On Being an Eclectic Reconstructionist

My co-priest and I are planning Yule. We are both working through our ADF dedicant path with the intention of joining the clergy program afterward. He is a Hellenist and I am Heathen, for lack of a clearer term. Even though we both consider ourselves to be Reconstructionists, we also both consider ourselves to be Eclectic. This might seem like a contradiction to many, and while I can’t speak for my co-priest on the subject, I can at least make an attempt to define this for myself.

First off, some background. I am what many would call Heathen. In other words, I follow what most consider the Norse religion, only the variation I have been called to is actually more Continental Germanic and Anglo-Saxon. The catch is, the majority of information we have about what we consider to be the Germanic gods is filtered through post-Christian Scandinavian texts (the other catch being the modern age filters it through Neo-Nazi websites and the SCA). So, in short, in order to follow my path with any level of coherency, I can’t just be Anglo-Saxon or Germanic, I need to fall back on the Norse literature to fill in the gaps. I actually don’t care to use the term “Heathen” to describe myself, since I don’t think that communicates a clear picture as to what I am about, but it is a workable shortcut for now.

The hallmark of modern Paganism is the constant need to define and label what we are. Many of us end up as hyphenates in an attempt to describe something that isn’t clearly delineated in the first place. The thing that many of us forget, Reconstructionists in particular, is that these things weren’t clearly defined for our ancestors either. Think about ancient Europe. Centuries of invasions, plagues, and migration meant that the religions themselves were in constant flux. Neighboring gods were added, spirits of one landscape metamorphosed into the spirits of another as people changed environments, invading governments adopted local deities and then changed them to suit their needs. And lest we forget the ultimate four-letter word: Christianity. We can do our best to restore the ancient traditions as accurately as possible, but ultimately even our ancestors didn’t have the luxury of practicing a “pure” version of their own religion. As a Heathen, ancestry is important to my world view. Heathens tend to put a lot of importance on bloodlines and genetics (and, yes, this gets a bit “problematic” at times). As an American, I am not of one national or ethnic origin. My predominate ancestry is Anglo-Norman English and French Breton, but I am also Irish, Hungarian, German, and Native American. Both sides of my family have been on this continent for over 11 generations (and longer in the case of my Passamaquoddy and Anasaguntacook ancestors.) The nature of my very being is eclectic. For me to try and select a spiritual path based on my ancestry would demand not only an Indo-European melange, it would have to include the indigenous beliefs of a completely different continent. Likewise, if I were to choose a spiritual path based on the deities I have had significant metaphysical encounters with, that too would lead to a path as winding and syncretic as anything could be. I am an American™. That in and of itself not only allows for syncretism, it mandates it.

To rattle your spear and accuse someone of being inauthentic as a Reconstructionist because they do not follow the dogma WE invented (because YES, any and all modern Reconstructionist practices are complete inventions and adaptations, no matter how based in historical fact they are) is as obnoxious as the hipster band snob who desperately looks for one-upmanship by siting every obscure Clownstep DJ he can think of and smugly sneering at you for not sharing his passionless accumulation of trivial knowledge. The proclivity for one-upmanship is a huge divider in our community, the tendency towards judging others even more so. The Reconstructionist hate the Wiccans, the Wiccans hate the Chaotes, the Chaotes hate everyone… and so it goes. Hell, we even debate if someone is “allowed” to call themselves Pagan. Are New Agers pagan? Satanists? Unitarians? Who are we to say?

So, where do I get off calling myself a Reconstructionist? I consider myself a Reconstructionist because I consider it my duty to contribute as much as I can to the scholarship and dissemination of the traditions, art, history, culture, language, and values of my Northern European ancestors in as historically accurate way as possible. I want my knowledge of the past to inform, rather than define, my beliefs. I do not consider my reverence for Dionysus to be at odds with my Heathen roots any more than I consider the addition of the Vanir to the Norse pantheon to be somehow “sacrilegious”. To be a Reconstructionist in the 21st century means evolution and flexibility. The world is a much smaller place and the gods are mingling at that great cocktail party in the sky.


Stick a Fork in Me…

Thanksgiving kicked my ass. We drove for 2 1/2 hours to see my family. We caught the 10am ferry heading out and the 11pm ferry coming home. Having MS means shit like that leaves you in a heap of wasted flesh for days afterwards. In addition, I have a new annotated copy of the Poetic Eddas that I am wallowing in like a cat in nip, as well as reading Dostoevsky’s “Notes from Underground” on the recommendation of my German instructor (I do adore that man) and practicing 6 German Christmas songs for Winterfest at the college. AND we are planning our big Yule/Midvinter feast right now, so I have been very busy over the last few days. I have several posts in the barrel, not quite ready to be fired off yet, if I can pull my head out of a book or away from Skyrim long enough to polish them up. Fear not, Gentle Reader, I will return shortly!

I Suck at Prayer

Every day when I wake up, I light the candles and incense at my small shrine to the household gods at the back of the house, then I light the official shrine on the hearth in the living room. The smaller shrine, which has pictures of Hestia, Hera, and Hecate, was started shortly after we moved into this house. I have that ritual down pat. An offering of honey, wine, and usually some baked goods (or at this time of year leftover Halloween candy… what? It’s a thing! Women like candy!), then I light the candle and incense and say “Thank you for your blessings and your bounty, I ask for continued prosperity and harmony in our home.” A simple petition and expression of gratitude, right? It took me MONTHS to come up with that. The main shrine is a much more elaborate set up. Our wedding swords hang over the hearth, replica statues of the Norse gods (not those ones that look like props from Conan the Barbarian) adorn the mantle, the ADF Fire, Well, and Tree, Moroccan candle lanterns, the ashes of my grandparents and pets, objects representing the different elements, offerings of nuts and fruit, etc, etc. It is a manifestation of a lifetime of acquisitions and considerations, and it looks damn sharp if I do say so myself.

The hearth shrine on Samhain, 2012

For this shrine, I wash and refill my Well, offer some sort of food item, light the main candles and incense, recite the basic verse from the ADF prayer, “The Fire, The Well, The Sacred Tree, flow and flame, and grow in me”. Then I try to meditate… or pray… or something. Usually, that something never comes. It’s very strange to me that I feel so much more in tune and in touch with my gods when I am not praying. It almost feels like that awkward moment when you go to kiss the person you have been courting forever, only to find you’ve been “friend-zoned”. The proverbial high-five left hanging.

Oddly, I don’t really have this problem when the moment is less of what you might call a “prayer” moment. Before each ritual, I like to take a few minutes alone to clear my mind and focus my energy. At these times, I can almost feel dozens of hands at my back, buoying me up like a big cosmic stage dive. I have had many moments where I have spontaneously felt the divine beside me and been guided. You would think prayer would be easy under those circumstances. Any attempt to translate my devotion or respect into actual language ends up feeling stiff and fake. Writing any liturgy for ritual makes me feel like someone at a Ren Faire jumping around yelping “HUZZAH!” It just never comes out dignified or, more importantly, truthful. In my mind the most comfortable way of communicating with the gods has always been in a very casual and conversational way. “Yo, Wodan, you rock, dude” may not sound impressive, but it feels genuine and sincere. Ultimately, isn’t this the goal? To have as sincere and real discourse as possible? Otherwise, you’re just going through the motions.

Interestingly enough, this was one of the things that drove me from Catholicism. Keep in mind, I was not raised in a devout household. My father is an atheist and my mother is sort-of quasi-pagan and married to a staunch Pagan. I was only Catholic because my family heritage was Catholic. Even as a child I knew I had very spiritual proclivities, but every time I tried to pray? Nada. Whenever we went to church? Zip. In Catholic school? Donut hole. For years I tried. It wasn’t that my experiences with Christianity were bad, they were just nonexistent. Complete flatline. As I grew, I had many spontaneous spiritual encounters that lead me to the path I am on now, but now I find myself staring the same issue in the face. I feel more often than not like I am trying to call the guy I met at the club last night and only getting voice mail. “Are you there? Sorry, I thought I heard someone pick up… oh well, if you get this message and you aren’t too busy give me a call. I really had fun hanging with you last night, so… you know… er, k, talktoyoulaterkthanxbye…”

So, I continue to light my candles, offer honey, and stand dumbly in front of the effigies, just waiting for that spark to come. In the meantime, the dreams of talking horses still come to me, signs and portents, minor prophecies fulfilled, and an awareness of that unknowable “something” when I least expect it. I guess I really can’t complain, I just wish the act of deliberate prayer was more fulfilling.

They Cracked This 250 Year-Old Code, And Found a Secret Society Inside

For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

Interesting article about a real secret society, cryptography, and ritual.

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun.

The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. “Read,” the master commands. The candidate squints, but it’s an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidate’s eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidate’s eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are “symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning,” the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the master’s amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

What I Really Think

Yesterday was a bad day.

Important detail: I have Multiple Sclerosis. I have probably had it since my early 20s, but I wasn’t diagnosed until my mid 30s. I have a cousin who also has MS who is only a few years older than I am and is already in a nursing home. I am still walking and talking, but what I have to go through to maintain that is colossal (and insanely expensive.) I take 58 pills everyday (I do a mixture of traditional and modern medicine). I require 2 intramuscular injections a week. I need a machine to help me breathe while I sleep. I have acupuncture once a week. Sometimes I still need a cane. I can’t walk for very far or very long, and sometimes the fatigue hits me so hard it’s literally as if my body is shutting down. I recently went grocery shopping when it hit and I was forced to sit in a Haggen’s parking lot, unable to get out of my car and having to pee for 25 minutes. At one point I seriously considered peeing in the car out of sheer desperation. My point being that when these things happen no amount of determination or will power can change the situation. Because of the damage the disease has done to my brain and spinal cord, everything I do requires 5 times the effort and stamina it requires other people.

For the most part, I try to maintain a “positive” outlook. By positive, I don’t mean cheerful as much as determined and driven. I don’t do cheerful, it ain’t my nature. I try not to let on how much my legs hurt, how tired I am, how much it breaks my heart when people want to do things that I can’t participate in. I think the most devastating loss is the fact that I can’t dance anymore. Believe me when I tell you I am not being mawkish when I say to dance every chance you get, because you really don’t know when it will be your last dance, and you will miss it more than you can imagine. I try to forge ahead with my life and not let the disease or the burden of my healthcare get in the way. But sometimes something small can trigger a cascade of rage and sorrow that I think runs under the surface for anyone in my situation.

In German class yesterday, they had the guy in charge of the “study abroad” program come in to talk to the class of predominately 16-24 year olds about they opportunities available for them to travel overseas. I watched these entitled little fucks ignore the guy and act completely disinterested, not to mention say things like “oh I lived in X country for 5 months, but I never bothered to learn the language” or “I lived in blah for a year on a military base, but I never left the base”. Meanwhile, I am sitting there, wanting to jump up and scream at these brats “WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?? GO, FOR FUCK’S SAKE! BECAUSE ANY DAY NOW YOU MIGHT END UP 42 AND NEVER HAVING BEEN ANYWHERE!!” Because I never traveled. I’ve never left this country. I was always too poor or couldn’t leave my job or any number of stupid, stupid things. All at once, my situation crashed down on me, the fact that I will probably never travel, I will never go to Prague or Budapest, never visit Dublin or Berlin, never see a real castle, never be anywhere where the common language is anything but English. I will never see a building older than 300 years. I will never walk the streets of a medieval village or in the footsteps of my ancestors. The logistics involved in lugging my medical equipment and requirements are astronomical. My energy levels and physical limitations prevent me from really exploring a city or going to museums. I can’t travel alone and I can’t ask someone to just come along and be my damn nurse (Mr. Sigrun hates to travel.) I need to worry about medical insurance for travelers, making sure I have access to refrigeration and power supply, and a standard toilet, since any kind of insane crouching nonsense ain’t gonna happen. Not to mention the bullshit of airport rapist security and physical demands of air travel. An uncontrolable torrent of suppressed bitterness, self-pity, anger, and frustration filled my stomach. A sense of impotent rage at my own helplessness and feebleness came over me. From that point on, my day was pretty much a crap sandwich with a side of fuck fries.

Adding in the fact that I was already having one of “those” days where everything you touch falls apart, and the day just kept getting worse. Stubbed toes, bad drivers, ferry problems, missed connections, you name it. It culminated in having dinner at a friend’s house, where the glass of wine I was enjoying suddenly had a fly swimming in it. There was a woman I had never met before there, so I was trying desperately to repress the bile that had accumulated in my heart all day, but after a couple of glasses of fly wine I was feeling less like holding back. I was trying to riff passionately about a subject (coincidentally, Americans who don’t know how to behave themselves in another country), humorously but darkly as is my nature, when she said that one sentence that has haunted me my entire life,

“Gee, Sigrun, tell us how you really think!” *chuckle chuckle*

My good friends and husband got quiet for a moment and all instinctively leaned away from me, bracing themselves.

I snarled as inwardly I am capable and tried to brush it off in the most gracious way I could muster, which is to say like a bear dressed in a wedding gown, on its hind legs, trying to speak English, all flared lips and teeth and grunting.

I don’t think the new girl likes me, but then again, my first impression of her wasn’t that great. I HATE that saying. That is such a passive-aggressive, dismissive way of trying to shut someone down by making a joke out of their opinion. I also hate the fact that people tend to say that to women far more than men. Because a woman with a strongly held and passionately expressed opinion is an eyesore, to be scoffed at, negated, and ignored.

After dinner, I came home and had a good cry (because even fucking valkyries get the blues, dammit) while my husband made me a cup of hot cocoa to comfort me. As I was finishing it, a clump of undissolved powder at the bottom of the glass broke open and I ended up with a lungful of chocolatey goodness.

That day couldn’t end fast enough.

I really had no point to this post. Sigh. And so it goes…

Flirting Pagerds

I need to come up with a catchy term for a Pagan nerd… but “Pagerd” just doesn’t cut it. If it did, however, the definition would be:

Pagerd (pa-GERD) n. Someone who, when her German instructor tells her he is going to see all 4 nights of “Der Ring des Nibelungen”, produces this as her German homework the next day:

Click to embiggen.

Yes, that say “wælcyrge” in the *Anglo-Saxon Futhorc at the top (or a reasonable phonetic approximation), then below is a verse from the “Wið færstice” charm referencing the “mighty women” who “screaming, hurl their spears”.

I am Pagerd, hear me flirt.

*Why Anglo-Saxon? Cuz that’s what I know, dammit.

**Translation of the actual homework portion is unexciting, and after the cut
Read the rest of this entry »

Nature Stuff: Are You Ready to ROCK?

I went down to the beach to look for stones to make my rune set the other day. This being the Pacific Northwest stones are a dime a dozen, since we have shingle beaches. It doesn’t hurt to live on an island the size of Manhattan either, since the beach is, well, everywhere. (Trivia time: Manhattan is 22 sq mi and has a population of 1.5 MILLION people. Our island is 23 sq mi and has a population of around 900, but only about half of those are year-round residents.)

Yes, it’s as cold as it looks. And if it were a clear day you could see Canada in the distance.

When I left the house that day, it wasn’t raining. As a native Northwesterner, I take pride in the fact that I have never owned an umbrella and I am fairly hardy in inclement weather. As the descendant of English seafarers, I’d like to think that a brisk marine squall is merely but a mild nuisance. However, the torrential downpour that started was such that within minutes I was soaked to the bone. Of course, this starts after I had already walked a good ways down the beach. It probably would have been wise to wear something a little warmed than a linen jacket, too.

That’s right bitches, I’m 42 and unafraid to show you myself, without make up and looking like a wet dog. UNAFRAID, I TELL YOU!

I stuck it out, though, and I found several good stones that I think will work fine. I got to spend a nice hour or 2 in the rain in complete solitude, just me, the beach, the rain and the birds. In the autumn and winter, after the Canadians who own summer houses and the weekenders stop coming, there is a silence at the beach that is so sharp and lovely it’s almost tangible. You can almost hear the fog passing by. Nature relaxes and returns to a more peaceful center. There are over 250 known species of bird that call the island home, depending on the time of year. There are deer everywhere, to the point of being pests, eagles are as commonplace as pigeons, ravens dominate the landscape like glossy black generals barking orders; we even are rumored to have a small population of fox on the island. If you are very lucky you might even see a pod of orcas or grey whales. In the spring, I could sit in my living room and just watch the outdoors like tv, but is that enough?

A view of the island taken from the ferry at sunset in mid-September.

Most people would kill to live in a place like this (provided they could stand the gloom and the solitude). I am seriously blessed to live in one of the most beautiful and rare places on earth, and the fact that I am such an “indoor kid” is almost criminal. Years of childhood asthma and severe allergies have made me habitually avoidant of the outdoors. When we lived in Seattle, we lived just a few miles from the Arboretum, and yet I only managed to make it there a handful of times. I really need to get out an enjoy my environment more often, and by more often I mean more than just the walk out to my car. Thinking about how much time we spend indoors as a culture breaks my heart. The standard cliche about “nature being my church” should be true for most pagans, if not all. A deep appreciation of nature is one of the gifts of this path, perhaps we should all take a moment to remove the pane of glass that separates us from it.

Oh look, more islands!

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m a Priestess!”

I love BBQ.

I married a Southern Gentleman from coastal North Carolina, and I am not entirely sure if it was him or the BBQ that won me over. I happen to be a fan of Stubb’s BBQ sauce. I am telling you, that moppin’ sauce of his is A-MAZ-ING. One of the more charming aspects of Stubb’s is the catch phrase written right on the bottle, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m a cook!” I’ve always found the self-determination of that statement almost elegant in its simplicity. Stubb’s wanted to be a cook, so he was a cook. The exuberance of the exclamation point is almost poignant. You can almost feel the joy of a realized dream, of a life lived to its fullest, of a person so certain of their identity that one sentence was all it took to become that thing.

The first thing you learn when you learn a second language are the “be” verbs. “I am” is quite possibly the most magickal phrase in the human tongue. It is defining, it is definitive, it is self-fulfilling. So frequently we focus on the things we are not, the things we wish to be, the things we could be if the circumstances were different. Personally, I try as often as I can to take a page from Mr. Stubbs. I am exactly what I tell the world I am. (More on language and magickal thinking in future posts…)

When my “co-priest” first brought up the idea of joining the ADF and pursuing the clergy path, I think he was shocked at my enthusiasm in joining him, which may have seemed to outsiders completely out of the blue. While friends knew I was some kind of Germanic-y, Heathen-y Pagan, it was not a topic I discussed freely. When we first started to perform rituals, I was terrified. I felt like a phony playing at being a priestess, undeserving of the title. My co-priest was so much more knowledgeable and comfortable with the liturgy, where as I just wanted to say as few words possible and get off the stage. On top of everything else, I have this fear of being taken seriously. I have this sarcastic, “Mae West one-liner” persona that has been my defense since childhood, and the thought of shedding that armor, having to stand before others and be not only sincere but devout was like staring into the abyss. The first ritual we performed was a Hellenist Orphic Autumnal Equinox rite (my co-priest is a Hellenist, and our congregation is mixed so we try to trade off different traditions). The ritual was beautiful, and I think I did rather well, even if I was shaking throughout. (Some people may quibble with the fact that neither my co-priest and I are officially ADF clergy yet, however our group actually formed long before we decided to go the ADF route, and he actually performed my wedding ceremony a few years ago.)

The second ritual, a Proto-Indo-European inspired Samhain and the first to completely conform the ADF core order of ritual, was a steaming hot mess.

We started with very lofty ambitions, created animal masks to represent our totem animals to protect us, bonfires, torches, and a goat sacrifice (calm down, the goat was made out of straw). At the last minute, everything started to slide sideways, my co-priest had foot surgery, I had a German midterm the following week, one of our congregants broke her wrist and couldn’t come, 2 others had a month of hellacious traveling and were too worn out to make it, and so on. Half our group would be missing and those that would be there were sick or crippled. We persevered, I made a fantastic bear mask, my co-priest was an owl. We did a couple walk-throughs, rehearsed our liturgy, checked out props and timing, we thought we had considered all possibilities… ah the best laid plans…

The Lemur, the Crow, the Bear (me), the Peacock, and the Owl (my co-priest). My husband, the Bull is taking the photo.

As the ritual began, we turned off the lights, as it was to be conducted by firelight. I tried to read my script… only to discover that in the dark my bear mask made it impossible to see anything with my 42 year old eyes. I stammered and stumbled, whacked one of the attendants in the face with my corn husk censer during the purification, was unable to light the bonfire, and generally fell apart like Mary Tyler Moore throwing a dinner party (if you are under the age of 35, you will not get that reference.) I was frustrated, embarrassed and generally not feeling the ritual vibe.

Then came the reading of the names of the dead. Every member of our grove had written the names of the loved ones they had lost over the years, and I read them out loud as each member placed a clove into an apple for each person they wished to honor. I could actually read these, as the print was larger, and as I did so, the feeling came over me; a reminder of why I was there, of who I was serving, and the reason for the ritual. A ritual is a party you throw for the gods, ancestors, and spirits you want to honor. Sometimes, even the most disastrous party can be memorable and endearing. In the end, I think everyone felt a sense of catharsis, and the ritual ended much better than when it started. This made me realize, performing a perfect ritual doesn’t make you a priestess, having an official clergy license doesn’t make you a priestess.

I am a priestess because I am willing to take that chance of making a fool of myself so that the gods and ancestors can reach out to us.
I am a priestess because I am willing to spend my time educating myself about the gods and the ways of our ancestors.
I am a priestess because I am willing to pass on that knowledge to those who want to learn it.
I am a priestess because I am willing to spend 2 months of my life preparing for a ritual regardless of how many people show up. We don’t do these things for the “audience”, we do them for the gods, spirits, and ancestors.
I am a Priestess because I am willing to change the things about myself that I see as an impediment to my relationship with the gods. I am prepared to mold myself into a more appropriate vessel, a more loving and forgiving person, a more disciplined and dedicated scholar, and a manifestation of both their will and my own.
I am a priestess because I have chosen to be a priestess. Because I was called to be a priestess.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I AM a Priestess!

Sigrun Pallene- An Introduction

There is always that moment when you start a blog where the cursor flashes ominously from the little white rectangle… ENTER USER NAME… ENTER USER NAME… and you stare vacantly, waiting for a spark of inspiration that will summarize your identity, in 4-20 characters to give a clear picture of who you are and why you have decided to share your thoughts with anyone who wanders by.

Choosing mine was daunting, but eventually the names came to me:

Sigrun: Valkyrie who cursed her brother to wander the woods and live off carrion for the rest of his days after he killed her lover.

Pallene: “A Princess of Pallene (in Thrake, North of Greece) whose father had her wrestle those who sought her hand in marriage. All were defeated and slain until Dionysos came along and won the contest.” – theoi.com

These two mythical women seemed to encompass many aspects of who I am and why I am here. As a Pagan woman, I often find people expect me to be oriented to the Earth Mother. Many a conversation has turned sour for me when I inform other Pagan women that not only am I child-free by choice, I actually rather intensely dislike children and find childbearing rather… unseemly. I have actually be told before that my distaste for reproduction means I can’t possibly be a “real” Pagan, because, of course, all “real” Pagan women are enthralled with the idea of squeezing a fleshy bowling ball out of their blood-smeared nether regions.

Apparently, the tyranny of obligatory fecundity is not just the province of the Abrahamic religions.

I was not born to breed. It simply isn’t in my personal make up. Those of you who are parents and enjoy raising children, more power to you, you have more fortitude and grit than I can muster. I would think the world would commend a woman for choosing to remain childless when she knows her maternal instinct is AWOL, but sadly most people react as if you have told them you kick puppies for a hobby.

I was raised to be a warrior by a mother who probably would have been happier if she had been able to be one herself. She taught me to fight, to swing a bat, how to intimidate a man who threatens you, how to take stock of your surroundings and find the weapons and tools you might need in case of trouble. She taught me to voice my opinion, to fight my own battles, and to suck it up when things went wrong. When most people’s mothers read them “The Pokey Little Puppy” and “Goodnight, Moon” before bed, this is what my mother read me:

by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

I shit you not, gentle reader.

Needless to say, moving into adulthood created some serious “alpha female” moments in our single-parent household, and I left home as early and often as possible. Nowadays, my relationship with my mother is relatively healthy, but we have both changed and matured, and it was a long road to get here.

My dad is a very gentle and funny guy. He taught me to love nature, to respect it but not fear it, that a little science is every girl’s best friend.

Both my parents insisted I be able to read before kindergarten. I still can’t thank them enough for that.

As I grew, I had several spiritual revelations that have lead me down the path I am currently on. I will go into those in depth later, but for now it is enough to say that my whole life I have been one of “those” women. The woman who is too loud, too vulgar, too rough, and too pushy. The woman who doesn’t know that men hate it when you beat them at games, that you shouldn’t prattle on about Xhosa healing ceremonies or televised eye surgery when on a date, that guys hate it when you use big words they don’t know. The woman who is too blatant in her sexuality, too immodest in her dress, too casual in her relationships with men. The woman to whom people constantly say things like “Geez, tell us how you REALLY feel!” or “Stop yelling ‘vagina’! You’ll upset the neighbors!”. I have tried to fit in, to make myself more demure and “classy”. I often think that somewhere inside me is an inner Audrey Hepburn, but the big mean fat girl ate her… so here I am.

I am currently a dedicant for the ADF and a practicing priestess for a small grove here on the tiny island in the Northwest I call home. I am married to a Bad Ass Motherfucker, who was the only man I deemed could survive being married to me. He is my rock and my hero, even if he wishes I would stop yelling ‘vagina’ and scaring the neighbors. This blog is called ‘Ravens and Ivy’ because I identify with the ferocity of the Germanic Valkyries and the ecstatic abandon of the Greek Maenads. I consider myself a sort of Pan-Germanic semi-reconstructionist, which if it seems like a ridiculously over the top description, it is. I started this blog because I needed a place to talk about my spiritual journey with a certain level of anonymity and candor. If you read this, great, if not, oh well.

When We Were Trees

The Transpersonal Experience in Indo-European Mythology, Folklore, and Music

Northern Heim, Southern Clime

On Maenads and Valkyries

Introspective Maenad

Thoughts of an Unlikely Dionysian

Pixiecraft: Adventures of Magick and Devotion

The Life of a Practicing Pagan and Traditional Witch

leaf and twig

where observation and imagination meet nature in poetry

The House of Vines

where words grow like leaves

The Flaming Thyrsos

Memoirs of a Hekatean Wino

Syncretic Mystic

Exactly correct. You inhabit two worlds. So far, I see nothing strange.

Root Craft

Making magic in the dirt.

Eternal Bacchus

Dionysos from the end of antiquity to the present


polytheist extractions

Black Witch

Life from a Black Pagan's Perspective

Aspis of Ares

A Devotional Exploration of Ares, the God of War

4 of Wands

A celebration of me and my interests. Unapologetically.

Down the Withywindle

All paths lead that way, down to Withywindle.

Ozark Pagan Mamma

Folk Magic, Druidism, Heathenry, & Pagan Parenting


learning, growing, reaching, being :-)

The Druid in the Swamp

Druidic Musings from the Texas Gulf Coast

The Druid's Cosmos

An ADF Druid's trials, tribulations, musings, and victories

A Forest Door

Spirit-Work & Devotional Polytheism

The Wild Hunt

On Maenads and Valkyries

Pagan Reveries

"Everything is full of gods." - Thales

%d bloggers like this: