Tag Archives: pagan

Walking Odin’s Path

Odin’s path is, in some ways, the most complicated of the many paths I walk. He is a leader, a warrior, a scholar, a poet, and a shaman. That’s a lot of roles to fill, and it can be somewhat overwhelming at times. it can be easy to fall into mainstream thinking because it’s easier to do – easier to just let things be easy and to go with the crowd. Even on pagan paths, there’s a mainstream. Ironic, really, that there’s a mainstream way of doing things in a minority religion, but it’s not really that surprising.

Asatru, in particular, is notorious for the self-righteous heathens that make up a large percentage of the faith. There’s a very narrow definition of what is and isn’t okay in Asatru. I’ve been told that the only acceptable religious practices in Asatru are those that are found within the lore, but the lore doesn’t actually contain a lot of information. Mostly, the lore is a bunch of stories. Important stories, for sure, but they don’t contain the entire truth.

In some ways, Asatru tries too hard to cling to the idea of being a lore-based pagan faith. There are claims like, “Asatru is the only pagan faith that has lore that survived the crusades,” which isn’t true. The Greek and Roman myths survived, as did the Egyptian myths and the Celtic myths (and I’m sure far more). And those myths weren’t tarnished by Christian hands the way the Poetic Edda and Sagas were tarnished. That is often forgotten.

Anyway, the reason I brought that up is that I started wondering if Asatru was really the path Odin meant for me to walk, or if defining myself as an eclectic heathen would be more appropriate. As I started thinking about it, I kept coming back to this passage in the Havamal:

Happy is he who hath in himself

praise and wisdom in life;

for oft doth a man ill counsel get

when ’tis born in another’s breast. 

And, as I continued to think about it, I started seeing the Othala rune in my mind. The Othala rune indicates inheritance, and it can be either physical or spiritual. On the rune-secrets site, the quote that goes with the rune is “We inherit ourselves.” I felt like I was being guided to the answers I sought, and the answer was pretty clear.

The truth is, I will never fit into any particular path because it is not what I am meant to do. I’m still figuring out what exactly it is that I am meant to do, but I know that it’s going to entail an intermingling of different paths. Odin’s path is the path of many paths, considering all the roles he takes, but the most important of those roles is sage – or seeker of wisdom.

To seek wisdom means to seek it wherever it can be found, no matter where the path may lead me. That requires sacrifice, and, as Odin is also the god of sacrifice, it makes sense that his path requires it. As for the answer to my question, I am starting to embrace the idea of identifying as an eclectic heathen. After all, the only opinions that should sway me, in matters of faith, are the opinions of the gods themselves.

Harvest Songs

It can be relatively difficult to find good pagan music, and since Freyfaxi (or Lughnasadh – whatever you choose to call it) is this weekend, I figured I’d share one of the songs I like.

Also, on an incidental note, for some reason, I’ve always associated Freyr with dragons. Not really sure why, but if anyone else has had a similar upg, I’d love to hear more. If not, I’ll keep trying to puzzle it out myself.

Anyway, here is the song.

My Thoughts on UPGs

UPG stands for Unverifiable Personal Gnosis, and it is essentially a personal interaction with any deity that doesn’t have any basis in the lore. I am going to say right now that I adore UPG because it is how I interact with the Gods. And I have no problem with others who have UPGs because I believe everyone’s path is different, so ridiculing someone else’s beliefs is a little counterproductive.

While I think that UPG can enrich a person’s spiritual practice, I don’t think that UPGs should be used as the foundation of a communal faith. When a faith is shared, then there needs to be shared practices and traditions that are embraced in communal settings because the sharing of those practices is what allows a faith to flourish. In this particular aspect of life, I agree with traditional reconstructionists. Public blots and sumbels should be done in a way that is as close as possible to the way they were originally done. In this one area, I embrace reconstruction.

In almost every other area, I shed it. In my personal practices, I feel no need to stick to the traditional format of the blot because I believe in cultivating personal relationships with the Gods and Goddesses I follow. How I choose to cultivate those relationships is difficult to relate except to say that it is largely done through UPG. And most of that UPG is done through dreams.

I dream a lot. I don’t remember every dream I have, but I have about half a dozen dreams every night that I can remember in glimpses. I also dreamwalk – I hesitate to call it a shamanic practice due to the difficulties talking about shamanism in general can invoke. I’ve read many sites and books that claim shamans no longer exist, that there are just people who try to emulate shamanic practices from other cultures, and that claiming to be a shaman doesn’t make you one. Which isn’t surprising, considering no one seems to agree on what a shaman is supposed to actually be, other than some kind of medicinal herbal healer who walks in the spirit world.

The truth is, though, that what I’ve been doing my entire life echoes everything I’ve ever read in books and websites about shamanism, and I trance as easily as I breathe. I was trained as an empath by my mother, and the more research I do, the more similarities exist between empaths and shamans, so I am okay with either term though I tend to use empath since it is more widely understood and accepted.

So when I say I dreamwalk, I mean I walk through the worlds when I sleep. I don’t necessarily do it by intention – I can fall asleep and “wake up” somewhere else. I know there are people who would love to have the gifts I do, but the gifts do come with a price. I struggle to fall asleep – I have insomnia – and I do not wake feeling rested when I dreamwalk because I am fully conscious while sleeping.

But is through my dreamwalking that I experience UPGs. It was UPG that pulled me into the world of the Nordic Gods to begin with. In that particular dream, I was a man, drowning in an ocean, trying to make sure my children were safe, and the boats above my head were Viking longboats that somehow perfectly formed a triangle. In interpreting that dream (which I do myself because dream interpretations are 100% specific to an individual), I found myself drawn to Odin and heathenry.

I don’t often share the UPGs I’ve had because they are usually incredibly personal, but some of them are random glimpses of the Gods. I had one dream where I was walking up a snow-covered bank watching Odin climb up the hill in front of me. Even though he never turned around, I knew he was aware I was there, and it was a rather somber moment.

Those UPGs don’t mean anything to anyone besides myself, and I would never try to use a UPG in order to convince someone that the way I see certain Gods is the only way to see them. In any case, if anyone has a UPG they are comfortable with sharing, I’d love to hear it. I’m also willing to entertain questions about the dreamwalking, as I have been teaching a couple people how to do it.

Self-Reliance: My Interpretation

Here’s my ninth essay on the Nine Noble Virtues.

Self-Reliance

Self-reliance is a difficult concept for me to discuss because it encompasses every part of my life. I read a lot, so I get an idea of what other people view self-reliance as being, but I don’t always agree with other people. Actually, I frequently disagree with others, and I find myself constantly re-evaluating my decisions and thoughts, trying to find a middle ground because I am good at jumping to extremes. It is because I am so prone to jumping to extremes that I search so hard for the middle ground – it is a skill I’ve had to practice, and I don’t always succeed at finding it until someone points it out to me.

From what I’ve gathered, others tend to view self-reliance as financial reliance, but I don’t care much about money and never have. If I had to place myself in a socioeconomic class, I would be considered impoverished because the only job I work is the work study I do at my school (which pays around $200-$250 a month due to the limitations placed on it), and I draw food stamps to pay for my groceries. Most of the money I make goes to gas because I still live at home with my dad – in a house that has been in my family for five generations. If I were to conform to society’s standards, I should be ashamed that I live at home, that I work a low end job, that I draw support from the government – and sometimes I do feel shame, but that doesn’t stop me from living the life I have.

The thing is, I view financial self-reliance as a means to an end. If you’re rich, then you have luxuries like sports cars, fancy entertainment systems, etcetera. Money is the fuel for luxurious living, not a means to living. Obtaining government support so that I can eat every month is a decision I made on my own without input from anyone else. Not to work more than forty hours a month at a work study job while I’m in school – another decision I made for myself. Because I know that even with the low income I have right now, I have the things that matter – I have a roof over my head, a car that runs (necessary since I live 14 miles from town), and friends/family I care about. I don’t intend to stay in this financial situation forever – I’m enrolled in school for a reason. But I don’t look at money as something that determines whether or not I’m self-reliant.

Self-reliance, in my mind, deals more with emotional, mental, and spiritual issues. If I make a decision, I commit myself to that decision. I was having a discussion earlier today with someone who jokingly said “Commitments are made to be broken.” That’s not something I felt comfortable joking about, so I replied seriously – “No. Commitments are made to be honored.” Because that, to me, is the way I live. If I say I’m going to do something, I will do it. My word is my bond, and I have to trust myself to honor my word. Self-trust is not something that comes easily to anyone, and having ADHD as I do makes it more difficult for me than most.

I believe self-reliance comes from self-trust and self-knowledge and neither of those are gained through easy methods. Taking the time to really get to know the way your own mind works, to understand what works for you and what doesn’t, to decide whether or not you will be swayed by the opinions of the people that surround you – all of that builds up and forges the foundation of a personality – experience does the rest. I’ve dealt with a lot of hardship in my life, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to lay down and let myself be defeated. The world isn’t an easy place to live, and if it were, living wouldn’t be worth doing.

Self-doubt and self-reliance seem like polar opposites but they go hand-in-hand. There’s not a single person out there who doesn’t doubt the decisions they make, but at some point, we have to decide whether we trust ourselves more than we doubt ourselves. I believe that it’s when we reach a point of extreme self-doubt and yet choose to trust ourselves anyways, no matter the consequences of our decision – that’s when self-reliance is truly forged. Of course, that’s just the beginning. Because the big decisions in our lives are always fueled by that extreme self-doubt, so I feel that a developed sense of self-reliance only comes from a heavy experience of self-doubt during the decisions we must make throughout our lives.

Note: I spent May 6-May 20 in Canada, so that’s why I haven’t posted anything until now, for those of you who are wondering.

Perseverance: My Interpretation

Here’s my eighth essay on the Nine Noble Virtues.

Perseverance

Perseverance is interesting because it’s the “get up no matter how many times you get knocked down” attitude towards life. That isn’t easy to do, and Asatru isn’t an easy path to follow. The Norse Gods, I’ve learned, aren’t easy to follow, and it can be tempting to give into the world around me, the world that screams oppression from almost every corner. It’s a lot of pressure to deal with, but perseverance is what carries me through it. Because even though the Norse Gods are hard to follow, they are worth following.

There are a lot of heathens out there who swear by reconstructionist philosophies, and I’ve been told by a few people that I can’t be a true Asatruar because I’m not a reconstructionist. The idea that there is one right way to be heathen doesn’t sit well with me, and I feel like a lot of Christian ideology has snuck into Asatru that doesn’t belong there. The idea that a person has to believe a certain way to be considered a “true” heathen disturbs me – pagan faiths are supposed to be inclusive. Not exclusive. But here, it is the people of the faith acting exclusive, and not the Gods themselves.

I have issues with reconstructionism because I feel that it’s not really possible to reconstruct a religion. I think you can take the basis of what is left and build something new, expand upon that foundation, but I don’t think that it’s wise to go backwards. From my experiences with heathens, it seems that a lot of Asatruar want to focus solely on the historical aspects of our faith. And I see nothing wrong with that, not until someone tells me I’m not a “true” heathen because I happen to disagree with the reconstructionist model. I don’t enjoy the idea of a static faith, one stuck in the past.

Honor the past, yes. We should definitely do that. As my mom was fond of saying, “Those who don’t know the past are doomed to repeat it.” So the knowledge is important, but the paths we derive from that knowledge don’t need to be the same ones taken by our ancestors. Sometimes, the best thing we can do to honor our ancestors is to derive from the path they took during their lifetime. Here, I speak from personal experience because my mother was an alcoholic – an extreme one. So extreme, actually, that she passed away when I was fifteen because of her lifestyle choices. If I chose her path, that would dishonor her memory.

Now, I’m not saying reconstructionist is a bad path. I don’t think it is. I think it’s one path among many, and I think people tend to forget that Asatru and pagan faiths in general aren’t about who’s more right than someone else – that’s the Christian ideology that seems to cling to every pagan faith. Erasing it will take time, and the stain may never wash out. Because Christianity is ingrained into American culture – seriously, it’s impossible to escape dealing with a reference to the Christian God for even a single day. I’ve tried, and it’s just not possible. Someone or something always points it out, even if it’s in a subtle way.

And it’s understandable, since Christianity is America’s most followed religion, that we see it everywhere. Following a minority religion when there is so much pressure from that faith to convert requires a strong heart, a strong mind, unshakeable belief in the Norse Gods, and a great deal of perseverance. A lot of pagans don’t like to talk about the fact that Christianity is so prevalent, or even voice the fact that they struggle with the pressure that faith exerts, but honesty is necessary between us all if we are ever going to find a way to crawl out from underneath the oppressive hand of the Christian faith.

Hospitality: My Interpretation

Here’s my sixth essay on the Nine Noble Virtues.

Hospitality

To be hospitable is to be respectful. Hospitality is the willingness to share what we can afford to share with others. In some ways, it’s a sacrifice of the self for the good of the whole. Since Asatru puts a very high value on community, acting in a way that benefits the community is necessary.

Some people assume that hospitality refers to just their immediate in-groups, but I think hospitality refers to people in general. If I meet someone new, then I am not going to make assumptions about them, not on any front. And I’m not going to judge them based on the choices they’ve chosen to take in life. I may ask about them, in order to learn what path they have walked, and, perhaps, learn something in the process. But I do my best to stay respectful.

I think, in a lot of ways, that American society has taught us to be cruel without realizing our cruelty. I’ve heard teachers laugh at certain students when they talk about certain types of dreams, and it saddens me. Because why laugh at someone else’s dream? There is no kindness in that, and there is no respect.

Hospitality means reserving judgment. If someone tells me that their dream is to become a famous athlete, politician, writer, or anything else, why should I laugh at their dreams? At their aspirations? Even if it’s a hard truth that few people ever aspire to their dreams, why should I actively seek to disparage dreamers? The truth is, none of us know who will and won’t achieve their dreams. Some of us aren’t even sure what it is we seek in life, and we wander down many paths, just waiting for something to click.

I think that’s part of the reason I follow Odin. He is the wanderer, after all. Restless in spirit, always moving around, always learning something new – I connect with him on an incredibly deep level, and I don’t always have the words I need to say the things I mean. I sometimes read the forums on Asatru Lore, just to see what’s going on there, and I came across a post the other day about a guy asking how to spell the word “Outsider” in runes for a tattoo. He got a lot of backlash from the community. A lot of people told him that to brand himself as an outsider was to reject community, and that if they ever saw him, they would instantly avoid him.

The response I saw made me incredibly sad because no one really tried to understand where he was coming from. No one really tried to discover the story he had to tell, or uncover the reason why he felt like such an outsider he wanted to brand himself as one. They just pointed out that it isn’t very “heathen” to be an outsider, since heathens are very community focused. None of what they were saying was technically wrong, but it wasn’t a very respectful way to act. The poster even commented on how he was being disrespected (and he was), but the reply to his comment was that he couldn’t come onto an internet board and expect respect, that respect is earned.

That is, frankly speaking, bullshit. Not the part about respect being earned – it is earned. But as the old saying goes, “Give respect to get respect.” Just because the method of communication was via an internet forum, it seems people think it gives them a license to act without considering the fact the person on the other side is human.

Hospitality has to extend to all realms, whether it’s in our own homes, in our communities, or over the internet. Respect should be given to everyone until they do or say something that warrants the loss of that respect. If a person comes into my home, then I am going to offer them drink and refreshment. If someone at my school asks me for help, then I am going to try to help them, if I am able to do so. And if someone asks for advice on an internet forum, I am going to be honest but tactful about how the phrasing comes out. Because we are all human, and we all view the world in different ways. And I, personally, feel that it is vital that we respect the differences that define us. To me, that is the soul of hospitality.

Honor: My Interpretation

Here’s my second essay on the Nine Noble Virtues, the one on Honor.

Honor

Honor is probably the most difficult of all of the virtues to define because it is such an intangible idea. Socrates said “The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be,” and I think that captures honor – the way I understand it – pretty well.

Every society has its own view of morality, and staying true to the moral code or ethical code is generally perceived as being honorable. But I think that honor is more than that – I think it has to be more than that, as the moral code our society embraces is not always one I view as being honorable.

For me, being honorable is equivalent to being trustworthy and worthy of the respect you gain through your own efforts. It is an essential quality of life, and I think if you replace the word “honor” with “respect” the idea becomes a little easier to grasp. Respect is something we earn through our deeds – as is honor. And to defend the reputation we gain after establishing that respect is required if we wish to maintain that respect.

But we all wear a mask. We all pretend to be something – a particular quality, perhaps, like honest, or trustworthy. And it may start out as pretense, or as an exercise to try and better ourselves. The pursuit of self-improvement is an honorable one, and, if we maintain the pretense long enough, it starts to become our truth. The idea that we can “fake it til we make it,” seems like a cop-out, but it isn’t.

Like any muscle must be worked in order to keep it from atrophying, we must work our moral muscles as well. If we wish to be honest people, then we must practice being honest. If we wish to be kind, then we must practice being kind. If we wish to be noble, then we must practice being noble. Our species is one that learns by mimicking others.

If we grow up watching others steal, then we admire thievery and seek to establish ourselves as thieves. If we grow up watching others lie, then we admire deceit and seek to establish ourselves as great manipulators. But if we grow up watching others be honest, then we learn to admire honesty and seek to establish ourselves as truth-tellers. If we grow up watching others be kind, then we learn to admire kindness, and seek to establish ourselves as compassionate.

Honor, therefore, is a very personal thing. What I view as an honorable act may seem dishonorable to someone else because we had vastly different learning experiences growing up, and thus value different actions. For example, a person who has developed a reputation as a great thief will put his honor on the line for a great heist – if he fails, then his reputation (and thus his honor) is destroyed, but if he succeeds, he becomes even more of a legend. For a great detective, catching such a thief will allow him to maintain his honor, but failing to do so will destroy his reputation.

So honor is different for every person – we all view morality in different lights. On my part, I admire great teachers, and I aim to become a great teacher myself, after obtaining the necessary education. But I’ve already started to build a reputation as a good teacher because I teach my classmates when they need help, and I’ve established a trust with them. I can easily lose that trust if I fail to adhere to my own understanding of what makes a teacher a good one.

And that’s an important fact about honor – it can be gained, maintained, and lost easily. It takes effort to maintain a good reputation, and if a person’s not willing to put in the work required to create a good reputation or maintain it after it’s achieved, then the honor is lost. Respect is lost. And once you lose someone’s respect, part of your honor is destroyed, and there’s no real way to repair that rift.