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Pre-Order is Live for my new book, A Modern Guide to Heathenry

Modern_Guide_to_heathenry_circleAn accessible yet in-depth guide to this increasingly popular pre-Christian religious tradition of Northern Europe

Heathenry, is one of the fastest growing polytheistic religious movements in the United States today. This book explores the cosmology, values, ethics, and rituals practiced by modern heathens.

In A Modern Guide to Heathenry readers will have the opportunity to explore the sacred stories of the various heathen gods like Odin, Frigga, Freya, and Thor and will be granted a look into the devotional practices of modern votaries. Blóts, the most common devotional rites, are examined in rich detail with examples given for personal use. Additionally, readers are introduced to the concept of wyrd, or fate, so integral to the heathen worldview.

Unlike many books on heathenry, this one is not denomination-specific, nor does it seek to overwhelm the reader with unfamiliar Anglo-Saxon or Norse terminology. For Pagans who wish to learn more about the Norse deities or those who are new to heathenry or who are simply interested in learning about this unique religion, A Modern Guide to Heathenry is the perfect introduction. Those who wish to deepen their own devotional practice will find this book helpful in their own work as well.

PRE-ORDER LINKS

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2wMnVtt
Barnes & Noble
: http://bit.ly/2IziCU0
Indie Bound: http://bit.ly/2Rcy4ZV

 

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On the Holiness of the Powers

On fb scholar and Heathen Mathias Nordvig posted the following and graciously gave me permission to share it as well. It’s a very, very important point. We distract ourselves with trying to categorize and compartmentalize the Powers and that can lead us down very fruitless paths. What is important is Their holiness.

Dr. Edward Butler, in response to this (we’re conversing about it on fb) said rightly, “Any name which has been preserved is precious. We have no way of knowing what sort of cultus They may have had. Chances are, if a name was preserved at all, it’s because it was important to somebody.”  So much was lost to Christian conquest, all the more reason to treasure what we have and to devote ourselves to veneration. Religion, in the polytheistic world, is about right relationship to the Holy, and the ongoing cultivation of those relationships. Through that cultivation and devotion we continually participate in the ongoing process of creation. We sustain the work the Gods have done and continue to do. We do our part. 

mathias nordvig kami post

GIVEAWAY TIME

This giveaway is designed for FACEBOOK, so that means entries must happen on facebook. Here’s the direct link to the appropriate post: ( http://bit.ly/2WMLxNs ) . Deadline is end of the month, I wanted to give people a chance to get their copies in.

living_runes-giveaway

 

In case anyone is having problems viewing the image with the giveaway information above, I’m also including it below as text.

 

GIVEAWAY!

To celebrate the release of Living Runes: Theory and Practice. I’ve decided to run a giveaway. The prize consists of a set of 20 prayer cards featuring Frigga and her retinue (Saga, Eir, Gefion, Fulla, Sjofn, Lofn, Hlin, Syn, Snotra, Gna, Var, and Vor), as well as Odin and his sons (Thor, Baldr, Vidar, Bragi, Hermod, and Vali). I will select one US winner, and one International winner randomly from all valid entries. Each winner not only receives all those cards, but actually receives a duplicate set of those cards that they can gift to one very lucky friend or divvy up the awarded prayer cards to share among as many friends as they like. So, this is actually one giveaway that entering with your friends can increase your chances of coming away with something.

Here’s how to enter:

Take a picture to share of Living Runes: Theory and Practice. This can be you reading it, or for those that don’t like to post pictures of themselves you can show it on your bookshelf, in your reading nook, posed with your cat, beside a cup of coffee, with your runes–you get the idea. For those of you with ebook copies, just show the cover on your chosen electronic device. I’ll even accept pictures in bookstores, or in libraries (for bookstore and library pic entries please be sure to list the name of the establishment and the city/state/country you found it in). Once your pic is ready:

  • Like and Comment on this giveaway post on the Galina Krasskova – Wyrd Ways FB Page: http://bit.ly/2WMLxNs

    • include your Living Runes: Theory & Practice picture
    • tag at least one friend
    • include the name of the country in which you currently live
  • Share this post on FB (toggle the “include original post” option)

  • Deadline: June 30, 11:59pm EST

 

 

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.

The Perfection of Imperfection – Our Perfectly Imperfect Gods

I never thought much about this until recently – the Gods are Gods and I never found it necessary to interrogate the forms They seek to take much beyond that. Today, however, I was reading an article about how many able-bodied people don’t seethose with disabilities (or how they sometimes act in paternalistic ways toward them) and I had an epiphany: what a blessing that we have Gods Who chose to manifest in scarred or disabled bodies. What a powerful way of saying “you are seen, acknowledged, recognized, and valued” by our Holy Powers. What a powerful way of the Gods aligning Themselves with our experience.

I have actually written about this before. A couple of years ago there was a bit of a brouhaha over the fact that one of Hephaestus’ epithets is “the Lame God.” Far from being a slur, this is noted as a point of power for Him. It is part of His identity, integral to His timai as a God of crafting and blacksmithing, transformation, and fire. It is where His ability to bring beauty into being comes from. (Y’all can read that piece here.)

As a Heathen, I venerate the Norse Gods, belonging specifically to Odin. Odin’s story, His mysteries are intensely embodied. He is a God of ordeal, subjecting Himself to physical pain for power. He is also missing an eye (having sacrificed it willingly for a draught from the Well of Mimir). One of His sons Hodr is blind. By some accounts, Heimdall sacrificed an ear for the same reasons Odin gave an eye. Tyr is missing His sword-hand. Weyland the Smith is physically lame. I’ll take this one step further: one of Odin’s heiti is Geldnir, or eunuch. For a God almost defined by His sexual exploits, Who is called All-Father, I find it fascinating that one of the ways in which He may also present Himself is as a eunuch. What is going on here?

To quote my former article (sorry, folks. I have a blistering headache today so best I can do):

“The qualities teased out in the ritual naming of Gods, in Their by-names, epithets, and cultic titles provide crucial information on the nature of a Deity’s mysteries. For us to disregard a title because it offends our sensitivities or makes us uncomfortable, or even because we haven’t taken the time to search its meaning in our own practices is not only short-sided but potentially hubristic as well. Many cultic titles were in use for generations. When Homer, for instance, refers to Hephaistos as lame, which he does multiple times, he’s employing a set formula to tell us something very important about this God. I’m not sure why people would want to discard these epithets so unthinkingly. They are worth both examination and meditation.”

It’s important not to condemn or avoid exploration of those epithets that challenge us, or make us question, or even more, make us uncomfortable. The last thing we want to do is delete those epithets from our devotional consciousness. They provide insights into our Gods, insights that may help us too.

As a disabled woman, I need never, ever feel that my disability in some way separates me from my Gods (and while I’ve never felt this way that I’m aware of, I know that this has been a very painful issue for some of my clients).  By presenting Themselves in forms that are in some way differently abled, I believe our Gods are consciously including those of us whose bodies are different. Years and years ago, in 2000 if I recall correctly, I gave the required lecture on modern Paganisms and Polytheisms at the interfaith seminary where I taught. We were asked to include an experiential portion and so I included a powerful invocation and then call and response chant to the Goddess Sekhmet. Almost every woman in the audience was moved to tears and several told me later that they’d never even conceived of a Holy Power that was both powerful and female. Perhaps representation does matter: when we can see ourselves in our Gods, it is easier for us to build devotional relationships with Them, to feel as though They are accessible to us and our experiences. We need not twist the images of our Gods out of true in order to accommodate this and we shouldn’t do this anyway. Everything we need is already there in the way the Gods choose to engage with us.

First Entry in Agon for Morpheus

Here is the first entry to the Agon for Morpheus. This Agon runs through Feb. 15. 

For Morpheus

Hail Morpheus
Shape shifter and God of Dreams.
Here I am,
falling in the dusky depths
of my restless mind,
seeking You.
Please draw near.
As my body leans back
in my small and modest, (but comfy) bed
I call You in the dark.
Come close, winged God.
Draw near, God of Dreams.
Please dwell for a while in my mind.
Catch me in Your arms tonight
and take me to that secret place
that You know oh so well,
where the Gods reside
in glimmering robes
in sumptuous palaces
under bright starry nights;
that place filled
with the sweetest perfumes
I have ever sensed
and the memories
of a million million lives
that the Gods remember bit by bit,
tear by tear, joy by joy;
that secret place
hidden in plain view
known to few mortals
familiar to all Gods
where I can find my Beloved.
Help me find Him.
there is no end to the lengths I’d go
to find Him.
I’d climb any mountain
barefoot in the freezing snow.
I’d fall through any stream.
I’d suffer extreme cold,
tearing hunger and thirst,
pain like no other.
I’d walk through a fiery burning fire,
slowly, in my knees,
and I’d do that
again and again and again
for Him.
Just to find Him,
just to see Him for a split second
I’d tear myself to pieces.
He is my Sweet Lord, my Beloved.
Help me find Him, God of Dreams.
Because I know You can help me find Him.
Because You know what He means for me.
Oh please help me find Him
In sacred sleep, devout and pure,
Secured in Your arms.
Please guide me there
Tonight.

by Vanessa M.

On Holiness and the Gods

Someone yesterday sent me an old link whining about my writing on miasma. (I get more push back on the idea that purification is important than on pretty much anything else). The final line of that rather convoluted post was a declaration that our Gods (I believe it specifically mentioned Odin, Thor, and Hela but implied all the Norse Gods) are not holy. I was so absolutely flabbergasted by this assertion that I had to address it.

If our Gods are not holy then why do we venerate Them? If our Gods are not holy then exactly what are They? What is holiness? Why would someone ever think that They were not, in fact, holy?  If one doesn’t consider one’s Gods holy, how is one going to behave with respect to Them? This is not some obscure theological point, like how many angels might dance on the head of a pin, this is something that has real world implications and consequences to our devotion and praxis. It has significant implications in how this issue entangles everything else and ultimately the question remains: why would you seek to strip the holy from the Powers?(1)

We know our northern ancestors had a clear concept of the holy. A brief look here gives us the Old English halig (holy, consecrated, sacred, godly…), Proto-Germanic *hailaga-, Old Norse heilagr, Danish hellig, Old Frisian helich, Old Saxon helag, Middle Dutch helich, and I could go on. The word derives from PIE word meaning ‘whole,’ or ‘uninjured.’ That which was holy was that which was in some way connected to the Gods, with the implication that holiness flows from the Gods (which would be impossible if They Themselves were not holy). A further meaning of ‘whole,’ or ‘uninjured’ can easily lead to the conclusion that not only are the Gods the embodiment of holiness, but that They are eternal, restorative Powers, untouched by the decay and temporality of the human world.

Amongst the Norse Gods, we immediately must turn to the three creator Gods, the Architects of the nine worlds: Odin, Hoenir, and Lo∂ur.  The latter two Gods here had other names: Vili and Vé. Vé actually means sacred enclosure, holy place, shrine.(2) The embodiment of holiness was then essential to the creation of the worlds and it was localized within our Gods, in this case specifically Vé. So the worlds were created by a unified confluence of frenzy (Desire), will, and holiness. Those are the attributes Odin and His brothers brought to that act and wrought from the destruction of Ymir and what was infused in that primal act of genesis continues to infuse both our Gods and the spaces in which They move, the deeds which They enact.

Now of course, the holiness of Odin is going to differ from the holiness of Freya which will likewise differ from any other Deity and if you raise holiness above the Gods then you’re essentially saying that concept is more important than They are. Holiness can only be an extension of the Gods. It is that which defines Their nature and Presence. To say that They lack holiness is to say that They are not, in fact, Gods and that nothing generative, integral, and whole may possibly flow from Them. Holiness is that inviolable quality that marks Their Presence, and perhaps Their very essence.

There is the question as well of what is sacred versus what is holy: something is rendered sacred but innately holy. Holy things are holy in and of themselves, whereas that which is sacred is made so by contagion with the holy. We can infer this etymologically, by the very definition of the word ‘holy.’ It’s supposed to be untouched, inviolable…we’re not supposed to become in contact with it. The sacred (ritual, clergy, temples etc.) become intermediaries that allow contact to happen safely. It’s a scaffolding.

In many respects, the divisions here are murky in English. We can, after all, speak of something being sacred to us outside of any religious context and as my friend and colleague KSV pointed out, it’s then a matter of exploring the tether between the person, concept, and the definition of the thing.  I think in some respects this speaks to our own modern discomfort with elements of piety and devotion from which the concept originally came. What was sacred in the ancient world was inviolate, specifically because it had come into contact in some way with holiness, with the Presence of the Gods. Having then been rendered sacred, that which has so been marked belongs to the Gods. It is no longer fully a thing at home in the human world.(3)

There is also often an implicit connection assumed (wrongly) that the idea of ‘holiness’ is specifically monotheistic and something belonging solely to their God. Theologically and historically, that is not the case. It is clear from the briefest overview of religious history that our polytheistic ancestors had a rich and complex sense of the holy and its significance and likewise recognized our Gods as such, to the point that one might say as I have here, that holiness is a byproduct of Divine presence.

The corollary of course is what this might mean for us in our engagement with the Holy and that is where tradition, divination, and devotion come so powerfully to the fore. How ought we to prepare ourselves for such engagement? What are the consequences of it? Most importantly of all, how do we recognize it. I’m looking forward to hearing what you all have to say in the comments. Let’s continue this conversation.

Notes

  1. Or since the post specifically mentioned the Norse Gods, perhaps then the writer was saying that other Gods are holy but not the Norse…I struggle with this… um… logic.
  2. There is another name for the God Lo∂ur: there is Skaldic evidence that this God was, in fact, Loki. See my article here.
  3. We can see this in Tacitus’ Germania, where those who stumbled upon Nerthus’ image unprepared were sacralized in such a way that their deaths were then required. They were too marked to remain in the human world and must, of necessity, be given to this Goddess.

Filling our world with Gods: Make God-Bombing a Thing

So I live in a very artistic town. It’s a step away from being an artists’ colony and if you randomly kicked someone on main street, chances are you’d be kicking an artist (why you’d want to randomly kick some poor dude on main street, I don’t know lol. Better to buy his art).

Because of this, there’s some really interesting graffiti throughout the town. One is a huge mural of a Native American spirit, the guardian spirit, perhaps one of the Goddesses of the Wappingers who once had sovereignty in this part of the land, and it shows the river, and markers in the town, and modern residents all flowing out of her benevolence.

One is a faceless man with an awesome hat, funky fish and snakes twined into patterns marking a local distillery.

Those are licit, done with permission of the owners and/or town, but there are others; a little dog in white paint behind the pharmacy, a dancing ghost-girl on the bricks of an alley way, an entire mural of children playing and ghosts and trees and fire on the side of our health food store that just appeared almost overnight when the lot next door was rendered empty. We like these things in my town and personally I think they’re very cool.

There are also more contested expressions of art: yarn bombing, which I think is a hoot in hell and love to see but which likewise gets some old-timers up in arms both online and off (the level of pissed off I’ve seen over yarn bombing is truly amazing); and occasionally odd art installations cropping up in the nooks and crannies of the town’s architecture. I love it all. My favorite is probably a bit of graffiti on a rock by one of the hiking trails on the way to the next town. It says “I love you to the Moon and back” with a picture of the full moon. That just screams Mani to me.

So where am I going with all of this and what the fuck is ‘God-bombing?’ Well, nothing nefarious. Y’all have heard of “glamour bombing?” It’s the same thing but with images for our Gods. It’s land art and public art installations (you can apply for permits locally and make this all above board) and temporary graffiti I absolutely am not encouraging anyone to break the law. There are a lot of ways we can bring our Gods out of hiding without doing that.

  • chalk graffiti – it washes off.
  • Pinning up posters and images (instead of graffiti)
  • Public shrines – I’m already running the public shrine project—start making this a real thing in the woods, in parks, on empty lots, everywhere you can. Understand that they will probably eventually be taken down or yield to the elements. A certain non-attachment is necessary here, but the synergy of doing this type of temporary shrine as an act of devotion is powerful.
  • Ask permission of storeowners to paint outside. If you’re an artist, some will permit you to do a piece on the side of their buildings (at least in my town).
  • For the Gods of harvest, flowers, bounty, and land: seed bomb.
  • Public re-enactments and skald-on-the-street style telling of stories
  • Hit the local poetry slams with prayer-poems for the Gods
  • Do you have any statues of Gods in your town? (We have one of Hebe randomly set up in a local cul-de-sac. It was part of a watering trough for horses and after the world transformed over to cars instead, the trough part went away and locals set up just the statue). Start tending it and leaving offerings. Reclaim it as sacred.
  • Join your local cemetery committee (usually split equally between Protestants and Catholics) and do good work, all the while being completely open about being a polytheist. Talk openly about honoring the dead.
  • Write an article for your most local paper on one of our holidays.
  • Run for local school board or other local office
  • Get a permit and hold a local procession and celebration on a festival day

Make it as establishment and anti-establishment as the Gods, ancestors, and land spirits call.

Sarenth Odinsson offered some interesting ideas when I talked to him about this recently:

“Something I did when I lived on campus and attended Eastern Michigan University: was there were statues all over the place.  There was a tradition of leaving pennies for the statue of a ballet dancer, and I made regular visits with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statue, occasionally leaving him offerings. Leaving flowers in local graveyards, tending local statues, cleaning up parks and leaving offerings are other ways of doing things too. 

Maybe make creches, or start something akin to what we have here: local fairy doors. Literally made for the faeries sold out of local shops and placed near the entrance but not in walkways. Folks leave offerings, often money, that even the local homeless know better than to pick up. We could do something similar, like Hermes, Odin, and similar charms which would fit in alongside other art installations and not be out of place alongside charms against the evil eye.”

I’m sure there are a ton of things that we could do that I haven’t thought of here. I’d love to hear your suggestions. Everywhere I look in almost every American town Christian churches dominate the visual landscape of the town. That’s fine – they’re entitled to their sacred spaces but so are we so let’s get out there and make some. Let’s put the radical in radical polytheist. 🙂

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(Photo credit: Susan Dilger / TaosEdge It was taken in a very old cemetery in Taos. Used with permission.)

Cento I

(I just learned about the cento today. It’s a legitimate form of poetry dating back to antiquity wherein the poem is formed via lines from other works. I’m fascinated by this and it’s a very strange way to work, far more architectural than the way poetry usually flows for and from me. Each line is a whole world in and of itself, a word knot that brings the context and allusions and magic of the original poem from which it is taken into play in this new creation.)

Cento I

Don’t smear your madness on me.
The deaths I suffered began in the heads about me.
We danced in our minds
who ate fire
in the face of hungry lions.

Scholars of war,
Keeper of the keys of thy blood,
my blood approves
I am scorched like wax torches dipped in sulphur,
like holy incense added to smoking pyres.
there are bones at the hearth.

In a dark time, the eye begins to see.
it is equal to living in a tragic land.
There are no dry bones here.
The ant’s a centaur in his dragon world.
Quiet. Hold on. Listen.
The destruction that brings an eagle from heaven is better
than mercy.
I hold with those who favor fire,
maddened with the hot breath of the God.
Crowned with a wreath of serpents,
I have opened the closed road
between the living and the dead.

But for the God it is only the dance that matters.

 

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[With respect to: Euripides, Robin Robertson, William carlos williams, Ntozake Shange, Ginsburg, e.e. cummings, Ovid, Denise Levertov, Theodore Roethke, Wallace Stevens, Etheridge Knight, Ezra Pound, Robinson Jeffers, Robert Frost, Seamus Heaney, and Sophocles.]

The Gods are Not Abusive

A professor once came to a Zen master begging for training.

The Zen master invited the professor in and offered him tea.

While pouring the tea, the Zen master allowed the cup of the professor

to fill, and then to overflow. “Stop!” the professor cried, “what

are you doing?! It’s already full. Nothing more will go in!”.

The Zen master set the teapot down and calmly

looked at the man opposite. “Like this cup, you are already

full of your own opinions and preconceptions. How can I teach you Zen

unless you first empty your cup?”

(traditional Zen koan)

I’ve been seeing a lot of articles recently talking about how to deal with abusive Gods, and how to control one’s devotional relationship, and what to do when one “realizes” that the Gods are treating one “abusively.” Earlier this year I even posted an article going almost line by line through one of these pieces (because the author claimed he/she – not sure of the gender of the writer—was not being taken seriously in these things. Of course I took it seriously, but came to a different conclusion than that author, que sera sera). It concerns me every time I see it and once again, I’ve decided to wade into this discussion.

One of the primary reasons that I’m doing so is the potential for harm that such pieces have (for reasons I’ll go into in a little bit). When someone is new to our religions, to devotional work, or when someone is struggling given that our community is spread out across the globe, one of the first places most people turn is the internet. People can be influenced by what they read and that influence can cause them to take their spiritual struggles to a good and beneficial place or to a place of harm.

I’m going to be fairly blunt in my analysis of this, partly because I’m tired and partly because there’s not much to say that I haven’t said before. Basically, nearly every article that I’ve read has had an undertone of a desire to bring the Gods down to the same hierarchical level as people. To some degree, I get this. It’s easier to engage, safer, and we can have very personal relationships with the Gods for all that They are inhuman Holy Powers. But often this goes farther and there is personal hurt here that I cannot fathom: it’s as though the fact of a cosmic hierarchy with humans in the subordinate position automatically, in the minds of some of these folks, renders the humans as less than as a person. In other words, in some of these pieces there’s an undertone, conscious or not, that being in a hierarchy however natural is oppressive, that hierarchy itself is abusive so of course the Gods being above us in that hierarchy are also by virtue of this position, abusive.

We live in a fucked up world with very few examples of healthy hierarchy. If one is that wounded, it’s important to understand that the scars carried are going to impact one’s relationship with the Gods, and sometimes the way those scars have twisted and patterned one will set up unhealthy dynamics. We need to deal with our wounding without projecting it onto our relationships with the Gods, something sometimes easier said than done.

Can Gods be dicks? Yeah, but challenging and demanding that we up our game is not the same things as abuse. Not giving us what we expect, or what we want is not abuse. Demanding that we sort through our issues is not abuse. Not accommodating us is not abuse.

In the ideal world, we would have elders and teachers, a community generations strong in its polytheism and devotion to help us learn and grow and root ourselves spiritually. We don’t have that. Unfortunately that also means that we are having to rediscover protocols for devotion and ritual. In the ancient world, these protocols existed for a reason: to limit how much of us was exposed to how much of Them. Mystics and shamans, spirit workers and specialists always went farther, got their heads blasted open, danced in the holy fire but for the average person, that was not their experience. They made their offerings, performed their prayers and rituals, honored their Gods and lived their lives. The protocols were there to facilitate communication with a modicum of danger. Why? Because the deeper you go to the Gods, the more accountability is on you to man up and deal with the consequences, and that includes dealing with the fractured and wounded parts of yourself.

To me, it is enough to warn a person: if you go farther, it can be dangerous. It can have consequences. There may not be a going back. We’ve lost our protocols. We also have a culture that is deeply suspicious of any sort of hierarchy even when it is embedded in the fabric of our cosmic experience itself. Now, I’m going to be blunt here: be careful whom you read and take advice from – myself included. When you find someone who is caught up endlessly in constructing a narrative about how abusive their situation with their Gods is, maybe look at the headspace that person came in with, and how it patterned them to BE with a Being farther up the food chain. Be very, very cautious about making that narrative your own, because once you put a label on what a thing is, once you categorize it as THIS and nothing else, it’s very, very difficult to ever look past that. Then solutions become truncated into fight or flight.

I wish we had more effective spiritual direction in our communities. I wish we had an over-culture more amenable to spiritual consciousness. Right now, we don’t, nor is there a network of experienced laity to help a newcomer through. We may one day have these things. We may one day have restored our traditions to their full, multi-generational, inter-generational glory but that day is not today. Today we’re still stumbling, sometimes blind, finding our way in re-learning how to engage with the Holy Powers.

What I do know is that these are Gods. We all have a tendency to want to frame interaction by means of human dynamics and sometimes that works well, sometimes that language and those concepts are useful, but there’s a limit. Sometimes it’s precisely that which allows us to forget that we are dealing with Gods. There’s a balance to be struck there.

Of course, I’m also making an assumption here: that the people claiming abusive relationships with the Gods are actually dealing with Gods. There’s a story in the ancient world about people who were having weird communications with Apollo. These were disturbing enough that a neo-platonic philosopher – nearest thing to a spiritual professional they could find — was consulted. His response (my paraphrase): “what the hell are you doing? That’s not Apollo, it’s the soul of a deceased gladiator fucking with you.”

There’s also a general Christian theory about how one can tell the difference between divinely inspired communication and demonic. Off the top of my head, I can’t recall who wrote about it (I want to say Therese of Lisieux but I can’t recall—it was something I only read in passing). Divine communication can be bitter, very bitter especially at first but then often yields riches spiritually and becomes sweet. It’s opposite begins sweet and only once one is roped in reveals the bitter. All of this hinges on spiritual discernment, something that we tend to overlook all too often in our development, and something that involves an awful lot of working through our own shit. It’s worth keeping in mind however, that things are not always as they immediately seem.

Now go read this article by John Beckett on a completely different topic. He gives some good food for thought.