Monthly Archives: June 2014

I wish I had known… Part 2

I want to preface this one with the comment from Sarenth on the first part of this series;

”  I would like your thoughts on how your relationships with vaettir have changed over the years, what has helped make them successful, what has not, and where you see overlap in terms of spirits in general in regards to the paths you have walked.

I really like that you keep hitting on the idea that not everyone is good at everything. I also like that you noted you lack a god-phone, and that it is not as huge a part of your life as it is for others. I’m looking forward to your writing on your animism, and how that impacts/informs your relationships with the Gods. As a polytheist and an animist I do not feel I can separate the two; the former, to me, is informed by the latter. I’m curious if you have different feelings on this, and if so, what they are.”

I will start with the first part. One of my earliest spiritual experiences was with, for lack of a better word, a wisp. I was out walking as a young boy, I am not sure if I was with a friend or by myself, and I came across a marsh later in the day. It was kind of foggy over the marsh, because the day was a little colder. That is when I saw it, floating out over the marsh. I remember distinctly feeling as if I was being watched, and that “I am not alone” feeling. It made an impression.

An impression that was forgotten during the turmoil that was adolescence. Through hormones and high school, I generally went into book worm mode and acquired my love of reading. It was all about science in those days. I would honestly say I came real close to being an atheist. Yet, I remember the more I traveled (via books) out into the universe, the less meaning my life seemed to have. Through all the biology, astronomy, physics and everything else, I felt more and more disconnected from everything. Thus, I started looking for my spiritual self. I detailed this a little in my last post.

The long and short of this anecdote is, I ended up, figuratively as well as literally, remembering the wisp in my early days. I remembered the sensations, and the impression it left on me. I turned from science to spirituality, and in a way, remembered that there is more to life than all we see. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-science. Much the opposite in fact. It’s just I now think there is more to the cosmos than what we can sense. There is purpose around me, and will, and most of all, meaning. Science does not have a monopoly on all knowledge, it is just one path.

That touches a little on the first part. As to the second, that is no small fish. While I am not a big fan of the crushing debt, I do think it is fair to say that college, perhaps more than anything, where my animism got its start. Before that, I came into this like so many others. Through Wicca (ish) books and such. I started in some ways, without the spirits. I started with spells, charms and rituals involving elements like so many others. Most of these had little in terms of results.

As my anthropology degree progressed, so did my spiritual life. It went from energies, to the negotiation of spirits with will and conscious. Through my degree, I encounter thinkers like Tylor, where the term animism comes from (mostly), and Durkheim with his totems, Frazer and others besides. I studied all kinds of various cultures and beliefs, ancient as well as more modern. This impacted my worldview heavily. I went from treating with energies, to asking favors and building relationships. They were no longer just energies (except in the way all things are), but people, human and non-human alike. There were bird-people, and tree-people, and fire-people and so on and so forth.

This is the big difference between ‘old animism’ and ‘new animism.’ While a lot of Tylor and others work was colonial and imperial, treating animistic practices as primitive throwbacks to a day when man didn’t know any better. New animism gets away from that. From Harvey’s book, which I am rereading; “Animists are people who recognize that the world is full of persons, only some of which are human, and that life is always lived in relationship with others.”

That is the core of what I do these days. For me, as I said in my comment in the last post, gods are included in how I define animism. Polytheism and animism are so closely related to me, I find little use except as a communicative shortcut for the former term. To me, there are divine-persons along with all the others. As far as relations go, this is key as well. It is my opinion that some of divine power comes through relations. While we could debate intrinsic power, say a god/giant versus a mortal, yes one is intrinsically more powerful, I think that more power/influence is derived through networks, alliances and relationships. Think about Christians. Jehovah’s power, especially on Earth, is derived through his network of followers. Same with Odin, and others. Shamans are much the same way, much of their power coming from their networks of spirits.

As far as results go, when I went from energies to spirits, I found an immediate difference. I could communicate my wishes, and had spirits that would listen. Spirits that would run messages, spirits that would mediate. Spirits that argued and made mischief. They ran the spectrum, and it was by no means a one way street. They asked, and do ask things of me as well. I have run messages for them, accepted limits and taboos, returned offerings in exchange for help and blessings. It is quite political in my opinion. More than that, it is relational, and good relations with spirits helps my work, and my results. Something I never got in the early days.

As far as all that paths I have walked, animism is what was missing in the early days. Wicca(ish), Celtic, Druidic, all of them lacked that core foundation. Energy work never worked, at least not for me. Only once I learned (relearned) of that wisp, did things finally start fall together.

Book list;

All that being said, I wanted to touch on a book list for beginners. Many of the books I had in the early days were “A Complete Idiots Guide” to something or other. I had ones for Paganism, Wicca, Natural Magick and Celtic Wisdom. All of these were very Wicca-centric, setting up the philosophy and rituals much the same way, with various Celtic or ‘Natural’ glosses. I would say good for beginners, but you will likely outgrow them in a year or two.

I also had Celtic Magic by D.J. Conway, and A Wiccan Bible by A.J. Drew. The Conway book is also very Wiccan-esque, with a Celtic gloss thrown over it. “A Wiccan Bible” is a decent book information wise, but it never quite clicked with me.

To be frank, much of what I do is defined from scholarly literature as much as from myths and folklore. My thoughts on this are several. Read the myths and legends as close to the “original” form as possible.

Start with the books if you can acquire them by borrowing or used. Keep in mind they will only take you so far. Most you will outgrow in less than a decade. The costs add up, trust me.

I will highly recommend Graham’s Harvey’s “Animism”, which gives a great survey. Once again, it is pricey. Look for it at libraries, especially colleges or universities.

Most of the books I do have are non-fiction and more on the academic side. But as much as book learning is a good start, I am going to stress experience as well, as well as networks. Practice, practice, practice. In addition, build your networks and find mentors. You do not know everything, nor will you ever. If there is something that interests you, find someone who has experience in that matter. Learn as much as they are willing to teach.

I will probably touch more on that in the next blog. Let me know if any of my readers have questions. It is always good to learn from others (see above point), and I would love some outside insights.

 


Following Skadi

The title of this post is inspired by a song. The link to a decent quality version on YouTube can be found at the bottom. More than that though, this post is brought on by the recent changes in my spiritual learning.

I have talked before about how I generally lack what is normally called the ‘god phone’. I cannot speak to deity, it is just not one of my talents. Well, as I have been uncovering recently, this might just be on my end. Perhaps my “sending” doesn’t work, if that makes any sense. “Receiving” on the other hand, works alright. Perhaps the gods just have better service than I do. I can try to ‘call’ them all day, but never get through. On the other end, they seem to get through just fine. That being said, I rarely ever hear from them. As I have admitted previously, I have gotten clear, undeniable messages from deities like twice in my whole life, including the most recent instance.

Now, I’ve read a fair amount of priesting for deities, Gothi, god-spousing or what have you. Let me be the first to say that none of those are my relationship with Skadi. She has picked me up recently, and to be frank, it is more of an apprenticeship than anything else is at the moment. The power dynamic is fairly egalitarian, though this may seem count-intuitive. I would have thought differently, given it is me, a simple mortal, involved with a goddess in a very platonic way. It’s more like she is the mentor, and I am the student. The experienced teaching the much-less-so. I hope that makes sense. That is not to say it is not cruelty-free, because like any good teacher, she is quick to remind me when I am being a skxawng. (Na’vi = “moron”)

Yet, it is a tall order. She is not the kind I would call matronly. Yes, we can quibble about meaning, but she is compassionate in the “learn fast or die” kind of way. Yes, I also realize I am mixing in Avatar metaphors. Maybe it is because I rewatched it recently, but I would argue more towards that Skadi reminds me a little of how Neytiri is portrayed. Perhaps with a little more “hardcore” mixed in. Take out the “Eden” of a jungle, and switch it to a northern winter. Then you get Skadi.

In short, she has given me a metric shit-ton of homework. It will take me years to learn all that she wants me too, and the decade or so I already do have is little more than primer. It may just be a lifelong process, as there is plenty to do. A full list of hunters skills, leatherwork, wildcraft (edible plants, herb lore,foods, skills, magic, foraging stuff), butchery, metal work (knives, wood axes ect), woodwork, tracking, hunting, fishing, and so on and so forth. I already have some good solid experience in most of these areas, but she is asking me to turn it up even more. Specialize, practice, perfect, ect ect. There is even an exercise routine it would seem. I need to be able to keep up, and that involves a level of physical strength, in addition to mental discipline.

This all got me to thinking. If I were going about teaching those things that I understand to a student, I would select someone with an aptitude at least. I started to wonder if the gods do something similar? Depending on how literal you take the creation stories, it could be said we were made in their semblance. To me at least, gods are very human-like spirit beings that have a vested interest in our welfare.

A post I read recently by Galina Krasskova said this, in reference to Odin: “Using myself, patterned as I have been by the Old Man and in His service, while yes, I automatically and instinctually calculate usefulness when I meet someone, it does not mean that this is all I note. Just because someone is not particularly useful in the service to Odin, doesn’t mean that such a person lacks value. He or she may not be suited to *this*. There are many other things for which one might be very well suited that are outside of Odin’s interest.”

I find it worthy of a ponder. I would say, at least on a general level, that many of the gods seem to take an interest in people like themselves. The gods are individuals, and as such have their own skills and interests. When it comes to… picking mortal representatives, students, ect, I would comment that many of the people picked reflect the deity doing the picking. The Odin folk I have met… can be combative at times, in addition to other traits. The Lokeans (still not sure if they like that word), have more than a few of his qualities. I have been picked up by Skadi, and I don’t see that as much of a coincidence. Not saying that coincidences do not happen, because sometimes a spoon is just a spoon. But in this case, I don’t think so.

So where does this leave me? With a hell of a lot of work to do, first off. Also, there will probably be a handful of more Skadi posts going forward. There is certainly more to explore there. I’ll just leave it at that for now.

Fferyllt – Following Skadi (Pagan Folk Metal)

I highly recommend looking up the lyrics while you listen!

 

References;

http://krasskova.weebly.com/blog/odin-is-a-very-utilitarian-god


I wish I had known… Part 1

I will start off as I always do, with some random updates about my work and the things that are important to me. First off, I have started writing again. I missed it. While I am not writing as fervently as I normally would, I feel I have to in order to keep my sanity. Or my insanity. Take your pick. I just couldn’t cope with the build up of ideas and the lack of jotting those ideas down. So I am writing again.

Second, I have done so little crafting work this year. Frankly, it really sucks. The wife and I have started looking at houses, because the fact is we need more space. The apartment we are in now is very poor for the kind of work I like to do. I need a workshop, a garage, something! Currently, my forge is at least fifteen minutes away at my dad’s place, as are most of my tools and heavy equipment. Basically, I am limited to a balcony and my hand tools. It sucks. There is so much I want/need to get done, and really no feasible way to get it done. I work regular hours, and my weekends have a bad habit of filling up. It bothers me.

There are also some new spiritual developments going on. I still want some time to think over them, earn a little more insight on the matter. At least before I write about these things, perhaps in the next post.

Also, as a note I want to put out there. My “More on Michigan Vikings?” post shattered all previous records for views on this blog. I just want to say firmly, hype and popular trends are not what this blog is about. I inadvertently tapped into a trend, and my blog exploded. That is not why I write here. I write because I care about the things I write about. It is my passion. I would not care if this never blog had another view, as long as I get to write about the things that interest me. Alright, moving on.

So I am going to use this post to finally get around to starting a new series. If you didn’t guess by the title, this is going to be a kind of reflection about my ‘coming’ of age as an animist and pagan. Things I wish I had known, and maybe some advice for those that will follow me, the next generation.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that writing this kind of post is quite difficult. I think it is because the problem is two-fold at least. First, I want to make all kinds of warning and give all sorts of sagely advice about the pitfalls of walking this path. There are all kinds of things to watch out for. But on the other side, to error is to be human, and I cannot honestly say I would be the pagan, and the person I am today without said pitfalls. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, sure, but I have gotten back up each time I fell, and learned something from the experience.

That is probably as good of a place to start as any. My first piece of advice, you will not get it right the first time. Walking any of the diverse paths, those of many names, is that it is an ongoing process. There is a large amount of investment that goes into walking into any path. I am not talking about just money either. There are many “frugal” ways to go about being a pagan, and no I do not think flashy, expensive things work better than cheap ones. I am mainly talking about time here. Time that will be invested in study, learning, experimentation and generally walking the talk. In my opinion, calling oneself a pagan is a hell of lot easier than actually being one.

Let me be anecdotal here. I came in to this the way many did ten years ago. I started my spiritual search with a Southern Baptist church. I invested at least a year of my life there. But that wasn’t a good fit for me. During that time I was introduced to Wicca, and after a year of study and reflection, I realized that wasn’t for me either. However, that time introduced to a large number of other paths, and these I dedicated even more study time to. I went to Celtic/Druidic, and got a little closer to what I was looking for, but the fit still wasn’t quite right. I came to the Northern path next, and I found a place to call home, or at least a cultural complex that work for me. During all of this, my foundational beliefs in  animism were developing. You see, I have never been much of an energy worker, except in the maybe the broadest sense. I can not “raise” energy worth a crap. It is nearly impossible for me to conceptualize it, and that impedes any work I try to do in that area. However, my mind easily and eagerly fixes on the idea of a cosmos littered with will and consciousness, big and small, and in this paradigm I can work. I am a spirit worker, and this shapes for me a cosmos built on relationships and networks. I connect with communication, and this is one of my strengths. It works for me.

This raises two points. The first deserves a whole post unto itself, and it may well be the second part in this series. Building connections and networking. I can honestly say that nothing has defined my practice more than my relationships with my ancestors. The more I researched and studied my own family, another large investment in time, the more my own spiritual path blossomed. The first ancestors I discovered came from England, thus I studied Wicca first, and this led to Celts/Britons. Then a few Irish/Scottish ancestors crept in, and I went away from Wicca and more towards Celtic. Then I discovered my ancestors actually came from Scandinavia, and got into a lot of different places such as England, Scotland and Ireland by boat sometime in the past. Those Vikings got around! Of course, the Vikings were not the only ones that had ships, many came before and after them, but that is another post entirely.

The second is about talents and strengths. No one practitioner will master every skill. For example, I cannot do tarot to save my life. Runes also, not something that works well for me. As I said before, raising energy is not my cup of tea. Also, I lack what most pagans call the god-phone. Connecting to the higher realms doesn’t work much at all for me. I have had two for-sure encounters with the gods. That is it. The point here is that it is ok if you are not good at everything. Each of us has our talents an abilities. Go with what works for you, and if you need know-how from an area outside your realm, find someone who can do what the work you need. It is also ok to ask for help.

No one person knows everything, and I honestly question whether any of us know anything at all. Coming into this as a teenager, being head strong and cock sure, this one took a long time to sink in for me. Hell, is still sinking in. I won’t claim to know anything at all, but I will say there are some things I can do well, and a whole lot I suck at.

There is so much more that needs to be said. So I am just going to try and wrap this up with a few points, and I will be sure to elaborate on these in later posts.

1) Expect to invest a whole lot of time into any path. This is a long term, maybe even lifelong thing. Never stop learning.

2) The journey is all part of the process. Expect to screw up and fall, but learn from every step or misstep.

3) Acknowledge that you do not know, nor will ever know everything. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Go with what works for you.

4) Patience. I’ve been at this for a decade, and still have no clue what is going in. Others have been at it far longer than me. Don’t rush it.

5) Perhaps most of all, study and keep at it. Don’t be an insufferable know-it-all, but being well rounded doesn’t hurt.

For the next part of this series, I would like to explore ancestors more as well as mentors and community. Also, I am just putting out there a request for questions. Is there anything my readers would like my thoughts on?

Thanks for reading!