Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Newtown Shooting

Generally speaking, I don't get sucked up in these big events. Sure, I feel bad for the people concerned and wish them nothing but comfort and support from their families and communities, but I'm not going to lie, a lot of the time these occurrences are distant from me. However yesterday, a man walked into a school in the next state over from where I live and shot children. Around twenty families yesterday said goodbye to their kids yesterday morning, not knowing that that goodbye would be their last. Yesterday, I saw friends on Facebook torturing themselves over the decision whether they should pull their kids/siblings from school for the rest of the day. I saw parents that couldn't stop crying because their minds were tormented by the 'every parents' worst nightmare' scenario that was happening to a bunch of parents right then and there. For them, it was all too easy to imagine their own kids not coming home and they held them all the more tighter last night. Grateful and glad that they weren't those parents and that their kids weren't the ones. I'm not a parent. As much as I would very much love to be, that hasn't yet happened for my husband and I. I can't understand it on the same level as parents can, and in honesty, I could quite easily put it down to a psycho being a psycho. An unfortunate event, but random all the same. That was until a friend of mine said that his friend's kids were at that school and they didn't know if they were ok or not. It was a friend of a friend whose kid was there, not even the kid of a friend, but it was enough. Suddenly I found myself in tears, those six degrees of separation were closer than they usually are, and I was lighting candles and praying that these children I didn't know and had never met would turn up ok. A little later in the day, on a Facebook group, a group member talked about how her co-worker was waiting to hear if her kids were ok, they were at that school. I don't really know this lady at all, but the group is a pretty private one, and one in which a lot of us have shared a lot of intimate details. I added these children to my prayers. Prayer in heathenry is a weird old thing, there's a lot of baggage with something like 'prayer', although it's not just specific to Christianity, and for a moment or two I felt lost at what to pray. In spiritualism, at least as my family has practiced it, there is a belief that we go to our family when we die. That the family members that that already passed come to fetch us and that it's with them that our afterlife lies. I don't know how historically Heathen this is. A lot of people quote the whole store of Radbod the Frisian to back this point of view up in Heathenry, but I frankly don't care. When I die, I want to go to my ancestors. I want to be with my family and I want the links forged between my family and that of my husband's to last after death. My ideal would be us all living in a Hobbiton-type place in the afterlife. Nothing particularly spectacular, just together and contented. That's all, I guess I'm a simple soul. When praying for others, it's hard to pray in a way that isn't imposing your will upon that of those deceased, but a lot of people, Heathen or not, believe (or at least hope) that they'll meet with family after death. And so, for the past day or two, my prayer has been simply this: 'May their ancestors hold them and keep them until their parents and siblings join them.' Thankfully my friend's friend's kids were ok, but sadly, the lady from my facebook group didn't have such good news to report. Her co-worker's son was one of the murdered - a grim reminder that real life isn't like the movies and that a lot of the time, no amount of hoping and praying can save a person. Real life very rarely comes with a happy ending. I don't know what it is to be a parent, but my heart breaks for those parents all the same, just as it did for the parents of the Beslan massacre years ago. Yesterday my prayer was: ' May their ancestors hold them and keep them until their parents and siblings join them.' Today I add: 'May their families be surrounded by loving people and strong communities that support and comfort them.'

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Third Culture Heathens

Recently when reading a political article about why Americans don't 'get' Obama, I came across a concept that has provided food for thought ever since. Generally speaking, the term 'third culture' tends to refer to the kids of people that are living in a place that is not native to them for the purpose of work and then either move to another country or back to their 'native' land. These kids don't belong fully to either culture, neither the culture of their parents, nor the culture of the lands where they lived and grew. They're either 'too____' or 'not enough____' to be considered part of either of the cultures they've been exposed to. Instead they straddle the worlds, often having perspectives that are at best, out of synch with, or at worst, completely incomprehensible to those around them. Although I grew up very much a part of Northern English culture, over the years and throughout my travels, I've become something else. I'm English, but increasingly I'm finding my own culture becoming foreign to me. Every time I go back to visit, the places I grew up in seem a little more foreign, yet still strangely familiar all at the same time. With each visit, I feel a little more foreign in my own land. I know where I'm going, I understand the dialect, I know the places like the back of my own hand, but it's almost as though I've seen them in a dream before rather than lived in them. That sense of belonging that I used to have when I went home is almost gone now. But it's not like I gain familiarity with the place I now live. I don't feel anymore belonging, I'm still too foreign for that. And so I cling to what was once familiar, trying to stop the last remnants from slipping away, drinking my tea, making meat pies, speaking dialect at home, and taking every opportunity to talk about home as I can. Yet all the while the voice I use for the outside world is one that is more in line with this 'third culture' identity I've gained, and occasionally a fake American accent so I can get a takeaway place to understand me speaking my own language on the phone. That's not the only conundrum in the cultural puzzle that I've become either, my residences in Korea, France, Spain, Portugal and Germany have marked me just as strongly. Spoken German still holds a sense of familiarity and 'home' for me that I can't shake. Food eaten with chopsticks still seems to be my preference and I don't think I'll ever be able to stop bowing or handing things over with my right hand as a sign of politeness and respect. My hands do half of my talking now, although I never grew up that way. The ways in which my travel has changed me from that girl from Northern England are many, some subtle and some not so subtle. I've become 'third culture'. While it's one thing to recognise that you're 'third culture', it can get quite weird as a 'third culture' Heathen. As Heathens, we're more aware of things like land, culture, folklore, and ancestry. In fact, a lot of us draw our Heathenry from those things. However what of those of us that don't have that same sense of belonging? I don't know, I don't have any answers. I make my offerings, I try to learn the land here as I learn the culture and that god-awful accent I use when ordering takeout on the phone, and I get by. I do more than get by though, over the years I've made some fantastic Heathen friends here, so at least I have community, good people to serve as an introduction and who I'm honoured to call friends, but the rest...yeah, that's probably something I'll be musing on for a while. This isn't a sad post, I don't regret my travels for one moment, I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. I've gained so much from my experiences and have hopefully set another layer in my family that will make it easier for others to follow in my steps. This post is just a musing.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Part Two

This is going to be another crazy UPG-filled post.

So I feel pretty emotional right now, I know that's not a typical thing for me to say but there it is. I just got the tattoo in honour of Holle-Frija finished and for want of better words, it feels like an initiation has occurred, that it's more or less complete and that I only have to celebrate this change and start living anew now.

This whole month has felt 'initiatory' in nature and a lot of stuff has been tied up, I've been 'pulled' back to where I am supposed to be and new things have started.

Since getting the first part of the tattoo done, I've completed and submitted my paper on Holle's origins to Odroerir (which I oathed to do both to Frija and my community) and I've started my book on Seidr - in fact, I'm a sixth of the way through it now. I've come more back to the 'middle' of things, back to my roots and I'm no longer ashamed or embarrassed by the weird side of my practice. I am a woman that grew up on boggy moors, that has drummed and chanted and sung under moon and sun on burial mounds. I'm a woman that sees things that others do not and doesn't consider any of it to be supernatural, but rather very much natural. I don't think myself any more special than your average person. I am a woman that, a couple of years ago, came across a deity that changed everything and that has been studying her ever since. I'm also wife to the most amazing man on earth, friend to some great people, keeper of some crazy pets, Chorley-born gobshite and a jack of all trades. This is who I am and it's never going to change. This month has taught me that I could no more cut any of those things out than I could cut off my own arm (well I could, but I'd feel really fucking stupid in the emergency room and every time I tried to tie my shoelaces).

For want of a better word, I feel like some kind of priestess now, I would be lying if I said I didn't feel like a dick just for writing that, but it's true, I do. I have no idea what this will mean, but at the very least, I hope I encourage more people to take up spinning.

Before leaving the tattooist's today, I ended up giving a demonstration of spinning to the tattooists and a lady that wants me to produce something arty for an art show they're having in the local area, I couldn't think of anything more apt.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

"Out Of The Waters Beneath The Tree"


In times ancient or modern, the figure of the Seidrworker, has been a controversial one. In modern times, the arguments generally seem to boil down to either one of three points:


* We can't know enough about what they did to reconstruct Seidr and ergo modern Seidr is nothing more than core-Shamanism with Norse trappings.


* Why on earth are there so many Seidrworkers nowadays? They were a minority of outsiders back in the day, people who get into it only get into it because they're looking for Wicca-type stuff in Heathenry or want to feel special!


* Magic doesn't exist, we don't need that stuff anymore, we've got science!!!


In ancient times, the concerns surrounding Seidrworkers were largely (in my opinion, from read reading the various accounts of Seidrworkers interacting with communities) based around the fear that not only did this person have the potential to do things, non-physical things, to either see the future or change luck, but they also inhabited the outer yard, and who on earth would want to do that?


The world back then was quite strongly delineated between inner and outer yard, between the civilised world of men, and the wild unknown dangers of the wilderness where elves, trolls, giants and goodness knows what else might reside.(1)


However, to quote the character 'Ibn' in the movie 'The 13th Warrior', "things were not always thus", or at least, I don't think they were. This blog post is an examination of the potential origins of the Seidrworker and the sources that led me to to the conclusions I've come to during the course of my study in this field. I warn you though, this is going to be a long one, so grab yourself a drink, dive in, and I look forward to any discussions that may arise from this blog post.


Conclusion Number One: The Nature Of Worship Changed In The Heathen Period


When we moderns think about the Heathen period, we tend to think about it as some period in which there was some kind of 'overarching Heathen worldview', as a time when a huge chunk of Northern Europe worshipped gods like Odin, Thor and Frey, and goddesses like Frigga and Freyja. More of us are moving more towards the mentality of different groups having different customs and beliefs - or 'sidu' (2), of thinking more in terms of 'Heathenisms' rather than a single Heathenism. However, when it comes to thinking about changes that took place within the Heathen period to those Heathenisms, on the whole, we're a little bit behind.


Archaeological evidence from the migration period shows us one of the starkest changes to occur in the Heathen period to how, who and where people worshipped. This change must have been pivotal for the people at the time, a ginormous change in worldview, potentially rivalling that of what new people coming to Heathenry go through. A change, that I believe, laid the groundwork for the concept of inner-yard and outer-yard in terms of the how land was considered.


Before and during the migration period, we see archaeological evidence of a plethora of votive offerings made in bogs, and less commonly, human sacrifices. Rarely, we even see god and goddess pole finds, generally crude wooden posts that give a hint of gender such as that turned up at Foerlev Nymolle in Denmark.(3)





The bog, as a location for worship, is probably about as 'liminal' as a place can be (4). Not only was the bog a meeting place of earth and water, a place that wasn't quite either, and a place of mists and danger, but it was also, in a lot of ways, the lifeblood of many communities. Peat could provide fuel and building materials for warmth, marsh grasses could be woven together for rope and roofing, water fowl could provide food, and flax and nettle growing in the bog could be turned into fibers and spun for clothing.

However there came a point in the Migration period, in which those votive offerings stopped and worship moved from the wild liminal places, and into the hof (5). The nature of archaeological finds also changed around this time, becoming more martial in nature, especially around areas such as Odense (a place named for Odin) (6).

But who was being worshipped in these bogs? Perhaps the first piece of evidence that comes to mind is the following account from Tacitus's of the Nerthus ritual:

"Next to them come the Ruedigni, Aviones, Anglii, Varini, Eudoses, Suarines, and Huitones, protected by river and forests. There is nothing especially noteworthy about these states individually, but they are distinguished by a common worship of Nerthus, that is, Mother Earth, and believes that she intervenes in human affairs and rides through their peoples. There is a sacred grove on an island in the Ocean, in which there is a consecrated chariot, draped with cloth, where the priest alone may touch. He perceives the presence of the goddess in the innermost shrine and with great reverence escorts her in her chariot, which is drawn by female cattle. There are days of rejoicing then and the countryside celebrates the festival, wherever she designs to visit and to accept hospitality. No one goes to war, no one takes up arms, all objects of iron are locked away, then and only then do they experience peace and quiet, only then do they prize them, until the goddess has had her fill of human society and the priest brings her back to her temple. Afterwards the chariot, the cloth, and, if one may believe it, the deity herself are washed in a hidden lake. The slaves who perform this office are immediately swallowed up in the same lake. Hence arises dread of the mysterious, and piety, which keeps them ignorant of what only those about to perish may see."
- Tacitus Cornelius. Germania (A.R Birley Translation).

Admittedly, there are problems with this, the most glaring being that it's only describing the activities of seven tribes, worshipping a goddess whose name is male in gender. However what of other evidence? Such as the Fuerstenberg type bracteates that depict goddesses, often spinning? If the males depicted on bracteates are unanimously considered to be gods, then so the female figures must be considered goddesses (7). What too of observations based on archaeological finds of votive offerings, where they were made and who they were most likely made to? Based on such observations, the Swedish archaeologist, Anders Andren sees a connection between the type of water body and the gender of the being being offered to, with large open bodies of water being more likely to be connected to offerings to male deities and bogs/marshland more likely to contain offerings made to female deities.(8)

And what of the evidence of people and tribes? Both Erika Timm and Lotte Motz make the connection between the tribes mentioned by Tacitus and the areas of Germany where female numena have survived in folklore (often as the spouse of Wodan). (9) (10)Furthermore, these numena such as Holle, Frau Gode/Wode and Frau Herke (Perchta cannot truly be classified in this group), are all strongly linked with spinning - a theme which is reminiscent of the Oberwerschen-B bracteate, especially considering the find-provenance of the object (in a woman's grave situated next to a cultic site, under the chin of the woman, accompanied by a spindle whorl, keys, a silver needle and a knife). (11)

Several scholars (12), have put forth the theory that as peoples moved, worship moved from the land into the hof, the cult of a male god, namely Odin, came to the fore.

In a lot of ways, it makes a lot of sense for a people on the move to adopt worship that is more 'portable' and less rooted in the land, it is also natural for people to be suspicious of the wild places in new lands and to stay close to their halls, but as Terry Gunnell posited in his presentation 'Goddess of the Marshes', this change may have ultimately made it easier for the Christian conversion to take as the church replaced the hof and one sky-father replaced another. (13)

Conclusion Number Two: Seidrworkers Weren't *Just* Magic Workers - At Least Not Originally

Arguably, the archetypal Seidrworker is Gullveig/Heidr, described thus in Voluspa:

"She remembers a killing between peoples, the first in the world,
when they propped up Gullveig with spears,
and in the hall of Hárr they burned her;
three times they burned her, three times reborn,
often, not seldom, and yet she still lives.

They called her Heiðr, wherever she came to houses,
a prophetess foretelling good fortune, she laid spells on spirits;
she understood magic, practised magic in a trance;
she was always the delight of an evil bride."

Voluspa 21-22

As Heidr (Heath) was a common name for a Seidrworker, the second stanza seems to be referring to the human Seidrworkers that travelled exchanging prophecy for goods, such as the one seen in Erik the Red's Saga who exchanges hospitality in the dead of winter, in the middle of a famine for prophecy. Heidr is an inhabitant of the wild places, a denizen of the suspicious outer-yard.(14) But she also seems to have her origins in Gullveig, she seems to be that which 'still lives'. So what, or who is Gullveig?

As McKinnell points out in 'On Heidr', Gullveig is only mentioned in Voluspa and states that:

 "It seems likely that the poet may have invented Gullveig himself; if so, her meaning can only be what a contemporary audience could gather from the name. I used to think that this points towards an allegorical interpretation of her; but it is alternatively possible that the poet intended his audience to recognise in her a mythological being who usually goes by another name."
In deconstructing Gullveig's name, the 'Gull' component seems quite clear:

 "It seems that Gull- in human names normally refers to wealth or to objects made of gold, not to figurative excellence or golden colour. "

However it's the '-veig' that provides the most interesting point in terms of this post:

"The element -veig is not uncommon in female names; in verse we find Álmveig (one of the ancestresses of the Skjoldungar, in Hyndluljóð 15/5), Boðveig (said in  Sólarljóð  79/4 to be the eldest daughter of Njorðr),
Rannveig (Óláfr inn helgi, lausavísa 1/3, Kock I 110, and Málsháttakvæði  18/4 — referring to two different women, apparently both historical) and Þórveig (Kormákr, lausavísa 22b, Kock I 45). Also relevant is the
woman-kenning horveig (Víga-Glúms saga ch. 23, lausavísa 7/6, ed. Jónas Kristjánsson 81; ed. Turville-Petre 42 and notes on p. 79), where the first element means ‘flax’, ‘linen’, and clearly refers to what the woman wears; the same might be true in the name Gullveig. It is even possible that some poets regarded -veig merely as a heiti meaning ‘lady’, possibly with ancestral or Vanic connotations. Veigr also appears as a male dwarf-name (Voluspá 12/1), but the meaning here is no clearer than in the case of the female name-element. The origin of the element is uncertain. Noreen relates it to Gothic weihs ‘place’ and Latin vicus ‘village’, but this seems unhelpful (though it is historically possible),  for there is no way that a tenth-century poet could have recognised this meaning, or used it in a made-up name. Sijmons and Gering suggest that the root is that found in víg ‘war’ and Gothic weihan ‘to fight’, and this might have been more meaningful to a tenth-century poet (cf. the sword-heiti veigarr, Þula IV l 4/1, Kock I 328). Most commentators, however, have connected it with the feminine noun veig ‘alcoholic drink’, though Dronke (II 41) suggests that the poet may also have wished to draw on the sense ‘military strength’, which survives only in prose (see CV 690)."
 "On Heidr" - John McKinnell

Now this is where I diverge from Professor McKinnell's conclusions and although I see nothing wrong with them (his research is far more thorough than this blog post), there is nothing wrong with presenting other theories. I believe that the 'Aesir/Vanir' war is a reflection of the migration period upheaval as previously described in this post and that 'Gullveig', although often linked to Freyja, is potentially a physical representation of the previous, outer-yard based, 'marsh goddess' cult/s. The suggested roots of the word '-veig', to me, are reminiscent of 'Veleda', or the 'Lady with a Mead Cup' that Enright wrote of, that was considered to have within her an element of holiness and who would prophecy for the war band. If we accept the potential meaning that '-veig' is a kenning for 'lady', then when connected with 'Gull', it would mean a 'lady made out of gold', or to take that further, an idol. In terms of this meaning, a golden idol of a woman being first attacked by spears (one of the most prominent symbols of Odin), before being burned thrice, surviving and then continuing on as 'Heidr', one of the most common names for a Seidrworker, seems like a poetic remembrance of the migration period change. However strangely enough, in linking 'Gullveig' to 'gold', it's almost like there was still some respect when it came to this 'Gullveig' figure, just as there is in the various terms used to refer to Grendel's mother in Beowulf. (15)

As the most-worshipped, and arguably the most 'contrary' of the goddesses when it came to male will (a trait she shares with the various Seidrworkers in the sources that have hostility and animosity with a male figure that also threatens them), Freyja is a natural candidate for being equated with the figure of 'Gullveig', and it is often the case that she is. However I would argue that she and Frigg are like two sides of the same coin, that were separated at some point in the past as society moved from a more agrarian and settled existence, to a more militaristic one.

In the older manuscript of the Konnungsbok, the origin of Seidrworkers is given as being from 'out of the waters beneath the tree', but could those waters not be the bogs of Northern Europe and the 'tree', the very naturalistic idols such as the one found at Foerlev Nymolle?

In short, is it not possible that Seidrworkers had their origins as priestess/seeresses in this/these earlier cults to (a) goddess/es?

Conclusion Number Three: Seidr Isn't What A Lot Of People Now Think It Is

In terms of the sources and evidence concerning Seidr, we know that it was a form of magic performed in trance (leikin) (16); we also know that these Seidrworkers were considered to be able to do certain things, such as affect the luck of another, manipulate perception and weather, call up the dead, and prophecy (17); we know they worked from high places (be they high seats or mounds) (18); and we also know that Seidrworkers often had staffs (19). These areas are not ones where you'll find much disagreement. However, *how* they worked their magic, the process and interpretation that we have now for those acts, I would argue, is wrong.

Typically speaking, a lot of modern Seidr functions in accordance with the Hrafnar method, that is to say, the Seidrworker sits on a high seat, goes into a trance and travels to Hel in search of answers. Although some may consider this to work for them in their communities (and all power to you if you're one of those folks and you feel it does), I would argue that not only is this method fundamentally flawed in terms of the wider view of the worldview that it's supposed to belong to, but that the sources themselves do not back this up as an authentic method.

So what methods do I think were employed?

1. The use of 'enticement songs' in order to entice and then question the wights.
In Erik the Red's saga, Thorbjorg asks Gudrun to sing the Vardlokkur, and comments that "she had attracted many spirits there who thought it lovely to lend ear to the chant-- spirits 'who before wished to hold aloof from us, and pay us no heed. And now many things stand revealed to me which earlier were hidden from me as from others."

2. Manipulation of the Hamr/Scinn in order to affect perception, to damage the 'haelu' of a person, to learn things from far away and as a form of battle magic.(20)

3. The sending forth of a spun 'Gandus/Gondull'.
To quote Eldar Heide in his paper 'Spinning Seidr':

"My studies on gandr have been a gateway to this view. In several sources, gandr is a designation of such a mind-in-shape emissary that the seiðr performer could send forth. This is evident in the description of the Saami noaidi séance in Historia Norwegie (60–63), and is the most reasonable interpretation also in Fóstbrœðra saga (243), Þiðriks saga (303–04) and Þorsteins þáttr bœjarmagns (76). Several of the early eighteenth-century sources for Saami religion also support this view (Heide 2002:77ff). The word gandr is still in use in Norwegian and Icelandic, and modern Icelandic also has retained the derivative gondull, as göndull. Some of the meanings of these words connect them with spinning. In Modern Icelandic, göndull may mean ‘coarse yarn’ and other twisted items (Sigfús Blöndal 920:282). Gand in modern Northern Norwegian may mean ‘spinning top propelled by a string’ (Aasen 873:207), which closely resembles a spindle twirling on the floor (using a certain spinning technique). These or related meanings of gandr/gand and g ̨ndull/göndull probably existed in Old Norse, as there was not much contact between Northern Norway and Iceland after the Middle Ages.If so, the “spinning” or “twisting” meanings of gand/göndull suggest that the mind emissary that the seiðr performer could send forth could be conceived as something spun or spinning. "
(Also see Yvonne Bonnetain 'Riding the Tree'.)

It is worth noting here that all three types of magic were performed in trance, and it goes without saying that the parallel between a spun form of magic and the Oberwerschen bracteate/burial goods of the 'priestess/seeress' is interesting. Unfortunately, very few nowadays can spin to a high enough standard that they can go into a deep enough trance while doing it to attempt anything like creating a gandr. I have been working on it for a couple of years now, and I'm not there, but there's nothing to feel ashamed about in this. As modern people, the majority of us women in the Western world don't grow up spinning. We don't start from childhood and spend hours every day practicing. Most Heathens, even women, don't even understand how the spindle could be considered sacred, and I find this sad.

I appreciate that this blog post has been very long, it's taken me around 3-4 hours to put down the ideas that have been whirling around my head for the past few weeks, and it's by no means a complete theory. I really hope for feedback, and to start a dialogue on this whole thing, I really want to see where this goes. But I really hope that at the least, more ladies pick up a spindle ;).

Sources (page numbers not given because this is a blog post and not a scholarly paper and after almost 4 hours of writing, I'm done, so nuh!)

1. L.M.C Weston - Women's Medicine, Women's Magic: The Old English Metrical Childbirth Charms
2. Josh Rood - Establishing The Innangard: Some Concepts Relating To Custom, Morality, And Religion. (Odroerir issue 2 http://odroerirjournal.com/?wpfb_dl=2)
3. P.V. Glob - The Bog People
4. Eldar Heide - Holy Islands and the Otherworld
5. Terry Gunnell - Goddess of the Marshes (presentation)
6. Ibid
7. Michael J Enright - The Goddess Who Weaves
8. Terry Gunnell - Goddess of the Marshes (presentation)
9. Erika Timm - Frau Holle, Frau Percht, und verwandte Gestalten
10. Lotte Motz - The Goddess Nerthus: A New Approach
11. Michael J Enright - The Goddess Who Weaves
12. Terry Gunnell and Erika Timm
13. Terry Gunnell - Goddess of the Marshes
14. John McKinnell - On Heidr
15. Hilda Ellis Davidson - Roles of the Northern Goddess
16. John McKinnell - On Heidr
17. Ynglinga Saga Cha. 7
18. John McKinnell- On Heidr
19. Eldar Heide & Lesek Gardela
20. Katla from Eyrbyggja Saga Cha. 20 is one example of this.



Sunday, October 7, 2012

October (UPG warning)

This past week has been one of significant changes in my life, in fact, in some ways the entire month of October is promising to be one long...I dunno... rite of passage?

The most striking thing to me so far is that this month of changes is going to be framed by blood at both the beginning and end. Last Tuesday (the second day of the month) I started my tattoo of dedication to Frija. Again, not really sure what else to call this tattoo, or how to explain just what it means to me. Language can be so clumsy, and wordhoards so unyielding, that I guess 'dedication' will have to do. I spent four hours in the chair, getting a tattoo that's big enough to be a half sleeve and need to go back to complete it on the final day of October.

The day after the tattoo was begun, I left my job, and my husband and I began the process of moving up north to a different town.

I couldn't be happier to get out of the place we were in. Quite frankly, it was *unhael*, the land itself felt angry, and it affected the people there. I have never lived around so many stomach complaints, or in so small a place with so many funeral parlours per head of population. For my own part, I had problems breathing, no energy and just felt depressed a lot. One day when sitting at the bus stop, this lady that was having a mental crisis came and sat next to me. She told me about how she'd lost her baby, how the father of the baby had left her, how she'd shoplifted some baby clothes that morning, how she wished her ex would talk to her and then she began ranting about how the village where we were was held together with pain and suffering. As logically unsound as all of that is, I really can't disagree with her.

The house we've moved to and the town we now live in is the polar opposite, not only does it feel *hael*, but strangely familiar in a way. I can feel something in the air here that is so familiar and exciting to me and that makes me happy. I can breathe better here, have more energy and feel more positive. Our animals are *much* happier and not just because of the garden.

Weirdly, all of our furniture and decor seems to match this house perfectly too, even though it was mostly bought on another continent. This place, even though we moved in two days ago, is already more home than the previous place was after a year. What's more, this place has wights, active ones that both my 'I'll ignore anything weird at all costs' husband and I have seen. One looks like a cat and the other is a previous resident that inhabits the workbench area of the basement. At first, he can be a little intimidating, but doesn't mean to scare people or animals. When I first went down there, I felt scared, but after muttering under my breath about creepy American basements and horror movies, the atmosphere changed, warmed up and now it's fine. When the cats arrived and we put them in the basement while we moved in, they hid under the workbench in the and had to be dragged out because they were so scared of being down there. I had a bit of a word, asked him to be nice to them and now they go down without any problems.

And as weird as this all sounds, as someone that grew up in a home in which things most definitely go bump in the night, this is far more homey and welcoming to me than a place with nothing there. Like the old place, or the soulless military housing before that.

So October is a time of changes, but I can't help but get the feeling that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Benefits of Taboo

When we think of taboos, we often think in terms of what they prevent us from doing/having, or what they protect us from. Since instituting the spinning taboos that I keep, I've discovered that taboos can also give us things. Today when unwinding my spindle before starting a new week if spinning, I was amazed at the difference between what I can do now, and what I could do when I first started. The daily spinning has not only given me discipline, but a useful skill, and the wool I cleared from my spindle will go into some hand knitted mittens of my own design, then for sale. The taboo mandates that I don't spin at the weekends, or on festival days (unless roving has been set aside for spinning as an offering with other spinners), and this gives me a set time off from it. The more I spin and keep these taboos, the more I learn of Frîja and my foremothers. It's taken many years for me to get from being the tomboy that always fought with the boys with no interest in the fiberarts or goddesses. There was a time when I only ever offered to male gods. But then there was that one pivotal day on a frozen lake in Germany when everything changed. A week or so from now, that moment that changed so much will be commemorated in ink on my skin in a tattoo big enough to be a half sleeve. In a lot of ways, this feels like it's going to be an initiation of sorts, and perhaps it is?

To what though, only time will tell.


Monday, September 17, 2012

To Keep Silent

When I was involved in the UK Pagan/Heathen scene (because it really wasn't that separate at that time), one adage that applied both in the traditional Craft groups and online communications was 'to keep silent'.

Pagans in the UK can be paranoid about not giving out too many details about themselves that can be used against them at a later date in a 'witch war'. For example, you would never tell people what measures you took to protect your home. If you had reason to think that you had enemies in a group, you would also never announce any great opportunities publicly. To rehash the old stereotype of Heathens/Pagans, if you thought someone was trying to get at you, you would *always* try to give the impression otherwise. That your life is hunky dory. That you are A-OK.

Most importantly, the adage of 'keeping silent' helped you to not look self-centred. We human beings, expecially when we're in tough spots socially, tend to imagine that things are aimed at us that aren't. This is advice that we could all take (including me), but sometimes it really is best to hold your tongue, do you research and then see how it all plays out before planning your next move.

Assumptions do nothing for us.

Friday, August 31, 2012

"So Few Contemporary Heathens Are Devotionally Aware

When I was a kid, I'd always be the kid that would go on adventures, either up onto the local moorland, or on a 'mission' sneaking into the double glazing factory a few streets over to go kick the supposedly 'indestructible' windows in. I became a voracious reader as soon as the little squiggles on the page began to make sense, and began collecting the 80s history magazine 'Discovery' from the age of 7; eagerly waiting each month for the issue to come out so I could read it and make the model. I would spend hours building cardboard cutouts of Spanish galleons, Sherwood forest and Japanese costumes from the time of Minamoto no Yoritomo. I used to drive my teachers *crazy* with my incessant questions about anything and everything; so much so that my German teacher in junior college actually thought I had a 'vendetta' against him and that I was asking so many questions to 'get at him'.

Now, a couple of decades, four languages and seven countries later, I think it's safe to say that I'm a very curious person and always have been. I have a passionate interest in this world, and the people in it.

This is something that has carried over into the online world too. I'm a compulsive 'multiple browser tab' person, each with its own search or conversation; everything from knitting patterns to academic papers, from news sites to texts in various languages, and blogs.

Oh and the blogs...

People might consider me a bit of an odd duck in that I don't just read the blogs of people I like and agree with, but also the blogs of those I dislike and/or consider to be fundamentally wrong. Maybe a part of this is the Sun Tzu-reading part of me that dictates that I not only know myself but my enemies too? But a large part of it is down to curiosity, and years of experience in having sometimes learned things from people that I don't like or think are mostly wrong.

So I often read the blogs of people that might be considered 'crazy' by mainstream Heathens, and 'godsbothered' by their peers. Among these blogs, are those of Galina Krasskova, Jalkr, Elizabeth Vongsvisith, and someone called Del.

And occasionally I do come across items of interest in those blogs, one example being Krasskova's discussion of the term 'miasma', and her bemoaning of the lack of that concept in Heathenry. To me, it sounded like 'unhaelu' from an AS perspective (which I've discussed at length before on this blog), and which those of us that incorporate the AS Magico-Medical traditions into our lives *do* consider and work with.

A few days ago, Krasskova posted about patronage, basically tying the mainstream views of the Heathen community regarding patronage to Protestantism. Now, after years of seeing and hearing the same 'YOU'RE LESS HEATHEN THAN ME AND THAT IS SOOOO CHRISTIAN' accusation being bandied around, I paid little attention to that. I was interested in how Swain Wodening would address Krasskova's use of one of his blog posts as a jumping off point for her discussion. Swain Wodening actually replied in the comments section of that post, and quite admirably (given their past history), both remained cordial throughout the ensuing discussion. However it was one phrase that Krasskova used in a comment to another that got me thinking:That "so few contemporary Heathens are devotionally aware".

This is something that I have been turning over in my mind, and which I have to say I disagree with for the most part. As for the part that I agree with, I agree, but not for the same reasons as Krasskova.

Firstly to the part that I agree with. I think there is nothing inherently wrong with the phrase that 'so few heathens are devotionally aware', but I disagree that we are a largely a group of people that stick our fingers in our ears and have these staid stances towards the gods, that we ignore anything that may be 'personal interaction' with them. If anything, I think there is a surfeit of people claiming these interactions and their only deficit of 'devotional awareness', is what they deem good enough to give as an offering. Offerings can be insulting in the same way that bad birthday gifts to friends or parents can be.

Now to the points I disagree with.

On the whole, I disagree that there is a lack of 'devotional awareness' among Heathens. I know plenty that take their offerings and relationships to their gods very very seriously, but happen to not articulate them online. I have a good friend that keeps a whole room in his house as a kind of ve room, in that ve room, he has a Thor wain that he was 'pushed' to create. He is, in my opinion a 'Thor's man' through and through. He takes the wain and his relationship with Thor very very seriously and has received many blessings from it - the most recent one being born around a week and a half ago. Another friend is more of an Odin's man, he wouldn't put it this way of course, but he is. He's felt pushed to do things for the Old Man and has done them gladly. Another friend thought he was a Thor's man, but then ended up pushed into making a Freyr grove on his property and now blots to both. He's one of the most devout Heathens I know and some of the most moving experiences I've had have been in that grove. As to whether patronage vs devotion is what is happening here, is anyone's guess, as none of them talk much about this, nor do they use the same kind of language about these things as the 'spirit worker' community would, but I do not, for one moment doubt the sincerity and piety of these people. For my own part, in spite of many many experiences and dreams, I would hesitate to say that Woden and Frija are my patrons, only because it seems like ginormous hubris to declare oneself to have been chosen by a god or goddess.

And that is a huge part of the resistance to those that do claim such things. It seems like utter hubris, and a lot of the time, the people that claim it quite simply just don't have that *vibe* about them.

Quite frankly, some of the claims made are nothing short of potty too. Why would Odin care how some human woman wears her hair, or bakes cookies? Why is it the humans that claim this are only of the unhinged variety? I'm not even talking about that cool 'wodnes'-type crazy in which a person is crazy but people can tell that they're 'touched', just plain crazy. Like they're adults with imaginary friends that they play 'kitchen' and 'afternoon tea' with. It really doesn't add to credibility, and let's face it, that's what is being railed against here: the lack of belief that others have in these *spirit workers*, and their purported special status.

Nope, sorry, there is no protestant sentiment here, just the good old-fashioned human disbelief of something that seems ridiculous that has been going on since the dawn of time.

Now of course, opinions may change with in-person interaction, but for the most part, we're all denizens of an impersonal electronic world in which we mostly don't know each other in person.

But the world turns, Heathens have dealings and relationships with their gods (regardless of what terminology is used for it), and does it really matter if strangers believe our subjective experiences?

Because that's what they are, *our* subjective experiences, and just like our relationships with the gods, need no outside arbiters of validity.

Monday, August 27, 2012

'Hubris', Omens, ECT and Ve Etiquette

So, about the title…it seems a bit of a mixed bag, right? Almost like those things don’t normally belong in the same discussion categories, and it’s a fair point – they don’t. However one blog post I was going to make got held over while I went away to ECT, and ECT provoked a new blog post. It was really best to try and tie them together.

Before going to ECT, I read about a gathering that, to put it mildly, has been pretty controversial in the North East community, and ironically in the same blog, I found a link to a rant about hubris (and how modern Heathens that disagree with the author are full of it). The irony came in an account of the controversial event and how they’d been absolutely rained out, had to cancel rituals and how the possessory rite they’d had had been pretty damn negative.

Now generally speaking, I’m very skeptical about possessory rites in Heathenry; I’ve come across them before in other cultures, but I don’t believe they belong in Heathenry. Aside from that caveat of sorts though, whether you believe in it or not, the kind of going on that was described seems really *really* unlucky.

Now as a heathen, I look to omens surrounding rituals and if the omens are bad, then we’ve fucked up in some way, our gifts suck, or we’ve pissed off those we’re offering to. But there was no discussion of that in the account, which I find odd considering they are allegedly people that constantly preach doing what the gods ask of them. Being participants in *any* reciprocal relationship (with gods or humans), we have to make sure that the other party is still cool with us, for it’s often when we just take it for granted and no longer show that care that the relationships sour.

ECT was great as usual. We got to hang out with people that we’ve known for a few years now and meet more that were, until this past week, just internet faces. Many interesting conversations were had, a labyrinth was set up and we also set up a Ve for Frija.

The Frija Ve was awesome, we created a temporary well before the idol (which was veiled), the bonds were spun, items that had been blooded in her name were also included and it looked and felt amazing. Because of its position in the woods (in the wild, the outer yard), many people didn’t know about it and we didn’t announce it, but we received positive reports from people that had found their way there.

When it came time to take down the ve though, we had a not so pleasant surprise; someone had obviously unveiled the idol, placed a Thor’s hammer around the neck and then re-veiled her.

This still pisses me off to think about. It’s so disrespectful; would they do it to an Odin idol? Even beyond the disrespect to the goddess being worshipped, who was purposely veiled (and just *why* would you offer the symbol of another god to her?), what of the simple respect of not fucking with things that aren’t yours? I would also mention here that there was a sign saying to leave the offerings in front of the idol, but if the person came by in the dark, then he or she wouldn’t have seen it. Even a person that is new to Heathenry should be able to understand that. People have said that maybe it was a person that didn’t understand how wrong that was and was just trying to make an offering, but I’m still pissed. Especially seeing as no one came forward when asked (nicely…so we could nicely explain to someone that potentially didn’t understand – because that’s not a crime). Thankfully none of us got the sense that it had caused any major offense as we had a good omen in the form of a salamander taking up residence in the ‘well’. The hammer will be bogged.

To my way of thinking, this comes down to basic ve etiquette. The ves at an event like ECT are often the ves of a specific group or individual, with their own customs that need to be respected. Basic etiquette to me, is to approach the ve keepers and ask what is acceptable to them and their group with regards to their ve. If we are to be Heathens that think in terms of Heathenries, of groups with wide and varied customs as opposed to just an overarching singular Heathenry, then surely this would be a good place to start?





Friday, July 27, 2012

Re-discovering an Old Friend

It's now been a month since I last went on FB and while it's frustrating in terms of organising thing with friends (I guess people really don't bother much with e-mail anymore), I've been getting other things done.

I'm now into week two of learning Mandarin and have decided to look for a course locally. Rediscovering my love of Chinese history and desire to learn the language has been quite interesting. The tones are hard, especially as someone that grew up with a non-tonal language in which tones generally confer emotion rather than meaning, but the characters and syntax are fascinating. Surprisingly, there are quite a few free apps on Droid to help figure out pinyin pronunciation that I've been using.

I'm about half way through reading Frederico Garcia Lorca's 'Bodas de Sangre', a tenth of the way through Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' (but in French because it was the only free version on Kindle) and have been listening to foreign language podcasts. It's beginning to feel like the passion I had for language and language learning that I had before going to university is coming back and I'm happy for it, it's like rediscovering an old friend. It also doesn't hurt that there are now websites like http://www.polyglotproject.com with lots of books in other languages and a handy dictionary widget so that you can click on any words you don't know and it tells you the meaning in English.

I've been so engrossed with the languages this past week that I actually forgot to spin on two days. I finished my spinning for the week and it's some of the best I've ever done, but I feel disappointed in myself that I actually forgot for those two days. The problem is that I never really agreed what the schild would be for forgetting, so other than feeling angry and disappointed with myself, I really don't know what else there is.


Tomorrow is an offering ritual of sorts for a few of us here and so the husband and I have been busy for the past hour or so making the bread for the offerings and pot luck. I'm rather nervous as there is one section of the ritual that I'm kind of leading and it's the first time I will ever have led before. I'm hoping it goes well.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Mighty Task



A Mighty Task

I stand before
my blessed Dead
Glowing they come
Yet grow ever dull
Their faces I see
Fade before me
Our Luck is the same
It should be better

A council we hold
All kin together
What shall we do
How *do* we better
My words are heard
The wisdom is seen
Faces of the dead
All focused on me

Work I must do
This world to change
Our Luck to mend
A labour for life
For those that come
And those that were
A mighty task
On Middle-Earth




I wrote this poem, not only because of a dream/vision I had, but because I think it reflects the lot of every mortal on this earth. Families have luck that is passed down from member to member, and as Heathens we need to know what kind of luck we have in our own families and try to change it if necessary in order to give greater to those that come and honour those that were. This is indeed a mighty task.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Dreams

I am a vivid dreamer and I always have been. For me, dreams are full colour productions of the mind, in which I'm often an active player and for the most part I love that. It's always been like a movie in my mind, and even the scary ones  have, with only a few exceptions, been like horror movies. I like horror movies.

Last night I had a very vivid dream in which I was making offerings to my ancestors and to dead that were disturbing a place I'd been called in to help sort out. Josh and I also moved into a new house in this dream, larger than the one we have now and I had changed my job (thankfully).

This morning I woke up with the feeling that something had been resolved, that in a lot of ways, it was a message of hope and that something that was lost might be recovered again. As of yet, I'm not really sure what that lost might be, but maybe we'll see? I don't know.  I've had dreams of a precognitive nature, on one occasion, I described a place I'd seen in my dream, only to told that I'd just described a scene from a painting in someone's home that I'd never visited before. We'd sat apart and each drawn what we'd dreamed/had on a painting and they'd matched. Weird little details that I hadn't described when talking about my dream had matched too. Others that had been to that house also corroborated. So we'll see if this was anything precognitive or just an entertaining brainfart.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Family And Ancestors

In Heathenry, we often talk of 'the ancestors' as though they're a nebulous term of faceless people, and for the most part, the vast majority of them are. In some cases, we may know their names, we may have details of where they were recorded living at the time of whatever census in whatever place, but nothing more than that. In the case of more recent ancestors that we might not have known, we may have some anecdotes passed down from older family members, but a lot of the time, unless we grew up with them and they were unimpaired by senility, we still can't really say that we knew them well.

For example, all of my grandparents except one passed before I was born, and the last one passed when I was seven. My memories of that grandfather, my last living link to that older generation are of going for walks with him, and people coming into the supermarket to find us because he'd wandered off, decided he was a lollypop* man and had taken to directing traffic on a busy road. You see, for the years I'd known him, he'd had Alzheimers disease, but years of travelling with my father in his truck and hearing stories about his youth and parents had told me of a very different man. One with a very strong work ethic who would work every hour he could for his family, and such love and devotion for his ailing wife who'd given birth to my father while sick with tuberculosis. My grandmother, his wife had suffered from health problems all her life and like my granddad had just kept on pushing through and trying to do her best by her family.

There was another streak in my father's family, and that was Spiritualism. Needless to say, I grew up with some very strange experiences.

My mother was one of nine children and grew up in an area that is now notorious for being rough in my hometown. I can't imagine what it must have been like for her mother with so many kids to care for, especially kids that ran amok to the extent I know my mother and her siblings did. One of my uncles used to steal/catch rabbits and chickens and they had them at their house, well... until the local council confiscated the chickens. My grandfather was a huge Popeye fan and worked on the buses. Both he and his wife passed within months of each other and their children banded together and raised each other until adulthood. My mum was raised by an older sister and she in her turn raised a younger sister. I can't imagine how hard things must have been for them. Until recently, my mum didn't really talk about her parents much. I think she has always been too sad about their passing to really volunteer information about them for years (like my father has with his) and so the qualities they had, I've kind of deduced from what I know and see in my own mother.

That they were hardworking is without question; you can't bring up nine kids well without being hardworking. My mother has always put fresh home-cooked food on the table and so I can guess that's what she grew up with. My mother has always taken a pride in having a clean house and clean curtains lest the neighbours think the family is scum. Being poor isn't synonymous with a lack of pride. So they must have also had a sense of pride in being clean and decent people. And that my grandparents died within such a short time of each other tells me that they were also very much in love and devoted to each other. My mum and her family, a resilient bunch, still very much miss their parents so it's without question that they are loved and missed. Last but not least, I think they must have also had a cracking sense of humour...well, with nine kids, I think you'd need to!

You probably wonder why I'm rabbiting on the way I am here. In all honesty, I didn't plan on going into as much detail about my family and how I admire the qualities they had/have. They may not have been famous or necessarily did anything that people tend to think of as being special, but they were good, hardworking, resilient, loving, proud, persistent (some might say 'stubborn') people. Needless to say, I really hope I make them proud with how I live my life and that I'm not a disgrace to them.

Often in Heathenry though, we tend overlook the more immediate ancestors in favour of those that were actually Heathen, and I'm not saying that they don't watch over us, just that our more immediate kin (not just blood kin here because family isn't always just a matter of blood, sometimes the most real family we can have has nothing to do with blood) have more of a vested interest in our well-being. And it is our parents that are the link to them. They are often the keepers of that family knowledge, those oral histories that keep the memories of the deceased alive. Unless our parents are complete...pardon my language, but fuckheads, we should respect them, love them, be thankful for the sacrifices they made in their lives so that we might thrive and not go whining to some shrink because they said no to us a few times back in the 90s when we wanted some extortionately priced trainers or jacket. That's all too common nowadays.

Our parents are just as much of a link in the ancestral chain as anyone else, they are the ancestors that still live, and when they're gone, we'll wish with everything that they're not.

So it's important to respect and love now.

Which is why I am really shocked by the most recent piece of news to come out of the Heathen community about a leader that allegedly embezzled $75,000 from his elderly mother, which led to her being evicted from her care home. Now, I'm going to insert the caveat here that a person *is* innocent until proven guilty and that I'm not saying this individual is guilty, but IF he is, I feel shocked and saddened by the thought. I know people treat their parents badly and do such awful things to them every day, but even so. From someone that is supposed to honour their ancestors, that kind of behaviour would be...dare I say it, but a sin? I can't think of a better word really here to express my feelings on that and yes, before people comment and say that 'sin is a Christian term', what on earth else would you call it?

As someone that lives over 3000 miles away from her family, I couldn't ever imagine such behaviour. Maybe it's because my time with my parents isn't an all the time thing? Maybe it's because the distance makes me appreciate the time I get to spend and chat with them all the more?

Today, or in the coming week, please do something nice for your parents (be they blood, adopted or those that have become your parents in life). Buy your mum flowers, go visit more than usual, call them, send them a gift, just let them know you love them. They're your family and greater than any treasure on earth for it.



My mother's family on my aunt's wedding day.




My maternal grandfather (in the middle).



My uncle Ronnie trying to stop me from being a sulky puss at a family wedding. I really wasn't happy with having to wear a bridesmaid's dress and all the photos that came with that. I was such a cheeky little cow with the photographer.



My dad's family. From left to right, my paternal grandfather, my grandmother and my dad.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Unnatural Husfreyja and Haelu

It's been almost a week since I deactivated my FB account and while I was expecting it to be hard at first, it really wasn't. If anything, it's been so...peaceful. Not to mention productive. Over the course of this past almost-week, I've actually started reading a book ('Under the Cloak' by Jon Hnefill Adalsteinsson), finished knitting a cardigan, started what is perhaps THE most complex shawl I'll ever knit (Estonian lace! *drool*) , made an appointment and put down a deposit for my next tattoo, and spun a skein of wool. I've also hung out more with my husband and played more with my pets. My house has largely remained clean too.

All of this sounds pretty domestic, doesn't it? And it is. If you had told me ten years ago that ten years in the future I'd be married, living in the States and actually enjoying things like lace knitting and spinning, I would have laughed in your face; but I do. For one thing, I'd never planned to move to the States, ever. For another, my mother couldn't ever get me interested in knitting or sewing, or anything else house/home related. I was always that kid that was out in the yard helping her dad to mix up concrete, building walls, re-roofing sheds, fixing cars (I can't drive them, but I can do some jobs!) etc.

But life changes, people connect, the chips fall where they may, and jobs are allocated as they need to be done. At the moment, my husband works more than I do, so it's only fair that I try to keep on top of the cooking and cleaning.

 I'm still no fan of housekeeping, it really doesn't come naturally to me and I think women that say they love it are probably mostly lying.

 I guess my biggest pet peeve with keeping a house clean is that it never ends. There is always something to clean, tidy, or sort out and it bugs the hell out of me! If there was an end in sight, I wouldn't care so much, it'd just be one more job to do and tick off my list, but as soon as you live in a space, you're creating cleaning work for yourself.  It's not a big deal though, my husband knew he wasn't marrying a Martha Stewart when we got together...I don't really think you find the kind of wives that like that kind of thing living out in Korea, getting drunk and going on mad adventures every weekend.

But still, I feel a push to try and keep on top of the cleaning to some degree, especially since becoming more of a Frija worshipper. In some ways, trying to keep on top of the cleaning has now become as much an act of devotion (I know we don't really do that kind of thing in Heathenry, but I'm not really sure what else to call it) as the offerings we make to our ancestors or the landwights, or the spinning I do every week night.

 For me, doing these things have also become a large part of fighting to keep the place where we live hael. You see I don't like the land where we live, not America itself, but the area. There's something really off about this place. It's fine for animals and plants, but I've never lived in a place with as many people with bowel issues (although to be fair, this could be largely down to the American diet), or with as many funeral homes. The people here are strange too, known locally in the area as being so and we're looking at moving somewhere else when the lease on this place is up. You might be wondering why we moved here, but it's really not easy to find places to live when you're on another continent, and often, it tends to come down to a massive leap of faith that the place you're going to won't be full of crackheads. But in all honesty, I can't change the land here, whatever made it like this isn't something that can be healed by one foreign girl with good intentions, living here on a year lease. We're not taking land here, we're temporary, and really, how much of an effect could *we* have? I've considered adapting the Aecerbot for the land around our apartment, just to try and help things along a little in our little corner, but I'm not entirely sure yet. I guess I'll have to see. In the meantime though,

I'll wish you well and leave you with some photos of my creations this week. 
 This is the cardigan I finished. The pattern is available over at Knitty.com and can be found under the name 'Hey Teach!' 
 Estonian Lace knitting, *squee*! This pattern is 'Laminaria', from a marvellous designer at Knitty.com.

 For some reason, when I take photos up close of the shawl, it looks bright yellow, but further away, it's green. Either way, I included the yellow version because it's easier to see the lovely star stitch pattern.
 Last week's skein setting.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Facebook

So tonight I deactivated my account. Over the past few weeks I've been getting increasingly annoyed at people in general and the fact that interacting with these people takes up so much of my time. This isn't living, this isn't hael. I realised the other day that I don't remember the last time I sat and read a book from cover to cover for enjoyment and the last time I wrote a story was only because I'd forgotten my phone and couldn't get onto FB. I had started to plan my life around Facebook, each task I had to do for the day was scheduled around looking at FB. I've begun to care too much about the words of others that I don't know. But most of all, I'm done with the effect that FB is having on my Heathenism. I'm sick of feeling like there are always views I have to conform to, like somehow I'm doing it all wrong. I look back at the person I was, that mound-sitting, crazy chick, and I wonder where the fuck she went. It's not reconstructionism, I have no problems in my real life community, it's FB, it's the worst manifestation of internet Heathenry. It turns us all into assholes. It's time to be me again, to set my priorities in order and to ignore the noise.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Oaths and Blot

Last week, spinning didn't come easily. I didn't like the colour, it didn't seem as easy the green (which I'd really likes but finished spinning up), and it even began to spin worse, or at least seemed to.

Every single day, I forced myself to pick up the spindle and spin my allotted amount for the week and it *sucked*.

When I created this taboo, this promise to a deity, I knew there would be those days, in which spinning would be the last thing I wanted to do. But although I never so much as said it, I'd essentially made an oath.

As Heathens, we don't, or at least we *shouldn't* oath easily. American Heathens oath much easier than Heathens in other places, the oathed kindred model so prevalent here didn't take to the same degree in Europe. Instead, people have groups that they worship with, but there's no pretense of kin. Kinship takes years to build, it goes beyond friendship, it's family. Without that background, any oaths made around kinship are doomed to fail.

Ultimately though, the oaths that we tend to make are selfish in nature; maybe we need a push to do something that we'd otherwise slip from, maybe we've gotten into a rut or slipped. Oaths, with the public accountability they provide, are a perfect way for us to do those things.

Some weeks, completing my spinning is a close run thing. I'm like the limping runner, just making it over the finish line right before they take it down and pack it all away. I hate every second that I'm spinning. Other weeks I finish comfortably and love my work.

This past week, I loved my work. I loved the light brown corriedale that I spun up, the work is relatively even and it's just beautiful - the perfect preclude to a perfect weekend.

This weekend was the Oak Ridge midsummer blot. Oak Ridge is a Heathen fellowship based in NJ but that invite a core group of people to worship with them at the main tides. That worship involves swineblot. My husband and I feel so honoured and blessed to have been invited to both this and Yule, we love hanging out with the Oak Ridge, Laerad and other associated folks, there's a comfort there. Like we've all known each other for much longer than we actually have. We talk, we laugh, we debate and some of us bait each other like siblings. After a day of storms and further storm warnings for the weekend, the weather was perfect too. It was all very fitting. After days of preparation for things like our contribution to the feast, getting supplies for some of the activities we were planning, getting together our camping supplies and working on a stand of sorts for our Wodan godpost, we packed the car and were finally off.

The Oak Ridge Fellowship keeps and maintains an amazing grove on the land of their gothi, it's a place that has this most incredible sense of peace and holiness. The godposts stand tall, the wights are content. The whole area is so fertile and lush, inhabited by deer and bear. It is an honour every time we step foot in that grove.

And yes, there is also blood.

This swineblot was to Thor and it went very very well. The pig was nicely drunk and the kill was very quick and clean. Oak Ridge fellowship was officially brought into being and the posts and ourselves asperged. It's not an easy thing to do, to sacrifice in this way, just like oaths aren't easy to keep, but for those of us that do this and experience it, it's so very holy and we've all seen gains in terms of our luck.

After the rite was ended and the pig butchered and roasting, another devotee of Holle and myself spun an amount of yarn that will be offered to the waters of that lovely lady's bog. Spinning is also luck. We sat and talked about spinning, women in Heathenry and of course about the blot just gone. Another lady sitting there, had just experienced her first blot and whereas I have struggled to define what I feel at blot and how to convey it to people that have never experienced it, she nailed it. It's a huge welling of emotion that you can't really name. It's not sadness, hurt, anger or even happiness. It's literally no emotion you can name, and yet it is so strong and you feel it in every cell of your being. And the omens...this time they were so clear and quick in the coming.

Outside of the grove is an Odin godpost with a well before it and it's surrounded by mugwort. For me, one of the best moments of this weekend was seeing people realise this and collecting handfuls of mugwort to take home. More people seem to be getting interested in the Anglo Saxon and Continental Germanic traditions and it was so good to discuss things like the 9 Herbs Charm, the medicinal uses of mugwort and concepts like haelu.

There was also a 'Laeradnerok' with padded swords, kubb, American football and general shenanigans.

Oh and the pig was delicious :).


Monday, June 11, 2012

Giants and Health

Yesterday, the theme of Raven Radio was that of giants, more specifically a paper on giants and worship by Gro Steinsland. I personally didn't really care for the paper, it felt like he was trying to be more...I don't know...more complex than he needed to be to make the same point.

Of course, he used the examples of Skadhi and Gerd as being examples of members of the giant race that received worship. He pointed out that Skadhi was still referred to as a giantess where as Gerd wasn't. He talked about potential hieros gamos type rituals with Gerd and Freyr being the focus, and of course he talked about the term Mornir and the Volsi.

Throughout the entire paper, I couldn't help but shake my head at how he consistently ignored the simplest explanations for his observations. For example, the observation about Skadhi still being referred to as a giantess vs Gerd who doesn't seem to be after marriage.

For me, Skadhi is kind of like the cool aunt by marriage whose marriage didn't quite work out but things are still amicable and there is an alliance there. She maybe takes her maiden name again but still, she's considered family for all intents and purposes. Her actions demonstrate this, the family knows that this aunt is on their side, even if she's no longer technically family.
Gerd is simply the aunt that stays married. There is no ambiguity there, she's definitely family, she doesn't have that 'outer' aspect like Skadhi does.

And for me, the crux of this entire argument as to whether or not giants should be offered to, is right there: alliances, deeds and worth. Giants are simply another race that live in the outer-yard; like people, some are destructive assholes, some are good people, some are indifferent. Is the human world solely populated by 'good' or 'bad' people? Can we apply such a dichotomy to an entire race? No, we're all multi-faceted beings that fall somewhere along a spectrum, or potentially many spectra of 'good' and 'bad' (the terms 'good' and 'bad' are subjective terms, one man's 'good' is another's 'bad'). Why would we not assume that the plethora of wights and giants are also multi-faceted? As a Heathen, I judge a person by their deeds, why wouldn't I apply that same criteria to other beings? They are their deeds just as much as we are ours.


I've often heard the justification for offering to the more destructive giants as being that of appeasement. A kind of 'you'd better offer to ___ or you're going to have a rough time of it' sentiment. While I disagree with the sentiment, I can at least understand it. Folktales are full of examples of this kind of thing.
It's a little like the giant version of a Yakuza protection racket, but at least it's understandable from the POV of the worldview.

However I will *never* understand the sucking up to destructive giants thing. It's one thing to pay them off so that they'd leave your community alone, but it's quite another to try and gain some kind of favour. It's very reminiscent of Grima Wormtongue sucking up to Sauron in 'The Lord of the Rings'. Sauron doesn't care for Grima, Grima is just a tool for him to get what he wants and Sauron will use him accordingly. There is no reciprocal relationship, just exploitation, with Grima believing that he'll be elevated in status for his adherence to Sauron. These beings aren't misunderstood, the only misunderstanding that exists in this is that which leads to the kind of apologetics you often see online, the 'Oh, he didn't mean to do that', or the 'But the gods were sooooo mean to him and so that's why he conspired to kill Baldur'...ad nauseum. It's all apologetics for what essentially comes down to (at least in Loki's case), poor impulse control.

Although, having written that, I'm almost dreading coming across blog posts of 'UPG' that Loki has tourettes or autism and just can't help himself...

I grew up in a moorland area, where the hills often look like sleeping forms of giants, and as a kid it wasn't a huge leap to imagine those moors as being where you might come across a giant. Along with the myriad of other folktales I grew up with, it wasn't hard to image yet another type of being populating the wild fells along side the black 'demon' dogs, boggarts, Granny Greenteeth and barrow wights.

Giants have never been a problem for me, neither has living in a world populated by beings both seen and unseen. But I would no more seek out the destructive giants than I would a crack den, and that's all there is to it for me.

*~*

In other news, my breathing seems to have gotten better and I'm much relieved.

And the catalyst for this turnaround?

The inclusion of locally picked elderflowers in my iced green tea. The irony isn't lost on me either, that after all the medication, a plant that's linked to Frau Holle has helped me, a woman that worships Holle, turn the corner and get back on the road to health and haelu again.




I went running again for the first time in almost two months last week :).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Piss piss, moan and whine.

*We interrupt your regular programming for a random kvetch*
I'm really depressed about having asthma. The first attack I had, I figured 'Ok, I'll take this junk they give me and it'll be ok, I'll get on with life, run my 5k and do my weight lifting'. But last week, running was harder, after 3 minutes, I was gasping for air and taking my inhaler. It didn't help and I had to get off the treadmill. Today I ended up in Urgent Care again. Now I have more medication and a nebulizer to use at home. This just seems to be getting worse and it's so depressing to think that I'm kind of tethered to this medication in order to breathe. I've spent most of my life not being sick, being able to enjoy going outside and wandering in wild places. I haven't a clue how I'm going to fulfill my oath of running 5k, hell, I haven't even got a clue how I'm going to walk the half mile from the bus stop to work without having an attack. Moreover, I keep thinking about how my gran died of an asthma attack. Even now, after all the medication of the day, my chest is still a little tight, but hey, apparently you can cure this shit with meditation, or a vegan diet, or stopping yourself from 'overbreathing'(according to the Butekyo nutters), yes, because breathing too much is a chronic issue for asthmatics...that's right, just get used to having a diminished lung capacity and you won't notice the asthma anymore!

I hate living like this.

*Normal programming shall resume shortly*

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Lessons From The Spindle: One And A Half Weeks On

Making myself spin every day has been hard for me. I'm a perfectionist when it comes to fiberarts. When it doesn't go right, I tense up and in turn mess up the spinning. I start to grasp the roving more tightly and my drafting becomes more 'ripping', I cringe at each scub and uneven patch. When the thread snaps and the spindle falls, I turn red with embarrassment, even though I'm the only one in the room.

I've struggled to clamp down on the perfectionist and just concentrate on production. Some of the wool I've spun is done well and some not so well. But that's not the point. The point is simply doing, actually practicing and not fearing the mistakes.

There have been days when I haven't wanted to pick up the spindle and spin, and this week, I'm worried that I assigned myself a little too much to spin for the week, life just keeps getting in the way, and unlike my forebears, I'm still terribly self-conscious of spinning in public. The perfectionist that stops me from doing so many activities if I'm not sure I'll do them perfectly (or as close to it as I can manage) steps in.

Once again, these are lessons from the spindle. The more I spin, the more I'm surprised by how much spinning can teach about life and the more I think I understand a little more of how spinning became its own mystery of sorts. It's not just about wool production, there is so much more to spinning... sisterhood, the transmission of stories and legends, a schooling of sorts, morality, taboo, heritage...

But back to that damn perfectionist streak. This perfectionist streak, which I don't often acknowledge or realise is most definitely there. It's what stops me from actually moving forward with writing my book, or the myriad of other stories I have in my head. It's what makes me edit and re-edit and re-edit again and again and again until I'm second/third/forth guessing my word choices and the mental picture I'm painting to the point that I can't write full stop (I'm already on my third edit of this blog post). It's the part of me that causes me to stop seeing the scene that I'm writing and to see only grammar tenses, punctuation and words. It's what stops me from moving on with my career, this all-pervasive fear of failure and not being that perfect person.

I'm only just beginning to realise these lessons, hopefully given time, and more spinning, they'll sink in and I'll actually finish that book and plant the seeds for that career I should be getting on with.