Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Elders failing

John Remembrance1

My community tells me I am an elder now.  I guess the grey in the beard argues they have a point.  That being said, I am looking at the elders in our community and noticing we really aren’t living up to the reverence we get given.

How many of us have shared the memes about the kids of today being useless, or lacking coping skills, or in ten thousand ways being utterly without capability or worth compared to every generation that has gone before?

Um, no.

Like the myth about how great our music was, we had great music, and we remember the great music.  We try really hard to forget about the bad stuff, and the majority of it was terrible. Kind of like today actually.

We had a lot of really spectacularly useless people, a lot of people struggling to get by, a bunch more who didn’t seem to have a clue, but stumbled along anyway, and a minority of really spectacular people who either smiled and got things done, or bitched and got things done, but the constant was, they got things done.

The good old days never were that good.  When we sit around and shoot the breeze, we can either rhapsodize about how good they were (better than today) or how terrible they were (worse than today), and be totally sincere.  Its called cherry picking, you look back and select for what you want to remember and you really can call it either the best of times or the worst of times and back it up with evidence.  They were just times we struggled to get through, got right as much as we could, got wrong more often than we like to recall, and not everyone made it through.  Lest we forget, not everyone managed then, nor do they manage now.

As elders in the Veteran community are busy crapping on the generation that is finishing school and taking their places in the ranks, they compare their fellow veterans to the most objectionable portions of the opposite end of the political spectrum, and announce that the current generation are all weak snowflakes.

Really?  Newsflash, we had the same spectrum back in our generation, and a astonishingly small fraction went into the service from our generation, and of those far from all of them would reguard that choice now as being good, wise, or healthy for them.  Lets at least not lie to ourselves about this.

We had a problem with bullying and sexual harassment, but you know what, we were better at denying it.  The abuses were bad then, just as they are bad now, but you could play pretend and ignore it better.  That does not make our generation more worthy boys and girls, that makes us part of the problem this generation is burdened with.

We inherited a culture of bullshit, and we perpetuated much of it, dealt with tiny corners of it, and learned to just accept what we were not ready to face.  Hardly the shining legacy we should be praised for.

We could get away from our problems.  Work, family, school, you could run to the other part of your life and escape whatever was going on in the other parts that you couldn’t deal with.  We took that away from our kids.  We gave them a connected world where you are never not connected to everyone.  Yay, ten thousand wonderful possibilities, every dream that you dream can come true, even the nightmares.  Oh yes, you can’t get away from your problems any more, they have never been able to follow you as effortlessly as now, and no misdeed will ever be beyond recall.

We never had to face that, we never had to cope with that.  Tell me again how weak these kids are?  Could I have made it through all the bad patches that way?  I sometimes wonder.

Our Heathen and Pagan elders I was raised to revere.  The did so much for the community, they fought so hard for what we have the chance to enjoy now, and did so in a time they very much were not free as we are now to do so without serious penalty to their personal, professional, and even family lives.  I do honour them for this, they paid a price higher than I had to, as we strove in our turn to make it easier for those who followed.

Now we in our turn are being honoured as elders and I am seeing a really depressing trend of not being worthy of that reguard right about the stage we start receiving it.

Somewhere along the line, after working so long to establish our little corners of the community, and doing so in an age where there was not an internet filled with scholarship and resources to network and pool our resources, we got used to being right, and accepted as being right.  Then a whole lot of us stopped listening, stopped learning, stopped accepting that others were having the same experiences that we did, and learning their own lessons.  Others were drawing upon newer, and frequently better scholarship to come to sometimes different understandings than our own.

I love my communities, the Heathen community, broader pagan community, the veteran community, but as I pass into the elder status, I look at my fellow elders and see a stunning lack of support for those who are stepping up into the leadership positions we are retiring out of.  I see a lack of respect for those people doing the hard work we frankly lack the strength or time to put in anymore.

I see most of all that instead of heaping praise, support and advice when asked, we are heaping scorn on those who are this generations boots on the ground.  I will be the first to admit there are not as many boots on the ground as their should be.  There is more work than hands.  This should mean that we elders who know what that translates into, in terms of personal sacrifice, should be the ones doing our part to step in, and save these amazing young people from burning themselves out in service to folk who need to do their own share before being worthy of such a sacrifice, instead of pontificating about how the younger generation is weak.

I will continue to do my part for the community, as I slowly transition in the next decades from one of the guys who get things done, into one of the elders who got things done in the time of legends, when dinosaurs ruled the earth.

We do have a lot to teach, but those who have a lot to teach are mostly still working hard to learn every day, because the community is teaching us.  You are teaching us.  We have simply been around for more lessons, and perhaps caught some lessons that we can spot that you could use right now.

Don’t put us on pedestal, or the unworthy will just use them as height to piss on you from, and the useful will then be out of reach to contribute something you may need to know, or a tool you might not have, when you actually need it.

Back in the day, we mostly muddled through.  We did our best, not all of us were all that well intentioned, and not of the well intentioned saw things work out positively anyway.  Today you are all taking up the work, building your communities with a right good will.  Some of them will explode, implode, or combust; trust me, most of ours did too.  Keep the faith, keep working, humanity is untidy and learns by trial and error, so keep swinging.

If you survive long enough, do try to resist letting yourself forget that what we know now is the seventieth version, the first sixty nine we now know were dead wrong, and that hardly puts us in a position to look down on anyone else for being wrong once.  We were wrong more than once, and may be days away from finding out we have got it wrong yet again.  Until we are dead, we are supposed to be learning.  If we forget that, then we don’t really deserve to be honoured for a knowledge we stopped actually listening to ourselves.

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Rape

Rape

 

If you want to begin your not all men rant now, I suggest you either read this all the way through, or don’t bother commenting.

1. Within the gates | ere a man shall go,

(Full warily let him watch,)

Full long let him look about him;

For little he knows | where a foe may lurk,

And sit in the seats within.

 

First line in the Havamal tells people to be careful, because you need to be aware that enemies abound, there are people out there who mean you ill.  This is very first thing we were ever taught by the ancestors and gods, there are bad people out there.

 

For some reason, there is a huge backlash whenever this advice is rephrased for women.  Somehow it is just right and holy for men to be wary, but if women are wary of men in the same way, that is somehow an attack on all men.  Here is where the same group of men that is quickest to shout “snowflake!” at anyone else for being bothered by another’s opinion is screaming at the top of their lungs about how offended they are at the thought that women might share among themselves that they don’t feel safe around a particular person.

I am not talking about publicly pointing out someone who has never been convicted of anything and accusing them of something, I am talking about women privately sharing with each other that they don’t feel safe around a particular person.

 

One in four women will experience sexual assault in their lives.  A woman over the age of 15 has a 3.5% chance of being raped this year, a male 0.5%.  The average assailant is a male below the age of 35 in both cases (2014 Statistics Canada figures https://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2017001/article/14842-eng.htm ).

Sex Assault Stats

 

Vulnerable populations have the risk higher, native women are sitting about 57% for being assaulted in their lives and disabled women have 83% chance of being sexually assaulted during their lives ( https://www.sexassault.ca/statistics.htm ).

Sex Assault overall

 

These are the facts.  This is the world that we live in, and this is something that affects everyone.  I am not a feminist, and will admit cheerfully that I fully enjoy being a practicing heterosexual who finds the sight, sound, and company of women to be an absolute delight, and who is married to a woman I still desire sexually after twenty one years and three daughters as much as when we were fooling around in high school.  I enjoy sex, I enjoy women. I have raped exactly as many women as I desire to; zero.  I find the idea of rape to be repugnant, but that does not mean I don’t acknowledge a whole lot of people really do feel otherwise.  Those rape statistics do not point to the number of men out there who are sexual predators as being small, or a statistically insignificant number.  They point to it being a significant and persistent problem that women really should consider when looking at the world.

It is not just women who are the victims, and not just men who are the assailants; true, but the numbers make it clear it is primarily women who are the victims, and even more predominantly men who are the assailants of both genders.  For those men who want to defend our gender from the slander of being called rapists, for it to be slander, the charge would have to lack basis, and on that point, we fail.

 

  1. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,–

Profit thou hast if thou hearest,

Great thy gain if thou learnest:

If evil thou knowest, | as evil proclaim it,

And make no friendship with foes.

 

  1. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,–

Profit thou hast if thou hearest,

Great thy gain if thou learnest:

In evil never | joy shalt thou know,

But glad the good shall make thee.

 

If you know someone is a risk, you speak up.  You don’t remain silent, you don’t quietly disapprove and take your chances that someone will pay the price when what you fear may happen does happen, you speak up.

There is also this, you don’t play games with consent, you don’t joke about it, you do not provide the social camouflage that makes it acceptable for those who really do not believe consent is necessary to hide in, nor give the impression that women who have been assaulted should stay silent because really, no one means it when they say consent matters.

 

It is not all men, has never been all men, but it sure as hell is some of them, and if we can stop one more woman from being raped by a warning, then we should absolutely do so.  I am not advocating witch hunts, but if you don’t feel safe around someone, and you are aware that a friend is putting themselves in a vulnerable position with them, share your concern privately with that person.

I am a big man, and not the gentlest looking on the planet.  My manner is likewise somewhat aggressive, and I get that some people are triggered by it.  I am responsible for my words and deeds, but not for the reactions of others.  That being said, I would rather a hundred women whispered to each other that they didn’t feel safe around me, than one kept silent feeling I represented a credible threat to another woman.

I would rather a hundred women whispered they didn’t feel safe, knowing that I would never touch a woman without her full consent, even before I was married, than women worried about offending someone and kept a justified fear silent.  No man’s ego is worth another woman being raped.

 

More times than I like to think about, as a priest in the community I have had women feeling safe enough in ritual and community setting to open up about their sexual assault.  The wounds are terrible, taking multiple decades to fully heal, and if you consider the difference between the extent of the damage compared to the average sentence of a rapist you begin to understand that in the rare cases where conviction is actually given, the sentence of the victim is still far more extensive than that of the assailant.

We can’t fix the damage done. We can’t say the risk of it isn’t there, and pretending that the world is safer than it is not only is foolish, but violates the wisdom the gods went to the trouble to leave us.  We are advised to be wary of the dangers, to take note of them, and take reasonable precautions against them.  We are advised to call out evil when we see it, and to stand against it.

Rape is evil, and it is a risk in our society.  Call it out, stop apologizing for it, stop objecting to women pointing out that some men are dangers; do not make yourself part of the problem but part of the solution.  Some men, and a very much smaller number of women, are the problem.  Rapists are evil, and have no place in our society.

Do not allow yourself to become their shield, their camouflage.  Do not allow yourself to become the cover a predator can use to avoid scrutiny.  Rapists are vile.  Those women and men who have been so assaulted understand the depths of the harm they represent, and the numbers who share that understanding are far too high.

We need to do better.  Heed Havamal 127.  If you know or suspect someone is a danger, don’t remain silent.  Heed Havamal 1, be aware, always.  The bulk of the assailants are known to their victims, which means that those unshared suspicions or unshared experiences of close calls are indeed missed opportunities to prevent another person being attacked.  I would rather someone falsely mistook me for a wolf in the fold, than out of fear of reprisal women stopped sharing their experiences of possible wolves among us now.  No more victims.

Havamal, Stanza 1, 127-128 http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe04.htm

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

The Road Home

 

Thor-Vikings-Odin-Loki-panels-1566510-1920x1080.png

A thousand years ago, our ancestors understood the traditions we try to embrace today.  They lived in a world where they walked with their ancestors, knew the wights of the lands and waters, made peace with the jotnar of the high mountains and raging rivers, learned the alfs of the wild places.   The gods and goddesses held a place for them that was something we can only imagine, for they learned how everything fit together from their first breath, first step. There was no word for what they did, for it was no more possible to separate their practice from their life, than it was to separate their breath from their body and continue to live.

 
A foreign smoke stole that breath from the body of our ancestors, and the living faith died a long time ago.  The path they walked we cannot.  What they knew, we can only guess at; speculate from scattered puzzle pieces half understood.  That is fine.  We have chosen to walk out of the smoke, and breath again the living air.  We have chosen to once again learn to listen to the whispers of the ancestors, to look at the lands and waters, fields and forests as important relationships, as sacred trusts, and not simply a catalog of resources to be stripped and utilized until fully expended.
The ways our ancestors took for granted are half remembered dreams to us.  The relationships they held are matters of speculation and argument for scholars to whom the points are of only academic interest.  That is fine.  I am a soldier, son and grandson of soldiers.  The truths that historians argue over the battlefields of the past contain a hundred facts, and very few truths.  Those that come away from such fields may have been aware of only a few of those facts that brushed against them most intimately, but they carry away truths the historians cannot understand.  Some truths are found only by living, by walking the road, not by studying the map from a safe distance.

 

So it is with the road home.

I will admit from the beginning, I am one of Odin’s.  He found me in basic training, and pointed me towards the community in the dark days when it was long odds you would ever find another Heathen, let alone a community of them.  It is so much easier now.  Partly due to technology, and for that I give full praise to our society for its advances.  Partly that is due to the communities of people coming together in that metaphorical wilderness and struggling to build something.  Let’s be honest, something new.  We are rebuilding the alters, recreating the tradition.  We may study the latest developments for any scrap they can give us that advances our understanding of the road our ancestors walked before us, but that road we lost in the smoke centuries ago.  We build a new road that began when we first came together as groups and chose to bring the practice of honouring our gods, wights, and ancestors back into our lives.

We could not do it alone.  We lost the way.  We are not alone.  The truth is, we may have lost our way, but the land was still the land, our dead were no farther from us, and the gods never left us.  We lost the knack of listening, we lost the habits of valuing, we lost our way, but our guides awaited us.

The gods are forgiving, or at least have enough of a sense of humour to put up with the ten thousand things we get wrong, the minutiae we obsess over.  We get a lot of it wrong.  I know that.  We do it differently in a large number of ways, and I would say that they are not all wrong.  We are not following the road of our ancestors.  That was lost to us.  We struggle to build a new road.  Who is with us on that road is important.

 

Odin stands first among the holy kin in this generation, and it is right that it is so.  I do not believe that this was his place in peace time for the bulk of our people, but it is the reality today for one reason alone.  Odin is the greatest recruiter, the guide that has lead the most of our folks home.  I have seen Odin as the gateway drug for so many future Freyrsmen, Thorsmen, Tyrsmen, Frigga’s women, Freyaswomen.  His place is earned a thousand times over for bringing so many of us to where we could share a community together and begin to connect again to all the holy tribe, to begin to rebuild the relationship with the wights, the alfs, the ancestors.

There is only one god that I have seen do as much to bring to our halls, to our hearths as many folk who were lost, hurt, and in danger.  Loki.
I will leave aside the argument about whether his worship was ever a part of our ancestral tradition.  That is an argument for scholars about what was.  Our ancestors did not have antibiotics, toilet paper, or defibrillators; I am not looking to ape what was.  I am trying to bring the sacred back into the lives we live today, and of all the gods doing the work to guide us on the road we are trying to build together, the one who shines second in his work to bring the scattered folk home is Loki.

 

Loki is a part of our road forward.  Our folk are largely not given the chance to be born into Heathen households and raised in Heathen communities.  Our folk still grow up largely in Christian communities whose “truths” are at odds with our own, whose fundamental assumptions are diametrically opposed to our own.   For those who have in their heart the call of our gods, these foreign ideas and those that would enforce them as morality are deeply damaging.   For so many, the toxins of these foreign beliefs are enough to seriously harm, and in a very real sense, kill.   Enter Loki.  Trickster, breaker of stasis, flyter of the sacred, mocker of the righteous.  Loki has saved so many who saw no way out, and brought them by a thousand twisted paths to join us on the road home.

Odin may well not have been the highest in the time before, and Loki may or may not have been a god to be honoured inside the hearth and Frithstead, but in our generation we must give honour where it is due, must return a gift for a gift and acknowledge that not only does Loki deserve to be honoured as one of our gods, but in this generation, we must accept that he should be held high among them.

When I came to the Pagan community, I was told not to let anyone know that I was Heathen.  Like it was a dirty secret.  Don’t let anyone know you are Heathen until they know you well.  Once they did, then you got this token acceptance (you are all right, you aren’t like them-them being all your spiritual kin).

Now in the Heathen community, I hear the same song, slightly altered.  Don’t let anyone know you honour Loki, until they know you well.  I have to call it.  This was bullshit twenty years ago when Pagans held a view of all Heathens that actually matched none of the Heathens they actually knew and worked with for years, yet they accepted as true for every Heathen except their own token exceptions.  Its bullshit now.

 

There are going to be those pointing to individual idiots in the community and screaming “Look that is a Lokean!”  To which we can all point to five Odinsmen, Two Thorsman and a Tyrsman at least as objectionable.  Those are the exceptions.  Turn and look at the ones making your community work.  Look at the hard working people putting on the events, sacrificing to make our scattered organizations stumble along, and so often, these are the Lokeans we are working so hard to demonize.

Enough already.

We are coming together to build a road.  A road home.  Our guides are the holy gods that walked with our ancestors as they walk with us.

We are Heathens, we are supposed to follow the gifting cycle, we are supposed to repay a gift with a gift, and honour our obligations.  Loki has earned a place in our community in our lifetimes, he has done so in the coin of the blood of our own folk; the blood of the folk he saved from loss, and helped make whole again.  He has done so by bringing so many of them to us, to our community, where they can find fellowship and learn, as I learned, more than just the god that lead us home.

 

Thor is the symbol we wear to show each other who we are.  Tyr sanctifies our coming together, Frigg weaves us together as Freya teaches us to dare to live again.  Odin broods over our feasts, plotting and planning the advance of our scattered kindreds in building our road home to a more frithful and balanced future, and Loki?  He is by the fire, laughing at all of us.  Make him welcome, for he has offered his gifts right generously already.

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized, Yule

Yule at Sasamat

 

Sassamat Lake

We come now to the heart of the dark, to a time when people have absolutely the least to give, have the least time, least money, least energy from the stress of the eternal battle just to keep things afloat.  Of course this is the time that we need each other the most, and so the gods long ago bade us to come together at the Yuletide and keep their holy tide with joyful celebration, giving to the gods, by gifting each other, showing our devotion to the gods by caring for each other, and those less fortunate than ourselves.  At a time when the cold, dark, and hunger drive us to huddle alone, our gods call us to wassail hard in the heart of the dark, to not run from the darkness, but to join hands and dance in it.

 

Abysmal Witch and Heathen’s of the Nine Realms came together to make this magic happen for the local pan-pagan community.  Heathen Hospitality and Wiccan magic woven together among the dark lake nestled in the ancient forest and brooding mountains.

 

The site itself has held so much magic from our past gatherings, as this place has known both The Gathering For Life on Earth, and Pirates and Fairies many times.  That magic was on open display as we arrived.  Alyssa and I pulled into the parking lot after a crystal clear drive up to see fog descending from the flanking mountains like glaciers of the sky, moving to close the forest off from the land around.  A light mist rose off the dark lake, which was still as black glass.  The fog closed us off from the sights and sounds of civilization, left us alone in a world of the forest primeval, with nothing but the spirits of the lands and waters, our gathered folk, and such magic as we shall weave.

 

Our Abysmal Witch hostess lead us through an opening in which we came to greet and make our offerings through the elemental spirits of the place, offering to the wights of the earth; the great trees and brooding mountains that sheltered us, down to the great black waters of Sasamat to offer our blessing to the bowl taken of its waters, the blessings to be returned to the lake with all of our mingled joy and energy at events end, we offered to the misty air that veiled us from the sights and sounds of others and left us in a place out of time, a world of our own.  Then it was time to offer to fire, to kindle the hearth-fire that would make of this place a Frithstead, that would invite the holiest of our kin, the gods and sacred ancestors to join us.

Sassamat Yule

 

I wore the heavy blot knife that I have laid upon Odin’s alter so many times, that has served as common tool more often than I can count, but has also done blot for the holy gods often enough to be a most potent ritual tool.  As the opening began with the lighting of the sacral fire, the wood was green, and the mist was heavy upon the land.  Fire is a danger here, so the land is slow to see it kindled and the fire at first would not take.  The wiccan’s began a lovely fire chant, but being Heathen, I was unfamiliar with it, and the magic of it was not my own.  The struggle with the fire however was a thing Heathen’s of the North know well, and with my blot knife did I take to splitting the firewood by hand to thumb thick kindling to take the small fire of the lichen and paper and raise its heat enough to catch the split green wood.  Muttering my own kenaz chant as I split each piece of kindling with the blot knife, the Heathens and wiccan’s lent their breath, their gathered lichen, and the new kindling to bring the fire to living breathing fullness.  Our first magic made, the hearthfire was lit by the coming together of the disparate parts of the community in common cause.  Now that the fire blaze, each were asked to offer to the fire the needles of the forest floor we had gathered, and to call an invitation to the gods or goddesses sacred to us to join us if they will, as our guests for this holy event.

 

We gathered together to mingle and talk around the fire, sharing our differing lore around the Yule tide, for it is a common celebration among all of our peoples, but from each people come a different understanding and different threads of tradition to weave together into this shared Yuletide event.

 

Feast was laid, for as much as Heathens lay claim to Hospitality as our first virtue, it was a Wiccan elder of our community who laid the feast, and Hrolf Kraki himself could lay claim to no finer feast, or merrier hall than that she laid for us.  We came together to decorate a living Yule Tree, each of us bringing an ornament special to us, to our family or to our tradition.  I brought a Thor’s hammer glasswork that I had purchased in California Trothmoot with my daughters and Lagaria Farmer years ago.  As special for who was with me when we got it as for its own beauty, because for Heathens, magic is rooted ever in people first.

 

Sumbel followed, as Heathens shared with the others of the community our most magical of communal rites.  Having offered already to the gods and wights in the opening, the sumbel began with the bragaful, boasts and brags where each were asked to boast of what they had done this last year, brag of what they will do in the year to come, and offer to those who you feel have made such an impact on your life this year that for the gift they have given you, such a gift of praise is due.

 

There is such magic in such times, generations from the laughing children running under feet to the elders to whom I am but a stripling raising the horn and sharing their lives, their struggles, their joys, their hopes.  Lines of life and luck weaving together with every passing of the horn, as much as the fire outside grew from a flickering wraith to a roaring blaze, so too did the lights of the individuals of the community come together and kindle such a blaze as warmed us all, and shouted our defiance to the deepest of the dark.

 

How could such a light go unnoticed?  Indeed this close to Yule one must be careful about blazing so brightly, lest the gods attention be drawn to you.  Father Winter, the Jul Father himself was drawn to the bright fires of hospitality, of joy and of spirit and descended with his sack full of gifts.

Shining eyed boys and bright beautiful girl first came to Father Winter to receive their gifts, for they had been fine children this year, and the Jul Father was well pleased to gift them richly.  Soon the adults came to offer rich cups of cheer to the Jul Father and receive their gifts in turn, with the eldest in the hall sitting on the Jul Father’s lap as his own bright eyed bride captured the moment with a merriment that argued no amount of snow on the rooftop implies less than a blazing fire in the hearth.

Yule Father

To be worthy of the Jul Father’s visit, a community has to understand the magic of gift giving, and understand how this magic was intended to be used.  One family could not be with us this year, for Sabrina and her young son Kyler have been struggling since his birth with cancer, and although for so long she has been such an important and vital member of our community, in this time of sharing, she is giving of herself to her child who is too ill to attend, and not able to join with her community.

This does not mean her community is not with her.  To our hall we brought gifts for them both. A turkey to provide a feast for those who could not be here, and presents for mother and child to brighten them with tokens of the love and esteem in which they are held by us.  Gone from our hearth is not gone from our hearts.

Kyler

As the light faded and full darkness fell, let the feast be cleared away and the sauna be stoked full hot.  How can we celebrate the heart of winter in the northern mountains, save by late night polar bear swim?  Laughing men and women braved the icy rain and stowed our clothing beneath the overturned canoes as we strode naked down the strand, and plunged ourselves into waters cold enough that Skadi would wrestle Ran for the rights to them.  Staggering back into the sauna to warm up, once feeling had returned to toes, and yes we still had the same number we entered with, we returned to the wine dark lake under a moon lost behind a Skadi’s white veil to plunge a second time, this time to laughingly splash each other with water cold enough to be ice should it slow itself overlong.  Back to the sauna we go, for

 

  1. Fire he needs | who with frozen knees

Has come from the cold without;

Food and clothes | must the farer have,

The man from the mountains come.

Not just man in this case, as our women are taking second place in boldness to no man born.  From the mountains and the lake we came with frozen knees and nether regions, but the sauna and conversation warmed us right well.  The mead likely assisted as well.

 

In the heart of the dark, we gave ourselves to silence, we turned away from the light, and followed our Abysmal Witch into the heart of the dark, where the light never reaches, and none but us ever see.  In our internal darkness we are always alone, and at this time of year, as the life of the year wanes, the bright light of Sunna herself fades, so too does the hope that sustains us, so too does the strength that we have to hold our inner darkness at bay.

We gathered together not to hide from our shadows, but to commune with them.  At the dying of the light, we joined together to face the darkness within ourselves.  In the darkness, we do not wear masks, for there is no one to see them.  In the heart of the dark, the strongest may cry, for no eye will see, no sneer condemn.  In the heart of the dark there are no faces, no names, so the dread secrets that claw at you every day to get free may be whispered, may be spoken, may be shouted or cried out; for all may hear, yet in the anonymity of darkness, in the fellowship of shadow, none may condemn.

 

The secret doubts, secret shames, secret scars lay bare.  The darkness is terror to us because it is unknown, because none know what lies within it, and mostly because it strips from us all pretense, all masks, all illusions and leaves us alone against our internal fears.  We were in the heart of that darkness, naked before it in spirit, yet we were not alone.  We who had bound to each other with the sharing of sumbel, we who had forged bright ties in the sight of the holy gods by the bright firelight found those ties held us in the darkness.  We were not alone.  Our fears were not ours alone, nor the strength to face them ours alone.  What we each faced in quiet despair and solitude, we faced together in solidarity.  When we sought to turn from each other in shame for our secret weaknesses, for the ugliness of our scars, in the darkness we found only acceptance, for behind the brightest of masks lies the darkest of wounds, as often the gentlest heart as the hardest will share scars of the same vile blight in the past.

 

From the darkness we emerged again.  The tears shed in darkness, like its secrets, stayed in the dark.  The fears and shame that bled from those wounds likewise stayed in the darkness we left behind, but the strength we had shared filled us in its stead.  Together we returned to the fire.

Sweet merciful goddesses, it is well that this time of year is cold enough to cost us extra calories just keeping blood liquid, because the tables again groaned with food.  Not meat, bread, vegetables and potatoes this time.  No it was pies, cookies, chocolates, more hot chocolate and coffee for the non drinkers and more mead, wine, and spirits for those requiring stronger antifreeze.  Again the hall rang with conversation, the fire with the sound of drum and song.  Long into the night we wassailed together.  The fires finally banked around 0500 hours, the last of the revellers staggered into bed for a few hours sleep before dawn cleanup, breakfast and closing ritual.

Leaving the mist wrapped mountain fastness into the dawn struggling to paint a sky clear other than our own magical corner, the smell of the fires still clung to us, as did the fell and potent power of the Yuletide.  Humming with the internal power of so much mingled joy and laughter, so much sharing of our lives, we shall carry this Yuletide spirit forward, for the Yuletide is a season and not a day.  We are commanded by the gods to exchange our hospitality with our family, both those of blood, and those who have made themselves family in life, with our friends, and coworkers.  This time of year we gather together in a hundred places, in a hundred forms, to celebrate together, brighten each other in this darkest of times, and renew the ties that bind us each to the other, and to each to life.

 

To Heathen’s of the Nine Realms, to Abysmal Witch, full praise I give you, for your Yule was such a magical experience, that now when the sun falls, I feel the laughter, hear your voices, and swear I can smell the smoke of our communal fire waiting to warm me still.

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Chains, suffering and ownership

Jacob Marley

Quote from Jacob Marley, from Dicken’s A Christmas Carrol

I wear the chain I forged in life, I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?”

“Or would you know, the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it since. It is a ponderous chain!”

Marley is haunted, bound, and burdened by a chain he forged in life, by the deeds he did, unknowing and uncaring.  He felt nothing of the pain he caused, knowing only the satisfaction that comes from taking what pleases you, reguardless of the cost to others, doing what pleases you, reguardless of the needs of others.  His links are cold forged, and troubled him not at all in life, but bind and burden him in death.
We all forge our chains.  Life gives us hard choices, and either we make them, or we avoid them and pretend that is not a choice, while the consequences fall like hammers on those who you might have spared.

Forge link

I lead a hard life, and always have.  I suspect I always will, and I don’t expect the death that has so often danced with me will be that pleasant when the day comes to drink full what has until now been only sipped.  So be it.  Life has got to be worth the cost, or you have pretty much squandered this one time gift.  You will forge your links of pain and suffering, but there is a choice.  You can bear them unknowing, letting the cost always fall upon others, or you can choose a harder road.

Burning Chain

 

You can burn.

Unless you chance to be born into such privilege as allows you to always choose the option that is without cost, there will be a cost to many of the hardest decisions in your life, and to be brutally honest, you will frequently be either powerless or unsuccessful in keeping that cost from being born by others.

You will hurt people.  Sometimes good people, sometimes the people you would give anything to protect.  You will have a choice to either own that, to open yourself to feeling that pain so that you will howl in agony and strive with every fiber of your being to never ever be in a position to cause that again, or you will turn away from the cost, and find it gets easier the next time.

I strive to burn, I strive to own the pain that I cause, and to do what I can to limit it, and heal what little I may.  This does not make me any better than the person who chose not to feel it, but will make it more likely I will put more effort into finding a better way the next time, and every single time I can, rather than accept forging another link through expedience or laziness.

Soldiers can tell you a few truths about pain, and a deep truth about forging.  You can burn a lot of the impurities out when you put your iron into the fire, and face the hammer fall.  You can learn a lot about yourself in the fire, and under the hammer.  It does not leave you pure, it leaves you marked forever by your passage through the flame, scarred by the hammer, but the impurities you pick up, the scars, the pain, they make you stronger, more supple, hard where you need to be, but able to bend before what you might once have shattered against.  The fire and the hammer scar you, punish you, but they do not make you weaker unless you refuse to take their lessons inside.

Own your choices, own your pain.  Own your responsibilities for the choices you have made and claim your power to make that choice to the fullest of your ability, never pretending there is nothing you can do, when the fuller and more correct answer is actually you cannot always win, but you can always try.  Frequently the ones you cannot win, you can at least change the outcome if by no more than letting the people who the hammer fall on that you gave your all in their defense.

Second thing a soldier learns is that no matter how deep the hole, no matter how hot the fire, no matter how terrible the hammer that falls, it is easier to face when you are not alone.  That at least you can give, even when you can do nothing else.  Our lore is not filled with gods moving from good decision to perfect outcome, even they knew defeat and loss, even they had to watch powerless while one they held dear went to the pyre.  Our gods teach us of the struggle, of how to chose wisely, and how to become what we must to face the challenges we are not yet equal to.

You will fail, you will make mistakes, people will get hurt even when you do your best.  That is only a part of life, for as long as you choose to experience the pain, you will always be striving to make fewer mistakes, to bring brightness to the places you could not keep the darkness from touching, to bring peace to those you could not protect from conflict.  Your chains can motivate you in this life if you let them burn, if you never let yourself stop feeling them.  You can let them motivate you to be better, to choose better, to look for better answers.

Jacob Marley chose not to see the consequences of his actions, he lived in blissful ignorance, and wailed away his helplessness in an afterlife where he could change nothing.  There is another option, more a Harley than a Marley option.  You could chose to embrace your chains, to accept the cost of their forging, embrace the fire and let it drive you to be better.

Accept the cost, accept the struggle, wear your scars with pride, and let the fires that burn from those failures drive you to make better choices, and oh yes, one more thing, let them drive you to give your all to the struggle while you live, while it still counts.

Do not fear the man who has never lost.  Fear the man who has lost it all and rises again, burning to take up the fray, for you must accept he will never stop, and never yield.  You could choose to avoid the cost and live like Marley.  Or you could embrace your cost, that looks a lot more like this.

Ghost Rider

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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

 

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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

 

 

 

 

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