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*sigh* PSA

Every autumn, my household cleans the ancestor room as thoroughly as possible. We empty out drawers, pull out furniture, dust, vacuum, discard offerings that may be lurking and put things in order for Yule. Having just finished this process for this year (and what a weight to have off one’s shoulders!), it brings to mind a few things I’d like to share. 

Often, as a spiritual professional (be it priest, vitki, shaman, spirit worker, etc.) when one maintains a shrine, others will come and leave offerings at your personal shrines. Sometimes people are shy about doing it at their own and feel that such things have more power when left at the shrine of a priest or spirit worker. Be careful. Personal concerns work both ways. Clean your shrines often and carefully and respectfully dispose of offerings left by others. Do not allow your shrines or your home to become repositories for the personal concerns of others *through which they may work ill upon you*.

Be aware also of gifts given. Magically – and yes, as spirit worker and priest I very much believe in magic—right of maker always, ALWAYS takes precedence over right of owner. The exchange of money, especially when a contract or legal document is involved (as in buying a house) can nullify this to a large degree; however, beware gifts given. When the friendship sours, they can become conduits of malefica. I suggest donating them or burning them. 

Here is a good article on personal concerns. 

That is all. 

The Way We Speak

I’ve been sitting on this for a while. Around the autumnal equinox, I started to see gross postings in various places (tumblr, facebook, twitter, etc.) mostly about Persephone and Hades, putting in crude terms Her cyclical return to the Underworld. I don’t have cultus to either of those Deities but nonetheless, reading the trashy memes and comments really disturbed me. I think it says something about the paucity of our culture that we so blithely speak not just of sacred things, but of Holy Powers and Their mysteries with such casual disrespect (and I don’t think this is just a polytheistic problem either). Nor am I condemning all memes -– I’ve seen some that are lovely and some that are humorous without crossing the line into disrespect. I think that’s fine. I think that’s healthy and it’s really wonderful to see art and cartoons and prayers and imaginative renderings of our Gods. This is the way we develop iconography and build religious cultus and culture. It’s a good thing. It can be done without disrespect though. In fact, it can and should come from a place of love, adoration, and deep, deep devotion to the Holy Powers. That devotion is the core of every healthy tradition. 

Of course, there are some (usually Hellenics but occasionally Heathens will chime in too) who will argue that Homer wrote stories that presented the Gods in less than salutatory manner. Yeah, whoever (and it may be more than one author—but we’ll stick with “Homer” for convenience here) actually put together the Iliad and the Odyssey and other Homeric works did, but A) this corpus was criticized for that very potentially impious presentation by later philosophers; and B) there are also beautiful and deeply pious prayers and hymns within the Homeric corpus. I rarely see that latter coming from the same people who post garbage about the Gods. Often, I want to shake these individuals, and just flat out ask, “if you feel so deeply disgusted with our traditions, traditions you too claim to practice, if you want to erase all mystery and actual cultus, if you hate our Gods so very much why are you here?” I’d be very interested in the answer. When your entire blog or online world is devoted to tearing down and spitting on our traditions and the Holy Powers from which we received those traditions, why are you here? 

To put it bluntly, we should speak of our Gods with respect. That shouldn’t be a difficult or contentious thing. These are GODS. These are our Holy Powers. These are the Bestowers of mystery, the Givers of blessings, the Immortal Ones Whose will, and kindness crafted the worlds. These are the Powers from which our souls proceed and to which we will one day return. These are the Good and Gracious Gods from which all our blessings flow. When we speak of Them or render Them into art, we can do so with love and respect. If we have no respect for sacred things and for our Holy Powers and Their Mysteries, I ask again: WHY are we here?  

(I completely agree with the comment to this video that says, “This dude should mobilize and bring his healing slaps to the general public.” LOL. Please come to contemporary polytheisms. Please. We need those healing slaps. A lot of them. Repeatedly and with alacrity. Slap the hubris out of us. A-fucking-men). 

A Prayer to the Marsh King

You lurk in the marshlands, a pale and ghostly figure. 
It is Your treasured abode. The creatures there know You well. 
They heed Your will and do Your bidding, carrying Your messages 
far and wide. 

Once, before creation truly was, 
You stood with Your Brothers: Fury and Fire--Frenzied inspiration and Holy Power--
at the moment You all slaughtered Ymir, thus becoming Architects of creation, 
erecting the pristine structure of the worlds. You were the will that held it all together
in those first crimson-encrusted moments. Before it was done, You saw it all unfold.
Wyrd is a flicker of light on Your bone-slender hands, and You weave it as You will.

You are the silent Watcher, often overlooked and under-estimated. 
That is fine. Nothing escapes Your notice and silence won You freedom once. 
You save your incantations for moon drenched nights in the fens. 
Then You willingly unleash Your power. 

You are a God of strange and liminal places,
and the mind is the most liminal threshold of all. 
You gave us this gift, cognition, worlds unfolding within us, 
divine in their potentiality, imprinted the senses on our souls,
when Loður gave us our physical sensorium. It is both a grace and blessing. 
Thanks to you, we may walk in many realms, tasting the savor of the liminal,
and that is Your gift to us too. 

Everything is full of meaning. Three Gods made us. 
Three Gods loved us enough to carefully craft us into being. 
The persistence of Their regard holds us all together. 
May I ever see with the eye of my understanding, 
and hear with the ears of my soul, all the glories
You and Your Brothers have wrought. 

Hail to You, Hoenir, Wili, Lord of the Marshlands. 
Hail Great God Who blesses the work of my mind. 
Ever and always will I praise You.
 

(by G. Krasskova)

Reader Question on Prayer

This is actually a multi-part question, so I’ll take each one in turn. Here we go:

Question 1A: “I was reading your article on prayer but and a question came to mind…”How do you determine who to pray to?” Say for example a person wishes to do so in reference to a research paper they have been working on. What determines whether they should pray to Thoth, or Athena, or Hermes or Saga, or any God or Goddess of Knowledge/Wisdom?”

You know, it seems like such a simple question, but it really isn’t. This is definitely a “polytheist problem!” I have my set of household Deities, Gods to Whom I’ve been dedicated to for years and I pray to Them regularly – I aim for nightly but I’ll admit I do miss days. Sometimes I or my household are just too tired to do it properly. Then the morning prayers, which are brief, have to suffice. Sometimes though, I’ll just get a feeling that I’m entering into another Deity’s house, sphere of influence, so to speak. Then, as a matter of what used to be called “guestliness” (the hospitality and grace owed by guest to host) in some of the Heathen groups in which I worked, I will reach out to that Deity. Sometimes, it will come up in our regular household divination that one of us should approach a particular Deity. Sometimes one prayer just leads to another. There’s no formula or rule for it. If one has a fulltrui, a patron, a particular Deity or family of Deities to Whom one pays regular devotion, I would always start there. You can always ask the Gods to Whom you usually pray, ask for insight and be patient. 

Question 1B:  “Another question I have is…does a particular place affect one’s connection to the Gods? I have read a few articles where people have moved to different places due to work or personal relationships (significant others), and in their original place they had a good communication with the Gods, but in the new place, it’s like the communication seems to be cut off. Does the “God Phone” tend to get bad reception in different places?  I wonder if there is something to it because I felt more receptive to the Gods when I was in [state redacted] but since moving to [state redacted] I’ve had difficulties…”

 Yes, (though it’s not that the the ability to sense or hear the Gods is cut off, but something else). This is why regional cultus is such a powerful thing. We see the same Gods being venerated in different ways, manifesting in different ways, carrying different bynames in different areas. For instance, my primary God is Woden in Old English territories, Odin in Scandinavia. Sometimes He is Gangleri, sometimes Oski, sometimes Wotan, sometimes Allfather, and so on and so forth.  Not all of these heiti depend on the land, but there are reginal manifestations of His power. To give a second example, there is Dionysos of Mount Beacon – how we honor Him here– and Dionysos of Nysos and a thousand more iterations of this God. The Gods have Their own business, I think, with all the spirits of these places completely unrelated to us and our relationships and They wear different…”clothing” so to speak, accordingly). I’ve often said that the polytheistic triad is Gods-Ancestors-Land and it may be, and this is my speculation here, that some sort of conversation between the Gods and the spirits of the land is occurring. After all, They have relationships not just with us, but with multiple families of spirits (like land spirits) too. This applies to Gods and ancestors too – those are unique relationships. To get back to your question,  there are definitely regional expressions or currents through which our Gods work. 

I would suggest making offerings to the land spirits in your new home and also to your Gods (and ancestors too –never hurts). When you move to a new place, or even if you’re visiting for an extended time, greet the land and make offerings. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn to see your Gods through new eyes. It’s not that They can’t hear your prayers, or aren’t present, rather I think that it’s a matter of us sometimes struggling to catch the… “frequency” for lack of a better term, of one’s Gods in a new place, and of one’s Gods in conversation with new land spirits. Also, we do like our preconceptions and those can be a powerful block to new experiences of our Gods, all without us ever really being fully aware of how much this is the case. 

It really takes time (and sometimes, it becomes easier after moving to a new place – this is not always a problematic thing). Just be patient and continue your practices. I asked my friend who is a land worker and she said she thinks there’s some kind of negotiation between the Gods and the land that happens and how they come to you is different because of that. Also, you need to get to know the spirits in your new place. Sometimes the Gods will even step back a bit in Their presence because it can overwhelm the sense of the land spirits or one’s ancestors in a new territory. There’s important work rooting oneself there that should be done first, grounding yourself in this land and developing those relationships, that all needs to happen before the Gods express the fullness of Their presence again. 

You have to acclimate. You can’t really do clean work of any sort, including devotional until you acclimate. The space needs to be met, greeted, honored. Then it needs to be cleaned, ordered, blessed, and protected. Otherwise, there will be interference, distractions…and some of this can simply be the interference of chattering spirits who are curious about the new person. Even if we can’t hear or sense this (no one is in the state of perfect receptivity all the time no matter how good their general abilities are!), on some level it gets registered as interference or blockage. It’s not though. The process of moving, involves acclimating on both sides: you, your Gods, the land…sometimes rituals of formal introductions for all parties can help. But in the end, just give it time. It’s always easier when you make friends with the land. 

Finally, here is Question 1C: “Also I can point out with these articles I glanced at, no mention was made of cleansing practices so perhaps that’s an important way to “boost the signal”. Are there other ways?”

Well, the first and most important thing you can do is establish a regimen for cleansing and purification. That is rule one when it comes to discernment. Rule two is to be consistent in your prayers and devotions. If you’re not cleansing regularly, of course your discernment and ability to accurately engage with your Gods will be severely impinged. 

Hope this helped. There’s nothing worse than moving to a new place. My land worker friend said moving is one of THE most traumatic things for her personally! Psychological studies that I’ve read, put it right up there with the death of a loved one and divorce. So, be kind to yourself and soldier on. 

Random Thoughts on Evil

I was studying last night and came across an interview with another theologian on the topic of evil. The interview was quite good (because of course I listened to it – it was relevant to what I was reading) despite the difference in our theologies. I was taken aback though when he discussed four of the main ways one can tell if someone is influenced or aligned with evil. I was taken aback because A) I agree 110% with him and have for years and B) I’ve seen every one of these things –pandemically—within our communities (actually, within society at large, which, of course, bleeds into our communities). I’ll get to those four points in a moment. I realize that no one likes to consider evil as a force that might assault us, but I firmly believe it exists, (in addition to the evil we choose to do). Of course, I also believe that such external evil only has the openings we choose to give it, so with the protection and grace of our Gods, a little mindfulness and common sense, prayer, and a willingness to cultivate virtue, we can be just fine. 

I have no idea where evil comes from. Is it a byproduct of creation? After all, creation is an act of ordering materiality. It is a driving back of entropy, of nothingness. It is a shaking off of that which does not serve that purpose. That implies a certain sentience in the created material itself…or maybe I’m pushing the thought too far.  Is it something that we create by our poor choices and vicious actions, droppings we spew of hatred, cruelty, fear, jealousy, and malice (we can be a terribly inhumane species)? Is it an extant force fought by the Gods (For the record, I don’t think the Jotnar are evil at all. They are part of the created order)? I don’t know but as I move toward having to teach a class in theodicy (the question of why evil exists), I find myself pondering this question more and more. Personally, I tend to answer yes to all of the above but that is based more on my personal experience than any theological or philosophical treatise. 

I’m getting off track though. Here were the four points from the interview: 

  1. A person believes s/he can do whatever s/he wishes. 
  2. A person believes no One can command him/her.  
  3. A person believes s/he is his/her own God.
  4. Deep hostility and aversion to the sacred.

I actually look at number 4 as key evidence that someone is unhealthy and potentially under diabolical (in as much as we can use that word) influence. It’s the one constant that I have seen wherever evil spirits, bottom feeding trash spirits, and other such garbage have gained purchase. It’s a sign I watch for in myself and since I do spirit work, and often have to clean up spiritual pollution, I submit myself to evaluation to at least one other spirit worker regularly. Am I clean? When the Enemy—that which has no name, which stands against all the Gods have created, the true opponent at Ragnarok– whispers in my ears the most impious things when I pray, have I allowed any of that to gain purchase in my heart, mind, or soul? If I have, let’s get it out, just like weeding a garden. By the way, if that happens, just keep praying. In fact, pray louder. If you’re praying extempore, report this to the Gods – literally tell Them that something nasty is whispering impieties in your ear.  Bring it to Their attention. Give these things nowhere to hide in your mind. Don’t take that which is not yours to carry. If you’re using formal prayers, and this happens, offer an apology to the Gods and just keep going. Don’t let it distract you. Pray as though your life depended on it. That which seeks to distract is unimportant. It is, as we’d say in the south: “trifling.”

However overwhelming and powerful these evil spirits may feel, speaking outloud, hearing your voice speak the bullshit they’re trying to feed you, to implant in your mind, having your Gods right behind you, all of this reveals the evil lies for what they are and strips these creatures of their power. There is no need to feel shame. Instead, go right to your Gods in heart and mind and report them. Do not permit them to become so internalized that you take on the nefarious things that they’re whispering, that they’re trying to make you think are coming from you. Stand tall and proud, like a pillar of iron, and call upon your Gods and know that They are there. However bad you think it is, our Gods have heard it all and They will carry our burdens with us and stand with us in any dark place we need to walk. There is no place so dark that They do not know the way through, and They will sustain us through it.

Now, there are normal thoughts too that can interfere when we pray or meditate, normal things like “oh, my nose itches.” Or “I forgot to book that appointment.” Etc. This is going to happen. Don’t panic. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad polytheist.  Also, more positively, it’s normal for regular thoughts to sort of float through your mind when you’re trying to focus. Don’t worry. Just let them go. It’s a perfectly normal thing that happens to nearly everyone. Note those thoughts, let them pass, and return to prayer. 

I think one of the biggest fracture lines in our theological understanding in our communities centers around #1. There is a cosmic hierarchy and, despite what modernity, popular media, and new agers might tell you, we are not at the top of it. We cannot actually do whatever we like—or rather we *can* but certain choices are going to twist our souls out of true. A pious person is indentured in service to her Gods.  A responsible person has a place in his community, maintains a household (even if only a household of one), stands rightly within the world. We are tethered to our commitments and known by how well or poorly we keep them. Within our religious traditions there are rules, protocols, a right way to approach holy places, to treat holy people, to engage with the Holy Powers and a wrong way. It is not a free for all. To say that one can do whatever we want is to elevate ourselves and our passing whims and desires over the obligations of piety and respect. Those obligations create in us a fully realized human being, or at least they have the potential to do so when approached rightly. The former is shallowness yes, but also against the divine order. This is what it’s all about, folks. We can work with our Gods, support the order They have created by the way we choose to live, by our devotion, by how joyfully and consistently we cultivate Their veneration, honor our dead, care for the land, care for each other, or we do the opposite. We set ourselves against that order and in so doing twist our own existence and our souls, breathed into us by Odin Himself, out of true. 

Likewise, the Gods have the right to command us. We are not above Them in the cosmic order. Point 2 is really about acknowledging the cosmic order, the divine architecture and the hierarchy therein. That hierarchy does not place humans at its top.  That is a relief! There is something, many Somethings greater than we, Who had a hand in our creation, Who recognize us as part of Their work and what a lovely and beautiful thing that is. We are, however, still a religion of converts and many people come to our traditions having been deeply scarred by their birth religions and upbringings. Sometimes even the words of devotion: ‘prayer,’ ‘piety,’ ‘adoration,’ ‘worship,’ the word ‘devotion’ itself…cause pain. It can be agonizing to recognize a hierarchy that in impious hands has been used to condemn and to shame. All I can say here is that these things should be a comfort, a connection, a joyous homecoming and I am so very sorry that anyone ever used them to cause pain. That is not what piety or the Gods, inasmuch as I understand Them, are ever about. Be gentle with yourselves and each other and work devotionally where you can work. Trust yourself and trust, if you can, the Holy Powers in Their ability to restore to rightness the spiritual connections and bonds that have been severed by such abuse. 

Returning to my original point about #1 and 2, the Gods exist, and we are, if we are piously oriented, in fealty to Them. They become our center, our axis mundi. It is around this sacred point that all else is oriented. That nourishes and strengthens *everything*. If we are properly aligned with our Holy Powers, then that should have an effect on how we move in the world. It changes everything and for the better. 

I think point 4 speaks for itself and I’ve already touched on it anyway. I’ll post more as I think about this more. I welcome readers’ thoughts. 

Prepping for Ritual: A Question

Oiling statues and bowl and horn for ritual today. To be honest, I’m not sure the Idunna statue is made of wood, but I oiled it anyway just in case! The Sunna, Mani, Thor, and Freyr statues are hand carved wood, as is the bowl, and the horn is hand carved too.

Today, I posted this picture on Instagram and twitter of part of my preparation for our equinox ritual today (which we will be doing in about an hour). I noted that I have pulled out the mineral oil and have happily been oiling the wooden statues, the wooden blót bowl, and my ritual horn. Someone pinged me back on Instagram and asked about using oil on one’s horn, and also wanted to know whether olive oil could be used. Care for one’s ritual tools is part of good practice and this is an important question if one wants to keep one’s tools in good working order. 

Firstly, do not use olive oil. It can go rancid – at least that’s what I was taught. Use mineral oil and preferably food-grade mineral oil. The bottle will list whether it’s food grade or not. On statues it doesn’t really matter, but for bowls and horns, food-grade is definitely the way to go. 

Wooden statues and bowls need a little loving care every now and again. Wood can dry out and become brittle. The natural oils of one’s hands will help condition the wood, but usually, something of any significant size like a statue needs more. If wood dries out it can crack and even break. I recommend food-grade mineral oil applied every couple of months to statues. Just take a clean cloth, put a bit of the oil on the cloth, and apply it to the statue. Usually, the wood will soak it right up.  

With ritual bowls, it’s even more important to keep them conditioned. Never, ever let a wooden bowl (or any wooden implement) soak in water. Wash them properly of course, but don’t leave them soaking in water. It can completely ruin them. I once had a friend take two of my ritual knives and, completely well meaning, leave them soaking overnight in soapy water. The handles were hand carved wood. They were ruined. There was no coming back from that damage. It was a hard lesson to learn but one I never forgot. (I couldn’t even be angry with my friend – she was just being helpful and doing the dishes). Wash and dry your wooden bowls right away. With wood, I don’t even suggest leaving it air dry. I manually dry even wooden cooking implements. Then, spread a thin layer of mineral oil on, again, working it in with a clean cloth. 

The same goes for one’s drinking horn. Horn can become dry and brittle too. I usually wash my drinking horns right after ritual (never let them sit overnight without first cleaning them), dry them thoroughly and then, before putting them away, I will give them a rub down with mineral oil (always food-grade oil). This time, I washed and oiled the horn first because I had taken it to show a group of students a couple of weeks ago. I figured a little extra loving care wouldn’t hurt. 

Mineral oil can be used to oil knives too. So, that’s my practicum post for the day. Have a lovely equinox everyone and a good rest of the weekend. 

Our altar for today’s ritual. At the bottom, out of sight is more bread and more alcohol for offerings. I plan, starting with this equinox, to save all the cloth that I”m using for shrine and altar cloths this year, and next autumn use them to make a quilt. I like the idea of being able to wrap myself in a blanket made of cloth used in holy rites.

New Texas Abortion Law is Brutal, Misogynistic, and Insane.

The Supreme Court just upheld one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.  This law bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, at about six weeks. While the Supreme court ruling allowed the law to go into effect but kept open the possibility of abortion providers and perhaps even individuals challenging the law in court in the future, for now, this is a crushing blow to women’s liberty in the lone star state. 

Here are some observations and questions based on what I’ve read so far. 

An abusive spouse may report his or her wife to the police for having an abortion (even if she hasn’t) and receive a 10K (Ten thousand) dollar reward. 

Even by the time a heartbeat is detected, there is no viable human being present in the clot of tissue that will later become a person. 

Apparently even mentioning abortion as an option to a woman can now have legal consequences. 

The prison sentence for a woman seeking an abortion will be longer than that of a rapist. 

What happens to a woman who leaves the state to have an abortion? Will she be arrested on her return? 

More importantly, how will the state know? Are women’s medical records now to be opened and available to scrutiny? Will this law be extended retroactively? 

I am very pro-choice. I not only believe abortion should be available on demand, I think it should be legally required in some circumstances. There is never, ever a time where I would limit a woman’s right to bodily sovereignty (even though I think abortion should be mandated in certain circumstances, I’d be very, very hesitant to make any laws to that effect. This is personal business, not something in which the government should involve itself). That’s what any abortion restriction is: an assault on bodily sovereignty. 

Do I believe abortion is murder? Yes. I believe the fetus is a life. Do I think that’s a relevant question? Not in the least. The only life that matters in this situation is that of the woman because until that fetus is pushed through her vagina in a flood of blood and pain, it is nothing more than a parasite, depending upon the mother for its continued existence. Carrying a fetus to term, has long term, potentially devastating physical effects on a woman’s body. 

I think Roe V. Wade is a bad ruling. Abortion was legalized on privacy grounds. There are stronger grounds upon which to allow women basic civil liberties (is there a single medical procedure for men that is put before non-medical, government and political groups like abortion? No there is not). 

Let’s start with the 13th Amendment, you know, the one that abolished slavery. Any time someone has no control over their bodily sovereignty, particularly where forced breeding is concerned, we have something quite akin to slavery. Forced breeding was always part of the experience of slavery in this country, particularly after the trans-Atlantic slave trade was abolished. Control of fertility (for both women and men, though the greatest burden always fell on the woman) was a significant part of the experience of the enslaved in the US. Apparently, it still is. 

Then we have the 14th Amendment, the first part of which states: 

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Or let’s talk about self-defense. I would have preferred to see Roe V. Wade legalized on grounds of self-defense and bodily sovereignty than privacy. I think those are much, much stronger grounds. 

Within our religious traditions, abortion is not prohibited. In fact, at various times and places amongst our Heathen ancestors, newborns were not considered properly ensouled until nine days after birth. If we’re looking at Roman religion, it was when the father picked the newborn child up and acknowledged it. Furthermore, we have many Deities Who may be called upon to protect women who choose to have abortions. Freya, for instance, is a Goddess of sexuality, of personal choice, of bodily sovereignty (and many other things). I think one may call upon Her, or the other Vanir, for protection and blessing if one is seeking an abortion. Now, the Vanir are also Deities of fertility. We have Heathens who are pro-life, and they may choose to call upon the Vanir to protect life and bless women choosing to have children. (I also think it is important to be very, very careful about ascribing our personal desires onto the Gods. We may say, “I think Freya would bless this choice,” but to say outright, as if we can ever fully know, “Freya likes/doesn’t like X” is deeply lacking in integrity. We may assume, conjecture, but can never truly *know* because the Gods are so much more than we ever can be). Any abrogation of personal choice is an abrogation of personal power and as such, I think this would be quite problematic from a Vanic point of view. Certainly, in our lore, Freya never allowed her own power to be so infringed. One may thus extend the lesson.

There is the healing Goddess Hlif, ever a help to women. She is usually called upon for anything pertaining to OB/GYN issues. While She is a Goddess of birth, as She also tends to all things gynecological, I see no reason why She could not be called upon here as well. We are not animals, slaves to our biology. We have wyrd, and thus the capacity for conscious, individuated choice. That doesn’t suddenly disappear because one possesses a uterus. 

Then there is Gerda, the wife of Freyr. This has ever been a union of opposites in so many ways and my particular branch of the Northern Tradition holds that because Freyr came to Asgard as a hostage for peace (one of the hostages exchanged to guarantee peace between the Aesir and Vanir, the other being Njord), and because this would extend to His children too, He and Gerda have no children. Not all denominations of the Northern Tradition hold to this, but ours does. Because of this Gerda maybe sought out by those who have had miscarriages, those who use birth control, and those who have abortions.

You know what this issue never was amongst our ancestors? A matter for public scrutiny. It was women’s medicine and women’s business, a private thing known to the woman and her midwife or healer. Of course, in ideal circumstances within a family, it may have been a matter of discussion between spouses but in the end, it was a choice the woman herself made. 

Modern America is not so enlightened. Laws like this are not about protecting potential life. They’re about criminalizing sex and pleasure and keeping women in a place defined by a most pernicious evangelical Christianity with a healthy helping of the Victorian cult of motherhood to boot. It’s revolting. This is not about “women being unable to control themselves” (as I recently saw stated on twitter and by a woman no less).  It’s about basic human rights and human dignity – not to potential life, but to living, breathing women here and now. It’s about trusting that women are actually capable of determining for themselves when to become pregnant. 

I actually wonder if those who are so incredibly anti-choice realize what it’s like to have one’s body turned into an incubator. My earliest memory as a child was of doggedly, most definitely, and under no circumstances ever wanting a child. I was maybe 2 ½ and I knew I found the whole thing utterly disgusting, dehumanizing, and permanently disabling in some circumstances. My opinion on the matter hasn’t changed. I would flat out rather be executed than forced to carry a child. So, I have made sure never to get pregnant, however, if I did, I’d have had the abortion clinic on speed dial. Other women want children, but not at a given time, or they want to do the financially sensible thing and space their children in a way that allows for economic independence. Or…many other reasons. Really the only reason a woman needs to not be pregnant is “I don’t want to be.” 

What these laws really are is about criminalizing sexual pleasure and criminalizing women’s independence. I’m all for modesty and continence but come on. Birth control fails all the time. Accidents happen. Moreover, rape and incest happen (cases where I think abortion should be required as a matter of common sense personally). Women don’t need big daddy government telling them what to do with their bodies. There’s no consistency in these laws either. If pro-lifers were really worried about loss of fetal life, then male masturbation would likewise be a source of legal concern. But we’re not seeing that. We’re seeing, as always, the onus of these laws placed on the woman. Nor can women easily get a tubal ligation which would solve the problem completely for some – paternalistic doctors will say she doesn’t really know her own mind, or might marry someone who wants children. Even now. (In 2019 a young woman in UK sued the NHS for just this reason and won the right to be sterilized. But note, she had to go to court. Men seeking vasectomies don’t have this issue). All of this is a violation of bodily sovereignty in every respect. So when someone is coming out prolife, what they’re really saying whether they realize it or not is this: I not only don’t trust women to make the right decisions for themselves, but I don’t think they should legally have the right to do so. We are rendering women as less than full civic partners in American social and political life. What’s next? Is birth control going to be made illegal? Will a woman’s testimony only be worth half that of a man’s in court? Maybe we’ll go back to the days when women couldn’t own a credit card or put a down payment on a house without a male relative’s consent (as late as the 1970s in the States). 

So, here is my solution. TX has fairly decent gun rights. I think women ought to avail themselves of those rights because this is an attack on women’s freedom, bodily sovereignty, and personal integrity. It’s disgusting. When someone tries to enslave you, the only appropriate response is armed resistance. Hoist the black flag and get on with it, ladies (and the men who love them). Or watch your freedoms get chipped away ever more. 

To those anti-choicers out there, you are welcome to hold whatever opinion on the matter you want and to apply that to your own person. The moment you step to me or anyone else with demands about what we can and cannot do with our own bodies, the moment you attempt to force fertility, weeeelll, see the paragraph above. 

EDIT: not actually advocating violence. But I am advocating that both men and women get off their asses in TX and forcibly fight this law. It’s a bad law –even if one is pro-life. It has long term, far reaching consequences that could easily be expanded and applied to many other aspects of private life, for everyone.

Hearing the Gods

Yes, it happens. Colloquially since about 2004, the community has termed this having “a God phone”. I tend to dislike this tongue-in-cheek term for what is often an intense spiritual experience. There’s been a lot of push back from some of the more polluted corners of tumblr specifically (but other areas of the internet too) against this (despite the fact that it is the heart and soul of religious experience, and something that is perfect natural for some people, and also something that has defined the development of traditions since antiquity. 

For the people in general pushing back, I think it’s largely sour grapes that they don’t actually have this capacity. It takes humility, ongoing devotional work, and I am coming to suspect, inborn wiring. Not everyone is going to have the mystical experiences. That’s fine. Sufi poet Rumi wrote that there are thousands of ways to kneel and kiss the ground and that is absolutely true. Some people will experience the Gods most strongly through art, or maybe through how they care for their families, or in some other way. There’s a deep, deep grace to doing devotional work without ever receiving a direct theophany, or doing devotional work when one doesn’t have a “God phone”, much more so than getting the easy feedback of always or quite often having sense of the Gods. Generally, if one has the capacity to hear or sense the Gods directly in some way, that person is probably a specialist of some sort (priest, diviner, spirit worker, shaman)—not always, but quite, quite often. 

Now, here’s the problem.  Way too many people have the capacity to see or hear Gods and spirit but in tandem with that completely lack spiritual direction and any sense of discernment whatsoever. Then there’s the question of those who might be mentally ill. How do you tell if something is a hallucination or an actual theophany? This goes back partly to discernment and partly to having good spiritual direction. This is also to some degree, where lore can be very helpful: is the God behaving in a way that accords with what others have experienced. I will point out that this can be tricky because Gods are not subject to our limitations and Gods may present Themselves however They choose; however, there do seem to be certain common threads so I would look to the tradition itself for confirmation or not. I would look to elders and teachers. I would pray on it. I would also make sure that if one is mentally ill, that one is taking one’s psych meds. Just because someone has a mental imbalance does not mean that one cannot also have a theophany and I feel very deeply for those who have to figure out the difference. One spirit worker I know, who does a good bit of pastoral counseling with those suffering from various mental considerations, offers this: does it make your life better or not? What is the result? That’s a bit too nebulous for me because both in dealing with the Holy Powers and dealing with our mental health, we need to be sure of precisely *what* we’re dealing with. Still, for some, it may be a starting point. For simpler interactions, one can also use divination to confirm whether or not a true engagement occurred. 

This is part of the reason why I start my students off for at least a year with basic exercises to train the mind in the ways of discernment: centering, grounding, shielding, cleansing, prayer (a lot of prayer), and shrine work. I try to instill that there should not be the expectation of direct theophany – if it occurs it’s a grace and blessing. We can develop the capacity through ongoing devotion to sense the Gods in various ways. If it doesn’t, it does not mean that you are less of a devotee. It means you have other ways by which the Gods will fill your life. To rule out theophany though, as I have seen many (usually Hellenic these days, which is just sad) do, is frankly fucking stupid. It rules out that which has guided the development of powerful traditions, that which is at the heart and soul of devotional work, that which we all seek in some way. It also says that the Gods cannot do this thing, which is putting our limitations above Their majesty and is, in effect, impiety. 

The question of mental illness must be considered, but to dismiss direct engagement with the Gods AS mental illness is the height of modern immorality, impiety, and foolishness. It defines the modern mindset and is the greatest poison infecting our traditions today. Rule number 1: avoid the impious. In other words, just ignore these people. They have little love for the Gods and even less for the traditions they purport to practice. In fact, they are consciously attempting to destroy them. 

Now, if one has a mental condition in which hallucinations are possible, one must take responsibility for oneself. Work with your therapist and a pastoral counselor, teacher, or elder, stay on your meds, learn the ways of discernment and don’t assume everything you see or hear is true engagement. But no one should dismiss the possibility.

There’s also a push back against God spouses. This has existed across polytheistic cultures also since antiquity. While this notion has been greatly abused on tumblr, particularly in the Lokean community, that does not mean that godpouses do not exist. They do. It is a calling, a vocation, one that involves carrying the energy of a God in a very direct way. It is not having a divine boyfriend. That some people are again foolish and impious in handling sacred things, does not negate those sacred things and experiences themselves. I will say that I don’t think godspousing is something that should be discussed online overmuch. It is a Mystery, something very sacred and the uninitiated frankly have no business prying into it. 

So, to recap, there is common devotional sense aka discernment, doctrinal guideposts within the traditions, and clear counsel from one’s elders. We also have divination. Should we normalize direct engagement with the Gods? Yes. I think we should otherwise why are we here? This is a religion after all, not a cultural center, not larping. Is that potentially uncomfortable and challenging, also yes. It’s our job as devotionally oriented people to deal with that. 

I would note that having a theophany doesn’t mean that one is “special” (Gods forbid. Let us all be good socialists without any excellence or individuality in anything. *sarcasm*). The Gods are capable of granting this grace to anyone. Some people are just more wired for it as a matter of course, a matter of nature, who knows why? Some people are more comfortable moving in the vulnerable spiritual and emotional state that this creates (or perhaps that is necessary for it to occur). Some have had better devotional training and guidance. There are numerous reasons why it happens to some and not others. What is important is that we realize the agency here rests with the Gods. I also think that more people are capable of recognizing or experiencing this than we might realize, but for a number of reasons (including the conditioning of modernity, fears of being “crazy”, insecurity, stress, illness, etc) don’t allow themselves to hit the right headspace. Basically, we don’t see what’s right in front of us. 

Do we need to challenge ourselves when these experiences occur? Yes, I think examination of oneself and one’s experiences is healthy and absolutely necessary to clean practice. Examination does not mean dismissal of the possibility however, and if one wants a religion where such direct engagement of the Gods does not occur, why not just become an atheist and call it a day, because THAT is what these naysayers are preaching. What we should be discussing instead, is how to do good, clean, ongoing spiritual discernment.

A Temple to Bacchus in Lebanon

A friend of mine is currently working in Beirut and had the opportunity to visit Baalbeck, which is home to a temple complex in stunning condition. The city was known as Heliopolis in ancient times (a quick look at wiki confirmed this) and the temple complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has a Temple to Bacchus and a Temple to Jupiter. My friend was kind enough to allow me to share his photographs with you, though he wishes to remain anonymous. These are just breathtaking (esp. the plaque with the image of Bacchus).

Bacchus plaque in Baalbeck’s Temple of Bacchus
Baalbeck Temple Complex Columns
Baalbeck Temple Complex
Panoramic view of Baalbeck temple complex

Rune Working Notes: Thurisaz

Friday August 20, 2021

Tonight I was teaching my assistant how to work with thurisaz. She is slowly working through the runes again, this time really drilling down into each one. We did things a little differently than we usually do, and I think this is the way we shall go into these rune sessions from here on out. 

We began with our household evening prayers. I lit a candle and sang a fire blessing song that calls on Thor to hallow the space. Then I verbally prayed to Thor, Heimdallr, and all our ancestors to protect us as we prayed. Prior to going into prayer space, we’d been discussing a client who is suffering deeply physically, mentally, and emotionally (yes, I have recommended therapy. She’s being treated on a three-fold front: medical, therapeutic, and spiritual). Her ancestral presence, i.e. the presence of her ancestors was strong and through their guidance, I realized there was an element of spiritual attack happening with her too. Often illness and depression will attract bottom feeding spirits that like to revel in the negative crap. Add to that the fact that this person has a deep and rich prayer and spiritual practice and that can sometimes attract more focused evil spirits too – anything to distract us from the holy and fill our souls with despair. I had been praying about her a lot because she is suffering so, and is floundering, and this was a piece I had not considered but which fit precisely with how these things work. I should have seen it sooner. Anyway…this becomes relevant when we get to the rune calling because I needed a reason to call a rune. I didn’t want to just waste its time.

Before that, we did our regular household prayers and it was lovely. Afterwards, instead of closing with Sigdrifa’s Prayer as is our wont, we left the space open and decided to transition into discussing the rune. Thurisaz is one of my favorite runic allies but his energy can be very, very kinetic and if, like my student, one hasn’t engaged with him before, it can be overwhelming. I figured staying in sacred space would help her feel at ease and also help ground out some of the awesome kinetic force of this rune. 

I decided to give a demonstration of actually galdring thurisaz. I really like him and I knew my student was nervous. Thurisaz does have a reputation for being brutal and difficult. He’s actually quite cheerful, very focused, and completely, gleefully bloodthirsty. I grounded and centered myself (with galdr in general and thurisaz in particular, one must be much, much more grounded and centered than for one’s day to day activities. It’s just a lot more force and power pouring through one’s channels), then, since I hadn’t offered to the runes in awhile, I took a lancet and drew blood and made my offering (and received, totally unexpectedly, some really amazing new tech in return (1)). All the while I was prepping and doing this, I was explaining to the rune what I wanted. (In this case, I wanted it to drive away some of the bottom feeding spirits from my client, so she would no longer be harassed on that level). He came strongly, so incredibly present, and before I began to galdr, had eagerly agreed and gone (he and I have worked together a long time and this particular spirit is one of my best allies). I think the speed with which he came and went shocked my student. 

Because I still needed to demo galdr for her, I asked him to let some of his army of spirits linger and began to galdr. He game as an eagle with razor sharp beak, bloody talons, soaring over a high walled city looking for enemy prey. He came as a siege engine, a flight of arrows, a sleek, searingly sharp spear, weapons beyond number, a laser scalpel, a raucous laugh. At one point, I saw the ancestors gathered around – mine and my client’s – and thurisaz flew into their hands, and they each raised him up a hatchet in their hands and soared forth to conquer their foes. 

He was cold and focused, kinetic and gleeful. The sharp focus surprised my student. She’d thought thurisaz was all about out-of-control energy (partly because of the kinetic presence he brings). He’s not. He’s very, very focused. He can help the mind to focus too. He’s about focus and focused will. He spoke, in response to the healing my client requires, about the importance of good fathers. He said that when a father is absent nor hurtful – for whatever reason—it is like the wall of a city under siege has fallen and damage will happen to the child’s hamingja, to their maegen, to other parts of their soul. The mother protects too and between the two of them it is an interlocking set of protective wards around the children, the home, and all that creates. It is crucial (and around the parents are the grandparents, the extended family) and it is from these units a community is made. When one-part falls, someone must step in or that wall will be breached even more. He can heal some of this damage, but when a father is absent there is always damage on a soul deep level. I never expected a lesson on the importance of family from this rune. 

My student wrote down what thurisaz said about it and allowed me to share it here, “A good father is a ward and a shield for the entire family and the mother is within that shield, they are concentric circles.  When the father for whatever reason is absent, it is as if the walls of the city have fallen down.” 

Because my student is more focused on healing work than protective work, thurisaz spoke to her of his ability to heal blockages, to root out disease, of how he can work with uruz to restore proper flow of life energy (litr). 

It was a long session. At the end, I thanked all the Gods and spirits who had been called, thanked thurisaz, and prayed Sigdrifa’s Prayer. Then I realized that the rune had been in me strongly enough that had it been a Deity, I’d have called it Deity possession. This confirms something that I have long considered, namely that with a good galdr-master, there is a union of rune spirit and rune worker that is very similar to Deity possession. I was ravenous and thankfully had organic hamburgers at hand. I cooked up a passel of them and scarfed down two almost immediately. 

The rune terrified my poor cat when he arrived (though he was quite cheerful and wouldn’t have hurt her). His presence was just so strong. Poor Elena ran upstairs and hid under a bag that holds part of my husband’s portable Dionysos shrine. She fled to Dionysos! Don’t worry, she got lots of yummy treats afterwards and is now snoozing happily in her cat tree with a full little belly. 

Notes: 

  1. As a rune worker, I long ago realized that runes require feeding. A relationship is established by giving a drop or two of one’s own blood to begin. This is an identifier, a link to one’s entire ancestral line. It is life and power. I use alcohol wipes, diabetic lancets and maintain proper sterile standards.