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.
I ask myself every time I see a proposal like this from Graymont, or another Oil Pipeline repair or request from Enbridge Energy. Where does it end? When is enough money, resources, and ecological destruction enough?
What does Graymont want? 10,000 acres of land for open pit and underground limestone mining operations that will take place in 3 counties in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Public comment for the Canadian Limestone proposal from Graymont ends March 19th. Please make your comments here, at the email address, DNRGraymontProposalComments@michigan.gov, and at the public mailing address listed below:
Customer Service Center, ATTN: Kerry Wieber, 8717 N. Roscommon Road, Roscommon, MI 48653
Anyone who has an understanding of modern capitalism already knows the answer. There is never enough. Whether to feed the profit motive or the equally hideous beast of debt, like an unholy Ouraboros, there is never enough. Between the greed of the profit motive and the utter despair generated by the countless billions (whether personally or via their country) in poverty, there is no end. The only end is when the beast itself is dead.
Let us take stands wherever we can, however we can, for Jörð, for Nerthus, for Midgard our home!
To this end, I nið Graymont and their supporters, including political supporters, financial backers, and those who would speak on behalf of destroying the ecosystem of 10,000 acres of land!
Share this curse on your blogs, Facebook, wherever you deem appropriate. Let us not give one more inch to a corporation’s greed.
Three Isa and three Thurse I give
To Graymont and its board
May your projects fail
Your stocks plummet
Let the landvaettir be riled up
May They rise against you
Wherever you dig or set down
Your foul roots
May the people be riled up
May they rise against you
Wherever you dig or set down
Your foul roots
Leave the landvaettir be
Dig no hole, cut no wounds
Into Jörð’s flesh;
Let Her forests and fields grow!
Isa Isa Isa!
Thurse! Thurse! Thurse!
Isa Isa Isa!
Thurse! Thurse! Thurse!
Isa! Isa! Isa!
Thurse! Thurse! Thurse!
Inspired by the songs I learned as a child that miners and lumberjacks used to sing out here, I made one up for the Gods and vaettir of Nifelheim as I helped shovel the drive. While the shoveling proved rather fruitless to the whims of these Gods and vaettir, it did seem to please Them. In terms of how I sang it, think of an old song, with the beat on every two to four heartbeats.
Did the song sound exactly this way? No. A lot of it was made up on the fly, and so, what I am writing here is what I remembered and what makes sense. These aren’t set in stone, and a good, made-up song can be the perfect offering for a God, Goddess, and/or vaettir. Anyhow, here is the shovel song for the Gods and vaettir of Nifelheim:
Hail to the Sons and Daughters of Nifelheim!
Hail to Ice Itself!
Hail to the Sons of Nifelheim!
Hail to Ice Itself!
Hail to the Daughters of Nifelheim!
Hail to Ice Itself!
Oh hail hail hail!
Oh icy, frosty ones!
Hail to You who blow all around
Ice and snow has come!
Hail ol’ Jökull
icy bearded Jotun!
Whose frost hangs low and drips to snow
Hail you old cold Jotun!
Oh hail the frosted cold
Hail the elder Jotun!
Who come in with cold
and freeze our bones
and make our Great Lakes rise!
Hail to the big ol’ snowy one!
Hail to You, O Snaer!
Who freezes flesh and chills the blood
and freezes up our hair!
Hail to You oh frozen one,
Who blows all around!
From in the air and on our homes
and crunch beneath the ground!
Hail hail hail!
Hail the mighty Jotun!
Who comes from far off colder North
and visit us here at home!
Hail to the ground beneath my feet
The ancient one, Ymir!
Who forms the mountains and the clouds
The world that I hold dear!
Hail Auðumla’s adopted Son
Old frosty Ymir!
From Your blood the lakes and oceans flow
and bones the mountains speared!
Hail to You oh slain One
Who fell and made the world!
Whose body rose and made our home
All covered in the snow!
Whose body brought forth Goddesses,
good Jörð, Jarnsaxa, Nerth-us
Who gave our Ancestors form and flesh and
brought us to our birth!
Hail O hail to the icy gail, the Kari Northern wind!
Who cuts us with His coldest breath
and brings the snows again!
Hail to You who blows about
the frost and ice and snow
Who makes us glad for heat and home
and the feeling of our skin!
Hail hail hail!
To the Sons and Daughters of Nifelheim!
Hail hail hai!
To Ice Itself, Ancestor old!
Hail hail hail!
Be gentle with us, for we are cold!
Refrain placed wherever it feels right:
Hail hail hail!
Hail to the Icy Jotun!
Hail hail hail
to the frosted [frozen, icy, snowy] ones!
Hail hail hail!
You old cold Jotun!
Hail hail hail!
O Elder coldest Jotun!
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.
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.
This panel will explore what each member’s path is, and how each member carries their traditions forward.
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 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 (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
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.
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.
This devotional is dedicated to giving a voice to those roads that honor the Ancestors, and to those who seek the Ancestors. I want to give deep thanks to all of the contributors. You made this possible.
“The Ancestors can be found by many roads: by blood, adoption, the Gods we worship, and the Elements that sustain us. They can be found in the newly or ancient Dead, in the old forests or the candle flame. The devotional is dedicated to giving a voice to those roads, and to those who seek the Ancestors.”
UPDATE: The contributors to this volume are, with links to their blogs and projects:
Robert David Michael
As I work with the Warrior Dead, the Military Dead among Them, this month has become something of an education. This year is the 100th Anniversary of World War 1. We do not talk much about World War 1, if at all. If it is mentioned, it is often talked about and pointed to as a cause of World War 2, rather than a massive, world-wide war in and of itself. Otherwise, the poem of In Flander’s Fields 1, and novel All Quiet on the Western Front 2 is given mention, hinting at the devastation and brutality of it. Yet the First World War’s full impact, its actual history, is not often spoken of let alone taught. Oh, there are highlights that might be spoken about, such as Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, or the horrors of trench warfare, or the invention and use of widespread chemical warfare. Yet, World War I does not fit easily into any narrative. Even the very pro-British pro-war documentary from the BBC, The Necessary War 3 admits several times throughout that all the nations that were part of The Great War had faults with how the it came to pass and spiraled so deeply out of control from what could have been a regional conflict into a conflagration that spared no one it touched. It saw the last of the old-style monarchies in Europe fall, and several Empires were consumed in its flames.
It is estimated4 that sixteen million people died during this War. Sixteen million. Of those deaths, about 9.7 million were military and 6.8 million were civilians. As PBS notes, “World War I marked the first use of chemical weapons, the first mass bombardment of civilians from the sky, and the century’s first genocide…”5. It also marked a time when artillery, rather than being front-line gun placements, were relegated to behind friendly lines and used as weapons to clear the way for or defend against infantry advancement6.
Some resources I am looking at are PBS’s The Great War, having just watched the BBC’s The Necessary War. I am currently working through the 8-part series from PBS, The Great War and the Shaping of the 21st Century. I have found and have yet to start digging into the 28 part 1964 BBC Documentary Series The Great War. This BBC article addresses some myths about The Great War from the British angle. I am still looking for good, reliable history books on the subject to read.
As I work my way through these documentaries, I will write on my reflections, and when I have enough for an article I will post here. If anyone reading this wants to share the stories of their Military Dead, please do. If you want to explore the series with me, whether as I post or through email, I am starting Episode 1 tonight.
The First World War and the Korean War are two I have seen referenced as ‘forgotten wars’. I believe we owe it to the Warrior and Military Dead, as well as any of our Ancestors who may have been part of these conflicts, to remember them. Remembering them not in snippets, or as “World War 2 was the good war and World War 1 was the stupid one”, but each in their own place and time, seeing them, and those who participated in them. At the very least those who gave their lives, or those whose lives were violently ripped apart during this War, should be remembered. Entire generations, if not branches of families, were lost to this War. The Military Dead deserve, at the very least, a place in our memories.
I am starting this month of prayers and honoring of the Warrior and Military Dead by cutting out my biggest distraction. For me, this means completely cutting myself off from video games. It is the least I can do; soldiers certainly did without a great many creature comforts I have come to enjoy as a matter of modern life. I will be spending my extra time doing other things, such as reading, writing, and doing devotional work for the Warrior and Military Dead. I will also be attending the graves of the local Military Dead and making offerings.
May the Warrior Dead and Military Dead never be forgotten. May They be remembered. May Their sacrifices ever be remembered. May Their lives be marked. May offerings for Them be made. May Their memories live on. Hail the Warrior Dead! Hail to the Military Dead!
1 In Flander’s Fields. (2014). The Great War website. Retrieved 2:48, Nov 03, 2014, from http://www.greatwar.co.uk/poems/john-mccrae-in-flanders-fields.htm
2 All Quiet on the Western Front. (2014). Amazon book website. Retrieved 2:50, Nov 03, 2014, from http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00DAD25O8?btkr=1#
3 The Necessary War. (2014). Youtube.com website. Retrieved 2:45, Nov 03, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pg5LWHQYIrY
4 World War I casualties. (2014.) Wikipedia.com website. Retrieved 3:03, Nov 03, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties
5 WWI Casualty and Death Tables. (2014.) PBS.org The Great War website. Retrieved 02:58, Nov 3, 2014, http://www.pbs.org/greatwar/resources/casdeath_pop.html
6 The Necessary War. (2014). Youtube.com website. Retrieved 2:45, Nov 03, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pg5LWHQYIrY