Patron Topic 57: On Spirit World Politics Part 2

In Part 1 we went over some of the basic ways that politics interact and intersect with the spirit world. Now, I would like to explore the Spirit World and politics from my perpective as a spiritworker.

Political Implications of Spirit Travel

Humans are, in a very real sense, spiritual Beings. We have a Soul Matrix and a way that expresses and exists here. It is not unreasonable for us to understand that other vaettir also have a Soul Matrix, however close it does or does not match our own. This adds a very interesting spiritual-political dimension to travels we may make to other Worlds. The one that I am thinking of here namely being that we can have some form of what could be termed material impact on Them just as They may us here in Miðgarðr.

If we understand other vaettir as being able to have interaction and impact on us in our World then we, as visitors to other Worlds, can have impact on vaettir in other Worlds in no less wise a way. This makes spiritual tourism as a concept even more fraught with danger because we have the ability to harm and help in Worlds other than our own. Certainly, if we accept that various vaettir can cause help and harm in our own Worlds it follows we can have similar impact on Them in Their own Worlds even if it follows on different lines than we may expect. Anger the Álfar and you may receive elfshot. It occurs to me, especially having recently visited Álfheim, to wonder if there are similar stories about us humans who visit the Álfar there.

If we can have this impact then how we arrive to a given World matters. Since our souls can take flight, and depending on your understanding of the Soul Matrix, this can happen in sleep as well as with determined effort eg journeying, or hamfara (journeying forth in one’s hamr) it is not something limited to just spiritworkers. However, I think what marks the difference here is expertise. A competent heimrgangr, spiritworker or not, will journey with intent to where they wish to go. Most folks who wander around the Worlds in their sleep do not do it with any effort, it just happens.

My general advice to folks looking to do spirit travelling is to first have at least one or two competencies in divination systems down. This means being able to do these divination systems for yourself without worrying you are messing with the results of the reading. The divination itself can be simple, such as a special coin you flip or dice, three stones assigned as Yes/No/Indicator, tarot or an oracle card set, the Runes, or some sort of sortilege. I favor systems where randomization is built into the answer, rather than something relying utterly on your translation, such as with scrying in fire or a pendulum. While these can be useful tools, I find for my own work I need that random factor to reassure that I am getting good and accurate responses from the tools, and not get in the way of them. These divination methods serve as helpmeets in communication and interpretation. As examples, divination can help you see in clear terms if a request to enter a World has been accepted, help you understand a message that you cannot interpret at the time of a journey, or can be used to see if an offering idea would be good, and whether an offering was received well or not.

We need to be able to travel to and return in ways that do not harm ourselves or the places or people we wish to visit. We need to be able to communicate, or at the very least able to effectively and accurately interpret our interactions. We need to understand how we take in and interpret spiritual information, and be able to assess it. Why? If we understand that our impacts on other Worlds carries real benefits and harm not only to ourselves, but to the Beings of those Worlds and the Worlds Themselves, we have a responsibility to be competent in our traveling and in how we conduct ourselves. If we understand that there are political dimensions to these interactions then it should underpin the importance of being able to do these things well.

I generally advise anyone looking to do spiritual travel to be sure that, whatever your destination, to get the consent of the Beings of that World to enter. On the one hand, it is plain rude to show up unannounced when there are means to send a request to enter and get a clear response. On the other hand, it is disrespectful of the sovereignty of the various Beings if you gatecrash Their home. I am working with the Nine Worlds model in Nordic Heathenry. Most any World I can think of has at least one, if not many Gods, who call it home it in some way. Many of these Gods rule the Worlds we would visit. It’s hardly in my best interest to offend those Gods. Then there are the various vaettir who will likely be as displeased to find an invader in Their midst.

It is worth noting that our cultural and ethical frameworks may not be compatible with the Beings of the places we are seeking to interact with. A given Jötun in Jötunheim is probably not going to have my political outlook, and what is rude in a given context with Them is likely to differ from that of an Álfar in Álfheim. Likewise, that same Jötun may not share Angrbóða’s cultural or ethical frameworks. If we treat the Beings in other Worlds as Beings unto Themselves then we need to acknowledge that They will likely differ from us and each other in many ways. Then again, you may find that many of Them hold to some of the same views as we do. Ideally, you ask questions before you set out so you know as much as you can. Either way, if you are able to visit, ask questions.

A lot of these points may seem obvious, except I have seen folks stereotype all Jötnar as beastial or out of control, and Álfar as aloof and completely alien. To be sure, some Jötnar I have the pleasure of knowing are more beastial and some Álfar are aloof. I do find some Álfar completely alien. Some of those same Jötnar are also some of the wisest and most powerful Beings in the Nine Worlds. Those Álfar likely have damned good reasons for being aloof.

As relationships develop with Ginnreginn the varying bonds of politics we can experience between Them and the various Worlds can begin to pull and tug on one another. As an Odinsson I can feel this pretty keenly. There are some relationships that will be limited or simply never form due to being who I am to Óðinn and vice versa. Those might be open to others. Then again, I have had doors open that may not have otherwise, or not in the ways that they did, because of Óðinn and I’s relationship. This is part of why I advise Heathens, especially those wanting to get into spiritwork, do so with their Ancestors being among the first Ginnreginn that they develop relationships with. The Ancestors have a vested interest in you doing well and keeping safe. Most of your Ancestors are likely to remember being alive, and collectively have generations worth of experiences to tap. As many of your Ancestors may have pissed off a random Álfar, They may also have had good relationships with others. They can be a great source of contacts, influence, power, and wisdom. You are likely not the only spiritworker in your Ancestors, and tapping into these Ancestors can be especially potent in bringing your own spiritwork along.

We live here in Miðgarðr. We are visiting there. Even if the framework for what constitutes a good guest differs, it is still on us to put our best foot foward as a good guest

Magic in Other Worlds

When it come to magic in other worlds, all the ethical considerations I have covered in previous posts, namely Ethics in Animism and Polytheism Part 1 and Part 2, and On the Ethical Use of Magic can apply here. The long story here is that we are ultimately responsible for what our magic does in other Worlds whether or not it does what we intend.

An aspect of using magic in other Worlds few think about is that we can do it at all. Think about the many effects magic has the potential to enact in our world. Now, apply this thought to the Worlds of other Beings. When we read stories of elfshot for those who angered the Álfar, we can clearly see these Beings from another World can affect us in our own. Are there similar stories of humans in Álfheimr? To deny the possibility that we can have similar effects, among many, seems to place us lower than other kinds of vaettir. It makes the point that we are less magical, spiritual, or capable of committing harm or help. I find this notion false.

Rather, I think the opposite is true for folks who have any modicum of skill in hamfara, or magic in general. If we understand magic as the affecting of Urðr to achieve an end, then a given magician or spiritworker can present even more of a threat to themselves and others. If we understand a part of our Soul Matrix, eg the hamr, has the ability to get up and go walking about in other Worlds while our lyke (body) is asleep, then even if, say 10% of the estimated 7.8 billion person population of humanity did so, that would be about 780 million people. If only 10% of this estimate can effectively do spiritwork and/or magic then that still leaves 78 million people. That is not a small number.

When we apply this understanding to other Worlds, then, an intentional journey to another World is not a small thing even when the mechanism for the journey itself may be relatively simple. If magic can and does affect the patterns of Urðr, then its effective application can do active and ongoing harm or good, just as when other Being apply Their magic to us or our surroundings here in Miðgarðr. How does this aspect of the use of magic play into spiritual politics?

In a number of ways. For myself, the reputation the Álfar carried with Their use of magic and overall demeanor that I saw in the sources made it so I wanted as little contact with Them as possible. For a lot of folks, they carry this same idea with regard to the Jötnar. The very way we form relationships with vaettir, then, can be informed by how we, or our fellows, undertand and use magic.

The way we use magic can have an impact on how things come around politically. For instance, we have the varieties of seiðr. One of the things I understand that differentiates seiðr from other forms of magic is that seiðr works with vaettir to get things done. So, what vaettir are you working with to get the thing done? What are you having Them do? Are you asking Them at all, or have you enticed Them with a song and now you’ve roped Them into doing things for you? If you primarily work with landvaettir in your seiðr here in Miðgarðr, what do you do in other Worlds if you work seiðr there? How you interact and treat these vaettir can (and I would argue likely will) have direct impact on whether or not vaettir from other Worlds will want to treat with you.

There is a similarity between armchair occultists and 2nd Amendment fans here in the United States. Both are not very likely to have actually done their homework, and both talk a good game without actually engaging with the topic they will very loudly ‘debate me bro’ about. America’s total gun ownership rests around 37-40% if the Gallup polls are any accurate indication, though that number includes those who “own or live with someone who owns a gun”. Gun ownership, though, is one thing. Competency in their use is quite another. See also armchair occultists vs operant magicians.

When you first learn to shoot you do it with targets. Targets that are not shooting back, and that, so long as you are actually practicing safety with your weapon, you are not going to hurt yourself or anyone else. You learn discipline with the weapon and its use, how to take the thing apart, clean it, and how to put it all back together safely. Training for scenarios and the like come later once you have developed core competencies with the weapon. This bare minimum for weapons is similar for anyone who wants to use magic. Cleansing, grounding, centering, shielding, warding, and being able to do divination and some basic forms of magic for safe spiritual journeying. You need to be able to competently and effectively use this tool at hand with a minimum of damage to yourself and others.

All of this is not to say “Don’t use magic!”. Rather, it is to really push folks to think through what magic they use and how they do it. It is a push for folks to think through how magic and its uses can affect the relationships they hold, and to weigh the political consequences of their actions. It is to consider that your actions have political dimension, especially when you are journeying to and/or are affecting other Worlds. Since magic is a form of power through affecting Urðr, and doing magic in others Worlds can have consequences deep consequences, it is another way through which we express ourselves, and our political allegiances. We cannot detach magic and its use from ourselves as though it is not real. After all, magic requires many parts of the Soul Matrix to be done. If you’re going to commit so much of yourself to doing somthing that can have such profound consequences, it seems to me it is worth doing well and with forethought.

Relationships Found and Formed

Here is where the metal meets the meat for animists and polytheists alike, whether or not we are spiritworkers. Relationships are at the core of both these theological worldviews. How I relate to the World around me has direct impact on how I act, function, and relate to every other thing. If I understand myself as being enmeshed in a web of relationships my outlook and actions are understood and expressed fundamentally differently than if I believe I am a cog in a machine. If I understand the Earth, Jörð as a Goddess, Who Herself is and contains vast, interrelated vaettir, that is a far cry different from understanding the Earth as a machine needing to be balanced. If we understand ourselves as existing in relationships, then ‘pantheons’ as locked-down relationships taking place only within a single culture are flawed models for understanding our place in things, and especially our Gods. Even a cursory look at ancient animisms and polytheisms shows that they interrelated with one another in myriad ways, and personal relationships with Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir had the potential for immense variety even within a given culture.

Much of this post has been about relationships in the abstract, or in relation to how we use power. This is about the relationships we intentionally make or that are made with us. The Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir we make relationships with have impact on the relationships we hold, or can hold. Some relationships we hold, such as with our blood Ancestors, are a result of how Urðr shakes out as our órlög when we are born. The spiritual relationships we make as adults are, predominantly, choices -yes, including if a God comes along and takes you up.

We develop the means to meaning through relationships. For the most part we worship our Gods because we relate to Them in concrete ways. ‘God of’ as a primary model of understanding our Gods is flawed, as it is often used to box our Gods into standardized meaning and relationships. However, many of the Gods we have a cursory relationship with fall into this understanding. A person who holds no direct relationship with Þórr may only relate to Him as a God of lightning, thunder, and rains. Another person may hold a mentor/mentee relationship with Him. Even for those who have such a relationship may still hail Him as a God of storms when a storm comes their way. What matters here is the ‘God of’ model is not the only way we relate to the Gods. It is not the whole of Them. We also relate to our Gods through Their relationships with one another, eg someone who has a direct relationship with Óðinn may relate to Þórr as a God of storms and also as a Son of Óðinn, Jörð, and Frigg.

Relating to our Gods without the notion of a pantheon binding Them does not mean their myths are not relevant to understanding Them. They still exist in relationship with one another, whether that is as rivals, relatives, or some other way. Myths are a way to understand these relationships, and how we may relate to Them in kind. The binding idea as animists and polytheists in understanding myths and our Ginnreginn is relationality.

I wrote in Part 1 that “This is not to say we need to like, befriend, or worship every God to have good relationships with those in our hearths. You do not have to like or worship Óðinn to worship Frigg or Þórr. Respect, though, is important. We gain nothing by disrespecting the Ginnreginn, especially ones Who are close to those we worship.” By engaging in certain relationships we may leave others out of our lives. There is a closeness with Óðinn I have that I will not have with Fenris. My allegiances being what they are, I have forgone relationships with some Gods, such as An Mórrígan, because what They could ask of me is more than what I could give. Part of respecting the Gods is understanding where our own limits lie in Who we have time to give to. Part of respecting the Gods is knowing whether or not we would be out of our depth with Them in a working relationship, and to respect ourselves enough to not to try to take on more than is good for us.

On Spiritworkers

A spiritworker is what it says on the tin: someone who does work with and for the spirits. It may be someone who divines, does magic, heals, helps facilitate contact, does spiritual consultation, or does all these things and more. What it is, at the end of the day, is a job title. It says nothing of the individual view, expertise, or experience to be expected until and unless a given community develops those baselines.

Part of why I use the term is because it effectively captures the idea of what I am and do. It does this without appropriating the word shaman. I used to use the word to describe myself, and I no longer do. Shaman is a term that, on the one hand has become so divorced from its roots in modern Pagan, animist, and polytheist communities while being marketed so heavily on the other that it has largely lost its utility as a word. It is important to note, though, that spiritworker is being used not to imply that we are shamans, but because that word does not apply to us in the first place. There are layers of cultural meaning that has built up around that word, from its original people, from academia, New Age spirituality, and our own communities that do not convey what we do. What had been a useful word has been both stripped and overloaded with meaning. Even if that word, with all its baggage, was useful as a ‘handle’ word to carry meaning, it no longer does.

Spiritworkers may hold different roles in the communities they are part of. Some may be part of formal organizations, and others serving only a community of Ginnreginn that has called them to service. Some may serve in leadership roles, while others only serve in support capacities. Some hold formal community roles which may or may not include their job as spiritworkers. It may be worth our while as members of distinct communities to use spiritworker as a term alongside more specific ones, such as vaettirverkr, Runeworker, erilaz, seiðmaðr, and spámaðr which point to communities we serve, specialties, training, expertise, and the like.

On the Politics of Being Spiritworkers

This brings us right to the politics of being spiritworkers. We are not neutral actors, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous both to ourselves and Those we serve. Each of us are aligned with Someone, and generally that Someone, or group of Someones, are the Ginnreginn we are closest to, work with, and/or serve. It is worth remembering when getting a reading from a spiritworker you are not just getting information from them, you are also getting information filtered through them from their Ginnreginn.

When folks get a Rune reading from me that means at least 24 individual vaettir are potentially adding Their voices to the reading, whatever the question or issue. That is not including any of the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir on my end, or the querant’s for that matter, that would like to chime in on a given topic. It is part of why, when folks ask questions like “Should I do such and such a thing” or “Is this good for me?” I ask them Who they are asking. This is especially imporant with ‘should’ or direction-based questions. If you leave the question to the Runes you’re going to get an answer based on Them much more than if you asked, say, Freyja. The Runes will effectively communicate Her response, but if you do not ask Her, you get Their answer(s). Given I approach tarot as a single vaettr with a lot of pieces, it is a similar deal when I read the tarot.

This means that there really is not such a thing like impartiality to a spiritual consultation. Those I consult for have political interests, as much as their own Ginnreginn will in and for them, and the connections They have. Part of my job can be to tease those out if they come up in the reading, to figure out Who is present, and how They are affecting the answers I am receiving. Another is to have figured out as much as I can where my Ginnreginn stand on things so I can account for that in regards to the reading. Sometimes I will not be able to answer questions because I do not have certain initiations, or I do not know a given God, group of Ancestors, or vaettr well. I may be more or less suited for a given person in a reading, and may need to pass them off to someone else better qualified for their needs. The relationships we hold can bring a lot of wisdom to the work we do, and sometimes that wisdom is “I’m not right for this person”.

Spiritworkers as Extensions of Spiritual Politics

If we are aligned with various Ginnreginn and involved in spiritual politics then it also makes sense that the opposite is true: we are a way for how spiritual politics flows between and through different spaces, people, communities, and between and through different Ginnreginn. I have encountered in my time, primarily working for Óðinn as a spiritworker, and more recently as an Odinsson, that sometimes we are how different groups of Ginnreginn get to talking with each other. This is where things can get…interesting in talking with folks, because we are so thoroughly engaged at this point with personal experiences, understanding of relationships and how we interact with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. It is a vulnerable place to be in, to talk from, as there are many intersecting points of personal experience. I am at pains to point out that while exploring this is necessary to understanding spiritworkers’ roles in modern Pagan, polytheist, and animist communities, it is also a place that has the potential to be rife with self-interest and delusion. Having a regular spiritual practice, spiritual accounting, discernment, and solid communities we can rely on to help keep us grounded, are needed.

To be sure, one does not need to be a spiritworker for the Ginnreginn to work with you as an extension of spiritual politics. It is something I find far more common with spiritworkers, though, since a lot of our work is networking, community building, communing, and other work that has us reach out between folks and various Ginnreginn. A really simple example of the kind of networking I am talking about came across my TikTok feed where Neomudang, a Korean shaman in America, was making offerings to various Greek Gods. Per her words “My Korean general Gods love partying with other Gods”. I asked if she would make an offering to Dionysos and Lykeios, and she did. So, in return for her offering to Dionysos and Lykeios, I will be making my own offerings to the Korean general Gods and my own, especially to Óðinn , Dionysos, and Lykeios once I get some new shot glasses and some good whisky.

Now, did the Gods need us to introduce Them? No. Not in a strict sense, eg the Gods had no other way of making connections to one another. We could be needed in other, less strict senses though. Sometimes we can make things easier. Sometimes the Gods would have no reason to interact otherwise. Sometimes we are the glue that holds Gods, who would otherwise not interact, in relationship with one another. Sometimes we can be the bridge that heals wounds. We serve as a bridge, a point of connection, one that may be more or less potent for whatever reason for the parties involved. Just as with our human communities, sometimes the Gods just need intermediaries to move things along smoothly.

We can make and sustain the bonds between the Ginnreginn, who may not otherwise have reason to interact, in bonds of relation and community. By being an ongoing intermediary we can encourage and build these ties. The bonds we carry with our own Ginnreginn may be enough for Them to build new ones between Themselves.

Spiritworkers are not themselves inherently better, able, or more worthy than others to make these networks or sustain these ties. This gets to the “Why?” of spiritworkers. Again, I am going to emphasize that spiritwork is a job. Our purpose is to have the expertise and time dedicated to the ongoing work of encouraging and sustaining good relationships between our communities, and the Ginnreginn. Our job is to help others effectively commune, communicate, build, and maintain good relations with the Ginnreginn. Sometimes we do this by divination, by starting a new cultus or sustaining them, initiations, or doing magic. Our job is to work for the Ginnreginn, and not everyone has the time, inclination, or expertise to do this.

I am an extension of Óðinn’s spiritual politics. He is the main God, Ancestor, and vaettr that I serve, and as an Odinsson I directly benefit from my relationship with Him. He also directly benefits from His relationship with and to me. There are folks who might not otherwise have connected with Him. Connections have formed between Him and other Gods through me that He might not otherwise have had. Many of my own relationships with the Ginnreginn I have in the way that they exist would not have formed without Him. Through Him I came to the Runevaettir, and all the Work we have done, and all the lives They have touched through me.

Something I think each spiritworkers comes, or at least should come to understand pretty quickly, is that even if we are serving the same Gods the politics of that service can vary significantly. Where I may serve an ambassador role, as I found with Álfheim, another Odinsson or another spiritworker may find their role quite different. We may take on different roles with with the very same Ginnreginn we serve in making ties with other Ginnreginn.

If it is so hard to say anything across the board, why say anything? Because these points and discussions need to be made. They are not part of mainstream polytheist discourse, not even among spiritworkers and yet, are part of the experience of both. We spend so much time on 101, 201, and, on occasion, 301 material exploring the basics of ideas in our various communities that discussions of these depths are hard to have in the first place. They are so dependent on our developed relationships with the Ginnreginn and the understanding we have, and the experiences that flow from them. I felt in order to effectively even start talking about the topic here required these two posts to get the basics of it down. I feel that I could keep on going, but this post is getting fairly long on its own, and a third part is probably needed.

I am interested in writing Part 3. As I have written before, this is a topic I have not seen covered much and I have enjoyed writing these two posts. Thank you, Maleck, for giving me the idea for these two posts.

I want to know what you, my readers, want me to explore in it. Do you want me to dig deeper into what I have already written in Parts 1 and 2? Do you want me to explore particular topics within spiritual politics? Let me know here, in the Around Grandfather Fire Discord, or by email.

Patron Topic 57: On Spirit World Politics Part 1

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From Maleck comes this topic:

“Would you mind discussing, as much as you can, your experience with politics in the spirit world, especially with how it can involve practitioners?”

I think that whether or not you understand there being politics in the spirit world is going to come down to your theological position on things. Within polytheism there is a breadth to understanding we can have regarding the way the cosmos was formed and functions. If you understand the Gods as being perfect, whole, unto Themselves and utterly benevolent, then politics as we understand them taking place within the various spirit Worlds may not make much sense. My own worldview is that the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are many, and so, among a great many things, politics varies between and among Them all.

Defining Politics and Exploring the Spiritual Implications

Before we go on, though, what do I mean when I am writing on ‘politics’? The Oxford English Dictionary define politics as “The activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.” I also find 1.5’s definition useful: “The assumptions or principles relating to or inherent in a sphere, theory, or thing, especially when concerned with power and status in a society.” These definitions work for our purposes.

We clearly have different political setups in the various home cultures these Gods were first worshipped by, eg chieftain-style in Nordic, and pharaonic with Kemetic. This can quickly get into “Is it the chicken or the egg?” type of questioning regarding a given political system. Since, as I understand it, the Gods are part of the undergirding of reality in profound ways, whether the political systems emerged from Them or not, all things are grounded in the Gods. I think it is entirely possible that some Gods favor certain political systems over the others, particularly when it comes to Gods who benefit from the establishment of Their order. It is also possible that a God may prefer no political system in particular.

Part of the reason I am not being too cut and dry here is because, while it is possible a given God may prefer a political system, They may have preferred a system They insituted but no longer exists, changed Their viewpoint over time, and/or Their view varies by political subject and Their worshipers at a given point in time. They may just be fine with taking us as we are now. It may also be a difference in interest even within a given God, eg Rúnatýr may not care as much as Óðinn about political organizations, hierarchy, etc, or only care insofar as these things matter with regard to understanding and working with the Runes. I also think it is entirely possible for one group of people to get one answer from a given God or an aspect of that God and for an entire separate group of people to get another answer and still be validly praying to, offering to, and communing with that God.

As if this is not complex enough on its own, add in the various vaettir, including our Ancestors and that of other vaettir such as landvaettir, Álfar, Dvergar, Jötnar, Aesir, Vanir, trolls, and so on. Every single vaettir, since They are a Being unto Themselves, may and likely does have varying political concerns from one another. I am also not assuming we are going to wander the Worlds and find that the Álfar have read and agreed with Kropotkin or the Dvergar with regard to Adam Smith or John Stuart Mills. Indeed, if I understand that each vaettr, that each spirit, is a Being Unto Themselves and the potential that I have as a being living and growing in Miðgarð is no less available to any other, then not only may each group of vaettir have Their own ideas of political theory, these may be more or less compatible with my own.

All of this is to say that anything I, or anyone else would have to say regarding our experiences of and with politics, political bodies, and views we have received from various Ginnreginn (Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir) in our communing with Them is our experience, and accordingly, the interpretation and understanding we have of it. I understand myself as an ecosocialist, that is, my politics’ first concern is right relationship with the environment, ecological care, and ecological justice. My framing and understanding of economics flowing from this: that the means of production should be owned and operated by the People rather than moneyed interests, and that for the People to have a good life the economy must comport with the limits of and be in right relationship with nature. Understanding my political perspectives allows me to compare and contrast between those of Others that I may experience in communing with the Ginnreginn, that is, the Gods, Ancestor, and vaettir. I also recognize that my political worldview may have everything or nothing to do with whether a given Ginnreginn wishes to develop a relationship with me. None of the Ginnreginn are monoliths.

Even to say that the Ginnreginn have politics is controversial. In part, it is because it is often seen as an invitation to Folkish and White Supremacists that they might be right. I want to put that to rest right now: this understanding that the Ginnreginn only can develop relationships with what we in modern times understand as white people unnecessarily limits the Ginnreginn’s ability to form and maintain relationships. It is an unncessary burden placed on Them by racist idealogues. Óðinn alone has crossed what we understand in modern terms to be lines of race, sex, gender, political, and ideological boundaries in His quests for knowledge, power, and wisdom. It is also ahistorical to ancient and medieval Scandinavians, who we take understanding and inspiration from, as going finnfarar or fara til finna to learn seiðr is remarked on in sagas. See The Viking Way by Neil Price, pg 225, for examples of this.

Basics of My Views on Spiritual Politics

So, all of this being said and out of the way, to Maleck’s topic request: “Would you mind discussing, as much as you can, your experience with politics in the spirit world, especially with how it can involve practitioners?”

Part of the core of polytheist and animist religions and thought are the formation and maintaining of relationships. While most Heathens are exoteric, Maleck specifically asks about practitioners, to which I take to mean spiritworkers of all kinds, magicians, and folks I will call heimrgangr, world-walker. In other words, these are folks who are engaged with esoteric practices.

I understand that the Ginnreginn have politics and are bound up in them not only in regard to relationships with us, They also are bound up with each Other in this way as well. I am fairly limited to what I can competently talk about here with regards to Gods and spirits outside of my particular Heathen worldview. In a way, limiting the conversation to Heathenry will help to highlight what politics can look like to folks when you develop and maintain relationships with a variety of Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.

I carry a number of baseline assumptions with regards to how I understand the Heathen Ginnreginn. First, we shall regard the Gods. I generally approach the Aesir, Vanir, and various Jötnar as tribes rather than separate species. Many of these tribes have Gods within them that share attributes, such as þórr and Farbauti being Gods associated with and/or wielding lightning and thunder. How They relate to these things and how They relate to us through these things is also part of our relationships, including political dimensions. I understand that many Jötnar are part of or aligned with natural forces, and so, there are Jötnar connected to Earth, Air, Ice, Fire, Water, as well as those connected with natural places such as bodies of water and mountains, and then there are Jötnar connected with natural Beings such as trees, wolves and elk. Mixed in an among these various Jötnar there are those that are easiest to refer to as being ‘monstrous’.

Many of the members, including but not exclusively Gods from these tribe intermarry, such as Freyr and Gerðr, adding complexity to Their relationships with one another and with us. What I find beautiful is that this complexity adds depth and nuance not only to our understanding of our Gods as Beings unto Themselves, it also adds this to the various things our Gods represent, teach, and impart through Their stories. In appreciating our Gods’ complexities we can better appreciate our own, and the varieties of interconnectedness there.

Coming to understanding that our relationships with our Gods have political dimensions has powerful implications for where we are in relationships with all our Ginnreginn, and all the things that follow from that. A relatively simple example is Jörð. Jörð is a Jötun, the Earth Herself. She is the mother of Þórr. So, anyone who says carte blanche that they are enemies of the Jötnar is literally admitting to being an enemy of the Earth. Anyone ascribing to Þórr a universal hatred of Jötnar is attributing a hatred to Him of His own Mother. So, declaring ourselves or the Gods as carte blanch enemies of this or that tribe, or this or that group of vaettir ignores the complexity of relationships that the Ginnreginn inhabit. By making such a declaration it is entirely to end up an enemy to a good many of the Gods in Heathenry.

This is not to say we need to like, befriend, or worship every God to have good relationships with those in our hearths. You do not have to like or worship Óðinn to worship Frigg or Þórr. Respect, though, is important. We gain nothing by disrespecting the Ginnreginn, especially ones Who are close to those we worship.

As we gain relationships with different Gods our relationships with different tribes or families of the Gods may change as well. In my own case I did not worship Loki or any of His Family starting off as a Heathen. I came to worship Loki after knowing and worshipping Óðinn. From coming to know and worship Loki I came to know and then worship Angrbóða, Jörmangandr, Fenris, and Sigyn. I went from fearing Fenris and refusing to worship Him, to worshipping Him in a “here’s an offering now please leave me the fuck alone”, to “You eat my Father at Rágnarök. I don’t like You for that….but I can understand You.” It is far, far too easy to merely cast Fenris as an out-of-control monster and that is all He is. If I love and count Loki as among the Gods most dear to me, for all the shit He catches from Heathens, let alone His fellow Gods, I should at least be willing to give His Son respect and try to understand His Children.

Not everyone is going to give Fenris that, and I get that. I used to feel intensely antagonistic towards Fenrisúlfr. Over time, though, as I came to deepen my understanding and relationship with Loki I softened, not only because I’m also a Dad, but because I loved Loki. How could I so viciously despise His Son for fulfilling what amounted to a self-fulfilling prophecy that Óðinn helped to propagate by His own actions? I have been in a situation where the weight of expectation has hurt me and then the people around me. If I could see that in myself I can see that in Fenris’ myths too. I found, as I explored these feelings and how I related to Fenris, what I was reacting too was far less Him, and more the feelings He brings up, and my own ‘inner monster’. The personal sure is political.

Ancestors can be a bit more personal. I reckon Ancestors as anyone who is part of our ancestry whether that is by blood, adoption, Ginnreginn, and/or initiated lineage. So, They easily intersect between various Ginnreginn. In my own case I do not understand nor came to understand the last name Odinsson lightly. There is connection with Óðinn as Father there, and it ripples out into all the relationships I have. Some of my blood Ancestors are staunch Catholics, and will refuse to have anything to do with me because of this. Some of my initiated lineage Ancestors happen to be Wiccan because I was initiated into Georgian Tradition Wicca around 2007, 2008. No offense to Them, I just do not interact with Them much. They’re still there, though, and worthy of honor.

I take the use of the word “Brother”, “Sister”, “Sibling”, etc quite seriously. The use of that word implies a closeness, a host of obligations and responsibilities to one another. It means that I would lay down my life for you. It also means that we share Ancestors on acceptance of the term. So, I tend to cringe when folks at work or random Heathens I have never met call me “Brother”. When I call folks “Brother”, “Sister”, “Sibling”, etc that means your Ancestors are getting honored at my Ancestor stalli, and, if you have one, mine should be too.

So politically, Ancestors are interesting. They are flexible in some ways because we can take Them in from others, and get brought into Their circles by Them, other Ginnreginn, and other people. Then, They can also be fairly inflexible -our blood Ancestors are who They are whether or not we relate to these Ancestors. Many Ancestors, especially blood Ancestors, can be fraught with issues depending on the history we have. We may have Ancestral traumas that were dealt to our families that we are dealing with and may need to resolve, or those that our Ancestors inflicted on others. Suffice it to say, our Ancestors’ stories have political dimensions, ones it would help not to ignore.

Vaettir run the gamut of being part of the Aesir, Vanir, or Jötnar, to Álfar, Dvergar, fylgja (follower vaettir), landvaettir, vaettir of various elements, and every variety in between. They can be as big as a galaxy, and perhaps bigger, or as tiny as a grain of sand, and perhaps smaller. They can occupy any of the Nine Worlds. Us flesh-bound human beings are vaettir. We just happen to have physical bodies here in Miðgarðr. All of us, whatever World we are part of, have political dimensions we ought to consider as part of relating to and understanding one another. That would ideally start here, in our own World, and extend outward as we develop and maintain relationships as Heathens with the Ginnreginn.

This post, even as basic as it is, is already getting to the point of being fairly large on its own. I cannot hope to cover everything in exhaustive detail even if I made a series of posts like these though I am finding them fun to explore and develop. In the next post, On Spirit World Politics Part 2, I will explore some of these topics in more detail. Particularly, I am interested in exploring the way politics can shake out with esoteric folks, including the political implications of spirit travel, how magic in other worlds can operate, and how these things impact our relationships spiritually and politically.

Gods Without Jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Cutting Ties Pt. 2

There are two parts to this. The first is a copy of the email I sent to Galina Krasskova and Sannion so that everyone knows what I have said and there is no mistaking my stance on things.

The second, this post, is my reflections on things.

I am going to ask everyone who is going to comment to fully read these posts first. Know that I do not delete posts unless they are spam. I also make frequent backups of this blog. None of the conclusions I have reached or the actions I have taken or will be taking in the future were arrived at with haste. If anything, this has been a long time coming where I have ignored my internal compass for too long, and I have hit my limit. Now, on to Part 2.

It has been a year since I reached this decision, and I have not regretted my decision to cut ties whatsoever. It does not feel like a year, though. It feels like a lifetime ago.

Looking back, if I regret anything, it is that it took me this long to make the choice to cut ties. In the last few years I knew them, both besmirched anyone even a bit to the left of them, which is fairly far right. For awhile I thought perhaps they were both centrist. In my early friendship with her, Galina and I held a lot of similar views in regards to universal healthcare, the right of a woman to choose, civil rights for LGBTQIA+ folks, civil rights for BIPOC, and on many other issues. Towards the end of our relationship I had a sinking feeling when they both made fun of or criticized pronouns, particularly the use of they and the use of differing pronouns such as that of Spivak, or neo-pronouns. Likewise to their denigration of the Left in general, Black Lives Matter, and social justice in general.

There were a great many red flags that I ignored for a long while. Their insistence that the Gods were either above political machinations, something I have only ever heard when folks want you to ignore the political implications of their positions, or the over-focus on miasma were warning signs. Something Galina said towards the beginning of our relationship, and that I still hold quite true, is that polytheism itself is revolutionary. It is. To then insist, especially as loudly as she and Sannion did, that the Gods are “above” politics, is to completely ignore the history of how enmeshed the Gods have been in them, and quite firmly are. If someone insists that the Gods are above politics, do not just question it. Demand they explain themselves. While a given God or Goddess is not likely a Republican or Democrat, a socialist or a capitalist Themselves, polytheism, and the Gods from whom these religions are devoted to and rise from, have definite leanings, if not views.

The over-focus on miasma is something that I should have understood as a red flag. It is one thing to wish to be clean, but to insist on it, in all areas? It becomes Puritanical. Taken to the extreme it becomes the fascist idea of rooting out all that is unclean and purging it. This is different from being sure to cleanse oneself before ritual, before divination, before hearth cultus, and so on. The focus on miasma and cleansing it that marked their writing before I cut them out of my life had, at that point, reached something of a fever pitch. Ironic, considering that Sannion picked up and wore one of the most contaminated symbols he could possibly have, and that Galina then defended this decision.

There were a lot of red flags otherwise. Red flags that I set aside, and ignored my own internal compass on. I gave passes when I should not have. To be sure, I argued with Galina and Sannion in private, especially with regards to how they spoke about Black Lives Matter, their hatred towards Islam, antifa, and other subjects. I could have and should have been much more public in my pushback. I thought, given we were colleagues and friends, and I was initiated under both of them, that maybe I had more pull with them than what I did. Had I pushed back earlier the letter I wrote would have been different, and written much earlier. I cannot undo the choices I made that led me ignoring my internal struggle with their rhetoric and harm, nor the choices that led me to separating from them in the way I did.

I cannot tell you what has happened to either of them in the interim beyond a few scant details, and I have no big desire to hear, read, or delve into gossip about them nor to be updated on them. I have avoided their media presences, blocked every method of contact, and have not written or spoke about them much until this post. I needed the time to grieve as they are both dead to me, whatever their physical status is.

This amount of separation has given me time to think on Galina’s role in my life as a Heathen. She came into my life not too long after I became a Heathen. At the time there was a fierce divide in the Heathens and Heathen communities I encountered between folks who were more experiential and those who weighed everything by “The Lore”. It was a fierce one too, one I found fairly inhospitable as a good chunk of the latter were composed of ‘blood and soil’ types, Neo-Nazis, and white supremacists. Galina’s books at the time, and Raven Kaldera’s too, opened up my Heathen exploration to experiences with the Gods in dynamic and powerful ways that still affect me to this day.

When I cut Galina and Sannion out of my life I questioned everything. I asked questions like “Is everything I experienced complete and total bullshit? Do I actually have skill with the Runes? Am I really an Odinsson? Am I a spiritworker? Am I a good Heathen?”

Again and again I parsed those questions and those like them, sometimes at intrusive times. They would pop up when I was trying to sleep or relax. When I was in the shower, about to pray, before divination sessions. I could put them aside for awhile, and they would still be there. Eventually, I came to my understanding in conversation with dear friends and in self-reflection.

Galina was my Elder, mentor, and for most of the relationship after the first four years or so, a colleague to me. We knew each other since about 2007. However, she was not the container of my relationships with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. She was a bridge in them, but she did not contain them. She did not make me a spiritworker any more than she made me a child of Odin. Being a child of Odin was a revelation I came to well before I met her, and being a spiritworker is something I have always felt called to in some fashion or another. Whether it was through her, another teacher, or just my interactions with the Ginnreginn I was likely going to be doing something like what I am now whatever else I did. It is clear from my experiences with and feedback from others that I am a good Heathen, a skilled spiritworker, and skilled in working with the Runes. Looking over my experiences, and the effects they have had on others, most of what I experienced as Galina’s apprentice, student, and colleague was genuine. I have enough people in my life who live genuine, good lives who were willing to call me on my bullshit if I were anything else.

The Runes as vaettir, as spirits? It made sense to me, and given the experiences I had of Them before I ran into her work, it hit me like a bolt of lightning. I have no doubt the Runes are vaettir, powerful ones at that. When you cut someone this meaningful to your spiritual journey out of your life, though, you question everything.

Though far less involved than Galina, my experiences and studies with Sannion occupy a similar place. The experiences and initiation I had with the Toys of Dionysos were genuine. The experiences I had with Dionysos were genuine.

Looking back, I think the biggest tragedy between the both of them, and those who have similar stories to them, is the incredible amount of good they could have done. Through their actions they have tainted their work, probably irrevocably. Their work helped provide firm foundations from which others grew. It could have informed many generations of polytheists.

Equally important as the time I have taken to grieve and reflect in the last year is the time I have taken to heal and empower myself. I have kept a regimen of regular cleansing, grounding, centering, and shielding. I partnered with Water in a lot of this work, under guidance from a dear friend and spiritworker. I have done ongoing spiritual work for myself and for others in the community. I have kept up my devotions to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, my Ginnreginn. My ties with my Ginnreginn and communities continues to deepen. The cutting of ties with these two has not dampened my desire to do this Work; if anything, it is invigorated in the face of it. It is clear we need more people public-facing willing to talk about, and especially, to do the Work.

To that end, I will continue to offer my services as a spiritworker, which can be found on my Spiritwork Services page, and through my Patreon. I will keep up my fulfilling work with Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm. I will continue to write here on my blog, which you can support through my Patreon. I will continue to make and hold workshops. I will continue to make videos on Heathenry and other topics on YouTube, and engage with folks on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

I am also working on revamping my first book, my anthology Calling to Our Ancestors. I will be removing everything Galina gave to me for the book. In addition to reformatting it, I will be putting in new work so that the book serves two purposes: as a guide on how to do Ancestor veneration, worship, and work, and as a devotional. It is slow going. After all, it took about 4 years to put this book together the first time, and I have many more irons in the fire now than I did then.

I apologize to my loved ones, my family, my friends, and my community for holding my tongue when I should have spoken out. I apologize to the Heathen, Pagan, and polytheist communities for actively promoting Galina and Sannion’s work over the years. I apologize for defending and going to bat for people I should have recognized as actively harmful and toxic.

I am not who I was. I made my mistakes, and I own them. I will keep on doing the Work that is mine to do. My Work is not here to make amends. My Work is here for the Ginnreginn, and if amends are part of that, then that is what it is here for. All I can hope is that my Work shows my worth and my quality.

Patreon Topic 44: On Wolf Cultus

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From Maleck Odinsson comes this topic:

“What does Wolf Cultus look like to you?”

The short answer is that Wolf Cultus looks a lot like my other cultus does. I have places set aside on our family hearth Gods’ vé for the Wolf Gods, spaces on the Ancestors’ vé for the Wolf Ancestors, and spaces on the animalvaettir vé for Wolf and wolves. They each receive offerings, usually water, and occasionally food and/or alcohol like our other Ginnreginn.

I wear a large necklace of Úlfr, the Old Norse word for Wolf and a Míkilvaettr (Big/Mighty spirit) alongside my Valknut for Óðinn and my Mjölnir for Þórr. I carry representations of wolves and úlfheðinn on me otherwise, both as reminders of our relationship and as connection points with Them. I make regular prayers to Them, both in our home during our regular prayers and outside the home.

The way I engage with Wolf Cultus every day looks, acts, is lived, and is in relationship with the Wolf Ginnreginn in ways that are carried a lot like my others are. There are things that I do because of these relationships in addition to cultus. For instance, I donate and write on behalf of causes that specifically have to do with issues around wolves, such as the bullshit wolf hunts that have been called for in the Michigan legislature. A good number of the Gods that are part of my various cultus all tend to have wolf connections -Óðinn, Angrboða, Skaði, Ullr, Hela, Fenris, Lykeios, Lupa, Anpu, and Wepwawet. Small wonder that my hearth cultus does not change much then since so many are connected with or are wolves in some way Themselves!

Does Wolf Cultus involve howling? Sometimes. My son doesn’t like to, but my daughter sure does. So, when she and I do prayers specifically to the Wolf Ginnreginn on our own, we howl. A lot of the other more noticeably wolf-oriented things do not actually occur in the hearth cultus. A lot of that occurs for me in spiritual connection work, but most of that is not during regular cultus of prayers and offerings. Sometimes it occurs on its own. It might be hamfara (faring forth in hamr), or it might be some spiritual work with a group of vaettir, such as in Maleck’s own Pack Magic which you can read about here. So far as I practice Wolf Cultus it is distinct from spiritwork or magic since the point of cultus is to worship rather than to engage in spiritwork or magic.

Private Wolf Cultus rituals, though, look a bit different. I own and work with the vaettr of a wolf that was prepared by Lupa, a wonderful Pagan artist. You can find her work here, here, and here. This wolf and I have bonded on a fairly deep level over the years, and he reflects at least some my inward soul outwardly. He is in a place of honor most days underneath our Gods’ vé, and when I put him on the connection with my wolf self, the Wolf Gods, the Wolf Ancestors, and wolfvaettir is powerful, and fairly instant. Whether I am wearing him or not, when I engage in Wolf Cultus on my own we are engaged in it together. When I do not do Wolf Cultus with him present, sometimes I am engaging with one of the wolf items I carry on my person. It is sometimes hard to write about, not only because of how personal it is.

Sometimes it is hard to write about because of how visceral the connections are, how your senses light up with the power and impact of one of the Wolf Gods making Their Presence known in ways that hit you in every bit of your Soul Matrix. Sometimes it is hard to write about because you have Wolf Ancestors that you connect with, and there is such a feeling of elation, joy, pack that is hard to put into words that do it justice. Other times it is hard to write about because you really are just reaching for words to describe raw feelings, or experiences that are close to the chest and you keep private. Even here my cultus starts out the same: prayers, offerings, and a few moments to connect. Breathing slow, steady breaths at first, perhaps quickening or lengthening if getting into trance is called for. Whether the trance comes on, the Presences are felt, or if there is work to do, being thankful for the connection with Them. Then the prayers of thanks, and prepping to get on with the remainder of the day.

Patreon Topic 42: On Godspousery

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From Maleck Odinsson comes this topic:

“Godspousery.”

Of the topics I could talk about this is one of the most fraught in Heathenry. There are fierce opponents to the notion of Godspousery. There are those who are fierce proponents of it. I am neither. Godspousery is a real spiritual phenomena and relationship, and whether or not it is modern in origin is beside the point. Far too often in Heathenry whether something ‘has pedigree’ in the lore dictates its acceptance in our communities. I would far rather we accept that our relationships come through a myriad of ways, and that, though rare, Godspousery is one them.

Godspousery is what it sounds like: a God takes a human consort. This has plenty of precedence throughout human cultures, and the one most people look to when they think of this as an example is that of Catholic nuns who take an oath to be a Bride of Christ. In my understanding of Godspousery this is one example of many, but probably the most accessible so folks can gain an understanding of the phenomenon. For another Heathen’s exploration, Erin Lale wrote an excellent piece posted here in Eternal Haunted Summer that is both accessible and a non-judgmental exploration of it.

What are we to make of this as modern Heathens? Godspousery is a real spiritual phenomena. Like a lot of spiritual phenomena and initiation, it should only be entered into after a lot of thought, prayer, personal exploration, divination, and conversation. That conversation should not only be with the God in question, it should be with the communities that person has ties with. Why?

An oath to a God or Goddess of marriage is perhaps one of the most serious that could be made with the most dire of consequences for a person and their community should that oath be broken or harm made to the relationship. Ties of hamingja, communal luck/power and the ties that bind a community, and the expression of megin, personal luck/power are bound up in the oaths we take and keep. It is not to be made lightly. Dependent on the community a Godspouse may or may not take up a unique role within that community. In such a case there are responsibilities and demands as a change in relationship also turns into a change in their job within their community.

Being a Godspouse takes a lot of forms, and rather than exhaustively go over every iteration, suffice it to say, they are relationships that develop over time. Unlike a Catholic nun, a Godspouse in Heathenry may have changes in how their relationship expresses itself. The relationship in its youth may be like a new fire, blazing and passionate, and over time this transforms into a bed of embers, warm and comfortable. The relationship may be quite regimented and become less so over time, or vice versa. It may remain the same throughout a person’s life. For whatever reason a God has chosen a human to be Their consort, and at least a portion of that person’s life is given over to that God.

Why might a God take a spouse? Because They are fascinated, attracted to, and/or find a useful quality in/of a person’s Being. To bring a person into deeper mysteries, magic, and/or power. To solidify an alignment with humanity in a given community. To bring together disaprate groups of Gods a given community worships together. To bring a teaching or technique to a person/community. They may have simply accepted the proposal from a worshiper out of love, and the acceptance is an honoring of that proposal. It could be all of these things, none of them, or more. I am not the Gods, and it is up to anyone called to such a thing to figure this out.

While Heathens should not be uncritical of Godspouses, we should do more to support them. By this I do not mean we put them on pedastals, allow poor treatment from or to them, or to treat them as wholly separate members of our communities. If anything, this status requires they be under more scrutiny for their actions, as their actions can have wide ripples in the communities they are part of. I would have the wider Heathen communities give space for Godspouses because an accepting and warm community can help folks weed out genuine experience from sock puppets and assumptions, and help the person as well as the community develop good discernment. More community support would also cut down on the number of cultish behaviors we see when folks pop up claiming power and relationship with Gods. These steps could easily be taken with anyone engaging with the Heathen communities in a spiritual specialist role, not just Godspouses.

When legitimate spiritual experiences and expressions are denigrated, called fake or unreal, it pushes those experiences down in the community, but it does not eliminate them. It pushes them underground, and at least this makes them go quiet. At most, this can cause the communities to splinter or break apart entirely. Without oversight or support it has allowed for some truly toxic behaviors from folks posing as Godspouses. Now, if for whatever reason you/your community absolutely refuses to engage with or accept a given spiritual phenomena and it keeps coming up, one of two things are happening: a) you are right and all these folks are merely engaging in some delusion or deception even if they are reporting their genuine experiences, or b) you are wrong and these folks are reporting genuine experiences that are true.

Given that so much of modern Pagan religions, Heathenry included, is built on so much of b) that it is part of most of our formal theologies, this puts folks denying the reality of Godspousery on some fairly shaky ground. Heathen religions are revivals or renewals, with reconstruction being a methodology and not a religion unto itself; it is a tool of our religions. There is a lot of our own gnosis, understanding, and beliefs we have to put into practice in order for Heathen religions to make any kind of sense, let alone have cohesion, create communities, develop cultures, and pass them on to others. Gnosis is the glue that makes Heathen religions work. It is no less a valid and understandable a religious phenomena than that of seiðkona, spiritworkers, or goðar.

If folks commit to ‘only what is sourced in the lore’ as our standard for acceptable practice in Heathenry we are going to have precious little available to us. Healthy, vital, and vibrant Heathen communities requires us to be open to new, or, at least, new-to-us experiences and understanding. It requires lived relationships with our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. Some folks will be called one way, and others another. It does not make us any inherently better or worse than one another, it just makes our pathways in Heathenry different. It is with this understanding that I believe Heathens should embrace Godspousery as a real and a vetted phenomena within our communities. It is far better for all of us to provide welcome, supportive environments for religious growth, discernment, understanding, and expression.

Patreon Topic 34: On Rune Signs and Confirmations

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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.

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 23: Found Offerings

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From Elfwort comes this topic:

“Would you discuss found offerings to the Gods and wights in the Viking age and before, such as bog offerings?”

It’s important to note that not all found offerings were found in bogs, though that is certainly one place they were found. Other places, as noted by Claude Lecouteux in his book The Traditions of Household Spirits, were beneath the threshold and beneath the home otherwise. These sacrifices would be snakes, cats, roosters, and the like and were likely to be understood as guardians of the home.

Some found offerings, such as bog people who were clearly strangled or had their head bashed in may have been outlaws or even willingly made offering of themselves, while whole ships and their contents may have been offered along coastlines and interred for high-ranking people. It is not known for certain if the bog people were human sacrifices, as this article from The Atlantic covering the subject states, though my inclination is towards that being the case. This paper, At the threshold of the Viking Age by Sæbjørg Walaker Nordeide, Niels Bonde, and Terje Thun, explores the ship offerings in a particular case in Kvalsund, Norway. Boat parts and whole boats put into the bog would have been known as bog offerings. The famous Oseberg ship is another example of a ship offering.

Why would this have been done? In the case of the Kvalsund bog offering the authors posit that “Because vessels and water are at the core of the activity at this particular locality, and because there is a high risk of shipwrecking in this area, the vessel offerings may have been related to this danger in order to prevent shipwrecks, and therefore save or bring back lives, which is an element of fertility rituals in the widest sense.” The  Oseberg ship, meanwhile, was a burial site. In the case of coastal offerings we could see non-burial ship offerings as made to Norðr, or perhaps to Rán and Ægir. We can speculate that ship burials on land were likely started with elaborate ceremonies that, when finished, would continue to celebrate the lives of those ‘aboard’. The ship itself was a way of securing good passage to the afterlife.

What does all this mean for the modern Heathen? We have a wide variety of ways to take care of our offerings, and that some of these methods of offerings are as old as time. It also points to some interesting ideas about setting up a household guardian. Now, I am not saying every Heathen should go out and bring home a snake, cat, etc to sacrifice to put under their theshold. However, it is important to think about why these sacrifices were made. These were invitations to the vaettr to take up residence inside the house, to guard and care for it. I am all for reclaiming our traditions of sacrifice, though I do not think folks would sacrifice what we now think of as pet animals like a cat or snake.

So, what can we do instead? We could ask the vaettr of a given animal to inhabit a substitute offering, such as one made of bread that we ritually slaughter and place beneath the threshold. Modern vulture culture provides us another way to bring this idea into modern Heathenry. Most of us work with found remains or those that result from a hunt. We could work with the skeleton or other remains of a willing animal or group of animals, and make offerings to them prior to deposition beneath the threshold. While these methods do not have the potency of a ritual sacrifice, for those who lack the skill or desire to these are important modern ways of engaging in practices alike to the old ways.

What about modern boat offerings? Given the proliferation of trash and waste in our oceans, lakes, rivers, and ponds, it is probably not the best idea to mimic our Ancestors in this way. Besides, as noted in the At the threshold paper, “Kvalsund was a bog at the time, not a lake, but the site was turned into a pond due to ritual construction and deposition.” Our offerings literally have the power to radically alter the environment. Taking care as to what and how we offer is important. So, should we carry on ship offerings? No, I would not. Besides, while the boats were made of materials that could decay over time modern boats do not.

Taking into consideration local needs for trees, including the need to retain old growth forest, to keep soil from eroding, and to reduce habitat loss, the use of whole logs to make a ship for the use of an offering, regardless of how impressive or potent it is, cannot be justified. Even seemingly benign rearrangement of stones in rivers to make cairns can have detrimental effects on the local environment, so here too we should be care what, if anything, we leave behind. If we are to leave offerings they should be compostable, or otherwise able to break down wherever we leave the offering without detrimental effect. Consider how much of the Oseberg ship was left intact despite burial and the composition of materials in it.

So does this mean we Heathens should not leave physical offerings? Of course not. It means that we need to be careful in regards to what we offer, where we offer it, and how we offer things. This honors the thing we offer and the Beings we offer it to. This honors and respects the life of the Beings we make offerings of, the Beings we offer it to, the Beings (such as Fire, Water, etc) that we offer through, and the landvaettir from which the offerings came and where those offerings will be laid down.