One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is the interaction of our Gods with the land. Regional cultus is a thing, and the way that a particular Deity manifests Him or Herself in a small village in Norway maybe completely different from how that same Deity manifests in an Appalachian hollow and different again from the open, eerie spaces of the old American West. I never really thought about this with Odin until today when my husband put on the Gambler, by Kenny Rogers (may he rest in peace). I listened to the song and commented that there was something very Odinic about it, which prompted a whole discussion about Odin’s affinity for the old West. I think it’s a unique path of the Old Man, one that is clever, lucky, and brutal.
This of course got us musing on Country and Western and Bluegrass music. The heroes of each, the harmonics, the tonal cadences are completely different. You’d never find a character like the Gambler being lauded in a Bluegrass piece, for instance. That music is connected to land and kin in a way that the Western part of country and Western simply is not. I think the luck working, the wanderlust, and all that the West represented to the people that settled it, many from German and English heritage, with His presence embedded in their songs and folktales, a shadow, a haint, a haunt, a glory, opened the door for this God to come through in an unique way. It’s one with which I’m just starting to connect.
To help, Sannion made me a play list of music and I share that with y’all now. Click here to listen.
(image by W. McMillan)
I work with a group of lovely Orthodox Christians and Catholics (and the occasional Protestant) all of whom are going to be miserable through Easter LOL. Seriously though, I have a ton of work-friends who are fasting, praying, and making other preparations throughout Lent, which began this past Wednesday for Latin Christians and will begin on March 2 for Eastern Orthodox. (See here for an article on why this dating difference exists). Fasting and other practices are a way for Christians to prepare for the central mystery of their faith, the death and resurrection of their God. It’s an important time for them and I’ve been hearing quite a bit of conversation about preparations over the past couple of weeks (for those interested, a friend just shared this article from the Orthodox perspective, and this one from the Catholic). All of that has me thinking about how little ascetic work I do anymore.
When I was first taken up by Odin, I connected most strongly to Him through ascetic practices (not ordeal work, that came at least a decade later), particularly fasting and prayer. I found that fasting opened me up and cleaned me out spiritually in a way that nothing else had up to that point been effective in doing. Because food is such a social thing in our culture, it also kept my devotion to my Gods foremost in my mind throughout the day providing me with opportunities, each time I felt discomfort from fasting and each time I had to think about what to eat or not eat or to pass on some social dining engagement to reaffirm my devotion to Odin and to my other Gods. I miss that. Over the past decade, I’ve really fallen out of the habit of any significant type of ascetic work.
Before I go farther, I should note that while I would often fast on nothing but water for Odin, that is not what Christians do for their God, at least not your average Christian over Lent. Also, that type of zero-food fast is not recommended for many people for health reasons – talk to your health care provider before jumping in to something that extreme. There are many different ways to fast and Lenten fasts usually involve eschewing milk, meat, and eggs, and (I think) wine in Orthodox communities (any of my Orthodox readers seeing this, please feel free to correct me if I have this wrong) and usually something of the person’s choice in Catholicism, though I think traditional Catholics will give up meat through Lent (again, Catholic readers, correct me if I’m wrong. I study ancient Christianity academically, but seriously, I stop at the tenth century lol). Either way, the important thing is that throughout all religious traditions that I can think of at the moment, there are multiple ways to fast. One doesn’t need to go without food. For health reasons now, I rarely do a zero-food fast. I’ve written more about ways of fasting here and of course during the time one fasts, that practice is paired with an increase in prayer.
Christians engage in Lenten practices, as a Protestant friend told me yesterday, to prepare to receive their God on Easter Sunday. That is what made me think deeply about how I prepare myself for our Gods. What am I doing or not doing in my life to make devotion to Odin easier, to make my religious life flow more smoothly? What am I doing to transmute my soul, to elevate myself in a way that opens the door to clear, clean experience of the holy? Unfortunately, of late, my answer has been: not much.
That’s why I’ve decided to both give up a few things this Lent (through the Orthodox Easter—I might as well suffer in solidarity with my friends lol) and use it as an opportunity to deepen my prayer practice. I’ve really been recalcitrant about praying enough lately and it makes my soul feel dirty when I can’t do the least effort to remain right with my Gods.
So, I’ll be tagging along with 40 days of mindful fasting. I’m hoping it will jump start my own engagement again and at an even deeper level than I remember.
Hail to the God of the gallows,
Terrible and unrelenting.
Hail to the Wyrd-riven Wonder-worker,
Who leaves ecstasy in His wake.
Hail to the Bale-eyed Beguiler,
with His whispered charms
and savage conjurings.
Hail to the Lord of Asgard,
Architect of the Worlds
Who breathed us into Being,
Eternally let us praise Him.
and Who’s rhythms bind my life together. Odin. Blessings on these gifted singers and on those who listen.
now, go make offerings.
I eat the holy
spewing forth prophecy and portents
too many sadnesses
my gut clenches
they double me over
gods come out of my mouth
the diamond hard fire of numen
i devour the holy
and that fire takes me over in turn
I am never far from the Tree
the crows eat my eyes
worms of revelation turn in my brain.
Razor edged leaves flens and flex
Shearing bits and pieces of me
Until the blood brown body
The spine of the worlds
I met a wayfaring strnger once
In the tangled thorny woods
In which my heart took refuge.
He was a brutal man
He took me down
With the resonance of His voice alone.
He was not a man.
He was not a man.
I saw Him die and walk again.
I saw Him tear the words apart
Yet we live.
I saw and the crows spat gold
Where before my eyes had been.
It burns and this man not man laughs
And tells me to bend myself forward
And drink of the holy
Then my prayers will burn too
Like napalm from my tongue
And I will be the worm
Gnawing on the brain of the world
I will be the crow opening the door
Through which the dead will come.
I will bring revelation.
I met a wayfaring stranger once.
He was not a man.
He wore the skin of being.
He keened with a voice
Like a razor wrapped in velvet.
His hands were long, his nails were cold
He ate my heart
And breathed his icy fire
into the space where it had been.
I breathed his madness
He brought me to life.
(by G. Krasskova)
Tomorrow is St. Nicholas Day. In parts of Germany and Switzerland, children would receive small gifts, and certain sweet foods would be shared. There are smells and tastes that I associate with this day alone – something I was reminded of this morning at work when a coworker walked in with gifts of coquito for her advisor. That too is something typically made only for Christmas and she said the smell of the cinnamon when making the drink conjures the holiday spirit like nothing else. I get that. St. Nicholas day is like that for me.
My mom always called it Oski’s Day and keeping the same custom would honor Odin as the Gift-Giver (Oski) on this day. She’d make leckerli (sort of a Swiss gingerbread), we’d have dates, candied walnuts, and mandarin oranges and we’d burn beeswax candles in offering to the God. That combination of scents brings me back powerfully to all the winter holidays we shared, because while Dec. 20 is traditionally the start of Yule, for us it started on the 6thwith this small exchange of gifts.
For those wanting a taste of this holiday, here is a traditional recipe for Basler Leckerli.
Odin is a God of so many things, awesome in the oldest sense of the word, terrible but He is also the winter king Who fills our homes with abundance, Who comes sharing wealth, warmth, and joy. He bestows sweetness. In the midst of the dark and the cold, He is fire burning.
(image by Righon)
Edward Butler comes to the rescue (I’d have missed this deal otherwise).
Today many of the books I’ve published through Lulu can be purchased for 30% off sale, this includes a large number of my devotionals.
Deal only good for today (December 2, 2019).
Sometime it’s hard to believe just how much time has passed when these bookversaries come around. It has been six years since, He is Frenzy was first published. As a devotee of Odin, I have published several books around Him through the years: my first devotional (and the first devotional in all of Heathenry/the Northern Tradition) Whisperings of Woden, followed by Walking Toward Yggdrasil, He is Frenzy and then most recently a little chap book of prayers Nine for Odin.
He is Frenzy collects all of the essays and poetry that Northern Tradition author Galina Krasskova has written to honor the God Odin since 1995. Providing a survey of His ancient and modern cultus, it is also a deeply personal exploration of devotion, ordeal work and what it takes to walk the Odinic path.
So for my loyal readers who have read these various books around Odin, what was your favorite, and why?
I recently came across something I’d written awhile back, after a discussion about Odin. At the time, I was surprised at the response. It’s always interesting to see your relationship and your primary Deity through someone else’s eyes! A friend of mine, who has known me for over a decade, made what i think is a particularly powerful comment, one that moved me deeply, and I think it might also allow me to segue into some important things about my work with Odin that I’d like to discuss. For that reason, I want to quote the whole comment here. My friend F.B. said during the course of the discussion:
“I have felt, over more than a decade as your friend and colleague (albeit on a very different religious path) that your way (Odin’s way, to which you are obligated) was just so hard and painful. Most often, my thought has been, “Better you than me!” (Which, of course, makes it obvious why Odin chose you and not me.) I have felt sorry for you. You claim joy but I must take it on faith (and on my respect for you as an honest person) because, from the outside looking in (and from a drastically different faith tradition) your way seems all pain and no joy. But I know you don’t feel that way about it, so I simply accept that this is one of those things I’ll never understand. Thanks for trying to translate!”
I was really given pause by this comment. Certainly my life has been hard, brutally so at some points, but not because of Odin or my service to my Gods. They bring (sometimes vexation yes, but more often) joy. They have poured blessings into my hands. Sometimes life is just *hard* for reasons that have nothing to do with the Gods. So, I was really pondering upon reading this comment how it could possibly seem so grim. Has the work Odin has set me to do caused me pain? Yes, sometimes but that is an expected consequence of this work, both the internal work that I must do to keep my devotional relationships fit, the external ordeal that is sometimes asked, and the public work, which can be very irritating at times. The pain or difficulties are largely irrelevant. They don’t matter. They’re the terrain one must cross to get anything done.
I suppose I look at it much as I looked at the physical pain I endured when I was a ballet dancer (and a ballet career involves a brutal level of physical pain as an ongoing norm): it’s irrelevant. I loved to dance. it was my goal in life to do so professionally (which I did for a brief time), and to do it well. I knew going in that in order to reach that goal, I’d have to endure a certain level of discomfort and pain as a daily thing. It was the ground I would have to walk across for what I wanted to achieve and that end goal was one of beauty and joy. I kept that goal always in mind through the daily grind. The discipline of honing and shaping and sometimes wrenching myself into the proper shape and form necessary to achieve that goal was often grim, but it was not the point and in view of reaching that ultimate goal it faded largely away. It simply was a necessary byproduct. I think on some level I approach the challenges inherent in my relationship with Odin (and the other Gods I venerate) in much the same way.
Odin is a God that will challenge (as I think all Gods do in some way). He favors hard work and discipline and doing those things involves courage. C.S. Lewis wrote once that courage was the most necessary virtue–it was necessary to do all the others (my paraphrase)! He could have had Odin in mind when he wrote that. Because discipline and duty are not bad things for me — in fact, i find them very positive things and find that I tend to thrive under such strictures–I often write about them. I suppose were my personality different I could focus on other aspects of my devotional relationships but I don’t like to discuss the very personal things (they’re *personal* and I have very old-school notions of privacy), and I don’t like to discuss the blessings I’ve been given (that seems too much like bragging). What I like to talk about is the work. It defines me, not only in my relationship to Him but as a person and a human being. It is what makes me a full adult to my mind. This is a corollary to the utilitarian outlook Odin tends to hone in some of His people: we tend to define ourselves by our work. If i am not useful, I have no reason to *be.* Of course i’ve learned over the years that even the word ‘duty’ can be triggering to some.
When I was still dean of an Interfaith Seminary, all of the instructors were required to assist with an end of the year retreat for the students. Lasting for three days, it was an intensive weekend of workshops, seminars, and ritual work designed to help the students prepare for their eventual ordination. It was quite enjoyable for the most part. During one of the workshops – this one student-led—the participants/audience were asked to call out words that defined their spirituality, and what was important therein. I said “duty.” When I uttered that word you could feel the pall descend over the sweet little new agers. They were so intensely disturbed by the word that no one wanted to write it down (it carries all those nasty connotations don’t you know, like responsibility, maturity, focus, and discipline). Finally the student leading the workshop said ‘Joyful duty.’ It was my turn to be perplexed: what does emotion have to do with it? That is completely and utterly irrelevant. It does not matter if one’s duty is joyful or not, what matters is doing it. If we only did those things that brought us joy, what an insipid world this would be. It really highlighted for me the gulf between me and so many people that I meet. This is also why I dislike definitions of a Deity as “love” or of piety as ‘love.’ What happens when you’re not feeling the joy, does your practice go out the window? One would hope not. Duty is the torch that can guide one through those periods of darkness. To prioritize our emotions in the course of doing what is right is to make the process all about us and not what is right. I find little merit in doing this.
That being said, I experience great joy and satisfaction in serving Odin. I would serve Him even were that not the case. Like pain, the joy is a byproduct, this time one of His presence. The public side of my work involves many challenges, but that is to be expected when we are restoring a broken tradition. First we must restore ourselves so that we can take up those threads and neither of those things is a painless process. Sometimes I write about that aspect of the work because others need to see that one can get through such a process; sometimes because like many others, I am still finding my way in this thing called devotion. Challenge, hard work, discipline, duty, and the expected level of courage that Odin demands are good things to me. They help immeasurably with that process and in fact, I believe are crucial. Odin is a war-god, something that I try never to forget and it is through the gifts of a warrior’s mindset that one can thrive in His service. There are other ways too, but this is the way to which He has called me.
So what is the joy? I’ll lay it out in brief, broad strokes, just this once. There is having a purpose, being of use, furthering His agenda. Those things in themselves are tremendously satisfying and joyful. I don’t think I can explain how much so to someone for whom that is not a motivating factor! Then over and above everything else, there is Him, His presence, His wod (auto correct kept correcting this to ‘wood.’ No, auto-correct, not ‘wood’…that would go into that privacy place I was talking about earlier! lol). His presence is one of overwhelming terror-joy, true awe in the ancient sense, and at times pure ecstatic bliss. It drives, it hones, it motivates. Then there is the knowledge that He brings. He certainly knew what carrot to use to lure me in: teach me things, show me things, grant me knowledge. There is what He allows me to know and what He allows me to see but over and above it all, there is Him and that would in itself be blessing enough. We’re well matched, and regardless of how hard aspects of my service to Him may be, in the power of His presence, those difficulties are forgotten.
An 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.
Day 1: for Odin, Who Ever Seeks Wisdom.
To You, gaunt wanderer,
Who sought the counsel of the luminous God,
alone, in a stark landscape
of ice and dying trees,
secrets of unseen things,
this prayer is given.
He does His war dance,
scimitars flashing, rivaling fire as He moves,
alabaster white and shining,
eyes showing the sowing of worlds,
keen-footed steps their destruction.
The Warlord learned,
and bowed His head down
to the glory and the beauty.
May we too be open to such wonder,
now and always.
Hail to You, Gangleri.
Day 2: to He Who is Glad of War
War is Your delight, Oh Tester of Men.
It is Your sacrament, a sacred sieve,
where fire and ice meet anew.
Our ancestors knew Your voice,
howling, terrible, a thousand winds,
raging and fighting in Your song,
runes spat forth, ferocious,
wiping generations clean.
Raw and raging like a bear,
with the viscera of prey
between its jaws, You come.
Visage rust-red, bright and bloody,
adorned with scars of victory,
Ash spear hungry, gleaming razor bright
in the oozing mire of war, Oh You come.
Shield-shaker, Attacking rider,
thighs grip fast the gallows horse
as You ride, and there is no prey
You cannot find. No place
for Your enemies to run.
Bring the world to heel,
with the maelstrom of Your battle cry,
and may Your Valkyries feast.
May we too feast fast in the knowledge,
that there is nothing greater than You,
and nothing we need ever fear,
with You at our backs.
Hail, Haptabeiðir, Roaring God,
Hail the Father of Hosts.
Day 3 – for Odin, He Who is Frenzy
The raven has hooked his claws in my heart
tethering me to the interstitial frenzy
pouring out from gallows to God.
Let us praise the furious One,
Who rendered Himself upon the Tree
victorious over Himself first of all.
Let us praise Gangleri,
Who wanders through
all the darkest corners
of our world,
spitting mouthfuls of glacial fire
into the heads and hearts
of fervent women.
Let us praise the One Whose spear
keen and sharp, ever finds its mark,
Gerölnir, blistering across the field of battle
ever ecstatic in His fury.
Let us praise the Burden of Yggdrasil,
Corpse-God and eunuch, ever renewed
through the agony of sacrifice.
He mounted the Tree and with a war cry
like shrieking thunder swallowed the
glory of the Gap – gasping, gripping,
spewing runes, this sovereign Power.
Let us praise the Roaring Thruster,
charmed and charming,
Who scatters His seed inciting longing,
carnal and cunning, clever and cruel,
exquisitely adroit across all the worlds, Glory burning.
Let us praise this God in Whom
all opposites reside, compelling adoration,
devouring opposition, like grist in His teeth,
ground up and grinding, bale-eyed Beguiler,
Who gnawed on fire, this Architect of Being.
throbbing, pounding, aching, wanting,
implacable Force, unsparing Fever,
unappeasable haunting Hunger,
to Whom Being itself surrendered
torn apart and structured anew.
Oh Glad of War, Galdr-Father,
Glad of Battle, God of Gain,
Blinder of Foes, sharp Wand-Wielder,
Gaunt God Splendor, World-willing Wonder,
Incanting Hjarrandi, Herjan, Goðjaðarr,
Lord of Hosts and Valhalla’s hall,
Blazing Ravager, Renewing Ruler,
howling winds herald Your terror.
Odin we call You, vehement and lethal,
vigorous valor, we hail You always.
We ask that You fill us with Your thirst for knowing,
so that our lives will ever be full of color.
Hail to You, oh Frenzied Hunger.
Hail to You, Odin.
Day 4 – For Odin, He Who Comes
You come like thunder roaring,
shattering, crashing, and pounding into the heart.
Howling God, breathing fury, Your frenzied shrieking
giving life to the runes, sacred synaptic power,
the Tree runs red with Your blood.
It was freely given. Your blessings strike,
like the hammer of Your Son,
like lightening’s fire, inescapable,
ecstatic terror, dancing, burning,
igniting worlds in the heads of those You favor.
A sharp-eyed eagle soaring over Hlidskjalf,
there is no secret You cannot know,
no world You will not plunder.
You and Your mighty Son,
hold up the scaffolding of the Worlds,
girding the elegance of its geometry
against entropy and destruction:
He with His might, You with Your hunger,
Your seeking, Your desire, as once You taunted Him
sardonically flyting in ferryman’s guise.
There is no world capable of containing Your frenzy,
Oh God grey of beard and ravenous of heart.
May Your favor fall upon us always,
until we are as hungry for the holy
as You are for power.
Day 5 – For Odin, He Who Seduces
You come, lean and pale, fingers just stroking the edges of our consciousness.
Sometimes, we don’t even realize it’s You when we shiver,
only that the hunt has begun.
You, Lord of the spear, are master of the battlefield.
You terrify, terrorize, obliterate Your foes with grit and glee.
Your battle-bright howl of victory brings even those who love You
to their knees. That works for You. You have use for them there.
Wand-Bearer the poets call You; they do not know. It has nothing to do with magic.
You need no charms for Your seductions, it’s a different type of wand You bear,
and it is mighty.
Your scent, that hunter’s gaze, and most of all the hunger echoing from the core of You,
seeping out in every move, every whispering breath, boiling beneath that glacial sear
of Your presence…Oh, it makes You the most wished for of Gods,
even when we know better.
Hnikarr, they call You, Thruster, and Njótr, He Who uses and enjoys.
Your conquests enjoy it too, even when it leaves them rendered.
You are the most welcome God of all, loved by men and women alike,
and like the best of prey when we flee, it is with the hope that You will follow,
that You will hunt us down, like a hawk snatching up
the small creatures that flee its talons. It is our purpose to be lost in You,
In You, however we are not small. In You we taste of glory.
In You, exploding through our burning synapses,
we taste the tang of creation,
beneath the iron-sweet bite of Your spear,
we become fire in Your mouth,
spat out, renewed and renewing.
Hail to You, Uðr, Olgr, Göndlir, Þuðr.
May we always be up to the chase.
Day 6 – for Odin, Lord of Hosts
You tore out Your Own eye,
greedy fingers fast as the bite of a serpent,
shoved your own fist into Your brain,
plucked that ocular wonder free and tossed it down.
There is nothing You will not do.
When the worlds were made,
old Ymir’s corpse repurposed,
You and Your Brothers didn’t sit back
awash in self-congratulation,
cooing to each other
about how good it was. No.
The three of You stood around and sighed.
‘It’s all so meta,’ Loður drawled.
“Yeah, meta boring” You responded,
Hoenir rolling His eyes.
Then the three of You took up some driftwood
gnarled, ugly, a little bent, but it had some promise—
pretty much like we’ve remained—
and created humans.
That spiced shit up, didn’t it?
People think creation ended
when the worlds were made.
They have no idea.
Infrastructure doesn’t sustain itself.
What do they think that incident,
the one with Rind was all about?
You were battling fire and ice again,
like an artist with rather violent media.
The worlds need ever renewing,
by Gods and humans alike after all.
No time to rest. Renewal purifies
drives back Your enemies for a time,
and Yggdrasil grows.
That end justifies any means.
Oh, frenzied God,
You are ever laser-focused,
a formidable Power.
Let no one think Your wanderings
are without purpose.
You are the Architect of Creation
and if it takes a little more blood,
gore, and guts to make that creation last,
that’s just fine with You.
It will continue as it was begun,
and You will too.
You fill the head of Your devotees
with ice and fire, flickering in a desolate wasteland,
with glimpses of creation, and that which is to come.
May we ever be smart enough,
devout enough, and sensible enough,
to aid Your work or get out of Your way.
May we never oppose You,
but nourish Your fury
with venerative fire of our own.
Hail to You, Odin,
Hail to You, Atriði, Eternal Enemy of the Wolf.
You are the whirlwind that does its own reaping,
the whispering terror on every field of battle,
walking will and brutal splendor.
We are Your grateful retainers.
Hail to You, Odin.
Day 7 – for Odin, a Song of Nine
We praise You, All Father, Architect of the Worlds, Who breathed us into being.
We praise You, Runatyr, World-maker, Whose keen far-seeing intellect wove the fabric of reality.
We praise You, Bolverk, for by cunning negotiation You brought us poetry and ecstasy.
We praise You, Oski, ever generous Giver of gifts, for You pour Your favors out upon Your people.
We praise You, Sigfather, for teaching us to ever strive for victory, for inspiring us with Your might.
We praise You, Woden, for sharing healing charms and the wisdom of driving out corruption.
We praise You, Galdrfather, for giving us the gift of enchantment, the continual re-sacralization of our world.
We praise You, Yggr, for Your sacrifice upon the Tree. by which You instructed us in wisdom.
We praise You, Odin, that You have elevated us by means of your nobility, driven us forward by means of Your attentions.
Oh Burning Brand.
Oh Self-Chosen Sacrifice.
Oh Sweet Wine of Ecstasy.
Oh Bottomless Well of Wisdom.
Oh unscalable, soaring Height.
Oh Fierceness without Measure.
Oh Might without Opposition.
Oh Treasure-House of every Honor.
Oh Hunger without Restraint.
Ever and always do Your people praise You.
May we always praise You too.
(prayers by G. Krasskova; image a shrine statue carved for me by S. Ravenswing)