Uncategorized

Building Inclusive Heathenry

Usually I keep organizational stuff separate from my personal blog, but this topic is as much personal, and yet simultaneously a broader one affecting our whole society, that I am reposting it here in my blog.  We make no claims to be able to fix the whole of North American society, which seems bent on turning on itself.  We can, and will fix our own culture by setting aside the pettiness that had been allowed too often to prevent us from working together towards a future strong and harmonious community.

Troth Opinion and Editorial

The Troth has long held a vision of Inclusive Heathenry which has been central to both its organizational purpose and culture. We believe that there is room under our roof beams for those of many heathen traditions and understandings of the many tribal cultures left to us by our ancestors, and indeed, various visions of their rebuilding and rebirth in our own generations. We do not accept that there is a definition of Heathen that is based on the labels that our North American culture seems compelled to divide itself along; we do not accept the artificial, arbitrary, and flawed view of race that has been brought into heathenry from various racist groups who attempted to usurp our symbols and lore to re brand an 19th and early 20th century Christian racism with new heathen trappings, and pretend that the “white race” was not an invention of this continent and this past two centuries. We understand that our gods and goddesses present us with no single vision of how to be a good and worthy man or woman, so we reject utterly the idea that you must conform to gender roles and sexuality norms that are honestly based on the mythology of the 1950’s post WWII North American culture than any ancestral understanding of gender or sexuality.

Inclusive Heathenry does limit itself by race, gender understanding, or expressed affectional choice. It is not Universalist, as Inclusive Heathenry is not a catch all that will hold every person who does not self describe as Christian, Muslim, or Jew. Inclusive Heathenry does limit itself to those who revere the teachings, practices, gods, goddesses of the Germanic and Norse tribes. Inclusive Heathenry also limits itself to those who respect that those who respect and accept that persons of any race, gender, or expressed affectional choice who revere the teachings, practices, and gods of the north are heathen. If you cannot accept that persons of a given racial, gender, or sexual orientation label have a right to be heathen, then you are not an Inclusive Heathen by our understanding.

The Troth built for itself an Inclusive Heathen community, but as worthy a deed as this is, the question becomes, is it enough?

No.

It is not enough that our community is an Inclusive Heathen community, for as much as we are an Inclusive Heathen community, the last word, community is an accurate one. We have our own thew, our own belief and practice. There are many who agree with our stance on Inclusive Heathenry who are not part of our Troth community, either because they do not feel the need for connections beyond their local, or because some point of their own thew or practice differs from ours. There are a thousand ways to be good and worthy heathens, not all of them will fit under the banner of a single hall, even The Troth’s.

There are groups out there who seek to pervert our religion as a tool to further their own racial/political agenda. It is a sad truth that there are many more people looking for reasons to justify their own prejudice than there are seekers of any one religious truth, as a result, it is far too easy to find a group who will teach you how to justify your hatred using bits and pieces of lore out of context, and how to brand it with runes stolen from a faith they don’t have any intention of learning.

It is not enough that The Troth has built an inclusive hall, nor is it enough that we openly and continually oppose the misuse of our religion and its symbols by the alt-right and white power hate groups. We do not have the luxury of standing alone, while our enemies actively band together to spread their messages of hate.

There are many Inclusive Heathen communities. The standard for Heathen communities in my lifetime has evolved into a thousand variations of inclusive heathenry, in each local and ethnic flavour imaginable. With Declaration 127, the Troth joined its voice to those of 180 organizations of twenty different nations, representing everything all the myriad traditions within heathenry, in stating that we oppose our religion, its symbols, gods and lore from being used to further discrimination or hatred based on race, nationality, orientation, or gender identity.

This was the first time the entire Heathen community came together and spoke with one voice to state for the whole world to hear, that the modern heathen community is an inclusive heathen community. From Canada to Venezuela, Austria to Australia, and every corner of the US; whatever doctrinal differences we like to argue about, we are united in the understanding that heathenry is inclusive by nature. Other groups practicing racial politics dressed up as religion were called out for it, and indeed cast out for it.

Building Inclusive Heathenry begins at home, at your own heart and hearth, in your own kindred and hall. It does not end there, not if we wish to protect our good name, our heritage, and our works from being stolen and tainted by those who simply wish to mine them for coverings for their hatred. To build inclusive heathenry into a whole and healthy culture, where each of the many groups who banded together under Declaration 127 can share and work together requires work in building bridges of understanding, in building an understanding of the many different ways we have individually found to express inclusive heathenry.

The Troth took part with various European and North American partners to put on Frith Forge, to bring Inclusive Heathen organizations from Europe and North America together to build an understanding between our two branches of heathen culture, and to begin to dispel some of the misunderstandings and stereotypes that have made cooperation between us difficult for so long.

It is not enough to stand alone, or even to look at your own inclusive hall and know you have got that part right. We, as Heathens, must deal with two very real issues about messaging. First, the outside world will judge those who self-identify as Heathen by what the outside world understands that to mean. If we allow racists to control the messaging, using our symbols and holy names unopposed, we allow them to become synonymous to the outer world with racist, homophobic, and misogynist views put forth by groups which we have already established do not speak for heathenry. Second, if we allow our symbols and holy names to be used unopposed to publish hate literature disguised thinly as religious doctrine, we risk allowing this toxic lie to be the only form of information about heathenry that newcomers are able to readily access.

We must work harder at getting our own messages out there, must be better at making our own information easily found, and our own groups easily contacted by seekers who are looking to learn about heathenry.

One last thing we must do, and as a community, this will require letting go of some toxic behaviors we have tolerated too long. We must stop attacking each other over doctrinal differences. If we agree on the principals of Inclusive Heathenry, and we agree on roof beam thew (the right of each organization that its own custom reigns supreme in its own hall), then while we can (and will) disagree with other groups and individuals interpretation of this bit or that bit of lore or ceremony, we will no longer permit this to move to condemning the practice or organization of other Inclusive Heathens.

The Troth does not wish to set “proper thew” for Heathen’s everywhere, nor does our Steer have any dreams of becoming a de-facto Asa-Pope, or ultimate authority of Heathen doctrine. We really do reserve the right to run our hall in keeping with the customs and understanding of our membership; we respect the right of every other  Inclusive Heathen hearth, kindred, or organization to do the same. We can share a commonality of purpose, a joint belief in inclusive heathenry, without demanding orthodoxy or orthopraxy.

Let us show with our own hall, what a frithful Inclusive Heathen organization can be, and let us show how Heathen organizations can come together in common cause, working towards a common understanding without giving up our own sovereignty, identity, or thew. We can build an inclusive heathenry that unites all of our peoples, without taking away any part of what makes each of them separate and unique.

John T Mainer

Redesman of The Troth

 

Advertisements
Standard
Uncategorized

Is Santa Claus Real

A good time to remember

mainer74

Image     It is a bit like asking if gravity or air are real, they are demonstrable, quantifiable, but I will grant you easily missed if you aren’t looking the right way, or look a mind that will not accept what the eyes perceive readily.

Odin is the god with the most kennings (use names, bynames, and aliases) of any god in any pantheon in history.  One of them is Father Jul, the Yule Father to whom the Tree was raised, and offering given even when Christianity’s coming forced the tree to come indoors, or when Coke decided he needed to wear their colours to sell Coke at Christmas.    The oldest name of Odin, like his associated rune, and his gift to man at creation are the same: inspiration.

God of war, god of poets, god of chieftains, yet the words that come to us from him are largely about gift…

View original post 1,054 more words

Standard
Asatru, Current events, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Frith Forge Report

Frith Forge

I get that this is my blog, but sometimes I have to admit, that other peoples words really are more important, and today I am going to share Amanda’s.  She is a friend, a colleague, and one of those amazing women that make Heathenry worth practicing.

What is Frith Forge?

 

Inclusive Heathens/Asatruar gathered from around the world in Werder/Petzow Germany October 5-8, 2017 for our international conference, Frith Forge! Representatives from Germany, USA (including Deitscherei), Norway, Sweden, Denmark, United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Spain, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands attended. Those of us who could attend became (in true frith and friendship) a council of elders, organization leaders and international representatives, Stewards, Clergy, academics, and curious individuals. Discussions were outstanding, highly intelligent, inspiring, joyful, intense, deeply respectful. We created a healthy fertile ground from which future collaboration can grow from robustly and with warm enthusiasm. For me personally Frith Forge was an enriching, magical, deeply meaningful, and transformative experience of the highest magnitude. I am inspired to permanently continue to offer my support and build upon what we have started. Even our most skeptical of guests reported back that it was “mind-blowing”. We created a powerful connection among us that we will nurture with conscious and ongoing collaboration in our “working group” that we may decide to formally establish as an umbrella organization to support inclusive Heathenry/Asatru initiatives. Frith Forge inspired a stronger sense of community and strengthened fruitful collaboration among our inclusive organizations. Frith Forge was not just a one-time event. It is an on-going initiative that supports our inclusive ideals and so much more. Come join us.

 

Organizations/groups formally represented at Frith Forge included:

 

The Troth (USA based/international), primary sponsor. Verein für Germanisches Heidentum e.V (VfGH) (Germany), co-sponsor. Distelfink Sippschaft (USA). Alliance for Inclusive Heathenry (USA). Asatru-EU. Forn Sed Sweden. Eldaring (Germany). Åsatrufellesskapet Bifrost (Norway). Asatru Schweiz (Switzerland). Asatru UK (United Kingdom). Pagan Federation, Deutschland (Germany). Pagane Wege und Gemeinschaften (Germany). Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) (USA based/International). 9 Werelden (Netherlands). Nordisk Tingsfællig (Denmark). Ásatrú Ibérica (Spain). The full program can be viewed online at https://events.thetroth.org/frith-forge/2017 also gives summaries of the other excellent presentations and biographies of presenters.

 

The vision of Frith Forge was received more whole-heartedly than I anticipated. Frith Forge was an idea that came out of The Troth’s International Relations and Exchange Program. We wanted to have an international conference. Building on that I envisioned that it should be an international conference among INCLUSIVE Heathen/Asatru organizations and individuals that should meet in frith and build alliances. Once at Frith Forge we gave a lot more power to the impressive shift away from the angst of “You’re doing it all wrong. You’re not the boss of me.” to the frithful and curious tone: “This is how I do it. How do you do it?”. The Asatru-EU and others at the International Asatru Summer Camps had begun that shift prior to Frith Forge. I am so grateful we were able to build upon that foundation. Gods we need more of that in the USA and in online discussions! We need more of that everywhere. Frith Forge was particularly successful in bringing together the inclusive American and European Heathens/Asatruar. In the future I hope to see groups and individuals from more countries able to engage in person.

Though most or all of us in attendance have “been around a while” we all still learned a lot. It may take a little while longer for us to start articulating exactly what it is that we learned. I can’t emphasize enough how inspiring this conference was. I brought with me and shared the concept of “Social Vaccines” that protect us from and reduce implicit and explicit bias. A concept I learned from an amazing woman I work with, Nilanjana “Buju” Dasgupta, Director of Faculty Equity and Inclusion, and Professor of Psychology at The College of Natural Sciences in The University of Massachusetts. Earlier this year I attended her Distinguished Faculty Lecture on the concept of “Social Vaccines” and shared it at the beginning of the Round Table discussions at Frith Forge. In exchange I learned that it worked, the social vaccine and our dreams for Frith Forge worked!

 

From my personal perspective:

 

Frith Forge is probably the most meaningful and worthwhile Heathen/Asatru event I’ve ever been to. Some highlights for me included Diana Paxon’s presentations at Frith Forge. She masterfully described everything I wish I could articulate. Stay tuned for the video of her new presentation “Balancing on the Rainbow Bridge: How to we reconcile ethnic pride, inclusive ideals, and Heathen traditions?”. I am deeply grateful for Haimo Grebenstein’s masterful ritual leadership and work prior to and for Firth Forge and The Sacred Sites Tour of Germany that followed. The rituals were amazing and transformative. Everyone who attended was so interesting and cool 😉! I am grateful for Rob Lusch Schreiwer’s leadership in The Troth. His hospitality and dedication are deeply appreciated. I’m grateful for all of you who supported Frith Forge in person or in spirit from your homes, and those who will continue the work we have done. Looking ahead I’m particularly grateful for Robb Lewis for spearheading the “working group” and potential umbrella organization that is developing from this so that our efforts and connections are nurtured and maintained as effectively as possible.

 

Will there be another?
As Frith Forge should be “rare and special”. Perhaps once every 3 years. Details to be determined.

 

What does this mean for Troth members- or why should the regular individual troth members care- what’s in it for you basically? How can you get involved?

 

You might have attended Frith Forge or will appreciate the videos of Frith Forge presentations that will be posted online. Perhaps you would like to join us online and chat with many of the attendees of Frith Forge and many other Heathens/Asatruar from around the world by joining The Troth’s IREP discussion group on Facebook or join us in person at the International Asatru Summer Camp July 28-August 4, 2018 in Jugendherberge Eifelsteig, Gerolstein, Germany .

 

You might also appreciate reading the recent article in The Atlantic, “What to do when racists try to hijack your religion”. This article mentions Frith Forge and includes interviews with Hilmar Hilmarson, Frith Forge speakers Diana Paxson, Ulrike Pohl, and Karl Seigfried. The article reflects on one of the reasons why we created Frith Forge to begin with. This article also speaks of Karl’s Frith Forge presentation, “A Better Burden Towards a New Asatru Theology” which includes a call for inclusive Heathens to write original theological essays which he will edit and compile into the first international anthology of the public theology of Heathenry.

 

Hopefully soon we will all be benefiting from some books translated into English from other languages and vice versa. This is in ‘the works’ stemming from our Frith Forge working-group. Or maybe you have or will enjoy future tours like the Sacred Sites Tour of Germany. The Troth is always appreciative of volunteers who would like to engage to help us make a difference. If you would like to volunteer you can contact me as The Troth’s Volunteer Coordinator at Volunteers@thetroth.org, or AmandaLH@thetroth.org. I also recommend staying connected using the IREP Facebook group or contacting me directly as Program Coordinator for IREP at IREP@thetroth.org. Let us know what’s going on in your area, and any ideas you would like to see made a reality. Let’s continue to engage in Frith together. Like my new friend Solveig from Germany said: “In a strong community we can ward off heavy storms – like the one that rampaged over our heads (at Frith Forge)”.

 

In Frith and Service,

 

Amanda Leigh-Hawkins

High Rede Member

International Relations and Exchange Program Coordinator

Officer Liaison

Volunteer Coordinator

New Steward for Western MA, NH, VT, ME

www.thetroth.org

 

Standard
Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Sir, Ma’am and mass shootings

Hello Kitty AR

 

Already I have pissed a whole bunch of people off because they don’t identify with those gender pronouns, but society hasn’t actually replaced them with anything as an honorific that is not gender based, or that covers genders other than the genetic binary.  I guess the reason for that I will be addressing in later paragraphs.
When the German tribes encountered the Roman’s for the first time, they brought back the report that their interaction could only end in blood.  The reason?  The German people invested everything in their word; their given word was the basis of all contracts, business, marriage, alliance, allegiance and any other form of relationship.  The Romans had a profession, called lawyers, who existed for the sole purpose of allowing you to pledge your word, derive the benefits from the agreement made, and then renege on it due to tricks of your lawyer.

 

In British Parliamentary tradition, we refer to the elected members as the “Honourable member from (whatever riding)”.  There was a time it meant just that, honour was required of a man to operate in public life, and dishonourable conduct cost you the ability to do business, and would cause you to resign your elected office or appointed office rather than let your personal dishonour taint your office.  This was not codified in law because they didn’t conceive a day would come when a person in public life would choose position over public honour.

Society was more polite for a reason; if you failed to be polite, you might well be called out to answer for your slurs with sword or pistol.  Slurs or slanders were not something you could drag out in the courts, or skirt the edges of the law to avoid punishment for, if you insulted someone seriously enough, you could legally be killed for it.  There were limits to your speech having nothing to do with law, and everything to do with societies understanding of the requirements of respect for public life to exist.

Duel

 

My grandfather addressed everyone as Sir or Ma’am unless he knew their names.  This was in no way subservient, as he was a proud man, but one who treated each and every individual with a certain degree of respect until and unless they demonstrated through their deeds (not their dress, or property) that they deserved either more or less.  When he chanced upon two protesters burning the Canadian flag at the Cenotaph commemorating his fallen brethren (actual brethren, his brother’s in fact), he demonstrated with seventy six year old fists that a Sgt of the Grenadier Guards was easily the master of any number of gutter punks, because respect for the dead was enforced by the living, and instruction was brutal as it was swift.

 

When I joined the army I became aware slowly of the way we operated.  Those you knew well you addressed with the most horrible obscenities cheerfully, while those you did not know you addressed with careful and formal courtesy.  We were not modern society, we were a slice of another age, where honour was considered to be a real, important, and defensible thing, and where lethal force was assumed to be a potential in every interaction.  Courtesy was given to every individual as part of the culture, and only those whom you had close personal bonds with could be treated with anything less than that formal respect.

Personal space was treated the same way, you gave everyone their personal space, because intruding into it was an attack.  Drill Instructors or senior NCO would only intrude into this space to make a point about exactly how upset they were about a particular infraction.  Even then, careful lines were drawn where the competence of an individual could be questioned, but never, EVER their honour, or their family, for the soldier would be permitted and expected to defend his or her name, even against their own officers and NCO’s.  Without honour, you could not be a worthy soldier, so defending your honour was a soldier’s right.

-

Courtesy was the culture (along with violence, alcohol, stress, and a total lack of self care when it came to personal injury, but no family is without flaws).

 

In armed courteous societies violence as a potential is always there, but the idea of mass violence is not.  In essence, courtesy is about respecting the limits we acknowledge each other’s right to defend with force.

Enter the twin forces of law and liberalism.  First we have the rule of the law, which degenerated quickly into the rule of the lawyer, and now the lawyers sacred moral vacuum has effectively removed all traces of honour from a defensible place in public life.  You no longer need your honour to operate in public life, as long as you are able to avoid jail, you are free to do as you please.  Add the subtle poison myth that violence never solves anything; demonstrably untrue, yet somehow accepted now as the basis for proper behavior, and you have today’s society.

 
We fail utterly to treat each other with courtesy.  Our politicians are not “straight shooters” because they are not polite to their opponents, they are muck raking slanderous demagogues whose success or failure in public life depends on their ability to make the largest possible segment of the population angry at those that disagree with it.  Our politicians and media do not seek nor speak the truth, the take an once of truth, wrap it in five pounds of barbed wire, dip it in manure and whip it at people, for the sole purpose of shocking and offending them with what they understand full well is only by the strictest legal definition not quite a deliberate lie.

 

When men offer courtesy to women it is considered sexist, when the offer it to other men it is taken as weakness.  When women offer courtesy to men it is considered either subordination or an invitation to sexual advances.  When women offer courtesy to other women it is considered to be suspect if the women are not of the same social/economic strata and subculture.  It has become the norm to assume mockery if respect is offered across any divides at all.

 

We treat each other not with a default respect, but with a default contempt.  We do not look upon our fellow citizens as men and women of honour until they prove otherwise, we view them as most likely as scum or possibly even threats.

 

Now you look at generations ago, when almost everyone had guns, and there were so few mass shootings, and look at today, where mass shootings require something really special to make the news and people are busy wondering why.

I am not.

 

The guns are not the problem, they are being used because of the problem.   We had guns before, and swords before that.  We had respect before, and that we have lost.  We had the belief that we owed every human being courtesy, but we lost that.  Courtesy was owed them, because they were real people and how we treated them was part of how we built our own worth in society.  You could not be an honourable man or woman if you treated others discourteously.  No one cares about honour or courtesy anymore, and we treat each other with a shameful degree of contempt calculated by our lawyers to be just inside the limit of the legally actionable.

 

Now the only people speaking of honour don’t really mean honour in the sense that our language inherited the term from the Germanic peoples, they mean Middle Eastern or Mediterranean cultural territorial violation, whereby some male has trespassed by touching, talking to, or generally interacting with a woman of their family, which they treat the same as theft of their property.  Key point to keep in mind, women are not property, they are actually the other kind of people, just a little over half of all people.

 

We need to begin as artists, as poets, songwriters, speechwriters, as teachers, as instructors, managers, mentors, parents and (gods help me) politicians to begin to make a conscious effort to romanticize courtesy.  We need to make courtesy cool, we need to make it what we think of when we think strong confident powerful; this must naturally result in courteous.
We grew vulgar, course, crass, crude and hateful over generations of calculated malice. It will take generations of calculated deliberate courtesy by those who are our icons of culture, politics, business, to again make the definition of successful, popular and worthy in our society to be courteous.

 

We had guns and courtesy without mass shootings.  We have guns and no courtesy and we have mass shootings everywhere.  Take away the guns and we are left with stabbings, trampling crowds with automobiles and whatnot.

 

We do not need the law to fix this, we can do it OURSELVES.  We can bring back courtesy.  We can begin to make a fetish of politeness, a game of manners, a power statement of etiquette.  Fashion in recent generations has been shallow and venal, but the same tool can indeed be turned consciously towards making courteous treatment of others to be the only possible action for anyone who wants to think of themselves as strong, smart, powerful, or sexy.

 

Don’t worry, gentlemen got laid.  Courteous women argued and won, the ends that we desire and the competition we need are still possible in a courteous society, but with the outward forms of courtesy come the very real inward forms of respect.  Call someone sir often enough and you won’t be thinking “coon” “white trash” “queer” “rag-head” “freak”, but find yourself treating them with respect and receiving the same in return, regardless of what labels you might apply to them if you were not constrained by courtesy to actually treat them as an individual and not a nameless member of a class you judged already.  Call someone ma’am and you are less likely to feel comfortable grabbing her ass as she passes by or feeling free to call her a whore for the crime of not wanting to have dinner with you, or dressing in a way you don’t approve of.  Call someone ma’am often enough and you will find yourself thinking of her as a person, not whatever label sets your teeth on edge and makes you free to use such hateful language and shameful actions.

Gentleman meeting lady

 

Courtesy is artificial, so is society.  Man in the state of nature is little better than the poo throwing monkeys in the zoo.  What sets us apart is the structure we choose to create for our society, that allows us to come together and act for our collective interest.  It is all made up.  It is all made up either by our deliberate invention, or by thoughtless drift.
Thoughtless drift got us to the age where we look upon each other as unworthy, we interact with each other as unworthy by default, and we see so little value in each other as individuals that we are able actually to see killing each other in large numbers as an adequate way to express a thousand different personal issues.
I kid you not, courtesy is the foundation of valuing each other as people.  Seeing each other as people, as individuals of worth by default, is the only real bar for mass killings.  We will still kill each other, but Joe will be killing Bob over a very personal reason, not Jamal, Suzi, Yuki and Misha happened to be in McDonalds the day Floyd finally lost it over a stale set of fries and emptied his pistol into the restaurant.

 

Laws won’t stop mass killings.  Courtesy will.  We have always been good at killing, but we used to be courteous and respectful as the cornerstones of our second and just as important skill set; not killing.
Odin teaches us a gift for a gift, and spends the bulk of his only words to us telling each other not how to kiss up to the gods, but how to treat each other with respect.  How to recognize relationships that are not balanced and to fix them.  Odin is the chooser of the slain, the battleglad, the feeder of ravens, yet even the one who wins in every battle, to whom the slaughter is sacred, tells us that we really need to focus on treating each other with respect, and building strong, respectful, and reciprocal relationships with each other if we plan on leading a good, worthy, or successful life.

 

I think you can make a difference, every day.  Every one of you.  If you read this far, you actually care.  If you read this far and understood, then you know you can become the active agent of change to begin to steer our society to a healthier place, where we respect, rather than fear each other.  We can reach a place where Sir and Ma’am are so common that society feel compelled to get around to updating its pronouns for modern understandings of gender, or coming up with a term to respectfully apply to individuals of any gender.  Heck, dude would work, if the common usage of dude became an honorific.

Dap

 

 

 

 

Standard
Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Winter Nights

Green Wode Winter II

 

Snow was falling as I headed to the Green Wode for Winter Nights.  Heathens of the Nine Realms was hosting, a group I have been privileged to see grow from seeds planted in the broader pagan community and grow into a thriving, frithful, heathen community.  We came to mark the end of fall, the end of the harvest, and turn our eyes to the coming winter, to the dark, and to the dead.

 

Joining with us in this celebration were a local coracle building society, the artist who crafted these hardy boats had offered one of her coracle shells as a devotional offering for the Winter Nights fire, asking only that she be able to film the offering of her vessel, her artistry.

 

We began to gather at four as snow fell with the fading sunlight, to cease with the moonrise to leave us with a moonlit night filled with the sounds of the farm, field and forest animals, to which we added the music of fire, the songs of men and women, the stories of our ancient folk and faith.

 

A Tablero board appeared by magic, and Steven and I sat with dice and drink before us to compete at board as we do at spears.  Discussion roams from lore to history, to mythology to family, to our own lives and back again.  Laughter and jest between old friends who admit no barriers between them, courtesy and hospitality mark the newcomers who learn to accept the welcome of a community that holds to its own soul and does not lower itself to judge others by the labels our larger society seems content to divide itself with.  Come as you are, be who you are, and be welcome among us.

Tablero

 

Winter Nights was the feast that marked the end of the harvest season, the feast which marked the determination of which animals would be fed through the winter, which would be slaughtered to feed the folk.  Our priestess marked with Valkyrie mask lead our sheep masked offering about the fire, before ritually sacrificing him, and offering his blood to the fire and gods.

Upon the fire balanced the woven wooden frame and hull of a coracle, the ship given to the fire to carry away for us the hopes and dreams we offer, the brags of what we have done, the boasts of what we will do; the ship that will carry the grave goods and prayers to those we have lost in this season.  As the horn past, those of our kin, of our family, and of our dearest friends who had fallen were remembered, their glories sung, the place they held in life was shared, and the place they will hold forever in our hearts and minds was carved.  The ship which was the funeral vessel of our folk, either given to fire and wave in Viking funeral, or interred above our dead in the more common ship-grave is the vessel that no only carries us through this life, but from it.

Coracle making II

 

The coracle snapped and crackled in the fire as we hailed our holy gods, offering to them our praise, our thanks, our prayers, and tokens of our own craft and skill.  Each chose to honour the god or goddess whom had given the most to their lives in the year that was, and shared the lessons they had learned, the changes they had made, or were vowing now to make in the year to come.

 

Horn passed again, and we turned to offer to those gathered in sumbel with us, or who had sumbeled with us before but were not able to be here tonight.  Brightly we wove our wyrd together as we offered a gift for a gift, the bright offerings of praise and glory to those who had touched our lives, inspired us, aided us, challenged us, stood with us through storm and trial, test and hardship.

Altar Horn

 

Feast we then shared, groaning tables heavy with food both from the kitchens of our host, and from each guest who sought to bring an offering of matching worth to the hospitality they knew they would receive, and more than twice our number could eat.  Loud the hall with conversation and laughter, deep thoughts and discussions of lore and sacred mystery mixed with raucous tales and moments of mirth and jest as there were no borders for discussions with those who felt such connections between them.

 

Back to the night we trod, stoked the fire high again as we offered now more personally as the horn passed to us, sharing of our lives with those whom we now felt more comfort.  Bright the deeds that were shared, bold the boasts that were bared for the first time, those who had long cherished dreams that they at last dared to make come to pass in the world, to stake their fortune and their name to succeed or fail as wyrd wills.  In such company none feared to offer the truth of the goals they aimed at, the hopes they strove for, the secret dream they would pledge themselves to bring forth.  The goals were both personal and profound, some so daring that you had to salute the majesty of the quest and the courage of those who would so openly swear themselves to the doing.

 

Song now was offered, haunting melodies of love and loss in Finnish and Swedish, even Liam was induced to offer to us the Lord of Castlemere

 

https://youtu.be/-FF2fBRKxtk?list=RDi2vlXuEmfag

 

Tales now were told of our ancient gods, of alf and troll, god and hero as the moon lit the dark wood and the shadows danced around the fire to paint the night with dancing shadows to paint the night with glimpses of worlds of myth and mystery.

 

Many were free to spend the night wrapped in their bedding by the fire in the Red Room, but I, alas had to get back to pick up my daughter from work.  For me Winter Nights would end, but another hearty meal awaited those lucky enough to spend the night, for hospitality such as this is to be treasured more than the gold which is actually easier to find and less rewarding to hold.

 

Winter is come, and the folk are strong and whole, together in the sight of our gods, ancestors, and the wights of our lands and waters.   A gift for a gift, thanks for the bounty of the year that was, and promise to use that we will take no more than we need, and give back in return full measure.

Bonfire

Standard
Death, Faith, Heathen, Uncategorized

Noir

A little Halloween story, a Samhain sampling, or a little Noir to colour the shadows this winterfinding.  This story is not mine, for it was born from myself and Kat Kerns.  Neither one of us is sure how much the story told itself, so neither one of us takes much credit for it.

How it began:

Soundly asleep then instantly awake, but not knowing why. The clock reads 2:00 am; the house is silent except for the ever present dripping of the leaky faucet in the bathroom. ‘Why am I awake’ I thought to myself. My mind was alert to every sound and shift of shadow, my heart beating quickly out of time but not afraid. Suddenly I realized I wasn’t alone, not that I could see anyone in the darkened room, but I could feel a presence… instead of racing faster my heart beat calmed.

I felt strangely safe even though I knew I shouldn’t. Who could be in my house, in my room, and why wasn’t I afraid? I sat up in bed and turned on the lamp on the night stand. Looking across my room I saw…

Bogart smoking                                                            *

I don’t know how long it had been this time.  When your dead, time doesn’t matter that much.  I got plugged back in ’32, that was OK.  You cross some lines you have to figure there’s going to be a cost.  A dame gets involved and suddenly you start breaking your own rules, people get hurt.  Dead hurt.  I fixed it back then; but not before the kid got caught up in it.  One innocent, and a whole bunch of mooks who probably had it coming.  Like I did.  Somebody was keeping score though, ’cause it didn’t end when I died.

It was 43 when I got brought back first I think……..that little wop kid getting a bum rap because he had the wrong accent when they needed to hang an ugly wrap that came from one of the country club set.  Last time was what 93, the old broad who thought she was losing it because she could see me.  She couldn’t see her kid putting the squeeze on her loot, or selling her meds on the street.

He took a long drag on his smoke, pulling it deep into his lungs.  The cherry on the end burned in the night like a red eye.  Ghost smoke into ghost lungs.  The broad on the bed turned and looked right at him, and turned on the light.  He put out the smoke on the wall, noting it didn’t leave a mark.  Ghost smokes don’t leave marks.  Neither did he.  Or at least, not enough to erase the mark he made when he was alive.

He waited for the screams to start, or looking at the bottle from last night to figure out where the ghost crawled out of.  He hated this part.  Funny how nobody wants to listen to the dead they called back.  It’s not like he chose to be here.  That’s a lie.  He smiled, cold and hard.  I made my choice a long time ago.  Every drinker knows, no matter what’s your poison, the bill comes due at the end of the night.  It’s a long night when you’re dead.

Time to find out what this dame’s story was.  He didn’t always get it right, sometimes they still died.  He didn’t know how many times he had to get it right before he would get to rest.  Not a lot else to do when your dead.  She didn’t seem to be screaming.  Maybe this one would listen long enough to stay alive.

*

The spectral man seemed to be waiting for me to do something… perhaps scream or faint, not sure. He seemed surprised when I just watched him calmly. He looked vaguely familiar, like I should know him from somewhere. Perhaps he simply reminded me of someone I knew once or something. I took a moment to asses him, he had all the marks of a hard life when he’d been alive; at least I assumed he did. Not knowing how death worked, I really couldn’t say. Part of me knew I should be freaking out or questioning my sanity, but for some reason the only thing the spirit inspired in me was a sense of safety and calm, I knew somehow that he wasn’t here to hurt me.

Perhaps it was his eyes that inspired that, they had the look of a man resigned to his fate tinged with a touch of sadness. He put on a strong front as he drew on a spectral cigarette before putting it out against my wall; I was more than a little bit relieved to see that it didn’t leave a burn mark. They were always so hard to remove, I’d learned that well enough from an ex boyfriend who had been nothing but trouble when we were together and for a time even more trouble when we broke up. I still don’t know what it was I saw in him to begin with; maybe it was the challenge of the bad boy that many women make the mistake of assuming they can change, or perhaps pure masochism on my part. Whatever it had been, it was bad from beginning to end and I was well quit of him. I decided to say something maybe find out what he was here for, I was sure the spirit had a reason for being here; he didn’t seem the type to just be wandering through randomly. It was like I knew that he had a message of some sort, or perhaps he simply needed my help.

“Um… hello?” I said hoping that we could actually communicate.

*

The broad wasn’t freaking out like most of them did.  Wasn’t just sitting their giggling like that twin in 73; she never got straight long enough from the junk she was on to realize what was up.  It wasn’t hard watching that one go.   I watched a lot of people go in the Great War, and a few when I came back and worked as a cop.  Only a few more when I started work as a private dick, but one of those was her.  Angie.  The one I screwed up. The reason I’m here.

This girl looked smart, he could work with that.  She didn’t look scared though.  That was bad.  He may not have figured out much about why he kept coming back, but he knew that he only came back for kids on the edge of getting whacked.  Innocents like Angie.  No bottle this time, and no blonde; no chance to screw it up.

Sometimes they got in deep with the wrong people.  Sometimes it was family, and that got real ugly.  Sometimes it was love; god knows love is what screwed him up bad enough to let Angie get killed.  Even dead, that one won’t let him go.

This girl didn’t have the look; didn’t look hunted or scared.  That was bad.  She had no idea what was coming for her, and couldn’t tell me.  I pulled my .45 and checked the clip; five rounds, always five.  It begins again the same.

The girl pulled the blanket up when I pulled my gat, but still didn’t look scared.  She should be.  I only had one chance to get it right, last chance was all I ever got.

Memory gets bad towards the end, the things you try not to bring with you.  I remember the endings.  The blonde comes again, when I lose, she spits on me.  When I win she kisses me.  Funny, when she kissed me for real, I lost it all.  I lost Angie.  The dark one comes, her I know.  Half her face rotted and rat chewed, like the guys the shells dug out and tossed back in the trenches, all swollen up and bursting.  Half her face pale, cold, and hard.  A smile like the cocked hammer of my .45.  Then the dark.  Always the dark.

I walked forward into the light, no shadows for me I guess, since I’m not much more than one myself.  It was time to talk.  Probably too late, I was usually too late.  Two rounds wasted one bottle and one girl gone.

“What’s your story kid?  Who wants you dead?”

I lit another cigarette and took a drag, the smoke pulled deep and held, as I looked for her response.  Surprise.  Huh.  Always hard when you didn’t see it coming.

“Nothing personal toots, but if you see me, you got maybe an hour before somebody gets dead.  And right now, the smart money is still on you.”

I blew a long trail of smoke into the lamp light, and I laughed gently.

“But I always bet the wrong way, and sometimes win”

My smile used to do the trick.  Calmed the guys in the trenches calmed the cops on the scene who were turning green over their first corpse.  It never worked on dames though.  Of course, I never got that part right.  Even dead.

***

Dead? Someone wanted me dead, and this spirit was here to warn me. The gun he’d pulled out had startled me a bit, but I still didn’t think he was here to hurt me, but asking me who wanted me dead, that was totally unexpected. To the best of my knowledge no one wanted me dead. I mean the only person I could even think of who might even be angry with me was Joey, I mean he did take the break up hard and I had to get a restraining order, but I couldn’t imagine him actually wanting me dead because of it… could I?

Well, there was no way to be sure, if this spirit was here to warn me of my impending potential death then I had best figure out what to do about it. From the sound of things, he felt there might be a chance for me to survive so I’d better work quickly. Did he know the nature of the threat; was it personal, could it be accidental? All I knew for sure was that I wasn’t about to just sit in bed and let it happen. My mother didn’t raise a fool; she made sure that if her baby girl got herself into trouble she was strong enough to get herself out of it. I nodded my understanding to the shade, and got out of bed. Moving to my dresser I started pulling clothes out, I wasn’t going to face whatever was coming in my freaking nightgown. I paused only momentarily to glance at the spirit, but than continued to get dressed. He’d mentioned an hour at most, now was no time for modesty. Fully dressed in a tee shirt and jeans, I pulled my hair back into a pony tail to keep it out of my face and moved to my closet. I found myself very glad that my parents had seen fit to teach me how to shoot as I opened the gun safe and took out my 9mm glock. For a moment I considered grabbing my fathers .357 magnum but I wanted something light just in case. Who knew what I was going to be up against. Speed and maneuverability might be my saving grace. I made sure it was loaded with a round chambered and put a couple of extra clips in my pocket just to be sure.

I decided to grab my hiking boots and put them on, who knew if I was going to need to make a run for it. I was still unnaturally calm through all of this; well maybe I would fall apart later if I made it through the rest of the night. Once again I turned to look at the spirit, harbinger of doom or saving angel, didn’t matter, I was going to take full advantage of this warning. I for one was not ready to die this night.

“Okay, now what?” I asked him.

*

She said she didn’t have a clue who would want her dead, but her eyes said she was lying. She picked up a cannon, and put it back in favor of some boxy piece that looked like someone took my .45 and squashed it down to half size. She stripped the clip and checked it, chambering and safing what looked like about a 9mm like she knew what she was doing.  This dame had her head straight.  I might save her, like I should have saved Angie.

“Hey toots, how about you roll up that sleeping bag in the closet, and put it under your covers like you was still asleep”

The closet was beside the door, anyone sitting in it would see the bed, but the door was out of sight. To get a shot at the bed, you would have to step around the walk in closet, with your back to it.

“Sit yourself here in the closet. I will let you know when somebody comes through the door.  If they start shooting at the bed, don’t blow smoke asking stupid questions, you plug them hard and fast until they drop. If they look like they are turning to face you, plug ’em again”

The kid looked green, like it was sinking in, but she checked the safety, and worked it to make sure it broke clean. Her face went flat, like newbie’s usually did, faking cool until they bought it themselves. I saw that a lot in the trenches, and on the force. Sometimes I saw it in the mirror, or the bottom of a bottle.

It must of been about twenty minutes, but the sweat off the girl showed she felt it like hours. I forget how much the waiting gets to you, when your dead, some things just get easier.

I heard the back door open. I slipped into the hall to see a young guy pull a key from the lock.  Huh.  He had a key. With dames it was usually the things they didn’t want to talk about that got them killed. It was usually the one they would swear could never hurt them, but they were trying real hard to get away from because their brain read things clearer than their heart.

He pulled a gat of his own. Some shiny chrome job bigger than my Colt 1911. Maybe he thought he was hunting bear, because that was a lot of gun for a sleeping broad.  Of course, it wasn’t going to be enough. Not this time. He ghosted back to the closet.

“Show time doll. One guy, one gun. Coming quiet. You don’t make a sound until he makes his play. Then you shoot.  Don’t talk, don’t think, and don’t die!”

I gave her the hard stare, if she was going to freeze, I had to know. You can’t tell sometimes, until the time comes, whose got the steel to finish, and whose going to fold… Her lips went white; her breathing got deep, but slowed down.  Her thumb slowly pushed the gun off safe. Well now.  I’ve seen worse. I winked at her, and faded back by the bed.

Her left hand gripped her necklace, some kind of half cross or upside down hammer. Her right was at shoulder height, ready to bring her piece down on target.

The jackass came through the door screaming. I cleared my piece, even thought I can’t touch the living. Reflex I guess. Any surprise he would have had was gone. He lowered that cannon and started to blast.

Five shots rang like trip hammers. Three sounded like shotgun blasts, the cannon jumping in jackasses hand like a scared rabbit. He put a hole about chest level in the woman shape under the covers, then another in the pillow beside where her head would lay, then at the top of her headboard.  Whatever that cannon was, he couldn’t control it, anymore than he could control his screaming. The last two shots were sharp cracks, as the muzzle flash from the doll’s little gun snapped out a sharp double tap, and jackass hit the floor.

“Nobody leaves me, you bitch!” Joey screamed as he came in the door. Unloading his Desert Eagle and his hate towards the girl who dared to leave him.  He blasted out three times before he felt something hit him, and he fell to the floor.

He struggled to roll over, and saw her. That little bitch!  The one who left him, the one who had the balls to send the Sheriffs to serve him at work with a restraining order, as if it was up to her when it was over.  His chest was cold, and his legs were weak, but he snarled as he raised his Eagle towards his woman, HIS woman, whatever anyone said.

Joey heard a cold voice say “Finish it sister, this kid isn’t stopping”.

Joey looked into those eyes that used to look at him with love, and the ones he taught to look at him with fear, but this time they were flat, cold, and looking back in the moonlight on either side of the glowing sights of her Glock. Two more shots rang out, and he heard his pistol hit the floor.  He couldn’t feel it.  He couldn’t feel anything.

“Joey” the dame said, and then started to cry.  Let the kid cry. She had earned it.  He felt the end coming, they were coming again.  They always did.

Joey came out of his body, and reached for his gun. You could do that if you hated enough. I did.

“This isn’t over” Joey sobbed as he picked up his gun, and raised it towards his loved/hated ex.  “This will never be over!”  he screamed.

“Hey bub” rang a cold voice, edged with cruelty
“You want to bet on that”

Noir gun

He spun to face the trench coated figure shining moonlight silver in the darkness, but thunder spoke, and a hammer took him in the knee.

“My gun can’t touch the living any more, but you should see what it does to the dead”

“You could have let it go buddy, you could have let her go and lived”

The gun spoke again, and Joey screamed.

“Both legs-you will never rise, never walk”

Twice more the gun spoke, and Joeys shoulders were slammed to the floor.

“Both arms-you will not raise them to another woman”

Joey started to beg now; he was almost out of time.  They both were.

The grim ghost looked down, his eyes shaded by his fedora. The muzzle of the .45 looked like a train tunnel, as the smoke from the first four rounds puffed like a dragon’s breath around its muzzle.

“And your head, because I’m tired of listening to you”

Joey faded into silence.  A roughly man shaped pool of silver in the darkness, without form, without movement, without hope.

“Your choice to be stupid, my choice who lives”

He looked at the locked slide on his pistol, and released it. Slapping its empty form back into its holster, he turned to face what was coming.  He lit a cigarette and sucked deep on it.  He knew what was coming, If he could have run, he would.  It hurt too much to remember, except at the end.

From the moonlight came her. Shining the blonde came. Angie’s mother. I wished I died this time first. Sometimes when I failed, I ate my gun before they came, and missed this part. Sometimes I wished I had failed at this point.  Five rounds, that’s all I had at the end.

Noir blond

She was smiling, the way she was when she fed me the spiked booze, and left me passed out while she handed her kid back over to the monster that paid for her, the one whose guys I took her from in the first place.

The kid’s grandmother paid me to track Angie down, and I did. Two knuckle draggers for hire had grabbed her and were holding her at a hotel.  Neither one was willing to face a drawn pistol for the money they were getting.  Bottom feeders, not the kind that came back from war, or came up through the gangs.

I brought her back to the mother. The blonde.  Her face was hard and cold when I brought her back, and she told Angie to go to her room while she made a phone call. I cooled my heels in the living room while she made the call. When she came back she was all smiles, and brought a drink. Her blouse was unbuttoned enough to really distract me, and I never turned down good booze.

I never had much luck with broads and none with ones as hot as this one.  I tried to play it cool, but my brain shut off as she ran her hands on my chest, and told me to finish my drink.

When I came to, I was passed out in the chair with a headache.  Angie was gone, her mother too.  I staggered to the girl’s room; it looked like a fight happened.  Angie was a fighter, she didn’t go easy.  I saw a button on the ground.  Her mothers.  Her mothers.

Played like a fool.  Her mother sold her, just like the last time.  Two mooks too scared to face me didn’t snatch the kid themselves, they got her drugged unconscious by her mother, only this time she used it on me.

Booze and broads, I never could turn them down, and this time a kid was paying. Angie.

I called the operator, gave them my old badge number, and got the last number called. Lassiter. Old man Lassiter.

Lassiter was old money, bought judges and congressmen out of petty cash, and was untouchable. We all knew about him, and the rumors about his tastes. Nobody ever linked him directly to the bodies; nobody ever looked that hard, or were warned off. Nobody ever went after him.

I rubbed my head and my eyes fell upon the bottle. Well, I guess I just proved I was a nobody, a real chump.

I cleared my pistol and blasted the bottle and glass. Two rounds out of seven spent.  Five left.

“Angie baby, I swear I’m going to get you back, Hell take anybody who gets in the way”

My Ford weaved all over the road as I shook off the Mickey Finn. I clipped a mirror on the gate post on the way in, and went through the shrubs on his pretty lawn.

I came up the stairs at a run, Colt in my fist.

Two guards were at the door and reached for me. Amateurs. I didn’t waste a bullet on either of them. I knocked mustache boy’s coconut off the door post, and pistol whipped the second mook.  I didn’t slow down. You crossed the wire at the run, and didn’t stop until you hit the opposite trench. Slow was dead. Dead was OK, but only after I finished. Only I after I saved Angie.

I hit the stairs at the run; there was a butler in a stupid costume. He clawed at a piece behind his back. The stupid suit made him slow, my .45 made him stop forever.  Four left.

Another stood at the top of the stairs, and got off two shots of his own. One hit my chest, I felt cold, but it wasn’t enough.  It threw off my aim, and my return splashed his throat into a red mess. Three left.

I came through the door, and there she was. Angie’s mom, her purse was grasped in her hand, and she shot a look at the bedroom door.  I heard a little girl screaming, and the wet slap of a man’s hand stopped it.  I put a bullet just above those sweet red lips. Couldn’t let her speak, they made a fool of me before, and I may already be too late.  Two left.

I hit the door, kicking beside the lock, not with my shoulders because the movies got it wrong.  My vision was starting to grey out, not a good sign. Did I have enough time?  I would have to.

Lassiter was kneeling over Angie. His pants were down, and he had his hands at her throat. I put a bullet in his spine, but the old bastard got up again.

I was on the ground, I didn’t notice falling.  It was cold, and my vision was graying out. Not good. The old bastard raised himself up, and reached for the girl again, I put my last round through is temple, and blew his brains all over the antique bed drapes.

I couldn’t move now.  I heard the screams of the mansion staff, heard soft sobbing from somewhere.

“I didn’t make it Angie, I let you down.  I swear I’ll make it right”

From the shadows of the bed came two figures, one was a horror, half her face bloated and rotten, half cold and beautiful.  Both her eyes were hungry as they looked at me. You see strange things at the end.  I looked away from her, and there she was, the blonde; Angie’s mom, the vision of beauty seemed to have gotten over the slug through the skull, and was smiling at me too.  I shut my eyes.  Some things I just couldn’t face.

“Mine” said the blonde.

“Not yet” said the two faced horror.

Hella

It was a mercy when the dark came. It never lasted, but I welcomed it at the end.

It was the new dame that shattered the memory. She turned to my specters as if she saw them too, and shouted two names

“Hella!”  She said raising her arm in salute to the dark one, her eyes unafraid as she took in the two faces of the cold dark.  The dark one nodded in return.

“Freya” she said saluting the blonde.  That wasn’t Angie’s mother’s name, but the blonde laughed and nodded in return.

This had never happened.  Not even I knew who they were; just that they came for me, at the end.  Nobody saw them but me.

Who was this girl, and how did she know his specters?

*

It was hard to think, standing over the body of her dead ex, but the shock of the killing was nothing compared to the coming of the goddesses. Hel was cold, her presence deep in ways that spoke of the mound, of eternity. Her coming swept away shock and fear, for hers was a presence that anchored deep in the roots of the earth, and beyond.

At her glance, the silver pool that was the sundered essence of her attempted killer sunk into the floor, and the slight smile on her face was like moonlight on a bared blade. The look she turned upon her defender, the trench-coat clad ghost was softer; if not kind, then at least understanding. When she looked at how her specter faced the keeper of the dead, she was shocked to see him flinch, not from the half-corpse grave-queen, but from the Goddess of Love.

Freya was hard to look upon, her light was bright, not as sunlight, but as fire; amber and gold. Her beauty was vibrant, wild and fierce; even still she had the quality of dance, as if she was but a frozen moment between frenzied steps.  Her gaze upon the ghost was warm. In those eyes shone understanding, love, and a fierce possessive desire. Not the desire of a lover, so much as the desire to possess, the need to have something discovered.

Her specter turned on trembling legs of ghost-silver away from the shining light of Freya, and towards the corpse-queen’s dark. At last Freya’s gaze fell upon her, and the goddess spoke.

“Kitten, would you know why he flees me? Would you know what he sees?”

I nodded; I could not speak under that gaze.

“Then see his memories, look at the things he won’t see. He has earned more than he allows himself. He has won more than the task he sets himself. There is a place for him in other halls than the mound”

Freya looked at the specter with sad eyes.

“For him I wear the face of she he first saved, but he sees only the mother. His generation had forgotten us, many won great worth, but even some of those were lost, and need a guide to find their way home”

Those last words fell upon me like a great weight. As her eyes met mine, I saw the visions that haunted, that trapped my specter. As he lay dying upon the ground, I saw a young girl, shining golden with the promise of beauty to come, rush to his side, and weeping, close his eyes. When the police came, she told them weeping, of his heroism. She heard the echo of a name….Angie.

He didn’t know! He had been condemning himself for generations for failing her, but he didn’t fail. He was not running from the woman he killed (she shuddered at the thought of a mother selling her child to that fate), but from the child he saved!

A gift for a gift she thought, looking at the bullet holes in her bed; she had been given the gift of life. She looked at her ghost, the haunted look in her haunts own eyes. She owed a life, and but how was she to pay it back. She looked at Hel, and for the living to meet that dread gaze was harder than looking down the barrel of her pistol at her former lover. Turning from the light, to face the silver shadow in the heart of the dark, Kat turned to face Hella.

As she met the gaze of the two faced queen, Hel turned the corpse face she showed the living. Staring at the corpse bloat, and milky eye of the keeper of the dead, Kat steeled herself and met Hel’s gaze.

“Great Hel, I beg a question”

Hel turned her maiden face to the hard faced ghost, fumbling to light a cigarette for whatever comfort it offered the dead. A soft smile touched the Keeper of Silence, and she asked a question in a voice that was soft as a lullaby.

“For the champion?”

Freed to speak when the Dread Queen turned to look at the smoking specter, Kat mumbled her assent.

“He is not mine to keep. He will not rest.  Those that are mine know rest, an end to strife, He flees to me, and I wrap him in my darkness, but always the call will come, and his guns and wrath, not my arms, will hold him.”

The Keeper of the Dead turned her corpse face to the living once more and spoke her last.

“He is not mine to keep.”

It was times like this the sagas had great words from inspired poets. Too bad she was standing in her closet in her pajamas, standing over a body, looking at two goddesses, and trying to save a ghost. Sadly, this did not make for poetry.

“Shit” said Kat.  She stripped the mag from her pistol, clearing and safing it. Checking the chamber was clear; she worked the slide lock and put down the empty gun.  It was time to finish things; she thought she heard sirens already.

Quick and dirty heathen 101 or ghost intervention.  It was now or never.

“A gift for a gift” she said. “I don’t have a lot of time, the police are coming, but there is something you need to know.”

*

The darkness was lapping around me now, the cold black promise of oblivion, the chance to forget. I could feel the blonde behind me, feel her calling to me. One day I might be weak enough to give in, I gave in once, and Angie died. I died too; but I couldn’t even get that right. I turned to the dark lady again, her smile was cold and hard as a drawn knife, she knew me, and she knew what came next. The cold, the silence………the call again.

“Shit”, the dame I saved had a mouth on her like a platoon sergeant, but she shot straight, and didn’t flinch, so I guess she was alright. She said she had something I needed to know, but she was wrong. Stuff only mattered to the living; it only mattered until you got the big one wrong, then you were screwed for life. Or death in my case. You screwed up the big one, you paid and paid, and even a bullet couldn’t get you out.

I smiled, the darkness was drawing back. The dark lady wanted me to listen, and I guess the kid earned a minute. Being dead, my time got cheaper than a plug nickel.

“You never remember the end” she said.

No kidding. I got played for a sucker, and Angie died. I got the broad that sold her and the fat cat who bought her. The torpedoes didn’t count; they were nothing, so was I.  I didn’t save Angie, and even if I got it right a few times, I failed when it counted, I failed when I died, because so did she.

The sirens were getting closer, the kid seemed desperate. She stepped away from her gun, and looked like she wanted to slap me. I get that a lot, or did when I had a body to slap.

“No, you idiot!”  Kid had a silver tongue alright. He chuckled, but the kid had her motor running and shifted gears like she had places to go.

“You died, but she didn’t.  The crying you heard was Angie, she lived. She was crying and closing your eyes when the police got there. That’s not her mother’s face you see behind you, that’s Angie when she grew up.”

The dark lady looked sad; her eyes were almost soft as she nodded. Eyes like that couldn’t lie; they never tried.  Death didn’t cheat; she was the one unbroken promise. He didn’t know much, but he knew that.

The sirens grew loud, as they did that night when he was fading out. He heard then from a child, what he heard now from the blonde, so beautiful it hurt, so bright she burned.

“You came back for me. I knew you would. You are a hero. There is a place for heroes.  My lady keeps it. You don’t have to go into the dark. You can come  again when you are called”

The kid seemed to understand.  I didn’t. I turned to her, because she played it straight so far, and I wasn’t trusting myself to think, not with her in front of me.

“Go with her.”  The dame was smiling and crying the way only dames could.
“Freya’s hall is for heroes and lovers”

I looked at the empty clip in my 45 and the spot the ghost died again and laughed.

“I ain’t a hero, doll face.  And if there is a bigger fool at love than me, I never met him”

My voice turned hard and cold, I knew how it played out. How it always played out.

“Out of bullets, out of time. Now the dark comes”

A golden laugh lit the darkness, and I felt the shiver run up my spine like the caresses you dream about, but never know. My gun grew heavy in my hand; I stripped the clip and counted. One, two, three…….seven? NO!  I wasted two, and since I died, I only had five left, like when I tried to save her. Seven slugs looked back at me, and I looked up to three smiles.

The kid was crying, the dark one nodded and turned away, and ……Angie took my arm. I felt a rush, like blood and fire pour through me, like a living man, like whiskey and a first kiss, and dawn after a night of war. I looked down at the ghost of my arm, and saw it fade.

***

Kat watched Hel turn away, and the amber tones of life fill the bone white hollows of the dead man’s face with life. Love hid behind walls of fear in his eyes, but wonder made him look at Angie, and see love shining back in return.

A gift for a gift, a life for a life.

Standing alone in a room with no ghosts and a single dead body, she heard the police come in and she began to laugh. This was actually going to be the easy part of her evening. Tears streaking her face, she sat back in the closet to wait. There had been enough truth for the evening. Her ghost prepped her for the coppers, and a little damsel in distress beat the hell out of telling the local flat-feet about goddesses and ghosts. Gods, now he had her talking like that. Next thing you knew, she would be smoking……

 

By Kat Kerns and John T Mainer

Previously published in

They Walk With Us

All proceeds donated to The Troth.

 

Standard
Current events, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

On women, gays, immigrants and others who dared to succeed; calling out the cowards.

Calling out the Cowards

 

You know, the inside of my head is a strange place sometimes, I do understand that.  I am a thoroughly modern man who is deeply and passionately committed to the progress both of our science, and our society.  There is no arguing the fact that the bedrock of my essence would be as home in a water filled slit trench with only my FN at hand and firing arc before me, or telling tales around the fire in a tenth century hall, sword draped on the bench beside me.  Odin forces us to look at ourselves often, and be honest about what we find.  Its a hard habit to break, and causes you to apply the same standards to others.  It makes me look at what people are saying from two distinct points of view.  The modern one hears the words, knows the context and what part of societies dialog each side is spouting.  The ancient one strips away the pretty words, and lays bare the arguments.  Some arguments stand strong, others become farcical, or worse clear lies, when the pretty wrapping and glamour is stripped away, and only the core truths remain.

I look at rhetoric from the left, from the right, from the religious conservatives, from the social activists of so many different stripes and when the glit and glamour is parsed away, there is one common thing left lying on the table, the heart of the majority of all sides arguments.  It lays before me like a turd, and the truth from it rises like a stench.  Fear.

 

Never had I thought there was so much cowardice driving our society.  Cowardice, behind the shouting, behind the screaming, behind the threats.  Not righteous indignation, not a passion for justice, not religious zeal, but pathetic pant-wetting fear.

 

Why?

Freehold Oath Ring

I look at my dog tags, they mark my service, the honours I have won, the duties I have completed, the traditions I shared with all those generations who served in their time before me.  I try to understand how my dog tags could be changed if another person in uniform was a woman, or gay, transgendered.  I hold the stamped aluminum and stainless chain and note no magical changes.  Just to be sure I check my fathers dog tags, and my grandfathers identity disk, and note they are likewise unchanged.  It seems what others are called to serve has no effect on my service at all.    The tags of the women I served with weighed the same, I imagine a number of those I served with were gay, I don’t really know, or care honestly, we were there to do a hard job well, and could give a rats ass who you relaxed with in your down time.  The tags of the gay’s would, I suspect weigh the same as mine almost as if it made no difference at all, these gender and sexuality issues that are supposed to be such a dire threat.  I know for a fact that we had atheists, heathens, pagans, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikh, and Hindu, as well as Innu and Aboriginal members.  Oddly enough, that didn’t make a difference either.  It is almost like you have nothing to fear from someone being different from you, it will not lessen your honours, your accomplishments, or your duties if those who won the same through the same efforts were in some particulars different than you.  At the end of the day, we got the same terrible coffee, which we sipped in the same Melmac cups, shivering in the same cold and damp, sharing the same stupid grin because somehow we all chose to be here, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

 

I look at my arm, still strong, my bank account…….well a lot less so, but the pay going into it is stronger than ever.  I look at women, immigrants, open homosexuals, people of different races and religions than my own succeeding, and I look again.  Oddly enough, my arm is still as strong, my pay still as healthy, it is almost like no amount of success by another person takes anything away from me at all.

Why then the fear?  Why the howling hatred?

 

A woman attains a position that none of the speakers had sought, or were qualified to hold, and whose previous holder not half of them could name, and now suddenly the manhood of every person in the room is threatened by some woman thinking she can serve in a position of power.
Just to be sure, I took a ruler in to the bathroom for my next leak and assured myself that my penis was not actually diminished in any dimension by a woman achieving a high social, political, or economic position. I checked again later when it was in full deployment, and yes indeed the success or failure of women had zero effect on the might, majesty or general sense of fun of my penis.  What then is the fear that seems to grip so many men that a woman succeeds at something other than looking decorative and raising kids?

 

I took a look at those homosexuals we are supposed to be scandalized about.  Not hard, I have lesbian friends, gay friends, and they fall in the married, unmarried categories about as evenly as the straight friends, with a smaller amount being divorced; most likely due to the lower length of time you could be legally married, so I expect the divorce stats will catch up within a generation.

 

I have carried out exhaustive research, and I can only conclude that two lesbians, or gay men having sex in their own bedroom with their own spouses in no way affects my sex life with my wife.  Not for better or for worse, its almost like its none of anyone’s bloody business, any more than what is going on in the bedrooms of my heterosexual neighbors.

 

Why the fear?  Why the terror that “gays are getting married”.  Unless you are a member of that community and your fear is that you lack formal wear, or dislike having to thumb through the bridal registry to find an appropriate gift, I really can’t see it affecting you at all.

 

I hear the same bile being spewed by the left, quick to attack any person who can’t tick at least six different boxes in the ethnic/linguistic/gender/orientation/raised by bonobo monkey in vegan commune forms.  Again, so terribly threatened that someone who does not self identify as a transgendered Martian wombat with a gluten allergy might succeed and somehow magically take away……honestly nothing from anyone else.

 

Enough with the cowardice.  Be honest.
Those who are screaming “whore” at a woman for the crime of succeeding in a man’s world do not really think she took their job away.  She took away their excuse.  Her success does not take away a single accomplishment of theirs, she simply makes them afraid to look in the mirror and admit that they are not proud of their own accomplishments at all.

 
The bitching about women in the military, gays in the military blah de blah de freaking civilian COWARD bullshit blah.  Here is the thing, we are an ALL VOLUNTEER force, and we go to war.  People who serve for any length of time lose cartilage, gain arthritis, a series of disorders relating to pushing your body beyond its limits for long periods of time exposed to conditions which are unsafe, and materials that are flat out dangerous.  We get people who come back less than whole, and people that come back draped respectfully in flag draped coffins.

MAIN-MAIN-Nomi-Golan

One female IDF soldier, one crowd of religious fanatics.  One soldier, and the only possessor of functional gonads in the whole crowd.  Literally, there is NO man there her equal.

What we don’t get?  Volunteers.  No seriously.  Recruitment is never keeping up with demand.  Why are you bitching about should women be serving in the combat arms from your sports/titty bar seat.  Did you get your candy ass down to enlist?  No, then shut up.  That woman/gay/trangendered whatever the adjective SOLDIER chose to serve, made of their body, skills, and time, an offering to the nation of their birth, and you didn’t.  You find that when you look in the mirror you feel that seeing a woman, a homosexual, bisexual, transgendered person to whom you would like to feel superior is actually performing to a level higher than you hold yourself to, now makes you look in the mirror and be less impressed with what you see.
Not their problem.  Your problem.  Deal with it, and leave everyone else out of it.

 

You see a woman rising to levels of career success that you didn’t have the skills, the education, the drive, the follow-through to achieve and you look in the mirror and choose not to ask why you didn’t, because it takes courage to face the fact that you just didn’t want it as badly, or didn’t prepare as well, or honestly never thought about stepping outside your comfort zone long enough to risk everything to try.

 

You see women daring to have the same sexual freedom as men, and expecting to be able to share the same level of consequence as those men (who have a 0% accidental pregnancy rate from casual sex), and what?  Do you think them having birth control pills will raise your chance of getting pregnant?  I was raised in the Bible Thumping capital of farm land but frike nowhere, and we did not hold with sexual education classes, or birth control.  No sir, we lead the country in teen pregnancy and had STD rates that made New York’s club districts look safe.   Sex is a constant, consequences are variable.  Disease is unnecessary, generations of teenage mothers dropping out of school to raise the next generation of teenage mothers who will drop out of school is unnecessary.  Poverty, shame, and the horrible treatment of the resulting children are unnecessary.

 

Having a woman choose to make sexual or reproductive choices other than those you would make does not take anything away from the choices you made, except perhaps in your own eyes.   Children make mistakes, adults should be doing their best to make sure they don’t ruin or lose their lives over it.  Teenagers have adult drives, child level experience in making choices, and no the results should not kill them, nor leave them caring for children before they ever had the chance to find out what kind of life they could have made for themselves.

 

Final note on the whole “sacred motherhood” bullshit; I actually do think motherhood is sacred, and yet I have significant experience with how the good “God Fearing” people react to a breast feeding mother, or someone who has to (god forbid) change a diaper.  The pro life crowd only seem to care about embryo’s; they sneer/jeer and even spit on unwed mothers, and are not exactly supportive of mothers or fathers who actually are caring for their babies on either incoming or outgoing ends.

 

One again, it seems that the reality of the birth control question, abortion question, and indeed sexuality questions (LBGT or even just hetero non-monogomous) all boil down to how threatened people feel that someone can dare to chose other than they did.

Fear.  Outright cowardice.

Someone else’s career success, relationship success, family planning choices, spiritual path, and dietary choices have NO AFFECT on me.  They do not take anything away from me.  I don’t lose my ability to enjoy a steak if my boss down the hall is a vegan.  I do not make any less money if the black guy who was born in Trinadad before coming here makes more than me.  I am just as safe when the hands holding the light machinegun are male, female, gay or straight.  All I care about is that they are trained and motivated.

 

Stop giving in to the fear.  Its time to grow up, nut up, and shut up.  Your life is your own, your choices and consequences are your own.  Some people lucked out into better opportunities, and I wish them the best of luck with them, I will play the card’s I am dealt, and play to win.  Some people got a hell of a lot worse starting hand than I did; I didn’t deal it to them, and wish them the best of luck with it.

 

If you are threatened by the happiness of someone else, I don’t care whether it is personal, professional, spiritual, or whatever, you aren’t actually angry at them, you are angry at how their happiness makes you feel about yourself.  A coward will lash out at the person reminding them that they don’t love themselves.  A brave person will look in the mirror, find out what it is about themselves they can’t love or can’t face, and deal with it.

Stop making your fear of your own failures everyone else’s problem.  You aren’t even being honest about who you hate.  Its not that immigrants succeed that scares you, its that you failed.  Its not that a woman succeeds that scares you, it is the truths about why you either didn’t or couldn’t do the same that scare you.  Stop making your fears everyone else’s problem.

 

Live your life, love your choices, own your struggle and be proud of your own journey.  When we sit around the fires, listen to the tales of others and take pleasure in their tales, knowing that they do not take away anything from your own.  Be ready to tell your own in turn, because you chose to make of your life a story you won’t have to be ashamed to tell to anyone.  Be worthy of pride, and you will not fear that anyone else can say the same.  I wish all of you success in your life. I really do.  Your success costs me nothing, your happiness costs me nothing. I wish you long life, success in love, and no I don’t give a rats ass what you look like, or who you love.  It doesn’t matter.  My beard will be as bushy, my arm as strong, my mead as sweet, and my wife as curvy.  Its all good.

Enough with the cowardice, own your own damned lives and quit whining about other peoples.  They are not your problem, and if you had the balls to admit it, you would be dealing with your own problems not creating unnecessary ones for everyone else.
The world gives us enough real struggle, enough real pain, and few enough chances for anything resembling a good outcome.  Stop screwing up what good we have, just because you are terrified to look in the mirror and find that you might not be proud of what you see.  Fix you, leave everyone else to their own struggle; really, they have enough trouble on their own.

Standard