The Thirteen Houses Project: Valerian

It’s the thirteenth, and by now you know what that means, but now we’ve reached the final entry in the Thirteen Houses Project. Seems like it’s been awhile since I wrote that introduction, and now here we are at the end. On the one hand, it’s been a long journey and a job well done, but on the other, I’m kind of sad to see it go.

Valerian House’s canon is algolagnia and submission. It’s motto is “I Yield,” like Mandrake House, we don’t learn about what they hold transpired when Naamah offered herself to the King of Persis, but i think you can guess. Valerian House has an interesting way of selecting apprentices. They are given spiced candies, and are told that the pleasure from the candy is derived from the pain of the spice. Those who understand this lesson are kept, others have their marques sold to other houses. Valerian House also maintains an altar to Kushiel, in Kushiel’s Dart, Phedre learns that many Valerian adepts are dedicated to him.

Although Valerian adepts are recognized as Servants of Naamah and perform the same sacred duty as the other Houses, Valerian adepts don’t get a lot of respect in canon. Characters compare them to dogs and refer to them as “whipping toys for ham-fisted noblemen” even Phedre, who has been divinely ordained to be so masochistic she can never be broken by torture, looks down on the adepts of this house. The only characters to give Valerian adepts a measure of dignity and respect are Imriel and Mavros.

Valerian’s lessons are submission and surrender. These can be hard lessons to learn, especially since many people (at least, in North America) seem to want to take Mandrake’s lesson to heart, to assert control over every aspect of their lives when there are some things that are always going to be out of control. I feel like Valerian adepts know how to go with the flow better than any other house, they learn to trust their patrons in ways that other houses do not. In Heathenry, there’s a sizable contingent of Heathens who assert that “we don’t kneel before our gods” this despite numerous references to people kneeling and prostrating before images of the deities. It seems like there’s at least one meme every week echoing that sentiment, and it’s no less annoying every time it happens.

At the same time, I feel like some groups, perhaps reacting to the former view, push too far in the other direction at times. I don’t think I have to name specific names, but I’ve found that some people seem to expect everyone to have 100% godslave=like devotion to their deities at all times, and, quite frankly, I find this notion to be utterly ridiculous. Not everyone is going to have the exact same relationship with their deities, some might not even interact with deities at all, instead focusing on local land spirits and ancestors, not wanting to devote one’s life 200% to the deities doesn’t make you impious, it means that you have other responsibilities, and few people in this day and age can really afford to devote 100% of their time to their deities. It’s not uncommon to see reactionary movements that respond to one extreme by going to the other extreme, and I don’t think that either extreme is really helping in this case. It is possible to say “It’s okay to kneel, it’s okay to have an intense relationship with your deities,” without expecting everyone to be the same way, sometimes you might need to just go with the flow, but other times, other times you need to help yourself. My deities aren’t all-powerful and are frequently busy, so I don’t really have a choice in the matter.

This project has taught me that there are many ways to serve Naamah. That might seem like an obvious conclusion to reach, but even Phedre didn’t fully understand this until Kushiel’s Avatar, and she was born and raised in Terre D’Ange. I know some of the entries are rushed because I really wanted to get the post done on the 13th, but overall I had fun with this project and it provided a nice framework for discussion topics.

Thank you for sticking with me through this project. I don’t know when I’ll be doing something like this again, but until that time, enjoy all the reviews, rants, and random mutterings.

Image credit: “Valeriana officinalis” by Kurt Stüber (via Wikipedia)

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