I did not go to the Polytheist Leadership Conference because I made a promise to Mani. Between the promise and His gentle presence indicating ‘stay’ when I asked Him if I should ask to reschedule, I followed His lead. It tore at me; I really wanted to go, and meet people who I have talked online and on this blog with face-to-face, to share in workshops and ritual. I was asked by people I consider family to put on a ritual in Mani’s honor. When I accept such a thing, I treat it as a promise to my Gods that They will be hailed, offered to, and whatever the ritual(s) requires. My friends are the priests of a Wiccan church, Crossroads Tabernacle Church, and rather than keep up walls between our religions, they graciously asked me to put on a Northern Tradition ritual for this last Full Moon. I was and am honored by their request. The ritual for Mani went very well, and I am eager to do more Northern Tradition rituals with them.
In doing these rituals together we are drawing the circle bigger, while also drawing it closer to our hearts. There is no need to compromise our religions for one another if there is true respect for them. I have been working with this church for several years. At first I was just attending, and then, for the last four years, I have served as their youth minister. Never have I been asked to compromise my beliefs, nor break taboos. My friends have been greatly accommodating, and quite careful regarding them. They ask what I can or cannot eat, they are mindful of what taboos I am under if I have told them, and their sensitivity to my tradition and to the work I do has been one of many blessings they have given me over the years.
I am a person with his feet in many traditions. I am a Northern Tradition and Heathen polytheist. I am a shaman, priest, and godatheow of Odin. I am a priest of Anpu. I am a member of House Sankofa. I am a member of Urðarbrunnr Kindred. I am a member of the Thunderbird People. I am the facilitator of a Michigan Northern Tradition Study Group. I am a member of Crossroads Tabernacle Church as well as its Youth Minister. None of these groups contradicts or derides my beliefs. None of them provides harm to my hamingja. All of these affiliations, alliances, friendships, and group ties, together, enhance our hamingja and help it to grow.
Rather than building an impenetrable wall, the traditions and ways of the Northern Tradition ground my family, coreligionists, and I in a living religion that gives us a solid foundation to build from. The definitions and ways by which our tradition are defined bring clarity and understanding not only to ourselves in living this religion, but to others in being able to explain and share it. Rather than being terribly excluding, the beliefs and practices we keep are inviting while also keeping to that solid ground in respect and reverence for the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. Unless the Gods, Ancestors, or spirits are being disrespected there is no reason to not share in ritual.
How can we be in ritual together and respect one another’s traditions?
Respect and communication. After the priests of CTC asked me to put together a ritual, I asked permission from Mani if I could do a ritual on His behalf with the church. When He let me know His approval, I began writing the ritual. Well before the ritual the priests received a copy of the ritual outline. They, in turn, asked me if there was anything I needed for the ritual and what offerings to bring. They also asked me to help write up the announcement. It turns out this helped some of the youth, because in addition to food and herb offerings, Mani received two math problems as offerings. One was part of a sequence, whose name escapes me, and the other was a math problem the young person made up on the fly. There was also a choice: some of the offerings were going to be buried, and others burned. Both chose to burn their math offerings during the ritual. Knowing we were able to burn these on-site rather than off-site was a big plus.
These things are not different from when I enter into a Wiccan ritual. I did not ask each person “Are you polytheist?” before the Mani ritual any more than the priests ask “Are you Wiccan?” before a Wiccan ritual. I did not say “If you do not understand/know Mani as I do, you are wrong”. We were there to celebrate Mani together. That was made plain from the beginning of the ritual. From the beginning the expectation and the presence of respect for the God is there, and the understanding of what kind of ritual we are engaging in is there. It is understood if we are engaging in Wiccan ritual we use a Wiccan format for it, such as a circle casting, a calling to the Elements, and the Gods. Are there common elements to the rituals we engage in? Yes, although the way of cleansing and setting up of sacred space, and to Whom we call differ.
We came together as we usually did by taking three deep breaths and asking if there was peace in our circle. Instead of cleansing the space with a broom and lighting incense, we burned mugwort, cleansing the altar. I made a point of involving my son in this ritual, because, as I explained to those assembled, ours is a tribal religion in which our children are involved as much as the adults. I knelt to him so he could cleanse me first with Grandmother Una’s smoke, and then I cleansed him in kind. I then each person. Instead of a circle casting and calling in the Elements, we performed the Hammer Rite. I felt it was a good way to invite those who had never been in a Northern Tradition ritual into the rite in a way that felt familiar. So, we hailed the four Directions, Asgard, Helheim, and Midgard.
One major difference in this rite as opposed to many of the ones the church comes together in, is that there was no Drawing Down of Mani. Where the God and Goddess would have been called Down, there were offerings made to Him as we all sang, standing in His presence. There was time while we sang after the offerings were made for anyone who wanted to step forward to speak with Him or ask Him for a blessing. When all were finished we came back together, thanked Mani for His presence, thanked the Directions with the ending Hammer Rite, and ended everything with Sigdrifa’s Prayer.
Mani was received and treated with the respect and reverence as He is due. Some who had come to join in the ritual had never known Mani before, and left wanting to know more. Some had known of Mani but had never been in His Presence. The ritual left its mark on all who attended, including me. He was gentle, and patient, yet playful in His Full Moon face. He was patient as two youths, whom I am very proud of, placed math problems before Him to be burned as offerings. I could feel His brightness as we gathered in honor to Him, and His happiness at its end.
We do not have to leave one another at the crossroads of our communities. Rather, we can gather around them, celebrating with one another. We can sing, dance, offer, and hold rituals for our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir together, drawing the circle bigger, while respecting one another’s traditions.