Follow-Up To: She Only Hurt Me When She Left

So, almost six years on; time to update my relationship with Freya.

The past years since Freya left have been difficult. A good deal of this was my fault, of course. I worked a ton in the local pagan community, then started working with a group in Chicago, all the while attempting to navigate my biggest responsibility yet in my recovery program. Coming off of a near-burnout from very similar circumstances in the Bay Area, I didn’t have much bandwidth left; and with Freya’s loss, the extra fuel I was running on left as well. Unsurprisingly, I burned myself out.

First to drop off was my recovery. The responsibilities I was carrying at the time were not ones I really wanted to do, but felt guilted into doing; which, ironically, is one of the things my program trains us not to do. And ten years in, I was a good nine years past the relationship that had put me into recovery to begin with. Though I often miss it (and the camaraderie I felt, especially with the Bay Area groups), it had left me with many practical skills. And maybe after Covid has passed I’ll go back. Meetings were always some of the most spiritual events I ever attended. (Hate to say it, but many of the officially “spiritual” groups I’ve been a part of never even touched the spiritual depth that a really good recovery meeting could provide on a weekly basis.)


Next to go were my local groups, for various reasons; and eventually, the Chicago group as well. At the time my partner and I were focused primarily on our fertility planning, and I wanted all of my energy to go toward that.

Dealing with infertility, I found, can be a full-time job, especially towards the end of the process. It’s weirdly detached experience, and possibly one of the strangest things I’ve ever put myself through. Things did not go according to my plan, however, and we were unsuccessful. This may have been for the best, however, as a series of intense situations followed immediately: On Christmas Day, my MIL had a horrible stroke, and eventually died; as my partner is an only child, we were the ones to take care of everything afterwards. Then my partner had a horrible bout of pneumonia, and I got bronchitis; and then the very next month, Covid hit. The month after that, we bought a house and moved in. The following year was overshadowed with social unrest (legitimately based, in my opinion) and a horrible presidential campaign. And, this past February, I had knee surgery. I’d hate to be a middle-aged first-time mother and gone through any of that, much less all of it. A blessing in disguise? Who knows. We’re waiting until Covid passes to reassess the situation to see if we’ll try again.

Now, we have a decent president whom I trust to make sound decisions. I have both of my Covid shots, and my partner and all our immediate family have all had both shots. Hopefully we, as a country and me personally, are on our way back to something resembling our normal lives. And so I finally find myself reawakening and moving out of survival mode, now that the major threats and traumas have passed.

So where has this left me, spiritually?

One of the survival tools I used to get through all of this has been to work on my garden. I planned and learned everything I could about gardening with a passion–nay, an obsession–that kept me sane this winter through a horrible presidential election cycle and surgery, as well as my usual seasonal affective disorder. I now know the difference between a perennial and annual; cold-tolerant flowers and veg vs cold-sensitive plants. I created and successfully carried out an extensive seed-starting calendar (see my new gardening blog, Gerd’s Garden, for more details). I currently am tending more seedlings than many small greenhouses do, and have Major Plans for renovating the gardens at our new house. And, somewhere in the midst of it all, I became obsessed with growing flowers–the bigger and prettier, the better (I now have an extensive collection of dinner-plate dahlias, for example). And it finally occurred to me, WTF am I going to do with masses of extravagant blooms? At which point I got the distinct impression of a certain golden-eyed goddess saying, “I do have an altar, you know.”

So my garden obsession is accomplishing several things. It’s helping me to rebuild my connection with both Freyr and Gerd, in a very tangible way, and therefore one of which I believe Freyr heartily approves. And it’s allowing me a path to actively rebuild my relationship with Freya.

My connection with Her was never fully gone, however. I was able to act as Her priestess on many occasions in the last few years, both in ritual and in classes. I was able to talk with Her occasionally, though during the fertility issues, it was primarily Frigga that I reached out to, and it seemed right to do so. And I had kept up my daily devotionals and offerings (though, truth be told, with Covid, much of that stopped as well).

I see my recent time away from daily devotionals–and active connection with any of the Gods–as a necessary fallow period. I needed time to myself: to reacquaint myself with myself; to take care of practical, real-life stuff like setting up a new household and dealing with debt; and to reevaluate the last ten years or so of really intense god-work. Do I still want to be Heathen? Do I still want to be polytheist? Do I still want any of this? I’m giving myself the space to dwell on these questions; before, just the thought was anathema to me.

As part of this reevaluation, I took up the offer of a divination from a priestess I respect and support on Patreon. I have only rarely done any divinations in the last ten years or so, mainly because 1) if I wanted to know, I’d ask Them directly, and 2) if I have hard times ahead, I’d rather not know. So, me asking for a divination was a pretty rare occurrence. The result of the divination was that my next direction was toward more nature-based magic and more community building. What struck her strongly was that I had many Skills (a very Magician-card vibe), so whatever I decided to do, I would be competent at it and succeed. She was a bit surprised, given my devotional experiences, to find no direct messages to me from the Gods–telling me to get back onboard; or to make reparations for being distant; or do this or that for Them. My response kind of surprised me as well as her. I told her, completely confidently, that tI knew the Gods would be there when I decided to go back to them.

I had, and still have, complete faith in this. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just not possible to have worked with a community of Gods, and to have held one so close for so long, without a permanent connection being formed. (Or, at least, to have formed a permanent faith in the existence of and connection with the Gods.) My belief and connection with the Gods was a hard-won one, fought over several decades. I fought myself; I fought a Western rationalistic society; and I even fought evangelicals determined to convert me from day one (literally!). From all of this, I came to the understanding that faith is a choice; like recovery, it’s something you must chose, every day. It’s a decision to make, not something that is forced on you or that “happens” to you.

A pivotal moment in my initiation with Freya illuminated a similar idea: in order to deepen my relationship with Her, I had to actively choose Her, despite my fears and the unknowns, and choose to deepen the relationship. It was not something that She pushed upon me, or that others pressed me to do. It was a leap of faith that *I* had to take in order for it to be real. Which is why, whenever people come to me to fret that they don’t know how to overcome their disbelief or mistrust in the Gods, at heart my response is always the same: Faith is something you choose to do. Choose to believe, and it will happen. Or, if necessary, come to a place of understanding that belief is a choice, and then choose to believe.

I feel that my relationship with the Gods is still there: a vast resource waiting to be tapped, when I am ready to do so. And because I feel the truth of this, I’m sure that iI will have it again. I just need to walk my path as a “normal” human for a while longer before I do so. And, after all of my reevaluations, I’m fascinated to see where I’ll end up next.

Blame It All On Yourself, Cause She’s Always A Woman To Me

The most she will do is throw shadows at you / but She’s always a woman to me

Midnight musings:

I knew a guy a while back, many years before my initiation with Freya, who absolutely hated Her. I can’t remember at this point if he was pissed because he felt She guided him to a horrible relationship, or if it was that the ex who spurned him had worked with closely with Freya, or what–but he brought his hatred of Her up quite frequently. It was very surprising to me; he is really the only person I think I’ve ever interacted with who has had this intense, personal hatred of Her.

Generally, in my experience acting as Her priestess, most people are fond or very enamored by Her. A few are wary and occasionally even afraid, possibly because the kind of passion She can so easily incite can lead people to making what are, in hindsight, poor decisions. (It’s what any kind of passion does; passion can have a price.) But people actually hating Her is very rare.

And it made me think, then as well as now, if his hatred had more to do with him and whatever issues he brought in than it did with Her. In addition to other red flags, it made me very leery of a relationship with him.

Freya will, in my experience, reflect back whatever She wishes you to see. She can show you your beauty, and she can show you the things that are keeping you from realizing your full potential. Her work is powerful and emotionally raw and transformative. It can be very overwhelming. So I imagine that if someone has irritated Her, She very probably could mess them up in many intense ways. But what would someone have to do to possibly get her to fuck with them that much, I have to wonder? Wow.

(I mean, Freya doesn’t love everyone–She’s not Jesus, or some kind of compassionate saint–but still, I’ve only ever seen her love, inspire, and heal people, even if that healing is not comfortable or fun.

So I think that–if you ever find yourself in a love/hate relationship with Freya–or any other love deity, for that matter–check yourself first and see what it is that you have brought to the party. If you have issues with women in particular–with sexual women, or powerful women, or women who just won’t complacently fit in–yeah, you probably will run into some problems with Her. But if you don’t…. well then, enjoy the ride.

She can kill with a smile, she can wound with her eyes.
And she can ruin your faith with her casual lies.
And she only reveals what she wants you to see.
She hides like a child, but she’s always a woman to me.

She can lead you to love, she can take you or leave you.
She can ask for the truth but she’ll never believe.
And she’ll take what you’ll give her as long as it’s free.
Yeah, she steals like a thief, but she’s always a woman to me.

Oh, she takes care of herself, she can wait if she wants
She’s ahead of her time
Oh, and she never gives out and she never gives in
She just changes her mind

And she’ll promise you more than the Garden of Eden.
And she’ll carelesly cut you and laugh while you’re bleeding.
But she’ll bring out the best and the worst you can be.
Blame it all on yourself, cause she’s always a woman to me.

She is frequently kind and she’s suddenly cruel.
But she can do as she pleases, she’s nobody’s fool.
And she can’t be convicted, she’s earned her degree.
And the most she will do is throw shadows at you,
but she’s always a woman to me.

An Introduction to Freya

(A work in progress–please feel free to add your own suggestions down below)

Introduction to Freya

Let me introduce you to my goddess.

Freya is an experience. You feel Her in your heart and in your loins, in the beat of your blood in your veins and the butterflies in your stomach. She can not be “logicked” or reasoned through. (If you’re very lucky, all she will do is smirk at you if you try.) Freya must be felt. If you don’t want to feel, or don’t know how, Her lessons may be painful.

Freya is…. anticipation, sweat, lust, and longing.

Freya is… a sweet, slow lay on a humid summer night.

Freya is… unconditional acceptance and love.

Freya is… transcendental bliss and contentment.

Freya is… butterfly kisses along your jaw and sweet nothings whispered in your ear.

Freya is… a touch that ignites what was long dead.

Freya is…. the uncontrolled passion that sweetly burns up everything you hold dear, yet you can”t bear it to stop.

Freya is… the soul-shattering despair that break your heart.

Freya is… the golden joy that weaves you back together afterwards.

Freya is… fertility of heart, mind, and spirit.

Freya is… the inspiration that always hits at the worst times, but can’t be ignored.

Freya is… a firm hand on your leash and a soft caress behind the whip.

Freya is…. mischief and war when she’s bored.

Freya is… a racing pulse before the ecstasy of the release.

Freya is…. experiencing the underlying beauty of the entire world…including yourself.

Freya is… a slow dance with the one you love.

Freya is…. an erotic striptease from the one you’ve just met.

Freya is….  a bowl of dark chocolate mousse with caramel drizzle and whipped cream on top.

Freya is…. the nectar of over-ripe peaches running down your chin.

Freya is… a cat’s contented stretch and lazy rumble purr.

Freya is… a thousand lessons a book will never teach you.

Freya is… that feeling of being helpless to stop your heart from doing whatever insane thing it wants you to do next.

Freya is… drowning in the experience and being perfectly happy (or completely terrified) to do so.

And on and on. She is as endless as a midsummer twilight and as generous as the flashing sea. What can’t She do or be?

A Heathen at Disney World

My trip to Disney a few weeks ago was eye opening. I ate too much, drank too much, and was way too hot (92F and humid every day!)  But I did have fun despite of it. One of my favorite parts of the trip (unsurprisingly) was visiting Norway at Epcot Center. I hadn’t realized that Disney had put so much effort into the authenticity of their “country” areas at the World Showcase. Needless to say, I was surprised to find a small, authentic wooden stave church (shipped directly from Norway) as well as an homage to many of our Norse Gods. Here is what Disney World has waiting for us Heathens at Epcot:

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Election Day Self-Care

Tomorrow is Election Day for the USA. Those of us in the US have been dealing with an onslaught of–to put it gently–bad policy decisions, mostly targeted at the already powerless and disenfranchised among us, and many of us would like nothing more than to vote all of the politicians out of office. It’s a stressful day, because if nothing changes with these elections, we’re stuck with 1) evidence that the majority of the active voters don’t care about the BS that’s been happening in DC, and 2) increasingly less likelihood anything will get better until the next presidential election.

If tomorrow will be anything like 2016’s election day, many of us will spend it watching the election results like a hawk. While important, this is actually not helpful and only increases everyone’s anxiety. With this in mind, I’ve made a Self-Care Plan for surviving tomorrow.

Step 1: Vote, and send up a prayer to your Gods for your chosen politicians. That’s the only thing I, personally, can do tomorrow. (If you have more directly useful actions you can do in your area–such as protecting polling places or driving people to the polls–and have the skills to do them, do them!)

Step 2: Unplug, and put the election results out of your mind.

Here’s my plan: I’m lucky in that my work gives us the day off for election day. I plan to hit the local apple orchard for lunch with my parents, grab some fresh apple donuts and cider to go, and then go to dinner and a movie with my beau. If I have time, I plan to chat with my sister in California. A great day spent with people I love!

What will you do? Need some suggestions?

How about:

  • get together with friends and loved ones
  • cook
  • play with your animals
  • make art
  • game
  • Netflix and chill
  • garden
  • bowl
  • hit a spa
  • hike
  • ANYTHING THAT REQUIRES YOU TO UNPLUG

Just do it.  The world will still be there on Wednesday no matter what happens. Rest and recharge as much as you can while you wait.

Disney World Musings

This past week my  partner and I went to Disney World for our first real vacation. It was fun for the most part, though it’s not a vacation I would have chosen to go on on my own. I’m not a big Disney fan myself, but he is, and he and his friends own property at one of the resorts there, which made it a (relatively) cheap vacation. Despite the fact that I adored having a break from work and being pampered, I have to say that I spent most of the trip in deep ambivalence, mainly due to the fact that the Disney experience is so heavily consumerist. I work in public aid, and I regularly deal with people who work 2-3 jobs and can barely provide for their families, much less even consider being able to take their family to Disney. Also, though there are exceptions, the whole purpose of anything you do at Disney is to spend unnecessarily large amounts of money, which goes against pretty much every budget-shopping urge I have. If you’ve never been to any of the Disney parks, imagine having to spend movie theater prices all day long, every day, on everything you buy. As everything essentially takes place on Disney property (Disney apparently owns a large chunk of central FL), there is no way around this. Once I accepted this, though, I was able to enjoy myself.

Here’s a breakdown of our Disney experiences.

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Seasonal Musings: A Cycle of Freyrs

Summer

A few weeks ago, I ran a camping event in honor of one of my main deities, Freyr. It was meant to be a Fall Equinox last hurrah kind of ritual, as my personal experience of Him is that he goes dark sometime after August 1 and the Summer Sun Freyr, who brings the life-giving gifts of sunlight and warm rain, heads off to sleep. In the course of the ritual, in this liminal Freyr-time when He is not really one or the other, there was space for trancing any and all of his aspects. For a number of reasons, I did not end up carrying Him that night, and it was lovely to once again see Him brought though others. One aspect I almost never see tranced is my original experience of Freyr—that of primal nature: the deep, wild forest; the Stag that is hunted; a true Lord of the Wood. And I realized in interacting with this facet of Freyr for the first time in a long time, that this side of Him is integral to my understanding of what Freyr is.

Fall

I often describe Freyr as sunny and generous and warm, full of randy blessings of prosperity and wise leadership, and that’s often the energy of His that I carry when I am out doing His work. Hand in hand with that experience of him, however, is my acknowledgement of His darkness. Dark Freyr is nothing is like the wise summer ruler I also know and love, who comforts me and reassures me that dark times do pass and that we can thrive again. This Freyr only comes out in the liminal times, for me: Spring and Fall, twilight and dawn. The stillness after a heavy storm, before anything living has yet ventured out. Wild or abandoned places.

Dark Freyr teaches many things, most of which are the basic laws of nature. Everything dies—sometimes as an old and quiet sigh, sometimes in a raw terror that scythes through the night. Nothing is soft and fuzzy, except perhaps the dead baby rabbit at your feet that will feed you and help keep you warm. Everything is either predator or prey; hunt or be hunted. The cycle of life and death is neither good nor bad; it just is the reality of things. For tomorrow’s crops to grow, the previous year’s growth has to be destroyed, subsumed, and absorbed back into the earth, else there will be no nutrients to feed the new seed. Nothing is wasted.

Winter Freyr

Once Winter fully hits and I feel Him go under the mound for good, my senses used to go radio silent. However, in recent years a new God has come to take his place during this season, which has knocked the legs out from my “Norse mythology doesn’t have a Summer King/Winter King” duality. The past two winters I’ve been seeing Ullr step up while Freyr is below. When winter comes in most parts of the world (not looking at you, CA), the crops die, and the ground freezes. What do you do when you can’t farm? You hunt. For me, Forest God Freyr + the winter Hunt = Ullr.

Maybe it’s just me, but I switch in the winter, too. I become less outgoing, less warm and fuzzy, less social. Despite the holiday feasting, I feel leaner, emotionally and spiritually speaking—like everything’s been pared down to just the essentials. Calmer, and stiller. And I feel like going … hunting.

Spring

And so it goes until Spring starts making its presence known, usually early February in my neck of the woods. Days are noticeably longer and the growing-things energy begins to kick back up, even if nothing is showing yet on the surface. This period starts to increase in pressure until it starts to get really irritating–a pressure in my heart and head and body. Itt literally feels to me like I have a full-body scab that’s just itching to be ripped off. Anybody else get this?) I get the added bonus of tuning in to Gerd as she essentially does her Spring cleaning, clearing the way for His arrival. And finally the Inexorable Coming of Freyr, in all the ways that anything can come, happens. Usually in May, depending on the year, there’s a release and big shift in energy, and the happy, horny, warm and giving Freyr is back. And it all begins again.

The joys of being tied to seasonal deities.

Initiation, retrospection

I came across some of my writings from around the time of my initiation with Freya in 2013. Looking back on that whole process, it occurred to me that it was all very organic.

Me, after a random public journey:

“Hmm, Freya wants me to come visit a lot?”

<I visit every day for two weeks straight. Freya shows me X, Y, and Z insights about myself and the universe as a whole>

“Cool! Now I have to thank Her! How shall I do that?”

<Series of conversations with her telling me to have a public celebration honoring myself and Her. Which I did; it was lovely.>

Me, five years later: If someone had tried to design that entire initiatory and revelatory experience for me and I had to follow along, or if I had to wait for a specific teacher that I clicked with and trusted enough to tell me how and what I should experience and when, well…. it would not have gone nearly so well. First off, I don’t do well with people telling me what I can or can’t do. I will do what I want, thank you very much. (Yes, my pride is a known character defect that hinders much as much as it helps.) Secondly, I get in my own way so often that if even if there had been an external, clearly laid out plan, likely I would have found a way to procrastinate or talk myself out of it. Who am I but some mere human? Smart, sure; sensitive, sure; but also kind of hapless, overly idealistic and often depressed. I’m just one of billions of such people walking the earth today. This way, there were no expectations because it was, quite literally, being revealed to me bit by bit. I was given exactly what I needed as I needed it and as I was able to handle it. Despite the challenges that came later, for that alone, I’m very grateful. The process was graceful and loving, though often strenuous and painful. The experience forever changed how I interact with the world around me.

Life is painful, and growth even more so. Still, I was carried then, and I have faith that I will be carried again when the time arises. Until then–

Hail and thanks to all of the powers that are greater than ourselves–those who know us more deeply than we ever can and who love us more powerfully than we can begin to imagine. Hail to my Lady, Freya!

A firestorm of Freyas….

Todays’ Facebook fun included a long thread on naming groups of deities, along the lines of “a murder of crows” or “a gaggle of geese”. My favorite creations:

  • A firestorm of Freyas
  • A disdain of Gerds
  • A suspension of Odins
  • A harvest of Freyrs (all my other ideas were not safe for work)
  • A cascade of Skadis (Andrea)
  • A competition of Ullrs
  • A whisper of Friggas (Mary)
  • A thunderstorm of Thors
  • An observation of Heimdals
  • A racket of Ratatosks (Becky)
  • A judgement of Tyrs
  • A revelation of volvas….