My indoor and outdoor vés and worship spaces get more time from me depending on the time of year, and where I am feeling drawn. Given that now is the planting season, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time outdoors. My family maintains a main vé outdoors in a small grove of trees where I have placed Odin’s godpole and where our family makes our Sacred Fires. As I have mentioned in previous posts, Hela and Niðogg’s vé is the compost heap. When we finally spread the soil after a year of adding to it, it was dark black, and had a rich sweet smell to it. Where animals have been buried, all in the main vé, I also feel Hela’s presence.
This entire last week or two I’ve been outside quite a bit with the family in the large garden we’ve been prepping, tilling, then planting. Every time we go out there is a time to pray, every action out there an opportunity to come closer to the Gods, Ancestors, landvaettir, and other vaettir. It doesn’t replace the offerings I make. I make those too. It might be a glass of water on a vé, it might be smoke offered from tobacoo or mugwort in a sacred pipe, those same herbs placed in/upon the Earth, or an offering from me as I do the work such as a song or praise.
Today, as I dug each small hole for the green beans, I prayed to Jörð, Freyr, Gerda, Freya, the landvaettir, the Disir, the Väter, and the Ancestors. I sang songs I was taught in Ojibwe, and I sang songs for my Catholic Ancestors, who were coming on strong today, with my Dad as we planted. The days when I dug the Earth I sang songs for Jörð and the landvaettir. Increasingly, making songs for the Holy Powers is becoming a part of my offerings alongside the others. I like it. It’s an offering of breath and creativity, since a lot of the songs I’m making up the verses as I go along.
The Ancestors have been there every time, and fairly thick. I’m not surprised; up until my generation, most of my family on both my parents’ sides have come from farmers. It makes sense that I would feel a lot more of Them during similar activities, and that They are pushing for me to get land, animals, and the like. I felt some different Ancestors around me, though, when my Dad hit a mole with the rototiller Friday. Rather than simply bury it, my Mom actually suggested I skin it.
I asked the mole if it would give me permission to skin it. When she agreed, I set up a space for it in the main vé. I asked Ansuz to help me cleanse, Gebo to help me ground, and did my usual grounding, centering, cleansing, and shielding work. This would be my first time skinning an animal; I wanted to do it right. Given Dad’s done it before, he showed me how to sharpen the knives I might use, and briefly explained the cuts I would need to make. I returned to the vé, and made prayers to the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and landvaettir, asking for Their help. At first I was surprised by Skaði’s Presence. Then, I remembered: A long time back when I was first introduced to Skaði by Odin during my ordeal on the Tree and work in the Nine Worlds, She had tasked me with, among other things, learning how to make a kill, skin, and dress it. While I do still need to do this in full, She let me know this was a good first step.
It turns out skin is damned tough. I knew the knives were sharp, but this being my first time out, I wasn’t expecting how tough, especially on a little thing like a mole. I was frustrated. So, I returned and asked Dad if there was something I was doing wrong. He came out, looked at it, and then mentioned to me that he usually started from a cut along the throat in bigger animals. In this case, he felt I should behead the animal. I asked the mole for permission to do so, and when the mole gave it, I did. I took a breath, made some prayers, and focused. I looked at the knives in front of me, and finally went with the smallest: a slim, curved steel knife with a deer antler hilt, a wolf burned into the pommel. Again, I took a breath, made prayers, and focused. I felt an Ancestor help guide me. “This way,” Their hand on mine, showing me. I cut, felt the blade slide through skin, flesh, flesh the crunch of bone, cartilege as I severed the mole’s head. I thanked it for allowing me to do this, to take its body and make something from it. To learn from it. I set the head gently aside, bowed my head to it, and proceed to skin the rest of it. An occasional ‘Good’ or ‘Careful’ from one of the Ancestors. It went a good deal faster than I thought it would, and in about half an hour or so, I had it skinned and fleshed without damage to the fur or the skin. I heard a ‘Good’ from Skaði and heard no more from Her, though Her Presence lingered until the mole was buried. I pinned the skin to a good-sized chunk of wood, stretched it, and placed pickling salt on it. I will be getting some alum as well, and following instructions to make this a pliable, tanned skin.
When its skin was safe in a dark corner of the garage, I returned to the sacred grove with a shovel, and offerings. I asked the landvaettir for permission to dig, and once They gave it, and I ‘felt’I had found the spot, I dug a small hole. I prayed to Hela and Niðogg, asking Them to accept the mole. I placed the body inside, put down some tobacco and mugwort in offering to the mole and covered the hole. I then gave some in offering to the Gods, Ancestors, and landvaettir. I washed the ceramic tile I had used, and went inside. I made prayers as I physically cleaned the knives and my hands, thanking the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir for Their patience, willingness to teach, and the sacrifice of the mole.
It’s interesting in reflecting on it. The life-generating cycle of prepping, tilling, and planting was started just a few days after this animal was killed and skinned. I approach both in a sacred way because both are sacred. I was not inspired to give songs for the mole; I was inspired to give reverent silence and my full care to the process of skinning, of not damaging the gift that she had given me. I was inspired to sing loudly during the prepping, the tilling, and the planting. Different sacred encounters with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir ask us to take different attitudes, actions, and offerings. Perhaps the next time I skin an animal it will ask for a song, or for many songs. Perhaps it will ask that I dance. Perhaps Skaði or Freyr will ask that I dance, or sing, or to be silent. Perhaps the next time I prepare a field, or till a field, or plant, the landvaettir, or the Gods will ask for my silence, a Sacred Fire, a ritual from my family, or perhaps They will ask for the same offerings year after year.
In connecting with my Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir outside, it has made me realize just how much I rely on Them. It made me realize in very grounded terms that I am vitally connected with the Holy Powers in very down-to-Earth ways: that Freyr is in the asparagus as well as His statue, that He helps to give life to the land, and that Gerda is both present on the Gods’ altar and in the garden giving life to the land and growth to the plants. I understand the landvaettir are the asparagus, tomatoes, beans and squash as much as They are the trees of the sacred grove, the grass of the lawn, the animals that dart about them, and the rich earth of the garden itself. In understanding this, I understand the landvaettir are part of the house and the land, and that this land (and a good deal more I may never see, i.e. farms, mines, production areas, etc.) will help to sustain my family and I. In understanding this connection I know that the Ancestors are right here with me, supporting me in the work at hand, and that if I listen They will help guide me in what to do. All of these things reinforce the understanding that the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are as vital a part of our communities as its living human members are.
Connecting and understanding my relationship with the Holy Powers is knowing, and especially acknowledging, that I need these connections spiritually as well as physically. In putting my hands in the Earth and asking the Holy Powers to help me grow the food, I asking Them to help me be a shaman that, paraphrasing the words of my dear friend Two Snakes, “can make the beans grow”. I am asking Them not only to help me feed my family and I physically, but feed us spiritually as well, living in good Gebo with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, and furthering my path as a shaman.
This post is getting a little lengthy and starting to flow away from the topic at the start, so I think I’ll split this up into two posts. If I get the inspiration maybe this will become a series of posts.
In reading this post by Helio, I found myself nodding at other times, having to reread sections to parse my feelings in others. Overall I do not disagree with the idea of the Gods existing in a kind of Venn diagram where there is intersection between the Gods, Ancestors, landvaettir, and vaettir otherwise. I think where I disagreed most profoundly is in the differentiation of Gods.
But how does it work in polytheism, where there’s no divine monopoly nor a cap on the number of divine beings? Can godhood be restricted to a specific group of more-than-mere-human beings? No, it can’t. A landwight, just like an ancestor, is a deity. A nymph is a goddess, an elf is god, as is the spirit of a dead person. Whereas in monotheism the question of divinity is one of absolutes – one god and everyone else is not a god – in polytheism things normally work in multiple shades of grey: greater, lesser, local, universal, family, tribal, regional and national gods and demigods. Divinity is everywhere or, as Thales of Miletus would say, everything is full of gods. And this is so precisely because there is no monopoly or cap on the divine. There’s no limit to it and it can therefore be found in countless forms everywhere.
My understanding is that a God is a kind of spirit, but not all vaettir (spirits) are Gods. This is because vaettir lack the spheres of influence, recognition, and/or Being that a God does. I do not use God and vaettir interchangeably for ease of language, as I do recognize that some vaettir may well be Gods in Their own right, i.e. a local God of a river, lake, stream, tree, grove, etc. and in such a case, I use the word local God to denote this. Venn diagrams are useful because they contain a discrete category, a pole, around which the circles are drawn. These can then overlap, and this is the bleedover we can see between ideas of Gods, Ancestors, and landvaettir where these centers intersect and cross one another. While the notion of Gods, Ancestors, landvaettir, vaettir, etc. can overlap, in order to be useful as terms, they must be discrete categories in some fashion or else we are effectively describing nothing with any usefulness. In other words, discrete categories, circles, are needed or else we are not describing a Venn diagram, but a single circle.
If godhood is to mean anything with any substance, then godhood should, as a term, be restricted to certain more-than-mere-human-beings. In example, not all of those who live in Asgard are Gods. The Gods have servants who may be offered to, but are not, so far as I know, recognized as Gods. The Einherjar, honored Dead hand-picked by Odin, reside in Valhalla in Asgard. Hunin and Munin are not Gods, yet They serve Odin, live in Asgard, and fulfill very important functions mythologically, and in terms of human-divine communication. It would be remiss of me to recognize Them as Gods or to ascribe godhood to these holy Ravens. This not a monotheist idea; rather, it is a polytheist means of discerning between Gods and not-Gods. It is not a matter of value, but of substance, inquiring into the thingness of a Being, and recognizing It for what It is or may be.
Parsing what is and is not a God is a pretty important theological question, and I expect that each tradition, group, and indeed each person, may wrestle with this idea several times over their life. I find this to be a good thing. I find that marking out boundaries is equally a good thing because it aids in discernment and in understanding by having clear ideas of what constitutes this idea of a Being. In developing the idea of discrete categories we can come to understand where the Venn diagram has Beings who overlap into different categories of Being, and where and how these categories can bleed into one another, and where a discrete understanding of what those boundaries are, and where in the Venn overlaps a Being is may be found. If a person believes in the concept of a single circle and that labeling that as ‘g/Gods’ is sufficient, so be it, but I do not agree with it.
Helio uses the example of Disir, stating:
Simply put, what was a god, a nymph and a landwight was less of a matter of fixed or clear-cut categories and more an issue of function and scope where divinity was not a privilege of a limited few, but a trait of countless many. And in case you’re thinking these examples are too Roman and bear little meaning in other traditions, consider the Dísir in Norse polytheism: they’re divine women or mothers, tribal and family goddesses if not female ancestors, yet goddesses nonetheless; but the word dís is also used for the Valkyries, themselves minor deities of war and at one time called Odin’s or Herjans dísir (Guðrúnarkviða I, stanza 19); even Freyja is referred to as Vanadís or the Dís of the Vanir. Some find this messy, may even suggest it is the result of late sources and fragmented memories of a pre-Christian worldview, yet I disagree. You find the same fluidity and overlapping terminology in Roman polytheism, for which there are genuinely pagan sources.
Here again, I disagree with him. The Disir, such as I understand Them, are not Goddesses Themselves, but powerful female Ancestors. They may be divine women, but They are not Goddesses, per se. Semantics, especially when we are talking about how we parse Who is what, is important. While the word dis may be related to the word goddess, I do not see the Disir as Goddesses in the same arena as, say Freya. It is more than Freya being more recognized; the Disir’s spheres of influence are less than Freya’s, and Their importance to the Heathen cosmology is less in impact than Freya. While the Disir are very important in my spheres and perhaps regionally emenating out from Their relationship with me and I with Them, in the larger spheres of the religion the Disir do not carry as much weight. Freya is more than what She is within the myths and stories, of course, but those myths and stories point to Her importance cosmologically, to the spheres of influence She has, and the relationships and relationality between Her and other Beings. There is also the understanding that She simply wields a good deal more power than other Beings, going along with the notion that Her spheres of influence are larger. At the very least She wields a good deal of power in areas other Beings do not. So, because of Their roles within the religion, and Their relative effect on the religion and the power They each wield, I look at the Disir as powerful female Ancestors.
I also believe that were I to relate to Freya to as an Ancestor, I would understand this as an intersection between Goddess and Disir. These distinctions between how I understand Goddesses and Disir would not disappear, however. There would be a difference in calling to Freya as a Disir comparative to, say, the Vanadis. That understanding is why I count Odin among my powerful male Ancestors, the Väter, and yet also relate to Him as a God. His God-ness is not set aside, but my understanding of Odin also carries the nuance of relating to and understanding Him as one of my Väter.
Again, overlap in a Venn diagram does not and cannot erase the circles or it will cease to be a Venn diagram.
I do not disagree that humans have the potential to become Gods nor do I believe the categories should be so discrete that the circles never cross. As I have thought on this, one issue that keeps coming up is that the idea that the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir share similarities to kami. While Helio does not go into this in the main article, he does in the comments. I recoil at the notion that we should view our Gods this way, as there are categories of Beings. The Aesir are not the Dvergar, the Dvergar are not the Vanir, the Vanir are not the Jotun. While I may worship, for instance, Andvari, He does not become a God by dint of my worship, or the landvaettir would all enter into godhood as well. While that notion would be what I assume, from his writing, Helio advocates, I find distinct categories as a useful thing.
Lumping everything into one category, i.e. ‘god’ does not strike me as respectful of the differences between different kinds of spirits, nor of the Gods. It is one thing to worship a river God, and another to assume that all the Beings in that river, or that all big rivers, would associate themselves with such a notion. From an animist point of view, Gods are big or more influential spirits compared to those spirits which are smaller, more localized, and/or have less spheres of influence. So while I am not actively denying God-as-spirit, I believe that referring to all spirits as Gods misses the point of the word ‘God’ or ‘Goddess’. Just because the Germanic and Scandinavian people saw some Gods and vaettir as being one in the same, that does not set aside that they had different divine categories. Bleedover between categories in how they saw the Gods and vaettir does not mean they saw Them as one in the same. Even if there were related concepts, the sources I have seen and how I understand the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir deny homogenization of identity.
Narrowing, in my view, is not missing. Not narrowing is erasing by homogenization, in this case. It would be a disservice to our religions if we were to strip the meaning of ‘God’ and ‘Goddess’. If words such as ‘God’ or ‘Goddess’ are to retain any meaning in dialogue or theology, the circles need to be defined even if they sometimes bleed over into one another. Divinity may be everywhere, and there may be a potentially unlimited number of Gods, Goddesses, but we would be unable to recognize Them as such without some clear ideas on what a God is, what makes a God a God, and what differentiates it from other spirits. Categorizing all beings as such erases the meaning of the words.
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.
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