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Lectio Divina – April 10: Voluspa stanzas 6-7

Whenever I pick up our House prayer book, my personal devotional florilegia, or a copy of the Eddas to read for devotional purposes, several things run through my mind at once, almost as soon as my hand touches the book. Foremost is that I often feel like I’m slacking when it comes to cultivating my own devotional world. Devotion can be the easiest and most natural thing in one’s life and at the same time it can be hard, hard work. Sometimes it’s frustrating and confusing – not because of the devotion part of it, but because of my own faltering, fumbling awkwardness with the process. So many questions come up:

  • How do we properly pray? How do I pray? Am I just phoning it in? How do I make sure that I remain engaged?
  • What the hell is contemplation and how am I supposed to do it?  
  • How do we read? What and how do we read and how does this bring us to our Gods? 
  • What is devotion and how can I go more deeply into it? 

I used to take all these things for granted but as I teach students and apprentices within our tradition, as I reevaluate my own spiritual work, as I engage with clients who come to me with all sorts of questions about their devotional lives, I realize that nothing here should ever be taken for granted. I also realize I had really, really good devotional models within my family. It’s only been the past couple of years that I’ve truly come to understand how precious a gift (and maybe even a grace) that has been. Of course, the downside to all that is that I tend to be very action oriented: “what do You need me to do, oh my Gods” which often leaves me feeling in retrospect as though I got the work part down but somehow am giving perilously short shrift to the devotional/contemplative (they’re not always the same, mind you) part of things. The more frenetic my life becomes, especially with school, the more I find myself examining these lacuna and wanting to ground myself more securely in solid veneration of the Holy Powers. 

It’s odd too because I don’t think a text is necessary. Ours prior to Christianity, was an oral tradition. One learned by experience, by growing up in pious households, seeing the community engaging in rituals and seasonal festivals, and being surrounded by examples of this living tradition. Our ancestors had stories yes, but they didn’t depend on the written word, nor did we ever have anything like “scripture.” Still, we today live in a world that privileges the written word perhaps excessively. I once had a fellow theology student ask me about our “scriptures” and when I said we don’t have anything like your bible, he was floored. He kept asking, “but how do you teach your children your religion?” um…we live it. But I get what he was saying. We depend far more in proper inter-generational transmission of the tradition, directly and via devotional, ritual, and venerative experience. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Still, I like my books and there is value in being able to extract insight from a text. I think so long as we remember that our Eddas and other parts of the lore are not “scripture” as monotheistic traditions would comprehend, but maps to the holy (and maps with gaping holes, tatters, and graffiti sometimes too!), we’ll be ok. So, enough of my blather. Let’s get into the stanzas that I chose for today. 

The Voluspa contains part of our creation narrative and I think that creation narratives are particularly important for any religious tradition. They contain all the themes and patterns that we will see repeated again and again throughout our cosmology and in this way provide key insights into how our tradition views the world. Here are the passages, first in English and then Old Norse. 

6. Then sought the gods | their assembly-seats,
The holy ones, | and council held;
Names then gave they | to noon and twilight,
Morning they named, | and the waning moon,
Night and evening, | the years to number.

7. At Ithavoll met | the mighty gods,
Shrines and temples | they timbered high;
Forges they set, and | they smithed ore,
Tongs they wrought, | and tools they fashioned.


6. Þá gengu regin öll á rökstóla,
ginnheilug goð, ok um þat gættusk;
nátt ok niðjum nöfn um gáfu,
morgin hétu ok miðjan dag,
undorn ok aptan, árum at telja.

7. Hittusk æsir á Iðavelli,
þeir er hörg ok hof hátimbruðu,
afla lögðu, auð smíðuðu,
tangir skópu ok tól görðu.


Immediately in the Old Norse the words Regin and Ginnheilug goð jump out at me. I usually translate Regin as “holy Powers,” but it may also be rendered as “the Rulers,” “the Gods” and may even refer to Their decrees. This word turns up in the lore at various points always referring in some way to the Gods, thus we have regin-braut – the way of the Gods, regin-dórmr – the judgement of the Gods, regin-kuðr/kunnr – descended from the Gods, and regin-þing – holy thing-place to name but a few of its iterations. Because it is so associated with judgement and holy decretals, it reads as a much more formal term for the collective Gods and when I see it, I perk up and pay special attention. It brings me back to the story of the creation of the worlds, and the ways in which the Gods set everything in its proper place, balance, and order. 

Goð, obviously also a word for Gods, is nearly always collective and inclusive of both Gods and Goddesses. It turns up in compound words having to do with things and people belonging to the Gods and its cognate góð carries the moral force of ‘good,’ or ‘worthy’ such as góðr maðr (good man). One can be goð-borinn, descended from the Gods, goð-málugr, knowledgeable in the lore of the Gods, or goð-árr, messenger of the Gods, for instance (1). 

The most significant term there, however, is Ginnheilug: most sacred. Combinations with the prefix ginn—almost always imply great holiness or sanctity. Sometimes Regin will occur as Gin-regin, which I would translate as „the most holy Gods.“ It is not one-hundred-percent clear if this is related to Ginnungagap, the great and yawning void from which all creation came into being with the collision of the Niflheim and Muspelheim, but theologically I would (and do) certainly draw this parallel (2). It is the most holy chasm from which this process of creation began; and They are the most-holy Gods Who oversaw this process. All of this runs through my mind and is the background against which I read this text (or at least against which I was reading the text when I wrote this!). 

Were I teaching this text, the first question I would ask my students (and this is likewise what I myself zero in on for contemplation) is „what did the Gods do first?“ What was the first collective priority after the three Brothers created the scaffolding and architecture of the worlds? First having come together in counsel, They ordered day and night, the course of the planets, and by extension the seasons. This is all temporal. Materiality has already happened when the two primal worlds ground together, but here we have temporal and one may assume spatial ordering. They gave materiality structure, partitioned it out into a healthy and harmonious rhythm. They created seasons and put planets in rotation. Day and night are the most important divisions for us as human beings, particularly when our lives were – like so many of our ancestors—predominantly agricultural. This division of time was meant as a guide and to nourish us: when do we work? When do we rest? When do we plant? When do we harvest? How does the world work? Moreover, such binary division (day/night, light/dark) reflects the productive exchange of opposites embedded in Niflheim and Muspelheim – ice and fire. 

I also think this emphasizes how cosmologically important the House of Mundilfari is. Farmers would have looked to the sun and the moon, and the Gods thereof to ensure their wellbeing. It‘s easy for those of us living more urban lifestyles to forget how crucial Mani and Sunna‘s blessings would have been for our ancestors. They literally insured continued sustenance and life.  Plus, one could gaze up into the sky and see a symbol of Their presence.  

So after celestial cycles were established, the next thing the Gods did was build temples – for Themselves or for each Other the text does not say. We know though that Freya has the epithet of blotgyðja for the Gods, and there is precedent in other IE traditions for Gods recognizing and participating in each Other’s divine process. Even in what remains of our sacred stories, what has been filtered down to us through Christian voices and hands, we have a sharing of attributes: Thor borrows Brisingamen, Loki borrows Freya’s falcon cloak, and so forth. When this is done licitly it adds power to the Gods in question (3). So the Gods acknowledged the divinity of each other and by extension we can assume, Their individual spheres of influence and power. 

After this, the third thing They do is to create art. Craft is sacred, it’s a conduit for the holy. Here, smithcraft is particularly mentioned and in many IE cultures including the Norse, smiths were considered magical figures, magicians, shamans, and such. This is because they wielded the elemental powers of creation, especially fire, and drew from the earth that which was later transformed into objects of beauty. Beauty and art empower the worlds and in good Platonic fashion lift us up to the Gods, in awareness, in understanding, and in devotional longing. 

This is a process that didn’t just happen once. In setting up the temporal division of night and day, we are opened up to the possibility of change. You can’t have change unless you have time. So each new day is a reification anew of that initial creation. Each day we can remake and restore ourselves within that holy architecture. At this point in my reading, I would most likely take stock of what I have done throughout the day (or if I’m reading in the morning, what I wish to do), always keeping the Gods in mind – how am I affecting that ongoing reification in my world?—and then I”d make offerings and prayers. 

I’m going to stop at this point. I still have a few things to do for the semester’s end, but if there’s a particular passage from the Eddas that you’d like me to discuss, shoot me a comment and let me know. 
 


Notes:

1.	See “A Glossary to the Poetic Edda” translated from Hans Kuhn’s Kurzes Wörterbuch by Students at the University of Victoria, 1987.
2.	You’ll notice that unlike the previous Lectio Divina article that I posted, this time I did not employ any significant level of philological engagement. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t and it depends what first strikes me in a reading. It’s different every time I meet a text anew.
3.	When it is done illicitly it’s more complicated. I’m thinking specifically of Freyr sneaking into Odin’s high seat and spying Gerda…it ended well but it was…complicated. 

Guest Post: Makosh vs Moist Mother Earth

Traditional Ukrainian embroidery, T. Vitta’s personal collection. Photo by G. Krasskova. Do not use without permission.

While our House does not practice Rodnovery (1), given that two of us have strong Slavic backgrounds (the author of today’s piece actually having been born and raised in the Ukraine), it was perhaps inevitable that the occasional Slavic Deity would creep into individual devotional practices (2). For instance, our guest writer today, T. Vitta, has a deep devotion to Moist Mother Earth and when a mutual friend asked about the relationship between this ancient Power and the Goddess Mokosh, it provided an opportunity for T.V. to explore her understanding of these two Deities. I found her words inspiring and asked permission to share them here. She agreed with the caveat that this reflects her understanding and practice. One should always note that there is the possibility for distinctive regional cultus to develop in many different ways (and such most certainly happened as a matter of course in the pre-Christian world), and as part of that, syncretism may also happen. This is always a given point of understanding undergirding her approach. There is obviously a deep working relationship between these two Deities, at the very least, and she acknowledges that this can take forms for other devotees of which she herself is heretofore unaware. 

Mokosh and Moist Mother Earth

By T. Vitta

Moist Mother Earth is much much older than Makosh (3). She is ever present, in Russian fairy tales, embedded in Russian language so strongly. She is a matter of course a part of Russian swears, Russian promises, and an inescapable part of Russian speech.  I sometimes listen to my parents and their friends, but more often Russian movies and Russian documentaries and smile at how expressions are littered with Her, in ways that tell you plainly who She is – very often without people giving full credence to what they are saying. 

If there has ever been a human bodily representation of Her, I have never seen one or found one, not in writings and not in archaeological findings. I don’t believe She has ever taken human form, not from what I have seen, read, or experienced (but I can only speak from my point of view and my experience.)  I just don’t think She ever had a need to do so.  She is the Land, the living spirit of the Slavic lands.  She is the progenitor of health, wealth of the land, fertility, death and the afterlife.  She nourishes when those of Her land are ill, She picks up those who are tired and hurt, and when people of Her land are near death, She collects them, She is the One in whose arms we fall for the last time.  She is so ingrained into the very make-up of the Slavic people, Her names are still embedded in the language.  Today, I hear Her invoked more when people are dying or are dead, probably because people live in cities.  You can’t separate Her from the language, it’s a part of it.  Last year I did a translation of an old Russian fairytale for one of Galina’s publications, and at her encouragement I made a very detailed footnote on Her (4).  One of the oddities about the US to me is how people here, compared to those I grew up with, don’t have this attachment to the land whatsoever (5).  All the nationalistic songs in Russia and Ukraine, the very way that the people there fight wars, fight for their land – it all goes back to Her.  When you read all those old stories you see it staring you in the face – heroes who are far away from home saying how their aching bones need to go back to their land, to feel Moist Mother Earth under their feet, how when they fall on the field of battle, they lay themselves on the Moist Mother Earth, asking for Her peace, for Her to embrace them at the moment of their death.  What has been amazing is that this past year, when faced with illness or lack of vitality, I instinctively prayed to Her for strength and healing, and She heard me, immediately coming to my rescue time after time.  I think it’s the bloodline, She recognized the bloodline and reached out to Her people.  I suspect that there is an unbreakable contract between the Slavs and Moist Mother Earth, and that this contract is so strong and they still uphold it, still ask for Her help, and She still comes to us all.  She is the seeded field.  She is the health of the soil.  She is who gives us power and gives us the right to the land.  She is the fertility of our land.  She feeds us with Her strength when we are weak and sick.  Her cold embrace takes us in when we must transition.  

Makosh on the other hand is a weaving Goddess.  She is the Goddess of the hearth, the Goddess of fate, Goddess of the “women’s” crafts.  In the days these deities were prayed to, things were strictly gendered between the two sexes, and She is pretty much as close as you can come to a Goddess of female mysteries, if you forgive the expression.  I think this is why people conflate them – they are both Goddesses that bring plentifulness.  The thing is, it’s a very different kind of plentifulness.  Makosh, being the Goddess of Fate and Hearth, brings good luck into the home, helps the bread rise, and weaves the futures of all men (humans, I mean by that).  Moist Mother Earth is the fertility of the earth itself, life coursing and pumping itself through the earth to all the animals and plants.  Close – but not the same.  Moist Mother Earth does not distinguish us from every other living creature living on Her.  Makosh – I suspect those who are Hers will learn to weave, learn to spin, learn to work magic into their cooking and learn the magic of the crafts that were considered traditionally female.  If you pray for- let’s say pregnancy,– you would pray to Moist Mother Earth for fertility.  You could pray to Makosh – but because She will weave fate to bring you a child, because She will bring joy into the home.  

I just googled “Moist Mother Earth” in Russian and the 4th link on google says “ensemble, Jesus the Savior and Moist Mother Earth”…  People don’t even think about it there, it just is (6).

Notes (added by GK): 

  1. Slavic Polytheism, from the word Rodina or motherland. 
  2. In my case, it’s more the occasional Baltic Deity. I have no particular devotion to either of the Goddesses discussed today, save simple respect. 
  3. I have also seen this name spelled Mokosh. We are translating a divine name of a Holy Power honored throughout Slavic lands at one point so there will be linguistic differences in pronunciation and spelling, not to mention all of this is being transliterated into English. If you see it spelled differently elsewhere, relax. 
  4. See Issue 12 of Walking the Worlds, The Bewitched Queen, translated by T. Vitta. The footnote (footnote 7) reads as follows: 

“The expression “moist earth” has a special significance in Slavic language and Slavic culture.  This is a diminutive of the full expression “Moist Mother Earth”, often heard when heroes are expressing their love for the land in which they were born.  It is an intimate prayer to the soil of their land itself.  This is because the language itself has been permanently marked by 1,000s of years of prayer to Moist Mother Earth and is now inseparable from the language and its people, a practice long before Christianity came to the Slavic lands.  She is the progenitor of health, wealth, fertility, and death and afterlife alike.  Moist Mother Earth is the original primordial Goddess the Slavic people prayed to when they seeded the earth and watched the crops grow, when they were suffering and in pain, and when they were far away from the very soil of their homeland.  This expression stayed in the language, an ancient prayer recalling the connection between the land and its people.  Even in cursory sentences like this it is evoked to remind the reader of the fertility of the land, and how we all eventually and rightfully are put into it to take up our journeys after we die.  

This expression is evoked especially in the older written texts such as fairytales when people lived closer to the land, survived and died via the land.  It appears both when the character talks about the fertility of the earth, such as in the above passage, but also in how it is the inevitable place we all must go to when we die.  This appears in such expressions as “he laid his head on the moist earth” that often appear in fairytales to note the hero as close to death.  While this is a tragic point in the tale, a time when the hero is dying, this is also a powerful reminder of our ties to the land.  Moist Mother Earth is not the enemy that forcibly takes you, rather She is ever loving and loyal and takes you in when life is too much to bear.  Dying and coming into her is like coming home.  This is a particular connection between the Slavic people and the Slavic land, a promise, a covenant that the people know so instinctively that long after Christianization erased all memory of the prayers to a deity, they still pray to Her and She still knows them.  She hears their prayers, and She comforts and protects and eventually takes you in. “ 

5. Since taking a course last year in the History of Jerusalem, I have often pondered the lack of connection to a specific land that I see in modern polytheists and pagans. Is it because our sacred sites were destroyed so thoroughly? Is it because at least in America, we are working in diasporic traditions? Is it something in the attitudes of modernity? I don’t know but I wonder what we have lost by this. 

6. Tatyana told me after she sent me this that there are numerous examples of Moist Mother Earth being syncretized with the Virgin Mary. 

Every Elder is a World

Our elders are the backbone of our traditions. Without elders, there is no tradition and certainly no clean, sustainable transmission of our traditions. There’s a trend now, largely from the Pagan left (no surprise there) to dismiss, erase, eradicate the contributions of our traditions’ elders, all the while reaping the benefits of the learning, traditions, and Mysteries those elders carry. People who spent and spend their lives pouring themselves out for their Gods are being excoriated and slowly pushed out of their traditions by those with little learning, less sense, and no humility at all. It’s really rather disgusting. It’s not surprising – I’ve seen the attitude before—but it is disgusting. 

It also betrays a deeply flawed understanding of what tradition and lineage are and why they’re important. It speaks to modern discomfort with hierarchy and authority. It speaks to the quality of person modern Paganisms way too often draw, but it also speaks to a dearth of competent elders in some cases. An elder, however, can be “troublesome” without being wrong. A good elder knows better than to allow him or herself to move with the wind. Rather an elder stands strong and committed to service to the Holy Powers and Their traditions. 

Should we have elders, prophets, diviners, etc.? Well that’s really up to the Gods isn’t it? And the Gods have, from time immemorial resounded with a clear and present YES. (This is particularly true in the case of prophets – the community has zero part to play in making a prophet. That is something the Gods alone do). 

I am grateful to the elders in my world, living and dead. I am grateful for the doors they’ve opened, for their struggles, their hard work, their sacrifices. 

20% Off Sale About to End

I am running a 20% OFF sale on all art, books, bookmarks, and prayer cards in my etsy shop Wyrd Curiosities through January 31, 2021. Use this code to redeem: TGI2021 (or click the link). There’s more than 300 prayer cards available for our Gods and Goddesses across a range of polytheistic traditions: Norse, Germanic, Celtic, Gaulic, Welsh, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and so much more.

Who Gets to be Human

(I want to preface this with the caveat that I am writing this pretty much stream of consciousness in between workshops and classes today. This is not a polished piece and I think there is much more intellectual and practical work to be done on this as on many topics. I’m putting this here as a place to begin articulating my thoughts on this issue). 

This morning I attended a Racial Equity/diversity workshop geared toward faculty and grad students who will be teaching introductory courses in theology over the next year or so. It was an excellent course and raised a lot of really good and necessary questions about how we approach our materials, how we teach theology, and how theology has been used – past and present—to define the boundaries of what constitutes the human. 

The question isn’t what constitutes human in relation to the Gods, but quite simply, what is categorized and recognized, acknowledged as human by those in power, particularly by those in theological and religious positions of power. Rightly, we are urged as theologians and teachers to push ourselves and our students to consider not only this question of power and privilege, but to look for ways to productively challenge that status quo. I don’t argue that. I think it is part and parcel of the work of being a theologian. Here is where I digress from many of my colleagues, however: I don’t think the problem began with race. I think racism is a wicked symptom of something quite different. 

Because this didn’t start out as a racial question, I don’t believe that the answer toward deconstructing racism and systemic structures of racism is ever going to happen by focusing on race alone. The problem didn’t start with race. It started with a particular way of looking at the world. It started with monotheism, specifically Christianity (1). It began with the spread, at first through rhetoric and then, after 313 C.E. through imperium and often violent coercion by and to Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. It started with the destruction of temples and the extortion (2) to conversion of the devout. It started with slaughter of all those who would not abandon their indigenous polytheisms and embrace the new religion (of their conquerors). Christians were human. All others…weeeeeelll, not so much; and that “not so much” opened the door to genocide, slaughter, expansion of slavery, and the theft and torture of children (3).

I hear a lot of talk about ‘problematizing whiteness.’ Maybe. I think that ‘whiteness’ is a rather artificial construct (and one that lets monotheistic religions off the hook, I might add). If I’m looking for ancestral identity, I’m going to look to my Lithuanian, Russian, German, Swiss, Scots-Irish, Huguenot, and Appalachian forebears. I’m going to look at culture and what soils hold the bones of my dead. I’m going to look at language and customs, and most of all, I’m going to tell the stories of my dead. Not all of those dead had white skin. What does it matter? What we should be interrogating, “problematizing” if you will, is monotheism. That is where, I firmly believe the true impetus toward racializing and dehumanizing began, that moment when Christianity began to look at those non-Christians around them as less than human (4). 

There is no reason that Christianity had to assume a dogmatic monotheistic stance. Had it been satisfied to be one religion amongst many, a henotheistic tradition privileging only the Trinity, I do not believe that would have led to the same blood-stained place. It’s the monotheism, a worldview that is based on exclusivity and intolerance that I think is the problem. Specifically, when that worldview twinned itself with militaristic imperium (i.e. after 313 C.E.), it transformed both imperium and Christianity into something quite vicious, quite dehumanizing, quite hungry for conquest and power. That hasn’t changed. Just ask an altar boy. 

Ok. That was low but I think my point stands and it’s not just polytheists who have suffered under monotheistic hegemony but Christians too. It’s been no better a system for the Abrahamic faiths living under its dominion than it has for the rest of us. Monotheism is a brutal equation. It’s a simple equation, an uncomplicated one, which is perhaps part of its appeal. Here’s how I break it down:

You’re only human if your humanity feeds the machine. Or let’s turn that around, you don’t get to be human if your lack of humanity likewise benefits the monster, instantiating and reifying its lust for power. This is not a condemnation of Christianity. There are very good and sacred aspects of practice and thought, devotion extant across the spectrum of Christian traditions from which we could benefit greatly by studying. Likewise, I know many, many good, compassionate, and devout Christians (and Jews, and Muslims) who are well aware of their respective traditions’ failures. That is theirs to carry and many people that I know are working to rectify where they can. Moreover – there are a lot of ‘moreovers’ in this – there were early iterations of Christianity that were polytheistic, iterations that elevated women to positions of power, iterations that approached the body and sexuality very differently from what became the norm. As with every religion, the reality was never monolithic. What I am condemning is a system: the structure of monotheism, the eradication of the sacred from the world, from our minds, leaving only the smallest, narrowest channel through which we can define that which is sacred…and by extension our humanity in relation to it. Christianity was, in many respects, one of the first victims of monotheism. 

I have said in the past (most likely in the heat of debate) that I don’t think someone is a fully realized human being unless they are honoring their ancestors and their Gods and are engaged in some kind of devotion. I never however, said that they weren’t *human*. I never question the humanity of those who aren’t polytheists. I don’t see that in the antique texts with which I work either from the polytheistic side. You may not be one of *my* people, but obviously you’re a person, a human being. Your humanity doesn’t end where my religion begins. I’m not sure that monotheism, and by extension traditions under its domination, can say the same. 

Nor is this a question of hierarchy. There will always be hierarchies and in many respects, hierarchy is good. It allows us to function effectively and well. Hierarchies occur in nature, and when they are properly organized can be extremely productive and positive — that is, when they don’t exclude from the human people on the basis of race, gender etc. So in no way do I advocate an abolition of hierarchy. The Gods after all are hierarchically above us and that is good and holy and proper. That represents the cosmic order and architecture instantiated by Their will. I do have a problem when hierarchies exist solely to diminish the humanity of others. I don’t think that’s inevitable though. 

I think what I find most frustrating as a theologian is the unwillingness I see in so many circles to interrogate the structure of monotheism. It’s not that I think restoring our polytheisms will fix everything, but I think that doing so will restore a way of looking at the world that is not predicated on domination and eradication of everyone and everything that is different (5).

Notes: 

  1. Though to be fair, if one reads the bible, it’s clear that it actually started with Judaism attacking various neighboring tribes in the name of their newly minted “one God.” That didn’t last, however, and by the time Christianity began its life as a Jesus movement within Judaism, there was not the call to active, violent proselytizing found in the parent faith anymore.  
  2. And yes, I mean extortion not exhortation. After all, often families – children, elderly would be threatened. Some people were given the choice: convert or everyone you love will be killed. One does have to question how sincere such conversions were. Of course this is still the modus operandi of Christian missions in poorer parts of Africa and India, etc.: you’re starving? Well, I’ll give you food but first you need to be baptized. Just look at how evangelicals responded to Haiti after the earthquake a few years ago.
  3. Not a single early Christian source that I have found condemns slavery. Not a single one and  slavery was pandemic in the Roman world, (though to be accurate, one must note that it was not race based slavery. Anyone, including other Romans might become slaves. They could eventually win, buy, or be granted their freedom). The theft and torture of children began with Charlemagne forcing the conquered Saxons to send their sons to monastic schools. It continued in the Americas with Native schools where children were beaten, starved, abused, and tortured as a matter of course, but especially for speaking their native tongues and practicing their native faiths. 
  4. Yes, ancient polytheists saw the differences between skin tones and racial identifiers but these were not problematized in the way that we see in later monotheistic cultures.  They recognized them, were curious about them, but you don’t see religion being used to dehumanize the people bearing them – at least not in the part of the ancient world with which I engage. I can’t speak for others. I think the Alexandrian and Christian theologian Origen (184-253 C.E.) was the first to equate “the devil” with an Ethiopian boy, hence blackness. It’s an association that stuck well into the early modern period. 
  5. Moreover, there is room in polytheism for all the Abrahamic traditions to exist and thrive. The opposite is most assuredly NOT the case. 

When you assume, John, you make an ass out of yourself.

In a recent patheos article, John Beckett opined that he wasn’t seeing much devotion from polytheists online. Well, John, maybe we got sick and tired of anti-theistic, humanist and/or Marxist trash coming into our online spaces attempting to pollute them (1). Maybe, sweetheart, we took the bulk of our devotion offline, where that contamination isn’t happening. Maybe we’re just not sharing it with you. No one, after all, is entitled to a bird’s eye view of our devotional lives. Some of us are still blogging, because it’s part of our spiritual Work, but you won’t mention that, will you? 

For years now, I’ve taken the high road when it comes to the bullshit thrown my way in the community, thrown not just at me, but at devotional polytheists across the board who won’t bend the knee to the current pollution du jour. Expect that to stop as of now. There is not a single Pagan news outlet that accurately reports Heathen and/or polytheistic news (2).  There are only scared, weak, pathetic people who can’t stand the fact that some communities are doing just fine without them.

I am frankly tired of the arrogance of people like Beckett, who assume just because they aren’t seeing something or haven’t been invited in, that “something” isn’t happening. Just because you’re not seeing people discussing their devotion on twitter or facebook, don’t assume it’s not happening. Maybe they’re on different social media sites (I personally have been using slack-chat quite a bit), or maybe, as I said above, some have just stopped publicly blogging.

Moreover, our traditions aren’t trends or fads. Fuck you, Beckett. We aren’t here to entertain or validate you and we are under no obligation to put our relationships with the Holy Powers out there for assholes like you to gawk and mock. 

Notes: 

  1. I have no problem with atheists. Rock on. I have a tremendous problem with anti-theists who come into our community demanding leadership positions. 
  2. And by the way, John, well before I came along, the majority of Heathens did not generally like the “Pagan” label. I really don’t think that has changed, unless you’re only counting as Heathen those who agree with your politics. We, after all have both Gods and ethics, something I see very little of in the generic Pagan community. 

Greeting New Spirits- There is a Protocol

And oh how I wish I’d remembered that tonight!

It has been a very, very fruitful Yule season. As part of that, there is an ongoing cycle of gift exchange and my family gifted me with several ongon, spirit infused ritual pieces. They are beautiful and the first two were welcomed into the house with all the decorum new spirit allies should receive. The second two …um…not so much. There is a lesson here and one I am both grateful for but should really know by now. 

Two of them sat in a box for a week, maybe a little more. They’d arrived right before our solstice ritual proper, and we were only expecting one. They were big spirits and I knew that it would be very important to place them properly but we don’t really do divination during the ember days, at least not from Modranacht till the New Year, and we all knew that div would be required to determine the proper place for them to live. All of that would have been fine, but we didn’t properly explain it when we packed them away, and then new problems arose tonight when we did our first divination of the year. 

We got it sorted out, but at first it was really aggravating. They wouldn’t respond to any of the divination systems we use. I kept getting “go to divination” but they weren’t familiar with our systems and we didn’t know theirs. It took much, much longer than it should have done and it wasn’t until the whole thing was over and done with, and I was placing one of the spirits that he explained to me what we should have done. I’m sharing that here for any of you who might find yourself in the same boat. Let me just say, I’m grateful for the patience of these two new spirits, tremendously so. 

Firstly, we should have greeted them and made small offerings right away. It was fine not to divine for a week or so, but rather than keep them in a box, we should have welcomed them and incorporated them into the household rituals. That way, they would learn about us, we about them, the household spirits would get to know them and vice versa, and it would be easier to figure out how to forge a functional relationship. They’re not things. These are living spirits. It was like I kept a super genius cat locked in a box for a week because I wasn’t sure where to put his food! Or like grandma came to visit and you kept her locked in the bathroom for a week! Both working with spirits and divination involving spirits is a matter of learning each other’s languages, symbol systems, mental metaphor and image maps, of figuring out how to most efficiently communicate with each other. We lost out on an opportunity to do that early on and we were unintentionally rude too.  What’s more, had we let our house spirits get to know the new spirits and vice versa, our own spirits could have better facilitated this whole process. 

Secondly, when we sat down to divine tonight, we should have started by inviting the new spirits in, welcoming them again, making offerings and most importantly of all, explaining the systems we use, how they work, etc. THAT is what made the whole thing so aggravating. They had to figure that out on their own because it never in a million years occurred to us to make that explanation before we started. 

Everything worked out well in the end, there were apologies and offerings made and the situation was properly sorted but we made it a lot harder on ourselves by not having a set protocol instituted as a matter of course when welcoming new spirits into the cadre. I have a set protocol for divination from which I never deviate and I instituted that after a horrible experience where I was tricked by an unhappy and sick spirit, a recently deceased ancestor of the client who was jealous and angry that my client had a life while the spirit, who had died of a drug overdose, no longer did. It was nasty, messy, and never would have been so had we stuck to our protocols. That time, I was convinced to skip them. Never again. Now, I have learned another valuable lesson about first contact protocol (lol) and it’s not one that anyone in my house will neglect from here on out. 

One caveat: because we are so familiar with the Gods and spirits that form such a strong and beloved part of our Household cadre, we tend to forget to be properly formal (and hospitable, because that is what these protocols are, in part) with new spirits. 

I hope this is helpful to those of you reading this who likewise have spiritwork concerns. I receive a lot of questions about how to engage properly with Gods and spirits, about my own protocols, and I find that sometimes pointing out where one falls short, and the lessons learned from that can be tremendously valuable. We learn, by Gods we learn. It sure as hell isn’t always pretty though. 

Yuletide Shopping Guide – Books

Today is the last and final installment of my Yuletide Shopping Guide. I created the Yuletide Shopping Guide in part because Yule is one of my favorite times of year. The guide features items polytheists might enjoy seeing in their homes or under their tree this yuletide. All with the hope of spreading some holiday cheer in a difficult year by finding items that can help feed our devotions within our polytheistic traditions, but also to hopefully along the way lift up some of the artisans in our midst too.

So far I’ve included resources for crafters, makers, and DIYers: cookie cutters, crafting molds, fabric (MesoamericanEgyptianGreekNorthern Europe), machine embroidery designs, cross-stitch and embroidery patterns, as well as knitting and crochet patterns. I’ve also highlighted some items on a Krampus theme. I’ve spotlighted items you can use to deck the halls & trim the tree. 

Check out the Greco-Roman themed products relevant to devotees of Cultus Deorum and Hellenismos, the Egyptian themed products ( Part 1 & Part 2 ) relevant to devotees of Kemetism, Northern European themed products ( Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 & Part 5) relevant to Northern Tradition polytheists (Heathens, Asatruar, etc.), as well as some Miscellaneous ( Part 1 & Part 2 ) spotlights featuring artists and artisans who offered a range of product across pantheons, or whose work focused on a tradition that I didn’t have enough items to spotlight on its own. Peruse with care and you will find items related to deities from the Norse, Slavic, Celtic, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Polynesian, Mesoamerican, Minoan, Assyrian, Sumerian, Welsh, Asian, Native American/Inuit, and more!

Today I’ll be spotlighting books.

Affiliate Advertising Disclosure

I am an avid reader and quite the bibliophile. If I really wanted to do this section justice, I could be writing for over a year on suggested books. So I decided to approach this list primarily from the point of view of more recently published works I have either personally read and therefore recommend, or for texts that are on my to read list. I’ve also sprinkled in a few classics, and some books I felt kids could enjoy too so we can pass our traditions to the next generations.


Academic Reading

Unfortunately, I will warn you that some of the academic books are part of small academic print runs and can be prohibitively priced as a result.


Books for Polytheists

The Illustrated Havamal and Illustrated Voluspa takes the old Bellows translation of those eponymous texts but is released with illustrations by artist Sam Flegal. The Man Who Spoke Snakish is a fictional work with strong themes that should resonate with polytheists. The remaining texts were all written by polytheists for polytheists.


Mythology Books

Many of these texts are geared towards children and young adults, so content tends to be adapted for that audience.


Coloring Books

Coloring books for both kids and adults.


My Books

In case you missed it since last December I have released 9 books. A Modern Guide to Heathenry is a significantly revised and expanded book built on the foundation of Exploring the Northern Tradition with over 70,000 words of additional, new content. Sigyn: Our Lady of the Staying Power is a re-release after a change in publishers. The other books are all new releases.


Walking the Worlds

After several years and 12 volumes, Walking the Worlds, a peer-reviewed journal of polytheism and spiritwork has concluded its run. In commemoration, here are the links to each release of the journal in case you missed any.


What books are on your to read list? What books would you recommend? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Yuletide Shopping Guide – Northern Europe Products – Part 5

I created the Yuletide Shopping Guide in part because Yule is one of my favorite times of year. The guide features items polytheists would enjoy seeing in their homes or under their tree this yuletide. All with the hope of spreading some holiday cheer in a difficult year by finding items that can help feed our devotions within our polytheistic traditions, but also to hopefully along the way lift up some of the artisans in our midst too.

So far I’ve included resources for crafters, makers, and DIYers: cookie cutters, crafting molds, fabric (MesoamericanEgyptianGreekNorthern Europe), machine embroidery designs, cross-stitch and embroidery patterns, as well as knitting and crochet patterns. I’ve also highlighted some items on a Krampus theme. I’ve spotlighted items you can use to deck the halls and trim the tree. 

Check out the Greco-Roman themed products relevant to devotees of Cultus Deorum and Hellenismos, the Egyptian themed products ( Part 1 & Part 2 ) relevant to devotees of Kemetism, and Northern Europe themed products ( Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 ) relevant to Northern Tradition polytheists. Primarily these items are Norse-centric, but there’s a small scattering of Celtic and Slavic goods too in the mix.

There were some artists and artisans who offered a range of product across pantheons, or whose work focuses on a tradition that I didn’t have enough items to spotlight on its own. So I highly recommend that you carefully peruse the spotlighted artists and artisans in my miscellaneous ( Part 1 & Part 2 ). You will find offerings encompassing a vast array of traditions: Norse, Slavic, Celtic, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Polynesian, Mesoamerican, Minoan, Assyrian, Sumerian, Welsh, Asian, Native American/Inuit, and more!

Today is the fifth installment of Northern Europe themed products relevant for fellow Northern Tradition polytheists.

PantheonSkulptur

PantheonSkulptur based in Sweden, features the artistic gold or silver gilded statues of Norse or Celtic Gods and Goddesses by Stina Jarenskog. Since ever piece is handmade, sometimes there’s nothing in the shop as she’s sold out. Just be sure to bookmark the shop and revisit.


FatefulSigns

FatefulSigns is the online storefront for illustrator Sam Flegal, who has done work for gaming companies and concept art for movies. He has some truly stunning images of our Gods and Goddesses, and offers the original for sale, as well as prints. He’s also decided to do his own illustrations for sections of the lore, which you can find in his two books: the Illustrated Havamal, and the Illustrated Voluspa.


Grimfrost

Grimfrost is a Swedish based company that specializes in items inspired by and related to Viking Age culture. They have some replica statuary and jewelry, but also some truly unique things based on the familiar. Some highlighted items are the Sleipnir Post Earrings, a Freya Drum, a replica of a ritual procession, and replicas from the archaeological record of our Gods.


Norsies

SummitCollection’s Norsies features painted cold cast resin figures of Norse Gods & Goddesses.


Miscellaneous

Not every item listed below is depicted in this image.
  • Poster of Travis Bowman’s prayer to Odin 
  • Norhalla’s Sleipnir Plush Toy
  • ArcanicaArt painted Frigg
  • MailoniKat’s Fox Cloth
  • DeBaunFineCeramics Valknut Pendant
  • HeathenTreeCreations – Vanic Deities Statues
  • Dharmalus – Valknut wall shelves
  • SevenOaksGrove Rune Cloth
  • ShirePost Ullr and vegvisir zipper pull
  • The National Museum of Denmark’s Gift Shop has a wide range of products too!

We’re almost done! Just one more post to go.

Yuletide Shopping Guide – Northern Europe Products – Part 4

I created the Yuletide Shopping Guide in part because Yule is one of my favorite times of year. The guide features items polytheists would enjoy seeing in their homes or under their tree this yuletide. All with the hope of spreading some holiday cheer in a difficult year by finding items that can help feed our devotions within our polytheistic traditions, but also to hopefully along the way lift up some of the artisans in our midst too.

So far I’ve included resources for crafters, makers, and DIYers: cookie cutters, crafting molds, fabric (MesoamericanEgyptianGreekNorthern Europe), machine embroidery designs, cross-stitch and embroidery patterns, as well as knitting and crochet patterns. I’ve also highlighted some items on a Krampus theme. I’ve spotlighted items you can use to deck the halls and trim the tree. 

Check out the Greco-Roman themed products relevant to devotees of Cultus Deorum and Hellenismos, the Egyptian themed products ( Part 1 & Part 2 ) relevant to devotees of Kemetism, and Northern Europe themed products ( Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 ) relevant to Northern Tradition polytheists. Primarily these items are Norse-centric, but there’s a small scattering of Celtic and Slavic goods too in the mix.

There were some artists and artisans who offered a range of product across pantheons, or whose work focuses on a tradition that I didn’t have enough items to spotlight on its own. So I highly recommend that you carefully peruse the spotlighted artists and artisans in my miscellaneous ( Part 1 & Part 2 ). You will find offerings encompassing a vast array of traditions: Norse, Slavic, Celtic, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Polynesian, Mesoamerican, Minoan, Assyrian, Sumerian, Welsh, Asian, Native American/Inuit, and more!

Today will be the fourth installment of Northern Europe themed products relevant for fellow Northern Tradition polytheists.

AnglesdottirArts

AnglesdottirArts offers Norse themed religious art, jewelry, and altar items.


Pakabone

Pakabone is a Ukranian based artisan specializing in jewelry, focusing on Norse and Slavic jewelry, but you’ll also find other designs including Maori.


GodsNorth

GodsNorth is run by a family of woodworkers, and their shop features some amazing wood carvings with shields, wall décor, and statues. One of their powerful pieces of the Goddess Sigyn sits on her altar in my home.


Valhyr

Valhyr is an online store selling apparel from jackets, tanks, hoodies, pants and leggings. They also offer some art posters too.


ElementalTextiles

ElementalTextiles has a hand-sewn textile featuring two aspects of Freya: warrior and seidwoman. Charlotte also offers a unique handsewn representation of Oxfordshire’s Uffington Chalk Horse. and a golden handsewn medallion of Sol’s horse.


Nope. I am not done yet, though we’re getting close!