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Heathen Virtues and My Life

Nine Nobel Virtues

I am a practicing neo-pagan. A neo-pagan is anyone who does not follow an Abrahamic faith or in some cases and situations the definition also includes Dharmic faiths. That means that they do not follow Christianity, Islam, or Judaism. The Dharmic faiths include Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and occasionally Shintoism.

My path is rather eclectic and so are my ethical and moral views on the world. One of the pagan religions that has deeply inspired me and my world view have been the Germanic faiths. These faiths include religions like Asatru, Odinism, Anglo-Saxon reconstruction, Heathenism, and or religions that follow the Gods outlined in the Poetic and Prose Eddas as well as the Icelandic Sagas and other forms of Nordic folklore.

The Gods in this pantheon would be Odin, Thor, Tyr, Loki, and many others. There are several sagas and Eddic tales that explore not only the myths, but the values or virtues of that culture. Some of these virtues have remained intact and others have become ignored. I do feel that these virtues have much to offer in today’s world and could help our society make some major changes.

The majority or rather the most popular and well known websites and texts on the subject of practical practicing of these religious practices have come up with a list of what they call the “Nine Nobel Virtues”. These virtues outline my basic ethical and moral guidelines. How I interpret them may be different from others, but I feel I am an ethical person as outlined in the Nine Nobel virtues.

The Nine Nobel Virtues are: Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Industry, Self-Reliance, and Perseverance. Each of these virtues works together. In many ways if you are not working well on one virtue, the other virtues fall and fail a little as well.

Courage basically means having the strength to face the challenges given to you and to know when to ask for help. It also means trying over and over again when you have failed in order to succeed. Being courageous does not mean you don’t have any fear. It simply means that you act courageous when you are in the act of facing your fears.

Truth is basically self-evident. To me it simply means that you should always tell the truth and that means being true to yourself as well. In many ways it is about making sure your actions are honorable. You should not be making excuses for doing acts that you “know” are wrong.

Honor is something that can be difficult to explain. Honor goes hand in hand with respect. Honor means acknowledging that you respect a person’s actions and how they live their lives. Honor also means living your life the way you would like others to live and a life that you would see as respectful and honorable.

Fidelity is not something many people would think of as a virtue today. However I personally find that it is a very important virtue. Fidelity is loyalty. I take loyalty very seriously. When I give myself to a cause or an idea and it rises to an action I do what I can. Loyalty is staying true to your friends and your allies.

Discipline is one thing I think that many people in today’s societies are lacking. Discipline does not have to mean making people behave a specific way through punishment. Instead in terms of the Nine Nobel Virtues it means working hard to change a behavior, and shaping a behavior.

Hospitality is something people don’t often think about. In the ancient times when the tribal religions were being practiced, even if you had your own land, everything you did was also for your community. Today it is about helping out when at a friend’s place or when they are at your place offering drinks or snacks or things to make them be at home. It is about sharing what is yours with someone else.

Industriousness is basically spending your days working towards something. It means doing more than the minimum in order to get things done. It means giving your all and being productive. It also means taking time to play. Playing is how we explore new things and ideas and recharge our energies. It’s a balance between work and play making sure you get the most out of everything you do.

Self-Reliance is something I think every person needs to work on in some areas. It means being responsible for yourself and your actions. It means doing as much as you can by yourself and knowing when you need help to do something that you cannot do yourself. Self-Reliance also means that over time you will learn new skills to do what you can for yourself.

Perseverance is probably the most difficult virtue for me. This virtue is the one of keeping with something until the job is done. It means trying and trying over and over again. It also means knowing that you may need to start over with a new idea and begin from the start. It also means that if your project is futile and not worth the time and effort that you need to move on to something else. You don’t get credits for stupidity.

Aristotle believed that the best way for excellence was to be somewhere between a deficiency and an excess of any single virtue. That by following the middle path one will have reached peace and balance. This is more difficult than it seems in many cases. Out of the nine virtues there are several that I am closer to a deficiency on than others.

I am not as industrious as I could be. In many ways I am a sloth. There is so much time I have that is spent playing games online or just on my laptop that could be devoted to improving my skills, writing, housework, spiritual development, creativity, and the like that I feel quite wasteful in my time. Now as mentioned this virtue does apply to playing.

I have tried before to find ways to be more industrious in my “free time”. One of the ways that has been more effective than most has been to create a daily schedule or routine for me. This way my time is organized and things do get done. I feel that Aristotle would probably have told me that if that system had worked before, try it again, but maybe be a little more flexible with the time arrangement and the like.

There is really only one way that I am not as reliant as I could be. That to me is basically in the aspect of transportation and financial situations. I have used the excuse that the public transportation system in the city of South Portland sucks as an excuse for not going out and getting supplies and other things done that should be done. In reality I could use the bus more often than I do; it’s just not as convenient, which ties into my industriousness. The transportation ties into my employment or financial situation as well. There are ways for me to get employed and find transportation. I just have to get up off my ass to get the work done.

Aristotle would probably have told me to be willing to get help to achieve my goals. For example if I am having trouble getting to some of the offices, even with public transportation use the options I have available to me in order to get what needs to be done done. I am still being responsible for myself and my actions as I need to ask for the help and make sure that both them and I work together and get the task accomplished.

Several years ago I would have stated that my courage needed to be worked on, but these things have been worked on with my fiance’ and myself as they were intimate issues. I just need to work on continuing to face those issues with him as we continue on our paths together.

There are other areas that my courage could be improved. One way is being afraid to ask people for things like rides and the like. The other could be facing my fear of my ideas being rejected by publishers and the like (see discipline below). I just need to try hard.

Aristotle would tell me that I just need to send out my ideas. He would probably tell me how his mentor Plato was taught by Socrates whose ideas were widely rejected, yet still maintained some value. He would tell me that rejection is not always a failure, but an opportunity to reach a different set of ears or eyes as the case may be.
Discipline is one virtue that I will admit I lack. I am disciplined in some ways, but in others I am not and it is clearly visible. In one way is that I do not always remember to keep up my religious and spiritual studies. I am working towards one day ultimately being a priestess and member of the clergy. This also goes for my witchcraft (which is both a religion and a craft) as well.

For many years I have tried to keep up a steady study schedule with activities and actions done. I may keep to it for a few months, but then my interest may switch to something else which I start to study. In turn I stop forming the habit and lose my focus on the original study at hand.

In Aristotle’s eyes the solution would be simple. If I get distracted by other ideas and subjects to study, add them to a list and get to them after the current topic has been explored. In this way I will be able to continue my current studies, but make notes of other things that fascinate me. This is something I have actually done before.

Perseverance is the last virtue that I need to work on. I am a writer; or rather I would like to be. Writing is a hobby of mine that comes naturally. I have been told that I should get published. Many times I have started to write a book and then after getting several chapters in, will read what has been written and delete all of it, not enjoying how it sounded at all. Instead I should have taken a break from the project and then gone back to it letting the book write itself.

It is quite likely that Aristotle would tell me to keep with the project and maybe start with smaller stories and books and work up to novels and long non-fiction books. He would probably say how his works started out as single lectures that were actually a series of lectures that were tied together. In time they were bound together as a book for reference. So the work in small bits part would be the best approach for me.

All in all I think I am a just person. Some people may have other views on where I am lacking in my virtues. Others may say that my life does not reflect any of these values at all.

In reality I am doing my best. These values have only been added into my life with in the last five years. They are still new to me. I work hard and have become the best person I can be at this point in my life. Can I still grow, and is there more to learn? Absolutely, but for now I am where I should be.

Starting Ancestral work

Starting Ancestral Work

Introduction:

What is Ancestral Veneration and Ancestral Work

Ancestral Veneration is one of the most ancient religious and spiritual practices. The respect and belief in an afterlife as well as honoring ancestors can be traced back to paleolithic mankind. It is believed that honoring our ancestors was the first religious and spiritual form of ritual work. From ways the dead were buried to views of the afterlife ancestors and the dead were never far from the mind of our paleolithic ancestors, and for some this truth remains today.

Ancestral veneration is not worshiping our ancestors, at least not in the common sense of worship. Ancestral veneration is more like honoring the dead in a respectful way. Its a belief that they are still with us in a spirit form. That they can hear us and can effect our lives from the other side. Its a belief that our ancestors like other spirits can help us become the best person we can be and to live the life that we really want and desire.

There are exchanges of offerings and gifts. This isn’t worship. In some ways I think of it like when I put a flower on my ancestors grave. Its giving something to them to signify that you remember them and care for them. These gifts can be basically anything. Though some cultures do have rules against some items being given to different spirits.
In some cultures flowers are only for the dead and it’s ok to leave offerings to the dead till they rot as this signifies they have taken everything. In other cultures and practices only water is offered to the dead. Even Christianity has mention of the value of prayer for the dead. Working with and honoring our ancestors is a powerful spiritual path and there are many ways to go about it.

The act of the gift and the offering is the important thing though. Its through these exchanges that relationships with our ancestors can develop and grow. Its believed that a gift will ensure a gift. Its also believed that because the dead and our ancestors are beyond the veil they have access to energy and powers of the universe that we don’t so by asking them to help us in our work and our lives they can tap into those energies for us. Granted they dont help us unless we help ourselves. So the gifts symbolize our part to do our work.

Many religions and traditions have celebrations and days of the dead. Halloween, All saints and All Souls day, Samhain, Dia de los Muertos(Mexican Day of the dead), The Bon Festival (Japan), and Pitru Paksha (Fortnight of the Ancestors-Hindu) are different festivals in different cultures. They have one thing in common. They are all festivals to honor the dead and the ancestors. These are only a handful of celebrations that exist to celebrate ancestors and the dead. The point is that the concept of honoring the dead is still alive and well in this world today.

The practice of honoring the dead is starting to become more common in Pagan practices today as well. Part of that is that many of us are reclaiming this practice. It was a part of ancient pagan traditions, so the practice was largely destroyed in the west. For many reclaiming ancestral veneration as a part of our practice not only connects us to our more recent ancestors and keeps our passed loved ones in our lives, but it also allows us to reach the deepest ancestors we have which can be powerful guides for those starting down pagan paths.

Personal Development of Ancestor work

One of the reasons I am writing this post today is in honor of a new ancestor. A loved one of mine has just crossed the veil. It is this passing that has once again made me think about working with my ancestors and how is really always been a central part of my practice. I haven’t always considered the contact with my ancestors and the shrines to my past loved ones ancestral veneration. I thought it was simply remembering them and keeping them alive.

Ancestor veneration is a large part of my practice and spiritual work. My ancestors have a lot to teach me. I have an ancestor altar that I pray at everyday. While it is a strong part of my practice these days, ancestral veneration and honoring has not always been a large part of my path. In fact it was at one point something I really only did on the festival of the dead (Samhain) as that was the focus. I thought that was really all that was needed, and at the time maybe that was for my best.

When I started to practice witchcraft I had recently lost my Grandmother. Many of the psychics and readings I had done at the time confirmed that she was staying close to me as a spirit guide (I was having dreams of her). So I started working with my ancestors through a single ancestor as a spirit guide. That was 17 years ago. Now I have an altar to all my ancestors as I have learned that any of our ancestors can be our guides and guardians.

Originally I didn’t offer any prayers, or much to my ancestors. I would simply say hello to them when I needed to feel their presence. I had a place of memory for them where I could see them and keep them in my life. Then when I started to explore traditional witchcraft as a religious and spiritual practice I heard of the concept of giving them offerings and having shrines and altars to them. So I created one and started an ancestral prayer working.

The practice with ancestral veneration got even deeper when I started to explore Germanic paganism and found I had Germanic ancestry. When I read how they honored their ancestors and the powers of wyrd and Oorlog I decided that I had to develop my relationship even further. So I started to work them into Germanic rites and rituals through the phrases “The Alfar and the Disir”

There was a time when I stopped practicing basically everything. Then I started to explore Hoodoo. My interest and desires to understand magic and witchcraft returned. Through this I found more focus on ancestors and honoring your culture. I found that ancestors will be powerful allies in spells as well as in meditations and trance work. So through Hoodoo my work with my ancestors started to develop further and I learned new prayers to use for my ancestors.

Now today I have a prayer I say to them every morning and I have a prayer I say every evening to my ancestors. I give them offerings when I perform rituals and I invite them into my ritual circles. They have a part of my day to day life and my spiritual life. I couldn’t imagine my spiritual work without my ancestors at all. They are always there for me and they always will be. I may not be able to physically hold them and see them, but when I need them I can feel them and I know they are always there for me.

The types of ancestors:

Being adopted my ancestors actually come in different forms and types. Not all of my ancestors are of the blood. Some are of the spirit and some are of the heart. I have legal blood ancestors and blood ancestors. I have ancestors in all of my families that I don’t know but are my allies through the bonds of the heart and the spirit. I even have ancestors that are not really in my family at all but are in my spiritual family. All of these ancestors have roles to play in my life and I honor them all.

I dont consider ancestors limited to just the blood and the heart though.This post is going to discuss the different ancestors I have through my adoption and my spiritual practices and how I can honor and work with each of them. For the longest time I didn’t engage in ancestral veneration because of my adoption. I wasn’t sure if I should honor my ancestors of my adoption, my foster family, or my biological family. Thinking about this also was painful so while I wanted to honor my ancestors I didn’t go about it until I had answered my confusion.
How I came to see the types of Ancestors

That was how I came to see the different ancestral lines. One year I went to the local Pagan Pride day. I typically attend a few of the workshops that go on. This year there was one about ancestral work and contacting your ancestors. The key component of that workshop was a meditation on ancestral lines. During this meditation I saw three lines of ancestral blood flowing from my body. There was a fourth that was some what gray at the time and today its now clear.

It was then I knew that I was to honor all of my ancestors. Those of my foster family, my blood or biological family, and my adoptive family. It was through this work that I came to see that there are many different types of ancestors and that not everyone will have access to blood ancestors. Through these meditations and concepts I came to see that there are
four primary types of ancestral allies: You have your ancestors of the Blood, your ancestors of the heart, and the ancestors of the spirit. Adoptive ancestors are actually a mixture of two types which I will get into in the next sections as well as being their own type of ancestor.

Ancestors of The Blood

Every one is familiar with the concept of blood ancestors. These are those of your family or blood line that goes back generations. These are the strongest allies that one can have. These are the ancestors that everyone thinks about when they think of ancestors. Ancestors of the blood also include ancestors gained through marriage and long term committed relationships. When I got engaged to my fiance his ancestors joined mine and mine his. We are a family unit. These ancestors go back generations on each side. So the lines of blood ancestors are very long.

These are the strongest allies that you can have as a spirit. They are the ones that have your best interest at heart. Through the strands of Fate, and the workings of Wyrd we are always directly connected to our ancestors. Our actions reflect them as much as their actions reflect on us. So we need to honor them in our lives and we need to keep them close to us. Before any other spirit is petitioned the ancestors will work stronger for you and faster for you. There is little that is stronger than the power of the blood.

Adoptive Ancestors

For me I also have my adoptive ancestors, These are the ancestors of my adoptive family. They are the family that raised me and that belongs to me. In ancient cultures at times the roles of the blood ancestors would be replaced by the foster and or adoptive family. In my case I never considered them to replace the blood ancestors at all. I considered them additional ancestors that I was blessed to have.

We have no physical blood that ties us. However to all of the world and all legal meanings they are my flesh and blood. That is how I feel about them as well. In all honesty at times they are more my family than my blood and biological family simply because I have minimal contact and my relationship with that family is in its infancy (until recently was non existent). Which is why they are both ancestors of the blood and of the heart. The time that they spent raising me and being involved in my life can not be undone.

They gave their blood, sweat, and tears to me. They are for my my most powerful allies. They have been there for me more than the blood ancestors. They were the first ancestors I have contacted and they were the first ones to make themselves known to me. This is the ancestral line that has been the strongest for me. My blood ancestral work is focused on more ancient pagan ancestor while my adoptive ancestral work is more with Saint and angel work (Hoodoo influences as well).

It is because my adoptive Ancestors gave so much of their blood, sweat, and tears into my life and that they took me in they are also ancestors of the heart. They are of the blood because of the family ties and concepts but of the heart because there is no physical blood. Its a spiritual and memory based blood love. The bond of the heart here shows how even just being in a family for a short while can create strong family bonds.

Ancestors of the Heart

Those of the heart are the family that has passed that are not connected through marriage or blood or even legal adoption. In my case this is where my foster family lies. They did not adopt me but are still my family. I have lost several members of that family and they were all close to me. They are now my ancestors and they watch over me. Our bond is somewhat stronger than blood or law.

These ancestors are some of my more recent ancestors. It was my Uncle Cleve’s passing which made me think about ancestors. He was my foster uncle and is an ancestor of my heart. His two brothers are also my ancestors here. I have a Grandfather here as well. To them and to me the fact that I did not live with them, and was not legally a part of the family after my adoption never mattered. I never stopped being their family. That is what the ancestors of the heart are all about.

The ancestors of the heart are those that have passed on we considered family even if there was no blood between you. These can be friends you thought of as brothers and sisters, close friends and even those who you would consider “father”or “mother” figures. If you feel that they were and are apart of your family in your heart than they are your family and are your ancestors. Never let anyone else tell you any different.

Ancestors of the Spirit:

Finally there are ancestors of the spirit. For me I consider any Occultist, Witch, and Magician who worked hard to preserve the magical and spiritual arts are my spiritual ancestors. Even though I dont agree with all of their teachings and philosophies people like Gerald Gardner, Aliester Crowley, Doreen Valiente, Scott Cunningham, and many others put a lot of work into making magical spirituality acceptable and part of our day to day lives again. Those are a few of my spiritual ancestors as a witch based on the practices I have taken into my practice.

As I explore Hoodoo and other magical systems other spiritual ancestors will come into my practice. For example Marie Laveau is a famous Hoodoo worker in New Orleans. In some respects I could consider her a spiritual ancestor. Other ancestors in the case of Hoodoo would in general be any one who struggled to keep African American spiritual heritage alive through Hoodoo and Rootwork. When a teacher passes I would add them to the spiritual ancestors as well.

You can also have ancestors of the spirit when you are spiritually adopted into a tradition. There are many religions and paths where they are only open to people of a specific culture. Occasionally through the practice of spiritual adoption outsiders are initiated and welcome into that spiritual family. The ancestors of your initiator in these situations become your ancestors and guides as well. It is a spiritual family you have entered into and like all families they will help you and work with you if you honor them as taught.

Working with your ancestors

Now that we have covered the types of ancestors out there and I have mentioned the importance of working with your ancestors its time to actually start thinking about how we can work with them. Why do we work with them, and what the best ways of working with them are.

There are three primary ways aside from meditation and spirit travel work that a person can work with their ancestors. These three forms are the altar, prayers, and offerings. They work well together and serve as a starting point for building power with your ancestral allies. Unless one is experienced in astral travel and spirit communication using those tools right away to work with your ancestors is not the best of ideas. Prayers and altar work are all you really need.

The altar

Really when it comes to working with your ancestors the only real must do I have found is having an altar of some sort where you can offer prayers and other items to them as you get to know them. These altars can evolve and change over time. The point of the altar is to serve as a focal point in your work. The altar is a place for you to offer your prayers and your gifts to them.

Your altar doesn’t need to be fancy. Many people start off not knowing any of their ancestors. In which case a candle, a cup for water, and a plate for offerings is all you would need to contact them. If you know your passed on loved ones and you have photos of them you can and should add those photos to the altar.

The altar also serves as a place of remembrance of the dead. So its a place to put items that make you think of your ancestors as well as their photos. You want it to look nice and appealing. This is going to be their home for you in your house and their place in your life. So its also important to keep the altar neat looking.

Here are some examples of my own ancestral altars and how its changed over time:
Ancestor altar alpha

Ancestor Altar 2

Ancestor altar

As you can see by looking at these altars they have changed over time. As they have changed so has my relationship with my ancestors evolved. The reason I wanted to show you the evolution of the altar is that I want you all to know that you can let your altar change over time. Its not meant to be a static thing! Its meant to be something that evolves with you and with your relationship with the spirits!

There are no limits on your ancestral altar. Let their spirits come through. There are reasons for the symbols I have placed on my altars. They grew as my focus and my relationships grew. One thing has always been common though-the focus has been on remembering them and keeping their memories alive in my life.

Ancestral Prayers

The best way to work with your ancestors even before starting an altar is simply to pray to them. Prayers to your ancestors aren’t really any different than prayers for gods and spirit guides. You are simply having a conversation with your ancestors. Prayers are how we can communicate with them directly and its our best way to communicate with them. They can communicate with us in different ways (dreams, scents, meditations, sudden insights etc) but we can really only speak to them through prayers.

The easiest prayer is simply:
“Blessed Ancestors I welcome you into my life. May you bless and guide me and may you teach me what you yourself can”

That’s all your prayers to your ancestors need to be. You dont need to praise them. You don’t need to have a fancy invocation. You simply can address them as your ancestors and they will listen to you. You dont even really need to ask for a blessing. You could simply say something along the lines of:
“Good Morning Ancestors. I welcome you this day”.

All you are doing with your prayers is acknowledging that they exist and that they are apart of your world. By giving them a simple welcome everyday you will start to feel their presence build up. You will begin to know them and feel them like you do can with other spirits and beings that you work with. The more attention you give them the more you will notice them.

Prayers can be more complex and verbose. My personal prayers evolved from a simple Hello and welcome to a full blessing and daily petition for them to be here. There is a bit of praise and there is a bit of thanks. These prayers are offered twice daily. I feel that they flowed from me into the written form when I was channeling spirits and writing prayers for them. My ancestors let me know what they wanted.

Offerings and Gifts

The final way that we can work with our ancestors is in offerings and gifts. These gifts are ways that we say thank you and show our appreciation to them. There are many ways types of gifts that can be given to our ancestors. You can give your ancestor basically anything you would give yourself or a person. They are still family and they are still people.

For myself I consider flowers on graves a gift to them. I also place flowers on the altars every so often as remembrances of them. I try and give them their favorite flowers. I also try and give them their favorite things. For my grandmother I will think of her when I go bowling and send her some of that energy as play and a memory of our times together.

On holidays I will set aside a portion of the food on my plate for my ancestors. I will let it sit till the end and eat that last. They eat the essence of that portion while I eat my meal. When I have finished the portion for me they will have had their fill and I can take nourishment from the food. Other cultures burn food offerings to ancestors and spirits. Some burry the food in the yard. Other throw it into the woods for animals to eat.

There are some taboos in various cultures about what can and can’t be given to ancestors and the dead. If you belong to a specific culture, religion, and or tradition I suggest that you look into ways that they honor the dead. By honoring the traditions of your culture, your religion and your tradition you are honoring your ancestors in that way as well. These traditions after all were ancestral in many cases.

Conclusion:

This post has covered my own discovery into the importance of ancestral veneration. It has covered the types of ancestors and a few of the ways that we can work with our ancestors. Your ancestors are part of who you are. They are powerful allies that can teach you things you wouldn’t imagine and who can be there for you in ways none else can. Your ancestors are still here in this life and in this world just in a different form.

There are many ways to work with them. Once you start working with them you will find that there are many more ways and reasons to work with them. I’ve been working with my ancestors actively for several years and my relationships with them continue to grow and develop. I am constantly learning new reasons to honor them and new ways of working with them. The more I learn the more I realize there is to learn.

These allies seem to be the ones that develop the most as I develop spiritually. The more I understand spiritual and magical practices the stronger they seem to become and the more things we seem to be able to so together. Its my hope that any one who has read this will start to develop their own relationships with their ancestors and start to find the power and comfort in ancestral grace and guidance.

Basics-What they are and why they are important

Basics:

What are the basics of any path and why they are important

Today we are going to talk about an important topic.  Today we are going to discuss what it is when they mean “tell me about the basics of X religion or X path”  This is a question that many seekers often ask in forums and on mailing lists.  In some ways this question seems obvious to answer, but it also at times seems to represent a lack of previous research.  The lack of previous research is not necessarily a bad thing as at this point in the seekers stage they may be looking for bare bones information from which to refine their search for their path.  This is why it can be important to look at some 101 books before you read to much lore on a specific culture.

What the basics include

The basics of any religion or spiritual path are easy to outline.  While not every path has every belief or idea I am going to outline, the idea and concepts behind these basics are found in enough spiritual paths across the world that they can be considered what the basics would be.  Basics of a religion include the pantheon or pantheons involved in that particular path (this covers the basic mythology of the path), the style and types of rituals involved and a rough idea of what ritual entails, views on the afterlife and the soul, views on spirits and spirit realms, holidays, and ethics.  Each of these basic components provide excellent insight into what each religion essentially believes in and what may be involved in being a part of that particular path.

As I cover the basics of what religions and spiritual paths include I am going to use a few different pagan paths as examples.  Most of the references in this post are going to come from either Germanic paganism, Witchcraft (many different forms), or Hellenic Paganism as these are the paths I have the most experiences with.  However in general use the examples as an idea for what you may encounter with the paths that you are looking to explore and study.  These examples are going to illustrate why these aspects of a religion are important to understand for those paths and why they form the basics.

Pantheon, Pantheons and Spirits

Every religion and spiritual path out there has a unique set of spirits and spirit beings that they work with.  These beings do not need to be Gods or even called Gods.  They can just be a set of spiritual entities which are worked with for spiritual development.  The establishment of which beings are in which path helps a seeker to know which myths are going to be the source for knowledge on the Gods.

It also gives the seeker a culture to research and in some cases a specific name for a path to follow.  For example if you know you want to work with the gods from Shintoism you would be following a Japanese pantheon and set of spirits.  If that was our path you would now also want to do research on the culture and the history of the Japanese people.  You may even want to learn some of the language.

Style and Type of ritual

Different cultures and religions had different rituals.  The rituals in Asatru (A Norse/Germanic Paganism recon pagan path) are not the same type of rituals you will encounter in Wicca.  The rituals in Wicca are different than the rituals in a Kemetic (Egyptian style of paganism).  The rituals in each culture and path are a reflection of the ways that humans and Gods interacted in those cultures.  By understanding the basic outlines of different types of rituals you can understand a bit more about the cultures that religion and ritual style is dedicated to.

In Wicca and many forms of religious witchcraft the rituals involve typically a circle being cast.  That circle creates a sacred space. The elemental forces are called.  The God and Goddess are invoked.  Here we have the workings either magical or sabbat related.  There is an offering given to the Gods.  The Gods are released from the circle and the other elemental forces are released.  The circle is taken up and the ritual is over followed by a feast or grounding with food.

This ritual outline there gives a seeker an idea of what exactly will happen during a worship service and ritual.  This information gives a person a vague idea of what they will need to do if they seek to follow that specific path.  This is useful information because if a person doesn’t like the basic outlines of rituals in a path then that path may not be for them, or they may need to study further to see if there are other ways that they can adapt rituals.  It is a starting point for ritual work concepts any way.

Views on the soul and the afterlife

Many religions have views of some sort on the soul and the afterlife.  For many people their belief in the afterlife and the soul is a large defining aspect of their path.  So in many paths this is a basic concept.   Many people will choose spiritual paths which reflect how they personally feel about their beliefs in the spirit and the soul.

Christianity for example does believe in a soul and in an afterlife.  The specific views on the soul and the afterlife play a large role in the beliefs and works of this religion and as such it forms a good example of why the view on the soul and the afterlife are basic components of a religion and or spiritual path.

Spirits and Spiritual Realms or Spirits and Cosmology

Different paths have different spirits that they work with and believe in.  In some of these paths there are many different realms where different beings and spirits exist.  One of these realms is typically the realm where the Gods live and at least one other realm aside from the physical world is the world of the dead.  Other paths like Asatru teach that there are many different realms with different spirits that live in those worlds.  For example in Asatru there are nine different realms.  These realms are Asgard, Vanaheim, Jotenhiem, Midgard, Muspelheim, Swarvelheim, Alfheim ,Helheim, and Nifelheim.

Here is a meme depicting the cosmology of  Germanic and Norse Paganism.

Asatru world tree

Each of those realms have a few specific type of beings that live in them.  Asgard is the realm of the Gods in Norse Myth.  Here Odin lives.  Helheim is the realm of the dead.  Jotenheim is the realm of the Giants.  Vanaheim is where the Vanir live.  Alfheim is the realm of the light elves.  Swartvelheim is the realm of the dark elves or dwarves.  Midgard is earth.  Nifelehim and Muspelheim are realms of fire and ice.

In Norse religion understanding how these realms interact and how they work together is a part of the basics.  Here you have seen the realms that are involved in this cosmology and you have been introduced to the concept of a few of the spiritual beings that are encountered in the Norse/Germanic Myths.

Holidays and special occasions

One of the main things people think about in religions are the holidays.  What are the sacred and special days of the Gods and spirits of this path.  These holidays provide times for worshiping and or strengthening relationships with the Gods and spirits.  Some times holidays provide further ways to examine the lore and engage in cultural activities that were specific to that holiday and that time of year.

Some cultures have massive holiday schedules.  The Hellenic holiday calender is very complex and long.  Those who seek to practice Greek Paganism often have a long list of holidays to choose from.  Each of the holidays had a specific reason for being there and some of them were specific to certain Gods and cults.  The major holiday in Hellenic paganism that most look into the the festival surrounding the Elysian Mysteries.

With pagans who have complex festival cycles and associations they can often choose which ones to follow.  Typically you find the holidays that were the most important to the Gods that you are worshiping in that culture.  For example those who are close to Dionysus, Demeter, and Persephone would definitely be doing something for the festival of the Elysian mysteries while a Greek Pagan dedicated more to Pan would find festivals for Pan.

This illustrates the key point I wanted to make with the holidays.  There is a major misconception that all pagan paths follow the 8 sabbats or the wheel of the year as it is known and seen in Wicca and Wicca flavored Pagan paths.  Asatru does not have the 8 sabbats.  There are 4 of them but not all 8.  Hellenismos has lots of festivals.  Other religions have only one or two that are key components.

Ethics and Morals

Every path out there seeks to teach the idea of what is right and what is wrong.  Many spiritual paths form the basis for how we as individual treat each other.  Some paths have been so influential on cultures that the ethical considerations of that religion have formed the basics of how that culture interacts with people.  Basically ethics influence how we act as a person and how we act in society to other people and with other people.

The rede is the basic ethical outline considerations for Wiccan styled pagan paths.  The idea is that you basically do what ever you want so long as you harm none.  The rede even states: “an it harm none do what ye will”.  This is the way many witches who follow Wicca inspired paths live their lives.  Other witches follow different ethical considerations that are more informative.

Some paths don’t call their ethical or moral codes ethical and moral codes.  Some paths call them virtues.  The Germanic paths idea of how you should live life has a set of what they call the nine nobel virtues.  These virtues outline personal behavior as well as different types of actions that can be found.

Here is another meme that lists the nine noble virtues:

Nine Nobel Virtues

By knowing the ethical standards of a path a person can get an idea of what sort of lifestyle they can have.  The idea of the morals and ethics are the ideas behind how the Gods want their followers to behave.  Often times these ideas include day to day life as well as during conflicts and social settings.  The ideas in the ethics are what that path considers to be a good person and living a good life.

Conclusion

This entry here has given you an idea of what the basics of any particular faith are.  The examples given come from some of the most popular pagan and spiritual paths.  Its important to understand what the basics of a religion or magical path is before you start to get to deep into studies.  The basics of the paths provide everything you need to know to understand the beliefs and practices of that particular path and practice.  If you understand the basic concepts before you step too deeply in the path, you can have an understanding on if those beliefs and concepts resonate with your personal beliefs and concepts.

Once you understand the basics of a path you can then start to take your studies deeper.  With Norse paganism you can start to spend time to study and experience the various realms.  You can look at other practices including magical traditions in the Norse belief systems.  You can find ways to look at the basics and become deeper involved with them.  Once you know the basics its all building from there.

Though a true seeker knows that revisiting the basics is at time a good thing to do.  It strengthens foundations and deepens experiences with more advanced concepts and practices within the belief system you have chosen to follow.  Once you know the basics you can start to also go off and create your personal understandings and developments spiritually.  The basics give us a strong base from which to grow our understandings of that universe.

 

D: The divine in my world-Omnitheism defined

The divine in Ominitheism

I live a constantly evolving paradox in some ways. I am an omnitheist. Its an all encompassing view of the divine. I say all encompassing because depending on what sort of ritual I am working my view on the divine will change or be modified. I make room for experiences of the divine in basically any and all formats as I believe the overall Divine to be something that humans can not fully understand in our form. This also means I will and have experienced the divine in many different forms.

Basically I am a Hard Polytheist in that I believe in all individual Gods in pantheons and religions. I may not have encountered them all like I’ve never met to my knowledge any of the Gods associated with Chinese religions or Hinduism or even Native American traditions, but I still believe those Gods are individual beings. This also means that I Do believe in Yaweh/Allah/Jehovah or the God of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. I can’t emphasis this enough. I just believe that they are an individual God among many.

This also means that when I work a ritual from the context of a soft polytheistic view where they believe all the Gods are one God and all the Goddesses are one Goddess I believe the God and Goddess of that religion are a unique God and Goddess whose impressions are a combination of the psychological archetypes of the many Gods and Goddesses in literature. So I believe that there is a God and Goddess out there who through modern Wicca and Modern religious witchcraft movements who is a manifested form and force of All Gods and all Goddesses, though each person in this religious form focuses on specific names to them it doesn’t matter and to this divine duo the names do not matter. They are nameless and yet have many names.

Like wise my belief in the God of the three big religions allows me to attend church services with family members and treat it as I would the worship of any other God within their specific religious constraints. Yaweh and I have an understanding of sorts in that I believe in him and have accepted that he is the supreme God in those religions. However I never in the Christian tradition I was a heretic of sorts believing that the trinity was a set of three divine beings. So like I said we’ve reached an understanding of sorts that is uncomfortable at best for the both of us. I maintain my belief that he is one of many thousands of Gods and I treat the church services as that Gods particular style of worship.

In this way it is not any different than how I outlined I have approached the worship of Greek Gods and Norse Gods. I approach their worship from a recon style and perspective. I find that recons so long as the worship of the different pantheons or cultures is separate then you can follow more than one path. Its about respecting the Gods and making sure that you worship them in a way that would have been appropriate in that particular culture.

This is also why recons who may worship different Gods in different cultures will keep the worship separate. The different cultural groups all had different styles and types of rituals. So it makes sense to worship Greek Gods with Greek Rituals and Norse Gods with Norse Rituals. It is also respectful as they were separate cultures.

In this way I treat Christianity as a culture which it really is. The Christian worldview has impacted the world culture in many ways, so when I go to church I feel that I am engaging in that aspect of the culture I live in, as well as the culture where this God (Yaweh) is worshiped.

I believe that all the Gods of the Greek pantheon are individuals. I believe that all the Gods of the Norse pantheon are individuals (to the point where even the tribal differences in views and concepts may actually be different divine forces) an so forth for each pantheon. I even believe that the 12 big Gods of the Greek pantheon and the 12 great Gods of the Roman pantheon who are often said to be the same beings are separate beings (Zeus and Jupiter are different Gods in my view and not the same as in other views of the two pantheons).

I have experienced too many different types of divine individuals to not believe that in some way all views of the divine are true. This is why I consider myself to be an omnitheist. While I believe that there are individual Gods and Goddesses (Athena, Frigga, Isis, Ceriweden, etc to name a few and only a few) as individual people (like I am different from you) I also believe that there may be an overruling God of each force like there may be a generic Goddess of Love and God of war that are essentially made up of all the other Gods of each force).

I have experienced individual divine forces and I have experienced overarching all encompassing divine forces. I believe all paths hold truths. This is why I believe that by studying all religions and philosophies I can gain even more insight into the divine and the mysteries of the universe. In this way I may also be a chaos magician where I change paradigms as needed for ritual and spiritual work, if so than I am a chaos witch. I’ve experienced too many different styles of the divine manifesting to not believe that all versions of the divine are true

Suffice to say this basically outlines most of my concept of the divine. My views of the divine are constantly evolving and changing. I’ve had too many different experiences to not be willing to be open to every possible avenue for the divine to manifest. Though because I also believe in the power of the mind I also think that we can create divine forces or manifestations of the divine energy through names and other experiences.

In essence this is where part of my experience of the five Gods and Goddesses that are the divine beings in Pentalism comes from my experience with the various Unnamed Gods and Goddesses of Eclectic Wiccan and Eclectic Neo-pagan witchcraft traditions.  Each tradition had some very similar concepts of the God and Goddess but there were enough differences that I started to feel that perhaps there was actually more then one God and Goddess involved in the myths and lore of Modern witchcraft.

Those divine beings are basically a separation and division of the five different types of Gods and Goddesses I have experienced through different versions of modern Eclectic Wiccan lore. I thought that because there were essentially five different ways I saw the Gods manifested that there were five distinct Gods and Goddesses worshiped in Wiccan traditions. The more I study and think about the different God forms and Goddess forms and associations I see the more those five Gods make sense.

So I figure I’m developing a tradition that treats the seasonal versions of the Gods as individuals and the Moon Goddess and Sun God as separate beings. I’m still developing experiential lore in meditations to support this particular divine setting but so far it seems to make sense. The season energies are very different so the Gods involved in each season would be different.  There will be more information on those Gods in the next post, outlining the Gods and Goddess of Pentalism.

Omnitheism I feel is important as a view and philosophy of the divine as it allows for extreme personal experiences.  It allows people to experience the divine as individual beings while also accessing the divine forces behind say healing with out specific names.  This allows people to have both experiences with the individual divine beings in the various pantheons and the overall divine forces that are out there in life.

Pagan Blog Project: B is for Belief

What I believe

Since this blog is entirely about my own personal path and how it has been developing I think its about time I actually discussed what some of my beliefs are.  One thing about my beliefs is that while I do have core beliefs how I understand that has been known to change and evolve.  This is a good thing.  When my understanding of my beliefs change or how I apply my beliefs changes it means I have grown and developed quite a bit spiritually.

The whole idea with spirituality for me is to develop my sense of connection to the universe and to my Gods.  As my experiences change in the world around me and as I learn new things I may change my beliefs.  I don’t believe in having solid and steady unchanging beliefs.  For me to have an unchanging or to be unwilling to change beliefs and practices when given different experiences means that I am not willing to grow as a person.  In nature that which does not grow or change dies.  The same thing can happen to a persons spirituality.  If they are not open to new experiences and developments they will not grow spiritually and their spirituality and personal spirit can die.

Now that I have explained some of that background information I can actually start to tell you a bit about my personal beliefs.  As it has been mentioned before this blog serves mostly as a place for me to sort out information and concepts for my personal path and practices.  This blog also serves as a way for me to try and form a cohesive path pieced together out of many different fragments and forms to be one united path.

So where should I start?  I guess I will start with my belief in the divine.  This is actually one of the simplest and most basic beliefs that I have.  It has evolved out of study and reading of multiple sacred texts and mythologies.  This belief has also developed out of my personal study of folklore and fairy tales as well as personal experiences in the spirit worlds and in worship with many different Gods,

I personally would call myself an omnitheist.  I will get into that in a different post later as omnitheism is one of the core tenants in this path I am developing.  Omnitheism is essentially the belief in all deities.  I do not need to know about or experience and have personal relationships with all deities to believe in them.  In holding this belief I can respect every path on the planet equally as all of the Gods worshiped are equally valid in my view.  I have had personal experiences with to many different God personalities to say that some Gods exist and others don’t.  So I believe that they are all real.

I think the next thing I will touch on is cosmology.  My cosmology is complex and simple.  I believe in many other worlds.  I believe that because of all the Gods all the different heavens exist as do all the different underworlds.  I believe that they are all separate realms within a basic three realm paradigm.  All the realms of the Gods are in the upper worlds and heavens.  All of the underworlds or lands of the dead are in one location with this reality or earth in the middle.

That is the basics.  This is where it gets a little more complicated.  I also believe in realms for individual spirit types.  I believe there is a realm for all fire spirits and all water spirits you get the idea.  I also believe in realms of the elements.  I also believe in a realm where all form of Dragons live and exist.  I believe in a realm and world of the elves as well as the dwarves and other spirits.  I believe that these worlds exist here along side this world in ways that we can’t really see and experience.

I also hold the nine worlds in Germanic mythology as part of my paradigm.  So it holds that else where in the cosmos the realms and the worlds of the other spiritual paths and Gods would be there as well.  I have not experienced all of them but I can see them all being there.  They are all tied together through the web of human experience which will bring me to my next belief and concept.

I believe in Fate.  Fate is the web of reality.  Fate is the universe.  Fate is all of us interacting together in a way we can not all understand.  Fate is the way that we are all interconnected and related on a spiritual and universal level.  Fate is everything around us, all that we see hear and experience and all that exists on the other side of the world at the same time unseen and essentially unknown to us.

Fate is that which must happen based on that which has gone before.  Fate is a combination of events that work together to create what which we know and see as the world we live in.  Fate is also how the unseen worlds and the unseen forces in the universe work for us and against us.  Fate is cause and effect.  Fate is basically all options at any time but only that which fits according to the patterns woven in our lives will come out to pass.

I will say more on fate at a later date.  For now we are a part of fate and fate is reality.  This forms a large part of my world view and the view of reality around me.  It also plays a little into my belief and understanding on what magic is.  Though part of my belief in fate and my belief in the many underworlds and afterlife is a belief in the soul.

I believe in a soul.  I also believe in an afterlife.  My belief in the soul plays a role in my belief in the afterlife and in the other worlds.  My belief in the soul is one of the core beliefs I am setting for this tradition.  I believe that the soul is actually not just one thing but a combination of five different spiritual forces that work together to form an individual life.  I believe that in essence the soul is eternal but it also changes forms and has different parts.  Each part has a different role.  Because the belief in the soul is complex I am going to leave it at this: I believe in a soul that is the force of life that allows us to live and have experiences.  It is what makes a person or being alive.

I believe in spiritual realms for different spirits.  So I believe in many different spirits.  I believe that all animals have a spirit inside of them or an individual soul.  I also believe that there is a spirit ruling over all domestic dogs for example and the like.  I also believe that each individual species of plants have their guardian spirit of that plant species as well as individual souls.  I even believe that stones and crystals also have a ruling spirit and an individual spirit.

I also believe in Genis Loci or the spirits of places.  I believe that mountains have their own spirits.  I believe that ponds have their own spirits.  I even believe that small ponds can also have many spirits in the area like mountain spirits, broke spirits, as well as the spirits of all the plants and animals in the area.  I believe homes posses individual spirits.  I also believe that the land our homes our build on also have individual spirit forces.

I believe in magic.  Magic I believe is a practice, a force, a skill, and a craft.  I believe that magic is the energy we use to cause changes in this world.  I also believe that magic is the force that causes change in this universe.  I believe magic is the force of change and creation.  Its a force for creation and destruction.  Magic is a force for life and for spiritual gain as well as daily gain.  Magic is also a mystery and a tool by which we can access the mysteries of the universe.

I also believe in psychic abilities.  I believe that we can sense and see spirits.  I believe that people can sense and see spiritual energy and personal energetic fields known as auras.  I also believe that we can contact guardian spirits and receive information from them.  I believe that we can also tap into some higher selves and spirit forms and use tools like tarot cards, runes, shells, bones, and other objects to tell or gain insight into the future.

I believe that we all have these psychic abilities.  I do believe that we need to learn how to train them and work with them though.  I believe that psychic abilities like these provide us all with excellent ways to understand the world around us.  It is also through our psychic abilities and practices that we can experience spirits, Gods, and travel to the other worlds.  So I believe that learning what our specific psychic senses are strongest and working with them to be developed is essential to spiritual development.

I believe in spirit world travels.  I believe that we can travel in spirit to the other worlds.  I believe that these travels help us understand and experience the mysteries of the universe.  These travels give me insight into the different types of spirits out there and how they may work.  Its how I meet spirit guides and how I have experienced some Gods and the spirit realms.  Astral travel and shamanic journeys are central tools to this practice.

So there you have it.  You have some of the basic beliefs that I hold.  As I said some of the beliefs I hold are very complex and could use more attention than warranted in this one post about the basic beliefs I have.  Those beliefs like the ones on the cosmology, fate, and the soul are going to be written about in more length as time continues.  For now you at least know where my basic beliefs are.

As always if you have any questions for me about my beliefs or anything I post or say here please let me know.  I will answer them to the best of my ability.

Pagan Blog Project: E is for Ethics the rede and the Nine Nobel Virtues

This week we are going to discuss Ethics on my blog. Now many people believe that the only witch ethic out there is the Rede which states “An it harm none do what you will”. This is not true. There are many paths and traditions which all have their own unique ethical content and practices. The rede of Wicca is only one out of many ethical paths and choices out there.

I do not follow the Wiccan Rede. The rede to me is great advice. I use the rede to basically look at my actions and my beliefs. The rede isn’t a law or guidance. The word rede means advice. Its a set of words meant to advise you of your actions. The rede then doesn’t prohibit harm at all. The rede to me then is a guide to actions. The rede does permit actions that wont harm others. It doesn’t prohibit those actions. It says if it doesn’t harm any one go ahead an do it. It doesn’t say never harm anyone.

My ethics are a bit different. I use the rede to think about my actions before I take them. This is my ethical practice. If I can accept the consequences of my actions and if I can live with any effects they have than I will perform the act. If I can’t accept or am not comfortable with even one of the possible consequences of my actions I will not follow that path of action. I also look at the consequences of inaction. Sometimes not acting can be worse than performing an action.

For me I look at magical works as another tool in my pocket for dealing with challenges and situations that arise in day to day life. If I can use a spell to aid a friend or family manner in some fashion I am going to. If some one threatens my family or loved ones I will use magic for a tool if I feel it is worth it. I believe in using any and all tools I have to making my goals come true.

Now I mentioned using magic as a way to protect and help my family in defensive actions. This is true. I believe in the right to strike back and or the right to defend myself and my family. If someone is gossiping about me or my family I may use a spell to get them to stop the gossip. However I will never strike first. I will only use magic to attack some one if they have done something to me first.

For me its important to protect and care for my loved ones. For me that is part of my honor. Honor is a high ethical consideration for me. If some one has disrespected my family and friends then they have earned what comes their way. I would prefer to use means like shields, mirror spells, and bindings before moving to a curse or a hex. Each situation is different so each working would be different.

I like to think that I am an ethical person. I live on the whole mostly by society rules. I care for myself and I work hard to keep my home clean. I treat other people with respect unless otherwise shown. I am nice to people and I help those I can in need. These are all things I do to try and live an honorable and good life.

Honor and respect are more important to me than ethics actually. That may be because Germanic pagans actually have a series of virtues that they use as their ethical code of conduct. This ethical code of conduct has inspired me in my life. Following those virtues is one of the ways Germanic paganism has influenced my life and my path.

Now that I have discussed the rede and how I don’t follow it and how I am honorable I am going to actually discuss the nine noble virtues. These virtues as I have mentioned form the basis of my ethical practices and considerations. They are for me sometimes difficult to follow, but they are important to me and to my Gods. So I do my best to follow them.

Nine Nobel Virtues

The Nine Nobel Virtues are: Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Industry, Self-Reliance, and Perseverance. Each of these virtues works together. In many ways if you are not working well on one virtue, the other virtues fall and fail a little as well.

Courage basically means having the strength to face the challenges given to you and to know when to ask for help. It also means trying over and over again when you have failed in order to succeed. Being courageous does not mean you don’t have any fear. It simply means that you act courageous when you are in the act of facing your fears.

For me in my life courage is facing emotionally difficult situations and dealing with them as they arise. This also means for me working through some difficult issues in my past to see past the pain and to face all emotions related to some of those situations. Courage is not being fearless for me. Courage is facing your fears even when you are scared and coming through the situation on the other side.

Truth is basically self-evident. To me it simply means that you should always tell the truth and that means being true to yourself as well. In many ways it is about making sure your actions are honorable. You should not be making excuses for doing acts that you “know” are wrong. Truth here is also in stating what you remember about situations when asked and not exaggerating them. Its sticking to facts and not perspectives.

As a witch I need to be true to myself. In being true to myself I need to accept all aspects of myself and my personality. Some of these aspects I don’t like. I use courage to face them and work with them. Being true to myself is also knowing where my heart really lies. Its also in knowing what my real desires are and what my true dreams and goals in this life are.

Honor is something that can be difficult to explain. Honor goes hand in hand with respect. Honor means acknowledging that you respect a person’s actions and how they live their lives. Honor also means living your life the way you would like others to live and a life that you would see as respectful and honorable.

In my life I am honorable by keeping my word. I am honorable by respecting the wishes of other people. I am also honorable in that I keep work to protect my loved ones. I live honorably by being respectful of others. I may not always agree with someone but if I can respect their views I can honor them by respectfully disagreeing with them.

Fidelity is not something many people would think of as a virtue today. However I personally find that it is a very important virtue. Fidelity is loyalty. I take loyalty very seriously. When I give myself to a cause or an idea and it rises to an action I do what I can. Loyalty is staying true to your friends and your allies.

I am loyal to my friends. When I say I am loyal to my friends I mean I am to the best of my ability there for them when they need me. I am loyal to my friends by not sharing information they give me on subjects. I also show them loyalty by helping them. In some cases it may mean supporting them in situations you don’t want to deal with, but you help them out because they are friends and or family and that is what you do for friends and family.

Discipline is one thing I think that many people in today’s societies are lacking. Discipline does not have to mean making people behave a specific way through punishment. Instead in terms of the Nine Nobel Virtues it means working hard to change a behavior, and shaping a behavior. Discipline here is also about steady practice and continuing behaviors.

In my life I am actually actively working on cultivating discipline. This is one area I have lacked. When I have had difficulties on something I have taken a break rather than work through it. Discipline for me also means keeping a steady schedule with practices and keeping up steady routines in spiritual work. If I start to lag or forget one day discipline is starting back up again the next day.

Hospitality is something people don’t often think about. In the ancient times when the tribal religions were being practiced, even if you had your own land, everything you did was also for your community. Today it is about helping out when at a friend’s place or when they are at your place offering drinks or snacks or things to make them be at home. It is about sharing what is yours with someone else.

There are many ways I work with and include Hospitality in my life. When I go over to any of my families houses for the Holidays I always bring something of my own. This is a contribution to the event allowing my host or hostess to not have to do all the work. I also pick up after myself when I am over there. I offer any guests food and drink when they enter my home. Its also about offering to get something for my fiance’ if I am out getting a drink or something.

Industriousness is basically spending your days working towards something. It means doing more than the minimum in order to get things done. It means giving your all and being productive. It also means taking time to play. Playing is how we explore new things and ideas and recharge our energies. It’s a balance between work and play making sure you get the most out of everything you do.

Industriousness for me is working on my blogs. Its working on my small business. Industriousness is also about managing my time. By managing my time when I do housework I am able to make sure I can get housework done as well as any business work or other work I wanted to get done that day. Industriousness is about having a productive day. Though occasionally having a day to just relax is industrious as we can not always work or always play. A balance is needed.

Self-Reliance is something I think every person needs to work on in some areas. It means being responsible for yourself and your actions. It means doing as much as you can by yourself and knowing when you need help to do something that you cannot do yourself. Self-Reliance also means that over time you will learn new skills to do what you can for yourself.

I like to consider myself to be a very self reliant person. I do what I can on my own. I don’t drive so I work hard to try and arrange rides with buses, taxis, and family or friends as needed. I work and buy most of my own fun items like game systems or even books. I don’t like asking for things. I do my best to do what I can on my own with what I have for a living situation and transportation situation. One way I work on self reliance is I pay all of my own bills. I also put money towards the house but I pay the bills in my name with my own money.

Perseverance is probably the most difficult virtue for me. This virtue is the one of keeping with something until the job is done. It means trying and trying over and over again. It also means knowing that you may need to start over with a new idea and begin from the start. It also means that if your project is futile and not worth the time and effort that you need to move on to something else. You don’t get credits for stupidity.

This for me goes hand in hand with discipline. I have had difficulties with math in the past. I used perseverance and was able to learn the math and pass the classes. I just didn’t give up. There are many things that are difficult for me to do. Learning them and working on them for me takes a lot of patience and perseverance. By working on this skill I can become better at dealing with frustrations and I can ultimately end up completing goals and accomplish my dreams.

Now you see that there are ways of being a witch and living and ethical life that is not limited to the rede. One can work offensive or baneful magic and have it be an ethical and moral choice. It all depends on what your virtues and your values are. In the end so long as I am respectful of others, treat others as I want to be treated, and do my best to embody what I hold as a virtue I feel I live not only ethical but also honorable.

Review: The Way of Wyrd by Brian Bates

The Way of Wyrd

The book The Way of Wyrd is a fictional story of a Christian Monk who is sent to learn the ways of the Anglo-Saxon pagans. The story is rich and entertaining. The author worked hard to research and present the information in a way that was informative and entertaining. By working the true beliefs of the Anglo-Saxon sorcerers into this work of fiction the author has brought back the use of stories to transmit knowledge and information.

The book is actually in two parts. The first part focuses on the early aspects of the Monk’s training. Here the monk is very skeptical of all the powers the sorcerer claims to work with and hold. While he works hard to learn all he can learn, Brand (the name of the monk) never really believes the ways of the people or that the powers are real.

In this part of the book the author introduces the basic beliefs of the people. The story actually opens with Brand working with Wulf (the sorcerer) at a healing ceremony banishing an evil spirit. This powerful start to the book illustrates a few of the key practices and beliefs that Brand is exposed to as he begins the training. This ceremony is set after he has completed his journey so we see here that Brand has much to learn and yet he was open to them.

In this first part of the book Brand is highly skeptical of the beliefs and practices. There are some that even scare him. Though he is fascinated with the tales of the Gods and of the spirits he does not appreciate their real value aside from primitive beliefs and practices.

The first powerful ritual that Brand is exposed to is an example of his difficulty in attempting to switch worldviews to learn the beliefs and practices. Here Brand is taught about gathering power from plants and how to properly gather the plant and give it an offering.

Other powerful rituals are experienced in this section. Here the author also goes into reading the omens of nature such as the flight pattern of birds and the way fish swim. The largest concept of Germanic paganism introduced here is the concept of Wyrd and knowing how to read and work with Wyrd.

The final experience in this section of the book Brand has is watching Wulf heal an elf shot horse. When Brand declares the process a fraud Wulf knows then that he must make Brand experience these forces or the mission to learn their ways will be a failure. The experience at the farm and Brand’s declaration of being a fraud.

In the second part of the book Brand is forced to encounter the shamanic aspects of Germanic paganism. Here we learn about spirit flight, how our spirits can be stolen, and how to work a soul retrieval in the practices of the Anglo-Saxon sorcerers.

The authors use of the narrative story teaches several elements of Germanic paganism. There are tales of the Gods taught, beliefs about plant lore explored, beliefs of the soul, and much more. The book provides through the story a basic concept and outline of many main beliefs found in Germanic Paganism as well as in Traditional Witchcraft, Anglo-Saxon shamanism, and much more. This book was well researched and written allowing a student to learn concepts in a way that non-fiction books may not be able to portray them.

Why those who seek spiritual connections are always studying

The last few blog entries have been focusing on why pagans and witches are very individual people and why personal truth is so important.  Today is a bit of a continuation on that theme.  Today it’s about why witches and pagans are always seemingly reading a new book or looking for new materials to study,

There is always something new to explore or even something old to reexamine.  With in the realms of spiritual practices and spiritual development there is always something new to learn about.  There are so many different cultures out there that one can always look to new cultures for further inspiration as to where they would like to go or different types of practices.

I’m going to provide a few cultural examples that you can look at to see what I mean when it comes to looking for new things to study and explore to advance your spiritual practices and development.  These are examples of things that I have looked at and thought about for my own personal studies.  Though these will only serve as examples.  From here  I will go back and talk about what exactly this means for you as a seeker and a practitioner.

The first example I am going to cover is that of Germanic Paganism and witchcraft.  These are two spiritual and religious paths that are a part of my personal practice that also inspire and help form the products that this business sells.  This is also a popular culture to explore spiritually right now with more people having interest in Germanic mythology with new pop culture references.

In Germanic paganism there is a lot of lore that can be explored.  Most people start off with the Eddas and Sagas.  With in the Eddas and Sagas there are many tales of magical practices and spiritual works.  This is where most of the concepts of Modern Germanic worship come from such as the Blot and the Sumbel.  The Eddas and Sagas while having an extensive study in themselves, is not the only source of the lore out there.

Many people are familiar with the Grimm’s brothers fairy tales.  These fairy tales actually come from the Germanic forests,  These fairy tales provide another source of wealth for practicing Germanic Paganism and witchcraft.  The tales describe many different spirits and even some of the traditional practices of the Dwarves, Witches, Elves, and other spirits found within Germanic cultures.   These tales provide even further keys into the folk knowledge that create the base of witchcraft and other magical practices.

Aside from the fairytale and the Eddas there are other sources of practical information.  The Rune poems give inspiration for the practice of rune magic which has been mentioned in the Eddas and the Sagas.  By reading the Rune poems a Germanic Pagan begins to study another wealth of information regarding the spiritual practices of the ancient Germanic Pagans.

Even within the Umbrella of Germanic Paganism and practices one could go into even more specific studies.  For example one could focus their attention on the continental practices in old Germany and Norway for example.  Focusing even further on some of those specific tribes.  One person could even focus on the Anglo-Saxon practices (England mostly here for those looking for a region).   One could go so far as to say that even the Icelandic practices and tribal setting would have been different.

While each of these tribes had a base shared language and some base cultural similarities, the names for the Gods and even some of the specific practices were different.  Though they were similar and related enough that the cultures and tribes were able to trade and intermarry and work successfully together in war and in peace.

Those are just a few examples from the Germanic cultures.  There is so much to explore and study within one area of the vast umbrella of Paganism and Pagan spirituality that one will always find something new to learn and study.  Even if a person decides to stick to a specific set of cultural practices and identities ( Germanic paths for example) there will always be something to learn.

Here is a set of examples from a different Pagan culture completely.  Hellenic Paganism or Greek style Paganism has many different facets.  This cultural style of study and practice can be even more difficult and extensive as it is so diverse.  You have on one hand the cults for each city state as well as cults of areas.

Greece because of the way it was organized for many years did not have really a cohesive religion for the culture.  They had in general a pantheon that they all shared with some common festivals, but each area was highly specific.  There were areas where people focused their entire worship on One of the Gods and you had those whose temples were only really visited once a year (The Elysian mysteries for example).

Hellenic pagans from what I have found typically follow one or two specific Gods that are their Patron Gods. While extensive research into the practices of worship in the culture is important in order to form bonds closer to their chosen deities they will most likely focus their attention on studying the cult centers and cult worship of those Gods.

The above examples were specific to Paganism in general as a study.  Now I am going to try and give some examples of magical practices from the view of a witch who is always studying and learning.  This blog does focus on all of these topics so covering both of these topics in this entry is reasonable.

Within magic and witchcraft there are many different ways to practice and types of practices that one can study.  To be honest there are so many options that a newbie often seeking to start practicing witchcraft can feel overwhelmed.  Which is why many find that mastering spellcraft can be near impossible and they wonder if they are doing it right.

In magic you have herbalism, crystal and gem magic, Galdar, Seidr, Trance work, summoning, healing work, poppet magic, astral projection, weather work, ect.  Often times a person may have so many interests that they can’t figure out where to start and will find that practices can overlap.

I’ll take Herbalism for example.  In Herbalism a witch and magician studies the herbs that they work with.  They can use them in powders and in potions as well as in oils, lotions, tinctures, soaps, and other types of charms.  There is also the healing work with herbalism.  Though while one studies making an oil for example they may learn or hear about spell oils from Hoodoo and then start to explore that for further herbal use and practices.

The examples above are one cultures examples of how deep and diverse the study of a cultures religious heritage can be.  The above examples also illustrate just one example of why it is impossible to master the spiritual crafts.  There will always be something new to learn and explore.

This is also why some witches, Pagans, and spiritual people tend to have rather extensive libraries.  Books are used as references in work and in studies and are often to valuable to just borrow from a library when it is needed.

 

Know your craft

It is important to know your craft as a witch, pagan, or spiritual practitioner. One does not simply know their craft through books and study. One must practice and explore their craft in order to really know their craft.

It is often said that Witches dont believe. That they know. This is because they have experienced magic and spells. They have done the rituals and done the book study. Putting them together one gains knowledge and wisdom.

So how does one get to know their craft and path?  One must gain experiences.  By trying new techniques that are read about in books one gains new experiences.  By performing exercises over and over one can gain deeper understanding of the topics they are exploring.  This gains knowledge.

There is an academic study involved in the development of knowledge.  This involves history and cultural studies.  It involved studying mythology and folklore.  It then involves studying practical modern books as well.  From here we gain exercises and techniques to try.

The important thing is that one must actively practice their craft in order to really know the craft they practice.  The practices give us experiences.  These experiences are what give us the potential to access and experience the various types of mysteries mentioned in a earlier post.

Witches experience their craft.  Pagans experience their deities in ritual and in trance.  Shamans experience the spirits that they work with and fight.  Magicians know the magical forces they work with.  Here you could say that experience turns belief into knowledge and inner truths.  In the end this is what it means to really know the truth and the crafts that we practice.

Some witches will choose to practice certain crafts more than others.  Every witch must find their own practice and style of working their craft.  There are never two witches who will practice the same thing.  We must develop our own practices based on our own experiences and tastes.

Knowing our craft comes through study, exploration, testing, failures, and much more.  This takes time and effort but it is worth it.  Find what areas and styles of witchcraft really catch your fancy and drive you “wild”.  Ignite your passions and find your craft.  Create it and craft it.  Learn it and study it make it yours and claim the knowledge for yourself.

~Loona Wynd~)0(

H: Heathen practices and me

Heathenism

For many years the only definition of heathen was one who was not Christian.  If you look in the dictionary you will still find that as part of the definition of heathen.  Today however I am not talking about the dictionary definition.  I am talking about how it relates to the modern Pagan culture and the culture of Germanic pagans.  My heathenism studies have been a major influence in my path and on my craft as a witch.

The heathens of today are often hard to define.  For some people it is an umbrella term for an eclectic Germanic recon path.  For other people is a very specific tradition with in the label of Germanic religions. I consider it to be a term for an eclectic approach to being a semi Recon based practitioner.

You may be thinking wait a minute you can’t be both eclectic and a Reconstruction can you? When it comes to the Germanic religions it is more possible.  There are several Germanic cultures to choose from.  You have the Angels and the Saxons, The Danish, The Norse, The Icelandic, the Franks, and several other tribes.  Each tribe had slightly different lore.  By studying the lore of all the paths and tribes a person can gain a fuller insight into the lore for Germanic paganism.

It is the Nordic lore which we have the most information from.  It was also in Norway and Iceland where the religious practices of the Germanic tribes lasted the longest.  Several of the sagas that many heathens use as source texts for their practices and understanding of the culture are preserved in a book titled The Sagas of the Icelanders.  These sagas tell of the social structure and the social etiquette.  From these sagas we learn how they lived.  That is why they are excellent sources to use.  The other books which provide sagas and lore about the Gods are:

Saxo Grammaticus: The history of the Danes

,Heimskringla: The life of the Norse Kings

Right now I am in the process of reading  Heimskringla.  I’ve already gotten some information about lore but not a whole lot. Snorri used the same tale about Odin founding the Kingdom of the Norse in both the prose Edda and in Heimskringla.  Both tales are very interesting and explain a bit of the culture of the Gods.  Yet my preference is for the origins discussed in the poetic Edda.

My Heathen Practice

My personal heathen practice is more related to the magical practices and the crafts.  Witchcraft  as we know it ultimately came from the Anglo-Saxon culture.  There are three primary deities associated with Magic and witchcraft Odin, Freya,and Loki.  Many of the books I have read on Traditional witchcraft have had a Germanic slant.  That’s one of the things that started my more invested study and practice with Germanic pagan traditions.

Aside from Raymond Buckland’s Seax Wica there are several other traditions of witchcraft which have a more Germanic leaning..  These books along with the Eddas and Sagas has helped me develop and understand how Germanic magic worked and what the culture was like.  As a witch I have found this knowledge and information immensely helpful and informative.  I have gained much wisdom from those practices.  Yet it is not the only part of my heathen practices.

So what makes me a Heathen?  Worship of the Aesir, Vanir, and Jotun.  I have accepted the Nine Nobel virtues as part of my moral and ethical guidelines.  The Germanic tribes had a concept of Fate of sorts called Wyrd.  There is a lot about Wyrd I am still trying to understand and evaluate for myself, I am not discouraged by it though.

The Norse were very much a warrior culture.  For them it was about honor and the battle.  Yes they had head hunting and other practices that today are considered “Barbaric” but to accept the deities with out accepting an understanding of the culture which worshiped those deities is meaningless.  Yes.  The Germanic tribes were considered barbarians to the Romans & Greeks, but so were the Celtic tribes.  It is only by understanding or trying to understand the culture in which the deities were worshiped that we can truly understand how the religion and spirituality of those times worked.

My interest as an anthropologist really plays into why I work so hard to reconstruct what I can.  It is actually through historical sources such as the Sagas of the Kings and warriors and the few archeological finds that we have any concept of what that culture was like.  The practice of heathenism also plays deeply into my desire to connect to something from my blood ancestry.    For me it was sort of embracing a part of my history and understanding where my family origins were.

What my heathen practice entails

I have not fully developed a comprehensive unified product of witchcraft and Germanic paganism.  While witchcraft is a part of my worship and practice of Germanic paganism, there is a lot more to it than that.  My heathen practice entails doing a specific form of ritual called a Blot to the Gods.  It involves prayers and obviously magic.

I am looking into learning more about rune lore so I can try my hand at runic magic.  Working with the runes would also allow me to learn the mysteries of the Runes.  Rune magic is actually one of the priary forms of magic used in Germanic paganism.  It was gifted to Odin after he sacrificed himself to himself on the tree of knowledge and wisdom.  There were several sets made I know of one for humans, one for the Gods, and one for the Dwarves.

My practice also entails a lot of study.  There is probably more study than worship at times, and that works for me.  My worship is actually often times more impromptu than it is for specific holidays or occasions.  I have even developed my own ritual structure for their worship which they don’t seem to mind which is a combination of a Blot and a typical religious witchcraft ritual.  One of the reasons I study so much is there is a lot of lore to pour over and assimilate and there is also a lot of history and multiple translations of sacred texts to read.

The path to wisdom is never ending.  This is just one place you may also be able to find wisdom and truth.

 

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