Patreon Topic 60: On Cleansing Tools

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From Lisa comes this topic:

“An idea for topic/post: if you do any sort of craft and use stuff you make for devotional purposes, what would you do to cleanse any tools you use?”

The cleansing techniques I use most often in my spiritwork also work well for my crafting tools. These are:

Cleansing by breath. Breathing in deeply, then exhaling slowly. While I do this I visualize connecting with Yggdrasil. As I inhale and exhale, I breathe with Yggdrasil. I remember my connection to Yggdrasil by our Ancestors Askr and Embla, Ash and Elm, and to the first breaths that Óðinn gave to us. When I have cleansed myself, I then breathe over my items in a similar way. By doing this I become the conduit for cleansing.

Cleansing by fire. I make the Fire Prayer, a simple prayer that goes like this:

“Hail Sons and Daughters of Muspelheim. Hail Fire Itself! Hail Sunna! Hail Loki! Hail Glut! Hail Lögi! Hail Surtr! Hail Sinmora! Hail Eldest Ancestor! Hail Eldrvaettr! Ves Þu heil!”

I then light a candle, and circle it over myself in a sunwise direction, thanking the eldrvaettr, fire spirit, for cleansing me. I then either repeat the motion over the items or pass the items through or around the fire sunwise to cleanse any items before me that need it. Fire does not have to directly touch the items, particularly if they are flammable, so raising them well above the fire or raising the candle and making three circles sunwise over the item to be cleansed will do well.

Cleansing by smoke. I start with the Fire Prayer and then, I give thanks to the vaettr of the plant or substance I am going to burn. I burn whatever is going to work with me to cleanse the item/area by smoke in a fire safe container. I make sure not to make it too smoky and make myself or others cough. I most often work with Ama Una, Grandmother Joy, aka Ama Malurt, Grandmother Mugwort. As with cleansing by Fire, I pass the smoke over or the items through the smoke three times in a clockwise manner. Be sure if you are doing this that you or others do not have allergies to the mugwort or related plants, such as wormwood, or other plants that hit on similar allergy points like ragweed, sunflower, or feverfew. If you do, working with another plant may be advised. Working with a given plant in water as opposed to burning it may also be needed for folks who are traveling, partners or pets with sensitivities, and/or a change of pace.

Cleansing by liquid. Whether this is a suspension of herbs in oil or oil on its own, a tincture, a tisane, cleaning chemicals, simply adding water and herbs together to make a cleansing holy water, or sprinkling an area/item with water after prayers, there are a variety of options to choose from. A given crafting tool may be easier to clean/preserve/sharpen with one method vs another, eg sharpening a wood chisel with a blessed oil to cleanse it and keep it well. As with the other methods I make simple prayers, thanking the vaettr of whatever the liquid is in helping me cleanse the item. I then clean or wipe the tool down as is appropriate. Depending on what item I am making and what is required to make it, I may do this process before and after the time I dedicate to crafting.

To a certain extent the limit is what medium(s) you are working in, what is most appropriate to the long-term care of your craft and tools relevent to it, and if anything, what care needs to be taken with the items you are crafting and the area it takes place in. Cleansing before and after a crafting session is highly recommended, even if all you are doing is sitting in a chair and crocheting, knitting, or beading. Keeping the process and tools clean, particularly if you are crafting items for ritual use, will keep the focus of the items and area, and can prove both powerfully meditative and connective with various Ginnreginn.

These are just a few examples of what you can do in order to cleanse and prepare tools and areas for work. A lot of what I have found works really well in both small and large jobs are the simpler ways that, if need arises, can be made more complex. Starting with simple ritual actions, like the three breaths to cleanse yourself then another object and a simple prayer, connects the dots of spiritwork you have done up to this point and the Ginnreginn you carry relationships with into the work at hand. Adding on layers, like cleansing with three breaths, then making the Fire Prayer and working with a candle as Sacred Fire to cleanse the work space, and finally, finishing cleansing and preparation by marking tools with oil to cleanse and consecrate, are ways of building up from these basic techniques that carry over into deep, good work.

On a Threshold

I am waiting on a threshold

The door is cool and warm

Excitement rings through me

What is on the other side?

A new experience, a new path

Out of reach and aching close

Something sings to my heart there

Beautiful tones and throbbing bass

Shaking through my bones

I am scared, thrilled, intimidated

To hear a call, a beckoning

To walk through the portal

Not yet, not yet the singers call

The iron wood unyielding

Implacable and promising

Soon, soon the singers utter

The threshold’s sentinel waits

To open its arms in invitation

I stand waiting

Eager and attentive

Ready to cross the way

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.

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 53: For Percht Baba

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

This request was made by Maleck for Percht Baba.

You lead, You lead,

Softly stalking

Your army close behind

You seek, You seek

Hospitality’s home

Finally, it is opened

You bless, You bless

Great givers

You give Your gifts in turn

You gather, You gather

Precious pups

Feeding and loving the Lost

You love, You love

Wild Wights

Who dance, run, and Ride

We hail, we hail

Holy Howler

Hail Percht Baba!

Patron Topic 55: On Ego in Spiritual and Magical Work

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

From Maleck comes this topic:

“Ego (as understood in common parlance, not Freud) in magical and spiritual work.”

I am glad that Maleck clarified not referencing Freud. Unfortunately, like a lot of psychological and spiritual terms that became popular and used in modern Western New Age influenced spiritual circles, it began as an academic term and has morphed a lot over time. The most common ways I have seen ego used generally falls into one of three ways. The two dictionary definitions, per Lexico which are relevant here, are: “A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance” and “(in metaphysics) a conscious thinking subject.” The third tends to be mostly negative, at least so far as New Age, and communities influenced by them are concerned: the ego is the selfish impulses and this-world concerns, the individual’s desires and Self. This latter tends to be used rather like a cudgel, whether against oneself or others, such as through admonishing others to ‘let go of your ego and embrace [concept]’ or ‘do not let your ego get in the way of your [progress, path, etc]’.

Of these definitions, I find the first most useful to our purposes in talking about ego in magical and spiritual work. It is direct, to the point, and without shaming or adoration of self-esteem or self-importance itself. The second definition, a conscious thinking object, especially when within the realm of animism and polytheism, is a category that is greatly expanded from where most metaphysical thinking is right now. It has incredible potential to widen and deepen the understanding and use of ego out of its mostly negative status in the overculture. However, of the definitions, it is the least used in our communities. The third is toxic in its use in modern magical, occult, Pagan, and polytheist communities. It is often used to denigrate healthy boundaries, a sense of self, or countless other means of protecting oneself or affirming one’s own needs and desires. It also has seen use in sublimating one’s desire or needs (physical, mental, and spiritual) to another person or group, or used as a way to spiritually bypass one’s own needs, boundaries, or issues needing addressing. Unfortunately, this third term tends to be the one used the most in discussions about ego.

The concept of the ego as something to be dissolved or brought under control in aescetic practice is not, in of itself, a New Age concept alone. New Age thinking and practice on this, which stemmed from New Thought, first took these most if not all of their concepts and original techniques from dharmic religions and then twisted them.  People, such as those involved in the Theosophical Society, brought terms and practices from dharmic religion into their groups, and over time, at least here in America, their conceptions of these things became the mainstream use of terms and techniques. I treat these concepts and techniques as separate because even where they are similar, it often proves to be a separate conception between what the younger practice thinks, interpreted, or twisted the older practice into being than what that older dharmic practice is.

Operating from the first definition, “A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance”, ego is utterly important to magical and spiritual work.  While magic can have interplay with spiritual work, and often does in how I execute magic, I also recognize that at least some forms of magic interface, work with, or directly manipulate spiritual energies which have impact on spiritual beings rather than working with spirits directly. I defined magic in this post as “Weaving or carving Urðr to an end.” The post also provides an in-depth look at my understanding of and relationship with magic. However the use of magic comes about, the operant needs to have enough sense of self-esteem and self-importance that not only can they conceive of themselves of being able to carry out change to Urðr, they  do so. Whatever the magic is, it has to cross from “I think I can” to “I am doing this” to “It is done.”

There are literally millions of ways to execute magic, from elaborate to simple, and everywhere in between. What all forms of magic have in common is, from the conception of its use, its execution, and its effects, is that we are using power to get things done. Magic is based in reality. While we may not fully understand, or may even misunderstand the mechanism(s) by which magic(s) works, we recognize that it proves its existence by experience, by cause and effect. Even on a baseline materialist angle, the use of magic allows for better outcomes. By lighting an enchanted candle to get a job, putting a good resume out there, and doing my best on interviews, by being inspired by the power I bring to bear on the situation, whatever the ultimate ontological reality is, I am giving myself a huge edge. I believe in myself enough to light that candle, to put out my resume, to interview, and to keep on doing things that increase the likelihood that I will get that job. I am going through all the effort because I believe I am worthy of that job. Moreover, I am doing active work to ensure that I get that job.

The magic does not work without a positive sense of self-esteem and self-importance. Why? Without that sense I do not conceive of magic being worth the time and energy to execute. So, it does not get done. Without that sense, I do not spend time thinking about and selecting the right candle, or carving it. So, the candle is unenchanted. Without that sense I do not bother to light the candle. So, the magic is never executed. Without that sense I do not search for a job, nor submit my application, nor interview for it. Nothing happens without the forward momentum provided by my sense of self-esteem and self-importance. This also applies if we are looking at things from a more collectivistic stance. A sense of self-esteem and self-importance can be based in one’s community, whether the role one plays in it, or just the fact that one exists in a community. So, rather than a personal feeling of pride and “I deserve this job!” providing momentum to a magical working, I could be working from a feeling of “To be a good member of this community I will contribute through my labor!” or “I want to help, and this is what I can do!” However the motivation and sense of self-esteem and self-importance comes about, it needs to be there for the magic to have grounding in our lives if we are going to conceive of it, execute it, and experience the results of it.

Most of what I have written here applies to spiritual relationships as well. If I do not believe myself as being worthy of a relationship I am unlikely to seek it out or be receptive to them. If I only believe I am worthy of certain relationships then, whatever may be available to me, I will only seek out certain kinds of relationships. However, since the other party is a Being unto Themselves, They may have more than enough confidence in a relationship with me to reach across my own lacking self-confidence or self-assurance and buoy my ego. Sometimes by reaching out, a given God, Ancestor, or spirit can provide the boost to one’s self-esteem or self-importance that we can then be receptive to Them. Other times, it may be that the person derives a feel of positive self-esteem and/or self-importance in a similar way to belonging to a human community, as being part of a spiritual family, clan, and/or community.

The reverse of these things is also true. By having an overinflated sense of self-esteem I could be engaging in fooling myself that my magic is more effective than what it is. I may ignore common sense, such as putting in my resume, cutting off my magic’s ability to do the thing I was executing it for in the first place. By having an overinflated sense of self-esteem and self-importance, I could actively push away spiritual  relationships. I could be overconfident in an approach to Ginnreginn and cause offense, or overestimate my ability to handle a given relationship and overload myself. In executing magic or being in a relationship I could overcommit or not commit enough.

Where I think a lot of the issues with ego is headed off is balance, a proportional sense of self-esteem and self-importance. Originally, I was going to write the word healthy, but that term is so loaded and at the same time not descriptive of what I would look for. This is going to be harder for some folks and easier for others, for a load of reasons. However, I think that balance is necessary in ego for effective magic and healthy relationships. That proportionality is weighed, formed in community with others. That balance can also shift over time, in rhythm with relationships one holds, the magic one works, the experience one gains, and the effects all these things have on and with each other.

When I became a Heathen it was commonplace to see or hear the words “We do not kneel before our Gods!” loudly and proudly declared. I felt then, as I still do, that most of this is a reaction against Christianity rather than a reaction for our Gods. To my mind, this is often an active impediment in Heathen thought to getting to know our Gods, and also our Ancestors and vaettir in some fairly powerful ways. Kneeling, genuflecting, and prostration all can be powerful ways of recognizing another’s power, and aligning our ego with our place in things. Some folks are so hurt by their previous experience with these postures (or their knees/back/etc just hurt doing it) that just doing them brings pain, lowering their sense of self-esteem and self-importance that it becomes a block in the relationship. It may be counter-productive for a person to kneel or prostrate themselves. A bow, an inclination of the head, shutting of eyes, hands on the heart, or similar ways of showing respect may be easier and better in their relationship with the God. I think part of the beauty of Heathenry is that it allows for these approaches in proportion with our relationship with each God, Ancestors, and vaettr. Abasement and denial of our own self-esteem and self-importance is not necessary as part of holding relationships with the Ginnreginn.

Working with magic is working with power. Working with spiritual Beings is work with Powers. Power, whether hard or soft, gentle or firm, great or small, gets things done. “Weaving or carving Urðr to an end” means that we take a hand in working within the Worlds and with the Ginnreginn. Our ego is a potentially powerful ally, one I think we would do well to keep by our side rather than try to be rid of. Treating it like a good ally, by giving good and proportional support to our ego, it in turn can provide support in hard times and be part of why we succeed in a given endeavor. Bringing our ego into magic and spiritual work in a proportial way that honors where we are, how we are, and what our needs and boundaries are, brings more of our whole Self to bear in the magical and spiritual work before us.

Patreon Topic 53: Using Tools in Magic and Spiritwork

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

From Maleck comes this topic:

“Can you talk about the use of tools in Magic and spirit work? Pros, cons, appropriate vs inappropriate use?”

Tools can be damned useful -until they get in the way or become an impediment. A hex head screwdriver is only really useful for taking care of hex screws and the like. A claw hammer’s primary purpose is to hit and remove nails from wood pieces. If I try to use a screwdriver to drill a nail it can get the job done, with a great deal more effort, but it likely will not do the job as neatly or as well. A tool becomes a pro so long as it is an asset to the work or working at hand, and a con when it is not. If the only tool I have ever used is a screwdriver then I will need practice to get good at driving nails, but this is a far better use of my time than to get good at driving nails with a screwdriver.

Appropriate tools in magic are those that are useful to the task at hand, do not detract from the working, enhance the working itself by their presence/use, and deliver the best results with appropriate experience and training. Inappropriate tools in magic are those that are not useful to the task at hand, detract from the working, disempower or impede the working itself by their presence/us, and block the best results through overcomplication or by requiring such a high degree of training/work needed to use it that it becomes impractical to work with/use. An appropriate tool for divination could be something like a deck of tarot cards. It could also be used as an appropriate tool for magic.

Let us say you wish to enhance your physical strength, and are doing spellwork to help with this. Now, the first step should be to decide on what exercises or work is appropriate to building your strength. When you select exercises appropriate to your level of skill, understanding, and time, then I would include spiritual work. A simple way to do this with tarot is to combine the imagery in a particular deck with the purpose of a working. In a traditional tarot deck you would work with Strength to this end. If you were to incorporate spiritwork, you might put the card on an altar made specifically for the working as the centerpiece focus, and every time you go to work out you make an offering of water, ask a God or spirit to bless your pre-workout drink, and then go do your exercises. Just working with the tarot alone, perhaps you carry Strength or a copy of the card in your wallet and sing or chant the name three times. Just like reps in a workout routine the chanting builds up your spiritual strength and resolve to do the physical work over time.

It is worth pointing out not every tool need be physical. You can get the effect of ‘reps’ I wrote above regarding Strength by just imagining the card, or even going so far as to incorporate a telesterion working with it. However, I find physical tools tend to have a grounding presence in this world. Not every tool is a tool for grounding excess energies, mind you, but every physical tool grounds the work and working in this world by the act of working with it. It actually pushes us to incorporate more of our souls this way, by not leaving out the lyke, the body, of our souls from spiritual workings. That is a huge pro. It takes it out of ‘upper head’ or thought experimentation. By making gestures with a tool, even a hand, I should be talking actions that carry meaning and add to the work.

An excellent place to talk about the usefulness of tools in magic and spiritwork is the use of staves in seiðr. If I am working with a staff in a seiðr context then the staff occupies a place of invitation, coercion, and/or calling to spirits, as well as directing energies during these and any other magic work that can occur during the seiðr session. Ornamentation, such as metal rings, animal representations, and Runes carved into or attached to the staff can add to its versatility.

The vaettir are not only ‘out there’; with the invitation or compulsion of the staff, They are very much here, perhaps even entering the staff and/or the seiðmaðr. Is the staff strictly speaking necessary for good seiðr work? No, but it helps.

Whether or not a tool is necessary in magic or spiritwork depends on the kind being done. If you are doing sympathetic magic you cannot do it at all without at least one piece of representation for the thing being worked on. Tools are, potentially, both containers and directors of magic and spirits. Staves, distaffs, string, carving tools, weapons, and so much more can not only be a medium for magic, they can be repositories of it. The tools can, themselves, be enlivened by a vaettr or be full of vaettir. Tools can have personal bonds with their owners. Tools can be ongoing conduits of connection between a God, Ancestors, vaettr, and the owner.

Even stripping out every single physical tool from a magical practice and wholly relying on techniques like visualization, song, telesterion/memory palace, and/or astral work, we still use tools. The telesterion/memory palace is a great big damn tool if you think about it. Its original function was to be an imagined mnemonic device, and it has immense spiritual applications. In visualization we still have to use the imagination to link concepts, ideas, and abstraction into more concrete steps and actions. A lot of times visualization uses objects, areas, concepts and the like, that are grounded in our experiences, such as the tree meditation in Trance-portation by Diana Paxson. Our popular culture through Star Trek and Star Wars provides us with examples of what shielding may look like. Likewise, our auditory landscape is shaped by what we put into our minds through our media, and this is true whether the medium are binaural beats, a drumbeat, or something from Heilung.

I think it is pretty hard for us as humans to completely dispose of the idea of tools. They are such a part of our imaginal and personal landscapes that there are very few places I could see where tools themselves would be inappropriate, just inappropriate to a given situation. Perhaps with Pack Magic there is less overt need for physical tools, yet many of the techniques that bring us into better trance states or the like are made easier using tools such as cellphones and headphones.

The biggest con to a tool is it being necessary to the work you want to do, magical or spiritual, and/or not being able to get it or use it effectively. The pro, though, is our tools can make every aspect of the work we have to do easier, more effective, and more thorough. The less work my hugr or hamr has to do, the more I can concentrate on doing the work rather than setting up for it.

Patreon Topic 52: Maintaining Boundaries in Spiritwork

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From Maleck comes this topic:

“Can you talk about maintaining boundaries in Spiritwork? For example: there’s debate I’ve seen online about passing messages you might get for people without them consenting to receive messages, and any issues you might have with randomly being pinged.”

Maintaining boundaries in spiritwork is absolutely necessary. A good part of keeping good boundaries is good spiritual hygiene and enforcing what boundaries you absolutely want to be kept up. Both require discipline. You have to be disciplined in doing cleansing, grounding, centering, and shielding on a regular basis, and seeing that you fulfill your obligations, taboos, and so on. You have to be disciplined in saying “This far, no further” regardless of what God, Ancestors, or vaettr (spirit) is doing the asking or demanding. You have to be disciplined in determining what is or is not yours to pass on, and this goes for messages, any teachings or wisdom you may have on a subject, or really anything you could consider in spiritwork. This is why spiritual hygiene is so important. Your discernment suffers when you are not at your best, and while we cannot be at our best all the time, regular spiritual hygiene work keeps us clean, clear, and uncluttered for when we do have work to do.

Generally speaking I do not pass messages without permission. I generally do not do spiritwork without express permission, and that includes energy work, prayer, and other practices most folks look at as ‘benign’. ‘Help’, unasked for and unwanted, is no help at all. Worse, I am could be violating someone’s right to refuse help. The other side of this is much more practical: I have limited time and energy to get things done in a given day. If I kept throwing out energy to every single ‘energy work’, ‘prayer request’, and so on, it would be no different than donating every cent I have to everyone and every cause that I could think of to support. If I do that, there is nothing left for my Ginnreginn, my family, my communities, or my own needs. There is also no reciprocity here.

When it comes to keeping boundaries around messages, a few that I have are:

Unless I have been specifically asked, if a vaettr is asking to pass a message along I first ask the recipient. If the recipient says no, then that is the end of it. This holds true even in rituals where the point is that spiritual messages are being given. Before I read or do other spiritwork for a client we talk about expectations, boundaries, and the like that they can expect before, during, and after the work.

I am not an open terminal. Not every vaettr gets access to me. Unless I know the vaettr in question or have been specifically asked by a client to communicate with a certain vaettr, I do not take messages.

If the person needs to get a message I recognize I may not be the best route and communicate the to the vaettr in question. If I feel I am in the wrong headspace, especially with what should be a carefully worded/given message, I will negotiate for another time, or, if this is not possible, for the vaettr to find another way of getting the message to the recipient.

Regarding randomly being pinged: I treat it like a lot of folks who try to hit me up on social media without an introduction. I do not see why there is much in the way of debate around this: the vaettir, outside of Óðinn, do not own my time. If I have been handshaked into a conversation, whether by a person or by a God I have active, ongoing cultus with, that is a different story. The ‘pings’ then, aren’t random, they’re attempts at communication. Generally I do not take random pings. Any vaettr could be giving that, and I have no desire to borrow trouble from one that wants to use it as a backdoor. If a vaettr is not willing to go through proper channels that is a red flag.

I do not think anyone should feel under obligation to answer their spiritual door, let alone let any vaettr that knocks in. You should not feel that obligation from the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, or your community. If you choose to open the door to communication to any who call, that is your business. I do not recommend it, but in the end your boundaries to set and keep are just that.

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 50: For the Runevaettir

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

This request was made by Maleck for the Runevaettir.


Sounds

Letters

Concepts

Meaning

Magic

Spirits

From the Ginnungagap You screamed, sang, called

From the Ginnungagap You resounded, crowed, howled

From the Ginnungagap You whispered, breathed, spoke

By sacrifice, You were brought into the Worlds

By sacrifice, You allied with the Gallows God

By sacrifice, You ally with us

Each a sound, resonating with power

Each a sound, shuddering with strength

Each a sound, surging with connection

Each a letter, teaching the tongue

Each a letter, building up knowledge

Each a letter, carrying wisdom

Each a concept, bearing cultures’ weight

Each a concept, keeping memories

Each a concept, transmitting understanding

Each a meaning, guarding mysteries

Each a meaning, teaching the initiated

Each a meaning, deepening the depths

Each one magic, giving Ginnungagap form

Each one magic, bringing might to action

Each one magic, flowing into being

Each a spirit, knowing Urðr’s ways

Each a spirit, giving gift for gift

Each a spirit, touching our own

Runevaettir, I hear You

Runevaettir, I see You

Runevaettir, I understand You

Runevaettir, I know You

Runevaettir, I cast You

Runevaettir, I hail You

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 33: On Laypeople vs Spiritual Specialists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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