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Midsommar – A Review

 

midsommar-rev4

It was with no small degree of both anticipation and trepidation that I went to see “Midsommar” this weekend. My gold standard for movies of this type is the original “Wicker Man” with Christopher Lee. I did not expect “Midsommar” to come near to this and happily I was wrong. It’s a beautiful, moving, brilliant movie about the emptiness and crass depredation of modernity coming face to face with deep, unshakeable piety.

This is the point that the Pagan reviewers having thus far written about this movie have aggressively missed. It’s a movie about tradition, values rooted in intergenerational piety, and the consequences of growing up in a culture bereft of community, and about the consequences of one’s choices good and bad. It’s not a perfect movie by any means (and I’ll be talking about the things that I particularly disliked below) but it comes close. It is not a horror movie nor, as so many reviewers on youtube have insisted, is it a break up movie. That happens yes, but it is the culmination of the main character’s spiritual and emotional journey, a natural conclusion to her transition out of polluted, disconnected existence and into tribe and family. (There is a powerful dream sequence where we see this visually depicted: Dani, the main character exhales and a huge billow of black smoke comes out of her mouth. I and my husband looked at each other and I whispered, “she’s expelling pollution” and from that point on, she begins integrating more and more fully into the community that eventually accepts her).

Spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

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The movie begins with Dani and her boyfriend Christian on the verge of a break up. That is postponed when she suffers a terrible personal tragedy and Christian, out of his depth but not wanting to be a total dick, decides not to break up with her. From there, a Swedish friend Pelle invites Christian and some other doctoral students to his hometown for a special 9-day celebration that only takes place every 90 years. Dani eventually comes along with them. It is clear from the beginning of the flight that Dani is disconnected not just from Christian but from everyone and everything around her. That’s a recurrent theme: disconnection vs. connection. It’s particularly well expressed when you see her six months after her personal tragedy staring out at the bleak, isolated city scape. This is later contrasted with the healthy, bright, and vibrant Swedish landscape. On the plane, Pelle, their Swedish friend connects more to her by addressing her grief than Christian or any of her other peers do or try to do. He shows compassion and shared suffering. It is clear that, as so many people in the modern world are, she lives in emotional isolation.

That isolation begins to change when she and her friends arrive in Sweden. Pelle drives them to his village but they stop before they get there and he offers them mushrooms. This is their transport from mundane headspace to sacred, ceremonial states of being and its effect on Dani is remarkable. Immediately, we’re given a visual sign of the land accepting her (grass growing through her hand, uniting her with the earth). This also begins her journey from emotional brokenness to wholeness, healing, and strength.

Upon reaching the village, they’re immediately welcomed by the elders. On the way, they meet up with two other foreign guests, a rather obnoxious British couple. Things do not go well for the majority of the group. I’m not going to give a long breakdown of the entire film – I don’t want to ruin it for those who haven’t yet seen it; but I will offer a few highlights.

Dani tries from the beginning to understand and acclimate. Her friends do not. They behave with arrogance from the beginning. The most egregious example of this takes place after two elders have sacrificed themselves (in this community it is customary for elders to commit suicide ritually at 72, giving their life force back to the community). Not only does the British couple desecrate the ritual, possibly causing it to go somewhat awry with the elderly man, but afterwards, when the bodies have been cremated and the ashes spread about a sacred tree that serves as a communal ancestor shrine, one of the young men, after watching the spreading of the ashes, decides he has to take a piss on that tree. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic. He was incapable of recognizing it as sacred, even when they attempted to explain it to him. (He gets exactly what he deserves and I cheered out loud when that happened). There are several instances of desecration and violation of sacred spaces by the group, each one bringing the appropriate penalty.

Dani, on the other hand, tries to make herself useful and while obviously out of her element, participates in tasks and even in the ritual, winning the role of “may queen,” a ceremonial role that involves blessing the fields and land. In the end, it is Dany who chooses the final sacrifice indicating her new role as a functioning member of this Pagan community, and that she has left her old, dysfunctional life behind. It’s powerful and moved me to tears more than once. At the end, she is robed in a glorious cape of flowers, bright and indicative of growth and new life.

There were things I did not like. Firstly, until a certain age, all members of the tribe live communally. I thought this was ghastly. Of course, I also find the idea of being out in nature ghastly. Lol Thank you, no. I’ll take a hut on the edge of town, if you please. They also have a particularly bred line of deformed, mentally challenged children, ostensibly one per generation that serve as a type of oracle. My husband wasn’t bothered by this, but I was. I found it inappropriate.  At least the elders made it clear he wasn’t the only oracle and he is given an important and functional role in the community, which was good. There were no “throw away” people like we have so often in our culture. I did think he was creepy-cool too. Finally, the Gods weren’t really mentioned. Their symbols were everywhere and if you knew how to read them Their presence was clear as letters on the page of a book but They weren’t actively mentioned save two times very vaguely. They should have been front and center.

On a positive note, the imagery is consistently beautiful. The community is assigned work as adults based on traits they show as children and there are several instances of boys and girls being shown apprenticing to adults. That was lovely. Pay attention to the illustrations on the walls and wall hangings. They tell you exactly what is going to occur. There is one tapestry hanging outside that shows the entire progress of a love spell…a very traditional spell involving pubic hair and/or menstrual blood found in more cultures than I can count and literally one can read it like an open book. (My second outcry in the theatre was to Christian when the girl working the spell makes him a little pie… LOL “Don’t eat that pie!” because I know that spell. Also, in the same scene, his drink is slightly darker than everyone else’s which indicates that the girl probably added her own special ingredient to the drink too!).

The runes were quite correct in every instance of their use. They could, as I said, also be read like an open book to tell you what was going to occur. At the beginning, for their opening communal meal, they have the tables set up in a huge othala, the symbol for home, inheritance, and a healthy community, which is then later changed to gebo as the time of sacrifice approaches. In one instance, Christian (and I don’t think his name was accidental, though the main focus of the movie is the grossness of modernity versus the beauty of tradition and community rather than explicitly Christianity vs. Polytheism) is about to have ritual sex with one of the village girls (approved by the elders because as a small community they need new breeding stock. I thought this qualified as cheating on Dani because he’d never had the courage to actually break up with her, but at the same time, they’d not visibly been behaving like a couple so it’s possible the young girl didn’t know. Then again, there’s always one in every community…). He comes in wearing a shirt with two inguz runes on his chest. In one is the rune tiewaz, which has a secondary meaning of masculine potency and in the other, a reversed algiz, which tells me he’s not living out the end of the movie. Lol. Inguz itself is indicative of fertility and Freyr – which tells you everything you need to know about how that scene is going to play out. Dani at one point wore a dress with a reversed raido and a dagaz on its side. I would have interpreted that as her journey ending in this place but how it ends and what that means as lying within her own power to determine. When Dani finds out what Christian has been up to, she breaks down but unlike her modern world where she would have been left to deal with this grief alone, the other women surround her, hold her, breath with her, mourn with her, and guide her through the pain. It was one of the most beautifully moving moments in the entire film.

 The numbers mentioned in every instance add up to nine, (18, 36, 54, 72 – numerologically they add up to nine) which is very Odinic. The sacrifices made were also Odinic, particularly with the bear being such a potent image during the final ones; however, the holiday itself was the summer solstice and one would have expected it to center around Freyr far more. It was very cool that the Deity imagery was there but I kept finding myself confused because where I expected Vanic things, I got instead Odinic and vice versa. The was a nod to Nerthus in the role of the “May” Queen (ostensibly a May queen in June because it was still too cold to crown a May queen in actual May?): she’s put in a carriage and escorted around the perimeter of the village and fields and gets to bless everything. The names of the Gods were never, ever used though, as I’ve already noted, which was off-putting.  I did like that offerings were buried in the earth: seeds, eggs, raw meat, etc. It reminded me of the Acerbot rite.

Finally, there are two willing sacrifices from the community and while they are given a drug to ease their way at the end before being burned, I think they should have had their throats cut to ensure they died cleanly and did not suffer. Still, the ending was beautiful and powerful and culminates with Dani ostensibly becoming a member of the community.

The biggest things that stood out for me were the examples of modern impiety in the face of what is obviously sacred. With the exception of Dani, every single one of her companions behaved in a way that was self-centered, rude, and just horrible when simple respect and hospitality of the guest would have carried them through had they thought of it (Christian also steals his friend’s dissertation idea, which shows his general lack of character. That’s a killable offense to an academic, or should be lol). They had no respect for the fact they were being welcomed into a sacred space for a very, very special series of rituals. Now that brings up a question that the movie leaves unanswered: namely, did Pelle select the group because he knew they would behave badly and thus render themselves lawful prey to be sacrificed, or could it have gone either way dependent on their behavior? (Dani was an unexpected addition so she was a wild card from the beginning). I like to think the latter.

Overall, the message of the movie was one of the value of piety and tradition against the way that modernity isolates us from all that is wholesome. It was the story of one woman’s journey into health and healing, into sacred consciousness, and joy culminating in her turning away from destructive modern attitudes and the pollution they so often bring and finding acceptance in a family rooted in caring for the land, honoring the Gods, remember the ancestors (and not pissing on their shrine >_<), and celebrating each other. It is every bit as powerful as the “Wicker Man” (though I still prefer Wicker Man for reasons of pace and some stylistic elements. Also, in the “Wicker Man,” the Gods are named, which adds to it immensely).

I highly recommend this movie and give five out of five hallucinogenic mushrooms. 🙂

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I was recently interviewed for ‘Eternal Haunted Summer” e-zine.

I was recently interviewed by Rebecca Buchanan for Eternal Haunted Summer about my Rune book, which was just released, and my forthcoming “Modern Guide to Heathenry,” which is available for pre-order. 

The interview is available here

 

 

With Summer Comes the Time for Household Donations Again

Each quarter, my household donates to various charities.  In the autumn and winter, we tend to focus on veterans’ organizations and charities like Paralyzed Veterans of America and the British Legion. Those are two that we really like (and I am open to suggestions of others).

In the spring and summer, we tend to focus more on educational charities and food/agricultural things. We’ll donate to Heifer (you can buy bees for people! My favorite thing. : ) ), Big Sur Land Trust (my adopted mom’s favorite place), and one that many of you might not be familiar with, and the reason I’m mentioning it now: DonorsChoose.

A high school teacher told me about this charity years and years ago and I really like it. Teachers can post projects that they are doing for their classrooms, for which they otherwise have no funding (because let’s face it, our educational system in this country is quite broken). It allows these teachers from all different grades and disciplines to open up their projects to outside donations and it’s lovely. So I’m posting largely to recommend this one to readers who may be looking for a way to support teachers and their work.

That is all. Let me know what charities you guys recommend. (What i’d really like to see is a polytheist run and focused charity, non-political, that focuses on helping those with long term illnesses and injuries with their medical costs. We’re not there yet, but maybe one day we will be). 

Giving Up the Gods?

(warning: I am writing this with a blistering, nauseating migraine. My ‘nice’ filter is officially off).

Someone on twitter just suggested that I ‘explore other gods’ after reading the piece I wrote recently about Sweden’s proposed ban on the runes. Um…I’m not even going to pretend to be polite here. What the fuck kind of suggestion is that? If that’s what you do when your traditions are attacked, then maybe you don’t deserve to have them.

There is no reason to ever abandon our Gods, and the bullshit put forward by other misguided human trash is surely the least reason ever for which to do so. These are commitments, relationships built up over the better part of decades, cultivated, nourished, celebrated. As the commitments to the Gods reflects our commitments to our traditions so the opposite is true as well. We don’t give that up because suddenly it’s inconvenient. Or if we do, that’s pretty much the working definition of a niðling.

Every day I deal with people who are afraid to be outed as polytheists. I deal with timid people, who wonder if this is ok or that is ok, or would it be ok to do this but oh, let’s not rock the boat. Wake up. Time to develop a bit of virtue and a bit of spine. Stand up for your Gods. Stand up, speak out. Wear Their symbols proudly. Stop hiding what is THE most important part of your personhood and identity: your connection with the sacred. Quit being such fucking cowards.

Every time we soften our language, saying “God” when really we mean “Gods” to make monotheists comfortable or to conceal what we are, we contribute further to the erasure of our traditions. Every time we purposely conceal our alliances, we are committing a dishonest act. Every time we excuse the forced attrition of our sacred symbols, our practices, our sacred sites – hell, any sacred site – we are contributing to the destruction of our traditions. Which side do you want to be on? The one that venerates and nourishes the Gods and those gifts They give us or the one that would shit on all of that in the name of modernity and convenience simply because some people are spreading lies and rumors about them.

Grow the fuck up and if you fall into that latter category kindly take yourself off and away from my online world.

This is the time to hold even more closely to our Gods and traditions, to become fierce devotees and protectors of that which is holy. It’s not the time to run like a pack of whipped dogs.

And the Stupidity Begins…

Following on the heels of his disgusting article equating Loki with Trump, would be Heathen “scholar” Karl Siegfried (PhD in double bass) has written this article for the wild hunt. A bigger load of horse shit I could not have imagined, even from them. According to Siegfried, we should abandon our traditions of ancestor veneration, beliefs about the afterlife, and our sacred symbols. We should gut our traditions because vile groups have begun to appropriate our symbols. We should do this, rather than standing up and fighting such disgusting appropriation.  Way to go, Karl.

Well this is what happens when we bow our heads to popular culture. Instead of protesting the misuse of our Gods and Their symbols, and the erasure of our traditions early on, our communities bitch and whine and moan because they like their popular culture (probably more than their traditions) and can’t draw the line from point A to B to C when it comes to potential problems such things may cause. So here we are, where the Gods have largely been stripped away from Their symbols in mainstream consciousness rendering those symbols easy pickings for white supremacists. Shame on them, but shame on us too. We should have been up in arms well before this.

Karl goes on about positive deeds that our communities desperately need in the wake of the Christchurch attack. The only positive deeds that our traditions need is for people to defend them, in their full integrity, for people to refuse to water them down, refuse to tear out their heart, and most of all refuse to sacrifice them on the dubious altar of political correctness.

We do not, as Siegfried suggests, need to bow down to the SPLC, which demonizes Heathenry folkish and otherwise across the board and is far from objective. Even liberals have serious problems with how they report on these issues (and Folkish Heathenry, Karl, really does not equal racist Heathenry automatically. You should educate yourself). They’re hardly a respectable source for unbiased information.

Most of all, we certainly shouldn’t abandon ancestor practices. This is, perhaps the most disgusting suggestion Karl has made, one that I’ve also seen Troth groups flirt with. Honoring the dead is essential to any viable polytheism. It may include those not related to us by blood, but it absolutely does include blood ancestors. We are each honoring our own relations, and as a community we come together in our rituals to honor our community’s ancestors. Yes, Karl, that means recognizing borders and nationalities, and ethnicities. It need not mean excluding any particular ethnicity. It means honoring the ancestors of those present, spiritual ancestors yes, but most of all our blood ancestors because they are the reason we are here. Must I really discuss something so simple, so foundational, so remedial? You might as well suggest we stop acknowledging that the sky is blue.

Nor do I think we should be obsessed with diversity. What makes a Heathen kindred solid is not the diversity of its folk but their commitment. We should be raising up a generation of Heathens committed to their Gods and ancestors, regardless of what their racial make-up is. I don’t want someone black or Latina/o, or LGBTQ coming into our traditions just to make them colorful. I want people coming in who love the Gods and want to grow these traditions into the next generation and if they happen to be black or latino/a, or LGBTQ, etc. then that’s fine. Seeking people out for their color or orientation, Karl, is no better than denying someone entry because of those things. These traditions are, at their core, Northern European traditions. It should not be surprising that the majority of practitioners are also of that ancestry. Honor those ancestors. Shame on you for trying to erase them and dear, dear Karl, bless your heart, stop trying to insert your own pseudo-progressive politics into Heathenry under the cover of helping. Your attack on the second amendment in this country is proof enough of where your true loyalties lie, especially since historically that has been used to oppress minority communities.

Neither should we be silencing Heathens at panels and workshops because they are white. Really, Karl? Really? Spitting on your traditions and ancestors that much? Why instead, don’t we have the best and most experienced presenters regardless of color? Hmm? Meritocracy is a wonderful thing, one well in line with Heathen values, after all.

Nor do I think we should oppose “rants” about Abrahamic religions. Monotheism is a huge part of the problem and if anyone thinks that we should forget what was done to our ancestors and our traditions, should pretend that these things did not occur, could not again occur, do not occur in large parts of the world today,  and do not continue to affect us, and that we can all be friends, is deluded. They also don’t understand wyrd and ancestor obligation in the least.  We should never forget. At least, Karl, we’re not asking for reparations. Nor are those of us who love our Gods and traditions willing to turn a blind eye to the damage monotheism has done to them. This is where Heathenry’s traditional warrior ethic is most needed: to combat bullshit like this, garbage that will lead our traditions into a morass of identitarian chaos and groundless pabulum.

What we should be doing is speaking up every time we see our sacred symbols misused. Challenge that loudly and clearly and educate where you can.

We need more emphasis on our warrior ethos, developing men and women of honor, integrity, courage, and a willingness to act for the good of their Traditions. Let us raise Heathens unafraid to speak out.

We should not (as I recently saw in a pathetic…i mean a patheos article) abandon othala and other runes because it might hurt people’s feelings. These are ours. They belong to our Gods and our Traditions. Hate groups’ use of them is appropriation and must be resisted.  Have a little spine, people.

People like Karl and the author of that patheos post are the reasons we need to start thinking of our traditions first, because when they think of them, they don’t think of the glory of the Gods, they don’t think of the power of our ancestors, they don’t think of our pious obligations to these Powers, no. They think only of how to strip mine all the good out of them and savage them for their own pseudo-progresive purpose. It’s every bit as disgusting as a Neo-Nazi using othala on their flag.

Once the Crocodile was a God

There’s a huge difference between criticizing an ideology and advocating shooting people while they’re praying. Anyone who doesn’t recognize that distinction is trying to blur boundaries and is very, very dangerous, especially in such divisive times. Yes, I think monotheism is poisonous. That’s why I have sympathy for those who have been poisoned by it. I do not think it’s ok to go and shoot them. This is exactly the time when we should be coming together, not trying to spur further divisiveness and hatred. 

for NZ

My heart goes out to the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, NZ. To be brutally murdered in one’s place of worship, in the midst of prayer, in a space that should be a haven and sanctuary is particularly evil. I have seen many today denigrating the idea of prayer as a response, but there is healing power in prayer and in bringing our shock and pain to our Gods and I very much encourage you, my readers, to hold the victims and their families in prayer, that their ancestors may welcome the former and comfort the latter. May they have peace. May the families and their local community have healing.

Sadly, the self described “Eco-fascist” who committed these heinous acts used language in some of his online posts that reference Valhalla, leading many to wonder if he is connected in some way to the Heathen community. If he is (and there is no definite proof), then it is in the shallowest of ways. No God spurred these actions nor is something like this in any way supported by Heathen groups. I think it safe to say, as I do here, that as a religious body, across denominations, we condemn this type of mindless brutality. We love our traditions, our Gods, and our people but that does not translate and should not translate into actively attacking others. Let us nourish our traditions and build them up in healthy ways. Terrorism has no place in that.

A New Member of our Household — Sort of LOL

So, my household decided to adopt a lemur. Partly this was done in honor of my adopted mom, whose nickname was “lemur,” but partly because lemurs are just really cool (and terribly endangered).

Duke Lemur Center runs a program where people can “adopt” a lemur – one has a choice of various lemur species –we chose a Coquerel’s sifaka—and then the funds go toward care of that lemur.

Here is our lemur. Her name is –and we did not choose this. The lemurs are assigned randomly.—Pompeia Plotina. She is a Neo-Platonic lemur lol. The handout on her says “She was named for a Roman Empress who was renowned for her interest in philosophy, and for her virtue, dignity, and simplicity. Our Pompeia lives up to her namesake as she is a dignified and lovely lemur.” Sadly, she is part of a breeding pair with Charlemagne (who had to do backflips to get her to notice him) but one does what one has to do for the good of the species. 😉 Hopefully he’s not as bad as his namesake!

Check out this video below. This is where I learned about the Lemur center and it’s funny as hell.

 

FB discrimination against Heathens?

EDIT: someone just told me that the circle with the cross is a white nationalist symbol. really?? I thought it was an elemental cross. 

 

So about half a dozen of us on fb have had posts related to Odin or posts featuring the rune Othala removed. The posts are inoffensive (to most of us) and yet over and over again today they’ve been removed, fb citing violation of “community standards.” What community? Certainly not mine. 

here’s the first image. 

odin with us

here’s the second. 

home

What is objectionable to valuing home and family, faith, and one’s faith community? Apparently, to fb, everything. Consider where this is going to go. If they’re doing this today, what are they going to do tomorrow (and for the record, those posting were liberal NON-folkish Heathens). 

Be Careful The Advice You Take

When you are contacting someone for religious advice, for advice on how to do polytheism well, for advice about your Gods, resources, or anything else for that matter, regardless of what bona fides that person has or says that they have online, you need to consider the nature of what you’re told, and where that advice will ultimately take you.

If the person you contact is suggesting things that would draw you away from the Gods, that would cause you to prioritize other things, that would cause you to avoid the development of spiritual virtues, that would limit your devotion, or even that would pull you away from venerating a particular Deity for any reason whatsoever, think twice.  

Just because someone claims to be an expert doesn’t mean they are. Look to the results of what you’re being told. Will it make you a better devotee of your Gods, a better human being, more devout? Will it cultivate piety? Will it help you approach your Gods more mindfully, more cleanly? Or are you being given advice to ignore those things, to take the easy way out, to do what feels good to you – regardless of whether it is useful in your devotion and development or not? Will it enhance your understanding and practice of your tradition, or not?

I think that we are meant to be people of worth before our Gods. We are meant to develop within ourselves the habits and character that will allow us to honor Them rightly and well. I very strongly believe the Gods want us to be healthy human beings, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and insofar as is possible (because bodies suck lol) physically and the key to that is centering oneself in the ancient contracts of honoring our Gods, our ancestors, and the land. I believe it is through our devotion that we become fully realized human beings and honoring our Gods fervently is good and right and true. I believe that the problems that arise are often due to a disjunction between proper devotion, a worldview steeped in piety, and the degradation and emptiness of our modern, anti-theistic world.

Nothing, not politics, opinions, personal differences and divides should impact the answer to the only question that matters: will what you’re being told increase your capacity to love the Gods even more? Will it make you better in your devotion or not?  You don’t have to like the person who is giving you advice – this is not about us after all. It’s about building our traditions and getting better at honoring the Gods and if someone’s advice helps me do that, I will heed it. Personalities and politics are pointless in the face of that. So, consider your priorities and maybe allow for the remarkable thought that your Gods may not share them.