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?