Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 50: For the Runevaettir

If 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 the Runevaettir.


Sounds

Letters

Concepts

Meaning

Magic

Spirits

From the Ginnungagap You screamed, sang, called

From the Ginnungagap You resounded, crowed, howled

From the Ginnungagap You whispered, breathed, spoke

By sacrifice, You were brought into the Worlds

By sacrifice, You allied with the Gallows God

By sacrifice, You ally with us

Each a sound, resonating with power

Each a sound, shuddering with strength

Each a sound, surging with connection

Each a letter, teaching the tongue

Each a letter, building up knowledge

Each a letter, carrying wisdom

Each a concept, bearing cultures’ weight

Each a concept, keeping memories

Each a concept, transmitting understanding

Each a meaning, guarding mysteries

Each a meaning, teaching the initiated

Each a meaning, deepening the depths

Each one magic, giving Ginnungagap form

Each one magic, bringing might to action

Each one magic, flowing into being

Each a spirit, knowing Urðr’s ways

Each a spirit, giving gift for gift

Each a spirit, touching our own

Runevaettir, I hear You

Runevaettir, I see You

Runevaettir, I understand You

Runevaettir, I know You

Runevaettir, I cast You

Runevaettir, I hail You

Polytheist Devotional Art Challenge Day 1: Prayer

I inhale and cleanse

Drawing up breath from lungs

Blessed to breathe, to live

By You

Gods, Ancestors, spirits

I put hands to the keyboard, asking for inspiration

A spark

A fire is lit

My fingers tap

Bidden by You

Sometimes it comes easy

Words falling like rain

From the storm in my mind

Sometimes it is a trickle

Quiet, calm

Each is a gift

Words, breath, struggle

Putting words to power

Wrapping layers of meaning

For the present

Prayer is

Conversation, offering, communing

Sometimes it is hard

Always worth it to speak them

To You

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 50: For the Huron River

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 Odinsson for the Huron River.


Hail to the Huron River

Called Giwitatigweiasibi by the Wyandot

Called Ana by the Druids who know Her

I hail You

Your blessed waters flow

From the blessed swamp

To Lake Eerie, called Erielhonan or Eri

I hail You

You, Who carries trade

You, Who carries countless boats and canoes

You, Who carries and cares for countless fish

I hail You

You, Who bears your waters with care

You, Whose paths are gentle

You, Whose waters quench the throats of thousands

I hail You

Your form carries countless homes

Your blood is carried in countless millions

Your body bears countless lives

I hail You

Hail to You, beautiful Míkilvaettr

Hail to You, great Vatnvaettr

Thank You for allowing me to know Your cool waters, Your sloping shores, Your many children

Hail to You, Huron River

Patreon Topic 50: On Völur Past and Present

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.

From Emily comes this topic:

“What was a volva and what being a volva would encompass today.”

The word völva means ‘staff-bearer’ per Neil Price in The Viking Way. This is a spiritual specialist who engages in seiðr and/or spá. Seiðr and spá are a galaxy of practices, among them being what we would readily recognize today as spiritwork, divination, prophecying, and various kinds of magic including curse work, protection, empowerment, and enchantment. What is most striking to me is that the staff referred to is both itself an instrument of power for directing spirits and energies, and a symbol of office. The wand or staff has a number of forms, including that of an iron distaff, a plain staff of iron or wood that is about as high as a walking cane, and a large staff that is made of iron or of wood, the latter carved and embellished. Price has an excellent overview of these in The Viking Way.

Völur (plural of völva) occupy an interesting area in Late Iron Age religion. As near as I can tell, between reading translations of the sagas and books on the subject, including the excellent The Viking Way by Neil Price and Nordic Religions in the Viking Age by Thomas DuBois, they were both admired and treated with fear. It is key to note that we have little to nothing from before this period, what is coloqially called The Viking Age, and almost all of it is filtered through Christian lenses from the period. So what were they? They were seers, witches, people you went to for spiritual work and spiritual advice. They were people who were to be respected. They were people to be feared. If you were a völva you walked a road between that of the people you served and the spirits.

In the Eiriks saga rauða, the Saga of Erik the Red, the völva is an itinerant spiritual specialist that speaks with and/or works with the spirits. At least with the example provided in this saga through Þorbiörg, she did not act alone. She required “a chorus of women and at least one assistant familiar with a magic song or incantation called varðlokkur” (DuBois 124). The use of a varðlokkur, a spirit calling song, is required as part of her seiðr ritual. I have seen this song referred to as an enticement song, a spirit calling song, and a warding song. Singing, chanting, incantations, and the like form or are part of at least a few of the varieties of seiðr as well as galdr.

Both books provide comparison and contrast between the accounts of seiðr, seiðkona, völur, and Sámi naidevuohtta (shamanism) and Finnish shamanism and rituals. Are völur shamans? In the sense that they provide many of the same ritual and societal functions, yes. However, a noaide is not a völva or seiðkona, and vice verse.

It is fairly clear that there was a lot of contact and sharing between the ancient Nordic, Sámi, and Finnish peoples. Each engaged in kinds of spirit contact. In some cases this involved singing, chanting, and/or trance induction through heavy or rapid breathing and/or ‘yawning’. Both DuBois and Price note that the seiðkonur, noaide, and Finnish shamans had mixed reputations for being both potentially helpful and harmful. They were called on to protect, to heal, to harm. In some cases the Sámi and Finno-Ugric peoples were pointed to as being sources of learning seiðr (DuBois 129). Far from being the only connection points, DuBois (71-73) and Price point out the vibrant trade in goods, as well as grave goods, similarities in treatment of and honoring of the dead, ancestor veneration, and so on that are expressed differently within these cultures yet still share touchstones with one another.

To be clear: the words shaman and shamanism are what amounts to academic loanwords in these books for similar spiritual specialists and phenomena. Where we can, I find it better to use words appropriate to the culture we are talking about. I encourage Heathens to use words appropriate to our religions/cultures, such as völva, seiðkona, and the like. When we do not have the words I encourage Heathens to work with newer terms like spiritworker and neologisms like vaettirvirkr (spiritsworker) formed from Old Norse or whatever language is appropriate to the culture background you are engaging with.

Some of the major differences between historical völur and modern völur is that 1) it seems a lot of them traveled a great deal between villages and towns in order to do their spiritual work, and 2) there were people who were expected to be able to perform the varðlokkur, so there was a groundswell of people within the community who had to be familiar with the rites. Eiriks saga rauða provides a very clear overview of a völva, and features of it and other seiðworkers can be found in the archaeological record. DuBois notes that though the practice is nebulous in what it is and how it is performed, it has a fairly consistent picture across time and stories (128).

“Within this array of pagan rituals, seiðr appears to respond primarily to situations of crisis and is undertaken by a religious specialist (usually a woman) at the request of a client and within the context of a communal gathering. The ritual appeals to some sort of spirit helpers, either for divinatory information or help in controlling the minds and wills of others. Typical is the detailed account included in the thirteenth-century Eiríks saga rauða, in which an itinerant seiðr practitioner named Þorbiörg is invited to a Greenland farmstead to help the community discover whether its current run of ill luck will continue.”

Nordic Religions in the Viking Age, DuBois 123

The lack of experience with seiðr, both in terms of familiarity with the subject itself in Heathenry more broadly, and with specific practices within it, means that völur and other seiðworkers have to do a lot of work to revive this practice. The saga accounts, grave goods, what surviving folks practices we may look to, and conjecture from academics only do us so much. A lot of modern völva work is going to have to just be done. In a way, this lack of concrete bounds for modern völur and other seiðworkers means that we are free to cocreate new ways of being these things in modern contexts alongside our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. While there has been a lot lost with these traditions, it means that our roles and rites can move with the requirements of our Ginnreginn and communities.

This is where especially The Viking Way is a treasure trove, both in how it lays out the information and in the sheer breadth of information it has available in it. The kinds of magic Price writes about alone is helpful because it helps expand our lexicon for kinds of magic and magical practice such as gandr, fjǫlkyngi, and ljóð, which could be combined with seiðr or performed separately, a kind of seiðr such as kveldriða (cold-rider, Price 77). Since a given völva could well perform any or all of these things, or just stick to one specialty, eg gandr or spá in general, becoming more familiar and working with these terms also means we develop a more specifically Heathen way of working with the sources as inspiration and information. Because a given völva is not limited to one practice it is perhaps better to think on how we use these terms to describe the job of being a völva just as the various -riða terms such as kveldriða describe seiðworkers engaging in magical work on others.

What is a modern völva in Heathenry? A völva is a Heathen spiritual specialist, a seer who works with the spirits to gather and share information, and to enact change. Where a seiðworker may do a variety of things, including spá, a völva’s primary job for whatever community or communities she is part of is to speak and work with the spirits, gather information from Them and/or with Them, and enact change with Them. The way I understand modern völur is that their job is to work for/on behalf of their communities with the vaettir. Since we no longer have any living memory of varðlokkur I think that it is a good thing for anyone wanting to do this work to find or ask for inspiration from the vaettir to gain such a song. Maybe it has words, maybe it is a melody; whatever it ends up being, it is a song that works to bring the vaettir to the völva so the work can begin, and be maintained.

Being a völva is, like every other spiritual specialty, a job. It is taking on Work. Maybe you come to it through being grabbed up by a Goddess, eg Freyja. Maybe you went to Her and asked Her to bring you into the work because you feel called to the Work itself. Whatever your inroad, initially you train, engage in good spiritual discipline, and develop yourself and your relationships so you can effectively do the spiritual work of the job. Then, you do the work of being a völva while continuing to train, engage in good spiritual discipline, and developing yourself and your relationships so you can keep being more effective as you go on. Ideally, you would have a spiritual mentor, as well as at least 1-3 people you can go to for divination so you can keep yourself on an even keel. To this end I highly recommend Jim Two Snake’s Spiritual Accounting PDF.

Since becoming a völva is beyond this post, how would we contrast a modern Heathen völva with a person being a seiðworker? I look at völur as a communal role whereas seiðr is fairly accessible to anyone willing to put the work in. You might work with seiðr to make a taufr, an enchanted physical object (Price 36), in crochet or knitting, eg crafting a blanket for warmth and protection. You might do seiðr to work with vaettir to just gather information for your own purposes, such as through a gandr ritual using a gǫndull, a wand or staff for gandr, and/or a ‘yawn’ or the use of breath such as song, chant, or croaking (Price 184) in where you push the vaettir to give you information. You might work with a spá ritual in a light trance where you commune with the vaettir to that end. All of these are accessible modes of operation to both the völva and the average seiðworker. Now, perhaps a given seiðworker is not comfortable working with völva as a term because it is definitely feminine-gendered, and this is where we need to develop more terms or work with neologisms. In my own case I am fine with the terms vaettirvirkr and seiðmaðr (a seiðr-man) for the moment, as I do spiritswork as a spiritual specialist, with seiðr as part of that work.

The difference between a völva and a seiðworker is that, for our purposes here, völur are spiritual specialists whose job it is to work with/on behalf of a community where a given seiðworker may be working on their own. We develop these meanings, work, and community together. What really makes the difference between a völur and seiðworker in the end is whether the word clicks for you, describes what you do, and if you are serving a community what words that community calls you. Being a völva today is not much different in that regard than what it was centuries ago: you serve a community, connecting them with the spirits to speak with them, gather information and to work with Them to change things.

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 48: For Jarnsaxa

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 was requested by Vixen for Jarnsaxa.


The iron sax gleams free from the sheathe

Drawn thirsty

Its cut is wide, its bite deep

The mighty arm falls with the bright fang

Drinking greedily

Felling the doughty foe

Great is the battle-Goddess

Steel-spined

Victory claimed in strength

Patreon Topic 47: On Fylgja and Hamingja

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.

From Vixen comes this topic:

“The parts of the soul. Specifically Hamingja and Fylgja and how they interact with each other, us and the world around us. Reading up on it, both seem to appear (occasionally) in animal form?”

The Fylgja and Hamingja are both noted to occasionally appear in animal forms. Most Heathens reckon the Fylgja to a fetch-like being that, if you see your own, you are in dire danger and may die. With regard to seeing someone’s Hamingja it is generally referred to as being seen by someone with spiritual ability.

It is important note that though both appear in animal form in the written sources, what we know about them is essentially late Iron Age and/or possible Christian interpolation. Like a lot of Heathen reconstruction we are working with as much information as we have access to, best guesses, and our own understanding. With this in mind, it makes sense that multiple ideas of the soul matrix exist and we may not agree, even within Norse Heathen communities.

So, how are they noted to interact with the world? The fylgja is noted as being what amounts to a follower assigned or part of each person that helps you. As noted before, it only is noted as appearing in some recognizable way to the person before danger or death. The hamingja is often understood as group luck or even soul, personified in an animal or woman shape. Some folks gloss it as a kind of guardian angel, and I think that both denies the kind of soul part it is, and reduces it from its importance in Heathen ideas of the soul matrix.

Why animal forms? To a degree I think that animal forms can communicate something about the person they are appearing to. It may also indicate spiritual relationship one holds, or one’s Ancestors hold, with a given animal or group of animals. It may also indicate something about the person in relationship with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir that they hold in this lifetime, eg someone’s hamingja tightly tied to Odin may appear as a raven to another person, or to Freyja as a cat or falcon.

I have used fylgja to mean ‘follower’ in the sense of spirits one works with, though I am now leaning more toward neologisms like the one I made, visendavaettir (spirits who know) as spiritual guides and those who work with us since most Heathens do not use fylgja as a term in this way. The post where I go over this is here. Developing these ideas over time makes sense. Some ways work for a while, some don’t. Sometimes we need better or more precise langauge to communicate about what is happening or what is present.

The way both interact with us and in the world is to pass along information, as ways for our souls to interact with ourselves in different ways and the wider world. If we, in our líki/lyke do not see danger but the fylgja does, then fylgjur are involved with, interact with, and in some way at least have a sense of the future about the world. Hamingja is the collected power/luck of our Ancestors, built with our interactions with one another and communities, and is tied into how we live. The fyljga helps us to walk well in the Worlds while the hamginja grows and is changed by how we walk in the Worlds. Perhaps a way to think of it is that fylgjur exist with us in the world, while hamingja is built and expressed in the world.

I think that fylgja may be impacted by hamingja, just as many of our spiritual relationships are impacted by the órlög we enter this life with. Our órlög sets up our individual thread in Urðr’s tapestry, and so, our hamingja is set up and our fylgja is assigned or comes into being. This hamingja and fylgja may indicate the strength, values, and ideas that our Ancestors have passed onto us at this early stage of life, and/or the spiritual relationships they held, and over time that may change. This would be something interesting for folks to look in on from time to time, and see if folks’ fylgja and hamingja take different shapes or have different expressions at different times/stages in a person’s life.

Patreon Topic 46: On Housevaettir

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.

From Alexis comes this topic:

“Have you talked about house vættir?”

Not in so many words until your topic on this post and Q&A request here.

Are the housevaettir landvaettir? Yes, and They are separate. From the Q&A:

There are a few reasons I make a distinction.

First, the house is an entity unto itself marked by the boundaries of its walls and outer doors.


Second, our modern houses are generally distinct from the land they sit on or in. Very few homes anymore are made with materials directly sourced on site.

Third, the means of relating to home vs land are different in how we treat and understand ourselves in those spaces. 

Our relationships with our home are fundamentally different to ‘the outside’. Even where there is bleedover between the two boundaries of húsvaettir and landvaettir I find there is usually some distinction in relationship with us.

March 2021 Q&A 2

Are the beings that live on/with the land landvaettir? They can be. That answer also implies we are also vaettir ourselves. It is true though, we are vaettir. We are not becoming vaettir and we do not become vaettir when we die; we are vaettir whatever the condition of our líki (body) or other soul parts.

So the distinction here is that we ourselves are not landvaettir until we join with the land. Likewise with húsvaettir. We are close, sometimes even indistinct if you are taking a bird’s eye view, yet we are still distinct from each other. I am no more a rock than I am separate from the land.

Húsvaettir are more intimate with us and vice versa than a lot of vaettir. After all, we live in and with Them. We see Them sometimes more than our own extended families, so having a good relationship with Them is all to our mutual good.

Each vaettr within the home is a vaettr unto itself, and yet, like with our own bodies and the billions of cells that make us up, as we constitute a whole so does the collective húsvaettir. If we look at the home itself as a composite Being, we can clearly see the idea of the soul matrix applies to it.

The materials that make up the house is the líki (body), the air that circulates through the home is its önd (breath), the heat and cool the lá (heat), the litr (color/blooming hue/goodly hue) would be how the interior and exterior are lit and the emotions the painting of the alls and decorations bring. How are its hugr (mind/memories/spirit) formed? The decorations are part of that too, especially photographs, the layout of special places including the hearth or what serves for it, the places shrines are placed, and the bedrooms. The munr (mood/mind/logic) is the flow of the home’s layout and the layout itself, and I also see it in the way that the guts of the house are arranged for flow of information such as the cable and ethernet lines. The hamr is the second skin, the spiritual form of the house. Perhaps it appears warm and inviting to us who live in it, but it could just as easily look foreboding to unwelcome spirits.

What might its fylgja and kinfylgja be? Those vaettir that it descends from, the constituent Beings of wood, metal, and the Dead that are Ancestors of the large amount of oil-derived products (if it is a modern Western home), or whatever is used to build the home. Its hamingja (group luck) is made with those who live with/within It and whom It helps to keep well. If the home’s occupants actively seek to make oaths with It before occupation then keeping Its part of them increases Its own hamingja. Its megin is felt in how it welcomes those who live with/in It in, and how it stands up to storms and other occurences in Its life. Its ørlög is laid down when it is made, and its Urðr unfolds from here as it ages.

Here’s a fun thought to think on: if we understand that the house itself is distinct and separate from us, possessing its own soul matrix whether occupied or not, then what are we when we live inside a house?

In a sense we are distinct from the house in that we can pack up, leave, and never come back at any point in time. The húsvaettir cannot do that. We die, and the house still stands. Perhaps someone else will come along to call it home. Yet, without a home we as humans are understood as missing something vital. So, in this sense a house is a distinct entity from us, and so too are the húsvaettir and landvaettir.

Mind you, I am not saying we need to have a rooted-to-the-ground home to have a home or that this understanding of húsvaettir is exclusive to American stick built homes. There are plenty of examples of homes that can be carried on your back or that of an animal or vehicle, whether a tent, a yurt, a tiny home on a trailer, a camper, or RV. What matters it that this is a place we call and relate to as a home, as our home. As with a lot of things in Heathenry, it comes down to the relationships we are engaged in.

My relationships with the húsvaettir are expressed in similar ways to those of other vaettir. We have a space for the húsvaettir on a vé that They share with our Ancestors, the févaettir (moneyvaettir aka money spirits), and Andvari. They get offers the same as other vaettir, usually water, but also on herbs and food on occasion. As with other vaettir, engaging respectfully, and with respectful lines of communication is the best way to developing a good relationship with the húsvaettir.

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 46: For Cleaning with the Húsvaettir

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 was requested by Alexis for cleaning with her húsvaettir (house spirits).

It’s time to clean

It’s time to clean

Húsvaettir I call

Come help me wash

Come help me sweep

Come help me keep our hall!

The work gets done

The work gets done

With effort and with song

The grime is gone

The dust is gone

The cleaning carries on!

We cleanse the home

We cleanse the home

Together húsvaettir

We cleanse above

We cleanse below

This home we all hold dear!

(When all is done)

The cleaning’s done

The cleaning’s done

Thank you húsvaettir

Time to rest

Time to relax

Within our home most dear!

Patreon Topic 45: On Runes, Color, and Activation

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.

From Emily comes this topic:

“I’m curious why you associate runes as being activated in red. Is there historical precedent? Also, have you found any use for using runes in other colors?”

I want to first point out the Hávamál stanza 143:

143.
Dost know how to write, dost know how to read,
dost know how to paint, dost know how to prove,
dost know how to ask, dost know how to offer,
dost know how to send, dost know how to spend?

translated by Olive Bray and edited by D. L. Ashliman
http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/havamal.html#runes

The way that I understand ‘paint’, ‘tint’, ‘stain’, or ‘colour’ as it is referred to in other sources, eg this translation by Henry Adam Bellows here, and Carolyne Larrington’s translation reprinted here, stanza 145 in this version, is that it is referring to this act with blood. The reference to ‘offer’, or ‘sacrifice’ bears this out in my mind, as does this passage in my understanding of the Runes as vaettir. This is passage is not referring to Gods, Ancestors, or anything other than the Runes here, so anyone applying the passage directly after this to ‘not offering too much’ to Them is doing themselves and the relationships They carry a disservice.

Is there a historical precedent for Runes being activated by the color red? Not that I have found. Runes were etched into bractiates, wood, and stones, and so far as I have read specific pigments were not associated with them. Serje Spurkland in his excellent book Norwegian Runes and Runic Inscriptions, to whit I remember, does not mention anything like that.

It is really important to remember that my work with the Runes, despite really liking and digging into what academic work I can get my hands on and afford, is much more based in spiritwork with Them. It is modern so far as I know. That does not make it less valid, it just bears putting out there.

So what is ‘activating’ a Rune?

It is empowering a surface, item, person, place, thing etc that a Rune is put/carved/painted onto to carry that vaettir and/or Their megin or might. This can take a number of forms. You might paint a Rune tile with blood and so, both feed the Rune and give the Rune the form on a surface in blood. You may carve or scratch Runes into a piece of wood, and then fill the carved wooden Rune space with ochre or acrylic red paint. You might take some of your spit or sweat and mark the inside of a coat with a Rune. You might sing the name of the Rune or write and perform a galdralag to bring the Rune’s power onto a carved candle. Perhaps instead of carving you trace the image of a Rune over yourself or another, and galdr the Rune. Perhaps you use the carrier of your önd, breath, to sing a Rune over/into something/someone. However you make the physical body or whatever carries the Rune, the Rune is activated when the Runevaettr enters the Rune or puts Their megin into Their representation.

I generally look at red as an activating color because it is the color of blood. That’s the long and short of it. I had the option of filling the Rune tattoos on my arms with red and chose not to because, at least to how I relate to Them, I did not want Them to be ‘on’ and working all the time. Not everyone is going to have this association, and that is fine.

When it comes to working with colors and Runework, I think really the sky is the limit. Given we are completely off the historical map and talking spiritwork here, you could look at how you relate to the main colors you can see. Then, get a color wheel, and start building the associations you have with the Runes. Does this color outline put you more in mind of, say, the Icelandic or Anglo-Saxon Rune poem? Does this color with a black outline speak more to you with the Rune’s ability to heal or harm? Do you like clean lines? How about spelling words or writing sentences with Them? If you make a Sowilo with a rainbow gradient in it, does that speak differently to you from a solid yellow or red?

What about bindrunes? If you combined an icy blue Isa with a deep green Jera what does that say to you? How about contrasting with bindrunes that have obvious opposites in them? What about working with complementary colors that speak ‘healing’ or ‘grounding’ to you?

Generally, I do not work with many colors and the Runes outside of black and red. I’m not a great painter by any stretch, and most of the mediums I work in, namely wood, leather, and woodburning in both of those, I tend to work with outlines or black fill more than painting.

What works with me matters far less than what works with you. After all, I have my own relationship with the Runes, my own color associations, and my own understanding with ‘what works’ when it comes to spiritwork, Runework, and being a Rýnstr. So will you. So, enjoy, experiment, and explore.

Deity Work v Being a Polytheist

Rotwork wrote a post here exploring the idea of deity work that I will be pushing back on, and adding my own thoughts as I go.

Before I begin I want to be clear: I respect Rotwork a lot. I get that a lot of online spaces are cesspits, and produce a lot of toxic ideas that then get circulated. Those need to be pushed back on. That being said, I am going to push back a bit on some of the things they have talked about regarding deity work. There’s enough in here that I agree with in some respects that I feel like I am going to have dig into it a bit to be clear on where I disagree.

After exploring some of the ideas I posted on their Twitter feed and talking with friends, I find much of my issue is with baseline definitions. I understand deity work as any work assigned to you by a God. I often place deity work under the catchall term spiritwork, that is, work done on behalf of, for, or with vaettir (spirits), Ancestors, and/or Gods. I do not see prayers, offerings, or any of the normal praxis of a polytheist aka exoteric religion, as being deity work/spiritwork per se.

To quote what I said in the Twitter feed:

When I think of ‘deity work’ I think of stuff assigned to you by the Gods. Not the basic stuff of *being* polytheist like prayers, offerings, etc. Being a spiritworker is a *job* not the baseline of being a polytheist. Hopefully I’m making sense here.

When I use the word spiritwork, spiritworker, and/or vaettirvirkr that means the person is doing work with, for, or on behalf of the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir. Real simple equation to my mind. In the case of ‘working with’ a God it’s to Their end even if it does benefit us.

Even in the cases where I got ‘hired out’ by Óðinn to do things for other Gods it was still in service to Him. When Óðinn came into my life like a whirlwind I could have said no, and did not.

Here is another point of contention: deity work is dangerous. It is dangerous in no small part for many of the reasons they claim it is safe, and thinking on it in the same terms. Gods are as dangerous as They are sacred. Gods that stop plagues can start them, eg Apollo. Gods that can control whether or not you win a battle can make sure you get killed so you come to Valhöll, eg Óðinn. The Gods of Fire that warm our houses have the ability to burn down forests. Our Gods are, to paraphrase CS Lewis, ‘not tame lions’. However, that does not mean that They’re in our lives just to fuck with us or do us harm. I find that, if your life is being flipped upside down by a God entering it then it probably needed to be -though there’s exceptions to every rule since Gods are individual Beings, and so are we.

The Gods do have limits -clearly. Óðinn is not omniscient, frequently refers to other Beings in the stories we have for Their knowledge and wisdom, eg Vafþruðnir and Mímir. This does not make me a selfish asshole. Further, Óðinn is a known oathbreaker. It means that I clearly know my lore and that not every God (or Ancestor or vaettr) should have trust extended unconditionally. Some Gods have very little to do with humanity since They have whole sections of Creation to deal with, deserving no less of our respect and worship. Some Gods are not the gentlest or even the most caring towards humanity. Again, They are deserving of respect and worship even if an individual polytheist chooses not to worship Them. Maybe if you are not interacting with, say, a river God in Their river then They have no reason to really pay you mind. Again, no They are no less deserving of respect or worship. You may just not be as interested in worshiping Them, or They in interacting with you, if you do not live on or near Their river.

Now, I will heartily agree that when it comes to deity work we are not working with the Gods as equals. We simply cannot. We are working for Them, which is why I refer to being a spiritworker as a job. It’s work. However, deity work is not worship.

Worship is the baseline of being a polytheist. It is what each and every polytheist should be doing in whatever their capacity is. It is the action of being a polytheist. Belief in the Gods is the baseline choice that any polytheist should hold. Note, I am not saying perfect faith or any of the other cluttering Christian notions regarding that. Belief in the Gods is a choice, a recognition. Faith is an emotion, transitory at best sometimes. I do not always have faith, but so long as I am a polytheist I have to have belief that the Gods are real and that I worship Them.

I have no disagreement with their bullet points, excepting that the Gods are mostly everywhere. It is too wide a point for me. I do not think that Óðinn or Loki are everywhere. I have no indication They are from either the lore available or my own experiences of Them. It is still monumentally stupid to be two-faced before our Gods, though.

The next point bears some digging into.

“But how do I know if I’m contacting the right entity?”

Now when it comes to addressing prayers to Gods, so long as you’re using the correct names and epithets your prayers are very likely being heard by the God in question. Now when you’re hearing a response of some kind? When you are looking for feedback or input? This is where doing your due diligence is necessary.

I will refer to my Brother Jim Two Snakes on this one: Spiritual Accounting. His breakdown is this: (M+C³)xR = V. M is messages, C is confirmations, R is results, and V is verified. Lore, divination, and community input are the three legs of this stool. Why would we need this? Because we can be mistaken. We can think we are talking to a God and getting input back and its a sock puppet we are fooling ourselves with or a spirit using that form to get attention/energy from us. Sometimes spirits lie. Sometimes we get stuff wrong, or we are not in a good place to experience the Ginnreginn (Holy/Mighty Powers) well at that moment. Working with Spiritual Accounting is a way to make sure that we get as much as we can right.

Unless you are looking for or are getting some kind of response though, this may not even be an active concern for you. Not every polytheist is, nor should be expected to be, a spiritual specialist whether as a spiritworker, priest, or otherwise. It is perfectly acceptable to worship the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits in whatever capacity you can, and live by your life’s philosophy. You may get responses, or you may not; that is not the measure of a polytheist.

I started off my journey as a Pagan with 5 salt crystals in a thimble-sized glass jar. Size of the sacred space your worship takes place in, the offerings you make, and the prayers you make all can change over time. To my mind, these questions are key to the measure of a polytheist regardless of whether you are an individual worshiping at your hearth the size of an Altoid tin, or with a large community the midst of a stone circle:

Are you worshiping, praying to, offering to, and speaking with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits with respect? Are you worshiping, making prayers, and making offerings in ways that are respectful and in alignment with the religion, traditions, and individual Gods, Ancestors, and spirits you worship? If you are doing deity work, are you doing whatever work you have assigned in a manner your Gods find respectful? Not respect as I understand it. Respect as your Gods, Ancestors, and spirits understand it.

Are you living in good and respectful reciprocity with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits? That, in my understanding, is the measure of a polytheist. Your worship, and if you have spiritwork, your work, may not look like what others are doing. You are a person in relationships with Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and communities. Whatever it is, however it is expressed, worship in respect to the best of your ability. If you have it, do your deity work and/or spiritwork in respect to the best of your ability. No one could reasonably expect more.