Category Archives: Uncategorized

Happy Oski’s Day!

For the better part of 25 years now, a growing number of Heathens have reclaimed and repurposed St. Nicholas Day for Odin. We honor it as Oski’s Day and look upon it as one of the steppingstones on the way to the intercalendary and holy time of Yule. We exchange small gifts, light candles (beeswax if we can get them – my Swiss mom taught me that certain scents and tastes were traditional for this time), bake certain sweets like lekerlee, spiced cookies, share nuts, clementines and of course we pour out offerings to Odin in His form of Oski, the wish-fulfiller, and gift giver. It’s a lovely, bright spot at a time when it’s full dark by 4:30pm, and it’s become an important part of our Yule celebrations. 

You can learn more about Oski’s Day here. (I stole the jpeg below from her too — thanks, Wyrd Dottir!).

Happy Krampusnacht!

The Question of Gendered Cultus

Logging into my feed today, I saw this post by P.S.V.L. It’s rather cumbersome, but asks a very good question: should people of any/all genders be able to take part in the cultus for Deities when traditionally those Deities were venerated by only one gender. For instance, e mentions specifically the cultus of Bona Dea in Rome. She was traditionally honored only by women and harsh penalties befell any man known to have violated Her rites. There were other Deities as well: for instance, the Goddess Pudicitia was served only by married women. The rites of Mithras were, to my knowledge performed solely by men (Mithras was popular amongst soldiers and that was not a profession generally open to women, esp. in Rome. It would be an interesting thing to find out if He welcomes female soldiers today). So, in our modern day when gender roles or even our understanding of gender (rightly or wrongly) is not what our ancestors would have necessarily recognized, should gendered restrictions on a particular Deity’s veneration be removed? 

I would say no. Or rather I would say not without a damned good reason; and people’s comfort, modern values, sense of entitlement, or well-meaning desire for equity are not good enough reasons to destroy a cultus. There’s a rule with ritual and I think this holds true with respect to cultus as well: “don’t change it if you don’t understand why it’s there or what it’s purpose is with respect to the whole.” Without knowing, and really comprehending *why* a rule exists with respect to gendered cultus, it approaches hubris to simply discard such restrictions. Now, Gods are more than capable of making Their wishes known and there are on very rare occasions, exceptions. P.S.V.L. notes this when e writes: 

“Though men were not supposed to enter Bona Dea’s sanctuary, exceptions could be made, especially if the Goddess Herself expressed such a desire for the exception to be made. Since She was associated with prophecy, such an utterance from one of Her designated functionaries would probably be obtainable in a ready manner.

What we see here is an important difference that needs to be understood (and, in my view, respected). Any person can have a cultus to any Deity, and if the Deity either specifically allows or forbids it in a given individual’s case (and divination can always be done to find out if this is the case!), then such directives should be followed, in my view; but without such explicit proscriptions or prohibitions, anyone and everyone should be able to simply offer to, praise, and carry out other devotional acts with any and every Deity, no matter the genders of the Deities or the genders of the devotees.”

I would, for the most part agree with this. However, these are exceptions, not the rule, and exceptions are rare. I think it’s very easy to be so eager to consider oneself an exception that one doesn’t go through all the requisite and respectful steps to determine the Deity’s will, but rather puts one’s own desire ahead of that will. Likewise, I think diviners have to be very careful about allowing their own values and preconceptions to influence their results. I don’t think a person’s self-identification is enough of a reason to override such prohibitions, not without clear assent from the Deity in question. (Easy enough to get via divination–I recall asking about this once from a Lukumi elder, and he said that before initiation, divination would be done for trans people—for everyone but I was specifically asking about transfolk. That divination would determine whether a person would perform certain ritual prostrations in the male or female form. The result was up to the Orishas. I suspect each House handles this differently but in the end, the decision should be up to the Holy Powers, who made us as we are, rather than our modern iteration of Manichaeism writ large). Here I disagree with P.S.V.L who writes:  

“ if the grounds for exclusion are a matter of identity, then the self-identification of the people involved should be what determines that identity’s validity…” 

I do think there is a difference between a Deity’s Mysteries and personal devotion, the latter of which should not be affected by any such prohibitions. We are free to pray as we pray after all. There’s a difference between having a personal devotion to a Deity and celebrating the Mysteries of that Deity and that’s the line at which prayer, discernment, and divination must occur, the former two by oneself and the latter by experts before any changes in protocol happen. Anyone who carries the Mysteries of a tradition or God, or to be honest, anyone who respects their Gods and wants to see proper restoration of Their cultus occur is charged with protecting Their rites and rituals. 

As an aside, I am fascinated with the suggestion offered in the article that Bona Dea’s mysteries might be expanded to include abortion and also with the suggestion that this well may have been part of Her original area of expertise (in addition to other areas of relevance to fertile women). Yes, and yes. Knowing what I know of ancient Rome, this would not surprise me at all. Birth control and abortion were so widely practiced in ancient Rome that one plant, silphium, was so effective and popular that it went extinct from overuse and there were, especially during the Augustan period, serious concerns about declining birthrates. However, I digress. 

Someone who is pious should not WANT to force his or her way into a cultus restricted by gender, and if that person is trans, I would think that the requirements of the God would take precedence over desire for human recognition as male or female—recognition happily given in every other area. But, as a line from the Book of the Dead that came up in recent div (unrelated to this topic) said, “we are not perfect but perfecting” and I think that holds true here.  When in doubt divine, but also be willing to accept the answer. We’re not entitled after all to any Mystery of any God. We may, however, ask. 

Unlike Christianity, we have options. It isn’t as though one Deity holds the key to all the Mysteries. We can go to another Deity or approach that Deity in a different form outside of those rites and if we’re unwilling to do this, but instead are yammering about how we should be granted access then the problem is our own arrogance, not the proscriptions. I have been barred from receiving the Mysteries of specific Gods that I love very much. I am free to honor the Deity in question (Dionysos) but I was barred from initiation because I am owned by Odin and initiation has soteriological consequences. I accepted the decree of the Gods because in the end, THEY get to decide and my obligation as a pious human being is fulfilling Their will. We are lucky that we have the option to do divination, to hear firsthand via oracle or div. what our Gods might want. Not every tradition allows its votaries direct access like that. It’s a blessing of being a polytheist. I think we should focus more on what we can do for our Gods and traditions and move with gratitude into devotion.  

By trying to force your way into these restricted areas, you’re missing the opportunity to find Mysteries and rites and roles that are accessible to [insert your gender here]. You’re missing the opportunity to create another doorway through which the Gods you love may work. That’s a powerful thing, and a heavy responsibility to accept. It takes more integrity than trying to tear down established and productive traditions. Someone, by the way, might have wanted to mention this to the Catholics before the abattoir that was Vatican II. Traditions are meant to be nourished not picked apart into irrelevance. 

Animism and the Burden of Stuff

I tend to be very connected to the objects in my home — they are memory holders for me, so I choose them carefully. Ritual objects are problematic when it comes to thinking about my death. I can’t give them away (here, random person, have a shaman’s coat. @_@) , can’t discard…so I’ve had to put careful instructions in place for my family about how to handle these things. This piece, is a very good read about one’s world, and the connections we carry to Gods, to spirits, to our things too (and for an animist those things aren’t unrelated) as ecosystems. go. read. learn. 🙂 (also, “Swedish death cleaning” is my new fact for the day lol).

A Forest Door

I have always had a complicated relationship with my belongings. Even as a child, I would periodically go through my room and collect all the toys I no longer wanted, giving them to my parents to donate to the thrift store. This is perhaps strange behavior at that age, but even then I had this visceral feeling of the burden of ownership. (It’s hard to say for sure but I think this was true even before seeing Labyrinth at the age of 8, and being horrified at the scene where Agnes the Junk Lady piles all of Sarah’s toys and games on top of her, threatening to turn her into a hunchbacked packhorse too with the weight of everything she thought mattered. Either way, it was a dramatic lesson for me in the way that the stuff you own can own you.)

Later on, I began to identify various…

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The Third Week of SunWait – Sunna in Thurisaz

Sunwait came hard this week. We’ve been shuttling between home, work, and physical therapy rehabilitation center where my husband is recovering from surgery (a place only a little less polluted spiritually than the hospital itself, and in some cases worse) and it’s a difficult thing to go daily into such a polluted place and then to return home without bringing pollution or worse along for the ride. Every time I leave, I hate leaving my husband in such a place, though he is strong and more than capable of handling the situations that arise – malignant bottom feeding spirits feed on pain ,confusion, and loss and they abound in this hellscape. I’m convinced that there are at least two demoniacs on the floor (got cornered by one of them the other day—I was rushing and not properly centered in my Gods and Their power. When I walk with the latter, such foulness cannot come near me. A blessing sufficed to drive it back but what must that be like for the poor soul at their mercy? I pray constantly as I walk through the ward, not for myself but for those who must live there, for those vulnerable to spiritual infestation and harm. I actually don’t know why there aren’t chaplains visiting frequently – It would help). 

The upshot of this is that we’ve all been doing many more spiritual cleansings. I usually cleanse myself daily in some way, both with prayer and meditation, but also perhaps with sacred smoke, or khernips, a cleansing bath, etc. We’ve tripled that. One of the things that I have found particularly helpful, that leaves me feeling absolutely spiritually clean and refreshed, is a salt scrub. Now, the one that I do is specifically dedicated to Odin but I’ll give a generic here that y’all can adapt. 

Nightly, I fill a tub of bathwater (and put Epsom salts, vinegar, sometimes Kolonia 1800, Florida water or some other scent used to cleanse people, places, and things; sometimes I make the bath khernips – the whole thing lol. Sometimes I add beer and/or milk. I pray to various Gods to bless it. Salt for instance, is sacred to the Roman Goddess Salis, Whose name means salt and who was honored along with Hygeia and Asklepius as a major healing Deity. I ask Freyr to bless the beer. I may ask Idunna to bless the whole thing. It varies based on my mood of the day). As the bath fills, I pray to Odin and read a set prayer to Him and usually make an offering. Once the bath fills, I stand in it and rub the salt all over, including top of my head (crown chakra) and all the way down. Then I sink into the bath and wash it off and get on with having a nice, relaxing bath as per the norm. 

I will share my basic Odin – oriented recipe below. Feel free to use different oils. If there are specific scents you associate with your main Deity, go ahead and substitute those oils and focus it on that Deity. Use this as a guide and just adapt it for your own Gods. I don’t worry about exact drop amounts. I just add and mix until I like the smell. 

Odin Salt Scrub

One pound of sea salt. 

One cup baking soda

¼ cup vanilla powder (found in the baking aisle of your local supermarket)

Liberally sprinkle (at least two tablespoons, more if you want) sweet almond oil and mix it throughout the salt mixture (this helps moisturize the skin because salt, for all its cleansing properties can be very abrasive). 

Ok. That’s your base. 

To that add the following oils (remember, it’s easier to add than to remove. So, start by adding maybe twenty drops and mix. Then check the scent. You can always add more). Use food grade oils. 

Rose otto, galangal, ylang-ylang, violet, anise (go lightly with this one), chamomile (a queen of flowers amongst the nine herbs), and Solomon seal oil (I like to buy it from Luckymojo shop. It’s the best I’ve found). 

After adding each one, mix thoroughly with your hands. When you’ve added them all, adjust for your preference in smell. Put it in a jar and set it on your shrine for a night. Then for nine nights do the salt scrub, bracketing the whole thing with prayer. 

I’ve been doing it every night after coming home from the rehabilitation center and it is one of the most cleansing practices I’ve found.

That is all for today. We are half way through Sunwait which means half way to Yule and that is a lovely thing. 

A Brief SunWait Musing

What does it mean when Sunna comes in/with/through a particular rune? When She comes in fehu, or Uruz, etc. what does that mean about HOW She comes? What does this alliance imply. It’s different every time and contemplation on this has the potential to open up understanding of both the runes in question and this glorious Goddess.

A Beautiful Truth

A friend sent me this today and it is a lovely way to begin the day, surely something to remember.

We are Heard and Our Gods are So Very Present

I was at the physical therapy rehabilitation center today visiting my husband, who is recovering from sepsis. It’s a dismal place. The staff is overworked. They’re ok and do their best but with pain and illness comes miasma and left untreated it erodes hope and depresses the spirit. Hospitals and healing centers, rehabilitation centers and such are not clean spaces. They should be, but we have a long way to go. It’s not the fault of our medical teams, who are working under stressful circumstances, often with little time to rest, and always it seems understaffed. I pray for them often from the janitors who clean the trash, to maintenance men who fix the windows, to the nursing assistants, nurses, and all the various doctors and medical professionals as well as the administrators who are tasked with keeping such places up and running. I pray all the time for them and when I am there, in my husband’s room, I do small rites of purification and ask for blessings throughout the space. 

These places are dangerous spiritually. We have forgotten that with illness comes that which would feed upon illness and make it worse. I will speak as a spirit worker now and those who can hear and understand, let them. Those who cannot, well, I hope you will pray for our health care workers, and for those in their care that each receive what he or she needs to emerge whole and hale. I say as a spirit worker that in these places there are bottom feeding spirits-evil spirits, nasty wicked things that feed on the vulnerable and there are those who are even beset by such things, twisted evil entities who torment those suffering, adding to their misery and pain (1). I did chaplaincy work in my twenties (I was terrible at it – what does a twenty-year-old know about life and counseling those in pain? There is the will but not yet the experience. I look at medical residents who seem so painfully young and see the same terror at confronting patients in pain that I myself experienced when I was first sent up to the cancer ward as a volunteer chaplain) but hospitals and medical centers are so much worse now. The walls reek with misery, despair, loss, confusion, pain, anger, and exhaustion. It is a breeding ground for anything but healing. I cleanse before I walk in. I ward myself while I’m there including wearing the best piece of spiritual technology I was ever taught: the white headwrap. I cleanse and make offerings when I leave. Hell, sometimes I carry a spritzer bottle of khernips and cleanse everything I can. I bring cookies to the nurses and tell them how much I appreciate their work—it lifts their spirits and I do appreciate how hard they work. I do what I can to better the space. 

One of my allied spirits was a healer in life, long, long ago. He accompanies me sometimes and becomes furious when he sees what passes for Houses of healing. In the hospital, he looked around when we came in and hissed that this should be a House of Life and he blessed it all in fury at how dehumanizing to staff and residents alike the hospital was. One of the things that horrifies him is the lack of prayers, blessings, and purifications done on the space throughout the day. Then there is also the endless noise. How does one heal in such an environment? Only by the grace of the Gods. Even the staff are beaten down. It infuriates him to see men and women who don’t realize (or if they do realize it, are blocked from acting upon it by the demands of the modern medical apparatus) that they are there to restore and bring life and healing when they can, and a respectful holy space for death when they cannot. 

The rehabilitation space is better – the hospital was a trauma center so there was death and terrible injury, people being brought in by helicopter and that was a much more intense level of spiritual miasma than the hospital at which I once worked. Still, the nursing home/rehabilitation space is still not clean space. It is filled with suffering and despair. When I walk in to visit my husband, each day, I walk past a room where an elderly woman lies, screaming, face distorted in a rictus of pain. She is tormented both by the decay of her body, the confusion of her mind, but also by an attack upon her being by a wicked spirit. It roared as I passed, and the noise never abated. I wanted to go in and lay hands on her in blessing, to pray, to purify, to do whatever I could to bring her back to herself and free her of her torment. It is one thing to have dementia or whatever is bringing her confusion and another to have atop that a beast that feeds on and augments that. One of the nurses said she keeps a journal where she records the weird, “supernatural” things that she has seen since starting her job. Some of them have frightened her.  Going in to engage with that patient, however, was not my warrant, and I did not do it, but it physically hurt to do nothing, to see her in such anguish (and she was not the only one)(2). The spirit tormenting her writhed at the presence of a spirit worker and orpheotelest and shrieked taunts to me and my husband, yelling out things the woman herself could not know. Such is the way of these lowly, debased creatures (and by this, I mean the spirits not the women, who deserve compassion and care). 

So, when I left, I walked down the hall praying to all the healing Gods I could. “Apollo, please bless these people.” “Jesus” – after all most patients are probably nominally Christian, “please keep them safe.” “Eir, please watch over those in need of healing.” “Hermes, please protect the staff.” “Asclepius, please bless each and every resident here.” And I lingered on my prayers to Asclepius because it seemed right to do so and He seemed particularly present. 

Just as I was approaching the doors to the ward, which were closed, a man appeared. He had not been there before. He was a tall, late middle aged, very distinguished black man, with the kindest eyes and the most elegant manner. He was carrying medical equipment and I just remember his eyes.  He radiated peace and such a tremendous sense of well-being it took my breath away. I believe this man was Asclepius, that I met a God upon Whom I had called in my need. We exchanged a few words and with those words He blessed me. As I walked to the elevator, having thanked him for his kindness, so much of the weight and miasma I’d been carrying disappeared and I felt that He had cleansed me of all the long term, never-ending miasma that seeps into one’s very skin in such places. His smile was like the warmth of a parent’s hug, a cool drink of water, the warmth of a wink of sun on a cold, overcast day. My words and poetry fail me. My prayers were heard, and I was given the gift of seeing a God take flesh. Later, my husband told me that where things were usually a battle with constant delays and problems, today was different. Things got done, and we had a particularly special nurse come in to tend him who really saw and understood one of his medical issues. I am so intensely grateful. When I got home, I immediately made an offering to all the Gods to which I had prayed and most especially to Asclepius in thanks (3). 

The Gods hear us. They hear our prayers and those prayers matter. I wish that I could share with all of you, the sense that is so deeply ingrained in my bones and heart and mind and spirit, born of experiences like this, born of the gift of theophany given unexpectedly and certainly without any merit of my own. I wish I could ingrain in all of you how deeply, deeply loved we are by our Gods, how They listen and hold our pain as Their own. They hear us and we matter so deeply to Them and it is good. If nothing else, I wish that I could share that heart to heart, mind to mind, soul to soul with each of you, my readers. 

I met a God today and other Gods protected me on my journey to and from the center. I was reminded again how very important our prayers are and I was reminded again that our Gods always walk with us because we are Theirs, carefully crafted by Their will and hands and our prayers matter more than I can express. So, pray for those you love. Pray in thanks to your Gods. Pray that those who work in healing remember that they are healers and that they be sustained in that knowledge. Pray for our health care workers, for those sick and injured in their care. Pray and say thank you and know that our capacity to reach out for our Gods is one of the greatest privileges and joys in our lives. 

I said to my husband when we spoke of this on the phone later (texted really, I not being much of a phone person). We are so very lucky. We are so blessed. We are living in a terrible time, and we have to sometimes face terrible things, but nonetheless we are so incredibly blessed. I pray myself, that I never forget to give thanks. 

Notes: 

  1. I wonder if being trapped in the body of someone already suffering isn’t a type of punishment for the evil spirit too. I heard one howl and cry out in utter anguish and what must it be like for a creature of spirit to be trapped in wounded flesh? I understand after this experience, so much better Origen’s idea of apokatastasis and wonder at the free will of such beings.  
  2. I am not saying every sick person or person with dementia is tormented by evil spirits. That is not the case at all. I am saying instead that there are bottom feeding spirits that take advantage sometimes, in some cases. I wonder if this old woman and a second one who was also tormented, had particularly rich and creative lives that attracted the attention of something hungry to augment pain, or if it was just being sick and fragile and having no one to protect them, and being vulnerable. What does it do to the staff to be in that environment all the time – because some of them sense it too? As we treat body and mind, I think there is a need to address the spiritual too and that starts with blessing and purification so that we may serve our Gods in peace and liberty, without interference, so that healing may occur without this other, unseen fight. 
  3. I don’t generally see this God as a man of color, but I think Gods can show Themselves however They wish and I am so grateful to Asclepius for today. I pray to all of our Healing Gods, especially Asclepius, Eir, and Apollo regularly yet I feel as though my heart has been turned open and inside out with a gratitude toward them so enormous it is painful. 

Remembering our Vets

In Honor of Sunna and the First Week of Sunwait