Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day Eleven: Pantheon (Odin)

Oðinn is one of those gods that sets the spirit singing, for various reasons. He is utterly magnificent for all he is sneaky and restrained when he wants to be. He is fearsomely marvellous and marvellously fearsome, and I love and admire him very much.

I met Oðinn properly many years ago when I was a silly little chit of a witchling, and asked Apollo for advice on Runes. (Because Apollo is connected with divination, don'tcherknow.) Apollo tactfully suggested I talk to Oðinn about it. So I did.

Oðinn is a very layered god. He and I share a lot in common, which is why I think I like him as much as I do. We both like language, and words. We value wit, wisdom and poetry. We like to wander. We like to learn for the sake of learning.

He has so many sides to him, so many things in which he dips his fingers. Oðinn is a god of war.... and a god who practises an argr form of magic. (That is, ummanly. Shamefully feminine.) He is a Tricky Bastard of the highest order, with a tendency to smile on people in battle until they've reached the peak of their abilities and then let them die so he can add them to his personal army. "Hi, you know that magic sword I gave you that helped you win all your battles? Yeah, I'm gonna need that back now. Have fun fighting that huge great army that vastly outnumbers you. Ciao!" He's also a lover, a leader, the Most Wise, a god with more names than I've had hot dinners and some of them quite fearsome indeed. Ygg, the Terrible!

When I think of him, I acknowledge that he is a particularly frightening deity. Yet when I honour him or speak with him, I do not fear him but feel great love for him. He is patient with me though I've taken so long in learning his Runes. I am happy to do for him what he wants me to do, yet, I'm glad I'm not "one of his" as I hear he's rather harsh with them. I'm more comfortable and happy in his presence than I am with many of his folk. But he is big, and not in the sense of being physically intimidating. More in the sense that you're very aware that he could squish you if he wanted to. I associate a lot with him, more than I do with many gods, in the way of "correspondences". Many of them physical, or ineffable. He's grey and blue, like the sky, particularly dark grey-blue of heavy clouds. The scent of snow in the air. He's wolf and bear. He is winter, and blood on the snow. He's also things that keep you warm on a cold night, like mead, and stories by the fire, and sex. He's the clang of metal on metal and the taste of blood in your mouth.

I see him with grey beard and hair, and sharp eye (the other, of course, not being there), sometimes wearing a blue cloak and his traveller's hat, sometimes wearing a wolfskin cloak. He gave me one similar during a Walk once, and taught me things that day. One of those things is that one wears wolfskin if it is cold if the alternative is freezing. He likes mead, very much, and he doesn't like peach schnapps.

So don't give him any.

(As always, click the "30 days" tag at the bottom there to quickly find my other entries.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I have become involved in something called "The Informed Pagan Project", the aim of which is to provide some assistance to those coming to Paganism for the first time. Paganism is of course rife with misinformation; even people who have been practising Pagans for years are still labouring under misinformation. The aim of TIP project is to grease the wheels a little, so that people don't have to look back at their "fluffy period" and facepalm.

From the website:
The Informed Pagan is a collaborative Pagan community that can be used as a resource for learning more about the various religions and practices that fall under the Pagan umbrella. A place where one can ask any question and expect thoughtful, honest answers, based not only on collective experiences, but currently available scholarly research. [...] We felt strongly that more guidance should be available for Pagans of all types. [...] The Informed Pagan is for anyone who needs a bit of help navigating the world of Paganism.
The organisation hopes to, in time, produce books of essays, devotionals and so on, the proceeds from which will go to charity. (Which charity has not at present been decided upon.) At this point the program is looking for help in the form of questions or topics you feel should be discussed, particularly on the subject of starting out as a new Pagan. What do you wish you had known back then? If you're a new Pagan or still feel like a bit of a beginner, what areas do you want to be better explained? What do popular 101 books always fail to discuss?

Contact TIP Project via the website or via Tumblr, Twitter or Google+.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day Ten: Patrons

What should I say here? I am going to talk about Loki, my fulltrui, and about the Gods of my Hedgecraft. I feel I should mention both although, as I've stated before, the Gods of my Hedgecraft can hardly be called "patrons".

He and She are Gods I consider "Primal", part of the very earth and sky, part of the rain and forest and beating sun. They are good things and bad, but most of all, They are the boundary between life and death and the very drive of all things to live. They are Passion, in all its forms. They are the desperate need to survive: lust, and hunger, and fear. The edge of the knife.

I've known Them for a long time, but my understanding of Them has grown and developed a great deal over time. For the longest time I was bogged down in other people's impressions about deities who may in fact be quite different to Them... and I worshipped Them for years with a very shallow understanding of Them. That's changed as I started to get a better idea out of what I wanted in a personal witchcraft tradition, a better understanding of ecstatic ritual and a more clear idea of how I understand the world.

They're not patrons.... the word doesn't work with Them. But, I think if I were ever to consider myself "priesthood" - and I'm always unsure about that - it would be of these two Deities.

And then there's Loki. He Who Is Always a Question, Trickster, the Cause Of And Solution To All of Life's Problems. He didn't come into my life in a blaze of fire, or announce his arrival with an explosion or something large falling down. He insinuated himself into my life slowly, so that I didn't really realise what was happening. I remained wary of him for a long time but still unutterably fond of him... I'd read stories of him as a child and though now they're lost in the fog of my memory, part of him stuck with me. This story was one I read, and forgot, and remembered again. I got a choice, too, in whether to be his or not. I'm not sure what the choice means... whether it means I can't complain later on, or whether to be truly screwed over you have to enter into it willingly. But for what it's worth I do trust him. I am not wary of him anymore; I am aware of him.

What shall I say of him. He has taught me many things, such as when to laugh, and when to play, and not to take the opinions of others to heart. He has taught me to leap and be brave, to take chances, and to do what makes me happy. There was also a curious instance in which Oðinn took an interest in me and gave me a Lesson, and Loki turned up halfway through rather vexed. They had a Conversation, to which I was not privy, but I suspect he was ascertaining whether Oðinn was not making plans for me that interfered with his own.

The thing about Loki is.... he's so.... It's like he looks at things with different eyes to everyone else. I think Oðinn "gets" him, and a couple of the others, but it's like the way he sees things he's looking at it from twelve perspectives at once and makes decisions that seem bizarre or nonsensical because he's working with a hidden aim, or no aim at all, or an aim that will become apparent to him later. He's incredibly perspicacious and his reasons are his own and are hidden and obscure, and I think sometimes he makes a decision on the spur of the moment based on who-knows-what. If the world's a stage and everyone players, Loki reads from a different script entirely. Possibly the same one, but one with all these notations made by the playwrite: little changes and stuff that don't appear on anyone else's script. He is a Cosmic Fool, the one who makes the gods look at themselves. He is a culture-bringer, and a breaker of stagnation. And he gets shit for it. But without him the gods would be living in a wall-less Asgard without wonderful weapons, and people would be dull little creatures.

I made him an oath once that I thought of as a "bargain", "I do this if you'll do that". But he considered it an oath, and it was, I just didn't think of it that way. So he gets a kiss from me, every day. I don't pretend to understand him or his reasons for doing essentially anything. I just count myself lucky to have him in my life, particularly in a way that, at present, doesn't hurt.

One thing is clearer than most, and that is that he is very fond of his family.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sexism in Neo-Paganism

Look at me, bringing these two blog themes together in one perfect post. This is a subject that makes me grind my teeth, and it's possible you've come across it: the misandry present in some traditions of goddess-worship.

There are some Neo-Pagan and witchcraft writers who have a terrible opinion of men. Many of these writers are straight and married, which confounds me even more. Yet their hatred of men must simmer down there somewhere, in their hidden depths, because they tear men down. They declare them tainted, bad, evil, violent, dirty. Men, to these writers, are perverts, thugs, brutes, with no love in their hearts, no passion, beauty or art.

"[The Goddess] restores aspects of men's humanity, and divinity, which have been sacrificed to an unbalanced and unhealthy concept of masculinity."
 - Phyllis Curott, Witch Crafting, pg 125
"In the wasteland of emotional suppression, the Goddess offers the healing, freedom, refreshment and empowerment that connecting to your feelings will give you. She offers sexuality and eroticism that is whole and integrated into the realm of feelings, instead of isolated and objectified in body parts, magazines, porn flicks, one night stands and strip clubs."
 - pg 126

 Men are inhuman and inhumane. Their identity, their understanding of their own masculinity, is clearly inferior to Curott's own, which of course is not at all unbalanced. Men are emotionally stunted at best, emotionally dead at worst, and can't properly enjoy sex, obviously, because they're so obsessed with boobs and penises and porn. They'll never feel real love without the goddess, let alone enjoy sex with a spouse!

This isn't just insulting, it's upsetting. If this sort of disgusting sexism was directed at women there would be hell to pay. But it's OK if it's directed at men?

I would hate for there to be a culture of man-hating developing in Paganism. It's in Starhawk, it's in Curott, it's in more authors besides and it disturbs me to think of a generation of young Pagans reading this shit and internalising it. I hate to think of girls inheriting a chip on their shoulders about men, thinking they're all violent and hateful, and I hate to think of boys thinking they're horrible people who need a goddess to save them from their "original sin" of being born with a penis. (Or not, I guess, if they're trans.)


Men are awesome. For that matter, penises are awesome. Many of these authors worship gods as well as goddesses, and I don't understand how they can worship a deity and not respect their gender.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November, and Vexations Aired

It is the beginning of November, and that means many things.

First it means that I have three religious holidays upcoming, all of them centred around the beginning of summer, except possibly for Walpurgisnacht, which I haven't really figured out the purpose of yet except to honour Hel, which is reason enough for me to hold it. I like Hel. Then I have the Norse May Day, or Summernights. Then my equivalent of Beltaine. (Still haven't come across a new name for that one yet. But I have until the 8th to think one up, right?) This also means a new blog design, because that's how I roll.

The second thing this means is that everyone is going around saying "Happy Samhain!" and I have to ignore them, because if I don't ignore them I will lose my shit at them instead. It is not Samhain where I live. I don't make assumptions regarding which hemisphere you live in, do I? There are any number of websites who will do a massive focus on Samhain and just mention offhand that, you know, a massive portion of the world happens to be celebrating the beginning of summer instead. But they don't need to go into detail, you can just look back six months to the last time they did a Beltaine post, because who really cares, right? Even the Wild Hunt did that this year. Allllll this stuff about Samhain, and all the southern hemisphere gets is "In addition, Pagans in the Southern Hemisphere are currently celebrating Beltane." Thanks bunches.

I suppose I should count myself lucky I even celebrate something similar to many of these holidays, and I'm not a Hellenic or Kemetic Pagan doing my nut every time someone assumes I give a flying fuck about the Wheel of the Year.

The third thing this means is that NaNoWriMo has begun. That's right, 30 days of novelling fun, in which I may well lose my mind but you will forgive me, I know you will. By the way, if you hadn't heard about National Novel Writing Month, there's still plenty of time for you to join in. This year I'm incorporating an element of spirituality into my novel, which I haven't done before, so that should be interesting. Or a colossal failure. We'll have to wait and see.

On top of this a lot of forums and websites are doing Hallowe'en events, so I've been joining in the fun of all of those. So I have been distracted. But not distracted enough to abandon my dear blog! oh no - especially given how prone I am to procrastination, and how good a blog is at fulfilling that.

I saw mention on an auction site not unlike ebay of a book by Phyllis Curott, and thought of a book of hers I'd found years ago but never properly got around to reading. I dug through my collection (I have about eight books sitting waiting to be read, and I still covet more) and found it, "Witch Crafting". I'm right in the mood for reading it right now, though it's one of those sorts of books that really fudges the meaning of "witchcraft". I'm fairly sure Curott is a Wiccan initiate, but she speaks of witchcraft in a very general way. At the same time, though, she's very firm on the "witchcraft is a religion" front, which, if you are a returning reader, you will know I strongly disagree with.

However, I am determined to enjoy the read. One of the reasons, I think, that I haven't been reading as much as I should is because I have been working on book reviews. These slow down the reading process and make reading more work than enjoyment, which isn't really a good thing. On the other hand, I hate the idea of having a thought when reading and forgetting it by the time I come to review. However, I want to get something out of many of these books on a personal level as well as an intellectual one, and reading with too high a level of critique means some of this passes me by. From now on I think I will read a book through for enjoyment's sake before thinking about reviewing it. Just seven pages into the introduction there are so many issues I've found - using "witch" and "Wiccan" interchangeably, speaking of Wicca as if it is Paganism, flawed history - that frankly I would rather ignore for the present. I'm sure there's something to be gained from this book. These points will count against if I ever do review it properly... already I'm fairly sure I wouldn't recommend it to a beginner because of that degree of confusion they'd likely suffer. And a high priestess should really know better.

I mean, what is this sentence: "Women have found a spiritual home in Wicca because it is the only Western religion that has a Goddess as well as a God". What the fuck, Ms Curott? Does Asatru not exist? Hellenism? Religio Romana? Celtic polytheisms? and more besides? You wrote this in 2001 - how could you not know about these religions?

You see, I let these things upset me, and then I get annoyed and throw the book across the room. I'm sure there's something more to this book if I can learn not to focus on the insulting stuff.

(Oh, good. Various Amazon reviews inform me that this book teems with misandry. Shoot me now.)