Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 69: For Angrboða

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 request was made by Maleck for Angrboða.

Great Wolf, I hail You

Ferocious and mauling-mouthed Mother

Who leads the Ironwood with care

Taufr-strong, I hail You

Calculating and megin-mighty Magician

Who keeps Her loved ones safe

Bloodhand, I hail You

Sacrificer and woe-wielding Witch

Who knows the secret Ways

Motherwort, I hail You

Leader and hale-whole Healer

Who mends Her peoples’ wounds

Gyðja, I hail You

Leader and hamingja-holding Host

Who guides Her peoples well

Angrbóða, I hail You

Angrbóða, I hail You

Angrbóða, I hail You

Ves þu heil

Anxiety

Joy-thief

Devourer of delight

Glad-foe

Curled at the base of my neck

Coiled in my guts

Gnawing at my heart

Remove your fangs, adder!

Let your poison course from me!

Let me be heil, let me be heil, let me be heil!

Ever-hungry

Feeder of fear

Heart-render

Tightening my limbs

Twisting my bones

Hammering my pulse

Stop your thrashing, troll!

Take your teeth off my mind!

Let me know peace, let me know peace, let me know peace!

Love-sapper

Tearer of ties

Mind-killer

Sat in the depths of my chest

Stirring my blood

Stealing my breath

I shatter the stabbing spear!

I take your shot from my souls!

I will be heil, I will be heil, I will be heil!

Patreon Topic 65: On Balancing Having Conversations vs Privacy

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

From Maleck comes this topic:

“How do you personally balance the desire to have deeper conversations, 301 and above, with the need for both privacy and safety in these conversations? In a practical, “what do you do?” sense?”

Whether or not I choose to share something is based on a few factors. First among them are: is this something I feel safe in divulging? Second, am I cleared by oath, bond, obligation, and my own understanding of appropriateness if this is something I can speak with another person on? Third, is this a person I trust with my privacy and safety? Fourth, does this person have the depth to understand this subject on a 300+ level conversation?

If all of these are answered yes, I then ask more questions to determine whether or not a 300+ level conversation is warranted.

Does the person at hand understand what I am sharing? I mean this in a number of ways.

Intellectually. Do they understand the material(s) at hand? Do they have relevant backround to be informed in a discussion? If they do not, are they interested in learning or exchanging ideas? Will the conversation be stimulating to them?

Emotionally. Can they handle my emotions in sharing? Can they handle their own emotions that may arise in response to my sharing, the conversation, or ideas themselves being discussed? Are there triggers associated with the discussion topic that they cannot handle or will need time to work through? Will the conversation be satisfying for them to have?

Socially. Can they keep the conversation between us? Are they willing to suspend judgment/fixing/other responses unless asked? Do they understand the depth of meaning it holds? Would this person appreciate knowing this information? Is this information they have shown an interest in? Will the conversation deepen our relationship, add depth to it, or give us more areas to speak on?

Religiously. Do they understand the subject itself being discussed within the religion’s view? Are they part of the religion or adjacent to it, and if not, can they hold a respectful conversation on the topic? Do they understand the subject’s implications, and the ideas we are exchanging? Will the conversation be affirming, challenging, or both? Will the conversation add to their/my understanding of the religion(s), spiritual technique(s), etc?

Expertise. Do they or I have expertise and/or knowledge deep enough on the conversation topic to contribute, or is this a one-sided exchange? If it is a one-sided exchange is this one they wish to engage in? If one is teaching the other, does this exchange require Gebo? Is this an initate-only conversation? Does special care taken to avoid speaking on intiatory matters, or other considerations? Can the matter be talked about in enough depth for the conversation to be meaningful while avoiding initation-bound material, ideas, or experiences? Will the conversation deepen one or both of our expertise, or contribute to it in some way?

Gebo. Do you and they desire to have exchanges of ideas, techniques, opinions, experiences, and/or just to have comraderie in the exploration of a topic? Are you and they able to exchange well, in whatever capacity the conversation needs, whether it is 50/50, 10/90, etc? Is the conversation held respectfully, with care for the parties involved, and does it deepen understanding, appreciation, and/or lead to other experiences?

This might seem like a lot of consideration for conversations. Remember the points I raised in On The Need for Deeper Conversations:

This is an aspect of the deeper conversations seldom talked about: getting deeper into conversation and moving beyond the 101 requires a vulnerability that laying down the basic theology, praxis, and structures of Heathenry does not require. Even some 200-level conversations on subjects like the basics of how to do magic can be so dependent on one’s home culture, focus, and individual expression that it opens us up to scrutiny in ways merely talking about what magic is in Heathenry does not. For example, how one does útiseta might be a 200 or 300-level conversation. Depending on what comes out of the experiences you have with it, though, you might be having 400+-level conversations. In other words, the folks you hope to talk with about the subject at hand are going to need to have significant knowledge and experience with the topic, not merely a basic theoretical understanding, to have dialogue with you.

If the folks I am looking at having these deeper conversations with are those I feel safe with, trust, and have the relevant expertise/knoweledge/understanding to have the conversation with, generally I will have the conversation. The Heathen Spiritwork Discord I run, which is attached to my Patreon, is an ongoing example of this, especially with our biweekly meetings. We check in, talk about experiences and current projecs, and how things are going with spiritwork. These are folks I am in direct community with, and who have trusted me or trust me now to work with them in spiritual consultation, Rune readings, and the like. The Gebo goes both ways in terms of trust, vulnerability, and conversation.

There are some relationships with Ginnreginn I have that simply are not for public consumption. I have several relationships that I hold quite close to the chest, and have no need to explore with others beyond Them. Sometimes I am still working through the understanding I have of certain vaettir and I am not ready to share. Right now, I can say this about the Álfar. Here is a group of Beings I thought I would not hold much of a relationship with, and thanks to a patron and one of my partners, I am in far more deep with Them than I thought I would be. I am having ongoing interactions, and still experiencing things on my own and with my partner in this area that are still moving things around. Perhaps when things are more settled I will be ready to more publicly talk on them.

When I do find there is something I want to share and the other person is cool with it, then we decide on how and where we want to talk. If the conversation needs to be completely private then face-to-face is best. If the person wants to be able to refer back to the conversation, an app like Zoom, Marco Polo, and the like can be excellent ways to connect. They are among my most common. If privacy isn’t as big a concern or connection is just easier over text, Discord tends to be my choice. Does the conversation need to be public? Then, my first choice tends to be here on WordPress, and more recently, the Pagan.plus Mastodon server.

I hope that answered the question how you were hoping, Maleck!

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 67: For Safe Travels

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 request was made by Emi for Safe Travels.

Blessed Earth and blessed ground

Walking beneath my feet

Rolling beneath my tires

Hold me up, hold me up

Bless my journey

Blessed vaettir all around

Walking with me

Journeying around me

Know me, oh know me

Blessing each others’ ways

Blessed Gods of traveling

Watching me

Guiding me

Help me, oh help me

Safely finding my way

Blessed Ancestors who wandered

Wandering with me

Protecting me

Guide me, oh guide me

Coming home in joy

Blessed walkers and road-wise

Crossing paths with me

Seeing me

Speak with me, oh speak with me

Sharing wisdom and stories

Blessed keepers and sentinels

Guarding the roads and passages

Watching me

Sheltering me

Bless me, oh bless me

Securing the journey I make

Patreon Topic 64: On The Pack Spirits

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

From Maleck comes this topic:

“Now that you’ve finished the prayers to the Pack Spirits, what have you learned?”

I was honestly surprised when Maleck approached me to do the prayers for the Pack Spirits. I had been introduced to Them as spirits belonging to an initiatory tradition and had not ever thought they would be a group of spirits I would have interaction with, let alone be able to write prayers for Them. When I reached out to Them, not only did this group of spirits respond, They were eager for me to write prayers for each of Them.

The Pack Spirits are just that, and while the particular mysteries and training of the Pack Tradition are closed to initiates, the Pack Spirits Themselves are quite accessible. So, I have learned how these archetypal and yet communal/collective/individual spirits operate, and at least some of my own ‘placement’ with Them as an outsider. Sometimes you need an outsider, and while I connected very readily and well with these spirits, connecting with Them and writing prayers for Them just confirmed that remaining on the outside of this particular initiation is a good thing. It allows me to see aspects of Them others would not from the inside, and it allows a kind of fluidity in relationship with Them that I may not feel were I an initiate.

Writing for The Pack, The Pack Ancestors, Earth, Silence, Pack, Howl, Sky, Hunt, and Prey has allowed me to connect with these Míkilvaettir (Big/Power Spirits) and has given me insight into connections that They carry with many of my own Ginnreginn, and myself. It has allowed me to feel those connections, eg through the Earth, in new and dynamic ways that differs from connecting to Jörð. She is distinctly Her, and yet, through these different vaettir, a new understanding and connection with the Earth emerges. Likewise through each Míkilvaettir and the associated Beings I could name in conjunction with Them. It broadens and narrows the scope of Who I am interacting with, experiencing, and coming to know.

Something that emerged through the prayers as I wrote them was personal connection. Many of them are written in “I” format, as I experienced many of the prayers directly before I wrote them down. Sometimes it was being taken in my hamr, my second skin, to another place and made to experience Them. Sometimes it was a personal revelation that They brought forward in me, whether through an inborn experience of something that They hit in me or something that really struck me in experiencing it in my hamr. Sometimes it was the feeling of wildness that I reveled in and had to somehow bring that experience forward in the poem, prayer, and/or song. Sometimes it was the conflicting emotions, or even the various vaettir I experienced within the experience of the individual Míkilvaettr. Each brought something forward in me, each called in to me as it were, and brought something out of me to put into the poems, prayers, and songs that I wrote. Though each is a powerful initiatory Being unto Itself each gave a non-initiate powerful insight into Them in dynamic ways.

Through the experience of each of these vaettir, and the experience of having to translate each of those experiences into poems, prayers, and songs, I have learned new understanding of and appreciation for these Beings, and the connections that each brings forward. The connections each brings with/to us is dynamic, and if we let it build, can be quite powerful whether the connection is found within us personally, through the old Ancestors like the first ones to have domesticated wolves, or in new ways with Gods we have worshipped for a long time. They bring a kind of ancient yet fresh wisdom, power, and ferality I think could be a source of profound experience for folks, whether or not they initiate into Pack Tradition or Pack Magic.

On the Need for Deeper Conversations

An issue I have seen come to the fore a few times around now as a polytheist, animist, Pagan, and Heathen, is the idea of 100, 200, and 300-level discourse. I touched on this with my post on being a teacher in the Heathen communities, but not as in depth as I will go into here. I have had an issue with these various communities for quite a while: so much of the material out there is 100-level material, and what material does make it to 200 or 300+ often does not get discussed or receives much in the way of support. What is worse, is that because folks are constantly reinventing the wheel, proverbially or mythologically take your pick, we never really progress far beyond 100 or 200-level in our writing or experiences.

The posts I have been writing on spiritual politics have been fairly cathartic for me because it is digging into deeper stuff than 100 or 200-level. To be frank, I find the spiritual politics discussions to be 300-level or better for the most part. While there is nothing wrong with most folks stopping after 100 or 200-level, we as collective communities need to be more engaged in deeper discussions if we hope to develop them further. For the most part this takes us away from the well-worn path of the written and archaeological sources.

Why?

Because our useful information stops. At some point there is not any more information to reconstruct from unless we are willing to look at other sources. In the case for Heathens this is tends toward looking to folklore, and Lacouteaux is one of our best English-translated resources for this. Once you hit a certain period though, the folklore either stops being relevant or the descriptions of concepts or Beings, like particular vaettir like the dvergar and álfar, tend to blend together. The information just stops being relevant to Heathenry after a certain point. This takes a lot of Heathens out of their comfort zone because from here on out everything is based in personal and communal experience, knowledge, and experimentation.

This unwillingness within large parts of the community to work beyond the bounds of the source material of the home culture(s) our Heathen worldview is based in cuts us off from considering and then exploring both the heights and depths that are possible within Heathenry. If all we ever consider is what is essentially 100 and 200 material at most then we cannot develop much as communities. We also cannot develop expertise in various fields within them, or even individually. If we limit ourselves to what has been found in the written sources we are mostly limiting ourselves to what the elites wanted written down and what has been filtered through Christian lenses in both the sources we have and most of their interpretation. Even if we include what we have through archaeological investigation we have precious little to go on outside of certain better-represented time periods and classes of people. Common people are woefully underrepresented in both written and archaeological sources. It is hard to overstate how much physical material is completely lost to time.

This overreliance on written and archaeological academia to act as an arbiter for our religious communities keeps us from the full range of Heathen religious expressions, understandings, and experiences because we have limited our options of what is possible. In so doing we cut off our ability to innovate, to develop new ways of living with our Ginnreginn, and to bring our experiences into the accepted customs and expression. In short, we cut off our ability to form living cultures. To be clear, reconstructionism is a methodology that relies on good data from academia to both keep the process honest and be useful to the projects we have. However, written and archaeological sources are the maps and not the territory of our lived religions. We cannot be bound not to see a mountain or valley because the map is out of date.

This gating off conversations to mostly 100-level subjects serves another purpose: it keeps a captive audience for books and other forms of media creation in its easiest-to-market niche. 100-level books tend to generate the most revenue in part because they are the only ones available to the everyday person, seeing both the widest distribution and marketing. The religion sections for most bookstores are vanishingly small, and most tend to be full of Christian books with a smattering of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish books. I have to look elsewhere for anything related to our religions, often in the New Age or similar sections, and these tend to be mostly 100-level books on witchcraft like Wicca for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham.

This trend also exists in other forms of media, including my own. I spent 19 YouTube videos exploring The Basics of Heathenry. While it did take a bit of time and work to script, record, and edit, it is information I already knew, have taught in other contexts like workshops, and required no deep vulnerability on my part to impart to others. I am fortunate in that I am not bound to this, either for purposes of income or interest, and that both 3 Pagans on Tap and Around Grandfather Fire have a lot of leeway to dig deeper and reach higher. With the initial Basics of Heathenry project finished, I can explore other topics relevant to Heathens. This takes more work, not in terms of gathering information, but willingness to be vulnerable and talk about my experiences, views, and how the shape my Heathen exoteric and esoteric practice has been changed by these.

This is an aspect of the deeper conversations seldom talked about: getting deeper into conversation and moving beyond the 101 requires a vulnerability that laying down the basic theology, praxis, and structures of Heathenry does not require. Even some 200-level conversations on subjects like the basics of how to do magic can be so dependent on one’s home culture, focus, and individual expression that it opens us up to scrutiny in ways merely talking about what magic is in Heathenry does not. For example, how one does útiseta might be a 200 or 300-level conversation. Depending on what comes out of the experiences you have with it, though, you might be having 400+-level conversations. In other words, the folks you hope to talk with about the subject at hand are going to need to have significant knowledge and experience with the topic, not merely a basic theoretical understanding, to have dialogue with you.

What information you get and what one does with the information can hit depths most folks are uncomfortable talking with. Perhaps the vaettir have touched on sensitive areas like trauma, or just subjects we are unfamliar with. Perhaps the vaettir are contravening written or archaeological evidence or including information simply not found in them. Even setting aside the esoteric side of things, developing theology, praxis, and structures beyond the basics requires us to be open to scrutiny, our methods to be open to examination, and our conclusions to be disagreed with unless we are determined to share nothing with one another.

Let me say this as clearly as possible: cultural appropriation should be condemned. Note, that I am not saying cultural appreciation or exchange should be condemned; appropriation should be. With this in mind I think it is worth us looking at what it is folks are looking for when they are reaching for pathways that are not open to them. In other words, are they reaching for something they ought not to because their own path(s) are lacking something essential they see within that culture, cultural practice, spiritual technology, etc? To be sure, some folks are reaching because they want what cannot be theirs out of a sense of entitlement. I find for those who are not, especially with white polytheists, Pagans, witches, and others in our communities who do this reaching, is that the majority of them are looking for authenticity and connection. While the desire for authenticity and connection are good things to pursue, this desire needs to be turned towards the pathways that are open to us.

If our conversations only stay in the 100, 200, or 300-level range then not only do our conversations never deepen, our experiments, experiences, and development as communities stay here as well. If we do not face our lack of resources and the new territory before us with bravery, then we condemn many of us to hunger for authenticity and connections that cannot be made without them. Rather than making a kind of Heathenry which only grasps at, or for, the spiritual technology, perspectives, information, and living wisdom of other paths, we Heathens need to dig deeper, carve surer, and explore even further with our Ginnreginn into our own forms of spiritwork, magic, folklore, and relationships with the Ginnreginn. We need to be brave enough to develop our spiritual technologies, perspectives, information, and lived wisdom with our Ginnreginn. Let us do the work to improve the soil of Heathenry for everyone as we settle our roots, communally and individually, even deeper into our Heathen religions, practices, and spiritwork.

It is easy to say “We need to talk more about x or y” or “we need to dig in deeper into a topic at such-and-such a level”. How, though, do we do that?  For starters we need to be really clear on what we mean by 100, 200, 300, and above. Are we talking for exoteric only? What about esoteric topics? Do we put exoteric and esoteric topics together, or try our best to keep them separate? I cannot answer this for everyone, I can only make my thoughts on the subject known, and hope to further dialogue. It might be that thinking of things in this way is completely backwards, or just the wrong way to go as a model. However, we do need to begin to have some dialogue about it and this is using models of experience and expertise that we have. Wherever we can, we should develop our own ways of understanding and reckoning our ideas, experiences, and expertise as animists, as polytheists, and as Heathens.

I am going to propose a structure so that we can get to deeper conversations. It is not the do-all end-all, but my hope is that it can be a good place to start. Exoteric is defined as “suitable for or communicated to the general public. not belonging, limited, or pertaining to the inner or select circle, as of disciples or intimates. popularsimplecommonplace. pertaining to the outside; exteriorexternal.” Exoteric practices, then, are those that are obvious, that anyone in a given religion can do. For Heathens these are things like hearth cultus, prayer, making offerings, and doing basic divination, such as a simple yes/no to see if an offering or sacrifice was accepted. Whatever these practices are requires no special knowledge, training, expertise, or study to do right or well.

Esoteric is defined as “understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest; recondite:poetry full of esoteric allusions. belonging to the select few. private; secret; confidential. (of a philosophical doctrine or the like) intended to be revealed only to the initiates of a group:the esoteric doctrines of Pythagoras.” Where exoteric practices are those that anyone can do, esoteric practiced are generally only regularly practiced by a handful of individuals. For Heathens, among these folks would, among many possible practices, be those who engage in Runework, seiðr, spá, and/or those who work to cultivate direct encounters with the Ginnreginn.

Now, if this last part seems like it is a mainstay of modern Pagan religions, including Heathenry, it is. A lot of modern Pagan religions in America can trace their start to the influence of Wicca. It was not and is not unusual for a lot of American animists, polytheists, Heathens, and Pagans in general to get their start in various Wiccan or Wiccan-derived religions. At some point folks in this circumstance may bring in additional religious identities or transition out of the Wiccan/Wicca-derived religion. Since Heathenry is not doctrinally exclusivist most folks bring their practices and experiences that worked from previous religions with them into it.

There are plenty of other reasons for why folks in modern Heathenry have or are incorporating esoteric practices. Some folks come into Heathenry through direct experience of the Ginnreginn and develop an exoteric practice in response to that. Other folks in modern times are actively moving away from religions which are primarily exoteric or have few accessible/desirable esoteric practies. Whatever the reason, a significant amount of folks in modern American Heathenry have religious practices that are a blend of exoteric and esoteric.

For purposes of our conversation, and to deepen it, I will put forward that most esoteric discussion is going to be 300-level for the most part. Why?

100-level subjects are the rudiments and baselines of Heathen practice. This is how to start and engage in the absolute basics of the religion. Among 100-level subjects would be about Who the Ginnreginn are, the particular Heathen cosmology one is part of and how we fit into it, how to begin and maintain a hearth cult, how to pray, how to offer, and how to maintain right relationship with the Ginnreginn.

200-level subjects build on the rudiments and baseline. This includes many of the ‘why’ for why we do a thing at the 100-level. Some folks may find it odd that I put the most of the ‘why’ behind the 200-level and not 100. The reason for that is the practice of Heathenry is something that can be understood in its basic forms by most anyone who engages in it. My young kid does not understand all the ins and outs of the religion. At the 100-level understanding the why we do a thing is simpler or is less pressing than understanding the what or how of doing something. When we make prayers at the stalli, she knows the expectation is to look at the Ginnreginn when we do so, and to bow when we are finished. It will be some time before she has the capacity to understand all the “whys” for why we do what we do.

Examples of 200-level subjects would be: connecting with Gods in ritual through the use of particular heiti, beginning reconstruction and revival work in general, and the use of basic liturgical language in ritual. I consider developing or working with liturgical language beyond some basic phrases or words, such as those used to greet Ginnreginn, to be higher than 200. It requires specialized knowledge and experience to do well. Other examples of 200-level practices would be applying genealogical resources to Ancestor cultus, engaging in more specialized cultus than the hearth like an athletic cultus or a cultus based in a field of study,  and producing religious artwork, prayers, and rituals. Using 200-level courses in college as our basis here, 200s are often the applications of the basic subjects you learned about into specialized ways that deepen your knowledge, understanding, and expertise of the subject.

300-level subjects are about building expertise from the previous levels, generally towards an object of study. In college level courses these tend to go towards Bachelor and Master degrees, and the focus is a lot narrower than the previous courses. In my experience, specific forms of psychology were covered as part of getting through my BS in Psychology program. The higher the number the more specialized and nuanced the topic, eg the lower 300s were broader like Abnormal Psychology and the higher 300s were courses like Statistics in Psychology. 400-level courses were mostly relegated to Master degrees, 600 to PhD, and 700 to postdoc courses.

Examples of 300-level subjects would be the study of seiðr, spá, Runework, and in my view, any form of spiritwork I could think of. There is a need for foundation in and grounding in the basics and study of 100 and 200-level work in order to effectively understand what we are doing, why, how it works, and what the effects of a given action can entail. That grounding in the basics of Heathenry are necessary to troubleshoot and to determine when a given form of spiritwork would be effective, or if it would be called for at all. The grounding in 100 and 200-level work is necessary for discernment for ourselves, and especially if we hope to do any of this work for others. This grounding is also necessary for developing theonyms, toponyms, and related new infromation that we can bring to bear for our communities that may not require direct experience of the Ginnreginn, yet nonetheless it requires a firm foundation of knowledge to do well.

Suffice it to say, these metaphors for where we are, and where we hope to go, have limits. There is no certification process for a spiritworker beyond the Ginnreginn and maybe a teacher and/or a given community. If folks find the metaphor clunky to the point of being unwieldy, or even find the metaphor offensive, feel free to toss it and suggest another.

In no small part, why I feel so strongly on the need for deeper conversation is that they’re happening anyhow, and developing the means for understanding where we are, where we are going, and how we wish to develop ourselves individually and communally are well within our hands. Another reason is that these more esoteric questions and subjects of study, experience, and interaction with the Ginnreginn heavily impact our communities. There is direct good and harm that comes from entertaining these ideas, let alone engaging in the study and experience of the ideas here. Far better for us to take an active interest in developing the conversations for our own sakes than to find ourselves in situations where we have to make judgment calls we are not prepared for. By moving these conversations along we can better situate our communities for the future they will be coming into. My hope is that, looking back, we will see our efforts as turning points that brought needed dialogue and work to our communities that inform and empower both exoteric and esoteric expression within and between our communities far into the future.

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 66: For The Pack

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 request was made by Maleck for The Pack.

We are countless billions of voices

Canidae, Wolf, Dog

Jackal, Coyote, Fox

Pup, Juvenile, Adult

We are the Ones who found your first Fires

Our first shared Ancestors

We are the proud guard and misshapen pets

We are the ‘yotes living on the fringes and dark places of your cities

We are the haunters of graves and crossroads

We are the salvation of humanity and we are its outstretched hands

We are feared and beloved

We are hunters and warriors

We are carriers and seekers

We are predator and sentinel of prey

We are the snapping jaws

We are the slathering tongues

We are the steady paws

We are the howling maw

We are Magic

We are of the Wild Hunt

We are beloved of Gods

We are Gods

We are Ancestors

We are Spirits

We are Ancient and New

We are Many and Whole

We ARE The Pack

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 65: For Sobek

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 request was made by Josie for Sobek.

I am the Beloved of the Waters

I am the Walker of Silt Roads

I am the Ever-Flowing, Ever-Undulating

I am the Beast of Two Lands and All Waters

I am the Coming of the Inundation

I am the Watcher of Reeds

I am Gifter of Fertility

I am the Open Jaws that swallow the Foe

I am the Iron-Backed Hunter

I am the Ever-Patient Predator

I am the Drowning Maw

I am the Still Waters

I am the Meditative Pause

I am the Cleansing Current

I am the Receded Depths

I am the Blesser of the Sacred Drowned

I am Sobek

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 64: For Garm

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 request was made by Josie for Garm.

Your bloodied muzzle moves before Gnipahellir

Cleaning the faces of the fallen

Who pass the Helgrindr

Great Wolf Who Guards the Gate

Whose Tongue cleanses and comforts

The newly-arrived Dead

You lead the good Ancestors to the Gjallarbrú

To greet Their seeking scions

Who wait outside

You herd the harmful Dead back to Hel

Éljúðnir welcomes the wanderers

Whose hearthfires glow warmly

Hail to You Garm, Worthiest of Wolves

Praise and gifts to You, Holy Hound

Hel’s beloved companion!

Patreon Topic 63: On Being a Teacher in the Community

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

From Maleck comes this topic:

“What’s it like being a teacher in the community?”

It depends on the subject at hand, if I am teaching students or peers, and who the larger audience receiving the information may be. Whether it is here on the blog through topics, at conventions like ConVocation, MI Paganfest, or Ann Arbor Pagan Pride Day teaching through workshops, or direct teaching, I generally find teaching a rewarding and powerful experience. There are few things as gratifying as getting a good question from someone who has real engagement in the subject, or a question or comment that makes you sit back, go “huh” and plumb your own knowledge or the crowd’s for an answer. I enjoy teaching, and I enjoy the opportunity to learn while doing it, and to share what I learn wrapped up in that.

When I do workshops, I find that I tend to have a really good time because the folks that come to them want to learn, and/or have a good grasp of the subject and want to compare notes. That was definitely my experience at the recent Ann Arbor Pagan Pride Day September 10th, for both my Basics of Heathen Magic and Polytheism 101 workshops. Folks who turned out for them had really excellent questions, solid engagement, and abiding interest in the topic at hand.

I would say a good chunk of what is challenging about being a teacher in the Heathen communities has nothing to do immediately with my students, peers, or folks that come to learn from me. Rather, it is the overall cultural currents we swim in, both in terms of the overculture and that of the general Heathen communities, that makes the work of being a teacher so hard. On the one hand folks want to be taught and to have spiritual experts available, and on the other, there is not a lot of support for us doing that work in a reliable way. Many Pagan communities eschew paying folks for their work, whether that work is divination, teaching, developing training materials, etc, yet the demand is still there for that work.

The need for teachers becomes fairly obvious in the dialogue that still happens around concepts like orthodoxy and orthopraxy, terms that describe right thought and right action. Often, because of how terms like orthodoxy are used and weaponized in Christian theology and communities, Pagan and polytheist folks tend to have reactions against the use of the term. I have also seen similar reactions to direct translations of the term, eg right relationship. Some of these objections are based in the notion that someone is trying to mediate their relationship with the Ginnreginn, and some are based in a rejection of anything that smacks of authority. Because of these prevailing views in the polytheist and Pagan communities, it makes deeper discussion of these concepts harder, if not impossible. I have found that presenting these as the neutral, descriptive terms that they are, as opposed to the often prescriptivist way they are used in Christian theology and communities, is a good counteractive to this. That requires us to be open to education, to communicating well, to deconstructing Christian theology and use of terms, and no small amount of patience.

Much of the reason for the two workshops I put on for Ann Arbor Pagan Pride is not only because those subjects are really useful in the context of being part of a Pagan Pride event, being 101 workshops, but because the sources we do have for solid historically-based information, especially with regard to modern and updated texts, are expensive and difficult to parse at times. Even in more approachable texts, like Dr. Price’s The Viking Way, they tend to be dense/hard to get through, and terms need to be broken down and made meaningful for a modern Heathen context. The meaningfulness here not only needs to be meaningful in regards to being able to be understood in a Heathen context, it also needs to be able to be applied to Heathen practice.

For an example of this, from Price:

“Besides the magic used by Óðinn, we also find the fifth category of ‘general’ sorcery. One aspect of this has a vocabulary of terms that appear to mean simply ‘magic’ in the same vague sense as we use the word today. The most common of these was fjolkyngi, which seems to have been especially well-used. In the Old Norse sources we also find fróðleikr, and slightly later, trolldómr (cf. Raudvere 2001: 88ff). The latter concept became increasingly common through the Middle Ages, and together with galdr it continued as one of the generic words for ‘witchcraft’ long into post-medieval times (see Hastrup 1987: 331–6 for Icelandic terminologies of magic during this period). There were also other terms which were used as collectives. These include gerningar, ljóð and taufr – all apparently kinds of chant or charm – and the complexities of runic lore as set out in Eddic poems such as Sigrdrífomál and Rígsþula. Another group of terms refers to various forms of unspecified magical knowledge, and include affixes implying this on the part of people or supernatural beings. Thus we find vísenda-, kúnatta- and similar words used for ‘those who know’, a relatively common perception of sorcerous power that occurs in many cultures.” (Price 33)

“The fabric of religious belief and practice in Viking-Age Scandinavia can be seen to have been nuanced, multi-scalar and far from static, with a degree of regional variation and change over time.” (Price 33)

I had to break down these terms and suggest ways we may use them in a modern Heathen context. In this way we continue to change the fabric of religious belief, nuance, and the application of these terms in a descriptive rather than prescriptive way for ourselves in our own time. For instance, while I often combine galdr (I tie this into singing/intoning the Runes) with the formation of taufr (physical charms) and other forms of magic techniques such as gerningar (chanting, sometimes mumbled under the breath) and ljóð (chanting or incantation which I interpret as being in verse, whether alliterative or rhyming), each stands on their own as a magical technique in its own right. Clearly definining and then applying these terms gives us a wider array of words, and in doing so, ways, of understanding magic.

Keep in mind these workshops are just at the 101 level. Being a teacher in the communities I am part of requires a recognition that folks are at wherever they are at when we come together. Some will have an excellent grounding in exoteric and esoteric Heathenry, whereas some will have a poor grounding in the exoteric parts of the religion, and others will have a poor grounding in esoteric religion. Sometimes folks will just be inexperienced with polytheist religion in general, or not have a good grounding in either exoteric or esoteric Heathenry. Having a mix of exoteric and esoteric practice in and of itself would not be at issue if it were grounded firmly in the Heathen worldview, experience, and understanding. So, I have to establish where we are. I often do this in my 101 workshops by starting off defining terms so we have a foundation to build conversation on. Unless we make these firm foundations deeper conversations are almost impossible to have. Once we have a shared language around the subject we can dig into it.

Part of the work of being a teacher is to ensure, as much as I can, that those I teach have a firm grounding in the material and its meaning. So long as folks are coming into our various polytheist and Pagan communities with these ideas grounded in worldviews other than our own this basic education will be necessary. To be clear: A lot of this I do not have to explain to my kids, who are second generation Heathens. It is a part of how they live their lives. This education is, by and large, necessary for those who were not raised in the religion.

Some of the reason for that lack of need to educate them is that my kids are only practicing exoteric Heathenry. My oldest has not expressed interest in learning esoteric practices, and my youngest is way too young to learn at the moment. Gods help me, though, she loves the Runes. When we go to have breakfast, she often picks ‘coffee Runes’ from my arms (I have tattoos on my forearms displaying all the Runes) that she has me ‘takes off’ my arm, puts them into my coffee, and than has me galdr the Rune. Then, I drink the coffee. It’s a fun way to share the Runes with her and empower myself for a full day. What esoteric practices my kids have learned are immediately applicable to exoteric practice and everyday life, namely cleansing by deep breathing. They have learned prayers and proper respect to show with the hearth, Sacred Fires, and other places the exoteric and esoteric tend to cross.

Teaching a workshop or even over the course of a weekend is one thing, but teaching folks in an ongoing way is a lot different. My Kindred started as a Rune study group, and eventually transormed into a Heathe Kindred, Mimisbrunnr Kindred, over about a year or two. Some folks from here asked for training in different areas, and delved into spirtwork in their own ways. Just being available has been a good part of my work with one-on-one work. Being available to answer questions, guide, or ask questions to help folks find their own answers, it is less the way we think of teaching in terms of a professor and student and more of a “I’ve walked this path and I’m here to help guide”.

Being a teacher, I get invited to help folks with their journey wherever they are when they come forward. Seeing folks really dig into their religion, whatever their experience with it, and getting to understand how it works and where they are within it is a gratifying thing. If I happen to get to help along that journey, if I can make a material impact on how they learn, what they learn, and make that easier or more involved or both, so much the better. The reason I teach is because the Ginnreginn call me to do it. On its own that is enough. What makes my work all the more gratifying is being able to see the folks I teach make progress as part of taking a workshop, watching a video, or asking me questions through email or Discord. Sometimes I have had folks come back to me a few weeks, months, or in some cases, years later, and share some of the absolutely amazing things they were able to do because of the time we shared. It really is an honor to do this work.

I have tried writing more on this but not much more is coming forward right now, so if you or other readers have more specific questions down this line please ask them!