Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Miracles, Magic and the power of Stupid

Althing 2018 Feast

As those of you who know me personally know, I suffered a wee bit of an injury in June.  I broke my neck at C5 and suffered a serious concussion.  I lost a lot.  I had serious problems with balance, memory, and I lost most of my sight until I learned that by patching my right eye I could be shade functional single eyed.

I should have been killed, or at least paralyzed, considering the force of the blow and the location of the break, but when you are a priest of a one eyed hanged god, its not unheard of to walk away snap necked and one eyed.  I can take a joke, even one written in that level of pain, it means I am still breathing, and going home to my family.

My family has been nothing but amazing, even when I am being more stupid than normal.  My daughters and wife (the three first lovelies on the left) have been conspiring to keep me functional not only enough to help my recovery, but to do my duties to my Heathen community.  They didn’t ask me to do this when hurt, I refused to pass off my duties to others because you really can’t beat stupid out of me short of death, and I love my family and community in ways that are more sincere than rational sometimes.

This is why I must speak of magic and miracles, because if what I brought was the power of being too stupid to accept the limitations of my body when I had duty to those I love to perform, my community returned that love in full measure, and brought both magic and miracles to prove it.

Just past my daughters sits Nathalie, and she came with her massage table to work her arts upon my body and spirit, and drew from me tensions and pain with such dramatic success that my body straightened like a bow being unstrung under the touch of her hands and arts, far too gentle for the force she applied.

Far down the table, near the head where I sat as host you will see Diana Paxson, who journeyed far north from her home, and across the border simply to work her arts upon me as well.  With the calm assurance of Egil in his saga, she worked her runes upon me and I felt the strangest thing when she commanded me back into balance.

Diana and John
I saw the sight from my eyes which had been endlessly shifting for over a month, which had resisted every bit of power medical science could bring to bear, and indeed which those practitioners were preparing me to forever learn to live with the loss of, finally snapped back in sync.

I rose from bed, rather faster than I should, the flow of power in my body far, far stronger than it had been.  My eyes worked, my sense of body position (part of the balance that tells you the vertical orientation of your body at the moment) finally telling me the truth.  My shoulders hung loose and low, not hunched up to my ears in a protective huddle.  I could see.

I have a lot of recovery yet to do, but I gained from the women in my community more healing in a single day than in the month and a half since my injury; and more, they gave me hope.  Even if it faded when the event energy left me, I knew the body still had the ability, the mind still had the hardware, and I COULD GET IT BACK.

In response I drank too much, talked too much and spent entirely too much of my strength sharing with my community, celebrating with my community, but I took no harm, because the man I was at that point, and am still, had far more to give than the man that walked into the hall, half broken and half blind.

There was a time, about a decade ago, when I thought magic was beneath me.  When I would never use the traditional practices of galdor and seidr left behind by our ancestors even though I knew they were part of traditional practice, retained and valued for centuries by the community as essential.  I retained the later syncretic and Christian suspicion of magic, its trappings and practitioners.  Also, there was the same sort of video game/movie overlays that confuses flashy display and showmanship with folk magic as our ancestors knew and practiced it.  If you talked to one of them a thousand years ago, you would be looking for the aid in healing, not some flashy light display, but somewhere in the intervening centuries we confused special effects for non material changes in the physical universe.

I had the honour to see the community that I love show that what I gave to them was valued, and that they cared in turn for my family and health in full measure, and bent their own arts and will to make such changes as they could to make it better.

I am not magically healed.  I am magically booted about half way along the curve of the acute concussion recovery process, and able to draw upon far more of my own internal resources than I had before to complete the process in a shorter time and to a greater degree of completeness than I had any right to expect.

Do not take this as a call to ignore medical science.  On the contrary, this has prepared me better to use the physiotherapy and cognitive training to overcome the remaining deficiencies in neck and brain to speed my return to full work and other function.  Take this as what it is, an example of how the collective love of your community, focused through the traditional arts of our faith through its more learned and potent practitioners can have a powerful beneficial effect in your outcome.

My wife and daughters, my kinsmen and women, and two wise and magical women combined to use their arts and care to overcome my injuries and stupidity combined and speed me along the road to recovery.

We forever ask the gods for aid in time of need.  We forever reach out to those of our community when they are in need.  It is helpful to remember the words we use to mark the gifting cycle when we make an offering.  We speak of receiving blessings from the gods to the earth to us, thus we return our gifts from us to the earth to the gods.  The gifting cycle is also expressed as from us to each other to the gods, from the gods, to each other to us.  We are the aid that was sent, the gift that was given.  We are the proof the gods do not ask us to face this alone.  It took the returning of my second eye’s sight to see it.

I tell this to everyone else, but forgot it when it came to myself.  I did preface this article with the admission that I was frequently stupid about such things, but the gods can overcome even that through the power of the community.

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Pagan, Uncategorized

Troubling Ancestors, and ancestor worship

Ancestor worship is important to a fully developed Heathen practice.  Not everyone is going to get there.  We live in a Post-Christian western society, and its god-centric legacy will honestly be centuries in undoing.

Our surviving literature does not help as much as it should, because while every scholar will begin with telling you how sad it is we don’t have much about what everyone knew and did every day, because the saga’s only talk about the stuff you saw once a year, or Uncle Olaf saw when he was young and actually guested in the King’s Hall, but you will never see in your whole life; casual readers come away with the mistaken impression that the god centered tales describe daily life.

The truth is most of ancestral practice was as hearth based as any of the pagan tribes well into recorded history.  The spirits of the hearth and home, field and flock, lands and waters were the objects of daily devotion, along with one more class; the ancestors.

Nine is a magical number in Heathenry.  As in nine times out of ten a viking analogy is a good way to spot a bad idea shined to a high polish.  I am hoping this is the tenth.  Your ancestors are a chain that connects you to the very roots of your soul…..well sort of.  There are chains as in necklace and anchor chains, and chains like chain mail, and ancestor worship is very much like only one of those two options.

Broken Necklace

This is a necklace.  At the first bad link it breaks.  It has a few bad links, and is broken.  If you were relying upon that for connection, you are lost, as whatever the chain held is gone now.  There aren’t a whole lot of families that don’t have bad links in the chain, and this would leave us all broken and cut off if that was how our connections to our ancestors worked.

Frigg is not a Norn to simply measure a thread, and cut it when wyrd call’s for its end.  No, she is far more.  Frigg is a weaver of wyrd, a weaver of lines, of blood and oath, of love and duty, of lives and families.  She is a weaver for she knows all threads, and all chains break, but weaves do not.  Bad links, toxic ancestors, lost connections, the wound of adoption all leave holes in the chain, but the whole survives.

Chain mail hole

There are breaks where weak links failed, holes where bad links were cut from the whole to save what remained, yet the mail is still strong.  This is how you can choose to leave it, but Frigg is a weaver and so is life.  You can choose to let the failure of blood leave you always lesser and weaker, or you could choose to live, to love, to create other bonds.

Chain mail patch  Some links are different sized, and some of different metal, some are bound in different ways, but when they are woven together that which was sundered is whole again.  Whole and strong.  Some links don’t share your blood, your race, your faith.  Too bad, they seem to have woven in nicely anyway.

Ancestor worship is not reaching up the broken chain and stopping when you hit the first bad link.  How can that sustain and ground you?  How can that link you to all who came before, and connect you to every part of who you have yet to discover you are?

Ancestor worship is Frigga’s work, Volund’s work.  It is weaving and forging both, it is hard, terrible hard work, for you build those connections strand by strand, link by link.  Not in one direction, but in all.  Chains do not grow stronger with length but weaker, as it is the sum of their weaknesses that limits them, not the sum of their strength which defines them.  Chain mail is different.  Each link passes through many others.  Strength is shared, weakness is limited, and stresses distributed evenly.   Much more force can be absorbed by the mail than any link could take, and no matter  if some links should fail, the mail itself remains, and remains strong.

How can the adopted reach out to their ancestors, if their ancestors be not known to them?  Well that is not entirely true is it?  The ancestors of your direct blood are not known, but if you began at that pretty chain patch above, the silver-steel links do not exist.  Bronze rings, copper rings, blood rings must first be passed before you will reach the steel rings of your own blood again, but trace your fingers across the mail and you will see the truth.  Beyond the whole the mail is intact, and you have been given the links to reach across to get there.

When the shirt was forged, each link was silver-steel, yet it was sundered by life, by wyrd.  Others filled in those holes.  Adoptive parents, foster parents, friends, cousins, uncles, those you named such but were bound only by ties of affection not blood, yet did blood’s duty.  Sometimes those mentors you found not at home but through school as teachers, leaders, co-workers or even NCO’s if you went into the Army seeking your home.

They forged those links in your life, filled those holes.  You do know their names.  You can reach them.  You can begin your practice there, and through them reach the spirits of those who went before, and reclaim the parts of you above and beyond the break.

If you accept the necklace model, you will reach backwards only until the toxic ancestors, the hurtful or damaging ones.  If you stop there, you will lose all that went before, and much of what you are because of it.  We are not part of some decorative necklace, or pretty ribbon.  Frigg is the weaver of the folk entire, of all of our bloodlines, and she weaves stronger than any mail.  You cut out tangles like you cut out bad links, and you weave beyond them, reach beyond them, heal the rift with those links that may not have been the same steel, or threads of the same blood, but whose will it was to protect when the steel that should have been there would not.

We reach past the bad links to reclaim what was ours from before birth.  To cut yourself off from all above the toxic link is foolish, but to believe you must accept the toxic is likewise foolish.  You do not deny the link was real, but it failed, and has been cut out.  Wyrd weaves as it will, and includes plenty of scope for bad choices and painful consequences.  Neither Frigg nor Volund will hesitate to cut out bad threads, bad links, tangles and flaws, and weave around them.  There is a lesson for us there.

Imperfect links, bent links, rough links, should we cut those out?

Chain Mail patches

We are ALL imperfect links, rough, bent, scarred, twisted, wrong coloured, inverted rivet or ten thousand other forms of imperfect, and that is what gives the whole of the mail the strength that it has.  We don’t cut out the imperfect, we understand the strength of the link is based on how many of its neighbors it weaves together, not how thick its own metal.

Ancestor worship is just that, connecting us to more links in all directions, allowing us to be stronger than the bare steel of our own ring, but the full strength of all who came before and all who touched both their lives and ours.

Links are bound by blood yes, and a thousand other things.  Love, duty, oath, friendship, and experience.  We don’t have to face this world in terrible isolation, our ancestors understood this, and are ready to stand beside you.

For those who think the faith of your ancestors matters; nothing in our lore mentions the faith of the people we are dealing with, neither the living nor the dead.  They knew of other faiths and other tribes, and judged it not to matter.  They knew all our lore and judged it so.  We know but a small surviving part, so I suggest trusting them.

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Depression: musings on the endless struggle

It is lonely thing, to fight depression.  The hardest, endless, unforgiving struggle with your internal demons can end only in your death, promises nothing from victory but another day of battle beyond.  It tests your soul like nothing else, and it is faced alone when it is at its fiercest.  There is one who knows, one who will stand beside you in this struggle, and one whose gifts offer some little aid.

 

Depression is a funny thing.  I don’t mean there is humour in it, or if there is, it is the gallows humour that civilians seem to get horrified when they hear from veterans and others who have learned to laugh among the wreckage.  I guess you had to be there.

 

Depression is funny in that it isn’t what most people think it is.  Depression is not “feeling sad”, that is an effect, not a cause.  You don’t cure depression by thinking happy thoughts or not dwelling on bad things.  Depression, if you are actually suffering from it is the root of your thoughts, not the effect of them.

You can make yourself depressed by putting yourself in negative thought cycles, it is an act of self harm and one that those who are depressed really need to be careful of, and people who shouldn’t be depressed based on their current physiology certainly can wound themselves enough to put themselves in that place by continuing long enough, so there is that much truth to the warnings about negative thoughts.  You can also make depression dangerously worse by indulging in those cycles, because they are self harm, but thinking of sunshine and kittens will not magically get rid of actual depression.

Actual depression is a thing, an energy sap that drains you.  It is a monster that wraps you up, feeds on your energy, your will, your strength until every simple action requires almost heroic effort, and the usual reward cycle your brain offers for success does not pay off noticeably.  It is a motivational killer.

I have heard it described aptly as walking up the stairs.  Your friends, co-workers and family are all walking up the same stairs, but you are carrying an eighty-pound pack.  They are not.  You face the same stairs they do, but what it costs you to climb those stairs is greater, your reward is the same.  When they see you struggling with stairs they easily handle, you will experience the effects of shame at your struggle and failure which compound the problems you already face.  You must put in twice the effort for half the returns as other people, and for that effort receive scorn, shame, and the feelings of failure, weakness, and futility which further empower your depression.  Your pack is now a hundred pounds, and you are no farther up those stairs.

As a thought model, it is effective and evocative for those who believe happy thoughts will alter it, I suggest you fill that pack with a hundred pounds and walk up some long flights of stairs and see how long you can remain energized and positive.  Understand, they can’t take the pack off, they will not be done, there is no rest, this is baseline while depressed.

 

The gods understand our struggles, because the best of them share them.  Thor is the god best loved by our folk in ancient times.  Thor’s hammer is the sign our folk chose in this modern age, as we did when we first had to deal with folks of other faiths, to mark ourselves as Heathens.  There is a reason.  The wisdom of Thor is not the sort of deep mystical knowledge that has Odin’s followers binding themselves to trees and journeying between worlds.  Thor is a god whose lessons are accessible to all, whose nature is pure, elemental, and fundamentally more human in more respects than other gods.  His trials, his triumphs, his spirit holds for us gifts more precious, and more accessible than those of the gods with more mystical bells, whistles and sparkly trinkets hidden like obscure game quests (I say this as a collector of sparkly trinkets myself).

 

Thor is not always depicted as the brightest of gods, but he is not stupid, only uncomplicated.  Joy in the struggle is the heart of his nature, joy in the storm of life, the test of it, the sheer absurdity of it.  Thor is defined not by Odin’s scream of rage, but in the booming laughter he sounds, frequently before picking himself up off the ground.

The legend I love him for best was his fishing trip.  He was tricked into a wager by an enemy that wanted to win his dread hammer Mjolnir from him.  Thor boasted he could catch anything that swam in the nine worlds, and wagered the greatest life taker in the nine worlds that it was so.  His foe took him out in a small boat to prove it, and Thor’s cast caught not fish, not shark, not whale, or even dragon.  His cast caught the Midgard Serpent; Jörmungandr.

This is the battle he cannot win, and that cannot end.  Jörmungandr and Thor will battle at Raganarok, and from that battle both will know their doom.  Thor will strike the serpent down at the end, but take no more than nine steps back before falling into death himself from the serpent’s venom.

 

His enemy laughed as Thor realized he was trapped in that little fishing vessel in the battle that could not end, save in death.  At this point, only loss was possible, there is no bright ending in a struggle with a foe that takes all of your strength, and ever will, until they day you have no more, and die.

 

Thor belted himself to the mast and fought on.  He reeled in Jörmungandr like any fish, and when the serpent struck at him, he pounded it back, not with the hammer he was not free to draw, but simply with his fist.  Trapped in a struggle that could not end with him living, in which he could not even reach his greatest weapon, he did something that is strange; he laughed.

Depression
There was no point, was no chance, was no good end, but it did not matter.  He laughed and threw himself into the struggle with all he had.  It did not matter that it could not be won, he did not have to lose, and chose to take his joy in the struggle for as long as he may.

Neither Jörmungandr nor Thor had any give in them, but both the jotun and the boat did, and as the boat began to break up, the jotun released Thor from his wager and begged him to let Jörmungandr go before they all died.  Depression is equated with darkness by many for one of its insidious side effects; blinding us to any possibility other than loss and defeat.

Thor was not wiser than us to see a victory was possible, he did not see the possibility at all.  He just didn’t care.  He chose to fight on anyway.  He chose to accept his limitations, his circumstance, and simply shrug and battle on anyway.  He won victory, we can all win victories, even if we have no clue upon rising to fight another day what that victory is, or even always know it when we have actually achieved it.
Depression is Jörmungandr, the serpent that spans our world and wraps it in coils even a god may not break, but Jörmungandr did not win either.  Thor will not smite that serpent for us, nor will he carry that heavy pack for us up the stairs.  What he will do is stand beside us on the deck, even when it seems the serpent will shatter it beneath us, he will keep that ship afloat so long as we battle on.  He will stand beside us on the steps not only while we climb, but when we are spent, and can take not one more step, for he understands that being knocked down is not defeated.  It is simply the place from which you will rise again to fight.

Like Thor, we have no magic hammer to protect us in this fight.  We have only the will to battle on, the stubborn stupid unwillingness to give up, the defiance in the face of despair.  We do have one more thing, a small, almost unnoticed thing.  When you are feeling small and helpless, battered by wind and wave stronger than your every effort, when the darkness has closed in and you lack the strength to rise, and wonder even if you have the strength for one more heartbeat, if you listen closely, you can hear the laughter of Thor, not in victory, not in triumph, but in the awareness that he had been beaten, been tricked, and still chose, as stupidly as it may be, to struggle on anyway.

 

Depression tells us one truth.  We cannot win, for a definition of win that means we will never have to struggle against it.  Jörmungandr spans the world and cannot be escaped.  Thor tells us another truth, you do not have to see a way out to find one, do not have to think you can win to do so, and you do not have to give up just because you believe you are beaten and cannot do anything about it.  Sometimes too stupid to give up is not about stupidity, it isn’t even about hope, it is about choosing to not give up because that choice is yours to make, and the serpent may not take it from you.  That victory is yours to take; neither depression nor the gods themselves can take it from you.

Heroism is not found in the battles you may win.  Heroism is found in the battles that cannot be won, but you chose to fight anyway.  Heroism is looking the serpent in the eye and saying simply “Not today” and chosing to fight on.

 

If you are locked in that struggle without end, you do not have to enter it alone.  If you can’t think of any good reason to go on, or any point in fighting, perhaps it is time not to seek a god with secret knowledge, but a god just too stupid to give up, and too great hearted to let you stand alone.

 

 

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Leavings

Vidar

 

I am the son of rage

The son of song

But neither burn nor sing

I am the son of passions and mysteries

But god am I

Of leavings

 

I do not boast

Nor whisper soft

I do not care for secrets

Remember me with scraps of boots

I am the god

Of leavings

 

I do not wave a banner bold

I sound no call to battle

I end the wolf

That grows fat on such

I am the god

Of leavings

 

My father picks o’er the field

Gathering the fallen

Who cares for those who marched away?

Who but the god of debt repaid

Who but the god

Of leavings

 

Silent in my father’s hall

Silent one they call me

I have no time for empty boasts

Not with so many needing

I am he who neither speaks nor rests

I am the god

Of leavings

 

For Vidar Odinson

 

Slayer of Fenris Wolf, Avenger of Odin, the Silent One, the Jaw-Breaker.  Honoured once with the scraps from boot and shoe making, and who receives still the trimmings from my own laces.  Vidar is the god of leavings, the god of prices paid, the god of costs.  Vidar starts no conflict, only ends them.

 

Seek him if you are the leavings of strife, shattered, tattered yet unyielding.  From such as us he crafted that which broke the jaws of Fenris Wolf.  He is Empty of Boasts, he is the Unbroken, he is the God of Leavings.  In a society as fundamentally as broken as our own, he is more needed than his father.

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Asatru, Death, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Funerals as treatment

Viking Funeral

Funerals are not for the dead, they are for the living.  Forget that and you will miss the only chance you have to wield this most potent tool of healing.

We are all of us connected, from the first sacred ancestor, to the last of our descendants yet unborn.  Through the web of wyrd we are bound, and the spirits of the dead are not lost to us so long as we keep their memories bright.  Those who take the time to study the ways of our ancestors, those who choose to keep the gifting cycle open with their dead as they did with the living soon come to understand the dead need not be lost to us at all, but if we are not careful, we will let our own failure to grieve put our dead beyond reach.

The dead are beyond pain, beyond fear, beyond illness, weakness or disability.  Hel is the unbroken promise of release from every prison, every pain, and even the horrifying loss of mind that cruelly precedes death in many cases.  While we can see the soul parts of the dying become sundered as the mind/body/spirit connections are worn by age, disease, or injury, death severs those ties and the soul passes beyond restored.

Hella

Hel is two faced; for the face she turns to the dead is fair as her mercy, as the end of pain, the release from infirmity, and foul as the corpse grin that mocks us in our grief, pitiless that hears our howl of rage, our pleas, our prayers as she accepts to her hall the ones we would trade anything to have for one more day.  Both are her true face, for death is both things.  The funeral addresses both, or it will if you let it.

Human beings have a teaching tool that evolution gifted us with that we should learn from the womb to avoid that which harms and can kill us.  This powerful educational tool is called pain, and it teaches by aversion.  What we reach out for and are hurt touching, we learn not to touch.  This keeps us from fire, and knife edges, animal bites and ten thousand other hazards we must learn to avoid lest we become damaged unnecessarily.  Pain works whether you are paying attention or not, and sometimes that can be dangerous.

When we love someone, and they die, the memory of their death becomes a wound in our mind.  This wound is fresh and raw, bloody and tender.  Each and every time we touch it, it hurts us anew.  This wound leaks pain and suffering into the rest of our consciousness, so we bind it fast, staunch that wound, and suffer it in solitude.

It is here the custom of the funeral is important.  That wound bound is like a physical wound bound; the blood must either be allowed to drain, or become foul and septic.  There is a way to do this, rituals developed for the communal bleeding of these wounds, for the wounds cleansing, and stitching closed.  That ritual is the funeral.  Not all funerals do this, some are insanely damaging through good intentions and poor understanding of the dead.  We, as heathens, try to do better because our ancestors and gods knew we only lost the dead if we chose to do so.  They left us the ways to do this properly.

We have conflicting needs in a funeral.  Do not ever doubt that we are complicated creatures.  Odin is poet and necromancer, his tool chest for dealing with death has more options than most would believe, but for analysis lets lay a few of them out and look at what they are good for.

We need to see honour done.  This first.  Public honour is important.  This is duty, if we do not fulfill this duty, forever will it be a button that yields white hot rage or crippling shame when it gets pushed by random remark or memory trigger.  Do not let this become a problem for you later because you let anger at the dead blind you to your other needs.  This is partially for the dead, but also for the living.  Conflicted describes many, if not most close relationships.

Public honour is given a name, glory.  Glory is a hot button subject with soldiers.  Not one of us you will speak to has ever touched glory, ever known glory.  No fireman, no police officer, no soldier you will meet has ever known glory, for they have lived.  Glory is a grave good that the valiant take with them upon their pyre.  Glory was whispered to Baldur by Odin upon his pyre, was showered upon Siegfried on his.  Glory is a grave good, a gift given by the living to the dead.  Word fame is one kind of glory, not simply the martial glory that is the best remembered, but word fame that is spoken by each of those who gather to remember the fallen one.

78. Cattle die, | and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one’s self;
One thing now | that never dies,
The fame of a dead man’s deeds. –Havamal

Heathens understand that reciprocal gifting relationships are the foundation of all our practice, with our living friends and family, with the wights of the land, with the holy gods; now it is time to understand how you make the transition between honouring a loved one, and one of our honoured dead.  The funeral is where we come together to begin this new relationship, the beginning of the gifting cycle between ourselves and the loved one who is now among our honoured dead.  Tears are an offering, grief in an offering, this is part of the first stage of the funeral ritual.  This will suffice for acquaintances or outer-hall friends.  It MUST not be where those who are bound by love stop or their dead will be lost to them.

Our lore is not the stuff that dry academics delight in, for there is much of the ridiculous, the humorous, the profane or obscene included in our holiest lore.  Our gods do not fear to hear us laugh at them, rather they instruct us from the barest stripling that not only can we laugh at those we revere, we must.

We serve alcohol at funerals for a reason, it is recognized by us as a holy offering, but from a practical sense it is used because it helps us to lower the barriers and inhibitions that might other wise keep us from speaking what needs to be said, what needs to be heard.

Let those who knew well and loved well the lost one come together and drink deep.  Let them begin as most will with the honour tales, but this is because we are driven to remember them because of the worth they had in our eyes, but it is NOT worth that secures your place in anyone’s heart.  It is flaws.

Wait, and you will hear the funny stories start, the glorious mistakes, the irritating stories, the scandalous stories.  You will hear the laughter start, the blushing, the heads shaking in disbelief, and the tears will be both pain, and joy, for they mingle as they fall.  Some of the corruption, some of that blood and pain bound up in the raw wound of the loss will begin to drain here.  The pain will never lessen if you do not do this, and unless you are stronger than any I know, pain will teach you to avoid those memories forever more, and you will lose everything that person shared with you in life.
Be very careful, do not let anyone quash this out of “Respect” for the dead, this is not disrespect, this is love.  To put the dead upon a pedestal is to remember not a person but a statute, a cardboard cut out of the person and not the one who passed.  Pedestals do nothing but put the dead beyond reach.

Some will break, and from them will pour things you DO NOT WANT TO HEAR.  Understand this, accept this.  Not all memories are fair, not everyone you esteem always acted as you would like to believe, and the pain that we all leave behind us is real.  Love is not blind or stupid, unless it is pretense.  The dead are not harmed by what has gone on before, and of light and dark are all of us made.  Heathenry has no saints, few indeed of our gods and goddesses are unstained paragons.  We are as we are, and strive ever to be better than the last mistake, but we do not always succeed.  Funerals are for the living, and if we do not let these wound bleed free, do not speak, shout or shriek what was not said in life then that rage will be the only thing that can ever be between the wounded and the fallen.

Some will break and lash out, not because of anything the dead did in life, but for the crime of dying.  I hope no one is laughing.  I have lost so many people at this point in my life that I swear more of my loved ones sleep in Hel’s halls right now than in their beds in the scattered corners of the globe.  The anger, the pain, the tears now are for the wound the loved one left by their death.  Those ties that bound us together in life are wounds at the death.  Funerals are about letting that wound bleed clean, and sewing it closed so it can begin to heal.

As clergy, grieving is a process we must understand, because it is both the ending of a relationship with the living, and the beginning of a relationship with the dead.  Praise is a grave good, tears are a grave good, laughter is a grave good, these things we come together at the funeral to learn to use together, that the one who was part of us in life be not lost to us in death.

If you succeed in making this transition, the gifting cycle moves forward in powerful ways.  You will use the words they shared with you in life, you will use their teachings, you will remember funny moments, you will even find yourself turning to speak to them, forgetting for a moment they were dead.  You will again feel their touch in your life, feel their presence beside you as you go forward.  The dead are only lost to us if we let them be.  The dead are lost to us only if we let the pain of their passage teach us to avoid reaching out to them again.

The funeral is not an ending of grief, it is setting the bone, or stitching the cut. Healing will go on, and you will heal stronger for reclaiming the dead.

For those whose relationships were dark and damaging, I will tell you this now, do not punish yourself by holding on to only part of a damaging relationship.  Allow yourself to grieve, as you allow yourself to rage, for only then can you let go and move on.  The gods teach us the living have power over the dead, but if you refuse to let them go, you may give unhallowed dead power over you in life.

Ship grave

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Heith Hotline; Thrice burned answers to the most burning questions.

 

The seeresses were dead, long dead, but Hel’s halls held no rest for the wise, not while the living were still foolish. The root of the great Tree Yggdrasil formed a bower, a cavern of dark roots and warming fires, hard by the rushing wave serpent, the mother of all rivers. Nine times nine they sat in their root carved chairs, staffs beside them marking them seidrwomen. With a sigh, the seeress Sigrun took up her crown and settled it on. Time for the first call.

“Heith Hotline. Thrice burned answers to the most burning questions. I am Sigrun your seeress, how may I help you”

Sigrun didn’t think much useful had come out of society since they stole electricity from the svartalfs, but she did think the “call center” was a big improvement over the traditional isolated cave, especially since Hel insisted on keeping a mead giving goat in the break room so the seeresses could self medicate, and play with the goats when the urge to return to Midgard and snip the threads of the particularly dim came upon them. At least now the seeresses could listen in on each others calls, and share a laugh over the foolish, and aid for the difficult calls. The first call had her snapping her fingers to bring the goat close. This would be a long mead filled shift.

(whining voice through headset)

“No sir, it is not the end times. Guaranteed”

(arguing voice)

“Sir, I am the seeress, and I am telling you that it is not the end, we don’t just get a memo, we have an actual phone tree that activates before Ragnaok even gets close. Heimdall is like the forth from the bottom of the list, we will definitely know first, and sir, we are not there yet”

(angry voice shouting)

“Sir, the flood is not a sign of the end times, it is a sign that deforestation and building on flood plains are both stupid. Before Ragnarok you are promised three winters without summers. What that means sir is that if your house was swept away by a flood, not a glacier, Ragnarok is at least four years off.”

(angry voice pleading)

“Sir, I can guarantee you will not see Ragnarok in your lifetime. In fact the next few weeks have little of note.”

(surprise and shock)

“That is right sir, your anger management issues and heart conditions have you scheduled to stroke out early morning two weeks from Thursday, but that is subject to change without notice, the Norns always allow you to choose otherwise)

(cursing loudly)

“Very good sir, thank you for calling Heith Hotline, thrice burned answers to your most burning questions. Have a nice remaining life”

Tapping the crown to end the session, Sigrun raised an eyebrow and stared into the web of wyrd that wove and rewove before her, factoring in the mortal choices with the knowledge of his impending doom to stress related circulatory issues.

Two seeresses beside her looked upon the weave and all three made the same estimation, the eldest crone spoke it with a chuckle.

“Tomorrow before dawn, screaming at his alter and throwing his runes, unhappy with the confirmation of his doom, he will bring it sooner. Triumph of a sort I suppose”

Her chuckle was cold as the mists of Niflheim.

The seeresses settled into their thrones, sipping their mead, and letting the shadows of the roots of the World Tree carry the visions of the web and its weavings to them.

Another call came in, and the seeress grinned. Whom the gods would destroy, or whom they would bless, they gifted the same; with truth. The mists of Nifthel swallowed the laughter of the seers, the river ran on, carrying water to the thirsty lands of Midgard, and the calls kept coming.

Death went on, as, one supposed, did life.

Seidrwoman

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Meetings in the Dog Park

I was walking my dog, for a given value of dog, sized between a large hamster and Trump’s toupee, in the offleash area of the dog park.  I was walking at twilight as my eyes were recovering slowly from a work injury, and my right eye was covered by a patch to compensate.  My little dog began to bark and charge happily towards something, which argued it had to be large, because he feared cats and dogs his size but was friendly as anything to predators whose jaws were longer than his entire body.

 

Indeed an old man with a staff was walking casually towards us, and coursing before him were two grey shapes large enough to saddle and ride to war.  As he approached, a booming laugh sounded through the twilight, loud enough to startle the murder of crows in the surrounding trees to caw madly in protest.

He pointed to the copy of Taking Up the Runes that was poking from my jacket and laughed.

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“A literate man I see, that is good.  Otherwise one of us would have to sacrifice the other on one of these rulers of the forest.”  He chuckled, gesturing to the brooding cedars that loomed above us in primal majesty.

 

As I brought my gaze to rest upon him, I noted his own grey brow where it emerged from his broad blue hat was likewise marked with an eyepatch, though his was old silk with the shadow of fine embroidery in the shape of the Valknut.  I shot a worried glance at his other eye and for one second heard again; no, that is not correct, felt again the din of battle, the bone shaking flesh punishing hammer of heavy artillery, the measured crack crack crack of rifle fire, the shouts of men, and the panting rattle and clank of men in heavy war gear running fast over bad ground.

 

He chuckled as awareness of who I had come across hammered through me like the thrust of his never missing spear.  I felt the shock through the wound he once gave me, and broke my eye away.  I turned to see his two wolves, if such a beast whose shoulders stood even with my own could be called such, turned together as another figure crashed between the trees, more on the scale of a grizzly or polar bear than any wolf.

My own dog barked mad defiance, but one great paw of the paired wolves of Odin pinned him from dangerous foolishness while the other stood before the newcomer, looking like as a fox before a bear.

The beast spoke with a voice that dripped wet blood hunger and hatred like an axe pulled from a living man’s belly.

“One eyed fool, you know it was promised you would die under my fangs at the twilight.  It is twilight now fool, and my fangs stand ready now!”

Odin turned and grinned at me, spreading his hands, one of which held his walking staff wide to his sides like raven’s wings as he taunted the beast.
“Fenris your churlish puppy, you might well succeed one day in swallowing me whole, I know your mother tries it on a regular basis!”

I really don’t think he is taking this seriously enough, you don’t make “your mama” jokes with the Fenris Wolf!

 

With a lunge Fenris rose like Jörmungandr, before his great head descended like the fall of night, jaws open wide enough to swallow not just Odin but the car he drove in with.  I braced myself to see the death of my god, the beginning of the end of days, to hear the thunderclap of those killing jaws slamming shut.  What I heard was the kind of yelp you get when you step on a small dog, only louder like it was projected through a megaphone.

I looked at Fenris, mouth open above Odin’s head, a terrified wide golden eye, and oddly arched back, like the great wolf was trying to do yoga, or stretch like a cat.
Odin’s walking stick stuck out behind him, and I noticed only now that it had a lizard sticker end, like warriors once put on their longest fighting spears for finishing downed opponents, or for sticking into the ground when you wanted your spear to stand and didn’t want to rust the great killing steel head.

Doing some mental math, I estimated where that spear head would be, and at once understood why Fenris froze, and why his body was arched so oddly.

Odin spoke quietly, musing, as if to himself.  For one beneath the jaws that would doom him he seemed unreasonably cheerful.

“The seeress sang that on the last day would I take the field, all my armies and all my sons beside me, and on that day, I will fall to your jaws.  The seeress said as well my son will tear your jaw asunder, and run you through with the sword I gave to him on his naming day.  All this she told to me, all this I gave to the skalds of the world to sing.  Did you ever hear what the seeress sang, oh bane of Bolverk, about whether you were neutered or not when you did it?”

 

A booming voice shattered the stillness.
“FENRIS, HEEL.  We had a bargain, and by my right arm you will keep it!”

 

A proud one armed man strode angrily towards the pair, a long curved stick with a ball lodged at the end clutched in his left hand, his right arm ending at a jagged stump.

 

Odin greeted him warmly.

“Tyr old chap, letting Fenris out in the off-leash areas are we?”

The Leavings of the Wolf nodded regally and responded “We are working on litter training him.  I swore if he went a week with no accidents he could have as long as a sperm whale can dive to play as long as he stayed in the park, and harmed no mortal creature”

 

Odin nodded sagely and intoned “Incentives are very important.  I think he would like to go play fetch the ball with you, more than he would like to continue the game we started, wouldn’t you Fenris old pup?”

 

With a whine, Fenris nodded and backed away, the soft sucking sound of a blade coming out of someplace tender made Odin chuckle in a way that made the darkest parts of me smile as well.

Odin turned his spear for his own wolves and my little dog to lick clean of the blood of the Corpse Wolf, and chuckled at Fenris cheerfully.

“Don’t feel bad Fenris me lad, many mortals get themselves pierced there on purpose.  You could put a ring or a bell in there for some festive flash, ladies go for that sort of thing.”

 

Fenris snarled faintly at Odin, but hung his head when he turned to face Tyr.  In a much lower voice the great eater of worlds rumbled softly.

“I did not harm the child of Ask and Embla, nor did I harm the mortal cur that disrespected me.  I kept my oath.”

Tyr slapped him not unkindly along the jaw and acknowledged it.  His voice boomed out like a generals command on the battlefield.

“Who is my good doggy?  FETCH THE BALL!”

 

With a shot that would make most artillery blush, his arm snapped down and launched a projectile the size of my head too fast to see.  A wolf the size of an armoured vehicle, two more wolves the size of horses, and one ridiculous ball of fluff the size of a mop tore off in pursuit, barking in three different, utterly happy keys.

 

Three men, for a given and variable definition of men stood in companionable silence of twilight as four dogs, for a given and variable definition of dog, snarled snapped chased and cavorted without a care in the nine worlds until the sun faded and we went our different ways.

 

Tonight, I resolved.  I will drink.  A lot.  Panda, my little dog, is already sleeping the sleep of the dim and contented, little legs twitching in memories of his chase with the two godly and one most baneful of wolves.

Forest Odin

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