Prayer is one of the most important pillars connecting us to the Holy Powers. If you can erode that, you can make these traditions irrelevant. Unlike sacrifice and mysticism, prayer is something anyone and everyone can do, so that’s why they fight so bitterly against it, because otherwise, why do the nay-sayers care.”
Over the past week, I’ve encountered quite a few references to religious fasting. Out of the blue, I’ve had fruitful discussions with several Orthodox colleagues who fast regularly, come across a couple of articles on the topic, and had more than one person email me with questions related to doing this in a polytheistic context. It’s actually funny. I used to fast all the time as a devotional technique for Odin but as my health has declined over the past 15 years, I’ve fallen out of the practice (1).
When I first came to Odin, I worked very hard to open myself up to Him, to develop good discernment, and to discipline myself in my devotion in ways that were productive to developing piety, respect, and receptivity to the Gods. Because of my background, I gravitated toward ascetic practices like fasting and would often engage in fairly severe fasts for Him. I found it extremely beneficial (2). Eventually, discernment and experience also led me to other ways of engaging devotionally but I’ve never forgotten how effective fasting practices where. They worked on several levels: they taught me discipline of my appetites, to subordinate those appetites and desires to my devotion and ultimately to what the Gods wanted, they helped me to cultivate a keen devotional impulse, and they really helped in opening me up mentally and emotionally to the Gods. Also, perhaps because eating is such a tremendously socially charged activity, every day I was forced to consciously recommit to the Gods, to Odin specifically. I was forced whenever I saw friends or coworkers going for lunch or snacking, whenever I myself wanted to snack or would normally fix a meal, to call to mind instead the Gods that I love and to Whom I had dedicated this period of fasting (regardless of the type of fast I was doing).
It’s a potent tool, one used by nearly all religions at one time or another for spiritual purposes. There are many ways to fast too. I used to think it was complete abstinence from anything but water, and for years, that is how I would fast but more recently I’ve been easing back into a gentler practice: on Wednesdays, I avoid meat, animal products, and sugar. One can fast by omitting a desired food or drink. One may fast for one day or several. Or, if one cannot fast due to medical reasons, one may fast from speaking or social media instead of food – a particularly potent practice today (3). I’ve realized over the years that it need not be limited to absence of food alone, though that is the traditional fast.
It’s important to fast for the proper reasons: honoring the Gods, disciplining oneself in Their service, purification, cultivation of piety. Fasting is not a means to weight loss. That’s not the proper (or healthy) reason to do this. It’s important to be clear in one’s mind why one is engaging in any particular spiritual practice. We must, above all else, be clean in our work. I always advise consulting a doctor first to make sure there are no health problems that preclude fasting and if one has a history of eating disorders, this is absolutely NOT the proper spiritual technique to use. Yes, it might make fasting easy, but it muddies the waters of intent. Even if you can do it easily and well, if there is a history of any eating disorder, I would not include fasting in your spiritual work. If you truly feel called to do so and are absolutely sure that such a calling is coming from an authentic and clean place, then do this only under supervision of a teacher, elder, or perhaps even a medical professional (4).
Fasting should also always be done in conjunction with prayer. I know that when I fast, I rise earlier to pray before heading to work. I tend to keep my head covered for that day, something that puts me in deep devotional headspace. I spend more time throughout the day and certainly when I am home in prayer. My day will be bracketed, more so than usual with prayer and shrine work. It both roots and rounds out the practice. Fasting by itself can easily become a thing of ego and arrogance, something that is done not for the Gods but to test ourselves, to compete with ourselves, to see how much we can do, and then it becomes something that cultivates a negative type of pride. Prayer is the key to keep us from falling into such headspace. Also, fasting is not in any way to be taken as a statement on the body. There is nothing wrong with being corporeal, with having flesh, with being in a body. It’s not evil, it’s not sinful. Fasting isn’t done to scourge or punish the flesh. Its purpose is to engage in a discipline of both body and soul, and of our appetites, for a specific reason: reaching ever and always toward the Gods. It strengthens us in our commitment to the Holy Powers. It strengthens our will to maintain practices even under duress or difficulty. It teaches us to endure inconvenience. It purifies the spirit of certain types of miasma. When we fast, we are choosing to nourish ourselves with something other than food. We are choosing both to nourish our devotion and to allow that devotion to nourish our souls. After all, if we cannot discipline ourselves to bear inconvenience for our Gods, what good in the long run, are we (5)? All relationships worth having involve some measure of inconvenience. That holds true for those relationships we cultivate with our Gods most of all.
- Since I know we have those in our communities who will look for any reason to condemn any devotional practice that might somehow, possibly, in some way inconvenience someone or you know, prioritize devotion and the Gods, I should note that my declining health has to do with spinal damage and chronic pain, not anything related to fasting.
- No spiritual technique works for everyone. The ascetic’s path can be very beneficial and fruitful but it’s not something that will work for every single person. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t and there’s no harm in that.
- One very powerful fasting practice that one of my students once told me was the most difficult exercise I ever assigned was a three-day media fast. From sun-down on Friday to sun up Monday, no email, computer, phone (or other communication device), tv, radio, etc. The time should be spent praying and journaling, meditating, shrine work, and doing things that deepen one’s devotion.
- I also advice that one not begin with a difficult and/or extended fast. Start fasting the way my Orthodox friends do: one or two days a week, avoid certain animal products (meat, milk, butter, eggs). Once this practice has become natural, then perhaps consider a full (no food) fast or a day or two, and if you choose to go this route, ease into it by slowly decreasing one’s food intake over two or three days, and ease out of it the same way – break the fast with broth, for instance, not with a full meal or your body will express its displeasure in ways you will not like!
- Again, not everyone will be able to fast and that is perfectly ok. There are other, equally useful spiritual techniques that can be employed to similar ends. This is one technique of many.
11 years ago today one of my most popular books, Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner, released.
Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner is not denomination-specific: rather, it seeks to provide an entry into interior practice for anyone involved in a branch of this broad family of traditions of the ancient Norse, Germanic, and Saxon peoples, using material suitable for the solitary, independent practitioner. Those outside of the Northern Tradition who wish to deepen their own devotional practice will find this book helpful in their own work, as well.
This is one of my lesser known devotionals, but the content is a solid foundation for exploration.
In the Northern Tradition, the Sun is represented by the Goddess Sunna, and the Moon by her divine brother Mani. They give their names to two of the days of the week, and their rays shine down upon us, giving life and inspiration. This devotional is dedicated to them, and to their family. They are more than mere personifications; they bring joy and peace to every day of our lives. We saw them first in the sky as children, and now we can understand and reverence them even more fully with the help of this book.
Grounded and centered, having offered to the Gods my morning prayers, and having lit incense to the ancestors I sit comfortably and consider the following meditation.
I reach up with my consciousness, through endless boughs of an enormous Tree, and its leaves whisper with secrets. I am one of those secrets being whispered and sung up the gnarled knots of that ancient Tree. It exhales me up beyond the worlds.
We exist within the breath of a God. We ride that breath into being. We exhale that breath back into the mouth of the All Father at the moment of our death. We are tied to everything through His breath and it pulses around us, the steady hand of the storm. I breathe it in down into my crown. I am alive. I am Odin sitting atop Hliðkjalf and I wear the crown of sovereignty. Nothing can separate me from this God. He has knit Himself into my soul.
It is Mani to Whom I reach as I move to my third eye. He is an ancient God and all manner of folly He has seen and dismissed. He forgets nothing and yet He is luminous. I pray that my mind and my heart may be luminous too, that I may rest in the House of the Moon, and may my Sight be always true.
My throat is filled with Loki’s fire. It burns away deceit. It cleanses and renders and because of it I speak true. His is the crucible in which I am ever refined. He hones my courage.
My heart is Sigyn’s hall. She protects and tenderly nourishes all that falls within Her care. She keeps my heart steadfast and the gentle flame of devotion burning within it. I look to Her that my soul might be constant. In such things, She does not yield.
In my gut, the seat of my will, I think on Thor. Mighty Thor with His chariot and gleaming hammer, He fights off pollution. He girds the world against dissolution. He will never be overcome. With Him at my back, I know that I will always be able to align my will with the divine order. Thor will keep me clean, the Holiness He bears will keep me focused.
In my sex lies Freya’s gift, roaring, liquid heat connecting me to life and primal desire. She is Mistress of Sesrumnir and Her blessings are holy. She teaches us to find joy in living. I strive to remember this.
At my root, lie the mysteries of Frigga’s hall. She grounds me in piety and respect, reverence, and power. She is the All-Mother and Her touch makes everything sacred. She roots me deep in the purest iteration of myself and throuh Her all magic flows.
Beneath my feet breathe the bones of the dead. Thousands of generations of ancestors having passed through Hela’s hallowed halls. They walk with me and when necessary lift me up. There is no place I can go where they are not and in times of danger they are an honor guard. With each step I thank them. With each step I am grateful.
In my hands, I feel the echo worlds. In my right hand I hold fire, in my left hand I hold ice. There is the holy chasm in between. All of creation is within me and I see the moment the Gods willed the worlds into being. I stand with Them then, again and again. I am willed into being too with each and every prayer. I am sustained and my prayers fall like nourishing water from the well of memory upon the Tree. It is sustained too. It is enough.
I reach above me with my right hand drawing power up from the dead and from the living earth and down from the most secret powers of the heavens and it is right and good and I touch my brow and chant:
Til ykkar, Oðinn og Regin,
I touch my belly and intone: rikið.
I touch my right shoulder and intone: krafturinn
My left shoulder: dyrðin
I cross my arms over my heart: nú og að eilífu
I bow my head in reverence: Amen.
And it is done.
(my photo: “the World Tree”. Do not use without permission).
🏺Today is the three year bookversary! 🏺
Hellenics especially might enjoy this devotional to the Greek God Hermes. ⚕️
“In Praise of Hermes” is a novena booklet to the Greek God Hermes. It provides an introduction about this God and nine days of prayers in His honor.
Available on Amazon
Today is the 3 year anniversary of my devotional book 📕 dedicated to the Norse Goddess Eir. 👩⚕️
By Scalpel and Herb, Blood and Healing Hands is a novena booklet to Eir, a Norse Goddess of Healing. It provides an introduction about this Goddess and nine days of prayers in Her honor.
Available on Amazon.
Who owns a copy?
My devotional to the Greek God Asklepios (Ἀσκληπιός ) is celebrating it’s three year anniversary today!
Asklepios is the son of Apollo, and the Greek God of healing and medicine. His symbol, a snake entwined staff ⚕️ remains a symbol of medicine today.
“To Rejuvenate and Nourish” is a novena booklet to the Greek God of Healing, Asklepios. It provides an introduction about this God and nine days of prayers in His honor.
Available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/32jBPlH
So who has a copy?
Day I – for Loki, Creator of Worlds
You rose up from the primordial grime
hand in hand with Your brothers,
savage yet determined fury
under the light of a cold-bladed moon.
You destroyed Your ancestor,
ruined Him, the indolent breeder,
clotted up his gaping maw
silenced his screeching snores and groans
that ever rattled the wyrm-like field.
You swept it all away and from His bones
built anew, a web of worlds-
bleak in their youth, rich in their promise,
rising and shining in the boughs of the Tree.
You made of his screams a symphony,
bone beautiful and clean.
There was no remorse in You
but elation, satisfaction.
Let there be no remorse in me either,
for the things that I must do
Hail to You, Loður,
Whose blood stained fingers
painted our flesh a lively hue.
Day 2 for Loki, Friend of Odin
He Who battles alongside His friends
maintains the strength of Asgard,
using His gifts to challenge the giants,
using His body to subvert Svaðilfari’s Master.
He pours treasure down upon His allies,
He rains wrath down upon His foes.
His victory lies in the longest game,
and of all the Gods, not even He
knows its end.
Bright as fire, slippery as a fish,
drenched in the well-bright, whispered warnings,
this God comes. He challenges everything,
laughing around a bonfire encompassing even
His own destruction.
He knows that with chaos
to turn the final battle on its end,
to grab victory out of the maws of the wolf,
a celebration of blood and steel,
and those who think He lacks courage
know not what His courage has cost.
Hail to You, Loki, friend of Thor,
Who works Your wiles in Odin’s shadow
so the Old Man may shine all the more.
Hail to the fighter Whose wit is a wound
deadlier than poison in the heart of Their enemies.
May we always honor You, oh God Who finds the loops
in every loophole. Show us too how to be slippery
and hard to catch in the maze of things that would bind us
away from our Gods, stifle our devotion, and burden our hearts
Day 3 – for Loki, Clever and Cunning
You are the fire that burns in Odin’s shadow
The stitch holding the worlds together,
The whisper ever unquiet igniting dissatisfaction.
You keep us from succumbing.
You make memory blaze and sear
Driving us inevitably back to the Gods
Our ancestors forgot.
Bright flickering fire
To Grimnir’s icey dark
The two of You brought the worlds to life
(Hoenir granting order and sense)
and You will bring it back to life again:
restoring what must be restored
even if it must be done in blood and fire.
May we work with the Gods always,
Grant us that, oh clever Roarer*,
And never, ever against,
No matter how rough and challenging
The road may grow.
Hail to You, Loki,
On this, Woden’s Day.
Day 4 – for Loki, Friend of Thor
You are the best and most loyal of friends, Oh Loki,
You Who tangle and untangle the toughest of fates.
You walk through every terror, every challenge
At the side of Your allies and friends,
And the trouble You cause ever works in Your favor.
You, Lopt, bend every error to Your will
And there is no lock You cannot open.
Like a green eyed glittering spider
Sitting in a massive web,
There is no secret of Gods or men
You do not know, and You keep them
Secreted away keen weapons easily summoned
To Your witty lips and hands.
You pour treasure into the hands of your companions,
From You, Thor gained His mighty hammer,
Odin His spear, Frey His magical ship,
And many other glorious gifts.
You ever gift us as well, most often
When we are reluctant, recalcitrant
And resistant to Your mercy.
Never cease, Fiery Hearted Sky-treader
To open us up to all the potentialities
The Gods can provide,
especially when we beg you not to.
Hail to You, Loki, the best of friends
In our time of need, always and ever after.
Day 5 – For Loki, Best of Husbands, Beloved of Sigyn
You, Loki, are the most tender-hearted of Gods.
No one knows this save Sigyn. You keep it well hidden,
preferring to present to the world a mask of careless abandon,
and to Your family a façade of unbreakable strength.
Sigyn is onto You though, this wife Whom You love beyond all others.
She knows You well and She has seen Your eyes, bright and shining
as You cradled Your sons in Your arms. She has seen You,
when all masks fall away as You play and wrestle with Your children,
those You have with Her, and those shapeshifting wildlings: serpent, wolf,
and Lady of grace and death. You are laughing, loving clay in Their little,
sometimes grubby, hands.
She has seen, Oh Wildfire God, the joy with which You scoop Them up,
sweet and clumsy little toddlers with their delightful cries of “Papa.”
She has seen, She knows what a balm They are to Your bruised heart.
She knows how They are Your reason for being,
and how deep Your love for Them and for Her as well flows.
They are Your bedrock, and that for which You would burn a thousand worlds,
or build a thousand up again.
You love Your family, Loki, and They are the greatest sanctuary You will ever know.
The home You have built with Them is a haven flourishing and happy.
There is such joy there and when Your friend Thor comes to visit,
Narvi and Vali raise holy hell racing and playing with Magni, Modi, and Thrudr,
and it leaks out into the worlds bringing laughter and lightness of heart
to all mortals– and Gods too –lucky enough to taste its flavor.
Sigyn knows these things and is satisfied.
A good father and good husband are gifts beyond price.
The worlds are sustained by Their hope and hard work.
Hail to You, Beloved of Sigyn,
Tender flame of Her hearth
Teach us to nourish the loves given into our care
And take joy in the process.
Hail to You, Loki.
Day 6 – Loki, Purifier and Liberator
People don’t understand what You do.
They don’t want to understand
because You are the least likely God
to allow Himself to be contained neatly
in the pages of a book, to be pushed aside,
explained away, or made palatable
to minds unwilling for all the grace and blessings the Gods can bring.
You are never small and You push Your people
beyond the confines, safe spaces and choking boundaries
that we all would sometimes lock around ourselves,
to keep anxieties at bay. You counsel us to fuck our anxieties,
to do what needs to be done anyway, knowing the price,
spitting upon it, and paying it willingly.
You roar out across the worlds, tease Your way into our minds
set our hearts on holy fire, and beckon us to come to You
and oh, we do and the world is never the same again.
You Loki are our liberator.
You tear our limitations apart.
You, Skytreader, raise us up,
shaking us loose of the pollution that clouds our senses,
You, unstoppable heat and scorching fire,
demand discernment and goad us into courage,
as You are made of courage,
and glee at being the whirlwind
across the worlds, through the worlds, between the worlds,
and in every nook and hidden cranny challenging entropy.
You run riotous rough-shod over them – and us as well-
Cleaning out, tearing up, and dancing, sometimes maniacally,
on the scraps and confetti of our assumptions,
until we arrive, sweating and laughing, sobbing, and quaking,
filled with reverence, opened by awe, at the feet of the Gods
Whom we love. Then, and only then,
when we have been properly prepared,
can we fully take up the task of supporting Them
in the ongoing work of creation.
May we do this fiercely, formidably, and without hesitation.
May we throw ourselves into all that You offer,
So that we may offer all to our Gods in turn,
through the laughing, seething grace,
We have been gifted by You.
Hail to You, Loki, in all ways,
by every name You may ever be called.
We ask Your blessings and thank you –
in advance because we’ll be too busy
trying to keep our footing during—
for the grace of Your attentions.
Hail to You, Balance-Breaker,
Hail to You, most-challenging God.
Day 7 – for Loki,
In the blistering furnace of our hearts,
may You be hailed.
In the fierce rantings of mind and memory,
may You be hailed.
In the tumultuous storm of our senses,
may we gasp, and chant, and sing Your praises.
May our lips burn with whispered adorations to You.
May our bodies shake in the onslaught of Your presence.
Where You are honored, there be in all of Your glory.
Where You are reviled, there also be,
and work Your cunning wiles.
May You ever be the unquiet thought,
the unruly impulse, the unwary stirring
of holy cravings, the longing for internal revolution,
the descant-mad, dervish-driven
prophetic-spewing roar that drives us
ever and always, unceasingly, unmercifully
into the arms of our own liberation.
Hail Loki, Liberator,
cunning, wild, and wise.
May You ever be hailed.
(Loki prayer cycle by G. Krasskova)
*One of his lesser known by-names is Hveðrungr (Roarer).
(image by W. McMillan, available as a prayer card here.)
My heart goes out to the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, NZ. To be brutally murdered in one’s place of worship, in the midst of prayer, in a space that should be a haven and sanctuary is particularly evil. I have seen many today denigrating the idea of prayer as a response, but there is healing power in prayer and in bringing our shock and pain to our Gods and I very much encourage you, my readers, to hold the victims and their families in prayer, that their ancestors may welcome the former and comfort the latter. May they have peace. May the families and their local community have healing.
Sadly, the self described “Eco-fascist” who committed these heinous acts used language in some of his online posts that reference Valhalla, leading many to wonder if he is connected in some way to the Heathen community. If he is (and there is no definite proof), then it is in the shallowest of ways. No God spurred these actions nor is something like this in any way supported by Heathen groups. I think it safe to say, as I do here, that as a religious body, across denominations, we condemn this type of mindless brutality. We love our traditions, our Gods, and our people but that does not translate and should not translate into actively attacking others. Let us nourish our traditions and build them up in healthy ways. Terrorism has no place in that.