Update 9/21/17

Well, work has me run ragged, and we’re still recovering from the move. Also this week, my mother ended up in the hospital for a week (she’s fine now and recovering). So the Fall Equinox has kind of caught me by surprise. Normally I start to notice Freyr going back into the Mound around August 1, once the days start getting noticeably shorter, but it’s Mabon, to use the Wiccan term, and Freyr’s still up and kicking–around here, at least. (We’re in the middle of a week of 90+ temps, so it certainly doesn’t feel like fall yet.) But the cycles are turning, and Freyr will be down soon.

In the honor of His and Gerda’s marriage, I am putting together a short reenactment ritual which honors Their marriage and its connection with the changing of the seasons. It will take place in my favorite secluded glade in my hometown, surrounded by overhanging trees, adjacent to the local public rose garden. We’ll have a picnic dinner after the ritual. If all goes as planned, it will be idyllic 🙂 Wish me luck!

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The Lord and the Lady, by Faeriewood

Words from the Vanir: In times of trouble…

I’ve been appalled and horrified, but not necessarily surprised, by the events this past weekend in Charlottesville. It’s as if the general public is waking up to the insidious destructive nature of white supremacy here in the US. I feel like it’s a drum I’ve been beating for several years now, and many other Heathens have been beating it much longer–they’re here! they’re destroying our culture and our religion! they’re destroying US, Americans, as a people, Heathens and Christians and Jews and Muslims alike! And it’s a tiny bit of a relief to finally hear from public figures that they see this too, and that they, too, are horrified. Or at least most of them are. (Our president the laughingstock is another matter entirely.)

I’ve been reading FB and news sources and other people’s blogs to the point that I’m actually getting physically nauseous most of the day, every day. And I get some hope from some of the responses of public figures, but I still feel so much fear. What is going wrong where that this even had the possibility of happening? Why aren’t the police cracking down on this at least as harshly as they would on BLM groups or any other group of protestors? Who fucked up where and why haven’t they rectified it already?? That in itself makes me more sick than any single action or post by some jackass neo-Nazi ever could.

So I’ve sat and stressed about it for four days now. Today I actually came down with a head cold and said enough was enough. I can’t handle the stress anymore by myself. So I turned to my Gods. That’s what They are there for, for me, anyway–strength in times of trouble. “How do I get through this?” I ask. “I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel any more.”

And They answered.

Unsurprisingly, Their answer was a call to arms of its own.

From Freya,

Love! Love them like they’ve never been loved before! Hunt them down and make them feel. Make them realize we are connected. That the hurt they do to others hurts themselves as well. Remind them–forcefully if necessary–that they are not alone. Break their hate with love.

From Freyr,

<gestures to the field of wheat behind him> We reap what we sow. Everything that grows here is something that we have planted, and did not weed out. Americans planted this crop, and now we gain its harvest.

When asked, What should we do? He answers,

Call to Them. You have planted Them, as well, in your fears and your hope. The Deep Ones, the Old Ones, the Many. You have reached out to Them, and They are ready. Call to the ones you need. They are all around–not just here. Not just one place; not just one group.

This is what you have called us to do, to help you in this world of yours, in the plans that you are making and the lives that you are living RIGHT NOW.  The Dark Ones are awake. Pull from their strength. Be guided by their wisdom. Attack with the power of their arms, the fire in their hearts, the beauty of their countenances.  You have asked, and They have come. Connect with them now!

And from Gerd, His jotun wife–ever-practical as always,

Build gardens that are walled, but that connect. Protected, yet connected. A web of connected places, people, groups. Don’t give your enemies a single point to focus on. If they tear down one component in a web, the web itself yet is unhurt and strong. Stand your ground. Make sure your light is on that others can see it. Make sure to meet and talk–to form new connections and make old ones stronger. Also, don’t trust that those in power will do anything with your best interest in mind. Find strength in connections between others, not in the hierarchy of the wealthy and powerful.

And from Njord the peacemaker, the least warlike of the Vanir, who takes care of us without us realizing it.

When you need to escape the battle, accept that there is time needed to heal yourself, and allow yourself to take a break from it all.

Well have I asked, and well have I been answered. Hail the Gods!

Mapping the Gods

Going through the archives. Here’s another point of theology that’s close to my heart. Where are the Gods happiest?

Silver and Gold

I’ve received a few requests to write about the differences between the Gods in various places (I will get my “reply” issue fixed soon, I promise). Unfortunately I don’t know a lot about how the Gods are worshiped in different parts of the country, and only which Gods are favored in CA, CO, and KY; but I’ll share what I do know. What I know more about is which Gods seem to me to be strongest in different parts of the country, and I’d love to get Ember’s  and Heather’s opinion on this as well (sorry for the messy linking, ladies; I don’t know how to tag bloggers within a post yet).

As for God popularity, I know that in the SF Bay Area, Odin is HUGE. It is All Odin, All the Time. I cannot emphasize this enough. You cannot avoid Him or His people, lovely raven…

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Guidelines for Public Ritual: How to Be a Good Guest and How to Be a Good Host

Suggested Guidelines for Public Ritual

By Cara Freyasdaughter, rev. June 2017

Yule 2015 Yule log, Kara

An example of a public Yule ritual altar

Hail, ye Givers! a guest is come;
say! where shall he sit within?” (Havamal, 2)

As a Heathen, I view public ritual through the lens of hospitality. Knowing how to act in the most respectful way in any situation was (and is) the key to avoiding many unnecessary disagreements in communities, especially the pagan community. Granted, some bad behavior will probably always happen, depending on those involved. However, many insults are given accidentally by people who are unfamiliar with the ritual format, religious tradition, or purpose of the given ritual. In my mind, the guidelines for public ritual can be broken down into one of two categories: 1) how to be a good guest (ritual attendee), and 2) how to be a good host (ritualist).

How to Be a Good Guest

  • Respect the hosts. Public rituals take a lot of time, energy, and planning, much moreso than a small ritual in someone’s home for a closed group. Unless the hosts are charging a large amount of money to enter the ritual, the ritual itself is being done as a service—to their Gods, to their tradition, or their community. Respect the amount of effort the host puts in and the risks that they take by running a ritual that is open to the public.
  • Assume good intent. Ritualists general do not hold open rituals in order to hurt or shame others. Mistakes and misunderstandings can happen; unless proven otherwise, assume they are unintentional.
  • Come prepared. It is your job to research the exact details of the ritual you will be attending. What is the format of the ritual? What Gods / spirits / ancestors / archetypes are being honored? Is it a sitting meditation or an ecstatic trance dance? Will there be a potluck? Will it be held outdoors? Will there be tickets or a requested donations? Remember to get enough food, sleep, and whatever else you need ahead of time, so that you can be a ritual attendee and not a ritual emergency-waiting-to-happen.
  • Arrive on time. Many pagan events do not start on time, granted, but a good part of the reason for this is that many attendees do not arrive on time.
  • Don’t be rude. Don’t get up and walk around, start a conversation with a friend, or answer your phone during a ritual. Unless the host specifically says otherwise, assume that the ritual is formal and that the host (gasp!) actually wants your attention and participation. Not only could you offend the hosts, but you could also offend any deity or spirit being honored in the ritual. Why offend Thor to answer a phone call?
  • RSVP if possible. Make life easier for the hosts by letting them know how many people to expect at their event.
  • Offer to help out. Many larger rituals require a lot of set-up and tear down. If you are early, offer to help set up chairs or put out food for the potluck. If you can stay afterwards, help put the room back into its original state.
  • Keep post-ritual gossip to a minimum. Even if the ritual was a complete mess, refrain from tearing down the group later. Instead, try to give some constructive feedback to the hosts. If it does turn out that the ritual or hosting group is a complete wash, just don’t attend their events.

How to Be a Good Host

Running a public ritual is a big deal. Your attendees are giving you an hour (or three, or five) out of their day and putting their trust in you to lead them through a spiritual or magical experience. As such, you have the responsibility to do any (or all) of these things: help them connect to the divine; help them heal—physically or spiritually; educate them; or lead them in honoring the turning of the calendar wheel. (Or other purposes; take your pick.) While you can half-ass this, that lack of preparation tends to show, and people tend not to come back to chaotic or unsatisfying rituals. Just as the guests have many things that are required of them, so to do you owe your attendees a good ritual.

(Also: Here’s some very basic advice from one ritualist to another: Putting on public ritual is a service. It is done out of a need to serve, not a need for power, fame, exhibitionism, or what have you. If you want to put on a public ritual, and one of your top priorities is not serving your community, make it a private ritual.)

  • Have a clear purpose in mind for your ritual. Why are you having this ritual? “Because it’s fun” or “because we did it last year”, while true, are probably not clear enough purposes for a public ritual. Think about what the audience should take away from this ritual. What kind of experience do you want to provide? Plan accordingly.
  • Respect peoples’ time. Be prepared to start on time. Also, a ritual doesn’t need to be several hours long for it to be a good ritual. Somewhere between 45 minutes to 1 1/5 hours is the most comfortable length of a ritual most attendees.
  • Tell people what to expect. Once you have figured out the purpose for your ritual, tell the possible attendees. Be as specific as possible. They deserve to know if, for example, this ritual will include a long trance journey in which they will get to experience Odin hanging on the World Tree nine days and nine nights. Don’t just say, “In this ritual we will go on a trance journey to meet the Norse Gods”, because that covers a wide variety of possible experiences. Let people know exactly what they are in for. (Cue stories of really bad ritual experiences.)
  • Plan for accessibility needs. Know your audience: If this is a public ritual, you will likely have a wide spectrum of people attending. Keep in mind accommodations for physical mobility; scent, sound, and food sensitivities; accessibility to food, water, and the privies; location-specific requirements; specifically gendered language; and level of experience with ritual energy and activities.
  • If your ritual will be intense in any way, prepare for at least one attendee to have a meltdown. In a public ritual, you have absolutely no way of knowing exactly who is going to walk through that door or what kind of life experiences your attendees have had. If you are planning a deep spiritual or psychological ritual, contemplate exactly how this experience could set someone off, and how you will handle it when it does. I’ll compare it to the guidelines for attending a public park: try to leave your attendees better off than you found them; don’t leave a mess. This is followed closely by:
  • Don’t attempt deep, intense experiences in public rituals. Unless this is a ritual you are really familiar with leading and you are fully aware and experienced in dealing with the possible outcomes, don’t do it publically. Deep rituals can be awesome and amazing experiences. But, for all of the reasons stated above, they are best done privately, where you at least have some control over who comes to what ritual.
  • That said, Give the attendees the space to have their own experiences. You may have a goal for your attendees, but some of them may end up having a completely different experience. As long as they’re not imploding or disrupting the ritual as a whole, let them go with it.
  • Follow up with people afterwards. Want to run a great ritual? Get some feedback from your participants. It helps to continue the positive guest/host relationship and will make your ritual foo that much better.
  • Go to other peoples’ rituals. Support your fellow ritualists, and get some perspective on your own rituals. Who knows, you might get to have your own great spiritual or magical experience when you’re not the one running the show. J

May 2017 check-in

This month has seen my brain be completely eaten by my new job. It turns out they were not exaggerating when they said it would take at least 6 months to train me up in the various software programs and procedures. Oh, joy. Until I get a better grasp on what I’m doing there, my energy for all things spiritual will be low. 😦 I’m still blogging once a month at Huginn’s Heathen Hof and I will be leading a couple of workshops at the 1st International Conference of Heathen Women down in Ashville, NC in July.

Until then, enjoy this lovely rendition of Freya’s cloak.

gold feather cloak

 

April 2017 check-in

Hello to all of my longtime followers! (If you’ve been following me for a few years, you may find this update interesting; if you’re new, well, this is what I have going on with me at the moment.)

Spring has sprung, and I finally feel awake again. Winters, even really mild ones like the one we’ve had here in IL, are always challenging for me. (I am not Elsa; the cold always bothers me.)

There’s been a lot going on all at once. My birthday passed a few days ago, and with it came a new job, financial security, a new garden, a new role at Huginn’s Heathen Hof, and plans to move in with my lovely Hela-devoted boyfriend. The new job is a government one, which is not someplace I’d ever thought I’d be.  Freyr and the Vanir were taking their sweet Vanic time in landing me this job, so maybe this is the place they needed me to be. I’m working in the Public Aid department, interviewing people and granting needy families food, medical coverage, and cash, so I do feel like I’m helping to make the world a better place, so who knows? Then again, it may just a secure job with good benefits and lots of room for advancement. I’ve definitely had worse situations.

This newfound financial security is allowing me to attend cool and interesting new conferences, such as the 1st Annual Conference of Heathen Women in July in Asheville, NC. One of the organizers, Hilary Wehrle, invited me to be a speaker. The line up of speakers and workshops that they have is very enticing, and the location is a fabulous spiritual retreat up in the mountains north of Ashville. I’m very excited about it all around and will likely be posting more about it here. If you’re interested in joining us, you can read more about it here.

As for HHH, Xander Folmer, the CEO and founder of Huginn’s Heathen Hof, has been a big supporter of all of my work. He’s promoted me up to co-admin of out FB page, and I also vet new writers and have a major say in any organizational changes. (Recently, we’ve become an LLC, and we are working with Saga Press to release some books by our bloggers this year.) It’s very exciting and I’m glad I finally have enough spoons to become more involved in our organization.

Finally, the boyfriend. Earlier readers will have followed my previous divorce, move, and meeting of said boyfriend in my home state. I had asked the Gods for a partner to help share the load with all of the spiritual and community work that I do, and not long after moving I found him. (Or, rather, he found me.) I hadn’t planned on my life partner being a Helas man, and he had never planned to date a woman who was dedicated to a (shudder) Love Goddess, but the differences actually seem to balance us out. He’s my grounder and my warder who can also carry a deity like nobody’s business. (Have you ever had a conversation with Hela? I have. She’s actually quite lovely. She easily grounds any energy or emotional issues I might be having.) Anyway, with the new job, the boyfriend and I can finally move in together, hopefully by July. Wish us luck! We’ll probably need it. 😛

That’s all from Cara-land at the moment. I hope everyone is doing well. I look forward to seeing what you’re all up to. 🙂