Patron Topic 57: On Spirit World Politics Part 1

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From Maleck comes this topic:

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

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

Defining Politics and Exploring the Spiritual Implications

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basics of My Views on Spiritual Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gods Without Jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Rest

What is it to not do spiritwork for months on end? It is service to others, whether to the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir, and/or those in my communities. The pause I have taken was to rest. As was pointed out to me by several loved ones, I was definitely burning my candle at both ends and sometimes in the middle too.

Since October I have taken time off from spiritwork. That means no public rituals, no divination work, and almost no spirit travel for others. It has also meant I have done as little personal spiritwork as I am able. This does not mean everything is cast aside, though.

I still cleanse, ground, center, and shield everyday at least once a day. I still make prayers every day. I still make time to think and pray. I still do magic as I need to. Clearly, I still write.

I will not pretend like taking this time off has been easy. It has not. I deeply enjoy doing spiritwork. The writing prompts, whether the topic suggestions, Q&As, or prayer requests, all provide a powerful challenge and incentive to write and do spiritwork on their own. Likewise, the videos I have been producing have pushed me to think hard about how to be informative and concise about the Basics of Heathenry.

Something I have remarked to folks through Around Grandfather Fire and its Discord server is that I struggle with the need to be or feel productive. Rather than constantly fight with myself over this, I have reframed the last few months’ break as a form of service. When it comes to brass tacks, that is what it is. I cannot perform well if I am constantly overworking myself. I cannot do the best work that I can for the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, my communities, or myself, if I am constantly exhausted. Reframing rest as service, as furthering the work, helps to put my mind at ease. I recognize how fucked up that is, that the only way that I feel I can relax and put things aside is by framing them in terms of service to the work. I hasten to point out, though, that no God, Ancestor, or vaettr has put this mindset on me. This is definitely the product of the overculture. Sometimes Odin will push, but He has not pushed me as much as I have pushed myself.

Am I going to start back up with spiritwork in February? I am not sure. I will be doing some talking with my partners, friends, and doing some thinking and praying. ConVocation has been postponed until next year. My two weeks of vacation I was going to take for it are locked in. I either take the vacation or simply lose it. I am seriously considering just taking February off to enjoy the two weeks in our new home, and relaxing.

Funny enough, I started to write this post before the latest episode of Around Grandfather Fire. We are just starting our 4th season with Episode 83. I had not yet decided on whether to take February off. By the end of the episode I had decided that I would. It would mean six months off from professional spiritwork.

Why, if I valued my spiritwork so highly and the work I do for others would I take so much time off? I need it. In the time since I began my break I have encountered heavy mandatory overtime at work, worked on buying our home, and finally, came down with COVID-19 before moving in. We are mostly moved now, and despite the many months off from spiritwork, work in various forms has eaten what would have been the empty space there. Had I been doing spiritwork alongside all the work I am doing as a father, partner, and worker, I would probably have collapsed by now.

What helped turn me around on a lot of this was framing things not through an individual narrative, but a collective one. Being a goði, spiritworker, father, partner, and community means I am part of a whole. I am part of a tribe. I do not live for just myself. If anyone in my Kindred or tribe came to me with my workload what would my response be?

“Take some time off and relax for fuck’s sake!”

I have held unreasonably high expectations of myself for a long while. Part of reframing my mindset on rest was not just ‘this is good for me, Sarenth the individual’. What I needed was ‘this is good for my communities’ and ‘this is good for Sarenth, and this good benefits the communities I am in’. Much of my mindset is not about myself, but about what I can do for the Kindred and tribe I am in. If I crash, break down, collapse, or fall apart I can no longer do my best within those communities. It is not only in my interest, but in my communities’ interests that I care for myself, learn to pace myself, and do right by myself. So, for the time being I will do that: I will rest, so that when I return to spiritwork I can do so with my full faculties and do the best job that I am able to.

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 48: On Difference and Variety Among 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:

“Difference and variety among spiritual specialists. Not everyone is, can, or should be an expert in every area. Generalists exist certainly, but even generalists have weak and strong areas. Could you perhaps talk about various kinds of spiritual specialty, figuring out where you stand, etc?”

There is an amazing variety of spiritual specialists out there, and depending on your religion, communities, and culture(s), there are a lot of ways to figure out and occupy various nieches. I am going to contrast with some varities of ways people first find themselves becoming a spiritual specialist and ways that a given path might bring a person to that job, and then I will tackle ways we can look at how we can figure out where we stand.

Note: This categorizing does not speak to the credentials, ability, etc a given person may hold. A person formally recognized as a priest by a Heathen group may have poor skills in priestcraft just as a person who is entirely spirit-taught and initiated by the Ginnreginn they serve may excel. A person brought into a spiritual specialist role by contract may be uninterested in pursuing the work once a contract is up whereas someone who has come into the work through experimentation may increase their abilities throughout the course of their life. An additional complexity to all this is that a person may be introduced to spiritual specialist work in a combination of these ways. I may have missed a way of introduction here that is specific to a path. For this post we are talking very generally and out of my experience as a Heathen and prior to that as a Kemetic polytheist. If folks want me to dig into specifics I am willing to do that, but it will need to wait a month as this took me several days to write.

Introductions to Spiritual Specialist Work

Religion-Initiated Training/Initiation

This is a person who has been formally trained and/or initiated as a spiritual specialist by another human or human group. Even within a broad category such as priest, this can take on a lot of different meanings depending on what is meant by a give spiritual specialist area or discipline. For instance, seiðr.

What a seiðworker’s function in modern Heathenry is matters a great deal on the dynamics of a given Heathen group, the training they receive, and any initiation work they may undergo. Some folks begin calling themselves a seiðworker/seiðkona/seiðmaðr/seiðmann/etc immediately on interest in the vocation whereas others only do so after extensive training, recognition from a group and/or formal initiation by a group. Generally, a person within a group only calls themselves a spiritual specialist once they have gone through the training and initiations, if there are any, as laid down by a given group.

What differentiates this path greatly from one brought to a person by the Ginnreginn is that the person’s training and initiation(s) are first engaged/invited to by the person or their group. Any training and initiation are decided on by/with heavy input from Elders or otherwise qualified members of that group. This is not to say the Ginnreginn are not at the center of these spiritual specialists’ lives or have no say, just that the decision to bring a person into the work/teachings is mitigated by humans and not the Ginnreginn alone.

Holy Powers-Initiated Training/Instruction/Initiation

This is where the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir, the Ginnreginn or Mighty/Holy Powers, bring a person into training, instruction, and/or initiation. It is direct experience of these Beings that starts a person on the path to being a spiritual specialist, that informs their training, and/or serves to initiate them into the work rather than being mitigated by human beings, such as by initiating into a line of seiðworkers in a specific tribe. This would be things like Óðinn coming out of the relative blue in a vision and bringing you along the path you need to walk with Him to learn the Runes or Freyja grabbing you up in a freeform journey meditation to learn seiðr. It should be noted that you do not inherently have less freedom or ability to say no to such things. You still maintain your sovereignty, and any agreements you are asked to enter into should be carefully considered.

Experimentation

Fucking around and finding out is how some folks get brought into being a Pagan, let alone being a spiritual specialist. Maybe you saw a cool idea for a ritual in a book and tried it out to see if you could replicate the results. Perhaps you decided to stop into the local group’s dedicatory ritual to the An Morrighan and you didn’t step back when prompted. Whatever the case is, you tried something out and not only did it work, it now helps to inform your path -assuming it has not outright become it.

Contract

A formal agreement reached between at least two entities to achieve an end. In this case there is a formal agreement between the person being brought into spiritual specialist work and those introducing/training/initiating them in it. This could be a contract with a working group, a mentor, and/or the Ginnreginn that have contracted with them to that end. Perhaps there are certain things you need to do prior to restrictions in the agreement to be lifted, eg a training period of a year and a day or better has to be completed before you can call yourself the spiritual specialist’s term, eg seiðmaðr/seiðkona/etc. Perhaps you have a limited time of expectancy for performing the role of a spiritual specialist. One way that I have read this can occur in the ordinary existence of a group is that some Wiccan covens rotate the role of high priestess.

What Next?

All of these ways are merely what will get you in the proverbial door. Perhaps an experiment brought you to a realization that a given God was calling you to service. You wanted to honor that calling and found a group to help you in this. The group itself does not do training itself, and they are a group of peers that provides a support network. So what results is folks engaging in a lot of spiritual contact mutually support each other through their own journeys. Around Grandfather Fire’s Discord server works a lot like this for those inclined to spirit work and callings.

What is next really depends on what specific spiritual specialty you are being called to. In a general case there needs to be a grounding in the lore and religious community surrounding the spiritual work, and ongoing spiritual discipline that supports the accomplishment of the spiritual specialist work. So, for a modern Rýnstr (Runester aka Runeworker), this would first be grounded in the ongoing basic exoteric work of being a Heathen. This would include regular cleansing before ritual, making good prayers and offerings, and living life in a well-balanced way the same as any other Heathen. From there the training of a Rýnstr would include a study grounded in both the literature and archaeological resources on the Runes, and ongoing spiritual connecting and working with the Runes Themselves.

Sometimes figuring out what your strong suits are is to just try things out. Within my experience of Heathen spiritwork you will not know if you are good at something until you experiment with it. Even so, sometimes you have to try more than a few techniques before you find one you click with, and then take the ones that work for you and really work with them awhile before you can truly call yourself skilled at them. Alongside all of that if you are serving within a religion/religious tradition you have to undergo training in order to be considered competent within a religious tradition, and continue to provide service within that tradition. It is not enough for me to have done a good Rune reading once, as though a capstone is enough to continue to use the title of vaettirvirkr (spiritsworker), goði, Rýnstr, seiðmaðr, and so on. There is no resting on laurels to being a competent spiritual specialist. With all of that being said, let us dig into some general descriptions for polytheist spiritual specialists.

Kinds of Spiritual Specialists

Spiritworker

Someone who does work for the spirits.

Their work can range from communicating to divining, engaging in spirit travel to do work in one the Worlds, to maintaining a public shrine space so contact can be made between the spirits and people. Often a spiritworker serves as the connection point between spirits and people within their community. A spiritworker often serves as a kind of cross between the roles on this list, especially when other kinds of spiritual specialists are not available.

Priest

Someone who serves a God or group of Gods in the maintenance of Their cultus.

This notion of a priest is markedly different from what monotheists understand a priest to be, as a priest in modern Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, etc serve congregations and not only in the cultus of their God. By contrast, a polytheist priest’s main role is in the cultus they give to their God(s) first, and then, if this is part of their duties, to those who seek to connect with the God in the shrine/sacred space. Some priests may simply serve a God with no outward community involvement whatsoever, maintaining personal shrines, including daily prayers and offerings for the God.

Clergy

Someone who serves a polytheist community as a spiritual guide.

Clergy are often what folks think of when they think of ‘priestly’ duties, however, I find this is a completely separate set of skills. A skilled priest may be excellent at giving prayers and offerings to a God while being lousy at providing spiritual guidance or spiritual counseling. This is a clergyperson’s main focus. They seek to bridge the gaps between the Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and their worshipers and help maintain good relationships. Where a priest serves a cultus role a clergy serves a communal one.

Diviner

Someone who serves a community by doing divination.

This person may perform only one kind of divination service, or may be pushed to learn a variety of divination styles. They serve a vital function in helping community members discern messages, taboos, initiation rituals, and various life events as they are called on. Where a spiritworker serves as a connection point, a priest serves the cultus of a God, Ancestor, or spirits, and a clergyperson serves a community in spiritual guidance, a diviner’s service is helping to establish and maintain communication. Divination is, in my experience at the time of this writing, one of the most common skills across polytheist communities for both specialists and non-specialists. I do not expect this trend to go away. Now that polytheist communities are getting sufficiently large and specialties are have been emerging, diviners are emerging as their own specialty.

Sacrificer

Someone who performs sacrifice to the Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits.

This person is trained in and performs sacrifice according to best practice and what is required of their particular religion. While most will see the word sacrifice and think blood sacrifice, and while this can certainly part of this specialty, it is not the only form this can take. A sacrificer may be someone who tends a garden full of herbs, flowers, and other plants whose main reason for being grown is that they will be made into offerings. A sacrificer takes the risk of a poor sacrifice on themselves and performs this service on behalf of a person, community, etc. They may do this to help ease an angry spirit, help heal a group of Ancestors, or to please a God at a seasonal rite. Because sacrifice is still looked down upon by the overculture and a good understanding of what sacrifice is and with regard to blood sacrifice, how to do it safely and well is not understood by most polytheists, it is one of the most taboo and misunderstood specialties here.

Operant (Witch/Sorcerer/Magician/etc.)

Someone who engages with magic and the spiritual fabric of reality.

Given the pervasiveness with which witches dominate the Pagan communities it might seem to be odd that this is noted as a spiritual specialty within polytheism. A common denominator I find with operants, whether the word is witch, sorcerer, magician, is that this person engages with magic in some way and the underlying nature of reality through it. This is, historically and increasingly in modern polytheism, not something commonly done. Most polytheists engage in exoteric practice and either do very little in the way of magic, or focus on specific practices such as protection.

In Heathenry there are a large number of things to call operants, among them seiðworkers. Some folks would call Rýnstrar (Runeworkers) operants, and others would call them spiritworkers. I tend towards the latter, but they still fit the bill here. While not every operant does their specialty for trade, some do, and this is a practice well-founded in history. Some operants work with spirits in various ways whereas others work on their own, though I find this latter operant fairly rare in polytheist circles.

Monastic

Someone whose primary vocation in life is oriented around and dedicated to a disciplined devotional service to a God, Ancestor, spirit, or group of these.

Monastics may come from any walk of life. Their discipline may be oriented around extreme aesceticism, simple-living as a hermit, or living alongside others in whatever community they find themselves in for whom their monasticism is the focus of their life. They may have taken specific vows with a fellowship, such as The Maetreum of Cybele or the Gnostic Celtic Church’s Hermitage of the Heart, among other groups, or are independent. Whatever else, their day begins and ends with devotion to the Being(s) they have dedicated their time, life, and/or work to.

Storyteller

Someone who tells the stories of the Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and/or communities.

Storytellers are those who keep and tell stories, particularly sacred and important stories. Storytellers do more than merely memorize stories, though this certainly is part of it. They also relate the stories they hold, whether through written prose or poetry, through oration, song, dance, gesture, play, or crafts. Storytelling is literally an embodied story whether that comes through a tapestry, song, recitation, or a three-act play. Some storytellers may be given new myths, new legends, new stories to share, whereas some storytellers’ duty is only to pass on what they were given.

Figuring Out Where You Stand

Have these descriptions spoken to you? Stirred something within you? If so, explore that. What feelings does it bring up? What images or sounds? What stereotypes do you have about the specialist type you are exploring? What do you want to do? How? Once you have explored these things, it is time to think about some of the general, baelines requirements of being a spiritual specialist.

Requirements

Rootedness

In order to be a spiritual specialist you first have to be spiritual. This notion that you can just take on a role like seiðworker without any groundwork having been done, no prior spiritual experience or outlook, is not only irresponsible, it is flat dangerous to anyone you might serve in that capacity. In order to be a polytheist spiritual specialist you need to have a clear, grounded rootedness in a polytheist religion. This includes a belief in the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits as real Beings unto Themselves, and a lived relationship with Them. The roots of rootedness are in reciprocity, respect, and ritual.

Ideally you will have several years in the religion prior to being called or pursuing to some kind of role. However, my own experience with the Gods is that sometimes they take you up for work fairly quick. Rootedness, however much time you have in the religion, serves to ground you, to make sure you know what you are doing, that you know why you are doing it, and what it means. Rootedness also gives you community, in whatever capacity you are able to be part of one, and hopefully a community of Elders, peers, and others who you can call on when you need help, advice, or comradery.

Learning and Work

This is an ongoing process. Learning is not just studying books or oriented around academic learning. It may include that, but if all you are doing is looking at academic texts you are likely not doing the work of your spiritual specialty. Study should inform what you are doing, and it should feed into the work that you learn through. The other side is doing the work of being a spiritual specialist. You have to learn the requirements of the spiritual specialist role you are looking at, to know if you can effectively fulfill that role, and if you decide to take it on, to do the requisite learning so you fulfill it well. Any of the spiritual specialies listed above will require you to do ongoing work. This study and work should unfold hand-in-hand so that you learn what you are good at and reinforce that, and show where you need to improve and to work on that.

Discernment

One of the key skills needed to do any spiritual specialist work effectively. Working off of the previous requirements, discernment needs rootedness to be able to discern chaff from wheat, and learning so the discernment one has is informed instead of prejudicial, ignorant, or incorrectly applied. Discernment is informed by both study and by experience, both your own and that of others. This is part of why Elders and peers are so valuable -you do not need all the answers nor the experiences.

There are much more specific requirements as we dig into polytheist religions, specific paths of learning and work within them, and the direction a given spiritual specialist may take. This is beyond the very general scope of this post.

I expect that as time goes on the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits will call folks to different ways and needs within the communities will cause change to how spiritual specialists work within a given religion or religious tradition. As time goes on perhaps each will have their own dedicated spiritual specialists so that a Heathen looking to see if their plan to engage with a Heathen sacrificer is okayed through divination with a Heathen diviner. Perhaps not, and we will have a similar pattern to what we do today, with spiritual specialists fulfilling a lot of roles at once within their own particular communities and between them as well. It is quite possible we will have a blend of these depending on location, the polytheist religion in question, the spiritual specialist type, and trends within the overculture and our specific ones.

Discussion and/or Divination

Figuring out where you stand include both discussion and divination. Depending on how you started this journey it might include more of one or the other as the deciding factor for entering into the work of becoming a spiritual specialist.

As I wrote above, you always retain your sovereignty, and so, your ability to say no to entering into the work. You also retain your sovereignty and ability to say no to the work once you are involved in it. Once begun you may have consequences for walking away from it depending on any oaths you take, where you are in a community with that choice, and the relationships you have made in that journey.

Questions

Whether in discussion with an Elder, mentor, or peer, or sitting down to divination, I find these questions to be some of the most useful to figuring out where you stand.

Baselines

What are the boundaries of this work? What am I willing to do? What am I not willing to do?

Is this a spiritual specialty, topic, and/or skill I need to know? If so, how much knowledge and experience do I need to have to fulfill my obligations as a spiritual specialist with this specialty, topic, and/or skill?

Am I suited to this spiritual specialty by temperament, training, and/or calling?

Am I willing to commit to this work fully? What obligations, taboos, training, initiation, and other requirements will this spiritual specialty require of me?

Does this spiritual specialist work dovetail with my current spiritual work, discipline, etc, or will I need to modify my spiritual work in order to do this? How?

If I take this work up what down time, if any, do I have? How does my relationship with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits change through it? How does my relationship with my communities change through it?

What discipline(s) will I need to maintain in order to train and become this spiritual specialist?

Skill Level

Do I currently possess the skills, training, and/or abilities required to carry out this spiritual specialty? If so, where do I need to improve? If not, what do I need to work on?

With regard to a given skill within a spiritual specialty: What is the skill? What does it do? What is its function within the spiritual specialty?

Do I have the ability, clearance, temperament, and time to learn this spiritual specialty well? Do those teaching me have the ability, clearance, temperament, and time to teach me well?

Training

What are the requirements of training in this spiritual specialty?

What are the necessities to train to become this or that spiritual specialist?

What are subjects that are not core to this spiritual specialist but still useful to it?

What are subjects to avoid until the initial training/initiation period is over?

How do I train? Is there academic work needing to be done? Experiential? Both?

Who do I train with? Is the training self-directed or is there a regimen or outline to follow?

Is there an expectation of hours of service, experience, etc before I am qualified to move into a new phase of training, work, etc

Initiation

Is initiation necessary for this spiritual specialty?

If I am to undertake an initiation what are the boundaries to it so that it is as safe as possible?

Is an initiation needed to perform certain duties within this spiritual specialty?

What are my obligations, role, relationships, etc before initiation?

What are my obligations, role, relationships, etc after initiation?

Everyday Life

A key aspect of figuring out where you are as a polytheist is orienting your everyday life around your spiritual outlook. This is particularly true if you are going to be a spiritual specialist. An example of this would be a monastic schedule during which periods of contemplation, prayer, and devotion are scheduled alongside any other activities the monastic has. They are far from the only people who could benefit from such a thing, and even so, not all polytheist monastics have such a schedule if they have a formal one at all.

Whatever you do, there should be time in the day for at least 5-15 minutes of cleansing, grounding, centering, shielding, prayer, offerings, and connection with the Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits. Keep in mind I am not saying this time even needs to be all at once. My family and I make prayers throughout the day -when we first see Sunna, each meal, when we see Máni (if He can be seen) and before sleep. We make offerings as often as we are able. The strictness or laxity of your schedule will depend on your needs, the requirements of your religion, and, if you are a spiritual specialist, the requirements that brings.

Beyond spiritual self-care and cultus, there is also a need to orient as much of your life to be in concert with your worldview as possible. In my own life this has meant that I have foods that are taboo, so I have to work to avoid them. It also means that I avoid certain actions, spend my money on companies and causes that align with my interests as a polytheist and animist, and literally schedule my life around my religious obligations. Not only do I set aside hours of my life for things like divination, my family respects this time because it is service to the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and to those who come to me for that service.

Going Forward

There are as many ways to be a spiritual specialist as there are people, and despite the length of this post, I am only touching on the outline of the subject. A polytheist understanding of things like priests, monastics, spiritworkers, and so on is fundamentally different from that of monotheists. The requirements of different polytheist religions’ spiritual specialists will differ from one another as well. A Heathen priest will differ from those of a Kemetic priest, and even within a given polytheist religion individual requirements of spiritual specialists will differ from one another. A priest of Anpu will likely not have the same role as a priest of Aset even if many of the requirements to be a priest, the taboos held, the conduct during ceremony, the offerings made, and so on, are the same.

Whatever brings you to the work of being a spiritual specialist, whatever way you engage in it, whatever work you need to do is just that: yours. No one else can do it, no one else can do your work for you. So, if yours is to be a spiritual specialist, ves Þu heil to you, and may your luck be strong.

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 41: On Keeping Multiple Paths

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 Streaking Fate comes this topic:

“I’m not sure if you posted much about this or not, but how you keep multiple paths running smoothly without colliding (ie Anubis and Odin).”

I am not entirely sure it is possibly to keep them from colliding. Sometimes you can have obligations that reach over one another, and you will have to pick what comes first based on your priorities.

Having clearly defined priorities is the biggest way that I avoid collision in the first place: having clearly defined priorities from my Gods, my family, my friends, and for the things in my life. This can be established by direct contact with the Ginnreginn and/or divination. I need to communicate my needs fully and honestly while also fulfilling any obligations I have to Them, my family, and communities. To communicate what I need I must have a clear idea of how my days go, what I can or cannot budge on, and what needs must come first so that I can best fulfill the obligations before me and live well.

In my case Anpu stepped back when Óðinn came to the forefront of my relationships with the Gods. This made the prioritization of one God’s work over the other’s relatively straightforward. Not everyone has this, and even in my case I still have to prioritize my spiritual work.

If you are encountering a time where you need to choose what work to do when, it may be best to think of what you can realistically do with the time you have available to you. If Óðinn wants me to do a large-scale research project over the course of a year, do I have the ability, energy, resources, and time to do this? Can I negotiate on the particulars of the project? Is whether I can do the project dependent on these factors, or is it more a matter of my time-management? Can I do this work in addition to the obligations and other factors already at play in my life? If this is a high priority being put on me, what can I put on the back burner, or stop doing during the duration of the project so I have the time and energy to get it done?

How do I organize my priorities?

This is how I lay out my months: I start with my day job which has a set schedule and the overtime I have preplanned for it. Then, I lay out what days I have regular spiritual work engagements such as divination, workshops, and the like. In between all the time where I have the spiritual work I regularly do is when I have my work as a father, husband, community member, and then, me time. Sometimes the me time gets sacrificed, and sometimes it is my time in the community. I try to hold back as much time as I can for being a father and husband, yet sometimes I need to give that time to spiritual work so it gets done. I am lucky that I have family, friends, and community that understands this and supports me, both in our collective outlook and in direct support of my work. I would not be able to do it otherwise.

Within that broad category of spiritual work will be the things I do for folks on my Patreon, blog, Around Grandfather Fire, 3 Pagans on Tap, Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm, and any personal spiritual work that needs doing. When I am negotiating with the Gods on priorities, I am negotiating on things that are not as scheduled out in my personal spiritual work time. If a God or Goddess comes forward with work for me to do I weigh it against the work I am already doing. Why did I list all that out? Because if I am going to come to the negotiating table with any God, Ancestor, or vaettr I need to clearly account for the obligations I already hold before I take anything else on. I need to be sure that what I am negotiating for or against can realistically fit into my life.

Even with all of this work to prioritize and plan collisions still happen. How do I negotiate that? I apologize and, where I can, work to do better in the future so it does not happen again. Maybe I know a piece of work leaves me with little energy, or I have a double to work every week so certain days will not be possible for me to make offerings. If I need to I negotiate these things out with the Ginnreginn. Then, I do whatever work that I can do. Sometimes what is easier in the moment gets done first, and sometimes it is what is harder. I do the work at hand, even if it is piecemeal.

Without going into disaster thinking, explore what a collision of paths looks like well before you get there. In all likelihood it is going to be something simple, like “I have X amount of energy to do Y and Z. This thing I agreed to do with/for Deity A and Deity B requires that X to do, so I have to choose one or the other today and do the other tomorrow.” Does it radically harm your relationship(s) to do this? In all likelihood, no. However, at least for me, it does head off anxiety at the pass so rather than overfocusing on what I cannot do I focus on what I can, and then get what I am able done. If you know you have weekly offerings and time can slip you by easily, making reminders in calendars, set alarms, and work with any housemates you have so you remember to do them promptly. If you need to buy offerings setting reminders in your calendar a day or two ahead, and always setting them in the same spot not only breeds familiarity with the routine, it gives the offerings a place to be, and less likely to be misplaced.

Everyone’s priorities and spiritual work is different, and each person’s way of avoiding collisions in their life will be as well. What matters is that when you do have collisions, and you likely will, you do whatever is in your ability to do. Then, when you can finish the work at hand, you do that. Do your best and relax. We are weaving Urðr with our Ginnreginn; They have vested interest in each person doing their utmost to weave well.

Climate Change, the Myth of Progress, and Telling New Stories

This is an old post from December 1st, 2018 that has been lingering in my drafts folder. Seemed a good time to upload it.

Climate change and peak oil are predicaments. Problems have solutions. Predicaments are states of being to be lived through.

Digging deep into the climate science or studies on the fossil fuel industries is fine and all, but doing that does not address the situations that have lead us to make the very choices driving both of these predicaments. Something I have gleaned from years of reading up on both predicaments and watching responses to the challenges they raise is that each and every time a presenter finishes speaking on climate change or peak oil is that the story we tell ourselves needs to change. It continuously comes back to this. It does not matter how compelling the science is, it does not matter how detailed the arguments are. If you cannot tell a story the audience is lost.

Many peak oil folks who have given lectures will talk about a moment where someone, especially in the Q&A section, will say something about a technological fix to peak oil and hold up their cell phone as if it provided proof. Some seem to use the phone as a talisman against the notion that we cannot just ‘tech our way’ out of the problem. We have told ourselves that we are so clever and so good at using technology that we just have to design a new gadget to fix the situation.

Like a lot of things, folks recognizing climate change and peak oil as predicaments needs to be worked through through the stories we are raised on. The myth of progress is a big hurdle in most folks’ imagination. There are those who are utterly convinced that, even if the world encounters deep climate change that ‘they will figure something out’. A nebulous they, sometimes filled in by a technocrat or a scientist, an inventor or an investor; whoever the person is, they serve a messianic function. For Christians who either do not wish to deal with or actively deny climate change and similar predicaments, Revelations and the Apocalypse are comforts in that no matter how bad it gets, there is an end and it will be in God’s glory and Christ’s victory. For techno-futurists ‘The Singularity’, ‘Ascension’ and similar ideas fulfill a similar religious/spiritual/psychological impulse.

It is deeply uncomfortable for anyone in our American society to question the myth of progress because so much of the edifice of our modern understanding of who we are, what we are doing, and where we are going is built on it. The basic narrative of the myth of progress is that as time goes on everything will improve over time. Time in this myth is linear, assuming that things become more just, technology get better, knowledge improves, the economy grows, and that peoples livelihoods get better over time.

The opposite is also true in the myth of progress. As the myth is linear, its assumption is that things get better as time goes on. When it looks backward to the past it frames the past as being where things were progressively more ignorant, stupid, horrible and destitute the further back in time you go. The present in this myth is treated as the best things have been, and the future as being even better as a matter of course. It follows very similar lines of thought to the old notion of a hierarchy of religion because the central premise in that narrative was taken up into the myth of progress. The hierarchy of religion (or evolution of religion as it also has been known) is we started in an ignorant state of polytheism and animism religiously and tribal societies organizationally. It then states that we ‘grew’ into better states with monotheism religiously, empires and kingdoms organizationally. Now, it treats us as having ‘become better’ as we are. Monotheist dominance places itself at the top of this hierarchy, while more recently atheists often places atheism as the new crown in the myth religiously. Politically, superpower nations and global power structures like the UN and EU, are placed as the top of the hierarchy.

Both the myth of progress and the hierarchy of religion’s two-pronged approach defends itself by positing anyone who is other than monotheist or atheist is ignorant, backward, and against modern society, and that anyone who believes in any other organization model outside of national and global power structures we have now is seeking to plunge us back into times of want and privation. The myth has staying power for two reasons: the first being that its main source of strength is in a powerful call to the betterment of humanity’s lot through engagement with its myth, and the second being that it holds a great deal of social cache over peoples’ heads who disagree with it. In truth it is little different than Christians in the conversion periods of polytheist Germany, England, and similar with a carrot and stick. The carrot being if you wanted to trade with Christians your leader or your merchants had to be baptized Christian. The stick being if you wanted to stay heathen then they would slaughter you till you gave in or you were all dead.

Bound up with the myth of progress is that capitalism as it exists is always going to improve and is the best economic system. It states each movement forward in time will obviously, as it has brought ‘progress’ to religion and organization, will bring that selfsame ‘progress’ to the economy. As with religion, it treats looking back to other forms of economic systems that worked in the past, eg gift economies, small-scale interdependent communities, etc as harmful, ignorant, or being against prosperity, health, or the good of the humanity. Anyone who has paid attention, either to the history of economics or to the last thirty years of economic ups and downs in this country will see that money and wealth and the attendant power of both have concentrated in fewer hands while the cost of living increases for everyone. Meanwhile the majority of people in this country having falling wage levels to meet this increasing cost of living. That is, assuming you have a wage and aren’t in the so-called gig economy or bound up in contractual work.

Our entire money system is based on fiat currency that is borrowed into existence at interest. As this debt increases so too does our money supply. As this debt increases the overall ability of that money to do work goes down. There is no way, in the end, to pay our debts because there will never be enough money to pay them. The money system cannot improve over time for anyone but the most rich because anyone trying to save money (such as through a savings account) is losing money by keeping their money in the system. Retirement as a concept is vanishing for all but the most rich. With booms and busts occuring about every 5-10 years most people whose do have retirements are now predominantly bound to the stock market through 401ks, 457s, and similar market investments. Pensions and retirements were crushed in the last economic downturn in breathtaking numbers. Given the cycle of boom/bust, those who have some kind of retirement account could lose some, most, or all of what they have invested in the economy.

It is not anti-capitalist to say that things cannot continue as they are. It is self-evident to anyone paying attention that the myth of progress we have been told is not comporting with what reality is. Yet, having written all of that, I have not told a story. I have given you, the reader a great deal of information. If I reject the myth of progress and see the predicaments of climate change and peak oil will require us to tell new stories, what new stories do I tell? How?

I tell stories that come from my heart. I tell the stories of my Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. I tell of how my Holy Powers have inspired me through their myths. I tell of how the Gods are working with us to face these predicaments, how my Ancestors faced predicaments in the past, like the Great Depression, how the vaettir ally with us when we do well by Them. I tell of how the Holy Powers are encouraging us to live better in harmony with Them. I tell of how we develop new ways of relating to our Holy Powers as we develop our approaches to these predicaents. I tell of what I find exciting about a world where we address climate change and peak oil on a local level. I share what I am most looking forward to doing to address the predicament we face as a community, of what things will need to be done so we can be more resilient in the face of the predicaments coming to bear. I inspire, speaking of how we will rise to the ocassion in the face of our country doing nothing on the national stage to address the perils facing us.

We tell stories of the animals we want to raise, and the plants we want to grow. We tell of the things we want to make, whether it is cheese or cloth, chairs or tools. We bring our stories into each thing we put our hands to; rather than a chair from a store, it is a chair I put together after learning how to do it. The tools are not merely tools, our things not merely things; they are sources of interconnection between one another. We weave the stories around the closeness of community we want to foster, and the sacred ways that will tie us all together as communities, Kindreds, clans, and groups, families, and individuals.

We are living stories. Embodied stories. Bound up and woven with our Gods, our Ancestors, our vaettir, and one another. We not only talk about how we are living in Urðr with all things, we live in that understanding consciously. Whether I am telling the Creation Story of Fire and Ice coming together so the rivers flowed and life could flourish or I am telling the story of how I made this bottle of mead, I am not only telling that story but bringing it to being again with each telling.

This is one of my living stories:

Not long ago our Ancestors dug into Jörð and brought up the Dead. Our Ancestors could not recognize the Dead, not then, but the Ancestors did recognize Power. At first it was by little bits; they used Fire, and burnt the Dead. Then the Ancestos saw the Power of the heat the Dead carried in Them allowed us to do more than we ever could by the horse, oxen, or our own hands. Generations passed. We dug and looked for more Dead, and found Them everywhere beneath our feet. We burnt the Dead for heat and for light. We were burning so much Dead there was less and less in the ground. Some said “We need to burn more!” and so they burnt more.

There were others that said “The Dead need to stay in the ground!” They had come to see that the Air, the Water, the Earth, and even the Fire Itself were being so abused by all the burning of the Dead that they could not live on Jörð and carry on this way. They could not say “You are our Mother!” and be so cruel to Her. They could not say “We need to burn more!” They could not honor the Gods right when they did not honor the Goddess on which they live. They could not honor the Ancestors as they fed the Dead into their fires to feed their want for heat and light. They could not honor the vaettir as they disrespected the Beings they shared the Worlds with. So, they resolved to change, and they asked their Gods, their Ancestors, and their vaettir to help them.

Some were told to stay where they were and work hand in hand with their neighbors, some for the first time. Some were told to move to the country and live as their old Ancestors had. Others were told to move to the city and work with those already there. Some were given set paths to follow, and some were given a field of choices. Each had their Work to do, and it was no more and no less important because it was given to them to do by the Holy Ones.

Each did the Work given to them. As each person did the Work others would see this. Each person who lived well on Jörð gave courage to another to live well on Her. Each person who did their Work gave courage to another to find their Work and to do it well.

They came to live in right relationship with Jörð. When Jörð swelled with heat and water they knew what to do because the Work had taught them how to understand Her and to prepare for these times. When the air went sharp and the ice came, they knew what to do because the Work had taught Them how to understand Her and prepare for these times. They were able to care for their people because they learned from Jörð how to live upon Her, with Her. They were able to live well upon Her because they listened to Her and did well by Her. They listened to the vaettir and became good neighbors, good relatives with Them once again. Generation on generation came and lived well because the Ancestors had taken the time to listen to the Earthmother, and worked to live in right relationship with Her.

Thoughts On ‘A New Economy’ and The Road Ahead

This was a post I started writing August 5th of 2019. I found it among my drafts and decided to finish it.

I have just started watching a documentary on Netflix called A New Economy and so far the basic notion that we need to make our economies more oriented towards what is healthy and good for humanity and the environment is one I heartily agree with. John Fullerton put our need to get back to human-scale levels of interaction, and the challenge facing us quite well: “We’re in transition and what’s remarkable to me is thast people feel that in their bones. We need to figure out how to align the human economy with the principles and patterns that tend to operate in all living systems. That’s the essence of it. And so the challenge is to kind of switch out the engines while we’re keeping the plane in the air.”

Richard Sennet, the author of Together: The Rituals, Pleasures, and Politics of Cooperation said “You can look at cooperation as an ethical, good-hearted thing. Or you can look at it as something people need to do to take your work seriously, to take other people seriously, to organize politically. This isn’t touchy-feely stuff. This is about actually getting the world to work.” The point was made that these cooperative efforts go beyond 20th century capitalism and socialism. I find it interesting that both were included, and it is something that heartens me quite a bit.

No economic models that rely on cheap and easy to exploit energy are going to make it long-term. Burning fossil fuels has put our environment into multiple crisis points. Our ways of doing things the last 200 or so years has led to the world as it is now. No amount of trying to engage with either economic model is going to be useful when the very means by which both capitalism and socialism have operated in are swiftly vanishing, and by trying to engage in them would continue to perpetuate the very harm we need to address. Not every endeavor people will embark on to face the future will work, but that is not the point. Rather, it is that our various approaches are needed because continuing to clutch to capitalism and socialism as the only models worth pursuing cuts all of us off of creative, dynamic, and needed approaches on far more local and sustainable levels.

This all being said, I’m not fully convinced that co-ops are the way to go as many of the subjects in A New Economy seem to. I think that different approaches will be useful to different communities, enterprises, companies, industries, and businesses. Where I will agree with the ideas of co-ops is that everyone needs to have skin in the game. Among the large failings that capitalism has, is that in order to allow for is the intimacy of connection and interdependency that growing your own food, brewing, etc all required to do well while also locking down relationships, information, and technology useful to all those things behind paywalls, patents, and proprietary services. Sensorica, a cooperative open source manufacturing network provides prototyping services with equipment that would normally cost tens of thousands for people to access. Just to access, not even to produce anything. They can do this for 20% of the cost, providing accesss not only to would-be entrepeneurs and inventors, but also to universities who would otherwise be denied this access. This kind of open-source work allowed Linux to become one of the top operating systems, allowing access to PC technology without having to engage with overpriced bloatware like Windows or Mac OS. Worker owned co-ops, collective works, and open source information provide means for many to not only reach for dreams, but to achieve them.

Another idea floated in the movie is the idea of regenerative economics, the idea that capital assets, namely land, water, air, etc and the things which are derived from goods within those are tied to economics. The problem I have with this is that it is enclosure by another name. It is capitalism’s maw closing around the last things it should ever have access to. No, I do not think that we should be tying this into our system of economics, especially when we trade futures and such on the NYSE, directly affecting the price of natural resources. The exploitation of the world’s natural resources and the history of imperialism around them should show us readily that this is not worth pursuing. It is in capitalism’s nature to turn things into revenue streams, and this is one area where its worst excesses should be kept at bay.

The central idea of the documentary, though, is one I find both heartening, especially now in 2021. We can collectively build our way to a better future through mutual aid, empowerment, work, and heart. By keeping our ideas open, allowing for the free flow of ideas, we can empower each other to experiment, design, and build on our ideas and dreams. As humans, part of this world, we can engage with beauty, heart, and intelligence together and make our lives better collectively. One size of approach certainly won’t fit all, nor will it be the answer to the myriad problems we face. However, I think it is one of the paths that puts us on better track to make good traction with the predicaments we face.