Monthly Archives: February 2023
Contemplative Living Series: Idunna’s Rule
I’m not a monastic in any sense of the word. I’ve known devout polytheists and pagans who were deeply drawn to monasticism, but while I have an intense respect for contemplatives, I don’t think I fit the bill. That being said, the virtues embedded in contemplative life have much to offer the non-monastic devotee. One doesn’t have to live in a monastery to practice mindful, engaged devotion. The cultivation of such virtues, such practices, such ways of living have the potential to change and hopefully enrich every aspect of our lives and relationships with our Gods, with each other, with our communities, our world, and even with ourselves.
Late last year, a polytheist on one of the blogs I follow (see here – consistently thoughtful reading) started working through the principles articulated at the Pagan Church of Asphodel’s Order of the Horae. I rather liked the clarity of the principles (though I would have included other values were I writing the list, informed as I am by late antique monastic practices) and found myself inspired by the way the writer of the aforementioned blog was working through them. I decided to do the same myself and to that end, I’m starting with this post. One of the things that I like about the Order of the Horae is that these principles are open to those who would be committed monastics but also lay people. That’s as it should be, in my opinion. These are not, upon first reading difficult “rules,” and they may be, I hope, a good jumping off point for deeper contemplation. Now, onto the first “rule.” (Keep in mind, the Order of the Horae is eclectic Pagan. I will be writing about these things in a largely Heathen context, even though I’ll be in conversation with the explanation of each rule offered here).
Idunna’s Rule: The First Principle of Clarity
Firstly, here is a good article on Idunna and some of Her by-names.
In our House, Idunna ruled last year, and it was a year pushing us toward greater clarity in our practices, in self-care – especially health and healing—and in time-management. It helped me develop the beginning of a devotional practice to Idunna (beyond just honoring Her occasionally in ritual), and I realized what vital gifts She brings. I have seen Her discussed in books of Norse mythology as a Goddess of youthfulness, or the apples of immortality but we need to look deeper. I will flat out say that without Her blessings, I don’t think we’d have physically survived the health challenges of last year. She restores and brings one back to integrity of being and health. She sustains. She’s subtle about it though, but Her presence this past year was a true lifeline. I can understand, all this having been said, why the Order of the Horae chose to ascribe this particular rule to Idunna. She does encourage clarity, because clarity shows one where one can be most effective, what needs to be done, and the best way to act, and when and how to course correct. Integrity, including in our devotions, begins with clarity and clarity leads to discernment which is essential. Much of how the Order understands this rule has to do with the body, so I will start there.
In Heathenry, the soul is multi-faceted, having numerous and very different parts. Different denominations of Heathenry will break this soul-matrix down in varying ways, but the physical body is usually included in some way in this soul-matrix. The corporeal body is part of the soul. The three creator Gods first carefully crafted Ask and Embla’s forms, their corporeal structures, and only after that was done, was the rest of the soul breathed by Odin into those forms. The body becomes a way, an interface soul can express and act upon the material world. The Order of the Horae focuses on clarity in how we treat our bodies and what we put into those bodies food-wise. There’s also an uruz lesson here too in that even if our bodies are imperfect, they are still sacred, an inheritance from lines of our ancestors, a gift, and beautiful. Bodies have limits but they are still divinely made.
That’s a hard one for me. As a former ballet dancer, the body was always the enemy. We worked hard, and often with a dogged brutality to form our bodies to our wills, all in service to our art. That often led to a dichotic split where the body was viewed as other and problematic. I think sometimes what it would have been like as a dancer when I was training, to treat the body as an ally and to listen to it and work with it instead of in opposition against. One of the things about the body that, as a Heathen priest, theologian, devotee, etc. strikes me powerfully is that of all our soul parts, it’s the body that we have the most capacity immediately to affect. We can nourish our souls by taking proper care of our bodies (mind you, I don’t necessarily do this, but I’m trying to get better at it): eating healthily, exercising, getting enough sleep, getting proper and regular medical care. I would also add adornment and self-care. Vanity is a terribly corrosive vice, and in no way am I encouraging this. It’s one of the things more devastating to spiritual growth and devotion than almost anything else. Taking care of the body though: care with dress, with adornment, with make-up, etc. is not necessarily vanity. When done with proper mindfulness it becomes a way of honoring this incredible gift the Gods have given us, a gift entwined with and part of the soul. (I always think the body is part of the soul that we leave behind in each lifetime, to thank Erda for sustaining us, the part that becomes recycled into the earth).
My Freya’s woman assistant Tove says that “to live a lifetime in a body is a gift, to watch it mature, age, be full of life and vigor, to be full of sensation and sound. Anything we’re given like that is a gift and needs to be respected and treated well. People who truly take care of their bodies are guarded from vanity because vanity in itself harbors almost subconscious self-criticism of how nothing is good enough. Treating your body well, appreciating it could actually guard you against vanity, as weird as that sounds. If you are comfortable in your flesh, then you’re not constantly trying to add and twist it out of true. It’s about appreciating what you have been given. It’s an expression of gratitude.”
For me, this particular rule is about being mindful and clean, clean in my motivations most of all. I need to think clearly about how the choices I make affect not just me, but those in my world. Also, why am I doing the things I do? What is the greater purpose? How does it fit into my devotion and my life? How does it nourish who I’m meant to be? That takes a great deal of prayer and discernment and often means a certain re-prioritization of one’s values and goals. There’s a line in “Awakening Osiris,” a fantastic translation of the “Egyptian Book of the Coming Out By Day” that comes to mind here: “we are not perfect, we are perfecting.” I think that’s part of the lesson in contemplative living and in devotion in general that we need to keep in mind. Failures don’t make one a bad devotee. Taking care of our bodies, allows us longevity and the ability to better serve our Gods by bringing the gifts They’ve instilled within us into the world. Without the body, that can’t happen. It affects everything else. Taking care of the body keeps the mechanism by which our soul can act clean, and we are able to pursue other pursuits.
Reading over the rule as the Order of Horae interprets it, it seems that part of Idunna’s lesson is to be mindful and responsible, to understand that we have an impact in our world and that large or small, our choices matter. We should, therefore, strive to make good choices and we can begin by considering carefully what we put into our bodies. What are the consequences large and small for what we do? Learning how to make good choices is something we have to consider, cultivate and something that we *learn*. That means sometimes making mistakes.
There also seems to be a sense that making ourselves healthy physically is the foundation we’re laying for making ourselves healthy spiritually. I think this is ok. It gives a very concrete place from which to start, and we are embodied creatures. Everything we do, every means by which we experience the Holy Ones, every way in which we choose to honor Them is going to be corporeal. The interface needs to be in as good a working order as we can manage. Life choices, including health choices matter (and…ouch. That’s a hard one to contemplate).
Clarity also means choosing what to put into the landscape of our minds. To what are we giving our attention? What are we allowing to shape our thoughts, our motivations, and most of all our desires? This is part of virtue building but we don’t talk much about it. The media that we take in has consequences. It shapes our values, our hungers, our response to the world and to each other. Part of this rule, as I would interpret it, is taking care to curate carefully the social media and media in general that we watch. What we take in, shapes our inner landscape, subtly teaches us how to relate to the Gods, how to be in the world and if we’re not careful, that’s not necessarily positive. We can make choices that make us better human beings and better devotees of our Gods, but it takes a commitment to clarity. The small things matter.
I think Idunna can help us with this if we take the time to reach out to Her, to pray, to develop a devotional relationship. I also think it’s good to discuss these values and I hope to see more of this type of discussion in our community. Thank you to this blog for getting the ball rolling. That is all.
“Idunna” – Image by S. Cloutier
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A Great Song
Sannion posted this the other day – I’ve been obsessed with this song since I first heard it on the radio. The main character acts justly (and I love how the song writer — Hardy– painted these characters so thoroughly in so few strokes). The injustice, which I think the events in the song seriously highlights, lies in our supposed justice system. Anyway, take a listen. Warning: domestic abuse figures in the song.
Check it out here (for some reason, I can’t embed the video itself).
Bookversary! A Child’s Eye View of Heathenry
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Leap Day bookversaries are extra special. My book A Child’s Eye View of Heathenry originally released on February 29, 2012.
Learn the facts about this little understood collection of religions by one of their most prolific authors, in a format easily digested by adults and young readers alike. A children’s book aimed at presenting the facts of modern Heathen belief. This is the first in a series of Children’s Books presenting the facts about modern religious belief systems.
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Rune Journal: Uruz
Every couple of years, I go back to very basic rune exercises, the ones I did thirty years ago when I was first learning about runes, about devotion to Odin, about rooting myself in the latter. These practices included meditating and galdring each rune, immersing myself in whatever the runic spirits chose to reveal. Sometimes this ended up being very, very surprising. Sometimes it’s still surprising and that was the case tonight with Uruz. I’m not sure any of this will make sense to someone who wasn’t galdring with me, but I’m putting this here for those who might find it helpful in their rune studies, and also for myself as a journal. It’s mostly train of thought written about an hour after my practice.
I began galdring the rune and fell deep into it, like descending into the earth, following thick, rich roots down from Yggdrasil, and there was fire, images and rhythms that spoke of the molten heart of Erda, the earth. That fire, when I followed uruz in, connected to Muspelheim, to Ginungagap, to the moment of creation and its vitality and power holds this world together not just physically, but through that instantiation of the moment of creation. From where did the three creator Gods pluck the fire that sits in Erda’s belly? It has passed through divine lips, divine hands, through the Gap and it remembers. Uruz taps into that.
One of the most surprising moments of the galdr came next. Uruz began to unravel the story of Kvasir. It was a drop of promised mead, sacred mead, rich on the lips, blood like broth across the teeth, burning like fire, rich with life, vitality, and art…with pain, terror, beauty…with power almost too much to be contained even in the process of art. There was a whispered connection with wunjo here. And with sacrifice.
Uruz came showing me red corpuscles coursing through the veins, and the richness of marrow within bone, the strength of bone, and the miraculous machine of the body. It highlighted every inch, every muscle, every bit of viscera, skin, bone, tendons, ligaments, veins, blood, organs…all of it working powerfully against and within the scaffolding of the world that holds it. It was good and powerful and joyous and every cycle that the body goes through as we live and make the unfolding journey of our wyrd is a good one. The body is good and carefully, so carefully crafted…a blessing and a gift, even when it seems not. It is a marvel and contains all the impetus in its creation that the Gods put into the slaughter of Ymir and the crafting of the worlds. It’s one thing to record this now, another to have seen and ridden the flow of it unfolding.
I saw a herd of aurochs bellowing, and a single mighty bull thundering against a backdrop of forest and mountain. Uruz showed me deep in a cave an artist, hands stained red as she painted with ochre and ash graving doorways of memory on fire lit walls. The most ancient humans, the most ancient of memories, the most ancient of connections and uruz was racing through it all. Everywhere.
Uruz showed me a raging, howling God of the storm, in the place of beginning. Above the roiling gap, Odin raises high His spear and when it is lowered Ymir is no more. This rune connects it all, and through it we too are connected to our eldest ancestors, to the Powers, to the elemental forces wielded by Gods Who wrought creation. We are connected to each other, and the moment the Gods chose to create us in all our varied hues, shapes, and talents. I see a God with fiery hair crouching down and gently caressing the inert cheek of the two beings created, sculpted, adorned by Him and His Brothers and where His fingers pass, warmth and color, hue and shade, softness of skin, and beneath that skin a web of capillaries flowing with blood blossom in their wake. It is good and pleasing and the satisfaction of a God, a Master Artisan is a thing to behold. It nearly stops the heart.
Uruz is so intensely primal. It took me back to painted caves and deep woods and mountains, before humanity had spread into every secret, sacred place. It took me back to ancestral fires and the shared connection not just of blood, kin, marriage, friendship, clan, but of Story, of telling and retelling, connection through creation, through narrative, through ritual—one generation handing off to another always connected through veneration, through ceremony, through remembrance. Those threads of wyrd and orlog were far reaching and multi-faceted, running through…every leaf, every person, every stone, every tree, every animal.
If every tree is Yggdrasil then we who are descended from Ask and Embla are also scions of the Gallow – Steed of the most Terrible God. We by our devotion and choices tend and nourish the Tree or not. We are part of it, inextricably because it is from Yggdrasil that we were made. If it withers, we will as well. There is no escaping this and the blood and bones and movement and body are a gift to hold and nourish the soul, part of the soul complex, given to us to tend, so that we may also manifest Yggdrasil’s blessings.
At that point, uruz stopped its song. Words don’t capture the images and sensory experience of its rhythms, but I’d always tended to pigeonhole this rune as a rune of healing and a rune of initiation. It is, but this is why, and it is also so much, so very much more. I think this is why it turns up in one of our most holy of utterances: ALU (Ansuz – Laguz–Uruz). It is a fortress, a rock, a raging explosion of life and challenge, power and creation and beyond this, my words fail me. I have underestimated this rune without ever realizing it, until tonight. Hail to the runes in their generosity and hail the God that brought them through by His sacrifice.
Asking for Help for Our Cat
This is Elena.
(This was taken months ago before she lost her sight).
She is twenty years old. On Sunday two weeks ago, she went blind. The vet wasn’t sure why, but we think it’s due to either a heart problem or hypertension (though this didn’t show on her first visit, it did in her second visit and just today, we got blood work back that shows she also has feline leukemia). She is part of our family. I am trying to raise money to help cover the costs of the ultrasound she had last week (she tore the vet tech up! For a little old lady cat, she is fierce! Omg), and the echocardiogram she’s got to have in two weeks. The first procedure was just over $1800, and I have no idea what the second will be, but I am expecting pretty much the same. We don’t plan surgery – she’s too old to come through it safely—but we do want to know what is wrong, so we can provide palliative care. She isn’t currently in pain that any of us can tell but she’s depressed, and I think scared and it breaks our hearts to see her world having grown so much smaller. She’s very smart, very brave, and has been finding ways to navigate around our house and she’s fiercely independent but it hurts to see her sadness.
So, if anyone would be interested in helping, this is what I am offering:
- My etsy shop is open again and I have a number of new prayer cards (including a breathtaking card for Khonsu by D. Lopez-Melville).
- I can do a setting of lights for folks (see here).
- I’m also offering, this weekend only (at least until next mos—I’ve been doing this monthly), one draw divination, no question. I’ll draw using whatever system or systems I choose (usually a combination of runes and at least one other system) and send the results. I charge $15 for this.
- If you’d like to just donate, my paypal is Krasskova at gmail.com.
Please email me about any of this is you’re interested in the setting of lights or the prayers. For rune draw and setting of lights, the cut off is 9pm EST Saturday.
Next month, I’ll be offering the monthly one draw div as well. Setting of lights I offer every week, with the Saturday cut off (I like to prep them Saturday night and light them before midnight).
That is all.
Cats are very stoic. They can be in pain or injured for a long time before even the most attentive pet guardian realizes it. We have no idea how long Elena was having eye/hypertensive issues but Sunday it came to a head, and we realized she’d gone blind. I am grateful to Asklepius, Eir, and Bast that she’s not in pain – the vet tech is. *G*. (I like the young woman, she’s very, very good, so I feel bad for her, but I’m also inordinately proud of Elena for being so fierce. There it is.).
Bookversary! Honoring Sigyn: The Norse Goddess of Constancy [Revised & Expanded]
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Today marks the bookversary of my published book Honoring Sigyn: The Norse Goddess of Constancy [Revised & Expanded] originally released by Spero Publishing on February 26, 2012. The book is a revised and expanded edition of the same book first published through Lulu Publishing in 2011.
A devotional dedicated to the Norse Goddess Sigyn, including original prayers and poems to Her. Honoring Sigyn includes the mentions of Her for The Lore, as well as considerable material derived from the practices of women who have served Her in the modern era. This new expanded revision also includes recipes and much more!
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Bookversary! Full Fathom Five
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Today marks the bookversary of my published devotional book Full Fathom Five: Honoring the Norse Gods and Goddesses of the Sea originally released on February 21, 2008. The book is currently out of print, but you can find copies on the resale market.
Full Fathom Five is a devotional dedicated to the Norse Deities of the sea: Ran, Aegir, Their Nine Daughters and Njord. It is the first full-color devotional from Asphodel press, with beautiful photographs and illustrations on nearly every page. It offers a moving compilation of poems, prayers and personal accounts from people who love and honor these Gods. Respect for the ocean and its bounty is also discussed by those who have found that loving Gods of the sea means preserving that which is Their body. For anyone seeking to develop a relationship with these Gods, seeking a means of deepening a pre-existing relationship or for those who simply want to learn more, this devotional is a worthy addition to one’s book hoard.
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Fornax, Roman Goddess of Ovens — Neptune’s Dolphins
Between the 5th and the 17th of February, Romans hold the Fornacalia and on the 17th, the Quirinalia. The Fornacalia was begun by Numa Pompilius, the second King of Rome, who wanted the spelt that was used for offerings to the Gods to be in a pure state. Traditional Roman offerings to the Gods included […]Fornax, Roman Goddess of Ovens — Neptune’s Dolphins
Continuing My Conversation on Virtue: Friendship
As I mentioned yesterday in one of my posts, I’ve been taking this online course on Virtue Ethics. The last virtue we study (not one of the cardinal virtues, but one highly valued in the classical world and discussed richly in the theological discourse of the three Abrahamic traditions) was friendship. Even though I’ve done a good deal of work in Classics, I hadn’t ever considered this as a virtue per se. That being said, it figures largely and broadly across the traditions we studied in the class and I was absolutely stunned to find a relatively significant amount of writing on it in the Eddas too, leading me to conclude that it’s a key virtue for us too – something that in a million years I wouldn’t have considered.
In the module on friendship, we’re asked to discuss our own beliefs within our faith and to compare those beliefs to one of the faiths studied (in the course, the material is presented from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim perspectives). So, gain, I’m sharing my answer to that particular question: discuss friendship in my faith tradition and compare it to one of the three Abrahamic trads. I didn’t really focus on that last part so much, but boy did I learn a lot about ideas of friendship in Heathenry.
To answer the question posed above, it really depends on which denomination of Heathenry tradition we’re discussing. One of our main rituals (formal symbel) has room, whereby on high holy days, a gift-giving component may be included. Plus, there are strong hospitality taboos/obligations embedded in our understanding of how to engage with one’s community, family, and friends. These things tend to blur a bit at the edges, but I suspect if one were to look at ideas about friendship as a continuum, we’re closer to the classical model of friendship, than Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, but that’s definitely on a continuum, and of course, this is very denomination specific and certain denominations tend to have formalized gift giving as a means of establishing hierarchy within the community and kindred much, much more than those of us who would consider ourselves quite devout, even orthodox. I’m thinking particularly of Theodism, in which gift-giving is highly ritualized in symbel and definitely serves the purpose of establishing patron-client like relationships and marking hierarchy.
Gift giving is, nevertheless, across the board a huge part of friendship in Heathenry, and formal hospitality. The “Havamal,” which for many of us is a religious text (it wasn’t written to be, but we use it in this manner — I’m aware of the issues here of mediation, textual transmission, and intent) specifically speaks of the importance of friendship and cautions the reader to exchange time, visits, and gifts with one’s friends often so that the friendship remains strong. Thinking about it, friendship is based – again drawing on Eddic sources, on discernment of loyalty and common goals. Generosity is indisputably bound up with friendship for us — again the gift-giving becomes an important means of signifying friendship and it is often ritualized for that purpose. There is a socially performative quality in certain types of gift-giving to friendships within our religious culture (though to be fair, my view of this may be heavily influenced by the time I spent working in Theodism). Beyond that, friendship is based on concord, loyalty, appreciation, and sincerity — there’s quite a lot said about treating one’s friends with kindness and care, and about the need for frequent and clear communication. Common goals are highly emphasized, and one is even encouraged to avoid enmity by taking steps to win over into friendship those with whom one might quarrel.
I didn’t think at first that there was a particularly religious component to Heathen discourse on friendship, but the primary text I know I’d go to is one in which all the lessons on friendship are coming from the mouth of Odin. So, there is a connection, immediate and direct, to sacred utterance, which perhaps doesn’t hold the force of revealed law, but if you want to prosper and you’re not foolish, is something to be heeded. I’d have to thumb carefully through the “Havamal” in a close reading to be sure, but I think friendship is mentioned more than any other virtue. it’s viewed as necessary not just to the common good, but to the well-being of the individual…which then in turn reinforces the common good because healthy people make healthy communities. Odin, primarily associated in Eddic literature with sovereignty and war, (also spiritual technologies like shamanism), certainly knows the brutality and damage that can result when friendships — be they personal or political—break down. Odin counsels that one should never be the first to break a friendship lest sadness eat up one’s heart in want of companionship. There’s a sense that friendship is essential to the soul, but the core of friendship is an accord of minds…interestingly, as with Islam, there’s a connection to truth (textually in this case, not etymologically as with Islam where the Arabic word for friendship is connected via its root to the word for truth: sadq), because over and over the core of friendship, its sine qua non is truth, honesty, and integrity. I am rambling so I will stop but I don’t think I’ve ever given much thought to how my faith views friendship and now I find myself eager to go down this research rabbit hole! I never realized what an important and core virtue it is for us.
Here are a few places in the “Havamal” where friendship is mentioned. This is not exhaustive, but just a few of my favorite verses. I used the Jackson Crawford version of the Poetic Edda, which I just got for my upcoming birthday. It’s a nice translation.
It’s a long and crooked walk to a bad friend, even if he lives nearby. But it’s an easy road to a good friend, no matter how long the journey. (Verse 34) Friends should provide their friends with weapons and clothing; this kind of generosity shows. Generous mutual giving is the key to lifelong friendship. (Verse 41 – note the exhortation to gifting) — Hávamál 42 Be a friend to your friend, and repay each gift with a gift. Repay laughter with laughter, repay treachery with treachery. (Verse 42) Be a friend to your friend and also to his friend, but never be a friend to the enemy of your friend. If you have a good friend, and really trust him, and want good to come of your friendship, you should speak your mind with him. exchange gifts, visit him often. But if you have another friend, and you mistrust him but want to benefit from him, nonetheless— you should speak to him kindly, flatter him, and repay his treachery with your own. This same friend, if you mistrust him, and suspect him to be false in his words: you should talk with him, laugh with him, but repay just what he gives you. (Verses 43-46) You should not give only big gifts; often a little thing will win you favor. I have won friends with just half a loaf of bread and a bowl of soup. (Verse 52) If you have a friend, and you trust him, go and visit him often. Weeds and high grass will grow on a path that nobody travels. (Verse 119) Never be the first to break friendship with your friend. Sadness will eat up your heart if you have no one you can talk to. (Verse 122 – I love this verse. The idea of friendship being so important to the care of the heart, to the personhood and emotional well-being of someone is powerful. This is an ethos that I would term ‘care of the soul’ being articulated. ) Men become friends when they can share their minds with one another. Anything is better than being lied to: a real friend will disagree with you openly. (Verse 124)
What passages in the Eddas, Sagas, or other relevant texts can y’all find that discuss friendship and what do you, my readers think about this virtue and its role in our religious life?
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