Category Archives: devotional work

Bookversary: He is Frenzy

Sometime it’s hard to believe just how much time has passed when these bookversaries come around. It has been six years since, He is Frenzy was first published. As a devotee of Odin, I have published several books around Him through the years: my first devotional (and the first devotional in all of Heathenry/the Northern Tradition) Whisperings of Woden, followed by Walking Toward Yggdrasil, He is Frenzy and then most recently a little chap book of prayers Nine for Odin.

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He is Frenzy collects all of the essays and poetry that Northern Tradition author Galina Krasskova has written to honor the God Odin since 1995. Providing a survey of His ancient and modern cultus, it is also a deeply personal exploration of devotion, ordeal work and what it takes to walk the Odinic path.

Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

 

 

 

 

So for my loyal readers who have read these various books around Odin, what was your favorite, and why?

Polytheist Quotes

One of the projects dear to me is in re-building a devotional practice to our Gods. Devotions are the very backbone of religious praxis and experience. There was a meme circulating a while ago stating: “What they won’t teach you about the founders of western science, math, medicine and philosophy is that they believed in the ancient Gods.” This is sadly in most cases very true.

I’ve decided to start a new project, pulling authentic quotes and prayers to share across social media as a reminder that these great minds were Polytheists, that they themselves would have engaged in devotional practices. They weren’t afraid of theophany, direct experience with the Gods. They recognized it for the blessing it is. If you care to contribute your own favorite quotes feel free to share them in the comments below. These graphics are meant to be shared, so please do share them.

The images will be housed and updated over in a photo album on my official Facebook author page. This album will be added to as time and opportunity permits.

The first couple are below.

dionysos

Αἰσχύλο (also known as Aiskhylos, or Aeschylus) was born circa 525/524, and passed away circa 456/455 BC. He was an ancient Greek playwright, sometimes colloquially called the father of tragedies. Only a few of his estimated 70 plus plays have survived, among them is his trilogy of plays in The Oresteia (comprised of Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides) represents the only complete trilogy of Greek plays by any playwright still extant, and it has been theorized that he was the first playwright to create stories told in trilogies. He also seems to have introduced to the theater more complex character interactions and more characters into his works then what had been standard before then. His plays won him first prize in the coveted Great Dionysia (a great festival dedicated to Dionysos) on more than one occasion.

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In this direct quote from Aiskhylos, we see an understanding in why we engage in devotional practices and veneration to the Gods.

Serving Odin

I recently came across something I’d written awhile back, after a discussion about Odin. At the time, I was surprised at the response. It’s always interesting to see your relationship and your primary Deity through someone else’s eyes! A friend of mine, who has known me for over a decade,  made what i think is a particularly powerful comment, one that moved me deeply, and I think it might also allow me to segue into some important things about my work with Odin that I’d like to discuss. For that reason,  I want to quote the whole comment here. My friend F.B. said during the course of the discussion:

“I have felt, over more than a decade as your friend and colleague (albeit on a very different religious path) that your way (Odin’s way, to which you are obligated) was just so hard and painful. Most often, my thought has been, “Better you than me!” (Which, of course, makes it obvious why Odin chose you and not me.) I have felt sorry for you. You claim joy but I must take it on faith (and on my respect for you as an honest person) because, from the outside looking in (and from a drastically different faith tradition) your way seems all pain and no joy. But I know you don’t feel that way about it, so I simply accept that this is one of those things I’ll never understand. Thanks for trying to translate!”

I was really given pause by this comment. Certainly my life has been hard, brutally so at some points, but not because of Odin or my service to my Gods. They bring (sometimes vexation yes, but more often) joy. They have poured blessings into my hands. Sometimes life is just *hard* for reasons that have nothing to do with the Gods. So, I was really pondering upon reading this comment how it could possibly seem so grim. Has the work Odin has set me to do caused me pain? Yes, sometimes but that is an expected consequence of this work, both the internal work that I must do to keep my devotional relationships fit, the external ordeal that is sometimes asked, and the public work, which can be very irritating at times. The pain or difficulties are largely irrelevant. They don’t matter. They’re the terrain one must cross to get anything done. 

I suppose I look at it much as I looked at the physical pain I endured when I was a ballet dancer (and a ballet career involves a brutal level of physical pain as an ongoing norm): it’s irrelevant. I loved to dance. it was my goal in life to do so professionally (which I did for a brief time), and to do it well. I knew going in that in order to reach that goal, I’d have to endure a certain level of discomfort and pain as a daily thing. It was the ground I would have to walk across for what I wanted to achieve and that end goal was one of beauty and joy. I kept that goal always in mind through the daily grind. The discipline of honing and shaping and sometimes wrenching myself into the proper shape and form necessary to achieve that goal was often grim, but it was not the point and in view of reaching that ultimate goal it faded largely away. It simply was a necessary byproduct. I think on some level I approach the challenges inherent in my relationship with Odin (and the other Gods I venerate) in much the same way. 

Odin is a God that will challenge (as I think all Gods do in some way). He favors hard work and discipline and doing those things involves courage. C.S. Lewis wrote once that courage was the most necessary virtue–it was necessary to do all the others (my paraphrase)! He could have had Odin in mind when he wrote that. Because discipline and duty are not bad things for me — in fact, i find them very positive things and find that I tend to thrive under such strictures–I often write about them. I suppose were my personality different I could focus on other aspects of my devotional relationships but I don’t like to discuss the very personal things (they’re *personal* and I have very old-school notions of privacy), and I don’t like to discuss the blessings I’ve been given (that seems too much like bragging). What I like to talk about is the work. It defines me, not only in my relationship to Him but as a person and a human being. It is what makes me a full adult to my mind. This is a corollary to the utilitarian outlook Odin tends to hone in some of His people: we tend to define ourselves by our work. If i am not useful, I have no reason to *be.* Of course i’ve learned over the years that even the word ‘duty’ can be triggering to some. 

When I was still dean of an Interfaith Seminary, all of the instructors were required to assist with an end of the year retreat for the students. Lasting for three days, it was an intensive weekend of workshops, seminars, and ritual work designed to help the students prepare for their eventual ordination. It was quite enjoyable for the most part. During one of the workshops – this one student-led—the participants/audience were asked to call out words that defined their spirituality,  and what was important therein. I said “duty.” When I uttered that word you could feel the pall descend over the sweet little new agers. They were so intensely disturbed by the word that no one wanted to write it down (it carries all those nasty connotations don’t you know, like responsibility, maturity, focus, and discipline). Finally the student leading the workshop said ‘Joyful duty.’ It was my turn to be perplexed: what does emotion have to do with it? That is completely and utterly irrelevant. It does not matter if one’s duty is joyful or not, what matters is doing it. If we only did those things that brought us joy, what an insipid world this would be. It really highlighted for me the gulf between me and so many people that I meet. This is also why I dislike definitions of a Deity as “love” or of piety as ‘love.’ What happens when you’re not feeling the joy, does your practice go out the window? One would hope not. Duty is the torch that can guide one through those periods of darkness. To prioritize our emotions in the course of doing what is right is to make the process all about us and not what is right. I find little merit in doing this. 

That being said, I experience great joy and satisfaction in serving Odin. I would serve Him even were that not the case. Like pain, the joy is a byproduct, this time one of His presence. The public side of my work involves many challenges, but that is to be expected when we are restoring a broken tradition. First we must restore ourselves so that we can take up those threads and neither of those things is a painless process. Sometimes I write about that aspect of the work because others need to see that one can get through such a process; sometimes because like many others, I am still finding my way in this thing called devotion. Challenge, hard work, discipline, duty, and the expected level of courage that Odin demands are good things to me. They help immeasurably with that process and in fact, I believe are crucial. Odin is a war-god, something that I try never to forget and it is through the gifts of a warrior’s mindset that one can thrive in His service. There are other ways too, but this is the way to which He has called me. 

So what is the joy? I’ll lay it out in brief, broad strokes, just this once. There is having a purpose, being of use, furthering His agenda. Those things in themselves are tremendously satisfying and joyful. I don’t think I can explain how much so to someone for whom that is not a motivating factor! Then over and above everything else, there is Him, His presence, His wod (auto correct kept correcting this to ‘wood.’ No, auto-correct, not ‘wood’…that would go into that privacy place I was talking about earlier! lol). His presence is one of overwhelming terror-joy, true awe in the ancient sense, and at times pure ecstatic bliss. It drives, it hones, it motivates. Then there is the knowledge that He brings. He certainly knew what carrot to use to lure me in: teach me things, show me things, grant me knowledge. There is what He allows me to know and what He allows me to see but over and above it all, there is Him and that would in itself be blessing enough. We’re well matched, and regardless of how hard aspects of my service to Him may be, in the power of His presence, those difficulties are forgotten. 

We Don’t Own the Gods

I’m seeing a disturbing trend in certain polytheisms (for once, not Heathenry) of trying to close the door to any type of direct devotional experience or theophany. The idea that the Gods can call someone to Their worship, grant direct experience, communicate in various ways outside of divination is very threatening to some people. Well, tough titty said the kitty, it happens. All the time. It is the heart and soul of any licit tradition. You’d think these nay-sayers would learn from the mistakes Heathenry has made and not try to waltz merrily down the same rocky road.

I agree that there is a tremendous lack of discernment in certain dark corners of our communities (tumblr, lookin’ at you). I agree that too many people put their feelings, politics, sentimentalities, [insert obnoxious thing of choice here] before clean veneration of the Gods. I agree that many of those purporting to have fantastic devotional experiences are confused, lying, mentally ill, or what have you. Every community has this. But I part ways at the idea that such direct experience is antithetical to polytheism. The lack of discernment is the consequence of the attitudes of modernity and lack of good, intergenerational transmission of tradition, and lack of competent elders (or respect for elders).

Someone said to me in the course of these discussions: “I look at someone saying ‘the Gods called me to worship Them’ the same way I’d look at someone saying ‘I’m eating this ice cream because the vanilla ice cream called me to eat it.” All of which neglects or purposely ignores the key ontological difference between the two examples, namely that Gods have agency. They can and often do call us to veneration. We’re not always savvy or sensible about doing so, nor do we always respond to such inspiration as we should, but that doesn’t change that the Gods are quite willing to engage.

To rule that out is to betray the very tradition you’re trying to build. It’s spitting in the face of your ancestors who themselves had powerful devotional experiences – and how do we know this? Well, they had a powerful, intergenerational tradition that was rich, complex, and birthed some of the greatest thinkers in the Western world.

When you shit on a person for their experiences with the Gods, consider for a moment that you may in fact be shitting on those Gods too. There’s not really any coming back from that, especially not when it’s done because you want to be edgy or rule out liberal (or conservative)  contamination into your tradition.

Piety and Purity

῾αγνον χρη ναοιο θυωδεος εντος ιοντα
᾽εμμεναι, ἁγνεια δ᾽εστι φρονειν ὀσια.

“He who goes inside the sweet-smelling temple must be pure.
Purity is to think religiously correct thoughts.”

I think this quote from the temple of Asclepius at Epidaurus really hits at something essential about spiritual purity. It begins in the mind, in how we each choose to cultivate and develop our inner landscape. At its core, purity – being free of miasma and in a state of spiritual integrity—begins with cultivation of the mind: thinking correct thoughts, desiring correct things, having the correct priorities. Those things are all within our capacity to acquire. We control whether or not we are successful here. No one else can do this for us.

What is correct? That is for the devotee and his or her Gods to figure out with the scaffolding of one’s tradition and perhaps one’s elders and diviners as helpful guides. The important thing is to know that it is fully within our capacity to develop habits of “religiously correct thoughts.” This is something each person can do. Like devotion, it’s a matter of choosing to take responsibility for what goes on in our heads and hearts and choosing to work at that daily.

This is why it’s important to consider carefully what we allow to take up residency in our minds. What we fill our thoughts with, what we allow free reign within ourselves will shape us in relation to holy things.

Cooking for Hermes

It is hotter than hell today in New York, even with air conditioning. I’m taking a break from a full day of cooking to write this and it’s a nice chance to sit own under a fan and rest my feet. I have deepest respect for the women in our ancestral lines who spent the majority of their time running a home, cooking, cleaning. I love to cook but don’t have to do so daily and I forget how exhausting it can be. It’s good to be reminded sometimes and I find it helps me connect more to my female ancestors overall.

Anyway, Hermes did us a good turn recently and asked for chicken. I divined to see if He wanted full sacrifice but the answer was no, cooking chicken for Him would suffice and since He always seems to approve of citrus dishes (especially sweets) when we offer them, I’m making lemon chicken. (I’ve included all the recipes below. He also wanted pie). Whenever I do a divination session, I ask if it’s ok to close the session. We literally could not close the divination until we’d worked out what meal to cook for Him. Unlike with sacrifice in our house, we’ll share in this meal too, unusual for us, but something He wanted.

So, in case anyone is interested, I wanted to share the recipes. Don’t poo-poo the vinegar pie. It’s an Appalachian dish, dating to the early 18th century, a poor-man’s lemon tart. It does not taste like vinegar at all, but like a lemon pie or tart citrus custard. So, give it a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

Lemon Chicken

Ingredients: 3 pounds of chicken or 4 breasts with bone.
4-6 lemons cut into slices
2 TBLS dried oregano
salt, pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 F. Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Coat bottom of baking dish with olive oil. Arrange lemon slices on olive oil. Combine spices and rub thoroughly over chicken. Place chicken skin side down over lemon. Bake 20 minutes. Turn chicken skin side up. Reduce heat to 350 F and continue cooking 35 minutes (longer if necessary but until chicken is very tender You can, if you wish, broil it for a few minutes to cook the skin).

 

Basic White Sauce and Creamed Spinach

Equal parts butter and all-purpose flour (about 1/3 stick of butter). Put it in a pan. Melt and whisk together. Add spices – since I’m doing this with spinach, I used red pepper flakes, salt, and nutmeg. Add at least two cups of milk – eyeball it. Add until you think you’ve added too much. Stir continuously until it thickens. Add spinach. Keep stirring – it WILL cook down and get creamy just when you think it won’t.

 

Oven-Roasted Potatoes

Two and a half pounds of all-purpose potatoes
1 TBLS salt, 1 tsp pepper, olive oil, 4 finely chopped shallots
3 large chopped garlic cloves.

Preheat oven to 450 F. Coat bottom of pan with 2/3 cup olive oil. Cut potatoes into quarters if they’re small, or dice them if large. Spread in a single layer on the oil. Add spices, shallots, and garlic. Toss thoroughly. Cook for 20 minutes. Turn and stir. Cook for another 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 

Vinegar Pie

4 eggs, 1 ½ cups white sugar, ½ cup butter melted (one stick), 2 TBS. apple cider vinegar, ½ tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. nutmeg, 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Combine everything and mix well with mixer. Pour into 9” pie shell. Cook 25 minutes. This WILL BE WOBBLY when it is done. Just relax. Let it cool before you cut it and it’ll firm up as it cools. LEAVE IT ALONE UNTIL IT IS COOL. Trust me on this one.

(I made a whole-wheat pie crust today for this, but you could use any type of pie crust. I have various recipes that I use and it just depends on how lazy I’m feeling. Lol).

Now I’m off to finish my prep for dinner.

Ancestral Graces

Honoring one’s ancestors isn’t just a metaphor. It isn’t about chanting their names and pouring out libations (though these things are good in and of themselves as a place from which to begin). At its core it means shouldering their debt, digging into it, eating their pain and spitting up their bitterness and finding a way out and through—for them and for yourself—to healing, reparation, and wholeness once again.

We have no humanity without our ancestors and we carry their sufferings in our flesh, in the scarred skin of our minds, in every strand of our DNA, in the rough deep well of our memories collective and unconscious. It marks our bones, twists our marrow and in the end it lifts us up. Through it all, they elevate us just as we through our rites and prayer and the grace of remembrance seek to elevate them. We carry our dead with us always and they too bear us upon their backs. It begins and ends with our dead and they can carry us to our Gods as well. They have sacrificed themselves for our enfleshment. We can shoulder the weight of their lives.

Seasonal Gods and Household Worship

One of the things that my tradition does of late is, at the start of each season, honoring a specific Goddess. That is not the only Deity that will be honored during this time – month to month, on holy tides, in personal devotions we honor many others, for instance, November belongs to Odin for me—but this is specifically for the seasonal shift. There is something in the power or what the Greeks would call the timai of the Goddesses that we’ve chosen that echoes the energy of the season.

At the start of the Autumn we honor Idunna. This is purely instinctive in our household – there’s something about the magic of Autumn that really calls Her to mind for us. And even though it’s a time when the earth is getting ready for its winter sleep, it’s that very sleep that brings about renewal in the spring. Usually in early September, we do a rite to honor Her for the quarter.

Winter was more difficult. In early December this year we did our rite to Frau Holle. This was a time when we were all focusing on internal household preparations for Winter and so, this seemed appropriate. I could also see honoring Skadhi at this time as well, particularly if one were outdoors a great deal. Our focus on this, however, is the preparation of the household throughout the seasons and attuning it appropriately so we went for this quarterly rite, with Frau Holle.

In early March, we honor Hrethe as a matter of course as a Goddess of March, but the Goddess that seems to dominate Spring as a whole for us is Ostara (or Eostre—same Deity, one name is Old Norse, the other Old English). It is to Her that our quarterly venerations go and we usually do that on the holy tide that bears Her name.

Then in Summer, in early June, we honor Sif and look to Her to govern the cyclical aspects of the season. Much of the household preparation we do throughout the season is dedicated to this Goddess, particularly things like maintaining a sustainable garden and pantry. This has made us overall, far, far more mindful of necessary household rhythms and of ways to connect the work we do in fulfillment of those rhythms to veneration of our Gods.

Happy International Women’s Day

frigga

Day 3 – For the Mistress of Fensalir

Mistress of Fensalir, You bind the home together,
weaving blessings amongst those who dwell within.
You wield hospitality as a unifying force,
gracious and indomitable in Your power.
You are beloved of the God,
Who brings the warband to Your hall,
and it is Your fierce protection,
that sustains them.
Unmatched in oracular skill,
You see crises before they manifest,
and in Your wisdom, avert them.
Weaver of hope and courage,
endurance and fierce grace,
You knit these attributes into the hearts
of every woman under Your care;
and to every woman You are a sanctuary.
You work Your will
through a retinue of Mighty Goddesses,
Who journey forth across the Worlds.
Care and keeping, healing, and frith-making force
imbue Your Hall, and it is through You and You alone,
the sovereignty of Asgard is maintained.
Spinner of clouds and the threads of wyrd,
Teach us to rise above the shortsighted mundanity
of our world, to emulate You in ordering
the sometimes shaky scaffolding of our lives.
May Your blessings fall, oh Goddess,
on all women Who seek You out,
and on all those Who love them.

(by G. Krasskova)

Deep in Devotion While Being Disabled

 

I don’t often talk about this, but I’ve spent the morning in conversation with a friend about the issues that can arise while being in grad school with chronic pain and disability. It occurred to me that this is a topic worth discussing in the realm of devotion too. How does one engage in consistent devotion when there are days that pain is so bad one can barely get out of bed?

I deal with this every day. I have severe damage to my spine, the result of a ballet career that ended in my twenties through injury. I have, as a result chronic, debilitating migraines, trouble walking on some days, and fibro myalgia. I’m a hot mess most days and some days the pain is bad enough that my world is a fog of hurt, every joint on fire, and I don’t leave my bed. I know plenty of people who have it even worse. Most days, I’m relatively mobile and I’m grateful for that. To say that this doesn’t impact my devotional practices would be ludicrous. It does, absolutely. It does not however, excuse me from them.

I don’t usually talk about this because to me, it’s not really relevant to whether or not I do what I need to do. I find work arounds. When I can’t do ritual, I can pray. When I can’t pray, maybe I can read and meditate on a text (though it’s hard to find a time when one can’t pray). If I want to make offerings but physically can’t, I’ll ask my husband or our house mate to help. I have certain baselines – like a few set prayers that I have memorized – that when I can do nothing else, I can do that. Then, there is always quiet contemplation of the Gods. That has benefit too.  I set goals for myself, things that I very much want to do for my Gods and ancestors. I strive to reach those goals, but when I can’t, when my physical condition interferes, I don’t fret. I do what I can and pick up where I left off when I’m more mobile. I think it’s important to set high devotional goals and constantly strive to meet them, but bodies do as bodies do and those goals are lifetime goals to be worked toward, always, even if we never manage to meet them. We can always work on building better devotional habits.

Part of doing that, is to have variance in one’s practices and radical honesty with yourself and with your Gods. It’s very, very easy to use one’s disability as an excuse to do nothing, to skive off of one’s devotional practices. This isn’t the way to go. We can always make excuses for ourselves; that’s the easiest thing in the world. One of the hardest is to admit one’s weaknesses or damage and do as much as one can anyway, even if it’s less than what one wanted. Some days that may be a simple spoken prayer, ‘I love you oh my Gods. I cannot do more now, but when I can, I will. I thank You for your blessings.’ But the corollary to that is that when you are able to do more, do it fervently, with love and devotion and most of all gratitude.

My practice varies considerably from day to day, depending on which Deities I’m honoring, what type of devotion I’m doing, and what my physical condition is. It also matters whether I’m working for clients or am engaging in my own practices for myself and my household. In each, I try to do the most that I can do. When I can’t, I can’t and I don’t beat myself up about it (well, maybe I do a little but that’s a hard behavior to unlearn for a perfectionist). Tailor your practices to your physical abilities but don’t cut yourself any unnecessary slack. Good devotional work is a habit, and habits take work. Being physically compromised doesn’t mean you can’t do that work, you just have to work with your body, gently but persistently and know that this is enough.