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.


Anonymous said...

Please do not link me to any of those people you name--aside from being a friend and occasional taxi for Elizabeth, I have absolutely nothing to do with those names you mention. Del and Galina have in fact gone out of their way to cause me problems, which I deeply resent.

If my name and theirs comes up together in a search, it's because I had a good long time to examine what they did and how they did it, and I find it ridiculous at best and downright incorrect at worst. I do a lot of careful research when I write and I have NEVER claimed that a god or gods cared about the minutiae of my existence. I have had to create a specific response to people who want to lump me in with the lunatics at Cauldron Farm. In short--I detest them and I'm sure they feel the same way about me. My friendship with E.V. is as much about giving her respite from the insanity as it is companionability.

Birka said...

Ok, I was going to post two comments but decided to delete the first and tie them together.

I am aware that you and those other people do not get on, however I wasn't grouping you as being associated since I am aware that you despise Del and Krasskova. I was making a list of blogs that I read that are more UPG-based than the average and are therefore considered 'crazy' by more mainstream Heathens (you might notice that I did put the word 'crazy' in quotations, right). I do read your blog, as I read the blogs of the others I listed because while I don't always agree with the perspective, I'm very curious and want to examine it anyway.

Listing doesn't automatically mean 'grouping'.

As for the rest of the post, you might also notice that I was specifically talking about a post that Krasskova made. I merely said I read your blog for your perspective, nothing else in this post was about you. There is really no reason for you to get upset or offended.

Anonymous said...

Being lumped with that nithing, in any way, is pretty insulting.

Birka said...

But, as someone that posts about UPG and interactions with the gods, you have to accept that your blog will be categorised a certain way, and that unfortunately as they also post blogs about the same kind of stuff, it'll be categorised in the same manner.

Kind of how authors of the same genre are in bookstores.

I appreciate that this is an uncomfortable subject for you, however I really was just listing what blogs I read in the UPG category. I can appreciate how frustrating this is to be 'lumped in', as I have also experienced this in the form of accusations from certain members of the AFA of being involved in the going ons of Cauldron Farms when I was on a completely different continent, had never been there, and had vehemently been against Krasskova and Kaldera. For these accusers, pretty much the fact I'm bi and involved in Seidr was enough. This stuff still pops up from time to time four years later. I don't doubt that the people that made the accusation were doing it out of political gain either. However in my case, I was just listing the blogs I read without intent, only to end up talking about my disagreements with Krasskova's POV.

Anonymous said...

i have to ask, if it's spiritual belief being discussed/practiced within Heathenry/Asatru, then at what point does any of the lore cited, books referenced, and so forth transition into personal faith? Because if the main event is only interation of what went before and there's avowed disbelief in any contemporary experiences of the ineffable, there's really not much point in calling it spirituality or belief in gods or being true to the gods. It's more like re-enactment. I can't stress strenuously enough, I am *the last person* one would consider prime fodder for delusional whackadoo. I'm way too busy raising a family, tending a farm, and trying to pay bills to get sucked into flights of fancy.

Anonymous said...

I am the "Del" referenced above. My full name is Del Tashlin.

I have absolutely no problem with what you've said, even the pejorative "crazy". I am fully aware that my practices are frowned upon by mainstream Heathen/Asatru peoples, and I have never claimed to represent them or be a member of one of their organizations. I very occasionally blot with a local group that has a variety of members, some of whom identify as Heathen/Asatru, but they are fully aware of who I am and what my practices are.

To be clear, Jalkr and I do not get along, and he feels strongly that our practices and beliefs are radically different. I have no problem with being compared or contrasted with Krasskova or Kaldera, although I think if someone got to know me personally and my practices, they would find just as many differences as similarities. However, I believe that everyone has their own Work to see to, and in the end has only to answer to those they affect, and the Gods they serve.

Also to be clear, although I am friends with the residents at Cauldron Farm (which is a place of residence, not an organization or religious group in and of itself), I live several hundred miles away in Maryland. I visit Cauldron Farm about once a year, usually to attend events hosted on the land. I am not a member of the Church of Asphodel, nor have I sworn any alliegances to Raven as a shaman or as a "king". I actually find the whole "kingdom" thing a bit silly, to be honest.

Birka said...

'jalkr said...
i have to ask, if it's spiritual belief being discussed/practiced within Heathenry/Asatru, then at what point does any of the lore cited, books referenced, and so forth transition into personal faith?'

That is a good question, but I can only answer for myself, and give a tentative answer based on observations about those I worship with. The first thing I'd like to say is that a lack of writing about it on the net does not equal a lack of personal experiences or UPG. In terms of UPG and research, generally speaking my UPG and experiences inspire my research. I don't see them separately, or as things that need to be in opposition with each other. It is very challenging to do it this way, because what if the research turns up evidence that is completely against the UPG and experiences you've had? In all honesty though, I've never had that contradiction between UPG/experiences and research occur.

'Because if the main event is only interation of what went before and there's avowed disbelief in any contemporary experiences of the ineffable, there's really not much point in calling it spirituality or belief in gods or being true to the gods. It's more like re-enactment. '

Why would anyone believe the contemporary experiences of people they don't know? I'm not going to believe the stranger that tells me about all their experiences with Odin any more than I would believe the stranger in the supermarket that blathers on to me about how Jesus talks to them.

I (and no one else I know) have nothing against contemporary experiences, I just place far more weight on those of the people I know and trust than those I've never met before.

Birka said...

Del, thank you for the introduction. I did have some inkling as to the issues between yourself and Jalkr, however I'm not involved and so in short, I don't care.

Re: 'crazy' as a pejorative.

One Greek friend once told me that 'the crazy are those who have seen the doorway to the truth and who were too scared to step through.'

Interesting thought, right?

And as a final note to both of you, any arguing on my blog and I'll delete your posts. Civil discussion is fine, fighting is not.