They call Him grizzled; His hat hangs low over an eye.
They call Him one-eye ’cause one is elsewhere.
They call Him bear-father and wolf-father ’cause the berserkers and ulfheðin are His.
They call Him eagle-head ’cause He is one.
They call Him bear ’cause He is one.
They call Him battle-wolf ’cause He is one.
They call Him a rogue ’cause He’s sly.
They call Him silver-tongued ’cause He’s talked His way out of death.
They call Him Hanged ’cause He hanged on the World Tree to get the Runes.
They call Him Runemaster ’cause He died to bring Them back.
They call Him Wanderer ’cause He’s seen all the Worlds.
They call Him Journey Adviser ’cause He’s who you talk to before you take one.
They call Him Monster, ’cause He is one.
They call Him God, ’cause He is one.
He’s Odin, Woden, Wodenaz. He’s Jotun. He’s Aesir. He’s a chief. He’s a shaman. He’s a wanderer. He’s a warrior. He’s a killer. He’s a maw. He’s a scholar. He’s a wizard. He’s a berserker. He’s an ulfheðin. He’s a rogue. He’s a ruler. He’s a watcher. He’s the Allfather. He’s Runatyr. He’s Fury. He’s Terrible. He’s Gallows-God. He’s Sacrificed. He’s Sacrificer. He’s Twice-Blind. He’s One-Eyed. He’s Long-Visioned. He’s Spear-God. He’s Battle-Fury. He’s Howler. He’s Odin, Woden, Wodenaz.
May Eir and Mengloth bless those in harm’s way
May the healers be careful, skilled, and compassionate
May Thor protect those in harm’s way
May the communities be safe from harm, secured by His Hammer
May Loki, Angrboda, and Sigyn bring laughter, protection, and perseverance
May mirth, solidarity, and determination lift up those harmed and grieving in this tragedy
May Tyr and Forseti bring justice to the Dead, to the families, to all those harmed
May justice be done, lawful and swift
May Freyr, Gerda, and Freya bring Their love, sensuality, and vitality
May we celebrate ourselves together, and with Them, stand by those we love
May Odin and Frigga bring wisdom to the leaders
May action be guided by wisdom, may work be guided by insight
May Hela take up the Dead
May She bring Them comfort and care
May the Landvaettir be heard
May They, too, have justice, and may Their needs be met
May The Dead hear the calls of Their loved ones
May They know They are remembered, and may those They left behind be comforted
May the newly-Dead be long-remembered
May They be remembered for more than Their deaths; may Their lives be remembered well
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.
I die a little each day
Each step taking me just a little closer
to the Ancestors
I die a little each day
Hardly macabre; rather, hopeful
for the steps behind me
I die a little each day
In the hope that my memory lives well within
for whom I will be an Ancestor
So I ask:
Help me Ancestors
To take each step
With You behind, before, and beside me
Help me Ancestors
To be hopeful each step behind me
With You behind, before, and beside me
Help me Ancestors
To help my memory live well within my descendants
Walking with me behind, before, and beside them
I love politics. I find it fascinating on an intellectual level. I also find it entertaining, probably on the same level as some of my friends enjoy the soap opera style of WWE or Lucha Underground. Hell, one of the candidates was even on WWE.
I also recognize that most politics, or what passes for it, is a complete waste of time. Most of the things I have any hope of affecting as a voter are decided at local, regional, and sometimes State level elections. Though, with the way our legislature in Michigan works, should appropriation funding be in a bill that passes there is no way for us voters to hold a referendum. This is how the Republican-led State Congress pushed through a lot of legislation of all kinds lately, and made them stick despite loud protest.
I still vote, especially in local elections and ballots, because that is where a lot of funding comes for things like our police, fire, libraries, and so on. It’s also where our leadership comes from for local boards, among others. It directly affects my family and I.
A phrase I have heard for a long time now is “Think locally and act globally”. It bothers me, because when we get down to brass tacks, my spheres of influence start and end locally. I’m only acting globally if I’m acting with enough people that our collective pull is felt in some way. A lot of the things I hope to make impact on simply don’t register all that large, even with a good number of folks interested in it. My view is that we should be thinking and acting locally, and let things develop from that. It is hardly a new view. However, rather than be in the vein of ‘you need to change yourself before you change the world’ in an abstract way, or even a psychological one, this thinking and acting locally is a tactical one. It is also tends towards the whole person rather than an aspect of them.
I have no hope of changing national policy. I may not even be able to change a region’s view of how things like environmental care, farming, local interdependence, sustainable housing, and the like could be. What I can change is how I do things. What I can change is how I help people in my tribe, Kindred, friends, and allies. What I can change is things on a very local level.
Otto von Bismarck said
“Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best”.
Ideals are good things to have; they give us things to aim for, to work to attain. They help guide our decisions communally and personally. However, practical effects are what is lacking in a lot of politics lacks now, especially those that affect us locally and nationally, such as the ways we need to address environmental damage our ecosystems are taking on, climate change, and Peak Oil. Lining up on either side of an ideological divide may feel good, but ideology won’t keep your family fed or help you endure the Long Descent. If all you have is ideology, after a while all people will see you offer them are platitudes rather than something that will actually help them live differently. If you want to change the world, not only do you need to be that change, but you have to help others be able to see themselves in that change too.
Lately, my family and I have been doing a lot of simple wild yeast mead brewing in mason jars. We had our first batch finally finish, and it tastes great. Not only did this teach us that this is a completely viable way to make really good mead, but for our close friends with whom we are sharing this batch, it provides us a means of sharing the results, tying hamingja and wyrd closer together through Gebo, and perhaps inspiring others to take up brewing as well.
Is it a huge change? No, not on a global scale. Locally, though, it is helping Michigan bees and bee farmers, we’re reusing glass mason jars and ceramic bottles, and we’re learning practical skills, the results of which go well as gifts to our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, tribe, family, and friends. When we grow our own food this spring and summer, will that be huge on a global scale? No. It will, however, save us quite a bit of money in food bills, we’ll be using mason jars and potentially ceramic for some, if not a good number of the food we’ll bring in, and we’ll be learning practical skills, the results of which go well as gifts to our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, tribe, family, and friends.
Part of the thinking and acting locally is that I drop the need or, as I would have put it during my ceremonial magic days, the lust of result, to have the large, powerful impact on a nationwide scale. My worship and working with Jörð reflects this idea. I worship Her as a Goddess of the Earth, and I also relate to Her as a Goddess of the Earth where I am (without exclusion to local land/Earth Gods and Goddesses), as I am also tightly bound to my local environment as I am to the Earth. I have developed a relationship with Her in the context of where I am, where I live, and where I grow my food. How could I hope to change Her? So, I take up the space in Her where I live, where She and the landvaettir share with me, and do what I can where I am. Therefore, all of my actions take place on and within Her and alongside Her in a local context. To try to separate my understanding of Jörð from my local understanding renders my relationship with Her far less meaningful, to the point of meaninglessness in most contexts. This thinking and acting locally is often referred to as regional cultus. It is religiously thinking and acting in relation to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir on the local level.
The idea of thinking and acting locally is not separate in terms of religious cultus, growing food, addressing Climate Change, Peak Oil, or environmental damage. Rather, I take them as a whole, with religious regard running throughout even if addressing environmental damage is not, in and of itself, a religious ritual or act. I hold relationships with the landvaettir, and because of this relationship on a personal religious level and practical level together, I have a deeply invested interest in the environment thriving and the neighborhood we are part of together doing well. If I care for the landvaettir, I care for the wellbeing of Their body/bodies, the physical land, plants, creatures, and other Beings which make Them up, and I care for Them on a spiritual basis as well. It means helping to keep the environment clean and healthy while maintaining good relationships with Them through offerings, prayers, and actually visiting with Them.
Giving general ideas of how to interact with the landvaettir is only so useful. I can go with lists of offering ideas, but inevitably I will come right out and say something along the lines of “You will need to learn what would be good as an offering for your landvaettir.” This is part of the idea behind thinking and acting locally for the environment, Peak Oil, or Climate Change. There’s only so much I could tell you about permaculture techniques or ideas for how to live sustainably that would apply with any accuracy. Most of the permaculture, homestead, and other skills classes I have gone to have been held by and at places local to me. Their lessons are bound into how our land works. I could not tell you useful species of trees to in a Californian environment. I could not tell you what herbs are invasive, native, useful, or good to grow in that soil. It’s simply outside of my research and experience.
This is also why I talk a lot about getting to know our Gods locally. That is, if you are worshiping a Goddess who was associated with wells, maybe get to know Her with your personal well if you use well water, or develop a personal relationship with the local bodies of water where your drinking water comes from. Do research on where your water comes from, see if the Gods of waters have any association with it, or directly manifest in it. See if the waters have their own Gods, or big vaettir. Thinking locally and acting locally means taking steps to relate to this world when and where we are.
Since the body s part of the overarching soul matrix I also look at the bodies of water as the physical component of the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir of Water. Likewise the other elements. How we treat the bodies of these Beings matters, and its impacts hit us in like fashion in our bodies and souls. If I treat the body of the watervaettir well (pardon the pun), then I am nourished in kind by the water. If I treat it poorly, I foul the water, destroy its ability to enliven plants and animals alike, and destroy the ability of my ecosystem to live healthy. If I live upon the Earth well then I am nourished in kind. It is Gebo, and its effects ripple through Wyrd. When we think and act locally we partake much more readily in these ripples, in how Wyrd weaves. In doing our part as best we can with our local threads we can more effectively weave with the larger patterns of Wyrd.
The road rushes past
My cigar glows in my hand
The rainvaettir come down, a billion upon billion rattling dancers
The road, the car, all full of the sound of Their feet
The road rushes past and I see it
The first lightning bolt of the season here
Arc through the sky, behind the clouds
A silhouetted dancer
Whose drumming partner pounds and the sky shakes
Tendrils of smoke out the window and up to you all
The Thunderbird People
The Jotuns of storms
The Spirit of Storms
I call to you and say your names as Midgard fills with stomps with billions of feet
As the skies split with the fury of dancers and beating of wings
As the wind shakes and the clouds let loose the crowds
As the drumming thunderers crash and clash
The Worlds are alive and here
The Worlds are alive and there
and I am thankful to bear witness
Trying to grasp the ineffable
With fumbling hands and tongue
Reaching, stretching, trying
To bring the mind to order
The soul-deep to expression
The innermost understanding to bare expression
Stripped of majesty, shorn of glory
Dirt lying on the tongue, begging for water
O, the skin is dry!
Fill me, let me give water or wine
Give me words, give me words, give me words!
To express, to adulate, to bring You closer
To bring some part of You near
To drink and quench my thirst
To give and quench others’ thirst
To speak and share the stories
To create again and again
with each telling
The Worlds, Your births, Your deaths
Create and destroy and inspire and sacralize
Break and build and love and lose
Enliven and ensoul and enshrine and edify
Fill and free and craft and cleave
Let a billion tongues be sated by the waters of Your stories
a billion throats raised in song and word
a billion eyes enthralled by plays and stories
a billion ears entranced by hymns and teachings
For all Your stories and songs are precious
and all are the teachings tellings in their turn
holy, powerful, sacred
Let them be told and told again
Let them be sung and sung again
Passed on and on
That even those without an ear for music or a tongue for tales
may know You each in their own turn
and pass on in their way this knowing