Monthly Archives: November 2019

QOTD

The most tragic thing for a nation is to have no memory.

                            –Peng Wang, artist

(We were watching a documentary today on China’s one child policy and one of the people interviewed said this, a sentiment with which I quite concur. It occurred to me this is alwayswhat communism did as soon as it came to power: destroyed your thinkers, intellectuals, artists – your keepers of collective memory. They did so for the same reason that Daesh destroys polytheistic temples and religious items: so that for the generation that follows there will be no clue that things were ever different than what the party says it is and has been. It’s obscene, and this is what way too many in our communities and in our country today want to embrace. Maybe read a little history and reconsider).

Increase Your Book Hoard 📙+📚 = 😍

I love books. I am an avid bibliophile with a serious literary habit. As such, I just love the tradition in Iceland called the Jolabokaflod (Yule Book Flood) where people buy books for themselves, and as gifts.

The tradition originated during World War II when foreign imports were restricted, but paper was cheap. Iceland’s population was not large enough to support a year-round publishing industry. In Iceland one of 10 Icelanders will publish a book in their lifetime, and one of the hallmark signs that the yule season is approaching is when the Icelandic Bokatidindi (a catalogue of all the new books) is delivered for free to each Icelandic residence. So the frenzy begins!

New Phototastic Collage.jpg

You can shop the range of my books from new releasing titles or past titles by popping over here to amazon: http://amzn.to/2zscWsf  💖

 

R.I.P. Ochani Lele (Stuart Myers), beloved child of Obatala

It is with deep sadness that I woke today to find that my friend and mentor Ochani Lele had died. He has had a rough couple of years and six weeks ago, he took a bad fall in his home and was {mis-}diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff. When the pain did not cease, he returned, several times to the doctor and finally demanded tests, which his doctor did five weeks later. It turned out that he had a broken neck but during the course of treatment, doctors discovered he also had stage four cancer. He was immediately moved to hospice where he passed away yesterday (November 27) at 7:30 in the morning. He was with his dear friend, Flavia, a child of Yemaya, who is now taking care of final expenses.

Stuart impacted so many people, both within Lukumi and without. He was generous to a fault with his time, constantly offered classes and wrote books trying to help those who wanted to learn how to honor the Orisha better, to live their lives more fully, to develop as pious, devout human beings. His work as a diviner was extraordinary and above all else, he was a gifted and good man. He will be missed, and the world is a poorer place without him here.

May the Orisha receive him and may he eat honey out of their hands.

For those wishing to donate to his final expenses, you may do so here. My house has given what we can.

Ochani lele

 

Hitting the Nail on the Head Perfectly

In our previous discussion, Neptunesdolphins hit the nail on the head perfectly, so perfectly, that I am pulling her comment out to highlight it here: 

“Sigh, once more modernity and Monotheism strikes again. I know lots of Pentacostals and Catholics who take exception. How else are you slain in the Holy Spirit or see the Mother Mary, unless you engage with God?

Problem is that living in monotheistic culture is that all Gods are false except for the “One True God.” If the Gods and other Divines are treated as fiction, then engaging with fictional characters is considered mental illness. Unless it is pop culture Deities.

The other is that monotheistic thinking flattens the world into human, and only human. Since there is a singularity of life, people cannot imagine engaging with a plurality of Beings. It is beyond their imaginings.

The other thing about tumblr which highlights problems in Paganism – the Deities are smaller than people. People are the Deity. There is no Other, there is only them and themselves.

And of course, Progressivism as it is practiced is a religion. What is happening in Paganism is that everything is being homogenized by Progressivism. So we have the preoccupation with who is a Nazi and who should be thrown out for impolitic thoughts. Monotheism in action – thought crimes and the flattening of thought.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I would also emphasize that the attitude expressed on the tumblr page I was discussing yesterday is not limited to Polytheisms. I know plenty of devout Catholics, Orthodox, etc. who have run up against it too. Thing is, their traditions’ structures are able to support and deflect this nonsense far better than ours. We have people taking it in wholesale and building a hollow practice around it and wondering why they’re getting nowhere. 

 

Sigh – “If you have any engagement with the Gods you’re mentally ill.” WHAT?????

I’m afraid I’m going to be very blunt here, because in thirty years of teaching and serving as clergy, I have never seen such utter garbage spreading like wildfire throughout our respective communities as I do now, not even when I first became Heathen (and believe me, the level of bullshit in the Heathen community at that time was a thousand times worse than it is now – and that’s saying something). Part of the problem is the pseudo-progressive contingent on tumblr, and part of it just the sad lack of adequate education in North America today. It’s sometimes hard to see where one begins and one ends.(1)

When someone tells you that actual engagement with the Gods is wrong, that being able to sense or hear Them is mental illness—even one single moment of theophany, that one cannot be claimed by a Deity, called as a priest, function as an oracle, that being a godspouse is mental illness, not only are they completely willfully, and egregiously ignorant of the history of their religion, but they are speaking impiety and attempting to do violence to the pious. They are butchering the religion to fit their own misguided ignorance and attempting to damage those actually building up their traditions. The best advice I can give when encountering such filth online is this: Avoid the impious. Ignore them. Also, consider their motives (2).

Inevitably these people will say “we’re all of equal importance”. Well, no, actually we’re not. Equality is a myth they tell themselves to excuse their own mediocrity before the Gods. We are all unique in our devotional relationships. If, by equality, one means that we are all valued and loved by our Gods then yes that is true; but if by equality one means that we are all exactly the same and that no one has any deeper devotional relationship or more talent in a particular area of religious specialty, then that is nonsense and should be ignored (3). Moreover, it smacks of Protestantism, where demonstrated virtue is a sign of being “elect.” The corollary of course, is that if one doesn’t have a vocation or any of the signs of being “elect” then it means one is of less importance to their God. Well, we’re not Protestant and it’s time we stopped behaving like half-assed Calvinists. Our polytheistic ancestors honored and respected their specialists: those called by the Gods, mystics, clergy, shamans, diviners, oracles, spiritworkers – technicians of the sacred known by different names in different traditions. Why is basic piety so damned hard for us?

We need to strongly resist the push of people more concerned about virtue signaling and politics than venerating the Gods when they attempt to excise from our religions the natural life of devotion. Basically, if it’s on tumblr, it’s probably inaccurate, wrong, and possibly impious. Always, always consider the source. Consider what they contribute. Go to your Gods, go to prayer, and don’t be afraid to tell such people to take a running leap off the nearest cliff (4).

 

Notes:

  1. Religion is not the place for politics. It is about honoring the Gods. Religion is a set of proper protocols for engaging appropriately with the Gods and ancestors. Be as political as you want, but don’t mistake your civic impulse for religious cultus. Social and political engagement is what we do as adult human beings. We shouldn’t need our Gods and religion to make such engagement licit.
  2. It’s not surprising that these things would be condemned, after all, if we’re actually engaging with Gods and ancestors, if we have the benefit of good priests, competent oracles, if we honor our mystics and godspouses then we’re less likely to listen to their political bullshit when they attempt to bring that garbage into our sacred spaces.
  3. There is a lovely anecdote in St Therese of Lisieux’s “Story of a Soul,” that was told to her by her sister Pauline. As a small child she asked her sister if God loved saints more than regular people. The sister took a thimble and a wine glass and filled them both to overflowing and asked the child, “Which is more full?” The answer: they were both full to utmost capacity and so it is with the love of one’s God as well.
  4. This does not, of course, absolve us from developing spiritual discernment, from questioning ourselves, from doing the work, including the work of therapy if need be. Piety, however, is not mental illness nor is being called (κλῆσις)to a vocation.

Ochani Lele 🕯️

0_vZrZ4zwm-AW6E_TM (1)

I just found out today, that Ochani Lele, a noted santero, diviner, and author is in hospice having been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. I don’t know how long he has, but it does not look good. This man has lived his life devoted to the Orisha. He has taught, exhausted himself in mentoring, and helped countless people, not just those who honor the Orisha, but people like me too, who came to him for assistance or training. He literally saved my life with his counsel a few years ago, and helped me to hone and improve my divination skills too, which benefits my Gods and spirits and you. He is a treasure. Every elder is a treasure, a library, a living repository of the wisdom and power of their tradition.

Screenshot 2019-11-24 01.24.56

GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/1tjq31xtao

We are charged with honoring our elders and we are charged with burying our dead. I have given what my household can afford at this time and now I go to petition my ancestors that they may pour blessings upon him.

 

 

Fasting and Prayer: Tools for Training the Spirit

 Over the past week, I’ve encountered quite a few references to religious fasting. Out of the blue, I’ve had fruitful discussions with several Orthodox colleagues who fast regularly, come across a couple of articles on the topic, and had more than one person email me with questions related to doing this in a polytheistic context. It’s actually funny. I used to fast all the time as a devotional technique for Odin but as my health has declined over the past 15 years, I’ve fallen out of the practice (1).

When I first came to Odin, I worked very hard to open myself up to Him, to develop good discernment, and to discipline myself in my devotion in ways that were productive to developing piety, respect, and receptivity to the Gods.  Because of my background, I gravitated toward ascetic practices like fasting and would often engage in fairly severe fasts for Him. I found it extremely beneficial (2). Eventually, discernment and experience also led me to other ways of engaging devotionally but I’ve never forgotten how effective fasting practices where. They worked on several levels: they taught me discipline of my appetites, to subordinate those appetites and desires to my devotion and ultimately to what the Gods wanted, they helped me to cultivate a keen devotional impulse, and they really helped in opening me up mentally and emotionally to the Gods. Also, perhaps because eating is such a tremendously socially charged activity, every day I was forced to consciously recommit to the Gods, to Odin specifically. I was forced whenever I saw friends or coworkers going for lunch or snacking, whenever I myself wanted to snack or would normally fix a meal, to call to mind instead the Gods that I love and to Whom I had dedicated this period of fasting (regardless of the type of fast I was doing).  

It’s a potent tool, one used by nearly all religions at one time or another for spiritual purposes. There are many ways to fast too. I used to think it was complete abstinence from anything but water, and for years, that is how I would fast but more recently I’ve been easing back into a gentler practice: on Wednesdays, I avoid meat, animal products, and sugar. One can fast by omitting a desired food or drink. One may fast for one day or several. Or, if one cannot fast due to medical reasons, one may fast from speaking or social media instead of food – a particularly potent practice today (3). I’ve realized over the years that it need not be limited to absence of food alone, though that is the traditional fast.  

It’s important to fast for the proper reasons: honoring the Gods, disciplining oneself in Their service, purification, cultivation of piety. Fasting is not a means to weight loss. That’s not the proper (or healthy) reason to do this. It’s important to be clear in one’s mind why one is engaging in any particular spiritual practice. We must, above all else, be clean in our work. I always advise consulting a doctor first to make sure there are no health problems that preclude fasting and if one has a history of eating disorders, this is absolutely NOT the proper spiritual technique to use. Yes, it might make fasting easy, but it muddies the waters of intent. Even if you can do it easily and well, if there is a history of any eating disorder, I would not include fasting in your spiritual work. If you truly feel called to do so and are absolutely sure that such a calling is coming from an authentic and clean place, then do this only under supervision of a teacher, elder, or perhaps even a medical professional (4).

Fasting should also always be done in conjunction with prayer. I know that when I fast, I rise earlier to pray before heading to work. I tend to keep my head covered for that day, something that puts me in deep devotional headspace. I spend more time throughout the day and certainly when I am home in prayer. My day will be bracketed, more so than usual with prayer and shrine work. It both roots and rounds out the practice. Fasting by itself can easily become a thing of ego and arrogance, something that is done not for the Gods but to test ourselves, to compete with ourselves, to see how much we can do, and then it becomes something that cultivates a negative type of pride. Prayer is the key to keep us from falling into such headspace. Also, fasting is not in any way to be taken as a statement on the body. There is nothing wrong with being corporeal, with having flesh, with being in a body. It’s not evil, it’s not sinful. Fasting isn’t done to scourge or punish the flesh. Its purpose is to engage in a discipline of both body and soul, and of our appetites, for a specific reason: reaching ever and always toward the Gods. It strengthens us in our commitment to the Holy Powers. It strengthens our will to maintain practices even under duress or difficulty. It teaches us to endure inconvenience. It purifies the spirit of certain types of miasma. When we fast, we are choosing to nourish ourselves with something other than food. We are choosing both to nourish our devotion and to allow that devotion to nourish our souls. After all, if we cannot discipline ourselves to bear inconvenience for our Gods, what good in the long run, are we (5)? All relationships worth having involve some measure of inconvenience. That holds true for those relationships we cultivate with our Gods most of all.

ddc56c820727ac9b1915efa3d7598a2e

 

Notes:

  1. Since I know we have those in our communities who will look for any reason to condemn any devotional practice that might somehow, possibly, in some way inconvenience someone or you know, prioritize devotion and the Gods, I should note that my declining health has to do with spinal damage and chronic pain, not anything related to fasting.
  2. No spiritual technique works for everyone. The ascetic’s path can be very beneficial and fruitful but it’s not something that will work for every single person. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t and there’s no harm in that.
  3. One very powerful fasting practice that one of my students once told me was the most difficult exercise I ever assigned was a three-day media fast. From sun-down on Friday to sun up Monday, no email, computer, phone (or other communication device), tv, radio, etc. The time should be spent praying and journaling, meditating, shrine work, and doing things that deepen one’s devotion.
  4. I also advice that one not begin with a difficult and/or extended fast. Start fasting the way my Orthodox friends do: one or two days a week, avoid certain animal products (meat, milk, butter, eggs). Once this practice has become natural, then perhaps consider a full (no food) fast or a day or two, and if you choose to go this route, ease into it by slowly decreasing one’s food intake over two or three days, and ease out of it the same way – break the fast with broth, for instance, not with a full meal or your body will express its displeasure in ways you will not like!
  5. Again, not everyone will be able to fast and that is perfectly ok. There are other, equally useful spiritual techniques that can be employed to similar ends. This is one technique of many.

A Few Thoughts on Modernity and Indigeneity,

This morning a friend and fellow theologian said to me, “It’s not fashionable to believe in God anymore but I certainly do” and I told him that I quite agree. My belief in, love of, and veneration of my Gods is the axis mundi around which my entire life revolves. I believe it is our reason for being as human beings, and a good and potent thing. My response to him was this: “I think we need to look at why it’s no longer fashionable”(1).

All of this was in response to a conference panel that I attended earlier this week, one that I found very rewarding. It was a panel dealing with sexual diversity in Orthodoxy. Several students asked me why I was there (not being Orthodox. They weren’t being mean, they were honestly surprised and/or curious). I told them that I found it interesting and above all else, there is not a single issue in early Christianity the results of which my communities aren’t wrestling with now, and in many cases the same issues are affecting all communities of faith, regardless of tradition, today. Plus, I wanted to support my colleagues for whom this continues to be a matter of grave importance within their tradition and who had put in a tremendous amount of work over the last year discussing and debating the topic.

I don’t think, theologically speaking, that sexual diversity and LGBTQ+ rights are an issue in polytheistic communities overall. There is no underlying theological position being used to condemn or bar LGBTQ+ people from becoming clergy or participating in rituals (2). Likewise, I don’t think we see men or women being barred from clergy roles on account of their gender (3). In polytheistic traditions, I think the topic of sexual diversity is a non-issue (at least when one compares how highly charged a matter it is in monotheistic circles). I was happy to see the issue being discussed and the panel raised really good and thoughtful points. It really made me reflect on what our traditions do well and where we have a bit farther to go still too. One thing, however, bothered me immensely and I think we see it in our communities quite a bit, so I’m going to mention it here.

It seemed that “modernity” (in any particular iteration) was being accepted unconditionally as an unmitigated good, and its values as progress by pretty much everyone (4). I really don’t think that it is. I’ve never viewed the values of modernity as particularly conducive to devotion, tradition, and faith; in fact, I think those values, which place humanity at the top of the ontological food chain in ways that do not help us cultivate humility, virtue, kindness, or piety, are actually quite destructive – to culture, to tradition, and most of all to developing anything resembling devotional consciousness. They encompass a way of looking at the world, of relating to each other in the world that positions us if not antagonistic to then at best outside of divine order. That same divine order fills the world with bounty, richness, and elevates us all as beloved creations of the Gods. It grants us dignity as created beings, venerative beings, homines fideles. It does not deconstruct into meaninglessness, but creates and restores and nourishes that which has been created.

I think the many iterations of modernity have, in some way, taught us to look at devotion – particularly when we are reconnecting to our respective indigenous traditions, reconnecting to our tribal realities, reconnecting across divisive lines and when we’re reaching instead into the wondrous sense of being and becoming within the hothouse of ancestral consciousness, within the seedbeds of our religious traditions, in ways that have terrifying and much-needed potential to transform the world—as primitive. We are ever and always oh so horrified that we might look primitive, to outsiders and most of all to ourselves. It’s time to get over this.

I will say again what I have said so many times in my writing. Those of us coming from European ancestries have two deep ancestral wounds that we must uncover, acknowledge, examine, and heal. The first is that Christianity came into Europe, spread across the lands that our pre-Christian ancestors and their tribes called home and eradicated our religions, co-opted our cultures, and subordinated those cultures to divisive political ends. The second, and we are much less willing to look at this one, is that our ancestors then drank that terrible poison, came across the ocean and did unto others precisely what had been done to them. We have a debt to our dead just as much as they have one to us and to our world and until we accept and acknowledge that, our traditions will continue to wither on the vine and our world will continue its descent into chaos, and we ourselves will continue to suffer and to inflict suffering on others.

We are our ancestral lines walking, for good or ill (for good and ill). Modernity may tell us this is primitive thinking. It may tell us to scoff at bowing down before our Gods, Gods Whose blessings have the potential to lift us up and plant out feet firmly on the ground of restoration, it may tell us that honoring the land, the mountains, the rivers, the trees is silly. I think, however, it’s time to take a good long look at “modernity” and ask the question: what have you given us that is better?  

I’ll stop with that question since I have a class starting in fifteen minutes. We carry our ancestors with us, yes, their mistakes, but we carry their  wisdom too and maybe, just maybe if we honor that, we can find a way out of the mess we’ve made.

 

Notes:

  1. You want to be an atheist, rock on with your bad self. I have no problem with that provided you’re not coming into our polytheistic communities and trying to take on leadership positions, or shape and change liturgical and/or theological structures. You do you: the atheist sandbox is not my circus and y’all are not my monkeys. I have my hands full with polytheists lol. Just stay in your own sandbox.
  2. An issue came up a couple of years ago with Dianic Wiccans at Pantheacon but my understanding of their theology is that they are not polytheists.
  3. There may be specific temples that are gender restricted for reasons relevant to that particular cultus, or a particular Deity may be served by only one gender – Pudicitia being served by married women for instance, but those are relatively rare exceptions within a broad and rich family of polytheistic traditions. Those exceptions likewise have to do specifically with the nature of the Deity and His or Her hypostasis being honored in a particular way or place, not the inherent rightness/wrongness or goodness/sinfulness of a particular gender.
  4. One person even flat out equated modernity with technology in a way that I found both reductionist and a-historical. The ancient people’s hand technology (Romans had heated floors, running water; Greeks had steam engines for instance). Modernity is not about technology. It’s about values, systems, and ways of being in the world.

Bookversary: Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner!

11 years ago today one of my most popular books, Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner, released.

 

51LBfgU4OCL

Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner is not denomination-specific: rather, it seeks to provide an entry into interior practice for anyone involved in a branch of this broad family of traditions of the ancient Norse, Germanic, and Saxon peoples, using material suitable for the solitary, independent practitioner. Those outside of the Northern Tradition who wish to deepen their own devotional practice will find this book helpful in their own work, as well.

 

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2gaaA8X

Bookversary: Neolithic Shamanism

Hard to believe it’s been 7 years since this book first released! Who has a copy?

neolithic-shamanism-cover

We are all surrounded by spirits. Many people feel called to work with them, but few know where to begin. Enjoined by the gods and spirits to fulfill this need, Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova have reconstructed the indigenous spiritual traditions of northern Europe and Scandinavia extinguished more than one thousand years ago by the spread of Christianity. Arising from basic survival needs, these practical traditions are fundamentally tied to the elements found in the harsh world of the ancient North.

Beginning with the skills tied to the Earth element, necessary for grounding prior to the more demanding aspects of the practice–working with Sun, Moon, Plants, Animals, Water, Fire, Craft, and Air–the authors explain, step by step, how to build relationships with each elemental spirit and the Ancestors. Offering 83 practical exercises, from cleansing with the Moon or borrowing the legs of Reindeer to making sacred space with Mugwort or creating an ancestor altar, they also explore building spirit relationships through altered states. Emphasizing the proper management of your spirit relationships to avoid spiritual debt or offense, the authors outline the ancient cultural rules and taboos that circumscribe these practices, essential knowledge for successful and fruitful spirit alliances.

Detailing the beginning set of skills needed to work with the spirits of this ancient world, this comprehensive workbook offers a unique ancestral spiritual outlet for those of northern European descent as well as an accessible guide for anyone trying to fulfill their shamanic callings.

A step-by-step guide to working with the spirits of ancient northern Europe

  • Explains how to build relationships with Earth, Sun, Moon, Plants, Animals, Water, Fire, Craft, Air, and the Ancestors through 83 practical exercises
  • Explores the role of altered states in spirit work
  • Outlines the ancient cultural rules and taboos to avoid spiritual debt or offense

amazon: http://amzn.to/2eVzNhw