Aesir, Asatru, Current events, Faith, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Pronouns, Access, and Hospitality

2018 Parliament Website banner2

I had the honour to represent The Troth as part of our Alliance For Inclusive Heathenry and Heathens Against Hate at the Parliament of World Religions.  There is a whole lot of good things that came out of this years Parliament, but before we can begin the gushing of the good, I would not be honest if I did not start with the caveats, the warnings about the things that I saw that a whole lot of people either were oblivious to, or comfortable ignoring.

“The Promise of Inclusion , the Power of Love” is the theme of the day, and one of the multi-faith panels that had a heathen on it was the panel on oaths and vows in the modern world.  Let us use that as a segue into analyzing what is promised by this years Parliament and what was delivered.

Promised are inclusion and love.  I admit, I am happy on some level to be home from the land of “Peace, Love, and Brown Rice” as we laughingly referred to it, as the theme of Agape love, or love of everyone in general (subtext; no one in particular in specific) is big in a lot of other people’s faiths.  We don’t really do that.  Perhaps that is why our own cultural lens of seeking ever to see the deeds that echoes the words causes me to brand part of this Parliament a failure.

Inclusion.  Honestly, this is the spot where you would expect a member of a minority religion, and that is what we are, to commence talking about being marginalized when the big number religions get together.  You won’t here that rant because Parliament got that part right.  Details could use work, but honestly at no time did I feel that we, nor the Native traditions were given any less than equal dignity (if not space and time) for the demographically more common faiths.  My problem is not with the inclusion when it comes to faith, it is about people.

Heathens as a rule don’t do Agape love.  We don’t unconditionally love everyone.  Some say its a failure on our part, but I have always viewed it as the honest unwillingness to say what you won’t back up with deeds.  If we say we love and accept you, you have a place at our table, behind our shields, and in our home.  If we don’t, you don’t.  We don’t say we love when we don’t plan on backing it up, and don’t say you are welcome if we do not extend the full extent of the laws of hospitality between us.  Parliament pretty much did not back up their words with deeds for many individuals.

Lisa was a member of our party who had come to Parliament with a torn meniscus in her knee.  Heathen’s are expected to suck it up and solider on, and she did so, not without complaint, but bitching about it in the approved manner of a Heathen woman not letting other people’s failures of hospitality get in the way of her doing her duty.  She came in a mobility scooter that would have been enough here in Vancouver BC, or where she came from in California, but was, in Metro Toronto and the Toronto Trade and Convention Centre not actually enough to help you get around.  Few elevators worked and could accommodate the scooter, it was almost impossible to do doors as the handicapped button required you to leap like a ninja out of the way once you pressed them, which is not often an ability of those requiring handicapped access.  The staff at the overpriced executive fleecing industries that run the core of metro Toronto and its centre were more than willing to leap to my every need, as they were to Lisa’s able husband.  They were oddly unwilling to even notice she was there, and would often answer her questions, those few times that they did, to her husband instead of her.

Including the handicapped?  Fail.

Jade is one of the reasons that I was really excited to go to Parliament.  I am a Canadian Heathen leader, but our nation is vast beyond the scale of most peoples imagination, and while I have enjoyed corresponding with fine Heathen leaders from all over this country, there are a number of amazing ones I have never had the chance to meet with, nor raise a horn with.  I finally got the chance to meet with Jade, and raise that horn together to the gods at Parliament.  This is the plus part, the minus part came in our discussions.  Now Jade was not complaining, she was accepting that these things happen, which is something that wounds me deeply, because she shouldn’t have to.

Jade made a comment, “Do you know how hard it is to find a bathroom here?” and it struck me.  I actually didn’t until she brought it up, but now I have to say its quietly alarming.  Jade is a whole bunch of things, the parts that are relevant to me are a dedicated Heathen gythia (priestess), master’s educated human resources professional specializing in employment inclusive issues, active community volunteer; but the part that was a problem here and now was the last descriptive, Jade is a transwoman.

At a gathering of the religious dedicated to the avowed purpose of celebrating inclusion, you would think that going to the bathroom is not difficult.  The problem comes in the gap between our speech about inclusion, and our actual actions.  Where does a transperson, an intersex person, non-binary person go to the bathroom surrounded by ten thousand plus deeply religious people, many of whom are really good at dressing up some pretty decent prejudice sets under cultural/religious trappings to make them look prettier than the reality of attacking strangers for attempting to use a bathroom that their particular understanding of gender identities does not think you have a right to.

A lot of places have big men’s, big women’s and several gender neutral/accessible washrooms for all manner of people, and family combinations (try having small children of opposite gender sometime and see how accessible things are).  The Metro Toronto Convention Centre is set up for only two genders, and perhaps one person who has different needs per building, if you can find it.

I opened my eyes a little further to look at the programming when some of our women, like my friend Lorrie told me that the coding on a lot of the women’s track had more in common with Z Budapest, the AFA, and Evangelical Christianity’s definition of cis-hetero gender normative woman than it did the rather broader spectrum of woman the Heathen community accepts as standard.  Reading a little closer, seeing things a whole lot of little words here and there that made it clear that the definition for woman in sacred spaces seemed to have a whole lot more filters than you would accept in an event about inclusion.

The bulk of the people at Parliament of World Religions left me with positive experiences, especially Allah’s little ray of sunshine who did more with her cheerful babbling and magpie curiosity than any hundred paid ambassadors could in a hundred years to advance the cause of acceptance for moderate Islam, but there were whispers around the edges that not everyone qualified for Agape love as practiced by the Abrahamatic faiths, and a bewildering corner of faiths including Pagan that really ought to know and do better.

On the plus side, a lot of people, including LGBTQ+, people of colour, people of smaller religious traditions without large community present and even people of the mainstream Abrahamatic faiths took to coming to our booths when they needed safe space to just regroup until they were ready to face the Parliament again.  On the minus side, a lot of them needed it.

Parliament did a lot to work on inclusion and acceptance.  It did as much to tell me that WE ALL need to do more.  Language matters, specific language that says we expect to be held to our explicit promise to be inclusive and welcoming to all our people.  I will honestly cop to not knowing how to use the pronouns to address the genders that were not accepted when I was growing up.  I absolutely now admit I see the real need to have them, to use them, because if we do not, there is NO REASON for anyone to assume we are not quietly and cheerfully deliberately excluding them, because a lot of the community really is.  Hear me now, I oath before my gods to learn to do better.  Hear these words and hold me to them.

Inclusive must be active and explicit, because hate driven exclusion happens in the silence and the quiet subtle coding between high sounding words of all embracing love.
Alliance II

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Current events

Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting: Latest cost of empowering hate

Tree of Life Shooting

It was to have been among the most joyous of occasions, a baby naming ceremony. This was not how it would end.  At 954 AM the peaceful worship of the Tree of Life Synagogue was shattered when a lone gunman entered with the intent of committing a hate crime, choosing to target the Jewish congregation during their worship services for brutal murder to further his own racist agenda.

Robert Bowers entered the Synagogue with hate in his heart, rifle and pistols in hand. Eleven dead and two wounded later, he attempted to exit, and exchanged fire with the first responding police officer, wounding them in the exchange.

Two uniformed officers and two SWAT members were injured, three from gunshots as they engaged the assailant. Full credit to the brave officers of the Pittsburgh police who did not hesitate in the face of an active shooter, and took all necessary measures, at the risk of their own lives, to secure the safety of the public. The shooter is in custody, wounded but stable, awaiting charges for his crimes.

The reasons for this shooting are sadly not unfamiliar to those of us watching the changing face of our society, the greater open advocacy of hatred against minorities. In the suspects social media posts he subscribed to the right wing conspiracy theory that “the Jews” were behind the migrant caravans fleeing failed states in Central and South America, calling them “Invaders”

“I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered,” Bowers wrote. “Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

https://www.cnn.com/…/pittsburgh-synagogue-activ…/index.html

It is becoming more common to hear the language of war being used to describe economic migrants, the term migrant being either equated or replaced with invaders, with the matching call to treat them as enemies of war, responding not with law enforcement or border patrol tactics, but with artillery and machine gun fire. While the border issues are complex and there are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed, this rhetoric is becoming common in the calls to send the army to deal with the migrants, and you cannot call for war from the pulpit, from the assembly floor, from the television studio without expecting that someone will listen, will take up arms, and seek out those you have described as invaders, as enemies, and murder them under the delusion they are somehow defending something other than blind hatred.

The shooter was a fool. His arguments are utter nonsense, and most likely deliberate falsehoods uttered for the simple reason that Antisemitism is a traditional outlet for European oligarchies in the face of rising internal strife. The European cultures that settled North America brought with them some of that same baggage and habits, and when a scapegoat is needed to blame internal problems on, the cry to blame the Jew for the troubles of the day is one of the most shameful tactics of a morally bankrupt elite afraid of the anger against their own excesses. It is shameful because it tends to work.

Hatred and acts of hate inspired vandalism and violence are on the rise against the Jewish, the LBGT+ community, those who dress in cultural clothes from outside mainstream European and English speaking North America, and of course, those that dare to speak any language other than English in public.

There is a war being waged on our streets and in our hearts. It is not being waged by immigrants, or Jews, or LGBTQ+. It is being waged by the most privileged class, straight white men, against anyone who has committed the crime of being born not the same as them, or for the crime of being the same as them but not supporting their hate filled causes.

The Troth is preparing right now to send its members along with Heathens Against Hate, and the Alliance For Inclusive Heathenry to the Parliament of World Religions to join with those of other faiths and cultures to build greater understanding and respect between all peoples of faith.

There are two choices that lie before our peoples in North America today. The first choice is to look at the differences between us and know fear, answering it with hate. This choice leads to riots, vandalism, assaults and acts of cowardly murder like today’s Synagogue shooting. The second choice is to look at the differences between us and seek to understand, to celebrate what each of us brings to this wonderful diverse culture that makes North America the great experiment and leading light of freedom.

We have chosen the second. We stand with the people of Pittsburgh and the Tree of Life Synagogue congregation as they struggle to deal with the shameful acts of this misguided and hate filled murderer. We choose to celebrate each other’s differences, choosing understanding, not fear, choose to build community not foster hatred. We ask all people of faith, indeed, all people of integrity of all faiths and none to stand with us in condemning the empowering of hatred, and the cowardly actions of today’s Synagogue shooter.

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Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Dark Times, Dark choices.

 

Children tell each other there are monsters under the bed, and they lie.  We tell our children there are no monsters in the darkness, and we lie too.  There are monsters.  Winternights have passed, and the long decline towards Yule allows the darkness to ascend.  The Hulderfolk, trolls, draugr and other baleful wights no longer fear the sun, and stretch forth their grasping hands from the shadows.

Oldest and strongest of magics are those of hospitality, greatest of all is the simple magic of the hearth.  What is warmed by a hearth, what is touched by its fire, whose boundaries have been marked by it, is warded by that hearth.  House wights chuckle in the firelight and dance in the shadows.  Petty mischiefs are theirs, yet also great wardings and healings are worked by their tiny hands, grown strong from a thousand offerings of mirth and laughter, stolen socks and offered treats.  In the center stands the hearth, the heart of the home, the flame that calls to Frigg, the smoke that carries every whisper to the Disir, and the ashes that hold the answers to a thousand questions never asked.

Against the wardings of the hearth come the claws of the Hulderfolk, but they cannot pass, for although the long night is theirs, and the moonlight their dawn, the hearthfire will bar them as strongly as Sunna’s own sun.  Any save the monsters we make ourselves.

Clara was crying again.  She was a fine strong girl, proud, bright, but the last years before the divorce were hard and ugly.  Her father had been a smart, laughing proud man.  Everyone loved him; mostly because he wanted them to.  He was always good at getting what he wanted, and even better at making sure those who didn’t give him what he wanted regretted doing so.  The worst monsters Clara met wore the smiling faces of family.

Chelsea was not crying, because Mother’s didn’t get to cry when their children were.  Mother’s had to be strong, even when they had nothing left.  Chelsea had gotten them out, her daughter and two sons had been won free from her husband and his controlling cruelty.  When Dominic could no longer control her, he tried to take them away.  When that failed, he chose to make sure he had the last laugh.  He killed himself, and left a note detailing that she had driven him to it.

 

That wasn’t the end.  He began to haunt Clara’s dreams first, then the boys.  The boys became sullen and distant, Clara became addicted to coffee and energy drinks, trying anything to avoid having to go to sleep, because at night, he came.
The hearth will protect you from anything save what you invite in.  Clara and the boys loved their father, for all that Dominic could be cruel when he wanted to be, when he wanted you to love him, you did.  Even when he was cruel, you wanted so much to please him, to make him be happy with you again, so that he would smile at you again.  Chelsea remembered that well from when he was alive.  She struggled so hard to protect her family from Dominic when he was alive, how was she to protect them from him now that he was dead.

Sitting sipping her wine she looked at her tarot cards and remembered Dominic laughing at her, telling her that there were no answers there.  Nothing on a piece of paper that wasn’t money could make a real difference, and gods knows he proved himself right when her restraining orders proved to be worth more as toilet paper than protection.  She spread the cards and winced.

Reversed King of Swords

King of Swords reversed.  Dominic.  Cruelty and manipulation.  Fine.  She knew it was him already.  What was she supposed to do about it?  She spread three cards

 

Nine of Wands, High Priestess, Death.

 

Nine of wands, last stands.  High Priestess, that was as much her card as the King of Swords was Dominic’s.  It was supposed to be her call to her magical self, her intuition, her maternal ancestors and magic.  Now it just reminded her of her inability to protect her children.  She looked at the last card.  Death.  Death didn’t stop Dominic.  He came for them in the night dead, even worse than he did when he was alive.

 

Slamming her deck to the table she went to reach for her wine glass when two cards spilled face up unasked.

 

Ten of cups reversed, broken family, broken dreams.  That she knew already.  Ten of Swords reversed, can’t get any worse.  Trembling, she reached out to turn one last card over.  What she had was losing her family, and it could not get worse.  What could she get if she dared?

Six of Wands

Six of wands stared back at her.  Victory.  If she dared.

Around the beds of her sleeping children she poured the sea salt.  Ringed round with Ran’s salt, she knew no dead would dare cross those lines, for Ran is a jealous goddess, and those she drags down into the dark are hers forever.  No thing not living may touch the salt of her sea blood and not be bound forever to her lightless depths.

Dominic would react badly to being denied. Living or dead, he was not a man it was safe to say no to.  She sipped her wine.  Tonight there would be an ending.  She prepared for their last night together similar to how she prepared for her first night as his wife.  Showering and doing her makeup, she turned her right cheek to the mirror, and made sure she showed him exactly the beauty he loved to possess almost as much as he loved to show off.  Turning her left cheek, she nodded and moved to the hearth.

Before the fire she stripped, for what was to come was a thing of naked truths, and naked power.  Love, hate, desire, life and death were too pure to be masked by clothes or lies.  Tonight, was about final truths.

 

To the hearth she stalked, and knelt before the flickering firelight.  With her fingers she traced in the ash and worked carefully to mark left side as her instinct told her she must.  Turning to  place her right side in the firelight, she drew the last salt circle around herself.  Magnificent as any temple statue, she stood in bronze lit perfection awaiting the shadow that would come for her children.

Opening herself to the other world, letting her mind drift into magical awareness, she felt the cold power, the mocking cruelty of Dominic as he came.  The ashes of her desire stirred, as ten thousand inner wounds also shrieked as all he was and once had been to her answered the feel of him.  She raised her head, and posed, right side painted bronze perfection in the firelight as his darkness took form and crept to the children’s bedrooms.  First the boys, then Clara he sought, and she felt his rage, heard his hissing and the vile threats he whispered as he stalked to her.

Dark hunger shone in his coal black eyes, and the lewd slash of his lips moistened under a pale and lifeless tongue as he traced them in visible desire as he stalked slowly towards her.  His voice was ghost cold, it made her flesh tremble in the cold horror of its malice.

“You can’t hide them forever, you can’t keep them safe.  No one can.  I can come in whenever I want, and I will never stop coming for what is mine.  Them first to punish you, and then you when they are broken, because only then will you understand why you shouldn’t have angered me.”

Right side lit in firelight, she gave him the yielding smile he knew so well.  She always let him get his way, it was safer.  With a toe, she carefully broke the salt circle protecting her, and let him surge inside to take what he was owed.

As he surged into the ring of salt, his cold white hands reaching out, and black eyes drinking in the naked perfection of his perfect conquest, his perfect trophy, the woman he loved only so long as she submitted, he froze in confusion.

Turning to face him boldly not submissively, while her right half was bronze perfection, black ash marked off naked ribs on her chest, and fine powder rendered her left side corpse pale, her lips the dead blue of the dead.

Half maiden fair, half corpse foul, she did not shy from his reaching claws, but reached out and folded him in her embrace.  Her hands wrapping in the tendrils of darkness that replaced the hair on his shadowed form as her lips sought his with a whisper of her own words and cold hunger of her need.

Hel veiled

 

“I could never keep them safe so long as you could walk.  I could never keep you out so long as any love for you remained.  You used our love to destroy our home and our lives, so now I use that love to end you.  Take the kiss of Hel, feel now the embrace of the keeper of the dead.  One last kiss, dearest Dominic, to send you forever into the dark.”

There was too much hunger for him to resist her light, and there was too much darkness in him to resist the gateway she had made of her flesh to Hel.  The kiss tasted of salt, tears for what was perhaps, tears for what should have been.  He didn’t scream as she devoured him with that kiss, his final surrender was too complete for that.

Standing between the firelight and shadow, her maiden’s face wept tears of loss and regret.  She was a healer who had killed, a lover who had destroyed.  Her corpse face bore a cold smile of completion.  She was a mother whose children will no longer fear the night.  She was a priestess who had balanced unjust scales.

Crossing to the altar plate, she poured out a splash of wine.

“Frigg, great mother, thank you for your wisdom and strength.  Ran, dark mistress of the sea, I thank you for your protection.  Hel, keeper of the dead, I thank you for your power, your grace, and your aid in this night.”

When she left the showers for her bed, none but the goddesses could tell if tears had joined the water with which she washed away the last touch of her husband, and they keep their secrets.

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

To the dregs

Old Giantess
Broken in my prime
They gave me drugs to take away the pain
Fenris fetters broke
Ran wild inside my skin
Ran red on my fists
I cast away the drugs
Bound the beast in howling need
.
Sought beyond the worlds
A way to live with the pain I could not treat
Old woman found at the wheel
Steel screaming upon her stone
Vast as giant
To me she gave a gift
Bound my pain like howling Fenris
.
Grinding wheel
Years of shining life
Battles, glories, mistakes and pain
Wine women and song
Daughters grown to strong glory
Proud and potent
Wyrd weaves doom again
Hanged man swing from the tree
.
Wandering between the worlds
Flesh bound to the tree
Old woman at the crossroads
Horn heavy in her hands
Wickedness glittering
In eyes blacker than hate
.
Fenris Horn
Laughing she presses
Heavy horn to my thirsting lips
Bitter brew chokes me
Blood and bile, pain and fear
Bitter ashes of defeat
Potent rage like ice and fire bound
Wode awful and naked
My body bends back like hunting bow
.
Giant crone ring hand locks behind my head
Not permitted to refuse this cup
Both hands lock around her horn hand
Eyes wild and fey
Beard running red with clotted blood
Bitter ashes of defeat
Bright burning rage fills my soul
.
Giant witch hissing
Strives to pull from me the horn
Snarling I gulp it down
Sea deep the bitter brew
Horrors born of my memory
Pain written in my bones
Death written in the oaths I spoke
Mine to the dregs
.
From her she hurls me
Unbroken I snarl
Bitter brew like blood from my muzzle drips
Cold eyes blacker than hate
Cold truths older than time
Meet mad eyes broken and risen
Stronger for the brew of endings
Not unmade but reborn
.
Howling I rise
Snarling she slams me back
Upon the tree
Hanging tree where I will ever be bound
Breaking One eyes children
Cannot stop us
Ever rising bound to the price of our path
Drink the cost of our choosing
To the dregs
.
–You never named yourself. Years ago you gave me a gift I cannot repay, one that freed me from the drugs that made me unsafe to be around those I cared for. I see the end of our path, although I cannot know when it will come, know I will not shy from it. I knew the price at the first sip, and I will drink this horn to the dregs.
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Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Beautiful or Terrible; choose when not which.

Beauty or Power

I had a wonderful woman going through a terrible time come to me with a problem while we were at a wedding feast.  She was a woman of beauty, grace, and fair courtesy, a woman blessed with strong will, great spiritual strength and the convictions of a mother who would do whatever it took to protect her children.  She was in the middle of divorcing a sociopath who had run out of levers to use against her when she stopped caring what he thought about her, or said about her.  What was left was, of course, the children.

His tactics were working on her for one reason and one reason alone, she believed a terrible myth.  She thought that because she was a good woman, she was of lesser power than him, of lesser threat because she loved her children and he didn’t.

No one would think that of a man.  A man is expected to grow more dangerous when he cares, a man is expected to be at his most dangerous when those he loved are threatened.  Yet to be honest, rare is it you will find a mother who cares less.

Ah, but here comes the lie that everyone has sold since the coming of Christendom.  Women, the fair and gentle sex.  To be hard, cold, and dangerous is to be ugly, unfeminine and unnatural.

Look up Old Norse Queen or Old Norse Woman sometime and you will find dozens to hundreds of beautiful young women, and even pass through into older Norse kings and warriors before you will find a single picture of an old Norse woman.

Queens

Beautiful women you can find by the bushel in our pictures and modern myths, maidens awaiting rescues, gracious queens by the score, and of course the Valkyrie warrior women who basically act as men, and thus avoid the supposed weakness of the female gender.

In our actual myths you see Unn the Wise (Aud the Deep Minded), seeresses, queens, noble women, and elder women by the bushel whose wisdom strength, determination and power were widely praised and remembered in story and song centuries after their death.  Yet not today.  Today we remember only the young and pretty, as if a woman must choose between being beautiful and passive, or unnatural, ugly and wicked if you actually choose to be strong, to stand up and defend what and who are yours.  We offer our women a simple choice it seems, helpless Snow White or hideous and twisted Evil Witch.

Freya is called the delight of dark witches, she leads the Wild Hunt and woe betide the man that crosses her or her ladies paths on that night.  Our goddesses didn’t just embrace their power and terror, they danced laughing in blood drenched shadows with it.  That is yours by right, as written in your blood as the grace some choose as your only defining value.

Snow White and the Queen

No one does this to men.  We are shown grey and proud.  Strong and potent in our hard earned scars and grey beards.  Our wisdom is heeded, our freedom to use our power is far greater even than that we knew in our youth because with the age and grey comes the expectation that such force as you use is driven by real need, not youthful pride.

The time came and passed centuries ago for women to stop accepting the false choice between grace and power.  There is no excuse today for us to accept that a woman should be passive or wrong, should be reasonable in the face of endless deceit and aggression, should chose always peace even when those she loves are being hurt.

The trap set by society is simple, you are asked to surrender your power or be seen as the heavy, the bad person.  Somehow, no matter what is done to you, or to those you care for, society seems to give women the choice to be good (meaning be polite, well mannered, gracious, and largely bewail the fates they don’t raise a hand to stop) or unnatural, irrational, out of control (love that one, because it reveals a lot) and unfeminine.

No one would call a man defending himself or his children out of control or irrational.  We are expected to throw down and Hel take whomever threatens our children, spouses or selves.  Somehow self defense is….unbecoming polite society.  I suggest society get used to it.

It is time for women to stop being afraid of the grey in their hair, the steel in their spine, or the fire in their bellies.  It is time for us to embrace something other than the damned maiden image of women.  It is time for women, like men, to not only accept the coming of their maturity, but embrace the power that comes from the experience they have lived through, to demand and receive the status that comes with having built a lifetime of worth through word and deed.

It is time for men to accept that just as we would not accept societies expectations as a reason to surrender our own power or duty to our own, neither will women.

A thousand times in fiction ranging from good to bad, and at least a hundred in life I have heard good men uttering the phrase “no more mister nice guy” before good men showed what happened when they stopped caring what people thought about them, and defended what and who was theirs.  It is time for “no more miss nice girl”, partly because its a trap, and mostly because nine times out of ten “nice girl” was being used to describe a woman like she was a pre-teen in the first place.

Respect is earned, power is wielded, and falling into the trap of letting your enemies constrain you with the “nice girl” limits of behaviour is surrendering your power to those who plan on abusing you and yours. Be gracious until someone threatens you and yours, then embrace every ounce of terrible that lingers in your blood and ram it down your foes throat.

Choose power.  Choose doing what you must and understanding that bitch means “one I fear” and “nice girl” means controllable prey.  Be a bitch, do not be prey.  Own your power, and surrender not one inch of what you earned.

 

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Asatru, Current events, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Reality of Consent Culture

I was with my youngest daughter (Alyssa who is 16) at a Heathen camp out event here in the lower mainland this weekend. With the current #metoo/#himtoo bullshit going on I was taking a look at how our community interacts and some really interesting things emerged.  It turns out I had somehow missed the development of consent culture locally before it became an issue that society openly discussed.

Alyssa axe throwingAxe target at local Heathen camp out

There are a lot of women in the community who have been assaulted sexually in the past, or who had been in abusive relationships. Granted these assaults were almost never (which is so not the same as never) by members of the Heathen community, but it brings home the reality that regardless of how much a good segment of the population likes to pretend otherwise, it is now, and always has been an issue that all women have to deal with, and in our community there is enough respect and honesty that these women, and a surprising number of men were able to come forward and talk about.

We are a loud proud and boisterous people. We are rich in craft, proud of the skills of our hands to create works of art, of strength and beauty, or of delicious goodness., We are proud of our skills in the hunt and war, dance and song, poetry and yes indeed commerce as well. We celebrate each others successes, we advocate for each other’s advancement and proper treatment in relationships, striving with great passion to make sure that those in our community are treated as we feel they deserve, not as they have learned to accept (usually wrongly). We are generally far better at making other people stand up for themselves than we are about doing so for ourselves, because everyone to some extent is blind to the lies they tell themselves; that is why community is so important.

We touch a lot. We hug a lot, we tease a lot, hair is ruffled, beards are ruffled and there is a lot of contact that ranges from cheerful roughhousing, heartfelt hugs or flirty silliness. I hear a lot about the supposed horrors that cis-hetero men are supposed to be cowering in about how you must somehow be terrified to interact at all for fear of accusations of wrongdoing.

Bullshit, stallion-shit, full on bear-shit. This is utter dung. Why is it that our community is so much more open with each other in these gatherings than “society” seems to accept?

Trust, respect, consent.

My daughter was asking some questions about how the relationships work when some of the couples present were discussing their open relationship, and we discussed how that worked as far as boundaries and consent is concerned, and how mutual respect is the key factor in making this type of relationship work. She asked simply if that wasn’t the case for every relationship and it hit me. That is the difference.

We, as a community, have a very real commitment to our people. We value each other, and this is expressed with the respect we show each other, with the demand that we always seek to know each others boundaries first, obtaining not implicit but expressed consent for contact, and are prepared to move those limits as the other person directs without fear of offense because we get that today someone may not be comfortable with what they were comfortable with last time we saw them for reasons having to do with them today, not you at all.

The culture of consent is not limiting, is not restrictive, it is freeing and beautiful. The reality of a culture of consent is that men and women feel free not to set their limits at the “on my worst day with my worst enemy I must be prepared to allow this” but rather at the level of “this gives me joy to be free to express in safety”.

I know a lot of men out there get upset when women react defensively to their presence, because after all they don’t view themselves as predators.  At the camp out, we gathered around the fire in the field between farm and forest.  When the farm dogs would bark, or when something would crack a branch in the dark of the forest beyond, conversation would still for a second or two as hands went naturally to knives and axes, eyes assessed the position of all children and dogs before scanning the treeline for threat signs because while the wolf or cougar KNOWS when it is hunting, the rest of the world must simply remain aware that predators are real, and don’t bother to advertise honestly when they are on the hunt.  All of the heathen men and women accepted this truth about the forest beyond our fire without question.  How much better will it be when the rest of the men accept this is the way the world beyond our fire looks to many of the women of the world?

Consent culture is something we can make, it does not restrict men or women from honest expression of self or desire, but it does remove the forest and shadows the predators hide in.  It is time we took those few islands of success we have crafted, largely through instinct and those lovely community building lessons the gods left scattered about the lore, and extend them into all the social circles and communities we are a part of.  Consent culture is about respect first and foremost.  Reciprocity and respect are the foundations of all heathen relationships both with our fellow humans and with the gods, spirits and ancestors.  This is something we should not only be openly teaching our own community, but understanding that we cannot, as heathens, build our worth in any aspect of our lives if we do not embrace not only as a choice, but as a necessity.  Consent culture is not something we should look upon as a liberal intrusion into our heathenry, but with the very real understanding that it has been something that was always rooted in our heathenry. Our long Christian centuries of treating women as property left baggage that too long crept into heathenry while we loudly swore we had rejected all of its ways.

We are not in a time where we can pretend sexual assault and sexual abuse is not present in our society.  We are in a time when we can chose whether we will embrace consent culture, and the fundamental principals of reciprocity and respect as the foundation for our interactions, or we can continue to embrace the existing culture of denial and shame.  I am proud that our local Heathen community has chosen to embrace consent culture, not only for what it frees the women of the community to be, and express, but for what it frees the men to do as well.  When the rest of society chooses the same of its own will, perhaps we may see a day when there will be no need for a #metoo movement.

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Asatru, Heathen, Uncategorized

Wedding Magic

We came this day to wed Stephen and Nathalie.  To those who know them, this is a wedding between the roaring fire that throws back the night for the revels of the dancers in a hundred darken groves with the wild falcon whose grace shames the sun for the glory of the sky, whose eyes see ten thousand secret things and whose joyful cry would part the clouds.  Given that, there was little chance it would be other than magical.

It was the equinox, when summer waned and fall began.  We hang upon the change as dawn broke, at least I assume it broke.  It was hard to tell as the clouds showed us what happened when Thor chose to wring out every cloud in the sky at once.  Of course it did.  I was officiating a wedding for one of Loki’s beloved sons, so how could anything other than chaos herald its coming.  I gave offerings to Odin because of debts owed and Thor because he is the best husband of the pantheon and usually counted on to not be a dick about big things, but I set out to make sure the copies of the vows for bride and groom wind and waterproofed, that the fire for the land taking and was well shielded, and set about making sure I had backups for everything that might be missed, lost, or broken.  I am not paranoid, I have done this before.

Arriving on site, chaos was the order of the day.  A great untidy, majestic chaos marked the site as fair maidens flitted like so many fairies from the deepest groves on missions of bridely urgency, groomsmen and your humble priest fetch, carried, climbed, rigged, built, stowed, moved whatever the ever more mysterious women pointed to with the sort of calm that is possessed by deep sea sailors riding the crest of a five fathom wave with a ship that is probably not going to snap in half at the trough, so just relax and enjoy it.

I lit the fires for the land taking in the lantern that had served as Fire Token for the Gathering For Life On Earth those years I had done the opening and closing rituals, and had served as hearth-fire and focus for Frigga upon her altars when our own hearth was out of reach.  As we walked the ground, the wind rose and howled, and the flame in the lantern burned high and bright, but it did not bend.  It stood spear straight and defiant until the wind backed off in submission and I began to get a sense that chaos may ring the event round, but its heart would be a center of calm and blessing.

The site chosen by the bride showed her own depth of vision, for the Queen of the Grove stood ancient and arrogant in her power at the fences edge, a heavy skirt of mossy roots ringed her trunk and a crown of heavy branches thick with lush leaves swept majestically over the place where bridal party and groomsmen would attend.  One of my dearest friends and favourite priestesses, Violet, had attended with some of her wonderous mead, and I asked her to offer some to the Queen of the Grove for her blessings upon the occasion, and I will not lie, the hiss of the wind through the swaying branches faded to a soft and gentle whisper when she did.

The groomsmen came with the groom.  Carrying the gift for the bride’s family, and his ancestral token, they stood at his side like a wall of bannermen in imperial purple and black.  Stephen stood with his back to the path, his best man gripping his shoulder to keep him from turning until the bride stood at his side at last.

Scotland the Brave sounded over the glen, and a majestic sight drew every eye as Nathalie and her bridesmaids processed.  She was resplendent in wild greens and black, her makeup touched with vine and flower to match the forest fey mystery of her dress, and the windings of her own skin’s markings, the tale of her own progress of craft and power.  The wings upon her back seemed fitting as her beauty was otherworldly, fey, fair and also terrible in its intensity.  Behind her marched a rank of shield maidens, bright gowned and fair as they attended her as fairy queens attending Freya when she leads the wild hunt.
Bridal Party advances
As the bride took her place, I bid Stephen turn to face her, and when their eyes met, her beauty struck him like a hammer, and the pure elemental response from him drew such a response to him that the air between them danced with tension the axe borne by the bridesmaid could not cut.

They pledged their love, voices calm and controlled, sea deep and ringing not with passion, but with soul deep conviction.  In the back, a baby cooed happily, and I think the rest of us probably wanted to as well.  Gifts were given from each to the to the others parents in gratitude for the spouse they took this day.  Stephen gave to Nathalie his ancestral token,  shifting his duties from his mother’s hearth to the hearth they would form this day.  As she vested him with the axe, he tied about her waist the keys that symbolized that they formed a new hearth this day, and that together it would be theirs to hold, build and defend.

Nathalie and Stephen wedding

They pledged their troth, and with trembling hands, and trembling voices, pledged to meet each challenge together.  When Stephen spoke his vows, and I bid him to offer his own words to his bride, what came from a mouth so known for Loki’s easy laughter and swift jokes was nothing less than the pure and naked admission of his love.  It is a testimony to the skill of her makeup artist that her face remained so heartrendingly perfect, for both their eyes were tear bright after that.  I couldn’t tell you if the audience teared up as well, as my own were pretty blurry at that point as well.  When she answered both perfectly with her vows, and as soul baring honestly in her simple expression of love for him.  So few words to contain so much power.

I bound their hands to complete the blessing of their union, but in all honesty, I don’t think the axe could have separated their hands at that point, or their eyes.  But one duty remained, and I pronounced them man and wife and bid them to kiss.  It is a tossup to say which moved faster, but during the wedding feast the sound of knife on glass sounded so many times to demand a repeat performance that we established a definite eagerness in each of them to kiss at the slightest excuse.

Nathalie and Stephen kissing

As the feast wore on, the words from so many people told the same story.  Whether first Nathalie’s friend or first Stephen’s, both told similar stories about how Nathalie or Stephen brought powerful and healing changes into their lives.  Individually, each has been a powerful force in the community, bringing healing and growth where they pass.  Nathalie as a direct healer, and Stephen as the laughing jester, the one from whom no pain is hidden, and to whom no pain couldn’t be shared.

That they found each other shows that wyrd may just weave some people as they deserve, for rare as it may be, each of them deserves a partner exactly as supportive as they received.  Chaos ringed the event in quiet corners, stuff appearing and disappearing at random in such continual flow as to simply make you shrug and either put something out for the local fairies or flip Loki the bird for messing with all the guests at the wedding, but it was all in bright good humour.

It was a magical event in all respects, and it should surprise none that the rain began only as I drove away.  It was a day brightly woven, and the beginnings of a bright future for two special people we were blessed enough to see wed beneath the Queen of the Grove on the turning of the Equinox.

 

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