Uncategorized

Community: Why we are Heathen

Kristi and Bun Bun

This is a hard post to write.  I am good with words, not so good with feelings.  I am good with doing, with deeds and words, but honestly less skilled at what my old martial arts sensei would have called “being”.  This is going to be a problem with this post because what I want to share is about what being heathen means, what it gives to us, what it is we gain by coming together.

 
I am not going to indulge in another round of defending group practice against those who insist that any description of the benefits of group or community practice is an attack on solo practitioners.  The argument is about as valid as saying that any description of enjoyment of eating steak is an attack on the eating of cheesecake.  This is about something you can experience in good group practice, take it as that, or leave it.

 

We came together at Zona’s, and she and her husband were worried as it was their biggest ever ritual.  It is common for Heathens to worry that somehow their hosting will not be up to the standards of the fine events they have guested at.  The amazing thing is that everyone in the community generally feels the exact same, leaving you to wonder what sort of Heathen blinders we have on that are so easily impressed by the offerings of others, and so blind to the worth of our own.  As problems go, that one is amusing more than distressing, and probably says something important about the worth of our folk as we really are quicker to see the worth in the offerings of others rather than our own.

 

Ranging in age from two to well over two-score, with a sprinkling of teens in between, we really were a cross section of the community.  Families and singles, old and young, gender mixed, and mixed by about any other axis you wish to subdivide humanity on; but really just the true face of our community, just people.

 

One of our community has just suffered a deep and personal loss.  Death come without warning to a friend deeply loved, and a pillar of her world.  Others in the community were dealing with other losses, or great changes and challenges.  We are a proud people, and we face our challenges squarely, asking quarter or aid from none.  The virtues of Heathenry cause us to embrace our challenges as opportunities to establish our worth, they instill in us a fierce independence, but it is not the whole of heathenry; far from it.

 

It is said the strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf.  So to is it with tribes, kindreds, and families.  We are a community of strong and worthy individuals, but when we come together the truth becomes obvious, that the whole is rather more than the sum of its parts.  The community is not simply a collective term to describe those of us standing around the altar passing the horn to bid goodbye to Old Man Winter, and welcome blessed Easter, whose first step upon the land heralds the coming of spring and the renewal of life.  The community is a living thing, a powerful thing, and place, a frithstead where you may do what you would never dare elsewhere.

 

I have heard the criticism from both the Abrahamatic faiths and the ritual magicians of other more esoteric traditions that all Heathens do is feast and stand around drinking.  That would be a bit like saying that all engineers do is sit in front of the computer all day.  While true on the basis of what physical actions are taking place, it misses the very acts of creation that are the purpose of just sitting there in front of the computer, or the very real acts of creation, healing, sustaining, mentoring, teaching, inspiring, and defusing that are actually taking place.

 

When our member shared of her loss online, I offered only my brief condolences because without being together there are very strict limits to what can be done, and shared.  Grieving is not something that can be entirely done in isolation.  There are parts to grief that require family or community.  Such things are private, bringing a degree of vulnerabilty, a kind of helplessness and exposure far more frightening than any physical nakedness; yet the most powerful and effective tools for draining the most damaging poisons from those inner wounds, and beginning the hard work of processing and healing can most effectively be done in a community or family setting.

 

The dark time of Disirblot behind us where we stood and counted the cost of those we had lost this dark time, where we took up the tools of life again and asked that they be blessed to bring forth bounty again, as we stood in the darkness and want of the winter, and prayed for the spring to return.  We stood at Easter; Ostara.  This is the time of renewal, of the spring and the promise of the returing life.  We stood the old and the young, the bereaved and the new parents, the children on the cusp of becoming men and women and we raised the horn in holy sumbel and offered to our gods, wights, ancestors, and our worthy dead.

 

She who had lost raised the horn to him who had passed, and with that action her wounds broke open and she wept.  We embraced her, for if a person was worthy of love in life, then praise and tears are both worthy offerings in death.  His body is gone, his memory is still bright as she shares with us why it will be ever bright for her, so too will we keep it bright for her.  To be emotionally naked before those you do not trust is dangerous, yet to be so before those you trust absolutely is both safe and empowering.  We share a measure of her pain, and she a measure of our strength.  She can see how we honour her for the honour she shows him, how we accept her offerings of praise, and of tears as not signs of weakness in her, but of honouring the relationship to the one who was lost.  Looking in to each others eyes, hearing our words, feeling our hands upon her shoulders, she KNOWS she is not alone, as we know she has been there, and will be there for us when we have our times of trial and want.

 

We feast and we talk, oh how we talk.  I cannot remember everything I ate and drank, although it hardly seemed we stopped talking a second, our noble hosts were always refilling our glasses, and the pot-luck could have fed easily twice our number and a small pack of wolves besides, so we grazed while we chatted.  Time, like it always does got away from us, and before you knew it, early afternoon was approaching midnight.

Easter Feast
We left to our separate homes and halls, buoyed by the strange energy that comes from Heathen ritual, that odd kind of magic that does not simply fill you with energy but restore your balance so both your mind and body seem almost to forget such trivialities as age, injuries, and the limits which generally constrain us.  There is a rightness that comes from our time together that acts on a physical, emotional, spiritual level.  A sense of belonging, of being a part of this living community, joined in the sight of our gods and ancestors; coming together to offer to our wights, ancestors and holy gods, and very much also for the healing and development of our folk or individual members.

 

Oh, and there were chocolate Mjolnir’s, because even in grief, our worthy woman could not pass up the chance to brighten our company with gifts that please on multiple levels, like little white and dark chocolate Mjolnirs she made herself from molds she found online.

 

Community practice is a living thing, a whole that is more than the sum of its parts, and that gives back more than you put into it.  I really don’t have the words to adequately describe what is essentially felt, more than really understood.  I may not have the words to adequately define it, but I know that this spirit, this heathen community that we build is what drew me long ago, sustains me now, and will be helping others when my ashes are long scattered in the waves.

Chocolate Mjolnir

 

 

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Embracing Failure: Lessons of Frigg

 

We are not raised to accept failure.  We are trained from birth to seek success, to define ourselves by success, to adapt and overcome, that there is always a path through to victory.  This is how we are taught to deal with a world that we must overcome to succeed.  It is good to teach the young that they must strive, for against anything but their wyrd they may triumph.

 

Note the caveat.

Wyrd weaves as it will, and against it even the gods may not stand.  At the end of the first war, the goddess Frigg had seen her best loved son, Baldur, the shining one, at the forefront of every battle.  First into battle, as he was ever first with a laugh, with a song, with a smile; his courage was as great as his heart and she lived in fear that his courage would lead to his doom.  Determined, now that the Aesir and Vanir were at peace and the Aesir held sway over the worlds, Frigg set to earn from every creature that lived, every thing that crawled, flew, swam, grew, or rooted in the earth; indeed from every rock and metal, every gem and stone, a promise to do no harm to her son.  She succeeded almost beyond belief in securing the oath of every thing that existed in the nine worlds, except for one.  Mistletoe.  It was only Mistletoe that refused to swear, and with an arrow of Mistletoe was Baldur slain, and winter came into our world.  The goddess blessed with the ability to see wyrd, the weavings of fate more deeply and truly than any other, a goddess with power and knowledge almost beyond all definable limits set out to protect her son, and she failed.

Frigg and Baldr

 

Why was no one paying attention?

We can all tell you about the revenge, about the consequences, and the saga are rich in detail about all of that, but what no one discusses is that the great goddesses Frigg, perhaps our most powerful goddess, failed at the thing most important to her.

 

We get told by the better instructors in first aid that some people are going to die anyway.  Then the rest of the weeks are spent working the premise that everyone is savable, and the only deaths you encounter in training are due to failures on your part.  When our soldiers fall in battle or training, the immediate call goes up to see someone punished, as if one of ours fell, someone must pay, because a mistake has been made!

 

No.

 

Death is woven into much of what we do, and there are a lot of things that you can do everything right and still get killed.  That is why we honour those who serve military, police and fire services, because they can make no mistakes and still fall in our service.  We honour ambulance attendants not nearly enough, as they have the unique chance to experience what our soldiers see too often as well; you can’t save them all.  Watching people die when there is nothing you can do about it sucks badly.  The longer you draw this out, the more it sucks.

 

Parents and sibling caregivers get a part of this too.  Like Frigg they have one (or more) they are responsible for, one that they must protect, defend, and provide for at all costs.  Death before dishonour is a great war cry, but in practice leaves either corpses or broken people in its wake.  We somehow forgot that even the gods cannot simply decree victory, that beyond a certain point, how much you have to lose does not actually affect your ability to win.

 

Sometimes the stakes on the table really won’t turn a pair of two’s into a winning hand no matter how you try to play them.  Sometimes you have given everything you have, and it is not enough.  What do you tell the person who has given everything they have, and it is not enough?

 

Society tells them to suck it up buttercup.  Family most frequently will tell them “You have always been the responsible one, I’m sure you will find a way”, or “Its not that bad, I’m sure you are exaggerating”.  The latter one comes most frequently from those family that dump their problems on you and walk away trusting that you will deal with them because you always have.  Family will allow you to get sucked dry by parasitic members of the family because “they need help”, all the while refusing to supply any of that help, or assist you when you get so overburdened you cannot cover all the commitments any more.

 

We have the lesson of Frigga, that even the gods cannot simply decree a victory, that some things really are beyond our ability.  We don’t like that lesson, we don’t look at that lesson, we don’t acknowledge that lesson.  We peddle the dangerous myth that if you love someone enough, you can make it work.
I tried that once, drove myself past all human limits.  It didn’t end Disney.  It ended badly, and the cost was far, far higher than it would have been if I would have acknowledged I was failing, accepted my failings, and saved what I could.

We are not taught to do that.  There is a shame in failure.  A stain, a blot upon your honour and name.

 

We are taught to hold ourselves to a higher standard than we hold the gods to.  Think about that for one second.  We expect each other to be more powerful and more perfect than the holy gods.  I am trying to wrap my head around how that got accepted as anything but complete and utter horseshit, and I am failing utterly.

 

To people living with chronic pain, depression, or physical handicaps the challenges of our normal lives are harder by about the same degree that walking would be harder if you were carrying a pack with 80lbs of rocks in it.  They can walk, yes.  They can sort of shuffle while you jog, and they will be able to power up a limited amount of stairs, the will is a powerful thing after all.  When you drop them off the side of the boat and swim for shore, understand that they will now drown.  They can’t suck it up, they can only suck up lake water as their burdens take them to the bottom.  Some things are simply beyond your strength, and there is nothing the will can do about it.  That is just that.

 
Against wyrd even the gods are helpless, yet we somehow fail to cut ourselves the same slack.

 

There are people out there suffering in silence, sometimes motivated by pride, but most motivated by shame.  They are busy drowning under their burdens because they have been taught that they are not allowed to fail, and to let go their burdens and save themselves would be shameful.  They will drown, they will break themselves, and guess what, that won’t save their burdens either.  Their dependants do not magically get cared for if they die in the attempt, they just end up short a caregiver.

 

Against wyrd even the gods are helpless, and even the gods fail.  You are not a god, cut yourself some slack.

Everyone else out there; understand we are ALL PART OF THE PROBLEM.  We are the ones looking at the family members doing the care giving and accepting the “I’m OK” from someone who looks like they are about to collapse, patting them on the hand and going back to your life, content someone else is dealing with those unpleasant things.

 
We are the ones telling parents that you have to “tough it out for your kids”, when they are telling you they are losing it, coming apart, not able to stretch their resources enough any more, and watching their house of cards come tumbling down about their ears.
We are the ones telling those who are struggling with chronic illness or pain to just “concentrate on the positive” or “be happy”, as if there is a dial somewhere in their head that allows someone to choose to be overwhelmed and coming apart or “happy” and until now they just never thought to turn it.

I live with chronic pain, so I know this particular dance.  I am doing OK, so this isn’t a cry for help from me, because when I needed it I wouldn’t have asked, and what I was getting was so not helpful, so it was for the best.  I include that remark for one reason alone.  For all of those who are going to read this and say this is whining from special snowflakes who don’t know what real struggle is like, I have lived through more shit than you can believe or I had any right to survive, and that honestly makes me the one who needs to stand up and say this now.

I should have accepted failure when the cost was something I could live with.  I didn’t and the cost was more terrible than I want to remember, but I don’t really have a choice.  Be smarter than me.

 

If the gods can fail, why do we not permit it in ourselves?  There is a saying in French:

“sauve qui peut” save who you can.  When you are going to fail, you can accept that and save what you can, or you can deny it and end up saving no-one and nothing.  There is no honour in this, only quiet despair, humiliation and loss.  There is no victory to be gained by going down in flames, no one will sing your praises, and everyone with you gets burned too.

Failure is sometimes your wyrd.  Accept when you face a challenge you cannot win, that you will not win, and devote your energy and your effort into saving what you can, getting out from under the inevitable results of that failure as many as you can

 

We treat failure like we treat death, but I will tell you a little secret that should be obvious, but actually isn’t; you can recover from failure.  Death is simply the end, failure is a bit like falling, it tells you the point at which you have arrived (flat on your tushy)  but does not say anything about where you go from there.  You can get up from fallen, can rise from failure, but broken and dead is broken and dead.  There is no way back.  Do you see what I am getting at?  Failure can be accepted when its results are best described as fall down, even fall down weeping, rather than fall down dead.  The first two you can rise again and go on to triumph, the last one….the last one is forever, and there is no going back.

Failure is not something we ever want, not something we are prepared to accept when the failure is for those we love, for what we are depended on to provide.  It will happen, unless your life is uncommonly blessed, that you will fail, and if you are really unlucky you may face the position of looking at a failure that you would rather die than allow.  Ask yourself; will death bring your victory?  Will death solve the problem you can’t for those you are leaving behind?  If the answer is not absolutely clearly yes, then you are faced with a cold choice.  Accept failure while you can still survive it and recover something from it, or lose everything by dying.  If you lose everything and live, you can actually go on to win some back.  Death really is the end of all possible aid you can give anyone.  Death is the end of possibilities.  Failure alone, is not.

 

We are told death before dishonour, we are told to put duty before our life.  We are told a lot of things, and then set free in the world on our own to sink or swim.  When there is no way to win, losing is what is left.  When there is no way to succeed, failure is what is left.  Not all losses are equal, not all failures are total.  Accept when facing what you can’t beat, that victory is not going to be yours, determine what you can save, and put your strength into saving what you can.  Swallow failure in all its ugly squalor, but wash it down with hope.  If you chose to accept failure when you still have options, you can do that.  If you attempt to deny failure when there are no paths to victory, you will lose everything, most likely including your life, or at least your ability to function in it, and never allow yourself the chance to find your way back.

Failure is a dirty word, but many necessary things in this life are dirty, humiliating and unpleasant.  Many things in this life are simply necessary to survive to get to the parts that make it worth living for.  Don’t let fear of failure destroy you.  Learn the lessons of Frigg.  Move all the nine worlds to do your duty but if that is not enough and you fail anyway; accept it.  Wyrd weaves as it will, and if it weaves a loss for you right now, save what you can, save yourself as much as you can, and hope to rebuild on the ashes.  Failure, even when it costs you everything you have now, only costs you everything if you let it end you.  It cannot take away what you will do tomorrow, nor next week, next year.  Give yourself the right to fail, and see if the right to rebuild gives you something you can live with afterward.

 

Frigg could not save Baldur.  Sometimes love is not enough, duty is not enough, pride is not enough.  We are no more powerful than the gods, and even they fail.  They showed us you can continue.  They taught us you can be worthy of respect, of trust, of love, after failure; even a failure to protect those whom you love more than your life.  We are so quick to learn the lessons of revenge on others, and so slow to learn the lessons of forgiveness for yourself.  Blame not the gods, they are marvelous instructors, blame ourselves, for we cherry pick our lessons, preferring blood and honour to failure and shame.  Failure and shame are where you start from to rebuild what you can, save what remains.  Failure and shame are ours too.  They are not pretty, they are not cheap, and they are not ever forgotten, but from such mean things can you rebuild a life.

Baldur grave

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Heathen, Uncategorized

Ableism, Tribalism, Shield wall and Socialism

 

  1. The lame rides a horse, | the handless is herdsman,

The deaf in battle is bold;

The blind man is better | than one that is burned,

No good can come of a corpse.

This passage is one I have used often to overcome the media created nonsense that our ancestors were busy seeking death.  You don’t have to seek death, it is issued with each birth, the one unbroken promise we are given in this life.  Our ancestors knew that this was true, accepted it, and got on with the business of living.  You don’t have to seek it, it will find you on its own.  You shouldn’t waste time running from it, you will just die tired.

Wyrd weaves as it will, and not all of its weavings are weal, some are woe.  Many bad things happen, that is simply life, there is no judgement implied in them, they are simply things that happen.  We have one life, and in that life many things will happen, some of them terrible, some of them simply unpleasant, but if life goes on past that point, it will be faced with whatever changes those bad moments left us with.  This was simply the way it was, there was no sense getting worked up about it.  Life goes on, make the best of it.

Some are born with an ill-woven birth, and spend their entire life with a genetic or developmental disability.  This obviously makes the challenges ahead of them both harder and in some cases, different than they would have faced with a less woefully birth-wyrd.  Other events in our lives will take from us much of our strength, leave us with pain or disability (frequently both).  This is not the end of our life, nor the end of our ability to win honour, glory, success.  This obviously does change the nature of our challenge.

If you were to ask our ancestors, they would cheerfully admit that being born in perfect health was best.  Further, they would agree being good looking, strong, well spoken, wealthy would also be good, and lucky better yet.  They did not hold all outcomes equal, nor all starting points the same.  It was good to be perfectly prepared for all the challenges ahead, but regardless of how prepared you are, the challenges are coming, and you will face them with what you have.  To them, life was an opportunity to build worth.  While starting in a more advantageous position was desired, regardless of where you started from, they expected you to continue to strive to improve; to build your worth, until your thread was cut, and the final interplay between your will and your wyrd was measured.

The lame on a horse is as able as a man with two strong legs, a man without a hand may still tend the cattle (which was the basis of wealth and status for much of our folk’s existence).  A deaf man will not be discomfited by the roars of the enemy, or the screams of the dying.  No matter what the degree of the disability, it is better than nothing, which is death, and still leaves you the ability to build your worth, to meet your challenges.

Hamaval 71 is that most military of all sentiments, “Suck it up, buttercup”.  It tells all who hear it if they are not dead, they are not beaten, now get back up and resume your duties.

I have heard recently some extremely odd opinions on this from a Tribalist perspective.  The implications from what I can understand are that the person whose wyrd has been woven to leave them disabled or disadvantaged is expected to simply “try harder” to “pull up their socks” and achieve equivalent results to fulfil their duty to the tribe, and to do so entirely on their own, so as not to burden the tribe.
I am not sure what kind of comic book this sort of tribe exists in, but it certainly never survived in a real world environment like our North.  Our ancestors did not simply let you succeed or fail on your own, for the tribe as a unit succeeded or failed together.  The tribe would indeed invest to allow you to contribute to the limit of your abilities, but they would do so with a realistic appreciation of those abilities.

ShieldWall.jpg

The shield-wall is perhaps the best known image of our folk in modern times; equally important was the boar’s head or swine array of the battle charge, but in either case the fundamentals of our folks way of war was based on one particular truth.  My shield is not mine, it is the tribes.  My shield does not ward my body, it wards the line.  Frequently I will uncover my body to cover my shield mate, trusting that my other shield mate will do the same for me.  We do not succeed or fail as splendid isolated individuals, but as a group.

Further to this image, if you could not carry the shield or have the strength to stand in the line, you had no place being there.  You could contribute in other ways, but if you put yourself in the shield wall as if you were as capable as everyone else, but knowing you were not, you have harmed the tribe.

No one ever asked you to overcome the disadvantage of not being able to lift a shield and join the shield wall.  That is foolish.  You would be expected to seek challenges you could overcome and prove your worth in those.  Likewise if you had poor distance vision you would not be advised to train as an archer and hunter, where you could only fail, when you could train as a swordsman, and carpenter where your close vision was perfectly suited.

Scholars may debate Ivar Boneless and whether he was literally carried into battle unable to walk, to lead his troops; they do not debate that Governor Frontenac of Quebec literally was carried into battle at 77 to lead a punitive expedition against the Onondagas in the 1690’s.  No longer able to lift a blade or musket, his mind and will were still without peer and served him and Quebec in their war with the English and Iroquois.

The tribal experience of our ancestors understood collective survival much the same way as the shield wall looked at protection.  You did not simply protect your own skin, but you protected your own folk as the most effective way to protect yourself in the long run.  As communities we came together to deal with problems, as a community we came together to face our enemies, and as a community we pooled our resources to help those whose wyrd had woven them a nasty tangle.  Wyrd weaves as it will, and it weaves most folks a tangle at one point or another, and it is to all of our best interest to see our people not be lost to those tangles.  We are our brother’s keeper, as our family rises and falls together.
The nations founded by those proud Northmen and peerless Northwomen have one inevitable oddity; they all embrace socialism reguarding health care and education.   Tribalism is not succeed or die on your own, for you owe the tribe all your ability.  Tribalism is succeed or fail together, for collectively we are strong, wise, and harmonious; even if frequently every individual in the collective needs assistance in one or more of those particulars.

 
Soldiers are perhaps the last vestiges of feudal society, we understand how fealty works.  When you put your hands between your lords and swear to obey their laws and will, to uphold their interests and defend their honour, the lord swears in return to advance your interests in turn to the limits of his ability (1).  Salutes are an example of this reciprocal duty, as the junior rank may offer the salute, but the senior returns it as honour goes to both the senior and the collective he represents, but also in return to the junior, the individual.  The individual has a duty to the tribe, and from that duty flows the return duty of the tribe to the individual.  There can be NO duty to the tribe if there is not duty of the tribe to the individual.  There can be no obligation to the lord, if the lord bears no obligation to his man.  It is a reciprocal gifting relationship, as Heathens know form the foundation of sustainable frithful society.

You are expected to contribute to the limit of your capability.  A wise society and tribe understands that your contribution will be greater if you are given the tools to use your abilities to their greatest return.  Society then and now was imperfect, some individuals do not hold up there end of any bargain, and there will always be abuses.  This is why we have people to deal with each other on an individual basis after all.  There have always been those who take more than they give, but our society exists and thrives because they are not the majority.  Most seek to give in balance to what they take, and the best give so much more than they ever ask in return that society, as a whole, thrives when we do give each the ability to contribute to the maximum of their abilities, whatever they are.  Wyrd weaves as it will, but we do not lie helpless before our wyrd.

Things happen, many of them bad, we deal with it and move on.   Wyrd gives us a starting point, but that is not where we end, nor is wyrd the only active agency in our lives.  We are a people, a folk.  We live in communities that have vast human and other resoruces.  Wyrd gave you a set of circumstances and the community a set of resources.  Between the two you may find that the lame will find a more modern version of the horse, the deaf may find both hearing aids, speech translation tools,  and training for careers in which their lack of hearing is a non issue.

Hamaval 71

  1. The lame rides a horse, | the handless is herdsman,

The deaf in battle is bold;

The blind man is better | than one that is burned,

No good can come of a corpse.

Rough translation: Suck it up buttercup, you lived.  Now take a good look at your resources, your challenges, and focus yourself on making the best you can out of the hand you are dealt. Your victories are there to be taken.   If you are not dead, you are not beaten, nor are you done.  If you live this way, then when you are dead you are still not beaten.

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Current events, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Labels and lasers

targeting-laser

Funny title hey?  What is the relation.  You almost have to share my background to see it, but for those of us that wore green in some form (CADPAT, MARPAT whatever your pattern) its hard not to see.  Labels act a lot like lasers from the point of view of those they are used to Target Designate.  You see the one lasing the target is not attacking, they are simply illuminating the target, providing the target point and tracking data the engaging unit will use to guide itself to the target which it will then kill.

We have a Quebec Mosque, a handful of dead, which may or may not grow into a second handful depending on their responses in hospital to their injuries, and we have an angry young college white boy.  Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, of Quebec City, has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder following a shooting at a mosque in Sainte-Foy Sunday night.

(http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/more-questions-than-answers-was-mosque-shooting-an-act-of-terror-1.3264415?autoPlay=true).

This young man fits the profile of an angry poorly socialized loner who drifted from a left wing (NDP) affiliation to a right wing follower of Donald Trump and French politician Marine Le Pen, leader of the far right National Front.  Both leaders have essentially made acceptable to the public the views of the right wing extremists that had previously been condemned and even banned outright as hate speech.  This young man embraced the anti-feminist, anti-immigrant, dogma of the newly re-branded far right wing and chosen to act.

His choice of action was to walk into a Mosque and only his extreme lack of skill is credited for the low death toll of his prolonged shooting spree.  No one is saying Donald Trump or Marine Le Pen told him to do so.  No order was given.  No command spoken.  Only the targeting laser placed on immigrants, especially Muslim immigrants illuminating them as targets, designating them as threats.  The words are used to demonize, to declare as a clear and present danger the individuals in our society that this young man knew could be found in the Mosque, and painted the Mosque itself as a threat.  With the targeting laser shining brightly on the target, the disturbed young man did what disturbed angry young men do when poisoned by such charged rhetoric, and performed like the good little bomb he was and walked into the Mosque, following his targeting laser onto his target to kill.  Now in the Middle East he would have used a bomb vest, but here in the west it is more typical for such disturbed individuals to use a firearm as did Marc Lepin in the Polytecnic massacre targeting women, rather than immigrants (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_L%C3%A9pine).

I am Heathen, or Asatru.  My closest and deepest relationship among the holy gods is with Odin, called the Battle-Glad and Victory Father among his many by-names.  Odin is primarily the god not of skill at arms, nor strength of arm.  Odin is defined by the rune Anzus, which means inspiration.  Odin is the god of poetry, wisdom, inspiration, the words that move people.  Odin is the god of rousing passions, and for this he is the primary god of both hospitality and war.  It is the rousing of passions that either brings people together in community building (hospitality) or sets them against each other (war).  Perhaps it takes an Odin’s man to see our situation right now as it is.  We are seeing just what passions are being whipped up, and just what deeds are being inspired.

We look at the failed Muslim states and see what extremism brings.  The threat of Islamic terrorism is real, worse than the terrorism is the Islamic Extremism, its dehumanizing effect on individuals whereby those who embrace it really do not see women as free and equal beings, and really cannot see those who believe differently than them as being human beings with an intrinsic right to live as they choose either.  These beliefs are incompatable with the Rights and Freedoms guaranteed by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms (http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/const/page-15.html).  This is not rhetoric, this is fact.

These failed states are filled with victims, they are as you would expect Muslim victims whose crime was to be born in the wrong state. Many of these people seek a better future and a better life for themselves and their children.  Those who come to Canada to become Canadian, to embrace the Rights and Freedoms of our nation, who learn to value them as those raised with them from birth cannot ever understand, as they understand how truly precious they are.  There are also predators who are seeking richer territories to continue the tactics that rendered their states failed in the first place.  Not simply those ideological terrorists, but the common criminals who do not see others as real people, but prey they can use and abuse because they are stronger.  These have no place in Canada, there is no right for those who are born elsewhere to be Canadian if they do not feel bound by our laws.  We are not obligated to take them.  For this reason we screen potential immigrants, for this reason those we have let in who prove to be not potential citizens but imminent threats forfeit any chance of becoming citizens.

These failed states show the cost of letting the language of hate be accepted.  Now we see people who have escaped these failed states being murdered in the land of freedom itself by our own failure.  We see the cost of the language of hate being condoned by the leaders of western nations that should know better.  The US and France are embracing the language of hate as we have not seen in generations.  We are seeing a war on women, we are seeing the demonizing of other races by all sides.

Let me be utterly clear about this; racism is being openly preached to cheering crowds by ALL of our lovely ethnic extremists.  We see hate crimes by each group against the other, used then to justify more hate that will lead to more crimes.  You need to leave our country I think and travel the world to see exactly how precious what we have here is.  If you had done so, you would feel the real and compelling need to put a bullet into the head of the next person standing on a podium and preaching hate.  Being civilized and respecting the rule of law, we will not do so, but on a deep and fundamental level I must acknowledge that the best use of a bullet is shooting the person holding the targeting laser, the person designating the targets, turning our fellow citizens into nothing more than targets for hatred and violence.

King Henry of England had issues with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Church acting against the Royal interests in political and economic affairs.  The King spoke before his knights and barrons, frequently quoted as saying “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”  Four knights, owing loyalty to the cause of the King rode to Canterbury and cut down Thomas Becket in his church.  They were not ordered to, and indeed the King was free to condemn the extreme action, while pointing out that really the clergy for their disloyalty had brought this upon themselves.  The hypocrisy is pretty much standard practice.

We see in the wake of the shooting of Muslims kneeling in prayer by a white Canadian college student the White Hose press secretary use the killing of unarmed Muslims in a Mosque as justification for Trumps ban against immigrants from Muslim nations.

(http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/white-house-spicer-que-mosque-comments-1.3959338)

Those who use labels for target designators do not care about the facts, nor do they care about their own Constitution, their own laws, the words of their own Founding Fathers. They care only about their political agenda, their own narrow vision of who they want to be part of their own “right thinking” nation.  The language of fascism, the one true faith, one permitted belief, single definition of what is a “Real American” or “Real Canadian”.

Understand when you share the memes slapping those labels on those you don’t like.  When you make free in mockery of them, painting them as either threats or undeserving of respect (and therefore protection), you are creating the soil in which these disturbed young men grow into mass killers.  You are creating the problem.  Your hands will be clean, you are only painting the target, you will be free to express your sympathies to the victims, knowing full well you will rush home to share your smirking little memes about “lets see how they like it” or “they brought it on themselves”.  Pro-life supporters are particularly good at this one.  The assassination of a doctor in the middle of his Sunday church service was absolutely acceptable to them (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_George_Tiller).

This is how you either show you deserve the rights and freedoms your ancestors fought for, your service folk risk their lives, and too often die for.  This is where you prove you are either a pillar supporting your state, or a parasite leaching off of it.

You will either take a stand against the hatred and stop treating people as labels, or you will continue to indulge in venting whatever emotional reaction makes you feel good, never once connecting your words to the increasing acceptance of hatred, and the deeds that inevitably follow.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a wonderful document.  It enshrines those rights which when shared by us all make us all free. What it also makes clear is that none of our rights give us the right to strip those rights from others.  That is what the language of hate is all about.  At its base the language of hate is about dehumanizing.  Only by making the enemy sub-human can we accept that those rights we hold to be self evident are obviously not intended for THOSE PEOPLE.

Islamic extremists, White Power extremists, clearly they will have a different definition of THOSE PEOPLE who don’t’ deserve human rights, who aren’t real people.  In all other respects they pretty much march in lockstep.  They are not opposite sides of the same coin, they are the same face of the same coin. The opposite face of any extremist is tolerance, not the opposing extreme.

Tear off the labels.  Treat individuals as just that.  Do not excuse the misdeeds of someone because of their label, nor apply the misdeeds of others to someone because they share a label.  Your label does not give you the right to rape or murder.  Your label does not give others the right to target you for abuse either.

Wake up, NOW, while our state is still strong and whole.  Continue to think that the extremist acts have nothing to do with the language you use in your every day life and your social media and you will remain part of the problem, not part of the solution.  There is no right side for extremism.  There is no just cause for extremism.  Extremism or Freedom, you get to have only one of these, I choose Freedom, and that means I must pay for it by every single day working hard to make sure I do not give in to my emotional desire to lash out at someone and contribute to the growth of acceptance of extremist views.  I ask all of you to decide for yourself if you will do the same.

mosque-vigil

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Uncategorized

Being Heathen

We took an insult hurled at us by Christians, and claimed it for our own.

 

Noun derogatory

noun: heathen; plural noun: heathens

1.

a person who does not belong to a widely held religion (especially one who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim) as regarded by those who do.

synonyms:          pagan, infidel, idolater, heretic, unbeliever, disbeliever, nonbeliever, atheist, agnostic, skeptic; archaic paynim

(https://www.google.ca/?gws_rd=ssl#q=Heathen)

 

We had a word, Asatru, that meant true to the Aesir.  Not being a perfect word, it failed to include the Vanir, and lent itself better to Icelandic or Scandinavian based practice than Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Germano-Slavic, Frankish, Frisian or other Germanic Neo Pagan folk ways.  Heathen had come to the term that our community used to differentiate ourselves from the Wiccans and other Neo Pagans.  Inside the Pagan community it had come to be the term both sides used to divide our two groups into separate encampments beneath the polytheist umbrella.

 

There are a lot of parts to being Heathen, some of which are easy to see, and some of which are easy to miss.  It is described as the religion with homework, for we take our lore seriously.  We are not a people of the book, like the Christians or Islamics who practice a dead faith; one that begins on page one, ends at the back cover and will never contain anything that is not already written.  We are however a people that read books.  From the lore to archaeology offering us new insights into the lives of our ancestors, as a group you rarely find a community whose lay people have that much depth of scholarship on various levels of their faith and ancestral cultures.

 

We are a living faith, which means that each community is busy coming together, celebrating, and continuing the traditions of our ancestors in ways that fit with their own communities needs and experience.  There isn’t really one right way to do it, and a whole lot of lore allows you to assert with some degree of foundation a wide number of mutually excluding things.  We argue a lot about them, partly because we love the lore and get attached to the meanings and lessons we have taken from it, and partly because the love of argument seems built into the community at almost a genetic level.

 

You can be a solitary Heathen, and lots are.  Not all are so by choice.  Most agree that Heathenry has elements that can only really be experienced in a flesh and blood community.  Living Heathen means that you understand there is a sacral purpose behind what we do when we come together.  Hospitality is the highest form of magic in that it binds strangers into friends, friends into kindreds, and kindreds into families.  A ridiculous amount of our lore concerns hospitality, and the use of it to build, correct, and maintain relationships.

 

Heathens understand community and worth in a way that modern peoples are suffering for forgetting.  We understand as our ancestors did that community is not an abstraction, it is a deliberate construction, and act of will and faith that takes the wyrd of many people and binds them through common cause so that the success or failure of the collective is enjoyed, or suffered, by all.   You can look at this on the symbolic level as how our kindreds function, and the purpose of our oaths and the sharing at sumble, or you can look at this on the practical level on how our physical communities either prosper or not based on the degree of cooperation and commitment to collective effort they demonstrate.

 

We understand worth.  Our post 1960’s culture enshrines self worth, but psychologically we suffer from the gap between our own self worth, and the worth we are held in by various definitions of community.  It can be as disastrous and destructive to be outwardly held in high esteem while you feel a crushing guilt or shame, as it is to be held in contempt or mocked when your own deeds and conduct has been nothing but upstanding.  Where your perceived worth by others and your self are at odds, you will feel it.

 

Each decision we make will establish our worth in those who see it.  This worth will be judged by the standards of that particular community based on its understanding of your relationship and the duties you held.  A given act can be seen a hundred different ways, by a hundred different slices of the community.  One person, one act, all specifications agreed, yet a hundred different understanding of how that affected your worth.  You can be held in high esteem, moderate esteem, contempt simultaneously by different parts of the community for exactly the same deeds.  Our ancestors understood this, our own generation struggles with this, believing our intrinsic self worth should be exportable to all our communities in some magical fashion.  So far as I can see, this has never actually worked.  People will judge by what they see, based on the standards they hold.

 

Heathens talk a lot, but we back it up.  We tend to do a lot of things, as once we decide we support something, we pretty much have to translate that support into a concrete action, or admit we don’t really support it at all.  For this reason many of us have served in the military, and have or do volunteer in many areas of the community.  We offer real things, rather than Facebook support for those things that we acknowledge are important.

 

We judge.  We judge and we don’t even pretend that we don’t.  Justice is depicted as blind, holding scales.  This means justice is supposed to be blind to the differences between us, and weighing only the evidence.  Heathens function in a similar way.  You will find more acceptance for gays, lesbians, transgendered, or other marginalized peoples in Heathenry than almost anywhere else, and outsiders are always shocked.  We are not the kindest or gentlest folk, we argue constantly and are quick to take offense more often than we should.  We really do hold to part of that old silly word, Asatru.  We judge above all things your adherence to this one simple question.
Are you living true?  True to yourself, true to your gods, true to your beliefs?

That above all we judge you for.  I will grant you that the vegan pacifists in our community may sound like an odd fit, but they are living true to that belief in the face of a community that compares firearms as they swap BBQ recipes, and that takes some real strength of commitment.  You show that you are living true to your ideals and we will judge you; judge you to be of great worth.

 

We disagree on language, on definition, on the names of the gods, who is to be worshiped, how they are to be worshiped.  We can and will argue anything, if you don’t believe me, someone right now is arguing that we don’t argue and utterly failing to see the humour in it.  The gods forgive us much for the laughter we bring to them, even if much of it is unintentional.

 

I have never felt prouder to be Heathen than when our great community from sea to shining sea, ignoring national borders altogether, came together as one to denounce hatred in Declaration 127.  Racism, sexism, homophobia; regardless of the mask it wears, the promotion of hatred against our fellows is hateful to the gods, and unacceptable in our communities.  We came together and denounced this spreading of hate in one voice. We are a fractious people, but I love our community as I love my own family, my sacred ancestors, the wights of the lands and waters, and the holy gods themselves.

hamaval-127

By in large, we get it right.  We could do a better job at many things.  We need to be better at recognizing the worth of our women as evenly as we do our men.  We need to be better at keeping division and hatred from sneaking into our community and turning worthy hands against each other.  We need to be better at realizing the other side of any given argument has reasonable cause to believe they too are correct.

 

We get a lot right.  We don’t’ care where you came from.  We don’t’ care what you look like.  We care that your deeds match your words, your oaths are kept, you come to raise the horn with us in open and honest love for the community and the teachings that bring us together.

Someday I hope we will get over the knee-jerk reaction against national organizations.  We are moving into the main stream of our society and collectively we have a voice that will be needed to defend our rights against those who first turned the word Heathen against us as not only a perjorative, but as an excuse to attack.

 

Our gods left us no single book telling us how to live today.  They left us with lore that shows us how to recognize and care for important relationships.  They left us with lore that shows us how to live justly, honourably, and successfully in a world that can be harsh, cruel, and heart-stoppingly beautiful by turns.  They left us the understanding of how to look at the world, recognize our duties, and shape the question.  It is for us to show our gods, our ancestors, and our descendants what OUR answers will be.

 

I am a Heathen.  I love this world, for all the pain it has given me, it has also given me love and joy beyond measure.  The spirits of this world sing to us if you have the ear to hear them.  The ancestors whisper to us, if you have the patience to listen for them, and the gods stand beside us as we face the challenges in our lives, witnesses to the choices we make.  This life is ours to live, our decisions and consequences our own to make and to bear, but we are all connected.  From the first sacred ancestor, to the last of the descendants yet unborn.  To be a Heathen means to accept a definition of self that stretches beyond your skin, a definition of place that extends far beyond both your birth and your death.

 

I left offerings to my house wights when I rose, poured out onto the earth of my place firsts and best of my coffee.  I live largely joyfully because of the Heathenry that has shown me how the bits of my life weave together, how my worth is built in the ten thousand daily decisions that most people never think about at all.  I travel far to be with my community at every opportunity to raise a horn, and join our voices together in celebration as the connections between us do not just bind us together, they heal not only ourselves, but our connection to the lands and waters that our cities tried so hard to strip from us.

At a certain point in your practice, you will no longer be able to separate your life and your practice.  Above all else, this is what our ancestors had that I wish to reclaim.  I study how they lived not because I want arraigned marriages for my daughters, or to settle my interpersonal disputes with a battle axe, and related weregild discussions, but because I wish to grasp even imperfectly how they saw themselves at a time when they could conceive no other way than living in harmony with their ancestors, their lands, and their gods.

 

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Asatru, Current events, Uncategorized

Responsibility for Hate

torture-victim

 

I understand that people are looking at the deeds of the worthless scum of various ugly corners of our society, the pure acts of hate, acts that show a complete and utter lack of acceptance of the humanity of those they target, and it is easiest to point to the bloodied hands and seek answers for the deeds there.  That is clean up and damage control, that is not solution, that is putting band-aids on the bullet wounds.  The real loss or victory happens before the trigger pull, before the gun is picked up.  Let me share with you the lessons that were shared with me.

 

The UK and Canada have agreements to allow members of our forces who wish to emigrate and continue to serve the Crown.  Basically, you can transfer in rank and grade, but you must complete basic training in the new Army so that you and those who will be in your chain of command share a common frame of reference.  By this requirement we found ourselves with a precious asset on our basic training, we had Sgt Reynolds, Recce trooper with tours in Northern Ireland under the British flag, and various fun spots of Africa under the UN.   Given a long history of counter-insurgency work, both low intensity and high intensity, we would have expected an attitude fairly extreme towards the shooters, bombers and front line insurgents.  What we got was something far different, and a far more complex understanding of how hate works, and where it can or can’t be fought.

 

Now for those who are offended by harsh language, fuck off.  You are not going to have the capacity to accept the stark truths presented to young soldiers by old soldiers who had seen the truth not through media lenses but through their own eyes year after year.  I will give you his words, as he gave them to us, because they deserve to be heard as they were, not as anyone might “pretty them up” and lose much of their essence in the doing.

belfast-throw_1945081i

“You see some fucking 14year old with a rock or a Molotov and a mask, and you just know some poor squaddie is going to have to put a bullet in him eventually, hopefully before he kills a bunch of poor fucks just trying to have a normal life and family, knee deep in someone else’s bullshite.  Can’t do shit about that.  No one can do shit about that kid, he died about seven years ago on his grandmother’s knee when she whispered in his ear about crap that happened a hundred years ago that was probably to avenge some other shit that happened a hundred years before that, and got his bloody father killed already, and convinced him he wasn’t a man unless he avenged the last poor fuck who died avenging some other idiot who decided some shit that happened in sixteen fucking something was worth blowing up a school over”

 

“You can’t do anything for the punk kid in the mask with a gun or a bomb, the poor kid was killed already by those who taught him that the only way to live was to kill a bunch of people he never met for something they never did and had nothing to do with, just to show the world he has a dick and will find a fucking meat grinder to stick it in.  You put a bullet in the ones you have to before they hurt too many people, but you arent’ solving shit if the granny’s keep whispering.  You buy time, that’s all you do. If someone doesn’t stop the whispering, you will never stop the killing.  Don’t hate the poor little fucks, just shoot the ones who had to, and don’t start whispering about how they deserve it or some poor kid is going to suck that up and end up the next one who needs some poor squaddies bullet.”

 

It is a sobering thing to learn, that as a soldier, as the sword and shield of the people, you actually can’t stop the bloodshed, you can only decide who dies today and hope someone does something about the whispers before the body count gets too high, or the number of dead to be avenged becomes high enough people stop asking about what the point of the fight was I the first place.

We here in North America do not inherit that kind of instilled hatred.  We didn’t have the grandmothers whispering the glory of the struggle to little boys who grew up not as men but munitions.  Our culture is too diverse and broadly based for that sort of familial cultural conditioning without external support.

 

We are fixing that.

 

This last US election has been the stuff of nightmare.  The tides of division and hatred that were whipped up to drive short sighted people into power are not actually the kinds of tides you can dispense with when your port you have reached.  You have sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind, you have ridden the storm and now the storm is upon you.

 

Our media has forsaken its duty to report the story and begun to be the story.  I have watched in my own lifetime the shift from news to sensationalism that has become our media news coverage.  I have seen how the quest to capture attention has moved from providing balanced reporting to providing shock reporting.  We begin with the media attempting to make each and every story not just a single event to be examined in its own merits, but a judgement of society.  The problems from that one start at the fact the guilt/innocence of the people involved are obscured by the “greater issues” and the needs of society on those “greater issues” screw justice right up the ass and the story becomes about something other than the deeds of person involved.  The first victim is forgotten, the second victim is justice, and the third is the community as the “Greater Issue” comes under the same treatment as the initial story.

 

Politics is about swaying the public, the saying “give me a lever long enough and I will move the world” is born in physics, but reaches its purest expression in politics.  Levers in politics are shocking events that will outrage sections of the public enough to be harnessed to a political agenda to the ends of those who are shaping the message.
The demagogues of Athens and Rome gave us the true expression of the rule of the mob, as agitators showed how little it took to bring society crashing down simply by finding an event that you could use as your lever to work at the stress points in your own society to overturn it.  You would think we would learn from this.
We saw the use of the media in Nazi Germany use this lever to give us the greatest evil of our age, and we saw it enacted again in Yugoslavia proving the tools still work and the price has not changed, and still we did not learn.

 

We have our media creating sensation and division from tragedy.  Rather than seeking reasoned discourse, they seek to whip up the public passions, because that gets market share.  Facts matter less than passion, truth matters less than purity of message and inconvenient facts that do not fit the message are casually cut as the message not the truth is the important thing, the “greater issue’ whatever the pet cause of the extremist groups who are feeding off, and in turn being fed off by the media always feel their needs are more important than the truth.

We have our grandmothers whispering hate in our seven year olds, only this time they come at us through TV and radio, talk shows and sound bytes shared and reshared around social media where our tendency to look only at feeds that match our own opinions give us a false sense that what we are hearing represents the whole of the truth, rather than the heavily slanted and sculpted message of your own faction, tailored to your demographic by modern demagogues as skilled as any Athenian , and as amoral.

media

If you shout fire in a crowded theater, you face the penalty for those who are injured in the resulting panic.
If you lend voices to the extremists in all communities, falsely presenting the impression that these extremists represent the commonly held views of communities alien to you, you have successfully shaped the view of that community as hostile and a threat.  You have filled the Molotov cocktail, you have filled the bottle, you have stuffed the wick down into the gas, and you have come to them to ask if they intend on directing those bottles to the target that you yourself have created in the minds of each side.
The problem with the false images of the media’s messaging, is that one you throw the Molotov cocktail or rock, real people are hurt and killed.  If it bleeds it leads is not the whole of the expression.  We need it to bleed if we want the lead is the corollary.  You will not get airtime or market share to explain that you really wont have the real reasons for why an event happened until the trial is over and month of investigation are completed.  You get market share if you can stand in front of police tape and give an answer that is sensational, shocking, largely reguardless of the facts of the matter.

 

If you shout fire in a crowded theater you get charged.  You stir up divisions in the community until various sides are spilling blood and burning theaters down you get elected, you get great market share, you get to say that you were right in what you said would happen.
Make no mistake, this is about media creating the news, not reporting it.  The politicians and social media use the tools the media gives them to move their demographics, but they do not spin them out of whole cloth, they take them from the media, from our glorious independent fifth estate who somewhere in the 1990’s lost its integrity and any desire to fact check before publication and broadcast.

 

What are we going to do about this?

 

What are you doing about this toxic messaging?  I know I am as guilty as any for this, it is easy to find an answer in a sound byte that captures your outrage, it is seldom a good answer.  Real answers are seldom sexy and satisfying.  Real progress means accepting that people can be different from you in ways you really don’t like and yet are no threat to you.

Real threats exist.  Bullets do solve some problems.  Please keep the numbers that must get solved by bullets to a minimum by restricting them to the actual criminal sociopaths, the truly evil who are a problem in any generation, but a small manageable ones.

Kill the whispers.  Kill the whispers that seek to make hatred a foundation of young men and women’s world views.  Kill the whispers, or by the gods acknowledge that the blood that covers the ground when some poor fucking squaddie or police officer has to do their job and kill, that blood doesn’t just stain the poor trigger puller, that blood belongs to every one who spread the whispers.

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Heathen, Uncategorized

Working Around Scary

Massage.jpg

Recently I had a massage at a health spa that went a little sideways.  The worker who was doing the massage was a very good masseuse, she was also empathic and a really poorly trained energy worker.  To make it even worse, she had learned Yoga from people who ignored the spiritual aspects of it, so she had unlocked a whole lot of tools she had no idea how to use, and doors she had no idea how to close.  Being a dear sweet little thing, she wanted really hard to open herself to others and use her energy for healing.  Awesome.  Live among the most privileged in our society who have lived their entire existence pampered and sheltered and you will only have to worry about the true predators who stalk those reaches.  However, there are a fair number of us other folk who will scare the spots off you for various reasons.

Some of us are veterans either of military or police who cannot shut off their situational awareness, their focus, and the constant threat assessment of their surroundings.  We radiate like predators because we never really turn off that part of us that is always seeking, evaluating and prioritizing threats in our environment, and preparing contingency plans, more or less reflexively for dealing with them.

There are those who are in physical pain, whose bodies when you touch them are alive with the energy of pain on a level that to us is simply the chronic pain background noise, about 3-4 out of ten, if we have to think about it, but largely ignored outside the first few minutes after waking.  If you have not suffered serious injury or disease states that leave you in agony that will never, ever stop, you can’t help but be overwhelmed when you touch pain like that.  If however, it goes on long enough, you really can get used to anything, and we do.  We will be aware of the pain as you work each center, and even as the pain spikes we feel the relief that the massage is bringing and react positively even as you feel the pain increase (well yes, but only when you are working it, in your wake it is much better).

There are those who suffer PTSD from serious trauma.  Some again are veterans, some are sexual assault victims, some are survivors of serious physical trauma or long debilitating/humiliating disease.  There are wounds that leave scars in the mind, stains and twisting in the energies.  These are marks of the survivors and the reality of the coping mechanisms that got us through, and may or may not be great for functioning at the moment.  Life is a work in progress, healing a journey that actually ends in death not wellness, as you never really finish from some wounds.  Step by step, day by day you get better, and hopefully you are still doing it when you die.

OK, so that is the set of problems, so, what is the solution.  Training.  OK, here is your quick and dirty training for how to work among the scary.  I don’t mean just people who intimidate you, I mean how to remain positive and focused, around people whose condition, energy, emotion and physical pain levels cause you to panic, withdraw, or take actual harm.

Starting with the assumption you are in a therapeutic situation and you are not simply willing to use your shields to shut yourself down, cut yourself off from the awareness of others.  Let us assume you actually wish to keep your empathic senses open, and use your energy to interact with and theoretically help someone whose own state or nature disturbs you.  We are going to review Grounding, Centering and Shielding inside the specific context of therapeutic interactions.

I generally center first, relying on myself more than any external anchor, but for those who are not used to dealing with hostile, frightening, or painful energies it might be helpful to start with grounding, so there I will begin.

Grounding:  My tradition and training uses Yggdrasil, the world tree.  The tree visualization does not actually require you to believe in Yggdrasil, nor understand the nine worlds in the structure of Heathen traditions, you simply have to know what a tree looks like, how it is basically structured, and that it roots in the ground.  If you have seen a tree, then you know enough for this to work for you.

Hanged Man Tree

Lightning strikes the earth, the sun lashes it, the ice claws at it, but the earth is vast beyond useful measure and these energies literally ground in her without effect.  The scope of the earth is such that the most terrible energies can be released into her with no measurable effect.  We ground in the earth like rivers do in the sea, she received from us that which we cannot hold, even as she anchors us firmly in place.

See the tree in your mind, feel your hands as branches, your skin as bark and leaf.  You feel the energies absorbed by your leaves, buffeting your branches.  Take in the energy, let it flow down through you to your roots.  Sink those roots deep into the earth, feel the calm quiet dark of the earth.  Feel the slumbering life within it.  Let the energies wash over you and release them into the earth.  The earth is vast beyond comprehension, and the energies that are too much for you pass almost unnoticed through your roots and into the living earth.  You feel the energy bleed into the earth, even as you feel your roots sink deep into her firmness, locking and anchoring you in place.  You are grounded, anchored, and able to weather the storm of energies you may encounter without fear.

Centering is next.  You can center in yourself if you do not wish to involve external aid or powers.  If you choose to do so, take the time to breathe in slowly and deeply, focusing on your internal power, your awareness of yourself.  Let the external world become less important and reach deep within your own awareness of yourself.  With each breath in feel your power flowing along your limbs.  Feel it flow outward from your chest through each limb, up your neck to your crown, flowing through your body and into your feet.  Feel that energy defining you, your core self, core awareness.  This is you, only you.  Hold that in your mind, know yourself, and prepare to deal with energies that are not self, awareness of other.  Do so from the strong foundation in your self.  If you are spiritual or religious in practice, as many of us are, a secondary part of any healing work, be it counselling, or physical healing, is the Call.

If you seek the aid of other powers, however you define them, be it the earth itself, your ancestors, your gods (or God if you are of that persuasion) it is time now for you to Call.  The act of opening yourself by intent is not the same as a simple prayer.  This is a working.  This is a job.  A task.  You are making of yourself a tool to do a specific job.  When you Call, you are not asking for a generalized blessing, you are actually asking for a very specific aspect, that part or aspect of your god, your spirit, your ancestral guide, or higher power however you define them, that most corresponds to the work you want to do here.  Intent isn’t everything, but if you get it wrong, the rest seldom goes well.  Be clear and be honest about what you are asking for.  If you feel you are in danger of being overwhelmed, you open yourself to your god with the specific and clear intention of allowing their essence to fill you, to anchor you, so that you may work without fear or harm, to allow you to open fully without being overwhelmed by energies more powerful or simply of alien nature to your own.  Self care is critical in any and all healing work, get that wrong, and you have added to the injured, rather than healed anyone.  When you have Called, prayed, invoked or simply focused your awareness on your connection to the divine, you are ready for the next step.

Grounded in the earth, centered in yourself, your connection to the divine, if you use it, already established with the specific intent of your working you are now ready for shielding.

Shielding in the healing process is different from regular defensive shielding.   Rather than simply deflecting or protecting yourself, you seek something a little more complex, nuanced, and ambitious.  Rather than blocking all the dangerous energies, you want to simply keep them from damaging you, while allowing you to experience them, to know them, draw them out, and where appropriate and safe, use your established channels to ground safely any dangerous excesses that are released by your work.

Shielding in the healing context.  The visualization that is most useful to you will depend on your Call, or your centering technique.  One that I found useful was to extend the tree imagery.  I let my shields, my rejection of Not-Self flow over me like bark on the tree.  Flowing from my center, augmented by grounding in the far greater presence of the divine that I have opened myself to, my shields are a hard skin of bark against which the energies I touch in the person I work with will be felt.  I can feel what touches the bark, but it is my choice what I allow to pass inward, to feel, to experience, and yes, to channel downward and ground in the earth, or channel inward to the aspect of my god I have invoked to aid me in my work.

I am good at pain, so I tend to allow the awareness of pain to be drawn into me, because I am better at processing it, and by doing that I can free up the person I am working with to process and deal with actual change or healing, as the simple handling of pain is a massive energy drain unassisted.  It is not my pain, and will not root in me, but can be channeled with little effort into the earth, or offered to my god.  Odin works well for ordeals, including healing ones, so pain is a coin that will buy healing in certain contexts.  If you are not good at pain, allow the pain to flow down your shields and ground it through your roots into the earth.  The earth is so vast it can drink all the pain that ever was and be unchanged.  You do not need to experience it if that will interfere with your ability to do your job.  Be aware of it, be aware of the shape and intensity of it, the changes in it.  You must always and ever be sensitive to spikes in pain and/or fear because you cannot know what changes inside a person’s mind and body will be made by even the simplest alteration of the balance of stresses under which they live.  You don’t have to understand their internal landscape, just sense when what you are doing is causing distress, and be able to avoid pushing at those fault lines.

Standard shields will allow you to cut yourself off from the awareness of the other person’s will, their pain, their emotions.  In a healing context, you will often find the need to open yourself to those very things to an extent to follow the most important dictate in any healing process “DO NO HARM”.  You cannot ensure you are doing no harm, if you are shielding yourself from all the effects you are having on your person, for this reason, you must actually use your sensitivity to a degree.
Center in yourself, shield yourself so that you can be aware but not harmed by the energies that are under your fingers.  Remain centered in yourself, go as slow as you need to, but you must always and ever remain centered in yourself, with clear understanding of what is coming from you, and what is coming from them.  Ground deep in the earth, bleeding off not only excess and dangerous energies from them, but those energies that will snap up in you in response.  Do not be ashamed of fear, shame, anger, or other emotional responses to the energies of another’s pain.  Own those responses that are yours, ground out the energies that are harmful with every single exhalation, give them up to the earth, but be aware of where the response came from in you, and be prepared to deal with the emotional consequences later, preferably with help from those who share your tradition and practice.

I am not going to give you instruction at how to work with someone else’s energy.  That is something you really need to seek a far wiser teacher for, and you had best have developed specific and real skill sets before you attempt it.  I will say two important things; do not ever work with someone else’s energy, pain, or emotions without their express permission.  That means INFORMED consent.  If they don’t know that they are naked in front of your eyes, you are violating their reasonable expectations of privacy and you are actually in a position to do much harm through the violation of trust.  Second, what we can do for others is help them deal with effects, free up their energies to deal with causes.  We can’t make wounds go away, we can’t undo damage.  Don’t ever trivialize people’s wounds by thinking you can simply magic them away.  That is not what we can do.  What we can do is useful and important.  We can reduce the negative effects of their burdens on them, and make easier their efforts to remodel their own bodies, mind and emotions on a gradual step by step basis.  If you make someone feel better, that is not a problem gone, that is a blessed moment of relief that may enable them to make steps toward meaningful and lasting change, but do not pretend you can “fix people”.  It insults them, trivializes their trauma, and makes mockery of the real and lasting good you can actually do.

You don’t have to shut yourself off from people whose energies and intensity is disturbing to you.   To be empathic, to be able to share another’s pain is an immensely useful tool in making real and positive differences in their experience.  The twin principals of “do no harm” to them, and “self care” for you are best served by only opening yourself to intense or dangerous energies, or powerful personalities in a therapeutic setting after you have grounded, centered and shielded yourself in such a way you can work safely, respectfully, and honestly with whoever you are working with.

There are lots of people out there who are apparently getting their abilities unlocked by those with no spiritual awareness at all.  This is dangerous.  It is blind people telling you how to find the sun, and telling you how wonderful it feels on your face.  Those with sight are perfectly prepared to endanger themselves, and utterly unprepared for the really simple steps in working with sunlight safely.  If you happen to be, or know one such person, pass this along.  If you are one of these people and require instruction, there are lots of really gifted practitioners, I am not one of them, but I can and will put you in touch with them for further instruction.  I am just another working stiff, struggling to get my own training up to snuff for the jobs I already do.

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