UPG stands for Unverifiable Personal Gnosis, and it is essentially a personal interaction with any deity that doesn’t have any basis in the lore. I am going to say right now that I adore UPG because it is how I interact with the Gods. And I have no problem with others who have UPGs because I believe everyone’s path is different, so ridiculing someone else’s beliefs is a little counterproductive.
While I think that UPG can enrich a person’s spiritual practice, I don’t think that UPGs should be used as the foundation of a communal faith. When a faith is shared, then there needs to be shared practices and traditions that are embraced in communal settings because the sharing of those practices is what allows a faith to flourish. In this particular aspect of life, I agree with traditional reconstructionists. Public blots and sumbels should be done in a way that is as close as possible to the way they were originally done. In this one area, I embrace reconstruction.
In almost every other area, I shed it. In my personal practices, I feel no need to stick to the traditional format of the blot because I believe in cultivating personal relationships with the Gods and Goddesses I follow. How I choose to cultivate those relationships is difficult to relate except to say that it is largely done through UPG. And most of that UPG is done through dreams.
I dream a lot. I don’t remember every dream I have, but I have about half a dozen dreams every night that I can remember in glimpses. I also dreamwalk – I hesitate to call it a shamanic practice due to the difficulties talking about shamanism in general can invoke. I’ve read many sites and books that claim shamans no longer exist, that there are just people who try to emulate shamanic practices from other cultures, and that claiming to be a shaman doesn’t make you one. Which isn’t surprising, considering no one seems to agree on what a shaman is supposed to actually be, other than some kind of medicinal herbal healer who walks in the spirit world.
The truth is, though, that what I’ve been doing my entire life echoes everything I’ve ever read in books and websites about shamanism, and I trance as easily as I breathe. I was trained as an empath by my mother, and the more research I do, the more similarities exist between empaths and shamans, so I am okay with either term though I tend to use empath since it is more widely understood and accepted.
So when I say I dreamwalk, I mean I walk through the worlds when I sleep. I don’t necessarily do it by intention – I can fall asleep and “wake up” somewhere else. I know there are people who would love to have the gifts I do, but the gifts do come with a price. I struggle to fall asleep – I have insomnia – and I do not wake feeling rested when I dreamwalk because I am fully conscious while sleeping.
But is through my dreamwalking that I experience UPGs. It was UPG that pulled me into the world of the Nordic Gods to begin with. In that particular dream, I was a man, drowning in an ocean, trying to make sure my children were safe, and the boats above my head were Viking longboats that somehow perfectly formed a triangle. In interpreting that dream (which I do myself because dream interpretations are 100% specific to an individual), I found myself drawn to Odin and heathenry.
I don’t often share the UPGs I’ve had because they are usually incredibly personal, but some of them are random glimpses of the Gods. I had one dream where I was walking up a snow-covered bank watching Odin climb up the hill in front of me. Even though he never turned around, I knew he was aware I was there, and it was a rather somber moment.
Those UPGs don’t mean anything to anyone besides myself, and I would never try to use a UPG in order to convince someone that the way I see certain Gods is the only way to see them. In any case, if anyone has a UPG they are comfortable with sharing, I’d love to hear it. I’m also willing to entertain questions about the dreamwalking, as I have been teaching a couple people how to do it.