Patreon Topic 58: On Spirit World Politics Part 3

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From Maleck comes this topic:

“1. Concrete examples, *if* you can share them. Theoretical is great, but examples make shit real.

2. How does reincarnation (as applicable in its varied forms) and otherwise longer-than-human-lifetime-time frames play into how we can/should/do approach these politics? I’m thinking about both the pitfalls and genuine concerns about how past life and possible future lives (plus ancestors etc) show up in practice.”

Since I asked for input I received some from Grimchild, who shared this on the AGF server:

“Not to be a lurker late with Starbucks, but, I’ve been v much enjoying the SpiritWorld Politics series. A couple things I’d be interested in thoughts delving more into how things like inter-spirit politics & such can play out and affect the spirit worker, and how events in Midgard/the earthly realm can affect spirit realms and vice versa. These are things that I’ve definitely experience but not seen a lot of discussion about in a way that’s … I guess I want to say grounded in discernment.”

Spirit Politics in Miðgarðr

Given current events, I will be answering Grimchild’s points first.

In the wake of this Politico article, it should be abundantly clear spirit world politics shows up on this side of things too. Christian hegemony seeks to dominate the spiritual and political spheres together, and through this, seeks to regiment what is moral, and thus, allowed in society. It seeks to dominate and dictate what is allowed to occur in every realm of sexuality, medical rights and choice, and political thought, ideology, and action. Christian hegemony seeks to destroy other religions, and is hand-in-glove with white supremacist movements. It is important to remember even as we fight for them that they are not only coming for reproductive rights. This selfsame Christian hegemony is directly tied to science denialism of all kinds, including those against climate science, reproduction, sex, gender, evolution, and environmental science, and accordingly, all the people, communities, and things that these subjects touch on. It is directly tied to white supremacist movements. Combined with a capitalist system that seeks to turn everything into a commodity, this puts our very futures as a specie at risk.

Now, folks will say that Christian hegemony operates out of a purely political perspective. I could not disagree more. The kind of fervor and zealotry that is brought to bear is kept alive and burning hot with that of absolute conviction that is borne of a religious dogma that seeks to dominate, destroy, and convert anyone not of its ilk.

Whether or not this is a directive, obligation from, or action taken on behalf of the Christian God or that of an egregore, demiurge, or other kind of spirit is rather beside the point. Whatever the Being of the God or spirit, They have inspired a supreme amount of hate in Their followers. This hate has, in turn, spawned direct political impact on those for whom They, or Their followers, are opposed to.

We must resist this. Any Pagan, polytheist, or occultist should be in opposition to these religions, and the politics they seek to carry out on all of us. Ultimately it is our subjection that is being sought, and if we will not bend the knee, it is our lives.

Resistance

So how do we resist? We have a wider range of resources at our disposal than we may give ourselves credit for. We have the usual political outlets, including the ballot box and demonstrations. That is hardly the limit here, and it would be absolutely foolish for us to limit ourselves to these. Things like this are why I encourage folks to never take tools out of their toolchest. Situations like this are what cursing, hex work, seiðr, hamfara, niðing poles, and all kinds of magic are made for. Doing magic around these situations, whether directed at a Supreme Court justice, a politician, or towards local manifestations of the issue itself, can help.

Calling on the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir associated with abortions, bodily autonomy, herbs, healing, and medicine in conjunction with doing magic and political work are ways of bringing our political actions, our spiritual actions, and ourselves together into the work before us. Doing blessings on food that others take to protests, colored thread with magic worked on them so marchers’ patches provide protection and courage, standing in witness with phones out, or being part of coordinating emergency response teams with BOBs (Bug Out Bags) or kits oriented around physical, emotional and spiritual emergencies, are all ways to bring these things together in political action even if you cannot make it directly to a demonstration or political rally. Buying Plan B or equivalent for others’ use, linking folks to communities and resources, and keeping an eye on local, regional, and State elections linked to these issues. Watching the kids, packing lunches, and bringing funds together to pay bonds are other ways of providing support to the front lines of demonstrations, direct action, and mutual aid networks. Mutual aid takes a variety of forms, and some of the least seen on TV are the most sorely needed.

These Christians are calling on God and engaging in spiritual warfare to enact their political and spiritual will. They are doing this as they engage the wheels of power to turn to their will. They are not shy about this. They are emboldened by it. Many operate under the lie that they are persecuted for their beliefs while openly persecuting anyone who does not believe or look like them. This is spiritual fascism. You cannot negotiate with this. This is not someone who wants to get along or live with you. They want you to bow or to die, and either way, they will feel emotionally superior while you do. Do not give them the satisfaction. Live powerfully, love deeply, and resist in every way you can.

This is how Spirit World Politics hit here in Miðgarðr. Sometimes, when it comes to powerful forces like those employed by Christian hegemony and all their backers, including evangelicals, traditionalist Catholics, and atheist and anti-theist enablers, this is what it looks like. Likewise, us calling on our Ginnreginn, our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir to help us in these desperate times cannot help but cause ripples politically within the Spirit Worlds as well.

Inter-Spirit Politics and the Ancestors

How though? Grimchild asked about inter-spirit politics, and one way this definitely can play out is through our Ancestors. It is entirely possible that our Ancestors are going to be divided on the subject of something as emotionally impactful as abortion. In my own case I have Catholics going back a long way in my family. Some of these folks will not be behind me on abortion rights, and will still support me. Some of these folks will not be behind me on my religion, and will still support me. If the Ancestors at hand are not behind me They don’t get reverence, worship, or offerings from me, my family, my tribe, or my Kindred. If the Ancestors do not have a relationship with me They likely will have little to no influence now, because I am the only spiritworker in my family that I know of, and the only one in my family that I know of doing any kind of in-depth Ancestor work. If They do not play ball with me then They are not likely to be heard, have impact, or be instrumental in this or the next generation. Their ability to impact Miðgarðr is greatly reduced, if not eliminated.

How do I know if a given Ancestor or group of Ancestors is on my side? I talk with Them. I work with my gifts of spiritual hearing, sight, etc. I do divination to commune with Them and to discern messages, and when I am stumped or need help I go to other diviners. I begin with the powerful Ancestors whose names I know or Who have revealed Themselvs to me. I move out from there and develop more relationships. I have good relationships with a few of the powerful Ancestors, the Disir, Väter, Eergi, and Þverr. I have good relationships with Catholic Ancestors, and older ones we could call Heathen Ancestors to keep things simple. I have Ancestors I share with loved ones related to me by blood, and I have Ancestors I share with loved ones related to me by lineage, adoption, and spirit. What all Who are in relationship with me hold is that They are with me, not against me.

If a given Ancestor wants nothing to do with a political issue that is fine, but They do not get to have input when it comes to getting shit done for that topic. If They get in the way, well, I get Them out of my way either by exclusion or asking the powerful Ancestors to keep Them out of my way. An Ancestor does not have to support everything I do, but I get to make my own choices on how my megin (might) and hamingja (group luck/power) gets used. I also get to make choices on what influence They get to have on that megin and hamingja and how they are used. In turn I deal with the consequences of that choice.

Inter-Spirit Politics Between Gods

Inter-spirit politics can take a number of other forms. Some of them can be quite beautiful, and mutually build up good relationships between the Ginnreginn. Contrast this with those that exist between the evangelical Christian God and our own. A form this can take are those that exist between two different Ginnreginn of different Worlds. I will be getting into my own experiences here, with a huge caveat: this is my personal experience, and I have no doubt that they will be controversial, particularly with those who do not believe we should be worshipping Her, or Her Children. However, I have experienced Óðinn and Angrboða, very divergent Gods, reaching out to one another. In my own case, it was through direct contact between the two of Them, being fostered to Her from Óðinn.

A brief explanation: fosterage is an old practice. In the cases that comes to mind, it was most often between a man and his brother, a freeman (karl) and a jarl or góði, and similar arrangements. However, it certainly is not the only kind, and I am finding this kind of thing happening with Gods from the same culture background (Norse and Icelandic in my case), I am also finding it across different backgrounds.

What would the purpose of such a fosterage be? Sometimes to tie two families together, or for help in raising the child. Others times fosterage would be something like a political move to unite two families or work to resolve disputes between them. Looking up fosterage in the sagas, and Gisla Saga, Sturla Saga, and Njal’s come up. In my own case it seems to serve two purposes: first, to tie these two families together in a binding way, and two, as a working relationship to resolve disputes between these families. While I would say that the grievances these two Gods and Their families have with each other are not over in any final sense, that They are willing to have and are engaged in this dialogue is a powerful thing.

With this in mind we have some good reasons for such an arrangement between two Gods, particularly ones that are chieftains of Their respective tribes. Those who are utterly opposed to the Jötnar have already checked out of the conversation. What are the implications if we accept such an experience as genuine? Again, as I have spoken about in previous posts, it is not that I am inherently more holy or better than others. It is that my lot is to be a container of relationships in this way for these Ginnreginn. Potentially anyone could be put into this situation if they accepted it. What it means is that these two Gods are willing to engage in relationship-building at the least through us, the humans, in which They are also in relationship with. It does not mean we have power over our Gods. Rather, we have power with Them.

Part of the power of animism and polytheism is that our relationships can be as varied as they are many. As many ways as we have relating to and with the Gods, why should this be an area where the Gods have no care for us? Why would we seek to limit the Gods in such a way? Why would we seek to limit ourselves in how we can connect to the Gods? Monotheism’s norms should not ever have become our yardstick, and we need to discard them should we ever hope to genuinely come into our own relationships with the Ginnreginn.

This gets to the another side of inter-spirit politics, and that largely starts in our realm and what we limit or open ourselves to. If all we ever accept is a relationship with the Gods like that which was modeled for us in Christian homes and churches then we necessarily limit ourselves as well. I am an Odinsson, and that brings with it obligations and political meaning. Accepting this brings power. It brings power through hamingja, and through all the relationships Óðinn has ever touched for good or ill. Without Óðinn I would not have gotten to know or love Loki. Without Him I would not have a relationship with the Runevaettir. Without Óðinn I would not have touched all the lives I have through those relationships with the Runevaettir, here through this blog, the Patreon, and all the shows I have been a part, including The Jaguar and the Owl, Around Grandfather Fire, and 3 Pagans on Tap, would not have happened. If I had limited myself to what was acceptable as Catholicism had taught me or as later examples in my own Pagan, polytheist, and Heathen communities had taught me, I would not be here doing and writing these things.

Reincarnation and Spirit Politics

Now, to Maleck’s questions. I will be writing on the second question first. “2. How does reincarnation (as applicable in its varied forms) and otherwise longer-than-human-lifetime-time frames play into how we can/should/do approach these politics? I’m thinking about both the pitfalls and genuine concerns about how past life and possible future lives (plus ancestors etc) show up in practice.”

My first question would be: is the life in question relevant? For instance, if you made a deal for multiple lifetimes of service to a God then that would definitely be relevant. However, I think the majority of our lives are just lived through, and while their influences may still be felt on us, such as guiding our actions, our past lives are not any more in the driver seat than our Ancestors are. There is the idea of karma as found in Dharmic traditions. This Buddhist Centre article goes over it from one point of view. To briefly sum up, karma has knock-on effects from past lives to future ones. Your choices affect how you do things as you go on to different lives.

A pitfall here can be to try to ‘make up’ or atone for the actions of your past selves. To a certain degree, particularly if you did some horrible stuff in a past life, that is laudable. However, as with a lot of things to do with past lives, it is far too easy to get sucked into those as opposed to living this life the best way that you can. You cannot change the past. However, you have immediate power with how you respond to the örlog of this life.

I do not worry much about my past lives. I am pretty busy living this one. I will not say there is nothing useful in them, though. They can be a source of power, of obligation, and healing. They can also be a source that you can tap to look for direction in this life. After all, if you can look back and see the bigger patterns or figure out where certain connections have come from, why not work with that?

Just because I do not work much with my own past lives does not mean that they are not of concern to spirit politics. To that point, it may mean quite a bit in what spirits are willing to work with you, what you örlog looks like on this go-around, and what situations in this life may be open to you. It can be worth investigating to see what you have going on, with the caution towards getting sucked into just swimming in the waters of all those past lives vs the one being lived now.

Examples of Spirit World Politics in My Life

Now, to Malek’s first question: “1. Concrete examples, *if* you can share them. Theoretical is great, but examples make shit real.”

Some examples of spirit world politics in my life:

Being the only spiritworker in my family, I get to be the point of contact. Few folks in my blood family are paying any attention to our Ancestors. Fewer still would heed Them if they were. If our Ancestors want to be heard, want a voice, or want Their descendents to listen to Them, I am more or less it. They can disagree with my choice of religion, my queerness, my relationships, all of it. They do not get to disrespect me, my partners, my Gods, my vaettir, or my other Ancestors and still have a seat at the table. Does this cause some chafing? Absolutely. However, the powerful Ancestors are also there to help sort this, so, by and large we have.

In Their turn the Ancestors get to ask things of me. So, the Catholic Ancestors had Their own section on our home Ancestor stalli in my folks’ home, and when we set it up again They will have Their own section for that as well. We have different sections for different Ancestors because folks wanted Their own space. Since our home layout is completely different it is taking a bit of time to find stalli that will work with the layout of our hearth. In the meantime we honor Them on our home’s hearth.

The wearing of the Runevaettir as tattoos on my forearms is in part a political message. It is first about my living in community with the Runevaettir. They are so important to me that I wear Them on my skin and I display Them every day since I seldom wear a long-sleeve shirt. Displaying Them this way is a signal to others that the Runes do not belong to white supremacists. It is also an open invitation to anyone to talk with me about Them, which is part of why the Runes held me to the oath to get Them tattooed onto my body, and chose the location They did. I talked about this at length in The Importance of Being Visible.

Being an Erilaz and being vocal about working with the Runes as vaettir is part of being political. It would be very easy to just shut my mouth and nod along when folks say that They are nothing more than writing. I think, though, that there is a lot to be gained and not just in terms of having solid spiritual relationships with the Runes Themselves. When you understand a Rune as a vaettir They are a whole Being unto Themselves. If we understand our writing, our systems of divination, and one of the ways in which we Heathens bring magic and power into the world as being vaettir, the political implications are enormous. The worldview brings with it an entire wealth of relationships to be considered when we want to do anything from galdr to making bindrunes to reading Runes in divination. It brings Their considerations and insight to the table, not merely what we memorize of the Rune Poems or the meaning of the words that make up Their name. It takes power out of the hands of academia to dictate the bounds of our relationship and puts that power into that of these vaettir.

Think about this. When you start to listen, really listen to these vaettir, Hagalaz is no longer just hail or destruction. They are hail and all the things that brings. They are the destruction that will be wrought, the waters that hail will melt into, and the benefits that brings. They are noted in the Icelandic Rune Poems as being the sickness of serpents, and serpents (attor) are noted in the Merseburg charm as being carriers of disease. Hagalaz can be worked with to destroy disease. Likewise, if we look to Lacouteaux and his examination of serpents in protecting the home, such as in The Tradition of Household Spirits, Hagalaz can also be worked with to destroy protection. So, while Hagalaz does not lose Their aspects of hail or destruction, They cease to just be that.

My relationship with many of the húsvaettir and landvaettir of my parents’ home has continued in my new home. When we moved we made the offer that any who wanted to come with us could. Sometimes vaettir leave a place because of neglect, abuse, or wanting to get away from a toxic situation. In this case, the reason many vaettir came with us, is that while my folks take good care of their house and land they do not offer cultus to the vaettir. To be sure, the landvaettir and húsvaettir that have stayed are happy, and so are the vaettir that came with us to the new home. Not all separation of vaettir from a place need ly to horrible, traumatic, or anything beyond wanting to stick with folks that treat you right.

This kind of positive relationship building with the landvaettir keeps up whether we are talking of my work at Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm or at my own home. The landvaettir talk. They share news as surely as nutrients are shared through the soil and mycelium networks. As sure as connections on the wind. Those political dimensions, including the little things of what I put into the soil, they feed that soil that in turn feeds those relationships. I am showing the landvaettir that They matter by what I put into the ground, how I grow what I grow, and by listening to Them on how They want things to be grown. I am putting my spiritual politics into practice by putting my hands to work in and with the ground beneath my feet as surely and concretely as I am when I make prayers or offerings.

Thank you to everyone who submitted responses, especially to Maleck for getting this series of posts started, their ongoing questions, and to Grimchild for their contributions. I am not sure if there will be a Part 4, yet, without folks submiting questions or ideas on what to cover. So, if folks are interest please let me know what you want me to cover in the comments section, in my email, or on the Around Grandfather Fire Discord server.

You Cannot Eat Theory

I just read an amazing quote that sums up my feelings on so much: “You cannot eat theory.”

This goes for leftists, polytheists, environmentalists, for damned near anything. You cannot FUCKING eat theory. If your response to someone struggling is to say ‘read theory x’ or ‘read this book/book list’ you are lost.

A popular saying in polytheist circles, especially Heathen ones, is that ‘we are people of the library’. What this has increasingly come to mean to me is ‘I am going to make information as intentionally hard as possible to find and integrate into others’ lives.’ Folks who trot this line out often miss the point of what a library is: it is an open access point for information and education for all age levels, all experience levels, and all people. If we truly are a people of the library then where are the accessible resources for Heathens?

The predominant attitude in polytheist circles still tends to be that you should have your head buried in a mound of books at any given point in time as opposed to living the religion. Mercifully, community expectations in Heathenry and other polytheist religions are changing. It is a slow change, though. I have watched no small amount of people throw their hands up in frustration as so many resources are out of reach, whether by price point or education. I have invested no small amount of money myself in books, both written by academics and fellow polytheists. I am deeply grateful for open, free-at-access projects such as TheLongship.net for existing -and we deeply need more.

Reading theory is not going to impart or teach polytheist religion. Nor will it teach a living leftist philosophy, a living animist/polytheist worldview, or a living relationship with Jörð. It can intellectually bolster a person, but without the lived component those books and those theories are empty air and a waste of time. You cannot teach mutual aid merely by talking about it. You have to do it. You cannot teach polytheism merely by talking about it. You have to do it.

You cannot feed a person in body, mind, or soul merely with theory.

What this does not mean is that theory is useless. Armchair theories, inapplicable and without access? Those are. Pieces of cloth are not joined without the sewing, knitting, crocheting, nalbinding. There are many ways of joining cloth and what they all share in common is that each requires you to apply the theory of their craft. You do not need to understand all the ins and outs, all the history, or all the whys even, though these are fine and good things to know. What you need to know is if this stitch or bind will work for the cloth at hand, and then to do it.

I can go on at length about the beauty of regenerative agriculture or the wonderful things that can be done with permaculture -or I can show it to you in action. I can literally eat the results of the work I have done with my fellows at Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm. So many people who talk a good game about solidarity and community cannot eat or share their results because there is nothing to eat and nothing to share. The food I have put into my mouth at potlucks was because of the hard work started and sustained by the Cavanaugh family. This was work that they allow me, and others they invite to Crossing Hedgerows, to do. Living reciprocity.

If our polytheist communities are going to live, let alone thrive, we have to take the steps necessary so that they are nourishing communities to be in. This means we do need to have standards of behavior, work, and study -especially for spiritual specialists and leaders- and that we also need our resources to be accessible for a range of education and experience levels. For this to happen there needs to be a serious reckoning with reciprocity in polytheist communities for this be done.

It should not be an expectation that community leaders, administrators, writers, spiritual specialists, supporters, and others who are integral to getting polytheist communities started and continuing to function should give away their labor without reciprocity. “You should write a book on it!” is a refrain I have seen more than a few times in regards to my own work and that of others. So, will the community support me so I can do that? Will the community give me and other writers, presenters, etc the resources so it is worth writing the books they want in the first place?

There is no doubt that there are efforts where resources being free at the point of access is needed. The community needs to support that necessary work being done. Whether it is a larger community pillar like a library, community garden, or smaller, such as one’s personal Kindred or other group, without community support each will fail and shut its doors. Likewise, if the needed resources to help folks learn and grow are exclusively kept behind paywalls then that harms the community in kind. Our communities, then, need to be places where our theories, values, ideas, and work are living, vibrant, and engaged with. They need to be lived spaces where reciprocity is not something we talk about, it must be something we do.

We cannot eat theory. What we can do is eat the results of that theory put into practice. What we sorely need in both leftist and polytheist communities are folks who are living examples of good Gebo with one another, who do the necessary work so that theories can be developed and put into action. The beauty of this course of action is that it is immediately accessible to everyone. Whether you are looking locally or online, see what you can do right now for the folks in your community. See in turn what your community can do for you. Talk with those in your community, and make concerted effort to making the bonds of reciprocity in your community better for everyone in them.

Deity Work v Being a Polytheist

Rotwork wrote a post here exploring the idea of deity work that I will be pushing back on, and adding my own thoughts as I go.

Before I begin I want to be clear: I respect Rotwork a lot. I get that a lot of online spaces are cesspits, and produce a lot of toxic ideas that then get circulated. Those need to be pushed back on. That being said, I am going to push back a bit on some of the things they have talked about regarding deity work. There’s enough in here that I agree with in some respects that I feel like I am going to have dig into it a bit to be clear on where I disagree.

After exploring some of the ideas I posted on their Twitter feed and talking with friends, I find much of my issue is with baseline definitions. I understand deity work as any work assigned to you by a God. I often place deity work under the catchall term spiritwork, that is, work done on behalf of, for, or with vaettir (spirits), Ancestors, and/or Gods. I do not see prayers, offerings, or any of the normal praxis of a polytheist aka exoteric religion, as being deity work/spiritwork per se.

To quote what I said in the Twitter feed:

When I think of ‘deity work’ I think of stuff assigned to you by the Gods. Not the basic stuff of *being* polytheist like prayers, offerings, etc. Being a spiritworker is a *job* not the baseline of being a polytheist. Hopefully I’m making sense here.

When I use the word spiritwork, spiritworker, and/or vaettirvirkr that means the person is doing work with, for, or on behalf of the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir. Real simple equation to my mind. In the case of ‘working with’ a God it’s to Their end even if it does benefit us.

Even in the cases where I got ‘hired out’ by Óðinn to do things for other Gods it was still in service to Him. When Óðinn came into my life like a whirlwind I could have said no, and did not.

Here is another point of contention: deity work is dangerous. It is dangerous in no small part for many of the reasons they claim it is safe, and thinking on it in the same terms. Gods are as dangerous as They are sacred. Gods that stop plagues can start them, eg Apollo. Gods that can control whether or not you win a battle can make sure you get killed so you come to Valhöll, eg Óðinn. The Gods of Fire that warm our houses have the ability to burn down forests. Our Gods are, to paraphrase CS Lewis, ‘not tame lions’. However, that does not mean that They’re in our lives just to fuck with us or do us harm. I find that, if your life is being flipped upside down by a God entering it then it probably needed to be -though there’s exceptions to every rule since Gods are individual Beings, and so are we.

The Gods do have limits -clearly. Óðinn is not omniscient, frequently refers to other Beings in the stories we have for Their knowledge and wisdom, eg Vafþruðnir and Mímir. This does not make me a selfish asshole. Further, Óðinn is a known oathbreaker. It means that I clearly know my lore and that not every God (or Ancestor or vaettr) should have trust extended unconditionally. Some Gods have very little to do with humanity since They have whole sections of Creation to deal with, deserving no less of our respect and worship. Some Gods are not the gentlest or even the most caring towards humanity. Again, They are deserving of respect and worship even if an individual polytheist chooses not to worship Them. Maybe if you are not interacting with, say, a river God in Their river then They have no reason to really pay you mind. Again, no They are no less deserving of respect or worship. You may just not be as interested in worshiping Them, or They in interacting with you, if you do not live on or near Their river.

Now, I will heartily agree that when it comes to deity work we are not working with the Gods as equals. We simply cannot. We are working for Them, which is why I refer to being a spiritworker as a job. It’s work. However, deity work is not worship.

Worship is the baseline of being a polytheist. It is what each and every polytheist should be doing in whatever their capacity is. It is the action of being a polytheist. Belief in the Gods is the baseline choice that any polytheist should hold. Note, I am not saying perfect faith or any of the other cluttering Christian notions regarding that. Belief in the Gods is a choice, a recognition. Faith is an emotion, transitory at best sometimes. I do not always have faith, but so long as I am a polytheist I have to have belief that the Gods are real and that I worship Them.

I have no disagreement with their bullet points, excepting that the Gods are mostly everywhere. It is too wide a point for me. I do not think that Óðinn or Loki are everywhere. I have no indication They are from either the lore available or my own experiences of Them. It is still monumentally stupid to be two-faced before our Gods, though.

The next point bears some digging into.

“But how do I know if I’m contacting the right entity?”

Now when it comes to addressing prayers to Gods, so long as you’re using the correct names and epithets your prayers are very likely being heard by the God in question. Now when you’re hearing a response of some kind? When you are looking for feedback or input? This is where doing your due diligence is necessary.

I will refer to my Brother Jim Two Snakes on this one: Spiritual Accounting. His breakdown is this: (M+C³)xR = V. M is messages, C is confirmations, R is results, and V is verified. Lore, divination, and community input are the three legs of this stool. Why would we need this? Because we can be mistaken. We can think we are talking to a God and getting input back and its a sock puppet we are fooling ourselves with or a spirit using that form to get attention/energy from us. Sometimes spirits lie. Sometimes we get stuff wrong, or we are not in a good place to experience the Ginnreginn (Holy/Mighty Powers) well at that moment. Working with Spiritual Accounting is a way to make sure that we get as much as we can right.

Unless you are looking for or are getting some kind of response though, this may not even be an active concern for you. Not every polytheist is, nor should be expected to be, a spiritual specialist whether as a spiritworker, priest, or otherwise. It is perfectly acceptable to worship the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits in whatever capacity you can, and live by your life’s philosophy. You may get responses, or you may not; that is not the measure of a polytheist.

I started off my journey as a Pagan with 5 salt crystals in a thimble-sized glass jar. Size of the sacred space your worship takes place in, the offerings you make, and the prayers you make all can change over time. To my mind, these questions are key to the measure of a polytheist regardless of whether you are an individual worshiping at your hearth the size of an Altoid tin, or with a large community the midst of a stone circle:

Are you worshiping, praying to, offering to, and speaking with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits with respect? Are you worshiping, making prayers, and making offerings in ways that are respectful and in alignment with the religion, traditions, and individual Gods, Ancestors, and spirits you worship? If you are doing deity work, are you doing whatever work you have assigned in a manner your Gods find respectful? Not respect as I understand it. Respect as your Gods, Ancestors, and spirits understand it.

Are you living in good and respectful reciprocity with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits? That, in my understanding, is the measure of a polytheist. Your worship, and if you have spiritwork, your work, may not look like what others are doing. You are a person in relationships with Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and communities. Whatever it is, however it is expressed, worship in respect to the best of your ability. If you have it, do your deity work and/or spiritwork in respect to the best of your ability. No one could reasonably expect more.

Climate Change, the Myth of Progress, and Telling New Stories

This is an old post from December 1st, 2018 that has been lingering in my drafts folder. Seemed a good time to upload it.

Climate change and peak oil are predicaments. Problems have solutions. Predicaments are states of being to be lived through.

Digging deep into the climate science or studies on the fossil fuel industries is fine and all, but doing that does not address the situations that have lead us to make the very choices driving both of these predicaments. Something I have gleaned from years of reading up on both predicaments and watching responses to the challenges they raise is that each and every time a presenter finishes speaking on climate change or peak oil is that the story we tell ourselves needs to change. It continuously comes back to this. It does not matter how compelling the science is, it does not matter how detailed the arguments are. If you cannot tell a story the audience is lost.

Many peak oil folks who have given lectures will talk about a moment where someone, especially in the Q&A section, will say something about a technological fix to peak oil and hold up their cell phone as if it provided proof. Some seem to use the phone as a talisman against the notion that we cannot just ‘tech our way’ out of the problem. We have told ourselves that we are so clever and so good at using technology that we just have to design a new gadget to fix the situation.

Like a lot of things, folks recognizing climate change and peak oil as predicaments needs to be worked through through the stories we are raised on. The myth of progress is a big hurdle in most folks’ imagination. There are those who are utterly convinced that, even if the world encounters deep climate change that ‘they will figure something out’. A nebulous they, sometimes filled in by a technocrat or a scientist, an inventor or an investor; whoever the person is, they serve a messianic function. For Christians who either do not wish to deal with or actively deny climate change and similar predicaments, Revelations and the Apocalypse are comforts in that no matter how bad it gets, there is an end and it will be in God’s glory and Christ’s victory. For techno-futurists ‘The Singularity’, ‘Ascension’ and similar ideas fulfill a similar religious/spiritual/psychological impulse.

It is deeply uncomfortable for anyone in our American society to question the myth of progress because so much of the edifice of our modern understanding of who we are, what we are doing, and where we are going is built on it. The basic narrative of the myth of progress is that as time goes on everything will improve over time. Time in this myth is linear, assuming that things become more just, technology get better, knowledge improves, the economy grows, and that peoples livelihoods get better over time.

The opposite is also true in the myth of progress. As the myth is linear, its assumption is that things get better as time goes on. When it looks backward to the past it frames the past as being where things were progressively more ignorant, stupid, horrible and destitute the further back in time you go. The present in this myth is treated as the best things have been, and the future as being even better as a matter of course. It follows very similar lines of thought to the old notion of a hierarchy of religion because the central premise in that narrative was taken up into the myth of progress. The hierarchy of religion (or evolution of religion as it also has been known) is we started in an ignorant state of polytheism and animism religiously and tribal societies organizationally. It then states that we ‘grew’ into better states with monotheism religiously, empires and kingdoms organizationally. Now, it treats us as having ‘become better’ as we are. Monotheist dominance places itself at the top of this hierarchy, while more recently atheists often places atheism as the new crown in the myth religiously. Politically, superpower nations and global power structures like the UN and EU, are placed as the top of the hierarchy.

Both the myth of progress and the hierarchy of religion’s two-pronged approach defends itself by positing anyone who is other than monotheist or atheist is ignorant, backward, and against modern society, and that anyone who believes in any other organization model outside of national and global power structures we have now is seeking to plunge us back into times of want and privation. The myth has staying power for two reasons: the first being that its main source of strength is in a powerful call to the betterment of humanity’s lot through engagement with its myth, and the second being that it holds a great deal of social cache over peoples’ heads who disagree with it. In truth it is little different than Christians in the conversion periods of polytheist Germany, England, and similar with a carrot and stick. The carrot being if you wanted to trade with Christians your leader or your merchants had to be baptized Christian. The stick being if you wanted to stay heathen then they would slaughter you till you gave in or you were all dead.

Bound up with the myth of progress is that capitalism as it exists is always going to improve and is the best economic system. It states each movement forward in time will obviously, as it has brought ‘progress’ to religion and organization, will bring that selfsame ‘progress’ to the economy. As with religion, it treats looking back to other forms of economic systems that worked in the past, eg gift economies, small-scale interdependent communities, etc as harmful, ignorant, or being against prosperity, health, or the good of the humanity. Anyone who has paid attention, either to the history of economics or to the last thirty years of economic ups and downs in this country will see that money and wealth and the attendant power of both have concentrated in fewer hands while the cost of living increases for everyone. Meanwhile the majority of people in this country having falling wage levels to meet this increasing cost of living. That is, assuming you have a wage and aren’t in the so-called gig economy or bound up in contractual work.

Our entire money system is based on fiat currency that is borrowed into existence at interest. As this debt increases so too does our money supply. As this debt increases the overall ability of that money to do work goes down. There is no way, in the end, to pay our debts because there will never be enough money to pay them. The money system cannot improve over time for anyone but the most rich because anyone trying to save money (such as through a savings account) is losing money by keeping their money in the system. Retirement as a concept is vanishing for all but the most rich. With booms and busts occuring about every 5-10 years most people whose do have retirements are now predominantly bound to the stock market through 401ks, 457s, and similar market investments. Pensions and retirements were crushed in the last economic downturn in breathtaking numbers. Given the cycle of boom/bust, those who have some kind of retirement account could lose some, most, or all of what they have invested in the economy.

It is not anti-capitalist to say that things cannot continue as they are. It is self-evident to anyone paying attention that the myth of progress we have been told is not comporting with what reality is. Yet, having written all of that, I have not told a story. I have given you, the reader a great deal of information. If I reject the myth of progress and see the predicaments of climate change and peak oil will require us to tell new stories, what new stories do I tell? How?

I tell stories that come from my heart. I tell the stories of my Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. I tell of how my Holy Powers have inspired me through their myths. I tell of how the Gods are working with us to face these predicaments, how my Ancestors faced predicaments in the past, like the Great Depression, how the vaettir ally with us when we do well by Them. I tell of how the Holy Powers are encouraging us to live better in harmony with Them. I tell of how we develop new ways of relating to our Holy Powers as we develop our approaches to these predicaents. I tell of what I find exciting about a world where we address climate change and peak oil on a local level. I share what I am most looking forward to doing to address the predicament we face as a community, of what things will need to be done so we can be more resilient in the face of the predicaments coming to bear. I inspire, speaking of how we will rise to the ocassion in the face of our country doing nothing on the national stage to address the perils facing us.

We tell stories of the animals we want to raise, and the plants we want to grow. We tell of the things we want to make, whether it is cheese or cloth, chairs or tools. We bring our stories into each thing we put our hands to; rather than a chair from a store, it is a chair I put together after learning how to do it. The tools are not merely tools, our things not merely things; they are sources of interconnection between one another. We weave the stories around the closeness of community we want to foster, and the sacred ways that will tie us all together as communities, Kindreds, clans, and groups, families, and individuals.

We are living stories. Embodied stories. Bound up and woven with our Gods, our Ancestors, our vaettir, and one another. We not only talk about how we are living in Urðr with all things, we live in that understanding consciously. Whether I am telling the Creation Story of Fire and Ice coming together so the rivers flowed and life could flourish or I am telling the story of how I made this bottle of mead, I am not only telling that story but bringing it to being again with each telling.

This is one of my living stories:

Not long ago our Ancestors dug into Jörð and brought up the Dead. Our Ancestors could not recognize the Dead, not then, but the Ancestors did recognize Power. At first it was by little bits; they used Fire, and burnt the Dead. Then the Ancestos saw the Power of the heat the Dead carried in Them allowed us to do more than we ever could by the horse, oxen, or our own hands. Generations passed. We dug and looked for more Dead, and found Them everywhere beneath our feet. We burnt the Dead for heat and for light. We were burning so much Dead there was less and less in the ground. Some said “We need to burn more!” and so they burnt more.

There were others that said “The Dead need to stay in the ground!” They had come to see that the Air, the Water, the Earth, and even the Fire Itself were being so abused by all the burning of the Dead that they could not live on Jörð and carry on this way. They could not say “You are our Mother!” and be so cruel to Her. They could not say “We need to burn more!” They could not honor the Gods right when they did not honor the Goddess on which they live. They could not honor the Ancestors as they fed the Dead into their fires to feed their want for heat and light. They could not honor the vaettir as they disrespected the Beings they shared the Worlds with. So, they resolved to change, and they asked their Gods, their Ancestors, and their vaettir to help them.

Some were told to stay where they were and work hand in hand with their neighbors, some for the first time. Some were told to move to the country and live as their old Ancestors had. Others were told to move to the city and work with those already there. Some were given set paths to follow, and some were given a field of choices. Each had their Work to do, and it was no more and no less important because it was given to them to do by the Holy Ones.

Each did the Work given to them. As each person did the Work others would see this. Each person who lived well on Jörð gave courage to another to live well on Her. Each person who did their Work gave courage to another to find their Work and to do it well.

They came to live in right relationship with Jörð. When Jörð swelled with heat and water they knew what to do because the Work had taught them how to understand Her and to prepare for these times. When the air went sharp and the ice came, they knew what to do because the Work had taught Them how to understand Her and prepare for these times. They were able to care for their people because they learned from Jörð how to live upon Her, with Her. They were able to live well upon Her because they listened to Her and did well by Her. They listened to the vaettir and became good neighbors, good relatives with Them once again. Generation on generation came and lived well because the Ancestors had taken the time to listen to the Earthmother, and worked to live in right relationship with Her.

Patreon Topic 39: Decolonizing Magical Practice vs Honoring Ancestral Traditions

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 Elfwort comes this question:

“Would you talk about decolonizing magickal practice vs honoring ancestral traditions?”

I am going to start with the point that I do not view this as an either/or. I look at this with the perspective that this is an ‘and’ approach. In my view honoring Ancestral traditions requires we decolonize them. We also need to be clear when borrowing has occured vs appropriation. If information, techniques, or inroads into relationships were shared that would be one thing, and quite another if these were gained by pressure, stolen, or obtained under false pretenses.

Decolonizing our practices may require us to do a lot of work, including digging, soul searching, and work with our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. Lots of websites feature discussions of decolonizing ecology, education, and so many more ways. I like to define terms before digging into how we are going to apply them. So, what is decolonizing? To briefly summarize, it is deconstructing white Western European methods of thought, reasoning, understanding, worldview, and perspectives as the dominant and privileged ones. It is bringing in other modes and methods of thought, reasoning, understanding, and perspectives as co-equals, and centering them.

Each Pagan community and person will have its own decolonizing to do. This work, in and of itself, can have many layers. At the least we Heathens have to separate out Christian, atheist, nationalist, and racist influences on our communities. Decolonizing our worldview and personal mindset requires us to reckon with the nationalist and racist history behind modern Heathen revivals. It also requires us to approach the stories and myths we have with a critical eye, as many of these were originally written down by Christians, and later interpreted through Christian or Christian-dominated frameworks. Doing this work gets us closer to our Ancestors’ worldview, and so, doing the decolonizing work and honoring Ancestral traditions goes hand-in-hand.

Taking off that many layers in front of our understanding of the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and the root culture we are reviving can seem like a lot at first. In practice we begin with the best information we have, make our cultus as good as we can, and that as new and useful information comes to light we integrate this new understanding. Not all information is useful to our endeavors, even if it is based in history. Likewise, we have to be critical with what information we take in and apply. A given author may be furthering outmoded or historically incorrect ideas, and this can be true of modern Heathen authors as it can scholars. A given author can also be speaking for or on behalf of the Ginnreginn and the information they are sharing does not apply to us, our situation, or is wrong for our relationships with the Ginnreginn.

Decolonization of our mindset also requires us to look at what spiritual tools, technologies, ideas, and work we employ, why, for what reason. If we have learned these from someone else we need to ask if they have the authority to teach it to us and we have the permission to use it and/or pass it on. For instance, I do not do smudging. It is a ritual unto itself. I have not been taught how to do it. What I do with mugwort, aka Ama Una, whether I work with Her as an offering, cleansing by reykr (smoke) as incense or by smoking Her, etc, are not a Native American teachings, rituals, or relationships. When we are firmly rooted in our own relationship with the Ginnreginn we have no need to appropriate others’ cultures, practices, relationship, ways, or spiritual technologies.

This is not to say that we should not look to Native Americans for how to live with the vaettir we share this world with. An example: I offer the landvaettir tobacco, something I picked up by observation and teaching from Native American friends of mine. However, I also offer alcohol to the landvaettir, and this is something that is generally acceptable in our relationship with Them as Heathens that would not be with the Native folks I know. So why would I offer tobacco and not engage in smudging?

Smudging is not merely the burning of herbs in a shell or other fire-safe holder. It is a ritual, one I have not been taught or cleared to do. Offering tobacco, so far as I know, is open to everyone, and a good gift to almost every vaettr I have encountered. One is a closed practice, the other is not. Smudging would be theft of a spiritual practice while offering tobacco is being a good neighbor with the vaettir. Decolonizing our ways excludes those practices that harm, diminish, or marginalize Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPoC) while also including those practices that center their voices, experiences, and practices as they are appropriate for us to engage in.

Honoring Ancestral traditions can be a powerful, lived experience. Since a good many of us Heathens are reviving our own, and some of us are starting to pass on our ways to a second or even third generation, this is a huge responsibility on our parts. Decolonizing our traditions as much as we can before passing them on, and being willing to correct ourselves and our descendents when we err is our responsibility. The creation of Ancestral traditions is also very much in our hands and that of our Ginnreginn. Perhaps the older ways no longer apply because we live in radically different climates, or our relationships with Them are so different that we have to develop new traditions.

There is NOTHING wrong with developing new traditions when the old no longer can apply to us. Given how many of us are taking up broken threads across a good expanse of time in reviving our Heathen religions, there are a lot of traditions that are next to impossible to revive, and then there are traditions we cannot revive because we live in a wholly different society. We are going to have to develop new traditions in many cases, and this provides both us and the Ginnreginn with powerful opportunities to turn aside from the colonization that has marked a lot of modern Pagan religions.

One example that comes to mind is the establishment of vé, sacred space. We know our Ancestors had them outside, and given the role of hearth cultus, they likely had them inside as well. Each of us has the ability to develop family hearth cultus, and traditions that unfold from that. We have the ability to bring in old customs with respect to how to worship and treat the húsvaettir (house spirits), and together with Them, we can make new ways forward. After all, few of us live in a farm house so a lot of the ways you would build a relationship with, interact with, and/or ask for help from a tomte, nisse, etc may no longer apply. Those that we interact with might be totally different since They are likely not attached to a farmhouse, but apartments and single-family homes. Hearth cultus itself has had to change over the years since vanishingly few Heathens even have a literal hearth!

These subjects can range far and wide. Just the two websites I linked on decolonization go over education and ecology. Robin Wall Kimmerer’s books Gathering Moss and Braiding Sweetgrass are powerful explorations of her lived Native relationship with science and ecology. Erika Buenaflor covers Curanderismo centered in Mexica and Maya cultures in her book Curanderismo Soul Retrieval. Sade Musa does ongoing education and anti-colonialism work for African American diasporia, especially with regards to herbs and healing ways with her Roots of Resistance. We had both Erika Buenaflor and Sade Musa on Around the Grandfather Fire.

I cannot hope to cover all perpsectives with this post or to do them justice. Whatever our paths forward, we can decolonize our paths while honoring our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, and the traditions we build with Them.

Patreon Prayer/Poem/Song 39: For Reindeer

If you want to submit a request for a prayer, poem, or song to be written to you privately or to be posted on this blog or my Patreon for a God, Ancestor, or spirit, sign up for the Ansuz and above level here on my Patreon.

This was requested by Elfwort for Reindeer.

Your hooves strike the powdery snow

Follow the leader on where to go

Together we walk, together we walk

Eat the green and growing grass

Build up the herd’s great stores of fat

Together we walk, together we walk

Bear the young and suckle soon

Each one is a beloved boon

Together we walk, together we walk

When the cold snaps the blood runs hot

The annual dance of the winter rut

Together we walk, together we walk

Mark the passing of the Dead

Who walk behind and walk ahead

Together we walk, together we walk

The herd goes on, the herd is strong

From birth to death we travel on

Together we walk, together we walk

Together, we walk

Patreon Poem/Song/Prayer 37 -For the Vetrvaettir

If you want to submit a request for a prayer, poem, or song to be written to you privately or to be posted on this blog or my Patreon for a God, Ancestor, or spirit, sign up for the Ansuz and above level here on my Patreon.

This was requested by Elfwort for the Vetrvaettir.

Hail to the Sons and Daughters of Nifelheim!

Hail Ice Itself!

Hail Elder Ancestor!

Hail Jökull!

Hail Snær!

Hail Frösti!

Hail Ýmir!

Hail Kári!

Hail to Flake and Crystal!

Hail to Rime and Cold!

Hail to the Ice-bridge and Frozen Silence!

Thank You for the cleansing cold!

Thank You for the meditative quiet!

Thank You for the Ice-Seed that swells the lakes and rivers!

Thank You for the blessings of Vetr!

Hail Elder Ancestor Ice!

Hail Vetrvaettir!

Patreon Topic 37: On Hulda

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 Elfwort comes this topic:

“Could you talk about Hulda?”

Only in the sense that I could point you to resources I have found. Hulda is not a Goddess I have experience with. For this, I have to rely on resources such as Die Urglaawisch Sippschaft vum Lewesbaam here, GermanicMythology.com here, and The Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore, Mythology, and Magic by Claude Lecouteux.

A lot of my exposure to Her has been with regards to Her connections to Yule, and what some see as Her cognates, being Frau Holle and Perchta. These Goddesses are seen in some sources as leading The Wild Hunt, with Perchta leading unbaptized babies in Her train. All of these Goddesses are related to domestic crafts, especially spinning, and the keeping of the home. Where Hulda means ‘hidden’ and She may be seen as seen as being connected to the ‘hidden ones’, the Huldra, Frau Holle and Perchta are more associated with the Dead.

Beyond that I really cannot talk too much given I do not know Her well. Beyond the sources I have given above I would look into the Urglaawe Heathen reconstructionist religion, especially Robert L. Schreiwer, the Urglaawe Facebook Group, Die Urglaawich Sippschaft vum Distelfink and the Urglaawe Customs Guild which all were thanked in the bottom of the first article. These folks have living traditions and religious paths which honor these Goddesses and understand Her in a far more immediate way than I.

Patreon Topic 32: On Skaði

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 Elfwort comes this topic:”Can you discuss Skaði?”

Sure. A look around my blog yields a lot of older posts where I talk about Skaði, mostly in the role of assigning me work to do. She is a powerful Goddess, one I have worshipped throughout a lot of my time as a Heathen. I started writing that I was not very close to Her, but then, I don’t think closeness is necessarily a goal to have with all of our Gods. She has treated me well, and the relationship we have is friendly. She is among the Gods we honor every day during our family prayers and make offerings to at our Gods’ vé.

She is a Goddess associated with hunting, skis, survival, the cold, and implacability. She brooks no bullshit, and when She showed up in Her war gear demanding weregild for the death of Her Father Þjazi, She got it. She is fierce, powerful, and yet there is a coolness, both of personality and of purpose, that I feel with Her.

I took some time getting to writing this because I wanted to sit down with the sources and reread things, but to be honest, like a lot of jötnar and Asynjur, there is not much on Skaði. If you want to learn about Her from the literary sources She is found in the Gríminsmál when Óðinn is talking with Agnarr, and especially in the Lokasenna when She and Loki have words. Perhaps the most we know about Her are from this section of the Poetic Edda and that of the Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál in the Prose Edda. She is noted in the Ynglinga saga as having married Óðinn and having children with Him. I could not find much at all that was conclusive with regards to Her and archaeology.

My dear friend Nick has many blog posts on Her, all of which can be found here, including passages I mentioned above, and his experiences with Her. In it, he notes that there are rock carvings of skiers found in Bola at Nord-Tondelag, but again nothing conclusive or anything regarding Her or Her cult. Could it, and other rock carvings and finds he notes relate to Her? Sure, but again, nothing to where we can say “absolutely!'”

Something Nick notes and that I will pick up on is that Skaði starts off utgard, a word meaning ‘outside the walls/enclosure’. She starts off as an outsider and is brought into Asgarðr. However, as Nick has pointed out, She never loses this wildness.

My first experience with Her came when I was handed over to Her by Óðinn during a nine day ordeal. She taught me quite a bit, meeting me in Niflheimr, and afterward gave me work to do. Among these was learning survival techniques such as making fire, learning how to hunt, and first aid/first response. She also had me take up learning how to shoot a bow and a gun. Of these I have learned how to make fire with flint and steel, and hope to do more with firebow or friction firemaking, have yet to have a succesful hunt, have learned how to shoot a bow and a gun, and have first aid/first response training. So, I still have work to do.

When I go to shoot my bow or my gun I make prayers to Her. When I shoot I offer each shot to Skaði and to Óðinn. I find both of Them have a kind of calm or cold to Them when in this zone.When we were in the Porcupine Mountains in Northern Michigan a couple summers ago, I felt Her presence quite a bit. When I have wandered in the forest behind where our home will be built, I feel Her. Especially as we have come into Vetr, I have felt this connection get ‘louder’. As to where it will go, who knows?

Hail Skaði! May She ever be hailed!

Patreon Song/Poem/Prayer 32 -For the Vetrvaettir

If you want to submit a request for a prayer, poem, or song to be written to you privately or to be posted on this blog or my Patreon for a God, Ancestor, or spirit, sign up for the Ansuz and above level here on my Patreon. This prayer was requested by Elfwort for the Vetrvaettir.

Hail Vetrvaettir

Hail Íss and Snær

Hail Frost and Kaldr

Hail Kala and Hagall

Hail to the frost jötnar

Hail to Kari’s kin

Be gentle with us

May we be safe in the home, the forest, the vé

May we be safe on the roads, the fields, the waters

Spare our kith and kin your harshness

Help us to appreciate the quiet, the dark, the silence

Help us to appreciate this time of rest

Help us to live with vigor this Vetr

Hail Vetravettir!