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.

Standard
Current events, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Labels and lasers

targeting-laser

Funny title hey?  What is the relation.  You almost have to share my background to see it, but for those of us that wore green in some form (CADPAT, MARPAT whatever your pattern) its hard not to see.  Labels act a lot like lasers from the point of view of those they are used to Target Designate.  You see the one lasing the target is not attacking, they are simply illuminating the target, providing the target point and tracking data the engaging unit will use to guide itself to the target which it will then kill.

We have a Quebec Mosque, a handful of dead, which may or may not grow into a second handful depending on their responses in hospital to their injuries, and we have an angry young college white boy.  Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, of Quebec City, has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder following a shooting at a mosque in Sainte-Foy Sunday night.

(http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/more-questions-than-answers-was-mosque-shooting-an-act-of-terror-1.3264415?autoPlay=true).

This young man fits the profile of an angry poorly socialized loner who drifted from a left wing (NDP) affiliation to a right wing follower of Donald Trump and French politician Marine Le Pen, leader of the far right National Front.  Both leaders have essentially made acceptable to the public the views of the right wing extremists that had previously been condemned and even banned outright as hate speech.  This young man embraced the anti-feminist, anti-immigrant, dogma of the newly re-branded far right wing and chosen to act.

His choice of action was to walk into a Mosque and only his extreme lack of skill is credited for the low death toll of his prolonged shooting spree.  No one is saying Donald Trump or Marine Le Pen told him to do so.  No order was given.  No command spoken.  Only the targeting laser placed on immigrants, especially Muslim immigrants illuminating them as targets, designating them as threats.  The words are used to demonize, to declare as a clear and present danger the individuals in our society that this young man knew could be found in the Mosque, and painted the Mosque itself as a threat.  With the targeting laser shining brightly on the target, the disturbed young man did what disturbed angry young men do when poisoned by such charged rhetoric, and performed like the good little bomb he was and walked into the Mosque, following his targeting laser onto his target to kill.  Now in the Middle East he would have used a bomb vest, but here in the west it is more typical for such disturbed individuals to use a firearm as did Marc Lepin in the Polytecnic massacre targeting women, rather than immigrants (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_L%C3%A9pine).

I am Heathen, or Asatru.  My closest and deepest relationship among the holy gods is with Odin, called the Battle-Glad and Victory Father among his many by-names.  Odin is primarily the god not of skill at arms, nor strength of arm.  Odin is defined by the rune Anzus, which means inspiration.  Odin is the god of poetry, wisdom, inspiration, the words that move people.  Odin is the god of rousing passions, and for this he is the primary god of both hospitality and war.  It is the rousing of passions that either brings people together in community building (hospitality) or sets them against each other (war).  Perhaps it takes an Odin’s man to see our situation right now as it is.  We are seeing just what passions are being whipped up, and just what deeds are being inspired.

We look at the failed Muslim states and see what extremism brings.  The threat of Islamic terrorism is real, worse than the terrorism is the Islamic Extremism, its dehumanizing effect on individuals whereby those who embrace it really do not see women as free and equal beings, and really cannot see those who believe differently than them as being human beings with an intrinsic right to live as they choose either.  These beliefs are incompatable with the Rights and Freedoms guaranteed by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms (http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/const/page-15.html).  This is not rhetoric, this is fact.

These failed states are filled with victims, they are as you would expect Muslim victims whose crime was to be born in the wrong state. Many of these people seek a better future and a better life for themselves and their children.  Those who come to Canada to become Canadian, to embrace the Rights and Freedoms of our nation, who learn to value them as those raised with them from birth cannot ever understand, as they understand how truly precious they are.  There are also predators who are seeking richer territories to continue the tactics that rendered their states failed in the first place.  Not simply those ideological terrorists, but the common criminals who do not see others as real people, but prey they can use and abuse because they are stronger.  These have no place in Canada, there is no right for those who are born elsewhere to be Canadian if they do not feel bound by our laws.  We are not obligated to take them.  For this reason we screen potential immigrants, for this reason those we have let in who prove to be not potential citizens but imminent threats forfeit any chance of becoming citizens.

These failed states show the cost of letting the language of hate be accepted.  Now we see people who have escaped these failed states being murdered in the land of freedom itself by our own failure.  We see the cost of the language of hate being condoned by the leaders of western nations that should know better.  The US and France are embracing the language of hate as we have not seen in generations.  We are seeing a war on women, we are seeing the demonizing of other races by all sides.

Let me be utterly clear about this; racism is being openly preached to cheering crowds by ALL of our lovely ethnic extremists.  We see hate crimes by each group against the other, used then to justify more hate that will lead to more crimes.  You need to leave our country I think and travel the world to see exactly how precious what we have here is.  If you had done so, you would feel the real and compelling need to put a bullet into the head of the next person standing on a podium and preaching hate.  Being civilized and respecting the rule of law, we will not do so, but on a deep and fundamental level I must acknowledge that the best use of a bullet is shooting the person holding the targeting laser, the person designating the targets, turning our fellow citizens into nothing more than targets for hatred and violence.

King Henry of England had issues with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Church acting against the Royal interests in political and economic affairs.  The King spoke before his knights and barrons, frequently quoted as saying “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”  Four knights, owing loyalty to the cause of the King rode to Canterbury and cut down Thomas Becket in his church.  They were not ordered to, and indeed the King was free to condemn the extreme action, while pointing out that really the clergy for their disloyalty had brought this upon themselves.  The hypocrisy is pretty much standard practice.

We see in the wake of the shooting of Muslims kneeling in prayer by a white Canadian college student the White Hose press secretary use the killing of unarmed Muslims in a Mosque as justification for Trumps ban against immigrants from Muslim nations.

(http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/white-house-spicer-que-mosque-comments-1.3959338)

Those who use labels for target designators do not care about the facts, nor do they care about their own Constitution, their own laws, the words of their own Founding Fathers. They care only about their political agenda, their own narrow vision of who they want to be part of their own “right thinking” nation.  The language of fascism, the one true faith, one permitted belief, single definition of what is a “Real American” or “Real Canadian”.

Understand when you share the memes slapping those labels on those you don’t like.  When you make free in mockery of them, painting them as either threats or undeserving of respect (and therefore protection), you are creating the soil in which these disturbed young men grow into mass killers.  You are creating the problem.  Your hands will be clean, you are only painting the target, you will be free to express your sympathies to the victims, knowing full well you will rush home to share your smirking little memes about “lets see how they like it” or “they brought it on themselves”.  Pro-life supporters are particularly good at this one.  The assassination of a doctor in the middle of his Sunday church service was absolutely acceptable to them (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_George_Tiller).

This is how you either show you deserve the rights and freedoms your ancestors fought for, your service folk risk their lives, and too often die for.  This is where you prove you are either a pillar supporting your state, or a parasite leaching off of it.

You will either take a stand against the hatred and stop treating people as labels, or you will continue to indulge in venting whatever emotional reaction makes you feel good, never once connecting your words to the increasing acceptance of hatred, and the deeds that inevitably follow.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a wonderful document.  It enshrines those rights which when shared by us all make us all free. What it also makes clear is that none of our rights give us the right to strip those rights from others.  That is what the language of hate is all about.  At its base the language of hate is about dehumanizing.  Only by making the enemy sub-human can we accept that those rights we hold to be self evident are obviously not intended for THOSE PEOPLE.

Islamic extremists, White Power extremists, clearly they will have a different definition of THOSE PEOPLE who don’t’ deserve human rights, who aren’t real people.  In all other respects they pretty much march in lockstep.  They are not opposite sides of the same coin, they are the same face of the same coin. The opposite face of any extremist is tolerance, not the opposing extreme.

Tear off the labels.  Treat individuals as just that.  Do not excuse the misdeeds of someone because of their label, nor apply the misdeeds of others to someone because they share a label.  Your label does not give you the right to rape or murder.  Your label does not give others the right to target you for abuse either.

Wake up, NOW, while our state is still strong and whole.  Continue to think that the extremist acts have nothing to do with the language you use in your every day life and your social media and you will remain part of the problem, not part of the solution.  There is no right side for extremism.  There is no just cause for extremism.  Extremism or Freedom, you get to have only one of these, I choose Freedom, and that means I must pay for it by every single day working hard to make sure I do not give in to my emotional desire to lash out at someone and contribute to the growth of acceptance of extremist views.  I ask all of you to decide for yourself if you will do the same.

mosque-vigil

Standard
Uncategorized

Being Heathen

We took an insult hurled at us by Christians, and claimed it for our own.

 

Noun derogatory

noun: heathen; plural noun: heathens

1.

a person who does not belong to a widely held religion (especially one who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim) as regarded by those who do.

synonyms:          pagan, infidel, idolater, heretic, unbeliever, disbeliever, nonbeliever, atheist, agnostic, skeptic; archaic paynim

(https://www.google.ca/?gws_rd=ssl#q=Heathen)

 

We had a word, Asatru, that meant true to the Aesir.  Not being a perfect word, it failed to include the Vanir, and lent itself better to Icelandic or Scandinavian based practice than Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Germano-Slavic, Frankish, Frisian or other Germanic Neo Pagan folk ways.  Heathen had come to the term that our community used to differentiate ourselves from the Wiccans and other Neo Pagans.  Inside the Pagan community it had come to be the term both sides used to divide our two groups into separate encampments beneath the polytheist umbrella.

 

There are a lot of parts to being Heathen, some of which are easy to see, and some of which are easy to miss.  It is described as the religion with homework, for we take our lore seriously.  We are not a people of the book, like the Christians or Islamics who practice a dead faith; one that begins on page one, ends at the back cover and will never contain anything that is not already written.  We are however a people that read books.  From the lore to archaeology offering us new insights into the lives of our ancestors, as a group you rarely find a community whose lay people have that much depth of scholarship on various levels of their faith and ancestral cultures.

 

We are a living faith, which means that each community is busy coming together, celebrating, and continuing the traditions of our ancestors in ways that fit with their own communities needs and experience.  There isn’t really one right way to do it, and a whole lot of lore allows you to assert with some degree of foundation a wide number of mutually excluding things.  We argue a lot about them, partly because we love the lore and get attached to the meanings and lessons we have taken from it, and partly because the love of argument seems built into the community at almost a genetic level.

 

You can be a solitary Heathen, and lots are.  Not all are so by choice.  Most agree that Heathenry has elements that can only really be experienced in a flesh and blood community.  Living Heathen means that you understand there is a sacral purpose behind what we do when we come together.  Hospitality is the highest form of magic in that it binds strangers into friends, friends into kindreds, and kindreds into families.  A ridiculous amount of our lore concerns hospitality, and the use of it to build, correct, and maintain relationships.

 

Heathens understand community and worth in a way that modern peoples are suffering for forgetting.  We understand as our ancestors did that community is not an abstraction, it is a deliberate construction, and act of will and faith that takes the wyrd of many people and binds them through common cause so that the success or failure of the collective is enjoyed, or suffered, by all.   You can look at this on the symbolic level as how our kindreds function, and the purpose of our oaths and the sharing at sumble, or you can look at this on the practical level on how our physical communities either prosper or not based on the degree of cooperation and commitment to collective effort they demonstrate.

 

We understand worth.  Our post 1960’s culture enshrines self worth, but psychologically we suffer from the gap between our own self worth, and the worth we are held in by various definitions of community.  It can be as disastrous and destructive to be outwardly held in high esteem while you feel a crushing guilt or shame, as it is to be held in contempt or mocked when your own deeds and conduct has been nothing but upstanding.  Where your perceived worth by others and your self are at odds, you will feel it.

 

Each decision we make will establish our worth in those who see it.  This worth will be judged by the standards of that particular community based on its understanding of your relationship and the duties you held.  A given act can be seen a hundred different ways, by a hundred different slices of the community.  One person, one act, all specifications agreed, yet a hundred different understanding of how that affected your worth.  You can be held in high esteem, moderate esteem, contempt simultaneously by different parts of the community for exactly the same deeds.  Our ancestors understood this, our own generation struggles with this, believing our intrinsic self worth should be exportable to all our communities in some magical fashion.  So far as I can see, this has never actually worked.  People will judge by what they see, based on the standards they hold.

 

Heathens talk a lot, but we back it up.  We tend to do a lot of things, as once we decide we support something, we pretty much have to translate that support into a concrete action, or admit we don’t really support it at all.  For this reason many of us have served in the military, and have or do volunteer in many areas of the community.  We offer real things, rather than Facebook support for those things that we acknowledge are important.

 

We judge.  We judge and we don’t even pretend that we don’t.  Justice is depicted as blind, holding scales.  This means justice is supposed to be blind to the differences between us, and weighing only the evidence.  Heathens function in a similar way.  You will find more acceptance for gays, lesbians, transgendered, or other marginalized peoples in Heathenry than almost anywhere else, and outsiders are always shocked.  We are not the kindest or gentlest folk, we argue constantly and are quick to take offense more often than we should.  We really do hold to part of that old silly word, Asatru.  We judge above all things your adherence to this one simple question.
Are you living true?  True to yourself, true to your gods, true to your beliefs?

That above all we judge you for.  I will grant you that the vegan pacifists in our community may sound like an odd fit, but they are living true to that belief in the face of a community that compares firearms as they swap BBQ recipes, and that takes some real strength of commitment.  You show that you are living true to your ideals and we will judge you; judge you to be of great worth.

 

We disagree on language, on definition, on the names of the gods, who is to be worshiped, how they are to be worshiped.  We can and will argue anything, if you don’t believe me, someone right now is arguing that we don’t argue and utterly failing to see the humour in it.  The gods forgive us much for the laughter we bring to them, even if much of it is unintentional.

 

I have never felt prouder to be Heathen than when our great community from sea to shining sea, ignoring national borders altogether, came together as one to denounce hatred in Declaration 127.  Racism, sexism, homophobia; regardless of the mask it wears, the promotion of hatred against our fellows is hateful to the gods, and unacceptable in our communities.  We came together and denounced this spreading of hate in one voice. We are a fractious people, but I love our community as I love my own family, my sacred ancestors, the wights of the lands and waters, and the holy gods themselves.

hamaval-127

By in large, we get it right.  We could do a better job at many things.  We need to be better at recognizing the worth of our women as evenly as we do our men.  We need to be better at keeping division and hatred from sneaking into our community and turning worthy hands against each other.  We need to be better at realizing the other side of any given argument has reasonable cause to believe they too are correct.

 

We get a lot right.  We don’t’ care where you came from.  We don’t’ care what you look like.  We care that your deeds match your words, your oaths are kept, you come to raise the horn with us in open and honest love for the community and the teachings that bring us together.

Someday I hope we will get over the knee-jerk reaction against national organizations.  We are moving into the main stream of our society and collectively we have a voice that will be needed to defend our rights against those who first turned the word Heathen against us as not only a perjorative, but as an excuse to attack.

 

Our gods left us no single book telling us how to live today.  They left us with lore that shows us how to recognize and care for important relationships.  They left us with lore that shows us how to live justly, honourably, and successfully in a world that can be harsh, cruel, and heart-stoppingly beautiful by turns.  They left us the understanding of how to look at the world, recognize our duties, and shape the question.  It is for us to show our gods, our ancestors, and our descendants what OUR answers will be.

 

I am a Heathen.  I love this world, for all the pain it has given me, it has also given me love and joy beyond measure.  The spirits of this world sing to us if you have the ear to hear them.  The ancestors whisper to us, if you have the patience to listen for them, and the gods stand beside us as we face the challenges in our lives, witnesses to the choices we make.  This life is ours to live, our decisions and consequences our own to make and to bear, but we are all connected.  From the first sacred ancestor, to the last of the descendants yet unborn.  To be a Heathen means to accept a definition of self that stretches beyond your skin, a definition of place that extends far beyond both your birth and your death.

 

I left offerings to my house wights when I rose, poured out onto the earth of my place firsts and best of my coffee.  I live largely joyfully because of the Heathenry that has shown me how the bits of my life weave together, how my worth is built in the ten thousand daily decisions that most people never think about at all.  I travel far to be with my community at every opportunity to raise a horn, and join our voices together in celebration as the connections between us do not just bind us together, they heal not only ourselves, but our connection to the lands and waters that our cities tried so hard to strip from us.

At a certain point in your practice, you will no longer be able to separate your life and your practice.  Above all else, this is what our ancestors had that I wish to reclaim.  I study how they lived not because I want arraigned marriages for my daughters, or to settle my interpersonal disputes with a battle axe, and related weregild discussions, but because I wish to grasp even imperfectly how they saw themselves at a time when they could conceive no other way than living in harmony with their ancestors, their lands, and their gods.

 

Standard
Heathen, Uncategorized

Working Around Scary

Massage.jpg

Recently I had a massage at a health spa that went a little sideways.  The worker who was doing the massage was a very good masseuse, she was also empathic and a really poorly trained energy worker.  To make it even worse, she had learned Yoga from people who ignored the spiritual aspects of it, so she had unlocked a whole lot of tools she had no idea how to use, and doors she had no idea how to close.  Being a dear sweet little thing, she wanted really hard to open herself to others and use her energy for healing.  Awesome.  Live among the most privileged in our society who have lived their entire existence pampered and sheltered and you will only have to worry about the true predators who stalk those reaches.  However, there are a fair number of us other folk who will scare the spots off you for various reasons.

Some of us are veterans either of military or police who cannot shut off their situational awareness, their focus, and the constant threat assessment of their surroundings.  We radiate like predators because we never really turn off that part of us that is always seeking, evaluating and prioritizing threats in our environment, and preparing contingency plans, more or less reflexively for dealing with them.

There are those who are in physical pain, whose bodies when you touch them are alive with the energy of pain on a level that to us is simply the chronic pain background noise, about 3-4 out of ten, if we have to think about it, but largely ignored outside the first few minutes after waking.  If you have not suffered serious injury or disease states that leave you in agony that will never, ever stop, you can’t help but be overwhelmed when you touch pain like that.  If however, it goes on long enough, you really can get used to anything, and we do.  We will be aware of the pain as you work each center, and even as the pain spikes we feel the relief that the massage is bringing and react positively even as you feel the pain increase (well yes, but only when you are working it, in your wake it is much better).

There are those who suffer PTSD from serious trauma.  Some again are veterans, some are sexual assault victims, some are survivors of serious physical trauma or long debilitating/humiliating disease.  There are wounds that leave scars in the mind, stains and twisting in the energies.  These are marks of the survivors and the reality of the coping mechanisms that got us through, and may or may not be great for functioning at the moment.  Life is a work in progress, healing a journey that actually ends in death not wellness, as you never really finish from some wounds.  Step by step, day by day you get better, and hopefully you are still doing it when you die.

OK, so that is the set of problems, so, what is the solution.  Training.  OK, here is your quick and dirty training for how to work among the scary.  I don’t mean just people who intimidate you, I mean how to remain positive and focused, around people whose condition, energy, emotion and physical pain levels cause you to panic, withdraw, or take actual harm.

Starting with the assumption you are in a therapeutic situation and you are not simply willing to use your shields to shut yourself down, cut yourself off from the awareness of others.  Let us assume you actually wish to keep your empathic senses open, and use your energy to interact with and theoretically help someone whose own state or nature disturbs you.  We are going to review Grounding, Centering and Shielding inside the specific context of therapeutic interactions.

I generally center first, relying on myself more than any external anchor, but for those who are not used to dealing with hostile, frightening, or painful energies it might be helpful to start with grounding, so there I will begin.

Grounding:  My tradition and training uses Yggdrasil, the world tree.  The tree visualization does not actually require you to believe in Yggdrasil, nor understand the nine worlds in the structure of Heathen traditions, you simply have to know what a tree looks like, how it is basically structured, and that it roots in the ground.  If you have seen a tree, then you know enough for this to work for you.

Hanged Man Tree

Lightning strikes the earth, the sun lashes it, the ice claws at it, but the earth is vast beyond useful measure and these energies literally ground in her without effect.  The scope of the earth is such that the most terrible energies can be released into her with no measurable effect.  We ground in the earth like rivers do in the sea, she received from us that which we cannot hold, even as she anchors us firmly in place.

See the tree in your mind, feel your hands as branches, your skin as bark and leaf.  You feel the energies absorbed by your leaves, buffeting your branches.  Take in the energy, let it flow down through you to your roots.  Sink those roots deep into the earth, feel the calm quiet dark of the earth.  Feel the slumbering life within it.  Let the energies wash over you and release them into the earth.  The earth is vast beyond comprehension, and the energies that are too much for you pass almost unnoticed through your roots and into the living earth.  You feel the energy bleed into the earth, even as you feel your roots sink deep into her firmness, locking and anchoring you in place.  You are grounded, anchored, and able to weather the storm of energies you may encounter without fear.

Centering is next.  You can center in yourself if you do not wish to involve external aid or powers.  If you choose to do so, take the time to breathe in slowly and deeply, focusing on your internal power, your awareness of yourself.  Let the external world become less important and reach deep within your own awareness of yourself.  With each breath in feel your power flowing along your limbs.  Feel it flow outward from your chest through each limb, up your neck to your crown, flowing through your body and into your feet.  Feel that energy defining you, your core self, core awareness.  This is you, only you.  Hold that in your mind, know yourself, and prepare to deal with energies that are not self, awareness of other.  Do so from the strong foundation in your self.  If you are spiritual or religious in practice, as many of us are, a secondary part of any healing work, be it counselling, or physical healing, is the Call.

If you seek the aid of other powers, however you define them, be it the earth itself, your ancestors, your gods (or God if you are of that persuasion) it is time now for you to Call.  The act of opening yourself by intent is not the same as a simple prayer.  This is a working.  This is a job.  A task.  You are making of yourself a tool to do a specific job.  When you Call, you are not asking for a generalized blessing, you are actually asking for a very specific aspect, that part or aspect of your god, your spirit, your ancestral guide, or higher power however you define them, that most corresponds to the work you want to do here.  Intent isn’t everything, but if you get it wrong, the rest seldom goes well.  Be clear and be honest about what you are asking for.  If you feel you are in danger of being overwhelmed, you open yourself to your god with the specific and clear intention of allowing their essence to fill you, to anchor you, so that you may work without fear or harm, to allow you to open fully without being overwhelmed by energies more powerful or simply of alien nature to your own.  Self care is critical in any and all healing work, get that wrong, and you have added to the injured, rather than healed anyone.  When you have Called, prayed, invoked or simply focused your awareness on your connection to the divine, you are ready for the next step.

Grounded in the earth, centered in yourself, your connection to the divine, if you use it, already established with the specific intent of your working you are now ready for shielding.

Shielding in the healing process is different from regular defensive shielding.   Rather than simply deflecting or protecting yourself, you seek something a little more complex, nuanced, and ambitious.  Rather than blocking all the dangerous energies, you want to simply keep them from damaging you, while allowing you to experience them, to know them, draw them out, and where appropriate and safe, use your established channels to ground safely any dangerous excesses that are released by your work.

Shielding in the healing context.  The visualization that is most useful to you will depend on your Call, or your centering technique.  One that I found useful was to extend the tree imagery.  I let my shields, my rejection of Not-Self flow over me like bark on the tree.  Flowing from my center, augmented by grounding in the far greater presence of the divine that I have opened myself to, my shields are a hard skin of bark against which the energies I touch in the person I work with will be felt.  I can feel what touches the bark, but it is my choice what I allow to pass inward, to feel, to experience, and yes, to channel downward and ground in the earth, or channel inward to the aspect of my god I have invoked to aid me in my work.

I am good at pain, so I tend to allow the awareness of pain to be drawn into me, because I am better at processing it, and by doing that I can free up the person I am working with to process and deal with actual change or healing, as the simple handling of pain is a massive energy drain unassisted.  It is not my pain, and will not root in me, but can be channeled with little effort into the earth, or offered to my god.  Odin works well for ordeals, including healing ones, so pain is a coin that will buy healing in certain contexts.  If you are not good at pain, allow the pain to flow down your shields and ground it through your roots into the earth.  The earth is so vast it can drink all the pain that ever was and be unchanged.  You do not need to experience it if that will interfere with your ability to do your job.  Be aware of it, be aware of the shape and intensity of it, the changes in it.  You must always and ever be sensitive to spikes in pain and/or fear because you cannot know what changes inside a person’s mind and body will be made by even the simplest alteration of the balance of stresses under which they live.  You don’t have to understand their internal landscape, just sense when what you are doing is causing distress, and be able to avoid pushing at those fault lines.

Standard shields will allow you to cut yourself off from the awareness of the other person’s will, their pain, their emotions.  In a healing context, you will often find the need to open yourself to those very things to an extent to follow the most important dictate in any healing process “DO NO HARM”.  You cannot ensure you are doing no harm, if you are shielding yourself from all the effects you are having on your person, for this reason, you must actually use your sensitivity to a degree.
Center in yourself, shield yourself so that you can be aware but not harmed by the energies that are under your fingers.  Remain centered in yourself, go as slow as you need to, but you must always and ever remain centered in yourself, with clear understanding of what is coming from you, and what is coming from them.  Ground deep in the earth, bleeding off not only excess and dangerous energies from them, but those energies that will snap up in you in response.  Do not be ashamed of fear, shame, anger, or other emotional responses to the energies of another’s pain.  Own those responses that are yours, ground out the energies that are harmful with every single exhalation, give them up to the earth, but be aware of where the response came from in you, and be prepared to deal with the emotional consequences later, preferably with help from those who share your tradition and practice.

I am not going to give you instruction at how to work with someone else’s energy.  That is something you really need to seek a far wiser teacher for, and you had best have developed specific and real skill sets before you attempt it.  I will say two important things; do not ever work with someone else’s energy, pain, or emotions without their express permission.  That means INFORMED consent.  If they don’t know that they are naked in front of your eyes, you are violating their reasonable expectations of privacy and you are actually in a position to do much harm through the violation of trust.  Second, what we can do for others is help them deal with effects, free up their energies to deal with causes.  We can’t make wounds go away, we can’t undo damage.  Don’t ever trivialize people’s wounds by thinking you can simply magic them away.  That is not what we can do.  What we can do is useful and important.  We can reduce the negative effects of their burdens on them, and make easier their efforts to remodel their own bodies, mind and emotions on a gradual step by step basis.  If you make someone feel better, that is not a problem gone, that is a blessed moment of relief that may enable them to make steps toward meaningful and lasting change, but do not pretend you can “fix people”.  It insults them, trivializes their trauma, and makes mockery of the real and lasting good you can actually do.

You don’t have to shut yourself off from people whose energies and intensity is disturbing to you.   To be empathic, to be able to share another’s pain is an immensely useful tool in making real and positive differences in their experience.  The twin principals of “do no harm” to them, and “self care” for you are best served by only opening yourself to intense or dangerous energies, or powerful personalities in a therapeutic setting after you have grounded, centered and shielded yourself in such a way you can work safely, respectfully, and honestly with whoever you are working with.

There are lots of people out there who are apparently getting their abilities unlocked by those with no spiritual awareness at all.  This is dangerous.  It is blind people telling you how to find the sun, and telling you how wonderful it feels on your face.  Those with sight are perfectly prepared to endanger themselves, and utterly unprepared for the really simple steps in working with sunlight safely.  If you happen to be, or know one such person, pass this along.  If you are one of these people and require instruction, there are lots of really gifted practitioners, I am not one of them, but I can and will put you in touch with them for further instruction.  I am just another working stiff, struggling to get my own training up to snuff for the jobs I already do.

Standard
Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Women In Heathenry: Their Words

Preface:

I have been excited to meet heathens of so many local communities over my time in Heathenry, often inspired by the presence of known and well respected members of that community who have been esteemed for some time.  In each and every occasion I have visited with Heathen groups in person, I have been pleased with the Heathen’s I knew about and came to meet (in retrospect almost always men) and absolutely blown away by the amazing heathens I never heard of before (almost always women).

After long enough being beaten over the head with the same observation, the unknown and amazingly worthy heathen women in our communities, I take a look at three images I see of heathen women.  The general pagan community that views Heathen women as some oppressed minority kept silent, pregnant, and in the kitchen (odd because they have met too many of our women to think any force in the nine worlds could effectively oppress them at all), the image of the outside largely Christian community that paints them as basically flakey hippy pastries just left of the wiccan fairy unicorn princesses, only way hotter, and the heathen community which oddly enough seems to accept that they exist, when reminded, and value their own, but honestly seem to be able to discuss heathenry at length of hours before bringing them up at all.
So dismissible to invisible seems to be the worth that Heathen women are frequently held in.  As a Heathen, my practice demands reciprocity, the return of a gift of equal value for the gifts that I have received.  I have received so much from the Heathen women in my community, both my local community, and the broader Heathen community.  I have met, and been honoured to meet, some of the most amazing women on earth, and seen them living their heathenry in ways that moved me deeply.  I cannot tell you what heathenry means to them.  I can tell you what they mean to Heathenry, but maybe it would be better for all if I asked them a little more about how they live their heathenry, and we can all get a better sense of the worth they have built for themselves, and brought to our community.  Perhaps we as a community can then do a better job of that reciprocity, at giving honour equal to the worth and contribution these amazing women have already given to us personally, and our community.

Questions:

Q-How long have you been drawn towards your path, which for simplicities sake we will collectively refer to as Heathenry (with the understanding by members of this broad community that the actual name for individual practice does have very specific and important meanings).

Freydis Heimdallson, Heathen Freehold Society of British Columbia

A: For just about as long as I can remember. I was a devout Christian as a child, but it never quite felt entirely right to me. There wasn’t enough of the natural world, if that makes sense. There weren’t enough trees.

In Grade Four we had these big books with stories for Grades Three, Four, and Five in them. I was a great reader already and read all of them, and in the Grade Five section I found the Norse myths for the first time that I can remember.

There was a real shock of recognition as I looked at the picture of Odin, ravens on each shoulder, sitting on his throne with his wolves at his feet, and I remember being really saddened when the book said these were the gods of a dead religion that no one followed any more. I sometimes wonder now how my life might have changed if I had known then that they were not dead, they still had followers, and that in only a few more years, it would once again be legal to follow them (or any gods one pleased) in my country.”

cloak_3

Freydis Heimdallson has been on the Witan or ruling body of the Heathen Freehold since its founding. She has held a number of offices, and has been the voice of reason that kept the peace at more than one occasion.  When I was new to Heathenry, and looking to see if the Heathen Freehold was right for me, I attended my first Althing.  On seeing some of the people there I still was not sure.  Then Freydis pulled up in her truck (pregnant at the time) and introduced herself.  She was the epitome of what I thought a good and worthy Heathen ought to be.  That was my initial impression.

Since then her and her husband have become Kindred and kin to us, and each has agreed to take in the others children should both parents be lost.  That is the kind of trust and esteem I hold her in.  People love to give me credit for the Kindertales books, and I did co write them.  She also co wrote them, also edited, illustrated and published them, yet I hear them touted as my work.  Funny, she was the driving force behind organizing it, and the greater contributor by an order of magnitude.

In point of fact, we are now seeing the first generation raised that can answer how much different it CAN be knowing the old gods’ followers are indeed still active among us.

Lorrie Wood: Hrafnar Kindred,  Northern California Steward, holder of more Troth offices over the years than I can comfortably list.

Sumble Troth

A:I was raised Roman Catholic, with regular infusions of Southern Baptist from my father’s mother every summer.

At Mass, I saw some of my favorite people, the nuns, ministering the Eucharist (“handing out the God cookies”). I thought that was all well and good, but wondered when I might see the sister behind the altar, in the fancy robes, because clearly being a priest was the thing: the whole structure of the Mass, the layout of the church, tells you this.

I was told she—and by extension I—never would, because we were women. Not because we weren’t good enough, but the simple rule that Women Couldn’t Do That.

In 1992, I had a free ride to Case Western Reserve University, a prominent engineering school in my native Cleveland, Ohio. Here, I got experience on an Internet without walls, learning more about paganism through Usenet (something rather like today’s forums). As was expected of someone learning about non-traditional Faith’s in the early nineties, I had the campus bookstore order in Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance and Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon. All I remember of my first reading of The Spiral Dance was being quite annoyed at the idea that, somehow, having a One Great Goddess was supposed to “balance” the single great God I’d been raised with. Having multiple gods—at least two, but why not more?—seemed a more reasonable approach!

Shortly after that, I was taught enough basic magical/energy practice not to embarrass myself, and was taken to my first Pantheacon in 1996. Here, among other things, we went to a reading of a new book by Diana L. Paxson (I was used to people reading things aloud, but having the author do so seemed entirely novel!). Of Diana, my friend Nina said with her usual gruff directness, “Well, she does that Viking stuff. I thought only Neo-Nazis did that, but I know Diana wouldn’t have any truck with that, so it must be all right.”

Mallory Brooks: Kith and Kin Kindred, Gythia and founder.  Idaho and Montana Steward of the Troth

mallory-brooks
A:I have been drawn to Heathenry since I was 15 (I am going to be 31 this year). I was first drawn to Freyja, and the rest came along with Her, of course. Through research and practice, I have found my home and where I belong. “

So the long hard work that the elders put in before us has born this much fruit, it is growing easier for young people to find our ways, and those who practice them.  This at least is good to hear.

Q–Are you drawn primarily to the individual practice or the community expression of heathenry.  If you are drawn to both, can you separate what you get from each? 

Freydis Heimdalson

A: I have not honestly had much experience with the community side of things, not having lived close enough to other Heathens (that I have been aware of) to be able to get together more than a couple of times a year. So group gatherings are a special treat for me, a chance to hang out with other like-minded souls without having to censor that side of myself so much. I am growing more and more open about it in my personal life—having moved out of the Bible Belt where we largely had to hide that side of ourselves for fear of our religion negatively affecting our home business—but I am still more outspoken when I am with other Heathens. I have less concern that I will accidentally let slip something that will give away our religion, or how seriously I take it, to someone who does not understand it and might think it cause for alarm. That is something that as a parent I especially have to watch out for, whereas I can relax in a group of my fellow Heathens without worrying about people getting twitchy when I talk about “sacrificing” wine or food.

Lorrie Wood

A: Oh, goodness. I’m not sure I see them as separate. My community is everywhere, I touch them whenever I pull out my phone. Listening to them informs my own practice, and those are runes I share back out in turn.

Mallory Brooks:

A: I feel drawn to both the individual practice and community expression.  The community expression is what I feel more drawn to. I feel like without community we wouldn’t be Heathens at all. It is part of our core. A great example is welcoming those who have traveled far with a horn of mead and some warm food for their stomachs and souls. The community expression is what truly makes me feel connected to the Gods and Goddesses.  I do also feel drawn to the individual expression since I have spent many, many years being a solitary Heathen, without others around to practice and connect with. I do tend to put more energy and focus into the community expression, since I do believe community is a prime part of being Heathen.

As you can see, where you live will have a great effect on your experience for this issue.  Monocultural rural deeply religious areas are not as accepting as urban more racially and culturally diverse cities are.

Q--The image we get from Paganism is that men follow gods, women follow goddesses.  Heathenry includes the honouring of the gods and goddesses, the wights of the lands and waters, the honoured Disir and sacred ancestors.  While elements of all of these will be part of everyone’s practice at some level, which figures do you have the most developed relationship with, and can you tell me how you came to develop that specific relationship in such depth?

Freydis Heimdalson

A: I am closest to Thor, and after that probably Freya, although when I am in the hospital, partially sedated and in pain from some procedure or other, I always wake up calling on both Thor and Odin for help. So I suppose I have the most developed relationship with them, although I ask Odin for help less often (when severe pain isn’t involved) these days as he usually just tells me to sort it out for myself. Reminds me a bit of my mother that way, actually.

Lorrie Wood

A:…what? That’s rather a bit of bullshit, if you ask me (and you did!).

Hrafnar has never had the restriction that anyone should be limited in what gods, beings, or anything one might honor due to their gender. This starts at the top, of course, as Diana has been an Odin’s woman since 1987. The closest we’ve had is that, for some years, we had a women’s group that explored our goddesses, but it had important caveats:

  • Given that Odin had no problem going to Sam’s Isle to learn what women did, a man might join, and attend, the women’s group’s meetings if he were willing to wear a skirt. Important addendum: no, kilts are not skirts.
  • In no way did this keep a man from—for example—working with Freyja or Frigg. The very idea is a bit boggling, really. The idea that somehow only women could work with Frigg tried to emerge in our community, and we stomped on it quickly for the nonsense it was.

Additionally, in Hrafnar we honor all our ancestors, in keeping with our history as one of the US’s oldest continuous-running inclusive kindreds. This cannot be limited to strictly ancestors of the blood (not everyone has the best of relationships with their kin), nor to any particular country of origin or gender. We care about our members’ ancestors because they’re the ancestors of our members, and we honor and respect the traditions that each brings. In this way, it’s entirely appropriate for me to bring Polish pastry for Disablot. It’s about our ancestors; it’s the spiritual technology we use to approach them that is Germanic.

As for spirits of place, your several varieties of wights, we strive to build relationships with the wights of home, hearth, and garden.

Mallory Brooks:

A:I have been close with Freyja and Loki. I do feel that often times women do tend to follow Goddesses and men follow Gods. There are always exceptions of course. If you are being called by a specific God or Goddess, your gender does not matter to them and it shouldn’t to you.

My relationship with Freyja started when I was still a teenager, and She is who brought me to Heathenry. She helped me find my way as a teen and into my adult years, both spiritually and in my daily mundane life.

My relationship with Loki started when I was in the midst of a bad abusive first marriage. He helped me gain the strength to finally leave for good. He helped me create the necessary changes to make the leap and leave.

Q–We are our deeds.  This phrase echoes through heathenry across the spectrum, so to look at Heathenry as a tool that either works or doesn’t; what has your heathenry changed for you in how you face your daily mundane challenges and decisions?  Is your practice something separate from your daily life, or has your practice deepened your daily life and decision making process?  If so, how, and to what effect?

Freydis Heimdalson

A: As a child, I was meek, timid to the point of being perpetually fearful. I was absolutely unable to stand up for myself in the slightest way, down to the point of not being able to point out I had been missed when papers were handed out at school, and just being left hoping desperately that someone noticed. If I saw something doing something wrong, if I saw an injustice, all I could do was to hope that someone else noticed and did something. If someone did a wrong or an injustice to me—all I could do was hope that someone would notice and rectify it.

Becoming a Heathen has given me my voice, and strength. It has given me determination. If someone needs help, I provide it. If I need something, I either do it myself or find another to help; I no longer rely on someone else noticing my quandry and aiding me unasked. It has given me the strength to face some very difficult challenges that Christianity and atheism were never able to help me with. I cannot meekly hope that some distant God will look after me when things go wrong. My gods allow me to not be alone in my struggles (the way being an atheist was leaving me); but they do not promise easy, empty assurances that things will somehow work out for the best, or at least all be “part of God’s plan.” What they do offer me is the determination to stand up to my challenges and fight to resolve them myself, or with concrete aid that I ask for.

Lorrie Wood

A: I tried to keep my Heathenry out of my everything else, but after several experiences showed me the folly of this, they’ve been integrating madly for the past decade or so.

My Heathenry has gotten me into home brewing, and it’s rare now that I travel without a couple bottles secreted about my luggage. When I meet with folks from my favorite online game, I make it a point to hand bottles as gifts to the group’s leaders. Any heathen would recognize this gift-giving, of course, and it amuses me.

Mallory Brooks:

A:My practice is part of my daily life. It is one in the same for me. I feel that it should be. We aren’t Christians. We don’t “sin” all week, and then go to church on Sundays so we can “repent.” We, as Heathens, are responsible each day to live honorably and to do what is necessary to take care of ourselves and others. We have a responsibility to uphold our values and virtues each day, not just at a kindred meeting or when we hold a Blot.

Q--How accepted do you feel as a woman within the Heathen community?  Do you feel you can speak up, especially to disagree or offer alternate options?

 

Freydis Heimdalson

A: I have never felt shy about speaking my mind within the Heathen community; but then, I usually do not see myself from the perspective of my gender. I am a wife, a mother, and a daughter; but I do not usually think of myself as a woman. I think of myself as a person. Honestly, I am slightly gender-fluid.

However, while I don’t see very many women at Heathen gatherings in the first place, far too often the ones I do see are hanging back, not speaking up, and not wanting to share their opinions even when we are with a small group, the men of which I know absolutely would listen respectfully and accord them the same privileges they would any other person around the fire, and that has always annoyed me. I don’t see very many women at Heathen gatherings. Some I do see and some are outspoken; and the ones that seem to stick around are the outspoken ones. The others fade in quietly from the sidelines, are present for a while in the background, and fade away again, leaving little hint of their presences or personality.

And that bugs me. I speak up, and don’t sit quietly, and am constitutionally unable to hold my tongue and let anyone else finish a complete sentence; so why won’t they speak up, I wonder? And I can only assume it is the same sort of social conditioning that I fell prey to growing up. Sit quietly and listen; don’t speak out; children (and women) should be seen and not heard.

Blow that.

Lorrie Wood

A:  Diana and I run Hrafnar. Of us, I tend to be more outspoken, but due to the pride of my position I have no problem challenging her.

As kindred Thyle, that extends to much of the rest of the kindred as well.

Outside of that, e.g. in the Troth, I feel that my opinion is lightly cast aside unless one of my friends expresses support in short order. I don’t know if that’s due to my gender or due to a pile of other things that I’ve done, or have been said about me, over the years.

Mallory Brooks:

A:  When I first came into Heathenry, I didn’t feel accepted or like I could speak up. Now that I have been Heathen for many years, I feel differently. I feel accepted and that I can have a discussion with any Heathen man that crosses my path.

Q--What do you get out of our community as a whole that you take back to your daily life?  Are we giving back to you, as you are giving to us? 

Freydis Heimdalson

A: That is a difficult thing to answer, because most of my interactions with any kind of a Heathen community have been with people I don’t know very well, online. However, the few close Heathen friends I do have I know I can rely on absolutely, that at need, they would drop everything and move heaven and earth for us, as we would for them. What I have from them is a select group of people I can trust not only with my own life, but also my children’s lives, quite literally. And that is a very rare and valuable thing.

As to the rest, I suppose what I get is fellowship, but I prefer to have it around a fire with a horn of mead in my hand. Facebook is an exceedingly poor substitute, and not a place I feel I can truly speak openly. I don’t trust the privacy settings, nor the corporation. And there are too many names I know only from there, and not as people, as faces in the firelight…

More fame and praise would always be nice though, ha ha.

[As an aside, beyond being the driving force behind the Kindertales project, Freydis was also the leader of the Women’s Guild project that created the far fame Heathen Freehold Banner, as well as the carver of the raven headed rune carved banner staff that flies it.  Her accomplishments in the Freehold are a big part of the organization’s word fame, precious little of which seems to have stuck to her]

freydisbrag

Lorrie Wood

A:  That’s an excellent question, especially given how the Troth, known primarily as “that US-based organization that’s not the AFolkA but they’re more heathen than the ADF I guess”, has been treating its volunteers and membership of late.

Hrafnar gives back. My kindred values me and my work, and trusts me to come up with interesting activities, assignments, challenges, and foods.

I do not feel that my work for the Troth over the years has been as well recognized or valued. If Diana and I weren’t in such close partnership, I would have left long ago. I don’t think that’s because I’m a woman, though—the Troth has some significant systemic challenges in its road and needs to make significant advances in inclusion and transparency if it wants to be an organization for the years ahead.

Author’s Note: “The Troth has done much to make that lost ground up since I wrote those words. While they were true THEN, they are less so NOW-Lorrie Wood”

Mallory Brooks:

A:  I truly love being able to be around others who are Heathens and who have similar values as I do. I love being able to take these values back to my children to teach them.

Q--What are we (by this I mean Heathen men)  doing wrong?  I am specifically asking the question because the women in Heathenry are truly our only peers, our only equals, and in many cases shining exemplars whose deeds should be the focus of emulation and source of instruction.  Heathenry is half of what it could be, because half of our community is effectively passing under the radar.  We, by this I mean the men and women of the community, really need to do better.  I would hope that we are willing to do better, but speaking in utter honesty, I don’t know how  to do so.

Freydis Heimdalson

A: I’ll be honest; I don’t know. I really, honestly don’t. :/

I think part of the problem with asking for my perspective on the question may be that I not only do not think of myself as female, really (beyond in the very obvious, biological sense, which I can’t really get away from; but the [ ] Male [ ] Female boxes on forms always make me exceedlingly uncomfortable because neither one feels right and both are to an extent appropriate); but that I often think of myself as at least slightly male. So I think I sort of fit in with the other men in Heathen gatherings pretty well, and certainly better than some women I have seen. But I also don’t know how many of those women were actually Heathens themselves, and how many were merely there because their boyfriends were, and they had a passing interest. Or were Wiccan and felt it was largely the same thing (when I would argue that, while both pagan religions, the outlooks on the mindset of the universe and the structures of the gods are completely different in Wicca and Heathenry, almost diametrically opposed, in some ways), until they discovered that it wasn’t, and no longer felt they fit in. So are the women not participating because they are not truly interested? Or because they have been trained since childhood by our society to defer to the men in the room, especially if the men are being boisterous (as Heathen gatherings often tend to be)?

Thinking back on my own lengthy meek phase, what would get me involved was to ask me directly what I thought about something. Part of the trick is to ask what the person thinks, and not just “Do you agree?” because if it can be answered with a yes or no answer, that is often all you will get; and women will often agree with the men’s opinions (generalizing heavily here, of course) even if they don’t particularly actually think so, simply to avoid what they expect will be an argument and being shouted down and being told why they are wrong and their experiences invalid, or somehow unrelated or an exception.

So I guess I would say, if you notice a woman sitting quietly, just listening, not participating in the conversation, then ask her directly what she thinks, listen to her answer, and before you tell her all the ways she’s wrong, find things in her statement that she is correct about. And, please, gods, not just “Well, I can certainly understand why you’d feel that way!” If it would be an insulting thing to say to a man, it is just as insulting to say to a woman; the only difference is that we will all too often just smile politely, albeit with clenched teeth, back down, and simply resolve to not bother arguing about it with that person or group again.

And once that happens, what’s even the point of showing up?

Lorrie Wood

A:  This is a strange question for me. I don’t divvy up my community based on gender. My people are my people. Some of the ways in which they ask to be recognized as my people means I have to stash “preferred pronoun” and “potential gender presentation(s)” in the mental cubbyhole next to “name” and “dietary restrictions”. I’m rubbish at names already, but I do what I can.

Let’s start by treating one another as individuals, each on our own merits—though obviously there’s going to be baggage and things that one may say about another based on previous association. Let’s cherish what being female means to this one, what being heathen means to that one, what the other’s identity as a Lokean means, and try to understand that it can be a brave thing indeed to say, “yes, I’m looking pretty femme today, but please understand that I’m genderfluid; if I’m presenting male tomorrow, try to keep up. If unsure, ask.” I care more about what you’ve read and thought lately than your gender; let’s get back to work building community together, the better to forge fellowship.

Mallory Brooks:

A:  I have run into many Heathen men who do think that they are better at “being” Heathen than any woman. I have quickly put them into their place. I realize that there are many Heathen men who are simply just new to the faith and get sucked into that “I am Heathen man, here me roar. Smash.” I am hoping as time goes on we can find these young men and show them that there is no reason to be this way.

There is also a brand of older Heathen men who are stuck in that frame of mind. I really don’t know how to get those men out of that state. They have been that way for so long.

In summation

I am not going to tell you this represents every woman in Heathenry, or even claim it is a representative sample, because it is not.  These are some of our best.  What they have to say speaks very well of them, not so well of us, but does hold out hope that not only is change possible, but on some fronts we are actually moving forward.
I did not get the answers I thought I would when I asked the questions, but that just shows that you can be living inside a forest for twenty years and not notice the trees.  I should have known this, I should have raised my voice for change at least a decade ago when I first had the standing and responsibility to do so.  There are a whole lot of worthy Heathen men out there that are going to read these words and suffer the same sense of shame that I do, that our women were thus slighted in our presence for decades with us silently permitting it.

I can’t tell you where we go from here, but I think that as a community, we need to communicate better across the genders, and has been noted here several places, begin seeking out the quiet ones and talking to them.  Too much I have heard that the silence is not entirely by choice, and its acceptance means accepting the marginalization of women in our community.

Standard
Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

One True Troll on the Internet

freemont-troll

Grimm Mordingi was a troll.  Living under the Sun Death of Sunna, for him to be touched by the sun was to die and crumble into naught but gravel and rock.  It was perhaps not the most enjoyable existence in the world but Grimm admitted that never aging, having skin that ignored most of the loud noisy things that men used instead of spears these days, and the ability to ignore such petty human concerns as “Mad Cow”, after all, none of them were particularly happy to meet a troll, pretty much balanced things out.

Grimm Mordingi ruled the rail bridge over the Pitt River.  The river was mostly fat and contented, as the best rivers are, passing under the bridge in burbling unconcern.  The rail bridge itself showered him with grain from the great wheat carriers, which allowed Grimm to feed the fat stupid pigeons that never seemed to learn the difference between nice little old ladies and hill trolls from the old country.

Some nights he would fish, others hunt deer, coyote or rabbit. On major feast days the city workers presented him with a rather confused cow, wondering at the purpose of being staked out to graze beneath a rail bridge.  This was part of the deal.  Canadian Geese were the bullies of the bird world, and took to urban life as easily as trolls.  Cute and fluffy, they were too pretty to allow the city to kill so me off every year without losing votes and elections, so the city crews who worked the tunnels and knew the lore of Trolls made the deal.  Control the geese and get cow at feast.

Grimm was thus as contented as a troll could be.  Fine bridge, fat river, all the geese he could eat and a cow at feast days.  Left free to contemplate life, he did what easily confused trolls had been advised to avoid doing for centuries; he eavesdropped on human teenagers.

He discovered they were obsessed with their phones, which oddly they talked to and not on.  They used them to do this thing called “social networking” which seemed to consist of ignoring the people you were with to talk to people who were somewhere else, ignoring the people they were with too.  He admitted, it sounded like a very Trollish way of doing things.

Then the magic happened.  He learned there were Trolls on the internet.  Not some trolls, apparently Trolls were greatly feared, raiders of terrible power who stalked the internet terrifying whole communities of humans.

Thor had made it clear, that any actual terrorizing of villages would be met with a hammer from above, if the fire and spears didn’t get you first, but this “internet” trolling was allowed.  The prayers of these silly humans for their priests to wield the Ban Hammer in Thor’s name to crush the trolls were seldom heeded.  There was a whole thriving world of trolls he could connect to via the “internet” whatever that was.  All Grimm Mordingi must do was to get a phone or tablet (a stone carved phone?)  and he could join his people, become again a wild hill troll, this time in cyberspace!

There were humans who came to stay under his bridge.  There were the god-touched, the street people.  They were wary around him, as they were each other, for predators lurked behind every tree and rock, every bridge and shadow.  There were the couples, the young lovers who came to practice their mating.  While some clearly needed the practice, others seemed just naturally gifted or really well taught.  Neither of these groups would be interested in helping a Troll to find his folk on the internet.

That left the horns and skunks.  The horns were those who gathered in groups up to a dozen and drained odd horns of metal, or bottles of some sort of plastic as well as glass beneath his bridge.  They were loud, funny, but frequently quite violent when surprised, so probably not the ones to teach him the ways of the Internet troll.

That left the skunks.  As with the horns, they did not actually use their traditional namesake.  As the horns drank from bottle and can, rather than civilized horn, the skunks did not smoke actual skunks, but a local weed whose buds made them sillier than usual. They were usually relaxed, frequently happy, or at least sitting down or lying down while complaining.

That night as the “Stoners” opened a laptop to play their music, and smoked enough of the skunk weed to be relaxed (yet still able to speak), Grim Mordingi dropped from his perch under the deck to land among them.

Tossing two geese (cleaned and plucked) into the lap of the one who was complaining loudest about the “munchies” Grim landed in full troll splendor on the up wind side of the “stoners”

“Good evening, I am Grim Mordingi, the troll of this bridge.  You are my guests here and I offer you these two fine geese for your feast tonight.  All I ask in return is that you show me how to use a log to get into the “internet” so that I may meet my brethren, the Trolls of the Internet

After a certain amount of giggling, swearing, one person falling in the fire, it was generally agreed that:

  • He was a troll
  • He was real
  • He was not going to eat them
  • He really wanted to surf the internet and meet other trolls
  • Far freaking out

Laughing and giggling the boys and girls showed Grimm around the internet, into chatrooms and forums, and things called “mailing lists” although why you would want a list of mail was never explained.  In each he was shown the Trolls they knew, famous trolls, known trolls.

Each was worse than the next.  These were NOT HIS FOLK!  Grimm Mordingi was a proud troll name, meaning brutal killer, but what these internet trolls did was foul, monstrous!  They broke guest laws, defiled the places they called their own worse than even humanity had done to this beautiful land with their cities.

Troll after troll he found, each one more hate filled than the last, howling their spite and poison on anyone and everyone that attempted to share a moment of joy, or create a thing of beauty.  These were not mighty hunters, fierce raiders, these were torturers, vandals, barrow defiling honourless NITHLINGS!

There were tears pouring down his face, hot copper tasting things he had not shed since his long ago mate had ran afoul of a bull moose in a winter hunt.  His folk were fallen, the proud heritage of the troll was fouled by what lived today.  Rather than finding the connection to his own kind on the internet, rather than social networking, he found himself moved to do a thing most un-troll like.  He wanted to pray.

Falling to his knees, he took from the cooking goose the fattest breast and tossed it to the night for the wights.  As two half starved dogs fought over it, showing it was accepted the Troll raised his paws in supplication and prayed as he had never prayed before.

+++

In far off Asgard, Thor awoke, his hand straying to his hammer.  His wife the beautiful Sif looked over in love and alarm and asked her dread husband what was the matter.

“There is a troll on the internet”

Sif giggled and hit her husband, the mighty giant slayer with a solid smack to the back of his stone hard head

“There are Trolls on the internet, polar bears are white, water is wet and politicians lie.  Anything else obvious to say?”

Thor shook his mighty head, red beard hiding a bemused smile.
“No dear, an actual troll.  He is on the internet, and just now he has offered a prayer and sacrifice most sincere and worthy, invoking my name and my aid as the Defender of Man and Guardian of Social Order”

Thor began to dress and arm himself.  Sif working swiftly to attach his armour and gauntlet, fixing his belt of strength around him with the ease of the warrior she herself was.  As she worked to help him arm, she wondered again and again, what would a hill troll pray to Thor for, and why invoke him as the defender of man and the social order?  What could a troll possibly be asking for?  Seeing her husband trying manfully to hold in his gales of laughter, his face going as red as his beard trying to contain it, Sif finally relented and asked the question she knew he was dying to answer.
“Alright, I give up, what was our Internet Troll praying to Thor Hammerthrower for?”

Raising Mjolnir in his mighty fist, he struck a pose and shouted

“To drop the Ban Hammer on all the Internet Trolls!”

banhammer

The laughter of god and goddess sounded like thunder as Thor rode to answer the prayer of the one true Troll on the internet.

John T Mainer

Standard
Heathen, Uncategorized

Women in Heathenry

Women In Heathenry

Sumble Troth

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

That has to end.  NOW.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

John T Mainer

Standard