Inspired by Galina Krasskova’s Agon dedicated to Gefjon, I wrote these two poems.
A Hailing Prayer to Gefjon
Hail to Gefjon, Far-seeing Goddess!
Hail to Gefjon, Who knows Her own Worth!
Hail to Gefjon, Who shapes liche and hame!
Hail to Gefjon, Who drives hard Her Oxen!
Hail to Gefjon, Who plowed and claimed Zealand!
Hail to Gefjon, Who claims Her own pleasure!
Hail to Gefjon, whose halls house the virgins!
Hail to Gefjon, Ásynja!
Hail to Gefjon, Mother of Jotnar!
Hail to Gefjon, Whose Consort is Skjöldr!
Hail to Gefjon, Whose Plow is Mighty!
Hail to Gefjon, Whose Courses are Swift!
Hail to Gefjon, Whose Lands are Fertile!
Hail to Gefjon, Whose Ways are Wise!
Land-finding Prayer to Gefjon
We seek, we seek land of our own
Growing green and good
We ask Gefjon to lend us your aid
So we may settle soon!
We ask for land for orchards
We ask for land for grain
We ask for land for goat, hive, and lamb
Whose harvests shall be great!
We seek, we seek a place to build
A hof to call our own
Where we can raise a horn to You
Within our hallowed home!
Holiness and Sacredness are Rooted Words: A Reply to John Halstead’s I Hold These Things to be Sacred
For clarity and to keep things as orderly as I can, I will be responding line by line to John Halstead’s post on Patheos, I Hold These Things To Be Sacred: A Reply to Sarenth Odinsson.
I intentionally avoided using names in my piece, Holiness is Rootedness, because I wasn’t talking specifically about one atheist Pagan or another. My entire point is in the first paragraph.
“In order to have a sense of what is holy, one must have ideas and concepts related to holiness. In order for these ideas and concepts to be related to holiness, it must have roots in a religion, a theological framework, in which holiness as a concept is able to take root. If one’s religious framework has no Gods, there is nothing to consecrate. If there is no God or Goddess, no Holy Power to consecrate, then there is no holiness just as there is no profanity or things lacking in that consecration. “
If you have no theological framework then there is no theology to explain what is or is not holy. If you have no theological framework to discern what holiness is, its qualities and characteristics, then you have no concept of holiness to draw upon. Atheism’s main characteristics are that there are no Gods, and most of the atheist lines in regards to religious thought and phenomena directly state that there is no such thing as a God, Goddess, Supreme Being, etc. Most, though certainly not all forms of atheism, reject religious cosmology. I find it odd that pointing this out is cause to offend someone who identifies as an atheist, though my article was certainly not aimed solely at Mr. Halstead.
You can say all you like that you believe that things are sacred or holy, but those words carry absolutely no theological or philosophical weight when you say them because you don’t actually believe in the Beings nor the cosmologies that imbue them with that weight to begin with.
“So, you know that feeling theists get when atheists tell them their gods are imaginary? I think I’m feeling something similar. Something like, “How dare you!”
Here’s what Odinsson says:
“If one’s religious framework has no Gods, there is nothing to consecrate. If there is no God or Goddess, no Holy Power to consecrate, then there is no holiness …”
“An atheist framework is one in which there is no God or Goddess, and thus, no sacred. One may hold things reverently, that is, with deep respect, but without a religious framework that very concept that one may hold anything as holy has no basis. An atheist claiming to hold something as holy is a person claiming something to which one has no right …””
I was pointing out what I had thought was patently obvious. I find it odd that Halstead is having such an emotional response when he has flat-out stated he does not believe in Gods. It would follow that there is no existent concept of holiness, as there is no theology in which holiness may take any kind of root. Keep in mind when I write Holy Power or Holy Powers, I include the Ancestors and vaettir, or spirits, in this. I don’t think that animists lack a conception of the holy, as in order to be an animist there is some sort of cosmology present, and accordingly, a way to establish things like what is sacred/not sacred.
“Atheism cannot be invested in this understanding as it has no basis for holiness and the sacred, as atheism denies both on their face by its very outlook. Atheism denies that Gods exist, and in so doing, denies the cosmology They are rooted within. The notion of holiness within an atheist context, therefore, cannot exist.”
Now, I’ve never really gotten along with Odinsson. (I think he was the same person who once threatened to punch me if he saw me at Pantheacon.) But I don’t think it should be only atheist Pagans or non-theistic Pagans who are upset by what he is saying here. Odinsson is saying if you don’t believe in the gods, then nothing is sacred or holy to you. Implied in this is the statement there is nothing sacred or holy in the world except the gods.
Nothing sacred in the world but the gods?!
Wow! I would have a hard time imaging a less “pagan” statement than that.
I am not the person who threatened to punch Halstead if I saw him at Pantheacon. I’ve never been to Pantheacon, and given the extreme amount of travel I would have to do and time off I would have to take right before ConVocation here in Michigan, I have no interest in doing so.
Note here that Halstead actually does not refute my points here, or anywhere in this post. He quotes me, but misses the point entirely. There is no implication that there is nothing sacred or holy in the world except the Gods. It is not surprising to me that he misses this point, as Halstead has no conception of holiness himself, and I imagine is probably not familiar with Northern Tradition or Heathen cosmologies. To be quick, the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are holy. The Gods and Elements Themselves are among our Ancestors. Many of the Gods directly made vaettir, i.e. Odin and His Brothers formed the Dvergar from maggots burrowing into the flesh of Ymir. Many Gods are part of the vaettir of this and other Worlds, and vice versa. For instance, landvaettir may be seen as being part of Jörð’s Body/Being, Jörð being one of several Earth Goddesses within Heathenry. Some vaettir have ascended into being or have become seen as being Gods unto Themselves, and some Gods have descended into being or have been seen as being vaettir unto Themselves. There are methods within the Northern Tradition by which an area may be made to be sacred, or that sacredness may be inborn to a place, such as a grove, or a prepared ritual area, altar, and so on.
There is something deeply disturbing, I think, about a paganism which cannot find the holy or the sacred in the earth or in another person.
Certainly, but that is not my position here, nor was it. I view Jörð, the Earth Goddess, as a holy Being. Do I view all the Earth as sacred? No, as I do not find CAFOs sacred, nor do I find the floating garbage that chokes the oceans sacred. Those, I find profane. Wrong. Unholy.
Are all people sacred? No. All people are bound together in Wyrd, but that merely makes you part of reality, not an inherently sacred person. It doesn’t mean people are valueless either, but sacredness actually means something in the Northern Tradition and Heathenry. Namely, that a thing, Being, place, etc. is dedicated to, belongs to, is consecrated by, or is devoted to the Holy Powers. This is why an altar is a sacred thing, a grove where rituals are performed, or a single tree representing Yggdrasil itself is regarded as sacred. These things are devoted and dedicated to the Holy Powers (Gods, Ancestors and/or vaettir) of the Northern Tradition and/or Heathenry. They are sacred.
As for myself, I hold these things to be sacred and holy: all life, the earth, nature, our selves, our bodies, our relationships.
They are not just things that I hold “reverently” or with “deep respect”; they are holy and sacred.
He says he regards these things as sacred, but without any of these things being involved with, dedicated to, devoted to, or consecrated to Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir, what are these words worth? Without the necessary relationship inherent in a cosmology, in which one relates to all life, the earth, nature, our selves, our bodies, our relationships, and so on, saying something is sacred or holy are empty words. Claiming one holds something sacred or holy without any requisite theology to back these words up is intellectually sloppy or dishonest.
“Holiness is rootedness,” says Odinsson. My religion is rooted. It is rooted in these things: Life, Matter, Relationship.
How can Halstead claim his religion is rooted when the soil of the Holy Powers is denied?
Indeed, how can Halstead claim to be religious whatsoever when he denies any of the requisite things for which religion itself functions: namely, to provide a framework for and means by which people may establish relationships with, interact with, revere, understand, and worship the Holy Powers? All these things Halstead claims his religion is rooted in has no meaning without an actual theology in which the sacred matters, and so long as the sacred is, in actuality, absent from his worldview and thus, any religion he would lay claim to, all these words are empty.
Something I have not done in a very long time is sat down to coffee with my Ancestors and Gods. I did it tonight/this morning, after taking care of the offerings and laying out fresh ones otherwise, all water, except for the stick of incense I left at the altars for the Ancestors, for the Dead and for the Gods.
I had two stools that belonged to people who are family to me, gifted to me before they took off for California. One stool holds a Native American head carved into an arm-sized log that I give offerings to as representative of some of the Native Ancestors in the ways I have been brought into. A while back I had used the other stool as part of an Ancestor elevation working, but it has sat in a corner since. Tonight, I brought up some coffee my wife had brewed earlier in the day. At first, I was going to sit on the floor at the Ancestor altar. I couldn’t see many of Them from down there, and besides, They wanted to see me too. So I dusted off the old stool, and sat at the Ancestor altar, lighting the candles in Ask and Embla’s tree candle-holders.
At first it was just…quiet, meditative even, serving Them coffee then myself. I usually drink my coffee with non-dairy sweetener like Coffee Mate or something like that, but it didn’t seem right in this context. So, I sat and drank my black coffee, and talked with the Ancestors about the week I’d been having, thanking Them for Their support, that kind of thing. Mostly it was quiet, just being in one another’s Presence. When it was over, and I thanked Them for coffee with me, I blew out the candles, and later lit some incense. I walked away from Their altar with a sense of peace and being cared for.
My experience with the Gods was similar, but even more silence, being quite brief with my end of talking, mostly thanking Them for Their Presence and blessings on my family, and helping me through the last week. It was mostly quiet, and considering the Work I’ve been doing for Them of late, I was okay with that. I left Their altar, after lighting incense for Them, with a sense of peace, but it…was deep. More than a sense of peace, really. A sense of rightness, even with all the challenges I and my family are facing right now.
I got the message to clean my cups out after each time with the Ancestors then Gods, and returned the cup to the altar, my cup’s holder facing me, and Theirs to Them. It looks like both sets of Holy Powers want this to be a more regular thing, so here’s a cup to a new tradition I’ll be keeping. Thanks for the inspiration from a while back, Jim. It proved a powerful, simple connection, one that I really needed.
Thank You, Gentle Lady
You have shown me that holding the bowl
That being the one Who listens
Is Victory when pain is contained
or cast out
Thank You Holy Goddess
You have shown me how hard it is
to hold with quaking hands
Yet to hold still
because it is the right thing
Thank You Blessed Sigyn
You have shown me through others
the depth of love You have
for Your children, for us,
and all who come to You
Thank You Sigyn
For humbling me
For gifting me with Your Presence
though I am not Your child
and for showing me new ways
of love and frith
Hail, Hail, Hail!
I made this song listening to Skrillex and Innerpartysystem. For some reason Odin’s Hanging on the Tree kept coming to mind, so I wrote this.
I wrote a critique of Harner-style shamanism in response to a blog commenter post on Ms. Krasskova’s Gangleri’s Grove. It eventually grew into a long post that had to be reposted in several places.
I am interested in hearing others’ views on this topic.