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Piety and Being Poor

December 24, 2013 8 comments

I have always been working poor.

When I was growing up I lived next to meth labs. Addicts walked around where we lived; I got to watch one around age 7 or 8 go through DTs on the street.  We had drug dealers with child drug mules as neighbors, one that was kiddie corner from where we lived. The police and the administration for where I lived was on the take. The cops used to watch the local would-be gangers beat the living shit out me. They would watch the local kids pile around a car, and get high as kites before getting on the bus.

During this time I was a young Catholic.  We still made time for prayer. We still went to Church. We didn’t leave our religion at the door because the neighborhood was tough; we clung to it because it helped us live.

Some years later, I was starving at one point so my son and my fiancee could eat. Our food stamps had been cut, and I was at the end of my rope trying to float enough money to make rent.  We still gave offerings. If we could not give food, we gave a cup of water. If we could not give that, either due to time or energy, we gave prayers. Always, we gave prayers. Sometimes it has been only water, sometimes it has been food we made for our family, and sometimes it has been something special I bought just for Them. Sometimes it was just a prayer at Their altar in our little apartment, sometimes it was prayers whispered while I worked a deadend job struggling in vain to make ends meet.  In every challenge in my life the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits have been there whether I recognized it or not.  The least I can do is offer my end of Gebo.

I can understand the crippling worry about money, the worry around “How will I afford this food”, “this thing”, “this sudden needed car repair”, “Will I make rent?” etc. When I starved was when our food money got cut. I have been achingly poor.  The only reason I am not there right now is because I am lucky enough to have supportive parents who are here for me regardless of disagreements we have on religion, and a job that helps to pay for the needs we have. I am lucky, damned lucky, and I get that.  My Gods’ altar was a gift, as are most of what are on the shrines and altars I have shown on this blog.  What are not gifts, are almost all bought from thrift stores.  All else was found, and when we had a little money to splurge, sometimes we bought something nice for our Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits.  The latest addition to our Watervaettir shrine, three small branches shaped to look like a tie-down for a dock with a little plastic seagull hot glued to it, cost us $0.50 while we were looking for winter clothes.  The offering glass that sits on that altar was $1 at a local garage sale we hit up while on an errand.  An altar, a shrine, or an offering need not break the bank to be a good one.

A slice of bread, a thimble of alcohol, a palm of water, a slice of apple, a small chunk of meat, puffs of smoke, a pinch of tobacco.  These are all good offerings, all given in the tightest of times.  The Gods understand suffering, They understand when we have given what we can.  So why the resistance?

We can give offerings inside our own home, or wherever we happen to be in a given moment. I have poured water onto a city street to thank the spirit of that city for helping me find my way, and alcohol onto my family tree for thanks to the landvaettir for a good home and food in my belly. If you aren’t absolutely starving and actively looking for food, and even then you can at least give a prayer, then you can give an offering.

If you can breathe well, offer breath.  Offer breath whether it is song, dance, words, your poetry or someone else’s, or a hummed tuned if nothing else.  I suffered from asthma as a child and it flares up when I get sick, so I understand very well how precious breath can be!

Offer breath, even a hummed tune if you’re a completely hopeless cause at any of the aforementioned.  If you can you walk, walk and pray, especially is sitting still is hard/impossible for you to do.  There are countless ways of thanking the Gods for what you have.  Can you get down on your hands and knees without hurting yourself?  Then, if you have nothing else besides yourself to offer, prostrate, kneel, or bow.  Make a prayer.  Kiss a tree or a stone, or simply touch it with your hand, and whisper a prayer if you are worried about being seen or discovered.  There are a million and more ways to make an offering, to show your Gods, Ancestors, and spirits you care for Them, that They have blessed your life, many of which may be far more precious to Them than a cup of water or slice of bread.

Yet, that bread, that water, is still a precious offering, even more so when you are poor.  At that point a food and water (or other liquid) offering is a personal sacrifice with more weight on oneself than someone who has a good deal of resources.  In times of struggle, I believe, is when we need to make these sacrifices most.  That physical offering is still a precious thing, one which still needs to be given.  There is no substitute for it, any more than there is a substitute for food for you to eat or water to drink.  Say to a person who is a guest in your home who wants water “but I danced for you, is that not enough?” and the answer will be a definite no, even if they may be too gentle with you to say so.  They may still crave the water, especially if it is something to be expected between one another as guest and host.  Now, with the Egyptian Gods this can be a bit different, as the offering formulas for Egyptian Gods (which is the one case I can think of where this applies and even here, the Gods may have Their own preferences) have carvings of food, water, and so on that are allowed to be there in place of offerings.  However, I would think that this is probably a more expensive, roundabout way of fulfilling an offering to the Gods: either you have to have the tools to carve the offering yourself, or have an artisan who will make it for you.

There is no reason that I can fathom that a polytheist would have, regardless of their circumstances, where they had nothing to offer the Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits.  There is no good reason that I can fathom why a polytheist would willingly deny their share of Gebo, reciprocity, with their Gods.

Devotion is not just important; devotion is VITAL. It is how a living, breathing religion continues. Acts of devotion keep that bridge between us and the Gods alive in our everyday life, whether it is a glass of water and a prayer, prayers made on prayer beads, food made in their honor, a pinch of mugwort or a small glass of mead offered at a tree, or an act of kindness for a human being.  Offerings, in and of themselves, are vital, and have always been vital regardless of which tradition one comes out of.

I put the Gods first because that is where They go in my life. The Gods are first; it is from Them that all good things in my life have come. My everyday (well, night) job is about helping a human being. The reason I can serve this person and meet some of the basics for my family is because the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits gave me life, a good family, a wonderful son, and so many blessings were I to count them all I would be dead and buried long before I finished. So my first attention, my first devotion, is to my Gods, Ancestors, and spirits. It must be, in good Gebo for all They have done, and continue to do for me, with me, to me.

Hail to the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.  May Gebo be kept.

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Day 30: Cleansing, Empowerment, Offering and Sealing -30 Days of Magic Talisman Challenge

December 13, 2013 2 comments

This day was an excellent end to the 30 Day Talisman Challenge.  The work started off with extra cleansing work: a traditional beer bath.  I drew up a hot bath, entered it, and prayed to the Gods and spirits of Water, thanking Them for cleansing me inside and out.  I had the bottle of Hofbräu Dunkel opened already, and brought it into the bath with me.  Standing in the bath, I prayed thanks to the brewers, and to the spirits of beer itself.  Then, I poured three times into the bath, thanking the spirits of Water and the beer as I did, and then poured the beer three times over my head, the beer flowing down my back and front.  The effect was immediate: I started to feel physically, mentally, and spiritually clean from the inside out.  I then poured the beer over my shoulders, my hands, genitals, and down towards my feet.  I then drank a little and left the remainder of the bottle outside the bath.

I expected to be very sticky but I was not.  Quite the opposite; I felt better than if I had used soap.  As I cleaned myself in the bath, I plunged my head into the water and came out feeling as though all the cobwebs were gone.  I then galdred Midgarð’s Name, calling upon it to help me ground, center, and shield.  I then called upon Ansuz and Gebo, as I usually do, to continue the cleansing work with Ansuz, and finish the grounding and centering with Gebo.  I then let out the water, feeling very clear inside and out, and waited until the water and beer had completely gone down the drain before stepping out.

I dressed in fresh clothes, then cleaned out the offering bowls to Runátýr and the Runevaettir, then offered blood, and my last bottle of Hofbräu Original to Them.  When this was done I went to the Rune altar.  I thanked the Gods and spirits of Fire for blessing, cleansing, and protecting the area and I for the 30 days of work.  I prayed thanks for the 30 days of work Runátýr, the Runevaettir, and I  had done together, for the blessings, power, and grace They had bestowed upon the talismans.  Then I did the empowerment work with Them for the last time before the sealing work.

I picked up a copper-bottomed pot and an aluminum pot from the local PTO thrift store for doing sealing work with these talismans, and other pieces I have done.  First I had copper-bottomed pot come to a boil on the stove, and placed the aluminum pot on top of it.  There were still some of the beeswax in the bottom of the pot from the test I had done with an Ægishjálmur talisman that I made some time ago, so I did not have to cut up too many chunks from the beeswax slab.

Both talismans were done the same way:  When the beeswax became clear, I placed the talisman in with small tongs and swished it around the aluminum pot, and then flipped it, coating both sides.  I took the talisman out, and placed it on a ceramic plate I had next to the stove.  While the beeswax cooled and hardened, I galdred the Runes of each talisman, moving it sunwise as I did.  When both were totally sealed I brought them back upstairs to lay on the Rune altar until the wealth talisman is given away, and I determine where the communion talisman needs to go.

This has been a great experience.  These 30 days of discipline and work have gone by well; the talismans hum and feel good to the touch.  I am eagerly awaiting giving the wealth talisman away at the Wandering Owl, and continuing to work with the communion talisman.  Thank you for starting this Challenge, Andrieh Vitimitus.  Thank you, who have watched this work progress, and thank you to all my fellow Challenge workers.  Blessings on each of you in this, and all Challenges ahead.  Thank you to the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits who have been directly involved, and supportive of this work.  Hail to you all.  Ves ðu heil!

Link to the Creation Ritual.

Link to Daily Empowerment Work.

Day 29: Empowerment -30 Days of Magic Talisman Challenge

December 12, 2013 Leave a comment

This is the home stretch.  Tomorrow the talismans will be sealed.  There’s a kind of excitement brewing, both from myself and from the Runes as well.  That a month of work is coming to a close and that this project will be complete.  The energies in the Runes ‘smell’ something like when you know food that smells just right; it is good, wholesome, delicious, and in some way, it makes your mouth water.  I have the beeswax, and I will be making a bag for this as well tomorrow.  I am really looking forward to it.

Link to the Creation Ritual.

Link to Daily Empowerment Work.

Day 28: Empowerment -30 Days of Magic Talisman Challenge

December 11, 2013 Leave a comment

I’m looking forward to the end of this challenge.  It has been a good daily touchstone, and I think I will continue this work in some fashion.  Since I am keeping the communion talisman I may work that into an everyday prayer.

The empowerment itself went well.  There’s a kind of anticipation building; I cannot wait to seal these talismans.

Link to the Creation Ritual.

Link to Daily Empowerment Work.

Day 27: Offering and Empowerment -30 Days of Magic Talisman Challenge

December 10, 2013 Leave a comment

Yesterday was madcap in terms of stuff to do.  It was my first day, and will be my only day, of missing a day of this work.  Today I gave offerings of blood to Runátýr and the Runevaettir, and gave an offering of a very special beer: Hofbräu Original.  I generally do not like beer unless it is a good quality one.  I had one of these at Frankenmuth, MI last Saturday and it knocked my socks of.  One of the people I call Brother bought me a sampler case of Hofbräu beers, and I offered this to Runátýr and the Runevaettir, and to Frigga as well.  It felt very well received.

The empowerment went very well.  There is an odd but good sensation to the talismans when I trace the woodburnings in them.  Something like a surge of electricity that makes my arm feel odd as I press my finger to the Runes.  Both of them have this sensation, almost identically.  There’s a different ‘flavor’ to the wealth talisman from the communion talisman.  Just two more days until the beeswax sealing of these two.  I’ll be grabbing pots, possibly today, so I can do double boiling from a local thrift store, and keep them for this work.

Link to the Creation Ritual.

Link to Daily Empowerment Work.

Day 26: Empowerment -30 Days of Magic Talisman Challenge

December 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Today went well, especially after a busy day.  I think that it is a good thing that there’s not a lot of new things to write on at this point; this is, I think, where this process should be.  In three days I will be finishing the talismans by putting on the beeswax, and blooding the one I am keeping.

Link to the Creation Ritual.

Link to Daily Empowerment Work.

Day 24 and 25: Empowerment -30 Days of Magic Talisman Challenge

December 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Yesterday and today’s empowerment were quicker than usual, and brought with each a feeling of power coursing down through my arm as the empowerment was completed.  I’ve had this feeling with each one, but it is becoming especially pronounced now as we near the end of the Challenge.  It isn’t like lightning, electricity feeling, more like a warmth spreading down my arm.  The Internet has been sporadically up and down, and here’s hoping that cuts out soon.  I’m getting tired of posting these one to two days after they happen!

Link to the Creation Ritual.

Link to Daily Empowerment Work.

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