Tuesday, December 24, 2013

So much water under the bridge

It's been TWO MONTHS since I last posted.  I'll admit, part of it was my being busy and part was a case of the yucks.  I had quite the argument with a member of the San Diego kindred, then one with someone here in the village, and it kind of killed my motivation. 

Nonetheless, I'm here in Arizona now, with cats, so my residence is almost official. 

We had our first Jul here already.  Sven, D and I had our blot on top of one of the outbuildings, watching the sun set over Picacho Peak.  After that we had a Jul dinner that couldn't be beat, with a magnificent goose, red cabbage, cucumber salad, a pressed salmon that IMHO was the best thing on the table, followed by cookies and rice pudding.  We forgot we had raspberries for the "red berries with custard" used as a shibboleth in WW2 to tell if someone was a German or a Dane.  Because only Danes can pronounce it.

Also, I'm sitting back and watching people fighting about polytheism on Tumblr.  Seriously?  I go there to look at giant robot models and pictures of Warhammer 40k fluff.  If you pursue your causes on Tumblr, you have more problems than I do, sunshine.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Someone pointed out (on Tumblr of all places) that the anatomy of the various Mother Goddess statuettes make perfect sense if you are a woman looking down at her own body and using it as a model.
When I lived in Mexico, I saw unknown amounts of anonymous ecclesial art that was known to have been created by nuns.
Now it also may be that the cave paintings of Lascaux were done by women, because the shape of the handprints are indicative of female hands.
Our ancestresses silently, deliberately, emerge, and they were artists.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

So you refuse to honour your ancestors.....

"I can't worship my ancestors!  I won't EVER worship my ancestors because my family is abusive!"

I'm sorry to hear that, but that's all the more reason to do so.  The "ancestors" are way more than this guy and his family:

You see, THIS guy's ancestors came from Ireland 300 years ago.  You probably never thought of that.  His family is a bunch of drunken, spousebeating types who call themselves Christian with no knowledge of the Bible (their preacher discourages it). 

What you don't realize is that 1,000 years ago, this was their foremother:


But if you don't venerate your ancestors, you'll never meet her.  She's appalled at what her family has become, and her heart breaks for what they've put you through.  She would love to meet you in your dreams and assure you that she knows your name and wants to teach you things that the other members of the family would laugh off, at best.

Oh well.  Your loss.  I hope the hissy fit comforts you as much as she could.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Reading lists

So, you want to get into heathenry, but aren't sure where to start.  I thought I'd recommend some of my favourite go-to sources for the benefit of the newbie.

Obviously, you should start with the Eddas.  What translation you use is up to you; I refer to quite a number of them.  Bear in mind that they are all sources written down long after Christianity, and the amount of impact this has on the telling of the stories is a matter of debate, doctoral dissertations and angry online forum discussions. 

L. Winifred Faraday has a two-part analysis of the Eddas that is available for free off Gutenberg Project.  I've only read some of it, but what I've seen is all right and it's popular. 

The Eddas are only a jumping off point, though.  After that it's time to hit the library and read anything by Hilda Ellis Davidson.  She has spent her entire academic career writing about northern religion, although she herself is an Anglican.  Start with her famous Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, then Roles of the Northern Goddess.  Roles in particular has become what I look for in books about Norse religion, tying together mythology and archaeology.  It's through archaeology that we get much of our confirmation of how the Norse viewed and worshiped the gods.

An older source that is fascinating to read is Benjamin Thorpe's Northern Mythology.  What happens with this book is that he recounts the legends as found in the Eddas, which by this point in your reading might be feeling a bit repetitive.  What makes this book neat, though, is that the rest of the book is a survey of folk practices, stories and proverbs that show how Norse lore carried through into beliefs in Scandinavia and northern Germany.  Trolls, elves, nissemen and other nature beings never left popular consciousness, which I find significant since the gods largely did.

If you just want to look up everything about a deity or figure from the lore, the encyclopedic resource I turn to is Norse Mythology by John Lindow.  He features not only gods and heroes but objects (weapons, animals and household items are often given names in the lore).  There is also a massive bibliography, which is where you can start taking notes on other books and journal articles to track down and read.

You should also bookmark The Norse Mythology Blog at http://www.norsemyth.org.  The author is a university professor, writer and teacher whose whole life is dedicated to promoting Norse myth and correct information about the Norse people.

I'm a little hesitant to promote the Temple of our Heathen Gods website (http://www.heathengods.com).  Their founder and lead godhi recently was arrested, tried and made to pay reparations to his elderly mother after embezzling from her for some years.  This isn't libel because it's true.  The page, however, has a library of 100 useful books in PDF format and information on beginning a heathen life.

Finally, there are accounts of Norse religion as observed by others.  Ibn Fadlan, the Arab trader immortalized in "The 13th Warrior" is a necessary read.  Tacitus has some things to say, as do all the Christian missionaries horrified by heathen religious practices.  Whenever you come across a reference to the Vikings battling named historical figures such as Charlemagne, make a note to start reading about Charlemagne, why he wanted to conquer the Norse and what his peers thought about them and their practices.

If this seems like a lot of work, which it is, remember that this is the form of paganism referred to as "the religion with homework".  Learn to research, because it's through careful study and writing about the Norse and the lore that we keep advancing as a religion.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dealing with Debris

Sven is a Lokisman.  This has some very material consequences, one of which is…




…Our home will never be featured in Better Homes and Gardens, that’s for sure.  I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve seen a trail of debris form in his wake as he moves from room to room.  It’s kind of a gift, but the kind of gift that comes from Loki.


I made an impromptu trip to the hacienda last weekend, so Sven didn’t have time to pick up before my arrival.  I didn’t bother with it much beyond taking all the empty drink cans to the big garbage container that the previous owners had left for crushed cans outside the saloon.  This left me with a lot of plastic bottles that have no home.


It occurred to me how much I’ve taken recycling for granted, living in cities.  In Montreal they actually give you divided blue boxes to pre-separate your cans, plastics and paper.  In SoCal I just have a big wheeled bin to load with recyclables.  But here in the desert, recycling is actually going to be an effort.  Not only am I going to have to separate the garbage myself, I’m going to have to take it to the recycling plants out on Tangerine Road.  At least I’ll have the satisfaction of getting a little bit of money back—perhaps enough to buy myself another bottled drink.


It’s not for that bottled drink that I’ll be doing it though.  I’m a Thorswoman, and Thor is the Son of Earth.  His wife Sif is the field.  Freyr and Gerd are the Vanic couple who represent something very similar, with Freyr being the son of the chthonic earth goddess Nerthus and Gerd represented an enclosed garden.  Recycling and being very responsible for our household garbage is part of my holy duty as the household manager.


So this weekend I’ll get three bins, one for paper/cardboard, another for plastic bottles and a third for glass.  We already have a garbage can for non-recyclables, provided by the local, family-run company Talkin’ Trash (http://www.talkin-trash.com).  We’ll use as much of the recyclables as we can; there are hundreds of practical uses for an empty gallon jug, for instance.  We aren’t ready for a composting bin, but that will eventually become part of the plan.


I have a huge wish to wave a magic wand and have a pen of goats, a chicken coop and run, vegetable gardens and a pen with a donkey in it RIGHT NOW, but not only is that impossible, it wouldn’t even be a good idea.  At the moment I don’t even have enough time for an herb garden.  Recycling will be my latest step for a while.



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Asatru Way of Death

Last week, our kindred here took a massive and damaging body blow.  Sandi, our beloved most elder member, died in her sleep probably early in the morning of August 15.  She had had health problems, but this was still completely unexpected.  She leaves behind a daughter, two sons and at least one grandchild.


Sandi and her family are all heathens.  Since the family is still very much in shock, there is a service planned for the 25th, but even that plan is tentative.  I respect that, but the kindred was hurting and very much needed a mourning ritual.


Asatru as practiced in the Americas is still new.  40 years or so is not even a blink of an eye in human history.  I turned to “Our Troth” for a funeral rite, but the organization is still so new that there has not been the need for one yet.  Sven did a little search on the internet and found a ritual, but it needed lots of tweaking to make it into what we wanted.


What we wanted was a rite in which we could not only say goodbye to Sandi, but given the suddenness of her departure we also wanted to make sure she was supplied for the journey.  She took care of us for years, with food, her wealth of experience and her indomitable spirit.  Now we could take care of her.


Here is the ritual as we made it.  All names are pseudonyms:


[ Sven lights the fire, blessing the fire by placing the Mjollnir on the fire and asking the gods to use this fire to send our gifts and prayers to Sandi. ]


Signy:  We call the gods here today to witness the passing of one of our kin from Midgard. May they all take note that today a great person, Sandi, has passed from us. May Heimdall guide her on her journey across the Bifrost bridge.


Sven/Dana:: Havamal 76-77


Deyr fé,                                                               Cattle Die
deyja frændr,                                                       Kinsmen Die
deyr sjalfr it sama,                                               We ourselves shall die.
en orðstírr                                                            One’s good name will never die
deyr aldregi,                                                        of one who has taken it.
hveim er sér góðan getr.

Deyr fé,                                                               Cattle Die
deyja frændr,                                                       Kinsmen Die
deyr sjalfr it sama,                                               We ourselves shall die
ek veit einn,                                                         This I know will never die                  
at aldrei deyr:                                                      the fame of the dead’s deeds
dómr um dauðan hvern. 


Bob: Heimskringla - Yngling’s Saga #8


Odin established the same law in his land that had been in force

in Asaland.  Thus he established by law that all dead men should

be burned, and their belongings laid with them upon the pile, and

the ashes be cast into the sea or buried in the earth.  Thus,

said he, every one will come to Valhalla with the riches he had

with him upon the pile; and he would also enjoy whatever he

himself had buried in the earth.


Xerxes:  Let us now toast Sandi and the deeds that made her great.

(Each person takes the horn and says why Sandi meant so much to them.)


Signy- Sandi has left us.  We will not let her travel empty-handed.  Who has something for Sandi to take with her on her journey?


Each person comes up to the pyre. To each person Steph says “What gift do you bring so that Sandi will be well supplied?” The giftgiver then responds by holding up whatever object it is they have brought to leave with the deceased and explains the significance of the object.


Clarisse- Sandi, may you fare well. We thank the gods for their presence may they and the spirits of the land, the Landvattir, keep this place safe from all ill wishers.


Signy: From the gods to the earth to us / from us to the earth to the gods, hail! this rite is ended. But the folk go on.  [While pouring the libation in the fire or over the howe.\


[People are encouraged to remain in frith and speak stories and rememberances of Sandi.]


This ceremony ended up being very well timed.  Bob and Clarisse had Jul gifts for Sandi.  Bob had already purchased an amber pendant for her, and Clarisse had started knitting a shawl on Monday.  On hearing that we were having a pyre on Saturday she tried to finish the shawl, but couldn’t bring herself to do it.  Dana had a small bag with travel runes.  Sven had a mjollnir pendant and I had ears of corn, beer and a box of chocolates.  Xerxes (believe it or not, his real name is just as peculiar) had written a note. 


Being a Lokisman, Sven got the pyre going really, really hot.  At the end, nothing was left of any of the offerings beyond a very small bit of melted metal.  As the law of Odin cited in the second reading demanded, we buried the ashes and hope to erect some kind of runic monument in the future.


Sandi has left us, but she has gone equipped with something to eat, something to drink, something to keep her warm, runes and amber.  We hope she is enjoying the company in Fensalir. 


Hail, Sandi!  Hail the Idises, to whose ranks she has graduated!



Thursday, August 1, 2013


It's Freyfaxi, although some celebrate it as Loaf-Fest, Lughnasah or Lammas.  Here's some songs and a poem.

Starting out with Damh the Bard's foot-stomper:


And the Wild Oats.  They're defunct, but you can see Eben Brooks in venues around San Diego County.  Third Saturday of the month, Lestat's West is the predictable one.


Allison Lonsdale's "The Sickle and the Plow" isn't on YouTube, but you can hear it on "Live At Lestat's", her 2-CD set.

And a pre-Christian Mexican poem:

Translated from the Nahuatl by Arthur J.O. Anderson and Charles E Dibble. Originally published by Fray Bernardino de Sahagun in his "General History of the Things of New Spain":

O Iouallauan, why dost thou mask thyself?
Put on thy disguise.
Don thy golden cape.

My god, thy precious water hath come down from Coapan.
It hath made the cypress a quetzal.
the fire serpent hath been made a quetzal serpent.
Want hath gone from me.

Mayhap I shall die and perish--I, the tender maize.
Like a precious green stone is my heart,
yet I shall see gold in it.
I shall be content if first I mature.
The war chief is born.

My god, give me in part plenteous tender maize.
Thy worshipper looketh toward thy mountain.
I shall be content if first I ripen.
The warrior chief is born.

(Sounds like Freyr to me!)


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In Which I Become a Doggy Chew Toy

So, during the diocesan sex-abuse shakeup, the Diocese of San Diego hid a bunch of properties from the federal courts. One of them was a desecrated church near the Pauma Indian Reservation in northeast county. The church had once been El Centro Guadalupano, but the priest went nuts (?!) and became a Pentecostal. He tore out the altar and tabernacle and installed a full-immersion baptismal pool in what had once been the sanctuary. The Diocese threw him off the land. He sued for ownership and lost. When the Diocese had to hide the property lest it be seized and sold off for sex abuse reparations, they gave it to Fr. Joe of Father Joe's Village (kind of a Boys Town for homeless people).

Fr. Joe has a friend, Susan, who is a Druid. He asked her to be caretaker of the building and its four acres of land. Susan has moved into the ex-church and is offering the property's use to different pagan communities for their rituals. Birgit and Liz, the older ladies (they are a couple) who run our kindred and John the Archdruid immediately accepted the offer.

On Saturday, we went to go do some cleanup, remove the cross from the front of the building, paint over "Centro Guadalupano" on the facade and have a first ritual. Not long after we arrived, Susan came out with her two doggies, one of whom is a pit bull. I stood still so the dogs could get a good sniff, but neither of them seemed interested, so I turned around to walk to the table where we were about to plan out our tasks.

I heard a growl behind me and the pitbull snapped at my left hand. He punctured the skin of my inner left wrist as if it were rice paper. I yowled and Susan hastened to tie the dog up. The wound was deep, and took a couple of seconds to fill with blood. As I watched, I noticed the white gleam of tendon underneath. My friends were alarmed and bandaged the injury. Liz brought me coffee. I did manage to help do some cleaning, but not a lot. The bandages soaked through in an hour, so I took them off, replaced them with a gauze pad and tape, and buried the bloody bandages at the foot of Odin's tree.

Ultimately I cut our stay short (I'd driven a couple of people) and after dropping off my passengers I hastened to the ER at our hospital of record, the UCSD in Hillcrest. I received good care as always, although it was a little surrealistic being checked in by a transwoman. She wasn't being a very successful one; she looked and sounded like a man in womens' clothing, despite the curly blond hair pulled back in a ponytail.

My wound was examined, irrigated, bandaged, and I was given Keflex and a tetanus shot since the last one I'd had was in June of 2005 in Basic Training.

No idea why doggie attacked me. Susan says he's going to be tied up whenever people are on the property now; this can't be allowed to happen again. A while after I was bit, Susan gave me some turkey and we went to go visit the dog. He took the turkey very nicely and let me pet him. I told him he was not allowed to bite me ever again. It was just weird; animals usually adore me and the only time I've been bitten before was not that bad and because I was a child teasing the dog.

The wound is healing.  Today I was able to push open the door of my pickup truck without pain.  Saturday is Freyfaxi for our kindred, and I am relieved to know the pittie is going to be on a chain.  This is strange for me, because I've never been afraid of dogs before.

Freyfaxi is a feast that isn't celebrated in Denmark, but Sven is elsewhere that weekend so we don't have to have that discussion.  I like it because I'm fond of Freyr, even if he's not one of my regularly-invoked gods.  Coverage of that ritual will be up next.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Save the Bees

Bees are necessary for pollination as well as honey and wax production.  I didn't know too much about it, wanting to hear from an actual beekeeper rather than some hippie or Natural News who pull "information" out of their butts.  Well, here is an Ontario, Canada beekeeper discussing the topic. 


The takeaway?  Nicotine-based pesticides, and a humbling sight of a man who truly loves his bees and lives with and among them.  The bee is sacred, and we are dependent on it.  I will do what I can towards saving them; planting organically and writing to government representatives and agricultural companies.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A boast!

It's not a talk on heathenry or Asatru, but I've put in my application to do a presentation at the 2014 Pantheacon.  In  keeping with my Mexican background and residence in the American southwest, I am going to do a talk on Santa Muerte, because I've been interacting with her since 2006 or 2007 and I just love her.

I'm going to be talking about her obscure origins, why she became popular, why her popularity is spreading and her law-abiding as well as criminal devotees. 

Now to pay my registration fee and wait for room reservations to open up.
Isn't she pretty?  Oh yes she is.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Today, I want to talk about the gods.  I’m not going to comment on how anyone else thinks of the gods, because that’s not my business.  I’m only going to talk about my own polytheology.


To my eyes, the gods are real.  I’m a person, you the reader are a person, and they are likewise persons.  I’m influenced by Buddhism in that I believe there is an imminent and eternal Sacred behind all beings and all creation.  I like to equate this imminent and eternal Sacred, which I follow Mircea Eliade in calling the Numen, with the ocean. 


The Numen is an ocean and in it we are fish.  We swim through the Numen and it flows through us.  Without it we would die.  However, the Numen doesn’t have consciousness on its own, and it would be both pointless and ignorant to pray to it or expect it to have any emotions towards us.  Water doesn’t care for every tiny minnow or even every mighty giant squid.


The ocean/sea life metaphor has its limits there.  Smaller sea creatures don’t pray to the squids or the sharks.  However, just as sea life is comprised of mostly water, life in Midgard is comprised mostly of the Numen.  This is, at its simplest, what we mean or should mean when we say, “All life is sacred.”


For me, the gods are beings which are characterized by being more intensely concentrated of the Numen.  They are individuals with likes and dislikes, emotions and actions, and abilities.  No two are alike.  For instance, the Roman Apollo is syncretized to the Greek Apollo, but he’s still not the same.   The Romans could call Thracian Taranis Jupiter all they liked; it doesn’t make those gods the same person.


Since the gods are people, we can relate to them.   Since they aren’t alike in substance to a human being, we have to have different relationships with them.   We meet, we find we get along, and we maintain our relationships.  The important difference enters into how the gods are transcendent in a way we humans aren’t, with powers we can’t touch, so we need to be “in tune” with them in order to understand the back-and-forth between them and us.  I can’t draw any generalizations or put forth any ground rules because, as I’ve written already, they’re individuals.


It should be remembered that not all gods will like you, just as not all human people will like you.  This is their prerogative, and shouldn’t be taken personally.  If you appeal to one deity and he/she tells you to get lost, unless you are an absolute unlikable bastard there’ll be one out there who thinks you’re keen and who will be happy to make your acquaintance.  I struggled along with God the Father for decades before finally accepting that he wasn’t the one for me.


I tend to deal more with land and nature spirits than gods, and recently confirmed that I need to pay a lot more attention to my ancestors.  Blessed be. * Like the gods, they have preferences and dislikes.  Along with the nature spirits can come gods of place.  In the past month I’ve been struck by how powerfully Kokopelli strides through the southwest.  He’s always lived there and he gets lots of attention and energy from admiration lavished on the petroglyphs that depict him and from suburban gardeners putting iron cut-outs of him by the sidewalk up to their front door.  He’s the Lord of Fertility there, and since we are planning our raised-bed gardens, we need to be on good terms with him. 


Archetypes may be applied to gods, but they aren’t gods, and gods are not personifications of archetypes.  Gaia, Rhea, Demeter and Cybele are all great Magnae Matres,  but they aren’t “faces” of the archetype of Great Mother Goddess.  The Virgin Mary and Anahita are virgin mothers, but they are not the Eternal Virgin. 


The overwhelming reason I’m not Wiccan is because of their theology.  “All gods are one God, all goddesses one Goddess does not fly with me.  Not my polytheology.


I’ll let Allison Lonsdale explain it all to you.  Her CD, "Live at Lestat's" is full of science, spirituality and god-talk.





*I say “blessed be” when “Hail!” doesn’t work, and where I would previously have said, “Amen”.  It’s not heathen,  but since I “viked” it from the Wiccans, I claim it as spoils.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Last weekend was Trothmoot 2014.  It was only four hours away from San Diego, in Tehachapi Mountain Park.  Sven wasn’t interested in going, and left for the hacienda instead.  Dreya and I packed our seabag and dufflebag respectively (same item, different names) and headed north.

We got lost on the way, of course, but turned around before driving off into the Mojave.  We made the sloooooow climb up into fresh pine woods 6,000 feet up. 
I’ve commented elsewhere on the site.  It was on the side of the mountain, so there was a lot of walking up and down to do.  The showers and mess hall were down, halfway up were the cabins and ALL the way up were the vés. 

Our cabin, which was a bunch of Army beds, was only our kindred, so that was nice.  No surprises when it came to roommates.  Dreya has a knee injury, so she spent a lot of the weekend relaxing and reading, and there are a lot worse settings for that.

I arrived on guard against New Age nonsense.  There was some, but it was old New Age, like Viktor Ryberg stuff.  I’ll admit it, I think galdrstadr (aka Runic Yoga) is just plain dumb.  The runes are the runes, yoga is yoga, don’t cross the streams. 

Dreya and I came up Friday, so I got to my first workshop after lunch.  It was a lecture on Braucherei from Rob Schreiwer.  Braucherei is the Pennsylvania Deitsch form of magic, and the de-Christianized form of it is Urglaawe, which is what Rob practices and teaches. Braucherei has been in the USA since about 1680, and since 1680 it has preserved runes and rune usage, herb lore, and a figure named Dame Holle.  Holle is very similar, possibly cognate with, the German Frau Holda, and on Saturday afternoon we had a Holle blot that was very moving.  I was particularly happy to find out that one of Holle’s totemic animals is the Bear, since I’m married to Sven, who is a bear.

Next was Finding Freyr, which is a ritual I’d attended at Pantheacon and really liked, but I didn’t go again.  What was different this time was that they’d brought an enormous Freyr cart, with an image of the god in it, riding along with a pregnant lady.  The lady has a devotion to Freyr, so regardless of the actual circumstances of conception, FREYR HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH IT. 

I socialized a bit and then sang a song at the Skaldic Competition.  I didn’t win, but people seemed to like it and sang the chorus with me.  It was a parody of the song “Dynamite” and I wrote it about Odin.  I’ll post it later.
After dark was the spae ritual.  I remain skeptical about the seidhr practiced by the seeresses, but I did ask a series of questions directed towards one of my ancestors.  I now think I may have contacted the wrong one, (there were a series of them with the same name) but nonetheless, I was taken aback by my ancestors and pretty emotional afterwards.

I am very annoyed to say I fell asleep and missed both Loki blots/parties up at the vés.  SO annoyed.  The Saturday night one I’m sure Loki had something to do with it because apparently the other Loki fans and I were up at the hill, which was dark, at the same time and we didn’t see each other.  No idea how that happened.

Oh yes, the vés.  Freyr had the largest, since his cart had to be parked in it.  There was a nice, kind of abstract statue of him carved out of a log.  On either side of him were bowls of condoms, and he had plenty of the usual offerings, of art, jewelry and drinks.
The Frigga vé had a large sculpted egret in front, which pleased me because I often see egrets and now when I see one I will also think of her.  Inside was a chest, drop spindles and wool, and a blue and white interior.
The Odin vé was a small tent with a cushion and plaid blanket for sitting in front of his small, handmade statue.  It was dark and a little scary which of course is how the Old Man likes it.

The Thor vé was fun.  I contributed my Thor statue and my two small straw goats that usually live in my office.  There was also a crocheted Thor doll, and I can’t remember who made it, but she could make a fortune on them.   Other items in the vé included a helmet, axe, and a keychain in the form of a lightning bolt that made thunder noises.
Finally, there was the Loki vé.  This was the vé that got the most love.  The centerpiece of the altar was the Paul Borda enthroned Loki statue, with a copy of the Snaptun  forge cover below.  There was a big bowl of party favours, and the kids rapidly found them and ran around blowing out the curls of paper.  Someone put a pink flamingo in front of the vé and it was decorated by coloured paper streamers, a green shag rug, a pot of paper flames and a banner that said in runes, LOKI SAVES.
The Freya vé was sad.  It had few items in it and it was tiny and messy. 
Another high point of Trothmoot was the divination workshop.  Originally there had been two workshops on divination scheduled for the same time.  This was deemed rather silly, so they combined them.  The workshop was three parts: what we know about Norse divination; modern forms of divination and using the runes in the modern era. 
I had a specific question, and it was suitable for an answer based on divination.  About a month or so ago, I woke up and my heavy silver Mjollnir, that I’ve been wearing since just before I went to Afghanistan, fell off its chain and to the floor at my feet.  The chain didn’t break or open; it was still clasped about my neck.  At first I thought maybe I’d been “let go” and I should pursue another religious path, but after the spae ritual, I had been rethinking that.  My new working theory was that perhaps I was to focus my spirituality on the ancestors and land spirits.  My instincts were correct; the runes confirmed my theory.  So that alone was worth the cost of the weekend.

Dreya and I took off before breakfast on Sunday, and we saw a doe walk across the road and up the slope on the other side, into the trees.  It was a beautiful coda to the weekend, but I was still very glad to be down near sea level and on our way back to San Diego.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Radical Farming

I recently saw a post on FaceBook which pointed out that raising your own food has become a radical act.   Not only have most people in the US and Canada become dependent on supermarkets, the unprocessed foods in the supermarkets have drifted farther and farther from nature.  The GMO controversy aside, the breeds of animals and strains of fruits and vegetables are so cultivated and groomed that our ancestors would not recognize them.

Being dependent on anything is not heathen.  Being separated from our ancestors is not heathen.   These things being true, Sven’s and my intention is to grow lots of heritage variety vegetables.   Heritage vegetables are hardier in their local environment, never artificially modified, and have flavours unlike the ones you buy in the store.  They’re also living pieces of history.

Enter Native Seeds/SEARCH (http://www.nativeseeds.org ).  While it’s possible to buy heritage seeds from any number of sources, Native Seeds/SEARCH is near us, and Sven and I have been devotedly locavore and intent on using local businesses for years now.  Native Seeds/SEARCH has a seed library where you can borrow seeds, “returning” them by keeping some seeds aside from the plants grown and bringing them to the library.   It sells collections of seeds bundled by ability to thrive in the seasons specific to our part of the desert.  Furthermore, they are seeds for foods grown by the local indigenous people, the Tohono O’ohdham.  As their “about us” page says:

“Our story began in 1983 following a profound realization. While working on a Meals for Millions project to assist the Tohono O’odham Nation with establishing gardens, NS/S co-founders Gary Nabhan and Mahina Drees presented tribal elders with broccoli and radish seeds. “What we are really looking for,” the elders replied, “are the seeds for the foods our grandparents used to grow.” This revelatory remark inspired the formation of Native Seeds/SEARCH as a collector and preserver of these endangered traditional seeds.”

Moving to a remote place in search of freedom and starting a farm there is really the Asatru activity par excellence.  Going a-viking was done for revenue in order to pay for a farm, or make money after a bad year on one.  The Norse who went to Iceland, Greenland and even further did so because they were discontent with some condition under which they had to live.  Sometimes it was a king being too heavy-handed with his power.  Sometimes it was a sentence of outlawry.  Towards the end of the Viking era it was religious persecution by Christians.  Moving out of California so that we can grow our own sustenance from non-corporate seeds, raising free-range chickens for eggs and making cheese from milk produced by our happy goats is not a hippie dream-come-true.  It’s our gods-blessed heritage.

Hail, and blessed be!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Northern Heim, Desert Clime

My heathenry vacillates between Crunchy Nature Mysticism and Free Religion for a Free and Independent People.  Sven and I are happy to say we’ve begun the process of reconciling both.

This past weekend, we took possession of a four-acre hacienda in the Arizona desert.  For the time being we have to split time between California and there.  We bought the hacienda from an older couple who were moving to Florida.  The husband openly admitted being pagan and the wife was wearing an “Orthodox Druid” t-shirt when we arrived on Saturday.  They were finishing up the cleaning.

We had a barbecue so the neighbours could say goodbye to them and meet us.   All the houses are on big plots of land; our four acres is typical.  This means we’re within eyesight of other houses, but getting to one involves some effort because all the roads are dirt.  Norse homes would have been further apart, but we still have a harsh climate to contend with to reach them.  The Norse grappled with winter and short growing seasons.  We will have to flourish in extreme heat and aridity.  As with most peoples who live in harsh climates, the neighbours are very friendly.  I’ve already been told I can get my first chickens from a family who have a large flock.

Here’s what is on the land currently.  The house has porches on four sides, including a screen-enclosed one (called an Arizona room).  There are desert climbing roses.  There’s a fountain in the back which Sven is “meh” about, but apparently the local birds adore it.  There are enormous outbuildings that only need ventilation and climate control to be breweries.  There is an olive tree, an orange tree, a grapefruit tree and a pecan tree.  D., the wife of Sven’s friend Karl, and I have many plans for those pecans.  My own eggs plus my own pecans equals the best pecan pie ever baked.

Posted because I like Soviet Realism

Besides chickens, the plan includes goats and gardens of heritage vegetables.  More on that in another column.

Our hacienda is also our temple.  We’re very keen on honouring the local nisse, and with those trees we have many.  I poured wine to all of the trees on the property and Sven introduced himself.  There is a large playhouse with a bridge leading up to it; Sven and I are in negotiations as to whether it should be a meditation room or a small hof to Odin, Thor, Frey and Loki.  The farming itself is a sacred act, and I think we are going to find ourselves invoking Frey, Thor and Sif more than we ever had.

Saturday night found several of us standing on top of an outbuilding, watching a magnificent sunset and then an uncountable number of stars and a perfect view of the new crescent moon.  It’s the best, and only going to get better, we think.  Hail, and blessed be.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Catching my breath

I've been working on a court martial that's eaten my life.  Last night I got home at 2030 (that's 8:30 pm for you civilian Americans).  I had time to check Army e-mail , shower, eat some chili Sven had made and go to bed.

In other news, I'm reading a book on keeping a small flock of chickens.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cause the Sagas Tell Me So---Nah!

Sven and I are a couple of professional people who live in an urban part of Southern California.  It seems kind of crazy that we’d adhere to a religion practiced in the coldest parts of northern Europe until no later than the 11th century.  Granted, Sven is Danish, and his soul has been sound since he rediscovered the religion of his people.  I married into it, and as with everything I do, I have to think about it deeply and develop it. 

Two things strike me as I read the lore, the Sagas, and the archaeology.  1. Asatru is a religion whose values are terribly needed in the United States right now.  2.  The Sagas are nothing on which we could build a modern religious society.

While Asatru was practiced from Germany to Greenland at various times through the centuries, most of what we have written down about it is from Iceland.  The Icelanders have a particularly interesting take, because they were essentially a bunch of anarchists and outlaws who found kings and Christianity too restrictive and struck out on their own.  For that reason alone, Asatru should have appeal to Americans and Australians in particular.  It is a religion that sustained rebellious outcasts in the wilderness.

Personal responsibility and self-sufficiency are the Asatru values par excellence.     Honesty and reliability define what a good person is.  One does not have to be “nice” or religiously devout.  One does need to be generous and aware of his or her place in the ancestral line.  There is nothing wrong with being rich.  There is nothing wrong with being proud of what one has achieved.  These are sentiments I think we desperately need right now.

The rules for living are laid out for us in the Havamal.  We honour the gods and ancestors through our deeds.  They aren’t interested in how often we pray; in fact, since prayers are accompanied by sacrifices, they would prefer we pray too little than too much.  A gift demands a gift, and there is a difference between giving in thanks and giving in order to create an obligation.  The best offering to them is through what we do with our lives.

A good Asatru is a hero.  They are someone whose descendants will want to talk about them for years to come.  A good Asatru is free; they have something to call their own, preferably real estate and livestock.  “One’s own home is best…even if it is only a roof and two goats, it is better than begging.” (Verse 36)  Their clothes are clean and neat, even if they are old and worn. (Verse 61)  They face challenges with courage.  In the face of physical adversity, they find something, anything, that they can still do.  “The handless can drive cattle, the lame ride a horse, the deaf be brave in battle.” (Verse 71)

This was true in 1000 C.E. and it’s true today.  I’m not going to go on a rant about the sense of entitlement a lot of people have, and the widespread sentiment that we need government to protect us from ourselves.  Make a stand!  Refuse to be a victim!

Still, there are safeguards to keep this from becoming an Ayn Rand-esque, dog-eat-dog world.  Generosity is mandatory, although within the limits of reason and not creating obligations unless obligations are needed.  A generous person of worth is referred to as a ring-giver.  Memorable heroes and heroines have excellent feasts and take care of their household and anyone assigned to it.  Being wealthy was praiseworthy as long as the wealth was accompanied by proportionate generosity.  No one approved of a miser.

A praiseworthy man (and this was the purview of men exclusively) would be a regular attendee and participant at the Thing, sometimes referred to in translation as the Assembly.  This took place a couple of times a year, and it was when lawsuits would be decided and different transactions were conducted.  The kind of man who was admired would be knowledgeable about the law and willing to stand up for people in their lawsuits.  Engagement in the community was encouraged, and to not attend the Thing regularly was seen as a kind of selfishness.

In the modern world, we tend to be involved in the community around us whether we like it or not.  The internet and dense centers of population have forced that on us.  An Asatru who isn’t involved with any religious group would do well to get involved in something around them in the local community.  Being around other people and forming friendships is an essential part of the Asatru experience.  On the day of this writing, several heathens we know are fighting a fire in West, Texas, caused by an explosion in a fertilizer plant.  For this, I hail them.

After all this, it feels anticlimactic to point out where examples of a heathen lifestyles fail in terms of ethics.  Very simply, we cannot live the way the medieval Scandinavians did.  The Icelanders were rural, living in extended households a good distance from the next farmstead.  It was an unbelievably hostile environment, where to not take in strangers could easily mean their death from the elements.  Over and over we read about people taking in travelers who they would rather not have in their home, but the laws of hospitality demand it.  We modern Asatru live in cities and towns usually, and a traveler can check themselves into whatever motel or hotel is most convenient for them. 

There was also a much larger danger from each other.  We read about how man X would kill man Y as they both walked down the road because Y insulted or offended X in some way.  The correct thing to do would be to go to the nearest farm, tell the occupants of the killing, the sentence being agreed upon at the Thing.  To tell the nearest people of the death made it manslaughter; if the death were concealed, only then was it murder.  Even with the intervention of the Thing, a killing like this could lead to a long feud, with the body count rising when warm weather allowed people to move around where they might encounter each other.

Obviously, these cultural norms do not work for us at all.  I’d want to say to anyone who might romanticize the Icelander’s lives that I’ve seen where this can lead.  Pastunwali is the social code of Afghanistan, and it’s very similar to that of the Icelanders.  Again, most people live rurally in either farms or small villages.  The normal dwelling is called a qalat, a walled compound with several buildings and an extended family with retainers living inside.  One building with always be the guest house, and a person who arrives in a village with no place to stay will remain at the mosque until the end of evening services, whereupon someone will invite them to stay in their guest house.  At Ramazan, an admirable man will set up a large tent outside the walls of his compound to feed anyone who comes to him, even if they are just passing by on the road.

They also have feuds, which are mediated by councils of elders.  As in Iceland, just because a case is settled doesn’t necessarily mean it’s over.  Disputes over land and water can go on for decades, with man X killing man Y because man Y’s uncle killed man X’s father.  No one ever forgets a wrong, and certainly no one ever stops the feud because a wrong was generations ago.  These are things that happen in the Sagas, and it’s no way to run a society.

In the developed world, we have laws, law enforcement, and courts with a judicial system derived from Scandinavian law.  While often heathens will dispute how far criminal law should extend into peoples’ lives, the court system is a massive improvement over a code that leads to endless blood feuds.  Since the laws are of Scandinavian origin (granted, by way of England), they aren’t even foreign for heathens.  These have proven effective in keeping men from killing each other as they walk down the road.

If anyone wants to put up a tent in front of their house to feed passerbys on the holidays, though, I think that that too would be an improvement to their community. 

Hail to the givers!  Hail the High One!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

In which I get all universal and sycretistic

So, yesterday I was sitting in my kitchen, drinking a glass of wine and reading the Kabbalah—

Why are you looking at me like that?

Anyway, I’m reading Daniel Matt’s “The Essential Kabbalah”, because I want to read it from an actual Kabbalah scholar before I tackle Dion Fortune’s take on it.  I’m Asatru, but my first mature investigations into “other religions” were through British occultism.  (Starhawk’s “The Spiral Dance” when I was a teenager doesn’t count.)  It’s really reminding me of something that’s been bugging me for a while.

Asatru’s theology is really underdeveloped.

This is difficult for me, because I’m a theologian from a religion with a highly developed theology.  I could chew up texts for breakfast and spit out exegeses that would make you weep at their complexity.  Now I have texts written by detractors, or people who just wanted to preserve stories, and not a lot of what believers actually believed.  We know more and more about how they practiced, at least in the upper classes, but not what was going on in their minds and spirits when they engaged with the gods.  The Kabbalah is giving me some insight into what could be or might have been if Asatru theology hadn’t been stomped out by Christianity before the Scandinavians could write down any of their own thoughts.

I’m heavily influenced by Jung, so I believe very much in archetypes that are universal.  Some of these archetypes are inevitable; if you speak an Indo-European language, the common concepts are going to occur and recur.  I’ve had a joke for a long time that when we uncover the human ur-religion, it’s going to involve a mandala and a dying god.  To that I would now add a sun goddess and a World Tree.

Above my desk at work, I have a small prayer rug that I bought in Kuwait.  I was looking for a nice one as a souvenir, much as non-Catholics buy rosaries as souvenirs when in Mexico.  I found a design that intrigued me and the shop owner, a fixture at the PX complex who I thought of as Tragic Rug Merchant because of his hangdog demeanor, told me, “It’s the Tree of Life.”

“I’ll take it,” I said, and didn’t haggle about the price.

As anyone who’s been reading my blog for any length of time knows, I am very into Yggdrasil.  As the World Tree, Yggdrasil carries in her branches the Nine Worlds.  I saw on my rug that the Tree had ten flowers on it:


The Kabbalistic Tree of Life has ten Sephiroth, and SHUT UP THAT FINAL FANTASY COMMENT BEFORE I SHUT IT FOR YOU.  Note, however, that one of them, “Tipharet”, is the trunk of the Tree.  The trunk of the Tree is Beauty.  So there are nine others.

Now I have to back this truck up to 2008.  I had just spent three months at paralegal school in Ft. Jackson, South Carolina.  My barracks had been old and literally rotting around us, full of black mold and roaches the size of my thumb.  We were crowded in like cattle and I got pneumonia.  During my time there, I had been trying to balance my Catholicism and my Asatru, knowing that Icelanders did it for a couple of centuries before Christianity fully took hold.  As I got sicker, I started leaning harder on the Catholicism because, well, I knew how to engage with it in times of difficulty. 

I got out of Ft. Jackson by the skin of my teeth.  I graduated with honours, but I firmly believe that if I hadn’t gotten out the night I did, I would have died. 

Fast forward a couple of weeks.  I had found a little part-time work with a company that was making calls on behalf of the Democrats.  I was ready to go, until the script they handed me was one urging voters to vote for a candidate because he supported funding abortion clinics.  That was against my religion and I believe in doing the right thing, so I was fired.

As I walked out, I thought to myself, “It’s all right.  My reward will be great in Heaven.”

Then I thought, “No it won’t.  There’s no reward, and there isn’t any Heaven.

“There isn’t any Heaven because there is no God.”

I went home, boxed up my prayer books and statues and put them away.  I felt a weird liberation, because the Big Sky Daddy of my childhood had just disappeared in a puff of nothingness. 

“What about the gods?” Sven asked.  I told him that he and I existed and that our cat existed, so I had no problem believing that the gods exist too.  After all, the Norse gods are not omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent.  They are mortal.  They get hungry, thirsty, cold, sleepy, etc.  I could completely grasp that.

But what was it that made them gods?  I’ve read everything from ancient aliens to deified ancestors.  Since Asatru is so intensely about the Ancestors, I can deal with that second possibility.  Still, what made them deity?  What is the sacred?

I’m going to jump over a lot of writings by the Dalai Lama and Mircea Eliade here, right back to the Tree of Life.  In the Eddas, it says that no one knows the roots of the World Tree.  In Kabbalah, the Tree has its roots in Ayin Sof, the unknowable.

My theological hypothesis, drawing from everything I’ve read in my lifetime, which is a lot, is this.  “God”, or “The Sacred” or “The Numinous” is like water.  We are made of water, we are surrounded by the water in the air.  If we do not have water, we will die.  That which has a concentration of this Numinous manifests the Sacred.  In his book The Sacred and the Profane, Mircea Eliade described the feeling one gets in the presence of such an item as “mysterium tremendum”.  He gave the image of a “primitive man” looking up at a mighty oak tree that’s been struck by lightning and getting a feeling of this mysterium.    The Ayin Sof is the Hebrew for this unknowable, ungraspable, Sacred.  The Tree is the emanation of the Sacred, the part that can be knowable.  The oak tree of the “primitive man” is a further expression of the Tree.  As above, so below.

The gods are, to me, beings that are more fully permeated in the Sacred than we humans are.  When a human is deified, like many of the Ancestors or heroes (the Romans were particularly interested in deified humans), that human has come to be more fully permeated in the Sacred as well.

This leaves room for lots more theologizing.  What does it mean when Odin is speared to the Tree, offering Himself to Himself?  What are the roles of the nissemen we find in nature?   Do non-Norse gods exist, and if so, what is Their relationship with the Aesir and Vanir?  What about the Runes?  I’m working on this, and when I think of more, I’ll share it. 

Hail to the Gods!  Hail to the Goddesses!
Hail to the bounteous Earth!
With wit and wisdom grant us,
And healing hands, besides!
Hail the Tree!