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

Examination of Heathen Marriage

Heathen Freehold Society of British Columbia Wedding Ceremony

Heathen Freehold Society of BC

 

There has been a lot of talk in North America these days about traditional marriage, and family values.  That is awesome, but while people have thrown around the words, no one has really defined them, even in popular culture terms.  Since we are Heathens, we do things a little differently, starting with the need to consider just what we mean by traditional marriage and family values.
Our ancestors were not renowned for flights of romantic fancy.  There is a reason for this; the North punishes failure, badly.  To live in a marginal environment where survival requires the collective effort, and where success requires that each person lends their particular skills and strengths to their maximum advantage, there was little drive behind flights of fancy, histrionics, or grand gestures.  Practical was important, in fact, it was critical.

 

Folk flows from family, and family flows from marriage.  Heathen ritual is a very interesting thing, in that its symbolic form is a very pure statement of its function.  The ritual itself serves to break down all the levels of function that are present, and define each of its terms separately to be considered and individually before this most sacred covenant, and most important contract, becomes binding.

 

Marriage is a contract.  There is no contract as complex as a marriage; the partnership agreements that business partners enter into contain many of the same elements, and yet cover only a fraction of what is contained in the marriage itself, without any sentiment or sacral implications at all.  Oddly, the incredible number of promises implicit in marriage, the number of understandings being agreed to, implicitly or explicitly goes almost completely unnoticed by most couples today, and our divorce rates show the consequences of treating marriage as primarily a celebration of love, and not a contract negotiated between two parties about coming together into a union, as our ancestors understood it.  Celebrations of love are awesome, but without honouring the elements of the contract itself, divorce leaves that love in ruins, and the potential of the union in the rubble.

 

The birth control pill broke the tie between sex and procreation.  With adoption of unwanted children being an option long before our technology gave same sex couples the chance to produce their own children, the justification for restricting marriage to heterosexual couples was lost.  Two male, two female, or a male/female pairings had the same choices to have children, or not have children, as their life plans dictated, not as the consequences of their sex lives demanded.  That being said, the reasons for forming a marriage now lie equally across couples of whatever configuration.  For simplicities sake, I am going to refer to the bride and groom, because that was the ancient form, and as a poet I just cannot write something as beautiful as a marriage with “the party of the first part” and the “party of the second part”.  The ceremony works more or less the same, with differences between individual relationships mattering more than genders, so we will work off one model, with the understanding that it will be modified to suit each and every couple involved, however constituted.

 

The ceremony itself is below, my own commentary will occur after the >> marks.

 

 

 

ITEMS

– Groom’s Keys

– Hand-geld (To the Bride’s Family)-gift at wedding

– Brides-gift (To the groom’s family)-gift at wedding

– Morning-gift (To the Bride)-gift morning after first night as man and wife

– New Sword-given by the bride as the symbol of his duty to the hearth they will share

– Ancestral Sword-symbol of grooms duty to his ancestral hearth

-keys (actual, or big black iron symbolic)

-cord-made by couple with symbols of important events of their lives, or virtues they feel important to their union.

 

Wedding Feast

– A “Loving Cup”, a bowl or kasa (Old Norse {ON}) with handles, but a horn will also serve

– A cake of some form

-Hammer

———

Wedding Day (Or at engagement if this is done in multiple days)

 

– The Groom, with a party of distinguished friends, approaches the Bride and her family.

 

GROOM: – The Groom asks for the Bride’s hand in marriage, flattering her family, boasting of his worthiness and his gifts, and negotiating the Hand-geld and the Morning-Gift.

 

BRIDE: – The Bride and her Family express their satisfaction.

 

GROOM:

“I declare before witnesses that __(Bride’s Name)__ will bond with me in holy betrothal;

And that your pledge is to marry me in exchange for the hand geld and morning geld I have promised.

And that you will engage me to fulfil and observe the whole of the oath between us which has been said in the hearing of witnesses without wiles or cunning as a true and honest oath.”

 

BRIDE & GROOM: – Shake hands, and go with their respective parties which should not see each other again until meeting at the wedding enclosure.

 

>>Why do we do this?  Are we buying the bride?  No.  This is about establishing the worth of the individuals to each other.  For ancient couples, often times the marriage would be arraigned between senior family members with little or no consultation.  This is not the recipe for a long and frithful marriage, so the groom does not show up and announce, “well I guess we’re stuck with each other”.

No-this is the groundwork for making a couple.  The groom arrives with his close kinsmen and friends to be flyted by the brides kin.  His friends will boast of his worth, and hers will challenge it.  Let any questions of character or worth be settled before considering marriage.  This is about showing the bride what she will be getting in the marriage; who is this that seeks her hand and why does he think himself worthy of it?

In modern times, this is an absolute blast.  I have seen a groom’s female friend literally treat him like a stud bull at auction, testing his muscles, showing his teeth, the excellence of his hair, and making him demonstrate his ability to perform automotive or household repairs.  Other times I have seen it be serious, where friends have laid out the kind of trust they hold for him, and the kind of partner she will be getting.

The Hand Geld: now I never understood dowry, but hand geld I understand.  You come to seek the hand of your bride, you deem her to be the partner with whom you will build your life, to whom you will entrust your name, your heirs, and all that you may have or hold in this life.  You have found THE ONE.  How do you show this person what they mean to you?  Talk is cheap, but the amount of work that is represented in a gift of great cost, and great beauty shows that not only your hard work and labour went into the giving, but great thought and consideration.  This shows the commitment of the groom to honour the bride whose hand he seeks, and promises that he holds her favours highly.  This matters.  The reciprocal gifting relationship is important, so is the reciprocal respect.  This foundation is important, so put some thought into it.

Hand Geld is to secure the acceptance of the marriage, but the morning geld, the morning gift, this is different.  While the wedding itself is public, the consummation (outside of some areas of California) usually isn’t.  The morning geld is a gift from groom to bride after their first night together as man and wife, it is personal and will set the tone for their relationship in those private moments.   When duty is done, when it is just the two of them and such love and care as they have forged together, the little joys they give each other will renew and restore them.  This is nobody’s business but their own, and  likewise, no one but the couple can make sure they get this right.

 

Main Wedding:

 

– The Groom is prepared by his groomsmen and family members.

 

– The Bride is prepared by her hand-maidens and family members.

 

– They separately proceed to ship, where they will join the wedding party. The Bride is preceeded by a kinsman who carries the GIFT-SWORD. The Groom carries the ANCESTRAL-SWORD.

 

>>Hold your horses, what is with all the weaponry?  Ah yes.  At this point I should point out that the wedding feast is actually derived from funeral customs.  You can make all the jokes you want about the link between weddings and funerals, but our ancestors got this right rather more often than we do now, so perhaps we should hearken to their rede in such matters. 

At this time, a mother loses a son, for the duty that he bore to her ends this day.  At this day a father loses a daughter, for the name that he gave her to bear at her birth she will give up, even as she takes on the name and obligations to its worth of her husband.  There are ties being forged, and great gains being made and celebrated, but in order to bind to each other, each must surrender existing ties to enter into new ones. 

The groom bears the ancestral sword.  When he became a man, the men of his house would have girded him with that sword, admitting him to the commonwealth of the tribe, and to the family as a man.  His passage from boyhood dependency, to independent manhood came with the giving of that blade.  With this sword he defended the hearth and name of his mother.  This sword is the groom’s commitment to the family of his birth, and he will put it aside today.

 

The bride’s family bears the new sword.  When she rose this morning, a daughter of her mother’s hearth, she will go to bed this night mistress of a new hearth.  She will accept from her husband not only his name, but the sword of his ancestors.  She will take his name, and his duty to his house, and hold it until such time as she may pass it to his heirs.  It is hers now to see his duty to that name is done.  She grants to him the new sword, with which he will undertake to defend her hearth and name from this day forward, as she deems necessary.

 

We are modern people and don’t need to do all that!

 

Not so fast.  We don’t generally do a lot of carving each other up with swords anymore, this is true.  We don’t even always take the spouses name anymore.  However, the symbolic form of the ritual shows us something we need to pay attention to.  The act of marriage is a commitment from both parties that while they honour and respect their commitments to their families, and accept the duties to each others families that their marriage entails, they also publically undertake to ALWAYS PUT THE HEARTH THEY FORM TOGETHER THIS DAY FIRST.

Was I shouting with that last bit?  Its important.  Go back and read it again, it’s is that important.

 

GODHI: By fire I mark this sacred space, I name it Frithstead, let all who gather herein be peace holy. Mighty Thor, defender of the folk make sacred this space and protect all who gather herein. Odin Allfather, let all vows made herein be heard by the gods and our sacred ancestors. Mother Frigga, great Disir, guardian of our lines, let those who would join their lines together in this place know your blessing. Great Norns, weavers of fate, let those who entwine their lives, and join these two great houses know only joy and good fortune so long as they cleave together.

 

GODHI: We gather before the folk, in the sight of the gods and our sacred ancestors not to forge a bond, but to make holy a bond that has already been formed. I bring before you (Groom) and (Bride) who are bound together by love, who ask to be bound together in marriage. Marriage is forged not only of love but of Troth.

 

>>We do love.  We really do love.  We do love so well that we separate the oath of love from the duty to the greater families (shown with the sword exchange), and the oath to do the work of the marriage (which follows).  This oath is simple, stark, and the whole reason for being here.  Do you love each other?  Do you love each other enough for that love to be reason enough to struggle through whatever may come?

 

(Groom) Do you love this woman before all others, with your whole heart, and without reservation?

 

GROOM: I DO

 

GODHI: Then give to her family the Hand-Geld, a gift in return for the great treasure you seek from them.

 

The Groom then gives the Hand Geld to the bridal party who show it to the crowd, and pronounce it worthy of their daughter.

 

GODHI:(Bride) Do you love this man before all others, with your whole heart and without reservations?

 

BRIDE: I DO

 

GODHI: Then give to them the Bride Geld, a gift in return for the strong defender you seek to win from them.

 

The Bride offers the gift to the Groom’s party, and they acknowledge it worthy of the son of their house.

 

GODHI: Before the folk and sacred ancestors, in the sight of the gods, for all time I pronounce these two houses to be joined by the loving union of these two. Let the groom now set aside the ancestral sword, and with it his duties to the hearth of his mother.

 

GROOM: I give to you my ancestral sword, from this day forth, it is your hearth and honour I defend.

 

BRIDE: I will hold your ancestral sword for our strong heirs to take up, and I give to you the new sword with which I charge you to defend our hearth, home and sacred honour.

 

Bride and party now gird the new sword onto the Groom, he is now her defender.

Ken and Mary Joy Wedding

GROOM: As your honour is mine to defend, so are my house, chattels and goods yours to hold. Receive now my keys, for all that I own or will possess is yours to hold, as it is mine to defend.

 

Grooms party ties the keys to her waist.

 

>>Bride and groom are joined in love, both families are joined by the union of the two in love.  This something beautiful, precious, and fragile.  It is not enough to bring a thing of beauty into existence, for this world has a hard way with beauty that is not defended, and life that is not nurtured.  What came before was easy, what came before was about want.  Want is enough to get you here, but it is not enough to get you through what is to come.  No couple gets married with the intent to divorce, but it is almost the default end state in our lands today.  Work is hard, but work is what will make a partnership successful.  Our ancestors were practical and romantic.  It is romantic to see love blossom and grow, it is depressing to see it die of neglect.  Practically, it behooves us to make sure the work gets done that the relationship we celebrate today becomes a source of joy and strength for generations to come, not simply another momentary fancy, discarded when it was no longer fun.

 

GODHI: Now you are joined by love, but love alone is not enough. I speak now of Troth, of the bonds of duty and obligation. Before this day you were two, you faced the challenges of your lives alone, and grew strong and worthy in the doing. That was good, but tomorrow, it will not be enough. You have chosen to enter into marriage, to join yourself and mingle your bloodlines for all time through the gift of children. In this task you have given up all right to fail or falter. In the challenges that will come, you will grow stronger when you face them together, and bring some of your partner’s strength with you even when you stand alone. Before the gods and these good folk, I ask, will you plight to each other your troth, your pledge to face whatever comes side by side, that each challenge faced, each hardship overcome leave you both stronger and closer than before?

 

BRIDE AND GROOM: WE DO!

Two Wedding Rings

 

GODHI: From our most ancient times, the symbol of oath-taking was the ring. Perfect in form, the circle is without end, as is the strength of the oaths taken here today. (Groom) place the ring that symbolizes your oath upon your brides finger and repeat after me:

 

I (Groom) [repeat] do plight my troth [repeat] and give my oath [repeat] to face all challenges together [repeat] with honesty and courage [repeat] until death separates us [repeat].

 

GODHI: (Bride) place the ring that symbolize your oath upon your groom’s finger and repeat after me:

 

I (Bride) [repeat] do plight my troth [repeat] and give my oath [repeat] to face all challenges together [repeat] with honesty and courage [repeat] until death separates us [repeat].

 

GODHI: It is not in the power of a priest to make a marriage, it is only for a priest to stand before the folk and acknowledge what has been woven by the Norns, and forged by the love and troth of these two. As I take this cord that you have fashioned from the fabric of your separate lives, so do I show the sacred ancestors, the assembled wights and these good folk what the gods already know, you are now bound together as husband and wife.

 

>>Best symbol of being bound together is…..being bound together.  Who knew?  The oath rings worn stand as testimony for all time of the oaths sworn, and they will have exactly as much magic in them, as the couple puts work into the marriage.  That makes the best of them potent indeed.

 

Godhi joins their hands with the cord to symbolise their union and raises their bound hands before the folk.

 

Handfasted

GODHI: (Groom) you may kiss your bride.

 

The couple then opens the wedding feast by raising the loving cup, the cup from which each will serve the other, and then the cake with which each will feed the other.

>>It is hard to do this, much laughter frequently results.  You are each others sustenance, each others joy.  This is new, and you will have to find new ways of doing things, but it is deeply rewarding.  Bound together in joy, we can do the binding, but the joy you must bring to each other.

Loving Cup

At the wedding feast, the hammer is laid in the brides lap as blessing of fertility and pledge of fidelity.

 

>>The Heathen marriage ceremony recognizes a marriage for what it is, and seperates each level of function so that it can be considered, understood, and accepted, before a marriage is complete.

Marriage is a contract entered into by two people who wish to come together in love to make a family.  Each comes from a family, but they agree to put the family they make together first.  Each understands that in joining to each other, they join not just themselves, but their whole families back to the most distant ancestors, and forward in time to the last of their descendents yet unborn.

Marriage is a contract in which two people who are free thinking individuals with wants, needs, desires, and the capacity to change make a solemn oath to come together and jointly strive to face what comes together.  It is an act of will, as much as an act of love.  Each marriage is different, as each couple is different, but the act of union creates a new thing, a new hearth, a new family just the same, whenever it is performed.

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

Not Healing, Remodeling. Heathen Community in a therapeutic context

Not Healing, Remodeling.  Heathen Community in a therapeutic context

 

The Heathen community can be a really powerful tool for healing emotional and physical wounds, but it is not a tool that we always take advantage of, or wield particularly well.

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I am not a healer.  I have to be very clear about this.  My training is not, and never has been directed towards healing.  I have a background that equips me to speak with a fair degree of knowledge on the ways to disable, and destroy the human body, and its core functions.  I am equally skilled and practiced in the arts of preventing traumatic and medical issues from causing disability and destruction of the human body and its core functions.    This collection of skills together is about life saving and stabilizing, it is not about healing.  That is beyond my scope, and skill.
Healing actually mostly happens right away.  Minor injuries actually heal in a pretty much one step process, the damage being cleaned up and healthy tissue replacing the damaged tissue.  Anything beyond minor wounds works differently.  Clot, cleanup, heal, and remodel is the path that we follow.

I don’t do healing, I remodel like a son of a bitch though.  I am one, so it sort of goes with the territory.

 

For physical and mental injuries, shock gets you through the bad five minutes, and if people like me do their job, doesn’t kill you within the hour.  Now comes the clot and clean, the inflammatory process, the awareness of pain and violation.  At this point, if you have resources that your own training, philosophy, or practice have given you, they can make a real difference in your ability to deal with this bit.

 

Healing; is overrated.  Healing lays down scar tissue to fill in the blanks you lost good tissue in.  Then it stops.  Healing is done now, you have filler in the holes in you, and what comes next will hurt, and will largely be up to you.

Regeneration

Remodeling. Is the long painful process of tearing your scar tissue apart a piece at a time, to heal that particular bit properly, with actual functional tissue to replace the scar tissue.  Think of it like tear the muscle once by accident; then tear it a bit at a time over the next six months to get back to as close to 100% as you can get.  Or avoid the pain, and stay weak and at risk of reinjury.

 

In the mental and emotional world, this process works……..the exact same, sadly.  We have these things called coping mechanisms; they are the outer signs of our scar tissues.  Like scar tissues, they have got to go, or we will be crippled.  Like scar tissue, there is no easy way, no quick way to get rid of it.  You tear yourself a little bit at a time, and strive to heal that particular bit correctly.

The closest activity I have training in is minesweeping.  Oh yes, nothing like being taught field expedient mine sweeping to let you know that if you really ever need to use this, you are in deep trouble.  We leave it to the Combat Engineers in the physical world, but in the mental healing work we have to do, the mines are in our head, and there, we must do the work ourselves, but not necessarily unassisted.

 

The triggers: Coping mechanisms usually form up around our triggers to keep us from blowing ourselves up.  This is good, but really not the place to stop, it is the place to start, and it is harder and less successful alone.  You need to talk, a lot.

Heathen Talk

 

To talk you need to feel safe.  I don’t mean feel safe in the “No one is judging you, agape love for all” peace love and joy that frankly makes you even more reluctant to share the deeply ugly festering internal wounds, and all the filth that builds up in the capsules we form around them.  You need to feel the other kind of safe.  The kind of safe that you feel when you can look a person dead in the eye and tell the most shameful truth coldly, watch them react, and then literally fly off the handle with all the fear and rage you have been bottling up inside.  The kind of safe you can feel when you are able to let go your own controls on yourself because the people around can literally be trusted with the secrets you are pouring out, and to make sure, by force if necessary, that you do yourself and others no harm when you are letting out what is bottled in.

 

This is where your actual flesh and blood heathen community makes a difference.  At sumbel or just over a drink together, this is where you can be naked in the spiritual and mental sense without shame.  This is where you can submit your wound to the community, and let them collectively set their hands and minds to helping you lay down new pathways, healthier pathways around the damage.  To begin to rebuild the areas that were too broken to function, too dangerous to leave festering.
Like a minefield, this is something that takes a long time to clear.  You move one button at a time, one trigger at a time, and it isn’t perfect.  Some you learn to leave alone because they are not worth messing with, or will not resolve with the tools you have….yet.  Keep checking, that one changes sometimes without notice.

 

You can do this on your own, but when you need your own strength most is when your wounds, and all the self hating corruption that fills them weakens you most.  Your community can take some of that burden from you, and can give back to you some of the strength you have offered them freely in other times.

 

In their eyes you can see how they have weighed your deeds, your choices, your experience, and in a very heathen sense, your worth.  A strong community can be an agent that will allow you to speak those things you dare not admit to yourself, can show you how to put down the coping mechanisms that are slowly destroying you (but without which you wouldn’t have survived).

 

I am not a healer, but I am good at remodeling.  If you didn’t die when you were broken, then you have within you the capacity to win back yourself.  Not the who you were, but the who you can be when you have grown strong again in the broken places.

 

When we die, and face our ancestors, we will be naked save for the scars of your struggles.  By those scars, and the way you bear them, you will be known.  Our gods, from Odin to Tyr, bear their scars openly, for it is the scars both inside and out that are the testament to our will, to our love and commitment to those we struggle on for.  When you stand naked but for your scars before your community, or before your ancestors, you can do so with the knowledge that you will see their pride in you reflecting back the glory they see, not the broken thing you think yourself.

 

This is healing done right, this is Heathen remodeling, and it can work.  What it requires is a community that accepts that the world holds more things in it than you want to accept.  The fact that someone else has experienced horror in something you have only known safety in is not a threat to you, nor does it change your experience.  Someone who has the knowledge of dangers you have not thought about is not ruining your life, they are helping you to keep your world bright by opening your eyes to threats you would be happier to avoid.  Take that as a gift, and offer one in return.

 

Fear and shame are the enemies of healing, and the killers of men and women.  Fear of knowledge is unworthy of a heathen.  The first line of the Hamaval tells us to look long and hard before we enter a room, for dangers may lurk anywhere.  Bad things happen, know this, accept this, enjoy life more for the fact that you are paying attention to make sure as few bad things as possible happen to you and yours.

 

Fear of letting ugly realities intrude into our comfort zone causes people to lash out with shame at those who would answer our questions honestly, and share as we asked, of themselves.  This is unworthy, and cowardly.  This is victim blaming, victim shaming, and abuse motivated by cowardice.

A community that is strong grows strong because the people in it fear nothing so long as they are together.  A community that is truly strong chooses to stand with its members in their trials not out of obligation, but out of desire.

The magic of sumbel and of Heathen community in general is that those who dare to share their struggles with you share as well the glory of their triumph.  To be allowed to share such struggles is an honour, and to be able to share your strength with one who has spent all they own of their own is to know that you have given a gift without equal.  A gift for a gift is our way, and that feather weight you lend to the scales may mean little to you, but you may well find out what it meant to another when you have need, and they are there to give back what THEY feel your gift was worth.

 

Valknut-Symbol-triquetra

Remodelling is about tearing up scars, a bit at a time, and replacing them with something stronger, something healthier.  Remodelling is about shedding coping mechanisms because you have dealt with the thing that was going to kill you right now, and no longer need the coping mechanism that was just hurting you badly instead.  Remodelling hurts, but leaves us stronger.

Nothing is free.  A gift for a gift is our way.  If you value your community, if you value the people in it, you will learn how to be there for them, how to aid them in their struggles, and in turn, how to prepare yourself for your own.  We grow stronger together, and those who can face their community with perfect trust in imperfect people will know they have found one true place to stand, one true thing that will not fail them.
We can get this right, we can be the single most powerful tool for helping each other grow hale, whole and together; or we can lash out to defend our comfort zone.  Each community will judge for itself where their honour is to be found.
John T Mainer

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