Inspired by Galina Krasskova’s Agon dedicated to Gefjon, I wrote these two poems.
A Hailing Prayer to Gefjon
Hail to Gefjon, Far-seeing Goddess!
Hail to Gefjon, Who knows Her own Worth!
Hail to Gefjon, Who shapes liche and hame!
Hail to Gefjon, Who drives hard Her Oxen!
Hail to Gefjon, Who plowed and claimed Zealand!
Hail to Gefjon, Who claims Her own pleasure!
Hail to Gefjon, whose halls house the virgins!
Hail to Gefjon, Ásynja!
Hail to Gefjon, Mother of Jotnar!
Hail to Gefjon, Whose Consort is Skjöldr!
Hail to Gefjon, Whose Plow is Mighty!
Hail to Gefjon, Whose Courses are Swift!
Hail to Gefjon, Whose Lands are Fertile!
Hail to Gefjon, Whose Ways are Wise!
Land-finding Prayer to Gefjon
We seek, we seek land of our own
Growing green and good
We ask Gefjon to lend us your aid
So we may settle soon!
We ask for land for orchards
We ask for land for grain
We ask for land for goat, hive, and lamb
Whose harvests shall be great!
We seek, we seek a place to build
A hof to call our own
Where we can raise a horn to You
Within our hallowed home!
Something I have not done in a very long time is sat down to coffee with my Ancestors and Gods. I did it tonight/this morning, after taking care of the offerings and laying out fresh ones otherwise, all water, except for the stick of incense I left at the altars for the Ancestors, for the Dead and for the Gods.
I had two stools that belonged to people who are family to me, gifted to me before they took off for California. One stool holds a Native American head carved into an arm-sized log that I give offerings to as representative of some of the Native Ancestors in the ways I have been brought into. A while back I had used the other stool as part of an Ancestor elevation working, but it has sat in a corner since. Tonight, I brought up some coffee my wife had brewed earlier in the day. At first, I was going to sit on the floor at the Ancestor altar. I couldn’t see many of Them from down there, and besides, They wanted to see me too. So I dusted off the old stool, and sat at the Ancestor altar, lighting the candles in Ask and Embla’s tree candle-holders.
At first it was just…quiet, meditative even, serving Them coffee then myself. I usually drink my coffee with non-dairy sweetener like Coffee Mate or something like that, but it didn’t seem right in this context. So, I sat and drank my black coffee, and talked with the Ancestors about the week I’d been having, thanking Them for Their support, that kind of thing. Mostly it was quiet, just being in one another’s Presence. When it was over, and I thanked Them for coffee with me, I blew out the candles, and later lit some incense. I walked away from Their altar with a sense of peace and being cared for.
My experience with the Gods was similar, but even more silence, being quite brief with my end of talking, mostly thanking Them for Their Presence and blessings on my family, and helping me through the last week. It was mostly quiet, and considering the Work I’ve been doing for Them of late, I was okay with that. I left Their altar, after lighting incense for Them, with a sense of peace, but it…was deep. More than a sense of peace, really. A sense of rightness, even with all the challenges I and my family are facing right now.
I got the message to clean my cups out after each time with the Ancestors then Gods, and returned the cup to the altar, my cup’s holder facing me, and Theirs to Them. It looks like both sets of Holy Powers want this to be a more regular thing, so here’s a cup to a new tradition I’ll be keeping. Thanks for the inspiration from a while back, Jim. It proved a powerful, simple connection, one that I really needed.
I have been avoiding this blog. Of late, I have been wracked by difficulties, namely financial pressures and depression and anger, cycling states, resulting from it. I am a diabetic who, on a pretty small budget to begin with, has had to shuck out $243 per vial of insulin to get the stuff I need to live. This eats about half a paycheck, and this happens at least once a month. I do not like to write in this headspace, not for this blog, at the least. A good chunk of my early poetry as a teenager was written in stages of anger and depression, similar in cycles to what I am going through right now. I do not like to be vulnerable like this. I don’t. This is the stuff I keep pretty tight to the chest. This is the stuff that I tend to keep even from close friends because of some misguided notion that I am keeping my problems off of people.
I will admit, right now my problems seem pretty insurmountable with anything other than the passage of time. I have made my prayers, and I will keep making them. I will smoke my personal sacred pipe, and keep on smoking when I am in the headspace where I can do so in respect and appreciation of the sacred act. I I have made offerings with my family and will continue to make them. Still, I feel gnawing anxiety, sometimes panic when I think about the $20,000 hospital bill waiting to breathe down my neck that my hospital has gracefully kept at bay for the time being. Then there’s the collection letter, the first one I have ever received, that arrived in the mail because the physicians go through someone else other than the main hospital billing department. Turns out the help the hospital offered did not include the physicians and I found myself on the other end of a phone begging to pay half the bill in two months time. Here’s hoping it won’t squelch my credit score.
I write this not as some kind of pity-party, but because when I came back to this blog a few years ago after a hiatus, I wanted to present a more full image of myself, my religious life, and my journey as a shaman, priest, polytheist, father, and lover. My life is rather difficult right now. I want to be pretty damned clear: sometimes the religious aspect of my life is a great balm and comfort for these trying times, and sometimes it is a struggle to even work up the desire to do a meal prayer. Anger and depression coupled with anxieties about finance do that. It eats, gnaws at you. When your doctor tells you everything is going to be okay, and hugs you and you want to cry, this person you see maybe once a month, you know things are rough. Our son and his mother help quite a bit, both with keeping my spirits up, and keeping the prayers and offerings. I cannot do this alone. This is a tribal religion. If this were all on me I am unsure I could do it, even without that aspect of it there, given the challenges before us. The beautiful thing about being in a tribal religion though, is that you don’t need to do it all. You can be weak, and that is okay. In letting yourself be weak you can allow others to be strong. For you, if no one else.
I mentioned sometime back that the shrines/altars I care for alone are the shrine for the Dead, the shrine for the Warrior Dead, and Rùnatýr and the Runevaettir’s altar. All the other ones Sylverleaf and our son take care of together with me. This does not mean I should not or do not take care of the other altars and shrines, but when I am this low sometimes it is all I can do to ask for help with the altars and shrines. Again, taking strength from them and them helping me has kept me pretty motivated and keeping on keeping on with the offerings and prayers. Occasionally I will take some time and talk, especially with the Ancestors, Odin included, and talk about my situation, how I am feeling, and ask for Their help.
It’s funny, in writing a post so in-the-moment how things can move forward. I started writing this 8-27-2014, and then,I got the call the next day: I finally qualified for Medicaid. My financial problems are far from over, but an important step in making sure we aren’t hurting for money all the time has finally, finally, been reached. I have been trying to get this leg of the journey done since January. It took months and months, and my first case manager did not get back with me or the hospital at all. The hospital got so pissed at this person and the lack of communication from DHS that they said ‘fuck it’ to my bills in February. I was denied twice before this ruling, despite being told over and over I qualified. While it is still up in the air whether Medicaid will help me with the April’s $20,000 bill, going forward I won’t have to panic if I need to head into the hospital. I will be able to afford my life-preserving meds now. I will be able to see the doctor, and get the physical I need so that I can qualify for a better job, if not get into a career. I will be making offerings and prayers of thanks to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.
This does not mean that the Gods somehow favor me over other people, even if my prayers have been answered. Piety does not equal prosperity.
I am poor. If it weren’t for my folks there is no way my family or I would be in anything like a stable living situation. I’m saddled with a lot of student loan debt, and were we completely on our own we would be struggling to pay rent, let alone put food on the table. I am the subject of ridicule when people write derisive works of people living with their parents till they’re in their late 20s and 30s. This, despite going to college while working, and taking on an inordinate amount of debt with nothing to show for it. At the moment the only options are to a) scramble around trying to save enough to survive on and hope some breakthrough comes our way, or b) head back to college to be saddled with yet more debt in the hopes of making a career. I am working on the latter, going for my MA in Counseling.
Many of the people that I look to as friends, colleagues, and elders have been or are poor. There should be no shame in being poor, but there is; a deep amount of it. I have no delusions of being a temporarily embarrassed millionaire; my family has been blue collar and/or union jobs for quite a while. Everyone except my generation, and some of the last one, has worked the land since they were young. Both sides of my family raised chickens, ducks, geese, vegetables, and herbs. This is the kind of life I am looking to go back to. I see no viable future in the rat race, no good coming of indulging in the idea that those who have the most toys at death win. I want to leave something lasting; odal land to my people, whether it is Sylverleaf, our son, or our community.
When I think of getting our own home, our own land, I think of the Hávamál, line 36 and 37 in the Olive Bray translation edited by D.L. Ashliman:
One’s own house is best, though small it may be;
each man is master at home;
though he have but two goats and a bark-thatched hut
’tis better than craving a boon.
One’s own house is best, though small it may be,
each man is master at home;
with a bleeding heart will he beg, who must,
his meat at every meal.
Piety does not equal prosperity, yet this also does not mean that the Gods will not bless our lives, or that it is hubris to recognize those blessings. Rather, it is hubris to ignore the blessings They give, leave it unmarked, without thanks. I have held on to some very good mead for awhile now, given as a gift to me, and it may be time to offer and share it.
I’m not shouting from the rooftops going “Woohoo! We’re great!” because we’re not. Getting Medicaid and being able to care for my chronic health conditions are small steps in a series of steps to living on our own, raising our family, and bringing together the life we wish to have. There are still financial challenges ahead, mercifully one of them not being the medication I need to live or doctor visits to help keep me healthy. We are moving forward together and celebrating this victory. We will keep pushing forward to the next one, reaching for our goals. We are getting there.
For anyone who has offered prayers, kind words, an open ear and mind, or wisdom in all of this, thank you. Thank you for helping us get through one more leg of our journey. Hail to the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, communities, and individuals who all have supported us in these hard times. Thank you for continuing to support us, and help us wherever you can. Thank you.
Thank you to Freki Ingela for this question:
Are the Gods great Gods whom anyone on Earth may appeal to, or are they ancestral tribal spirits who confine themselves to looking over the descendants of northern Europe, or are they both? Or are they neither in your opinion? If so, how do understand their nature.
The Gods of the Northern Tradition are Gods I believe anyone can appeal to. I do not hold folkish views regarding the Gods. The peoples who worshiped these Gods (and how, what particular understanding of these Gods were prevalent and practices were done in this regard differed region to region) ranged all over the world. They brought back people from these expeditions, merchant voyages, conquests, and raids. They sometimes settled in the new lands, usually as colonizers. To my understanding there is no barrier to anyone worshiping the Gods of the Northern Tradition so far as ancestry goes. While I do believe that some of the Gods may have brought Their power into tribes of people, such as recounted in the RÍgsÞula (The Lay of Rig), as well as many of the hero stories, I do not think this is what determines if someone is holier or better than another. I also do not believe that having bloodlines connected to people who may have worshiped the Gods of the Northern Tradition automatically makes you better suited for the Northern Tradition, especially given how many Europeans worshiped Greek and Roman Gods in many of the same places the Northern European Gods were worshiped. Prayers for the Gods made with a good heart in the right place are good regardless of who makes them.
To understand the nature of the Gods, I usually recommend people read up as much as they can on the Gods, and then, while they are doing so, set up a shrine to the Gods and to their Disir (powerful female Dead), Väter* (powerful male Dead), and their Ancestors in general. I’ve lived in a dorm room, so I have had to make do with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir all sharing altar space together. When the shrine is set up, make an offering of water, if nothing else, every day. Take at least five to fifteen minutes a day to do this, not just setting down the water, but praying at that shrine. If you have prayers of your own, say them. If you need inspiration, or want to use prayers from others, feel free to use prayers from my blog using the search bar, from NorthernPaganism.org’s wide variety of online shrines, Michaela’s Odin’s Gift website, Galina Krasskova’s prayers, or any others you find. If you don’t have space or if you are in a hostile place you can leave a digital candle to one of the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir at one the NorthernPaganism.org’s shrine pages, like this one to Odin.
This is the recommended reading list I have for the Michigan Northern Tradition Study Group, with explanation of why we use them:
- Neolithic Shamanism by Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova
- Neolithic Shamanism is an experience of the Northern Tradition spirits, and only works with a handful of Gods, such as Sunna and Mani. The focus of the book is toward establishing right relationship with the Elemental Powers, the landvaettir, one’s Ancestors, and so one from the ground up.
- The Prose Edda by Carolyne Larrington
- This version of the Prose Eddas is very straightforward. Having read both Bellows and Hollander, I agree with Galina that Hollander cuts things out with poetic license so the ‘flow’ goes according to what he wants.
- Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner by Galina Krasskova and Raven Kaldera
- Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner gives a good overview of the Northern Tradition, and has a good deal of practices such as prayers, how to use prayer beads, and what offerings are good or contraindicated for the Gods of the Northern Tradition. This book helped me deepen my religious practice.
- Spiritual Protection by Sophie Reicher
- Spiritual Protection is one of the best books on psychic/spiritual protection I have seen or read. In a book market where protection is often given short shrift, this book goes to the absolute basics and is great to revisit whether you’ve been doing it for a little while, a long while, or not at all. As a word of caution I advise no one to seek to ground to any world but this one, Midgard, as even I haven’t gone and received permission yet to ground to another.
- Exploring the Northern Tradition by Galina Krasskova
- Exploring the Northern Tradition gives a good overview of the demographics of Heathenry, some ideas of varying practice and culture, and is a good guide to the differences between traditions that you may find in them.
- Gods and Myths of Northern Europe by H.R. Ellis Davidson
- This book gives an overview of the myths, Gods, and Goddesses. I would probably pair it with the Prose Eddas, but I also like people to dive right into the source material and make discoveries on their own, but if that style of study works better for you I don’t see a reason not to do it, particularly if the Eddas are a bit hard to work through.
Another book I would seriously recommend is Essential Asatru by Diana Paxson. It details some typical practices from both groups and personal practice.
*This is not a traditional name for the powerful male Dead. It is German for “Fathers”. I use it in preference of Álfar, since álfar means ‘elves’.
Galina Krasskova has released her newest Devotional Anthology for Loki and His Family through Sanngetall Press. I am proud to be part of this book.
Follow this link to purchase a copy of Consuming Flame: A Devotional Anthology for Loki and His Family.
Update: This is the Amazon.com link for the book.
Allmother, Holy Frigga, You hear the cries of a million million children
The vile threads that weave
The million million choices that could have undone the tragic tapestry
May the new threads woven
By these survivors and their families
Be clean and comforting
May the children know peace
O Tyr, Judge and Lawspeaker
To those who betray their oaths
To those who have done wrong in silence or support
To those who harm the young
Help those harmed to find their voice
Help those harmed to be heard
Help those harmed to have their justice
Angrboða, Ferocious One
Help us to protect our people
Help us to remove the abusers
Help us to heal those harmed
Help us to speak harsh truth
That our people be protected
That our people be safe
That our communities be whole
Gerda, whose arms encircle
Help us to protect our young
Speak for those without voice
Strike for those without force
Walk for those without way
Gerda, please, help us
Place your thorns on abusers’ paths
Bloody their feet, and show them for who they are
May they never know peace.
Hail to You.
Niðogg, Eater of Poison
Niðogg, Chewer of Roots
Help teach us to chew the bitter roots
To drive the poison from us
To make the hard choice not to turn
To make our people and communities whole
Help us to cast aside the venom
That would poison us all
I’ve been doing this prayer I made for awhile by rote whenever I light a fire, from matches to vaettr Fires:
“Hail Sons and Daughters of Muspelheim
Hail to Fire Itself
I had nothing for the vaettir of Ice for a long time, so I made this prayer:
“Hail Sons and Daughters of Nifelheim
Hail to Ice Itself