Tag Archives: asatru

What Sigyn Has Taught Me

Sigyn is perhaps the most understated Goddess in the Norse pantheon. In the Eddas, the only appearance She makes is in the story of Loki’s binding. She holds a bowl to catch the venom that drips from the snake above Him, doing Her best to ease His suffering.

I’ve read articles that describe Sigyn as a passive Goddess and as the embodiment of the traditional wife. I’ve seen Her discussed as someone worthy of disrespect because She stays with Loki despite all of His flaws, despite all of His cheating. That people are so quick to judge the relationship They share by the one mention of Her in the Eddas has always bothered me.

Sigyn isn’t passive, and I wouldn’t say She’s a traditional wife in any sense. She can’t be – look at who She’s married to. Loki would get bored very quickly if Sigyn fit the mold of the traditional wife, but Their relationship is still very solid.

I think what confuses people is the fact that Loki has a lot of godspouses – perhaps more than any other Norse God. People look at that fact and think that means that Sigyn is clueless, that He’s just cheating on her to have a good time.

But that’s because most people don’t approach Sigyn. They don’t try to get to know Her at all. She’s just a minor Goddess, so why does it matter? Even most of the Lokean godspouses I’ve met don’t seem to want to deal with Her – perhaps they are afraid that She would disapprove of them. I don’t know.

What I do know is what Sigyn is like. She’s fiercely loyal to Loki, but She isn’t unreasonably loyal. Though there are those who assume that, since She is the only one who comforted Loki when He was bound.

According to the stories, Loki was bound after His altercation with Baldur. If everyone loved Baldur, then why did Sigyn stay by Loki’s side after He helped orchestra the death of one of the most loved Gods of Asgard?

The most common answer I’ve seen to this question is that Sigyn stayed because She was duty bound to stay by Her husband’s side. And I hate that answer because it assumes that She took on the role of a mindless woman who was so in love with Her husband that She couldn’t see past His horrible act.

If there’s one thing Sigyn isn’t, it’s naive. She knows exactly where Loki goes when He leaves Her alone. She knows all about the godspouses He collects. So, instead of assuming She took on a passive role in the aftermath of Baldur’s death, perhaps the truth is that Sigyn knew exactly what Loki was planning on doing. She knew the reason for Loki’s actions, and She chose to stand by Him because She supported Him and the reasons He gave Her.

It gets under my skin, the way people assume that Sigyn is naive, and I suppose it makes sense that it does. She is the Goddess who understands me best, and the one who helps me understand Loki when His actions don’t make sense to me.

Sigyn is patient, kind, and loyal – but She’s not naive, stupid, or clueless. She has enough faith in the love that She shares with Loki to know that He will always come back to Her, no matter how many godspouses He collects. She knows that He needs His freedom, and, in Her love for Him, she gives Him the freedom to be exactly who He is.

Out of all the lessons Sigyn has ever taught me, that lesson is, perhaps, the most beautiful of them all. She has taught me that love can take on many forms, and that the relationship between lovers depends on their ability to grant one another the freedom to be completely and totally themselves.

So yes, Sigyn knows that Loki has many godspouses, and I’ve discussed it with Her many times – how She can handle knowing that He is out there, forming relationships with so many who aren’t Her. I think the best way that I can sum up what She has said is that while there may be many dalliances along the way, and many broken hearts, there’s only one person who can ever love Loki the way He needs to be loved – with complete and total acceptance of His inability to be tied down to anyone.

By refusing to restrict Him, Sigyn guarantees that Loki will always be loyal to Her – not in the ways of the flesh, perhaps, but in all the ways that matter most. There is no one that Loki trusts more deeply than Sigyn, and, for the trust Loki puts in Her, Sigyn returns that trust with deep loyalty to Him.

While others see Sigyn as a tragic figure – a lonely wife forced to spend a lifetime by the side of Her criminal husband, in lieu of living Her own life – that isn’t how She ever comes across. She has nothing but pride in Her husband, but She doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that Loki’s personality can be hard to handle. The truth is, Sigyn doesn’t love Loki despite His flaws – She loves Him because of His flaws. And that is why, to me, the relationship They share with one another is a beautiful one.

And, even today, when I was making sugar cookies for Her (I don’t know why She wanted sugar cookies, but She did), Loki was hovering and messing around with things, so it ended up taking thirty minutes to bake a ten minute batch of cookies. But Sigyn didn’t get upset or exasperated – and She didn’t seem resigned, either. Her mood was more along the lines of “Yes, husband, I know you like to play with fire, and I like to watch you, so mess around for a bit and get enough of it out of your system for me to have my cookies, then you can play some more and I’ll watch you with cookies in hand.”

That kind of freedom in a relationship is almost impossible to find, and it comes so naturally to the two of Them. I’ve mentioned that I worldwalk before, and I spend a lot of time visiting with Sigyn. Watching Her interact with Loki when He’s there (and it’s not all that often) is incredible. I don’t even have the words to explain how flawlessly synchronized the two of Them are.  Some nights, They don’t even speak to each other, but They are never, ever, out of step.

Difficult Dreams

I’ve talked before about the fact that I do a lot of dreamwalking. That process isn’t always within my control – sometimes one of the Gods seizes control of my dreams and sends me to weird places. When that happens, I often have trouble interpreting what message it is that the deity in question is trying to get across to me.

The Norse Gods are like raging storms of power, no matter which deity we’re talking about, so having my dreams seized by one of Them always leaves me exhausted and pretty much worthless the next day. I’ve mentioned before that the Norse Gods found me rather than the other way around when I started on this path.

I may not have been 100% clear on how that happened. I’ve mentioned the dream I had that featured the Valknut (thus, Odin taking control of the dream), but I’ve never discussed how violent that dream actually was. In the dream, I was me but a past reincarnation of myself (Odin’s dreams with me almost always deal with my past lives). In the dream, I was a male, a father of three boys, and I was in a Viking-style longboat. My sons were with me. A violent wave crashed over the boat, and one of my kids fell into the water. Even though I couldn’t swim and was terrified of drowning, I immediately jumped into the water and managed somehow to save my son – at the expense of my own life. When I looked up from the water (I didn’t experience the sensation of actual drowning in the dream), there were three longboats above the water somehow (impossibly, but still somehow) positioned in the shape of the Valknut.

The last dream I had where Odin took control was also another dream dealing with a past live – in this one, I was also a man. I was an ancient Sumerian warrior, a leader of one of the armies. In this one, Odin was actually physically present, although I have to say that his outfit was one of the most ridiculous I’ve ever seen. He was on Sleipnir the whole time, but he was wearing a red and white checkered bandanna over his blind eye. In the dream, my army had just captured an enemy city, and we were standing on the top of a fortress wall. I gave orders to kill everyone in the enemy army, and then civilians were brought up and asked a series of questions that determined whether or not they were allowed to live. It was brutal, and I had no mercy in me.

Now, as violent as these dreams are, I can process them and understand them because Odin’s messages are almost always about my past lives. When they aren’t, then the dream consists of both Odin and Loki, and Loki communicates with me without any trouble. There’s no interpretation to be done – He’s very straightforward. So, in those dreams, Loki essentially acts as a translator of sorts. Or I will hear a conversation between Odin and Loki that is in actuality a message intended for me.

When Freyja wants to communicate with me, She does so from deep within my psyche. She directly connects to that, and She uses the empathic language I understand (being a natural born empath) to communicate Her message through feelings. I can then interpret those feelings into words and understand what She needs me to know.

Lately, though, I’ve been having dreams that involve Hela. While I have a great deal of respect for Her, as I do all of Loki’s children, I don’t follow Her path, and I don’t make regular offerings to Her. Despite that, my dreams recently have been plagued with Her presence in subtle ways that I can’t quite seem to grasp. I don’t know if that She’s just too different from me, or what, but it is supremely frustrating to know that She is trying to communicate with me and not being able to comprehend the message She is trying to send.

There are little hints of death in a great deal of my dreams lately, but there are two dreams that stick out to me because they are the ones where I felt Her most clearly. In the first, I witnessed the head of a female woman with black hair and ivory pale skin roll down a pile of bones – the head wasn’t attached to a body. That’s all that dream was.

In the second dream, I was standing in the middle of a city covered in an ashen winter – it was cold, but the snow on the ground was volcanic ash. Hela stood in front of me. The reason I knew it was Her was because I could only make out half of Her body – the other half distorted every time I tried to bring it into focus. And I couldn’t help trying to bring it into focus – the dead half of Hela seems to both attract and repel at the same time, and I found that rather intriguing. Anyway, before She could talk to me and tell me what it is that she needed from me, grotesque grey creatures with very slinky limbs (able to contort in disturbing ways) with greedy eyes and mouths full of terrifyingly sharp fangs started to swarm up from the sides of the street, and the connection was lost.

I’ve never felt so frustrated about being unable to communicate properly with a deity before – even the deities whose paths I don’t walk, like Thor, sometimes communicate to me in my dreams. Although Thor only does so begrudgingly, to be fair.

If anyone has insight into this, that would be awesome, but I mostly wanted to share this because I feel like it’s important that those people who aren’t Gods-touched know that those of us who are Gods-touched can have difficulty communicating with the Gods. That’s mostly because we’re human, and the Gods are divine beings.

While every human has a spark of the divine in them, lights can be bright and lights can be dim. I’d say that being Gods-touched is being like a bright light, allowing the Gods to find the connection with more ease. The problem, however, is that the Gods aren’t the only non-human entity that divine sparks can draw. That’s why a lot of those who are Gods-touched end up drawing away from any/all spiritual paths – for fear of being driven crazy by hostile entities.

 

Update on the Heathen School 

I was really excited about the adaptiveU platform for hosting a school, but it’s incredibly difficult to work with. I’m good with software (not with hardware, though – don’t ask me to build you a computer) and can generally figure out how a program works within 10 – 20 minutes.

Working with the platform was really frustrating – not because it was hard to navigate. No, the platform is really easy to navigate. The problem is that it doesn’t save anything properly, so there are obviously glitches in the programming that need to be sussed out.

I am still creating a school – I’m just using a different platform – rcampus. It has an incredibly old school internet feel, which I absolutely love. I thought I’d hate it, but I actually find myself enjoying seeing the internet the way it used to look way back in the 90s. A bit of retro with the modern age is pretty cool.

Anyway, this platform works differently because I have to fully create a course before I can publish it. Once I finish writing this course (I’m maybe halfway through it – it’s an introductory course), I’ll share the link and the access code.

Winter Nights

This is Winter Nights. For those unfamiliar with heathen holidays, this is the day we honor Freyja and the disir. The disir are a group of semi-goddesses and figuring out what role they play in the grander scheme of things is rather complicated. There are theories out there that say that disir are female ancestral spirits and there are theories that paint the disir as being more important than wights but less important than goddesses. The only real etymological clue is that the prefix “dis” means goddess. Since Freyja is considered the Dis of the Vanir, or the Grand Dis, I’m going to keep it simple and say that the disir are lesser goddesses. Not lesser in terms of importance but in how much influence they have in day-to-day things.

Freyja, of course, has quite a large impact on day-to-day things, as she is the goddess of love, beauty, sex, and magic. Through her, I have learned some of the darker aspects of the runes, and she has shown me how to accept the more feminine side of myself, which, before her, I had trouble doing. To honor her this night, I am burning a dragonfruit scented candle, and, of course, writing this entry. I don’t stick to the traditional format of blots or rituals – instead, I do what feels instinctively right.

With that being said, I did find an image of Freyja and a poem I want to share, both from external sources, that I thought were remarkable. The picture I found shows Freyja the way I always see her, and the poem describes, for me, some of the strength she helped me to find. The image came from the Modern Heathen website (I found it through google, however, so I don’t have a direct link), and the poem came from the Odin’s Gift website here. Enjoy!

freyja

The First Lesson by Maris Pái

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 realized 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 agonized 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.

Loki’s Path: Non-conformity

I’ve talked before about how Loki’s path revolves around change. While that’s a large part of walking His path, there’s a lot more to it. To walk Loki’s path, you really need to be comfortable with ambiguity and abstraction, and you need to have a sense of humor because weird things are going to happen to you. A lot of weird things, in fact. That’s just Loki being affectionate, and it’s really important to learn to look at the weird obstacles life throws at you as Loki’s way of letting you know He’s around.

To walk Loki’s path, it’s definitely necessary to be comfortable with weird. He has a tendency to turn the status quo on its head, and He doesn’t care at all what society has to say about who He should be. He just does His own thing, consequences be damned.

That’s one reason that I think that the Loki portrayed in the Thor movies is just another aspect of Loki. Of all the Gods, He is the one who tends to appear the most in fictional settings. Tricksters lend themselves to the screen. Granted, I don’t view Loki as a villain the way the Thor movies try to paint Him, and the mythology is all wrong, but a movie is just fiction adapted to the screen.

I’ve read articles upon articles about how falsely portraying Norse mythology to the millions of people who watched the Thor movies was misleading and how that representation of the mythology was a “crime” against Norse pagans. I, however, have the audacity (if you will) to disagree with that assessment. I look at those movies as the Gods saying, “Hey, we’re still around, and we’re not going to let any of you forget about it.”

Other articles, of course, have condemned Marvel for “Christianizing” the myths with the way Odin kicks Thor out of Asgard. Getting upset by that is counterproductive, however, as it is a fact of life that Christianity is the major religion in the United States, so more people are going to respond to movies that represent that “savior” mentality. Instead of looking at Marvel as the bad guy, I feel like it makes more sense to say the Gods know how to make Their presence known by adapting to what will appeal to more people. In some ways, the Gods are marketing Themselves, if only to announce that They are still around. If a person is meant to find the Norse Gods, then that person will find Them, whether it is through reading the Poetic Edda, the Norse myths, or watching the Thor movies.

I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with me and want to argue that point, but honestly, I’m fed up with every person who feels that the path they walk can only be walked in one way. Every path walked in life has branches, just like Yggdrasil branches into nine worlds. Loki’s path is about exploring the smaller branches, about seeing what is out there, and about not making assumptions.

I remember doing an assignment for a history class a couple semesters back where I had to find information about people who were infamous for being monsters. I found a striking resemblance between the people I researched and Loki because a lot of the people I researched were branded monsters simply because they went against the mainstream culture of their day.

Loki, I suppose, can be called the face of counter-culture, of true nonconformity. Anyone who identifies as pagan in a Christian culture is at least slightly nonconformist to begin with, but that isn’t what I mean by nonconformity. Nor am I referring to the group that most people assume is meant by the term nonconformist, which is generally the goth group.

No, what I mean by nonconformity is more internal. Nonconformists tend to look like everyone else – there’s no need to announce that you don’t agree with mainstream society – but the opinions and beliefs held are radically different than the mainstream of any particular group.

While being pagan is a non-conformist action towards the larger mainstream religious society of Christianity, there is a mainstream group in paganism, and that is Wicca. There’s nothing wrong with people who identify with Wicca – I don’t mean to imply that. But to experience Wicca as the only pagan path and arbitrarily decide that it is the right path without a solid reason as to why it’s the right path is a type of conformity.

If you are Wiccan and you can explain exactly why you are Wiccan, then you aren’t Wiccan just because the majority of pagans are Wiccan. You have deeply seated beliefs and reasons that you can explain, and those reasons are incredibly personal. Nonconformity, at its deepest level, is about putting your personal beliefs and principles over the principle beliefs and ideals put forth by the society you find yourself within, whether we are talking about mainstream American culture or mainstream religious culture.

Even in Asatru, there’s a mainstream way to do things, and if you fail to do them, there’s a tendency to find yourself shunned. Many kindreds disavow Loki, not including Him in their practice, and those kindreds sow distrust towards Loki in their members.

In general terms, Asatru is a religion that is seen as having a practical grounding, and magic (excluding seidr and galdr) are seen as ridiculous, frivolous, and unrealistic. To voice dissenting opinions on this is to invite criticism at best and outright hostility at worse.

The truth is, the mainstream Asatruars expect every other Asatruar to follow certain unwritten guidelines of behavior. Choosing to deviate from that pattern of behavior can result in ostracizing others, and people who are ostracized tend to look for other, easier paths to follow. No one wants to feel ostracized for their beliefs, and, in some ways, mainstream Asatruar tend to chase people away. It is a much more exclusive pagan faith than Wicca, although Wicca has its own set of mainstream expectations.

With Loki being the face of nonconformity, it’s fairly easy to see how a Lokean can feel alienated and ostracized and why Loki is considered by many the God of outsiders, or of society’s misfits. We have a tendency not to fit into the molds that people shove our way, telling us we need to behave in a particular way or believe certain things.

Loki looks at all of those “you should” comments and dismisses them. He doesn’t even bother to ask why, just goes on about the business of being Himself. And that’s what Loki’s path is ultimately about – having the courage to be who you are, no matter what. So, for those people out there who think of Loki as a coward, I have this to say – there is nothing more frightening than standing outside the mold society has prepared for you, knowing that people are going to shun you for daring to be yourself, and then being yourself anyway.

Walking Odin’s Path

Odin’s path is, in some ways, the most complicated of the many paths I walk. He is a leader, a warrior, a scholar, a poet, and a shaman. That’s a lot of roles to fill, and it can be somewhat overwhelming at times. it can be easy to fall into mainstream thinking because it’s easier to do – easier to just let things be easy and to go with the crowd. Even on pagan paths, there’s a mainstream. Ironic, really, that there’s a mainstream way of doing things in a minority religion, but it’s not really that surprising.

Asatru, in particular, is notorious for the self-righteous heathens that make up a large percentage of the faith. There’s a very narrow definition of what is and isn’t okay in Asatru. I’ve been told that the only acceptable religious practices in Asatru are those that are found within the lore, but the lore doesn’t actually contain a lot of information. Mostly, the lore is a bunch of stories. Important stories, for sure, but they don’t contain the entire truth.

In some ways, Asatru tries too hard to cling to the idea of being a lore-based pagan faith. There are claims like, “Asatru is the only pagan faith that has lore that survived the crusades,” which isn’t true. The Greek and Roman myths survived, as did the Egyptian myths and the Celtic myths (and I’m sure far more). And those myths weren’t tarnished by Christian hands the way the Poetic Edda and Sagas were tarnished. That is often forgotten.

Anyway, the reason I brought that up is that I started wondering if Asatru was really the path Odin meant for me to walk, or if defining myself as an eclectic heathen would be more appropriate. As I started thinking about it, I kept coming back to this passage in the Havamal:

Happy is he who hath in himself

praise and wisdom in life;

for oft doth a man ill counsel get

when ’tis born in another’s breast. 

And, as I continued to think about it, I started seeing the Othala rune in my mind. The Othala rune indicates inheritance, and it can be either physical or spiritual. On the rune-secrets site, the quote that goes with the rune is “We inherit ourselves.” I felt like I was being guided to the answers I sought, and the answer was pretty clear.

The truth is, I will never fit into any particular path because it is not what I am meant to do. I’m still figuring out what exactly it is that I am meant to do, but I know that it’s going to entail an intermingling of different paths. Odin’s path is the path of many paths, considering all the roles he takes, but the most important of those roles is sage – or seeker of wisdom.

To seek wisdom means to seek it wherever it can be found, no matter where the path may lead me. That requires sacrifice, and, as Odin is also the god of sacrifice, it makes sense that his path requires it. As for the answer to my question, I am starting to embrace the idea of identifying as an eclectic heathen. After all, the only opinions that should sway me, in matters of faith, are the opinions of the gods themselves.

Harvest Songs

It can be relatively difficult to find good pagan music, and since Freyfaxi (or Lughnasadh – whatever you choose to call it) is this weekend, I figured I’d share one of the songs I like.

Also, on an incidental note, for some reason, I’ve always associated Freyr with dragons. Not really sure why, but if anyone else has had a similar upg, I’d love to hear more. If not, I’ll keep trying to puzzle it out myself.

Anyway, here is the song.

Loki and Balder – Loki as the In-Between

All heathens know the story of Balder’s dream and his subsequent demise, but to make sure everyone’s on the same page, I’ll summarize. The story goes that Balder, the most beautiful of the gods, starts to have troubling dreams about his death. He tells his mother, Frigga, about the dreams, and she grows worried because Balder’s dreams are prophetic. So she travels around the world, extracting oaths from all living things not to cause harm to befall her son. Once those oaths have been extracted, the Aesir begin to throw weapons made of all types of materials at Balder, and none of the weapons harm them. This annoys Loki, who shape-shifts and learns from Frigga herself that she has not extracted an oath from mistletoe because she believed the plant to be too young. At once, Loki finds a sprig of mistletoe and goes to Hod, who isn’t participating in the festivities. When Loki asks Hod why he doesn’t throw anything at Balder, Hod’s response is that he doesn’t have anything to throw, and besides, he’s blind. So Loki gives him the mistletoe sprig, guides his hand, and Hod’s weapon causes Balder’s death.

Now, nearly every heathen interpretation I’ve read of this myth turns Loki into the bad guy. It seems like a lot of people want Loki to be evil, but I don’t think Loki is evil. I think he is an agent of change and the god of catalysts. I’ve discussed the idea of Loki as catalyst before, but I think it’s more than that. I have been reading a book called “Trickster Makes This World” by Lewis Hyde (and you should check it out, it’s fascinating), and Hyde suggests that this myth is something else entirely.

According to Hyde, Loki is trying to keep change alive, and he is annoyed by Frigga’s attempts to stop it. In a way, it becomes a battle between the conventional and the unconventional. Balder’s dreams prophesy his own death – his fate is foretold, his death is ascertained. Frigga takes it into her own hands to try and prevent that fate. She attempts to cheat death; she attempts to prevent change from happening. Loki, as the agent of change, the god who relies on accidents, happenstance, and chance in order to continue existing himself (as he could not exist outside the realm of change, being the embodiment of change), cannot let Frigga’s actions stand. So, he investigates and finds a way to re-introduce change.

This is the first interpretation of Loki’s role in the Balder story that has made perfect sense to me because it highlights two opposite forces, and Loki tends to walk the boundaries that fall between opposites. He’s a troublemaker, yet a problem solver. A god, yet a giant. An adult, yet a child. A man, yet a woman. He is the personification of the in-between. He is the rebel that fits into society just enough to not get thrown out, but he is also the god who introduces change into that society. Loki is the god that gets the wall around Asgard built, which keeps the gods safe from the giants, yet he is also the god that steals Idun and her apples away from Asgard and introduces the concept of aging to the gods.

Loki is a trickster, and tricksters aren’t inherently evil. People forget that the Eddas were written by a Christian who did not believe in the Norse gods – a man who was also trying to suggest Christianity was a better and smarter way of life and belief. When we remember that the writer of the Eddas was a Christian with his own agenda, we can see that Loki was painted as the stand-in for the Christian devil. Since we only have the Norse myths through the words of a Christian, we need to peel away the layers and find the truths that exist behind the deceits.

To do that, we need to enlist the aid of Loki, as he is the trickster who has perfected the art of the lie. Only Loki can help us see through the illusions of the world around us, as there is no one harder to deceive than the god of deceit. But to work with Loki, you need to have a sense of humor, and you need to be comfortable with ambiguity. In other words, you need to be comfortable in the grey areas of life because it is only in the in-between that Loki can be found.

My Thoughts on UPGs

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.

Self-Reliance: My Interpretation

Here’s my ninth essay on the Nine Noble Virtues.

Self-Reliance

Self-reliance is a difficult concept for me to discuss because it encompasses every part of my life. I read a lot, so I get an idea of what other people view self-reliance as being, but I don’t always agree with other people. Actually, I frequently disagree with others, and I find myself constantly re-evaluating my decisions and thoughts, trying to find a middle ground because I am good at jumping to extremes. It is because I am so prone to jumping to extremes that I search so hard for the middle ground – it is a skill I’ve had to practice, and I don’t always succeed at finding it until someone points it out to me.

From what I’ve gathered, others tend to view self-reliance as financial reliance, but I don’t care much about money and never have. If I had to place myself in a socioeconomic class, I would be considered impoverished because the only job I work is the work study I do at my school (which pays around $200-$250 a month due to the limitations placed on it), and I draw food stamps to pay for my groceries. Most of the money I make goes to gas because I still live at home with my dad – in a house that has been in my family for five generations. If I were to conform to society’s standards, I should be ashamed that I live at home, that I work a low end job, that I draw support from the government – and sometimes I do feel shame, but that doesn’t stop me from living the life I have.

The thing is, I view financial self-reliance as a means to an end. If you’re rich, then you have luxuries like sports cars, fancy entertainment systems, etcetera. Money is the fuel for luxurious living, not a means to living. Obtaining government support so that I can eat every month is a decision I made on my own without input from anyone else. Not to work more than forty hours a month at a work study job while I’m in school – another decision I made for myself. Because I know that even with the low income I have right now, I have the things that matter – I have a roof over my head, a car that runs (necessary since I live 14 miles from town), and friends/family I care about. I don’t intend to stay in this financial situation forever – I’m enrolled in school for a reason. But I don’t look at money as something that determines whether or not I’m self-reliant.

Self-reliance, in my mind, deals more with emotional, mental, and spiritual issues. If I make a decision, I commit myself to that decision. I was having a discussion earlier today with someone who jokingly said “Commitments are made to be broken.” That’s not something I felt comfortable joking about, so I replied seriously – “No. Commitments are made to be honored.” Because that, to me, is the way I live. If I say I’m going to do something, I will do it. My word is my bond, and I have to trust myself to honor my word. Self-trust is not something that comes easily to anyone, and having ADHD as I do makes it more difficult for me than most.

I believe self-reliance comes from self-trust and self-knowledge and neither of those are gained through easy methods. Taking the time to really get to know the way your own mind works, to understand what works for you and what doesn’t, to decide whether or not you will be swayed by the opinions of the people that surround you – all of that builds up and forges the foundation of a personality – experience does the rest. I’ve dealt with a lot of hardship in my life, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to lay down and let myself be defeated. The world isn’t an easy place to live, and if it were, living wouldn’t be worth doing.

Self-doubt and self-reliance seem like polar opposites but they go hand-in-hand. There’s not a single person out there who doesn’t doubt the decisions they make, but at some point, we have to decide whether we trust ourselves more than we doubt ourselves. I believe that it’s when we reach a point of extreme self-doubt and yet choose to trust ourselves anyways, no matter the consequences of our decision – that’s when self-reliance is truly forged. Of course, that’s just the beginning. Because the big decisions in our lives are always fueled by that extreme self-doubt, so I feel that a developed sense of self-reliance only comes from a heavy experience of self-doubt during the decisions we must make throughout our lives.

Note: I spent May 6-May 20 in Canada, so that’s why I haven’t posted anything until now, for those of you who are wondering.