Tag Archives: heathen

Come on Loki, light my fire…

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And suddenly, the references to Northern Tradition Pagan deities are everywhere…

I recently came across this in a German online shop and had to grin about the fact that there are firestarters out there with almost the same name as Loki, the flame-haired… well, firestarter… (I have no idea if the company that produces them did that on purpose or if it’s a coincidence, but I’m highly amused nevertheless).

And now you can all go ahead and yawn and tell me that brand has been around forever and welcome me to this century or something. I don’t care. I’m still amused.

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Checking the chakras with Morgan’s Tarot

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Since I wanted to do at least one reading with the actual deck before I move on to the next one, I decided to do a chakra spread as a general check-up on things. It’s pretty straight-forward: one card for each of the seven chakras, starting at the bottom (associations are the ones I learned in a chakra harmonization class I once took).

1. Root chakra (self-preservation, security, survival, root)You are experiencing an illegitimate feeling

The image of this card immediately reminds me of the scene at the drive-in cinema from the movie Grease, which I rewatched a short while ago. True to the gender stereotypes of the 1980s (when the movie was made) studly Danny wants to get some physical action while uptight Sandy is all about hands-off romance. Of course this leads to misunderstandings and frustration for both of them (which seem to be made even worse by the fact that none of them clearly owns their desires and instead expects the other one to just agree with them without communication or even negotiation). Of course, this card lets us know, feelings aren’t “illegitimate” – they just are. Neither Danny nor Sandy are “right” or “wrong” in their desires.

I believe this is alluding to my decision to leave my (arguably) good job – which has been called a “courageous” step by many people. It doesn’t feel so courageous to me, though, because I simply don’t feel it’s a threat to my basic existential security. I trust in my ability to find a new (and better!) way to make a living when it’s time to do so, and I know that I have enough money in my bank account to support myself for the time of my ‘sabbatical.’ I suppose it’s a good thing that this is an area where I feel quite secure indeed for now.

2. Sacral chakra (emotions, sexuality, sensuality)Freak

This freak is a female one, if her three breasts are any indication.I’m not surprised by seeing her appear here, since so much of my emotional and sexual inclinations easily fall into ‘freak’ territory. At the beginning of my identification as a femme, that meant a passionate determination to explore as many facets of human sexuality as I could in theory, and many of them in practice as well. I studied sexuality like other people learn a musical instrument. Eventually I got to the point where I felt like I was actually good at this.

More recently, however, I have been feeling like a very different kind of ‘freak’ due to my almost complete lack of emotional, sensual, and sexual passion. I still don’t know how much of this is just a ‘normal’ part of being in a (theoretically polyamourous but mostly monogamous-by-circumstance) long-term relationship because I’ve never been together even half as long with anyone than I am with my current partner. Nor do I know how much my partner’s gender transition (that is, mostly his decision to take testosterone and the resulting social consequences) has impacted this. I just know that I don’t feel curious and excited about sexuality anymore, just jaded and tired. On some level, I still feel ashamed of this development, like I am a queer/femme failure. Maybe the focus on sexuality that is apparent in much of the queer community also plays a part in this. Or maybe it’s really mostly just me and my very own, very personal issues.

At any rate, the Freak card is very apt here!

3. Solar plexus chakra (self-worth, power)Maya – The Field of the Lord

A baby carriage stands next to a wheelchair facing the opposite direction, the sun is setting, the moon is rising. If there were any people in these vehicles, they would likely be able to look at each other. But no one is there. I’m not quite sure what to make of this…

I suppose the baby carriage and wheelchair are supposed to symbolize infancy and old age, but what comes inbetween the two? Maybe I’m supposed to let go of the idea that life happens on a one-way path from birth to death and to question what is appropriate for any given age. Because, yeah, I’ve mentioned my age rather often during the last few years, and maybe that wasn’t always so useful (but instead created artificial boundaries between me and people of different ages).

The image also reminds me of the Pagan triad of “Maiden, Mother, Crone” and its focus on fertility and a predetermined course of life for any woman (read some of my criticism of that here), including the need to justify ourselves for the ones who don’t comply with that way of life.

Maybe the card is a reminder not to get too hung up on any of these categories (age, gender, etc.), without denying their influences on us. But influence does not mean determination, right?

4. Heart chakra (love)I still don’t understand

This must have been the height of technology back when the deck was created: a computer so big that it takes up and entire room. Sounds also a bit like Terry Pratchett’s Hex… But I’m sure this is not about my lack of love (or understanding) for the contemporary height of technology.

It could be a simple reminder that love is not an intellectual endeavour, but I don’t think (ha!) I’ve approached it as one recently. Hm… I’m afraid I still don’t understand this card right now… (Ideas, anyone?)

5. Throat chakra (self-expression, communication, giving/taking)There are no others

A lone sea serpent looks out from a body of water. Since I’ve been reading Northern mythology these days, I’m of course thinking of Jörmungandr here, even though this snake doesn’t bite its own tail. But there is no reason for it to limit its power if there are no others, right?

I take that to mean that I should express myself as if there are no others who would approve or disapprove. However, if there are no others, what’s the point of expressing anything anymore? Or does it just mean that I’m not supposed to listen to their judgments of whatever it is that I may be expressing?

The LWB tells a little story that ends with this sentence: “But if all pronouns are abolished there is only one god in the bouncing universe.” Which is precisely what I’ve come to doubt more and more in the past months and weeks. Yes, I still vaguely refer to “the Universe” when I mean non-human powers in general, but I’m not so sure I actually believe there is a single “Universe” (Higher Power, God/dess, Whatever) out there. Instead, I’m slowly coming round to realize that I really seem to believe in many different gods and goddesses and other spiritual beings from many different pantheons and traditions. I don’t have much proof (that is, what I would consider proof) of that so far, but it still makes sense on a fundamental level. No, I don’t think that belief in a certain deity automatically leads to worshipping them. But for now, I find it easy to assume that all those deities and other spiritual beings exist somewhere (including the Christian or Jewish God and the Muslim Allah), even though humans may choose to actively worship just a few of them (or just one), from one pantheon or several. I suppose that makes me at least a semi-hard polytheist, if I learned my vocabulary right. Who would have thunk it?

So yeah, that probably needed expressing at some point.

6. Third eye chakra (visions, goals, purpose)And there I was… surrounded

A big flower, surrounded by lots of little flowers. I read this on two levels: Being supported by like-minded individuals. Realizing I’m a part of a larger whole anyway, even if I don’t actively try.

Maybe I’ll actually find some like-minded people the more I realize what my (next) vision for this life actually is. Discovering a German-language Heathen/Asatru forum that is populated by intelligent people who actively work against racism in Heathenry/Asatru may be one step into this direction. Actually knowing one of them personally already may be another one. I’m also finding roughly like-minded people as I explore other contributions to the Pagan Blog Project, so that’s a third step. Maybe I’m not as alone and ‘freaky’ as I thought!

The card also tells me that I’m a part of ‘nature’ already, no matter if I consciously think of it or not. I live on this planet, I’m a part of it. End of story. What I make of this realization, in those moments that I consciusly have it, is another question. I believe the goal is to be more aware more of the time so that it becomes more and more obvious and tangible just how interconnected everything on this planet is. There is no ‘outside’ of it. Which is both comforting and frustrating, depending on my degree of optimism on any given day.

7. Crown chakra (spirituality, connection to the divine)Door to the Akashic Records

Clearly, someone is watching…Bolts of lightening? Thor? Zeus? Xolotl? One eye only? Odin? A cyclops? A sun symbol? Sunna? Ra? Sekhmet? I can’t be sure at this point.

I don’t really know what the “Akashic Records” are (although I think it’s a great name for a music shop that sells old vinyl) except that they are some kind of library that is supposed to hold all knowledge about all humans and their fate (hmm, not bad for half-knowledge!). And now I wonder how similar the idea of Wyrd is to that… But let’s not get into a huge theological research project here.

At any rate, someone is paying attention, and there is at least the opportunity for making a more direct connection. Sound good to me.

Or maybe it means I can (theoretically) access these “records” – although I wouldn’t quite know how to do that, because I don’t think reading oracles the way I do is enough for that…

I’m glad to report that I seem to be able to actually read with the deck. And despite some dated references to the New Age ideas of the late 1960s I much enjoy the weirdness of it.

If only the cards were a bit smaller, say, playing card size. Then it would be even better. Not because I have any shuffling-related complaints, but because this is one of the rare decks that would be better if it were a bit smaller. More intimate. More back pocket of a well-worn pair of jeans-size.

G is for German Heathenry and … gah!

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This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project. It’s the first one for the letter G, and it’s late again (I usually post these on Fridays).
Originally, I even wanted to skip this week’s post entirely because I didn’t feel inspired enough about any of my G ideas to actually write something about them (I’m saving
gender for next week because Friday is a public holiday here, which means “time to write all day”). But…

— And here I need to interrupt this entry before it has even really started for the disclaimer that I’m still very new at thinking about this in any systematic way, so I may lack even basic knowledge about established terms and concepts. Please assume that this is a piece of my thoughts in progress, and that I’m happy to learn from you about thoughts and/or articles that are worth examining. —

…as I was browsing pictures of other people’s altars today, I came across one that (according to the information on the original website it came from) seemed to be from some German Heathen group, from roughly the same area where I live. Hmm, interesting…? I followed another link from there and came to a German Asatru website. It looked harmless enough at first, but I got suspicious very quickly. You see, calling almost every single part of a website by a German name is highly unusual over here. I mean, we all know what a “link” is because half of the computer-related terms we use in German are either the same as in English or slightly Germanized versions of English terms anyway. So it stands out if someone explicitly uses a German term. (Maybe I need to also tell you that people who passionately fight to keep the German language free from all the “unnecessary” English words we’ve been adopting tend to lean towards a strange concept of “purity” that comes with all the baggage you can imagine. Sure, sometimes a German term would do just as well (or better) as an English one, but I don’t get the panic about “German dying out” when everybody has gotten used to originally French, Latin, Greek, or Yiddish words just fine in the past and most of us don’t even know they’re not “originally” German… But I digress.)

At any rate, I looked around a bit more on the website to see if my suspicions were justified. And, oh yes, were they ever! I found the most obvious clues on the “humor and satire” section of the website. It had several entries that made fun of the association of Asatru/Heathen groups and racism/extreme right-wing politics as if that was something so absurd that it was only good for satire, not for any serious discussion. As if there weren’t any problematic associations of the two in reality. And that, my dear readers, is something that just doesn’t happen when it’s important to you not to be associated with old or new Nazis and related ideologies. Not in Germany. Not as Heathens/Asatru.

Mind you, I’m not saying that the members of this group are all militant Nazis, but there were enough hints in the wording of their descriptions that made it quite clear that they see a direct connection between one’s ancestry, the land/country (the word is the same for both in German), and the religion one is supposed to follow. And to me that’s basically the same shit in just slightly more “spiritual” packaging than saying outright that “us German(ic)s” and “them members of different ‘races'” are fundamentally different by nature. (Despite typing this heavily quotation-marked for distance it still makes me want to spit out in disgust.) And that is what we call racism in my world.

And don’t anybody start claiming that religion/belief/spirituality doesn’t have anything to do with politics! How can’t it, when both are based on some ethical principles and specific worldviews?!

Well. I went back to the image hosting page and looked at a few more pictures. And it really doesn’t feel good to know there are organized groups of those kinds of Heathens/Asatru out there doing their thing in the same area where I live… Call me naive or ignorant, but it did make a difference to see visual evidence for this instead of just intellectually knowing they probably exist here, too. I immediately felt the wish to spiritually “take back the territory” from them. And I’m not even a Heathen/Asatru/Northern Tradition anything! In fact, I’ve barely just started learning a little bit about these Pagan traditions because, well, I do live in Germany, and I do own a German passport, and I do have plenty of German ancestors. And it’s certainly not like I feel like embracing everything that I’ve learned so far.

But still. This hits home closer than reading about “folkish” Asatru somewhere in America or cissexist rituals by Dianic Wiccans or any other problematic politics happening under the umbrella of “Pagan spirituality.” Maybe it’s just because those people have been to places that are literally less than ten minutes away from the house I live in. Or maybe I’ve started to identify a little bit with Northern Tradition Paganism by now. I’m not sure.

I just know that experiences like this make me want to do two contradictory things at once:

a) Run away and not even touch anything Heathen with a ten-foot pole. Instead, develop a Pagan practice with another cultural background (which would then bring up the problem of cultural appropriation, but that’s another kettle of fish).

b) Become a Heathen/Asatru myself and be as out and loud about my anti-racist and anti-Nazi politics and my constructionist and very queer worldview as possible.

As it is, I don’t think I’ll do any of these just now. But the fact remains that I still can’t shake the impression that Heathens/Asatru with beliefs about the “natural” connection between one’s ancestry and one’s spirituality that can be described as at least incredibly naive/ignorant are actually in the majority here in Germany. No, I don’t have any numbers to prove that impression. I don’t even have any noteworthy connections to Heathen/Asatru people in this country (with the exception of an acquaintance who is most decidedly anti-racist). But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I stumble across this kind of German Asatru/Heathenry practically every time I try to find out more about Northern Tradition Paganism in my native language. I know there are exceptions but they seem few and far between. Mainstream Heathenry (if that’s not a contradiction within itself) over here seems to have way too many ties with racist ideologies of the kind I just described – or at least not enough explicit dissociation from them.

And I can’t pretend that this isn’t majorly influencing my openness to even looking into Heathenry for purposes of information, let alone adopting anything Heathen as my own spiritual worldview and practice. Because I’m really not keen on coming across disgusting stuff like that all the time, especially not when I’m already having to translate everything I read into “queer-speak” to find out if I’m actually included in terms of gender and sexuality or not. (But the latter really is stuff for next week’s post, except for the bit I’ve already written about here.)

To conclude this (for now), I wanted to post a couple of links to websites of people who haven’t just started thinking and writing about this like me. I found them during a very cursory Google search, so they may not be the absolute best material that’s out there, but they looked good enough for a start:
“Racism in Asatru”, and the follow-up article “Responses to Folkish Heathens”, both by Wayland Skallagrimsson.

And here are two links to Heathen/Asatru organizations that are explicitly working against racism, because they do good work and deserve backlinks and support for it:
Heathens Against Hate (in English) and Nornir’s Aett (in German).