Patreon Topic 41: On Keeping Multiple Paths

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 Streaking Fate comes this topic:

“I’m not sure if you posted much about this or not, but how you keep multiple paths running smoothly without colliding (ie Anubis and Odin).”

I am not entirely sure it is possibly to keep them from colliding. Sometimes you can have obligations that reach over one another, and you will have to pick what comes first based on your priorities.

Having clearly defined priorities is the biggest way that I avoid collision in the first place: having clearly defined priorities from my Gods, my family, my friends, and for the things in my life. This can be established by direct contact with the Ginnreginn and/or divination. I need to communicate my needs fully and honestly while also fulfilling any obligations I have to Them, my family, and communities. To communicate what I need I must have a clear idea of how my days go, what I can or cannot budge on, and what needs must come first so that I can best fulfill the obligations before me and live well.

In my case Anpu stepped back when Óðinn came to the forefront of my relationships with the Gods. This made the prioritization of one God’s work over the other’s relatively straightforward. Not everyone has this, and even in my case I still have to prioritize my spiritual work.

If you are encountering a time where you need to choose what work to do when, it may be best to think of what you can realistically do with the time you have available to you. If Óðinn wants me to do a large-scale research project over the course of a year, do I have the ability, energy, resources, and time to do this? Can I negotiate on the particulars of the project? Is whether I can do the project dependent on these factors, or is it more a matter of my time-management? Can I do this work in addition to the obligations and other factors already at play in my life? If this is a high priority being put on me, what can I put on the back burner, or stop doing during the duration of the project so I have the time and energy to get it done?

How do I organize my priorities?

This is how I lay out my months: I start with my day job which has a set schedule and the overtime I have preplanned for it. Then, I lay out what days I have regular spiritual work engagements such as divination, workshops, and the like. In between all the time where I have the spiritual work I regularly do is when I have my work as a father, husband, community member, and then, me time. Sometimes the me time gets sacrificed, and sometimes it is my time in the community. I try to hold back as much time as I can for being a father and husband, yet sometimes I need to give that time to spiritual work so it gets done. I am lucky that I have family, friends, and community that understands this and supports me, both in our collective outlook and in direct support of my work. I would not be able to do it otherwise.

Within that broad category of spiritual work will be the things I do for folks on my Patreon, blog, Around Grandfather Fire, 3 Pagans on Tap, Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm, and any personal spiritual work that needs doing. When I am negotiating with the Gods on priorities, I am negotiating on things that are not as scheduled out in my personal spiritual work time. If a God or Goddess comes forward with work for me to do I weigh it against the work I am already doing. Why did I list all that out? Because if I am going to come to the negotiating table with any God, Ancestor, or vaettr I need to clearly account for the obligations I already hold before I take anything else on. I need to be sure that what I am negotiating for or against can realistically fit into my life.

Even with all of this work to prioritize and plan collisions still happen. How do I negotiate that? I apologize and, where I can, work to do better in the future so it does not happen again. Maybe I know a piece of work leaves me with little energy, or I have a double to work every week so certain days will not be possible for me to make offerings. If I need to I negotiate these things out with the Ginnreginn. Then, I do whatever work that I can do. Sometimes what is easier in the moment gets done first, and sometimes it is what is harder. I do the work at hand, even if it is piecemeal.

Without going into disaster thinking, explore what a collision of paths looks like well before you get there. In all likelihood it is going to be something simple, like “I have X amount of energy to do Y and Z. This thing I agreed to do with/for Deity A and Deity B requires that X to do, so I have to choose one or the other today and do the other tomorrow.” Does it radically harm your relationship(s) to do this? In all likelihood, no. However, at least for me, it does head off anxiety at the pass so rather than overfocusing on what I cannot do I focus on what I can, and then get what I am able done. If you know you have weekly offerings and time can slip you by easily, making reminders in calendars, set alarms, and work with any housemates you have so you remember to do them promptly. If you need to buy offerings setting reminders in your calendar a day or two ahead, and always setting them in the same spot not only breeds familiarity with the routine, it gives the offerings a place to be, and less likely to be misplaced.

Everyone’s priorities and spiritual work is different, and each person’s way of avoiding collisions in their life will be as well. What matters is that when you do have collisions, and you likely will, you do whatever is in your ability to do. Then, when you can finish the work at hand, you do that. Do your best and relax. We are weaving Urðr with our Ginnreginn; They have vested interest in each person doing their utmost to weave well.

Patreon Topic 40: Developing Culture

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 Leslie comes this topic:

“Developing culture.”

Developing culture starts with relationships. Meaning builds on meaning. Developing a Heathen culture starts with a polytheist worldview within which is an animist one at its base. The whole world is alive; the whole world is relatable. There are more worlds than this one; those worlds are relatable too. So are each and every Being within Them.

We have a Creation Story, myths, and legends however well or poorly preserved, within the Eddas. What I think is key, with all of our information whether derived from archaeology or especially the written sources, is that we are by-and-large dealing with an oral culture. I think this is also the future of Heathen cultures. Not that writing will not be important; it will, if for no other reason than we are part of a literate overculture which places a (sometimes disproportionately) high value on the written word. Rather, what is going to truly make the various Heathenry communities into cultures is going to be the passing of the worldview, teachings, relationships, and so on to the next generations.

Religious beliefs and worldviews alone do not make a culture. What comes out of them is part of that, too. Over time perhaps Heathen cultures will develop distinct styles of dressing, wearing their hair, decorating themselves and their homes, or any other way we could think of making themselves distinct from the largely Christian American overculture. On the other hand most Heathens blend rather seemlessly into mainstream American culture, regardless of the tattoos on their skin or the jewelry, shirts, and other things they wear.

So if we do not see the wide trends regarding dress, decoration, dance, and other outward signs of a distinct Heathen culture, what would differentiate a Heathen culture from the American Christian overculture? Relationships with and to the land would be a big way. Since most Heathens relate to the world Itself as a Goddess, and have a series of Gods They worship as part of/involved in the world, this is a firm push to develop good ways of living with Her/Them in reciprocity.

Most Heathens engage in some kind of Ancestor cultus. That could, over time, take place with actual mounds we raise on our own lands to Them, and provide powerful intergenerational connections to land, and through that to our Ancestors and vaettir. The vaettir Themselves are another powerful connection that encourages the development of culture, both in relationship with the environment and in relationship with how we live on the land. With a world alive with vaettir, spirits, and connections literally all around us, Heathens engaging with the vaettir can develop unique ways of relating to and living with the land. Already some Heathens, myself included, are working to include indigenous wisdom, permaculture, and similarly aligned views so we live well on the land and with the vaettir here.

As more Heathens engage in lived relationships with the Earth Goddesses, Gods of the land, local Gods, the Ancestors, and vaettir, local and regional cultus is beginning to form. Heathens will likely become even more distinct from one another as this goes on over time. We cannot all relate to the Earth the same way when we are living in different parts of America. Even those Heathens living close to each other not have the same relationship with the environment, the Gods of these places, our Ancestors, and/or the landvaettir.

Another vector for Heathens’ cultural development is the way that relationships within as well as without Heathen communities form, and how those are maintained. Having just written on the concept of frið and grið for my latest Q&A, it seems to me that it is both related to similar concepts found in other religions and also distinctly Heathen. Writ large into how we form relationships, personal and interpersonal, individually and communally, these webs of relationships can unfold in ways we are only just seeing.

TikTok’s latest Norsetok controversies actually show us the dark side of this: flame wars and cults of personality being formed around folks based in clan and Kindred structure. However, it also has shown in the same blow that even Norsetok has staying power, as folks have banded together to work against such things and address power imbalances, unchecked ego, and so on. Twitter and Tumblr Heathen communities before them have gone this way, and likewise so have physical Heathen communities. So, what we may be seeing on a far faster scale in TikTok is a larger trend borne from the way Heathens tend to structure themselves.

Heathen communities tend to unfold around shared interests of being in relationship with and worshiping the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. They may or may not share larger interests with the overculture, not unlike a lot of other cultures. There are Christians that play video games like Call of Duty, whereas others reject them as too worldly, or glorifying violence. There are Heathens that play video games like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla or watch the Thor Marvel movies, while others refuse to engage with them. I expect that as we come into second, third, and in some cases fourth generations of Heathens, we will see similar trends to the overculture in terms of our overall place in things. Some Heathens will trend politically left, others politically right, and this will shift over time with general trends based on where they live, how, and with whom they are relationship with. What I think will be politically distinct for Heathens is that most will still carry some kind of emphasis on a good relationship with the Earth, their local environment, and environmental issues generally, whatever source that comes from for them. More than anything else the interconnected relationships born out of Gebo, frið, and grið that are distinct to Heathenry will have unfolding consequences into how regional variations of Heathenry may come about.

There is a big lack of prognostication in this post on exactly how Heathen cultures will come about, develop, grow, and work. Part of the reason for that is that I have no idea how Anglo-Saxon Heathenry, Continental Heathenry, Slavic Heathenry, and other Heathen communities will develop over time because I am not directly involved in them. I do not have the anecdotes to develop even a broad picture of how those communities could shake out over time. The other reason for the lack of prediction on my part is because it is essentially a fool’s errand. There are some Heathen communities that operate essentially as männerbund (warband), others as communes, others as communally connected yet distinct hearths, and some Heathen communities are organized almost entirely online. Some Heathen communities incorporate some or all of these modes of operation together. Factor that together with the understanding that regional cultus and relationships are being made between local Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir with Heathen communities, and predicting anything other than a very broad-based idea is quickly put full of holes.

So where are we going? I have ideas for my local communities. A lot of us are engaging in local cultus, developing relationships with our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir in context of where we are and how we live. As time goes on, I think one of the ways we and the overall trend for the Heathen communities are following one another is that there is going to be more involvement in local and national environmental movements. Something I am seeing the beginning of is communities developing distinct aesthetics with regards to clothes, home decor, tattooing, and other forms of decoration. There are patterns in the Heathen community which are in place that will balance devotion and relationship with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. Some, if not most of those relationships will unfold with how we live on the land. I am excited to experience how Heathen cultures will develop, grow, and maintain themselves.

Patreon Poem/Song/Prayer 38: For the Pack 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 was requested by Maleck Odinsson for the Pack Ancestors.

We wait at the edge

Between life and death

Between the first whimper and final breath

We wait in your heart

Between each beat

Between each joy and hurt

We wait in the stars

Between the expanse of here and there

Between air and empty

We are with you

We are beside you

We wait for you

Walk with us

Hunt with us

Howl with us

We are here

Patreon Topic 36: Connecting with Mímir

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 Streakingfate comes this topic:

“I’m not sure if you’ve written about connecting with / your experiences of Mimir much or not, but something around him might be interesting.”

Most of my experiences with Mímir are generally quiet. I have worshiped Him for a little less than the time I have Óðinn, so around 13 years. That being said, He has always been there.

I have visited His Well in hamr, but not to sacrifice anything, just to visit. He is Himself a well of wisdom, and just His Presence is a kind of low rumble of power. He exudes this patience, not serenity, but a kind of calm collectedness, of knowing. His spiritual voice to me registers very low, not low in terms of volume, but register.

There have been times where I have made specific offerings to Him. Some time back when I skinned a deer and went to macerate her head, I was asked by Mímir and Óðinn for her eyes. I had to take them out whole in offering to Them. Otherwise, my offerings tend to be the same as for my other Gods: water, coffee, whiskey, beer, mead, and other drinks besides, sacred herbs, and occasionally food.

I have had times where I ‘loaned’ Him my eyes for a set period of time, but these were few and far between. One time was in response to where I felt like He wanted my eye for wisdom. This deal of Him ‘borrowing’ my eyes was a kind of compromise to where He was with me for a period of around 8 hours. The sensation was something like having someone stand beside you, but take that sensation and put it behind your eyes. It was odd, but not uncomfortable.

Much of my worship with Him follows along the lines of our other hearth Gods. We pray to Him regularly during our meal prayers and night prayers. We make a lot of the same offerings to Him as our other hearth Gods. When Mímisbrunnr Kindred meets, He is generally the first among the Gods we honor and offer to. If we had a motto, it is from Him: No wisdom is gained without sacrifice. His is a consistent reminder that not only is there a price for wisdom, it must be paid.

Patreon Topic 34: On Rune Signs and Confirmations

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 Leslie comes this topic:”Do runes or runvaettir ever appear as signs or confirmations of a Working, well, working? Outside of divination, if they do, how might they do so?”

Oh yes, They can. I have had branches fall down in front of me, unmistakably forming a Rune after asking for a sign. Unless it is something that blatant I will ask that a Rune show up as an answer three times before I will accept it. Sometimes the way the Runes have made Themselves known to me is a little subtle, such as graffiti on a wall or municipal signs.

Sometimes I only see such things after the fact, eg the graffiti really sticks with me and I can’t figure out why until I sit with it. I had this once where Gebo showed up on a wall three times, and I just took it to mean Xs instead, maybe a tag or something. It hit me a little while later that the meaning of Gebo three times was a sign and fit with the question on my mind at the time. Sometimes you recognize it in the moment as something seemingly mundane that just…leaps out at you.

Can They make Themselves known in other ways? Sure. Understanding that Runes are vaettir, spirits, They can communicate with us other than through visual mediums, such as by touch. If you know the literal feeling of how a Rune feels when it has been cut into an object, then that can be a way They use to communicate, such as by running a hand or finger gently along a concrete wall or a wooden table. Since They are vaettir and can work with any of our spiritual senses that happen to be ‘on’ at a given moment, They can work through sound, even smell and/or taste if you have experienced Them in this way. There was a couple of books I encountered a while back where you would literally bake cookies and take the magic of the Runes into you through them, so if you did something like this with a recipe specific to each Rune even the taste of a cookie could kick-start a conversation.

Depending on the Rune(s) at hand, how They come to you, and whether or not you asked a question beforehand can have an impact on your answer. For instance, if I ask for a sign and get it by sight, smell, and feel I might consider that a confirmed sign, and then need to interpet what the medium of communication is saying to me, and what the Rune Itself means. For instance, if I see Hagalaz, smell a smell that I interpret as corresponding to Hagalz, and feel the etching of Hagalaz in a stone I felt called to pick up, then I need to interpret the meaning of Hagalaz from there. This is where having a cache of understanding for the Runes is really helpful. That cache ideally includes knowing the Rune poems well enough to where you can reference them for guidance, your experiences working with the Runes, and correspondences you have built up otherwise with the Runevaettir.

Let’s apply this to my example of Hagalaz showing up in sight, smell, and feel. When Hagalaz shows up in a reading I tend to interpret that much in the same way as a Tower card: things are going to go to shit. Unlike the Tower card where folks reading them might see some kind of light at the end of the tunnel, with Hagalaz that light may well be a damned train. It is one of the roughest Runes to get in a reading, and only occasionally do I get the understanding from the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem of it being the ice that melts rather than the Icelandic Rune Poem where it is ‘cold grain, sleet, and sickness of serpents’. This translation here by Bruce Dickens on Wikipedia is a good, accessible one. Both Hægl and Hagall are hail, and hail can be incredibly destructive to crops and people. So, when this pops up in a reading whoever gets this Rune is generally not going to get away unscathed.

So how do I interpret this in context of “is a Working, well, working?” If Hagalaz shows up it is a hard “hell no, and this might turn quite ugly”. At the very least if I am asking an Up/Down or Yes/No binary answer it is in the hard “Down” and/or “No” category. Context is key, though. If the working was, say, to cut someone out of my life or to bring something to an end, then it may be effective, if painful.

The context I receive Hagalaz be sight, smell, and feel matters as well. If I receive Hagalaz by sight, say, on a building, then it may be a commentary on how the working was built up, especially if it is at the foundation or ground level. If I receive Hagalaz by smell, say a sharp, clean, and/or piercing smell like cleaner, new-fallen snow, or the like, it may be a comment on something I missed during the working or something that needs to be done so the working can be completed. If I receive the feel of Hagalaz on a stone I have picked up and it is jagged then it may be the working will be ragged, uneven, or is being disrupted by the process itself having been so. This is highly subjective, personal, and completely dependent on your relationship with the Runevaettir, your correspondences, your experiences, and your understanding of Them and yourself at minimum.

While the Rune poems and various books can point you in the right direction to interpret signs and omens from Them, in the end you are doing the interpreting. If I am not getting a clear enough signal I will usually take things to divination. There is nothing wrong with being sure you are understanding the message clearly. There are times you may not need that, and you will understand the meaning of the message crystal clear the first time you get it. In the end, it is up to your relationship with the Runevaettir, and your intuition and understanding.

Patreon Topic 33: On Laypeople vs Spiritual Specialists

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 Odinsson comes this topic: “Laypersons vs spiritual specialists and the levels between. What do they look like in Heathenry? Where do the lines fall?”

Spiritual specialists are folks who have been trained to fulfill needs within a given community. These can be clergy, practitioners of magic, healers, diviners, and so much more. They come from all kinds of backgrounds and interests. It is probably more useful to say what each kind of person does and then talk about what they look like in Heathenry, and where the lines fall between a layperson with an interest in a given spiritual specialty vs a spiritual specialist.

The biggest line between a layperson and a spiritual specialist is that the former can have an interest, say, in seiðr without responsibility to or developing skill and competence for other people in that interest. While a layperson may have training in seiðr, they are not offering services professionally and/or for/on behalf of a community. A spiritual specialist in seiðr will have trained in the work of doing seiðr, possess skill in it, have competency and expertise in its use, and may offer seiðr services. It is not a title alone that makes the difference here. There are community expectations of a spiritual specialist that do not generally exist for a layperson. The spiritual specialist bears a responsibility with and to the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir, and likewise a responsibility with and to the community/communities that they serve.

This is not to say that a layperson lacks skill or competence in the subject. A layperson may have skill and competence surpassing that of a spiritual specialist, but they bear no responsibility to or with the communities they are part of in the capacity of that spiritual specialist.

Another comparison might be that of a ritual leader vs that of a goði/gyðja for a Kindred or other group. Any Heathen can be a ritual leader whether you are solitary in your hearth cultus, or do regular cultus with your family or group. A goði/gyðja has formal responsibilities for and to the community they serve. They are responsible in their conduct to their community, for the particular ritual responsibilities they have within their role (these can vary by group so I’m being intentionally general here), and they are responsible to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir they conduct ritual with. Some goði/gyðja act as representatives to the Ginnreginn on behalf of their community in group cultus, and so, their skill and competency in the way they do ritual, including the making of prayers and offerings, as well as their general conduct, can have a significant impact on the rest of the group in the way that a layperson will not have.

Saying anything too general in regards to what laypeople vs spiritual specialists look like would be trying to speak for far too many communities at once. To be blunt, I do not know what an Anglo-Saxon Heathen spiritual specialist would look like vs that of a layperson because that is not my community. I know what I generally look for in spiritual specialsits, though: competence and expertise in the field at hand, an admission of what they do/do not know, training and experiences that are useful in the field at hand, and a community or series of communities that they serve in that capacity, even if that community is that of the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits. I also will look for folks who will vouch for the spiritual specialist, especially if I am looking for a spiritual service such as magical work or divination.

In terms of ‘levels’ between laypeople and spiritual specialists this gets down to who I trust, what kind of work they do, who vouches for them, my experience with them, the experiences they have, and other qualitative evaluations. I might trust a layperson I know well with my life to do divination over a spiritual specialist next door that I do not know. I might only ever do my own magical working and never trust another person to do it for me, regardless of how well I know a seið worker.

I would imagine a lot of folks operate on this level. After all, in my case I am the goði for Mímisbrunnr Kindred. I am not everyone’s goði. I am a rýnstr (someone skilled in the Runes) or a rýni-maðr (Rune-man). While my services may not be for everyone, I offer my Rune services to the general public. I am responsible to those who hire me, eg for divination, to do my job well and to not bullshit them. This is the same responsibility I hold as a vaettirvirkr (spiritsworker), whether that is to my Kindred or to those who come to me for this service, though how that responsibility shakes out may differ because of the relationships I hold.

Since every Heathen holds responsibility to hold cultus with their Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir, and likely does so in their own way, spiritual specialists probably do not look all that different from laypeople. Since anyone can approach with and work with various forms of spirit work, magic, and the like, whether that is seiðr, spá, galdr, Runework, etc., differentiating laypeople from spiritworkers from the outside looking in can be a challenge. Looking at the relationships folks hold within a community, to W/whom they hold obligations and duty, what work they do and for W/whom they do things are probably the biggest divides between a layperson and a spiritual specialist in Heathenry.

Authenticity in Heathen Religions

When we ask the question “Is this authentic?” of a view, practice, idea, or experience when it comes to Heathenry that question is fairly loaded. “Authentic to who?” is a useful retort to move this into a more useful direction. After all, Anglo-Saxons have a different worldview, or are at least pulling their worldview from different historical sources than Norse Heathens. Authentic has a few working definitions which are worth digging into before we can even make a useful statement on whether or not something is ‘authentic’.

From Lexico.com: “Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.”, “Made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original.”, “(in existentialist philosophy) relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life.” Of these I think the first and second definition are most useful to our interests. If something is authentic in Heathenry it is “of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine” and/or “made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original”. 

There is a trap in accepting these definitions at face value that many Heathens and polytheists in general fall into: that of our sources of lore dictating our religious paths to us without serious consideration from where those sources originate. If we look to most of the surviving written material it comes to us at least through one if not many Christian or Christian-influenced sources. Our sources of lore were never meant as religious instructions manuals, were never intended to make sure that the Heathen Gods’ names let alone worship survived, and are often quite spotty in terms of what information it does tell us reliably. We know very little for certain. So, with the maps so many use to reconstruct and revive Heathenry already admitted as being quite tattered and weather-beaten, how can we be sure our practice are “of undisputed origin and not a copy”?  Well, we know they are not a copy because we exist so far out of time and, at least where American Heathens are concerned, away from the home countries these cultures were rooted that we can be sure that modern Heathenry is a product of its Gods, Ancestors, vaettir (spirits), its time, and its people. In this, modern Heathenry is a genuine group of religious traditions.

Heathenry can also take the desire for things to be “Made or done in the traditional or original way” to an extreme. There is a lot wheel-spinning going around in a lot of circles as to whether a given practice is genuine to ancient Scandinavian Heathenry. Look folks, unless we are fluently speaking the ancient language and engaging in a culture exactly as they did, the likelihood we are going to be doing anything deeply close to what the Ancestors did is pretty slim. This is not to say that we cannot learn and experience a lot from living as close to the way the Ancestors did, nor is this to say folks who skew closer to historical reenactment and clothing, for example, are wrong. I happen to find older clothing like a traditional tunic and linen pants with wraps a great deal more comfortable, breathable, and gentle than modern clothing like jeans. I am a Universalist Tribalist Heathen, meaning that I believe anyone regardless of background can become a Heathen, but that most of my concerns are with those in my own circles of relationships. 

Many traditional offerings, such as offering the first fruits of a harvest or the sacrifice of an animal, in the way they were made by the Heathen ways we are reviving, are inaccessible to the average Heathen. Even for whom a traditional offering is available, the cost to make the offering may be prohibitively expensive or hard enough to find time in between all the life we’re supposed to lead during our waking ours that a different offering needs to be made. This is not an excuse for those who have the means and ability to make such offerings not to make them, but an acknowledgment that most of the population in the US lives in cities on very little money in very little land, and in very cramped conditions that leave us with very little time available to us to live our lives, let alone give the cultus to our Holy Powers that we may want to.  

What I think is most important in modern American Heathenry lies in the full second definition of ‘authentic’: “Made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original.” There are some things we can be relatively certain that we can reconstruct faithfully, and much of this has to do with material culture. From there we may infer or gain insight to how things may have worked in this practice or cultus, and then apply them to our own. 

We know that flint and steel, and before them various kinds of friction fires, were the primary tools used for making fire for a good chunk of human history. What does our knowledge of fire tell us of the centrality of fire, firemaking, and the cultus that could have existed around hearth cultus? Is fire made from flint and steel better inherently? I would argue, inherently, no. There is a difference of relationship. Convenience often breeds alienation from relationship with the Beings involved. Easy access to fire has made fire so easy to access that it takes real work to feel that one is in living relationship with Fire. Engaging with Fire through flint and steel one opens up to the Ancestors’ ways in a way our ancient Ancestors would readily recognize. This can also take place with what I sometimes dryly refer to as a Sacred Bic, and in no small part because a Bic lighter is flint and steel made small and convenient with the added benefit of accelerant. Most of our Ancestors would have likely deeply appreciated something we take for granted in the form of a lighter. Taking on the Ancestor’s mindset and truly appreciating the seemingly mundane and yet, revolutionary forms we have worked with the Elements themselves breeds an appreciation for Them and the wonders we have. From this baseline of respect for how the Elements manifest in our lives today we can take this understanding, gained from the Ancestors and our own sense of wonder, and carry it into other relationships no matter how seemingly small.

We can see where this has also completely disrupted what has been the physical arrangement of space for time out of mind. Rather than a central hearthfire which would have heated a room or whole lodgings, we now have ductwork that carries heat. The hearth has been replaced by two separate rooms: the kitchen and the living room. The place that would have been the space for meals, prayers, offerings, and so much living has now been split stripped of much of its sacred significance in the modern American home. Two major factors that need to be confronted in Heathenry exist for most Americans in general: the distance of ourselves from the everyday sacred, and how institutional and cultural forces reinforce the rift we are seeking to heal.

Whether something like a Bic existed in ancient Germanic cultures is rather besides the point. I am not living there. I am living here. The map of history is not the territory I walk with my Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and communities. However, that is not to discard the map. Authenticity in Heathenry comes from the tension of taking understanding and inspiration from the past and then applying these things in a sensible way to our lived experiences and the requirements of where we are and how we are to live in modern society. Sometimes the tension here is too great, and we must make choices on what we will do when we our worldview would have us sacrifice a modern convenience or address an imbalance with the overculture. 

Many Heathens, inspired by their devotion to Gods such as Jörð, Freyr, Gerða, Freyja, and so on, make choices in how they conduct themselves and what they purchase to live in an Earth-honoring way. A given Heathen might take the more expensive option of purchasing groceries and support a CSA, or they may plant a garden, help out on a local farm, etc. A Heathen with less time or money may only be able to grow a single plant in their apartment. Each person is a Heathen seeking to live their worldview authentically. Authenticity is not found in making the most expensive offering or living exactly like an ancient Scandinavian. What is authentic is each Heathen is living their worldview and in right relationship with the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and those in their human communities.

These are relatively small and easily navigated issues at this level. Authenticity reaches a new complexity when it comes to spiritual specialists. In part, because American is predominantly WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) there is an entire background of expectations a lot of folks are inculcated with in regard to spiritual specialists. Protestants in this country generally do not have priests, per se. They tend to be incredibly independent, and while most if not all engage in formal hierarchies of pastor and flock for the purposes of organization, each person is expected to engage in ongoing exegesis to some degree alongside devotional work like prayer and observation of holidays. There is not, generally speaking, a relationship between a pastor and their church like there is between a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox priest. These latter spiritual specialists meet the requirement of their Order and go through initiation to engage in their Office. Sometimes Protestant pastors go through some kind of initiatory process, eg the laying on of hands to confer the blessing of the Holy Spirit, but it seems some do not even go through this. What is expected of all of these Christian spiritual specialists is for them to engage with the public, provide spiritual counseling, and be available for religious community events.

Spiritual specialists in Heathenry find themselves in an awkward position. Given so many people coming into Heathenry are converts, many still carry the expectation that the priest will fulfill similar roles in their new religion. The map provided by lore and archaeology is that, unlike pastors, RCC and EO priests, Heathen priests generally served a God, Goddess, group of Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir first. A priest served in a community role primarily through making prayers, offerings, and/or tending a sacred place or animal(s). Among other services they may have made on behalf of the community was to make sacrifices, and/or divine. 

It is incredibly hard to break modern Heathenry of the biases of the overculture when it comes to priests. The societal expectation is one facet, but the other is that our government and institutions that interact with spiritual specialists treat them all as same. This flattening of roles erases specialized initiations and training that exists for our spiritual specialists. It removes expectations of specialties or individual aptitude towards one kind or group of spiritual specialties by reinforcing the dominant paradigm of “all spiritual specialists must act as clergy” as normal. This is contrary to a healthy understanding, appreciation, and furthering of Heathen spiritual specialties. A seiðkona is not a spákona though a Völva may engage in both seiðr and spá. Likewise, a seiðkona is not necessarily a Völva. A Völva may or may not be a gyðja. A given person may engage in seiðr and spá but may not themselves be a seið worker because they do not have the initiation(s), training, or the community role of a seiðkona, spákona, or Völva. If we are to have authenticity in our Heathen practices, and if they are to be carried forward with both meaning and use, we need to have standards under which that authenticity operates.

Where a lot of Heathen religions find struggle with spiritual specialists is that we no longer have long lines of spiritual specialists to carry on the work, though there are new lines developing now. A lot of spiritual specialists, myself included, wear a number of hats in order to fulfill the requests of our Ginnreginn (Mighty/Holy Powers) and needs of our communities.  Authenticity is something we ourselves can struggle with because of the demands of our work alongside all the other issues that the Heathen communities have. Something simple, with deep implications for how we conduct ourselves, is “How do we engage in authentic spiritual work when the sources are sparse and hostile to the practice?” We ask the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir for help, and reach out to those of other spiritual paths. 

My own Ancestor practice has been impacted by African Traditional Religions in how I laid out my first Ancestor altar: a white cloth with a white candle and a glass of water that was changed out every day. My Ancestor altar has changed significantly since then, but the core of it is founded on the idea of simplicity, of starting small and if the Ancestors want, the vé will grow. I took inspiration from how to start the practice but the way I address the Ancestors, the prayers, and the offerings are particular to Heathenry.  Note: I took inspiration from ATRs’ Ancestor altars. I am not practicing an ATR, and I am not claiming to be nor am I taking anything from within those religions. However, I would be remiss not to recognize where that inspiration came from or why I advise others to start like I did. 

In asking our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir for guidance on how They want us to define and carry out our roles as spiritual specialists, we place our authenticity in the relationships we engage in with Them. Here we fulfill both definitions of authentic in that our interactions are “Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.”, and that they are “Made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original.” We have to accept and embrace that modern seiðr and spá may not be historically accurate, but they are authentic because the aims and the ways we revive them are as authentic to history as we can make them.

We cannot say for certain whether the ancient Germanic peoples read the Runes or read Them as we do now. Acknowledging this and embracing that Rune reading as we do them may be modern means that we are not misrepresenting ourselves and are centered in relationship with our Holy Powers and with our communities in honesty and respect. As with modern seiðr and spá, we are reviving divination within a Heathen context that is true to our understanding, and especially with respect to our relationships with the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and then the needs of our communities. These are Heathen spiritual practices being revived within a Heathen spiritual framework with the best information that we have to hand. The experiences of what Elders we have, what spiritual specialists we have, and the guidance of our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are the foremost guides we have from here.

Taking things out of the realm of spiritual specialists and back into general Heathenry, aesthetic is part of authenticity as well. Aesthetic is, per Lexico.com, “Concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty” and “A set of principles underlying the work of a particular artist or artistic movement.”. How do we determine what is a Heathen aesthetic? 

It may be easier to decide on what a Heathen aesthetic is not and then explore what it is. This can be something fairly straightforward in that Nike shoes are not Heathen. A Heathen may wear them, but that does not make them Heathen. What then, of the aesthetic put forward in the TV series Vikings, or through neo-folk Heathen or Heathen-adjacent bands such as Wardruna, Gealdyr, and Heilung? What of the metal scene, such as Tyr or Amon Amarth? What of historically reenacted clothing, style, speech, and so on? I would say that a Heathen aesthetic is one that is couched in connecting a given community or person with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, or is engaged with in service to Them. Without digging into a particular Heathen aesthetic as being the Heathen aesthetic, I would rather see that, whatever our standards of what is beautiful, it serves to connect us and deepen our relationships with the Holy Powers.

I can tell you what my aesthetic is: It skews to the historical reenactment, and that of Wardruna, Heilung, and similar styles of historically-inspired Scandinavian and German neofolk. I find a powerful connection stepping into linen and wool clothing as much as into hide and leather. All of these serve to bring forward connection with animals, plants, and our ancient Heathen Ancestors. There is power and beauty in wearing what our Ancestors wore, or wearing something as close as we can get, to appreciate what Their skin may have felt like walking around each day. Having watched more than a few YouTube and documentary videos on how much work it takes to make flax into linen to begin with, to take up a beautifully crafted tunic and put it on, helped me to physically realize why most homes only had a one or two pieces of linen clothes or bedsheets, and any more meant you were quite wealthy. It embodied for me, quite literally, why inheriting linen was so powerful and important. My wife works with wool in spinning, is beginning loom work, and has crocheted longer than I have known her. She has shown me how much work goes into making a crocheted blanket or hat. I know from experience how much work it takes to skin and butcher an animal. Tanning is next on my list of crafts to pursue. Having done my research and looked at how much effort some of these hides are going to be to tan, it is little wonder why wearing animal skins and their trade was so important to the ancient Ancestors.

An appreciation and furthering of beauty can bring us closer to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. In developing Heathen aesthetics we develop new bridges that can reach out between us and Them, and through this, we can develop distinct identity as we develop aesthetics for our own communities. It may be that modern common dress is simply easier for us to blend in, but let us not forget that modern sensibilities around fashion, beauty, and the body itself are by and large designed for and by a modern WASP or WASP-oriented sensibility. It is also not anti-Heathen to like modern Western dress, but I think that A Handmade Life makes an excellent point on this:

“We are constantly manipulated by design. Industrial production has been a boon in providing many needed things at a lower cost, but unless we are alert we’ll let the machine start teaching us design. For instance, machines can be used to create any form of chair we like, but commercial interests can make more chairs (and more money) if the simplest design for the machines is chosen for production. So we end up surrounded by furniture designed to fit the needs of machines.” (Coperthwaite, 11).

Today, our articles of clothes are distinct not in terms of the overarching design, but in the particular logos or art that graces whatever the t-shirt form is. It is hard to have a cultural identity put forward in terms of clothing when all the basic forms your clothes take is whatever is most convenient for an industrial clothing manufacturer. We live in a time of great abundance, and rather than simply say we should give up our t-shirts and shorts, perhaps another look is due to what we wear, and how it may reinforce our Heathen identity. If we expand Heathen aesthetics from the worn or decorative to the entirety of how our lives are lived in beauty, then we may develop truly rich cultural roots that future generations will benefit from. 

In expanding this idea of Heathen aesthetic, the Heathen appreciation of beauty, into how we form and maintain relationships, this understanding has ripple effects anywhere we may care to inquire. If one of the central pillars of Heathen identity is reciprocity, or as I put it, gipt fá gipt (gift for a gift), or Gebo with the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and each other, then the aesthetics that develop from this understanding ripple out into every facet of our life. If the central ideals of Heathen religion are Gebo with the Ginnreginn and one another, then the entire notion of how we make things changes. If our standard of beauty shifts from ‘this is useful’ to ‘this is useful and was made in accordance with Gebo’ it shifts our entire mindset and understanding. 

A t-shirt may still be artistically beautiful in what it conveys, but a t-shirt made sustainably with homemade materials takes on a unique and powerful beauty that, to my mind, overshadows that of the factory produced designs made without regard to the environment or sustainability. It becomes more beautiful and more in line with Heathen standards of beauty the more it comports with reciprocity with the Holy Powers. It can be a simple solid-colored shirt spun from linen, or a shirt that was left undyed, made from cloth that was spun in the home. A Heathen aesthetic of belts can be a simple leather belt made from hide tanned at home and riveted using one’s own tools. It could equally be a well-tooled and dyed piece, both becoming deeper should the leather be ethically source from well-cared for animals.

Rather than the looks and feel of the material itself being the primary standard, though important, I would put forward that the primary standard of Heathen aesthetic is the relationships it encourages and develops in the creation and use of the thing. The use of Runes and the naming of things is another aspect of this aesthetic. In naming our weapons, our cars, our computers, really any thing we can think of, they transfer out of the realm of mere mundane thing into the realm of Being. They had Their Being from well before we were given Their name or named Them, each thing potentially being/housing a vaettr, a spirit. Here, in acknowledging it and having a name we can relate to it with, we have an added dimension in our relationship with it. We have been given an avenue we can relate to each other with. The car becomes more than just another car, it becomes a car I relate to and I am in relationship with. I am not merely maintaining a thing by putting fuel into its tank, taking it for repairs, I am caring for a car-spirit, engaging in reciprocity with it by honoring and caring for its lyke, its body. 

In developing an authentic Heathen aesthetic based on reciprocity being the primary trait, we will likely find American Heathen communities digging into very different ways of doing things to meet that than those of, say, Norway or Iceland. This is where local cultus will intersect even greater than it does now. I would not be surprised if State or within-State aesthetics developed as well, given enough time. Michigan’s climate, weather patterns, and needs are not like Georgia’s, and Georgia’s is not Alaska’s. I would be surprised if we found a single Heathen aesthetic in the future just as I would if our local cultus would be the same. We might still be offering sweet fruits to Freya, reflecting current share gnosis that she likes strawberries, but what kinds of deeply sweet fruits we can regionally grow to honor Her may change depending on where we live and the growing seasons. If I honor local vaettir by eating what is only grown in season then my entire world of food changes, and so too do the offerings I make.

An authentic Heathen life is lived within a Heathen worldview and culture that contains our orthodoxies, orthopraxies, religious ideas, values, aesthetics, and experiences. These are all lived and expressed. Rather than an authentic Heathen worldview being a static thing, it, as with all of our relationships with the Holy Powers and one another, they must be lived. Heathen worldviews and cultures are themselves living things. They remain solid and unchanging in many areas, such as the polytheist and animist foundation on which the worldviews rise from. They change first and primarily with our interactions with the Holy Powers through gnosis and divination. Then, they may change with one another, with the crossroads of the sciences and our communities, and between generations of our communities as specific needs and relationships unfold.

Patreon Topic 29: What I Don’t Often Get To Write or Talk On

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 Odinsson comes this topic:

“What do you want to write or talk about that you don’t often get to?”

I like digging into the nitty-gritty of theology. Not just theory, but where the rubber meets the road of it. A couple years back I wrote a series of posts called A Polytheist Response to Peak Oil. It took me a long while to write it, and I deeply enjoyed the process of bringing my ideas of polytheism, animism, and environmentalism from thoughts in the back of my head into a way of living and looking at the predicaments we are going to be living in for the foreseeable future.

I like how the implications of certain words affect the unfolding of how those things are seen and understood. Though seiðr is classified as a kind of magic, the cultural baggage of magic vs seiðr is pretty big. Not only is the latter not laden with notions of stage magic or fakery, it is a culturally relevent term with folks who engage in the work, eg seiðkonur (seið-women), seiðmenn (seið-men), and seiðmaður (seið-people). I find engaging with our language in culturally-relevent ways, including the need to make neologisms, a powerful way of bringing the cultural from mere intellectual exercise into revivalism.

I am really happy for my Patreon supporters because their input has given a focus to my blog that it has not had. Sure, I would occasionally dedicate an entire month to a God, or go on a long series of blog posts like the one I mentioned above, but then I had periods where I post once a month at most. I had a six month block where I don’t think I posted anything at all a few years back. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break, which I did need at the time. The topic suggestions, Q&As, and all the rest help keep me writing, keep me focused, and give me ways to dig into topics I might not otherwise. I really enjoy that I have to switch gears depending on what I am writing between prose and song/poem/prayer.

What I keep feeling at the back of everything are the books I have yet to write, including The Fallow Times book, a second edition of Calling to Our Ancestors, and others. The ‘and others’ bit might be Heathen kids books, Heathen spiritworker books, and others as they come up. I have no idea how many books I have in me. If I keep up the pace I have with the Patreon I may put a compilation book or books together so folks can have a physical copy of them. Nothing quite like having a modern copy of a dialogue between a writer and his readers on religious topics!

What I want to talk about more, especially in workshops and the like, are a lot of the deep dives I get to take on subjects such as on Around the Grandfather Fire. I really want to dig into the meat of spiritwork. I really dig my Encountering the Runes workshop for this reason. I’ve been presenting it for a decade or better now, and each year I find more stuff to put into it while still working to make sure there is enough time for Q&A after it. I want to develop more spiritwork workshops, presentations, and the like in that same vein. I’m also really interested in writing on those subjects, too, so folks who support the Patreon? Feel free to hit me up on those topics!

Patreon Song/Poem/Prayer 29 -For Cernnunos -Farewell

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 prayer was requested by Maleck Odinsson for Cernunnos.

You walked with me

Through the woods, the wild, the wonderful places

You showed me

The sacred places, prepared and protected me

You taught me

The holy ways, hallowing and healing

O Horned One, Torc-Bearer

Hoof and horn, claw and crushing jaw

Gentle-stepper, Silent Stalker

Hunter and Hunted, Predator and Prey

Thank You, always, for walking with me

Thank You, always, for showing me

Thank You, always, for teaching me

Cernnunos

Patreon Topic 27: Heathen Dream-work

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 my third Raiðo supporter comes this topic:

“Any recommendations on how to incorporate dream-work into one’s Heathen way of life?”

It depends on the dreamwork we are talking about. I will not be digging into dreamwork as approached by Freud, Jung, or others as talked about on the Wikipedia page. Rather, I will be approaching as a kind of spiritwork and how we might approach it. Before we dig into this, dreamwork is not one of my specialties, it is not something I have engaged in recently, and everyone may experience dreamwork in different ways.

As with a lot of spiritwork I recommend caution before applying something to your life. A while back a dear Brother of mine, Jim Stovall, coined the phrase Spiritual Accounting. Jim’s formula is (M+C³)xR=V. M is message, C is Confirmation, R is results, and V is verified. He actually has a spreadsheet with Gods, Ancestors, and spirits he puts through this evaluation and it has borne good results for him. You can actually buy a shirt here and here that displays it and supports our podcast, Around the Grandfather Fire. In previous writing I have likened it to a three-legged stool, where we have lore (written and archaeological records), experiences (our own and others’), and divination.

So what is dreamwork? I understand and approach dreamwork in two ways: as getting messages from the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir in dreams, or accomplishing tasks/goals. With regard to getting messages, sometimes they can be quite vague and may require some deep work to understand, or even a follow-up with other divination. Sometimes this comes in the form of lucid dreams and other times it is under direction by a God, Ancestor, vaettr, or group of Them.

Most of my dreams are random psychological phenomena or entertaining. The ones that definitely involve the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir happen every so often and not with any pattern I can discern. I have not been pushed to encourage them, and to be honest, I will not since so much of my free time is taken up with spirit work.

What can I offer to those who are interested or are being pushed to engage in dreamwork? Questions and advice, mostly.

Why engage in dreamwork? Is it part of your toolbox, or a part of your toobox that you want to expand? Are you being required to work with this technique by a God, Goddess, Ancestor, vaettr, or group of Them? If you have a choice in engaging with this tool, is there a better one you could learn to work with where you have more direct control, or one that might be better suited to the aims you want to accomplish with this technique?

What tools do you already have at your disposal that will allow you dreamwork to be effective and remembered well by you? Do you have a journal to record the work, the experience, and the results? Do you have alarms set so you do not just float away and ignore your body’s needs too long? Do you need all but essential electronics turned off? Do you need isolation, silence, or darkness for a few hours, day(s), and do you have the means to get that? All of these are useful tools for anyone considering dreamwork.

What tools do you need to bring in for dreamwork? If you have a hard time getting to sleep or coming out of sleep have you spoken with a doctor about it and if there are options you have not tried yet? Some folks find it easier to sleep hot and others cold. Some folks find added weight, such as with a weighted blanket, helps them to fall asleep and stay asleep longer. While I would avoid caffeinated drinks, especially before dreamwork, a specially made tea for the working can be a powerful preparation. So might satchet pillows, charms under, over, or around your sleeping area. Stuffed animals and blankets with designs of any helping spirits, fylgja, etc can be a good way to bring them in.

When you have determined why you are going to engage in dreamwork setting the stage is going to be pretty important. You are not merely going to sleep. You are lying down to sleep with a spiritual purpose. It is not altogether different than if you were preparing for útiseta (sitting out, such as at a grave, mound, or riverside), hamfara (literally skin/shape travel/fare, to fare forth in your hamr or second skin/self), or other spiritwork. In fact, what your dreamwork may have you do would be hamfara, so preparing for that can save you from being spiritually hurt or lost. So, putting together protection, including shields, wards, and anchor-points for your soul parts well ahead of time would be at the top of my list. Well before any kind of spiritwork I would have at least a weekly preparation, and at least in the three weeks leading up to the working an every day preparation of cleansing, grounding, centering, and shielding. The day of the dreamwork, before lying down to sleep, do another round of that preparation, and double check your wards, anchors, and any other tools you are bringing into the dreamwork.

The reason I brought up the journal so early in this post is because it could well be one of, if not the most important tool for this work. Done well, a journal for spiritwork functions as a kind of work log, grimoire, record, diary, and personal journal all in one. Done poorly it becomes a literal paperweight and something you have to work to push through to write in. So, do whatever you need to so your journal is organized, moddable to your needs, and functions well. Take those steps now so you are not scrambling should you need to reference a working or try to remember something. This journal will also help you track your progress and long-term trends in your dreamwork. The journal can be digital, print, or both. Whatever your choice it needs to be accessible upon waking up. You can lose infromation in