Pagan Blog Project Week 2

A is for Archetype

Archetypes are a huge part of my world view and self-perception. The categories for this blog are all various archetypes I inhabit, depending on my mood and the company I keep. My husband loves the Valkyrie, my ex loved the Maenad, my best friend seems to prefer the Mystic, his husband (my co-priest) gets the Priestess, and so on. I view my friends and acquaintances through the gauze of their own archetypes; the Poet, the Scholar, the Warrior, the Storyteller, the Hero. For me, the archetype is not just a symbolic construct. It is the scaffolding of the soul, the manifestation of the god or goddess within us all. You do not become an archetype because you seek it out, it is already within you, waiting for actualization. If you feel the Artist within you, fantasize about creating art, that is an archetype waiting to be born. Whether you chose to activate that archetype is entirely up to you.

While I do not view the gods as being limited to archetypes, I do view them as being archetypes. Pagans and polytheists are in a fairly unique position, in that we are able to chose our gods rather than being told who our god is and forced to conform to that particular archetype. Even if you are raised within a certain tradition (which we are fortunate enough to actually see happening more and more these days), there are choices within that tradition as to which god you are personally affiliated with. If you are Hellenic, you have at least a dozen different fundamental gods covering a wide spectrum of human experience to chose from. Even in a more sparsely populated pantheon like the Germanic, you have gods that are complex an multifaceted. Odin is the Warrior, the Mystic, the Father, and many, many more. If you have the good fortune to be Hindu or Vedic you have thousands upon thousands of deities at your fingertips. Even Catholicism, with its over 10,000 saints, has found a place for the consecration of the archetype, only nstead of Brighid they venerate St. Brigit as the Poet and Mother of Lost Children. Whether this tendency on our part to combine the sacred and the archetype is something we foist on the divine or emanates from it is not something I am in the position to postulate. Clearly, I favor the latter, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing a Pagan blog now, would I?

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Odin

For our Yule celebration, and as ADF dedicants, we decided our sacred tree should be Yggdrasil. Originally, we were going to hang a small Odin/Wotan figure on the tree, but time constraints required a bit of flexibility. I bought a couple of thrift store Father Christmases and cannibalized them for parts. Here is my Odin/Wotan (sans eye patch, I need the right material for that):

odin
odinback

The mess of crap on his hat looks better in person. Note the addition of the “ashen faggot” on his back. The gays and I are deeply amused by the name of that particular tradition.

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.

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.

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

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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

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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

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