Monthly Archives: July 2022
Art and Honoring Our Lineages
There are points in my practice wherein various ancestral groups sort of blend together. It’s ok and I go with it, but sometimes it does surprise me. I’ll give you the example that I’ve been thinking of this weekend. Because I was a ballet dancer, I honor those dancers who inspired me in my work. Because I love them deeply, I honor the castrati. Awhile back, I sort of combined those two groups into one ancestral group. There was historical cross over – Marie Salle, one of the most famous ballet dancers of her generation worked with Handel and several castrati in London (she was also a choreographer in an art and at a time where female choreographers often didn’t receive recognition). All this really means is that when I honor them, I honor them together. Well, the same thing is happening, sort of, with the artists that I honor.
Because I paint now, semi-professionally, I honor my artistic lineage (my writing lineage also got smooshed into this group unintentionally). I started early with those who painted the magnificent murals in neolithic caves. As part of that, in my kit, I have the four ochres: white, yellow, red, blue. That is what I carry in my töfr to represent this particular lineage. I also keep a small box-shrine (a box that sits right by my easel and that contains various things I associate with my artists) near where I paint.
Now, at first, I thought that honoring these artists was just because I am also an artist. It’s only the last week that I realize it also dove tails with my spirit-work. Spirit workers edge into art in so much of what we do (I have had to paint spirit-portraits and icons, create elaborate necklaces, embroider prayer flags, create medicine blankets, and even setting up a proper shrine is an act of art. Many of the artists I honor, including some of those neolithic ones considered their art a sacred act). I didn’t realize this until I got pushed *hard* to add certain things that are used in natural dying (dye not die) in numerous cultures to my shrine box. I found myself purchasing Madder (how one gets a brilliant and beautiful crimson dye out of this I just don’t comprehend), raw lapis (ground it creates ultramarine paint – it was so expensive in the renaissance that wealthy patrons who commissioned paintings would sometimes purchase the ultramarine and dole it out as needed to the artists. See this marvelous book, and this book for more information – also, they’re fantastic reads. Today we mostly use synthetics for this color.), dragons-blood (used in magic but also in dying), oak gall (makes a nice sepia tone, also the duergar like it), cochineal (one of the traditional sources for a deep reddish-purple), etc. These can make dye, watercolor, and ink, as well as being used in conjure – and probably in more things too that I don’t know about. There are other plants and resins that I keep in my kit as well to help facilitate all this. It came as a shock to realize that the artistic use of these things was connected not just to art but specifically and powerfully to spirit work and not just my spirit-work. I was pushed to share these with my assistant, and it became clear it was a lineage thing (1).
All of this makes me remember something that happened years and years ago. One of my language teachers, after our tutoring session, told me that she really wished she could experience the Gods as I did. I knew that she painted as a hobby, and I asked her how she felt when she created a piece of art. What she described was the touch of the Gods, that holy power flowing through her, and I told her that. She was having direct experience with the Gods, it just wasn’t coming for her in the same way that it happened with me. That conversation, she told me later, completely changed the way she looked at her art.
Art is a conduit for the holy. Let’s do more of it because bringing beauty into the world is a good thing.
What inspires you? What crafts, art, artists (in any art form) open you up to your Gods, your ancestors. What makes you feel closer to the holy?
- The cochineal were discovered, btw, by Arachne’s dog. Arachne is one of the holy powers honored in the Starry Bull tradition.
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Bookversary: The Whisperings of Woden
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This book, first published in 2004 and the first devotional written in modern Heathenry, is a collection of devotional meditations designed to help one draw closer to Woden.
“The Norse God Odin, also known as Woden, is both honored and feared within modern Heathenry and Norse Paganism. He has many names, many faces and stands as a formidable figure in the annals of Heathen lore. Yet, by some, He is also loved.”
“This is a book of interior prayer, designed to provide the first steps in creating a mindful, passionate, contemplative practice. Be it as All-Father, Wish-Father, Master of the Runes, Wandering God or God of Warriors, the reader will find numerous ways to honor the complex and powerful Lord of Asgard and hopefully, to deepen their own spiritual practices at the same time.”
While the book is now out of print, you can find the content along with additional material in my book, He is Frenzy. available on amazon or through bookshop in support of independent booksellers.
July for Loki -for Loki Clever and Cunning
for Loki, Clever and Cunning You are the fire that burns in Odin’s shadow The stitch holding the worlds together, The whisper ever unquiet igniting dissatisfaction. You keep us from succumbing. You make memory blaze and sear Driving us inevitably back to the Gods Our ancestors forgot. Bright flickering fire To Grimnir’s icey dark The two of You brought the worlds to life (Hoenir granting order and sense) and You will bring it back to life again: restoring what must be restored even if it must be done in blood and fire. May we work with the Gods always, Grant us that, oh clever Roarer*, And never, ever against, No matter how rough and challenging The road may grow. Hail to You, Loki, On this, Woden’s Day.
By G. Krasskova
excerpted from this book.
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July for Loki – For Loki, Friend of Odin
for Loki, Friend of Odin He Who battles alongside His friends maintains the strength of Asgard, using His gifts to challenge the giants, using His body to subvert Svaðilfari’s Master. He pours treasure down upon His allies, He rains wrath down upon His foes. His victory lies in the longest game, and of all the Gods, not even He knows its end. Bright as fire, slippery as a fish, drenched in the well-bright, whispered warnings, this God comes. He challenges everything, laughing around a bonfire encompassing even His own destruction. He knows that with chaos comes opportunity, to turn the final battle on its end, to grab victory out of the maws of the wolf, a celebration of blood and steel, and those who think He lacks courage know not what His courage has cost. Hail to You, Loki, friend of Thor, Who works Your wiles in Odin’s shadow so the Old Man may shine all the more. Hail to the fighter Whose wit is a wound deadlier than poison in the heart of Their enemies. May we always honor You, oh God Who finds the loops in every loophole. Show us too how to be slippery and hard to catch in the maze of things that would bind us away from our Gods, stifle our devotion, and burden our hearts with pollution.
By G. Krasskova
excerpted from this book.
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July for Loki – for Loki
You rose up from the primordial grime hand in hand with Your brothers, savage yet determined fury under the light of a cold-bladed moon. You destroyed Your ancestor, ruined Him, the indolent breeder, clotted up his gaping maw silenced his screeching snores and groans that ever rattled the wyrm-like field. You swept it all away and from His bones built anew, a web of worlds- bleak in their youth, rich in their promise, rising and shining in the boughs of the Tree. You made of his screams a symphony, bone beautiful and clean. There was no remorse in You but elation, satisfaction. Let there be no remorse in me either, for the things that I must do in devotion. Hail to You, Loður, Whose blood stained fingers painted our flesh a lively hue. By G. Krasskova Excerpted from this book. Affiliate Advertising Disclosure
Lectio Divina: July 23, 2022
I haven’t done one of these in awhile so I thought, since yesterday was the anniversary of my Mani devotional, that I would look at one of the few references that we have in the lore pertaining to Mani. There really aren’t many and in some respects, that’s an incredible freedom in figuring out how to venerate Him. On the other side of that, I do wish we had just a bit more, a prayer, a hymn, something for Him because given how important agriculture and farming were to our ancestors, the House of Mundilfari must have had Their share of devotion, and more so than They receive today. We forget in our urban lives how important seasonal cycles – governed by Mani and Sunna – are to a farmer.
Of course, that’s not how I personally connect to Mani (through farming or agricultural cycles) but it’s something I’ve come to recognize and respect over the years of my devotion to Him. Now, onto the reading.
The passage I chose for today is from the Vafþrúðnismál stanza 23:
"Mundilfari heitir, hann er mána faðir ok svá Sólar it sama; himin hverfa þau skulu hverjan dag öldum at ártali." (1) He is called Turner of Time, He is Moon’s father and also thusly of Sun (2); They (dutifully) journey round the canopy of heaven every day to determine for people the liturgical year (3).
I do augury in the mornings and today’s message was that today is ok, but it’s one that will require patience in many little things, especially the early part of the day. That being said, I hope y’all will be patient with me as I pick my way through this verse. Also, I’m reading devotionally and to some degree theologically, not as a literature major. Do keep that in mind too! So, once I sat and translated this passage to the best of my ability, I noticed a few things.
Firstly, the word “it” may at times imply a dual form, which means it refers to two of something. Some languages have special forms for a pair. Ancient Greek is like that, for instance. If you’re referring to a pair of something, the verb takes a special form. Modern English doesn’t have a form like this. We would just use second- or third-person plural depending on the grammatical case required. If I’ve interpreted this correctly, then it stands out for me. When I read this, that use of the dual, while absolutely grammatically correct also creates a unique connection linking Mani and Sunna. They are a pair; They work together; and devotionally, I have to say this is true. When I think of One, the Other is not usually far behind in my thoughts. When I engage devotionally with One of Them, I often sense in my soul, echoes of the Other far more so than with any of the Other Powers Whom I venerate. While the lore doesn’t say anything about it, I’ve often assumed that They are twins. Regardless, They work hand in hand and the holiness, goodness, and journey of One reinforces the same in the Other (4).
The word himin or ‘heaven’ may actually be translated as “canopy of heaven” which immediately brings to mind, not the heaven of Christian religion but the dome of Ymir’s skull, the gleaming circlet that formed the space-making division between sky and land. When the three creator Gods Oðinn, Hoenir, and Loður slew Their primordial ancestor Ymir, They skillfully formed the scaffolding, the framework of creation with his blood, bones, and viscera. From Ymir’s skull these Gods created the vault of heaven, the sky, the galaxy, the cosmos – all that is above us. The verb skulu denotes obligation and duty (it’s where the third Norn Skuld gets Her name. In the case of skulu though, Cleasby/Vigfusson notes that it carries a relatively positive connotation), so here one might read it that “they must journey everyday around the canopy of heaven.” The word “at” when connected to a verb of motion carries a sense of traveling around the borders of a space or thing (5). So, Mani and Sunna each day have the duty of traversing or circumnavigating the great vault of heaven, the canopy of Ymir’s skull. In doing so, They are reinforcing creation, reifying the moment the three Creator Gods brought the whole structure into being and set it in motion. That means that Mani and Sunna, and by extension the House of Mundilfari, are absolutely essential cosmologically to creation, the ongoing sustenance of that creation, and the fabric of being.
Moreover, the text reads that they are doing this to determine for the people —öldum (6), that is humanity, ártali, not “fate” as I have seen several translations render this passage, but the cycle of the year. I would go so far as to say the liturgical year. This word can be used poetically as a gloss for the Moon, specifically because the Heathen year was partly lunar (7). This makes sense agriculturally– and we have a lot of folklore in Germany, England, Appalachia, and amongst the PA Deutsch about planting according to the phase and/or sign of the moon. Likewise, there are names are given to each month’s moon that often tie into the month’s agricultural happenings, and while the winter and summer solstice are important liturgically, so are the autumnal and vernal equinoxes. Here is an interesting article that mentions why so many calendars are “luni-solar”. Basically, both Mani and Sunna play Their part.
Despite being something of a misanthrope, I think it’s important to note that humanity is mentioned in this cosmological equation too. It is for the good of humanity that the cosmic cycles are thus delineated. We were created, carefully crafted. Our place in the architecture of the worlds was not an accident. Of course, neither are we at the apex of that architecture and piety demands that we know our place to be one of reverence for the Powers, but we matter to our Gods. We matter to our Gods, and They continually bless us in ways large and small and have from the beginning.
The next question I ask myself when reading something like this, after looking at the words in both English and ON is this: what do I do with this? What impact will I allow this knowledge to have on my devotional practice. Every word in this passage has opened up a world and we have so little written on our Gods, especially those in the House of Mundilfari, that each word is a treasure.
- I snagged the Old Norse text from this site. The English translations are mine unless otherwise noted.
- My translation. Dutifully is implied in the use of the it. My Old Norse is pretty basic, but I have to disagree with many of the translations I have read. The translation is usually given “flaming sun” and to the best I can determine, there is just nothing in this sentence to indicate that there is any attribute of Sunna mentioned, other than that of being Mundilfari’s daughter.
- “Sol” is another name for Sunna. Sunna seems to be the more poetic form of Her name. I personally prefer “Sunna”. See entry here. There’s a very interesting note in the Cleasby/Vifusson definition that in Iceland children would greet the sun every morning. If this is a hold-over from Heathen times, which it reads as though it is, then it further reinforces the cosmological importance of the House of Mundilfari in our tradition.
- I never connected Sunna to holiness in quite the way that I do now until I watched an historical special with historian Ruth Goodman. I think it was either her Tudor Farm series or Edwardian Farm series. I can’t recall. What I do recall is that she was showing how a traditional dairy worked and noted that the wife or dairy maids would not only scrub out the churns and other vessels but would let them dry in the sun because it sanitized them. The sun brings wholeness and healing, but also purification. It opened up an entire avenue of exploration for me in how I honor Her, in meditations, and even offerings.
- See Cleasby/Vigfusson here.
- From the noun alda, which in poetry can mean “people.”
- See Cleasby/Vigfusson here.
Bookversary: Dancing in the House of the Moon
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First published in 2014, today is the bookversary for my devotional to Mani, Dancing in the House of the Moon.
“Dancing in the House of the Moon is a celebration and adoration of the Norse Moon God Mani. It is a collection of essays, prayers and poems word-pictures that summon a sense of His presence: ineffable, incandescent, and beautiful. This is a devotional for anyone wishing to know this God better, anyone who has tasted of the splendor of Mani, anyone wishing to throw themselves into His devotion. It is the expression of a cultus renewed and restored for the modern world.”
Add it to your shelves via amazon.
Reader Question about Ritual and Self-Care
Today I received the following question from one of my readers. It’s a good question and while I answered privately, I also asked permission to write about it here, which my interlocutor gladly gave. This is something that I think needs to be discussed more, and it’s something my generation of spirit-worker learned the hard way.
Reader Question: How do you handle multiple rituals in a row? I’m exhausted and so glad tonight is the last for a bit or else I’d have to be carried around just for the joint pain management.
This is a hugely important question, especially for those of us with chronic pain. I should point out though that even if someone is in perfect physical health, multiple rituals in a row can also be quite physically grueling. Learning good self-care and management early on in one’s practice can be tremendously helpful and can also ensure that one doesn’t get burnt out or hurt. It’s a longevity practice and that’s important (1).
It goes without saying that as much as possible, getting proper rest, eating healthily (I don’t know any spirit worker who does, but we should lol), and getting moderate exercise forms the foundation for a healthy mind and healthy body in any practice. I won’t belabor this (2). The better physical health we’re in, the easier the work can be (3).
Develop a solid prayer practice – not just a devotional practice (though this is equally important) but specifically a practice of prayer. Ideally it is the first thing we do on awakening, the last thing we do at night, and something to which our hearts and minds turn throughout the day. If we are praying all the time, that’s a start. Now, obviously that’s not just prayer before one’s shrines, but also personal prayer, sometimes set prayers, sometimes recitation of our Gods’ names, etc. There are many, many different ways to pray but learn to do it consistently and well. It is the first and last line of defense, the best of foundations, and a lifeline in times of crises (4). If this is too much trouble, then don’t do the work, don’t expect results, don’t even worry about longevity because you simply won’t have it. This is beyond essential.
Learn the basics: grounding, centering, shielding, cleansing and do them daily. Keep yourself spiritually clean. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass to develop and maintain purification protocols but you will be grateful that you did as you progress. Moreover, be aware of what you allow to take up space in your mind, memory, and thoughts. Yes, this includes popular media. What you do, watch, read, expose yourself to, etc. shapes you. It’s fine (and healthy) to have hobbies and avocations but choose them wisely. They should enhance your practice, reinforce good habits, character, and virtue, and make you a better person, not the opposite. What values are you instilling in yourself accidentally? It’s important to understand that, and I’m sure there’s a gentler way of phrasing this, but that isn’t my strong suite: discipline and courage are key and need to be cultivated, just like you would carefully nurture a seedling into a strong and mighty tree.
Cleanse before and after your workings in whatever way you typically do in your tradition. I tend to use khernips and also to recan (smoke/smudge) with juniper. Do whatever is congruent with your Gods and tradition. This isn’t new. It’s not restricted to my practice. This has been pretty much the standard in ancient polytheisms the world over, especially for ritual practitioners. We’re not inventing the wheel here. Christianity did not invent the wheel either. Prayer and purification do not belong solely to them. Every religion and culture had and has their purification and prayer practices.
Ok, now onto the practical aspects of doing multiple days of ritual. Firstly, in addition to everything I’ve already said, I recommend the following (with the caveat that I am not a doctor. Always check with your doctor before making any changes to your health regimen and/or before incorporating any of the suggestions I give below):
- Stay hydrated. I actually keep rehydration salts in my kit (there are several brands on the market. I personally prefer Liquid IV) for just this reason. Water won’t rebalance your electrolytes as well and sports drinks have a ton of sugar. Rehydration salts are my go-to even if I haven’t been outside. Spirit-work and/or ritual work is WORK. It has an effect on the body. It’s very easy to get dehydrated. I usually drink this twice a day if I’m doing intense periods of ritual.
- Stretch gently before and after rituals – whatever your body can manage. Don’t just jump into it. Prepare yourself physically, which means warming up the muscles and joints. (If there are joint problems, don’t skip your meds. Take your pain killer, take your anti-inflammatory before and especially afterwards. If your joints really get inflamed, take an ice bath – I soak my ankles and wrists in ice water even now when they get bad, or just in buckets of ice). Then wrap up warmly, as warmly as you can stand (5).
- Begin your day with a healthy multi-vitamin. I also recommend Vitamin D, B Complex, Magnesium (and if you get a lot of migraines, Chromium), and quite possibly a natural serotonin supplement. Again, I am not a doctor. Discuss all this with your health care professional. I’m telling you what my experience has been, what I’ve found helpful, and what I suggest to my own students. Yes, I also send their butts to the doctor more often than they would like. Maintenance is essential (6).
- When you’re doing a lot of Work, I also recommend taking Airborne (thank the Gods they make gummies now. The powder or tablets are god-awful) and Emergen-C. Don’t overdue either. Too much vitamin C can give you diarrhea. But when you’ve done an excessive amount of work and you feel like a dried-up shit-stain on the pavement, this can be helpful. It’s my default on heavy ritual days, or if I’m generally feeling run down from the Work.
- If you exhaust your energy channels, psi gifts, etc., if you take in too much energy and overload your ground, if you just overdue it way too much, you can get what I was taught is called a ‘reaction headache.’ This is a headache, often of migraine intensity that nothing will help. Nothing. It’s a horrible, nauseating experience. I was given the following recipe by my very first herbal teacher, a lovely, gnome-like woman named Arcus who used to run an herbal shop in the village in the early nineties and teach on the side, to help both with regular migraines but also with reaction headaches. It’s not the best tasting thing, but it’s not terrible either. Make a tea nightly of equal parts feverfew (for headache), skullcap (for muscle tightness), and oatstraw (for general anxiety) and drink a cup a day. I find it works best when it’s had time to build up in the system. I just gave this recipe to my assistant a couple of days ago, and it occurred to me that it’s not restricted or initiatory material, so I share it here. Again, run this by your doctor.
- Finally, if you can, have an assistant, or some sort of ground crew. You want someone to make sure you eat – and don’t skip this unless fasting is part of your ritual cycle. Make sure you get protein too. You may not want to eat when you’re exhausted from intense ritual cycles but you need to. Have someone make sure you eat, have them monitor your medication – this is especially the case if you take pain medication as it can be terrifyingly easy to take it, forget you’ve taken it – because the pain may not subside for awhile, and double dose. This is how overdose happens. I keep careful note of what I take and when for just this reason. It is also very, very important if you take a medication like insulin where you have to take it regularly AND eat. Also, having someone there as an assistant helps take a tremendous amount of stress off the spirit-worker, magus, ritual worker, priest, etc. They can monitor you, protect the space, make sure you have what you need, etc. You may find your motor-coordination is not the best after seriously intense work. Obviously, your assistant/ground crew person has to be someone sensible, trustworthy, and it should be someone you’ve worked with extensively, so they know how you’re likely to respond. They do not have to be a spirit-worker or even particularly psi-sensitive (and in some cases, beyond the scope of this piece, it’s actually helpful if they’re NOT) but they do have to know how to follow instructions, be mindful of what’s happening, and be willing to forcibly take care of you if necessary, which means he or she has to have a good, focused mind in a crisis (and of course consent for such care is discussed and given before the work begins so everyone knows one’s role, boundaries, and limitations).
To be honest, sometimes just knowing that a particular ritual cycle is going to be exhausting, that you’ll have x, y, z response and then preparing for that as best you can helps. Be gentle with yourself afterwards as intense ritual work, intense spirit, or Deity contact, etc. can leave one feeling raw, frail, and friable. It’s always good to keep a record of your work and how you felt afterwards. Like building a muscle, it does get somewhat easier.
- I think this is why monastic manuals, like John Cassian’s “Conferences” counsel a certain degree of moderation in ascetic practices (of course their idea of moderation is, to modern readers at least, more intense than we might label “moderate.” I think that’s as it should be though. We shouldn’t be lukewarm in our devotion). The idea is that these are tools in a lifelong spiritual, intellectual, and emotional formation. The goal is ongoing and ultimately eternal life with one’s God. This is why I think it’s so important to really know why one is doing an ordeal or a particular ascetic practice: it should be to bring one closer to one’s God, not for any other reason.
- And I myself am hardly an exemplar of it. I would rather push myself until I drop than stop and work in a measured capacity – it’s how I was trained, how my generation of ballet dancer trained, and I’ve carried that over into my spiritual and spirit work.
- If you are a spirit-worker/shaman/orpheoteleste or other specialist, good fucking luck. The work itself, particularly with the levels of pollution and evil that we deal with and fight on a regular basis can cause damage.
- I should note that we ought to pray because it is the right thing to do, but in doing this there will be benefit to us on every level too.
- All of this presupposes that you know your body and the difference between good pain (i.e. a hard work out) and bad pain (i.e. injury). I used to take this for granted having been a ballet dancer, but not everyone has a background where they would have learned this. It is actually part of being a good spirit worker: know your inner landscape mentally, emotionally and learn your body’s limits good and bad.
- Not everyone will find a serotonin supplement helpful and this one definitely has to be discussed with your health care provider. I have found, however, that certain aspects of spirit-work damage the immune system and mess with serotonin levels. I have no idea why. If you have a lot of trouble sleeping, staying asleep, falling asleep, if you have cravings for foods high in serotonin after Working then maybe discuss this with your doc.