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And when the shoe is on the other foot?

August 29, 2016 21 comments

I saw this post on Galina Krasskova’s blog that she linked to from her blog. Note, she did not write this and is, in fact quite appalled by it which is why she shared it to begin with. 

It reads like a declaration of war. Nothing quite so put together as the WWI German declaration of war on Russia, nor of France or England’s on Germany. This is what a fatwa from a radical Islamic cleric looks like dressed up in leftist clothing. This is what a Joel’s Army or a New Apostolic Reformation missive looks like dressed up in leftist clothing.

Saying “I’m not advocating starting fights, but I am telling you to be prepared to finish them.” is bullshit. If you are advocating going to someone’s space and disrupting their rituals, their communities, and/or their lives, you are advocating for starting a fight. If you are laying down a call on people, saying “But if you like to talk the talk of the warrior path, you better start walking the walk as well.” you’re asking for a fight. You do not call on warriors for a reason other than conflict. Keep in mind, though, that if you are calling on warriors you are giving your opponents equal reason to. Adding “Are you gonna stand by and let these assholes commit atrocities and spew hate in the name of your gods?” is a religious call to war. Advocating that folks “don’t play nice” when they do this is a call to guerrilla warfare in the name of the Gods.

1. Speak up. Is there a guy in your local coven, order, lodge, temple, etc. that is openly bigoted? Call him out on it. Put him on the spot. Humiliate him in front of his superiors. Collect receipts, send screenshots and videos of his bullshit to his superiors…send it to those superiors’ superiors. If they do nothing call the whole organization out. Blast it all over the internet. The occult world is small, the backlash will be swift.

When I first read this, the first point actually seemed fairly benign until I really considered it. Let’s say that the bigot you want to target isn’t a guy, not that the gender should matter here. Let’s make this person a woman. Now, you’re advocating for humiliating her in front of her superiors. Collecting receipts, sending screenshots and videos to her superiors. Gosh. This sounds positively threatening. That is because it is. This is advocating for stalking, harassment, theft, and bullying.

2. Trap them. Catch them doing or saying something illegal and record it. Anonymously notify the correct authorities. If he’s racist he’s probably also a raging misogynist, here is a pretty high percent chance he beats women. Bust him for that.

The second point is advocating for people to do the job of the police as well as illegally record another person in violation of their rights.

3. Sabotage. Sabotage everything. Their protests, their social events, their rituals…their relationships. Sabotage them physically, sabotage them magically. Block them at protests. Blast distractingly loud noises in the vicinity of their rituals. Curse them liberally.

If the first two points were advocating for stalking, harassment, and bullying, this is certainly asking for war. It says it right there in black and white: “Sabotage them physically, sabotage them magically.” To sabotage is to “Deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct (something), especially for political or military advantage”.

Religious warfare is being openly called for. It is being called for physically and it is being called for magically. Calling for the physical and magical sabotage of people is an act of war.

4. Vote with your dollar. When people pulled their financial support from the Atlanta LHP conference via vowing not to go and through speakers dropping out, they were eventually forced to drop Augustus Invictus. That’s the power of peer pressure…and money. Pressure conferences. Pressure publishers. Let them know that they are condoning hate groups. Tell publishers and conferences that you want to see more diversity. Openly support and promote occultists and witches of color.

Boycotting is an old tactic that does not directly threaten the rights or well-being of a person, and can effectively make change. However, rather than simply going right to pressure, I would inform. A festival may have no notion the person they signed up is a widely-known racist, or that the band whose page seemed so cool and edgy and will attract a good crowd are actually a band well-known for its racism. If they refuse to act on the information I would then take the next step and inform others that, yes, you informed the festival or people in question and they are doing nothing with it. That said, negativity is relatively easy. Being positive and openly supporting and promoting folks is not.

If you are voting with your dollar and want more diversity, putting your dollars towards that and encouraging others to do the same would be the way I go for it. Hell, look at how successful GoFundMe and similar campaigns work. Do they shit on other folks, venues, etc. for donation? No, they put forward what they are about, encourage folks to spread the word, and do whatever it is they promised when the call was put out. If you are going to call for diversity follow through on it.

5. Learn a martial art/self-defence. Neo-Nazis are violent, if you are able-bodied consider learning how to defend yourself and your friends. Offer to work security for #BlackLivesMatter and other activist events. Use your power of privilege for good.

Alone, this would be solid advice. In this context? Whether or not Neo-Nazis are violent is not the issue here. The people advocating for these actions are advocating for physical and spiritual sabotage, for war.

6. Get a weapon. Are you mentally stable enough to own a weapon? Do you live in an open-carry state? If so get a weapon. I don’t care if it’s a knife, a bat, a gun, or fucking nunchucks…as long as it’s legal in your state, carry it. Know how to use it. Your enemy does. Neo-Nazis love their guns. I hate guns, but I like not getting shot or raped. If you stand up for what is right it is likely that you will get death threats.

If you stalk, threaten, harass, and steal from people you are more likely to get attacked. If you physically or magically attack people you are likely to get attacked in kind. If you are advocating for people to learn martial arts and/or learn to wield a weapon, you are advocating for people to learn and be prepared to do violence. If you are telling warriors to step up, you are telling people to go to war. Your opposition would be within rights to do the same.

7. Educate the young ones. Kids raised in conservative, fundamentalist households don’t know any better. A teen raised in Asatru is like a teen raised in Christianity, they know no other way…show them. Lead by example. An 18 to 21 year old can still change their worldview. Young minds are malleable and they are the future, change that future for the better if you can.

This point is assuming a lack of education and exposure to other ideas. Assuming that people in conservative, fundamentalist households do not know any better (any better than what?) and assuming a superior stance on the part of one’s self, cause, etc. insults these peoples’ intelligence and ability to reason. If you are starting from the standpoint that your opposition is lacking in intellect or is ignorant of other ways, you have already shut down conversation. They may well know of other ways and actively reject them. This assumption is no different than a conservative fundamentalist person assuming liberals are without morals. This point dismisses all of Asatru as racist.

The assumption that the teenage Asatruar needs to be shown another way, that they need to be led out of their religion and/or their religious community, is poisonous to Asatru and potentially any religious or philosophical movement the would-be leader believes is wrong. It is convert-seeking rather than providing another viewpoint.

It is true that young minds are malleable and that they are the future. There is no guarantee that these would-be leaders from the left can do any better than those on the right. Those who lead poorly can do irreparable harm, especially at a time when young people are already having to deal with a lot of change.

If leftist Pagan and polytheists are advocating or are engaging in harassment, stalking, assaulting, and otherwise attacking the families and/or friends of these teens, how could they possibly appeal to these teens at the same time?

8. Radical organization. Do you have other occulty, witchy, pagany friends who want to help change this mess we’re in? Start a group! Practice all seven of the previously mentioned suggestions that you can, and practice them together. Be secretive, don’t use Facebook to connect. Speak in code. Write notes and burn them. Discuss your plans at secret rendezvous. Form a wolf pack and root out the fascist insects.

I noted above how other points read like guerrilla warfare. So does this.

Let’s put the other shoe on, shall we? When the right posts things like this the general reaction I read from the left is some variation of “See? They’re so afraid of being discovered that they’re going to talk in code and burn notes, meet in secret!” or sarcastic, insulting language. The “form a wolf pack” language would likely be denigrated, as would the “root out the fascist insects” language. It would be called dehumanizing because that is exactly what it is and what it does: it dehumanizes your opponents. When your opposition is no longer human, but now are insects, it is no loss to crush them. When you cast yourselves as wolves and your opponents as vermin or prey, you are just fulfilling the work of being a wolf pack. One of the things that the right gets picked on for a lot is code-switching and code-language or dog whistle tactics. It seems that, so long as you are going after people you have identified as racists, bigots, and fascists, all bets are off.

Keep in mind that you’re supposed to somehow do point 7 while being secretive. Secret means “Not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others” and secretive means “(Of a person or an organization) inclined to conceal feelings and intentions or not to disclose information”. They are advocating educating kids by being examples while also being secretive. To seek to change their worldview in secret. “Young minds are malleable and they are the future, change that future for the better if you can.” followed by “Speak in code. Write notes and burn them. Discuss your plans at secret rendezvous.”

Those notes I made above about guerrilla warfare? Also applicable here. Read those points again:

“2. Trap them.”

“3. Sabotage.”

“5. Learn a martial art/self-defence.”

“6. Get a weapon.”

In point 8: “Form a wolf pack and root out the fascist insects.”

These are calls for war. Be secretive about who you harass, stalk, or assault.

The left has lost the right to bitch about people getting CPLs or taking other steps for protection for “imagined fears” for them. This list of actions being advocated is a reason for anyone who might or does come into the cross-hairs of the Pagan or polytheist left and/or anti-fascists to be prepared to defend themselves physically and magically.

9. Take back the Punk and Metal scene. White supremacists have taken over folk metal and bastardized punk. Make music. Wonderful, witchy, aggressive, anti-fascist music. Be like Doro Pesch and use your music and your heritage to speak out against those committing atrocities in the name of your ancestors. If you don’t make music, support and promote anti-fascist and anti-racist music. Also, use the “anything goes” of the moshpit to get a few punches and kicks into your local skinheads at local shows.

I have no problem with folks making music. Please make music. Speak up and for the things you believe in, and the changes you want to see. Speak out against atrocities, speak out against hate and genocide. Support the music you enjoy if you cannot make it.

A person being a bigot or a racist does not give you license to hit them. I should not have to write that. If you’re going to a local show these people are probably your neighbors. Violence will not show them the error of their ways. Engaging them in dialogue might. Besides, you are also giving license to these guys to beat the hell out of you too using just as underhanded tactics. It puts to lie the author’s assertion “”I’m not advocating starting fights, but I am telling you to be prepared to finish them.” The people you target no longer have a reason to hold back; you’re clearly threatening to hurt them and those in their communities.

10. Take care of yourself. Fighting the good fight is emotionally and physically exhausting, and can even put you in physical danger. Do what you need to to keep yourself healthy and safe.

If you do these things you are putting yourself and anyone who joins you in danger. If you do these things you are intentionally instigating conflict, and enacting religious war upon other people. If you really mean what you say, then you are not just a danger to the racists and the bigots. You are a danger to anyone you label an enemy.

Let me be thoroughly clear to anyone who supports these things: what you want and what you are prepared to do is advocate for and fight in a religious war. You are calling for you and yours to engage in religious warfare. You are putting an absolute line in the sand with blood and souls.

Be sure this is a war you want. Be sure this is a war you are willing to do what you must to win. Be sure this is a war you can win.

Androids and Cosmology

November 16, 2015 5 comments

I was listening to the BBC coming in to work about 2 months ago, and they were in Tokyo talking about the development of an android named Erica, who is being programmed for human speech patterns and facial response.  In other words, this android is being developed to mimic, if not eventually actualize  human methods of communication and interaction.  So, eventually, the plan for such things is that they will so well mimic speech, behavior patterns, and the like that the simulation of a human being will become real.  From simulation and simulacrum into actualization.  It got me thinking: at what point would an android be ensouled?  Could it be?

The idea of androids being ensouled makes some sense.  From an animist/polytheist perspective, the world around me is populated by spirits.  The very computer I am typing all of this one was made by countless hands which are embodied ensouled spirits as surely as the rare earth metals, the electricity itself that empowers the device, and the apparatus that allows all the things, from the power to the Internet to function, have and may be spirits in their own right.  Working with a spirit of the Internet, then, is not some abstract concept, but something we can actually do.  It isn’t that big of a leap to look at a being which could ‘grow’ in some fashion, develop its being, and be or become ensouled.  I think, though, that soul is wildly different from my own.

Just as the cells in my body have limited spheres of influence and yet within an animist perspective may be ensouled, how less so the circuitry and programming of a sophisticated machine?  If landvaettir have been taken from in a way that is offensive and harmful to them, could an android potentially be a vehicle for a revenant?

If we agree that an android has the possibility of becoming ensouled, how might that look?  In the Northern Tradition, depending on who you talk to, the soul matrix can have up to 17 parts.  Would some parts be more emphasized than others?  Would an android count the people who programmed it as its Ancestors?  What about people who moved programming forward, the first programmer Ada Lovelace or Grace Hopper, the creator of COBOL, or the six women who worked on ENIAC, for instance?  I have written elsewhere that Beings of lineage are also Ancestors including diverse people such as a dead relative who taught me a skill or a precursor who made my profession possible, or lineaged Ancestors as from initiations.  These people all would seem to me to be part of a given android’s Ancestors.  Prototype androids could be also be seen as Ancestors, much as we can count Ask and Embla among our Ancestors.  Going back further we can count Mitochondrial Eve and Chromosomal Adam among our Ancestors; why not the android counting the antikythera among its Ancestors?

I don’t have firm answers to these, but I find that exploring theology down a number of routes, including these, is fun to think about.

NOVA explored current AI programming here.

The Battlefields No One Talks About

September 1, 2015 8 comments

When I hail the Warrior Dead, I do not hail just the Military Dead.  Certainly, there are Military Dead who are part of Them.  Certainly, all Military Dead should be honored for Their service.  However, there are a lot of Warrior Dead whose stories are glossed over, and lost to time.  These, and stories like these, should be well kept so we honor Their memory, and the causes They fought for.  I thank Bragi and Ansuz for helping me to write this.  Hail to You!  I hail the Warrior Dead who came and spoke to me while I was writing this.  Hail to You!  May the stories of the Warrior Dead never be forgotten.  In telling, may we live in Them.  In the telling, They live forever.

When anyone asks about what unions did to get the rights all workers possess, tell them about this.

You have come a long way from home to settle in a place in the Blair Mountain Ridge.  You went through hell just to get here.  This place is 50 miles out from the capital, Charleston, in West Virginia.  Trees are everywhere along the route to the mine you’ve come to work at, and what isn’t trees are rocks and boulders, and all of it is on slopes.  The mine is dark beyond dark, and the candles are the only source of light.  Every second or third miner might have one, if you’re lucky.  The hours are long, and you’re a long ways off from any non-company anything.  The little scraps you get so you can buy from the company store?  You buy your equipment with it.  You buy your food with it.  Your lodging.  What little there is.  You work 12 hours at a shot, maybe more.  You drop your candle somewhere, it goes out?  You pay for it.  If you died, you died, and if you were supporting a family, they better figure out quick how to support themselves without you.

What’s more is that even your soul isn’t safe from the company.  They have approved preachers and pastors.  They give them the messages to give to you and your fellow miners.  The very people who should be appealing to God on your behalf, on your family’s behalf, fill your ears with sermons of how good the company is, and how happy you should be to get blisters on your hands and feet, to risk your life each day or eventually get black-lung for a company that gives you scraps of paper to pay for the scraps of food they deign to give you from their heaping plates.  Yes, indeed, God bless America, and God bless the company.

You know that if you and your fellow miners, all of whom are in the same straits as you, organize, then the police will come with a signed martial law order in hand, and crack down.  Literally.  They do it whenever you and your folks get too rowdy, too angry from one more insult, one more death, one more trampling on your dignity.  So you strike.  The authorities and their posse of private enforcers come for you.  You get your skull split, you get arrested?  Goodbye, employment.  Your rights end where the nightsticks and guns begin.  After all, you’re working the specialty ore that nets your boss ungodly profits, and their pull is so thick they may as well have installed themselves as governor in Charleston.

Then, a day comes when you and your fellows won’t take it anymore.  It wasn’t enough that martial law was called.  Again.  It wasn’t enough that they tried to pin murder on Sheriff Hatfield and twenty-two other people.  No.  Those fuckers just executed one of the few pro-union folks in the neighborhood.  They killed Sheriff Sid Hatfield in cold blood.  They lured him the courthouse on bullshit perjury charges, and him and Ed Chambers were killed by deputized ‘detectives’ from Baldwin-Felts.  They put twelve fucking holes in each of them to make damn good and sure they and their ghosts weren’t coming back.

Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency.  The same pricks that were hired guards and ‘investigators’ for your boss.  The same folks who are more than willing to crack skulls to get their employers’ way. Blood spatters the ground, it pools.  You know it’s a matter of time before someone’s finger gets itchy, or someone moves the wrong way.  So you march, because it is wrong.  You march, because that life, and the life of all of those at risk from that martial law, bearing down like boots on all your necks, are worth it.  Solidarity.

You are 10,000 strong.  Some of you are armed with guns.  Some of you carry whatever seemed handy as a weapon.  Some of you have your hands, so that’s enough.  You all march.  You march, on foot.  It is fifty long miles until you hit Logan.  And people join you.  It doesn’t matter the background, the creed, the color, everyone marches.  Miners march with bookkeepers, march with doctors, march with lawyers, march with railroaders, march with ministers and pastors and priests.  You march.  You might be as many as 15,000 strong, now.  Solidarity

Then you all run square into the Logan Defenders in Logan County.  These bastards are armed to the teeth, headed by the anti-union Sheriff Don Chafin.  There might be anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 men, all from Baldwin-Felts, local cops, deputies, and volunteers.  You’re a ragtag bunch; maybe half of you have decent weapons if you’re lucky.  They?  They have pistols and rifles, Browning .50 machine guns, artillery, and planes.  Oh, and those planes?  They have chemical and explosive payloads.  That’s right.  They’ll drop bombs on you full of shrapnel and bleach for the profits your blood and sweat will make them.  So you do the only thing you can do.  You charge right at them.  Solidarity.

It’s bullets and chaos, it’s hands clenched into fists, teeth bared, and dirt kicked up as you and those fuckers who want you down in the dirt come to it.  Fists pound flesh, bullets meant for other armies tear into your friends and chew their bodies like some great monster come to feast.  Crows and ravens wheel and scream overhead as the days drag on.  Guns, smoke, and screams fill the air.  You don’t stop fighting.  Solidarity.

The reports will say only 20-100 people died in the week that followed.  You know better.  You helped load your dead friends into boxcars to carry them home.  Archaeologists will say over a million rounds were fired.  You’ve no idea how many were fired, only what they did to you.  What they did to the land around you, pockmarking it.  Like the Earth vomited up black bile soaked in blood.  You pick up the dead, you say your prayers, and you get back to the fight.  Solidarity.

The week ends, and the federal troops arrive.  You and your fellows put down your weapons in the woods, hide them, and get the rest of the dead on their journey home.  Too many of you are veterans; these were family of another kind.  Besides, the Army wasn’t the ones trying to make you bleed just because you and your union folks wanted to be able to organize and bargain together for a decent wage, time off, a pension, or basic human dignity.  You and your fellows give up, no one so much as fires a shot.  It is over.  You make the long journey home.  You pray, and you bury your dead.  Solidarity.

Nothing much changes.  The company still takes advantage, except now it starts blacklisting union members and breaking contracts with the unions.  It still makes you pay for your equipment, your food, your lodging.  It still works you till you drop of black-lung or exhaustion.  It still puts those Baldwin-Felts thugs around the place, still pays those pastors to keep the company prayers and sermons in your ears.  It still takes you, body, mind and soul, for everything you’ve got.  Those of you who remain do so as your union dies a horrible death, slow, like a twisted knife in the guts.  The union won’t recover until 1935, when it comes to life in the New Deal.  You and your fellows are there, and you triumph as the bosses finally start to pay up, finally start to bargain in good faith.  The unions roar back to life, stronger than ever.  You stand on the bones of the dead, and remember: Solidarity.

These are the sources I consulted for this post:

http://www.archaeology.org/news/2461-140825-west-virginia-blair-mountain-battlefield

http://archive.archaeology.org/1201/features/blair_mountain_coal_activism_west_virginia.html

https://coalcountrytours.com/West_Virginia_Mine_Wars.html

http://www.pawv.org/news/blairhist.htm

http://theroanoker.com/interests/history/coalmining-war

http://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/333

To My Ancestors

April 22, 2014 Leave a comment

I can hear your songs in my bones
Shaking through the centuries

You rattle around my neck
The ox-bone bouncing on my breast

You slide through my fingers
I softly whisper words

You answer my prayers
I live, love, and learn

You shape me each day
Your sure hands, stern hands, skilled hands

Ancestors who shape the Ancestors to come
With wit and will, wisdom and worth

Praise to You Who dwell deep
In blood and bone, spirit, song, and soul

Living Religion

January 6, 2014 5 comments

On days like today I make prayers and offerings not only to the Sons and Daughters of Muspelheim, but the Sons and Daughters of Nifelheim.  I smoke to the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits to keep me safe as I go to work.  To keep me on the road.  To keep me safe from harm.  For the snow to be gentle with me, to work with my car.  I smoke for my car, that it carries me well, and gets me safely to my destination.

This is where my metaphoric rubber meets the road.  When I engage with the world I engage with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.  There is no, can be no separation.  If there was, then the cold Ice around me as I walk to my car would not touch me nor inspire equal worship to the Fire I cradle in my hand as I light my pipe when inside it.  If there was truly separation the cold could not touch me in heart, or body, inspiring words that praise the pristine beauty and fierce bite, and the heat would not inspire words or prayer to praise the warmth in my hands or the small flame I put to tobacco to say my prayers.  There can be no separation because the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits are all around me.

Yes, even in something so mundane as starting my car there are spirits: the spirit of my car, the spirits of all those that fill its tank, the spirit of Fire that makes the engine go, the spirits of Earth that form the car, the spirits of Water that lubricate the car, the spirits of animals whose bodies line the cars’ various innards, the tires themselves made from rubber with spirits of their own, the spirits of Ice that keep the car cool in the summer, and the spirits of Air that help to warm my car.  There are Gods and spirits of roads and crossroads, local and large, great and small.  There are Gods to pray to, to worship everywhere one turns, if one but pays the mind and chooses to.  I could split myself into a million millions of me and still not have enough of me to pray to, offer to, worship all the spirits great and small that surround me.  So, I do what I can.  I light the tobacco after a prayer to It and Fire, and smoke and pray to all Who wish to hear to my words, praying to my Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, speaking to the breathing, living Jörð and all Who share this time and space with me upon Her.  I pray to Odin, my Father, through His heiti Gangleri the Wanderer and Traveler to help keep me safe and keep me keen, first among the many Gods I will pray to quickly before I pull out of the drive.

There are the landvaettir all over, some I would call local Gods, such as the rivers that run near town, and Others that live in the heart of parks and Others that live with humans, landvaettir and housevaettir.  There are spirits, vaettir, all around, and though I may not worship Them all (how could I, They are so many?) They all are due my respect as I pass through Their homes, territories, holy places.  I pass what I view as a herme each and every day on the way to work; one of my neighbors has 3 large stones set one upon the other, and there is a spirit there that, when it catches my eye, I nod to in respect as I drive past it.  The ground I walk on is full of life, covered in snow.  The sky is alive with little spirits that twinkle in my headlights, some landing on my windshield, melting from the heat of my car.

There is no place I, or anyone can go where the spirits are not.  I am truly blessed.

Praying for One Another

April 8, 2013 1 comment

Inspired by a conversation with my teacher, and this post, I want anyone and everyone to know, that if ever you want to help me you can pray for me. Even right now. I don’t have to be in crisis. Heck, I would welcome a prayer to help keep me in right relationship, in Gebo with my Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and communities.

Prayer is not insignificant. Even a simple “Please, [God/dess, Ancestor, spirit(s)] be with hir” is a powerful prayer. Letting me know you are praying, for me, is a powerful way of letting me know you care.

In Gebo, gift for a gift, if you need a prayer let me know. If you are going through a hard time, and you are finding it hard to pray, let me know. I will be happy to pray for you. If you would just like me to pray for you, let me know. Let me know what kind of prayers would be useful to you, your life, your situation, and to Whom I can or should pray on your behalf. Otherwise, I will ask the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, and use my best judgment.

Especially: if you cannot pray or connect to your Dead, your Ancestors, let me know.

I would have no issue keeping a list of people to pray for at my altar, for individual names, or even whole groups. I wouldn’t mind praying for others’ Dead, especially if they cannot keep an active shrine.

I cannot do the praying you need to do in Gebo for your Gods, Ancestors, Dead, and/or spirits, as that is your gift to give, and not mine. If you need help getting started I can help with that; if you are in a ‘dark night of the soul’ and need supportive prayer, I can also give that, but I cannot take your Work from you.

I offer this to the communities I serve, and to the Gods I serve as priest, and in my service as a shaman.

We can, and should pray for one another. Enough of us are in rough spots that we all could use the prayers!

To help aid this I am launching a new page here on my blog.  It will be a space, inspired by NorthernPaganism.org and its many awesome shrines.  The new pages will be made to give a digital prayer wall where people can post prayers as well as prayer requests.  Feel free to share your prayer requests, prayers for me, for each other, for yourselves.  There can never be too much prayer.

Oaths, Maegen, and Hamingja

March 8, 2013 12 comments

“Keeping your word is one of the most important things you can do.  Once you break your word it is hard to get that trust back.  Sometimes, it’s almost impossible.”  -My Dad

There should be little more needing to be said for oaths and oathmaking.  I make exceedingly few oaths nowadays.  This is not because I am untrustworthy or I avoid commitment, but because oaths carry maegen of their own, and along with that binding power, my and the other parties’ maegen.  This maegen will affect those communities I and they are attached to through hamingja.

Before we go much further, let us define some terms.

Maegen

Maegen is analogous to one’s personal luck or power.  Where önd is the breath and analogous to chi or one’s personal energies, maegen is the strength by which those energies are felt, how they are wielded, and so on.  We all start with önd, and some work with their önd quite well in context of building it, such as by learning breath control, inner control, meditation, and similar arts.  Maegen is worked with and built by keeping your word, by exercising your Will in ways that build you up.

Hamingja

Hamingja translates, roughly, to group luck or power.  This is built in much the same way as maegen, but it also ties into the group’s recognition of you keeping your oaths, showing up when needed (i.e. if you say you are going to be there you will be there), and being a good member of your communities.  Maegen and hamingja are part of the soul, as much as the liche (body), mynd (mind), and vili (Will).

The Weight of an Oath

When you make an oath or a promise you are literally putting a piece of your soul at stake.  You are saying to the other party “I trust you so much I am willing to wager a part of my soul for this oath.”  When you keep your oath your maegen increases, as may your standing in the community, thus increasing hamingja.  The same may be true in reverse: keeping well with your community may help to increase your maegen, i.e. showing up when you say you will, doing right by the community, etc.  After all, if you are keeping your oaths you are exercising the muscles of maegen, and potentially hamingja if the oaths and promises made were before or to a group.

This is why in the Northern Tradition oathbreaking is regarded as the lowest thing you can do, right down there with being a traitor.  Think of most any mythology where a person breaks their oath to the Gods, or to their kin; there is backlash.  Sometimes there is no ‘good’ choice and it is a tossup of breaking of one oath or another, such as the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t story of Cú Cuhulain who was given the unenviable choice of breaking one or the other of his geas.   It may be you have to keep to established taboos, such as not eating this animal, wearing that piece of clothing, or not speaking certain words.  Keeping to the oaths, the taboos, the expectations is more important than I can say in words.  I have lost friends, and hurt those I love both emotionally and spiritually by not doing so.  I was removed from a group for this.  Take my example as a lesson, and don’t repeat it.  The consequences reverberate through your life and Wyrd.

Oaths in America

Modern American culture no longer respects oaths, if indeed, it ever really did.  Our elected officials make empty promises to their constituents, and once elected, to the Constitution.  Veterans give their lives to a People that sees fit to lead them to lives of plastic bags, cardboard boxes and underpasses when they have given their all.  Companies who pledged money to their employees thirty years ago bilk their workers’ retirement accounts in schemes and scams, leaving people to struggle to keep their homes, let alone food on their table, in their old age.  Marriage vows are no longer held, with some celebrities not even waiting twenty-four hours before divorce.  With oaths and promises, taboos and peoples’ word given such short shrift it is little wonder that we are in the straights we are in.

With as many broken oaths, half-truths and full-on thirty year lies, how much work would the U.S. government have to do to get an inkling of trust back?  Look at all the broken Treaties the United States government signed with Native American Nations.  No really, look at them.  It’s a litter of literally hundreds of broken promises, terrible deals, backstabbing, and genocide.  In the Declaration of Independence it was declared “all people were created equal” then, when the Constitution was ratified, it cast blacks a 3/5 of a person, less than human.  Our nation was part of the creation and ratification of the Geneva Convention, and now We flaunt it shamelessly.  Companies poison our bodies, minds, land, sea, and sky are raking in record profits while bottom-rung workers are forced to take up public assistance.  Any thought to the well-being of the People, and associated promises and oaths to take care of the environment, the poor, or anything other than a bottom-line profit motive are met with scorn.  America’s maegen wanes as we shore up our falling power with an ailing, ill-served military, and Its hamingja dies in our constant ‘might makes right’ pursuit of our ‘national interests’.  Meanwhile we have people all over our country unable to care for themselves, half of our nation exists in or under the poverty level, and the nation’s infrastructure crumbles.  Oaths are as important for the soul as they are for the foundation of any society, and when oaths erode, so does the soul.  No less the soul of a nation.

The Marriage Oath

Getting down to the more personal level, let us talk about marriage oaths.  The most common we are used to hearing is “Til Death do you part”.  Think about that.  You are investing a part of your soul, and what ought to be a significant part of your life in a relationship until one or the other of you dies.  There is no ‘out’ in most of these marriage oaths, no ‘if this person turns out to be a total jackass or doesn’t take care of the kids or is abusive I can leave him’.  At least from the Catholic side, you have to get your marriage annulled before you can marry again, but, from the Catholic point of view, this is not breaking an oath.  It is saying the marriage oath was never valid to begin with, and so the oath cannot be binding.

The marriage oath is particularly powerful as oaths go.  You are combining all your bloodlines into one home, welcoming the Ancestors and their descendants of those bloodlines into your life.  You are putting your maegen into your partner(‘s/s’)  hands, and  through your public oath, whether to a court, a few witnesses, your families and friends, or all and sundry at a Renaissance Fair, you are tying together your hamingja to that person, their family, and to the communities you make the marriage oath before.  You are swearing an oath before the Gods, the Ancestors, the spirits, and the landvaettir.  You’ll be making a home with your partner(s), and you’ll be making it on the landvaettir’s home.  Right relationship with all the Beings involved in making your lives, and in helping you live is crucial.  Keeping the oaths is just one part of this, but a deeply important one.

There are many parts of the marriage oath you can change; heck, you can write your own.  There may be some oaths the Gods, Ancestors and/or spirits want you to change or adapt.  We do not, in most cases, have a singular body of liturgy that has passed down generation after generation, and our Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, especially landvaettir, may have different expectations when we come together to marry than what we have in mind.  So while there is a lack in foundation there, there is also a lack in the ossification of the Holy, of written word and spoken oath.

I do not expect much, if any of my living extended family to show up when I get married, yet my partner(s) and I we will be recognized as married when we visit family.  Yet oaths will be made, and the threads of those oaths will tie together our Wyrd to one another, to our communities, and our families.  The ties of maegen, hamingja, and the rest of our soul(s) will still be there, recognized before the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, and the communities who see fit to be there.

Maegen, Hamingja, and the Pagan Communities

I have spent a good time talking about oaths, so now I am going to switch gears here a bit.

We build maegen and lose it, break it down and send it up, over the course of our lives.  We can use it to exert control over ourselves and others, we can let it shine like a beacon or we can hood the lamp and keep it to ourselves.  We can work with maegen to make ourselves a better person, or fight its pull and make our lives infinitely harder.  Each person’s maegen is different, and is built differently.  My workout regimen may not work for you.  You might need to build up your arms where I may need to build up my legs.  Your Gods may ask you to contribute to your maegen in a thousand ways  I will never have to touch, whether it is the oaths you keep, the taboos you are not to break, or the path you are meant to walk.  We may even walk side by side, but your maegen is just that: yours.

Hamingja is affected by us, but it is also, in parts, distinctly out of our control.  If it belongs to anyone, it belongs with us and those we share our lives with.  We help to build it up in building up our maegen, but it may also help to build maegen in its turn.  It is, in part, our reputation in the communities we exist in.  It is the relationships we have to those communities, and they to us.  It is the building of partnerships and the burning of bridges. It is the life you touch for good that encourages a person to excel.  It is the person you harmed and helped continue a downward spiral.  It is who you are, and how you are known.  It is your reputation, your name(s), your good word.  It is what you have done for your community and what you have failed to do.  It is trusting the community to have your back as much as it is doing for the community.  It cannot be made alone, though each person has their own part in building it.  Hamingja is like a good barn raising: best made together with those you trust not to drop it as it is raised.

Our maegen and hamingja are the chains we forge with each duty done, each oath kept, each taboo observed, each deed that helps ourselves and others, and it is broken, sometimes link by link and sometimes all at once, when we fail in these.  Yet there is hope because it can be reforged.  So if you do screw up, and Gods knows I have, it is not the end of the world even if, in the moment, it feels like it.  Rebuilding the maegen and/or hamingja from this state is started by making the right choice: to rebuild it.  It may be hard and long, and that chain may never be the same, but it is as worthy Work as any we may engage in.  Good maegen and good hamingja promote frith, good peace and social order.

The Pagan communities have an opportunity to continue to reforge the broken chains that had lain at the Gods’ feet for hundreds, if not thousands of years.  The only way that I know of for these chains to stay forged is for us to remain in right relationship with the Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and one another.  This is not a one-shot solution.  This will take time and effort.  It will take patience, starting with ourselves, and branching out from there.  There is no end to this work, really, and no silver bullet, no scrap of lore that will unlock the secrets of this Work.  It is a link forged with the Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and communities one person at a time with each and every Being, human and otherwise, that they encounter.  The metal of the links are shaped by our word and deeds, by how we treat one another, and the devotion we show to our Gods, the Ancestors, the spirits, our communities, and to our own journey with all of Them.  So let us all dedicate or rededicate ourselves to making these links, to making them lasting long after we are gone so that when the link is tested it will stand strong as it once did, as it can, and I believe will, again.

 

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