Fear of Freyja

Due to recent experiences of mine and other people that I know I’ve been thinking about this. I posted this to my Tumblr and the Facebook group for Freyja devotees (Virtual Sessrumnir).  Let me know your thoughts if you know the Lady (or maybe if you don’t and there’s a reason for that).  Also, as a special tip to Freyjasfolk, check out the amazing devotional necklace for Freyja, named Rose Warrior, that Seb Lokason has made. Get it quick, and if you really like me get it for me, my birthday is coming up 😉

After I was drawn into Her embrace more directly this year and while I was still bright-eyed and bedazzled, I had a series of experiences that felt like the Lady showing me aspects of Herself that I wasn’t so comfortable with. Lady of the Slain, a Goddess of Death, a Goddess who values tears regardless of their reason (though She may weep alongside you), a Goddess of passion and all that entails, even the bloody and terrifying.

As a Goddess of death, she’s helped me to deal with my fear of speaking to the dead and honoring the Ancestors. As a Goddess of conflict she’s taught me to be proud of the battles that I fight every day. As a Goddess of passion, she’s taught me to fan the flames of my own passions and not reject them, even if they make me uncomfortable (though I suspect I’m a work in progress there – it’s those things that get me in the most arguments with Her).

So many people just see the brightness, and how can you not? She’s the desire of the Nine Worlds and bears the brightest jewel. She is Power and Passion and Beauty and Strength and Magic (and cats, of course, always cats). So bedazzled are folks by her most obvious aspects that they often fail to see what some might call her darker side. I don’t like that kind of false binary distinction, so I simply consider those parts of her the aspects that I am less comfortable with because of the cultures that I was raised in.

They are there nevertheless, and She would not be as powerful and complex and admirable a Goddess were She without them. They are part and parcel of the whole of Her, discomfiting and frightening though they may be even (or perhaps especially) to those who love Her.

So I’ll ask you: what are the aspects of Freyja that make you uncomfortable? What things does she embody that make you step back or shy away? What parts make you nervous? (They won’t all be the same aspects; for instance I know people who are very uncomfortable with Her uncompromising sexuality, and anti-capitalists that are put off by her role as a Goddess of wealth and gold). Has She ever frightened you? Has She forced you to face and deal with those parts of Her? If so, how did you react and what did you learn from the experience?

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So Maybe I’m Just a Really Bad Heathen

(Originally, it was just apologies to Molly.  Now it’s apologies to Naf too, my words were ill-used and harmful.)

(Apologies to Molly).

Yeah, I am.  I admit it.

All of those things I’ve talked about before, all of the objections that I have to the way that mainstream Heathenry is presented, all of those stand.  They’ve been reinforced by the attitude I read in a recent article on how to present Heathenry at a Pagan Pride day.  The author came off as paranoid and xenophobic, a deliberate outsider in a place where he didn’t identify with anyone or feel comfortable.  It became clear over the course of the article that he had come to try and guide poor, lost Heathens away from the vile, lie-spewing spawn of Loki that populate Norse Paganism.  Like a good shepherd, he became enraged at the dangerous wolf lurking among the sheep (in the form of someone who had bought books by a Northern Tradition author, who are all apparently *despised* by right-thinking Heathens everywhere, which reminds me, I need to get published).

I realized that I was reading the words of a man who would likely not share a horn with me, or if he did it would be under glaring brows and by setting aside deep-seated hatred.  Things like this make me want to make devil horns and claim to be Rokkatru and worship thurses just to watch people have strokes; the reason that I don’t is because I still kind of feel that thurses are scary and bad (I’ve explained how I feel about that before; if hospitality demands I’ll pour to them but I’ll keep my distance in general), I’m not remotely Rokkatru (unless pouring for Loki when you pour for Odhinn counts), and devil horns would only be ironic and pointless (and bad for my arthritis).

It hurts, you know?  It hurts to know that people who love the same Gods or wave the same banner seethe with hatred when they think of you.  That if they couldn’t convince you to follow their one true Heathenry they’d spit on you and nidh you.  It hurts to see such unreasoning fear, distrust, and paranoia.

Jesus Christ, this must be what being a progressive Christian must feel like.

Right now I can hear the chorus of Utgard.net-Trolls cackling about me and how it’s right, how I should be ashamed because Heathenry is a culture of shame, where it’s each person’s job to join in on the dogpile of reminding unpopular folks why they suck.  How every misspoken word and every misunderstood concept and every disagreement of interpretation requires a good, solid flyting because that’s how the Norse did it.

Fuck your bully culture.

Maybe it makes me a bad Heathen to think that hospitality includes anyone who wanders into your space rather than just the ones who make offering (but not to Gods, never to Gods) at the High Holy Temple of Sturluson.  Maybe it makes me a bad Heathen to think that someone who walks around, constantly wary and distrusting of others is a paranoid asshole.  Maybe it makes me a bad Heathen to think that someone who goes to a festival full of people he seems to have a deep-rooted discomfort with and a distinct sense of alienation from shouldn’t be surprised when he doesn’t get all the people all upons converting to Proper Heathenry.  I’m quite sure that it makes me a bad Heathen to have UPG at all, much less share it on the Internet where other people might be able to learn that you can talk to Gods and sometimes they talk back (blasphemy!)  Maybe it makes me a bad Heathen to be all the things that I’ve done: speaking out against oppression, bigotry, and racism, seeking genuine spiritual experiences, having non-white Ancestors, praying to eeeebil furrin’ Gods…  Maybe it does.

Maybe I’ll just have to be all right with that.  Maybe I’m okay with being a bad Heathen.

I’m not going to stop being Heathen – that’s not where I am in life and maybe it never will be.  I know who and what I am.  I’m not going to stop being any of the other things that encourage Proper Heathen Rage-Walrus Mustache Shaking, because those are part of who I am too.

It’s not that I don’t understand the “Heathen mindset”.  A lot of the core important parts of it (as described by many) are important to me.  I just don’t agree with the ones that I don’t agree with, which also makes me a bad Heathen, because the most important rule of Heathenry is absolute, unquestioning obedience to other people when they tell you how to think, how to feel and how to live your life.  No Norseman ever deviated from the strict rules of Viking culture, which were uniform in all Germanic lands and never changed with time or circumstance.  That’s why Heathenry is such a successful modern religion – we have an absolute path where everyone knows their place, follows the rules (set down exclusively by men) exactly, and live in perfect harmony with each other except when they have to rise up to strike each other down because of a slight of honor.

Wait, that’s not Heathenry, that’s the Qun.  Or maybe Klingons?  No, Klingons don’t even believe that everyone should live by their Perfect Ancient Holy Texts Exactly.  Heathens don’t even have holy texts, they have poetry recorded by people who didn’t even worship their Gods.

Now that that’s out of my system…

I can tell that the man who wrote that article had good intentions.  I’ve heard about hell but not about Hel’s road being paved with those (her road is paved with everything, though).  I don’t understand why people who don’t consider themselves Pagan (and there are plenty of Heathens who do) would want to come to a Pagan festival to proselytize.  If I saw someone giving a lecture on Christianity and how it’s not a part of the Pagan faiths but here’s why it’s awesome and better than your faiths at a Pagan festival I’d back slowly away and talk to someone with authority about it later (or maybe just savagely blog about it and complain to friends).  It seems out of place, odd, and intrusive, just as it seemed uncomfortable to the fellow in question to be there.  I know that he’s trying to guide people to what he believes to be a better faith, and a better way of life, but wouldn’t it make sense to have someone who didn’t have a hate on for people who believe differently from himself be the one presenting?  Honestly, can’t you understand why that would hurt or drive folks away?

Though to his credit, I suppose if he wants to draw people in, there’s no better way than publicly performing the mental gymnastics required to describe Folkishness as not being racist.  It shows a remarkable amount of intellectual and moral flexibility.  It’s also comforting to know that racists are incapable of being sexually attracted to people of color.  I used to be worried that Antebellum landowners might have been racist, but they are proven otherwise by the trysts and (far more common) rapes of their slaves.  Pfew, what was that war about again?

He’s right about maturing into a Heathen worldview.  I certainly look back with some embarassment on the years after the first time I met someone like this and they scared me into running screaming from Heathenry.  I should have been all upons (sorry, it’s been a thing lately, I need to get it out of my system) and being my ergi/argr, wooheaded self and helped some Heathenry grow in a different direction.  I should have staked my garth, called my kin, cared for them and loved them and protected them.

I have a lot of kin among Heathens, I’ve been discovering.  I have a lot of people who don’t fit the racist, close-minded, reactionary mold this fellow presents as the One True Heathenry.  We have our communities, our own Inner Yards.  I belong to groups for transgender and other queer Heathens online and maybe will someday in person.  I belong to communities of Heathens unashamed (imagine, a Heathen not ashamed of themselves for doing what they believe is right) to discuss their UPG amongst themselves.  I belong to groups of Heathens, both online and in real life, who worship Gods and actually listen when they speak back instead of talking over them.

That’s not just one Inner-Yard.  That’s an encampment, a town, a neighborhood.  It used to be a ghetto of Heathen Hights but it’s been expanding and gentrifying.  Thank the Gods.

Or maybe he’s right about maturing into a Heathen mindset in the way he thinks he is and look back on this ten years later thinking about what a sad, deluded person I was.  I’m really not going to bet on it, though.

Hail Loki! (Sorry, Lady, I had to).

What Are We Really Afraid Of?

“Three rules I try to live by:

Always assume the best of other people.

Always plan for the worst in any situation.

Always keep your spirituality untamed.” – Morgan Daimler

The Nokean Bingo and Godspouse Bingo and similar conversations (as well as things going on in my own spiritual life) have had the wheels in my brain a-turning.  People all around me in the flesh as well as online are having personal experiences with their deities and spirits (something that Real Heathens say Never Ever Happens Except To Heroes Which No One Today Is Because Not Enough Swords and Slaughter or something like that).  People I know are awakening to all sorts of things as we open our minds both through study and technique, crack our skulls and barriers against things that we’re told aren’t possible and real, and (perhaps most significantly) have experiences that we’ve never asked for thrust upon us.

Reading about and witnessing how people react to Godspousery (I’m using this as a specific and pertinent example; apply broadly to other spiritual experiences that people who have’t had them label as fads or psychoses) I’ve come to witness a familiar pattern.  It often starts with a small voice inside someone saying “I thought I was the only one.”.  It is often followed by euphoria at feeling a connection to other people that you find that share similar experiences (which is followed by confusion and sometimes disillusionment when you realize that outside of your common experiences you’re probably very different from the folks that you encounter).

It continues with people who haven’t had the same experiences insulting you and trying to invalidate you (whether or not you needed validation).  It comes ripe full of blatant misogyny if you’re a woman, or reactive misogyny if you’re a man (you’re whipped by a Goddess?) and probably something similar for nonbinary folks.

People who have shared a similar experience will often stand up for each other and shake their fists at the accusers.  Sometimes they will turn on each other: having received qualifications for validation from respected outside sources, they feel it necessary to police others to help them maintain their own identity and credentials.

People are afraid of talking about it.  It’s either because they still think that they are the only one, or they don’t want to be associated with “those” people.  Even when those people are people just like them.

I suspect  you’ve heard some of this from me recently.  The question that is bedeviling me is “What are we really afraid of?”

Are we afraid that our experiences aren’t real?  In Clive Barker’s epic Imajica novels, one of the greatest curses that can be leveled by one magician to another is “May everything be as it seems.” (I wish I had the book handy to share the eloquent explanation given as to why, but I don’t have a copy with me).  The short of it is; because if everything were always as it seemed the world would be mud and your lives dust, meaningless, pointless, empty.  If we’re afraid that all of these voices are just in our heads, and all that we are is a bunch of chemicals artfully pushing around other bunches of chemicals (I agree that that is part of what we are, though I disagree with it being the whole) then we have nothing to fear, because we have no way to change that.  If all we are is nothing and all that is comes to nothing, then embrace the richness of your experiences.  Sure, make sure that they have some value and positive effect on your life, but if they don’t, simply ignore them.  After all, if they aren’t real they’ll fade like mist in the morning sun.  If you are misleading people, then what?   Humanity will end without truly affecting anything, either through planetary trauma, self-harm, or whatever end the physicists by and large agree on nowadays.  No harm, no foul, right?

Most of us know that that isn’t the case, though.

Are we afraid of being hurt?  Of being insulted?  These are real fears.  Words tear at our sense of self, they flay our egos.  Despite what Stephen Fry and every other bully on the planet thinks, there are words than can hurt any human being.  If I knew you well enough I could find words that would make you doubt yourself, that would make you harm yourself, that would make you weep and feel empty, that could remove your ability to keep trying.  I was raised in a family that used words as weapons and know that no matter your armor, there are holes and flaws.  I can be a cold, sharp, jagged, hurtful bitch when I need to be and anyone who knows me well has seen that side of me (though few who know me well have had to be on the receiving end).

Those insults come from people who either aren’t sure themselves, and thus need to put you in your place, or who are sure. and you can tell those from how they argue themselves in circles trying to disprove something that they can’t even experience.  They come to get you to stop saying things that tear at their own egos. To them, saying that a God loves you in a special way is saying that a God talks to you (which they know could never happen because you’re not them… I mean, a hero) or that that God doesn’t love them.  These assumptions hurt their self-images, and as I learned from Laverne Cox, “Hurt people hurt people.”  The places where they strike from indicate where their weaknesses are, for knowing or not you’ve landed a blow against them.

Are we afraid of being seen like other people that we may have an unknowing prejudice against?  I know that I am.  I’ve had some experiences recently that tread close to the ground of Godspousery.  My first reaction was, “I can’t be a Godspouse… I can’t be one of THOSE people.”  Then I thought about it and realized that some of the people I identify as Godspouses are people that I respect and admire.  I’d love to be like them in some ways.  I was reacting to the ridicule hurled at them by folks so insecure in their own beliefs that they can’t handle someone else claiming an experience that they have not had.

Are we afraid of being right?  I think we are.  I think we’re terrified of that.  I think that we’re afraid that the experiences that we’ve had are real because we’ve been raised to believe that they aren’t and we don’t have any guidebooks or manuals to help us with them (yet … I predict Llewellyn 2017 will be the Year of the Godspouse or something… or not, it might be too Polytheist or something even for them).  I think a lot of people are afraid that what they have going on is real and that they’ll have no way to prove it, and no way to *gasp* make money off of it (because when you get down to it, that is still the way the majority of people in our society gauge the worth of any sort of practice, knowledge or experience).  I think we’re afraid of screwing it up and having angry whatevers messing with us.  I think were afraid of being right but being unable to stop society from throwing us into straightjackets and padded rooms (or refusing us employment and help and treating us to old school exile/shunning) for something that they can’t see and thus don’t care about.

What do you have to lose?  I’m not saying that you have nothing to lose, but is what you might lose worth keeping things bottled up?  Is it worth feeling like you’re living a lie?  Is it worth that terrible weight upon your chest and the heart-rending anxiety?

It isn’t.  Trust me, it isn’t.  As someone who has kept a secret from everyone that she knew for close to thirty-five years for many of the reasons provided above, it isn’t worth it.  It’s important to pick your battles, surely, but it’s worth it.

You know what I’ve seen from people who speak up and live their truth (when they’re ready)?  I’ve seen them lose friends and relatives, jobs and livelihood, careers and children.  You know what else I’ve seen?  I’ve seen them gain respect from those who value honesty.  I’ve seen people who were their friends before becoming allies as well, and I’ve seen people who weren’t their friends before flock to them because of their inspirational example.  I’ve seen them being stronger, happier, and more honest.  I’ve seen them become better people.

So what is my advice for when Odhinn pops the question and wants you to share it with others?  For when you’ve had a journey to Vanaheim that gave you great insight into what most might consider minor mythological figure?  For when some kind of crazy woo happens to you and you don’t know if you should share it or not?

Consider it.  Consider who you’re presenting it too, but more importantly, consider your words.  Don’t overthink it, though, just be careful to say what you honestly mean.  Prepare yourself.  Also, consider Morgan’s rules and my corollaries:

Corollary to Morgan’s first rule: People will surprise you more often than not; you *will* be surprised by who will take it well and embrace you.  They will inevitably get it wrong and misunderstand, so be prepared to find other ways of explaining it and correct them with a will, but know that more often than not it comes from a position of ignorance, not malice.

Corollary to Morgan’s second rule: Try and have a support network.  At best, find real-life people who will be supportive; this can be hard, though, because coming out to them can be more difficult than folks online.  Find folks online.  You’re not alone.  I don’t care if you’ve discovered you’re the spawn of a Pleidian Dolphin Princess, trust me, you are not alone.

Corollary to Morgan’s third rule: Don’t pussyfoot around it when it comes to dealing with yourself.  Qualify it all you want to.  Take care and be as skeptical as you like with your own experiences, but when you know something is going on don’t lie to yourself about it.  Embrace your spirituality, live it, let it ring in your bones, set your heart aflame, and pour from your mouth like molten gold.  Holding it back will stunt you, and you don’t need a bonsai spirit, you need to grow and have your spirit be like a swaying willow, a mighty oak, a Yggdrasil-like yew.  You will only regret it if you try to tame your spirituality.

Lest anyone think that I’m speaking against spiritual discipline or discernment, let me correct you: discipline is needed for healthy growth, and discernment is needed for protection both internal and external.  Your tree won’t grow unless it’s put in a healthy place and kept safe from the prying teeth of the hungry harts until it’s big enough to handle it.

If you need to keep it quiet while it grows, then do so.  There will almost certainly come a time, though, when it will need to burst forth from its former confines and keeping it it hidden will only weaken and sicken it.  Seeing another person be confident and public or at least up front about their spirituality will help yours to grow; be sure to return the favor if you can afford to.  If you do, all of these trees that we’re growing will some day be the best kind of forest: full of wildlife, unrestrained, untamed, beautiful, powerful, dangerous, terrible, sublime, and a cradle of new life.

As I said earlier, I’m not a Godspouse, but if I’m going to be honest about it it’s only by a matter of degree.  I haven’t discussed it publicly because it involves experiences that I’m working hard to process and find the right words for.  If that’s a title that my circumstance and spirituality end up putting me into I will proudly claim it and happily discuss it – with people who genuinely want to discuss it or are dealing with it themselves (as opposed to Utgart.net-Trolls).  I am a seeress and have been wandering between worlds and talking to beings that aren’t visible to the eye (usually) all of my life, and the only reason I haven’t shared more of what I’ve seen is context and need.  You’d better believe that if there’s a good reason I will be up front about it.

You are not alone.  You are not crazy.  You should not be ashamed to live your truth, whether you do so quietly or with loudspeakers and a parade.  The more of us who do, the more the voices of the insecure fools that lash out at us will be drowned out, if not by our voices then by the thunder and the earthquake of our many feet.

What do you really have to be afraid of?