Remember that your gods are alive
that they are not captured in stories any more
than you are captured as the girl who won the spelling bee
only to lose the next or the one who cried
over a boy who never wanted love.
If you cannot be easily summed up,
never expect it of Powers. Never
limit your knowing to the words of the long dead,
themselves captured in the instant of writing,
a slice thin enough for a microscope, too delicate
to hold more than one instant of a mortal
life. Do not blind yourself to what lives
in fatal reverence to what once was. Live
with them. That boy is forgotten for one who loves
and the spelling bee fades to a memory, a dusty trophy.
Do not make trophies of your gods.
Well, firstly, the Gods are always there. The question really should be, what do I do when I can’t sense or hear Them anymore?
This is an important question and a painful one. Those times will happen in the midst of the deepest devotion. Christian writers would call times like this a ‘dark night of the soul’, but it’s part and parcel of spiritual life that there are fallow times. If handled properly, which I’ll talk about in a bit, those times can be some of the most fruitful. Weird, right? (Also weird, or at least a nice bit of synchronicity, that I was in the middle of writing this, about halfway done, when it came up in a comments thread on one of my posts).
The first thing I would say right away is that with few exceptions (and those exceptions can be teased out via divination, since that is a sacred tool that we have at our disposal. Respect your diviners, people.) this is not punishment. It doesn’t happen because the Gods are angry. It doesn’t happen because you’ve done something wrong. Like anything else, there is a rhythm to our spiritual lives and that includes certain plateaus.
Secondly, fallow times can be extremely productive. They build our spiritual muscles, so to speak. It’s easy, after all, to engage devotionally when you’re getting feedback, even the feedback of just having a palpable sense that the Gods are *there*. It’s not so easy when that’s not happening. Here’s the thing though, we need to be able to do our devotion even when we’re not feeling the feedback partly because it’s not about us – we’re not owed constant pats on the head (and I know this looks harsh in print even to me, but I really don’t mean it that way. It’s perfectly natural to want to have that reciprocal sense of the Gods to Whom we’re devoted. There’s nothing at all wrong with that. Most people can’t sense Them as a general rule. When we can, every single time we can, it’s a grace and a blessing). Anything can disrupt that on our end. Maybe we’re tired, stressed, getting sick. Maybe we’re distracted. Maybe it’s a plateau that presages a time of deep spiritual growth. We’re never going to know unless we stay the course.
That’s the most important advice I can possibly give when one stumbles into one’s dark night of the soul: stay the course. Continue with your devotions. Make your offerings. Pray. Understand that just because at this moment, for whatever reason, you’re not sensing the divine Presence, well, that doesn’t mean the Gods are absent. It just means that, again, for whatever reason, you’re not able to sense Them at this time. I might increase my ritual cleansing regimen…miasma/spiritual pollution can gunk up our ability to sense the Holy, so I might make sure I’ve got everything under control there, but otherwise, I would not worry (1).
Longing is a powerful means by which to find one’s way to the Gods. Longing renews us and it renews our devotional connections. I think there is a mystery there to be untangled. There’s a powerful grace in coming to Them in utter longing for Their presence. Maybe that’s what these fallow times are meant, in part, to show us.
Regardless, if this happens to you, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad polytheist. Make sure you haven’t been neglecting your devotional work and prayer (I find the spiritual senses, much like physical muscles can become blunted through lack of use), but if all is in order there, continue as you have begun and trust your Gods. There is wisdom in the dark nights. We learn to cleave to Them in faith and surety if we persevere and that is a powerful thing. After all, when you can sense the divine Presence, it’s not really faith; it’s a special type of knowledge. The faith is a discipline that we need to develop too.
- While sometimes it is the result of one’s negative actions, miasma can be a purely neutral thing, simple consequence of one’s surroundings. For instance, it is right and proper to visit the graves of your ancestors and leave offerings. That’s a holy thing. When you do that, you’re exposing yourself to a particular type of miasma, of spiritual pollution. It’s not bad or evil. It just is. It’s a different state of being. Therefore, it’s necessary to cleanse that away when you get home (and in that case, I’d do it by ablution with khernips). One of the consequences of miasma is that it can interfere with our spiritual clarity. That’s why it’s so important to [spiritually] cleanse oneself regularly.
Horn and Hearth is also doing the “word of the year”…check out this post. It’s a lovely, lovely word that’s been chosen and a perfect example of bibliomancy in the choosing.
Welcome to the new year. I know I’m pretty late in the game and haven’t written in a while. I could explain but really there’s not much to it other than general living. In the new year as I think on what to focus on for the year ahead I really like the practice of focusing on a Word (or phrase) of the Year. These are usually words like FOCUS, GROWTH, SIMPLIFY, HYGGE, etc. Something for you to manifest into your life through focus and through word magic.
I had a hard time choosing a word of the year this year. Everything I thought of didn’t feel right in my gut. I made my mood board for my work and did everything and then I sat there…blank. Finally, I grabbed my copy of the Havamal and decided to do some bibliomancy.
For those of you who don’t know what bibliomancy…
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In a recent patheos article, John Beckett opined that he wasn’t seeing much devotion from polytheists online. Well, John, maybe we got sick and tired of anti-theistic, humanist and/or Marxist trash coming into our online spaces attempting to pollute them (1). Maybe, sweetheart, we took the bulk of our devotion offline, where that contamination isn’t happening. Maybe we’re just not sharing it with you. No one, after all, is entitled to a bird’s eye view of our devotional lives. Some of us are still blogging, because it’s part of our spiritual Work, but you won’t mention that, will you?
For years now, I’ve taken the high road when it comes to the bullshit thrown my way in the community, thrown not just at me, but at devotional polytheists across the board who won’t bend the knee to the current pollution du jour. Expect that to stop as of now. There is not a single Pagan news outlet that accurately reports Heathen and/or polytheistic news (2). There are only scared, weak, pathetic people who can’t stand the fact that some communities are doing just fine without them.
I am frankly tired of the arrogance of people like Beckett, who assume just because they aren’t seeing something or haven’t been invited in, that “something” isn’t happening. Just because you’re not seeing people discussing their devotion on twitter or facebook, don’t assume it’s not happening. Maybe they’re on different social media sites (I personally have been using slack-chat quite a bit), or maybe, as I said above, some have just stopped publicly blogging.
Moreover, our traditions aren’t trends or fads. Fuck you, Beckett. We aren’t here to entertain or validate you and we are under no obligation to put our relationships with the Holy Powers out there for assholes like you to gawk and mock.
- I have no problem with atheists. Rock on. I have a tremendous problem with anti-theists who come into our community demanding leadership positions.
- And by the way, John, well before I came along, the majority of Heathens did not generally like the “Pagan” label. I really don’t think that has changed, unless you’re only counting as Heathen those who agree with your politics. We, after all have both Gods and ethics, something I see very little of in the generic Pagan community.
The woke brigade strikes again. To preserve their precious feelings and further indoctrinate children with their utter lack of values and virtue, a group #distrupttexts has successfully gotten one of the cornerstones of Western literature banned from a school in MA. Read the full story here.
I read an article earlier about this and “teachers” were proud of this ban. Personally, it would be better if they closed the school, and any teacher that advocates for banning books isn’t fit to teach. They’re so eager to virtue signal their “wokeness” *gags* that they are denying this generation’s children a proper education. Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey” are core texts for understanding pretty much all of the literature that came after it. I suppose these woke “teachers” don’t want to have to be bothered to explain different values and customs or, you know, do their jobs and teach.
I suppose stories about heroism, cleverness, virtue, and fidelity (especially in women) are difficult to teach when the people teaching it have none of those qualities. Those pushing this ban referred to the “Odyssey” as “trash.” I have yet to see their accomplishments, other than denying the children placed in their care a proper education.
Personally, if you haven’t read the “Odyssey” and the “Iliad” by the time you graduate high school, you’re not ready for college. I only lament that high schoolers aren’t reading them in the original Greek these days.
The only way these days to guarantee that your children are getting a decent education, one that will render them thinking, literate, historically aware adults is to homeschool. This trend toward banning the best books of world literature, of classic literature is a perfect example of where public education is going. Object to this, parents. Object strongly and never, ever apologize for challenging this censorship. Your children deserve at least that.
Caste System I will wear the marks of my Gods proudly. Let there be no mistaking where my allegiances lie. My skin will proclaim it. My clothes will tell you. I will not be emptied of Them. I will not forsake Their mysteries. There is nothing you could offer me, that would cause me to swallow lies. Nothing you possess that would ever tear me from Their service. I bring Them wherever I walk. My very flesh is a doorway through which They may reach. Make no mistake: Offerings provide fertile ground for devotion to flourish. Remember this, when you ask me to trade the emptiness of the secular modern for the glory of Their revelation. Some of us have not forgotten The faces of our ancestors The whisper of our Gods The honor of Their cultus and our duty to those yet to come. What weight is a bit of flesh for such a promise? Like our Gods, we remember. (prayer by G. Krasskova, first printed in Walking the Rainbow Bridge, Sanngetall Press, 2020).
Over the last two days, in addition to the valknot and the Mjolnir, I’ve seen Yggdrasil (the world tree) being discussed quite a bit. It is one of the most fundamental parts of our cosmology, and in this, we are not too different from many other Indo-European religions that have cosmologies revolving (literally) around some sort of axis mundi or world tree. We don’t know from our lore when the World Tree came into being, or how, or why. We do know that it sustains and supports the nine worlds, including the human world of Midgard. It is the scaffolding upon which all creation is arranged and ordered. It has mysteries that not even the Gods fully know, something hinted at strongly in the Runatal section of the Havamal.
The Tree is a terrifying place too, a liminal place of initiation, magic, and transformation. Its name means steed of the Terrible One, i.e. Odin because Odin chose to hang Himself for nine nights and days in personal ordeal, seeking power. That is one of the His most sacred mysteries, and indeed, one of the deepest mysteries of our tradition. Yggdrasil is connected to wyrd – causality and consequence, fate, ancestral debt, and the sacred law of memory-being-choice and obligation that governs our lives. There is nothing more sacred, more holy in Heathenry than Yggdrasil, the Well of memory, and the wyrd that is laid by the Nornir therein.
For me as an Odin’s woman, the Tree is a place of deep, deep reverence and mystery. It’s the site of my God’s most self-defining moment, the place of His most significant sacrifice. I often feel as though everything I have been taught by the Gods and spirits, everything that I need to know, every tool or technique that I have been given, every mystery I hold in some way rests in its gnarled and knotted boughs. There is no escaping the World Tree for me, nor, I think, for any Heathen. It is quite literally at the heart of our cosmology, our tradition, and the work we do as devotees of the Gods. As the Tree sustains all creation, we are called through our devotion and piety, to sustain and nourish the Tree. In doing so, we instantiate the sacred order of all the worlds, we reify the very act of creation that brought us all into being and we do that again and again with each prayer spoken, each offering given, each moment of contemplation wherein we reach out to our Gods. That is the heart and soul of our traditions. It is from those acts of devotion, from devotion cultivated deep in the heart, mind, and spirit of every Heathen, that our traditions grow. It is devotion and mindfulness that nourishes the Tree and we in turn are sustained by it – a very simple equation with far, far reaching consequences.
The Tree echoes throughout our cosmology in our anthropology too. The first human beings were created from trees found on the shore – a liminal place, a threshold, a place of possibility and magic. An elm was crafted into the shape and likeness of a woman, an ash into that of a man. Then our three creator Gods, Odin, Hoenir, and Loður gave soul, cognition, sense and warmth and color. The Gods bestowed names on these beings and taught them the arts of civilization. We are not, therefore, separate from the natural world, but created from it, part of it, because at our core, we are part of Yggdrasil too.
That is a profound yet humbling thing. So the Tree remains for us a touchstone of what it means to move in a world designed, created, and carefully brought into being by our Gods, to live in the span of divine breath, to live piously and mindfully. It shapes us and is the shadow lurking behind all our lore. The Tree connects the worlds, and as such it defines our ability to communicate with our Gods, our ancestors, and numerous other Holy Powers. It is a conduit of all that is holy. It is alive and sentient as all holy things are sentient. There is a passage in part of the Lore (I forget precisely where and I am too tired to look it up) that refers to Freya as Blotgyðia of the Gods. To Whom do They pray? To Whom do the Gods make offerings? In writing this, I find myself wondering if it isn’t to the Tree, ancient and eternal, that sustains us all.
We don’t have to agree politically. I’m seeing a lot of articles espousing the idea that all Heathens have to be leftist to be Heathen, that if one doesn’t replace devotion with politics, one can’t call oneself Heathen. On both counts, this is utter, unmitigated garbage. A religion is a space wherein one learns to properly honor the Gods. Period. You can hold whatever political opinions you want and still be Heathen. Why? Because your religious identity is not defined by your political position. It’s defined solely by whether or not you venerate your Gods and ancestors.
I’m not surprised to see leftists trying to take advantage of recent events to force their political narrative into Heathenry. People are scared. We’re seeing our religion dragged through the mud and many of us are afraid that this is the first in what will turn into a crusade against Heathenry in the near future. I am afraid though that there are those who are taking advantage of that fear and anxiety to push a particular political position. While I agree we should be calling out white supremacists in our midst – because that garbage does not need to be the face of Heathenry (aside from being complete and utter bullshit too)—I likewise think we should be resisting radicalization by the left. Both are evil.
Moreover, you do not have to be active politically to be a good Heathen. Heathenry is about ONE thing: venerating the Germanic Gods, one’s ancestors, and the land. Of course, that bleeds out into other ways that one lives one’s life: cultivating family, civic engagement, etc. but politics is not religion and one should never, ever be mistaken for the other. This is yet another attempt by those with no piety to destroy our traditions, and shame on them. It’s a pretty pitiful and pathetic thing to do.
I hate seeing our religion equated with white supremacy. I find it disgusting. I hate seeing our sacred symbols used by Neo-nazis. I find that revolting and nauseating. However, and it kills me to say this because I really, really want to follow the herd on this one and espouse the opposite: one can be deeply religious and politically wrong. Their political identity, as much as we may wish it otherwise, doesn’t rule out possible Heathenry, as comforting as it might be for us to say it does. Now, I’ve been Heathen for thirty years and I know that the white supremacy problem is not as pandemic in Heathenry as the media thinks it is. We’re just a juicy target (probably more because of our family values and piety than the symbols we use, or any particular politics, to be honest). It is, however there on the fringes. I would like to see more work done to educate those in our community who hold those views, to help them move away from the hate. It’s not that difficult to make a theological argument countering such prejudice. Since this is a religion and not a political party, it’s to the theological we should turn.
I suppose when one’s political identity is all one has, when one hasn’t bothered cultivating any type of devotion to the Holy Powers, it must really seem like everything is political. It’s certainly less frightening to twist Heathenry into a political movement than to sit at the feet of our Gods in awe and terror. Cowards. That’s what so many of you are. You pander to whatever is easiest. That’s what these incessant calls to politicize Heathenry are all about. Never a thought to religion, piety, or the Gods, just human bullshit. Because we never cease to try to pull the holy down to our level so we can drag it through the shit and justify our own laziness. Cowards. If white supremacy is wrong – and it IS—call it out. Don’t pollute our religion by pretending it’s all about politics though. Devotion is already an uphill battle for most people – and a far more valuable one than all the politicking in the world. Maybe reorder your priorities.
This is a valknot. It is recognized and sacred across all denominations of Heathenry as a significator to all who see that the bearer is devoted to the God Odin. Odin is a God of prophets and shamans, poets and bards, warriors and kings. He is a creator God Who wrought the architecture of creation with His brothers Loður and Hoenir, weaving from the bones of His own ancestor, the scaffolding upon which the worlds were hung. He is a God of wisdom, knowledge, and sacrifice and the valknot signifies His victory over Himself in that quest for knowledge. He is a God of magic and shapeshifting, of runes and sorcery, of power and passion. Those who love and serve Him are fervent in their devotion because we recognize what a privilege it is to have the opportunity to pour ourselves out in adoration before this fiercest of Gods.
These are the ways in which we mark our flesh, ourselves, our souls as belonging to Them. These are the symbols by which we declare our devotion to the Holy Powers far and wide to all who see and most of all to ourselves in the deepest, most secret places of our hearts. These symbols are our shield and vambrace as we fare forth in a world hostile to our Gods and struggle to find our way therein. We will not give them up.