Category Archives: Deities

Deity Crushes or How Not to Love a Deity

When I was a youngster in Catholic school, I had a crush on St. Anthony of Padua. Yes, yes, I know, I’m a terrible person, crushing on a monk, sin of lust and all that. This was something I never really admitted to anyone. I mean like, WTF right? Right, so, needless to say, I got over this childhood infatuation pretty quickly (though I honestly find it hard not to look at paintings of Catholic saints and appreciate their very androgynous looks, except that one statue I saw once where the poor saint just looks stoned, but I digress).

Anyways, I’ve touched on this before, but I think it bears mentioning again. It’s perfectly normal and natural to love a deity, to passionately love a deity, and I know lots of people (even if only online) who love their deities. But then I see things like the one person who is like “how can I make Loki love me?” or the one who claims that they “love Apollo very much” and they just want to make him happy even if he doesn’t love them back, and I have to say that I think there’s a difference between being passionately devoted to a deity and, well, this kind of stalkerish infatuation, TBH, it sounds kind of….creepy.

Okay, full disclosure here, I always talk about how much of a Dionysus fangirl I am and maybe I’ve made comments re: Idunna in a way that suggests Perverse Sexual Lust (although, obviously the goddess is not a fictional character) but the truth is that I’d probably run for the hills if Dionysus ever showed any kind of interest in me and Idunna, actually, I don’t really see Idunna in a sexual way at all (jokes about “apples” aside), and yes, sometimes I do admit to being jealous because some people have very close relationships with deities, including as a lover or a spouse, and I want one too, but then I remember that not having a deity talking to you has a couple of distinct advantages, like, say, not doing something you would be uncomfortable doing because your deity wants you to do it. And I also think “I have trouble with human relationships, I do not want a relationship with someone that has godmode enabled all. the fucking. time.” The only time a deity has really expressed any interest in me was that dream I had with Njord, and he was teasing (at least, I don’t think anyone can wear the kind of grin he had plastered to his face and not be teasing) and that was a very odd dream.

So yeah, this whole post is just me admitting that I can be a creeper sometimes, good job Gef.

So, yeah, loving deities is perfectly normal and natural. I mean, if we didn’t have people who loved and were devoted to their deities, we would only have the kind of prayers that say “Give me stuff,” and such, but, you know, there’s love, and then there’s just being creepy, and now, because I try not to look like a massive hypocrite, I should try and not make comments about Idunna that could be interpreted as creepy, because that’s not nice, and I’d like to keep my health, and my muse.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my Grey Corner of Shame….

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Nerthus: Still Scaring the Crap Out of Me

Inevitably, when someone learns that I am Vanatru, the first thing they ask (likely around the same time they stop snickering about how I’m using the Vanir as an excuse to get dates) is which deities I honour. Most are familiar with the three Vanic deities who are explicitly named as such in the Eddas:

Njord

Freyja

Freyr

However, some have said “Waitaminute, who the Hel is Njord’s sister?” and though it is purely a matter of speculation/UPG/arguing over etymology, some add a fourth personage to the “primary” Vanic deities:

Nerthus

There’s also a big list of “deities who are speculated to be Vanir/have Vanic origins/are Vanir-in-spirit-if-not-by-blood-or-marriage which you can see here. I definitely don’t agree with all of them, but there you go.

Anyways, more learned folks argue back and forth over whether Nerthus was once absorbed by Njord but then they became separated over the years or whether she even existed and Tacitus was doing that Roman thing of saying “X is actually Y” based on superficial traits possessed by X, or whether or not Jacob Grimm was full of shit when he compared Nerthus to a bunch of different earth deities. I’ll leave that for other people to puzzle out. I get the sense that people like Nicanthiel Hrafnhild care less about the historicity of their deity and more that there is a lady talking to them who seems happy to call herself Nerthus and take their offerings.

Anyways, all scholarly type questions aside, why does Nerthus scare the crap out of me?

No other deity really gives me such a feeling of dread. Sure, other deities have their dark sides, even the happiest, most laid back, chill deity in the universe has a side that you probably don’t want to see. Even the Virgin Mary, usually a kind and understanding mother figure, has a more martial side (as visions during the crusades attest):

You do not want to be on the business end of that scepter….

Let me be clear: I’m not reacting this way because she showed up in a dream and freaked me out or anything of the sort. This is a reaction I had based solely on reading about her. This is the same kind of visceral reaction I have when reading about kinky things that I absolutely, 100% know that I DO NOT WANT, EVER.

It was going fine in Germania until the very end, nice procession, everyone’s happy, waitaminute, WHAT DID YOU DO TO THOSE SLAVES?!

And, now that I think about it, I think this is pretty much the reaction I’m supposed to have, this sense of holy terror, something awful (awe-full, not GAH, THAT’S TERRIBLE!).

I just can’t seem to deal with it. I want happy Earth with flowers and trees and a never ending cornucopia of abundance, not the Earth that demands human sacrifice (by drowning, which is one of the most painful ways to go) but you don’t always get what you want, right? A gift demands a gift in return, reciprocity and all that.

I’m sure someone’s going to chime in and be all “She’s not that bad, you know?” Yes, yes, I believe you, she just scares the crap out of me right now, okay? I’m sure at this moment, I’m no better than Trixie when she badmouths Freyja but I wouldn’t say I badmouth Nerthus, I just say “you know what? She scares me, but obviously she means something to other people.” I don’t think it’s a good idea to badmouth deities, especially when you honour deities who are related to them. Do you honestly think any deity is just going to sit there and be chill about you dissin’ their relatives and friends?

Yeah, I wouldn’t be very happy either.

Anyways, I don’t know if my perception of Nerthus will ever change (maybe it’s just one of those things where you just don’t mesh with that deity) but this is where I am right now, take it or leave it.

Sponge Cake and Other Offerings

Apparently there’s a bit of a controversy brewing on Lokean tumblrs, and by controversy I mean “opportunity for lolz”. I wasn’t familiar with this controversy, not being on tumblr (I’ve heard stories about tumblr secretly being a portal to Hell) so I decided to use Google-fu to figure out what all the fuss is about.

I found this thread on tumblr, have a read through it, laugh, and come back.

Putting the “appropriate offering” stuff aside for a moment, I had to laugh at the respondent’s position that “If you are not reconstructing an ancient worldview than all you are doing is reenacting (or not heathenry).” So is this person going to then go to Iceland, home of the ásatrúarfélagið, home of the eddas themselves, and tell those people (some of whom are not recon the way we North Americans view recon) and tell them they’re doin’ it wrong? Really? I also love the patronizing way they lecture this person on the meaning of “worship”. Yeah, patronizing people always makes them come around to your way of thinking.

But now we come to the crux of the matter: is sponge cake an appropriate offering for a deity?

Let me tell you what happens on my birthday every year. Every year, I decide to invite a bunch of people over to partake of (Westernized) Chinese food. Sometimes we go see a movie, but honestly, I’m happy with just the food. What do you imagine we have for cake? Do I demand a three-tier chocolate topped with candied flowers and chocolate almonds?

This is the cake I have every year:

Mmmmmm……

This is a McCain Deep ‘n’ Delicious cake. It costs around $1.50 at the grocery store. I love this cake. It’s the best cake in the universe. It’s sweet without being too sweet and chocolately and I want a piece right now….

Why wouldn’t deities be the same way?

Here’s another example: If I invite a friend over, and I know that friend loves grilled cheese sandwiches, why wouldn’t I try to serve them something they liked? If we honour our deities and friends, even, as family (as many Heathens are fond of saying) why wouldn’t we give them stuff they wanted? Because it’s not “traditional”? Because you obviously don’t care about them enough to give them expensive stuff? This kind of thinking is just bullshit! How does it send the message that you don’t care for someone if you cook things that they like? Seriously, that’s like “Comfort Food 101”, and really, if a deity asks, are you going to argue? You do realize you’re arguing with a deity, right? You know, the beings that do unimportant things like running the fucking universe!

Not to long ago, I felt compelled to make an offering to Mani (despite what a certain person told me about Mani not being a god–I’m Lokabrenna in that thread), so I searched in my cupboards for something to give him….

….and I found some marshmallows.

“Huh,” I said. “Well, they’re round and white and suitably moon-like, and they remind me of campfires at night, so okay.” I figured I would write him a poem too. I have no idea if he liked these things, but I know the feeling, the compulsion, went away after that.

But, seriously, fucking marshmallows….

I mean, what are marshmallows made of, anyways? Certainly nothing the people who originally honored Mani would recognize, and yet, if he liked the marshmallows, am I going to argue with him? No, I know where the root of the word “lunacy” comes from, thank you very much.

Deities Are Not Vending Machines

Before I start ranting, I just want everyone to know that I have a job interview on Wednesday, so good thoughts/prayers etc. would be appreciated. This could be the one!

So you-know-who is ever so pissed because now Freyr and Loki won’t talk to her. You know what? I might be completely wrong about this, but if someone happily praised me and my magnificent cock all day l0ng while spitting on my sister for being “loose” and then decided to spit on ME once someone shared the fact (if Loki can be believed) that I once slept with my sister, I’d be pretty pissed. I wouldn’t want to have a relationship with you either! (Some days I do think it would be nice to have a cock, though, especially a magnificent one.)

Oh, and there’s another important thing you have to realize, you-know-who….

DEITIES. ARE. NOT. VENDING. MACHINES!

You can’t just insert a coin and press a couple buttons and expect candy (or potato chips, or whatever) to pop out. Deities are not there to grant you three wishes in exchange for rubbing their lamps or to be your own personal “Yes Man” (or woman, or whichever term you prefer). All I can think is that you are FUCKING LUCKY that the Norse deities tapped you instead of, say, Sumerian deities WHO SPECIFICALLY CREATED HUMANS TO BE THEIR SERVANTS AND LABOUR FORCE! Seriously, if you moaned and whined about the Sumerian pantheon the way you do the Norse, those deities would KICK YOUR ASS AND TOSS YOU TO THE CURB before you could get a word in edgewise.

Shamash, Akkadian god of the sun, does not approve of your BS.

Here is the crux of the matter, you-know-who: you are like the millionaire who complains because they aren’t making billions, you are like the gamer who whines about being “poor” when they can afford the latest game consoles (which are a LUXURY ITEM), you are like the person who, upon receiving a bag full of Cadbury mini eggs, complains because there are no blue ones. In short, you are a spoiled, self-serving individual who, instead of using your gods-given gifts to help your community, chooses to hoard them like a greedy dragon hoards gold and other shiny things. Well, I have words for you:

FUS RO DAH!

I couldn’t resist saying that, I’m sorry, it was the perfect moment to say it. My point is, seriously, shut the fuck up. I’ve said this already in one of my very first posts here, but there are many of us who don’t have these gifts, who either have to bother friends or pay for their services. Yes, seriously, people pay for what you get for free. Would it kill you to have a little fucking humility?

I’m going to go write some more, maybe I’ll have one of the fantasy pantheon I’ve created rake one of their priest/esses over the coals for being snippy to regular folks, but I don’t like using my writing for evil like that.

New Deities

At that time in my life when I believed that the Goddess was going to save humanity by everyone awakening to matriarchal consciousness, I came across a deity I’d never heard of before: Lilith. In Medieval Jewish literature, she was Adam’s first wife who refused to lie beneath him “like a pinned wrestler” during sex. Of course, said the literature, Lilith was REALLY a Sumerian goddess, the “hand of Inanna” who gathered prostitutes, and those EVIL PATRIARCHAL INVADERS demonized her, because that’s what they do.

The problem with this narrative is that it’s wrong. The Alphabet of Ben Sira, which is uncritically accepted as a source for the Lilith mythos, is an antisemitic parody of Jewish literature (which also includes the tale of a biblical patriarch who is too fat to ride a horse). There is also little evidence to suggest that Lilith (as the plural lilitu or later, the demon Lamashtu) was ever anything but a child-killing, infertility-causing demon.

There’s also the issue of the Burney Relief:

The Burney Relief

This image is (again) unquestionably accepted as depicting Lilith, but even assuming that there was ever a single figure in Sumerian literature named Lilith (there isn’t) there’s the small matter that you don’t give offerings to demons who “accept no pleasant gifts. They never enjoy the pleasures of the marital embrace, never have any sweet children to kiss. They tear away the wife from a man’s embrace. They snatch the son from a man’s knee. They make the bride leave the house of her father-in-law,” (from here) let alone depict them with the shugurra crown (used only in depictions of high-ranking deities) and measuring rods. To be fair, though, scholars are still piecing together who this represents (I’ve heard a convincing argument for Ereshkigal) but one thing’s for certain: a cult object like this relief wouldn’t be depicting a demon.

There’s also this relief, which does depict Inanna/Ishtar:

She’s the one in the centre, natch.

Notice the hat, the bird feet, the folded wings, the fact that she looks almost identical to the figure in the Burney relief?

Anyways, I could go on about mistranslations, bad Hebrew, and whatnot, but I think it’s time to get to the point. The fact is, even though Lilith’s story has been raked over the scholarly coals, there are people (like Anya Kless) who have interacted with a being who goes by the name of Lilith who is definitely deity-like if not a goddess. (I absolutely recommend her devotional Queen of the Desert to anyone who is interested in modern devotion to Lilith, btw.)

So, what does one make of this? Do we assume that Kless and co. are making it all up? Delusional, perhaps? No, I don’t think its that simple. The thing is (and this is something a lot of reconstructionists miss) that when a deity comes into contact with you, you don’t say to hir “Do you have a source that proves your existence?” or ask them to hand over their papers that say they’re a deity and qualified to receive offerings. “I’m sorry, did you clear that with customs?” No, that would be like someone wondering how animals can talk in fairy tales. They just do, those are fairy tale rules and fairy tale logic.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you should run around claiming you’re a Sumerian reconstructionist and then start going on about “dark goddess Lilith” but to my knowledge, Kless is a Northern Tradition Pagan. I occasionally post at the Natib Qadish Discussion Group and this is something that makes them grumbly, and, you know, I think that they have every right to be grumbly, just as Heathens do when someone comes into their space claiming that characters from Marvel are the real deities. However, other than mislabeling, do I really have a problem with people who worship Lilith, or the Aghama, or Cthulhu? Erm, maybe that last one, but overall, no, not really. If it works for you, do it. Seriously, I do some things that are pretty non-Germanic and definitely modern. Why? They work. If it works, who really gives a shit if its older than dirt or something you invented yesterday unless you’re trying to replicate things that are older than dirt?

So, yeah, maybe Lilith was never a Sumerian goddess, but who says she can’t be a modern goddess? Maybe she doesn’t have the sort of pedigree that the very old deities have, but even the very old deities were new, once.

The Vanir: Random Theological Musings

Anyone who is even passably familiar with Norse mythology knows the phrase: “the Vanir are agricultural/nature deities, the Aesir represent civilization,” even if you disregard the dualistic notion that “nature” is somehow inimical to “civilized” life, this would still be an oversimplification. The truth is that overlap between the two groups does take place: Thor is “god of the common folk” and Freyr is associated with kingship (a “civilized” institution if I ever saw one), after all. I’m also less than thrilled with writers who seem to imply that “nature/agricultural deities” are somehow less important than deities of towns and cities.

Oversimplification aside, I definitely do see the Vanir as deities of land and sea, particularly cultivated land. They aren’t generally deities of “wild nature”: deep, dark forests, glaciers, volcanoes, places humans fear or can’t comfortably inhabit. Those places are more Jotnar territory. The Vanir are deities of field and farm, fishing, sailing, and beekeeping. From a human-centric perspective, the Vanir are deities of nature that has been shaped in some way so that it is a help to humans, not a hindrance. Perhaps “tamed” would be a better word, but any good farmer knows that you can’t completely tame nature: weeds grow in even the most carefully maintained gardens, crops fail (either from weather or pests), nature has its own way of doing things.

Another important function of the Vanir is to serve as a bridge between groups. The Vanir are allies and friends of the Aesir and frequently take Jotuns as spouses. In contrast to the more hierarchical nature of the Aesir, the Vanir seem to be more egalitarian (although not, as some would say, matriarchal) although Njord is generally accepted as a “chieftain” among them. It is interesting to note that Njord and Skadi probably had one of the most amicable divorces/separations in world mythology. There was no epic custody battle, no “other (wo)man” involved, just two people not being able to reconcile their differences and splitting up.

No discussion of the Vanir would be complete without mentioning their sexual mores. I talked a bit about it in my post on “divine incest” and will discuss it in future posts, but suffice it to say that the Vanir are very sexual deities. Freyja is best known for her sexual exploits, but it is telling that effigies of Freyr always depicted him sporting an erect phallus, as for Njord, he did marry his sister, but in the grand scheme of things, sibling marriage among deities is pretty common across pantheons. Is it any wonder some butthurt Heathens say that claiming you are Vanatru is just an excuse to get dates (and definitely not because of your own personal experiences with the Vanir, oh no) some even go so far as to claim that Freyja would never demean herself by sleeping with dwarves, because sexually active women are scary, amirite? Seriously, next they’re going to insist that effigies of Freyr come equipped with pants so they won’t be offended by his obvious virility, because nothing says “fertility” like covering up the organs responsible for (the majority of) babymaking (Hel, even IVF needs sperm to work).

This is by no means an exhaustive look at how I personally see the Vanir, YMMV, etc. etc. I’ll probably devote a second post to talking about things I missed, like magic and “the warrior path” and all that good stuff.

Beyond Mother Goddess Monotheism, Part 2: Debunking Common Myths

I mentioned in my first post on this topic that one of my big complaints regarding the Goddess movement was the poor scholarship that is often repeated ad nauseam by authors who don’t check their sources before adding things to their books. I’m not going to start with the “Golden Age Matriarchy” theory, as I don’t really possess the background to go into that in detail (and many authors have already soundly critiqued it). Instead, I’d like to tackle a few of my favourite myths, in no particular order:

Having Children Does Not a Mother Goddess Make

There is a definite tendency in Goddess-focused traditions to assume that a) all goddesses are aspects of a single Great Mother, and/or b) to call a deity a “mother goddess” even when she really has no interest in raising children.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen and those of indeterminate sex, there are goddesses who are mothers who *gasp* don’t make their offspring the center of their lives. Some of these goddesses include Athena, Aphrodite, Freyja, and Inanna. All of these goddesses have children, but they are, at best, peripheral to their stories. In the case of Inanna, Lulal and Shara are mentioned only once in one of her most famous myths.  If you said: “Lulal and Shara who?” and you know anything about Sumerian mythology, you’ve just proved my point.

My point is that it makes no sense to call these deities “mother goddesses” on the basis that they have children. None of them seem particularly interested in childbirth or even raising their own offspring. They seem more concerned with sex, battle, love, handicrafts (in Athena’s case) and the fertility of the land (Freya) rather than human fertility.

Goddesses Like Artemis are “Women’s Goddesses”, and Should Not be Worshiped by Men

Some goddess-worshipers are under the impression that Artemis is the goddess of Amazonian womyn who eats men for breakfast if they so much as attempt to look at her, and while it is true that she does punish Actaeon for spying on her while bathing, what these goddess-worshipers seem to forget that one of Artemis’ spheres of influence was HUNTING.

Hunting was, almost without exception, a man’s activity.

The Theoi website has an excellent compilation of mentions of Artemis as goddess of the hunt, but here are a few choice excerpts:

Homer, Iliad 5. 51 ff :
“Skamandrios, the fine huntsman of beasts [was killed by Menelaus]. Artemis herself had taught him to strike down every wild thing that grows in the mountain forest. Yet Artemis of the showering arrows (iokheaira) could not now help him, no, nor the long spearcasts in which he had been pre-eminent [for hunting-skill was of no use on the battlefield].”

Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1. 28 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
“[From a description of a painting depicting hunters :] Hunters as they advance will hymn Artemis Agrotera (Goddess of the Hunt); for yonder is a temple to her, and a statue worn smooth with age, and heads of boars and bears; and wild animals sacred to her graze there, fawns and wolves and hares, all tame and without fear of man. After a prayer the hunters continue the hunt.”

It makes no sense for male hunters to not participate in her cult when hunting is one of her most notable spheres of influence. Perhaps her cult was female-dominated, but the cult clearly had a place for men.

Dismissal of Certain Cultures for Being “Too Patriarchal”

I’ve read a lot of books on Goddess spirituality, and one thing I noticed was that although the movement tends to look at a variety of goddesses from many cultures (which has its own set of issues) there was little material on goddesses from Northern Europe. I often found that there was an assumption that Northern European cultures (particularly the Norse) were dismissed as “too warrior-focused”, “too male-dominated”. Some of you may secretly celebrate the fact that there isn’t as much bad scholarship on Heathen deities, but I think it’s a shame because there is some very proto-feminist material in the lore and you don’t really have to look that hard to find it. Not to mention that some cultures, like Sumer, were in some ways far worse than the Norse. Let’s face it, the vast majority of cultures treated women like crap, so is there really a compelling reason to dismiss one mythology out of hand while praising another that is equally problematic?

A related issue to this is  focusing on mytho-historical matriarchal societies than actual ones. Many feminist goddess-worshipers like to associate themselves with the mythical Amazons or speculate at length over the position of women in Minoan Crete, but how many have heard of the Greek colony of Locri? Where women, though not equal to men, were believed to have a certain spiritual power (men could only access this power by marrying them) and the cults of Demeter, Persephone, and Aphrodite were strong in that area. Some current day matriarchal (more accurately matrilineal) societies are the Mosuo tribe in Yunnan Province, China (who are best known for their ‘walking marriages’) and Meghalaya, India, where a matrilineal system is so ingrained into that culture that men are now campaigning for a kind of suffrage, just take a look at this quote from the article:

‘”If you want to know how much the Khasis favour women just take a trip to the labour ward at the hospital,”‘ he says.

‘”If it’s a girl, there will be great cheers from the family outside. If it’s a boy, you will hear them mutter politely that, ‘Whatever God gives us is quite all right.'”‘

Does this scenario sound familiar? That’s because the same sentiment is echoed in delivery rooms all over the world with the genders reversed (and although I would like to see a world where everyone is equal, it *is* kind of nice to see someone doing the opposite, for once).

My point is that these cultures are actual living cultures existing today, and yet I’ve never heard of any book that touts the Golden Age Matriarchy theory even mention them. Granted, many of this books probably came out before serious research was being done on these cultures, but it just seems like the books that are out today only seek to regurgitate the same old information (and to perpetuate a myth that largely only appeals to white, middle class women).

This is kind of an aside, but this is exactly why I’m waiting for the Pistis Sophia tarot to come out, because the authors have promised to use actual academic works in their research (with references and everything) and I would like to buy it to see if they deliver on that promise. See? I’m not the only one who cares about bad scholarship!

Loki

As this Canada Day draws to a close (just came back from an AWESOME fireworks display with my brother’s in-laws and extended family) I thought I’d say a few words about Loki so anyone who wants to stop following my blog can do so.

This blog is Loki-friendly, end of discussion.

I’m not going to wade into the “Why Loki?” debate, because frankly, this issue has been done to death and nothing I will say would add to the debate because it’s all been said before. For more info on Loki from an actual Lokean, I’d recommend the Temple of the Flea blog.

As I’ve said before (and you can no doubt tell from the blog’s title) I’m Vanir-focused, so Loki doesn’t really figure into my life that much, but I will say that the Lokeans I’ve “met” on the ‘net are some of the friendliest, intelligent, non-chaotic people I know. Sure, I’ve encountered some who were all about the randomness and CHAOS, but they almost seem to me like the Lokean version of the fluff bunny (not that randomness and humour doesn’t have its place). By contrast, I’ve met plenty of “mainstream” Heathens who were some of the most stuck up, elitist, and thoroughly unpleasant people I’ve ever had the (dis)pleasure of encountering online. It seems very important to these people that no Lokeans ever share space with them, but I don’t think I’d let them into my *country*, let alone my home (excepting, of course, people who already live here).

In all honesty, if “we are our deeds” the Lokeans I’ve met have shown that they are far more deserving of a place at my table than Asshattru who make death threats, or who claim that everything that isn’t strict recon is “Wiccatru”, or in any way replicate the fundamentalist mindset more suited to a fire-and-brimstone preacher than a polytheist.

If you haven’t stopped following me already, please feel free to do so now.