Patreon Topic 71: On Connecting With Wolf Parts

“What is it like connecting with a wolf pelt or other wolf parts?”

If you want to submit a topic you would like me to write on for this blog or my Patreon, sign up for the Ansuz level or above here on my Patreon. From Maleck comes this topic:

“What is it like connecting with a wolf pelt or other wolf parts?”

When I first bought my wolf pelt from Lupa, whose stores are on Etsy and Storenvy, I had to let it air out. I had to give it time to breathe I would be able to don it. When I finally did, it was like slipping on my own skin and fur. When I was able to ritually connect with it, it felt like a completion, a marriage of what was inside and outside. It felt like coming home. Home to myself, home to us.

A tintype photograph of the author at Ann Arbor Pagan Pride. Credit to Stephen Boyce.

I still get that feeling when I handle my wolf skin. I carry that feeling of connection whether it is on me, lying on my partner, or in my room. There is a feeling of weight in handing it to another person because they are handling a one of my souls.

The feeling of connecting with my wolf pelt in ritual is generally a full sensory one. The feeling of the skins contacting each other, of skin on skin and a kind of overlapping feeling in my souls. I would frequently pull the head down over my eyes so I would be looking through the wolf eyes, and there was that feeling of us that would come over me much stronger than if I left his head atop mine. Smells and sounds would strengthen sometimes, and sometimes they would muffle. Tastes might be sharper or duller depending on what it is I’m munching on. Sometimes, particularly if engaging in something involving hamfara (faring forth in hamr) I might feel myself go forth as a large wolf. Otherwise, I might feel like I am going forth as a werewolf, or úlfheðinn.

Connecting with a wolf pelt can be quite a powerful experience for other folks as well. Particularly if a person has never seen a wolf up close, it can be shocking just how big a wolf can be. My wolf is about 6′ from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail. When folks have asked permission in places like Ann Arbor Pagan Pride, ConVocation, or Michigan Paganfest, them touching and being able to pet the pelt can be a powerful experience. When folks touch, paw at, or pet my pelt without my permission (particularly if I am wearing it) it feels like a violation, often uncomfortable and invasive.

Because I do not wear the pelt for only aesthetic purposes, I do not relate to it as a mere costume. It is a soul, one of my own, and its own as well. It is the skin of a living being and that living being connected with me in a deep manner, becoming part of my (to borrow a term from Winifred Hodge Rose) my ‘soullar system’ or Soul Matrix. It also acts as a kind of connection point, doorway, or den, from which contact wolf and wolf-aligned Ginnreginn, that is Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, may work through. When folks have held the pelt it has produced powerful connections. I have seen some folks brought to tears in this, because the connection was profound, visceral, and needed.

With the number of rituals, gatherings, and such I have brought the pelt to, and the nature of our connection, the connection I have with it is powerful and profound. My connection with wolf parts in general is not as well-developed nor intimate, as there is not the body-on/with-body and hamr-to/with-hamr connection I carry with the wolf pelt. However, there is still quite powerful and profound connections to be found here. Sometimes I work with teeth as connection to wolf Ginnreginn, and others as taufr (physical objects that are enchanted) in their own right. A lot of wolf parts, such as the phalanges and teeth, tend to be small and easy to carry, making it easier to pass on to others. I am slowly assembling a wolf bone divination kit, and having different parts is key to producing useful answers. So far, the items that are going into this divination system have obvious meaning, such as a tooth being something used to rip, tear, shred, destroy, and to eat, carrying a lot of this meaning into the divination work. I am sure as time goes on more meanings will make themselves apparent, particularly if I collect more kinds of teeth, or the need for various parts comes forward.

Whether a single tooth, a phalange, or a whole pelt, these parts of wolves provide points of connection to Wolf Ginreginn, the Wolf Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. They provide connection to úlfheðnar, and various folks who were seen or understood as being and/or existing between human and wolf. They serve as connection points that I carry with me for personal spiritwork and for connections with others, and for connecting others to Them in kind. Sometimes, connecting with wolf parts provides connections between all of us. For me, all these ways hit me in my souls that provides a kind of feeling most often of family, pack, tribe, of being and belonging. When I work with them in spellwork and spiritwork, there is a feeling of being wholly involved.

Patreon Topic 69: On Priesthood

If you want to submit a topic you would like me to write on for this blog or my Patreon, sign up for the Ansuz level or above here on my Patreon.
From Maleck comes this topic:

“Your experiences specifically with priesthood, what it means and how it has worked for you.”

Before I dig into this I think defining terms is a pretty necessary thing. Every time I have talked at length, even in polytheist, animist, and Pagan spaces, folks tend to mistake priesthood for clergyhood. I have spent time in previous posts on priesthood exploring this in depth. However, I think our recent in-person conversation illustrate the differences well, and briefly to boot: Priests face the Gods while clergy face the people. The needs and requirements of being a priest are different even if a person ends up having to wear both hats or more in service to their community.

Since I understand priesthood as facing the Gods and serving Them, my experience of being a priest for both Óðinn and Anpu reflect this.

What it means to be a polytheist priest is that you are a servant of a God or many Gods. In my case, I am an independent Heathen priest of Óðinn and an independent Kemetic priest of Anpu. I specify my independence for two reasons: one, most of my experiences of being called to and engaging in priesthood for these Gods is modern and two, disconnected from any mainstream polytheist religions that hold priesthood or clergy status with these Gods. Due to my background, my experiences and practices will likely differ from those who are in more mainstream religious practices. I was brought into these Gods’ service through direct experience and guidance by Their hands, and much of my journey in service with and to Them reflects this. While I have had Elders and such over the years, they have come and gone and much of the Work I engage in for my Gods remains regardless of this coming or going of the people in my life.

For me, this service to Óðinn as a priest has been to make cultus to Him, to teach others how to serve Him, and to engage with the mysteries He shares with me and the spiritual Work He assigns to me. It is working with and understanding the Runes as vaettir, and working with Them in magic. Much of my work over time of being a priest of His has merged with my work as a spiritworker. The bright line between my work as a priest and a spiritworker is that my work as a priest is, primarily, to and for Him. My work as a spiritworker, by contrast, tends to be connective between folks and the Ginnreginn, whether that is making prayers here on my blog, or doing Rune or spiritual consultation.

While the line between being a priest and being a spiritworker is fairly bright at times, there is also a lot of overlap between the two. Many of my acts of service beginning in my priestly service to Óðinn have brought me into spiritwork. Nowadays is there much of a difference?

I think the big difference is that my service as a priest and the focus of that role belongs to Óðinn alone. My work as a spiritworker may involve Him, and involve cultus to/with Him, but it is not solely for Him. Much of my spiritwork is connective for/to others, and much of my work as a spiritworker is in service to building connection, relationship, and/or spiritual consultation and spiritual troubleshooting with a variety of Ginnreginn. Some of these Ginnreginn, that is, Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, may not be part of my regular cultus at all. Many of the Ginnreginn I have made prayers for are not part of my hearth cultus or any of the specialized cultus I personally hold, yet that is part of my service as a spiritworker.

My priesthood with both Óðinn and Anpu may have spiritual skills that include spiritwork components, such as divination, hamfara (faring forth in my hamr or second skin), and/or the construction taufr or amulets, but these are not solely spiritworker skills. The skills certainly stack with each other quite well, even having similar if not the same utility to the user. In many ways being a priest it is far less demanding in its requirements than being a spiritworker. While the time I have devoted to studying the Runes has been involved, and likewise developing spiritual skills such as hamfara, there are less demands on my time by Him in my priest role than there is when I serve others as a a spiritworker. The focus of the skills and their provenance differ, though, from priest to spiritworker. Even if I worked with no physical human beings and only had a community of vaettir, spirits, to work with/for, I still understand the difference is my service as a priest and that of a spiritworker is my priest role’s focus belongs to Óðinn alone.

Much of my work as a priest to Anpu has dropped away over the years. When Óðinn hit my life Anpu intentionally backed away. Much of the intense Work I did with Anpu, including tending His shrine weekly, traveling in spirit to with Him and doing Work He assigned me, and ongoing work with the Dead either stopped or changed forms in my more primary Heathen path and relationship with Óðinn that had come to the fore. My aesthetics changed along with it. I traded in white muslin cloth ritual robes for linen, wool, and fur ritual clothes. I traded in mostly copper and bronze ritual tools for iron and steel ritual tools. Whereas I had few ritual weapons in my priesthood to Anpu, I have many with Óðinn, some of which are shared with my spiritwork. Another large difference is in how my priesthoods are expressed. Anpu’s priesthood was highly regimented and often I encountered it in a strict ritual space, including ritual cleanliness requirements. While I do encounter Óðinn in regimented ritual space, and do keep myself ritually clean, it is not as exacting as Anpu’s, and much of Óðinn’s priesthood is like an ongoing experience where He walks beside me. While both Gods have emphasized ritual protocol of varying kinds over the year, the way They have done so is very different to one another.

In my experience being an independent priest of Óðinn is fulfilling work in and of itself. What I do regularly in service to Him is relatively straightforward: namely I perform cultus, which includes making offerings and prayers to Him. I keep oaths and obligations to Him. I perform other spiritual work as He brings it to me to be done. Sometimes this overlaps with my spiritworker role, and sometimes it does not. The work of a priest is service to and for Him.

Patreon Topic 63: On Being a Teacher in the Community

If you want to submit a topic you would like me to write on for this blog or my Patreon, sign up for the Ansuz level or above here on my Patreon.

From Maleck comes this topic:

“What’s it like being a teacher in the community?”

It depends on the subject at hand, if I am teaching students or peers, and who the larger audience receiving the information may be. Whether it is here on the blog through topics, at conventions like ConVocation, MI Paganfest, or Ann Arbor Pagan Pride Day teaching through workshops, or direct teaching, I generally find teaching a rewarding and powerful experience. There are few things as gratifying as getting a good question from someone who has real engagement in the subject, or a question or comment that makes you sit back, go “huh” and plumb your own knowledge or the crowd’s for an answer. I enjoy teaching, and I enjoy the opportunity to learn while doing it, and to share what I learn wrapped up in that.

When I do workshops, I find that I tend to have a really good time because the folks that come to them want to learn, and/or have a good grasp of the subject and want to compare notes. That was definitely my experience at the recent Ann Arbor Pagan Pride Day September 10th, for both my Basics of Heathen Magic and Polytheism 101 workshops. Folks who turned out for them had really excellent questions, solid engagement, and abiding interest in the topic at hand.

I would say a good chunk of what is challenging about being a teacher in the Heathen communities has nothing to do immediately with my students, peers, or folks that come to learn from me. Rather, it is the overall cultural currents we swim in, both in terms of the overculture and that of the general Heathen communities, that makes the work of being a teacher so hard. On the one hand folks want to be taught and to have spiritual experts available, and on the other, there is not a lot of support for us doing that work in a reliable way. Many Pagan communities eschew paying folks for their work, whether that work is divination, teaching, developing training materials, etc, yet the demand is still there for that work.

The need for teachers becomes fairly obvious in the dialogue that still happens around concepts like orthodoxy and orthopraxy, terms that describe right thought and right action. Often, because of how terms like orthodoxy are used and weaponized in Christian theology and communities, Pagan and polytheist folks tend to have reactions against the use of the term. I have also seen similar reactions to direct translations of the term, eg right relationship. Some of these objections are based in the notion that someone is trying to mediate their relationship with the Ginnreginn, and some are based in a rejection of anything that smacks of authority. Because of these prevailing views in the polytheist and Pagan communities, it makes deeper discussion of these concepts harder, if not impossible. I have found that presenting these as the neutral, descriptive terms that they are, as opposed to the often prescriptivist way they are used in Christian theology and communities, is a good counteractive to this. That requires us to be open to education, to communicating well, to deconstructing Christian theology and use of terms, and no small amount of patience.

Much of the reason for the two workshops I put on for Ann Arbor Pagan Pride is not only because those subjects are really useful in the context of being part of a Pagan Pride event, being 101 workshops, but because the sources we do have for solid historically-based information, especially with regard to modern and updated texts, are expensive and difficult to parse at times. Even in more approachable texts, like Dr. Price’s The Viking Way, they tend to be dense/hard to get through, and terms need to be broken down and made meaningful for a modern Heathen context. The meaningfulness here not only needs to be meaningful in regards to being able to be understood in a Heathen context, it also needs to be able to be applied to Heathen practice.

For an example of this, from Price:

“Besides the magic used by Óðinn, we also find the fifth category of ‘general’ sorcery. One aspect of this has a vocabulary of terms that appear to mean simply ‘magic’ in the same vague sense as we use the word today. The most common of these was fjolkyngi, which seems to have been especially well-used. In the Old Norse sources we also find fróðleikr, and slightly later, trolldómr (cf. Raudvere 2001: 88ff). The latter concept became increasingly common through the Middle Ages, and together with galdr it continued as one of the generic words for ‘witchcraft’ long into post-medieval times (see Hastrup 1987: 331–6 for Icelandic terminologies of magic during this period). There were also other terms which were used as collectives. These include gerningar, ljóð and taufr – all apparently kinds of chant or charm – and the complexities of runic lore as set out in Eddic poems such as Sigrdrífomál and Rígsþula. Another group of terms refers to various forms of unspecified magical knowledge, and include affixes implying this on the part of people or supernatural beings. Thus we find vísenda-, kúnatta- and similar words used for ‘those who know’, a relatively common perception of sorcerous power that occurs in many cultures.” (Price 33)

“The fabric of religious belief and practice in Viking-Age Scandinavia can be seen to have been nuanced, multi-scalar and far from static, with a degree of regional variation and change over time.” (Price 33)

I had to break down these terms and suggest ways we may use them in a modern Heathen context. In this way we continue to change the fabric of religious belief, nuance, and the application of these terms in a descriptive rather than prescriptive way for ourselves in our own time. For instance, while I often combine galdr (I tie this into singing/intoning the Runes) with the formation of taufr (physical charms) and other forms of magic techniques such as gerningar (chanting, sometimes mumbled under the breath) and ljóð (chanting or incantation which I interpret as being in verse, whether alliterative or rhyming), each stands on their own as a magical technique in its own right. Clearly definining and then applying these terms gives us a wider array of words, and in doing so, ways, of understanding magic.

Keep in mind these workshops are just at the 101 level. Being a teacher in the communities I am part of requires a recognition that folks are at wherever they are at when we come together. Some will have an excellent grounding in exoteric and esoteric Heathenry, whereas some will have a poor grounding in the exoteric parts of the religion, and others will have a poor grounding in esoteric religion. Sometimes folks will just be inexperienced with polytheist religion in general, or not have a good grounding in either exoteric or esoteric Heathenry. Having a mix of exoteric and esoteric practice in and of itself would not be at issue if it were grounded firmly in the Heathen worldview, experience, and understanding. So, I have to establish where we are. I often do this in my 101 workshops by starting off defining terms so we have a foundation to build conversation on. Unless we make these firm foundations deeper conversations are almost impossible to have. Once we have a shared language around the subject we can dig into it.

Part of the work of being a teacher is to ensure, as much as I can, that those I teach have a firm grounding in the material and its meaning. So long as folks are coming into our various polytheist and Pagan communities with these ideas grounded in worldviews other than our own this basic education will be necessary. To be clear: A lot of this I do not have to explain to my kids, who are second generation Heathens. It is a part of how they live their lives. This education is, by and large, necessary for those who were not raised in the religion.

Some of the reason for that lack of need to educate them is that my kids are only practicing exoteric Heathenry. My oldest has not expressed interest in learning esoteric practices, and my youngest is way too young to learn at the moment. Gods help me, though, she loves the Runes. When we go to have breakfast, she often picks ‘coffee Runes’ from my arms (I have tattoos on my forearms displaying all the Runes) that she has me ‘takes off’ my arm, puts them into my coffee, and than has me galdr the Rune. Then, I drink the coffee. It’s a fun way to share the Runes with her and empower myself for a full day. What esoteric practices my kids have learned are immediately applicable to exoteric practice and everyday life, namely cleansing by deep breathing. They have learned prayers and proper respect to show with the hearth, Sacred Fires, and other places the exoteric and esoteric tend to cross.

Teaching a workshop or even over the course of a weekend is one thing, but teaching folks in an ongoing way is a lot different. My Kindred started as a Rune study group, and eventually transormed into a Heathe Kindred, Mimisbrunnr Kindred, over about a year or two. Some folks from here asked for training in different areas, and delved into spirtwork in their own ways. Just being available has been a good part of my work with one-on-one work. Being available to answer questions, guide, or ask questions to help folks find their own answers, it is less the way we think of teaching in terms of a professor and student and more of a “I’ve walked this path and I’m here to help guide”.

Being a teacher, I get invited to help folks with their journey wherever they are when they come forward. Seeing folks really dig into their religion, whatever their experience with it, and getting to understand how it works and where they are within it is a gratifying thing. If I happen to get to help along that journey, if I can make a material impact on how they learn, what they learn, and make that easier or more involved or both, so much the better. The reason I teach is because the Ginnreginn call me to do it. On its own that is enough. What makes my work all the more gratifying is being able to see the folks I teach make progress as part of taking a workshop, watching a video, or asking me questions through email or Discord. Sometimes I have had folks come back to me a few weeks, months, or in some cases, years later, and share some of the absolutely amazing things they were able to do because of the time we shared. It really is an honor to do this work.

I have tried writing more on this but not much more is coming forward right now, so if you or other readers have more specific questions down this line please ask them!

Patron Topic 57: On Spirit World Politics Part 1

If you want to submit a topic you would like me to write on for this blog or my Patreon, sign up for the Uruz or Thurisaz level or above here on my Patreon.

From Maleck comes this topic:

“Would you mind discussing, as much as you can, your experience with politics in the spirit world, especially with how it can involve practitioners?”

I think that whether or not you understand there being politics in the spirit world is going to come down to your theological position on things. Within polytheism there is a breadth to understanding we can have regarding the way the cosmos was formed and functions. If you understand the Gods as being perfect, whole, unto Themselves and utterly benevolent, then politics as we understand them taking place within the various spirit Worlds may not make much sense. My own worldview is that the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are many, and so, among a great many things, politics varies between and among Them all.

Defining Politics and Exploring the Spiritual Implications

Before we go on, though, what do I mean when I am writing on ‘politics’? The Oxford English Dictionary define politics as “The activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.” I also find 1.5’s definition useful: “The assumptions or principles relating to or inherent in a sphere, theory, or thing, especially when concerned with power and status in a society.” These definitions work for our purposes.

We clearly have different political setups in the various home cultures these Gods were first worshipped by, eg chieftain-style in Nordic, and pharaonic with Kemetic. This can quickly get into “Is it the chicken or the egg?” type of questioning regarding a given political system. Since, as I understand it, the Gods are part of the undergirding of reality in profound ways, whether the political systems emerged from Them or not, all things are grounded in the Gods. I think it is entirely possible that some Gods favor certain political systems over the others, particularly when it comes to Gods who benefit from the establishment of Their order. It is also possible that a God may prefer no political system in particular.

Part of the reason I am not being too cut and dry here is because, while it is possible a given God may prefer a political system, They may have preferred a system They insituted but no longer exists, changed Their viewpoint over time, and/or Their view varies by political subject and Their worshipers at a given point in time. They may just be fine with taking us as we are now. It may also be a difference in interest even within a given God, eg Rúnatýr may not care as much as Óðinn about political organizations, hierarchy, etc, or only care insofar as these things matter with regard to understanding and working with the Runes. I also think it is entirely possible for one group of people to get one answer from a given God or an aspect of that God and for an entire separate group of people to get another answer and still be validly praying to, offering to, and communing with that God.

As if this is not complex enough on its own, add in the various vaettir, including our Ancestors and that of other vaettir such as landvaettir, Álfar, Dvergar, Jötnar, Aesir, Vanir, trolls, and so on. Every single vaettir, since They are a Being unto Themselves, may and likely does have varying political concerns from one another. I am also not assuming we are going to wander the Worlds and find that the Álfar have read and agreed with Kropotkin or the Dvergar with regard to Adam Smith or John Stuart Mills. Indeed, if I understand that each vaettr, that each spirit, is a Being Unto Themselves and the potential that I have as a being living and growing in Miðgarð is no less available to any other, then not only may each group of vaettir have Their own ideas of political theory, these may be more or less compatible with my own.

All of this is to say that anything I, or anyone else would have to say regarding our experiences of and with politics, political bodies, and views we have received from various Ginnreginn (Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir) in our communing with Them is our experience, and accordingly, the interpretation and understanding we have of it. I understand myself as an ecosocialist, that is, my politics’ first concern is right relationship with the environment, ecological care, and ecological justice. My framing and understanding of economics flowing from this: that the means of production should be owned and operated by the People rather than moneyed interests, and that for the People to have a good life the economy must comport with the limits of and be in right relationship with nature. Understanding my political perspectives allows me to compare and contrast between those of Others that I may experience in communing with the Ginnreginn, that is, the Gods, Ancestor, and vaettir. I also recognize that my political worldview may have everything or nothing to do with whether a given Ginnreginn wishes to develop a relationship with me. None of the Ginnreginn are monoliths.

Even to say that the Ginnreginn have politics is controversial. In part, it is because it is often seen as an invitation to Folkish and White Supremacists that they might be right. I want to put that to rest right now: this understanding that the Ginnreginn only can develop relationships with what we in modern times understand as white people unnecessarily limits the Ginnreginn’s ability to form and maintain relationships. It is an unncessary burden placed on Them by racist idealogues. Óðinn alone has crossed what we understand in modern terms to be lines of race, sex, gender, political, and ideological boundaries in His quests for knowledge, power, and wisdom. It is also ahistorical to ancient and medieval Scandinavians, who we take understanding and inspiration from, as going finnfarar or fara til finna to learn seiðr is remarked on in sagas. See The Viking Way by Neil Price, pg 225, for examples of this.

Basics of My Views on Spiritual Politics

So, all of this being said and out of the way, to Maleck’s topic request: “Would you mind discussing, as much as you can, your experience with politics in the spirit world, especially with how it can involve practitioners?”

Part of the core of polytheist and animist religions and thought are the formation and maintaining of relationships. While most Heathens are exoteric, Maleck specifically asks about practitioners, to which I take to mean spiritworkers of all kinds, magicians, and folks I will call heimrgangr, world-walker. In other words, these are folks who are engaged with esoteric practices.

I understand that the Ginnreginn have politics and are bound up in them not only in regard to relationships with us, They also are bound up with each Other in this way as well. I am fairly limited to what I can competently talk about here with regards to Gods and spirits outside of my particular Heathen worldview. In a way, limiting the conversation to Heathenry will help to highlight what politics can look like to folks when you develop and maintain relationships with a variety of Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.

I carry a number of baseline assumptions with regards to how I understand the Heathen Ginnreginn. First, we shall regard the Gods. I generally approach the Aesir, Vanir, and various Jötnar as tribes rather than separate species. Many of these tribes have Gods within them that share attributes, such as þórr and Farbauti being Gods associated with and/or wielding lightning and thunder. How They relate to these things and how They relate to us through these things is also part of our relationships, including political dimensions. I understand that many Jötnar are part of or aligned with natural forces, and so, there are Jötnar connected to Earth, Air, Ice, Fire, Water, as well as those connected with natural places such as bodies of water and mountains, and then there are Jötnar connected with natural Beings such as trees, wolves and elk. Mixed in an among these various Jötnar there are those that are easiest to refer to as being ‘monstrous’.

Many of the members, including but not exclusively Gods from these tribe intermarry, such as Freyr and Gerðr, adding complexity to Their relationships with one another and with us. What I find beautiful is that this complexity adds depth and nuance not only to our understanding of our Gods as Beings unto Themselves, it also adds this to the various things our Gods represent, teach, and impart through Their stories. In appreciating our Gods’ complexities we can better appreciate our own, and the varieties of interconnectedness there.

Coming to understanding that our relationships with our Gods have political dimensions has powerful implications for where we are in relationships with all our Ginnreginn, and all the things that follow from that. A relatively simple example is Jörð. Jörð is a Jötun, the Earth Herself. She is the mother of Þórr. So, anyone who says carte blanche that they are enemies of the Jötnar is literally admitting to being an enemy of the Earth. Anyone ascribing to Þórr a universal hatred of Jötnar is attributing a hatred to Him of His own Mother. So, declaring ourselves or the Gods as carte blanch enemies of this or that tribe, or this or that group of vaettir ignores the complexity of relationships that the Ginnreginn inhabit. By making such a declaration it is entirely to end up an enemy to a good many of the Gods in Heathenry.

This is not to say we need to like, befriend, or worship every God to have good relationships with those in our hearths. You do not have to like or worship Óðinn to worship Frigg or Þórr. Respect, though, is important. We gain nothing by disrespecting the Ginnreginn, especially ones Who are close to those we worship.

As we gain relationships with different Gods our relationships with different tribes or families of the Gods may change as well. In my own case I did not worship Loki or any of His Family starting off as a Heathen. I came to worship Loki after knowing and worshipping Óðinn. From coming to know and worship Loki I came to know and then worship Angrbóða, Jörmangandr, Fenris, and Sigyn. I went from fearing Fenris and refusing to worship Him, to worshipping Him in a “here’s an offering now please leave me the fuck alone”, to “You eat my Father at Rágnarök. I don’t like You for that….but I can understand You.” It is far, far too easy to merely cast Fenris as an out-of-control monster and that is all He is. If I love and count Loki as among the Gods most dear to me, for all the shit He catches from Heathens, let alone His fellow Gods, I should at least be willing to give His Son respect and try to understand His Children.

Not everyone is going to give Fenris that, and I get that. I used to feel intensely antagonistic towards Fenrisúlfr. Over time, though, as I came to deepen my understanding and relationship with Loki I softened, not only because I’m also a Dad, but because I loved Loki. How could I so viciously despise His Son for fulfilling what amounted to a self-fulfilling prophecy that Óðinn helped to propagate by His own actions? I have been in a situation where the weight of expectation has hurt me and then the people around me. If I could see that in myself I can see that in Fenris’ myths too. I found, as I explored these feelings and how I related to Fenris, what I was reacting too was far less Him, and more the feelings He brings up, and my own ‘inner monster’. The personal sure is political.

Ancestors can be a bit more personal. I reckon Ancestors as anyone who is part of our ancestry whether that is by blood, adoption, Ginnreginn, and/or initiated lineage. So, They easily intersect between various Ginnreginn. In my own case I do not understand nor came to understand the last name Odinsson lightly. There is connection with Óðinn as Father there, and it ripples out into all the relationships I have. Some of my blood Ancestors are staunch Catholics, and will refuse to have anything to do with me because of this. Some of my initiated lineage Ancestors happen to be Wiccan because I was initiated into Georgian Tradition Wicca around 2007, 2008. No offense to Them, I just do not interact with Them much. They’re still there, though, and worthy of honor.

I take the use of the word “Brother”, “Sister”, “Sibling”, etc quite seriously. The use of that word implies a closeness, a host of obligations and responsibilities to one another. It means that I would lay down my life for you. It also means that we share Ancestors on acceptance of the term. So, I tend to cringe when folks at work or random Heathens I have never met call me “Brother”. When I call folks “Brother”, “Sister”, “Sibling”, etc that means your Ancestors are getting honored at my Ancestor stalli, and, if you have one, mine should be too.

So politically, Ancestors are interesting. They are flexible in some ways because we can take Them in from others, and get brought into Their circles by Them, other Ginnreginn, and other people. Then, They can also be fairly inflexible -our blood Ancestors are who They are whether or not we relate to these Ancestors. Many Ancestors, especially blood Ancestors, can be fraught with issues depending on the history we have. We may have Ancestral traumas that were dealt to our families that we are dealing with and may need to resolve, or those that our Ancestors inflicted on others. Suffice it to say, our Ancestors’ stories have political dimensions, ones it would help not to ignore.

Vaettir run the gamut of being part of the Aesir, Vanir, or Jötnar, to Álfar, Dvergar, fylgja (follower vaettir), landvaettir, vaettir of various elements, and every variety in between. They can be as big as a galaxy, and perhaps bigger, or as tiny as a grain of sand, and perhaps smaller. They can occupy any of the Nine Worlds. Us flesh-bound human beings are vaettir. We just happen to have physical bodies here in Miðgarðr. All of us, whatever World we are part of, have political dimensions we ought to consider as part of relating to and understanding one another. That would ideally start here, in our own World, and extend outward as we develop and maintain relationships as Heathens with the Ginnreginn.

This post, even as basic as it is, is already getting to the point of being fairly large on its own. I cannot hope to cover everything in exhaustive detail even if I made a series of posts like these though I am finding them fun to explore and develop. In the next post, On Spirit World Politics Part 2, I will explore some of these topics in more detail. Particularly, I am interested in exploring the way politics can shake out with esoteric folks, including the political implications of spirit travel, how magic in other worlds can operate, and how these things impact our relationships spiritually and politically.

Patreon Topic 34: On Rune Signs and Confirmations

If you want to submit a topic you would like me to write on for this blog or my Patreon, sign up for the Uruz or Thurisaz level or above here on my Patreon.

From Leslie comes this topic:”Do runes or runvaettir ever appear as signs or confirmations of a Working, well, working? Outside of divination, if they do, how might they do so?”

Oh yes, They can. I have had branches fall down in front of me, unmistakably forming a Rune after asking for a sign. Unless it is something that blatant I will ask that a Rune show up as an answer three times before I will accept it. Sometimes the way the Runes have made Themselves known to me is a little subtle, such as graffiti on a wall or municipal signs.

Sometimes I only see such things after the fact, eg the graffiti really sticks with me and I can’t figure out why until I sit with it. I had this once where Gebo showed up on a wall three times, and I just took it to mean Xs instead, maybe a tag or something. It hit me a little while later that the meaning of Gebo three times was a sign and fit with the question on my mind at the time. Sometimes you recognize it in the moment as something seemingly mundane that just…leaps out at you.

Can They make Themselves known in other ways? Sure. Understanding that Runes are vaettir, spirits, They can communicate with us other than through visual mediums, such as by touch. If you know the literal feeling of how a Rune feels when it has been cut into an object, then that can be a way They use to communicate, such as by running a hand or finger gently along a concrete wall or a wooden table. Since They are vaettir and can work with any of our spiritual senses that happen to be ‘on’ at a given moment, They can work through sound, even smell and/or taste if you have experienced Them in this way. There was a couple of books I encountered a while back where you would literally bake cookies and take the magic of the Runes into you through them, so if you did something like this with a recipe specific to each Rune even the taste of a cookie could kick-start a conversation.

Depending on the Rune(s) at hand, how They come to you, and whether or not you asked a question beforehand can have an impact on your answer. For instance, if I ask for a sign and get it by sight, smell, and feel I might consider that a confirmed sign, and then need to interpet what the medium of communication is saying to me, and what the Rune Itself means. For instance, if I see Hagalaz, smell a smell that I interpret as corresponding to Hagalz, and feel the etching of Hagalaz in a stone I felt called to pick up, then I need to interpret the meaning of Hagalaz from there. This is where having a cache of understanding for the Runes is really helpful. That cache ideally includes knowing the Rune poems well enough to where you can reference them for guidance, your experiences working with the Runes, and correspondences you have built up otherwise with the Runevaettir.

Let’s apply this to my example of Hagalaz showing up in sight, smell, and feel. When Hagalaz shows up in a reading I tend to interpret that much in the same way as a Tower card: things are going to go to shit. Unlike the Tower card where folks reading them might see some kind of light at the end of the tunnel, with Hagalaz that light may well be a damned train. It is one of the roughest Runes to get in a reading, and only occasionally do I get the understanding from the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem of it being the ice that melts rather than the Icelandic Rune Poem where it is ‘cold grain, sleet, and sickness of serpents’. This translation here by Bruce Dickens on Wikipedia is a good, accessible one. Both Hægl and Hagall are hail, and hail can be incredibly destructive to crops and people. So, when this pops up in a reading whoever gets this Rune is generally not going to get away unscathed.

So how do I interpret this in context of “is a Working, well, working?” If Hagalaz shows up it is a hard “hell no, and this might turn quite ugly”. At the very least if I am asking an Up/Down or Yes/No binary answer it is in the hard “Down” and/or “No” category. Context is key, though. If the working was, say, to cut someone out of my life or to bring something to an end, then it may be effective, if painful.

The context I receive Hagalaz be sight, smell, and feel matters as well. If I receive Hagalaz by sight, say, on a building, then it may be a commentary on how the working was built up, especially if it is at the foundation or ground level. If I receive Hagalaz by smell, say a sharp, clean, and/or piercing smell like cleaner, new-fallen snow, or the like, it may be a comment on something I missed during the working or something that needs to be done so the working can be completed. If I receive the feel of Hagalaz on a stone I have picked up and it is jagged then it may be the working will be ragged, uneven, or is being disrupted by the process itself having been so. This is highly subjective, personal, and completely dependent on your relationship with the Runevaettir, your correspondences, your experiences, and your understanding of Them and yourself at minimum.

While the Rune poems and various books can point you in the right direction to interpret signs and omens from Them, in the end you are doing the interpreting. If I am not getting a clear enough signal I will usually take things to divination. There is nothing wrong with being sure you are understanding the message clearly. There are times you may not need that, and you will understand the meaning of the message crystal clear the first time you get it. In the end, it is up to your relationship with the Runevaettir, and your intuition and understanding.

Patreon Topic 29: What I Don’t Often Get To Write or Talk On

If you want to submit a topic you would like me to write on for this blog or my Patreon, sign up for the Uruz or Thurisaz level or above here on my Patreon.

From Maleck Odinsson comes this topic:

“What do you want to write or talk about that you don’t often get to?”

I like digging into the nitty-gritty of theology. Not just theory, but where the rubber meets the road of it. A couple years back I wrote a series of posts called A Polytheist Response to Peak Oil. It took me a long while to write it, and I deeply enjoyed the process of bringing my ideas of polytheism, animism, and environmentalism from thoughts in the back of my head into a way of living and looking at the predicaments we are going to be living in for the foreseeable future.

I like how the implications of certain words affect the unfolding of how those things are seen and understood. Though seiðr is classified as a kind of magic, the cultural baggage of magic vs seiðr is pretty big. Not only is the latter not laden with notions of stage magic or fakery, it is a culturally relevent term with folks who engage in the work, eg seiðkonur (seið-women), seiðmenn (seið-men), and seiðmaður (seið-people). I find engaging with our language in culturally-relevent ways, including the need to make neologisms, a powerful way of bringing the cultural from mere intellectual exercise into revivalism.

I am really happy for my Patreon supporters because their input has given a focus to my blog that it has not had. Sure, I would occasionally dedicate an entire month to a God, or go on a long series of blog posts like the one I mentioned above, but then I had periods where I post once a month at most. I had a six month block where I don’t think I posted anything at all a few years back. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break, which I did need at the time. The topic suggestions, Q&As, and all the rest help keep me writing, keep me focused, and give me ways to dig into topics I might not otherwise. I really enjoy that I have to switch gears depending on what I am writing between prose and song/poem/prayer.

What I keep feeling at the back of everything are the books I have yet to write, including The Fallow Times book, a second edition of Calling to Our Ancestors, and others. The ‘and others’ bit might be Heathen kids books, Heathen spiritworker books, and others as they come up. I have no idea how many books I have in me. If I keep up the pace I have with the Patreon I may put a compilation book or books together so folks can have a physical copy of them. Nothing quite like having a modern copy of a dialogue between a writer and his readers on religious topics!

What I want to talk about more, especially in workshops and the like, are a lot of the deep dives I get to take on subjects such as on Around the Grandfather Fire. I really want to dig into the meat of spiritwork. I really dig my Encountering the Runes workshop for this reason. I’ve been presenting it for a decade or better now, and each year I find more stuff to put into it while still working to make sure there is enough time for Q&A after it. I want to develop more spiritwork workshops, presentations, and the like in that same vein. I’m also really interested in writing on those subjects, too, so folks who support the Patreon? Feel free to hit me up on those topics!

Patreon Topic 18: Reflecting on The Culture of Intensity and Spiritwork

If you want to submit a topic you would like me to write on for this blog or my Patreon, sign up for the Uruz or Thurisaz level or above here on my Patreon.

From Fen’harel comes this question:

“I was listening to the AGF podcast episode with Chiron Armand and the topic of “the culture of intensity” came up. What does that culture, in your opinion, look like for spirit workers? Is it something like not feeling one is doing enough work? I hope that makes sense.”

When I first got this question the most recent TikTok stupidity had not yet come to my attention, but now that it has? It is a great, almost perfect example of the culture of intensity. Now, it looks like a bunch of folks are trolling other TikTok folks saying they’re going to ‘hex the Fae’ or ‘hex the Moon’ and similar stupidity. Then there are others how are rising to the trolling/baiting and saying they will counteract this. Keep in mind we are in the middle of a damn pandemic, we are supposed to be socially isolating, and this is probably as close to interacting with peers as some folks are going to get until this COVID-19 crap is done with.

For some, this is what the culture of intensity looks like. You get someone or you yourself get riled up and in arms about stupid shit someone else is engaged in that is not actually hurting you and cannot hurt the Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits in question, just to have something to do. Now, don’t get me wrong. I find the notion that folks would even entertain the notion of hexing the Fae, Moon, or Sun incredibly dumb, funny, and requires more than a bit of hubris. That said? I have no reason to jump out in front of these folks. Go ahead, sew the wind and reap the whirlwind you dipshits.

For a lot of spiritworkers, myself included, the culture of intensity looks like “I need to be doing something important/powerful/challenging right now!” Sometimes it comes from a feeling of not being/doing enough. Other times we are in a transition period. Those are uncomfortable, and patience is not a virtue easily cultivated in a culture where instant gratification is so prevalent I can order a book, sink, or something else and have it arrive 1-2 days later due to just-in-time delivery options.

The culture of intensity can manifest as feeling like “I am not doing enough!” or “Shouldn’t I be doing more?” When your value as a person in the overculture is determined by what you do, eg the job you hold, and how ‘productive’ your hobbies are, eg “Can I turn this into a side-hustle?” then the overculture teaches things that are “not productive”, aka making you money or stepping stones on the way to that, are wastes of time.

Part of the reason so many have a hard time meditating, taking time out to do self-care, or just taking a walk, is that it feels like you are wasting time as it is not producing a product or making you money. It is a vile trap. It devalues peace of mind, reflecting on things, self-care, and a host of other needed things that actually require our input of time, energy, care, experience, and expertise to do well. It also devalues the time we spend with our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, our communities, and by ourselves taking care of our needs and wants. The culture of intensity pushes us to keep seeking the highs while devaluing the lows that make getting there reliably and safely possible in the first place.

The culture of intensity is also quite ravenous, asking for our time, attention, and continuously feeding a variety of time-wasting beasts. For a spiritworker, just as much as your average Pagan, polytheist, and/or animist, spending time praying, communing, and worshiping the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, and doing good self-care work is hardly a waste of time. Because these things are not valued in the overculture and so many of us are hungry for human interaction, it can be so easy to get sucked into go-nowhere conversations whether it be over Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, TikTok, or other places that increasingly serve as distractions rather than points of connection. This is not to knock the very real use that Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, TikTok, etc can serve, but that, as platforms, their primary purpose is to serve as data collection/networking/disbursement rather than connectivity. I find better and more consistently fulfilling connection over personal email, personal chat/text, and programs like Discord and Zoom where the people I am interacting with are not communicating with me through a reference medium (see this retweet, that like, that share, the For You page, etc), but about as close to face-to-face as I can get without being right there with them.

So how do we work to address this? We need to take time out each day so we have that self-care. That self-care does not need to take a long time, be particularly productive in and of itself, nor does it need to tie into anything any more than peace of mind, connection with the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, our communities, and/or ourselves. I take about 10-30 minutes each day. I spend that time doing cleansing, grounding, centering, shielding, checking on any wards I have needing maintenance. I also spend that time making prayers to my Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, and then making offerings. I recommend anyone, spiritworker or not, put that time in each day.

If I have a hard time engaging in self-care, I refocus on doing the preparation work (cleansing, etc) so I can do the prayers and offerings cleanly. It is easier at times for me to think of others over myself, and is a way I engage in self-care so I can do the connective work. Taking my needs out of the equation and engaging with the obligations I have helps my frame of mind at times, because it is no longer my emotions that are center stage, but the obligations I hold. If sitting and meditating is not working for me I may switch it up to walking around the garden and talk with the plants and trees. If my usual methods of cleansing, grounding, centering, and shielding are not working for me, I switch it up. There is nothing wrong with fighting boredom or making adjustments so that whatever you need to do has you more involved in it. This is also why rote prayers and spiritual prep work are useful. Sometimes I do not have the brainspace to effectively make more involved processes and I need to do the motions that are most near and dear to me so I can do my work. Whether you need to switch things up or keep to how you have always done them, what matters is the efficacy of the spiritwork you engage in.

The ‘culture of intensity’ has a lot of ins to influence our lives. Excising those can be pretty tough, especially if you have grown up with a lot of the ‘culture of intensity’ as part of your own value system. So, instead of fully shifting or damming the river, working with its flow may be the more effective option. One of the keys for me is reminding myself that I need to do the ground work so the rest of the work is possible. That the small moments lead to the ability to do the big moments, and that whatever I experience, the moment is not the goal.

The goal is to do the work before me so that the work may be effective and see through to its end. It is like throwing a punch. Your aim is not merely the target, it is to blow past the target so the hit connects with the fullness of the energy behind the punch. In a sense, the blow is ‘behind’ the target. You follow through. The goal of planting a garden is not merely to plant, it is to lead to plants to grow, whether flowers, herbs, or food crops. Refocusing the ‘culture of intensity’ to serve our purposes is a needed repurposing. That ‘culture’, such as it is, is unsustainable and liable to destroy us quite quickly. The follow through of long-term planning is desperately needed more so than the short-term highs. We need to shift the culture from one of intense, short experiences, to one where we can build up from foundations into intergenerational communities.

It will take patience, work, and follow through. It will take concerted effort to refocus the ‘high seeking’ behavior of the overculture and to live our lives as valuable things regardless of monetary or social media gain. It will take us being willing and working to refocus our lives with different priorities than many of us were raised with so the ‘culture of intensity’ has less hold on our own. Intensity is a part of life, but the way things are wired right now to produce the maximum reaction on a consistent/constant basis is leading a lot of folks to burnout and quick. So, we need to channel these things and make them more effective over the long run so we have candles to spare when all the other lights go dark.

On Níðhöggr

A while back I was asked to share my understanding of Níðhöggr by a fellow Heathen. Vikings of Bjornstad lists the meaning for Níðhöggr’s name as ‘Malice Striker’. The first section of the compound name, níð, is related to malice, insult, and strife. The second is related to beheading, striking, blows, or chops. Not much survives on this dragon/serpent survives from the lore. Among the places to look for Níðhöggr are in the Prose Edda, both in Gylfaginning and Skaldskarpamal, and in the Poetic Edda Grimnismal and the Voluspa. While the lore refers to Níðhöggr as male, my interactions with Níðhöggr have leant me to understanding the dragon as female.

I relate to Her as a God of Rot and Death, and a God of the Gravemound as well, especially seeing interlinks between the rotting of death and the eating of poison. My family’s compost heap is dedicated to Hela and to Níðhöggr, as we see Níðhögg as eating the poison of Yggdrasil and the making of it into the healthy new earth that is renewed. The gravemound takes in the Dead and the new growth results within it, holding the power of the sacred items deposited within it and the new growth above.

Most of my understanding and beliefs regarding Níðhöggr is from direct experience of seeing Her and interacting with Her. When I was saw Her, She was chewing the corpses of the Dead, taking the poison of Their lives, Their misdeeds. She does the same with the root of Yggdrasil She chews on, not to damage it, but to prevent poison that is collected in Helheim and the Nastrond from killing It.

A powerful insight of dragon symbolism, at least in terms of how I see it in Norse/Germanic/Scandinavian culture/myth is that part of their destructive nature is what they sit on. In Fafnir’s case it is his bed of gold and the greed associated with it. In Níðhöggr’s case She is lying in the midst of traitors, oathbreakers, and is sitting with the rot and poison of Yggdrasil’s root. She chews on the traitors, oathbreakers, and outlaws, as well as the root of Yggdrasil. One of the passages in the Voluspa says She sucks the blood of the slain. I see Her doing similar, chewing and sucking on the poison in the root of Yggdrasil, removing the rot so it stays healthy. It also explains why Her/His hall is the Hall of Serpents dripping poison because that is Níðhöggr’s environment. My fellow Heathen likened it to a poison dart frog, and I think that’s a fair reading of Her too.

It is telling that the only time She emerges in myth is during Ragnarok and She isn’t destroyed, but takes up roost again beneath the ground. I find Her very purifying, as She has been in the midst of all that rot, poison, and uncleanliness, and yet, She has not lost Herself to it. She engages with this Work before and after Ragnarok. She is rejuvenating and dangerous, the Chewer of Corpses and Warder against Poison. As outlaws and traitors were among the worst one could be, and both were put into the utgard of society, I see Her as a boundary-keeper since She gives these dangerous and vile Dead a place to go to be contained, chewed, composted so they do not harm the community or rest of Yggrasil. She is the God that chews the rot beneath the Tree, rejuvenating both the root and the soil in which Yggdrasil’s root rest; necessary and holy.