My Fierce Lady Freya

I think I mentioned this elsewhere on my blog, but I’ve had a hard time connecting to Freya. I adore Her, and I certainly honor Her quite a bit, but it’s never been the same as for Odin and I, or even Her mother and I. Ok, well, some deities you just can’t mesh with even if you want to, right? I know this is true, but it would just make me so sad to think this. I feel like I’m having more of a breakthrough though lately. Just not quite in a way you’d expect.

It could be my own issues with self-worth and self-love that make it harder for me to connect to Freya in these aspects, but of course that’s how I really WANT to relate to Her. She has told me to honor my own spirit as I would any of my devotional relationships, which seemed blasphemous, but I did. And you know what? It’s kind of nice to have my own little pseudo-shrine to myself. I guess since I have a spirit too, and I’m stuck with it forever, it’s a good idea to honor it.

Of course, my little pseudo-shrine to myself only consists of one candle on Freya’s shrine, but hey, better than nothing, amirite? Har.

Ok, so, the aspect of Freya that seems to be connecting with me most is… the warrior aspect, of all things. Why the warrior aspect? Why do warrior deities like me? I scarcely even know why Odin loves me so much, as I’m not a warrior and have had no ambitions to join the military (and even if I tried, I’d probably be rejected after the first physical. Yay health problems). Hel, I don’t even know any martial arts. I’ve tried them, but I’m just so awkward with my body that I don’t think I could ever master them well. I’m the opposite of athletic. Odin is, of course, a God of many things, and I have other strengths that play to His, however. So I suppose I could understand why He wants me in His fold. But, you’d think with Freya that Her aspects of love, joy, LGBT-friendliness, compassion, and agricultural fertility would be what She’d connect me to. I’m soft. I’m squishy. I’m queer. I like growing things and loving people. I have depression and could always use joy. I suppose there’s that in there as well, but She keeps coming to me as Her stern Face which takes my face and shoves it in what I could be. Of what I need to be, or rather… what I want deep down.

Ember CookeEmber Cooke says “She encourages self-awareness and self-worth regarding our own beauty and sexuality, and may be anything from achingly gentle to forcefully dominant in showing people what they are worth.” If this is the case, I think that’s she’s being “forcefully dominant” with me, hah!

This morning, She came to me. I wish I could remember more of what She said. She told me that I must own the part of myself that I have disowned, the part of me that is aggressive and fierce. She told me I disowned it a long time ago, but now it must come back to me so I can be whole. “You just don’t think it is appropriate for you to have, but it’s part of you,” She says. “Integrate it. That’s why I come in the way that I do. I’m here to show you.”

I’ve always had issues of not showing where I stand. Sometimes I do, but many times I fade into the background. I feel as if I don’t have a voice in a group, despite the fact that I’ve been told I have a good singing/speaking voice. I think I unconsciously efface myself because of the trauma from my peer group when I was young. I never thought aggression was the answer for anything, unlike my loud, competitive, extroverted classmates. I always thought, “Why would I act like that? There’s no reason to. It won’t get you what you want.” But, the consequence was, as an extroverted society, that I often felt ignored and misunderstood by my peers. I find that I have a hard time accepting my introversion and quietness, even though those traits are prized in other cultures and are not negative traits unto themselves. While I know aggression isn’t necessarily a good thing, perhaps I do need to own assertiveness and boundaries more often than I do because I have disowned these primal territorial instincts as part of my shadow. And, if I’m not integrated, maybe that’s perhaps why I prohibit my voice being heard.

So, perhaps Freya’s more martial, fierce aspect can help me discover yet again that aspect of myself. I do think that there is love in this aspect however – I think we often view war deities as those who have no love for humans. This is not the case. While many modern non-polytheists are more dualistic in their views of the Gods, we polytheists are not dualistic in this way, and we (ideally) know war deities aren’t 100% evil and deities of love are considered to be all-good. As fierce and scary as Odin can be, He can be very loving and even tender. As loving as Freya is, She can be fierce and scary. Neither are “bad,” and both have love for their humans.

We’ll see how this goes. I just can’t see myself as having any fierceness or warrior qualities, even though I’d like to. But, Freya is also beautiful and compassionate and joyful whilst owning Her power. I’d like to see if I can do that, and I think that’s what the Lady would like to see in all of Her followers.

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When Unrecorded Deities Come Knocking

On and off for the past year or so, I’ve felt the presence (or should I say Presence? It’s the Spooky when a God comes calling) that I can’t seem to find exactly within the historical record. Actually, for the past several years, I’ve had another deity too who I can’t seem to match exactly with the historical record… but that’s another post.

This deity seems to be Celtic in origin, British. Perhaps Irish as well. Many years ago when I first decided to become a polytheist I flirted with the idea of following British Celtic reconstructionism, but back then there was hardly anything available on that. Plus, Odin and heathenry came calling, so I thought that was that. But, I get inklings of the Celtic pantheon, as well as deities from other pantheons and systems calling me.

How do I know this deity is British? Mostly because I’d feel Him around when I looked up Celtic polytheism, especially that of the British. I think this deity is male, or at least masculine, but gender is a little fuzzier around this one, I believe. It may be because this deity takes the form of a great serpent, and serpents are commonly associated with intersex and androgynous deities the world over.

At first I thought He was Nodens, the British God of the seas and hunting. There is a definite water connection, but that’s not all. There’s also a definite land connection too, and of underground waters, streams, and wells. I experience something similar with Nerthus, but this deity is not Nerthus. He is serpentine and cthonic, very ancient. I believe He represents the energy of the land and waters of the great isle of Britain, who carries Her ley lines, as it were.

In modern occult thought, snakes are often a symbol of energy lines. It may not be too far-off to think that perhaps it’s a little more literal than just as a symbol, and that perhaps some cultures saw that the power of their lands were indeed snakes. Add that plenty of snakes also swim through water, you have a powerful spirit in the serpent. Snakes have also been around for millions of years now, so it’s also definitely going to have a lot of wisdom attached to it.

So, I have this great green serpent deity thing emerging in my mind’s eye, telling me that His cultus was common in ancient Celtic Britain, and that I should honor Him and revive this cultus. He is immense, and emerges from the moist Earth and Her ponds, wells, and streams above and underground. His movement prompts the movement of the waters and the fecundity of the Earth. There’s evidence that the Celts worshipped snakes and serpents, but other than the Scottish Gad-El-Glas, I can’t find much evidence that there was a snake deity of this sort. Nodens has some symbolism with sea serpents, so maybe that’s why I thought Nodens. But, I’m not sure if this serpent deity completely matches Nodens or not. I’d have to look into it more and probably consult diviners on this matter if I would like to know for sure.

However, does it matter to know for sure? All that matters is that a deity has come knocking at my door, and wants to establish a relationship. So, I can just approach Him like I would do with any other deity – a bit of caution, and see what the terms are. Then, perhaps more will be revealed.

Man, it’s so frustrating when you don’t really know who’s knocking at your door!

Odin’s Taking

It has been hard for me lately to get into the headspace for proper trance and devotion. I’m still recovering from large amounts of stress, and I feel like I keep also having taints of miasma. It’s been hard for me to relax. My place is dirty, my back hurts, and so I want to clean but it’s difficult. I keep feeling like I can’t do proper devotional rites without cleaning and cleansing any miasma in my space, but I can’t quite clean to the extent that I’d like because of the pain. A fall and the fact that I was cleaning other people’s spaces aggravated the sprain or whatever I may have in my back, and so the cycle continues.

Even with this vacation, family and other obligations grip me. This is one of the hardest aspects of a devotional life. Besides the psychological portions of it, of course. It’s finding the time in a busy and stressful life to do these devotions. It’s why Odin and the Gods have asked me to do devotions while I carry Them in my regular, mundane life. Since I don’t necessarily do work that reflects Their specialties (except for Odin and education), I’ve been at a slight loss as to what to do. Often when I teach, my headspace is fully immersed in the task at hand in order to do the job, and so I may not be thinking about my Gods. I can sometimes, if it’s not too demanding, but more often than not, it is. But, I know this is something that all devotees must do. Unless we are independently wealthy or fully retired, we must work, cook, clean, pay bills, spend time with family and friends (which of course can be fun, but also involves not-so-fun obligations too).

Odin is always in the background, of course. It’s His time of year, after all, and His eye is on those who fulfill His needs and love. The Wild Hunt is still sweeping through the air, even though it has been warm. I don’t live in a place that’s like northern Europe, and so our winters are without snow, with moderate temperatures to boot. Summer is piercingly hot. Rain falls short of that of moist northern Europe, and so our vegetation alternates between brown for most of the wheel with a short burst of green. Yet, He’s still here.

Sometimes I wonder what use He has of me. Yes, I know He loves me, but sometimes I think that I’m just an ordinary woman; who would care so much? I think devotees always ask these questions.

He tells me that I need to think of Him in the mundane moments, in my moments of stress, in my throes of psychological barriers. The divine is everywhere, and so in the proper headspace it’s so easy to access. When it’s not… well, it seems far away. Especially when I’m too tired to do proper cleansing and get into the mode of openness to the divine. However, if you don’t, then you’re even more stressed and you can’t fulfill your duties as a devotee. I need to get past these psychological barriers.

Speaking of psychological barriers, isn’t it interesting how many times in devotional lives all of our baggage and internal crap comes to the surface? I’ve heard it said many times by devotees, but now I feel like mine is really coming to the surface. Age-old insecurities. Low self-worth. The internal demons whispering in my ear. Bitterness. Cynicism. Terror of the future and how we humans are fucking it all up. It’s maddening. But, I did ask the Gods to take away all that I don’t need, and for me to purge whatever it is inside of me that prevents my devotion. I think this is all part of that. I guess I can’t complain about what I’ve asked for, hah! Odin would just tell me to stop bitching and just do something to improve my life. I think he is. That’s who He is.

I love Odin, and the light in His eye as He comes sweeping across the night sky, filling it and me with the tremor of the divine. How He wants to tear you apart to create something new. How He terrifies me. He does scare me to all fuck, but that’s just the way He is, the way Gods are, and what I and other devotees need. He transforms, He unfetters, He binds, He pierces your soul and body with His spear, calling you His. He turns you inside out, frontwards backwards, and you can’t help but follow Him. The idea of Him leaving me is just something I can’t fathom. Even when He is terrifying, even when I am scared to follow, I do. I can’t help it. He is my God.

When I do devotions, sometimes I can’t help it but to fall on my knees. Under the weight of the night storm, as is Odin, I can’t help myself. He is within me and without. Whether He whispers into my ear or shouts, He is there. While I may not know what He wants to do with me, an ordinary human as I am, He wants to twist me inside out to be the best of use to Him. It’s terrifying, but also the ecstasy that marks His name. I can’t help it, I can’t help it.

This rambling piece is now Odin’s, it seems. May it serve Him well. I love Him.

Of the North Sea, Baltic Forests, and Wide Steppes

I apologize for not posting anything new on this blog for so long. I’ve had a couple of grueling long-term substitute teaching jobs that combined with tutoring left me in a state of exhaustion most of the time, and when I wasn’t exhausted, I had little time to spare for blogging. But now, I’m on vacation.

Thank the Gods.

Anyway, I find myself being able to participate fully in my devotional practices again, and I find that my ancestors are more insistent upon me working with them and listening to them. It seems that certain groups of my ancestors are more prominent at other times than others. For a while, I will hear members of a certain ethnic group more than another, and then it will switch to another, and then another. It’s quite interesting, but all these lines do feel a bit different. Like many white folk in the United States, I have many different ancestral backgrounds. I can name about ten ethnic groups comprised in my ancestry. British, Russian, Frisian…. the list goes on.

In the past I’ve felt a lot of conflict over all these ancestries. In a way I still do, a bit. What tradition should I follow with all these cultures smooshed into one? Why, some of them hated each other, and even oppressed each other! For someone who wants to dismantle oppression so badly, it seemed so difficult to have a bunch of ancestral streams that involved oppression and hatred of one another. And of course, there was the fact that my ancestors also oppressed many other cultures outside of my genetic pool, a la colonialism. How could I deal with all that?

It doesn’t help that those who live in a diaspora, as I do, often do feel like they do not belong fully anywhere. While white people constructed this country to frame it as though it belongs to them, I feel that many of us deep down know that it truly does not. We know it rightfully belongs to Native Americans and First Nations peoples, but we don’t want to think about how our ancestors slaughtered them and stole their land. Many white people will cry out, “Wait! My ancestors came here in the year 1932! They didn’t kill any Native Americans or own any slaves!” Well, that may be true, but it doesn’t fix the fact that you and your ancestors live on stolen land and benefit from stolen resources. Unless you go back to Europe and live completely off the grid, you benefit from colonialism. And even then, much of the money you use to start an off-grid home still has its history in colonialism and the exploitation of Indigenous lands. We can’t escape it. It sucks, but it’s true.

We try to escape the reality of dealing with our privilege by deflecting, by blaming the victim, by trying to create a narrative where we are Indigenous peoples too of continents outside Europe. While white Europeans are ultimately mixed, like anyone else, citing mixture over millenia makes little difference in confronting racism and imperialism in modern times. Yes, Europeans have a lot of blood from West Asia and Siberia. While it makes a difference to engage in ancestor worship knowing this, it does not help oppressed peoples to claim “Well, white people really aren’t all white!” You don’t own up to your necessary weregild by claiming this. You are trying to escape it to spare your feelings of being “the bad guy.” In other words, it’s self-indulgent ego slobbery.

I realize that I’m an American, and Europeans no longer view white Americans as European. White Americans have much more in common with white Europeans than we may both think, as we come from the same root, and the United States as an institution is still very, very much based on European ideas and philosophies, so I think that the modern attitude that Americans and Europeans are worlds apart is not very much based in reality. I know I sound like sour grapes when I say this, but, when the (rare) European pagan says that white Americans should not practice ancient European paganisms because it is cultural appropriation, I am at first confused, then a bit angry. If we are speaking about a marginalized ethnic group in Europe such as that of the Saami, and you have no connection to the Saami in blood or in culture, then I understand the disapproval completely. But when you are talking about ethnicities and cultures that are in no way oppressed nor in danger of dying out, and you are descended from them, then I don’t see the issue at all. Yes, I am not legally European because I don’t have citizenship in any European country, and my last ancestor who immigrated from Europe was my great-grandfather. Obviously this land is in my blood now. But, in terms of the overall history of my ancestry, the part that has been in the Americas is relatively small, and the vast majority of it has been in Europe (and West Asia and Africa, because humanity has lived in Africa longer than outside of it).

I’ve heard some European pagans say that American pagans should just make up their own traditions and leave ancient European religions out of it. While it is not necessarily a bad thing to come up with your own religious life, it does us a disservice. As animistic people, we want to make sure that we honor the Earth and the local spirits and Powers that reside within our area of residence. But, we white Americans cannot appropriate Indigenous religious traditions. We can’t just rip off some of the local religions and make up other shit, because then we’re no better than New Agers. So, many of us feel like we we need another base, and that is when we turn to the ancestors. And, since it seems that many of us white Americans honor our ancestors and practice the ancient religions of our ancestors, I’d say they don’t think it’s cultural appropriation, thank you very much. Our traditions change when we are not in the land of our ancestors, of course, and we honor local land spirits that may not be like the ones of our ancestors, but then by working with the ancestors we are able to return more to sanity in this very unbalanced world that colonialism of heart, mind, and soil has tried to destroy.

Again, I sound like sour grapes because it really does irritate me when white Europeans attempt to exclude their cousins across the pond. Like I said above, this is rare, and most European pagans welcome us with open arms. However, I think if we want to regain our indigeny and heal ourselves, gain a sense of wholeness and balance within ourselves and without, then we need to look back at our ancestors. If we don’t feel a connection with their Gods or ancient religions, that’s ok. They don’t call to all of us. Maybe we only engage with the land right in front of us, rather than the lands of our pasts. That’s ok too. But, when Indigenous peoples around the world call for us white people to look back at our own ancestors for answers and healing rather than seeking outward, then I’d say it’s an important thing to take note of. Colonialism has been a societal sickness. It tells white people we have no culture, so we must steal others’ to feel like we belong. It tells us that our ancestors are not important, and it’s only the future and the shedding of traditions that we may move “forward” to a mythical apex of “progress”. It tells us we are all blameless in colonialism and that we therefore don’t have to do anything about it. It tells us that we need to deny humanity and respect to other life forms, including people of color of our own species. It tells us the Earth is just a dead rock floating through space, and that there’s no point to it.

What does indigeny tell us? Indigeny tells us that the Earth is alive, we are all connected, our ancestors wove our place in the world and that our actions continue to weave it. Indigeny tells us all life forms have some sort of agency (even if not precisely free will), and that we are surrounded by Powers so holy that respect and reverence must be at the center of our epistemologies. It tells us that we are animals like all the other ones, living things like all the other ones. It tells us we must weave our wyrd to leave our lives fit for future generations. It tells us we belong, and that separation and meaninglessness are the playthings of the self-indulgent. Indigeny is part and parcel to every human on Earth, even if you are not Indigenous. Indigeny is our experience of being.

Where do my ancestors come from? The North Sea, the Baltic forests, the wide steppes of the proto-Indo-Europeans. From the high mountains of the Caucasus and the Tatras. From the seas of the Balkans. From Her Holiness Britannia. From dark Eurasian boreal forests. From the plains of Eastern Africa. From the Levant and Iran and Turkey and Gods know where else. All of those streams met to spawn me. We impose such labels as “Europe,” “Asia,” “Africa,” but our ancestors knew better. They knew where they belonged. Maybe I’m still confused, but I doubt they were.

May we all find healing from our pasts.

Lord of Winter

One of the worst things about the Christianization of Europe was that many of the facets of the Old Gods were erased from memory, or disguised very deeply in folklore. Odin’s facets are one of the most attested in the lore, however. Just look at His names! There are over 200. They all refer to His various domains of knowledge, magic, war, fury, kingship, seidh, death, etc… and then there are two, Jólnir and Jölfuðr. They mean “Yule figure” and “Yule Father” respectively, referencing to His role of Lord of the Wild Hunt. I’ve often seen Odin in connection to evergreens and plants of winter, which is all UPG, but He does seem to have an affinity towards spruce and yew. I’ve also felt that this also extends to fir and pine as well.

Evergreens like firs were traditionally brought in ancient Germanic households during Yuletide to mark everlasting life in the snowy infertile season and as a reminder than green growing plants and crops would come soon. And Odin is Master of Yule, like Frau Holda is Queen of Yule. Some heathens have remarked that they feel Odin more strongly during the autumn/winter months, and I think that His domains correspond more with the nature of the colder seasons. His frost giant blood too may have a role. Also, there are plenty of storms in fall and winter, and storms and piercing, howling winds are also one of His facets. In fact, Lord of storms and wind may be His earliest facet perceived by Germanic peoples, as I’ve heard from several heathens. The etymology of his his perhaps derives from the proto-Germanic word *wodanaz, which means “fury” or “rage”. What’s more furious than the winds of storms?

Odin has His darker facets (and dark doesn’t mean bad!), and so that reflects His connection to winter as well. In Germanic countries, winter is pretty damn dark, and the sun hardly rises during winter in northern Scandinavia. So, when I got the inspiration to call Him “Lord of Winter,” I saw that He said I was correct-He IS Lord of Winter. There are other Lords and Ladies of winter in Germanic lore, like Ullr (Odin’s son), and Skadi, and I’m sure several frost giants have taken the title too, but I believe they serve as different functions of winter. Frost giants are the bodies of ice and snow, Ullr rules over skiing and hunting in particular, and Odin… well, I think He rules over the shrieking, howling madness that can accompany a fierce winter storm that leaves the unawares and unexposed bare and frozen. Odin sweeps away all that’s not necessary to your core, bare essence, and that’s what a fierce winter can do.

Odin is also draugadrottinn, Lord of the Dead. Commonly in Europe, the start and the thick of winter marked a time when the Dead were more active in the land of the living, which is why we have holidays like Samhain and Winternights. It’s easy to see why. In northern Europe, deciduous trees and shrubs have shed their leaves, annual plants die from frost and snow, and perennials hide their life deep underground. Some animals are awake and walk about, and others hibernate. Hibernation is a bit like a little death in that body temperature, metabolism, and heart rate go down in such a way where if the animal were to experience that state in an awake and warm-weather month, it’d probably die. Many forms of life in winter store their energy, saving it for the explosion of spring. For those life forms that do not hibernate, well… there’s a good chance they may die in the cold and snow, which is what happened to many of our ancestors. Any livestock not expected to survive winter were slaughtered and their meat preserved for the people. For Europeans in their agricultural years, they had to ration their stores to survive the winter and they couldn’t grow more grain during that time. To these ancestors, winter meant death was never far away.

Odin as Lord of Yule and Death would mean there’s a likely chance He is also Lord of Winter. It also makes sense, given His way of demanding you to give up the things that do not serve you in your personal and spiritual life. Winter does that too… it can be quiet, peaceful, and contemplative, or stormy and frightening, but either way, it exposes your innermost nature and your core needs and wants. It strips and simplifies, yet builds up.

Thank you, Lord of Winter, for all that You have done. Hail the necessary sacrifices you have made.

What is Urd?

Urd is, of course, the eldest of the Norns, the Lady who owns our history and memory. Her well contains waters that cycle throughout the Nine Worlds, and I firmly believe that our physical water here on Earth is part of it. Actually, I believe that Jord, the Earth, is Urd’s granddaughter by way of Nott (Night). It makes sense though. The waters of Urd’s womb are also Her wells…. and Jord has Her own vast amount of water in Her body, and memory and time has shaped the Earth… you can see how it is connected in the lore.

Urd is also the Old Norse word for Wyrd, the Germanic law of cause and effect. So, Wyrd is not only a concept, but also an entity… as is Urd. The Norns water Yggdrasil from Urd’s well, Urdabrunnr, and then dew from the tips of the branches fall back down to the well at the roots, completing the cycle. Urdabrunnr therefore contains all of life and the potential for life in the Nine Worlds, as water here on Earth flows in and out of living things everywhere, for as long as those living things have existed. The water we drink has been in and out of dinosaurs, the first cellular organism. It’s a bit gross to think about in a physical sense, but pretty awe-inducing in a metaphysical sense. We really are all one.

The lore states that no one knows from where Yggdrasil’s roots run. I don’t either, because if the Gods don’t know, how should a mortal know? I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that the Well runs from Ginnungagap, the Yawning Gap from which Midgard sprung. Ginnungagap as the Primal Void, it contains nothing and everything, chaos and silence. It howls for eternity, and it’s the most primal of all howls. It’s an incredible paradox and one that is difficult for beings (especially mortals) to comprehend. How can a thing be empty and yet full of everything and BE everything all at once?

We can skip over to our Indo-European cousin, Buddhism. Buddhism teaches that everything is essentially empty in that nothing has permanent qualities. The universe isn’t empty is a nihilistic sense, because Buddhism acknowledges that All is One, it’s just that it’s not permanent in that nothing has an unchanging essence. Many schools of Mahayana Buddhism go ever further to say that there is no such thing as independent arising, meaning that things never come from just itself, in a vacuum. Everything and everybody is what and who they are currently because of everything else acting around you. Does that sound like Wyrd? I think so.

It’s liberating and yet scary to fully realize what Wyrd is. On one hand, it’s a way to counter the sickness of isolation. Your mind may want you to feel cut off from the rest of humanity and the Earth, saying that you are alone and that no one can possibly love you, or even see you. That’s a very modern illness, where the mind fixes upon the illusion that there is no true community, and that it’s “every man for himself.” Everything in the universe has affected you, and there’s no such thing as a true vacuum, so how can you think that? Modern life with its dependence on individuality (making true independence an illusion) and depression can cloud the true nature of the universe as One. It sounds so New Agey, but it’s true-we are all connected and One under Wyrd. We cannot separate ourselves from it, so we cannot separate ourselves from others.

What’s scary about it? The scary part is that every choice you make also affects the cosmos. Not necessarily profoundly, but we are co-creators in our decisions. Our will may be shaped by every previous circumstance, but we can still take myriads of directions. The waters of Urd and Ginnungagap cannot do this in Their form-this is why I think that They take forms in life. The undifferentiated Source and Void is like a drop of water-the individual molecules that comprise will never stay together to be a distinct physical entity. Instead, they flow and shift and slide and embody all sorts of motion and will inevitably end up on different sides of the globe, constantly changing shape. Of course, it’s inevitably that they will come together again too, given enough time! This, I think, is part of the mystery of water. It is fluid. It changes. It is contained within all of us. It IS us. But it is not easily differentiated as an individual thing.

This piece is inspired by this article here. It has inspired me for a long time, and it confirmed what I had thought since I was fairly young: we are all One, but different. Given that the author is a chaos magician as well as a heathen, it makes sense. The chaos magic symbol represents how magic and potential all come from the ultimate Source, which is chaos (or, at least that’s how I understand it-I’m not a chaos magician so I’m probably getting it wrong somewhere!). Ginnungagap could be seen as a Norse equivalent to the Greek Chaos, the primordial void. I don’t think any mortal can really plunge themselves right into Ginnungagap, as their embodied form is so alien to it; however, we can detect that like darkness, all things come from it. It’s just pure potential. So, everything exists but everything doesn’t. It’s like the Norse version of Nagarjuna’s playground.

Heimlich A. Laguz says that “We live to give their [the waters] irrepressible essence form and flushing life.” This is a powerful concept. The waters contain all potentiality and will inevitably be in all of us. However, even though water has its many wights contained within it, the Waters of Memory want to also experience life and its myriads and myriads of ways to be incarnate. And that is Life. We are One in the Waters and the Void, yes, but our manifestations are also different from one another too. The differences contribute to the whole of the universe and serve as a balance. We can’t all just be pure potential-that’d be like the Big Bang. The Big Bang gave rise to stars, planets, life… I think that pure unlimited potential and chaos can’t exist on its own without the flip side of differentiation. It may be some immutable law of some sort. We’re recycled as water is recycled, the Waters of Urd’s Well are recycled, but they are able to experience the joy and pain of incarnation in us. Further away from the Source, we become more and more differentiated (which looks like the chaos magic symbol and the Big Bang) and I think that’s where we can get hung up on feeling separate from everything around us, but if we look into the Source then we’re One. Both are wondrous, by the way… I don’t think that we need to forsake our individual identities to become more spiritual. Every species on Earth has a different function, and even though we’re all ultimately related doesn’t mean that we have to overlook all diversity. Diversity is what keeps balance, after all. Pure chaos isn’t that conducive to life, and so I think differentiation is useful and inevitable.

What does this have to do with Urd? She is the keeper of memory and Wyrd (and is Wyrd Herself), and she tends to the waters in Her well and helps to spin the threads of our fate. She is a distinct entity and not just a concept, although She DOES hold a concept. I think it was She who ordered time in the beginning… not that there’s really such a thing as time, as a human construct, but things happen, and that’s a fact of the universe. I think time, or the flow of occurrences, was a lot more chaotic in the beginning. Looking at the Big Bang, such a different set of circumstances than today and highly concentrated energy fluctuating would probably lead to “time” flowing differently than it does today. To be conducive to life, it probably had to calm down and become more orderly.. which is what I think Urd did. She didn’t make it linear, as linear time is an invention of Judeo-Christianity, but She probably made it into a smoother cycle. The ancient Germanic way of looking at time is cyclical, like most agricultural peoples. Motion for motion’s sake won’t create life, but order in motion will. No wonder Urd is a frost giant! Many heathens believe that the primordial fire and ice union that created Midgard is representative of the Big Bang. Ice is solidified matter, the quality which can lead us to be differentiated conscious beings, and fire is energy and entropy. Combine matter and energy, you got life. And everything else in the universe. Urd can then be seen to solidify being, which She does through Wyrd. Water flows quickly, ice does not. Wyrd and Urd is our keeper. She forms us.

I realize that this all sounds rather monistic, which many heathens don’t believe is a valid way of looking at divinity and the universe. However, I don’t view this monistically in a monotheist type way, but rather as an acknowledgment that we’re all related and have divinity within. We’re all separate entities, and that’s the whole point of this post. We’re separate, but related and interconnected. Just because we’re all made of matter and energy that probably all came from one source at one point in time does not negate polytheism. It’s just what is. Ginnungagap and Urdabrunnr and its waters are life source-we are but the manifestations of that life source. Does this life source have a consciousness of its own? Maybe. Is it personal? I’d say not, because it’s just too big. It becomes personal only when manifest as being. When not manifest, it’s just Ginnungagap. And chaos. Which isn’t bad. It’s the most sacred thing there is, as it is the One Thing, but yes, it’s still the size of the known universe and all of the Gods and their worlds and beyond. There’s no comprehension down to a human level besides the relationships we form with other beings.

There’s been debate among Hindus for over a good couple thousand years as to whether or not the divine is personal. Some posit the Godhead is impersonal and is akin to a force, while others believe it’s personal and is manifest in their primary deity. I actually think these are not mutually exclusive. Call me a bit of a pantheist, but divinity is within everything, and is both simultaneously personal and impersonal in that we all have the waters within us (flow of memory), yet we are all individuals who can be as radically different from one another as can be with many different agendas and natures.

Regardless, Her waters are healing, as they contain all life and everything that was and will be. They contain the present. They contain our being as it is right now. What a joy that is.

Uncle Loki of the Nebula

A few days ago I made a point of making offerings of water and honey whiskey to the Holy Powers, ancestors, and wights because the past several days before I’d been either a). enduring a bad headache/migraine deal, b).nauseous from said headache/migraine deal, and c). busy whenever I felt at least somewhat well. Actually, even for the past few weeks I’ve been a bit neglectful, since I tried out a new medication that left me feeling incredibly sleepy all the time… and really anxious and depressed! So I went off that. Unfortunately, it was supposed to help with migraines, so I’ll just have to hope the botox treatment I got last week for that will work.

Anyway, I decided to clean my shrines, light the candles on them, and go outside and pour honey whiskey to as many of the Powers who like the stuff. I got an impulse to pour out some for Loki after I when I thought I was done, knowing in the lore it says one should pour out a drink for Loki whenever Odin gets one. I’m sorry to say I had never done that before-oops! It’s not like I’m one of those heathens who hate Loki; on the contrary, I really respect Him and his place in the pantheon and cosmos. He had never really approached me before, however, and it seemed like no signs pointed towards me needing to work with Him. So I was a bit surprised by the impulse, and I went and poured out a shot for Him. I said something along the lines of “Hail Flame-Hair, He who tells the truth through lies, I honor you through this offering so that you may live.”

And boy, one thing I learned IMMEDIATELY about Loki is that when He’s honored, or even mentioned, it piques His interest very, very much. He’s very likely to show up.

He immediately came into my mind’s eye. I could tell He was pleased by the offering, but I could tell that it was only a small part of how He appeared to me. It was like he was bouncing all around me, and He was super chatty. He reminded me of going to a party and talking to the person who’s the center of attention and keeps talking, but in such a way that is nevertheless very warm and inclusive. He likes attention, but I really got the feeling that He also loves paying attention to those who invoke Him sincerely. He wants to return the favor.

As soon as He appeared, He started talking. He said something along the lines of “Why haven’t you paid attention to your great-great uncle Loki?” and He POUTED. Seriously. In jest, but still. Calling Himself as my uncle caught me a bit off-guard, as I have been wondering about my devotional relationship with Odin lately-many devotees feel that they are children of their God, or lovers, or friends-so perhaps from Loki’s statement, Odin’s my father. “I’ll let you do all the cool uncle things your dad won’t let you!” He said, and smirked. If I already didn’t know He was a Trickster, I’d certainly guess then!

Our conversation was so interesting in that He seems to be pretty attuned to pop culture, because he made points through songs. We somehow got into the subjects of love and lust, and we (I’m not sure who started it, really) started singing “What Is Love?” by Haddaway (again, I’m being dead serious), and when He sang “Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more,” He remarked that’s what love is-the opposite of hurt. Loki’s been hurt so much in His life that he knows what pain is so intimately, and I think that’s how He connects to a lot of His followers. He knows torture, madness, betrayal, and grief. I’ve heard from Lokeans that He truly doesn’t want humans to suffer in the ways He has, so He works especially well with those with mental illnesses and those who have endured abuse. He said “Whenever you’ve been hurt, come to Me. I’m the deity to come to when you’ve been hurt.” He didn’t want to talk about His pain, but I could tell it was underneath the surface. I think that if we follow Him, and treat Him with respect, it eases His pain slightly. And so He does the same for us.

The Loki I encountered can be present anywhere. I could see Him popping out to chat even in the unlikeliest places, much like a cockroach can pop out pretty much darn near anywhere. The Loki I encountered is fun. The Loki I encountered is compassionate. Most of all, the Loki I encountered is loving. He really does love His followers, and cares for them. As the fighter of entropy and as a fire deity, Loki brings dynamism and love to the darkest places, even in His own dark places. I think Loki haters have never encountered the true Loki, or if they did, He showed up and they pushed Him away regardless. Chaos is scary, but necessary, and is a vital part of the universe. Interestingly, it brings up the questions of whether or not chaos is also joy and love. I wonder if those beautiful nebulas we see in pictures are actually singing and orgasming in the love of their creation. I saw a vision wherein Loki is embodied in these nebulas. They are beautiful creation out of fire, formed from the previous destruction of a star. We all know Loki’s role in Ragnarok. Yet, even Ragnarok brings renewal and new worlds, which is precisely what nebulas bring. They are the childlike wonders of new stars, babies, but also immensely old. Their components are as old as the universe itself, anyway. All things were created from everything else around; in fact, they are just transmuted. So while Loki embodies the pain and joy of destruction, He also embodies the pain and joy of creativity. All the same, He says. It is all joy and colors and riotous flame, an orgy of burgeoning life.

Hail Uncle Loki of the nebula! May He who brings life and flame bring them down to His people. May those who are hurt rush to You, and may You feed them!

Thank you Uncle Loki.

Offerings to Yggdrasil

Offering to Yggdrasil isn’t something that heathens normally do; in fact, I’ve hardly ever heard of anyone making offerings to Yggdrasil. I get the impression that it isn’t an entity (and it is certainly a living, breathing entity unto itself) that requires a lot of offerings. Some deities in our tradition don’t seem to be big on offerings, such as the Norns, although sometimes it truly is prudent to give Them offerings, such as when you request something of Them or They are teaching you something. They are incredibly important, no doubt, but still fairly distant from humanity and individuals who inhabit the Nine Worlds. They won’t refuse offerings even as a general honor, however. I can never see how an offering wouldn’t be well-received by any deity as long as it is given in the right spirit. However, the Norns don’t seem to ask for as many offerings as the deities who are closer to us, such as Odin, Freya, Thor, etc. I feel that Yggdrasil is the same. It is absolutely necessary for our existence, such as that of the Norns, but it’s not exactly barging into people’s lives, asking for devotional work, requiring offerings, and all the things that our deities who are more personal do. I get from UPG that the best way to honor Yggdrasil is to honor Midgard and the other worlds, keep the Earth clean and healthy, and don’t take more than you need. Yggdrasil is a tree, and trees are, well, practical, you could say. Water it, maintain it, feed it once in a while but by and large it takes care of itself and the things that inhabit it.

However, I do get the feeling that certain offerings given once in a while do delight Yggdrasil outside of taking care of Midgard. Pure water, of course, I think is the best and what you can give it the most. Yggdrasil’s waters are holy, and are the source of life for all beings in the Nine Worlds (except maybe the fire giants? No clue. There are so many mysteries). Yggdrasil’s waters run through all of our bodies in Midgard and I suspect without, as these waters are also spiritual and not just physical. They contain all memories, as in the great Wells at its roots, and we are like the leaves, offshoots of this great living wellspring. Pure water given in gratitude will be very well-received by this great entity.

This is also UPG, but a customary thing I’ve developed in giving my offerings is that if I pour any liquid offering to the Gods, spirits, and ancestors outside by the tree that grows next to my apartment, I will often flick a few drops on the tree and say “And for the tree.” It’s not only for the tree in front of me, but also for Yggdrasil. I strongly believe that any tree in our world, so long as it’s willing, can serve as a proxy for the World Tree. All trees are microcosms of the macrocosm Yggdrasil, and so we can have any tree in our world help us journey to and from Yggdrasil. Because of the relationship I have with the tree outside, it’s helped me to journey, where I felt thrust upon it and in my mind’s eye I was climbing the trunk of Yggdrasil. It was almost like pathwalking, except I wasn’t actually walking. As a holy proxy, any offerings you give to an individual tree can go to Yggdrasil if you specify. It’s like Yggdrasil is every tree’s great-great-great granddaddy, and all trees know this.

I also think that scents from wood or resins are also excellent offerings for Yggdrasil, especially if you want to invoke its wisdom. Incense and oils from things such as sandalwood, cedar, dragon’s blood, myrrh, copal, etc. would all be incredibly apropos. I’m pretty sure copal was offered to the World Tree of the Maya as well as to many other Mesoamerican Gods, as it comes from a tree… so logic follows that Yggdrasil would appreciate this, especially in a ceremony in its honor.

Of course, you also have offerings such as fertilizer and compost for trees, which I’m sure Yggdrasil would take as a service offering. Planting trees themselves would be an excellent service offering to Yggdrasil as well as Jord and Nerthus. I don’t think Yggdrasil cares about elaborate ceremonies or offerings, but I feel we should acknowledge its presence in all of our lives. It’s our literal cosmic backbone, and should be honored as such. Its waters give us life and cleanse us. Of course, they kill us too, but that’s another topic… 😉

Hail Yggdrasil. Hail the life you give us. Thank you for nourishing us and for holding us up. Hail!

Frey Says “Slow Down!” And Other Musings of the Vanir

Frey is not a God I have a very close relationship with (of all the Vanir, I feel I’m closest to Nerthus), but I tend to His shrine on my bookcase quite often. I extraordinarily admire His gift of sacrifice, and I offer barley, wheat berries, or honey to Him once in a while when I have these on hand. After all, the lore teaches us that He is literally the body of the grain that we partake, whether it be in solid or liquid form (hail beer! Amirite?). This is such an intense lesson we need to learn: you are not alive unless something else dies for you. Plain and simple. There must be sacrifice for life to flourish. And our Lord Ingvi-Frey voluntarily sacrifices Himself so that we may live. I don’t know why He is sometimes underestimated. Any God who’s willing to get Their throat cut open, blood spilled, and walk the Hel Road each year so that we may live is a bad-ass to me. Yes, He’s a God of peace, but peace can have its terrifying aspects too.

Anyway.

He is very much a God of seeds. In his rune, Ingwaz, we see a seed, the grain that which grows the staff of life for so many of our ancestors. Some people also see the shape of bound sheaves of wheat after a harvest, which I feel is true as well. Some people see a vulva, which I could also see even though it is typically a rune associated with male sexuality. Others see a doorway, and I believe it can serve as a doorway to Frey and Vanaheim.

Ingwaz has been pretty prominent in my life lately in that I keep thinking about it constantly, and the idea of seeds and their wisdom is something my mind drifts to quite a bit. This was started by my relationship with Nerthus, who I believe is also Goddess of seeds, and She told me that Ingwaz was also one of Her runes. Even though I know many say that She is the mother of Frey, Her constant showing me of Ingwaz with a line drawn through it and up and becoming a stalk was a bit confusing to me. Then I learned that the Anglo-Saxon futhorc letter for Jera is Ger… and it resembles Ingwaz with a verticle line running through it! So I wasn’t delusional. This, along with the Elder Futhark Jera, is her rune, and so the bindrune of Ingwaz and a double-sided Fehu emerging vertically from it is Hers as well. It looks like grain emerging from its seed, and a prominent lesson of Nerthus’s is the mystery of soil, of growth from the fecund Earth. The double-sided Fehu also represents wealth, but in this bindrune it’s not necessarily currency-it’s the wealth of the Earth, the food that we grow lest we starve. It’s the grain, the grasses, and all the various seedlings we rely on. We’re certainly wealthy in many ways if the crops grow healthily to give us a good harvest, even for those of us who aren’t farmers! Most of us at least buy food from the store, which was originally grown somewhere and was at some point along its history a seed, a seed that was harvested.

So it is with Frey. He is a very patient sort of God, in my opinion, and He doesn’t have the same sort of frenetic energy that His sister or even Odin can have. He has His own Ecstasy, of course, but it’s not frenzy. He is gentle light, and fertile soil. He is like the plants he embodies. Even the fastest growing plants don’t move as fast as most animals can, and such is the wisdom of plants. They take their time. They don’t move out of their rooted spot. They harness the energies of fertility and reach towards the sky. Frey’s wisdom is a lot like this, I’ve personally found. YMMV, of course, but my impressions of him are a lot like the stereotypical Taurean energy-methodical, patient, slow but in a good way… just like the life cycle of plants. And, like Taurus, there’s a lot of fertility and sexual energy tied in with Him-I mean, look at His cock! Sexual organs create, and some of those things created we eat. Thus continues the cycle of life.

I was in front of my shrines recently, meditating and communing with the Gods, when I heard a gentle voice from within, and I knew it was Frey. He said something along the lines of “You’ve been stretching yourself so much, wanting to get everything done now. You shouldn’t. You need to slow down, see the journey unfold. Enjoy and savor the moments of the process. Be slow and gentle with yourself.” I’ve been stressed lately with lots of responsibilities and taking care of a lot of lives (human and non-human) on top of dealing with finding another job and cleaning an apartment that seems to never stay clean in a physical AND energetic sense. So, Frey was remarking on that I won’t feel at peace unless I go through the motions more mindfully and savor the slow process of growth. Such an approach will certainly reduce blood pressure! It seems like such simple wisdom, like maybe even a God wouldn’t bother to say such obvious things, but They do. The wisdom and mysteries of the Gods can be the most simple, and therefore the most profound. They can show up anytime and anywhere in your life, and their advice, support, and criticisms can be ample, lol. Frey, as an ever-abundant and fertile God, seems like a perfect candidate for profound and simple wisdom that nevertheless lies beneath all things. And that is why he is God of frith, prosperity, happiness, and abundance. Hail Frey!

How I Became A Polytheist-And Devoted To Odin

I never would have thought I’d be a pagan polytheist. I wasn’t very interested in European mythology and folklore while younger, focusing instead on Native American and Asian societies and stories (and I still am, such as in my academic work). I still loved learning about ancient European societies, especially those in Scandinavia, but my primary interests lay in the continent I grew up in. Despite the fact that I learned about many different pagan religions in school and in my own research (I was always a nerd, even as a young kid), I didn’t really think there were multiple Gods. My parents are both Christian, although not very devout-growing up, we only really went to church on Christmas and Easter. My mother, however, was and still has a strong new-agey bent to the way she approaches her spirituality, so she often touts the benefits of psychics, astrology, and the law of attraction kind of stuff. I was always a skeptic about the law of attraction, but her eclectic new age approach to spirituality rubbed off on me and so for my young life, that’s what I was. I eventually bought lots of books on astrology and new age topics, and that influenced my beliefs.

Moreover, I was a very strong “totemist,” I suppose you can say, and found the appropriative pseudo-“Native American” spirituality on the New Age shelves the most interesting. I call myself an animist since birth, because as a kid, I felt I could speak to the trees, hear messages in the wind, and was incredibly drawn to literally hundreds of plants and animals. I would become obsessed with certain species, wanting to know everything about them and research as much as I could pre-internet, and their presence would be constant. I still get this way, and I will still spend hours researching a particular plant or animal. It wasn’t because I was necessarily drawn to IT-rather, it was drawn to ME. It worked both ways, but I honestly feel like that they approach me more than I do them. So, the idea of “totem animals” and “power animals” appealed to me very much. Unfortunately, nearly all information on this is from New Age sources that culturally appropriate the idea from Native Americans. I didn’t believe everything I read, but many elements of this pseudo “Native American spirituality” appealed to me, and that’s where my spiritual life went.

Then, I began working with real Native Americans, and taking classes on real Native American religious traditions when I started university. There I learned of the terrible cultural appropriation that composes the New Age movement, and how it seriously hurts real live Indigenous people. I also learned how most of those elements are made up by affluent white people anyway, and are thus not real. The “Native American spirituality” presented in the New Age movement is incredibly superficial and is truly Protestant ethics disguised in fantasies of the Noble Savage. It sounds so silly now, but I was devastated learning this at the time. I felt like my worldview and everything I had known was shattered. I think many pagan and heathen converts have gone through this process, so I’m sure you can identify with it. Because I had easy access to the internet at college (and before I didn’t), I of course took my crisis of faith there. It was there that I learned of Native Americans addressing white folks who culturally appropriate their traditions, saying that we (white people) should look to our own ancestral traditions if we are seeking a tradition that looks to the Earth and Her powers. There, they said, we can honor our ancestor’s pathways rather than steal another’s. So, in an effort to pick up the pieces of my shattered ego and religious life, I did.

Here’s where access to the internet helped even more. I had a few friends who were Wiccan and had participated in a couple of holidays with them, but I wasn’t that interested in becoming Wiccan. So I delved into research about other pagan paths. I was most comfortable with the reconstructionist ones, or the reconstructionist-derived ones. I feared smearing my ancestral traditions by being eclectic, and I also wanted to be as far away from cultural appropriation as possible. At first I sought out British Celtic reconstructionism, but the very scant info on it drove me off. I was leery about participating in Irish, Welsh, or Scottish recon because some Celts from the homelands look down on the diaspora trying to revive their traditions, saying it’s appropriation also (I’m not familiar with the politics on that one now, but back then in 2009 I just wanted nothing to do with cultural appropriation given my past). I saw things about Asatru, of course, but it didn’t immediately grab me. I read about how some Irish have said that since most Americans are descended from the English, they should focus on that rather than on their scanter Irish blood. I have both Irish and English blood, but I definitely have more of the latter than the former, so that’s where I began looking. I researched about the Anglo-Saxons and other Germanic peoples, and their traditions. I never in a million years would have thought I’d have looked into Anglo-Saxon heathenry, being incredibly disinterested in English history, but life surprises you. I stumbled upon a website long since defunct dedicated to Anglo-Saxon heathenry, and something clicked in my head: this is it. 

And, to the surprise of no one with a close relationship with the Old Man, He showed up. As soon as I read about Him on that website, Woden made His presence known. I could feel His eye looking at me, straight through my soul. I knew He wanted me. I knew He was interested in me and wanted me to follow Him.

And it scared the living bejeebus out of me.

Odin is scary, even to experienced polytheists and heathens. All Gods are scary, of course, but Odin is definitely one of the ones where you can really feel the scary vibes emanating from him even at first glance.  I almost wanted to run away because of it. Since then I’ve heard of many baby heathens saying the same thing, so at least I wasn’t alone. But even though He kept showing up in my thoughts and visions, I still had a hard time accepting the idea of multiple Gods. I still had a huge hangover from the Protestant-derived New Age, where there is generally only one God, maybe a Goddess too, and they are the universe itself. I still retain some of those pantheistic impulses, and I truly think that all that exists is a Sacred Force. However, I do not think it can be defined unto itself, and is probably not that all personally invested in the lives of each of its living things, because we ARE it. The Gods and spirits, on the other hand, are, because they are individual beings just like us.

Anyway, I digress. At the time, interestingly enough (now I’m pretty sure it was a synchronicity) I had decided to switch majors to Religious Studies (another post about why later, perhaps), and so I took my first class in the field. It was about the main deity pathways in Hinduism, so we learned all about Shiva, Vishnu/Krishna, and the Mother Goddess. At first, I felt it was very interesting but I dismissed the idea of multiple Gods. But then as I opened up more to the idea of heathenry, I began to feel Shiva as we talked and read about Him. That was also disturbing. I’m not supposed to think that! I kept telling myself, but He as the Mighty Destroyer of ignorance burned a hole through me, opening me up to the possibility. I honestly think now as I type this that He helped to open me up to Odin and the other Gods. I suppose I should offer him puja sometime in thanks… 😉

Randomly too, I felt Ishtar talking to me that year, remembering her from my enthusiasm about ancient Babylonia. She just kept telling me to go out and have sex and enjoy it (I’ve never pursued a relationship with Her, but I’m sure a Mesopotamian polytheist wouldn’t be surprised at the message!) It’s your first year at college, She said. You need to go out and have sex! I kept dismissing her, as that wasn’t something I wanted to do without a romantic partner, BUT it seems that may have been a prediction about my confusion and confliction about my sexuality that I’d later on endure that year. Deities… they know more about you than you do, ya know?

Since I started accepting the idea of many Gods, and began deprogramming my former New Age self, I felt Odin more and more. He still scared me though, and so a push-pull relationship began… and I’m sad to say I did not truly begin to focus on a deep devotional relationship with Him or the other Gods until I got out of grad school. I suppose it was a lot of fear, and maybe still some unconscious resistance. I nevertheless studied about heathenry and began to rebuild my worldview in accordance to my ancestors. I do not exclusively focus on an Anglo-Saxon path (that feel away after a couple of years) because of the lack of resources compared to the Norse ones, but also because I strongly feel and know that I have Scandinavian blood, so I eventually learned there was no contradiction in practicing both paths, or even combining them. Now I just generally say I’m a heathen, and I really don’t feel that my ancestors care that I don’t stick to one cultural path therein, knowing that I have all sorts of strands of Germanic heritage, and more…

Now I have a regular devotional relationship to Odin, as well as to many other deities in our tradition. He takes up the most time, however. I still don’t know where He is going to take me, but as He is a God of the storms, I know it’s somewhere.