A prayer for Veles


God of the underworld,

Lord of the forest,

may I learn from your wisdom

and take shelter in your depths.

May you watch over me as you watch over your cattle.

Slava, Veles!

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.

IMG_20170310_140716 edited
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.

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.