My article about the Love Notes is up at Patheos now. Take a look!
The TL; DR version: Freya could not care less what your biological body does or does not have, or how you do or do not present yourself to the world. She does not care. Do you love and accept yourself? Are you being true to yourself? Yes? That’s all the matters. Welcome to working with a Goddess of Love, Beauty, and Self-Respect.
The long version:
I’m finally reading Erick duPree’s recent article on Patheos called “I Won’t Shame My Elders: Love is Still the Law”. In it, he describes his horror at seeing transphobia in one of the beloved elders in his tradition and his struggles to work through the issue. The article has been a fascinating read, at least for me, because he is coming from such a different tradition than I am. He has very different understandings and expectations of his tradition and his elders than I do from mine.
He talks a lot about matriarchy, and he is very good about not trying to step on the toes of the groups that he wants to defend (trans people; women; people of color); he realizes it’s not necessarily his place to do so, and he leaves it to a few female friends to take up the battle that he would love to be fighting. It’s all very cool to hear about because let me tell you, that’s not the kind of thing you hear in Heathen circles. Not that we don’t have strong women–we do (see below)–or that gender issues aren’t a problem (they are)–but that’s just not the kind of verbiage or dialogue that gets thrown around at a Heathen ritual. So it’s kind of nice to hear gender inequality issues take center stage every once in a while 🙂
Since I started focusing more on interfaith a few years ago, it became clear to me that Wicca has the Gender Issues and Heathenry has the Race Issues. That’s simplifying things, obviously, but I think that’s been pretty consistent over the years across groups. I never really understood why Wicca had gender issues–I mean, they are worshipping a Goddess, so patriarchy’s already been dumped on its head; why would whether someone is gay or bi or trans matter one way or the other? But clearly it’s still a hot issue in the Wiccan community.
As Erick says: “As a queer identifying man, it’s not complete without my transgender sisters and brothers. How can it be any other way, I consider myself Goddess. We are all Goddess! That is part of the ever expanding understanding of matriarchy. All are welcome, We All Come From The Goddess. People who don’t believe in that Modern Goddess cosmology, don’t have to play in my sandbox. That’s ok. That’s the beauty of Paganism.”
He says of his elder that she has “said that she doesn’t fully understand the transition process, but has always stood on the side of love. Love is the law. ”
You know what, Erick? I play in a completely different sandbox. I have completely different elders. But I’m right there with you.
“Love is the Law.” Yep. Welcome to life with my Goddess. That’s how She rolls, too.
Every once in a while someone will ask me why I don’t talk much about women’s issues, or gender inequality, or what have you, since I am dedicated to a Goddess and all. It always catches me off-guard; I have to stop and think, don’t I? What part of what I do isn’t about empowerment?
Heathenry–or at least, the vast majority of Heathenry that I’ve experienced–is full of strong goddesses, and even stronger women. To me, the “strong, independent” part is implied when I say that I am a proud Heathen woman. (We even have Valkyries, for crying out loud. And female warriors. And higher gender equality overall than pretty much any other part of the world, back in the day.) While we do have sweet, loving, and kind Goddesses, I would never call any of them weak.
On top of that, I work for Freya. Freya is a Goddess of wealth, magic, fallen warriors, love, and beauty. She gets half of those slain in battle. (Some would argue that She chooses Her half before Odin does.) Either way, in this area She has equal standing with the king of the Aesir Gods. It may just be the 21st century woman in me, but to me, that all reads POWER. Power—no matter what era you’re living in, really. And everything I do in Her name is meant, in one way or another, to empower those around me.
She teaches us how to love ourselves, claim our personal power, and use it; and then She sends us out to help others love themselves and find their own power. That’s Her secret plan to undermine gender inequality. To me, that is feminism in action. And I’m proud to be a part of it.
(This is all not to say that Heathenry doesn’t have gender or sexuality issues; it does. We have a certain segment who think that this is a chest-poundingly manly warrior religion only for Brotru, or think that Me-Tarzan-You-Jane is the only way that humans fit together. Somehow they missed the powerful female figures embedded into our Lore, both the mythology and the sagas, or the multiple examples of cross-dressing or gender-swapping. But maybe that’s why there’s such a high percentage of Freyaspeople running around… someone has to relieve the Brotruar of this idiocy. As I see this more often in the newbie Heathens, I consider it as a useful part of their basic Heathen education.)
It’s been a month of all public things, all of the time. This is what happens when I put my head down and just keep doing what’s put in front of me to do.
Started the month with a Patheos post that unexpectedly went viral. Who knew that an article about the pros and cons of dedicating to a deity would be so popular? I honestly don’t think I said much that was completely new or novel. (Would that it were also one of my better written ones. C’est la vie.)
I followed this with my first public Heathen ritual in the area, Winternights. Winternights went well, even though the boyfriend was only able to attend the last round of the sumbel. It was a great small crowd with plenty of food and a lot of people trying out a heathen ritual for the first time.
Then I did my second Patheos column of the month, on ancestor veneration. (Which as not nearly as popular. Maybe people are just ancestor-ed out by now; I totally understand.)
Then I finally fixed the settings on my email from The Troth and was able to do an intro post there, and got some great suggestions and connections for my area. Heathens! Near me! Woot!
And I found out that not only did my Facets of Freya panel get accepted for PCon 2016, I’m also going to be in another Vanic-based ritual run by EmberVoices. And Jason, editor of the Pagan column at Patheos, wants me to be part of a Patheos authors panel at Convocation 2016 (which I’ve never even attended).
And then Sunday night I got an email from the organizer of our CUUPs group that a local reporter wanted to interview some of us for an article for the local paper. One thing led to another, and somehow I (or my altar stuff) ended up being in all of the pics. Good-sized article. For my hometown newspaper. Where many of my very Lutheran relatives live.
I hadn’t realized when this all started that newspapers need to use my given name and not my pagan name.
So now I’m outed to anyone who actually reads our local newspaper (which, considering the age of my relatives in town, will be all of my relatives.) So while part of me is like, woot! I’m in the paper!, the other part of me is like, Well, no more broom closet for you…. At least my very Christian grandfather is dead. I can deal with “religious disappointment face” from anyone but him. 😦 At this point he is a beloved ancestor and I don’t think he cares much one way or the other what I get up to, religion-wise, as long as I remember him. Funny how things work out. When I left home to go to college 20 years ago, I never dreamed I be back here now, staying with my parents, and appearing face-first in an article on local pagans. It boggles the mind.
I’ve been handed so many opportunities since I moved–as if given to me on a silver platter. So much less stressful than if I had tried to orchestrate it all.
A year and a half ago I couldn’t imagine actually blogging for a real blog. Or starting my own Heathen group. Or leading Heathen events solo. Or organizing a ritual for PCon. Or being willing to be interviewed by the media for anything pagan that also included my given name. Or moving back home and dating a Hellboy. 😉 (I couldn’t imagine moving back to my hometown, period.) But here I am.
In program, we say that we need to change our reaction to what the Gods give us from “No, but…” to “Yes, thanks.” i.e., be open to what’s given to us and not have a hissy fit trying to force what we think should be happening instead. At this point, all I’m doing ischecking my fear-based reactions and just saying “yes” and trying not to have any expectations of what will happen afterwards. I’m completely serious when I say that I have no idea what will happen next. And that’s okay. I just hope whatever happens nexts involves more contact with my Gods/ancestor/landwights, my boyfriend, my friends and my growing community out here, and my family.
So far, so good?
My newest post is up at Patheos:
I think the title is self-explanatory 😉
Time for my weekly round-up, in which I get to play “But why am I so tired?” This is why I am so tired:
Saturday: Day-long commitment for my 12-step program.
Sunday & Monday: Prepped first “Intro to Heathenry” class; started several Patheos posts
Tuesday: Co-led “Intro to Heathenry” class, with my Rokkatru BF. (Missed my weekly program meeting to do so. Bah, scheduling.)
Wednesday: Rehearsal for my ADF grove’s Mabon ritual
Thursday: Wrote and submitted entirely new Patheos column (revise, edit, add pics, etc.) Also, libated every single one of the gods, ancestors, and landvaettir that I work with. (This includes three altars, 5 different kinds of booze, several trees, and 10 or so shot glasses)
Friday: Was swept off my feet and taken to a lovely sushi dinner by the BF
Saturday: Slept a lot. Also spent some more time with the BF watching the newest Doctor Who episode (BF, yay!; Dr. Who, eh.)
Sunday: ADF ritual: Rehearsal, set up, long ritual, tear down, and chatting afterwards. Came home and crashed. Finally caught up on this week’s Project Runway. (neat leather corset and jacket!)
With my recent change in status vis and vis Freya, I’ve decided it would be best to pass on the “Love Notes” project. Laine of Pagan Church Lady has agreed to take on the immense task of channeling these love notes whenever she gets the bandwidth to do so. It’s a big project, which can have some unexpected side effects. I’ve had some great experiences channeling these notes, and this has helped me get ready to take on seidh duties sometime in the future. (I may take them back on again once Freya returns, but there are no guarantees. She may have me working on a different task then.) In the meantime, please wish Laine the best of luck in her new role!
To be filed under #priestessing
From the article:
There are more spiritual and religious choices available now than at any time in history. The downside is that more choices makes life more complicated.
I get questions from seekers on a fairly regular basis. I listen, then usually recommend reading a book or two and beginning a spiritual practice. I don’t think I’ve ever made a specific recommendation for a spiritual path. How could I? I don’t know the seekers well enough, and even if I did no one can accept responsibility for the spiritual life of someone else.
I’ve learned as much as I’ve taught in these exchanges. I see five common reasons why people can’t find the right spiritual path.
Tired of Speaking Sweetly
Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.
If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.
Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth
That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,
Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.
God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.
The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:
Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.
But when we hear
He is in such a “playful drunken mood”
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.
–Hafiz, Sufi poet (translation by Daniel Ladinsky)
I feel sometimes like I am a pickaxe of the Gods. I have been out and about and doing the Gods’ work (either consciously or unconsciously) long enough to know that I have two main uses to which They like to put me. Two main patterns have emerged, regardless of group or situation or locale. If I come cannonballing into your life–sailing with seemingly no effort over barriers you’ve long held , slipping into places no one has been to in decades–know that it can go one of two ways. Either I am a gift of supreme love, or I am a wrecking ball. And, a lot of the times, I don’t know which one it is until after the Rubicon has been crossed.
If I am a gift of love, you will receive from me complete acceptance. Understanding. Support. Lack of any criticism or judgement. I hold space for you as you cry, but I never tell you where to go or what to do next. I act as the voice of a God, and as His or Her witness. I verify that you are indeed human; are accepted and loved; have a valid voice, message, and place in this world; and, above all, are not crazy.
If I am a wrecking ball–honestly, I do the same thing. I just do it with a reeeally big flashlight at my side and with a lot less patience. (Lokeans, I know you feel me here.) This approach is sometimes needful and necessary. It is the fire the kills the undergrowth but leaves the strongest trees still standing, and makes the now-cleared earth ripe for new growth. And it sucks, and is painful for all concerned, and is not necessarily beneficial in the long run.
But I do it, because sometimes, the Gods are sick of speaking sweetly.
I’ve added a number of followers to the blog since I posted this last, so it seemed like a good time to post it again. Apologies to those of you who already know this story. 🙂
(revised and updated from my original post in May 2014)
The Love Notes project started out as a marching order from Freya right before PantheaCon of 2014. After the Con, I had a few Notes left over, and couldn’t decide what to do with them, so I started posting them on the blog. After a week or so, they ran out, and at Her encouragement, I decided to check in with Freya each day to see if She had more words to share with others. Here’s the full story of how it went down.
View original post 1,107 more words
Let’s talk about fertility, shall we?
Freya has a bunch of facets. One of the ones that has always been hardest for me to grasp, spiritually, has been the fertility aspect. I know it’s there–one of her symbols is the sow, which apparently in the day symbolized fertility for humans and animals (not plants–that’s Freyr). But whenever this was pointed out, I hemmed and hawed, because that just does not fit into my view of Her. I mean, She’s not a goddess of marriage or domesticity or children, for crying out loud. She’s just not the Mother Goddess type. There’s nothing in the myths or the sagas about her interacting with children, or being motherly in any way. In theory, depending on the sources, you can argue that she two daughters, but both of their names (Hnoss and Gersemi) are kennings for “treasure”, so in my mind, that’s still suspect. She is called on in a few bits of folklore here and there to help with ease in childbirth, but then again, what major goddess in any pantheon isn’t?
She’s a goddess of sex and power and money and essentially doing whatever the Hel She wants to, whenever She wants to do it. (Okay, so the sex thing can sometimes lead to fertility–true. But I’m pretty sure that’s not why Freya does it.)
This is all mainly to say that I just wasn’t buying the fertility connection. I’ve had this opinion for years–pretty much since I became a Heathen and started paying attention to things like Who was the Goddess of What in Norse mythology. And not much could change my mind on it.