VOLUME 1, ISSUE 2 : THE WORK MIDSUMMER 2011 02 | EDITORIAL: THE JOURNAL THAT NEARLY DIDN'T HAPPEN | Talas Pái 04 | SOUL-STIRRER | Michaela Macha 05 | SAWDUST AND DIAMONDS | Anya Kless 09 | THE FIRST LESSON | Maris Pái 10 | LIVING WITH THE GODS, LIVING FOR THE GODS | Michaela Macha 12 | THE WANDERER | Rod Turner 13 | SKALD'S SOLILOQUY | Michaela Macha 14 | INVOKING CONSENT | Wintersong Tashlin 17 | FINDING THE PATH | Lora O'Brien 21 | THE PATH THAT LEADS UPWARD | Elizabeth Vongvisith 26 | INTERVIEW: MIST OF KENAZ KINDRED | Maris Pái 29 | REVIEW: FULLTRÚI: PATRONS IN ÁSATRÚ | Maris Pái 30 | GODSPOUSE | Galina Krasskova 34 | THE SHARPIE FUTHARK | Damian Kemp 35 | ODIN ON THE TREE | Rod Turner 38 | IF THE GRAVEYARD SPOKE | Debra L. Scott 39 | WORK IS A PRAYER IN ITSELF | Joshua Tenpenny 41 | REVIEW (POINT): HOOFPRINTS IN THE WILDWOOD | John Sinnott 42 | (COUNTERPOINT): HOOFPRINTS IN THE WILDWOOD | Talas Pái 44 | PRIEST OF THOR | Rod Turner 47 | FIRESTARTER | Maris Pái 49 | A COOK'S PRAYER | Kjalar
HUGINN IS A BIANNUAL ONLINE MAGAZINE CREATED, EDITED AND PUBLISHED AT YULE AND MIDSUMMER BY TALAS AND MARIS Pﾃ！, OUT OF COUNTY ROSCOMMON, IRELAND. HUGINN IS AVAILABLE IN INDIVIDUAL ISSUES AS A .PDF AT HUGINNJOURNAL.COM OR IN PRINT BY ISSUE AT LULU.COM. COVER PHOTO ﾂｩ 2004 TALAS Pﾃ！. ALL CONTRIBUTIONS ARE COPYRIGHT THEIR INDIVIDUAL AUTHORS 2011. ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED. WWW.HUGINNJOURNAL.COM
1.2 : THE WORK
what matters is
the work: the string of words propelled by God becoming a poem, the weave of colour and graphite scrawled upon a sheet that magnifies His motion. To achieve within the work a perfect balance of faith and execution. From this state of mind becomes a light, life-charged. (Patti Smith)
Editorial: the Journal that nearly didn't happen I received a letter from a friend not long ago, asking about submitting to Huginn – would I be okay with him writing something? – and I surprised myself. Not by my reply; I'm happy for anyone with a relevant message to contribute an essay or a poem or a painting, whether they're Heathen or Neopagan or theologically skeptical or a shaman or (gasp!) a Wiccan. In fact, I think there's at least one of each in this issue alone. What surprised me was realizing how much a part of my Work Huginn has become. When I unwarily opened my mouth in early 2008 and suggested that someone should start a Heathen/Northern Tradition periodical, I didn't plan on being the person sitting in front of a laptop at two in the morning, putting the finishing touches on the first issue. And even after I'd finally swallowed the truism that he who suggests it, does it, I'd still been operating under the assumption that I'd have a big committee doing lots of backup. Spread the work around – you know, it would be easy! Famous last words. When the committee later fell through and we missed our self-imposed deadline, I tried to let Huginn go. I felt bad about it, especially at how much other people had invested in it and contributed to it, but I consoled myself with the fact that, like restaurants or small businesses or bands, most ambitious projects like this failed before they even became a blip on people's radar. I'd just put it down and slowly back away and we could all move on with our lives. Besides, projects that the gods themselves want done don't just peter out, do they? Personal human side projects might, but Assignments don't. And my complete inability to successfully escape became an increasingly clear indication that despite Huginn being “my” idea, it was also my Work. I argued with the Old Man. My sole experience in desktop publishing consisted of two semesters of high school journalism. I wasn't a writer, I wasn't a schmoozer, I hadn't been an editor in years. I wasn't even an extravert! This was not enough to found a magazine on! I argued that the politics around Huginn, around the entire area of HeathenryNeopaganism-shamanism that it was designed to serve, were too divisive. I argued that Huginn made sense in the zeitgeist of 2008 but now, a few years on, was rather past its prime. I argued that people didn't even need a magazine – they all had blogs or e-groups or their own books as a platform. He didn't bother arguing back. Instead I received, over a period of nearly two years, a slow but steady trickle of interest in Huginn despite its evident festering demise: regular applications to join an announcements group, occasional emails, just enough to demonstrate a small but determined need. The shame of not being able to actually weasel out of it, combined with my growing realization that Huginn was a place different from blogs or books or e-lists and that people had something they needed to say that they could only say in Huginn, prompted me in late 2010 to finish the thing I'd started and get a little peace. I figured I'd wrap up Huginn as a stand-alone volume and just put it out there. If it was still relevant, then good; otherwise it could stand as an artifact of the time it was conceived in. If people still wanted it, they could have it, and if they didn't, then at least it might shut Him up about it.
1.2 : THE WORK
Of course, it didn't go away. The response to the long-overdue Yule issue was overwhelmingly positive. People asked about the next issue – this issue – because they wanted to contribute to or read it. Whatever Huginn might have been, if it had succeeded before, was gone; I could see what Huginn needed to be, was going to be. And the praise I had personally received over the project seemed misdirected: Huginn, like all magazines, is written by the writers, not the editors. If Huginn was praiseworthy, it was because the artists and poets and essayists were talented (and they are). I had come to view myself merely as a curator (or – as He observed – an extremely argumentative and reluctant midwife). The Work of Huginn isn't about my ego or about becoming popular or well-known. It's not about constructing an exclusive forum or pushing politics or making money, it's not about being a personal power trip or even a boring hobby. I'm doing Huginn because the Old Man wants it done and because I don't want to disappoint everyone who needs this space. Keeping that in mind is perhaps the biggest part of the whole Huginn divine employment for me. While I curate Huginn based on what I think an archetypical construct of the Dear Reader needs – and that includes work from people who don't belong to Team Norse – I never forget that Huginn is about what He wants to say and what others need to say to each other. If I'm too censorious then maybe I'm censoring the message He wants out there. If I'm too laissez-faire about editing and discriminating then I lower the cachet of Huginn so that it doesn't get the respect it needs. If I'm rude to someone then I'm probably representing Him poorly. If I just blow the whole thing off and swear off publishing altogether, then He doesn't get His forum and I don't get any peace. I know all this from experience. It's a small part of why I write and edit under a pseudonym, albeit my oldest one which is truthfully very meaningful to me (which is very Himself anyway, so He doesn't seem to mind): so that I, the subjective and critical little raven over here with LOLcats and microwave popcorn and telephone bills, can't as easily potentially fuck up the public Work that 'Professional Odinsmaðr Talas Pái' is doing for Odin's Cosmic P.R. firm. Huginn is one of the best examples of a whole being bigger than the sum of its parts. I think in some ways it's become bigger than even He originally intended. This issue alone is proof of that: new writers, new artists, branching out and pulling in disparate elements that work together elegantly. I'm proud of everyone who's had a hand in making this happen. Let's get to Work. –
Talas Pái Editor email@example.com
Soul-Stirrer BY MICHAELA MACHA
"Drink", he said. I dared not ask the price. Dark was the brew as the eye that watched me, too heavy it seemed to be meant for a mortal. Sweet the first taste touching my lips but searing inside, singeing my throat, sour as sweat of nine summersÂ´ labor, bitter as blood spilt by the blade. Oblivion hovered around the rim, madness grinned in the depth of the horn; closing my eyes, I drank up the draught, drowning myself in fathomless darkness. A sea of sounds suddenly seethed, a maelstrom of words whirled in my mind; reeling rhythms and rhymes pulsed through me, a vortex of verses wheeling within. A song surged up and swelled to a flood that beat at my brain, bursting its dam with a beauty like pain, and broke from my mouth that as soon would have screamed, and I sang.
1.2 : THE WORK
Sawdust and Diamonds: the Tangible and Intangible Work of a Godspouse BY ANYA KLESS
To be married to a god means a lifetime of living in two worlds. It is embracing your own world with total abandon, because holding that world within you is part of what your divine spouse loves about you and needs from you. Simultaneously, it is venturing into Their world without preconceptions, because without seeing Them in context there is no understanding. That too is what your spouse loves and needs from you: that unique insight that comes with intimacy across time. Not surprisingly, holding that balance — serving as the root, the bridge, the touchstone — takes a large amount of work. It’s almost a cliché at this point to say that marriages take work. I remember groaning aloud on the day I finally understood that the phrase “I need to work on my marriage” was not just pop-psychology marketing but reality. In order to “succeed” in a healthy relationship, one needs to develop strong communication skills, patience and the ability to see things from the other’s point of view. Marriage to a god is no exception. This work is even more crucial for a godspouse because the stakes are higher: if our relationship breaks down, the work they accomplish breaks down as well. Looking over the previous paragraph, it’s apparent that I’m identifying two different types of “work” here: the work put into the relationship and the work produced by that relationship, input vs. output. Because I’ve written about the former elsewhere, I will consider the latter in this essay. What work do these unions accomplish, in this world and beyond? What tangible and intangible things do they create? Before I delve into particulars, it’s useful to define the dynamic of this work. What does it mean to work with an entity that is also your god and your husband? Here, I want to stress that I can only speak to my own experience. Please take this as my disclaimer that not all spouse or consort relationships look like mine, and although I use feminine pronouns to reference spouses in this essay, they can be of any sex, gender, or sexual orientation. Most spouses and consorts must also embody a variety of others roles for that deity: shaman, gythia, spirit worker, valkyrie, psychopomp, ordeal master, healer, etc. For some, the work they do with their divine spouse may be more under the auspices of one of these other roles. In these cases, it tends to be this role that dictates the relationship dynamic when there’s work to accomplish. In my case and to my surprise, it seems that most of my work for Odin falls under the auspices of the Wife role, even types of spirit work that might seem rather “unwifely,” like ordeal work. Thus our working relationship, both in its purpose and form, is shaped more by Husband/Wife roles than others' might be. Odin and I are partners in work. We are not equal partners, but I am neither His slave nor His servant. Those roles have their own value, but they just aren’t appropriate for our dynamic. As I’ve written elsewhere, I believe work as a spouse gives something of value to gods, something different than but equally as valuable as straightforward service. This also does not mean that I don’t serve elsewhere. As Lilith’s priestess, She is my boss. I worship Her, strive to make myself a better employee, and almost never question Her 5
choices. While Odin doesn’t approach me as a Boss, I certainly do things on His behalf. Maybe the best description I can find is that He shares His work with me. I do it of my own will — although He can be quite persuasive — out of a sense of shared goals. So what is this work? For the purposes of this essay, I’m going to split this into two categories. First, there is the tangible — things that take root in this world. We might think of this as the sawdust, the results of physical care and labor. Second, there is the intangible — things that lack physical form and exist in the world of abstraction. I call this the diamonds: while they have a physical aspect to them, we can never quite touch their beauty or their nature. They exist in the realm of mystery and abstraction. Sawdust Within the tangible, there are two categories: the Home and the World. A spouse creates and maintains a home for a god in this world, taking on the role of (dare I say it?) a Homemaker. Moving past my knee-jerk radical feminist reaction to that term, I think it’s worth asking what it means to “make” such a thing. Before anything else can be done, it requires the creation of a sacred space, a sanctuary in this world for the god. An altar usually is not sufficient: there is a need for a space, even a single room, that is the shared ownership of the couple. I was surprised how literally this shared ownership manifested itself when I recently moved into a new apartment. I had been excited about the prospect of living alone... then Odin requested that I get blinds for my windows, sleep in certain clothing, and hang photos from our wedding. I finally recognized that this was our apartment and needed to be acknowledged as such. Within the space, the god may come and go in as much comfort as possible. This space creates a gateway and an anchor in this world — a pushpin in the map of the worlds where the god is always welcome. I would go as far as to say that the spouse herself becomes this space: the home of the god lies within her. In it the god can seek solace, pleasure, communion and understanding, just as the human spouse can seek the same. There is a mutuality, a give and take that sustains the space and the relationship itself. Depending on the relationship, there may be a variety of “Homemaking” tasks that one does: managing finances, rearing children (creative, astral or embodied), making meals for the spouse, etc. One thing that seems to be important to Odin is that I offer Him alcohol every Wednesday night in our marriage cup, drinking a sip from it myself. It's a literal enactment of the vow that we will share burdens, joys, and work. A spouse may also be shouldered with the management of some of the god’s affairs, which brings me from the Home to the World. While the Home requires skill in caregiving and management, the World requires diplomacy and public relations. Again, the particulars of this role may vary widely but the best name I can find for it is Ambassador. As such, the spouse acts as an “accredited” representative or promoter of her god’s interests and goals. Tasks may include maintaining a good relationship with others associated with that god, visiting or interacting with those in need of the god’s presence or counsel, and public writing, speaking, or teaching. The god may seek the spouse’s advice on certain issues, or ask that the spouse come up with her own solutions to certain problems. She learns to troubleshoot, to give wise counsel, and to keep her line of
1.2 : THE WORK
communication with the god as clear and strong as possible. Fieldwork done with a garbled or misunderstood signal can have serious consequences. Diamonds These are the brilliant things that cannot be contained in the physical. I’ll briefly touch on two concepts here: affinity and intersubjectivity. Both concern the value of intimacy and longevity between a god and a human spouse. The etymology of the term affinity stresses borders, the exact point where one ends and the other begins, often blurred or overlapping in these relationships. It signifies a shared experience without a collapse into singularity. Thus the lovers recognize themselves in each other, but not as each other — maintaining individual identities even as they feel themselves spiritually, psychologically and even physically fusing together. One of the lessons I’ve learned from Odin is that His spouses all reflect a piece of Him back at Himself. In my own case, I am the wife of His youth, who knows Him at His most human. I am the one charged with holding His hope, even in the face of a known future. In 1809, Wolfgang von Goethe published the novel Elective Affinities, which bore the alternative title Kindred by Choice. Goethe took his title from a chemical term used to describe the tendency of compounds to combine with certain substances in preference to others. In his novel, Goethe used this as metaphor for marriage, particularly an investigation into its two driving forces, responsibility and passion. This seems to be yet another apt pairing to describe my work: to help shoulder His responsibilities and to help sustain Him with my own passion. Because of the mutuality of an affinity between god/human pairs, it can be more accurately described as intersubjective rather than subjective, a meeting of self and self rather than self and other. Many intersubjective theorists have been influenced by the writings of Martin Buber, an Israeli religious philosopher. Buber argued that religious experience involves reciprocal relationships with a personal subject, rather than knowledge of some “thing.” He named this an “I-Thou” relationship, which stresses mutuality, openness, and directness in contrast to the “I-It,” which lacks these qualities. In the “I-Thou” model, selves experience a mutual turning towards the other through which they view each other wholly as selves. Working from Buber, Ludwig Binswanger would later assert that “to be in a dialogue is to be embedded in relation.” It is this constant dialogue between two complementary yet distinct selves that is emblematic of the godspouse relationship. It is an embedded state. Perhaps fittingly for a wife of Odin, I will end with a connection to an opera I recently saw live, Wagner’s Die Walküre. In Act 2 Scene 2, Wotan laments that he has no humans to cooperate with Him of their own free will: How can I find that Other, no longer part of me, who of his own accord will do what I alone desire? With disgust I find only myself, every time, in everything I create. The Other for whom I long, 7
that Other I can never find: for the free man has to create himself; I can only create subjects to myself. (Andrew Porter, trans.) At the risk of sounding too theoretical, I interpret this passage as Wotan’s frustration at the lack of intersubjectivity in His relations with humans. He recognizes and yearns for Otherness, the thing that is not Himself or His Will yet will nonetheless do His work. Of course, in Wagner’s tale, Wotan’s grandson Siegfried fulfills this role and, of course, the opera is a fictional account, not lore. Yet as my opera-going companion and I discussed afterward, some things hit uncannily close to home. Both godspouses, we each found pieces in the performance of what we know of Odin. For me, this moment caused a pang. As the actor sang these words, voicing His desire, I found myself fighting not to answer, “I am here. This wife is your Other, and she is here.” Anya Kless is dual-tradition, polytheistic pagan priestess, godspouse, and spirit worker. She is the author of Lilith: Queen of the Desert and an upcoming book on the godspouse path. She writes regularly at her Wordpress blog, "The Fruit of Pain" (fruitofpain.wordpress.com).
1.2 : THE WORK
The First Lesson BY MARIS Pﾃ！
The first lesson, She said, is to look at the path before you: None of this eyes-downcast fear. No more stomach-clenched dread Of all the things you don't and can't know. Because, Little One, all the things you don't and can't know are legion and I will not have one of my own flinching at shadows. Look at your path and do not cower. Square your shoulders and lift your chin. Have you not realised your own strength by now? There are as many paths to the Tree as there are stars in the sky: it matters less which you choose than that you have chosen and been chosen and that you continue to choose to put one foot in front of the other and walk the road ahead of you. Sometimes you will walk on razor-blades, each step an agonised trudge, and sometimes you will run, eager to reach that which lies ahead, or eager again to flee that which came before. The dragons you do not slay may chase you down later and find you unguarded: better to face them the first time and not be tripped up later and find that the smoke ahead is not a friendly bonfire or hearth but new immolation. I am in the staff by your side and your backbone and your feet and I am the falcon soaring high above, leading you to the rising sun and dazzling your eyes when what your focus should be is the journey and not the potholes. Maris Pﾃ｡i (marispai.wordpress.com), Huginn's assistant editor, is a heathen author, poet and digital artist based in the west of Ireland. See her online portfolio at marisvision.deviantart.com.
Living with the Gods, Living for the Gods BY MICHAELA MACHA
The core of my religion, Enlightened Ásatrú, is my relationship and connection to the Aesir and Vanir. Like any close relationship, it is constantly developing, and the more regularly I pay attention to it, the more rewarding and deeper it becomes. Spirituality is the term I use for the sum of my feelings, thoughts and deeds in respect to that relationship. Pretty much anything in my life is, or can become, spiritual if I choose to do it mindful of the Gods. After long years, I have finally found a faith (or been found by it) where I feel at home. I am there; the Gods are there; we are friendly towards each other. That sounds like little, yet is more than enough. Basically, nothing more needs to be done. But that connection gives me so much joy, optimism and extra energy that I have always felt the urge to give something back -- to the Aesir and to my fellow heathens, which in reality comes down to pretty much the same thing. In doing that I also feel I'm doing something for myself. So from the start, my and my partner´s spirituality has been strongly dominated by the "Work" aspect and that´s what usually comes up first when we talk about how we live our religion. Michael and I live in Frankfurt, Germany. There was little by or for heathens in our part of the world, so we set out to change that. In 2004, we started a regular monthly pubmoot and celebrating blóts at the four major holidays. We went to heathen gatherings in Denmark and the Netherlands, and joined the Troth. Through networking in and beyond Europe, we found like-minded spiritual people from all parts of Midgard, and joined together with those who became close friends in the "Ásatrú Ring Frankfurt & Midgard". Our members hail from Australia to Canada, from the USA to Brazil. Ásatrúringfrankfurt.de is intended as an encompassing resource for the greater Ásatrú community and provides a wide spectrum of articles, prayers, poems, songs, rituals and recipes in German, English, and recently Portuguese. We answer to questions and requests from new or solitary heathens, who keep coming out of the woodwork all over Germany. We have given several interviews to students and teachers of comparative religion; one of them participated fully in our last Yule blót. We constantly experiment with new crafting techniques to create things which heathens can see, touch, use, and carry into their every day lives to remind them of the Gods' presence. I always jokingly say that my true altar is not the one I have set up in my bedroom, but my computer. It is there where I have for years sacrificed a huge part of my free time (and sometimes, my nerves). I use 'sacrifice' also in the original meaning of the word, 'to make holy', and I feel it is an exchange -- I give, but I also receive at the same time. The fact alone that I have found a faith that moves me so deeply and which gives me a purpose, a mold to pour my energy and creativity into and for which to use my Gods-given human gifts and talents, fills me with humbleness and awe. All of this started in 2004 when I found myself irresistibly drawn to Odin and desperately wanted to do something for him. I dedicated myself to him and took the valknot, but when I discovered I did not actually end up speared and hanging on a tree the next day, I figured I had to find me some work to pass the time until then! Runes, seidh and martial arts were nothing I felt affinity for. However, I found Odin's aspect as inspirer 10
1.2 : THE WORK
of skaldcraft sorely underrepresented in discussions and websites. Only with great effort could a scant few heathen poems be found on the internet. To me, poetry is the distilled essence of spirituality, and as needful to a religion as prayers. So I started to write poetry for Odin myself, to collect all the heathen poems available and to encourage people to write. I worked at my website long hours night after night with a single-mindedness and stubborn obsession that I cannot but attribute to Odin, and which left me only after four years and several burnouts. Odin is definitely not about moderation. Now, while I still work a lot, I balance my energy better. It wasn't easy for me to arrive at this compromise -I feel the Old Man more intensely when I abandon myself to the extremes of work and creativity, but nowadays I just don't have the strength to keep it up for a long stretch of time. It's not as though I didn't have a day job as a doctor, either. Fortunately, Odin has never given me any deadlines. I suspect he knows I'd tell him I work as fast as I possibly can anyway and am perfectly able to push myself over the edge even if he doesn't! Especially in the beginning, I have often wondered whether Odin was more interested in my being effective or my being ecstatic while working; whether he'd prefer me to work long years with a small but steady flame or to go out in a glorious blaze of workaholism. Also, I kept wondering whether his gift of frenzy (and the occasional pain) was a means to an end or an end in itself. Him being himself, it's probably all of it rather than an either-or... In the end, I've resigned myself to the notion that no matter what, no matter how fast and how much I do for him, and for how many years, it will never be “enough” anyway. For my part as I'll always feel the urge to do still more for him, and for his part “enough” simply isn't in his line of thinking. In light of this, I've decided it might be acceptable for me to go about things a wee tiny bit slower... To sum up my websites: "Odin´s Gift" currently features over 1,700 poems, songs, stories, and MP3s. I'd like to extend my heartfelt thanks once again to everyone who contributed their works, and without whom this collection would simply not be possible. "Skaldenmet" has over 600 German heathen songs and poems. "Loki´s Laughter" and "Lokis Lachen" show the light side of heathenry. My first album Der Ruf der Götter (The Call of the Gods) with 15 heathen folk/rock songs (English lyrics included) will soon be followed by a second album. I'm also working on a printed heathen songbook with notation and guitar tabs. Our work is balanced by internal prayer and meditation, which we do informally between our daily chores, and the occasional informal ritual, usually at home. Needless to say, we spend a large part of our partnership discussing projects related to Ásatrú, and the next task at hand. Whichever way(s) to the Gods one chooses, they are as many as the Gods themselves. We are aware of the the Gods' presence, whether in the office, the shower, or the open fields. We work actively to enhance that bond for ourselves and for the Ásatrú community. We find our identity and roots in our relationship to the Aesir and Vanir. That is why we chose as the motto for our Ásatrú Ring: Living with the Gods. Living for the Gods. Living through the Gods.
“The Wanderer” by Rod Turner 12
1.2 : THE WORK
Skald's Soliloquy BY MICHAELA MACHA
For food and laughter I long ceased to care. My company are the verses I would write. I grasp at beauty as at empty air and sacrifice another sleepless night. To serve you as a skald is sweet and rough. Your gift of madness rages in my breast. Now verses pour, but are they good enough? At last I faint to sleep but find no rest. I wonder if you care, or even knew. In fitful dreams I catch a glimpse of you.
Invoking Consent BY WINTERSONG TASHLIN
The pagan demographic has a consent problem. There are no other circles I travel in where invasive, non-consensual interactions between people is not only rampant, but a cultural hallmark. Ours is a spiritual community where it is accepted practice to force intimate contact on another person. The fact that this can be emotionally and physically harmful is dismissed when it is raised, which is rarely. I have been a victim of this practice, as has my spouse; so too have one of my past and one of my current lovers. Friends, clients and strangers have their own tales of harm caused by the warped standards of consent and boundaries found in pagan individuals, gatherings and circles. What I am talking about here is being the target of energy work and magic that is routinely forced on people without discussion or consent. The people who engage in this behavior often defend the practice with assertions of good intent, as if their intentions alone excuses the violation of another individual's being. There are a great many people in the world who would consider this a non-issue, people who would say, “I don't believe in all that woo-woo stuff.” What I would ask to the people who engage in these practices without proper consent is: do you believe what you are doing? We cannot have it both ways. If our Work can help and heal, then it can also harm. Without water, life could not exist on our planet, but trying telling people in Northern Japan or the banks of the Mississippi River that water can do no harm because it is good. As a shaman, magician and healer, I would never dismiss the benefits of energy and healing magic. However, while insulin injections can be vital to staying alive for a diabetic, walking up to a friend and plunging a syringe of it into their side would be dangerous, and undeniably constitute assault. In my mind, that is little different than what happens when an energy worker or magical healer walks up to someone and starts working on them without discussion. When a massage therapist decided to do energy work during a session to “cure” my shamanism, that was a violation. When an acquaintance pushed Reiki into my chest during a friendly hug, that was a violation. When I was waiting on a cancer diagnosis that fortunately never came, the barrage of unsolicited “healing energy” sent by strangers and Facebook friends was a violation. When an energy healer decided to “fix” a transgender client of a colleague of mine, that was a horrific violation. When non-consensual energy work is done on anyone with the capacity to consent, that is a violation. The ends do not justify the means.
1.2 : THE WORK
I have theories about the origin of some of these behaviors and their place in the pagan community. It is tempting to believe that the people committing these violations have not fully committed to the idea of energy and magic, and hence, do not accept the idea that it could cause harm. Over time I have come to believe that this is the case for some people, but I do not think it applies to the majority. Similarly, there are people who cannot believe themselves or their energy modality to be capable of causing distress. If it is inconceivable that one's actions could have negative consequences, it becomes easy to rationalize violating another person “for their own good.” This perspective is actually reinforced in more than one energy healing modality. I have spoken to a number of practitioners who steadfastly assert that their healing methods cannot have negative results. My own practices are eclectic, and it is in the nature of the Vreschtik to stand somewhat outside of community, which has put us in a position to view many different practices from a relatively objective perspective. I have witnessed, and personally experienced, that these modalities are capable of causing harm, a fact which their practitioners insist I, and everyone else who would make this argument, must be in error about. What I find unacceptable is the theory that the pagan demographic does not have not have strong cultural contexts of consent. From feminist roots to BDSM spirituality, there are innumerable threads, histories, and traditions in paganism that place a high or paramount emphasis on consent. Granted there are those, like Konstantinos, who have publicly argued the value of non-consensual magic. I believe however, that those voices are drowned out by a chorus of disagreement. What then, can be done to change this destructive pattern within pagan society? The first thing that must happen is for the culture in many segments of the pagan demographic to shift, such that rejecting offered energy is not seen as an insult or slight. I believe that many people force energy onto others because they fear having their offer rejected, and the stigma being reject can carry in pagan culture. People also need to feel supported by their community in such a way that they can call out someone who engages in energetic violation, regardless of intent. I am a skilled magician, a shaman, and well respected in the pagan community. Yet when my right to be free from violation was recently transgressed, I did not feel I would be supported in saying anything to the transgressor. When I discussed the issue with a prominent member of that person's community, I was told essentially “that's just who they are.” If I was not comfortable engaging in the moment, and my concerns were later brushed aside, what hope does someone without my position in the community have of being able to speak up and be heard? We need to stop drawing emotional distinctions between the physical body and the energy body. It is my fervent belief that the majority of people who frequently violate another's energy body, would never do the same to their physical self. At the same time, we also need to establish that consent to physical contact does not inherently equal consent to energetic or magical contact. In my own mind, my willingness to hug someone does not give them permission to work magic on me during said hug, yet I suspect that to them it did. As a fellow member of my Clan pointed out recently, pagan rhetoric and teaching is full of language of “connection,” yet rarely addresses issues of boundaries and when 15
“connecting” is a terrible idea. In his words, “Sometimes the trees really just need their space thank you very much.” His fundamental point was that we cannot expect people who are told from the beginning of their journey into this world to “open” themselves and energetically connect to nature, the gods, and each other, to know how and when to draw appropriate boundaries. Another point that has been raised recently in discussions over this issue is one of confronting the spiritual and mental baggage of people's milk religions. Although this is slowly changing, we are fundamentally a demographic made up of converts. Several friends and colleagues have pointed out that sending energy without discussion or consent has become the pagan version of “I'll pray for you.” There is a hesitancy in the pagan demographic towards prayer, likely because of associations with one's childhood experiences. The problem with sending healing energy is that while for some this has become cultural code for something nearly indistinguishable from prayer, for others it can mean working focused energy or magic that may not be appropriate or welcome. Finally, we need to be willing to use language to provide context. Doubtless there are going to be those who read this piece and take umbrage at the use of the word “violation.” However, that is the sentiment all too often expressed by people who have had energy work or magic inflicted on them without consent. If that perspective makes you uncomfortable, it may be time to take a hard look at yourself and your practices. Perhaps you see yourself reflected in this discussion. To you I say this: there is such a thing as benevolent harm. One does not need ill will to cause injury, or to violate another person's rights. That you engage in these problematic practices does not mean that you are a bad person, or even a bad healer. However, it is harmful to take away another person's ability to consent, even if the energy/magic you provide does them good. I will not deny that there are rare circumstances where one of us may be called upon in an emergency that does not have time or room for consent. In those situations I would encourage our healers to follow similar standards of care to those of an emergency trauma ward. Seek consent from the subject if at all possible, from someone who is empowered to give consent if they are fully incapacitated, and failing the availability of all of those, do the minimum possible to get them into a place to give consent. I would never argue that the pagan demographic should abandon the healing traditions that form a vital part of our identity. I have faith that we can adapt our practices so that we treat each other with dignity and respect, rather than force and disregard. Wintersong Tashlin (barkingshaman.com) is a shaman, magician, presenter, and activist who has worked extensively in the pagan and alternative sexuality communities. A founding member of Clan Tashlin (Tashrisketlin), he has devoted much of his life to the study and application of magic, and to the relationship between humans and the gods and spirits. He is in service to a deity of productive destruction, and his ritual work centers around transformation and renewal.
1.2 : THE WORK
Finding the path BY LORA O'BRIEN
Hands up: I’m not a Heathen, in the Norse Tradition sense of the word at least. I do live out in the countryside -- right beside a bog actually -- but I’m not sure if that counts. In fact, I knew very little about Norse traditions and lore until I met Talas and Maris Pái. I was way too busy with the native Irish business, not to mention Traditional Wicca and all that jazz. But when two impressive Pagan intellects (along with the rest of their bodies, of course) walk through your front door on a rainy Monday evening in rural Ireland, it’s only polite to engage in mutual discourse and exchange, right? And so here I am, a year and a bit on, contributing to a Heathen journal. On the surface of things, it is rather odd that we should all randomly end up in the middle of County Roscommon. And not just the aforementioned intellects either; quite a few strong Pagan types have ended up in the vicinity, whether permanently or just passing through, in the 10 years or so that I’ve been here. We’ve hosted witches, druids, bards, Tantra practitioners, warriors, shamans, seanchaí (storytellers), and can even boast having had the 10th degree of the OTO Foundation, Irish Kingdom. It seems that few of them, if any, actually planned to be here. I certainly didn’t. Yes, I wanted a quiet rural location and a house I could afford, to raise my family. The exact location was pretty damn irrelevant at the time – ‘anywhere away from here’ being the main driving force for me. I very nearly bought a house in County Clare, my mother’s ancestral home county. The Tarot decided me eventually; one card per county and the most fortuitous was The Empress in Roscommon. I am sorry to admit that my first question was… where is Roscommon? We found it on the internet, a suitable house was located, viewed, and once the sale was agreed, it occurred to me that perhaps, ya know, just maybe, I should do a wee bit of research as to what sort of a place I’d be bringing up my kids in. The results were something of an eye opener – Rathcroghan, seat of the kings and queens of Connacht, Ireland’s western province, for over 2000 years. A vast complex of multi-layered archaeological sites, steeped in myth and legend, epic literary history, and all sorts of infamous folklore. I’d read stories of Cruachan, knew the history of Queen Maedbh and the Cattle Raid of Cooley, but had somehow failed to connect it to the real-life county of Roscommon. And the cave. Her cave. Right bang in the middle of Rathcroghan, this historical and archaeological greatness, lies the entrance to the Otherworld. The Gates of Hell. I was Wiccan at the time. I'd found a coven to train in when I turned 18, and luckily it was a really good one. There wasn’t much in Ireland at the time, and that was before we had this newfangled internet craziness, so I was blessed to find a group with whom I could develop safely, was encouraged to grow at my own pace, and used the Trad Wicca structure as a foundation to explore wherever my path led me. My roots though, my family learning, were all about the old stories -- the folk and fairy tales, natural awareness, myths and legends. I received my 3rd degree, recognition as a Wiccan High Priestess, with thanks and respect. At the time was sure I was leaving it all behind as I moved west to begin my new life.
The Wiccan relationship to Deity is very civilized. It’s not that the High Priestess or High Priest doesn’t get ridden – anybody who’s witnessed a proper Drawing Down the Moon (or Sun) can attest to the strength and power that is tapped through the ritual. The invocation can be oracular or full-on possession, and even evocations have a particularly flavored energy that is undeniably common across all circles and all covens. Of course Wiccans individually will have their own relationships with their gods, but as far as the group work of the tradition goes, I’d experienced powerful but mostly genteel interaction with the gods, in a structured, formal setting. I was somewhat prepared, in that I knew what Deity felt like, inside or outside of myself. I could recognise energy patterns and flavours, what ‘smelled’ right and what didn’t, and I had a good grounding in protection and, well, grounding. During our first exploration of Rathcroghan, I brought my family and we stopped at one of the sites. I entered respectfully, introduced us all, and basically said hi to the natives. When we later took the guided tour at the local heritage centre, I was a little disappointed to learn that this visually impressive ring fort was not a major ceremonial site, simply a medieval domestic settlement. Recent geophysical research has shown that there is an older, larger site underneath, but whatever the original function, it was an appropriate enough first port of call. That tour taught me a whole lot I hadn’t found out through my own research, and we were fortunate to get a guide who seemed as excited about the mythology as I was. Rathcroghan's main mound is at least as old as Newgrange, older than Tara or any of the other well known ‘Celtic’ sites, and the whole complex is the best preserved royal site in Europe. The layers fascinated me – whole eras of our history represented, the landscape being added to but never taken from, sacred sites recycled countless times; but always the theme of kingship and the major burials for an entire province, stretching for thousands of years, contained in this relatively tiny geographical area. What is it that makes this place important enough to keep the big knobs from every tribe in every age ceremonially and practically anchored to this spot? What is it that continues to draw tuned-in people from all over the world – literally -- to visit and even live in this place? I’m still not sure of the answer, or if there even can be a definitive answer. My own path has led me here and I’m still trying to figure out the specifics of how to achieve the work that’s been put before me. The Work: that’s the key, isn’t it? If we can figure out what our Work is, what it is that we’re supposed to be doing on this spin around the merry-go-round, we’re doing well. Thelema names it your ‘True Will’; every man and every woman is a star, and if we’re all traversing on our proper orbit there’ll be no unplanned collisions and the universe all runs along smoothly. Neopaganism colludes to the idea of ‘finding your path’, walking along, doing whatever that it’s right for you to be doing. Wicca presents the idea “An it harm none, do what you will” -- based loosely on lines from Liber al vel Legis, granted -- but develops this Rede into a much debated and often wide-ranging philosophy that nonetheless consistently focuses on doing your own thing. Not just what you, like, want to be doing, dude -- but what you actually know to be the right thing. Those of us who take the leadership and priesthood/shamanic responsibility seriously know that all of this means one thing. Work. It means we have stuff to do, sometimes lots of stuff to do, and usually not enough hours in the day in which to do it. But how do we know what to do? I didn’t have the benefits of a visit from an angel,
1.2 : THE WORK
providing a detailed task list for me to achieve. Nor did I find myself in the middle of an Aisling (vision) dream full of fancy maidens and clear instructions. What did I get? Crows. Flocks of bloody crows, collectively known as a ‘murder,’ you know, and for good reason. Noisy bastards they are. After a couple of weeks of constant cawing, tapping at the windows, landing on the car, and other assorted okay-for-a-once-off-but-weird-thatthis-is-regular sort of behaviours, it started to penetrate my skull that perhaps there was a message of some sort going on here. (Maybe? Ya think?) Thus I started a relationship with a little old Irish goddess named Morrigan. She is well enough known to not need too much of an intro, but for those who haven’t happened across her – she is known as a battle goddess, the “Witch of the Tuatha Dé Danaan”, bitch of blood and battle. You will see her name translated as ‘Phantom Queen’ or ‘Great Queen,’ the difference being whether or not there should have been a fada over the 'o': Mor Rioghain or Mór Rioghain. For what it’s worth, she’s always used the Great Queen epithet in my experience with her. Visits to her cave proved… interesting. That’s the previously mentioned ‘Gates of Hell’: a slippery muddy climb down into the darkness, envelopment in complete black, divine communication, and a rebirth journey to above. There were tattoos taken to my flesh – a blood sacrifice and trial, a commitment that stretched both ways. In time and with patience, I came to understand what she wanted. It boiled down to two major commands: (1) disseminate real information, and (2) inspire the next generation. Um, okay then. By that point, I was already involved in the Neopagan community -teaching, talking, training students. I also had two children, and was raising them in an open and -- I hoped -- encouraging environment. I figured I was already doing my bit for the cause. My response to her was, that if there is more required of me, cough up with the support system to enable it. When I said I started a relationship, I meant it – it goes both ways. I will not work in a vacuum! As a day job, I was running my own business, but the location was wrong and it needed a change. I had given notice and sourced new premises, all set to move onwards and upwards, when I was contacted by the book publishers I’d been talking with. The book proposal I’d sent was not what they were looking for apparently, but they loved my writing and wanted to work with me. Was there something else I could let them look at, something that hadn’t been seen before, perhaps? The book I’d always wanted to read but hadn't been written popped into my mind immediately. Irish witchcraft: looking at native folklore, gods, traditions, seasonal celebrations and historical information, as well as a wee bit on how my own path was developing, for reference and support. Although Ireland has a strong Neopagan and magical community, we’re all so damn individualistic there’s a lot of solo practitioners. I was offered a book contract immediately. With a very tight deadline, that forced me to quit the business expansion plans and focus just on the writing. It was the first time a book on Irish magical traditions, with actual academic research and experience, had been published by a real live Irish magical-type person. Does that sound suspiciously like “disseminating real information” to anybody else? Then came the somewhat inevitable process of breaking down in order to rebuild. Another child was born -- very effectively stalling the writing career – then a messy marriage break-up and financial difficulty. A part-time job came up locally as a tour guide in the Rathcroghan heritage centre. Two months later, they asked me to take on the 19
newly-vacated manager’s position. I would be dealing with national heritage and tourism bodies, county administration and educational establishments, as well as living history events, school tours and visitors. But I had no child-minding facility, no local support system, and no clue as to how I could manage -- logistically or emotionally -- single parenting three young children, plus a demanding full-time job. It was not lost on me that this job would quite neatly fulfill both of the primary requirements of my goddess. My response was: if you want me to do this job, you will need to move your arse and make it possible -- nay, easy -- for me to do it. A series of fortunate events coincided around that very time to ensure that my children got the best schooling and care outside the home that they could possibly receive while I was working, including the inception, development and building of an advanced child-care facility in the village. The heritage tour guide job was mine. There is a small but perfectly formed network of local friends, as well as the wider friends and family who provide exceptional support, encouragement, and occasional sympathetic ears, shoulders to cry on, loving nagging care, or sword and spear fights to let off steam. I’ve even been blessed with a new relationship, completely unsought and unexpected, a helpful partner who adores my children and delights in working hard to make my life easier. He’s the icing on the cake. Overall, there is a practical, give-and-take, working relationship with a deity best known for her darkness and general badassery. She helps me to work for her. Because of my work there are people all over the world who know that ‘Witta’ and ‘Druidism’ are not the only available options if you feel drawn towards Irish magical traditions. Because of my work, one of the best preserved and most important archaeological and mythological ‘Celtic’ sites in the world is finally receiving the recognition and respectful development that it so richly deserves, including nomination to the list for UNESCO World Heritage Status. I have refused to formally dedicate my children to her (really, what was she thinking?!), but because of my work there is an ever-increasing youth population who are more informed and occasionally even excited about Irish history and heritage. They are the landowners, politicians and decision-makers of the future. Her sovereignty and prophecy/guidance aspects are not to be ignored. My work is sufficient for myself, my goddess, and what I've been given. What I wonder now though is: is there is a bigger picture to this Work? Who else has received a similar or common directive? Letters to the Editor or directly to me would be an intriguing way to compile a pattern. Lora O’Brien (obrienink.blogspot.com) is a Bandraoí, freelance writer and the author of Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch. When she's not teaching or working on her upcoming second book, she reenacts with Faol Lia (faollia.webs.com). You can find some of that real information about the hardest working site in Ireland at Rathcroghan.ie .
1.2 : THE WORK
The Path that Leads Upward: Pagan Monasticism BY ELIZABETH VONGVISITH
When I wake up, I open my eyes to daylight coming through the blinds of my room. Sometimes it’s bright and golden; at other times, it’s muted and gray. Occasionally it’s fading, if I happen to wake late in the wintertime. Even more occasionally, it’s that hesitant first light of dawn. No matter what time I awaken, though, I try to leave the dreams and impressions of sleep behind and focus on being awake in the present moment. Often, I feel His presence. I am the spouse of a god, as well as being a nun, and this involves a kind of closeness only hinted at, or described in veiled terms, in other traditions where nuns are named more openly as brides of their gods. I enjoy awakening to the feeling of heat and pressure that signals that Loki is near, sometimes accompanied by the pinprick heat of His closeness. And then I hear His voice, sometimes saying frivolous things, or a dry remark that makes me laugh, or something too personal to relate here. I have very, very seldom dreamt of my Beloved, but His presence in my waking life is so constant and so frequent that I do not miss Him while I sleep. After a time, I turn to the window and say, either softly aloud or in my mind, the words translated by my friend Galina that come from the old tales of the Northlands: Hail to the day! Hail, Day’s sons! Hail to Night and Her daughters! With loving eyes, look upon us here, And bring us victory! Hail to the Gods! Hail to the Goddesses! Hail to the mighty, fecund Earth! Eloquence and native wit Bestow on us here, And healing hands while we live!† I don’t always spring out of bed ready to face the world. Sometimes I lie there for a while longer, thinking of what needs to be done, or feeling the presence of my Beloved. Sometimes I do more than feel His presence, but those things are sacred and personal, so I shall not speak of them here. Sometimes, honestly, I lie there dreading the day. Monastics are no less human and no less fallible than other people, and sometimes we too, despite our cloisters and our regulated lives, are tempted to hide under the blankets and pretend that there aren’t duties to uphold and tasks to be accomplished. But if we are monastics, we know too that we have taken oaths before gods and men to do these things… so we get up. My days are not long, ritualized events full of prayer, ceremony, and things not of this world. They are, for the most part, rather ordinary: chores, writing, answering email, †
Krasskova, Galina. Sigdrifa's Prayer: an exploration and exegesis. 2nd ed. Hubbardston, MA: Asphodel Press, 2007. Print.
and reading, in addition to prayer and time spent in communion with my Beloved and my other gods. I still have to do my laundry, like everyone else. I am a priestess, but not a High Priestess in a temple full of acolytes and servants, and I am a solitary nun, so there is no community with which to rotate tasks. I do it on my own, and many times, the ordinary responsibilities take more time and effort than the numinous ones. I don’t see that fact as negating my vocation. Indeed, as a pagan, I believe that this world and the others near it are not as far apart as we believe. It’s our perceptions that widen the gap, mostly. This is likewise true for the perceived gap between the sacred and the mundane, which is an essential part of some religious viewpoints, but has less justification in arcane faiths where we do not reject the material world, with its benefits and blessings, as obstacles to understanding or temptations to be overcome. Our bodies, the plants and animals which live around us, the cycles of time and nature, and the turning world we share are all manifestations of the Divine, no less than the gods Themselves are. Therefore, even the most banal earthly act has the potential to be seen as a thing of holiness. Granted, it can be hard to remember this as I strive to wash a mountain of filthy dishes, encumbered by an uncertain hot water supply, the unwelcome blare of a TV coming from behind me, and the unpleasant scent of the chicken house wafting through the window over the sink. It’s hard for me to see sacredness embodied in the neighbor who rudely revs his engine outside my bedroom window, or the annoying sciatica pain in my left leg, or the unwanted medications I have to take each morning and night to keep my body functional. But it is there, and this is where one of the most important monastic values, in my mind, comes into play: mindfulness. Mindfulness is what allows us to remember who we really are, to see our true part in the web of Wyrd beyond the events of our daily lives, and to feel a connection to our people, past, present, and future. So, in the spirit of mindfulness, I try to infuse my daily duties with an attitude of humor, gratitude, and respect. I may not like washing dishes, but at least I have dishes, and food to eat from them. I may not appreciate my housemate’s blaring TV, but on the other hand, she’s willing to take out the compost – a job I loathe. I may sometimes long for true solitude instead of the group living situation I am in now, where I am the only monastic, but at least I do not live among those unwilling to respect my desire for privacy, or who don’t understand how it is to be god-touched. I clean the kitchen and think of Holda. I dust my altars and pray to my gods for wisdom and understanding. I answer email and strive to express myself with patience and respect. I give food I have cooked to my gods and thank Them for sharing what They have with me, too. This constant integration of the holy and the ordinary is something I feel is key to a successful life as a pagan monastic, otherwise one becomes either bogged down in details, or on the other hand, too far removed from the world. Living “in the world, but not of it,” as the saying goes, takes a certain knack, and it might well take some experimentation to find which way works best for an individual. I’m still struggling with it, myself. Perhaps I will spend the rest of my life trying to figure out the balance… but that’s all right. It is in the effort that we really discover our potential, whereas the results merely affirm it to the rest of the world. Another value I find important as a monastic is that of service. Service to the gods is a given, but what about service to one’s family, or to one’s community (or intersecting communities, as the case may be) or to the greater society at large? To the world, to the 22
1.2 : THE WORK
human race? These things are all important, and unless you really are a hermit living far from other human contact (in which case, it’s doubtful you’d be reading this article anyway), what service are you prepared to render? It is not enough to merely decide you’re going to serve the gods doing what you are already doing, I have discovered. You have to ask Them how They wish to be served. It is also not enough to decide that your ordinary responsibilities, the things any citizen owes and is used to doing, are enough. What will you do consciously to serve your tribe, your kindred, your church or town or country? Often, without our awareness, the gods work through our hands. We do not always get to pick and choose when or where that happens, however, and so I feel that pagan monastics should serve our people, whoever they are, and trust that we are serving our gods as well when They deem it appropriate. In my own life, I am the gydja of a kindred, and I organize a small but significant Northern Tradition weekend event each year. I do divination and counseling for people in my kindred and in the Neopagan church I attend, and sometimes for strangers as well. I sing in the church choir. I try to keep the communal kitchen of my household clean and semi-organized, as much for She who owns our home as I do for myself and my housemates. I vote in almost every election, no matter how small. I’ve gotten involved in my community’s historical society, and have donated money and goods to causes both local and national, and am active, or as much as a nun without transportation can be, in various social and environmental missions I believe in. I maintain an online shrine for Loki, and I write a blog (at Hela’s behest) about my experiences as a Lokean mystic and monastic. I could do more, undoubtedly, but then again there’s that question of integration. I consider all of the above acts of service to my gods, however indirectly, but direct acts of devotion are important, too. There are times when one cannot substitute prayer and worship with signing petitions or walking the dog. Therefore, part of my day to day life involves regular times of prayer, altar and shrine maintenance, and performing other duties for the gods I revere, whether at Their instigation or because I feel it’s the right thing to do. Although I don’t consider myself a Heathen because I’m not a Reconstructionist, I do admire the values of industry and self-determination that are emphasized in Heathen religion. Half of the secret to success in life, as it is said, is just about showing up… but the other half involves work. Some people might argue that I don’t actually do work of any kind, however. I have had the rare opportunity to devote my entire life to the pursuit of my faith. I don’t have a conventional day job, but a small, fixed income allows me to live in a manner that suits a monastic – I have food, clothing, shelter, medical care, access to occasional transportation, and enough left over for books related to my calling and offerings for my ancestors and gods. I write sacred poetry, and articles like this one about religious matters, and occasionally erotica, usually having to do with Himself in some way (this is perhaps the strangest thing about being a Lokean nun). I have no dependents and no obligations to a romantic partner, other than my Beloved. I am free to live the life of a pagan nun full-time, something which I do not in any way take for granted. On the other hand, I have had to forgo many things I once did take for granted. While others are encouraged not to take their jobs home with them if they want to have a happy home life, one is always a monastic, and there is no break from nunhood at 5 o’clock. I am always a little apart from others, even others of my faith. My social activity is mostly limited to church and kindred events. I don’t travel, except to occasional 23
conventions where I am supposed to give a talk, nor do I take vacations. And in this society, I am ever mindful of the fact that a good number of people will never accept, understand, or care about my life or my pursuits, and I’ve had to get rid of any resentment about that. What many people don’t seem to realize is that being a monastic is not an escape, an easy ride, or a free pass to a life free of trouble, challenges, or disappointments, and if it seems so to others, they do not understand that a monk or nun’s interior life is much more prominent than is normally required of lay persons. Committing to a life of contemplative devotion, service, and concentrated religious dedication requires as much sacrifice as joining the military, or becoming a parent, albeit in different ways. Far from being a refuge for the lazy, it is not a path for the weak or the fearful. Fear is the single thing that will keep one from living up to hir fullest potential as a nun or monk, Pagan, Heathen or otherwise. Fear of “doing it wrong,” fear of the unknown, fear of letting go of cherished ideas and one’s own ego, fear of seeing things as they really are. Fear of boredom and repetition and routine, fear of the long hours of silence that await when you strip away the distractions of modern life. Fear of not knowing who you really are, when you aren’t being a secretary or a mechanic or an accountant. Fear of losing your sense of self in the awe and mystery and terrible beauty of the Divine. You have to overcome all that fear, eventually, or you will find that you have stalled out on the upward ascension to enlightenment and can only coast along, or plunge back down. Fear is the mind-killer, says a popular science fiction novel, but it also kills the spirit and the heart. In the end, fear is as much a danger to the home-keeping nun as it is to a warrior on the battlefield. Having extensive prior experience, I can say with authority that working a McJob for little money, while onerous, is far easier than battling one’s fears in order to successfully pursue your vocation. I can’t tell anybody else how to overcome their fears, however, because I’m still overcoming my own. And while those from established monastic traditions have an edge over those of us trying to create, or re-create, our own, in the end it doesn’t matter how many mentors you have. A nun or monk still has to bring her- or himself, fully and wholly, to the gods, in order to make the leap into the allpervading, constant divine awareness that is the goal of every monastic, no matter what gods they worship. Our goal is to experience Them constantly, to see Their hands at work all around us and hear Their voices in every sound that falls on our ears, to serve Them with our hands as well as we love Them with our hearts. We seek union, nothing less, and though sadly, many of us may never find that for more than an instant, it is true through and through that the effort is, in itself, sacred and fine. I try never to forget that, no matter how cranky I get, how lazy I become, how discouraged I am or how many times I tell myself that I’ll never be able to get anywhere. I keep trying, however. Every week, I wash and refill the goblet of clear water I keep on my ancestors’ shrine. I light the candles on Loki’s altar, the candle on the altar for my other gods, the single votive for the dead on Hela’s altar (Hers is the only one I never dust). I place offerings for the dead, for my beloved gods, for my Husband, whose love has led me through fear and self-doubt and agony for eight years – for much longer than that, if I were to be honest with myself. I hold my prayer beads and utter the names of Those whom I honor as the lords and ladies of the Nine Worlds resting among the branches and roots of the World Tree. I do not know if They are always listening, but I like to think that sometimes I am heard. 24
1.2 : THE WORK
At night, I lie down in bed, early or late depending on how the day has gone, and feel Lokiâ€™s presence curl around me like smoke or a serpentâ€™s coils. His is the last voice I hear as I fall sleep, telling me not to give up. And I tell myself I will remember.
Interview: Mist of Kenaz Kindred BY MARIS PÁI
It was only March when I began corresponding with Mist, the gyðja of Canada's Kenaz Kindred (kenaz.ca), and quite by accident. I am in the process of slowly compiling a devotional for Frigga, spanning several years of my work with Her, when Mist emailed me out of the blue to offer her contributions. Mist's own debut book, Fulltrúi: Patrons in Ásatrú, was gearing up for release and we bonded over Frigga, writing and the challenges of group ritual. It felt only natural to interview her for the 'Work' issue of Huginn. Mist is warm and intelligent, very chatty and excited to discuss leadership and the priesthood. While Fulltrúi is a piece that can stand on its own, the difficulties and rewards of her personal experience running Kenaz Kindred have largely remained private until now.
FULLTRÚI Patrons in Ásatrú By Mist 172 pp. Megalithica Books. £10.99 print. Available at ImmanionPress.com.
Mist explained that the founding of Kenaz Kindred evolved accidentally out of a pagan coven that she'd been elected to lead. "I am still really unsure why I was chosen," she admitted, "but I suppose it helps that I have a very outspoken personality, and no one in the group wanted to be that ‘public’ about it." Things would never be the same after she met Odin. "At first I did not know who or what He was, but I do remember Him saying to me, 'Go home now and become heathen.' I don’t remember much else, but I remembered that. Well, I went home and researched oneeyed gods, and that is how I found my way to heathenry. Within three months we threw our pagan format out the window and I brought Ásatrú to the group."
Unfortunately, with Odin's arrival came conflict. Not everyone was happy with the change of focus. "We did lose about half of our group because of it. They did not understand why I would change things, but I had to. I was driven like a mad person to absorb everything I could about heathenry. ... In my first three years, I ate, slept and drank heathenry. It became a strong obsession and I felt compelled to find more." "The name was changed to Kenaz Kindred when I took my vows to Ásatrú and left paganism behind," Mist explained. "We decided on the name Kenaz, because in my research I found that one of its many meanings was knowledge, and that is what we were going to strive to give. We wanted to make a place for study but also to pass on what we had learned, where we came from and how this journey got us here... I truly felt like I was ready to forge this new path for myself and hoped that everyone else would come with me." Predictably, Kenaz lost some of the original members but gained some fresh voices. As she began to speak about her personal mysticism, she found a receptive audience: "It really brought some quality members to our group. We went from four members in 2004 to ten members currently and still expanding." It's been nine years since Mist first came
1.2 : THE WORK
to terms with Odin, her mysticism, her leadership and her sanity. "It took a lot of time for me to come to terms with the fact that I could see gods, let alone hear them, and to make sure I was not crazy before I started talking about it. Once I made that leap and opened my mouth, I found out that some of our newcomers had some similar experiences. That was the start... It was a very good decision for me to talk about the experiences, and even today our kindred shares its journeys together! The evolution of my relationships with gods seemed to ebb and flow throughout my nine years in the kindred, but it existed before and will likely exist until I leave this world, whether my kindred is there or not. I think foremost, my gods were there first, the kindred came after." Mist is characteristically humble and enthusiastic as she describes the day-to-day challenges of running Kenaz Kindred. Priests have to be administrators as well as divine conduits, and everyone contributes to the energy of the group. "Without [the other members], it would not be the same. In this group I am just here to serve and hope I do that properly. We as a group are democratic, so all decisions are made together. That takes significant burdens off of me and allows me to focus on my spirituality and that is a precious gift!" As I talked with Mist, her devotion to her gods -- and in particular her fulltrĂşi, Odin and Frigga -- came across very vividly. "I think having patrons certainly makes it interesting, because you have more to do on a daily basis. Outside of doing kindred things, I have daily devotions that I do and then there is my role as stay-at-home mom and wife, so it keeps my days full." A big focus of her work with the kindred as well as privately in her work with Frigga is keeping the frith. "As a priest, I really strive to ensure that I give my attention to all of the gods, and ensure that I keep good relations with all the nine worlds. That is what was expected of me when I got shifted to Frigga, so I do my best. But Odin and Frigga are always first for me: Odin because He brought me to heathenry, and Frigga because She is with me still!" Mist jokes, "I think it is because of Them and in spite of Them that I keep going, if that makes any sense!" The conventional wisdom is that organising any group of pagans is like 'herding cats.' I've often become impatient with 'Pagan Standard Time' myself, and I couldn't resist asking about the rewards and challenges of bringing together a group of heathens. "I am kind of chuckling at this question!" Mist remarked. "Some days I think there are more problems than rewards, but that is just because it is hard to keep a kindred going. Despite the fact that I donâ€™t always agree with them, you got to admire organizations like The Troth and the AFA. I mean, they have been going for years, and somehow still manage to keep the spirit and passion they had in the beginning." "The rewards outweigh the challenges though. After nine years, the struggles are small compared to the rewards of having close friendships that are formed from a singular devotion. The rewards of sharing your devotion with others are unmeasured -- you can really sink your teeth into aspects of spirituality through each individual. They each lend a unique perspective that creates a group that for me is one of the best relationships I have had in my life. Despite our challenges and finding the right people, the rewards have been finding people that we can rely on regardless of anything else. They have been there for us for surgeries, labour, sickness, stress, moving and everything in between." "Nine years later I still look back and think about the journey and cannot believe how much I have learned, changed, evolved from it." While Mist was zealous about study
in the beginning, the biggest lesson she learned was balance. "Yes, [study] is important, and yes I think essential to a priest, but you can seriously burn yourself out if youâ€™re not careful... To be consumed by it leaves little room for living!"
1.2 : THE WORK
Review: Fulltrúi: Patrons in Ásatrú BY MARIS PÁI
Glancing only at the contents page of Fulltrúi: Patrons in Ásatrú, I became immediately aware that Mist was most likely My Sort of Heathen. Any book which includes a chapter on "Historical Evidence" is at least attempting to cite its sources, but the fact that that chapter is noticeably shorter than chapters on "Developing Relationships with Patrons", "Meditations" and "Devotional Poetry" is, for me, another good sign. Getting her cards on the table up-front as early as the introduction, Mist notes that everything in the book is based upon personal experience and that the book's intention is not to write a definitive work but rather to simply add to the corpus of more mysticismoriented heathen work. There's also a short list of people who shouldn't read this book, to my amusement; that's not something you see in most published works. Mist states that her book assumes a familiarity with Ásatrú and the heathen gods, but Fulltrúi is accessible to even someone fairly new to the religion. "A Brief Guide to Ásatrú and the Gods" should help anyone who needs a refresher, and she includes fairly extensive appendices about the deities and wights referenced. The "Traveling the Nine Worlds" chapter is quite extensive and offers both some fascinating tidbits and practical advice. And yes, the book is very open to the idea of Jotnar as patrons -- Angrboda herself is one of the featured deities – which is both controversial and another checkmark on the My Sort of Heathen scale. As to the potential controversies she's touching on, there's a sweetness to Mist's tone that would be difficult for even the most hard-nosed to take offense at. Some readers may find the discussion sections almost naive, but the instructive portions are solid. The personal essays and poetry were the most vivid and useful portion of the volume, but I truly appreciated the genuine faith and devotion throughout. In gathering collaborators for her book, Mist comments that "I have to admit, I had no idea that there were so many people who had experienced similar things as I — or that there were negative perceptions associated with anyone who did have these experiences." Fulltrúi is a call to be brave enough to acknowledge the living relationships we have with our living gods and to share those experiences with the community. That idea of building frith and community seem to be central to Mist's work, and this book will form a part of the bridge she is building to the greater heathen community. (3.5/5)
Godspouse BY GALINA KRASSKOVA
To be wed to a God is incineration. It is a mauling, a joyous evisceration. It is the agony of knowing that human flesh is weak: one can never be fully filled completely with one’s God. We claw our way forward anyway, addicts aching for our next fix; and the merest breath of His presence strengthens us, makes us whole, sates that terrible hunger for a time. But only for a time. We are all virgins here, no matter from whence we come. There is no experience like that of being claimed, no penetration quite so deep, as being taken up by the Gallows God; taken, from the inside out, and outside in. But I don’t think anyone claimed by Him was ever innocent. He devoured that before we even knew it was there and found it sweet. How does one wed a God you ask? Vows are whispered in urgency and need, hunger, desire, and the agony of separation. “I will love You and serve You always, in each and every way You ask. 30
1.2 : THE WORK
I will be whatever it is You need me to be all for the barest taste of You;” and then You delight and pour Yourself into me. I lose my place in the restrictive fabric of being for a time. The joy is too great. If only if were that simple. Here’s how it went: I brought a dowry of courage and raw, ruthless pain, of hunger, and an uncompromising will to serve. I brought passion and promise, and a thousand possibilities all marked and tumbled with a warrior’s pride. I brought stubborn commitment and a terrified love. It was enough. My courting gifts were many, too many to easily count. I did not know how lavish my Bridegroom had been until seeing His paltry gifts to another. It awes and frightens me even now. We pay in service for every gift. That is wyrd and He was generous, this God who loves the storm, and hungers always to devour knowledge. I did what any besotted bride would do: I opened my arms in welcome, to His hunger for devouring me too. Love like this is the slim sweet shaft of a blade pressed deeply between the ribs in the dark. Love like this is the iron jawed maw of a hunter’s snare From which the predator has no escape.
Love like this gnaws belly to bone, Shredding the heart like ravaged meat on the butcher’s slab. You might think this is a terrible thing. It is not. It is beauty beyond comprehension but the cage of my words is too frail and weak a thing to contain the reality of this intoxication, to capture the richness of my ensnarement, to convey the holiness of this bliss. I must use those words that strip away the trite, that penetrate beyond our human shallowness; even if those words are ugly and harsh. He is like that too sometimes: obliteration. If this is madness, then I shall be mad. If it is delusion I shall count myself lucky to be so deluded. Maybe instead I shall laugh, and dance and whirl and spit-because my body is not strong enough to contain the depth of the joy my Husband brings. And because those who would demand I ‘come to my senses’ have not had their senses kissed by the cold fire of this God. Pity them and then let me tell you how it is. I am His bride and His whore, His servant and His valkyrie, the meat He grinds between His teeth, the wine with which he salts His palate. I am whatever He needs me to be. I’ll kiss that knife that slides into my heart gleefully, cavort and caper wantonly in whatever way brings Him satisfaction. My joy at being His bride is as vast and great as the Gap from which His ancestors sprung. 32
1.2 : THE WORK
If that be called madness, that is a small enough price to pay to take within me His storm.
The Sharpie Futhark BY DAMIAN KEMP
“Oh say, you don’t believe those old legends about the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, do you?” “Ranger Brad, I’m a scientist. I don’t believe in anything.”
Throughout my obsession with old Norse culture, starting in the library of the university near my home, I’ve never transitioned to what I’d call true belief. I’ve never called myself a pagan, or expected anything of the universe other than cold spheres. I’m more or less an outsider to the Northern Traditions, their communities, and to worship. Nevertheless I’ve maintained a steady fascination with elements of Norse culture, and yes, even with elements of Norse religion. Most recently, I’ve found symbel to be really valuable for philosophical exercise and psychological wellbeing, as well as a way of giving each holiday more punctuation in the wheel of the year (big bonfires have a lot of power, but I get even more electricity from saying something that needed saying). The runes in particular have been an important part of my life for over a decade. The evolution of the runes through time and cultures is amazing, but like many within and without paganism I’ve been drawn mainly to the hard symmetry of the Elder Futhark. The simplicity, the power, the patterns in these marks all fascinate me. I use them, play with them, and evaluate the elements of my experience, the events of my life, through their structure. I’ve considered and debated at length the meanings of the individual runes, their correct order within the Futhark and within aetts, and what themes and patterns one can reasonably draw out of them. I’m enthralled by their function as an alphabet, by the way they confer power to script, and by their magical implications. I adore the Futhark so much that it’s more for the sake of using these letters than for the sake of understanding the Eddas that I attempted at one point to teach myself Icelandic and to transcribe Völuspá. I do use runic magic. Maybe I could more accurately say runic superstition, since I don’t usually plan it out much or expect much from it, but I’m struck by a moment’s possibility and I don’t want to miss my chance. Idle carving often turns to runemaking, and the blood of an accidental gash often winds up painting those familiar twiggy shapes on hidden or cleanable surfaces, provided no normal people are looking and the wound isn’t too small to be useful or too big to be trifled with. Sometimes I trace patterns with my foot on the ground, dancing in a way just fast enough to produce unpredictable results but still keep the overall intent concentrated. I’ve used this method to make bindrunes to try to quiet the jarring horns of passing cars and to try to heal a friend. Sharpie ink often hides movement runes in my hitching signs, and I once penned a stealth bindrune on my sternum while I hid under a willow tree. Pencil scratches, chalk, carving, blood, and several combinations of these have charmed and protected several homes I’ve lived in, and if I had more conviction I’d swear a misexecuted rune once burned my house. •••
1.2 : THE WORK
“Odin on the Tree” by Rod Turner 35
While what I do has evolved a bit and is now fairly deviant from a traditional symbel, I feel it follows the original spirit. Firstly, the drink is generally beer or wine rather than mead, and could even be nonalcoholic depending on circumstances (although toasting with water or an empty glass can have specific implications for different people). For me, the company and the process are the point, other ingredients should be cheap and easy as a rule. Second, each person has their own drink, and everyone drinks once for each person or thing mentioned. For me this isn’t a drinking game, but this way in a large group people will pay better attention to each other, and in a larger group everyone will also drink more, rather than less, which helps us loosen up and toast and boast better with all those unfamiliar folks. Each person toasts as many gods (Norse or otherwise), ideas, personal philosophies, or elements of nature as they want, at first clockwise, then bouncing around as people unfamiliar with the tradition ask to be skipped and others jump in. Each person toasts their favorite ancestors, or just people or groups of people who inspire them, living or dead, related or unrelated, clockwise then bouncing around. For me, these first two rounds are about forcing us to pick sides, to crystallize our personal philosophy and then justify it, and allowing us to reveal personal/familial information in front of an audience. At this point the process is beginning to degenerate, and it’s time for boasting, which I feel is the hardest and most important part, and have therefore started doing as its own round. It is not normal to openly boast, and I think that makes boasting a very important psychological release. I’ve pushed boasting by starting the boast round myself, or by embarrassing someone by pointing out that a comment they’ve made is in essence a boast, which allows me to make my own or try to one-up theirs. Hopefully this bounces around with most people making some boasts. Finally, some people might make some oaths, which for me should be specific, fulfillable, and serious, but which for other people are often not, and we all name more stuff we forgot earlier and drink some more as we like. ••• All of these activities have some uncomfortable implications for me - as an outsider, am I appropriating someone’s culture? Whose, the Norse? Modern Norse heathens? Maybe I’m just a different kind of practitioner who doesn’t self-identify the same way a pagan does. Or maybe a second-generation pagan could take offence, or maybe I’ve wronged all of the above. In addition, I’ve recently relocated to Europe from the United States. Many of the people I meet here have extremely negative associations with Norse culture – and runes in particular – due to an association with the Holocaust and neo-Nazis. Icelandic people seem to be the only group who have a positive association with the Futhark, though of course this tends to be secular and I have yet to find an Icelandic person who dances bindrunes to disable car horns. How sensitive do I need to be when using this script around people who have a reasonable aversion to it? Going further, is my idle scratching disrespectful to the millions of people terrorized or murdered under thick black lightning bolts and yew branches? I ask all this because I feel strongly that it’s much 36
1.2 : THE WORK
worse to refuse to confront difficult questions than to get the answer wrong. In all cases Iâ€™ve decided that my use of elements of Norse culture is harmless at worst, and potentially really beneficial, so for now Iâ€™ll keep boasting, bleeding, and dancing. Damian Kemp is an itinerant teacher and a Scientist. He currently spends most of his time in a squatting project in northwest France.
If the Graveyard Spoke BY DEBRA L. SCOTT
Look to the twilight line between light and dark The Milky Way The crowded and the uncrowded The void Look for the incursion of dark into light The dark intrudes into the light Protruding like a hernia, seeping bile Take off your white head cloth And bind it up Bind it up like a band-aid Heal it with your magic Restore the light and the dark Restore the twilight line This is your sacrifice This is your payment This is how much you shall want our help.
1.2 : THE WORK
Work is a Prayer in Itself BY JOSHUA TENPENNY
I circle my hearth from without And I focus the work of my hands. I circle my hearth from within And I focus the work of my heart. Every work of my hands Is a victory won, Everything that I do Is another thing done. (Work Blessing) In preparation for a ritual for Iduna the apple-goddess, a group of us had gone out to work in our little orchard. I’ve got a gas-powered string trimmer, so while other folks were planting and pruning, I was mowing the overgrown areas. It is a solitary task – the noise and the flying grass tend to discourage anyone from working nearby – and for me, the loud hum of the engine tends to override my mental chatter. I like that. Mowing has always been a very meditative activity for me. Mowing the orchard is a fairly easy job compared to digging holes in rocky New England soil, but it was more time-consuming than the other jobs, and I was outside by myself for a while after the others had gone in to prepare for the ritual. When I finished I went inside to wash up, and out the window I could see people heading back out to the orchard. Watching them, I was thinking about the relationship between work and ritual. I often have a hard time connecting deeply with group ritual, but I get great satisfaction out of preparing the space and the ritual items, or cooking food for ritual. I feel closer to the gods and spirits in those quiet times before ritual than I do during most rituals. As I thought about this, I felt Iduna’s presence with me, and I was overcome by the idea that the work – in and of itself – is an act of prayer, of devotion. The work is its own ritual, and that is one of Iduna’s mysteries. It is interesting to compare her with Thor, who embodies the sacredness of the work which sustains kin and clan, in a very concrete and goal-oriented type of way. The sacred work of Iduna can be very similar on the surface – they both have a fondness for outdoor physical labor – but there is something about Iduna which transcends the practical results of the work. For example, I periodically mow and rake our stone labyrinth, and reset any stones that have sunk down or been knocked out of place. Certainly there is a practical element to that, but for me, the importance of the process goes beyond the practical results. The work itself is an act of prayer. If no one ever used the labyrinth, or even saw it, I would still do the work and it would still have meaning. But people do use the labyrinth, and that gives another layer of meaning to the work. The work becomes an offering to the community, and I do get satisfaction from the thought that my small effort has enhanced
someone’s experience of sacred space. I don’t need anyone to acknowledge my effort for that to be satisfying. For me personally, it is important for me to not get emotionally invested in anyone appreciating the work. I believe that what things people praise, or criticize, or even notice, depends more on what is going on inside their own mind than me or any part of my work. It is nice to get feedback, but for the work to feel right to me, I need to keep that detachment, that lack of expectations. I need to be able to make my offering, and then step back and let them take what they will of it. There is a Zen proverb that goes something like, “If a man has food and wishes to share it, let him open his doors. If the traveler stops to eat with him, this is good. If the traveler passes him by, this is also good.” That is a hard lesson, and not necessarily applicable to all people, but it is one I personally keep coming back to. My path is sacred service, and that tends to involve work that doesn’t get much acknowledgment or appreciation. To do it well is to get beyond the need for acknowledgment and appreciation, and work for the sake of the work, without resentment, contempt, greed, or martyrdom. It is about joyfully offering the work of your hands and the work of your heart, and being present in the process of that work, rather than being fixated on the results. There can be an aspect of obligation or duty, but the heart of it is joy. If you can find that joy, any work – absolutely any work at all – becomes a sacred offering. At any rate, I never did go out to the Iduna blot. Instead, I watched it from the kitchen window above the sink, while doing dishes. I thought about going out and being with the group of people there, pouring out cider on her god-pole and reciting stories, but it didn’t feel like it was necessary. I’d already done my ritual, my offering. It was all around Iduna’s sacred pole. They were walking on it. And it was enough.
1.2 : THE WORK
Review (point): Hoofprints in the Wildwood BY JOHN SINNOTT
Hoofprints in the Wildwood is a collection of literary and artistic pieces from devotees around the world. While many of the works contained within the book may have huge value to others traveling along a similar path, there is also a poorly composed or random element to many of the entries. I got the feeling while reading that the editor used as many submissions as possible to flesh out the book, rather than be more selective about his choices and produce a smaller but more cohesive volume. I am currently preparing a scholarly paper on Cernunnos as part of my work for Him, so this is a topic that rests close to my heart. There are many entries in Hoofprints that will prove academically useful to me, while others also hold significant artistic merit. Two in particular that jump out at me, while keeping the theme of this issue of Huginn firmly in mind, would be “Herne at Mabon” by Raven Kaldera and Joshua Tenpenny and “My God” by Juniper. “Herne at Mabon” is a vivid recounting of a group ritual in honour of Herne, capturing His essence and energy wonderfully. “My God” is a heartfelt account of one person’s journey as a practical worker-bee for the Horned God. On the other end of the scale, there is one submission in particular that stands out. The opening HOOFPRINTS IN THE WILDWOOD literary piece, “The Charge of the God” by Daven, left me A Devotional for the Horned Lord cold –– it felt as though the author was trying to squish the Edited by Richard Derks pp. Gullinbursti Press. $4.77 God into a Goddess mould, a predefined shape He was 178 download, $11.56 print. Available at never going to fit into. His primal, often chaotic presence Lulu.com. doesn't seem to fit the structure of the very feminine “Charge of the Goddess.” If a “Charge” for the Horned God is to be written, it needs to have its own structure, its own energy. It needs to be His in a way the “Charge of the Goddess” could never be. In modern paganism, Cernunnos is often worked with as a teaching deity, but there has been surprisingly little published that gives a solid idea of who the god Himself actually is. Most newcomers to paganism and modern witchcraft end up finding out for themselves who He is through working with Him on a personal level, as well as snippets gleaned here and there from various texts. It is nice to see a work published that shows the wide variety of interactions that people do have with the Horned God. Others may learn from what these people do and enrich their own divine relationships. I would like to think of this volume as a stepping stone for many newcomers to carefully tread. Hopefully we may see other, more comprehensive and better edited publications in the future on the same topic. (2.5/5)
(counterpoint): Hoofprints in the wildwood BY TALAS PÁI
There is an old tale goes, that Herne the hunter, Sometime a keeper here in Windsor forest, Doth all the winter time at still midnight, Walk around about an oak, with great ragg'd horns; And there he blasts the tree, and takes the cattle; And makes milch-kine yield blood, and shakes a chain In a most hideous and dreadful manner. (The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 4 Scene 4) As an epigraph, Shakespeare is a suitably dramatic beginning to any discussion of the Horned God; “Herne” by Jennifer Lawrence uses it in just such a fashion in the new devotional to Him, entitled Hoofprints in the Wildwood. Why bother reviewing this book in Huginn? The Horned God doesn't appear in the Eddas; Herne the Hunter Himself isn't textually attributed before Shakespeare's description. Nonetheless, the Horned God has significantly influenced the Northern Tradition, assuming He isn't an 'authentic' part of it outright. Lots of people come to heathenry through Wicca or eclectically Neopagan practice, where He certainly has made Himself known; those delving into early Celtic roots can't help but encounter Him, and the cultural borrowing and lending between Celtic and Scandinavian cultures throughout history are as good an invitation as any. Perhaps that's why there is a distinct scent of the Horned God about Freyr, Odin and several of the Rökkr. At 178 pages, Hoofprints is enough to sink your teeth into but still shorter than some other recent devotionals; given the Horned God's popular affiliation with Wicca, it surprises me that more people didn't come forward to share experiences of Him. Maybe it's the fact that such a broad subject seems to drive away as many contributors as it attracts, or that a nascent press like Gullinbursti with a first-time editor like Richard Derks has a real publicity issue. Nonetheless, Derks has pulled together a competent book with a few truly stellar stand-out pieces. Though I have a scholarly if not properly academic background, I approach the Horned God as an ecstatic devotee, as a satyr to his Pan. The Horned God was perhaps the first deity I ever approached (or who approached me?), the result of my fascination with the character Herne in the Wicca-influenced Eighties television show “Robin of Sherwood”. The experiential quality of “Dancing the Hunt” and “Hail to the Horned One” by Herne's Own reflects my earliest understanding of Him. Reading Hoofprints has been surprisingly resonant for me, despite the fact that most of my work today with the Horned God is either quite public or unspeakably personal. Jay O'Skully forges his magical blade near where I was born (“The Forge of the Horned and Antlered One”), Juniper works shamanic magic with the Lord of Death in the beautiful Jasper forest, on a road I have often traveled (“My God”), and Sarah Lawless's poem “The Witch God's Riddle” is uncannily like the words which flowed through my head as I recently meditated in Oweynagat Cave. 42
1.2 : THE WORK
The visual art as well consistently stands out, even among other devotionals. “Bucca Duality” by Gemma Gary is stunning and accompanies an informative essay which fleshes out an aspect of the Horned God that I was at best only passingly familiar with. “Cernunnos” and “Green Man” by Peter J. Watts were also firm favorites. Watts' poem “Lughnassad (Lammas)” has a good rhythm, with a pleasing simplicity and countryEnglish flavor, but his art is even better than his poetry. Given the amount of poems attempting to rewrite Doreen Valiente's “The Charge of the Goddess” to fit the Antlered God, it begs the question: do we need a “Charge of the God”? “Buckator” and “Prayer to the Sacrificed King” are satisfying and appropriate for ritual declamation, and several of the other poems have a succinctness that “The Charge of the Hunter” or “Charge of the God” lack in trying to pastiche the original Valiente. There are so many similar accounts of dreams, visions or chance near-meetings in the woods in Hoofprints that the book wouldn't suffer from a judicious edit; but taken as a whole, they paint a clear picture of what a mysterious, elusive yet persistent god He is. “My Journey to the Horned God” by Richard Derks is one of the best articulations of one of His primary aspects, the brutal but compassionate Lord of Animals, of Survival and of masculine mysteries – a face which I have great respect and love for. “The Horned God in the East” and “Vanic Creation Story” are both curious outliers in this collection. Elenna Rose speculates about the Vedic parallels of the Horned God mythos, Pan's partner in Shiva, but – despite my fascination and her talent – it doesn't mesh with the rest of the text. No fault of hers, though I'd like to read the book which it would fit into. Nicanthiel Hrafnhild's creation myth of the Star Lady and Horned God rings true for me, but seems to belong to a different volume, a corpus of Vanic myth which has yet to be written. Skadi meic Beorh's “The Great God Herne” is a manifesto with a distasteful bitterness not found elsewhere in Hoofprints, a sole sore spot in an otherwise wise and joyful book. While there is truth in it – Herne's devotees are driven to the fringes of society as often as they build societies, and Herne's internal violence can conflict with the peace-loving aspects of Jesus and Buddha – the work has an angry tone reminiscent of an adolescent who has just discovered anarchy in time to self-righteously rebel against his parents. It sours the message – perhaps meic Beorh should reflect upon the vegetative aspects of the Horned God, the John Barleycorn and Lord of Life which balance the Wild Hunter and Lord of Chaos. Meic Beorh writes, “[Devotees'] greatest danger looms when they are led away from their beloved high places by the wounded hand of Dionysus; when they are activated and deployed into the cities to there show that Love is for every soul, if that soul will but submit to Herne...” More likely, Herne's devotees' greatest danger looms in alienating themselves completely from the societies they seek to influence, marginalizing themselves and their message. Besides, pagans have moved far from being pagani; few of them – us – have the luxury of avoiding the cities, so therefore we must adapt without losing sight of the natural world which originally bore us. If we are to be true devotees of Herne, Lord of Survival, we must be unafraid of both our work and our
“Priest of Thor” by Rod Turner 44
1.2 : THE WORK
modern setting – to quote Mark Twain, “Naked people have little or no influence on society.” “Shout at the Devil” by Conrad W. Deitrick stands in total counterpoint to “The Great God Herne”. It's refreshing and unpretentious, as urban as hair metal and just serious enough. An essay that cites Plutarch, Milton and Mötley Crüe in practically the same breath is alright by me. Deitrick's witty and smart, almost cheeky – fittingly for an iconoclastic god who is all about the sex, drugs and rock-and-roll – where meic Beorh is tumescent, aggressive and pompous. The gleeful audacity in his assertion, “By invoking his imagery and creating music that is a perfect channel for his divinity, heavy metal has served him and worshiped him more purely than perhaps any other modern human endeavor,” is characteristic of the whole piece. “Shout at the Devil” is a manifesto I can get behind. Perhaps the wisest observation is from the editor's own piece, “Sex and Death: The Lessons of Cernunnos”, where he writes: “... Although I am a hard polytheist, working with Cernunnos has softened me up around the edges a bit. While I experience him as an individual, he has also given me to know that he is indeed made up of a magnitude of multiplicities. Thus both views of him as portrayed in hard and soft polytheism, in my opinion, are correct. This is one of his mysteries to be solved by the individual devotee to his or her own satisfaction.” My favorite piece, though, is the unexpected “He Who Dances Dreaming” by Fabienne S. Morgana. “I grew up with men the colour of wood and earth, the older ones with faces and hands gnarled and lined like the mulga local to the area, and glints in their eyes like sunlight on water. I remember the men coming in dusty and dirty, the smell of dogs, horses and cattle and campfires lingering on their skin...” “He Who Dances Dreaming” is as much a love song to Australia as it is a thoughtful exploration of the Horned God, and I think that's appropriate for a God who manifests in so many subtle and various ways. Fabienne seems apologetic for the lack of native horned animals in Australia and overly cautious when describing her practice, but as she begins to talk of her personal history the uncertain note falls away. The intimacy with which she writes of her Australia, her red kangaroos and blistering heat, laughing kookaburras and crackling storms, is electrifying. It may not resemble the English forests of His mythos, but it has His hallmark sensuality and masculinity. “I see him long limbed, with the loose amble of a stockman, a dingo smile, a laugh that echoes the kookaburras... clad not in a cloak, but in a long dry as a bone, and cuban heels, armed not with a bow but a stockwhip and lasso, tattooed, and shaggy haired, strong hands and muscular body.” So can I. (3.5/5)
1.2 : THE WORK
Firestarter BY MARIS Pﾃ！
Adrift and lost, your threads grow thin, and you try not to yield to despair. There's a mystery to all you see; do you even care? Beneath your skin, there's a spark therein It calls to you, strident and true, to begin because somewhere out there, beyond wishes and prayer, is your breath of life, with joy and strife beyond compare, to help lay bare the light you're concealing within. When you've resigned to open your mind and walk the path that they desire I think you will find, as though stars have aligned, that the strangest things can transpire. For when the gods are entwined with the souls of mankind the whole universe is set on fire.
1.2 : THE WORK
A Cook's Prayer BY KJALAR
Hail to Andhrímnir, tireless cook, whose daily and nightly toils feed nigh on a hundred thousand guests. Hail to Eldhrímnir, hail to the pot, hail to Sæhrímnir, hail to the food, hail to the earth, hail to the animals who've sacrificed their lives to feed hungry mouths. Hail to the brewers, the farmers, the smiths in their forges. Hail to the one who sharpens the knives. Praise for burnt fingers. Praise for work. Praise for a beautiful dish, created in glory and consumed in glory. Praise for wounds, praise for worthy enterprise. May my dinner service be smooth. May the orders come in steadily, not stuttering, and may they all be clear and accurate. May my hands be fast, nimble and strong, not shaking. May I always keep up and never fall in the weeds. May all my hot food be hot, all my cold food cold. May I never run out of my prep while I still have orders to sell. May I always have clean plates. May the people I feed taste love, and leave satisfied.
Published on Jun 20, 2011
HUGINN is named for Thought, especially thought that goes out into the world and transforms it. Likewise, the voices aired in HUGINN are tho...