Reflections on recent travels

Beautiful post that mentions Indigenous concerns, and touches on how our praxis adapts with our travels and the significance of keeping religion relevant to when and where we are

wandering blackbird

A view of brightly coloured houses in Nuuk, with mountains in the background and a blue sky. There is about a foot of snow on the ground.
Nuuk, capital city of Greenland.

Recently I was lucky enough to spend five days in Nuuk, the capital city of Greenland, for work. This was an incredible opportunity for many reasons (and I can highly recommend a trip to anyone interested!) but it also influenced some of my thinking around heathenry, which I wanted to reflect on a little here.


Amharc ar an alt bunaidh 1,918 d’fhocla eile

On abundance, blessings, and ānanda

wandering blackbird

The cornucopia: blessings enough to feed not just oneself, but a family, a community. Photo by Brad West on Unsplash.

Recently, I’ve been focusing on Gods traditionally associated with ideas of abundance, wealth, and prosperity, such as Fulla, Geofen and Ingui. For me this is a sphere that I’ve often felt uncomfortable with or unsure about, and as I deepen my understanding of these Gods, I’ve been deepening my understanding of this area, and accordingly wanted to unpack a little.


Amharc ar an alt bunaidh 1,505 d’fhocla eile

Balance, Ego ⁊ Perseverance

[This post is fairly rambling and may seem irrelevant to anything, but if you stick with it and persevere hopefully it will have been worth reading. If you do, you have my thanks and appreciation. If you don’t, no problem, have a nice day anyways.]

It doesn’t get any easier; You get better at it

– My Aikido Sensei, on a weekly basis.

The above quote seems applicable to many things in life.

I think it becomes too easy for us to go “Eh, I understand this. Next!“, drop something and move on. People who read books, blogs, websites, watch videos, listen to podcasts, attend lectures that are aimed at beginners, at an elementary, foundational level, and once they come across familiar or known material just leave deciding they are an expert and move on to something shinier.

The problem is revisiting the basics as you progress helps check your foundational understanding and helps reveal other sides to things. You revisit the basic concepts with that additional more advanced knowledge and understand it better, see it as more relevant to other things, see how it all builds up and fits together and perhaps see more facets to those “simple” concepts. Another thing to keep in mind is that “simple” is not the same as “easy“. If those foundational basic ideas are challenging or difficult, admit that, accept it, and persevere.

Arrogance seems the biggest obstacle here. In the same way I may practice a tenchi nage(天地投げ)at the dojo from a specific attack, using specified footwork with a particular partner, if I get carried away I start rushing, my technique suffers and as soon as the footwork changes, the attack varies or my partner changes I realise my technique was lacking. At that point I have to take a breath, check-in with myself, calm down, slow down and revisit the fundamentals I know (or am meant to know). Am I breathing? Am I relaxed? Am I focussed? Am I being martial? Am I mindful of where I am moving? Am I aware of my partner is throughout with thought to both their wellbeing as a fellow student in the dojo, and chances they may have for a follow-up attack if I give an opening? Again, “simple” does not mean “easy“, and knowing these things is not the same as doing them.

I have the same with language-learning. I may watch an entire television series in German, or listen to Raıdıó na Gaeltaċta with its all-Irish language content, then when prompted into an actual conversation where I have to produce content in-language stumble over the basics. I have to catch my ego and accept where I am at that moment, take a pause and slow down.

This all applies to religion too. If we are to grow, develop and progress as individuals and as a religious community, no matter how nebulous, then we have to revisit the basics, check our fundamentals, from time to time, and accept challenging concepts are very much that, challenging. I have yet to meet an ancient polytheist, and as such most polytheists and Pagans I encounter are coming out of a Christian, post-Christian, or atheist-materialist environment. This means when approaching polytheism, (or theism generally), things may be challenging. Understanding on an intellectual level that the Gods are there, that They are present in our environments, have our backs, support us, care for us and so on is not the same as living in a manner that shows we truly believe that to a degree where it is fully embedded into our praxes and we can treat as an unstated fact we take for granted.

Referencing this post again on intermediate polytheism, I feel it behooves us all to go back to basics when faced with challenging ideas, new concepts, or even when interacting with unfamiliar beings or beginning to worship new Gods, just as we may all benefit from revisiting those ideas, concepts and theories that challenge us. We might well notice gaps in our understanding or connect dots in new ways that help us to revisit that which challenged us, that which we maybe dismissed as not for us or nonsensical or too advanced and make sense of it or see relevance in it.

If there is any single lesson I regularly feel the Gods regularly seek to try get through to me it is finding balance between extremes. I am very much a person of extremes, all or nothing, zero or a hundred. I do nothing or do everything. Large gestures or barely moving at all. I am a rushed blur or I am slow and stilted. You would think a decade, roughly, of proclaiming to be Buddhist would have helped here. C’est la vie.
So I work at it. It is not easy.

I gain nothing from losing my temper, tensing up, quitting, snapping back or lashing out, when faced with challenges or obstacles, when faced with criticism designed to help me or correct me. I gain a lot from taking a few seconds to breathe.

I am sure Sarenth would say something along the lines of “Take a breath, ground, centre, shield and get back to it”, which is not dissimilar from what I do. Having grown up in a household with Far East Asian martial arts, philosophies and meditation, intellectually I know all about mindfulness, breathing, feeling Qi(气/氣), asking whether it is worth getting angry about or if that helps, and moving on.
In practice though, I am still human and I am still learning and progressing.

The Stoics were reluctant to name any of their lineage as sages for this reason. Human mortals, unlike the Gods, are fallible. We err, we have faults, we stray from our paths, we accumulate “dust”, but I believe, sincerely, if the Gods want anything for us, it is to keep trying. If we keep trying, They will support us. Again, that does not mean it is “easy“.

No matter how much I may struggle, doubt, fall, stumble, Eponā and Airþa will support me. An Mór-Ríoġaın will watch over me, and the Netjeru will be there for me. Marirīks Lībis will still provide and Moririx Marui will still hunt for Lusanjâ as She weeps for Her lost and cares for those passed on. My truest and closest friends will still be there whether to physically or simply lend an ear and offer advice. Knowing that is a comfort beyond words. I am no island. We are all interconnected and interdependent.

And that is beautiful.

Community, Culture, and Identity in Western Polytheism — The Wind’s Eye

Heidi adds wonderfully to the musings of people like Marc from Of Axe & Plough and Craxantos at Buta Craxanti on identity and culture, making it all the more personal and relevant at an accessible and individual level as she does so.

I believe in using the gifts of our ancestors – our familial, cultural, and local ancestors – to honor them, our Gods, and other spirits. These gifts are our cultural heritage that ought to be treasured and preserved, even as we make necessary changes in the present to create better futures.

Community, Culture, and Identity in Western Polytheism — The Wind’s Eye

Touching the Moon: Thinking About Magick, Wicca, and Being a Witch

Great posting exploring that line and divide between esoterically inclined pagans and exoterically inlined pagans, and how to juggle sincere and devout polytheism with magic, witchcraft etc

Heathen Field Guide

As a Heathen polytheist first and witch second, I’ve found my relationship with the concepts of magick not as quickly and easily defined. For a long time, I chose not to even think much about magick at all, since I found that it was more important to my identity and to my personal cosmology to focus on prayer and offerings than to engage with spellcraft. While knowing now how the show shaped up, I can’t in good conscious recommend it, I used to adore watching the Sy-Fy show the Magicians. The concept of how magic worked in the show was fascinating to me and felt like the closest thing to how it worked in real life that I had seen displayed in a work of fiction. Ideas about magic as both science and art and as something dark and intoxicating and addicting. Also that it required a certain degree of…

Amharc ar an alt bunaidh 2,629 d’fhocla eile

Talking with Isis

Good exploration of communing with the Divine as we worship

Isiopolis

A meditation on beautiful Sirius, the Star of Isis

When we connect with Isis, how do we do that? Prayer? Meditation? Invocation? Visualization? Can we talk with Her, actually have a back-and-forth conversation? Can we ask Her questions? Can we request Her help?

Yes, we can. How exactly you do it is up to you. I believe it will be more important than ever for all of us to connect with our Divine Ones during the coming days and years. Life is not being easy or simple right now…if it ever really is.

For me, the boundaries between prayer, meditation, and visualization tend to be rather soft. Very often, I find that meditation flows into visualization flows into prayer flows into an offering chant flows back into meditation. Sometimes I visualize the whole time, sometimes I don’t “see” anything, but just feel Her presence. Sometimes I can “hear” Her voice…

Amharc ar an alt bunaidh 842 d’fhocla eile

Blessing ⁊ Well-Wishes

This is a topic I see come up a lot. It takes a few forms but primarily falls into one of two questions:

  • How do I react when someone says they will pray for me?
  • How do I go about praying for someone else?

A lot of this boils down to theology and philosophy. But I shall start with the first point of someone offering prayers or giving blessings to another.

“How do I react when someone says they will pray for me?”

If I take the view that well-wishing is well-wishing and this person wants the best for me, whether I know them or not, I can choose to comfortably sit back and let them think happy thoughts for me, whether I believe what they believe in or not. With this view, this person is doing what they can, within their worldview and their religious/philosophical framework to ask for the best for me. In this case, it does not matter if the person saying this is a Christian relative, or a Wiccan acquaintance or a Thelemite online or anything else.

If I take the view that there is a hidden agenda here that a Christian in the street yelling “I will pray for you” really means “You are sick, you are corrupted. If I do not ask God to save you, you shall burn in Hell” then perhaps I would be much less comfortable with the situation and would rather them not. Again, I could take the view of “Well, to them that is the best for me, whether I believe in their God or their Hell or not”, but I am perhaps more likely to be upset or insulted in this situation, particularly coming from a more traumatic background, (I am told that “Bless you” and variations thereupon are practically weaponised in the southern states of the USA).

Similarly, if I am new to my particular Pagan persuasion, perhaps the idea of a Christian or someone of another religion offering to pray for me sparks concerns that the Divinity/ies they believe in might grab a hold of me and punish me for believing something false, or drag me back to the religion I have left. This, again, could be cause for concern.

“How do I go about praying for someone else?”

In polytheist circles, in any kind of theistic scenario really, this seems to me a simple matter of “You just do“. You do your normal prayers, ritual, cultus, and add in an “And if You could watch over so-and-so who is dealing with such-and-such”.

In more… ‘witchy circles’, perhaps this gets more complicated. If you are a spiritworker, or similar, perhaps “I shall pray for you” means asking spirits, or Gods, or other such more-than-human beings to intervene in a situation, or visit someone and if they are of a different practice, path or tradition, perhaps there is concern there about asking Divinities you worship and honour to go see to someone who would make Them feel unwelcome or maybe does not even believe in Them. Then you have to ask yourself questions like “Do the Gods, spirits and ancestors I pray to also touch the lives of those who do not believe in Them?” and “If I ask Them to watch over someone or help in a given situation, what if that person has a troubled relationship with Them?”.

If your religious practice revolves around the idea of a Gifting Cycle, whether that is a like-for-like, gift-for-gift equal exchange, or giving that They continue to give and hoping that giving extra might grant you extra should They see it, then having those relationships may become more crucial in situations where you ask for help, whether for yourself or for others. In such instances, perhaps you would be more concerned about asking Those you pray to to help those who do not believe or have negative experiences or relationships with Those Divinities.

I am not certain there are any right or wrong answers here but I have always found this situation really interesting, and it fascinates me how varied views and reactions are to these questions. From outrage and upset to mockery to dismissal and shrugging, responses to “I will pray for you” are amazingly varied.


Speaking for myself, I very much take a view that someone wanting well for me, however they go about that, is nice enough of them and they can do what they like from over there. If a friend asked me if I would be okay with their praying for me, I would lean towards a yes with gratitude and embarrassment that they would take that time and effort in their rituals to think of me. If a stranger says something to me on the street, I am inclined towards a polite thanks as I smile and keep walking, if I do not just ignore it completely and keep going.
I have prayed for others, both friends who have known of it, irreligious family, and strangers who have not. To my mind, the 𐌷𐌰𐌹𐌻𐌰𐌲𐌰𐌽𐍃 (Hailagans (“Holy Ones”)(.i. the Gods, spirits and ancestors)) watch over all. I believe in Gods who are loving and caring and want the best for us, but it makes little difference to me if others do not believe in the Gods I worship, if they believe in Gods at all. My theological views do not alter my well-wishing there, nor does the disbelief of others shake my own religious grounding or framework.

With the more ‘esoteric’ idea of asking spirits or other beings to visit and give help, I think, personally, I would be less inclined to do this for someone who did not share my religion, my tradition, at least some of my theology ⁊rl. and especially in cases where I would not, or could not, be present too. This feels more specialised and I would prefer if all present had some of that foundation, some of that backing, that comes with practice and building those relationships, and also had that trust and belief in me also.

Again, no right answers, this is a fascinating area and it brings up some very intense feelings from a lot of people, I understand that. Perhaps this post only raises more questions, more points, but it seems a conversation that would be worth having if it does not simply derail into more Christian-bashing within the communal areas of Pagandom both online and offline.


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Celebrate the Laity

Nobody gets paid to be Pagan.

Think about it.

People get paid to teach, to lecture, to write, to make videos, to sell crafted items, to run workshops or courses, but nobody is being paid to be a Pagan. People don’t get paid to be religious. You believe what you believe, you pray, you hold your rituals, you perform cultus, but nobody pays you for those things. Being religious is not a full-time job. It’s a massive part of someone’s life that can (and in my opinion, should) intersect with every part of someone’s life, but you need to spend time on those other things in life for your religion to impact, intersect with, inform, support.

If someone is a Muslim taxi driver, they’re not just a Muslim. They’re also a taxi driver. If someone is a Catholic grandma, they’re not just a Catholic. They’re also a grandma.

Paganism, in all its forms, seems to have an issue with over-romanticising the clergy and the specialists. People aspire to be priests, spirit-workers, witches, druids, cunning-folk, diviners, etc etc etc. But those people also need people to fulfil those roles for. Everyone is not cut out to be clergy or a specialist. Everyone is not meant to be. And that is fine.

It is perfectly okay, and normal, and healthy, to do your ritual, say your morning prayers, do what you do, then go to work, spend time with your family, go play games, watch football, do whatever, then maybe say prayers at bed-time. That is fine. Not everyone is meant to be an expert, a leader, a teacher. Not everyone is meant to be a specialist.

There are lots of types of specialists, as Sarenth has discussed in depth over on his site.

I’m not saying “Embrace your mediocrity, you failures!“. By all means, most people, I think, don’t discover whether they are or are not meant for these roles until they actually look into them or give them a go. But not getting there doesn’t make you a bad Heathen, polytheist, Wiccan, Kemetic polytheist, Hellenic polytheist, whatever.

There’s a theory that Marc of Lārhūs Fyrnsida and Of Axe & Plough fame has that most Pagans don’t make it past five years. This was mentioned by Gunny on her post on entering intermediate polytheism. I think part of this is related to the fact that a lot of people have it in their heads that understanding the philosophy, the theology, the cosmology, the ritual will all click instantly. That everything will be handed to them in five minutes, be digested and they’ll be qualified priests and witches and druids and such before the day is through. It… doesn’t work like that.

Changing someone’s understanding, understanding a worldview, developing a cohesive and thorough praxis you fully understand and click with can take years. And as you go, you may well find you just like being a practitioner, a devotee, a worshipper, and don’t want, nor need, the extras, the responsibilities, the communal work. It can be enough effort, most days, trying to get prayers and offerings in for most people, without having communal responsibilities or jobs to do as well. Sarenth, a respected spirit-worker by all accounts, has mentioned this himself. Given the prevalence in Pagan circles for discussing low-spoons options for people, how to handle burn out, and other such topics, I think people (especially given the state of the world between wars, pandemics and the economies being how they are) have more than enough going on without feeling the need to berate themselves into turning their beliefs into a profession. You don’t need to be a full-time Pagan.

As I said above, nobody is getting paid to believe what they believe, it’s their other work. If you’re not interested in being a teacher, a priest, an author, a podcaster, then by all means don’t. Arguably, if I don’t censor my cynicism momentarily, there are too many people in those roles and doing those jobs that really oughtn’t to.

To reference an older post on trying to progress as a polytheist, this is not for everyone, nor should it be.

It’s okay to have a life outside of your Pagan communities. It’s okay to not be an expert. We ought to do more to celebrate our laity. That’s the ground-support. As every person who’s ever stood on a stage before an audience has said “Without you, we wouldn’t be here. Thank you“. There’s no priest without people to be a priest to. There are no Pagan workshops, courses, classes, seminars, gatherings, without people to turn up for them. Everyone is striving to be the boss without the experience or the qualifications (or necessarily even an aptitude for it, or an interest in it) and nobody wants to just get on with the work.

It’s okay to just believe, do your rituals, make your offerings, then go get on with your day. In fact, go do that. Let’s celebrate the laity.


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Multiplicity ⁊ Not Knowing

[Mildly ranty post, less personal or reflective than my last one, but much less well-thought out or researched and referenced than my bigger posts of late.]

Divinity is weird.”

Marc.

People seemingly really dislike uncertainty. They dislike the idea of having to rely on trust or faith, or having to deduce things and decide upon their own conclusions. People are comforted by being given facts, solid provable facts. Unfortunately, religion does not always work that way. Life only works like that if you are an atheist and a materialist (in the classical philosophical sense of only believing in the physical world, not in the modern sense of a participant of consumerism).

A lot of my friends who are polytheists and pagans are very much informed by seemingly inexplicable events, experiences or anecdotes. Some of my polytheist and pagan acquaintances are the most discerning and sceptical people I know, but when, (after mulling things over, doing divination, checking with existing lore, running things by trusted friends), they fail to find an explanation for something they feel compelled to chalk it up to being caused by the involvement of God(s), spirits and/or ancestors.

A lot of this boils down to “Yes and”, or “Could be”. A lot of “If that answer works for you”.

“When I die, will I go to this hall or that hall?” I mean, if you want certainty…

If it was all simple or easy or straightforward, would any of these beings be more than or greater than humans? Gods are multi-faceted beings beyond our comprehension. If They were not, would we still be worshipping Them? I do not want to worship something that is ‘like us but bigger‘.

Is the Morrigan one goddess? Yes.
Is the Morrigan one of several Goddesses, all associated with the Morrigan? Yes.
Is the Morrigan even a Goddess at all, or a title for a group of Goddesses? Yes and yes.
Welcome to the first great paradox of the Morrigan.

– Courtney Weber in “The Morrigan: Celtic Goddess of Magick and Might

A God of anything can be a God of everything to a devotee. Typically in Heathenry we take the view of “All Gods are wights but not all wights are Gods”. In polytheism of any sort, Gods are more than a bullet-point list of four or five functions, domains or symbols. Gods can have more than one appearance, depiction, name, title. Gods can reveal Themselves in different ways to different people at different times. As can different types of spirits or other beings.

As I have said before, humans seem overly concerned with taxonomy, with categorisations, with hierarchies. These things can be useful, and depending on individuals, traditions, etc they can serve a purpose but they are certainly better thought of as guides than hard rules. To reference Morgan Daimler’s recent paper, as Daimler has said before, the Seelie and Unseelie were traditionally categorisations basically oriented around the question of “Will this being harm me? Is this being malicious?” and if the answer changed, so did the entity’s classification.

Think about people. I can be classified as a parent, a writer, a musician, a student, a friend, a cat-owner, a martial artist, a Heathen, a goth, a polytheist, a pagan, a Stoic, a vegan, a metalhead, and other things beside. Each of these may be temporary labels, they may be things I phase into and out of, or are only applicable at certain times and not at others; they may also be things I am simultaneously without contradiction. With that in mind, beings that are beyond, above, and more than humans would surely be harder to pigeonhole and classify, no? Something like… a God. If I can be all those things, surely something as big and powerful as a God could be so much more.

“Is a God of the Otherworld also a Monarch of the na Daoıne Maıṫe?” Yes, no, maybe. Some may be, some may not be.
“Are the Álfar our ancestors or landvættir?” Yes, no, maybe.
“Are na Daoıne Maıṫe and Álfar the same or comparable?” Yes, no, maybe.
“Are the people doing <animal> cult honouring that animal as an ancestor, as the animal itself, as an incarnation/symbol of <God(s)>, as a great spirit?” Yes, no, maybe.
“Is that God X or God Y; or God X acting in the role of God Y; or God Y adopting the function(s) of God X; or are Gods X and Y the same God; or is there some sort of nebulous continuum between Gods X and Y?” Yes, no, maybe.
As the law of pagan Discord dictates: “Is it a or b?” Yes.

Now, I am one of those polytheists who views the Gods as being perfect, whole, unto Themselves and utterly benevolent. I believe They love us and are beyond us. Then there is a whole spectrum of beings between the Gods and us mundane, physical, mortal humans who are nonetheless worthy of respect, honour, veneration, occasionally requiring caution or appeasement but often more likely to leave us be than actively try to bother us. These are all beings we may learn from and honour, celebrate or offer to should we wish.

But like, that’s just my opinion.


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Liminal Times

Spring is here, that liminal season acting as a grey area between the depths of winter and the highs of summer. Flowers are blooming, birds are nesting, I’m back in our little garden when I’ve the time and I give thanks to the Gods and the land for the changes, for the growth, for the bountiful harvest to come at the next liminal season before winter.

As I write this it is Earth Day (as to whether this gets published today remains to be seen). I performed a small ritual honouring Airþa and Epona, Marirīks Lībis and Lusanjâ, the spirits of the land and the ancestors who watch over it all. I went for a walk and took some photos of the burgeoning life, spent some time sorting plants in the garden and, as evidenced by this post, have generally been pondering the season.

Lá Bealtaıne approaches, Cónoċt an Earraıġ (the Spring equinox) has been. In Sidjus Reidarje Sauilis we have celebrated the end of the Wild Hunt (our holiday of Nahts Liubaleika) as Sauil returns and Gapt’s hordes depart once more. In my own praxis of Wegaz Nurþerōn Marimarkōn, I have marked the transition from the funereal waters of Morimarusa to the bountiful, fertile waters of Marilībarsa as Marirīks Lībis returns once more for life to begin anew, after Moririx Marui’s Hunt and avenging the losses of Lusanjâ in my own holiday of Mariwindōnahts.

In Irish folklore and tradition, the time of year around Lá Bealtaıne and Cónoċt an Earraıġ can be as liminal as Oíċe Ṡaṁna or Lá Saṁna in terms of activity of spirits and that thinning of the veil between this world and the Otherworld. Again, these grey areas, these liminal times between the two poles of the year that are summer and winter.
As the Hunt returns successfully, the stray and lost dead are taken, punishment was dealt out, and new life emerges, this seems apt here too.

The academic year is wrapping up, or preparing to end, for many. Work is resuming or has already resumed and is becoming routine again, for others, after all that has been with the ongoing pandemic.

Change, reflection, progress and growth feel like key things currently.

Thinking of the pier again.
The flowers are blooming. Underneath, mushrooms and mosses grow on what did not survive through the winter.
Children are playing in the parks, woods and fields. Behind them, there are those who are witnessing this springtime from beyond the veil.
Dedesaiws fills up as Lauhmunawigs grows. The past pushing the non-past ever on as moments slip away and the present continues to be ever-shifting.

I continue on. I tend to the garden as I can; I push myself with my training; I try to do the best I can with my own work and my research and studies; I try to work on my relationships in all their forms; I try to be open to all that I may learn or experience.

I strive to accumulate muns. I strive to grow and progress in every facet of my life for all those around me, for myself, and for the Hailagans.

Spring is sprung.

(NOTE: This is the first post where I’ve not used stock images. All these photos were taken on my aforementioned walk today)


If you like the stuff you’re seeing round here, feel free to help fuel my coffee habit.

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