Monthly Archives: April 2016
April is national poetry month and I just got back from giving a poetry reading and teaching a workshop at Riverwinds Gallery in Beacon, NY. I read from my new chapbook “Nine for Odin” and taught three forms of poetry: the cento, the word sonnet, and free verse. We had a lot of fun playing with words and I discovered that all my participants were damned fine poets in their own rights.
To encourage folks to write (and not just to write, but to do so in the middle of a workshop, with strangers around) I threw together a few word sonnets off the cuff as a demo. Since two of them are about Mani, our moon God, I wanted to share them here. A word sonnet is a form of poetry first developed in the 1980s. Unlike a traditional sonnet which has fourteen lines in iambic pentameter with a specific rhyming schema, word sonnets are fourteen word poems, wherein each word forms one of the traditional fourteen lines.
Since I also taught them how to write a cento, I whipped off one very brief one to demo that as well:
Rage, rage, let thy flames feed on me.
The earth is a mistake and a rifle butt.
You will fill the frail shell’s rooms
To a pyre’s golden blaze.
Dark night renders.
Deep in my soul there lies a treasure,
Like the roar of thunder after lightening.
It is the soul I fling.
It is the foul I fling,
Enthroned by storms,
With pleasure that shivers:
The hermit’s carnal ecstasy.
[With respect to Andrew Bely/C. Bowra, Osip Mandelstam/R. Tracy and E. McKane, Marina Tsvetayeva/D. McDuff, Aleksandr Blok/J. Stallworthy and P. France, Aleksandr Pushkin/D.M. Thomas, Fyodor Tyutchev/C. Tomlinson, Velimir Khlebnikov/P. Schmidt, Catherine Tufariello, W. H. Auden.]
Happy Walpurgisnacht, folks. May the Gods and Goddesses of abundance, sensuality, sexuality, and joy be praised and honored. May our ancestors be remembered. May the land be refreshed and renewed. Let the libations flow.
In my book “Devotional Polytheism,” when writing about this holy tide, I note that it “is about sex. Well, ok it’s not just about sex but it is about loosing creativity and readying the land for summer growth, and the explosion of life that comes with the turning of the seasonal year to spring. It’s a seasonal festival all about fertility and fire, abundance, and rampant, unadulterated, unapologetic creativity. It’s about coming and the burning in the loins, and the earth’s seasonal orgasm that brings a flood of life into being as spring turns to summer and the land yields its bounty to the blazing beauty of the sun.”
So go out there and have a frolicking good time. Let us celebrate this holy tide the way our ancestors did: with abandon. Let us bring back our ecstatic rites and let us celebrate our Gods with joy.
Written by request, my take on the story of Dionysos, Acoetes, and the pirates. This is probably my favorite story (after the “Bacchae”) in which Dionysos takes part.
The old priest shifted, drawing the cloak closer around himself and his aching joints. He looked at the young petitioner who’d come to hear of the Mysteries of a God, sure that there was nothing to be demanded of him that he wouldn’t readily give, sure that he could buy his way into and out of any obligations this God might demand. An oracle had sent him so here he was. Without understanding. The old man shook his head. “I will tell you of the last man to appear at my door and what he taught me of the gods” he coughed and spat. “and maybe you won’t be so quick to think you can bargain your way out of devotion with pretty trinkets.” He pointed his chin at the gold cup and bracelet the youth, obviously wealthy, had placed on the Mad One’s shrine. “A man just a little older than you turned up here one night, a night grown silent with his passage. Not even the frogs were croaking their come ons to each other when that ragged, mad thing sought my threshold.” His eyes, sharp as razors despite his age pinned the petitioner like a dagger.
This is what the man told me, when he collapsed, raving, shaking mad before the shrine: “I have been blessed by a God.” It was days though before he was able to tell the tale, days of seeing the terror and bliss crowd sanity out of him, days of hearing him screaming each time he tried to sleep. Days of seeing his body convulsing to rhythms and sounds only he could hear.
“We were on the beach.” He finally began, one night as we were seated around the fire, bones like sentinels reaching up from beneath the skin of his cheeks as he spoke, gleaming like sentries at his wrists as his shaking hands grasped the bowl of food I offered. “me and the men….he came and he was beautiful, parting the space around him as he walked with the sinewy tread of a panther. The air itself seemed to hunger for him, and I ached when I saw the way he moved but then I couldn’t breathe and I told them… he is not human. I looked at him you see, and I saw his eyes. They were not a man’s eyes, not a man’s.” he sat the bowl down; his own hands were shaking too badly to hold it. He doubled over holding himself. ‘once, when I was small I looked into the eyes of a great cat. I’d followed my father when he and his brother went hunting. I saw a tiger leap for the kill, saw its eyes before my father’s spear found its mark, saw its eyes and it saw me and I knew I was the real prey and I couldn’t move, couldn’t run, couldn’t even pray.” He shook his head back and forth, matted locks hiding the hollowness of his cheeks and his words were a sob. “He was like that. His eyes…were the eyes of a predator. There was nothing human there.” He laughed, high pitched and ragged. “there had never been anything human there but the others did not see. They mocked me and pushed me aside. I warned them to let this one go but our take had been meager this trip and they said he’d make a fine slave. They said he was pretty enough to fetch a goodly price and he looked at them and smiled and my bowels nearly released because it was not the smile of a man.” He was rocking back and forth at a more frenzied pace now.
“They invited him to join us and I was silent, wanting only to not be seen or to be seen and taken by him in all the ways a man can be taken. For him I would happily have played the woman” he coughed and it turned into a keening laugh. “when they thought he least expected it they pummeled him and bound him and we were on our ship and he kept watching me, a half smile at his lips. And I could almost taste those lips but why would a man destined to be sold as a slave smile?” he laughed again but there was no humor in it.” I begged my comrades to let him go and when I insisted they beat me and would have locked me in the hold but the world stopped.” He looked up at me and his eyes were tortured but there was more than a hint of ecstasy there too. “the world stopped and He stood up and there was a horrible sound. The captain was yelling, the men were yelling. The ship wouldn’t move and the stranger….he just smiled and walked forward and he wasn’t bound anymore and he wasn’t human. He had never been human. I told them he wasn’t why didn’t they listen?” he rocked and began to sob but just for a moment. Then his face became calm, and I shuddered. Now it was this stranger who was marked with the inhuman. He threw his head back and his voice changed and I could see him taken up by the God’s ecstasy…just a little, just a little but enough.
“The timbers of the ship shrieked and cracked and there were vines everywhere. The ship wouldn’t move, and there was ivy twining around the mast, looping over the bow, pushing back the men and the stranger kept smiling. He looked at me –those eyes—and winked and I forgot to breath at all and then he wasn’t shaped like a man anymore. There was a feral tiger on board, all rich sinew and hard muscle and there was screaming and blood and he lunged at the men, tearing their human flesh. I couldn’t move. I sat where I’d been thrown by the captain watching in horror – they should have let him go—the men died screaming and some of them threw themselves overboard to escape, only they didn’t. Escape that is. The stranger became a man shape once more and threw back his head and laughed and he gestured across the water and they turned into animals, dolphins. It hurt them as their flesh transformed. I keep hearing their bones breaking and cracking and their voices screaming until they couldn’t anymore and their eyes…they kept the eyes of men…as the Stranger gave them their lives –to live as the beasts they were in their hearts I realized later.
“Me, He spared.” He laughed again standing, head arched back, arms clawing at the sky. “because I’d sought to spare Him. He took me to Thebes, made me His…men do not know all the ways a man can serve another” he whispered, voice cracking, wild, insane eyes looking up me suddenly as he threw himself to his knees clasping mine. “He was inside of me so deep” he whispered, laughing and shaking and each laugh a ragged sob. “and I did things for Him” he bowed his head down low between my knees and what could I do but put a soothing hand on his ragged head.
He would not be soothed though. He will never be soothed again. I looked at the callow fool who stood before me now and nodded again with my chin to the statue of the God that adorned the shrine. It was colored in odd places with rusty brown streaks. “All the gold you could possibly bring won’t equal those marks of devotion.” I remembered that other young man tearing himself open as he danced before the shrine, pressing his bleeding arms against the statue in homage head thrown back in ecstasies at which I could only guess. I remembered what he looked like when he finally took his leave…having healed as much as he was going to, having learned the paltry pieties I was able to teach. I had seen Dionysos snatch him up again and again, a vessel. There would never be a ‘going home’ for that young man, never again. The mountains were his home now. I exhaled slowly, knowing myself privileged to have helped him, to have tended a body used by a God as his had been. I realized what was so off putting and wrong with the newcomer that stood before me now, with all his finery and eager hunger: he had never known fear. “stay the night” I told him. “you have much to learn.”
copyright 2016 Galina Krasskova.
There is an excellent article on sacral leadership by Jon Upsal’s Garden here. This article likewise references one by Kiya Nichol on sacral kingship Kemetic style, which is also worth a read.
I think my only quibble with the aforementioned Heathen article is that in the selection of a sacral leader from a pool of candidates at Thing, I think that divination would have played a part. It was the Gods Who would have had ultimate and final say on who should be the sacral leader (Jon Upsal rightly points out that there are more types of sacral leader than just ‘king’). I think this is the part we most often get wrong today. We make it a solely human-centric thing, and give the Gods and our specialists (like seers and diviners) no part in the process. But we’re learning and often by failing we gain important insights that bring us that much closer toward doing this thing well.
That being said, Jon’s article nicely notes that there are mysteries associated with sacral leadership and they are important. There’s a *sacral* aspect to it that cannot be ignored.
I’ve been meaning to write more on sovereignty and sacral leadership but this is finals time at school and it’s been a bit hectic. Perhaps when this term is over, I’ll be able to get that piece together.
Only a few more days until the deadline for submissions to Issue 4 of Walking the Worlds. The deadline is May 1.
The rumor-mill is in full effect with certain people associated with a certain site implying that I or my husband are responsible for this:
I’m not going to speak for my husband beyond saying that I asked him and he just laughed and said, “Not my style.” We’re different people with different ideas and if he considers this an important enough matter he’ll make his own statement.
But for myself, I would like to emphatically state that I did not do it, I don’t know who did it, and if I did I’d tell them to take that shit down because it’s not funny. (FFS, people. Satire takes subtlety. I’ve been accused of many things in the course of my working life, but that has never been one of them). That’s the kind of thing people try with me all the time so why would I turn around and do that to someone else? Or have you guys forgotten about this sickening site:
I don’t have to resort to such cheap rhetorical tricks – merely holding a mirror up to the horrible things these people say and do is enough. I can read. That is why I always provide links, so you can go and read too and make your own judgments as opposed to just taking my word on something. Maybe you don’t know me well, but I am not a shy and soft-spoken woman. I don’t hide and take pot-shots at people from the sidelines – I wade right into the thick of it. Say what you will of me, you always know where we stand with one another.
So whoever is responsible for these sites – do you honestly think you’re helping? (and as to who might actually be responsible and whether or not they want to ‘help,’ I think we really should be asking the eternal question: cui bono? Because I read the first site, and it was written by an insider, or someone with an insider’s knowledge of Rhyd and his work). This situation has gotten bad enough without you throwing more gas on the fire. If you can’t out-argue the other side using truth and reason, you don’t deserve to win.
Come on people, we can – and should! – be doing better than this.
I’m putting out a small chapbook of Nine Centos for Odin. Folks can order it directly from me at krasskova at gmail.com, or I’ll shortly have it up on etsy. This is a limited run.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately; in fact it’s something that I keep coming back to again and again. I’ve avoided writing about it because I don’t think I have the right words. What I mean by that is I fear that the words we should be using (the accurate, correct ones) are so charged by having been filtered through Christianity (with their meanings often adapted) that anything I write wherein I use one of these words (like piety for instance), will trigger so much in the reader (bad memories, perhaps hurt) that my points will be lost.(1) Still, I think it’s important for us to reclaim these words and really, maybe I need to just be giving you, my Readers, more credit. So here goes.
The problem with our communities is that no one fears the Gods.
Breathe and hear me out. When we know that our Gods are real, when we know They have the power to affect our world, when we know They pay attention, and likewise when we have our sacred rites (protocols for engagement) and sacred technicians (shamans, vitki, spiritworkers, seidhr workers, diviners, priests) who can help navigate problems, gaps in extant protocol, insecurities, and tangled fate, we can move into our devotional lives securely, supported with a community of mindfulness, of those who all work together to ensure that the Gods are given proper respect and due. The result brings abundance, luck, success, and happiness to the community itself. It’s the tribal model.
I decided to write this after seeing one of the comments on John Halstead’s latest piece (the comment unfortunately is on fb not the Patheos, so I’m not sure how to link it here) where Mark Green says, “This is why I believe garbling up your mind with gods is a profound, disconnecting mistake.”
I thought, this is the pollution that’s garbling up our communities. This attitude is precisely the problem. Nothing we do for the restoration of our traditions will be of any lasting significance unless and until we “garble up our minds with Gods.” That is precisely the piece that is so often lacking. The problem is that we are disconnected from the way our ancestors, ancestors born, raised, and who died in a polytheistic world, engaged. That’s the piece we most need to reclaim, an awareness of the world that is deeply rooted in reverence for the Holy Powers, and reverence not only begins with recognition of Being, but goes hand in hand with a healthy fear.(2)
In fact, the word reverence itself, etymologically, contains precisely that. The ancient Greek word for reverence, εὐσέβεια, for instance means “good” or “healthy fear.” The English word descends from the Latin and likewise implies both respect and fear.(3) Nor does this healthy fear mean that we are nothing groveling pathetically before our Gods. It means we are mindful that They are Holy Powers and that logically has an effect on our behavior and hopefully on the way we live our lives.
Because I am reverent I don’t want to do those things that might offend or sadden my Gods. I don’t want to watch or read those things that spit on Them. I don’t want to expose myself to pollution that puts one more layer of disconnect between me and Them.
Because I am reverent, I will avoid encouraging in myself those thoughts and attitudes that might nurture irreverence. Because I am reverent, I will avoid engaging in company or pursuits that do encourage (and in some cases actively discourage) attitudes of mindfulness and respect for the Gods. Because I am reverent I make certain choices with how I live my life and sometimes those choices will rule out certain things. In the end, it comes down to exactly that: a choice and wanting to make choices that best benefit us and our relationships with our Gods.
We don’t live in a culture or society that in any way whatsoever encourages making those choices well. In fact, we live in a world that encourages and sometimes flagrantly demands the exact opposite. We’ve been raised in this world and in many respects we’ve been shaped by its poison. That’s a hard thing to overcome and it means that we have to consciously think about things like reverence in a self-conscious way that our ancestors didn’t have to employ. To step into the presence of our Gods is a privilege, one that should awe us to the core. To forget that, or worse to start thinking of it as a right we can then dismiss in order to get on with socializing is not just incredibly sad, but incredibly short sighted too.
Now I don’t necessarily think that if I say or do something impious or irreverent that the Gods are going to smite me. They have better things to do, though such irreverence might affect my personal luck. What I do think is that it will diminish me as a human being and it will make it that much more difficult for me to engage cleanly and well with my Gods and ancestors. It will likewise and slowly but surely poison my engagement with the restoration of our traditions and cut me off from the blessings of my Gods.
The core foundation of our traditions isn’t its rituals, its theology, its lore, its art, or even its devotional practices. The absolute core foundation is reverence, that sense that there are Gods and They pay attention and They are terrifying and vast and we can choose how we engage with Them (and for each choice there are consequences). That’s the core. Everything else then flows from that awareness.
I’ve often complained to colleagues that it seems like it’s always two steps forward, one step back with our restorative progress, that no matter at how basic a level we’re working, it seems like people just aren’t getting it. It’s like all of us start not at the starting line but a thousand plus paces behind it. The most baseline understanding that our ancestors had, we lack. That’s why I think we need to help each other here. It’s why each of us today have such an important role to play in the defense and restoration of our traditions, each in our own way. We need our specialists and our mystics, and we need our committed laity and everything in between. But it starts with reverence and all the ways we can cultivate that within ourselves.
- The word ‘piety’ for instance, which I very much think we need to actively reclaim, originally meant one’s duty to one’s gods, ancestors, land, community, and family. Early Christians shifted the meaning (despite there being perfectly good words for what they wanted) to ‘love’, specifically ‘love of God’, which A) disconnects one’s spiritual life from every other part of one’s world, and B) is remarkably limiting in actual practice.
- Fear is not an unnatural or bad thing necessarily. I’m afraid of dying of hypothermia, for instance, so when I am winter camping I take all necessary precautions to ensure that doesn’t happen. Sometimes fear is the natural side effect of recognizing the true nature of a thing, and our own position relative to that thing. It reminds us that those protocols of engagement are there for a reason.
- See the entry for reverence at the online etymology dictionary.
It’s interesting to compare the account of an Antifa protest provided by Gods&Radicals with other people’s description of the incident. It’s even more interesting to compare actual footage, such as that found here and here. Keep in mind, I don’t actually support the views being expressed by either side in the video but the proper response is to keep debating not dump a bottle of piss on a woman’s head because she’s argued you into a corner and you can’t find your words.
Disgusting, and all too familiar.
I mean, all you have to do is look at the conversation I was having with C. Thompson here and here. He came bursting into an already existing conversation, did his chest-thumping schtick to intimidate us, started randomly accusing folks of being racist and when asked for concrete examples couldn’t provide a single one. He did lie, twist words, and repeat the racist charge like a mantra – but was completely unable to engage in civil and rational debate until he was finally chased off with his tail between his legs.
Anne Hatzakis, of the wonderful Greek Revivalist Mommy blog, posed the following:
I have read the articles in question, and as a Hellenic Reconstructionist/Revivalist, I heartily agree with Galina. I also think that those of us who ARE in the Reconstructionist movement need to speak up about what we ARE so that people know the difference between the truth and the spin about us.
I think we see here why more people aren’t speaking up.
They’re intimidated and afraid. They don’t want piss – whether metaphorically or literally – dumped on their heads for daring to question these people and their attempts to co-opt and pervert our religious traditions and communities for their own twisted political and ideological goals. They don’t want to be hounded, harassed, banned, censored, threatened and physically silenced. So they do it to themselves.
That’s not an option for me.
There’s other things I’d rather be blogging about – and have been, though they don’t get near the attention or traffic – but I’m also going to hold this line and keep calling these people out, even if I end up standing alone. As I mentioned a while back, many in my family died fighting authoritarian regimes on both the Right and the Left – and I will not dishonor their memory by letting some online bullies scare me into keeping my mouth shut.
So bring on the bottles of piss. I’ll take a shower and keep typing away at my keyboard.
It looks like the G&R crowd are starting to get rattled and letting their true colors shine through. C. Thompson, whose friends hold some very offensive views of ATRs which he’s apparently okay with as long as it “gets er dun” (“er” being shutting down those people who hold political views contrary to his own) has now set his sights on two of the most vocal critics of the Marxification of paganism. Mind you, this is nothing new. Look at how he hounded people over at J. Agathokles’ blog.
Unable to come up with any valid criticisms, this Cateran of Social Justice began sputtering out “But but … they’re RACISTS!!!”
Because of course he did. That’s always what they do.
Anyone who’s spent five seconds reading through those blogs will see that they’re not card-carrying racists. Not even if you squint really hard. Maybe if you clap a lot and believe with all your might. But not in any kind of objective way.
Sure, they express ideas I don’t always agree with, or take things I do agree with to places I’m not particularly comfortable – but that makes them wrong, not racist. And if I think they’re wrong I’ll tell them that – just as I’m sure they’ll tell me when they think I’m wrong – I won’t try to drive them out of the community with pitchforks and torches.
It’s like Wayland Skallagrimsson says:
As you seem to think it appropriate to make judgments and condemnations of us without having bothered to do even minimal research, let me provide the history lesson you skipped. The modern heathen/Asatru movement was pretty disorganized in the eighties, the decade it really got going in. Anyone who said they were heathen was accepted as such. Then there was a series of schisms around the end of the decade, into the nineties. One of the most major of these, the one you could not have possibly missed if you had done even a cursory amount of research into us, was the schism between Folkish and Universalist heathens. And also Tribalist heathens, but they were more of a minority at first. The other two groups were dominant. In other words, the movement that birthed the Folkish heathens also birthed the other major camp, the left wing, multicultural heathens. You know, the ones whose existence you doubt. […] So your snide little comments about “the clear association between Heathenry and an openly racialist subculture,” and “But what is it about Asatru that creates a trajectory towards the folkish interpretation,” are, at best, disingenuous, and at worst actual lies. Our religion, our gods, are not props in your political struggles, Burley. You use us. You insult us. You misrepresent us. Fuck you. I have been in the heathen scene for a long time. I have written a lot, and run groups. I have spent a lot of that time and effort in fighting fascism. Like any true heathen, I have stood up against the right wing and fascist elements in my religion. But that does not make me left wing. I also stand against you and your left wing brand of fascism, Burley. You and your Gods & Radicals buddies are every bit as bad as the right wing variety. And I will take just as strong a stand against you. We don’t need Folkies stealing our traditions and pushing their own agenda with it. And we do not need a load of crypto fascist anarchist neo-maxi Zoom dweebies doing it either.
We don’t need these White Knights gatekeeping our communities – especially when they’re coming in from other communities to do so. (Pssst! Hey neopagans, before you start lecturing Heathens on ethics, maybe do something about that whole pedophilia and rape problem you’ve got, yeah?)
Better yet, why don’t we actually listen to the voices of PoC instead of their “PC interpreters.” News flash: I know it’s a radical concept but PoC are actually capable of thinking and communicating for themselves and don’t need you to fight all their fights for them. Something, unfortunately, RMD felt was necessary to remind folks here:
as an AA woman I kinda wish sjw’s (especially non poc one’s) would let me gather my thoughts and speak for myself before jumping up to yell racism on behalf of me or any other ethnic person or group. We’re capable of figuring out what’s offensive and harmful to us, and frankly such reactions reek of trying to avoid being tagged with the racist label oneself and infantilizing the group’s one claims to be speaking for. These types of so called allies also tend to have as stereotypical view of AAs/POC as any other prejudiced person: That our experiences are only about struggle and pain and only that narrative of Blackness is acceptable.