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ConVocation 2016

December 21, 2015 Leave a comment

Hey folks, I have been asked to do several presentations at this year’s ConVocation.   When I know which rooms I will be presenting in, I will update this blog post.  I am really, really excited for this year’s offerings that were picked.

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.
This year I will be putting on three workshops:

 

Acts of Devotion –  Thursday 8:30pm – 90 minutes

Description:In this workshop and discussion we will explore ways to honor our Gods, Ancestors, and spirits. These ways can be small, such as daily prayer, offerings, everyday mindfulness, and keeping ourselves healthy and engaged in the world, to more intense ways such as learning crafts, writing books, engaging in activism, spiritual work, and making temples. Bring your own experiences to share.

Polytheism 101 –  Friday 4:00pm – 90 minutes

Description:This lecture/discussion will dig into the basics of what polytheism means, and how it is lived. We will be exploring how we can use literary and archaeological resources as springboards and foundations to polytheist traditions. We will also explore what the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits are, how we relate to Them as polytheists, and how to engage Them with respect.

Encountering the Runes –  Sunday 12:00pm – 90 minutes

Description: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.

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Speaking

October 26, 2015 4 comments

Working with the dead is rough

They brush your mind, with little thought to how raw they feel

Their lives spill out upon you without filters, the ones who share the most, open skies raining on your head

The Disir and the Väter can be the roughest

When They speak, They speak in power

It shakes you, the voices of ages, the ten thousand and more generations of Dead, Gods, vaettir, all speaking with a few voices

Those voices thunder through you

Voices whose names have passed from memory

The recent Dead whose names still hurt

The ten thousand ten thousands and more who stand behind us

The Dead are speaking, and we need to listen

No matter how rough They speak

ConVocation 2015

January 27, 2015 Leave a comment

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.
I will be part of two different workshops this year.  The first will be Thursday at 8:30pm in the Greenfield Room.
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.
The second will be Sunday at noon in the Greenfield Room as well:
This panel will explore what each member’s path is, and how each member carries their traditions forward.
My fellow panelists are:
Eli Sheva
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
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
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
So there you go, folks.  Come on out and see me, and my fellow presenters at Con.  It’s a great way to get to know folks outside of our online profiles, blogs, and posts.

Sharing Ritual, Sharing Community

July 29, 2014 10 comments

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.

Dialogue with Pop Culture Pagans

May 19, 2013 6 comments

I am trying to have respectful dialogue on something I have intense feelings rooted in my religion, beliefs, and understanding of my Gods, Ancestors, and spirits. I understand that for those who engage in Pop Culture Paganism their feelings are probably similar if not the same towards their own Gods. I am trying to open up dialogue about something that I nearly destroyed all bridges with my family over and have dedicated my life to.

Part of my reluctance to engage is recognizing from talking with people near me, as one put it, that “You are too engrossed in your worldview to see another’s”. And you know what? That is a valid point, and one I raise to Christians when they deny the whole existence of my Gods.

I also ask ‘does my engagement actually engender frith?’ I am unsure if my writing did anything beyond preach to a choir and alienate others. I felt a compulsion to write it, out of frustration and anger at what I found to be something that I felt was insulting to my Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and I. I have issues with definitions of Paganism already, and this was one more thing that I feel that takes away from that understanding.

My point in my articles is not that Pop Culture Paganism is evil, but I admit in several places where I have weighed in that I cannot understand it. It does not make sense to me.  I don’t mind that people use statuary as stand ins for Loki, or they derive benefit from using iconography and such from another medium. I recognize that my approval probably means nothing to people engaged in religious devotion to Gods I don’t worship. I happen to use Dryad Designs’ depictions of my Gods (Odin and Freya thus far, and I’m on the lookout for Frigga) because they click with me. If Loki-as-Joker works for you, I’m fine with that. What I do not understand is the worship /of/ Joker. Or Batman.

In the article I wrote I expressed that I could not conceive of worshiping Batman or developing a devotional relationship with him, and then go on to compare and contrast it to heiti. I ask the question: “Which Batman?” among others.  Which comic do I take as an understanding of Batman? How do I verify this is indeed Batman the spirit, as opposed to a spirit wearing Batman’s face? I assume that similar methods if not the same methods I would use to check if the spirit that answered my call to Odin is Odin Himself or someone wearing His guise. However, I don’t know because it is not something I have done.

I have had revelatory experiences in my car listening to the radio. Does that mean that the artist whose song I have listened to is a prophet of this or that God, Goddess, Ancestor, or spirit? No, my Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits used a medium to communicate with me.

In the post I recently wrote I cited my Great-Grandfather’s journey here from Holland to America at the open of WWI when the fear was that there would be an invasion. He came to a country where he had some relatives, but he could not speak the language well. He made his life here success by success and mistake by mistake. I do not understand the process that puts his life story, one of my heroes, alongside Batman’s. I attended my Great-Grandfather’s funeral and heard his life story several times over the course of my life. I saw his ship records; he has a concrete place in this world, in my Ancestors’ House, and in my life for the little amount of time I knew him in life. He sang to me songs in broken Dutch and English, and gave me a harmonica to remember him by. Batman does not and has not done these things for me. How could he?

I use Batman here because I really like this character, especially from the 90s animated series voiced by Kevin Conroy, the Dark Knight Trilogy, and the Arkham Batman games. Have I been inspired by Batman? Sure. He was a part of my early childhood and helped form it with his stories, just as Spider-Man did. I spent a good deal of time watching both with my Dad and it helped to form dialogue between us on religion, revenge, the use of power, the poor, mental health and mental health care, the difference between reality and fiction, and so many other things. I suppose where I come to the difference, beyond ‘my Great-Grandfather lived’, is that Batman never came to me in a vision, or when I thought “Man, I could really use Batman right now.” The Gods did. When I was a Catholic, Yahweh, Jesus Christ, and the Virgin Mary, as well as St. Francis de Assisi did.

A worthy point Sannion brought up is if indeed these are spirits unto themselves, then what if they would actively deny our worship, or worse, be insulted by it? I.e. Batman, I am fairly sure given my experience of Batman through the comics, movies, games, etc. would balk at being worshiped and would not answer. Perhaps that is me just lore-thumping with a comic book instead of an Edda. How does one enter into such a religious cultus and culture and keep a sense of discernment and sense of sanctity for Gods I consider to be more real than comic book ones that are worshiped?

So the challenge could be one where I would say “Okay, I don’t believe on whit of this, but I’m willing to entertain the notion, so here we go: I’ll buy a Batman action figure or print a picture and put it aside from my Gods and give it worship as I might my Gods. It won’t go on my God altar, but I’m willing to entertain this notion.” 
Then I think about it, and what that worship means to me, to my Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, and I cannot do it. I can’t go that far, and I admit that. At the risk of insulting you, and your own religious path, I don’t look at it as a negative, because I see such a thing as debasing my religion, of saying to my Gods “you are like this fictitious being to me”. It insults me, and from my perspective, and my religious training and beliefs it insults my Gods to do so.

I’m all for people worshiping whatever Gods they want to, and at the end of the day, I recognize that my voice means relatively little in the course of whether or not someone will call me wrong for worshiping Loki the way I do when they take their inspiration of worship from Marvel. They still may feel the need to say it, even if I don’t respond to it, or they may strike a dialogue with me and explain why they find the Marvel Loki more spiritually fulfilling than the Loki I know.

I think that part of the importance of my engaging with Pagans who engage Pop Culture as a source for their Gods, is to say that “I do not believe this, but I am willing at least to hear it. I won’t shout you down, but I will probably not accept it.” People may well come to me tomorrow asking for help, or I may be called upon to engage with them by my Gods, and rather than close myself off wholly to them, I think that the middling ground of “I respect your right to have your religious experiences, but I do not look at them as I will my own. If you can handle that we can continue.” If their response is “If my Gods are not welcome/respected as I respect Them I cannot treat with you” I can respect that in the larger sense; I have the exact same response to places where Loki is forbidden. I cannot go there, and cannot ask you to either. 

If your devotion to your religion and/or your Gods is that deep, let me give a heartfelt hurrah for you. I can at least nod and say “I respect your right to worship who and what you wish. I don’t understand it, I may not accept it as valid for my religion, practices, beliefs, etc. but that, ultimately, is between you and the Gods.” Hell, if your religious devotion is deep you’re doing better than a lot of so-called religious people, Pagan and not. Where I would have harsh words is if, as I have seen insisted on Tumblr, that Marvel’s Loki is the real one, and any of us who go “Wait, our understanding of Loki is based in the myths and legends and our experiences of Him through that lens” are told we are wrong. My Gods are not revealed to me in fiction.  While my understanding may, in some cases be informed by fiction, i.e. I still ‘see’ Thor with blond hair rather than red as is depicted in the myths, I do not believe They should not be placed in the same category as fiction or fictitious beings.  I cannot treat Batman, or any other superhero with the same religious reverence as my Gods, my Ancestors, or the spirits with whom I work.

Superheroes are Not Worthy of Worship

May 16, 2013 3 comments

This post was inspired by this one on Patheos by Sunweaver.

The comic book heroes I read about and watch are not worthy of worship.

If I need help I cannot call on Batman to lend me aid any more than I can call upon Wolverine to lend me strength in battle. Could a spirit become invested with that power? I could see where a spirit would be happy to piggy-back on the following certain characters in fiction get, such as those above. But it would not be Batman or Wolverine in any meaningful sense.

Batman, with all of his iterations, may have a core story, but many are so spaced apart that calling on ‘the spirit of Batman’ is chaotic. Do you get the early 1940s Batman? Adam West’s? Kevin Conroy’s? Or perhaps one of exclusively toy line Batmans that float around after a new movie, with only the costume and some items to go with it?

This is nothing like heiti. In calling upon Odin, or perhaps upon Him via one of His heiti I am calling to a particular part of Him that was known, and that corresponds to Him in some concrete way. As Runatyr I get a very different aspect of Odin, but unlike the Batman example I give above, Runatyr is still Odin, not reimagined,  or, as in the case of Batman 52, rebooted, but simply focused upon in a different way. Rather than focusing upon His qualities and Being as a God of inspiration, for instance, in praying to and calling upon Him as Runatyr I am desiring a connection to the Runemeister, to the God of Runes. I cannot confuse this with another spirit; it is utterly Odin’s name, likeness, and Being in conjunction with this heiti. There is no ‘alternate universe’ so to speak, ala Universe 52, where Runatyr is the essence of Odin and not His heiti.

Okay, well, we’re talking about heroes and superheroes. So what about Egil Skallagrimsson or Olvir of Egg or, more close to home, those of our Disir or Väter who we know as our recent Dead?  Batman is as worthy of veneration and worship as my Great-Grandfather?  Batman, while I find him a really cool comic character and many of his qualities good to emulate, is not and was not a flesh and blood person.  The story of the Dark Knight movies, while fun to watch and in many cases a good meditation on justice, desperation and a good deal of other themes, is not the story of how my Great-Grandfather sailed into America with few possessions and laid down new roots here with the few family members already settled here.  Batman, while a human-like story, is not a human story.  Likewise, my Great-Grandfather’s story is neither allegory nor metaphor, but history and the lore of my family.  I can visit his grave; I attended his funeral.  I may tell his story as a metaphor or allegory, especially if I find the telling the story may help another, but Great-Grandfather’s story is his life retold, not a reimagined character.  He embodies the story, even as I tell it, even if I miss details, or intentionally focus on others.  When I tell Great-Grandfather’s story, it is not some New 52 Great-Grandfather, but he as he has come to me in understanding from my family, from my interactions with him, and my understanding of his story, its places in my life and how it can touch others.

Our heroes are real.  These people, our Pagan and Heathen heroes and martyrs are real.  They lived.  Their stories reach out to us, many lives ending in supreme amounts of pain in devotion to their Gods.  These, these are people, Holy People worthy of worship and remembrance .  I can raise a horn to these People, write a paean to Them, hail them as Ancestors.  These are people I can look to for greatness, for devotion, as exemplars.

One Move Forward

April 24, 2011 2 comments

Had a great move forward today: I told my folks I would be heading to bed after I lit a candle and some incense and made some prayers.  They just shrugged and said “Okay” and went to bed.  On Easter Sunday.  We have come a long way in seven years.  Thank the Gods for communication, respect, and love.  Thank the Gods.  If I had suggested anything like this a few years ago there would have been objections, and loud ones at that.

I don’t think it lessens them as Catholics, nor does it ‘put their house in danger’ for me to pray to my Gods like this.  The fact that they’re willing to have plurality like this at all is a blessing.  So, when people ask me “Can Pagans live alongside Christians?” I answer with an unequivocal “Yes!”.  Even though it may take time for our ways to become accepted, it is possible.  My parents are devout Catholics, and it has cheapened neither of our faiths to have dialogue and to pray alongside one another.  We may not say the same prayers at mealtime, but we nonetheless pray together, asking blessings upon one another with one another.  That peace and respect, to me, is what matters at the end of the day.

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