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The Northern Gods Are Not White

December 13, 2014 61 comments

The Gods of Heathenry and Northern Tradition Paganism are not white. They are Gods who were historically worshiped by continental or non-continental Northern Europeans. White, as a descriptor to describe people of a certain skin color, and generally speaking certain ethnic backgrounds, is relatively recent in modern description. It is completely socially constructed, and its use has been, throughout history, to marginalize other people and to place ‘whiteness’ as superior. It has no place in Heathenry or the Northern Tradition.

I absolutely reject the idea, finding it repugnant and blasphemous, to place our Gods in the context of ‘whiteness’. There is no such thing as ancient ‘white history’; there is ancient Germanic history, ancient Icelandic history, and so on. ‘White history’, as such, is a relatively new construction. It, and whiteness in general, was initially put forth by the British to make colonization and the other imperialistic ambitions of the Crown more palatable to its citizens. After all, if those one is subjugating are not white, and therefore, ‘lesser’, what need does one have to fight for them, or what cause has one to identify with the oppressed? In such a system, anything not-white is ‘less’, less cultured, less good, less human.

Calls to being proud of ‘whiteness’ are engaging in racism. It does not matter whether one believes their pride to be racist, it simply is. It is taking pride not in one’s heritage, but in one’s place and privilege in society. To be ‘proud of whiteness’ is dogwhistle language for enjoying privilege and prestige because of one’s skin color to the detriment of other people. Phrases such as ‘Native pride’ and ‘black pride’ cannot carry the connotations that ‘white pride’ does because neither Natives nor blacks have, in America’s history, had the power of law to oppress people of other colors, had the ability to destroy white lives with impunity, take white lands without due process, or kill white people without deep repercussions.

It is a wholly different matter to be proud of one’s heritage. In my case, I take pride in my Dutch great-grandfather for braving the seas and arriving in America, but that is far different than my pride being bound up in the pigmentation of my skin.

Irminfolk bylaws are racist on their face. According to them, a person is supposed to be 7/8 ethnic European or identifies as ‘white’ or ‘Aryan’, both terms which are used in a racialist context rather than an ethnic one. How is one to determine if one is 7/8 European? I asked earlier, and will ask again: “Are my eyes German? Are my legs Dutch? Is my left ring finger French? Are my teeth American?” What of the history of ancient peoples who worshiped the Northern Gods? They were traders, farmers, and fighters. They colonized as well as assimilated into the cultures they traded and fought with. They also assimilated others into their culture. ‘Purity’ standards are racist, and are an insult to Heathenry and the Northern Tradition. They are a modern invention to discriminate and divide, and nothing more.

Interesting, then, that the blood quantum required to be part of Irminfolk is an inversion of most blood quantum rules and laws. Racist government policies often made one-drop blood quantum laws their rule for inclusion in a tribal racial, or ethnic group. Fundamental rights and privileges were denied to people who fell into these categories, whether that was freedom, property, religion, or self-determination. It was only in 1978 that the Native American Religious Freedom Act was passed in the United States, securing the rights of Native American people in the United States to teach practice their ways. Blood quantum laws are racist. The ones that were instituted by the US government against Native American tribes were used as a check on Native American tribes’ ability to accept new members. It was instituted as a measure to control Native American population, and thus, Native American tribes’ sovereignty in general.

Because the Internet is often the first stop on a lot of new Heathen and Northern Tradition Pagans to understanding their Gods, the Ancestors’ place in religion, and the vaettir, I cannot be silent on these things. As I said in my last post, I almost turned aside from Heathenry and the Northern Tradition because of racists among our ranks. To paraphrase Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “If I am silent in the face of racism, I have chosen the side of the racist.” I cannot, in my silence, allow racists to turn someone from the Gods, Ancestors, and the vaettir.

Anyone requiring people to pass a blood quantum, or having an ethnic purity standard, or defending such, is a racist, and is supporting racist institutions. It is not my responsibility to be kind or to spare others’ feelings in this matter. Rather, it is my duty to call out racism, racist people and organizations, and stand against such vile things. It is not my duty to love others in this regard; it is my duty to defend my religious community from the stain of racists, and to call them out for what they are, and to state ‘Me and mine do not and will not stand for this’. If that is ostracizing and bullying so be it. Racism has no place in my religion, nor will I give it, its defenders, or its proponents peace so long as they claim it does.

Irminfolk, and countless folkish groups can feel they are not racist. Such feeling does not make them so. If you believe, as Bob Hamlin of Irminfolk does, that being of Northern European ancestry makes you, in his words, ‘more worthy’ to worship the Gods than others, you are racist. You cannot restore honor to a people while engaging in acts that defame and denigrate. You cannot restore honor to a group of religions whose name you stain by your conduct and by your words.

Mike Sagginario’s ad hominem reveals he has little to stand on, morally or rhetorically. Given the interaction from his and others in his group in my space here, I am even more firm in my stance that Irminfolk is racist. I do not care one whit who they consulted. Their words do not lend credence to the racist and racialist policies this, or any religious group puts forward. The policy of ethnic purity, as well as positive affirmation of ‘white’, and ‘Aryan’ identity in the bylaws of the Irminfolk overtly welcomes and provides cover for racists. It is racist on its face in its discrimination. Racism harms Heathenry. My strident insistence in this will not give way.

I care little to what guests and friends are held to insofar as expectations are concerned. The fact that Irminfolk holds these standards for its members and professes to be Heathen is damage enough, and reason enough, for me, HUAR, and others to stand against it. The fact that Irminfolk seeks to put itself out there as a legitimate Heathen resource and group with these policies in its place for its core, voting membership is enough for me to oppose it and any allies it makes. That this group gets along with Native Americans, which there is significant reason to doubt, means nothing to my and others’ opposition to its policies and beliefs. That this group conducted the construction of its bylaws with the aid of a lawyer that somehow approved of and helped them to formulate these policies says more to the lack of ethics of the lawyer and his character than it does the authority or correctness of their assertions. Attempting to explain how I should object to the racist policies of this organization is a derailing tactic, and one I will ignore. This group can welcome discussion on the matter, but my opinion should have been clear from the start, and barring that, what I finished the last post with should have given you a clear enough idea where I stand on things. Any who engage in the welcoming and acceptance of racist rhetoric and racists themselves are my enemy.

What I find, again and again, is a fundamental misunderstanding when I and others make our beliefs and opinions known in this regard. I am not seeking to abrogate anyone’s freedoms in association, religion, or the like in standing against groups like Irminfolk. They are fully free to believe and practice as they will within the laws of the land. In response, I am exercising my freedom of expression. If such seems censoring, the problem of that perception does not lie with me. To call the activism of HUAR, Ryan Smith, and those aligned with them a witch hunt seems foolish to me. Irminfolk put its bylaws on the Internet for all to see; Mr. Smith and HUAR, and now I, have highlighted these racist policies and have publicly denounced this group as racist after reviewing them. If the group wished to remain wholly private, or at least for its policies to not be common knowledge, it would seem prudent to not have published them to the Internet.

If there were indeed death threats made to Irminfolk, its members, or its allies, then I denounce these with all due diligence. There is no need to threaten them or theirs.

The Irminfolk and other folkish, racist groups of its ilk, do engage in practices that help to put others down. Wherever oppression is aided, whether by silence, or open arms, people contribute to the harm of others. To quote Archbishop Desmond Tutu directly: “If you are silent in the face of oppression, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” For any who engage in racist and racialist actions, put forward such policies, or accept racist members among their ranks with open arms, you are contributing to the problem of racism and the oppression of people. The actions of Irminfolk, in instituting the policies and bylaws it has, has a chilling effect on the Heathen community, and especially to prospective members to it. As I recounted in my previous post, racist and racialist Heathens are why I nearly did not come into Heathenry to begin with.

None of the points I made in regards to the practices, policies, beliefs, and so on have been taken up by Irminfolk commenters thus far. Rather, they have come into my space berating my guests, and speaking ill of me and mine. You do not come into my space and demand anything of me, especially in so rude a manner as you have. You do not come into my space and demand anything of my allies, especially in so rude a manner as you have. You do not come into my space and demand respect for policies, procedures, people, and groups that are not due respect. You do not come into my space and insult me and mine. You do not come into my space and make veiled threats, litigious or otherwise. You have tried to besmirch I and others’ characters, and you have conducted yourselves without honor. You have broken frith and hospitality. You shall receive no honor in kind for your actions and your words.

Irminfolk is a racist organization. Its membership and their allies are racists. Their apologists are racists. Any who have requirements such as they do to enter into their religion are racists. There is no compromise to be had here, no dialogue to be engaged in. I will not compromise with those who would deny my family before the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. I will not compromise with those who would deny others’ ability to come to know the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. I will not speak with them. I will raise my voice against them for as long as they cleave to racist messages, policies, procedures, and people. Likewise, I will raise my voice against any who would act in support of them. Lacking even basic respect and decorum in my own place, I have no respect for them and theirs. I will not entertain their ideas, nor will I engage in dialogue with them.

“127.
I give you rede, Loddfafnir, heed it well!
You will use it, if you learn it,
it will get you good if you understand it
If you know that someone is evil, say so.
Never give friendship to your enemies.” -The Hávamál

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Conventions and Dialogue

March 23, 2014 3 comments

ConVocation and Michigan Paganfest are two events I have attended yearly for the 4 or so years. I have been part of my local Pagan communities in some way for ten years now. In that time I have been part of two Wiccan covens and an eclectic Pagan group I helped found. I am an active member of a local Wiccan Church, as their Youth Minister and a member of House Sankofa and Urdabrunnr Kindred, both based in New York. I was adopted into The Thunderbird People, a local Native American group, in June of last year. I lead a Northern Tradition Study Group that has, over the course of time, slowly made its way from a Study Group to a Kindred and is looking at naming itself. I am involved in many local religious communities, as are many of my colleagues, friends, and tribe each in their own places, in these communities. I am tied to the Pagan and polytheist communities even if at times the way things go exasperate me. I do not let go easy. I have a lot of people who I have come to place deep respect, loyalty, and care for in these communities.

I think there are a lot of times where, even from the outside looking in, a lot of what people see is infighting. I want to say that my experiences at these events are quite the contrary. There is respect, warmth, and care, even for completely new people to these paths, or those visiting from other religions. There is acceptance that some people will be coming to deepen connection with their Gods, and others are here for the Masquerade Ball or concerts, and other fun things. I think that this is an important aspect of networking and sharing in space with one another. Some of the best times I have at conventions are after or between workshops, or, especially with this year in mind, breaking bread together.

Being willing to come together in these spaces is important. I do my best to show, not only say, that I value courtesy, hospitality, civil dialogue, and good company. In doing so I affirm that, while our religions and traditions may be different we can still come together and worship, learn from one another, work magic together, develop better dialogue, and enjoy one another’s company. Our differences do not disappear, but are respected in light of each others’ traditions, workshop formats, and rituals. This builds frith (good social order and peace) and hamingja (group luck and power)in one’s community, and between communities.

A large part of where the many Pagan, Wiccan, Heathen, Kemetic, and other associated communities meet and overlap is at conventions like ConVocation and Michigan Paganfest. As I attended this year that Sannion’s assertion that conventions are interfaith dialogues kept coming to mind. I found that very true, especially given my experiences this year.

To start with I had a lovely dinner with Kenn Day and Eli Sheva. I like to get to know people before I work with them, so I asked them out for dinner on Thursday before the Ancestor Worker panel Friday morning. Unfortunately Kenn could not get his schedule switched around so he could be present. Still, it was good to meet over food. Much like the efforts going on now to meet over tea or coffee, I find this way of working with people far superior than written correspondence. There is nothing like being able to look into the eyes, and see the posture of the person who is sharing your company. I had a delightful time talking with both of these fine people about our paths.

Sharing in food is a sacred thing, and was especially powerful since we were speaking across religious lines. Both of these people were warm and sincere in their answers, and answered me with a directness I found in my own family. Even their speaking together reminded me of my own family. That, I think, is the power of a tribe. We are family, in the end. When we speak across lines of tribe there are respects made, one to the other, such as respect for our ways of doing things, one another’s forms of prayer, traditions, and so on.

Does AMHA explain this differ from the Northern Tradition and Heathen life I live? In talking with Eli Sheva and attending her workshop Neo-Tribal Ethics, I would say we are actually quite similar. She found that AMHA’s virtues lined up with the Nine Noble Virtues so well during her own talks with Diana Paxson that she developed her handout of the 12 virtues from it. What I took away from our conversations and the workshop was that our differences are cultural and in the particulars of our religion. We share a great deal across the board, such as the notion that we are our deeds, that each member needs to be a productive member according to their abilities and circumstances, and so on. We define Ancestors differently, but we venerate Them. We worship different Gods and may relate to each different from one another, but all of us approach Them with piety and respect. We acknowledge the world as living, a Goddess Herself, and the beings upon it as having Being or souls of their own. There are so many similarities I could fill a book with it. While our differences are marked and important, there was beauty in how the similarities touched in the same ways and means by which we engaged in our lives. That, I think, was the most striking to me: these are not just religions, but lives within a worldview and relationship with the Worlds, Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, that we are living.

The one workshop I did this year at ConVocation was An Ancestor Worker Panel. We got to explore these similarities and cross-culture points together with a responsive audience. I had a great time sitting between the wonderful women who co-hosted the panel: Joy Wedmedyk and Eli Sheva. My nervousness at leading the panel when these two had about 20 years on me in their traditions evaporated quickly. We had honest, respectful dialogue between us that flowed well regardless of the questions before us. Thank you both for co-hosting this panel.

I have to thank the audience members, too. When we opened up to questions, both during our initial talks and later during the Q&A session, there were really good questions that opened up deeper dialogue. I have hit and miss auditory memory, and I am kicking myself for not having my computer or a voice recorder present. We had an engaged audience, one that was full of active listeners and participants. I felt lucky to have had each one present.

We started simple with questions like “What is an Ancestor?” and “What is an Ancestor Worker?” As with my experience at dinner, the conversation flowed well, and except for differences between our religions and culture, with myself in the Northern Tradition and Heathenry, Joy in Lucumi Orisha worship, and Eli Sheva in Am Ha Aretz, the three of us seemed to be coming from the same place. We came from a common understanding that the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits are real and have a living impact and relationship with us, and that each person, regardless of where they stand, can worship the Gods well. That the world is sacred, and many of our sacred places reside in natural settings, such as groves, near rivers and/or at lakes. Another commonality? It seems coffee is one of the damned-near universal offerings. I have yet to come across a tradition that reveres and makes offerings to the Ancestors that turns down coffee even if the person offering is not fond of it. I found the same with tobacco, whether smoked, free-leaved burned, or simply left at the picture, altar, shrine, grave, mound, or another holy place.

One of the key differences we went over in detail was that our understanding of what constitutes an Ancestor are quite different. In the Northern Tradition we include blood Ancestors, the Gods, the Elements, Mitochondrial Eve, the people who are part of our lineages, and our Elders. Northern Tradition folks may venerate or actively worship our Ancestors. We may use a wide array of ways to represent our Ancestors, from statuary to photographs, handmade items to rocks or crystals, depending on the Ancestors. In my own case I have a candle dedicated to Fire Itself, and a bowl I refill now and again with ice to represent Ice Itself.

According to Eli Sheva, AMHA’s Ancestors are restricted to blood Ancestors only, and they do not worship Them, but do venerate Them. Their Elders include not only Elders of AMHA, but those who inspire and are heavy influences upon them, such as artists, philosophers, and good friends. Those whose names are forgotten are said to go back to the Earth Mother, Rachmay. Both known and unknown Ancestors are represented by objects called Teraphim. Teraphim “are placed on altars or shrines as photos, sculptures, rocks, and other objects. Teraphim representing who have gone back to the Earth are sometimes presented as part human, part animal, part plant, or as having abstract mask-like faces.” AMHA’s Warrior Dead are also sometimes call Rephaim. All of these Ancestors and Elders are not worshiped, per se, but revered. There are certain festivals and celebrations, as well as to each participants private observances, for when this reverence takes place. The festivals and celebrations are done in a sacred place, such as in a grove, or at one’s home altar or shrine, with offerings of food and drink being offered to Them.

In Lucumi Ancestors are, as with AMHA, blood Ancestors. Elders in Lucumi include just those of one’s lineage of initiation into Lucumi. However, there is another group of Ancestors: the Egun. As Joy puts it: “The Egun are the ancestral dead back to the beginning of our existence. Those that we do not remember by name. All the knowledge of our lineage.” According to Joy, “the Ancestors are given an alter inside the home. A small table, a white tablecloth, a white candle and a glass of water is a basic set up. Pictures of deceased relatives are usually displayed on the wall. The Egun are usually kept outside. The shrine and place of offering for them consists of a staff. The staff is tapped on the ground when speaking with them. Speaking from the heart to Ancestors and Egun is always encouraged.

At each point of discussion we collectively kept coming back to reminding the audience that most of the activities of the traditions and religions we are part of, such as Ancestor veneration and worship, are not things carried on by a priest, shaman, or other spiritual specialist alone. These are to be done by every member individually and by the people that make up these religions and traditions as a whole. Every member, spiritual specialist or not, is an important member of our people that makes up the group. Every person can and should do the work of prayer, offerings, and other rituals to the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits as is appropriate to their traditions, relationships with the Holy Powers, and circumstances.

I felt that we could have gone on for another hour and a half, easily, talking about just the Ancestor work we had all engaged in. I was happy we got through all of our basic questions, and answered a good deal of the audience’s too. I feel there should be more dialogue like this in the various communities I am part of. Perhaps I should do another post here, or even put together a podcast where I ask these questions, first of Joy and Eli Sheva, and then of other people so we can explore each others’ traditions and religions. Perhaps, in a year or two, we could put another panel on at ConVocation and bring even more people in, and explore our religions and traditions together.

One of the major privileges of attending ConVocation is that you can attend workshops that go into the history and particulars of the religion that people live. I attended Eli Sheva’s Thursday class: Yahwe and the other Hebrew Gods on Thursday, and learned a bit about who El and Yahwe were, how ancient peoples understood these two Gods, and how Yahwists came to take over El’s iconography. It was a powerful exploration of these two Gods, and just from listening I think she could easily have taught far longer than that, and still had history to go through. I hope that there are more workshops like these offered. Knowing where we come from, how our understanding and relationships with the Gods developed, are all to the good for our communities.

I attended a good number of workshops. Each offered unique insights from their own religion and tradition. There are people whose workshops I found useful, while my own religious views do not agree with theirs. For instance, I found Kerr Cuhulain’s Full-Contact Magick workshop imminently useful in teaching me about direction of energy, posing and techniques for manipulating qi or, in my tradition, önd. I did not agree with his position on the Gods. I do not see that as a requirement for engagement, though. He, in my view, was not discussing religion per se, but spiritual techniques of working with energy every human has within them regardless of religion or lack thereof. The assumption these techniques descend from assumes energies and an understanding of the human self that is, in and of itself a spiritual one, but as taught in the workshop there was no theology attached to the techniques themselves.

This is important to note because I could not teach galdr (magical singing) with the Runes in the same way as he has taught magick. In my tradition galdr is a technique that, for instance when galdring Runes, works with Them as spirits. To try to teach Runic galdring without having an active relationship with the Runes is disrespectful to the Runes, and hazardous because Gebo is a prime element of any relationship in the Northern Tradition and Heathenry. In cases where I include galdr in a ritual or a workshop I have already made the offerings that ensure good Gebo; I cannot assume anyone in such a setting will go home and make the offerings on their own.

Because I am the teacher or leader of a ritual it is on me to extend that first step of Gebo on behalf of those I serve, whether they are a new student in a study group or an attendee at a ritual, rather than make the assumption they can or will fill the obligation to the Runevaettir. This is also why it is important for me, in turn, to ask for something upfront or know there is Gebo coming my way. I have an oath to Odin not to take on a reading without some kind of Gebo to me, even if it is not upfront, when I am doing a Rune reading or spiritual work. The flow of Gebo is as such that what flows to me flows to Them, so that when people hand me money, give me an offering, or somehow give reciprocity that in turn goes to Odin and the Runevaettir. When I have taken a shot or food for the Gebo of a reading I am often sharing that shot or that food with Runátýr (Odin) and the Runevaettir. If it is a shot I am usually sharing with both Odin and Loki, remembering what is given to one is given to the other.

Not everyone has these kinds of expectations or relationships, and it is important to not assume people operate the same way I do. So, I ask a lot of questions. Later in the evening I had the pleasure to talk with Mr. Cuhulain about his practice, warriorship, and things that have come from engaging in the world with that worldview. When he brought up learning Maori Haka I asked how he related to it and learned it. For my own piece of mind I needed to know well before I asked much about it how he learned it, from whom, and what their reaction was when asked to learn it. On his website, Mr. Cuhulain has pictures of the Maori who taught him the dance because to teach him that is what they asked in return. He teaches it with permission from them, and in respect to them. So, I was delighted when he offered to teach a Maori Warrior Haka as a workshop Friday evening. He values, as I value, good relationships built on reciprocity. We may not have the same view of the Gods, but the acknowledgment and expression of our relationships with one another, the people we serve, and the communities we are part of, are built on the idea.

When it comes down to it I view a lot of the conflict between our communities as Gebo (gift for a gift, aka reciprocity)not being served. When reciprocity in respect breaks down, people talk past each other, and begin to assume worse and worse characterizations of one another and their positions. When reciprocity in compassion breaks down, people assume the worst of each other, and forgiveness and resolution is hard to come by. When reciprocity breaks down in communication, whether it happens separately or in tandem with the previous two examples, it means that our words are twisted or poorly understood, and the decline of the ability to have any dialogue, let alone productive dialogue, deepens. We live in a time where we are awash in information, and yet, are being taught less and less how to effectively parse it. We live in a time where communication can occur on a massive scale, and yet, we are encouraged not to sit with a concept and digest it, but to chew quickly so we can consume more. If we are to have effective dialogue, community building, or any of the great things we hope to have individually as communities or between communities, we have to slow down and listen, ask questions, be willing to be wrong and admit to it, and to do better by each other. If we forever wait for the other person to somehow spontaneously develop respect no amount of talking will get us anywhere.

If we are to build frith (peace and good social order) and communication it must be done first with our own communities, and then with one another. I cannot approach you in hostility and expect to have effective dialogue and respect. I cannot assume you will not listen and try to talk to you. There must be the expectation of mutual respect, that good dialogue is able to be had, and the willingness to be patient with one another, as hard as that can be. I do not have to agree with what you say any more than you do me, but there needs to be a baseline respect there for one another, or there can be no foundation for effective dialogue. Reciprocity and its attendant respect must take root well before I sit down to dinner, make a pot of coffee, or teach a workshop. Without it we are watering a dead tree.

The reason I attend ConVocation and Michigan Paganfest is that the trees in these communities are healthy. There is room for improvement in these communities as there are in any other. Orchards need tending, so too communities. The roots are strong here. There is a sense of shared responsibility within these communities. What has been emphasized the last few years I have come to these events is that we are all coming together and need to watch out for one another. I am thankful to have heard the last few years, during these times, that the person’s permission and sovereignty must be respected as part of this. Our responsibility at these events for safety and well-being is both individual and communal, and that there is a flow to be respected. To take care with one another, and yet, accept responsibility in ourselves and with one another. We accept mistakes will be made and that problems will arise, but that we can meet the challenges in and between our communities. I view these conventions in the same light that I view many of the Tea Time meetings, the Polytheist Leadership Conference, and various other efforts to bring people together. They are necessary, providing us ways to understand ourselves and one another better. These spaces give us all opportunities to meet and see one another, to hear one another’s voices, and to speak with one another in a safe place. It is my hope this sacred work keeps up, and deepens as the years go on.

My thanks to Eli Sheva and Joy Wedmedyk for co-hosting the panel, and working with me on this post. My thanks to Robert Keefer for helping me with crafting this post and providing much-needed feedback!

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.

Sigyn Project: Day 27

February 28, 2013 Leave a comment

I am a Seeker

a month of writing to You

and I still do not know You

Your Presence is calm

Your Voice is gentle most times

Yet, I still do not know You

 

I do not know You as a Mother

not truly, though I can feel Your sadness

for Sons torn by rage and pain

 

I do not know You as a Wife

not truly, though I have seen Your cave

and toiling, emptying the great bowl

 

I do not know You as a Goddess

not truly, though I hail Your Name

and praise Your gifts

 

How could I know You?

I praise Your Name as true as any of the Gods I worship

 

How could I know You?

I pour out offerings and gift to You, sure as any of the Gods I hail

 

How could I know You?

I have held Your bowl in offering, and had but a taste of Your Work and pain

 

How could I know You?

There is so much more than story or word or song or dance or life could tell

 

How could I know You?

I pray, I offer, I sing, I dance, I play, I do

 

I do know You

If any mortal can know a Goddess

Who has blessed their life

Who has sat, waiting, for the mortal to comprehend

Who has held the ones I love as they weep

Who has stood by me when I thought I had few friends

Who spoke for me

Who touches my hands

Who speaks in my ear

Who hears

Who despite all, remains

 

Sigyn Project: Day 23

February 24, 2013 Leave a comment

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 Sigyn!

Hail, Hail, Hail!

Sigyn Project: Day 22

February 22, 2013 Leave a comment

It is no little thing

To take on a serpent’s sting

It is no pathetic act

To stand up for those who can’t

It is no feeble work

To cease the harmful flow of words

It is no small blessing to sow frith

To gift the greatest you can give

Never is a moment’s peace

the thing with which we can do the least

 

 

Odin Project: Day 29

November 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Easy found is war | easier to start

a lose spark which burns the home;

The burnt husk | shelters no one

save the dead dreams in ashes

 

Hard won is frith | harder still to make

with bitterest of foes,

Yet peace in anger | saves many a life

from strife and long-held rage

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