An interesting thing about spirituality, I find, is that it’s easy to do when I have time; it’s harder to do when I am busy; and it tends to get forgotten when I’m sick. The irony is that I need that connection so much more when I’m not feeling well, but I let it fall to the wayside. I’m sure there are other people out there who manage to maintain that connection even when feeling ill, but I’m not one of them. Or at least not without reminders.
In my most recent bout of post-travel illness, I was reminded by my shrines. I have shrines in my bedroom and in my craft/brew/Work room. Yet, while I kept telling myself that I would go and make offerings or do a devotion … I just curled up under a blanket and coughed. I was aware of the gods and spirits. I did go outside to feel the sun on my face and tend to my plants (some of which are dedicated to spirits). But doing more than that was … not happening. It was not until I was on my way to feeling better that I started to do stuff. I did the bone breathing, I did some trance work, I did some devotions and made offerings.
I don’t know what to do, how to train myself, to actually keep the connection better when I’m feeling ill.
A couple weekends ago, I went to Many Gods West in Olympia, WA. It was my first time at the conference, and I was very happy that I went. Nikki and her crew put on a wonderful, educational weekend filled with new information, new experiences, and great community.
The hotel itself had just completed a renovation, and they did a great job. The rooms were huge, and the bar was lovely.
I arrived on Thursday evening, after my roommate, Brendan, picked me up from the airport. Thursday night, we were both tired and ended up eating dinner in the hotel bar. It was a great choice as we met a couple of wonderful people who we continued to get to know through the weekend.
Friday morning was mostly devoted to finding friends and getting registered. A few folks who I knew from California came up, and I got to meet a few more friends from California who I hadn’t met before! It’s funny how you end up meeting people at conferences – when those people live just 30 or 40 minutes away from you ☺
The Opening Ritual was lead by Sean Donahue – and I knew that I was in the right place. Although Sean’s opening prayer and ritual were not in the tradition that I practice, there were a lot of overlaps. There were enough overlaps that it felt familiar and welcoming. Here were a group of polytheists who were coming together in community and learning. And that was amazing.
Next up was the Plenary session of a panel discussion on building pagan community. The panel was chaired by Druid and Blogger John Beckett and included ADF’s Archdruid Emeritus Kirk Thomas, Heathen skald and co-founder of the Golden Gate Kindred, Ryan Smith, and the co-founder of Mother Grove Goddess Temple and Gods & Radicals, Syren Nagakyrie. It was great to hear everyone’s different perspectives on how to build community. In general respect for each other, a clear path to address disagreements and troublemakers, and a whole lot of work goes into building pagan community.
That evening was a double ritual for me. The first ritual was a ritual to the goddess Rhiannon by Phoenix LaFae and Gwion Raven. The ritual was about handing off the stories that are told to us, about us but aren’t us. We were offered to hand off these stories to Rhiannon – she can help us get rid of them, or at least to carry them for a time.
The second ritual of the evening was the Dionysian Revival ritual by Jason and Ari Mankey. I’ve only been to a Mankey ritual once, and this one was different but just as impressive. We started out with a traditional Hellenic invocation and ended up with a bit of a dance party …. And a trip to the underworld in the middle. It was a great ritual and a lot of fun.
That night I managed to stay up until 5 am talking with people. There were so many great conversations! As a result of the excessively late night, I slept through my planned morning session, but the rest of the day was great.
Saturday, the vendor hall was open, and I got a new rune set, a new journal, talked with a few folks from the Olympia/Seattle area about different Heathen practices and just had a great time talking with everyone in the vendor room. I also spent time in the Community Tea Room hosted by Emily and Raye with tea donated by B. Fuller’s Mortar & Pestle and Radiance Herbs. The teas were awesome, and I’m looking forward to trying more of them in the future.
This day I attended a talk on multi-traditional practice by Willow Moon where he talked about balancing the Witchcraft and Buddhist traditions. Although I am generally pagan, I do work with multiple traditions so understanding how he did it gave me some ideas.
One of the sessions that were planned got canceled due to the presenters being unable to attend, so Alf Herigstad hosted a Sumbel. It was my first Sumbel, and it was a cool experience. After the toasts, a few of us stayed and chatted and drank mead.
The next session that day was the ADF Ritual. The ritual was hosted by Cascadia Grove, and they very kindly let Kirk, Sean and myself have parts in the ritual. Kirk Thomas was the presiding clergy for the ritual. It was a great ritual where we invoked Tailtiu.
That evening consisted of dinner with friends old and new, and an evening of mead and snacks and conversation.
Sunday was the last day of the convention, but the schedule was still pretty packed. The first session was one of the most moving sessions of the convention. Alf Herigstad presented his views on Animal Sacrifice. The workshop included a good grounding in the historical context of animal sacrifice. Alf then went on to describe how his Kindred performs animal sacrifice – from raising the animals to their final moments and how they are honored. It was a very moving workshop, and Alf had most folks in tears at least once.
The second session that I went to that day was a workshop on Gnostic Polytheism and Animism by Sara Star. The workshop started out with the question “Who writes the Myths?” By the end of the workshop, the response was “me!” Each of us has a responsibility to communicate the UPG that aids the community and helps to unwrite some of the harmful stories.
I stayed through Monday and walked around Olympia to check out the cute little town.
Overall the event was awesome, relaxing, educational and all around success. Nikki, Sean, and the Warding crew did a fantastic job of keeping the energies balanced and the convention going well.
I’m looking forward to going to Many Gods West next year.
Recently I wrote about how I work with the First Officer of Voyager, Chakotay.
Anyone can work with TV or movie characters to help them in magic and in internal work.
We can use promotional material from the studio that picture the character, or toys of the character, to connect to that particular character. In my case, I used a Voyager officer teddy bear as a physical connection to the character. For other characters, you may use props that were created for that character – such as a wand for a Harry Potter character.
Working with a character that is portrayed in a TV-Show or Movie can be tricky. The character is played by an actress or actor, and we need to be careful to work with the character, and not the person playing them.
In my work with Chakotay, I very explicitly am working with the character. The Actor who plays the character, Robert Beltran, is still around, and I don’t want to impact him directly. I don’t know what kind of person Beltran is, so I don’t know what kind of energy he would bring to a working. Also, and possibly more importantly, I don’t have any relationship with him, nor do I have any reason to think that it would be okay to work with his energy or life.
Whatever the system we use, it is upon us, the magic workers, to do our best to understand the impacts of our workings. If we are working with characters to help us in our workings, we need to be sure to work with the characters.
Actors are not their characters, and we have no reason to conflate the two in our workings.
Image of Chakotay is a promotional image from Voyager Season I. Image of Robert Beltran from Wikipedia.
Recent years have seen a new crop of superhero movies – which include some Norse deities. There are books and TV shows about a private investigator Wizard named Harry Dresden. The magical world of Harry Potter has been a huge hit in books, movies and theme parks. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen the Pokemon Go craze hit the US. And we are getting updates about the casting for the movie version of Gaiman’s book “American Gods.” There is the never-ending stream of comics, games, tv-shows, books, movies, and toys that bring magical characters to popular consideration.
All of these bring magic and deity to mainstream pop culture, and a lot of focus, thought, and energy goes into the creation, representation, and study of the characters.
For those of us who are studying more traditional forms of magic and religion, where does this fit? For me, the answer is – wherever it makes sense.
Some people, myself included, will work with the different characters as thoughtforms. Others will work with the characters as if they were gods, or archetypes, or don’t work with pop culture characters at all. Some people define the magical systems from the comics, shows, books, movies, and games as functional magical systems that they work with – complete with deity, holidays and correspondences. There are a lot of different ways that individuals can work, or not work, with pop culture characters.
Recently, I’ve been having a challenging time being pulled in multiple directions by my personal and work choices. To help me understand my own feelings and ways to work with them, I did a pathworking to chat with the thoughtform of Chakotay, the First Officer on the Starship Voyager. In the show, the character of Chakotay deals with the balance of personal and work life, personal feelings and what is best for the group, and all while being someone who others look up to but who isn’t the person in charge. As a fan of the Star Trek series, and of Voyager specifically, working with that thoughtform makes sense for me.
I could be working with a shared thoughtform that has been created from all the combined attention that has been paid to the character, or framing my own emotions and thoughts in that form so that I can have a conversation with them. Overall, it doesn’t really matter.
Each person will use their choice of pop culture if they decide to, and it’s not up to us to decide for other people. It is, however, up to us to understand if using pop culture in our own spirituality and magic makes sense for ourselves.
Images are PR or promo images from the respective book or show.
I find that I have very limited time in the mornings – it’s a balancing act of getting to work early enough, and making sure that I get enough sleep. Even with the limited time, it’s still important to me to have time for morning devotionals, but how do I honor all the beings I want to honor?
My solution was to honor different beings on different days.
I blend Welsh and Norse Hearth Cultures in my practice, so my daily practices reflect that. The challenge for me with doing Daily Practices has always been finding time to do the work.
Five days a week, my devotions are specific for one of the Kindreds or a specific Deity – a different Being or set of Beings every day. Saturday and Sunday are more flexible. Some weekends, I will do trance, or a full Core Order of Ritual rite. This way I can fit my devotions into my busy life as well as have time for the work for my courses.
If you’re having a challenging time working with multiple Beings, maybe you can try divvying up the days.
Assuming that I got my timing right, this post should go out on the exact minute of the Summer Solstice!
This day, well not exactly on the calendar, but this High Day, marks the end of my 5th year in ADF. I have to say that it seems that I’ve found the right “place” for me at this time. I haven’t been this engaged in another group for this long for a while.
At the Solstice, we experience extremes – either the shortest day or the longest day – depending on which solstice it is. This is a turning point. The Wheel turns and the light grows, or the light shrinks. Either way, the light is doing the opposite thing than it was doing just moments before. On the Solstices, we stand in that liminal space, between growth and contraction. This is the perfect spot for deciding where your next step will be.
It was upon a Summer Solstice when I went to my first Druidic ritual, and when I started identifying myself as a member of ADF. It was at that ritual – one that I drove two hours to a strange city and strange group to participate in a ritual of a strange tradition. It was a very liminal time for me – and I haven’t regretted that step at all. If you’re considering doing something different
Once again, as happens twice a year, we stand in that space again. Where will you take your next step?
Some days, try as you might, your might just won’t engage with whatever it is that you think it should be doing. Or maybe it’s something that you want to do, or feel that you need to do, but … those brain cells just aren’t firing.
Depending on what’s going on with you – inside and outside – there can be a lot of different reasons for this lack of engagement. The only way to find out what it is, is to ask yourself. Is it something that you actually want to be doing? Is there something else that you’d prefer to be doing? Are you sick or exhausted? Are there things that you’re allowing to distract you? Did you spend 30 minutes cruising Facebook instead of writing a blog post? I hope that you see where I’m going here.
If you can figure out why your brain won’t engage in a particular task, you can try to re-engage. Often, though, I can’t understand why I’m distracted. In those cases, I’ll often try to distract my brain with something entirely different. For example, if I’m trying to write a blog post that just isn’t happening, I might go and play the piano, or cook dinner, or spin some yarn – something that takes a very different type of focus. If the thing I’m trying to do is writing – blogs or coursework – I will sometimes sit down at the computer and start a train of thought document … words that I think go right onto the screen. Sometimes this helps, but at other times, I end up working out something that’s been bothering me.
And there are times when you just accept that there’s something going on and that you’re not going to get it done. Whatever “it” is – it’s not going to happen now. Maybe later. For these times, I keep a to-do list. It’ll go down on the list to be addressed later. And if it never gets addressed, maybe it wasn’t that important after all.
As I spend time researching ancient myths and stories, I am often reminded that we need to interpret the stories with consideration for the culture in which the myths were recorded.
For the last few months, I have subscribed to Huginn’s Heathen Hof‘s “Daily Hávamál” email. In this mailing, we get a verse of the Hávamál in both the original language, Old Norse, and in modern English. Each verse is also interpreted with respect to today’s Western world.
In many cases, the Hávamál provides wisdom that is easily translated to today. For example, stanza 118 warns the reader about the danger of “malicious words,” while other stanzas talk about not speaking with idiots (don’t feed the trolls!). Yet, there are other verses that seem to indicate that all women are evil, or otherwise malicious.
How do we interpret these verses then? We have to look at the culture in which they were written down. The source of the Hávamál – The Eddas – were written down by a Christian man. While Snorri seemed interested in preserving the myths of Iceland, it would have been incredibly difficult for him to remove all of the Christian influences for the late 12th and early 13th centuries when he lived.
We also do not know for certain how women and other groups were treated in the culture in which the stories are set. We can make the best interpretations of the information that we have, but we’re just making interpretations. Primary sources that are objective are nearly impossible to find.
So, how do we work with texts such as the Hávamál? We do as they do over at Huginn’s Heathen Hof – we re-interpret. We try to understand what the underlying story or lesson is behind the words and see how that applies to our modern life.
How do you interpret the ancient stories and myths?
I realize the title is a bit .. interesting 🙂 My husband and I were getting ready to head out to visit some friends, and I realized I had to go to the bathroom. C is used to this by now, so he just chuckled and waited. The funny part was that I had just gone 10 minutes before, and I don’t have any kind of physical condition that makes me want to go often. It’s habit.
When I was growing up, my Father loved to take us out for a ride in the car. We would drive all over the place and find some of the coolest new areas. But … there was one catch. He hated to stop until we were there. So you REALLY had to go before he’d stop. Everyone went to the bathroom before we left. It was a habit.
It’s a habit that continues to impact me all these years later.
There’s a reason for this story.
We all grow up unconciously learning habits. Sometimes these habits help (like brushing your teeth before bed), sometimes they hurt, and sometimes they are neutral. The key is to identify these habits and decide what we want to do with them.
The helpful and neutral habits are usually easy – we can leave them in place if we like, but those harmful habits. The habits that can hurt ourselves or those around us. Those habits we should face, recognize and decide what we wish to do – do we accept that part of ourselves? do we change it? or do we ignore it?
What habits do you have from childhood? Have you decided to keep them? or change them?
As part of my spiritual practices, I spend time every day connecting with the Kindreds. Depending on what’s going on and the time of year, my methods change slightly.
During the winter – the rainy months – I tend to do devotionals all indoors. I have altars set up in my bedroom and in my craft room. Because I work with multiple Gods, Spirits and Ancestors, I will do devotionals to different beings on different days. I’m trying to keep to a weekly cycle – so Wednesday is Odin’s day, Friday is Freya’s day, etc … In addition to the gods that I work with, I also put time aside for my Ancestors and the spirits of the land.
My indoor devotions are pretty simple. I greet the Kindreds and call upon the particular being that I am doing a devotional for that day. I will make an offering for the being while talking about my relationship with that being. Offerings can include water, grains, herbs, incense, or sometimes something that I have created. Usually, I keep the items that take more time to create for when I’m doing a deeper working or when I’m asking for something specifically. I then thank the being and say goodbye.
When it’s not raining and is a relatively warm temperature outside, I will do devotionals to the tree and the plants in my patio container garden. In these cases, my offerings are usually water that has sat overnight in a copper cup. I use a small silver bowl to pour the water towards the tree or in my patio plants.
I think that it doesn’t matter how you view the god(s), spending time with the various spirits, beings, archetypes that you do believe in is a big part of deepening your spirituality.