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From Maleck comes this topic:
“Would you mind discussing, as much as you can, your experience with politics in the spirit world, especially with how it can involve practitioners?”
I think that whether or not you understand there being politics in the spirit world is going to come down to your theological position on things. Within polytheism there is a breadth to understanding we can have regarding the way the cosmos was formed and functions. If you understand the Gods as being perfect, whole, unto Themselves and utterly benevolent, then politics as we understand them taking place within the various spirit Worlds may not make much sense. My own worldview is that the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are many, and so, among a great many things, politics varies between and among Them all.
Defining Politics and Exploring the Spiritual Implications
Before we go on, though, what do I mean when I am writing on ‘politics’? The Oxford English Dictionary define politics as “The activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.” I also find 1.5’s definition useful: “The assumptions or principles relating to or inherent in a sphere, theory, or thing, especially when concerned with power and status in a society.” These definitions work for our purposes.
We clearly have different political setups in the various home cultures these Gods were first worshipped by, eg chieftain-style in Nordic, and pharaonic with Kemetic. This can quickly get into “Is it the chicken or the egg?” type of questioning regarding a given political system. Since, as I understand it, the Gods are part of the undergirding of reality in profound ways, whether the political systems emerged from Them or not, all things are grounded in the Gods. I think it is entirely possible that some Gods favor certain political systems over the others, particularly when it comes to Gods who benefit from the establishment of Their order. It is also possible that a God may prefer no political system in particular.
Part of the reason I am not being too cut and dry here is because, while it is possible a given God may prefer a political system, They may have preferred a system They insituted but no longer exists, changed Their viewpoint over time, and/or Their view varies by political subject and Their worshipers at a given point in time. They may just be fine with taking us as we are now. It may also be a difference in interest even within a given God, eg Rúnatýr may not care as much as Óðinn about political organizations, hierarchy, etc, or only care insofar as these things matter with regard to understanding and working with the Runes. I also think it is entirely possible for one group of people to get one answer from a given God or an aspect of that God and for an entire separate group of people to get another answer and still be validly praying to, offering to, and communing with that God.
As if this is not complex enough on its own, add in the various vaettir, including our Ancestors and that of other vaettir such as landvaettir, Álfar, Dvergar, Jötnar, Aesir, Vanir, trolls, and so on. Every single vaettir, since They are a Being unto Themselves, may and likely does have varying political concerns from one another. I am also not assuming we are going to wander the Worlds and find that the Álfar have read and agreed with Kropotkin or the Dvergar with regard to Adam Smith or John Stuart Mills. Indeed, if I understand that each vaettr, that each spirit, is a Being Unto Themselves and the potential that I have as a being living and growing in Miðgarð is no less available to any other, then not only may each group of vaettir have Their own ideas of political theory, these may be more or less compatible with my own.
All of this is to say that anything I, or anyone else would have to say regarding our experiences of and with politics, political bodies, and views we have received from various Ginnreginn (Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir) in our communing with Them is our experience, and accordingly, the interpretation and understanding we have of it. I understand myself as an ecosocialist, that is, my politics’ first concern is right relationship with the environment, ecological care, and ecological justice. My framing and understanding of economics flowing from this: that the means of production should be owned and operated by the People rather than moneyed interests, and that for the People to have a good life the economy must comport with the limits of and be in right relationship with nature. Understanding my political perspectives allows me to compare and contrast between those of Others that I may experience in communing with the Ginnreginn, that is, the Gods, Ancestor, and vaettir. I also recognize that my political worldview may have everything or nothing to do with whether a given Ginnreginn wishes to develop a relationship with me. None of the Ginnreginn are monoliths.
Even to say that the Ginnreginn have politics is controversial. In part, it is because it is often seen as an invitation to Folkish and White Supremacists that they might be right. I want to put that to rest right now: this understanding that the Ginnreginn only can develop relationships with what we in modern times understand as white people unnecessarily limits the Ginnreginn’s ability to form and maintain relationships. It is an unncessary burden placed on Them by racist idealogues. Óðinn alone has crossed what we understand in modern terms to be lines of race, sex, gender, political, and ideological boundaries in His quests for knowledge, power, and wisdom. It is also ahistorical to ancient and medieval Scandinavians, who we take understanding and inspiration from, as going finnfarar or fara til finna to learn seiðr is remarked on in sagas. See The Viking Way by Neil Price, pg 225, for examples of this.
Basics of My Views on Spiritual Politics
So, all of this being said and out of the way, to Maleck’s topic request: “Would you mind discussing, as much as you can, your experience with politics in the spirit world, especially with how it can involve practitioners?”
Part of the core of polytheist and animist religions and thought are the formation and maintaining of relationships. While most Heathens are exoteric, Maleck specifically asks about practitioners, to which I take to mean spiritworkers of all kinds, magicians, and folks I will call heimrgangr, world-walker. In other words, these are folks who are engaged with esoteric practices.
I understand that the Ginnreginn have politics and are bound up in them not only in regard to relationships with us, They also are bound up with each Other in this way as well. I am fairly limited to what I can competently talk about here with regards to Gods and spirits outside of my particular Heathen worldview. In a way, limiting the conversation to Heathenry will help to highlight what politics can look like to folks when you develop and maintain relationships with a variety of Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.
I carry a number of baseline assumptions with regards to how I understand the Heathen Ginnreginn. First, we shall regard the Gods. I generally approach the Aesir, Vanir, and various Jötnar as tribes rather than separate species. Many of these tribes have Gods within them that share attributes, such as þórr and Farbauti being Gods associated with and/or wielding lightning and thunder. How They relate to these things and how They relate to us through these things is also part of our relationships, including political dimensions. I understand that many Jötnar are part of or aligned with natural forces, and so, there are Jötnar connected to Earth, Air, Ice, Fire, Water, as well as those connected with natural places such as bodies of water and mountains, and then there are Jötnar connected with natural Beings such as trees, wolves and elk. Mixed in an among these various Jötnar there are those that are easiest to refer to as being ‘monstrous’.
Many of the members, including but not exclusively Gods from these tribe intermarry, such as Freyr and Gerðr, adding complexity to Their relationships with one another and with us. What I find beautiful is that this complexity adds depth and nuance not only to our understanding of our Gods as Beings unto Themselves, it also adds this to the various things our Gods represent, teach, and impart through Their stories. In appreciating our Gods’ complexities we can better appreciate our own, and the varieties of interconnectedness there.
Coming to understanding that our relationships with our Gods have political dimensions has powerful implications for where we are in relationships with all our Ginnreginn, and all the things that follow from that. A relatively simple example is Jörð. Jörð is a Jötun, the Earth Herself. She is the mother of Þórr. So, anyone who says carte blanche that they are enemies of the Jötnar is literally admitting to being an enemy of the Earth. Anyone ascribing to Þórr a universal hatred of Jötnar is attributing a hatred to Him of His own Mother. So, declaring ourselves or the Gods as carte blanch enemies of this or that tribe, or this or that group of vaettir ignores the complexity of relationships that the Ginnreginn inhabit. By making such a declaration it is entirely to end up an enemy to a good many of the Gods in Heathenry.
This is not to say we need to like, befriend, or worship every God to have good relationships with those in our hearths. You do not have to like or worship Óðinn to worship Frigg or Þórr. Respect, though, is important. We gain nothing by disrespecting the Ginnreginn, especially ones Who are close to those we worship.
As we gain relationships with different Gods our relationships with different tribes or families of the Gods may change as well. In my own case I did not worship Loki or any of His Family starting off as a Heathen. I came to worship Loki after knowing and worshipping Óðinn. From coming to know and worship Loki I came to know and then worship Angrbóða, Jörmangandr, Fenris, and Sigyn. I went from fearing Fenris and refusing to worship Him, to worshipping Him in a “here’s an offering now please leave me the fuck alone”, to “You eat my Father at Rágnarök. I don’t like You for that….but I can understand You.” It is far, far too easy to merely cast Fenris as an out-of-control monster and that is all He is. If I love and count Loki as among the Gods most dear to me, for all the shit He catches from Heathens, let alone His fellow Gods, I should at least be willing to give His Son respect and try to understand His Children.
Not everyone is going to give Fenris that, and I get that. I used to feel intensely antagonistic towards Fenrisúlfr. Over time, though, as I came to deepen my understanding and relationship with Loki I softened, not only because I’m also a Dad, but because I loved Loki. How could I so viciously despise His Son for fulfilling what amounted to a self-fulfilling prophecy that Óðinn helped to propagate by His own actions? I have been in a situation where the weight of expectation has hurt me and then the people around me. If I could see that in myself I can see that in Fenris’ myths too. I found, as I explored these feelings and how I related to Fenris, what I was reacting too was far less Him, and more the feelings He brings up, and my own ‘inner monster’. The personal sure is political.
Ancestors can be a bit more personal. I reckon Ancestors as anyone who is part of our ancestry whether that is by blood, adoption, Ginnreginn, and/or initiated lineage. So, They easily intersect between various Ginnreginn. In my own case I do not understand nor came to understand the last name Odinsson lightly. There is connection with Óðinn as Father there, and it ripples out into all the relationships I have. Some of my blood Ancestors are staunch Catholics, and will refuse to have anything to do with me because of this. Some of my initiated lineage Ancestors happen to be Wiccan because I was initiated into Georgian Tradition Wicca around 2007, 2008. No offense to Them, I just do not interact with Them much. They’re still there, though, and worthy of honor.
I take the use of the word “Brother”, “Sister”, “Sibling”, etc quite seriously. The use of that word implies a closeness, a host of obligations and responsibilities to one another. It means that I would lay down my life for you. It also means that we share Ancestors on acceptance of the term. So, I tend to cringe when folks at work or random Heathens I have never met call me “Brother”. When I call folks “Brother”, “Sister”, “Sibling”, etc that means your Ancestors are getting honored at my Ancestor stalli, and, if you have one, mine should be too.
So politically, Ancestors are interesting. They are flexible in some ways because we can take Them in from others, and get brought into Their circles by Them, other Ginnreginn, and other people. Then, They can also be fairly inflexible -our blood Ancestors are who They are whether or not we relate to these Ancestors. Many Ancestors, especially blood Ancestors, can be fraught with issues depending on the history we have. We may have Ancestral traumas that were dealt to our families that we are dealing with and may need to resolve, or those that our Ancestors inflicted on others. Suffice it to say, our Ancestors’ stories have political dimensions, ones it would help not to ignore.
Vaettir run the gamut of being part of the Aesir, Vanir, or Jötnar, to Álfar, Dvergar, fylgja (follower vaettir), landvaettir, vaettir of various elements, and every variety in between. They can be as big as a galaxy, and perhaps bigger, or as tiny as a grain of sand, and perhaps smaller. They can occupy any of the Nine Worlds. Us flesh-bound human beings are vaettir. We just happen to have physical bodies here in Miðgarðr. All of us, whatever World we are part of, have political dimensions we ought to consider as part of relating to and understanding one another. That would ideally start here, in our own World, and extend outward as we develop and maintain relationships as Heathens with the Ginnreginn.
This post, even as basic as it is, is already getting to the point of being fairly large on its own. I cannot hope to cover everything in exhaustive detail even if I made a series of posts like these though I am finding them fun to explore and develop. In the next post, On Spirit World Politics Part 2, I will explore some of these topics in more detail. Particularly, I am interested in exploring the way politics can shake out with esoteric folks, including the political implications of spirit travel, how magic in other worlds can operate, and how these things impact our relationships spiritually and politically.