Deity Work v Being a Polytheist

Rotwork wrote a post here exploring the idea of deity work that I will be pushing back on, and adding my own thoughts as I go.

Before I begin I want to be clear: I respect Rotwork a lot. I get that a lot of online spaces are cesspits, and produce a lot of toxic ideas that then get circulated. Those need to be pushed back on. That being said, I am going to push back a bit on some of the things they have talked about regarding deity work. There’s enough in here that I agree with in some respects that I feel like I am going to have dig into it a bit to be clear on where I disagree.

After exploring some of the ideas I posted on their Twitter feed and talking with friends, I find much of my issue is with baseline definitions. I understand deity work as any work assigned to you by a God. I often place deity work under the catchall term spiritwork, that is, work done on behalf of, for, or with vaettir (spirits), Ancestors, and/or Gods. I do not see prayers, offerings, or any of the normal praxis of a polytheist aka exoteric religion, as being deity work/spiritwork per se.

To quote what I said in the Twitter feed:

When I think of ‘deity work’ I think of stuff assigned to you by the Gods. Not the basic stuff of *being* polytheist like prayers, offerings, etc. Being a spiritworker is a *job* not the baseline of being a polytheist. Hopefully I’m making sense here.

When I use the word spiritwork, spiritworker, and/or vaettirvirkr that means the person is doing work with, for, or on behalf of the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir. Real simple equation to my mind. In the case of ‘working with’ a God it’s to Their end even if it does benefit us.

Even in the cases where I got ‘hired out’ by Óðinn to do things for other Gods it was still in service to Him. When Óðinn came into my life like a whirlwind I could have said no, and did not.

Here is another point of contention: deity work is dangerous. It is dangerous in no small part for many of the reasons they claim it is safe, and thinking on it in the same terms. Gods are as dangerous as They are sacred. Gods that stop plagues can start them, eg Apollo. Gods that can control whether or not you win a battle can make sure you get killed so you come to Valhöll, eg Óðinn. The Gods of Fire that warm our houses have the ability to burn down forests. Our Gods are, to paraphrase CS Lewis, ‘not tame lions’. However, that does not mean that They’re in our lives just to fuck with us or do us harm. I find that, if your life is being flipped upside down by a God entering it then it probably needed to be -though there’s exceptions to every rule since Gods are individual Beings, and so are we.

The Gods do have limits -clearly. Óðinn is not omniscient, frequently refers to other Beings in the stories we have for Their knowledge and wisdom, eg Vafþruðnir and Mímir. This does not make me a selfish asshole. Further, Óðinn is a known oathbreaker. It means that I clearly know my lore and that not every God (or Ancestor or vaettr) should have trust extended unconditionally. Some Gods have very little to do with humanity since They have whole sections of Creation to deal with, deserving no less of our respect and worship. Some Gods are not the gentlest or even the most caring towards humanity. Again, They are deserving of respect and worship even if an individual polytheist chooses not to worship Them. Maybe if you are not interacting with, say, a river God in Their river then They have no reason to really pay you mind. Again, no They are no less deserving of respect or worship. You may just not be as interested in worshiping Them, or They in interacting with you, if you do not live on or near Their river.

Now, I will heartily agree that when it comes to deity work we are not working with the Gods as equals. We simply cannot. We are working for Them, which is why I refer to being a spiritworker as a job. It’s work. However, deity work is not worship.

Worship is the baseline of being a polytheist. It is what each and every polytheist should be doing in whatever their capacity is. It is the action of being a polytheist. Belief in the Gods is the baseline choice that any polytheist should hold. Note, I am not saying perfect faith or any of the other cluttering Christian notions regarding that. Belief in the Gods is a choice, a recognition. Faith is an emotion, transitory at best sometimes. I do not always have faith, but so long as I am a polytheist I have to have belief that the Gods are real and that I worship Them.

I have no disagreement with their bullet points, excepting that the Gods are mostly everywhere. It is too wide a point for me. I do not think that Óðinn or Loki are everywhere. I have no indication They are from either the lore available or my own experiences of Them. It is still monumentally stupid to be two-faced before our Gods, though.

The next point bears some digging into.

“But how do I know if I’m contacting the right entity?”

Now when it comes to addressing prayers to Gods, so long as you’re using the correct names and epithets your prayers are very likely being heard by the God in question. Now when you’re hearing a response of some kind? When you are looking for feedback or input? This is where doing your due diligence is necessary.

I will refer to my Brother Jim Two Snakes on this one: Spiritual Accounting. His breakdown is this: (M+C³)xR = V. M is messages, C is confirmations, R is results, and V is verified. Lore, divination, and community input are the three legs of this stool. Why would we need this? Because we can be mistaken. We can think we are talking to a God and getting input back and its a sock puppet we are fooling ourselves with or a spirit using that form to get attention/energy from us. Sometimes spirits lie. Sometimes we get stuff wrong, or we are not in a good place to experience the Ginnreginn (Holy/Mighty Powers) well at that moment. Working with Spiritual Accounting is a way to make sure that we get as much as we can right.

Unless you are looking for or are getting some kind of response though, this may not even be an active concern for you. Not every polytheist is, nor should be expected to be, a spiritual specialist whether as a spiritworker, priest, or otherwise. It is perfectly acceptable to worship the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits in whatever capacity you can, and live by your life’s philosophy. You may get responses, or you may not; that is not the measure of a polytheist.

I started off my journey as a Pagan with 5 salt crystals in a thimble-sized glass jar. Size of the sacred space your worship takes place in, the offerings you make, and the prayers you make all can change over time. To my mind, these questions are key to the measure of a polytheist regardless of whether you are an individual worshiping at your hearth the size of an Altoid tin, or with a large community the midst of a stone circle:

Are you worshiping, praying to, offering to, and speaking with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits with respect? Are you worshiping, making prayers, and making offerings in ways that are respectful and in alignment with the religion, traditions, and individual Gods, Ancestors, and spirits you worship? If you are doing deity work, are you doing whatever work you have assigned in a manner your Gods find respectful? Not respect as I understand it. Respect as your Gods, Ancestors, and spirits understand it.

Are you living in good and respectful reciprocity with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits? That, in my understanding, is the measure of a polytheist. Your worship, and if you have spiritwork, your work, may not look like what others are doing. You are a person in relationships with Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and communities. Whatever it is, however it is expressed, worship in respect to the best of your ability. If you have it, do your deity work and/or spiritwork in respect to the best of your ability. No one could reasonably expect more.

Patreon Topic 43: On Hel

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From Alexis comes this topic:

“I would really appreciate reading what you have to say about Hel, if you have cultus with her. I don’t see a lot of heathens talk about her.”

Hela is a Goddess I have worshiped for quite a while. I began to worship Her some time after I began to worship Loki, so it has been about thirteen years or so.

Most of my early exposure to Her worship when I became a Heathen and Northern Tradition Pagan was through Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova and their books. Few Heathens have talked about Her worship in most forms of media I have engaged with, though thankfully that is changing. Recently I saw Wolf the Red’s Youtube video on Her. If you browse the tags here on my blog you will run into no small amount of content for Her.

Given I worshiped Anpu prior to Hela, a lot of my experiences with Him prepared me for those with Her. In particular was the development of my Ancestor cultus, though that definitely grew in size and complexity when I became a Heathen. Unlike my experience with Anpu I did not become Her priest nor do I do much in the way of spiritual work with Her. While Anpu assigned me work and we still have ongoing spiritual work that I do about once a week to do with the Dead, most of my interactions with Hela are purely devotional in nature.

She is part of my family’s hearth cultus, as well as that of my Kindred so all of us make prayers and offerings to Her. Our most common offerings to Her are the same as our other Norse Gods: water, alcohol, herbs, and food. They are disposed of in the same way, which is usually under a tree, or into the sink respectfully poured out if they are liquid offerings and going outside is not an option.

She can be incredibly compassionate while also being incredibly strict, and of the two I have found that She tends to offer the Dead Her compassionate side whereas the strict side tends to be towards the living. Given Hers is the realm where most of our Ancestors end up I do not understand the aversion to Her worship. It seems to me that if Ancestors are important so too should the worship of the Goddess whose realm most of Them will be occupying.

I have had interactions with Her through other means beyond our home hearth cultus. The most frequent, even in the dead of Winter, is taking the compost to Her and Níðhöggr’s shrine. I wrote about that awhile back here in 2014. We have still kept up the traditions of making prayers and the offering of compost each time the bucket gets full.

She has featured in my adult life at every loss of a loved one. Our cats Aoshi and Kuro, my Grandpa, my Great Aunt. In times of grief I have turned to Her. She has never turned me away, as surely as She has never turned away our Dead.

She is a Goddess that receives. She receives grief, our loved ones, and in turn She gives Them a place to be, and contact with us. She is a powerful Goddess that, in Her cold compassionate ways, smooths the paths so we can heal not only within ourselves but across generations. She provides the place and time to our Dead and Ancestors necessary for Them to heal, to restore, to get ready for whatever may be next, and when They are ready to commune with us and share in our lives. Hail Hela, may You ever be hailed!

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 Poem/Prayer/Song 43: For Hel

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

This was requested by Alexis for Hel.

You slid from Your Mother

Half-Dead

Frost in Your lungs, hue on Your cheek

Young, You walked Your own road

The mountain opened to You

Your kingdom yawned before You

The root of the Tree wrapped around

Burrowed deep in dark earth

Ever-living in the Hall of the Dead

In the dark there was a hound

Fur the color of caves

Hungry and howling

Garmr was Yours, then

Your shadow, Your guard

As You set Your hall well

A great Jötun

Clad in pitch-dark armor

Crossed the Gjöll with purpose

Móðguðr, She was called

Who travelled the Hel-road

To seek to serve

So You built Gjallarbrú

Setting the sentinel upon it

A guard and guide for the Dead

Your gardens grew under Sunna’s light

So none would go without

That all would be welcome and well-fed

Your hall descended and deepened

So all would have a place

No matter their designation or death

Hail Hela

Ever-patient, ever-giving

Generous Goddess of mounds, ashes, and graves

May offerings ever be made

For the comfort and care that You give

To us and all our Ancestors

Hail Hela!

The Lay of the Ancestors in Ragnarök Time

This poem was begun March 30th, 2015, and finally, I had the inspiration to finish it.

Ancestors ancient! Askr and Embla!

Shoulders supporting the feet of your son

Hear my words as I wander

Sarenth seeks your counsel!


Gebo’s ways are woefully wended

The Lakes lay lacquered with rot;

How to heal the horrors of humans

Between the spirits and society?


The forests find the foe fierce,

Blood-embers eager to eat;

How to end the hunger

When the mouth may never close?


Thus the Disir directed:

Ally where one can find,

and stand strong upon the shore;

Galdr and growl, giving no peace


To the mouth give mending

Bind its baleful maw

Never will it quit its need

To eat seed, soil, and tree


Grow well and wise with work

Spirits will show the steps to strength

Listening, learn the lay of land

Whispers come the ways of waters


Hearths are hallowed in holiness

Eldr held whole in every home

The binds bite bitter the breaker

When the ways are walked well

Patreon Prayer/Poem/Song 39: For Reindeer

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

This was requested by Elfwort for Reindeer.

Your hooves strike the powdery snow

Follow the leader on where to go

Together we walk, together we walk

Eat the green and growing grass

Build up the herd’s great stores of fat

Together we walk, together we walk

Bear the young and suckle soon

Each one is a beloved boon

Together we walk, together we walk

When the cold snaps the blood runs hot

The annual dance of the winter rut

Together we walk, together we walk

Mark the passing of the Dead

Who walk behind and walk ahead

Together we walk, together we walk

The herd goes on, the herd is strong

From birth to death we travel on

Together we walk, together we walk

Together, we walk

Patreon Poem/Song/Prayer 38: For the Pack Ancestors

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

This was requested by Maleck Odinsson for the Pack Ancestors.

We wait at the edge

Between life and death

Between the first whimper and final breath

We wait in your heart

Between each beat

Between each joy and hurt

We wait in the stars

Between the expanse of here and there

Between air and empty

We are with you

We are beside you

We wait for you

Walk with us

Hunt with us

Howl with us

We are here

Patreon Poem/Song/Prayer 37 -For the Vetrvaettir

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

This was requested by Elfwort for the Vetrvaettir.

Hail to the Sons and Daughters of Nifelheim!

Hail Ice Itself!

Hail Elder Ancestor!

Hail Jökull!

Hail Snær!

Hail Frösti!

Hail Ýmir!

Hail Kári!

Hail to Flake and Crystal!

Hail to Rime and Cold!

Hail to the Ice-bridge and Frozen Silence!

Thank You for the cleansing cold!

Thank You for the meditative quiet!

Thank You for the Ice-Seed that swells the lakes and rivers!

Thank You for the blessings of Vetr!

Hail Elder Ancestor Ice!

Hail Vetrvaettir!

Patreon Topic 35: On Paganism in the Future

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From Maleck Odinsson comes this topic:

“Where do you want to see paganism go in the next 5 years, 10 years, etc?”

This is a hell of a question given Paganism is such a big umbrella. I find thought questions like these fun. I am sure each Pagan branch will go its own way depending on theology (or lack thereof), so I will try to give my answers without writing a novel.

The Next 5 Years

In the next 5 years I would like to see worship of the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits get somewhat equal parity with folks in hearth cultus as well as in the festival circuits that remain. I am starting to see trends in Paganism go this way to start with, which is a good thing. Why? Some folks balance to one group of Beings, and some do not which in and of itself is a good thing. We cannot be all things to all Beings. However, I think that generally most Pagans really need a balance, as there tends to be an emphasis on building good relationships with Gods to the exclusion of Ancestors and spirits. While it is good folks are building relationships with Gods, overlooking Ancestors and spirits neglects our duties to and relationships with those who came before us, and the spirits with which we live. In rebalancing this, trends within Paganism can be more oriented around where we live and how we live there.

This leads into my next point where I would like to see Paganism go in the next 5 years: regional cultus and ecological integration. Pagan religions, despite often being called earth-centered religions, tend to not have a lot of connection with their local environments. Some folks are still celebrating harvest festivals on arbitrary dates based on the Gregorian calendar. At least in the Heathen circles and some other polytheist religion circles I am in this is beginning to change as we apply reconstruction to our mindset on how we develop our worldview now, not just the accoutrement or the broader strokes of our religions.

We can see more regional variations of practice that deepen meaning of our practice of and engagement with religion for the average Pagan. That is not to say that, for instance, Pagans need to give up the Wiccan Sabbats if that is what works for them. What this means is that we orient our understanding of the Sabbats more around our lived world. Imbolc is one of the holidays that is least celebrated in my experience, and for good reason: few of us raise sheep, and we are not yet out of winter, given it is February 1st. So, to adapt that to Michigan we might emphasize the life-giving fire, cleansing, cleaning, and the like.

For Mímisbrunnr Kindred we celebrate Dísirblót around the last Friday in February. This more or less comports to the historical celebration’s time. It is a time of offering to the powerful female Ancestors, who protect, organize, and care for our Ancestral lines. Given the cold of the month this celebration allows us time to think on the struggles our Ancestors went through, the warmth and blessing of home and hearth, the unsung workers who made everything from clothes to blankets that allowed them and their families to survive, and those who toiled throughout the year so the family made it through the winter.

By adapting our practices to where we live and living in better concert with our environment, by comporting our relationships with our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir in this way, we bring even more of our religion into our everyday life. By integrating Them into our lived experiences we invite Them to share our lives. While I am seeing Pagan communities move towards this, I would really like to see them do so in the next 5 years.

The Next 10 Years

I would like to see Pagans building lasting intergenerational institutions. We have had a few successes in this, given that the ATC (Aquarian Tabernacle Church), ADF (Ar Draoight Fein, A Druid Fellowship), OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids), The Troth, and others have handed over responsibility to new generations of administrators. However, few of these groups, let alone Pagan groups in general ( though ATC is foremost in my mind for one that does) have permanent installations. Given I am part of an effort in Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary to create a lasting intergenerational Pagan space I would like many more of these efforts to spring up all over the world.

This does not mean that I only want to see permanent temples, hofs, and sanctuaries. I want institutions of all sizes. I would like to see more roadside shrines, and the kind of simple but beautiful shrine to Mercury that was erected in the NYC subway. I would like to see more public celebrations of our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir with art such as murals, spraypaintings, and Godpoles. We have so much to offer our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and communities if we just started to do what is within us to do, no matter how it is starting off.

Taking cues from the previous section, I would like to see Pagan cultures really flourish in the places where they are. I am beginning to see this with folks taking the time to develop relationship and worship their local rivers, groves, and landvaettir. It is also being felt by how people are constructing their holidays around the cycles where they live. I would also like us to take more cues from the home cultures we take inspiration from, such as what Rune Hjarnø Rasmussen is doing with his Nordic Animist project. Together, these two dovetail into developing a whole culture, one that integrates where we live and how we live into our worldview so there is nothing left out.

It is within our capacity and, I believe, our duty as Pagans, to live well upon and with the Earth and all we share this world with. We must put our beliefs into action where we live and how we live. Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm is one part of what could be an entire web of community works that integrates learning, DIY skills, permaculture, and Paganism. I would like to see Pagans make serious strides towards supporting local farmers, eg a Pagan community buys a CSA membership, a pig, a cow, etc and shares it with its community members. Growing our own heirloom varietals, seed saving, or at the least supporting the members of our communities who do are ways we can start now and build up for the future. If we start doing this now, we could develop our own entire strains of locally-harvested and locally-produced food to at least supplement our communities’ intakes.

Something my friend Nick turned me on to was the idea of integrating our ecological awareness with our religious practice. His example was shrines to the Sun and Sun Gods at our solar panels. Let us take this out further: shrines to windvaettir and wind Gods at wind turbines, shrines to our landvaettir and various Gods of the Earth in our gardens and homes. The possibilities here, and the way these are integrated into a more wholistic model of living are endless.

I would like to see more systems of mutual aid within and between Pagan communities. We have seen the start of it, with Pagans in Need having begun its mission years ago and now expanded to 3 sites in Michigan. We can do so much more, and it starts with the support folks like PIN need, whose Patreon is here. There are likely other groups putting together mutual aid work projects, but this is the one I know from my backyard. With 10 years of good community investment PIN and its mission can grow. So can any similar community mutual aid we choose to invest our time, money, labor, and energy in.

It is not enough to just take care of each other in life. I want to see the good I have seen in the Death Doula community become more widespread. I want us to be able to choose how we die and when, and for that itself to be an honored and respected process. I want folks to have access to spiritual specialists to aid in the process of decline and dying. I want places for our Dead to rest, whether these are cemeteries, mausoleums, groves, grave mounds, etc, and people to tend them. These can be potent gathering places in addition to our other temples, shrines, hofs, and so on.

The Roads Ahead

I want us to honor the past, live in the present, and work to build a future that is centered in our values, our philosophies, our ideals, and our callings. I want to see Pagan communities ground ourselves in traditions that grow and adapt with change, retaining their solid foundations so that we build our communities well. I want to see Pagan communities that give rise to generations living more integrated, healthy, and whole lives that build upon our understanding of how we are to live well on and with the Earth, and with each other.

In the end what I would really like to see from the Pagan communities in the next 5-10 years is to grow in culture. I want to see Pagan communities supporting converts and parents that raise their kids in their religions, for us to support both newer and older folk alike, and for lasting institutions, grounded in our senses of duty and responsibility, to grow well. I want to see our Pagan communities taking care of each other, doing well by each other, and providing mutual aid to each other. I want to see us live well with our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and each other.

Patreon Topic 34: On Rune Signs and Confirmations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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