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.

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Stones for the Gods

As a sort of follow-up to my post on stones representing the Nine Worlds, I also feel like the Gods also have affinities to certain stones. While this is not traditional at all (besides Freya having a strong association with amber and Frey to gold), and I would suspect it’s a very modern practice, the Gods have not indicated that they are opposed to this, and in fact I’ve had a few besides Freya and Frey who enthusiastically announced that they liked certain stones when asked. I know some of these listed here aren’t technically stones, such as gold or sea glass, but for the sake of simplicity I’m still going to include them on this list.

Odin-Kyanite, sodalite, sapphire, clear quartz, rutilated quartz, snowflake obsidian, onyx

Frigga-Celestite, blue beryl, turquoise

Freya-Amber, tiger’s eye, emerald, gold, peridot, topaz, citrine, rose quartz, carnelian, amethyst, kunzite, garnet, morganite, pink diamond

Frey-Gold, amber

Nerthus-Smoky quartz, moss agate, aventurine, jade, green quartz, emerald, peridot, jet

Njord-Aquamarine, gold, turquoise, sea glass, iolite

Hela-Jet, snowflake obsidian, onyx, mangasite

Thor-Black tourmaline, smoky quartz, ruby, sapphire, garnet, copper, iron, steel

Jord/Erda-All stones, but especially macrocrystalline ones such as granite. Green and brown gems are also good. I could see her associated with smoky quartz

Sunna-Gold, amber, citrine, topaz, ruby, garnet, carnelian, iolite

Mani-Moonstone, beryl, opal, selenite, labradorite, iolite, silver, clear quartz

Aegir/Ran/Nine daughter-Aquamarine, turquoise, sea glass, jade, green kyanite

Skadi-Clear quartz, herkimer diamond, opal, white diamond

Ullr-Clear quartz, amber, herkimer diamond

Loki-Fire opal, ruby, carnelian

Sigyn-Kunzite, aquamarine, rose quartz, morganite

Angrboda-Bloodstone, jasper, granite, onyx

Surt-Obsidian, ruby, citrine, fire opal

Tyr-Ruby, garnet, smoky quartz, rutilated quartz, steel

Heimdall-Rainbow quartz, opal, celestite, clear quartz

Frau Holda-Clear quartz, smoky quartz, jet

Gullveig/Heide-Gold, ruby, fire opal, amethyst

Obviously this list is ongoing, and I’m sure I’ll add and subtract examples as time goes on. Some of these deities I have not worked with personally all that much, so their entries are more along the lines of educated guesses and intuition versus being directly Told. You’ll notice a theme that the stones generally correspond to a deity’s associated colors, such as blue kyanite and sodalite for Odin who absolutely loves blue. Some reflect on a deity’s various aspects, like the ones in Freya’s entry. Amber will cover all of Her aspects, I feel, as it is Her favorite. More specifically, emerald and peridot cover her fertility aspect, tiger’s eye for both fertility and wealth/self-worth, gold, topaz, carnelian and citrine for self-worth, wealth, and vitality, rose quartz, kunzite, morganite, pink diamond, and kunzite for love, amethyst and kunzite for Her seidhkona aspect, and garnet for Her warrior aspect. All of these stones are beautiful, so I suppose all of them could cover Her domain as Goddess of beauty (especially amber, gold, rose quartz, and pink diamond).

Some stones overlap, such as quartz. Being the most common mineral on Earth, I’m not surprised! Quartz comes in a variety of colors, and so you can usually find some in a color of your deity’s choice. Some varieties of quartz have their own name, such as amethyst (technically a purple quartz). You’ll notice I list clear quartz as the most mentioned in the above list, possibly because in our culture we regard white as the most neutral and pure color possible, but also because white is the combination of all colors on the visible light spectrum. Therefore, it can be seen to encompass numerous aspects of deity. I think it also covers Gods of frost jotun and Aesir descent nicely as well.. which includes many in our tradition!

Jord and Grounding

I’ve been trying to get better at grounding and centering, which only comes with practice, practice, and more practice. Grounding and centering is an integral part of magical practice, and necessary to refine your skills at seidh and journeying. While not exactly verified as “traditional” in Heathenry, it’s commonly recommended in modern Western magical tradition to master. And, hey, if it helps, I’m going to use it. And indeed, it does help. It at the very least has helped my stress levels and well-being. It’s also helped to become a bridge to interact with Jord, the Goddess of Earth personified. Also known as Erda and Erce, She is a jotun, the mother of Thor and consort of Odin. She is a mighty Goddess-after all, look how huge and powerful our planet is-and She is mother to us all. All humans are her children, as well as all living beings who live upon this Earth. We literally live on the back of a Goddess, and so utmost respect is warranted by living in our physical incarnation as we walk on Her. When I learned about grounding and centering, I was slightly concerned about the claim that as you ground into the Earth and send down negative, frazzled energy that it was not respecting Jord. The claim is that the Earth, meaning a Goddess, will recycle any jangled energy you have for Her own uses. Then, after you send down energy, you are supposed to bring up energy from the Earth if you feel that you should (especially in preparation for a magical working, where your own energy may not be enough or too risky to expend). I was even more concerned by this, the idea of drawing up energy from Jord. Why should one have the right to draw energy from a deity when one has not asked for permission nor offered anything? Isn’t that the height of disrespect?

While of course one should have an appropriate relationship with Jord and live sustainably and lightly upon her skin, and offer to Her and her land wights regularly, but what resolved my conflict was when I realized that as living beings we are sustained by Her energy ans she governs recycling of our waste. While I’m primarily talking about physical energy and waste, I realized that She also takes care of our spiritual energy and waste and has the ability to recycle it as well. In fact, giving Her extra energy (even our jangled everyday energy) only helps Her to further sustain and create our fellow living beings because She will use all energy that is given. Like the laws of physics, where nothing is ever wholly created nor destroyed, the same thing with Jord. All energy and matter is recycled, and She will do the same with you. Without Her energy, we would not live on this planet. Physical life could not happen without Her energy sustaining us. We would all be dessicated husks at the very most. Energy in our lives is the deepest, most primal process in the universe… we’re all made of stardust, after all, and our planet was forged from the reactions of hydrogen, helium, and so many other processes we have not penetrated. The core of the Earth is an enormous hotbed of energy, and Jord’s power flows from this heat as well as the minerals and soil from Her skin, and the beings that grow upon Her. It is our birthright to be sustained, nourished, and healed by Her energy. It is also our birthright to give her our waste to be recycled (let is be biodegradable), and also to die upon Her body and thus give Her our energy and matter to be recycled. So, it is our birthright to receive Her spiritual energy too-while we give Her our spiritual energy.

Hail Jord. May we live lightly upon You. May we have the sense to honor You. May You have mercy upon us for disrespecting You and Your children. May we weep because we have polluted Your body, Your soil, Your waters, Your blood. May we repent. May we forever hail You!

Stones to Represent the Nine Worlds

I have a few craft projects rolling around in my head to do as devotional offerings to the Gods, and one involves in part keeping an eye out for stone beads to represent the nine worlds. I’m sure others have had thought of this too, and they may have more knowledge of stone lore to figure this out more, but here are my preliminary ideas:

Helheim- Onyx, jet, snowflake obsidian

Niflheim- Clear quartz, Herkimer diamond

Svartalfheim- Smoky quartz, tourmaline, jet, onyx, rutilated quartz

Muspellheim- red or orange citrine, ruby, obsidian

Jotunheim- bloodstone, jasper

Vanaheim- AMBER, emerald, aventurine, tiger’s eye, jade

Midgard- granite

Ljoassalfheim- Selenite, moonstone, opal

Asgard- Clear quartz, celestite, sapphire, kyanite, sodalite, turquoise

I’m sure I’ll come up with more, and edit in the process. Some are quite obvious, like amber for Vanaheim, which is what I will most likely pick although I associate emerald and tiger’s eye with Freya. Others are more difficult… I’m surprisingly having a hard time finding an option for Midgard, perhaps because all minerals that exist on this material plane are found here and therefore perhaps Midgard covers all of them. Granite seems like a good solid base though, as it is a common stone and it represents the grounding bedrock of this world. Svartalfheim is a bit difficult too; if I had the means then some lovely mined precious metal would work but I’m not exactly loaded right now. Plus, it would have to harmonize with the nature of both the duergar and the svartalfs, and that may be tricky to negotiate. You’ll notice I put both onyx and jet in Helheim and Svartalfheim as well. I feel both stones could represent them well, but I will not use the same stones to represent more than one world in the final project. I’ll have to research more kinds of stones, and I’m sure I will have to divine and consult denizens of these worlds to see which ones are approved. The Holy Powers may even suggest entirely different ones than those listed here. And then of course, once I have approval, and create this project (I’m feeling a little uncomfortable as to what it will be right now, but I may reveal it soon!), the fun will begin. Something representing the nine worlds can assist you in traveling to them, and even assist others traveling to you, so it’s not an endeavor to be taken lightly.

I won’t be finishing this project anytime soon, however. I will need more time and collateral to collect the materials. What I will be working on first are painting candle holders to represent various deities on my shrines, and finishing embroidering altar cloths. Yay! I’ll show you pictures once they are done. I’m incredibly excited to craft things dedicated to my Gods.