Patreon Rant: My Personal Relationship With the Pack Spirits

If you’d like to request for me to rant on a topic, write prayers for an ancestor, spirit, or deity, or any of the other Work that I offer, please check out my Patreon, found here.

From Sarenth comes the following topic: “How do you connect with each of the Pack Spirits you are having me write prayers for? Have you connected in new ways through these prayers? If so, how?”

Finally an easy topic! Just talk about my relationships with 7 different spirits and how I connect with Them. Nothing profoundly intimate or difficult to describe there. Nope, not at all. It’s fine.

I’m going to tackle this one spirit at a time, so easy in this case does not mean short by any stretch.

For those following along at home, the 7 primary, in so much as such a categorization can possibly apply (which is not at all but I digress), Pack Spirits are: Earth, Silence, Pack, Howl, Sky, Hunt, and Prey. Over the next several months I’m commissioning prayers for each of them from Sarenth through his Patreon. So far I have commissioned prayers for Earth and Silence.

Without further ado, let’s get into it:

Earth.

The Great Mother Below. From Whom We All Come. To Whom We All Return.

My relationship with Earth is as straightforward and complex as anyone’s relationship with the embodied goddess that is this planet. I do not pretend to understand the divine. I do not know where Jörð begins and Nerðus ends. I can’t tell you why Pack Earth is not the same as either. I can tell you that they are different in my experience. That I experience them completely differently and completely separately. Earth I experience in two ways.

First, she js the literal ground under my feet. The source of myself, and all that physically sustains my life. The food that I eat, the home that shelters me, the phone I type this on, even my physical body all come from Her. Physically embodied, She is the slow turning of the seasons as She orbits the Sun.

Second, I spiritually experience Her as The Great Mother Below. I often see Her as a great mother wolf, standing before a cavern. The cave is the Den, a central piece of Earth’s Mysteries. She is the mother wolf and the Den both. She is the Great Mother. And that does not always mean kindness and softeness. When She Howls, all tremble as She calls Her Hunt. She is the keeper of, if not the whole of the Great Cycle, at least much of it. From Her we are born. To Her we return.

And this is how I relate to Her. In the moments large and small, as foundational. The source of the physical, and keeper of cycles. As the ground beneath my feet. Hail to you, Great Mother, and thank you.

Silence.

Who Is Death. The Space Between Heartbeats. Communication BetweenandBefore Breathe.

To talk about Silence with words can only ever be an approximation. I mean, it’s in the name, to talk about Silence is in itself somewhat contradictory. That said, Silence is death. The death we become for the Prey. The death we carry in ourselves that will one day claim us. Silence is an inherently liminal being.  Silence is also the home of the Ancestors. Silence’s most obvious domain is the transition from life to death. But death feeds life. As much as Silence governs the transition from life to death, so to do they govern the transition from death to life. The Silence of the grave and the Silence of the womb. Silence also has associations with hidden things, within ourselves and external, intentionally or unintentionally. This includes especially nonverbal communication.

This overview is important for relating to the spirit. But primarily I personally relate to Silence in three ways. First is the simplest, I go Hunting (a journey practice) with some regularity. Part of Hunting involves entering into Silence to bring the Prey into Silence. And I interact with Silence this way regularly. Second, Silence is the home of the Ancestors. And I interact with my Ancestors and therefore Silence every day. The third and final way though, is as an initiator. Silence is one of the primary initiatory spirits in this Tradition. And Silence was the initiatory path I took for both of my initiations. This is arguably the primary way that I relate to Silence, as an initiatory spirit. Obviously I can’t talk much more on this subject. Even if I could, explaining Mysteries doesn’t work. Hail to you, Who Waits For Us All, and thank you.

Howl.

The BreatheSpark of Life. Song in the Wind. Voice of The Pack.

Where Silence is death, Howl is life. Where Silence is hidden things, Howl is explicit. Howl is the home of the living. Howl is the breathe in the lungs, the beat of the heart pumping life to every cell in the body. The animating spark that drives the body on.  Howl and Silence share an interesting relationship.  Partners in an equal dance, a give and take.  People will try to draw comparisons to Yin and Yang.  I dislike this comparison because of the Orientalism and appropriation that will inevitably come with it.  But done care by someone more knowledgeable than myself, this comparison might bear some fruit. But that is truly beyond my knowledge as i know nearly nothing of Yin and Yang.

Regardless, Howl is life.  Howl is the breathe, what separates us from the Ancestors.  Howl is also about communication and the explicit.  Howl is song and word.  Interestingly, Howl is also the written word. Howl is as simple and hard to describe as the feeling of breathe in your lungs and blood in your veins. Communication that leads to action, and song for its own sake.

Howl is the other primary initiatory spirit of this Tradition. I will admit, I know them less explicitly well than I know Silence. Howl is better known to me as an energy, and as a thing that I do and am than as a spirit. That doesn’t mean Howl isn’t a spirit, or that I don’t know them. But some relationships are closer than others, and I did not initiate under Howl.

And yet I know Howl as well as I know the breathe in my lungs and the words that I say. I consider myself a writer and a storyteller, have for most of my life. And Howl governs all these things. They are all around me, if I take the time to listen. Hail to you, Life In My Veins, and thank you.

Sky.

The Great Watcher, Father Above. Trickster. Whose Howl Is the Mighty Sun.

As Earth is the ground beneath our feet, so Sky is the great blue dome over head. As Earth is the Mother Below, Sky is the Father Above. The sun is the maw of Sky in Howl. The moon is his maw in Silence. He governs the winds, the air, the turnings of day and night. He brings the rains that make the Earth fertile, and the storms that drive us to shelter. Lightning is his teeth and the crack of thunder his booming laughter and the beating of his mighty paws upon the Earth. Sky is also the air around us that all things breathe. How is this different than Howl? He is the air itself, not the breathe. Beyond that, I am not certain I can explain it. Sky is the meeting point between our little rock orbiting the sun and the vast universe beyond. The window in and the window out. Some Ancestors live in Sky.

If there is a specific trickster among these spirits, I would say that spirit is Sky. Limiting our gods to roles is counterproductive, but Sky seems to have a trickster streak, both mythologically and personally.

As with Howl, my relationship with Sky isn’t as close as it could be. That may be changing in the near future, but as it stands now, our relationship is a bit less close. And yet still, I know him. I stand under him every day. I journey through him all the time. Much of how I relate to him is as intermediary, space, and (like with Earth) as the world around me. Hail to you, Trickster on High, and thank you.

Hunt.

Danger Incarnate. Will Manifest. The Pack In Motion.

Hunt is perhaps the least personified of the Pack Spirits. Hunt is the spirit of what the Pack does. It’s not obvious from their name, but Hunt governs a much wider range of activity than merely hunting for food. Hunt is work we do for money. Hunt is patrolling your territory for threats. Hunt is exploring new territory. Hunt is also play. Often play with purpose, but play nonetheless. Hunt is power. Hunt is strength applied. Hunt is danger. The danger of threats faced, and the danger you are to those threats.

My relationship with Hunt is interesting. Hunt was another major part of my initiations (arguably Hunt is a necessary piece of every initiation, as initiations are necessarily action). But I interact with them less as spirit I speak to and more as a spirit I try to embody and engage with knowingly. A current or energy that I try to intentionally engage with every day. A comparison might be drawn here to a Heathen concept of Megin. As a rough comparison, it’s not bad. Hail to you, Who Drives Us All, and thank you.

Prey.

Most Honored. Who We All Become In The End. Partners In The Great Cycle.

My relationship with Prey is complicated. And flatly I’m not comfortable talking about the more intimate parts of that relationship, Mysteries aside.

But. Talking about Prey more broadly and less intimately is still important and possible.

Prey is not just the spirit of animals. Plants, minerals, anything that must be consumed for life to continue is governed by this spirit. The salt I put on my french fries, the oil they are fried in, the potatoes themselves are all Prey. And so too is currency. Just as working a job to feed your family is Hunt, so too are dollars Prey spirits.

Another, very important note is that the relationship with Prey is not one of domination. In certain, specific situations it might be, but overall the relationship of Prey to Pack is one of give and take, not of domination and destruction. That is NOT to say that Prey spirits necessarily willingly and or joyfully give up their lives. That is not the case. Prey fight like hell, run like hell, hide like hell. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the relationship is entirely antagonistic, and certainly isnt one of domination. Aside from the damage you can do to yourself and your relationships, the fact of the matter is that we are all Prey in the end. Silence will claim us all. We will all be consumed. We are all Prey. And. We are all Prey because our bodies are physically made up of the Prey we’ve consumed to sustain ourselves. In a very real sense, the Prey we consume become part of us. Such are the ways the cycles go.

This is the primary way that I relate to Prey on a daily basis. I say prayers every time I eat. I pray to the Prey spirits I consume to sustain myself. I do what is in my power to pay proper respect to the spirits that allow me to continue living. Hail to you, Who Feeds the Cycles, and thank you.

Pack.

Bonds Among And Between. Home Within-Out. Home We Carry and That With Which We Defend It.

Pack is the central spirit. Around which all else moves. The axis mundi. Bonds Among and Between. The Home We Carry Within. Pack is home and how we defend it. Both the action of creating bonds and the state of being in them. They are action and being, together at once. Pack is everything to me. They are the lens through which I see the world, how I interact with literally everything. They are impossible for me to describe properly. They are the First Mystery and the Final. The central spirit of all that I do. Hail to you, Who Keeps Us All, and thank you.

I’ve talked a lot in this post about what these spirits are in the world. And that’s important because that’s how I experience Them and how I relate to Them. But there are two more things I want to touch on.

First, a blog post cannot possibly begin to describe or explain my relationships with these spirits. No more than it could describe a relationship with a spouse, parent, child, or lifelong friend. And there is much that I cannot say even if I’d wanted to. Further, these are active, ongoing relationships. They grow and change and shift. My understanding tomorrow is different than my understanding today.

Second, an important thing to note is that these spirits are not strictly external. They can also be thought of as a soul-map of sorts for this Tradition. Hunt isn’t just an external spirit that we can engage with. It is also a piece of us, and we of them. As most of these spirits come in pairs that work together and balance each other, Earth and Sky, Howl and Silence, so too are they both great spirits externally and also pieces of ourselves. The universe reflected in the individual and vice versa.

To close I do want to quickly address the final bit of Sarenth’s topic: am I connecting in new ways with these spirits through the prayers he’s writing?

Truthfully, no. Requesting these prayers is devotional work and I am very grateful for the fact I am able to do so. But the prayers written so far are not new territory for me. Beautiful. Valuable. And I am grateful for them. But not new.

Patreon Rant: Exoteric Forms of Pack Magic

If you’d like to request for me to rant on a topic, write prayers for an ancestor, spirit, or deity, or any of the other Work that I offer, please check out my Patreon, found here.

From Sarenth comes the following topic:
“Here is my question/rant topic for you:
How does Pack Magic work for the non-initiated? In other words, is there any place that Pack Magic intersects with common folks who have no interest in the occult or esoteric practices?
Is there an exoteric understanding of Pack Magic, and if so, what is it?”

This question was a particularly interesting one for a few reasons.

First of all, it seems a touch oxymoronic on the surface. An exoteric portion of an initiated tradition? And yet it struck me that it may be possible. And that it’d take some Work for me to figure it out. It was a thing I’d never considered, but it seemed possible-if-strange.

Second, when I did that Work, I was told in no uncertain terms that the answer I had gotten was necessarily incomplete. That it would take someone uninitiated to recieve the part of the answer that I could no longer see because of my inherently changed perspective. So naturally, bastard that I am I presented Sarenth with the deal, he could accept the incomplete answer or he could help me get the full answer. We all know which of those Mr. Odinsson chose.

So. That said, what wisdom did the Pack spirits give me when I asked this question of them?

Is there an exoteric understanding of the Pack Tradition?
Not really. This is an Initiated Thing. There are ways to engage and things to do without initiating, but it’s not Pack Tradition, it’s adjacent. But there are things. Engaging in Pack as bonds among and between. The joy and love of Pack is available for all, if they will engage with it.


It’s really 2 questions.
1. What does Pack Tradition look like for the uninitiated?
2. What does Pack Tradition look like from a non-esoteric standpoint?

1. Energy work is generally fine. The spirits will tell you when to stop. It’s a matter of both breadth and depth. You will not find the Mysteries, the secrets, but you can do some of the work. You can Hunt, as it were. So too you can do some spirit work. These are spirits like any other. You can work with any of them. But in both of these, be careful treading with Howl and Silence. These are the Initiators. The Pathways. Path of Life and Path of Death. Balanced, equal, both necessary. In the energy system these are the paths connecting the other centers, so it is for the spirits. They connect between. Any of the spirits can initiate. But these, that is among their speciality. So tread carefully with them.

Too, anyone who is welcome in Pack Space can enter into Pack Space without initiation. Can ask for it to be created for them. Maybe even generate it through actions. But to anchor it? That is closed. Tradition specific.

2. Exoteric praxis
There’s a sense being given to me, a sense of being on the steppe, in the woods, the great plain of Pack Space, and approaching other gods the way that Pack members (not initiates but rather the multitudinous that make up Pack) do. And that’s what exoteric praxis looks like.
Entering into the mind space where wolf and man meet and approaching worship, approaching Gifting, from this place is what exoteric praxis looks like.
Ha. But naturally, what this means, looks like for the uninitiated I, we, can’t answer. We’ve already initiated. We can’t go back. Can’t know how it is from the outside.
To answer this properly I will need to bring Sarenth (or anyone uninitiated who wants to know) into this space (Pack Space and the brain space) and see how they approach this to answer the question properly.”

So that was that and I’m not sure what else to say in that regard. I asked. They answered. That’s kinda all there is.

But like I said, I took this to Sarenth, and explained the situation. And naturally Sarenth said let’s go. So we went to the Pack Fire together, so that he could ask the question from his side, and see what the Pack Spirits would give him.

For what it’s worth, I didn’t hear what he heard or recieve what he did. I sat and watched and waited.

In any case, Sarenth summarized what he heard for me. While I’m certain there are things I am missing, and I necessarily cannot understand exactly what it looks like from that side, here is the best understanding I can give for what Sarenth told me:

It’s about acknowledging and understanding what the cultural context you’re in and approaching are. It’s about being Pack, and approaching the Cosmology you’re a part of from that perspective. To be Ulfheðnar is different than a Hellenic or Roman context. Acknowledge and know where the overlap is. And what your personal context is in the Cosmology. It’s about *being* Pack in context, in the World.

But there was also a real sense of…no. This Work is primarily Initiated and esoteric by nature. There’s ways to do it exoterically, but you’d be stretching, and is it worth it? At what point are you doing a thing to say you did, vs engaging with it on its own terms and in the right way?

For what it’s worth, I would personally gladly work with anyone who wants to work in this Tradition from a completely exoteric standpoint. But I would caution them that I don’t personally see much point in that, and I doubt it would remain exoteric long term.

In short and as is often the case, the answer to these questions is yes and no and maybe and kind of. All at the same time.

I’m personally satisfied with these answers (of course, our being satisfied with answers doesn’t necessarily affect their validity), and I hope you all find it at least useful.

As always, please feel free to reach out with more questions.

Angrboða Meets a Stranger

As with all modern myth, this may or may not resonate with you. That’s fine. Take what makes sense and leave the rest. This myth is also not in what I think of as a standard mythic style. But that’s OK too, it’s what it needed to be. Regardless, I hope it’s enjoyable. It was good to write.

Angrboða sat in her Woods one day. In that time outside of time that so often finds itself in deep woods. It wasn’t Fall, time didn’t work like that here. But the air was crisp and cool, promising frost in the night, just like it had the night before. It was beautiful here in her Woods.

It was quiet this morning, like it was most mornings in her Woods. She sat outside her cabin, whittling. She was working a staff, a gift for one of her daughters. Her daughter would be married soon, and would have need of such things. She smiled as she carved, fingers like talons gently shaping the iron wood, remembering the quiet mornings like this one teaching her daughter the hidden ways of the world.

It was not often that something surprised the seeress, especially not here. Not in her Woods. And yet she did not hear, nor see nor smell for that matter, the young wolf until they were almost upon her. That would have been unusual enough on its own. But this young wolf was odd in other ways. They came from the east, walking down the path to her house on two legs. They carried a spear that was pretending it was a walking stick (and doing a decent enough job of it, for a spear). And strangest of all, they had the shape and smell of a young man. It would have been convincing to most. But she had raised more than a few wolves in her day, and she knew their tricks. She had taught them those tricks in the first place.

The wolf smiled as the two talked, with light behind their eyes. The kind of smile that kept kings up at night worrying. The kind of smile that drew in the unwary and the reckless alike with promises. Promises she suspected this young wolf could keep.
The young wolf laughed raucously and truthfully while they talked. Laughter she answered. Their eyes were bright, and their skin showed more scars than she expected. Scars that spoke of promises kept and reckless defiance.

Angrboða was tempeted to invite the young wolf inside, but they moved along before she did, taking with them a half a loaf of bread as a token of her hospitality.

The young wolf went on their wandering way, moving westward, and she went back to shaping. Days passed, as they do in her Woods. She occassionally thought of the young wolf, wondered what trouble they were up to. She was certain they would have stories to tell when they returned.

Though Angrboða was not waiting on the young wolf’s return, she was caretaker of her Woods after all and had much to do, yet she did smile when they came wandering back through her Woods. They came in from the east in the early morning, as they were wont to do. And this time she did invite them inside. They traded stories of adventures and wanderings, comparing scars and sharing laughter and smiles until late into the night.

And so they grew to know each other. The young wolf wandered in from the east, trading stories, trinkets, and secrets for company and a hot meal. It was after some time, though less than they expected, that the young wolf first convinced Angrboða to go hunting with them. And not much longer until she went wandering with them when they left, coaxing her out of her Woods (though never for as long as the young wolf hoped).

And soon the stories that the young wolf told were shared stories, fond memories between the two, told back and forth. The Woods filled with laughter and howling and song again. And word spread of this stranger in Angrboða’s Woods. Tales that were told that grew in the telling, as legends sometimes do.

Patreon Rant: Blurred Edges and Overlapping Practices

If you’d like to request for me to rant on a topic, write prayers for an ancestor, spirit, or deity, or any of the other Work that I offer, please check out my Patreon, found here.

From Sarenth comes the rant topic: “What topics lie at the edge of Pack Magic?  Where do you find the most overlap between magical systems so far?”  I later clarified with Sarenth exactly what he was asking, and I’m glad I did.  “Put another way: Is Pack Magic something that tends to bleed into other systems, or is it self-contained?  That is, can someone incorporate heka from Kemeticism, and on the other hand, incorporate seidr or galdr from Heathenry?  Is Pack Magic its own system in the same way that heka is Kemetic and seidr and galdr are Heathen?  If not, what similarities and differences does it share?”

As per usual Sarenth gives me a damn doozy of a topic.  But I’m glad to have it.

First thing I’d like to do is clarify just a bit.  Is Pack Magic its own system in the same way that heka is Kemetic and seidr and galdr are Heathen?  Kind of.  But it would be more accurate to say that Pack Magic is its own system in the same way that Kemeticism and Heathenry are systems.  I’ve mentioned before, but it’s worth saying again, Pack Magic is a bit of a misnomer.  Magic as part of the name really only makes sense if we stretch it a bit, and delve into some semantic esoterica.  Which I will likely do in a different post, for now this is getting a bit off track.

Sarenth’s topic is a good one though, and one that has actually been on my mind much of late.  Coincidentally (ha) I had started writing another, personal, post on a very similar subject.  I was writing about juggling and integrating 2 different paths, Heathenry and Pack Magic.  I’ll probably still post that, as it’s still pertinent.  But the timing is alarming as usual.

So, to the topic at hand. Does Pack Magic bleed over into other systems and vice versa? In short, very much yes. And also not at all.

Pack Magic is very young, so everyone initiated is bringing with them various levels of experience in other systems. My own background and experience is primarily in Heathenry (and Chaos Magic) so that’s the examples I’ll be primarily leaning on for this post (though it’s important to note these are examples).

Part of this comes down to the fact that Pack Magic is both animistic and polytheistic. So a lot of the answer to this is “do the runes exist in Pack Magic?” “Of course they do. To not acknowledge their existence would be foolish.”  But. Just because something exists, doesn’t mean that there’s not massive differences in interpretation and practice.

What this means is that some practices will have a much closer translation than others. Take for instance Galdr. In my Heathen practice and experience, Galdr is a vocal practice intoning the runes. Working with and invoking the Rune spirits with your voice to accomplish X or Y goal. In practice this involves working with the Rune spirits, and working with your own Ond and Maegen, as well as maybe Ancestors or others depending on personal practice and situation. In Pack Magic this works fairly well, with a few differences. Ond translates fairly well to Howl, though certainly not 1:1. Maegen would probably translate to some combination of Hunt and Pack energy, though again there’s not a 1:1. But overall this practice can be ported over without too much trouble. You’re working with similar concepts and asking spirits for help. The bleed over here is pretty seamless.

Now let’s look at Seiðr. Now, Seiðr is complicated because it’s got a ton of different definitions and covers a LOT of practices. Everything from possesory oracular work to making charms and talismans to hitting people with a magical staff. So let’s narrow down a bit. When I first started learning a bit of Seiðr (and I am FAR from an expert) the thing that was shown to me was not just the reading of Wyrd, not just observing the threads of fate as they are woven into the Tapestry. But also the active changing of that weave. To grab hold of the threads and drag them to the shape you will. At least as well as your own strength and skill, and as how the current weave you’re trying to manipulate will allow.

Working from this limited definition of Seiðr, which again is limited purposefully, we see that translation is a lot harder.

Wyrd (and its cognates) as a concept is foundational to Heathenry, at least as I practice it. It’s a huge part of the worldview. And that world view does not translate. The concepts of how the world functions are fundamentally different from Heathenry to Pack Magic. There is no Well. There is no Tree. There is no Great Tapestry. There are no threads of fate to pull and weave to my liking.

That’s not to say there aren’t similar magics in Pack Magic. There’s a lot of cross over in physical techniques that many who practice Seiðr use. Trance, Journey, the use of sound in magical or sacred songs, invocation of spirits gods and ancestors, prayers and offerings, dancing and movement.

That addresses through example how these are similar and different. And certainly I don’t think that Pack Magic is incompatible with other systems. If I did, I could not walk both paths as I do. But I haven’t yet really addressed where I see overlap the most.

So where do I see this overlap the most? Two places: beginnings and spirits.

In the early stages when a newer student is finding their feet in Pack Magic.  To steal a quote from Snow “Similarities aid understanding, differences aid appreciation.”

Although if I’m being honest, “newer student” isn’t quite accurate. It’s probably more accurate to say that as a practice or idea is being introduced, either to a person or to the tradition as a whole, it’s most often introduced by comparison to other practices and ideas. So that we can grab onto a rough shape of it before learning the fine details that often make it quite different from what every it was being compared to. Learning to work and journey in Pack Space? Well, other journey work and liminal space work is a good introduction. Starting Work with Howl? Galdr and breathe work are likely decent starting points to grow from.

Will the Galdr remain interwoven into the Howl work forever? I really doubt it. At least from what I’ve seen. It’s possible. But Howl work is not Galdr. Similarities can help you get a handle on it. But once you see and appreciate the differences, I find I appreciate Pack practices even more for how unique and beautiful they are in their own right.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that things can’t be combined. As different members of the Pack come together to create something beautiful, so too can practices be combined. And often the combination is much greater than the sum of its parts. Just because Pack Magic, Heathenry, etc can stand alone, doesn’t mean they have to.

The other major overlap is in the gods and spirits involved. Pack Magic is polytheistic and animistic. The gods and spirits are many and multifaceted. Odin and Ganesh, Hermes and Howl, Lupa and Earth, Ancestors, spirits of land and air. Some of my deepest and most powerful teachings have come to me through the hands of Freyr, Angrboða, and Hela. Gods and spirits may wear a different face in Pack Magic, or fulfill a different role than they might in other systems. Or they might not. That doesn’t mean they aren’t out here doing Things, and teaching us.

Anyway, I really hope that was a reasonable answer to that rant topic. Hope y’all enjoy and see you next time!

Nastrond, Niðhoggr, and Divine Punishment in a Norse Heathen Cosmology

Recently a conversation came up in a Heathen Discord server that I’m in about the nature of the afterlife.

In particular folks were looking at deconstructing their Christian biases and examining their beliefs about afterlife punishments and rewards, a la a Protestant Christian idea of Heaven and Hell. The question that was put forward was basically (and I am heavily paraphrasing here): “I get that there isn’t a Heaven or Hell, but like. Nastrond is basically Hell, right? Would it not serve the same purpose?”

This sparked a lot of really good discussion, out of which came this blog post. So, let’s dive in.

Disclaimer: this is very much my interpretation, Doxa, and UPG. If you don’t like it, if this doesn’t sync with your worldview, that’s fine. No need to stress, do what works for you. Further, I’m assuming that the reader is fairly familiar with Norse Heathen Cosmology, the multipart soul, and terms like Frith. I can dig into these topics later, but they would be distracting in this post.

The defining difference here between a Christian Cosmology and a Heathen Cosmology is that the central tenet in Christian thought is a moral one and the Heathen one is not. The Christian God is Divine Authority, the Ultimate Decider, the final say in both Mortality and the Function of the universe. In a Heathen context that is not the case. The Well and Tree will continue on whether or not the gods are good or Good. The gods are neither the final arbiters of morality, nor are they the final deciders of all fate and function. The Well and Tree are amoral. Neutral.

And yet. Nastrond exists.

How do we reconcile this? It’s both more simple and more complicated than it might seem.

Simply put: in the face of an uncaring universe, cooperation and good will overcomes disunity blind aggression. This is a theme that is repeated over and over and over in the remaining Norse myths.

Fire and Ice exchange with each other, giving of Themselves to create all life that follows. It is only when the bonds of Frith break that Ragnarok comes that the worlds must be burned to make way for the new worlds to come.

And who is one of the few named figures to survive Ragnarok? Niðhoggr.

But let’s tighten the scope a bit here. How does the afterlife work? Well, when you die you can end up in any or all of the following places depending on specifics.

Perhaps you were particularly devoted to a specific deity, or they took a special interest in you for some reason (say you died well in battle and caught the eye of a particular falcon-cloaked goddess). They might invite you to their hall to spend X amount of time before you either move on, reincarnate, or just stay there forever. But that’s going to be relatively rare according to what we know from the sources. Most end up with the Ancestors somehow. Whether that’s hanging around at burial sites, the mythic Mound, inside the Hollow Mountain, Helheim, etc. Most people will spend that X amount of time with the Ancestors doing whatever it is that the Dead do. What’s important to remember here though is that while there are psychopomp deities, and underworld deities and guardians of the dead, there is no divine authority casting judgement about where your various soul bits end up. All of these places are communities. They may organize themselves differently and have different ways of distributing authority and decision making, but ultimately these are communities. And reputation matters.

Reputation matters because behaviour matters. Impact matters more than intent every time. Actions generate Wyrd which is laid down in the Well and feeds the Tree.

Frith is the foundation of the order of the universe. Or rather, the foundation of how the universe was and is ordered by those who inhabit it. Frith is a choice, not a matter of physics.

So what happens when someone has earned a reputation as a frithbreaker, an oathbreaker? What happens to those who have chosen to behave in ways antithetical to society, to the bonds of community, to Frith? Well, they become outcast. If your behavior is repugnant, and no god will have you in their hall, if you behave in such a way that even the Ancestors will not have you, then you have nowhere else to go. You wander the worlds, lawful prey for any who come across you. And eventually you will find yourself driven out of everywhere else, until you are on shore of bones, in the cold dark at the base of the Great Tree. And there you will be subject to the predation of the Great Dragon, Chewer of the Root of the Great Tree, Holy Niðhoggr and Their Children.

Superficially it looks like reward/punishment but functionally it’s very different.
It’s not a law or divine mandate. It’s about relationships. Whether or not you’ve shown yourself to be a person who does relationships positively, or at least not badly enough to be actively harmful to Community.

Nastrond is not a place of punishment. Suffering may (and likely does) happen there, but the suffering is not really the point. Nastrond is a place of cleansing. It’s not “You have done evil and must suffer as recompense.” It’s “You have become toxic. Just as cancer is cell growth gone out of control, so to is Frithbreaking behavior. You must be broken down, removed from Wyrd as cancer is removed from a body.” Just as it doesn’t make sense to think of treatment as punishing the cancer, so to is this. It is merely a Consequence of actions. You’ve been cast out of everywhere else, and the only place left for you is this place where the Dragon consumes you and those like you, breaking you down so completely that you can no longer corrode the bonds of Community that tie the worlds together.

Now, the question might be raised as to whether or not Niðhoggr is intending to punish or is even enjoying the pain of those on whom they feast, or whether they are intentionally purifying the Tree.
I have my own understanding of this based on my interactions with them. But to be frank, I don’t think it matters. Impact over intent. Their actions serve a function. The intention behind that function is important for personal relationship, but doesn’t make any difference to this Cosmic understanding. Does a wolf enjoy hunting? Maybe, maybe not. Their predation on the sick increases the overall health of the herd. The wolf’s function in that way is not affected by their intent. Personally I think it’s a bit of both from the Great Dragon. They both intend to purify the Tree and enjoy their work. I personally don’t blame them. But the end result is the same. They aren’t the Cosmic Judge. They’re just doing their thing, just like the rest of us.

Why does it matter that Niðhoggr survives Ragnarok? Because it demonstrates that Their job, Cosmically, is essential. There will always be Frithebreakers. There will always be those who choose to break and erode the bonds of Frith. There will always be poison for the Dragon to suck from the Root of the Tree. Community, Frith, will still be there after Ragnarok and will still need to be defended. As I said in my post not too long ago, there is no end goal to Heathenry, because there is no end point. The universe continues on, and so do the cycles within it.

Why does any of this matter? Because it tells us about the world. It tells us how we can live and relate to each other, god, human, and spirit alike. In the face of an uncaring, amoral universe, we can choose to behave well towards each other, or we can choose to do otherwise. And we don’t get rewarded for one or punished for the other, at least not Cosmically. We just face the Consequences of those actions, according to our communities.

Uuotan Reclaims His Eye

Last night I had a great conversation regarding Wotan and Türst on Skiðblaðnir. Which led eventually to me rapidly writing this myth in just under an hour.

As with all new myths, this may strike a cord, it may not. Either is fine. The nature of myth is inherently fluid. Also please keep in mind I wrote this for Wotan or Uuotan. I distinguish between this God and Odin. There’s obviously similarities, but they are distinct to my mind and experience.

Anyway, hope you enjoy.

Uuotan Reclaims His Eye

It was the days after the Great War, when the gods were rebuilding from the ashes of the old world. The sun shone bright, the fields were golden with wheat, and the forests were green. Birds sang in the trees and men and women sang as they worked. Ash makes the land rich and fertile. It was in these peaceful times that our story takes place.

The old man was tired. Impossibly tired. The kind of weary that rest cannot cure. Weary from long years and secret wisdom. He wandered alone, the howling of wolves his only companion. As he often had. He had been wandering a long time. He blue cloak was stained and torn and wearing thin. His broad blue hat, pulled low over his face, was patched and worn. His gnarled staff, once a spear but long since broken off, was black with age and wear. Still, he wandered. Lost. Only the well and truly lost could find what he was searching for. For what he sought was well hidden.

But the old man was canny and wise. He knew the secret ways. He had walked them many times. His one eye spied finally, hidden among the ash and yew ahead of him, the path he sought. Onward he walked. Following the path down as it twisted deeper into the woods. Three days he walked. Three nights his feet tread the secret ways. He dared not stop, lest the way be lost to him. And he had come too far to begin again his search. And always before him stretched the World Tree, ever higher into the sky those windy branches stretched, reaching out to him, beckoning as old friends. He turned his eye back to the path at his feet.

It was in the dark of night when he finally found his destination. And he slung his pack down beside the Well, sat himself upon the rim, his journey done. His staff rested beside him, his hat on the ground as he stretched his weary bones. One final journey. His goal was worthy, but he was glad to put his burdens down.

From his pack, he pulled his most prized possession. His uncle’s skull. He placed it on the Well beside him. His uncle was glad to be here. It was his uncle’s Well after all. “Will you help me one last time, Uncle? It has been a long time since we’ve talked, but you were always most patient. Will you do this last thing for me? All that’s left is this. Every other plan is done. All that remains of me is here. My legacy sits shining bright upon the golden throne Baldeag. Phol will be a good king. Better than I was. Wiser than his father. He will bring peace. What do you say, Uncle? Have I executed our plans well enough? Have I earned a bit of that peace for us both?” Then the old man listened in the secret way, and the dead spoke the secrets to him that he needed to know.

Finally he got to his feet and took up his staff for the last time. He moved in the hidden ways and chanted the secret words. Arms outstretched he made offering to the spirits, herbs and liquor, bread and wine, breathe and water he offered as he sang out to the winds and the endless sky. From deep in the earth at the hidden roots of the Tree, he sang until the eagle who sits atop the Tree heard his call.

The spirits, moved by song and offering, vouched for him, and so the eagle bowed and took flight. Three times, it circled the tree, mighty wings shaking the branches with its winds. And on the third circle, it dove. Down and down, faster and faster, down into the Well, past where any man could hope to see. And out of those infernal depths, the eagle soared again, triumphant, an eye clutched in its great talons. This eye it gifted to the old man, that he had given up long ago. It had seen many things since they had parted. His uncle gave him words again to sing, and the old man wept as he sang this song, for he would never sing its like again.

Nine days passed from the storms the eagle caused in all the worlds. Nine days and nine nights of winds that howled like hounds and lightning like spears into the earth. Phol-Baldeag was nearly troubled upon his golden throne. But his father had taught him patience, and he had learned his lessons well. Nine was auspicious, and he kept his wits about him for a sign.

It was the next morning that a visitor came to his shining hall. An old gentleman in a green suit, with eyes that shone like an eagle. Sharp and bright were the gentleman’s eyes, and bright and raucous was his laughter. The gentleman had been a soldier once he said, had fought in the Great War, for Baldeag’s father. He brought laughter to the hall and always had a gift to pull from his pack for the children he met. He seemed an honest sort, and Phol believed his story. Though he did not recognize the eagle-eyed man, there was a familiarity to him that the king could not place his finger on.

And so the gentleman was granted an estate in the mountains he could retire to. Its lands were rich with woods and game, and its hall was sturdy and could withstand the fiercest of storms. And Türst retired there, and lived out his days, hunting the woods with his hounds. They say you can still hear his booming laughter and the baying of his hounds echoing down the mountains when it storms. And it is those times when the wicked must be most careful, for old soldiers do not take kindly to those who break Frith, and mountain woods are deep and trackless.

How Much is Too Much?

This post isn’t necessarily going to make a lot of sense. It’s basically me thinking out loud for everyone to see. While I’m not seeking advice, I welcome it. And perhaps these thoughts might be useful to others. They’re at least useful for me to write out.

My practice has been growing a lot lately. Like. A LOT.

Pack Magic is growing. I was going to say slowly but surely, but that’s not true at all. It’s growing rapidly. It seems I learn something new every week. Ancestors, Land Spirits, divination, mythology, soul composition, and on and on.

And on the Heathen side of my practice (I say as though there are two sides, as though things are seperable in such a clean way), things are growing at an even greater rate.

My Work with the Wild Hunt is ever present. My relationship with Yngvi-Freyr is becoming more prominent. My relationship with Angrboða, ever-present as it is, is also slowly growing.

And new gods and new areas of reconstruction are poking their heads in. Continental gods, Frau Holle and Türst. In a very different direction than I ever thought my practice would go.

Speaking of, I keep getting pushed towards both Russia, especially Kiev and the Rus, and Tengerism. My practice seems to be shifting farther and farther East, taking on more Continental and increasingly syncretic tone, including influences from Rome, Gaul, Greece, Tengerism, Slavic peoples, and probably more I don’t yet recognize.

My issue is 2-fold:

1. How do I do all of this, explore these influences, without being an appropriative shithead? I know part of the answer to that. Slow down, do my research and make sure what I’m touching isn’t closed practice and that I’m giving proper respect to the cultures that I’m looking into. But I’ll be damned if it isn’t an utterly daunting task. And all the while I can hear these gods and spirits calling to me. There’s Work to be done. Relationships to be developed. And only so many hours in a day. Which leads into my next problem.

2. How many relationships is too many? How many gods before an altar is full? 7 primary Pack Spirits. Ancestors, named and unnamed. Land Spirits. The Rune spirits. House spirits. Alcohol spirits. Grandmother Mugwort. Grandfather Tobacco. Skaði. Lupa. Cernunnos. Loki. Thor. River Huron. Lady Superior. Lady Morrigan. Frigga. Freyja. Freyr. Frau Holle. Türst. Surtr. Sinnmora. Kavasir. Hela. Angrboða. Not to mention all of the “smaller” spirits that I work with regularly. There are only so many hours in a day. I can only keep so much in my brain. How many relationships is too many to try to maintain?

I know what the answer is. I’m overwhelmed. I need, not want – need, to cut back. Some relationships must take a back seat. I need to prioritize. And I FUCKING HATE IT.

Every one of these gods and spirits is important to me.

But. How much of that is just my perfectionism? My need to hurl myself into the fire to prove I’m worthy of the love They’ve all shown me?

How much is my own pride and hubris?

I don’t know.

But I do need to figure it out. Out of respect for Them. Out of respect for myself.

I need to reevaluate and rearrange my practice.

And I have to let myself be OK with that. Some relationships must have less attention paid to them. You see your therapist less often than your spouse (for most people anyway). That doesn’t make the relationship with your therapist unimportant. Just different.

I don’t know how many is too many. How many gods, how many spirits, how many cultures influencing a practice.

Maybe I’m there. Maybe I’m way past it.

I like to think I’m not though, and that most of what I need is just some reorganization and an honest conversation with the Divine, and with myself. It’s a good place to start anyway.

If you’re still here, thanks for listening to me ramble. This has actually been more helpful than I thought it would.

Here’s to a New Year.

Patreon Rant: Chasing End Goals

If you’d like to request for me to rant on a topic, write prayers for an ancestor, spirit, or deity, or any of the other Work that I offer, please check out my Patreon, found here.

From Remy comes the rant topic: “The idea (okay, western/Christian baggage, to be honest) that one can and should acquire all of the knowledge around when taking up polytheism, etc.”

This is a really great topic and I’m really glad Genessa brought it up!

I think this looks a lot of different ways, and manifests in a lot of different ways, but in my experience the root cause comes down to one thing and you already nailed it: cultural christian baggage.

I do want to specify that I’m talking about American culture here, from the perspective of a person who was raised Lutheran and has lived my entire life in the US. Also I cannot speak for all of polytheism. Mostly my perspective for this particular post is coming from a Heathen perspective.

The fact of the matter is that christianity, and to some extent materialism, are baked into american culture.  Even a person raised in an atheist household in the US is still going to have heavily christianized implicit biases.  Christianity has shaped so much of our history and culture.  It was and still is one of the biggest colonial forces on the planet.

So what the fuck does that have to do with the idea that one can and should aquire all of the knowledge in paganism, polytheism, witchcraft, spirituality, or whathaveyou?

It’s both complicated and surprisingly simple.  End Goals.

Christianity is a system with an end goal (both for the system and for the individual, but we’re looking at the individual perspective right now).  The end goal for each individual is to get into the correct afterlife.  Whether this is the Protestant “getting saved” or through the slightly more complex Catholic theology, the end goal is the same.  Live your life in such a way that you get into the correct afterlife.

And the various churches do a pretty solid job of being the authority who can tell you how to accomplish that goal (we’re not discussing the ethics of such a system, the actions of the christian church, nor whether or not it is true.  Those are important conversations, but not what I’m doing right now.).

So folks leave Christianity and start exploring other kinds of spirituality and because of the implicit biases they’re bringing with them, they’re already looking for certain things, usually without knowing what they’re doing.

And this is where that search for more and more knowledge comes in.

People constantly searching for more and more knowledge hoping to “get it right”.

Without that authority figure there telling them what’s right and wrong, whether that be a priest, pastor, or the Bible, they start looking for a sacred text or doctrine or person to fill that void. They’re searching 3 things: 1. The authority who will tell them the end goal 2. The end goal they need to get to and 3. The way to achieve it.

So what you get is people constantly searching for more and more knowledge so that they can “do it right”.

You see this too with people treating the Eddas as a substitute for the bible (they aren’t), with things like the Nine Noble Virtues (which are racist in their foundations and frankly antithetical to my understanding of Heathenry but that’s an entirely different rant) being touted as a morality system inherent to Heathenry (it isn’t).

Hopefully folks get introduced to the idea that myths should not be interpreted literarly and that they need to critically engage with their sources along the way, though that’s slightly beside the point.

What these stem from is looking for a book, a code of ethics, etc that can fill in for the things that people are culturally trained to look for in a religion.

And a huge part of that is that because of the effect that a religious system with an explicit end goal has on our way of thinking.

Because with an end goal, you NEED to do it right or *bad things* happen. And that’s not to say that if you genuinely fuck up in Heathenry that there aren’t consequences, but it’s a completely differet framwork. And when people are coming from a system that has that end goal, and they keep on finding that there isn’t a set, correct way to do things, it can really easily become this obsession to find more information because they’re searching for a thing subconsciously that doesn’t exist. Combine that with the lack of solid resources, the abundance of bad resources, and the common refrain of “The religion of homework” and it’s kind of a recipe for this constant cycle of “if I just know a little more I can get started and do it ‘right’!”

Here’s why this is a problem: it’s both impossible and not all that important.

You physically cannot aquire all the knowledge on these topics. Literally. It’s too much. Plus, a shitload of that knowleddge is just gone thanks to various kind of colonialism. We literally don’t know how much has been lost, because the people who could tell us are dead. And what we do have left? It’s still too much to digest in a single lifetime. Even if we were talking about a single tradition, say Norse Heathenry, a person would need to be an expert in a half dozen fields from literary analysis to anthropology to archeaology to learn “everything”.

Now learning is important and I highly encourage folks to do research when and where they are able.

But knowing everything isn’t necessary. Because there isn’t one path up this mountain. Heck, there isn’t even just one mountain. See. It’s not about doing it absolutely correctly. It’s about doing it AT ALL. Much better to have a basic understanding of how things can go and start living your religion than to beat yourself up that you don’t know everything.

You’re not expected to. It’s ok. You’ve got a life to live. You don’t need to be an expert in Dharmic philosophy to understand how to worship. Can it help? Sure. Maybe. Or it might be so distracting and overwhelming that you end up paralyzed. Not everyone needs to be a philosopher. Is philosophy important? Absolutely! But much more important is the relationships we hold with our communities (which includes the divine) and living our lives well.

I sure hope that answers the prompt well, cause I’m not sure what else to say here.

Live our life. We don’t have end goals to meet here, just relationships to participate in. And you don’t need to know everything for that. Just need to participate honestly.

Patreon Rant: Animism in Action, Listening to Objects

If you’d like to request for me to rant on a topic, write prayers for an ancestor, spirit, or deity, or any of the other Work that I offer, please check out my Patreon, found here.

So this topic came through in a roundabout way. Josie requested it for a friend of ours that we were hanging out and talking with one night, since she very often forgets to request or doesn’t have a particular topic to request me to rant on. Regardless I think it’s a good topic and I’m excited to get into it.

“How do you talk to objects? Cause they wake up around you, that’s not in question. But how does that work? Because I’m fairly sensitive and I don’t get it at all.”

So. Some background.  A thing happens around me, and I’m not sure how common this is, but from the sample size of the folks I’m around it doesn’t seem to be super common on the level that it happens around me.  Which is pretty much exactly what Jason mentioned.  It’s extremely common for objects to “wake up” around me, and start expressing themselves. For the wights around me to be more talkative. Often to me but sometimes to others as well.  In fact wights that have been around me for a long time tend to be extremely “awake” and expressive.  To the point of occasionally being a bit disconcerting to someone who isn’t used to it (there’s a really funny story of a cane of mine, carved to look like a snake, scaring the shit out of Jason).

Why is this? I’ve got some suspicions but obviously I can’t say for sure.  And with that we’re addressing the question!

So, what is up with all this?  I think a large part of it is that I inately expect things to have thoughts and opinions.  In large part this is about integrating animism into my worldview.  When you know in your bones that everything around you has a voice if you know how to listen, it get’s a lot easier to hear things.
Now, not everything talks to me.  I don’t generally hear from the floors I walk on, or my shoes or my clothes.  Generally.

But if I did, it wouldn’t surprise me either.

Most often I tend to hear from things that are important to me in some way, or that specifically want me to do something.  So basically most of the time I hear from objects that either are or are about to become part of my practice.  I have a number of staves, a few coats, statuary, etc that tend to be the loudest objects I hear.

I’ve talked before about how Pack Magic is a relatively empty handed tradition. You don’t really need tools to do what we do. Heck, we don’t even cast circles. We don’t really do magic, we are magic. Which makes it an odd thing that I have such a connection with magical tools.

But that’s kind of the thing, right? I don’t treat them as dead things. I treat them as friends and allies. They’re not tools I use, they’re partners I work with. And I think that’s a large part of why objects tend to “wake up” around me. Because I treat them like the people they are, or at least I make a genuine effort to, they tend to talk to me more.

Of course it’s entirely possible that this is some elaborate delusion. Such things do happen, and a materialist would assume that’s what I’m experiencing.

But frankly I don’t care. Sincerely held religious belief and all that.

So. Wtf is up with this?

I’m honestly not sure.

On the one hand, it doesn’t affect my practice that much. I can do the VAST majority of what I do with no aids at all.

On the other hand, I dearly love each of the spirits I’ve formed a relationship with. They are invaluable allies and friends who have been there for me in literally my darkest hours.

So. To answer the question posed, what’s going on? I suspect it’s a combination of my inate understanding that objects are people too, and an effect of one of the central theological tenets of Pack Magic, to recognize and uplift the divine in ourselves and everyone around us whether they are human or not.

The Times, They Are A Changin’

So.

Things are…quite different for me now than they were about a month ago.

To put it in simple terms: Odin broke Frith with me. I’m not going to go into details of how though I might go into some details of why and the repercussions for me later on, once I’ve made some decisions and settled some things inside myself.

But yeah. Odin, who was my Divine Father, intentionally broke our relationship. This was not random cruelty. With Odin there is always a plan. Nor is it out of character for the God of both outlaws and kings. I did my due diligence, I was as discerning as I could be.

To say this is painful for me is…beyond an understatement. Words are poor containers for emotion and cannot begin to express how that I wish things could be different; though I know that they are not.

But the fact is that life moves on. Odin is no longer a part of my practice or my life outside of how he interacts with the people I care for.

Now for clarity: Odin is not evil. Odin is not antagonistic. I will not deny that I am upset with him, but I do not hold it against him. This is not an impious “the gods have wronged me!!!” This is not misotheism.

This is “Odin, who’s Divine Character includes aspects of Outlawery and Frithbreaking, has chosen to express those faces to me in a way that I cannot abide. This seems to have been his intention. Therefore he is no longer a part of my life.” Odin is still a god, still worthy of worship, he’s just chosen not to receive mine.

Now I move on to other things. Life goes on. This too shall pass. Do what you must. It is enough. Words given to me by Ancestors to get me through troubled times. I don’t remember them often enough.

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