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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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Winter Nights

Green Wode Winter II

 

Snow was falling as I headed to the Green Wode for Winter Nights.  Heathens of the Nine Realms was hosting, a group I have been privileged to see grow from seeds planted in the broader pagan community and grow into a thriving, frithful, heathen community.  We came to mark the end of fall, the end of the harvest, and turn our eyes to the coming winter, to the dark, and to the dead.

 

Joining with us in this celebration were a local coracle building society, the artist who crafted these hardy boats had offered one of her coracle shells as a devotional offering for the Winter Nights fire, asking only that she be able to film the offering of her vessel, her artistry.

 

We began to gather at four as snow fell with the fading sunlight, to cease with the moonrise to leave us with a moonlit night filled with the sounds of the farm, field and forest animals, to which we added the music of fire, the songs of men and women, the stories of our ancient folk and faith.

 

A Tablero board appeared by magic, and Steven and I sat with dice and drink before us to compete at board as we do at spears.  Discussion roams from lore to history, to mythology to family, to our own lives and back again.  Laughter and jest between old friends who admit no barriers between them, courtesy and hospitality mark the newcomers who learn to accept the welcome of a community that holds to its own soul and does not lower itself to judge others by the labels our larger society seems content to divide itself with.  Come as you are, be who you are, and be welcome among us.

Tablero

 

Winter Nights was the feast that marked the end of the harvest season, the feast which marked the determination of which animals would be fed through the winter, which would be slaughtered to feed the folk.  Our priestess marked with Valkyrie mask lead our sheep masked offering about the fire, before ritually sacrificing him, and offering his blood to the fire and gods.

Upon the fire balanced the woven wooden frame and hull of a coracle, the ship given to the fire to carry away for us the hopes and dreams we offer, the brags of what we have done, the boasts of what we will do; the ship that will carry the grave goods and prayers to those we have lost in this season.  As the horn past, those of our kin, of our family, and of our dearest friends who had fallen were remembered, their glories sung, the place they held in life was shared, and the place they will hold forever in our hearts and minds was carved.  The ship which was the funeral vessel of our folk, either given to fire and wave in Viking funeral, or interred above our dead in the more common ship-grave is the vessel that no only carries us through this life, but from it.

Coracle making II

 

The coracle snapped and crackled in the fire as we hailed our holy gods, offering to them our praise, our thanks, our prayers, and tokens of our own craft and skill.  Each chose to honour the god or goddess whom had given the most to their lives in the year that was, and shared the lessons they had learned, the changes they had made, or were vowing now to make in the year to come.

 

Horn passed again, and we turned to offer to those gathered in sumbel with us, or who had sumbeled with us before but were not able to be here tonight.  Brightly we wove our wyrd together as we offered a gift for a gift, the bright offerings of praise and glory to those who had touched our lives, inspired us, aided us, challenged us, stood with us through storm and trial, test and hardship.

Altar Horn

 

Feast we then shared, groaning tables heavy with food both from the kitchens of our host, and from each guest who sought to bring an offering of matching worth to the hospitality they knew they would receive, and more than twice our number could eat.  Loud the hall with conversation and laughter, deep thoughts and discussions of lore and sacred mystery mixed with raucous tales and moments of mirth and jest as there were no borders for discussions with those who felt such connections between them.

 

Back to the night we trod, stoked the fire high again as we offered now more personally as the horn passed to us, sharing of our lives with those whom we now felt more comfort.  Bright the deeds that were shared, bold the boasts that were bared for the first time, those who had long cherished dreams that they at last dared to make come to pass in the world, to stake their fortune and their name to succeed or fail as wyrd wills.  In such company none feared to offer the truth of the goals they aimed at, the hopes they strove for, the secret dream they would pledge themselves to bring forth.  The goals were both personal and profound, some so daring that you had to salute the majesty of the quest and the courage of those who would so openly swear themselves to the doing.

 

Song now was offered, haunting melodies of love and loss in Finnish and Swedish, even Liam was induced to offer to us the Lord of Castlemere

 

https://youtu.be/-FF2fBRKxtk?list=RDi2vlXuEmfag

 

Tales now were told of our ancient gods, of alf and troll, god and hero as the moon lit the dark wood and the shadows danced around the fire to paint the night with dancing shadows to paint the night with glimpses of worlds of myth and mystery.

 

Many were free to spend the night wrapped in their bedding by the fire in the Red Room, but I, alas had to get back to pick up my daughter from work.  For me Winter Nights would end, but another hearty meal awaited those lucky enough to spend the night, for hospitality such as this is to be treasured more than the gold which is actually easier to find and less rewarding to hold.

 

Winter is come, and the folk are strong and whole, together in the sight of our gods, ancestors, and the wights of our lands and waters.   A gift for a gift, thanks for the bounty of the year that was, and promise to use that we will take no more than we need, and give back in return full measure.

Bonfire

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Death, Faith, Heathen, Uncategorized

Noir

A little Halloween story, a Samhain sampling, or a little Noir to colour the shadows this winterfinding.  This story is not mine, for it was born from myself and Kat Kerns.  Neither one of us is sure how much the story told itself, so neither one of us takes much credit for it.

How it began:

Soundly asleep then instantly awake, but not knowing why. The clock reads 2:00 am; the house is silent except for the ever present dripping of the leaky faucet in the bathroom. ‘Why am I awake’ I thought to myself. My mind was alert to every sound and shift of shadow, my heart beating quickly out of time but not afraid. Suddenly I realized I wasn’t alone, not that I could see anyone in the darkened room, but I could feel a presence… instead of racing faster my heart beat calmed.

I felt strangely safe even though I knew I shouldn’t. Who could be in my house, in my room, and why wasn’t I afraid? I sat up in bed and turned on the lamp on the night stand. Looking across my room I saw…

Bogart smoking                                                            *

I don’t know how long it had been this time.  When your dead, time doesn’t matter that much.  I got plugged back in ’32, that was OK.  You cross some lines you have to figure there’s going to be a cost.  A dame gets involved and suddenly you start breaking your own rules, people get hurt.  Dead hurt.  I fixed it back then; but not before the kid got caught up in it.  One innocent, and a whole bunch of mooks who probably had it coming.  Like I did.  Somebody was keeping score though, ’cause it didn’t end when I died.

It was 43 when I got brought back first I think……..that little wop kid getting a bum rap because he had the wrong accent when they needed to hang an ugly wrap that came from one of the country club set.  Last time was what 93, the old broad who thought she was losing it because she could see me.  She couldn’t see her kid putting the squeeze on her loot, or selling her meds on the street.

He took a long drag on his smoke, pulling it deep into his lungs.  The cherry on the end burned in the night like a red eye.  Ghost smoke into ghost lungs.  The broad on the bed turned and looked right at him, and turned on the light.  He put out the smoke on the wall, noting it didn’t leave a mark.  Ghost smokes don’t leave marks.  Neither did he.  Or at least, not enough to erase the mark he made when he was alive.

He waited for the screams to start, or looking at the bottle from last night to figure out where the ghost crawled out of.  He hated this part.  Funny how nobody wants to listen to the dead they called back.  It’s not like he chose to be here.  That’s a lie.  He smiled, cold and hard.  I made my choice a long time ago.  Every drinker knows, no matter what’s your poison, the bill comes due at the end of the night.  It’s a long night when you’re dead.

Time to find out what this dame’s story was.  He didn’t always get it right, sometimes they still died.  He didn’t know how many times he had to get it right before he would get to rest.  Not a lot else to do when your dead.  She didn’t seem to be screaming.  Maybe this one would listen long enough to stay alive.

*

The spectral man seemed to be waiting for me to do something… perhaps scream or faint, not sure. He seemed surprised when I just watched him calmly. He looked vaguely familiar, like I should know him from somewhere. Perhaps he simply reminded me of someone I knew once or something. I took a moment to asses him, he had all the marks of a hard life when he’d been alive; at least I assumed he did. Not knowing how death worked, I really couldn’t say. Part of me knew I should be freaking out or questioning my sanity, but for some reason the only thing the spirit inspired in me was a sense of safety and calm, I knew somehow that he wasn’t here to hurt me.

Perhaps it was his eyes that inspired that, they had the look of a man resigned to his fate tinged with a touch of sadness. He put on a strong front as he drew on a spectral cigarette before putting it out against my wall; I was more than a little bit relieved to see that it didn’t leave a burn mark. They were always so hard to remove, I’d learned that well enough from an ex boyfriend who had been nothing but trouble when we were together and for a time even more trouble when we broke up. I still don’t know what it was I saw in him to begin with; maybe it was the challenge of the bad boy that many women make the mistake of assuming they can change, or perhaps pure masochism on my part. Whatever it had been, it was bad from beginning to end and I was well quit of him. I decided to say something maybe find out what he was here for, I was sure the spirit had a reason for being here; he didn’t seem the type to just be wandering through randomly. It was like I knew that he had a message of some sort, or perhaps he simply needed my help.

“Um… hello?” I said hoping that we could actually communicate.

*

The broad wasn’t freaking out like most of them did.  Wasn’t just sitting their giggling like that twin in 73; she never got straight long enough from the junk she was on to realize what was up.  It wasn’t hard watching that one go.   I watched a lot of people go in the Great War, and a few when I came back and worked as a cop.  Only a few more when I started work as a private dick, but one of those was her.  Angie.  The one I screwed up. The reason I’m here.

This girl looked smart, he could work with that.  She didn’t look scared though.  That was bad.  He may not have figured out much about why he kept coming back, but he knew that he only came back for kids on the edge of getting whacked.  Innocents like Angie.  No bottle this time, and no blonde; no chance to screw it up.

Sometimes they got in deep with the wrong people.  Sometimes it was family, and that got real ugly.  Sometimes it was love; god knows love is what screwed him up bad enough to let Angie get killed.  Even dead, that one won’t let him go.

This girl didn’t have the look; didn’t look hunted or scared.  That was bad.  She had no idea what was coming for her, and couldn’t tell me.  I pulled my .45 and checked the clip; five rounds, always five.  It begins again the same.

The girl pulled the blanket up when I pulled my gat, but still didn’t look scared.  She should be.  I only had one chance to get it right, last chance was all I ever got.

Memory gets bad towards the end, the things you try not to bring with you.  I remember the endings.  The blonde comes again, when I lose, she spits on me.  When I win she kisses me.  Funny, when she kissed me for real, I lost it all.  I lost Angie.  The dark one comes, her I know.  Half her face rotted and rat chewed, like the guys the shells dug out and tossed back in the trenches, all swollen up and bursting.  Half her face pale, cold, and hard.  A smile like the cocked hammer of my .45.  Then the dark.  Always the dark.

I walked forward into the light, no shadows for me I guess, since I’m not much more than one myself.  It was time to talk.  Probably too late, I was usually too late.  Two rounds wasted one bottle and one girl gone.

“What’s your story kid?  Who wants you dead?”

I lit another cigarette and took a drag, the smoke pulled deep and held, as I looked for her response.  Surprise.  Huh.  Always hard when you didn’t see it coming.

“Nothing personal toots, but if you see me, you got maybe an hour before somebody gets dead.  And right now, the smart money is still on you.”

I blew a long trail of smoke into the lamp light, and I laughed gently.

“But I always bet the wrong way, and sometimes win”

My smile used to do the trick.  Calmed the guys in the trenches calmed the cops on the scene who were turning green over their first corpse.  It never worked on dames though.  Of course, I never got that part right.  Even dead.

***

Dead? Someone wanted me dead, and this spirit was here to warn me. The gun he’d pulled out had startled me a bit, but I still didn’t think he was here to hurt me, but asking me who wanted me dead, that was totally unexpected. To the best of my knowledge no one wanted me dead. I mean the only person I could even think of who might even be angry with me was Joey, I mean he did take the break up hard and I had to get a restraining order, but I couldn’t imagine him actually wanting me dead because of it… could I?

Well, there was no way to be sure, if this spirit was here to warn me of my impending potential death then I had best figure out what to do about it. From the sound of things, he felt there might be a chance for me to survive so I’d better work quickly. Did he know the nature of the threat; was it personal, could it be accidental? All I knew for sure was that I wasn’t about to just sit in bed and let it happen. My mother didn’t raise a fool; she made sure that if her baby girl got herself into trouble she was strong enough to get herself out of it. I nodded my understanding to the shade, and got out of bed. Moving to my dresser I started pulling clothes out, I wasn’t going to face whatever was coming in my freaking nightgown. I paused only momentarily to glance at the spirit, but than continued to get dressed. He’d mentioned an hour at most, now was no time for modesty. Fully dressed in a tee shirt and jeans, I pulled my hair back into a pony tail to keep it out of my face and moved to my closet. I found myself very glad that my parents had seen fit to teach me how to shoot as I opened the gun safe and took out my 9mm glock. For a moment I considered grabbing my fathers .357 magnum but I wanted something light just in case. Who knew what I was going to be up against. Speed and maneuverability might be my saving grace. I made sure it was loaded with a round chambered and put a couple of extra clips in my pocket just to be sure.

I decided to grab my hiking boots and put them on, who knew if I was going to need to make a run for it. I was still unnaturally calm through all of this; well maybe I would fall apart later if I made it through the rest of the night. Once again I turned to look at the spirit, harbinger of doom or saving angel, didn’t matter, I was going to take full advantage of this warning. I for one was not ready to die this night.

“Okay, now what?” I asked him.

*

She said she didn’t have a clue who would want her dead, but her eyes said she was lying. She picked up a cannon, and put it back in favor of some boxy piece that looked like someone took my .45 and squashed it down to half size. She stripped the clip and checked it, chambering and safing what looked like about a 9mm like she knew what she was doing.  This dame had her head straight.  I might save her, like I should have saved Angie.

“Hey toots, how about you roll up that sleeping bag in the closet, and put it under your covers like you was still asleep”

The closet was beside the door, anyone sitting in it would see the bed, but the door was out of sight. To get a shot at the bed, you would have to step around the walk in closet, with your back to it.

“Sit yourself here in the closet. I will let you know when somebody comes through the door.  If they start shooting at the bed, don’t blow smoke asking stupid questions, you plug them hard and fast until they drop. If they look like they are turning to face you, plug ’em again”

The kid looked green, like it was sinking in, but she checked the safety, and worked it to make sure it broke clean. Her face went flat, like newbie’s usually did, faking cool until they bought it themselves. I saw that a lot in the trenches, and on the force. Sometimes I saw it in the mirror, or the bottom of a bottle.

It must of been about twenty minutes, but the sweat off the girl showed she felt it like hours. I forget how much the waiting gets to you, when your dead, some things just get easier.

I heard the back door open. I slipped into the hall to see a young guy pull a key from the lock.  Huh.  He had a key. With dames it was usually the things they didn’t want to talk about that got them killed. It was usually the one they would swear could never hurt them, but they were trying real hard to get away from because their brain read things clearer than their heart.

He pulled a gat of his own. Some shiny chrome job bigger than my Colt 1911. Maybe he thought he was hunting bear, because that was a lot of gun for a sleeping broad.  Of course, it wasn’t going to be enough. Not this time. He ghosted back to the closet.

“Show time doll. One guy, one gun. Coming quiet. You don’t make a sound until he makes his play. Then you shoot.  Don’t talk, don’t think, and don’t die!”

I gave her the hard stare, if she was going to freeze, I had to know. You can’t tell sometimes, until the time comes, whose got the steel to finish, and whose going to fold… Her lips went white; her breathing got deep, but slowed down.  Her thumb slowly pushed the gun off safe. Well now.  I’ve seen worse. I winked at her, and faded back by the bed.

Her left hand gripped her necklace, some kind of half cross or upside down hammer. Her right was at shoulder height, ready to bring her piece down on target.

The jackass came through the door screaming. I cleared my piece, even thought I can’t touch the living. Reflex I guess. Any surprise he would have had was gone. He lowered that cannon and started to blast.

Five shots rang like trip hammers. Three sounded like shotgun blasts, the cannon jumping in jackasses hand like a scared rabbit. He put a hole about chest level in the woman shape under the covers, then another in the pillow beside where her head would lay, then at the top of her headboard.  Whatever that cannon was, he couldn’t control it, anymore than he could control his screaming. The last two shots were sharp cracks, as the muzzle flash from the doll’s little gun snapped out a sharp double tap, and jackass hit the floor.

“Nobody leaves me, you bitch!” Joey screamed as he came in the door. Unloading his Desert Eagle and his hate towards the girl who dared to leave him.  He blasted out three times before he felt something hit him, and he fell to the floor.

He struggled to roll over, and saw her. That little bitch!  The one who left him, the one who had the balls to send the Sheriffs to serve him at work with a restraining order, as if it was up to her when it was over.  His chest was cold, and his legs were weak, but he snarled as he raised his Eagle towards his woman, HIS woman, whatever anyone said.

Joey heard a cold voice say “Finish it sister, this kid isn’t stopping”.

Joey looked into those eyes that used to look at him with love, and the ones he taught to look at him with fear, but this time they were flat, cold, and looking back in the moonlight on either side of the glowing sights of her Glock. Two more shots rang out, and he heard his pistol hit the floor.  He couldn’t feel it.  He couldn’t feel anything.

“Joey” the dame said, and then started to cry.  Let the kid cry. She had earned it.  He felt the end coming, they were coming again.  They always did.

Joey came out of his body, and reached for his gun. You could do that if you hated enough. I did.

“This isn’t over” Joey sobbed as he picked up his gun, and raised it towards his loved/hated ex.  “This will never be over!”  he screamed.

“Hey bub” rang a cold voice, edged with cruelty
“You want to bet on that”

Noir gun

He spun to face the trench coated figure shining moonlight silver in the darkness, but thunder spoke, and a hammer took him in the knee.

“My gun can’t touch the living any more, but you should see what it does to the dead”

“You could have let it go buddy, you could have let her go and lived”

The gun spoke again, and Joey screamed.

“Both legs-you will never rise, never walk”

Twice more the gun spoke, and Joeys shoulders were slammed to the floor.

“Both arms-you will not raise them to another woman”

Joey started to beg now; he was almost out of time.  They both were.

The grim ghost looked down, his eyes shaded by his fedora. The muzzle of the .45 looked like a train tunnel, as the smoke from the first four rounds puffed like a dragon’s breath around its muzzle.

“And your head, because I’m tired of listening to you”

Joey faded into silence.  A roughly man shaped pool of silver in the darkness, without form, without movement, without hope.

“Your choice to be stupid, my choice who lives”

He looked at the locked slide on his pistol, and released it. Slapping its empty form back into its holster, he turned to face what was coming.  He lit a cigarette and sucked deep on it.  He knew what was coming, If he could have run, he would.  It hurt too much to remember, except at the end.

From the moonlight came her. Shining the blonde came. Angie’s mother. I wished I died this time first. Sometimes when I failed, I ate my gun before they came, and missed this part. Sometimes I wished I had failed at this point.  Five rounds, that’s all I had at the end.

Noir blond

She was smiling, the way she was when she fed me the spiked booze, and left me passed out while she handed her kid back over to the monster that paid for her, the one whose guys I took her from in the first place.

The kid’s grandmother paid me to track Angie down, and I did. Two knuckle draggers for hire had grabbed her and were holding her at a hotel.  Neither one was willing to face a drawn pistol for the money they were getting.  Bottom feeders, not the kind that came back from war, or came up through the gangs.

I brought her back to the mother. The blonde.  Her face was hard and cold when I brought her back, and she told Angie to go to her room while she made a phone call. I cooled my heels in the living room while she made the call. When she came back she was all smiles, and brought a drink. Her blouse was unbuttoned enough to really distract me, and I never turned down good booze.

I never had much luck with broads and none with ones as hot as this one.  I tried to play it cool, but my brain shut off as she ran her hands on my chest, and told me to finish my drink.

When I came to, I was passed out in the chair with a headache.  Angie was gone, her mother too.  I staggered to the girl’s room; it looked like a fight happened.  Angie was a fighter, she didn’t go easy.  I saw a button on the ground.  Her mothers.  Her mothers.

Played like a fool.  Her mother sold her, just like the last time.  Two mooks too scared to face me didn’t snatch the kid themselves, they got her drugged unconscious by her mother, only this time she used it on me.

Booze and broads, I never could turn them down, and this time a kid was paying. Angie.

I called the operator, gave them my old badge number, and got the last number called. Lassiter. Old man Lassiter.

Lassiter was old money, bought judges and congressmen out of petty cash, and was untouchable. We all knew about him, and the rumors about his tastes. Nobody ever linked him directly to the bodies; nobody ever looked that hard, or were warned off. Nobody ever went after him.

I rubbed my head and my eyes fell upon the bottle. Well, I guess I just proved I was a nobody, a real chump.

I cleared my pistol and blasted the bottle and glass. Two rounds out of seven spent.  Five left.

“Angie baby, I swear I’m going to get you back, Hell take anybody who gets in the way”

My Ford weaved all over the road as I shook off the Mickey Finn. I clipped a mirror on the gate post on the way in, and went through the shrubs on his pretty lawn.

I came up the stairs at a run, Colt in my fist.

Two guards were at the door and reached for me. Amateurs. I didn’t waste a bullet on either of them. I knocked mustache boy’s coconut off the door post, and pistol whipped the second mook.  I didn’t slow down. You crossed the wire at the run, and didn’t stop until you hit the opposite trench. Slow was dead. Dead was OK, but only after I finished. Only I after I saved Angie.

I hit the stairs at the run; there was a butler in a stupid costume. He clawed at a piece behind his back. The stupid suit made him slow, my .45 made him stop forever.  Four left.

Another stood at the top of the stairs, and got off two shots of his own. One hit my chest, I felt cold, but it wasn’t enough.  It threw off my aim, and my return splashed his throat into a red mess. Three left.

I came through the door, and there she was. Angie’s mom, her purse was grasped in her hand, and she shot a look at the bedroom door.  I heard a little girl screaming, and the wet slap of a man’s hand stopped it.  I put a bullet just above those sweet red lips. Couldn’t let her speak, they made a fool of me before, and I may already be too late.  Two left.

I hit the door, kicking beside the lock, not with my shoulders because the movies got it wrong.  My vision was starting to grey out, not a good sign. Did I have enough time?  I would have to.

Lassiter was kneeling over Angie. His pants were down, and he had his hands at her throat. I put a bullet in his spine, but the old bastard got up again.

I was on the ground, I didn’t notice falling.  It was cold, and my vision was graying out. Not good. The old bastard raised himself up, and reached for the girl again, I put my last round through is temple, and blew his brains all over the antique bed drapes.

I couldn’t move now.  I heard the screams of the mansion staff, heard soft sobbing from somewhere.

“I didn’t make it Angie, I let you down.  I swear I’ll make it right”

From the shadows of the bed came two figures, one was a horror, half her face bloated and rotten, half cold and beautiful.  Both her eyes were hungry as they looked at me. You see strange things at the end.  I looked away from her, and there she was, the blonde; Angie’s mom, the vision of beauty seemed to have gotten over the slug through the skull, and was smiling at me too.  I shut my eyes.  Some things I just couldn’t face.

“Mine” said the blonde.

“Not yet” said the two faced horror.

Hella

It was a mercy when the dark came. It never lasted, but I welcomed it at the end.

It was the new dame that shattered the memory. She turned to my specters as if she saw them too, and shouted two names

“Hella!”  She said raising her arm in salute to the dark one, her eyes unafraid as she took in the two faces of the cold dark.  The dark one nodded in return.

“Freya” she said saluting the blonde.  That wasn’t Angie’s mother’s name, but the blonde laughed and nodded in return.

This had never happened.  Not even I knew who they were; just that they came for me, at the end.  Nobody saw them but me.

Who was this girl, and how did she know his specters?

*

It was hard to think, standing over the body of her dead ex, but the shock of the killing was nothing compared to the coming of the goddesses. Hel was cold, her presence deep in ways that spoke of the mound, of eternity. Her coming swept away shock and fear, for hers was a presence that anchored deep in the roots of the earth, and beyond.

At her glance, the silver pool that was the sundered essence of her attempted killer sunk into the floor, and the slight smile on her face was like moonlight on a bared blade. The look she turned upon her defender, the trench-coat clad ghost was softer; if not kind, then at least understanding. When she looked at how her specter faced the keeper of the dead, she was shocked to see him flinch, not from the half-corpse grave-queen, but from the Goddess of Love.

Freya was hard to look upon, her light was bright, not as sunlight, but as fire; amber and gold. Her beauty was vibrant, wild and fierce; even still she had the quality of dance, as if she was but a frozen moment between frenzied steps.  Her gaze upon the ghost was warm. In those eyes shone understanding, love, and a fierce possessive desire. Not the desire of a lover, so much as the desire to possess, the need to have something discovered.

Her specter turned on trembling legs of ghost-silver away from the shining light of Freya, and towards the corpse-queen’s dark. At last Freya’s gaze fell upon her, and the goddess spoke.

“Kitten, would you know why he flees me? Would you know what he sees?”

I nodded; I could not speak under that gaze.

“Then see his memories, look at the things he won’t see. He has earned more than he allows himself. He has won more than the task he sets himself. There is a place for him in other halls than the mound”

Freya looked at the specter with sad eyes.

“For him I wear the face of she he first saved, but he sees only the mother. His generation had forgotten us, many won great worth, but even some of those were lost, and need a guide to find their way home”

Those last words fell upon me like a great weight. As her eyes met mine, I saw the visions that haunted, that trapped my specter. As he lay dying upon the ground, I saw a young girl, shining golden with the promise of beauty to come, rush to his side, and weeping, close his eyes. When the police came, she told them weeping, of his heroism. She heard the echo of a name….Angie.

He didn’t know! He had been condemning himself for generations for failing her, but he didn’t fail. He was not running from the woman he killed (she shuddered at the thought of a mother selling her child to that fate), but from the child he saved!

A gift for a gift she thought, looking at the bullet holes in her bed; she had been given the gift of life. She looked at her ghost, the haunted look in her haunts own eyes. She owed a life, and but how was she to pay it back. She looked at Hel, and for the living to meet that dread gaze was harder than looking down the barrel of her pistol at her former lover. Turning from the light, to face the silver shadow in the heart of the dark, Kat turned to face Hella.

As she met the gaze of the two faced queen, Hel turned the corpse face she showed the living. Staring at the corpse bloat, and milky eye of the keeper of the dead, Kat steeled herself and met Hel’s gaze.

“Great Hel, I beg a question”

Hel turned her maiden face to the hard faced ghost, fumbling to light a cigarette for whatever comfort it offered the dead. A soft smile touched the Keeper of Silence, and she asked a question in a voice that was soft as a lullaby.

“For the champion?”

Freed to speak when the Dread Queen turned to look at the smoking specter, Kat mumbled her assent.

“He is not mine to keep. He will not rest.  Those that are mine know rest, an end to strife, He flees to me, and I wrap him in my darkness, but always the call will come, and his guns and wrath, not my arms, will hold him.”

The Keeper of the Dead turned her corpse face to the living once more and spoke her last.

“He is not mine to keep.”

It was times like this the sagas had great words from inspired poets. Too bad she was standing in her closet in her pajamas, standing over a body, looking at two goddesses, and trying to save a ghost. Sadly, this did not make for poetry.

“Shit” said Kat.  She stripped the mag from her pistol, clearing and safing it. Checking the chamber was clear; she worked the slide lock and put down the empty gun.  It was time to finish things; she thought she heard sirens already.

Quick and dirty heathen 101 or ghost intervention.  It was now or never.

“A gift for a gift” she said. “I don’t have a lot of time, the police are coming, but there is something you need to know.”

*

The darkness was lapping around me now, the cold black promise of oblivion, the chance to forget. I could feel the blonde behind me, feel her calling to me. One day I might be weak enough to give in, I gave in once, and Angie died. I died too; but I couldn’t even get that right. I turned to the dark lady again, her smile was cold and hard as a drawn knife, she knew me, and she knew what came next. The cold, the silence………the call again.

“Shit”, the dame I saved had a mouth on her like a platoon sergeant, but she shot straight, and didn’t flinch, so I guess she was alright. She said she had something I needed to know, but she was wrong. Stuff only mattered to the living; it only mattered until you got the big one wrong, then you were screwed for life. Or death in my case. You screwed up the big one, you paid and paid, and even a bullet couldn’t get you out.

I smiled, the darkness was drawing back. The dark lady wanted me to listen, and I guess the kid earned a minute. Being dead, my time got cheaper than a plug nickel.

“You never remember the end” she said.

No kidding. I got played for a sucker, and Angie died. I got the broad that sold her and the fat cat who bought her. The torpedoes didn’t count; they were nothing, so was I.  I didn’t save Angie, and even if I got it right a few times, I failed when it counted, I failed when I died, because so did she.

The sirens were getting closer, the kid seemed desperate. She stepped away from her gun, and looked like she wanted to slap me. I get that a lot, or did when I had a body to slap.

“No, you idiot!”  Kid had a silver tongue alright. He chuckled, but the kid had her motor running and shifted gears like she had places to go.

“You died, but she didn’t.  The crying you heard was Angie, she lived. She was crying and closing your eyes when the police got there. That’s not her mother’s face you see behind you, that’s Angie when she grew up.”

The dark lady looked sad; her eyes were almost soft as she nodded. Eyes like that couldn’t lie; they never tried.  Death didn’t cheat; she was the one unbroken promise. He didn’t know much, but he knew that.

The sirens grew loud, as they did that night when he was fading out. He heard then from a child, what he heard now from the blonde, so beautiful it hurt, so bright she burned.

“You came back for me. I knew you would. You are a hero. There is a place for heroes.  My lady keeps it. You don’t have to go into the dark. You can come  again when you are called”

The kid seemed to understand.  I didn’t. I turned to her, because she played it straight so far, and I wasn’t trusting myself to think, not with her in front of me.

“Go with her.”  The dame was smiling and crying the way only dames could.
“Freya’s hall is for heroes and lovers”

I looked at the empty clip in my 45 and the spot the ghost died again and laughed.

“I ain’t a hero, doll face.  And if there is a bigger fool at love than me, I never met him”

My voice turned hard and cold, I knew how it played out. How it always played out.

“Out of bullets, out of time. Now the dark comes”

A golden laugh lit the darkness, and I felt the shiver run up my spine like the caresses you dream about, but never know. My gun grew heavy in my hand; I stripped the clip and counted. One, two, three…….seven? NO!  I wasted two, and since I died, I only had five left, like when I tried to save her. Seven slugs looked back at me, and I looked up to three smiles.

The kid was crying, the dark one nodded and turned away, and ……Angie took my arm. I felt a rush, like blood and fire pour through me, like a living man, like whiskey and a first kiss, and dawn after a night of war. I looked down at the ghost of my arm, and saw it fade.

***

Kat watched Hel turn away, and the amber tones of life fill the bone white hollows of the dead man’s face with life. Love hid behind walls of fear in his eyes, but wonder made him look at Angie, and see love shining back in return.

A gift for a gift, a life for a life.

Standing alone in a room with no ghosts and a single dead body, she heard the police come in and she began to laugh. This was actually going to be the easy part of her evening. Tears streaking her face, she sat back in the closet to wait. There had been enough truth for the evening. Her ghost prepped her for the coppers, and a little damsel in distress beat the hell out of telling the local flat-feet about goddesses and ghosts. Gods, now he had her talking like that. Next thing you knew, she would be smoking……

 

By Kat Kerns and John T Mainer

Previously published in

They Walk With Us

All proceeds donated to The Troth.

 

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Raven’s and Swords

 

Je me souviens-the motto of Quebec; we will remember.

Ah yes, just about the single most common phrase ringing from any minority crying out for revenge against the terrible crimes of (everyone else alive, and anyone on their side who doesn’t fully agree with them). Oddly enough everyone self defines as a minority for this purpose, making the one great unifying truth of humanity is that everyone can look back and feel they alone have suffered.   Memory; remember the wrongs done you, but be very selective my children, lest you recall the crimes of your own forbearers as well, or hear the cries being directed towards you by those survivors of their victims.

Memory

We are quick to put this on our flags, our swords, our skins, and whisper it into the ears of our children.  Remember the terrible things that happened to someone else long ago, because this will give you the defiant pride to be turned into a weapon by the first idiot who wants to use them to commit terrible things today.
Remember 9-11, remember the Alamo, remember Culloden, Masada, Thermopylae, the fall of Jerusalem, the sack of Lindesfarne, Amritsar, Hiroshima and the Plains of Abraham.  Gods forbid you should ever really look at the history before and after for context.

Ravens

There are two Raven’s who fly throughout the world to bear Odin’s messages, Huginn and Muninn.  Thought and Memory are their names in the tongues of today, and how interesting it is that the one we carve in the tongues of our blades, into our skin, onto our licence plates, flags, banners and political dogma is Memory.

 

I love Odin, and I love my blades.  I have seen his truth, lived it, and I know well the stench of open guts, blood rotting on the ground, the odd stiffness of the corpse.  I have seen ravens and crows wheeling above the feast and understood the truth; the Battleglad does not care why we slaughter each other, we do it for reasons that are entirely our own, he does not need to whisper in our ears or raise the clarion call for blood, simply put, we have never needed it.  We feed the ravens in fact, the corpse eating birds grow fat and plentiful because we heed only one of His ravens, and not both.

 

Thought and Memory.  We find memory rich like mead or whiskey on the tongue, sensual as a lovers touch to fire our desires when poet or politician would arouse us to act, we carve it on our skins to dedicate ourselves to wrongs of the past, carve it on our blades and gunstocks as we prepare to commit the wrongs of the present in the name of the sacred memory of stupidities of the past.  Why is it we are so enamoured of the hot rich blood thick feel of Memory upon our tongue and upon our soul and so terrified of the ice cold calm of Thought?

 

Odin has more to his name than Battleglad, more to his nature than Feeder of Ravens.  He is the Victory Father; but why when we call for him by this name do we never also call him as Wise Counsellor or Truth Teller.

 

I can hear the non-Heathens already smugly assuring themselves this has nothing to do with them.  I hate to break this to you, it doesn’t matter if you believe in him, or his ravens, they believe in you.  You may not know you serve the ravens when you raise your hands to your neighbors; neighbors in other lands or neighbors in your own streets, but you lay the raven’s feast when you stir the strife that leads to burning cities and blood on the stones.  Raven’s have never lost a war.

 

Heathens ought to know better, but seldom do we find it any easier than other folk to give equal weight to the ravens on both shoulders.  Memory is ruled by passion, like sweet mead or the headiest whiskey it fires the blood and clouds the mind.  Thought does not look backward, but forward.  Thought soars from intention to consequence, looking beyond the passions to the price, thought looks beyond the hot words of politicians, demagogues, rabble rousers and activists and looks to the deeds that follows, looks beyond the swinging sword to the shattered limb, beyond the bright torch to the burned building, beyond the shattered peace to the shattered land.

Never forget, for the past is with us always and if we do not own it then we allow it to own us.  Muninn receives offerings from me, as I look to the past of my family, my ancestors, my nation, my faith for the inspiration to fulfil my duty to the present, and to help me remember my duties to the future.  Huginn receives offering from me as well.  Memory must always be balanced by thought, inspiration must never outstrip understanding of consequence or the future will do no more than rewater ancient battlefields with modern blood, layer another generation of hatred, waste and futility on all the generations of waste and mindless slaughter we so narrowly survived to get here.

 

The sword of memory is swiftly drawn and thirsts so much for the red life wine.  The sword of memory flashes bright in the sun and sings as it slays, caring little where it falls, only that it is driven by ancient pride and rage.  The sword of thought is different.  Drawn with reluctance it swings with the full weight of duty, falling with neither lust nor hesitation, a brutal necessity that accepts the cost of every stroke, and will not be sheathed save in victory.

Swords and Ravens

There are two ravens for a reason.  It is Odin’s to understand the inspiration of men, the ways of victory, even as the costs of the struggle are his meat and drink, so are all paths to victory his.

Memory reminds us of who we are, from whence we came, and lets us draw upon the rich strength of our line, of our nation, of our gods and faith to face whatever challenges we face today.  Thought soars ahead of us to seek the path towards a better tomorrow, a brighter future, a path away from the tragedies that scarred our families, our nations, and our history with needless suffering and loss.

I will tend my blades, keep them sharp and my hands ever skilled in their use, but I will understand when to heed which raven.  I will let Thought determine when my blade is drawn, and when my blade is to be sheathed.  I will not draw nor wet my steel for ancient wrong, for passion alone.  I will draw my steel only when Thought demands it, and sheath it when Thought requires it.  Memory shall fire my blood to face the steel of others, shall sustain me when wounds, fear, and exhaustion would bid me surrender, Memory will carry me through the fire, but I will never allow memory to light it.

I read the saga of burning steading and red steel vengeance as good poetry.  I learned the killing of men, of dead friends, the terrible cost of the broken and maimed from those who fed the ravens in my grandfathers and fathers generation.  I stood my time beneath the banners of my nation, and plied my trade with steel in my fist, knowing it to be a duty we were brought to by passion but carried out with the same cold calculation the raven’s have always exercised when feeding upon the fallen upon every tragic field our species has littered with the broken bodies that are the raven’s feast.

Odin is the god of poetry because those who have stood over the dead and the dying with work to do require something that can allow them to put all that they cannot unsee into a context we can live with, because there is always going to be work still to do.  Thought and Memory are both his, as his wolves Word and Deed are both his.  Thought must balance Memory, as Word must always be chosen carefully knowing Deed will follow. Odin is the god of consequences, of price paid.  You may choose to look at bright pages of angels and songs of high sounding rhetoric, but my own gods bid me look down at the shattered lives, burned out husks that once represented homes, businesses, dreams, and hope and consider long and well the costs before I speak, and before I act.

We will remember.  Tragically, we will always remember when we were wronged, never when we were wrong, we will remember victory, and forget the cost.  We will remember those who exploited us, and forget those who fought to bring justice.  We remember every face that screamed abuse at us, and forget so swiftly those who rose up in our defense.

 

It is hard to get passionate about a settlement that makes things a little better, building on a previous settlement that made things a little better, as through halting slow process a people struggle haltingly towards that great unknown destination of justice through tentative and halting steps.  Of the two ravens, Memory can soar unerringly to any place we have been, any wrong we have suffered or committed he can alight on, but Thought must seek in the mists of everchanging and ever weaving wyrd for that mythic land of justice towards which the wise stumble and the foolish believe they may simply name wherever they choose to stop.

It is satisfying to draw the sword and call for revolution, and frustrating to negotiate in good faith and imperfect practice to drive a people through evolution instead.  Memory looks like all ravens to the shiny bits, the juice bits, the bloody bits; soaring loftily over the vast stretches of context, peace and progress, decay and corruption, only to alight on blood and fire.

Thought is a harder raven to heed, yet the only raven that promises a destination other than the next blood soaked tragedy.  Memory is always with us, but memory cannot lead us forward to anything but a repeat of the tragedies of the past.  Thought and memory soar together through out sky and through our soul.  Bring them back into balance, bring us back into balance, so that we have a chance to steer our state closer to that distant star called justice, and in seeking that star find ourselves guided into lands far fairer in every sense of the word than our ancestors ever knew.

 

If you must grave the name of ravens upon your steel, your skin or your soul, do remember to balance thought and memory.  Honour the sacrifice of your ancestors, but draw upon it for inspiration to find a better way forward.  You must first let go the drive to avenge the past before you can ever be free of the chains of it.  Memory can never lead you forward, only Thought can.

 

 

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Chronic Pain Meditation

Pain Meditation

A woman of my kindred has asked that I share my pain meditation, so for her, and such others as it may help, here it is.

Background:

 

I am a soldier, son, grandson of soldiers.  Not just people who did their trades in uniform, but the kind of front rankers that do the bulk of the actual fighting.  We have a history of standing into battle in this fashion that stretches back over a thousand years, our descent is from those who lived such lives and came back to have families.  This gives an inherited skillset that includes a wonderful tool for dealing with pain in active settings.

In terms the army would use as it sought to teach the same lessons I had learned from before I grew my first tooth, the trick is to “eat the pain, and shit power” (don’t you love the army?  Such poetry).  That is you take pain, feed it to your rage, and channel it through your discipline and trained reactions to allow you to overcome whatever is in your path.  It is a wonderful tool, on the tactical level.  It does however have that limitation.  That path is an active path, a violent and focused path, fueled by rage, turned ice cold by discipline, and utterly suited towards dealing as swiftly and decisively as possible with whatever challenge it faces.  There is neither hesitation, nor remorse; there is also no reckoning of the costs.  You will achieve your goals no matter the cost.

 

To all those who are nodding because this sounds really neat, you missed a lot of the important information. Firstly, it’s a tactical tool.  There is no long term thinking, zero creativity.  This is a purely reactive state.  As far as a survival tool, there is literally nothing better, but it will ruin your life, and those around you if you live in this mode.  You won’t consider the cost to yourself or others, you will not try to find a better way, you will simply go directly through whatever is in front of you with whatever is the quickest solution, with no consideration of anything beyond that immediate task.

 

The other thing you have to understand is that this is an active process, it consumes energy and causes you to harm yourself by ignoring your limits (the safety limits your body puts, like speed governors, to prevent you from tearing yourself apart with all the power you can actually generate, rather than safely channel).  The more pain you are in, the more of your energy this path takes.  If you are in acute pain, as a short term solution, it can power you through the bad spots.   If you are in chronic pain, then this will stop you from actually living, keeping you in survival mode until you have driven away everyone you care about, and finished destroying a body you refuse to listen to or allow to heal.

 

I had the opportunity, and boy did it take a long time to view it that way, to undergo an ordeal after a major spinal injury, and seek answers from our gods and ancestors as to how to cope with my injuries.  I was given some gifts I cannot explain, and cannot share.  I was also given instruction in something to deal with my pain, an instruction that was not short or pleasant, but was effective in ways I cannot explain to anyone who has not spent years trapped in chronic pain.
I will explain the meditation.

Pain Meditation: Form and images

 

This is not an otherworldly meditation.  This is perhaps the most difficult thing for most people with a lot of magical experience to grasp, this meditation is anchored in this world, and does not seek to take you out of your body at all.

 

Begin with opening your awareness.

Your back is to the Tree, Yggdrasil  The world tree.  Let your back rest against it, feel the bark behind you.  Know that it rises above you, branches reaching all the upper worlds, roots reaching far below to the underworld itself.  Feel the bark behind you, breathe deeply and let it go.  Let your hands touch the ground.  Feel the earth, the rough material of this world.  Know that you are rooted in this world, you will not journey this day.

Take a belt, a rope, a string, whatever you are comfortable wearing, and lay it upon your lap.

Take a deep breath, feel the tree, the bark of the world tree, the pillar of this world, the axis of all reality.  Take up your binder.
Let your breath go.  This is your world.  This is your place

 

Bind yourself, belt yourself, in doing so, bind yourself to the Tree which is this world, bind yourself to it because you are committing to stay here through what comes next.

 

Take a deep breath, let go, feel your pain, your fear, the tiredness that runs at your heels like Skoll after the moon; half a step behind, and always hungry.

 

You are bound to the tree, no force in the nine worlds may move you, no external force may touch you, you are safe from all that comes from outside.
Breathe in, accept that there is no external threat, and let go

 

Open your inward eye, your visualization.

 

You sit cross legged beneath the tree, before you laps a great ocean, it laps at the roots of the tree, and fills your foreground.  Above you in the sky wheels a raven, slow lazy circles as he watches the tide come in, gently lapping ever closer to your feet.

Look at the sea, and know it for your pain.
Tree at shore
Your arts have pushed it outside of your awareness of self, have locked it away until your strength faded, for the tide is rising, and none may turn it back.  It is time to meet it.
Take a slow breath in, and let it go.  Watch the waves lapping ever closer to your body.  Let your breath move in time with the waves.

Breathe with the waves, they are not foreign, they are a part of you.  Move with them, breathe with them.  Each breath, the tide washes closer until it begins to lap at your body.

The waves begin to lap at your feet and lower legs, let yourself become aware of your feet, your ankles, your arches, your calves, shins.  Feel each of them, itemize each pain that you find.  Learn them.
Breathe in, breathe out, the water is lapping over your legs, and with each brush of the wave you feel the pains of your legs.  This is your pain, this is your body.  This is not foreign, not an enemy.  Relax

Bound to the tree, you are immovable.  You cannot be lost, no storm make take you, no wave overcome you.  Bound to the tree, you are safe from all external threats.  Breathe in, breathe out.

Feel the waves wash over your knees, thighs and hips.  Feel each pain as the tide washes over them, feel them, acknowledge them, own them.  This is your pain, this is your body, this is no threat, no enemy.  Breathe in, breathe out.

 

Let the tide wash over your stomach and chest, feel the pains of your gut, your back, your shoulders, chest and abdomen.  Breathe deeply, let the sharp stabbing of those pains you learn to breathe shallow to avoid be felt now, accept the pain, and breathe, breathe.  You are still here, still safe, the pain is part of you, your pain, your body.  You are anchored in the tree and cannot be lost.

Let the tide roll over your shoulders and arms, down your hands, feel the waves taking your arms and moving them as it washes in and out.  Do not fear, this is your pain.  Let it guide you to the places that you force yourself to ignore while you work.  Feel the pains you normally block out, accept them.  Feel your hands moving in the tide.

The tide now laps at your chin, at your mouth and nose.  Fear rises in you.  Pain is trying to overwhelm you, and you feel the strong temptation to reach for power, to reach for adrenaline, and make the pain go away.

 

You are bound to the tree, no external force may harm you.  No external force may move you.  All that exists here is you.  There is no other, no threat; no enemy.
Open your mouth, and breathe.
The tide fills your mouth, rises to cover your nose, washes over your eyes and crown of your head.  You drown in the pain that rushes in to fill your body.
Breathe in, breathe out.  Offer no resistance.
Breathe in, allow the pain to fill your chest.

Breathe out, let the pain flow from your chest throughout your body.
Breathe in, this is your pain
Breathe out, this is your body

Sitting underwater
Breathe in, I claim this pain

 

Breathe out, this is my pain

Breathe in, I claim this body

 

Breathe out, this is my body

 

Breathe in, I love this pain

Breathe out, I love this body

 

Breathe in, I do not fear my pain
Breathe out, I do not punish my body

Open your eyes

 

Breathe in, look at the room around you
Breathe out, feel your body, feel its true state
Breathe in, rise up
Breathe out, feel the sharp pain, the aches, the bright burning wires we train ourselves to avoid

Breathe in, sway as the tree sways, move in the wind that drives the tide ashore

 

Breathe out, feel the pain in your limbs, in your trunk,

 

Breathe in, feel the edges of it, the hard edge that warns if you push, it will punish
Breathe out, this is a limit
Breathe in, you could summon your power and push past it
Breathe out, but right now, we see the limit, we acknowledge it

Breathe in, learn your body like you learn your lover
Breathe out, touch, move, allow yourself to feel

 

Breathe in, we do not resist

 

Breathe out, we accept our limits, we do not resent them
Breathe in, we thank our pain

Breathe out, we thank our protector
Breathe in, we move through the shallow waters
Breathe out, we let the pain of our resting body be known to us
Breathe in, we let the pain of our resting body teach us our limits

 

Breathe out, we move to those limits and not beyond
Breathe in, I accept this is my pain

 

Breathe out, I accept these are my limits

Breathe in, I am at peace

 

Breathe out, I am alive

 

Breathe in, this is my body

 

Breathe out, this is my pain

Breathe in, fill my lungs with pain

 

Breathe out, feel it wash through my body

 

Breathe in, It is still my body

 

Breathe out, I love my body
Breathe in, look around you

 

Breathe out, let your mind wander

Breathe in, is there beauty?

 

Breathe out, take time to look at it, let yourself get lost in it

 

Breathe in, is there foolishness, silliness, or humour?
Breathe out, laugh

 

Breathe in, pain does not preclude joy

 

Breathe out, pain does not preclude laughter

 

Breathe in, the pain is part of me

Breathe out, I accept it as the price of joy

 

Breathe in, look for a task to do
Breathe out, begin to work, slowly
Breathe in, think about what you do
Breathe out, experience it, feel your body

Breathe in, listen to your pain

 

Breath out, feel it teach you your limits

Breathe in, look at your task

 

Breathe out, does it require sacrifice?

 

Breathe in, is this an all cost task, do I need to hurt myself to finish it?

 

Breathe out, you can summon your power, if you need to
Breathe in, but not now

 

Breathe out, let go the power

 

Breathe in, laugh

 

Breathe out, accept this is your limit

 

Breathe in, move slowly and carefully

 

Breathe out, listen to your pain

 

Breathe in, let it fill you
Breathe out, let it guide you
Breathe in, let it know you

 

Breathe out, let you accept it as part of you

 

Breathe in, move through your task without raising your pain level
Breathe out, if you must pause, then pause

 

Breathe in, you will not hurt yourself
Breathe out, you love yourself

 

Breathe in, pain does not hate you

 

Breathe out, pain wants to stop you hurting yourself
Breathe in, love your pain

 

Breathe out, hate your pain

 

Breathe in, your task is complete
Breathe out, let yourself rest
Breathe in, your pain is still here
Breathe out, you are still here
Breathe in, beauty is still here
Breathe out, joy is still here

 

Reach down and grasp your binding

 

Breathe in, the pain is mine
Breathe out, this is my body

 

Breathe in, I am not lost

 

Breathe out, this is my body
Release the binding, let go the tree that anchored you

 

Breathe in, you are just you

 

Breathe out, whole and well

 

 

-At this point the meditation is done, you have taken yourself from the pain induced body fear, to body acceptance, and begun to reclaim your sense of self, sense of body.  You will also have gained the passive state required to accept, perceive, and address emotional nuance in anything other than survival mode, which honestly is a threat/response system that really is a relationship killer.  In the passive state you will be sensitive to inspiration, because you will no longer be actively blocking the channels that are shut down by the adrenal pathways.
You will still call upon adrenaline when you must overcome your pain to get stuff done.  This is still a requirement as some tasks, especially for working people and parents, need to be done, regardless of cost to you.  It is however not the only path open to you anymore.

 

For those people who have experienced sexual dysfunction related to pain, or a decreased arousal due to chronic pain issues, I would suggest a sensual exploration of your body as part of this meditation.  I am not actually telling you to masturbate, because too often that is focused on getting enough signal through the pain to get you to your happy place, I mean sensually explore your body and rediscover the joy of being touched.  Learn to see your body again as a thing of sensuality and joy, rather than simply a source of pain, a tool and a weapon.

 

The adrenal pathway of using rage to convert body pain into power is useful, and I will be the last one to put it down, but it is about survival, not about living.  The gods chose to share this little tool with me, and allow me to regain my joy, my creativity, and such interpersonal skills as I possess at the best of times.
I was always a good killer and healer, adrenaline and tactical thinking will get you that far, but you cannot be a leader, a lover, a parent, an artist or a whole and joyous human being if all you are doing is surviving.  Living requires acceptance, rather than defiance.

 

Notes on Effects:

This one takes months of use before it becomes instinctive.  Actually, you might be able to do far better, I am really good at the active pain pathway, too much berserker in the bloodline probably, so those who are a little less drawn to self destruction will find the pathway easier than I did.  The good news is, that if one of Odin’s little hardcases can make it work, anyone with half a functioning brain and no active death wish should find it tons easier.

 

Side effects I should warn you about, if you have been shut down creatively for a long time, your dreams will be an issue at first.  Vivid, powerful, emotionally really potent.  You have a back pressure to deal with, but it calms down after a while.

 

Empathy.  When you use this often enough, you may notice an increased sensitivity to the emotions of others.  This is a mixed blessing as not everything you learn will be pretty, but it also allows you to understand the effects of your own behaviour and take such steps as you feel are required to be comfortable with the effects of your actions.

You are not who you were; be prepared for the restored creativity to be different.  This isn’t bad, you haven’t lost anything (well traded, like youth for maturity), you have simply added more to your awareness and this is reflected in the form and content of your creative modes.

 

Your sexuality may have a couple of new bits.  There are some things about learning to accept and love your pain that expand the horizons a bit.  Trust me, there is nothing wrong with learning new things that bring you joy, when the world has already gone out of its way to show you new things to bring you misery.

 

Notes on Drugs:

 

I am not telling you to use them, or not to use them, this is a tool I am giving you.  There are other tools as well.  Some tools you want to take a long hard look before taking up, and sometimes there are no other options than taking up tools that come with side effects, if you want to have a life that is useful and productive on terms agreeable to you.

I find drugs good for acute pain, and crappy for chronic.  In using them only for acute pain, or really bad periods of chronic conditions you get the maximum bang for your buck, and minimum amount of side effects.  That being said, many people simply are not going to be functional without medication to augment their other efforts, and the correct thing to do is just that.

The gods and ancestors gave us wonderful tools, some are magical, some are skills, and some honestly are science discovered pharmaceuticals.  I kid you not, your ancestors were not stupid, and suffering for no reason is about as close to the definition of stupid as I can get.  We were gifted with the need to learn, to explore, to understand, and the tools our ancestors have left us are there for us to use.  Use no more than is necessary, but by all the gods, use no less either!

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Heathen Family

Freehold Banner

 

You know, there is a real disconnect throughout the community when we talk about our heathen kindreds, our heathen families, our heathen communities.  There is this abject fear from the left when we speak about our heathen children, a bizarre sort of aversion reflex that is hard for most to understand, until they are exposed to the White Power freaks, who are unashamedly running copies of 1930’s Nazi German pure Aryan children propaganda.

 

The problem with speaking of our Heathen families is that somehow, the racists seem to have won the battle, and even the inclusive heathen groups seem to have accepted the assumption that heathen families indicates obviously white.  When the hell did that happen?

 

The Heathen Freehold has never been pure anything.  Born from the far scattered peoples of British Columbia on Canada’s wild and largely forgotten west coast, we were far enough away from the centers of  heathen development we had to find our own way to do just about everything.  I mean we have Anglo-Saxon Heathens, Frankish, Germanics, Icelandic style Asatru, just about everything under the Heathen umbrella.  We have had many with native blood, Asian, African, it has never mattered to us.  We were alone for a long time, on the west coast, finding our own way, with the rest of the Heathen community far off doing their own thing, hearing only snippets of far off happenings.  We casually threw around Asatru and Heathen as the same thing, as we missed a lot of the big divisive fights that defined Heathenry in places where our kind were concentrated enough to divide against each other and fight; we had to either come together and accept our differences, or just admit we would have no community to practice in at all.

At the time I though us poorer for the lack of connection to the broader community, but now I thank the gods for giving us the time to establish our own thew, our own culture.  We are not great, all knowing, or blessed with bells and whistles envied by communities throughout the globe.  We are largely rural, widely scattered, and face real difficulties in coming together in great numbers with any frequency.  What we do have is an understanding of who we are, and we have a very clear idea about who and what we are meaning when we say Heathen Family.

In a discussion about Fascism vs Communism in the early days of the last century, the French Prime Minister listened to the rhetoric and then finally cut through it all and demanded “enough theory, show me the men!”  In the end, it always comes down to people.  Words can mean anything, but people are real.

 

Meet Aaron, and Kate.  Aaron came to the Freehold a long time ago, as a young man.  I had the chance to see him grow and mature into a fine man, a proud sailor in Her Majesties Canadian Navy, and to see him find his perfect wife.  I had the honour to take Kate’s fosterman’s oath, when she came to discover heathenry.  I had the very great honour to aid them taking their oaths to each other when the asked me to marry them.  I had the very great honour of taking Kate’s full oath, pledging herself to the Freehold, and to Freo in particular.  This is who I think of when I think of a Heathen Family.  In time baby Audrey came along, a pure bred heathen, a baby conceived and born from two heathen parents and raised within a Heathen kindred.

Wedding of Aaron and Kate

 

Audrey shines in our eyes as my own children, those of the other parents in the Freehold as the image of what we think of as a Heathen child. Our heathen children, our communities children.  This is what a pure bred heathen looks like, this is not the only face, there are version in every gender, age range, hair and skin colour.  The problem that I have with the community, not our community, but the broader heathen community is that ten percent of the community seems to think that anyone who would not fit in a Hitler Youth or League of German Girls poster cannot be a heathen child, and the other ninety percent think that somehow we are supposed to be ashamed of taking pride in the heathen families, heathen children, and gods forbid you should ever praise the heathen mothers in the community, because somehow fear of a fringe group of hate filled social outcasts has made acknowledging the beauty of a heathen family somehow suspect.

Heathen Baby

I sometimes long for the pre-internet days when we didn’t’ know what the rest of Heathenry was doing, and when we had no idea how special our community actually was.  Well change has to begin somewhere, and it may as well be here.

This is what a Heathen family looks like.  This is Aaron, Kate and Audrey.  They are ours, every one of them.  They look around a gathering of our Heathen Freehold and claim all they see as their own, as we all claim them as our own.  I am not saying that race doesn’t exist, our society has prejudice built in on lots of levels, and it will take a long time to get rid of those lines, and I sadly fear we will just replace them with some other convenient way to divide the people and distract the bulk of the citizens from the few who cheerfully exploit all of us while we bicker over invented fault lines.  I am saying that heathen does not imply any race.  Heathen woman does not imply must be mother, many in the community are not so drawn, and they are as much a part of the community as those who are.  Heathen man does not mean Viking imitator, or closet white supremacist; actually that would be really funny considering the complexion of some of our leading men.  Heathen child implies only this; a child that was born to heathen parents, who grows up in the sure and certain knowledge that they are not tainted by sin for the crime of being born, that they are in fact blessed by the gods, wights and ancestors, embraced by their community, and accepted for who they are, as they are aided by the community in the journey to discover who they may one day become.

Heathen Family

I honestly refuse to give up being proud of our Heathen families.  I reject utterly the shame the inclusive community feels, even as I reject the racist dogma, so poorly wrapped in imitation heathen trappings, that the fringe scum try to pretend is heathenry.  It is time we, as one small community, simply admit the rest of society has it wrong, and we got this one right. We will hold to the thew of our people, and yes, we aren’t ashamed to call our Freeholders our people, and keep doing it our way.

This is a Heathen family, we have lots of them, and to our eyes they all shine the same.  If your eyes see a problem with the differences between them, then the problem is in your eyes, and the mind behind them, not in our families, nor in our pride and honest joy we take in them.

 

We may not be the biggest or most important Heathen group out there, and that’s OK.  We are a tiny little heathen village, quietly going about building and enjoying the community that has been our own since 2002.  We have been living as inclusive heathens since before we knew there was a universalist/folkish divide we were supposed to fight about, and will continue to do so.  We take pride in our community, and in the families and individuals that make it live.  We will not pretend otherwise simply because “some people” get disturbed when heathens express pride in the families that make up our community, or out of fear that “some other people” will have an issue with the skin tone or hair colour of some of our children.  This is our Heathen Freehold, this is our village so to speak, these are our people.  It is enough we understand that, if the rest of the world can’t, perhaps it is their time to fix that.

For the record, if you object to being characterized as racist ” fringe scum try to pretend is heathenry”, then you are already admitting the label ought to be applied to you.  That should perhaps be your clue to fix that.

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Heathen Inspiration

 

 

There are a number of expressions that come to mind.  Reconstructionist, that is seeking to properly understand and grasp within its original cultural context, our ancestral practice.  Rebuilding our altars, once only a metaphor, and now actual construction.  We seek to return to something that was taken from our ancestors years ago, and through the efforts of our later ancestors, something we have regained the right to return to.

 

Heathenry as a religion, as a community, has gotten both mature enough, and large enough that we have not only the luxury of thinking about where we draw our inspiration, but perhaps we have a requirement to do so.  Where do Heathens look for inspiration?

Ravens

To be a Heathen is to be a paradox.  We are the simplest of people, yet how we come to be so is complex.  Ours is perhaps the simplest path to walk, yet it is the one that requires the most work, and will cost you the most comfortable assumptions.  Once you have lived this way for a while, it is as hard to think about living any other way as it would be for a raven to remember life before it could fly. We didn’t start that way, and maybe its as valuable for the eldest soaring high above us as for those perched uneasily at the side of the nest contemplating that first dive.

 

Our worldview accepts that we stand in the middle of nine worlds, in a place shared by the living and the dead.  It should be no surprise that we ourselves stand with eyes looking into two different worlds, while standing firmly rooted in a third.

Forward and Back

We look to the past with one eye.  We seek to learn the lessons our ancestors understood, truths that sometimes cannot even be contained in the languages we retain in this generation.  We seek to understand how our ancestors viewed their world, their challenges, their responsibilities, and their relationships.  We know that we have wandered far from what our ancestors would have viewed as a proper balance in our lives and wish to more fully understand their own understanding of themselves.

We stand in the present, both feet firmly planted in this world, not the past that was, nor yet on any path of the yet to be.  We stand in the now, wholly and fully creatures of our age, but if half of our vision is fixed in the past, where is the rest?
We look to the future with our other eye.  Where we looked to the past to find our responsibilities, to find our reasons to make choices, we look ahead to find our duties.  We stand in the present, but we understand and accept that our duties to those who came before us cannot be paid to the dead, but must instead be paid to the living, or the yet to be born.  We stand in the present with both feet, and we cast our eye towards the future, so that when our hands are turned to the tasks of today, we do so ever mindful of the requirements of the future.

 

We are not peoples of the book, we have no Bible like the Abrahamatic faiths, for our ancestors never found one right way to live.  They lived in a world that embraced change, that accepted that right answer for tomorrow might well be different than the right answer for yesterday.  They understood that what could be taught was how to ask the right question, what they sought to preserve was the way to see where you stood, the price that was paid that you could stand here with the choices that you have, so that you could decide for yourself which choice would make it better for those who followed after.

 

We are products of all that went before us, but we add to that all the choices that we make, all the challenges we face, and all the ties that bind us to each other.

Above all else, this is what we look to the past to remember; we do not ever stand alone.  We are all tied together, from the most distant sacred ancestor to the last of the descendants yet unborn.  We are woven together by the ties we forge in this life, ties of blood, ties of shared struggle, ties of shared friendship, ties of shared obligation.  We are tied to the land and waters whose life sustains us, we are tied to the spirits that arise from that life.  We are tied as well to the greatest of the wights, the holy gods whose opinion on our efforts at reconstructing a healthy practice in our time I trust is as filled with humour and tolerance as anything else.

I have no doubt that we do much that our ancestors would consider wrong, much else they would not have enough understanding of the world we face today to understand, but perhaps it is good to remember that much we do, they would both understand and approve.  We do not live in the world that they did, and the break between their time and ours is to great to simply reach back and carry on.
We do not seek, as the radicals of Christianity and Islam do, to turn back the clock, to deny the gains we have made as people and nations.  We seek to go forward, but to go forward sustainably, sanely, and most of all, frithfully.  Our ancestors lived in a time of great change, and changed with it.  We seek to learn to embrace the change as they did, while retaining the sense of who we are, and what is important.

We look to the past to learn how our ancestors asked the right questions.  We stand without fear in the present, accepting our responsibilities to the future.  One eye cast to the past, so that they eye we cast to the future may hope to see the right questions, that our hands in this present time can help to weave a future our ancestors would be proud to see, and our descendants would be pleased to inherit.

Like the raven trying to explain flight, it sounds terribly complicated.  Like the ravens in flight, once experienced, it is hard to imagine ever living any other way.

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