100 Years

100 years since the signing of the Armistice.

100 years of silence and bells.

100 years since the end of World War 1.

The years that made our world what it is. The years that changed so much, that shaped so much. How to approach such a day?

With solemnity. With gratitude. With honoring. With remembering.

To the Warrior and Military Dead who sacrificed all they had to give.

To the Warriors and Military personnel who gave all they had to give.

To the families who never saw their loved ones again.

To the families that did.

To the lands that still bear countless scars of trenches and powder, artillery and countless bullets and the blood of all the Dead.

100 years and so many lives have passed that a great forgetting is coming over the nations.

We honor in remembering. In remembering the Dead live.

78. Cattle die, | and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one’s self;
One thing now | that never dies,
The fame of a dead man’s deeds.

Havamol, translated by Henry Adam Bellows

Some resources:

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: Blueprint for Armgageddon

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI

BBC Four: The First World War

BBC 26 Part Documentary on World War 1

A Springtime Prayer to Jord

Loamy Earth, deep and rich

Full and black

Hela and Nidhogg blessed

The Dead in Your body

The soils’ life

Renewed and resurrected

 

Seeds dig tendrils and reach up

Mushrooms grow and spores spread

Everywhere is life

Bound up in Your Body and Breath

O holy Jord!

 

Life and Death unleashed

Dancing within and across Your Body

Waters fall, rivers swell

Bellies quicken, blood flows

Flesh pales, bones are cleaned

 

The Lakes yet live

The fish yet swim

The deer yet roam

The trees yet grow

The bees yet harvest

 

Sun drenched and rain soaked

Buds come forth from the trees

Grasses grow tall in the hills

Fields are carved and planted in the farms

The winds are wild and storms fierce

 

Spring has come in its riot

Frost and heat and frost and heat

So Kari’s breath finally lifts

All moist in the morning

As Sunna’s Charge drives off the cold

 

Green spears burst forth from Your ground

Freyr’s Blessings rises tall

Falls beneath Gerda’s knife to rise again

All born in and borne by You

O Holy Jord!

 

The skies fill with birds’ flight

The ground with ants’ wars and tunneling worms

The gardens and wild places with flowers

The pots and beds with herbs

The heart with renewal

 

We hail You in Your Spring, O Jord!

Your raiments of green and purple, blacks and reds

Your swollen rivers and swelling fruits

Your cool breezes and warm days

Your blessings that pour, call, and grow all around us

The Battlefields No One Talks About

When I hail the Warrior Dead, I do not hail just the Military Dead.  Certainly, there are Military Dead who are part of Them.  Certainly, all Military Dead should be honored for Their service.  However, there are a lot of Warrior Dead whose stories are glossed over, and lost to time.  These, and stories like these, should be well kept so we honor Their memory, and the causes They fought for.  I thank Bragi and Ansuz for helping me to write this.  Hail to You!  I hail the Warrior Dead who came and spoke to me while I was writing this.  Hail to You!  May the stories of the Warrior Dead never be forgotten.  In telling, may we live in Them.  In the telling, They live forever.

When anyone asks about what unions did to get the rights all workers possess, tell them about this.

You have come a long way from home to settle in a place in the Blair Mountain Ridge.  You went through hell just to get here.  This place is 50 miles out from the capital, Charleston, in West Virginia.  Trees are everywhere along the route to the mine you’ve come to work at, and what isn’t trees are rocks and boulders, and all of it is on slopes.  The mine is dark beyond dark, and the candles are the only source of light.  Every second or third miner might have one, if you’re lucky.  The hours are long, and you’re a long ways off from any non-company anything.  The little scraps you get so you can buy from the company store?  You buy your equipment with it.  You buy your food with it.  Your lodging.  What little there is.  You work 12 hours at a shot, maybe more.  You drop your candle somewhere, it goes out?  You pay for it.  If you died, you died, and if you were supporting a family, they better figure out quick how to support themselves without you.

What’s more is that even your soul isn’t safe from the company.  They have approved preachers and pastors.  They give them the messages to give to you and your fellow miners.  The very people who should be appealing to God on your behalf, on your family’s behalf, fill your ears with sermons of how good the company is, and how happy you should be to get blisters on your hands and feet, to risk your life each day or eventually get black-lung for a company that gives you scraps of paper to pay for the scraps of food they deign to give you from their heaping plates.  Yes, indeed, God bless America, and God bless the company.

You know that if you and your fellow miners, all of whom are in the same straits as you, organize, then the police will come with a signed martial law order in hand, and crack down.  Literally.  They do it whenever you and your folks get too rowdy, too angry from one more insult, one more death, one more trampling on your dignity.  So you strike.  The authorities and their posse of private enforcers come for you.  You get your skull split, you get arrested?  Goodbye, employment.  Your rights end where the nightsticks and guns begin.  After all, you’re working the specialty ore that nets your boss ungodly profits, and their pull is so thick they may as well have installed themselves as governor in Charleston.

Then, a day comes when you and your fellows won’t take it anymore.  It wasn’t enough that martial law was called.  Again.  It wasn’t enough that they tried to pin murder on Sheriff Hatfield and twenty-two other people.  No.  Those fuckers just executed one of the few pro-union folks in the neighborhood.  They killed Sheriff Sid Hatfield in cold blood.  They lured him the courthouse on bullshit perjury charges, and him and Ed Chambers were killed by deputized ‘detectives’ from Baldwin-Felts.  They put twelve fucking holes in each of them to make damn good and sure they and their ghosts weren’t coming back.

Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency.  The same pricks that were hired guards and ‘investigators’ for your boss.  The same folks who are more than willing to crack skulls to get their employers’ way. Blood spatters the ground, it pools.  You know it’s a matter of time before someone’s finger gets itchy, or someone moves the wrong way.  So you march, because it is wrong.  You march, because that life, and the life of all of those at risk from that martial law, bearing down like boots on all your necks, are worth it.  Solidarity.

You are 10,000 strong.  Some of you are armed with guns.  Some of you carry whatever seemed handy as a weapon.  Some of you have your hands, so that’s enough.  You all march.  You march, on foot.  It is fifty long miles until you hit Logan.  And people join you.  It doesn’t matter the background, the creed, the color, everyone marches.  Miners march with bookkeepers, march with doctors, march with lawyers, march with railroaders, march with ministers and pastors and priests.  You march.  You might be as many as 15,000 strong, now.  Solidarity

Then you all run square into the Logan Defenders in Logan County.  These bastards are armed to the teeth, headed by the anti-union Sheriff Don Chafin.  There might be anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 men, all from Baldwin-Felts, local cops, deputies, and volunteers.  You’re a ragtag bunch; maybe half of you have decent weapons if you’re lucky.  They?  They have pistols and rifles, Browning .50 machine guns, artillery, and planes.  Oh, and those planes?  They have chemical and explosive payloads.  That’s right.  They’ll drop bombs on you full of shrapnel and bleach for the profits your blood and sweat will make them.  So you do the only thing you can do.  You charge right at them.  Solidarity.

It’s bullets and chaos, it’s hands clenched into fists, teeth bared, and dirt kicked up as you and those fuckers who want you down in the dirt come to it.  Fists pound flesh, bullets meant for other armies tear into your friends and chew their bodies like some great monster come to feast.  Crows and ravens wheel and scream overhead as the days drag on.  Guns, smoke, and screams fill the air.  You don’t stop fighting.  Solidarity.

The reports will say only 20-100 people died in the week that followed.  You know better.  You helped load your dead friends into boxcars to carry them home.  Archaeologists will say over a million rounds were fired.  You’ve no idea how many were fired, only what they did to you.  What they did to the land around you, pockmarking it.  Like the Earth vomited up black bile soaked in blood.  You pick up the dead, you say your prayers, and you get back to the fight.  Solidarity.

The week ends, and the federal troops arrive.  You and your fellows put down your weapons in the woods, hide them, and get the rest of the dead on their journey home.  Too many of you are veterans; these were family of another kind.  Besides, the Army wasn’t the ones trying to make you bleed just because you and your union folks wanted to be able to organize and bargain together for a decent wage, time off, a pension, or basic human dignity.  You and your fellows give up, no one so much as fires a shot.  It is over.  You make the long journey home.  You pray, and you bury your dead.  Solidarity.

Nothing much changes.  The company still takes advantage, except now it starts blacklisting union members and breaking contracts with the unions.  It still makes you pay for your equipment, your food, your lodging.  It still works you till you drop of black-lung or exhaustion.  It still puts those Baldwin-Felts thugs around the place, still pays those pastors to keep the company prayers and sermons in your ears.  It still takes you, body, mind and soul, for everything you’ve got.  Those of you who remain do so as your union dies a horrible death, slow, like a twisted knife in the guts.  The union won’t recover until 1935, when it comes to life in the New Deal.  You and your fellows are there, and you triumph as the bosses finally start to pay up, finally start to bargain in good faith.  The unions roar back to life, stronger than ever.  You stand on the bones of the dead, and remember: Solidarity.

These are the sources I consulted for this post:

http://www.archaeology.org/news/2461-140825-west-virginia-blair-mountain-battlefield

http://archive.archaeology.org/1201/features/blair_mountain_coal_activism_west_virginia.html

https://coalcountrytours.com/West_Virginia_Mine_Wars.html

http://www.pawv.org/news/blairhist.htm

http://theroanoker.com/interests/history/coalmining-war

http://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/333

White Guilt is an Indulgence

If you are classified as white in this country you live with the privilege of (at least) 400 years of racism and genocide. It doesn’t matter how you got here.

It does not matter that my great-grandfather came over from the Netherlands during WWI; he benefited from his skin color even though he could not speak or write a word of English. He benefited from systemic racism and genocide. I never asked for this, but I benefit from these as well.

My Ancestors were not barred from entry into this country because of racist quotas enacted by Congress. They never had to endure a blood quantum law to claim or be punished for who they were. They were not interned in camps during WWII. They were not killed for speaking out for their rights in the face of Jim Crow laws. They were not barred from practicing their religion after generations of genocide. I do not feel guilt for my Ancestors because they avoided these things, but whether or not I feel guilt, such feelings are immaterial to the issue of racial justice.

Guilt is an indulgence, especially when it inspires a lack of action and empathy.

Addressing problems of inequality, racism, colonialism, and genocide is not about white folks, white guilt, or white feelings. It is not about white people at all. I don’t care how bad you feel about your Ancestors’ actions. Gods know, if your Ancestors committed atrocities I want you to feel shame for it. If those feelings, or lack of feeling, gets in the way of you (and Them) actually making some sort of commitment to doing something, then it is an indulgence and a waste of time in regards to doing anything useful about racism and white privilege.

When hurt white feelings get in the way of equality, or especially, justice, that is not something People of Color or anyone concerned with justice in regards to inequality, racism, colonialism, etc. can afford. When the specter of that guilt arises and becomes a paralyzing thing that takes the focus off of People of Color, their problems, and the things that are actively killing them, it cannot be afforded. It is, in a word, derailing.

I don’t give a damn how you feel. I really don’t. If you lack the empathy to stand up for justice because your fucking feelings are hurt: Fuck. Right. Off.

White people do need to deal with our feelings, but not at the expense of justice or equality. It should not be the directive of folks to remind white people to deal with our feelings outside of the times and places where issues of justice, equality, etc. are being addressed. Our angst should not be aired during times of grief or moral outrage at the murder of black people by police. It is no different than walking into a funeral while a family is crying over a child’s casket, and screaming at them ‘Your crying makes me feel bad! I didn’t do this to you!’ You know what? You’re getting in the way of their need to grieve at that point. You’re an asshole. The funeral is not about or for you. Anyone, from the presiding minister to the family member on down to a complete stranger visiting in respect would be well within moral rights to ask or demand for you to get out.

This is why #alllivesmatter is either a cop-out or completely fucking tone-deaf. Not all the houses are on fire, and so, they do not deserve the fire hose equally. #blacklivesmatter is on-point and the topic at hand because black people are being systemically targeted by police, policing policies, jail time, jailing and fine procedures based on the color of their skin. They are dying because of this. The reason why our feelings as white people do not matter in this is because our fucking lives are not on the line for walking on the street while being black.

Blacks, as well as Native American and Hispanic peoples, are being killed in the United States far more than whites by police. In addition to this, because of jailing and fine procedures for minor traffic violations and misdemeanors in places like Ferguson, MO, they are now the leading victims of what has become the modern day debtor’s prison. Can’t pay your traffic ticket? Can’t pay your fines? You’re going to jail. What’s insidious about this is that there is financial incentive for counties and cities to do this, and that encourages these cities to increase incarceration.

You know what white people do not have to deal with? Being charged with 4 counts of destruction of city property due to bleeding on officer’s uniforms for having the shit beat out of them in a Ferguson, MO jail in 2009. Enough mewling about being judged based on the color of your skin; when white people get judged we might feel temporarily angry, guilty, shamed, or embarrassed. When black people get judged they get the shit knocked out of them and then charged with a crime because they’re getting their blood on officers’ uniforms.

So not only are People of Color far more likely to be targets for poverty, they are also more likely to be targeted by police for arrest. They are more likely to be jailed for their charges until trial if they can’t post bail, then fined for said charges, and then re-jailed assuming they or someone else could pay for bail in the first place. If they are successfully prosecuted they will pay fines on top of it, and may face being put into longer-term incarceration for failure to pay for these charges. That is, if they’re not simply killed outright by police. People of Color are, and have been for some time, targets in their own neighborhoods.

This is why it is so deeply disappointing to me that neither The Covenant of the Goddess nor The Troth got their collective shit together and did the right thing in supporting #blacklivesmatter and associated movements. Hells bells, why have no Pagan or polytheist organizations shouted out their support as allies for #Idlenomore either? It’s not as if these organizations are actually opposed to either of these justice movements! Right?

If we are indeed our deeds, then what are white people doing to help affect change? How fucking hard is it to say “I stand with black people for racial equality and justice!”? Did you really need fucking committees to decide on whether or not justice for all was something you stood for?

White guilt is an indulgence. If we are to be effective allies, it is on us to set it aside where it impedes action, and deal with it in our own time. #blacklivesmatter. Compared to those lives, our guilt is nothing. Step up or move aside, but don’t get in the way of justice.

The Northern Gods Are Not White

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

New Episodes of The Jaguar and the Owl: #HonoringtheAncestors

Hey folks, there’s two new episodes up for the month of October for the Jaguar and the Owl, a podcast I co-host with my good friend Jim.

Episode 28

James interviews Dawn Dancing Otter, founder and admin for The Shamanic Community, a Facebook page dedicated to shamanism worldwide which has over 27 thousand members!

This episode explores her coming into shamanism, visiting the land of her Ancestors, and the challenges she has faced with organizing and moderating this large forum.

Episode 29

James and Sarenth talk about dreams and more.

This latest episode brings something forward that we got hit with on the spot.  Rather than just celebrate Samhain, Winternights, Álfablót, etc. we invite folks to bring to Twitter and social media in general posts about your Ancestors, whether it is Ancestors of blood, adoption, spirit, what-have-you.  It is #HonoringtheAncestors.  For anyone who does a post for the Ancestors like this, link us back in the comment section of Episode 29.  I will be putting together another post to start us off.  You can follow me @Sarenth on Twitter.

Piety and Being Poor

I have always been working poor.

When I was growing up I lived next to meth labs. Addicts walked around where we lived; I got to watch one around age 7 or 8 go through DTs on the street.  We had drug dealers with child drug mules as neighbors, one that was kiddie corner from where we lived. The police and the administration for where I lived was on the take. The cops used to watch the local would-be gangers beat the living shit out me. They would watch the local kids pile around a car, and get high as kites before getting on the bus.

During this time I was a young Catholic.  We still made time for prayer. We still went to Church. We didn’t leave our religion at the door because the neighborhood was tough; we clung to it because it helped us live.

Some years later, I was starving at one point so my son and my fiancee could eat. Our food stamps had been cut, and I was at the end of my rope trying to float enough money to make rent.  We still gave offerings. If we could not give food, we gave a cup of water. If we could not give that, either due to time or energy, we gave prayers. Always, we gave prayers. Sometimes it has been only water, sometimes it has been food we made for our family, and sometimes it has been something special I bought just for Them. Sometimes it was just a prayer at Their altar in our little apartment, sometimes it was prayers whispered while I worked a deadend job struggling in vain to make ends meet.  In every challenge in my life the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits have been there whether I recognized it or not.  The least I can do is offer my end of Gebo.

I can understand the crippling worry about money, the worry around “How will I afford this food”, “this thing”, “this sudden needed car repair”, “Will I make rent?” etc. When I starved was when our food money got cut. I have been achingly poor.  The only reason I am not there right now is because I am lucky enough to have supportive parents who are here for me regardless of disagreements we have on religion, and a job that helps to pay for the needs we have. I am lucky, damned lucky, and I get that.  My Gods’ altar was a gift, as are most of what are on the shrines and altars I have shown on this blog.  What are not gifts, are almost all bought from thrift stores.  All else was found, and when we had a little money to splurge, sometimes we bought something nice for our Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits.  The latest addition to our Watervaettir shrine, three small branches shaped to look like a tie-down for a dock with a little plastic seagull hot glued to it, cost us $0.50 while we were looking for winter clothes.  The offering glass that sits on that altar was $1 at a local garage sale we hit up while on an errand.  An altar, a shrine, or an offering need not break the bank to be a good one.

A slice of bread, a thimble of alcohol, a palm of water, a slice of apple, a small chunk of meat, puffs of smoke, a pinch of tobacco.  These are all good offerings, all given in the tightest of times.  The Gods understand suffering, They understand when we have given what we can.  So why the resistance?

We can give offerings inside our own home, or wherever we happen to be in a given moment. I have poured water onto a city street to thank the spirit of that city for helping me find my way, and alcohol onto my family tree for thanks to the landvaettir for a good home and food in my belly. If you aren’t absolutely starving and actively looking for food, and even then you can at least give a prayer, then you can give an offering.

If you can breathe well, offer breath.  Offer breath whether it is song, dance, words, your poetry or someone else’s, or a hummed tuned if nothing else.  I suffered from asthma as a child and it flares up when I get sick, so I understand very well how precious breath can be!

Offer breath, even a hummed tune if you’re a completely hopeless cause at any of the aforementioned.  If you can you walk, walk and pray, especially is sitting still is hard/impossible for you to do.  There are countless ways of thanking the Gods for what you have.  Can you get down on your hands and knees without hurting yourself?  Then, if you have nothing else besides yourself to offer, prostrate, kneel, or bow.  Make a prayer.  Kiss a tree or a stone, or simply touch it with your hand, and whisper a prayer if you are worried about being seen or discovered.  There are a million and more ways to make an offering, to show your Gods, Ancestors, and spirits you care for Them, that They have blessed your life, many of which may be far more precious to Them than a cup of water or slice of bread.

Yet, that bread, that water, is still a precious offering, even more so when you are poor.  At that point a food and water (or other liquid) offering is a personal sacrifice with more weight on oneself than someone who has a good deal of resources.  In times of struggle, I believe, is when we need to make these sacrifices most.  That physical offering is still a precious thing, one which still needs to be given.  There is no substitute for it, any more than there is a substitute for food for you to eat or water to drink.  Say to a person who is a guest in your home who wants water “but I danced for you, is that not enough?” and the answer will be a definite no, even if they may be too gentle with you to say so.  They may still crave the water, especially if it is something to be expected between one another as guest and host.  Now, with the Egyptian Gods this can be a bit different, as the offering formulas for Egyptian Gods (which is the one case I can think of where this applies and even here, the Gods may have Their own preferences) have carvings of food, water, and so on that are allowed to be there in place of offerings.  However, I would think that this is probably a more expensive, roundabout way of fulfilling an offering to the Gods: either you have to have the tools to carve the offering yourself, or have an artisan who will make it for you.

There is no reason that I can fathom that a polytheist would have, regardless of their circumstances, where they had nothing to offer the Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits.  There is no good reason that I can fathom why a polytheist would willingly deny their share of Gebo, reciprocity, with their Gods.

Devotion is not just important; devotion is VITAL. It is how a living, breathing religion continues. Acts of devotion keep that bridge between us and the Gods alive in our everyday life, whether it is a glass of water and a prayer, prayers made on prayer beads, food made in their honor, a pinch of mugwort or a small glass of mead offered at a tree, or an act of kindness for a human being.  Offerings, in and of themselves, are vital, and have always been vital regardless of which tradition one comes out of.

I put the Gods first because that is where They go in my life. The Gods are first; it is from Them that all good things in my life have come. My everyday (well, night) job is about helping a human being. The reason I can serve this person and meet some of the basics for my family is because the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits gave me life, a good family, a wonderful son, and so many blessings were I to count them all I would be dead and buried long before I finished. So my first attention, my first devotion, is to my Gods, Ancestors, and spirits. It must be, in good Gebo for all They have done, and continue to do for me, with me, to me.

Hail to the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.  May Gebo be kept.

Remembering the Military Dead

If anyone would like me to make a remembrance (such as reciting a favorite poem or prayer), prayers and/or offerings for Military Dead and Warrior Dead, please let me know so I can do that this today, Veterans’ Day. If you miss this Monday, don’t worry about it; I keep an active shrine to the Warrior Dead, which includes the Military Dead, and will be happy to do it another time.

The Religious Implications of Peak Oil

For those who do not know what Peak Oil is, a quick summary:

Peak Oil is a term that means that we have hit the peak of oil production which can meet global demand for it.  Simply put, a peak occurs when demand outstrips production.  There are plenty of online resources, some of which are here: The Oil Drum and Peak Oil, among a great many others.  For a great, ongoing discussion of the implication of Peak Oil and his own exploration of the religious implications of Peak Oil, among a great many other topics, Archdruid John Michael Greer’s The Archdruid Report is one of the best I have seen.

Rather than discuss the science and charts and such, since I have, compared to others, a limited layman’s understanding of Peak Oil, I wanted to dive right into what Peak Oil can mean for us as Pagans.

What are the religious implications of Peak Oil?

Gebo is Foremost

Gebo means gift for a gift, and for a long time the West has been able to, by and large, ignore its share of Gebo to nature and the poor.

If Western society has a chief ill it is that it seeks something for nothing.  Capitalism’s strength is predicated upon infinite exponential growth when, realistically speaking, this is not possible.  There are hard limits to growth, whether it is the forest providing timber, the mine providing gold, or the computer number-crunching.  All things have their limit, and without respect to that, disaster is inevitable because all future hopes and plans hinge on a single method of interacting with the world.  So, my understanding is that the first implication of Peak Oil is that Gebo must come before all else.

Naudhiz is the Measure of All Things

Naudhiz translates to need or distress.  In this, I am primarily thinking of need, and the maxim “What does it do?  How well does it do it?” becoming the measure by which all things will be measured.  Do I need this electronic device?  Can I break it down or build it up into something more useful?  Will this get in the way of me being productive?  If it breaks down, what can I do with it?  Can I repair it?  Do I need it or a replacement if I cannot repair it?

Naudhiz is the rubbing together of two sticks to make fire.  It is the necessary work needing to be done to survive, if not begin to thrive.  It is the laundry getting done, the garden planted, the animals fed, etc.  Whatever work is needing to be done so things progress.  Getting busted down this hard to basics is not something a lot of people in America are used to, though with half of America officially in poverty that is quickly changing.  What can I truly live without?  What am I willing to do to make it?  Hard questions that more are asking, and many more yet need to ask.  Once we know Gebo it is easier to measure what must be done.  It is far better to voluntarily start the process of asking these questions when you may have abundance than to wait until you must get answers on the fly.  Naudhiz is a good measure to budget by once Gebo is known.  In knowing the limits of what is asked, and what you can deliver via Gebo, you can best know what you need, and from there, determine how to meet that need in exploring Naudhiz.

Right Relationship

While this is part of Gebo it also deserves direct mention.  Right relationship is the idea that there is a way we should interact with and within the world.  It means not dumping chemicals on your lawn just so it looks green.  It means not ripping up every bit of habitat around us for more parking structures or development space for single-story, large, wasteful, polluting businesses.  Right relationship implies that we not only understand the aforementioned limits of our society, its reach, or the environmental impact we have, but respecting that limits and staying well within them.  It means remediation of wild places and a radically different way of life.  In respecting that we have stretched much of our environment to its breaking point, local, as well as State and national ways of doing things will need to change.  Each person’s situation will be different, but one way we can reduce rampant consumption and its many branching effects is conservation.  Conserve electricity, water, food, everything your life depends on that you need can, past a certain point, be conserved.  Even if you yourself do not garden, conserving food where possible and composting it where it is not, or handing it to a neighbor or friend, will make much better use of food and landfill space.

More than anything else we need to reduce our rampant consumption here in the West, especially America.  We consume 25% of the world’s resources with only 5% of its overall population.  This equation needs to change if we are to live in right relationship with the world around us.

Looking to Our Ancestors

Modern society provides very little actual grounding for living.  Unless you are taking classes in school with practical application, such as a Home Economics course, or if you are in a homeschooling situation where people are preparing you for the real world, modern society has more or less thrown up its collective hands in teaching or instilling much in terms of practical lessons.  Most Americans do not know how to grow food, much less how to make fire.  Repairing things is almost entirely a lost art; rather, we are encouraged to buy the new thing.  Repair shops used to be a nationwide phenomena.  If something broke, you fixed it.  Without throwing on rosy-colored glasses or romanticizing the past, either recent Americana or further back, there were a good number of practical skills a person, or someone close to you, might know that make sense for us to retain into a world beyond Peak Oil.

What does this have to do with Ancestors?  Everything.  Our Ancestors at some point or another had to live off the land.  The occupation for 90% of Americans, at one point, was farming.  In a post Peak Oil time, while we may not get back to that 90%, we are going to need to devote more of our energy to it.  This will mean regaining skills we have not used, or wholesale reskilling ourselves to the task at hand.  My grandfather collects old farm tools.  Seeing these I can see the Ancestors’ hands on them, and how these tools are ancestors themselves to the electrical and gas-powered machines we have today.  Far better we learn to use these older machines, and start demand for them now, than having to completely reinvent the wheel and/or play catch-up.

This can be a form of working with, if not worshiping our Ancestors in a very direct way.  Everyone has Ancestors who were farmers.  They tilled the soil, they knew how hard it can be to grow things.  Does everything they did work for us?  No, certainly not.  My German Ancestors worked different soil, but many of the lessons translate well.  The point is, is that by and large farming itself has not grown by leaps and bounds in terms of its basic ingredients or complexity.  It is merely the scale that has become so huge, so complex.  Our Ancestors hold many of the keys to future prosperity, whether we find that in how we raise our crops, our houses, or our communities.  Will everything our Ancestors did be right for our age?  No, but the collective wisdom They hold is worth at the least considering, if not employing in our lives.

Industriousness

Using a hand-cranked masher, I made pear sauce last year and sealed them in mason jars.  No sugar added, just three large, sealed mason jars full of pears that will keep for a good long while.  This is something my parents and grandparents have done most of their lives, something that was not passed down to me until I demanded to be taught it.  Will it keep me alive through a harsh winter?  Well, no, not just on canned pears, but it, and similar skills will, even if the post Peak Oil future is a generation or so down the road, save me a lot of money.  Think of how much we spend on canned goods, frozen goods.  Growing it yourself is a savings of a large chunk of money, especially if you can do it well.  Money does grow on trees because food is real wealth you can put in your mouth.

What does this have to do with religion?  Religion is a framework through which we understand our place in the Worlds.  Industriousness, what we do with ourselves on a regular basis, is an important part of that.  We have, in our Pagan traditions, Gods of the hearth, the home, and certain crafts.  When I clean I dedicate that work to Frigga and Frau Holle.  When I till the Earth or plant, I dedicate that Work to Jörð, Freyr, and Gerda, depending on where I am planting and what I am planting.  I speak with the landvaettir as well as  Jörð, Freyr, and Gerda prior to planting, when setting up the space, when working within the space, and when harvesting.  I hail Nidhogg and Hel when I take out the compost.

The point of a religious life is that the Work of that life does not stop at the temple, church, or shrine.  It is enlivened by the Work done in the temple, church, or shrine, and extends into every area in which one lives and breathes and works.  The world is full of holiness if we would recognize it.  So when you put yourself to work, whether at a computer, a field, someone’s home, or the living room, it is a time that the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits can be honored, praised, and involved in your life.  In this way, I see Pagan religion not so much practiced as it is lived, and industriousness is one key way in which we can connect to the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.

Wealth

I mentioned something in the last section that I want to dig into a bit more: Money does grow on trees because food is real wealth you can put in your mouth.  Most ancient societies judged the wealth of a person by how much stuff they had.  In the Germanic and Norse case, it was cattle and grains.  They, rather than currency, were markers of wealth because if you had lots of cows and/or grain you had lots of land, people to work that land, raise those animals, etc.  Food and land equaled wealth.  What is often remarked upon as wealth, calculated in numbers that most human minds reel at fathoming, is basically numbers in a computer.  I cannot eat the ones and zeroes any more than I can the paper they are now represented by.  It is not what I would call ‘real’ wealth.

Peak Oil destroys the concept of fiat currency, which is the economic regime we currently live under in most of the world, because the US dollar is predicated on growth and is not backed by anything.  It is essentially a thoughtform which we have agreed upon, saying that ‘the full faith and credit of the US Federal Reserve is so good it can be used to pay debts’.  It is, in essence, a massive act of faith that keeps the economy chugging along, and all it would take is something like Peak Oil, or people switching en masse over to the Euro to destroy a good deal of its so-called wealth.

Cows, meanwhile, do not lose inherent value because the dollar tanks, the Euro rises, or the whole global economic system comes crashing around our heads.  The cow will still eat grass, chew cud, produce milk, and be a viable meat source.  The grain in the field will still grow, be able to be produced into bread and countless other things, regardless of how commodities pricing is.  Both still have inherent value not propped up by a largely fabricated economic system.  When a fiat currency’s users no longer have faith in it the currency has no value period, and it never had inherent value, beyond perhaps being able to be smelted in the case of coins, or burned in the case of fiber-based paper currency.  The ones and zeroes in a machine have no lasting impact upon us or use for us when the system collapses; it does not produce more money, does not regenerate, and has no connection to real wealth once the glamour is broken.  It is telling that the Germanic/Norse God Freyr is a God of agriculture and of wealth.

There are several warnings about wealth and greed in ancient Pagan religion, but using the Hávamál as an example, it is more concerned with wealth in terms of coins and gold, in other words currency wealth, in these warnings, and often reminds the reader/listener that this wealth is transitory at best, and fickle.  Meanwhile true wealth stays with one long-term and is found in friendship and good company.  It is that understanding of wealth that is key.  To not only understanding what is more important in terms of material wealth, but what is true wealth, and what will truly help in the long term.  One may stock food for some eventuality, but once that store is gone, what use is it if there is no one to lean on, no food to grow?  You starve.  As Freyr is the God of both agriculture and wealth, I see one of His lessons is that if one establishes a good relationship with the land they live on, one may truly be said to be wealthy.

 

So where is wealth to be found?  In good friends, in hard work, and in doing well by others.  In working with the land and living beings, and doing right by both.  In other words, by living in Gebo and right relationship with others and the world around you, meeting you and your family’s/community’s/etc. needs, and in being industrious.

Crafting

The religious implication of crafting could be an entire post on its own.  The first Goddess that comes to my mind is Frigga, the spinner, the weaver, the homemaker, Who spins Wyrd.  Wow.  Just think about that for a moment: one of the Asynjur is the one who spins the primal stuff of potential into what was, what is, and what will will be.  It is said She knows all Wyrd but will not speak of it.  That is power.  In a legend Her favored army beat Her husband’s army, Who is a renowned God of battle, cunning, and skill.  Our Goddesses of crafting, of homemaking, and the hearth are neither to be underestimated, nor belittled.  They are powerful, holy, and glorious in Their own rights.

We underestimate craftswomen and craftsmen to our own detriment.  We buy inferior, polluting products from countries who allow their workers to burn when the factory is on fire.  Our food comes to us out of season on the backs of millions of underpaid and exploited farmers from other countries while our own crops rot in the field because large-scale agriculture relies on illegal workers.  Many of the arts that would produce these goods closer to home are becoming more and more scarce despite our wealth of able-bodied workers.  If Peak Oil is to be navigated effectively crafting will need to come back into its own, and the way to make this transition easier and far less haphazard is to support it now, both in terms of the current generation and those coming up in it.  This support needs to be as much from the ground up as possible, including spinners as well as clothing makers, those who harvest clay to those who shape with it.

In short, in supporting crafting the supply chain needs, as much as is possible, to be returned back to the local level and scaled to the local level’s needs to start with.  Sure, we can grow bigger, perhaps this town has an excessive amount of sheep and supplies wool to its neighbors, and they have cows and supply butter, yogurt and milk to theirs.  Still, Peak Oil’s biggest challenge is to stop consuming like there’s no tomorrow and rework our methods of producing back down to local, but scale-able design.

The religious implication here is that in supporting this from the ground up, and reworking our supply chain in such a way, even if our neighbors do not worship the Gods we do we can still bring our religious values in line, particularly in the belief that this world is holy, as is the work we do, and so can the things we support.  In this case we instill that in our everyday life by supporting change, by building up our neighbors so we may all thrive.  We make this change part of an unfolding of our religious values, especially suited to an age where acting in Gebo and right relationship are not just niceties but keys to survival.

Peak Oil as a Whole

Peak Oil is a direct challenge to many of the ideas that we as Americans have gotten used to: that we can spend our way to a better future, that conservation is no longer a needed thing, that consumption is growing the economy, that we can spend what we have like we will have it tomorrow, and that there can be growth without limits.  It directly attacks American exceptionalism, hegemony, empire, and our place in the world.  Peak Oil is our society hitting the limits on our ability to tap the resources we need for our modern lifestyle.  Peak Oil’s coming does not mean we have to all go into a neo-primitive lifestyle, although that is, to my mind, a viable option for some.  What it does mean is that Gebo, right relationship, meeting our needs on a consistent basis, looking to our Ancestors, supporting our crafters, and engaging in industriousness at all levels will be necessary.

To religion Peak Oil is a direct challenge: do your instructions, traditions, orthodoxy, orthopraxy, etc. aid the survival or hasten the destruction of human life and well-being, now and in the future?  Do your religious views, institutions, etc. provide comfort, direction, purpose, and empowerment to living in a way that is geared towards LESS (Less Energy, Stuff, and Stimulation) while providing hope for the future?  Do your religious leaders provide focal points for community building, or are they needlessly divisive and disruptive to cohabitation and cooperation in age where both are key to survival?  Does religious instruction raise children equipped to handle the world as it is, or is it looking forever backward or forward at some mythic Golden Age, trapped in worlds to come that will not arrive?

There are many more questions, and they will be answered by each person as much as each priest, by each religious institution as by each religious community.  Yet they are worth pondering, as surely as it is how we, as Pagans, as fellow citizens in this country, will navigate the near future.

I invite anyone who wants to engage in this dialogue to comment here, to reblog, and start more conversations on this topic.

Question 6: Offerings to Odin

Question 6: Offerings to Odin

From Dreaming in Smoke and Fire:

What types of offerings does Odin like? Do you think he prefers smoked salmon or strong whiskey?
— Do you prefer smoked salmon or strong whiskey?
— Do you like pina coladas?

I’m sure He likes pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, eating salmon, drinking strong whiskey, and making love after midnight, but I am unsure if that is all at once or in stages.

All jokes aside, a good number of my offerings to Him are alcoholic drinks.  Among the drinks I offer to Him He seems to particularly enjoy mead and the strong alcohol such as whiskey, vodka, etc.  He especially likes mead, and from me He likes Viking Blod where I can afford it.  Sometimes He prefers local varieties, and I find He especially likes good homemade mead.

For me, I am sure He would rather have strong whiskey than salmon.  I am not practiced at cooking fish, and I would not give Him an offering if I doubt my family would eat it.  That said, I love salmon, especially salmon steak, but I have only cooked it all of one time, and that was with help.  I have not had pina coladas in awhile; might be time to again.

What types of offerings does Odin like?  He has accepted water and crackers where I could not afford much, hard drinks when I could, and a cup of coffee when I made a pot for my Gods and Ancestors.  He appreciates time, time spent not just praying to Him, but talking with Him.  I asked Him once why, if He could sit on Hlidskjalf and see all, and have Hunin and Munin bring Him news the Worlds over, did He want me to tell Him about my day?

His answer was something akin to this: is it better to talk to your father through your mother or friend, or is it better to talk with your father?

The offerings we give are intimate to our relationship with the Gods.  We may have lists of traditional offerings, but unless I slaughter and butcher a horse, or order horse meat from a specialty butcher, the likelihood is that Odin will not have an offerings of horse meat from me.  So I give what I have at hand, whether that is water, mead, or beer, crackers, bread, or cake.  I give offerings of incense somewhat frequently because leaving out food offerings sometimes is not possible, not appropriate at the time.  The same goes for offerings of food and/or water.  When I lived in a dorm room I frequently left offerings at trees’ feet since I could not have fires in the room.  There is always singing and/or talking with my Gods, and especially listening to Them.

Sometimes He wants something special, or I am inspired to give Him special offerings.  Sometimes it is the spontaneous nudge in the wine aisle, and sometimes it is a month of devotional poetry written to Him.  It may be that some weeks all He wants is regular contact at the altar, the usual prayers, and not much more.  Some times He wants intense devotional work, intense communication during a trance session where it is less about me speaking with Him, but listening very intently to Him.  At other times it may be hailing Odin during a public ceremony, especially where the ritualist gives space to call to our Gods.

So there are a great any ways to give offerings to Odin, certainly more than I have listed here.  I hope that this post has helped others find new ways to offer to Odin, or to their own Gods.  Regardless of how you offer, may Odin, and the Gods, always be hailed!