Patron Topic 57: On Spirit World Politics Part 2

In Part 1 we went over some of the basic ways that politics interact and intersect with the spirit world. Now, I would like to explore the Spirit World and politics from my perpective as a spiritworker.

Political Implications of Spirit Travel

Humans are, in a very real sense, spiritual Beings. We have a Soul Matrix and a way that expresses and exists here. It is not unreasonable for us to understand that other vaettir also have a Soul Matrix, however close it does or does not match our own. This adds a very interesting spiritual-political dimension to travels we may make to other Worlds. The one that I am thinking of here namely being that we can have some form of what could be termed material impact on Them just as They may us here in Miðgarðr.

If we understand other vaettir as being able to have interaction and impact on us in our World then we, as visitors to other Worlds, can have impact on vaettir in other Worlds in no less wise a way. This makes spiritual tourism as a concept even more fraught with danger because we have the ability to harm and help in Worlds other than our own. Certainly, if we accept that various vaettir can cause help and harm in our own Worlds it follows we can have similar impact on Them in Their own Worlds even if it follows on different lines than we may expect. Anger the Álfar and you may receive elfshot. It occurs to me, especially having recently visited Álfheim, to wonder if there are similar stories about us humans who visit the Álfar there.

If we can have this impact then how we arrive to a given World matters. Since our souls can take flight, and depending on your understanding of the Soul Matrix, this can happen in sleep as well as with determined effort eg journeying, or hamfara (journeying forth in one’s hamr) it is not something limited to just spiritworkers. However, I think what marks the difference here is expertise. A competent heimrgangr, spiritworker or not, will journey with intent to where they wish to go. Most folks who wander around the Worlds in their sleep do not do it with any effort, it just happens.

My general advice to folks looking to do spirit travelling is to first have at least one or two competencies in divination systems down. This means being able to do these divination systems for yourself without worrying you are messing with the results of the reading. The divination itself can be simple, such as a special coin you flip or dice, three stones assigned as Yes/No/Indicator, tarot or an oracle card set, the Runes, or some sort of sortilege. I favor systems where randomization is built into the answer, rather than something relying utterly on your translation, such as with scrying in fire or a pendulum. While these can be useful tools, I find for my own work I need that random factor to reassure that I am getting good and accurate responses from the tools, and not get in the way of them. These divination methods serve as helpmeets in communication and interpretation. As examples, divination can help you see in clear terms if a request to enter a World has been accepted, help you understand a message that you cannot interpret at the time of a journey, or can be used to see if an offering idea would be good, and whether an offering was received well or not.

We need to be able to travel to and return in ways that do not harm ourselves or the places or people we wish to visit. We need to be able to communicate, or at the very least able to effectively and accurately interpret our interactions. We need to understand how we take in and interpret spiritual information, and be able to assess it. Why? If we understand that our impacts on other Worlds carries real benefits and harm not only to ourselves, but to the Beings of those Worlds and the Worlds Themselves, we have a responsibility to be competent in our traveling and in how we conduct ourselves. If we understand that there are political dimensions to these interactions then it should underpin the importance of being able to do these things well.

I generally advise anyone looking to do spiritual travel to be sure that, whatever your destination, to get the consent of the Beings of that World to enter. On the one hand, it is plain rude to show up unannounced when there are means to send a request to enter and get a clear response. On the other hand, it is disrespectful of the sovereignty of the various Beings if you gatecrash Their home. I am working with the Nine Worlds model in Nordic Heathenry. Most any World I can think of has at least one, if not many Gods, who call it home it in some way. Many of these Gods rule the Worlds we would visit. It’s hardly in my best interest to offend those Gods. Then there are the various vaettir who will likely be as displeased to find an invader in Their midst.

It is worth noting that our cultural and ethical frameworks may not be compatible with the Beings of the places we are seeking to interact with. A given Jötun in Jötunheim is probably not going to have my political outlook, and what is rude in a given context with Them is likely to differ from that of an Álfar in Álfheim. Likewise, that same Jötun may not share Angrbóða’s cultural or ethical frameworks. If we treat the Beings in other Worlds as Beings unto Themselves then we need to acknowledge that They will likely differ from us and each other in many ways. Then again, you may find that many of Them hold to some of the same views as we do. Ideally, you ask questions before you set out so you know as much as you can. Either way, if you are able to visit, ask questions.

A lot of these points may seem obvious, except I have seen folks stereotype all Jötnar as beastial or out of control, and Álfar as aloof and completely alien. To be sure, some Jötnar I have the pleasure of knowing are more beastial and some Álfar are aloof. I do find some Álfar completely alien. Some of those same Jötnar are also some of the wisest and most powerful Beings in the Nine Worlds. Those Álfar likely have damned good reasons for being aloof.

As relationships develop with Ginnreginn the varying bonds of politics we can experience between Them and the various Worlds can begin to pull and tug on one another. As an Odinsson I can feel this pretty keenly. There are some relationships that will be limited or simply never form due to being who I am to Óðinn and vice versa. Those might be open to others. Then again, I have had doors open that may not have otherwise, or not in the ways that they did, because of Óðinn and I’s relationship. This is part of why I advise Heathens, especially those wanting to get into spiritwork, do so with their Ancestors being among the first Ginnreginn that they develop relationships with. The Ancestors have a vested interest in you doing well and keeping safe. Most of your Ancestors are likely to remember being alive, and collectively have generations worth of experiences to tap. As many of your Ancestors may have pissed off a random Álfar, They may also have had good relationships with others. They can be a great source of contacts, influence, power, and wisdom. You are likely not the only spiritworker in your Ancestors, and tapping into these Ancestors can be especially potent in bringing your own spiritwork along.

We live here in Miðgarðr. We are visiting there. Even if the framework for what constitutes a good guest differs, it is still on us to put our best foot foward as a good guest

Magic in Other Worlds

When it come to magic in other worlds, all the ethical considerations I have covered in previous posts, namely Ethics in Animism and Polytheism Part 1 and Part 2, and On the Ethical Use of Magic can apply here. The long story here is that we are ultimately responsible for what our magic does in other Worlds whether or not it does what we intend.

An aspect of using magic in other Worlds few think about is that we can do it at all. Think about the many effects magic has the potential to enact in our world. Now, apply this thought to the Worlds of other Beings. When we read stories of elfshot for those who angered the Álfar, we can clearly see these Beings from another World can affect us in our own. Are there similar stories of humans in Álfheimr? To deny the possibility that we can have similar effects, among many, seems to place us lower than other kinds of vaettir. It makes the point that we are less magical, spiritual, or capable of committing harm or help. I find this notion false.

Rather, I think the opposite is true for folks who have any modicum of skill in hamfara, or magic in general. If we understand magic as the affecting of Urðr to achieve an end, then a given magician or spiritworker can present even more of a threat to themselves and others. If we understand a part of our Soul Matrix, eg the hamr, has the ability to get up and go walking about in other Worlds while our lyke (body) is asleep, then even if, say 10% of the estimated 7.8 billion person population of humanity did so, that would be about 780 million people. If only 10% of this estimate can effectively do spiritwork and/or magic then that still leaves 78 million people. That is not a small number.

When we apply this understanding to other Worlds, then, an intentional journey to another World is not a small thing even when the mechanism for the journey itself may be relatively simple. If magic can and does affect the patterns of Urðr, then its effective application can do active and ongoing harm or good, just as when other Being apply Their magic to us or our surroundings here in Miðgarðr. How does this aspect of the use of magic play into spiritual politics?

In a number of ways. For myself, the reputation the Álfar carried with Their use of magic and overall demeanor that I saw in the sources made it so I wanted as little contact with Them as possible. For a lot of folks, they carry this same idea with regard to the Jötnar. The very way we form relationships with vaettir, then, can be informed by how we, or our fellows, undertand and use magic.

The way we use magic can have an impact on how things come around politically. For instance, we have the varieties of seiðr. One of the things I understand that differentiates seiðr from other forms of magic is that seiðr works with vaettir to get things done. So, what vaettir are you working with to get the thing done? What are you having Them do? Are you asking Them at all, or have you enticed Them with a song and now you’ve roped Them into doing things for you? If you primarily work with landvaettir in your seiðr here in Miðgarðr, what do you do in other Worlds if you work seiðr there? How you interact and treat these vaettir can (and I would argue likely will) have direct impact on whether or not vaettir from other Worlds will want to treat with you.

There is a similarity between armchair occultists and 2nd Amendment fans here in the United States. Both are not very likely to have actually done their homework, and both talk a good game without actually engaging with the topic they will very loudly ‘debate me bro’ about. America’s total gun ownership rests around 37-40% if the Gallup polls are any accurate indication, though that number includes those who “own or live with someone who owns a gun”. Gun ownership, though, is one thing. Competency in their use is quite another. See also armchair occultists vs operant magicians.

When you first learn to shoot you do it with targets. Targets that are not shooting back, and that, so long as you are actually practicing safety with your weapon, you are not going to hurt yourself or anyone else. You learn discipline with the weapon and its use, how to take the thing apart, clean it, and how to put it all back together safely. Training for scenarios and the like come later once you have developed core competencies with the weapon. This bare minimum for weapons is similar for anyone who wants to use magic. Cleansing, grounding, centering, shielding, warding, and being able to do divination and some basic forms of magic for safe spiritual journeying. You need to be able to competently and effectively use this tool at hand with a minimum of damage to yourself and others.

All of this is not to say “Don’t use magic!”. Rather, it is to really push folks to think through what magic they use and how they do it. It is a push for folks to think through how magic and its uses can affect the relationships they hold, and to weigh the political consequences of their actions. It is to consider that your actions have political dimension, especially when you are journeying to and/or are affecting other Worlds. Since magic is a form of power through affecting Urðr, and doing magic in others Worlds can have consequences deep consequences, it is another way through which we express ourselves, and our political allegiances. We cannot detach magic and its use from ourselves as though it is not real. After all, magic requires many parts of the Soul Matrix to be done. If you’re going to commit so much of yourself to doing somthing that can have such profound consequences, it seems to me it is worth doing well and with forethought.

Relationships Found and Formed

Here is where the metal meets the meat for animists and polytheists alike, whether or not we are spiritworkers. Relationships are at the core of both these theological worldviews. How I relate to the World around me has direct impact on how I act, function, and relate to every other thing. If I understand myself as being enmeshed in a web of relationships my outlook and actions are understood and expressed fundamentally differently than if I believe I am a cog in a machine. If I understand the Earth, Jörð as a Goddess, Who Herself is and contains vast, interrelated vaettir, that is a far cry different from understanding the Earth as a machine needing to be balanced. If we understand ourselves as existing in relationships, then ‘pantheons’ as locked-down relationships taking place only within a single culture are flawed models for understanding our place in things, and especially our Gods. Even a cursory look at ancient animisms and polytheisms shows that they interrelated with one another in myriad ways, and personal relationships with Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir had the potential for immense variety even within a given culture.

Much of this post has been about relationships in the abstract, or in relation to how we use power. This is about the relationships we intentionally make or that are made with us. The Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir we make relationships with have impact on the relationships we hold, or can hold. Some relationships we hold, such as with our blood Ancestors, are a result of how Urðr shakes out as our órlög when we are born. The spiritual relationships we make as adults are, predominantly, choices -yes, including if a God comes along and takes you up.

We develop the means to meaning through relationships. For the most part we worship our Gods because we relate to Them in concrete ways. ‘God of’ as a primary model of understanding our Gods is flawed, as it is often used to box our Gods into standardized meaning and relationships. However, many of the Gods we have a cursory relationship with fall into this understanding. A person who holds no direct relationship with Þórr may only relate to Him as a God of lightning, thunder, and rains. Another person may hold a mentor/mentee relationship with Him. Even for those who have such a relationship may still hail Him as a God of storms when a storm comes their way. What matters here is the ‘God of’ model is not the only way we relate to the Gods. It is not the whole of Them. We also relate to our Gods through Their relationships with one another, eg someone who has a direct relationship with Óðinn may relate to Þórr as a God of storms and also as a Son of Óðinn, Jörð, and Frigg.

Relating to our Gods without the notion of a pantheon binding Them does not mean their myths are not relevant to understanding Them. They still exist in relationship with one another, whether that is as rivals, relatives, or some other way. Myths are a way to understand these relationships, and how we may relate to Them in kind. The binding idea as animists and polytheists in understanding myths and our Ginnreginn is relationality.

I wrote in Part 1 that “This is not to say we need to like, befriend, or worship every God to have good relationships with those in our hearths. You do not have to like or worship Óðinn to worship Frigg or Þórr. Respect, though, is important. We gain nothing by disrespecting the Ginnreginn, especially ones Who are close to those we worship.” By engaging in certain relationships we may leave others out of our lives. There is a closeness with Óðinn I have that I will not have with Fenris. My allegiances being what they are, I have forgone relationships with some Gods, such as An Mórrígan, because what They could ask of me is more than what I could give. Part of respecting the Gods is understanding where our own limits lie in Who we have time to give to. Part of respecting the Gods is knowing whether or not we would be out of our depth with Them in a working relationship, and to respect ourselves enough to not to try to take on more than is good for us.

On Spiritworkers

A spiritworker is what it says on the tin: someone who does work with and for the spirits. It may be someone who divines, does magic, heals, helps facilitate contact, does spiritual consultation, or does all these things and more. What it is, at the end of the day, is a job title. It says nothing of the individual view, expertise, or experience to be expected until and unless a given community develops those baselines.

Part of why I use the term is because it effectively captures the idea of what I am and do. It does this without appropriating the word shaman. I used to use the word to describe myself, and I no longer do. Shaman is a term that, on the one hand has become so divorced from its roots in modern Pagan, animist, and polytheist communities while being marketed so heavily on the other that it has largely lost its utility as a word. It is important to note, though, that spiritworker is being used not to imply that we are shamans, but because that word does not apply to us in the first place. There are layers of cultural meaning that has built up around that word, from its original people, from academia, New Age spirituality, and our own communities that do not convey what we do. What had been a useful word has been both stripped and overloaded with meaning. Even if that word, with all its baggage, was useful as a ‘handle’ word to carry meaning, it no longer does.

Spiritworkers may hold different roles in the communities they are part of. Some may be part of formal organizations, and others serving only a community of Ginnreginn that has called them to service. Some may serve in leadership roles, while others only serve in support capacities. Some hold formal community roles which may or may not include their job as spiritworkers. It may be worth our while as members of distinct communities to use spiritworker as a term alongside more specific ones, such as vaettirverkr, Runeworker, erilaz, seiðmaðr, and spámaðr which point to communities we serve, specialties, training, expertise, and the like.

On the Politics of Being Spiritworkers

This brings us right to the politics of being spiritworkers. We are not neutral actors, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous both to ourselves and Those we serve. Each of us are aligned with Someone, and generally that Someone, or group of Someones, are the Ginnreginn we are closest to, work with, and/or serve. It is worth remembering when getting a reading from a spiritworker you are not just getting information from them, you are also getting information filtered through them from their Ginnreginn.

When folks get a Rune reading from me that means at least 24 individual vaettir are potentially adding Their voices to the reading, whatever the question or issue. That is not including any of the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir on my end, or the querant’s for that matter, that would like to chime in on a given topic. It is part of why, when folks ask questions like “Should I do such and such a thing” or “Is this good for me?” I ask them Who they are asking. This is especially imporant with ‘should’ or direction-based questions. If you leave the question to the Runes you’re going to get an answer based on Them much more than if you asked, say, Freyja. The Runes will effectively communicate Her response, but if you do not ask Her, you get Their answer(s). Given I approach tarot as a single vaettr with a lot of pieces, it is a similar deal when I read the tarot.

This means that there really is not such a thing like impartiality to a spiritual consultation. Those I consult for have political interests, as much as their own Ginnreginn will in and for them, and the connections They have. Part of my job can be to tease those out if they come up in the reading, to figure out Who is present, and how They are affecting the answers I am receiving. Another is to have figured out as much as I can where my Ginnreginn stand on things so I can account for that in regards to the reading. Sometimes I will not be able to answer questions because I do not have certain initiations, or I do not know a given God, group of Ancestors, or vaettr well. I may be more or less suited for a given person in a reading, and may need to pass them off to someone else better qualified for their needs. The relationships we hold can bring a lot of wisdom to the work we do, and sometimes that wisdom is “I’m not right for this person”.

Spiritworkers as Extensions of Spiritual Politics

If we are aligned with various Ginnreginn and involved in spiritual politics then it also makes sense that the opposite is true: we are a way for how spiritual politics flows between and through different spaces, people, communities, and between and through different Ginnreginn. I have encountered in my time, primarily working for Óðinn as a spiritworker, and more recently as an Odinsson, that sometimes we are how different groups of Ginnreginn get to talking with each other. This is where things can get…interesting in talking with folks, because we are so thoroughly engaged at this point with personal experiences, understanding of relationships and how we interact with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. It is a vulnerable place to be in, to talk from, as there are many intersecting points of personal experience. I am at pains to point out that while exploring this is necessary to understanding spiritworkers’ roles in modern Pagan, polytheist, and animist communities, it is also a place that has the potential to be rife with self-interest and delusion. Having a regular spiritual practice, spiritual accounting, discernment, and solid communities we can rely on to help keep us grounded, are needed.

To be sure, one does not need to be a spiritworker for the Ginnreginn to work with you as an extension of spiritual politics. It is something I find far more common with spiritworkers, though, since a lot of our work is networking, community building, communing, and other work that has us reach out between folks and various Ginnreginn. A really simple example of the kind of networking I am talking about came across my TikTok feed where Neomudang, a Korean shaman in America, was making offerings to various Greek Gods. Per her words “My Korean general Gods love partying with other Gods”. I asked if she would make an offering to Dionysos and Lykeios, and she did. So, in return for her offering to Dionysos and Lykeios, I will be making my own offerings to the Korean general Gods and my own, especially to Óðinn , Dionysos, and Lykeios once I get some new shot glasses and some good whisky.

Now, did the Gods need us to introduce Them? No. Not in a strict sense, eg the Gods had no other way of making connections to one another. We could be needed in other, less strict senses though. Sometimes we can make things easier. Sometimes the Gods would have no reason to interact otherwise. Sometimes we are the glue that holds Gods, who would otherwise not interact, in relationship with one another. Sometimes we can be the bridge that heals wounds. We serve as a bridge, a point of connection, one that may be more or less potent for whatever reason for the parties involved. Just as with our human communities, sometimes the Gods just need intermediaries to move things along smoothly.

We can make and sustain the bonds between the Ginnreginn, who may not otherwise have reason to interact, in bonds of relation and community. By being an ongoing intermediary we can encourage and build these ties. The bonds we carry with our own Ginnreginn may be enough for Them to build new ones between Themselves.

Spiritworkers are not themselves inherently better, able, or more worthy than others to make these networks or sustain these ties. This gets to the “Why?” of spiritworkers. Again, I am going to emphasize that spiritwork is a job. Our purpose is to have the expertise and time dedicated to the ongoing work of encouraging and sustaining good relationships between our communities, and the Ginnreginn. Our job is to help others effectively commune, communicate, build, and maintain good relations with the Ginnreginn. Sometimes we do this by divination, by starting a new cultus or sustaining them, initiations, or doing magic. Our job is to work for the Ginnreginn, and not everyone has the time, inclination, or expertise to do this.

I am an extension of Óðinn’s spiritual politics. He is the main God, Ancestor, and vaettr that I serve, and as an Odinsson I directly benefit from my relationship with Him. He also directly benefits from His relationship with and to me. There are folks who might not otherwise have connected with Him. Connections have formed between Him and other Gods through me that He might not otherwise have had. Many of my own relationships with the Ginnreginn I have in the way that they exist would not have formed without Him. Through Him I came to the Runevaettir, and all the Work we have done, and all the lives They have touched through me.

Something I think each spiritworkers comes, or at least should come to understand pretty quickly, is that even if we are serving the same Gods the politics of that service can vary significantly. Where I may serve an ambassador role, as I found with Álfheim, another Odinsson or another spiritworker may find their role quite different. We may take on different roles with with the very same Ginnreginn we serve in making ties with other Ginnreginn.

If it is so hard to say anything across the board, why say anything? Because these points and discussions need to be made. They are not part of mainstream polytheist discourse, not even among spiritworkers and yet, are part of the experience of both. We spend so much time on 101, 201, and, on occasion, 301 material exploring the basics of ideas in our various communities that discussions of these depths are hard to have in the first place. They are so dependent on our developed relationships with the Ginnreginn and the understanding we have, and the experiences that flow from them. I felt in order to effectively even start talking about the topic here required these two posts to get the basics of it down. I feel that I could keep on going, but this post is getting fairly long on its own, and a third part is probably needed.

I am interested in writing Part 3. As I have written before, this is a topic I have not seen covered much and I have enjoyed writing these two posts. Thank you, Maleck, for giving me the idea for these two posts.

I want to know what you, my readers, want me to explore in it. Do you want me to dig deeper into what I have already written in Parts 1 and 2? Do you want me to explore particular topics within spiritual politics? Let me know here, in the Around Grandfather Fire Discord, or by email.

A Heathen Prepping -On Violence

I had a friend reach out to me recently, concerned I may have been dipping into more exhausting things during my break, rather than spending the last few months relaxing.

That’s just it, Snow. This is me relaxing.

Something they brought up and I dove into was the concept of violence in prepping spaces, especially those on the far-right. Let me be clear: I did not get into prepping to live out a machismo fantasy of gunning down my neighbors, nor of living out The Walking Dead where I live. Rather, I approach prepping through the lens of hospitality and service. Hospitality extends to those who are good guests. People banging down the door, literally or proverbially, in an effort to harm my family, tribe, or communities have forfeited their guest rights. People intimating violence because of my religion, sexuality, ethnicity, leftist political beliefs, etc or the race, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, etc of those in my circles have forefeited their guest rights.

Peace, Not Pacifism

My prepping is predominantly peaceful. Note, not pacifist. To explain I am going to illustrate my point with three quotes I have found online and the first three lines from the Hávamál, H.A. Bellow’s translation:

The first quote, attributed to Stef Starkgaryen, says: “You can’t truly call yourself “peaceful” unless you are capable of great violence. If you’re not capable of violence, you’re not peaceful, you’re harmless. Important distinction.”

The second quote, attributed as a Chinese proverb is paraphrased as: “It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.”

The third quote, attributed to Sun Tzu in his work The Art of War is: “The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.”

Now, to H.A. Bellow’s translation of the Hávamál:

“1. Within the gates | ere a man shall go,
(Full warily let him watch,)
Full long let him look about him;
For little he knows | where a foe may lurk,
And sit in the seats within.

2. Hail to the giver! | a guest has come;
Where shall the stranger sit?
Swift shall he be who, | with swords shall try
The proof of his might to make.

3. Fire he needs | who with frozen knees
Has come from the cold without;
Food and clothes | must the farer have,
The man from the mountains come.”

Without the skill, ability, and most of all the willingness to commit to violence, peace and hospitality cannot be established or maintained. A given Heathen community cannot commit to being an inclusive place so long as White Supremacist and Folkish Heathens are permitted in it. The very existence of White Supremacist and Folkish Heathens is a direct threat to BIPoC, LGBTQIA+, ethnic, and religious minorities. Truthfully, as we have seen with those who have left the AFA and similar outfits, White Supremacist and Folkish Heathens eventually turn on their own. That’s the way supremacy works: you eat everyone else until all you can do is eat your own.

The very existence of White Supremacist and Folkish Heathens is a direct threat to Heathenry. I do not mean this in some abstract way. I have received death threats for my anti-racist and anti-Folkish stances. Others have been directly physically harmed, harassed, bullied, and doxxed. There is no reasoning with these ideologies nor those who hold to them. They are directly harmful. They seek to legitimize, encourage, and then to engage in genocide. It begins in rhetoric and comes increasingly through to fruition: direct action. They seek to kill the Other, as demanded by their ideology, and seek the destruction of other people and their ways of life. If a given Heathen community is unwilling to make a stand, not with some internet Declaration, but with their feet, and when necessary their hands and weapons, then all their words are air.

The other side is not playacting when it comes to killing those it sees as its enemies. The 3%ers, the Proud Boys, and the AFA, among many others, are not fucking around. For too long Heathens in the middle have pretended there was some middle ground to be had. There is not. You are either on the side of inclusivity or you are in support of white supremacy. There is no negotiation with it.

Bonds and Bounds of Frið and Grið

A simple explanation is that frið and grið are bonds of peace and good social order. Ocean Keltoi has a good video going over the concept here. Frið, as I understand and use the term, is held with family, loved ones, tribe members, and community. In other words, those I consider innangarð, those in my inner yard. Grið is held with strangers as a temporary peace, with those utgarð or in the outer yard. These concepts are then woven into Heathens conceptions of hospitality. While many Heathens may not use the term innangarð or utgarð, I find most of us agree on the larger picture here: hospitality is established through peace and good social order.

Bonds of frið and grið are maintained so we can get things done. We do not always have to like each other. However, we do need to have mutual respect and to give one another honor in such bonds. So how do we establish frið and grið, and what does violence have to do with them?

Frið and grið must be formed in honor and strength. They are a willing acceptance of obligation to one another. In the case of frið, these bonds are made and maintained with those who you are willing to defend with your life and who likewise take on that obligation. Those I understand in this fashion are my personal family, friends, and tribe. I do not extend frið to acquaintances. Insofar as I understand the terms and employ them, they rely on very clearly delineated boundaries of obligation. I aid and defend those I carry bonds of frið with.

In a SHTF scenario this means that those I hold these frið obligations with come first. I do prep to care for those bonds. I work to provide enough supplies, information, and knowledge to get us through the challenges that come our way. I do work to support those I have these bonds with so we can all come through SHTF scenarios safely. Generally, I expect that safety in these situations is ensured through effective prepping, such as making sure we have enough resources on hand to get through a few months. Given the violence we have seen on display from White Supremacists, Folkists, and the far Right, it is not out of the realm of possibility that self-defense is going to be necessary. I was prompted to write this series in part because there is a good contingent of folks in various prepping communities planning to do a good bit of violence to secure resources in a number of SHTF scenarios. Just because something is unpleasant to think on does not mean we should not consider it. This, for me, is a chief concern and obligation with regards to frið. Am I willing to put my life on the line for you? Am I willing to defend you, to kill if necessary? If I answer no or hesitate, then we do not have frið.

This is at the forefront of my mind since I have had a few Folkish and White Supremacist Heathens come across my blog and reblog my last few posts. It seems that none of them have read the content of this blog or they would realize that I am utterly opposed to them. The very act of being a Folkish or White Supremacist Heathens breaks bonds of frið and grið with me. We cannot have peace or good social order if your ideology rests on my death or that of those in my circles. The ideology of White Supremacy and Folkishness prevents grið from being established. For anyone that has ever written the words “No Frith with Fascists”, truly think on what that means. If you truly do believe the words of Hávamál 127, meditate on what it means and the implications of what your actions are:

“127. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,–
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
If evil thou knowest, | as evil proclaim it,
And make no friendship with foes.”

Thinking on Violence

Rather than offer any one way as the way we should prepare for violence, I think we need to approach violence through the lens of prepping as another tool in our tool chest. How useful is violence in a given scenario? What does violence do, and how well does it do it? What training and tools can best deescalate a situation so violence does not need to be used? What training and techniques can reduce or eliminate the use of violence in a given scenario? What training and tools are most effective at preventing harm if violence must be used? What scenarios require a full commitment to the use of violence?

In most scenarios violence is the least desirable tool. It can cause us to waste time, resources, and life. It causes harm which necessitates healing and possibly recompense, or, in the worst of situations, cleanup, and the possibility of jailtime and/or reprisal. The use of violence can sour even the best of relationships even if we, ourselves, are not its target. Violence is often ugly, brutal, and frightening.

These truths should not prevent us from using it.

Rather, I would hope it would inspire folks to be judicious in its use. To be sure of what scenarios we would be willing and able to engage in violence. To be sure and clear in what obligations we agree to in our frið and grið-making. To be sure and clear in what obligations we hold with guests and hospitality under our roof. Not all violence need be fatal, but all violence has that potential. Violence should, in my view, be a tool of last resort. However, it should not be a tool we throw away, ignore, or denigrate. So, I see an obligation on each of us who would use it to have the proper training to effectively carry out violence in whatever way is best suited to our abilities, training, skills, and the situation at hand. I see an obligation on each of us who would keep bonds of frið, grið, and hospitality to be clear on what they will and will not accept within their bounds and to be ready and willing to enforce them.

Deity Work v Being a Polytheist

Rotwork wrote a post here exploring the idea of deity work that I will be pushing back on, and adding my own thoughts as I go.

Before I begin I want to be clear: I respect Rotwork a lot. I get that a lot of online spaces are cesspits, and produce a lot of toxic ideas that then get circulated. Those need to be pushed back on. That being said, I am going to push back a bit on some of the things they have talked about regarding deity work. There’s enough in here that I agree with in some respects that I feel like I am going to have dig into it a bit to be clear on where I disagree.

After exploring some of the ideas I posted on their Twitter feed and talking with friends, I find much of my issue is with baseline definitions. I understand deity work as any work assigned to you by a God. I often place deity work under the catchall term spiritwork, that is, work done on behalf of, for, or with vaettir (spirits), Ancestors, and/or Gods. I do not see prayers, offerings, or any of the normal praxis of a polytheist aka exoteric religion, as being deity work/spiritwork per se.

To quote what I said in the Twitter feed:

When I think of ‘deity work’ I think of stuff assigned to you by the Gods. Not the basic stuff of *being* polytheist like prayers, offerings, etc. Being a spiritworker is a *job* not the baseline of being a polytheist. Hopefully I’m making sense here.

When I use the word spiritwork, spiritworker, and/or vaettirvirkr that means the person is doing work with, for, or on behalf of the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir. Real simple equation to my mind. In the case of ‘working with’ a God it’s to Their end even if it does benefit us.

Even in the cases where I got ‘hired out’ by Óðinn to do things for other Gods it was still in service to Him. When Óðinn came into my life like a whirlwind I could have said no, and did not.

Here is another point of contention: deity work is dangerous. It is dangerous in no small part for many of the reasons they claim it is safe, and thinking on it in the same terms. Gods are as dangerous as They are sacred. Gods that stop plagues can start them, eg Apollo. Gods that can control whether or not you win a battle can make sure you get killed so you come to Valhöll, eg Óðinn. The Gods of Fire that warm our houses have the ability to burn down forests. Our Gods are, to paraphrase CS Lewis, ‘not tame lions’. However, that does not mean that They’re in our lives just to fuck with us or do us harm. I find that, if your life is being flipped upside down by a God entering it then it probably needed to be -though there’s exceptions to every rule since Gods are individual Beings, and so are we.

The Gods do have limits -clearly. Óðinn is not omniscient, frequently refers to other Beings in the stories we have for Their knowledge and wisdom, eg Vafþruðnir and Mímir. This does not make me a selfish asshole. Further, Óðinn is a known oathbreaker. It means that I clearly know my lore and that not every God (or Ancestor or vaettr) should have trust extended unconditionally. Some Gods have very little to do with humanity since They have whole sections of Creation to deal with, deserving no less of our respect and worship. Some Gods are not the gentlest or even the most caring towards humanity. Again, They are deserving of respect and worship even if an individual polytheist chooses not to worship Them. Maybe if you are not interacting with, say, a river God in Their river then They have no reason to really pay you mind. Again, no They are no less deserving of respect or worship. You may just not be as interested in worshiping Them, or They in interacting with you, if you do not live on or near Their river.

Now, I will heartily agree that when it comes to deity work we are not working with the Gods as equals. We simply cannot. We are working for Them, which is why I refer to being a spiritworker as a job. It’s work. However, deity work is not worship.

Worship is the baseline of being a polytheist. It is what each and every polytheist should be doing in whatever their capacity is. It is the action of being a polytheist. Belief in the Gods is the baseline choice that any polytheist should hold. Note, I am not saying perfect faith or any of the other cluttering Christian notions regarding that. Belief in the Gods is a choice, a recognition. Faith is an emotion, transitory at best sometimes. I do not always have faith, but so long as I am a polytheist I have to have belief that the Gods are real and that I worship Them.

I have no disagreement with their bullet points, excepting that the Gods are mostly everywhere. It is too wide a point for me. I do not think that Óðinn or Loki are everywhere. I have no indication They are from either the lore available or my own experiences of Them. It is still monumentally stupid to be two-faced before our Gods, though.

The next point bears some digging into.

“But how do I know if I’m contacting the right entity?”

Now when it comes to addressing prayers to Gods, so long as you’re using the correct names and epithets your prayers are very likely being heard by the God in question. Now when you’re hearing a response of some kind? When you are looking for feedback or input? This is where doing your due diligence is necessary.

I will refer to my Brother Jim Two Snakes on this one: Spiritual Accounting. His breakdown is this: (M+C³)xR = V. M is messages, C is confirmations, R is results, and V is verified. Lore, divination, and community input are the three legs of this stool. Why would we need this? Because we can be mistaken. We can think we are talking to a God and getting input back and its a sock puppet we are fooling ourselves with or a spirit using that form to get attention/energy from us. Sometimes spirits lie. Sometimes we get stuff wrong, or we are not in a good place to experience the Ginnreginn (Holy/Mighty Powers) well at that moment. Working with Spiritual Accounting is a way to make sure that we get as much as we can right.

Unless you are looking for or are getting some kind of response though, this may not even be an active concern for you. Not every polytheist is, nor should be expected to be, a spiritual specialist whether as a spiritworker, priest, or otherwise. It is perfectly acceptable to worship the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits in whatever capacity you can, and live by your life’s philosophy. You may get responses, or you may not; that is not the measure of a polytheist.

I started off my journey as a Pagan with 5 salt crystals in a thimble-sized glass jar. Size of the sacred space your worship takes place in, the offerings you make, and the prayers you make all can change over time. To my mind, these questions are key to the measure of a polytheist regardless of whether you are an individual worshiping at your hearth the size of an Altoid tin, or with a large community the midst of a stone circle:

Are you worshiping, praying to, offering to, and speaking with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits with respect? Are you worshiping, making prayers, and making offerings in ways that are respectful and in alignment with the religion, traditions, and individual Gods, Ancestors, and spirits you worship? If you are doing deity work, are you doing whatever work you have assigned in a manner your Gods find respectful? Not respect as I understand it. Respect as your Gods, Ancestors, and spirits understand it.

Are you living in good and respectful reciprocity with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits? That, in my understanding, is the measure of a polytheist. Your worship, and if you have spiritwork, your work, may not look like what others are doing. You are a person in relationships with Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and communities. Whatever it is, however it is expressed, worship in respect to the best of your ability. If you have it, do your deity work and/or spiritwork in respect to the best of your ability. No one could reasonably expect more.

Patreon Topic 41: On Keeping Multiple Paths

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From Streaking Fate comes this topic:

“I’m not sure if you posted much about this or not, but how you keep multiple paths running smoothly without colliding (ie Anubis and Odin).”

I am not entirely sure it is possibly to keep them from colliding. Sometimes you can have obligations that reach over one another, and you will have to pick what comes first based on your priorities.

Having clearly defined priorities is the biggest way that I avoid collision in the first place: having clearly defined priorities from my Gods, my family, my friends, and for the things in my life. This can be established by direct contact with the Ginnreginn and/or divination. I need to communicate my needs fully and honestly while also fulfilling any obligations I have to Them, my family, and communities. To communicate what I need I must have a clear idea of how my days go, what I can or cannot budge on, and what needs must come first so that I can best fulfill the obligations before me and live well.

In my case Anpu stepped back when Óðinn came to the forefront of my relationships with the Gods. This made the prioritization of one God’s work over the other’s relatively straightforward. Not everyone has this, and even in my case I still have to prioritize my spiritual work.

If you are encountering a time where you need to choose what work to do when, it may be best to think of what you can realistically do with the time you have available to you. If Óðinn wants me to do a large-scale research project over the course of a year, do I have the ability, energy, resources, and time to do this? Can I negotiate on the particulars of the project? Is whether I can do the project dependent on these factors, or is it more a matter of my time-management? Can I do this work in addition to the obligations and other factors already at play in my life? If this is a high priority being put on me, what can I put on the back burner, or stop doing during the duration of the project so I have the time and energy to get it done?

How do I organize my priorities?

This is how I lay out my months: I start with my day job which has a set schedule and the overtime I have preplanned for it. Then, I lay out what days I have regular spiritual work engagements such as divination, workshops, and the like. In between all the time where I have the spiritual work I regularly do is when I have my work as a father, husband, community member, and then, me time. Sometimes the me time gets sacrificed, and sometimes it is my time in the community. I try to hold back as much time as I can for being a father and husband, yet sometimes I need to give that time to spiritual work so it gets done. I am lucky that I have family, friends, and community that understands this and supports me, both in our collective outlook and in direct support of my work. I would not be able to do it otherwise.

Within that broad category of spiritual work will be the things I do for folks on my Patreon, blog, Around Grandfather Fire, 3 Pagans on Tap, Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm, and any personal spiritual work that needs doing. When I am negotiating with the Gods on priorities, I am negotiating on things that are not as scheduled out in my personal spiritual work time. If a God or Goddess comes forward with work for me to do I weigh it against the work I am already doing. Why did I list all that out? Because if I am going to come to the negotiating table with any God, Ancestor, or vaettr I need to clearly account for the obligations I already hold before I take anything else on. I need to be sure that what I am negotiating for or against can realistically fit into my life.

Even with all of this work to prioritize and plan collisions still happen. How do I negotiate that? I apologize and, where I can, work to do better in the future so it does not happen again. Maybe I know a piece of work leaves me with little energy, or I have a double to work every week so certain days will not be possible for me to make offerings. If I need to I negotiate these things out with the Ginnreginn. Then, I do whatever work that I can do. Sometimes what is easier in the moment gets done first, and sometimes it is what is harder. I do the work at hand, even if it is piecemeal.

Without going into disaster thinking, explore what a collision of paths looks like well before you get there. In all likelihood it is going to be something simple, like “I have X amount of energy to do Y and Z. This thing I agreed to do with/for Deity A and Deity B requires that X to do, so I have to choose one or the other today and do the other tomorrow.” Does it radically harm your relationship(s) to do this? In all likelihood, no. However, at least for me, it does head off anxiety at the pass so rather than overfocusing on what I cannot do I focus on what I can, and then get what I am able done. If you know you have weekly offerings and time can slip you by easily, making reminders in calendars, set alarms, and work with any housemates you have so you remember to do them promptly. If you need to buy offerings setting reminders in your calendar a day or two ahead, and always setting them in the same spot not only breeds familiarity with the routine, it gives the offerings a place to be, and less likely to be misplaced.

Everyone’s priorities and spiritual work is different, and each person’s way of avoiding collisions in their life will be as well. What matters is that when you do have collisions, and you likely will, you do whatever is in your ability to do. Then, when you can finish the work at hand, you do that. Do your best and relax. We are weaving Urðr with our Ginnreginn; They have vested interest in each person doing their utmost to weave well.

On Blood Offerings

Something that has come across my YouTube, TikTok, and WordPress feeds a few times now have been comments on blood offerings in a Heathen context. Both Beofeld and Wolf the Red are opposed to them because of the lack of context, namely that we are not an agricultural society and blood offerings, especially those of animals, no longer hold the same societal context as they once did.

Sure, but we can approach the same point of view from literally any offering we could make, mead or even water included. Nothing holds the same cache as it once did to the Ancestors of our various religions. It cannot. We are not Them.

Both Beofeld and Wolf have made the point that, before the Gods, human blood is profane. This is one of the goofiest assertions regarding offerings I have seen in a long while whether we are looking at this from a historical standpoint or that of a modern Heathen one. Sacrificial sites containing both human and animal remains are part of most sacred spaces where the ancient Scandinavians are concerned. As noted in Children of Ash and Elm by Dr. Neil Price, bones and blood have been found among the sites, indoor and outdoor (211-218). Uppåkra’s temple (211), Götavi (213-214) and Hofstaðir (216) are just three notable examples. Bog and forest sacrifices show that not only were weapons and boats offered, so too were animals and people.

Wolf notes in his video that the ancient Heathens were giving the whole animal, and all that animal might produce. His assertion is that blood itself was not the offering, which to me seems rather disingenous given how much blood is found at offering sites, and the notion of the hlaut-twig sprinkling blood at blot mentioned in Heimskringla and Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks. In short, blood hallows and there is no reason I have to believe that it is lacking in sacrality.

Among a great many other things, blood is part of our lyke, our body. The body is part of the soul matrix, and since we have neither original sin nor do we have a world-denying component to our religion, this assertion seems wrong-headed to me. Wolf made the point in his video that we are too polluted and that cutting ourselves for ritual purpose is miasmic and blasphemous. I wonder if this is not just a holdover from Christianity. We can offer our sweat, our tears, and the various things we procure through those things, including food, alcohol, herbs, water, and so on. Why would blood suddenly be off the proverbial table? If anything, it falls in line with all the others. Wolf notes in his video that looking at other polytheist religions whose religious terms and practices lived on, such as Hellenismos and Roman religion, blood was profane. I would argue this is where Heathenry differs significantly from them.

When it comes to offering blood I think that folks are more apt to have issues because of the overculture or personal issues rather than anything inherent to Heathenry as a whole. Perhaps there is something within Beofeld and Wolf’s Heathen religion(s?) that is not in my own. I have no reason to not give blood. Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir have called for it from me.

This may be an issue of exoteric practice vs that of esoteric. Exoteric practice are those things that are engaged in by most people while esoteric are not. In religion, exoteric practices are the things that are at the baseline of the religion, that everyone is expected to know and engage in. For Heathens these are things such as hearth cultus, offerings of food and/or drink, and prayers to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. Esoteric practice are those things that are still part of the religion, but they are engaged with by a small number of people. The quiet assumption within the word esoteric in how it is used today is that mystical, ecstatic, and similar experiences tend to belong to it, which is my experience with it. While exoteric practice is the firm foundation for my Heathenry, my spiritwork is decidedly in the latter category, and influences how my exoteric work comes about. Most Heathens do not practice seiðr, spá, or Runework to a great degree, so it is little wonder so few engage with esoteric practice.

Exoteric practice, generally speaking, would not call for blood at all, sacrificed by a person or an animal. Most of us have no call or need to work with it, and as Beofeld and Wolf have both pointed out, the sacrifice itself is largely lost on folks who would just buy pigs’ blood, as though the point was just to splash blood on everything. That being said, both exoteric and esoteric practice does have use for blood. It is a connection point. It flows through us, providing a powerful link between the gifter and receiver. Yes, regarding sacrifice of our own blood, you can regain the volume of blood you gift, but the blood you gift you can never come back. The point is the gift of the blood, the pain that it took to get the blood, and the lifeforce connection it carries with you.

We have to harvest the life force of others for any other sacrifice, whether the yeast needs to die for the mead to brew, the chicken dies for its sacrifice, or the herb needs to be harvested. Our entire existence is bound up in ties of Gebo, of gipt fá gipt. Our blood, sweat, and tears are one of the few things that belong to us that we are not taking from someone or somewhere else. We are a living embodiment of the hamingja of our Ancestors and the connections we hold when we make that offering. We are a living embodiment of the megin we have built, the hugr we have. It is a beautiful offering that we can give, though few of us may have cause to give it.

Being a diabetic I have no choice but to bleed every day. My blood sugar testing and my medicines require it. I have no interest in folks engaging in blood offerings or blood magic in an unsafe or unwise manner. There are safe ways to do it. A simple diabetic lancet kit with alcohol pads, cotton balls and bandages should be all a person needs to do blood sacrifice, assuming this is something that they need to do at all. This is where divination and negotiation come in, something all too seldom talked about in Heathen circles. Perhaps Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir have asked it of you, but needles or blood squicks you out, or you do not feel like poking yourself for Their benefit once a week. Negotiate on it. Ask for something else to take the place of that. Don’t engage with Them if that is Their line, or anyone who says you have to. Plenty enough Heathen Runeworkers get great results without going through what I do, and it may simply not be necessary for you.

It is worth pointing out that I have not just given my own blood. I have learned how to properly slaughter and have sacrificed animals to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. The aversion to death in our overculture has rendered much of our relationships with animals, and plants for that matter, to be completely inverse to what I understand it should be: based in reciprocity, with as much care taken as able to ensure a good death for the Being and good effect on the environment in the course of raising and taking the life of that Being. Blood offerings, whether from ourselves or others, are not some useless waste; they are a gift of life force, of blood, and of body. They are to be gifted in a holy way. This is why the animals to be sacrificed need to be treated with the utmost care and to die well, with as little pain as possible. It is why before making sacrifice, whether offering my blood or another’s, I cleanse.

The gifts we give need to be made cleanly whether it is of me or comes through my hands. This necessity to cleanse stands whatever the offering is, whether it is my blood, animal blood or parts, herbs, alcohol, and/or water. The necessity to cleanse is so that what comes from or passes through our hands is clean, free of anything but that gift. Everything needs to be made sacred before we gift it to the Gods so that we are giving in right relationship with Them, not because the world is fallen or that we are inherently polluted. To bring something to the Ginnreginn it needs to be made and/or brought to the Them in a good way. Cleansing is respectful and good spiritual hygiene whatever the gift is.

Most folks will have no cause to give blood whether the practice at hand is exoteric or esoteric. Where I have taken issue is several Heathen folks have made it seem as though blood offerings are outside of Heathen norms. While it may not be, and I would argue should not be common as an offering, it is a normal thing to offer it as a Heathen.

Patreon Topic 40: Developing Culture

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From Leslie comes this topic:

“Developing culture.”

Developing culture starts with relationships. Meaning builds on meaning. Developing a Heathen culture starts with a polytheist worldview within which is an animist one at its base. The whole world is alive; the whole world is relatable. There are more worlds than this one; those worlds are relatable too. So are each and every Being within Them.

We have a Creation Story, myths, and legends however well or poorly preserved, within the Eddas. What I think is key, with all of our information whether derived from archaeology or especially the written sources, is that we are by-and-large dealing with an oral culture. I think this is also the future of Heathen cultures. Not that writing will not be important; it will, if for no other reason than we are part of a literate overculture which places a (sometimes disproportionately) high value on the written word. Rather, what is going to truly make the various Heathenry communities into cultures is going to be the passing of the worldview, teachings, relationships, and so on to the next generations.

Religious beliefs and worldviews alone do not make a culture. What comes out of them is part of that, too. Over time perhaps Heathen cultures will develop distinct styles of dressing, wearing their hair, decorating themselves and their homes, or any other way we could think of making themselves distinct from the largely Christian American overculture. On the other hand most Heathens blend rather seemlessly into mainstream American culture, regardless of the tattoos on their skin or the jewelry, shirts, and other things they wear.

So if we do not see the wide trends regarding dress, decoration, dance, and other outward signs of a distinct Heathen culture, what would differentiate a Heathen culture from the American Christian overculture? Relationships with and to the land would be a big way. Since most Heathens relate to the world Itself as a Goddess, and have a series of Gods They worship as part of/involved in the world, this is a firm push to develop good ways of living with Her/Them in reciprocity.

Most Heathens engage in some kind of Ancestor cultus. That could, over time, take place with actual mounds we raise on our own lands to Them, and provide powerful intergenerational connections to land, and through that to our Ancestors and vaettir. The vaettir Themselves are another powerful connection that encourages the development of culture, both in relationship with the environment and in relationship with how we live on the land. With a world alive with vaettir, spirits, and connections literally all around us, Heathens engaging with the vaettir can develop unique ways of relating to and living with the land. Already some Heathens, myself included, are working to include indigenous wisdom, permaculture, and similarly aligned views so we live well on the land and with the vaettir here.

As more Heathens engage in lived relationships with the Earth Goddesses, Gods of the land, local Gods, the Ancestors, and vaettir, local and regional cultus is beginning to form. Heathens will likely become even more distinct from one another as this goes on over time. We cannot all relate to the Earth the same way when we are living in different parts of America. Even those Heathens living close to each other not have the same relationship with the environment, the Gods of these places, our Ancestors, and/or the landvaettir.

Another vector for Heathens’ cultural development is the way that relationships within as well as without Heathen communities form, and how those are maintained. Having just written on the concept of frið and grið for my latest Q&A, it seems to me that it is both related to similar concepts found in other religions and also distinctly Heathen. Writ large into how we form relationships, personal and interpersonal, individually and communally, these webs of relationships can unfold in ways we are only just seeing.

TikTok’s latest Norsetok controversies actually show us the dark side of this: flame wars and cults of personality being formed around folks based in clan and Kindred structure. However, it also has shown in the same blow that even Norsetok has staying power, as folks have banded together to work against such things and address power imbalances, unchecked ego, and so on. Twitter and Tumblr Heathen communities before them have gone this way, and likewise so have physical Heathen communities. So, what we may be seeing on a far faster scale in TikTok is a larger trend borne from the way Heathens tend to structure themselves.

Heathen communities tend to unfold around shared interests of being in relationship with and worshiping the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. They may or may not share larger interests with the overculture, not unlike a lot of other cultures. There are Christians that play video games like Call of Duty, whereas others reject them as too worldly, or glorifying violence. There are Heathens that play video games like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla or watch the Thor Marvel movies, while others refuse to engage with them. I expect that as we come into second, third, and in some cases fourth generations of Heathens, we will see similar trends to the overculture in terms of our overall place in things. Some Heathens will trend politically left, others politically right, and this will shift over time with general trends based on where they live, how, and with whom they are relationship with. What I think will be politically distinct for Heathens is that most will still carry some kind of emphasis on a good relationship with the Earth, their local environment, and environmental issues generally, whatever source that comes from for them. More than anything else the interconnected relationships born out of Gebo, frið, and grið that are distinct to Heathenry will have unfolding consequences into how regional variations of Heathenry may come about.

There is a big lack of prognostication in this post on exactly how Heathen cultures will come about, develop, grow, and work. Part of the reason for that is that I have no idea how Anglo-Saxon Heathenry, Continental Heathenry, Slavic Heathenry, and other Heathen communities will develop over time because I am not directly involved in them. I do not have the anecdotes to develop even a broad picture of how those communities could shake out over time. The other reason for the lack of prediction on my part is because it is essentially a fool’s errand. There are some Heathen communities that operate essentially as männerbund (warband), others as communes, others as communally connected yet distinct hearths, and some Heathen communities are organized almost entirely online. Some Heathen communities incorporate some or all of these modes of operation together. Factor that together with the understanding that regional cultus and relationships are being made between local Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir with Heathen communities, and predicting anything other than a very broad-based idea is quickly put full of holes.

So where are we going? I have ideas for my local communities. A lot of us are engaging in local cultus, developing relationships with our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir in context of where we are and how we live. As time goes on, I think one of the ways we and the overall trend for the Heathen communities are following one another is that there is going to be more involvement in local and national environmental movements. Something I am seeing the beginning of is communities developing distinct aesthetics with regards to clothes, home decor, tattooing, and other forms of decoration. There are patterns in the Heathen community which are in place that will balance devotion and relationship with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. Some, if not most of those relationships will unfold with how we live on the land. I am excited to experience how Heathen cultures will develop, grow, and maintain themselves.

Patreon Topic 26: On Regional Cultus

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From Maleck Odinsson comes this topic:

“Regional Cultus. Not just in the realm of honoring the local spirits, but also in how the gods are reflected differently in different times and places.”

When I first started writing on this I was approaching this purely from an academic perspective, noting the resources we have available to us are mostly coming after conversion and almost all the earliest sources through Christian writers. The scholars and academics who later gave us interpretation and understanding of these sources, and even the archaelogists, all are operating within a Protestant Christian dominated background.

Generally, our Gods in the academic fields are not being approached as Gods. We have living, dynamic relationships with Them. Even over the course of my life my cultus with Óðinn has gone through changes, so I would hardly expect in a generation other Heathens to carry anything like the same relationship as I. When I began to worship Him, He came to me sometimes as Father, but mostly as Rúnatýr, and Yggr primarily. He was fierce, harsh, and a taskmaster in the early times. He still is at times.

How the Gods are reflected differently in different times and places depends on how the Gods fit into the landscape/environment we live in now, and the relationships we hold with Them. I would have a far harder time relating to Skaði if I lived in a place without snow, and relating to the Gods of the ocean is a lot harder for me here in the Great Lakes than it is when I visited the ocean. I still hold cultus for the Gods of the ocean, but it is a more remote one, less in-my-face than that of the Great Lakes Goddesses.

A big difference in regional cultus I can confidently point to is mine with Jörð, Freya, Freyr, and Gerða. I relate to Jörð through the Earth I stand on, and while Jörð is still Jörð wherever in Miðgarð I go on Her, I relate to Her differently here, especially in my home, vs a hotel room. The difference between worshiping Her on land I have helped cultivate vs a hotel room is quite stark. I have no relationship to the land in a hotel room beyond a place to rest my head. My thanks to Her is much more general, eg She is of the place, and I am grateful for Her being the floor and eventually the ground beneath my feet. Contrast this with the relationship I hold with Her being the good, black Earth I helped to till and plant in that our good harvest has grown from. My cultus with Freya, Freyr, and Gerða is embedded in no small part in that same gardening. It is not that I cannot relate to Them outside of the home, the hearth, or the garden, but that it lacks the specific ways in which our relationships flow as they do there.

The asparagus plant is one group of vaettir in which I relate quite a bit to these Gods locally. As before, I associate Jörð with the garden it grows in. The plant itself clearly associated with Freyr given its virility, fertility, and phallic shape. It is also associated with Gerða in that to harvest it, it must be cut down, and this fits in with my understanding of Freyr as a Sacrificed God whose blood renews the fertility of the Earth. Freya I associate with the pollinators, especially the bees and their sweetness, and the preparation work that must go on so the plants can prosper. It is not just through the garden and all the vaettir within it that I relate to these Gods. I relate to these Gods through the actions I take with the land. Tilling, planting, gardening, weeding, harvesting, all of this is done in relationship with the landvaettir, with Jörð, with Freya, with Freyr, with Gerða, and with the Ancestors, especially those who farmed and/or gardened. All of this with just one kind of plant. How much more so with a garden! How much more so with a biome!

Regional cultus grows from our living relationship with the environment, and if I can find that much connection in and through a single plant then we can certainly make them through the land we live on. It is worth pointing out that Yggdrasil holds the Worlds, and the Worlds are also in relationship with one another. Asgarðr and Jötunheimr are across a river, Ífingr, from each other. Jotunheimen is the name of a range of mountains in Norway. The Worlds are said to be in different direction, eg Niflheim to the North, Muspelheim to the South. We can likewise locate our relationship with the Nine Worlds in such ways, much as our forebears did with regard to directions and the landscape. Perhaps rather than strictly in the East, Jötunheimr is in or has connections to the World in the far more wild forest behind the home. A special rock becomes a hörgr, a stand of trees a vé, and from there perhaps new relationships form with Jötun Gods.

It is really hard predict how regional cultus will develop over time. After all, my family has only lived in Michigan for five generations, including myself and my children. Between major predicaments like climate change and peak oil, the unfolding of the next election and the consequences from that, our unique land here in Michigan, and the unfolding relationships we hold right now, it is anyone’s guess how it will develop. Given the ongoing Work and relationship I have with Óðinn, our strong commitment to direct experiences of our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir on the land we live, and our work on the land, we will have many avenues to understand our Gods and develop relationships through.

Patreon Topic 14: Gods and Myths

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From Alec comes this topic idea:

“For the topic idea do you think you could talk about mythologies and how they can still fit into our modern days? For example a lot of Greek myths have a lot of things that people today know aren’t right, but it seems like people are so quick to judge the Gods based on stories that human’s wrote.”

This is a topic that comes around quite a few times, but I think this may be the first time I am going to address it head on.

I have said on this blog, on Around the Grandfather Fire, and in workshops that myths are part of the map and not the territory. Myths tell us things about our Gods. Where They came from, what got Creation started, but what myths are not is the relationship we carry with a given God, Goddess, Ancestor, vaettr, or group of these Beings. This is especially true in religions such as Heathenry where the sources for our myths are filtered through a monotheist lens.

Myths are powerful. They are ways of relating to, understanding, and thinking about how we live with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. To literally interpret myths as so many are wont to do, often through a monotheist/atheist lens, provides so many more hurdles to what is going on, and what a given myth is trying to say. The content of our myths matter, as do their context. Given I am not a Greek polytheist I cannot speak much to those myths, but I encounter this often enough in Norse and Icelandic myths that I do get it.

There is also something to be said for retelling. Each time we tell a story it lives on and is experienced. It is why telling the Norse Creation Story is one of my favorite things to do, especially around a Sacred Fire. When a myth is lifted off the page, comes out of the mouth, when a story is a lived experience that is when it transcends being a mere story. Myths contain cosmological and other truths, even if we have to dig for them a bit. Every time I tell the Creation Story some aspect of it comes forward in a way different than the last time I told it. Its telling becomes a lived experience.

‘Fitting’ these myths into our lives is the wrong approach. Rather, we need to bring these myths into our lives. When we bring them in they need to come into our lives. Our myths have to come off the page, inform our practices, and we need to understand them well in content and context. They need to be well told, and they need to feed our understanding of our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, World(s), ourselves, and our place in things.

Patreon Topic 11: Venerating Linked Gods

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From my 3rd Raiðo patron comes this topic idea:

“Perhaps you could talk about venerating Deities Who are closely linked jointly, and how that can be different from worshiping a single Deity. I am a Freysman, but increasingly called by Nerthus, and I am starting to feel pulled towards venerating them jointly as Mother and Son–and how that feels like a Mystery unto itself, quite different from the Mysteries proper to a single Deity.”

In my experience and talking with other polytheists this seems to be a feature of Heathenry and sometimes Kemeticism. Generally speaking when you start worship one God They might introduce you to Their Family, and how we come to know our Gods can be keys to a Mystery or group of Mysteries as surely as beginning to know Them.

My relationships with all the Heathen Gods have filtered through Óðinn, and much of the worship and Work I have done is filtered through my relationship with Him in some way. I have seen other Heathens who came to Norse Heathenry and the Heathen Gods through Loki and it is a whole different experience than my own. It also depends on which particular heiti a God, Goddess, or other Being approaches us through. My experience of Óðinn as Rúnatýr is very different from Óðinn as Óðinn.

Worship of Óðinn alone was very focused when I first began as a Heathen. I would make offerings about once every other or every third day, and would do about 5-20 minutes of meditation on Him a day, or, if I was particularly busy, would carve out time on the offering days and dedicate more time to Him in addition to my usual prayers and offerings. I was also intensely studying the Runes, so all told I would spend upwards of an hour to two hours in prayer, offering, contemplation, meditation, and spiritual work.

When He began having me reach out to His Family, first to Loki and Frigg, then to Thor and other Aesir, it took some time to get the placement of Who to pray to first right. There were definitely Gods that bristled at the notion of being ‘next to’ each other in prayer, and others that did not particularly care. Loki eventually brought me to His Family, and incorporating Them in prayers also had to be done. I found as more Gods came into my worship and that I did Work with and for, the less time I had for the kind of intense focus as often as I did for Óðinn alone. This was not necessarily a bad thing, though. I actually needed the breathing room and was pretty bad at holding those boundaries with Him initially, something He was teaching and working on with me through this.

A Mystery that Óðinn brought me into quite early was understanding His relationship with Loki as Blood Brother. From then on I knew that not only was making offerings to Óðinn and not Loki wrong, it was something I could not do. Now, this is not to say that each and every offering I give to Óðinn is Loki’s as well, or vice versa. Each have Their own preferences of offerings as I and others have come to understand, eg Óðinn prefers whiskey whereas Loki like Fireball or ‘spicy’ drinks, and both enjoy mead and other wines. However, when it is more general offerings and prayers, such as night prayers at our Gods’ vé, They are both worshiped, prayed to, and water is offered to both of Them.

Exploring the Mystery of Their connection has deepened my relationship with both Gods, and I find that connection a beautiful and multifaceted one. Consider, too, that since we are looking at the Gods through the lens of mythic time that each event has, will, is going to, and is happening. Loki and Óðinn are slaying Ymir as recounted in the Vóluspá, and sitting across from one another in Ægir’s hall as recounted in the Lokasenna. Just thinking on and exploring Their Blood Brother connection through this understanding is powerful alone.

The Mysteries Óðinn brought me into that are His alone, such as bringing me into working with the Runevaettir, are not better or worse, just different from those of other Gods. The relationships that I have with other Gods unfolded differently when They passed through His hands vs another. This interrelationship also adds to the relationship as I experience it with Him, eg understanding Óðinn through His relationship with Frigg and vice versa.

My relationship with Frigg developed out of my relationship with Óðinn. I had a mix of formal and informal relationship starting with Óðinn, but with Her much of my relationship has been quite formal, especially when I worship Them together as the Chieftains of Asgarð. My address to Them is quite similar, usually something to the effect of “Hail, Chieftains of Asgarð, I make this offering of mead to You!” and many of the offerings are the same, eg water, mead, beer, wine, and the like. Worshiping Them together is different from worshiping Them apart. I tend to use more personal appelations and heiti with Óðinn, while I tend towards more formal address even in personal worship with Frigg. Maybe that will change over time, and maybe not.

Developing a relationship with a given God or Goddess depends on what avenues we come to Them through, how we engage in relationship with Them, and how we are introduced to any other Gods that They associate with or are associated with can differ person to person. This also comes into play in how we develop relationships with Gods linked to one another, whether by familial or other ties. When we relate to our Gods through another, as in the case here with my Patreon patron’s relationship with Mother/Son regarding Nerthus and Frey, it can be an invitation to a Mystery because of how the relationships with these Gods is being framed, or in this case, possibly reframed. That does not necessarily mean the old relationship and ways of relating with Frey are gone. It may be, or it may be affected in powerful ways as this new way of relating to Him through His Mother and vice versa comes forward. It is difficult to say anything for certain when we are talking about individual or even communal avenues of relationships of worshiping and relating to our Gods. Time and experience will tell. I am deeply curious to see how it goes for you!

 

Relationships with Spirits -Part 2

This post was started a long time ago, and I am relieved to have finished it as well as I can. Part 1 is here.

Before we begin to address the question of how to begin a relationship with a vaettr, we need to address why we are forming relationships with vaettir at all. This really cuts to where we find ourselves in cosmology and how we relate to the different kinds of vaettir. Our worldview is vaettir-filled, where we as humans are not central to our cosmology and we live in co-existing and co-creating relationships with vaettir in Urðr/Wyrd. The default stance I take with Heathens and Northern Tradition Pagans in regards to vaettir is that of devotion -we form relationships that are devotional because we worship the vaettir and wish to cultivate right relationship with Them.

Stating the standard for our relationships is that of devotion gives proper place to our relationship to the majority of vaettir we exist in relationship with. We rely on various vaettir for our existence, such as the Ancestors without whom we would not be here in the first place, the vindrvaettir who form the air we breathe, the vatnvaettir that make up the water necessary for our lives, the eldrvaettir that makes so much of the modern world possible with Their fire that flows through our buildings, or the jordvaettir beneath our feet and that make up our homes, just to name a few. We can have a variety of kinds of relationships with vaettir. With devotion as the baseline we underscore our general relationship to the vaettir and can contrast it with the different kinds of relationships that can grow out of or beyond that baseline.

Beginning to Build a Relationship with Vaettir -Ancestors

The easiest way to build a relationship with a vaettr (singular of vaettir, spirits) is to give space for that vaettr. Physical, real space on an altar or other kind of vé, a sacred place. As mentioned in the last post, the least you need is a surface with a cloth, a candle, matches or a lighter, and a cup for offerings. Water, sacred herbs, and food are our most common offerings to all of our vaettir. As you develop relationships with various vaettir They may make certain requirements for offerings known to you. The physical space and the giving of physical offerings given to the vaettr is necessary; it invites the spirit into your life in an utterly physical way, grounding the relationship in one’s life as well as in one’s space.

Before any other vaettir I recommend people start building relationships with their Ancestors, especially the Disir, Väter, Ergi, and Ancestors one knew before They died. This is because our Ancestors, especially the powerful ones, have our best interests at heart. The reason I recommend building relationships with those Ancestors we had relationships with in life is because it aids discernment, and can help smooth the process of reaching out to the rest of one’s Ancestors. I tip my hat to my Brother Jim for this. For those who have had troubled relationships with their recently dead Ancestors, I recommend going back further. If your mother or father were abusive, go back farther in your family line until you are away from the poison of that abuse. If you do not know the names of your Ancestors, do the geneaology research you can, and in the meantime ask the Disir, Väter, and Ergi to help you meet your good and healthy Ancestors.

When you are ready follow the Simplest Altar and Simple Invitation Rite of the last post. Remember that a gipt fá gipt/Gebo relationship is one that honors both participants, and it may take a while for the relationship to get beyond introductions. There is no timeframe you need to have for settling into a comfortable relationship with your Ancestors. It will take its own time. Setting the space and maintaining the right mindset and giving time for the relationship is vastly more important than courting powerful visions or experiences. If you want feedback from the Ancestors and do not get it in direct experiences get some kind of divination system, learn how to use it, and dedicate it to communication with Them. This divination system might only be useful for communication with the Ancestors, or it may be useful to communication with any vaettir. This is something that you will need to learn by experience. Directly asking the vaettir in question if They want a dedicated divination system does not hurt. Even if you do get direct experiencess with the Ancestors I would still heavily recommend learning at least one if not many divination systems.

If you are fully new to Heathenry or the Northern Tradition I would recommend spending anywhere from half to a full year doing regular Ancestor worship before starting any new relationships with other vaettir. Dedicating fifteen minutes a day after cleansing and other preparation to simple prayers and offerings each day, at least three to four times a week will build a solid foundation of devotion and understanding. There will be times when life intrudes; in that case, dedicate time the next day to your devotion. Explain to the Ancestors why you missed, not to beat yourself up or denigrate yourself, but because your Ancestors deserve the respect of an explanation.

Adding new items to the vé does not have to be big or elaborate. The most common additions to my family’s altars come from thrift stores and antique shops. Often our additions, especially with the Ancestor vé, are vessels that hold offerings and serve as representative of certain Ancestors. Whatever you add needs to be connective between you and the vaettir, and respectfully maintained. As time goes on you might find yourself accumulating items representing various Ancestors, but this is only a requirement insofar as the Ancestors make that requirement of you. There is something to be said for simple vé as well as busy ones. What matters is that the ve is a place of connection with your Ancestors.

Beginning to Build a Relationship with Vaettir -Landvaettir

As with the Ancestors it is about giving space to Them so you have a common meeting place. In our home we have two different areas for different kinds of landvaettir. The housevsaettir have Their own space while the landvaettir have Their own on a different altar entirely. A really simple way of making a space for landvaettir is to ask the landvaettir for a piece of Them to bring into your ve. The rock we have on our jörðvaettir vé is a stone we uncovered while preparing our garden. Our housevaettir have a wooden bird feeder in the shape of a house. Our outdoor vé is a sacred grove with a single tree representing Yggdrasil and the landvaettir. Another option is to make a hörgr, a vé made of a pile of stones. You can make the vé for landvaettir indoors or outdoors, though given my experiences I would recommend both. It is far better to pay regular attention and cultus to the landvaettir who have a space on an indoor shrine or altar than to only occasionally visit Their shrine outside.

The Ancestors generally have our best interests in mind and will guide, follow, and walk with us in life. We literally live on and alongside the landvaettir. Having a good relationship with the landvaettir may start simple, but I can assure you that over time it will not stay that way. Having a good relationship with the landvaettir requires us to treat our homes, whatever your living situation, as places that are inhabited by Beings besides us. Thoses Beings have interests that may or may not align with our own. Living well with the landvaettir will probably push you to take a hard look at how you live, encouraging land-healing things like composting scraps, and altering your spending habits so you produce less garbage. Anyone can improve their relationship with the landvaettir by being more mindful of what we consume, how we treat the land we live on, and by growing what we can where we can, dedicating all these things as offerings to Them.

When beginning a relationship with the landvaettir perhaps the best questions you can ask yourself are related to how you live on the land. How can I honor the land I live on? How can I live as low-impact as possible on the land? What native plant species can I encourage where I live? If I cannot grow or raise my own food who can I patronize that can? Ask the landvaettir directly what they want, and go from there.

Beginning to Build a Relationship with Vaettir -Fylgja, Kinfylgja, and Vörðr

In the Ancestor section of this post I recommended learning at least one if not many divination styles. Vaettir like fylgja, kinfylgja, and vörðr are why. As with other vaettir giving Them space in your vé is important. Unlike the Ancestors and landvaettir where you can have clear ideas of who They are, figuring out the identity of one’s fylgja, kinfylgja, and vörðr will likely require divination.

With fylgja, kinfylgja, and vörðr one of the best questions you can ask is: Why are you seeking Them out? Really dig into this, especially since a given vaettr will likely want to know why you sought Them out.

Do you just want to know who They are? Do you want a better working relationship with Them? Do you want to make new connections with a fylgja as a tutelary spirit in a field of magic or hobby you are interested in? Do you want to connect with kinfylgja your Ancestors still have connections with but only you are willing to put in the work for the relationship? Do you want to know your vörðr so you can better work with your guardian? Are you looking to develop power, skill, talent, or a bond that will help you out when you need it? There are a lot of reasons to seek out relationships with vaettir, and the more clear and honest you can be the cleaner you will be in looking for the relationship, and if reciprocated, engage in the relationship.

If you have an idea from divination what kind of vaettr the fylgja, kinfylgja, or vörðr is you can tailor your initial offerings and method of contact to Them.

It may require, either instead of or after divination, some kind of spiritwork. One example of this is utiseta, Old Norse meaning sitting out. One goes somewhere, such as one’s vé or on in a natural spot such as a clearing or grove of trees in a forest, then sits or lies down and enters into trance. Historically utiseta was connected with going somewhere to stir spirits up, do magic, or spirit work. Utisetsa itself, combined with a calling prayer, song, or something similar, may be enough for a vaettr to come to a person. If not, the more dangerous option may be open, known as hamfara, or one’s hame-shape faring forth, or engaging in spiritual journey work. This hamfara may be a requirement to meet certain vaettir, including certain fylgja or kinfylgja in a designated place. Perhaps it asks you to visit it in its home, perhaps on neutral ground. This kind of spiritwork in detail is beyond this post, but I would be remiss to not include it as a method some folks may need to engage in order to find or encounter a given vaettr.

This is not something I recommend for most people -at any skill level. If you can get the work done here in Midgarðr and don’t have to leave your body then you are far safer doing so. While not everything will be out to get you should you fare forth, there is enough danger to your hamr that I recommend folks do a good amount spiritwork before even going to a place friendly to them. I do not see vörðr as likely needing hamfara, but They, or more likely you, will need utisetsa to see them or communicate until the relationship is more solid.

Beginning to Build a Relationship with Vaettir -Alfar

This section is going to be limited purely because I do not work with the Alfar all that much. As with any vaettir knowing why you want to establish a relationship with Them and giving Them a space in your life is key to starting a good relationship. Where the lore is concerned Alfar are often split into two or three separate groups: Ljossalfar, Dökkalfar, and Svartalfar which are light elves, dark elves, and black elves respectively. As I mentioned in the previous post, there is a great deal of confusion over identity and who each kind of Being is.

Wherever I can I try to relate to vaettir by Their own names, understanding Them as separate Beings. So, in my understanding of Them, the Ljossalfar, Dökkalfar, and Svartalfar are all different kinds of Alfar, each with Their own culture. It seems to me on first glance the Dökkalfar and Svartalfar are separate groups, so I will err on the side of caution here. What kinds of approach work for different kind of Alfar will depend on that culture, and on the individual vaettr.

Most of my interactions with Alfar in general have been with regards to visiting Freyr. When I have encountered Ljossalfar I was doing spiritual journeying in Ljossalfheim. This is not true of the Svartalfar, some of whom I have seen in Svartalfheim. However, most of the interactions I have had with Beings in and from Svartalfheim have been with Dvergar, dwarves. So, are the Dvergar Svartalfar? I am just not the spirit worker to ask on this. So, my recommendation is to read as much as you can of the lore and firsthand accounts of modern folks who have journeyed and have good relationships with these vaettir. Much of my advice for developing relationships with the Alfar in general is going to follow similar lines: do your research, learn what traditional offerings there are in the lore and make the ones you can to the Alfar you wish to develop a relationship with.

Beginning to Build a Relationship with Vaettir -Dvergar

The Dvergar or Duergar are generally known as Dwarves. They are said to be or share Svartalfheim with the Svartalfar. In my experience this is a shared world between these two peoples. Shared unevenly, but shared nonetheless.

They are renowned for being cantankerous and the best crafters in the Nine Worlds. Understanding this is why being really clear on why you want to develop a relationship with a given vaettr or group of vaettir is so important. Gipt fá gipt (gift for a gift, aka reciprocity) matters, and the Dvergar in my experience hold it in the deepest regard. That is not to say that developing a relationship with the Dvergar to ask for help in a given craft is a bad idea; far from it. Rather, do not approach Them only as a friend and then begin asking for Them to share secrets of the trade with you. If you want to learn from Them on how to do a given craft better then do it, but do not do it hidden under the guise of friendship. Sure, a friendly relationship could grow from such an interaction, but far better you are clear in your motives both for your own sake and the sake of the relationship.

In my experience the Dvergar enjoy well brewed items, including beers, mead, and liquors. This is especially true if you brewed it yourself or worked with a brewer to make the offering. From my rather limited interaction with this group of vaettir, meats and breads are also appreciated, the less processing done and the more care taken in cooking/baking it the better.

All of this said, my relationship with Andvari has been very different from my other devotional relationships. Mostly, it has consisted of being as clear as I can in what is mine. Apply the idea as broad and as thin as you can of being exceptionally clear on what is mine. This is an ongoing work that I do both for Him and I. Another quite powerful part of my relationship with Andvari has been developing a far better and healthier relationship with money and working at chipping down my debts. You could well ask why, and part of it is because that is what Andvari is really good at, where at least part of His focus lies. The sorting out of my debt is, in a way, sorting out what is mine and bringing back into my hands all that is mine so I can put it to my use. This is not all that different from a crafter making sure they have all their tools at hand and cared for. Money, having its own group of vaettir as well as being the means by which we trade our claim on labor for goods, services, and the repayment of debt, can bring power when we are in good alignment with it.

You may find that the Dvergar you interact with want the same kinds of offerings as other Holy Powers, but given my experiences I would not be surprised to find that They have very specific wants from you should They accept your cultus. Gifts of your hands, made to the best of your ability, may be accepted. Another may be ongoing dedicated work, such as learning a craft, which can vary as far as blacksmithing to knitting, brewing to soapmaking. Whatever the offering, it should be made with and in the spirit of excellence even should you be far from being master at whatever it is.

Beginning to Build a Relationship with Vaettir -Jötnar

Jötnar are perhaps the most maligned and misunderstood group of Gods and vaettir in Heathen religion and the wider Pagan communities. Since this post is about vaettir I will dig into the Jötnar as vaettir rather than going over the various Jötnar Gods.

The notion that Jötnar are uniquely dangerous is rather undeserved in my view. All vaettir are potentially dangerous. Anyone who thinks deer are little more than placid creatures should watch videos of hunters who have had to tangle hand-to-hoof with one. It tends to end poorly for the hunter. It should be remembered no small amount of the Aesir that so many seem to think are less dangerous are actually ferocious and equally, if not more dangerous than many Jötnar. Many are Jötun or have Jötun ancestry Themselves even if the allegiance They hold is to the Aesir. All of the Gods are capable of being ferocious in battle, and anyone who tries to, say, pin the Vanir as uniquely being Gods of peace or specifically pacificity should be reminded that though Freyr gave up His sword for love, He still took up the antler as His weapon and fought Surt with it at Ragnarök. The Aesir and Vanir fought one another to a standstill which was only broken when hostages were exchanged.

So what are Jötnar? Put simply They are vaettir who are tied quite close to primal forces and natural phenomena, though They may or may not be the personification of that primal force and/or natural phenomena. They are often looked at and understood as wilder than Aesir and Vanir, with these two tribes of Gods often looked upon as the ‘civilized’ Gods. My experience with Jötnar is that They do tend to be more outwardly wild than the Aesir or Vanir, but that the claims that the Jötnar are uncivilized is dead wrong. They have cultures, distinct to the regions They live in and/or roam. This ties into the idea of regional cultus, the idea that our location, environment, place in time, and culture’s response to these factors impacts our spiritual relationships, making them unique to an area. Regional cultus has existed because we came to understand our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and our relationships with Them in context of where we live and how our culture’s traditions reacted to and reinforced those relationships. This understanding, to my mind, is a two way street: we relate to our Holy Powers in context of where we live and how, and They in turn relate to us through those ways. So some ways in which we relate to Jötnar may not translate 1:1 with our sources of lore. For instance: Michigan has a lack of mountains (except the Porcupine Mountains, for instance, in the Upper Peninsula) so that I have very little interaction with vaettir in general tied to mountains unless I journey to a place with mountains spiritually or physically.

Beginning a relationship with a landvaettr seems to make sense to people intuitively in an animist/polytheist way. After all, we live on the Earth, the Earth is a Goddess and is also full of spirits of that Earth. Why wouldn’t we want to have a good relationship with the land we live on? When it comes to Jötnar folks seem to forget this mindset, also forgetting that the Goddess whose name is Earth, Jörð, is Jötun. I do find that some Jötnar ride the line or are landvaettir Themselves. Others are Beings who take up space within the context of being aligned with a place, eg Jötnar aligned with bodies of water such as Undines tend to be there. They tend to be of or take up the wildest aspects of these places.

So why do we develop relationships with the Jötnar? They are part of the primal forces that make up our world, and They are found throughout most of the Worlds. We can encounter Jötnar most anywhere we do landvaettir. Additionally, we may find Them in the primal aspects of this world, among them storms, ice, snow, winds, forests, swamps, and animals. Some, given They live in Jötunheim, Niflheim, Múpelheim, and so on, may require a spiritual journey to meet with Them. My previous warnings on journeying apply here even more so considering how much more powerful the Jötnar generally are than us, how extreme these environments are to us, and that in journeying to these places we are entering their realms. If you can meet with Them here that is probably for the best. That being said, Jötnar are renowned in many arts, from medicinal to martial, magic, shapeshifting, and more. Seeking Them out for devotion is slowly becoming more accepted, but whether a thing is accepted or not, devotion to these Beings is a beautiful and powerful thing. They are among our Holy Powers. Seeking Them out for devotion, partnership, or help in an endeavor is a powerful working in and of itself. How much more so when you worship and/or ally with the primal Beings we share this and other Worlds with.

Beginning to Build a Relationship with Vaettir -The Dead

Of any of the various vaettir one could work with the Dead are one I advise folks have a lot of caution before working with Them. It may seem counterintuitive, given how much emphasis I have put in this post and in my blog in general on working with our Ancestors. After all, They are Dead. The Ancestors are, at least in part among the Dead, but not all are the Dead, and for those that are, we hold unique relationships with Them. We do not have this connection with the general Dead. The Dead draw Their ranks from among every Being in every World. Some may retain grudges into whatever Their afterlife is, whereas some change entirely.

So what are the Dead? They are spirits of those who once lived. They come from every World. Some are human; most are not. It is not worth bothering most of the Dead. Most Dead who can be contacted know about as much, sometimes more and sometimes less, than those when They are alive. Likewise for the Dead’s ability to act in the Worlds. Contacting the Dead besides those methods approved by a God or Goddess of the Dead tends to be fairly dangerous. Not only are you risking wrangling with a potentially angry and dangerous vaettr, you may also be risking pissing off a God or Goddess of the Dead. So why develop a relationship with the Dead at all?

We all have Dead people, not just Ancestors, as part of our foundation. The Dead share this world with us. When we get right down to brass tacks, we literally stand on the Dead as the decomposed bodies on the soil of the Earth. Our homes are built on Them, our civilizations’ foundations, metaphorically and literally, rest on Them. We are in relationship with the Dead whatever our religion. Some of these Dead are part of the landvaettir, and others remain distinct. We might reach out to the Dead to form better relationships with the places we live. I live on land that the Patawatome, Ojibwe, Wyandot, Iriquois, and others may have lived on. To be in good relationship with the landvaettir I need to be good to the Dead that are part of Them, that live with or within the landvaettir.

We might reach out to different kinds of Dead as a devotional act. In my own case I give cultus to the Warrior and Military Dead, most of whom I am completely unrelated to. I honor the Dead as a priest of Anpu that come across my altar to the Dead as a kind of spiritual waystation. I maintain it per Anpu’s direction by providing a good place to rest for those Dead who need it, and for others who are ready to move on. This physical space is an offering in and of itself, giving the Dead the use of the waystation to go to where it is They need to. Others worship factions of the Dead because they relate to certain professions, callings, and the like. Whatever one’s reason for forging relationships with the Dead, one should have good relationships with one’s own Ancestors first, and clear ideas of boundaries around one’s relationship with any Dead one would like to make.

The safest way that I know how to build a relationship with the Dead is to first ask permission from Hela if the Dead are in Hel/Helheimr, or the God of whatever Dead you are trying to contact. If you are trying to contact one of the Dead who has drowned then Rán would be the Goddess to direct prayers to. If someone died in combat, then Freyja or Óðinn. I find it a cool and interesting part of Norse/Icelandic Heathenry that there are a number of places for the Dead to go, though the majority will go to Hel/Helheimr. If you secure the permission of the God of a particular group of Dead to contact Them, then, as with other vaettir make a space for Them on/in a vé, make offerings, and do your due dilligence to be sure that contact is made, the offerings are accepted, and the relationship has begun. I highly recommend the Dead have an entirely separate vé from your Gods, Ancestors, and other vaettir. Keeping clear and healthy boundaries is to your benefit and respectful to the Gods, Ancestors, and other vaettir you hold relationships with.

Beginning to Build a Relationship with Vaettir -Elemental

Elemental vaettir are what it says on the tin. Now, an obvious question here is “Are landvaettir elemental vaettir?” and my answer is “Yes.” The way that I figure it, is that all landvaettir are jörðvaettir but not all jörðvaettr are landvaettir. Sometimes a vaettr of the Earth, a jörðvaettr, is not part of or attached to a specific piece of land, but it may be an individual rock, bit of soil, a tree, and so on. So what are the elemental vaettir within Heathenry? They are beings of or related to the elements of Fire and Ice first, followed by Water, Earth, and Air. Fire and Ice, in the Worlds of Múspellheimr and Niflheimr, were the first two Worlds to emerge from the Ginnungagap (often referred to as “the yawning void”, but another interpretation can be the “power-filled space”) and from the meeting of Fire and Ice the Water flowed, Earth was uncovered in Niflheim, and the first stirrings of Air were made, the first breaths taken.

I understand that all elemental vaettir are related to and interconnected with each other. Looking at this from the perspective of Fire is helpful. Each eldrvaettr, fire spirit, relates back to the First Fire that burns in Múspellsheimr. Is that First Fire Surtr? I happen to believe so, but whether Surtr is the First Fire or the First Being that comes from the unfolding burning of that First Fire is rather immaterial. He is the the First God. That Fire that became or is Surtr is the Eldest Ancestor, the First Being that burns still from whom all Fire descends. Each fire, no matter how great or small is related back to that Eldest Ancestor, that First Fire. Each fire, whether an eldrvaettr, a jötnar, or a God associated with or possessing qualities of Fire relates in some way to that First Fire. Each fire, whether a small candle, a firecracker, a wildfire, a volcano, relates back to that Fire.

So how do we develop a relationship with elemental vaettir? We honor Them, we make prayers and offerings to Them just as we do other vaettir. We make prayers and are respectful to the powerful Beings connected to Them or from whom They descend. We understand each Being, no matter how small or great, is or is connected with a vaettr, and treat it well accordingly. We understand that the world is full of and is a vaettr.

Like with other vaettir we make space for it on a vé, and this can be very simple to start with: a simple white cloth on a surface with a representation of ice, or something that can hold actual ice or snow when able. For fire, a candle either a burning candle or LED if you are in a space where burning is not permitted. For water a small bowl or cup filled regularly. For earth a patch of dirt or rock from where you live; do not forget to ask permission and if you get it to make offerings to the landvaettir you take this from. For air an incense burner with incense, a pinwheel, or a bell. Really, what you can make a connection with here is going to matter far more than some examples I can give you. The point is that, whatever vé you set up for whichever vaettir, it should be something you can connect with.

Among the reasons we reach out to elemental vaettir as a devotional act to understand Them better, to have better relationships with Them. In understanding and working with Them better we understand and work with the basic elemental forces that make up the Worlds, that we live alongside, that we depend upon and are part of our everyday existence. We can develop deeper and better relationship with the Beings Whose bodies our modern world is built upon, and in so doing, come into better alignment with where They would have us be, and so, find ourselves embracing better ways of living in this World.

We Are Not the Center

Since we are not the center of our cosmology or the relationships we form within that cosmology, we must recognize that we are not the only ones capable of proposing or forming relationships. Any of the vaettir can reach out to us for a relationship for Their own reasons, reasons which They may or may not share with us. Being most of us are free agents in regards to the relationships we forge with the vaettir, we may accept or deny these connections, and then live with whatever consequences may come from that. Note: I assigned no value to this for a reason. We may have legitimate reasons for not wanting to develop a relationship with a given vaettr or group of vaettir. Your reasons for developing a relationship with a vaettr or a group of vaettir are just that.

There are a variety of factors beyond our basic worldview that can factor into our relationships with vaettir. Among them are the Gods we worship, and what role(s) we take on within our religious communities. Some find that worshiping the Æsir keeps them from worshiping Jötnar altogether, though this has not been my own experience. Some find that worshiping the Dvergar may be a factor in whether or not they can worship the Ljossalfar. Some do not. This is also why we have a broad range of spiritual specialists in Heathenry and the Northern Tradition Pagan religions. We cannot be all things to all the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. If you came to me as a spirit worker and asked for help with the Ljossalfar I would be pointing you in another direction because I do not hold relationships with Them. I coud maybe do some divination for you, maybe something in the realm of yes/no, but anything digging in too deep with how to develop good relationships with Them or what to do when one comes knocking on your door? If you want to positively respond to that I generally do not have much for you. It does not make me a bad spirit worker or that the Ljossalfar bad Themselves, I just do not have a good relationship with Them.

A spirit-worker will likely have different kinds of relationships with different kinds of vaettir from the average non-specialist. After all, a non-specialist can have very deep relationships but carry no baggage from being sworn to a group of vaettir into a given relationship. The non-specialist here then has, potentially, quite an advantage over the specialist since many of us are grabbed up by or have otherwise come into the service of a group of Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir. We may not have the option of engaging with a group of vaettir that a non-specialist could. Being a spirit worker does not make us inherently better than a non-specialist, it just means we are geared or driven towards certain kinds of spirit work. It’s a job title like diviner or healer; some spirit workers get more than one job wrapped up in their job as a spirit worker, and some do not.

What matters, in the end, is that each person is willing and able to develop good relationships with the vaettir that they come to or vice versa. Really, this gets down to the core of being Heathen or Northern Tradition Pagan. Whatever you do, whatever your role, whether Heathen, Northern Tradition, or just adjacent to these communities, you should be coming to the vaettir to develop a good relationship with Them. May these relationships be well-made and well-maintained.

Good luck and ves þu heil!