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Storytelling

June 17, 2014 Leave a comment

I sat in the dark with my son after night prayers, and a question came to me.

I asked him: “Do you have any questions about the Gods?”

His answer: “Who is Sif?”

It kind of surprised me; his question was not “What are the Gods?” or “Why is such-and-such this way?”.  He wanted to get to know the Gods we prayed to.

It has been awhile since we had read the stories or talked deeply about the Gods.  So, when he asked the question I did something that came naturally: I told a story.  I told him She is a Goddess, the wife of Thor, and we call to Her, thanking Her for Her generosity in the night prayer.  He asked why She was a Goddess of generosity, and I slipped into the story of how She kept Her composure when Loki burst into the hall, and still offered Him mead, as told in the Lokasenna.  He asked me why she would have been angry at Loki.  I told my son of how Loki had slain the doorman and insulted the Gods in Aegir’s hall, something one was not supposed to do.  He then asked why She would be angry with Loki.  So, I told him of how Sif’s hair had been cut by Loki before this, and still, She offered Loki to calm Himself and join the Gods in Aegir’s Hall.  He smiled, and he understood.  We worship Her, as well as Loki because They are our Gods.  They are not perfect; They are powerful, beautiful, mischievous, and so much more.  I saw my son’s face light up and crack into a grin as he asked what happened when Thor found out Loki had cut His wife’s hair.  He asked me smaller questions as the story went on, and it changed how I told the story.

He asked “Did Thor want to hurt Him?  What did Loki do?”  So I told of how Loki went down to the Dvergar and asked them to make Him a head of golden hair for Sif, hair that lived as Her had, and yet was made of gold.  His eyes lit up, still smiling, and he asked if Loki had been punished by the Aesir for what He did to Sif.  No, son, Loki made amends with Sif, giving Her that golden hair.  Thor may have wanted to, but Loki was not hurt; He had done as He promised, and made amends.

He came to know many Gods better tonight, not just Sif.  Did I tell him the whole story, of how Loki also convinced the sons of Ivaldi to make Skiðblaðnir and Gungnir?  No, it was not important at the moment.  He has heard the full story before, we’ve read it together.  I did emphasize how important the gifts Loki won were, how His mouth was sewn shut because Loki had wagered His head and lost.  That is the power of storytelling: we have to decide what to emphasize, what to put aside when we tell it, so it speaks to our listeners.  It does not make these two holy items, or their gifting to the Gods any less important.  It does not make Loki wagering His head less.  The telling of this part of the story would have lessened the impact of the story between Loki and Sif in this moment, and gotten before the point I wanted to make to my son: Loki made amends.  That when one makes amends one should not be punished further.

Our stories have to live from our lips and hearts to the ears and hearts of others.  If our stories do not live in us, what worth is there in telling them?

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Living Religion

January 6, 2014 5 comments

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

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

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

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

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

Expanding Altars and Changing Shrines

November 21, 2013 4 comments

These pictures were taken back in 2012 when I moved back home.  This was prior to my son and Sylverleaf coming to stay with us.  At the time I lived in the basement, as the entire living arrangement had been changed since I moved out.  I finally had a bit more room to make altars and shrines, and much of my parents’ resistance to such things in their home was gone.  They recognized my need for space to set out devotional space for worship, and I will always be grateful to them for this.

I made an altar to the Gods, a shrine to the Ancestors, a shrine to the Earthvaettir combined with the Moneyvaettir and Warrior Dead, and a shrine to the Animal Spirits.

The Gods’ Altar

At this point in time my Gods’ Altar was still fairly squished, at least compared to how it is now.  It is also a lot more simple; the Gods’ Altar as it is now has a lot more statuary and representations on it, whereas this was me trying to get back to some simplicity.  For example, the Chaos Star got packed away, as at the time I felt I’d had more than what I had needed of that.  The drum I made my journeys with was placed on the Gods’ Altar as I did a lot of journeywork to Their Realms at this point in time with Its help.  There are two chalices on the altar here: the pewter one I dedicated to Freya as our relationship was going very well, and She was teaching me a lot at this time.  That, and the chalice, which, if memory serves I had picked up at a thrift store, had at one point been given to someone as a Valentine’s gift back in 1985.  I found not long after I started using this that anything placed in the chalice would degrade and mold quick, despite repeated cleanings.  It has since been retired from service to any Gods since I can’t get it stop doing weird stuff to the contents within a few hours of being in the thing.

There’s also more prominence to the Valkyries’ representations here, with Brynhilde being directly behind Odin, and another to Her right.  The blue vial to the left of the pewter chalice long contained the last of a Dansk Mjød Viking Blod that I eventually ended up offering that year.  The crystal in front of the altar is selenite, a crystal I and my family still use to cleanse ourselves before some evening prayers.  The Negative Confession is on this altar in front of the vial and pewter mug.

The Gods' Altar 2012.

The Gods’ Altar 2012.

The left side of the Gods' Altar.

The left side of the Gods’ Altar.

The right side of the Gods' Altar.

The right side of the Gods’ Altar.

A closeup of Anpu, Mani, and Sunna on the Gods' Altar.

A closeup of Anpu (center), Mani, and Sunna (left) on the Gods’ Altar.

A closeup of Odin with Sigurd and Brynhilde behind Him on the Gods' Altar.

A closeup of Odin with Sigurd and Brynhilde behind Him on the Gods’ Altar.

A closeup of Freya, Brighid and Bres, Freyr, and Jord/Nerthus' representation on the Gods' Altar.

A closeup of Freya (center), Brighid and Bres (left), Freyr (front center), and Jord/Nerthus’ representation (right) on the Gods’ Altar.

Left to right: Brighid and Bres, Freyr, Jord/Nerthus, Sunna, and Mani, closeup up before the statues of Odin and Freya.

Left to right: Brighid and Bres, Freyr, Jord/Nerthus’s representation, Sunna, and Mani, closeup up before the statues of Odin and Freya.

The Ancestor Altar/Shrine

The Ancestor Altar/Shrine had finally come into being.  I had not been able to have a separate shrine for Them due to space issues, so being able to give space to the Elements as part of the Ancestors was wonderful as well as connective for me.  With this came a sense of connecting not only with Them individually as Elements and Ancestors, but in the space of the altar/shrine itself, each Element having Their own space in the way it is laid out.  This time also marked, roughly, when my Ancestors started asking for semi-regular tobacco offerings.  I started doing smoking offerings in 2009, 2010.  I had long held a taboo in my mind because of my parents’ smoking habits.  The deal I made with Them was that, so long as I was not going to become addicted I would smoke for Them.  So, cigars and cigarettes became part of the Fire area of the Ancestor shrine at this point, but that ended when Sylverleaf, our son, and I, transitioned as a family into the whole of the top floor of the house.

A long shot of the center of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

A long shot of the center of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

The center of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

The center of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

Left side of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

Left side of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.  Leftmost is the Fire area, and next to it, the Water area.

Right side of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.

Right side of the Ancestor Altar/Shrine.  The Earth, represented by the bowl of stones, and Air, with the incense holder, are here.

The Earthvaettir, Moneyvaettir, and Warrior Dead Shrines

This was the second shrine I had set up for the Earthvaettir and Moneyvaettir; Their previous places had been set into a bookcase on a whole shelf.  I do not believe the Warrior Dead had a shrine before this, and if it had, it had been rather squished in between everything with the Earthvaettir and Moneyvaettir.  Here, again, I felt a sense of being able to breathe, of expanding not only my physical limits, but practice.  Of having space to actually physically acknowledge Their place in my life, Their Presences, and to honor that not only with space, but with prayer in that space.  Of giving offerings to those beings, whereas once They may have been lumped all in together with a single offering chalice between all of these great, diverse Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir otherwise, now I had space and ability to honor each closer to Their own ways and desires.

The Earthvaettir, Moneyvaettir, and Warrior Dead shrines all on one surface.

The Earthvaettir, Moneyvaettir, and Warrior Dead shrines all on one surface.

The Animal Spirits’ Shrine

It was relieving to finally have space to do this.  I honor a great deal of animalvaettir not only as representations of the Gods (i.e. the snake as Bolverk), but as the animals Themselves who have come and shared wisdom and training.  Some of these representations pull double-duty; for instance, the wolf in the top above the center of the shrine is representative of both wolves, and Lupa, the Wolf Goddess who came to me early in my journey as a Pagan and in my self-discovery, helped me to realize a lot about myself.  More, She helped teach me how to not only explore it, but integrate it into my life as best as I could.  As the Wolf has been a central figure in my life as a whole, and as I mark It as kin, it forms the center of this shrine.  The patch of fur and wolf bones were gifts by the wonderful Shin Cynikos.  I keep these as sacred items to this day.  They still lay upon the animal spirits’ shrine.

The Animal Spirits Altar in 2012.  It sat on an old steamer trunk a friend gave me.

The Animal Spirits Altar in 2012. It lay on an old steamer trunk a friend gave to me.

It wasn’t long before I transitioned out of this kind of layout.  When I moved back into my old room upstairs to live with my family, there was a lot more room to expand, and express the changing relationships and growth in our lives together.  The next post will go into the expansion that occurred at that time, and what the altars and shrines tend to look like nowadays.

Altars and Shrines Change

November 21, 2013 1 comment

The next few posts I will be going over how altars and shrines can change over time.  My hope is that this will give people different ideas of how altars and shrines can be made, what can go on them, and help people see a different way of doing things.

When I lived in the dorms this is what my altar/shrine looked like.  Everything was together onto this little dresser.  The only other flat surface I had needed to keep my desktop PC and studying desk.  So, my Gods, Ancestors, and spirits all shared space on this tiny little thing.  I wasn’t supposed to light the candles or use the censer in the back.  There was a single offering chalice for all the varied Gods, Ancestors, and spirits present, and when liquid offerings needed to be poured out I either did so in the sink, or took it out to the trees near to the dorm rooms.

Starting on the left was my tarot and my athame/working dagger, and behind them the mead I gave for offerings.  In the back, to the right of the mead, was water I had collected from a lake, and a Chaos Star I had won in a raffle to the right of that.  The box beneath the censer contained things like prayer beads, as did  the box behind A Book of Pagan Prayer.  To the right of the chalice was my representation of the Ancestors (it still serves that purpose) and of course, Odin with representations of Geri and Freki.  The little pouch before the Ancestors to the left of the Wolves was given to me as Gebo for help I gave to someone. Thor’s Hammer, Mjolnir, sat resting before Odin’s feet.  In front of the Wolves to the left is Brighid’s Candle, and to the right is Her Cross.  In between the wands and Wolves were two sigils to the angel Haniel, who I asked to help me in my relationship at the time.  The silver skulls were what I used as representation of the Dead and as prayer beads (if memory serves) to that purpose.  In front of the Dead representation are wands, while the ceramic container was used to hold herb offerings.  To the right of the skulls was an offering of an apple, which, after a day or three, was taken outside and put under a tree.

The altar/shrine was near the door to the dorm room, and since I didn’t want to get brained every time I came home, the staves were set on the left of the altar.  A lot of this altar was put together the way it was out of necessity.  It taught me to use space effectively, and making sure I knew what was essential to me, both in terms of representation, and what I was worshiping and working with.

My Altar/Shrine in my dorm room back in 2010

My Altar/Shrine in my dorm room back in 2010.

A side shot of my Altar/Shrine in my dorm room back in 2010

A side shot of my Altar/Shrine in my dorm room back in 2010.

A Small Prayer to my Gods

July 13, 2013 2 comments

Each day may I come

To know You better

In the small ways

The ways You know to reach

That no one else will see

That no one else may believe

But I will know

and in that knowing

I will be content

 

Hail Thunderer

June 10, 2013 3 comments

Splitting the sky with forked light

I hear Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr’s hooves

Pattering on the roofs as You ride

 

The Earth is soaked again

already the little greens are poking up from the ground

enlivened by Your charge

 

Hail Thunderer

Who splits the sky and shakes the ground

and leaves water in His wake

 

Hail to You for the summer rains

That feed the crops and soak the ground

Giving us the gifts that we may feed ourselves

Storm

April 11, 2013 Leave a comment

Rain trickles in little rivers

Down the sides of the house

Pooling

 

Like goats’ feet heralding

The low rumble builds

Thrumming

 

The lightning splays itself

Along the sky

Flashing

 

I can hear Your Voice Thunderer

Your chariot overhead

Crashing

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