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.