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

Gender, society and sacred

Gender

When I was growing up, there were only two genders.  I have said this a thousand times, and yet it is neither a complete nor accurate statement.  I have had a lot of time to process since Parliament of World Religions in Toronto this year, and a whole lot of streams that were part of the discussions within my own faith community (Heathen) and other faith communities all came together in the realizations that I am going to try to put together in this piece.  I am going to piss off a lot of people, more than likely the bulk of the people from my own generation who fit neatly into the classical gender role they were raise to believe was natural.  Close to fifty years of dealing with my generation has lead me to the inescapable conclusion that we were largely blind to how much we bought into the system that made it impossible to love and accept all of ourselves.

Modern western thought is bound in a lot of Christian assumptions, one set of subtle corruptions is that of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. One right way to believe and one right way to act.  This is not limited to the sacred, for this idea seeps into all thought with a fundamental acceptance of duality as the only possibility.  This is not a part of any of the ancestral pre-Christian traditions of Northern and Western Europe, and yet those who turn their back on Christianity itself either to embrace a secular existence, or to take up ancestral faiths like Heathenry, or modern ones like Wicca cannot truly divorce themselves from the fundamental assumptions of orthodoxy and orthopraxy that seeped from their religious foundation into the understanding of almost every facet of human behavior and interaction.  Most destructively in the case of gender and sexuality.

We inherited a toxic mythology from the Christian era of both masculinity and femininity.  There was literally one ideal way to be a man and one ideal way to be a woman; the closer you adhered to these, the more accepted and socially successful you would be.  This gave us a society that recognized two genders only, a very narrow definition of those two genders, and left a large portion of humanity understanding they are flawed, defective, or simply failures for not meeting those standards, not desiring those standards, or finding them of so little relevance to their understanding of themselves they didn’t even understand the standards.

We had two genders only!  We had two genders, and a whole lot of people who hated themselves, and had lots of help from the rest of us telling them how badly they failed to be a real man or real woman.

Among those who succeeded in being real men and real women, as defined by our generations orthodoxy and orthopraxy on gender identity and roles, we had the hidden costs of those roles.  Men could not express tender emotions, love, care, support, without being unmanly or weak.  We could not show pain, nor discuss fear without forfeiting the respect our deeds had earned as men, and threatening our social standing or relationship.  A man was expected to place work before family, to sacrifice his own relationship with them to fulfill his duties to the external world.   If a man were to place his time with his family as important, he would be mocked for it, and it would threaten his standing with employers, friends, and honestly even his relationships.

Women suffered the same, where attempts to assert direct authority or power, attempts to stand up for themselves or those they care about threatened to make them “unwomanly”, either called a bitch or “mannish”.  Women were as prohibited from stepping outside their gender role as men were.   A woman who sought to pursue carer as equal or more importance to building a family was seen as unnatural, even as the desire to establish her own name and reputation rather than simply marrying well was seen almost as a failure of womanhood.

Classical Heathenry is not a good place to find justification for one true manhood or womanhood.  Will you say a woman is primarily wife and mother, matriarch of her family? Certainly Frigg will be your guide to such a role right well.  You will have a hard time if you desire to paint such a role as submissive, for her role is that of queen, that of the weaver of the bloodlines, of wyrd or fate, not that of concubine and domestic.  Will you say a woman is passion, wild hunger for knowledge, experience, and life?  Then Freya is a good guide for you.  “An it harm none do as thou wilt” is a popular modern creed among witches, well Freya is not that kind of witch.  Described as the delight of dark witches, she is Odin’s peer in power and wields her magic like she wields her sexuality, to do her will as she chooses, accepting no limits but that of her own will and judgement.  Will you instead say that you seek to stalk the world in hunt after your dream, daring the high and wild, betting your skills and abilities to win for yourself the place you would claim?  Skadi, the White Huntress is a good model for you, for hearth and home did not call to her, rather the hunt of her own choosing.  Are you a nurturer? One who seeks to bring peace and renewal, healing to the world?  Blessed Idunna of the Apples, Easter goddess of the Spring or Eir the lady of healing may be more suited to you.  No one way to be a woman, no matter what your core essence called for, you were free to develop it to the limit of your potential without being seen as less than a woman.

Our generation was not offered this, we were offered attempt to fit yourself in the mold of  orthodox cis-hetero submissive wife and mother or be a failure as a woman.  We had a lot of self hating women, and more we shamed as slut, bitch, frigid, or unnatural for the crimes of desiring too much, not enough, not finding their fulfillment as primarily mothers, or desiring to prove themselves in other fields.  Honestly we probably failed as many as we served.  Oddly, the next generation didn’t accept that.  Good on them!  Honestly, we weren’t a screaming success.  There was screaming, but it wasn’t about success.

Classical Heathenry offers men as many different faces, Ingwaz Frey, the peace lord, the life giving lord of the herds, of the land offers a strong but gentle model of manhood that is not possible to fit inside the nearly toxic model of masculinity that we inherited that defines cis-hetero dominant career focused male as the only right and worthy model of man.  Not even Thor, the hammer wielding laughing god of the farmer and working man fits this model, for while he is the strong defender, he does not need to make another submit to know he is strong, nor require supremacy to feel whole.  Able to laugh at himself, his tales tell us of a manhood that embraces its mistakes and failures as steps on the road to success, that can indeed laugh at the retelling of the tales where he was tricked, because his worth and strength are not threatened by laughter.  This is not part of the manhood model I was taught in my generation at all.  Odin is the one most often invoked by those who would hold to the toxic masculine model we were given, the god of war, the hard cold bastard who did what had to be done.  Partially true, and leaving enough out to be almost entirely wrong.  Odin crossed so many gender lines he was flyted for it by Loki himself, and when a god who transformed into a female to bear a child mocks your manhood, you know you crossed a line or two.  Tyr comes closest to the healthy model of manhood our stereotype strives for, but the lord of law and honour is decidedly non-toxic, who gave up his sword arm to show that responsibility not power or prestige was most important.

To be a man as we were taught to be one meant you had to shut off your feelings and subordinate yourself to your ambition.  Honestly, we were told to give up half our humanity in the service of a dream that not everyone saw any value in.  Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against money, but given the choice between making more money and spending more time with my children, I know which one I value.  I have faced enough fire, faced life or death under so very many circumstances that the bullshit myths of my childhood have failed utterly upon the one test that matters; at no point was the dreams of avarice enough to sustain me or worth my sacrifice.  It was the desire to protect and provide for those I love, and the opportunity to be a meaningful part of their lives that made it all worth while.  The myth that men should leave the family to the women while they sought gold and glory makes us less than men, less than whole, and leaves few indeed valuing what they won, compared to what they gave up to get there.

We inherited one model of manhood, and those who could not conform to it were failures.  We were told to cut ourselves off from almost everything that made us functionally human, or at least pretend we did, and hide the parts of ourselves that were creative, nurturing, or who saw sex as an act of shared joy rather than conquest.  The next generation honestly took a look at what we accepted and told us to pound sand.  Good on them.

We spent at least four generations I have seen pretending we fit into one true manhood and womanhood, choosing to be less than whole, or accepting we were failures.  We accepted the false dualism, and spent our time looking into the mirror and knowing that we had to hide half of what we were, or lose what we had won.

The generation of today is honestly smarter than we were and more honest.  They took the labels we gave them of man and woman and they accepted our definition of them just as we did in our turn.

Looking at the definition, and then into a mirror, many of them said with all honesty and great wisdom, “That is not me.  I am not that”

Holy shit.  Why didn’t we?  I mean through the guidance of the holy gods and ancestors I learned to step back from the myths and become whole.  I don’t just mean the safely dead and ancient ones, I mean the ancestors whose age and wisdom taught me that there was a lot more to the reality of being a man or woman than fit in what we pretended were the only ways to do things, or the reality about how people actually lived.

Many kids today when they were growing into their sexual and gender identity took a look at the two restrictive boxes we offered and went, that can’t ever be me.  They chose to be a whole person, and not the bit that would fit in the box they knew would never be theirs, and instead chose to make new boxes.

For all those who are saying this is modern bullshit we never needed….well yes and no.  It is modern, because through the Christian centuries we lost any other way than the orthodoxy and orthopraxy of the two gender roles derived from someone else’s book.  We don’t remember how to be men and women when those terms expressed the whole and healthy range, so in this generation, rather than accept being half or less of what little we left of those traditional genders, they admitted they were indeed something else.

We call ourselves Heathen, and the old name of Asatru still holds a lot of truth in it.  We are not just true to the Aesir, and the Vanir, we strive to be true to ourselves.  How can we esteem someone for pretending to be something that will never truly be them?  We esteem someone for living true.  True to themselves, true to their beliefs, true to the oaths and loyalties they have sworn and undertaken.

A trans man or trans woman, a gender fluid or gender non-binary is choosing to live true to themselves, rather than imitating something they will never fully be, and will leave them less than fully what they could have become.  I am a cis hetero male because that is who I am.  My expression of that is far different than my father accepted for himself, but the regrets he wept about on his deathbed will never be mine, for I embraced more of the role of father and husband than the definition he accepted of his manhood would let him embrace.  If I was bisexual, gay, or my gender was truly expressed in some other fashion, I hope I would be strong enough in myself to live TRUE to who I am, rather than be less than whole, less than honest, and trying to pretend I fit in, or valued, a gender role that others defined for me.

We grew up in a world of two genders, and many, many failures.  We grew up to inherit a definition of man and woman that was brutally stripped of most of what our ancestors understood it could be, to the point that what we inherited as the one possible manhood and womanhood could only contain functionally a small portion of our people.

We don’t remember how it once was.  We do know that what we inherit is not enough, is not whole, is not sufficient.  The generation that rises now chooses to accept this, and to find for themselves boxes that they fit in, and live true to the people they know themselves either to be, or to be capable of becoming.

I am Heathen, I value those that live true to themselves, and who strive to accept their challenges without fear or deceit.  To those who identify as any one of the genders, either classical or modern, if you live your truth, and do so honestly, joyfully and without condemning others for choosing to follow their own understanding, then I give you my respect.

We grew up with two genders that had lost so much of what they had once contained that they were broken, or broke those who tried to limit themselves to fit.  Our children demanded more, and strove to fix what we accepted and let harm us, and later them.

Good on them. We failed, let them do better.

 

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

Pronouns, Access, and Hospitality

2018 Parliament Website banner2

I had the honour to represent The Troth as part of our Alliance For Inclusive Heathenry and Heathens Against Hate at the Parliament of World Religions.  There is a whole lot of good things that came out of this years Parliament, but before we can begin the gushing of the good, I would not be honest if I did not start with the caveats, the warnings about the things that I saw that a whole lot of people either were oblivious to, or comfortable ignoring.

“The Promise of Inclusion , the Power of Love” is the theme of the day, and one of the multi-faith panels that had a heathen on it was the panel on oaths and vows in the modern world.  Let us use that as a segue into analyzing what is promised by this years Parliament and what was delivered.

Promised are inclusion and love.  I admit, I am happy on some level to be home from the land of “Peace, Love, and Brown Rice” as we laughingly referred to it, as the theme of Agape love, or love of everyone in general (subtext; no one in particular in specific) is big in a lot of other people’s faiths.  We don’t really do that.  Perhaps that is why our own cultural lens of seeking ever to see the deeds that echoes the words causes me to brand part of this Parliament a failure.

Inclusion.  Honestly, this is the spot where you would expect a member of a minority religion, and that is what we are, to commence talking about being marginalized when the big number religions get together.  You won’t here that rant because Parliament got that part right.  Details could use work, but honestly at no time did I feel that we, nor the Native traditions were given any less than equal dignity (if not space and time) for the demographically more common faiths.  My problem is not with the inclusion when it comes to faith, it is about people.

Heathens as a rule don’t do Agape love.  We don’t unconditionally love everyone.  Some say its a failure on our part, but I have always viewed it as the honest unwillingness to say what you won’t back up with deeds.  If we say we love and accept you, you have a place at our table, behind our shields, and in our home.  If we don’t, you don’t.  We don’t say we love when we don’t plan on backing it up, and don’t say you are welcome if we do not extend the full extent of the laws of hospitality between us.  Parliament pretty much did not back up their words with deeds for many individuals.

Lisa was a member of our party who had come to Parliament with a torn meniscus in her knee.  Heathen’s are expected to suck it up and solider on, and she did so, not without complaint, but bitching about it in the approved manner of a Heathen woman not letting other people’s failures of hospitality get in the way of her doing her duty.  She came in a mobility scooter that would have been enough here in Vancouver BC, or where she came from in California, but was, in Metro Toronto and the Toronto Trade and Convention Centre not actually enough to help you get around.  Few elevators worked and could accommodate the scooter, it was almost impossible to do doors as the handicapped button required you to leap like a ninja out of the way once you pressed them, which is not often an ability of those requiring handicapped access.  The staff at the overpriced executive fleecing industries that run the core of metro Toronto and its centre were more than willing to leap to my every need, as they were to Lisa’s able husband.  They were oddly unwilling to even notice she was there, and would often answer her questions, those few times that they did, to her husband instead of her.

Including the handicapped?  Fail.

Jade is one of the reasons that I was really excited to go to Parliament.  I am a Canadian Heathen leader, but our nation is vast beyond the scale of most peoples imagination, and while I have enjoyed corresponding with fine Heathen leaders from all over this country, there are a number of amazing ones I have never had the chance to meet with, nor raise a horn with.  I finally got the chance to meet with Jade, and raise that horn together to the gods at Parliament.  This is the plus part, the minus part came in our discussions.  Now Jade was not complaining, she was accepting that these things happen, which is something that wounds me deeply, because she shouldn’t have to.

Jade made a comment, “Do you know how hard it is to find a bathroom here?” and it struck me.  I actually didn’t until she brought it up, but now I have to say its quietly alarming.  Jade is a whole bunch of things, the parts that are relevant to me are a dedicated Heathen gythia (priestess), master’s educated human resources professional specializing in employment inclusive issues, active community volunteer; but the part that was a problem here and now was the last descriptive, Jade is a transwoman.

At a gathering of the religious dedicated to the avowed purpose of celebrating inclusion, you would think that going to the bathroom is not difficult.  The problem comes in the gap between our speech about inclusion, and our actual actions.  Where does a transperson, an intersex person, non-binary person go to the bathroom surrounded by ten thousand plus deeply religious people, many of whom are really good at dressing up some pretty decent prejudice sets under cultural/religious trappings to make them look prettier than the reality of attacking strangers for attempting to use a bathroom that their particular understanding of gender identities does not think you have a right to.

A lot of places have big men’s, big women’s and several gender neutral/accessible washrooms for all manner of people, and family combinations (try having small children of opposite gender sometime and see how accessible things are).  The Metro Toronto Convention Centre is set up for only two genders, and perhaps one person who has different needs per building, if you can find it.

I opened my eyes a little further to look at the programming when some of our women, like my friend Lorrie told me that the coding on a lot of the women’s track had more in common with Z Budapest, the AFA, and Evangelical Christianity’s definition of cis-hetero gender normative woman than it did the rather broader spectrum of woman the Heathen community accepts as standard.  Reading a little closer, seeing things a whole lot of little words here and there that made it clear that the definition for woman in sacred spaces seemed to have a whole lot more filters than you would accept in an event about inclusion.

The bulk of the people at Parliament of World Religions left me with positive experiences, especially Allah’s little ray of sunshine who did more with her cheerful babbling and magpie curiosity than any hundred paid ambassadors could in a hundred years to advance the cause of acceptance for moderate Islam, but there were whispers around the edges that not everyone qualified for Agape love as practiced by the Abrahamatic faiths, and a bewildering corner of faiths including Pagan that really ought to know and do better.

On the plus side, a lot of people, including LGBTQ+, people of colour, people of smaller religious traditions without large community present and even people of the mainstream Abrahamatic faiths took to coming to our booths when they needed safe space to just regroup until they were ready to face the Parliament again.  On the minus side, a lot of them needed it.

Parliament did a lot to work on inclusion and acceptance.  It did as much to tell me that WE ALL need to do more.  Language matters, specific language that says we expect to be held to our explicit promise to be inclusive and welcoming to all our people.  I will honestly cop to not knowing how to use the pronouns to address the genders that were not accepted when I was growing up.  I absolutely now admit I see the real need to have them, to use them, because if we do not, there is NO REASON for anyone to assume we are not quietly and cheerfully deliberately excluding them, because a lot of the community really is.  Hear me now, I oath before my gods to learn to do better.  Hear these words and hold me to them.

Inclusive must be active and explicit, because hate driven exclusion happens in the silence and the quiet subtle coding between high sounding words of all embracing love.
Alliance II

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Toxic Masculinity: My take

 

I am one of those people that set some feminists off because I do pull back chairs, hold doors, and ma’am ladies that I pass. I also hold the doors for children, men, and anything except draugr, because even courtesy has limits. I was taught that a strong man showed courtesy to people as part of his basic nature.

Strong is important in the definition of manhood that I was raised with. Strong meant that you looked out for those who were less strong because a man protected those weaker then himself or he was not a man, he was a rabid dog. Those I was taught to eliminate before they troubled anyone.

Strong meant that you were self reliant, and self aware. It meant that you claimed who you were, all of it. Your abilities, your limitations, your knowledge, your areas of ignorance. You didn’t have to pretend to be an expert at something you didn’t know, you were confident in what you knew, always willing to work hard to learn more, and always willing to admit when you were wrong.

Strong meant giving credit where it was due, praise where it was earned, and thanks for what you were given. The weak fear to be lessened by another’s accomplishment, the unworthy fear to acknowledge the worth of another’s deeds, and only those who do not feel they deserve it fear to thank those who have assisted them. Never be ashamed of the work you do, the sweat of your brow, be it from work of the hands, of the mind, or both. Never be afraid to seek to learn a new skill, to attempt a new challenge, or to look at a mistake and claim it, for in doing so you have the chance to make those changes require to not make it a second time. To claim it is to gain the ability to conquer it, to deny it is to give it ownership of you.

Strong meant that you did not fear to give what was earned, you showed respect to those you admired, you showed affection for those you loved, you grieved for those whom you have loved and lost. The weak will not cry because they FEAR to be seen as weak. The strong know that tears are an offering, that those you loved in life, you offer tears to in mourning as you offer honour, for those two things are the only grave goods we can offer, and the strong do not let their fallen pass unremembered and unmourned because they fear more the scorn of the living than they feel their duty to the ones they loved.

Strong meant that you searched for a partner, one whom you could love and respect, desire and find joy with. Who that was, and how you found that joy, you didn’t really care if anyone else understood. If no one else saw what you did in your partner, that makes you wise, them stupid, and too bad for them. If no one else thought that you should love or desire that person because of their appearance, body size, social class, race, religion or gender, you are strong in your self, confident in your masculinity, owning your sexuality and your heart. Love who you love, find your joy, and the rest of the world can burn if they don’t like it. Strong meant that you loved the strength of your partner, took joy in their accomplishment, felt fulfillment in their growth, took pain from their wounds, and anger at their insult.

Toxic cannot do that, for they do not possess strength, they fake it. Their partner must in all ways be mindful of their inferiority; they must stoop, for you will not ever let them stand your equal, let alone above you at all.

It is not that toxic cannot love, it is that they cannot express the positives of love for fear of surrendering the power in the relationship that comes from caring the least. Toxic can show pride in possession, can show desire to possess, can show enjoyment in possession, but even if they feel true and honest love, they will hide it rather than expose a true feeling and vulnerability to one whom they require power over, more than love of.

Toxic was what happened when you decided not to rise to the challenge, was what happened when you decided that you would simply pretend you had put in the work, and take as your entitled due what you see others having received for their efforts.

Toxic is demanding people yield to you because you are strong, important, and you need to see them give way before you to accept for yourself that you are indeed strong. Toxic sees their own knowledge and accomplishments and understands they are not real, when others speak whose words are based on hard won knowledge you did not seek, or accomplishments they again earned through work you did not do, you must win out over them, you must silence their words and voice, or you will not feel you own your own.

Toxic is feeling you cannot be a man if a woman is also strong, or claims the same accomplishments you do. Toxic did not earn any worth, and understands that someone who did earn their worth is a very real threat to their sense of manhood simply by existing.

Toxic masculinity does not practice heterosexuality because they are drawn to women, it practices heterosexuality because they are drawn to conquer women. The idea that women may wish to be equals threatens that. The idea that women might choose to love other women threatens that. The idea that man might love other men….and still feel themselves your equal, that is absolutely intolerable!

Any of these things threatens your heterosexuality, because it isn’t really heterosexuality at all, it is a male superiority belief, with the underlying insecurity that you might be discovered as not really entitled to that crown at all. The same toxicity expressed as homosexuality expresses oddly, in that along with the browbeating of your same sex partner, the misogyny that is reflexive of toxic heterosexuality is actually still present in toxic homosexual males. Proving I guess, that it is the male identity rather than the sexual relationship power dynamic that is threatened by a strong woman. In either case, hetero, bisexual or homosexual toxic masculinity treat neither gender well, because they are only faking their own gender role.

Although I am known for my love of the Sigfather, what is needed in our societies understanding of manhood may be less of the Allfather and even of Thor, and more of Freyr.

Men once could be strong and still speak of romance, could still openly be affectionate to their children and mourn the loss of fallen brothers. Now we are asked to be shells of those men, bitter angry and empty is permitted, loving and open are now seen as only feminine.

Frey’s ever renewing lordship is needed, his laughter, life and love. The King Stag, the lover of life, man as more than just predator.

 Frey
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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Freya: Modern need, ancient goddess

Goddess Freya true

I am Heathen, which honestly is not the same as pagan.  I am a hard polytheist who understands the gods and goddesses, however imperfectly we understand them, are discrete knowable entities with a nature that springs not from our need, but from their essence.  The gods that I have built a relationship with are the gods of my northern European ancestors; those familiar to the Scandinavian or German, rather than the Celt, Frank, Latin, or Pict that is also in my lineage.
We build relationships with them through the gifting cycle because of our need, but I do not honestly think they are born from it, anymore than I think Oxygen is released by plants because we need to breathe it.  We need much from them, and I would suggest from the length of the reciprocal gifting relationships we have built between our folk and our gods and goddesses, that they either need or want something from us.  I am going to look at one particular goddess, and how she is needed in our age and lands right now.  The goddess is Freya; wielder of the Brisengamen, the Van-dis, lady of the slain, and Gullveig the thrice burnt.  Due to the terrible scholarship and overly romantic fixations of the Victorians, most remember her as goddess of love and fertility, and forget her role as the only magical peer to Odin, first among witches, and she who receives the first half of all the dead heroes.

Freya is the goddess that many in the modern Heathen community have a hard time embracing for the simple reason that she is such a powerful and unapologetically female goddess.  Freya is goddess of love, but it is not the safe love of the marriage bed, but the wild passionate love that falls where it will, and cares not for the cost or conventions.  Brisengamen, the necklace that is her token, she had from four magical dwarven smiths who would only give it to her in exchange for her spending a night with each of them.
Ah yes, here we go.  The conservatives are already getting edgy.  How can our goddess be a slut?  She owns her sexuality and uses it like she does any other weapon, like her magic, to accomplish her own ends.  Like Odin seducing Gunlod, Freya uses her sexual power to get what could not be bought.  She has no shame for this act, any more than Odin does for his.  They sought something, and they gained it.  They needed the power and knowledge they sought, so where their magic could not gain it for them, seduction and desire could.  Sexual power without shame or apology.
Freya cannot be dismissed as a slut, for her sexuality is her own.  She owns no master or husband, but loves where and how she chooses.  In the Voluspa, Freya is sought by the builders of Asgard’s walls, but she will not trade herself even for the security of Asgard, so Loki is forced to use shapeshifting trickery (that ended with him pregnant with Sleipnir) to keep the wall builder from finishing on time and seeking to collect.  Later in the Lay of Thyrm, Mjolnir (the hammer of Thor) is stolen and the giant who has it requires Freya as his bride to return it.  With Odin and Thor demanding, she refuses because even in the face of the two most potent Aesir, she has the power to refuse them.  Far from being a cheap slut, she is the epitome of a woman who owns her own sexuality, and loves as SHE choses, not as others would tell her she must.

Voluspa remembers her thus; Gullveig the thrice burned.  The match to Hor (Odin) in might and magic in the first war (Aesir/Vanir war).

  1. The war I remember, | the first in the world,

When the gods with spears | had smitten Gollveig,

And in the hall | of Hor had burned her,

Three times burned, | and three times born,

Oft and again, | yet ever she lives.

  1. Heith they named her | who sought their home,

The wide-seeing witch, | in magic wise;

Minds she bewitched | that were moved by her magic,

To evil women | a joy she was.

The modern Wiccan and their famous creed “an harm none, do as you will” is not the kind of witch Freya was, nor that her followers were.  The famous catskin gloves of Freya were the mark of a volva, a seeress, a witch who dared to wield the most primal of magics.  Sought for knowledge of the future, or for advantage in battle, there were no restrictions on the magic of Freya about harming none; this is the only peer Odin ever faced in magic, who traded knowledge of Seidr to him for his knowledge of Galdor.  Her magic was a war winning tool, and for it Odin was forced to give an equal measure of knowledge and power.  Receiving half the einherjar, the honoured dead, it is Freya who choses first.  She is goddess of the dead, as much as she is the goddess of the renewing earth.
Freya means Lady, as in the title given to women in leadership positions.  Her name became the honorific for women in positions of power or authority.  Freya was synonymous with power to her people.  This is not a goddess who relies on some big strong god to defend her, but one who weilds power in her own right to her own ends, and whose power is often begged by other gods to assist them towards their own ends.

Two figures are portrayed as leading the Wild Hunt, the fall ride of Odin, and the spring ride of Freya.  In each the Wild Hunt is the epitomy of primal magic, of passion, blood and power.  The Wild Hunt is possibly the best and most enduring symbol of the magic of madness, of the divine power than admits no constraint, no law, not even reason.  Freya (or Holda for our Urglaawe kin) is the goddess of unrestrained passion, of primal power that is unbound by reason or law, simply and inevitably existing as what she is, not fitting neatly into any (or even all) the boxes we want to put her into.

Freya Hunt

Who is Freya to us today?

Freya is a goddess whose nature reaches deep within us, stretching back to the before times, before the technological civilization, the rule of reason.  Freya touches the primal essence of us, that part of us that has never fully been separated from the land, that part of us that has not forgotten how to see and speak with our dead, or the spirits that arise from the life around us.  Freya is tough for modern Heathens to deal with because she does not stoop to fit in our little boxes, and some parts of her will pass without hesitation or remorse right through our comfort zones and out the other side.  She is what she is, not what we want her to be.  Oddly or appropriately enough, that is exactly what we need from her.

When you struggle to deal with PTSD, two of the most popular coping mechanisms are alcohol/drugs, and love.  The former stops your mind from remembering, but that latter allows you to lose yourself and connect on a level below thought to life again.  One ultimately chips away at your self and becomes one of those coping mechanisms that goes on to kill you, and the other allows you to learn to tie yourself to life when the wounds you have taken are trying to force you to flee from it.  Freya is not simply about rejuvenating the earth as part of the growing cycle, she is about the power of passion to fire us; we poor half broken humans.  She rekindles the flame in those whose life fires have been brought low because life has taught us that we are either incapable or unworthy of the fires of life and love.

Freya teaches passion, and the passionate use of your power.  Freya does not separate the parts of her nature; her sexuality, spirituality, leadership, independence, mystery, knowledge, are all expressed fully not as foolish excess, but as the awe inspiring expression of purity of purpose.  The lore does not describe Freya as being a slave to passion, but one whose knowledge and passion are matched, whose primal potency and mysterious knowledge combine.  There are those who will say that Freya is sacred female sexuality, but I would say that Freya’s call to own and embrace your sexual self, and your own personal power are not restricted to any gender or orientation.

We live in a world that has grown so complicated and conflicted that we are taught to be guilty for wanting, for enjoying, for striving, for needing, and in some religions even for being born.  Freya teaches us to live.  To embrace life.  Restoring, healing, empowering or just waking us the hell up.  Freya may well be the goddess that best allows us to remember to be human, when we have tied ourselves so tightly in social constraints that make that almost impossible.

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Current events, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Pride and Prejudice

 

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Hated the book, loved the title. I always felt there was something there that was important, but it took the last US election to bring it into cohesion for me.  Pride and Prejudice, the first is the balance to the second, the first is the answer to the second, the cure to the disease of the second.

 

Today finds the US with Donald Trump as its President.  I think most people are more concerned with the possibility that Trump will free the religious right and its allies in the racist white power wings to begin the open, unpunished persecution of anyone or anything that doesn’t fit their stereotype of a white Christian nuclear family.  Those of mixed marriages, those of other races, those of minority religions, those of gay, lesbian, bisexual sexual identity or those who gender identify in the trans spectrum quite justly fear a Night of Broken Glass following an election so heavy in the echoes of remembered Fascism.

 

There is no way to tell at this juncture what a Trump Presidency will bring as far as economic, social, or legal change.  What we you can see, what you can do, is control what it means to be an American in America, after the election.

 

I want each and every one of you to walk with pride.  Man or woman, white, black, Hispanic, disabled, young, old, whatever, you walk, or roll the streets without fear, without hesitation.  You walk pushing your baby, holding hands with your loved ones, you walk alone, with friends, it does not matter, but you walk with pride.

 

I lay this challenge before all of you.  Again, white, black, Hispanic, gay, straight, man or woman; if you see anyone mocking, harassing, intimidating another of your fellow citizens for daring to walk as they are without fear, you step on them, and you do it with both metaphorical boots.

 

You don’t let a Trump supporter get harassed in front of you, no more do you allow a disabled person or gay couple to be harassed in front of you.  NO ONE gets harassed in front of you.  What kind of America do you want to live in, proud and free, or filled with hate and fear.

 

You want guns?  Fine, have all the guns you want.  No really, I have no issue with your gun stances, pro or anti.  You want to have them, then how about you show me a little of that defending liberty. I don’t mean YOUR liberty; I mean everyone’s liberty.  You don’t believe in guns?  Fine, then you be ready to step in and show me how you are contributing to the safety and liberty of your fellow citizens through other means.  You don’t think violence is the answer, I totally support any better solution you come up with, that does not involve sitting back and letting others be attacked because you prefer to avoid trouble for yourself.  If you have a phone, I would suggest that classifies as a weapon as it summons rather more force than you can wield personally anyway; if you use it.

 

Our Canadian Prime Minister walked in the Gay Pride Parade in Vancouver, no big deal, he has marched in the parade for years with his wife.  Is he gay?  No.  He is the son of the man who decriminalized Homosexuality in Canada, and has been putting his money where his mouth is by marching in support of gay rights since he was a student.

vancouver-gay-pride-parade

To be proud as a North American, Canadian or American, means to love Freedom.  I don’t mean just our personal freedoms, but if we shared a common religion, I suggest the principle we revere above all others, the one we offer to when we salute our two flags is Freedom.

Freedom is founded on pride.  Proud to live in a country where we can disagree on who to love, who to pray to, what political ideology best expresses our freedom and should shape our nations elected leader’s decisions and yet know that we share a love of Freedom that we will jointly defend with our lives.  I may not share your beliefs, your church or your political party, but I will die before I permit them to be taken from you or used against you.
Commit to that.  Commit to walking with pride as who you are, and being unwilling to permit that pride from being taken from any other, and you will have saved your nation.  It is that simple.

 

Those who are my fellow Canadians who think this is about our poor Southern neighbors, wake up and smell the coffee.  Our laws prevent the same forces from operating openly, but they are present.  I am a relatively well off, well educated man strong enough to break most others like toothpicks, so I don’t have to put up with a lot of crap from anyone for those things that they disagree with me about. When I was disabled due to spinal injury I got a taste of how the other half lived, it was educational. There are lots of hate filled people here too. Give them even a suggestion that they will not be punished and see how quickly it comes back into the open.
The backlash against immigrants in Europe is not coming out of nowhere. I see some of it in our local communities here.  You cannot allow women to be disrespected on our streets just because where someone comes from that is OK.  They are here now, and while their attitudes were never OK, here they are also not allowed.  Stop the root of the anti-immigrant backlash, you improve lives for both the immigrant community and our own.

 

Oddly, the heart of the anti-immigrant community are at least as prone to hate filled attacks, and often nearly as misogynistic.  There is not difference between locally raised intolerance and imported intolerance.  I don’t put on cultural blinders to accept one and denounce another. I permit no liberal sacred cows, prejudice is simply wrong, I don’t care how you came by it, leave it at the door or you are not welcome.

 

Be proud of who and what you are, but do not think this makes it OK to get angry when someone else is proud of who and what they are.  Freedom and liberty are either universal or bullshit, decide which before you open your mouth.

 

Walk with pride, do not let anyone offer you disrespect, nor permit another to be mocked, harassed or attacked for being proud of who they are either.  This is not up to a President, a Prime Minister, or any Legislature.  No law grants or repeals this, either this is who you are, and what you think your country is, or you deserve only those freedoms other people choose to grant you.

 

Freedom is earned, and the greatness of your community comes from that freedom. Where many forms of greatnessare permitted to grow and flower, where pride has a hundred faces, freedom a thousand voices; there  you will find the shared dream that is a nation.

CanAm flag

 

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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.”

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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

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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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Heathen, Uncategorized

Women in Heathenry

Women In Heathenry

Sumble Troth

You know, I thought we were getting it right.  OK, for all of those who like to talk to me about white privilege, I will freely acknowledge I know nothing about growing up anything else, of course they know jack sh*t except fairy tales about my life either so we will leave it at that.  I have however spent a life growing up looking after and protecting my little sister, have spent twenty years married to my amazing wife and raised three daughters.  I have been there for them as best I could in challenges beyond number.  I had, I thought a pretty good read on what they faced, in every community.

 

Of all the communities, and sadly I must definitely include my beloved Armed Forces, Heathenry was the one that did the best job of accepting men and women equally and in all the myriad expressions of their femininity.  I know, the Wiccans in the audience right now are rising up in righteous fury, but they are as blind to their intolerance as I am to anything resembling taste in fashion or social tact. No if you are the right kind of woman, you can find acceptance reguardless of your level of function or dysfunction in that community.  If you are not the right kind of woman they are as unwelcoming as any right wing Christian sect.  Opposite ends of the spectrum, equal practice for all practical senses.

 

Inside Heathenry, in each and every Heathen community I have been invited into I have been amazed, not by the men, half of them I knew before in some capacity, but by the women who were so far beyond the norm in their hundred different competences that I walked away with both a right and wrong though paralleling in my brain.  I was struck by how amazing our women are (true) and how by gods, we must be getting it right to have so many outstanding women among us (sadly, not as true as I wanted it to be).

 

I set myself the task of highlighting some of these amazing women, of getting their stories, not to tell their stories for them (some of them are better authors than I by a fair margin), but to draw your attention to how many different KINDs of awesome they are.

 

There is no one Goddess that represents “proper femininity”.  There are as many different way of expressing strong feminine heathenry as there are breathing women to express it. Our goddesses, our saga are filled with so many different examples that you can find an exemplar of the virtues you hold most high in our lore, no matter what kind of woman you are, what your skills, abilities and ambition call upon you to become.

 

Gods, we have so many strong female voices, I was thrilled to see the responses I would get from them about their experience of being a woman in Heathenry.  I was thrilled, and then I began reading.

 

OK, the first thing you have to understand is that the women I asked to talk about being women in Heathenry are our best.  These are women of great name and accomplishments.  Some I have worked under, some I have worked with, some I have been honoured to have in my own kindred under my own Aegis.  To any one of these women I would send my daughters to apprentice without a second thought.  These are literally, the finest women that I know, the most esteemed women in Heathenry.

 

What they had to say about my community was an eye opener.  For one thing, they accepted much that I find unacceptable, and they have had to.  They have had to accept that their voices are more easily ignored less often sought than men of lesser accomplishment and status.  That for all their achievement and status, when their gender becomes an issue, every other source of status and worth somehow can be ignored.  That is horse sh*t.  I would love to say it was an aberration of one generation or one region.  I would. I can’t. I got that response from both coasts, Canada, the US, from the south, centre, and north.  We are getting it wrong.

 

Aha!  Not all women felt as equally disadvantaged.  What is their secret?  How is it that they are able to better navigate the waters, perhaps there is something I can share to make it easier for the next generation of Heathen women!  Except the ones who did the best described themselves either as gender-fluid, or flat our said they socialize more as men than women.

If there is an Old Boys Network in Heathenry, surely I must be a part of it.  I am an Old Boy, and have had a fair amount of influence for one reason or another in one part of the community or another through my work.  Surely if such a thing had been going on I would have noticed.  Except, I did.

 

I am remembering a man I worked for, a well respected leader, pulling me aside and letting me know that I had to “handle” a woman in the community as she was “emotional and high strung” yet he freely admitted the organization would have foundered on the rocks without her efforts many times.  She was treated not as an honoured part of the leadership, but as a high spirited horse to be kept happy in harness.  I remember at the time being disappointed with this, otherwise great, man.  Yet I smiled and nodded, taking from the conversation the fact that I was right in judging this woman’s importance and contribution and utterly wrong in my assessment of that particular leaders understanding of his own community.  I did not call him on it.  I think due to the politics of the moment, that was the best decision, but the fact he could speak so, and to me, with the expectation that I would think the same leads me to believe such an experienced leader must have cause to think so.

 

During the Bragaful, the round of boasting and bragging, I find the men in the community are using it properly, to share their struggles, to share their accomplishments and to dare themselves before the folk to set the bar higher, to grow and achieve what they must become, not rest where they are.  The women oddly need to be prodded and challenged to speak of themselves.  Often a woman who has a great accomplishment of her own I expect to hear about will speak instead of her pride in the accomplishment of another.  This is noble, but it denies them their glory, denies them the tool of the community’s empowerment.  I had thought, that the women were making a mistake, that they were not taking up the tools the ancestors left us.  That they only needed to be prodded a little to take their proper half of the glory that they have won for all of us.

 

No.  What I was seeing was the acceptance of proud women that they will struggle on, doing their best for the community without any expectation of equal recognition.  They are Heathen women, they don’t cry, bitch or whine, they simply shake their head, pick up their tools and get back to the task at hand.  It is not for them to complain they do not get the glory that men would get for similar deeds.

 

That has to end.  NOW.

 

We in the Heathen community are blessed with the finest women on this good Midgard.  There are no finer women living, and I have never been more deeply ashamed in my life than to admit our community takes from them full measure for every gift they have given us, and we give back perhaps one part in three in return.  A gift for a gift is our way, is the truth given us in our lore and from our gods and we are FAILING.

 

Many outstanding women rise to power and prominence in our community.  These are serious ass kicking heathen women.  Some are quietly amazing, others loudly amazing, but all of them are shining beacons of what our community attracts and produces.  We are looking at the champions who fought their way past the glass ceiling with a battle axe, who literally overcame the collective weight of our bullshit to rise to prominence anyway.  For each one of them that made it, how many of them were not able to bear three times the burden for one third the recognition to make it to where we need them to be?

 

Heathens function on a meritocracy, mostly.  We are our deeds.  You do great things, you show us you are devoted to the community, a person that makes wise and frithful decisions, that has a strong commitment to building community, and you earn the chance to lead, so that people with those skills and commitment are making the decisions that will affect us all.

 

We aren’t getting the best though.  We are getting the best men, and the few among the best women who fought through the bullshit and survived; as long as they are able to sustain the fight to tear them down again for the crime of being a successful heathen woman.

 

The fix on this one is dead simple.  Guess what, I can even speak to the ones who need to change it. I speak the language.  I have a beard as big, and testicles as hairy as any other in this community.  I can thump my chest and shake my spear with the best of them, so here it goes.  Men in this community have to let go that Christian baggage about a woman’s place.  A woman’s place is where ever she sets her feet.  A woman’s job is whatever challenge she undertakes.  We are our words, we are our deeds.  I do not care if the voice that spoke the words is a pleasant alto or a raspy baritone.  I don’t care if the shoulder that pushed the wagon beside me had a long flowing beard draped across it, or the swell of breast upon it.  If they gave their strength to the task I judge them by the strides they took, and know from my own struggle to take those strides how to measure the effort they put in.  That is what matters, not the beard, or the breast, but the stride.

 

We are failing at that.  Do better.  We are not Christians, we are heathens.  Most of us were not born that way, and too much of the baggage of the cannibal cult crossed into heathenry with it.  We need to leave that at the door and honour our fine Heathen women for their words and their deeds.  I was not wrong in stating that our women are indeed a shining credit to the Heathen community. I contend and will defend ours are the finest, most capable women on this good earth.  It is now time we deserve them.

 

John T Mainer

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Asatru, Faith, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Heathenry Belongs to All of Us

Freehold and Troth Banners

 

Hail,

I have long said that it is not the Troth’s place to tell the AFA how to run their house.  We go our own way and have our own understanding of Heathenry, what it meant to our ancestors, and what it means to us today.  I have said that, and I meant it.  I don’t run their house, nor would I be welcome in it.

 

They don’t own Heathenry, neither does the Troth.  However, Heathenry is my community, its peoples, all of them, are my peoples, and they are now under attack, and it is mine to defend them.  The Troth does not own Heathenry, but we are sons and daughters of the Heathen community, we are listening to the AFA tell our brothers and sisters they are not welcome , that they have no right to be here, to follow our gods, or to raise the horn with us as symble and be part of our holy folk.

 

I have had enough.  They do not have the right, and to be honest, they are not even correct.  The AFA official body has spelled out in black and white in the recent release that if you are not white, or you are gay, you are not welcome.  If your understanding of how to be a good and worthy Heathen man does not fit their definition of strong masculine man, you are not welcome.  If your understanding of being a good and worthy Heathen woman is not to be a skirt wearing home caring mother, you are not welcome.

 

They are wrong, badly wrong.  On one level I weep for their failures, and their failure to understand the words of our ancestors, the teachings of our holy gods, but to be honest, my first and strongest reaction is anger.  How dare they usurp the place of our holy gods, and arrogant to themselves the right to decide who may and may not raise a horn to them, who may or may not feel the call to join with their folk in community and worship.  How dare they attack my folk, my people, out of a failure to understand how living true to your heart, living honestly, openly and honourably as the teaching of your ancestors and your own best judgement teaches you, do not fit their own preconceived poster of what a Heathen should look like?

 

Genetic diversity in Viking Age grave sites was higher than modern, the maternal mitochondrial DNA studies have shown that among those women buried with grave goods consistent with full citizenship in their community, genetic diversity showed many tribal markings, some from as far away as Turkey or North American native.  You did not have to be white then, or now to be a member of our community.  These women were buried as women of the folk because that is how they lived.  Then and now, we judge you by your deeds, your proven worth to us.  Thus it was, thus it is, and while the Troth survives, thus it will be.

 

I am no universalist preacher, Heathenry is not for everyone.  Our ways are harsh in many respects, you are expected to answer for your words and deeds.  Our gods will not wave a magic wand and fix what you break, we have to deal with the consequences of our own actions.  This is a hard sell for much of humanity who really want someone to tell them that a word without a deed is somehow enough.

 

You can be a strong masculine man, the very image of a Viking warrior, the poster boy for any army recruiter, and be a member of our community.  We have lots of them.  I am one.  Of course in all honesty among those proven warriors you will find many who are not white, and many who are not men.  Yes, strong men and women have chosen to understand their duty to the community requires a service that risks their lives.  That is a common, understanding of how to meet your challenges and responsibilities.

 

There are many ways to live true as a good and worthy man, and good and worthy woman.  Some fill traditional gender roles to the stereotypical T.  Others follow their own talents and nature, their own responsibilities and roles to become strong and worthy Heathens in many other ways.  Teachers, artists, builders, traders, lawyers, healers; in every art in every science, in every trade you will find us.  There is no one right way to be Heathen, we were in ancient times a whole folk, a whole community of great and vital diversity of form, of nature, of opinion and expression. This richness was the endless source of the vigor and flexibility, of the cheerful boldness that allowed us to thrive when so many other peoples failed.

 

Our gods are harsh; they do not hold with those who are false, who stand as oathbreakers.  In that stance we see from them not cruelty, but wisdom.  It does you no good to pretend what is false, it does you no good and much ill to pretend to be what you are not.  You build little worth attempting to be what you are not, when instead you can build much worth succeeding in being what you are.  If our gods are harsh teachers, it is that we have only one life, and the sooner we realize the importance of living true to ourselves, the greater benefit we can be to ourselves, and to our communities.

 

Who you love is not important.  How you love is.  We do not care if you are straight, gay, or trans.  We do care how you love; we care deeply about how you treat the ones you love, as we care deeply about how you treat those you work with, and for, and those who work for you. How  your hold your oaths, care for those who depend on you. We care about your words and your deeds.  Do you honour your relationships?  If so we praise you and hold you in high esteem.  If not then yes, you will have little worth in our eyes.
I have married several people, and hope to continue this practice in future.  I did not care then if I was marrying man and woman, or two of the same.  I cared that they were openly and honestly plighting their troth to each other, that their union would be loving, honest, and healthy.

The AFA care that you are white, straight, and fit neatly on their poster.

I believe they have gone badly wrong, while I will allow them to run their own house any way they see fit, including burning the roof above their own heads, I draw the line at their telling the Heathen community who may or may not be a member.

 

The Troth will not tell you who may or may not join any other organization than our own.  That is not our place.  The Troth ABSOLUTELY will tell you that we are open to all good and worthy heathens who understand and accept that the colour of your skin, your understanding of your gender, and who it is that you love do not in any way shape or form affect your membership in this community.  If you are drawn to our gods, to honour the wights and ancestors, if you find the teachings themselves to be powerful and worthy guides to your life, and you can respect those who feel the same, even if their understandings may be different than yours, then you are welcome.

 

Ancient Heathens built strong inclusive communities.  So do we.  You will find those who are white and straight in our ranks, and you will find those that are not.  We honestly don’t divide along those lines.  You will find so many different ways to be a good and worthy Heathen under our banner, so many good examples of men and women who are living true, not to a stereotype, but to who they need to be to face the challenges given them.  Diversity is strength, and the frith of a diverse community that loves and values that diversity knows no equal on earth.  That is what we seek to build.  The AFA have chosen their way.  It is their right, but it is not, in my opinion, a Heathen one.

John T Mainer

Freyr of the Heathen Freehold Society of British Columbia

Redeman of The Troth

 

 

 

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