumons are hooves and howls
Carrying the calls of the Wild Hunt’s host

Offer, lest the door be darkened
Good beer, bread, or blade freely given
For many are the mouths of the might Hunt
And satisfaction ever They seek

Join, if you are of a mind to journey
To scout and slaughter, by blade, bow, or bite
Among man and monster one may find their kin
Blessed by the ways of the Wild

On the Need for Deeper Conversations

An issue I have seen come to the fore a few times around now as a polytheist, animist, Pagan, and Heathen, is the idea of 100, 200, and 300-level discourse. I touched on this with my post on being a teacher in the Heathen communities, but not as in depth as I will go into here. I have had an issue with these various communities for quite a while: so much of the material out there is 100-level material, and what material does make it to 200 or 300+ often does not get discussed or receives much in the way of support. What is worse, is that because folks are constantly reinventing the wheel, proverbially or mythologically take your pick, we never really progress far beyond 100 or 200-level in our writing or experiences.

The posts I have been writing on spiritual politics have been fairly cathartic for me because it is digging into deeper stuff than 100 or 200-level. To be frank, I find the spiritual politics discussions to be 300-level or better for the most part. While there is nothing wrong with most folks stopping after 100 or 200-level, we as collective communities need to be more engaged in deeper discussions if we hope to develop them further. For the most part this takes us away from the well-worn path of the written and archaeological sources.

Why?

Because our useful information stops. At some point there is not any more information to reconstruct from unless we are willing to look at other sources. In the case for Heathens this is tends toward looking to folklore, and Lacouteaux is one of our best English-translated resources for this. Once you hit a certain period though, the folklore either stops being relevant or the descriptions of concepts or Beings, like particular vaettir like the dvergar and álfar, tend to blend together. The information just stops being relevant to Heathenry after a certain point. This takes a lot of Heathens out of their comfort zone because from here on out everything is based in personal and communal experience, knowledge, and experimentation.

This unwillingness within large parts of the community to work beyond the bounds of the source material of the home culture(s) our Heathen worldview is based in cuts us off from considering and then exploring both the heights and depths that are possible within Heathenry. If all we ever consider is what is essentially 100 and 200 material at most then we cannot develop much as communities. We also cannot develop expertise in various fields within them, or even individually. If we limit ourselves to what has been found in the written sources we are mostly limiting ourselves to what the elites wanted written down and what has been filtered through Christian lenses in both the sources we have and most of their interpretation. Even if we include what we have through archaeological investigation we have precious little to go on outside of certain better-represented time periods and classes of people. Common people are woefully underrepresented in both written and archaeological sources. It is hard to overstate how much physical material is completely lost to time.

This overreliance on written and archaeological academia to act as an arbiter for our religious communities keeps us from the full range of Heathen religious expressions, understandings, and experiences because we have limited our options of what is possible. In so doing we cut off our ability to innovate, to develop new ways of living with our Ginnreginn, and to bring our experiences into the accepted customs and expression. In short, we cut off our ability to form living cultures. To be clear, reconstructionism is a methodology that relies on good data from academia to both keep the process honest and be useful to the projects we have. However, written and archaeological sources are the maps and not the territory of our lived religions. We cannot be bound not to see a mountain or valley because the map is out of date.

This gating off conversations to mostly 100-level subjects serves another purpose: it keeps a captive audience for books and other forms of media creation in its easiest-to-market niche. 100-level books tend to generate the most revenue in part because they are the only ones available to the everyday person, seeing both the widest distribution and marketing. The religion sections for most bookstores are vanishingly small, and most tend to be full of Christian books with a smattering of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish books. I have to look elsewhere for anything related to our religions, often in the New Age or similar sections, and these tend to be mostly 100-level books on witchcraft like Wicca for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham.

This trend also exists in other forms of media, including my own. I spent 19 YouTube videos exploring The Basics of Heathenry. While it did take a bit of time and work to script, record, and edit, it is information I already knew, have taught in other contexts like workshops, and required no deep vulnerability on my part to impart to others. I am fortunate in that I am not bound to this, either for purposes of income or interest, and that both 3 Pagans on Tap and Around Grandfather Fire have a lot of leeway to dig deeper and reach higher. With the initial Basics of Heathenry project finished, I can explore other topics relevant to Heathens. This takes more work, not in terms of gathering information, but willingness to be vulnerable and talk about my experiences, views, and how the shape my Heathen exoteric and esoteric practice has been changed by these.

This is an aspect of the deeper conversations seldom talked about: getting deeper into conversation and moving beyond the 101 requires a vulnerability that laying down the basic theology, praxis, and structures of Heathenry does not require. Even some 200-level conversations on subjects like the basics of how to do magic can be so dependent on one’s home culture, focus, and individual expression that it opens us up to scrutiny in ways merely talking about what magic is in Heathenry does not. For example, how one does útiseta might be a 200 or 300-level conversation. Depending on what comes out of the experiences you have with it, though, you might be having 400+-level conversations. In other words, the folks you hope to talk with about the subject at hand are going to need to have significant knowledge and experience with the topic, not merely a basic theoretical understanding, to have dialogue with you.

What information you get and what one does with the information can hit depths most folks are uncomfortable talking with. Perhaps the vaettir have touched on sensitive areas like trauma, or just subjects we are unfamliar with. Perhaps the vaettir are contravening written or archaeological evidence or including information simply not found in them. Even setting aside the esoteric side of things, developing theology, praxis, and structures beyond the basics requires us to be open to scrutiny, our methods to be open to examination, and our conclusions to be disagreed with unless we are determined to share nothing with one another.

Let me say this as clearly as possible: cultural appropriation should be condemned. Note, that I am not saying cultural appreciation or exchange should be condemned; appropriation should be. With this in mind I think it is worth us looking at what it is folks are looking for when they are reaching for pathways that are not open to them. In other words, are they reaching for something they ought not to because their own path(s) are lacking something essential they see within that culture, cultural practice, spiritual technology, etc? To be sure, some folks are reaching because they want what cannot be theirs out of a sense of entitlement. I find for those who are not, especially with white polytheists, Pagans, witches, and others in our communities who do this reaching, is that the majority of them are looking for authenticity and connection. While the desire for authenticity and connection are good things to pursue, this desire needs to be turned towards the pathways that are open to us.

If our conversations only stay in the 100, 200, or 300-level range then not only do our conversations never deepen, our experiments, experiences, and development as communities stay here as well. If we do not face our lack of resources and the new territory before us with bravery, then we condemn many of us to hunger for authenticity and connections that cannot be made without them. Rather than making a kind of Heathenry which only grasps at, or for, the spiritual technology, perspectives, information, and living wisdom of other paths, we Heathens need to dig deeper, carve surer, and explore even further with our Ginnreginn into our own forms of spiritwork, magic, folklore, and relationships with the Ginnreginn. We need to be brave enough to develop our spiritual technologies, perspectives, information, and lived wisdom with our Ginnreginn. Let us do the work to improve the soil of Heathenry for everyone as we settle our roots, communally and individually, even deeper into our Heathen religions, practices, and spiritwork.

It is easy to say “We need to talk more about x or y” or “we need to dig in deeper into a topic at such-and-such a level”. How, though, do we do that?  For starters we need to be really clear on what we mean by 100, 200, 300, and above. Are we talking for exoteric only? What about esoteric topics? Do we put exoteric and esoteric topics together, or try our best to keep them separate? I cannot answer this for everyone, I can only make my thoughts on the subject known, and hope to further dialogue. It might be that thinking of things in this way is completely backwards, or just the wrong way to go as a model. However, we do need to begin to have some dialogue about it and this is using models of experience and expertise that we have. Wherever we can, we should develop our own ways of understanding and reckoning our ideas, experiences, and expertise as animists, as polytheists, and as Heathens.

I am going to propose a structure so that we can get to deeper conversations. It is not the do-all end-all, but my hope is that it can be a good place to start. Exoteric is defined as “suitable for or communicated to the general public. not belonging, limited, or pertaining to the inner or select circle, as of disciples or intimates. popularsimplecommonplace. pertaining to the outside; exteriorexternal.” Exoteric practices, then, are those that are obvious, that anyone in a given religion can do. For Heathens these are things like hearth cultus, prayer, making offerings, and doing basic divination, such as a simple yes/no to see if an offering or sacrifice was accepted. Whatever these practices are requires no special knowledge, training, expertise, or study to do right or well.

Esoteric is defined as “understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest; recondite:poetry full of esoteric allusions. belonging to the select few. private; secret; confidential. (of a philosophical doctrine or the like) intended to be revealed only to the initiates of a group:the esoteric doctrines of Pythagoras.” Where exoteric practices are those that anyone can do, esoteric practiced are generally only regularly practiced by a handful of individuals. For Heathens, among these folks would, among many possible practices, be those who engage in Runework, seiðr, spá, and/or those who work to cultivate direct encounters with the Ginnreginn.

Now, if this last part seems like it is a mainstay of modern Pagan religions, including Heathenry, it is. A lot of modern Pagan religions in America can trace their start to the influence of Wicca. It was not and is not unusual for a lot of American animists, polytheists, Heathens, and Pagans in general to get their start in various Wiccan or Wiccan-derived religions. At some point folks in this circumstance may bring in additional religious identities or transition out of the Wiccan/Wicca-derived religion. Since Heathenry is not doctrinally exclusivist most folks bring their practices and experiences that worked from previous religions with them into it.

There are plenty of other reasons for why folks in modern Heathenry have or are incorporating esoteric practices. Some folks come into Heathenry through direct experience of the Ginnreginn and develop an exoteric practice in response to that. Other folks in modern times are actively moving away from religions which are primarily exoteric or have few accessible/desirable esoteric practies. Whatever the reason, a significant amount of folks in modern American Heathenry have religious practices that are a blend of exoteric and esoteric.

For purposes of our conversation, and to deepen it, I will put forward that most esoteric discussion is going to be 300-level for the most part. Why?

100-level subjects are the rudiments and baselines of Heathen practice. This is how to start and engage in the absolute basics of the religion. Among 100-level subjects would be about Who the Ginnreginn are, the particular Heathen cosmology one is part of and how we fit into it, how to begin and maintain a hearth cult, how to pray, how to offer, and how to maintain right relationship with the Ginnreginn.

200-level subjects build on the rudiments and baseline. This includes many of the ‘why’ for why we do a thing at the 100-level. Some folks may find it odd that I put the most of the ‘why’ behind the 200-level and not 100. The reason for that is the practice of Heathenry is something that can be understood in its basic forms by most anyone who engages in it. My young kid does not understand all the ins and outs of the religion. At the 100-level understanding the why we do a thing is simpler or is less pressing than understanding the what or how of doing something. When we make prayers at the stalli, she knows the expectation is to look at the Ginnreginn when we do so, and to bow when we are finished. It will be some time before she has the capacity to understand all the “whys” for why we do what we do.

Examples of 200-level subjects would be: connecting with Gods in ritual through the use of particular heiti, beginning reconstruction and revival work in general, and the use of basic liturgical language in ritual. I consider developing or working with liturgical language beyond some basic phrases or words, such as those used to greet Ginnreginn, to be higher than 200. It requires specialized knowledge and experience to do well. Other examples of 200-level practices would be applying genealogical resources to Ancestor cultus, engaging in more specialized cultus than the hearth like an athletic cultus or a cultus based in a field of study,  and producing religious artwork, prayers, and rituals. Using 200-level courses in college as our basis here, 200s are often the applications of the basic subjects you learned about into specialized ways that deepen your knowledge, understanding, and expertise of the subject.

300-level subjects are about building expertise from the previous levels, generally towards an object of study. In college level courses these tend to go towards Bachelor and Master degrees, and the focus is a lot narrower than the previous courses. In my experience, specific forms of psychology were covered as part of getting through my BS in Psychology program. The higher the number the more specialized and nuanced the topic, eg the lower 300s were broader like Abnormal Psychology and the higher 300s were courses like Statistics in Psychology. 400-level courses were mostly relegated to Master degrees, 600 to PhD, and 700 to postdoc courses.

Examples of 300-level subjects would be the study of seiðr, spá, Runework, and in my view, any form of spiritwork I could think of. There is a need for foundation in and grounding in the basics and study of 100 and 200-level work in order to effectively understand what we are doing, why, how it works, and what the effects of a given action can entail. That grounding in the basics of Heathenry are necessary to troubleshoot and to determine when a given form of spiritwork would be effective, or if it would be called for at all. The grounding in 100 and 200-level work is necessary for discernment for ourselves, and especially if we hope to do any of this work for others. This grounding is also necessary for developing theonyms, toponyms, and related new infromation that we can bring to bear for our communities that may not require direct experience of the Ginnreginn, yet nonetheless it requires a firm foundation of knowledge to do well.

Suffice it to say, these metaphors for where we are, and where we hope to go, have limits. There is no certification process for a spiritworker beyond the Ginnreginn and maybe a teacher and/or a given community. If folks find the metaphor clunky to the point of being unwieldy, or even find the metaphor offensive, feel free to toss it and suggest another.

In no small part, why I feel so strongly on the need for deeper conversation is that they’re happening anyhow, and developing the means for understanding where we are, where we are going, and how we wish to develop ourselves individually and communally are well within our hands. Another reason is that these more esoteric questions and subjects of study, experience, and interaction with the Ginnreginn heavily impact our communities. There is direct good and harm that comes from entertaining these ideas, let alone engaging in the study and experience of the ideas here. Far better for us to take an active interest in developing the conversations for our own sakes than to find ourselves in situations where we have to make judgment calls we are not prepared for. By moving these conversations along we can better situate our communities for the future they will be coming into. My hope is that, looking back, we will see our efforts as turning points that brought needed dialogue and work to our communities that inform and empower both exoteric and esoteric expression within and between our communities far into the future.

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 64: For Garm

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

This request was made by Josie for Garm.

Your bloodied muzzle moves before Gnipahellir

Cleaning the faces of the fallen

Who pass the Helgrindr

Great Wolf Who Guards the Gate

Whose Tongue cleanses and comforts

The newly-arrived Dead

You lead the good Ancestors to the Gjallarbrú

To greet Their seeking scions

Who wait outside

You herd the harmful Dead back to Hel

Éljúðnir welcomes the wanderers

Whose hearthfires glow warmly

Hail to You Garm, Worthiest of Wolves

Praise and gifts to You, Holy Hound

Hel’s beloved companion!

Hail Dísir!

The Blessed Women

Who guard and guide the lines

Of blood, adoption, spirit, lineage, intiation

Blessed Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, Wives, Aunts, Grandmothers

Blessed Childbearers and Childless

Goddesses and family Nornir

Embla in Her might

Jörðmoðir beneath our feet and all around us, Miðgarðr Herself

Vísendakonur, Vitkar, Vólur, Seiðkonur, Spáknour, Reginnkonur

Bless us! Teach us! Walk with us!

Gyðjar, teach us to lead!

Læknar, teach us to heal!

Drengir, teach us to fight!

Eldrvórðr, teach us to tend!

Vísendakonur, teach us to learn!

Hail Dísir, Who organize the Ancestors!

Hail Dísir, Who bring magic and blessings!

Hail Dísir, Who ever walk with us!

Hail Dísir!

Hail Dísir!

Hail Dísir!