Open to Questions Year 3

I am once again looking for topics to write on, so if you, or someone you know, wants me to dig into a topic let me know.

Ask questions!  They can be on anything related to the Northern Tradition, Heathenry, polytheism, animism, Gods, Ancestors, vaettir (spirits), shamanic work, priest work, spirit work, definitions, lore, etc.

Planting Seeds

In thinking on the last post and the centers Nicholas Haney brought up in God-centric?, is that one of the centers that tends to get left by the wayside in the larger polytheist and Pagan blogs is family, and in specific how we raise our kids in our religions.  It is something that has been on mind for a while.  There’s a host of questions I will tackle here that I hope will generate deeper dialogue in the Pagan and polytheist blogs and communities.  I believe these are really important questions, tied not just to the center of family, but to the health and well-being of all the centers.  Without children, all we have are new converts to sustain the traditions and religions.  In my view, that is a lot of people coming to understand a whole new way of being, whereas kids raised polytheist do not have that learning curve, or the need to decolonize, or remove as much of the dominant culture’s mindset.

Before I get to the questions, however, I think it is important to tackle some of the reasons that I have heard, in person and online, for why people do not raise their children in our religious traditions.  Chief among them is some variation of “I don’t want to force my kid to follow my religion” or “I don’t want to indoctrinate my child.”  I will be honest, these reasons make me want to pull out my hair.  The definition of indoctrination is:

to teach (someone) to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs

Raising our children in our religion(s) is simply not indoctrination.  Teaching them about our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, is not indoctrination.  Unless you are actively denying your child the ability to question concepts and people in the religion, not allowing them to explore the religion, or are actively denying your child’s ability to consider other points of view, you are not indoctrinating your child.  You are, rather, raising your child in the religion.  There is a gulf of difference between teaching a child “This is what the sagas say about Thor and these are my experiences with Him,” or “This is how we worship together as a family,” and “This is the only way to worship Thor” or “Only our way is the true way to worship Thor.”  Now, that is not to say that a given family will not have traditions, taboos specific to them, or certain ways they worship, but to entirely cut a child off from alternative views, and stunts the religious growth of a child.  My taboos are just that: mine.  We do not have taboos on offerings as a family.  What we do have are basic expectations of respect in religious space, how offerings that have been expended are disposed of, regular times for prayer, and guidelines and rules on handling altars, statues of our Gods, and various tools that may be on the altars.  For instance, on our Gods’ altar our son can dispose of the liquid (usually water, but sometimes beer or mead) offerings we make to Them.  He does not touch the offerings to Gods he does not have an active relationship with. Sylverleaf makes regular offerings to Frigga on this altar that our son is not to touch, as that is between her and Frigga.  He is not allowed to touch the swords or the hammer  on the altar without permission and an adult present.

How do we bring children into our religions?  Is it from birth?  If not from birth, when do they begin to learn, and what can they learn at what age?  How do we help our children understand religious phenomena?  If one has a very active religious life, how does one relate to a child that simply does not?  Vice versa?

The answers I have to these questions are lived by our son.  We brought our son into our religion by doing a baby blessing as soon as he was born, asking the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits to watch over him.  He was there as we prayed at our altar when we first brought him home, and has been raised with us praying and making offerings ever since.  Had we waited we would probably have started teaching him about our religion around age 3-5.  He has been raised with the prayers we make before he goes to school and before he goes to bed, and at each and every meal.  He is living polytheism.  He has been raised with a Dad who takes time out to explain religious concepts on his level, and who is not shy about being very blunt that “the Runes ask for blood in Gebo, and this is something you are not ready for yet, if you ever do pick Them up.”  He knows that if and when he does, it will be his choice and he will be able to make it on his own.

I firmly believe in raising children in our religions.  Without our children learning our religion, and co-religionists teaching their religion, there is no way for the religions to continue.  Teaching kids only a little bit about the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, and not making daily prayers, devotion, etc. is giving a little soil to the seed and expecting a tree to grow to its full height.  Not teaching one’s children at all about the Gods is denying soil to a tree entirely.  Without a firm grounding in religion, the soil is loose and is blown away in the wind, or swept aside in the rain.  If we desire good religious communities that will last beyond us, we need to raise the children in our communities.  Indeed, we must do far better by them than has been done by us.

So how do I relate to our son when I have a very active religious life?  Some of the explanations we work with him on are helped along because we have taught our son how to interpret the Holy Powers’ messages, whether he has a reading done, asks Them to work with him through his intuition, or look for omens.  A good chunk of this work has been to encourage him to trust his intuition, to admit when his signal clarity is not where it needs to be, and to ask for help when he needs it.  He is encouraged to admit when he does not know.  We regularly talk on our religion, on the religious work I do, how it feels, and how it affects me.  I bring my son along when I do certain religious work, such as tending the graveyards I have been called to do, teaching him how to respectfully make offerings at the gate, to ask permission from the Dead before tending Their graves, and why we leave offerings of tobacco, or why I blow smoke on graves when I smoke a pipe as we clean.

The biggest link between all the religious work I do, and explaining it to our son, and in some cases involving our son, is the concept of Gebo: gift-for-a-gift.  Reciprocity.  That word opens up the larger world of animism and polytheism because it places us not at the center, but in relationships with all things, all Beings.  It is why we leave or make offerings to the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, landvaettir, housevaettir, and so on.  It is that recognition and/or fulfillment of reciprocity.  It is sometimes asking for help, which may be a form of reciprocity in and of itself.  Bringing our son to rituals, performing them with him, helping him develop as a polytheist, in and of itself is a form of reciprocity with our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, as it ensures that the religion, and the Gebo engendered between the Holy Powers and ourselves, and our communities does not die with us.  It allows us to pass on the maegen and hamingja of these relationships between our communities, and the generations that follow on with, and after us.

Helping our children develop their own understanding of the Gods, their intuition, and communication with Them is, to us, part and parcel of raising a child in a polytheist home.  It is the hope that when they raise their own family they will have a well-developed understanding of how to understand the Gods even if they never engage in ecstatic spiritual techniques or do trance work.  Sylverleaf, for instance, does not do much in the way of ecstatic work at all.  It is simply not a part of her religious life.  A simple divination technique she uses when she asks Frigga questions is to hold two of Her sacred keys in her hands, and the hand which is heavier is the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.  If there are more complex questions she may ask me to read the Runes.  If she needs to get answers from her Ancestors, she may work with an oracle deck dedicated to Them.  Having two very different parents in this regard gives our son more models of polytheist life to understand, recognize, and live himself.  Raising our children as polytheists, then, is more than simply teaching and explaining.  It is modeling good Gebo, and the ways we do things by actively living in relationship with our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.  We are living examples to our children.

What age should we bring our children into animism or polytheism?  It is my belief that it is never too early nor too late to begin a lived animist/polytheist life.  Regardless of our age or the age of our children, sharing our religion is an important bond that we share between our communities, our families, and our generations.  It is the lattice-work that makes a strong bridge between the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and one another.

In speaking with Sylverleaf on this, she has said it has been far harder for her to keep with regular prayers and offerings in contrast to me because she was raised in a largely non-religious household.  Lacking a background in any religion made it that much harder for her when she did find the Gods and became a Pagan, as she had no models to follow except those in books, and no community to speak of for quite a long time.  Living a religion does have a learning curve, and she hit this hard because until we met she did not have regular time for prayer, any rote prayers to draw upon, or regular times for making offerings.  In talking this over coffee and pancakes, it hit me that she was denied a lot of things that I took for granted in my religious studies as a child.  For one, pondering the nature of God was probably something very hard to tackle in a home that either did not think much on God or thought the subject of God was a non-starter where conversation was concerned.  I was able to talk with priests who were more than happy to answer whatever questions I threw at them, digging into the meat of theology with me and explaining as best they could their understanding of Scripture, the nature of God, and where we fit into the Catholic cosmology.  That grounding is absent when religion is not lived.  The hunger of curiosity cannot be sated when the entire subject of religion is off the table.  It also cannot be sated when the religious community one belongs to has a piss-poor grounding in its own theology, as she discovered her youth ministers had, during the short time she attended a church.  This is why our children need not only parents grounded in good relationships with their Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, but communities, and their leaders, priests, spiritual specialists, etc. need this too.  We cannot support the centers of our communities without them all doing the necessary work of living the religion.

The Jaguar and the Owl

I have been a co-host on The Jaguar and the Owl for the last year, but it did not occur to me that I had not been providing updates about it to my blog.

Introducing The Jaguar and the Owl:

This is a show and podcast about shamanism in it’s living form. We will explore it’s history, but also what it is like to be a shaman here and now. The challenges you will face, the advice and techniques that I and others use. Join me around the virtual sacred fire as I and other shaman talk about what the Spirits ask us to talk about. Are you the one the message is meant for?

We are on every other Tuesday on Para-x.com’s Live Broadcast at 8pm.  Our next broadcast is tomorrow, 9/29/2014 at 8pm.

Our most recent podcast is here, where we interviewed Galina Krasskova and talked on Ancestors and leadership in the communities we share.

 

 

The link to the Jaguar and the Owl WordPress is here, where you can download and share the archived episodes of the show.

The link to the iTunes podcast archives for the show are here.

Question 11: Life Skills and Being a Shaman Part 2

Continued from Part 1:

From Andrew:

I know in my own practice that increasingly my work has turned to mastering skills of various sorts: I’ve been building pop-up books and working on my sewing machine, practicing calligraphy and geometry, and doing a fair bit of graphic design; the carpentry/cabinetmaking is rarer, but it’s there. And lately I’ve been doing a lot of cooking. Sometimes the work is phenomenally dull, other times it’s deeply interesting — but then the artwork and the mental acuity that comes from artisanship kicks in when I’m working for someone else. I find I solve problems better, sort out potential solutions more quickly, and settle on one faster. So, the topic I’d suggest is… write a series of posts about how your shamanic practice informs other specific parts or your life, or how skills like cooking or driving inform your experience as a shaman?

Crafting, such as with woodworking, leatherworking, and pyrography, has given me different avenues for channeling aspects of my religious life.  Whether in devotional expression, talisman and amulet construction, bag-making, or constructing Runes Themselves and the bags to put Them in, crafting put my religious life and magic into my hands in a concrete way.  Drawing allows to make Rune mandalas to connect to the Runes and make magic with Them.  This, combined with woodburning has allowed for powerful talisman work.  The 30 Days of Magic Talisman Challenge I participated in has been one such working.  Something I have been rolling around in my head for a little while is making a Rune set, sets of healing Runes or healing Rune mandalas on Birch wood disks.  Making Rune sets in special wood, I find, also brings a powerful character to Rune working.  The material one works with adds a layer to the readings, or the Runework one does.

The woodcarving project I am working on what used to be a garden stake, and slowly working on it to make a small godpole for Odin.  This is a very rough outline, but the idea of His Face is here.

Odin Garden Stake Godpole -Rough

Something that a friend of mine taught me when she first showed me how to carve, is that “If you can do this in small details, it makes the bigger things that much easier.”  That is very true, and was more of a life lesson than I thought of at the time!  Woodworking projects are an ongoing exercise in patience, a virtue I do not have enough of.  This is also why the godpole is taking me forever to carve.  Each strip of wood slowly brings me closer to the icon of Him, and at some point I will need to tell myself, or better yet, hear from Him, “enough” or “this is good”.

With many of my projects I tend to go in starts and stops, especially when inspiration wallops me over the head.  This is true of my writing as much as it may be of my leatherwork or pyrography.  There are nights I will bang out a bunch of Rune mandalas on paper or make a woodburned project, and the next day I will get relatively little in terms of anything done.  There are other days where I can just cut leather and make a bunch of bags.  Sometimes there are dry spells where I have left my crafting tools alone for weeks.  During times likes these this blog may sit without a new article.  Sometimes I need help to get started again, like here with the questions.  Sometimes something pushes me to write or draw or craft otherwise, like a good song, an article, or when I follow a prompt.  This has taught me patience, and it has also taught me that it is okay to take my time.  To let things come out as they will rather than trying to force them.

When I try to force wood or leather to go in a particular direction without paying attention to where the material is trying to lead me is where I make the majority of my mistakes.  That comes with listening not only to where I am, but where the project is, and assessing what I can really do in a given moment.  Sometimes when I am inspired, I have worked on Odin’s godpole for 6 or so hours without really realizing it.  The next time I sit down to work on it, I may be at it for half an hour.  Learning to be okay with that has helped me with my shamanic work; there is no need to do it all at once, but knowing when to put the gas on and when to coast used to be a deep struggle for me.  I liked to go, go! go! not that long ago  I am much more at ease now than I was then to coast, or to let the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir guide me.  Part of that is letting my desire to control go, whether it is a particular project or spiritual work.  Trying to control too much is stifling, and actually can make things take even longer.  Especially in pyrography, not working with the material can destroy all of my hard work.  There are more than a few projects where I was burning leather where I got impatient and tried to do too much too quick.  The edges ended up blackening, and in one case where I was crafting a spell all the way around the perimeter of the leather first, it ruined the uniformity I was going for with the piece.  I had worked on the piece for about four or so hours, and had to start all over again.  I had to step away; I was too angry and devastated to start again right there.  I needed time to calm down and come at things fresh.  When I had, going through all the steps of cleansing and readying myself for the Rune work, it took me awhile to burn, but I did eventually get it done.

Crafting teaches not only skill and technique of the craft in question, but patience, perseverance, and discipline.  Without these things even a sketch is just a few lines on paper.  Letting go of the need for something to look ‘just right’ taught me to apply this patience and understanding in my shamanic practice as well.  In appreciating what I did have.  Even if my work looks nothing like how I believe it should look.

 

 

Question 11: Life Skills and Being a Shaman Part 1

From Andrew:

I know in my own practice that increasingly my work has turned to mastering skills of various sorts: I’ve been building pop-up books and working on my sewing machine, practicing calligraphy and geometry, and doing a fair bit of graphic design; the carpentry/cabinetmaking is rarer, but it’s there. And lately I’ve been doing a lot of cooking. Sometimes the work is phenomenally dull, other times it’s deeply interesting — but then the artwork and the mental acuity that comes from artisanship kicks in when I’m working for someone else. I find I solve problems better, sort out potential solutions more quickly, and settle on one faster. So, the topic I’d suggest is… write a series of posts about how your shamanic practice informs other specific parts or your life, or how skills like cooking or driving inform your experience as a shaman?

First off, thank you Andrew.  This is a great question.

There are skills I have connected back to and brought into my religious life, like cooking, woodworking, leatherworking, pyrography, and drawing.  There are others which were part of it to begin with, such as raising my son, teaching, listening, and divining.  Where I saw raising my son as part of my duties not only as a parent, but especially as a Northern Tradition Pagan, shaman, and priest, I had to work a little bit to bring cooking into my religious life.

I am not a great cook.  When I first went off to college and lived in a dorm I managed to burn ramen quite well.  I have learned a bit since then.  I at least don’t set food on fire much anymore, and can make something halfway decent when I have good instructions and stay on target.  I was looking around at one point last year for recipes to connect with my Ancestors.  I had not made a full-on meal on Their behalf, and wanted to have a go at a recipe from on the places my blood relatives came from.

So I looked around online for traditional German recipes.  That was when I found a potato leek soup with mushroom recipe.  I wanted to pair it with something else, but by the time I got around to cooking it, it seemed it would be enough on its own.

Here is what it looked like step-by-step:

Step 1 Potato Leek Soup with MushroomStep 2 Potato Leek Soup with MushroomStep 3 Potato Leek Soup with MushroomStep 4 Potato Leek Soup

When it was finished I took some of the soup out to the tree outside to share with the Ancestors.  Doing this not only put a good recipe into my hands and a good offering before the Ancestors.  Cooking pushed me to connect to my Ancestors in a very straightforward and simple way.  This process of cooking for my Ancestors also taught me something else: don’t forget one group of Ancestors or favor Them so strongly above one another.  I had done so much research looking for a recipe for my German Ancestors that I neglected my French Ancestors. They got my attention and let me know in no uncertain terms They were not pleased with this.  Mercifully, They were pleased and much happier when I made Them an omelette using the same kind of mushrooms as I had for the leek soup above.  I thought perhaps I needed to make a more complex dish, like on the order of the leek soup, but sometimes the Ancestors just want a simple staple that They would have had in life.

This life skill is a powerful way of connecting to our Ancestors, and the Dead in general.  Family cookbooks and recipes are, to me, precious heirlooms we pass on to our loved ones whether we have children or not.  It is one more link in the chain between one’s family members and its descendants, and can be as strong as family stories, genealogy, and history.  Above and beyond being a necessary life skill, one which I am grateful my Ancestors have pushed me to cultivate, cooking is a powerful way of keeping the connections with Them alive for all of those who come to our table.

To be continued in part 2.

Question 8: Balancing

This is the last of the Questions I have in my queue; if you or anyone you know has a question just let me know and I’ll do my best to answer it.  Thank you Dreaming in Smoke and Fire, James Two Snakes, and Lokisbruid for contributing questions!

From Dreaming in Smoke and Fire:

How do you balance being priests of Gods of two widely different pantheons?

It is interesting at times how this works out.  While I was Anubis’ priest first, Odin takes precedence.  Anubis led me to Odin when I had my eyes and ears tight shut regarding the Norse/Germanic Gods.  I was very happy being a priest of Anubis, a ceremonial magician, and helper to the Lost Dead.  Worshiping the Norse really hadn’t come into my head until Anubis drug me over to Odin, said “You’re following Him and we will be in touch” and away He went.  That was about four years ago.

This does not mean that Anubis has totally left my life, that His priesthood is unimportant, or that I have stopped worshiping Him.  Quite the contrary.  I do still work with the Dead, but much closer with Them than what I did while working under Anubis.  When I was working with Him I kept the Dead as best I could at arms length.  I cannot do that anymore.  I am very connected to my Ancestors now, much more so than when I was Anubis’ priest full time, and my Work now includes not just the general Dead and the Lost Dead; it also includes the Military Dead.

Most of the way I balance working with these Gods is that I am careful in my ethics.  Given I am Northern Tradition I tend towards those ethics and values, most of which in some way, shape, or form mesh with the Kemetic ones.  I do my best to follow the Negative Confession, reading it every night and reflecting upon it whenever I am able.  It has proven a good guide for me.  An area I struggle with is “cursing another in thought, word, or deed” as I see this to mean magically cursing a person as well as saying things like “I hope that person fucking crashes” when I get cut off in traffic because words take on power.  To speak and write is to engage heka.  So I make effort to avoid speaking ill, literally or figuratively, of people, places, and things.  To speak is to engage my önd.  Much of the ethics I approached Anubis with translated well into my Work with Odin.

Anubis has given me many blessings in the time I have been His priest, going on six years.  I still pray and give offerings to Him, and He has a place of honor among the Gods on my Gods’ altar.  I still carry a brass wand my former teachers helped me put together in service to Him, and it comes with me when I work with the Lost Dead, or to help direct the Dead where they need to go.  Anubis has been the Opener of Ways not just in my Work with the Dead, but in my life in general.  When things were hard He opened doors for me, though sometimes I refused to walk through them.  Four years ago He opened the door to Odin, and in that alone He has given me no small measure of blessing.  He has never left me, despite my intense Work with Odin and He remains a patient, powerful force in my life.

As far as balancing relationships between these two Gods go, as I wrote in my Question 5 post, being owned by Odin as I am, He is first and foremost above all others.  My Work is with Odin, primarily, and as Anubis desires things, whether it is my attention, Work to be done, or certain offerings, He makes it known to me.  He and Odin have an understanding in this regard.  The balance in my life is inherently skewed toward Odin, but much of my Work with the Dead dovetails nicely with where my Work with Anubis has been, and is evolving.  Anubis introduced me to Working with the Dead, setting boundaries, and giving me hard lessons in that sometimes there is nothing I can do for another as a priest, for the Dead or the Living.  Odin took me into working with my Ancestors and the Military Dead.

In Their own ways Anubis and Odin keep me in Their balance.  Being in that balance requires me to listen, above all else, to Them and those They point me to, and where I am called to act or speak, to do so.  The Work I do with the Dead is Their Work.  Sometimes it is to clean graves for the Dead, sometimes it is to speak prayers, and other times it is to sit while a long-Dead spirit talks about hir trouble in moving on.  Other times it may be to speak to someone’s descendant or to deliver a message.  Sometimes it requires I stop everything I am doing to help bury a forgotten pet.  Whatever the Gods need of me, it is my job to be available for that work as a priest.  The balance I find between these Gods is in the service I give to Them.

Hail Odin and Anubis!

Question 7: Symbols, Sacrifice, and Significance

From Dreaming in Smoke and Fire:

What do you think is the symbolism/significance of Odin giving an eye to the Well of Mimir as opposed to some other sacrifice?
– Do you think this may or may not have affected his decisions and the potential outcome of Ragnarok?
– Does this affect your enjoyment of pina coladas?

I can see Dreaming is on a pina coladas kick, but the quick answer is no, it does not affect my enjoyment of them.  I mean, it might if I had enough, but I’m sure enough pina coladas and anyone’s enjoyment would be affected by the potential outcome of Ragnarok.  Don’t mix thinking about Ragnarok with alcohol.  Bad things ensue, I am sure.

The significance of Odin giving His eye to the Well, to Mimir, is that He is willing to do anything to ensure He has the power, coming from wisdom, to achieve His ends.  Truth be told, all of the sacrifices Odin makes, from His offering His eye to Mimir, to His Hanging on Yggdrasil, to His hanging between two fires as described in the Grimnismal, to sacrificing the solid ground His gender may have stood on to learn seidr (and I think spá) with Freya, His sacrifices are to give Him the power and ability to do what He knows must be done.  No less than Loki’s many gifts, are Odin’s many gifts needed to see all the Gods, Aesir, Vanir, and Jotun, through the hard times.  No less than Thor’s might, Freyr’s prowess or Skadi’s skill are Odin’s gifts needed to see through the hard times.  He goes through pain and torture to attain His goals, and in my experience, and the experience of others who hail Him and follow Him close, He asks much the same of us.

That He gives half of His vision to lay in the Waters of Wisdom is indeed rife with significance and symbolism.  One eye to see in the Worlds as it presents itself, another to see in Wisdom.  He sees all without from His throne, Hlidskjalf and hears all from His Ravens, Hunin and Munin.  His drinking from Mimir’s Well, His sacrifice to Mimir is indicative of the lengths He is willing to go to achieve Wisdom, and alongside it, the Power to do what is best and, more important, necessary for the survival of Gods, and the Beings of the Nine Worlds.

Keep in mind He came to Jotunheim at that time leaving everything, from Sleipnir to His spear, His helmet and armor, aside.  He then riddles with Vafþrúðnir, betting His head against the wisest of Jotun to find Mimir’s requested sacrifice in the first place.  As Vafþrúðnir tells Odin, no one has yet to make that sacrifice.  He has to lay one of His two eyes in the Well of the wisest of all Beings.  So He drank from Mimir’s well and saw the future.  More importantly, He saw why things happened as they did.  Whether one sees Odin as actually still seeing through His given eye or it merely being there as a symbol of His sacrifice in the Well, He gave what no other would for Wisdom.  It is a piercing Wisdom that see through veils and bullshit, that cuts away the dross and lays bare the truth as it is.

The symbolism of Him sacrificing His eye, His full vision, is very different from, say, Tyr’s sacrifice of His right hand.  If the eyes are indeed windows to the soul, and given we see the liche (body) as part of the soul, then Odin’s sacrifice of His eye has powerful symbolism.  He has given a window to His soul, a way for Him to see the Worlds around Him for insight and Wisdom.  Tyr sacrificed His oathing hand to bind Fenrir; the symbolism is far different, but no less poignant.  Where Tyr bound a danger to all the Worlds (and particularly Odin), Odin unleashed Wisdom, seeking ways to avert annihilation.  If nothing else, Tyr’s sacrifice gives Odin the time to gain that Wisdom, to gather the forces, to do what is necessary to avoid the demise of everything.  Neither one is a failure; both are needed for the Worlds to be remade at Ragnarok, and both are said to die during the event.  They both give Their all to help the threads of Wyrd continue.  Both do as Their Wyrd requires, and the Worlds live on.

So for me Odin’s sacrifice of His eye indicates the lengths He is willing to go, the dedication to a course of action, the strength He employs that action with, and the reward such action brings.  There is Gebo, despite the pain He goes through to gain that Wisdom, and the pain the Wisdom itself brings.  That reward for His pain allows Him to do the necessary Work at hand, giving Him the ability to see that everything that must be done through to the end is, in its own time, done.

Question 1: Priest and Godatheow

From Dreaming in Smoke and Fire:

How did you reconcile your transition with Odin from priest to godatheow?
– How has this changed your outlook on spirituality?

For me there was no transition from being Odin’s priest to godatheow; I am still His priest, and I am His godatheow.  I am His priest.  I am here to do His Work for others, as an intercessor, one who blesses, and helps those who seek Him as best as I can, among whatever else He gives me in that role, i.e. officiating rituals for Him/His people/followers.  There are sometimes great lulls in this Work, as there have been with Anubis, and sometimes there’s a great flurry of activity where people wanting to connect to Him, or to the Norse/Germanic Gods in general all come at once.  It is kind of haphazard, and I’m not quite sure one moment to the next where the Work will come from or where it will take me.  I just try to be ready as best I can, and to be honest when I hit my limit on being able to help someone, and point them in a direction to go before they go their own way.

Becoming a godatheow meant a lot of things that I had taken for granted were locked down.  I do not do magic, I do not do divination, I do not horse.  This is why my entire ‘Shamanic Services section is shut down.  While being godatheow to Odin took away these things, at least for the time being, doing this has instilled in me, through my work with my teacher and following Him closer, discipline, clarity, and a better sense of who I am, what I am doing, and especially important for me, boundaries.  So, while I am leashed it has given me a deep amount of freedom.  The collar may never come off, but as it was put to me, the best dog you can have is one that does not need the leash, but will do as is needed and come back to your side.

For the years before I became a godatheow it was this thing that other people did, something that would not happen to me.  I saw how demanding it was, and I really did not want that.  I felt I had enough on my plate.  When things in my life came to a crashing halt, and there He was holding the leash, I felt betrayed.  Why would He not have told me?  Why?

I was full of anger and despair, because when it happened to me I felt as though I had handed over my whole life to Him, and none of my dreams, hopes, or anything would matter.  It was true.  My dreams, hopes, and aspirations do not matter compared to what He has for me to do.  Handing over my life to Him is the best thing I have done.  I have clarity, I am happy, I have purpose, and I am a better father, priest, shaman, lover, spouse, and person than I have ever been.  While I say my dreams, hopes, etc. do not matter, it is not that they are unimportant per se, but that they are subsumed beneath what He prioritizes in my life.  Some of my priorities dovetail with His quite nicely, and those that do not but are not a hindrance to my Work He has, thus far, let alone.  My life, and everything I am is His.  Even now those words do give a fear to me, a kind of holy terror, knowing that He could call on me to leave everything I have behind and I would do it because He told me to.  It is not normal, but that kind of devotion to a God is not normal in this country.  Here, devotion to a God is going to church on the weekends and mouthing prayers while still doing throughout the week what is abhorrent to that God.  It is not, whatever they may mouth, taking up their cross and following Him.  The whole of this country would change quite a bit if they did.  Our Pagan communities might be very different if we followed our Gods to where They would lead us.

My outlook on spirituality, from what is ‘normal’ to what is ‘right’ has changed drastically.  Normal is a term that is often used to cage or assuage, rather than do the Work before us.  It is not ‘normal’ for a person to do prayers before meals, bedtime, a storm, an interview, or just because we want to connect and/or honor the Holy Powers.  It is not ‘normal’ for a person to dedicate themselves to a God or Goddess so fully that they would follow Them wherever They led.  Yet this is normal for me.  It is not disruptive to my life, but adds to its fullness.  Sure, it was disruptive at first and I had a lot of anxiety over it.  It was not so disruptive that I stopped going to school or seeing my son; if anything, it brought me closer to him, and in doing so, him deeper into my religion, and is a source of hope, comfort, and joy in his life.

What is ‘right’, as I mentioned above, has also changed for me.  ‘Right’ is really what gets the job done, and for my qualifier, with as little pain to myself and others as possible.  Yet it always comes back to the good old standby of “What does it do?  How well does it do it?”  If something is a roadblock to my journey, rather than hitting that roadblock over and over again in some stubborn attempt to just muscle through it, wasting my and Odin’s time, I find alternate routes.

I do not worry, for instance, about if chakras are based in the lore.  They are not, and I know that.  Yet they are a good shorthand for the concept, a kind of lingua franca of the occultist, Pagan, and associated communities.  It is far easier to say “I see a block in your solar plexus chakra originating in your crown chakra” than to go through an exhaustive explanation of “Your vili is in conflict with your godhi” and what that means, how it is manifesting, etc.  That is not to say at times that I should not give the full explanation, but if the idea is to clearly and concisely communicate an idea without the amount of explanation it would take for the meaning to ‘stick’ with the person, well, chakra-talk works.  Sure, nuance might be lost, but that’s the way of having a common language.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes you need to walk a person through precisely what you mean.

What is ‘right’ has also change in terms of morality.  When I first became a Pagan I was a non-denominational Wiccan following Brighid because that is Who my girlfriend, who originally introduced me to this working group, followed.  It has been a powerful relationship, one that I am very grateful for.  Yet ‘right’ at this point was the Threefold Law and rules familiar to most people, so I won’t go into it here.

‘Right’ for me, morally speaking, is more in line with Gebo: gift-for-a-gift.  I’ve heard the old saw ‘eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind’.  This is true, to an extent.  There are legends of families whose blood feuds raged on for centuries because one party or another had murdered and not paid the weregild.  Yet, ‘eye for an eye’ need not always be a negative; sometimes that eye is a necessary sacrifice for wisdom, for knowing, for peace.  Gebo is more than just reaction for reaction.  Gebo is also weighing the circumstances that an action takes, what the potential blowback is on a decision.  Sometime the correct action to take is reactive.  Sometimes it is to sit and ponder until the solution or the right idea comes to you that will resolve a situation for all parties.  Sometimes the decision is simply unfair for one party, and that party will need to deal with the disappointment, anger, etc.  In the end my baseline is reciprocity, and the reciprocity extends to all relationships, including ones with people I do not care for.  Do no harm is not part of that morality, but do the least amount of harm necessary to achieve an end would probably be the closest, philosophically speaking.

‘Right’ has also meant looking at all of my relationships and really going about categorizing and prioritizing.  There are some Gods I pray to for the blessings They have given, Who are no longer at the forefront of my life.  There are some Gods I have active Work with that are more toward the front.  At the front of it all is Odin.  In right relationship with my Gods, I had to put myself and my practice in order to better align with my God’s needs and demands of me, and it has rippled down my relationships with my Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.  I am better aligned and in tune with my Ancestors than I have ever been, and accordingly, with others’, because Odin has pushed me to do that.  The same with working with the Military Dead, which would not have happened with Odin’s, and along with that, my teacher’s influence.  Right relationship, whether giving the correct offerings, doing the daily prayers, and/or doing for others in the community, among a great deal of other things, is the core of what ‘right’ is now.  There is much more insistence on right relationship now, especially because Odin has my ear more attuned than when I was just His priest.  If I am not aligned with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits that I serve, what good am I as a priest, a shaman, or godatheow?  Especially to Odin, as a godatheow?

As for my outlook on spirituality, I feel the word has become deeply diluted.  Nowadays people use it in the context of “I’m spiritual, not religious” which is one of the goofiest fucking phrases I have ever heard.  Some of the definitions for spiritual, according Merriam-Webster, are: “of or relating to sacred matters” “concerned with religious values”.  If your spirituality, that is, your experience of a religion or a religious figure is not anchored to its religious foundation, what, precisely, are you experiencing?

I think that experiencing the Gods is entirely possible removed from its religious foundations.  I have watched a Deist experience not the undifferentiated Whole he had thought was, but a singular God come down and speak to him.  They can rock our foundations no matter denomination, outlook, etc.  Yet he had no bedrock on which to place the experience.  There was no way for him to get his bearings because his religious upbringing did not even have a lexicon for what was taking place.  So spiritual experience removed from religious foundations are often confusing, taking longer time to process, to understand, to apply.  It is far easier to work off a foundation of some kind than to build it up from nothing.  It is also far easier to avoid taboos, missteps, and so on if you work from a more solid foundation.

Spirituality as a word and concept in the modern world is of limited use.  Much the same as the word Pagan, it requires that a person delve into the word to explain its meaning to them, which has its uses too.  It pushes for dialogue, in many cases.  Yet, when used as a shorthand, such as “I am a spiritual person” I say as an animist/polytheist “No shit, so’s the rock.”  It communicates a narrow band of information that becomes less useful the more it become removed from its place with religion.  I once looked at the word as very useful, but over time I have found it to be less so.  Better to speak with concrete words than undifferentiated sand; the former serves better as a foundation than the other.

Some of the main differences between my life as just a priest of Odin and now, as both His priest and godatheow, is that I have more responsibilities, more opportunities to help those He points out to me, and to do more with Him.  I am restricted but I am more free, denied more of my free will, perhaps, but pointed in more directions which will be in line with His Work, and, I have found, helps others.  I have had to do a lot of self-work as part of this Work, because if I am not clear, clean, and understanding of where I am and how I am, my usefulness as a priest, shaman, and godatheow to Him diminishes.  In this I am clearer in mind, spirit, and understanding of Him, and accordingly, the other Gods I serve, because He has pushed me to be this way.  Heck, I am even better in terms of my body, working out, eating better, and so on than I have ever been before in no small part due to His insistence that I care for myself so I can better do His Work!

I am closer to Him than I have ever been, and it has brought a kind of peace to my life I have not otherwise found, a purpose that is far clearer and more defined than I had known, and right relationship with Him, who has given me many, many blessings.  I am better for it as both His priest and godatheow, doing His Work, than I was meandering about without His guidance.  The Work has brought me closer to Him, and the closer I come, the more I find that Him holding the leash on my life, on me, is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.