Recently I was asked why I used the term “Gods” instead of θεοι (Greek: Gods) or Reginn (Norse: Holy Powers), or some other term. My friend asked me if I would address this on my blog as I sometimes take questions from readers. I’ve been meaning to do it for a couple of weeks now, but end of term paper writing, of necessity, took precedence. Now that the term is officially over, however, I finally have time to address this.
Firstly, it goes without saying that since I’m working and writing in English, I’m going to use English terms. “Gods,” for instance, is simply the English translation of θεοι. Why wouldn’t I use the appropriate English term? I could write my blog in an ancient language, a couple of them, in fact, but what good would that do to my temper or the cognition of my readers? No one needs the pain lol.
Of course, that’s not the real question. I think what my interlocutor was really asking is why do I use a term ‘God’ so associated with the Abrahamic God. I’ve seen the same question arise with regard to words like ‘piety,’ ‘devotion,’ even ‘prayer’ (perhaps most especially prayer). It is a sad testament to how deep the damage done by the Abrahamic traditions in many born into their more evangelical or fundamentalist denominations runs. There can be a knee-jerk response, hostility, anger, hurt, distaste, disgust at certain words that were once used in one’s birth religions to hammer home a doctrine of despair, fear, guilt, shame, and a very dubious “salvation.” The problem isn’t the words themselves. It’s how they were used. The words themselves remain signifiers of important ideas and in the case of “God,” signifiers of one or more of the Holy Powers (1).
The argument that is occasionally put forth of course, is that we should not use terms like this (especially “God”) because then we can “distance ourselves from the Abrahamic concept of God.” I think this is, however, terribly misguided thinking. What we do by eschewing the proper words for these things and Powers, is that we allow the Abrahamic traditions to claim sole ownership of these things (which granted, they try to claim already); but more importantly, in discarding these words, not only are we twisting our language out of true and cutting off our ability to think clearly, piously, and accurately about our Gods, but we’re also denying Their ontological reality. We’re allowing that the Power of one family of religions (Abrahamic) is so much greater than ours (Polytheistic) that we cannot dare to translate a term accurately, a term whose English iteration is drawn etymologically from its Greek and Latin predecessors. Moreover, we’re cutting off our ability to clearly communicate with the very Powers under discussion. We are willfully stunting our ability to contemplate Divine reality.
A Word is a Doorway. It’s a window into something far greater than any collection of phonemes can ever reflect, but at the same time, those phonemes ping in our consciousness, call us to awareness, connect us to our history and our ancestral traditions in ways that we ought to be very careful of erasing. Erasure is never good, ever. Good, bad, or neutral: we are who we are now because of those who came before us and we can learn and move forward only with eyes open and hearts filled with courage.
So why do I call a God a God? Because it’s the appropriate and accurate term. Because it is not right to cede that space in our minds, in our discourse, in our hearts, in our memories (2).
- Last week there was a very rich thread on twitter (I tried to find it again but could not tonight when I looked) wherein Edward Butler was discussing the depth and complexity added to translations of Platonic philosophers when one more accurately translates any reference to θεος as the God instead of just “God,” the latter of which presumes monotheism whereas the former the thickness and rich diversity of polytheism. Not only is it far, far more accurate given that our Platonic philosophers were, by and large, men and women of piety and reverence for the Gods, but it forces our acknowledgment of that fact today, something far too often elided from current English translations and discussions. It’s something to consider whenever reading translations from the Latin or Greek. Often the singular “God” was used in a way that meant “THE God” i.e. “THIS God in THIS situation” as opposed to “The one and only God.” It’s a subtle but crucially important distinction. In Latin especially, which has no article (a/an/the), this is particularly important to consider in translations.
- In many respects, we must consciously deprogram ourselves of the subtle and sometimes quite unexpected impact of our birth religions. Sometimes there are good things we take away: Catholic or Orthodox methods of devotion for instance, or Protestant techniques for engaging with a text, but quite often it’s more troubling vestiges that arise.
While the world is going happily to hell, my household has been working to become more self-sufficient. We have a long way to go but this process has been bringing us closer to our ancestors, to the land, and to our Gods too. Working with the land in any capacity is a healing thing, and since I know I’ve been getting emotionally overwhelmed by watching and reading the news more than normal these past few days, I thought perhaps those of you who are in the same boat might enjoy reading this, or at least find in it a bit of a helpful respite.
Firstly, I’ve made my first journeys into canning. I’m still a little afraid to try induction canning. I’ve never done that before, nor do I remember my grandmother doing it, but I have done water-based canning over a decade ago and I know my maternal grandmother did as well. I wanted to try it again. So, I made pickles. It was easy, much more so than I expected. First, I took myself in hand and even though I was nervous took our leftover parsnips and carrots and pickled the hell out of them. We’ve been picking up produce and eggs weekly at a local CSA. The farm is really wonderful, the people lovely to deal with, and the food organic and fresh (they work with two other local farms also, so the farm stand is well stocked. There was even a bit of fruit, though it’s early yet for that) (1). The parsnip/carrot pickles turned out well. The canning process went as it ought to have done; the jars sealed. It helped my confidence a bit, so two nights ago, I took 2/3 of our cucumbers and made dill pickles. They turned out beautifully and as soon as we get more pickles from our CSA, I’ll be making more. It’ll be even better once our dill flowers. We planted dill and have a ton of it. There’s something really nice about using produce or herbs that one has grown oneself. So far, we’ve only been able to do that with our greens (Romaine, lettuces, sorrel, spinach, some chard) and herbs but soon we’ll have more vegetables to play with. I’ve been able to freeze quite a bit, at least two mos worth of greens for a household that eats A LOT of greens) (2). I mostly pray to my ancestors when I’m doing this, but Sigyn and Frau Holle have also been strongly in my thoughts and my prayers. I remember my adopted mom talking about how tending the home is sacred. It is making clean space that nourishes our loved ones. It is worthy work. I think of Them a lot when I cook now, and thank Them always for Their guidance. I’ve always liked to cook but this is new ground for me – literally!
Secondly, we have battled woodchucks and won. I was going to cook up the one we caught, but my housemates are culinary wusses lol and refused to even consider eating it, so, I let the local critter man just take it away. We’re also seeing a lot of garter snakes on our land. This is a good thing, a sign of a healthy environment, and I like snakes. I’m glad they’re making themselves known. They can stay ha ha. My poor housemate though never saw one up close until she found one lounging in a planting pot she was wanting to use. I’m afraid it freaked her a little bit, but she’s slowly getting used to them (3). When I see one, I give thanks and sometimes make small offerings to the Lithuanian Goddess Egle, and also to Eir, sometimes Asklepius. The snake brings healing, wisdom, transmutes poisons. I’m really glad they’re present and I almost always take it as a positive sign when one appears.
This week we received our first box from Misfit Market. This company works with local growers to buy up produce that stores won’t touch. That produce might be oddly shaped. It might be weird looking. It might be perfectly good but small or a little weird in color. Usually this produce would go to waste (though farmers can turn it into compost at least) so this way, it doesn’t. They have a number of subscription boxes one can order. I was shocked when we got our box. The produce looked just fine to me and it tasted really good. I would have bought any of it in a store if I’d seen it. I am really boggled at the idea that it would have been rejected from regular supermarkets, but I’ve been horrified lately by food waste.
My husband and I watched this documentary recently – he knew about this already, but I didn’t. It blew my mind. I have trouble conceiving of such waste. When my grandmother was raising her five children, she was so poor she shot squirrels to feed her family. I was terribly poor in my twenties and the idea of having a full refrigerator and larder is still something that occasionally makes me cry. I have a pantry now, with a good three months of food at least put away (all staples like flour, sugar, pasta, rice, beans, etc.), full cupboards, fresh produce on my counter, a full fridge, a large freezer full of meat, and greens, and game and I am grateful. I remember more than once in my twenties having to eat food that was borderline bad because it was all that I had, and going hungry too. I can’t stand to see someone hungry. Those who come to my home leave well fed and with food if they need it.
I recommend watching the documentary. It really opened my eyes and maybe it will give you all ideas for small ways to cut food waste. I just decided to do what I suggest people do with ancestor veneration: to start where I happen to be at the moment and go from there. Our next step is learning how to compost (4). When I’m dealing with food, I vacillate between honoring Ceres, Pomona, Nerthus, Frey, and for cooking, Fornax. This brings me to my final update. We finally installed our Ceres shrine. There will eventually be special space for Nerthus and at least one shrine for Frey and when our fruit trees and bushes start to blossom, we want to put up something for Pomona. This week, however, we installed our Ceres shrine and it is lovely.
There is a wire arch over it and beans planted on either side that will, as they grow, climb up over the arch so that Ceres’ statue will be surrounded by green, growing things. Behind her, our main garden bed begins, and immediately behind her there are zucchini, onions, and eggplant growing. On either side of her, there is fennel, hyssop, borage, and chamomile.
We are also growing the nine herbs of Woden, but that’s a post for another day.
- The farm was originally doing a weekly CSA box, but their farm manager took a leave of absence due to family illness (not Covid) so they refunded everyone, saying that they didn’t feel they could guarantee the quality and timeliness they wished. We got our refunds, $50 gift cards, and it’s not that big a deal. We would have had to go weekly to pick up the produce anyway. We do that now and get to pick what’s in our box. It all works out well. They even have butter and eggs from another local farm, which is lovely. We’ve really been trying to eat organically but just as importantly locally. We’re trying to develop relationships with local farmers and gardeners, supporting where we can instead of buying from supermarkets. So far, so good.
- For me, working the land physically has brought me into greater communion with my male Lithuanian ancestors, but working in the kitchen brings all my Disir around. (For those not Heathen, Disir are female ancestors). It’s a place sacred to them, where nourishing the line, the home, loved ones takes real and concrete form and where stories and wisdom, knowledge and family culture is passed down from our grandmothers (and some grandfathers too but it’s simple historical fact that gender roles were much more divided prior to the twentieth century – this is not to say that women’s roles were treated with disdain. They weren’t. They were utterly essential. One of my Lithuanian ancestors, a male ancestor really drove this home for me. He emphasized that most men worked outdoors with that type of hard labor – some women too but mostly men. Then the women took over with household gardens and indoor work (Cooking, keeping the fire). It took both to successfully sustain a family and both were sacred. There was absolute egalitarianism in his approach to it, and a sense that there were mysteries in both that were holy, complimentary and holy).
- There aren’t poisonous snakes in our immediate area, though the mountain has been getting rattlers recently. We’re just getting garter snakes.
- We have two compost boxes in the back, but I’m concerned they will attract rodents.
I ask anyone reading this to pray for our country.
What started out as justified protests against the murder of Mr. George Floyd has been co-opted and taken over by antifa and radical-leftist scum (and i have read several reports of paid agitators as well…cui bono?). They’re rioting in cities, including Washington, where they have stormed the white house, defaced the military memorials in the mall, and set the national cathedral on fire.
This is, as far as i can tell, an attempted coup by communist and anarchist garbage. This is my first response and it comes with absolute horror. I suspect things are more nuanced, but this country has taken such a turn to the left the last few years, it is difficult to tell. Maybe it is just an explosion of rage at all the injustice in our country — maybe, but it seems far more dire and far more divisive and destructive. I pray that the military will put an end to this swiftly and decisively. But I also pray that change will happen as a result, good and necessary change.
I pray most of all for all our brothers and sisters of color that they may be safe, that THEIR voices may be heard in all of this, that the message of justice may not be buried under the actions of people who have no care, concern, or investment in gaining justice for these communities, but only in creating chaos. I keep returning to the moving speech given by Atlanta Mayor Boomer, which you can listen to here. I also suggest this article by Dr. Bryan Massingale, though it is from a Christian’s perspective. I admire their thoughtful reflection in a time of such anger and rage. I pray also for the police, especially those who have chosen to put down their batons and riot gear and march with the protestors. May they have the courage to maintain a course of honor and decency in the face of fear and anger. May they have the courage to do their own housecleaning and make the changes they need to make.
Most importantly, where ever you are, folks, be safe. Stay healthy. Try not to be stupid or cruel. Take care of your families. Reach out to your neighbor. Our country is on fire. Our dead are disgraced. Our future is imperiled. Now is the time to seek the wisdom of our Gods and ancestors. Now is the time to root ourselves in our sacred ways.
This week we had to completely take down Mani’s shrine. We were having repairmen over to replace our heating/ac unit and they needed unimpeded access to the attic, and hence via the landing where Mani’s shrine is situated. It’s been really disorienting and unpleasant to have this blank space where the shrine to one of our most beloved Deities is usually situated but it’s also an opportunity.
(Here is the shrine as it stands now: bare, empty, and sad).
The workers finished their work yesterday (and they were amazing. It was fascinating watching them work. They really knew what they were doing and were eminently professional). Today, I’m going to start a nine-day Novena to Mani. Each day, I will slowly reconstitute His shrine. Today, I will clean and ask His blessings upon it. This will not only ensure that His shrine is put back together better and cleaner than it was before (it really needed a cleaning), but it will give me and my household and opportunity to show a period of focused devotion to Mani. That’s a win-win. I’ll post pictures here as we go.
Gardening is so weird. It’s awesome and wonderful and back-breaking and frustrating and just weird. We’ve had some ups and downs this past month, with unusually cold weather about two weeks ago killing our basil plants. That was shocking – not that they died, but that they turned totally black having been frozen to death. I’ve read accounts about farming and trying to save crops from an unexpected frost, about how they could turn black and be lost but I’d never seen it happen and it was really shocking to see. We’ve replaced the basil but our intense respect for the elemental powers grows daily (and for farmers, and all of our ancestors who were farmers who depended on the land and elements for not only their livelihood but for the survival of their families). I’m also deeply envious of my friend Sarenth’s rotary tiller lol. I have told him this too. Now, mind you, we don’t have that much land that we would ever *need* a rotary tiller, but that is not the point. I saw pictures he was posting on facebook of a beautifully ploughed field bed and now I have rotary tiller envy. Ha ha.
Our greens have grown lol. I’ve been harvesting and freezing romaine, lettuce, chard, spearmint (I like to add a little to salads to give it a zing), and just as of today, spinach. I’ve also been making salads and clipping our chives to use in omelets and it’s wonderful. The food grown by our own hands tastes so much cleaner and fresher than what we buy at the store. We’re waiting with bated breath for our tomatoes to decide what they’re going to do.
I’m currently waiting on two raised gardening beds for the other side of the house where we’re going to put our root vegetables. I was worried we’d be late planting, but everything we want to put there will work in late summer/early autumn so that is perfect. I just wish the beds would arrive already!
I planted a bunch of seedlings, the first time I’ve worked from seed, and they’re growing! I looked today and radishes and marjoram had sprouted. I hope the parsnips and carrots follow suit. In the interim, we planted a bunch of flowers (many of which are either edible or medicinal and all of which are beautiful), another rose bush (I love roses and have a couple more on order), and I set out some potted herbs: marjoram, basil, rue, peppermint, lemon verbena, lavender, and chamomile.
I also bought a tiny savory plant. I’ve read about this plant but have never used it in cooking. I’m looking forward to experimenting. First though, I need to make woodruff syrup so I can enjoy a nice Berliner Weise when the weather turns hot again. ^___^.
So that’s where we’re at now: waiting for things to arrive and letting the land do it’s work. We’re going to be setting up two shrines in the garden, most likely as part of our solstice celebrations: one to Ceres and one to Freyr. Working the land in this way, for me at least (I can’t speak for my housemates) has given me a far, far greater respect for my ancestors but also a deep sense of conscious connection to my Lithuanian ancestors particularly. I’d always felt somewhat disengaged from them, chalking it up to having been raised by my mother’s side of the family but since we started gardening, my Lithuanian ancestors have been so tremendously present. Farming was a way of life for them, whatever other professions they may have had. Several times they’ve actually given us suggestions to help with our planting. They know the land and what it takes to work it.
Next week, the local CSA should be open and possibly our local farmers’ market too. I’m looking forward to that and soon in addition to adventures in gardening, it will be adventures in canning and pickling. I shall keep you all up to date on how it goes.
I don’t do drugs. Mind you, I think they should all be legal, but I’m too old, too creaky, and have too many health issues. I don’t need to complicate my life, even as a spirit-worker. Perhaps if I weren’t taking certain medications for my migraine condition, I might occasionally walk the Plant Road, but right now, that’s just not in the cards, and it doesn’t have to be. There are multiple techniques and roads by which a spirit-worker can get to where they need to be. The Plant Road has never really been one of mine (1). That being said, it’s a powerful road and one for which I have the deepest respect. Depending on the plant allies with whom one is engaging, it can be potentially fatal. (This is why protocol and preparation are so important). Last night, without ever ingesting anything, I got a powerful taste of a particular spirit’s medicine and got taken on a rather unexpected (and initially non-consensual) journey.
My husband belongs to Dionysos and part of his sacred work is guiding people on plant journeys safely (2). Last night, after several weeks of preparation, one of our housemates had arranged to meet Amanita Muscaria, Little Red Man (3). He’s called “Little Red Man” partly in a nod to the vibrant color of the amanita and partly because the spirit of this mushroom often appears as a fierce little man with either reddish skin or a red cap or both. Sannion was all set to be guide and guard. Not being involved in this work, I was planning instead on working on my final paper for the school semester (which I did, for a couple of hours, at least). They went to do their thing in part of the house, and I went to my studio/office in another part in order to get to work. Ne’er should the twain have met lol.
About an hour into it all, I started to get massively nauseous (one of the symptoms of having ingested amanita – which I repeat, I had not at any point done). It took me awhile longer to realize what was happening, during which interim, I had several significant epiphanies about my paper topic, which I credit to the inspiration of Amanita). Finally, I gave up working, understanding that I was linking in way too much to the power of the Red Man, and went to the kitchen to get a glass of water with rehydration salts (important on plant road journeys – and yes I realize a mushroom is a fungus not a plant but consider “plant” shorthand for the whole breadth of spirits with whom one might work on this road—to stay hydrated before, during, and after) and sat down in the living room to wait for my husband to finish up his work. About an hour later, he came out, by which time I had the beginnings of a bad headache (which is why I don’t do plant path).
We chatted for a bit and realized that because amanita is one of Odin’s plants, because it is associated specifically with berserkers, which gift I have, and because I tend to be very open to the Gods and spirits that are within our household retinue, I had tapped right into the experience our housemate was having, though we each went very, very different places—or, more likely, amanita had tapped right into me. This is what I learned and what I share now about the power of this being:
- I always knew that despite various scholars’ meanderings, amanita ingestion does not cause the berserkergang. Only someone who was not a berserker and who had never tried amanita would think it did (4). Being a berserker is knit into one’s soul. It’s an inherent part of a person, not something learned or acquired; HOWEVER, when used by someone who is a berserk, the spirit of amanita grants speed, incredible speed (everyone and everything else seems to be moving and thinking and existing incredibly slowly), one hell of an advantage in battle.
- It renders one impervious to pain. The Berserkergang does this anyway, but it’s different with amanita. One sees the injury or pain, is aware of it, but is above it, unimpacted. The berserkergang itself has a healing capacity and can ensure some measure of healing to these things so perhaps this would have been useful in knowing where to direct that healing?
- I was several rooms away, working on an academic paper. I hadn’t ingested anything other than a cup of Darjeeling tea. Because of the factors outlined above, I linked unexpectedly right into the Red Man. Parsing this out later, we had a major insight. One person takes amanita and while the Red Man is affecting him/her, that spirit’s influence is beginning to affect the person next to that first, even before that latter person ingests anything. One person taking it augments the next, who augments the next and this would lead to tremendous power and cohesion in a battle situation. I can well see why Odin would suggest use of this mushroom to His warriors. I also suspect that a vitki or spirit worker or shaman offering to the spirit of the mushroom, engaging with it could ensure that the berserkers didn’t mistake their own people for the enemy in the haze of the battle fury. Such a person could direct, along with the cooperation of the spirit of the mushroom itself, the ride.
Ironically, Sannion had suggested before he and our friend began their work that I micro-dose (take a miniscule portion of the mushroom so that I would be inside its influence). I declined because A) I don’t do plant path and B) I had academic work to accomplish. I wish, in retrospect, that I had done as he suggested. I think it would have been an easier journey (I would have known I was taking a journey for one thing!). Today was rough. Because I hadn’t prepared (though I had divined and helped our friend in that friend’s preparations, including talking to Red Man which, of course, had me primed and open for his later influence), coming back to mundane time/space/head-space hurt and of course with me, that often means migraines. But it was worth it. I received information that transformed my research in exciting ways, learned something about one of Odin’s allies, and learned that the ancient contracts and alliances between Gods, spirits, and particular groups of our ancestors (in this case berserks) don’t just disappear. The groove is there and under the right conditions, can easily be activated again. This is a hopeful thing, because it means that we *can* restore the broken lineages and covenants our ancestors threw down when they converted (and even if conversion was forced – a horrendous and horrible thing, a violation on both sides in many ways—the broken covenants with the Holy Powers still exist). Our place in taking up and repairing those threads will be recognized by those Gods and Their constituent allies. That is a good thing, a useful thing, a blessed thing.
- Though it must be noted, that Plant Road work can be very powerfully done without ever engaging with entheogens.
- It’s always good to have an experienced guide the first several times one meets and engages with a plant ally, especially if that ally is an entheogen. It’s also always good to have a spotter, someone to hold the space soberly to make sure that one comes through safe and sound, or to call for help if something goes awry. I think the Gods like courage, not stupidity after all.
- CAVEAT: if you eat this without proper preparation, it will kill you horribly. If you eat too much of this, with proper preparation, it can still kill you horribly. Do not play around with this. Unless you are working under experienced supervision AND are called to the Plant road, it’s best to leave this mushroom and spirit alone. In our state, he is legal, btw. It varies state to state.
- There’s a trend in scholarship to ascribe any mystical, visionary, or magical experience to drugs.
Today my friend Tatyana gave me a present, something I’ve wanted for a very long time. We’ve been working on our garden together and she got me a carnivorous little Venus fly trap. I’m so excited about it. It’s a marvelous little plant! It’s so tiny too. Each of its mouths is only about the size of a nickel. I repotted it as soon as she gave it to me and right now it’s getting fat and happy on my porch. Already three of its mouths have captured bugs.
Apparently, it only grows naturally in the Carolinas and its habitat is in danger. Here is a page all about these plants.
And here is my plant:
That is all. 🙂
This is a courtesy email to authors out there who use Lulu. Check your accounts.
A reader just informed me yesterday that Lulu was offering — without my consent or knowledge — ebooks of my works there for free. (I have since fixed this manually and later this summer will be retiring some of my titles, updating others, and moving the updated ones to a different platform).
I’m not sure if this was an unintentional consequence of their recent site update or sheer incompetence but y’all need to know this is happening and that you’re potentially losing revenue. I offer quite a lot for free, but I won’t have it done without my consent.
So if you use this platform, go now and check the status of your works. You might be in for an unpleasant surprise.
For those interested, by midsummer, I shall be retiring the following titles:
*Full Fathom Five
*Skalded Apples (I’ll be coming out with a small chapbook of prayers to Bragi and Idunna though)
*Walking Toward Yggdrasil (the poetry is included in “He is Frenzy”)
*Whisperings of Woden (yes, it was the first devotional to Woden in modern Heathenry, but the text is included in “He is Frenzy”)
*Essays in Modern Heathenry
*Into the Great Below
*Sekhmet: When the Lion Roars
I haven’t yet decided about “Day Star and Whirling Wheel”.
I will be publishing second editions of the following works, after moving them off Lulu:
*Sigyn: Our Lady of the Staying Power
*Root, Stone, and Bone
*Sigdrifa’s Prayer: An Exploration and Exegesis
so if you want these in their original forms, or if you wish to own copies of the first set of texts at all, now is the time to get them.