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Here We Have Stood, Here We Stand

August 20, 2017 3 comments

When people ask where the Heathens and  Northern Tradition Pagans are denouncing racism, I will remind folks there’s plenty of us that have been here, for years, doing just that.

Let me be clear: The Valknut is not theirs.  Mjölnir is not theirs.  The Runes are not theirs.  The Valknut is Odin’s.  Mjölnir is Thor’s.  The Runes are Their own, symbols of the very vaettir (spirits) of Creation who were in the Ginnungagap (Yawning Mouth, Primal Void) until Odin died, sacrifice of Himself to Himself, took Them up and brought Them forth.  These are sacred.  When white nationalists take up these symbols, use them to further their ideology, to further their brand of hate, they appropriate them and denigrate them.  

Fuck the racists, the Nazis, and the white nationalists who take up symbols of the Gods, the Ancestors, the Runevaettir, the vaettir, and the ways within the Northern Tradition and Heathenry.  Fuck the racist, Nazi, and white nationalist scum.

Wherever and whenever you can, deny the racists, the white supremacists, and the white nationalists these symbols as theirs.  Do not let the only time someone sees the symbols of our religions be on their flags, or in their rallies.  Do not let the only time someone hears of Heathenry or the Northern Tradition be at their rallies, riots, or press releases.  

Wear your symbols proudly whether on your neck, your arm, or your flesh.  Speak out and loud where you may.  Do what you can where you can. Be a living example of the good of our religions, our ways.  Be a living example, and let our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir be well-represented and well-known.  

For blog posts I have made relevant to these issues, look here:

Why Racism Harms Heathenry

White Guilt is an Indulgence

The Northern Gods Are Not White

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Prayers for the Harmed and Murdered of Orlando, FL

June 12, 2016 4 comments

May Eir and Mengloth bless those in harm’s way

May the healers be careful, skilled, and compassionate

 

May Thor protect those in harm’s way

May the communities be safe from harm, secured by His Hammer

 

May Loki, Angrboda, and Sigyn bring laughter, protection, and perseverance

May mirth, solidarity, and determination lift up those harmed and grieving in this tragedy

 

May Tyr and Forseti bring justice to the Dead, to the families, to all those harmed

May justice be done, lawful and swift

 

May Freyr, Gerda, and Freya bring Their love, sensuality, and vitality

May we celebrate ourselves together, and with Them, stand by those we love

 

May Odin and Frigga bring wisdom to the leaders

May action be guided by wisdom, may work be guided by insight

 

May Hela take up the Dead

May She bring Them comfort and care

 

May the Landvaettir be heard

May They, too, have justice, and may Their needs be met

 

May The Dead hear the calls of Their loved ones

May They know They are remembered, and may those They left behind be comforted

 

May the newly-Dead be long-remembered

May They be remembered for more than Their deaths; may Their lives be remembered well

 

 

 

Dancing

April 26, 2016 5 comments

The road rushes past

My cigar glows in my hand

The rainvaettir come down, a billion upon billion rattling dancers

The road, the car, all full of the sound of Their feet

 

The road rushes past and I see it

The first lightning bolt of the season here

Arc through the sky, behind the clouds

A silhouetted dancer

Whose drumming partner pounds and the sky shakes

 

Tendrils of smoke out the window and up to you all

The Thunderbird People

The rainvaettir

The stormvaettir

The Jotuns of storms

The Spirit of Storms

Odin

Thor

 

I call to you and say your names as Midgard fills with stomps with billions of feet

As the skies split with the fury of dancers and beating of wings

As the wind shakes and the clouds let loose the crowds

As the drumming thunderers crash and clash

The Worlds are alive and here

The Worlds are alive and there

and I am thankful to bear witness

Coffee with the Ancestors and Gods

October 3, 2015 1 comment

Something I have not done in a very long time is sat down to coffee with my Ancestors and Gods.  I did it tonight/this morning, after taking care of the offerings and laying out fresh ones otherwise, all water, except for the stick of incense I left at the altars for the Ancestors, for the Dead and for the Gods.

I had two stools that belonged to people who are family to me, gifted to me before they took off for California.  One stool holds a Native American head carved into an arm-sized log that I give offerings to as representative of some of the Native Ancestors in the ways I have been brought into.  A while back I had used the other stool as part of an Ancestor elevation working, but it has sat in a corner since.  Tonight, I brought up some coffee my wife had brewed earlier in the day.  At first, I was going to sit on the floor at the Ancestor altar.  I couldn’t see many of Them from down there, and besides, They wanted to see me too.  So I dusted off the old stool, and sat at the Ancestor altar, lighting the candles in Ask and Embla’s tree candle-holders.

At first it was just…quiet, meditative even, serving Them coffee then myself.  I usually drink my coffee with non-dairy sweetener like Coffee Mate or something like that, but it didn’t seem right in this context.  So, I sat and drank my black coffee, and talked with the Ancestors about the week I’d been having, thanking Them for Their support, that kind of thing.  Mostly it was quiet, just being in one another’s Presence.  When it was over, and I thanked Them for coffee with me, I blew out the candles, and later lit some incense.  I walked away from Their altar with a sense of peace and being cared for.

My experience with the Gods was similar, but even more silence, being quite brief with my end of talking, mostly thanking Them for Their Presence and blessings on my family, and helping me through the last week.  It was mostly quiet, and considering the Work I’ve been doing for Them of late, I was okay with that.  I left Their altar, after lighting incense for Them, with a sense of peace, but it…was deep.  More than a sense of peace, really.  A sense of rightness, even with all the challenges I and my family are facing right now.

I got the message to clean my cups out after each time with the Ancestors then Gods, and returned the cup to the altar, my cup’s holder facing me, and Theirs to Them.   It looks like both sets of Holy Powers want this to be a more regular thing, so here’s a cup to a new tradition I’ll be keeping.  Thanks for the inspiration from a while back, Jim.  It proved a powerful, simple connection, one that I really needed.

Planting Seeds

March 4, 2015 23 comments

In thinking on the last post and the centers Nicholas Haney brought up in God-centric?, is that one of the centers that tends to get left by the wayside in the larger polytheist and Pagan blogs is family, and in specific how we raise our kids in our religions.  It is something that has been on mind for a while.  There’s a host of questions I will tackle here that I hope will generate deeper dialogue in the Pagan and polytheist blogs and communities.  I believe these are really important questions, tied not just to the center of family, but to the health and well-being of all the centers.  Without children, all we have are new converts to sustain the traditions and religions.  In my view, that is a lot of people coming to understand a whole new way of being, whereas kids raised polytheist do not have that learning curve, or the need to decolonize, or remove as much of the dominant culture’s mindset.

Before I get to the questions, however, I think it is important to tackle some of the reasons that I have heard, in person and online, for why people do not raise their children in our religious traditions.  Chief among them is some variation of “I don’t want to force my kid to follow my religion” or “I don’t want to indoctrinate my child.”  I will be honest, these reasons make me want to pull out my hair.  The definition of indoctrination is:

to teach (someone) to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs

Raising our children in our religion(s) is simply not indoctrination.  Teaching them about our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, is not indoctrination.  Unless you are actively denying your child the ability to question concepts and people in the religion, not allowing them to explore the religion, or are actively denying your child’s ability to consider other points of view, you are not indoctrinating your child.  You are, rather, raising your child in the religion.  There is a gulf of difference between teaching a child “This is what the sagas say about Thor and these are my experiences with Him,” or “This is how we worship together as a family,” and “This is the only way to worship Thor” or “Only our way is the true way to worship Thor.”  Now, that is not to say that a given family will not have traditions, taboos specific to them, or certain ways they worship, but to entirely cut a child off from alternative views, and stunts the religious growth of a child.  My taboos are just that: mine.  We do not have taboos on offerings as a family.  What we do have are basic expectations of respect in religious space, how offerings that have been expended are disposed of, regular times for prayer, and guidelines and rules on handling altars, statues of our Gods, and various tools that may be on the altars.  For instance, on our Gods’ altar our son can dispose of the liquid (usually water, but sometimes beer or mead) offerings we make to Them.  He does not touch the offerings to Gods he does not have an active relationship with. Sylverleaf makes regular offerings to Frigga on this altar that our son is not to touch, as that is between her and Frigga.  He is not allowed to touch the swords or the hammer  on the altar without permission and an adult present.

How do we bring children into our religions?  Is it from birth?  If not from birth, when do they begin to learn, and what can they learn at what age?  How do we help our children understand religious phenomena?  If one has a very active religious life, how does one relate to a child that simply does not?  Vice versa?

The answers I have to these questions are lived by our son.  We brought our son into our religion by doing a baby blessing as soon as he was born, asking the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits to watch over him.  He was there as we prayed at our altar when we first brought him home, and has been raised with us praying and making offerings ever since.  Had we waited we would probably have started teaching him about our religion around age 3-5.  He has been raised with the prayers we make before he goes to school and before he goes to bed, and at each and every meal.  He is living polytheism.  He has been raised with a Dad who takes time out to explain religious concepts on his level, and who is not shy about being very blunt that “the Runes ask for blood in Gebo, and this is something you are not ready for yet, if you ever do pick Them up.”  He knows that if and when he does, it will be his choice and he will be able to make it on his own.

I firmly believe in raising children in our religions.  Without our children learning our religion, and co-religionists teaching their religion, there is no way for the religions to continue.  Teaching kids only a little bit about the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, and not making daily prayers, devotion, etc. is giving a little soil to the seed and expecting a tree to grow to its full height.  Not teaching one’s children at all about the Gods is denying soil to a tree entirely.  Without a firm grounding in religion, the soil is loose and is blown away in the wind, or swept aside in the rain.  If we desire good religious communities that will last beyond us, we need to raise the children in our communities.  Indeed, we must do far better by them than has been done by us.

So how do I relate to our son when I have a very active religious life?  Some of the explanations we work with him on are helped along because we have taught our son how to interpret the Holy Powers’ messages, whether he has a reading done, asks Them to work with him through his intuition, or look for omens.  A good chunk of this work has been to encourage him to trust his intuition, to admit when his signal clarity is not where it needs to be, and to ask for help when he needs it.  He is encouraged to admit when he does not know.  We regularly talk on our religion, on the religious work I do, how it feels, and how it affects me.  I bring my son along when I do certain religious work, such as tending the graveyards I have been called to do, teaching him how to respectfully make offerings at the gate, to ask permission from the Dead before tending Their graves, and why we leave offerings of tobacco, or why I blow smoke on graves when I smoke a pipe as we clean.

The biggest link between all the religious work I do, and explaining it to our son, and in some cases involving our son, is the concept of Gebo: gift-for-a-gift.  Reciprocity.  That word opens up the larger world of animism and polytheism because it places us not at the center, but in relationships with all things, all Beings.  It is why we leave or make offerings to the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, landvaettir, housevaettir, and so on.  It is that recognition and/or fulfillment of reciprocity.  It is sometimes asking for help, which may be a form of reciprocity in and of itself.  Bringing our son to rituals, performing them with him, helping him develop as a polytheist, in and of itself is a form of reciprocity with our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, as it ensures that the religion, and the Gebo engendered between the Holy Powers and ourselves, and our communities does not die with us.  It allows us to pass on the maegen and hamingja of these relationships between our communities, and the generations that follow on with, and after us.

Helping our children develop their own understanding of the Gods, their intuition, and communication with Them is, to us, part and parcel of raising a child in a polytheist home.  It is the hope that when they raise their own family they will have a well-developed understanding of how to understand the Gods even if they never engage in ecstatic spiritual techniques or do trance work.  Sylverleaf, for instance, does not do much in the way of ecstatic work at all.  It is simply not a part of her religious life.  A simple divination technique she uses when she asks Frigga questions is to hold two of Her sacred keys in her hands, and the hand which is heavier is the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.  If there are more complex questions she may ask me to read the Runes.  If she needs to get answers from her Ancestors, she may work with an oracle deck dedicated to Them.  Having two very different parents in this regard gives our son more models of polytheist life to understand, recognize, and live himself.  Raising our children as polytheists, then, is more than simply teaching and explaining.  It is modeling good Gebo, and the ways we do things by actively living in relationship with our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.  We are living examples to our children.

What age should we bring our children into animism or polytheism?  It is my belief that it is never too early nor too late to begin a lived animist/polytheist life.  Regardless of our age or the age of our children, sharing our religion is an important bond that we share between our communities, our families, and our generations.  It is the lattice-work that makes a strong bridge between the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and one another.

In speaking with Sylverleaf on this, she has said it has been far harder for her to keep with regular prayers and offerings in contrast to me because she was raised in a largely non-religious household.  Lacking a background in any religion made it that much harder for her when she did find the Gods and became a Pagan, as she had no models to follow except those in books, and no community to speak of for quite a long time.  Living a religion does have a learning curve, and she hit this hard because until we met she did not have regular time for prayer, any rote prayers to draw upon, or regular times for making offerings.  In talking this over coffee and pancakes, it hit me that she was denied a lot of things that I took for granted in my religious studies as a child.  For one, pondering the nature of God was probably something very hard to tackle in a home that either did not think much on God or thought the subject of God was a non-starter where conversation was concerned.  I was able to talk with priests who were more than happy to answer whatever questions I threw at them, digging into the meat of theology with me and explaining as best they could their understanding of Scripture, the nature of God, and where we fit into the Catholic cosmology.  That grounding is absent when religion is not lived.  The hunger of curiosity cannot be sated when the entire subject of religion is off the table.  It also cannot be sated when the religious community one belongs to has a piss-poor grounding in its own theology, as she discovered her youth ministers had, during the short time she attended a church.  This is why our children need not only parents grounded in good relationships with their Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, but communities, and their leaders, priests, spiritual specialists, etc. need this too.  We cannot support the centers of our communities without them all doing the necessary work of living the religion.

What It Means to Place the Gods First

February 25, 2015 11 comments

Having read Galina Krasskova’s recent piece at Polytheist.com, I have to say, when people like her or myself say “The Gods come first” that does not mean that family disappears as a priority.

As head of my little Heathen household, what it means when I say “The Gods come first” is that They are the first consideration when decisions are made, when efforts are undertaken, and around whom the placement of our lives is made.  Do we ask the Gods every time we do something small, like “Oh Odin, what shall I eat today?”  No.  What it means is that when we do sit down to eat, we pray to the Gods, Ancestors, spirits, the beings we are consuming (both animal and plant) and on behalf of all of those who brought the food to us.  It means that we recognize our hamingja as a family is tied into right relationship with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits and how we treat Them, as much as how we treat one another.  The idea that Gebo extends not only to the Gods, but to one another is one that suffuses our lives.

But why make the Gods the top priority above all, even family?  Because if the Gods are indeed the Gods, then They affect the forces of the world.  In ancient times Thor and Freyr were prayed to for good rains or Njord for good fishing.  Given many of the ancient Germanic and Scandinavian peoples were farmers and fishers, the idea that the Gods with whom these people were interacting with every single day were not at the forefront of their lives does not make sense to me at all.  If the Gods are the forces that help bring the rains so the crops would grow or the fish that keep your people fed, the Gods as the center of one’s life is not just a feel-good notion.  It is survival.

My family and I pray to Thor for good rain and to Freyr for the good growth of our garden, among many prayers we make to Them.  While we do not depend on the food in our gardens for survival, we are not cut off from the natural cycles of the Earth even if these relationships are no longer immediately evident as they would have been to our ancient Ancestors.  We do not husband, feed, slaughter, or butcher cattle on our land, but my wife and I make the effort for our son to understand where his meat comes from.  He has grown food in the garden, and we have farmland all around us.  Even if the cycles of life that sustain us are further from us, we cannot be separated from them.  If we are not separate from the cycles of life, and if we believe the Gods to be real, and not some vague notion we pay lip service to, then we are not separate from the cycles of life They affect, or help to keep moving.

When someone puts the Gods first, does that mean the needs of one’s family are ignored?  That the ties that bound a community are ignored?  Absolutely not.  What it means is that my family recognizes the Gods at the center of our lives.  It is not an either/or thing, here.  I do not love the Gods and ignore my family.  In loving and serving my Gods, I love and serve my family as well.  In separating one from the other is where error comes from.  If the Gods are in (or are) the Air, the Water, the Fire, the Ice, etc., then it is impossible to escape Them and foolish, if not hubris, to ignore Them.  Far better to partner with Them in good Gebo than to pretend we are somehow separate from Them.

When people hear the words “The Gods are first” I would imagine the notion may strike people in the same manner as when they hear reports of people beating the devil out of their kids, or giving all their money to a church.  In other words, devotion of this kind is conflated with monotheist extremism, abuse, and victimization from predatory religious apparatus.  Yet that ignores the monotheists who are well adjusted, utterly normal modern people who put their God first, and the helpful, vibrant communities that help them to do so.  It ignores the polytheists who are well adjusted, who put their Gods first, and the helpful, vibrant communities that help them to do so.  It conflates both of these groups of people: devout, pious monotheists and devout, pious polytheists with people who are dangerous and deadly, exploitative and exploited.  It also, in the bargain, casts those suffering from mental illness or exploitation as dangers and things to avoid in and of themselves, which is heinous as as it casts people needing help and victims of abuse as the ‘other’ to be avoided at all costs, and places them as the black to the white in binary religious discourse.  It places the idea that the Gods coming first into these extreme situations while divorcing both of these painful scenarios from their humanity and the humans involved in them.

The Gods coming first means that the priorities of one’s life are built on the Gods.  That is, not only are the Gods of one’s religion at the center of one’s life, in addition the values of and the requirements of one’s religion are at the fore and the guiding force of one’s life.  This is why divination can be so powerful a guiding force in polytheist religions.  It is one of the means by which we can understand, personally as well as communally, the desires, will, and sometimes the directions of the Gods.  It is one among many tools for understanding Them and the messages They have for us.  It helps us move forward when change comes to our lives personally and/or communally.  Divination no more takes choice from our hands than worshiping the Gods takes will from us.  They are still there, but placed into a living context between ourselves and the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.  Given these are living relationships, that means that all of our choices, our exercise of choice and the use of will have consequences in our lives and in the relationships we share with the Gods Themselves.  So sure, we can ignore divination, the will of the Gods, all of of it.  Those are choices to polytheists, even ones like me with a collar to a God on.  Poor ones, in my view, but choices nonetheless.

Placing the Gods first means, though, that we accept the Gods as the center of our lives, as the forces with which we ally to bring good to our lives and the lives of those we touch.  As my family understands and lives this, it means that family is second to the Gods because without a good relationship with the Gods, we do not have good relationships within our family.  Practically speaking this means that every Thursday my son and I turn off the video games or put up the books half and hour or so early, before bedtime, to do cleansing work, and pray to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir when we could be doing other things.  It is why we take time in the morning to pray to Sunna and Daeg, thanking Them for a new day and a fresh start.  It is why we pray to Mani and Nött at night for the he light of the Moon and the blanket of darkness.  It is why we pray at every meal in thanks to all our Gods, to the Ancestors, the vaettir, and all those who made our meal possible.  It means that we take time out and give that time for devotion as a gift to the Gods for all They do for us.  It means we look at offerings we pay money for not as waste, but as gifts given to Those who share, bless, and walk with us in our lives.  It means that when we go out to a park that we make offerings at trees as thanks for walking on Their land and in Their home.  It means we make offerings not only to the landvaettir on the land we live on, but the vaettr of the house itself.  It means that when we pass graveyards we salute and hail the Dead and Warrior Dead.  It means that our Ancestors are never gone, but walk with us in this life.  That when we work with people, we understand the work to not just be work, but Gebo and the building up of maegen and hamingja between us. It means that the religion we live carries weight in our lives, and ripples out into how we relate to one another, and to all things.

In placing the Gods first, we can relate to all things in sacred manner.  In placing the Gods first in good Gebo, we can then relate to all things in good Gebo.  In placing the Gods first, we orient our lives around those Beings and the things They teach which matter most.

Communion

January 14, 2015 2 comments

The hoarfrost bites.  The rain is frosty, pelting my hat, my trenchcoat.  I take out the little sacred pipe, and kiss it nine times all over its sacred body.  I load it with tobacco after offering to the Directions, to the Spiritkeepers, to the hidden Sun, the Earth beneath my feet, to the Sky above me that has opened up, to one of the Creators, to the Disir and Väter, to the Ancestors, and to the Gods and Goddesses.  The tobacco has been in my pouch so long it has become dried powder, and it packs deep.  The last of the tobacco goes into the sacred pipe.  I make my prayers to the Sons and Daughters of Muspelheim, to the spirit of Fire Itself, and light it.

It takes to the offering, and I make short, quick puffs to encourage the Fire to spread.  I offer the smoke to all those I have just offered tobacco to.  I walk over to a small boulder that serves as the main vé for our unknown Ancestors who extend Their hands to us.  I blow smoke upon the stone, and thank Them. As I walk by the oak tree my father planted when we first started living on the property, something about it in the frost strikes me, and I ask if I can take its picture.  Of course, I have forgotten my phone inside, but that is fine.  It assents, and I offer it smoke in thanks.

20150103_165836 20150103_16590020150103_170118  20150103_170006

I walk on into the sacred grove.  The ground is sodden.  The lengths of birch I bought from a man half a year ago are in disarray.  It occurs to me, starting to right them again for perhaps the third time since I bought them, that this is how they wish to be for now.  I leave the rest go, and head over to Odin’s godpole.  He is here, as surely as He is at our altar to the Gods.  He is here.  He is waiting.  Odin had called me to come out, and give offerings after I had given offerings to Hela and Niðogg.  These had been our compost; used coffee, rotten food, broken eggshells, all dead things come to give new life in time.

I kneel before His godpole, and I hail Him.  I take three drags, always three when I offer to a God, Ancestor, or vaettr, and blow it over the wood.  Then, partly feeling compelled and partly feeling it a good thing to do, I take three drags and place the pipe into His carved mouth, and He smokes.  I do it again, and I can feel Him breathe it in, the smoke rising.  One last time, and the smoke rises lazily from the pipe, and I am sure He is here, and with me.  Here, in the midst of my hands tightening under the cold and frost-rain, I feel my God, World-wise and powerful, and here. I smoke with Him for a few moments.  We speak, being with one another in the moment, but it is less like speaking, and more deep than words.  Communion, perhaps, is a better descriptor.

There are words; we greet each other, and He is at once in the cold, and cold Himself, and yet warm too.  He is pleased, and it is time for me to go.  I kneel on the ground, offering smoke, and thank the landvaettir for allowing me to come, for allowing this space to be.  I take off my hat to Them and to Odin, and leave the sacred grove walking backwards. I bow once I have reached the boundary. Then I turn to the house, and offer it smoke.

I sit on the deck for a few moments, and smoke, and the Ancestors are near.  Many have endured this kind of thing without all the benefits I have, most especially a grand house that sits at my back.  They tell me They want me to smoke with Them, but as I reach for the sacred pipe, many insist I go inside.  Some of Them do so for my sake; my hands are aching with cold.  The Others want to enjoy the warmth of the home and do not want to smoke with me in the freezing rain.  So I go inside.

Each tree received offerings of smoke, and each has given Its permission to be photographed.

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