Happily Heathen: My Journey to Devotional Polytheism

My newest post at Patheos’ Agora Column is up!

My Journey to Devotional Polytheism–The path I took from Christianity to Devotional Polytheism was guided by a need for direct interaction with deity and a desire to connect more with my ancestry. Heathenry gave me both. #WhyIAmHappilyHeathen

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/agora/2015/08/happily-heathen-my-journey-to-devotional-polytheism/

PantheaCon Schedule, 2105

PantheaCon, an International pan-Pagan convention held in San Jose,  is coming up quickly. Here are the events I’m leading and/or participating in this year:

Friday, Feb. 15th:

I’ll likely be joining in River Devora‘s “Furious Revels” at 5pm. It’s a fun parade that, among other things, helps to cleanse the hotel space.

Saturday, Feb. 14th:

4:30-6:30 Devotional to Hera and Zeus (tutorial-style ritual)–Pandemos/Greek Hospitality Suite–I’m leading this event with Thenea Pantera (Magick from Scratch). (I’ll be a priestess of Zeus! This should be fascinating.)

9:00-10:30PM Dionysus Hestios ritual–San Martin/San Simeon. Put on by Pandemos, our Hellenic group in the Bay Area.

(There’s also a small possibility I’ll be helping ward Coru Cathubodua’s Morrigan ritual–“The Morrigan Speaks: Arise to Battle”–Saturday night, depending on whether they need more warders. We’ll see if they need me or not.)

Sunday, Feb. 15th:

11:00 AM Myth Embodiment, “The Lay of Thrym (aka That One Time When Thor Was a Drag Queen)”– Heathen Hospitality Suite, 2nd floor. I’m running this event

1:00 PM Blot for Freya–Heathen Hospitality Suite. I’m running this event.

11:00 PM “Facets of Freya Devotional Ritual”–San Juan/San Carlos (facing the parking lot). I’m leading this ritual along with a group of Freyaswomen that we’ve named Freyja’s Aett (including EmberVoices) I’ll be posting more about this one later on.

Keeping in mind that in the fourteen years I’ve attended PCon, only once have I ever made it to even most all of the events I’d hoped to attend. And knowing that some events will be canceled or moved; some will not live up to my expectations; some I won’t make because I’ll get pulled off to help somebody out at the last minute; and some I’ll just be too fricking tired to attend. That said, here are some of the events I’d like to attend:

Coru’s Morrigan ritual; Shauna Aura Knight’s “Designing Intensive Rituals”; Discordian.com’s “Lady Gaga Clothing Swap” (long story); Hrafn Skjoldr Kindred’s Blot; Rhyd Wildermuth and Alley Valkyrie‘s “Radical Gods” panel; T. Thorn Coyle (and many others)’s panel on “Nurturing Young Pagan Leaders”; “Warding and Ritual Safety” panel; Jeffrey Arbaugh’s “Archetypes of the Masculine”… which is unfortunately at the same time as the Coru event, sigh (Arbaugh is the presenter from whom I picked up the Myth Embodiment activity); Angela Carlson’s “Modern Heathenry” discussion panel (which, considering it’s at 9AM, is unlikely); Freyja’s Gift’s “A Different Kind of Seidh”; Soli Johnson’s “Juggling the Gods”; Silence Maestas‘ “Exploring Devotional Rituals”; and River’s “Essentials of Polytheism”. And hopefully one of the Pagans in Recovery events.

Yes, ma’am

So… my Lady is yelling at me to write, so writing is happening. No idea what she actually wants me to write about, so here goes nothing.

(Thus follows a conversation with my Lady, in the style of MagicfromScratch’s convos with her gods. Possibly because I’m in no shape–either physically or emotionally–to do my usual Love Notes check-in, much less the kind of journeywork that I would normally do with Her for this. So, we’ll see how it goes.)

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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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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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Radiomancy (When in doubt, ask the radio)

I’ve heard for years from fellow pagans who swear that the radio offers them up very specific and often snarky answers to whatever problem they are currently struggling with. Back when I used to listen to the radio, I found this to be true as well. However, I *hate* listening to the radio; announcers and commercials and endlessly repeated songs and none of my favorite music being played turned me off of it years ago. I love music, though–I sing constantly, quote lyrics, and usually have a random song going through my head at any given moment of the day. The Radio in my Head is the closest I’ve had to radiomancy up until recently, and really, despite the amount of music in my iTunes, it’s really pretty limited material to draw from.

But now that I’ve Come Back Online, as my fellow (highly relieved) priestesses keep telling me, I’m trying to open myself back up to things like Meaningful Dreams and Radiomancy, the kind of stuff that I had kind of fallen out of practice with.

And, as with everything involving the Hellenic or Nordic Gods, the response is immediate and snarky.

Case in point:

I was bemoaning (in my head) how I was supposed to go about managing working with both Freya and Zeus. They are very different deities coming from very different pantheons, and are both extremely powerful and dominant personalities. Personally, I’ve always felt more comfortable with women in power (yay Freya!) and Zeus is, well, patriarchy personified (though I’ve since come to find that he’s not nearly as much of a boor as I head feared). As this was going through my head while driving on the highway, I suddenly decided that I was sick of all of the CDs in my car and the playlists on my phone. Looking for something new and different (while driving, mind you; so it had to be quick and easy to find), I thought I’d give iTunes Radio one last try. It’s never worked out for me in the past, but I was desperate. Hmm, what channel? Well, I’m sick of the 80s, not in the mood for 70s, 60s, or 50s; might as well trying the 90s station. I clicked through the first song (a rap song) and landed on a Counting Crows song that I vaguely remembered.

The song? Goes like this:

“I belong in the service of the Queen

I belong anywhere but in between

She’s been crying and I’ve been thinking

And I am the Rain King.”

Service of the Queen? I am, in fact, in service of The Queen.

I don’t belong in-between? Yes! Someone who understands.

“I am the Rain King”? Throw any lightning bolts recently, Zeus? 🙂 I appreciate you paying attention to my troubles and acknowledging that my Lady is my primary. (Though, apparently, you guys might have a deeper and more complex relationship than I had originally assumed.) Really, he’s turned out to be a lot more of the involved fatherly type than I had ever expected. I guess he has the potential to balance out Freya’s immense influence in my life pretty well.

I shouldn’t complain, I guess. Lots of pagans don’t get that kind of direct and immediate response from their Goddess or deities or whatever. But me, this is why I chose Paganism–direct interaction with deity! Woot! (And since I was otherwise considering being a monk, and I’m not of the right gender nor actually interested in being celibate, that wouldn’t have worked out.)

It’s just so weird hearing the words of Zeus set to a Counting Crows song. But it was while I was on the highway, which, for whatever reason, is his favorite time to contact me.