Dec 28, 2013

The Longest Night


A few photos from the longest night.


Mani cloaked Himself with a faint "moonbow" to welcome in the Yule.



Hail Mani! Hail Nott!
Hail the turning of the year!

Dec 17, 2013

Woodburnt Altarpiece For Tyr

I've been meaning to set up a shrine for Tyr for a while now. Today, I tried my hand at woodburning a small icon of Him. I have never woodburnt anything quite like this before, and am more than a little pleased with how this piece turned out. The icon now occupies a place between the Thor and Heimdallr shrines.
 
Devotional artwork of the Norse God Tyr

Nov 29, 2013

Winter Crows

Today was an excellent day for observing crows. I have always liked these birds, but as a Heathen, I now like them even more. Odin is one of the Gods for whom I feel a particular resonance.

The crows congregate in the trees and by a mudlfat, cawing and socializing. They are remarkably intelligent creatures, reminding us of the wise All-Father.
























 Here is a short movie of the crows in the trees near the water:


Hail Odin!
Hail the approaching Yuletide!
 

Nov 25, 2013

Sunlight Under Stones: Not All Families Are "Neurotypical"

I'm going to break a rule here. Several rules, really. If you come from a similar sort of background, you'll perhaps be all too familiar with these rules. You see, I believe in sunlight under stones. I think that some secrets drain us too deeply if kept indefinitely. Sometimes we must give ourselves permission to be bold, to speak our own truths. Rotten things--mold, mildew, and decay--thrive where there is no sun. Light kills the rot.

My truth is that I come from a non-neurotypical family. One parent has had severe paranoid schizophrenia all of my life. This got progressively worse as I got older, but the schizophrenia was always there. The other parent does not always interact in "normal" ways either, but is intelligent, loyal, and gentle. I suspect Asperger's, but nothing has ever been diagnosed; indeed, I myself can empathize with some "Aspie" traits, but the controversy over the DSM-5 aside, I likewise have not been diagnosed with it. 

During this time of year, when our thoughts turn to family, I say let us be honest. Let us at least be honest with ourselves, for honesty really is the only way through. I'm happy with my life, but I did not get to to this place by pretending that I grew up in a Norman Rockwell painting. One way or another, sunlight must be allowed under the stones. Your story must be permitted its voice. While silence is utterly moving and transcendent in some contexts, it is the vilest poison in others. We all need a chance to be heard. We all need a chance to be able to speak our truth.

I know first-hand that stigmas against the mentally ill can be projected onto the children of the mentally ill. A stigma might be hidden under a veil of politeness: good people don't talk about that, and so forth. Telling the truth can be a risk. I have also seen the other side of taking that risk. Even in the simplest interactions, I've seen people lift their heads with relief because they are talking to another person who gets it. A tension drains from their shoulders. Voices lose a defensive edge.
 
Many of us have one secret or another. You are not alone. Perhaps it is time to tip over the stone. Perhaps it is time to let the sunlight in.

[If you come from a non-neurotypical family, awareness of the multi-generational phenomena of Childhood Emotional Neglect may prove helpful, especially if you've already addressed some of the more obvious "surface" effects and find yourself struggling.]

Nov 5, 2013

Autumn Gold








 





Oct 13, 2013

New Altars

I moved not too long ago. Back at the old place, dismantling the old altars turned into a quietly moving experience in itself: it is definitely worth pausing for a bit to thank the Gods and Goddesses for the blessings They have given before packing up one's altar pieces. I actually had a curious sensation of many hands lightly touching my own as I prayed for the final time at the old altars.

Here are a few pictures from the new place. The main room has a corner shelf with various shrines. Odin and Frigg's are shown here:













 
There is also a new wall shrine to Forseti, my fulltrui. This is quite visible as soon as one walks in the door; it is located in the very center of the new home. I very much like that symbolism.

The top plaque is simply a printed parchment on stained wood, which I once put together to go with the main altar piece below. It reads: "Hail Forseti, Builder of Bridges, Stiller of Strife, God of Frith and Truth."

The far more elaborate woodburnt icon of Forseti on the small table was made by Debra Arnold. It is definitely one of my favorite images of Him. This piece shows Him sitting with axe in hand and has a number of hailings for Him written in runes along the border.

Moving certainly takes a lot out of a person. Supposedly, it is one of the most stressful of life events. I think that I can very much believe that, especially lately. I still have a bit more setting up to do, but the altars have already gone a long way towards making this new place feel like a home.

Sep 2, 2013

Experiences With The Goddess Gna

In this post, I would like to share some photo art and a few thoughts on the Goddess Gna. My impressions are rooted in personal experience (UPG) and are based on only a small number of encounters. For a quick overview on Her, you can reference the Wikipedia article about Gna and Hofvarpnir.

The photo art just below was created with stock from two generous stock galleries on DeviantArt: the female model is from Kechake Stock and the horse is from LuDa Stock. The background is my own photography. You can click on the image and right-click "View Image" to pull up a full version of the artwork, which is under a Creative Commons Copyright License: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA).


Photo art of the Goddess Gna with Hofvarpnir

Gna is a good Goddess to hail in times of transition. Much like Odin and Loki, She crosses borders and moves between worlds with ease. I have only had a few interactions with Her and have found Her to be refreshingly direct. She seems to get to the point quickly and has a keen sense of humor.

Of course, Gna is very strongly connected with Frigg. On a personal level, I do have my own reservations about the title "handmaiden" sometimes used for certain Goddesses. To my mind, that word has a bit of a medieval, post-conversion air to it. I do believe that the Goddesses closely associated with Frigg are full Divinities and Holy Powers in Their own right. We can hail Them, honor Them, and grow with any of Them as we might with other Deities in our pantheon.

Gna is a Goddess of communication and information. I suspect that her purview would extend to modern information technologies and to those who work with those technologies.

Gna is also very much a traveler. She is an excellent Goddess to consult for those who do any sort of "journey work" or interactive meditation. If you are a devotee of a particular God or Goddess, She can teach much about what it means to further the interests of a Divinity.

In my interactions so far, I have experienced Her as a youthful, lively Goddess with gold or blonde hair. As mentioned in other posts, though, I sometimes get rather hazy "visuals" in meditation. In any case, Gna is quite friendly, swiftly intelligent, and had an extremely compassionate feel to Her. She sees many worlds and places, and She is very close to Asgard's Queen.

Hail Gna, bright messenger!
Hail lovely Goddess, who rides far and wide,
 Bringer of blessings and knowledge!

Aug 11, 2013

Codex Unia: Karl And Redbad - Part III

This is the third and final translation of an Old Frisian legend preserved in the Codex Unia.


PART III - Karl And Redbad

Then the Twelve fell to their knees and prayed piously. When they were done with the prayer, they saw a thirteenth sitting at the stern and a golden axe on his shoulder with which he steered them back to land against the current and wind.

Then they came to land, and he threw the axe upon the land and turned up the grass turf. Then a spring welled up there. Therefore, that place is called "up to the Court of Axes." [FN12] And over Eswei [FN13] they came to land, and they sat beside the spring. They took what the thirteenth taught them as their law. Though none of them knew who the thirteenth was, he was like each of them. [FN14] He showed them the law, that there would no longer be only Twelve. Therefore, there shall be thirteen lawspeakers in the land and their judgments must be pronounced at Axenhof and at Eswei. And whenever they disagree, the seven must overrule the six.   

From this comes the land-law of all Frisia. 

[FN12] Axenhof.

[FN13] Eswei is sometimes translated as the "Way of the Gods." See Rolf H. Bremmer, Jr., An Introduction to Old Frisian, 176 (2009).

[FN14] H.A. Guerber writes that "the newcomer resembled each one of them in some particular, but yet was very different from any one of them in general aspect and mien." See H.A. Guerber, Myths of the Norsemen, 143 (1909).

Aug 7, 2013

Codex Unia: Karl And Redbad - Part II


This is the second translation in a three-part series about the divine origins of Old Frisian law. The legend's pre-Christian elements become especially apparent in Part III

PART II – KARL AND REDBAD

The Frisians asked King Karl to wait for their spokesmen, and he granted his permission. On the second day, the king called them to go and come back with their law. They came and chose their spokesmen, Twelve from the Seven Sealands. [FN7] Then he ordered them to choose their law.

The Twelve yearned for a delay. On the third day, King Karl called them to come before him. They pled a legal impediment. They did this on the fourth day and the fifth day as well. These were the two delays and the three legal impediments that Free Frisians could have through means of the law. [FN8]

On the sixth day King Karl ordered the Twelve to choose the law. They said that they could not.

Then the king said, “Now I lay three choices before you: that you all be beheaded, that you all be serfs, or that you be given a ship so firm and strong that it can withstand the ebbs and flows, without any kind of rudder, oar, or tackle.” [FN9]

They chose the ship, and it followed the ebbs so far out that they couldn’t see the coast. And their hearts were troubled.

Then the first lawspeaker [FN10], who was of Widukind’s line [FN11], spoke: “I have heard that our Lord God had twelve disciples when he was on earth and he himself was the thirteenth, and he came to them through a locked door and comforted them and taught them. Why don’t we pray that he send us a thirteenth to teach us the law and conduct us to land?”

[FN7] The number twelve is relevant to the history of English law as well, e.g., regarding jury sizes. On a personal level, I do find it interesting that Gylfaginning, for example, lists twelve holy Gods and notes that they meet in judgment. See Gylfaginning 20, 15, and 42.

[FN8]  Responding to unpleasant substantive questions with procedural objections is a strategy as old as law itself.  

[FN9] Ain or ein, the Old Frisian word that I am translating as “serf,” literally means “owned.”

[FN10] The Old Frisian word asega is often translated as “lawspeaker” in English. An asega was an official who provided advice on law and procedure but who was not quite the same as a judge in the modern sense nor a lawspeaker in the former Icelandic sense. They were heavily tied up with the Frankish legal system imposed by Charlemagne, which may be one of the reasons that the title of this legend is sometimes rendered as an exchange between King Redbad and a non-contemporary ruler. The skelta, or “sheriff,” was also integral to the administration of law in Frisia at that time. The two roles were later consolidated into one position. See, e.g., the Skout (Skelta) and Asega entries on the Frisian version of Wikpedia.

[FN11] Widukind lived at the same time as Charlemagne.

Aug 1, 2013

Codex Unia: Karl And Redbad - Part I


This Part I in a series of loose translations of the so-called “Tale of Charlemagne and Redbad” from the Codex Unia, introduced in the previous post. Please be aware that I am not a professional linguist nor any sort of expert on Old Frisian. Any errors are my own, and my attempts at translations here will not be entirely precise or accurate. If you are more familiar with the language and can share corrections, please post a comment or send me an e-mail. These entries are subject to change where accuracy can be improved.

As Rolf Hendrik Bremmer, Jr., notes in his introduction to the Old Frisian text, this is a legend about the origins of Frisian law that combines both Christian and pre-Christian elements. I’ll include notes and links that may be of further assistance. Modern Heathens, of course, remember King Redbad as the Frisian hero who refused to convert right before he was to be baptized. “King Karl” is often rendered as Charlemagne in English translations of the title of this section of the Codex Unia. However, it would make far more sense for the story to actually be about Karl Martel and Redbad, with elements from an earlier, pre-Christian legend carrying through.

While the stranger who suddenly appears at sea and gives the Frisians their law is not identified, some of us do presume this to be a surviving tale about Fosite (Forseti).

PART I – KARL AND REDBAD

Concerning King Karl and Redbad

Then King Karl and King Redbad came to this land from Denmark, each with a band of soldiers, and told the other that the land was his. They wanted to reconcile their wise people, and their armies wanted to fight. Nonetheless, the men decreed that they would reconcile if the two kings called for an “ordeal by standing still” so that one might win. [FN1] Then the armies gathered together and they stood through an entire period of 12 to 24 hours.

Then King Karl let his glove fall; King Redbad reached for it. [FN2]

King Karl said, “Ah ha! Ah ha! This land is mine!” and he laughed. Therefore, his dwelling mound is called “Hachense.” [FN3]

“Why?” asked Redbad.

Then Karl said, “You have become my vassal.”

 And Redbad said “Oh, woe!” Therefore, his dwelling mound is called “Wachense.” [FN4]

Then King Redbad left the land and King Karl wanted to sit in judgment. But he could not, because the free land was so full that there was no place to hold court. [FN5] Then he sent a messenger to the Seven Sealands [FN6] to find a free place to hold court. He bought it with treasure/cattle and Danish shillings. He set up court, summoned the Frisians before him, and ordered them to choose their law.
   
[FN1] Rolf H. Bremmer, Jr., further explains that this ordeal involved standing motionless with the arms stretched sideways. See Rolf H. Bremmer, Jr., An Introduction to Old Frisian, 176 (2009).

[FN2] Per the author’s note on page 176, “[p]resenting a gauntlet was a common ritual to symbolize the acknowledgment of a liege lord.”

[FN3] This site is allegedly nearby the modern capital of Friesland, Leeuwarden (Ljouwert). Hach means “high” in Old Frisian. I am not entirely sure if the name derives from that word, or from the verb “to laugh,” hlakkia.

[FN4] Wach! is Old Frisian for “Woe!”

[FN5] The original word is thingia meaning “to proceed, sue, administer justice, or sit in judgment,” a cognate that appears in other Germanic languages. 

[FN6] The “Seven Sealands” show up in modern usage as well. They are the lands that traditionally make up the Frisian areas along the North Sea. On the modern flag of Friesland (a province in the Netherlands), the Seven Sealands are symbolized by red, heart-shaped lily blossoms.

Jul 30, 2013

Codex Unia: The Tale Of Charlemagne And Redbad

If you presume as I do that Forseti and Fosite are the same God, the Codex Unia gives us the story of His appearance to the Frisians. The section tends to be translated as an exchange between "Charlemagne" and Redbad. However, the text itself is about "King Karl," and Karl Martel would fit in far better with the timeline.

I've been working with An Introduction to Old Frisian by Rolf H. Bremmer, Jr. (2009) and will be posting some admittedly loose translations here soon ("soon" being a relative word with this blog, granted).

In the meantime, here is a link for "The Tale of Charlemagne and Redbad" in Old Frisian.

Jul 11, 2013

New Blog Look

I've decided to update the appearance of this blog. I'm not one for frequent changes, but I did feel like a new look might be in order after over two years of posting. The ocean imagery and colors are in honor of Forseti's appearance at sea. More posts will be up soon.

Photograph of the waves by OrderInTheQuartz

Jun 30, 2013

Gods Of The Heart

In his highly informative book A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism, John Michael Greer mentions an intriguing concept: that of the Shinto kokoro no kami, or a "heart-god"... that is to say, a God or Goddess of the Heart. According to the section, the idea has parallels in ancient Roman worship as well, and has connections to the possibility of having a patron God or Goddess.

It seems to me that a fulltrui or fulltrua need not necessarily be the same as a "heart-god." I suspect that there is room for variation and that the terms do not always have to describe similar relationships. Here, though, I can only speak to my own experience: my fulltrui Forseti has been my "heart-god" since I started walking with Him.

In this post, I'll attempt to share a few of my own experiences of relating to a Divinity in this way. As with any other way of connecting with our Gods and Goddesses, it may or may not resonate with the experiences of others.

I have mentioned before that Loki was the first Norse God who approached me in what was then a recognizable form. He soon introduced me to Odin, and within the space of a few weeks, my former, general spiritual Panentheism was abruptly replaced by what some term "hard" Polytheism. No one introduced me to Forseti. I was doing my own reading, and I sought Him out by myself. At the time, I was not sure if I could expect much of a response. I was beginning to form a misty impression that He had a great deal to do with lawgiving, but the records on Him were scarce, and the ones I found most inspiring presupposed that He was the same Deity as Fosite, a specifically Frisian God. 

Forseti's presence was not as nearly strong as Loki's in the beginning, but what I could sense distantly in meditations drew me in. The feel of Him was subtle, but somehow kept tugging at me in ways that did not fit easily into words. He seemed reserved, but also curious. Later on, I did get a sense of Him in something roughly comparable to the more immediate way that I sometimes felt Loki or Odin. I was at work on a busy shift, rather drained by the sheer volume of cases that evening. There was a lull, and a brief but uplifting sense of white light and warm comfort washed over me. I knew it was Him.

When I took my oaths to the Norse Gods, I was already instinctively hailing Forseti as the "God of my Heart," though I had not come into anything so formal as a fulltrui relationship with Him as of yet. That was to be a decision made a somewhat later, after spending more time with both Him and Loki and connecting with other Deities in our pantheon. In another sense, though, long before I consciously chose Forseti, the decision felt like it had already been made. Some part of me seemed to know and always seemed to have known that this is my God.

In my own experience, "heart-gods" can bring with Them the profoundest sense of friendship. To be very frank, I first felt this most with Loki. There was a feel about our Trickster of a confidant, of someone with whom I could share any thought or impression, any experience, story, or escapade. Think of that childhood best friend you always longed to have and multiply that exponentially: such may be one aspect of a "heart-god" relationship. It's been a slower and different path with the Divinity who turned out to be my fulltrui, but the sense of friendship has developed in its own way, with its own depth, and I would not trade it for anything.

This is not to say the a God or Goddess of the Heart cannot also be... entirely a God or Goddess. A heart-friendship with a Divinity can be wonderful beyond all words, but our Norse Gods also challenge us in ways that we cannot begin to predict, inspiring us towards growth and greater heights of self-honesty, responsibility, and inner vulnerability than we may have ever known.

The heart gives life, but it is always working. It does not get to take a break and stop beating for an evening. And that can be another side of having a "heart-god." You never cease belonging to that Deity. You can't "take the night off," slip away, and act out in ways that are anathema to your God. Fortunately, They are very wise and very patient, and They do take the time to guide us into the heights of what we might be. But it is not always an easy walk, especially when we have been taught by the surrounding culture to view ourselves as perpetual "seekers" with perpetual choices. Finding can bring real commitments. The heart is the life and center of a being; a "heart-god" becomes the life and center of His or Her devotee's being.

May 27, 2013

The Gift Of An Axe

Recently, a dear friend and a devotee of Odin gave me a wonderful gift: a bearded axe! Not only a bearded axe, but the first real axe I have ever owned. I can't quite count my camping hatchet, with with its blade on one side and a hammer on the other, as an honest "axe."
 
I am in the process of adding knotwork to this lovely weapon to honor my fulltrui Forseti. The first side is complete, but the second side will have to be painted later. I am using gold and silver acrylics: they are forgiving to a point, as they can be washed off at first. Once they dry, however, you have what you have.

The artwork on the blade is intended to be a reminder of water. I was very fortunate: I didn't think to check the fit of the leather cover before I started painting, but it actually works perfectly with the overall design despite my lack of planning. Small favors indeed.

The first side has the Othala rune, which I associate with Forseti and the inheritance of law; the other side will most likely bear a Raidho rune.

 

May 9, 2013

Artwork Of The Goddess Nanna

The Goddess Nanna, Wife of Balder and Mother of Forseti
Devotional artwork of the Goddess Nanna. I started this piece with gouache watercolors and finished it with digital adjustments in Paint.NET. This is very similar to how She appears to me in meditation. You can also see a full-sized version without the runic writing here.

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

Apr 26, 2013

One Heathen's Thoughts On The Afterworld(s)

First, I would very much like to thank everyone who has been reading this blog. It has now had more than 10,000 views, which seems to be an occasion worth noting. I am very grateful for your continuing interest and, as a bit of a Slavophile, am also happy to see that Russia is second only to the U.S. in readership. Takzhe blagodaru Vas, uvazhemie russko-govoryashie chitateli! 

Today's post is about subject I have been meaning to cover for a while now: life after death.

A while back, the ever-fascinating Norse Mythology Blog mentioned how ancient views on the afterlife may have put a certain shine on the incoming Christian religion (see the last paragraph especially). Certainly, some surviving accounts paint a rather bleak picture... really, a dichotomy. You can either pass on to a singularly unfriendly realm operated under the auspices of Hel, or you can die in battle and enter Valhalla. Pick one.

I have to wonder if a related undercurrent might be haunting modern Heathenism. This sort of dichotomy certainly has the potential to drive away people who might otherwise be attracted to our Gods and Goddesses.

Nowadays, we actively research both the physical and subjective sides of dying, and we are able to save lives we never could have saved before. We have books like Moody’s “Life After Life,” which were ground-breaking in their time, especially given the stigma and shame that once surrounded NDEs. Some survivors even give accounts of being carried away from this world on a boat or of meeting one’s ancestors.

The possibility of a hereafter is an important subject--one that has stirred fears and hopes and sparked some of humankind’s greatest creative feats. We cannot sweep our questions under a rug, nor pretend that death, any more than life, is but a formula that must always resolve back to one pat “answer.”  

The Goddess of Death

As Heathens, we might begin by asking ourselves if Hel’s domain is truly such an inhospitable place? In accord with my aforementioned Slavophile tendencies, I find surviving accounts of the Russian underworld, ruled by the God Veles, of deep interest. In some ways, the Eastern Orthodox Church had less “success” stamping out authentic Pagan expression than the western Christian religions did. One book on the subject, "Slavic Sorcery" by Kenneth Johnson, describes how the underworld is sometimes seen as a realm of beautiful, moist fields, full of growth and warmth. I wonder if this might reflect a less filtered view of what lies beyond. Some modern UPG on Hel indicates that Her realm can be quite welcoming.

Frey

We also have old accounts of the Dead feasting and celebrating in their mounds, and of Frey blessing the burial site of one of his devotees. Frey, of course, immediately takes us away from a dichotomous afterworld. He is a God very much involved with the immensities and mysteries of death, and in different ways than either Odin or Hel.

Many Homes

There is an image from John Michael Greer’s book, "A World Full ofGods," that I like a great deal. He turns the popular spiritual analogy of seekers climbing one mountain to reach “The Truth” on its head, and suggests that we start off in a plain surrounded by a ring of mountains, and then spread out and choose which mountain to climb. Some will find their choice unsuitable and go back to the plain to look for another mountain. The idea is that not only are there many ways Home, but many Homes, and that this is a good and natural thing.

Here, I’ll touch on a few personal experiences that have helped me develop my own understandings of what may come after. These are extremely heavy on UPG, please be forewarned.

I am sworn to the Norse Gods, but have had two experiences with the Greek God Hermes. This was not my idea: He suddenly appeared in a dream the first time around. Later, He allowed me to speak with Him in a meditation. At first, I was “seeing” a hillside with golden light and short trees, and had the sense that the place was quite urban and cultivated in an ancient sort of way. As far as my admittedly hazy visuals go, this one was quite strong. The place felt like it was truly Home, or at least a gateway to Home… but it was Home for other people. It was so very welcoming and beautiful and joyous, but it was also so very wrong for me. I could hardly wait to get away from that particular Paradise!

Even within the same pantheon, we have so many possibilities. I very much like what Jordsvin wrote about his experiences with his fulltrui, Frey (again, the last paragraph is especially compelling). If our trust in the Gods and Goddesses can enrich us so much in this life, why should we think that it would be otherwise in the next? While I am not “addressed for delivery” as of yet, I do have a certainty now that I did not have before meeting our Gods, and Forseti in particular. From honoring my fulltrui’s Dead, I have become even more convinced that the Gods and Goddesses do not simply forget us when we are done here and then relegate us to a chilly underworld. I don’t pretend to grasp how all this works, but I do feel that I’ve been allowed glimpses into places where some of my own God’s Dead dwell in His presence without being directly in His hall. These settings usually appear very peaceful and pastoral.

In any case, I do think that the afterworld is far more complex than we imagine it to be and that there are indeed many Homes. Our truest connections will continue and endure. As, I believe, will we.

Apr 2, 2013

My "Fun With Frisian" Blog

This probably will not be of interest to very many readers, but just in case: I have started keeping a blog with original articles about learning West Frisian, the most commonly spoken dialect of Frisian. You can read it here.

Allegedly, Frisian is the closest living language to English, although some Norwegian linguists dispute that claim. My interest is more personal, however, since my fulltrui Forseti (Fosite) has ancient associations with Frisia. I even came across an example of Him being listed before Thor and Odin in a Wikipedia article in Frisian. That is not something you will see in very many places by any means.

Studying the modern language is one way that I honor Him. If you do happen to have an interest in West Frisian, please check out my newest blog and let me know what you think.   

Mar 23, 2013

Daily Devotions

In this post, I would like to share some thoughts on cultivating daily devotionals. This is a new part of my spiritual practice. I think that there is value to taking things slowly and to figuring out what works for you individually. Devotions are, of course, for the Gods and for the devotee. What breathes sweet life into one person’s journey might be pure poison for someone else.

The use of the word “cultivate” is quite intentional. A daily devotional practice must be the right sort of plant for its particular soil. Don’t ask a cactus to live, much less blossom, in a swamp. Don’t plant a tropical species in a harsh, dry climate.

In my own life, my work hours rotate steadily and frequently: night shifts one round, day shifts another, and so on. My own daily devotional practice has to fit into that framework. It is very human to try to bite off as much (or more than) we can readily chew, but my nontraditional schedule does serve the useful purpose of reminding me to keep things simple.

For me, I organize my daily devotions around the names of the days of the week, but with some modification. If you speak, say, Russian and have days named after numbers and not Gods, there is still room to get creative.

This is one person’s opinion, but I really think that if you are at a point where you have certain relationships established with particular Gods and Goddesses, it makes sense to focus on the connections that resonate most. This is not to say you can’t add in some variety, but well… here is an example:

Tuesday is named for Tyr. However, He is not a God I interact with particularly often. My focus on Tuesdays tends to be on Heimdall, as there are some definite similarities between Him and Tyr. Both make profound sacrifices to defend Their realm, and both are extremely honorable and dutiful. An observation might be a simple prayer (I much prefer to do this in silence, myself) or a lit candle. I find it easiest to pray in terms of thanks and remembering the uplifting qualities of a God or Goddess. It is good to place oneself in the moment as much as one can and to be as sincere as possible. I’ve found that I may feel heavy before starting the prayer, but that the act itself, when done attentively and with authenticity, does energize me. This does not mean I feel a response from a God or Goddess each and every time. Regardless of whether we sense Them or not, They do hear us and appreciate the attention we send Their way. They might surprise you, though. Give things time to grow. We don’t berate a sapling for maturing into a tree at its own pace, nor should we rain hard thoughts on ourselves or on our Gods.

There can be room for variation within your individual daily devotional practice. For me, Thursdays may involve a prayer to Thor or Thrud: sometimes both, sometimes one or another, or sometimes others in Their family. Saturdays are most often for Loki, but every once and a while, I will feel more of a pull towards Sigyn that day. Offerings also vary. If I am off on a Saturday, Loki might get coffee or some alcohol. But if I have to work, a candle or a short prayer definitely suffices. Our Gods are good and wise: leave convoluted and burdensome procedures to the human sphere. The Gods and Goddesses do not “nickel and dime” us to death. They have a heart and a generosity about Them that can be startling for those of us who came in with a more miserly understanding of what “the Divine” is supposed to be.

What if you have a fulltrui or fulltrua? I’ll share a personal experience here. It may or may not prove helpful, but I offer it as one potential approach. When I finally did decide on a devotional schedule that felt right, one particular absence stood out painfully and glaringly: Forseti was not on it. I took His immediate advice to go ahead with the daily practice anyways and to honor Him as the inspiration struck, as I’d been doing with Him before. That didn’t last long, however. I felt a yearning to regularly honor Him in a more “formal” way. The solution, as it turned out, has been that I briefly pray at His altar every day, hailing an aspect of Him that has some overlap with the other Gods or Goddesses I am focusing on. The key is to find a connection that makes sense to you. For example, on Mondays I pray to Njord. I recall His lordship over the tides, which are also ruled by the moon. This is not to say that I do not hold Mani in esteem, but offering to Mani during specific lunar events simply resonates much more deeply for me than a weekly prayer would. In any case, Mondays have become a good time to remember Forseti's ties to the sea and the legend of how He gave the Frisians their law. As a bit of UPG, He and Njord seem to be quite close. Much of my appreciation for Njord (and the ocean) has come through Forseti: left to my own devices, I’m a mountain and forest person. Both of Them are preservers of frith who often show gentle, quiet demeanors.

I hope that some of these thoughts may be of use to others who feel called toward a scheduled devotional practice. I’ll note here that it took me a number of years to decide to do daily devotions. Nothing needs to be rushed or forced. Of course, less frequent observances are always a good option, e.g., honoring Odin every Wednesday if He is a God you feel particularly drawn to. Again, this is an act of cultivation, of gentle tending and ongoing attention. Nurture the practices and relationships that are truest for you. It can be a great joy to invite the Gods and Goddesses into our lives this way.
 

Mar 17, 2013

Compassion Can Be A Heathen Value

There are many things that I love about being a polytheist. One of these is that we are not all bound to a single path. Our Gods and Goddesses treat us as adults, expecting us to grow and explore in ways that honor the callings of our own hearts. There is a greatness, a richness, to be found in diversity.

Compassion is probably not the first word that will come to mind in a discussion of Heathenism. Honor and bravery, certainly, but compassion? I can only write of my own experiences, and these are shaped by the God I am devoted to.

Frankly, the warrior way is not my way. It took me some time to really come to terms with this. Even in early childhood, I'd argue highly unpopular points before both classmates and adults--not because I enjoyed conflict (I didn't and I still don't), but because I believed that these points were the truth, and that the truth was far more important than my personal comfort. I had a fighter's spirit. I thought that this was my strength, and that, with sheer force of mind and will, I could batter my way through whatever stood between me and my goals.

This approach may have its place at times, but as I grew older, I came to realize that the feel and the tone of things matter. They matter deeply. I could try to harden my heart, to grit my teeth, and to push through. But in the meantime, life was still going on. The sun was still rising and falling, and time was ebbing away.

Ultimately, compassion is the wisdom of slowing down. It is the wisdom of not always living on the edge of the blade, trying to press or cut through everything in sight. Compassion for ourselves allows us listen to our own rhythms and draw from our own wellsprings. It is about authenticity. People feel as they feel. They may or may not decide to act on that information, but they cultivate a relentless sort of honesty within themselves. The societal messages, on the other hand, are quite different: keep pushing on, just get over it, stop being so sensitive, etc. Compassion offers another way, an antidote to all that coldness.

I have a somewhat radical theory about emotions, one which ties into compassion. My theory is that no emotion is irrational. No emotion, ever. The "facts" underlying the emotion can be irrational, and the expression of the emotion can be irrational (perhaps even punishable as a crime), but the emotion itself will always make sense in its context. A paranoid man is very sensibly afraid. The attackers he fears are all in his head, but his feeling of dread is utterly rational. You can't reach out to him without acknowledging his pain, his very human experience of fear. I think this is where we so often go wrong. We try to control our emotions as they happen instead of looking at their roots. We even tell our children that they should feel one thing and not another thing. We don't teach them that they can feel many, conflicting things at the same time, or how to honor that confusing experience. When we're adults, we're that much harder on ourselves and on others. Just grow up, right?

Interestingly, psychology is starting to show that the "push though it" attitude can actually detract from one's goals. If you tell someone "I don't do x," as opposed to "I can't (or shouldn't) do x," you'll have better results. The first phrase implicates having personal agency; the second takes agency away.

To the uncritical mind, it may seem "compassionate" to not punish anyone for anything. We need not deny reality in the name of compassion. That would be foolishness indeed. Some actions must have consequences.

A genuine compassion can coexist with dedication, honor, and duty. Compassion for ourselves and others reminds us to hold the boundaries that we must hold, and gives heart and meaning to our deeds. Compassion can be a truly Heathen value.

Mar 10, 2013

A Springtime Symphony

I had a wonderful experience today, the first day of Daylight Savings Time: I was out hiking and happened upon a full frog symphony, a miracle in the marsh.

The singing was loud and unmistakable, and could only be heard in one area. Some took more note of the concert than others. Not far off, bicyclists whizzed by, calling out warnings to pedestrians over the frogs' music. One couple walked right past them without pause, deeply engrossed in a discussion about money. But there were also people like myself who were inspired and who stopped to soak up the beauty of the unexpected symphony.

As can be seen, I snapped a few photos of the singers themselves. They were doing a very good job at hiding themselves, but there was one open spot where they posed for some shots.

I even tried my hand at making a music video. You can't see any of the frogs in it, but you can get a nice look at their habitat and hear their amazing springtime song.



Feb 16, 2013

Thrud Devotional Photo Art And Shrine

There is now an online Shrine to the Goddesses Sif and Thrud on the Northern Paganism site. I admittedly run into cases of "reasonable minds differing" regarding some of the material over there, but that is only to be expected with our human explorations of faith. Let our Gods and Goddesses be hailed, loved, and honored in many ways and places!

Today, here is devotional photo art made for Thrud, the daughter of Thor and Sif. A full version of this artwork is also available at DeviantArt.


The Goddess Thrud, Daughter of Thor and Sif

All the stock for this piece comes from three very generous artists and photographers on DeviantArt. The lovely female face and the red hair are from the Kechake-stock gallery. The traditional Viking dress is from the Mizzd-stock gallery. Finally, the oak tree in the background is from the LuDa-Stock gallery.

This picture was created with Paint.NET art software, and is under the usual Creative Commons Copyright License: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA).

Hail Thrud, beautiful as morning rays!
Strong of heart and true of path,
Gentle and wise as the trees
In the quiet joy of dawn.

Feb 4, 2013

Devotional Photo Art Of Loki

I recently stumbled across a stock photo that absolutely demanded be made into artwork for Loki. Back in 2008, I had a very powerful dream about Loki. At the time, I did not believe that the Gods were anything more than archetypes. Loki looked very much like the image below, except that His form was more shadowy and was constantly shifting in the dream.

The Viking male model is from the fantastic Liancary Stock gallery on DeviantArt. The flames are all my own photography. I created this piece with Paint.NET software. Creative Commons Copyright License: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA).

Loki Photo Art by OrderInTheQuartz

A full-size version should be available here, or by clicking on the picture above, then right-clicking to view the image and magnifying the view. An even larger version is available at DeviantArt, though you will likewise have to click multiple times to access it. In either case, be sure to get a look at the eyes, with colors lifted from the fire!

Hail Loki, adored friend! 
God who guides Home, may You always be honored!

Jan 24, 2013

Aspects Of Forseti

In a previous post, I wrote about Forseti from a dedicant’s point of view. Today, I would like to start off the year with an exploration of some of His less visible aspects and faces. No discussion of this nature can ever be complete, and these thoughts will often be rooted in personal experience (UPG).

God of the Right Decision

This particular side of Forseti neatly intersects with the domains He is most commonly known for, those of law and justice. Our surviving sources tell us that in His hall, Glitnir, He puts all charges to sleep. Grimnismal 15, Glyfaginning 32. The word used in the Old Norse, sakir, implicates a legal suit and has cognates across several Germanic languages, including Old English (synn and sacu - "crime and lawsuit") and Old Frisian (seka ni sinne - "neither lawsuits nor crimes"). See, e.g, Rolf H. Bremmer Jr., An Introduction to Old Frisian, 127 (2009). Thus, in modern times we hail Forseti for assistance in legal matters and look to Him as a frith-bringer and a mediator.

Delving into the realm of UPG: His connections to law might well reflect upon the higher reality of what He does for the Gods: if orlog (wyrd) can be construed as Their law, then He is the one They trust to speak that law. He is the God of the right decision.

This aspect of Him very much ties into the Raidho/Rad rune, which modern worshippers, at least, have fittingly associated with Him. See, e.g., The Troth, Our Troth, Second Edition: Volume 1, 303 (2006). Successful journeys require good decisions, including good preparation. Moreover, good timing is also essential. The right decision is a choice that is made at the right time. The same choice made at an inopportune time can be the wrong decision!

I'll note here that I see Forseti's axe as single-bladed for historic reasons and because He is very much a God of making the one correct choice.

God of the Waters

This section was inspired by an insightful question someone asked about Forseti--that is, whether or not He would be a good God to consult for matters pertaining to water conservation. I think the answer would be a resounding "yes."

Looking to the surviving Frisian legend, Forseti is very much a God of various kinds of water. In the story, He first appears to His people on a ship at sea and brings them safely to shore. With the strike of His axe, He creates a holy spring and gives them their law beside those waters. As a site of worship, the spring was to be approached in reverent silence.

Springs and wells have many longstanding spiritual associations. They are sources of sight and wisdom, places of execution, and places where holy vows may be spoken. Quite possibly, Forseti’s spring is tied to (or is on some level the same as) the Well of Urd. See, e.g., Richard Culver, The Stiller of Strife (2002). This likewise goes toward the idea of Him as a God of the highest law, the God of the truly rightful decision.

Water is essential to life, but we often overlook it and focus on “flashier” drinks like ale and mead (I am indebted to the person who posed the original question for this wonderful observation). Water is also needed for physical cleansing. No wonder, then, that it is often associated with holiness.

Ocean, streams, springs, wells, and lakes could all potentially have connections to Forseti. Interestingly, there is a pun that exists in various forms in several Germanic languages. “Lagu” (also the name of the Anglo-Saxon rune) can mean the sea, water or another liquid, or law. See Richard Cleasby, An Icelandic-English Dictionary, 405 (1874) under the LOGR entry.  A similar correlation shows up in Modern West Frisian, with wet meaning "law" and wetter meaning "water." See, e.g, P. Sipma, Phonology and Grammar of Modern West Frisian, 173 (1913). Lately, I’ve been reading up on Thingvellir again and have been quite intrigued by the layout of the place: the Law Rock was allegedly close to the Öxará river ("axe river"), and executions and duels were held on nearby inlets and islets. Water and lawgiving have ancient connections.

As an aside, it is worth noting that spring water can be a profound offering. I and others who have interacted with Forseti have noticed that He seems to enjoy simple, heartfelt gestures based on what is on hand.

God of Balance and Order

Forseti is very much a God of maintaining balance. Most often, we think of His role in an intra-community sense. In my opinion, He knows the ins and out of balance on many levels. As mentioned in the previous article, He can be an excellent God to consult for matters of psychological balance. This can include deep emotional work, a process that is not unlike navigating strange oceans.

Forseti has a passion for order. With the sharp focus of a hawk, He can help a worshipper discard those things that are unnecessary or hurtful in their life, and hone in on the target that is truly important.

God of Listening

How often do we truly listen to one another? We say “how are you?” as a greeting, a perfunctory salutation requiring a perfunctory response. Few people wish to hear a real answer to that question. Listening requires that we give the gift of time and that we put aside our own expectations. It takes energy and attention, and is not nearly as easy as it might seem on the surface. 

Forseti is a God who truly does listen. He can be very gentle, warm, and personable. In my interactions with Him, I have found that He likes to ask questions. Frequently, a form of teaching underlies His questions, but they are nonetheless sincere. Honest, open questions indicate real interest. They go toward meanings and break down walls.

Builder of Bridges

Forseti is also hailed as the Builder of Bridges. Many of the aspects discussed above go toward this face. A bridge connects two points separated from each other by difficult or impassable spaces: gorges, rivers, etc. Again, the idea of connection is important. Forseti does not flout boundaries the same way Loki does--far from it!--but He does show us how to build ways and passages through seemingly hopeless divides. He can be a good God to hail when a worshiper feels stuck.  

God of Language

Forseti is known for being an eloquent God, though compared to some of our Deities, He can seem rather reserved. I've noticed that He enjoys delving into the deepest meaning of words, including the connotations behind them. Part of Forseti's wisdom is slowing down and choosing words with deliberation--sometimes easier said than done, especially when nervousness has its say.

He seems to enjoy intelligent plays on words. I'll emphasize that I have never "heard" Him use humor to obscure a truth or to create distance. From spending time with Him, I've begun to understand how much we modern folk hide behind our "humor."

Language and law are, of course, deeply connected. It is interesting how much our legal language can tie into poetic language. Alliteration was used as a device for remembering poetic materials, and it still shows up in legal language as well: e.g., "to have and to hold" on land deeds.

Etymology can be very helpful when interacting with Forseti. More than once, I've been nudged to look up the history of a word and have gained new understandings that way.

God of Binds

This may seem obvious, but one of the points of making a final decision is that it must become binding. All other options and outcomes are eliminated. In the U.S., we readily think of "freedom" as a synonym for "having many choices." But decision fatigue is real, and very damaging. Though we may be loathe to admit it, there is a peace to be found in the final resolution, to being bound to one path.

A well drafted contract will not allow for a lot of deviation. The expectations are set, and there are consequences for a breach. Forseti can be an excellent God to pray to when a worshiper must stay a course. He can also be of great help when an agreement between a God and mortal hits rough waters.

Oaths have deep significance in our faith, and they are one of Forseti's areas of expertise. He has profound insights into spiritual commitments and their implications. A true oath is given from the core, for the very best of reasons and with the most honorable of intentions.

God of Executing Judgments

Forseti can sometimes be the God of the execution. He is truly fearsome in this aspect. You can either stand with Him or get out of His way. An execution means that a serious violation has occurred: a critical balance has been destroyed, and it must be rectified. This is the face He might show if something holy has been desecrated or a rightful bond has been broken.

God of Stillness and Peace

Finally, Forseti is a God of calm, silence, and stillness. His presence can be extremely grounding. At times, He is the quiet found in the very eye of the storm.

Hail to You, Forseti, for all Your gifts!