Author Archives: ganglerisgrove
I don’t know if this is a favorite photo per se, but it was certainly one that I was overjoyed to acquire.
This is my great grandmother (maternal father’s side) Edna Baldwin (with her then husband and my great grandfather Perry Barnes Hanna). She haunted my family for years (metaphorically speaking lol). There is tragedy and loss and bitterness and so much there in her life on which I wish I had clarity; she was really the lynch pin that set the tone for not just her children but theirs as well and by extension my generation too. Intergenerational pain and trauma but also courage and perseverance and the ability to survive with all the viciousness that sometimes entails. While parts of her story are bleak, I respect her and I honor her as one of my disir (protective female ancestors).
Edna was born c. 1879 in Hardy, WV to Jane Newhouse Baldwin and Isaac Hamilton Baldwin. She was one of at least a dozen children. The 1900 census lists her father as a car repairer. All I know of Edna is that she got the hell out of WV as soon as she could. She married Perry Barnes Hanna, my great grandfather (though I haven’t found their wedding certificate yet), and had three children by him (I have my doubts that the first child was his. The boy looks significantly mixed race (most likely part Native– my husband is half Blackfoot so it jumped out at me immediately) and I really do wonder if that’s why she left Hardy County to begin with, attitudes being what they were then in small, 19th c. towns. I looked at the photo I finally got of the two brothers and immediately blurted out: “No way they have the same father!” In 1900 that would have been an issue, a serious one, but I digress. (I am a genealogist. Mysteries like this drive me absolutely crazy. I want to know. Everything my dead tried to hide, I want to ferret out lol. I’ve had intensive email correspondence with an archivist in Hardy county – amazingly wonderful woman – and we came to the conclusion that Edna lied on her second son’s birth certificate. There, she said she was born in Alabama. Census records place her at less than a year old in Hardy County and I have far more documentation for her parents than I do for her. We thought, all the evidence considered, that she was trying to hide her background and town/county/state of origin. Like me, did she just move as far away as she could at the first opportunity when she was of age or is there more to the story? I will probably never know but I also won’t stop looking).
My grandfather, apparently her second son was born in 1903. Her relationship with Perry was volatile. My aunt told me that her father (my grandfather Roland) told her that once the two of them were fighting and Edna threw a knife at Perry, the latter saved only because he held up a thick newspaper to block it. He himself was, according to his son, an alcoholic (family lore says Perry was a pediatrician but I’ve searched the census records and find zero evidence of that. The only place it’s mentioned is in his mother’s obit. My grandfather told his children that Perry had to give up medicine due to his drinking so maybe that is the case. Certainly Roland believed it was and remained a committed tea-totaler for his entire life). At any rate, their marriage did not last (haven’t found the divorce decree either but I will) and when Roland was six and her older son Van nine, she abandoned them in a local park in Baltimore. She told them to wait there, that she’d be right back but never, ever came back. That’s all I’ll say on that, because I cannot imagine the horror and terror and pain of those two little boys.
They were adopted by different families and Roland’s was less than kind to him, using him more as farm labor than anything else. He was brilliant, however, a polymath who started out as a surveyor and ended up a self-taught civil engineer (still possible in those days). He helped build dams, including the Conowingo dam near where I grew up. He taught himself to play the violin and could play anything he heard by ear. He was a math whiz. While he reconnected somewhat with his mother as an adult, the relationship was never warm and his older brother Van flat out refused to have anything to do with her (this is, at least, what I’ve been able to pry from Roland’s children, my aunts and uncles). Roland himself was physically brutal to his own wife and children. He and my grandmother eventually divorced at a time when that was simply not done. He, by family account, went off to live in the woods. She was scared of him even after he was out of the picture I think. Before he died he did try to make amends to the family, especially to my bio-mom who was, it seems his least favorite child, but I think for her it was a matter of too little too late. He died in 1991. It really shows how one generation can open the door to trauma that just travels down the line. There is no “away” for things like this unless they’re looked at hard in the face and dealt with. On a lighter note, let me just add that I did not get his math gene. LOL. Quite the opposite in fact as I have dyscalculia but he instilled in his oldest daughter a love of learning and she passed that onto me.
Edna was a pianist and opera singer in Baltimore. More than that, I haven’t been able to find out. Family records indicate that she trained a niece to sing but the girl gave it up to get married, pissing Edna off (something with which I quite concur…art is a grace and a blessing. If you have it, use it BUT it highlights the choices women were forced to make at the turn of the century. When I first found out about Edna leaving her children I had to wonder why. Was she turning into someone she felt might hurt them? Was she herself abused in her family? Certainly, it seems like she might have been by her husband even if it also sounds as though she gave as good as she got. Abuse travels down through family lines after all. Maybe she thought it safer for her children to give them up. Was she bitter about being held back in her aspirations as a singer? Was it something else? It hurts me to think of those children and for a long time I had hostility for her because of this but the more I study history the more I realize that in 1909, the year she would have abandoned her children, there were zero resources for a woman fleeing a drunk and probably abusive husband. Maybe it was the best she could do. There’s too much I don’t know and I’m hesitant to judge ancestors who may very well have been doing the absolute very best that they could with a lack of resources we cannot imagine. I do recall standing at my ancestor shrine once a couple of years ago thinking about her and I said out loud, “I don’t understand how you could make that choice” and ringing like a bell, clear and loud in my mind, heart, and soul I heard: “you assume I had one.” It brings home to me my privilege as a woman in 2020 with resources and in a city and country that has far, far more options – not just for women in danger but for a woman who wants to work, to be educated, to do things, to go places, to live, and maybe to not have children (reliable birth control is a wonderful thing). I’m lucky, but I’m lucky in part because of women like Edna and the other Mothers of my ancestral line who suffered and sometimes did brutal things to keep their souls from being broken; and yes, that may have meant breaking someone else, and that had consequences, sometimes painful ones for the next generations but maybe it would have been even worse if those choices hadn’t been made. It’s way too easy for us to judge. I’d rather learn and pray and elevate their wounded spirits because they are my strength and I’m here because of them, and sometimes I see more of myself than I would like in some of the choices Edna made and I wonder if I would have done better or worse in her place. (I was a ballet dancer through my early twenties professionally. I didn’t and don’t have children and never wanted to have children but I wonder what I would have done in 1909 in her place and sometimes I don’t like the answer).
Eventually she married again, Ernest O. Armiger and they had a daughter Dorothy. I have a copy of a letter that Edna wrote in the thirties. She was excited for the New Deal, supporting herself by working as a seamstress through the depression, and deeply invested in workers’ rights. She even wrote at least one article for a magazine, though I’ve not been able to get a copy (yet). She died of heart trouble in Maryland in 1944.
She was never close to my grandfather, for all he always craved her love. One of her letters to her brother Lynn mentions all of her children and updates Lynn on the goings-on…except she doesn’t mention Roland. She did visit him at least once. My oldest aunt was about two at the time. She came, met all the children and then left. My aunt remembers her as an elegant woman, describing exactly the woman in the photograph above. My aunt thought that she herself must have been about five but I don’t think that’s possible with the time line. This would have been when my aunt was between 2-4 though so my thought is that maybe she didn’t remember the visit but was told about it by her mom later, and shown the photo as a child, which imprinted on her memory. She told me that she was held on Edna’s lap and was impressed with how elegant she seemed. I remember things from when I was 2 ½-3 so it’s entirely possible my aunt does recall this. It’s just within the realm of what I would consider possible. For that visit, I don’t think my grandfather was there, but he was sent overseas in WWII so he may still have been on active duty. Edna was only 64 when she died. From her death certificate, she was cremated but I have no idea what happened to her ashes so for me, that is where her story stops.
My youngest aunt sent me photocopies of the photo (and others, including one of Van and Roland as children). The man pictured with her in this photo is my great grandfather Perry Barnes Hanna. So, while it’s not my favorite photograph, I had been searching for an image of her for at least a decade and by happenstance and ancestral blessing, it was there all along, just waiting for me to ask the right person for it to fall into my hands. I am grateful.
Happy Lenaia to all those Bacchic folks out there, and IO Dionysos! I”m off to do weird liturgical things in the park in honor of this magnificent God. May His blessings flow.
(the image is by R. Cavanaugh).
As many of you know, I get called a nazi pretty regularly. I’m not; in fact, I find Nazism and white supremacy vile (as I’ve articulated numerous times in my work for years), but that doesn’t matter. I even come from a military family with close relatives who fought actual Nazis in WWII and that doesn’t matter either. The only thing that matters is that I won’t be swayed from whatever theological position vis-à-vis our traditions that I’m holding by emotional blackmail and clumsy sophistry, positions that have nothing at all to do with politics.
Because it probably needs to be restated yet again, racism, white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia are gross, ugly, and have no place in our traditions. Our Gods are there for those who love and venerate Them. Our traditions are there for those willing to take up the privilege of learning these sacred protocols. But I digress…
This all got me thinking tonight about how many people in Heathenry and in other polytheistic traditions stay quiet on religious matters about which they care deeply because they are afraid of being termed a ‘Nazi.’ Mind you, there are places in the world where people are dying for their Gods and their ancestral ways, places like Brazil for instance where Pentecostal terrorists are murdering Candomble practitioners who refuse conversion and who refuse to desecrate their shrines. Even here in America people can lose their jobs, or custody of their kids for being outed as Polytheists or Pagans. Yet, while devout, committed people fight for their religious freedoms we have anti-theistic Wiccans, Neo-Pagans, and assorted eclectic playgans for whom it’s all make believe (of course, this is not all Wiccans, or all Neo-Pagans but I think you know who you are). We are literally not speaking the same language, practicing anything approximating similar traditions, or even moving in the same intellectual worlds.
So, I wonder how many people are afraid to practice Heathenry or to speak out when these outsiders come into our traditions trying to erase not just basic piety but the polytheism itself at our traditions’ core. Because when those same people cannot “win” a debate by means of fact, and when their emotional blackmail doesn’t work, inevitably cries of “Nazi,” “Racist,” “Patriarchy,” etc. will come next, along with other assorted ad hominems.
Let those things come. At this point, those terms are pretty much meaningless. Such hysterical people have been debasing the intellectual currency of those words and giving openings for actual evil people to prosper. When people who have worked their entire public careers fighting this stuff get labeled “Nazi,” well, when an actual neo-Nazi does, they can just shrug it off. How will interlocutors tell the difference? Every time you call someone a Nazi undeservedly, you’re actually helping the white supremacist movement erode and infiltrate our community. Good job, assholes.
As to my readers, you know what you believe. Any decent person that knows you, knows what you believe and will stand by you knowing such slander to be false. Those that don’t are cowardly parasites and you don’t need them in your life. If people insist on attempting to demean you by such insults, that speaks to their character, not yours. Let them show who they truly are.
Our Gods, our ancestors, our traditions, our communities deserve better and we can be better, do better, and cultivate moral courage in the face of this utter nonsense, because that’s all it is: people with arid theologies, incapable of reasoned debate, oppressed by differing views, and upset that we hold our Gods and traditions more highly and more precious than their feelings. They’re like little yapping terriers that have never been house trained; and that’s about as much import as we should give them.
Don’t be afraid of the words people throw at you. Stand for what you believe in and never let your voice be silenced.
This has absolutely nothing to do with Lenaia, save if i’m stretching it, that Dionysos is God of theatre; still, it’s beautiful and makes me happy. Enjoy hearing one of my favorite countertenors, Andreas Scholl sing an aria from Carmen. 🙂
This is pretty awesome. 🙂
Manowar wanted to honor the operatic influence of their earlier work (such as 1992’s Triumph of Steel which contains their epic retelling of the Matter of Troy) and so for their 2002 album Warriors of the World the world’s loudest band (according to Guinness) recorded a cover of Nessun dorma. It’s quite something:
Even more powerful, however, is hearing their fans sing along at this concert at Arena Fiera, Rho during the Italian Gods of Metal festival:
This makes the world somehow a tiny bit better.
I’m having two simultaneous conversations on twitter right now.
In the first one I’m talking about how vile it is that neo-nazis have appropriated othala and how sickening it is and how we as Heathens have an obligation to speak out against this.
In the second, I’m being called a nazi apologist and people are using articles where I denounce loss of freedom to prove my nazihood.
…all because they’re butthurt that I won’t proselytize, I understand the difference between emotional blackmail, reasoned argument, and fact, and I don’t want to teach a religion I don’t practice! wooooooo
WTF is going on? It’s too early in 2020 for this level of clownery.
So, already the stupidity has started. This time around the idea of a tradition and what it is. I’m not sure why this is difficult but I do know that it was one of the issues that predicated the online schism c. 2012 leading to many Polytheists refusing to use the word “Pagan” (even though the two words should be synonymous). It would be comforting to simply dismiss it as “stupidity” of this group or that, but to do so is simply not accurate, and more and more I realize that when we speak with those who are not polytheists (and sometimes, sadly, even with those who are) we’re simply not speaking the same language.
This is particularly true when discussing “tradition.” It was this word and the argument around it that really drove home for me today the huge disconnect between those of us who value this as polytheists and those coming from other, less structured traditions. “Tradition” is a key word for us, a highly-charged word, and it denotes something extremely sacred (1). We use this word differently. When I speak about a tradition, I am speaking about a careful scaffolding passed down from the Gods and ancestors, protocols for engaging with the Holy Powers, a way of doing things that is licit, clean, that creates reverence by its very structure. It does not come from us, though we are tasked with maintaining and preserving it; it will pass on after us and it is our sacred obligation, our duty to pass it on to our students and our children in as clean a way as possible. This understanding of tradition draws on the Latin etymology of the word as something that is passed down from one generation to another.
A tradition however is more and it’s that more that I find really difficult to articulate. There is more to it. There’s the Mystery element, there’s the unchanging, eternal element, there is that which it is not in our remit to alter at our whim. It is not transient. Tradition is eternal, a thread in the skein of a people’s wyrd, protected, cherished, that is essential to the expression of piety and reverence for specific Gods in specific ways. It involves lineage because it is a living thing, passed from elder to student, parents to child, teachers to neophytes and before all that from the Gods to the people They cherish. It is a language, a dialect, a grammar, a syntax of the sacred. It defines us in our interactions with the Holy. We enter into it and it changes us, it changes our grammar of the sacred. It changes the very language we speak. It becomes the lens through which every single part of our world is filtered and articulated.
Neo-Pagans have never experienced this level of tradition (2). Trying to explain it to them is like trying to explain the color “blue” to someone who is blind. I don’t say this to be nasty. I say it because over and over again, this is precisely the disconnect I have experienced in inter-religious dialogues (or let’s be honest, arguments). I think this is why so many of them see nothing wrong with coming into our spaces and attempting to define our traditions for us, or dismissing our traditions’ requirements with things like, “there are no rules,” or “just do what you want,” or “there’s no right way to practice.” Well, within a tradition yes, actually, there is.
That doesn’t mean that it’s static and unchanging. A tradition is a living thing and each generation adds to it by their piety and their presence. There are protocols within traditions to allow for necessary change, the thing is, what drives a tradition is the Gods from Whom it comes, not us.
I’m still not capturing everything inherent in that word ‘tradition’. I could write a dissertation on the subject and I would still not be able to capture everything. “Tradition” is something that has been imprinted on our souls. It is like the walls of Asgard that the Gods spared no expense defending. It is our job to upkeep it and see that it is not breached. Understanding that comes with terrifying obligation. Maybe that right there is the problem and why so much is “lost in translation (3).”
- There is a difference between “I have a tradition of lighting candles every New year’s eve” and “my tradition dictates that we approach sacred space in this way…” or “within my tradition, we have x protocol for approaching this Deity for the first time.”
- Which I understand; what I don’t understand is why, just like so many anti-theists, they think nothing of coming into our spaces and conversations with words about how traditions have no rules, but when we call them on it, they inevitably lose their shit and accuse us of being angry, judgmental, Christian, etc. The thing is that for us, “tradition” does have rules. It has requirements. It has a governing, sovereign power because it is that which the Gods have given us to allow for clean, healthy communication and gnosis. The problem that we as polytheists face then is different from that of Neo-Pagans but no less vexing: we have to restore threads that a generation of our ancestors cut, dropped, or had torn away from them with the spread of colonizing Christianity (or in some areas Islam). This is also a problem and one that complicates our understanding of what it means to live in a lineaged tradition, that weight and responsibility and moreover how to do that cleanly and well.
- Way too many people want the benefits of what tradition has to offer without the obligations. Tradition is a loaded word, it’s powerful, sexy, it can make one seem “better” than other people but in reality, it comes with responsibility and duty to preserve and maintain and pass it on; and we live in a world that for a very long time has been very hostile to any kind of responsibility, even in the most mundane sense. If we can, after all, shirk even our responsibilities of being competent, adult men and women why wouldn’t we shirk this too? That’s the lesson that we’ve been taught in our modern world: that we don’t need to be responsible for anything. That this is a lie that diminishes us each and every day we let it take up space in our mental worlds doesn’t change that it defines the field on which we live and breathe and fight.
I eat the holy
spewing forth prophecy and portents
too many sadnesses
my gut clenches
they double me over
gods come out of my mouth
the diamond hard fire of numen
i devour the holy
and that fire takes me over in turn
I am never far from the Tree
the crows eat my eyes
worms of revelation turn in my brain.
Razor edged leaves flens and flex
Shearing bits and pieces of me
Until the blood brown body
The spine of the worlds
I met a wayfaring strnger once
In the tangled thorny woods
In which my heart took refuge.
He was a brutal man
He took me down
With the resonance of His voice alone.
He was not a man.
He was not a man.
I saw Him die and walk again.
I saw Him tear the words apart
Yet we live.
I saw and the crows spat gold
Where before my eyes had been.
It burns and this man not man laughs
And tells me to bend myself forward
And drink of the holy
Then my prayers will burn too
Like napalm from my tongue
And I will be the worm
Gnawing on the brain of the world
I will be the crow opening the door
Through which the dead will come.
I will bring revelation.
I met a wayfaring stranger once.
He was not a man.
He wore the skin of being.
He keened with a voice
Like a razor wrapped in velvet.
His hands were long, his nails were cold
He ate my heart
And breathed his icy fire
into the space where it had been.
I breathed his madness
He brought me to life.
(by G. Krasskova)
So, I joined this genealogy project consisting of year long, weekly prompts about my ancestors and it seems pretty cool and so today I receive the first prompt: Fresh Start and I thought: what does that mean?
I know that most people doing this are probably not polytheists and are probably going to choose to write about something new they discovered about a particular ancestor, or something relevant like that and I thought about doing the same thing, except the current state of my ancestor shrine really has me moving in a different direction. Namely, it’s a mess. One of my goals this year is to get back to where I was two years ago with my ancestor work, when my shrine was like a living extension of my heart, a vital, vibrant seat of communion between me and my dead. I’m not sure where things went awry (actually I am. We had a horrible, absolutely horrible contractor working on our home that we had to fire for sheer incompetence and during the course of his tenure here my ancestor room became cluttered. (1) He brought such disorder and pollution into the house I could not work there. I never actually recovered from that).
It really reminds me that honoring the dead was so much more difficult for me at the beginning, years and years ago than honoring the Gods. Gods are, well, Gods and as such the level of respect I have for Them is much, much greater than what I bear for any human being no matter how beloved and for me, that is how it should be. The problem, in those early years, was not actually that, but rather two-fold: I could sense/hear the Gods so much more strongly than my ancestors and Odin was and is overwhelming in so many ways that early on there wasn’t much room for anything else and also, I don’t much get along with my living family. That’s gotten a lot better over the years partly at the push of my adopted mom and partly at the push of my ancestors (they do tend to like to put the living house in order) but twenty years ago it was a far, far different thing and the thought of actually honoring people I’m related to was vastly unappealing for all I knew it had to be done. It took awhile to learn to love them, but I did and they’ve sustained me through more things than I can name. I don’t think I’d realized until quite recently how lax I’d become in my ancestor veneration. It’s not an insurmountable gulf, but it is something that I need to recommit myself to bettering over the next year.
So, I set myself some goals for the next couple of months around this issue. I want to completely scour and clean my ancestor room and shift some of the furniture around – I’m going to need help with that, I think, but I have a friend who has amazing spatial sense. He can look at furniture and tell me with 100% accuracy whether something will fit in a particular space. He’s agreed to help me sort it out physically. Then I want to totally take apart and redo my ancestor shrine. This takes at least four days usually longer. My ancestor space when it is in good working order takes up three of four walls floor to ceiling. When it’s in good condition it takes the better part of a week to totally redo and it’s in anything but good condition now so I’m estimating at least a couple of weeks’ work with that. After that, it’s merely a matter of submitting myself to the discipline of regular offerings and prayers again – that at least I’ve been doing to some degree, though not as I ought to have over this past year.
It’s an opportunity to reconsider what this part of my practice means, why it is so fundamental, and the role each of my ancestors plays in helping me maintain right relationship with the Gods. This whole experience over the past year has really shown me how easy it is to take for granted those relationships which we assume to be solid. The moment I ceased concerning myself with tending my ancestral work is the moment it started falling apart, assuming it would be ok to let it go for “just a little bit.” There’s a reason that the word cultuscomes from the Latin colo, colere, colui, cultum – to till, tend, nurture. All devotional relationships have to be nurtured. Hell, all relationships have to be nurtured, devotional or simply the human ones we also cherish. There’s a lovely line from the Havamal that counsels friends to visit each other often and exchange gifts often too in order to strengthen the friendship (stanza 41). It holds for devotion too and that I think has been the lesson my ancestors have really driven home these last few months. Now, it’s time for me to pick myself up, dust my ancestor shrine off and get back to the work of ancestral devotion. #52ancestors
- To give an example, lest you think I’m exaggerating this man’s level of gross incompetence, he was creating a shrine nook in one of the rooms. All looked well from inside…that is until we went outside by chance and saw that he’d driven the nails through the siding of the house from the inside. The kicker was coming outside and seeing him sawing wood, not on a sawhorse like a normal, competent contractor, but on the hood of my fucking car. Fired immediately. If you’re in the dutchess county area, I have an awesome contractor now who is an angel and just an amazing human being. His work is pristine. If you ever need a referral I have one. If you want a warning in the Long Island area about whom to avoid, I got that one for you too. Just email me.