Dec 21, 2012

Holy Day, Holy Beginnings



This year, 2012, has been an incredibly rough year--one of the hardest I've been through in a long time. The past week brought another round of sickness with it. But this year has been like that in general: like the hagalaz rune come to life, with one hit after another after another.

I had intended to be up in time for the actual solstice today, but ended up waking up late. My first thoughts were not pleasant ones, between sickness, grogginess, and feeling like I was already off to a bad start for the beginning of Yule. The sun was risen and the day was overcast. Any seasonal cheer seemed far away.

This made the turn-around all the more precious. I began the day with a candle and incense to honor Nott and Mani, thanking Them for Their travels and the rest They bring. I remembered times from the past year when I had seen great beauty in Their presence: falling stars and peaceful nights. Often, my fulltrui, Forseti, felt close at such times too.

I also thought of the Goddess Jord and remembered Her many gifts this past year--times spent in Her fields and forests. She sustains us and is our resting place beside the flaming hearth that is Sunna. She is Mother to Thor, the God who guards our world, and Mother to us all.

The clouds cleared and the sun came out. I set out new offerings for Sunna and the Day: incense, a sun-shaped loaf of bread I happened on yesterday, and a new candle. I thanked Sunna for her warmth and the light, life, and hope She brings. I thought of how Her shining face uplifts the spirit. We are Hers as well as Jord's. We cannot help but be sad when She hides and rejoice when She shines again.

Thanks are a prayer too. So often, I feel that the world is full of coldness and chaos. In prayer, we connect to the beautiful and the meaningful. Remember the good. Love the Gods and Goddesses.

Uncle Thor wrote a wise little Yule post: "Light a candle, maybe burn a little incense. Quietly call on the Gods of your choice. Speak a few words, make a dedication, and do it all in your own words.... In your Yule celebration, you have to provide the heart. It is up to you to fill all the little things you do for Yule with feeling and meaning."

Forseti is my fulltrui and for me, honoring His parents is a very important part of the Winter Solstice that begins the holy Yuletide. This year, the offerings were small white flowers, a new candle, and chamomile incense. Some of the flowers went to Frigga and Forseti as well.

From Forseti and His family, I have learned much of holding sorrows and joys together. In sadness, there can exist hope. In darkness, there still exists light. Tears and rejoicing can flow together. We need not build walls and divides within our hearts and souls.

May your Yule be blessed. May the Gods and Goddesses be close at this time and in the coming year. Thank you for reading. It is an honor to be able to share faith with you, in its many expressions. May this time warm you and bring you light.

Hail Nott! Hail Mani! 
Hail Sunna! Hail Dagr! 
Hail all the Gods and Goddesses!  
Hail the Yule!

Dec 8, 2012

The Goddess Rindr

In this post, I will share some personal UPG on the Goddess Rindr, otherwise known as Rind or Rinda. Our surviving lore tells us that she was raped by Odin and bore Him a son, Vali, to avenge Baldur’s death. I have not had as many interactions with Her as I have had with some of our other Gods and Goddesses. However, I do very much feel that She deserves honor and recognition.

I first met Rindr through my fulltrui, Forseti, during a meditation: He insisted on introducing us. To my perceptions, Rindr seemed to have long, curly, black hair and was very tall. She was dressed in a very somber and plain dress, which I “saw” as dark gray or charcoal black. Her presence and personality were different than what I had expected... or, more accurately, dreaded. While She was serious, She did not lash out about Her past. I could feel how her experience is truly a part of Her, but also how Her tragedy does not define Her.

This is one of Rindr’s great gifts: She is not what was done to Her or what happened to Her. She has an amazing strength that wells from deep within--not unlike Thrud's strength, but with a different sort of undercurrent. Rindr’s power is that which can only be found on the other side of lost innocence. Interestingly, Her presence did not feel at all heavy. Merely being near Her felt very grounding and calming.

My understanding of Rindr is that She is very much interested in those who have suffered any sort of violation, including “everyday” harms like verbal abuse. She is very adept with healing wounds of violation, loss, or neglect.

In my encounters with Her, I have found Rindr's personality to be direct. In some ways, She reminds me of Forseti. She cares deeply about justice for those who have been hurt, and comes across as remarkably patient and down-to-earth. Rindr tends to be straightforward in Her speech, but is very compassionate as well. She is truthful and expects to be addressed truthfully in return. 

Rindr does not seem to be interested in fancy things. Personally, I don’t see Her as wearing any jewelry, and I get the marked impression that offerings of that nature would not appeal to Her. One way to honor Her would be give someone in pain the space to share their story without imposing expectations or definitions on their experience. When we acknowledge the person behind the trauma, we ultimately acknowledge that dreadful things can happen to any person, ourselves included. This takes no small amount of courage. It is all too human to wish to distance ourselves, to try to "solve" the hurt, or even to outright blame the victim. Rindr teaches us to relate to each other--and to our own selves--with honesty and to face what is not comfortable.

Rindr is also an excellent Goddess to call upon for those who see the darker sides of human nature in their work. Those who regularly interact with the wounded can certainly become wounded themselves, especially over time. Rindr’s focused and grounding strength is particularly comforting. Her presence and wisdom may help against compassion fatigue and burnout.  

Rindr truly knows the blackest spaces. Those who seek Her will navigate through those places in good company. Her healing is not a surface "fix," but rather a deep sense of wholeness from the core. She can bring together that which has been fragmented. She is very much worth hailing and honoring.   

Nov 15, 2012

Odin Artwork By Meredyth

With the Yule drawing near, it is a good time to think upon and honor Odin, the Lord of the Hunt and the Jolnir. Today, I am very excited to have a chance to share my watercolor version of Meredyth's artwork of Odin. The original has long been one of my favorite pictures of the All-Father. I really feel that the artist caught a wonderful glimpse into the God's spirit with his striking work.

When I first felt the push to set up a little shrine to Odin, that was the picture that went up. No other image would do: that particular piece was the one that truly resonated with me. Back then, my altars were in their early, rough stages. For a polytheist, the availability of shelf space can at times become a cheerful conundrum, but that was not yet the case for me. One night, though, my fulltrui's presence was particularly strong, and He urged me to make some major changes to my shrines, including His own. As for Odin's--well, Odin's picture was too small. So I printed out a larger version of Meredyth's original black-and-white artwork and framed it. I did long for some color, however, and decided to try out my watercolors on the picture, since it was only for use on a private altar. The painted version has been up in my home for a while now.

Meredyth has very kindly given me permission to share my watercolor version of his original work. I have done a bit of re-balancing with my art software and am very pleased to be able to share this image of Odin now, at this time of the year. 


Watercolor Version of "Odin by Meredyth"

Oct 23, 2012

Autumn Sunna



Hail Sunna,
 Goddess whose light shines 
even more gloriously
as it fades 


 Bright hearth of Midgard,
Warmth of our world


We honor you, Golden One.

 

Oct 14, 2012

Sunday School Ragnarok

Lately, I've been dealing with a non-serious but annoying illness that refuses to let up. This might be the only October post.

I recently found an article on the "Twilight of the Gods" that is well worth a read. I think that Ragnarok is a very important subject, but for different reasons than may first be apparent. Quite frankly, it seems to me that the story of Ragnarok all to quickly becomes a distraction--or worse, an actual impediment to devotion. This effect is not limited to one "side" of the spectrum or another. I revere Loki, but if I want to add a jaw-ache to my already existing sickness, I need only read some of the individual Lokian takes on Ragnarok and on Balder in particular.

It is a beautiful thing to be passionate about one's Gods. I don't doubt for a moment that when one has a deep, personal connection with a Deity, one may share in profound and intensely emotional impressions and revelations. A devotee may be asked--or at least sincerely believe that he or she is being asked--to share these experiences. However, everything exists in its context. As Uncle Thor aptly puts it, our Gods and Goddesses are not big men and women in the sky. We may love and adore the very human sides They show us, but They are also Holy and Transcending. 

Among us mortals, the Ragnarok tale can be a lot like Bolverk's hone. It can cause more grief than it is worth. Really, who benefits from understanding time as a linear march toward an inexorable apocalypse? Not us. Polytheists don't need a final purge. We don't live in an utterly lost and tainted Cosmos. John Michael Greer discusses this subject quite eloquently in his book "A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism." Meanwhile, some forms of strict monotheism do require annihilation. The wheat and the chaff must be separated.

We can toss about hypothesis after hypothesis on Ragnarok. Many of those hypotheses will be touched by all sorts of influences that have little or nothing to do with the Gods. Our Gods are wise. They are not short-sighted. They know--often far better than we do--what is required for balance. The way forward is to trust and respect Them in the here and now.

Sep 29, 2012

Reflections On Odin

I tend to enjoy writing about Gods and Goddesses who are a bit off the beaten track. As autumn draws near, however, I'd like to share a few personal experiences with Odin. There always seems to be a certain charge to the change of the seasons. The subliminal feels just a bit closer. It is a good time to think of the God of wandering and mystery, of blood and storms, of wise words and great tales... the God of so many names and faces, to whom there is always so much more....

Please note that this post will be largely personal UPG. There are many, many wonderful resources available on Odin, including various blogs written by devotees of His. This short personal account of Him at Hagstone is recommended if you would like to read about another individual's interactions with Him. I've found that some of the author's impressions overlap with my own.


Photo Attribution: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Birdsx1034.png

To begin: I am hardly the first person to write this, but Odin can be scary. All our Gods and Goddesses can be scary, of course. They have sides that are so fierce and so beautiful, so cruel and so comforting... so very much alive in all the senses of that word. Odin takes this sort of presence and power to His own heights. I am hard-pressed to think of a God who more denies and defies analysis and definition--and that is not an observation that comes lightly after one has interacted with Loki.

I've noted before that Loki was the God who reached out to me first in ways that I could not ignore. Odin, however, was the first Deity I met through one of Loki's introductions... and very early on, at that. While individual takes may vary, I did--and still do--very much experience Odin as the "Father of the Gods." Meeting Him felt like an "official welcome" in ways that are difficult to put into words. Indeed, my first attempt to make a formal offering to Odin actually turned into my formal dedication to the Norse pantheon. That had not been what I had been expecting, but it was what He wanted, and it felt utterly appropriate.

More often than not, I experience Odin as a father or a teacher. At times, His voice can be unmistakable: with one sentence, He can cut through so much floundering and nonsense. He's the God who has sometimes pushed me when I badly needed a push, but who has also inspired me incredibly deeply. The idea I come back to again and again with Him is passion. Passion to the point where it scares. Passion to the point where the soul feels raw and bruised. But in that passion, there is renewal and life. In all honesty, I am very much in the process of learning here. Odin is such a remarkably intellectual and wise God, but He will not let a person hide behind their presumed intellect or wisdom. He is the God of living, of experience... of opening to the terrors and pains, of knowing the truest joys and most beautiful freedoms. He is a God of feeling life and being. Merely getting through is not enough. He reminds us why we should seek more--greater passions, greater knowledge, greater depth.

For this reason, one of my favorite names for Him is Veratyr, the God of Being.  

Odin is also very powerful. He can sometimes shake up the physical realm (I've found that Loki sometimes does this too). Here, I will share a personal story. Make of it what you will. I can only state that the experience had quite an impact on me.

Perhaps a year and a half ago, I was standing in front of my altars attempting to pray to Forseti. Usually, I do get some sense of my fulltrui's presence, but that morning, there was a gentle but unmistakable current in another direction. I was feeling Odin's presence instead. I remember Him saying something about having the Gods' protection--and here I truly do not wish to convey overtones of either arrogance or of having some sort of license to act foolishly--and then immediately heard a crash from the next room. I rushed over to investigate and discovered that set of heavy wooden book shelves I had installed above my bed had all broken off the wall at once and fallen down, landing right where I normally sleep. Admittedly, I had entertained a few quiet concerns about these shelves, but they had seemed stable enough and had seemed to be holding up over time. My lingering suspicions had apparently been more accurate. If the shelves had fallen on me while I was sleeping, I might have been hurt. I really believe Odin did me an incredible kindness that morning.

It seems to me that Odin is very much a protector of the Gods and Goddesses, and of all Asgard--as much so as Heimdall, but with the willingness and ability to travel far, work trickery, and play different sides against each other, sometimes for what we might consider obscure ends. I get the sense that He has the good of His pantheon at heart, but that He can be quite ruthless when necessary. Certainly, He seems to have a bit of a reputation as a hard (but infinitely rewarding) God to have as a fulltrui. I'm not His in that way, though, and leave the subject to those who are better prepared to discuss it. 

There is so much more that could be said about Odin. There always is. His connection to spoken and written language is one of His aspects that fascinates me, so I will conclude here with a list of Odin's many names.

Sep 4, 2012

A Question Of Asatru

Lately, I have been reconsidering my earlier approach of not identifying as Asatru. I don’t have any definitive answers, and this post is pretty much me thinking out loud. 

Entire legal battles hinge on the definition of a single, seemingly static word. Questions of personal and community identity are bound to be at least as complex. If nine judges looking at the exact same laws and the exact same precedents cannot all reach one decision on what a term may or may not mean, well… what does that say for a subject as deeply personal as faith?

I’ll begin with one label I am very comfortable with: polytheist. This is my go-to term if I am having a cordial discussion with someone out in the everyday world. It establishes a belief in multiple Gods, and the conversation can proceed from there. Saying that I am Heathen works less well in certain circles. In my line of work, we're more likely to think of the biker gang rather than a spiritual faith. Even without that particular association, the word “Heathen” cannot travel just anywhere without bringing along some baggage (often the listener's). Nonetheless, Heathen has been my term of choice because of its history and because, early on, it was actually the word I was hearing from my Gods.

On a personal level, I don’t identify as Pagan or Neo-Pagan for a simple reason: for me, these descriptors do not reflect how utterly life-changing it has been for me to discover that our Gods and Goddess are real. Others may be quite comfortable with these terms and with variations on them. I only speak to my own proclivities here. In my opinion, Pagan is a remarkably general term (as well as the name of another biker gang). I could easily state that I have been Pagan for over a decade now. Some of the people I met in that time talked about the Gods, but usually in the context of them being either archetypes or aspects of a monotheistic or dualistic entity. I saw no point to worshiping “gods” like that. The most accurate label I could find for myself was “Panentheist.”  Pagan was not my term of choice. To my mind, it was an umbrella term that could include everything from Atheists who enjoy mythology to spellcasting Christians to Wiccans to… well, you name it. I've always been interested in precision.

When I finally did meet our Gods, I started looking into Asatru. This did not go very well at first. Initially, I seemed to be pulling up every implicitly or explicitly racist site out there. Fortunately, I decided to trust my own experiences over the rantings and ramblings of mere mortals. Soon, I found solid Asatru resources, like Asatru Ring Frankfurt and Erich's Hall. Not everyone out there was a nutjob, but I did have to dig and to have faith. Then too, I was also dealing with the fact that Loki was the first God to really reach out to me.

Despite the good websites, it did not take long to get a certain impression of how Asatruar sometimes conduct themselves. For example, I saw a post in one group by a young fellow describing a pleasant experience out in nature. It was quite a beautiful little reflection, discussing the intersection of light and dark. But immediately, a number of "more experienced" men jumped down his throat. They called him "brother" while giving him orders to disregard his own experiences. The not-so-subtle attitude I saw there and on some other sites was "keep your mouth shut for approximately the next five years"--i.e., new converts have next to nothing to offer. I can't say I found this "tough guy" approach particularly persuasive. Less so, being in criminal justice.

Sometimes, I envy those who can identify as Vanatru. However, my fulltrui is most definitely Aesir, so that term would not fit me particularly well. The stand-alone meaning of Asatru is actually quite beautiful and very accurate. There are many inspiring people out there who describe themselves as Asatru, e.g., Larisa Hunter and Glenn Bergen. So far, I have also not had any bad experiences with the Heathens and Asatruar I've met face-to-face, even where we differ heavily on philosophy and practice. Perhaps I've just been lucky on that last point. But I'm wondering--really wondering--if I should continue to shy away from such a perfectly good word.


"Asatru is a modern religion with old roots. It is not about imitating what 'once might have been'. Asatru is about living with the gods today, here and now, even though we do keep in mind what once was, and let the inspiration flow through the sources like the Edda." 

...and...
 
"We belief in the equality of all mankind. We strongly object any kind of misuse of Asatru by any extremist group or individuals. Any form of ostracism... has nothing in common with us. In the old times anyone who heard the call of the gods could follow them, and this is still true today."

Yes, exactly.

Aug 26, 2012

Honoring Ancestors

I'll be frank: honoring the ancestors does not come so easily to me. My own childhood was anything but a Norman Rockwell painting. I suspect that this is something a lot of us struggle with.

When it comes to working with ancestors, I've enjoyed some progress over time. My maternal grandfather, who died long before I was born, has been willing to establish a connection. This fits in with what little I have heard of him: I gather that he was a very kind and supportive person in life.

You can also go much further back, to people who worshiped the same God(s) you do. You may or may not be biologically related. This can be a very powerful connection.

It is also worthwhile to learn what you can about your family history. I was pleasantly surprised when, right before starting law school, I found out that a great-uncle had actually been a title attorney (and an honest one at that). I also learned that this side was from Germany (Prussia) originally. I was able to find out more, mostly through photographs left from my grandmother, conversations with my father, and through research at the library, which has a free genealogy service. Apparently, some of them came to the U.S. from the Hanover region back in the mid-1800's, when things were in turmoil. One relative was from Alsace: the story goes that he moved to the U.S. to avoid the growing German influence in the area. He then ended up marrying a German. So much for making plans.

According to the census records, quite a few people on that side grew up speaking German. Here are some pictures:

The strong-looking lady in the white blouse is one of my great-great-grandmothers.





I also have a photo from the Civil War. It is on glass plate, and I keep it in a wooden box so the surface does not get damaged:

Joseph Levin Boerstler
Later on, I learned more about the maternal side. They appear to be mostly English. Some of them have been in the U.S. since the very beginning of the colonial period. I discovered that I am related to the Chew family twice over, as someone married someone else while having a great-great grandfather and great-great grandmother in common. That's something we don't think about nowadays. We tend to think of a family tree as having branches that each spread out in different directions, but people were living in the same areas for long periods of time. Parts of your family tree might look more like Celtic knotwork, with overlapping branches. In any case, what interested me was how many of the Chews were early justices and judges. One of them, Benjamin Chew, was pretty much legal counsel for the American Revolution. He was my third cousin many times removed, as it turns out.

The Honorable Benjamin Chew
I do not have more immediate family photos for this side like I do for the other. However, I did find pictures of a great-great grandmother and her family through the free trial offered at Ancestry.com (they were very good about cancelling when requested to do so, by the way). I had never seen these photographs before, but someone else researched that line and was kind enough to share the images. Ancestry.com is a good resource if you are looking for a place to begin, and the public trees can be very helpful. Some libraries also have genealogy services; the catch is that they might only give you so much time before you have to log off.

I'll finish up here by noting that I don't feel as "tuned in" to ancestor work as I do to, say, interacting with my Gods and Goddesses. Truth be told, I think that some people simply "resonate" more with the departed, regardless of whether those departed are their own. It seems to me that we all have different gifts and that we should not beat ourselves up or beat another person up for not connecting so strongly with their ancestors. I would like to emphasize that this post is the result of years of research and that I did get extremely lucky with the material that was available to me. Let us honor what we have, whatever that may be.

Aug 4, 2012

Forseti Photo Art

Forseti - God of Lawgiving And Justice

Photo art of Forseti. The two stock galleries I used are quite generous with their rights as long as they are given much-deserved credit. This piece is under the usual Creative Commons Copyright License: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA). A larger version of this artwork is available here.

The figure was created out of separate stock photos from the excellent Mithgariel-stock and Mizzd-stock galleries. The forest and ax blade are likewise from Mithgariel-stock.

The edelweiss is from Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain.

The text is a mix of various sections lifted from the Freeska Landriucht (Frisian Landlaw). Many of these paragraphs begin with the phrase Thit is riucht, or "This is the law...."

Jul 28, 2012

The Real Glastonbury Tor

I'm not much of a sports fan, but I was eager to see the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony last night. Part of the appeal was that the Olympics are a wholehearted international celebration of a tradition that originated in a polytheist society. This is quite special in itself. But my larger interest stemmed from the fact that I am an Anglophile. Visiting the U.K. always feels like returning home.

I was in England for a summer law program when they announced that London would be hosting the Olympic games. There was shouting coming from all around the school. What was going on? It was only morning, but a lot of people were certainly making a ruckus over something.

That same summer I saw Glastonbury, going off the "recommendation" of a law professor who made a few tongue-in-cheek remarks about the place. The Tor in the Opening Ceremony was crowned with a stalwart oak; below are a few pictures of the actual Tor. It is a remarkable place, but I was especially taken with the flocks of martins circling just above the highest point. It truly felt like the birds were blessing that ancient holy site.

Martins Circling The Tor

Glastonbury Tor

Jul 12, 2012

Woodworking: Altar Table


Today marks the completion of a rather involved woodworking project. The last bit of glue finally finished drying, and I can actually pick up the altar table without having anything snap off... I hope.
This was the initial design, which I drew out on the wood in pencil. I started the woodburning before it occurred to me to snap a picture.







More of the woodburning is complete. However, that star on the right didn't quite seem to be balancing out with the rest of the piece...











The final results, after multiple layers of staining and a great deal of sanding. The dark stain kept on bleeding into the knotwork and the sail, so I had to re-sand the piece a number of times.






Time to add some height... that is to say, legs. The application of copious amounts of wood glue was a good start. But I found myself consulting my legal tomes for further assistance. 




And this is the completed altar table...



If you enjoyed this post, please consider visiting Deb's Den. She makes very intricate and affordable pieces honoring the Gods and Goddesses. No affiliation here: I have ordered custom work from her and have been very happy with her creations.

Jul 3, 2012

Loki, Balder, and Nanna

Loki is the one who went out of His way to bring me Home. If not for Loki, I would not have come to believe in our Gods and Goddesses. If not for Loki, I would not have known how to meet or speak with my fulltrui. It was Loki who gave so much of His time and attention to one mortal, sharing His own heart in the process. I think He did so knowing all along that I was bound for another God. I also think that this could not have always been easy on Him. But that is the sort of God Loki is. That is the Loki I know. He truly gives gifts.

I am one of Forseti's. If there comes a literal, apocalyptic, by-the-Eddas Ragnorok the way that some people seem to think there will be (a view I find debatable), I know where I will stand at that bitter end. But gloom and doom aside, I owe more that I can ever say to Loki. He brought me Home, and I will not deny or forget that.

Loki is often linked to Balder and Nanna in our lore. I thought it might be interesting to offer the perspective of someone who is sworn to Balder's son, but who also holds no rancor against our Trickster. Fortunately, we do have two accounts of Balder's death, and one does not involve Loki at all. I found that version to be no small comfort when I first starting out and was more unsure of Their voices. But the other tale of Balder's killing--the one accusing Loki of orchestrating His demise--is more colorful and gets retold again and again. There is nothing wrong with this: I believe that many of our stories, especially the most troubling and intense ones, go towards very powerful truths. These tales are attempts to quantify and understand the Transcendent, to put a human face on Gods and Goddesses who are very much Holy Powers as well as Persons.

That story is a good one, but it has a downside: one very normal and human response to the famous tale of Balder and Loki is to immediately cast both Gods into static, black-and-white roles. Loki is bad, but He is bound--don't hail Him! Balder is good, but He is dead, and well... here, I'll quote from Our Troth, Second Edition: Vol. 1 - History and Lore. It has some excellent information on Balder and His complexities, but ends by naming Him as "less a god to be called on for help than one to be loved, remembered, and toasted at sumbel" (p. 250). Are both these Gods to be relegated to the outskirts, then?

Frankly, I did worry about an inherent conflict of interests--to use the lawyerly term for such things--when I began my path. But neither Forseti nor Loki seemed concerned. And I found Heathen writers who respected Loki as well as the other Gods and Goddesses, most notably Uncle Thor, whose blog is linked on the left. Some time after Forseti became my fulltrui, He asked me to start honoring His family as well as Him. My first meeting with Balder was... odd. He was every inch the ruler, true to the meaning of His name, and He seemed to be reserving judgment on me. I had a strong, nearly physical sense of His presence, but was left feeling more confused than enlightened. After that one encounter, He seemed to keep His distance. Later on, Balder reappeared in my life. He finally seemed satisfied that I would remain loyal to His son, and I now saw another side of Him: one of warmth and light and profound comfort. To me, Balder's presence feels a bit like Freyr's, but with another sort of overtone. Both those Gods know much of death and rebirth. The sense of Balder's power feels very long-term. It includes the cycles of time but also transcends them.

If there were one way to summarize my experiences of Balder, it would be as a God of hope. Our Troth acknowledges this side of Him quite well. However, I do very much believe He can be called upon and that He can be of the greatest help. Balder is not lost to us, just as our ancestors are not lost to us. Every one of us here on Midgard is connected to the world of the dead, whether we would have that connection or not. Balder understands this in the profoundest ways. He has been where we have been, and has gone where we must go.

To delve into the realm of personal UPG, it seems to me that His death was a necessity, one which He undertook with deep sadness, but knowingly. Balder is the God who is outside orlog: no weapon (no cause and effect) can hurt Him, and when He pronounces a judgment, it is truly final. The world we live in works very differently. I mean no disrespect at all as I type this, but my strong suspicion is that, when we consider the Gods as Holy Powers, we could not have the existence we do without Balder's death. This may be part of where Loki comes in. Entropy is absolutely essential to creation, scientifically and spiritually. Without its effects, our universe would still be the same sort of uniform heated matter that existed after the Big Bang. The stars and the very Earth were born of entropy.

In one sense, Balder offers a hope that is quite literally not for the time and place we are in right now. And yet, in a another way, His hope is immediate and imminent. He is removed from the Gods, but He remains one of Them. And He is very close to our realm, where death is a given.

After sharing these thoughts, I would like to reference another person's UPG of Balder. The methodology might be discomforting to some. However, the content resonated with me quite deeply.

Finally, I'd also like to include a few personal notes on Nanna, Balder's wife. There is very little lore on Her, as with many of our Goddesses. She has a very welcoming, grounded sense about Her. For some reason, I often see Her spinning... an interest She shares with Her mother-in-law, perhaps? I have found Nanna to be very wise and very compassionate. She is a good Goddess to consult on matters of devotion, and I get the feeling that she sees much of orlog as well. Nanna knows the depths, and She knows exactly what it means to walk with one's Deity through those depths. I usually see Her as having dark hair and a somewhat plain face. She has the sweetest smile, completely honest and unassumed. The sense of Her and Balder's love for each other... well, no words can do it justice. They are simply beautiful together.

Jun 8, 2012

Contact And Copyright Information

A bit of a break for an informational post:

All artwork is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license; however, images using stock photography (one so far) may require another party's permission to be redistributed. All writings--and my photographs that I haven't used in artwork--are copyrighted. However, any sharing of these articles in whole or in part for non-commercial purposes is perfectly all right so long as you cite back to this blog. Please avoid attempts to pass off my posts as your own work. That is called plagiarism, and I have a lawyer's sense of humor about such things, which is to say none. If you wish to use any writings here for a commercial work, please feel free to contact me at the e-mail below. As long as your request is for a purpose that honors the Gods and Goddesses, I am likely to agree to it.

Likewise, if you would like higher-resolution copies of the artwork or if you have questions about Forseti, Thrud, or others within the context of a UPG-informed devotional practice, please feel free to e-mail me at orderinthequartz--at--gmail--dot--com. I very much believe that each person's relationship with our Gods and Goddesses differs and is worthy of respect on its own terms, and will attempt to respond to any questions accordingly. Also, I'll emphasize here that I take privacy very seriously: yours, mine, and Theirs. In terms of some Gods or Goddesses, you might be better off contacting Their own devotees; if you are not sure where to begin, I will try to refer you to someone if I can.

Please note that I am not interested in arguments or in communications telling me why you think the contents of this blog are "wrong." Such e-mails will not be granted proverbial certiori. If you disagree with these writings, then by all means, start your own site. If you feel compelled to send a violent or threatening communication that could potentially open you up to felony charges, you'll want to think very, very carefully before you hit that send button. Again, I do have a lawyer's sense of humor, which is to say none at all where threats are concerned.

Courteous communications are always welcome. However, I may not be able to respond to you immediately. Finally, please note that I cannot answer any law-related questions. Please consult your local bar association or an attorney in your jurisdiction if you need legal help.

May 21, 2012

Thoughts On Love

Love is the four-letter word, one we humans are not always very comfortable with--and I’d be quite dishonest here if I did not include myself in that “we.” Some of our agitation is societal. When we’re young, we feel love with a fierce intensity. It might be directed at a stuffed animal, but it’s most certainly there: undiluted, direct, and unapologetic. Love might flare up and be gone, but there was no question that--for a time, at least--it existed, blazing true and bright.

Soon, we take the necessary steps of growing older. We learn control. We learn how to fit in. That one stuffed animal you loved for years goes on a shelf. But something else can happen too: all too often, the person who loved that stuffed animal is relegated to the shelf as well. We slice off pieces of ourselves to live in this world. We take on other voices, absorb other opinions. And all this needs to happen to some degree. One can’t be a child forever, either physically or mentally.

We also learn that love and its expressions are conscribed. One may say “I love you” to a romantic partner one has known for only a month. Only, please don’t say those same three words to your friend whom you’ve for known for a decade. This is very odd when you think about it. We can, however, freely proclaim that we love coffee. Or the Italian countryside. The whole business is… confusing and contradictory.

No wonder we’re so uncomfortable with this four-letter word. It’s bad enough in its secular sense, but its myriad of uses in varying monotheistic religious contexts just adds to all our trouble. Indeed, some Heathens convey the impression that they wish we'd neither speak nor write of “love” in relation to our faith. My own opinion is that this is an impossibility. Pretty much everyone is a convert, perhaps with an exception or two somewhere or another. At some point, most of us stepped outside the familiar and listened to a yearning from deep within. Some instinct, some voice let us know that “the tried and the true” were not right for us. We recognized that we were finding beauty, meaning, and completion in a place very far removed from the societal presumptions of either Atheism or monotheism. In other words, we listened to love. And, yes, even if you are following a warrior path, some form of love drove your choice. Recall that Odin Himself is married to a Goddess whose very name means "love" or "beloved," and that another Goddess associated with love gets half His slain. Recall too that Valhalla is hardly the only hall in Asgard, popular misconceptions to the contrary.

Still, it’s not a very comfortable word, is it? The twist here is that our discomfort comes from our discomfort with ourselves. If we have lived on this planet, we’ve all given away pieces of ourselves. We’ve all told our hearts that its longings are not allowed--that whatever the heart is crying out for is “weak” or “selfish” or “too much trouble” or… the list goes on. When we tell the heart that it is flawed, we tell ourselves that we are flawed. We are weak or selfish or too much trouble or....

Abusive or constraining words are not conducive to love. Love requires knowledge: a deep and true knowledge, not a surface familiarity or an itemized list of attributes. It requires honesty about what is meaningful, the sort of honesty we had about the stuffed animal that was loved, back when we didn't care what anyone else had to say about its value. And then, love requires acceptance. This might be the hardest part of all, because acceptance means loosening our very natural desire for control. It means that we must give up our cherished illusion that we have ultimate mastery over who we are, deep within. This is why it can be so hard to love ourselves. From the raw and sometimes painful core, we must release our sense of who we want to be or who we wanted to become... of who we were told we should be or thought we should be. Love is accepting what actually is, as of now, and moving forward on that basis.

None of this is to say that we relinquish responsibility for our actions. Emotions can point toward the heart's path, but they are pieces of a larger picture; this is a topic I hope to explore in a subsequent post. Here, I will note that we do tend to choose a better course from a foundation of authenticity. The chronic alcoholic who denies what he is racks up multiple DUI convictions—that is, presuming he is very lucky and doesn't main or kill anyone first. It might tear him up inside, but for his own sake and everyone else's, he desperately needs to face his reality.

In truth, though, all these thoughts are glaringly incomplete. We can look to great poets and playwrights, to dreams, literature, and psychology texts, but there will always another surprise, another revelation, another mystery--another grief, another loss, another wound--another sunrise and another solace. No summary, axiom, contract, or end-point can describe, proscribe, or define love. Love is worthy and complex and irreducible. If we begin to learn something of it in the course of a lifetime, we have been blessed.

May 16, 2012

Photo Art Of Gerd And Frey

Gerd and Frey


The human subjects in this piece are from the excellent Tigg-stock gallery/Random Arts. They are used here with permission. The nature imagery is all from my own photography.

I only "see" Frey and Gerd on occasion, and almost always together. The sense of Their love for each other is profound. It includes--rather than excludes--those who come into Their presence. They have so much beauty, warmth, and joy about Them.

For further reading, here is a personal account of Frey that was written by a priest of His.

May 2, 2012

Fancy Titles

Titles are interesting beasts. The Gods have them (think of Odin’s many honorifics), and humans have them too. In spiritual circles, you’ll come across all sorts of titles. There are priests and priestesses and shamans and spirit-workers and… well, anything else you can think of. Some titles might be ordered for free (the Universal Life Church comes to mind here) or bought from a presumed authority or earned through training. Others might be given directly by a Deity or another entity. The ways of coming by a title are as myriad as the possible titles themselves.

In my day-to-day life, I have a fancy title. Technically, I am to be addressed as “Your Honor” or “The Honorable.” As a practical matter, the main time I ever encounter this appellation is when I'm receiving correspondence from the bar association. Since we don't wear black robes or carry around a gavel, "Your Honor" tends to get lost in all the bustle. Still, the title is mine. Acquiring it was a matter of being hired for a particular job and then swearing to an oath administered by a busy clerk in a windowless office. The entire process probably took less than 60 seconds. Nonetheless, at that moment I was suddenly was transformed into “The Honorable."

Receiving a title might be a quick affair. Living up to one's title is much more involved and can entail a lot of responsibility. For example, I have to accept certain restrictions on "everyday" freedoms, even when I'm off-duty. Likewise, practicing attorneys must navigate the complex world of legal ethics--a mere implication that they've accepted someone as a client potentially sets them up for a great deal of suffering.

All of this is to say that serious titles can involve serious burdens.

Back to spiritual matters: I do believe that the Gods and Goddesses might give us titles of various sorts. Committing to being a devotee would certainly be an example of this. However, a word of caution. It seems to me that our Norse Deities can be a practical lot with Their own peculiar sense of humor. Imagine, if you will, a God or Goddess handing you a sword or an ax, the most beautifully crafted and perfectly balanced weapon you have ever held. Imagine further that you have little to no training in using this particular weapon.

What do you do with that shining sword or resplendent ax? Do you immediately wave it around for everyone to see and perhaps lob off a few of your neighbors' fingers? Or do you accept the gift with respect and deliberation, and then take the time to receive advice and instruction on its use?

Titles--especially ones backed by oaths to the Gods--are a serious matter. This is not to say that all is necessarily lost if there has been some confusion. For example, in her book Fulltrui: Patrons in Asatru, Mist gives an excellent account of having a patronage commitment renegotiated from Odin to Frigg. Our Gods are truly good Gods, and They do not set us up for failure.

We do need to be sensible, though. Not every person who claims to have a spiritual title is reliable. Step back, and watch how they wield their presumed gift. Words are words. Keep an eye out for what follows after those words.

Apr 16, 2012

Personal Gods And Goddesses

I'll begin with a tale of sorts. In the course of my work as a judicial officer, I once found myself interacting with a particular family with a lot of problems. There wasn't much that I or anyone else could do for them except listen politely to their woes and try to pass along a few presumably helpful phone numbers. My colleagues and I fielded any number of calls over the weeks, always giving them the same procedural advice and a touch of sympathy while we reiterated, yet again, that we could not help with their situation. One of the involved parties called back later and told me "I feel like I really know you." The observation was quite sincere, if misplaced. But it got me thinking. No, you don't know me. You know what I have tried to do for you in an official capacity. But you don't know me.

If you'll bear with a small digression before I return to the topic at hand: Dver recently posted an excellent article on "The Fallow Times"--that is, those periods when we feel especially disconnected from the Gods and Goddesses. For a mystic, this might mean "hearing" or "seeing" nothing. For others, this could entail a sense of lacking focus, or perhaps feeling that a formerly bright inner fire has cooled or gone dark. We have many ways of honoring our Gods and Goddesses, but no matter how we approach our Divinities, I suspect that many of us can relate to that gnawing sense of being off-course, disconnected, and adrift. I'd like to submit another point into the discussion: i.e., some Deities really do want personal relationships, and problems might result if we avoid Their wishes for too long. This issue is not necessarily limited to mystics. A worshiper can get a strong sense of Odin's personality by reading His surviving lore. If things feel off, perhaps one answer is to seek out knowledge of who He is in some of His other aspects.

It would stand to reason that not every individual God or Goddesses desires to cultivate an especially close connection with every last person who approaches Them. Some interactions are about straightforward worship. You might pick up on an abiding sense of love now and then, but there might not be a sense of deeper resonance. I'll be frank: I have this sort of relationship with a number of our Gods. I honor Them, but the relationship tends very much towards the... professional.

On the other hand, we have the possibility of extremely personal connections to certain Divinities. Not everyone is comfortable with this idea, nor considers such relationships desirable. However, as someone who was brought into my faith vis-à-vis Loki, I must note that this was a side of Them that I immediately crashed up against. Loki is not one for a great deal of formalism--which is not to say that He doesn't appreciate an honest, well-crafted prayer or adoration, but He does pretty much force you to relate to Him personally. I never came into Heathenism in the context of sticking solely with the Eddas or engaging in ritualized worship: instead, I got hit over the head by our very own Trickster. He then introduced me to His friends, beginning with Odin--a God who also enjoys roaring into otherwise innocuous dreams and meditations.

Some Deities really do crave personal relationships. At a certain point, you are likely to profoundly irk--dare I even say hurt--these Gods if you try to pretend that circumstances are otherwise. Loki is certainly one such Divinity for me, as are Forseti and Thrud. Be prepared to be surprised. When I started off on this path, the connections did not form as I thought they might. For example, I'd always loved the mountains and felt that there was something special about Skadi, even when I first read her story as a child. I did not really believe in any Gods for most of my adult life, but I'd still think of Her whenever I drove through the mountains. As it turns out, however, I don't see much of Skadi. I have spoken with Her perhaps twice now. Contrary to my previous expectations, I connect more with Njord.

Like us, our Gods and Goddesses are complex, multi-faceted beings. We'll each see certain sides of Them--jewels glimpsed from different angles, their faces sometimes shadowed and sometimes shining with light. Indeed, the individual worshiper may experience conflicting and contradictory sides of the same God. As with human-to-human relationships, the "shoulds" and the "woulds" must give way to more natural, heartfelt resonances.

Mar 26, 2012

Bragi Artwork

Bragi - God of Song
More photo art, this time of Bragi, the God of skalds and song. I incorporated apple blossoms in honor of His wife.

No attributions for this particular piece: everything was either my own photography or was in the public domain.

Licensing is Creative Commons Copyright: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA).

Mar 20, 2012

The Magic Of Spring

Eostre

About a week ago, I had an interesting experience in a meditation: I was pursuing another line of inquiry entirely, and suddenly felt Eostre's presence. It took a moment or two to figure out who had stepped over to introduce Herself. She was very beautiful and had about Her the feel of flowers, growth, and the inexorable force of the sun moving up through the sky. The vernal equinox took on new importance at this point, needless to say.
This first day of Spring, I went on a hike. On the recommendation of my fulltrui, I passed the first trail I had been planning to visit and sought out another trail, further out. I was treated to every sort of bird. The sightings started with a very loud, querulous "discussion" between two hawks about who, exactly, was entitled to a choice bit of property by the stream. I followed them for a while while they flew through the trees, exchanging a volley of arguments and counter-arguments. Eventually, one conclusively won his case and returned to his domain, victorious. Later in the day, I saw a larger hawk with a white belly circling above. Perhaps this was the local female? No wonder the battle had been so intense!

Hawks were hardly the only bird in the woods. Every sort of woodpecker was out and about.




 
A kingfisher made quite a show, flying up and down the stream. These birds are quite shy, and I was lucky to get a photograph.





Signs of Spring were abundant. Daffodils bloomed beside the stream, and small, delicate flowers graced the low spaces in between gnarled roots.




The birds just kept on coming! I also spotted a great blue heron not too far from the kingfisher's territory. Many smaller birds were flitting about in the trees, including cardinals, a bluebird, chickadees, a titmouse, and innumerable nuthatches.

Hawks always remain a favorite, however.

Hail Eostre! Hail the Gods and Goddesses! 
Hail the Day and Night! 
And Hail the Spring!



Mar 13, 2012

Forseti Pastel Artwork

Forseti - Stiller of Strife

Back in February, I bought myself a new set of pastels to celebrate the anniversary of Marbury v. Madison. I finally had a chance to try them out yesterday.

For a while now, I've been wanting to create a picture of Forseti presiding as judge. The gold pillars represent His hall, Glitnir. Hawks are sacred to Him, so one is included in the background.

Licensing is, as usual, Creative Commons Copyright: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA).

Feb 21, 2012

Experiences With Heimdall

Today's post is about a few of my personal experiences with Heimdall. I am coming into the subject as someone who belongs to another God and not as an immediate dedicant of His. However, I have noticed that Heimdall and my own God, Forseti, have a number of things in common: it comes very naturally to draw some comparisons between the two. Both can show some reserve and both are best approached with a certain level of formality, respect, and decorum--especially at first. It has been my experience that Heimdall, like Forseti, understands that it can be hard to control our thoughts. He can be astoundingly patient as long as it is one's intent is to be respectful. Both Gods are associated with guarding boundaries and both are likewise protectors of what is holy. Heimdall, however, seems to have a far more "military" feel to Him--speaking to my own experience, at least.

Heimdall is most famously known as Asgard's guardian. He also is associated with Rig, who taught the runes to mankind. In any case, teaching, runic knowledge, and intellectual pursuits are all within Heimdall's purview. He is very much a God of illumination in many different senses. While meditating, I have often found Him one of the very easiest Gods to "see," though I do not always have the easiest time with visual interactions.

Many of my personal encounters with Heimdall have been as a student approaching a teacher. This is not an uncommon way to relate to Him from what I understand. Like Forseti, He will ask questions and expect that real thought be put into the answers. He seems to enjoy honest emotion and honest discussions. He has a fierce passion for the Gods and Their realm that comes right from the heart. In this way He rather reminds me of Odin. Duty is hardly the only reason Heimdall stands guard: while one's role and one's deeds are important, He also reveals the ferocious drive, transcending value, and core of love underlying that which must be done.

Heimdall is an extremely intellectual God. With his connections to listening and understanding, as well as to teaching and illumination, I believe that He would be an excellent God to call on for any academic pursuit. Heimdall seems to have a very genuine warmth and regard for humanity--rather like Thor, but with a twist more towards various forms of development such as education or acquiring technological knowledge. This may seem to be a bit of a digression, but I was really hit with a sense of Heimdall's nature when I was--of all things--discussing the history of transistors with a friend. Transistors were the reason we were able to move away from vacuum tubes and ever-expanding, gargantuan computers to create the technology we have today. The manufacturing process itself is of interest, as it involves changing and layering crystals, often with a laser (or so I am given to understand, with only a lay-person's background in any of the sciences). This gets all the more amusing when some of the processes explicitly reference diffraction, the principle that also allows for the existence of rainbows. Then there is the way transistors work as switches, determining what gets through and what is blocked, and as amplifiers (remembering Heimdall's acute powers of hearing and sight).

Not surprisingly, Heimdall sometimes shows a keen interest in assisting with spiritual pursuits, including building up relationships with other Gods and Goddesses. I have found that He has excellent insights about spiritual practice, developing increased perception in meditations, and forging deeper connections with other Deities in our pantheon. One of the things I have learned from Him is that the bridge between worlds and our relationships with our Gods are not static: Bifrost itself is made of light, which is in constant motion. So too with our exchanges with the Divine. I admittedly have a great deal of trouble internalizing this concept, but connection really is more of a dance or a flow than a set-down path. Communication happens far more naturally if we can approach the Gods in this way.

Our Deities are much grander than our human preconceptions. We can sometimes perceive conflicts of interest where there may not be any, and avoid approaching certain Gods or Goddesses on that basis. Heimdall is a true friend of humankind and is an especially good God for any of us to hail or honor. Respect, as always, is key.

For more UPG about Heimdall, I recommend The Temple Of The Flea's Heimdall Pages. The site was created by a devotee of His and includes information on offerings.

Feb 18, 2012

Adorations To Forseti

Seventy-two Adorations to Forseti. More Adorations are available at The House of Vines.



I adore You, Stiller of Strife.
I adore You, God who truly listens.
I adore You, One who is fair.
I adore You, Balder's son.
I adore You, Wielder of the Golden Axe.
I adore You, Giver of Law.
I adore You, gentle teacher.
I adore You, God of the Holy Spring.
I adore You who loves wisdom.
I adore You who speaks softly.
I adore You, so often set apart.
I adore You, God who sees the hidden meanings.
I adore You, God whose words are strength.
I adore You, Lord of shining Glitnir.
I adore You, Master of the Tenth Hall.
I adore You, rich in gold and silver.
I adore You whose expectations are exacting.
I adore You whose regard is intense.
I adore You whose love encompasses.
I adore You, God as warm as steady flame.
I adore You who welcomes.
I adore You, patient one. 
I adore You who guides.
I adore You who sets the path through the storm.
I adore You whose speech is unclouded.
I adore You, Settler of Charges.
I adore You, seeker of precision.
I adore You who opens hearts.
I adore You whose gaze pierces as the hawk's.
I adore You whose smile is the sun rising.
I adore You, God of the Sacred Isle.
I adore You, Judge of the Gods.
I adore You who guards what is holy.
I adore You, Builder of Bridges.
I adore You, God of Balance.
I adore You who loves justice.
I adore You who seeks the right solution.
I adore You whom all the Gods hear. 
I adore You, God of pure and flowing streams.
I adore You, God who appears at sea.
I adore You who builds the lawful land.
I adore You who Presides.
I adore You, constant star.
I adore You whose voice lifts up.
I adore You, God who pries out truth.
I adore You, God who shares Your thoughts and presence.
I adore You, Honorable One.
I adore You, Honest One.
I adore You who demands integrity.
I adore You who speaks forthrightly.
I adore You, God who gives generously.
I adore You who steers Home.
I adore You, God of the Frisians.
I adore You who perceives the hidden heart.
I adore You, God who binds.
I adore You, God of sworn oaths.
I adore, God of fierce freedom.
I adore You who rejoices.
I adore You who sorrows.
I adore You, God who breaks down walls.
I adore You whose blade cuts.
I adore You whose verdicts endure.
I adore You who mends wrongs.
I adore You who seals judgments.
I adore You whose rulings are sure.
I adore You who hopes for peace.
I adore You, God of tranquil waters.
I adore You, God of open sky.
I adore You, whose voice is poetry.
I adore You, whose eyes are light. 
I adore You, Fully Trusted.
I adore You, Forseti.

Feb 9, 2012

Balder And Nanna Artwork

Balder and Nanna
A new devotional piece in pastels, with some color-balancing via my preferred art software. The contrasting black and white background symbolizes Their passing through Hela's realm.

I've been in a "Slavic" sort of mood lately. Balder's shirt design reflects this.

Creative Commons Copyright: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA).