Patreon Topic 58: On Spirit World Politics Part 3

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

From Maleck comes this topic:

“1. Concrete examples, *if* you can share them. Theoretical is great, but examples make shit real.

2. How does reincarnation (as applicable in its varied forms) and otherwise longer-than-human-lifetime-time frames play into how we can/should/do approach these politics? I’m thinking about both the pitfalls and genuine concerns about how past life and possible future lives (plus ancestors etc) show up in practice.”

Since I asked for input I received some from Grimchild, who shared this on the AGF server:

“Not to be a lurker late with Starbucks, but, I’ve been v much enjoying the SpiritWorld Politics series. A couple things I’d be interested in thoughts delving more into how things like inter-spirit politics & such can play out and affect the spirit worker, and how events in Midgard/the earthly realm can affect spirit realms and vice versa. These are things that I’ve definitely experience but not seen a lot of discussion about in a way that’s … I guess I want to say grounded in discernment.”

Spirit Politics in Miðgarðr

Given current events, I will be answering Grimchild’s points first.

In the wake of this Politico article, it should be abundantly clear spirit world politics shows up on this side of things too. Christian hegemony seeks to dominate the spiritual and political spheres together, and through this, seeks to regiment what is moral, and thus, allowed in society. It seeks to dominate and dictate what is allowed to occur in every realm of sexuality, medical rights and choice, and political thought, ideology, and action. Christian hegemony seeks to destroy other religions, and is hand-in-glove with white supremacist movements. It is important to remember even as we fight for them that they are not only coming for reproductive rights. This selfsame Christian hegemony is directly tied to science denialism of all kinds, including those against climate science, reproduction, sex, gender, evolution, and environmental science, and accordingly, all the people, communities, and things that these subjects touch on. It is directly tied to white supremacist movements. Combined with a capitalist system that seeks to turn everything into a commodity, this puts our very futures as a specie at risk.

Now, folks will say that Christian hegemony operates out of a purely political perspective. I could not disagree more. The kind of fervor and zealotry that is brought to bear is kept alive and burning hot with that of absolute conviction that is borne of a religious dogma that seeks to dominate, destroy, and convert anyone not of its ilk.

Whether or not this is a directive, obligation from, or action taken on behalf of the Christian God or that of an egregore, demiurge, or other kind of spirit is rather beside the point. Whatever the Being of the God or spirit, They have inspired a supreme amount of hate in Their followers. This hate has, in turn, spawned direct political impact on those for whom They, or Their followers, are opposed to.

We must resist this. Any Pagan, polytheist, or occultist should be in opposition to these religions, and the politics they seek to carry out on all of us. Ultimately it is our subjection that is being sought, and if we will not bend the knee, it is our lives.

Resistance

So how do we resist? We have a wider range of resources at our disposal than we may give ourselves credit for. We have the usual political outlets, including the ballot box and demonstrations. That is hardly the limit here, and it would be absolutely foolish for us to limit ourselves to these. Things like this are why I encourage folks to never take tools out of their toolchest. Situations like this are what cursing, hex work, seiðr, hamfara, niðing poles, and all kinds of magic are made for. Doing magic around these situations, whether directed at a Supreme Court justice, a politician, or towards local manifestations of the issue itself, can help.

Calling on the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir associated with abortions, bodily autonomy, herbs, healing, and medicine in conjunction with doing magic and political work are ways of bringing our political actions, our spiritual actions, and ourselves together into the work before us. Doing blessings on food that others take to protests, colored thread with magic worked on them so marchers’ patches provide protection and courage, standing in witness with phones out, or being part of coordinating emergency response teams with BOBs (Bug Out Bags) or kits oriented around physical, emotional and spiritual emergencies, are all ways to bring these things together in political action even if you cannot make it directly to a demonstration or political rally. Buying Plan B or equivalent for others’ use, linking folks to communities and resources, and keeping an eye on local, regional, and State elections linked to these issues. Watching the kids, packing lunches, and bringing funds together to pay bonds are other ways of providing support to the front lines of demonstrations, direct action, and mutual aid networks. Mutual aid takes a variety of forms, and some of the least seen on TV are the most sorely needed.

These Christians are calling on God and engaging in spiritual warfare to enact their political and spiritual will. They are doing this as they engage the wheels of power to turn to their will. They are not shy about this. They are emboldened by it. Many operate under the lie that they are persecuted for their beliefs while openly persecuting anyone who does not believe or look like them. This is spiritual fascism. You cannot negotiate with this. This is not someone who wants to get along or live with you. They want you to bow or to die, and either way, they will feel emotionally superior while you do. Do not give them the satisfaction. Live powerfully, love deeply, and resist in every way you can.

This is how Spirit World Politics hit here in Miðgarðr. Sometimes, when it comes to powerful forces like those employed by Christian hegemony and all their backers, including evangelicals, traditionalist Catholics, and atheist and anti-theist enablers, this is what it looks like. Likewise, us calling on our Ginnreginn, our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir to help us in these desperate times cannot help but cause ripples politically within the Spirit Worlds as well.

Inter-Spirit Politics and the Ancestors

How though? Grimchild asked about inter-spirit politics, and one way this definitely can play out is through our Ancestors. It is entirely possible that our Ancestors are going to be divided on the subject of something as emotionally impactful as abortion. In my own case I have Catholics going back a long way in my family. Some of these folks will not be behind me on abortion rights, and will still support me. Some of these folks will not be behind me on my religion, and will still support me. If the Ancestors at hand are not behind me They don’t get reverence, worship, or offerings from me, my family, my tribe, or my Kindred. If the Ancestors do not have a relationship with me They likely will have little to no influence now, because I am the only spiritworker in my family that I know of, and the only one in my family that I know of doing any kind of in-depth Ancestor work. If They do not play ball with me then They are not likely to be heard, have impact, or be instrumental in this or the next generation. Their ability to impact Miðgarðr is greatly reduced, if not eliminated.

How do I know if a given Ancestor or group of Ancestors is on my side? I talk with Them. I work with my gifts of spiritual hearing, sight, etc. I do divination to commune with Them and to discern messages, and when I am stumped or need help I go to other diviners. I begin with the powerful Ancestors whose names I know or Who have revealed Themselvs to me. I move out from there and develop more relationships. I have good relationships with a few of the powerful Ancestors, the Disir, Väter, Eergi, and Þverr. I have good relationships with Catholic Ancestors, and older ones we could call Heathen Ancestors to keep things simple. I have Ancestors I share with loved ones related to me by blood, and I have Ancestors I share with loved ones related to me by lineage, adoption, and spirit. What all Who are in relationship with me hold is that They are with me, not against me.

If a given Ancestor wants nothing to do with a political issue that is fine, but They do not get to have input when it comes to getting shit done for that topic. If They get in the way, well, I get Them out of my way either by exclusion or asking the powerful Ancestors to keep Them out of my way. An Ancestor does not have to support everything I do, but I get to make my own choices on how my megin (might) and hamingja (group luck/power) gets used. I also get to make choices on what influence They get to have on that megin and hamingja and how they are used. In turn I deal with the consequences of that choice.

Inter-Spirit Politics Between Gods

Inter-spirit politics can take a number of other forms. Some of them can be quite beautiful, and mutually build up good relationships between the Ginnreginn. Contrast this with those that exist between the evangelical Christian God and our own. A form this can take are those that exist between two different Ginnreginn of different Worlds. I will be getting into my own experiences here, with a huge caveat: this is my personal experience, and I have no doubt that they will be controversial, particularly with those who do not believe we should be worshipping Her, or Her Children. However, I have experienced Óðinn and Angrboða, very divergent Gods, reaching out to one another. In my own case, it was through direct contact between the two of Them, being fostered to Her from Óðinn.

A brief explanation: fosterage is an old practice. In the cases that comes to mind, it was most often between a man and his brother, a freeman (karl) and a jarl or góði, and similar arrangements. However, it certainly is not the only kind, and I am finding this kind of thing happening with Gods from the same culture background (Norse and Icelandic in my case), I am also finding it across different backgrounds.

What would the purpose of such a fosterage be? Sometimes to tie two families together, or for help in raising the child. Others times fosterage would be something like a political move to unite two families or work to resolve disputes between them. Looking up fosterage in the sagas, and Gisla Saga, Sturla Saga, and Njal’s come up. In my own case it seems to serve two purposes: first, to tie these two families together in a binding way, and two, as a working relationship to resolve disputes between these families. While I would say that the grievances these two Gods and Their families have with each other are not over in any final sense, that They are willing to have and are engaged in this dialogue is a powerful thing.

With this in mind we have some good reasons for such an arrangement between two Gods, particularly ones that are chieftains of Their respective tribes. Those who are utterly opposed to the Jötnar have already checked out of the conversation. What are the implications if we accept such an experience as genuine? Again, as I have spoken about in previous posts, it is not that I am inherently more holy or better than others. It is that my lot is to be a container of relationships in this way for these Ginnreginn. Potentially anyone could be put into this situation if they accepted it. What it means is that these two Gods are willing to engage in relationship-building at the least through us, the humans, in which They are also in relationship with. It does not mean we have power over our Gods. Rather, we have power with Them.

Part of the power of animism and polytheism is that our relationships can be as varied as they are many. As many ways as we have relating to and with the Gods, why should this be an area where the Gods have no care for us? Why would we seek to limit the Gods in such a way? Why would we seek to limit ourselves in how we can connect to the Gods? Monotheism’s norms should not ever have become our yardstick, and we need to discard them should we ever hope to genuinely come into our own relationships with the Ginnreginn.

This gets to the another side of inter-spirit politics, and that largely starts in our realm and what we limit or open ourselves to. If all we ever accept is a relationship with the Gods like that which was modeled for us in Christian homes and churches then we necessarily limit ourselves as well. I am an Odinsson, and that brings with it obligations and political meaning. Accepting this brings power. It brings power through hamingja, and through all the relationships Óðinn has ever touched for good or ill. Without Óðinn I would not have gotten to know or love Loki. Without Him I would not have a relationship with the Runevaettir. Without Óðinn I would not have touched all the lives I have through those relationships with the Runevaettir, here through this blog, the Patreon, and all the shows I have been a part, including The Jaguar and the Owl, Around Grandfather Fire, and 3 Pagans on Tap, would not have happened. If I had limited myself to what was acceptable as Catholicism had taught me or as later examples in my own Pagan, polytheist, and Heathen communities had taught me, I would not be here doing and writing these things.

Reincarnation and Spirit Politics

Now, to Maleck’s questions. I will be writing on the second question first. “2. How does reincarnation (as applicable in its varied forms) and otherwise longer-than-human-lifetime-time frames play into how we can/should/do approach these politics? I’m thinking about both the pitfalls and genuine concerns about how past life and possible future lives (plus ancestors etc) show up in practice.”

My first question would be: is the life in question relevant? For instance, if you made a deal for multiple lifetimes of service to a God then that would definitely be relevant. However, I think the majority of our lives are just lived through, and while their influences may still be felt on us, such as guiding our actions, our past lives are not any more in the driver seat than our Ancestors are. There is the idea of karma as found in Dharmic traditions. This Buddhist Centre article goes over it from one point of view. To briefly sum up, karma has knock-on effects from past lives to future ones. Your choices affect how you do things as you go on to different lives.

A pitfall here can be to try to ‘make up’ or atone for the actions of your past selves. To a certain degree, particularly if you did some horrible stuff in a past life, that is laudable. However, as with a lot of things to do with past lives, it is far too easy to get sucked into those as opposed to living this life the best way that you can. You cannot change the past. However, you have immediate power with how you respond to the örlog of this life.

I do not worry much about my past lives. I am pretty busy living this one. I will not say there is nothing useful in them, though. They can be a source of power, of obligation, and healing. They can also be a source that you can tap to look for direction in this life. After all, if you can look back and see the bigger patterns or figure out where certain connections have come from, why not work with that?

Just because I do not work much with my own past lives does not mean that they are not of concern to spirit politics. To that point, it may mean quite a bit in what spirits are willing to work with you, what you örlog looks like on this go-around, and what situations in this life may be open to you. It can be worth investigating to see what you have going on, with the caution towards getting sucked into just swimming in the waters of all those past lives vs the one being lived now.

Examples of Spirit World Politics in My Life

Now, to Malek’s first question: “1. Concrete examples, *if* you can share them. Theoretical is great, but examples make shit real.”

Some examples of spirit world politics in my life:

Being the only spiritworker in my family, I get to be the point of contact. Few folks in my blood family are paying any attention to our Ancestors. Fewer still would heed Them if they were. If our Ancestors want to be heard, want a voice, or want Their descendents to listen to Them, I am more or less it. They can disagree with my choice of religion, my queerness, my relationships, all of it. They do not get to disrespect me, my partners, my Gods, my vaettir, or my other Ancestors and still have a seat at the table. Does this cause some chafing? Absolutely. However, the powerful Ancestors are also there to help sort this, so, by and large we have.

In Their turn the Ancestors get to ask things of me. So, the Catholic Ancestors had Their own section on our home Ancestor stalli in my folks’ home, and when we set it up again They will have Their own section for that as well. We have different sections for different Ancestors because folks wanted Their own space. Since our home layout is completely different it is taking a bit of time to find stalli that will work with the layout of our hearth. In the meantime we honor Them on our home’s hearth.

The wearing of the Runevaettir as tattoos on my forearms is in part a political message. It is first about my living in community with the Runevaettir. They are so important to me that I wear Them on my skin and I display Them every day since I seldom wear a long-sleeve shirt. Displaying Them this way is a signal to others that the Runes do not belong to white supremacists. It is also an open invitation to anyone to talk with me about Them, which is part of why the Runes held me to the oath to get Them tattooed onto my body, and chose the location They did. I talked about this at length in The Importance of Being Visible.

Being an Erilaz and being vocal about working with the Runes as vaettir is part of being political. It would be very easy to just shut my mouth and nod along when folks say that They are nothing more than writing. I think, though, that there is a lot to be gained and not just in terms of having solid spiritual relationships with the Runes Themselves. When you understand a Rune as a vaettir They are a whole Being unto Themselves. If we understand our writing, our systems of divination, and one of the ways in which we Heathens bring magic and power into the world as being vaettir, the political implications are enormous. The worldview brings with it an entire wealth of relationships to be considered when we want to do anything from galdr to making bindrunes to reading Runes in divination. It brings Their considerations and insight to the table, not merely what we memorize of the Rune Poems or the meaning of the words that make up Their name. It takes power out of the hands of academia to dictate the bounds of our relationship and puts that power into that of these vaettir.

Think about this. When you start to listen, really listen to these vaettir, Hagalaz is no longer just hail or destruction. They are hail and all the things that brings. They are the destruction that will be wrought, the waters that hail will melt into, and the benefits that brings. They are noted in the Icelandic Rune Poems as being the sickness of serpents, and serpents (attor) are noted in the Merseburg charm as being carriers of disease. Hagalaz can be worked with to destroy disease. Likewise, if we look to Lacouteaux and his examination of serpents in protecting the home, such as in The Tradition of Household Spirits, Hagalaz can also be worked with to destroy protection. So, while Hagalaz does not lose Their aspects of hail or destruction, They cease to just be that.

My relationship with many of the húsvaettir and landvaettir of my parents’ home has continued in my new home. When we moved we made the offer that any who wanted to come with us could. Sometimes vaettir leave a place because of neglect, abuse, or wanting to get away from a toxic situation. In this case, the reason many vaettir came with us, is that while my folks take good care of their house and land they do not offer cultus to the vaettir. To be sure, the landvaettir and húsvaettir that have stayed are happy, and so are the vaettir that came with us to the new home. Not all separation of vaettir from a place need ly to horrible, traumatic, or anything beyond wanting to stick with folks that treat you right.

This kind of positive relationship building with the landvaettir keeps up whether we are talking of my work at Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm or at my own home. The landvaettir talk. They share news as surely as nutrients are shared through the soil and mycelium networks. As sure as connections on the wind. Those political dimensions, including the little things of what I put into the soil, they feed that soil that in turn feeds those relationships. I am showing the landvaettir that They matter by what I put into the ground, how I grow what I grow, and by listening to Them on how They want things to be grown. I am putting my spiritual politics into practice by putting my hands to work in and with the ground beneath my feet as surely and concretely as I am when I make prayers or offerings.

Thank you to everyone who submitted responses, especially to Maleck for getting this series of posts started, their ongoing questions, and to Grimchild for their contributions. I am not sure if there will be a Part 4, yet, without folks submiting questions or ideas on what to cover. So, if folks are interest please let me know what you want me to cover in the comments section, in my email, or on the Around Grandfather Fire Discord server.

Patreon Topic 56: On Álfheimr

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

From Emi comes this topic:

“On Álfheim.”

Before I dig into the topic I want to voice my deep appreciation to Emi for suggesting this topic. One of the challenges of writing for patrons through my Patreon is that sometimes they throw me curve balls like this to where, when you’ve been avoiding certain Beings (Álfar) and Their World (Álfheimr) and now that a patron has asked about Them you not only need to do more research, you need to recall your interactions and understanding of Them.

One of the biggest challenges and joys of the Patreon is writing for other folks on something as powerful and personal as religion and spirituality, particularly as a Heathen spiritworker. It pushes me to talk about things that I normally would not. It pushes me to talk about my experiences with certain vaettir like the Álfar, vaettir that I have not written much about here, and that I have not spoken about much on Around Grandfather Fire or 3 Pagans on Tap. This disclosure could have no effect, or, as I have found with other writings, it can change folks’ perspective, reinforce their understanding of their experience, or just be a helping piece for them. This is the power of sharing our experiences. Writing on our understandings and experiences like this can develop our sense of comradery and coherence. This is especially true for places like Àlfheimr and the Álfar, which have very little in the way of anything written about them in the sources most Nordic Heathens use.

Álfheim is often reckoned as one of the Nine Worlds mentioned in the Völuspá. It has a brief mention in Gríminsmál, and Gylfaginning. The mentions are brief, sparse on information. Where we have a great deal of information on the Álfar from a historical context are the compendiums of stories and writings of folklorists. The Álfar are remarked on by Claude Lacouteaux in several contexts throughout his various books, all of which are excellent.

Of his books that I have read, Lacouteaux’s most useful in our context are in Demons and Spirits of the Land, The Tradition of Household Spirits, The Return of the Dead, and his entry for Elves in Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore. To summarize the Álfar as any one thing seems a fool’s errand. Over time they go from being, in the earliest sources, similar in stature to the Aesir Gods. At some point the Álfar was conflated with landvaettir, the Dvergar, the húsvaettir, and in others with human Dead. Cat Heath explores this in her own work Elves, Witches, & Gods. She devotes a whole chapter to Freyr and clear ways of working with the Álfar in a Heathen context.

If little is known about the Álfar, even less is known from our sources about Their World, Álfheimr. Almost everything we have now is from modern Heathens and Pagans who have traveled to the land or spoken with those who call it home. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, because on the one hand we do not have preconceived notions of what Álfheimr must be from primary or secondary sources. On the other, we have no way of using primary or secondary sources as a guide for discernment of our experiences with this place.

Most of my experiences in Álfheim and with the Álfar are in context of other Work. An example of this World would be when I was assigned travel to the various Worlds by Óðinn to take in lessons from various Gods and vaettir. In part because I have been putting it off for awhile and in part pushed by this blog post, though more of the former than the latter, I was pushed to visit the World.

I found it…unsettling. Inviting and welcoming, to be sure. Yet, it feels like so much is either hidden or just beyond seeing. Almost like the whole time I was there this feeling of something in the place I was visiting being out of the corner of my eye. Not in a threatening way, yet it was there just the same. The way it looks to me is a combination of Rivendell and an Old Growth forest. Old trees taller than you can see sometimes stretching up. Many places, like in front of these old trees, exudes age and yet, there is youth to be felt too. The trees beside them, the road I was walking on, and many of the Álfar I met were this, some old and some young feeling, and some an interesting combination of the two. Some Álfar looked rather like Tolkien’s elves, and others more like those from one of Brian Froud’s Fairy Oracle deck. Some Álfar were not human-shaped at all, but trees Themselves.

An except from my journal:

“Álfheimr was a great Old Forest and there was a feeling of deepness to it, of ancient beyond ancient to it. Yet there was a stone paved road before us and we walked to what I recognize as one of if not the capital of it. Great sloped walls, some of wood and others turf, some of these like the Old Icelandic turf homes and others akin to Earthships.”

Since I have only scratched the surface of the place, and since we know so little about the World Itself from lore, I do not recommend folks visit ‘just to visit’. Granted, I do not think any of the Worlds are wise to visit ‘just to visit’ or without an invitation. If you do decide to engage with the Álfar, I would recommend folks take a good look at Elves, Witches, and Gods by Cat Heath. She dedicates a chapter to Freyr and the Álfar, and has a lot of techniques and workings that folks, especially if you are looking to make contact and do seiðr, would find useful. However you decide to move forward it is well worth taking care in reaching out to the Álfar, especially since most of the sources of folklore we have reference elfshot and the like as the result of angering Them. While over-worrying can be an impediment to good relationships with vaettir, approaching any vaettir level-headed with the desire to do well by Them and good offerings is a good tack to take and will serve you well.

For the Ukranian Peoples

Update: for those who want to donate to causes that directly help the Ukrainian peoples, I was given this link by Snow. It has a list of charities and causes that you can give to, the text of the original post was written by the Kyiv Independent.

May the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir bless and be with the Ukrainian peoples.

May the húsvaettir stand strong.

May the landvaettir be mighty.

May the Ancestors inspire, comfort, and uphold.

May the Gods steel and strengthen them all.

Ves Þu heil!

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.

Reflections on Sand Talk

Following the recommendation of Rune Hjarnø Rasmussen I picked up Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World ny Tyson Yunkaporta a while back. These are my immediate reflections and thoughts on finishing it.

It took me some time to work through. Part of that was the material is dense in what it brought up for me to think and reflect on. Another is that I was consistently making notes because Yunkaporta’s style brings those thoughts up and trying to catch them can be hard. I may go back through the book sometime down the road and not take notes and just experience the book. However, each time I engaged with it I felt like a dozen little threads of thought erupt with each chapter so I wanted to wrangle at least some of those thoughts.

Something I really appreciate about the book is that its yarns are not simple, straightforward, or easily able to be bullet pointed -except when they are. I kept coming back with every story thinking on the stories that infuse my own life -that of the Nordic Gods, my Ancestors, and the vaettir. The stories of the place I live, and the names and stories of the Beings who lived here long before my Ancestors. Like the stories that infuse his life and understanding I found relating to his stories and yarns through my own.

Yunkaporta asks us to take some heavy, deep, and equally light-hearded and amused looks at ourselves. In doing this, in embracing his way of speaking/writing, and reflecting as I yarned through the book with him, I found a lot of affirmation in my own path as a Heathen, from the way I understand how it unfolds in worldview and the direction it goes. It was also cool to see different cross-currents in thought and direction between our worldviews.

For starters just the concept of yarning as a way of co-creating, co-weaving, if you will, knowledge and understanding, has so many implications for a path where weaving and carving is an active and ongoing co-creative process with the Ginnreginn. Urðr is definitely reflected in yarning. What Yunkaporta calls a yarn between people we might also call a saga or even þing. Yarning and sharing a saga or sitting down to a þing is a co-creative and collaborative working that has certainly changed through time and yet has remained similar enough that we can recognize it today.

The process of encoding meaning through carving, umpan, we call rísta. It is to carve. Umpan is also used to mean writing, now, and rísta easily fits this as well. Much as with umpan, rísta brings the symbolic language to bear to bring and communicate meaning, and to change the carver and who observes and interacts with the carving.

Like the symbols he and the us-twos have brought forward, the Runes are living symbols, because, as with the Aboriginal symbols, the Runes are vaettir.

Much like our own experiences as Heathens, the Aboriginals do not just bring in new ways of understanding or doing things without vetting them. For them, as noted in p62 regarding the ceremony to “open” that first headstone, shaped by multiple Elders and family members, incorporating older elements of the traditional mourning process that had fallen into disuse. The demotic is not a sudden acceptance or made on a whim, arbitrarily. Likewise, we do not just change how we do things. We weigh it against established lore, divination, and what makes sense for us to do with where and when we are, and what obligations and needs we have.

Something that Yunkaporta and the various folks who have contributed to the yarns in the book come to again and again is that we need to move into societies of transition. Our communities do need to share knowledge while maintaining their own unique systems grounded in the diverse landscapes they care for. That is what I and others in my Kindred and tribe are working to do. It is what we are doing at Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm. We US Pagans and polytheists are in development of these societies now.

He hits this especially hard here:

“I have previously talked about civilized cultures losing collective memory and having to struggle for thousands of years to gain full maturity and knowledge again, unless they have assistance. But that assistance does not take the form of somebody passing on cultural content and ecological wisdom. The assistance I’m talking about comes from sharing patterns of knowledge and ways of thinking that will help trigger the ancestral knowledge hidden inside. The assistance people need is not in learning about Aboriginal Knowledge but in remembering their own.” pp 144

Yes, absolutely this. I consider Runework, seiðr, spá, taufr, and other such things to be part of it as much as hearth cultus, Ancestral veneration, worship of and communication with with the Ginnreginn, and spiritwork. This is ongoing work: relationship-building, knowledge-building, spirit-building we are doing with the Ginnreginn, and part of doing that is building good relationships with the lands we live on and in.

Heathens here in the US once operated primarily from the locus of ‘if it is not written down it did not exist’, and it is a blessing this is changing. More, Heathens are taking inspiration and understanding of the lore as a jumping off point and perhaps a map, but we, we Heathens and the Ginnreginn, are the arbiters of our relationship together. This includes the world around us. We are coming out of the supremacy of the pen and printer and into the full appreciation of all our faculties.

He says “Kinship-mind is a way of improving and preserving memory in relationships with others. If you learn something with or from another person, this knowledge now sits in the relationship between you. You can access the memory of it best if you are together, but if you are separated you can recall the knowledge by picturing the other person or calling out their name. This way of thinking and remembering is not limited to relationships with people.” pp148-149

This immediately reminds me of Odin’s interactions with and ongoing relationship with Mimir, Saga, Loki, and other Gods. He maintains ongoing relationships with each, drawing wisdom and being the way through which inspiration reaches us through His interaction with Them. If Odin is the Utterer and Inspirer, then it is through Wisdom (Mimir), Stories (Saga), Creativity (Loki), Knowledge (Vafþrúðnir; His Name means “Mighty Weaver”) and so on.

“In Aboriginal worldviews, relationships are paramount in knowledge transmission. There can be no exchange or dialogue until the protocols of establishing relationships have taken place. Who are you? Where are you from? Where are you going? What is your true purpose here? Where does the knowledge you carry come from, and who shared it with you? What are the applications and potential impacts of this knowledge on this place? What impacts has it had on other places? What other knolwedge is it related to? Who are you to be saying these things?” pp149

It is worth pointing out that most of those Odin meets with regularly are relatives or closely related to Him in some way. Mimir is His Uncle, Saga His Wife’s Handmaiden, Lok His Blood-Brother, and Vafþrúðnir while not directly related is one He seeks to test His knowledge and mettle against.

“In our world nothing can be known or even exist unless it is in relation to other things. Critically, those things that are connected are less important than the forces of connection between them. We exist to form these relationships, which make up the energy that holds creation together. When knowledge is patterned within these forces of connection, it is sustainable over deep time.” p149-150.

Yes, and this is true of the Ginnreginn, the Runevaettir, and Urðr Itself. It is true of ourselves and our relationships with one another. It is true of ourselves and our relationship to this world.

There are five different ways in the Aboriginal way of thinking in his yarn (pp 150-152):

Kinship-mind.

Story-mind.

Dreaming-mind.

Ancestor-mind.

Pattern-mind.

He advises in pp 173 to come up with our own words for these.

“They are not capitalized because I don’t want them to become buzzwords absorbed into the marketplace. There are no trademarks in this knowledge. It is not specific to any single cultural group; instead, it belongs to everyone. You should come up with your own words for these ways of thinking if you decide to use them. You should alter them to match your own local environment and culture. This is all open-source knowledge, so use it like Linux software to build what you need to build for a sustainable life. If you want to do this you can use the symbol and your hand now to work through a logic sequence that will help you understand holism and enable you to come to Turtle story later on.

He goes on to yarn at length about how we can develop ways of knowing, understanding, co-creating. The entire book is this exploration. It encourages the reviving, embracing, and developing of our worldview. It encourages us to embrace old and new ways of understanding and knowledge. It encourages us to bring our relationship to the Ginnreginn and so, the World we inhabit and the Worlds around us, to the fore. In living in this way, he puts forward, we can save the World.

I found Sand Talk hopeful, insightful, and utterly useful for anyone willing to sit and yarn with Tyson Yunkaporta for a while. It is well worth the time. It is my hope that more Heathens, Nordic Pagans, and Nordic animists embrace this more holistic, and integrated way of being.

Patreon Topic 52: Maintaining Boundaries in Spiritwork

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

From Maleck comes this topic:

“Can you talk about maintaining boundaries in Spiritwork? For example: there’s debate I’ve seen online about passing messages you might get for people without them consenting to receive messages, and any issues you might have with randomly being pinged.”

Maintaining boundaries in spiritwork is absolutely necessary. A good part of keeping good boundaries is good spiritual hygiene and enforcing what boundaries you absolutely want to be kept up. Both require discipline. You have to be disciplined in doing cleansing, grounding, centering, and shielding on a regular basis, and seeing that you fulfill your obligations, taboos, and so on. You have to be disciplined in saying “This far, no further” regardless of what God, Ancestors, or vaettr (spirit) is doing the asking or demanding. You have to be disciplined in determining what is or is not yours to pass on, and this goes for messages, any teachings or wisdom you may have on a subject, or really anything you could consider in spiritwork. This is why spiritual hygiene is so important. Your discernment suffers when you are not at your best, and while we cannot be at our best all the time, regular spiritual hygiene work keeps us clean, clear, and uncluttered for when we do have work to do.

Generally speaking I do not pass messages without permission. I generally do not do spiritwork without express permission, and that includes energy work, prayer, and other practices most folks look at as ‘benign’. ‘Help’, unasked for and unwanted, is no help at all. Worse, I am could be violating someone’s right to refuse help. The other side of this is much more practical: I have limited time and energy to get things done in a given day. If I kept throwing out energy to every single ‘energy work’, ‘prayer request’, and so on, it would be no different than donating every cent I have to everyone and every cause that I could think of to support. If I do that, there is nothing left for my Ginnreginn, my family, my communities, or my own needs. There is also no reciprocity here.

When it comes to keeping boundaries around messages, a few that I have are:

Unless I have been specifically asked, if a vaettr is asking to pass a message along I first ask the recipient. If the recipient says no, then that is the end of it. This holds true even in rituals where the point is that spiritual messages are being given. Before I read or do other spiritwork for a client we talk about expectations, boundaries, and the like that they can expect before, during, and after the work.

I am not an open terminal. Not every vaettr gets access to me. Unless I know the vaettr in question or have been specifically asked by a client to communicate with a certain vaettr, I do not take messages.

If the person needs to get a message I recognize I may not be the best route and communicate the to the vaettr in question. If I feel I am in the wrong headspace, especially with what should be a carefully worded/given message, I will negotiate for another time, or, if this is not possible, for the vaettr to find another way of getting the message to the recipient.

Regarding randomly being pinged: I treat it like a lot of folks who try to hit me up on social media without an introduction. I do not see why there is much in the way of debate around this: the vaettir, outside of Óðinn, do not own my time. If I have been handshaked into a conversation, whether by a person or by a God I have active, ongoing cultus with, that is a different story. The ‘pings’ then, aren’t random, they’re attempts at communication. Generally I do not take random pings. Any vaettr could be giving that, and I have no desire to borrow trouble from one that wants to use it as a backdoor. If a vaettr is not willing to go through proper channels that is a red flag.

I do not think anyone should feel under obligation to answer their spiritual door, let alone let any vaettr that knocks in. You should not feel that obligation from the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, or your community. If you choose to open the door to communication to any who call, that is your business. I do not recommend it, but in the end your boundaries to set and keep are just that.

Patreon Song/Poem/Prayer 29 -For Cernnunos -Farewell

If you want to submit a request for a prayer, poem, or song to be written to you privately or to be posted on this blog or my Patreon for a God, Ancestor, or spirit, sign up for the Ansuz and above level here on my Patreon. This prayer was requested by Maleck Odinsson for Cernunnos.

You walked with me

Through the woods, the wild, the wonderful places

You showed me

The sacred places, prepared and protected me

You taught me

The holy ways, hallowing and healing

O Horned One, Torc-Bearer

Hoof and horn, claw and crushing jaw

Gentle-stepper, Silent Stalker

Hunter and Hunted, Predator and Prey

Thank You, always, for walking with me

Thank You, always, for showing me

Thank You, always, for teaching me

Cernnunos

Reflecting on Two Articles on a Post-Christian Future

Manny Tejeda-Moreno wrote an article, “Editorial: Douthat’s post-Christian future, a response” for The Wild Hunt, responding to a New York Times op-ed “The Return of Paganism”, an article written by Ross Douthat.  Rather than dig through both articles, I found things within Tejeda-Moreno’s article I felt were worth responding to. Tejeda-Moreno’s response to Douthat highlights things that I felt were worth exploring, as I have seen Pagan and polytheist communities struggle through the fourteen years I have on-and-off called myself a Pagan and have been a polytheist.

It is pretty clear Ross Douthat is not a part of any modern Pagan religion, and he has been an op-ed writer for several years. I am not shocked Tejeda-Moreno is dissatisfied with the article. Over the course of his life Douthat has been a Pentecostal and a Catholic and was educated at Harvard. He is not only writing from outside our communities essentially about us, as Tejeda-Moreno clearly points out, he is doing so poorly informed.

His lamentations that there may be more witches than members of the United Church of Christ should be evidence enough that he is mourning or at least ill at ease in the post-Christian future he sees on the horizon. I find this notion at odds, though, with those exercising levers of power and in the majority. The most prominent and numerous members in US society are some flavor of monotheist, predominantly Christian. Those who are not Christians in positions of power, such as political or academic settings, are often agnostic or atheist. All tend to default to some variation of ‘hierarchy of religion’ in which one’s personal flavor (Christian, atheist, or agnostic) is the summit of the hierarchy. Pagan and polytheist religions are often derided for their belief in ‘demons/delusions’, ‘outmoded ideas’, ‘dead gods’, and the like, treated more as curiosities than anything worthy of regard either in academia or in interfaith settings.

I echo Tejeda-Moreno’s disappointment with Douthat’s assertion that Paganism is “some civic cult with supernatural experimentation driven by secret societies of literati weaving post-Christian intellectualism into society.” Modern Pagan religions are neither that organized nor that well-developed. Even if we were, intellectualism or rationalism is not the main philosophy of a good number of Pagans or polytheists.  We certainly do not have the numbers for civic cultus, nor the structures which would make it relevant so far as I can see.

In the first place, modern Pagan religions do not even internally agree on what Paganism itself is. The term is so nebulous as to be unwieldy, effectively ending in some vague sense of ‘not Christian’. Some Pagans who use the word as their primary means of identification are polytheist, believing in and worshiping many Gods. Some Pagans who use the word as their primary means of identification are atheist, believing that there are no Gods and worship nothing. Saying anything accurate when even basic and essential matters of theology are disagreed upon internal to specific religions within Paganism is almost impossible. For instance: Are Wiccans theist? If so, which Wiccans, if any, are theist and which, if any, are atheist?

Then there comes issues of who gets to decide who gets to be called Wiccan in the first place. Gatekeeping, who gets to do it, and who has the right to gatekeep specific Pagan religions are a series of ongoing issues in many Pagan and polytheist religions. Without these basic methods of organization decided, it matters little whether one says “Wiccans are theist” or “Wiccans are atheist” because the ground upon which the matter would rest shifts dependent on the practitioner and not the identifier itself.  The reason I go over words and their meanings so often in my posts is because of this ongoing problem.  There is a consistent need to reinforce what words mean because the language in Pagan communities is inconsistently applied and used.  I can get more to the core of what I am by using the word polytheist rather than Pagan because, where Pagan is a very mushy word, polytheist says what it is right on the tin.

I have a bone to pick with Tejeda-Moreno, and that is the same bone I have with everyone and anyone who uses the term ‘organized religion’ without including our own religions.  The term organized religion means what it says, “A structured system of faith or worship” though most associate it with monotheist religions.  Every single religion is organized or it is not a religion.  Were Tejeda-Moreno to have written something like “Christian religions have failed their faithful and the broader society in two ways” or “Monotheist religions have failed their faithful and the broader society in two ways” there would be less issue from me.  It’s still an over-generalization of centuries of history, but it would be more accurate than to just hand Christianity and other monotheist religions the phrase organized religion.

Further, setting up Paganism and organized religions as being against one another is nonsensical.  The “continued toleration of sexual abuse and misogyny exposes all the other moral failings” regardless of which religion it is in question, and Paganism is no more immune to this than Catholicism is.  Indeed, it is also true that “Individuals working to experience their authentic selves are deluged by moral pronouncements serving only to layer guilt and self-hatred” is equally applicable to the Pagan and polytheist communities.  Arguably, it is something that most faith communities engage in rather than the work of their religions’ callings.

The failure here is that Douthat fails to recognize that people should be free to believe in a religion that offers them meaning without ridicule.

I do not think that he fails to understand this so much as it is in his Catholic view that there are true and good religions and those that are not.  It’s also his mistake in assuming that we Pagans and polytheists only conceive as Gods belonging to Creation, and not able to be both immanent and transcendent, or one or the other.  His agreements with Steven Smith’s assessment of things rests on shaky ground as Smith commits pantheists and atheists to his view without even so much as bringing in contemporary Pagan or polytheist authors to his article while mischaracterizing those same religious movements.  In it, he ignores the lived religions of Pagans and polytheists and misses what immanent as well as transcendent Gods, Ancestors, and spirits do to the weltanschauung of the religions and people who believe in Them and worship Them.

Tejeda-Moreno continues:

He avoids a basic reality, as well: individuals are not turning away from organized religion. They are turning toward something that has meaning for them. It may be praxis, or it may be dogma; whatever the reason, they are invoking the fundamental human rights of thought, belief, and religion. Complaining about them as sinful distortions, or implying a divine force is preparing to act in retribution, is using fear in service of patriarchal oppression.

Again, I think Douthat isn’t avoiding a basic reality, but couching in terms familiar to himself and his religion.  Douthat’s point is made here in that regard, and it is a good one:

These descriptions are debatable, but suppose Smith is right. Is the combination of intellectual pantheism and a this-world-focused civil religion enough to declare the rebirth of paganism as a faith unto itself, rather than just a cultural tendency within a still-Christian order?

It seems to me that the answer is not quite, because this new religion would lack a clear cultic aspect, a set of popular devotions, a practice of ritual and prayer of the kind that the paganism of antiquity offered in abundance. And that absence points to the essential weakness of a purely intellectualized pantheism: It invites its adherents to commune with a universe that offers suffering and misery in abundance, which means that it has a strong appeal to the privileged but a much weaker appeal to people who need not only sense of wonder from their spiritual lives but also, well, help.

Douthat goes on to say:

However, there are forms of modern paganism that do promise this help, that do offer ritual and observance, augury and prayer, that do promise that in some form gods or spirits really might exist and might offer succor or help if appropriately invoked. I have in mind the countless New Age practices that promise health and well-being and good fortune, the psychics and mediums who promise communication with the spirit world, and also the world of explicit neo-paganism, Wiccan and otherwise.

He’s not wrong in his assessment here.  One of the major appeals in Pagan and polytheist religions is that we have living relationships with our Gods, Ancestors, and spirits that in some way invite us to share in co-creating with Them.  We are invited to appreciate the beauty of our Holy Powers, the Worlds we inhabit, and so much more. Our Holy Powers occupy many places simultaneously that we can appreciate on multiple levels, including that of devotion, aesthetic, beauty, joy, and more.  We build relationships with our Holy Powers at our altars and in our statues.  We build relationships with Them in places They hold in high regard.  We build relationships with Them in sacred places in nature or our cities.  We build relationships with our Holy Powers when we bear jewelry or tattoos of Their forms, symbols or Names.  We build relationships with Them when we lay down offerings at a tree, look out to the Sun’s or Moon’s rise, feel Them in the breeze.  We build relationships with Them in the grip of writing a poem, knitting a blanket, or making a piece of art.

Douthat goes on with ill-conceived generalized histrionics that are wrong, namely in regards to ancient Roman elites.  Polytheism, not pantheism was the norm.  He is also forming his argument on shaky foundations for what it would take to form a living pagan religion under his view:

To get a fully revived paganism in contemporary America, that’s what would have to happen again — the philosophers of pantheism and civil religion would need to build a religious bridge to the New Agers and neo-pagans, and together they would need to create a more fully realized cult of the immanent divine, an actual way to worship, not just to appreciate, the pantheistic order they discern.

His point here is wrong.  Pagans and polytheists do not need pantheists or outside civil religionists.  We have our own philosophers, and for those who wish to engage in civil religions there are ample examples to follow.  We need not partner with pantheists or civil religionists to create a fully realized cult of the immanent divine because we possess all the tools, ability, and functions to do so within our own religions.  We already have everything Douthat is pointing out here.

Likewise, Tejeda-Moreno is wrong.

Whether we are discussing Witchcraft, Heathenry, or any other practice broadly described as Pagan, individuals are not turning away from organized faiths; they are turning toward something more meaningful to them. Pagans are re-wilding their faith interactions to the immanent and the spiritual, and few things are more dangerous to what is “organized” than what is “wild”.

Individuals are turning away from monotheist religions, not organized ones.  They are turning towards something more meaningful to them, that is true, but it is not something that is not organized, only organized in a different fashion.  We are re-wilding our religions insofar as our Gods, Ancestors, and spirits are immanently intertwined with the development of our religions.  What most who are coming into “Witchcraft, Heathenry, or any other practice broadly described as Pagan” are coming into is one where the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits are immanent and transcendent, not bound by us, our morality, our politics, or our views.  The Gods are the Gods, Their own, and we do not control Them.  The Ancestors are the Ancestors, Their own, and we do not control Them.  The spirits are the spirits, Their own, and we do not control Them.

It is not us who are re-wilding our religions.  If our religions are wild it is because the Holy Powers are not in our control.  We talk with our Holy Powers, we seek Their guidance, and whether through divination, omens, inspiration, or other means They make Their desires and wills known.  This does not mean we have no bearing on our religion.  We do, because it is in relationship with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits that our religions are woven.  We can disagree with our Holy Powers, negotiate, ask, work with Them to different ends.  We can also agree with our Holy Powers, obey, negotiate, ask, do the work we are given.  We can have times where it is hard to know what They want, times where our lives are fallow, times where we are sure of what They want, and times where our lives are so full we are fit to burst.  These are lived relationships.

Ultimately, Mr. Douthat argues that the promises of Paganism are vacant. The rituals and prayers lack meaning and effect: “I don’t know how many of the witches who publicly hexed Brett Kavanaugh really expected it to work,” he writes. The same sentiment could be shared for those followers of the Christian god who prayed for hurricanes to turn away from the United States toward Mexico.

I think that this is fair on both sides.  So long as we are not living solid in our relationships with the Holy Powers, then I agree that “all the rituals and prayers lack meaning and effect”.  Without prayers bound in meaning, in relationship with our Holy Powers, they are merely words.  Perhaps the only effect they can carry is offense or disinterest. Without rituals made in relationship with our Holy Powers with clarity, discipline, and skill, it is so much empty action.  Without magic rooted in our worldviews crafted with discipline, and skill, again, it is empty action.

Rather than seeing, as Tejeda-Moreno does, that Douthat feels entitled to an explanation from Pagans and polytheists, I see that Douthat has fear of what we may bring to the table:

Until then, those of us who still believe in a divine that made the universe rather than just pervading it — and who have a certain fear of what more immanent spirits have to offer us — should be able to recognize the outlines of a possible successor to our world-picture, while taking comfort that it is not yet fully formed.

I agree with Tejeda-Moreno that Douthat “avoids the obvious remedy to his dilemma” which, for monotheists is that they are not “living up to their origins, whether those be the promise of salvation, submission, or, even more simply, love.”  I also think it is more complex than Tejeda-Moreno’s conclusion.  The problem with monotheist religions and philosophies derived from them is they seek to eliminate all others.  Those who espouse arguments like the ‘evolution of religion’ or the ‘Kingdom of God’ wants its particular religion (or lack thereof) to get to the top so it can install its hegemony over all the others beneath it.  Paganism is not the boogeyman here, but neither is hypocrisy.

What is sitting in the background of monotheist religions is that when any attains power it then seeks to crush or convert any other religion.  Calls to the faithful to evangelize, to destroy the Pagans, to convert the masses of the world are still being made.  As Douthat says:

Until then, those of us who still believe in a divine that made the universe rather than just pervading it — and who have a certain fear of what more immanent spirits have to offer us — should be able to recognize the outlines of a possible successor to our world-picture, while taking comfort that it is not yet fully formed.

What Douthat is afraid of is that we are going to be living in a post-Christian world and takes explicit comfort that a successor is not fully-formed to it yet.  After all, look at what the Christians did to the non-believers.  Why wouldn’t a Christian, having an understanding of the kinds of destruction such things brought, not be afraid of such things being brought down on them?  What Douthat and monotheists like him are afraid of is not just irrelevance, but that non-monotheist religions will make inroads, take up different power in different ways, and offer better futures than the one they’ve had the last two thousand or so years to build.  Their hegemony is slipping bit by bit, year by year.  They fear the loss of power.  They are afraid the futures we face without the hegemony of their religions and philosophies on our necks.  They are afraid of our Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.

On Purification and Cleansing

I took a week off of social media, and I included my blog here at WordPress for that time.

It was a good time, coming right off the heels of Sacred Firetending at Michigan Paganfest.
It really made me think, though, about a lot of things.  Not the least of which is the time I waste on social media.  Now, a lot of my writing here?  That tends to be time well-spent because I am sussing things out, writing devotional poetry and other works, or otherwise devoting time to my Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir.

My time away made me realize just how fucked up social media is, when you get down to brass tacks.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I do a lot of networking on it that is not only useful, but downright necessary to interact with the folks in my Kindred as well as the larger Pagan community.  However, what I am really coming to grips with is how damned sick, lacking a better term, social media is.  When something takes off, it takes off like a virus.  After all, a post, a picture, a video gaining mass popularity is called ‘going viral’ for a reason.  If it is incorrect information, it spreads the wrong information and it infects all those who take it in as fact.

This is where inoculation or sanitation and treatment come in, or, in terms polytheists would be more familiar with, purification and cleansing.  We purify a space so that it is cleansed of vaettir (spirits), and likewise, any magic or spiritual force that would seek to do us harm or disrupt the ritual, ceremony, etc. we are about to perform.  We purify a space, such as a vé (sacred place; it might have an altar or be a natural thing, such as a boulder or tree, etc.), hörgr (a stone vé, sometimes stacked, or an altar of stone).  We cleanse ourselves and any objects we would seek to bring into this space so we are in a state that is clean for the same reason as purification.  If you are facilitating a ritual, it is likely you have cleansed yourself and any things that you are bringing into the area, then purified the space.

These procedures are recognizable to anyone who works in healthcare: your inoculation makes you resistant to diseases that can harm your patients and yourself, your hand-washing prevents you from spreading disease, and your personal hygiene prevents you from becoming sick.  If you refuse to do these things you are not doing your due diligence to those in your care.  That is not to say that sickness is completely unavoidable.  It is not, just as impurity in sacred space does happen.  It is also not to say that sickness is morally wrong; it is not.  It simply is.  However, it is our obligation, whether healthcare or in religious matters, for us to do our due diligence so that those in our care are as healthy as can be.  A ritual leader who refuses to do purification and cleansing work is analogous to a doctor who refuses to be sanitary.

Of course, there are folks out there who will say I am being dramatic about this.

If we take our religions, and our roles within them seriously, then this kind of preparation to erect or inhabit a sacred space should be normal.  There may be exceptions to this rule, i.e. polytheist religious paths I have not come across that do not carry out purification rites in general or for specific workings because it would be detrimental to the rite, working, etc.  I am not speaking to these.  The polytheist religions I have been in or had contact with carry similar enough ritual protocols for these to be general, such as cleaning yourself physically and spiritually before a ritual, or if you do not have time for a shower, at least doing some kind of cleansing work, whether a simple ritual of washing the hands, sprinkling water on one’s head, passing fire about the place and one’s body, and so on.

If I am to carry out a ritual, it is my Gebo to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir that I am a living example to those in the ritual.  I need to be clean in body, mind, and spirit.  I need to show good protocol for engaging with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.  As much as the ritual actions are my role in the ritual, so too is my living example.  If someone is coming to me for divination I need to be clean and the sacred space it takes place needs to be clean.  My obligation to the shamans, diviners, Rune-workers, Runemeisters, the Runevaettir, and Odin Himself is to do the work and do it well, whether that work is the preparation before the reading, the reading itself, or any work that occurs coming from the reading.  To do this, I need to have good signal, and to have good signal I and the space need to be clean for the reading.  Whatever my role, I owe this Gebo,this obligation of doing the prequisite work well to those who came before me in these roles, to my Elders, Disir, Väter, Ancestors, and so on.  I also owe this Gebo to the Gods, Ancestors and vaettir to do this work well, not just for the work present in the moment, but to provide an ongoing living example of the work in action.  

In order to do well, to be excellent, the foundation must be cared for.  The foundation of good religious work is to do the prerequisite work well.  This includes the education one needs in order to be an informed participant in the religion, and the carrying out of one’s role in the religion that arises from that knowledge.  It is not some out-of-reach perfection I am talking about here either, nor am I talking merely about the role ritual leaders hold in being ritual pure or helping to make purified religious space.  The foundations of religious work are carried by everyone in that religion.  Purification and cleansing are part of those foundations so we enter into sacred space clean and well, so that the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are prayed to, offered to, experienced, and understood well.  Purification and cleansing help us to keep these things clean so that what we do and pass on is healthy for our religions, our communities, our tribes, our Kindreds, our families, and ourselves.

A Vision in Storm

I went outside and there were Gods and spirits dancing.

The storm-etins danced among the thunderbirds

Thor and Farbauti struck through the air

Odin whirled overhead

I smoked, offering up prayers to all of Them

As I did I saw:

Lightning illuminated the Raven

It tore at the cloud-man’s guts

The intestines roping out of him

The Raven gorged

I saw a bolt of lightning and it croaked like a Raven

Calling

I looked to my left and there was a great Wyrm

Open mouthed in the lightning-light

It twisted through the air, wings wide

The thunder was not Its voice, but the clap of its wings

As it flew along the East

Swift