Aesir, Asatru, Death, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Grief Counselling

Charles_Ernest_Butler_-_Death_of_a_viking_warrior

This was written for those who work as priests/priestesses in our community, but perhaps of equal value to those who are lay people in the community and wish to understand how to handle death in our community using the tools the ancestors left to us.

There is a lot that our ancestors accepted that we do not, they were much more comfortable with their mortality, but their definition of self was linked more strongly to their family than ours, so the context of their personal death was different than our own, and in many ways they understood death had less power over them than we are wont to give it.

We do have the tools to help with death in our community, and there is not really a great deal you have to understand before you are able to begin to apply those tools both in your own life, and in those you care about, to make a real difference in dealing with the death of loved ones.

Funerals and memorials are for the living, not the dead.  Understand this, understand the reason the tools exist and you will be able to understand how to use them to move through the agony of the loss itself and into the remodeling that follows.  I use the word remodeling rather than healing because healing implies that what was lost will be restored, whereas remodeling is the term used in rehabilitation after injury that denotes learning to understand, accept, and work with the reality that you are left with.  This is a better description for what we do in the grieving and morning process.  In the saga’s we have many indications of grieving that worked, that didn’t, and what followed from each path.  Let us start with GUTHRUNARKVITHA I The First Lay of Guthrun

 

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe27.htm

 

10-Grieving could not | Guthrun weep,

Such grief she had | for her husband dead,

And so grim her heart | by the hero’s body.

 

11-Then spake Gollrond, | Gjuki’s daughter:

“Thy wisdom finds not, | my foster-mother,

The way to comfort | the wife so young.”

She bade them uncover | the warrior’s corpse.

 

12-The shroud she lifted | from Sigurth, laying

His well-loved head | on the knees of his wife:

“Look on thy loved one, | and lay thy lips

To his as if yet | the hero lived.”

 

13-Once alone did | Guthrun look;

His hair all clotted | with blood beheld,

The blinded eyes | that once shone bright,

The hero’s breast | that the blade had pierced.

 

14-Then Guthrun bent, | on her pillow bowed,

Her hair was loosened, | her cheek was hot,

And the tears like raindrops | downward ran.

 

Here we see Guthrun initially unable to process the death of Sigurd.  Literally, the loss she felt was so deep and shocking that she is unable to even weep, unable to cry, unable to feel; so great is her shock.  In the earlier stanza, we see the women of the community coming together to share their own stories of loss, because it really helps to know you are not alone, you are not the first who have had the pillars of their world kicked away, and yet, these women too carried on.  This is not about showing how they lost more, so you should stop whining; this is about supplying context.  To show that such loss is a part of the world, that such loss is a part of such love.  Context is important, I would go so far as to say critical in grief work as you must place the death, the loss itself INSIDE the greater context of the life that was before you can accept the reality that you can not only move forward past the loss without giving up the person you lost, but that in moving through and past the loss itself and the grieving you can reclaim all the bright strands that person wove into your life already.  Grieving is not about healing the loss, nothing will fill the spot that is gone, but you will remodel around the loss so that you can retain all that you shared with the loved one, while moving forward into a world in which they live on in their words and deeds, in the memory of those around them, not in the body you just burned or buried.

 

Guthrun literally cannot make this step, cannot make this transition because she cannot let go the living man.  In order to accept that he is gone, she must look upon his dead face, kiss his sightless eyes, to accept that no matter how hard she fought to hold onto her living husband, he was gone.  What she held was simply the meat that his soul once wore.  Now she could cry, now she could weep and wail.  Tears, like blood, carry the poisons out of the terrible wounds we take when one we love is taken from us.  The dead simply die, it is the living who take wounds in their passing, for the dead are beyond all pain, beyond all care, while the living bear a wound of severity equal to the importance to your life of the person who just died.  Viewings of the body, funerals, these are about letting go of the corpse, about accepting the living person who you want is no longer contained in the body you are commending to soil, sea, or fire.

 

Death and Context:

All deaths are not created equal.  It sounds wrong, but it is a part of how we as modern humans are unaware of many truths our ancestors accepted.  The gap between what we think and what we feel can often make it impossible to deal with the feelings that seem to make no sense.  Death reveals to us the gap between the modern understanding of self, and the ancient understanding of self as our own Heathen traditions held it.  When you talk to a westerner, European, or one of the Australian, North American or other daughter colonies of Western Europe about the definition of self in the modern Christian era, you will find that the definition of self begins and ends at the skin.  The myth of the nuclear family is one of terrible power in our age, but of relatively recent vintage.  Our ancestors were a clan or tribal people, and the definition of self was not limited to their own skin.  The self was bound indelibly with the family, clan, or tribe.  When you accept that your definition of self extends to your bloodline , rather  than simply to your skin, the definition of selfish and selfless acts becomes blurry, and much of what we today would describe as heroic becomes merely pragmatic from the point of view that looks at the preservation of a self that extends beyond their skin.

 

The Christian looked at the Heathen warrior’s attitude about death and mistook them as being death hungry, when a more complete view would be were accepting that there would inevitably be a death for them, and not unduly concerned that a “good death” or death in the most glorified context of battle, is not to be viewed as entirely bad.  Part of that was the realization that given the choice, this is one of the “good options” to go out on; one your family would speak well of long after you were gone.  A larger part of the seeming fearlessness was the realization that death upon that battlefield did not threaten all of yourself.  If your self extends beyond your skin, and extends into your line, then if your children, your siblings, your cousins, nieces and nephews, your clan and your tribe endured, then so did part of you.  What you did to ensure their survival was part of guaranteeing your own immortality.

Our ancestors accepted that our body was not immortal.  Our immortality lay within the family and the tribe.  This gave some deaths a context that made them easier to accept.  Look at Egil’s Saga for examples of death and context as both a tool that allows us to accept it more easily, and as one that renders death infinitely more terrible.

 

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/egil/egil56.htm

 

Egil’s Saga LV; Egil Skallgrimson’s beloved brother Thorloff falls in battle fighting on the opposite wing for King Athelstan of England against King Olaf and his Scottish allies.  Egil was brooding while all around celebrated survival and victory until King Athelstan gave him a gold ring taken off his own arm, offering praise and gifts to honour the loss of Thorloff

 

“The king said: ‘These chests, Egil, thou shalt have, and, if thou comest to Iceland, shalt carry this money to thy father; as payment for a son I send it to him: but some of the money thou shalt divide among such kinsmen of thyself and Thorolf as thou thinkest most honourable. But thou shalt take here payment for a brother with me, land or chattels, which thou wilt. And if thou wilt abide with me long, then will I give thee honour and dignity such as thyself mayst name.’

Egil took the money, and thanked the king for his gifts and friendly words. Thenceforward Egil began to be cheerful; and then he sang:”

 

The death of Thorloff was terrible, but the context of death in battle was one that he was prepared to accept, and the funery gifts made it clear that Thorloff fell in glory, his name won praise and gold from great kings, and would see him remembered with the greatest heroes in the hall.  Now Egil was not only free to celebrate the victory with the rest of the warriors, but free as well to move forward and take the gold won in Thorloff’s name to look after the needs of his remaining family back at home.  Funeral rites and rituals, insurance and estate settlement are all part of the process of grieving and morning, a practical element that cannot be overlooked or separated from the emotional.  Thorloff was not just a man, he was not just Egil’s brother, he was a father, a husband, and the support of all his dependants.  Egil needed to not only let go the living man, to deal with his own loss, but to see that the duties of him who was lost were themselves taken care of, that the dead be not dishonoured by those he left behind being not cared for.  Egil’s grief was bearable because Thorloff was a warrior who fell in battle, a good death.  His dependants would be cared for, due to the glory and gold he won in life, and his name would be remembered.

Ramp Ceremony

 

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe04.htm The Havamal tell us

 

  1. Cattle die, | and kinsmen die,

And so one dies one’s self;

One thing now | that never dies,

The fame of a dead man’s deeds.

 

The death of a parent, a sibling, a lover, a friend is one that we can fit into context because we can make sure their name remains bright, their memory is cared for.  Context makes it better.  This is not always the case.  If our ancestors accept that our self is not defined simply by the limits of our skin but by our line.  This makes the death of a child harder.  We see not just the death of what they are, but the death of the future.  It is just that the young bury the old, not the old bury the young.  When Egil’s son drowned, he was far less able to deal with this loss.  This was a death out of context; neither the failing of a baby not yet grown into strength, not the failing of an elder whose life was done, nor the fall of a warrior in glory, or woman in birth.  This was a death of potential, the theft of a life that will never be.

 

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/egil/egil82.htm

 

Egil determined to starve himself to death because he could not live with the death of his son.  It took his daughter deceiving him into violating his oaths to turn him from self destructive expressions of his inability to grieve, to actual expressions of grief.  As with the earlier case where Guthrun could not grieve until she looked upon the body and accepted Sigurd’s death, Egil could not bring himself to grieve until he accepted the fact that his duty compelled him to go on, and going on required the duties of the living to the dead.  It is these duties that serve to set our feet on the path to using grieving to remodel our own lives to accept the reality of the loss we have suffered, and which enable us to regain the loved one as part of our life, even if now they are no longer among the living.

 

“Egil heard these tidings that same day, and at once rode to seek the bodies: he found Bodvar’s, took it up and set it on his knees, and rode with it out to Digra-ness, to Skallagrim’s mound. Then he had the mound opened, and laid Bodvar down there by Skallagrim. After which the mound was closed again; this task was not finished till about nightfall. Egil then rode home to Borg, and, when he came home, he went at once to the locked bed-closet in which he was wont to sleep. He lay down, and shut himself in, none daring to crave speech of him.

It is said that when they laid Bodvar in earth Egil was thus dressed: his hose were tight-fitting to his legs, he wore a red kirtle of fustian, closely-fitting, and laced at the sides: but they say that his muscles so swelled with his exertion that the kirtle was rent off him, as were also the hose.

On the next day Egil still did not open the bed-closet: he had no meat or drink: there he lay for that day and the following night, no man daring to speak with him. But on the third morning, as soon as it was light, Asgerdr had a man set on horseback, who rode as hard as he could westwards to Hjardarholt, and told Thorgerdr all these tidings; it was about nones when he got there. He said also that Asgerdr had sent her word to come without delay southwards to Borg. Thorgerdr at once bade them saddle her a horse, and two men attended her. They rode that evening and through the night till they came to Borg. Thorgerdr went at once into the hall. Asgerdr greeted her, and asked whether they had eaten supper. Thorgerdr said aloud, ‘No supper have I had, and none will I have till I sup with Freyja. I can do no better than does my father: I will not overlive my father and brother.’ She then went to the bed-closet and called, ‘Father, open the door! I will that we both travel the same road.’ Egil undid the lock. Thorgerdr stepped up into the bed-closet, and locked the door again, and lay down on another bed that was there.

Then said Egil, ‘You do well, daughter, in that you will follow your father. Great love have you shown to me. What hope is there that I shall wish to live with this grief?’ After this they were silent awhile. Then Egil spoke: ‘What is it now, daughter? You are chewing something, are you not?’ ‘I am chewing samphire,’ said she, ‘because I think it will do me harm. Otherwise I think I may live too long.’ ‘Is samphire bad for man?’ said Egil. ‘Very bad,’ said she; ‘will you eat some?’ ‘Why should I not?’ said he. A little while after she called and bade them give her drink. Water was brought to her. Then said Egil, ‘This comes of eating samphire, one ever thirsts the more.’ ‘Would you like a drink, father?’ said she. He took and swallowed the liquid in a deep draught: it was in a horn. Then said Thorgerdr: ‘Now are we deceived; this is milk.’ Whereat Egil bit a sherd out of the horn, all that his teeth gripped, and cast the horn down.

Then spoke Thorgerdr: ‘What counsel shall we take now? This our purpose is defeated. Now I would fain, father, that we should lengthen our lives, so that you may compose a funeral poem on Bodvar, and I will grave it on a wooden roller; after that we can die, if we like. Hardly, I think, can Thorstein your son compose a poem on Bodvar; but it were unseemly that he should not have funeral rites. Though I do not think that we two shall sit at the drinking when the funeral feast is held.’ Egil said that it was not to be expected that he could now compose, though he were to attempt it. ‘However, I will try this,’ said he.”

 

Grieving: Emotions, truths, rituals, offerings, practices and practicalities.

 

Grief is a noun, but grieving is a verb.  This sounds like sophistry, but there is a really important message here.  Grieving is something we have to do.  Grieving is work, grieving has a series of objectives that must be achieved for the changes required to remodel successfully to be made.  One of the first things that you as a priest will have to deal with it the expectation of others that someone should “get over it”, or simply put, stop grieving.  Understand this is the equivalent of telling an athlete or soldier who has lost a leg at the knee that they should simply stop physiotherapy to learn to walk again without that limb, to learn to adjust their balance without a support they have always know, to learn to do again all those tasks that they are required to do with the support they have now, not the support they first learned to do all these tasks with.  No one would expect a one legged person to just carry on without going through a long painful process of relearning to work around what was lost, yet we expect people to lose an entire human being, and simply flip a switch and carry on as if that person that was as much a part of you and your life as a limb had never existed.  Grieving is not healing, it will not give you back the living person.  Grieving is remodelling, it allows you to move forward with the acceptance that this person is no longer alive, but as you complete the remodelling and process the loss itself, you make the dead again reachable, make those parts of your life that they shaped, filled, and brightened again accessible and as potently supporting as they were when that person still lived.

 

Grieving should not be sanitized, cleaned up, or edited out of respect for the dead.  Understand and accept this, funeral rituals, and grief rituals are for the living.  The dead are with the ancestors and under the care of the gods.  They are beyond our needs, but the living are the ones who have to deal with the consequences of death.  Grieving must be honest.  As a priest, one of the things that you can do to affect the outcome of grieving is to help the one who has suffered a loss to understand that all of their feelings have a place in grieving, and none of them represent a betrayal.  The reality is that sanitizing grieving is one of the most dangerous things we can do for spiritual or mental health in the period immediately following a death.

 

What emotions are natural?  Oh that one is not only a complicated one, but one that strikes deep into the gap between who we wish to be, and who we actually are.  This gap is like a chink in our armour, and as a priest it is our job to be without judgement as we help people to process those feelings they do not wish to admit they have.  If you do not admit you own the feelings, you will not be able to deal with them, and will not be able to remodel around the wounds these unadmitted feelings leave.  That is like healing most of a bone, or most of a tendon.  You are not going to be strong, as the part you could not admit to, and thus did not heal will forever be the point that fails, and harms you in the failing.

 

Love; love can be a negative until you have processed the loss.  The degree of love you feel can be overwhelming as it can drive you, like Guthrun or Egil in to refusing to let the dead go.  There is an irrational fear that admitting they are dead, or accepting they are dead is a betrayal; that somehow like Schrodinger’s cat, until you accept it, they are not truly gone.  What is true is that until you accept they are dead, you will never be able to get past the loss to be able to feel the love, because you are freezing yourself forever in the agony of the loss itself.

Anger; the person who is lost has hurt you, has betrayed you.  You depended on them and they are not there anymore.  Their loss is a wound in you, and they are the one that inflicted that pain.

 

Shame; this one is tricky, and really dangerous.  This is one of the big reasons priests are needed in the community to help with grieving.  Shame has a few sources, most of which are operating in a tangled mess in those dealing with a loss.  There is shame at the anger mentioned above.  There is shame sometimes generated by relief.  You can be relieved that a long expected death has occurred, and the waiting/fear is over.  You can be relieved because your relationship with the person you lost contained both love and anger, love and fear, love and resentment.  Relationships that are deep and long lasting will have strands of a thousand different truths woven through them, both light and dark.  We say that you should not speak ill of the dead, but the reality is that if we are to actually remember the dead, we must be honest about them, at least to ourselves.  You cannot process a loss fully until you process all of your feelings, the bright and the dark both.  Shame is something that we as priests can help our grieving members to deal with.

 

Fear.  This one is again rendered more potent by the strength of the relationship, and by its duration.  It is literally impossible for many people to envision a world without the person they just lost.  They cannot think of a world without the one they lost, and the fear of the unknown has always been the most potent and most debilitating fear known to humanity.  Fear of the unknown is dealt with most easily by practicalities.  The grieving process is mixed inexorably with the bureaucratic nightmare of dealing with the practical effects of a person’s death.  These very real tasks are terrible, because you cannot separate the practical task from the emotional reality of the loss, but this is also a positive.  With support from your community, dealing with those practical tasks takes you out of the terrifying unknown, and into the known (but unpleasant) and shows that you have the power to keep fulfilling your obligations.  You are doing something not only for the one who was lost, but to move forward in your own life.  Moving forward is a habit, as much as being terrified into stillness is.  The practicalities of moving forward are something you and the community can support the grieving person with, and this restores to them the ability to move forward and thus weakens the hold of the fear of the unknown.

 

Helplessness.  There are a few conflicting truths here.  You are helpless to bring the dead back.  You are not helpless to honour them, to reclaim them as a very real presence in your life.  This is where the rituals, offerings and practices come into play.

 

Funerals:

Funeral rituals exist to honour the dead, and serve the living.  Funerals bring us together as a people, as all those who shared the loss can come together to share in the grieving.  We are a people that believes in grave goods.  We are a people that make offerings to the gods, wights and ancestors with the belief that such things have real and lasting impact, that such gifts are indeed welcomed and returned in kind if not in form.  A gift for a gift is our way, and funerals are about shifting that reciprocal gifting relationship in form, while maintaining its essential nature.  There are two different levels of operation of the funeral; the public and the private.

The public portion of the funeral is about the grave gifts of glory, praise, fame.  The public portion of the funeral is about the worth of the one who was lost, and through this public affirmation of the worth of the one who was lost we see the power of what other faiths view as the coldness of Heathenry, but is actually one of its real and founding strengths:

 

78-Cattle die, | and kinsmen die,

And so one dies one’s self;

One thing now | that never dies,

The fame of a dead man’s deeds.

 

Death is the period at the end of a sentence, the silence at the end of the song.  Death cannot take away a single word you have spoken, a single deed you have done, nor unmake the changes you have made in all those lives you have touched, or that your words and deeds will inspire others to do in the future.  Death can kill the flesh, but it has no power to remove you from this earth while your memory is held bright, while those who live still remember you and still give thanks for the gifts you gave them in this life.  The public portion of the funeral is about proving to those who suffered the loss of someone that death has robbed that person of heartbeat and breath, but it has not, and cannot taken them from this good earth while those who still walk it cherish the words and deeds of their lives.  Funerals are not just a celebration of the life of the person who has fallen, but a placing of hard limits on the power of death itself.  Death is not something that begins with the last heartbeat and extends for all time; death is simply the moment of that last heartbeat, the fall of the chest that does not rise again.  The life of the person that was lost is infinitely greater than the death that took them, and it is coming together as a community through funeral rituals of whatever form that we grow to understand this.  The public phase is important for this realization, and for the support structure it gives us to share both our pain, and our strength.  In sharing with others it becomes easier for each of us individually to go forward.

 

The private portion of the funeral is not always a unified thing, sometimes different groups representing different aspects of the persons life will do this separately, as not all sharing’s are equally age or personality appropriate.  There is a very great temptation to place the dead upon pedestals, to choose to cherry pick our memories of them and remember only the fairest portions.  This is a natural temptation, and a dangerous one.  To do that is to place them forever beyond our reach as this pedestal will not admit close scrutiny, and will forever leave that person beyond your grasp.  You will never be able to reclaim them as a living part of your life, only a ghost that forever reminds you of your loss.  The private sharing is a lot like a really powerful sumbel; it begins with formality and dignity, and degenerates into sharing of truths, the true faces the lost one showed to us.  There are the ones that endeared them to you, not all of which are dignified, some of which are outright ridiculous.  The reality of love is that it is not always born of those things that you boast about, but sometimes in small simple, and outwardly foolish things.  There are the bits that infuriated you, the parts that are so much a part of the loved ones personality that everyone who truly knows them accepts that you could no more stop them from these infuriating habits than you could from breathing; this is a part of who they are, and you can all laugh about it as you share that you truly knew and accepted the lost person for who they were, not who you wanted them to be.  There will also be some sharings of darkness, of pain, of experiences that left you conflicted.  There will be some who are threatened by these sharings, and obviously the circle for this kind of sharing will be smaller.  The fact is that you must be honest about all the feelings you had if you are to process a loss, and move beyond the pain of the loss itself and reclaim the living presence of that person in your life.  When you are able to remember all of them, the light the dark the proud, the funny, then you can reclaim everything they gave to and shared with you, and they can become again a living part of your life.  What they shared with you cannot be taken away by death, and they can again become a living presence in your life.  If you put them on a pedestal, you will always and only have the real shocking pain of their loss, the reality that they are forever beyond your grasp.  You will have lost them in truth, through failure to process your own loss, rather than through the simple act of their death.

 

Offerings

 

Offerings at a time of loss are something that we as priests need to be able to identify, mostly so that we can help those who are dealing with the loss in their own ways to recognize the offerings of others, and find ways to make offerings themselves.  There are a lot of ways to make offerings, and some of them are not as obvious as offerings without some thought.  Tears are an offering in and of themselves. If a person was worthy of love in life, then they are worth of tears in death.  For strong men and women especially, the idea that strong people do not cry is a toxic teaching from a society that has lost its understanding of strength.  To cry when someone you love has been taken from you, especially when you pride yourself on not ever crying for yourself is to make an offering to the one who was lost that literally you would never make for any suffering or pain of your body, nor fear of your own fate.  This is an offering of power and worth, not a weakness to be shamed by.

Offerings can be praise, can be memories, can be sharing of parts of the lost one’s life you may not have been aware of.  In sharing how the one who was lost has touched each life differently you are raising the worth of them, and literally stealing more from death, granting to them more of what death cannot take away from them.  This is a very real and powerful form of victory.

 

Offerings can be practical.  Not every person is a poet, or is comfortable with expressions of outward emotions.  There are large numbers of people whose offerings in time of grief are baby sitting, casserole, house cleaning, errand running, paperwork, banking assistance, baked goods, or carpooling kids to school or activities.  This is a very real statement that you know they have felt a loss, you are doing what is within your power to take from their shoulders the burdens you can take up, so they can better deal with it.  Grieving is a verb, verbs are actions, actions require energy.  Those who take up your burdens in part while you grieve are freeing up your energy to better do that grieving.  These sorts of offerings are quite often greeted not with thanks but with anger by those who are comfortable with emotional expression as they believe it constitutes being unfeeling, or uncaring.  The opposite is in fact the case, but not everyone has the same expression of emotions.  Some people emote, express their emotions through visible displays.  Others must express their emotion through practical action.  Both are valid, and as a priest it is part of your job to gently show how each is offering “first and best” as they know how to do.  It is not always easy to see when you are in great pain that someone is making a worthy offering if the form is not one that is familiar or comfortable to you.

 

Practices and practicalities

 

The closer you are to the person who was lost, the more likely it is you will have to deal with some of the bureaucratic nightmare of the death paperwork.  Until this is all done, and it will take over a year in most cases, the death itself is not fully over.  The practicalities of dealing with the death give you a very real window for how long at a minimum you will be processing the death.  At the end, you have closure.  The death is over.  The emotional roller coaster of the dealing with the physical possessions, and legal leftovers provides a very real way to let those emotions burn themselves off, while providing a real focus for the attendant energies to do something with a practical and knowable result.  This combats the feelings of helplessness as you are actually doing something.  This provides a chance for community and family to provide physical assistance that allows an emotional sharing of the burden through the physical mechanism of practically sharing the burden.  Working things out internally is often easier when it is expressed through actually working something out practically.  Cleaning is a very useful tool this way.

 

Tending of graves, altars, memorial stones, making of memorial crafts, photo collections, gardens are all very real ways that we can blend the physical actions of the practical world with the emotional and spiritual aspects of memorializing, remembering and offering to our dead.  Each of these actions allows us to extend that reciprocal gifting relationship into a form different than the one we shared with the living person, but equally real.  This is another way to finish the remodelling by making a new place for the dead person in our life moving forward.  We cannot bring back the living body, but we can make sure that they remain a part of our life going forward.  They dead are only lost to us if we choose to allow it.  Through the grieving process we learn to let go the living person, to accept the body no longer holds them, and allow the pain of that loss to be bled out of us through the process of grieving until we can let go the loss itself, and reclaim the place that person has in our life, and will always have while we remember them.

 

Healing leaves you as you were before, pain free and exactly as capable as you were before.  That we can’t do.  That is magic the gods don’t even promise.  Remodeling is what rehabilitation professionals refer to as the process by which you deal with injuries that make permanent changes.  That is what we are doing with grieving.  We are remodeling, the terrible scar of the loss is slowly remodeled into a more functional form that admits that the person is no longer with us, but allows us to access those gifts and strengths they left us.  As priests, we cannot do the work for someone else, any more than a good physiotherapist could, but what we can do is use our knowledge and experience to enable those in our care to have the most favourable outcome possible, to be able to reclaim as much of the loved one as they may, as they move forward in their lives.

 

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

In the beginning, there was one

So far Christianity, Heathenry, and even the Greco-Roman understanding of the origin of the cosmos agrees.  Where the difference creeps in is what this meant to the monotheist versus the polytheist.  To the Christian, Muslim, or Jew, the beginning singularity is “big G God”, Jehovah, Allah, or whatever you wish to call him.  To my own Heathen ancestors he was Ymir.

 

The Judeo-Christian group sees the unity that begins as being worthy of all worship, as being the sole possible focus for devotion, sole source for truth.  We try not to giggle when this view is expressed, because those who hold it find deep meaning in it, and we try not to offend.  To us, it is literally impossible to comprehend why they think so.

In the beginning was Ymir, neither male nor female, neither good or evil, Ymir was literally all that was, and therefore it was impossible to determine self/not self, form and formless; impossible for identity to exist, impossible for awareness, virtue or vice to exist.  In the beginning the universe was one, physics agrees.  The big bang pretty much did away with unity, and gave the universe differentiation.  To the Christians, unity spoke and brought forth stuff because he could, and wanted to.  To the Heathens, and many other polytheistic pagans, the universe began with unity, from that unity came the first primordial beings, and their first act upon achieving identity was murder; from the destruction of Ymir was built the material world, and the primal forces that drive the interactions of matter within it.

Death of Ymir

 

We don’t worship Ymir; his slaughter gave rise to the universe, and made possible the ability for the universe to be experienced as form and formless were now separated, matter and energy were now separated, from the mist of Ginnungagap formed the spirals of galaxies, the birth of suns, the creation of planets.

 

The primal forces of fire and ice, creation and destruction, order and entropy are given name as Jottun, or giants to us, Titans to the Greek and Roman.  We know they are the primal forces of existence, and yet we worship them not.  They do not care; they are, their nature is pure and elemental, and no offering, no plea, no prayer will turn them aside from following their nature, so our ancestors didn’t bother trying.

Ice and Fire

The universe is more than matter and energy, there is something more to it, something spiritual.  There is a higher order, a deeper meaning, a thing that stretches beyond matter and energy, something that survives the transformations between states.  It has always been my belief that the rising order and complexity of the universe represents on some level the universe attempting to know itself.  Ymir could not know him/herself as in unity there can be no understanding of self, if there is no thing that is not self.  Unity is not perfection, it is indistinguishable from nothingness.  Unity is not divine, it is meaningless.

 

Our lore tells us from the Jotun or Titan came forth a new race, the race of our holy gods.  They did not create the universe, they were born from it as it increased in complexity, arising as necessarily and inevitably as gravity follows mass.  These beings, in our lore, these gods chose to put their will upon the worlds and the primal forces within it and create a place where ice and fire were balanced.  Those who study planetary formation and life sciences call this the liquid water zone, that place where liquid water can exist, and where, as a result, life can form.  Our gods did not kill off the Jottun, they created a place where the primordial forces were balanced, but they did not destroy them.  Oddly enough, it is the existence of life that stabilizes the liquid water zone, and leads to conditions on earth, rather than those of Mars whose water was bound by the oxidation (rust) cycle rather than the carbon based water cycle.  It is the existence of life, of the liquid water zone that allowed plate tectonics to continue, that allowed the cycles of fire and ice to continue on earth long after they died on Mars {1}

Dead Jottuns of Mars

The gods are not credited with creating life, only conditions where it could arise.  They are not credited with creating us, only seeing in us something that called out to them, and granting us gifts so that we could rise to achieve a higher understanding, both of our world, and of them.

We did not worship our gods always, nor were our gods always worthy of worship, or even interested in it.  There was a time before either of us existed.  There was a time when they existed and we did not, and there was even a time when we were far from being able to perceive them in any but the most halting fashion.

 

Are we not the universe written small?  What better model of the universe attempting to understand itself than mankind.  We who were given the gifts of inspiration by Odin have used that gift to seek to understand our universe, our place within it, our own nature, to find our purpose, and to wrestle with the truth that once we were not, now we are, and one day, we will cease to be.

 

Our gods are not eternal.  Every act of creation begins a cycle that must end in destruction, every birth prophesies a death.  Who better to be our guides in this mortal existence that gods who understand this mortal limitation, who chose to take that step to bind themselves to wyrd, to subject themselves to the wyrd woven by the Norns, to fate, to death itself, by daring to create this place of balance, by daring to limit primordial chaos and bring forth the order that made life possible.

 

There is no one face to divinity, for when the universe was one, it was unknowing, unknowable, ignorant, and as devoid of worth as it was form.  The gods and goddesses, the divinity as we experience and know it is not fixed and permanent, is not “as was in the beginning, and as shall be eternally”; the only thing that is eternal is the cold and silence of the void.  Non-existence is unchanging, existence is change.

 

My gods were not always, nor was my race.  Heck, the human race is less than 200,000 years old, barely a blink in the existence of the planet, less than that in the existence of the universe.  How long have we worshipped our gods?  Really a tiny fraction of that.  As a species, our understanding of our universe and ourselves has been growing as fast as our biology and our lifespan will allow.  As we grow, and as we have the luxury to explore our world and ourselves, our awareness and understanding grew, and changed.

Different gods found different tribes, some of these may well be different understanding of the same gods, shaped by different peoples experiences and understandings; some are just obviously different gods.  Its a big complex universe, if you want simple answers you will just have to accept being closer to wrong than right most of the time.  The truth is something we generally understand in painfully limited fashion, each new understanding being a halting step forward from the last, and an unimaginable distance from full comprehension.  Some of our steps are not advancements, but mistakes; that is the wonder of humanity, no matter how far we have come, each generation knows we have far further to go than any of us will live to see.

I am a hard polytheist, I accept that our gods are discrete and knowable entities.  I seriously doubt they are “eternal and unchanging”, nor would I find it worthy for them to be so.   We know from our lore that many of them are fated to die with this world, hopefully buying us a chance to save a remnant of a remnant.  As an aside, science reassures us that the planet we are on, which has enjoyed multiple planetary extinction events already, has a best before date, and even if we avoid unscheduled catastrophes, we will be seared of all life and atmosphere where our sun progresses into a red giant (oops, those pesky fire Jottuns of Muspelheim mentioned in the lore as proximal doom) before the sun collapses to leave the earth a cold airless rock spinning in the eternal ice of space (those pesky frost Jottuns born from Ymir who seek to return to the nothingness that was).  If we are bright enough, work hard enough, and refrain from killing ourselves off, we just might get some of the human race off this rock and out of this solar system so we, as a species, can out live this event.  The gods promise to buy us time, they don’t promise we will get our shit together and make it work, the lore promises a chance, but we still have the choice to screw up.

 

The universe was singular once; Ymir, unknowing and unknowable.  I can’t worship that unity, ignorance is unworthy of devotion.  On this I will just have to disagree with the Judeo-Christian view, as they are actually forbidden to agree to disagree on this point. This would be their problem, not ours, so I leave them to it.

 

Our gods did not always exist, our species did not always exist; we did not always understand the gods as we do in the last few thousand years of recorded history, and I am unsure whether this represents an actual change in our gods, or simply a change in our ability to understand both the gods and ourselves.  Like a lot of Christians with the question of the Trinity, I find this essentially unknowable question to be a source of both wonder and joy.  Maybe it’s a Heathen thing; but I find exciting the thought that every single generation from now until our sun burns out will have to struggle for itself to deepen its understanding of itself, the physical universe, and that which is a part of us that extends beyond the simple summation of matter and energy that describes the physical universe.

 

To those Judeo-Christians who claim to be worshiping the primordial god, the first god of existence; this is hardly a selling point to Heathens like myself, or to a Greco-Roman pagan.  Your claim to worship the one we know as Ymir or the Greco-Romans as Uranus is to claim to worship a being whose destruction created the universe we inherit, whose death was a prerequisite for the development of life, awareness, and spirituality.

 

Our gods, like our species was not always.  In the beginning, we were not.  In the end, when the universe reaches ultimate dispersal of heat death, or collapses back into singularity, I have no idea if we (gods or man) will still exist.  I do know that we represent the universe’s attempt to know itself.

The gods are formed of the primordial, the great divine power that drives the universe, and we, the most ephemeral of all mortal beings.  It is through us that the divine may experience our universe, and it is through them we can grow to understand the parts of us that will not die when our mortal flesh returns to the soil as ash or meat.  Together we grow, together we are greater, the parts of us that are not limited to matter and energy call to them, the parts of us that yearn to know, to understand, to love, to dream, to create, to dare and to achieve call to them; they shine a light into the darkness to allow us to see a little farther, to know a little more, to chose a little better.  We give them the sum of our choices, our experience, our life, and yes, our death.  Together we learn and grow, and if we are smart, lucky, and swift enough, perhaps some of us will continue to do so long after our planet is burned clean, and left to spin frozen in the eternal dark.

I can’t know.  All I can do is strive to make the world a little better, a little wiser, and trust that uncounted generations to come will do the same.  The gods will be there to guide, it remains to be seen if we will continue to listen.

 

{1} http://www.biology-online.org/5/3_water-cycle.htm

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1664679/

 

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

Where were Odin’s Soldiers during the Vancouver Protest?

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You may have heard much about the “Soldiers of Odin” who were supposed to be leading the anti-immigration rally at Vancouver city hall.  Well there were ravens in the sky, taking in the 4000 plus of us who marched for a diverse and accepting Canada, so Odin was free to see where his children were and what they were up to.

In this picture is Team #3, one of four teams that roamed the crowd dealing with any safety or health issues that cropped up.  This was my team.  We were mixed in genders, races, religions; united by two things, a support for a diverse and accepting Canada, and a high level of Industrial First Aid training.

On our teams you found many actual soldiers and sailors, those whom Odin would know from their oaths of service, and from their times standing into danger for their folk. In the crowd I found many fellow Heathens, and fellow pagans whom Odin would likewise know from their devotions to the holy gods.

Our first aid teams were organized by pure volunteers, as was the rally.  The drive was to be the best hosts we could be for the crowd, and the best guests we could for City Hall, its grounds, and the wights of the land itself.  You could not ask for a group that better understood Odin’s laws of hospitality and the keeping of Frith.  Tyr himself would have blessed this with the Peace of the Thing, for the organizers did not send out teams of enforcers to confront the pathetically outnumbered dozen alt-right protesters, but teams of de-escalators, whose job was to keep confrontations verbal, and as civil as possible, to keep the frith.  They do not know the word, but Odin does not care if you know the word, nor Tyr or Freyr, they know only that you lived it, that you offered it, that you paid the price to keep it.

Half my first aid calls had to do with sweet Sunna, our beloved sun goddess shining down with such love that many, especially the old or young, were overcome.  No traumatic injuries, not a single fall from scuffle, or bruised from blow was to be found.

Saga would smile at the speakers who shared their stories, and Frigga understand how the coming together of  new Canadians, born Canadians, indigenous Canadians to share in our common vision of a diverse and welcoming society, unwilling to bend to fear, but likewise brave enough to choose peace when we outnumbered a belligerent and disrespectful foe over three hundred to one wove another fresh layer of unity into the fabric of Canadian society.  We chose to educate, rather than eradicate, to provide an example of frith, rather than a cheap exercise in fury.

Our Protest2Our Protest

The so called “Soldiers of Odin” may have been almost undetectable, but there were veterans of all races, proudly sporting their colours; not of skin or ethnicity, but of their service, and the pride they took in defending the freedoms that we this day proved we were worthy to inherit.

Old veterans of WWII and Korea, Vietnam, UN Peacekeeping, Afghanistan, all the wars that Odin has seen our finest fall from in living memory were represented by the proud men and women who made it clear where the soldiers stood, and what the Canada their brethren fought and died for looked like.

I saw priests and priestesses from our local Pagan and Heathen community, exchanged greetings and blessing with Christian and Buddhist clergy who recognized my Thor’s hammer as a sign of Asatru and were unsurprised to see us in the front lines defending diversity.

I saw the token protesters of the anti-immigration force all boasting Trump campaign wear; can you grasp how much this encapsulates the stupidity of their position?  This is Canada, the signs telling us Trump is our President would make sense about two hours south of us, where you would be standing in the United States.  They actually have presidents, and Trump holds that office.  We are in Canada, we have Prime Ministers, and Justin Trudeau holds that office at the moment.  How stupid do you look telling us that all Canadians should be anti-immigration because some they are stupid enough to think some foreigner holding some foreign office has moral authority here.  That is a bit like saying that you have to paint your bathroom red because the next door neighbor hates blue.  So what?  Not his house, not his call.  Terrible colour for a bathroom anyway.

The single most Canadian sentiment of the day is this

Canadian Commentary

“The Alt right can suck my left nut.”  Damned straight.  That is the single most perfect encapsulation of the Canadian response to extremists of any stripe.  If you are a far left radical, you may be invited so suck my right nut, but the sentiment will be the same.

I saw a number of Americans who had come to Canada because of the rise of extremism in their own country, and we heard from refugees from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East about their experiences with the costs of extremism when unopposed.  We were also reminded by our indigenous Canadians that our own nation has indeed walked that path in the past as well, that it was a long journey to make this country what it is today, and that the scars of that journey are not born evenly by all who live in this nation.  This is not said as an attack against those of us who were descended from immigrants, but as a caution that we should not take our immunity for granted, it is a new and hard won thing we must both cherish and defend.

I ask the blessings of my strong gods and mighty goddesses upon all of those who gathered peacefully, especially those who gave of their strength and skill, of their patience and wisdom to make sure that all guests were treated with respect, cared for and protected.

There were Odin’s soldiers all through the crowd, those who served at one time under arms, and those who simply did his work unknowing as they kept his laws of hospitality so well none in my own community who know the letter of them could be said to do better.

A special thanks is owed to the Vancouver City Police, they worked with our first aid teams to make sure that we had good communication and access, developed and communicated plans for dealing with casualty evacuation as well as I have ever seen done with officially sanctioned events, which this was not.

The VPD may not like protests, but they did a hard job well, acting to make sure the peace was kept, public safety was maintained, but without making the event in any way more difficult.

I don’t know how the media will spin this event; gods knows military service taught me to believe the press have little contact with reality as experienced by any other observer, as their reports frequently have little to do with events as experienced by anyone else at them, but from my own experience on the ground it was a joyous, peaceful, frithful gathering that I am proud to have been a part of.  My first aid patch now resides on my altar before Odin’s icon, for he will know it as an offering in his service.

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Litha: Shadow of the Summer King

Freyr with BoarDancer legs

Erica had been a dancer, not a professional, but she had given her passion to the dance since she was a small child. She had danced ballet, tap, jazz, and lyrical all through school, eventually passing into teaching on a part time basis as a way to keep dance in her life, even as her professional life flourished in the financial sector.  Life was good, the sun shone, and all was right in the world.

 

It was September 23, and she was on her back from teaching dance class when a driver who had put away too many after work beers, on top of his medicinal weed, was a little late in determining what the red light shining overhead meant.  His indecision carried his Suburban half way through the intersection, and over half way through her Corolla.  It was almost an hour before they were able to free her from the vehicle and get her to hospital.  It was over twelve before they were sure they were not going to lose her altogether.  There is a clear priority in trauma as severe as Erica’s; life over limb, and the grim cost of that is seen in the legs that were ignored while the question of her survival hung very much in doubt.
It was almost a year of surgeries and rehabilitation before Erica was able to return to work.  It was considered a miracle that she was able to walk unassisted, but decades of dance training, the balance and discipline of a pointe dancer that enabled her to walk on limbs grown strangers to her, dead of nerve, weak of joint, no longer supple and strong, nor able honestly to ever return to the grace and power that had quietly been a touchstone of her existence as she danced through life; for she danced no more.

 

The scars of her surgeries cut a tracery upon the skin of her legs and torso, in her legs the joins of the scar tissue were marked by uneven and lumpy unfinished appearance she wept to describe to her sisters as “Frankenstein patchwork”.  Never outwardly vain, the fact that Erica had lived her entire life with a body given the grace and poise of a young deer had been an unnoticed pillar of her life, until the accident and surgery that had left her robbed of grace, and mortified at the sight of her legs.

 

Erica did not believe in depression; while she struggled with it, she never yielded to it, and fought to pour her energies back into her work, regaining the professional ground lost, and attempting to invest the same joy in building wealth for her clients that she had always found in the dance; but her life was without balance, and the strain was showing when she was not at work.  Her community had been there for her, but at some of the celebrations she felt no longer comfortable.  Today was Litha, the midsummer where she would once have leapt the fire with the others to burn off ill luck and celebrate the sheer joy of life in honour of Lord Frey, the lord of the dance, and the ever renewing earth.  She could not jump over the fire, nor stand the looks of pity when she sat with the old folks to watch the young and strong leap in joy now denied her.

She wanted to swim, to lose herself in the rythmn of the waves and her strokes, an echo of the dance she used to know.  She could not go to the pool, her self consciousness about the eyes upon her scarred legs had made the public pools about as attractive as a dung heap, and with Litha falling on a weekend, she had the chance to go to the beach before there were people about, especially if she went down to the sea by one of little beaches not technically open to the public.  Here at least she could lose herself in the waves without fear of other eyes.

 

The wind was quiet as she started to swim, but the waves seemed to pick playfully at her as the wind rose from a sky blue save for wisps of lazily twisting white lace.  A rogue wave slapped her in the face as she turned to breathe in her perfectly timed stroke, and she choked on the heavy salt water that shattered her rythmn and stole her breath.  In little danger, but unable to swim as she coughed, she was struggling to regain breath and keep herself above water when a strong lithe form swept from behind to wrap her in one strong arm, and with the other begin pulling strongly to shore.

A gentle voice ran over her like sunlight “There now, the wave sisters are over playful and have done you a bad turn.  You just cough it out, and I will keep you up until you can swim again.   The wind is rising and father says swimmers and day sailors had best be to shore; I tend to listen to him as the beach has been his since forever.”

 

There was no feeling of alarm at the strangers touch, and the unquestioned maleness of his presence pressed against her back caused a blush to rise to her face as unaccustomed thoughts intruded into the routine cycle of anger at failure and embarrassment.  She found herself first relaxing into his touch, then beginning to join him in a side stroke towards shore, aware the sea was indeed rising beneath a wind growing ever more full.

Her arm over his around her middle, they fell into a matching stroke, falling into the rythmn as naturally as with another dancer, they moved together through the waves as he pushed her to extend herself, stretching into fuller strokes, and more powerful than she had learned to use in her long recovery, he never pushed, simply led and trusted she would follow and felt her body begin to burn with the feeling of pleasant exertion.  Falling into the rythmn she felt her heart and his hammer in time as his chest pressed to her back, and she was very well aware of just what was pressed against her buttocks as their legs moved together in a dance eerily echoing another she had not contemplated since her accident.

 

Arriving at shore, body thrilling with the pleasure of full exertion she had no strength even to stand, and was trying to figure out how to gracefully ask for a pause before trying to get out of the water when she felt his other arm pass beneath her legs and carry her out of the water with an effortless power that belied his graceful form.

“I am so sorry, I knew you were tiring, but I was just enjoying the swim so much I indulged myself by pushing us both.  It is the least I can do for such a lovely dance partner to help you over the fence to my mother’s land.”

 

He carried her up the rough beaten trail to the rough turnaround where her car and a Triumph Stag were both parked.  He settled her neatly on the hood of the Stag, and snagged a towel from the back seat of the convertible to wrap around her.

“Oh my god, this is your mother’s land?  I didn’t know who owned it, but I just knew there was a beach access, and never any people, and I prefer to swim without a lot of people around”

 

His eyes stayed on hers, even as hers darted reflexively to the scars she attempted to hide with the towel, and his eyes smiled easily, refusing to flinch.

“Aye, it’s my father’s beach, but the farm is mother’s.  I am actually supposed to be at a family function right now for Litha, but you know, sometimes you don’t need a lot of people around, sometimes you need to feel the wind, the waves, the sun, the feel of the warm earth beneath your feet, and the feel of someone else moving with the same simple joy of life”

 

Had he pressed closer, she might have feared that was a come on, and been concerned about his intentions, but he stood unselfconsciously, the sun shining on his golden hair, and she saw a faint network of scars covering his body as well, similar to her own in scope, if different in placement.

Seeing her eyes trace over his scars he laughed, and she flinched, knowing her reaction to people noticing her own.
“Ah yes, well when I was younger I took up the sword, so to speak.  There came a time I had to give it up, put it behind me.  I was glad enough to be honest, I would rather work to build a future than burn it down anyway.  I admit I am mostly concerned with wealth management these days, the exciting world of agricultural futures and my own volunteer work trying to do what I can to see that we use some of that wonderful plenty to make sure that the people who need it actually get fed.  Not as exciting as the sword, but the fields and flocks keep people fed after all”

He looked down at his scars and traced them with his finger, he took her hand and she felt herself start to do the same.

“These are like the vines of the rose.  Twisted and thorned, they speak of pain, but if you trace them you see they sing of life, rooted in the strong earth, yearning for the bright sun, and if you trace them far enough you will find such beauty as no gentler flower may know”

Rose vines on fence

 

His own fingers began to trace her own scars on her legs, as her own traced his scars across his chest.

There was a simple joy in discovery for her, as his fingers traced lines of pain and ugliness that she saw imposed over the body she knew, but he taught her otherwise.  She traced the scars of his body and found only life and love, the fierce burning passion of the spring tempered by life and wisdom into the warm heat of summer, the richness of fulfilment, not the mad urgency of spring, but the patience of the long lazy summer afternoon.
Tracing her scars, he taught her to know her hard won strength, to glory in the lines of a power paid for by sweat and tear, to claim for herself the joy of the dance again, in the oldest dance of all.  They loved in the fields, as birds danced and sang, and the fence rose bushes waved in the summer breeze in stately measure as if bowing to the couple who celebrated life renewed under the midsummer sun.

Weaving for each other crowns of flowers, they strode naked to the tree at the center of the field where he showed her the secret burrow of the rabbits that dance here each Easter, and stood beside her as the doe from the edge of the treeline came down to let her stroke its soft flanks, coming to his soft call as if it were not a wild thing.

 

The midsummer passed as they supped in the field from baskets he had brought in his Triumph Stag, and they fed each other with crackers, meats, fruits and cheeses with much laughter, and enough spillage that squirrels and birds were their most dutiful attendants.

As the sun began to fall, he smiled sadly, and told her it was time for him to go, for he was not free to tarry long.  As they returned to their cars, and their clothes, it occurred to her she had never asked his name.  As she turned to ask him, she gazed at him flower crowned, the setting sun behind his head setting his body to glowing like hammered bronze and froze.
“You know my name, beloved one.  You need not speak it, but write it here over my heart and know that you will always be my beloved.”  His voice was too gentle to be a command; but an invitation.
Over his heart she traced the diamond symbol Ingwaz, the symbol of Frey.

Kissing her on the forehead, he took both her hands in his before kissing them as well in parting.

“You have always pleased me, in the dance, and in your life.  A gift for a gift, it was time I reminded you were still my beloved dancer”

 

She followed his Stag into the first turn, but was unsurprised to find that when she rounded the corner on the country road, his car was not there.  Litha was ending, and he could not tarry.  The laughed through smiling tears.  She also had life to get back to, and joy that she had forgotten would again be part of it.

Ingwaz

 

 

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Women In Heathenry: Their Words

Preface:

I have been excited to meet heathens of so many local communities over my time in Heathenry, often inspired by the presence of known and well respected members of that community who have been esteemed for some time.  In each and every occasion I have visited with Heathen groups in person, I have been pleased with the Heathen’s I knew about and came to meet (in retrospect almost always men) and absolutely blown away by the amazing heathens I never heard of before (almost always women).

After long enough being beaten over the head with the same observation, the unknown and amazingly worthy heathen women in our communities, I take a look at three images I see of heathen women.  The general pagan community that views Heathen women as some oppressed minority kept silent, pregnant, and in the kitchen (odd because they have met too many of our women to think any force in the nine worlds could effectively oppress them at all), the image of the outside largely Christian community that paints them as basically flakey hippy pastries just left of the wiccan fairy unicorn princesses, only way hotter, and the heathen community which oddly enough seems to accept that they exist, when reminded, and value their own, but honestly seem to be able to discuss heathenry at length of hours before bringing them up at all.
So dismissible to invisible seems to be the worth that Heathen women are frequently held in.  As a Heathen, my practice demands reciprocity, the return of a gift of equal value for the gifts that I have received.  I have received so much from the Heathen women in my community, both my local community, and the broader Heathen community.  I have met, and been honoured to meet, some of the most amazing women on earth, and seen them living their heathenry in ways that moved me deeply.  I cannot tell you what heathenry means to them.  I can tell you what they mean to Heathenry, but maybe it would be better for all if I asked them a little more about how they live their heathenry, and we can all get a better sense of the worth they have built for themselves, and brought to our community.  Perhaps we as a community can then do a better job of that reciprocity, at giving honour equal to the worth and contribution these amazing women have already given to us personally, and our community.

Questions:

Q-How long have you been drawn towards your path, which for simplicities sake we will collectively refer to as Heathenry (with the understanding by members of this broad community that the actual name for individual practice does have very specific and important meanings).

Freydis Heimdallson, Heathen Freehold Society of British Columbia

A: For just about as long as I can remember. I was a devout Christian as a child, but it never quite felt entirely right to me. There wasn’t enough of the natural world, if that makes sense. There weren’t enough trees.

In Grade Four we had these big books with stories for Grades Three, Four, and Five in them. I was a great reader already and read all of them, and in the Grade Five section I found the Norse myths for the first time that I can remember.

There was a real shock of recognition as I looked at the picture of Odin, ravens on each shoulder, sitting on his throne with his wolves at his feet, and I remember being really saddened when the book said these were the gods of a dead religion that no one followed any more. I sometimes wonder now how my life might have changed if I had known then that they were not dead, they still had followers, and that in only a few more years, it would once again be legal to follow them (or any gods one pleased) in my country.”

cloak_3

Freydis Heimdallson has been on the Witan or ruling body of the Heathen Freehold since its founding. She has held a number of offices, and has been the voice of reason that kept the peace at more than one occasion.  When I was new to Heathenry, and looking to see if the Heathen Freehold was right for me, I attended my first Althing.  On seeing some of the people there I still was not sure.  Then Freydis pulled up in her truck (pregnant at the time) and introduced herself.  She was the epitome of what I thought a good and worthy Heathen ought to be.  That was my initial impression.

Since then her and her husband have become Kindred and kin to us, and each has agreed to take in the others children should both parents be lost.  That is the kind of trust and esteem I hold her in.  People love to give me credit for the Kindertales books, and I did co write them.  She also co wrote them, also edited, illustrated and published them, yet I hear them touted as my work.  Funny, she was the driving force behind organizing it, and the greater contributor by an order of magnitude.

In point of fact, we are now seeing the first generation raised that can answer how much different it CAN be knowing the old gods’ followers are indeed still active among us.

Lorrie Wood: Hrafnar Kindred,  Northern California Steward, holder of more Troth offices over the years than I can comfortably list.

Sumble Troth

A:I was raised Roman Catholic, with regular infusions of Southern Baptist from my father’s mother every summer.

At Mass, I saw some of my favorite people, the nuns, ministering the Eucharist (“handing out the God cookies”). I thought that was all well and good, but wondered when I might see the sister behind the altar, in the fancy robes, because clearly being a priest was the thing: the whole structure of the Mass, the layout of the church, tells you this.

I was told she—and by extension I—never would, because we were women. Not because we weren’t good enough, but the simple rule that Women Couldn’t Do That.

In 1992, I had a free ride to Case Western Reserve University, a prominent engineering school in my native Cleveland, Ohio. Here, I got experience on an Internet without walls, learning more about paganism through Usenet (something rather like today’s forums). As was expected of someone learning about non-traditional Faith’s in the early nineties, I had the campus bookstore order in Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance and Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon. All I remember of my first reading of The Spiral Dance was being quite annoyed at the idea that, somehow, having a One Great Goddess was supposed to “balance” the single great God I’d been raised with. Having multiple gods—at least two, but why not more?—seemed a more reasonable approach!

Shortly after that, I was taught enough basic magical/energy practice not to embarrass myself, and was taken to my first Pantheacon in 1996. Here, among other things, we went to a reading of a new book by Diana L. Paxson (I was used to people reading things aloud, but having the author do so seemed entirely novel!). Of Diana, my friend Nina said with her usual gruff directness, “Well, she does that Viking stuff. I thought only Neo-Nazis did that, but I know Diana wouldn’t have any truck with that, so it must be all right.”

Mallory Brooks: Kith and Kin Kindred, Gythia and founder.  Idaho and Montana Steward of the Troth

mallory-brooks
A:I have been drawn to Heathenry since I was 15 (I am going to be 31 this year). I was first drawn to Freyja, and the rest came along with Her, of course. Through research and practice, I have found my home and where I belong. “

So the long hard work that the elders put in before us has born this much fruit, it is growing easier for young people to find our ways, and those who practice them.  This at least is good to hear.

Q–Are you drawn primarily to the individual practice or the community expression of heathenry.  If you are drawn to both, can you separate what you get from each? 

Freydis Heimdalson

A: I have not honestly had much experience with the community side of things, not having lived close enough to other Heathens (that I have been aware of) to be able to get together more than a couple of times a year. So group gatherings are a special treat for me, a chance to hang out with other like-minded souls without having to censor that side of myself so much. I am growing more and more open about it in my personal life—having moved out of the Bible Belt where we largely had to hide that side of ourselves for fear of our religion negatively affecting our home business—but I am still more outspoken when I am with other Heathens. I have less concern that I will accidentally let slip something that will give away our religion, or how seriously I take it, to someone who does not understand it and might think it cause for alarm. That is something that as a parent I especially have to watch out for, whereas I can relax in a group of my fellow Heathens without worrying about people getting twitchy when I talk about “sacrificing” wine or food.

Lorrie Wood

A: Oh, goodness. I’m not sure I see them as separate. My community is everywhere, I touch them whenever I pull out my phone. Listening to them informs my own practice, and those are runes I share back out in turn.

Mallory Brooks:

A: I feel drawn to both the individual practice and community expression.  The community expression is what I feel more drawn to. I feel like without community we wouldn’t be Heathens at all. It is part of our core. A great example is welcoming those who have traveled far with a horn of mead and some warm food for their stomachs and souls. The community expression is what truly makes me feel connected to the Gods and Goddesses.  I do also feel drawn to the individual expression since I have spent many, many years being a solitary Heathen, without others around to practice and connect with. I do tend to put more energy and focus into the community expression, since I do believe community is a prime part of being Heathen.

As you can see, where you live will have a great effect on your experience for this issue.  Monocultural rural deeply religious areas are not as accepting as urban more racially and culturally diverse cities are.

Q--The image we get from Paganism is that men follow gods, women follow goddesses.  Heathenry includes the honouring of the gods and goddesses, the wights of the lands and waters, the honoured Disir and sacred ancestors.  While elements of all of these will be part of everyone’s practice at some level, which figures do you have the most developed relationship with, and can you tell me how you came to develop that specific relationship in such depth?

Freydis Heimdalson

A: I am closest to Thor, and after that probably Freya, although when I am in the hospital, partially sedated and in pain from some procedure or other, I always wake up calling on both Thor and Odin for help. So I suppose I have the most developed relationship with them, although I ask Odin for help less often (when severe pain isn’t involved) these days as he usually just tells me to sort it out for myself. Reminds me a bit of my mother that way, actually.

Lorrie Wood

A:…what? That’s rather a bit of bullshit, if you ask me (and you did!).

Hrafnar has never had the restriction that anyone should be limited in what gods, beings, or anything one might honor due to their gender. This starts at the top, of course, as Diana has been an Odin’s woman since 1987. The closest we’ve had is that, for some years, we had a women’s group that explored our goddesses, but it had important caveats:

  • Given that Odin had no problem going to Sam’s Isle to learn what women did, a man might join, and attend, the women’s group’s meetings if he were willing to wear a skirt. Important addendum: no, kilts are not skirts.
  • In no way did this keep a man from—for example—working with Freyja or Frigg. The very idea is a bit boggling, really. The idea that somehow only women could work with Frigg tried to emerge in our community, and we stomped on it quickly for the nonsense it was.

Additionally, in Hrafnar we honor all our ancestors, in keeping with our history as one of the US’s oldest continuous-running inclusive kindreds. This cannot be limited to strictly ancestors of the blood (not everyone has the best of relationships with their kin), nor to any particular country of origin or gender. We care about our members’ ancestors because they’re the ancestors of our members, and we honor and respect the traditions that each brings. In this way, it’s entirely appropriate for me to bring Polish pastry for Disablot. It’s about our ancestors; it’s the spiritual technology we use to approach them that is Germanic.

As for spirits of place, your several varieties of wights, we strive to build relationships with the wights of home, hearth, and garden.

Mallory Brooks:

A:I have been close with Freyja and Loki. I do feel that often times women do tend to follow Goddesses and men follow Gods. There are always exceptions of course. If you are being called by a specific God or Goddess, your gender does not matter to them and it shouldn’t to you.

My relationship with Freyja started when I was still a teenager, and She is who brought me to Heathenry. She helped me find my way as a teen and into my adult years, both spiritually and in my daily mundane life.

My relationship with Loki started when I was in the midst of a bad abusive first marriage. He helped me gain the strength to finally leave for good. He helped me create the necessary changes to make the leap and leave.

Q–We are our deeds.  This phrase echoes through heathenry across the spectrum, so to look at Heathenry as a tool that either works or doesn’t; what has your heathenry changed for you in how you face your daily mundane challenges and decisions?  Is your practice something separate from your daily life, or has your practice deepened your daily life and decision making process?  If so, how, and to what effect?

Freydis Heimdalson

A: As a child, I was meek, timid to the point of being perpetually fearful. I was absolutely unable to stand up for myself in the slightest way, down to the point of not being able to point out I had been missed when papers were handed out at school, and just being left hoping desperately that someone noticed. If I saw something doing something wrong, if I saw an injustice, all I could do was to hope that someone else noticed and did something. If someone did a wrong or an injustice to me—all I could do was hope that someone would notice and rectify it.

Becoming a Heathen has given me my voice, and strength. It has given me determination. If someone needs help, I provide it. If I need something, I either do it myself or find another to help; I no longer rely on someone else noticing my quandry and aiding me unasked. It has given me the strength to face some very difficult challenges that Christianity and atheism were never able to help me with. I cannot meekly hope that some distant God will look after me when things go wrong. My gods allow me to not be alone in my struggles (the way being an atheist was leaving me); but they do not promise easy, empty assurances that things will somehow work out for the best, or at least all be “part of God’s plan.” What they do offer me is the determination to stand up to my challenges and fight to resolve them myself, or with concrete aid that I ask for.

Lorrie Wood

A: I tried to keep my Heathenry out of my everything else, but after several experiences showed me the folly of this, they’ve been integrating madly for the past decade or so.

My Heathenry has gotten me into home brewing, and it’s rare now that I travel without a couple bottles secreted about my luggage. When I meet with folks from my favorite online game, I make it a point to hand bottles as gifts to the group’s leaders. Any heathen would recognize this gift-giving, of course, and it amuses me.

Mallory Brooks:

A:My practice is part of my daily life. It is one in the same for me. I feel that it should be. We aren’t Christians. We don’t “sin” all week, and then go to church on Sundays so we can “repent.” We, as Heathens, are responsible each day to live honorably and to do what is necessary to take care of ourselves and others. We have a responsibility to uphold our values and virtues each day, not just at a kindred meeting or when we hold a Blot.

Q--How accepted do you feel as a woman within the Heathen community?  Do you feel you can speak up, especially to disagree or offer alternate options?

 

Freydis Heimdalson

A: I have never felt shy about speaking my mind within the Heathen community; but then, I usually do not see myself from the perspective of my gender. I am a wife, a mother, and a daughter; but I do not usually think of myself as a woman. I think of myself as a person. Honestly, I am slightly gender-fluid.

However, while I don’t see very many women at Heathen gatherings in the first place, far too often the ones I do see are hanging back, not speaking up, and not wanting to share their opinions even when we are with a small group, the men of which I know absolutely would listen respectfully and accord them the same privileges they would any other person around the fire, and that has always annoyed me. I don’t see very many women at Heathen gatherings. Some I do see and some are outspoken; and the ones that seem to stick around are the outspoken ones. The others fade in quietly from the sidelines, are present for a while in the background, and fade away again, leaving little hint of their presences or personality.

And that bugs me. I speak up, and don’t sit quietly, and am constitutionally unable to hold my tongue and let anyone else finish a complete sentence; so why won’t they speak up, I wonder? And I can only assume it is the same sort of social conditioning that I fell prey to growing up. Sit quietly and listen; don’t speak out; children (and women) should be seen and not heard.

Blow that.

Lorrie Wood

A:  Diana and I run Hrafnar. Of us, I tend to be more outspoken, but due to the pride of my position I have no problem challenging her.

As kindred Thyle, that extends to much of the rest of the kindred as well.

Outside of that, e.g. in the Troth, I feel that my opinion is lightly cast aside unless one of my friends expresses support in short order. I don’t know if that’s due to my gender or due to a pile of other things that I’ve done, or have been said about me, over the years.

Mallory Brooks:

A:  When I first came into Heathenry, I didn’t feel accepted or like I could speak up. Now that I have been Heathen for many years, I feel differently. I feel accepted and that I can have a discussion with any Heathen man that crosses my path.

Q--What do you get out of our community as a whole that you take back to your daily life?  Are we giving back to you, as you are giving to us? 

Freydis Heimdalson

A: That is a difficult thing to answer, because most of my interactions with any kind of a Heathen community have been with people I don’t know very well, online. However, the few close Heathen friends I do have I know I can rely on absolutely, that at need, they would drop everything and move heaven and earth for us, as we would for them. What I have from them is a select group of people I can trust not only with my own life, but also my children’s lives, quite literally. And that is a very rare and valuable thing.

As to the rest, I suppose what I get is fellowship, but I prefer to have it around a fire with a horn of mead in my hand. Facebook is an exceedingly poor substitute, and not a place I feel I can truly speak openly. I don’t trust the privacy settings, nor the corporation. And there are too many names I know only from there, and not as people, as faces in the firelight…

More fame and praise would always be nice though, ha ha.

[As an aside, beyond being the driving force behind the Kindertales project, Freydis was also the leader of the Women’s Guild project that created the far fame Heathen Freehold Banner, as well as the carver of the raven headed rune carved banner staff that flies it.  Her accomplishments in the Freehold are a big part of the organization’s word fame, precious little of which seems to have stuck to her]

freydisbrag

Lorrie Wood

A:  That’s an excellent question, especially given how the Troth, known primarily as “that US-based organization that’s not the AFolkA but they’re more heathen than the ADF I guess”, has been treating its volunteers and membership of late.

Hrafnar gives back. My kindred values me and my work, and trusts me to come up with interesting activities, assignments, challenges, and foods.

I do not feel that my work for the Troth over the years has been as well recognized or valued. If Diana and I weren’t in such close partnership, I would have left long ago. I don’t think that’s because I’m a woman, though—the Troth has some significant systemic challenges in its road and needs to make significant advances in inclusion and transparency if it wants to be an organization for the years ahead.

Author’s Note: “The Troth has done much to make that lost ground up since I wrote those words. While they were true THEN, they are less so NOW-Lorrie Wood”

Mallory Brooks:

A:  I truly love being able to be around others who are Heathens and who have similar values as I do. I love being able to take these values back to my children to teach them.

Q--What are we (by this I mean Heathen men)  doing wrong?  I am specifically asking the question because the women in Heathenry are truly our only peers, our only equals, and in many cases shining exemplars whose deeds should be the focus of emulation and source of instruction.  Heathenry is half of what it could be, because half of our community is effectively passing under the radar.  We, by this I mean the men and women of the community, really need to do better.  I would hope that we are willing to do better, but speaking in utter honesty, I don’t know how  to do so.

Freydis Heimdalson

A: I’ll be honest; I don’t know. I really, honestly don’t. :/

I think part of the problem with asking for my perspective on the question may be that I not only do not think of myself as female, really (beyond in the very obvious, biological sense, which I can’t really get away from; but the [ ] Male [ ] Female boxes on forms always make me exceedlingly uncomfortable because neither one feels right and both are to an extent appropriate); but that I often think of myself as at least slightly male. So I think I sort of fit in with the other men in Heathen gatherings pretty well, and certainly better than some women I have seen. But I also don’t know how many of those women were actually Heathens themselves, and how many were merely there because their boyfriends were, and they had a passing interest. Or were Wiccan and felt it was largely the same thing (when I would argue that, while both pagan religions, the outlooks on the mindset of the universe and the structures of the gods are completely different in Wicca and Heathenry, almost diametrically opposed, in some ways), until they discovered that it wasn’t, and no longer felt they fit in. So are the women not participating because they are not truly interested? Or because they have been trained since childhood by our society to defer to the men in the room, especially if the men are being boisterous (as Heathen gatherings often tend to be)?

Thinking back on my own lengthy meek phase, what would get me involved was to ask me directly what I thought about something. Part of the trick is to ask what the person thinks, and not just “Do you agree?” because if it can be answered with a yes or no answer, that is often all you will get; and women will often agree with the men’s opinions (generalizing heavily here, of course) even if they don’t particularly actually think so, simply to avoid what they expect will be an argument and being shouted down and being told why they are wrong and their experiences invalid, or somehow unrelated or an exception.

So I guess I would say, if you notice a woman sitting quietly, just listening, not participating in the conversation, then ask her directly what she thinks, listen to her answer, and before you tell her all the ways she’s wrong, find things in her statement that she is correct about. And, please, gods, not just “Well, I can certainly understand why you’d feel that way!” If it would be an insulting thing to say to a man, it is just as insulting to say to a woman; the only difference is that we will all too often just smile politely, albeit with clenched teeth, back down, and simply resolve to not bother arguing about it with that person or group again.

And once that happens, what’s even the point of showing up?

Lorrie Wood

A:  This is a strange question for me. I don’t divvy up my community based on gender. My people are my people. Some of the ways in which they ask to be recognized as my people means I have to stash “preferred pronoun” and “potential gender presentation(s)” in the mental cubbyhole next to “name” and “dietary restrictions”. I’m rubbish at names already, but I do what I can.

Let’s start by treating one another as individuals, each on our own merits—though obviously there’s going to be baggage and things that one may say about another based on previous association. Let’s cherish what being female means to this one, what being heathen means to that one, what the other’s identity as a Lokean means, and try to understand that it can be a brave thing indeed to say, “yes, I’m looking pretty femme today, but please understand that I’m genderfluid; if I’m presenting male tomorrow, try to keep up. If unsure, ask.” I care more about what you’ve read and thought lately than your gender; let’s get back to work building community together, the better to forge fellowship.

Mallory Brooks:

A:  I have run into many Heathen men who do think that they are better at “being” Heathen than any woman. I have quickly put them into their place. I realize that there are many Heathen men who are simply just new to the faith and get sucked into that “I am Heathen man, here me roar. Smash.” I am hoping as time goes on we can find these young men and show them that there is no reason to be this way.

There is also a brand of older Heathen men who are stuck in that frame of mind. I really don’t know how to get those men out of that state. They have been that way for so long.

In summation

I am not going to tell you this represents every woman in Heathenry, or even claim it is a representative sample, because it is not.  These are some of our best.  What they have to say speaks very well of them, not so well of us, but does hold out hope that not only is change possible, but on some fronts we are actually moving forward.
I did not get the answers I thought I would when I asked the questions, but that just shows that you can be living inside a forest for twenty years and not notice the trees.  I should have known this, I should have raised my voice for change at least a decade ago when I first had the standing and responsibility to do so.  There are a whole lot of worthy Heathen men out there that are going to read these words and suffer the same sense of shame that I do, that our women were thus slighted in our presence for decades with us silently permitting it.

I can’t tell you where we go from here, but I think that as a community, we need to communicate better across the genders, and has been noted here several places, begin seeking out the quiet ones and talking to them.  Too much I have heard that the silence is not entirely by choice, and its acceptance means accepting the marginalization of women in our community.

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

One True Troll on the Internet

freemont-troll

Grimm Mordingi was a troll.  Living under the Sun Death of Sunna, for him to be touched by the sun was to die and crumble into naught but gravel and rock.  It was perhaps not the most enjoyable existence in the world but Grimm admitted that never aging, having skin that ignored most of the loud noisy things that men used instead of spears these days, and the ability to ignore such petty human concerns as “Mad Cow”, after all, none of them were particularly happy to meet a troll, pretty much balanced things out.

Grimm Mordingi ruled the rail bridge over the Pitt River.  The river was mostly fat and contented, as the best rivers are, passing under the bridge in burbling unconcern.  The rail bridge itself showered him with grain from the great wheat carriers, which allowed Grimm to feed the fat stupid pigeons that never seemed to learn the difference between nice little old ladies and hill trolls from the old country.

Some nights he would fish, others hunt deer, coyote or rabbit. On major feast days the city workers presented him with a rather confused cow, wondering at the purpose of being staked out to graze beneath a rail bridge.  This was part of the deal.  Canadian Geese were the bullies of the bird world, and took to urban life as easily as trolls.  Cute and fluffy, they were too pretty to allow the city to kill so me off every year without losing votes and elections, so the city crews who worked the tunnels and knew the lore of Trolls made the deal.  Control the geese and get cow at feast.

Grimm was thus as contented as a troll could be.  Fine bridge, fat river, all the geese he could eat and a cow at feast days.  Left free to contemplate life, he did what easily confused trolls had been advised to avoid doing for centuries; he eavesdropped on human teenagers.

He discovered they were obsessed with their phones, which oddly they talked to and not on.  They used them to do this thing called “social networking” which seemed to consist of ignoring the people you were with to talk to people who were somewhere else, ignoring the people they were with too.  He admitted, it sounded like a very Trollish way of doing things.

Then the magic happened.  He learned there were Trolls on the internet.  Not some trolls, apparently Trolls were greatly feared, raiders of terrible power who stalked the internet terrifying whole communities of humans.

Thor had made it clear, that any actual terrorizing of villages would be met with a hammer from above, if the fire and spears didn’t get you first, but this “internet” trolling was allowed.  The prayers of these silly humans for their priests to wield the Ban Hammer in Thor’s name to crush the trolls were seldom heeded.  There was a whole thriving world of trolls he could connect to via the “internet” whatever that was.  All Grimm Mordingi must do was to get a phone or tablet (a stone carved phone?)  and he could join his people, become again a wild hill troll, this time in cyberspace!

There were humans who came to stay under his bridge.  There were the god-touched, the street people.  They were wary around him, as they were each other, for predators lurked behind every tree and rock, every bridge and shadow.  There were the couples, the young lovers who came to practice their mating.  While some clearly needed the practice, others seemed just naturally gifted or really well taught.  Neither of these groups would be interested in helping a Troll to find his folk on the internet.

That left the horns and skunks.  The horns were those who gathered in groups up to a dozen and drained odd horns of metal, or bottles of some sort of plastic as well as glass beneath his bridge.  They were loud, funny, but frequently quite violent when surprised, so probably not the ones to teach him the ways of the Internet troll.

That left the skunks.  As with the horns, they did not actually use their traditional namesake.  As the horns drank from bottle and can, rather than civilized horn, the skunks did not smoke actual skunks, but a local weed whose buds made them sillier than usual. They were usually relaxed, frequently happy, or at least sitting down or lying down while complaining.

That night as the “Stoners” opened a laptop to play their music, and smoked enough of the skunk weed to be relaxed (yet still able to speak), Grim Mordingi dropped from his perch under the deck to land among them.

Tossing two geese (cleaned and plucked) into the lap of the one who was complaining loudest about the “munchies” Grim landed in full troll splendor on the up wind side of the “stoners”

“Good evening, I am Grim Mordingi, the troll of this bridge.  You are my guests here and I offer you these two fine geese for your feast tonight.  All I ask in return is that you show me how to use a log to get into the “internet” so that I may meet my brethren, the Trolls of the Internet

After a certain amount of giggling, swearing, one person falling in the fire, it was generally agreed that:

  • He was a troll
  • He was real
  • He was not going to eat them
  • He really wanted to surf the internet and meet other trolls
  • Far freaking out

Laughing and giggling the boys and girls showed Grimm around the internet, into chatrooms and forums, and things called “mailing lists” although why you would want a list of mail was never explained.  In each he was shown the Trolls they knew, famous trolls, known trolls.

Each was worse than the next.  These were NOT HIS FOLK!  Grimm Mordingi was a proud troll name, meaning brutal killer, but what these internet trolls did was foul, monstrous!  They broke guest laws, defiled the places they called their own worse than even humanity had done to this beautiful land with their cities.

Troll after troll he found, each one more hate filled than the last, howling their spite and poison on anyone and everyone that attempted to share a moment of joy, or create a thing of beauty.  These were not mighty hunters, fierce raiders, these were torturers, vandals, barrow defiling honourless NITHLINGS!

There were tears pouring down his face, hot copper tasting things he had not shed since his long ago mate had ran afoul of a bull moose in a winter hunt.  His folk were fallen, the proud heritage of the troll was fouled by what lived today.  Rather than finding the connection to his own kind on the internet, rather than social networking, he found himself moved to do a thing most un-troll like.  He wanted to pray.

Falling to his knees, he took from the cooking goose the fattest breast and tossed it to the night for the wights.  As two half starved dogs fought over it, showing it was accepted the Troll raised his paws in supplication and prayed as he had never prayed before.

+++

In far off Asgard, Thor awoke, his hand straying to his hammer.  His wife the beautiful Sif looked over in love and alarm and asked her dread husband what was the matter.

“There is a troll on the internet”

Sif giggled and hit her husband, the mighty giant slayer with a solid smack to the back of his stone hard head

“There are Trolls on the internet, polar bears are white, water is wet and politicians lie.  Anything else obvious to say?”

Thor shook his mighty head, red beard hiding a bemused smile.
“No dear, an actual troll.  He is on the internet, and just now he has offered a prayer and sacrifice most sincere and worthy, invoking my name and my aid as the Defender of Man and Guardian of Social Order”

Thor began to dress and arm himself.  Sif working swiftly to attach his armour and gauntlet, fixing his belt of strength around him with the ease of the warrior she herself was.  As she worked to help him arm, she wondered again and again, what would a hill troll pray to Thor for, and why invoke him as the defender of man and the social order?  What could a troll possibly be asking for?  Seeing her husband trying manfully to hold in his gales of laughter, his face going as red as his beard trying to contain it, Sif finally relented and asked the question she knew he was dying to answer.
“Alright, I give up, what was our Internet Troll praying to Thor Hammerthrower for?”

Raising Mjolnir in his mighty fist, he struck a pose and shouted

“To drop the Ban Hammer on all the Internet Trolls!”

banhammer

The laughter of god and goddess sounded like thunder as Thor rode to answer the prayer of the one true Troll on the internet.

John T Mainer

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Aesir, Asatru, Drugs, Faith, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

War on Drugs: Victory Conditions

The War on Drugs:
This phrase is used a lot, and the people using it would usually require a diaper change should they ever experience the real thing, but for those of us who know the war they speak of so fondly a little better, the war on drugs makes us stop and ask a few key questions.

I was found by Odin back in basic training, but let me tell you the title that explains why Odin was revered by the folk was Victory Father, not so much Battle Glad, or Feeder of Ravens.  Victory is the goal, the passions that carry us through war, and the cost of waging it are part of who he is, and we must accept the whole package or we had best not call for him at all, but when we do call him, it is for Victory.

Odin Face
Drugs: are not the enemy.  No heroin or alcohol has ever attacked someone in a dark ally.  No cocaine has ever picked off school children crossing the road, or blown up a building.    Drugs are weapons, and the casualties are our citizens.  You know who I am talking about.  If the casualties of the gun and the bomb are known by the bullet wounds and shrapnel, then the casualties of the drug war are the drug addicts, those who were our children, our siblings, or sometimes our parents.  These are the victims.

We live in a capitalist society, and we understand the power of the consumer.  If there is a market for something, it will be supplied.  If there is a large market for something, there will be a huge amount of profit in its supply, and to defend this revenue source, all manner of casualties will flow from battling over this revenue stream.  As long as there is demand, there will be supply.  This is the truth of capitalism.

 

The flow of drugs, and the number of casualties are the two things that we, as a society, use our energy and resources to limit.  Law enforcement and border security forces do their bit to reduce the flow, but even they will tell you they cannot stop it; the KGB with the largest security force in the world, totally willing to remove even the pretense of freedom, could not stop it.

 

The demand for drugs, and the amount of people we lose to them remain the stakes on the table, remain where we will either know, or give up, Victory.

70. It is better to live | than to lie a corpse,

The live man catches the cow;

I saw flames rise | for the rich man’s pyre,

And before his door he lay dead.

 

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

The deaf in battle is bold;

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

No good can come of a corpse.

 

Drug addiction destroys people, I don’t care if it is alcohol, or illegal drugs, those who abuse substances destroy their own lives, and damage all of those around them.  Each and every drug addict is a casualty in this war, and we have to decide right now if we want to be Heathen about it, and do the hard things required to win this war, or do we want to be Christian about it and make grand useless gestures and preach perfect world ideologies while our children die in the streets.

Guess which one I pick.

Vancouver pioneered Insite, supervised injection sites for intravenous drug users in downtown Vancouver.  This was backed by our former Chief Coroner and the Health Region as a loss reduction strategy.  I was against it.  I will admit this.  I was against the program

 

My daughter Caitlyn works in a coffee shop on graveyard shifts here in town, and is the trained first aider in her workplace.  At sixteen years of age, she had dealt with over half a dozen near fatal overdoses at her work place, and I have even dealt with one discovered in a bathroom at her school when we were there for a band concert after hours.

Bathroom addict

IV drug use right now leaves dirty needles in school grounds, shared dirty needles between users, and spreads diseases that are not just temporary, but life long burdens that will haunt those poor folk even if they did beat their addiction.  Those who are working in the sex trade, will be an increased public health risk to everyone as I am just not convinced those who use street prostitutes are being sexually responsible in informing their wives or partners that they stopped off in a back alley for a tryst at lunch time with an IV drug user.  It is not just those who choose to take chances that get hurt.

 

Addicts are all losses in the middle of happening, but not all of those losses have to continue to become permanent casualties.  The true Victory condition is not just stopping people from becoming addicts, it is about reclaiming those who are addicts, and giving them a chance to return to society.

 

Insite is doing that.

Marc Townsend,Insite

Marc Townsend, manager of the Portland Hotel Society, enters Insite, Canada’s only safe injection site for intravenous drug addicts in Vancouver, Tuesday, October 2, 2007. The society along with Vancouver Coastal Health Authority operates the site which was given a six-month operating extension by the federal government Tuesday. Richard Lam/CP

 

InSite reported 778 non-fatal illicit drug-related overdose events and no deaths for the period

2004-2010.

 

They are saving lives, those who overdose on site are not lost.  No good can come of a corpse, as the ancestors used to say.

 

A retrospective population based study. Published in the Lancet, April 2011. This study found that fatal overdoses within 500 metres of Insite decreased by 35% after the facility opened compared to a decrease of 9% in the rest of Vancouver.

 

(http://supervisedinjection.vch.ca/research/research )

 

One third fewer deaths……..that speaks to a strategy that is having real, lasting effect.

Insite Injection interior

 

Alcohol was the primary substance involved in non-fatal overdose events among high

risk populations surveyed in Victoria and Vancouver.

  • Multiple substances were involved in 50-60% of overdose events among these populations.
  • At InSite, 589 (76%) of overdoses reported involved heroin and, of these, 224 (29%)

involved naloxone administration, an opiate antagonists.

 

(http://www.uvic.ca/research/centres/carbc/assets/docs/bulletin8-overdose-events-in-bc.pdf )

 

As the research shows, even were we to rid ourselves of every imported drug, those at risk of addiction would continue to fall to alcohol or other either legally available drugs, or those that can be grown or harvested locally.  You cannot keep people from “feeding their head” through closing your borders, unless you live on the moon.  You can keep the numbers dying or suffering permanent harm down.

 

What about Victory, what about actually saving lives, as opposed to just moving back the date of the inevitable conclusion of persistent self-harm?  Well, lets look at how the program actually did.

 

 

4,564 referrals to other social and health services

 

488 discharges from Onsite detox (Insite refers clients who wish to their associated detox program Onsite)

Insite counsellors make thousands of referrals to other social and health service agencies, the vast majority of which are for detox and addiction treatment. The calendar year 2012 saw more than 400 admissions from Insite into Onsite, the adjoining detox treatment facility, which recorded a program completion rate of 49%.

 

Just under half.  That is what loss reduction looks like.  That is an acceptable result from any triage situation.  Any first responder understands when the scope of the problem is too vast for the resources you have at hand, you perform triage to save as many of the ones as you can.  There will be losses, as you simply do not have the resources to save them all; but properly applied, the resources you have can save many.

This is Heathen thinking, accept reality for what it is, and do your best with the resources you actually have to save as many as you can.  Victory has never, and will never be without cost, but when we lose sight of the victory conditions; saving our own citizens, we will have lost the war, out of stubborn desire to continue to fight with weapons we are comfortable with, like guns, prison, and court, rather than weapons that can actually win, like Insite safe injection sites.

Police, courts, healthcare are all important parts of the battle, but turning our back on the proven record of Insite for reducting the casualties of this war on drugs is the same things as turning away from victory out of unwillingness to do anything but continue the battle you are comfortable with.

 

We like to use the phrase “War on Drugs” but too many using the phrase think that victory will be achieved by armoured tac-teams kicking in doors, and police force increasingly looking like poorly trained imitation military carrying out war on our streets, largely against our own citizens.  This is what war looks like; civil war in which the only winners are the ravens who grow fat on the corpses of our own folk.  Ask Syria how much fun that is.

War on Drugs

If we are going to treat this as a War on Drugs, then listen to the Victory Father, listen to the Wise Counsellor; Odin is the master of war because he never loses sight of the goal, and never, ever forgets he is striving towards the Victory conditions.  Let others fight because they love to fight, Odin fights for victory, and in this war, victory is the lives of our citizens saved, and as many reclaimed from addiction and returned to our hearths and off our streets.

 

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

The deaf in battle is bold;

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

No good can come of a corpse.

 

If they aren’t dead, they are not yet lost.  Let us choose to take up the tools like Insite, that can bring us closer to victory, and save as many as possible.  We, as a society have grown addicted to the tools of violence and coercion as  our weapons of choice.  They are good weapons, but when did they become our only ones?  We may not like the tools necessary to win, but given the choice between familiar tools, or victory, which do you choose?
John T Mainer
 

 

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