(some thoughts that I’ll likely be fleshing out over the next year…)
Someone mentioned today in a discussion on twitter: are we never then to question our Gods?
There is, I responded, a huge chasm between questioning as in, ‘I don’t understand. Can You explain further?’ and projecting our values, morals, and expectations onto the Powers, expecting Them to adhere to our sense of what is correct and right relationship rather than allowing Them to define those things in relation to us. There is a huge difference between questioning in confusion, desperation, or in piety for greater clarification and questioning in a way that elevates us to Their level, even if just in our own self-righteous moral minds.
We are not equal to the Gods. Let me say that again for those in the back: WE ARE NOT EQUAL TO THE GODS. I’m not sure why this is so very difficult (oh wait a minute: modernity, post modernity, marxism, popular culture, and a thousand other fragments of our culture). We are, of course, charged with using our common sense, developing our devotional relationships to the best of our abilities with the tools we have at hand, and developing discernment. Understanding that a natural hierarchy exists between us and the Gods shouldn’t have any impact at all on whether or not we cultivate discernment. If we are uncertain about something we have received in prayer or through personal gnosis, then there are avenues by which we can seek clarity (elders, diviners, etc.). The tradition itself provides a scaffolding by which to support such discernment. That is, in part, what it’s there to do. That is not, however, the way or reason many people question. They don’t want clarity. They want to reify their presumed position as equal to or above the Holy Powers. That is when questioning becomes impiety.
The question that followed was this: Do you believe the Gods are perfect?
I was taken aback by this question because…it’s just not all that relevant. Do I believe that our Gods possess what I call the “three omnis” that Christians commonly ascribe to their God: omnibenevolence, omnipotence, and omniscience? No, I don’t. I can think of no more selfish or horrible thing to project upon our Gods (for reasons beyond the scope of this paper). That being said, considerations of Their perfection or imperfection automatically place us in the position of making a value judgment over Their worthiness and that is problematic for me. On some level, within Their sphere of power, I do believe that the Gods are perfect in and of Themselves. Is that perfection the same as what we humans mean when we trot out the term? I don’t know (nor care). Odin is Odin and that is enough. To fixate on divine perfection or lack thereof is a strawman, a rhetorical ploy to again avoid positioning ourselves vis-à-vis the Powers in a subordinate position.
I’m not sure why the idea of having something above us in the celestial hierarchy is so problematic for some. I understand that there may have been issues with clergy in their birth religions, or damaging parental figures, or problems with authority but that’s what secular therapy is for –and I’m not being sarcastic. If there is damage like that, therapy can be a godsend. While the Gods are more than big enough, I think, to take our projections onto Them of whatever issues we might be working out, or simply our own arrogance and lack of humility, we are denying ourselves right relationship with the Powers. We are hurting ourselves.
Then of course, I was accused of having incoherent theology. Sweetheart, if you think theology is coherent, you need to read more of it because let me tell you, it’s anything but. On this point, however, it could not be more coherent. Our Gods created a beautiful cosmological hierarchy, the scaffolding sustaining all creation, all the words, and They created us too. There is an essential ontological difference between humanity, created by the Gods and the Gods Themselves. That difference is beautiful and profound. It underscores the Gods’ care of Their creation, including of us (all the more so since our stories tell us They went out of Their way to travel amongst us fathering children). There is the potential for a very fruitful devotional relationship there. I would go so far as to say it is our duty and obligation as fully realized human beings, as functioning adults to honor Them.(1)This is not punishment. This isn’t some horrible tyranny. It should be a beautiful fulfillment of the potential of that divine connection.(2)
Within the devotional relationship, further situated within the cosmological scaffolding of our traditions there is tremendous coherence and it is just that coherence that enables us to develop spiritual discernment.
The day that we put our reputations above doing right before our Gods, above venerating Them well, above following Their wishes as revealed to us through discerned gnosis is the day that we have sacrificed all integrity as polytheists, Heathens, and as human beings.
Let this be my prayer today and every day: may I have the courage not to care, or to care and do what the Gods want of me anyway. Let devotion be the fire that inspires my courage. Let it be the fire that burns away all fear and all cowardice. Let me do what it is my Gods have set forth for me to do even if in fear and trembling and may I never yield.
1. One of the most beautiful passages of lore occurs in the lay of Hyndla where Freya’s man Ottar is praised for having made so many sacrifices to Her that the rock of the shrine turned to glass from the blood and ostensibly heat of the sacrifices (it implies to me that he made the offerings and then burned them).
2. That it is so often fraught I blame on a society that has tainted and misrepresented the entire concept of sovereignty and hierarchy.
This is one of my lesser known devotionals, but the content is a solid foundation for exploration.
In the Northern Tradition, the Sun is represented by the Goddess Sunna, and the Moon by her divine brother Mani. They give their names to two of the days of the week, and their rays shine down upon us, giving life and inspiration. This devotional is dedicated to them, and to their family. They are more than mere personifications; they bring joy and peace to every day of our lives. We saw them first in the sky as children, and now we can understand and reverence them even more fully with the help of this book.
This is my latest book. It’s an updated version of Exploring the Northern Tradition but I’ve added over 70K (that’s right, seventy thousand) words of new content. This will be out in stores December 1 (US & Canada) and later on January 25 for those in the UK.
UK PRE-ORDER LINKS
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2WxU6cr
Tonight was a good night to honor Mani. It’s been a whole evening of ritual and offerings, divination, and prayer. Mani was present through it all and half way through I realized it was the Hunter’s moon, the traditional name (or one of them) for the full moon in October. It was a very good night to honor Him.
I’ve seen Mani once, been gifted with the vision, of Him in a berserker’s frenzy. It wasn’t like what I experience as Odin’s when I’m overtaken by that state. No, it was a dancing whirlwind of blades and lethal violence, all elegance and sinuous splendor. He was wielding scimitars and He was beautiful, His rage sheathed in a calm as pure as ice. His face was a marble mask and in his eyes burned black fire.
Sometimes I see Him lounging in an alabaster throne, one leg slung over its arm, hair a fall of silk just begging to be touched. The svartalfar call Him Lord of the Camellias and It is here that I see why. His beauty swallows up the heart and fills the belly with longing. It is such a casual thing and yet wherever He passes, His loveliness leaves that place transformed.
Sometimes too I see Him wreathed in rings and beads, adornments in his hair watching over the world, fingers clicking rhythms, counting rhymes, whispering secrets to Unn in the oceans below. He keeps the song of all the worlds in harmony and He knows every complicated counterpoint. He is Master of His craft and His joy in this working a great and holy thing.
Mostly He is just Mani and that is everything. I set out offerings (tonight it was whipped cream flavored vodka, something He has liked in the past) but it never seems like enough. I want to give Him so much more and yet He asks for nothing, receiving our adoration with a delighted laugh and a smile that sometimes makes me cry with longing. If He walked upon the earth, I would follow behind him, and wherever He tread, there I would lay my cheek and count myself blessed indeed.
Hail Mani in Your splendor.
Hail Mani in the abode of night.
Grounded and centered, having offered to the Gods my morning prayers, and having lit incense to the ancestors I sit comfortably and consider the following meditation.
I reach up with my consciousness, through endless boughs of an enormous Tree, and its leaves whisper with secrets. I am one of those secrets being whispered and sung up the gnarled knots of that ancient Tree. It exhales me up beyond the worlds.
We exist within the breath of a God. We ride that breath into being. We exhale that breath back into the mouth of the All Father at the moment of our death. We are tied to everything through His breath and it pulses around us, the steady hand of the storm. I breathe it in down into my crown. I am alive. I am Odin sitting atop Hliðkjalf and I wear the crown of sovereignty. Nothing can separate me from this God. He has knit Himself into my soul.
It is Mani to Whom I reach as I move to my third eye. He is an ancient God and all manner of folly He has seen and dismissed. He forgets nothing and yet He is luminous. I pray that my mind and my heart may be luminous too, that I may rest in the House of the Moon, and may my Sight be always true.
My throat is filled with Loki’s fire. It burns away deceit. It cleanses and renders and because of it I speak true. His is the crucible in which I am ever refined. He hones my courage.
My heart is Sigyn’s hall. She protects and tenderly nourishes all that falls within Her care. She keeps my heart steadfast and the gentle flame of devotion burning within it. I look to Her that my soul might be constant. In such things, She does not yield.
In my gut, the seat of my will, I think on Thor. Mighty Thor with His chariot and gleaming hammer, He fights off pollution. He girds the world against dissolution. He will never be overcome. With Him at my back, I know that I will always be able to align my will with the divine order. Thor will keep me clean, the Holiness He bears will keep me focused.
In my sex lies Freya’s gift, roaring, liquid heat connecting me to life and primal desire. She is Mistress of Sesrumnir and Her blessings are holy. She teaches us to find joy in living. I strive to remember this.
At my root, lie the mysteries of Frigga’s hall. She grounds me in piety and respect, reverence, and power. She is the All-Mother and Her touch makes everything sacred. She roots me deep in the purest iteration of myself and throuh Her all magic flows.
Beneath my feet breathe the bones of the dead. Thousands of generations of ancestors having passed through Hela’s hallowed halls. They walk with me and when necessary lift me up. There is no place I can go where they are not and in times of danger they are an honor guard. With each step I thank them. With each step I am grateful.
In my hands, I feel the echo worlds. In my right hand I hold fire, in my left hand I hold ice. There is the holy chasm in between. All of creation is within me and I see the moment the Gods willed the worlds into being. I stand with Them then, again and again. I am willed into being too with each and every prayer. I am sustained and my prayers fall like nourishing water from the well of memory upon the Tree. It is sustained too. It is enough.
I reach above me with my right hand drawing power up from the dead and from the living earth and down from the most secret powers of the heavens and it is right and good and I touch my brow and chant:
Til ykkar, Oðinn og Regin,
I touch my belly and intone: rikið.
I touch my right shoulder and intone: krafturinn
My left shoulder: dyrðin
I cross my arms over my heart: nú og að eilífu
I bow my head in reverence: Amen.
And it is done.
(my photo: “the World Tree”. Do not use without permission).
Today is the bookversary of my more academic bent book, Transgressing Faith, which was originally submitted as my Master’s thesis in Religious Studies from NYU. 🤓
An eye-opening and balanced presentation of the history of the Heathen revival in America and its attendant conflicts over where to draw the boundaries concerning belief, practice and identity.
Though this restoration has only been going on for a few generations there is tremendous tension within the community concerning areas such as gender, race, normative social presentation, sexuality and questions of religious authority.
All of these are explored with a special emphasis placed on how the community treats those who don’t quite fit in or are called to intentionally transgressive roles.
Who has read it? What were your thoughts on it? Your questions?
I work with people who are, pretty much without exception, radically anti-gun. I also work with people who, again pretty much without exception, have never owned nor even handled or shot a gun. Most of them are deeply committed to faith traditions that promote non-violence and most of them are very liberal. From their religious perspective, it is right and good and proper to hold an anti-gun stance. I cannot fault them there. As much as I like most of them, I wouldn’t want them at my back in an emergency. Mind you, I cannot fault them, but I don’t trust them when violence was required). They are doing as their conscience bids. So am I, which is why I stand firmly against any and all anti-gun measures.
While I don’t currently have a concealed carry permit, I do have several guns at home and a pacel of bladed weapons (among other things, I collect WWI and allied WWII knives). I don’t get to the range for practice enough to feel it proper to have a concealed carry permit and anyway, I work and teach in NYC where such a thing is nearly impossible to get. Still, from both a moral and a religious perspective, I believe it is the obligation of every right-minded adult to stand ready, willing, and able to defend their homes, their families, and themselves. When I carry a weapon, I do so in a nod to my ancestors who survived thanks to their skills with such tools (not guns specifically but weapons. With any weapon, the tech is a tool, nothing more) and in full awareness of being part of a religious worldview that values frith– right order—over peace.
After the last few days of learning about various depredations against polytheists (some historical, some happening today), I realize that I am likely moved by one other reason too: I am a Polytheist. Specifically, I’m Heathen. In both cases I practice a religion whose lineage includes being colonized by Christians, conquered, having our religious spaces forcibly violated, our holy relics destroyed, our children stolen away, and our adults murdered when they resisted forced conversion. That is our lineage. The day we forget that is the day we do not deserve to practice our faith anymore. It’s the day we spit in the eyes of every ancestor who fought and died for their Gods, for the space to practice their devotion unfettered and unharmed. I carry a weapon in part as a nod to those men and women, and a promise that should anyone step into my sacred areas with intent to violate them in the name of their God or for any other reason, they’ll very likely exit on a stretcher.
The space of my home is a sanctuary – literally given that I have multiple shrines on the grounds and inside the actual house. It is sacred space. It should be inviolable space for me and my family, just as our individual bodies should also be inviolable to outside attack. As a pious adult, I have an obligation to my Gods to do everything I can to protect that which has been given into my care. Being ready to defend those spaces and the people in them is part of that covenant. It is part of the agency involved in being a rational, right-thinking adult. For me, it is also a religious obligation.
It is foolish to rely on the goodness of strangers and it is foolish to rely on the government for our protection. No one wants violence but to live one’s life blissfully unprepared for it to occur is equally problematic. Being facile with a weapon is, to my mind, no different than knowing how to lock one’s door at night. In my perfect world, all children would be taught hand to hand fighting and how to use a gun from elementary through high school. Upon graduation, they would have the legal right to carry a gun. (If this sounds crazy, consider that through the sixties many high schools had rifle classes and gun clubs on school property and during school time. Whatever has gone wrong in our society, the problem isn’t guns. It’s just easier to demonize guns than to deal with the social and economic problems that actually lead to gun violence). There is a self-control, a sense of deep moral responsibility that comes with carrying a tool that has the immediate potential to end a life. It changes everything about the way I choose to interact with those around me and makes me far more mindful of my words and deeds. It makes me more aware of how I move in the world. It also makes me more mindful of my responsibilities to my home, family, ancestors, Gods, and community.
Many anti-gun advocates are unwilling and perhaps incapable of looking at guns unemotionally. Many things have been misused and abused in our modern culture and guns are certainly one of those things. It’s all the more disgusting how both guns and bodily sovereignty (esp. for women) have become political talking points by parties that in reality care nothing for their citizens. There is something very, very diseased with our society when young men think it ok to pick up a weapon and murder children. That is not a sign that more gun laws are needed (I think we need less laws and regulation on just about everything) but a sign that our society is sick perhaps beyond healing. It’s easier to fault the symptom than find a cure though but when in shock and pain after yet another mass shooting, I can well understand why many, many people would call for gun bans. I don’t agree, but I understand it.
I for one do not believe it is morally good to put responsibility for my safety in the hands of another. As a pious woman, I cannot do that. As a woman, I would not do that (I saw a post recently that gun rights are women’s rights and I fully support this). The only regulation that I would back is one requiring training and perhaps regular recertification of that training. I belong to a God who is called weapons-wise. When I carry a weapon, I am honoring Him. Yes, bearing a weapon can be a holy act, but needs to be treated with that respect in turn. I have found nothing in the theology of our tradition that would encourage me to disarm and quite a bit that encourages self-sustainability and personal defense. I stand by that. I encourage other polytheists to do the same, in accordance with their conscience and beliefs.
I will add that for the first few decades of Paganism, there was a marked tendency of various denominations to downplay their religious practices and to present themselves to the secular and/or monotheistic world as innocuous, maybe a little quirky, but essentially harmless. It was a survival technique but at some point, that has to stop. We are dangerous. We will collaborate with each other. We will stand up and fight for the right to exist. We will demand parity in public spaces. We will not back down. We are not helpless. For those of you thinking I exaggerate, think on this: a couple of years ago, a priest of Jupiter was hospitalized when his temple to Jupiter was attacked by Christians. Last year, an elderly Greek woman was injured protecting a shrine to Demeter when again, Christians interrupted a religious rite. Temples are violated and desecrated almost weekly in parts of India. Earlier today I posted an article about aboriginal sacred objects being burned by Christians. Last year a practitioner of Candomble was murdered by Christians when he refused to desecrate his own shrine. There’s a Roman saying: si vis pacem, para bellum that I fully agree with. We cannot depend upon the kindness of strangers to protect our sacred places. If we want to have those things, to nourish those things and see them grow into the future we need to be ready, willing, and able to protect them ourselves. I’ve heard it said that people own guns out of fear. I would say that is not generally the case. People own guns because they know they have the wherewithal to protect themselves even when they’re afraid (and for those living rurally, it’s even more of a useful tool. I sure as hell wouldn’t go into the woods without a gun. I have no desire to become something’s lunch).
For all of these reasons and for the simple fact that I don’t see a gun as anything more than a useful tool, I don’t see it as something to fear in and of itself, I don’t see it as the agent of destruction (the gun isn’t doing anything on its own after all), I support gun ownership, responsible gun ownership by people who have taken the time to learn how to use and respect this tool.
To give you an example of how big the divide is on this issue, I’ll share a snippet of a conversation I had today. A lovely woman with whom I work truly, deeply believes that people own guns because they all are at heart white supremacists afraid of the modern equivalent of a ‘slave’ (by which she defined it as anyone the gun owners consider beneath them) uprising. I had to have her repeat it three times because I still can’t see her logic there but then this isn’t a subject upon which people apply logic, not when hyperbole and sentiment will do. This person (and I like her. She’s creative, interesting, and a pleasure to work with) truly believes that the world will be better if guns are banned. I very much do not hold that view. How the hell do you find middle ground there? For me, guns are like condoms and attorneys: better to have it and not need it than the opposite.
I need to post something a little more wholesome after my last post — I’m sitting here shaking still. I’ve read monastic rules, I’ve read accounts of christianization but I just never, ever connected all the dots until today and it’s nauseating. So…the cure for that is prayer, to our Gods, to our Glorious Ones, to our ancestors and all those holy spirits who sustain us. Today, for me, that is the Goddess Sigyn.
In Praise of Sigyn
by G. Krasskova
You are unyielding
You will not be moved.
Let others rant and rave and curse.
Where love has rooted itself in Your heart
even the might of the mountain is weak.
You are fierce: a she wolf defending Her own.
No one expects it of You, Sweet Sigyn.
Because You do not wear Your might
as others might wear gleaming jewels,
no one thinks You strong,
a force with which to reckon.
Yours however is the power
that grants no acknowledgment
to that which would turn You from Your course.
You are His North Star, forever constant,
a gleaming beacon, His only comfort
a whisper of half forgotten joy
in the abyssal eternity of the cave.
Your eyes are on Your task,
Asgard truly should fear,
and then pour out offerings
to whatever Powers the Powers honor
lest You turn Your heart to justified vengeance,
on the day You and Your Husband
rise from the pit.
Vengeance is rarely Your way, however,
it is often too great a luxury to nurture in Your heart
in light of the work You must do.
Some sacrifices after all must be made
and You are pragmatic.
Vengeance will not return a murdered son.
Vengeance will not remake a shattered God.
Your way is simply to endure,
which is not so simple at all;
to endure and hold in Your burning heart
the knowledge that nothing lasts for ever.
There is only the wyrd woven
strand by black and bloody strand,
in the crucible of necessary choice.
There is only a strength beyond courage
and the heart and character of valor
plucked from amidst the weaving.
To You, Lady, I bow my head.
Lady of Enduring Grace,
Lady of Valor,
Lady of Victory.
(Her shrine today, with a few simple offerings)
In the 19thand well into the late 20thcentury (through the 1990s in some areas), Native children in America and Canada were forcibly removed from their parents and forced into “Indian Schools,” where they were beaten, abused, forced to give up their native language and forcibly Christianized. This was governmental policy. It was law. The primary purpose of their “education” was, first and foremost Christianization. I always thought this was an abomination that happened in the New World. Today I learned differently.
I learned that when Charlemagne (may he be damned) conquered and forcibly converted the Saxons, the same thing happened to them.
I’m still processing this. I was assigned a book to read in one of my classes and the information was there, clear as day. Children were taken away from Saxon families and interned forcibly in monastic schools, which led upon adulthood to those children being tonsured and forced to take vows. It was slavery. Make no mistake, the Saxons did not go peacefully. They did not willingly or easily abandon their Gods. They were butchered, tortured, imprisoned, and forced into conversion by Charlemagne and his successors. Sound familiar?
A hundred years later, in condemnation of a monk Gottschalk of Orbais, a man who had been committed to the monastery as a child and forced against his will to take vows and who was now seeking freedom, his abbot Hrabanus blamed his quest for freedom on an inherent Saxon hatred of Christianity in general and monasticism in particular. Hrabanus made it clear he considered the Saxons at best, a subaltern people, underserving of liberty specifically on religious grounds:
Should those who are inferior by virtue and dignity spurn those superior and more eminent than themselves, and reject them as if they were unworthy of all honor, those to whom they were rightly made subject? For who does not know, living in this region of the world, that the Franks were in the faith and religion of Christ before the Saxons, whom they later subjected to their dominion by force of arms – being made their superiors according to the practice of lords and even more by their paternal disposition—and dragging them away from the cult of idols and converting them to the faith of Christ? But now these notions are spurned ungratefully by certain primates of this very nation according to the flesh against the law of heaven and the law of the court…(emphasis mine)
Because yes, we should all be grateful when the good Christians come to burn down our temples, destroy our religion, execute the faithful, kidnap our children, and force us into servitude. Even the author of the book (and translator, I believe, of these speeches) called this one of the “most blatantly imperialist” views in favor of forced Christianization to be found in the 9thcentury. (For both quotes see Matthew Bryan Gillis, Heresy and Dissent in the Carolingian Empire: the Case of Gottschalk of Orbais,” Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 40-41).
This is the way monotheism worked as it swept across Europe and then the Americas erasing religions and cultures. It was in every case, attempted annihilation.
This is why monotheistic colonization is so different from previous ones. The Romans, for instance conquered people and enslaved them and that was horrible but they didn’t try to completely change the internal landscape of the people, to tear away their language, to obliterate their Gods. Only with monotheism do we see this kind of conquest. It’s not a white problem. It’s not a black problem. It’s not a problem of any race. It’s a monotheistic problem, so when you ask me why I condemn monotheism so much, why I will never, EVER advocate peace with this system of corruption, take a look at our own history.
And no, not all individual Jews, not all individual Muslims, not all individual Christians – many of them are lovely people and there are many things about their traditions that are lovely as well–but the system is dehumanizing, because monotheism is not the belief in one God, it’s a rejection of all other Divinities and therefore the monotheist can never be at peace with his neighbors.
This is all the more reason why we should commit to honoring our Gods, honoring our ancestors, and rebuilding our communities always, always remembering that they can be destroyed again, if we’re not committed, if we’re not pious, and if we’re not vigilant.
In memory of the 4500 martyrs of Verdun and all those who have fought monotheistic obliteration before and since.
Today is the 3 year anniversary of my devotional book 📕 dedicated to the Norse Goddess Eir. 👩⚕️
By Scalpel and Herb, Blood and Healing Hands is a novena booklet to Eir, a Norse Goddess of Healing. It provides an introduction about this Goddess and nine days of prayers in Her honor.
Available on Amazon.
Who owns a copy?