Archive for February, 2015

Nyx/Nótt (and a bonus, accidental yet brief “Primer” on Chaos Magick/Discordians!)

Posted in About me, On the Gods with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2015 by Tyrienne
Artist unknown= If you can help me identify the artist, I would like to credit them properly.  This image has been found on multiple pages under different Goddess names.

Artist unknown= If you can help me identify the artist, I would like to credit them properly. This image has been found on multiple pages under every possible listed “Night Goddess name” from Nott, Breksta, Nyx, Mah, and even Artemis. Being archetypal in belief myself, I do not believe any of these names are inaccurate.

“Take my hand”-she said
She wore a dark blue dress made of night
In her hair a crown of stars
She stood at the prow of a small boat
gently perched upon the shore
Her right hand on the pole to steer
and her left hand out- to me
“Will you take me?”
I asked of her
“To the other side?”
I did not know what was resided there
but I was tired of residing here
“Do you know who I am?” she asked,
I had not a clue
but I replied, I put more trust in strangers,
then the people I already knew.
The night was calmly quiet,
Just the sound of her oar upon the tides
I did not say a word to her
words tend to lend to lies
In the boat there was a blanket
soft, so dark, and warm.
I feared not how I appeared to her
wrapped tight, safe, and alone.
I did not know the water
Whether ocean, lake or stream
I did not know the oarswoman
Nor awake or in a dream
As I closed my eyes
upon the gentle waves
I felt her hand upon me
and felt peace there as I lay

********************************************

I wrote the above poem over the summer on another blog (which I will delete promptly after this writing) based on a fever dream when I was severely ill. I never really felt “right” writing in the new space and of the four posts I made in that blog, this was only thing worth salvaging or coherent.

At the time of writing, I was recovering from a hospitalization due to complications on account of Lyme’s disease that were nearly fatal to me.  I lost my summer to a combination of darkness and sleep; often too weak or in pain to do very much at all.  (With the right combinations of medications and time, I am back to normal functioning at this time, thankfully.)

Nótt is a personification of night.  In Ancient Roman traditions, she is called Nyx, which is her most common name and is considered a daughter of Chaos (Eris– to Discordians)….apropos in particular to me since my spirituality tends to lead me to Discordianism/Chaos Magic forums in a sort of double-life between Heathenry and Discordianism.  There is an extensive mythos to her archetype in countless European cultures.  To Latvian/Lithuanians, she is called “Breksta” (Twilight) and to the Persians, “Mah“- of similar description and imagery.

Chaos Tradition (which is likely one of the most recently reconstructed forms of “lost” spirituality) is simply the acceptance that we do not possess the capability of understanding the nature of the universe.  In Theistic Discordianism,  The practitioner remains fluid; divination is “off the cuff” from surface impressions and prayers are expected to be answered in entirely unexpected ways.   Truly, having a degree in Philosophy has convinced me no one can have a monopoly on knowledge when all human knowledge is inevitably flawed in relation to “ultimate reality”.

Many Discordians see that pathway to their desires being a “surprise” with only the final result of intention being what matters. This process lies in accepting the “price” of uncertainty in the process and in some, an avoidance of “formal” ritual- but Discordianism, like its Goddess, is mercurial, capricious, and spontaneous.  (and often whimsical, in our fashion) Therefore, what is true for me in navigating Eris is going to, inevitably, be entirely different in UPG than others, as others are from one another.

The “path” (to me) as metaphor is a wild river through unknown lands- but the destination is known…. or, conversely, if the path is known, the destination is not….and each path taken in Discordianism/Chaos magics is seldom tread twice.

We understand we cannot have everything, but embrace contradictions, madness, spontaneity, coincidence, and our own form of “grace” which we find in fortuitous synchronicity which guide us.  The more “synchronicity” in life; the more “on track” we are with our intentions and works since synchronicity is seen by some of us (myself included) as the reward for good works or as encouragement to pursue the ideas thought at the time of said synchronicity.

My schedule leaves me sometimes in “eternal night” since I tend to fall asleep around 5am and have found myself so accustomed to working 3rd shift from my occupation prior to college, I feel more comfortable in darkness than light….leaving the lights off in my apartment often until my husband returns from work after midnight.

Honestly, light is uncomfortable for me, in the light, I must wear glasses, but by some strange design, my night vision is exceptional except in reading print.

I do not know what the dream meant other than to inspire this poem.

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Latvian Folktale: “The Wild Horseman”

Posted in About me, On the Gods with tags , , , , , , , on February 26, 2015 by Tyrienne
Latvian Horse: Courtesy of Wikipedia

Latvian Horse: Courtesy of Wikipedia

Once upon a time, the country now known as Latvia was under the rule of German Barons.   The Latvian people were given homes, and the ability to have small gardens in addition to the farms and shops they tended.  However, beyond that, the people were predominantly farmers who produced grains, other crops, and trade goods of which, most were sent to Germany at the end of each growing season before the arrival of the heavy snows of Latvians winters.

The Mansion of the German Baron in Latvia was a huge place, even though he seldom lived within it- with stables larger than several houses of the Latvian farmers put together, and filled with every sort of horse, from beautiful show-horses with manes that flowed like rivers that pulled the carriage of the rich Baron and his family on Holidays, to the humble, homely, (but intelligent) plow horses for use of all farmers,  as well as native Latvian horses that had brown fur that looked to burn like fire in the sunlight.  For all these horses, there was only one young stableman, they only needed one- for he was so excellent at his work with the animals that he even slept in the loft to be near them.

His name was Janis- just as his father before him as well as his father’s father.  Janis was the name of their favorite ancestor, who was celebrated as a  God who was responsible for the coming of Spring herbs and flowers as well as bringing leaves to the trees and warmth back to the air.  Like his namesake, stableman Janis felt most at home in the woods where, often he would take the herd to forage for days when they were unneeded for other purposes- for living in such a country with a short growing season all grain was valuable and to be saved as much as possible.

The German Baron, despite his palatial accommodations, preferred to remain in Germany for much of the year only coming to Latvia to collect the produce from the Latvians to bring back to Germany- the journey was long in those days and unpleasant, however, the Baron was also responsible for taking census of the people for the Germans are a very taciturn and organized people who considered the Latvian farmers as simply an extension of their already vast empire.  However, despite this, Latvian tradition held that people did not have surnames.   The villages were very close-knit even if the houses were far apart, therefore, it seemed unnecessary in those days to have more than one name in the minds of the people.

So, on one particular visit to what is now Latvia, the German Baron was tasked to give each Latvian in his jurisdiction a surname for more accurate census purposes.

The Baron arrived and announced that all citizens, without exception were to come to the Mansion and be given surnames by German custom, based on profession. With reluctance, the Latvians lined up and were given German last names: Metzger for the butchers, Backer for the bakers, Bauer for the farmers, as well as countless other names to each family.  With each region, the Baron would try to keep the sames similar for greater organization.

Many people were absent- some were in Riga at the time trading, others too sick to come to the mansion, and Janis was in the woods foraging with his horses.

The Baron returned to Germany with his list of names to hand to the Landgrave-Count of the entire region (of which the Baron’s land was only a small part) and was met with displeasure.

“This list of names is too short and does not match the census! You must go back and knock on every door of each home to tally the elderly, the ill, and young as well!”

The Baron, frustrated, rode to Latvia once more reluctantly with a small band of his kindest soldiers.  Again, he asked for all Latvians to report to his mansion, and he sent his men into the villages to knock on the doors of each small home and gave them, too, the authority to name.

Janis, once more, was in the woods with the horses.

“Where are my horses?” asked the Baron to the local elder.
“We were not expecting you, so Janis took them to the woods to forage.” the elder replied.
At this news, the Baron exclaimed in frustration:

“My horses are tired and need tending! Who will tend to them?”  Janis was sent for, but could not be found- for as vast as the fields were, so too, were the woods at that time.

So, they found a family nearby who owned a horse of their own to tend to his horses for his stay, which lasted for several days since the farmland was vast and many houses were far-flung.   Since they only owned one horse of their own, caring for the horses of the both the Baron and his men was an overwhelming task. The horses were fed well and watered- but they did not shine as brightly as the grooming of young Janis.

After several weeks of searching, naming, and reporting, the Baron and his men returned once more to the Landgrave-Count to deliver their report.

Once more, he was met with screaming: “This list is STILL incomplete!  There is a single name missing of a young man- and all people MUST be named- you must go back to Latvia to find the missing man and name him!”

With so many people to keep track of and his exhaustion from so much heavy travelling, the Count was dismayed: He would have to return to Latvia one more time and discover the identity of the missing man, then, ironically, name him….and wintertime was drawing close.

This time, he brought three times as many men, sending them to houses as well as other local towns and Barony’s nearby seeking the last remaining Latvian without a last name, before even reaching his mansion, hoping that he could be done with this and return home as quickly as possible.  Even knocking on doors himself asking each person, young and old, if they had last names for a day and a night without rest… returning to his Mansion in Latvia exhausted, where he was met with, once more, empty stables and the kind family waiting to care for his horses as well as they could…. but not as well as Janis.

It was then the Baron realized who was missing.  The Stableman- who, once more, was in the woods with the horses watching them as they foraged.  Out of anger and frustration, he demanded that Janis be found and both he and the horses returned immediately.

After a long search in the woods, Janis was found with the horses with him in a clearing- coats gleaming, and well-fed- but Janis ran back into the woods, leaving the Baron’s men to return the horses to the stables without Janis.

The Baron, out of frustration, took out his ink and wrote: Janis Vilde on his census sheet as well as nailed a wooden sign on the inside of the stable doors with his decision.  “Vilde”, translating to “Wild” or “Unruly” at that time.  No one could treat the horses as well as Janis, so he did not wish to punish him since he was, technically, only doing his job.  The horses were all gentle, well groomed, and fed well, and the Baron knew Janis could not hide in the woods forever.

After a good rest, he and his men left Latvia just in time to avoid the first snowfall, not to return again….since Latvia was often a disputed land between many different rulers.

Janis did return from the woods on foot to the stables as soon as he observed the Baron and his entourage had left, for he cared for his horses as kindly as he would for family.  There, he  found the sign. “Your name, Henceforth is Janis Vilde, by order of the Baron”- signed and sealed.

The elders of the town came to Janis as soon as they heard of his return and they asked him why he hid from being named.

To which, Janis replied: “Having one name has been good enough up until now- and I did not want my future children to be forced to do my line of work if they did not wish to do  it.  When I saw that everyone was being named after their professions, I hid.  I did not want to be labeled, and I did not want my descendants to be trapped either.”

“But what do you think of your new name, “Janis Vilde”?

Janis replied: “I like it, it will let my children be free and wild just as I was in the woods!”

****************************************************

Actually, this is an “prettied up” story based on true-facts provided by my grandma on how our family was named Vilde.  I didn’t change the facts, but simply added historical details and read the story back to her and added and subtracted details until we were sure it was accurate.  The only fact that was changed, was HOW MANY times he hid in the wood- it was only once, however, in traditional story telling, the number “Three” creates a fuller, more vibrant tale.

Since then, the Latvian people have changed their surnames from German to Latvian words, however, my family kept “Vilde”…even I changed my name to a version of it years prior to my marriage.

The tradition of Storytelling has been an integral part to all polytheistic cultures all over the world, and I encourage all of you who read this, to please, also, write down the stories of YOUR families so that they may be shared with the rest of our community and told to our children so that these wonderful pagan histories are never forgotten.

Thank you to my Grandma Vija for helping write this as accurately as possible and her willingness to share this story…as well as several-times great-grandfather Janis Vilde. 🙂

Growing up “Heathen” (As I experienced it)

Posted in About me, On the Gods, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2015 by Tyrienne
Commonly known as "Gar" to Heathenry, this symbol is found is both Pennsylvania Deitsche as well as Latvian folk arts.

Commonly known as “Gar” to Heathenry, this symbol is found is both Pennsylvania Deitsche as well as Latvian folk arts.

Hello cats and kittens, today I’m going to discuss the very confusing, convoluted, and strange life it was for me growing up in a clandestinely polytheistic European family from two ENTIRELY different traditional backgrounds; Lettish(Latvian) as well as Austrian/Pennsylvania Dutch (which I will spell and misspell in every possible way- and gave up on spell-checking every instance!) and attempt as well to create a compare/contrast between these two belief systems.

First off, please discard any ideas that my childhood was “ideal” in any manner- my mother was severely mentally ill with profoundly violent schizophrenia, which was entirely unmedicated needlessly complicating my religious upbringing further since I associated many of her beliefs and practices she observed as “Nothing I Want Any Part Of” even if they were legitimate, Latvian customs. This resulted self-limiting myself by distancing myself from Latvian culture- since I associated all things that involved my mother with severe abuse.  Furthermore, despite her polytheistic upbringing she spent her time rather aimlessly “wandering” between New-Age and vague Christianity as it suited her psychosis at the time….that was further compounded by the unwillingness of her community to “teach” her.  Unlike reconstructionism, traditional European polytheism seems to have some very exclusionary principles- as in “Why waste the time to teach someone who will either not “get it” or will simply fuck it up somehow?”

Be that as it may,  I was fortunate that I was raised in a multi-generational household and in very close proximity to my extended family outside the home as well- including paternal grandparents and great grandparents since my Pennsylvania Dutch/Teutonic side tended to have children early in life (and frequently) until my grandparent’s generation. I was surrounded by second and third cousins from my grandfather’s seemingly infinity large family of Austrian/Deitsche descent.  My Latvian side is simply my grandmother and uncle- and some very distantly related 3rd and 4th degree cousins I do not know.

Both my Uncle and Brother are agnostics with little interest in these things, I do not know my uncle’s story, but my brother missed out on time with now-deceased relatives which shaped my spirituality.

To continue- another thing worth noting is that the word “Heathen” is still seen as rather insulting in the family/social circles of both the Lettish as well as the Deitsche- which is a huge part of the resistance of many “traditional” families that I personally know and have befriended over the years.  Partially, because cultures are agrarian in nature, mostly pacifists, and not Norsk. The Latvians/Lettish prefer to be called “Druids” in English- and the “Hidden Dutch” prefer to be left entirely alone, still…. to the detriment of creating a more complete picture of unbroken European polytheistic tradition.

There is good reason for this; basically, the strongest commonality both sides of my family share is a deep-seated fear and strong distrust of “outsiders” directly resulting from centuries of hiding and persecution.  To save themselves as well as their respective cultures, the German Lutheran church provided sanctuary in exchange for the promise that all children would be baptized/confirmed, and monetary donations would be made regularly whether attendance occurred or not.  It’s just how things were done.  In college, I learned that the Moravian church did likewise in other locations.   My old pastor, bless his heart, tolerated us, spoke fluent German, and “suffered” three generations of my German family poking metaphorical holes in his Bible and generally being as reluctantly “Lutheran” as a person can get.  Starting from my father sitting me down with a Bible and showing me all the “cool” questions to ask; “Where are the ‘Great Sea Monsters’ mentioned in Genesis, they couldn’t have drowned in the flood, right!?” and my personal favorite was picking the absolute most inappropriate verses to read in church during confirmation classes.  After my father and his best friend scraped their way through confirmation like mischievous Vaetirr, my choices of the “Sunday Reading” from the Bible were very strictly monitored and I had to submit several more than the other children after my dad’s best friend ALLEGEDLY  read with great enthusiasm, Ezekiel 23:20:

“… There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses….” etc.

Yeah, we didn’t get away with much past Pastor Reimet, he was chagrined by us, but he also had a sort of quirky sort of affection for our line. We kept him on his toes- and he just LOVED telling everyone how whenever my grandfather and father were in a service at the same time “Lightning struck the church.” (Totally not true, that only happened ONCE…maybe twice.)  “Heathen” was meant as an insult…as in “Stop running in the choir loft, you little Heathens!”

When I complained about church, it was my Dad who said to me. “Look, without the Lutherans, none of us would be alive right now.    When you’re finished with classes believe whatever you want. We’re polytheists anyway, seriously what is the harm of learning about one more god?”

Anyway, I have escaped myself- so, away from the church (at which I was dropped off- my parents had no interest in staying except during my mothers sporadic “Christian” phases where she could use Jesus as yet ANOTHER justification I was “evil”.)

Okay. Well, this post is going to suck to write- Looking at the tangled maze of teachings, secrecy, contradictions, and absolutely strange customs that I STILL don’t see in modern reconstructionism, there does not seem to be a linear way to “explain”, but I will do my best.

First major difference between how I was raised and reconstructionism:  although the concept of Valhalla is known, the logistics of being in a place that is basically daily bloodshed is likely not appealing to peace loving, self-secluded, agrarian cultures when there is an understanding the afterlife is chosen by your belief system, mostly.  However, that being said, “I’ll see you in Valhalla!” said in front of either culture will likely be met with a wince considering Valhalla is for warriors who die in battle, and even then, only under the special conditions of being “Chosen” just prior to the moment of death.  If we go by technical research on concept of Valhalla, there would be less people from modern times chosen for Valhalla than Christian Heaven than in the more violent past from more war-inclined traditions.

Personal opinion? If you are Heathen, make your peace with Frau Holle/Hel(a)/Mara now rather than having to explain why you failed to do so in life.

Grandma from Latvia is still with us- and to her, Jesus was just “another” God, and since he was the one most people around her worshiped HER tradition entailed that if you pray for someone you pray to THEIR God(s), not your own- since “Our Gods might not know them”.  Since my wedding, she has been completely “Out” about her paganism and has become very active in the Latvian spiritual community.  Latvians, like Hindus have literally thousands of Gods- one for each species of flora and fauna.  Even picking flowers, it is polite to thank the plant….and Latvia is more Vanic than Aesir, with Mara (A sort of Holle/Frigg figure) and Janis seeming to have “top spot” (Freyr, his name changed to “Janis” several hundred years ago to keep their primary summer festival “Jani” or “Janistag” by claiming St. John and Freyr are the “same” to nosy Christians.)  The stories from her childhood are truly priceless- of the entire village running from German Lutheran missionaries into the woods when they came to baptize in one of the two local rivers- only to wait until they left to jump into OTHER river to “wash it off”.   When I asked her about Loki, she concluded that he was the same as the Hearth-God Loke  (also found in Finland), who blesses you with Luck if you keep your chimney clean, and fills the flu with dead squirrels if not.

There is something to that- my uncle pulled out six or seven of them one Yule….completely mummified.  However, the Latvian word “Loki” means “onions”. Please do not confuse them if you happen to run into one of the VERY few left of this extraordinarily tiny ethnic group of Lettish Vanir-worshipping druids.  Latvians are a very proud people.

The Latvians tradition I was raised in was pan-polytheistic, there is a “Big God” called “Dievs”- however, he doesn’t interact with humans much in the same way that humans are the host of millions of microscopic organisms that we have no awareness of. That is where the Latvian Pantheon comes in, called “Dievas”- in my family, they are our Ancestors who “stayed around” or plant/animal Gods who help us. The one’s she was most fond of are Janis (Freyr), Mara (Holle), Perkons (Donar/Thor), and Laima, a luck goddess with no close correlation I have found in Europe but I suppose could be rather like a “Northern Lakshmi”- with elements of child-protection as well. A great deal of emphasis is placed on “lucky” animals- particularly ladybugs, squirrels, toads and a magical snake with a crowned head.  Killing any of these “special” animals would basically be very “unlucky”. (Er…disastrous, perhaps?) Different regions of Latvia had slightly different naming conventions as well as customs.  My family was from the South West region, near the Lithuanian border.

Each ethnic group has it’s own traditional dress as well as customs.  I know the costume for my region for women is a full length red velvet skirt, white shirt, white stockings, black shoes, and a stiffly beaded crown with a belt woven by hand of sacred symbols that are similar to SOME of the Futhark.  Unmarried women wore their hair in braids, married women covered their hair when they went outside…a tradition Grandma still practiced when I was a child but seems to have discarded over time.  My particular ancestry was known for having bright green eyes- which was considered both lucky and rare- my Latvian grandmother, my father, and I are the only people in our family still living I’ve seen with green eyes.  Everyone else is either steel-blue, hazel, or brown on either side of my family.

Another tradition I still keep to this day is when I am told of a death of someone who touches either myself or a close friend, I do my best to uphold my responsibility to light a candle to “Light their way” to whatever afterlife they need to find- which, to Latvians has been describes as “Where it is always summer, but never too hot- beer flows like rivers, and you meet Janis.”  However, death customs are complicated.  Most of my childhood (on both sides) seems to have been spent in cemeteries caring for graves, planting flowers, and singing dirges in November as well as Summer in a language I could read out-loud but could not understand except for select words I recognized. (My brother I am reading this too, said “Like Strawberries! Zeminis”)  Hauntings by deceased family are never seen as “bad”, it appears to me.  Family members “wait” and watch after death and sometimes choose not to move on without their most beloved family members.

My grandfather I only know in real life as a headstone in a Latvian section of a cemetery on the Mainline suburb of Philadelphia, what I do know was he was a stern, intelligent man- multilingual, and had an affinity for Tyr.  He spent a great deal of time in Germany, so I am uncertain if that affinity came from a Lettish “Tyr” I do not know or if he “Met Him in Germany”.  Like me, however, he apparently spent a great deal of time studying and exploring other religious traditions.
He was fluent in the elder Futhark as well as the Latvian symbols.  To answer the unspoken question: Yes, I do personally believe my ancestors watch over me and interact when they feel they need to.

Vilanis/Vilanus (Likely spelled horribly incorrectly, but equivalent to Wotan- but “minor” rather than the lead), Latvian pagans say “God walks among men”- implying the Teutonic legend of Woten wandering with his two dogs/wolves (Latvian “dogs” tend towards the more “wolfish” breeds of husky-types and shepherds)  as a beggar looking for kindness among His people.  To feed and shelter him is to be given great luck, to turn him away has usually dire consequence.  In some areas/countries, he is actually depicted as a permanent werewolf, half wolf/human hybrid, or simply a shapeshifter.

The thing with the Lettish deities is she honestly felt they were “left at home” when she left Latvia, believing there were other Gods indigenous to the US that “she does not know”.  Thanks to the hard work of the Latvian Druids there is now a growing voice to the Lettish pagans courtesy of the work of Mr. M. Bisenieks, the husband of her best friend, Maya.  It’s been three years, I STILL haven’t been able to connect with the man…but if you are reading this, please understand I am doing my best, sir.

The difficulty with the the Lettish traditions is several fold.  First of all, our numbers were DECIMATED in WWII by Stalins regime which sent the majority of my ancestry to Siberia, of which, only one family returned. My grandmother was an only child and her father was a diplomat allowing for her immediate family to escape- the next day, the rest of those in her village were captured.  She still relives the day she left, they made an agreement with Germany to give them the farm and livestock in exchange for asylum, with the promise after the war all would be returned to them.  Despite her inability to really “click” with her horse and ride him without getting bitten- she still remembers him with his new German brand-mark coming to the fence as they walked by the last time and that she only had the time to pack one pair of shoes.  She was 8 years old, and spent the entirety of the rest of her childhood and teenage years in what sounds like a rather well-appointed refugee camp that was entirely Latvian.

The Holocaust was not only in Germany- more people died in Russia under Stalin, and thousands of Japanese died in US internment camps as well.   The silence on this issue is deafening; and public school with the innate biases in our textbooks created no end of trouble for me- outspoken and taught from BOTH sides that American news and history lies….even in the 1980’s-90’s before the current socio-political problems of misinformation.   We had newspapers from Latvia, a Ham radio, and German news sources when we could get them.  Further, since Latvia was part of the (now former) USSR, our phone lines were tapped and my grandma and her friends were constantly harassed and hassled much like those of Middle Eastern descent today in our country. History repeats.

Furthermore, in my youth there was a HUGE emphasis placed on blood quantum, at least in the area in which I lived.  My father, despite being German, was treated very poorly by the Latvian community, as was my mother for “marrying outside”… my brother and I are “Half-bloods”.   Latvian children were given the option of attending Latvian camp and school on weekends- which I avoided (due to the reasons stated earlier), my brother did not.  The indigenous religions were not taught, but rather a focus on diplomacy and an emphasis on learning the language so we could “Go back” and “take back” the country from the Russian settlers who have since settled- three generations deep- into the farms of the Latvian diaspora.  My family was unsuccessful in winning back Grandma’s farm after years of work between us and her cousin still “at Home”, sadly… yet on the other hand, how does displacing a Russian family who lives there now (and has lived there for 40+ years) help anything when we have roofs over our heads here?

Considering the dwindling numbers of our ethnic group, I have heard that things have become “warmer” towards people such as I- however, I personally have the feeling (true or simply perception) that my very public association with American Heathen reconstructionism may have created an unintentional rift- despite the fact that I have been asking for help through Grandma to have dinner with the Druids and be taught “properly” so I can better and more accurately relate the stories and integral pieces that unbroken Baltic spirituality brings to the global Heathen community.  My Latvian religious background is a mishmash of my Grandma’s village traditions as well what little education I would accept as a child from Dzidra, a women who TERRIFIED Latvian youths simply by her strangeness, but yet, she also- Tante Dzidra was both our Witch and our Auntie.  She was a nurse by profession, loving and dedicated in her own way  to making sure we were “taught”- but a woman who keeps an ear-piercing gun and vaccination needles in her car is still a mixed blessing to a small child.  Did I mention she was absolutely terrifying?

On her account as well as Maya’s, I was taught forms of Latvian divination, straight-deck card readings as well as the New Years tradition of pouring molten metal into cold water to hold the resulting shape against candle flame to intuit the future for the next year by the shadows cast upon a piece of paper on the table.   I used the cards to make a name for myself as “The Youngest Psychic” reading at faires in Pennsylvania in my teenage years escaping my mother by having the faire organizers saying I was “helping out”.  Either way, I came home with money and really cool minerals and crystals.  I collected rocks (and still do) simply because it was the only thing I could possibly collect my mother couldn’t break or harm me with if they were small enough.  Steal, absolutely…break? not so much.

So, basically, as a child I came to the conclusion that all Latvians were either assholes or completely insane.  I have since revised this, of course- considering that a great deal of the experiences were tainted by the sheer violent nature of my mother.  However, on the bright side EVERY Latvian (and the people we marry) get a SECOND birthday called a Name’s day- the wikipedia article is woefully inaccurate on this in that they claim it derives from Catholic influence- however, even in said article I found in their own definitions the origin detailed by wikipedia contradicts the established tradition of the non-Christian Saami peoples who also have small settlements in North West Latvia, in particular and the “Latvian” section removes all reference to religion whatsoever.  I honestly have no idea why we have Names’ days…but hey!  Second birthday, AWESOME!

On the other side of the family:  my father- who fluctuates between staunch polytheism and “Broad ‘Pascal’s Wager'” semi-agnostic.  Be that as it may, HE was the one who bought all the children’s books on German folklore and “mythology” for my bookshelf- told stories of Loki, Thor, and Odin (Loki, Donar, and Woten, correctly)…  mostly of Loki/Thor, and rather enjoyed telling people he worshiped Loki while people couldn’t tell if he was serious or insane…

But Dad, well, he always liked to keep people guessing regarding that issue.

He also bought books on other European mythos such as “Bullfinch’s Greek Mythology” and my mother had a strange obsession with folktales and fairytales retold in Harlequin fashion.  I got no end of beatings for “stealing” my mother’s books- but honestly, even at age 12 I realized “stealing” a book that is literally 3 feet from my own bedroom is a ludicrous concept.
My father is a great person, but he loves nothing more than to “test” and confuse acquaintances.  Along with Lokeanism, we also had the now great Discordian texts of  “Condensed Chaos”, and “Flatland”.  Science was revered to him and seen as non-adversarial to his personal spirituality- and his talents lie with making machinery and broken technologies “work” with a MacGyver-esque flair.  His sledge hammer is called “Mjollnir”, and he had activities he called “Taunting Thor” meaning climbing large, metal objects in the most stormy conditions simply out of annoyance if we lost a shingle or even if it was simply that our satellite dish was “off” preventing him from watching the Sci-fi channel.  If I had to define him by a modern label- it would be “Braucher-raised techno-mage.”  As to my childhood, by tradition, since my mother was impregnated by him, he felt obligated to marry her to “do the right thing”.  He lived with her for 20+ years in complete misery, but he worked a great deal of overtime to support her and my brother and I- leaving him in the dark regarding my mother’s increasing unpredictability and violence, now without the protective shelter of my extended family since we moved over an hour from any other relatives when I was 12 years old.

Not my entire family is Heathen-  my father’s dad is dead silent regarding religion.  His grandmother he described as “A terrifying Austrian witch who wore nothing but black and purple and had hair down to her ankles.”  I never could get more out of him than that, and in religious conversation, he is silent.

My Nana (Dad’s mom) believes in “Folkcraft”, and despite repeated attempts to convince her to please write down all the old traditions of our family of Hildebrandts, she has adamantly refused.  In my early years she was my absolute favorite relative and really enjoyed her telling me the history of my “unbroken” Braucher line.  Unlike most Braucherei/Hexerei I have met, traditions were passed from women to their daughters.  When my Nana had two sons only, the line was “technically” broken.  However, I do have a female second cousin our section of the family is estranged from who enjoyed many, many more years with my Great-Grandma, Nana Gloria.  Her family were Hildebrandts who were Hexers with the only affiliation with the “Bible” I have been able to discern concretely is entirely reduced to the “Seven books of Moses”- a text used in Brauchei/Hexerei rituals.      My Nana is cagey- and repeatedly, I have seriously pissed her off by being “Public”- which is likely part of the current rift between us.  To her, our traditions are “family only” and that our personal family tradition with the “English” (Non- Deitsche) was to mislead them with misinformation.  As a child, it was apparently a fun game for her elder’s used to play to see what sort of crazy bullshit they could make the “English” researchers believe we practice in our folk medicine.

In reality, most of it was common sense, herbal, and used a great deal of metaphor.  Taking down pictures of family members and storing them reversed as well as sweeping the house after doing so was a sign of absolute displeasure just short of shunning if not outright rejection. My Nana’s mother, Nana Gloria was an expert at making cars break down of people who pissed her off.  She would say, “Just tell the tires to go flat if they cut you off.” I was probably 6.  I guess she figured she wouldn’t live long enough to see me drive…and sadly, she did not.

Again, with the Germans, even MORE time was spent in cemeteries.  In line with common Urglaawe belief, we believed on THAT side of the family that each new child born into the family held the spirit of one deceased… hence, all of us were named after dead family members in our middle names.  My brother was properly named.  I was named after a sociopathic great-grandmother on my Latvian mother’s side who likely strongly contributed to her mental illnesses.  I legally changed the entirety of my name as soon as I could in my 20’s.

That side of the family shares the same belief as the Latvians that our dearly departed “stay” if they choose to guard as well as guide the family.  Dreams of dead relatives are VERY important to us, and despite my Dad’s occasionally fluid beliefs, he still is the first person I go to when I dream of the dead from his side of the family.  Great-Grandma Helena only comes in dreams to complain about 3rd cousins I hardly met, Pop-pop George usually plays pranks on people being assholes to Dad and I in “hauntings”, and Pop, Great-grandma Helena’s husband makes entire houses fill with tobacco smoke despite being a family that is anti-tobacco after Pop-Walter died of lung disease when my father was a child.  Pop Walter was also Deitsche- thrifty, and believed STRONGLY in giving away that which he had no longer use for (as well as the objects owned by others in his household, much to their chagrin).   I didn’t realize until I wrote this that I am the only other person in my family who also jettisons material goods at random to friends and charity spontaneously if I know others can put the items to better use/need more than I.

Corporal punishment of children on my Latvian side was tolerated in our family tradition, however, the German side (German is just SO much easier to spell) placed special love and value on children and punishments were usually chores rather than the futile “Go to your room” or beatings.  My Latvian grandma would only hit if I hit someone else- however, she was beaten severely as was my mother by her mother with birch switches. My mother didn’t have such patience- usually beating me was with whatever object was closest at hand.   Nana Helena would just shake her head at misbehavior- the only “intolerable” thing among us children (me and my seemingly endless amount of 2nd and 3rd cousins) was long hair on men and beards.  She HATED that.   Oddly enough, she was also the only person who was devoutly Catholic in my family which SHE kept secret from all of us until after her death when we found a well-used rosary hidden in a box of greeting cards and my father asked the Priest at the Cathedral across the street to find out she was “sneaking out” to mass.  Considering the polytheistic nature of the countless saints and angels, I do not find any contradiction between a devout Catholic and Polytheism except in semantics.  I held onto her rosary until I moved back Reading, Pennsylvania- near to where she is buried where my father and I buried it under her headstone and planted roses to fill the hole.  The grave of Pop Howard and Nana Helena are absolutely covered with flowers and decorations from my extended family to this day despite her passing in 1995.  It meant a lot to me to add to the “collection”. (unless Nana, Dad’s mom, removed my roses out of spite by now. 😦 )

Punishments from Grandma were more German than those I received from my mother.   My home life was violent, so my fathers side was too busy attempting to save/protect me from my mother’s wrath for punishment, my Latvian grandma worked as did my father except for two wonderful years he was self-employed repairing electronics as my mother worked.  I believe I recall only being yelled at ONCE as a child by my father’s parents for using the couch as a tightrope.

At this current point in time, I am trying my very hardest to reconnect the pieces- I have reached out to my estranged extended family on my fathers side only to find rejection that is not personal, but rather derived from the actions of my grandparents that have harmed them (perceived or real harm- I cannot say, I was not there.)   The same problem exists on the Latvian side.  For my safety, I am estranged from my mother and she holds the “upper-hand” in being able to speak fluent Latvian making going to the Philadelphia Latvian club literally dangerous to me.  Again, if any Latvians are reading this:  You know my mother, I know you understand my predicament.  Please reach out to me- Grandma is 83 and every day is a gift, and I fear if I lose her I will lose this tenuous connection that connects “The Earth Religion” of my ancestors to help correct and shape modern Heathenry and dispel the mythology that we NEED to be “Reconstructed” while thousands of families in the US and Europe live in unbroken tradition that fall under the blanket of “Heathenry”.  Some may not like the word, but words are the only thing that people understand in how to categorize their beliefs.

I honestly find American Heathenry confusing in that regard- how I was raised, I am not Scandinavian, we didn’t have Sumbel, and we only had Toasts on the Latvian side when guests came to visit and very large dinners on both sides.  (The food was better with the Pennsylvania Dutch by far…)  We did not pray- we believed on BOTH sides “gifts” were meant to be greeted with a “Thank you”- and to try to solve one’s own problems.  We believe in self-reliance.  Latvian Grandma still TRIES to shovel before the neighbors stop her… her Latvian customs have spread to her typical suburban Philadelphia neighborhood where everyone on her side of the street is “family” and they all look out for one another- meaning usually the closest man with a snow blower comes to save her the trouble- or at worst, my Uncle gets called by my “Aunt” Jan, Grandma’s next door neighbor, until he arrives from a neighboring suburb with his shovel….sometimes multiple times if the weather conditions are particularly poor.  I live over 2 hours away, but when I lived closer for a year, I came over weekly to help him in caring for her house by mowing, weedwacking, shovelling, etc…

Growing up, it felt like I had dozens of Aunts and Uncles- most of them were actually unrelated to me…but some I still keep in touch with if I have the ability…. and I am happy to see that “modern” Heathenry has adopted a modified form of this custom in Frith and Fellowship.

In BOTH traditions, religion where you “go to church” is more social than anything- true religion is found in daily life and in our productivity- whether it be working, repairing, or study.  “Studying” is valued by the Latvian side- but my Deitsche grandparents are vehemently angry that I am on disability and no matter how much of my time is spent in study or helping others by running online support groups, clergy work, or sheer volume of anonymous writings I contribute online regarding Heathenry answering what questions I can and feeling like an overwhelmed air-traffic controller at times “matching” Heathens with those who can give them the information and communities that will help them best.

In conclusion, this is where I come from- feel free to ask any questions you like in the comment section below.

Restarting.

Posted in About me, Justice, On the Gods, Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 24, 2015 by Tyrienne
I'm back- and about to lay some "hard truth" again. If you are going to comment, please be constructive. "Die Lokean Scum" is not particularly helpful, especially since I'm ACTUALLY Tyrian "scum".  Thank you.

I’m back- and about to lay some “hard truth” again.
If you are going to comment, please be constructive.
“Die Lokean Scum” is not particularly helpful, especially since I’m ACTUALLY “Tyrian Scum”…who also happens to Honor Loki and the rest of our Ancestral Gods as well without exclusion as well as a few from other pantheons as well. (Hey, I’m a polytheist, it’s not THAT uncommon)

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who has read this blog in its inactivity.  I thought I was going to “leave it alone” as-is in it’s present state, and even attempted to start a new blog but I could never find the inspiration to actually use it to express myself.

Imagine my surprise when after months of ignoring this blog only to find I had over 18k views and over 100 followers. I think instead of starting new, perhaps, I shouldn’t dismiss this gift given to me by all of you by your encouragement and support.

In any case, although I have been inactive in the “blogosphere” (is that the correct term?) I have still been incredibly active in international Heathenry, making new connections and friends, discovering more about the history of my ancestry as well as getting in touch with my Urglaawe roots (Which my Dad’s family insists on calling “Folkcraft”- no other term accepted. Period.) As well as spending as much time as possible with my now publicly pagan Latvian grandma who has been translating as many books as possible for my husband and I on “The Old/Earth Religion”. (roughly translated)

So, today I spent the better part of an afternoon speaking to a Pennsylvania Deitsche historian regarding our folklore and trends within the greater Heathen community, and I realized that if I fail to use every resource given to me to help improve the image of Heathenry to the general population then I am pretty much a complete asshole if I neglect to do all that I can to do so.

So. Hi. I’m back.

Anyway, what I really NEED to say is that there are some severe problems I am observing in the American community in particular that need to be addressed while they are still simply “seeds” that can turn into a sort of poisonous Kudzu that will strangle us all and make us no different than any other major religion, namely, a socio-political dogmatic mess of contradictory and (and potentially harmful) beliefs and ideals held with good intentions but with dire consequence.

First: Those who claim to “Know everything they need to know about the Gods” and teach others are the very LAST people who should be in the position to be mentors to those called by our Gods and Ancestors. The minute a person stops seeking knowledge, stops asking questions, and proclaims themselves “Authority”- Please do not trust them. Real teachers are humble, they will not charge you a penny. Our ways of our clergy are not the same as the ways of other religions. Traditionally speaking, the role of a Heathen clergy person (Braucher, Hexer, Chieftain, Goethe, or Gythia) is seen as a great privilege and needs no physical monetary reward…but asking them to stay for a meal is considered polite/honorable. (However, I will also temper this statement by stating this is purely from my personal upbringing being raised heathen under two separate cultures: Baltic and Teutonic….other traditions, your mileage may vary).

Second: It must be understood that despite what YOU, the reader personally believe regarding Heathenry in your personal practices, there is a growing danger that we are finding ourselves increasingly defined by people OUTSIDE of Heathenry, and not only that, we are being defined by the worst, most negative people in under the mantel of “Heathenry”. What I mean to say is that as Heathenry grows in it’s myriad (heh) of forms, that the public perception of the Heathen/Asatru growth is being increasingly linked to some truly terrible ideologies that damage both the credibility of Heathenry as well as “push away” people who need it the most, which brings me to…

Third: We are being WRONGLY and WOEFULLY judged not by our best- who are generally quiet, humble people- but by our extremists. What I mean by extremists are those on BOTH sides of Extremism- Neo-Nazi’s as well as those who are so terrified of being “lumped in” with Neo-nazi’s that there are ENTIRE organizations that have formed both inside and outside of Heathenry that have become militantly destructive- going as far as to “profile” individuals based on their facebook friends and even their “likes”, and there have been INCREASING instances of people from BOTH sets of extremism actually seeking out the personal information of their “targets” and harassing them at their homes and workplaces. I don’t care who you are- that is unfrithful regardless- If you disagree with others, there are more mature ways to handle disagreements in ideology. Understanding that a everyone’s journey in life changes BY THEIR OWN VOLITION ALONE is the first step to stopping extremism, stalking, and this frightening new development.

FOURTH: Heathenry, like every other form of religion or spiritual belief system, has several different “denominations”- If you are having trouble finding one in your area that matches your personal beliefs, Please write to me (renalexanders@gmail.com) and I use what connections and resource I have been fortunate enough to come across to connect you to people of similar mindset. Even despite my disagreements with certain National organizations, it may surprise many people to know that I “sort” people as I meet them to figure out which “denomination” will have the most like-minded spirits to help them grow. I have given out contact information for both the AFA and the Troth despite being a member of neither (and in the former, I ALWAYS say, “Don’t mention me as your source- just say you forgot my name!) As well as directing people to scholars abroad who are specialists in things that are uncommon here, such a Jotunr worship.

Since I don’t like the number four very much, I guess I’ll have to come up with:

Fifth: If you are personally a Heathen of some experience, WITHHOLDING information to make yourself feel “superior” is unethical. We do not have “sacred mysteries”- ALL of Heathenry should be UNITED by the desire to personally connect with Our Gods, Ancestors, and the natural world around us as well as to help others. No legitimate Heathen tradition should EVER respond to your questions with:

“I will tell you when *I* believe you are ready.”

NO. This means they are NOT ready for YOU. All information/knowledge/UPG should be freely shared if the person who is willing to share places themselves into a position where they STATE do not mind being approached. (Some people are private, also respect that as well, bitte.)  Like any other spiritual path, please beware of false teachers or heathen psuedo-gurus. Your best teachers are the Gods themselves… and only secondly comes anyone from humankind. Anything that takes you away from your personal “connection” to the Gods is likely unhealthy- however, be that as it may, be prepared to keep an open mind and allow your perceptions to BE challenged by reading profusely, talking to as many people on as many different paths as possible, and learning every facet of this culture and religion. No one should “Tell” you what to believe about the Gods- You are not a slave nor sheep…. take in all information and use your own heart and mind to discern what is YOUR personal truth.

I apologize for my irresponsibility, and like always- I cannot guarantee I will post often. The reason for this is I do not believe in writing “just for the sake of writing”. As evidenced by the consistent traffic on this “dead” blog, I believe it is better to wait until I have something worth expressing then to “force” myself to write when nothing moves me to do so….so far, it seems to have worked for me.

As the return of open worship of the Gods of Europe are creating greater ripples throughout the world at this time- I also need to express my sincere apologies to those who I have in the past derided for finding Heathenry(or Asatru) via Marvel movies… I have been royally “smacked” by the reality that it is better begin from benign fictions to serve as a “doorway” for those new to Heathenry into fulfilling spiritual practice than it ever is to convince a “prison-programmed” Aryan Nation recruit into being open-minded. This is not to say it can’t be done (it has, and there actually is a Heathen prison outreach program to help with this very thing!) I am just saying it is more difficult!

So, in closing, I ask you, my subscribers and those who stumble upon this blog a simple request: Please, if you have been given the ability to influence those around you, please do not shun or hide from it- We are creating the future of Heathenry by our actions, and “Hospitality” is one of the nine virtues for all you Asatuar out there!

Again, I thank you for all the kind comments I have received in these several months encouraging me to reopen this blog…. but then again, where is a better place than a blog called “Hail Loki” to share the uncomfortable truths of which ALL Heathens/Asatru should be mindful? Is that not what Loki represents 😉