Monthly Archives: May 2018
Thank you to everyone who submitted for this Agon. 🙂 It’s open for two more days, if you were thinking about submitting but haven’t gotten around to it yet.
For Jord, The Filth in My Hands
Every. Damn. Day.
I bear witness to Your body’s defilement.
Litter. Garbage. Filth.
Water bottles, plastic wrappers, coffee cups.
All tossed aside by those who claim to love the
but, by their actions, show just how they feel about
Every day I walk to work, I gather the litter left behind.
I beg You and the Local Spirits to forgive the disrespect shown to You,
the forgiveness I can never give.
One handful, often two.
I offer my labor to You because I don’t know what else I can do.
On the way home, the ritual is repeated:
Water bottles, plastic wrappers, coffee cups.
One handful, often two.
The hummingbirds, bluebirds, and sometimes hawks watch me.
Perhaps the foliage which adorns You watches me as well.
They are often my only witnesses.
At times, a walker along the “green” belt watches, amused or perhaps
disturbed by my actions. After all, isn’t it “someone else’s job” to clean up the waste?
No. No one cleans it. Not the Park Department. Not the landscapers.
If not me, who?
For you Jord. For you Earth. For you Mother.
Filth in My Hands.
But that one day,
an elderly woman, hunched with years lived, sees my hands full of litter,
sees me pick up another item thrown away in an act of sacrilege,
smiles at me and says “Thank You”,
and it’s all worth it.
by P.S. V. L.
O Most Venerable Mother,
Whose bones are of forgotten giants,
Whose flesh is of shattered beings,
Whose blood is of the sweat of ancestors,
Whose arms embrace all life,
Whose hands receive all in death:
May our efforts to undo the blight
upon Your limbs be pleasing to You;
May Your wrath be averted
though we have been children in error;
May Your beauty be restored, recovered
though we have been blind to it;
May our better stewardship of Your other children
Bring you tears of joy in rain and laughter in winds;
and may our time upon Your face not be short!
For You, Jord, Earth in All Your Splendor
I sing a song of praise and sorrow,
and may I never stint in remembering You
with offerings of thanks and good words of honey.
A Springtime Prayer to Jord
by Sarenth Odinsson
Loamy Earth, deep and rich
Full and black
Hela and Nidhogg blessed
The Dead in Your body
The soils’ life
Renewed and resurrected
Seeds dig tendrils and reach up
Mushrooms grow and spores spread
Everywhere is life
Bound up in Your Body and Breath
O holy Jord!
Life and Death unleashed
Dancing within and across Your Body
Waters fall, rivers swell
Bellies quicken, blood flows
Flesh pales, bones are cleaned
The Lakes yet live
The fish yet swim
The deer yet roam
The trees yet grow
The bees yet harvest
Sun drenched and rain soaked
Buds come forth from the trees
Grasses grow tall in the hills
Fields are carved and planted in the farms
The winds are wild and storms fierce
Spring has come in its riot
Frost and heat and frost and heat
So Kari’s breath finally lifts
All moist in the morning
As Sunna’s Charge drives off the cold
Green spears burst forth from Your ground
Freyr’s Blessings rises tall
Falls beneath Gerda’s knife to rise again
All born in and borne by You
O Holy Jord!
The skies fill with birds’ flight
The ground with ants’ wars and tunneling worms
The gardens and wild places with flowers
The pots and beds with herbs
The heart with renewal
We hail You in Your Spring, O Jord!
Your raiments of green and purple, blacks and reds
Your swollen rivers and swelling fruits
Your cool breezes and warm days
Your blessings that pour, call, and grow all around us
Small Prayers for Jord
by Sarenth Odinsson
Regin whose body is the World
Let me walk well with You
May I listen closely
In the breath of air, the song of rain, the calls of birds
For what You would have me hear
Bless my hands, O Jord
That their work does well to You
Bless my heart, O Jord
That it always keeps You
Bless my head, O Jord
That is always thinks on what is best for You
Bless my feet, O Jord
That they always walk well upon You
Mound of all the Ancestors
Please let Them hear my words
Please let Them receive my gifts
Please let Them speak to me
Please let Them give Their gifts in kind
Mound of all the Ancestors
May my words be heard, my gifts received
Whose Heart is molten
Whose body is the ground
Hear my prayer, Earthmother
Thank you Jord for my life, my family, my Ancestors, the Gods that live in You, on You, and with You.
Hail Jord, Earth Itself! Hail to the wild places and the cities, the deserts of ice and sand, the teeming forests and the irradiated wastes, the deep oceans and the height of Your skies!
Life of Jord
by Dr. E. Kelly
Night reached out her long fingers in the darkness
She touched Another
For the first time, there were two sides
Blood soon followed
Young Gods tore up the old Giant
This is how Jord was born
Seas lapping her long fjord toes
While her hair rippled in the waving grass
“Folded furrows in the field soon to be filled
Gracious graves hold the gravity of the dead
Homes to house all lively beings here!”
Once Jord was ridden by Fury
She hosted the Host riding over and under
From the flash and the clash and deep, long stillness
As Protector of Men , she brought forth her son;
A Song For Jörð
by Amanda Artemisia Forrester
I do not know you, Jörð, new as I am to this Northern Path.
I am accustomed to hailing my deep-breasted Earth Mother as Gaia.
But this strange and shadowy wildman who calls Himself Odin has captured my heart,
And He has drawn me far from the warm and comforting shores of my Grecian home.
I am as adrift (and as frightened, too) as a new-captured thrall on these icy Northern paths, learning a new language and new world with new Gods.
So I cannot claim great knowledge of You, Lady Jörð,
But I have everlasting respect and soul-deep awe of Your Jötunn power.
You are a Queen among Jötunn, the pure Power of fecund earth, which both gives life and devours it.
It was You that Wise Odin the Spear-thrower choose to bear His greatest son,
Thor the Thunderer, Wielder of Mighty Mjolnir, destroyer of monsters and friend to mankind!
Truly, it was only when the Æsir of wisdom joined with the primal and untamed power of the female giantess of Earth, that Asgård’s greatest defender could come forth!
It is the marriage of order and chaos that enables Creation,
Just as when Fire and Ice first met in Ginnungagap, the yawning maw of nothingness at the beginning of Time.
So I do not know You Jörð, not yet.
But I can truthfully say that I hope to, one day, as I have found my way to the path of my ancestors.
In the meantime, I pray You will accept this meager offering of my sincere song, impoverished in knowledge of the lore though it may me.
So I raise this horn of honey-mead in your honor, Great Goddess Jörð, an offering as much as my heartfelt words.
Jord, Lady Mother
I look at your Earth
You’ve cradled your children
So long since their birth
Without your love, would be no growth
The breath of life, would be unknown.
From brightest skies to darkest depths,
Through cycles of all births and deaths,
You’ve held us tight within your arms
Helped us survive through any harm.
Lady mother, I look and weep,
Your selfish children fail to see
Your pain that echoes through their greed
As endlessly, they seek to feed.
Lady Mother, help us to learn
To understand while there’s still time,
The people of the earth must earn
A better chance for future life.
To take care of beloved earth
From every branch on every tree
From every tiny thing that crawls
And everything within the seas
Lady Jord, I pray to you
And hope to do my very best
To reduce the impact that I have
On this our world, which you have blessed.
There was a moment today where I was filled with awe and gratitude for what it means to belong to a God. The path of Odin that I follow is that of Gangleri. This is how He comes to me most of the time, and when it comes to ordeals and challenges that define the boundaries of my spiritual life, they tend to be dictated by this aspect of Odin’s nature. I had a moment today where I realized what that truly means and how deeply and significantly it can impact one’s life.
There are things I want or want to force into a specific shape so badly that I would rip my own entrails out in order to be able to do so. There are things for which I ache, actions I wish to take driven by raw emotion, desires, life paths I want desperately to follow, even the indulgence of certain emotions and I cannot – no matter how much it feels like not reaching for these things will tear me apart – I cannot because of obligations I have to the Gods, because of my reason for being, because of whom They have made me, and whom I’ve agreed to be with Them. I cannot do and be in some ways that I want (healthy or no, good or no) because to do so would be to abandon everything I have promised my Gods; and sometimes I hate it (such a mild word – hate—for the cyclone of emotions embedded in all of this) and I rage and it takes me to a point of almost suicidal despair. If I have also neglected my devotions, if I am unable to slide my heart and mind and spirit into a place of receptivity, humility, and deep love for the Gods, if I am unable to sense or touch Their reassuring Presence than it is very easy to go to that darkest of places, to feel oneself being drawn to within a hair’s breadth of that precipice. But if I am able to reach out, and if I’m given the grace of the touch, barest touch of Their presence, of Odin’s presence, everything changes and I am restored.
It happened ever so briefly today and I realized that in carrying my own pain and rage and disappointments, I carry His. Perhaps this is a small bit of what He goes through, over and over, this most passionate of Gods Who must sublimate everything – even His own desires– to His own higher purpose, His own question for power and knowledge and that which will enable the Gods to maintain cosmic order. Perhaps this is what it means to be devoted to a God, to belong to a God. If I can re-position my own struggles thusly, it allows me to connect so intimately and so directly with Him. It changes everything. Then these things are a glory to bear, and they carry sweetness because they lead to Him. Then, bearing them lightly becomes part of my spiritual work and a joy.
I wish to Gods I could stay in this head space always. I can’t do that though and so I have to bring myself consciously back via prayer and meditation. Still, the mark of that initial grace remains and I am grateful. I wish gratitude to always be the motivating force in my relationships with Them. It resets the soul. It cleanses and restores. It brings a joy so deep that the soul laughs. It lightens and sustains. It restores focus and with Gangleri, it’s all about that ultimate focus. I praise Him, now and always.
Jord’s agon ends in three days and there is only one submission. Come on, folks, we can do better for our Earth Mother.
Everyone who contributes receives a prayer card. The winner will receive ten prayer cards of choice and I’ll donate $25 to the land-based charity of his/her choice.
Agon closes May 31, 9pm EST.
If you have prayers, poems, images, stories, etc. send them my way.
I’ve been doing quite a bit of devotional work, more intently than usual, for Sigyn lately. She is such an under-estimated Goddess and I don’t think She gets anywhere nearly the attention and veneration She deserves within modern Heathenry and for a number of reasons (1). She is one of two Goddesses for Whom I have deep devotion and I’m afraid I’d been ignoring Her myself the past few months. Suddenly, though, when I reach out to Her in my struggles, She is there and I am reminded once again of how powerful Her blessings can be. One of the things that I’ve been meditating on with Her guidance is fidelity.
Now I know it’s one of the nine noble virtues, but that actually isn’t what brought it to my mind and contemplation. Sigyn is prompting me to clear my heart and head, to re-center, refocus, rebalance and to reconsider everything that forms a part of my character. We began with what for me is fairly easy: fidelity. This isn’t something on the surface that I’ve ever struggled with…on the surface, not with my Gods and not with my husband. I consider myself blessed in that surface fidelity has never been an issue, but I want to parse that out here a bit more. A friend had asked me recently to write something on marriage so take this as the first post on the topic (though to be fair, my own reasons for writing about it have to do not with marriage but with my devotional relationships. I think I realized some time ago, however, that the same practices and behaviors can help or hinder both).
Fidelity can best be defined as remaining faithful to one’s commitments. One of the things that Sigyn has gently pointed out to me the past few days is that it’s not enough to remain faithful. There are ways to do that poorly, grudgingly, carelessly or mindfully and well. To embrace fidelity in the best of ways is to do so consciously, as an ongoing practice. That means accepting and embracing [self-directed] curbs on one’s behavior in some cases (perhaps not all) and acting consciously from love and a desire for the other’s happiness and health. How do we embody this practice in our devotional relationships and in our human ones too? Do we even give it a second thought beyond the most obvious?
What got me on the fidelity bandwagon was a book I read recently: “If Nuns Were Wives: A Handbook on Marriage from the Perspective of a Nun.” The nun in question is a Buddhist woman who trained in a very traditional convent in Taiwan for many years before her elders and teachers realized that convent life was not for her and sent her back out into the world. She talks about all the lessons she learned during her spiritual training and how they have helped her nurture her marriage. It came up in my feed on Goodreads, and I was curious (thinking, I’ll admit, that it was from the perspective of a Catholic nun – I was bored and didn’t read the description well). I wanted a quick read after some of the academic reading I’ve been doing lately and so downloaded it and dashed through it. Boy, did I get more than I bargained for! While I don’t agree with everything in the book (her willingness to cry seems a bit manipulative to me, for instance, rather than ‘showing softness’), there are beautiful passages and suggestions and meditations on various virtues. Her focus on the daily mundane, (of cleansing oneself, mind and heart and soul, with every act of physical cleansing of one’s dwelling), the grace of maintaining a home, of keeping balanced and loving space, reminded me so strongly of Sigyn that it brought me back to Her shrine on my knees (2).
In one very brief chapter, the author writes about fidelity and this is what struck me so about this virtue, and this is why I referred to “surface” fidelity above. The author says that “being faithful is a state of mind” (kindle loc. 1443), that it goes far beyond (remember she’s talking about marriage) not “lusting after another person” and “reserving your love and affection for the” one you choose to spend your life with. The way she describes it, fidelity becomes an ongoing [spiritual] process of choosing to engage in those behaviors that nourish one’s relationship, and choosing to avoid situations that might not, to curb one’s behaviors where it could lead to the opposite. She makes it clear that it’s something that she herself chooses to do, no one forcing her, and that it enhances the quality of her marriage. This made me question where I’d fallen short not just in my marriage but more pointedly with my devotional relationships as well (because I’ll be honest, since my adopted mom died in 2010 it’s been rough, hence why Sigyn is spurring a much needed re-evaluation and cleansing).
Early on in the book, the author describes marriage thusly:
Marriage is not the easiest of institutions. It requires mindfulness, heart, compassion, unconditional acceptance and often the kind of wisdom that comes with true maturity. It also requires something even bigger and more spiritual than what most people have to offer their mate – reverence.(kindle loc. 152. Italics in the original).
To be blunt, no shit! If people realized how difficult, they’d never do either! Marriage is fucking hard and let me tell you, so is devotion. We come to both with so many unconscious expectations and unacknowledged needs, with baggage: hurts, scars, damage and the space of the relationship becomes the arena in which those things are dredged up and worked on or out. For me, fidelity becomes a commitment to stay the course through the barren times, through the difficult times, through the struggles.
It’s more than that though, it’s a committed willingness to tend the relationship as though it were a living, fragile thing requiring constant care – because it is (and again, this holds true in marriage AND devotional relationships). We’re all self-centered in our hurts, in our needs, in our moments of vulnerability and it’s easy to forget to step away from ourselves and prioritize our partners (or Gods) but I think the practice of fidelity is what allows for that perspective, what allows for one to approach the other in gratitude, in love, with deep compassion, with an awareness of the love the other bears for us. In one section of the book (which I did not mark, so this is my paraphrase), the author talks about a terrible fight she had with her husband. She went to cool off and while she was, she began to consciously think about all the small things he did out of love for her, little things that might otherwise pass unremarked. She found that by calling up the kindnesses, the moments of him tending their relationship, of him expressing love in small ways and acts, she was able to move from anger to appreciation and a more open head and heart space in which to talk. I think it works that way with devotion too.
If we continue with the metaphor of tending a relationship like one would tend a garden (which I like because the word for cultus in Latin also means to tend or till a field), then that also means weeding that garden, not letting things build up, not bottling up needs and vexations but being willing to talk them though with your other to reach accord. Tending a garden means not hiding, not allowing weeds to sprout and grow, strangling the good. That means attentiveness, hard work, consistency, and a willingness to be uncomfortable.
Fidelity also means loving someone just the way they are. We don’t (or shouldn’t) enter into relationships to change the Other/other. We love those people in our lives just the way they are, and hopefully they love us the same. Fidelity grants the amazing gift of being able to be oneself, and allowing one’s partner likewise to be the same. I don’t think two people in a relationship set out to hurt each other, but hurt happens and it’s the same in devotional relationships. Cultivating a practice of fidelity, I think, means consciously returning to a place of love and kindness before acting, before speaking, space in which each party can breathe. I particularly liked the section where the author noted (for her, with respect to her husband, but this is something I want to carry with me in my devotional relationships with my Gods too):
In my marriage, I thought about all those times I resented my husband for not saying or doing something I wanted: for not demonstrating love as I wished. “Why don’t you care about me?” I would silently ask myself. “Why don’t you come talk to me? Love me?” But rarely had I asked, “What more can I do for you?” or “How do I show you I care?” My mentality had been so wrapped up around myself. But compassion is a sentiment that requires one to let go of selfish thinking and to ask, “How can others’pain be alleviated? Are they lonely or sad? How can others be happy?” (loc. 2217)
And that is damned difficult. We’re selfish creatures and our hurts all too often define us. It’s really, really hard to see beyond the sting (or punch in the gut) of pain. But a relationship is like a dance and for it to flow smoothly, both people must be committed to doing just that. I wish, oh dear Gods I wish that I’d realized this when I started building my devotional relationships. I am ashamed to think of the times that I have been (and probably will be again, let’s be honest) peevish, selfish, and just spiteful and mean with my Gods (and probably with my husband too!). Taking those times of failure though, when we are less than what we know we should be, can help us hone our practice of fidelity, can help us to re-evaluate and make it better. (No wonder both atheism and divorce are up – who the hell wants to go through the constant trouble! Lol). Acting with love is exhausting! Except that it’s not, it keeps a relationship vital and charged and constantly renewing itself.
A commitment to fidelity is a commitment to constant renewal. It means that one doesn’t allow oneself to become comfortable within a relationship, to take it for granted, to become dismissive, to rest on any laurels, as the saying goes. And yes, it’s being faithful and choosing not to do that which would compromise one’s faithfulness. There was a prayer offered in the book that screams to me of Sigyn-wisdom: I pray that my heart be as vast as the sky. (loc. 229). So here is my prayer lifted from that:
I pray that my heart be as vast as the sky,
that I may always remember to ground myself
in a place of love, of gratitude,
in a willingness to see, to hear, to care.
May I never fear the vulnerability these things bring,
but embrace the ever-changing, ever-renewing maelstrom
that is devotion…
with my Gods, in my marriage, with my friends.
May my heart open
and may it be as vast as the sky.
I place myself at the feet of my Goddess,
Sigyn, Lady of the Staying Power.
May I learn, oh Sweet Goddess. May I learn.
Hail to You, Sigyn, Goddess of constancy,
Hail to You, Goddess of Devotion.(3)
- I think there are a couple of reasons that Sigyn gets short shrift in our community (not across the board. She has significant cultus in some denominations, but in the more mainstream denominations She’s too often overlooked); partly She is Loki’s wife and remains with Him when He is bound in the cave. Loki is incredibly controversial in the continuum of communities that make up the modern Northern Tradition. Some love Him, some hate Him, some fear Him. He polarizes and this is themajor denominational fault line within our traditions. Because Sigyn doesn’t repudiate Him, She’s often dismissed as a doormat, an abused wife—all because She made a conscious choice to honor Her commitments to a Husband Who loved and cherished Her, a choice that many in our community might not like. I suspect, She’s also often looked at as a ‘doormat’ because Her locus is the home. She tends the home and creates sacred, nourishing space. Her world is the domestic sphere and for all that Heathenry honors the traditional roles of women, I think because Sigyn is not flashy, not overly sexualized in modern narrative, not given a role as a warrior or queen, because She is a hausfrau, She’s often sadly dismissed as weak (which is foolish to anyone who knows the respect with which wives were held in ON homes).
- “A nun told me that when they sweep, they imagine they are sweeping away the negativity of their minds: impatience, irritability, greed, anger and the like. Cleaning the floor becomes a process of inner purification.” (kindle loc. 279).
- In addition to Sigyn as a Goddess of devotion and constancy, we have the also overlooked Goddess Nanna, wife of Baldr. If there is ever a Goddess of fidelity it is Nanna, who chose to follow Her husband into Helheim rather than remain without Him.
The deadline for Walking the Worlds submissions has been extended until June 1. If you’re planning to submit something, please send it my way at Krasskova at gmail.com by then. If you need a few extra days, that can be accommodated. We’ve already got a great issue, folks, and i’m excited to see this one go to print.
My colleague Larissa is going to be offering an online course in Old Norse this summer, and I highly recommend it for those of you curious about the language. Larissa is an accomplished linguist and medievalist and I highly, highly recommend her class.
The Eddas are important texts for us Heathens. While they are not sacred in and of themselves, they contain doorways and windows to the sacred. We can learn important things about our Gods and ancestors through them. We do ourselves a disservice by reading in translation. There is a saying very well known in translation studies: “translator-traitor.” In other words, the moment you’re dealing with a text in translation, you’re not longer dealing with the actual text. There is so much that we miss. This is a fantastic opportunity to acquire the basics of what is for us as Heathens, a very important language.
Course Description: This course will be an intensive introduction to the Old Norse language and literature. It will provide an overview of Old Norse grammar, as well as a brief survey of the Eddas. Readings will include excerpts from Gylfaginning of the Prose Edda, Hávamál and Völuspá of the Poetic Edda, and others depending upon student interest. The course will run once a week for 10 weeks, from June 3rd – Aug. 5th. The instructor will provide materials. No prior knowledge of Old Norse or Icelandic is necessary. If interested, please email email@example.com.
Time: Sundays at 7pm EST.
Price: $250, payable in 4 installments if necessary.
About the instructor: Larissa is currently a PhD student in Medieval Studies at Yale University. She has a BA in Political Science from Columbia University and an MA in Medieval Icelandic Studies from the University of Iceland. Her mission is to make Old Norse more accessible to a wider audience.
please contact her directly at larissa.parthenon at gmail.com if interested.