Lessons in Death

Life and death are intertwined at every juncture. They are not separate. We are dying as much as we are living. Living beings. Dying beings. See how living is inherent in dying? You cannot have death without life, just as life needs death.

Get to know it.

It is your blood, always in a cycle of destruction and replenishment. your skin. your hair. your nails and piss and shit. It is the food you eat and the clothes you wear.

Death is not the end. It is life’s fellow.

Aspiration vs. Natural Disposition

I am, and will always be, a follower of Heimdall. But in Veles, I’ve found a god who is so close to my own nature that he is almost instinct to me. It’s not a conflict between two gods, rather a conflict between ways of being.

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Innes National Park, South Australia

Heimdall suits the intellectual aspects of my personality and the way I think. My work with him has been highly analytical and self-reflective. He helped me harness that for self growth and learning to understand greater mysteries. He is, in many ways, a thinking god. This isn’t to downplay the ways in which he is instinctive, but it’s more instinct through a thinking lens. Intuition, perhaps; a mind-feeling rather than a heart-feeling or body-feeling.

Veles, in my limited experience, is completely different. He is more about heart- and body-feeling and instinct. Acting rather than Analysing, Much more animal. Visceral. Being in touch with one’s sensations. Wild, perhaps.

Here’s another distinction: Heimdall is a sky god, and Veles is an earth god. I am very much an Earth person. I like being grounded, feeling structure, feeling depth. I really do not like being in bodies of water, especially the ocean. (I don’t believe in astrology, but I’m an Earth sign, for what it’s worth.) Forests strike a deep chord in me. I prefer the warm, dark places, with leaves and dirt crunching underfoot, and the wet smells of rain and decay in my nose. Veles is these things. These things are instinctive to me.

Dandenong Ranges, Victoria

As a beast, I am drawn to these things. As a conscious being, I aspire to everything Heimdall stands for, which is nearly a polar opposite. The part of me that thinks and yearns for release is drawn to Heimdall.

So I feel this conflict between two opposing modalities, two ways of being and doing: following the animal instinct that speaks to my bones, or following the elevated, detached yearning that speaks to my spirit?

Which raises the question: should we follow our natures, or should we follow our [often intellectual] aspirations? Or is this a useless distinction, because they may point towards the same thing?

Maybe instead of seeing it as a oppositional thing, I should see it as developmental: I’m just at the stage now where I can deal with the more esoteric, abstract elements of my life and personality. Perhaps, personality-wise, Heimdall suited my teenage self, and Veles suits my adult self? (I don’t like to think of it that way, either, because as I said, Heimdall is my fulltrúi.)

The problem is that I feel the need to choose between one modality or the other. Can I use both at the same time? Perhaps. I don’t know.

Combining Paganisms: Dual-Trad

I’ve recently added a god from the Slavic pantheon into my practice, and will probably add a few more eventually. Thing is, if you want to have just one practice/religion, instead of doing separate things for separate traditions, you can’t just smush them together – you have to figure out how to match up their edges, or layer them, or re-sculpt them into another thing entirely.

This is an ongoing process, one you have to feel out for yourself. I started out now knowing how I could possibly follow two traditions at the same time – I was a Heathen, but I was also following a god – just one god, not a bunch – from another tradition. Was I a Heathen 95% of the time, and a Slavic Pagan the other 5%? Did I just pretend Veles fit into Norse polytheism and afford him a place in the cosmology that didn’t exist in the extant mythos? Did I create an equal blend of both Norse and Slavic traditions, even though I was still mostly devoted to the Norse?

Ultimately, you have to feel out for yourself what’s comfortable for you and your gods. But, here’s what happened to me, as time went on.

  1. I had completely separate shrines/altars for Veles and for my Norse gods. I spent separate time on them and gave separate offerings. Keyword here: SEPARATE. Like I’m two different people, one of whom worships Veles and the other worships the Norse.
  2. I decided it wouldn’t be so bad if I put some Veles pages into my bók. They have a different decorative border to mark them as Slavic as compared to the Norse, but they’re side by side.
  3. Quite unconsciously, I started thinking of Veles as an honorary Norse deity (as well as an independent Slavic deity). Like a close family friend, or a blood-sister. One of the gang, who happened to fill a little gap in the existing mythos (which was solely Norse). It’s like I stripped him of his Slavic context as much as possible and inserted him into the Norse, even though he’s still Slavic. This stage didn’t last long and I don’t think it was…’ethical’, for lack of a better word.
  4. Again, unconsciously, my conception changed again: Veles, as a major god in the Slavic pantheon, along with all his stories and associations, exists simultaneously (and sometimes contradictorily) alongside the Norse, not separately, but harmoniously.

By contradiction, I mean this: in Norse mythology, Hela is the goddess of the underworld, which is called Hel, and is generally cold, grey, and a little monotone. In Slavic myth, Veles is the god of the underworld, which is called Vyraj and is green, full of meadows and grass and cattle (and other season gods). This is a contradiction on its face: but both can be true at once, when we’re talking mythologically, and they’re both ‘true’ to me. So in some way, I am not a blend of Norse and Slavic, so much as both at the same time.

5. I combined the altars and now Veles’ stuff is mixed in with the Norse.

Instead of a chocolate-vanilla swirl cake, I’m a double-layered cake, one vanilla, one chocolate, and you get both layers in one slice.

However you develop your dual trad, you might try just letting it form its own shape naturally, without too much influence or force from you. You need to make sure your gods/spirits are okay with whatever you end up doing, but letting it develop naturally is, I think, the best way of creating a practice that works and lives.

Norse Mythology Doesn’t Have Nature Gods

Okay, it does, a bit. That was clickbait. But it seems to me that the Aesir generally have a lot more to do with human concerns and the inner states of our minds than they have to do with natural phenomena. The Aesir, I think, are about how we as humans relate to the world. I don’t think that all of our gods would exist if humans didn’t exist. There are nature deities, for sure, Thor and Sif can be considered nature deities in large part, for example, and of course we have the Vanir and the jotnar who are even closer to nature.

(It hurts a little to admit this, but I always felt there was something missing from Norse mythology/religion. It wasn’t until I met Veles that I knew what that was.)

Maybe it’s just me misinterpreting things, but I don’t think we have any deities (jotnar aside) who embody natural phenomena. Skadi lives in the mountains, but she is not mountains herself. Njord lives in oceans and harbours, but he is not the ocean himself. Freyr is lord of fertility and harvest, but he is not the yield. None of them are 100% Aesir; the only one I can think of who is undeniably a nature god is Thor. Even then, he is descended from giants.

Perhaps this reflects the societies that existed when our historical records were written down. I suspect that an actual Scandinavian pagan would reflect a different worldview and a different view of the gods.

But it does strike me that our gods, as we know them from Teh Lore, are human-based; that is, how we think of them and what we know of them is all based around our existence as human beings. There aren’t any gods worth mentioning, seemingly, that exist whether or not we think of them, that don’t give a shit about us.

I don’t know where to go with this. I would love to hear other people’s thoughts.

Finding Veles

I’ve ‘adopted’ another god into my personal practice. Surprisingly, to me at least, this god is not part of the Norse pantheon. You can’t help who calls you. Veles, of Slavic mythology, is the god I was talking about in my post Identifying a God – it took me months to identify him, and now that I finally have, things are falling into place.

I’ve always felt…different in and around forests. Specifically, dense, old, dark forests, with tall trees and thick canopies and plenty of moss and detritus covering the ground. Other people never seemed to feel the same way I did in forests. For years, I thought this feeling was just another example of Sehnsucht – my Ache – that feeling of spiritual displacement from a spiritual home or physical location where perhaps I’d never been. It only occurred to me a few months ago that that feeling could actually be the presence of a god.

Unfortunately, there are a shit-ton of forest gods around the world, so this search was not going to be easy.

All I knew was that this god was associated with dark, old forests, decay, and dirt. This wasn’t a hunter’s god, or a particularly friendly god; this was a wild god.

The search took months. It was full of panicked googled, a long list of potential gods it could be, and even a table of possible gods and applicable attributes that I filled in.

One night, I’d tried to put the search from my mind. I went to the movies with my partner. Before we went in to the theatre, something occurred to me: I’d completely overlooked the Slavic pantheon, which had never been on my radar before.

In a frenzy (this whole search was full of frenzy), I opened the Wikipedia page, and when I saw Veles’ name, a feeling overcame me like the wool had been pulled from my eyes. (Wool reference…very appropriate.)

I still wasn’t sure it was him. Weeks followed, of me going back and forth, doing more and more research. Veles isn’t primarily known as a forest god.

In the weeks (months?) that followed, I kept coming back to him. Eventually I did some divination. Some thinking. Turns out it was him the whole time.

I’m not accustomed to having deities from more than one pantheon, but I am forging ahead with this relationship. Veles is so different from the Norse deities I’ve known.


Rainbow Heathenry: Is a Left-Wing, Multicultural Asatru Possible?


For those who raise the bowl in offering and veneration of the Old Gods, there is a glimmer of their connection to the past. Much of the Yule Celebration is based around this key concept for those who identify with Asatru, the revival of the traditional Norse pagan religion. It is the attendance to and memory of ancestors, the veneration of them just as the Gods, both of which can be traced back in a familial lineage. As Thor, Freya, and Odin are mentioned, faces around the table can envision what those names meant to their family deep in the past. The power of thunder. The perseverance in battle. The strength of conviction.

Yet it is not those elements that most of those with quick glances see when they notice a small silver Mojinir around a believer’s neck. Today Asatru is one of the most divided areas of the new…

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Identifying a Deity

Recently I had to identify a deity who I kept sensing (and have been sensing for years, though I didn’t realise it). It wasn’t easy. I thought I’d set out my process for anyone else who might need it.

  1. First of all, is it a deity, or is it a local or regional spirit? This might differ based on your worldview, but essentially, spirits or regional deities might only manifest in specific locales or regions. For example, Arduinna is a goddess of the Ardennes forest. For some, however, she might be a deity of forests in general. Consider your own worldview. This will help you later in your search when you’re trying to narrow it down.
  2. Looking for clues. What specific things give you the sensation of this entity? What gives you the vibe/feeling? For me, it was forests; specifically, a feeling of darkness, richness of soil and moisture, and decay. The more specific you can be with these ‘clues’, the better. Try and get to the core of what gives you the sensation. Clues could be certain animals (for example, rabbits or bears), geographical locations (e.g. beaches, mountains), colours, seasons, or more abstract things, like “creativity”, “companionship”, or “romantic love”.
  3. Divination. Many people will want to try divination at this stage. If you can tap into the sensations you get from the entity, do divination at the same time. If not, just focus on the clues you’ve identified. Use whatever method you’re most comfortable with. I used runes. Try asking the deity for some symbols or associations of theirs. If you’re feeling lucky, you could ask for their name. Otherwise, you could ask them to send you some signs or dreams.
  4. The search. Time to search the world’s knowledge. Come up with search terms using the clue you identified. I used “forest deities” and “tree gods” to begin with. Again, the more terms you can come up with, the better. If you have a feeling what culture the deity is from, this can be a useful search term to add, although be careful not to narrow your search too early – you might overlook some important information. Use different terms in different combinations. Go beyond the first page of Google results. Don’t be afraid to use Google Scholar. If you have access to a good library, it’s worth checking out old-fashioned encyclopedias or other more scholarly books. They have good, solid info that the Neopagan web doesn’t. Write down any deity names or other information that ring true to you. Pass over anything that doesn’t ring true, but keep in mind that you might have to revisit it later in case your search doesn’t turn up anything.

At this stage, you might have pinpointed who it is. You might have a name – hooray! If not, start again, and branch out, think outside the box a little. Follow steps 2-4 again. I had to do this four or five times. When I thought I had it, I did some divination to confirm – success!

However…you might have done all your research and done your divination and still not have a name. You might have found an unknown or ‘forgotten’ deity, whose name was lost to history but who still remains. In that case, it’s up to you to find out more about them.

2016: I

I can never be enough.
Break my bones.
Scatter them among the trees.
Pry out my teeth.
Strew them among the rotting leaves.
Rip my skin,
Tear my eyes,
Place them in the rivers and lakes.
Steal my breath and cast it into the mist.
It will never be enough.
I will never be close enough to this earth, to this feeling.
I came from Earth and sure enough I will return to her
But I will never be close enough.

Fk the Haters: Question Everything

There’s a lot of advice out there on what to do in your spiritual practice. Some of it’s good, most of it’s bad. People throw around a lot of rules about what it is to be a real Heathen, or a real witch, or whatever else. Often these people will be self-proclaimed authorities of some sort.

Ignore all of that. Think for yourself.

What’s the point of your path? Why are you here, delving into different aspects of life and spirituality? Why are you pursuing what you’re pursuing? It’s for you, isn’t it? It’s not for anyone else. Your growth isn’t for anyone else. Your path is for you. And you have an obligation to remain true to yourself, because that’s the only way you’ll find your truth. Your path is there to serve you and you alone.

I’ll boil this down to three points:

  1. Don’t listen to people who tell you what you have to do to be a [good] Heathen. Follow your heart. People will tell you shit like “You have to be dedicated to your community to be Heathen”, or “you have to honour your ancestors”, or “you have to honour your ancestors”. Ignore this shithouse ‘advice’.
  2. Question things before you incorporate them into your practice. Question whether sources/facts are, in fact, true. Question things already in your practice to make sure they still work for you. It can be tempting, starting out, to lap up every piece of information you can find, uncritically. But you should be critical.
    (2a. Question whether you give a shit if your sources are good or true.)
  3. People will try to shit on you. This doesn’t matter.

Don’t let anyone discourage you from following the path you’ve been called to. If people tell you that you’ve crossed a line, listen to them openly and honestly. You might have crossed the line without knowing it. Be culturally sensitive and respectful, and keep an open mind.

Mostly, question everything. And keep questioning it.

You know what? Question this post, too.