Patreon Topic 12: Sacred Kingship and Heathenry

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

Note: Until now I have referred to folks by their level of Patreon support. For some of Patreon patrons I will now refer to them by a name I have permission to use. This makes it easier to organize and find posts. Thank you to all my supporters on Patreon and to all of my readers!

From StreakingFate comes this question:

“For a topic idea, have you covered sacred kingship yet? Historically in Heathenry, how it is seen present day in Heathenry if it is, or both.”

Before I begin to tackle this question it is important to talk about what we mean by Heathenry. There are a lot of cultural wells from which we can drink. Norse Heathenry is one, Anglo-Saxon another, Frankish another, and so on. Then there are folks that mix their paths eclectically or syncretically, neither of which are wrong, but they tend to be different approachs. Myself, I am primarily a Heathen whose sources lie in Icelandic, Norse, and Germanic sources with a smattering of Anglo-Saxon. My approach to the question of “Is Frigg and Freyja a single Goddess or separate Goddesses?” is to treat Them as separate, with Frigg an Aesir and Freyja a Vanir. This may seem like an odd point of departure, but this matters in terms of how we understand the Gods, and how we understand the impact of lore, including myth and archaeology, on our various religions.

Since I am not writing from a primarily Anglo-Saxon, Frankish, etc perspective, there are a lot of potential answers to this question. I cannot tell you what the Anglo-Saxon Heathen answer is to this question because that is not my primary framework any more than the Frankish Heathen is.

I have not covered sacred kingship much on this blog. It simply does not enter much into my understanding of my place with the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir. I am a goði, a spiritual specialist who is both a chieftain and a priest so far as how we in Mímisbrunnr Kindred use the term.

Let us dig into what is meant by sacred kingship. The Encyclopedia Britannic has a great overview of the concept of sacred kingship, though by no means is it the most detailed or probably accurate overview specific to a given culture. In its article, the Encyclopedia lists three basic forms of a sacred kingship:

(1) the possessor of supernatural power, (2) the divine or semidivine king, and (3) the agent of the sacred.

I do not serve a sacred kingship role as it is often seen in the Fisher King archetype, and only small Heathen, eg Theodish, or Northern Tradition kingdoms, eg The Kingdom of Asphodel, as I have read and understood, hold to such ideas.

Now, if we depart from kingship and dig into sacral status, then this is something most Heathens believe in. However, it is quick to spot that in modern Heathenry that sacral status is not beholden to only a few. If anything differs greatly from historical Heathenry, it is that the goði is not the main arbiter of a community either in terms of how the community runs that they are head of, or that they have inherently more spiritual power than others who live in the community they head. Everyone has access to power through engaging in specific work, eg seið work, spirit work, working with óðr, and so on. A given person may or may not be ‘wired’ for the work, but that does not mean that you have to be born into a certain bloodline to access these spiritual techniques or engage with spiritual power effectively.

Another signficant departure, due in no small part to how diasporic the Heathen communities have become from their historical roots in America and over time from the ancient Heathen cultures we take inspiration and root in, we do not have the kind of passed-on roles that we might have if they had survived until today. Perhaps, had ancient Heathen cultures not been converted, seiðkona and seiðmaðr would have kept up their work they would have passed on the experiences and understanding they had. Had the ancient Heathen cultures not converted, perhaps spiritual techniques like the varðlokkur noted on but not, unfortunately, written out, in the Saga of Erik the Red may have survied until today. We cannot predict how these roles would have come down to us. We can look at the functions they served in the communities they were part of, look at how our own communities are organized, and whether they are still useful to us, or, even more important, if this is even something our Gods are asking to take up and if we are willing to.

From my observation sacred kingship is largely seen as something belonging to the past. This is hardly surprising given America’s history, let alone 1/3 of Americans rent their home, and many Americans who do own land do not own more than than an acre, let alone land in enough acres to justify any kind of kingdom.

Were there sacred kings in Norse or Icelandic culture? Not in the sense of a divine figure akin to a pharaoh of Kemet, no. Not god-kings. Were kings and chieftains seen as particularly spiritually powerful or potent? Yes. So the 1st and 3rd definitions in the Encyclopedia article were certainly part of ancient Norse culture. What about the 2nd? The Ynglings, Ingvaones, Skilfingar, and the Fairhairs were said to be able to trace their ancestry to Freyr, the caste system to Heimdall or Odin (depending on whether you believe Rig is the former or latter), and Frosti was said to be the legendary founder of Skjalf’s line.

Given the practical and political obstacles before it, I am unsure any beyond a few small groups are going to pick up the notion of sacred kingship.

Patreon Song/Poem/Prayer 12 -A Prayer for Dökkmóðir Nerthus

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 prayer was requested from my 3rd Raiðo patron.

  

Sink down sink down

The sacrifice

Down it goes, sinking slow

Bent and broke, bending low

The swamp swallows again

 

Look deep look deep

The soil

Beneath it sits, sifting silt

Sweet and dark, cleansing marsh

The swamp swallows again

 

The wagon is passed, the waters deep

Looming swamp

Pray to Her, Dökkmóðir

The murky depths that She keeps

Purified the waters rise

You Cannot Be Neutral On a Moving Train

Violence against BIPOC (Black/Indigenous/People of Color) has been a mainstay of the United States since well before its founding. The bones, blood, and bodies of countless numbers of them lay in the earth beneath the United States of America’s foundations. Even now in death there is no peace for them, as Indigenous graves are being disturbed so flimsy walls, monuments to an out-of-control president’s ego, can be raised.

Black Lives Matter. Indigenous Lives Matter. Latinx Lives Matter. People of Color’s Lives Matter.

Why don’t I just write All Lives Matter? Because until the lives of BIPOC matter as much as Whites’, that statement is a bald-faced lie. It’s a salve meant to soothe and numb, to hide the sting that the truth of the matter puts to it. Each time a cop or white supremacist murders or harms a Black person for existing, for each Indigenous person who is murdered or harmed, and the countless Indigenous women who disappear, for the countless People of Color, especially Latinx, who are shut up in concentration camps while viruses and death run rampant in them, all of it exposes the statement of All Lives Matter for what it is: a lie.

Howard Zinn wrote an amazing quote that has stuck with me: “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.”

So I will remain as I have. I am not neutral here. I am anti-racist. I am against white supremacy. I am against Heathens who desire to make Heathen religions White-only places. I have and will continue to make donations and amplify the voices of BIPOC and to those who work for the betterment of BIPOC. I have and will continue to do what I can, where and how I can, to make changes in Heathen and adjacent spaces so everyone who wishes to be and is a Heathen, Northern Tradition Pagan, etc is welcomed in frið and grið. I invite every Heathen, every Northern Tradition Pagan, every Norse Pagan, and anyone adjacent who wishes to operate in this good faith to do the same. Some of the work will be very quiet, and that is as good as being loud and on the front lines. Not all of us can work the front lines of the protests or other work needing to be done. Much of the work, truth be told, is done in little actions done over time.

It is not enough to sign a Declaration or to mouth words. It is not enough to say “I am anti-racist”. Our conduct must comport with our words. Our words must be strong, resolute, and carried out in what we do. Our words, our prayers, our magic, and our action must be united in purpose. Lives are on the line. Futures are on the line.

I cannot tell you how to proceed. That is between you and your Gods, your Ancestors, and your vaettir. That is between you and those in your innangarð. That is between you and any communities you wish to render aid to. Saying anything at this point too broadly misses the mark.

What I will advise for White Heathens and adjacent folks who wish to make a difference is that you do your research and speak with the folks in your local BIPOC communities first and foremost. Listen to them, amplify their voices, and if, when you offer help they accept it, render that help in the manner that they tell you to. Do the work you need to do so you are a useful and good ally. It will be ongoing. Gods know I have work to do.

So, let us get to work.

Becoming an Ancestor Song

Becoming an Ancestor

My lines are behind me

Becoming an Ancestor

My Disir protect and guide

Becoming an Ancestor

My Väter protect and guide

Becoming an Ancestor

My Ergi protect and guide

Becoming an Ancestor

My þverr protect and guide

Becoming an Ancestor

My lineages protect and guide

Becoming an Ancestor

My kinfylgja protect and guide

Becoming an Ancestor

My fylgja protect and guide

I am becoming, becoming, becoming

An Ancestor

For Kuro

It feels like we just met

Seventeen years ago

I insisted I did not like cats

You didn’t seem to care about that

You wrapped your paws around my neck

Buried your face in mine

You became my boy that day

 

You were quiet at first, often hiding

Your brother, Aoshi, the loud one, the outgoing one

You so gentle and soft, quiet and affectionate

When he died all that changed

 

You were there, we made sure of it

You cuddled with him a bit, not quite knowing

Soon it dawned when we went home

and he stayed behind

 

You understood soon enough

Then something amazing happened

You came out, were loud, and demanded attention

You had taken your brother’s place

 

My sweet boy

You crawled into laps and curled into chests

You whined loud enough to wake the dead at mealtime

You purred so loud I could feel it when we cuddled

 

Weeks have passed since we saw each other

This damn isolation

You recognized me on the screen when I called

Purred and nuzzled the screen

 

Your Mom called me

You had taken a turn for the worst

Despite good food, medicine, and care

Nothing else could be done

 

I ran home, up the stairs

So small, so tired

You stared at me with your beautiful green eyes

You held on for me

 

O my sweet boy

I held you and I know you knew

I heard your gasping meow

I felt your sweet, slow heart

 

It ripped at me to see you like this

Yet blessed too

You held on for me

So I could hold you

 

We prayed, all of us, your Mom and I

To Freyja, to Bast, to Sekhmet, to Hela

That your death was as painless as could be

That it was quick

That your brother walked with you at the end

That you know we love you

 

An hour later the call came through

You were dead, your pain at an end

My eyes filled with tears

My heart with sorrow, prayers answered

 

I ache that this was the first time I saw you

In eight weeks

But blessed to see you

Before you had to go

 

Rest well my sweet boy

Rest and know we hear you

Walk with your brother and Ancestors

Visit us when you can

I love you, Kuro

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 8 -For An Morrígan

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 prayer was requested from my first Ansuz patron for An Morrígan.

 

Your croaking voice fills the expanse

Echoing across field and in the forest

The waters that wend speak of You

The ground and grave bow below You

 

The poet’s tongue is loosened in Your sight

The warrior’s sword slides from its sheath

The seer’s senses are true

Following the flight of the Phantom Queen

 

The home and the hearth know You

Protector and Purpose-bringer

Ember-eyed and Byre-blesser

Babe-Guardian and Foe-Bane

 

Raven-haired river-maker

Glorious Goddess of gun and grave

Whose hands help Her people

Standing strong in strife and sorrow

 

May our gifts be gladly made

Our offerings given in good worth

In turn may we receive well

Bond unbroken, beautiful and blessed

 

Wind and flame warn of war’s path

Sharpen wit, weapon, and work

Prepare and gather in power and perseverance

So the Sovereign speaks in crows’ song

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 7 -For Sleipnir

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 prayer was requested from my fourth Raiðo patron for Sleipnir.

Over skies and oceans you have crossed

Over land and the Helvegen itself

Eight legs across Nine Worlds

Glorious-Maned, Peerless Stallion, Best of Horses!

Spear-Hooved, Iron-Flanked, Windswept Galloper!

Sleipnir Lokison!

O Holy One, Son of a God and His Bloodbrother’s Bearer

You bring Your burdens unbowed

Through danger and Death to home and hearth

Praise to You O Peerless Journeyer

Sire of Blessed Steeds

Grey-coated Wanderer of Worlds!

Patreon Topic 9: On Seiðr

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From my third Raiðo supporter comes this topic:

“The distinguishing characteristics of *authentic* seiðr, from your perspective and from the perspective of the medieval sources (as relevant).”

When we’re talking about authentic I think getting to what is vs is not authentic is worth taking some time to define.

When it comes to authentic seiðr I care far less about what may be historically authentic comparative to what is authentic to the requirements of our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, religions, and communities now. This is not to say historically authentic seiðr is something to brush off, but I recognize that we have a handful of sources and one detailed account of what seiðr looked like at one point in time, and conjecture in a handful of other sections. Further, it can be argued in one instance we see, in Eiríks saga rauða (The Saga of Erik the Red), what we are seeing is a spá rite rather than a seiðr rite. Our map of seiðr, like a lot of what we have available to us, is far less complete than ideal.

This comes to how we define terms in the modern age vs how they may have been divided (or not) in the past. Because I like discrete categories for explanation and for looking at things, I put seiðr and spá into two separate categories. Generally, the way I tend to divide the categories is to the purpose of the rite. If the point is only to contact the spirits for divination, it is a spá rite. If divination is involved but the point is to affect change on a spiritual/magical level, it is a seiðr rite.

I likewise will use descriptions for the people performing the magic. If a person’s primary training and involvement in a ritual is for divination/transmission of spiritual messages with the calling in of spirits, it is a spákona (prophecy woman), spámaðr (prophecy man/human). If a person’s primary training and involvement in a ritual is for affecting Urðr/Wyrd then it would be seiðkona (magic/spell/enchantment woman) or seiðmaðr (magic/spell/enchantment man/human). A prophetess then would be a völva. As I usually use the term a völva can do both even she specializes in one or the other.

How I separate seiðr from other forms of magic, eg sympathetic magic, is that seiðr requires the use of óðr, frenzy, both in the sense of the furious rocking back and forth and/or other forms of ecstatic trance, and the working with of the soul part of the same name. It is spellwork that affects the flow/weaving of Urðr primarily through the use of óðr and other techinques and soul parts as needed. Now, that is not to say that you cannot blend seiðr with sympathetic magic, or other works as you need, are called to, etc. You might find blending magic work to be effective. Given each person engaging in seiðr is doing so in a modern context I would hardly be surprised to find a wide variety of seiðr practices.

All of this is to say that how I define ‘authentic’ may run completely contrary to how another Heathen or Northern Tradition Pagan may define it. Since my definitions and ideas of how seiðr is conducted take from the medieval sources we have, I would say that my understanding of authentic is not counter to them, but inclusive of them. This holds with how I treat much of the surviving material. None of what we have was meant as religious instruction and none of what we have is primary source. All is secondary sourcing, and most of that buried behind Christian or Christian-biased writing on the subject.

Authentic seiðr, like any modern Heathen practice, is what schews as close to our Heathen sources, and moreover, what works. We know in the sources that she sits in a high seat and that there is a vardlokkur, a ward song, held before the seiðr rite. What was this song? We are not told, and so, it may be the seiðkona needs to find her own vardlokkur and teach it to someone else to perform, or perform it herself prior to the rite.

What to wear? Thankfully, this is where The Saga of Erik the Red is a lot more explicit.

“Now, when she came in the evening, accompanied by the man who had been sent to meet her, she was dressed in such wise that she had a blue mantle over her, with strings for the neck, and it was inlaid with gems quite down to the skirt. On her neck she had glass beads. On her head she had a black hood of lambskin, lined with ermine. A staff she had in her hand, with a knob thereon; it was ornamented with brass, and inlaid with gems round about the knob. Around her she wore a girdle of soft hair, and therein was a large skin-bag, in which she kept the talismans needful to her in her wisdom. She wore hairy calf-skin shoes on her feet, with long and strong-looking thongs to them, and great knobs of latten at the ends. On her hands she had gloves of ermine-skin, and they were white and hairy within…

…She had a brazen spoon, and a knife with a handle of walrus-tusk, which was mounted with two rings of brass, and the point of it was broken off.”

Now, consider this in the modern age and that many of us are operating on shoe-string budgets and our communities even more so. I think most of the accoutremonts make sense for the time period, and that they were often patronized by the wealthy. A stripped down variation of this would be a blue head covering, or a blue hoody with a black hood. Some kind of necklace with glass beads. A brass-headed staff on the more expensive end (JoAnn Fabrics and hardware stores have pieces that could work here), a simple wooden staff on the other. Mind, I do not think a person needs to dress the part exactly to work with seiðr. It might help some folks to recreate the look of a seiðkona as accurately as possible. It might help others to just work with the suggestions here, or a good blindfold or a cloak to get a similar effect to get them in the seiðr headspace.

How to bring in the spirits? We only have a few hints at how seiðr was done, and these are sparse. We know the seiðkona sat on a highest seat and the spirits came in after the vardlokkur was sung. From my reading it is likely some kind of heavy trance was entered into, and something akin to mediumship work or channeling took place. I am not comfortable talking in depth on this in a modern context for a few reasons. First, is that my process was given to me by Freyja when Óðinn handed me to Her for instruction. Second, divulging how to do this without training brings a lot of risks and it would be fairly irresponsible of me just to outline what to do. Third, whatever I do write may not work for you -at all.

What matters is whether or not a given seiðr working is a success. Does it enable the seiðr worker to contact the Holy Powers they need to? Does it provide accurate, actionable information? Does the hamingja and megin of those engaged in it improve through its use? To my mind the reason seiðr survived so long as it did is because it worked. It is the same reason seiðr is seeing a revival now.

Patreon Topic 8: On Ordeals

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From my first Ansuz supporter comes this topic:

“Ordeals. I know you’re not an Ordeal Master, but I’d still like to hear your thoughts.”

Ordeals are part of life. The act of being pregnant and bearing a child is an ordeal. Birth itself is an ordeal. The trials and tribulations we go through in order to be human are ordeals of some form or another, though in American society these tend to be more oriented around displaying the grasp of a study subject -or the ability to bullshit paperwork.

The OED says an ordeal is “A very unpleasant and prolonged experience” or “An ancient test of guilt or innocence by subjection of the accused to severe pain, survival of which was taken as divine proof of innocence.”. It comes from the “Old English ordāl, ordēl, of Germanic origin; related to German urteilen ‘give judgement’, from a base meaning ‘share out’. 

When we use ordeal in a more modern sense we’re usually using it in the first sense. In a religious or spiritual context we’re usually using the second in a modified way. Rather than testing innocence or guilt, we are being tested to see if we can rise to an initiation, new station or to undertake some new spiritual technology or work. The capitalizing of Ordeal speaks to this; this is not some mundane test of pain or the experiences of everyday life. This is whether we are ready and/or worthy to engage in a given path, to go to the next level, or to offer something new to our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir and/or communities.

Ordeals are not innately cruel. They are tests. I think one of the best science fiction descriptions of one is the test of the pain box and the gom jabbar from Dune. It is a test put to Paul Atreides, the main character, by Reverend Mother Gaius Mohiam of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood. She explains that they do this “To determine if you’re human…” and later asks Paul once he has passed his Ordeal “Ever sift sand through a screen?…We Bene Gesserit sift people to find the humans.”

So why do this? “To set you free…Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.” She then goes on to explain that this is done to provide a level of continuity to humanity’s bloodlines and separate the humans from the animals. In a very real sense the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and even our own communities, may require this for similar reasons.

The spiritual technology of Rune reading is available to everyone. However, if you wish to take a relationship with Runatyr and the Runevaettir deeper you will, at some point, likely need to go through an Ordeal: encounter Them in ritual, give a blood offering that ties you to Them, and formally deepen your relationship with Them. I hedge this with ‘likely’ because I am not Runatyr or the Runevaettir, and whether They give someone an Ordeal for a given person to develop this deeper relationship is up to Them.

In another way the use of hamfara, faring forth, is open to anyone, as is utiseta, sitting out. What is not available to everyone is entry into the Nine Worlds. There are tests a given God, Goddess, Ancestor, vaettr, and/or human community may give before you are cleared to do certain kinds of spirit work, these included. In my own case, while I do not incorporate Ordeal into this, before anyone who studies from me goes into any deeper spiritual techniques, they have to have at least a year of devotional work with Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. Likewise, they also have to have done at least a year spiritual preparation work which includes doing cleansing, grounding, centering, shielding, and ward work among other things.

There are some spiritual technologies and initiations shut off from us unless we have gone through Ordeal to attain them, or attain access to them. Yet, generally, the point is not the Ordeal itself. The Ordeal is a sift. The goal is to get through, endure, overcome, or pass through it, to be sifted so that you (or the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and/or Elders) can be sure you can handle the spiritual technology or the initiation. It is also to accept that should you fail, that you accept this. Sometimes an Ordeal can only be given once. Other times we can approach it again and again. It depends deeply on the Ordeal and the Work. Some Ordeals are more intense than others, or in different ways. So if you come to an Ordeal, be sure you have done all the preparation you can, make sure you and anyone working with you on it have done all your due diligence in approaching it, and take care in undergoing it. It is not a thing to be rushed into or to grasp for. For those things that require it, it is a necessity to undergo. As I am not an Ordeal Master I do not feel I can comment any further on it.

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 6 -For Ingui

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 prayer was requested from my first Raiðo patron for Ingui.

O Great Lord

Who resides in the Barrow Mound

Ever-fertile One

Wild One Whose bones lie in the Earth

Whose Flesh and Blood run in the veins of the World

Whose Seed brings fertility to every seed and animal

Whose Hands wield hoe and antler

Whose Mind is ever-vibrant

Whose Tongue knows every mineral, plant, and animal

Whose Eyes see the Dead and Living in Their endless transitions

O Holy Lord who dines with high and low

Whose realm is the hallowed hills and buried urn and verdant field and flashing gold corn

Whose domain touches deep within the heart of the World

Whose drive is carnal and transcendent

Ectasy-bearer and pleasure-bringer!

Sweet-voiced and throbbing cock!

Gentle handed and steel-nerved!

O Lord of Elves, great in majesty!

O Boar God, fierce in battle!

O Dead, Rising, and Living One!

Hail Ingui, ever-potent!