My Own Version of a “Sponge Cake” Offering

Remember awhile back on tumblr how some people were going ballistic because someone decided to give Loki some sponge cake with whipped cream and strawberries?

Here is what I’m offering Freyja:

1 strawberry that isn’t rotten (the rest of the strawberries are in various states of decay)

1 slice of whole wheat bread with Nutella

1 cinnamon bun I bought at Walmart

1 serving of unpasteurized cinnamon honey

1 Gerbera daisy (“Midi Dark Fireball”) I was wearing in my hair in place of a May crown–er, April crown.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures since my parents took the camera today, but all of it’s been arranged very prettily on one of my mom’s “playing card” plates (the diamond one, because I couldn’t find the one with the suit of hearts).

Anyone who has an issue with this offering who isn’t Freyja can go fuck themselves, seriously.

Happy (early) May Day! (Or whichever festival you celebrate, if any).

Things You DON’T Have to Be to Be Vanatru

  • white
  • vegetarian/vegan
  • Gay,  Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans*, Asexual, Questioning, Intersex, however-many-letters-are-in-this-thing
  • sexually active
  • polyamorous
  • a particular political affiliation (although Vanatruar tend to be more liberal-to-moderate, in my experience)
  • someone who exclusively honours the Vanir to the exclusion of all other deities
  • a farmer, a sailor, a baker, a butcher, a candlestick maker
  • a homesteader
  • someone who lives in a rural area
  • a godspouse to two deities and a godslave to one
  • no, seriously, you don’t have to be a godspouse
  • or a godslave
  • or even particularly god-bothered
  • a reconstructionist
  • a drinker (yours truly does not drink, it gives her headaches)
  • kinky
  • or vanilla
  • at least, not all the time
  • someone who practices magic (sex magic or otherwise)

I think I got most of them.

And now, here is something you absolutely MUST HAVE to be Vanatru

  • love for the Vanir

All of that other stuff is good to have, but love for the Vanir trumps everything. Do you hear me? It’s bigger than your skin colour or what you eat or who you love, SO MUCH BIGGER!

Now, for me personally, I do think that being Vanatru involves giving more than two shits about the environment, but I’m not going to dictate to anyone what that means. For some, it may be as simple as not using pesticides on one’s land, or voting for political parties that make the environment a priority, or giving to organizations that protect endangered species or forests or whatever. Other people may go completely “off the grid”, if that’s what you want to do, go and do it.

But all that other stuff I mentioned? Nothing wrong with any of it, but it’s non-essential.

Vanatru: Clearing Up Some Misconceptions

I’ve been meaning to get to this post for a long time. I’ve already touched on this in other posts, but I think it’s time to devote an entire post to setting the record straight regarding some odd things that are going around about Vanatru and Vanatruar.

Please note: I can really only speak for myself and my own experiences. Please keep this in mind as you read this.

Misconception #1: In order to be Vanatru, you must only honour those deities considered Vanir (usually Freyr, Freyja, and Njord) all the time.

While some may choose to exclusively honour deities they consider to be Vanir (whether by birth or marriage) this isn’t a requirement. You may primarily honour one of them, or you may simply have one of them as a fulltrui (although, people in this last group don’t usually identify as Vanatru).

Misconception #2: Vanatru is just another name for Norse Wicca.

This one should be obvious to anyone with working brain cells, but let’s touch on it anyways. I can’t speak for others, but yours truly is not Wiccan, in either the British Traditional or Eclectic sense, here is a brief list of points detailing why:

  • I am a polytheist, not a duotheist/ditheist/bitheist
  • I don’t cast circles
  • I was never initiated into a coven
  • I don’t use an athame, a chalice, a wand, or a pentacle in my rites
  • The concept of polarity is irrelevant to me
  • I don’t follow the Threefold Law or the Wiccan Rede
  • I honour a moon god and a sun goddess
  • While I might offer cakes and ale to my deities, it isn’t a regular part of my rituals

That’s just a short list, I could spend time exhaustively picking apart that argument, but you get the idea.

That is not to say that there aren’t Norse Wiccans out there, but to lump all of Vanatru under the heading of Wicca is just sloppy research.

Misconception #3: All Vanatruar are liberal hippie vegetarians who sleep around/are just doing this to get laid.

Let’s see, yours truly is:

  • Politically liberal
  • Not particularly hippie-like
  • An Omnivore (with occasional lapses into carnivore status)
  • A virgin, single, and with no current prospects, and probably not interested in you anyways

In my experience, Vanatru does tend to attract more liberal folks who have, shall we say, a more relaxed attitude towards sexuality. However, vegetarianism is not a requirement to be Vanatru, and I think someone has confused a more relaxed attitude towards sexuality with nymphomania. Seriously, if I wanted to get laid, I can think of way easier ways to do it than adopting a religion. One cannot help but detect a bit of insecurity on the part of those who so readily lob this one at Vanatruar. It may be that there are people desperate enough to adopt a religion in order to cruise (or worse, abuse others) but it makes about as much sense as me assuming that all Asatruar are chest-thumping dick-swinging lorehumpers, and they’re not (they’re called Asshattru).

Related: Vanatru is associated with child abuse.

Really, everyone? Really?

Misconception #4: Heathens worship ALL the gods! How can Vanatruar work with an incomplete pantheon?

You know, I’ve always found this one kind of funny, because, outside of the fact that adherents tend to be racists, no one really seems to have a problem with Odinism, or with people who are dedicated to one deity or another. In fact, most Heathens can’t even agree on which entities are deities, these include:

Loki

Sunna

Mani

No, seriously, someone once tried to tell me that Sunna and Mani weren’t deities, they merely represented the gravitational pull of the Earth and the orbital path of the Earth around the sun, or were “poetic metaphors” or something.

My point is, many Heathens do acknowledge ‘the Aesir and Vanir’ in general in their rites, but honestly, when’s the last time you heard of a “mainstream” kindred doing a blot to the Alcis? Or to a host of goddesses whose names (and perhaps some vague associations) still survive?

The thing is that no one honours all the deities all of the time. You might only have one or two that you feel a particular kinship with, your kindred might celebrate particular deities at particular times of the year, or you might place more emphasis on your ancestors than the deities.

I think somewhere along the line someone was under the impression that someone who exclusively honours X group doesn’t believe in Y group, or thinks that Y group is evil, or something. And yes, I know of at least one person who likes to treat Odin and co. as if they’re all cosmic bullies who abuse the poor, innocent Vanir.

As for me, no, I don’t personally honour Odin, Tyr, or Thor, but that doesn’t mean that I think they’re evil or that they don’t exist, I just don’t honour them.

They have plenty of followers who love them dearly, I am not one of them.

That’s it.

It’s not that they are bad, or they don’t exist, they’re just out of focus (or not in focus, as the case may be). The Vanir aren’t just trotted out for Freyfaxi so that your kindred can give tacit acknowledgement to “the fertility deities that make everyone very uncomfortable” before shoving them aside and bringing out the MANLY AESIR WARLORDS, FUCK YEAH! They are relevant the whole year round.

Oh wait, are you pissed because I’m essentially doing the exact opposite of what you’re doing?

Here’s a tip: deal.

Anyways, those are probably the most common ones, here are some other things I’d like to clear up.

The relationship between Vanatru and Waincraft

Waincraft began as the personal gnosis of a few Vanatruar who have since cut ties with Vanatru specifically and with Heathenry in general. While material that comes out of the Waincraft movement might be interesting to Vanatruar (and while I do have a Waincraft category on my blog), the two paths are separate, related, but separate.

The relationship between Vanatru and “Celtic” traditions (including Druidry, CR, and related faiths)

Again, some Vanatruar have taken to adopting the label “Vanacelt” to describe themselves, or are interested in looking at the commonalities between Norse and Celtic tribes. However, this is, like many things to do with Vanatru, not a requirement (although there is nothing wrong with being multi-trad). For those of you who are interested in comparative religions, it might be worth looking at this subject in more detail, but again, not a requirement.

Again, these are just the big ones. If you’ve seen any I haven’t mentioned, tell me so in the comments.

“Gay Gods” and “Lesbian Goddesses”

Or “Why Sexual Orientation Doesn’t Matter”…

So I discovered this wonderful button that lets me look at my site’s stats, and one of the search terms that popped up is “is freya a lesbian goddess?”

Today I received a question from an anonymous asker who hopefully won’t mind if I quote them:

“What are your thoughts about bisexuality in modern heathenism? Are there particular Vanir whom a bisexual heathen may be better able to relate to, than others?”

(BTW, my tumblr is here: http://answersfromvanaheim.tumblr.com/)

So I think it’s time to address this question.

The long and short of it is, the idea of “gay gods” and “lesbian goddesses” is about as silly to me as the idea that there are “straight gods” and “straight goddesses”.

What I mean by this is that deities definitely appear to have their preferences. There are deities who are (at the very least) bisexual as we moderns would understand it, but the thing is, sexual orientation wasn’t really a thing until modern times. In many societies, as long as you “did your duty” and had children, you could have lovers “on the side” and no one would give a fuck.

If you were a man, at least. It’s difficult to find a lot of material on lesbians in pre-modern societies (though depending on where and when you’re looking, you might have better luck). In kyriarchical societies, men just don’t care about what women are doing unless they’re doing something particularly transgressive (like dressing up in men’s clothing). These are just broad brush strokes that obviously don’t account for time and place.

I think there is definitely a misconception among some that the phrase “gay/queer god” somehow means that I think the deity can only be worshiped by gay or bisexual men. Such people usually say “Well, I’m straight and I worship X.”

Seriously, this line of reasoning is just silly.

By the same token, it’s also silly to claim that certain deities can’t be worshiped by queer folks because of something stupid like “deity X is too manly” (as if all gay/bi men are effeminate). This opinion was expressed by a well-known Heathen author who I believe has since retracted those comments.

Deities will choose whoever they want. It doesn’t matter if that person is gay, het, bi, genderqueer, intersex, or any other orientation or gender identity. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t particular deities that LGBT+s might feel an affinity towards (Loki, f0r instance, seems to have a lot of queer followers) but that doesn’t mean you, as an LGBT+ person, is limited to a list of deities the community defines as “queer friendly”.

Your relationship with any deity is between you and that deity.

Although, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that even the most heteronormative deity is secretly flying a rainbow flag in their bedroom.

Freyja

How should one periphrase Freyja? By calling her the Goddess-Who-Knows-Her-Own-Worth, by calling her Righteous Anger, Warrior, Badass Who takes No Prisoners, Witch Who Dances With Abandon. By calling her the Giver, Lover of Many. By calling her Maker of Choices, Goddess Who Bargains With Her Own Body, She Who Will Not Be Slut-Shamed. By calling her the Goddess Who Can Herd Cats (or at least get two of them to work together) and by many other names.

Do you see what I did there? I is the cleverest, except I probably fucked it up. This is why I’m not a skald.

It’s International Women’s Day (and Friday, which here at this blog is always Freyja’s day…when it’s not Freyr’s day….) so I thought that today would be a great day to devote a whole post to talking about Freyja, because she’s so wonderful, isn’t she?

*sighs a little*

Freyja is….hm, I shouldn’t be so pressed for things to say, I am currently editing a Freyja devotional after all–which you will be able to purchase soon-ish, but not yet. Let’s try this again:

Freyja is the goddess who hijacks your dreams; she’ll show up, stark naked, falcon cloak draped over a chair, and give you a hundred watt smile as she assures you that everything will be okay, she’s got this.

And then you’ll wake up and be as confused as fuck (personal experience).

Freyja is the goddess who says “make your choices and OWN THEM” who says “stand up for yourself!” She’s a goddess who says “Desire is okay, and nothing to be ashamed about.” She likes whores–didn’t she barter her own body for a precious object? But don’t try to shame her because of it, her anger causes the very ground to shake and the other deities to quickly exclaim “I said no such thing, of course!”

She’s a goddess who cries tears of gold (or amber, depending on who you ask), a goddess who bestows wealth, of growth, a goddess makes the sea swell.

She’s a wanderer, a warrior, a wonder-worker, teacher of seidr. She gets a portion of those slain in battle (some say she gets first pick, funny how many seem to forget that she gets a portion at all).

She’s also an independent woman who functions perfectly well without a husband, this makes her the bane of viking dudebros who think of women as perpetual sammich makers and mead-bringers. Protip: Even Frigga, that exemplar of “proper” housewifely womanhood, is the Boss Lady of Asgard, especially when Odin’s not around (which is much of the time). I’d pay money to watch the dudebros squirm in her presence. I’d even sell tickets! Goddesses aren’t safe in general, that’s probably why dudebros make up stupid excuses like “only women should honour goddesses”, or they try to reduce her to a sex object. Some downplay her sexuality all together.

She’s a goddess of cats, and butterflies (Freyja’s hens) and sows. She shares the boar with her brother. Apparently she really likes strawberries, flowers (too many kinds to list) and linden trees, flax and hemp, and (although it’s probably the most anachronistic thing on here) my feeling is that she likes chocolate as well.

These are only a few of her aspects, and of the ones I’ve mentioned, you’ll notice I’ve only covered a couple in any depth (excluding other posts I’ve made in the past). Anyways, enjoy the rest of your day, or, however much of the day you have left, if any. (Seriously, stuff kept taking me away from writing this post, so I just finished it now.)

Striving Against Nature

I was going to talk about this when I first saw the quote in question, but became distracted, probably by shiny things. A few moments ago, however, I drew the Green Man card from my Heart of Faerie Oracle, which I just bought last week (review to follow, short version: this deck is FUCKING AMAZING).

The quote in question was from one of the many Facebook groups I haunt, I believe the topic was Heathenry and caring for the environment. To paraphrase this person, they thought it was important to “strive against nature” like the ancestors did. I don’t remember the exact quote obviously, but I remember that phrase quite clearly.

The thing is, I can’t help but think that striving against nature is what got us into this mess in the first place.

Now, I’m not going to go into discussing environmental boogeymen like “peak oil” or “climate change” (although climate change is most definitely a thing) or dig up frightening statistics about pollution and such, because you’ve probably heard it all before, and I’m not into scare-mongering even if what you’re saying is true (and the thing about statistics is that they lie) but that’s not the topic of discussion for today.

It is March, there is snow outside, and it is cold, but I don’t have to worry about the cold because I have indoor heating and a fireplace that can really heat up the house when it gets going. In summer, I’m lucky enough to have an air conditioner that does a great job of keeping my family cool (and ice cream, ice cream helps). The temperature outside doesn’t matter, because as long as I stay in my climate-controlled house, I can walk around naked and the cold and heat won’t bother me (I don’t actually do that, BTW, I’m just using it as an example).

If I’m hungry, I can go to the grocery store and find all kinds of food, even stuff that doesn’t normally grow in my local area. (Actually, I can’t go to the grocery store on my own, but I can get my groceries delivered to me via the awesomeness that is the Internet). Even in winter, my fridge is stuffed with the same kind of food I eat every year. Apples, oranges, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, you name it, its there. If farmers have had a bad growing season, the worst that will happen is that there’s a shortage of something, and I’m economically secure enough that I probably won’t notice.

The thing is, that’s so different from what our ancestors faced, and I’m not even talking about ancestors from back in Ye Olde Dayes. My grandmother’s situation was very different than mine (for starters, she baked all the bread her family ate, all the time, because they didn’t have grocery stores where she lived), but basically, this is how you break it down for someone whose life is so dependent on nature’s whims:

Your crops fail? You starve to death, unless you have nice neighbours or neighbours that don’t hate you enough to tolerate your presence. You get lost in a snowstorm? You die. Attacked by wild animals? You get eaten to death. Manage to escape with your life? You’ll probably still die if your wounds aren’t treated properly.

Basically, life in an agrarian (or hunter-gatherer, or pretty much any pre-modern) society is like playing Dark Souls  if Dark Souls had a harder difficulty setting than “fucking sadistic”: Prepare to DIE!

The thing is, what makes this idea of striving against nature so silly to me is that we….don’t really need to do it anymore. In fact, it would be better for us to ease up a little (and by us, I am of course talking about North Americans, especially middle class white ones, like me, Western Europe, and well, first world countries in general). We, unlike our ancestors, haven’t had to fight tooth and nail to carve out a space for us to live in the Wilderness. Dark forests aren’t so scary anymore (the way they are in fairy tales.

If anything, we need to start caring more for our environment, not flail about with our battle-axes screaming “NATURE IS BAAAAAD! EVIL JOTNAR HURR DURR!” /vikingbro.

People who say things like the stuff I just said are often accused of believing that nature is all fuzzy wuzzy cuddly cotton candy rainbow farting unicorns, and my response is “Seriously?”

No, nature is not nice, from my perspective, the tornado that steamrolls over my house is not very nice, and neither is the hurricane or the forest fire (although forest fires can be very good for some trees). Nature is not nice, it’s not particularly concerned with your welfare, it just kind of….is….

Nature is not nice, on the other hand, humans haven’t been very nice to nature either (and I’m not going to make the mistake of claiming our ancestors were environmentalists, because they weren’t) and, you know, despite that thing about not being completely dependent on nature, we still need food, and clean drinking water, forests to give us oxygen and flora and fauna to keep everything running smoothly. We need the wild places to awe us and keep us humble, we probably even need the yellow jacket, even though yellow jackets are EVIL INCARNATE AND MUST BE DESTROYED!

And what do the Aesir and the Vanir do when they’re stumped about something? They visit the wild places and chat up the Jotnar (and then they either screw them or smash their skulls in, usually).

Also, the Earth is, like, Thor’s Mom (or Nerthus, if you’re Vanatru, Hertha, and Gerda and Laufey count too), do you REALLY want to mess with Thor’s Mom?

I didn’t think so.

Review: Sea, Sky, Soil: An Introduction to Waincraft

Sea, Sky, Soil: An Introduction to Waincraft is the first book in the Waincraft series by Nicanthiel Hrafnhild. Waincraft is a new, emerging tradition that is an offshoot of Vanatru. Waincraft draws it’s inspiration from various Eurasian mythologies, indigenous European cultures (Basque, Finn, and Saami cultures, among others), modern non-reconstructionist traditions (particularly Feri Witchcraft), ecological psychology and shamanism into a tradition that the author considers to be a form of Feral Paganism (see this essay on feral Druidry for more information).

This introductory text to this brand shiny new tradition contains information on the Five Cosmological Beings: deities (the “Great Powers”), Ancestral/Animal Tribes, The Fair Folk, Nature Spirits, and the Dead, information on the Three Worlds cosmology, a brief section on the Elements, and detailed appendices for the Great Powers, including deities arranged by category and quick correspondences (including offerings).

The material ranges from theoretical to practical. The sections about the Great Powers and the Tribes are a bit more theoretical/poetic, whereas the seasonal cycles (including solar, lunar, and general seasonal observances) are a bit more practical. The quick correspondences at the back are probably the most practical information in the book. My overall impression of this book is that it’s, well, an introduction, meant to give the reader a taste of the banquet that awaits them, or an appetizer before the main course (the rest of the books in the series being courses in the meal). I suppose a person could turn the appetizer into an entree with a bit of work, but as it is, it’s a nice introduction.

However, and I feel that it’s very important to get this across, this path is definitely not for everyone. If you think of “mainstream” Heathenry as highly lore-based and other traditions like Vanatru (or even Northern Tradition Paganism) as straddling the line between lore and inspiration (and, some would even say, moving to a tradition that is much less-focused on lore) Waincraft plants itself squarely on the side of the experiential, or, to put it another way: the Asatruar toasts the gods and wights with a horn, the Vanatruar goes wading in a pool to try and connect with the water-wights, and the Waincrafter goes for a Polar bear dip, that’s oversimplifying things a whole lot, but you get the idea. Suffice it to say that Waincraft is definitely not a “religion of the book” and you will hardly find any quoted sources in this text (and absolutely no bibliography. Remember a post or two ago where I talked about “fairy tale logic”? This is fairy tale logic, rooted more in experience and a little cross-cultural examination than study.

It’s not hard to see the influence of comparative mythology in Waincraft. The Great Powers aren’t known by individual names but by A-A-A-Archetypal (there, I said it) titles and epithets (The Lady of Night, The Shaman-Father, etc.) although a list of individual deities is provided in one of the appendices. The reason for this more archetypal model is explained by the author in this article, but here’s the relevant quote:

First, releasing the essence of the Powers from their prior European faces enables us, as worshipers, practitioners, and/or followers, to connect more deeply with the Powers that call us without much of the baggage that can often accompany prior associations. For example, though I originally encountered Her in the form and mask of Hertha/Nerthus, I found my relationship with and understanding of my Mother grew to a whole new level once I worked with her as simply Earth, because I could experience parts of Her that were not relevant to the Nerthus mask. Naming a thing gives it an identity, a place, a purpose, but it also limits that thing’s power, potentiality and relevance.

Right off the bat, I can tell that this more “soft polytheist” approach will probably tick off more than a few of my hard polytheist friends, as I said, it’s not for everyone (though the author does encourage the reader to relate to the Powers according to their own cultural context).

There are parts of the book that I found to be very intense “Too intense for me!” I thought, but then there are parts that I found absolutely intriguing, particularly the section on the Animal Tribes (the ones that “clicked” for me were Snake, Goose, Swan, Bee, and Fox, to a greater or lesser extent). I would very much like to explore this avenue further.

There are a couple of caveats, though, the first is that it seems as if you will get a lot more from this path via journeying than if you’re someone like me, with feet firmly planted on the ground on a permanent basis. This may not be the case, but it certainly seemed so at points to me. The second is that this tradition is extremely Eurocentric, which will probably come as no surprise, but I found there was a definite tendency to claim that the tradition was “Pan-European” while overwhelmingly focusing on the pantheons of Northern and Western Europe (and only certain pantheons in those areas, the Greeks and Romans hardly get a mention at all). One possibly problematic element is the advice given to those who are practicing Waincraft outside of  Europe, which is to view the (Western European) animals tribes as “Grandmothers and Grandfathers” which strikes me as odd considering that non-European practitioners might well be connecting to civilizations that are even older than European ones, but as I said, Eurocentric. Still, I suppose the upside to this is that they are at least trying to work within a European system instead of stealing from, say, Native peoples in North America (unlike some other movements I could name).

In sum, I’m not about to hang up my Vanatru label, but I am interested in this new path, and would like to see where it goes. To those who are interested, the other books in the series are as follows:

Walking the Wagon Ways: Mastering the Elements in Waincraft

Hearth and Home: Prayers, Myths, and Rituals for the Waincrafter

Fur, Feather, Scale, Skin: Working with the Tribes of Waincraft

Also check out the home of Waincraft on the web: http://waincraft.org/

and especially watch out for their Pagan Blog Project: http://waincraft.org/world-view/the-waincraft-pagan-blog-project/

If you are interested in a highly experiential path that is deeply rooted (lol pun) in the land and the Powers that live there and you can tolerate archetypal understandings of deity and a very Eurocentric worldview (though definitely not as culturally exclusive as “mainstream” Heathen groups tend to be), I’d recommend taking a look at this as you’ll probably get a lot out of it. Otherwise, well, I did say it’s not for everyone.

Njord

Today is not my birthday. My birthdays happen when I’m not sick and can go places.

Therefore, it’s business as usual, and since Maris Pai posted this wonderful post on the nature of the Vanir, I decided to get off my butt and post something I’ve been meaning to post for a long time. (Seriously, go read Maris’ post, it is awesome.)

So, Njord….

Njord doesn’t get a lot of exposure on the interwebs, IMHO. I only know of one blog run by a Njordsman, and last I checked, it had been taken down. I’m sure there are more Njordspeople out there, but he just doesn’t seem like one of those deities who is particularly eager to snatch people up the way some other deities (Hi, Loki and Odin!) do.I’m starting to think that there might be this perception (which I once had myself) that Njord is really just the “Norse Poseidon” the way Balder is “Norse Jesus” and Loki is “Norse Satan”.

It’s a shame, to put it mildly, because out of the “big four” Vanir, I’d say that Njord is easily the most approachable, friendly deity of the bunch.

And yet, so few are dedicated to him.

So, what do we know about Njord? He is probably best known for fathering Freyja and Freyr by his unnamed sister-wife (thought to be Nerthus by some) and for his divorce/separation from Skadi (more on this later). He has a hall in Noatun (“ship-enclosure” or shipyard) and fights with an axe (which he buries in the gate of Asgard. He is generous, freely bestowing his immeasurable wealth on one and all, and people pray to him to, well, spread the wealth around.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of material on Njord in the Eddas, save that most famous myth regarding his courting of Skadi. Skadi, seeking to avenge her father’s death, storms Asgard. The gods are scared shitless, so they negotiate a deal with her: she won’t pursue her vendetta if they can make her laugh, and if she’s allowed to choose a husband from their numbers. Loki makes her laugh by tying his balls to a goat (taking one for the team), and letting himself be yanked around (‘jerking off’ LOL) but the second comes with a catch: Skadi can only pick a husband by looking at his feet. Skadi, naturally, figures that the god with the nicest feet would belong to Balder, but she’s wrong, and the feet actually belong to Njord (seawater is good for the skin, apparently).

Unfortunately, things only go downhill from there when the newlyweds are trying to figure out where they’re going to be living. They try staying at Skadi’s hall for nine nights (previously belonging to her father) but Njord can’t stand the sound of the wolves howling at night. They do the same thing at Njord’s hall, but Skadi can’t stand the crying of the gulls.

So they separate, no doubt citing irreconcilable differences. There’s no cheating, no nasty custody battle, and neither partner ends up dying, just two deities deciding that it would be better if they just lived apart. Some like to end the story by saying that Skadi found a more compatible match in Ullr, but to my knowledge, this isn’t stated anywhere, but is based more on a shared affinity for snow, hunting, and winter sports (okay, maybe not winter sports).

Another source of information about Njord are a couple stanzas in the Lokasenna, where Loki insults Njord by bringing up a humiliating episode involving Hymir’s daughters (who, according to the notes in Larrington’s translation of the Poetic Edda, are rivers, not to be confused with Aegir’s nine daughters) who used him as a “pisspot” (in his mouth, in case you’re wondering) he refers to this as a “reward” when he was sent as a hostage, and is probably meant to be read as sarcasm. Later, in the same text, he defends his daughter when Loki accuses her of sleeping with everyone in the hall, by saying that a woman having a lover in addition to her husband is “a harmless thing”.

Let’s think about that for a moment. Someone accuses your daughter (assuming you have a daughter, if not, use your imagination) of sleeping around…a lot…do you get angry? Defensive? Want to punch the asshat who said it in the face?

Njord does none of these things. In fact, his response could pretty much be summed up as: “Meh.”

Njord: sex-positive proto-feminist? Eh, maybe not, but it’s interesting.

Moving away from Loreland into the uncharted territory of UPG, it’s interesting to me how writings from those who have encountered Njord tend to emphasize his tranquil side. The calm in the eye of the storm, , calm seas and clear skies. This Njord, in my mind, is the kind of person who speaks little and says much.

But, and this is based on my own experiences with Njord (which basically amounts to a few dreams) there’s this whole other side to him. I call him “Njord-the-Sailor”. Njord-the-Sailor is a bit of a prankster, he also drinks and swears and wasn’t shy about copping a feel when Skadi wandered by (she seemed kind of cross when he did it, though I wonder if she wasn’t amused). He called me ‘girl’ and ‘girlie’ but in less of a patronizing and more of an affectionate way, unabashedly sexual as well, but not in an overly aggressive way, more teasingly, almost in an over-the-top bawdy humour kind of way.

Njord is the quintessential father-figure, in my mind. He strikes me as the kind of person who likes kids and who wants a bunch of them (and, IMHO, he has very, very good genes). There’s UPG floating around that he adopted Sigyn, and that strikes me as something he would do, of course, being adopted myself, my bias is probably showing.

So yeah, Njord is basically the “Cool Dad”, as in “Why isn’t my dad this cool?” He’s the kind of parent who lets his kids have chocolate cake for breakfast (Skadi strikes me as more of the disciplinrian) but he’s also a patient teacher,(Someone had to teach Freyr how to sail.) and a shrewd negotiator.

Beware the Nice Ones, as the trope puts it though, because he is apparently no slouch in combat (as you would have to be to bury your axe at your enemy’s gates) and while I wouldn’t say he has quite the temper of, say, Thor, I would not want to see him angry. Well, I like my deities as happy as possible, you know? But Njord, I get the impression that you need to really fuck up to piss him off.

As far as offerings, things that would make him very happy, and such, I’d definitely say that he calls us to look at fishing practices and our consumption of seafood and other products that come from the sea (pearls, for instance) and how our actions affect the sea and its creatures. Support local fisherman, teach someone how to sail or fish (responsibly, of course), help out a sailor. If you’re really stuck, why not learn to build a ship in a bottle  as an offering? (As a side benefit, new research suggests that learning a new skill is good for your brain cells.) He strikes me as a deity who would really appreciate that someone took the time to craft an awesome ship in a bottle. As far as food offerings, I’ve heard good things about ale, lemonade, and jelly doughnuts (yes, seriously). Altar/shrine decorations might include nets, representations of ships and other nautical things, lanterns, spyglasses, I’d save more “pirate” themed stuff for someone like Ran, though.

tl;dr version: Njord, he is awesome. Give him more love.

Hail the giving god! Hail Njord!

“Sea, Sky, Soil” is Out Now!

I just received an announcement from Nicanthiel Hrafnhild that the first book in the Waincraft series is (finally) out now.

Waincraft is a new tradition that grew out of Vanatru, so if you’re interested in brand shiny new traditions (especially if you’re interested in Vanatru) you might enjoy this book. Here’s the full text of the announcement:

I [Nicanthiel], and the folks at Ravens Hall Press, am pleased to announce that, after two and a half years of research, experience and writing, all the threads have come together in this book, officially kicking off a new Pagan tradition for the modern age.

Feel free to spread the news to any interested parties

The book will be available soon on Amazon and other online retailers, and is currently available directly from Lulu.com and the Ravens Hall Press website.

Direct link to the book on Lulu.

I will most likely be picking it up….eventually.

A Warrior Religion?

Any newcomer to Heathenry will probably hear these words at some point as they explore whether it’s a good “fit” for them. Heathenry, they are told, is a “warrior religion” and if you aren’t in some way into hitting things with sharp, pointy objects, then GTFO and go join Wicca, with its wussy peace-loving deities, you wussy!

It’s actually kind of funny, because in popular thought, the Celts (and yes, I know “Celt” is a misnomer, bear with me) get the opposite treatment. If I were only reading popular books on the Celts (say, from a press like Llewellyn), I’d probably be left with the impression that they valued music and art (via bards) and that priest-judges called Druids were very, very important….and oh, yeah, some of them were warriors, but HEY LET’S ALL GO DANCE AROUND THE MAYPOLE! In that respect, it’s almost like we have two loose cultural groups who are mirror images of each other in popular thought. Interestingly, many Vanatruar find “Celtic” traditions compatible with their own practices (I don’t, personally, but I find the commonalities between the neighbouring groups to be interesting).

Do I have to go into how unbelievably skewed both of those perceptions are?

The thing is, I don’t think the fact that Heathenry is dripping with machismo is entirely the fault of Heathens, after all, they’re only going off what they read in the Eddas, forgetting that the Eddas overwhelmingly focus on what elite men are doing with sharp pointy objects. We don’t get to hear stories about fishermen or farmers (boring) or most women (even more BORING) or pretty much anyone who wasn’t born with a sword and shield by their crib. We know, of course, that people had other things to do besides war-mongering. Ibn Fadlan talks about the very much not warlike activity of traders, but that passage also includes people prostrating themselves before their deities, and as we all know, Heathens have *issues* with kneeling.

The end result is that we get a lot of people who dismiss Heathen traditions as too “masculine” and that’s just sad. On top of that, there’s the ironic promotion of traditional gender roles whereby women stay in the kitchen, completely ignoring the legendary accounts of shieldmaidens and glossing over the martial aspects of goddesses like Skadi, because that was a special case, apparently, “real women” spin and serve men drinks. It’s this weird sexist paradox: “EVERYONE BE WARRIORS, EXCEPT YOU, WOMEN, STAY IN TEH KITCHEN AND MAKE YOUR MAN A SAMMICH!” Is it really any wonder that more folks find traditions like Wicca to be more appealing? On a related note, I can’t help but wonder if the current thing where men only worship gods and women only worship goddesses is because certain men are insecure about ever acknowledging that a woman (even a goddess) is in any way superior to them. (Usually the same kind of people, incidentally, who feel threatened by LGBT+s and others who don’t fit their model of a “traditional family” because without a sammich maker and a sammich eater, society will collapse!)

And does it seem to anyone else that Heathenry is one of the only faith groups that constantly gets the label of “warrior religion”? I’ve never seen this label apply to almost anything from Greece or Rome, for instance (apart from certain cults) and yet the latter is most famously known for kicking ass and taking names (oftentimes literally) all over the ancient world.  Or, for that matter, Sikhism, whose adherents wear (blunt) daggers (the kirpan) as a reminder that they are expected to fight and die for their faith. When I went to a gurudwara as part of a class trip, all they talked about was recycling, and they shared food with us. Then again, much has changed since the religion was founded.

I’m not saying that everyone needs to put down their sharp pointy objects and make love, not war (although I would vastly prefer the former to the latter) but could we please get a little perspective here?  I think there’s a difference between honouring warriors and testosterone poisoning, and right now, I think our little family of religions is in danger of choking on its own machismo. I mean, seriously, it’s all well and good if you want to focus on being a warrior (especially if you are, say, a soldier, or a police officer) but for the love of everything, I don’t understand this constant need to put others down because they aren’t interested in war-mongering. Even the most battle-hardened warrior needed to put down their sword and pick up a hoe (and no, not as an improvised weapon!) and make sure everyone has enough food so they can live to fight another day. Again, no one else seems to have this problem with including a wide variety of different roles in their traditions, WTH is your problem, Heathenry? You’re like the little kid in the sandbox who goes around with a bucket 0n their head smashing everyone’s sand castles. Not cool.