A Prayer to Týr and Forseti

Týr and Forseti, holy Lords of Justice!
Look down on what has happened in this nation
See the tears from mother’s eyes
Hear the screams from open mouths

See injustice heaped on injustice
Borne generation after generation
Indignity heaped upon indignity
Murder on murder

The ears of the authorities are shut -open them!
The eyes of the authorities are shut -open them!
The hands of the authorities are shut -open them!
The hearts of the authorities are shut -open them!

May every injustice be known
May every injustice be reckoned
May every injustice be paid for
May every injustice be set right

Týr, one-handed God Who sacrificed
Recognize the sacrifices
Of body, heart, reputation, and soul
Who risk themselves against wolves

Forseti, Lord of lawspeakers
Foremost of mediators,
Let justice be served in letter and life
Protection and power for the people

Holy Gods hear this prayer
Be swift and bless the nation
That justice is restored
That right relationship is reborn

I pray

I cannot be in Nepal, today, helping to find the trapped, the dying, or the Dead, so I offer prayers.

I cannot be in Maryland, today, marching in solidarity, tending the wounded, or listening to others’ anger, so I offer prayers.

I cannot be in so many places where injustice reigns, where anger boils, where lamentation fills the air.

So I offer prayers.

I pray for the living, who have seen tragedy heaped upon tragedy.  I pray that justice is done whether they take it or it is given.

I pray for the cities, whose spirits are full of pain at the weight of their misery.  I pray for the necessary changes that will bring justice to them, and comfort to the city spirits.

I pray for the Dead, taken in violence, whose impact shakes their communities.  I pray that They are remembered, and that They are honored.

May the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir be with them all.  Ves heil.

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.

Where Does It End?

I ask myself every time I see a proposal like this from Graymont, or another Oil Pipeline repair or request from Enbridge Energy.  Where does it end?  When is enough money, resources, and ecological destruction enough?

What does Graymont want?  10,000 acres of land for open pit and underground limestone mining operations that will take place in 3 counties in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Public comment for the Canadian Limestone proposal from Graymont ends March 19th.  Please make your comments here, at the email address, DNRGraymontProposalComments@michigan.gov, and at the public mailing address listed below:

Customer Service Center, ATTN: Kerry Wieber, 8717 N. Roscommon Road, Roscommon, MI 48653

Anyone who has an understanding of modern capitalism already knows the answer.  There is never enough.  Whether to feed the profit motive or the equally hideous beast of debt, like an unholy Ouraboros, there is never enough.  Between the greed of the profit motive and the utter despair generated by the countless billions (whether personally or via their country) in poverty, there is no end.  The only end is when the beast itself is dead.

Let us take stands wherever we can, however we can, for Jörð, for Nerthus, for Midgard our home!

To this end, I nið Graymont and their supporters, including political supportersfinancial backers, and those who would speak on behalf of destroying the ecosystem of 10,000 acres of land!

Share this curse on your blogs, Facebook, wherever you deem appropriate.  Let us not give one more inch to a corporation’s greed.

Three Isa and three Thurse I give

To Graymont and its board

May your projects fail

Your stocks plummet

Let the landvaettir be riled up

May They rise against you

Wherever you dig or set down

Your foul roots

May the people be riled up

May they rise against you

Wherever you dig or set down

Your foul roots

Leave the landvaettir be

Dig no hole, cut no wounds

Into Jörð’s flesh;

Let Her forests and fields grow!

Isa Isa Isa!

Thurse! Thurse! Thurse!

Isa Isa Isa!

Thurse! Thurse! Thurse!

Isa! Isa! Isa!

Thurse! Thurse! Thurse!

Critique of Harner’s Shamanism: Guest Post on Gangleri’s Grove

I wrote a critique of Harner-style shamanism in response to a blog commenter post on Ms. Krasskova’s Gangleri’s Grove.  It eventually grew into a long post that had to be reposted in several places.

Ms. Krasskova was kind enough to ask me to finish my thoughts, and has it up as a guest post on her blog.  Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

I am interested in hearing others’ views on this topic.

Credentials

Since the trial for James Arthur Ray has ended in his conviction for negligent homicide, something that has really popped up in my mind a lot is the idea of credentials.  They can keep people safe, establish who has proper training in a discipline, art, science, etc., and who does not, and can communicate professionalism in an instant.  When I think of credentials I think of licensing, such as what happens with counseling, or with medical disciplines.  Having an M.D. or some other recognized credentials communicates a certain trust between the community and you, that you have had the training and experience necessary to qualify in the field you’re practicing.  How do we establish such a thing in Paganism or modern shamanism?

Some places, such as Cherry Hill Seminary for Pagan ministry, and the Foundation for Shamanic Studies for neo-shamans, are trying to fill this requirement by giving classes, workshops, and a variety of training in disciplines and techniques for their path.  I have many criticisms of core shamanism, as well as misgivings regarding the practice of shamanism without a core cosmogony or cosmology.  That said, I find it laudable that someone is helping to set a standard of expectations, that neo-shamans to be answerable to some standard of expertise and training.  Still, there is something that bothers me about the setting of standards regarding shamanism.  I think it is something I was reminded of in this post by Kenaz Filan, that I worry regarding “the desire to reduce everything to one happy nebulous one-size-fits-all Truth.”  I’m not about to say that people should not have standards regarding their spiritual workers; quite the opposite, in fact.  The worry I have, is that we reduce the role of a Pagan priest or a modern shaman to a “one-size-fits-all-Truth”.  Community standards, and standards of practice are one thing.  Expecting the same thing out of every priest or shaman is quite another.  That, perhaps, is my main point of contention with core shamanism itself: that it reduces a good deal of practices, techniques, and so on, down into a distilled form of core shamanism that is billed as shamanism without culture, when it merely replaces a mishmash of cultures’ spiritual tools and practices with its own culture.

This is why I worry about, but am not completely opposed, to credentialed spiritual leaders, mentors, and the like.  That said, I have none.  I am not certified by any body, religious or otherwise, to conduct the rituals I do, or to deliver the services I offer.  I have only the blessings of my Gods, spirits, Ancestors, and those who believe in what I do.  I have only the experiences I have had as a shaman, and priest of Odin and Anubis as my spiritual background.  In a very real sense, it is a leap of faith for people who come to me for spiritual help or advice to trust me.  I have no training from an accredited seminary, nor do I have a certificate from the modern neo-shamanic organizations.  Am I still a priest and a shaman?  I emphatically say “Yes”.

I am of the mind that, while you can go through all the varied and well-made training workshops and classes, the Gods and/or spirits are what designate you as a priest and/or shaman.  Without the Gods and/or spirits, while you may have all the earthly credentials in the world, what does that matter if, when the time comes, you are called on to be a Divine mouthpiece and you cannot perform your function?  When someone needs to hear the guidance of their God/dess, and you cannot communicate it, what did the seminary lessons matter?  When a person is being bothered by spirits or Ancestors, if you cannot intervene and/or guide effectively, what good are all the workshops?  Anyone can screw things up as a matter of simply being human, and no spirit-worker, priest, shaman, or oracle I know of does what they do without screwing up.  I certainly have not.  That, however, is not my point here.  What is, is that the Gods and spirits with whom you work, in my view, are the ones that bestow the meaning, the core, of what it is to be a priest or a shaman.  If you don’t have Them behind you in your function, while you may be a great facilitator or organizer, you are not a priest or shaman.

There is also, to me, a large difference between being a priest or shaman of a community, and being a priest or shaman of specific Gods or spirits.  While the two need not be exclusive, they can be very different in their roles.  Having been a priest for a community for a small time, the role required me to fill a lot of shoes, and do a lot of working with others’ Gods, successes, failures, and times of trial, as well as times of joy.  There was a lot of work on communication, answering questions, writing lessons, and training that was done as part of that work.  A lot of my daily work during this time was community-based, from daily work with people on their relationships with Gods, to working on rituals, classes and presentations.  Being a priest of Odin and a shaman apart from a dedicated community, a lot of my work for the larger Pagan community consists of giving messages from Gods, spirits, and Ancestors, intervening when needed in spiritual crises, and being a go-to for people looking to contact Odin and other Northern Tradition Gods, spirits, and Ancestors.  A lot of my work is individual-based, and I do a lot of more self-focused work, such as taking more time out for relaxation and meditation, and give more personal attention to the Gods and spirits I work with, whether it is working with my Ancestors, or working on deepening my relationships with my Gods.

Are credentials necessary?  In some cases, yes.  If you want to legally marry people, for instance, you need to have credentials that back up your ability to sign the marriage license.  However, I and a very good friend of mine, performed a wedding for a wonderful couple, and though it is not legally recognized due to the laws in my state, it is a strong marriage blessed by the Gods.  Are credentials beyond those for legal reasons a necessity?  I’m still out on this.  As someone who has dedicated his life to serving my Gods, I would say no.  Yet, at the same time, I see how credentials provide comfort, a sense of security, and communicate professionalism.  After all, I’m getting my degree in counseling for that reason, and when I’ve finished with that, I will go for licensing so I can practice what I’ve learned.

At this point I’m taking a middle road because Pagan priesthood and modern shamanism do not, by and large, have the background that professional counseling does, and beyond the two resources I’ve mentioned above, anything resembling professional training in either field is scant, or is specific to certain pathways, i.e. the Aquarian Tabernacle Church’s seminary.  If we want more professionally-trained priests and shamans, whether for the wider Pagan or shamanic communities, or our own little branches in their trees, we will largely have to either a) support what is already there and increase its ability to be used effectively by its adherents, or b) invent these courses and methods of accreditation ourselves.  I find that accreditation can be a powerful, stabilizing force, but it can also be one that can strangle peoples’ ability or willingness to explore, find new ways, be touched by the Gods or spirits, or respond in ways that establishments may find chaotic, destabilizing, or unwelcome.  Here is hoping that as we move forward we can develop courses and accreditation that encourage individual and group responsibility, personal and transcendent experiences of our Gods, spirits, and Ancestors, while also providing a solid structure to build our faiths, roles, and communities on.  Here is hoping that if credentialing gets in the way that we have the bravery and wherewithal to help it evolve with our communities’ growing needs, or if it will not, then to discard it.

Personal Work

It’s been awhile since I last posted, and a good chunk of that time has been to work on personal stuff.  Some of that personal stuff has been screwing around, relaxing, and finding a job.  My spiritual life has become a lot more low key, becoming more integrated in ways I didn’t think would be so effortless.  The work with the herb garden, which now has one of my Dad’s tomato plants in it, has drawn me closer to Freyr, Gerda, Angrboda and Eir, and in little ways they are showing me lessons.  The closer I pay attention, but to Them and especially to the plants, the more I learn.  My work with Frigga comes and goes, but She is a quiet, patience presence in my life that I am still feeling out.  A lot of my spirituality has gone away from my altar and now walks with me.  The volunteer work I am doing, the empathy model I have learned, pushes me to listen a lot more than I have.  A lot of time when I did spiritual counseling over the last seven or so years, problems were brought to me that were pretty clear.  Yet, with the empathy model I am learning to be a more effective shaman and priest; I’m relearning not just how to listen, but a new mindset in listening and engaging conversation.  The ‘intensity’ Odin promised me this summer for spiritual has been delivered in spades.  Sure, I’ve done a good deal of spiritual work with and for others, but the intensity doesn’t come from that as much as the down time.

Not having a community to look after took away a lot of the excuses I used to distract myself from thinking about how I feel about things, relate to things, understand things, and where I am emotionally.  When I lost the group, and my relationship with my fiancee, a lot of the barriers that I kept up that stopped me from relating to myself, from being empathetic with myself, broke down.  I was stuck inside my own head with my own thoughts.  For weeks, Odin forbade me from any astral travel, utiseta, seidr, and similar kinds of mind-altering work.  I was stewing in my own juices, at times in guilt and other times in anger, and at other times sheer sadness.  I was feeling real emotions without covering them up, allowing myself to put a veneer of bullshit over them, or tamp them down.  Who was I not going to express them to?  Myself?

This went on for awhile until I hit a breaking point, mercifully, among supportive friends who had a good idea that it was coming.  They both let me do something I had, up until that point, really denied myself full expression: grieve.  I had just sucked in all the mixed feelings I had from the week I left the group  and my fiancee and I broke up, and ran with it.  At that point, it was more about surviving exam week.  Afterward, it was because I didn’t want to deal with the feelings I had stuck inside me.  When I finally let everything out, it was a clearing point for my emotions and my head.  I’ve been able to look back with a clearer head, see where I made mistakes, where others made mistakes, and accept that I screwed up without skewering myself with guilt trips and emotional lashings any more.  I may not remember everything (I don’t have the best memory) but I clearly can see where I screwed up, and have changed how I do things.  I think that of anything, that’s really the important part.  That, and I’m more forgiving with myself than I used to be.

Part of the reason I lashed out at group members was because I held myself to very high standards, standards that I sometimes wasn’t able to meet.  So I’d push myself and push myself until I hit them, and expect everyone else around me to rise up to my standards.  Not only did I tend to have high expectations that were impossible to meet, I also reacted a lot to my fear that I was not good enough, didn’t know enough, wasn’t a good priest or shaman, and I felt I needed to help people because if I wasn’t useful doing something for someone then I wasn’t worth anything.  I put people down to feel better about myself, an insecurity move if ever there was one, and my insecurities about myself ate into everyone around me.  When I had more emotional highs, or when I wasn’t feeling the insecurities, I could be smug, glib, and condescending.  It didn’t matter that I didn’t mean to; I did it.  That’s really one of the big lessons I took away from all this.  It does not matter what you intend; it is important, but what happens from the impact of your choices, that is what really matters.  If I can say this about spellwork and spirituality then it is applicable to the practical and emotional realms as well.

A lot of my emotional work the last few months out of the group has largely been around my feelings of self-worth, which, from what I have seen, is at the root of a lot of the problems that erupted.  Constantly talking about it with close friends and family has helped a lot.  I get a new perspective each time that I share it, a new way of seeing it, and different ways of expressing my fears, anxieties, and other emotions I’ve largely buried or ignored.  By relying more on the Pagan community, I’ve come to appreciate not just the larger Pagan community, but my place in it being one of value, even if I was totally silent, because I am in it.  Something that Bona Dea’s workshop at Paganfest, Weaving Community, really drove home for me was that once you intertwine the threads of yourself and your community you’re together in the tapestry.  It reflected a deep truth I’d forgotten in and of myself, both in terms of my impact on people, and my value in it.  It also drove home the reason the group asked me to leave: when you weave in the workshop, you need to be mindful of others’ threads, of where they are, and be sure that your own respects theirs and the overall tapestry.  I didn’t respect the group’s tapestry; I talked a good game about Wyrd, but more often than not I wanted people to go this way or that way because I looked at people, saw a lot of raw potential, but didn’t respect where they wanted or in some cases, needed to take that potential.  In short, I didn’t listen to them, their Wyrd, or how I came off or sounded.  I was trying to have people fill up something in me I wasn’t filling up myself, something that other people couldn’t give me in the first place: self-esteem.  Self-respect.  Love.  People can’t fill you with those things.  They might trigger those things in you to show up, but they have to be there first.  I didn’t know how to take praise; it never seemed good enough because I didn’t respect or love myself enough to think I would be worthy of those things.  I didn’t know when enough was enough because I kept setting standards higher for myself, and then for others, thinking “this is what I have to do to earn respect in the community”, but I didn’t have enough respect for myself or others to see the limitations I or they had.

In my goofy way of thinking, I thought that by being silent and leaving people be this long, that I was doing right by them.  By not ‘bugging’ people, rather than speaking to them about what happened, and what has been happening, but just having them read this blog, I was encouraging healing because they didn’t have to ‘deal’ with me.  The other, then, is at least touching base with people from the group.  I told these people they were my family…and in my experience, you don’t just stop talking to family over disagreements or blow ups.  Things may or may not be able to be fixed, but at the end of the day it is my choice to leave things frayed or at least try to put the loom back together.

Since I began to hit these points of understanding, it has been a quick shove back into intensive spiritual work.  A few hours after my grief period I had my first trance possession for the first time in a few months.  I may have screwed up, and refused to do spirit possession for a long time, but at the end of the day I am still a priest and a shaman.  I had a job to do.  I’d talked with various people for a few weeks before this about fixing what I did about spirit possession work, and started to put that into practice.  Namely, telling the person to double-check statements, advice, and other things the spirit said in me with a trusted diviner, and approaching the practice as a sacred act, not like a regular occurrence, but something to be treasured and treated as holy rather than casually.  To me, this, coupled with a healthy respect for boundaries and using the empathy model after the God left me helped me avoid a lot of the problems I made or ran into with my old group.

A lot of my personal work right now is really geared toward learning to be comfortable in down time, to be happy in it.  To not have to push myself to ‘do something’ to feel productive, and through that, useful and worth a damn.  The ‘intensive’ work Odin promised me has been a lot of down time and relaxation.  I haven’t taken a summer off of school in a long time, and it has been a rather nice vacation so far.  Being comfy in my own skin is a test, at times, and to have so much down time, to ‘not be productive’ for so long, has been a challenge.  I’m finally able to actually relax, though, and for me, that’s a pretty big step.  Couple that with finally having self-esteem and confidence that comes from myself, and I’ve come a long way from where I’ve been.  To not have to need other people to prop up my ego is pretty big.  I may not be perfect at it, but I’ve made a lot of strides, and that alone is worth the work.

Call for Submissions: Ancestor Devotional Anthology

Hello everyone.  Given the interest and fantastic submissions that have started to come in, I am extending the deadline to October 31st, 11:59pm.  I hope that as word spreads there will be even more submissions.  Please, if you or anyone else you know does Ancestor devotions and/or work, or even has just started beginning working with their Ancestors, encourage them to submit their writing, or art to this project.  The details are listed below.  If you have any questions you can post them here or send them to Sarenth@gmail.com.

The Call for Submissions

Asphodel Press

Working Title:  Calls to Our Ancestors

Editor: Sarenth

Description:  An anthology of prayers, poems, devotional pieces, essays, personal experience, and/or artwork in honor of our Ancestors.  This anthology draws from a variety of sources and authors, and may include Ancestors worship in the form of spirits and/or Gods as well, for those whose beliefs encompass this.

What is not desired: fanfic, ego-stroking, self-aggrandizement.  It’s one thing if you believe you’re sired by a God/dess, it’s another to treat other humans as lower than yourself.

Word Length: 800-1500 words minimum for essays.  No specialized fonts, please.  All formats for written pieces should be in a .doc, .docx, or .rtf file format.  Any devotional pieces, artwork, etc. in visual format needs to be submitted in no less than 300 dpi format, preferably .tiff or .png for lossless quality.

Contributors will not be paid for this contribution. This is a one-time publishing opportunity, so you retain all rights to your piece and can use it as you wish after publication.

Any contributors need to give their legal names and addresses in the email for a release form for their work.  However, we can publish you under a pseudonym or community name if you would like.

The deadline for submissions is October 31st, 2011 at 11:59pm.

Emails for interested parties can be sent to Sarenth@gmail.com.

Fast: Day Two

I confirmed the fasting with my whole medical team was safe.  My doctor called me today to tell me not to take the metformin (aka Glucophage) until the day before I come off the fast.  I’ll still be checking my blood every day and taking my vitamins and lisinopril, but my blood sugars have been stable around the 79-85 range so far.  If my blood sugar drops much lower I may need to drink something sugary or a small bit of protein to boost me up.  If it continues for greater than a day I may have to break the fast.  I don’t believe I will need to, but there is the chance.

This is something that I talked with Odin over, and He said “The fasting is not here to kill you, but get you into a purified mindset, to get you out of the ordinary.  Won’t do us a bit of good if you keel over or go into a coma on me.”  Which shouldn’t have come as a shock.  It does mean that until something like that happens I won’t slip up, and will be sure if I have to break the fast that I actually have to break the fast.  It’s actually a comfort to have my medical team behind me, making sure I can do this fast safely.

A lot of the work I did with Odin was going over relationships, this time, how I give myself over to women.  He noted that I almost disappeared in some of these relationships, how I subsumed myself under other people.  He said it was part of the reason why I was not His God-slave; He wanted to challenge me to be my own person, drive me to be myself for myself, and not for anyone else.  I think that was a lesson I missed from the myth of Him Hanging on Yggdrasil: He did it as an offering “from Myself to Myself” first and foremost.  Only after that did He give the wisdom of the Runes to others.  It was not until He was able to do that, that He was able to even give the wisdom of the Runes to other people, let alone use Them Himself.

I used to think that this whole “doing this for myself” thing was selfish.  But in a lot of ways it protects other people, and keeps any fallout to you.  It also makes sure that you understand what you’re doing before you pass on the knowledge, and that you have a firm grasp of what you’ve experienced.  Doing it for yourself also makes sure you actually take care of yourself, kind of like how the emergency videos always tell you to take care of yourself before someone else.  Doesn’t do anyone any good for two people to be down when one could be up.  I admittedly have had a lot of baggage from this ‘doing for myself’ idea, first from my parents and my Catholic upbringing, and the general attitude I’ve held towards people for years, a lot of it learned from being bullied.  The main baggage I learned from Catholicism and my folks is that this ‘doing for myself’ is selfish, and takes from others when I could give to them, and the stuff I learned from bullying is that I really don’t deserve all the good things in the first place.  In the situation I’m in, out of my personal community and without a significant other, I’m having to do for myself first.  It’s been pretty…good, actually.  I’m happier, I’m more ready to face the day, and willing to do more to make things happen.  I don’t feel anxious or run down, and my self-perception has improved since Nicole and I broke up.  I’m wanting to do things for myself; sure, my son does factor in, but I want to do Psychology and Counseling for myself as much as those I could help…the former now, even more so.  I want the fulfillment that comes from doing that work rather than doing it for other people.  Sure, the people matter, and are a large part of that fulfillment, but if I look to them to fulfill me, I will come out disappointed.  I know from pastoral counseling that doing that sets you up for disappointment and heartbreak, and that being there as a vessel for change rather than an agent is what is often needed and distancing enough that if things fall apart you won’t be destroyed.

The work with Loki tonight was brutal.  He started off the night by having me purify everything in the garage with a handy stick of sage, from the doors to the altar to myself several times.  Then I set up the protective wards making a Valknut of smoke in the air, and using a modified version of the Hammer Rite.  He had me strike a match, light the three candles I had representing Odin, Vili, and Ve, (purple, yellow, and blue respectively) and light the charcoal disk for my censer.  When everything felt safe, and the smoke was rolling out of the censer from the lit charcoal, He had me add Mugwort, (the purifying plant in the Northern Tradition), after I thanked the spirit of the plant.  When it started going He had me root around in my boxes of Pagan stuff for something, and I wasn’t sure what it was at first.  Then it caught my eye: a bit of tissue Nicole had written a cute message and a drawing, something I kept on my computer all semester and looked at when I felt lonely.  Looking at it now, I felt my heart come apart.

I heard Him say “That is what I want you to offer Me.  Offer it to Me, let Her go, and I will help you heal.”  I stopped cold.  I hadn’t expected to do any magic to separate myself from her, just doing healing work and talking with the Gods to help me separate.  I hesitated and He said louder “You say you want to work with Me.  This is what I’m demanding of you.  Give it to Me, or go back inside and curl up in bed and cry!” then He demanded of me ” You want to get through this?  Then let her go.  What the hell are you hanging on for?”  He let the question hang while my mind raced a million different places.  Old, fond memories, making love, the funny times where I or she would trip and make fun of each other.  Hell, “chicken”.  So many things my mind flashed to…the future we’d once wanted to build together- then He interrupted my thoughts “They aren’t going to happen now.”  That acid ate away at the fantasies that played in my head.  It isn’t going to happen.  The words echoed in my head for a while, and I said to Him, “Alright.  Alright.”  I had had enough, and I was on the verge of crying.  I wanted to let go, not just say the words, not just mime the feelings.  I really wanted to let go.

So He had me take the tissue and toss it right on the charcoal disk.  At first, it wouldn’t light.  I picked up a candle and was going to light the tissue on fire, when I heard Him give me a resounding “No.”  I looked at the candle and then at the censer with the disk in it.  “Well…what then?” I asked Him in my mind.  He told me to light the disk with the candle, and I was to watch the tissue burn down to ash.  I was angry at first.  It seemed cruel to me, to make me sit that long looking at something that had once given me a lot of comfort, silly as it might have been.  I did what He told me to anyway.

The tissue took several minutes before it even browned a little.  As I waited, He said to me “You have to want it to burn.  You have to want to let it go.  Help it burn; don’t use the candle.”  So I looked at the tissue, and flopped it around a little, trying to get it to light, but the disk wasn’t having it.  It had a little red glow on its outside edge, but all it was doing was browning the tissue very, very slowly.  Then I sighed, and the glow picked up.  I breathed again, this time right on the disk, and the glow grew, and the edge of the tissue that was lying on it started to glow.  I kept breathing, blowing long, concentrated streams of air, not consciously starting to say the mantra that grew in my mind: “I want to let go.  I want to grieve.”

The glow picked up around the edges, and it grew more intense as it ate up the tissue, and the smoke stung my eyes.  I felt in that moment, as tears came streaming from the smoke, like I could cry.  Like it wasn’t shameful or stupid, like it wasn’t me being melodramatic or anything other than simply grieving a loss.  That mantra kept going “I want to let go.  I want to grieve.” even as I cried, holding the censer between my hands, blowing long streams of what I realized wasn’t just my breath, but my spiritual energy, my önd.  The creeping orange slowly ate more, gaining speed as I cried harder, the air flowing harder.  At some point I started kneeling, and knelt, trembling with the censer rocking in my hands as tears rolled freely down my face.  I probably looked like a damn mess…but I didn’t care.  I was grieving, I was in that moment ignoring everything else but that.  I was letting myself feel, truly feel, all the release I could.  At some point I picked up a pair of crow feathers and fanned them over the smoking tissue, asking Hunin and Munin to help me think well, but to commit this work to Thought and Memory.  When I finally put the censer down and let go, the ashes smoldered and then, turned black each in turn.  I heard Loki’s voice tell me to put Stinging Nettle on the censer to protect myself from going back to those old feelings, thoughts, and had me throw more Mugwort on for purification.  As the smoke rolled up in front of me, I threw it over my body, praying to Loki in thanks, and thinking in prayer “Thank you Nicole, for all we’ve shared.  Thank you for loving me.”  Then Loki told me, in no uncertain terms, to say it.  I did…and I felt a peace roll over me.  A deep-seated peace.

I took up the chalice of water I had on the altar, and drizzled some onto my head, dabbed it on my forehead, and every other chakra point.  Purified and still feeling that deep-seated peace, I dabbed water onto the heads of my Ancestors’ representation, a circle of four figures interlocking arms, and dabbed water onto the mouths of my Lupa and Lycrous representations.  Finally, I dabbed water onto the mouths of the statue of Odin, first to Geri and Freki, then Hunin and Munin, and finally, to His own mouth and His horn.  I felt good, like I had finally let go of a huge block in my heart.  I thanked Loki, and He said to me to give offerings to Himself and Odin, and to Hel, to honor my grieving for dead things.  I asked Him what, and He told me in turn what I could give of myself.  It had been nearly a year since any of my statues had received my blood, and the skull I used as a representation of Hel on my altar had never received blood from me.  So I took a needle I use for testing my blood sugar,  and sterilized it in the fire of all three candles.  Odin asked me to prick my right forefinger, and shared it first with my Ancestors, dabbing each of Their heads with a drop of blood in recognition of my bloodlines, and then with each part of His statue as I had before, except His mouth as He asked me.  To Hel’s skull representation, I first asked Her if this would blood-bond me to Her, and She assured me not, and that She would view it as an offering of thanks.  She asked me, rather than having blood from the right forefinger, to take it from the left pinky, which I seldom use.  The pain was vivid when I pricked myself, which She said was part of the offering, and I smeared the blood across the foam skull’s teeth.  The teeth went from white to red, and the gold teeth in the skeleton were tinged darker.

I gave a low bow to the altar, let the burning herbs finish up, and thanked the Gods who had been there for the rite.  I blew out the candles, thanked my Ancestors, and the spirits who had been there, and put away whatever I wasn’t leaving on the altar overnight.  Even as I write this, I still feel that sense of peace.  My heart isn’t aching right now, and I feel like I’ve gotten somewhere with being able to finally grieve.  Thank the Gods for Gods that push me beyond my self-perceived boundaries.  Thank the Gods for Odin and Loki both, and all the Gods who know me.  Thank the Gods for Gods who will push, pull, and fight with you to get you where you need to go, but will also equally let go when you are being a stubborn ass.  Thank the Gods for healing and love, even at the price of pain.  Thank the Gods.

Fast: Day One

Today is the first day of a Nine Day fast and Vow of Silence.  I did something like this last year with Hanging on Yggdrasil.  This time I’m not hanging on the Tree, but going deep inside, reconnecting with myself, purifying, and bringing myself back together.  I’ll be letting go of things, and developing a deeper connection with my Gods.  Primarily I’ll be working with Odin and Loki, with Odin tending toward work during the day, and Loki at night.  I would have thought it would be otherwise, but a lot of work I’ve done with Odin has been done at night, so I guess this is switch-up will challenge me on some things.

The first thing that really hits me is the hunger.  I’ve been hungry all day, and finally, after taking a nap, the nagging in my stomach left me alone.  Throughout the day I’ve been talking with Odin, going over some of the basics for the following days.  A lot of the work is going to be introspective, while other parts of it, such as writing the Hávamál-like poem we negotiated I would write for being able to start the fast after Mother’s Day, will be about creating or exploring.  A lot of the conversation is sparse, talking about what I need to really dig into these Nine Days.  How I approach relationships, my constant need to be there for people, my boundaries, sexuality, my self-esteem issues and self-denigration are all going to be lain out and one-by-one worked through.

Today, a lot of the work was focused on how I approached relationships.  During the day Odin and talked on and off about why I did things with Nicole that I did, exploring deeper where those feelings of “I need to be here” came from, and why I wasn’t honest with myself from the beginning when we started to see ourselves drift apart.  I found myself going back to my folks and what I learned from them, that when you find someone you love, you stick it through no matter what.  That loyalty is sometimes measured in compromising, sometimes on things you hold dear to yourself.  It’s about giving everything you are to that other person.  While these are, I think, good foundations in this theory, as I explored how those examples impacted me I found myself giving over to (before Nicole) emotionally abusive relationships, manipulative relationships.  With my first relationship I made much of my time with her about her, and was offered very little in return.  This became my norm for a long time.  I thought “Well, this person loves me, and that’s enough”.  Yet I didn’t actually examine my lovers up-close to see if they honestly loved me like I loved them back, or if I was even getting basic things out of the relationship like affection or help on things that I was going through.  I have made a lot of my relationships about the other person, to the near-exclusion of myself.

This trickled into nearly everything I did.  There’s a joke that Nicole and I share.  I usually left food decisions up to the other person; I’m not picky.  I mean really not picky.  So I was usually just defaulted to the other person (I did this with a lot of things) and didn’t make a hell of a lot of decisions.  One day we’re driving in her car and she looks to me, and asks “Hey, what do you want to eat?”  I fumble around; holy shit, what do I want to eat?  I hadn’t expected the question and started darting my head around looking for some kind of food place.  “I dunno,” I answered with a shrug.  “Well, you need to pick someplace.”  “I don’t know what I want.”  This goes on for another five minutes.  Then she asks me, exasperated, “Well, what do you want?”  I answer in deadpan: “Chicken.” She throws her hands up in the air half-yelling half-laughing “There are about five hundred places with chicken!  What kind of chicken?!”  I eventually fumble out Chinese and laughing, she pulls into the nearby Chinese food joint.  Gods, food sound nice right now.

In just thinking about this little incident, it made me think about how much I gave my autonomy over to the other person in relationships.  It isn’t healthy, and isn’t something I will be repeating in future relationships.  Nicole helped me to make a hell of a dent in this, but I still dipped into it, and still gave a lot of decisions I could make myself (like where to eat, what movie to see) and just compromised on the little things that could have made me happy.  It’s no small wonder I was willing to give the rest of my life over when I didn’t even have the spine to say “I’d like to eat here” or “I’d like to see this”.  What kills me is, I did this voluntarily.  There was no knife to my throat, no one ever threatened to leave me.  It was all about keeping the other person happy…while totally forgetting that “Hey, I don’t want to see this movie; I want to see that one.”  Totally forgetting, or ignoring, my own needs, wants, feelings and desires.  You can’t be honest with the other person if you can’t be honest with yourself…and I haven’t been honest with what I have wanted for a long while.

Part of figuring out what I do want is realizing how much that can change, or is in flux.  Something simple: Do I want any more kids?  I have no idea.  I thought at one point I wanted to have a house and kids and family.  The more I think about it, the more I ask if I will have the ability to do that, especially in the economy we’re heading into.  I wonder if that “American Dream” is even my dream to begin with.  These Nine Days may not help me decide that, but they will give me better ground to judge that on.  Yet once upon a time I would have answered off the cuff that I did want kids, I did want the 2.5 square acres and a wife and the house and the car and all the other stuff that goes along with that “Dream”.  It’s what I’ve been raised on.  So I haven’t really questioned that until lately.  What do I want?  I want, ultimately, for myself and my son to be happy and have a blessed, fulfilled life.  I’m not sure what that will look like.  I really have to destroy expectations.  After all, I expected to never have to live with my family again when I hit 25.  Yet here I am.

Something else that has bugged me lately is how my spirituality seems to have fallen off the radar.  I say ‘seems’ because I did a lot of spiritually exhausting, sometimes dangerous work.  I was ‘horsed’ (that is, possessed) a lot by spirits and Gods, I did a lot of journeying and seidr work, and much of my spiritual life revolved around my community.  Now that I am doing none of those things, I have been doing a good deal more meditation and prayer than I was doing…yet I find myself still looking for spiritual fulfillment.  When I ask myself “What am I looking for?” I keep coming back to community.  So I am happy that the Shaman Supper in my area is coming up.  It will be good to reconnect to people, share experiences, maybe even ritual.  I’m also looking into the Unitarian Universalist churches in my area, and connecting to more people on Facebook and through this blog.  I asked “Why do I need community?” and I came up with a couple answers.  The first is that I like to be around people, and share my spiritual path with people.  I didn’t do a terribly long stint as a solitary Pagan.  This is probably the longest I’ve gone without a group or someone else to practice with.  The second is that community tends to inspire me to go further and deeper into my faith.  This stint at going alone is proving to me that I don’t need community to do that, but it sure makes the journey easier and much more pleasant.  The third is that community provides a support network and a safe place where I can bounce ideas off of peoples’ heads.

As I have heard from a few Odinswomen being driven is part of what Odin likes in people, and sometimes will push in people.  My error is that I let that drive push into everything I do; I don’t tend to relax well, and feel guilty oftentimes for doing so.  That “I’m not being productive” is something I have caught myself denigrating myself for, even while enjoying a movie or a video game.  Part of the deflation that has come from more or less being apart from everything I’ve been used to is that it throws me into making me relax, into making me take more time for me.  This has been hard to deal with; if I keep busy I don’t need to stop, and take it easy.  I don’t feel ‘lazy’ or ‘unproductive’.  I’ve had to look at myself and realize that I push myself too hard, that I ask too much out of myself.  This isn’t something that is simple for me; I pride myself on doing a lot, and so much down time makes me feel out of place.  I’ve been keeping busy enough cleaning up the house or doing meditation and prayer…but it always seems like I have a lot of time.  I think a good chunk of this is simply learning to mellow out.  Until recently, I’ve been running around doing stuff non-stop.  It’s weird to have nothing to do like school or especially the work with the community.

So I am having to resettle myself a lot.  My work with Odin was largely getting into my head and rooting around about the stuff I’ve written about already.  Loki’s work with me today was about going into myself and letting go of the influences of my folks on how I approach relationships.  He took me into myself, and together, experienced times where I remembered lessons (and some where I didn’t) of where I learned what I know and practice when it comes to love.  It was like looking at my life on rewind.  I was sitting in a chair before my altar I’d just set up, smoking mugwort in my sacred pipe.  He instructed me that with each inhalation I need to go to a time, and on the exhale, blow it out.  I could feel the vaettir of mugwort come into me, help me dig out the pain or poor lesson, and carry it out.  I cried at one point as I passed through old hurts, and just as quick as I had started, I stopped.  I felt at peace, a kind of powerful peace rise out of me like the smoke.  I became still, and happy in that moment.  I’m not done…but taking out these harmful lessons from my folks helps.  Lessons that come especially from my Dad, like giving over his dreams to make our lives possible to the point where he never finished college, and never pursued his dreams from there.  I won’t go into much detail here; some of these are painful, and others uncomfortable.

The experience so far has been powerful, even if at times I feel like “I am not doing enough”.  Which is dumb.  I’m in the middle of a Vow of Silence, I am fasting, I am praying, meditating, and giving devotion, and going through painful and uncomfortable memories while also finishing up an at least 140-line poem to my God.  I’m also still filling out applications for jobs and will be going to volunteer orientation for a nearby crisis center.  There should be no reason I should be so hard on myself.  As the days move forward I have a feeling a lot of this will be brought into the light and dark, and dealt with in each realm as it needs to be.  I pray the journey forward is healing; I know I need it.