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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Asatru FAQ: Who is the Havamal For?

The Havamal or "Sayings of the High One" is a poem within the Poetic Edda. The High One is Odin, and the Sayings of the High One are said to be the words of Odin. A question that came up on the Asatru Facebook Forum I admin is, Who is the Havamal for? My answer:

The Havamal in general is for whoever wants it, but specific passages are specific advice for specific purposes. General advice: don't get too drunk at the assembly. Specific advice: IF you want to take something from an opponent THEN get out of bed and get it done. Some passages in the Havamal are literal if/ then statements, like BASIC computer code. They flow as binary logic: off, on, off. IF you want x, THEN do y. IF the "if" doesn't apply to you THEN you skip it.

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[Today, we sit down for an interview with Nonir Amicitia. The founder of Wandering Jotun Crafts, they are currently at work on a devotional for Loki. Here, they discuss the devotional, their work with sigil charms, and their many upcoming projects.]
 
BookMusings: How would you describe your personal spiritual path?
 
Nonir Amicitia: Oh, a hard one right off the bat, haha. My spiritual path is very eclectic. I identify as a Heathen and a Lokean, but I've also recently been exploring pop culture paganism. I do a lot of metaphysical and spirit work, a little bit of chaos magic via sigil work, and some energy work here and there. Honestly, it sounds a lot more impressive and interesting than it is on a day-to-day basis! 
 
BookMusings: What initially drew you to Loki? And what do you wish people understood about Loki?
 
Nonir Amicitia: Loki originally kind of tapped me on the shoulder when I was in high school and my family was going through a rough patch. At first, all I heard were the Ragnarok myths and people talking about how Loki was evil or should be avoided at all costs. But he stayed at the edges of my life and was always there when I needed support. He helped me recognize my own sexuality and gender identity, helped me find my current Kindred, helped me find more confidence in my creative talents and pursuits. Eventually, I actually welcomed him into my practice and he's been here ever since. 
 
I wish people outside the Lokean community would realize that Loki isn't evil or chaotic just for the sake of stirring the pot. Loki represents radical change and hard truths, and those are uncomfortable and sometimes terrifying or dangerous -- but they're necessary to keep moving forward. Without the Trickster to shake things up now and then, the world (including us and the gods) stagnates and that is deadly. Loki can be harsh and surprising, but no more than any other of the Norse deities, and he can be wonderfully kind and supportive, too. He's an outcast and as such understands and welcomes most folks who don't fit society's mold: from my experience, a lot of Lokeans (myself included) tend to be queer, mentally ill, disabled, or any combination of those and/or other "othering" identities. It's an incredible thing to find a god who not only supports you, but understands the struggle that comes with being on the outside. 
 
BookMusings: You are currently taking pre-orders for On the Tightrope: A Loki Devotional. Firstly, why a devotional for Loki?
 
Nonir Amicitia: This project came from two main things: 1) I was writing devotional poetry for myself and decided I wanted to share it with other Lokeans, and 2) the few other Loki devotionals I've stumbled across were put together by folks who have some less than savory attitudes and beliefs and/or like to police the way other people worship and practice. I wanted to create something for Loki and his followers that wasn't connected to any "big name pagan" with those issues, or any larger organization. I wanted to write something that included pieces from a queer point of view, pieces from the point of view of a godspouse, and a more casual worshipper. I wanted to make something that showed the world the Loki that I see and interact with instead of the scapegoat Loki a lot of other pagans see. 
 
BookMusings: What will the anthology include?
 
Nonir Amicitia: On the Tightrope includes twelve written pieces, divided between general devotionals and consort devotionals. Each section has three poems, two prayers, and a prose piece -- all accompanied by incredible illustrations a good friend of mine created. It's a small book, but I hope the variety and the uniquness will make it worth a read! Some of my personal favorite pieces include a prayer to Loki as shapeshifter to help one feel comfortable in their own skin, and a poem that plays with different pronouns for Loki throughout it. 
 
BookMusings: What sort of research went into the collection? And were there any pieces that you wanted to include but could not?
 
Nonir Amicitia: Most of the collection is based on my own interactions with Loki -- and I have a very plain disclaimer at the beginning of the book saying as much. I don't want to mislead anyone or claim that my experiences are universal, but this book was very much a personal project that I hope other people will appreciate, too. So I guess you could say the "research" was over a decade of living with Loki, reading the lore, and interacting with other Lokeans. 
 
I actually wound up with more material for the book than I anticipated, which is always a nice surprise! I'm sure I'll continue writing devotional works for Loki, but for the time being, all my favorite pieces are included. 
 
BookMusings: Where and when will the book be available?
 
Nonir Amicitia: This is a tougher question than one would expect, unfortunately. I'm currently fighting with Createspace on formatting issues, but my goal is have it available by early August. To start with, it will be available on Amazon (I know, I know; I wish I could get away without listing it there, but ISBNs are expensive), and through my own website, where it's currently available for preorder. 
 
BookMusings: What resources would you recommend to those who are interested in paganism, but identify as outcasts, as people who don’t quite fit into traditional boxes?
 
Nonir Amicitia: Unfortunately, finding these resources can be pretty difficult. A lot of books and major blogs on paganism tend to have some unfortunate homophobic/transphobic/ablism/etc. issues, which can be pretty subtle. For example, focusing on "masculine" and "feminine" energies/magic is inherently problematic for folks like me who don't fit into the gender binary and really don't like imposing those qualities -- because life is far more intricate than that. But that's a rant for another day, sorry. 
 
I don't have many solid resources to recommend at the moment, because of these issues. I could be egotistical and say come to me at Wandering Jotun, because I'm designing it partially to help deal with this problem, but I don't want to set myself up as someone who can talk for everyone. I'm happy to discuss things and point folks to people I know, but that's about all I've got right now. I hope that's changing. 
 
BookMusings: How and why did you create Wandering Jotun Crafts?
 
Nonir Amicitia: Wandering Jotun Crafts started as a blog and a few sets of prayer beads I made for myself. People started saying I could sell those (I've sold one set as of yet, haha), so I decided to give it a shot. From there, I started realizing there was much more I could be doing -- a niche of people like me who weren't really being served by a lot of traditional pagan services: people who are caught between the "woo" and being super practical; queer pagans and pagans of color; disabled and mentally ill pagans; pop culture pagans. So I sort of sat down, tossed some ideas around with my friends and spirit companions, and decided to go for it -- first with an Etsy shop, now with my own website, and hopefully expanding even more in the near future. Wandering Jotun has only really been A Thing for a year or so now, but I'm hoping that I can help create more resources and support for, as I say, the outcasts. 
 
BookMusings: How do you create the sigil charms? And do you do custom charms?
 
Nonir Amicitia: Oh, my sigil charms are fun! I've been interested in sigil and bindrune work for a few years and have tested out a few different ways of creating them. For me, it tends to be more of an intuitive process, working with some of the shapes of words I want to include, some runes, and some light trance work, depending on what I want to accomplish and how much I already have in my mind. 
 
They originally started when I was in a really toxic work environment and needed something to get me through the day. I started doodling sigils for particular causes in a notebook. A few months ago, I realized my Cricut could engrave aluminum and decided to test it out on the sigils. So I digitized them (the original ones are very messy; I can't draw a straight line to save my life), popped them into the machine, and colored the result to make it stand out a bit more. Not be biased or anything, but I absolutely love them. 
 
And I do make custom charms! I'm actually working on a commissioned protection sigil tattoo right now. I charge $20 for the custom pieces, but I make sure the sigil is exactly what you want before engraving it, and include a digital copy for download. 
 
BookMusings: What other projects are you working on?
 
Nonir Amictia: So many things! I'm working on some nerdy charms (some of which tie into my own pop culture practice and some that are just for fun), fanfiction for my pop culture source (that's a trip, let me tell you), a fantasy romance novella, a primer to pop culture paganism, a collection of hopefully poetry that may or may not make its way into a music album, some new divination reading techniques, and I'm tossing around an idea for a zine of some nature specifically for trans and nonbinary folks. I'm not very good at working on only one thing at a time, haha.  
 
BookMusings: Which conventions, retreats, book fairs, or other events will you be attending in the foreseeable future?
 
Nonir Amicitia: The only thing I currently have for sure locked down is the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference in September, where I'll be teaching a workshop on fanfiction and one on writing characters that aren't cisgender. I'm hoping to get a table at Denver Pagan Pride and the Bizarre Bazaar on Small Business Saturday, but those haven't been confirmed yet. Other than that, if a certain trickster decides he wants more attention, I'll be holding a little release party for On the Tightrope ... sometime. I'll be sure to post details on the Wandering Jotun Tumblr or Facebook page, though, so if you're interested, make sure to give me a follow!
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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Why I No Longer Celebrate Freyfaxi

Freyfaxi is an American Asatru holiday based on the American Wiccan holiday Lammas. Lammas means loaf mass, that is, a holiday celebrating harvest and the baking of loaves of bread. It is generally celebrated on August 1st.  In the early days of American Asatru, Asatruars borrowed Lammas from Wicca and then tried to find an appropriate heathen name for it. They knew that in ancient times, heathens regarded the horse an an appropriate animal for sacrifice. They found the name of a horse in the lore and named the holiday after the horse. 

I have been reading The Sagas of the Icelanders and just read the one about the horse. The name of that story is the Saga of Hrafnkel Freysgodhi. The story is a tragedy, in that Hrafnkel brought about his own downfall through his tragic flaw of rashness. Hrafnkel swore a rash oath to kill any man who rode his stallion Freyfaxi, whom he had dedicated to Freyr. Someone rode the horse, and Hrafnkel killed the man. Hrafnkel was outlawed for it. He lost his chieftanship / priesthood, his land, and the horse, too. 

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Asatru FAQ: Which Gods Are the Actual Gods?

A question asked in my group, the Asatru Facebook Forum: Which gods are the actual gods and which ones were just made up over the years?

My answer:

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Welcoming a Spiritual Object

There are 3 basic ways to welcome a new spiritual object into your life.

1. Make the object

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Letting Go of a Spiritual Object

Sacred objects and spiritual souvenirs sometimes have to leave our lives. There are several different circumstances when we might have to say good-bye to something that used to be important to us. These circumstances largely dictate how we let go.

1. The item is broken

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Asatru FAQ: Beards

Recently, a heathen US soldier was granted permission to wear a religious beard. This has sparked controversy in the heathen community.

The religious beard exemption in the US army was created for the benefit of Sikhs. Many Asatruars and other heathens think it's wrong for heathens to use this exemption because heathens don't have the kind of religion in which our gods require all their followers to follow commandments in order to achieve a proper afterlife. (In heathen lore, there is only one way into Valhalla, and that is to die in battle. Most of us are going to Hel. And that is not a bad place.) Asatru has no central authority, and so different groups and individuals vary in their practices. One group may wear beards while another group does not. Individuals may be given personal taboos not practiced by the rest of their community. The soldier in question is a member of Norskk, which is an organization within the Forn Sidr sect of heathenry, not Asatru. However, many Asatruars are asking in heathen forums whether they can also get religious beard exemptions, so I am attempting to address that here.

As it happens, I've been working on a new edition of my book Asatru For Beginners, in which I am rewriting a lot of the sections dealing with folkways such as wearing beards to account for the rise of modernism in the generation which passed since I first wrote my book in 2001. During the early part of the revival of heathenry, it was the heathen's task to reconstruct what was, to determine what the actual practices of ancient heathens were, based on "the lore" (written literature), archeology, surviving folk practices, etc. Many heathens went so far as to practice a living-history lifestyle. Some still do, but in recent years modernists have arisen whose task as a heathen is to fit what we already know of heathenry into modern life.

Wearing religious beards, clothing, weapons, and so forth are part of what we call the folkway. The folkway is a way of life based not on holy scriptures but on how our ancestors lived, and the folkway is just as important to traditionalist Asatruars as is the worship of our gods. The folkway is a combination of traditional practices that survived Christianity and were passed down continuously, such as maypole dancing, plus revived practices based on pre-Christian cultures, such as wearing beards. Lore-based folkways were reconstructed as part of the early reconstruction of Asatru. Different sects of heathenry were based on different cultures and time periods, so, the folkways of an Asatruar are different from the folkways of a Theodsman. Different groups within Asatru developed different folkways from each other. In the 20th century, most American Asatruars practiced both the religion and some sort of folkway. Recently, modernist sects have arisen which practice the religion without the folkway.

Because the question of beards in the military is being framed as a question of how similar Asatruars are to Sikhs, let's talk about that. Sikhs grew from Indo-European roots, as did Asatruars. If one goes back far enough into history, there are some shared cultural tropes. Adult male Sikhs wear blades as part of their Sikh ways. Asatruars (regardless of gender) who practice the folkway wear weapons, typically blade weapons but other types are acceptable, to symbolize their free status in the community.

Another part of the folkway which is ancient and similar to Sikh practice is the prohibition against cutting the hair.  Sikhs of both genders do not cut their hair, and male Sikhs wear religious beards. In some traditionalist sects of Asatru, men wear religious beards, and women do not cut their hair. Unlike the Sikhs, in Asatru this is not a religious dictate in that it is not required to achieve a proper afterlife, because Asatru does not have that kind of religious dictate (the word of Odin in the Havamal is advice to humanity, not commandments.) Rather, in Asatru beards are a cultural tradition. While traditionalists might or might not practice that part of the folkway, modernists don't practice any part of the folkway.

There are exceptions to the no-cutting rule even among the most traditional groups in Asatru. Women can remove their facial hair and body hair. Professional warriors, including military, police, mercenaries, etc. retain warriors’ honor even if they cut their hair and shave their beards. The reason for this exception is because of Germanic mercenaries who served the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. Germanic tribesmen who served Rome or Byzantium conformed to the standards of Roman soldiers and shaved their beards. They were considered to retain warrior's honor. The Germanic mercenaries had great admiration for the Roman Janissaries. Janissaries were slaves but had warriors’ honor. So there are both practical (they shaved their own beards) and theoretical (they counted warrior slaves as warriors rather than slaves) historical precedent for warriors shaving beards. Even in very traditionalist Asatru sects warriors are allowed to shave their beards. The soldier in question is a member of a heathen sect that looks to Norse sources only, not to Germanic sources, so his group does not acknowledge that exception.

The wearing of weapons, uncut hair, and religious beards in traditionalist Asatru all signify free status. Like most other ancient societies, the ancient heathens had a slave class. Short hair was a social signal of being a thrall or prostitute (this is the reason the cutting of Sif's hair in the lore story was told as a wrong that had to be made right); an iron collar signified the same. In modern society, slavery is illegal, and no one is actually a thrall, even among the Theodish where that word is used for a novice. However, there are people even in modern society who do not have free status. Prisoners of various kinds, including criminals in prison, prisoners of war, and the involuntarily hospitalized, are not required by religious obligations to wear weapons or religious beards or to refrain from cutting or shaving the hair, if they are required to be weaponless or beardless by those in power over them. Even among the most traditionalist, those who do not have free status are neither required nor entitled to have the markers of free status. This is not relevant to the case of the soldier, but has come up before when heathen prisoners request a religious accommodation to wear a beard.

Modernist sects do not practice the folkway, and some traditionalist sects do not practice this part of the folkway either. For those who do, wearing religious hair and beards is just as important as it is for members of other religions who wear religious hair and beards for cultural reasons. The majority of heathens would not say a soldier must have a beard, but that doesn't matter for purposes of determining if the soldier in question has a sincerely held belief, which is the standard that employers in the US adhere to for determining religious exemptions. There is no Asa-Pope, there is no one heathen organization that determines how all heathens must live, and there is not majority rule either. Each Asatru organization, kindred, or individual determines for themselves whether to adopt folkways and if so, which ones.

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