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. 🙂

 

 

 

Ancestor work: Sweden

I was talking with my sister the other day about our trip to Sweden (t-minus 6 days and counting!), and had a revelation. Though my sister is not Christian, and in fact could definitely find herself on one end of the Neo-Pagan spectrum, our personal beliefs are very different. (Let me reiterate: I love my sister, but we are very different. Oddly, we look enough alike that people have in the past mistaken us for twins, and our friends are thrown off a bit more when they meet us together and realize exactly how different we are.) In any event, though we have the same genetic material and she’s open to a lot of pretty far-out spiritual concepts, she is not at all Heathen or polytheist, though she has been pretty accepting of any spiritual processing work I’ve done with her.

So it was really weird that she was the one to come up with the idea of us visiting our ancestral homelands in Sweden and Norway together. Talking with her last week, she said something else that threw me for a loop. “You know, things have fallen into place too smoothly for this trip to be about us. We need to do some ancestor work while we’re there.”

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“Yes, ma’am”, part 3

The closet altar is dark, with a large electric beeswax candle flickering seductively in the center. Freya and Odin sit perched on either side, with tokens for the Vanir, the ancestors, my fylgia and other helpers, and Yggdrasil set in place around them. I lean over the top of the altar and gently rest my neck and chin on one of the antlers perched there. I inhale deeply. The smells of honey, beeswax, honey whiskey, sugar, and chocolate meet my nose. The whiskey has been out for almost two days now, and is starting to smell a bit musky, but I’ll leave it out until tomorrow. No sense in rushing it. It’s not for me, after all.

(The honey whiskey had originally been bought for my ancestors–that’s what they used to get in California, before I moved. This time, however, with Odin (and therefore Loki) being honored along with Freya on the same altar, the Blood Brothers decided to abscond with the Jack–and they are going through it mighty quickly, I have to say. I’ve already had the finances talk with all of Them, which boils down to, “If you want good liquor, and frequently, make sure that I have the money for it.” Luckily my ancestors are a pretty easy-going bunch, and are just as happy with beer or cider. And everybody seems to love the smell of honey.)

So, I’m here in the Midwest. I was shocked when I realized that I’d have to move, and pretty emotionally wrung out by the time the move actually happened. The drive out here is pretty much a blur (luckily we got out here right before the winter weather kicked in) and the settling down period was lost in a blur of holiday visits and work projects. Now the holidays are over, and people at work are all back from their various vacations. I’ve gotten involved in program meetings out here and started making connections with the local pagan community. Even my new health insurance kicked in (and already the ACA is kicking the ass of California’s state-run health insurance). So, life has officially re-started. Here I am. After three days in a row of double-digit negative temperatures.

So, how are things going? Freya had a complex agenda when She sent me out here. I only know part of it and half of what I think I know will inevitably turn out to be wrong, but there are a few areas of my life that I can take a pretty good guess at:

Family. I have seen 90% of all of my close family members (5% were unavailable during the holidays and the other 5% have died in the last five years–though one is now near and dear as an Ancestor.) I haven’t that much family in such a short about of time since I graduated high school, for crying out loud. I’ve always been an in-between child–I’m the oldest grandchild on my Mom’s side of the family and the second-to-youngest grandchild on my Dad’s side of the family, so, no matter what family we’re with, I don’t have many people my age. Now I can hold conversations and interest with the cousins who are fifteen years older than me with kids in college as well as with my cousins who are just out of college themselves, and I did so willingly, and with relatively little effort. I watch them all really closely–who has my Mom’s facial expressions? Who walks like my dear departed grandfather? And more importantly, which of them looks like me? What piece am I filling in on this family tree?

My last visit home I discovered the power of taking pictures of old photos will my iPhone. The quality is as good as, if not better than, we get when we scan them. So far, I was able to grab a bunch of 70s photos from my aunt’s wedding album and some of my Dad’s old Vietnam and family photos. I even came across my Dad’s birth certificate (no birth time recorded, unfortunately–what were they thinking back then!? slackers) which I promptly snapped as well. Pretty much any time I come across a piece of family memorabilia, I save it to my phone or my computer somehow. And so, family memories remain preserved. I wish I could do the same with what I hear–my Mom and Dad will bust out with a new piece of family lore pretty much daily–“You know, we said so-and-so died of a heart attack, but he was actually an alcoholic”; and “Did you know your great-grandmother was married twice?” and “Your great-uncles and great-grandfather were all amazing craftsmen–they would build anything out of wood.” Who knew? It’s not like my sister and I haven’t been asking my parents for this kind of info for years, but it just never comes out under direct questioning; it comes out at the dinner table while talking about the local game and the sales at Macy’s. You can’t force this kind of data-retrieval and you can’t replicate it, which is part of the reason I am living with them here, now. (And also part of why I am traveling to Scandinavia in a few months.) It’s both heartwarming and completely frustrating when anything new comes up.

Spirituality. Well, there are no Heathens here from what I can see, so I’m hanging out with Druids (not a big stretch, honestly) and visiting a fascinating variety of my hometown’s New-Age, pagan/hippy-ish hybrids, not the least of which because they are occurring in my hometown. (My hometown has more Christian churches per capita than any place else in the state.) I’m looking forward to meeting even more new people and trying out the various Pagan gatherings that the Midwest hosts (yes, Jason; I’ve got ConVocation on the books already, though it may be a stretch getting there so soon after PCon).

The Land. Flat plains; lush, damp river valleys: how I have missed you. You, with your four full seasons and deciduous forests complete with oak, maple, and buckeye. Your white snow and bare trees, stubby dead cornfields and, above all, water. I sat in my car one evening last week in a local park that overlooks one of my favorite childhood places: Sinnisippi Gardens. Ah 🙂 The greenhouse, the duck pond, the flower clock, the white Roman columns, the bike path, and, flowing gently behind it all, the river. My river. (If you look closely at its banks, you will see “Cara’s River (TM)” inscribed every hundred yards or so. True story.) I just sat there in my car, rapt, getting high off of the fact that I was now back in my hometown and living in a place where I could go see that area any time I want to, for absolutely no reason at all. My land. As I sat there I imagined I could feel 18 years worth of deposited (mostly) happiness flowing back into me. It was a high like few I’ve ever experienced, and I hope it doesn’t go away any time soon. (Though the -30 wind chill can go away now.) But, dude–I knew I was an earth sign, and that I missed my land something fierce, but nothing really prepared me for that kind of reaction. I’m really fascinated to see how it will grow and change.

Sigh. And now off to bed early so my Mom and I can get up early to head out to the closest Trader Joe’s, an hour and a half away. Love you, Chicago!

Holiday stress.

I’ve been busy, busy busy this week. Work has been stressful (end of quarter shenanigans), plus the holidays, which are not any less busy than they would have been back in CA. The only difference is that here the events are celebrations with blood relatives whom I haven’t seen in five years or more. Generally this hasn’t stressed me out, but today’s gathering will include the successful Chicago-based relatives. Oh, joy. At least the weather isn’t bad.

Tonight is a Yule with a Wiccan coven I haven’t met yet, so that’s also a bit stressful as well. I want to make a good impression, and I wonder who I’ll meet. Hopefully they aren’t crazy or drama-ridden, but it’s not like I can control that, unfortunately. Tomorrow is a Yule Feast put on by the Druid group I met the other day, so at least I will know most of the people there. But still, stress is stress. Yay, being an introvert.

So, the upside. What is the upside? A) I have family, who aren’t crazy alcoholics or drama queens, who do want to hang out with my family, and whom, for the most part, are friendly. B) As far as I know, we’re all in good health. C) The event should wrap up in time for me to go to the Yule gathering. D) Maybe I’ll meet some interesting, friendly people at the Yule gatherings. 🙂

I read a quote from one of my program books the other day. It said, “When one door closes, another one opens wide. But being in the hallway is hell.” Also, “This too shall pass.”

Heilsa to that.

Love notes from Freya, 9/16/14

Modesty is the key to virtue and grace. Love, Freya

LET ME EXPLAIN. So when I got this message, I was, you may imagine, somewhat confused. So  asked Her to elaborate, because I’m not sure we had the same definitions for these words. Here’s what I got:

Modesty: An attitude of humility; ie, knowing your correct place in regards to your Gods. You are not higher than them; you are not equal to them; but you are not so low as to not be worthy of their love and attention. Quite the opposite: YMMV with other Gods, but with my Lady, She loves you all. Therefore, you are worthy of Her love. It’s not complicated–not in Her mind, anyway. (Some of us She loves more intimately than others, granted; but that’d be the same with any of other Gods, I’d guess. They are just partial to those who are dedicated to Them.) So, understand that They love you, but don’t think that you are higher than Them and can rule the world. (Ceremonial magicians, I’m looking at you.)

Virtue: Your strength, ability, personal power, “luck”, in this world. Essentially, it’s your hamingja, a specifically Norse concept that doesn’t translate well into English. It’s kind of a combination of what your ancestors gave you (or burdened you with) and your own innate “luck” or power. Here’s a great description of hamingja, stolen (unabashedly) from Wandering Woman Wondering’s blog:

Luck, often called hamingja, is an important Heathen concept, one that encompasses ancestral aid, as well as a person’s ability to be in the right place at the right time, the whole constellation of a person’s skills and talents, and a person’s ability to rally the support and confidence of others.

But as she goes on to say, it’s not all sunshine and roses. (Check out her post for a full discussion the negative sides of it.) My understanding of how Freya uses this term  here is that that attitude of humility can help us more fully access that positive legacy and internal abilities that we’ve been given. By not being humble, we cut ourselves us off from this amazing resource that is ours by right. Don’t commit self-sabotage. Honor and use what you’ve been given.

Grace: This one was the hardest for me to parse. It’s got so many explicitly Christian associations, I was afraid to touch it. Still, here’s what I got:

Grace is the ability to make space in your life for the Gods to come down and grant you their favors. I see this as having two parts: the awareness that they can come down and influence your life, and the willingness to let them do so.  The key factors here are accepting that this is something that They can decide to do (you can’t force this to happen), and that the type of change that they make is not something you can control. Trying to control it–having very specific expectations of what should happen and how it should look– just get in the way, is you trying to be in control, not you letting grace happen. This is one of those faith things, and we can screw it up by not having any trust in Those with whom we work. If we think we’re in charge of the Gods, it not only makes it harder for them to come down and do their thing, it probably also makes them less inclined to do so.

(Confession: Personally, due the fact that I work with a Goddess of Love and Beauty [among other things] and due to my 12 Step work, I tend to see the influence of the Gods as being a good thing. In my experience, they want what’s best for me and do their darnedest to help get me there. I can’t really say if this is true for all deity-human relationships, but I’ve heard a lot of anecdotal evidence to support this from friends who have never even heard of a 12 Step program and who work with War deities.)

So that’s my take on today’s love note: Be humble, use what you’ve been given, and let the Gods do Their thing. Also, Freya sends LOVE LOVE LOVE out to all of you.

Change

My apologies for the lack of Love Notes recently, all. There’s a lot going on in Cara-land, and I’ve been keeping my God-roar on mute as much as possible. (Not as easy to do as it used to be, but what do you expect from a dedication?) Many changes, presumably architected by my lovely Lady (at least on some level).

Gods. I’m a Taurus; I hate change. As my friends in program tell me, though, don’t worry–we all get a chance to practice life lessons over and over until we get them right. Yay for being a conscious, constantly evolving person in tune with the Gods. Woot.

Love notes from Freya, 8/27/14

I’ve switched by schedule for these love notes to every 2-3 days. Hopefully that will make them more manageable. 🙂

 

Honor your father and your mother. The values they instilled in you are just as valid today as they were when you were growing up. If you have any living ancestors–grandparents, great-grandparents, great uncles or aunts–take some time to talk with them today. They, too, have wisdom, and they will be gone sooner than you think. Love, Freya

 

So, I’m not sure how this works with people who had really horrible experiences growing up, or who are estranged from their parents now, but I think it’s true that even the worst parents probably did teach you at least one thing that remains useful to this day. Having been in program as long as I have, I’d seen and heard of reconciliations–or at least memories put to rest and lessons learned–with parents who were more creatively vile and abusive than I had ever thought was humanly possible. For example, my grandfather was an abusive alcoholic, but one thing he did teach my dad (however inadvertently) was how to connect with animals and treat them with compassion and respect.

As for your ancestors–it’s easier to get information out of them now, while they’re alive, then have track down someone to do seidh or a seance or some kind of other divination for you after they are gone. Just FYI.