What Heathens can (Indirectly) do About Climate Change

An estimated four million people participated in the climate strike. September 20th was the first day in months I didn’t get hit with eco-anxiety and I actually felt a certain amount of hope. Maybe Ragnarök won’t actually come yet, you know?

But there’s no getting around that even the very best case scenario is going to be rough. Beats the frighteningly likely alternative by a long shot. But where we are now is not great. And where we will be in ten years will not be an improvement.

I don’t know if there’s anything we, as common people, can concretely do for Jörð beyond giving her the love she’s entitled to, and continuing to raise the alarm on her behalf, but there’s plenty we can do for each other.

Heathenry is about the people as much as it is about the gods–if not more so. That was the idea behind the rituals we’ve been writing for trans empowerment. We identified the aspects of ritual that had psychological benefits (with some help from a trained professional who prefers to be anonymous in this whole thing), and then provided an avenue for them to help a vulnerable population.

Therapeutic ritual can honor Jörð (or Nerthus, or Erde–whatever name she has in your tradition) while providing space for humans to share their love and grief. We can hold vigils. We can collectively plant and consecrate trees. Publicly scold and raise scorn poles against oil execs.

These do not change the actual physics or economics of the situation. But those of us aware of the problem, desperate to solve it and not equipped to make massive change, are constantly carrying rage and grief and terror inside of us. It’s rendering us less able to do anything for ourselves and for each other.

Competently crafted ritual provides a safe setting in which to experience emotions that are frightening–because the situation is objectively terrifying. And the community aspect of Heathen ritual, in particular, allows us to seek and give support while we push through these feelings.

The benefit of outright feeling your feelings is that tolerance can only be built through exposure. And while adjusting is usually cautioned against, I think that’s unsound advice. This is a situation that we cannot opt out of, and constant distress means burnout. And burnout means fewer resources to improve the situation.

My therapist, when I came in asking how best to manage the anxiety, had to remind me that buying Oreos is not going to single-handedly end the world–nor is avoiding them going to save it. Even if there is a lot of non-recyclable plastic in the packaging.

Energy spent on trying to minimize impact entirely, rather than letting myself settle for informed compromises once in a while, is energy that can’t be spent on activism.

And there’s a lot of energy in a package of Oreos.

So you do what keeps you sane, you muster strength in numbers. You direct those numbers where it can work some magic.

Literally, in the case of scorn poles.

When we have this emotional need met, we’re more able to focus on one another. We can develop groups and systems of mutual material support, or get on board with existing ones. We really don’t need a specialized, purpose-built and specifically Heathen approach to this.

That second step isn’t about us, but rather about our values. It’s not about being seen as Heathens, not about the P.R., not about the reclaimed symbolism and the patching up of our reputations–all of which, frankly, I’m tired of and I think is overemphasized.

It is about half a loaf and a tipped cup. It’s about displaced people taking their chances and hoping for your hospitality. It’s about whether we believe in the things we say, or if we’re just a bunch of pretentious dicks who mistake drinking mead for a personality trait.

I am not going to tell you to find clever ways to reduce your consumption and resource footprint. These are things I do because they help me, the individual, feel better. They are legitimate choices as coping skills, because they provide both a healthy outlet and distracting challenge. As long as they’re approached sanely, they’ll keep you sane.

Rather, I will point you towards resources that cover what I’ve touched on here–how we can adapt emotionally and materially while we scramble to slow the world going headlong.


Coping With Climate Change: A walkthrough for managing the fear and uncertainty of humanity’s greatest crisis, by Ben Sayler

Mental Health and our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance from the American Psychological Association. (PDF)

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief is a national organization for providing direct aid to communities affected by disaster. See if an organization near you works with MADR.

Food Not Bombs is an obvious choice, when our goal is to assist vulnerable people and build partnerships that allow for survival. Not all chapters are known to the people maintaining this site, you may have to ask around locally. Check your local anarchist bookshops or community spaces, they’ll probably know.

The Troth’s Red Hammer program provides financial support to those affected by disaster, violence and hate crimes–direct aid is a future goal of Red Hammer. Currently, they’re fundraising for people affected by Hurricane Dorian.

“Inclusive” Isn’t Enough

I refuse to be friendly with people who think Heathenry is only open to the “right” kind of people. I refuse to be civil with people who advocate for harm to marginalized racial, ethnic and religious groups. I will not tolerate anyone supporting an ideology that endangers LGBT+ people, or who think gender roles are a rigid and non-negotiable truth. (Because they’re not.) I have absolutely no patience for people who cannot accept that disability is going to be something they’ll just have to deal with seeing in their lives. They’re in the wrong faith anyway, with our one-eyed and one-handed gods.

But it’s not enough to just say so. An inclusive stance is a reflection of your ethics, and any ethical stance without a standard of behavior and action to back it up loses its legitimacy. This is literally a fundamental rule of ethics. A non-prescriptive philosophy is an inactionable philosophy, and therefore useless.

Which is to say, you don’t simply make that announcement of inclusivity, or sign Declaration 127, and call it a day. Any kind of real change takes more time and work than just saying you’re safe. It’s a start. But you have to prove that. If you want to be trusted, you have to accept that people will distrust you until their concerns are satisfactorily addressed.

And I’m not saying you have to go physically fight people–diversity of tactics has a vital place. The point is, do what you are capable of, but do something.

We have a responsibility, as inclusivist Heathens, to vet people carefully. And then keep paying attention. It’s tiring. It takes time and effort. I keep an eye on people for several days or dig through months worth of their content before I reach out to them. I’m more obsessive about it, because I didn’t trust my judgement before. But it’s not unreasonable to spend 10 minutes skimming someone’s online trail to see what turns up. It really does need to be done.

It’s not just the Asatru Folk Assembly and Odinic Rite contributing to the problem, because not every racist or hateful Heathen is affiliated with them. Some of them are still hanging on in organizations that would love to think they’re progressive. And not all contributions to a problem are morally equivalent, either. Idealogical Puritanism is a destructive mentality that shuts out imperfect but promising allies, and misguided people who could be easily redirected. But it behooves us to know what’s going on, and what people’s concerns are, so we can address them effectively.

And the big thing is white supremacy. If we don’t learn to recognize it, we let them network unchecked and continue to use Heathenry as a weapon. And it’s vital to remember that white supremacy is a value of the dominant culture and we all get trained to participate–if we don’t examine our own selves, and each other, we will end up perpetuating it. If we unwittingly broadcast that message, not knowing the underlying meaning, we help the more obviously aggressive and dangerous white supremacists do this. If we do not take the time to consider the source of our information, and we repeat standard white supremacist rhetoric, we become an active participant.

And people cannot trust us, though that’s among the lesser of our problems.

People won’t want to be part of our supposedly inclusive faith if we don’t work to make sure they feel welcome. If we boost messages from the racist contingent, intentionally or not, people won’t be able to tell who can actually be approached. If we let racists into the same spaces and events as marginalized people who are curious about, or already practicing our faith, we are enabling the former and endangering the latter. If we don’t make the effort to prove that we don’t tolerate that behavior, we can only blame ourselves if people don’t trust us. If we make it about ourselves, we’re failing to walk our talk.

When we create Heathen spaces, we take on the role of hosts. Our job is to set a nice table and give visitors somewhere comfortable to settle in.

Inviting people in without meeting their needs does not include them. It ultimately imposes upon them. And that’s bad hospitality.

Do better.

Musings From the Mud

Finally have a post ready. Quality isn’t guaranteed.

Staring at the sky listening to a woman mourn her twenties, and thinking about reaching out to someone I have been nursing a very abrupt and intense crush on. Unsure of whether this would be their scene, because I’ve never seen any indication that they go for folk music like I do, let alone country soul. The breeze is nice, this is my home, more so than the nearby house I grew up in.

I didn’t get a good look at this singer at first and thought she was artfully draped in gold lamé, and I suspect it was because of her singing about walking through fire after telling a humorous tale of having literally lit herself on fire. It ended up being a standard 70s inspired maxi dress, but it suits her anyway.

It feels good to lie on the compacted mud beneath me, even with the waterproof blanket between us there’s a sense of relief. It has felt like it wanted to be touched. I’m not supposed to have my shoes off, it’s a safety thing, because people never check where their glass is going here. I don’t care. I’ve been going barefoot and letting the swordgrass and dry stiff straw and baby Rosa multiflora sprouts scratch my soles so the land can take whatever it wants from me.

When I left my now ex I was terrified that I was never going to have any semblance of humanity again, which was a terrible illusion created by the expectation that I whittle myself down into a more user-friendly instrument. Too much. Too little. Go away. Where’d you go?

Well, I’m fucking gone and doing an awful lot better than I had let myself believe I was going to be.

The air no longer feels smothering. The first hints of fall. When everyone leaves, the leaves start dropping. A sudden withdrawal, I guess, from the abundant accidental offerings of chili dogs and funnel cakes and fair trade single origin coffee and ice cream and all manner of booze and, ahem, burnt offerings. Though the Landvættir could surely live without the glow sticks and forgotten air mattresses. Bought only to be thrown in the trash, by someone else. Because it will always be somebody else’s problem, I suppose.

Look how well that’s turning out for us.

“If you’re in love, you have nothing but work to do.”

Heartening.

Perhaps the necessary struggle to tolerate being on my own is the easier route. But she’s not wrong.

The fact that the dog days are finally over and there’s the vague suggestion of a chill in the air and night has fallen and it’s too dark to spin yarn anymore has me thinking of the Yuul spinning Verbots. And so, by extension, Yuulsege.

When I left my ex I was lucky enough to be able to fall into the arms of my community. The series of events slowly working up to this brought people I could lean on to the forefront. Options were visible. I was not going to be alone and suffering in the ways I had spent many years fearing. I had, in a social sense, a home to come to.

And that was vital.

And yet, while writing this, I’ve bailed on writing blog posts and am avoiding social media because Hell is Other People and I don’t know how to act. I want to be alone. I want to be invisible. And so therefore the solution, apparently, was to go to work. And then go to music festivals where I had freebie tickets, and be politely ignored, which is what humans do in large numbers and close proximity. Despite our collecting in a hay field, city etiquette kicks in.

I am sure that all of this is entirely because I am starting to feel like a product, like I am too much, too close, go away, where’d you go? I am afraid of being an instrument again. Or continuing to be one, because I’m not sure I’ve ever not been one.

I catch myself leaning in to be engulfed, and then pulling back and aggressively flagging my interests, my identity, stepping back from testing the waters because I don’t know who I am. I’ve never been a real person before. And it leaked into the way I interact with the rest of the community, ramping up with every tactically beneficial acquaintance.

Like a muscle knot, if left for too long without being broken apart, more will catch and tangle. And eventually the forgettable bundle of angry muscle deep in your shoulder blades is sending pains shooting up your neck into your eyes, radiating around the front and threatening to crush your chest.

A simile I hope nobody else can relate to.

I am frightened and resentful when people see potential in me, and then expend resources trying to get it realized. I give up easily, I become exhausted and run away, and am often too scared, too ashamed, too frustrated to get back on track.

Trothmoot spelled networking spelled the looming threat of success, and my first instinct is to sabotage it all for the sake of familiarity and the perception of safety and missing the comfort of being sad.

And that habit will have to be broken.

So, Your Pagan Event Is Getting Picketed – Here’s What You Can Do

Pagan pride season is coming up again. There are, as you may already know, certain groups who will go out of their way to try and crash your events.  It helps to know how these groups operate and how to get rid of them–without legally jeopardizing your own event. Mass gatherings like pagan pride require the organizers–and the attendees, by extension–to remain in the good graces of the powers that be.

Not the gods, but the people issuing your permit to gather. Or the people you called to alert that an event too small for permits was happening.

Picketers can throw off the energy and momentum of your event, and they often attract a crowd. The gathering of a crowd means that picketers now have an audience, and having access to more people means that they’ll stick around for longer because they like the attention and have more people to target.

Drawing a crowd also presents two possible dangers for your event: one, that it will drag attendees away from your event to go yell at the picketers, and two, increase the likelihood of someone doing something dangerous or illegal because they’re pissed off.

Which can result in forceful legal intervention, a horrendous lawsuit, and will create issues with organizing the next event. We don’t want that.

So we’ve established that debate, argument and heckling don’t work. Fighting and forcing picketers away also doesn’t work, for slightly different reasons. Provocative groups are often, as a rule, lawyer happy.

So what does work?

Cut off their attention supply, and bore them to tears.

warning - live trolls do not feed

You usually can’t force them to leave unless they encroach on the area you have a permit for–and even then, public property can’t be monopolized, and free speech is a demo derby. That can make picketers virtually untouchable.

Don’t touch them, by the way–because again, these people are prone to filing lawsuits.

Before you Start:

Step zero, which has to happen before any response can be planned, is to have the permission of the event organizers. In the case of Philly Pagan Pride, the idea was from the organizers, so we didn’t have to worry about this. With Seasons of Transition Pt II, we had volunteers from within the community who approached me first and ran tactics they had in mind by me.

But it is absolutely necessary that you are working with the event, to prevent any possibility of accidentally working against the interests of the event. Make sure you understand what the event permit allows–or what’s allowed when you hold an event sans permit.

Once this is sorted out, you’re free to proceed to step one.

Continue reading So, Your Pagan Event Is Getting Picketed – Here’s What You Can Do

Not Dead, Just Busy!

I disappeared for a bit there because, according to my therapist, I “overwork myself” and “need to practice self-compassion.” Whatever that means. Anyway, the blog was one of the first things that got cut because there were no oaths or responsibilities attached to it which made it very low priority if things got hard to manage. I’m getting a little better now.

So, update.

I left a group I was on the mod team for. It was toxic for multiple reasons, as most Lokean groups online inevitably are. Most of the mods left. I had to take a break from basically any relevant things online (other than being openly very salty) because I’d get wigged out and very annoyed. I’m getting back to an acceptable baseline.

By the time this is posted, I’m going to be on a plane headed for Seattle to go to Trothmoot. Babby’s first Trothmoot. First Trothmoot since the end of the Verboten Jotunn Blotin’ policy. (Remember that discourse?) I am very paranoid that people will not like me. There are more important things, at least in theory, than people not liking me. I am still deeply concerned about this possibility.

Also planes. Also allergies. Also not sleeping right. Also being cold “Travel” and “travail” were once the exact same word. Go figure. I have packed a lot of snacks and my comfort hoodie.

Work is being done on our next trans empowerment blot/Sege. Our first one was in early April at Baltimore Witchfest. We were indoors, with a closed room, a small enough crowd to be no pressure, and access to a workshop called Drum Church where I had the opportunity to space out on purpose and then grab lunch before doing the thing.

This time around we don’t have the benefit of having a venue handed to us. And venues are expensive. So we are doing the thing outdoors. So we are contending with the possibility of the local hate preachers. Or some local wingnut starting something. Or worse.

No pressure.

There’s a lot of coordinating and meetings and planning and filling of forms to be done in relation to all of this. I have an activist background (…and, like, foreground I guess, since developing and hosting these rituals is activism) but none of that has involved the actual organization aspect. I am treading new water.

Hopefully I float!

And, like, you know? I have these aspirations towards serving the community as clergy, especially in terms of providing spiritual care for incarcerated Heathens. And I figured–again with the splitting connotational meanings of identical words–that with clerical work and clerical work, there was a lot of form-filling and filing and such to be done. And some meetings.

But you guys there are so many. I’m not even ordained yet. I’m not able to get into the Troth’s clergy program yet. I’m really hoping the tedious stuff is a big part of the training. Because, from what I hear of the clergy I know personally, and from what I’m seeing, there’s so much more of that than marryings, buryings and baby blessings.

Though there’s that, too! Baby blessings are something that inevitably spark a ton of debate, but they’re really incredible to witness in person.

So my last update here is going to be some boring housekeeping.

When I hoarded this username it was just supposed to be a placeholder. I had some weird idea about an online shadow work journal. And then never got around to it, because, uh. The shadow is the shadow for a reason. You don’t go publicizing that stuff unless you have really, really bad boundary issues. I ended up sticking with a trained professional.

The name was just a goblin-themed pun on the idea of a “sparkle pony,” aka, someone who will probably die in a puddle of their own body glitter if left to their own devices at any kind of Burner event.

Since I went on a rant about snacks and Trothmoot I’m, very obviously, not actually a sparkle pony. I got this, even though my anxiety is very certain of terrible things happening.

Again. Trained professional in my corner for a lot of very good reasons.

So what I’m getting at is that I am, in addition to hopefully getting back on a schedule, changing my blog name. Rebranding a tiny bit, and maybe changing up my content a bit because I fell into a niche of info posts, and that was getting constricting. Maybe I’ll include a little more of a ~lifestyle~ bent here. While I haven’t officially linked my legal identity with this blog, I’ve definitely left enough crumbs for anyone who cared to figure it out.

I was kind of officially out of the broom closet as a result of presenting at Witchfest, so.

I’m going to be focusing July on getting our ritual for PTWC set up, and then maybe queueing new content.. My Halloween store job comes back this summer and, while the routine and income certainly help, it is time and energy spent.

My goal is to get back on my old fornightly schedule as of August 1st.

Which is a Thursday. Remember when I used to post every single Thursday? Whew. Would be nice, but I don’t see that happening soon. Biweekly was usually manageable.

So. Tidbits and crumbs for now. Back to big posts in August!

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)

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