Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Elders failing

John Remembrance1

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

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

Um, no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Rape

Rape

 

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

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

(Full warily let him watch,)

Full long let him look about him;

For little he knows | where a foe may lurk,

And sit in the seats within.

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

Sex Assault Stats

 

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

Sex Assault overall

 

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

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

 

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

Profit thou hast if thou hearest,

Great thy gain if thou learnest:

If evil thou knowest, | as evil proclaim it,

And make no friendship with foes.

 

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

Profit thou hast if thou hearest,

Great thy gain if thou learnest:

In evil never | joy shalt thou know,

But glad the good shall make thee.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

The Road Home

 

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

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

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

 

So it is with the road home.

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Enough already.

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

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

 

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

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized, Yule

Yule at Sasamat

 

Sassamat Lake

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Sassamat Yule

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Yule Father

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

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

Kyler

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

 

  1. Fire he needs | who with frozen knees

Has come from the cold without;

Food and clothes | must the farer have,

The man from the mountains come.

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Chains, suffering and ownership

Jacob Marley

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

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

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

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

Forge link

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

Burning Chain

 

You can burn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ghost Rider

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Uncategorized

Building Inclusive Heathenry

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

Troth Opinion and Editorial

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

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

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

No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John T Mainer

Redesman of The Troth

 

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Uncategorized

Is Santa Claus Real

A good time to remember

mainer74

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

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

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

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