Don’t trust your Gods? Make them bigger.

Along with everything else I do, I’m a member of a 12-step program. No, it’s not AA; there are many more 12-step programs out there. No, you don’t need to know which one I’m in. It’s anonymous; that’s the point. What you do need to know is that my experience in this program has helped to re-sculpt a lot of my underlying assumptions and beliefs about the nature of Deity and how I shape my relationship with Her (and Them).

I’ve struggled for years now in making my hard polytheistic worldview work with the 12-step concept of a higher power. Sometimes I can make it work, sometimes I can’t. Even so, one of the most useful concepts I have about working with the deity comes from my program: the idea that if my Goddess is not working for me–if She is limiting me or critiquing me or undermining me or whatever–I can (and should) make my understanding of Her bigger.

Before I landed in my 12-step program, I had what amounted to a superhero understanding of the Gods. The Gods were like us, just a bit bigger. They could do a bit more than we could and could help us out a little. They had the same idiosyncrasies as humans, and were bitchy, fallible, and easily bored. My understanding of them, and how I experienced them–while interesting and exciting–did not bring me a whole lot of serenity or peace in times of crisis. While intellectually I knew that I should be able to rely on them, I did not actually feel like they would help me through tough times. After all, they were barely bigger than us humans. But then, what is the point of having a relationship with a deity if He or She is not there to help you through tough times?

My attitude towards deity changed abruptly after I hit rock bottom and found myself in a 12-step program. (I don’t think it’s possible to emphasize strongly enough how much my program helped me get my sanity and my life back, in a way that Heathenry or the larger pagan community just could not begin to match. [Long rant for a different time.] If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction of any kind, go to a 12-step program–at least a for few meetings, just to see what they have to offer. It can’t hurt, and it might even help.) If you’re unfamiliar with 12-step programs, the way it works is this: 1. Admit that your life is unmanageable and you can’t fix it (some people have spent decades coming to this realization); 2. Open yourself up to the possibility that there’s something bigger out there that can help you; and 3. Ask for that bigger power for help (Steps 1-3, in other words). There’s more to it, obviously, but this is the foundation.

I remember thinking when I found out what the 12 steps were and our overall plan of attack, This should be easy. I’ve already spent my entire adult life finding my own spirituality and delving deeper into it, often at odds with my family or the larger culture around me. Not a problem. I’m halfway there!

Or not. It’s a lot harder, it turns out. I had spent a a great deal of time and effort learning about and working with my gods, but in all that time and work, I hadn’t learned what I’ve come to consider to be the most important part of any belief system: I hadn’t learned to trust my gods.

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Why Freya Makes Me Cry

I started out writing a post explaining the love notes, but ended up writing the “why she makes me cry” post. It is what it is….

I “check in” with Freya every day–kind of like I check my email–to see if She has any words of inspiration to pass on. I do it because it’s part of my commitment to Her, to write these love notes and post them for people. It’s not because I’m particularly holy or special; I just do it because I promised that I would.

It’s not that simple, though. I’m very sensitive–physically, emotionally, pretty much in every way–and I can get overwhelmed quickly, so normally I keep my emotions and ability to sense things tightly locked down. In order to hear Her, however, I need to open these senses back up. What I usually get when I open up my shields is a feeling; an image; and anywhere between one word/or concept and a full sentence or two. Sometimes it’s easy–I just think of Her, look at Her statue, and Bam! message received. Sometimes I get just the barest thread of a message and have to go digging for it, which ends up being a big drain on my time and energy. Sometimes I get nothing–nada–no matter what I do; and I’m not always sure if it’s because I’m too emotionally or spiritually exhausted that day, or if She just doesn’t have anything to say. Regardless of what I need to do to get the message from Her, more often than not I get punched in the gut with some kind overwhelming emotion, either good or bad. I really can’t prepare for this because I never know what I’m going to get.

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Love Notes from Freya, 7/29/14

(Apologies, all, for not posting yesterday’s Love Notes. This week I’ve been swamped; in addition to the usual, I’m interviewing for a part-time job, because Freya has made it extremely clear that I need to be making more money, like, yesterday.)

Today’s love note:

Turn towards beauty; do not turn away. Though it may be bright, painful, eye-opening, heart-wrenching–let it in. Let the flower; the sunset; your true love’s smile–let these in. These are my gifts to you. Honor them as such. Love, Freya

Facets of Freya

I’ve updated my “About Me” page to include a section on the many facets of Freya. Here is the material that I’ve added (and a good writeup it is, if I do say so myself):

The Many Facets of Freya

As with many pre-Christian deities, Freya is very complex and rules over many aspects of life. For me, she is a goddess of Beauty, Love, Power, Gold, boundaries, and the sensitive open heart of a lover. Others experience her darker side as the Chooser of the Slain–walking the battlefield and taking first choice of those dead warriors up to Her hall, Sessrumnir, in Vanaheim. Yet others see her as the Gythia, priestess and seeress, wild and wise in the magic of seidh that Odin coveted. She can also be seen in the embodiment of the green and gold fruitful earth, working with Her brother Freyr to keep the animals fertile and as He keeps the land fruitful. She is also the wife of the lost one, Odr; as She searches for him, she weeps; her tears turning to gold when they reach the earth. Those who connect with this side of her understand the loss of love, whatever form it takes, and know that She mourns with them.

She is the wild, sweet lust of a summer night; the raucous, passionate, unexpected fling; the rush of falling headlong into love; all love and relationships that are forbidden or taboo.  She is the Goddess of unabashed New Relationship Energy (NRE). She will help you start a relationship, but not necessarily make it last; look to Her ecstasy, but not necessarily commitment. (If you are looking for contentment within a long-term relationship, you will be better served in appealing to Odin’s wife, Frigga.)

To me, She is also The Queen; separated from her beloved husband Odr, She rules her Hall and her body completely, and does what She pleases, when she pleases, and with whom she pleases. She is not beholden to anyone–not a husband, not her tribe, not the Aesir or jotuns. In this facet, she can be seen as the Strife-Stirrer (as opposed to Frigga’s and Freyr’s roles as community frithweavers). She is the most beautiful of the Norse goddesses, coveted by Gods, jotuns, and humans alike, and fights are often waged for Her hand in marriage–but She never lets Herself be tied down against Her will. Thor Himself dressed as Freya to trick a jotun rather than to try to force her to be married against Her will.

As with many complex deities, Freya has both a light and the dark side of Her nature; which side you experience depends quite a bit on what lens you have to look through. She can be dangerous in that She can (though not necessarily “will”) bring out the negative aspects of power and goldlust in those people who work closely with Her. Her energy, if filtered through your own issues in these areas, can inspire power struggles, selfishness, greed, jealousy, obsession, stinginess, and materialism. As with any other powerful goddess, people who work with her can be drawn to that darkness and obsession rather than try to share her light with others. The choice is yours; but know that the Norse gods are very present, and, in my opinion, not very subtle in letting you know Their opinion.

Love notes from Freya, 7/26/14

“Man is the joy of man (and augmentation of the dust, and adorner of ships).” Love, Freya

I have to say that it continues to weird me out when Freya quotes rune poems at me, but maybe it’s just Her way of helping me out with my rune homework for Odin; who knows?

Anyway, the rune she quotes above is “Mannaz“, from the Icelandic rune poem. Mannaz is where we get our English word “man” (both in the sense of being a guy and in the sense of  being human; here it is used to indicate humankind). It has a wide variety of meanings, all related to humanity: the human condition; humans in relationship with one another; the highest and best form a human soul can take, etc. A lot of authors point out that Mannaz’s stanzas appear to be the most heavily Christianized of all of the poems’ stanzas, because the Anglo-Saxon and Norse ones for Mannaz go on about how human flesh is weak and humans will eventually fail each other (precursor to the gloom and doom of The Lord of the Rings, anyone?). At least the Icelandic one gives a bit of hope that when humans turn to dust, it “ennobles” the dust (as Diana Paxon puts it, in Taking Up the Runes) and can “adorn” ships, whatever that means.

This is a concept of “humans are a boon to other humans” is repeated throughout the lore. In the Havamal, Odin (in disguise) gives a wide variety of useful advice for how to deal with one’s fellow humans. He says:

When I was young      I wandered alone,

And wandered off the marked way;

Rich I thought myself      when another I found,

Humans are man’s comfort. (Stanza 47)

So what does this mean for me or you, or humankind as a whole today? Go out and hug a friend, spend some time with your loved ones, be social; eventually, all we are is dust gracing the prow of a ship.

TOO MUCH TO DO: The saga of an overworked polytheist

I had meant to do my “Why Freya makes me cry” post, but this is what came out instead (though they are not entirely mutually exclusive). I’m just one among many overworked people, I know. I’ll keep my bitching to a minimum.

Currently, my responsibilities, both real and perceived, are as follows (not necessarily in order of importance):

  1. Do Freya stuff. Subcategories: blog about Her. Blog about Heathen/interfaith topics associated with Her. Continue to collect resources about Her. Touch base with Her daily and post Her Love Notes. Journey to Her, ideally 2x a month. Continue to research Her, both on an academic level and on a UPG level. Continue to practice trancing Her. Do misc. priestessing on Her behalf, as necessary.
  2. Help run the VC (a group dedicated to the Vanir, which I helped found lo! those many years ago). Subcategories: organize and run of 2-3 events a year, including publicizing events and bring in newbies. Shake hands/kiss babies. Get trained up in the various Vanatru practices that EmberVoices puts together.
  3. Help run SB Heathens (Norse focused group). Subcategories: plan, publicize, and run 1-3 events a year; contact newbies. (Not as much of the shaking hands/kissing babies involved here, thank Gods.)
  4. PantheaCon 2015. Subcategories: Plan “Facets of Freya” rit/panel for PCon 2015 (Contact all of the Freya-type people I know; nail a few of the interested parties down to a commitment (heh, nailing!); help them all get along and communicate clearly; put together a blurb to submit; research, write, and practice to actually make it happen). Decide if and how the Love Notes should happen and mobilize people for it. Decide if and how a Freya Blot will happen. Help plan and run a Hellenic ritual, topic TBD. Finish period Viking outfit. Deal with various and sundry other things that will pop up between now and then. Also, start to worry about the nebulous “connections” and “messages” that Zeus wants me to handle for him at the Con.
  5. Do other Zeus stuff. Subcategories: Check in with Zeus 1x a month; pass on various messages to people in our Greek group. Help publicize Greek events. Do a lot of hand shaking/baby kissing; search out and chat up possible new Hellenes. Help plan, publicize, and run the Symposium in Sept.. Research and memorize a good, easy to remember yet powerful invocation for Zeus. Continue my Ancient Greek academic research. Start planning Poseidon campout and ritual. Did I mention doing a bunch of meet ‘n greet work with possible Hellenes? I don’t think I mentioned that one enough. Attend any new, Hellenic-focused events I come across. Shake hands, kiss babies.
  6. Blogs. Subcategories: Keep up with Heathen blogs. Keep up with Hellenic blogs. Keep up with various polytheist blogs. Seek out new ones to read.
  7. Odin stuff. Subcategories: Avoid talking shit about Odin. Review runes. Plot up rune reviewing plan, likely a year in length. Contact  man formerly known as Hobbit to continue Freya/Odin info swap. Continue to discuss runes with the bevy of Odinpeople I’m surrounded with. Make a new rune set because the ones I have not perfect for my purposes. Avoid avoiding Odin. I should also probably set up a journeying schedule for Him, as well.
  8. Refine my journeying practice.
  9. Continue to honor the Vanir.
  10. Ancestors. Subcategories: Continue to honor and deepen my relationship with my Ancestors. Journey to my Hall and learn from them. Probably need to schedule that as well. Refine daiy worship practices.
  11. Interfaith work. Subcategories: Keep attending Berkeley-based interfaith events with my Morrigan priestess co-conspirator. Help plan, publicize, make contacts, and shake hands/kiss babies for Polytheist discussion group, which ideally will be starting in September. Continue to build relationships with various non-Heathen groups in the area:
  12. CAYA. Subcategories: continue with Aspirants class, reading and homework. Attend holidays and full moon events. Continue forming connections and friendships and learning.
  13. SBC. Continue to attend events.
  14. Coru Cathuboda. Continue to attend events and build relationships.
  15. Hrafnar. Subcategories: Attend events. Help do Freya stuff or Vanir stuff as needed. Other stuff TBD.
  16. SF Heathens. Actually attend one or two of their events.
  17. EB Heathens (?). Attend events.
  18. The Troth. Subcategories: Renew subscription. See if there are any topics I can write about and submit articles for. Get on the mailing list again?
  19. Continue to follow and contribute to online Polytheist discussion.
  20. Read Patheos blogs more often or I will catch yet more flak about it from the PanMan.
  21. Catch up on the care and feeding of my warder/girlfriend.
  22. Reach out to the (neglected) Aesir Gods as well.
  23. Attend weekly meetings for my Other Spiritual Practice so that I can do all of this and keep humble about it and not go crazy.

So yeah, I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment; a great and exhausting balancing act. No wonder Hermes loves me so much (or so I’ve been told).

Mapping the Gods

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 cacklers though they may be. Thor, Tyr, and Loki are also popular deities out here (though with very different segments of the population). Frigga had a big following about ten years ago, but I haven’t seen much of her since then except with a few people who are Dedicated to Her. Of the Vanir, you don’t see much emphasis on anyone except for my Lady. She definitely holds her own. I’d says she’s probably the third most popular Norse deity out here, after Odin and Thor. Where you have Freya, you’ll have some Freyrsmen, too. You can also find a few Skadi people around as well, especially near the Sierras.

I had assumed that’s the way it was broken down everywhere, but then I talked with a guy at PantheaCon last year who was from Colorado and has Bragi as his patron. His group came to the Freya Blot I ran, and they looked a bit uncomfortable with all of the Odinishness that seeps its way into everything Heathen our here. He said that very few people in his area work with Odin, but that a lot of people work with the Vanir and Thor. In Kentucky, at my first Kindred, we had a Freyrsman (our gothi), an Odinsman, and a guy dedicated to Sif, of all deities. (Yes, he did have long, very pretty white-blond hair.) Flatland Kentucky generally has a Freyr vibe to it, what with the lush greenery, tobacco, whiskey, and horses. I have no idea who’s popular out on the East Coast or in the Deep South, though.

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