On Being a Tribalist Heathen

Something I have been reading quite a bit is the use of the word ‘tribal’ as a derogatory term, especially in online places and discussions on Heathenry.  Mostly, it is being used as it appears in the Oxford Dictionaries’ second definition “The behaviour and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group” rather than its first: “The state or fact of being organized in a tribe or tribes.”  The word ‘tribe’ is not without its issues; tribe was a word used by colonialists to describe the indigenous cultures they saw, as the definition for ‘tribe’ notes.  That said, most people understand what you mean when you say a tribe, whether one is using it in the first or second definition.  Some folks use the word tribe when describing their indigenous communities, others do not.  It is still used to describe some indigenous groups, such as Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah.  They define tribe as “a group of people organized through kinship or family relationships.”

As a Heathen, tribe, tribal, tribalism, and tribalist as terms carry meanings more in line with the first definition and with how the Piaute Indian Tribe of Utah uses it.  I would at least like to get some dialogue started on why that is, and why I use ‘tribal’, ‘tribalist’, and ‘tribalism’ as terms to describe my understanding, and living of Heathenry.

Many of the cultures I take as inspiration and much of my understanding of my religious path were organized into what is usually referred to as tribal groups.  The Suebi or Suevi, for instance, were a recognized tribal group that was itself known to be made up of smaller tribes.  This was first recognized in what writings we have from Julius Caesar, and later Tacitus and Pliny.  Funny enough, like a lot of indigenous groups, the name Suebi may mean something to the effect of “people” or “we, ourselves”.

What Tribal Heathenry means

Tribalist Heathenry means that you worship the Gods of Northern Europe, England, France, Iceland, etc., your Ancestors, and vaettir (spirits), and that you care for and about those in your group, your tribe, first.  It means that those you count as within your walls, in your innangard/innangarðr, are within your society.  Those who are utgard/útangarðr, are outside of them.  This does not mean that those who are utgard are without meaning or not considered when looking at the impacts of a decision, but you do not owe loyalty to them as you do to those in your innangard, and they generally have far less impact and say in your life.  Rather, they are guests when they are within your walls, and given the amount of writing that exists on how hosts and guests are to treat each other, are important, but not in the same way as those who are part of your people.

There is another side to this besides the human interaction level, though.  Those one brings into their innangard, or who are brought into another’s, tie their Wyrd together far tighter than those who are utgard to one another.  We tie our hamingja, our group luck, into one another’s.  Me keeping my word is far more important for those who are within my innangard, particularly with important things like big promises to those within the community, or oaths to the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir, because it directly impacts their hamingja, and through this it can affect their maegen, or personal power.

 

Tribalist Heathenry as it applies to my life

Friends are within my innangard, and acquaintances are utgard.  Allies are within my innangard and those without alliance to me are utgard.

This means that those I care for, am loyal to, responsible to and for those I have deep personal and/or community connections with, whether they are family by blood or choice, friends, or allies, are first priorities in my life.  Note that the way I am using the word friend does not have a thing to do with Facebook definitions of ‘friends’.  When I call someone Brother, Sister, or a term of endearment meaning equivalently the same thing gender-neutrally, such as friend, these mean very specific things to me.  The same goes with the term ally.  I have very clear lines of distinction, then, between friends and acquaintances.

If I count you as part of my tribe, family, a friend, or among my allies, generally speaking, I would take a bullet for you and, in equal measure, I would use such means to protect or save you.  This means that while I count myself as part of the Heathen communities, the communities I am not a member of mean less to me both socially and spiritually speaking than the ones I am part of.  This understanding of things is how I allocate my time and resources, and to whom I owe loyalty and make spiritual ties with.  This is discernment in action.

 

Reviving tribal community and reviving tribal worldviews

I am a tribalist, a universalist, and a reconstructionist-derived Heathen.  Being a tribalist means that I care for those within my innangard.  Being a universalist means that I believe that anyone regardless of ancestral background can come to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir of Heathen religion.  Being reconstructionist-derived in regards to archaeology and the texts regarding Heathen Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir means that I respect that these things can teach us information on and give some understanding of our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, practices and beliefs that have survived the conversion periods are incomplete.  It means that I recognize some practices are unsuited or impractical to reviving a religion and culture for where and when we are, or that we simply lack the information necessary to do so, and I am willing to innovate with the help and guidance of the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir and community where needed or called.

In reviving tribal community and tribal worldview associated with Heathen paths, what I am seeking is to revive the concept of the tribe itself within a polytheist Heathen context, and the attendant worldview which informs it with those in my innangard.   I do this by referencing and revitalizing the concepts that are essential to this, and where this is not possible to follow what old ways we do know about, we communicate with the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir and with one another to innovate and adapt what we can to work with us in this time and place.

Tribalist Heathenry as I understand and live it cannot be revived in full from where ancient Heathen cultures were prior to conversion or destruction of the cultures and folkways.  There is simply too much time between us and the Ancestors from which these ideas, structure, and worldviews spring.  In other words, the maps of archaeology and texts are useful to a point until we recognize it is outdated or no longer referencing the territory before us.

Given the diversity of religious/cultural paths within Heathenry, I do not expect our Michiganian Northern Tradition and Heathen tribalist religion or culture to look like another’s, even those that may be located in the same State.  I would expect our religious calendar to look different, especially from, say, a Texan tribalist Heathen’s religious calendar.  A given tribe’s worship of Gods might be very specific, i.e. only worshiping Anglo-Saxon Gods, whereas we worship Gods from a variety of culture backgrounds.  A given Heathen tribalist or their tribe may only worship the Aesir and/or Vanir, whereas mine worships the Aesir, Vanir, and Jotnar.

It is my hope this post is a gateway to more conversation, not a stopping point.  I encourage folks to post in the comments, to write their own posts exploring this, to talk with friends, family, kindred, and talk with their Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.  I encourage us to deepen the dialogue around these things, so that our communities grow, and keep growing, strong, healthy, and well.

ConVocation 2016

Hey folks, I have been asked to do several presentations at this year’s ConVocation.   When I know which rooms I will be presenting in, I will update this blog post.  I am really, really excited for this year’s offerings that were picked.

For those who do not know, ConVocation is:

…a convention of the many mystical spiritual paths and faiths and the people that follow them who desire to teach each other and promote fellowship among all esoteric traditions.
Since 1995, this 4-day event has brought together over 100 classes and rituals presented by local instructors, internationally renowned guest speakers and authors. Along with workshops, ConVocation offers over 35 tables of merchandise in our Merchant Room, an Art Show and the largest indoor Drum Circle in the Midwest.
This year I will be putting on three workshops:

 

Acts of Devotion –  Thursday 8:30pm – 90 minutes

Description:In this workshop and discussion we will explore ways to honor our Gods, Ancestors, and spirits. These ways can be small, such as daily prayer, offerings, everyday mindfulness, and keeping ourselves healthy and engaged in the world, to more intense ways such as learning crafts, writing books, engaging in activism, spiritual work, and making temples. Bring your own experiences to share.

Polytheism 101 –  Friday 4:00pm – 90 minutes

Description:This lecture/discussion will dig into the basics of what polytheism means, and how it is lived. We will be exploring how we can use literary and archaeological resources as springboards and foundations to polytheist traditions. We will also explore what the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits are, how we relate to Them as polytheists, and how to engage Them with respect.

Encountering the Runes –  Sunday 12:00pm – 90 minutes

Description:The Runes are often looked at as simply a divination tool. This workshop is about approaching the Runes as spirits in and of themselves. The workshop explores what the lore can tell us about Them, to how to interact with Them, to appropriate offerings and communication, and will delve into deeper aspects of Runework from a spirit-based approach.

Holiness and Sacredness are Rooted Words: A Reply to John Halstead’s I Hold These Things to be Sacred

For clarity and to keep things as orderly as I can, I will be responding line by line to John Halstead’s post on Patheos, I Hold These Things To Be Sacred: A Reply to Sarenth Odinsson.

Sarenth Odinsson says that, because I don’t believe in gods, nothing is sacred or holy to me. 

I intentionally avoided using names in my piece, Holiness is Rootedness, because I wasn’t talking specifically about one atheist Pagan or another. My entire point is in the first paragraph.

In order to have a sense of what is holy, one must have ideas and concepts related to holiness. In order for these ideas and concepts to be related to holiness, it must have roots in a religion, a theological framework, in which holiness as a concept is able to take root. If one’s religious framework has no Gods, there is nothing to consecrate. If there is no God or Goddess, no Holy Power to consecrate, then there is no holiness just as there is no profanity or things lacking in that consecration.

If you have no theological framework then there is no theology to explain what is or is not holy. If you have no theological framework to discern what holiness is, its qualities and characteristics, then you have no concept of holiness to draw upon. Atheism’s main characteristics are that there are no Gods, and most of the atheist lines in regards to religious thought and phenomena directly state that there is no such thing as a God, Goddess, Supreme Being, etc. Most, though certainly not all forms of atheism, reject religious cosmology. I find it odd that pointing this out is cause to offend someone who identifies as an atheist, though my article was certainly not aimed solely at Mr. Halstead.

You can say all you like that you believe that things are sacred or holy, but those words carry absolutely no theological or philosophical weight when you say them because you don’t actually believe in the Beings nor the cosmologies that imbue them with that weight to begin with.

So, you know that feeling theists get when atheists tell them their gods are imaginary? I think I’m feeling something similar. Something like, “How dare you!”

Here’s what Odinsson says:

If one’s religious framework has no Gods, there is nothing to consecrate. If there is no God or Goddess, no Holy Power to consecrate, then there is no holiness …”

An atheist framework is one in which there is no God or Goddess, and thus, no sacred. One may hold things reverently, that is, with deep respect, but without a religious framework that very concept that one may hold anything as holy has no basis. An atheist claiming to hold something as holy is a person claiming something to which one has no right …”

I was pointing out what I had thought was patently obvious. I find it odd that Halstead is having such an emotional response when he has flat-out stated he does not believe in Gods. It would follow that there is no existent concept of holiness, as there is no theology in which holiness may take any kind of root. Keep in mind when I write Holy Power or Holy Powers, I include the Ancestors and vaettir, or spirits, in this. I don’t think that animists lack a conception of the holy, as in order to be an animist there is some sort of cosmology present, and accordingly, a way to establish things like what is sacred/not sacred.

Atheism cannot be invested in this understanding as it has no basis for holiness and the sacred, as atheism denies both on their face by its very outlook. Atheism denies that Gods exist, and in so doing, denies the cosmology They are rooted within. The notion of holiness within an atheist context, therefore, cannot exist.”

Now, I’ve never really gotten along with Odinsson. (I think he was the same person who once threatened to punch me if he saw me at Pantheacon.) But I don’t think it should be only atheist Pagans or non-theistic Pagans who are upset by what he is saying here. Odinsson is saying if you don’t believe in the gods, then nothing is sacred or holy to you. Implied in this is the statement there is nothing sacred or holy in the world except the gods.

Nothing sacred in the world but the gods?!

Wow! I would have a hard time imaging a less “pagan” statement than that.

I am not the person who threatened to punch Halstead if I saw him at Pantheacon. I’ve never been to Pantheacon, and given the extreme amount of travel I would have to do and time off I would have to take right before ConVocation here in Michigan, I have no interest in doing so.

Note here that Halstead actually does not refute my points here, or anywhere in this post. He quotes me, but misses the point entirely. There is no implication that there is nothing sacred or holy in the world except the Gods. It is not surprising to me that he misses this point, as Halstead has no conception of holiness himself, and I imagine is probably not familiar with Northern Tradition or Heathen cosmologies. To be quick, the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are holy. The Gods and Elements Themselves are among our Ancestors. Many of the Gods directly made vaettir, i.e. Odin and His Brothers formed the Dvergar from maggots burrowing into the flesh of Ymir. Many Gods are part of the vaettir of this and other Worlds, and vice versa. For instance, landvaettir may be seen as being part of Jörð’s Body/Being, Jörð being one of several Earth Goddesses within Heathenry.  Some vaettir have ascended into being or have become seen as being Gods unto Themselves, and some Gods have descended into being or have been seen as being vaettir unto Themselves. There are methods within the Northern Tradition by which an area may be made to be sacred, or that sacredness may be inborn to a place, such as a grove, or a prepared ritual area, altar, and so on.

There is something deeply disturbing, I think, about a paganism which cannot find the holy or the sacred in the earth or in another person.

Certainly, but that is not my position here, nor was it. I view Jörð, the Earth Goddess, as a holy Being. Do I view all the Earth as sacred? No, as I do not find CAFOs sacred, nor do I find the floating garbage that chokes the oceans sacred. Those, I find profane. Wrong. Unholy.

Are all people sacred? No. All people are bound together in Wyrd, but that merely makes you part of reality, not an inherently sacred person. It doesn’t mean people are valueless either, but sacredness actually means something in the Northern Tradition and Heathenry. Namely, that a thing, Being, place, etc. is dedicated to, belongs to, is consecrated by, or is devoted to the Holy Powers. This is why an altar is a sacred thing, a grove where rituals are performed, or a single tree representing Yggdrasil itself is regarded as sacred. These things are devoted and dedicated to the Holy Powers (Gods, Ancestors and/or vaettir) of the Northern Tradition and/or Heathenry. They are sacred.

As for myself, I hold these things to be sacred and holy: all life, the earth, nature, our selves, our bodies, our relationships.

They are not just things that I hold “reverently” or with “deep respect”; they are holy and sacred.

He says he regards these things as sacred, but without any of these things being involved with, dedicated to, devoted to, or consecrated to Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir, what are these words worth? Without the necessary relationship inherent in a cosmology, in which one relates to all life, the earth, nature, our selves, our bodies, our relationships, and so on, saying something is sacred or holy are empty words. Claiming one holds something sacred or holy without any requisite theology to back these words up is intellectually sloppy or dishonest.

Holiness is rootedness,” says Odinsson. My religion is rooted. It is rooted in these things: Life, Matter, Relationship.

How can Halstead claim his religion is rooted when the soil of the Holy Powers is denied?

Indeed, how can Halstead claim to be religious whatsoever when he denies any of the requisite things for which religion itself functions: namely, to provide a framework for and means by which people may establish relationships with, interact with, revere, understand, and worship the Holy Powers? All these things Halstead claims his religion is rooted in has no meaning without an actual theology in which the sacred matters, and so long as the sacred is, in actuality, absent from his worldview and thus, any religion he would lay claim to, all these words are empty.

Coffee with the Ancestors and Gods

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.

ConVocation 2015

I am happy to be presenting at ConVocation again.

For those who do not know, ConVocation is:

…a convention of the many mystical spiritual paths and faiths and the people that follow them who desire to teach each other and promote fellowship among all esoteric traditions.
Since 1995, this 4-day event has brought together over 100 classes and rituals presented by local instructors, internationally renowned guest speakers and authors. Along with workshops, ConVocation offers over 35 tables of merchandise in our Merchant Room, an Art Show and the largest indoor Drum Circle in the Midwest.
I will be part of two different workshops this year.  The first will be Thursday at 8:30pm in the Greenfield Room.
The Runes are often looked at as simply a divination tool. This workshop is about approaching the Runes as spirits in and of themselves. The workshop explores what the lore can tell us about Them, to how to interact with Them, to appropriate offerings and communication, and will delve into deeper aspects of Runework from a spirit-based approach.
The second will be Sunday at noon in the Greenfield Room as well:
This panel will explore what each member’s path is, and how each member carries their traditions forward.
My fellow panelists are:
Eli Sheva
Eli Sheva is from the Upper Galilee, served in her country’s Security Forces, retired, ran an international business, retired; and now is a psychotherapist and organizational consultant in private practice. She is elected leader of Am Ha Aretz (Primitive Hebrew Assembly) an Israeli Earth/Nature Tradition of Peaceful Warriors. Her academic background includes archeology studies in Tel Aviv. PrimitiveHebrews.org
Kenn Day
Kenn Day is a professional Shaman, Author and Teacher, with over 30 years of experience. He offers healing sessions in person at his Cincinnati practice and remotely, and in-depth training in the Post-Tribal Shamanic teachings. He is the founder of the Sheya tradition and Post-Tribal Shamanism and was the managing editor of Mezlim Journal.
Joy Wedmedyk
Joy Wedmedyk (Iyalocha Omi Lasa) has studied Shamanism, Mediumship, Divination, and Symbolism for over 40 years. Initiated in Regla de Ocha (a Diaspora tradition called Santeria), Native American and African Shamanic traditions, she is an accomplished Medium and Shamanic practitioner, offering healing and guidance to others through these Ancient Healing Traditions. Contributing Author for “Walking the Path of the Ancient Ways” by Nocturnium
So there you go, folks.  Come on out and see me, and my fellow presenters at Con.  It’s a great way to get to know folks outside of our online profiles, blogs, and posts.

Communion

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.

Quiet, and Hopping Back On

The Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir have been pretty quite the last few weeks. I make offerings now and again, and things, overall are quiet. I know from experience that some of these long-ish pauses between activity are here for me to get myself together, and/or to let me enjoy myself after a hard time. Sometimes the Holy Powers just don’t have anything for me to do. Sometimes I ask for down-time and They are kind enough to give it to me.

What does this down-time look like for me? I keep up mealtime prayers and evening prayers with my family. Even tonight, with our son dog-tired from his day, we prayed Sigdrifa’s Prayer in bed, whereas we usually go to the altars and shrines for Whom the prayers are being said. We keep the water offerings fresh as we can, and occasionally, if I feel the call and feel I can do it in a sacred manner, I do smoke offerings and prayers with my personal sacred pipe. When I am able to come home from work soon enough, or wake up in time on my days off, I do morning prayers with my family. Otherwise, I generally tend to stay away from divination, magical workings, even making written poems and/or prayers. I don’t tend to find myself in a good headspace to do sacred work of any kind heavier than offerings and prayers.

Getting back on the ‘heavy work’ bike is like coming back to exercise after a hiatus. If it has been a long time, it is easier to get winded if I haven’t done anything like walking or running around. If I’ve kept up at least with the bare minimum it is easier to come back to where I need to be, even if things need a bit of shuffling around. I find that cleaning the upstairs where we live can help put me into that ‘work’ mindset. When I do housework, if I am being mindful about it, it is an offering to Frigga and Frau Holle at the least, and may also be an offering to the Gods, Disir, Väter, Ancestors, housevaettir, and other vaettir who share our home.

Cleaning helps me reset. It puts me in the mind of “okay, we’re starting fresh”, especially because when we do big cleanings we often completely dismantle, was the altar cloths, and then clean all the altars and shrines. Cleaning is spiritual for me in part because it is mostly physical. I have to concentrate on it for a while, put myself into it to do it well, and gain a deep sense of satisfaction when it is done. Grandmother Una, Mugwort, cleanses the insides. The vacuum sucks up the debris, the cloths and water clean the surfaces.

We will usually start off with a cleansing of ourselves so we do the work in a clean head and spiritual space. When we are coming out of a hard period, or I have done a hard working, like the last time we did an Ancestor elevation, we cleanse ourselves and the space with either Thunderwater or Florida Water. The Thunderwater is only brought out for big cleansings, since the Florida Water will usually do the trick. Thunderwater, (which we sometimes call Lightningwater), is rainwater we collect during thunderstorms that we ask Thor to bless. If I/we feel Odin in the storm, we ask Him to bless it as well. We’ve only had to refill it once, given how often we use it. When we do not use it, it sits in the Water section of our Ancestor shrine. Using this or Florida Water, along with fresh, white towels, together with the very act of cleaning brings me into a solid headspace. Not only am I doing something good and holy, but I am doing it from a clean space myself.

The next part of getting used to riding again might be something like making special prayers for our Gods, or it may be doing several days of special offerings. It may be going outside and tending the outdoor shrine, which, during the fallow periods, tends to get neglected. So while I am out there I will clean that up, and the sacred fire pit (thankfully mobile and easy to clean), and make sure the area is relatively clear of debris. Given it is in a little grove in a wood, clean is relative to the season. This first winter with the sacred fire pit should be interesting.

I have found a pretty important part of this ‘getting used to riding’ is learning and/or remembering how to pace myself. I get back on and go too quick without Odin demanding it, or otherwise needing to, and I can burn out quick. I have found long-term devotional relationships have ebbs and flows to them. What is important to remember is that while we can help it be an ebb or a flow, sometimes our Gods or an Ancestor, or vaettir will push us into one of these to slow us down and take our time, or speed us up and get ourselves further along. I don’t think that people have to be ‘on’, godphone or otherwise, ever, to be a good Pagan or polytheist. It is entirely possible to not hear the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir at all and be an incredible, devoted, pious worshiper. Likewise, I don’t think that those of us who do have gifts of any sort should feel like these have to be ‘on’ all the time to be a good servant, friend, child, helpmeet, godatheow, etc., of the Gods. Sometimes our Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir might require a furious pace out of us, which tests our biking ability to its limits, and then at another time, to walk with the bike rather than ride it.

Question 12: Appealing to the Gods

Thank you to Freki Ingela for this question:

Are the Gods great Gods whom anyone on Earth may appeal to, or are they ancestral tribal spirits who confine themselves to looking over the descendants of northern Europe, or are they both? Or are they neither in your opinion? If so, how do understand their nature.

The Gods of the Northern Tradition are Gods I believe anyone can appeal to.  I do not hold folkish views regarding the Gods.  The peoples who worshiped these Gods (and how, what particular understanding of these Gods were prevalent and practices were done in this regard differed region to region) ranged all over the world.  They brought back people from these expeditions, merchant voyages, conquests, and raids.  They sometimes settled in the new lands, usually as colonizers.  To my understanding there is no barrier to anyone worshiping the Gods of the Northern Tradition so far as ancestry goes.  While I do believe that some of the Gods may have brought Their power into tribes of people, such as recounted in the RÍgsÞula (The Lay of Rig), as well as many of the hero stories, I do not think this is what determines if someone is holier or better than another.  I also do not believe that having bloodlines connected to people who may have worshiped the Gods of the Northern Tradition automatically makes you better suited for the Northern Tradition, especially given how many Europeans worshiped Greek and Roman Gods in many of the same places the Northern European Gods were worshiped.  Prayers for the Gods made with a good heart in the right place are good regardless of who makes them.

To understand the nature of the Gods, I usually recommend people read up as much as they can on the Gods, and then, while they are doing so, set up a shrine to the Gods and to their Disir (powerful female Dead), Väter* (powerful male Dead), and their Ancestors in general.  I’ve lived in a dorm room, so I have had to make do with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir all sharing altar space together.  When the shrine is set up, make an offering of water, if nothing else, every day.  Take at least five to fifteen minutes a day to do this, not just setting down the water, but praying at that shrine.  If you have prayers of your own, say them.  If you need inspiration, or want to use prayers from others, feel free to use prayers from my blog using the search bar, from NorthernPaganism.org’s wide variety of online shrines, Michaela’s Odin’s Gift website, Galina Krasskova’s prayers, or any others you find.   If you don’t have space or if you are in a hostile place you can leave a digital candle to one of the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir at one the NorthernPaganism.org’s shrine pages, like this one to Odin.

This is the recommended reading list I have for the Michigan Northern Tradition Study Group, with explanation of why we use them:

  1. Neolithic Shamanism by Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova
    1. Neolithic Shamanism is an experience of the Northern Tradition spirits, and only works with a handful of Gods, such as Sunna and Mani. The focus of the book is toward establishing right relationship with the Elemental Powers, the landvaettir, one’s Ancestors, and so one from the ground up.
  2. The Prose Edda by Carolyne Larrington
    1. This version of the Prose Eddas is very straightforward.  Having read both Bellows and Hollander, I agree with Galina that Hollander cuts things out with poetic license so the ‘flow’ goes according to what he wants.
  3. Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner by Galina Krasskova and Raven Kaldera
    1. Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner gives a good overview of the Northern Tradition, and has a good deal of practices such as prayers, how to use prayer beads, and what offerings are good or contraindicated for the Gods of the Northern Tradition. This book helped me deepen my religious practice.
  4. Spiritual Protection by Sophie Reicher
    1. Spiritual Protection is one of the best books on psychic/spiritual protection I have seen or read.  In a book market where protection is often given short shrift, this book goes to the absolute basics and is great to revisit whether you’ve been doing it for a little while, a long while, or not at all. As a word of caution I advise no one to seek to ground to any world but this one, Midgard, as even I haven’t gone and received permission yet to ground to another.
  5. Exploring the Northern Tradition by Galina Krasskova
    1. Exploring the Northern Tradition gives a good overview of the demographics of Heathenry, some ideas of varying practice and culture, and is a good guide to the differences between traditions that you may find in them.
  6. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe by H.R. Ellis Davidson
    1. This book gives an overview of the myths, Gods, and Goddesses. I would probably pair it with the Prose Eddas, but I also like people to dive right into the source material and make discoveries on their own, but if that style of study works better for you I don’t see a reason not to do it, particularly if the Eddas are a bit hard to work through.

Another book I would seriously recommend is Essential Asatru by Diana Paxson. It details some typical practices from both groups and personal practice.

 

*This is not a traditional name for the powerful male Dead.  It is German for “Fathers”.  I use it in preference of Álfar, since álfar means ‘elves’.

Cleansing and Changing the Altars and Shrines for Yule

Continuing the series of posts on altars and shrines, we come to how our shrines look like now, just before Yule.  The altars and shrines are more than just a place to leave offerings; these are places where we can devote ourselves wholly and fully to worship, to good relationships.  In my own case I am doing my best to make sure I spend at least 10 minutes a day with my Ancestors.  Much of the family’s altar and shrine times are when we pray.  Our lives are hectic, and our schedules are up and down.  In my own case I work midnight shifts and Sylverleaf morning and evening shifts, and our son goes to school.  These altars and shrines give us places, even for a few moments, to slow down, remember our blessings, pray, and give offerings for all we have.

These altars and shrines, as I have mentioned, change throughout the year.  Much of the decorations, and the altars and shrines themselves were gifts or bought from thrift stores and garage sales.  The cloths come from our local JoAnn Fabrics when we cannot find the right colors/patterns in thrift stores.  There’s nothing saying you cannot buy good/expensive things for your altars or shrines any more than cheap.  We take care in selecting what goes on our altars and shrines, regardless of where it comes from.  We listen to the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits for what They want on our altars and shrines, what offerings They want, and so on.  What matters, in the end, is the care you put into crafting your altars and shrines.

Cleaning and Preparing Altars and Shrines

What also matters is the prep work done before making an altar or shrine, and/or when transitioning between set up and take down.  When we make a new shrine we first clean the area, vacuuming, dusting, the works.  We then will clean the shrine inside (if there is an inside) and out physically with water and soap, if needed.  We will then cleanse the altar or shrine with blessed water and/or Florida Water, and may use this water in lieu of soap and water, using fresh towels when needed.  Whenever we transition the altars and shrines, we clean all their cloths.  We also clean any new cloths prior to their use.  While those are in the washer and then dryer, we will clean every piece of the altars and shrines that we can, bathing the statues, if we can, and scrubbing everything that can be scrubbed clean with fresh towels.  We then dry with fresh towels, and they usually wait on my bed until the cloths are ready.

When the cloths are ready and we have all the items we need for the shrine, we will take some time and ask the Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits for whom the altar/shrine will be made, what color altar cloth They would like.  We usually do this well ahead of time for new shrines, but with transitions between seasons and/or cleanings, we will not know until we the cloths are clean.  When we have an answer, or if we are left by Them to suss that out, we will lay the selected cloth on the surface and adjust until it looks/feels right.  Then we decorate the altar, first with the direct representations of the altar or shrine itself, such as the Gods for the Gods’ altar, the Ancestor for Their shrine, and so on.  We generally start in the middle and work our way out, so the main Gods with whom we work are in the center of the altar and those who we give honor to are on the outside.  This does not always follow, though, as sometimes Gods we have had long relationships with, such as Sunna and Mani below, end up outside of the granite tile and on one of the sides of the Gods’ altar.

The Gods’ Altar

At this time of year since our families are coming together we put our Gods together on the Gods’ altar by families wherever we could.  So Odin and Frigga are together, Brigid and Bres, Mani and Sunna, Freyr, and Freya, and so on.  The green altar cloth was laid down in reflection of the evergreens.  The Gods our family actively worships are in the center, with many Gods whom we have connections to have prayer cards, such as Sekhmet and Hermes below the two paintings of the Valkyries.  On the opposite side is a sword I received at this last year’s Renfaire from a Michigan-based blacksmith.  The glass crystal chalice was a gift from a dear friend, someone I count as a Sister. In the corner are my journey staff, a sword I’ve had for about 7 years I used in evocation work, and a spear I received as a gift from a dear, old friend for work I did with him.

The Gods' Altar Yule 2013 Pre-decoratiion

The Gods’ Altar Yule 2013 Pre-decoratiion

The Prayer Pillow for the Gods' Altar Yule 2013.

The Prayer Pillow for the Gods’ Altar Yule 2013.

The Gods' Altar for Yule 2013.

The Gods’ Altar for Yule 2013.

The left side of the Gods' Altar Yule 2013.  On top are the two Valkyries.  To Their left are Odin with His offering bowl.  To His Right are Frigga's Keys.  Below the Keys are two Brigid's Crosses representing Brigid and Bres.  To Their right is Mjolnir, Thor's Hammer.  Two of the four prayer cards are Sekhmet's,  Mani and Hermes prayer cards are to the right beside Them.  Sunna's symbols, a golden coin surrounded by four metal suns, are placed next to Her Brother Mani.

The left side of the Gods’ Altar Yule 2013. On top are the two Valkyries. To Their left are Odin with His offering bowl. To His Right are Frigga’s Keys. Below the Keys are two Brigid’s Crosses representing Brigid and Bres. To Their right is Mjolnir, Thor’s Hammer. Two of the four prayer cards are Sekhmet’s, Mani and Hermes prayer cards are to the right beside Them. Sunna’s symbols, a golden coin surrounded by four metal suns, are placed next to Her Brother Mani.

Right side of the Gods' Altar Yule 2013.  A sword, whose study I dedicate to Odin, is waiting for its scabbard.  To its left is the drinking horn.  Behind the offering chalice is the Negative Confession.  To the left is Freya.  Left of Her is Bast and Anubis.  Before Them is Freyr as the Green Man.  The Earth Goddess represent Nerthus and Jord on this altar.

Right side of the Gods’ Altar Yule 2013. A sword, whose use and study I dedicate to Odin, is waiting for its scabbard. To its left is the drinking horn. Behind the offering chalice is the Negative Confession. To the left is Freya. Left of Her is Bast and Anubis. Before Them is Freyr as the Green Man. The Earth Goddess represent Nerthus and Jord on this altar.

The Disir’s and Väter’s Shrine

This shrine is relatively new.  This was made in the Fall after we picked up the table at a garage sale, and the batik patterned cloths at JoAnn Fabrics.  The batik patterns struck us as being perfect for each set of powerful Ancestors.  The two ceramic pieces we picked up at our local thrift store.  The left part of the shrine is for the Disir, and the right, for the Väter.   The plastic container has my necklace for the Disir, bought from an excellent craftsperson at ConVocation, which broken recently.  The necklace on the left was made by a good friend of mine, made while she meditated on all the men who had an impact on her spirituality.

Disir's and Väter's Yule 2013 shrine pre-decoration.

Disir’s and Väter’s Yule 2013 shrine pre-decoration.

Disir's and Väter's Yule 2013 shrine.

Disir’s and Väter’s Yule 2013 shrine.

The Ancestors’ Shrine

The Elemental Ancestors have spaced out a bit since the last time I took photos.  They now are part of the four pillars of the shrine.  Sometimes the Elements switch places entirely.  At one point Earth and Air were in the front of the altar, and now They are in the back.  This is reflective of the relationships we have with the Elements as with the seasons we are in.  Earth and Air were in the front through the Summer, if memory serves, and come Fall we transitioned to the layout we have now.  This new layout brought with it important additions to the shrine.  The first that was placed on the shrine is the glass insulator my Brother gave to me.  It belonged to his grandmother, and now sits prominently on the shrine.  As with adoption, when I call someone Brother or Sister, and am called a Brother in return, our Ancestors mingle and become part of one another’s lives, part of our family as surely as we are.  With my adoption into the Thunderbird People I placed the Native American bust in the back, given to me a long while ago by my Mom, on the shrine.  Given my own tribemates have similar statuary, one on their own Ancestor shrine, I felt it was about time I did so too.

Ancestor Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

Ancestor Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

Ancestor Shrine Yule 2013

Ancestor Shrine Yule 2013

Ancestor Shrine Yule 2013 Top-down view.

Ancestor Shrine Yule 2013 Top-down view.

The Earthvaettir Shrine

The Earthvaettir Shrine has changed quite a bit.  Ramses II is now on the Warrior Dead shrine, per His request.  The shrine has new offering bowls, part of a set we bought from the local thrift store to replace the bronze ones.  While the bronze bowls would work for dry offerings, they got weird and green with liquid offerings, so we have switched them out for the time being.  The shrine to the Roadside Dead, which has been part of the Earthvaettir shrine for a while now, has a more prominent place.  A moonstone sits at the feet of its incense holder, which our son made.  At its top sits the offering bowl.  Behind it is the cairn, which, as mentioned in the last post, changes position and structure each time the Earthvaettir shrine is cleaned and remade.  In the center of the shrine behind the ceramic offering bowl is the Gebo stone on the left, the Earthvaettir stone on the right, and the large stone in the back is the Landvaettir’s stone.  On the right the Gnome and Dragon of Earth have more prominence, and before Them are the stone we have used in magical work and healing over the years.  At each of the four corners are stones, which change between them and other stones when the shrine is remade, symbolizing the four directions and the Four Dwarves who hold up the sky.

The Earthvaettir Shrine Yule 2013 Pre-decoration.

The Earthvaettir Shrine Yule 2013 Pre-decoration.

Long shot of the Earthvaettir Shrine Yule 2013.

Long shot of the Earthvaettir Shrine Yule 2013.

Left side of the Earthvaettir Shrine Yule 2013.

Left side of the Earthvaettir Shrine Yule 2013.

Right side of the Earthvaettir Shrine Yule 2013.

Right side of the Earthvaettir Shrine Yule 2013.

The Watervaettir Shrine

This is the newest shrine.  The table is a temporary one, given it is a wooden TV table and likes to wobble.  It sits between the two bookshelves on which the Earthvaettir, Housevaettir, and Moneyvaettir shrines sit.  This was almost exclusively made by our son; he insisted we make it one day, and all we did was buy the cloth and gave him a choice of containers for offerings.  The paper image he made at school, and while he has not explained to us what it is, he made it with a friend and told us “It is for the water spirits.”  While he is involved almost every time we clean and set up altars and shrines, this is the first he has made by himself.  We are very proud of him.

The Watervaettir Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

The Watervaettir Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

The Watervaettir Shrine Yule 2013.

The Watervaettir Shrine Yule 2013.

The Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Shrines

These two shrines have not changed much at all.  The Housevaettir now rests atop a woodburnt Ægishjálmur that I made here at home.  The Moneyvaettir Shrine has more shell and coins added to it, and some taken from it.  The coin jar has sheaves of coin holders in it, with the idea of ‘we hope to fill these’ and ‘we have a place for you’ in mind.  There was a point in the Fall where we emptied the coin jar of a good deal of coins to help pay for things.  That adding and taking from the coins is part of a good relationship with Moneyvaettir; sometimes you have a lot and sometimes you do not.  Every time we’ve needed coins on hand They have been there for us.

Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

Long view of the Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Yule 2013.

Long view of the Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Yule 2013.

Left side of the Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Yule 2013.

Left side of the Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Yule 2013.

Right side of the Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Yule 2013.

Right side of the Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Yule 2013.

The Dead Shrine

This is a shrine that I set up this year as a priest of Anpu.  My work with the Dead as His priest had a long break, about 4 years.  When I started to do prayers for the Ancestors of my House, House Sankofa, I also felt called back to offerings prayers for the Dead, especially the lost Dead.  I was pushed by Anpu to go back to the work of helping lost Dead and whoever comes to the shrine cross to where They need to go, with His help.  The shrine has four candle holders around a censer in the middle.  The four fires are there to cast light and warmth to the four directions, inviting the Dead, and the censer as a gathering place where They can smell the sweet fragrances and be comforted by the frankincense, myrrh, and other offerings left there.  Anpu’s image is above His wand, which I use for Opening and Closing the Door every Sunday in the work.  There is a bowl of water below the censer to quench the Dead’s thirst, and a place for more incense and other offerings to the left.  On the right is a bell that I use in the weekly work to soothe the Dead, and call to those who wander.

The Dead Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

The Dead Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

Long view of The Dead Altar Yule 2013.

Long view of The Dead Altar Yule 2013.

Top-down view of The Dead Altar Yule 2013.

Top-down view of The Dead Altar Yule 2013.

The Warrior Dead Shrine

The Warrior Dead Shrine now has Ramses II on it in the back of the shrine with a stone star above His head.  The altar cloth is now white, and the placement of its items have been switched around a bit.  The last of the Ezra Brook is now in the flask, and the offering liquor is now Lauder’s Blended Scotch Whiskey.  The formerly white ceramic offering bowl now is stained with the offerings I have given despite my best attempts to get it back to white.  Given the candle-pot was both unwieldy and I could not light a candle in it, it was moved off of the altar.  The Warrior Dead did not seem all that attached to it, as it was.  The shrine is closer together and simpler, but feels better overall, and Ramses II has settled in well here.

The Warrior Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

The Warrior Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

The Warrior Shrine Yule 2013.

The Warrior Shrine Yule 2013.

Side view of The Warrior Shrine Yule 2013.

Side view of The Warrior Shrine Yule 2013.

Animal Spirits Shrine

Only the placement of things has changed on this shrine, but I thought it would be good for people to see how things can change even on altars that don’t change all that much throughout the year.  Aside from dusting on occasion, and cleaning Them as needed, the animal spirits prefer I not change out the altar cloth.

Long view of the Animal Spirits' Altar Yule 2013.

Long view of the Animal Spirits’ Altar Yule 2013.

Left view of Animal Spirits Shrine Yule 2013.  The left bone on the far right and the horns are a male buffalo nose bone.  To the right of the nose bone is a deer leg bone.  The black stone has a seal in it.  To its left is Turtle, Dragon, and Snake stone sculptures.  The snake skin in the jar is a gift from good friends.  The eagle bone ring and feathers both were gifts from good friends.

Left view of Animal Spirits Shrine Yule 2013. The left bone on the far right and the horns are a male buffalo nose bone. To the right of the nose bone is a deer leg bone. The black stone has a seal in it. To its left is Turtle, Dragon, and Snake stone sculptures. The snake skin in the jar is a gift from good friends. The eagle bone ring and feathers both were gifts from good friends.

Center of the Animal Spirits Shrine Yule 2013.  All of the statuary were gifts from my Mom, the wolf fur and bones from Shin Cynikos, and the mushroom from a former girlfriend.  The Raven stone I bought from Earthlore in Plymouth, MI.
Center of the Animal Spirits Shrine Yule 2013. All of the statuary were gifts from my Mom, the wolf fur and bones from Shin Cynikos, and the mushroom from a former girlfriend. The Raven stone I bought from Earthlore in Plymouth, MI.

Right side of the Animal Spirits Shrine Yule 2013.  The rightmost bones are male buffalo bones from the Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve.  The two stone animals are a cat and pig, sacred animals to our Gods, and as spirits Themselves.

Right side of the Animal Spirits Shrine Yule 2013. The rightmost bones and fur are from male buffalo from the Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve. The two stone animals are a cat and pig, sacred animals to our Gods, and as spirits Themselves.

Runevaettir Altar

The Runevaettir altar has not changed all that much.  It now has many Rune mandalas made with ink on paper, and holds the communion talisman, one of two I made for the 30 Days of Magic Talisman Challenge put on by Andrieh Vitimus.  The offering bowl now is in the back left corner where it can sit without blocking the mandalas when I use them or make another.

Runevaettir Altar Yule 2013.

Runevaettir Altar Yule 2013.

Come the Spring I will need to take photos and write about shrines we keep outside, since at least one of them cannot be seen well right now.  These shrines include the shrine to Hela and Niðhogg, the Landvaettir’s outdoor shrine, and the Air spirits.

Expanding Altars and Changing Shrines

These pictures were taken back in 2012 when I moved back home.  This was prior to my son and Sylverleaf coming to stay with us.  At the time I lived in the basement, as the entire living arrangement had been changed since I moved out.  I finally had a bit more room to make altars and shrines, and much of my parents’ resistance to such things in their home was gone.  They recognized my need for space to set out devotional space for worship, and I will always be grateful to them for this.

I made an altar to the Gods, a shrine to the Ancestors, a shrine to the Earthvaettir combined with the Moneyvaettir and Warrior Dead, and a shrine to the Animal Spirits.

The Gods’ Altar

At this point in time my Gods’ Altar was still fairly squished, at least compared to how it is now.  It is also a lot more simple; the Gods’ Altar as it is now has a lot more statuary and representations on it, whereas this was me trying to get back to some simplicity.  For example, the Chaos Star got packed away, as at the time I felt I’d had more than what I had needed of that.  The drum I made my journeys with was placed on the Gods’ Altar as I did a lot of journeywork to Their Realms at this point in time with Its help.  There are two chalices on the altar here: the pewter one I dedicated to Freya as our relationship was going very well, and She was teaching me a lot at this time.  That, and the chalice, which, if memory serves I had picked up at a thrift store, had at one point been given to someone as a Valentine’s gift back in 1985.  I found not long after I started using this that anything placed in the chalice would degrade and mold quick, despite repeated cleanings.  It has since been retired from service to any Gods since I can’t get it stop doing weird stuff to the contents within a few hours of being in the thing.

There’s also more prominence to the Valkyries’ representations here, with Brynhilde being directly behind Odin, and another to Her right.  The blue vial to the left of the pewter chalice long contained the last of a Dansk Mjød Viking Blod that I eventually ended up offering that year.  The crystal in front of the altar is selenite, a crystal I and my family still use to cleanse ourselves before some evening prayers.  The Negative Confession is on this altar in front of the vial and pewter mug.

The Gods' Altar 2012.

The Gods’ Altar 2012.

The left side of the Gods' Altar.

The left side of the Gods’ Altar.

The right side of the Gods' Altar.

The right side of the Gods’ Altar.

A closeup of Anpu, Mani, and Sunna on the Gods' Altar.

A closeup of Anpu (center), Mani, and Sunna (left) on the Gods’ Altar.

A closeup of Odin with Sigurd and Brynhilde behind Him on the Gods' Altar.

A closeup of Odin with Sigurd and Brynhilde behind Him on the Gods’ Altar.

A closeup of Freya, Brighid and Bres, Freyr, and Jord/Nerthus' representation on the Gods' Altar.

A closeup of Freya (center), Brighid and Bres (left), Freyr (front center), and Jord/Nerthus’ representation (right) on the Gods’ Altar.

Left to right: Brighid and Bres, Freyr, Jord/Nerthus, Sunna, and Mani, closeup up before the statues of Odin and Freya.

Left to right: Brighid and Bres, Freyr, Jord/Nerthus’s representation, Sunna, and Mani, closeup up before the statues of Odin and Freya.

The Ancestor Altar/Shrine

The Ancestor Altar/Shrine had finally come into being.  I had not been able to have a separate shrine for Them due to space issues, so being able to give space to the Elements as part of the Ancestors was wonderful as well as connective for me.  With this came a sense of connecting not only with Them individually as Elements and Ancestors, but in the space of the altar/shrine itself, each Element having Their own space in the way it is laid out.  This time also marked, roughly, when my Ancestors started asking for semi-regular tobacco offerings.  I started doing smoking offerings in 2009, 2010.  I had long held a taboo in my mind because of my parents’ smoking habits.  The deal I made with Them was that, so long as I was not going to become addicted I would smoke for Them.  So, cigars and cigarettes became part of the Fire area of the Ancestor shrine at this point, but that ended when Sylverleaf, our son, and I, transitioned as a family into the whole of the top floor of the house.

A long shot of the center of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

A long shot of the center of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

The center of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

The center of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

Left side of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

Left side of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.  Leftmost is the Fire area, and next to it, the Water area.

Right side of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

Right side of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.  The Earth, represented by the bowl of stones, and Air, with the incense holder, are here.

The Earthvaettir, Moneyvaettir, and Warrior Dead Shrines

This was the second shrine I had set up for the Earthvaettir and Moneyvaettir; Their previous places had been set into a bookcase on a whole shelf.  I do not believe the Warrior Dead had a shrine before this, and if it had, it had been rather squished in between everything with the Earthvaettir and Moneyvaettir.  Here, again, I felt a sense of being able to breathe, of expanding not only my physical limits, but practice.  Of having space to actually physically acknowledge Their place in my life, Their Presences, and to honor that not only with space, but with prayer in that space.  Of giving offerings to those beings, whereas once They may have been lumped all in together with a single offering chalice between all of these great, diverse Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir otherwise, now I had space and ability to honor each closer to Their own ways and desires.

The Earthvaettir, Moneyvaettir, and Warrior Dead shrines all on one surface.

The Earthvaettir, Moneyvaettir, and Warrior Dead shrines all on one surface.

The Animal Spirits’ Shrine

It was relieving to finally have space to do this.  I honor a great deal of animalvaettir not only as representations of the Gods (i.e. the snake as Bolverk), but as the animals Themselves who have come and shared wisdom and training.  Some of these representations pull double-duty; for instance, the wolf in the top above the center of the shrine is representative of both wolves, and Lupa, the Wolf Goddess who came to me early in my journey as a Pagan and in my self-discovery, helped me to realize a lot about myself.  More, She helped teach me how to not only explore it, but integrate it into my life as best as I could.  As the Wolf has been a central figure in my life as a whole, and as I mark It as kin, it forms the center of this shrine.  The patch of fur and wolf bones were gifts by the wonderful Shin Cynikos.  I keep these as sacred items to this day.  They still lay upon the animal spirits’ shrine.

The Animal Spirits Altar in 2012.  It sat on an old steamer trunk a friend gave me.

The Animal Spirits Altar in 2012. It lay on an old steamer trunk a friend gave to me.

It wasn’t long before I transitioned out of this kind of layout.  When I moved back into my old room upstairs to live with my family, there was a lot more room to expand, and express the changing relationships and growth in our lives together.  The next post will go into the expansion that occurred at that time, and what the altars and shrines tend to look like nowadays.