Current events, Faith, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Dog days of Democracy

Freehold Oath Ring

They call them dog tags, and we who wear them understand the irony of the situation.  Dog tags are worn by the defenders of the state, the soldiers who serve the people, but who take their orders and direction from a group of entitled elites who occupy the houses of the people, and conduct themselves not as the servants of the public, but as the lords on high.

That is fine.  Democracy does not reward the tellers of truth, so the houses of the people are filled with those who seek power by any means necessary.  Some few are crusaders for one cause or another, not all of those crusaders are in any way safe, sane, or helpful to the state, but at least they are not simply for sale as the rest of them are.  The mix of the mercenary, visionary and fanatic float in a sea of institutionalized corruption where it is actually impossible to determine where the legitimate political process and press ends, and criminal behaviour begins.  Oddly enough, some of the worst actions are legal, and some of the illegal ones ought to be praiseworthy.  This is Democracy, it’s a shitty system whose only redeeming feature is it actually sucks slightly less hard then everything else we have tried.

Today in our fair north, our politicians are busy stealing from the dogs, we who bleed to defend the freedom of our people to reward those who screw all of us who risk our lives so that the many can be kept safe by a few their leaders continue to stab in the front, the back, the pocketbook, the home, and family; in between posing at the memorials for our dead and praising the deeds of those they screw with every stroke of the budget pen.

Today in our sunny south, our politicians cheer and pat themselves on the back as they strip health care from tens of millions of their citizens, make it possible to charge the elderly even more than before, defund planned parenthood, while at the same time allowing insurance companies to not cover women for pre-existing conditions ranging from rape to C-sections.  Don’t worry, those who make more than a quarter million dollars per year (after all allowable deductions) will no longer bear the terrible burden of paying a few percent towards the cost of millions of their poorer citizens health care costs, so I guess that is worth cheering for right?  Women, the elderly, the injured, sick, or unemployed should be thankful that the richest among us will no longer be burdened by their needs to stay alive.

Around the necks, to the north and the south hang the dog tags of those men and women who stand in the defense of their nations, offering their blood, sweat, and tears to the governments that increasingly seem utterly unburdened by the need to defend anything but their own agenda.

No one accuses the wearers of the dog tags of intelligence.  When we speak of the dogs who share our homes, or the dog-tag wearing soldiers the kind speak with reverence, the privileged with amusement at the dogged loyalty of the uniformed defenders of their nations.  Loyalty is not actually stupidity, although it would be stupidity indeed were we to expect a matching loyalty from our leadership, a matching commitment to our people from our elected leaders.  Most of us are not actually stupid enough to do so, but it is not FOR the leaders we serve.  We serve for the people.

You remember the people?  Our legislators seldom do.  We serve, some give up their lives, and most give up their health as we expend ourselves in the service of the land of our birth, because our people are actually worthy of that service.

In Canada, our leaders are busy punishing their loyal guardians for the twin crimes of being too loyal to rebel, and bound by law not to speak out.  Sucks to be a soldier right now in the north, but we actually have it better.  In the US, the soldiers get to sit back and watch their leadership condemn millions of the people they signed up to defend to death, so the same rich assholes who generally send the soldiers overseas to die to enforce an economic hegemony that benefits only those same rich assholes, can save a few percent by not paying their share of the health care that would allow the less well off to also be covered.

It is a sad time to be wearing dog tags, as neither nation particularly seems to be worthy of the service of its defenders right now.  It doesn’t matter.  Soldiers, like dogs, are renowned for their faithfulness in serving their masters, whether they are actually worthy of that service or not.

Right now it really helps to remember you are there to serve the people, because those who sit in the houses of the people, those who call themselves public servants while serving only their own political ideologies and not their folk, are a far cry from being worthy of the service of the least of our soldiers.

Somehow all this is supposed to anchor neatly in Christian theology, as the same leader in the US freed the churches to openly (and tax deductably) play politics.  I don’t get it myself.  I am just a poor Heathen, and figure Christ would be shitting a crucifix at what was just done in the US.  My own lore looks at the question of taxing the rich and looking after the sick a little differently than the Republican reading of Christianity.  From the Havamal:

39. If wealth a man | has won for himself,
Let him never suffer in need;
Oft he saves for a foe | what he plans for a friend,
For much goes worse than we wish.

40. None so free with gifts | or food have I found
That gladly he took not a gift,

Nor one who so widely | scattered his wealth
That of recompense hatred he had.

70. It is better to live | than to lie a corpse,
The live man catches the cow;
I saw flames rise | for the rich man’s pyre,
And before his door he lay dead.

71. The lame rides a horse, | the handless is herdsman,
The deaf in battle is bold;
The blind man is better | than one that is burned,
No good can come of a corpse.

Gods knows I am not a politician, and my leadership has always been on the small unit scale, where loyalty, commitment, and success of mission was more important than appearance and dogma.  Perhaps it is different in the higher strata of power; because from down here among the actual people, it looks a lot like a leadership in both halves of North America that has little to no comprehension of who they serve, or what the honour that supposedly justifies their personal glory and power is supposed to look like.

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Aesir, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

The Bet: Does love or gold rule the hearts of women?

 

One morning Freya had been listening to a translation of the newly recovered Hamaval.  In particular she was listening without amusement to Odin’s words on the fickleness of women.  Her ire aroused, the passionate Vanir confronted the one-eyed wanderer and took him to task.

“Your one eye has blinded you, old fool”  Freya shouted with her famous passion “It is the passion of love, not of gold that moves women.  Perhaps in your dotage you meet only those women whose affections YOU must buy.”

As all of Asgard prepared for the second round of their most famous war, the Wise Counsellor laughed deeply and long, his great white beard shaking in mirth.  Odin offered the golden goddess a challenge:

“I will wager a hundred heroes from my hall, that any woman we agree on will chose for gold over passion in the end.”

“Agreed!” Shouted Freya, “No magic from you or I shall sway this, let it only be mortal choice that holds the day.  You may speak only to the couple, nor may you set any other against them, and I will agree to the same”

The couple they agreed upon was an uptight young English woman of good family.  Her name was ancient, and her fortunes vast.  Possessed of a rare beauty and poise, she was much sought after by suitors, as there was no family lord from whom her hand could be bartered, she was free to choose.

Edwardian lady holding white cat, ca. 1920s:

Odin the victory father was watching the young lass (Cassiopeia) carefully.  She doted upon the cats that she kept, and once tossed out a young man for scaring one.  She rode often to the hunt with flare, and kept only the finest blood stock, and mocked other riders who had lesser mounts or lesser skill.  The suitors that surrounded her were the height of fashion, wearing only the best, eating only the rarest and most fashionable of dishes.  Odin saw all of this, and cast his plan.

Freya goddess of passion and magic saw with other eyes a woman surrounded by men obsessed with petty pursuits, elaborately bored with life, and obsessed with the games of social status.  She smiled casting her own plans.

Jonathan was the third son of an ancient family.  Sent to the new world to pursue his fortune, it was expected that the eager but not overly bright lad would take his remittance and stay gone, but to everyone’s shock he succeeded in mining in the Yukon, winning for himself much gold and renown, and returning to a somewhat shocked and bemused family.

Frontiersman II

 

Lacking guile utterly, and with the friendly eagerness of a puppy rather than the elaborate courtesy of the court, he had been corrupted by the loose frontier ways and lost most of his early graces.  His family despaired at finding a match for him, and so set for him the impossible task of Cassiopeia, whose wealth and grace were such that she would swiftly and gently send the half wild boy home to consider more modest prospects.

He began the courting journey sitting upon a well bred horse that he rode poorly; having spent the last years with mules and donkeys rather than high bred horses.  Wrapped in the latest fashions, he held a roll of large nuggets from his claim tucked in belt, and a thick wad of paper money in his tunic.

As he rode, he came upon an old man at the side of the road leading two of the most beautiful donkeys he had ever seen.  He stopped and asked the old man where he came by such beautiful beasts, and the old one eyed gent advised him:

“Only a fool would risk a great lady on a stupid and flighty horse, when a good solid donkey is available.  These fine donkeys are the finest breeding pair in all of Britain, and I bring them to London to trade for a stallion.”

Jonathan saw his opportunity and offered to trade his flighty and overbred stallion for the two donkeys, and began his ride to London.   Everywhere he rode, men and women pointed at him, and he just knew they wished they could be rid of the overbred horses and ride big eared sturdy donkey like he and his wife to be would.

As he rode further into town he saw an old man with selling meat pies.  The smell made his mouth water, and he stopped to buy one.  The taste was like nothing of this world!  He begged of the old man what was this meat, and the old man swore it was cat.  The old man said the Lady Cassiopeia was famed for her cat, but few enough men would eat it, let alone ask for it.  Jonathan swore right then he would be the first!  Riding away, he began to wonder what plague it was that left so many old men with but one eye!

Coming upon an old man standing bare chested in the street, giving his clothes to the poor, Jonathan asked what the old man did.  The old man replied that Lady Cassiopeia had said no thing spoke better of a wealthy man than giving the shirt of his back to the poor, after all they were rich enough to replace it a hundred times!  Jonathan thought Cassiopeia was the best among women, and right then gave his fine coat and shirt, and damnable riding breaches to the poor, determined to out do the other suitors.  Besides, after years of working the gold fields, he was unused to tight clothes and heat, and his massive muscles did poorly in the tight clothes of modern England.

Sure that victory was his, Odin looked in to see how Freya fared.

Freya sat beside Cassiopeia, wearing the guise of a widowed aunt.  Cassiopeia looked at the delicate men picking at the feast, sipping wine delicately while picking daintily at the food, each piece carved to be an artwork itself.  The men talked of the hunt, politics, gossip, and ignored her completely when not competing with each other to out compliment her.  With each she dueled with words and gestures, each weighed for effect in a play more elaborate than any stage, each calculated and bloodless as any card or board-game, with points won and lost in high societies game of status.

Freya whispered to Cassiopeia,

“Do you ever dream of the days when half naked barbarians would sweep in and sweep up a woman not because of her land, or horses, or wealth.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a man who wanted to spend the time with you, not riding to hunt, or playing at cards?   The suitors here all seem soft of hands, without a drop of passion in them, hardly the sort to rip a bodice, nor strong enough to carry a woman off without at least two servants for lifting.”  Cassiopeia just sighed deeply.

Jonathan approached the fine mannor and laughed to see the poor fools had all come in carriages, with not a single donkey among them!  Lace and waist coats seemed the order of the day, and they seemed to be eating pastries. Clearly they knew nothing of women!  Determined to make a good impression he rode his donkeys up the stairs and into the courtyard, hearing the amazed gasps at his entrance.  Seeing Cassiopeia in all her loveliness standing proud and imperious at the head of the table, he slid off his donkey and spread his wide well muscled arms and smiled.

Cassiopeia stared transfixed as her suitors and guests gasped at the heavily muscled tanned gold bearded savage standing in a breach-cloth between the two snow white donkeys.  Her eyes travelled his smiling face, down his tanned and sweaty rock hard chest and to his, frankly, hugely bulging breach clout and gasped.

Seeing she was taken by the obviously fine donkeys, he proclaimed their strength and endurance that she know they were not just pretty, for he was a fine judge of donkeys.
“I swear if you take me as husband, I will ride that ass all day, and still have strength to ride all night”

The men gasped, and some of the maidens swooned; Cassiopeia felt her heart beat faster

Gesturing to the pâté, goose, quail, and beef on the heavy tables, Jonathan remembered the old man’s words about her pride in the cat she served, and the generosity she sought in her men.  Boasting proudly he proclaimed:

“Marry me, and I swear I will eat nothing buy your sweet pussy for the whole honey-moon. I have given my clothes to the beggars in the streets, for with you I will not need them!”

Knowing that women have practical needs, and well pleased with his success in the gold fields, he slapped his breach clout where his rolled up deer-hide held his heavy gold nuggets, and gave it a tug, as frankly the sight of Cassiopeia was making it a bit tight!

Pointing to his bulging underwear, he proudly boasted:

“With what I have in here, you will never want for anything again!”

The assembled suitors were shouting now, the maidens fanning their faces and swooning.  More than a few of the servant girls were eyeing him openly and whispering, but the room grew still as stone when Cassiopeia leapt from her vantage point with a growl that could shame a leopard, tackling Jonathan to the ground in a confused kissing tangle.

One hundred heroes walked from Valhalla that evening, for all the tricks of the Evil-Worker are no match for the passion of youth. The couple lived long, passionately untidy lives littered with adventures and children.   The gods blessed their union and line, for steadfast hearts are the gods true wealth.

Donkey Kiss

 

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Freya: Modern need, ancient goddess

Goddess Freya true

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

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

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

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

When the gods with spears | had smitten Gollveig,

And in the hall | of Hor had burned her,

Three times burned, | and three times born,

Oft and again, | yet ever she lives.

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

The wide-seeing witch, | in magic wise;

Minds she bewitched | that were moved by her magic,

To evil women | a joy she was.

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

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

Freya Hunt

Who is Freya to us today?

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

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

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

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

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Feast of Crow

crow-eating

This is the time of year that our gods call us to look inside and have a hard look at what we see.  This is a very special feasting time, the Feast of Crow.  This is the time where we look back at our words, and decide how many of them we will have to eat.  Over the years, I have had never shied away from expressing my opinions, stating and defending my beliefs against all comers, and I do fairly well, sometimes because my ideas are just right and holy, and others because I am just a better fencer than the poor bastard who has the right with him, but not the skill to prove it.

 

Few things taste as sweet as victory upon the tongue, sweeter than mead, equalled only by the kiss of a fair maid, and yet the corollary is there as well.  To realize that your victory was false, to realize your victory must be now denied tastes like ashes upon the tongue, eating your words, the feast of crow.

 

Huginn and Muninn, Odin’s ravens called Thought and Memory are birds of a particularly relentless nature.  They are guides, seekers, messengers, but above all they are carrion birds to circle the raven’s feast, the dead, the dying, and those who are yet unaware of their imminent reduction to food source.  In what capacity are they hounding me right now?  A bit of all, I suppose.  Illusions die hard, and when they die at last you have a few choices, pretend you never held the illusion and pray no one calls you on it.  Which some do, but honestly, it leaves you inferior in every conversation that follows for you at least know your words ring false.  Alternatively, when your illusions die, and you are faced with a truth you have long and loudly denied, you may choose to accept this truth.  That is fine, but what about your words?

 

Those people who have stood against me in defense of the truth they knew and went down against my words not due to their cause but my ability to sway a crowd, I owe them now a debt.  I was wrong, they were right, and it is not enough that I know this, I went on record with my views, and those who wish to weigh the worth of those who stood against me will remember the loss and hold them the lower for it.  In fact they should be held the higher, as they were right and I was wrong.  This balance must be addressed, or my own worth will be built on falsehood not fact.  Not honestly a risk I choose to accept, nor a debt I wish between me and those who were in fact always correct.

 

So, prepare the Feast of Crow; if one is going to eat crow, to eat my words.  It goes best with a nice mead to ease the burning, and to speed the laughter which reminds us all that if we can’t take a joke, we probably are one.

 

Lets have a look at some of the more famous arguments I have held over the years that I now find myself on the opposite side now.

 

Prison Inreach:  Oh how I held the view that the outlaws had no place among us and the cast out should be cast out, that is that.  Ah, but what then?  What about when the outlawry is over?  Right now only the White Supremacist literature is getting to the prisoners, and we weep and wail because Heathenry is being seen as White Supremacist due to the growing prison popularity.  Hmm, if we want the people in prison not to be recruited by the White Supremacists, and the people who are attempting to incorporate Heathenry into rebuilding their lives, so that they may re-enter society as fully functioning members able to build and establish the kind of worth that would make them worthy additions to a Kindred, we would actually be well advised to see the prison heathens had access to good information, that those who would learn to make worthy choices will be shown what our community understands as worthy choices.   We need to be involved in Prison Inreach, not so much primarily for the inmates, but for our broader community.

 

Magic is Ergi.  Oh in the pride and power of my youthful invincibility did I spout often and loudly about how magic was unmanly, how use of anything beyond your iron will and hard hands was cheating.  That one I held with the kind of self-righteousness that proved invulnerable to any external evidence.  The gods are nothing if not whimsical, so in time I was given all the chance to examine this internally that I could dream of.   I was given a spinal injury that I would be on medication for pain and spasm for life; a medication which made me a danger to anyone near me.  I had become the threat I needed to protect my family against.  I turned to magic, to an ordeal to seek from my gods and ancestors an answer, and I received it.  Oh yes, when I could not afford to lose, I turned to magic, and it worked.  So many years of arrogance to chew through.  For as much as my voice has some weight in the community, and I have heard some use my words to mock those who use magic, know this, I live now because of it.  If I remained a threat to my family, I would have eliminated that threat with the will and hand I was comfortable with, had I not dared to seek other methods, that once I labled ergi; unmanly.  Duty is not ergi, but hubris is.  Doing my duty meant learning to live, embracing the tools required, reguardless of their source.  That, not cheap machismo, is the answer of a real man, not a boastful boy.  I was that boastful boy, until life showed me how far up my ass my head was lodged.  There are a lot of words to eat there, so I will be chewing a bit.

 

No bread for Torah!  I love this one.  I have a whole lot of reactionary in me, as many who had Christianity rammed down their throats start out.  I have done my best to weed out most of the bits that jump out and smack me in the face as obvious.  The rampant corruption of the Church, its abuses and outright evil provide a very firm foundation for a strong anti-clerical bias in Heathenry, and I still agree with most of it, but we have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  I don’t believe Heathenry should be a way to fill your coffers, I don’t want Heathenry ever to be just another big box store, catering to its carefully plotted demographic, a product like a hundred others for sale from the pulpit.  That said, Heathens are not Wiccans, we are not a counter culture, we are an actual culture, and one that is moving forward and expanding.  Our priests and priestesses are not required for 90% of what we do, but that other 10% that requires a professional level clergy occur at widely separated places, leaving our small absolute number of functioning trained priests and priestesses to cover a whole lot of ground and do a whole lot of work, at a huge financial cost.  I love to offer my work to the community as a donation, but I must limit the level of that donation to what I can afford to spare from family and employment.  At some point, I began to notice we were beggaring and burning out our serving ritual providers and hosts.  That is not “A gift for a gift” that is not reciprocity, that is community parasitism.  Holy crap.  We have all been getting our Torah, and not ponying up the bread.  You know, that is not good enough.  Asatru and Heathenry should not be run like a business where profit is the main concern.  We are not Christianity, their model is not ours.  That being said, I don’t expect the would be leaders and volunteers in the community to sacrifice their success on the altar of our needs.  That is unworthy of us as a community.  People should be paid for work we seek them out to provide due to their professional level skills.  It doesn’t’ end with priestcraft.  Artwork and craftwork as well should be rewarded to the degree that we think it important to our community.  If we love that which is made my a Heathen artist, be it a physical thing, or a song or artwork, we should make sure we PAY the artist what it is worth.  I don’t care if you can get it free, if you want your community to have it, you see the artist got paid.

 

Our women are respected.  You know, that one hurt the most.  Its not as true as I thought, not nearly as true as it should be.  One of the pernicious leavings of the cannibal cult, the misogyny of Christianity lingers in dark places within Heathenry.  Our women have the broadest range of expression of their strength and worth of any community (faith or geographic) that I have ever seen.  We have the most amazing women in the world in our ranks, and justly famed are many of them.  That being said, they do not actually get equal respect for their deeds.  They do not get equal hearing of their words.  I actually thought we were doing better than this, but I accept that I saw we were better than others, and thought this meant necessarily good, and I was wrong.  Ok, we can and will do better, but you don’t’ fix a problem you pretend isn’t there, so wake up my brothers; our sisters are not being treated as they deserve.  That is on us, so fix it.

 

I have probably been wrong about other things, and yes ladies and gentlemen, will most likely be wrong about more if I survive into the new year.  I will never stop fighting passionately for what I believe in, but I will hold myself to this; when and if I realize that you were right, and I was wrong, I will tuck my beard into my belt, and sit myself down to a nice feast of crow, and eat the words I spoke.  I invite all of you to look back on all those things that you once held as true, and ask yourself how many of them still hold true, and see if there may be a plate covered in black feathers waiting for your dining pleasure as well.
The Yuletide is here, crow has no calories and the mead is medicinal.  Join me in this repast, and we will face the new year a little wiser than the old.

Odin Picture

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Women In Heathenry: Their Words

Preface:

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

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

Questions:

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

Freydis Heimdallson, Heathen Freehold Society of British Columbia

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

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

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

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.

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Heathen, Uncategorized

Women in Heathenry

Women In Heathenry

Sumble Troth

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

That has to end.  NOW.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

John T Mainer

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