Monthly Archives: September 2019
Mani has been on my mind a great deal the past few days and I’ve been longing, so badly it hurts, to sit in devotional space that is filled with His presence. I ache for a God that I love beyond breath. It brings light and color to my world. It adds a vibrancy to my interior vision. He inspires me but sometimes the hunger hurts. I know that no matter how much I pray or how present He may be, there will always be the distance born of flesh and the cage of corporeality between us and I am Odin’s anyway. Mani’s gentle touch is for me only a moment’s grace, a blessed respite from the roaring raging storm that is my home.
He is ancient. Even among Gods He is ancient for all that He seems lithe and young. He has a cold fury that easily matches Odin, a viciousness and valor that one must look very hard to see. He keeps it well hidden under a graceful, alluring mask, but it is there, a thing of His past, and savage. This adds spice to the longing.
I wanted to do something for Him to day since it’s the new moon. I had intended offerings, instead I found myself moved to paint Him in His warlike glory (not a way in which I usually see Him). I think it came out well and I might turn it into a prayer card. I also cleaned His shrine and I will be making offerings later. One can never do enough for the Gods one loves. I wish it were within my power to give Him the world. That is all.
My Mani shrine
Today’s icon of Mani
Mani and Unn by V. Hardy (soon to be a prayer card).
I had a sweet conversation with a theology colleague, a Unitarian minister who is also in the PhD program with me. A third student had asked me what kind of polytheist I was, so I explained and since I was willing to chat about it, he asked about my Thor’s hammer and I said that it is the most common symbol of our faith, representing Thor’s ability to gird the world against dissolution. Since every single one of our sacred symbols, including the Thor’s hammer and valknot are listed as hate symbols on the ADL website (along with bowl cuts and anthropomorphic moon men) –though they do note that “non-racist Pagans” use them too– I was really glad he asked. Last week, I had a Jewish student so concerned about my tattoos, that he had a faculty member come ask me what they were – I don’t mind that. They were asking before assuming, and that’s cool, but it saddens me that automatically their minds went to possible racism. I wear the markings on my skin to honor my Gods and the initiations They’ve put me through, my vows to Them, and my priesthood. It is space claimed for the Holy, nothing more and that is everything.
Every single time I wear a Thor’s hammer I am questioned on campus, and how profane is that? It’s really telling that both extremes of the political equation are going after our sacred symbols, our most sacred symbols….and we and those who engage with us innocently enough like my colleagues above, are caught in the middle.
Anyway, my theology friends and I chatted for a while and once the third student left, my Unitarian friend said, ‘don’t ever watch Stargate.’ I laughed and said I enjoyed some of the series but yeah, found it impious as hell and these days tended to avoid it and we got into a discussion about popular culture (Supernatural, Marvel, etc.) and their presentation of the Gods and why it would be blasphemous for me to watch them. He brought up the fact that they co-opt every God/Holy figured other than Jesus or Mohammed. I told him that yes, I’d noticed that (oh you better by Gods believe I’d noticed it) and we also discussed the foulness of video games that involve “killing Gods” as part of their structure. I find it fascinating that a Unitarian Christian gets the issue with blasphemy, disrespect, and spiritual pollution better than some PlaygansPagans do.
Piety is under attack in our world in small and large ways. Individually these things may not matter but cumulatively they have an effect both on our culture and on us as devout people, on our lives, our perspectives, our worldviews and most importantly of all, the ways in which we behave in the presence of the Holy. It’s important to be mindful, whatever that means for each of us in our devotional lives.
What are some ways that each of you, my Readers, navigate these waters?
I just watched an awesome movie “Kesari,” a retelling (with some embellishment) of the 1897 Battle of Saraghari where (and this is historical fact NOT embellishment) 21 (yes, twenty-one) Sikh soldiers defended the fort for over six hours against more than 10,000 (ten thousand, possibly as many as twelve thousand) Pashtun tribesmen. This past September 12 was the 122ndanniversary of the defense of Saraghari. All twenty-one defenders were awarded the equivalent of a Victoria Cross by the British Crown. May they always be remembered. Learn more here.
The twenty-one men are as follows:
So today I found out that this is happening.
At first I thought, I don’t want the Hudson River ritually linked to the Jordan (all respect to the spirit of the Jordan river). This is purposeless. This serves neither river. Not only is there no practical reason to do this, but it massively elides the individuality of each river spirit. Then of course I looked at the groups doing the ritual and realized that I can put my mind at rest. Competent ritual work has never been a hall mark of the interfaith agenda.
Still, w.t.f? The clear implication is that by linking the Hudson to the Jordan that the Hudson would participate in some derivative divinity. Setting aside the obvious Abrahamic religious underpinnings of wanting to specifically connect to the Jordan River this way, what about we start by recognizing the existential locality of the sacred? Why don’t we honor the individuality of each of these river spirits? The Hudson does not stand for all rivers. The Jordan sure as hell doesn’t stand for all rivers (again, let’s consider for a moment the Abrahamic religious underpinning of such an idea, keeping in mind that “interfaith” usually just means chatter amongst Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities occasionally adding Westernized Buddhists if they’re feeling particularly tolerant and the occasional Native American). If someone is Jewish or Christian, I can see that person relating to the Hudson as a mirror of the Jordan quite well but what does that have to do with the rest of us? Moreover, what does that have to do with either the Hudson or Jordan rivers in and of themselves? It’s obscene. Has any divination been done to see if the rivers consent? And no, I’m not being facetious. We’re animists. The world is sacred and alive and sentient. There are even countries that have recognized the rights of the river as if it were a person. So what this interfaith group is doing with their aggressive and dare I say it colonialist guilt driven hate magic is essentially stripping that personhood away. It’s obscene.
The Jordan river should have its due. It should be honored with regular songs, offerings, with care, with attendance. So should the Hudson. So should every river in the entire world. Pointless rituals like this, designed for nothing more than assuaging western guilt at the devastation we’ve wrought on the world (largely by abandoning our sacred traditions first in favor of Christianity and then of post-modern pabulum) do not make up for that lack and they never will.
Today is the bookversary of my more academic bent book, Transgressing Faith, which was originally submitted as my Master’s thesis in Religious Studies from NYU. 🤓
An eye-opening and balanced presentation of the history of the Heathen revival in America and its attendant conflicts over where to draw the boundaries concerning belief, practice and identity.
Though this restoration has only been going on for a few generations there is tremendous tension within the community concerning areas such as gender, race, normative social presentation, sexuality and questions of religious authority.
All of these are explored with a special emphasis placed on how the community treats those who don’t quite fit in or are called to intentionally transgressive roles.
Who has read it? What were your thoughts on it? Your questions?
I wanted to post something nice before I went to bed and I haven’t posted about the prayer card project in awhile (though folks who read my newsletter have gotten regular updates). Here’s one of the latest cards, which i just added to my shop:
Blodeuwedd by Halldora.
She’s the Welsh Goddess of initiation, poetry, fire, and incantation, a Goddess of transformation and hidden knowledge. May She ever be honored.
I work with people who are, pretty much without exception, radically anti-gun. I also work with people who, again pretty much without exception, have never owned nor even handled or shot a gun. Most of them are deeply committed to faith traditions that promote non-violence and most of them are very liberal. From their religious perspective, it is right and good and proper to hold an anti-gun stance. I cannot fault them there. As much as I like most of them, I wouldn’t want them at my back in an emergency. Mind you, I cannot fault them, but I don’t trust them when violence was required). They are doing as their conscience bids. So am I, which is why I stand firmly against any and all anti-gun measures.
While I don’t currently have a concealed carry permit, I do have several guns at home and a pacel of bladed weapons (among other things, I collect WWI and allied WWII knives). I don’t get to the range for practice enough to feel it proper to have a concealed carry permit and anyway, I work and teach in NYC where such a thing is nearly impossible to get. Still, from both a moral and a religious perspective, I believe it is the obligation of every right-minded adult to stand ready, willing, and able to defend their homes, their families, and themselves. When I carry a weapon, I do so in a nod to my ancestors who survived thanks to their skills with such tools (not guns specifically but weapons. With any weapon, the tech is a tool, nothing more) and in full awareness of being part of a religious worldview that values frith– right order—over peace.
After the last few days of learning about various depredations against polytheists (some historical, some happening today), I realize that I am likely moved by one other reason too: I am a Polytheist. Specifically, I’m Heathen. In both cases I practice a religion whose lineage includes being colonized by Christians, conquered, having our religious spaces forcibly violated, our holy relics destroyed, our children stolen away, and our adults murdered when they resisted forced conversion. That is our lineage. The day we forget that is the day we do not deserve to practice our faith anymore. It’s the day we spit in the eyes of every ancestor who fought and died for their Gods, for the space to practice their devotion unfettered and unharmed. I carry a weapon in part as a nod to those men and women, and a promise that should anyone step into my sacred areas with intent to violate them in the name of their God or for any other reason, they’ll very likely exit on a stretcher.
The space of my home is a sanctuary – literally given that I have multiple shrines on the grounds and inside the actual house. It is sacred space. It should be inviolable space for me and my family, just as our individual bodies should also be inviolable to outside attack. As a pious adult, I have an obligation to my Gods to do everything I can to protect that which has been given into my care. Being ready to defend those spaces and the people in them is part of that covenant. It is part of the agency involved in being a rational, right-thinking adult. For me, it is also a religious obligation.
It is foolish to rely on the goodness of strangers and it is foolish to rely on the government for our protection. No one wants violence but to live one’s life blissfully unprepared for it to occur is equally problematic. Being facile with a weapon is, to my mind, no different than knowing how to lock one’s door at night. In my perfect world, all children would be taught hand to hand fighting and how to use a gun from elementary through high school. Upon graduation, they would have the legal right to carry a gun. (If this sounds crazy, consider that through the sixties many high schools had rifle classes and gun clubs on school property and during school time. Whatever has gone wrong in our society, the problem isn’t guns. It’s just easier to demonize guns than to deal with the social and economic problems that actually lead to gun violence). There is a self-control, a sense of deep moral responsibility that comes with carrying a tool that has the immediate potential to end a life. It changes everything about the way I choose to interact with those around me and makes me far more mindful of my words and deeds. It makes me more aware of how I move in the world. It also makes me more mindful of my responsibilities to my home, family, ancestors, Gods, and community.
Many anti-gun advocates are unwilling and perhaps incapable of looking at guns unemotionally. Many things have been misused and abused in our modern culture and guns are certainly one of those things. It’s all the more disgusting how both guns and bodily sovereignty (esp. for women) have become political talking points by parties that in reality care nothing for their citizens. There is something very, very diseased with our society when young men think it ok to pick up a weapon and murder children. That is not a sign that more gun laws are needed (I think we need less laws and regulation on just about everything) but a sign that our society is sick perhaps beyond healing. It’s easier to fault the symptom than find a cure though but when in shock and pain after yet another mass shooting, I can well understand why many, many people would call for gun bans. I don’t agree, but I understand it.
I for one do not believe it is morally good to put responsibility for my safety in the hands of another. As a pious woman, I cannot do that. As a woman, I would not do that (I saw a post recently that gun rights are women’s rights and I fully support this). The only regulation that I would back is one requiring training and perhaps regular recertification of that training. I belong to a God who is called weapons-wise. When I carry a weapon, I am honoring Him. Yes, bearing a weapon can be a holy act, but needs to be treated with that respect in turn. I have found nothing in the theology of our tradition that would encourage me to disarm and quite a bit that encourages self-sustainability and personal defense. I stand by that. I encourage other polytheists to do the same, in accordance with their conscience and beliefs.
I will add that for the first few decades of Paganism, there was a marked tendency of various denominations to downplay their religious practices and to present themselves to the secular and/or monotheistic world as innocuous, maybe a little quirky, but essentially harmless. It was a survival technique but at some point, that has to stop. We are dangerous. We will collaborate with each other. We will stand up and fight for the right to exist. We will demand parity in public spaces. We will not back down. We are not helpless. For those of you thinking I exaggerate, think on this: a couple of years ago, a priest of Jupiter was hospitalized when his temple to Jupiter was attacked by Christians. Last year, an elderly Greek woman was injured protecting a shrine to Demeter when again, Christians interrupted a religious rite. Temples are violated and desecrated almost weekly in parts of India. Earlier today I posted an article about aboriginal sacred objects being burned by Christians. Last year a practitioner of Candomble was murdered by Christians when he refused to desecrate his own shrine. There’s a Roman saying: si vis pacem, para bellum that I fully agree with. We cannot depend upon the kindness of strangers to protect our sacred places. If we want to have those things, to nourish those things and see them grow into the future we need to be ready, willing, and able to protect them ourselves. I’ve heard it said that people own guns out of fear. I would say that is not generally the case. People own guns because they know they have the wherewithal to protect themselves even when they’re afraid (and for those living rurally, it’s even more of a useful tool. I sure as hell wouldn’t go into the woods without a gun. I have no desire to become something’s lunch).
For all of these reasons and for the simple fact that I don’t see a gun as anything more than a useful tool, I don’t see it as something to fear in and of itself, I don’t see it as the agent of destruction (the gun isn’t doing anything on its own after all), I support gun ownership, responsible gun ownership by people who have taken the time to learn how to use and respect this tool.
To give you an example of how big the divide is on this issue, I’ll share a snippet of a conversation I had today. A lovely woman with whom I work truly, deeply believes that people own guns because they all are at heart white supremacists afraid of the modern equivalent of a ‘slave’ (by which she defined it as anyone the gun owners consider beneath them) uprising. I had to have her repeat it three times because I still can’t see her logic there but then this isn’t a subject upon which people apply logic, not when hyperbole and sentiment will do. This person (and I like her. She’s creative, interesting, and a pleasure to work with) truly believes that the world will be better if guns are banned. I very much do not hold that view. How the hell do you find middle ground there? For me, guns are like condoms and attorneys: better to have it and not need it than the opposite.
True to form, missionaries and new converts to Christianity have taken to burning aboriginal sacred art. Read about that here. I very much believe that when things like this happen, the only just response is for the perpetrators to be hauled into the middle of town and burned alive themselves. This isn’t the 9th century. Polytheists and Indigenous religious practitioners don’t have to put up with this in silence anymore. Understand these people are carrying a contagion and will stop at nothing to eradicate sacred things, practices, songs, liturgy, spaces. Act accordingly.
I need to post something a little more wholesome after my last post — I’m sitting here shaking still. I’ve read monastic rules, I’ve read accounts of christianization but I just never, ever connected all the dots until today and it’s nauseating. So…the cure for that is prayer, to our Gods, to our Glorious Ones, to our ancestors and all those holy spirits who sustain us. Today, for me, that is the Goddess Sigyn.
In Praise of Sigyn
by G. Krasskova
You are unyielding
You will not be moved.
Let others rant and rave and curse.
Where love has rooted itself in Your heart
even the might of the mountain is weak.
You are fierce: a she wolf defending Her own.
No one expects it of You, Sweet Sigyn.
Because You do not wear Your might
as others might wear gleaming jewels,
no one thinks You strong,
a force with which to reckon.
Yours however is the power
that grants no acknowledgment
to that which would turn You from Your course.
You are His North Star, forever constant,
a gleaming beacon, His only comfort
a whisper of half forgotten joy
in the abyssal eternity of the cave.
Your eyes are on Your task,
Asgard truly should fear,
and then pour out offerings
to whatever Powers the Powers honor
lest You turn Your heart to justified vengeance,
on the day You and Your Husband
rise from the pit.
Vengeance is rarely Your way, however,
it is often too great a luxury to nurture in Your heart
in light of the work You must do.
Some sacrifices after all must be made
and You are pragmatic.
Vengeance will not return a murdered son.
Vengeance will not remake a shattered God.
Your way is simply to endure,
which is not so simple at all;
to endure and hold in Your burning heart
the knowledge that nothing lasts for ever.
There is only the wyrd woven
strand by black and bloody strand,
in the crucible of necessary choice.
There is only a strength beyond courage
and the heart and character of valor
plucked from amidst the weaving.
To You, Lady, I bow my head.
Lady of Enduring Grace,
Lady of Valor,
Lady of Victory.
(Her shrine today, with a few simple offerings)