Author Archives: ganglerisgrove
I went to my town’s Veteran’s Day ritual today at the local VFW. The closing prayer, given extempore by the VFW’s chaplain, a Veteran I believe of the Vietnam War was powerfully moving. I remembered most of it, which I give here.
It is the soldier not the reporter
who guarantees for us freedom of the press
It is the soldier not the clergyperson
who guarantees for us freedom of religion
It is the soldier not the poet
who guarantees for us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier not the college activist
who guarantees for us the freedom to assemble.
Let us not forget that. It is the soldier.
It is always the soldier.
It will always BE the soldier.
We should do better remembering this.
What a powerful act of remembrance. If i were in the UK, I’d definitely see this. Let us remember our dead, let us remember our dead, let us carry them with us always in heart, mind, and spirit. May our fallen warriors be honored and may they find peace.
(my image of the WWI memorial statue in Rhinebeck, NY)
Today was a very frustrating day, for reasons that I’m about to go into. I’ve spent hours searching online for a dollhouse. There is a blessing charm for a home that I learned years ago, that involves a dollhouse and a bit of sympathetic magic. For all that it sounds simplistic, it is surprisingly organic, creative and enjoyable to work, and very, very difficult to break. I’ve been wanting to make one of these for friends of mine who just moved into their first home for some time now. I thought it would be simple (if somewhat expensive) to find the perfect dollhouse and get to work. I was so very wrong.
Now I had a dollhouse when I was a child. When I was seven or eight, my parents took me to a local craftsman’s shop, one who specialized in custom built dollhouses and I got one made to my specifications (within reason and my parents’ budget.). It’s only now that I’m an adult that I realize just what a gift that was. My parents never had much cash to burn. It was a rare indulgence. I loved that dollhouse though and it was my first introduction to world-building. I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to say that I learned to work magic through the medium of this structure. If I had children, I’d be absolutely sure they had the same opportunity to develop this type of spatial creativity. (Plus, it kept my overly curious ass out of trouble, which was no bad thing lol).
So, anyway, I’ve been collecting small miniatures that I planned to use in this charm for some time now so I figured it was high time I got the house and started putting it all together. It’s a type of hands-on magic I enjoy but rarely get to use. How hard could finding a dollhouse be? Well, holy shit. For one thing, 95% of the dollhouses I found were for kits. One even opined, “Have you always wanted to build your own house?” No fucker. I haven’t. This is what I pay craftsmen for. Die in a fire, thank you. (Though granted, had one the skill, making this type of thing from the ground up would be a very, very powerful addition to the overall charm). So that was annoying, but not what I found really upsetting and aggravating.
Almost all the finished houses I found (on specialty sites, etsy, ebay, etc.) were utter trash. They were cheap, poorly made, often garish, and ugly. They were, essentially, disposable. I’m not sure what bothered me more, the fact they were ugly or the fact they were poorly made. I’ve seen this with a particular relative’s children the first time I visited them: their toys were all mass-produced garbage. They treated it that way too and I realized not ever having something made with care and craft, these kids weren’t learning to take care of nice things. I wonder what their lives will be like as that attitude takes root and grows. Far better to have one thing well and properly made than a dozen pieces of trash.
I realized, talking with my husband and our housemate that part of what was being triggered in me was a series of Duergar related taboos I picked up from my adopted mother. My housemate, a Freya’s woman, was likewise triggered (not surprisingly since Freya has a strong connection to the Duergar and to good craftsmanship). As we were talking this out, I realized that buying shoddy, cheaply made items, mass-produced items, represented the destruction of individual livelihoods, of artisans, artists, and craftsmen. It breaks the essential relationships upon which proper, healthy communities should be built and it ingrains in us a lack of caring for the beauty around us. It takes away the pride in having something well made, making something well, and the ability of the crafter to take pride in his or her labor. There’s a huge difference between mass production and creation. No wonder I ended up having so many problems with this today. On top of that, it’s not enough to have something well made. It has to be the appropriate, proper item for a task too.
Trying to help me out, a friend of mine this morning found a lovely, hand-made dollhouse for me and brought it over. He’d found it on craigslist, a lovely Victorian cottage made in 1920 by a man for his daughter. It didn’t look like what I wanted (for this type of charm, it’s helpful for the house to look as close as possible to the actual environment that it’s to represent) but I figured it was hand-made and had been much loved and I might as well use it, even though my first, gut response had been, “Nooo that’s nice but not right for this.” I should have listened to my gut. Always, listen to your gut! Instead, I started spinning out the magic. Several hours later I was about ready to tear someone’s head off. I was aggravated, irritated, achy, and starting to get a bad headache, not a migraine, but the type of headache I get when magic is going awry. When my husband came in, we spoke about it and I realized that the house just wasn’t right so I took everything out of it, undid the charm, asked the ancestors for help and put things away. I’m still doing cleansings. Tomorrow, I’m probably going to see if my next-door neighbor, who has a small child, would like the house for her kid and then I’ll just give it to her. It’s a beautiful dollhouse, but just wasn’t right for my purposes.
I remember last year I went down the rabbit hole on youtube one day and ended up watching something like eight hours of a BBC show on the Edwardian Farm. Three archaeologists live like Edwardian farmers in a recreated village setting for a full year, following the rhythms of the seasons and introducing the viewer to what life was like in Edwardian England (they did a whole series of these and they’re awesome). One thing that struck me was how interconnected the entire village would have been. The baker gets yeast from the brewer, who gets xyz from the farmer, who relies on someone else for certain goods. It was an interconnected web of existence and interdependence. There was individuality and craftsmanship, a respect for well-made tools that honors the thing itself and the spirit of the thing. With the coming of industrialization (and eventually mass production) that web was broken. Look at our world today and one can easily see the results.
We learn as children how to move in our world through play. We learn to value and respect the connections we make, and to appreciate beauty and art, craftsmanship and care. If that is lacking our world can be a very uneasy, fractured place. If all we are ever exposed to is cheap garbage, what is that teaching us? Far better to support our local craftsmen or our community craftsmen when we can.
Today I was checking my Facebook and I came across this gem:
“Notice to my friends-I will not be taking part in or hosting or organizing any [Pagan denomination name’s] rituals or [name of Heathen denomination]’s rituals until I start getting the things I have coming from the Gods and Goddesses. I have grown weary of communing with them, giving them offerings etc to have nothing in return for my connection to them. In my world there is suppose (sic) to be reward or at least confirmation that what I do for them is being put on the balance sheet. So until the scales get balanced in my favor I am withdrawing from all ritual work to honor the Gods until they start to fucking recognize and reward what I have done for them over the years. I will honor my class obligations but beyond that I will be ignoring the Gods.” [I am omitting the name of the author as well as his denoms.]
I’m sure the Gods can hardly contain Their upset at this guy’s decision. SarcasmI sincerely hope this person gets the things he “has coming” from the Gods. Oh, I sincerely do. The level of obtuseness here irritates me but also makes me very sad. Someone hasn’t had very good spiritual direction, at the very least. Now I’m not posting this to shame the poster (If I were, I would have included his name) but because I think this attitude permeates, to varying and lesser degrees, large swaths of our community (especially Heathenry). I rarely see it as clearly articulated as the above, but it’s there coloring, all too often, our devotional lives. I probably should have more compassion but I’ll be honest, I don’t. We should be well beyond this by now and one of the biggest issues with Heathenry today is that we have zero structures in place to provide proper spiritual guidance, to provide good, devout models of how one should engage with the Gods, and most of all, we have zero infrastructures that challenge this outlook. We allow atheists to claim community privilege, we shit on the very idea of proper clergy and specialists, we reify the lore as though we were bible thumping Protestants, mock and spit at devotion, and at every turn we give our Gods nothing. While it’s marginally better than when I first became Heathen thirty years ago, there’s still a terribly long way to go and there shouldn’t be.
We all have our peevish moments before our Gods. Those momentary lapses are not a bad thing. We’re human and our Gods’ awareness and understanding must encompass that, given that They made us. The problems arise when this is a default spiritual setting. WHO THE FUCK ARE WE TO ASSUME THAT THE GODS OWE US ANYTHING? This guy whines about all the things he’s done for the Gods. What? What have you done that possibly abrogates your responsibility as an adult for venerating Them? We do not honor the Gods and ancestors because we want things in return – not unless we’re shallow, selfish, underdeveloped, pathetic human beings. We honor them because it is the right thing to do, because it is our privilege to do so, because establishing and maintaining right relationship with the Powers transforms everything. It elevates us and brings us into balance with the cosmological order that the Gods Themselves established. The Gods OWE us? No, on the contrary: we owe Them EVERYTHING.
Attitudes like those expressed in the quote above are poison. They corrode the health of any spiritual relationship. Devotion shouldn’t happen only when it’s convenient to us. It shouldn’t be predicated on getting our way or getting rewarded in some way – it is not our place to dictate to the Gods. I can hardly believe that I’m having to write this. It is not our place to dictate anything to the Holy Powers. We can ask. We can beg. We can even have our occasional temper tantrums but in the end as adults we must realize that They do not operate according to our whims and whining. I can only imagine what this person’s life is like if this is the attitude he takes with those in it. Our Gods are patient and wait for us to come to Them properly. They wait and encourage us to order our minds and hearts in healthy ways and if we allow ourselves to recognize it, often provide us with everything we possibly might need in order to do so.
The Gods do not require our devotion. We, however, are the better for it. Attitudes like the above, even when one is going through the outward motions of ritual and respect automatically close the door to any blessings They might bestow. And really? Why should They bother? That They so often do is one of the most profound graces of our lives. The least we can do in return it learn to center ourselves rightly before Them. Let us know, now and always, our proper place before the Gods. We’re only hurting ourselves otherwise.
I suppose all examples are valuable, even the negative ones and here we most certainly have a perfect example of how NOT to engage with the Gods, how not to position ourselves vis-à-vis our devotional work, and the attitudes and behaviors not to encourage …if we give a shit that is about our Gods, our traditions, our ancestors, our communities, and our faith.
blood wise, bone keen, wrapped in the arms of the dead
Look to the tales your grandparents told,
of wolves in woods
there is power there
and wisdom to guide you on your way
through all the terrifying places
you may have to walk.
There is light and fire
and the warmth of knowing
and the courage to meet the Gods
of our deepest dreaming
rather than fear.
(by G. Krasskova)
November is a very special month for me. It’s a time where Odin looms particularly large in my world and I start a ritual process that culminates in an intensive series of Yule rituals wherein Odin is the focus. It’s not that He’s absent at other times of the year — He in no way is – but November is special. A large part of the reason for this isn’t just the seasonal shift, something to which I’m particularly sensitive in general (probably thanks to my old and achy bones!), but also that Veteran’s Day /Remembrance Day is in November. As someone who has an extensive practice in honoring the military dead, this is a powerful time.
That may be what is so unique for me at this time with Odin: He doesn’t usually come to me in my devotions primarily as Lord of Hosts. I know He is a battle God. I resonate very strongly with that, but it’s not how He usually chooses to engage. As November rolls around, that changes and suddenly when I reach out to Odin, it’s as the Battle God, wise in weapons, Lord of the Einherjar, Sigtyr, the Victory God that He comes. The charge of that presence really calls me to step up my honoring of the military dead at this time.
This year as always, a significant part of my focus vis-à-vis the military dead is WWI dead. Partly that’s because I have a cousin [Wesley Heffner] who went over with Pershing’s Forces and never returned. He died on a field in France. He is in my thoughts a lot at this time of year. Then, moving away from WWI, my father’s birthday was November 1 and he was a veteran of WWII and Korea, so that also colors my practice. I feel sometimes like they take my hands and lead me into deeper understanding of what this practice of veneration entails. Usually I post something honoring the military dead every day in November. I’m not doing that this year, but I am going to be donating all November proceeds from my etsy store to Paralyzed Veterans of America. I think they do good work. (There are a couple of other organizations that I tend to gravitate to as well, including the British Royal Legion — I like that they provide retraining programs for vets. I’d welcome suggestions of other charities too from my readers).
Some years the military dead are more present than others and this year they seem particularly present. I wish we could learn from them, to cherish that which we are given, to value their lives, our lives, and the lives of our children, to understand that the consequences of any war, no matter how large or small it may be, reach far, far beyond the generation involved. They have powerful lessons to teach and I’m grateful to Odin for pointing me on the path of veneration.
During WWI, poet Wilfred Owen, quoting a line from Horace, wrote a poem called Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori. The title translates as “sweet and proper it is to die for one’s country” and it was published in 1920 after his death – Owen died in the trenches and is generally considered to be the greatest of the WWI poets. Whereas the original Horatian Ode may be read as a rather sweetly sentimental exhortation to the valor so essential to proper Romanitas, Owen flips the equation on its head, summoning the brutal bleakness of the trenches, the stench and horror of war, and with bitter hollowness damning that sentiment as an ‘old lie.’ I think both are correct. Civilization is built on the backs of its warriors, on the viscera of those willing to lay down their lives in its defense and we are defined by those sacrifices. Yet, we waste lives so blithely, often so pointlessly for leaders’ egos and greed. It is a corruption with a terrible cost. We owe those who fought and most of all we owe them the gift of learning from their mistakes.
As November begins, moving me inexorably into the deepest, most intense time of year for my practice, may I remember them well.
Chas. Clifton continues the discussion about religion, politics, and the Gods on his blog here. He also offers what I find a quite profound comment about living as a polytheist:
“That is the polytheistic view of life. The world is a mess. The world is beautiful. The gods are eternal (or as good as). The gods work at cross-purposes, and sometimes humans are caught between them.”
This is something that our ancestors knew, I think, but that we have forgotten. Anyway, his article is worth a read.