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Posts Tagged ‘devotion’

(Reposted from Jan 25, when this was originally written.)

Sometimes your deities get on your case to the point where you think you’re going to explode. Today is one of those days. Be warned that this is not fully formed – I’m working through this by writing about it, because today I can’t not write about it, so bear with me.

Let’s talk about Ing. Ing Frea. Yngvi. You may know him better as Freyr. Some have related him to Herne. He is Anglo-Saxon. Germanic. Norse. Maybe English.

When you see statues at Uppsala of the Norse gods, Odin has his spear, Thor has his hammer, and Freyr has a giant penis.

And somehow, over the last millennia, I guess because that’s the original statuary that we have, everyone seems to think that Frey begins and ends with his giant phallus. As a devotee of his, I often get people who are like “yeah, but his dick?” when they find out that I am His. Because I’m a survivor of sexual abuse and assault, people assume that because of that – and because one of the surviving stories we have about Freyr is coercive and uncomfortable – I could never relate to this deity. People try to warn me about Him, especially about His penis. “You know he’s the big-penis god right?”

So let’s look at the lore for a minute, and talk about all the things that Ing has been called. Ann Sheffield, in her Frey: God of the World, summarizes the kennings that are used to describe Frey in the Poetic and Prose Eddas. The kennings that Sheffield quotes include:

  • Most renowned, most glorious among gods
  • Harvest-god, god of prosperity
  • Foremost, best of gods
  • Beli’s bane
  • Bright
  • Sacrifice-priest
  • Freyja’s brother
  • Battle-wise
  • Wealth-giver
  • (one who) guides, governs the people
  • People’s ruler of the gods
  • Fair, beautiful
  • Wise
  • Temple-priest
  • Chieftain
  • Mighty
  • Providing
  • Shining
  • Njordh’s son
  • Vanir-god
  • God of the world
  • Weaponless, unarmed

These kennings and bynames come from the Skirnismal, Gylfaginning, Ynglinga Saga, Grimnismal, Skaldskaparmal sections of the Poetic and Prose Eddas, by Snorri Sturluson, or poets that he quotes. You’ll notice that they are about a warrior god, a priest god, a chieftain, a ruler, a wise god, a giver of wealth and prosperity, a harvest god. And yes, penises throughout history have been associated with prosperity and the harvest and wealth, but there’s more here than just a big dick.

There is Wisdom. Guidance. Providence. Prosperity. This is not a god of carnal, unslaked lust. Of sexual prowess. This is about the land and the people who live there. The Anglo-Saxon rune poem says:

Ing was first seen by men among the East-Danes, till, followed by his chariot, he departed eastwards over the waves. So the Heardingas named the hero.

The Ingvaeones were a West Germanic peoples and were the precursors to the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes that settled in England – a tribe of people calling themselves the “children of Ing”. He is a progenitor of kings, an ancestor god, one who cares for the people who follow him. He is old, ancient, and sometimes alien.

I don’t know why I need to say this today. It wasn’t prompted by any conversations I’ve had recently. But the voice behind my head says it’s time for me to start saying this, so here it is. It’s not a fully formed “argument” yet – I know this. I also know that the Frey/Gerd story is problematic on lots of levels. (Cue the “all my faves are problematic” meme.)

But I also know, in a deep and personal and unexplainable way, that there is more here. There is depth, and warmth, and providence, and even maybe love. There is also death, and sacrifice, and the unfathomable service that is priesthood.

This isn’t middle school. Giggle about the big penis statue, sure – if anything, at least it’s calling a spade a spade (as opposed to Odin’s phallic spear and Thor’s phallic hammer). But then look deeper.

There’s way more to this than a dick.

VSLM

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I started in on this on twitter, but realized there was a lot more than I could cover in even a series of tweets here.

ADF is, at its core, welcoming to Pagan laity. We hold public high day rituals because we want people to come and worship the Gods. We don’t force everyone who comes to our rituals to join ADF, and we don’t force everyone who joins to complete their Dedicant work, and we don’t even require attendance at regular study meetings, let alone mandatory ritual celebration (solitary or in groups). Can you spend a lot of time studying in ADF? Absolutely. And I think there’s a ton of value there. But if you just want to show up, get your worship on, and then go home and continue with your life… THAT’S OKAY.

It is 100% okay to want to be a practicing Pagan and just do your thing, practice your devotions to your gods, and live your life.

ADF is a public Pagan church. That inherently includes both priests and laity. And this is good! Not all Pagan groups are run with laity in mind!

So let’s knock off the shit about how we’re more spiritually enlightened because we have bookshelves worth of study materials and enjoy debating the finer points of paleo-religious theory. You can be pretty damn spiritually enlightened with a small home altar, some candles or a triple hallows, and heartfelt devotion to the Kindreds or your spiritual beings of choice. And, in fact, if you’re actually practicing and doing the religious devotional work, you might even be MORE spiritually enlightened than someone who never does any actual religious work but spends all their time reading without applying or doing anything with what they’re learning.

ALSO WHILE I’M WEARING THE RANT PANTS.

Someone believing in the disproved “Great Ancient Mother Goddess Religion” of Gimbutas and her ilk DOES NOT MAKE THEM WICCAN. It makes them ignorant of current scholarship. There are lots of ways to be Wiccan (of various flavors and types – it’s a hugely diverse religion), and most of those ways are at least duotheistic, if not truly polytheistic (the Trad coven I was part of the outer court with was polytheist). Also there is an entire religion devoted to a Great Mother God that has nothing to do with Wicca.

(Also with the “this person believes a stupid thing about a goddess therefore WICCA”? WTF? Wiccans are not uneducated morons.)

If someone says “I believe in the Goddess, but I’m not Wiccan” you say “okay”. You are not the arbiter of other people’s religion. You don’t try to force them to change their mind about how they’re really secretly Wiccan. Double especially if you’re trying to convince them to be Wiccan because they’re disruptive and embarrassing, and you just want them to go away and stop coming to your particular group’s meetings. Be straight with people about their behavior. If they’re a pain in the ass, tell them so and ask them to shape up or stop coming. The Wiccans don’t want embarrassingly disruptive people either.

So. Let’s be welcoming to the laity, and encourage them on their spiritual path(s). Let’s encourage, rather than one-up, each other, and remember that studying might make you knowledgeable, but it doesn’t make you a better person. And let’s quit it with the ridiculous assumptions about Wiccans. Many Wiccans (especially coven/Trad Wiccans) have just as much homework as the more well-known-for-being “studious” traditions, and often more spiritual discipline to go with it.

And in case it wasn’t painstakingly clear from the rest of this post, if you choose to use my comments section to bash Wicca, I will send your comments straight into the spam oubliette.

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I’ve felt a strong pull toward working with the Ancestors recently, I think brought on by finding some genealogical research that my family has done. My mom and my (paternal) uncle have done a lot of research into our family histories recently, and it’s been really interesting to see where people have been. My husband’s mother and aunt are both extremely interested in family history as well, so I have pretty well documented family trees that go back several hundred years (in most cases) to the various places of our ancestry.

My heritage is pretty well mixed, but the largest parts of it are Scottish and Italian, with some English, Irish, and Dutch, and possibly French or Belgian (I have an adopted grandparent, so it gets confusing). My husband is German (Frisian) and Danish, with some French (Huguenot) as well. (He looks like a Viking. I look like an Italian peasant. It works out!) At this point both of our families are pretty jumbled up, even though my Italian family didn’t come to the United States until around World War I, and his German family has been in Texas since just before Texas joined the US (in 1846).

Which, of course, makes it a little harder to say “I’m working in this strain of Paganism because I have family heritage there”. Though I certainly have English and Dutch relatives, some of whom have been in the US since New York was called New Amsterdam, I have no idea if they were Germanic (Angles/Saxons) or Celts or Gauls in descent, though there’s some rumor that my ancestral family ended up in England via William the Conqueror’s army. (Alternately William the Bastard, depending on your preferred side in that conflict.)

What I do know, however, is that I am descended from hard working people in both my birth and married families. My (mostly Scottish) grandmother grew up on a farm in the Great Depression, and my husband’s family is still farming in South Texas. While his family no longer speaks German, his father grew up speaking it a little bit at home, and they are very well connected to their history in the hill country of Texas.

So while I am sure I have ancestral ties to my pagan forebears, I have no idea what their religion might have been! It’s likely that they are a pretty mixed bunch at this point.

Still, some (admittedly basic) internet research says that most of north west Europe had a devotion to the “Mothers” (Matres and Matrones), and that’s something I’d like to continue, especially since this seems to have been a very widespread practice (and, if the shrines of gratitude are any suggestion, a successful one).

I’d also like to continue to honor my American “Matrones” – the women whose hard work brought their families here to this country and kept them alive. My grandmother and great grandmothers were strong, determined, independent women who I am proud to be related to – and I have begun to feel the same way towards the mothers of my husband’s family too. Life was hard in the hill country, and they made it work.

I’m especially drawn to find strength from my ancestors (whether Matrones or Disir) when I’m struggling with my mental health, since I need all the extra strength I can get to continue to advocate on my own behalf and work towards balance and wellness. It’s a combination of needing strength and protection, which fall into the sphere of the family pretty nicely.

My first steps toward growing that practice has been lighting a jar candle on my hearth (stove) every time I’m in the kitchen. I light it and say a prayer for guidance from the Ancestral Mothers and for their protection over my home and family. (This makes my kitchen smell nice too, which is a fun side-effect).

I’ve also specifically been mentioning them when I light incense (almost daily), and when I do my morning devotions with my tea at work. I’d like to build a small shrine to them somewhere in my house or yard (and also make an effort to get all my family genealogy gathered into one place in the house).

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I did the Solitary Druid morning devotional this morning in my car. It was dark in the parking garage, and raining, so there wasn’t much sun to speak of, but I think I will continue doing them. I put together a little cauldron, a piece of orange fabric, and a tiny metal leaf for my traveling hallows – it’s not ideal, but they seem to work well in the car, and they all fit in a bag about the size of a pack of cards, which is perfect for keeping in the arm rest of my car. There fortunately aren’t very many people in the parking garage at 7am, so nobody will bother me!

Overall I like the devotion, though the “we are one in solitude” thing wears on me a little. I know it really appeals to some of the other solitaries, but for some reason I find it a bit… saccharine. If I don’t warm to it after doing it a few times, I may just skip that part and work only with the attunement to the hallows. Or edit it to be more to my liking.

I also definitely want to add a prayer to Sunna, and I found one that I like at NorthernPaganism.org

Morning Prayer to Sunna
by Galina Krasskova

Hail the rising of the Sun,
Great Goddess, Bestower of all good things,
Shining brightly, You traverse the heavens
Driving back the blanket of night.
Mighty Sunna, be my pace-setter.
Help me to structure my day rightly
With time to work, and play, and pray.
Let me not lose myself to the hammering call
Of all that has to be done.
Help me to follow Your rhythms,
For You are wise and practical
And Your presence blesses us all.

I’m going to write this up on an index card that I can keep in my car. Hopefully with a few repetitions I’ll have memorized it. (I may let my artsy side out and decorate the card a little too, since it will essentially be a prayer card, and that deserves to be pretty!) Even if I don’t get it memorized very quickly, I can add it to the end of my other morning devotions in the car.

Maybe I’ll make TWO index cards, one with the SDF devotional and one my prayer card to Sunna. That will be a fun little project.

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