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Walking Toward Initiation

 

I know it’s been quite awhile since I posted here and for that I must apologize. I’m aware that I owe y’all a post about city spirits, the conclusion of my London series, but I’m afraid that’s going to have to wait at least a tiny bit longer. You see, I’m right at the tail end, the home stretch in the preparations for a major initiation: I’m making asiento in less than three weeks. It’s been a bit difficult to concentrate on anything else as the date draws near!

So in the interim, I shall share with you the first article that I wrote about this, a few weeks ago, before the pre-initiatory panic had truly set in—and all initiations bring their measure of terror. I’ve written about that too here: http://krasskova.weebly.com/1/post/2013/03/creeping-toward-the-sacred.html

I assure you, once this milestone has been met and passed, I’ll get you my promised article on city spirits. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from those who have undergone their own initiatory cycles and rites, how you found it best to prepare and your experiences of integrating who you were, with who you became after the rituals. Ashe, people.

 

Walking toward Asiento

 

I give thanks to Ellegua, Opener of the Way. I give thanks to my Ancestors. I give thanks to the Powers that have set my feet so surely in this Work. Ashe.

 

I don't usually write or talk about this aspect of my spiritual work. It's very precious and very personal to me. It's been nice to be able to explore this new road that Odin has set my feet upon, in privacy. That's not a luxury I'm usually afforded, not when so much of my life serves the work (every moment). It's all fodder for Odin and the Gods and They often demand I write about it all. I knew the time would come when I would probably be pushed to write about this too and sure enough, that time has indeed arrived.

 

I am going to 'make the saint.' I"m undergoing asiento before my birthday at the end of March. What does this mean? In a nutshell, it means that I will become a practicing santera, in addition to the other roles I fulfill, and it is  joy, an honor, and a blessing to serve the Orisha so. They have protected and nourished me and poured blessings into my hands, my heart, and my House. What's more, I'm doing all of this with the blessing and encouragement of Odin.

 

You read that rightly too. Odin is the One Who led me to the Orisha. How do I know that? How am I sure? The elder who did the divination for me, determining which Orisha ruled my head, and whether or not I was to make asiento encountered Him. It was a very, very *long* reading too, let me tell you. He made His blessings known as did the Orisha.

 

Does that mean i'm not Heathen any longer? Sorry folks. Don't start celebrating yet. I still self-define as Heathen. My House has a Norse and an African line. We are polytheistic, animists, rooted in ancestor veneration and devotion to the Powers. Long ago we came to realize that means all the Powers, not just the Ones that fit our neat little conception of what our ancestry ought to bestow. We're polytheists. That means, as our ancestors would have understood it, that we honor the Gods of our ancestors. We honor the Gods of the places where we live. We also honor the Gods of our heart, those Gods into  Whose cultus we've chosen to be initiated. To our ancestors, it was *all* good, all legitimate, all sacred. Devotion was the common denominator.

 

It's only in the modern world, a world so inculcated with the poison of monotheism and the divisiveness that monotheistic filter brings that we've latched onto insularity and xenophobia as a means of restoration. You've all heard me go on about this before, right? Well, I'm going to take it a step further: not only do I believe that polytheism is rooted, at its heart, in a confident diversity of practice and belief, but I believe that to someone rooted in a polytheistic filter there's no such thing as "Dual tradition." Certainly if there were, it wouldn't be  bad thing. Doubt me? Look at the lore wherein we have examples of people dedicated to both Christ and the Reginn. Look at what happened when our Northern ancestors encountered the Romans. Suddenly it wasn't just honoring Minerva or honoring Sulis, but Minerva-Sulis, or Both, or One, or More. We should be grateful too. Some of our Deities are only known to us through inscriptions written by Their Roman devotees. (All of this, by the way, begs the question of what precisely constituted "conversion" to the polytheistic mind and how did monotheism play on that but that I'll save for another article). In the end, the Gods don't care as much about the neat little borders we put around our devotional lives as we do. Might be a lesson for us there too.

 

So I am Heathen, but I am also soon to be a santera, and I honor Sekhmet, and I pour out offerings to Dionysus on occasion, and certain other Greek and Roman Deities too. Others in the House have strong devotions to Celtic Deities. My home and my House is a welcome sanctuary wherein any Deity might be honored. We do so appropriately, in the style to which They were accustomed; and you know what? Their blessings flow.

 

So in less than two months I'm slated to make asiento. When I was first pushed to start writing about this, I asked my madrina if it were permitted to do so and received permission. So much of the work I do for the Powers involves writing and teaching. She agreed that this was part and parcel of that. Why? because i'm not the only one the Gods have parceled out. I'm not the only one called to bridge multiple traditions. I'm not the only one doing this kind of work. The Gods are moving. They are making alliances, sometimes unexpected ones. They are sharing knowledge and resources amongst Themselves and we Who serve Them are part of those resources.

 

I'm going to give my "Jurassic Park" metaphor now. The ATR (African Tradition Religions) have survived intact for the better part of six thousand years. Offerings to the Orisha have never stopped. That means there's a powerful reservoir of ashe: energy and power, built up. As a Heathen, my ancestral tradition was severed with the advent of Christianity's dominance over Europe. Sacrifices stopped. Our Gods were not being fed or empowered to act on our behalf (there are rules to the way this works, I think. I don't pretend to understand it, but there are rules). Now, as we restore, Heathenry has developed an unfortunate attitude of stinginess and penury toward the Gods. "Don't give too much now" is an endless refrain. As if one *could* give too much. It's as if --and I almost hesitate to say this, lest even thinking about it I commit an impiety--Heathens are afraid if they give too many offerings the Gods might 'rise above Their place." While many of us are working to change this, in all too many rituals, even getting a full horn poured out for the Gods or dead is an achievement. It shouldn't be that way. This is crippling us.

 

So, have y'all seen Jurassic Park? In it, a scientist decides he wants to clone dinosaurs (and eventually does so with disastrous results). He has a bit of dinosaur DNA found in fossilized amber, but it's lacking certain strands of code. So this enterprising scientist substitutes genetic code from amphibians, frogs I think. This enables them to breech the gap. I believe this collaboration between Norse and African Powers is something similar. Every time someone asks me "why did Odin send you to the Orisha," I think: He's sending me to where I can pick up some of the source DNA (because in the end, we're all descended from mitochondrial eve and she, ladies and gentlemen, was African).

 

Odin plays down and dirty, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me tell you. Regardless, I'm grateful to both Him and the Orisha, especially the One ruling my head  and also to Chango. They've been good to me. What the hell am I saying: They've turned my life around and have poured blessings into my hands  that I never, ever expected to hold. They have, in a thousand ways shown me how much They care; and because of the blessings that I have reaped from Them, I was given yet another glimpse into how deeply Odin cares too. it is joyous and it is humbling all at the same time.

 

So I begin a count down now and I'll probably be posting more about this as I draw closer to the day. There is much that by tradition I will not speak about publicly but my own processing, my own emotions, my own thoughts and prayers as I move forward into this next leg of the journey: that I have leave to share and I think that is what They are pushing me to tell you. I'm happy. I anticipate this with joy but I'm also nervous. Yes, I'm very nervous. This is a big step and I want to do it well. I know that lineage that I will be stepping into to, I respect that lineage tremendously and I want to do it honor. I want to serve the Orisha well. My issues, my nervousness is not at all centered around juggling these multiple worlds and traditions. That is as natural as breathing after a time. But I have much to learn: new protocols, new prayers, new ways of bowing before the sacred. I don't have too much more time, either, before what i've affectionately been calling D-Day.

 

What amazes me most of all, is that going to the Orisha as Odin bade me, incorporating Their veneration into my practice and my devotional life, has allowed me to love Him more. How does that work? This asiento is a gift that He gave me. It is a gift given in fierce love and fierce protection. Every time I tend my shrines, every time I sit down to study, every time i pray, every time i pour out an offering that is driven home, how deeply loved and valued I am by the God Whom I serve above all Others. How can I not laugh with joy at that? Laugh with me, folks, because this is going to be a wild ride!

 

 

(the photo is mine, taken at a local cemetery. all praise to the ancestors!)

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 Galina Krasskova is a Heathen priest, author, and Northern Tradition shaman. She holds a Masters degree in Religious Studies and is currently working toward a PhD in Classics. Galina is the author of several books including “Essays in Modern Heathenry” and “Skalded Apples: A Devotional Anthology to Idunna and Bragi.”
(Photo by Hudson Valley photographer Mary Ann Glass.)

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