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The #DoMagick Challenge Day 7

December 8, 2017 Leave a comment
Gebo

Gebo (Wikimedia Commons)

Today I did galdr with Gebo.

As before, I smoked Großmutter Una to cleanse and prepare myself.  As before, I did the prayers to prepare and flowed into a good, clean whole self when I did.  Given it had snowed I had some concern I would not be able to handle the cold with the wind for very long, but I felt urged to go outside.

Breathing before the first round of galdr was sharp, but the wind had a kind of cleansing feeling to it as cold as it was.  The cold bit the tips of my fingers and my ears.  For a few moments all I could feel was that cold.  As I breathed through, long and slow, I concentrated on Gebo, and galdred It in a long, warm tone.  I felt like I was put before a hearth fire, someone welcoming me in.  The exchange of greetings, a handshake, a seat offered.  I spoke with the host, about what escapes me.  The point, I think, was the exchange of hospitality for news and companionship.  The proper respect between guest and host.

It was then I felt I had to go inside.  My fingers were aching, and so were my ears.  The wind was picking up.  I went into the garage, my right hand tight around my pipe, taking long, slow, cleansing drags as I entered.  I breathed and I was already warmer despite the garage not being heated.  Thankfulness for shelter washed over me.

The next round of galdr was more deep, animal almost.  The things we needed gained through trade, work, sacrifice.  The warmth of my trenchcoat an animal’s skin, the pipe a tree’s body.  The give and take of predator and prey, of farmer and field, of animal and slaughterer.  Right relationship.  That affirmation of right relationship sang to me throughout the galdr.

After I took several moments to cleanse and breathe, the third round of galdr began.  The first of the three galdr was high in pitch, singing to the top of the Tree and the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, the Holy Powers, there.  The next was milder, singing to the middle of the Tree and the Holy Powers there.  The third was deep, bass, singing to the bottom of the tree and the Holy Powers there.  Each world brought with it a flood of images, many I am still trying to sort out.  What I do remember is a cup of mead, the blood of a blót, a bottle of beer poured on a field, water on a tree.  Standing, kneeling, prostrating before different Holy Powers.  Offering a blood sacrifice, a blót, to the Runes was the last thing I was left with as I finished the last galdr of Gebo.

As before, I made prayers of thanks to Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir.  As before, I cleansed and then cleaned my pipe to come back to normal headspace.  I am grateful for the cup of coffee my wife made me.  Gebo between us.

Link to the Daily Ritual for the Challenge.

#DoMagick

The Northern Gods Are Not White

December 13, 2014 61 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question 11: Life Skills and Being a Shaman Part 1

July 10, 2014 4 comments

From Andrew:

I know in my own practice that increasingly my work has turned to mastering skills of various sorts: I’ve been building pop-up books and working on my sewing machine, practicing calligraphy and geometry, and doing a fair bit of graphic design; the carpentry/cabinetmaking is rarer, but it’s there. And lately I’ve been doing a lot of cooking. Sometimes the work is phenomenally dull, other times it’s deeply interesting — but then the artwork and the mental acuity that comes from artisanship kicks in when I’m working for someone else. I find I solve problems better, sort out potential solutions more quickly, and settle on one faster. So, the topic I’d suggest is… write a series of posts about how your shamanic practice informs other specific parts or your life, or how skills like cooking or driving inform your experience as a shaman?

First off, thank you Andrew.  This is a great question.

There are skills I have connected back to and brought into my religious life, like cooking, woodworking, leatherworking, pyrography, and drawing.  There are others which were part of it to begin with, such as raising my son, teaching, listening, and divining.  Where I saw raising my son as part of my duties not only as a parent, but especially as a Northern Tradition Pagan, shaman, and priest, I had to work a little bit to bring cooking into my religious life.

I am not a great cook.  When I first went off to college and lived in a dorm I managed to burn ramen quite well.  I have learned a bit since then.  I at least don’t set food on fire much anymore, and can make something halfway decent when I have good instructions and stay on target.  I was looking around at one point last year for recipes to connect with my Ancestors.  I had not made a full-on meal on Their behalf, and wanted to have a go at a recipe from on the places my blood relatives came from.

So I looked around online for traditional German recipes.  That was when I found a potato leek soup with mushroom recipe.  I wanted to pair it with something else, but by the time I got around to cooking it, it seemed it would be enough on its own.

Here is what it looked like step-by-step:

Step 1 Potato Leek Soup with MushroomStep 2 Potato Leek Soup with MushroomStep 3 Potato Leek Soup with MushroomStep 4 Potato Leek Soup

When it was finished I took some of the soup out to the tree outside to share with the Ancestors.  Doing this not only put a good recipe into my hands and a good offering before the Ancestors.  Cooking pushed me to connect to my Ancestors in a very straightforward and simple way.  This process of cooking for my Ancestors also taught me something else: don’t forget one group of Ancestors or favor Them so strongly above one another.  I had done so much research looking for a recipe for my German Ancestors that I neglected my French Ancestors. They got my attention and let me know in no uncertain terms They were not pleased with this.  Mercifully, They were pleased and much happier when I made Them an omelette using the same kind of mushrooms as I had for the leek soup above.  I thought perhaps I needed to make a more complex dish, like on the order of the leek soup, but sometimes the Ancestors just want a simple staple that They would have had in life.

This life skill is a powerful way of connecting to our Ancestors, and the Dead in general.  Family cookbooks and recipes are, to me, precious heirlooms we pass on to our loved ones whether we have children or not.  It is one more link in the chain between one’s family members and its descendants, and can be as strong as family stories, genealogy, and history.  Above and beyond being a necessary life skill, one which I am grateful my Ancestors have pushed me to cultivate, cooking is a powerful way of keeping the connections with Them alive for all of those who come to our table.

To be continued in part 2.

Anger and the God Graveyard

November 13, 2013 4 comments

I am still working through the anger.  I’m inviting you, the reader, along with me through that process.

Frequently, when many express anger and offense at our Gods being poorly portrayed, spoken against, disrespected, or blasphemed against, there are many reminders that the Gods can handle the abrogation, and that it is not ours to deal with.  My anger, in this case, came from looking at this display from the AHA group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Before I go into the topic at hand, a few words on why I am angered:

I do not find it clever. They not only got dates of ancient worship wrong, but this was an act of erasure to Pagans, and in some cases especially to, among a great many, African Diasporic religions. This was a ham-fisted and childish ‘look at me!’ display on their part while also being completely needlessly hostile. I look at it with contempt. College is hard enough, and so, I look on displays like this, regardless of faction, fraternity, religion, etc. with equal contempt.  From personal experience of talking with folks, actions like these stop, or at least discourage people from minority religions, as well as atheists and agnsotics who have to deal with fallout from stupid actions like this, from wanting to come out with their own religion/lack thereof, and share.

It also goes completely against the Mission Statement the group is under:

The mission of Atheists, Humanists, & Agnostics @ UW-Madison shall be to promote the discussion of faith and religion on the UW-Madison campus. Through our services and programs AHA seeks to educate students on issues important to the secular community, and encourage the personal development of one’s religious identity.

This neither fosters dialogue, nor does it educate.

I’m not attached to the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  However, I am speaking from similar actions that have taken place in my own college from atheists and Christians. When Christians set up their evangelical displays and pull stunts like this atheists are, understandably to me, upset. It is not only having a view shoved in your face, but done so rudely, and with no thought to the discomfort and erasure done to those who do not believe, see, etc. as you do.

This is my view and experience talking: part of the reason that you are seeing a backlash is that there is such a bias against us at work in academia and college already. If I had a nickle for every time I had to correct a teacher on what Pagans believe, ancient and modern (with sources for the former, and sources along with my own experiences for the latter) I would not have to worry about my student loans. For every time that I explained my religious views, the round mocking I received from both teacher and fellow students, I would not have to worry about furthering my education. Atheism and agnosticism are becoming more the rule in places of higher learning, and I have, on several occasions, endured ridicule from professors in professing my beliefs. It is not just that they do not want to understand what I believe, it is that they are actively hostile and/or mocking to what I believe.

Things like this, tacitly approved by the University of Wisconsin, add to an atmosphere that many already feel is possibly, if not actively hostile to them. No Pagan groups go around denouncing atheism like this. Christian groups that do are often, in my experience, reprimanded. Yet somehow this antagonizing is consistently supposed to be given a pass because they’re atheists; I do not understand that. So this isn’t just one thing or another, it is a litany of bullshit many of us who are in an academic field have to endure.

I am not asking, nor would I ask Pagans to endure stupidity like this, no matter the speaker. I would not ask a Pagan to endure a sermon from an outwardly hostile preacher, nor more than I would a mocking one. Unfortunately, this AHA group is employing more or less those same tactics.

The AHA should be called for task for failing to even do the minimum to stand by their Mission Statement. I don’t care how big or small the group is, or how they justify their actions. What they have done has not generated goodwill, has been inhospitable to their fellow classmates and/or future ones, and creates a hostile environment so they can advertise their group.

As to the notion that the Gods do not need us to defend them:  What I am saying is that our ways should be defended from erasure. From needless mean-spirited acts. From the ignorance of others. From having our ways mocked by people that profess to want to build relationships and tolerance and understanding out of one side of their mouth but mock those Beings we hold most dear, and our ways along with them, out the other side of their mouth.

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