Sunday, October 21, 2012


Our kindred had our Winternights blot this morning.  Thor and His Mother (Nature) gave us the correct staging; it started out with a little sun, but grew darker and damper and by the very end it was drizzling.  We had a secluded bit of part to celebrate in and the presence of the nisse was tangible.

As I've written here before--frequently--southern California doesn't follow the prescribed pattern of weather which is reflected in the standard Asatru calendar.  We had apples to represent the harvest and stalks of wheat to represent the Last Sheaf, but the harvest in California never really ends.  Still, we do have cooler weather and longer nights and there are other harvests to consider.

Today we reflected on our ancestors a little more than usual, even though ancestors are the heart of Asatru.  We sacrificed a bread horse to carry our messages and wishes to the Other Side and poured our hopes into the well of Wyrd.

A few funny things happened: Sandi raised the horn for the gods' round and invoked "Hor" accidentally, then proceeded to spill cider down the front of her dress.  Loki made His presence known early.  Then there was the squirrel who figured out right away that the pieces of apple deposited in the trees for the landnisse were his, and he wasn't shy about it.

It's great that in San Diego we can do a Winternights ceremony barefoot.  It really is.  We didn't see any hares, but there are hares living there--we saw their poo!

Afterwards we retreated to a local eatery, Lil' B's.  Little B is one of the two Brians who were restauranteurs in this burg together, until the divorce.  So the Hillcrest location is now no more, but this one exists to assuage our sorrows at that happening.

Next we have a day of remembrance for the Einharjar, and then Jul, which will probably be at our place, because we have a fireplace.  Sven embraces the virtue of hospitality with all his arms and legs and is already making plans.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Digging the Well

What do I want out of Asatru?

This question came to me as I was reading the first chapter of T. Thorn Coyle’s Evolutionary Witchcraft.  Thorn is a practitioner of the Feri tradition, a non-Wiccan magical path.  She describes her journey from Catholicism, to Sufism, Feri, Reclaiming, Gurdjieff and back to Feri again, this time to stay.  She’s made peace with Catholicism, spending her days working at a Catholic Worker Hospitality House.

That should sound familiar to anyone who knows me.  As a result, the advice a Muslim friend gave to Thorn, to dig one deep well rather than 20 shallow ones, rang completely true when I read it in her book.  I resolved to dig the Asatru well very deep, then began to wonder what I hoped to find at the bottom.

The well metaphor is of course more appropriate for an Asatru path than for many others.  The Well of Wyrd is the source of our life’s direction.  There is much debate as to how much of our personal wyrd we can change; I am in the camp that believes that we can change almost all of it, based on our decisions and the responsibility we take for them.

I am digging the Asatru well in order to find a meaningful life that is lived with courage and justice, aware of my existence as a dweller on the earth.  Odin loved the Earth and their offspring is Thor.  Njord and Nerthus came together and their offspring were Frey and Freya.  We are also children of the gods and the Earth, so it is incumbent upon us to act like it.  This bears repeating: We are children of the gods and the earth, so we’d better act like it. Blessed be.

The lore explains humanity as beginning as ash and elm, given mind, breath and energy by Odin and his brothers.  After that, the first two humans were on their own.  The only given in their lives, and in anyone’s life is that eventually their lives will end.  Even the gods are mortal, which is one of the reasons I love the Norse gods so much.  They are more powerful than humans, but they aren’t “better”.  They aren’t “perfect”.  I believe that Odin is aware as much as I am that wyrd is based on decisions and actions, which is why he is learning constantly in order to stave off Ragnarok.  He loves the Earth.  He doesn’t want to see it destroyed.

We are all individually on the same quest as Odin.  Entropy will take its toll, and our decisions and actions should always be oriented towards building up what we can in our lives.  Part of this is living in an environmentally aware fashion, but the much larger part is comprised of our day to day choices.  How do we maintain our own health?  How do we conduct our relationships?  How do we progress in our art and our work?  What do we do to insure that we are always learning and growing?

I admit that part of what I’m reacting to is the proliferation of “NOTW” (Not Of This World) stickers on cars around my part of California.  This is an attitude that is at complete loggerheads with what I want out of religion and spirituality:  “Don’t embrace your life on this Earth; you’re not of it.  Life on Earth is exile.  Real life is what will happen to you after you die.”   I cannot think of a philosophy more conducive to bringing about Ragnarok than that.  May Odin’s wisdom forever increase.  May Thor protect Midgard.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ongoing efforts

In my ongoing battle to connect more to the earth while living in a second-story condo without so much as a balcony, I've planted more herbs.  Sven put a windowbox with some basil and mint in it on the bannister of the outside staircase.  We bought some rosemary and sage plants this weekend and I've transferred them to the windowbox too.  I think I need to add more soil, but it's the best herb garden combination I can think of, unless I added some cilantro.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Ancestral Religion

My husband Sven, as I've said many times before, is Danish-American and grew up practicing many traditional customs and listening to his grandpa tell him lore, in between puffs of his Salem and shots of his akvavit.  When he turned to Asatru, he had come home, and I've never seen him happier or more grounded.

I, on the other hand, am the classic all-American, Old Yeller mutt.  I'm a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada on top of everything else.  My mom is from Puerto Rico and her birth certificate reads "mulatto" because she was born during World War II and things were like that then.  My dad is half Italian and half Mexican.

I did a DNA analysis on my mitochondrial DNA and found out that my maternal DNA does not lead back to Africa, which I expected, but to the Americas.  So my mom is more properly a mestiza and her maternal ancestors the Taino people who have now vanished into the genes of their descendants.

My mother's father's people were originally from Burgos in Spain, Celts not Basques.  On my dad's side we know nothing about his father's family, because they were illiterate orphans, and on his mother's side we still have relatives in Puebla, Mexico.  However, they were of French descent, so it starts going back to central Europe again.

So no ancestral religion for me.  I do feel some pull to the Celtic/Gallic gods--the image of Cernunnos on the Gundestrup cauldron is one that I love.  I could (and did) gaze on the fearsome statue of Coatlicue Teteoinanzin in Mexico City for hours.  I was raised with no Italian customs at all; my Italian-American grandfather adapted to Mexican culture instead.

The common denominator is that everybody was strictly Catholic.  So while Stregheria is amazing, powerful stuff, I wasn't raised with anything resembling it.  I didn't find out about Santeria until I was well into my adult years and when I did discover it I described it as a beautiful motorcycle that is way too big and powerful for me.

When Sven reverted into Asatru I was pleased and envious.  The religion began working for me immediately in 2007, when I began studying and working with the runes.  The only thing was, I felt I was betraying my own ancestors.  I can't help not believing in Christianity anymore; my ability to maintain that cognitive dissonance broke down utterly.  I don't want to turn to Mexican polytheism; those gods demand blood, a lot of it.

So when Sannion of "The House of Vines" posted this article by Tess Dawson, it spoke to me perfectly:

 If you are in the same situation, give these techniques a try: honor your own ancestors in deeds and skills, and honor the ancestors of your religion through learning how they honored their own and applying that information in their veneration. I would guess that the steps in this dance are familiar to many in similar situations and to others in mixed families who have ancestors that would have been at war with one another. Only time and practice will tell how suitable both sets of ancestors will find this arrangement.

So I'll continue doing Dia de los Muertos every November, as I have for years.  We have our Asatru altar, which also commemorates Sven's ancestors, over our fireplace in the living room while I have an ancestral altar in our bedroom.  I have my grandma's wooden spoon on it, and I only use it on November 2.  I have her statue of St. Anthony of Padua there, and my grandpa's woolen hat.  I can only hope that they and the other ancestors don't mind my going heathen on them.

The Aesir are pleased by those who venerate their physical ancestors, which reminds me; I need to call my mom.