Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Soul, salmon, and inheritance

Leaping Salmon 2

Bear with me, this will take a while to get to the point, but the background is important.  We have all seen the people in our communities that just fit.  The ones who you know were born to be here.  Heathenry comes as naturally to them as a salmon takes to the stream.  You see a salmon hurling itself upstream through the rapids beside you and know that only salmon are with you on this journey.  No pampered koi, no silent sturgeon; just those born to dare the white water and stone teeth of the rapids for the Return Home.  Funny thing is, not all of those salmon look the same.  Not everything that looks like a salmon shows any interest in those rapids at all, and not everyone beside you in the torrent looks salmonish to the outside eye.

I shrugged and ignored the question a lot of years, following a soldiers stark utilitarianism.  If it works you use it, if it fails, the theory is irrelevant, it doesn’t work so toss it.  The inner scientist in me looked at those provable things and waited for another data point to come up with a new theory that worked.  Then I started my clergy training, and progressed along my magical path far enough to apply other senses and collect enough other data to get a different understanding.

Heathen understanding of the soul is complex.  We don’t see it as one thing, nor do we understand it as being one thing before our birth or after our death.  What makes us, the whole and living being that we experience is complex, formed of these disparate elements that come together and are shaped by our life experiences, by our will, by our word and deed, by our trials, by our loves, losses, and choices.  Those parts have been broken down as follows.

1. The physical body – appearance, movement and health

  1. the hugr – conscious will and intellect
  2. the hamr – image forming essence, matrix between physical and

spiritual worlds

  1. the hamingja – shape-changing force, luck, power
  2. the fylgja – spirit guardian as female or animal figure

 

We don’t conduct baby naming ceremonies until the ninth day, when the fylgja is seen to have bonded with the baby.  At this point, the baby is bound to the web of wyrd or fate, and the orlog the inherited part of your wyrd attaches to the baby, linking it to all those who have gone before, and who will come after.

It is this part of the soul that carries the inherited portion of our soul lore, the bit that we get from our ancestors in spirit.  Here is the bit that makes me intrigued.  The lore is full of examples where mound sitters have received inherited gifts from spirits they had no genetic link to, but gave full ancestral devotion to.  These gifts, in one case the skaldship that propelled a shepherd (Thorbjorn Hornklofr ) from obscurity to the position of court skald of Harald Shaggy Hair are clearly an inheritance carried by soul part rather than genetic coding.

This fits with the understanding of family and community that our ancestors practiced, where you could be born in, married in, oathed in, adopted, or simply absorbed by being beside you through the struggles of the day until your fate was inexorably linked with those around you and you simply crossed the line and became us in every way anyone could see, however far from that hearth you may have been born.  Family and community were untidy and tangled, real things, not pure constructs.  They were.  People who ought to be part of them turned their backs and left, people who were from far away, and even from the wrong side of long standing battle lines found acceptance and home with the fierce devotion of one who does not simply accept their place unthinking, but dared to shape their fate by conscious choice.

Burial mounds show the truth, genetic variation hard to equal even in today’s world of easy and relatively safe long distance travel, yet burial goods and manner indicate no differentiation between those whose genetics matches the bulk of the tribal identity, and those whose origins were clearly different tribally or even racially.  Us and them are always real to those who are drawing the lines, but the lines then were not based on phenotypical race, but on identity.

Carry forward to today.  We have the folkish vs inclusive rift in Heathenry that honestly everyone has grown sick of.  It really was an attempt from the beginning to dress racism up in pretty clothes and make it more acceptable than the KKK white hoods and burning crosses.  It carried with it misogyny and gender roles right out of the most conservative Evangelical Christian wet dream, and resembled Nazi family propaganda in a degree that would have made Gobels think they won the war.  To say it was homophobic, transphobic is really not doing justice to the degree that folkish Heathenry really found there to be only one right way to be a male or female Heathen.  You had to be pure of blood, you had to be one hundred percent cis-normative in your expression of your gender or you were just wrong.

So folkish was cast into the midden where it belonged, largely because too many of the folkish who weren’t racist misogynist homophobes were just unwilling to stand against the ones that were, so collectively we decided the folkish had failed the test of Havamal 43, and made friendship with our foes.

 

  1. To his friend a man | a friend shall prove,

To him and the friend of his friend;

But never a man | shall friendship make

With one of his foeman’s friends.

 

We did our surgery to protect our community, but we missed something.  We let those racist twits taint the idea of folk and inheritance to the point we stared to look at Othala like the Swastika with an almost unthinking rejection.

We missed something.  I am not saying I have it right, but I have at least the edges of something.  We have that fylgja soul part, that inherited portion of the soul that binds after birth.  When you have been at this a while, you get the sense of those who take to Heathenry like the salmon take to the stream, they fit instinctively, they ask the dangerous questions, make the connections between the different elements, ritual, lore, community building, feast, hospitality, and personal development as if they already had the concepts they just didn’t have the dictionary for it.  We have the corollary as well, those who have a bloodline that may well stretch back to the Volsungs with the depressing vision limitations that seek to take the conservative Christianity they were raised with, and switch Odin for Jehova, Thor for Jesus, Frigg for Mary and carry on as if Heimdall wrote the gospels in Latin.

Sorry to the hard Folkish, but blood doesn’t make you naturally heathen.  A huge portion of the original tribes that were Heathen at the time of migration into the European continent are Christian right now, and many follow other faiths entirely or none at all.  A portion of those who are interested in the CULTURE of their ancestors and are proud of those traditions feel no call at all to the ancestral practice.  It is music they can’t dance too, for it moves them not at all.

What about all those fylgja from all those family lines who took the cross and cut all ties so long ago they actively deny they were ever anything else?  What if those fylgja found those whose soul parts were fit heirs to those who had gone before?  Whose hugr, whose will and intellect were a match to those who had joined with the fylgja in the past, whose hamingja called to them, whose Mod could learn and apply the wisdom of the older parts of the soul and whose Hugi could tap the wode, the ecstatic frenzy of creation and destruction that is the highest of our gods gifts.

I really do think some people were born to be part of the community.  I think it is no accident they found us, not a surprise that we WELCOMED THEM HOME, because we, as communities are wiser than as individuals and we do, on some level know our own.  Not all of those who stand in our halls match others’ expectations of who should be here.  If Hollywood were to ever cast our leadership in a movie, I seriously doubt any I have served beside would make the cut, but that is because Hollywood sells clean fantasy, not untidy reality.

Inclusive Heathenry is just that, we don’t let other peoples labels decide who fits and who doesn’t.  We got that right.  Not everyone in the community will stay forever, because we are largely a group of people that exist in an over-culture that rewards conforming to the Christian perceived norm, and to be Heathen is to accept being a salmon that is committed every day to swimming upstream, and not everyone has the drive to find this sustainable, or finds the journey rewarding consummate to the price.

Some of those salmon swimming beside us look African, look Native, look Asian, look Jewish, look Polynesian.  All different expressions of everything from gender to sexuality, from politics to diet, ten thousand differences separate us.  Maybe, but when you hit the water, you feel the salmon moving around you, you know through those senses developed that don’t rely or even notice flesh, you identify who is and who is not yours, who is of the tribe, of the kindred, of the folk, however you want to define them, and when you leap over the next rock in the rapids you take note that those you felt were yours are beside you, and if not all of them look like other people expect, they are following the call only salmon can hear, throwing themselves into the maelstrom with nothing held back seeking to Return.  They are salmon in every sense you are, they are part of the us, where all those salmony looking fish that are sitting in the lake singing psalms are not.

That part of the soul that remembers, that is seeking to return us to a better way of living with each other, a better way of living with the world, with connecting to our dead, and those yet to be born, to live more mindfully, that is what makes us Heathen.  That is found where it is found, and how it got there is something the gods aren’t sharing, and far enough above my pay grade to simply accept that it is.

We are each unique individuals.  Part of what we are is inherited, part of what we are is chance, part of what we are is experience, and part of what we are is choice.  All of what we are is ours alone, and when we die, this unique configuration, this glorious and fragile thing will be gone forever, but our words, our deeds, our choices will be untouched by the death that takes us.  We are made of so many parts, both body and soul, that there are doubtless many paths we could follow, many streams we could have chosen, but those who swim beside us today, fighting the current beside us, they are simply us.  If others don’t think all of us look equally salmony, I am reassured to note that bears are true egalitarians and are perfectly willing to take each of us as pure salmon as Loki at his slipperiest, and eat us accordingly.

The world is full of bears, the river is swift, the rocks cruel, and there are few enough salmon on the journey, treat well those beside you, learn from them as you can, share with them as you will, and perhaps more of us can return home to our gods and ancestors with the truth that we have begun rebuilding our communities.

bear and salmon

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Anything but Valhalla

It was my fault, if you want to be picky about it.  I blame the freaking Nazi’s, but it was my choice in the end.  Two limp dick losers were upset they couldn’t get a date because they were just that much of an ass that no woman was deluded, desperate or drunk enough to find them attractive, even in their most post breakup bad decision phase.  You have to work hard to be so repulsive to the opposite sex that you can’t get laid in a brothel with a thousand dollar bill wrapped around your Johnson, but these two were just that bad.  They called themselves Incels, involuntary celibates, which is the technical term for can’t get laid with a thousand dollar bill wrapped around your dick in the worst red light district known to man.  They added to their idiocy by embracing the white power movement and Neo-nazism that convinced them that university liberals were training women to hate men (even if the same universities were filled with women dating men, logic was not their strong suit).

Rather than not treat women like undomesticated farm animals, or do something radical like bathe once in a while, these two limp dick losers decided to take their anger and a half dozen guns each and go shoot up a university girls dorm.

They picked a “smart day”, meaning one where the girls were moving in for the second semester, so some men were moving around the tower, usually carrying something heavy from parking lot to room.  They didn’t really have a plan, beyond shooting every woman they saw, and hadn’t really worked out what to do when the girls locked the damned doors when the shooting started.  Not just Incels  and Nazi’s, but idiots.  I was helping my daughter move in, and like any infantry worthy of the name, moved to the sound of the guns.  I was retired, having given up playing hero for a living when my knees ran out of cartilage and the list of joints with arthritis included everything from neck to ankle, but my daughter was in this building along with a lot of girls just like her, and no way in hell those guns were getting any nearer without my doing anything about it.

In the end, it was too simple.  They were trying to shoot there way into a room, but hadn’t figured out yet that bullets are like pool balls, they bounce beyond your initial aim point, and concrete hallways can return those rounds to sender with a heck of a spin on them.  One of them was screaming and cupping a tiny little wound on his outer leg.  Honestly, it was barely a scratch, but he was whining like it was the end of the world.  I began to sprint down the hall at them, saying nothing.

They both looked up as I pounded towards them, and the big one who was unhurt began to fire in my general direction.  I felt something hit my back, probably caught a ricochet, but I haven’t got time to worry about that.  I take a second to the head and my vision goes red, my world goes silent and I lose my sense of up and down.  It didn’t matter.  I hit the one who was crying about his little nick, and I fall with the rifle between us.

We hit the ground, him on the bottom.  I smash the rifle against what I think is his head again and again until the wet feeling under my hands and the resistance on the rifle stop.  I turn towards the blur in the hallway, and punch out three shots along what I think is the intersection of the blur and the ground.  At least one takes him in the ankle because he goes down.  I walk the rest of the magazine along the blur above the ground.  I can’t see him well enough to figure out when end of the blur is important, so I walk nine rounds up from end to end, and the bolt locks open.  I can’t breathe any more, and things are getting so dark and cold.  I press the rifle into the hollow between what used to be the head of the idiot I landed on, and his chest.  I think I already pulped his skill, but just to be sure, I push my weight onto the rifle and into the soft bits of the throat until I feel the cartilage crush under me.  If he was alive, he won’t be for long.  I let the darkness take me.

Well, at least I will see my family in Hel.  I will see those who passed before me and await the day long hence when my wife and children pass on to join me.

You would think that would be a safe bet.  I thought so.  I lost.

I had the strangest impression as I faded out.  I swore I saw my old basic training Mcpl riding a great warhorse, a dappled grey on grey, like gunsmoke in fog.  When she got closer, I noticed she was not actually Master Corporal Koskinnen, but as much as I always thought she looked like a Valkyrie, it turns out I found Valkyries looked a lot like her too.

As I started to fade out, I croaked “Not Valhalla!”  I didn’t want to spend an eternity preparing for war, an eternity of blood and slaughter, endless pointless drill and battle, killing each other every day, rising from the dead to drink and revel all the night.  Good gods, It would be like being back in the infantry doing a workup that lasted until Ragnarok with no leave, no pay, and no freaking rest.

She leaned down from the horse (how the hell do you get a horse that is about seventeen hands high into the second story hallway of a university dorm tower?) and grabbed me, pulling me up, in what my hallucinating mind saw as out of my body.  As she did, she whispered to me.

“Not Valhalla, I promise” She said as my light went out for good.

Valkyrie horse

I awoke with a start, there was a strange feeling in my body, I couldn’t put a name to it, but something in my brain told me it was wrong.  Something in my lower regions told me to stop thinking and pay attention, because it was certainly standing at it.

Three things attempted to get my attention more or less at once.  First, I was somewhat less dead than I really ought to have been.  Second, I was naked, which was obvious as certain parts of me had decided saluting the third thing in the room was what we should be doing, and proceeded to do just that without the use of my hands.  The third thing I noticed was Her.

Falcon cloaked, as in her cloak was made of falcon feathers.  I don’t mean sewed of Falcon feathers, I mean it rustled like the wings of a Peregrine Falcon, if one topped out about six foot three with long blonde hair, blue eyes that blazed like lightning on bared steel and a frontal armament that let you know that this was the template that all mortal breasts attempted to match but never could.  Between them nestled a necklace of amber and gold that shone with light from a sun that was not actually present inside this large wood hall, but I guess when you are Brisengamen, you can shine with sunlight without such trivial needs as an actual sun.  There was a slight small smile on her lips, terribly expressive lips.  Pale pink and mobile they promised things it wasn’t good to think about, and yet one look at the light burning in her eyes reminded you this was Freya, the woman of every dream, including nightmares of man.

Her voice rang out then.  It wasn’t loud.  Nothing crude like that, but her voice sang in my blood, in my bones, and my heart hammered and my poor frigging cock and balls did their best imitation of living stone.   Her voice filled my mind, vibrated the air in my lungs as my ribs hummed with its echoes and the phrase echoed from a scream to a whisper a thousand times and a thousand ways through a brain suddenly filled with ten thousand images of her and I from her astride me in sexual climax, her tearing the beating heart from my chest and eating it before my eyes.  In each, she shone with golden fire a thousand times brighter and hotter than the sun, and in each I felt my body shuddering and shaking in a climax beyond any I had known in life.

“Do you know where you are?”

Honestly, if that is what I get from a short phrase, gods help me if she ever has to explain something to me.  I don’t trust myself to speak, but her question had the power of a command, and besides, fear has never ruled me, nor good sense or anything resembling wisdom, so I answered.

“Fólkvangr, your grace. Hall of the Einherjar who serve the Van-Dis, Brisengamen’s Mistress, the Lady; Freya”

I lived an idiot, and died and idiot, so there was no reason to switch from what worked at this point.  I rushed on to finish my thought before her beauty drove it out of my head.

“I cannot be here Lady.  I am a married man, and my wife will not understand my being here.  I mean Valhalla I could write off as away on Ex, she put up with that in the Army when I was alive, but she knows the most beautiful women in the Nine Worlds live in your hall, and that those who you gather are yours until Ragnarok.  No way she is going to believe I am not at least thinking about……”

She threw back her head and laughed, arms thrust high above her shoulders and the Valkyries gathered around her laughed as well.  I felt their eyes on me, and my eyes on them and with the mortal flesh and its age and damage given limits removed it seemed every cell of whatever I used for a body here was already presenting its own plan for what I would like to do with whom for all the women in the room, and from the predatory smiles on all their faces, both the Valkyries and Freya read each of them like a book, and marked the pages of the ones they would like to reread in more depth later.

Touching my lips gently to stop my babbling, Freya shook her head and glanced over at one of the Valkyries.

“Sina, before our young recruit says anything else more foolish, see that he is armed and armoured appropriately.  He might do well to focus on something a little less frightening, like two hundred thousand elite berserkers trying to cut him into cat food for my babies”

Freya swayed out of the room with the sort of prowl you would expect of a cat, if they topped out around six foot three, wore cloaks that thought they were wings, and gave off the same light and heat as the mid day sun on an early summer morning.  There were two actual golden cats following her, or cougars, they shifted from one moment to the next as if unconcerned with consistency.

Sina, for that was the Valkryie who brought me, took me to the armoury.  I could choose from any weapon ever made, and some that perhaps hadn’t been.  In the rack was Hella, my first battle rifle.  Long replaced by a soulless 5.56mm for modern service, my first love had been my FNCIA1, a 7.62x51mm semi automatic wood and steel weapon already a generation old when it came to my hands.  I lifted it down, and saw the serial number was my own.  I felt a sudden weight settle over me, as my old webbing suddenly draped me.  I checked my pouches, my magazines were empty so I set about filling them with ammunition from the stripper clips in the box on the table before me.  I strapped a longsword through the back of the webbing, as there was an oversized frog on left hip and right shoulder top for a right side top draw, and something told me that battle here would frequently end in quarters too close for my rifle.

I turned to Sina and told her firmly, my mind and body anchored by the weapon of my long service into the hard channels of duty that ruled me my entire life.

“Sina, I am serious, I cannot be in this hall.  I am married.  My wife won’t understand.  I have to go”  I spoke with great seriousness, and she regarded me with the calm of an RSM who has heard every version of every complaint, fear, objection and request that any troop could possibly come up with often enough to not be able to fake surprise at any of it.  She just nodded.

“You could always just let yourself get killed.”  She offered.

Not the stupidest bit of advice when you thought of it.  Getting killed got me here.  Maybe getting killed gets me out of it?

I nodded, she took down a Heckler & Koch MG5 light machine gun with box drum of ammunition as if the whole assembly weighed less than my rifle, strapped a second and third drum to each hip and grinned something that a shark would be terrified to see in the mirror and threw back the bolts to the great gate.

We made our way into nightmare.  If every war ever fought intersected into a mad maze where you could step out of Gordon’s Khartom facing Arab camel cavalry, to find yourself taking fire from a Panzer IV 75mm gun, roll into a trench to find yourself nose to shield with a Roman legionnaire at close quarters.  I took fire from a line of Arquibisers I swore were under Gustavus Adolfus himself,  fought house to house in a Belgian stone village of uncertain vintage under constant 7mm fire and occasional grenades.

In the end, I caught some nerve gas from some Frog 7 rockets of Soviet manufacture.  I saw Sina go down, starting to twitch as the droplets hit her.  I grabbed the autoinjector from her helmet and rammed it home, then reached for my own.  I had taken a gladius blow to the helmet before I had been able to clear my own sword and drive the pommel through the open faced helm after my tackle took us both to the ground, trapping his sword beneath his tower shield.  I guess I didn’t notice he had shattered my auto injector, because my own was broken and empty in my hands as the numbness set in.

I died of nerve gas in a corner of a world war three we never got to fight, choking out my life as I grew too paralyzed to breathe, watching a Spad and Fokker biplane duel in the sky above me.  At least I was free of Fólkvangr.

This time I woke up bouncing.  Bouncing up and down as I was being carried over the extremely athletic shoulder of Sina.

“I died!”  I tried to shout, not actually possible while being carried over someone’s shoulder, it came out as a loud sort of grunt.

Sina patted my ass and chuckled.

“Yes, but very well, and very late.  We are all very impressed.  Good first day.  You even saved my life, so I claimed you for first night.”  She offered happily.

“I am married!”  I protested again.  She tossed me casually to a fur draped couch of really excellent carved wood construction.

Striking a pose with hand raised and the other over her heart she intoned very seriously.

“Forsaking all others, until death do us part.  Well, you parted twice, now we party.  You should have known dying won’t get you out of Fólkvangr; after all, its dying for love that got you in”

She had a point.  Getting killed more than twice gets you quite an appetite.  I had begged for anything but Valhalla of the Valkyrie as I lay dying in my daughter’s dorm hallway.  Fólkvangr is not Valhalla.  The gods have a sense of humour, and a hell of a determined set of recruiters.

If my wife does not understand, she can kill me every day for as long as she likes and it still won’t interfere with my duties.  Freya bless me, its all in the benefits package.  I kid you not.

Goddess Freya forest

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Depression: musings on the endless struggle

It is lonely thing, to fight depression.  The hardest, endless, unforgiving struggle with your internal demons can end only in your death, promises nothing from victory but another day of battle beyond.  It tests your soul like nothing else, and it is faced alone when it is at its fiercest.  There is one who knows, one who will stand beside you in this struggle, and one whose gifts offer some little aid.

 

Depression is a funny thing.  I don’t mean there is humour in it, or if there is, it is the gallows humour that civilians seem to get horrified when they hear from veterans and others who have learned to laugh among the wreckage.  I guess you had to be there.

 

Depression is funny in that it isn’t what most people think it is.  Depression is not “feeling sad”, that is an effect, not a cause.  You don’t cure depression by thinking happy thoughts or not dwelling on bad things.  Depression, if you are actually suffering from it is the root of your thoughts, not the effect of them.

You can make yourself depressed by putting yourself in negative thought cycles, it is an act of self harm and one that those who are depressed really need to be careful of, and people who shouldn’t be depressed based on their current physiology certainly can wound themselves enough to put themselves in that place by continuing long enough, so there is that much truth to the warnings about negative thoughts.  You can also make depression dangerously worse by indulging in those cycles, because they are self harm, but thinking of sunshine and kittens will not magically get rid of actual depression.

Actual depression is a thing, an energy sap that drains you.  It is a monster that wraps you up, feeds on your energy, your will, your strength until every simple action requires almost heroic effort, and the usual reward cycle your brain offers for success does not pay off noticeably.  It is a motivational killer.

I have heard it described aptly as walking up the stairs.  Your friends, co-workers and family are all walking up the same stairs, but you are carrying an eighty-pound pack.  They are not.  You face the same stairs they do, but what it costs you to climb those stairs is greater, your reward is the same.  When they see you struggling with stairs they easily handle, you will experience the effects of shame at your struggle and failure which compound the problems you already face.  You must put in twice the effort for half the returns as other people, and for that effort receive scorn, shame, and the feelings of failure, weakness, and futility which further empower your depression.  Your pack is now a hundred pounds, and you are no farther up those stairs.

As a thought model, it is effective and evocative for those who believe happy thoughts will alter it, I suggest you fill that pack with a hundred pounds and walk up some long flights of stairs and see how long you can remain energized and positive.  Understand, they can’t take the pack off, they will not be done, there is no rest, this is baseline while depressed.

 

The gods understand our struggles, because the best of them share them.  Thor is the god best loved by our folk in ancient times.  Thor’s hammer is the sign our folk chose in this modern age, as we did when we first had to deal with folks of other faiths, to mark ourselves as Heathens.  There is a reason.  The wisdom of Thor is not the sort of deep mystical knowledge that has Odin’s followers binding themselves to trees and journeying between worlds.  Thor is a god whose lessons are accessible to all, whose nature is pure, elemental, and fundamentally more human in more respects than other gods.  His trials, his triumphs, his spirit holds for us gifts more precious, and more accessible than those of the gods with more mystical bells, whistles and sparkly trinkets hidden like obscure game quests (I say this as a collector of sparkly trinkets myself).

 

Thor is not always depicted as the brightest of gods, but he is not stupid, only uncomplicated.  Joy in the struggle is the heart of his nature, joy in the storm of life, the test of it, the sheer absurdity of it.  Thor is defined not by Odin’s scream of rage, but in the booming laughter he sounds, frequently before picking himself up off the ground.

The legend I love him for best was his fishing trip.  He was tricked into a wager by an enemy that wanted to win his dread hammer Mjolnir from him.  Thor boasted he could catch anything that swam in the nine worlds, and wagered the greatest life taker in the nine worlds that it was so.  His foe took him out in a small boat to prove it, and Thor’s cast caught not fish, not shark, not whale, or even dragon.  His cast caught the Midgard Serpent; Jörmungandr.

This is the battle he cannot win, and that cannot end.  Jörmungandr and Thor will battle at Raganarok, and from that battle both will know their doom.  Thor will strike the serpent down at the end, but take no more than nine steps back before falling into death himself from the serpent’s venom.

 

His enemy laughed as Thor realized he was trapped in that little fishing vessel in the battle that could not end, save in death.  At this point, only loss was possible, there is no bright ending in a struggle with a foe that takes all of your strength, and ever will, until they day you have no more, and die.

 

Thor belted himself to the mast and fought on.  He reeled in Jörmungandr like any fish, and when the serpent struck at him, he pounded it back, not with the hammer he was not free to draw, but simply with his fist.  Trapped in a struggle that could not end with him living, in which he could not even reach his greatest weapon, he did something that is strange; he laughed.

Depression
There was no point, was no chance, was no good end, but it did not matter.  He laughed and threw himself into the struggle with all he had.  It did not matter that it could not be won, he did not have to lose, and chose to take his joy in the struggle for as long as he may.

Neither Jörmungandr nor Thor had any give in them, but both the jotun and the boat did, and as the boat began to break up, the jotun released Thor from his wager and begged him to let Jörmungandr go before they all died.  Depression is equated with darkness by many for one of its insidious side effects; blinding us to any possibility other than loss and defeat.

Thor was not wiser than us to see a victory was possible, he did not see the possibility at all.  He just didn’t care.  He chose to fight on anyway.  He chose to accept his limitations, his circumstance, and simply shrug and battle on anyway.  He won victory, we can all win victories, even if we have no clue upon rising to fight another day what that victory is, or even always know it when we have actually achieved it.
Depression is Jörmungandr, the serpent that spans our world and wraps it in coils even a god may not break, but Jörmungandr did not win either.  Thor will not smite that serpent for us, nor will he carry that heavy pack for us up the stairs.  What he will do is stand beside us on the deck, even when it seems the serpent will shatter it beneath us, he will keep that ship afloat so long as we battle on.  He will stand beside us on the steps not only while we climb, but when we are spent, and can take not one more step, for he understands that being knocked down is not defeated.  It is simply the place from which you will rise again to fight.

Like Thor, we have no magic hammer to protect us in this fight.  We have only the will to battle on, the stubborn stupid unwillingness to give up, the defiance in the face of despair.  We do have one more thing, a small, almost unnoticed thing.  When you are feeling small and helpless, battered by wind and wave stronger than your every effort, when the darkness has closed in and you lack the strength to rise, and wonder even if you have the strength for one more heartbeat, if you listen closely, you can hear the laughter of Thor, not in victory, not in triumph, but in the awareness that he had been beaten, been tricked, and still chose, as stupidly as it may be, to struggle on anyway.

 

Depression tells us one truth.  We cannot win, for a definition of win that means we will never have to struggle against it.  Jörmungandr spans the world and cannot be escaped.  Thor tells us another truth, you do not have to see a way out to find one, do not have to think you can win to do so, and you do not have to give up just because you believe you are beaten and cannot do anything about it.  Sometimes too stupid to give up is not about stupidity, it isn’t even about hope, it is about choosing to not give up because that choice is yours to make, and the serpent may not take it from you.  That victory is yours to take; neither depression nor the gods themselves can take it from you.

Heroism is not found in the battles you may win.  Heroism is found in the battles that cannot be won, but you chose to fight anyway.  Heroism is looking the serpent in the eye and saying simply “Not today” and chosing to fight on.

 

If you are locked in that struggle without end, you do not have to enter it alone.  If you can’t think of any good reason to go on, or any point in fighting, perhaps it is time not to seek a god with secret knowledge, but a god just too stupid to give up, and too great hearted to let you stand alone.

 

 

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Aesir, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Measure of a woman

How do you measure the worth of a woman?

Shall I sing of past deeds?  I could sing many a chorus of those, for she has been a woman of such strength of character I hold her up as example and person to turn to for my own daughters.  I count her as my sister in law, both as she is wife to a man close to me as my own brother, and because she stands as close under the protection of my arm as my own wife or sister would.

As an artist she is the creator of our banner, the Freyr’s Yule-Father garb, the illustrator of our Kindertales I and II, to be followed after her recovery with Kindertales III.  She is an author, was my first editor for my own “They Walk With Us” collection, and was our editor and publisher for the Kindertales project.

She is a modern shield maiden, having joined with her husband when I enticed them into the Canadian Armed Forces, not only doing the job in truth, but taking to the field in sport to play on the acres of their land in 100 mile with an airsoft AK in hand to make sport-slaughter among the trees, rocks and bunkers.

As a Heathen, she is an exemplar of wisdom and scholarship, of frith as an active force for community building.  Serving as Ombudsman for many years, she was the one most skilled and dedicated to making peace between others, frequently at some cost to herself.

As a mother to her son and daughter, she shines as bright as any I have seen. I had no worries whatsoever entrusting my own children to her care when military duties took myself and her husband away, and I must leave my own children in her care.  In time, she returned that trust by joining us in service and leaving my elder children to care for our combined families.

Now she stands into a different battle.  Cancer has struck deep within her.  Indeed, she laughs now with the gallows-humour Odin himself will roar to hear, as she boasts of her radioactive breasts.  Injected with radioactive dye today, she goes under the knife tomorrow to go, as she boasts from F cup to no f’ing cup.

Wyrd has chosen to mark her with the ravages of disease, but not choosing to accept such as a victim, she chose instead to put Mjolnir’s mark on her shield arm, to chose to mark her flesh with pride, rather than let fate reshape it at its own weaving and will.

How will we see her womanly form, now that the rich curves of her breasts fall to the knife of the surgeon, and her body braces from steel to face radiation and chemo in turn?

We will see it as we see the sword-arm of Tyr, the empty eye of Odin; the proud scars of victory, the silent banners of struggle, the glory marks of survival.  F cup, or no F’ing cup, she is the measure of a Heathen woman, who laughs in the face of a death she will defeat, and scars she will bear with pride as victory tokens.

The measure of a woman is how she faces her wyrd, how she faces the fires and hammer of this life, to be forged or broken as good steel or dross.  Freydis is good steel.  To send her into this battle, I sing one song learned from One Eye upon the tree.  I sing it for her this night.

157. An eleventh I know, | if needs I must lead
To the fight my long-loved friends;
I sing in the shields, | and in strength they go
Whole to the field of fight,
Whole from the field of fight,
And whole they come thence home.

Whole to the field of fight you go Freydis, whole come thence home.  Leave only that which has turned against you, bring home all flesh that yet answers your will and weal.

Freydis

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Asatru, Faith, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Reciprocity: Health check in your Heathenry

Reciprocity

Freehold and Troth Banners

 

It seems like the farther I advance in my practice as a Heathen, the more the simplest things become more and more profoundly moving and enlightening.  A gift for a gift is one of the cornerstones of Heathen practice, the gifting cycle is not simply a part of our interpersonal culture, it is the foundation of our sacral practice.

“From the gods, to the earth to us-from us to the earth to the gods”  Is the phrase we use when we acknowledge the gifts of the gods as we gather together to celebrate, and we in turn complete the gifting cycle by making our offering to the earth, in honour of the gods and wights both.

41. Friends shall gladden each other | with arms and garments,
As each for himself can see;
Gift-givers’ friendships | are longest found,
If fair their fates may be.

42. To his friend a man | a friend shall prove,
And gifts with gifts requite;
But men shall mocking | with mockery answer,
And fraud with falsehood meet.

43. To his friend a man | a friend shall prove,
To him and the friend of his friend;
But never a man | shall friendship make
With one of his foeman’s friends.

44. If a friend thou hast | whom thou fully wilt trust,
And good from him wouldst get,
Thy thoughts with his mingle, | and gifts shalt thou make,
And fare to find him oft.

 

Reciprocity as presented in the Havamal is more than just about the giving of gifts, it is a fundamental goal in relationships of all kinds; between family, friends, lovers, strangers, enemies, spirits, gods, the living and the dead.  It is something that it will take decades to fully unfold in understanding as to its ramifications in our psychology, our relationships, our health, for it has implications that stretch so far beyond our spiritual practice and into every aspect of our lives.

 

We live in a post-Christian society; one whose culture was very much shaped by a lot of fundamental assumptions of Christianity, even among those who have never practiced that creed knowingly, and many of those fundamental assumptions are at odds with traditional Heathen belief, and require a rather profound rethinking of a lot of the basic ways that we think about ourselves, and learn to make value judgements about ourselves.

 

Many people are offended by my next series of statements, so I will offer the following statement for background.  I do not dislike Christians, I have known a large number of extremely worthy Christians, nor are they as a group any different than the bulk of humanity in their random distribution of natures.  My criticisms of their dogma and doctrine are just that, and while I feel our own are superior, that should go without saying, as why would I espouse a belief system I felt was inferior?

Christianity is a wonderful tool for allowing hypocrites to prosper, and driving good and worthy people to offer much in the service of those who cheerfully live the opposite of the doctrine they spout the loudest.  Christianity makes much of the virtue of being humble, and as a tool this makes the devout and worthy value themselves and their contributions not at all, and the hypocrites to reap the credit of the works of those others and stand head and shoulders above them socially not through the worth of their deeds, but simply by being the only ones standing in a room full of the truly humble who have prostrated themselves.

Heathenry does not make a virtue of being humble.  The boast and brag are not about puffing yourself up and pretending to be more than you are; rather, they are about learning to judge each other by the deeds of our hands, of our minds, of our words.   We are our deeds, this is used a lot in Heathenry, and it encompasses a lot of the idea of building your worth through your contribution, through what you have achieved.  It does however interact oddly with those unspoken Christian assumptions so many of us still carry as baggage.
Worth.  We live in a capitalist society.  We have, in our society, various cognates to the word worth, and two of them are price and cost.  Ah yes.  Worth in our society has an actual standard.  Money.
Heathen artists, I am looking right at you at this moment.  Pay attention, most of you are getting this wrong.  I donate my own profits, so you can chose to say I am ignoring this or not, but I make my profits first, so I get at least that much right.  Stop being Christian about your art!

 

I have a friend who is a tattoo artist, and recently had to read him the riot act because he was being very humble about his art.  I don’t mean humble in the “wow, he is so down to earth, not full of himself” way that Christianity makes of the virtue of being humble, I mean in the failing to give his art the respect it deserves, failing to provide for his family as they deserve, undercutting his fellow artists by charging far less than the work associated with that art is worth kind of way.

I have friends who are singers, songwriters, illustrators, authors; all of whom are busy creating so many amazing and worthy works of Heathen art, most of whom are busy being very Christian about it and failing to honour themselves or their works by demanding that they receive in money what the purchaser actually believes the item to be worth.  If it has great worth, you really should prove that by paying the artist money equivalent to the value you see it holds to you.

In this our community has really bad habits.  Where you would pay full price at a restaurant, at a car parts dealership, gun or blade-smith, we, as a community have gotten way too comfortable with low-balling our own community who make available to us Heathen art, Heathen craft, and Heathen devotional items.

A gift for a gift, wow, we are so broken on this level it is scary.  This literally is why we can’t have nice things.  The Christian churches are some of the biggest businesses in the world, and while I would never follow them in the way they devote themselves to fleecing their flock, mostly because they seem intent on disempowering them to the point of maximum tractability and dependence , they do at least make sure they get paid full price for their religious regalia, paraphernalia, music and art.

 

Reciprocity is at the heart of our practice for a reason.  In biology we learn about the kinds of relationships that two intersecting species can share.  There are a number of stable relationships whereby multiple species can be joined together.  At the positive end of the spectrum is symbiosis, where the association is positive and beneficial to both, in the middle is commensalism where it is neutral, but there is also parasitism where the balance favours one over the other, whereby one party receives the benefit, and the other pays the cost.

Reciprocity is the measure of the fairness of a relationship, not its depth or nature, but a valuable “health check” to see if the relationship is healthy.  Healthy relationships are symbiotic (positive to both), or commensal (neutral exchange).  Unhealthy relationships are parasitic, the parasite often feels things are going great, whereas the person on the losing end generally will feel abused.

 

Volunteer burnout is a reality of most organizations, and it is a result of a failure of reciprocity.  We look at volunteers, and I can name so many (Dara, Lisa, Rob, Amanda, Aaron, Laura) who give so much to the various communities they are a part of.  I have seen so many come to the Heathen community, feel so blessed by the gifts they have receive that they want to give back.

Christian programming again kicks in, and the martyr complex becomes an issue.  The idea that you have to give, and your own needs do not matter is something that that community finds virtuous.  Welcome to Heathenry; we don’t.  The gifting cycle has the reciprocity test.  If you give more than your recipient can match without hurting themselves, you have hurt them; giving them the choice to be in your debt, or to beggar themselves to stay even.  This is abusive behaviour, and basically a dominance game.

If you give to an organization or community more than you can afford, or give to them so much that you are unable to care for yourself or your dependants, then you have harmed yourself, and you have stained that organization with that harm.

We as leaders in the community are actually supposed to protect you from giving so much you harm yourself.  It is part of our job.  We don’t always do it well, many times because we are busy burning out ourselves, and are wearing serious blinders to prevent noticing the lines we have crossed ourselves.

Reciprocity is the lesson of the gods, moderation in the giving, balance in the flow.  There is a reason for this.  I spoke earlier of the names biology gives to the various balance states of relationships, there is a wonderful term that is used in ecology a lot that comes into play in looking at reciprocity in community relationships, and that word is sustainability.  If you are getting back in measure for what you are putting in, you can sustain that level of investment forever.  If you are in an unequal state, where you are giving more than you are getting back, eventually you will run out.  It is not sustainable.

Communities are living things, and sustainable communities are going to live a long time, be there to provide for the individual members for generations to come.  Communities that are living beyond their means will continue to burn out those good and worthy people who feel such love for their community that they bind themselves to these abusive and unequal relationships until they are expended, and either quit or break.

 

Heathens don’t do martyrs.  We may love a good death scene, but we actually look to win every time.

A gift for a gift, reciprocal and healthy relationships in our devotional practice, our employment, our social interactions, and our faith communities is what the gods and ancestors basically are calling for in the surviving lore.  More is not better, sustainable is better.  Fair is better.

 

If you give to the community, make sure you are receiving from the community in equal measure.

41. Friends shall gladden each other | with arms and garments,
As each for himself can see;
Gift-givers’ friendships | are longest found,
If fair their fates may be.

The gifting cycle is a wonderful tool for building relationships, but just as the stanza’s about mead use, moderation is actually not only wise, it is specifically called for.

19. Shun not the mead, | but drink in measure;
Speak to the point or be still;
For rudeness none | shall rightly blame thee
If soon thy bed thou seekest.

I drink the presence of our holy community like the finest mead, but I too drink it in measure, for I too have many other commitments, and limited resources that I may devote to the community.  I wish to be a part of the community for many decades yet, and wish to see all of you free to do the same, so come and partake with us, but always with the understanding that you are not asked ever to give more than you receive, nor ever should you feel shame in staying within your limits.

We don’t come to Heathenry with the assumptions our ancestors did, so given the Heathen gifting culture, and the Christian fundamental assumptions, it is possible to find ways to abuse and neglect yourself out of a desire to give back to the community.  Don’t.

We want you to come away from your community at every event and interaction sure that you received more than you gave.  This is symbiosis, this is the Heathen community done right.  This is what we are aiming for.
Hashtag, no martyrs.

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized, Yule

Yule at Sasamat

 

Sassamat Lake

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Sassamat Yule

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Yule Father

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

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

Kyler

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

 

  1. Fire he needs | who with frozen knees

Has come from the cold without;

Food and clothes | must the farer have,

The man from the mountains come.

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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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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