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100 Years

November 11, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Calling to Our Ancestors

January 11, 2015 7 comments

Calling to Our Ancestors SplashCalling to Our Ancestors is finally in print and ebook forms, and here in Kindle form. Finally, after four long years.  Hail to the Ancestors, it is finished!

This devotional is dedicated to giving a voice to those roads that honor the Ancestors, and to those who seek the Ancestors. I want to give deep thanks to all of the contributors. You made this possible.

“The Ancestors can be found by many roads: by blood, adoption, the Gods we worship, and the Elements that sustain us. They can be found in the newly or ancient Dead, in the old forests or the candle flame. The devotional is dedicated to giving a voice to those roads, and to those who seek the Ancestors.”

UPDATE: The contributors to this volume are, with links to their blogs and projects:

Ceilidh Chaos

Kenn Day

Bona Dea Lyonesse

Patrick Dunn

Geordie Ingerson

Raven Kaldera

Shauna Aura Knight

Galina Krasskova

Michaela Macha

Robert David Michael

Sarenth Odinsson

Lillith Threefeathers

Joy Wedmedyk

Difficulties and Victories

September 3, 2014 4 comments

I have been avoiding this blog.  Of late, I have been wracked by difficulties, namely financial pressures and depression and anger, cycling states, resulting from it.  I am a diabetic who, on a pretty small budget to begin with, has had to shuck out $243 per vial of insulin to get the stuff I need to live.  This eats about half a paycheck, and this happens at least once a month.  I do not like to write in this headspace, not for this blog, at the least.  A good chunk of my early poetry as a teenager was written in stages of anger and depression, similar in cycles to what I am going through right now.  I do not like to be vulnerable like this.  I don’t.  This is the stuff I keep pretty tight to the chest.  This is the stuff that I tend to keep even from close friends because of some misguided notion that I am keeping my problems off of people.

I will admit, right now my problems seem pretty insurmountable with anything other than the passage of time.  I have made my prayers, and I will keep making them.  I will smoke my personal sacred pipe, and keep on smoking when I am in the headspace where I can do so in respect and appreciation of the sacred act.  I I have made offerings with my family and will continue to make them.   Still, I feel gnawing anxiety, sometimes panic when I think about the $20,000 hospital bill waiting to breathe down my neck that my hospital has gracefully kept at bay for the time being.  Then there’s the collection letter, the first one I have ever received, that arrived in the mail because the physicians go through someone else other than the main hospital billing department.  Turns out the help the hospital offered did not include the physicians and I found myself on the other end of a phone begging to pay half the bill in two months time.  Here’s hoping it won’t squelch my credit score.

I write this not as some kind of pity-party, but because when I came back to this blog a few years ago after a hiatus, I wanted to present a more full image of myself, my religious life, and my journey as a shaman, priest, polytheist, father, and lover.  My life is rather difficult right now.  I want to be pretty damned clear: sometimes the religious aspect of my life is a great balm and comfort for these trying times, and sometimes it is a struggle to even work up the desire to do a meal prayer.  Anger and depression coupled with anxieties about finance do that.  It eats, gnaws at you.  When your doctor tells you everything is going to be okay, and hugs you and you want to cry, this person you see maybe once a month, you know things are rough.  Our son and his mother help quite a bit, both with keeping my spirits up, and keeping the prayers and offerings.  I cannot do this alone.  This is a tribal religion.  If this were all on me I am unsure I could do it, even without that aspect of it there, given the challenges before us.  The beautiful thing about being in a tribal religion though, is that you don’t need to do it all.  You can be weak, and that is okay.  In letting yourself be weak you can allow others to be strong.  For you, if no one else.

I mentioned sometime back that the shrines/altars I care for alone are the shrine for the Dead, the shrine for the Warrior Dead, and Rùnatýr and the Runevaettir’s altar.  All the other ones Sylverleaf and our son take care of together with me. This does not mean I should not or do not take care of the other altars and shrines, but when I am this low sometimes it is all I can do to ask for help with the altars and shrines.  Again, taking strength from them and them helping me has kept me pretty motivated and keeping on keeping on with the offerings and prayers.  Occasionally I will take some time and talk, especially with the Ancestors, Odin included, and talk about my situation, how I am feeling, and ask for Their help.

It’s funny, in writing a post so in-the-moment how things can move forward.  I started writing this 8-27-2014, and then,I got the call the next day: I finally qualified for Medicaid.  My financial problems are far from over, but an important step in making sure we aren’t hurting for money all the time has finally, finally, been reached.  I have been trying to get this leg of the journey done since January.  It took months and months, and my first case manager did not get back with me or the hospital at all.  The hospital got so pissed at this person and the lack of communication from DHS that they said ‘fuck it’ to my bills in February.  I was denied twice before this ruling, despite being told over and over I qualified.  While it is still up in the air whether Medicaid will help me with the April’s $20,000 bill, going forward I won’t have to panic if I need to head into the hospital.  I will be able to afford my life-preserving meds now.  I will be able to see the doctor, and get the physical I need so that I can qualify for a better job, if not get into a career.  I will be making offerings and prayers of thanks to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.

This does not mean that the Gods somehow favor me over other people, even if my prayers have been answered.  Piety does not equal prosperity.

I am poor.  If it weren’t for my folks there is no way my family or I would be in anything like a stable living situation.  I’m saddled with a lot of student loan debt, and were we completely on our own we would be struggling to pay rent, let alone put food on the table.   I am the subject of ridicule when people write derisive works of people living with their parents till they’re in their late 20s and 30s.  This, despite going to college while working, and taking on an inordinate amount of debt with nothing to show for it.  At the moment the only options are to a) scramble around trying to save enough to survive on and hope some breakthrough comes our way, or b) head back to college to be saddled with yet more debt in the hopes of making a career.  I am working on the latter, going for my MA in Counseling.

Many of the people that I look to as friends, colleagues, and elders have been or are poor.  There should be no shame in being poor, but there is; a deep amount of it.  I have no delusions of being a temporarily embarrassed millionaire; my family has been blue collar and/or union jobs for quite a while.  Everyone except my generation, and some of the last one, has worked the land since they were young.  Both sides of my family raised chickens, ducks, geese, vegetables, and herbs.  This is the kind of life I am looking to go back to.  I see no viable future in the rat race, no good coming of indulging in the idea that those who have the most toys at death win.  I want to leave something lasting; odal land to my people, whether it is Sylverleaf, our son, or our community.

When I think of getting our own home, our own land, I think of the Hávamál, line 36 and 37 in the Olive Bray translation edited by D.L. Ashliman:

36.
One’s own house is best, though small it may be;
each man is master at home;
though he have but two goats and a bark-thatched hut
’tis better than craving a boon.

37.
One’s own house is best, though small it may be,
each man is master at home;
with a bleeding heart will he beg, who must,
his meat at every meal.

Piety does not equal prosperity, yet this also does not mean that the Gods will not bless our lives, or that it is hubris to recognize those blessings.  Rather, it is hubris to ignore the blessings They give, leave it unmarked, without thanks.  I have held on to some very good mead for awhile now, given as a gift to me, and it may be time to offer and share it.

I’m not shouting from the rooftops going “Woohoo!  We’re great!” because we’re not.  Getting Medicaid and being able to care for my chronic health conditions are small steps in a series of steps to living on our own, raising our family, and bringing together the life we wish to have.  There are still financial challenges ahead, mercifully one of them not being the medication I need to live or doctor visits to help keep me healthy.  We are moving forward together and celebrating this victory.  We will keep pushing forward to the next one, reaching for our goals.  We are getting there.

For anyone who has offered prayers, kind words, an open ear and mind, or wisdom in all of this, thank you.  Thank you for helping us get through one more leg of our journey.  Hail to the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, communities, and individuals who all have supported us in these hard times.  Thank you for continuing to support us, and help us wherever you can.  Thank you.

Hope is a Tough Choice

October 14, 2013 2 comments

Hope is hard.  Hope is hard because it asks us to look at the ugliness around us and to dream of more than what we see.  It demands we reach beyond the abyss we see when we look upon violence and hate that grips so much around us, in us, through us.  Hope is the hard road, the rough road, the road that says “Stand up”.

It is hard to hope.  It is hard to hope when so many are arrayed against it.  Yet hope is not delusion, is not a honeyed tongue, or a fever-dream.  It is reachable and doable, even if only through steep odds.  Yet hope, like many roads, begins with steps, and keeps on with determination.  It must be chosen. Yes, the skies are poisoned, the seas are choked with plastic, the world roils under the heat we produce.  Yes, massacre and genocide sweeps across the world and eats, a furious glutton on the entrails of all who feed it.  Even in that there is hope. There are the small steps; the person who seeks alternatives to their consumption, the person who uses less and saves more.  There is the person who opens their home to refugees, who squirrels away the children so they will not become child soldiers; it will not stop the war, but one more will not need to suffer.   There are the small steps of a person who plants a garden and eats from their own yard, or the person who drives less or is more efficient in their energy use.  There are the small steps of a person who stands up and says ‘No, no more’.  These are not just gestures but points of hope put into action.  That we can and are changing.

Do we need big steps?  Yes, of course we do, but these are steps we can take as individuals, then communities. When our resolve becomes to stand before the problems we face, from climate change to genocide, from ecological disaster to the gutting of our communities, hope is there because we stand in our place and claim what power we have.  We cede it far too much.  No, a changed lightbulb or car route will not halt global warming, but it can inspire change through its demonstration of what action begins to look like.  Will a single child saved stop a civil war?  No, but it saves that child’s life for something more, one less killer, one less victim, inch by inch building up the hope that there can be a better tomorrow.  Hope is generated by action seen through to its conclusion, is shaped by the hearts of those who seed it.  So wherever you can, however you can, sow and grow hope.

Doubt on the Path

October 9, 2013 7 comments

I doubt.  Sometimes, I doubt a lot.  I know that I write here a lot about how I see things, where my worldview is, and how I approach things.  It may give the impression that I never doubt, whether it is doubt of myself, my connection to the Gods, my signal clarity, etc.  Yet I do, sometimes to the annoyance of the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, and sometimes, to the annoyance of my Elders.  Sometimes I doubt to my own detriment.  Yet I find my journey is not as much about overcoming doubt as it is working with it.  

Good doubt is a healthy tool that helps discernment.  It helps keep you clean from ego-trips and endless drains of self-doubt.  Good doubt is not consistent, unceasing doubt, but is present because the situation would warrant it.  When Odin first called to me, I doubted in being able to be a shaman, and even doubted the use of the word shaman in the first place.  It was only after a lot of insistence from Odin, some corroboration from others, and working through that doubt that I accepted what He had placed me on the path to becoming and let go of the worry I had about using the term shaman.  There are times I still wonder “why this term?”  and I know the answer: the words we still have do not communicate the role of a shaman in its fullness.  More practically, people in general have a useful idea of what I mean when I say shaman, whereas it may take 15-45 minutes to explain another word.

While they can be useful, the doubts you have can, and I think should, come under scrutiny.  Good doubt will allow for this, even if it isn’t completely dispelled when you’re muddling through it.  Sometimes the work any one of us is asked to do can seem outlandish to another, especially if you are a polytheist and/or animist.  Our modern day society simply does not understand what it means to have a relationship with the land we live on, with our Dead, or with Gods.  The concept of a God to begin with is only thought and talked about  in a narrow band of understanding

Bad doubt mires you, and/or makes you incapable of moving, of figuring out where you even stand.  It’s not that you’ll always know where you stand, I certainly haven’t.  Bad doubt makes that an impossibility, or near enough.  Struggling with where I am has been part of my journey regardless of where I have been at.  When I first became a Pagan I had no solid foundation, so I was slipping this way and that, but I was able to at least find purchase.  Poisonous doubt allows for no purchase at all, not even a morsel of faith in yourself, where you are, or what you are doing.  It denies that you can find a way through with your doubt, whether you are working through it, or it follows you through a working, a process, etc.

Doubt can help me to keep a clearer head, unless, like a lot of ego-related problems, it runs amok without moderation or control.  Metaphorically shooting my legs out from underneath me can be as sabotaging and irreverent as letting my head get inflated; both speak from the ego in different directions.  Shooting out my own legs gives me an easy out from doing the hard work; after all, if I’m not worthy, or I ‘could never do that’, well, I won’t do it.  I can avoid having to enter into the uncomfortable feeling of doing whatever work is set before me in the face of doubt.  If I allow my head to get inflated I may see myself as unworthy of the work, doubting its worthiness of me.  That this could not possibly be a hard lesson; after all, I’ve got this no matter what, right?  No need to rely on other people, or ask for help; hell “I can help everyone!”.  These do not help, but hinder.

Sometimes I doubt even before I’m about to be doing something.  Things like “I don’t know if I can do this”, “What if I screw up?”, “What if I don’t have enough training/understanding/knowledge/preparation?”  The last question is a healthy one, and the other two can be as well.  They can also be deterrents to doing anything, allowed to press on enough.  Asking myself “Do I know what I am doing here?” when I clearly do, i.e. hosting a workshop on Ancestor worship 101 can just be nerves or anxiety working itself out.  Asking myself “Do I have the knowledge to do this?” can give me the kick in the butt to do my research and homework.  These are good questions to ask, but where they become a problem is when they’re fixated on, rather than asked, answered, and dealt with.  These questions, and doubt in general, become a problem when the work is so completely disrupted that it is not getting done.

I am going to be the last person to rail against healthy skepticism.  Sometimes that ‘voice’ is really just an internal projection.  Sometimes I am wrong, at times, completely, when I give advice.  Skepticism allows me to keep my stance adaptive to change while standing firm in what I know to be true, not compromising on truth but accepting new truth as it comes when it passes muster.  It provides a honed edge, a way to separate needles from haystacks and ice cream from bullshit.

I have been putting out posts for the last few days, and I wanted to get this post done and out there.  I do not want to give people the impression that I am faultless, flawless, or so full of myself that I can never write about my failures.  That said, I do find it hard to be that vulnerable unless I personally know you.  Yet, I feel a responsibility to let people know that I do doubt, doubt often, and sometimes don’t have a resolution to my doubt until after whatever needing to be done is done.  That it is a normal part of the journey on any path, religious or otherwise, to doubt.  I don’t have a lock on confidence.  Sometimes, I don’t even have a container for it.  I am learning, just as sure as anyone I teach, or who teaches me, even if all I am is a lesson in frustration!

It does not make anyone less of a person to experience doubt, or even to be wrapped up in it for awhile.  Where I think learning from it, and where strength and courage are found, is in the challenge that doubt presents.  It is a challenge to keep pressing on in that doubt, whether you work through that doubt or not in the journey.  It is a challenge to keep working on the path in the face of that doubt whether you do it for your Gods, Ancestors, spirits, community, family, and/or yourself.  It is an offering to do the work set before you as best as you can, wherever and whenever you can.  It may not be easy.  It probably won’t be, regardless of what path you are on, or whatever your role(s) are in your communities.  Doubt may dog each step of your path regardless of how devoted you are to the path, the Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits.  So take a rest if you need it.  Do the work as best as you can when you can, and keep on the path.

Thank You

September 11, 2013 Leave a comment

Thank you to the first responders, to the many, many unsung heroes who were there pulling people from rubble, comforting the grieving, seeking the lost. Thank you to those who took care of the Dead, and in that duty, the living. Thank you to all who signed up, gave, did, and worked to make this world a better place in the face of horror. Thank you to all who still do so, in all their ways. Hail to you.

Where is the Ground?

May 8, 2013 4 comments

This is continuing the thoughts I have been thinking about the religious implications of sustainability and Peak Oil, prompted by Archdruid John Michael Greer’s blog The Archdruid Report.

Americans live in a time and place where sustainability is a catchword more often used by politicians and companies to describe an endeavor whose return on investment places them in a comfortable area.  It is, for almost all of us, no longer a part of our daily lives.  It is, for those of us who dream of living better within this world, a word that expresses a goal.  This word does not describe so much an end point as it does a way of life that we are, by small measures and great, willing to work to build ourselves toward.

Sustainability is the concept of living within the world rather than upon it, to work closer in concert with one’s surroundings, and in better concert with what Earth can provide us without destroying the environment, habitat, that we live within.  What this does not mean is we give up on technology.  Even the Amish, who are often pointed at as premier Luddites, have had to grow with the times.  Many drive cars, operate modern technology, and otherwise live lives in which modern technology plays a good part.  What it does mean is we are much more judicious about what technology we employ, what it does for us, and, weighing every piece of technology by what its impact is on the environment, which includes not only the ground, trees, natural resources, animals, insects, etc. but us as well.

The question of ‘can we live in sustainability?’ is not a hard one to answer.  If, by this question you mean ‘can we live in sustainability and still consume as we do?’ the question is a big, hard, fucking NO.  Not with statistics like us consuming 25% or better of the World’s goods when we are 5% of its population.  Not when we are willing to trash our wild places for another gulp of oil that we’re sucking off the pipeline like Hexus at the end of Ferngully, desperate to keep the consumption monster growing.  This is not even addressing the basic human rights issue of Native Americans’ lands being under threat by projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline.  This is not even addressing the four to six new ecological disasters unleashed in places like Arkansas with pipelines that have failed.

The key problem that I see with any question of national sustainability is that our nationwide systems are anything but, especially since our economic model is predicated on a model of exponential growth.  Until this model is discarded there is little hope that exponential growth will stop.  After all, if you had a spigot of money with which to fill a bucket every day, and you knew there was no end to the flow, what would keep you from filling the bucket?  It is not as if the idea even exists in your mind that you might actually, as a person who hits the end of their well, run out of money.  Unfortunately, this is the state of the economy, with the Dow Jones having just posted another record day.  Many of those who helped engender the 2008 economic crisis have made out like bandits and have no reason to stop supporting the system that produces a continual cash flow that they can freely tap into.  To anyone aside from the top earners the crisis is still going on, with roads and bridges going without needed repairs, and other basic infrastructure beginning to crumble.

So how can we think of sustainability when all the systems we may have relied upon are starting to teeter, if not collapse, be sold off, or otherwise compromised?  It is, in short, the only way forward if we wish to live.

I follow Archdruid John Michael Greer’s fabulous blog, and this, among other related topics, is something he has tackled in far more detail and far greater scope than I could ever hope to.  His posts are very well written and I highly encourage you to check them out.  As Mr. Greer puts it: “one of the central tasks before Americans today, as our nation’s imperial age stumbles blindly toward its end, is that of reinventing America: that is, of finding new ideals that can provide a sense of collective purpose and meaning in an age of deindustrialization and of economic and technological decline. ”

There is an end point to all growth.  Sustainability’s challenge to us Americans is for us to bow our head to that end point, and especially to stop our consumption well short of it for our survival, and continued livelihood.  Sustainability is more than ‘living simply’, it is living with respect to the limits of this World to provide for us, and within respect of what our needs are, and tamping down on excessive wants.  How can we do that when we live in apartments?  Suburbs?

Given that the nation has yet to actually address the economic mess it is in, let alone the unsustainable fuel consumption we have, it seems to me that working locally is the best option.  As much as possible we have to diversify our neighborhoods.  That sounds nice, but what it means is work.  It means that wherever possible we grow our own food and produce our own goods.  It may mean taking care of a community garden so that we do not have to shuck out hundreds just to eat healthy food.  It means pushing landlords to get solar panels on the roofs, or to make those roofs able to support food growing.  It means turning our balconies and similar places into miniature gardens if we are able.  Apartment, suburb, or a place with plenty of land, the motto is consume less, grow more.  There are so many solutions that I could not possibly name them all, and your own situation may provide unique ones.

What this all means is answering the question of “Where is the Ground?”  Where is it?  Where is the ground by which future growth is possible?  What is future growth in a world where exponential growth is unsustainable?  Where is the ground of new life for our communities?  Where is the ground for where we can grow our communities in sustainability?  Where is the ground where we can grow enough food to sustain our communities without relying heavily (if at all) on imports to feed us?  Where is the ground we can find to develop our communities into better places to live for ourselves and generations to come?

How do we abandon the outdated models of life and living so that we may, once we have found it, embrace the ground on which we are to build the future?

While each person must find their own solution, here are a few of my thoughts on the matter:

  • Each of us must find a way to live in better concert with our local ecosystems.
  • Each of us must consume less, grow more, and reuse everything to its capacity.
  • What we consume must have some kind of long-term use.
  • Land, both the sustainable preservation of and growth on arable land, and the preservation of wild places must be at the top of the priority list.  No viable environment, and it will not matter what kind of future we try to make.
  • Our communities need to bring its fundamental functions back down to a local level wherever possible.
  • Our communities must support its local workers.
  • Our communities must, in every way possible, learn to live with LESS: Less Energy Stimulation Stuff.

None of this is easy, but that said, neither is waiting for Peak Oil to take full effect and you, as well as your neighbors, loved ones, friends, and so on, are left scrambling with no real plan to tackle the challenge at hand.  Far better to get through the theories and on to practical application while there is still some time left.  There is also the thought of ‘do not let the perfect become the enemy of the good’.  Do I do all of the above?  No.  I do not own the land I live on, nor do I have a lot of control as to what comes into or out of the home, but I do what I can, where I can.  Even raising awareness of Peak Oil is doing something, though the hard work, as mentioned earlier, will still need to get done sooner or later.

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