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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Heathen

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Why You Should Read LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD

Yesterday, the first issue of Marvel's LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD arrived in your local Comics and Games Emporium. I haven't yet acquired my copy, because a frost giants are currently attacking my neighborhood and my roommate is too busy binging on Star Trek: Enterprise to dig his car out so we can exit the driveway, but I want to encourage you to pick up this comic.* If you have any interest in Marvel comics, or the Marvel movies – or, to tread into dangerous waters, in the ongoing folkloric evolution of Norse mythology through popular culture – you should give it a read.

The first two categories should be obvious: Loki is a major character in the Marvel Universe, and arguably the second most popular character in the movies after Tony Stark. AGENT OF ASGARD appears to be the culmination of several years of intense character development for Loki as well as a re-alignment of the character to better match Tom Hiddleston's portrayal in the films. But my third reason may require more explanation.

In short: if you think Marvel's treatment of Thor, Loki, and the entire Norse pantheon doesn't have an impact on the way people approach those beings in religious practice, I think you're willfully ignoring reality. How could it not? The number of people who know of Thor through Chris Hemsworth dwarfs those who have read the myth of Thor and Loki's visit to Útgarð. Some of those people will come into Heathen religions because of that first contact. The conservative nature of Heathenry ensures that anyone who first discovers the Norse gods through pop culture will immediately learn the differences between modern media and ancient sources, but it can't help but have an impact.

...
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  • C.S. MacCath
    C.S. MacCath says #
    I was holding out on this one; my pull list is already a mile long. But you've talked me into it. Time to write my comic book pu
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    This is an excellent example of how pop culture benefits more traditional belief systems, because as you write it can be a gateway
  • Peter Beckley
    Peter Beckley says #
    I sometimes fear the power of pop culture; unchecked it invariably waters down the message for the sake of making it palatable to

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I belong to a local, Pan-Pagan group.  I was a member of it about seven or eight years ago, but it was a bit too chaotic and "fluffy" for my tastes.  I didn't end up sticking around for long as a result, but it did good work in the community and meant well, so it's existence didn't really bother me either.  It just wasn't for me, but it served it's purpose.  Recently, the organization went under a fair amount of upheaval and was in danger of breaking apart due to infighting and disagreements. 

It had managed to achieve non-profit status about three or four years ago, so people came forward to try and help repair the damage and keep it alive.  While not the most conservative state in the union, Pennsylvania is hardly what I'd call progressive either.  As such, having a Pagan organization with non-profit status is something worthy of celebrating and definitely provokes some consideration.  Some of the local Heathens were part of the initial efforts to rebuild the organization from the ground up, and informed me of the issues at hand.  I decided I wanted to help as well, which brings us to the moment where I found myself in a county owned recreational center, sitting in on one of the meetings.

At one point, the conversation turned to the subject of how to make events and rituals mutually inclusive and respectful to all people who might be in attendance.  Towards the end of the discussion, an elderly woman of an amicable nature said "We should all stop arguing, and just worship the Earth."  She said this while wearing an expression that suggested she felt that this was so universal of a truth there could be no way that anyone who called themselves Witch, Pagan, or Polytheist could possibly disagree.  It wasn't an opinion, to her; it was fact.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Mythology---Dragon---St.-George-fighting-the-dragon.jpgMost of the people in attendance were Wiccans and/or Monists of various philosophies, so she didn't seem to actually offend anyone.  Even my fellow Heathens and I were sort of used to these statement from her, so we didn't really see the point in working ourselves up over the issue.  Getting angry at this sort of person is like yelling at a cloud; it does nothing, and they didn't come from someone who was particularly polarizing.  She's just the typical representation of someone who thinks they're so inclusive that couldn't possibly make an excluding statement.

The thing is, however, that I've seen so many theological arguments come from this exact scenario; someone makes some sort of presumption for all of Paganism, and than they come across someone who believes the exact opposite.  The next step is that the disagreeing Pagan will point out, often times with great offense, that the person is very wrong.  Typically, the person who made the faux-inclusive statement gets defensive, because they aren't bigoted and/or privileged so of COURSE the other person is just being too sensitive, and than an argument breaks out.

We've all seen his exact scenario play out a lot, especially over the last year or two.  I stay out of these fights because, to be quite simple about it, I don't recognize the authority of some fool sitting off on the sideline making proclamations that are less authoritative on a given religion than the content of a Wikipedia article.  Some people, however, don't go by that standard and I can't blame them; when you practice a minority religion, you find yourself bombarded with a rather alarming amount of social faux pas. 

That's putting it very diplomatically to be sure, but it cuts to the core nicely.  Being the target of so many social and diplomatic mistakes, you expect people who also practices minority religions to be more mindful and considerate.  After all, regardless of whether you are a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Gardenerian Wiccan, a solitary practitioner, or what have you...in many circles within North America and (I suspect) Europe, you are going to be the targets of some similar acts of ignorance, privilege*, and stupidity.  You expect that anyone who is in a similar situation would take equal effort in being mindful of the theology and philosophy of others.

So when that expectation is let down, it's easy to get extremely angry about it.

I am Heathen.  I do respect the Earth, no doubt; there are spirits both animist and ancestral that reside on it and within it, and I do my best to show them the respect and thankfulness my tradition says that they are due.  I do not, however, worship the Earth; that's a word that I direct towards divine figures almost exclusively.  Even with ancestors, the term "worship" is used differently than I use it when I talk about Gods.  That is my path, and no one gets to tell me what it's about or what I should or should not be worshiping.**

You are...well, whatever you are.  Whatever your tradition, path, or philosophy, it is up to you to define your worldview as best as you are able.  In the meantime, for the sake of the Ancestors, Gods, the Earth,or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster, don't act like your path is mine.  At least, not before we've talked and discovered that together.  Not until you truly know, rather than feel you can  reasonably presume.  Your path does not represent the whole spectrum of non-Abrhamic and/or non-Islamic belief,*** so don't pretend that it does.

You have the right to your beliefs, but that right ends at the beginning of every other person's belief.  No matter then intention, someone trying to unify all faiths across the world into a single thread is going to end up insulting someone.  Probably a lot of someones.  No matter the intentions, it becomes exactly like being told that you are a Satanist because you're not Christian.  Improperly worded or poorly thought out statements about religious unity contain a very similar message; they involve telling someone what their faith is, without their consent or consideration of their person.  Should we be surprised that such statements end poorly when the presume so many things that, in many case, trip over many of our own psychological wounds? 

No matter what you wish to say when it comes to religion, you'll find someone who disagrees.  That is wonderful!  After decades and centuries of religious thought having been homogenized, by legal mandate in some cases, we have the opportunity to form our religious standards, philosophies, and concepts.  In many places in the world, such processes even have legal protection.  We get to disagree on religion, and have that not be a big deal.  We can identify, build, and form spiritual relationships in ways that were unthinkable a few generations ago.  Savor that! 

b2ap3_thumbnail_iStock_prism.jpgThis statement even applies to my Monist friends; even if you feel all paths are one, the wondrous permutations of that one idea are split into thousands of ideas like the light of one sun traveling through a prism.  This isn't a cause for contention.  It is a cause to rejoice!

Even this statement that I am making now will find some who disagree with it, and I'm okay with that.  The person who disagrees with probably will be as well, because I'm about to say one thing; this is how I see things.  I speak for no one else but myself, because I'm the only person I have the authority to speak for.  Everyone else needs to speak for themselves.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.


* I don't like the term privilege, because I think it's counter productive most of the time.  Using the term in conversation with people who don't understand it seems to destroy bridges instead of building them, and I think that's not any kind of way to sew empathy and compassion.  Your mileage may vary, of course.  In this case, we're talking about it in a broader, less accusatory manner....which is where I think this concept works best.

**Well, my Gods get to of course...but that is an entirely different topic...

***I use the dictionary definition of Pagan most of the time; that is, any religion that doesn't come from a Christian, Hebrew, or Islamic background.  Yes, that casts a wide net...but it's about the only consistent definition I can ever find.  Thus, it has become the one I use the most.  My word choices typically favor clarity as a deciding factor, and you can't get much clearer than "this is the definition the dictionary uses the most often".

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  • LilithBlackDragon
    LilithBlackDragon says #
    Oh I definitely GOT this article. All of it. Made absolute perfect sense to me. For some reason, lots of people want to shade into
  • Gregor
    Gregor says #
    Your writing is barely coherent. I have no idea what this article was trying to say other than something about an old lady worshi

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

First, allow me to apologize for being out of the loop for about a month. Between Thanksgiving, holiday shopping, and coming down with some mutant offspring of the bubonic plague, writing anything of merit has been difficult. Second, allow me to also apologize for not having any funny memes in this post; I'm still recovering from the cold and I don't feel particularly equipped for humor.  Also, this topic is serious enough that I fear humor would detract from it.  Now, with that out of the way, let's move right along.

On December 21st, Heathens United Against Racism will be holding an international event. Heathens, Asatruar, and Norse Polytheists across the world will be raising scorn poles, or Nidstang, against the undesired racialization and radicalization of our religious paths by extremists. Months ago, the founder of that group, (Ryan Smith) asked if some of the membership would be willing to write anything to spread the message. I was eager to assist, but found myself hard pressed to write something I was satisfied with. After some work and soul searching*, I came up with the following thoughts.

Let's cut right to the chase; the racialist minority in Asatru and Heathenry is a group of disturbed people. There is no other way that I can phrase it, and I do not consider such language inflammatory or inaccurate. There is nothing within the history and anthropology of the cultures that first honored the Norse gods which supports a ethnic supremacy mindset. Tellingly, it also possesses no representation within the myths and tales that represent our religious heritage. With these things in mind, it becomes clear what the catalyst for such a philosophy truly is; fearful and/or angry people projecting their own hatred and biases onto a religion in order to give them the pretension of legitimacy. It a tactic that is ages old, and one which causes no lack of frustration and anger.

It is easy to hate such groups. Actually doing it, however, is a trap. In fact, it's the same trap they've fallen into themselves. I'm not going to go forth and do a stupid thing, simply because my reasons have better intentions. Their hate speech is a language of madness. Within that madness, however, is the best solution they think they have to a problem they cannot properly define. They are dangerous people to be sure, but they are also tragic.

I'd say that the actions of many who think like them come from a need to be the victim, and to not be the persecutor. A need to say, “No, really...everything I do isn't related to some irrational fear that equality will lead to me being treated as some of my ancestors may have once treated others! It's a war, and if I don't fight it the white race will be unable to prosper because of....reasons”.  A need to find a way to believe that such tripe is actually a valid concern. To say otherwise, in their mind, is to promote white guilt.

Allow me to address that.  You see, I'm not a land owner in the pre-civil war South. Further, I'm not a member of the Nationalsozialismus in Holocaust Germany. I didn't hold power in Apartheid era South Africa, nor did I lead Aboriginal Americans to their deaths along the trail of tears. I don't bear shame or guilt for these actions, because I didn't do them. When someone goes to great lengths to legitimize such terrible deeds, they do not appear as men and women who are attempting to triumphantly repeal the march of “Liberal Revisionism” (or whatever the kids are calling it these day); they look like someone who is terrified of being connected to the bad guys. It looks like fear and shame, turned into hate.

So, to such people, I offer a small prayer:


To those who would stand with the Aesir and Vanir,
Yet have lost themselves between Midgard and Ginnungap
Between Niflheim and Muspelheim.
Between Courage and Cowardice
I ask the Gods we mutually stand with,
To stand by you and guard your way home.

When you first stand before the Bifrost,
May Heimdall help you cross and guard you from distractions.

When you stand within the Asgard,
May Thor show you true strength and courage.

When you think upon your past,
May Loki leave your mind unclouded by pretty lies

When you find your heart and head,
May Eir help them heal and grow strong

When you cross into the Gladsheim,
May Frigg smile at your passing and embrace you as her own.
And May Odin show you the true wisdom of the nine realms.

And when you pass some day,
As both cattle and kinsmen are wont to do,
May Hel give you the peace of your greatest moments,
And let time and eternity wash away the worst.

I hail the Gods you worship.
I hail your ancestors.
May it be that someday I can hail you as well.

...
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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

The Huffington Post recently got the chance to compare Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, and Oprah Winfrey, which already lets you know that things have gone off the rails. The short of it is that each of these people took someone and projected their own religion upon them; Dawkins and Maher projected Atheism upon President Obama and Pope Francis (I wish I was kidding) respectively, while Winfrey projected a vague sort of theism onto her guest, Diana Nyad (an Atheist). The article goes on to elaborate upon how crude such presumptions are, no matter their intention. Assurances of “no really, you're the same as me!” may be spoken with a mindset that is complimentary, but the reality is that it just ends up as a subtle insult.  It leaves their religious viewpoint up to consensus rather than the dictates of their own soul.

Respect for the religions of others is, like many things, easy to talk about but much more complicated in practice. It's easy to stumble without meaning to, and modern Paganism has a pretty unique stumbling block that seems to effect people on all sides.

An interview with Larisa Hunter over at Northern Runes Radio revealed that she has just started her own publishing company (Saga Press). Part of her reason to start this venture, she said, was that that their was a few issues in communicating concepts with her previous publisher. “Working with a Pagan publisher, I did find it difficult to convey that Heathenry was different and it had to be expressed in different ways.” she said, “”A lot of the terminology is not the same, so putting generic terms in a Heathen book doesn't work. So that was my frustration; it was butting heads [because] they didn't understand that Heathenry had specific terms for specific reasons and we like those terms.” (This part of the interview occurs between 5:10 and 5:40, though the entire video is worth watching.)

I suspect the disconnect that Larisa is referring to is quite common. It certainly finds a level of comparison when contrasted against the actions of Dawkins, Maher, and Winfrey, though it comes from a much more benign place in my opinion. The modern Pagan revival really came into it's own in the 1990s partly because it was good at finding similarities and common ground.  Many historical and modern Pagan paths had a strong tradition of syncretism. It is true that some less scrupulous authors used the zeitgeist of the time to publish poorly researched works and turn them into a paycheck, the desire to find similarities and build connections was still a noble one. They learned to take a look at the spiritual actions of many separate cultures, compare the commonalities between those actions, and than make something new from the complementary elements.

This makes it easy and sensiable for some people to look at the Heathen practices of Spae-work and go, “Oh! That's just like our techniques for ritual magic!”. If you know someone who practices Spae, have them read the previous sentence. Watch the expression that they make. I'll bet you a dollar it isn't a pleasant or pleased one.

Yes, it is a form of magic, but it's not the same as yours. Some of the conceits of Spae are much different from the baseline of ritualistic magic work that exists today. This is the point where I suspect those who specialize in the mystical practices involved in chaos magic, Kabbalistic techniques, Gardenerian Wicca, and other traditions are nodding their head. The things which drew some of us to these particular practices were their unique structure and beauty.  For those passionately drawn to such work, seeing those sacred and ineffable differences disregarded can be painful if not downright insulting.


a1sx2_Original1_Gaston-and-Magic-with-a-K.pngThis is not a judgment of Eclectic Paganism, but rather highlighting a diplomatic pitfall that can occur easily. Looking for a commonality to use as a bridge between the paths of two very different people is not a weakness; it's an act of unity. The problem isn't with the comparison itself, but rather in how such a comparison is made and presented. To provide another Heathen example, Galdr could be compared to many different forms of ritualistic chanting and/or singing. Galdr certainly is a form of such practices, but it follows it's own rules, it's done for specific purposes, and is performed in it's own ways. The differences have equal value to the similarities, because those differences are what have created our traditions and paths. Recognizing the similarities is wonderful, but discarding the differences in the process is throwing out whole chunks of what some of us have spent our lives trying to understand and embrace. This isn't a one way street either, as I suspect that those of more reconstructionist based methodology are equally guilty of actions that are equally crass and marginalizing.

What is at work here is no mystery, as it represents a huge part of how humans develop socially.  Both as individuals and as cultures, we are dawn to seek the ties that bind. Finding similarities and connections is not wrong, so long as we go about it in an intelligent and respectful way.  That's the good news here; the mistake is easy to make, but it's even easier to avoid.

Don't say “Oh! That thing you do sounds exactly like this thing that I do. They must be the same!” Your never going to know if it's “exactly like” your own practices, so don't presume.  Instead, use it as a doorway to a better understanding. “That sounds similar to my own practices. Are you familiar with them?” or “In my tradition, such things are called “X”...what else can you tell me about your methods?” Instead of whitewashing those meaningful differences away, you've given a chance to give them the attention and recognition they deserve. At the same time, you've built that same bridge through commonalities and reinforced it with respect. Lastly, you've opened yourself to learning about the ways of another. You've lost nothing, and gained much.

Tolerance of religion isn't as easy as it sounds. To be truly tolerant you don't need to grasp only your own concept of acceptance, but the concepts of others. There are no easy answers, and most rules of thumb will find a way to bite you in the rump more often than not. The only guideline I've found that hasn't let me down is, fittingly enough, the simplest one of all.

If you want to know more, simply ask a question. It's surprising how much further we get with questions than with statements.

...
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  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Yes. Yes.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

My name is Harrison Hall. You might know my writing from the work I at "Kvasir Amongst the Gods" over at Wordpress. A few months ago, one of my fellow bloggers suggested that I apply to write over here at Witches and Pagans, as she thought my writing style would be a good fit. I did so, and I was graciously and somewhat surprisingly accepted. This process took about a month. That neatly brings us up to the present.

That's not very interesting. Feel free to pretend that the month of processing was actually a cover so I could go forth and battle an army of genetically enhanced velociraptors that were trying to take over the world. You're welcome.

My blog at Wordpress is about my religious views, but the scope of such writing tends to be all over the place. That's not accidental, as I enjoy having the ability to just let loose with whatever thoughts or ideas I feel needed to be shared the most. When I was asked to select an area for my W&P blog to focus on, I decided to write about something that is close to my heart and has been coming up more and more over the last few weeks. The various denominations and interpretations of devotional, polytheistic, Paganism have always struggled with getting along with one another. This seems to be especially true when it comes to Heathenry and Norse Polytheism. I don't like that.

...
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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    As a soft-polytheist I commend your sentiments, Harrison. Thanks, also, for taking care of those genetically enhanced velociraptor
  • Harrison K. Hall
    Harrison K. Hall says #
    Well, you do what you can...both in terms of interfaith diplomacy and dinosaurs.
  • Heather Freysdottir
    Heather Freysdottir says #
    Yay! So happy to see you here.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Heathenry in Afghanistan

I arrived in Afghanistan in the last week of August, just as many other members of the American armed forces do- a long flight, a refueling stop, a processing station in the former Soviet bloc, and then to one of the main airbases from which we are all parsed out to our respective assignments.  I ended up in the city of Kabul, with the mountains a short trip from the city and a lot of unpleasant flatlands in every direction.

Before I left for Afghanistan, I knew that I would want to connect with the pagan/heathen minority when I arrived- as I have said, I am not much for ceremony and ritual, but it is good to have someone to talk to when you're staring down the barrel of several months in a foreign land.  I began by reaching out to a great organization called Open Halls Project, a Facebook group owned and operated by Josh and Cat Heath with the goal of supporting heathens in the military.  The result was connection with one heathen on the exact camp I was going to- a relatively unlikely event given the size of our faith and the number of possible camps across Afghanistan.

By pure serendipity, I ran across another heathen assigned to the same location, who introduced me to a third.  For the first few weeks, even with our intense work schedules and commitments to the lives we suspended back home, we managed to cross paths twice and converse. 

...
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  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski says #
    Thanks for sharing your experiences again! Looking forward to updates on your adventures. May you and your company come home safel

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Freyr icon by Shirl Sazynski
 

A Heathen Prayer

The Lord is not my shepherd.
He teaches not submission but resilience.
In the face of the impossible, there are no guarantees. Not even for Him.
But victory was never born without valor. Even love has a sacred price:
nothing worth striving for is easily won.
Trickster, sage, lover, father, brother, husband, nephew, son;
warrior and peace-maker, hunter and grower, slayer and slain:
Wise-one, show me the way
Not to follow but to be inspired
To both grow in worthiness and to recognize the abundant worth in others.
I am not a sheep, nor was I bred for docility:
I am a falcon, a hart, a wolf.

 

Freyr is literally one of the words for 'Lord' in old Norse. In other words, it's not just a well-known God's name but his title. One of Odin's many heiti (by-names and titles) is Herran-- also another word for 'Lord' with a warrior connotation. While both Gods are associated with kingship in Scandinavia, Freyr is mythically attributed inYnglinga Saga as the ancestor of the royal house of Sweden (much as Egyptian pharoahs claimed descent from or symbolic right to rule as inherited from Osiris-- which also means 'Sire').

...
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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Cool picture, Shirl. It took me over half a century to realize that the 23rd Psalm only tells half the truth - the Good Shepherd m
  • Cynthia Savage
    Cynthia Savage says #
    Or to be fleeced.....maybe the televangelists have a point!

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Meditations on Hávamál, 27-30

27.

Ósnotr maðr,
er með aldir kemr,
þat er bazt, at hann þegi;
engi þat veit,
at hann ekki kann,
nema hann mæli til margt;
veit-a maðr,
hinn er vettki veit,
þótt hann mæli til margt.

The unwise man

...
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Heathen Gods and Sacrifice (and Transformation)

Norse Gods bear famous wounds: an eye traded for wisdom, an ear given to hear the approach of danger, a hand to bind and slow the dire wolf of ultimate destruction. Each sacrifice is an emblem of their power: mighty Odin, who sees all in his high seat, is half-blinded; Heimdall the guardian of Asgard, the Gods' realm, left half-deaf; Tyr the God of justice unable, forevermore, to swear by his severed right hand in court.

...
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  • Alfar
    Alfar says #
    Thank you.... I know the ladies will enjoy this... the fellas as well... but the ladies especially. They love when another female
  • Alfar
    Alfar says #
    Great work. I am an Asatru Gothi and work with prison ministry / education. There are a great number of fine heathen men and women
  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski says #
    Thank you, Alfar. I am happy that my writings can make a difference in other peoples' lives, including those who are trying to mak

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I love the Norse Gods, and I love stories. Whether you think they are people or think they are characters in stories, I'd like to share that sense of wonder with you, exploring ethics in the thorny places where beauty and brutality interweave to speak eloquently about the human condition in all its flaws and grandeur.

As an artist and writer, my work is steeped in mythology and ancient literature which I find surprisingly relevant to modern life. Human nature does not change much, but the way we explain it— through stories and the shifting values of our cultures— does.

Like the Gods I worship, I travel frequently. It's made me keenly aware of how similar people are beneath the surface differences, wherever (or whenever) you go. It's also shown me how much we influence one another, through our ideas and relationships, and of the value of face-to-face relationships and community during a time in which both our wilderness and connection to other life is rapidly eroding.

...
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  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski says #
    It's an intriguing way to raise awareness for a deity, and a lovely thought. Thank you for the compliment about my writing. He (an
  • Heather Freysdottir
    Heather Freysdottir says #
    I don't know if this is of interest to you, but there's a Freyr spouse proposing a month for Him: http://shannonkotono.wordpress.c

Greetings, gentle readers, I’m Heather Freysdottir and I’ll be your Lokean Swamp Witch. I’m a Godspouse, which is a type of mysticism that involves sharing day to day life with a Deity, Loki in my case. I know that some would consider that odd, but for me, it’s an extension of my understanding of the sacred. Yes, Loki is holy. I am holy. You are holy. The goal and desire in this Union is to acknowledge the sacredness of this World and Elsewhere, and to bring them together, and be present and aware of both.

When we cast a circle, it’s often said that we create sacred space, but in truth, every space is sacred, and by casting we acknowledge and create awareness of its holiness, and our own, and create a bond of kinship with the humans and Spirits participating in the ritual. A godspouse’s relationship is much the same. We come together with our Beloveds and go out into our communities and create awareness of the bonds that unite us to the Gods and the Land. We are a circle.

We are many other things too – friends, lovers, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, parents, or teachers. In many ways I’m the witch-next-door. I have a teenager at home, and I write and edit for a living. Going back to Loki, as most things in my life lead back to Him, in some twisting, turning way, He was my Muse for many years, though I didn’t know who He was, or that He was a God. And what writer doesn’t adore their Muse? But I’m not the only one to have Him as a Muse, or as a spouse – He enjoys the attention from many.

...
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  • Liza
    Liza says #
    So excited to see you here!
  • Heather Freysdottir
    Heather Freysdottir says #
    Thank you!
  • Beth Lynch
    Beth Lynch says #
    Yay! Welcome to Pagan Square!

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Meditations on Hávamál, 10-14

10.
Byrði betri
berr-at maðr brautu at
en sé mannvit mikit;
auði betra
þykkir þat í ókunnum stað;
slíkt er válaðs vera.

11.
Byrði betri
berr-at maðr brautu at
en sé mannvit mikit;
vegnest verra
vegr-a hann velli at
en sé ofdrykkja öls.

12.
Er-a svá gótt
sem gótt kveða
öl alda sona,
því at færa veit,
er fleira drekkr
síns til geðs gumi.

13.
Óminnishegri heitir
sá er yfir ölðrum þrumir,
hann stelr geði guma;
þess fugls fjöðrum
ek fjötraðr vark
í garði Gunnlaðar.

14.
Ölr ek varð,
varð ofrölvi
at ins fróða Fjalars;
því er ölðr bazt,
at aftr of heimtir
hverr sitt geð gumi.

 

10. A better burden can no man carry along the way than great common sense; better than riches in the unknown place for the wretched man.

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Anglo-Saxon Yuletide

This is a bit of a chestnut, but like the holly evergreen: the longest night of the year has already begun here in Scotland. If you need some ideas for tomorrow's celebrations to welcome the return of the light, here you go:

The Anglo-Saxons settled Britain in the early fifth century, giving their name to the land now known as England. Very little remains of the native culture of the Anglo-Saxons.  We learn from the Venerable Bede, a seventh century Christian historian, that the months we now call December and January were considered “Giuli” or Yule by the Anglo-Saxons.  According to the historian, his Anglo-Saxon ancestors celebrated the beginning of the year on December 25th, referred to as “Modranect”— that is, Mothers’ Night.  This celebration most likely acknowledged the rebirth of Mother Earth in order to ensure fertility in the coming spring season.  An Anglo-Saxon charm for crop fertility, recorded in the eleventh-century and known as “Aecerbot,” refers to the Earth as “Erce, [the] Earthen Mother” and contains the following praise poem for her:

Hale be you, earth,

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b2ap3_thumbnail_sixth-article-800px-Walhall_by_Emil_Doepler.jpg

Better alive (than lifeless be):
to the quick fall aye the cattle;
the hearth burned for the happy heir –
outdoors a dead man lay.

May the halt ride a horse, and the handless be herdsman,
the deaf man may doughtily fight,
a blind man is better than a burned one, ay:
of what gain is a good man dead?

– “Havamal” 70 & 71

These words warrant our reflection. They articulate, baldy and unambiguously, the high worth placed on human life among the Norse Heathens – for these sentiments are attributed to Odin himself.

We might say that they provide strong evidence for a kind of Heathen humanism. At the very least, they suggest that in premodern times folk were hesitant to dismiss any individual’s worth out of hand.

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  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    Henry, I'd like to republish this at HumanisticPaganism.com next month if you are amendable. Let me know. Thanks, John Halstead
  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch says #
    I've often found myself frustrated with some Heathens who refuse to take the heart of that line in the Havamal to heart. Rather th

 

This weekend was an interesting working weekend for me. My colleague U. came down and we both presented at a local interfaith seminary. I taught on polytheism, ancestor work, and indigeny in the morning, and he gave an afternoon full of deep meditation and trance work focusing on honoring the earth and connecting with animal and elemental spirits. We come from two different traditions: mine Norse and his Dagara and seeing us working together and reinforcing each other's teaching was, I think, very enlightening for the students.  It really highlighted certain commonalities found across the board in indigenous traditions (like honoring the ancestors). The students themselves were amazing: they were engaged, enthusiastic and very brave given how ready they were to join in the work we were doing never having met either one of us before. I was honored and humbled to be amongst them. Obviously though, since I’m writing this article, something went awry during the course of the day and as my title suggests, that something had to do with ritual protocol. Actually, I think it had to do with common respect or lack thereof, but I'll get to that in a bit.

 

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  • Tim Schneider
    Tim Schneider says #
    An interruption is rude regardless of source, especially with a sign posted. There are some rituals which should not, for sake of
  • Sophie Gale
    Sophie Gale says #
    The first of November I had the privilege of hearing Rev. Dirk Ficca, former director of the World Parliament of Religions speak a
  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    Those are beautiful principles and if that was what actually happened in interfaith communities, I'd be exhilarated. it's not thou

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_Unquiet-Dreams-by-Kathryn-Laity---200_20121128-201732_1.jpgHávamál

5.
Vits er þörf,
þeim er víða ratar;
dælt er heima hvat;
at augabragði verðr,
sá er ekki kann
ok með snotrum sitr.

6.
At hyggjandi sinni
skylit maðr hræsinn vera,
heldr gætinn at geði;
þá er horskr ok þögull
kemr heimisgarða til,
sjaldan verðr víti vörum,
því at óbrigðra vin
fær maðr aldregi
en mannvit mikit.

7.
Inn vari gestr,
er til verðar kemr,
þunnu hljóði þegir,
eyrum hlýðir,
en augum skoðar;
svá nýsisk fróðra hverr fyrir.

8.
Hinn er sæll,
er sér of getr
lof ok líknstafi;
ódælla er við þat,
er maðr eiga skal
annars brjóstum í.

9.
Sá er sæll,
er sjalfr of á
lof ok vit, meðan lifir;
því at ill ráð
hefr maðr oft þegit
annars brjóstum ór.

 

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Thanks for this, my friend. Beautiful, lyrical. Will it become a book, do you think? As I'm reading it, it feels like the I Chin
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    Thank you, my friend. I suspect it will in some form. Because you know I need one more book project!
  • Anita White
    Anita White says #
    Very beautifully written. Thank you for sharing!

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
The Darkest Month

As if seen through the wrong end of a telescope, blurred and dimmed around the edges, the darkness of December beckons as November draws to its end.  For the general non-pagan public in America, December is the brightest month of the year, a gleeful blending of commercialism, family ties, and food comas.  For many (if not most) pagans, it is a conundrum of sorts,  a season when non-pagan family obligations directly or indirectly conflict with the allure of like-minded spiritual gatherings.  Historically, for Europeans throughout the middle ages, especially in northern Europe, it was a time of gathering the family tightly together against the outer cold, of taking in travelers and guests with generosity but caution (for who knew what--or Who--might be wandering out there in the freezing gusts, hobnobbing with the trolls), for lavishly feasting the gods--pagan or Christian, depending on the time and the setting--and the dead, but at a careful distance, ever mindful that the next hand on one's doorknob might not be a human one, that the skeletal scraping against windows might not be the branches of dead trees, that the dead walk this time of year, and that things and People far more dire walk alongside them--or worse, fly through the stormy night skies--keeping careful count of debts accrued throughout the year passed, and demanding Their due.

For me, as for my spiritual ancestors, December is the darkest month of the year, with the traditional twelve days of Yule--the "smudging nights," so called in folklore because you had better be smudging your home with protective herbs against the wild spirits that roamed the long nights--beckoning at its black heart.  It is the most precious month of the year for me--for it was in this month that I took sacred marriage vows to my Husband, Odin, that darkest of gods, at this darkest of times.  But it is also the most dreadful month.  It is a time when the air is filled with ghosts and the trolls spill upwards through the cracks in the earth, freed from their underground lairs to walk among humans.   

For me it is, beyond all else, Odin's month--although that is certainly not limited to December.  Although I feel and honor Him equally, yet somewhat differently, throughout the other seasons of the year, during the period of late September through the beginning of January we see His darkest face, the face of Yggr (the Terrible One) who sacrificed Himself on the World Tree, the face of Wilde Jaeger (the Wild Hunter) who rides His flame-eyed steed at the head of the Furious Host.  Perhaps I am biased, but although I do have special festival days throughout the year for Him, and especially in late September through November, for me December is all about Odin, from beginning to end, even though several of the actual festival days within it are goddess-focused.

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  • Jolene
    Jolene says #
    As you already know, I'm of two minds about claiming saints' days for my own calendar. I've tried it, I don't love it, but I can s
  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch says #
    Interestingly, I just read an excellent book by Claude Lecouteux entitled "Phantom Armies of the Night: The Wild Hunt and the Ghos

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Meditations on Hávamál 1-4

Hávamál offers us a glimpse of a past that had already become somewhat nostalgic when a single hand transcribed the poem around 1270 CE.  As David A. H. Evans writes in the Viking Society for Northern Research’s edition of the verses, this second poem of the Elder Edda “is deservedly one of the most celebrated works to have survived from the early Norse world.” It’s full of gnomic advice that continues to be of interest—and application—to us in the modern world. Old Norse text via the Heimskringla Project.

1.    
Gáttir allar,
áðr gangi fram,
um skoðask skyli,
um skyggnast skyli,
því at óvíst er at vita,
hvar óvinir
sitja á fleti fyrir.

2.
Gefendr heilir!
Gestr er inn kominn,
hvar skal sitja sjá?
Mjök er bráðr,
sá er á bröndum skal
síns of freista frama.

3.
Elds er þörf,
þeims inn er kominn
ok á kné kalinn;
matar ok váða
er manni þörf,
þeim er hefr um fjall farit.

4.
Vatns er þörf,
þeim er til verðar kemr,
þerru ok þjóðlaðar,
góðs of æðis,
ef sér geta mætti,
orðs ok endrþögu.

 

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    This is what I needed today. Blessings on your dear head, Laity.
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    You are most kind, my friend.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

 

Like most people, I have moments of feeling out of my depth, unable to contain myself in the face of frustration, disappointed expectation, physical or emotional pain, financial stress, or even just overwhelm at the onslaught of suffering and cruelty that floods this world. This tends to dismantle my ability to function effectively.

I am grateful for this flaw, this tendency to feel out of control, unable to cope with daily challenges, making epic drama out of what are in truth mostly very modest problems. Although this tendency has caused me pain, misfortune, lost opportunities, and so forth (and at times made me into a hypocrite), it has also made life into a creative challenge for me. And this leads me onto a path of growth, exploration, dedication to transformation.

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  • Steven
    Steven says #
    Such a timely post from my personal perspective. I suspect you have touched upon the essence of something that transcends the bou
Crossing the Sacred Threshold: The Gods of Small Things

 

I am a Latin teacher currently (and laboriously) working my way toward a PhD in Classics. I read a lot of Latin texts (in Latin and usually with quite a bit of cussing along the way as I attempt to untangle classical Latin syntax). Fortunately, for the most part, I enjoy this and one of the tangential elements that I find particularly satisfying in my studies is occasionally coming across an interesting reference to ancient Roman [polytheistic] religion along the way.  It happens a lot and for all that I am Heathen, not a practitioner of Religio Romana, I find that every time I read about how a man or woman, raised in Roman culture, steeped in its religion honored his or her Gods, I find my own practices enriched.

When I started in Classics I was told (by a PhD candidate) that no one really understands Roman religion. I admit to being a bit taken aback. It always made perfect sense to me: honor your ancestors, honor the living spirit of your city, its genus loci, maintain the proper household and public rituals, and live in a world where everything has its spirit, everything is alive. It made perfect sense to me and I’ll tell you why: for all of their diversity, polytheistic religions – which are indigenous religions-- seem, in my opinion, to share a common thread, one quite alien to monotheistic thought; that common thread is rooted not just in a polytheistic and by extension pluralistic worldview, but in one that is, to greater or lesser degree, animist.

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  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    Anne, I"ll try to write something on that soon.
  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch says #
    I've been pushing for a re-recognition of the spirits of the land and household for years, now, both in my personal practice and e
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    I'd love to hear more about *how* to connect with the small gods of place; although I'm quite well acquainted with the larger deit

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