Patreon Topic 13: Óðinn and Loki

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Note: Until now I have referred to folks by their level of Patreon support. For some of Patreon patrons I will now refer to them by a name I have permission to use. This makes it easier to find posts, and easier for me to organize them. Thank you to all my supporters on Patreon!

From Fen comes this topic idea:

“Inspired by your recent post, would it be possible to talk more on your experiences with the relationship between Odin and Loki?”

My relationships with every Heathen God, Ancestors, and vaettr has been mediated in some way first through Óðinn. Yes, even my relationship with Fenris. My relationship with Loki came about through Óðinn. I sometimes jokingly refer to this phenomena with the Heathen Gods as “Come meet my Family!” but as much as I find the phrase amusing, it is quite true. I came to know Frigg, Þórr, and the other Aesir through Óðinn, and through Loki I came to know His family.

When I first began worshiping Óðinn it was only Him. Then, as I began digging into the lore at the same time as I was developing a relationship with Him, I kept running into Loki whether or not I wanted to. When I sat down and read the Lokasenna and the reference to Their blood oath was made when Loki spoke to Óðinn in it, something clicked hard for me. For all that folks up to this point had made a big issue of offering to Loki to keep Him away or to stave off issues in ritual, here, through Óðinn, I was being brought into relationship with this God.

This is where things get interesting. In loving Óðinn I came to know and love His Family, and part of that Family is Loki. Through learning to love Loki, I in turn came to love His Family, despite how much Fenris in particular scared the Hel out of me (pardon the intentional pun). My portion was to wrestle with that discomfort with His Child as much as it had been to wrestle with my discomfort with Loki Himself previous.

Through all of this I understood fairly quickly that I could not indulge or entertain the idea that Jötnar = evil, because both in the lore I was studying and in my emerging relationships with several Jötun this was simply not the case. Worshiping Óðinn and Loki shattered a lot of early binary thinking that still exists in many forms of Norse and Icelandic Heathenry, something I am deeply grateful to Them both for shattering. It expanded my understanding of the Gods, of course, and it also forced me to look at the binaries of understanding around Ancestors and vaettir. In coming to understand my Gods in deeply powerful, personal, and in some cases boundary and binary-shattering ways, it did the same for my Ancestors and vaettir.

As far as understanding the relationship between Óðinn and Loki, I have gotten some flashes of brotherhood, and things more intimate than brotherhood. In other words, some of the interactions I have seen between Them point to Them being lovers. However, it has never been my interest in digging into that with Them. Not because such a thing repulses me on principle -no, I just do not want to dig into my Father’s sexual exploits with my spiritual Uncle. I’m good.

Given I am an Odinsson there’s some things about Óðinn I’m okay with not digging too deep into. I have other things and other ways of relating to these Gods in my life, and if I want advice on sex and such I would be sure to reach out to either one, but Their relationships are just that. It’s worth pointing out that I do not ask similar questions of Óðinn and Frigg of Their relationships either. It’s rude, not my business, and if They wanted me to know (for…whatever reason) I am sure They would make a point for me to know it.

Knowing both of these Gods has revolutionized my life as a polytheist and a Heathen. It has brought what had been a relatively stationary understanding of Ancestors and vaettir into a much more complex understanding. When I was primarily a priest of Anpu and devotee of Bast, while also worshiping Lykeios, Lupa, and Brighid, I did not have anywhere near the experiences I began to have with land spirits that I did when I came to understand Them through the lens of landvaettir and húsvaettir. Oh, They were there and real, that much I knew. However, despite doing regular offerings and prayers to Them I did not receive anywhere near the response I did until after I became a Heathen. Likewise, most of the spirits I interacted with at this point and time were the Dead, and most of my Ancestors were quite quiet. So in ways great and small coming to know, worship, and develop good relationships with these Gods completely rewired my spirit and relationships with everyone and everything around me.

Patreon Topic 12: Sacred Kingship and Heathenry

If you want to submit a topic you would like me to write on for this blog or my Patreon, sign up for the Uruz or Thurisaz level or above here on my Patreon.

Note: Until now I have referred to folks by their level of Patreon support. For some of Patreon patrons I will now refer to them by a name I have permission to use. This makes it easier to organize and find posts. Thank you to all my supporters on Patreon and to all of my readers!

From StreakingFate comes this question:

“For a topic idea, have you covered sacred kingship yet? Historically in Heathenry, how it is seen present day in Heathenry if it is, or both.”

Before I begin to tackle this question it is important to talk about what we mean by Heathenry. There are a lot of cultural wells from which we can drink. Norse Heathenry is one, Anglo-Saxon another, Frankish another, and so on. Then there are folks that mix their paths eclectically or syncretically, neither of which are wrong, but they tend to be different approachs. Myself, I am primarily a Heathen whose sources lie in Icelandic, Norse, and Germanic sources with a smattering of Anglo-Saxon. My approach to the question of “Is Frigg and Freyja a single Goddess or separate Goddesses?” is to treat Them as separate, with Frigg an Aesir and Freyja a Vanir. This may seem like an odd point of departure, but this matters in terms of how we understand the Gods, and how we understand the impact of lore, including myth and archaeology, on our various religions.

Since I am not writing from a primarily Anglo-Saxon, Frankish, etc perspective, there are a lot of potential answers to this question. I cannot tell you what the Anglo-Saxon Heathen answer is to this question because that is not my primary framework any more than the Frankish Heathen is.

I have not covered sacred kingship much on this blog. It simply does not enter much into my understanding of my place with the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir. I am a goði, a spiritual specialist who is both a chieftain and a priest so far as how we in Mímisbrunnr Kindred use the term.

Let us dig into what is meant by sacred kingship. The Encyclopedia Britannic has a great overview of the concept of sacred kingship, though by no means is it the most detailed or probably accurate overview specific to a given culture. In its article, the Encyclopedia lists three basic forms of a sacred kingship:

(1) the possessor of supernatural power, (2) the divine or semidivine king, and (3) the agent of the sacred.

I do not serve a sacred kingship role as it is often seen in the Fisher King archetype, and only small Heathen, eg Theodish, or Northern Tradition kingdoms, eg The Kingdom of Asphodel, as I have read and understood, hold to such ideas.

Now, if we depart from kingship and dig into sacral status, then this is something most Heathens believe in. However, it is quick to spot that in modern Heathenry that sacral status is not beholden to only a few. If anything differs greatly from historical Heathenry, it is that the goði is not the main arbiter of a community either in terms of how the community runs that they are head of, or that they have inherently more spiritual power than others who live in the community they head. Everyone has access to power through engaging in specific work, eg seið work, spirit work, working with óðr, and so on. A given person may or may not be ‘wired’ for the work, but that does not mean that you have to be born into a certain bloodline to access these spiritual techniques or engage with spiritual power effectively.

Another signficant departure, due in no small part to how diasporic the Heathen communities have become from their historical roots in America and over time from the ancient Heathen cultures we take inspiration and root in, we do not have the kind of passed-on roles that we might have if they had survived until today. Perhaps, had ancient Heathen cultures not been converted, seiðkona and seiðmaðr would have kept up their work they would have passed on the experiences and understanding they had. Had the ancient Heathen cultures not converted, perhaps spiritual techniques like the varðlokkur noted on but not, unfortunately, written out, in the Saga of Erik the Red may have survied until today. We cannot predict how these roles would have come down to us. We can look at the functions they served in the communities they were part of, look at how our own communities are organized, and whether they are still useful to us, or, even more important, if this is even something our Gods are asking to take up and if we are willing to.

From my observation sacred kingship is largely seen as something belonging to the past. This is hardly surprising given America’s history, let alone 1/3 of Americans rent their home, and many Americans who do own land do not own more than than an acre, let alone land in enough acres to justify any kind of kingdom.

Were there sacred kings in Norse or Icelandic culture? Not in the sense of a divine figure akin to a pharaoh of Kemet, no. Not god-kings. Were kings and chieftains seen as particularly spiritually powerful or potent? Yes. So the 1st and 3rd definitions in the Encyclopedia article were certainly part of ancient Norse culture. What about the 2nd? The Ynglings, Ingvaones, Skilfingar, and the Fairhairs were said to be able to trace their ancestry to Freyr, the caste system to Heimdall or Odin (depending on whether you believe Rig is the former or latter), and Frosti was said to be the legendary founder of Skjalf’s line.

Given the practical and political obstacles before it, I am unsure any beyond a few small groups are going to pick up the notion of sacred kingship.

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 7 -For Sleipnir

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

Over skies and oceans you have crossed

Over land and the Helvegen itself

Eight legs across Nine Worlds

Glorious-Maned, Peerless Stallion, Best of Horses!

Spear-Hooved, Iron-Flanked, Windswept Galloper!

Sleipnir Lokison!

O Holy One, Son of a God and His Bloodbrother’s Bearer

You bring Your burdens unbowed

Through danger and Death to home and hearth

Praise to You O Peerless Journeyer

Sire of Blessed Steeds

Grey-coated Wanderer of Worlds!

Patreon Topic 9: On Seiðr

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From my third Raiðo supporter comes this topic:

“The distinguishing characteristics of *authentic* seiðr, from your perspective and from the perspective of the medieval sources (as relevant).”

When we’re talking about authentic I think getting to what is vs is not authentic is worth taking some time to define.

When it comes to authentic seiðr I care far less about what may be historically authentic comparative to what is authentic to the requirements of our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, religions, and communities now. This is not to say historically authentic seiðr is something to brush off, but I recognize that we have a handful of sources and one detailed account of what seiðr looked like at one point in time, and conjecture in a handful of other sections. Further, it can be argued in one instance we see, in Eiríks saga rauða (The Saga of Erik the Red), what we are seeing is a spá rite rather than a seiðr rite. Our map of seiðr, like a lot of what we have available to us, is far less complete than ideal.

This comes to how we define terms in the modern age vs how they may have been divided (or not) in the past. Because I like discrete categories for explanation and for looking at things, I put seiðr and spá into two separate categories. Generally, the way I tend to divide the categories is to the purpose of the rite. If the point is only to contact the spirits for divination, it is a spá rite. If divination is involved but the point is to affect change on a spiritual/magical level, it is a seiðr rite.

I likewise will use descriptions for the people performing the magic. If a person’s primary training and involvement in a ritual is for divination/transmission of spiritual messages with the calling in of spirits, it is a spákona (prophecy woman), spámaðr (prophecy man/human). If a person’s primary training and involvement in a ritual is for affecting Urðr/Wyrd then it would be seiðkona (magic/spell/enchantment woman) or seiðmaðr (magic/spell/enchantment man/human). A prophetess then would be a völva. As I usually use the term a völva can do both even she specializes in one or the other.

How I separate seiðr from other forms of magic, eg sympathetic magic, is that seiðr requires the use of óðr, frenzy, both in the sense of the furious rocking back and forth and/or other forms of ecstatic trance, and the working with of the soul part of the same name. It is spellwork that affects the flow/weaving of Urðr primarily through the use of óðr and other techinques and soul parts as needed. Now, that is not to say that you cannot blend seiðr with sympathetic magic, or other works as you need, are called to, etc. You might find blending magic work to be effective. Given each person engaging in seiðr is doing so in a modern context I would hardly be surprised to find a wide variety of seiðr practices.

All of this is to say that how I define ‘authentic’ may run completely contrary to how another Heathen or Northern Tradition Pagan may define it. Since my definitions and ideas of how seiðr is conducted take from the medieval sources we have, I would say that my understanding of authentic is not counter to them, but inclusive of them. This holds with how I treat much of the surviving material. None of what we have was meant as religious instruction and none of what we have is primary source. All is secondary sourcing, and most of that buried behind Christian or Christian-biased writing on the subject.

Authentic seiðr, like any modern Heathen practice, is what schews as close to our Heathen sources, and moreover, what works. We know in the sources that she sits in a high seat and that there is a vardlokkur, a ward song, held before the seiðr rite. What was this song? We are not told, and so, it may be the seiðkona needs to find her own vardlokkur and teach it to someone else to perform, or perform it herself prior to the rite.

What to wear? Thankfully, this is where The Saga of Erik the Red is a lot more explicit.

“Now, when she came in the evening, accompanied by the man who had been sent to meet her, she was dressed in such wise that she had a blue mantle over her, with strings for the neck, and it was inlaid with gems quite down to the skirt. On her neck she had glass beads. On her head she had a black hood of lambskin, lined with ermine. A staff she had in her hand, with a knob thereon; it was ornamented with brass, and inlaid with gems round about the knob. Around her she wore a girdle of soft hair, and therein was a large skin-bag, in which she kept the talismans needful to her in her wisdom. She wore hairy calf-skin shoes on her feet, with long and strong-looking thongs to them, and great knobs of latten at the ends. On her hands she had gloves of ermine-skin, and they were white and hairy within…

…She had a brazen spoon, and a knife with a handle of walrus-tusk, which was mounted with two rings of brass, and the point of it was broken off.”

Now, consider this in the modern age and that many of us are operating on shoe-string budgets and our communities even more so. I think most of the accoutremonts make sense for the time period, and that they were often patronized by the wealthy. A stripped down variation of this would be a blue head covering, or a blue hoody with a black hood. Some kind of necklace with glass beads. A brass-headed staff on the more expensive end (JoAnn Fabrics and hardware stores have pieces that could work here), a simple wooden staff on the other. Mind, I do not think a person needs to dress the part exactly to work with seiðr. It might help some folks to recreate the look of a seiðkona as accurately as possible. It might help others to just work with the suggestions here, or a good blindfold or a cloak to get a similar effect to get them in the seiðr headspace.

How to bring in the spirits? We only have a few hints at how seiðr was done, and these are sparse. We know the seiðkona sat on a highest seat and the spirits came in after the vardlokkur was sung. From my reading it is likely some kind of heavy trance was entered into, and something akin to mediumship work or channeling took place. I am not comfortable talking in depth on this in a modern context for a few reasons. First, is that my process was given to me by Freyja when Óðinn handed me to Her for instruction. Second, divulging how to do this without training brings a lot of risks and it would be fairly irresponsible of me just to outline what to do. Third, whatever I do write may not work for you -at all.

What matters is whether or not a given seiðr working is a success. Does it enable the seiðr worker to contact the Holy Powers they need to? Does it provide accurate, actionable information? Does the hamingja and megin of those engaged in it improve through its use? To my mind the reason seiðr survived so long as it did is because it worked. It is the same reason seiðr is seeing a revival now.

Patreon Topic 2: When a God Comes

From my first Raiðo supporter comes this topic:

What to do when a god, especially one as terrifying and as pushy as Odin, comes knocking? I think it would be good for future heathens who get called by Him.

Ideally, as a Heathen, you will have your life grounded in gipt-fá-gipt (gift-for-a-gift, aka reciprocity) with the Gods, the Ancestors, and the vaettir. If not, well, now is the time to start!

So this can be pretty delicate or dicey depending on how a God or Goddess comes to you. This is where spiritual specialists, even if you are one, are useful. Getting solid divination done to see if what you have experienced is indeed contact with the God or Goddess you think it is, if what has contacted you in the first place is even a God, what to do and where to go from here all should be asked of a diviner and/or vaettirverkr (spirit worker) you trust. If at all possible the diviner or vaettirverkr should have an ongoing relationship in good stead with the God or Goddess in question, and barring that, be in active good relationships with Gods related to the one in question.

This is not to say you cannot get some good divination and guidance from folks outside of a given religious path, in our case here being Heathen or Northern Tradition Pagan. However, the likelihood is that folks within these religions will be able to give you clearer or more informed answers than those outside of it. Wherever you are, starting with folks you know, trust not to bullshit you, and will partner with you to help discern experiences you have is the first step.

From there, if divination finds that the experience you have had is from a God or Goddess then negotiation is going to be of deep help. Most folks are going to be in a decent place to bargain on boundaries and obligations unless you have done something like made some kind of formal oath to the God or Goddess already. If you have made an oath the best thing you can do is keep it. If you have made an oath to a God that you are literally unable to keep, then appealing to the God directly, or to another God within the God or Goddess’ family as well as your Ancestors is probably the way to go. Again, situations like these are delicate/dicey. They are nuanced and best worked out with a skilled diviner and/or vaettirverkr within your direct situation.

Assuming that you have had a genuine experience of a God or Goddess coming to you, have no big oaths or obligations hanging over your head to go this or that way, what do you do now?

Even if your boundary is “I cannot handle an intense relationship right now” doing basic, respectful cultus to the God is what I would do. It respects the God has reached out to you and you, in turn, give the God the space in your life that you can. As time goes on things can change, whether circumstances in your life open up so you can give effective time to the relationship, or following up on a hobby or interest opens a new door into your relationship with the God. Doing research into the God may open you up to different ways of understanding Him. You may find that a God entering your life is to open you up to other relationships with that God’s relatives or loved ones, rather than engaging intensely or only with Them.

Having a God like Óðinn knocking on your door can be damned terrifying. I think about the worst thing to do would be to ignore Him. If He is there, and divination bears that out, then I would honor Him by recognizing Him, revering Him, and doing your best to understand Him. Negotiate and engage with Him in good Gebo. He has taken time out to reach out to you, and in reciprocity, it is good to reach back to Him.

Ófnir

You have a very odd way

Of lighting fires in my head

In the dead of night

Words come without bidding

Whispers and roars

Sometimes they slip through me

I cannot move my hands quick enough

So I carry paper, pens, phone

Even then I am sometimes not quick enough

It reminds me that at times

The poems and prayers I can never get down

Are for You and You alone