Patreon Topic 60: On Cleansing Tools

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From Lisa comes this topic:

“An idea for topic/post: if you do any sort of craft and use stuff you make for devotional purposes, what would you do to cleanse any tools you use?”

The cleansing techniques I use most often in my spiritwork also work well for my crafting tools. These are:

Cleansing by breath. Breathing in deeply, then exhaling slowly. While I do this I visualize connecting with Yggdrasil. As I inhale and exhale, I breathe with Yggdrasil. I remember my connection to Yggdrasil by our Ancestors Askr and Embla, Ash and Elm, and to the first breaths that Óðinn gave to us. When I have cleansed myself, I then breathe over my items in a similar way. By doing this I become the conduit for cleansing.

Cleansing by fire. I make the Fire Prayer, a simple prayer that goes like this:

“Hail Sons and Daughters of Muspelheim. Hail Fire Itself! Hail Sunna! Hail Loki! Hail Glut! Hail Lögi! Hail Surtr! Hail Sinmora! Hail Eldest Ancestor! Hail Eldrvaettr! Ves Þu heil!”

I then light a candle, and circle it over myself in a sunwise direction, thanking the eldrvaettr, fire spirit, for cleansing me. I then either repeat the motion over the items or pass the items through or around the fire sunwise to cleanse any items before me that need it. Fire does not have to directly touch the items, particularly if they are flammable, so raising them well above the fire or raising the candle and making three circles sunwise over the item to be cleansed will do well.

Cleansing by smoke. I start with the Fire Prayer and then, I give thanks to the vaettr of the plant or substance I am going to burn. I burn whatever is going to work with me to cleanse the item/area by smoke in a fire safe container. I make sure not to make it too smoky and make myself or others cough. I most often work with Ama Una, Grandmother Joy, aka Ama Malurt, Grandmother Mugwort. As with cleansing by Fire, I pass the smoke over or the items through the smoke three times in a clockwise manner. Be sure if you are doing this that you or others do not have allergies to the mugwort or related plants, such as wormwood, or other plants that hit on similar allergy points like ragweed, sunflower, or feverfew. If you do, working with another plant may be advised. Working with a given plant in water as opposed to burning it may also be needed for folks who are traveling, partners or pets with sensitivities, and/or a change of pace.

Cleansing by liquid. Whether this is a suspension of herbs in oil or oil on its own, a tincture, a tisane, cleaning chemicals, simply adding water and herbs together to make a cleansing holy water, or sprinkling an area/item with water after prayers, there are a variety of options to choose from. A given crafting tool may be easier to clean/preserve/sharpen with one method vs another, eg sharpening a wood chisel with a blessed oil to cleanse it and keep it well. As with the other methods I make simple prayers, thanking the vaettr of whatever the liquid is in helping me cleanse the item. I then clean or wipe the tool down as is appropriate. Depending on what item I am making and what is required to make it, I may do this process before and after the time I dedicate to crafting.

To a certain extent the limit is what medium(s) you are working in, what is most appropriate to the long-term care of your craft and tools relevent to it, and if anything, what care needs to be taken with the items you are crafting and the area it takes place in. Cleansing before and after a crafting session is highly recommended, even if all you are doing is sitting in a chair and crocheting, knitting, or beading. Keeping the process and tools clean, particularly if you are crafting items for ritual use, will keep the focus of the items and area, and can prove both powerfully meditative and connective with various Ginnreginn.

These are just a few examples of what you can do in order to cleanse and prepare tools and areas for work. A lot of what I have found works really well in both small and large jobs are the simpler ways that, if need arises, can be made more complex. Starting with simple ritual actions, like the three breaths to cleanse yourself then another object and a simple prayer, connects the dots of spiritwork you have done up to this point and the Ginnreginn you carry relationships with into the work at hand. Adding on layers, like cleansing with three breaths, then making the Fire Prayer and working with a candle as Sacred Fire to cleanse the work space, and finally, finishing cleansing and preparation by marking tools with oil to cleanse and consecrate, are ways of building up from these basic techniques that carry over into deep, good work.

On a Threshold

I am waiting on a threshold

The door is cool and warm

Excitement rings through me

What is on the other side?

A new experience, a new path

Out of reach and aching close

Something sings to my heart there

Beautiful tones and throbbing bass

Shaking through my bones

I am scared, thrilled, intimidated

To hear a call, a beckoning

To walk through the portal

Not yet, not yet the singers call

The iron wood unyielding

Implacable and promising

Soon, soon the singers utter

The threshold’s sentinel waits

To open its arms in invitation

I stand waiting

Eager and attentive

Ready to cross the way

Patreon Topic 56: On Álfheimr

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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.

Gods Without Jobs

This excellent video essay by St. Andrewism got me thinking about anti-work. As I thought about it, considering my own position on anti-work, I began to think: what about anti-work as applied to American polytheism and animism?

What is anti-work? I will take a similar tack to St. Andrewism here, defining first work and then anti-work from that. The common definition, such as that supplied by the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary is: “to do something that involves physical or mental effort, especially as part of a job”.

Work, in the context of anti-work is, quoting St. Andrewism:

“Forced labor, that is, economic production enforced by the political and economic elites. The carrot and the stick. Workers are usually wage laborers, as the worker must sell themselves mind and body, for the purpose of production. Thus, work has an inherent dynamic of domination, one that we see elaborated in all industrial societies today -even the ones that claim to be socialist. We are employed to work at things called jobs where we must perform tasks that which, no matter how intrinsically interesting they may be, eventually become dull and monotonous when performed for upwards of 40 hours per week, with no say over when you show up or leave, what you do, how long you do it for, how much you do, who you do it with, or for whom it is done. All for the profit of those who control the means of production. “

While we could probably summarize ‘work’ for our purposes as forced labor, I found his exploration of work here useful. There is a difference in this understanding of work vs productivity. Work exists to make the rich richer and to exploit the working class. It funnels our labor and goods and services from our hands, hearts, and minds into the pockets of employers. Productivity can be disentangled and freed from the bonds of capitalism’s work, benefiting our communities and ourselves rather than the employers and rich.

“The world of work is an experience of suffocating beuracracy. Surveillance, rote work, high pace, quarters, time charts, persistent harassment, paternalistic management, exploitation, subordination, and totalitarian control for the sake of it. Your washroom breaks are often timed and regulated. Your clothing and hair strictly managed, which often has an anti-Black component to it. You are spied on and supervised, and you can be expelled at any time. Work is, therefore, the antithesis of freedom. The prison, the school, the factory, the office, and the store, are all stamped with the discipline of modern despots, and all share common techniques of control in common.”

“The clergy of work fail or don’t care to recognize that we do not work, we don’t sell our time and energy to a boss because we want to. We have to because there is no other way to get the money to get the things we need to survive…Our time and work is never really ours. That time is for our bosses who take the things we produce, or the neat objects like pizzas or housing units, services like cashiering or cooking, or qualities like clean floors or healthy patients and sell them for a profit, paying us only a portion of the value we produce, and using the rest to reinvest in capital and enlarge their own wealth. Our own lives are centered around this work. The money we get from this work sustains us just enough to keep coming back to work. Our time spent away from work is spent getting to or from work. Leisure itself is just non-work for the sake of work. It’s the limited time we spend trying to recover from work and distract ourselves from work. Because of work we are constantly under the tyranny of the clock…Our free time is not even ours. It still belongs to our boss in some capacity. So really, the only thing free about it, is our bosses don’t have to pay us for it.”

The labor that is converted into capital lines the pockets of the owner class. This, especially, has been on my mind lately. I began watching clips of the movie adaptation of The Big Short and then bought the audiobook of the book it is based on. If you cannot see what a leech the upper class is on the lower, then you need to at least watch the movie. The ‘clergy of work’, to use St. Andrewism’s phrase, are often those who most profit from the suffering of those beneath them.

I do not mean to say ‘see the movie’ as though most of my readers have not lived through the times depicted. I mean this in the sense that, with everything currently going on, from the invasion of Ukraine to the ongoing pandemic, it is easy to have forgotten those times or for them simply to have vanished behind the current haze of news. It is easier to forget the rank corruption and inherent destructive potential of the financial sector under the barrage of today’s news headlines. None of the economic landscape since the 2007 financial collapse has fundamentally changed in its operations or maintenance. The very financial tools that precipitated that collapse, the CDOs (Collateralized Debt Obligations), the MBS (Mortgage Backed Securities), subprime mortgages, and all the rest, are not only with us, they serve to undergird the economic system in a similar way to rusted metal in the bones of a bridge. As with 2007, the current economic system is entirely ready to give way to another catastrophic failure. We, the working class, are breaking our bodies, minds, and spirits for a system that will serve up our suffering again and again on a silver platter to the wealthiest people on this planet for their gain.

I turned 18 in 2004. Three years into college, and I watched as entire industries collapsed overnight. I watched as neighborhoods collapsed around me. I took on an immense amount of college debt and could not find work during my time there, or after college for some time. The landscape has not shifted too much in the intervening years, except for cost of living and inflation to rise, at 7% so far this year. Those of us who have thrived during this time are lucky, so far as our relative futures are concerned. It is less common for a person to work a single job. I do not. This writing is part of my work. It is not unusual for folks to have two or three jobs, including a side hustle on top of it.

When folks say they have a hard time keeping a spiritual discipline I am hardly surprised. After all, whatever time we have between shifts is time we have to devote to anything else in our lives. Shop? Cook? Clean? Take care of the kids? Relax? Maybe sleep? All of it has to be done in that window of opportunity between when you get off work and when you go back. Likewise, when folks say they have a hard time feeling the Presence of the Ginnreginn I am hardly surprised. It is hard to develop a relationship with yourself, let alone with the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir when you are ready to collapse at the end of the work day and you still need to make dinner or help the kids with homework. It is hard to do things that take time away from relaxing or recovering when you have busted your ass for someone who will never live in your home, eat your food, fuck you, or care for you after working for them during your most wakeful, productive hours. This is not about making excuses for us not to fulfill our obligations to the Ginnreginn, our communities, or ourselves. However, it is far too easy in this capitalist hyper-individualistic culture which daily makes excuses for the upper class and the systems of control they wield, to beat those of us workers down for ‘not doing enough’ with what little time is left to us. It is far too easy to inspire the working class to beat themselves down for the failures of a system that eats every minute of time not devoted directly to it.

Let us take a realistic look at the hours we have in a day, what they are devoted to (I use this language intentionally) and what hours are left to us to figure out what we live the rest of our lives with. I will use myself as an example. I work full-time, at least 80 hours biweekly. I work five days with two days off each week. I work about six days of overtime at 8 hours each in a biweekly period. So, I will work about 48 hours overtime biweekly. 128/336 hours out of the total of each biweekly. Almost 40% of my life in that period spent working. If we assume (and I sometimes do not) that I get a solid 8 hours of sleep each day, that is another 112 hours devoted to sleep. 240/336 hours, 71% of my life, in every two weeks of my life is accounted for. I could get hit for yet more overtime at work which would be another 32 hours if I got hit all five days. 276/336 hours gone. 82% of my life. This has happened for multiple weeks at a stretch in the past. When I have overtime I work sixteen straight hours, come home, sleep for about 6, 7 hours if I am lucky, and head back into another 16 hour shift. It can sometimes take me awhile to get comfortable enough to sleep. In those 1 to 2 hours between shifts I take time, sacrificing my sleep, to see my kids and partners, maybe eat, and maybe take a shower. I am lucky that I live close to work. Some folks I work with have a half hour to an hour drive.

Almost 3/4 to 4/5 of my life is oriented around work in an average 2 week period. I only have 60-96 hours, the last 17%-29% of my life, to do any living of my own. I devote it to those I love and doing what I love or enjoy wherever I can. I devote it to cooking, doing dishes, taking care of and having time with my kids, and spending time with my partners. I devote it to writing, doing divination, spiritual consultations, podcasting, and producing videos. I devote it to leading on the Board of Directors and volunteering at Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm, working with the Cavanaughs and our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir and the landvaettir Themselves to make a beautiful sacred space even better. I devote it to cleansing, grounding, centering, journeying, divining for myself, working magic, connecting with the Ginnreginn, praying, and making offerings. Let no one tell you that sitting with your Ginnreginn, even in silence, is an unworthy offering. My time is intensely precious to me. I have so little of it to give to anything. If I give you my attention, if I block out time for you in my life for you, that is a truly precious gift to me.

This makes for what may be a minor gripe at first blush: so many video games requiring me to put immense amounts of hours into them in order to get enjoyment from them. If the barrier to entry is time wasting, I am far less likely to play it. If my video games, and by extension other activities, become another chore I am likely not to do it. MMOs have incorporated busy work rather than anything that brings me pleasure, so it is worth less of my time to look at, let alone play. “I have 60-96 hours when I am awake and not at work. Is this worth my time?”

If so much of our lives ceased to be about jobs how would our relationships with our Gods change? Our Ancestors? Our vaettir?

We have good ideas of how that would look, since even for European-descended folks you do not have to look fairly far back in our history. What many of our Ancestors gave up for whiteness, and the capitalism tied into its advantages, were good ties with the landvættir, the húsvaettir, Ancestors, and the ways of living well with Them all. They gave up language, folklore, Ancestral ways of life. They gave up Their stories, Their magic, and Their Gods. A cursory look through either The Tradition of Household Spirits or Demons and Spirits of the Land by Claude Lacouteax amply shows this.

The beauty of living here and now is that we do not have to repeat our Ancestors’ mistakes -or our own. We can embrace our Ginnreginn, our magic, our religions. With them we can forge a new way through. While we still live within this ever-hungering and shambling system of capitalism, it is no small act to learn about and to execute magic. In this capitalist regime, it is no small act to learn about our religions and, especially, to live them!

It is no small thing to spend time with the Ginnreginn, or our communities. It is no small thing to lay down an offering, to sacrifice time, effort, and good things for Them. Lighting a candle, burning incense, or laying down a small cup of water is, in and of itself, powerful, connective, and revolutionary. It is no small thing to dedicate time and/or effort to our communities. Prioritizing our communities in the face of the pressure to atomize and compartmentalize our lives is powerful and revolutionary. It is no small thing to take time for oneself, our peace of mind or joy, whether through solitary or communal acts. Being kind, empowering, and healing with ourselves is powerful and necessary to live well individually and communally.

What would our Gods look like if They were without ‘jobs’? Odin ‘God of War’, or Loki ‘God of Mischief’ like an occupation?

We might see, as many polytheists have been for quite a while, that a single God, let alone a family of Them, are complex, wide-ranging Beings unto Themselves. Absent of a square hole for a round peg, we have to approach our Gods as full Beings, with understanding, motivation, and desires of Their own. We can never fully know another person, whatever we are to them and they to us. How much more so with the Gods. If we approach each as being even more full of Mystery than our fellow human beings we would likely have a healthier approach to both. Absent of ‘jobs’ our Gods are enmeshed in complex relationships with one another -and to us. Is Freyr only a God of fertility? While refering to Him as a God of fertiltiy is accurate in many ways, only relating to Freyr as a ‘God of fertility’ limits Him. Freyr also brings the good rains, and historically was well-tied into kingship. As many heiti as Odin has, I believe He still has more to show us just as surely as any of our Gods do.

What would ‘Gods of prosperity’ look like if we took out our relationships with current financial instruments, banks, and the like?

Putting aside the issues I have already written on with regards to ‘God of’, prosperity takes on a whole different meaning absent capitalism’s profit motive. What does prosperity look like in a permaculture setting? How about an indigenous-led rehabilitation of the land and/or rivers? To my mind, and given the writings of indigenous people such as Robin Wall Kimmerer and Vine Deloria Jr., it is abundance of connections, life, and thriving. Gebo, and the giving of gifts, and the idea of a gifting economy itself, contrasts starkly with that of capitalism. There is ‘enough’ and ‘too much’ in such a system to the point that giving of certain gifts to folks who did not have as much was taboo because the ‘owing’ of one to another would have been too out of balance. If we take off modern capitalist notions of prosperity we see a world in which ‘enough’ is not a tool of privation, but of plenty.

Such a change in mindset does not stop famines from happening. However, it does eliminate famines whose existance is due to artificially inflating the price of wheat or intentionally under-harvesting a crop. By eliminating the profit motive prosperity is not bound only to the abundance of the amount of a crop. This abundance can then extend to relationships that crop has, allowing them to flourish as well. Only since the advent of modern monocropping has the sheer size and scale allowed us to act as we have with regards to farming. Arguably, all we have done is super-size the next Dust Bowl. An abundance mindset would conserve water and soil, rather than merely viewing them as resources to be used in service of profit. If we put down this idea of profit and begin to understand our Gods tied to prosperity, money, and wealth, these relationships can suddenly flourish in countless new ways.

Unmoored by capitalist ideas of work, productivity, leisure, and profit, our relationships can buoy a whole host of powerful new relationships within ourselves and with our Ginnreginn. In a mindset of cycles and relationships it cannot be productive to constantly do work. Rest is part of the natural cycles whether we understand this through the seasons or our own bodies’ rhythms. In thinking on this, Freyr readily comes to my mind. I think of this understanding within and of Freyr. His are the times of culling, whether the animal or the field, and of planting. The times of waiting for the field to grow, for caring for the animals, and of being mindful. Among the ways I approach work with Him in this understanding is doing the work until it is done, not work at any cost. The rains fall, and those rains exist within their own cycles relative to the climate and weather. Rather than being like a boss at Amazon that constantly monitors the bathroom breaks and output of a worker, Freyr is in a right, healthy, and gifting relationship with the rain, to do what it is going to do: to collect, rise, and fall. He helps, working with the rain and all its vaettir. He is not absent the process. Indeed, being a God, in many respects He is the Being and the process through which it works. This also works in relationship with Thor, who, also being a God who embodies many of the same characteristics and relationships, does not eliminate Freyr from them or vice versa. They also exist in relationship with and to us. Rather than turning our Gods into mere processes or archetypes, we come to understand and know Them through the cycles we live, encountering our Gods through systems, living and not, that we ourselves are in.

What would our relationships with moneyvaettir look like without work and the economic systems that exploit our labor?

Understanding money in animism is not some huge leap. Whether we look at it through the coins and paper money that we can hold in our hands or the electronic forms most of our money takes, moneyvaettir are alive and part of our living systems. Indeed, They are the Being and process through which potential work translates into active work in our modern economy. Whether we understand the moneyvaettir in a physical form, coins made from metals and paper money made a pulped then processed fiber respectively, or electronic and made from fire crossing countless metals and silica, They do end up taking up and being part of the physical world as much as the imaginal. Put simply money as a concept is a claim on labor, the physical or electronic tokens being representative of that claim. Without the idea of work, that is, enforced labor, and the economic systems that exploit it, moneyvaettir can be understood through relationship building rather than merely transactions of money being exchanged for a good or service. Money holds value in our system as a fiat currency by being the way that value is held, calculated, and used.

We say in this system that a loaf of bread costs so much, salt that much, and gas this much. That is, these tokens represent how much work you have to do in order to afford this or that thing. They are ways of transacting relationships to the goods and services we need to live in this society. What is belied by this token system is that without a job to assess how much work I need to do in order to afford that item it does not tell me how much work I actually need to do to afford something. A billionaire’s value with a dollar is not my own. I have to put in physical time at a job in order to afford a gallon of gas. Billionaires put in next to no actual physical effort at their jobs. Their bank accounts expand with money merely by existing in certain relationships with financial instruments and institutions. Once you get to a certain point of wealth money is generated in autonomous ways rather than any effort on the part of the individual. The rules of money as commonly understood break down once a person is wealthy because they no longer have to participate in a lived, physical economy like those beneath them. If money were the actual value and time a worker produced then Jeff Bezos would be a pauper in comparison to physical laborers. Money, then, in our modern system, does not measure the work itself, only arbitrary time unmoored from the actual constraints, pain, and processes by which the labor is extracted and distilled.

It is not so much that capitalism only produces false relationships, whether that is with money, labor, or their effects. Rather, it only allows for certain viabilities of relationships. Certain kinds of relationships stop being viable should people wish to live even moderately well or within a communal setting. The zoning laws alone in this country do not allow for the breadth of relationships to our jobs and communities that we could have. The history of the mall in America, especially look at the intent of malls vs the execution of them, is a clear example of this. Staying at home to parent a child or be a homemaker is not viable under the system beneath a certain income level. Hell, educating children in general has become so prohibitively expensive to the educator that many K-12 teachers in this country have completely given up the field. Money did not do this to any of us. Rather, it is the systems that govern money, and accordingly, the systems that moneyvaettir are bound in with work, that does this to us.

Our modern economy alienates us from our labor and each other. It has to, because atomizing us from our relationships is a profitable thing. Restorative justice and wholistic health management in such a system is a non-starter because profit can be extracted at higher rates under a punitive justice system and a fractured medical system. The rise of private adoption services, private prisons, private hospitals, and medical insurance are just a few industries that benefit from this extractive exploitative arrangement. As if that is not bad enough, these private prisons are then able to turn around, literally offerings cents on the dollar, hiring out their prison laborers to companies that also serve to depress the wages of other laborers.

Taking moneyvaettir outside of these systems of control that serve to hurt and oppress both Them and us would allow us to have radically different ways of relating. We can begin this work right now even within the systems we are caught up in.We can partner with Them to truly build up things we value, whether that is the things we produce by our hands, or collectively in our communities. We can give money to indigenous landback movements, to places that exemplify our values such as Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm, and to any number of people and services in our community that serve the needs of the community. We can partner with the moneyvaettir to budget in ways that allow us to live in better concert with Them, asking Them and ourselves what ways are best for us to live better in this world together, and then, to invest the money accordingly.

What would our Gods and our relationship with Them, whose sacred places, animals, and plants are currently exploited by industries, look like?

If we could understand that our relationships with moneyvaettir would be drastically changed by this shift then our relationships with our Gods, and the sacred places, animals, and plants would be no less drastically changed. Consider any animal held sacred to one of our Gods, such as the boar and pig to Freyr. Consider that without the economic system we have we could actually treat these animals in a sacred way rather than a resource that, like ourselves, is squeezed for profit. Without our economic systems that encourage profit at all cost there would be no need for the massive CAFOs that poison rivers and lakes, that encourage immense amounts of dumping of poisons on land to produce the feed that is given to the animals on those CAFOs, or the extraction of chemicals and minerals to feed the soils for the land their feed is grown on. It is a simple premise with powerful, long-lasting, radical results. All the knock-on effects from just this one aspect of a highly pollutant industry, and all the suffering that results from it, could be prevented. By removing the profit motive from the equation these things no longer make any sense to continue.

By removing work from our lives we could restructure how we are to live, and what it means to live well. While we may not be able to untangle the many knots capitalism has us wrapped up in right now, we can we can remove work, enforced labor and its effects, from many aspects of our lives, and relationships. Doing so allows us to live more fully in those relationships without the intercession of exploitation. Doing so allows us to develop new ways of relating to ourselves, to one another, and to our Ginnreginn, and maintain the good and healthy ways we have now. Over time, as polytheists and animists, we could bring the values we carry with us into lived relationships where how we labor, spend money, and live our lives have powerful material and spiritual impact on ourselves, our communities, and the relationships we hold with our Ginnreginn. By adopting an anti-work stance and removing the ideas that come with work under a capitalist system, by taking off jobs as we have learned them under this system from ourselves and our Ginnreginn, we can find and reclaim ways of life that better serve us both, and enrich ourselves, our communities, and all the relationships we hold.

Rest

What is it to not do spiritwork for months on end? It is service to others, whether to the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir, and/or those in my communities. The pause I have taken was to rest. As was pointed out to me by several loved ones, I was definitely burning my candle at both ends and sometimes in the middle too.

Since October I have taken time off from spiritwork. That means no public rituals, no divination work, and almost no spirit travel for others. It has also meant I have done as little personal spiritwork as I am able. This does not mean everything is cast aside, though.

I still cleanse, ground, center, and shield everyday at least once a day. I still make prayers every day. I still make time to think and pray. I still do magic as I need to. Clearly, I still write.

I will not pretend like taking this time off has been easy. It has not. I deeply enjoy doing spiritwork. The writing prompts, whether the topic suggestions, Q&As, or prayer requests, all provide a powerful challenge and incentive to write and do spiritwork on their own. Likewise, the videos I have been producing have pushed me to think hard about how to be informative and concise about the Basics of Heathenry.

Something I have remarked to folks through Around Grandfather Fire and its Discord server is that I struggle with the need to be or feel productive. Rather than constantly fight with myself over this, I have reframed the last few months’ break as a form of service. When it comes to brass tacks, that is what it is. I cannot perform well if I am constantly overworking myself. I cannot do the best work that I can for the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, my communities, or myself, if I am constantly exhausted. Reframing rest as service, as furthering the work, helps to put my mind at ease. I recognize how fucked up that is, that the only way that I feel I can relax and put things aside is by framing them in terms of service to the work. I hasten to point out, though, that no God, Ancestor, or vaettr has put this mindset on me. This is definitely the product of the overculture. Sometimes Odin will push, but He has not pushed me as much as I have pushed myself.

Am I going to start back up with spiritwork in February? I am not sure. I will be doing some talking with my partners, friends, and doing some thinking and praying. ConVocation has been postponed until next year. My two weeks of vacation I was going to take for it are locked in. I either take the vacation or simply lose it. I am seriously considering just taking February off to enjoy the two weeks in our new home, and relaxing.

Funny enough, I started to write this post before the latest episode of Around Grandfather Fire. We are just starting our 4th season with Episode 83. I had not yet decided on whether to take February off. By the end of the episode I had decided that I would. It would mean six months off from professional spiritwork.

Why, if I valued my spiritwork so highly and the work I do for others would I take so much time off? I need it. In the time since I began my break I have encountered heavy mandatory overtime at work, worked on buying our home, and finally, came down with COVID-19 before moving in. We are mostly moved now, and despite the many months off from spiritwork, work in various forms has eaten what would have been the empty space there. Had I been doing spiritwork alongside all the work I am doing as a father, partner, and worker, I would probably have collapsed by now.

What helped turn me around on a lot of this was framing things not through an individual narrative, but a collective one. Being a goði, spiritworker, father, partner, and community means I am part of a whole. I am part of a tribe. I do not live for just myself. If anyone in my Kindred or tribe came to me with my workload what would my response be?

“Take some time off and relax for fuck’s sake!”

I have held unreasonably high expectations of myself for a long while. Part of reframing my mindset on rest was not just ‘this is good for me, Sarenth the individual’. What I needed was ‘this is good for my communities’ and ‘this is good for Sarenth, and this good benefits the communities I am in’. Much of my mindset is not about myself, but about what I can do for the Kindred and tribe I am in. If I crash, break down, collapse, or fall apart I can no longer do my best within those communities. It is not only in my interest, but in my communities’ interests that I care for myself, learn to pace myself, and do right by myself. So, for the time being I will do that: I will rest, so that when I return to spiritwork I can do so with my full faculties and do the best job that I am able to.

A Heathen Prepping -Every Day Carry

The Basics of EDC

EDC is a term meaning Every Day Carry. It is what it says on the tin. This is what you carry on your person every day. Some folks read this and think we are only talking firearms. While personal protection equipment may be part of a given person’s EDC, there are a lot of preppers who do not include a firearm as part of theirs.

I am one of those people. The reason is terribly practical: my job does not allow weapons on our person. Since an EDC is meant to go everywhere we do, and I can spend up to 16 hours at my job, my personal EDC is going to be incredibly limited compared to most folks in the prepper communities. Were I able to, I would likely have at least one weapon among my EDC.

The way that I differentiate EDC from a Bug Out Bag, or BOB, is that a BOB is prepped and ready to go for emergencies. Bugging out is an extreme emergency that requires you to vacate immediately from wherever you are. An EDC is what we carry so we face each day prepared. There is no single one-size-fits-all EDC, and opinions on what should be in it vary. Luckily, City Prepping has a video for this where he goes into his, and I recommend folks watch it. Happy Preppers has their own here.

Everyone’s EDC is different. My ideal EDC is certainly different from what I have to carry to be work-compliant. This should be reassuring, though, because each piece of prep we can do is a work in progress. There is always somewhere we could improve, to tweak to make things function or flow better.

My main perspective on prep comes from hospitality and care for those in your family, Kindred, tribe, and communities. By prepping now, you take pressure off of all those you hold ties with and free up resources for them in the future. One more person with the training and experience to use those resources effectively is one less person who needs emergency intervention and can help others prepare effectively for a SHTF scenario. By honoring the various Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir of the resources and work with them, you build up good relationships with Them. By building up good relationships now you approach Them in respect, and They, in turn, can help you develop your skills, experiences, and wisdom in the use of resources now, rather than in a crisis.

When it comes to EDC many of these ideas are taken into the everyday. My spiritual EDC are what I carry with me as taufr, charms, as well as the spiritual prep that I do before I leave the house. The spiritual EDC are the necklaces I wear and the tattoos on my skin. The clothes I wear, prayer cards I carry, anything that I dedicate to carrying on my person becomes part of the EDC. Since I understand the lík or the body as sacred, physical prep is part of the spiritual prep, and the spiritual prep provide a strong core and focus to the physical prep. Likewise, the mental prep flows with the physical and spiritual prep. So too, the EDC prep and the home prep flow into and between each other. What I need for EDC will likely differ a lot given I will be away from home.

My Approach to EDC

So what is in my EDC? I will break this up into three main areas because of my job’s restrictions. The first will be what I carry on me most often, then what I carry in my bag, and finally, what I carry in my car.

My Personal EDC

My personal carry EDC are my clothes, my wallet which carries my IDs and prayer cards, my leather taufr bag, my phone, my Bluetooth earbuds and their charging case, and any keys I need for work. The charging case can double as a charger for my phone if needed. The earbuds hold a charge for about four hours of music each, and charge in about 30 minutes. My arms are each covered in the Elder Futhark, and I have a tattoo of a Valknut on my left breast and the Ægishjalmr on my right. Each tattoo carries meaning, a physical reflection and fulfillment of my relationships with each vaettr. Given my ongoing offerings to Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir, not to mention the offerings of pain and blood just to get these tattoos, these are spiritual EDC that are consistently cared for. Likewise, these are each spiritual EDC that are consistently involved in my care.

The approach I have with my tattoos is also true of the taufr I carry in my bag: every one was built with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir I carry active and ongoing relationships with, and none require special offerings on their own. So, if for some reason I lose or need to give away a taufr I do not lose something unique in the bag. That is, while I would lose that particular taufr’s carried power, I do not lose all the power of that relationship by losing or giving away the taufr. If I were to make a completely unique taufr with a vaettr I only every worked with in constructing that taufr then I could risk that relationship by losing or giving away the taufr. So, that is why I have the rule of thumb that I make taufr only with vaettir I hold active relationships with.

Clothes should be the first physical item you think about when you put yourself together in the day. I am the kind of guy who is pretty happy to wear shorts and a t-shirt most of the year. My choice of clothes are made with ease of movement and comfort in mind. However, those choices are couched in the comfort of having a comfortable, warm (or cool, as the seasons change) home to live in rather than being consistently exposed to the elements. If I know I will be out and about I will at least wear jeans and bring a coat. My physical items follow the form and function of my clothes: can I keep it comfortably on my person, and are the items easy to access? In a SHTF scenario if I am out and about in clothes ill-fitted to the situation, I am putting myself at risk. Since it is a good idea to have a backup set of clothes in the car and any BOBs, this is something I am working on putting together.

My Backpack and Lunchbag EDC

Since these bags have to go into work it cannot contain items restricted from the facility that I would like to include, so most of the essentials of EDCs you will find on the Internet, like firestarting kits and water purification systems, are out here too. My backpack is a laptop backpack, so the pouch that rests against my back has a bit of extra padding. This section holds my tablet, mobile keyboard, small mouse, book(s), and journal. The journal is a moddable Tūl notebook that my wife found for me in Office Max. You can swap pages in and out, and there are a variety of pages to choose from, including lined, blank, and graph. If I wanted to, say, design a sigil or bindrune and fire it off quick I can. I can also print materials off, use the special hole punch for it that I bought, and swap those materials in and out as I want. If nothing else, in a crisis where I need firemaking materials I will have plenty to hand.

The center section of the backpack has charging essentials for my devices, including lightning cables so I can pass off the cord to iPhone and Mac users. While I do not care for Mac products at all, it has come in handy for coworkers who forget their cables. In the middle of the center section is a nylon bag. It has three blocks for charging outlets and more cables than I have devices for so I, and others, can charge multiple devices at once. Finally, it has a charging brick in it with multiple cable access points. I carry OTC meds like acetomenaphine here, as well as a large bag of sugar free lozenges, hand salve, soap, and toiletries I may need if I get stuck at work or out on the road. This section is fairly big and deep, so the bottom holds a lot of PPE in plastic containers that I have accumulated since COVID-19 hit. I have at least two disposable hazard suits, nitrile disposable gloves, fitted masks, multiple disposable masks, and a mouth barrier for rescue breaths. It may seem like a lot of PPE, but it is all quite compact. My plan is to add a full medical kit in the bottom of this bag so I have it wherever the backpack goes.

The third section is a bit smaller than the first two, and contains a good deal of spiritual items. It has two decks of playing cards that can serve as divination decks or playing cards, a few prayer cards, and a leather bag with a leather casting surface and wooden Runes. Finally, this section holds four plastic bottles, two of which contain salts, one pure water, and the last holds mugwort tea for internal and external cleansing, blessing, etc. This last is replaced as needed.

The fourth section is the front of the backpack. It is the smallest and is just big enough to hold the pens and comb that are in it.  The side pouch holds a small Rite in the Rain field book and the other side has space for a coffee cup -which I usually am carrying there. Nothing like having refreshment and an offering at your hip!

The lunchbag I have is a hard plastic shell in a thermal case to keep things cold. It can hold a good amount of food, which is good since I frequently have to work doubles. It works well for its purpose, since it also keeps my insulin cold and my daily pill box clean and clear. These are in the front pouch along with hand sanitizer, some packs of instant coffee, and utensils. There are two outer areas where I carry coffee cups. I like to carry extra sanitizer, a few sweets to keep up my energy/blood sugar, extra instant coffee packs, lozenges, and other small helpful items in this bag’s front pouch. Better to have it and not need it then need it and not have it.

My Car EDC

What I carry in my car on a regular basis differs from a BOB since my car is fitted for common road emergencies, including a small car battery starter, a small medkit, a small jack, and a spare tire. I am still working on putting together my BOBs. When finished it will be kitted out for an emergency where my family and I could survive for three days with what is in it whether we are in the car or on foot.

The middle of the car holds a small staff that works well as a walking stick and that I have worked with in various rituals. It also has a car plug-in here for charging USB-C devices, and there is one in the front as well. The front has two USB-C cords, and the middle of the car has one. This allows me to keep our devices, including the car starter, charged on long trips.

In addition to the car starter, car jack, and medkit, my car contains a Sacred Firemaking kit which lives in the trunk. This kit is contained in a leather bag that has belt loops and is lightweight. It comes complete with tinder, a flint and steel, ferro rod, lighter, and both conventional and waterproof matches. The car has a log or two in its trunk so if I need to make a decent fire quick I have the means to. A separate metal ammo crate holds extra firemaking and firekeeping supplies, including twine and wood shavings that could make good tinder, candles, various herb offerings, and a book or two of matches. With an axe in the trunk there would be no question that I could easily get a decent-sized fire going at a few moments’ notice.

The trunk holds a shoulder bag with a hardy survival guide, an orange bandana with various guides to using it in emergencies printed on it, a clip-on crank light and charger, its own separate small firekit, a change of socks, paracord, and a multitool. If, for some reason, I needed to get out of the car with one bag this would be like a mini-BOB for it. In such a case I might quickly toss my shoes off and put on the Muckboots I typically carry in the trunk for going to Crossing Hedgerows. They are quite warm, rated for about -40°F, and hardy. They are also quite waterproof, having waded through Crossing Hedgerow’s stream more than a few times in them without issue, and decent in a forest hike.

There are two water carriers in the trunk. One is a red and white insulated container which can hold at least two liters. The other is a Lifestraw water bottle. The Lifestraw water bottle can filter most contaminants and provide fresh water in most any source I could find. In a pinch I could transfer from one to the other without having to light a fire, and have good potable water in short order.

So far as food goes, I keep at least a pack of ramen in the car so if I or anyone else needs to grab a bite it is available. I will be restocking it with things like Clif bars, and other small items that store well and can be broken up into smaller packs or stuffed into pockets. It is a balance between what can fill us up in an emergency, what stores well, and what can easily be carried. Because of wild temperature fluctuations throughout the year packing canned foods is a bad idea. My objective with any food I store in the car is that it can survive in it long-term and I do not have to do much with it to prep it.

Spiritual EDC in the car includes at least one or two sacred pipes that I have used to smoke offerings and commune with vaettir. Tobacco, mugwort, and chamomile, among the sacred herbs I offer, are stored in a big leather bag in the trunk that holds my Wildwood Tarot, Soul Map, and a collection of taufr and other spiritual objects. This black leather bag holds offering mugs, sacred knives, and different stones I have worked with over the years. It also holds a variety of salts, dirts, and its own firemaking kit. Finally, it holds several representations of Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.

Designing EDC in Community

Something not often remarked on is designing EDC in community with one another. If you are involved with community members who are interested in prep it can be well worth your while to talk on the subject. You may have a few fixed items, such as the clothes you wear and your wallet, and beyond that the beauty of approaching things with EDC in mind is how adaptable you can really be. Particularly if you are nesting partners or live in the same neighborhood, collaborating on EDC can help alleviate stress or provide new insights, especially since your fellow community members likely have different skillsets. While mindset behind designing an EDC is different from a BOB, both preps are still made with SHTF scenarios in mind. Designing an EDC with community members can help spread out the stress and make things easier if a SHTF scenario hits.

In my case, having another person able and willing to carry more can make SHTF scenarios easier to bear. Since I cannot carry firemaking or water purification supplies on my person or into work, if someone else can, that shores up the lack of supplies I have on me. I can give Gebo by carrying more long-term stable food and drink powders as part of my EDC so they do not have to carry as much of that. If they are skilled at sigils they could carry more paper/pens to make use of that, and I could carry more offerings. The work that can be done together is far more versatile and adaptable than going it alone and trying to plan for all scenarios. So, if you can, I highly recommend partering with community members no matter the prep at hand.

EDC Changes

Over the years, like a lot of folks who have different EDC for different reasons, my spiritual EDC has changed quite a bit. For one, things used to be a lot less organized. For another, I had only one firemaking kit and did not do much in the way of backups. It took me several years until I included a basic medkit and car starter in the car. My big black leather bag that lives in the trunk now used to be my primary spiritwork bag. Now, that bag is a smaller leather shoulder bag that contains the absolute essentials to my spiritwork. The big black leather bag is a kind of useful hold-all for anything I may need or want to have so all the spiritual EDC has a place to be that is safe, tough, and if needed, can be thrown over the shoulder and taken.

It may seem now that I have an overabundance of firemaking kits. I have owned a lot of lighters over the years, both disposable and refillable. I know how easy it is to forget that the lighter is out of fuel or the matchbook is empty. Far better to have a bunch of quick firemaking kits, whether it is flint and steel, ferro rods, or both, than to only rely on lighters or matches, and not be able to make a fire when needed. Given my years of Sacred Firetending and how quick the weather can turn, I appreciate having backups to tinder and logs. It is not fun getting wet materials to light.

That all said, an EDC is not meant to handle every scenario that comes at us, no more than a BOB or even a home is. Preps are meant to help us deal with situations that are most likely to happen. I am not actively prepping for an EMP strike because it is not likely to happen here. Tornadoes, winter storms, power outages, interruptions to supply chains, and civil unrest are far more likely where I live. So, my EDC reflects that.

The spiritual aspects of EDCs should be the same way: we may have fixed things that we need in our EDC to get us through the day, and beyond that having flexibility in what we carry with us allows us to better approach things. That flexibility leaves us in a better position to handle the challenges life throws at us. So, do not be afraid to change things up. Maybe today you need gentler energy, and carrying a small disk with Berkana woodburnt into it, and asking the Rune to help you, can help there. Maybe you need to connect less with certain Ancestors, so taking Their representations out of your pocket bag and placing it with the Ancestor stalli (indoor altar) is ideal. Something as simple as asking the local landvaettir to help you keep safe or ground and center, asking Them to help you find a stone to carry, and making an offering when you find it can be a great help.

It is a good thing to evaluate where we are now and again, and adjust things to our needs. It is a good thing to ask community members to look at our preps, and take their advice to heart. It is a good thing to ask the Ginnreginn for help and guidance, and adjusting ourselves and our EDC to match it. Being open to change, and willing to do it, is a powerful thing.

When we move into our new house we will be reevaluating all our various preps to align with our new living situation. I expect most of my EDCs will stay the same, but I have wanted to reorganize everything and put it together in a more coherent way where everything has a place. You might find over time you do this as well. It’s a kind of grounding and centering for your prep practice. After all, sometimes we forget we packed something away. Sometimes our needs for EDC change, or our mindset behind having a piece of gear is not relevant anymore. Sometimes we just get better gear or more efficient ways of stowing it. However we design them, EDCs should be adaptable, changing with us as we need them.

My mindset as a Heathen prepper is hospitality and service. Hospitality is practiced by both host and guest. So, prepping is not only to those who can find themselves at my door. By prepping, I am working as a guest to lift stress on a host in a SHTF scenario, just as I am working to help alleviate stress to those who find themselves as my guest. EDC, with the Ginnreginn and my Heathen values and spiritual work firmly in mind, allows me to face each day as prepared as I can be. By prepping in a wholistic way I serve the Ginnreginn, my family, my tribe, and my communities more efficiently, and in good Gebo.

Taking Time

I have spoken here, on my Patreon, on Around Grandfather Fire, and in a lot of other places how taking your time to rest, recover, and relax are important and can be as much a part of spiritwork as doing things like divining and spiritual consultation.

Between the American overculture’s inane drive that everything be ‘productive’, even hobbies and pleasures, and my upbringing, I have found that engaging in rest and relaxation, especially ‘non-productive’ things, to be quite hard. I do not lay this at my parents’ feet, either. The same system that insists I need to be ‘doing something’ is the same one that ground them down during the time they both worked. We live in a toxic culture, one that, given my neurodivergence, seems tailor-made to fuck with my anxiety and my ADHD.

Up until recently my bull-headed response to all this was to put my head down and keep on pushing through. This works for a while. Hell, for years. For years I have had loved ones, family, friends, and tribe alike, pushing me to put things down and actually take a break.

It is a common joke in my family that we go back to work to relax. The vacation I last took from work had me doing yard work prepping raised gardens and a tiered system for growing strawberries for most of it, working with my family from sunup to sundown. We are reaping the rewards of that now, with an amazing crop of tomatoes. Not all work is bad, draining, or harsh. Hell, not all rest or relaxation is necessarily stopping doing everything. I find it relaxing and refreshing to do work outside. A lot of folks do.

What is different here is that I have been doing spiritwork without a vacation or rest for years. My daily routine would start with a 10-20 minute preparation session of cleansing, grounding, centering, and shielding, then prayers to start my day. If I had spiritwork to do I would repeat this routine with refreshes throughout the day. This in and of itself was not an issue. My routine has become a lot smaller and compact, and over time I expect it will expand again as changes are needed. What was at issue was the amount of spiritwork I was piling on top of it most every day.

I was doing what, in retrospect, is a good bit of spiritwork for other people. This includes writing on this blog and for my Patreon, answering questions as they came by email or Discord, making prayers not for my Patreon as they came through my email, scheduling then doing divination and consultatation sessions, and ongoing spiritual support work through various Discord servers. When I had time in between work and Work I was writing multiple books.

Consider all of this with being a father, huband, partner, and working anywhere from 40-80 hours a week for my job, depending on how bad mandatory overtime gets, and I was hitting burnout. Only I did not want to see it, and was powering through it.

Unlike times past, however, I am listening to my loved ones.

So, I am taking a break for a month from all spiritwork for others. Likely for myself, too. I know it is necessary to take time on occasion. My hope is by the time November comes around I will be refreshed and ready to go. If not, I will take another month. If I need to I will take time until the New Year. I hope it does not come to that. However, my Ginnreginn, my loved ones, and the communities I serve need me to be at my best. So do I.

The Importance of Being Visible

My arms are covered in Runes and I wear three necklaces, a valknut, a Mjolnir, and a stylized wolf when I am out of the house. What this has done has allowed me to connect with folks wherever I go. They ask questions, they want to know “What do these mean?” Even in the case of folks mistaking my Runes, which are the Elder Futhark, for ancient Hebrew, it is still someone saying “I see this and I want to know more.”

My necklaces and my tattoos are public invitations to have a conversation. I display them for my own reasons, namely as a form of devotion and mindfulness of my relationships with the Ginnreginn. However, I would not have a reason to display them publicly if that were the only reason. I could just as easily carry my valknut, Mjölnir, and wolf necklaces in my spiritwork bag and cover up my tattoos. I wear necklaces, rings, and tattoos to display to others. So that, in some way, what I am is seen. I could just as easily have had the Runes tattooed on my back, my upper arms, or somewhere else easily hidden by clothing. Instead, They asked, and I accepted, that They be tattooed on my lower arms.

Recently, fellow Heathens including Maleck, Snow and Gunny, both of whom are wonderful folks, have talked about aesthetic and how it relates to Heathenry, Heathens, and our place in communities. I can tell you from personal experience that aesthetic can also key into being accessible to others in our communities, both in terms of fellow Heathens and those outside our religious communities. Especially being so outward facing in our aesthetics like this, it allows us to be able to be good and approachable sources of information for those who, otherwise, may not learn about Heathenry or Heathens.

It is also why I tend to stay away from the Vikings TV show aesthetic when it comes to my regular online content. No issue with those who do it as part of their own regular content. However, the aesthetics of the show, and cosplay in general, clash with the Heathenry I want to portray, which is historically-informed and modern. What this does not mean is that I lack for ritual aesthetics, historical Nordic outfits, and only wear t-shirt and shorts to ritual. It just means that everyday wear tends to be my most common worn items because most of my rituals do not require specific ritual wear. My most frequent rituals are hearth cultus, so my ‘ritual wear’ tends to be whatever I have on at home. If I have been working out, doing yard work, or am dirty, I clean up, switch the clothes out, and then do hearth cultus.

Our aesthetics, both what we wear for everyday wear and for ritual, can say a lot about us to ourselves, to the communities we live in, and to our relationship with the Ginnreginn. Perhaps over time as we develop from just religious communities into full-blown cultures we may develop varying ways of dress. However, for the moment, most polytheists blend in to the overculture they are living in.

When we step outside of that blending that is a statement. It can be one for ourselves, our communities, and/or our Ginnreginn, but if we wear something, whether it is our hair, tattoos, or clothes that takes us out of the everyday, it is a statement. It is a powerful act, and a powerful responsibility not only for myself, it is equally so for my family, community, and the Ginnreginn. Even more so than wearing my Valknut or Mjölnir openly, my tattoos have opened a lot of conversational doors that likely would have stayed shut. They are vaettir, power, and magic, embodied in me, a living relationship. They are an invitation to others to conversation, understanding, and wisdom carved into my flesh.

What others will get from conversation prompted by the Runevaettir differs. For a lot of folks I am the first and only open polytheist they have ever met. For some folks this prompts a flood of questions, ranging from “What does that word mean?” to “How can you worship so many?” to “What are the Gods? The Ancestors? The spirits?” For others there is a few moments of contemplation, and then appreciation that lights up their face. For some, fear and apprehension strike their body like lightning, and something about the notion of living ancient Gods, Ancestors who listen and speak with them, and spirits all around absolutely terrifies them. For some, just sharing what these living Beings are opens whole Worlds to them. Others will shrink back.

My body becomes a gateway of conversation. My words become a conduit. My demeanor shares connection. Making the choice to take on the tattoos I have, the Valknut and the Runes, I am not my own, alone; I am also my Gods’, my Ancestors’, my vaettir’s. I am, in a very real sense, a vé walking in the world. That is the importance of being visible.

Patreon Topic 53: Using Tools in Magic and 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 the use of tools in Magic and spirit work? Pros, cons, appropriate vs inappropriate use?”

Tools can be damned useful -until they get in the way or become an impediment. A hex head screwdriver is only really useful for taking care of hex screws and the like. A claw hammer’s primary purpose is to hit and remove nails from wood pieces. If I try to use a screwdriver to drill a nail it can get the job done, with a great deal more effort, but it likely will not do the job as neatly or as well. A tool becomes a pro so long as it is an asset to the work or working at hand, and a con when it is not. If the only tool I have ever used is a screwdriver then I will need practice to get good at driving nails, but this is a far better use of my time than to get good at driving nails with a screwdriver.

Appropriate tools in magic are those that are useful to the task at hand, do not detract from the working, enhance the working itself by their presence/use, and deliver the best results with appropriate experience and training. Inappropriate tools in magic are those that are not useful to the task at hand, detract from the working, disempower or impede the working itself by their presence/us, and block the best results through overcomplication or by requiring such a high degree of training/work needed to use it that it becomes impractical to work with/use. An appropriate tool for divination could be something like a deck of tarot cards. It could also be used as an appropriate tool for magic.

Let us say you wish to enhance your physical strength, and are doing spellwork to help with this. Now, the first step should be to decide on what exercises or work is appropriate to building your strength. When you select exercises appropriate to your level of skill, understanding, and time, then I would include spiritual work. A simple way to do this with tarot is to combine the imagery in a particular deck with the purpose of a working. In a traditional tarot deck you would work with Strength to this end. If you were to incorporate spiritwork, you might put the card on an altar made specifically for the working as the centerpiece focus, and every time you go to work out you make an offering of water, ask a God or spirit to bless your pre-workout drink, and then go do your exercises. Just working with the tarot alone, perhaps you carry Strength or a copy of the card in your wallet and sing or chant the name three times. Just like reps in a workout routine the chanting builds up your spiritual strength and resolve to do the physical work over time.

It is worth pointing out not every tool need be physical. You can get the effect of ‘reps’ I wrote above regarding Strength by just imagining the card, or even going so far as to incorporate a telesterion working with it. However, I find physical tools tend to have a grounding presence in this world. Not every tool is a tool for grounding excess energies, mind you, but every physical tool grounds the work and working in this world by the act of working with it. It actually pushes us to incorporate more of our souls this way, by not leaving out the lyke, the body, of our souls from spiritual workings. That is a huge pro. It takes it out of ‘upper head’ or thought experimentation. By making gestures with a tool, even a hand, I should be talking actions that carry meaning and add to the work.

An excellent place to talk about the usefulness of tools in magic and spiritwork is the use of staves in seiðr. If I am working with a staff in a seiðr context then the staff occupies a place of invitation, coercion, and/or calling to spirits, as well as directing energies during these and any other magic work that can occur during the seiðr session. Ornamentation, such as metal rings, animal representations, and Runes carved into or attached to the staff can add to its versatility.

The vaettir are not only ‘out there’; with the invitation or compulsion of the staff, They are very much here, perhaps even entering the staff and/or the seiðmaðr. Is the staff strictly speaking necessary for good seiðr work? No, but it helps.

Whether or not a tool is necessary in magic or spiritwork depends on the kind being done. If you are doing sympathetic magic you cannot do it at all without at least one piece of representation for the thing being worked on. Tools are, potentially, both containers and directors of magic and spirits. Staves, distaffs, string, carving tools, weapons, and so much more can not only be a medium for magic, they can be repositories of it. The tools can, themselves, be enlivened by a vaettr or be full of vaettir. Tools can have personal bonds with their owners. Tools can be ongoing conduits of connection between a God, Ancestors, vaettr, and the owner.

Even stripping out every single physical tool from a magical practice and wholly relying on techniques like visualization, song, telesterion/memory palace, and/or astral work, we still use tools. The telesterion/memory palace is a great big damn tool if you think about it. Its original function was to be an imagined mnemonic device, and it has immense spiritual applications. In visualization we still have to use the imagination to link concepts, ideas, and abstraction into more concrete steps and actions. A lot of times visualization uses objects, areas, concepts and the like, that are grounded in our experiences, such as the tree meditation in Trance-portation by Diana Paxson. Our popular culture through Star Trek and Star Wars provides us with examples of what shielding may look like. Likewise, our auditory landscape is shaped by what we put into our minds through our media, and this is true whether the medium are binaural beats, a drumbeat, or something from Heilung.

I think it is pretty hard for us as humans to completely dispose of the idea of tools. They are such a part of our imaginal and personal landscapes that there are very few places I could see where tools themselves would be inappropriate, just inappropriate to a given situation. Perhaps with Pack Magic there is less overt need for physical tools, yet many of the techniques that bring us into better trance states or the like are made easier using tools such as cellphones and headphones.

The biggest con to a tool is it being necessary to the work you want to do, magical or spiritual, and/or not being able to get it or use it effectively. The pro, though, is our tools can make every aspect of the work we have to do easier, more effective, and more thorough. The less work my hugr or hamr has to do, the more I can concentrate on doing the work rather than setting up for it.