Patreon Topic 65: On Balancing Having Conversations vs Privacy

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

From Maleck comes this topic:

“How do you personally balance the desire to have deeper conversations, 301 and above, with the need for both privacy and safety in these conversations? In a practical, “what do you do?” sense?”

Whether or not I choose to share something is based on a few factors. First among them are: is this something I feel safe in divulging? Second, am I cleared by oath, bond, obligation, and my own understanding of appropriateness if this is something I can speak with another person on? Third, is this a person I trust with my privacy and safety? Fourth, does this person have the depth to understand this subject on a 300+ level conversation?

If all of these are answered yes, I then ask more questions to determine whether or not a 300+ level conversation is warranted.

Does the person at hand understand what I am sharing? I mean this in a number of ways.

Intellectually. Do they understand the material(s) at hand? Do they have relevant backround to be informed in a discussion? If they do not, are they interested in learning or exchanging ideas? Will the conversation be stimulating to them?

Emotionally. Can they handle my emotions in sharing? Can they handle their own emotions that may arise in response to my sharing, the conversation, or ideas themselves being discussed? Are there triggers associated with the discussion topic that they cannot handle or will need time to work through? Will the conversation be satisfying for them to have?

Socially. Can they keep the conversation between us? Are they willing to suspend judgment/fixing/other responses unless asked? Do they understand the depth of meaning it holds? Would this person appreciate knowing this information? Is this information they have shown an interest in? Will the conversation deepen our relationship, add depth to it, or give us more areas to speak on?

Religiously. Do they understand the subject itself being discussed within the religion’s view? Are they part of the religion or adjacent to it, and if not, can they hold a respectful conversation on the topic? Do they understand the subject’s implications, and the ideas we are exchanging? Will the conversation be affirming, challenging, or both? Will the conversation add to their/my understanding of the religion(s), spiritual technique(s), etc?

Expertise. Do they or I have expertise and/or knowledge deep enough on the conversation topic to contribute, or is this a one-sided exchange? If it is a one-sided exchange is this one they wish to engage in? If one is teaching the other, does this exchange require Gebo? Is this an initate-only conversation? Does special care taken to avoid speaking on intiatory matters, or other considerations? Can the matter be talked about in enough depth for the conversation to be meaningful while avoiding initation-bound material, ideas, or experiences? Will the conversation deepen one or both of our expertise, or contribute to it in some way?

Gebo. Do you and they desire to have exchanges of ideas, techniques, opinions, experiences, and/or just to have comraderie in the exploration of a topic? Are you and they able to exchange well, in whatever capacity the conversation needs, whether it is 50/50, 10/90, etc? Is the conversation held respectfully, with care for the parties involved, and does it deepen understanding, appreciation, and/or lead to other experiences?

This might seem like a lot of consideration for conversations. Remember the points I raised in On The Need for Deeper Conversations:

This is an aspect of the deeper conversations seldom talked about: getting deeper into conversation and moving beyond the 101 requires a vulnerability that laying down the basic theology, praxis, and structures of Heathenry does not require. Even some 200-level conversations on subjects like the basics of how to do magic can be so dependent on one’s home culture, focus, and individual expression that it opens us up to scrutiny in ways merely talking about what magic is in Heathenry does not. For example, how one does útiseta might be a 200 or 300-level conversation. Depending on what comes out of the experiences you have with it, though, you might be having 400+-level conversations. In other words, the folks you hope to talk with about the subject at hand are going to need to have significant knowledge and experience with the topic, not merely a basic theoretical understanding, to have dialogue with you.

If the folks I am looking at having these deeper conversations with are those I feel safe with, trust, and have the relevant expertise/knoweledge/understanding to have the conversation with, generally I will have the conversation. The Heathen Spiritwork Discord I run, which is attached to my Patreon, is an ongoing example of this, especially with our biweekly meetings. We check in, talk about experiences and current projecs, and how things are going with spiritwork. These are folks I am in direct community with, and who have trusted me or trust me now to work with them in spiritual consultation, Rune readings, and the like. The Gebo goes both ways in terms of trust, vulnerability, and conversation.

There are some relationships with Ginnreginn I have that simply are not for public consumption. I have several relationships that I hold quite close to the chest, and have no need to explore with others beyond Them. Sometimes I am still working through the understanding I have of certain vaettir and I am not ready to share. Right now, I can say this about the Álfar. Here is a group of Beings I thought I would not hold much of a relationship with, and thanks to a patron and one of my partners, I am in far more deep with Them than I thought I would be. I am having ongoing interactions, and still experiencing things on my own and with my partner in this area that are still moving things around. Perhaps when things are more settled I will be ready to more publicly talk on them.

When I do find there is something I want to share and the other person is cool with it, then we decide on how and where we want to talk. If the conversation needs to be completely private then face-to-face is best. If the person wants to be able to refer back to the conversation, an app like Zoom, Marco Polo, and the like can be excellent ways to connect. They are among my most common. If privacy isn’t as big a concern or connection is just easier over text, Discord tends to be my choice. Does the conversation need to be public? Then, my first choice tends to be here on WordPress, and more recently, the Pagan.plus Mastodon server.

I hope that answered the question how you were hoping, Maleck!

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 68: For Feasting

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

This request was made by Emi For Feasting.

Thank You Gods and Goddesses

Thank You Auðumla*

Thank You Gulinkambi*

Thank You Gullinbursti*

Thank You Heiðrun*

Thank You vaettir

Thank You farmer and field

Thank You animals and plants

Thank You landvaettir

Thank You Ancestors

Thank You to those who gather here together

Thank You to those who have gathered, cooked, and share this meal

Thank You for your heart, your work, and your presence here

We gather here in frið today

We gather in respect for guest and host alike

We gather in sacred feast

May each of us be nourished

May each of us who wishes to be heard, seen, and known be so

May each of us leave in frið

The first of the meal is for the Ginnreginn

The first of the drink is for the Ginnreginn

The first of the good words is for the Ginnreginn:

May each of You be held in good Gebo, Ginnreginn

May each of You be respected and honored

May each of You be full of joy at this feast

Ves þu heil!

Let the feast begin!

*If the animal is present in the meal, whether the animal’s meat itself or products produced from the animal such as cheese, butter, or lard. Where a suitable animal name is not known from the sources, a close equivalent is used. When we eat turkey we tend to pray to Gullinkambi. If another animal were found, given, or revealed to us as more appropriate we would pray to Them.

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 59: For The Queer Ancestors

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

This request was made by Emi for The Queer Ancestors.

You were known by countless names

Spoken with awe and reverence

Respect and beloved in your places

You were and are divine

You ranged the world in multitudes

Blessing the peoples

Guiding the peoples

You were and are divine

You were feared and famed

Kings and concubines

Magicians and mystery-keepers

You were and are divine

Loving, leading, following, and fighting

Healing and helping

Sending and striking

You were and are divine

The peoples lost their ways

Denigrated and despised

Abused and abandoned

You were and are divine

In desperate times You triumphed

In death and destitution You remained

Steadfast and strong You worked

You were and are divine

We have found one another

Holding each other close and weeping

Loving boundless and raging

You were and are divine

You are known by many names

We know You, Queer Ancestors

We call You, Queer Ancestors

You were and are divine

All you have been and all that will be

Bless us and be with us, Queer Ancestors

Show us Your Working and Ways again!

You were and are divine

Ever offered and honored

We keep You, Queer Ancestors

We love You, Queer Ancestors

You were and are divine

Patreon Topic 59: On Vanaheim

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

From Emi comes this topic:

“Do a discussion on Vanaheim.”

When we look to the usual sources, Vanaheimr is about as attested as Álfheimr is. It is explored in Vafþrúnismál, Chapter 23 of the Gylfanginning, and in the Heimskringla in the Ynglinga Saga. That’s it.

The folklore, unfortunately, tells us nothing. I have yet to find any folklore directly relevant to Vanaheimr. I also have found nothing on the denizens of Vanaheim Themselves, only the main Gods of Freyja, Freyr, Njorðr, and for those who count Her among the Vanir, Nerðus. If anyone has folklore related to Vanaheimr or the Vanir Themselves I would definitely be interested in seeing it.

As an aside, I find it rather interesting that the Nine Worlds often find themselves remarked as being, in some ways, laying in one direction or another in relation to Miðgarðr. Miðgarðr, of course, being the Middle Enclosure, is in the middle of this cosmological map. Niflheimr and Helheimr are in the North, Jötunheim in the East, Muspelheimr and Vanaheimr in the South, Álfheimr is South and perhaps above Miðgarðr, Svartalfheimr in the North and/or below, and finally, Asgarðr which is either above Miðgarðr or perhaps West. If you are setting up a stalli specifically for Beings of one of the Nine Worlds you may want to set that up in a place that corresponds to the World’s direction. There are also many beautiful artist renditions of Yggdrasil, including this one by Sam Flegal.

Sam Flegal’s Illustration of Yggdrasil

So, from here on out we are talking personal experiences.

I have only visited Vanaheimr a handful of times going on heimgang (World/Realm walking) or as it is often better known, journeying. My impression of the World is that of growing cycles. Some of the places I have gone within Vanaheim have been akin to old forests, plains stretching with animals like buffalo or aurochs and an even wider variety of animal and plant life I am sure I have only just scratched the surface on. There are places in Vanaheim that look like they have come right out of an early medieval book on the ideal farmstead, only….there is something more right about them. The wild places seem both more wild and yet also just…more. I get the sense in this World that things grow, die, and consume each other until they balance one another.

Something is just…good about the place. There is a sense of being lived-in and also that everything is going as it should, in the right season and pace. The landvaettir and various watervaettir felt extremely contented. If there are more industrial areas I have not visited them yet, and it would not surprise me if there are given Njorðr’s connection with the sea, commerce, and fishing. What I felt during my most recent visit, on invitation, was a sense of deep peace. While I am sure this World holds its dangers, I never felt under threat while I was there.

It is a World I do not have much experience with, and I will be visiting more in the future. I would be interested in readings others’ experiences with these Worlds!

Patreon Topic 56: On Álfheimr

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

From Emi comes this topic:

“On Álfheim.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An except from my journal:

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

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

A Heathen Prepping -Prepping for Convergent Crises

We are at a crossroads of convergent crises. At time time of this writing the United States is facing the following: supply chain disruption resulting in delays of goods and then services, health care staffing shortages, shortages in necessary medical goods supplies, ongoing massive infections of COVID-19, and rising inflation. Then there is the civil unrest we have still largely not dealt with since January 6th of 2021. Alone, with the effects of climate change already being felt throughout the food industry, this would be disruptive. With these hitting all at once it is high time anyone holding out on prepping began to take the situation as it stands and make plans to take care of themselves and their loved ones.

This does not mean panic buy. It does not mean pick up as much toilet paper, rice, beans, or the like as you can. What it does mean, is, that if you have delayed until now to do necessary prep for two weeks in a SHTF scenario, then start there. Besides, long-term you cannot survive on just rice and beans though, if you try that, you’ll be happy you bought all that toilet paper.

We have seen gas prices rise on average about $1.14 in the last year, per the EIA. Check the year on year price comparison by the BLS of average goods. The price on average has increased in a steady upward climb the last twenty years. A loaf of bread went from $1.50 to $1.52 October 2020 to October 2021. This means that gas went up about 52% and bread 2% in the last year. Between October 2001 and October 2021 prices on these two goods have gone up, from $1.36 to $3.39 or a 149.26% rise for gas and from $1.01 to $1.53 or a 51.49% rise for bread. All this is to say these are long-term trends, not just pandemic-time increases.

With the crunch of supply disruptions bringing together the basics of your home’s prep into a 2 week, then 1 month, 3 month, 6 month, and a year as you can should be a top priority. At the least, getting this prep together gives you the means to take care of yourself and your loved ones for a SHTF scenario. If one does not hit for awhile, it means that you can stave off inflation. If supply chains fail or things fall apart worse than what they are, you won’t be caught off guard.

Our current round of convergent crises are predicaments that have been ignored until the weight of them cannot be borne by the system in place. All of these issues were ignored or underfunded through several presidential terms. Since 2001 we have spent literally trillions of dollar on war. Resources were simply not allocated to address them. Assigning fault may be useful to some, but not in deciding what to do now that these threats are here in action.

As a Heathen I understand my life woven with that of others through Urðr, whose Anglo-Saxon cognate is Wyrd. I prioritize those webs of Urðr, first with the Ginnreginn (Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir), then my immediate family, then Kindred, then tribe, and then my wider communities. These priorities matter in predicaments like these, as they dictate who my first concerns and obligations belong to. Those closest to me in obligations and concerns are those who I help first in a SHTF scenario.

So for whom am I prepping? For everyone in my circles of concern. It is my responsibility in every relationship I hold, from the Ginnreginn to the wider community, to do all I can to take care of as many people as I can within my capacity to do so. By do so I am freeing resources for others in my Kindred, tribe, or wider community who need to use their resources in support of their own. If all I can take care of is my family and I, then that is who I take care of so resources are available for the Kindred, tribe, or wider communities.

The beautiful thing about prepping, especially starting out and getting a 2 week then 3 month prep as you can, is that prepping is cumulative. The more you do it the better you can weather SHTF scenarios. If you have a 20 lb bag of rice for your two week prep that same bag counts for the 3 month prep, too. So, even if you’re eating your prep as you go, which ideally you should at least in some degree so you’re not suddenly switching diets when SHTF, you are still stocking up in the long term.

Bought a bag of apples and are unsure if you are going to eat them all in time before they rot? No problem. If you have an oven or dehydrator, you can make apple crisps. Put those bad boys in the fridge, mylar bag with an oxygen absorber, or a jar. Congratulations, you have made another stride in prep! Have veggie scraps like carrot tops and peels? These make good compost. That compost can then be used as soil or fertilizer if you let it break down. Old medicine bottles are excellent for holding emergency supplies you can stash in a BOB, the car, or as part of an EDC. Thinking on and working with what you have, where and when you are as part of prep can help stretch or add to what you have for resources.

A lot of convergent crises where I am are going to look like multiple SHTF scenarios that I talked about here coming together at once. In Winter of 2022 I am most concerned about the weather, then supply chain issues, then COVID-19 and the knock-on effects at hospitals, and then the ongoing infrastructure issues. Once we get through Winter and that ceases to be as big an issue, most of my immediate SHTF scenarios stay the same, with the exception of civil unrest being a bigger factor as temperatures climb. On their own each of these could merit my full attention. Together, even doing as much prep as I can, it can be overwhelming, especially at first.

The thing about SHTF scenarios, particularly convergent crises, is the preps are not meant to fix them. Generally, SHTF scenarios are predicaments that you navigate. My power going out cannot be fixed even by getting a Generac generator for the house -it mitigates the loss of electricity. Stocking up on food will not fix the supply chain issues or rising costs. Food prep will help my family and loved ones get through until the supply chain is restored and/or we can bring our own supplies to bear. These ongoing issues need to be fixed systemically since they are systemic issues.

So, what kinds of prep can you do with regard to multiple SHTF scenarios? Beyond continuing with the preps you are on, be sure to build redundancy as you can. Something City Prepping says a lot is “2 is 1, and 1 is none.” Having backups sure does not hurt. If you grab one of something while you’re out on a shopping trip grab a second one. I recently went to the store and picked up some dry milk. At first I was just going to grab one pack, and, remembering the rule, grabbed another. In a long-term SHTF and/or grid-down situation having extras is a great thing. If you find you do not need the extras, having them means you can offer it to others to help, and you have items to trade with.

By and large the basics of prepping for the most likely convergent crises will overlap one another. The big one for our area is power loss. It threatens both our refrigerated and frozen supplies, and makes it harder for us to get through everyday weather. Most modern American homes are fairly poorly constructed and insulated. These glorified boxes require working HVAC units to chug through all kinds of weather. I find it far easier to get through the cold in Michigan than I do the heat, but not everyone will, so even in prepping members of your home you may need different strategies to keep everyone safe.

Convergent crises can challenge our preps. Right now our corner of Michigan’s most likely long-term convergent crises are a long-term power or grid-down situation coupled with our ongoing supply chain issues. In such a case, relying on a refrigerator, freezer, and the electric stove we have will be pretty useless. While we could do our best to convert the refrigerator and freezer into primitive ice boxes, it would be a far better use of time and resources to orient our preps for these crises to food able to be stored long-term without the need for cooling. Canning while we have electricity and a steady supply of jars and lids is one approach which can provide immense amounts of food which will keep for years. Smoking, curing, dehydrating, and fermenting can be done throughout the year without electricity. Thinking creatively about how we face our convergent crises now can save us pain, time, effort, and resources in the long run.

Convergent crises will be a time that test folks. Crises usually do. Part of the power in doing these preps as a Heathen is that each act of prep is an opportunity for building up good relationships with our Ginnreginn and each other. Engaging in prep provides opportunities for devotional work, magic, and co-creating Urðr with the Ginnreginn and the folks in our communities. A lot of us go about creating some kind of stalli (altar in the house), and vé (sacred outdoor space) where we live. The spiritual work does not, and, especially since we are talking about preps, should not stay there alone. Looking at the written and archaeological sources of our Heathen religions it is clear to me that the spiritual perspective of ancient Heathens was part of everyday lived reality, not hived off from the rest of life as it so often is in our overculture. Much of the spells and spiritual practices that have passed down to us now were concerned with survival, the good of the community, and preserving, protecting, or empowering the community and the folks within them in some way.

A lot of ways to bring spiritual work into prep are simple and often overlooked. An example: when you are canning thank the vaettir of the plants and animals, the jörðvaettir that forms the jar, lid, and bands, the vatnvaettir of the water, and the eldrvaettir that boils the water. You can mark the bottoms or put post-it notes on jars or other items you intend to trade with the Fehu and Gebo Runes. You can put healing bindrunes on the inside of your First Aid kit, and ask for Eir and Menglóð’s blessing on it, giving Them good offerings afterwards.

Learn about the various forms of magic and spiritual practices that ancient Heathens would have used and think about why they used it, and how these things apply to us today. An awful lot of thought, time, energy, and power went into protection, not just personal protection but that of the homestead and animals. Why? Survival was dependent on the stores of food and animals making it through Sumar (Summer). For those animals not destined for slaughter, they were often instrumental in making it through Vetr (Winter). A good chunk of surviving medieval manuscripts combine what the overculture today think of as separate disciplines: medicine and magic. Even into the modern age these things were not separate disciplines.

Enchanting our medicines to be more effective, warding our gardens against encroachment as we put up fencing, and laying down protections on our homes is the ancient ways working in a new time. Parterning with the landvaettiir so the plants grow well, asking Þórr to bless the garden with rain, and asking Freyr and Gerðr to bring fertility to the plants and animals is our Heathen worldview alive. Doing these things intertwines our religion and our lives in visceral ways. It is powerful.

Even if we do not face a particular set of convergent crises there is no wasted time or energy with these preps we bring to bear. Remember, preps are cumulative. They can be equally as useful for ourselves as others, especially those who may not have prepared or prepared as well as we have. We build up our megin (might/power) and hamingja (luck/power/group luck) in doing this work. Partnering with our Ginnreginn to face these crises, to prep and do what is in our power to do, we grow stronger. By encouraging our mutual aid networks and caring for those in our Kindreds, tribes, and communities now, we face the future stronger together.

Reflections on Sand Talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He hits this especially hard here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kinship-mind.

Story-mind.

Dreaming-mind.

Ancestor-mind.

Pattern-mind.

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

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

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

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

Patreon Topic 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.

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 50: For the Runevaettir

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

This request was made by Maleck for the Runevaettir.


Sounds

Letters

Concepts

Meaning

Magic

Spirits

From the Ginnungagap You screamed, sang, called

From the Ginnungagap You resounded, crowed, howled

From the Ginnungagap You whispered, breathed, spoke

By sacrifice, You were brought into the Worlds

By sacrifice, You allied with the Gallows God

By sacrifice, You ally with us

Each a sound, resonating with power

Each a sound, shuddering with strength

Each a sound, surging with connection

Each a letter, teaching the tongue

Each a letter, building up knowledge

Each a letter, carrying wisdom

Each a concept, bearing cultures’ weight

Each a concept, keeping memories

Each a concept, transmitting understanding

Each a meaning, guarding mysteries

Each a meaning, teaching the initiated

Each a meaning, deepening the depths

Each one magic, giving Ginnungagap form

Each one magic, bringing might to action

Each one magic, flowing into being

Each a spirit, knowing Urðr’s ways

Each a spirit, giving gift for gift

Each a spirit, touching our own

Runevaettir, I hear You

Runevaettir, I see You

Runevaettir, I understand You

Runevaettir, I know You

Runevaettir, I cast You

Runevaettir, I hail You

Patreon Topic 49: On Jarnsaxa and Angrboða

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 Vixen comes this topic:

“Maybe you could talk about what you know about Jarnsaxa, or maybe even Angrboða. I know they’re two Jötunn’s I don’t hear may people talk about. I’m assuming it’s because they’re Jötunn but I think they’re important and I’m trying to learn more about them.”

Part of the reason we do not know much is because They are Jötnar, and another is because They are Goddesses. Much of what is known of Jarnsaxa comes from Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, Hyndluljóð, Skáldskaparmál, and Harbarðsljóð. Much of what we know of Angrboða is from the Hyndluljóð, Gylfaginning, and the Völuspá. These are relatively scant passages; there is just not much to go off of here.

With regard to Jarnsaxa, I do not know much about Her. I have not held cultus to Her, though I am not opposed to it. I just have had no reason to engage in it with Her so far. She and Þórr have a son, Magni, and I believe also Móði, though I have found no reference for His Mother. Her name is supposed to translate to ‘Iron-dagger’, ‘armed with an iron sword’ (Orchard and Lindow respectively; thanks Wikipedia!) or ‘the one who holds the iron-knife’ from jarn meaning iron and saxa meaning a single-edged blade or knife . Unfortunately, no one I know holds cultus for Her, so I could not refer to others on Her modern day cultus either.

Angrboða, whose name means ‘the one who brings grief’, ‘she-who-offers-sorrow’ and ‘harm-bidder’ (Simek, Lindow, and Orchard respectively, thanks Wikipedia) has a fairly active modern cultus. Among the heiti I call Her is Chieftain of the Ironwood, Úlfmóðir or Wolfmother, Mother of Monsters (which may translate into Old Norse as Foraðmóðir), and Fostramóðir. I have held cultus for Her for quite a while, not too long after becoming a Heathen. She is powerful, formidable, and can be quite ruthless. In a way I look at Her and Óðinn as being very similar, though She wears Her wolf/monster face far more prominently than Óðinn.

How have I experienced Her?

Angrboða is very much a take-no-shit Goddess. She wants you as you are, and if you want to improve, expects you to work on it. She does not waste Her time, so if She is reaching out to you then She has good reason even if they are Hers to know. While She has understanding of weakness and frustration, I find Her patience like that of a mother wolf: She will abide a lot until you overstep and then She will bark or nip so you remember your place.

I find Her to be more animalistic and primal than a lot of Gods. When I have seen Her when I have hamfara (faring forth in my hamr), She sometimes appears to me as a woman in a simple tunic, trousers, and sometimes with a couple fur pieces wielding a spear. Other times She is a huge wolf, and others a great half-wolf half-woman. Her voice is commanding, deep with power and wisdom, rough. She smells of forest, and various animals, trees, and good earth.

I have held cultus for Her for most of my time as a Heathen, and this is in part by introduction through Loki. I came to know Loki through His blood-brother. For a long time I held cultus with Her the same as my other Gods: offerings, prayers, and devotional time at the Gods’ vé. In night prayers with my family, we thank Her for protection. In knowing and getting to understand Her I came into a better appreciation of the wolves that She has given birth to, and I began cultus with Fenrir a few years back. I also grew to appreciate Hati and Sköll better in this, and while I do not yet have a devotional relationship with Them yet, I can appreciate the work They do that keeps Sunna and Máni on Their ways.

A few years ago I found myself working for Her and coming to understand Her as Fostramóðir as a result of an agreement between Her and Óðinn. Some of the work is to visit Her in Járnviðar, the Ironwood, Her home in Jötunheim. Sometimes this is to just go there and experience it, and other times to run or hunt with the Jötnar there that call it home. The work She has for me is ongoing, and I have yet to fully uncover all the things She wishes me to do. She has done a lot of work with me on my inner nature in the meantime, exploring different facets of being a spiritworker, an úlfheðinn, and bringing lessons there into how I live my life and do my spiritwork.

I find folks who recoil at Her but not at Óðinn a bit odd. Their temperaments, particularly around the accrual and use of power and knowledge a lot alike. They share an association with wolves, bears, shapechanging, and in my experience, also with faring forth in these forms and spiritwork associated with these things. It makes little sense to me that folks would seek to have a good relationship with Hel, or Hela, our Goddess of the Dead, and villainize Her Mother.

While the sources tell us little about Her that is no barrier to developing good cultus with Her. If anything, it pushed me to get to know Her in ways She wanted rather than having the relationship first mediated or sieved through the written word.

Through worshiping and coming to understand Her, She has helped bring me into a new appreciation for the various Jötnar that are intertwined with other Gods and through Them, our lives. She has blessed my family, Kindred, tribe, and I. She protects, She empowers, and She emboldens. She pushes us to see our monstrous selves, to embrace Them fully and without shame. My devotion to Angrboða has provided no small amount of challenge and growth in my life. She has pushed me to embrace myself fully, and in doing that, to better and more fully embrace others. Through devotion and work for Her, She has pushed me to improve myself and the spiritwork I do as a Heathen. Hail Angrboða!