A Heathen Prepping -Prepping for Convergent Crises

We are at a crossroads of convergent crises. At time time of this writing the United States is facing the following: supply chain disruption resulting in delays of goods and then services, health care staffing shortages, shortages in necessary medical goods supplies, ongoing massive infections of COVID-19, and rising inflation. Then there is the civil unrest we have still largely not dealt with since January 6th of 2021. Alone, with the effects of climate change already being felt throughout the food industry, this would be disruptive. With these hitting all at once it is high time anyone holding out on prepping began to take the situation as it stands and make plans to take care of themselves and their loved ones.

This does not mean panic buy. It does not mean pick up as much toilet paper, rice, beans, or the like as you can. What it does mean, is, that if you have delayed until now to do necessary prep for two weeks in a SHTF scenario, then start there. Besides, long-term you cannot survive on just rice and beans though, if you try that, you’ll be happy you bought all that toilet paper.

We have seen gas prices rise on average about $1.14 in the last year, per the EIA. Check the year on year price comparison by the BLS of average goods. The price on average has increased in a steady upward climb the last twenty years. A loaf of bread went from $1.50 to $1.52 October 2020 to October 2021. This means that gas went up about 52% and bread 2% in the last year. Between October 2001 and October 2021 prices on these two goods have gone up, from $1.36 to $3.39 or a 149.26% rise for gas and from $1.01 to $1.53 or a 51.49% rise for bread. All this is to say these are long-term trends, not just pandemic-time increases.

With the crunch of supply disruptions bringing together the basics of your home’s prep into a 2 week, then 1 month, 3 month, 6 month, and a year as you can should be a top priority. At the least, getting this prep together gives you the means to take care of yourself and your loved ones for a SHTF scenario. If one does not hit for awhile, it means that you can stave off inflation. If supply chains fail or things fall apart worse than what they are, you won’t be caught off guard.

Our current round of convergent crises are predicaments that have been ignored until the weight of them cannot be borne by the system in place. All of these issues were ignored or underfunded through several presidential terms. Since 2001 we have spent literally trillions of dollar on war. Resources were simply not allocated to address them. Assigning fault may be useful to some, but not in deciding what to do now that these threats are here in action.

As a Heathen I understand my life woven with that of others through Urðr, whose Anglo-Saxon cognate is Wyrd. I prioritize those webs of Urðr, first with the Ginnreginn (Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir), then my immediate family, then Kindred, then tribe, and then my wider communities. These priorities matter in predicaments like these, as they dictate who my first concerns and obligations belong to. Those closest to me in obligations and concerns are those who I help first in a SHTF scenario.

So for whom am I prepping? For everyone in my circles of concern. It is my responsibility in every relationship I hold, from the Ginnreginn to the wider community, to do all I can to take care of as many people as I can within my capacity to do so. By do so I am freeing resources for others in my Kindred, tribe, or wider community who need to use their resources in support of their own. If all I can take care of is my family and I, then that is who I take care of so resources are available for the Kindred, tribe, or wider communities.

The beautiful thing about prepping, especially starting out and getting a 2 week then 3 month prep as you can, is that prepping is cumulative. The more you do it the better you can weather SHTF scenarios. If you have a 20 lb bag of rice for your two week prep that same bag counts for the 3 month prep, too. So, even if you’re eating your prep as you go, which ideally you should at least in some degree so you’re not suddenly switching diets when SHTF, you are still stocking up in the long term.

Bought a bag of apples and are unsure if you are going to eat them all in time before they rot? No problem. If you have an oven or dehydrator, you can make apple crisps. Put those bad boys in the fridge, mylar bag with an oxygen absorber, or a jar. Congratulations, you have made another stride in prep! Have veggie scraps like carrot tops and peels? These make good compost. That compost can then be used as soil or fertilizer if you let it break down. Old medicine bottles are excellent for holding emergency supplies you can stash in a BOB, the car, or as part of an EDC. Thinking on and working with what you have, where and when you are as part of prep can help stretch or add to what you have for resources.

A lot of convergent crises where I am are going to look like multiple SHTF scenarios that I talked about here coming together at once. In Winter of 2022 I am most concerned about the weather, then supply chain issues, then COVID-19 and the knock-on effects at hospitals, and then the ongoing infrastructure issues. Once we get through Winter and that ceases to be as big an issue, most of my immediate SHTF scenarios stay the same, with the exception of civil unrest being a bigger factor as temperatures climb. On their own each of these could merit my full attention. Together, even doing as much prep as I can, it can be overwhelming, especially at first.

The thing about SHTF scenarios, particularly convergent crises, is the preps are not meant to fix them. Generally, SHTF scenarios are predicaments that you navigate. My power going out cannot be fixed even by getting a Generac generator for the house -it mitigates the loss of electricity. Stocking up on food will not fix the supply chain issues or rising costs. Food prep will help my family and loved ones get through until the supply chain is restored and/or we can bring our own supplies to bear. These ongoing issues need to be fixed systemically since they are systemic issues.

So, what kinds of prep can you do with regard to multiple SHTF scenarios? Beyond continuing with the preps you are on, be sure to build redundancy as you can. Something City Prepping says a lot is “2 is 1, and 1 is none.” Having backups sure does not hurt. If you grab one of something while you’re out on a shopping trip grab a second one. I recently went to the store and picked up some dry milk. At first I was just going to grab one pack, and, remembering the rule, grabbed another. In a long-term SHTF and/or grid-down situation having extras is a great thing. If you find you do not need the extras, having them means you can offer it to others to help, and you have items to trade with.

By and large the basics of prepping for the most likely convergent crises will overlap one another. The big one for our area is power loss. It threatens both our refrigerated and frozen supplies, and makes it harder for us to get through everyday weather. Most modern American homes are fairly poorly constructed and insulated. These glorified boxes require working HVAC units to chug through all kinds of weather. I find it far easier to get through the cold in Michigan than I do the heat, but not everyone will, so even in prepping members of your home you may need different strategies to keep everyone safe.

Convergent crises can challenge our preps. Right now our corner of Michigan’s most likely long-term convergent crises are a long-term power or grid-down situation coupled with our ongoing supply chain issues. In such a case, relying on a refrigerator, freezer, and the electric stove we have will be pretty useless. While we could do our best to convert the refrigerator and freezer into primitive ice boxes, it would be a far better use of time and resources to orient our preps for these crises to food able to be stored long-term without the need for cooling. Canning while we have electricity and a steady supply of jars and lids is one approach which can provide immense amounts of food which will keep for years. Smoking, curing, dehydrating, and fermenting can be done throughout the year without electricity. Thinking creatively about how we face our convergent crises now can save us pain, time, effort, and resources in the long run.

Convergent crises will be a time that test folks. Crises usually do. Part of the power in doing these preps as a Heathen is that each act of prep is an opportunity for building up good relationships with our Ginnreginn and each other. Engaging in prep provides opportunities for devotional work, magic, and co-creating Urðr with the Ginnreginn and the folks in our communities. A lot of us go about creating some kind of stalli (altar in the house), and vé (sacred outdoor space) where we live. The spiritual work does not, and, especially since we are talking about preps, should not stay there alone. Looking at the written and archaeological sources of our Heathen religions it is clear to me that the spiritual perspective of ancient Heathens was part of everyday lived reality, not hived off from the rest of life as it so often is in our overculture. Much of the spells and spiritual practices that have passed down to us now were concerned with survival, the good of the community, and preserving, protecting, or empowering the community and the folks within them in some way.

A lot of ways to bring spiritual work into prep are simple and often overlooked. An example: when you are canning thank the vaettir of the plants and animals, the jörðvaettir that forms the jar, lid, and bands, the vatnvaettir of the water, and the eldrvaettir that boils the water. You can mark the bottoms or put post-it notes on jars or other items you intend to trade with the Fehu and Gebo Runes. You can put healing bindrunes on the inside of your First Aid kit, and ask for Eir and Menglóð’s blessing on it, giving Them good offerings afterwards.

Learn about the various forms of magic and spiritual practices that ancient Heathens would have used and think about why they used it, and how these things apply to us today. An awful lot of thought, time, energy, and power went into protection, not just personal protection but that of the homestead and animals. Why? Survival was dependent on the stores of food and animals making it through Sumar (Summer). For those animals not destined for slaughter, they were often instrumental in making it through Vetr (Winter). A good chunk of surviving medieval manuscripts combine what the overculture today think of as separate disciplines: medicine and magic. Even into the modern age these things were not separate disciplines.

Enchanting our medicines to be more effective, warding our gardens against encroachment as we put up fencing, and laying down protections on our homes is the ancient ways working in a new time. Parterning with the landvaettiir so the plants grow well, asking Þórr to bless the garden with rain, and asking Freyr and Gerðr to bring fertility to the plants and animals is our Heathen worldview alive. Doing these things intertwines our religion and our lives in visceral ways. It is powerful.

Even if we do not face a particular set of convergent crises there is no wasted time or energy with these preps we bring to bear. Remember, preps are cumulative. They can be equally as useful for ourselves as others, especially those who may not have prepared or prepared as well as we have. We build up our megin (might/power) and hamingja (luck/power/group luck) in doing this work. Partnering with our Ginnreginn to face these crises, to prep and do what is in our power to do, we grow stronger. By encouraging our mutual aid networks and caring for those in our Kindreds, tribes, and communities now, we face the future stronger together.

A Heathen Prepping -Every Day Carry

The Basics of EDC

EDC is a term meaning Every Day Carry. It is what it says on the tin. This is what you carry on your person every day. Some folks read this and think we are only talking firearms. While personal protection equipment may be part of a given person’s EDC, there are a lot of preppers who do not include a firearm as part of theirs.

I am one of those people. The reason is terribly practical: my job does not allow weapons on our person. Since an EDC is meant to go everywhere we do, and I can spend up to 16 hours at my job, my personal EDC is going to be incredibly limited compared to most folks in the prepper communities. Were I able to, I would likely have at least one weapon among my EDC.

The way that I differentiate EDC from a Bug Out Bag, or BOB, is that a BOB is prepped and ready to go for emergencies. Bugging out is an extreme emergency that requires you to vacate immediately from wherever you are. An EDC is what we carry so we face each day prepared. There is no single one-size-fits-all EDC, and opinions on what should be in it vary. Luckily, City Prepping has a video for this where he goes into his, and I recommend folks watch it. Happy Preppers has their own here.

Everyone’s EDC is different. My ideal EDC is certainly different from what I have to carry to be work-compliant. This should be reassuring, though, because each piece of prep we can do is a work in progress. There is always somewhere we could improve, to tweak to make things function or flow better.

My main perspective on prep comes from hospitality and care for those in your family, Kindred, tribe, and communities. By prepping now, you take pressure off of all those you hold ties with and free up resources for them in the future. One more person with the training and experience to use those resources effectively is one less person who needs emergency intervention and can help others prepare effectively for a SHTF scenario. By honoring the various Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir of the resources and work with them, you build up good relationships with Them. By building up good relationships now you approach Them in respect, and They, in turn, can help you develop your skills, experiences, and wisdom in the use of resources now, rather than in a crisis.

When it comes to EDC many of these ideas are taken into the everyday. My spiritual EDC are what I carry with me as taufr, charms, as well as the spiritual prep that I do before I leave the house. The spiritual EDC are the necklaces I wear and the tattoos on my skin. The clothes I wear, prayer cards I carry, anything that I dedicate to carrying on my person becomes part of the EDC. Since I understand the lík or the body as sacred, physical prep is part of the spiritual prep, and the spiritual prep provide a strong core and focus to the physical prep. Likewise, the mental prep flows with the physical and spiritual prep. So too, the EDC prep and the home prep flow into and between each other. What I need for EDC will likely differ a lot given I will be away from home.

My Approach to EDC

So what is in my EDC? I will break this up into three main areas because of my job’s restrictions. The first will be what I carry on me most often, then what I carry in my bag, and finally, what I carry in my car.

My Personal EDC

My personal carry EDC are my clothes, my wallet which carries my IDs and prayer cards, my leather taufr bag, my phone, my Bluetooth earbuds and their charging case, and any keys I need for work. The charging case can double as a charger for my phone if needed. The earbuds hold a charge for about four hours of music each, and charge in about 30 minutes. My arms are each covered in the Elder Futhark, and I have a tattoo of a Valknut on my left breast and the Ægishjalmr on my right. Each tattoo carries meaning, a physical reflection and fulfillment of my relationships with each vaettr. Given my ongoing offerings to Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir, not to mention the offerings of pain and blood just to get these tattoos, these are spiritual EDC that are consistently cared for. Likewise, these are each spiritual EDC that are consistently involved in my care.

The approach I have with my tattoos is also true of the taufr I carry in my bag: every one was built with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir I carry active and ongoing relationships with, and none require special offerings on their own. So, if for some reason I lose or need to give away a taufr I do not lose something unique in the bag. That is, while I would lose that particular taufr’s carried power, I do not lose all the power of that relationship by losing or giving away the taufr. If I were to make a completely unique taufr with a vaettr I only every worked with in constructing that taufr then I could risk that relationship by losing or giving away the taufr. So, that is why I have the rule of thumb that I make taufr only with vaettir I hold active relationships with.

Clothes should be the first physical item you think about when you put yourself together in the day. I am the kind of guy who is pretty happy to wear shorts and a t-shirt most of the year. My choice of clothes are made with ease of movement and comfort in mind. However, those choices are couched in the comfort of having a comfortable, warm (or cool, as the seasons change) home to live in rather than being consistently exposed to the elements. If I know I will be out and about I will at least wear jeans and bring a coat. My physical items follow the form and function of my clothes: can I keep it comfortably on my person, and are the items easy to access? In a SHTF scenario if I am out and about in clothes ill-fitted to the situation, I am putting myself at risk. Since it is a good idea to have a backup set of clothes in the car and any BOBs, this is something I am working on putting together.

My Backpack and Lunchbag EDC

Since these bags have to go into work it cannot contain items restricted from the facility that I would like to include, so most of the essentials of EDCs you will find on the Internet, like firestarting kits and water purification systems, are out here too. My backpack is a laptop backpack, so the pouch that rests against my back has a bit of extra padding. This section holds my tablet, mobile keyboard, small mouse, book(s), and journal. The journal is a moddable Tūl notebook that my wife found for me in Office Max. You can swap pages in and out, and there are a variety of pages to choose from, including lined, blank, and graph. If I wanted to, say, design a sigil or bindrune and fire it off quick I can. I can also print materials off, use the special hole punch for it that I bought, and swap those materials in and out as I want. If nothing else, in a crisis where I need firemaking materials I will have plenty to hand.

The center section of the backpack has charging essentials for my devices, including lightning cables so I can pass off the cord to iPhone and Mac users. While I do not care for Mac products at all, it has come in handy for coworkers who forget their cables. In the middle of the center section is a nylon bag. It has three blocks for charging outlets and more cables than I have devices for so I, and others, can charge multiple devices at once. Finally, it has a charging brick in it with multiple cable access points. I carry OTC meds like acetomenaphine here, as well as a large bag of sugar free lozenges, hand salve, soap, and toiletries I may need if I get stuck at work or out on the road. This section is fairly big and deep, so the bottom holds a lot of PPE in plastic containers that I have accumulated since COVID-19 hit. I have at least two disposable hazard suits, nitrile disposable gloves, fitted masks, multiple disposable masks, and a mouth barrier for rescue breaths. It may seem like a lot of PPE, but it is all quite compact. My plan is to add a full medical kit in the bottom of this bag so I have it wherever the backpack goes.

The third section is a bit smaller than the first two, and contains a good deal of spiritual items. It has two decks of playing cards that can serve as divination decks or playing cards, a few prayer cards, and a leather bag with a leather casting surface and wooden Runes. Finally, this section holds four plastic bottles, two of which contain salts, one pure water, and the last holds mugwort tea for internal and external cleansing, blessing, etc. This last is replaced as needed.

The fourth section is the front of the backpack. It is the smallest and is just big enough to hold the pens and comb that are in it.  The side pouch holds a small Rite in the Rain field book and the other side has space for a coffee cup -which I usually am carrying there. Nothing like having refreshment and an offering at your hip!

The lunchbag I have is a hard plastic shell in a thermal case to keep things cold. It can hold a good amount of food, which is good since I frequently have to work doubles. It works well for its purpose, since it also keeps my insulin cold and my daily pill box clean and clear. These are in the front pouch along with hand sanitizer, some packs of instant coffee, and utensils. There are two outer areas where I carry coffee cups. I like to carry extra sanitizer, a few sweets to keep up my energy/blood sugar, extra instant coffee packs, lozenges, and other small helpful items in this bag’s front pouch. Better to have it and not need it then need it and not have it.

My Car EDC

What I carry in my car on a regular basis differs from a BOB since my car is fitted for common road emergencies, including a small car battery starter, a small medkit, a small jack, and a spare tire. I am still working on putting together my BOBs. When finished it will be kitted out for an emergency where my family and I could survive for three days with what is in it whether we are in the car or on foot.

The middle of the car holds a small staff that works well as a walking stick and that I have worked with in various rituals. It also has a car plug-in here for charging USB-C devices, and there is one in the front as well. The front has two USB-C cords, and the middle of the car has one. This allows me to keep our devices, including the car starter, charged on long trips.

In addition to the car starter, car jack, and medkit, my car contains a Sacred Firemaking kit which lives in the trunk. This kit is contained in a leather bag that has belt loops and is lightweight. It comes complete with tinder, a flint and steel, ferro rod, lighter, and both conventional and waterproof matches. The car has a log or two in its trunk so if I need to make a decent fire quick I have the means to. A separate metal ammo crate holds extra firemaking and firekeeping supplies, including twine and wood shavings that could make good tinder, candles, various herb offerings, and a book or two of matches. With an axe in the trunk there would be no question that I could easily get a decent-sized fire going at a few moments’ notice.

The trunk holds a shoulder bag with a hardy survival guide, an orange bandana with various guides to using it in emergencies printed on it, a clip-on crank light and charger, its own separate small firekit, a change of socks, paracord, and a multitool. If, for some reason, I needed to get out of the car with one bag this would be like a mini-BOB for it. In such a case I might quickly toss my shoes off and put on the Muckboots I typically carry in the trunk for going to Crossing Hedgerows. They are quite warm, rated for about -40°F, and hardy. They are also quite waterproof, having waded through Crossing Hedgerow’s stream more than a few times in them without issue, and decent in a forest hike.

There are two water carriers in the trunk. One is a red and white insulated container which can hold at least two liters. The other is a Lifestraw water bottle. The Lifestraw water bottle can filter most contaminants and provide fresh water in most any source I could find. In a pinch I could transfer from one to the other without having to light a fire, and have good potable water in short order.

So far as food goes, I keep at least a pack of ramen in the car so if I or anyone else needs to grab a bite it is available. I will be restocking it with things like Clif bars, and other small items that store well and can be broken up into smaller packs or stuffed into pockets. It is a balance between what can fill us up in an emergency, what stores well, and what can easily be carried. Because of wild temperature fluctuations throughout the year packing canned foods is a bad idea. My objective with any food I store in the car is that it can survive in it long-term and I do not have to do much with it to prep it.

Spiritual EDC in the car includes at least one or two sacred pipes that I have used to smoke offerings and commune with vaettir. Tobacco, mugwort, and chamomile, among the sacred herbs I offer, are stored in a big leather bag in the trunk that holds my Wildwood Tarot, Soul Map, and a collection of taufr and other spiritual objects. This black leather bag holds offering mugs, sacred knives, and different stones I have worked with over the years. It also holds a variety of salts, dirts, and its own firemaking kit. Finally, it holds several representations of Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.

Designing EDC in Community

Something not often remarked on is designing EDC in community with one another. If you are involved with community members who are interested in prep it can be well worth your while to talk on the subject. You may have a few fixed items, such as the clothes you wear and your wallet, and beyond that the beauty of approaching things with EDC in mind is how adaptable you can really be. Particularly if you are nesting partners or live in the same neighborhood, collaborating on EDC can help alleviate stress or provide new insights, especially since your fellow community members likely have different skillsets. While mindset behind designing an EDC is different from a BOB, both preps are still made with SHTF scenarios in mind. Designing an EDC with community members can help spread out the stress and make things easier if a SHTF scenario hits.

In my case, having another person able and willing to carry more can make SHTF scenarios easier to bear. Since I cannot carry firemaking or water purification supplies on my person or into work, if someone else can, that shores up the lack of supplies I have on me. I can give Gebo by carrying more long-term stable food and drink powders as part of my EDC so they do not have to carry as much of that. If they are skilled at sigils they could carry more paper/pens to make use of that, and I could carry more offerings. The work that can be done together is far more versatile and adaptable than going it alone and trying to plan for all scenarios. So, if you can, I highly recommend partering with community members no matter the prep at hand.

EDC Changes

Over the years, like a lot of folks who have different EDC for different reasons, my spiritual EDC has changed quite a bit. For one, things used to be a lot less organized. For another, I had only one firemaking kit and did not do much in the way of backups. It took me several years until I included a basic medkit and car starter in the car. My big black leather bag that lives in the trunk now used to be my primary spiritwork bag. Now, that bag is a smaller leather shoulder bag that contains the absolute essentials to my spiritwork. The big black leather bag is a kind of useful hold-all for anything I may need or want to have so all the spiritual EDC has a place to be that is safe, tough, and if needed, can be thrown over the shoulder and taken.

It may seem now that I have an overabundance of firemaking kits. I have owned a lot of lighters over the years, both disposable and refillable. I know how easy it is to forget that the lighter is out of fuel or the matchbook is empty. Far better to have a bunch of quick firemaking kits, whether it is flint and steel, ferro rods, or both, than to only rely on lighters or matches, and not be able to make a fire when needed. Given my years of Sacred Firetending and how quick the weather can turn, I appreciate having backups to tinder and logs. It is not fun getting wet materials to light.

That all said, an EDC is not meant to handle every scenario that comes at us, no more than a BOB or even a home is. Preps are meant to help us deal with situations that are most likely to happen. I am not actively prepping for an EMP strike because it is not likely to happen here. Tornadoes, winter storms, power outages, interruptions to supply chains, and civil unrest are far more likely where I live. So, my EDC reflects that.

The spiritual aspects of EDCs should be the same way: we may have fixed things that we need in our EDC to get us through the day, and beyond that having flexibility in what we carry with us allows us to better approach things. That flexibility leaves us in a better position to handle the challenges life throws at us. So, do not be afraid to change things up. Maybe today you need gentler energy, and carrying a small disk with Berkana woodburnt into it, and asking the Rune to help you, can help there. Maybe you need to connect less with certain Ancestors, so taking Their representations out of your pocket bag and placing it with the Ancestor stalli (indoor altar) is ideal. Something as simple as asking the local landvaettir to help you keep safe or ground and center, asking Them to help you find a stone to carry, and making an offering when you find it can be a great help.

It is a good thing to evaluate where we are now and again, and adjust things to our needs. It is a good thing to ask community members to look at our preps, and take their advice to heart. It is a good thing to ask the Ginnreginn for help and guidance, and adjusting ourselves and our EDC to match it. Being open to change, and willing to do it, is a powerful thing.

When we move into our new house we will be reevaluating all our various preps to align with our new living situation. I expect most of my EDCs will stay the same, but I have wanted to reorganize everything and put it together in a more coherent way where everything has a place. You might find over time you do this as well. It’s a kind of grounding and centering for your prep practice. After all, sometimes we forget we packed something away. Sometimes our needs for EDC change, or our mindset behind having a piece of gear is not relevant anymore. Sometimes we just get better gear or more efficient ways of stowing it. However we design them, EDCs should be adaptable, changing with us as we need them.

My mindset as a Heathen prepper is hospitality and service. Hospitality is practiced by both host and guest. So, prepping is not only to those who can find themselves at my door. By prepping, I am working as a guest to lift stress on a host in a SHTF scenario, just as I am working to help alleviate stress to those who find themselves as my guest. EDC, with the Ginnreginn and my Heathen values and spiritual work firmly in mind, allows me to face each day as prepared as I can be. By prepping in a wholistic way I serve the Ginnreginn, my family, my tribe, and my communities more efficiently, and in good Gebo.

Cleansing and Changing the Altars and Shrines for Yule

Continuing the series of posts on altars and shrines, we come to how our shrines look like now, just before Yule.  The altars and shrines are more than just a place to leave offerings; these are places where we can devote ourselves wholly and fully to worship, to good relationships.  In my own case I am doing my best to make sure I spend at least 10 minutes a day with my Ancestors.  Much of the family’s altar and shrine times are when we pray.  Our lives are hectic, and our schedules are up and down.  In my own case I work midnight shifts and Sylverleaf morning and evening shifts, and our son goes to school.  These altars and shrines give us places, even for a few moments, to slow down, remember our blessings, pray, and give offerings for all we have.

These altars and shrines, as I have mentioned, change throughout the year.  Much of the decorations, and the altars and shrines themselves were gifts or bought from thrift stores and garage sales.  The cloths come from our local JoAnn Fabrics when we cannot find the right colors/patterns in thrift stores.  There’s nothing saying you cannot buy good/expensive things for your altars or shrines any more than cheap.  We take care in selecting what goes on our altars and shrines, regardless of where it comes from.  We listen to the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits for what They want on our altars and shrines, what offerings They want, and so on.  What matters, in the end, is the care you put into crafting your altars and shrines.

Cleaning and Preparing Altars and Shrines

What also matters is the prep work done before making an altar or shrine, and/or when transitioning between set up and take down.  When we make a new shrine we first clean the area, vacuuming, dusting, the works.  We then will clean the shrine inside (if there is an inside) and out physically with water and soap, if needed.  We will then cleanse the altar or shrine with blessed water and/or Florida Water, and may use this water in lieu of soap and water, using fresh towels when needed.  Whenever we transition the altars and shrines, we clean all their cloths.  We also clean any new cloths prior to their use.  While those are in the washer and then dryer, we will clean every piece of the altars and shrines that we can, bathing the statues, if we can, and scrubbing everything that can be scrubbed clean with fresh towels.  We then dry with fresh towels, and they usually wait on my bed until the cloths are ready.

When the cloths are ready and we have all the items we need for the shrine, we will take some time and ask the Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits for whom the altar/shrine will be made, what color altar cloth They would like.  We usually do this well ahead of time for new shrines, but with transitions between seasons and/or cleanings, we will not know until we the cloths are clean.  When we have an answer, or if we are left by Them to suss that out, we will lay the selected cloth on the surface and adjust until it looks/feels right.  Then we decorate the altar, first with the direct representations of the altar or shrine itself, such as the Gods for the Gods’ altar, the Ancestor for Their shrine, and so on.  We generally start in the middle and work our way out, so the main Gods with whom we work are in the center of the altar and those who we give honor to are on the outside.  This does not always follow, though, as sometimes Gods we have had long relationships with, such as Sunna and Mani below, end up outside of the granite tile and on one of the sides of the Gods’ altar.

The Gods’ Altar

At this time of year since our families are coming together we put our Gods together on the Gods’ altar by families wherever we could.  So Odin and Frigga are together, Brigid and Bres, Mani and Sunna, Freyr, and Freya, and so on.  The green altar cloth was laid down in reflection of the evergreens.  The Gods our family actively worships are in the center, with many Gods whom we have connections to have prayer cards, such as Sekhmet and Hermes below the two paintings of the Valkyries.  On the opposite side is a sword I received at this last year’s Renfaire from a Michigan-based blacksmith.  The glass crystal chalice was a gift from a dear friend, someone I count as a Sister. In the corner are my journey staff, a sword I’ve had for about 7 years I used in evocation work, and a spear I received as a gift from a dear, old friend for work I did with him.

The Gods' Altar Yule 2013 Pre-decoratiion

The Gods’ Altar Yule 2013 Pre-decoratiion

The Prayer Pillow for the Gods' Altar Yule 2013.

The Prayer Pillow for the Gods’ Altar Yule 2013.

The Gods' Altar for Yule 2013.

The Gods’ Altar for Yule 2013.

The left side of the Gods' Altar Yule 2013.  On top are the two Valkyries.  To Their left are Odin with His offering bowl.  To His Right are Frigga's Keys.  Below the Keys are two Brigid's Crosses representing Brigid and Bres.  To Their right is Mjolnir, Thor's Hammer.  Two of the four prayer cards are Sekhmet's,  Mani and Hermes prayer cards are to the right beside Them.  Sunna's symbols, a golden coin surrounded by four metal suns, are placed next to Her Brother Mani.

The left side of the Gods’ Altar Yule 2013. On top are the two Valkyries. To Their left are Odin with His offering bowl. To His Right are Frigga’s Keys. Below the Keys are two Brigid’s Crosses representing Brigid and Bres. To Their right is Mjolnir, Thor’s Hammer. Two of the four prayer cards are Sekhmet’s, Mani and Hermes prayer cards are to the right beside Them. Sunna’s symbols, a golden coin surrounded by four metal suns, are placed next to Her Brother Mani.

Right side of the Gods' Altar Yule 2013.  A sword, whose study I dedicate to Odin, is waiting for its scabbard.  To its left is the drinking horn.  Behind the offering chalice is the Negative Confession.  To the left is Freya.  Left of Her is Bast and Anubis.  Before Them is Freyr as the Green Man.  The Earth Goddess represent Nerthus and Jord on this altar.

Right side of the Gods’ Altar Yule 2013. A sword, whose use and study I dedicate to Odin, is waiting for its scabbard. To its left is the drinking horn. Behind the offering chalice is the Negative Confession. To the left is Freya. Left of Her is Bast and Anubis. Before Them is Freyr as the Green Man. The Earth Goddess represent Nerthus and Jord on this altar.

The Disir’s and Väter’s Shrine

This shrine is relatively new.  This was made in the Fall after we picked up the table at a garage sale, and the batik patterned cloths at JoAnn Fabrics.  The batik patterns struck us as being perfect for each set of powerful Ancestors.  The two ceramic pieces we picked up at our local thrift store.  The left part of the shrine is for the Disir, and the right, for the Väter.   The plastic container has my necklace for the Disir, bought from an excellent craftsperson at ConVocation, which broken recently.  The necklace on the left was made by a good friend of mine, made while she meditated on all the men who had an impact on her spirituality.

Disir's and Väter's Yule 2013 shrine pre-decoration.

Disir’s and Väter’s Yule 2013 shrine pre-decoration.

Disir's and Väter's Yule 2013 shrine.

Disir’s and Väter’s Yule 2013 shrine.

The Ancestors’ Shrine

The Elemental Ancestors have spaced out a bit since the last time I took photos.  They now are part of the four pillars of the shrine.  Sometimes the Elements switch places entirely.  At one point Earth and Air were in the front of the altar, and now They are in the back.  This is reflective of the relationships we have with the Elements as with the seasons we are in.  Earth and Air were in the front through the Summer, if memory serves, and come Fall we transitioned to the layout we have now.  This new layout brought with it important additions to the shrine.  The first that was placed on the shrine is the glass insulator my Brother gave to me.  It belonged to his grandmother, and now sits prominently on the shrine.  As with adoption, when I call someone Brother or Sister, and am called a Brother in return, our Ancestors mingle and become part of one another’s lives, part of our family as surely as we are.  With my adoption into the Thunderbird People I placed the Native American bust in the back, given to me a long while ago by my Mom, on the shrine.  Given my own tribemates have similar statuary, one on their own Ancestor shrine, I felt it was about time I did so too.

Ancestor Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

Ancestor Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

Ancestor Shrine Yule 2013

Ancestor Shrine Yule 2013

Ancestor Shrine Yule 2013 Top-down view.

Ancestor Shrine Yule 2013 Top-down view.

The Earthvaettir Shrine

The Earthvaettir Shrine has changed quite a bit.  Ramses II is now on the Warrior Dead shrine, per His request.  The shrine has new offering bowls, part of a set we bought from the local thrift store to replace the bronze ones.  While the bronze bowls would work for dry offerings, they got weird and green with liquid offerings, so we have switched them out for the time being.  The shrine to the Roadside Dead, which has been part of the Earthvaettir shrine for a while now, has a more prominent place.  A moonstone sits at the feet of its incense holder, which our son made.  At its top sits the offering bowl.  Behind it is the cairn, which, as mentioned in the last post, changes position and structure each time the Earthvaettir shrine is cleaned and remade.  In the center of the shrine behind the ceramic offering bowl is the Gebo stone on the left, the Earthvaettir stone on the right, and the large stone in the back is the Landvaettir’s stone.  On the right the Gnome and Dragon of Earth have more prominence, and before Them are the stone we have used in magical work and healing over the years.  At each of the four corners are stones, which change between them and other stones when the shrine is remade, symbolizing the four directions and the Four Dwarves who hold up the sky.

The Earthvaettir Shrine Yule 2013 Pre-decoration.

The Earthvaettir Shrine Yule 2013 Pre-decoration.

Long shot of the Earthvaettir Shrine Yule 2013.

Long shot of the Earthvaettir Shrine Yule 2013.

Left side of the Earthvaettir Shrine Yule 2013.

Left side of the Earthvaettir Shrine Yule 2013.

Right side of the Earthvaettir Shrine Yule 2013.

Right side of the Earthvaettir Shrine Yule 2013.

The Watervaettir Shrine

This is the newest shrine.  The table is a temporary one, given it is a wooden TV table and likes to wobble.  It sits between the two bookshelves on which the Earthvaettir, Housevaettir, and Moneyvaettir shrines sit.  This was almost exclusively made by our son; he insisted we make it one day, and all we did was buy the cloth and gave him a choice of containers for offerings.  The paper image he made at school, and while he has not explained to us what it is, he made it with a friend and told us “It is for the water spirits.”  While he is involved almost every time we clean and set up altars and shrines, this is the first he has made by himself.  We are very proud of him.

The Watervaettir Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

The Watervaettir Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

The Watervaettir Shrine Yule 2013.

The Watervaettir Shrine Yule 2013.

The Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Shrines

These two shrines have not changed much at all.  The Housevaettir now rests atop a woodburnt Ægishjálmur that I made here at home.  The Moneyvaettir Shrine has more shell and coins added to it, and some taken from it.  The coin jar has sheaves of coin holders in it, with the idea of ‘we hope to fill these’ and ‘we have a place for you’ in mind.  There was a point in the Fall where we emptied the coin jar of a good deal of coins to help pay for things.  That adding and taking from the coins is part of a good relationship with Moneyvaettir; sometimes you have a lot and sometimes you do not.  Every time we’ve needed coins on hand They have been there for us.

Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

Long view of the Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Yule 2013.

Long view of the Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Yule 2013.

Left side of the Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Yule 2013.

Left side of the Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Yule 2013.

Right side of the Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Yule 2013.

Right side of the Housevaettir and Moneyvaettir Yule 2013.

The Dead Shrine

This is a shrine that I set up this year as a priest of Anpu.  My work with the Dead as His priest had a long break, about 4 years.  When I started to do prayers for the Ancestors of my House, House Sankofa, I also felt called back to offerings prayers for the Dead, especially the lost Dead.  I was pushed by Anpu to go back to the work of helping lost Dead and whoever comes to the shrine cross to where They need to go, with His help.  The shrine has four candle holders around a censer in the middle.  The four fires are there to cast light and warmth to the four directions, inviting the Dead, and the censer as a gathering place where They can smell the sweet fragrances and be comforted by the frankincense, myrrh, and other offerings left there.  Anpu’s image is above His wand, which I use for Opening and Closing the Door every Sunday in the work.  There is a bowl of water below the censer to quench the Dead’s thirst, and a place for more incense and other offerings to the left.  On the right is a bell that I use in the weekly work to soothe the Dead, and call to those who wander.

The Dead Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

The Dead Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

Long view of The Dead Altar Yule 2013.

Long view of The Dead Altar Yule 2013.

Top-down view of The Dead Altar Yule 2013.

Top-down view of The Dead Altar Yule 2013.

The Warrior Dead Shrine

The Warrior Dead Shrine now has Ramses II on it in the back of the shrine with a stone star above His head.  The altar cloth is now white, and the placement of its items have been switched around a bit.  The last of the Ezra Brook is now in the flask, and the offering liquor is now Lauder’s Blended Scotch Whiskey.  The formerly white ceramic offering bowl now is stained with the offerings I have given despite my best attempts to get it back to white.  Given the candle-pot was both unwieldy and I could not light a candle in it, it was moved off of the altar.  The Warrior Dead did not seem all that attached to it, as it was.  The shrine is closer together and simpler, but feels better overall, and Ramses II has settled in well here.

The Warrior Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

The Warrior Shrine Yule 2013 pre-decoration.

The Warrior Shrine Yule 2013.

The Warrior Shrine Yule 2013.

Side view of The Warrior Shrine Yule 2013.

Side view of The Warrior Shrine Yule 2013.

Animal Spirits Shrine

Only the placement of things has changed on this shrine, but I thought it would be good for people to see how things can change even on altars that don’t change all that much throughout the year.  Aside from dusting on occasion, and cleaning Them as needed, the animal spirits prefer I not change out the altar cloth.

Long view of the Animal Spirits' Altar Yule 2013.

Long view of the Animal Spirits’ Altar Yule 2013.

Left view of Animal Spirits Shrine Yule 2013.  The left bone on the far right and the horns are a male buffalo nose bone.  To the right of the nose bone is a deer leg bone.  The black stone has a seal in it.  To its left is Turtle, Dragon, and Snake stone sculptures.  The snake skin in the jar is a gift from good friends.  The eagle bone ring and feathers both were gifts from good friends.

Left view of Animal Spirits Shrine Yule 2013. The left bone on the far right and the horns are a male buffalo nose bone. To the right of the nose bone is a deer leg bone. The black stone has a seal in it. To its left is Turtle, Dragon, and Snake stone sculptures. The snake skin in the jar is a gift from good friends. The eagle bone ring and feathers both were gifts from good friends.

Center of the Animal Spirits Shrine Yule 2013.  All of the statuary were gifts from my Mom, the wolf fur and bones from Shin Cynikos, and the mushroom from a former girlfriend.  The Raven stone I bought from Earthlore in Plymouth, MI.
Center of the Animal Spirits Shrine Yule 2013. All of the statuary were gifts from my Mom, the wolf fur and bones from Shin Cynikos, and the mushroom from a former girlfriend. The Raven stone I bought from Earthlore in Plymouth, MI.

Right side of the Animal Spirits Shrine Yule 2013.  The rightmost bones are male buffalo bones from the Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve.  The two stone animals are a cat and pig, sacred animals to our Gods, and as spirits Themselves.

Right side of the Animal Spirits Shrine Yule 2013. The rightmost bones and fur are from male buffalo from the Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve. The two stone animals are a cat and pig, sacred animals to our Gods, and as spirits Themselves.

Runevaettir Altar

The Runevaettir altar has not changed all that much.  It now has many Rune mandalas made with ink on paper, and holds the communion talisman, one of two I made for the 30 Days of Magic Talisman Challenge put on by Andrieh Vitimus.  The offering bowl now is in the back left corner where it can sit without blocking the mandalas when I use them or make another.

Runevaettir Altar Yule 2013.

Runevaettir Altar Yule 2013.

Come the Spring I will need to take photos and write about shrines we keep outside, since at least one of them cannot be seen well right now.  These shrines include the shrine to Hela and Niðhogg, the Landvaettir’s outdoor shrine, and the Air spirits.