Pagan Paths


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Paths Blogs

Specific paths such as Heathenism, blended traditions, polytheist reconstructionism, etc.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Of college, cats, poetry, and Odin

Continuing my story of my personal journey on my heathen path, my spiritual experiences in college continued both my newfound heathen path and the experiences with animal totems I had been taught as a child. The first day I moved into UC-Santa Cruz, I saw my spirit animal watching over me.

 The quotes in this post are quotes from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts, which covers my first 30 years on the Earth. (I'm now 45.)

      “I had never ridden a [city] bus before.  I was afraid I wouldn’t recognize my stop, and would end up down in the city of Santa Cruz, wondering what to do in the big scary city.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a cat out in the field, but when I turned to look there was nothing there.  “A cat spirit,” I thought.  “There’s a cat spirit watching over me.” 

 I started having past life memories. Two of the three of them were in Russia, and I started to think that maybe it had not been purely the coincidence of seeing that someone was studying some exotic and challenging language at the point in high school where I was expected to start learning a foreign language that had led me to learn Russian and to go on to study Soviet Political Analysis at UCSC.

     “I had three images in my head that seemed more real than dreams, but belonged to the wrong context to have been this life.  I cast them in poetry.  Memories from Nowhere #1, “I stand in a reddened room./ Gold stone glitters on the wall/ Lacquered sandstone lying lies/ Of wealth no one has ever known.”  I danced in this desert temple to the music of “the pipe gourds of peasants/ and shaking metal sheaves.”  In #2 “I am the root woman, the old witch of the woods” in the far south of old Russia, by the look of the house and the weather; such a wooden peasant cot with its painted shutters could have been built in the 9th century or the 19th.  In the third vision I am some type of wanderer, also in old Russia by my felt boots, searching the Steppes for evidence of the second lifetime, and finding the old stone foundations of a village fallen into ruin for 300 years.  “Stone and pottery, beads of glass/ Were yielding to the growing grass.”

Poetry and writing were the way I related my dreams and visions to others, and they were also the way I worked through how I thought and felt for myself. Most of my poetry and writing were hard work using my skills, but sometimes I felt my poetry was inspired. It was a special feeling, and I can only describe it as a state which is part meditative trance and part compulsion, with a splash of religious ecstasy. Because I primarily related to my heathen path through poetic inspiration and rune magic, which are both powers of Odin, I felt closest to Odin. I also related to him in his warrior aspect, since I had grown up in a martial arts school. I still practiced both the physical forms and the meditations I had learned in kung fu, and I was comfortable with the idea of a god who was both warrior and wizard. 

I was sure that he was the god who would become my patron. I was both wrong and right, but I would not know that until thirty more years had passed. I'll tell both the story of how wrong I was and the story of how right I was, when I get to those parts of my tale. Taking my story in chronological order, my next post will be about my spiritual experiences when I spent the summer of 1987 studying in England. 

Since I've been talking about writing poetry and the fall equinox is coming up, I'd like to conclude this post by sharing a short poem. This was first published in The Sonoma Index-Tribune in the early 90s and reprinted in my poetry chapbook Renaissance Woman.

Fall Equinox

Light goes before dark and follows after,
And now suspended from a rafter
In the great barn which covers Earth
Is a lamp of Death and a lamp of Birth.
The farmer opens the barn door wide,
And in walks springtime's loving bride,
Grown old and wise and full and fat,
And on the Birth-lamp hangs her hat.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I'm reading the most delightful book, Lisa Manniche's "An Ancient Egyptian Herbal," and just have to share this ancient recipe from page 42:

b2ap3_thumbnail_food-Maler_der_Grabkammer_des_Menna_009.jpgStuffed Alexandrian Loaf

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_478px-Freya_by_Johannes_Gehrts.jpgFreya was the first deity I ever connected with in a meaningful way, back in 1996. Coming into Germanic paganism via Freya, I took things at face value and without a deeper look at the history and the context of archaeology until many years later when I did so out of necessity to shed some light on things I was experiencing. Most forms of Germanic paganism treat the Aesir and Vanir as a package deal with heavy emphasis on the Aesir.

So for many years, I attempted to reach out to the Aesir because I thought I "should". From the get-go, the Aesir were... not really a good fit. The gods that interested me all had ties to the nature and the land, and the Aesir... mostly didn't. Sure, Odin is connected with wind and its fury, and Thor is thunder, but... no. The macho-war energy surrounding the Aesir (while this is not all they are, obviously) did not feel like "my gods". Yet, I spent years trying to connect to the Aesir, with crickets, mostly, and occasional blips on the radar, until finally, some things happened where I was told to stop.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Beth Lynch
    Beth Lynch says #
    Yes, exactly! Deep-minded is an often forgotten epithet of Thor's; He even has a connection with seidhr, for some (and experience
  • Nornoriel Lokason
    Nornoriel Lokason says #
    Yeah I definitely see the difference between the Aesir and Vanir as more cultural than racial, for the same reason. As an aside,
  • Beth Lynch
    Beth Lynch says #
    The idea of the Vanir as the anti-Aesir annoys me, too. Equally, the Aesir are not the anti-Vanir, and are not merely gods of mac
  • Nornoriel Lokason
    Nornoriel Lokason says #
    I cannot click "like" hard enough on this comment. While I have always perceived the Aesir as being more inherently martial tha

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_Coast_Range_Trees_Lane_County_Oregon_scenic_images_lanDA0069.jpgSo the words "Vanir" and "Vanaheim", as appearing in historical documents, are more or less exclusive to Snorri's account of Norse mythology in the Eddas, and this has led some (most notably Rudolf Simek in his essay "The Vanir: An Obituary") to believe that the Vanir are thus an invention of Snorri, or a misunderstanding in the tales he learned and recorded.

I disagree with this, and both extensive research as well as intensive work with the Vanir over the last ten years - and talking with many, many others who know and love them - has informed my opinion.

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  • Thesseli
    Thesseli says #
    In school, we were taught that the Vanir were the gods of the original inhabitants, and the Aesir were brought in with the Indo-Eu
  • Nornoriel Lokason
    Nornoriel Lokason says #
    Yes! This is what my research and gnosis informs me of as well. You have no idea how ridiculously happy it makes me to know this

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Bastet-188x269.jpg

We stroked his head and ran our hands along his body. He purred. We looked at him directly in the eyes and we sang songs. He purred. We told him of mice and birds and long summer days that would not end. He purred. We held him close, so very close, as the needle pierced his skin. The purring stopped. 

The last few days have been filled with tears and with fond remembrances of our dear cat, Bear Claw. He lived for almost twenty years. I have children that have never known a time before Bear Claw. Simply put, he was part of our family.

I spent the last year of his life as a care giver of sorts. As his health failed, I cleaned up after him. I helped him up to his favourite perches around the house. I carried him out into the warm sun on my shoulders and made sure his "apartment" was warm and comfortable. He and I spoke about how and when his life would end. We had an agreement that when the good days were outnumbered by the bad days, we'd part ways mercifully and quickly.

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  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    Thank you Francesca. How lovely and fascinating that our work in the world seems so much in alignment. Life, with all of its wonde
  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Indeed, indeed!
  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Sorry to hear of yr loss. Blessings on yr family and departed kitty. I read your bio here. It sounds exactly like what I have tau
  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    You know Aleah, I think you are on to something there. We stroke and pet, feel their warmth next to us and pay attention to their
  • Aleah Sato
    Aleah Sato says #
    Heartfelt post... thank you. I had to say goodbye to my old feline companion last autumn, and it was astoundingly painful. I bel
Call for Submissions: Masks of the High One - a Devotional Anthology for Odin

A little more than a year ago, I put out a call for submissions for Prayers to the Allfather, a book of prayers and rituals for Odin. Well, despite a number of people being kind enough to share my CFS across the internet, I received exactly three submissions. Due to various factors in my life at the time, I just wasn’t feeling equal to writing the bulk of a book of prayers on my own (since when I think prayers, I think poetry, and I am not primarily a poet), so I reluctantly shelved the project for a while.

Then I got to thinking: maybe a prayer book is too limiting. Maybe most other pagans, witches and polytheists out there also shy away from writing prayers for public consumption, either because they feel too personal, or because (like me) they associate them with poetry and feel unequal to the task. Maybe I pigeonholed my own project into the remainder bin.

And then it occurred to me: no one (to my knowledge) has yet to come forth with a devotional anthology for and about Odin. All of my initial foot-dragging on the notion of such a project aside, I finally had to ask myself whether I wanted to be the one to step up to the plate and do this, or whether I wanted to wait until someone else did it, and have to live with the regret.

And so, here we are. Today, on August 30th 2014, I am opening submissions for Masks of the High One: A Devotional Anthology for Odin. Submissions will close on May 1st, 2015.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I don't usually work with Odin but your blog inspired me this morning and I couldn't stop thinking about it during lunch so I wro
A Message from Thor to Humanity: Stop Poisoning the Earth

The message is simple: "Stop poisoning the Earth."

How I received this message is also fairly simple, although it took me 28 years from when I decided the heathen path was my path until I heard this message. What to do about the message is a little more complicated.

I've been telling the story of my personal journey on my heathen path, and I'll resume the story in my next post. Since there is so much story to tell, and this message needs to get out to humankind, I'm pausing the story in order to post this message. The reason I decided to write this blog was so that I could get the gods' messages out to humanity.

The short version of how I received this message is this: I've always been a writer, since I was a little kid. I started writing poetry, songs, and fiction very early. I was already "hearing" characters talking in my head as a child, as many authors do. Last year, I started writing a novel based on heathen mythology. I "heard" characters talking to each other, or saw them in my mind's eye, and sometimes just sat down at the computer to write and scenes just flowed out my hands. This is the normal way I write. When I started "hearing" the gods this way while writing Some Say Fire, I did not think they were really the gods at first. I thought I was just writing a novel. When I reach that part of my personal story, I'll share all the ways I found out that sometimes it was really them talking. Most of the time it's my subconscious talking when I write. But sometimes, perhaps a few minutes of gnosis experiences out of thousands of hours of writing time, I've received what I believe to be messages from the gods to humanity. I need to get these messages out to my fellow humans, not leave them locked in an unpublished and possibly unpublishable novel.

The summer monsoon came to the Mojave Desert a couple of months ago, and a huge thunderstorm cracked the night over my house. I asked if Thor had a message for humanity. He did. "Stop poisoning the Earth." It was the same message Sif had given me the previous fall, when I first started writing Some Say Fire. In the first post I made in this blog, I quoted the scene I was given in the novel, and then interpreted it as a message against the GMO grain crops that are designed to be resistant to herbicides so that more herbicides can be used. Sif's message was specific, but Thor's was more general. That leaves it open to personal interpretation.

It makes sense that Thor cares about the Earth. Not only is he the god who gives rain to us so we can grow crops, including the kind of grain crops that are the major sphere of power of his wife Sif, he is also the son of the Earth Mother. Jord means Earth. Jord is also known as Fjorgynn, a name linguistically relating to names of Indo-European rain and thunder gods like Thor. Thor's father Odin is a sky god, so in terms of the archetypal story of the union of the Sky Father and the Earth Mother, Thor and Sif are one such pair and so are Thor's parents. Poisoning the Earth is hurting his mother. His literal mother.

What exactly does "stop poisoning the Earth" mean?

Does it mean buy organic food, so as to vote with my wallet for less pesticides and herbicides on plants, and less antibiotics and hormones given to animals? Buy certified Non GMO Project foods when they're available? I've become convinced that is one of the things I must do, even though it's difficult with a tight budget. Before, if the organic version of a producet was unaffordable, I would buy the non organic choice. Now I just don't buy the item at all. I'm losing weight, because I can't afford as much food. So, that's a plus, because that's good for my beauty and social acceptability, and not eating poison must surely be good for my health. 

I grew close to Thor in the first place because in this desert ecosystem, rain is such a rare blessing, and of course I can't grow my garden without it, I'm always utterly delighted when his storm arrives and it starts raining. It's my habit to raise a joyful toast in thanks each time.

I grow organic food in my garden, but I still have to buy food too. I don't have a farm, just a normal sized yard. I grow traditional crops of the desert southwest adapted to desert conditions, supplied by Native Seed Search. I compost my yard waste and kitchen scraps, which I have ritualized as Presents for the Gnome, making a sacrifice of kitchen scraps to the garden gnome. The gnome is a total vegan and a freetarian. The more I give to the gnome, the more the gnome gives back to me, in the form of rich black compost soil to add to the garden beds. Although he is represented by a garden gnome statue, the landwight is actually a being of vast power. The gnomic blessing of the compost soil grows healthy and delicious foods, and beautiful and lusciously scented flowers to attract the bees and the hummingbirds.

I save rainwater to water my garden. I'm thankful that's not illegal here like it is some other places in the USA. I have a bucket positioned under the drip from the air conditioner, which only condenses water when the air is humid. Condensed water is the purest I have access to, so that goes on food crops. I also manually save household greywater from the kitchen and bathrooms to water my garden. There is a bucket or pitcher next to every faucet and shower nozzle. The water I use to wash herbs doesn't go down the drain, it goes back into the herb beds. My yard has an automated watering system, but most of the year it's only legal to use it on certain days, plus, that water both costs money and is drawn from Lake Mead, which is also where our local power comes from (Hoover Dam.) Municipal drinking water has all kinds of additives that are not good for plants, like flouride and chlorine; rainwater is superior for gardening. Vegetables such as tomatoes have to have even water every day. So I hand-water a lot with buckets. In the summer, I hook up the "redneck shower" outside -- a sun-heated garden hose with a shower nozzle -- and my greywater falls directly on the yard.

So, I buy and grow organic food, and I save water. That's not enough, though. What else does "stop poisoning the Earth" mean, and what can I do about it? Drive less? I already combine trips and plan my route to save gas, because it's expensive. In fact, I do so many things to save money my friends urged me to write a book about it, which is why I wrote Skinflint Hints. Frugal living and green living have a lot of overlap. Money is a pretty good measure of how much of the Earth's resources one is using. So what else does the message mean? Buy fewer things? I already buy very few luxuries; if anything is really not necessarily I usually wait to be given it as a gift. If I have to buy something at all, buy the quality one so it won't wear out as fast and fewer things will end up in the landfill? Check. I do that already, too, when I can. Buy used instead of new? Check. Use less plastic packaging? Buy less plastic in general -- get the natural thing instead of the petroleum-based thing? Don't buy anything with plastic microbeads in it? Be careful what I throw away? Think about how easy something will be to recycle before I buy it? Think of how a thing or its packaging could be re-used into something else before I buy it? I do that anyway; it's just part of the country ways in which I was raised. Try to buy old stocks of old-fashioned, illegal non-mercury lightbulbs so as not to add more poison mercury to the trash? Use hand tools instead of power tools? Repair instead of replace? I was doing that already. I was doing most of these things already, because most ways to save resources also save money. The only thing I wasn't doing was buying more expensive organic food and looking for the rare and expensive certified non-GMO foods. Altering my behavior as a consumer is a good start, but is it enough?

What else should I be doing? Vote for less poisoning? Volunteer for a cause? Sign internet petitions? I'm not sure that even does anything except give away my email. March in the streets against corporations that poison the Earth?

Yes. All of it. Everything. That's only the beginning.

Get this message out to others? Yes. What I can do as an individual that could have the most impact is to do what I'm doing right now: pass this message to mankind on to other people. As one person, my choices as a consumer and in daily living may have a small impact, but when many people choose to help end the poisoning of the earth, there may be a much larger impact. Sharing the message is the single most important thing I can do.

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  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Thank you! That sounds like a great thing to try.
  • Yvette Tillema
    Yvette Tillema says #
    I connected to your message and actually am bewildered as to what to do. I like you feel that I do really really try to not poison

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