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A Beacon

April 15, 2019 Leave a comment

Across the water

Ancestors wail

As the grand cathedral burns

Fire climbing the wooden heights

Notre Dame engulfed

A beacon, reminding:

 

Remember well the past

Spires fall and wood smokes

Remember well the past

Books molder and memory decays

Remember well the past

For under stone and hewn wood a temple lies

 

The fires gutter and die

Tomorrow the assessments

Followed by work to do

Do not forget:

The Ancestors

The Dead

Many are still waiting

For others to hear Them

 

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Reykr of Una

November 12, 2018 Leave a comment

Prayers are whispered

Charred cloth over Mugwort

The flint strikes the steel

Again

Again

Again

Finally, a spark

The cloth catches

Careful, careful

Breathe the offering of ond;

soft, quick little puffs

A prayer of thanks

Smoke unfurls

Großmutter Una’s body is pressed into red orange

The reykr is made

Holiness rises

A Cleansing Prayer to Lykeios

January 14, 2018 1 comment

O Lykeios, O purifying Wolf God!
O You, Whose breath blows away miasma
O You, Whose teeth rend the evil spirits
O You, Whose tongue uplifts in howling song
Bless and purify me, cleanse and sanctify me
That I may howl Your praise and run in Your Presence!

On Purification and Cleansing

July 8, 2016 1 comment

I took a week off of social media, and I included my blog here at WordPress for that time.

It was a good time, coming right off the heels of Sacred Firetending at Michigan Paganfest.
It really made me think, though, about a lot of things.  Not the least of which is the time I waste on social media.  Now, a lot of my writing here?  That tends to be time well-spent because I am sussing things out, writing devotional poetry and other works, or otherwise devoting time to my Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir.

My time away made me realize just how fucked up social media is, when you get down to brass tacks.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I do a lot of networking on it that is not only useful, but downright necessary to interact with the folks in my Kindred as well as the larger Pagan community.  However, what I am really coming to grips with is how damned sick, lacking a better term, social media is.  When something takes off, it takes off like a virus.  After all, a post, a picture, a video gaining mass popularity is called ‘going viral’ for a reason.  If it is incorrect information, it spreads the wrong information and it infects all those who take it in as fact.

This is where inoculation or sanitation and treatment come in, or, in terms polytheists would be more familiar with, purification and cleansing.  We purify a space so that it is cleansed of vaettir (spirits), and likewise, any magic or spiritual force that would seek to do us harm or disrupt the ritual, ceremony, etc. we are about to perform.  We purify a space, such as a vé (sacred place; it might have an altar or be a natural thing, such as a boulder or tree, etc.), hörgr (a stone vé, sometimes stacked, or an altar of stone).  We cleanse ourselves and any objects we would seek to bring into this space so we are in a state that is clean for the same reason as purification.  If you are facilitating a ritual, it is likely you have cleansed yourself and any things that you are bringing into the area, then purified the space.

These procedures are recognizable to anyone who works in healthcare: your inoculation makes you resistant to diseases that can harm your patients and yourself, your hand-washing prevents you from spreading disease, and your personal hygiene prevents you from becoming sick.  If you refuse to do these things you are not doing your due diligence to those in your care.  That is not to say that sickness is completely unavoidable.  It is not, just as impurity in sacred space does happen.  It is also not to say that sickness is morally wrong; it is not.  It simply is.  However, it is our obligation, whether healthcare or in religious matters, for us to do our due diligence so that those in our care are as healthy as can be.  A ritual leader who refuses to do purification and cleansing work is analogous to a doctor who refuses to be sanitary.

Of course, there are folks out there who will say I am being dramatic about this.

If we take our religions, and our roles within them seriously, then this kind of preparation to erect or inhabit a sacred space should be normal.  There may be exceptions to this rule, i.e. polytheist religious paths I have not come across that do not carry out purification rites in general or for specific workings because it would be detrimental to the rite, working, etc.  I am not speaking to these.  The polytheist religions I have been in or had contact with carry similar enough ritual protocols for these to be general, such as cleaning yourself physically and spiritually before a ritual, or if you do not have time for a shower, at least doing some kind of cleansing work, whether a simple ritual of washing the hands, sprinkling water on one’s head, passing fire about the place and one’s body, and so on.

If I am to carry out a ritual, it is my Gebo to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir that I am a living example to those in the ritual.  I need to be clean in body, mind, and spirit.  I need to show good protocol for engaging with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.  As much as the ritual actions are my role in the ritual, so too is my living example.  If someone is coming to me for divination I need to be clean and the sacred space it takes place needs to be clean.  My obligation to the shamans, diviners, Rune-workers, Runemeisters, the Runevaettir, and Odin Himself is to do the work and do it well, whether that work is the preparation before the reading, the reading itself, or any work that occurs coming from the reading.  To do this, I need to have good signal, and to have good signal I and the space need to be clean for the reading.  Whatever my role, I owe this Gebo,this obligation of doing the prequisite work well to those who came before me in these roles, to my Elders, Disir, Väter, Ancestors, and so on.  I also owe this Gebo to the Gods, Ancestors and vaettir to do this work well, not just for the work present in the moment, but to provide an ongoing living example of the work in action.  

In order to do well, to be excellent, the foundation must be cared for.  The foundation of good religious work is to do the prerequisite work well.  This includes the education one needs in order to be an informed participant in the religion, and the carrying out of one’s role in the religion that arises from that knowledge.  It is not some out-of-reach perfection I am talking about here either, nor am I talking merely about the role ritual leaders hold in being ritual pure or helping to make purified religious space.  The foundations of religious work are carried by everyone in that religion.  Purification and cleansing are part of those foundations so we enter into sacred space clean and well, so that the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are prayed to, offered to, experienced, and understood well.  Purification and cleansing help us to keep these things clean so that what we do and pass on is healthy for our religions, our communities, our tribes, our Kindreds, our families, and ourselves.

Connecting with the Gods, Ancestors, and Vaettir Outside Part 2

July 13, 2015 Leave a comment

Growing food and connecting with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir related to it is an area of life that, as a shaman, I have only recently had the time off to devote to it.  In previous years my schedule was so up-and-down or constantly changing that getting out and helping with the garden consistently was damned near impossible.  Last year we could not even maintain a garden outside of the yearly asparagus harvest due to our home’s varying schedules.  This year I have a far more stable schedule, so now I can give the time to get in the garden and learn from the Holy Powers and my living family.  I did not realize it till sitting down and writing it, but that is one hell of a burden lifting off of me.  I have enough hours to keep up with bills and enough time off consecutively so I can get things done.

We actually have a good deal of plants in the ground this year.  Lots of tomatoes, green beans, and beets.  We also planted squash, zucchini, and a few herbs.  Provided the birds lay off of them for a bit, we should have a good harvest.  In past time where we have planted equivalent amounts of tomatoes, green beans, and similar plants, we’ve had a good-sized stockpile even after giving away some of the harvest to family and friends.  It’s one of the reasons I am looking forward to the fall harvest.

There’s more to connecting with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir outside than just my garden or the local parks, though.  As I mentioned in the previous post, Skaði has charged me to learn how to hunt, to skin and dress a kill.  I have a wonderful Aunt with a standing offer to teach me to bow hunt after I take a safety course.  I am also blessed with a good friend who has offered to teach me the same.  With the amounts of time I have off every week I am actually far closer to making this a reality and fulfilling the rest of the obligations I have with Skaði.

The fertility of the landvaettir is a blessing, one that I believe we carry as an obligation to keep in partnership with Them.  It feeds us, nourishes us body, mind, and soul as surely as we help nourish the landvaettir by living well with Them.   The soil, the plants, and the animals all deserve their due, their respect.  Whether we are hunting, fishing, gardening, farming, ranching, or foraging, without the Gebo of honoring the cycles around us and taking care in our work, we do deep harm.  We can see the effects of this breakdown in how neonicotinoids are harming honey bees, how fracking is poisoning the water we drink, and how the elimination of predators has deeply upset the balance in regards to deer and similar animal populations.

Paying attention and honoring the cycles of life and seasons brings us into closer alignment with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.  Given a good number of the surviving holidays we have are directly tied to seasonal and harvest cycles, it also helps to place them into a context that makes a good deal more sense than celebrating because a date rolls around.  I think as polytheists, Heathens and otherwise, carry traditions forward even more variations will emerge based on the climates where we live.  Truly partnering with the Holy Powers in our lives is working with the cycles we have rather than the cycles we are told by a book we ought to be imitating.  Many of us live in places where the seasonal cycles are different from, or simply do not match those that have survived in lore and archaeology.  If we are to live in good Gebo with the Holy Powers we will need to adapt to the way things are.

Part of living in better Gebo with the Holy Powers also requires us to look at how we live outdoors.  What do our practices like gardening, farming, ranching, and the like have on the soil, the plants, the animals, and the water?  How does water flow?  Are the lands our homes rest on full of one-species non-native grass?  Why?  How can we better encourage native species to flourish?  How can we encourage the fertility in land, plant, and animals that makes life possible?   How do we live in good Gebo with the world around us?

I found myself seeing a lot of these answers in person at the Amma Center Amrita Farms in Ann Arbor and from the MI Folk School.  More importantly, Sylverleaf and I were able to get hands-on experience with these answers. We spent a day at the Amma Center with the people working on the farm area, permaculturists who have worked a great deal to help the land distribute water more effectively, and to utilize the space to greater effect for food production without using pesticides or insecticides.  We explored the creation of berms and swales, hugelkultures, crater gardening, the use of a keyline plow to make small keyline swales, the creation of compost tea, and small-scale orchard creation.

For those unfamiliar, here are some links for what berms and swales are, and how they are made.  This PDF explains berms and swales in pretty simple terms with explanations of when they are and are not good design ideas. This link has a good overview and video on swales.  This link shows berms and swales in action on a project for a front yard rain garden.  The work Sylverleaf and I did at Amrita Farms’ main area for berms and swales was to help transplant some apple trees out to areas better suited to them.  The staff led us on a survey of the berm and swale systems, and how it solved the Farms’ water flow problems.

What I want to stress here is that this is not fighting the landscape or imposing a system the land rejects.  Rather, it is helping the land to better work with water runoff to help solve water allocation issues one might have.  In many cases the berms serve not only as physical landscapes for the water to run over, but also a gathering point for plants to help combat soil erosion, helping to increase the ability of the land to keep its shape and provide fertility to the soil.  The swales give the water places to go without disrupting the landscape, and it helps catch water in the soil in a way that is efficient and works with the land rather than dumping all the water into a low point where it can attract mosquitoes and other insects.

In another section of the Farms, keyline plowing was used.  This link has a good overview on the technqiue.  It was done in an area where full-blown berms and swales would not have been desirable, and allowed for water to flow into the cut channels in directions that helped maximize water retention, and guided excess water to a pond.  Again, what was emphasized was this worked with the flow of the earth, with the keylines acting as guides for the water to flow.  While the Farms used laser-guided equipment and had a tractor come out to do the keyline work, we were shown that land surveying can still effectively be done by hand using simple survey techniques, and that (depending on the soil and one’s resources) having animals do the keyline plowing would not be out of the question.

The last, and for me the most fun I had at Amrita Farms, was when we made a hugel.  Hugelkultur is a beautiful way to compost wood, and a description of it is here.  Since we have a decent amount of deadfall at our home I am looking at making a hugel, though far smaller than the one we made at the Farm.  That’s the beauty of methods like these: most can be made to suit far smaller pieces of property than farms, and the projects that required mechanized equipment like the berms and swales, can be done by hand with a shovel or pick.

What I bring home from these workshops, again and again, is that there are far more healthy and wise ways to live in Gebo with Jörð than what capitalism and agribusiness continues to push at and on us.  These ways are far more accessible than one might think at first; permaculture can scale with one’s home and land (even if that land is, say, a community garden space), and hugelkulture can use great dead trees, or twigs as needed.  These ways, found in permaculture, gardening, various types of natural home-building, and so on, are ways we can live upon Her that helps us as people live more whole lives, and in doing so, bring us closer to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.  If we take in these ways and help to foster them in others, we can help our future generations survive and thrive.  Taking these steps to restore our connection and relationships with Jörð and the landvaettir takes the vital connections that were sundered in and between our communities, and seeks to tie them together even stronger,  I can think of precious few gifts we could give the next generation than a lived, healthy, powerful relationship with the Holy Powers, and lived, healthy, powerful, relationships with our communities, both grounded in trust, respect, and honor.

As I mentioned in Part 1, as I become inspired (or pushed, as the case may be) to write, I will add to this series of posts.

Connecting with the Gods, Ancestors, and Vaettir Outside Part 1

May 26, 2015 4 comments

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.

Day 30: Cleansing, Empowerment, Offering and Sealing -30 Days of Magic Talisman Challenge

December 13, 2013 2 comments

This day was an excellent end to the 30 Day Talisman Challenge.  The work started off with extra cleansing work: a traditional beer bath.  I drew up a hot bath, entered it, and prayed to the Gods and spirits of Water, thanking Them for cleansing me inside and out.  I had the bottle of Hofbräu Dunkel opened already, and brought it into the bath with me.  Standing in the bath, I prayed thanks to the brewers, and to the spirits of beer itself.  Then, I poured three times into the bath, thanking the spirits of Water and the beer as I did, and then poured the beer three times over my head, the beer flowing down my back and front.  The effect was immediate: I started to feel physically, mentally, and spiritually clean from the inside out.  I then poured the beer over my shoulders, my hands, genitals, and down towards my feet.  I then drank a little and left the remainder of the bottle outside the bath.

I expected to be very sticky but I was not.  Quite the opposite; I felt better than if I had used soap.  As I cleaned myself in the bath, I plunged my head into the water and came out feeling as though all the cobwebs were gone.  I then galdred Midgarð’s Name, calling upon it to help me ground, center, and shield.  I then called upon Ansuz and Gebo, as I usually do, to continue the cleansing work with Ansuz, and finish the grounding and centering with Gebo.  I then let out the water, feeling very clear inside and out, and waited until the water and beer had completely gone down the drain before stepping out.

I dressed in fresh clothes, then cleaned out the offering bowls to Runátýr and the Runevaettir, then offered blood, and my last bottle of Hofbräu Original to Them.  When this was done I went to the Rune altar.  I thanked the Gods and spirits of Fire for blessing, cleansing, and protecting the area and I for the 30 days of work.  I prayed thanks for the 30 days of work Runátýr, the Runevaettir, and I  had done together, for the blessings, power, and grace They had bestowed upon the talismans.  Then I did the empowerment work with Them for the last time before the sealing work.

I picked up a copper-bottomed pot and an aluminum pot from the local PTO thrift store for doing sealing work with these talismans, and other pieces I have done.  First I had copper-bottomed pot come to a boil on the stove, and placed the aluminum pot on top of it.  There were still some of the beeswax in the bottom of the pot from the test I had done with an Ægishjálmur talisman that I made some time ago, so I did not have to cut up too many chunks from the beeswax slab.

Both talismans were done the same way:  When the beeswax became clear, I placed the talisman in with small tongs and swished it around the aluminum pot, and then flipped it, coating both sides.  I took the talisman out, and placed it on a ceramic plate I had next to the stove.  While the beeswax cooled and hardened, I galdred the Runes of each talisman, moving it sunwise as I did.  When both were totally sealed I brought them back upstairs to lay on the Rune altar until the wealth talisman is given away, and I determine where the communion talisman needs to go.

This has been a great experience.  These 30 days of discipline and work have gone by well; the talismans hum and feel good to the touch.  I am eagerly awaiting giving the wealth talisman away at the Wandering Owl, and continuing to work with the communion talisman.  Thank you for starting this Challenge, Andrieh Vitimitus.  Thank you, who have watched this work progress, and thank you to all my fellow Challenge workers.  Blessings on each of you in this, and all Challenges ahead.  Thank you to the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits who have been directly involved, and supportive of this work.  Hail to you all.  Ves ðu heil!

Link to the Creation Ritual.

Link to Daily Empowerment Work.

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