Pledging: One Year In (or Just About)

On March 20th of 2018 I swore a pledge in which I guaranteed 5 more years of service to Loki.

Within even just the first six months (i.e., from spring to fall equinox) my practice underwent some massive and overwhelmingly positive changes. Which is awesome, because part of my motivation for doing this was to light a fire under my ass.

So here’s my progress report, I suppose.

The terms of my pledge (which I think I might be publishing for the first time, actually) are as follows:

  • Oath ring must be worn during waking hours,
  • Religious jewelry should also be worn under similar circumstances.
  • Altars must be cleaned properly at least once per month.
  • Celebrate all major heathen holidays with a proven historical basis, plus Lokabrenna.
  • I must make a concerted effort to pursue ordination.
  • I must participate in and contribute to my local Heathen community, to the best of my ability.
  • I must continue studying the lore and language, and do any further research that will improve my service to my gods and my religious community.
  • No cutting hair until ordination. (This was added later.)

Continue reading Pledging: One Year In (or Just About)

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Inclusive Heathenry is Accessible Heathenry

Go figure, stanza 71 of Havamal is my favorite:

A limping man can ride a horse,
A handless man can herd,
A deaf man can fight and win.
It is better even to be blind,
than fuel for the funeral pyre;
what can a dead man do?

From the Jackson Crawford translation.
Continue reading Inclusive Heathenry is Accessible Heathenry

Where Heathenry and OCD Collide (and Heathenry Helps)

I have OCD.

There. Done. Official. Out in the open.

I described some of my symptoms in my post on scrupulosity, but that was before diagnosis and beginning treatment, back when I thought I just had subclinical symptoms and no compulsive behaviors.

I was very compulsive. I just didn’t realize it until the OCD kept me from eating. Which I was aware of, but didn’t register fully until a counselor on my campus noted my weight loss and, instead of complimenting me, worked out a bulk meal plan with safe foods.

And I didn’t even properly acknowledge the obsessive aspect before it got that bad, because I’d always had distressing intrusive thoughts, and upon reading the criteria thought, “big fucking deal.”

Which…I mean, it is, actually.

OCD involves a lot of horrible thoughts. You are not in charge of these thoughts. You, with strenuous effort, get to be in charge of whether these thoughts are in charge of you. But you are not in charge of the thoughts. And these thoughts always center around disaster.

Somehow I have it in my head that eating out of a can that hasn’t been meticulously inspected for dents spells instant death for me. Never mind that statistics overwhelmingly favor me never getting botulism. Never mind that modern medicine overwhelmingly favors me surviving if I do somehow get botulism. Never mind that botulism can take several hours or sometimes even days to even become a deadly problem.

Instant death. My frantic little brain is sure of it.

So imagine carrying the baggage of the end of the world as you know it. You put in a lot of work getting things to where they are, and now you find out it’s all going to be ripped apart and set on fire. And, oh, also, you’re going to be mauled by a huge wolf. Who is your nephew. And die horribly. But there’s a vain and frantic hope that you can avert it if you learn every single way you can stave off tragedy, be it ripping labels off of cans and checking for dents, or making sure the door is locked, or learning forbidden magical skills, or fishing for information in riddle contests, or binding the wolf, or, or, or…

Suddenly, ritual suicide to learn the alphabet makes a lot more sense. Odin reads obsessive-compulsive as hell.

This doesn’t show so blatantly in works like Havamal, which is ostensibly written from Odin’s perspective and full of moderate, common-sense approaches to life’s worries. Up to and including criticism of the habit of staying up late obsessing over your problems. (Don’t come for me like this!) This is a man who, while consumed by fear and acting to assuage it, understands on the rational level that the behavior is largely irrational…in other people, at least.

I made a self-deprecating comment once about rational mind vs. emotional mind in therapy. And my therapist explained that neither is superior nor inferior, but rather are two halves of a whole that make up the Wise Mind.

Which, quite frankly, sounds an awful lot like Odin.

But I’m not Odin.

You won’t catch me playing godly hangman because I’m a high-strung bundle of broken nerves who thinks all mistakes are unfixable, permanent stains on my personhood, and who doesn’t trust myself to ensure anyone else’s survival and who is terrified of getting sick.

So that’s the other place Heathenry comes in. Our ritual structure involves a lot of sharing germs. Every single ritual event I go to involves knowingly taking the risk that I will get sick. This becomes doubly true in the middle of winter, or when people bring their kids.

Sharing the Stein isn’t just sharing space and blending our lives together in ritual. It’s a safe, comforting space where I am secure among friends and I’m sharing their germs.

yeah.

We don’t really talk or think too intensely about the germs thing.

Listen, though. When I went to my first Distelfink event, I was terrified that people weren’t going to like me. I was a stranger to everyone but Rob–who, bless him, drove me. Because I wasn’t driving at the time. Because I was too anxious. Because of course I was.

I was too anxious to share the Stein, overwhelmed with the fear of other people’s microbes and somehow tangling their Wurt with my spooky controversial Lokean-ness.

Now, just over a year into my involvement with Distelfink Sippschaft, I have gotten comfortable enough to use the communal Stein, and go for the high-octane libation. To the point where I was…crying and…flipping bottles…and dabbing at dogs…at Yuulsege.

I’m going low-octane for a while just because my alcohol tolerance is so low. But to even get to the point where I was okay with risking drunkenness, crying in front of people who are not paid to put up with my feelings but still aren’t going to shame me, to get comfortable with driving (sober! Not after sipping too much high-octane!), let alone driving somebody else’s car in the kindred…

That is a lot of progress.

I was so, so sure that nobody in Distelfink was going to like me. I felt like an intruder in their lives. And now I have friends.

Friends! Friends who teach me how to spin, and knead bread, and speak Deitsch, and drive stick. Who are baffled that I would ever think they wouldn’t like me.

The intrusive thoughts, quite obviously, have not gone away. But Heathenry gave me a comforting frame of reference and multiple opportunities to teach myself how to be calm.

…and maybe someone will help me be a little calmer about cans.

Things We Lost in the (Sacrificial Jól) Fire

January 21st was Jól, if you calculate your calendar with the Lunisolar method.

Bonfire

That is, the second full moon after the winter solstice. The first full moon after solstice starts the year, but I was observing the Urglaawisch Yuulsege that day.

…and tearfully toasting my new ex during Sammel. And accidentally drinking too much. And flipping bottles to try and impress the hostess’s dog.

The dog is 7. He’s Gen Z. I figured he’d think it was lit. But he’s a dog. He’s not going to dab appreciatively.

Ugh.

Anyway, the thing about my ex.

I ended a 9½ year (to the day) relationship at the end of November. I am not going to go too deeply into why it ended. But my official (and honest) explanation is that it just wasn’t going anywhere. During the phone call where we broke things off, my ex and I agreed that it was sad, but a relief.

But it is sad, dammit.

I sent a Christmas card wishing my ex well, but carefully avoided leaving any crumbs of false hope. I never heard back. Not that I particularly expected to, though I do hope the silly anecdote about the Harambe Christmas sweater brought some holiday cheer.

So I left it at that, and returned to making decisions about all the artifacts left behind. Among the items was the first, and only, bouquet I had ever gotten.

They were a gift brought along when my ex came to see me for Easter. When my ex went back home, I dried the flowers and put them back in the vase, where I gladly woke up to see them for seven more years.

And then after the breakup I woke up every day to see those flowers and hate myself. Look what you’ve done, I would tell myself. This person loved you enough to get you flowers and you threw it all away.

I had legitimate reasons for leaving. None of those reasons made my ex a bad person, just the wrong person. And it just wasn’t something Easter flowers were going to fix.

Another item was a small ragdoll I had made to look like my ex, because we were in a long distance relationship and it was nice to have something to cuddle or sleep next to. I held on to this, very literally, for the first week after the breakup when I couldn’t get out of bed. Eventually, I realized items either needed to be contained or removed if I was going to recover and stop stumbling on random things from my ex.

The ragdoll went in a box in the closet for a while, because it was far too specific to the now-absent relationship. I was only keeping it to make a decision on it, and I knew it was going to have to be removed from my life eventually, along with the flowers.

These things were lovely, but their purpose had been fulfilled and it was time for them to go.

I wanted it to be sacred and purposeful.

Both Yuul and Jol mark times of stagnation and introspection. There is nothing to be planted and precious little reason to go outside. Anything that hasn’t died off yet is just holding on. And it’s miserable, which is why we have so many winter holidays in the first place.

So when we aren’t socializing and reinforcing how important community is, we go into our homes. We go into ourselves. We burn through our stores and scrape our cupboards and learn to survive without. Even though many of us are living post-scarcity, it’s probably the best possible time to get a feel for what you do and don’t truly need.

I didn’t fully grasp this during Yuul, between the usual rune headache and accidentally drinking too much of the libation, but I was being unsubtly whacked over the head with the idea of life transitions.

I’m not dead. Sure as hell felt like it between a severe cold and the breakup and the general misery of winter. And the future I thought I was going to have may be gone, but that leaves room for different ones.

Where I flip bottles and dab at middle-aged dogs, apparently.

But, also a future where I approach compromises with a better grasp on what I want. Where I establish myself on my own terms, and not based on a foregone conclusion, because guarantees make me lazy.

…and where I reckon with uncertainty. Which is kind of a big deal in all other aspects of my life, these days.

So along with onions I grew in my experimental scrap garden, little bits of goldenrod, and cast-offs from the altars that were due to be burned…my little ragdoll and first ever bouquet went up in flames.

I want a good harvest. In more ways than one. And I am hoping that I am able to continue to do the work it takes to make that happen. And to trust the process of digging around in literal dirt, and emotional dirt, and pulling weeds, and handling my responsibilities in a way that I can reap the benefits but also accept a certain amount of failure.

As I’m finishing up this post, I’m caught in a squall and getting snowed in. Buried, but halfway through winter. Soon I’ll be able to say I was planted instead. My onions and squash and lettuce will grow, hopefully I will too.

To a good year, and to peace.

Things to Consider Before Making Pledges and Oaths

This is going to be geared towards a context of devoting oneself to a deity. It’s also going to be long. This is something I consider really important to read as much as you can about, before you act on it.

I also want to get what I feel is the most important bit of information out in the open, right away.

You do not have to formally devote yourself to a god. Any of them. There is zero obligation. And if you already know that and still strongly feel that it is important, it then becomes equally important to examine your motivations and potential obligations.

Examine Why

What do you think making a pledge, a vow, or an oath is going to give you? (Those are all different things, by the way, and the distinctions between them matter.) Be frank with yourself about whether you think it will make you more “legitimate,” or if it feels like the thing to do.

Are you motivated to make that dedication because you feel it grants you some kind of prestige? Is there something unique to formal dedications that feels “better” than the devotion and work expected of you as a garden-variety devotee?

There’s nothing wrong with garden variety, for the record. There’s a reason certain plants grow in so many gardens. Laity are still vastly important to the function of a faith.

Alternately, are you absolutely certain that you’re not just caught up in the moment? Are you thinking clearly and critically? Are you able to take the potential downsides seriously and accept them without minimizing them? It is so easy to leap into major commitments when you’re wrapped up in a state of spiritual limerence.

For my part, my motivation was mostly lighting a fire under my own ass, because I had a genuine desire to work harder for the gods, but I just wasn’t making it happen.

Examine What

Another thing you need to consider is whether you have done sufficient research.

When I was bitten by the pledge-bug, I was digging for everything I could find on the process, up to and including picking through someone’s ~300 page doctoral thesis to make sure I totally understood my word choice. (What I had been calling a potential oath was, in fact, a pledge. So I’m glad I read it.) Part of this was that I was dealing with Loki, who kind of has a reputation for being opportunistic, so I wanted to be as unambiguous as possible about what was going to happen.

You also need to evaluate the terms of the dedication itself. That is, the expectations the god(s) are entitled to have for you, and the expectations you have from your god(s). Dedications, if you’re not just handing yourself over as a complete package, are going to have certain restrictions. Personally, I hope you want certain restrictions on what the gods are allowed to expect from you. You shouldn’t be afraid of your gods, but there is such a thing as healthy caution.

It’s tempting to be The Best Devotee Ever and promise to clean the shrines, and pray, and make an offering every single day. But nobody is the best devotee ever. That’s because nobody can be the best devotee ever. It’s usually impractical to do too much more than bread-winning and basic survival every day, and even that’s a legitimate burden for some people.

It benefits you to seriously examine your capacity to do an act even once, let alone daily, or even weekly or monthly.

On the flip side, what rights do you retain after dedication? Are you prepared for circumstances that would force you to break your promise? Can you avoid breaking these promises by accounting for those possibilities? I’m still a little uncertain whether this is How Things Are Done, even though this is how I did it, but it may be worth injecting a few “however” clauses. For example, I’m required to wear my pledge ring during waking hours, but there are built-in exceptions for it being removed such as medical necessity, or it being forcibly removed. I can’t take it into an MRI machine, and if someone’s got a gun to my head unless I hand it over, it’s better to just go with it. I am absolutely useless to any god but Hel if I’m dead.

A lot of people don’t think about these potentialities, but I’m a nervous wreck, so outright catastrophe was already on my radar. Your exceptions don’t have to be anywhere near as severe.

Most importantly, I think: Did you write it all down? If you have the memory of a lawspeaker, you can skip this step. But a long-term pledge, or an oath, is going to require memorizing your expectations, rights and responsibilities for a long time. The terms of my pledge are kept in my phone so I can check in on what I need to be doing–especially my choice of words, because that matters.

The last thing I want you to know is that your god(s) will enforce it–but it’s not all bad. They want what you’ve offered. My experience since March has shown they can, and do, pave the way to make sure you’ll give it and check in to keep you on task. The road kind of rises up to meet you.

Just be prepared to hit it running.

The Other Half of Discernment is Disclosure

We talk so much about discernment when it comes to information coming to you, and probably nowhere near enough about when that information comes from you.

Your discernment work isn’t done the instant you’ve processed information.

Maybe it’s a generational, or cultural, or whatever kind of thing. Maybe it’s one of those “dammit, human,” things. But there’s so much information that you just do not have to share when it comes to your personal practice. And there is a definite difference in the mentality regarding how information is shared, what sense of authority it’s shared with, etc. when I compare online communities to real-life communities.

But I’m ragging on the internet Heathens, here. Because the internet is where you claim to ferociously guard your privacy while spewing deeply personal thoughts. We all do it. My blog is pseudonymous and I share weird stuff here. I’m extremely guilty of Doing The Thing.

But I post very few of the more ~*woo*~ things that happen in my practice to this blog. The Bird Harassment Saga and the There is More To Be Done anecdotes only made it onto the blog because there was a broader, relevant point that I thought was important to share. And it wouldn’t have made any sense to post these things without the–frankly, silly and very weird–backstories.

Also, to a certain extent, word count. So I’m not blameless. But vanity’s a dumb excuse.

And that’s my main concern. It was part of where “Prestige and Puppy Love” was headed, but the idea behind it hadn’t been fully developed when that one went live.

Even if you are absolutely certain of what you’ve experienced, and you’ve done the work to confirm what you’ve experienced, you don’t have to share things. In all honesty, you usually shouldn’t. I’ve already said my piece about how UPG is unverified and personal.

At the very least, there should be some kind of cost-benefit analysis going on before you blast your ideas in front of the gods and everyone.

Who’s benefiting from your disclosure? You, or your listener? Are you looking for feedback or help? Are you providing help? Is this about a mutual effort to foster spiritual growth?

Or is the only thing flourishing your own ego?

So much of what I see thrown into the internet void is bizarre at the absolute best, whether that be because it’s an entirely foreign combination of concepts, runs in direct opposition to established beliefs, or is all over the place. Viewers and readers, naturally, find themselves doubtful or annoyed. But that doubt or annoyance is greeted with hostility.

What did you expect to happen?

No, really. What were you trying to get out of the interaction? What script were you hoping people would follow when you blurted something out? The anger at not getting a reaction you were hoping for is because of an expectation, however unconscious and hard to spot, that you were going to get a certain kind of response. You probably wanted validation or attention, and you didn’t get it.

And it is okay to want these things. (There you go! Validation!) But these are not things that other people are required to give you just because they’re present.

Expecting someone to pay attention to you, and validate you by default, when you don’t take the time to pick the appropriate person to give you these things, is squarely in the realm of A You Problem.

And possibly a control problem, to boot.

Why did you feel the need to share something in a setting as wide open and uncontrollable as the internet, if you were only hoping for a specific outcome? Why did everyone likely to stumble upon it have to know about it?

And why is validation necessary, anyway?

This isn’t even necessarily a “don’t do the thing” post. I’m not the boss of you, and I’m sure there’s plenty of people who will be more than happy to remind me of that fact. (And, well, in posting this I sign up for that kind of response.)

Rather, the call to action here is to think carefully before you share a belief, a fleeting thought, a snippet of UPG and so on. When I lament the way a conversation went to my therapist, he often asks me “what was the goal of that interaction?”

That’s the main thing I’m hoping to pass on. What is your goal when sharing ~*woo*~ online? Who benefits from the interaction? Are you open to the possible outcomes? Why or why not?

There’s a handful of people I speak to very frankly about weird, unverifiable ~*woo*~ things. I choose them for their experience, their openness, and for the fact that the setting is private and they’re trustworthy.

The things you share on the internet about your practice can and will cross the paths of people who are unreceptive at best, and eager to mock you or harm you at worst. Know who you’re talking to.

But more importantly, know why.


Similar posts:

Prestige and Puppy Love, to which this post is probably the disappointing sequel. (And has some ~*woo*~ in it, to boot.)

On the Responsibility of Harsh Truths, which touches on other forms of disclosure.

The Merit of Teachable Moments, on when disclosure benefits everybody.

A Collection of Thoughts on the “Loki Ban”

The “ban” has been discussed a lot in the past year. A lot. The Rede was discussing how to handle it long before Seigfried’s stupid article kicked off the public part of that discourse again.

Before I go ranting and opining, let’s cover the facts of the situation.

The history of the “Loki ban” went like this:

  • Hailing Loki used to be a thing that went on, and there were no policies that limited this.
  • Around 2008, a policy was discussed that made Loki, certain Jotnar, and the Rokkr in general off-limits for hailing.
  • Around 2011, a different version of this was voted on by the Rede, which became the policy outlined in the Position Statement.
  • Around 2012, wording was updated and it was outlined in the FAQ.

Here are the problems related to the policy, which make the current discussion necessary:

  • The policy emerged after the hailing of Loki had already been a thing.
  • The policy is alienating to Lokeans and Loki-friendly members of the Troth, and it places an undue burden on Lokeans attending events to which the ban applies.
  • The policy created complications at Frith Forge, due to its taking place in Europe where Loki is generally viewed as a non-issue.

Basically, had another organization not stepped up to co-sponsor the event, the Troth’s rule on Loki would have applied to everyone in attendance. It would have been one American organization setting the standard for a multitude of other European organizations, and would have somewhat defeated the purpose of reaching out.

So, that’s the background.

Now for the fun part.

screencap of a YouTube video titled "here are my thoughts on the bullshit"
Continue reading A Collection of Thoughts on the “Loki Ban”