One of the hardest things for me when I followed the path of Gnosticism was the vague notion of how to achieve “Gnosis”, or what that even meant. Most people did this by taking drugs such as ayahuasca to see the Gods, or spirits of the other side. Not even knowing how to procure something like that in a safe manner this side of booking a vacation to South America seemed highly unlikely and who knows if that’s even what the ancient Gnostics were talking about. This confusion was aggravating and a bit disheartening, and seemed like a way for people to take the personal side of it away from the layman. This is one of the many reasons I left Gnosticism.
So what does speaking to the Pagan Gods entail? Is it just as vague and troublesome? A bit of “Yes”, but mostly “No” thankfully, as we know that there are many ways to communicate with the Gods, few of which are explicit as “you better see a God and talk to them!” To me, it seems like this can be achieved through many means including the aforementioned drug trips, trances, hypnosis, and small things like divination, offerings, even scrying through fire or a black mirror. Who knows what will work until you try it – and thats where I am – trying to find what works for me.
This has been somewhat covered in previous prompts, but the sort of it is that I pray, give offerings, and make promises to the Gods to hopefully raise my standing with them and show that I am serious in my devotion to them. My biggest issue right now is that I have yet to fully get in the groove of having a full-on daily practice that I adhere to. That is one of my ultimate goals, thus hopefully leading me to the sort of unverifiable personal gnosis (UPG) that most spiritual people crave.
I have had a few small showings in this regard, but I have yet to be able to have an elaborate dream or somesuch that seems to be the most clear connection to the Gods. I need to work on getting back into meditation or self-hypnosis for this to likely happen. I’d love to get some binaural drum beat recordings and attempt to put myself into a trance sometime next year, I have some friends that are more in-tune with this and I hope to experience it without having to take a mind-altering substance (boo! work dis-allows it).
I also need to attempt divination at some point, as you may have seen, I read books on runes and rune divination a lot, but have not had the time to set-aside to memorize the meanings of them in order to incorporate that into my daily practice – yet another goal for 2021 I presume.
If anyone reading this has any ideas, feel free to shoot them my way, I’d be willing to give it a shot. I’ve done things that are basically guided hypnosis meditation, and they really make you feel great sometimes, if you know of a good one, let me know.
I have an affinity to knowledge Gods, so when I initially embarked on this path, I saw myself drawn towards Odin quite a bit, much in the same way thaat I was drawn to Thoth when I was dabbling in Gnosticism and Hermeticism, some have even tried to link the two in various ways. Now, I am honestly searching for my patron deity more and more. I always hear about issues with being a devotee of Odin, and need to look into some of the other knowledge gods even more. However, my search my bring me back around to the Allfather, if it does I will be satisfied.
As I stated more eloquently in my previous post about prayer, I feel that Thor has been watching over me this year, as he does with most common people. I like his way of helping people, even at the risk of being a bit rash. Not sure this fits my personality a bit. I have also been looking into both Hel and Tyr as gods that I like aspects of. My plan for 2021 is to really nail this down and let myself become a true follower of a God that truly represents me.
What importance does nature have in your practice? Do you honor the wights or spirits of the land around you?
Answer: Truthfully, not as much as it should. I do try to honor the wights when I can, I’ve given offerings of apples and other small things to the animals that I see in my neighborhood (groundhogs and rabbits), but honestly need to do more. Some of the festivals and blots I have done are in the woods, but I honestly need to get out there more and do more nature work – perhaps camp, or go on some hikes etc. I know I keep blaming Covid-19 as a stop-block to a lot of my spiritual activities, but planning more outdoorsy activities has been hard. Most campsites and parks have been absolutely overrun with people due to people being blocked from doing other “summer stuff” one normally does, such as the pool, or theme parks. I feel trying to commune with nature in the backdrop of hundreds of randos walking around is not possible.
Once my girlfriend’s son gets older, I’d love to do things like take him camping, but he’s honestly too young now. For right now I will try to revere nature as I can, and treat the spirits the best that one can for these trying times.
What holidays do you celebrate as part of your practice? (Conversely, how do you celebrate secular holidays with a heathen flair?)
Answer: My family and I have been slowly, but surely, trying to incorporate Pagan feast days and major Holidays into our repertoire within the last year. Luckily the Kindred that I am associated with holds at least a quarterly Blot of some sort, while Covid-19 has made this exceeding tough to even attend those. Last year I celebrated Freyr’s Blot, vetrnætr, Yule, and a few smaller feats here and there. While it’s hard to do the more familial Holidays (such as Thanksgiving) like this, as my girlfriends family is Christian, we try to do as much as we can.
I’ve gone online and found some “Wiccanised” calendar wheels that attempt to give an idea of what the people’s of the past may have celebrated, but even then its tough to discern exactly what to do, so I feel its important to “do your own thing”. We’ve even incorporated some other pagan holidays into the mix when hanging with more “Eclectic Pagans” which as cool. As I recall, we celebrated Mabon last year, for example.
Here’s hoping 2021 returns us back to some sort of “normalcy” and all of the feasting and frivolity of many holidays to come is realized once again.
I would like to think that my spirit is destined for Helheim, or at least what I can gather from the scant sources about it. It is said that those that either die of sickness or old age go there, and that one gets in as long as they help the poor in some way. I try to do as much as I can, when I can and hopefully will do more in the future. I know Snorri painted Helheim as almost an analog to Christian Hell in some of his writings, but you can tell he had the agenda of Valhalla = heaven and Helheim = Hell. I think the main reason I would want to go there is that could spend time with my ancestors, assuming they are destined for there as well. who knows, perhaps there are shared afterlife’s religions if there is one at all.
Some might say Helheim is for “slackers”, but I don’t think Hel would be for “slackers” at all, but for for people who just want some peace and quiet after death. Some might get bored out of their minds, but others would probably welcome the calm, the ability to rest, and the occasional feast
I know its easy to fall into the pop culture obsession with going to Valhalla that many seem to have, especially considering most modern Heathens you run into are not well-versed into the fact that the Gods all had their own Halls, and some professions were described in the Sagas to go to certain places. I can usually tell when someone isn’t too keen on their lore when you see stuff like this out in the wild:
me, not being a warrior in any way, is not going to delude myself with aspirations to go to Valhalla, not would I actually want to – eternally feasting and fighting isn’t really my thing.
Do you do ancestor research/work? What have you learned lately?
Unfortunately, with my Mother’s death, I lost a wealth of knowledge on my family past. Before she died, we even lost our big family photo albums in a flood – thus making it hard to find pictures of a lot of the members of my family. Luckily, mere moths ago, I was able to find *some* photographs in my garage when I was going through some of her things – I managed to use a negative scanner to run some negatives that I found in an crumpled envelope. I got a handful of old images, upwards of a few hundred to be precise. This made me insanely happy to have this part of my life re-opened – I had thought I lost every image of my grandfather, but I now have gems like this:
Right now, its not really on the cards, but I may sign up to Ancestry.com at some point, and try to find more. I know I have relatives on there that have constructed elaborate family trees for that side of the family, and collecting some of that would be awesome.
How this relates to my religion is that I eventually want to make part of my altar n ancestors shrine of sorts. I want to get some photos and put them on a bookshelf next to my altar. This way I can give offerings to the deceased and honor their memories.
06) If heathenism gave you a code to live by, what would that look like? (i.e. How has this faith encouraged you to live?)
Here’s how I piss everyone off 6 days in…
It’s hard to honestly answer this for many reasons, yeah I could go online and find sets of rules that supposedly tell me how to live as a Pagan, it would be easy, and perhaps for an absolute beginner that is scared of the freedom of not having doctrinal law peering over your shoulder, I guess it could be quite comforting. For most that have jumped from Abrahamic religion to some version of Germanic Paganism, its hard not to have a codified law and holy book available, some people even end up leaving due to this sadly.
Some would say that we should live our heathen lives based on the Nine Nobile Virtues or the None Noble Charges, laws created in the idea of what ancient Scandinavian laws could have been, but I take issue with them for a number of reasons. Chiefly, I don’t see Paganism as any sort of dogmatic religion, so putting hardline rules in place reeks of Christian tendencies sneaking into something that claims to want to distance itself from such leanings. Many treat the NNV as a stand-in for the Ten Commandments, but at least there they were enshrined in Christian Doctrine.
Not everyone knows this, but the “Nine Noble Virtues,” or “NNV,” are not set down and codified anywhere in the lore. They were first created by members of the British Union of Fascists and National Socialists, the Odinic Rite, and the Asatru Folk Assembly less than 50 years ago. That particular strand of Heathenry is something that I want absolutely zero part in to be quite frank. I understand that we can all trace the resurgence of Heathenism back to those guys, unfortunately, but time has passed and we need to move on.
A lot of the virtues look harmless as posted above, but when you do a deeper dive into their intentions, it becomes obvious what’s going on – Take “hospitality”, for example – The Odinic Right says this about it: “To succour the friendless but to put no faith in the pledged word of a stranger people.” – so basically don’t trust outsiders…..hmmmm thats a red flag, and honestly quite the opposite of Odin’s rules for hospitality actually in The Lore.
I feel that the NNV are very simplistic, and at face value gear someone towards more of a militarized temperament, and abandon much of what Odin teaches us in Hávamál for starters. I don’t see an idea that we should strive for knowledge, nor is there any mention of the joys and merriment that go with festivals, how to take care of a family, or even something simple like how to treat the religious side of things. I’m not going to say its wrong, as many see value in the NNV, despite the baggage, but its simply not for me whatsoever.
If you’re still with me here, I’m not sure I am the person to attempt to write a new code of Heathen ethics – perhaps that would be an interesting thought experiment at some point, but I think it goes past the intention of this prompt today. Truthfully I only take a portion of my ethical leanings from the Lore, I don’t believe we should attempt to live 100% like how something was written in the distant past – if so, we’d be going to literal war over a derogatory slur uttered to someone such as found in many of the Sagas, or we’d be justifying all sorts of misogynist views on women as purportedly spoken by Odin in the Hávamál. Granted, I have seen and known Heathens like this, missing the entire point that many of those stories were to illustrate that nobody was in the right.
Most Heathens love to point out things to Christians like Leviticus proclaiming that eating shellfish or wearing mixed fiber clothing is punishable by death, and that you can’t enforce old laws like that, then try to do the same exact thing. A lot of us get accused of being Viking Cosplayers, and stuff like this is honestly why.
I honestly try to base most of my morals on Humanism, as weird as that sounds. At the risk of being lumped in with all of the so-called Wicca-infused Heathens that are much derided by so-called traditionalists, its really the only way to live in a society now. Yes, one can look to the old ways for traditions, lore, inspiration, and spiritual fulfillment; but unless one plans to live in a breakaway off-grid Amish-esque Midsommar cult village where you have your own rule of law, its not really possible – and truthfully is everything worth bringing back just because it’s there? Do we want to start paying wergild due to an accusation of dishonor? Do we want to enact what we think Viking Sharia Law courts would be? No, that’s silly.
Do you give offerings? What value do you see in them? What is their purpose?
The point of an offering is to start a conversation with The Gods, not to simply beg for things. Heathens need to separate ourselves from the Abrahamic notion that one prays in order to attain something only. If one builds this relationship, in a mutually beneficial way, one is able to build favor with the Gods, and perhaps, more luck is to follow. That goes hand-in-hand with not asking for crazy things of the Gods, Odin isn’t a djinn that will magically give you a new Ferrari. If you ask for something like that, you better be ready to pay out. Otherwise misfortune can follow.
It is better not to pray at all than to pray for too much;
nothing will be given that you won’t repay.
It is better to sacrifice nothing than to offer too much.
Odin carved this before the birth of humankind,
when he rose up and returned again.
Stanza 145, trans. by Jackson Crawford
So what do we know about historical offerings? in a written form, not much sadly – There isn’t much in the way of clear information on many historical Pagan rituals aside from those that were seen as “enemies” such as Adam of Bremen who wrote extensively about his travels through Pagan Scandinavia. Church leaders, such as Adam, described his supposed witnessing of various sacrifices/rituals in the same way that a folk horror film director exploits the fear of the countryside to illicit fear in “the more civilized” (think Midsommar).
The sacrifice is as follows; of every kind of male creature, nine victims are offered. By the blood of these creatures, it is the custom to appease the gods. Their bodies, moreover, are hanged in a grove which is adjacent to the temple. This grove is so sacred to the people that the separate trees in it are believed to be holy because of the death or putrefaction of the sacrificial victims. There even dogs and horses hang beside human beings.
Adam of Bremen‘s depiction of sacrifice at Uppsala
He further documents forced drownings in a colorful way that makes it appear that scary Pagans would just nab random people and chuck them in the river against their will. While not saying it was 100% incorrect – I have a feeling that the agenda of the Church was to make everything look bad to push for mass conversion. Adam was, of course, not present for these atrocities of faith, but “heard about them from colleagues that were”, this is of course, a great plan on how to get away with just making stuff up, then not taking blame if proved wrong.
On a smaller scale though, we DO have some idea of what people gave to the Gods aside from alleged large-scale sacrifices noted above. Offerings were sometimes simple acts of leaving food and drink on an altar or shrine in the house, on a rock, in a tree, or burned as effigy. We have found all manner of items in tree hollows and bogs including small stones, carved statues, jewelry and even locks of human hair given to the gods. The latter example proved it wasn’t lavish gifts that folks always gave, it was important ones. Hair, for example, could be seen as sacrificing ones own beauty to the Gods, which is somehow very powerful feeling.
I used to always take issue with people, when I was catholic, not taking Lent seriously. Here you had a fasting period, 40 days long, where you had dietary restrictions and were supposed to give something up as well. I’d see folks do things like give up eating M&Ms for Lent, or Give up Watching the News – pointless exercises in false righteousness. But giving up a status symbol such as your own long braids is so much more intense. It almost shines close to the act of Tyr sacrificing his own sword hand to help protect his family from Fenrir.
Now the question arises – how do I do offerings? There is a handful of things I do on a daily basis to speak with the Gods. Whenever I work out, I have pledged my strength to the Gods in order to become more of a warrior than I currently am. I don’t envision myself going off to fight anyone since I am nearly 40, but perhaps I can help others in other ways? I visualize the Uruz rune for strength as I work my way through the pain and devote it to Thor. I also give food offerings during important feasts and occasionally give things like beer on an altar. Truthfully I need to get better at my daily practice.
Has this brought me any favor with the gods?
Unverifiable Personal Gnosis (UPG) Time: A lot of this came to be fairly recently as, I was close to losing my job due to political inaction regarding Covid-19 this year. The place I work is one of the places that The President has a vendetta against, and is seemingly doing everything in his power to destroy. As you can imagine, this has been insanely stressful for everyone at my job, and I routinely asked Thor to help us in any way he can since he often watches over the “common man”. On the day that the layoff was set to occur, I had given some offerings and talked to the Gods about our situation – as I was arriving that day, I pulled into the parking lot to see that my parking place had four large Corvids (probably crows) standing there. I took this as a sign that I was protected, and thankfully I made the cut.
In closing, I try to do offerings when I can, mostly because I have seemingly personally benefitted from it. In turn, it has helped me feel like a better person as I have been trying to help others as well. I don’t give lavish gifts, or promise nine of every animal on a tree, but it seems to add up.
I do have an altar of sorts, but I have not really added much to it as of yet, I consider it in its infancy and really wanted to get some more things for it at the 2020 Pagan Pride Day, but Covid-19 sort of put the ol’ kibosh on that. Currently I have some stuff on a bookcase next to my bed, but I want to have a more dedicated Stalli somewhere else in my house at some point. I have some random odds and ends strewn about my house as well as some of those tacky bronze-coated statues from Wish.com that depict the Wagnerian imagining of some of the Pagan gods. I somehow ended up with $200.00 in Wish cash that I can only assume was a huge mistake, so I ran with it. Hopefully I can get this new altar set up and update this blog about it.
To be honest, I do my best spiritual things outside, and I have a place under my deck, on my back patio where I have placed lanterns that flicker as if filled with actual fire. It’s very calming and helps me focus quite a bit. I have also done small rituals in the space such as one for the previous kindred I was in. Perhaps at some point I will try to make an outdoor Vé.