Monthly Archives: July 2020
“Another piece of advice to newcomers: ignore naysayers who are not part of our Tradition. The general response of people outside our communities is confusion, bemusement, mockery, or outright anger that some people are once again worshiping the various ancient pantheons. Some people will do everything they can to convince us that practicing a “dead” religion is pointless or that modern Polytheists aren’t “legitimate”. Ignore them. We have nothing to prove to anyone outside our communities. The only opinions that matter are those of the Gods, our respected elders, and ourselves. If someone thinks you’re dumb for worshiping Thor, that’s their problem, not yours.”
This question popped up on one of the Asatru forums on Facebook. Many of the answers there were complete nonsense, so I thought I would take a shot here at answering it. The question was, “What would you older Heathens tell newcomers?” I’d be interested in people’s answers here too if anyone wants to chime in. The following are my top five thoughts on the matter.
- Keep the Gods central to your practice. All too often we fetishize the idea of community, to the point that we make the Gods and Their veneration secondary to the social fulfillment of “community.” There is no greater or quicker way to warp a tradition. Living community will come, but if it is not founded on principles of devotion and integrity of practice, what is its point? If community is all you’re looking for, leave our faith alone and go find a LARPing group.
- Read everything. Don’t let anyone tell you what not to read. You are a thinking, reasoning human being. You’re capable of curating your own intellectual world. Read everything you can on Heathenry, both the lore and modern sources. Some of those sources will be utter crap, so consider carefully before you incorporate what you read into your practice, but words won’t actually hurt you and useful information can be found in the most unexpected of places.
- Ignore the assholes. There are many within Heathenry. Usually they are busy attacking the work of people who are actually honoring the Gods and contributing to the sustainable future of our traditions. These people do nothing, are often deluded to the point of obsession, spiteful, hateful little trolls who suck the life out of any space they’re in. They couch their bullying with cries of “oh that person is a nazi” or “we should be concerned about their ethics” (when they have none themselves), or “that’s not Heathen” when in reality they are cowards who have done absolutely nothing of merit for their Gods or their communities. They’re garbage. Treat them as such and move on.
- Don’t forget your ancestors. It doesn’t matter where your ancestors were from. The important thing is that you have ancestors and should be honoring them. Veneration of one’s honored dead, while it can take time to really develop, is the thing that will benefit your devotional and spiritual lives the most. It provides a healthy foundation, a source of protection and strength, and will powerfully augment the venerative work you do with the Gods. It’s fundamental and crucial. It is NOT an excuse for racism and if you think it is, you’re doing it wrong.
- Don’t be afraid to get started. Perfection is the enemy of getting anything done. Don’t let naysayers stop you from throwing yourselves into loving and honoring the Gods. No one has the right to interfere in that relationship. Start where you start, be consistent, and it will work out in the end.
Getting started in a tradition can be exciting but also anxiety-producing and difficult. There are people in the community to whom you can reach out but they can be hard to find. If you are lucky enough to find someone, treat them like gold. Don’t assume that you are entitled to their time or energy. Don’t send long emails before introducing yourself and asking if they’re willing to chat with you. Be respectful. But at the same time, don’t let what someone says put you off honoring the Gods. We’re all coming from our own experience in the community and sometimes that experience can be pretty harrowing. Most of all, work on cultivating virtue and developing yourself as a man or woman of character rooted in devotion to the Gods, ancestors, and good helping spirits. That is what is truly important, not all the drama you may encounter in the so-called community.
Firstly, happy Lammas to those of you who celebrate it. It’s a little early for harvest festivals where I live, but always a good time to honor the Gods of the land. ^_^
Continuing with my 31 Days of Devotion project, here we go for the weekend.
- What quality or qualities of this god do you most admire? (July 31)
I haven’t engaged devotionally with Dagr for very long, so my experience is limited here. That being said, I have found that when He is present, there is a pleasant lightness – oh that sounds so trite! It shouldn’t, He glitters and transforms a space and those in it. But, my senses register a brightening of the space when He is there. It may read differently to others, but for me, His presence brings a brightness and clarity and I respond very positivel to that.
- What quality or qualities of them do you find the most troubling? (August 1)
None that I can think of, save – and this is totally my issue—I’m not a morning person and I sometimes feel guilty about not having the wherewithal to rise to greet Him at the dawn. When I am able to do this, it’s usually because I’m about to go to bed…
- Share any Art that reminds you of this deity. (August 2)
Well, there’s the prayer card by G. Palmer of course and any images of the sunrise. I’ve seen images of the sun rising over a field of flowers, or over the mountains and these things for me, suggest His presence. I wish there were more art for Him!
all you ever wanted to know about medieval and early modern theories of demon sex. Because it’s been that kind of morning LOl (Seriously, this is an awesome blog. Go. read. Enjoy. Beware of demons).
In an extremely normal turn of events, this week I was forced to learn that Donald Trump, having never left his bullshit, was of course on it. The leader of the free world has been retweeting videos made by the good Dr Stella Immanuel, a Houston-based pediatrician who says the things he wants to hear. (Masks = bad. The drug that he has a financial interest in = good.) Turns out Dr Immanuel also has some, uh, spicier opinions as well.
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Because these answers are, in many cases, short, it’s easier for me to post my answers in bulk. Here are my answers through today.
- Are there Any mundane practices that are associated with this deity? (July 27)
Not that I personally know of, either from the lore or from modern cultus. The only thing I can think of is greeting Him at the dawn, but I’m not sure whether or not that qualifies as ‘mundane.’
- How do you think this deity represents the values of their pantheon and cultural origins? (July 28)
The majority of pre-Christian Heathens were farmers. Agriculture was extremely important across the board. We think of them as Viking warriors, but even for those households that went a-viking, they still most likely maintained some level of agricultural practice. Those Gods of day, night, sun, moon, seasonal cycles would of necessity have been extremely important to people who worried about crops and feeding their families through the winter, about when to plant, and when the first frost would come. I think the fact that Dagr is noted, however briefly, in material written down by a Christian two hundred years after conversion is significant. I think it points to the importance of the House of Mundilfari, even if we don’t have much more than Their names and functions. I also think that perhaps Their veneration persisted in some form or another longer than that of the other Gods – I have no evidence for this, but it’s something that I believe is worth pursuing and looking at folklore and even fairy tales for potential answers.
I also think Dagr emphasizes within the pantheon, something that we also see with Sunna namely, an understanding that the Gods oversee the movement of natural cycles and from Them comes wealth, warmth, abundance, and goodness. Through them, we draw strength and above all else health.
17, How does this deity relate to other gods and other pantheons? (July 29)
It’s always seemed to me like the House of Mundilfari is outside of the structures and tribal alliances that we see with the other Gods. Most of Them are Jotnar but that doesn’t really play into Their stories and interactions, and They seem to have contact and relationships amongst Aesir, Vanir, and Jotnar (and Alfar, Svartalfar, Duergar, et al.) equally. They are tasked with helping to maintain the architecture of the worlds in a very, very key way via the ordering of day and night and this seems to be the case not just with ordering these things in Midgard, but throughout all the worlds at once, which…is interesting. It rather implies that the boundaries that exist between our world and that of the other Nine worlds do not exist for these Deities, and that what They do in one world unites all nine, including on some level, temporally. Their work is the connective tissue keeping all the worlds functioning. I also suspect it in some ways allow access between the worlds, but I need to consider this a bit more fully and flesh it out.
18 How does this deity stand in terms of gender and sexuality? (historical and/or UPG) (again, a question about which I could not possibly care less, but I suspect the answers might be interesting). (July 30)
I don’t know why one would ask such a reductive question about a Deity. Our obsession with these things is really ridiculous. In the lore, Dagr is gendered male – and when a Deity consistently chooses to present Him or Herself in such a way, I think that it can be important and reflective of the Force that the Deity carries.
Week 29: Newsworthy
I had to think long and hard about what was newsworthy and it finally occurred to me the other day that maybe I should tell the little bit that I know about my third third great-grandfather William Seymour Baldwin (1823-1864). William was born and raised in Hardy County, West Virginia and according to the 1850 census was a farmer. After the civil war, a neighbor by the name of Isaac Pratt, a friend, had a horse stolen by a group of horse thief. Apparently, these horse thieves had formed themselves into a gang at the end of the Civil War and were causing trouble. When Isaac went to retrieve his horse, William went to help him, and in doing so was shot and killed. I think this did make the local news at the time. He’s buried in Snodgrass Graveyard in Hardy County, WV and maybe one of these days I’ll get to visit him.
Week 30: The Old Country
Throughout my childhood whenever I asked my bio mom about our genealogy, she would say that her father always told her he was “Scots-Irish” and that was all she knew. Of course, I’ve since researched her maternal line and found all the German and Swiss ancestors there, but for a long time I wasn’t able to make much headway on her father’s side. It was only in the past few years that line opened up at all to me and surprise, surprise: we actually do have Scottish ancestry (and a bit of Irish).
My grandfather Roland Hanna is descended from the Irish immigrant James Hanna (1725-1798), a man who fought in the Revolutionary War as part of the Pennsylvania militia in Captain John Graham’s first battalion. James came from Ulster, Ireland. These Irish Hannas apparently trace their lineage back to the Scottish clan Hannay. The Clan history may be found here.
My impression is this clan was a rather fractious bunch. LOL. They held a clan seat at Sorbie but feuded with the Kennedys, Dunbars, and Murrays eventually getting outlawed because of their feuding. According to the history given at the site above, a portion of the clan moved to Ireland. Some eventually came to America and my ancestor James Hanna was one such immigrant. I really like the clan motto: Per Ardua ad Alta (through difficulties to the heights).
I have often written and spoken about the way that cooking can connect us to our ancestors so needless to say, I am pleased to see others connecting in this way too. Here is an interesting article about corn, cornbread, Goddesses, ancestors and above all else, healthy connection. Check it out.
I promise not to wax so poetic on future recipe posts, but it seems important to start out with a foodstuff that I find very bound up in my religion and, before I write more recipes exploring other sacred food adventures, it might be beneficial to start with a bit of background on the topic.
Cornbread is ridiculously easy to make. It’s not a ton of ingredients and it’s very forgiving if you’re, like me, someone who tends to over-fuss and stir too much or just poke at things in general when they don’t need to. There’s no complicated “only use egg whites” or “fold in” such and such ingredient which will usually trip me up unless I can recruit my fiance to help me. Cornbread is basic, simple, and nothing special.
It’s also supremely holy.
Corn itself is a crop that is distinctly of the America’s. I don’t think…
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I recently discovered the following videos on youtube. I’ve only watched these two but I think they are worth watching, and if you do, we can then have a conversation about them here, what we agree on and what we disagree on. I think on first listening, even when the language might make me a tad uncomfortable (I am an academic after all), that I agree with most of what this man suggests, despite the fact he is coming from a Christian perspective.
Here is the first video. In this, I agree with what he says but dislike his attribution to those things of the word ‘cozy.’ The word, to me, is low brow and emotional. I would instead try lineaged, cultured, connected (though he does use the term ‘quality’ at one point). He’s speaking about tradition, civilization, heritage for all people and the way that certain things like art and culture ennoble us and elevate our souls.
(The above video is part of a three part series that you can find on his youtube site). Now, below is the second video. I would offer a caveat that when he mentions ‘ancestor worship,’ given the context, I do not believe he is talking about actual ancestor worship and veneration, but rather about idolizing one’s ancestors to the point of excusing and justifying their every bad action. The man has definitely read his Aristotle too. Some of this is triggering, even to me, but what triggers me is the language, not necessarily the ideas that he is expressing. Even where I disagree or find his approach too facile, I think he is raising questions that we need to consider. I really like his focus on dignity of all persons and peoples, embedded in an awareness that we are one link in a chain stretching back into our ancestral prehistory and forward farther than we can ever see, and that we have the moral and social responsibilities that come with that.
I very much think that the problems in our society that we are seeing will not go away on the basis of any political or riotous action. The only curative as I see it is restoring and nurturing the ancient contracts: honoring our ancestors, respecting the land, and rooting ourselves deeply and purely in our polytheisms and sacred traditions, in our relationship with our Gods, and all the ways that demands we approach the world and each other. I also think we need to be cultivating the dignity of every person and acknowledging their importance and connection to the multiple heritages that make up our world as a fundamental aspect of building a morally just civilization. We should build each other up and assist each other in restoring and redeveloping these sacred bonds, and the only time we should bend the knee is to our Holy Powers.
There was a very good discussion happening last week over at The House of Vines and the subject of holy terror came up. I think this was fundamental to ancient experience of the Gods. The Holy was recognized as being terrifying, even as it was ecstatic and transformative. Contact with the Holy Powers was acknowledged as dangerous, something one needed to prepare for, and something to be treated with utmost reverence and respect. This sense of the Gods qua Gods, as Powers, as possessing the volition and capability to interact with our world, is, I believe, the defining aspect of pre-modern religious experience.
That sensibility changed dramatically with the Enlightenment and that change was cemented culturally with industrialization. As a result, we are all entrained – by secularism, humanism, modernity, etc.– to position ourselves as central to our spiritualties. The prevailing narrative across modern spiritual traditions is that the Gods are there to help us evolve. It’s all about us reaching our potential, healing, etc. We’ve forgotten what constitutes right relationship. This is further complicated by the fact that for many of us, our first steps in our devotional lives were with Gods Who chose to show Themselves in ways that were very comforting and even healing. Gods can do that, of course, and often do (and it’s a good thing. It does, however, complicate our comprehension of holy terror). I know for myself, having venerated Odin for many years never giving a thought to hierarchy, protocol, or the potential terror of the Holy, it was a huge shock for me when I first experienced it (and I asked to experience it). It threw my entire spiritual world off kilter for a long time because nothing I had experienced was that terrifying, that overwhelming. It’s one thing to read or have some intellectual sense that yes, the Holy can be terrifying, Gods can be terrifying; to experience that first hand is a totally different animal. I think further cognitive dissonance occurs because while the Gods can be terrifying, They are also positive Powers, “good” if such a small word can encompass Their creative power.
Over at House of Vines, commenter IHJ accurately notes:
“Secular Humanism is their actual religion from which they derive their values. You brought up the subject of “Holy Terror” in your post, and I think this is a key concept missing from the theology of most modern polytheists. They don’t view the Gods as objects of awe. Many of them are obsessed with gaining mainstream social acceptance seemingly blind to the fact that no form of religion that retains its integrity will be allowed a seat at the table in the modern west. Why should we give a fuck about meeting to the moral and cultural expectations of a post-monotheist open air shopping mall which is openly hostile to us? I don’t think that we should be approved by the mainstream, in fact we should go out of our way to radically separate ourselves from it, both to weed out the impious and uncommitted, and to draw the attention of those looking for something real.”
I think this is the source of so many of the divisions that plague our communities (certainly it was behind the 2012 schism over identifiers “Pagan” vs. “Polytheist”). It all comes down to the ontological nature of the Gods and how we position ourselves in relationship to that. I think too often we see Them either as commodities, or (and I’m not sure which is worse) as tangential to our spiritual worlds. A couple of weeks ago as part of my practicum series, a reader asked me about the process of conversion. I think this right here is a key facet of that transformation. It’s not enough to replace one set of divinities with another, to shift to a different liturgical style. We need also to look precisely at this: the terror of the numinous and how we relate to that, or if we’re capable of even conceiving of it in terms that rightly humble us before the Powers.
I don’t have any answers here. I put this out there for contemplation. Our communities, I firmly believe, are riddled with a rejection of the Gods’ nature qua Gods, a nature that eschews any subordination to human limitations. I think that eventually direct experience has the potential to move one past this, but without that direct experience, without the willingness to put oneself in the vulnerable and receptive headspace where such a thing is possible in the first place, and most of all, without the willingness to allow such theophanies to change one’s orientation vis-à-vis the holy, I don’t have any solutions. I just know that this, right here, is something we need to be addressing. It’s one of those defining things for a tradition, and for each and every devotee.
As I continue with this month-long project honoring Dagr, I find myself growing so terribly frustrated at the lore we don’t have. I so wish that we had more of His sacred stories, that we know how or if our ancestors honored Him, that we had more, always more. I know that the paucity of recorded information opens the door to direct experience of Him and cultivation of His mysteries by devotees unfettered by the inordinate degree of authority with which we invest the written word but still, not having those things is frustrating too. For so many of the questions, I find myself having to answer, “I don’t know” or “we don’t have any surviving information.” I fervently hope that one day that won’t be the answer I’m forced to give, that modern devotees will have brought forward new stories, new experiences and His cultus will thrive. Hail to Dagr, may His light bless and fortify us all.
- What are some Places associated with this deity and their worship?
I haven’t found reference to any place names specifically associated with Dagr, though this fascinating article notes many places throughout Scandinavia and Iceland that are sacred to the Gods, otherwise unspecified. I only did a quick internet search, so it is entirely possible that there are spots named after Dagr but to date, I am unaware of any. The spaces given to Him must of necessity today be our shrines and those dedicated to Him.
- What modern cultural issues — if any—are closest to this deity’s heart? (this is a question that I’m not overly thrilled with. It presupposes that the Gods give a rat’s ass about our “cultural issues” but maybe some of Them do and if They don’t, we can talk about that too, always with the caveat that it is insofar as we as individual devotees have sussed out).
This is speculation and a great deal of gut feeling, but I think Dagr has an interest in sustainable farm practices, things that respect the land and its cycles. The sun and moon after all keep the earth in healthy balance through Their cyclical journeys and regardless of which genealogy one follows, Dagr has a strong connection to Jorð.
- Has worship of this deity changed in modern times?
Well, again, this is speculation, but given that the majority of our ancestors were farmers (even if they also pursued other professions), I suspect strongly that Dagr’s veneration was much more integral to [agricultural] community life than He is now. I’ve often felt with the entire House of Mundilfari, that Their cultus must have been much, much more important to our Neolithic ancestors than to us in our industrialized society. I could be wrong, of course, but the things governed by these Deities, the cycles of the sun and moon, turning of seasons were crucially important to those whose health and livelihood depended on the weather. As we’ve moved away from relationship with the land, I think as a whole we’ve forgotten the importance Their cultus must once have had…and this has been to our detriment, I think.
(image: “Dagr”, 1874 by Peter Arbo).