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Connecting With Christian Ancestors

March 21, 2013 12 comments

My thanks to Sannion who prompted this post with his own.

I have been working with my Ancestors pretty closely going on about four years now.  In that time a pair of ancient Ancestors, one a Disir, a powerful female Ancestors, and the other a Vater (German word meaning ‘father’ which I use in place of ‘alfar’ which can also mean ‘elf’) have come forward to guide me in my Work.  In the last two years my Catholic Ancestors have raised Their Voices and let Themselves be known much stronger than previous.  It seems now, in addition to speaking for my long-Dead Ancestors, that I must speak for and with the Catholic ones as well.

When They first began contacting me, it was a cacophony of voices, questions like “Why did you stop going to church?  Do you not like Fr. ___ anymore?” and “You can still pray with us, yes? (or ja?, dependent on the Ancestor)?” and many others.  Their Catholic identity was so strong and intrinsic to Their Being that They carried it over with some part of Them into Death.  If Their Catholicism is as deep, powerful, and purposeful a presence in Their life as Paganism is in mine, that it lasts well after They have crossed over, who am I to argue with Their spirits?

Part of engaging with the Ancestors is to encounter Them on Their own terms, regardless of how comfortable They make us,  but I take that only to a point.  That point for me is an abusive Ancestor who has been abusive towards myself and/or others that has refuted any attempts at reconciliation.  I do not have Ancestors who abused me while They lived, and for that, I am deeply grateful.  The point of working with our Ancestors is not to tear open old wounds unnecessarily, but where we can, to give comfort, healing, and connection to Them and to ourselves, the Worlds we live in, and the places They once lived.   In the case of an abusive Ancestor I advise contacting an older and/or closer Ancestor to you than that person.

I was deeply uncomfortable, especially at first, with the offerings my Catholic Ancestors wanted me to make.  They wanted me to go to church, to sing Them Catholic songs I had learned as a child, to read to Them from the Bible.  As with a lot of my Work I came to understand that really my comfort is secondary to doing what is right for my Ancestors.  For my Ancestors who still identify as Catholic, there is a profound peace, purpose, and love They find in the liturgy They have me read, in the songs I sing, in the love I show to Them by doing this.

There are certain things I will not do, such as attend church services where I directly participate in the Mass, i.e. taking Communion.  I would be lying to myself, my Ancestors, my Catholic Ancestors especially, and to Their God.  I would also be taking into my body the Body and Blood of Christ, and that I cannot do, for many theological reasons, chief among them being that I am Odin’s and so, I cannot proclaim the Catholic Mystery of Faith.  While I may go to a Mass for a family member, such as a funeral or a wedding, I cannot be part of it as my Catholic relatives will be.

What I do, instead, is do as my Ancestors have asked in concession.  I carry in my pocket a green Gideon New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs.  I may pray to the Ancestors out of it, sing from it, or, as They have had me do more recently, listen to Them with it.  I shut my eyes, letting the pages flow along my fingers until I hit a page and feel or ‘hear’ stop.  When this happens I let my fingers flow along the page until I feel or ‘hear’ stop again, and look at what the message from Them is.  It is especially helpful because it is a way my Catholic Ancestors feel comfortable with it, and it gives us a common connection.  I happen to find great beauty in the Psalms, especially 23.

I have also placed my First Communion rosary on the Ancestor Altar for Them, and a red Gideon New Testament like the one above, and keep it as I would anything else on the Ancestor Altar.  While I do not pray the rosary, given the Nicene Creed is part of it, it is there as a reminder, and a way of connection many of my Dead.  I need not pray the rosary to feel its influence in my life, particularly my Ancestors’ skull prayer beads, which brings me great comfort and connection.

The Catholic prayers I once prayed and sang, the many days I spent at prayer in church have had good effect on how I pray to my own Gods.  The process of learning to sing, clearly and in more-than-ordinary language, lends itself to the altered states of consciousness, the mindfulness I hope to achieve with Them.  I learned “Adeste Fideles”, otherwise known as “O Come All Ye Faithful” in first grade, and loved the Latin language.  I was required to know what I was singing, and why I was singing it.  To know not just the words that the Latin translated into, but what they meant to those I was singing them to, and for me, given I was singing solo.  Rote prayer has a power with me because it is what I grew on.  Intellectual investigation of the source materials for my religion, and constantly questioning was appreciated by my priests, and it is one of many things I carried with me into my Paganism.  An appreciation of spiritual gifts and mystic experiences was given to me at a young age, where I had an experience kneeling before the Tabernacle during one of my Confirmation classes.  I prayed for two hours, and experienced Christ in a deeply personal way, His Voice, His touch.  It is from these deep wells of learning, from then and more recently, that much of my devotional Work is culled from.

Working with my Catholic Ancestors is rebuilding a bridge between us I had long thought burnt to ash.  When I became a Pagan I spoke with Yahweh, explaining that my choice to follow the Goddess, then Brighid, was not to hurt Him or betray Him, but a following of my heart for what called me, and I recognized that the Voice was not His.  I thought in this I would have to cut most,  if not all ties to my Catholic family, Ancestors included.  I am deeply happy to be shown that is not the case.

The impassable wall that I feared I had built between myself and my family seems to be much less a solid wall than one with many gates, some shut to me, and others wide open.  Ancestor Work is one of those wide open gates, and there are Ancestors freely coming to many of my rituals, Catholic Ancestors and otherwise.  Sometimes we must be the ones to raise that gate and acknowledge our Ancestors.  Sometimes They will come to us and invite us to meet between, acknowledging us on our path, still extending love, and connecting with us.  It is, as with all things, Gebo.

Question 3: Odin and His Heiti

March 3, 2013 6 comments

From Loki’s Bruid:

I’d like to hear your perspective on Odin Himself actually, perhaps on some of His lesser known aspects. Lots of people get the Allfather or the Asa King, but what about some of His lesser known or called on heiti?

Truth be told, with anywhere between 188-200 heiti, (and I have seen the number bumped up to 300 in some sources) there’s no way I know Him through any more than a few of His lesser-known heiti.  Keep in mind that as I write this I am just starting to find heiti that might fit or fit best for my experiences of Him.  It may be that heiti are simply a hindrance for one person and a door to deeper understanding for another, and I leave that between the worshiper and Odin.  For me, the heiti are helpful in that they provide a door or window to understanding Him, to at least put a name or title to this part of Him that I have experienced.

In terms of Odin’s heiti I look at it very much as experiencing different aspects of the same God; Yggr (The Terrible) still is Odin, at the end of the experience, but He is a ‘face’ of Odin that I do not, mercifully, experience very often.  I could see Hóvi (The High) may have come to me while I was writing the November posts to Him in the Hávamál style.  When I experience the Alföðr (Allfather) it is, for me, Odin Who is primarily concerned with humanity and getting us where we, perhaps personally but more collectively, where we need to go.  Then there is Odin as my Father and Leash-holder, the heiti which sticks out to me that is most apt for this being Haptaguð (Fetter God).  These latter two are the aspects of Odin I see the most.

Yet, underneath all of these heiti is Odin, and all of these heiti are also not just descriptors, in my understanding.  Much as I am Sarenth Odinsson I am also the name given to me by my birth parents.  I am also ‘love’ and ‘sweetheart’ and ‘Dad’.  I am in a different role when I meet others as Sarenth, generally speaking, just as Odin-as-Yggr came to me when I was hanging on Yggdrasil a few years ago.  That is an aspect in which He has truly earned that heiti.  He is the Hanged God, and there was a sense of terror of Him in me that I can only describe as holy terror.

I will never truly know all of my best friends’ personalities.  I do not know my friends’ as child or mother, for instance, and there are personality dynamics that will never be ours, ways of seeing one another that will not be ours, at the least, in this lifetime.  Even as a friend I will never fully know them.  Our Gods will never fully reveal Themselves to us in Their totality.  I think to the tale of how Zeus revealed Himself to His lover and she burnt to ash at the power of His Presence.  I do not think we can handle the full-tilt power of the Gods revealed, at the least, not Gods like Odin.  Perhaps local Gods, i.e. of rivers or forests may be different, but in this too I have doubt.  Heiti, from my perspective, give us ways of understanding our Gods in different forms, functions, and relationships that They have to share with us, and that They take on.  With all that said, I’ll write about some of Odin’s heiti I have encountered, and my experiences with Odin in context of those heiti.

Karl: The Old Man

There are times where Odin comes to me and He is angry or grumpy with me about a misstep I have taken or a project I am lagging on.  There are times where I call Him, and I say this with all due respect to Him, jokingly, the Old Man.  Sometimes this is said in a more joking tone, others, a more serious, but there underneath it all is reverence.  I figure if I am getting scolded I am getting off easy.  It turns out that one of heiti translated to Old Man is Karl.  This is, for me, one of His less severe forms, and one He frequently shows to myself and others.  It is the Grandfather or Father Who, while annoyed with you and wanting to bat you about the head and legs, takes patience in stride and guides you along the right way.  Sometimes He gets you where you need to go by grabbing your ear and dragging you there  (or tugging my leash in this case), if you make yourself a nuisance.  I find this most often shows up with those who are just coming to know Him or have a familiar relationship with Him.  This is not to say that the Old Man cannot or will not be severe, but it is not the kind of severity and fear I have found with Yggr, for instance.

Yggr: The Terrible

The only time I have really encountered Odin in this form that I can remember is when I was hanging on Yggdrasil to take in the Runes as few years ago.  It was under His guidance that I do this, and that I fast for nine days, drinking only what would keep my body going and alive without sleeping into issues with my diabetes.  When I hung, especially long hours with the rope wrapped around my leg, there He was.  He stank to high hell, He was half-Dead, it seemed to me at the time. His voice was as cold as His body, both as the grave.  To get an idea of the fear I felt I feel I have to resort to poetic or expressive language because there is no real communicating the sheer fear He imbued in me, even as I was facing my own potential physical Death.  He is The Terrible, the Terrible sacrifice that must be made for power, for the Worlds to go on, that sacrifice of Self-to-Himself that is recounted in the Hávamál.  He is Dead and Living, has seen and experienced the Ginnungagap, and come back through, and yet, He is always there, Hanging eternally.  It makes me shiver just remembering.

Hóvi: The High

When I am writing poetry about Him, especially Hávamál-style verse, this is the heiti of Odin I tend to experience.  Sometimes it is the mere brush of His hand or cloak, sometimes it is Him standing over top of me like a master scribe to an apprentice doing dictation.  I do not tend to get as much sensory information, for lack of better terms/more descriptive language, than I have with Yggr or Karl.  It is more a feeling of Him standing behind me, or His hands or breath pouring into the crown of my head as I write, down onto the keyboard or onto the page.

Haptaguð: The Fetter God

This is a part of Odin that will probably never leave me.  Odin holds my leash, as I am His godatheow, and sometimes that hold is slack, and sometimes it is quite tight.  As with Hóvi, I do not experience this heiti of Odin’s so much with all of my senses, but as more of a Presence, and a tugging around my neck, particularly around my apple or at times along my crown.  There are times when I feel the Presence of this heiti stronger than others, such as when I may be wandering into danger and there is a sudden ‘jerk’ along my neck.  There are other times where His Presence in this heiti manifests as a word or a command, sharp and attention grabbing and I find myself following it before I ask “What?” or “Why?”  When this latter experience happens it is unmistakably Him, and I find myself compelled to obey.

Father

This, for me, is probably the hardest to write about because it is the most personal.  This is Odin at His most personable with me.  There are many ways where He shows me affection, some overt and some not.  Words of encouragement have come from Him when I have been at my lowest, from a much-needed “You can do this, son; this would not be in front of you if it were impossible” to just a feeling of His Presence that is nothing short of comforting and loving.  While Odin is, very often, a stern, rough, demanding God, just as Freya has Her aspects of Warrior, there are aspects of Odin that are less commented on or written about.  His sternness does not just ‘go away’ in His Father aspect with me, but it is not as severe as, say Haptaguð tugs my leash.  It is not the kind of holy terror I experience with Him as Yggr, or the master/pupil relationship of Him as Hóvi.  Just as Yggr contains this part of Him, so too does Odin-as-Father contain Yggr, and it is there, if I look hard enough or if He cares to show me it for one reason or another.  Regardless, I feel a love there of father for son.  There are times I wonder if this is even a taste of the depth of His fierce, powerful love for His Godly Children.

I find Him His most patient with me personally in this aspect of our relationship.  That is not to say the leash slackens or the demands do not grow; not at all.  There are times where words fail in the joy that I feel at the knowing I am one of His, not despite the challenges He puts before me, but because He feels I can handle them.  Or that particular lesson needs to knock me on my ass enough times for me to get that it is not for me.  Odin can be, and may well be in our personal relationship calculating, everything being pushed towards one goal or another.

There are times that His Presence as Father is just that: a Presence, one letting me know I am in His thoughts or that He is near.  Sometimes it is a vision of Him, sitting or standing with me, at times with a hat.  At times He wears His long white hair down, and at others it is braided in a tight style.  His mode of dress when He arrives sometimes seems to do with the whole message He is conveying, whether it is excitement, warmth, disappointment, anger.  Others times when He comes to me in one guise or another, it is there as a kind of convenience so I get the message and pay attention to it.

 

These words only touch what I experience.  I can no more give an accurate understanding of Yggr than I can of Hóvi.  The experience is, in the end, that of each and every one of us who experiences Odin, in His many heiti, or simply as He, Odin, presents Himself to us.  What I have written here may serve you, or someone you know no better than a signpost, or worse, a roadblock.  My hope is that the writing I’ve done here will help deepen others’ relationships with Him, provide signposts, show where there may be similarities in experience, or at the least provide comfort in that each and every day, every interaction, I am getting to know my God.

Call of Submissions: Ancestor Devotional

February 2, 2012 Leave a comment

I am still looking for contributors to the Ancestor Devotional, so if you, or anyone you know has anything they would like to submit, please do!

Please, if you or anyone else you know does Ancestor devotions and/or work, or even has just started beginning working with their Ancestors, encourage them to submit their writing, or art to this project.  The details are listed below.  If you have a submission or any questions you can post them here or send them to Sarenth@gmail.com.

The Call for Submissions

Asphodel Press

Working Title:  Calls to Our Ancestors

Editor: Sarenth

Description:  An anthology of prayers, poems, devotional pieces, essays, personal experience, and/or artwork in honor of our Ancestors.  This anthology draws from a variety of sources and authors, and may include Ancestors worship in the form of spirits and/or Gods as well, for those whose beliefs encompass this.

What is not desired: fanfic, ego-stroking, self-aggrandizement.  It’s one thing if you believe you’re sired by a God/dess, it’s another to treat other humans as lower than yourself.

Word Length: 800-1500 words minimum for essays.  No specialized fonts, please.  All formats for written pieces should be in a .doc, .docx, or .rtf file format.  Any devotional pieces, artwork, etc. in visual format needs to be submitted in no less than 300 dpi format, preferably .tiff or .png for lossless quality.

Contributors will not be paid for this contribution. This is a one-time publishing opportunity, so you retain all rights to your piece and can use it as you wish after publication.

Any contributors need to give their legal names and addresses in the email for a release form for their work.  However, we can publish you under a pseudonym or community name if you would like.

The deadline for submissions is June 1st, 2012 at 11:59pm.

Emails for interested parties can be sent to Sarenth@gmail.com.

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