Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Prayer for the Mothers

Beloved Mother's Son,
Dancing One, you Love
Your Mother Earth so.
Bless the Mother, Lord.
Bless all Mothers.

Their work is hard, their burden great.
Bring them Laughter, Lord.
Bring them Lightness.
Bless the Mother, Lord.
Bless all Mothers.

Bring Wealth and Health
and Smiling Children,
who look upon them
as you look upon your own Mother.
Bless the Mother, Lord.
Bless all Mothers.

Bless the Mothers, Lord.
Bring them frith and laughter's fortitude,
Resilience and celebration.
Bless the Mother, Lord.
Bless all Mothers.

Beloved Mother's Son,
Dancing One, you Love
Your Mother Earth so.
Bless the Mother, Lord.
Bless all Mothers.

This is a prayer whose various stanzas may be repeated in refrain during a walk through a grove. Go out into a beautiful area of nature --- a park, your backyard, a garden, a place where life's resilience and fertility is palpable. Stand there and take in the green, and sunlight, and birdsong. Feel yourself a part of all of this. Take some time to just breathe it all in, breathing yourself out into it for blessings, and breathing back in again. Feeling Fro Ing, God-in-the-Garden, Lord of Green Things, Regeneration Lord, Lord of Laughter and Freedom, begin to walk about the grove, reciting this prayer as you walk. Leave, if you will, small offerings of seed or prepared leaves for his Friends, the Good Folk, or slowly pour out ale or milk, in a spirit of the gift. After the line, "Bless the Mother, Lord", and before "Bless all Mothers", feel free to say "Bless _______" and insert the name of your own Mother, or a woman close to you who is a Mother or Expecting Mother.

Freyr Prayer

Shaft-Lord of Sun's Beams
Leaf-filtered creeping through the tall branches,
Greening grass, bud, and leaflet lord
Lord of life and light
Lord of Winter's Spring,
Undo winter's linger
with soft, gentle greening.
Learn us, Lord,
how to Live so Well, as you do,
Touching barren branches
budding forth life's new gaspings
and graspings, open to the Sun.
This we Pray, O Most Free and Full.
One hears Laughter in flirtation
between leaf-breeze and Sun-Beam.
Bring us that Laughter that heals,
O Lord, O Most Gentle, Playful Lord.

In heathenism, poetry becomes prayer. If in a poem any line or sets of lines calls to you, feel free always to take those lines and make them into a refrain, for in a poem, some lines may work for you, and others may not work. The whole beautiful idea of a "Book of Shadows", of individuals and families compiling recipe-books for their health, wealth, and spirituality, is wonderful, because we should feel free to collage and boquet that which is beautiful into an offering and prayer that makes sense for us. Sometimes just taking a line or two from a poem and repeating it over and over can have a soothing yet subtly exciting, gentle magical effect. Remember you are trying to enter into the Larger Magic, the magic of being alive, and in touch with all the holy powers who make this life a sacred opportunity. In my poetry, or anyone else's, I ask you to feel free to collage at will, so words may serve life's blessings. May you be blessed as well.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A New Perspective on Sumble

Sumble is a means of building local, do-it-yourself, mutual credit. By vowing deeds within the circle and carrying them out, your credibility within the circle rises, and over time, each of those people can become people who will vouch for you and thus extend your credit. (And vice-versa.) The Anglo-Saxons had an institution of local, mutual vouchers, who could be called upon to give credit in a case, the compurgators.

Here we might inflect honor as credibility, as social credit built through the carrying out of worthy deeds which demonstrate integrity. Honor as integrity and boldness brought to fruition to build local, social credit. The question "Who are you?" often means, "Who knows you, and will they vouch for you?". And what is the basis for their vouch? Is it a vouch founded in values? Or simple popularity or kinship? Neither of those are sufficient for the compurgator-relation. While relatives in Icelandic sagas are willing to help each other out based on kinship, notice how reluctant, hesitant, and guarded they are with their help to those kinsmen they feel are unreliable or lack integrity.

Building your social credit is building your social power. When people in the old days said, "I haven't heard of you", or "There are no deeds spoken of in your name", they were looking for absent signs of social credit that indicated willingness to enter into relations with integrity.

It is true that there was a sacred element to sumble, but as with all things heathen, part of this was the sacredness of the pragmatic. The pragmatic world is not unspiritual -- if approached with depth and integrity.

In this regard, a sumble is not just a drinking-party or a social toasting. Those may, at their best, give an inkling of what sumble is all about, but they are as identical to sumble as arithmetic is to algebra or even calculus, or as a careless, drunken one-night-stand is to a loving act of making love.

The sumble-group (the so-called "kindred") should not leak, but hold. If it leaks, what is the point of building all the honor and luck? It must hold that honor and luck. The point is to build a mutual bank of credit and aid. If this does not happen, something is wrong. In fact, if people approached their sumble-group and the behavior of its participants the same way they did a banking venture -- which is to say with carefulness, seriousness, dedication, and a demand for integrity -- things would turn out much better. If a bank employee demonstrates unethical behavior, it could affect everyone's accounts. Leaks should be identified and plugged. If mutual advantage -- real, tangible, everyday-life mutual advantage -- is not slowly growing (we are not discussing the equivalent of get-rich-quick schemes or miracles, but some form of measurable advantage, however humble), something is wrong, because the practice of sumble over time should be helping to increase our effectiveness, not reinforce our impotence. One can be impotent well enough on one's own without help in the matter.

If all of this sounds superhuman in its perceived unattainability, that just demonstrates the degradation of the social fabric that has occurred ; sumbling is in part an attempt to rebuild that social fabric --- not as an entirety, which an individual has little power to effect --- but locally, in order to be part of the solution. This is not to say either that the mutual bank of sumble must have infallible participants, but they must own up to their mistakes and do their best with right, good will to correct, repair, and repay them. If there is a breach of faith, trust, or confidence within a sumble-group, it is a serious matter that must be given full attention and depth of wisdom, including good horse-sense. It is not to be taken lightly, because it concerns the integrity of the entire bank that is being built.

Sumble is not a drinking party, it's not a toasting affair, it's not an AA meeting. It's not casual, it's not a game, and it's not dress-up. It is a gradual pouring of hearts together, and you are not going to pour your heart together with those you cannot trust. If trust cannot build, heart cannot grow, and there is really no point.

In sumble, we are pouring our heart out to the gods, the ancestors, and each other, and through this, building mutual good faith and credit. With that kind of grounded, gradually proven trust, we can all gain in strength, if we will honor and invest in the bank of credit being built. Sumble is an opportunity, therefore, to not only grow in spiritual, but in social strength as well.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Why Do So Many Heathens Want to Be Normal?

It's a curious and important question. One hears so much buzz about not wanting to seem like "wingnuts" or "fringe" elements, of wanting to be taken "seriously", of embarrassment at being associated with anyone who seems too weird, of needing approval from the masses, a mass crying out of "We're normal! We're normal! Just like you!"

I just find this bizarre. This reaching for normality seems to me quite bizarre and abnormal. After all, the driving cosmic force in this religion is called Wyrd, and it ain't called that for nothing.

Yes, we are earthy, yes, many of us are good, wholesome, even hard-working folks. But nothing discludes being earthy, good, wholesome, hard-working, and weird, and valuing that weirdness. I am suspicious of people who are constantly catering to other people's perceptions rather than having the strength of character to be themselves and follow their wyrd, which is ever anything but normal.

How about telling people, "We're good, we're wholesome, and we're weird." ? That would be a fantastic statement, for a number of reasons. First of all, it breaks with the memes established by Xian culture which separate "good" from "weird". Secondly, it establishes a new meme which is an important concept. Thirdly, it is bold, and boldness is an important heathen value. Fourthly, it has the value of being true, and truth is also a good value.

Those willing to prostitute themselves to public opinion (and we even have charlatans trying to sell us these sheep-values as "honor", when honor is respect given by a community that values integrity and boldness to those who demonstrate it) for the sake of preserving their "normality" would seem to be missing the entire point, and demonstrating a deplorable social cowardice. Perhaps an understandable growth pain in a movement, but it must be confronted with social courage that is not afraid to be what it is, and that models to the larger community that the weird is valuable, and there is much to be learned in it. Why would we deprive our fellows and brethren of such an important insight? Heathenism is not just another option on the religion checklist. It represents a fundamentally different approach, and we oughtn't to be ashamed of that. And it is positively shameful to marginalize those who are socially courageous simply because your social cowardice finds their behavior embarassing as you try to put a good face on the religion to a larger public.

We all know there are bad kinds of weird. That's not the point. The point is that there are good kinds of weird, and this is a message that the larger public desperately needs.

What I would like to know is not why there are "weirdos" in heathenism, but why there is such broad toleration for Puritans. From time to time one hears complaints about not wanting heathenism to be confused with sexual freedom (as if that were a bad thing), orgies (as if anyone is ever forced into an orgy), polyamory, or queer/kinky sexuality.

Such complaints make my jaw drop. Do these supposed "heathens" even study their religion at all? If Asatru is "the religion with homework", as a teacher, I would have to be failing a significant portion of the class! Do these neo-Puritans ever take the time to consider that men, women, and children would come into the most sacred of temples to pay their respects and give their offerings before a statue of Freyr that featured an immense, erect cock? Or that our beloved Vanadis had no shame at taking lovers besides her husband? Or that she lovingly whored herself out to four dwarves to gain a beautiful necklace? Or that several of the gods crossdress? For those who hadn't noticed, that's public indecent exposure, polyamory, prostitution, and transvestism --- if you look at it from non-heathen eyes. Who would have the gall therefore to suggest that our ancestors were puritanical then? Au contraire, heathenism is a profoundly libertarian tradition, and should be proud of it. As long as no one is forcing anyone else to do something they don't want to do, who cares what people are doing? Not only do I think the religion calls for broad tolerance in this respect, but downright celebration of freedom, including sexual freedom!

It is never freedom which is an issue, but responsibility. So long as all parties are being responsible, we ought to applaud, even as we reserve the right to do what we wish in the way we like responsibly as well, with no one setting standards for us besides our own values, our desires, and our devotion to the Gods.

Stop trying to be "respectable", and just start being yourself. And if you find within yourself social cowardice and the neurotic need to feel normal, then do some introspection, and engage in some prayer. Pray to Odin, who is, after all, an odd god if you think about it, whose only food is wine and who shapeshifts into birds and fishes and animals, and ask for the wisdom that reveals how to feel secure in a universe that really is very weird. Have some muscle, and grit, and root to you.

We're heathen. We're good, we're wholesome, and we're weird.

The Immaturity of Modern Asatru

Modern Asatru is immature. This is something many sense, and in great need of remedy. While it is true that the ultimate remedy to immaturity is time and experience, and even granting Blake's dictum that the fool who persists in his folly grows wise, at the same time it must also be admitted that intelligence and initiative are often needed to propel a system out of immaturity, especially if it is an immaturity which can stillborn an important movement. Decisiveness and willingness to do what is necessary (within appropriate ethical bounds) to midwife a child are the signs of a strong, caring individual.

The first major mistake Asatru made was to be careless and timid in its stance towards racism. This has been a tremendous error, based on a timidity towards conflict that Tyr would blush with shame over, in an attempt to "avoid divisiveness", when it is precisely divisiveness on important matters that is necessary to midwife a movement into fuller integrity. The last thing one wants to do is have truck with racists, or leave without critique a volkism whose history is intricated in the history of the Nazis (a history which certainly must be faced square-on if one even has a shadow of a hope of extricating it from that context). Gods of the Blood should be required reading in every kindred, and if its discussion, or the larger discussion about racism, sparks fiery, intense debates, are you going to tell me that a religion based on our Gods is going to shy away from meaningful melee? Are you serious? Not on Odin's watch!

If fierce and creative debate about important matters alienate nidings, so much the better. The worst thing is to cater to nidings in the first place, especially if one is going to build an authentic and powerful movement. Better not to worry about being divisive or losing ranks if the issues are important enough to face. Unfortunately, much of modern Asatru is cowardly in this regard, pathologically avoidant of the issues of racism or ethnic nationalism instead of confronting such things head on in a bold and values-driven approach. There are discussion groups that have the gall to call themselves "anti-racist", and then go on to define "anti-racism" as a prohibition against discussing racism --- and they engage in this snivelling shadow-discourse without blushing! That combines nerve, cowardice, and the parochial attitude into one disgusting ball!

Honor doesn't have anything to do with popularity. It has to do with integrity. If we want an Asatru we can be proud of, we have to build on the proper foundations, and that will require a critique of everything that has come out of global fascism and racism, and demands a historical sense amongst the Asatru that does not allow simplistic thinking about complex matters, nor retreats from difficult social and cultural challenges into the prejudices of the past. I would like to see an Asatru where those whose blood seeks out ideologies to justify their prejudices finding a good dose of sobering, cold water thrown onto their reactionary tendencies, amongst smiling faces holding out a helping hand to those who can pass the necessary hazing and initiation into mature, adult collaboration, based on practical, informed, but more importantly, educated wisdom, and let me be precise in my definitions : education is not simply the elaboration of information in order to leave the prejudiced core unchallenged, but rather, precisely, the development of the self through the creative confrontation with difference, in which the core is liberated from the parochial through a broadening of its own perspectives ; not in a way that denies its localism or its folkroots, but rather strips it of its narrowness. Education is meant to broaden our horizons, not to merely inform our chauvinism. Confrontation of racism is merely the first step in ridding the movement of narrowness, but a necessary step it is indeed, for nothing good can come out of shameful avoidance, and it is the foundational hedge against the tradition and its symbols being entirely appropriated by nidings who would turn it -- and are turning it -- towards their own heinous, uneducated aims.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Is Heathenism Polytheistic -- or Atheistic?

The question itself sounds blasphemous, which is a marvelous place to begin, for the taboo always opens up potentially fertile lines of thought --- and as a godhi of Freyr, liberating fertility must always be high on my priority list.

On first examination, heathenism is polytheistic, for there are obviously a multiplicity of gods. But does a "theism" have to do with the modality and nature of deity, or the modality and nature of worship?

Mainstream Xianity emerges out of a theistic setting of shibbolethry, of bowing down before divinity in a submissive posture in which will is evacuated. The ancient heathen word "worship" has come to be equated with this shibbolethry.From this theistic stance of imagination, polytheism sounds like multiple shibbolethry.

The ancient Gnostics, who shall be our allies in this analysis, critiqued this approach to worship and assessed that only Archons desire or demand shibbolethry. "Archons" was their word for what might be called variously "demons", "jotnar", etc. : unwhole entities not intent on tending the good who seek enlargement of their unwholeness. "Archons" specifically meant "ruler", and the implication was that entities who were tyrants sought out submissives to worship them. Gnostics defiantly and boldly rejected this notion of approach to deity. To them, shibbolethry to even one was far too much.

If we, for the moment, define this kind of shibbolethry as "theism", and then wish to find a word which describes shibbolethry to none, the appropriate prefix to place before "theism" will not be "poly", but the prefix "a-", which is a negating prefix meaning "none".

It turns out that this approach is in large agreement with the ancient heathen perspective. The original meaning of "worship" was worth-ship, which meant showing honor to the gods, and growing in worth --- ie., developing ourselves to our full capacities --- in order to honor the gifts they have bestowed upon us, and to be able to more fully honor them. Worship is about honoring, with full will, and not evacuating our will in order to present ourselves submissively before the gods.

From this standpoint, heathenism is "atheistic", even though it involves honoring multiple gods. But it is, simply, and to borrow the terminology of our Gnostic allies, to recognize that our gods are not archons. Thus, either "polytheism" or "atheism" are inadequate from their various standpoints of expressing this deeper, indigenous perspective. From the perspective of Midgard, the gods are personifications of forces that are felt and experienced as very real, whose ultimate sources we seek to enter into partnership with, and to honor, for the betterment of the world itself, for such contracts tend the good in all things.

The modern Xian notion of "worship" simply doesn't touch what we are reaching for and what we are trying to articulate. It is a completely different language. Its theistic concepts do not apply. The more heathen we become, the less theistic we get, and the more heathen we become. Our thews of weorthscip live within us and become a part of our blood and bones. We breathe and live it. We make it a part of our lives, and realize it through this.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hedonism and Self-Love

Too often in today's social climate, we hear self-righteous pundits becrying the hedonism and selfishness of the American people, and the cry for replacing materialism with spirituality.

As heathens, we must never cave in or cater to such dualistic hypocrisy.

I have a simple response to hedonism : I call it worship of holy Freyr, and an exercise of the freedom and joy that he charters for every self-respecting and responsible member of Mother Jord's community. Moreover, I perceive that Freyr wants there to be more pleasure, and indeed, that enlightened hedonism is a way to produce more peace and prosperity in the world.

Freyr is a god who will affirm the strong forces of desire within us, and like all the gods, he wants us to experience the pride in self, and the self-respect and healthy affirmation of appetite that some call "selfishness".

But Freyr is also a god of conviviality, of what our Anglo-Saxon forebears called freols, the communal freedom of a festival. This was deeper, and better than a party, and represented a vision of togetherness in liberty and mirth that went far beneath any supposed oppositions between selfishness and conviviality, selfishness and altruism. As I have demonstrated many times, as Frodi, Freyr organized the folk into mutual-aid guilds where they could pool their strengths and get more of what each of them wanted by working together in peace and harmony to create their desires and throw off the tyranny of the giants.

From this perspective, it is not selfishness that is the problem. It is a spiritual world-view that tries to create a zero-sum game which splits self from other and demonstrates a faulty lack of imagination in the possibilities of multiplying our desires together in the way the Vanir know brings prosperity to all who join in frith. The gods want us to be strong, each of us, and they encourage us to be strong together. We must reject models that subordinate the individual to the group, but rather see the group as a magical coming together of the wills, oaths, wisdom, and desires of each strong, proud, and responsible individual.

"Narcissism", which we hear so much about by those who little understand its original psychoanalytic context, is not a syndrome of those who are too full of themselves. It is the pathetic obsession for a self by those too empty of self-affirmation. It is sumble, not hypocritical cries for humility and altruism, that these folks need! For sumble is the communal affirmation of individual deeds proudly and well-done!

Moreover, as heathens, we are empowered by our ancestral faith to call out our brothers and sisters of other faiths on their insistence on separating materialism from spirituality, and share with them the truth of our troth that this separation is a delusion. This world is not perfect, and under the wrong circumstances, when all the runes are out of alignment and people are out of touch with their ancestral powers and the strong will of their wyrd, this world can even tend towards the worse ; yes, we acknowledge that there are giants. But this world was made to be a good place, and despite all the errors and follies that humans are prone to, despite the struggles and the pain, it remains a good place.

The material world is the home and body of our mother, Mother Jord. There can be nothing more sacred. Yes, we are filled with the breath-spirit of Odin, but our bodies were shaped from the trees that grow out of the very earth itself. In other words, our bodies grow and emerge from the earth itself!

So, no, materialism, selfishness, and hedonism are not evil. With healthy, robust, earthy-peasant moderation, and a good sense of proportion that enjoys satiety and therefore knows when to say "enough", all of these are good things. Evil is not any single thing. Evil is not one side of the balance of life, as if we could truncate reality. Evil is anything that goes too far beyond the natural proportions of life and existence, and will not come back. The giants are too much for the earth, and that is why they are confined to a special zone in the most barren of lands. They will not live in proportion, and threaten all who do. So they remain in the utgard.

Heathenism is holistic. Wholeness is one of our key spiritual values. Indeed, from a heathen perspective, there cannot be spirituality without wholeness. And wholeness means recognizing the essential union of what many would separate into "materialism" and "spirituality", "selfishness" and "altruism", "hedonism" and "sacrifice".

And yes, heathenism recognizes the value of sacrifice, for knowledge, for honor, for one's community, for the good of the world. We know of Odin's sacrifice on the Tree ; we know of his giving of his eye ; we know of Tyr's giving of his hand. But these were select, strategic, wisdom-guided, well-calculated, rare, and significant sacrifices made to make a difference, a difference worthwhile because it multiplied what was of most worth to them, and therefore augmented and did not diminish them. I do not say they suffered no pain for their sacrifices. They were sacrifices. But Odin was not constantly ripping out eyes, nor Tyr cutting off limbs. The gods give themselves fully to the struggles that have meaning. And they also clearly enjoy a freols where the ale runs freely, song and verse are strong and wondrous, and the pride of a good brag makes everyone feel good.

We must not allow the Cleavers (those who divide a holistic reality into two opposing categories) to monopolize the discussion of spirituality in this nation. We must speak up and declare a truth that in this context is refreshingly and even shockingly new, and yet which is also ancient and wise. It is the truth of our heathen way. It is the pleasure and self-fulfillment that seek out the self-fulfillment and pleasure of others, and makes for a good and hearty community.

Seed-Casting Rite

Take a mixture of barley and oats, and walk about the land, saying :

"The Good Lord gave forth seed,
That all might grow,
That all might eat."

Sprinkle and cast seed upon the earth. Repeat:

"The Good Lord gave forth seed,
That all might grow,
That all might eat."

Continue walking about, scattering the seed. If there is grass growing, stoop down and swirl the tips of the grass with your hands, as if you were caressing a beloved pet, and feel Fro Ing in the vegetation sprouting up and softly swishing past your fingers. Cast forth more seed, and say,

"The Good Lord gave forth seed,
That all might grow,
That all might eat."

Then say,

"May the land-wights take this gift.
May Frodi's shining friends
Share in these seeds of frith."

Then say,

"The Good Lord gave forth seed,
That all might grow,
That all might eat."

Continue until you have given all the barley and oats you collected.

This is a very simple ritual, but it is quite effective if performed. It is best if you imagine yourself as Fro Ing, giving forth his seed,
so that you are gathering the Lord with your imagination, your simple devotion, and your ritual action. Allow the word "seed" in all of its varied and voluptuous connotations to gather in your mouth and spill out your lips as you speak the repeated chant, charging the land with all of the life-potential, growth, and orgasmic joy of seed. Remember to palpably enjoy the land about you, and keeping it simple, rejoice in your freedom, and all the Gods who support that freedom, most especially Freyr. Hail Freedom's Frolicking Frith-bringer!