Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Skaði’

Loki is Not Trump (Neither is Odin)

November 25, 2018 20 comments

Surprising no one, I did not care for Karl E.H. Seigfried’s recent Wild Hunt article on Loki.

From the start of the article he sets up a divide, stating:

For a thousand years, poets and scholars have seen Loki as a troubling figure who brings harm to the community of which he is a part. Today, there are many lovers of Norse mythology and practitioners of Pagan religions who view him as a positive figure, and even one deserving of veneration and worship.

His dividing line here is an appeal to authority and an appeal to tradition. He then goes on later to say:

At times, his most devoted worship seems to shade into a form of mono- or henotheism. I have met practitioners whose devotion to Loki and disdain for the other Norse gods seems quite far removed from a diverse polytheism.

So many strawfolks already set up. It is what makes his next statement seem so disingenuous.

There is no reason to challenge the importance that Loki has for so many people around the world, whether it manifests in pop culture fandom or intense religious devotion.

Except that is exactly what he does. He does the same thing when he quotes Tolkien’s dislike of allegory and then proceeds to dive whole-hog into one of his own in four parts, connecting Trump and Loki. He states that his writing is one of applicability, in line with Tolkien, rather than an allegory.

Trump is not Loki or Odin. The way the Seigfried tries to hook the narratives he has built around Trump into Loki is hamfisted at best, and lazy at worst. He builds up his defenses in pieces prior to the four part attack on Trump and Loki, namely in saying:

I do not believe that we should reconstruct every aspect of ancient worldviews situated in a time and place of normalized slavery, entrenched homophobia, and celebrated violence. I do not believe that it is even possible to reconstruct the detailed internal worldviews of a plurality of peoples who left behind no second-level theological discourse.

then:

That said, I am bothered by approaches to myth that brush aside any elements of ancient sources that readers don’t like or find problematic as “Christian influenced.” Academics and practitioners alike are guilty of this rhetorical turn

and then:

Again, I do not deny the personal meaning that many find in Loki. I simply can’t follow them to a place where the sources of our knowledge are read in ways that sometimes seem parallel to conspiracy theorist readings of today’s news stories.

He states that we cannot reconstruct the worldview of ancient Heathen cultures due to a lack of resources and then casts doubt on readings of the texts in which Loki is looked at in a positive light, connecting these readings of myth to conspiracy theories. Without applying prudence to reading what myths and legends we do have we are doing ourselves and those who follow us a disservice. Understanding as best as we can that Snorri had biases both from his Christian upbringing and the influence of Classical literature available to him and applying them to a reading of his sources means we are engaging in discernment, discernment we would be reasonable to assume whether we are reading a source on ancient Scandinavian/German myths, a translation, or modern retellings that can carry the biases of the original scribes or translators.

Painting Trump as Loki in this way brings Loki down to Trump’s level as a human. Loki is not human. He is part of the Aesir and a Jotun. He is a Being worthy of worship and reverence. Trump, being neither part of my ancestry nor of any cultus I pay homage to, is not. Casting one’s views of Trump in Loki’s mythological light obfuscates the myth, and one could accuse Seigfried of no small amount of cherry-picking in his mythologizing.

Calling the first section “Objectifier of women”, Seigfried did not include in his first of the four parts casting Trump and Loki togther that Thjazi instigates the means by which he extracts the oath from Loki to bring him Idunna. It is little wonder that Loki does not mention it to the Aesir until They come to Him. The last time something went wrong the Aesir threaten to torture or kill Loki unless He fixed the issue at hand, such as the giant working on Asgard’s walls almost winning the wager of the Sun and Moon as well as Freya’s hand in marriage. Loki pushed for the Jotun to be allowed to work with his horse Svaldilfari, so the Gods put the blame on Him and threatened to torture and kill Him if He did not fix the situation. They do the same when They figure out He lured away Idunna and is why They are aging due to Her no longer harvesting the apples that keep Them young. Not only does Loki fix the situation, returning Idunna to the Aesir at great risk to Himself, He helps the Aesir eliminate Thjazi’s threat when the Jotun is burnt at the walls, and gain Skadi as an ally by making Her laugh. In each situation where He is threatened with torture and death He more than makes up for His shortcomings, perceived or not, gaining the Gods great gifts and allies.

Loki is not objectifying Idunna. Both Loki and Idunna are used by Thjazi when he extracts Loki’s oath, and while She is in Thjazi’s hands. She is part of the Aesir, and They need Her service of keeping the fruit that keeps the Gods young. So, Her rescuer brings Her back. It’s a poor myth to start with in comparing Loki to Trump. It seems to me that Seigfried shaved off every edge in Loki’s favor in order for to try to make this myth fit his Trump-shaped hole. Having read through his article more than a few times, it seems he did so with every myth he refers to.

I am obviously biased in the favor of both Odin and Loki, but it is not my point here to pretend like neither God did not do horrible things in the myths we have. Rather, my objections lie in applying Trump to Loki. Trump is Trump, Loki is Loki, and Odin is Odin.

We can take lessons from our myths without mythologizing our politicians. It is an ugly precedent to set. We have enough issues with mythologized history, such as Thanksgiving being taught in schools as though it was a dinner to which Natives and the Pilgrims sat down respectfully across from one another as equals, or that Washington ‘could not tell a lie’. Painting Lincoln as ‘the Great Liberator’ while ignoring that he was the one who ordered the hanging of 38 Dakota who were captured fighting back against the settlers that had broken treaties with them after enduring privation and starvation. That great lie, Manifest Destiny. We have enough obfuscation in the way of reading about history that we do not have need of more of it by conflating our religions’ myths with our modern political realities, especially as poorly as Karl E.H. Seigried does here.

It certainly does not provide more understanding to President Trump’s life, election, and administration to frame political and economic realities in the same realm as myths either by allegory or by applicability of mythological stories. If you want to understand how candidate Trump rose to power and won the election you need to look at, among many things, economics, politics, and history. To my mind it would certainly be more enlightening to understand President Trump’s election into the Oval Office through the lens of history via Spengler, Toynbee, or through similar lenses looking at bigger arcs in history, and how paradigms change through economic, political, and social pressures.

Skepticism and eyes raise when Christians point to a politician and apply the label of Antichrist. I think one of our own doing the same with Trump and crying “Loki!” should receive the same response.

Advertisements

Connecting with the Gods, Ancestors, and Vaettir Outside Part 2

July 13, 2015 Leave a comment

Growing food and connecting with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir related to it is an area of life that, as a shaman, I have only recently had the time off to devote to it.  In previous years my schedule was so up-and-down or constantly changing that getting out and helping with the garden consistently was damned near impossible.  Last year we could not even maintain a garden outside of the yearly asparagus harvest due to our home’s varying schedules.  This year I have a far more stable schedule, so now I can give the time to get in the garden and learn from the Holy Powers and my living family.  I did not realize it till sitting down and writing it, but that is one hell of a burden lifting off of me.  I have enough hours to keep up with bills and enough time off consecutively so I can get things done.

We actually have a good deal of plants in the ground this year.  Lots of tomatoes, green beans, and beets.  We also planted squash, zucchini, and a few herbs.  Provided the birds lay off of them for a bit, we should have a good harvest.  In past time where we have planted equivalent amounts of tomatoes, green beans, and similar plants, we’ve had a good-sized stockpile even after giving away some of the harvest to family and friends.  It’s one of the reasons I am looking forward to the fall harvest.

There’s more to connecting with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir outside than just my garden or the local parks, though.  As I mentioned in the previous post, Skaði has charged me to learn how to hunt, to skin and dress a kill.  I have a wonderful Aunt with a standing offer to teach me to bow hunt after I take a safety course.  I am also blessed with a good friend who has offered to teach me the same.  With the amounts of time I have off every week I am actually far closer to making this a reality and fulfilling the rest of the obligations I have with Skaði.

The fertility of the landvaettir is a blessing, one that I believe we carry as an obligation to keep in partnership with Them.  It feeds us, nourishes us body, mind, and soul as surely as we help nourish the landvaettir by living well with Them.   The soil, the plants, and the animals all deserve their due, their respect.  Whether we are hunting, fishing, gardening, farming, ranching, or foraging, without the Gebo of honoring the cycles around us and taking care in our work, we do deep harm.  We can see the effects of this breakdown in how neonicotinoids are harming honey bees, how fracking is poisoning the water we drink, and how the elimination of predators has deeply upset the balance in regards to deer and similar animal populations.

Paying attention and honoring the cycles of life and seasons brings us into closer alignment with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.  Given a good number of the surviving holidays we have are directly tied to seasonal and harvest cycles, it also helps to place them into a context that makes a good deal more sense than celebrating because a date rolls around.  I think as polytheists, Heathens and otherwise, carry traditions forward even more variations will emerge based on the climates where we live.  Truly partnering with the Holy Powers in our lives is working with the cycles we have rather than the cycles we are told by a book we ought to be imitating.  Many of us live in places where the seasonal cycles are different from, or simply do not match those that have survived in lore and archaeology.  If we are to live in good Gebo with the Holy Powers we will need to adapt to the way things are.

Part of living in better Gebo with the Holy Powers also requires us to look at how we live outdoors.  What do our practices like gardening, farming, ranching, and the like have on the soil, the plants, the animals, and the water?  How does water flow?  Are the lands our homes rest on full of one-species non-native grass?  Why?  How can we better encourage native species to flourish?  How can we encourage the fertility in land, plant, and animals that makes life possible?   How do we live in good Gebo with the world around us?

I found myself seeing a lot of these answers in person at the Amma Center Amrita Farms in Ann Arbor and from the MI Folk School.  More importantly, Sylverleaf and I were able to get hands-on experience with these answers. We spent a day at the Amma Center with the people working on the farm area, permaculturists who have worked a great deal to help the land distribute water more effectively, and to utilize the space to greater effect for food production without using pesticides or insecticides.  We explored the creation of berms and swales, hugelkultures, crater gardening, the use of a keyline plow to make small keyline swales, the creation of compost tea, and small-scale orchard creation.

For those unfamiliar, here are some links for what berms and swales are, and how they are made.  This PDF explains berms and swales in pretty simple terms with explanations of when they are and are not good design ideas. This link has a good overview and video on swales.  This link shows berms and swales in action on a project for a front yard rain garden.  The work Sylverleaf and I did at Amrita Farms’ main area for berms and swales was to help transplant some apple trees out to areas better suited to them.  The staff led us on a survey of the berm and swale systems, and how it solved the Farms’ water flow problems.

What I want to stress here is that this is not fighting the landscape or imposing a system the land rejects.  Rather, it is helping the land to better work with water runoff to help solve water allocation issues one might have.  In many cases the berms serve not only as physical landscapes for the water to run over, but also a gathering point for plants to help combat soil erosion, helping to increase the ability of the land to keep its shape and provide fertility to the soil.  The swales give the water places to go without disrupting the landscape, and it helps catch water in the soil in a way that is efficient and works with the land rather than dumping all the water into a low point where it can attract mosquitoes and other insects.

In another section of the Farms, keyline plowing was used.  This link has a good overview on the technqiue.  It was done in an area where full-blown berms and swales would not have been desirable, and allowed for water to flow into the cut channels in directions that helped maximize water retention, and guided excess water to a pond.  Again, what was emphasized was this worked with the flow of the earth, with the keylines acting as guides for the water to flow.  While the Farms used laser-guided equipment and had a tractor come out to do the keyline work, we were shown that land surveying can still effectively be done by hand using simple survey techniques, and that (depending on the soil and one’s resources) having animals do the keyline plowing would not be out of the question.

The last, and for me the most fun I had at Amrita Farms, was when we made a hugel.  Hugelkultur is a beautiful way to compost wood, and a description of it is here.  Since we have a decent amount of deadfall at our home I am looking at making a hugel, though far smaller than the one we made at the Farm.  That’s the beauty of methods like these: most can be made to suit far smaller pieces of property than farms, and the projects that required mechanized equipment like the berms and swales, can be done by hand with a shovel or pick.

What I bring home from these workshops, again and again, is that there are far more healthy and wise ways to live in Gebo with Jörð than what capitalism and agribusiness continues to push at and on us.  These ways are far more accessible than one might think at first; permaculture can scale with one’s home and land (even if that land is, say, a community garden space), and hugelkulture can use great dead trees, or twigs as needed.  These ways, found in permaculture, gardening, various types of natural home-building, and so on, are ways we can live upon Her that helps us as people live more whole lives, and in doing so, bring us closer to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.  If we take in these ways and help to foster them in others, we can help our future generations survive and thrive.  Taking these steps to restore our connection and relationships with Jörð and the landvaettir takes the vital connections that were sundered in and between our communities, and seeks to tie them together even stronger,  I can think of precious few gifts we could give the next generation than a lived, healthy, powerful relationship with the Holy Powers, and lived, healthy, powerful, relationships with our communities, both grounded in trust, respect, and honor.

As I mentioned in Part 1, as I become inspired (or pushed, as the case may be) to write, I will add to this series of posts.

Connecting with the Gods, Ancestors, and Vaettir Outside Part 1

May 26, 2015 4 comments

My indoor and outdoor vés and worship spaces get more time from me depending on the time of year, and where I am feeling drawn.  Given that now is the planting season, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time outdoors.  My family maintains a main vé outdoors in a small grove of trees where I have placed Odin’s godpole and where our family makes our Sacred Fires.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, Hela and Niðogg’s vé is the compost heap.  When we finally spread the soil after a year of adding to it, it was dark black, and had a rich sweet smell to it.  Where animals have been buried, all in the main vé, I also feel Hela’s presence.

This entire last week or two I’ve been outside quite a bit with the family in the large garden we’ve been prepping, tilling, then planting.  Every time we go out there is a time to pray, every action out there an opportunity to come closer to the Gods, Ancestors, landvaettir, and other vaettir.  It doesn’t replace the offerings I make.  I make those too.  It might be a glass of water on a vé, it might be smoke offered from tobacoo or mugwort in a sacred pipe, those same herbs placed in/upon the Earth, or an offering from me as I do the work such as a song or praise.

Today, as I dug each small hole for the green beans, I prayed to Jörð, Freyr, Gerda, Freya, the landvaettir, the Disir, the Väter, and the Ancestors.  I sang songs I was taught in Ojibwe, and I sang songs for my Catholic Ancestors, who were coming on strong today, with my Dad as we planted.  The days when I dug the Earth I sang songs for Jörð and the landvaettir.  Increasingly, making songs for the Holy Powers is becoming a part of my offerings alongside the others.  I like it.  It’s an offering of breath and creativity, since a lot of the songs I’m making up the verses as I go along.

The Ancestors have been there every time, and fairly thick.  I’m not surprised; up until my generation, most of my family on both my parents’ sides have come from farmers.  It makes sense that I would feel a lot more of Them during similar activities, and that They are pushing for me to get land, animals, and the like.  I felt some different Ancestors around me, though, when my Dad hit a mole with the rototiller Friday.  Rather than simply bury it, my Mom actually suggested I skin it.

I asked the mole if it would give me permission to skin it.  When she agreed, I set up a space for it in the main vé.  I asked Ansuz to help me cleanse, Gebo to help me ground, and did my usual grounding, centering, cleansing, and shielding work.  This would be my first time skinning an animal; I wanted to do it right.  Given Dad’s done it before, he showed me how to sharpen the knives I might use, and briefly explained the cuts I would need to make.  I returned to the vé, and made prayers to the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and landvaettir, asking for Their help.  At first I was surprised by Skaði’s Presence.  Then, I remembered: A long time back when I was first introduced to Skaði by Odin during my ordeal on the Tree and work in the Nine Worlds, She had tasked me with, among other things, learning how to make a kill, skin, and dress it.  While I do still need to do this in full, She let me know this was a good first step.

It turns out skin is damned tough.  I knew the knives were sharp, but this being my first time out, I wasn’t expecting how tough, especially on a little thing like a mole.  I was frustrated.  So, I returned and asked Dad if there was something I was doing wrong.  He came out, looked at it, and then mentioned to me that he usually started from a cut along the throat in bigger animals.  In this case, he felt I should behead the animal.  I asked the mole for permission to do so, and when the mole gave it, I did.  I took a breath, made some prayers, and focused.  I looked at the knives in front of me, and finally went with the smallest: a slim, curved steel knife with a deer antler hilt, a wolf burned into the pommel.  Again, I took a breath, made prayers, and focused.  I felt an Ancestor help guide me.  “This way,” Their hand on mine, showing me.  I cut, felt the blade slide through skin, flesh, flesh the crunch of bone, cartilege as I severed the mole’s head.  I thanked it for allowing me to do this, to take its body and make something from it.  To learn from it.  I set the head gently aside, bowed my head to it, and proceed to skin the rest of it.  An occasional ‘Good’ or ‘Careful’ from one of the Ancestors.  It went a good deal faster than I thought it would, and in about half an hour or so, I had it skinned and fleshed without damage to the fur or the skin.  I heard a ‘Good’ from Skaði and heard no more from Her, though Her Presence lingered until the mole was buried.  I pinned the skin to a good-sized chunk of wood, stretched it, and placed pickling salt on it.  I will be getting some alum as well, and following instructions to make this a pliable, tanned skin.

When its skin was safe in a dark corner of the garage, I returned to the sacred grove with a shovel, and offerings.  I asked the landvaettir for permission to dig, and once They gave it, and I ‘felt’I had found the spot, I dug a small hole.  I prayed to Hela and Niðogg, asking Them to accept the mole.  I placed the body inside, put down some tobacco and mugwort in offering to the mole and covered the hole.  I then gave some in offering to the Gods, Ancestors, and landvaettir.  I washed the ceramic tile I had used, and went inside.  I made prayers as I physically cleaned the knives and my hands, thanking the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir for Their patience, willingness to teach, and the sacrifice of the mole.

It’s interesting in reflecting on it.  The life-generating cycle of prepping, tilling, and planting was started just a few days after this animal was killed and skinned.  I approach both in a sacred way because both are sacred.  I was not inspired to give songs for the mole; I was inspired to give reverent silence and my full care to the process of skinning, of not damaging the gift that she had given me.  I was inspired to sing loudly during the prepping, the tilling, and the planting.  Different sacred encounters with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir ask us to take different attitudes, actions, and offerings.  Perhaps the next time I skin an animal it will ask for a song, or for many songs.  Perhaps it will ask that I dance.  Perhaps Skaði or Freyr will ask that I dance, or sing, or to be silent.  Perhaps the next time I prepare a field, or till a field, or plant, the landvaettir, or the Gods will ask for my silence, a Sacred Fire, a ritual from my family, or perhaps They will ask for the same offerings year after year.

In connecting with my Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir outside, it has made me realize just how much I rely on Them.  It made me realize in very grounded terms that I am vitally connected with the Holy Powers in very down-to-Earth ways: that Freyr is in the asparagus as well as His statue, that He helps to give life to the land, and that Gerda is both present on the Gods’ altar and in the garden giving life to the land and growth to the plants.  I understand the landvaettir are  the asparagus, tomatoes, beans and squash as much as They are the trees of the sacred grove, the grass of the lawn, the animals that dart about them, and the rich earth of the garden itself.  In understanding this, I understand the landvaettir are part of the house and the land, and that this land (and a good deal more I may never see, i.e. farms, mines, production areas, etc.) will help to sustain my family and I.  In understanding this connection I know that the Ancestors are right here with me, supporting me in the work at hand, and that if I listen They will help guide me in what to do.  All of these things reinforce the understanding that the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are as vital a part of our communities as its living human members are.

Connecting and understanding my relationship with the Holy Powers is knowing, and especially acknowledging, that I need these connections spiritually as well as physically.  In putting my hands in the Earth and asking the Holy Powers to help me grow the food, I asking Them to help me be a shaman that, paraphrasing the words of my dear friend Two Snakes, “can make the beans grow”.  I am asking Them not only to help me feed my family and I physically, but feed us spiritually as well, living in good Gebo with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, and furthering my path as a shaman.

This post is getting a little lengthy and starting to flow away from the topic at the start, so I think I’ll split this up into two posts.  If I get the inspiration maybe this will become a series of posts.

%d bloggers like this: