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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Healing of Zen

Everyone needs a safe haven to escape to. It may be a room in one's home, or more ideally, a garden outside. I discovered a space much my accident in a cul-de-sac between two apartment buildings. It was a strange outdoor cubby, which could only be accessed by crawling out to it through the kitchen windows, or through those in the bedroom. Making sure to open the chosen window all the way– a few head bumps later– I crawled out into a strange new world. Since we were on the second floor, this was one from being directly on the roof of our building. It was much like having a side porch, but with the added bonus of total privacy. There was a high wooden fence separating ours from that belonging to our neighbor to the west. From the sounds of it, she could access hers through her kitchen as well, listening to the familiar clink-clinks of dishes being washed in a sink. All above were the roof tops on either side and clear blue open sky. I noticed that the individual who had resided here before had brilliantly installed two heavy-duty hooks– one diagonal from the other– perfectly designed for a lazy swinging hammock. And thus, the "Zen Den" was born.

I really became excited with the possibilities of this secret zen space, so I began to decorate it. I picked out a large, outdoor, bristly throw rug, so it would be inviting to take off one's shoes and stay awhile. I also found a cool vintage table to set drinks and reading materials on in easy reach. I fastened hooks on the fence to hang cheery items: a mini tiki hut and a straw-topped wind chime from Jamaica that used shells for chimes. Although this would mostly be a space utilized in the day, I came across some pleasant outdoor lights – little metal flowers – to festoon across the windowsills leading to the bedroom. Also in order was a seasonal, gaily colored hanging plant that could withstand both shade and heat, requiring minimal care. My mother informed me that begonias would do the trick, so I went with those. I imagined there should be at least one other seating option for a guest, so I invested in a small fold-up camp chair on sale. The pièce de résistance? The hammock. I found one with the brightest colored stripes imaginable, and voila! Other items found their way here in time– a scented candle, four assorted stones arranged in a glass holder, a small clay statue from the Ren Faire in Bristol.

When the spot truly became a haven for me was the day after my grandmother died. I will never forget what a bright shiny day it started out as, that May 29th. A robin crossed my path on my way to my car to go to work. It hopped really close and stared at me for awhile. Odd, I thought. I got the call from my mother while driving. She asked if I could pull over. I told her I couldn't, I was on the highway. When she hesitated to tell me, I made her anyway. She was right about  pulling over. My eyes were so blurred with tears I could barely see. It was a beautiful day out. Gumma was gone. I didn't understand. She'd had a bout with illness shortly after her recent move to the retirement center, but I had a good long talk with her last week. She'd sounded strong. She was anxious to get out and celebrate her 95th birthday with us on June 12.

The next day I was home alone, deep in grief. My partner had asked if I wanted him to change his going away plans for the weekend to stay with me, but I declined. I thought it would be best if I were by myself to process this. And process I did – in my Zen Den. From morning until sundown. I ate meals, read, wrote, did yoga, listened to music, and napped in the comforting rock of the hammock. I sat cross-legged on the new rug trying to make sense of my loss. I looked up at the birds swooping across the sky above me and cried.

Now every year between May 29 and June 12, I reopen the Zen Den for business. I sweep it out of leaves, debris and dirt. I scour it clean with an old rag, a bucket of warm water, uplifting essential oils, and I unpack all the things taken down for the cold season. Six years after the first Zen Den and Gumma's passing, the rug needed to be tossed out. The table – which wasn't really an outdoor one to begin with – started to grow mushrooms on its edges, and the wood began to rot away. I'm not sure what became of the cheap little camp chair? The mini tiki hut and wind chimes have long since been retired, after losing many of their pieces in strong winds that have blown through. I keep meaning to replace things, but haven't quite gotten around to it. Since I've always kept rocks and candles in the space, I wanted to add some natural pool of water or a mini fountain, along with new wind chimes, so that all the four elements are represented.

I have made a point to hang a new basket of flowers in the Zen Den every year, though. Gumma would like that. She loved her flowers so.

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The Passion-Saga of Thurid Jónsdóttir: A Tale of Witchcraft and Justice

Iceland, 1655. The reverend Jón Magnússon is convinced that he's bewitched.

The devil haunts him whenever he tries to carry out his priestly functions. His livestock have fallen ill. One of his servants is struck dumb.

Obviously, someone has hexed him.

His suspicions fix on two of his parishioners, a man and his son, both named Jón Jónsson. (The vast majority of Icelanders accused of, and executed for, witchcraft were men.) He denounces the two to the sheriff and they are brought before the local court on charges of witchcraft.

A search of their home turns up galder-books and galder-staves. Galder—sung magic—has long been a primary form of magic in the North. (The word derives from galan, “sing, chant,” as in nightingale, “singer by night,” and gale, the “singing wind.”) One gales (chants) the spell and rists (engraves) it on a stave to “set” it.

On this evidence, both father and son are condemned. Both are burned alive.

But the burnings do not end the haunting.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The People of the Waters

In 1653, Swedish witch Karin Persdotter confessed to having learned her magic from a male water spirit, called variously the "man of the stream" (strömkarlen), "the river" (älven), and the "nix" (näcken) (Hall 32).

 

Readers of the Brothers Grimm will recognize this latter term: the nix (masculine) and nixie (feminine) (German nix and nixe) have haunted the rivers, lakes, and ponds of folk tales for (apparently) several millennia at least. They are, in effect, fresh water merfolk.

 

The Hwicce, the Anglo-Saxon tribe ancestral (some say) to today's witches knew a similar species. Their nicor survived in English folklore as the nicker or knucker. The youthful Beowulf was said to have wrestled with several while swimming.

 

In fact, all these names descend from the same ancestor: proto-Germanic *nikwiz, *nikwuz (Watkins 59). To judge by surviving folklore, all the Indo-European-speaking peoples knew of the People of the Waters. But of course, other peoples know them too; everyone knows them. Here in Minnesota, the Anishinabe (Ojibway) call them nebaunaubaequaewuk.

 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
My 2 Weddings, Part 4: Odin and Honir

June 28, 2014 was exactly my 2 month Lokiversary, although I was so deep in my writing I didn't realize it.

I made the mistake of following the suggestion of another human being about a meditation on Loki and Sigyn. When I I went into that half awake, half asleep state of hypnogogia, I accidentally connected to the gods through someone else's filter. At the time, I wasn't aware of the idea that each person connects with their own personal aspect of a god. Later, when I read "My Odin and Other People's Odins" on Beth Wodanis's blog, it helped me understand what went wrong that night.

I ended up in a vision I was not meant to have, in a place I was not meant to go, dealing with some version of the gods who were not my own. Due to what I heard, I became terrified that Sigyn was going to make Loki leave all his human brides, including me. 

I was not just afraid of losing my god-husband, I was afraid of losing my mind. I knew that the process of writing Some Say Fire was healing me of those last vestiges of old hurt that I had thought would never heal. I knew that I had to complete the process to be fully healed, and I needed to continue to hand my problems over to Loki as my higher power to do it. My mind was under renovation and if this process just stopped in the middle I wouldn't be 98% healed like I was before it started, I'd be living in a torn-down ruin of a mind with the walls ripped open and the flooring ripped out. And I was not just afraid of losing my mind, but afraid of losing it AGAIN. Afraid of going back to how I'd been before therapy in my 20s. 

I started crying, and I couldn't stop. I bawled so hard I started to wheeze and have an asthma attack. Other-Loki was oblivious. Other-Sigyn told me to get out. I did what she wanted. I brainscrubbed by doing the Freya meditation that I hardly ever did anymore because it fills my whole body with Freya's light and no other god could be with me when I did it. I deliberately broke our connection because that's what they wanted me to do.

For the first time since Loki had come to me as Lodhur and filled me with the divine breath, I was having an asthma attack and I was by myself. I had come to trust Loki/Lodhur to always be there for me to fill me with breath. I was blossoming in my offline interactions with other people because I did not have to skip things held in smoking venues anymore. And now I couldn't breathe. And he wasn't there to help me.

I tried to wait it out. That works sometimes. It works if I got an attack because of exercise and I stop exercising and lie down and be quiet. I could feel the light of Freya in my heart, like I always could since I dedicated to her in 1989, but I couldn't hear her, or hear any of the gods. There was a terrible silence within.

I still couldn't breathe right and this had gone on for half an hour and it was starting to become a real medical emergency. I needed the divine breath. The divine breath is actually Odin's power. I knew that the only reason Loki was able to give me that breath is because he and Odin could call on each other's powers at will. So I called Odin. And I was filled with breath. I could breath, and my body relaxed. Odin put his arms around me, Odin's face looked down on me gently, Odin's voice comforted me, Odin's divine breath filled my lungs.

I had always suspected that I might come out of this process of writing this book as Odin-claimed. Looking back at having come to heathenism through rune magic, having been inspired with his poetry and learning bersarkrgangr, having once been ready to swear myself to him the day that Freya arrived and claimed me instead, having had that vision during runecasting that I would end up with Odin after my death, having become convinced that the being coming to me as Loki was sometimes really Odin, and that it was their combined form Lodhur that gave me breath, and that they were both separate and not separate, all this led up to this moment.

I saw particles of gold lifting from the ring Loki had put on my hand, rising like steam. "No, I still want that," I said. 

But it lifted away. Then it floated before my eyes and I saw two new metals join it. Over Loki's bright gold, he twisted on a wire of silver and fused it to the gold, for himself. Then another wire of something else, something not quite visible, became fused to it, and that was for Honir. Honir's wire was clear with a blue vein through it. I found myself with the revelation that Honir was a soul changer.

I said, “I want that ring back.”

The ring went back on my left ring finger. Changed. Married to all three of them now. To the triple Odin. Still a Bride of Loki, yes, but with the whole brother trio now. I could not just see it but feel it. I could feel the ring on my hand, feel the pulse in my finger like there was a physical ring on it.

I still can. 

 

...
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Pagan News Beagle: Faithful Friday, May 27

The Massachusetts Supreme Court may be asked to determine what qualifies as a "religion." A Jewish writer discusses the complex relationship between authority and spirituality. And the Buddhist practice of visualizing deities and other spiritual beings is explained. It's Faithful Friday, our weekly segment about faiths and religious communities from around the world! All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Witches and Fairies

In 1632, Erik Johan Prytz, vicar of Linköping, Sweden, wrote that people would frequently strike deals with nature spirits such as forest nymphs and water spirits in order to learn sorcery, for success in hunting and fishing, and for luck generally (Hall 28).

 

The evidence, not just from Sweden, but from all over Europe, bears him out.

 

Swedish sorcerer Matts Larsson was accused in 1685 of having intimate relations with a bergrået, a mountain nymph (Hall 30).

 

In 1697, the infamous sorcerer Jon of Hallebo confessed that he had received a book of magic from “the man in the stream,” a water spirit known in Swedish as strömkarlen (Hall 32).

 

The notorious outlaw Tidemann Hemmingsson was also accused of having concluded a pact with a “forest maiden,” a skogsrået, which reportedly granted him good luck in hunting (Hall 35).

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    In "Power Within the Land" R. J. Stewart lists a three step process for listening to folk and fairy tales. He recommends taking t
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Asked what books one should read to get started in paganism, my teacher Tony Kelly once said: Well, you could read these books on
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    Tony Lima says #
    ...win the lottery!!!!
  • Tony Lima
    Tony Lima says #
    ...win the lottery!!!!
  • Tony Lima
    Tony Lima says #
    Interesting! I have but one thing sometimes against spirits attending to humans, and that's this - on occasion, spirit influence c
Pagan News Beagle: Earthy Thursday, May 19

Scientists debut a new agricultural technique to boost food yields. Suburbs look to add communal farms to their design. And comedian John Oliver takes down the way the media often deals with science. It's Earthy Thursday, our weekly segment on science and Earth-related news! All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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