Travels, July 2015–continued

And my travels continue apace. Because I was unable to attend Many Gods West, I was able to attend a friend’s campout in CA. There was much food, high-quality liquor, skinny-dipping, sun-bathing, and meditating in the redwood forests of the Sierra Nevada foothills. (In other words, it was a lovely Vanic event.) I even saw two brown hawks snatching up their prey up-close-and personal, which was cool and unusual. (Usually all we see are turkey vultures.) The main downsides to the trip were that my Hellion was not able to be there with me, and I was sad about missing MGW. The camping trip was a great distraction, though. 🙂 And, I did get some Gods work in–I had a lovely visit with Freyr in the woods, which I’ll write up a bit later. Perhaps this was the best way to get some one-on-one time with Freyr. I prefer to meet each God in his or her natural habitat, and unfortunately a hotel is not Freyr’s natural habitat.

Freyr deb's burnt offeringsOne of my favorite representations of Freyr, by Deb at Deb’s Burt Offerings.

Sweden Trip: Last Night

This last weekend in Stockholm has brought us many blessings. One came in the form of Liam, a 60s-ish-old Irishman with a mouth full of blarney and a penchant for taking younger Americans under his wing. Under his care, my sister and I got a tour of the best views in Stockholm and an unexpected visit with Izzy Young, an American expat/folk music legend who’s been living for the last 40 years in Stockholm (apparently, he signed Bob Dylan and a bunch of other guys before they became famous *shrug*). Liam also drove us to our hotel (in the rain; thank the Gods for talkative Irishmen). The blessings also came in the form of Kerstin, a older woman from Stockholm who made us a traditional Swedish smorgasbord dinner in her home, and then took us to an ongoing traditional Swedish folk music and dance session in Gamla Stan (Old Town), walking us home afterwards.

Today was our last day, and it was All Things Sweden, All the Time. In addition to bring transported around town by Liam and Kerstin, we got my sister some homemade Swedish clogs (her one Must Have from this trip), and had a unexpected hipster meal of traditional Swedish meatballs (what’s old is new again, in Sweden as in America). Then we were just able to get in to see The Gold Room (Guldrummet) exhibit, a permanent exhibit at the Swedish History Museum (Historiska museet), which is where much of the expensive archaeological artifacts from Birka went. (It also includes a bunch of random gold and silver items–most of it from uncovered hoards and/or old churches–because GOLD. And SILVER. Why not?) And I picked up yet more useless Viking swag because, well….Vikings. 🙂

And tonight I’m sleeping on a boat. A BOAT, which is currently floating on Lake Mälaren. (It has a peephole window looking over the lake, and bunk beds, and everything!!) Between this and our visit to Birka, my inner child is running around in one constant state of SQUEEEE! Even the ugly rainy, cold, windy weather that we had today cannot put a damper on it. (Of course, our Irishman and Swedish woman helped out, too.) I am coming home tomorrow, assuming all things go as planned, with dirt and rocks from the mounds at Uppsala; a stone from my Aunt Hannah’s grave; shale from an even older family-ish graveyard; a beautiful new drinking horn (which I used at Uppsala on another cold and windy day when I hailed the Gods, ancestors, and landvattir with locally-brewed mead); a horn stand (it came with the horn /shrug); there more generations’ worth of ancestor details, thanks to a local genealogist; the love and connection with a town we never knew and the inhabitants who knew how special it was for us to visit; words and request from my deceased Aunt; pictures of the flowers I planted on her grave after we had cleaned it up after 35 years of neglect; an intimate understanding of the word and concept fika (apparently my sweet tooth is genetic); and a better understanding of the land the Vikings lived on and how it must have shaped their actions and choices.

And finally, a deep, deep appreciation of and longing for this world full of people who look like family and act so unpretentiously civilized, understated, and liberal (so unlike much of my family!) My sister describes much of the trip as being filled with constant occurrences of deja vu. No matter how you parse it, clearly, something in us was already ready and waiting for us in Sweden. As my Lady said when I first told her of the trip: “If you go there, you will see how they live, and your heart will never fully heal.” Now I get it. So many of the experiences we’ve had here have sunk in so deeply and so fast, like old gears finally shifting into place; and I have no real way of knowing if I’ll ever be back. It’s a wound I cannot heal, and I’m afraid that the more I visit, the bigger that wound will get. And that sucks.

Sweden, you are like a best friend I didn’t even know I had. And I wish I had less trite of words to speak it with, but I don’t. I just see the wall of pain and grief hanging out off of the shore, waiting to hit, and I just don’t want to go home.

Stockholm, Days 1 & 2

Well, we’ve arrived. Plane ride was long, and neither of us got sleep, but Norwegian Air seems a good airline. (The food was decent–my GF menu was served first and had a lovely healthy grilled chicken and a GF muffin AND cookie) plus other snacks. The plane was roomy and tall, with huge windows, so we got an amazing view of the sunset and the Bay Area as we flew out.

So far, we have wandered quite a bit around three of the islands, taken a bus tour, and seen the amazing Vasa Museum. (The Vasa is a 17th c. elaborate Swedish royal warship which sunk less than a mile into its maiden voyage. In the 60’s Sweden–plus a huge slew of international archaeologists–were able to recover it, figure out how to keep the wood wet and malleable and restore it, and piece it back together. It’s a 4-story ship and they were able to salvage 98% of it! It’s an absolutely astounding accomplishment, and the museum makes the experience so accessible. Very cool stuff.  I’ll post pics when I can.) We’ve also walked around a lot and painfully plodded through figuring out the train and bus systems. Despite the fact that Stockholm is by far the cleanest big city I’ve ever been in, the roads here (as in much of Europe) are kind of a clusterfuck, and the transit systems are not very intuitive. I personally think San Francisco’s system is better. Still, it’s been a good experience so far overall. A huge added bonus is that I seem to be able to eat wheat products over here! THANK ALL OF THE GODs, because the pastries here are everywhere and they are all amazingly good.

Pics and more details to come later. So far both my sister and have felt a sense of coming home and being part of a family. Our last name is classically Swedish, which most of the cashiers have picked up on. When I tell them that my grandfather was from Sweden, they give us the biggest smile and send a burst of warm, friendly energy. It’s awesome 🙂

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.”

Continue reading

Have blog, will travel

I’m processing quite a bit more about the Scandinavian trip than I thought I would. So! New blog: (Nora is the name of the town in Sweden that my grandfather’s family is from.) With the trip coming up in less than a month, a lot of my energy, both spiritually and physically, will be focused on it. I’m not going to go as in-depth into God woo-woo things in the travel blog. That’s what this one is for 🙂 But if you want to hear about how things are going with the trip, follow the new blog.


So I’m deep in travel planning mode right now. So much to see, only 10 days to see it in (including jet lag!) I’m obsessively browsing travel backpacks, “Best of” Scandinavia sites, and watching Rick Steves. I just broke down and ordered full-size fold-out maps of Southern Sweden/Norway and a wall map from Nat’l Geo, and I am totally going to paste that thing up on the wall and start putting little colored flags and red tape on it. Booyah! I feel like I’m 21 again and planning my first extended trip, which was a semester abroad in Northern Wales (beautiful country and culture; everyone should go!) We took an extended Spring Break tour to Ireland, France, Germany, and Switzerland as well, so I well know the importance of finding the Perfect Travel Backpack ™. I loved my L.L. Bean ones–they were extremely durable, and did everything I asked them to–but they don’t seem to be making as many now as they did back then.

I’m going to Scandinavia!! I almost don’t know which I enjoy more, the planning or the actual trip. 🙂

The Gods are subtle…

So, my sister and I have been tossing around the idea of going to Scandinavia this summer. We have the same genetics, but she doesn’t walk the Heathen path at all; but oddly enough, she’s the one who brought it up. And with money being tight, I have been pretty ambivalent, honestly. So last night I finally sat down and journeyed, and I asked my Gods about it. Odin: “How does this help you achieve your end goal?” Freya: “Well, okay, but then you’ll get to see how they live over there.” (She didn’t make this sound like a good thing. Something about me getting “hooked” to something if I go.) Then Odin again: “FIND ME!” Oi.

So I’ve been researching Norway and Sweden on and off all day, trying to figure out where to go, how to get there, transportation and lodging options, etc. As my parents and I settled down to some horrible Christmas movies after dinner, my mom flipped through the channels during commercials, as she always does. We ended up on landing on a show with a long-bearded Viking-looking dude, complete with A-Frame tent in the background, being interviewed by some traveler guy about the Norse Gods. Turns out the show is called, “Great Train Trips Across Europe” or some such equally descriptive program name. This episode? On why everyone should visit Norway. The show ended with a long shot of the travel guy saying, “This is why you need to visit Norway.” He practically waggled his eyebrows at the camera and gave us all a chance to grab our pencils and make a note of it. I kid you not. So I turned to my mother, as you do, and explained, yet again, that my Gods are not subtle.

She just rolled her eyes. Not so much impressed with messages from the Gods, is my mother.