Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Reddit is a great place to be a chaplain.

Posted in Uncategorized on May 21, 2018 by Tyrienne

First, I have reached the conclusion that facebook can indeed be a cognitive addiction, I left around May 1st-ish and I still find myself reaching for my phone to make stupid little status updates even now. Example, walking my dog Ziu on the stream path behind our home and picking wild Sping onions. Okay, they will taste great in my stir fry this evening, but no one in Odinism outside of the local Braucherei would care about wild onions, and more importantly, the vast majority of them are fiercely against social media and limit internet use, if they even have the internet at all.

So, therefore, I concluded I would be sharing something entirely meaningless except for a small handful of other forager-types, and onions are nothing special compared to morel mushroom season or finding a decent sized chicken-of-the-woods (big shelf fungus that allegidly tastes like chicken.)

I suppose since Leah’s memorial service my focus in my chaplaincy shifted a bit. I am a little better known outside of just Odinism now and I felt a bit overwhelmed and needed to pull back my online interactions a bit. I still do as much (or little?) as always, but instead of being a one woman suicide/crisis/grief hotline- by pure happenstance I wound up on an obscure forum on Reddit for individuals and their families seeking support for a type of rare medical condition which happens to be incredibly common in my family.

I had a family medical emergency from that condition last week, created a stupid off-the-cuff throwaway name looking for resources for myself, was quickly connected to what I needed and in turn, learned that many of the questions people were posting on that forum I have the resources to answer or, at very least, point people in the correct direction to find answers that the moderators were at a loss to fix. I seemed to very quickly find a nice niche in there and have been happily helping ever since.

I do not give medical advice by any means, but I sure know my way around the process of finding the right types of doctors, can offer my own experience as a person who has family who suffer the condition for how to best help symptomatic family, and as a bonus, still have every chaplain resource available to listen or refer others to even better resources that can quickly help them out and even lead to solutions that stick- whereas with suicide/grief chaplaincy there are seldom quick fixes, nor even clear resolutions in many cases outside of therapy I am not qualified to provide beyond listening and the time it takes for psychological wounds to heal.

My /u/Tyrienne account still is active on regular reddit, but I discovered it is also a very nice change of pace to just be a ‘normal’, multifaith chaplain who can help with a few sentences and some links as opposed to pulling all-nighters with suicidal strangers via private messaging.

Reddit forums can be much more structured, especially the older forums. The acutely suicidal are better served by calling a crisis line such as 1-800-SUICIDE instead of me staying online for countless hours attempting to convince people to call that number. I realize I was living part of my life as a human redundancy.

So, I now have a secret screenname I use exclusively for a forum for a condition that is common in my biological family, something I know how to navigate the treatment process fairly well from a lifetime of understanding the condition. There, my religion as Odinist has only been mentioned twice, but I feel much happier overall with my work.

For one thing, it ceased feeling like “work”… although Heathen-Odinist chaplains with degrees and certifications seldom get paid anyway, the three or four of us in the US community I know definately work our asses off in our respective volunteer work. I know one in the military, one weddings, and one or two who did prison work, who if reading this, I dearly hope continued that outreach.

Heathenry, by nature does not have religious authorities…and should NOT be human billboards attempting to convert. Instead, we should serve as intake to answer questions and give out the basic booklist of the Eddas and helpful, supporting literature. (As always, my favorite remains “The Odin Brotherhood” by Mark Mirabello)

Each man and woman stands on their own in their European spirituality and do not and should not require any intermediary between ourselves and our Ancestors and Gods. Too often American Heathenry and Odinism falls into the Abrahamic pattern/trap of clergy with congregation… and really, that is not how we are supposed to work at all.

The Goethe/Gythia or even legal chaplain is a servant to the community and should only be responsible for helping others through difficult times, providing resources, performing services that the law requires legal clergy for (most people choose weddings, I chose funerals and forcing doctors to offer hospice care as an option for families with loved ones about to pass on from illness or traumatic injury), or in passing on our traditions to children and those who are newly called to our faith. We are supposed to lead only by example, and encourage each Odinist to be a leader in their own right.

We are not meant to have hierarchy, no one Odinist is more ‘important’ than any other. Each of us is capable of reading our own books, performing our own holiday rituals, and it is essentially toxic to lead a group of Odinists like a minister runs a Christian church.

My former kindred was very good at giving each person their equal moments of leadership for most of the extraordinarily long life it existed until many of our brothers fell into hard drug use. In trying so hard to integrate into other local communities, I got lost, and actually hurt a great deal by politics and backstabbing as other individuals jockied for ‘leadership’ roles in organizations.

Heathenry should not be organized, Odinism is an intimately personal experience you share with your family and like-minded friends.

I have successfully made some progress in reconnecting with my roots with the local Dńęevturba (and in refreshing my passive fluency in Latvian) and my chaplaincy degrees and such are actually better used at this time helping people as simply someone who went to college for the correct education to provide resources and support for anyone I can help, regardless of their own faith or mine.

I am a chaplain who is also an Odinist. I need to remember that, as should all others who went for legal legitimacy. It can be difficult to reconcile where we are supposed to ‘fit’ in our communities verses our legal title which was created based on a monotheistic model.

The federal government is very specific about how religions are defined and accepted; Odinists who seek accredited, ecclesiastical and counseling training are valuable in proving our legitimacy to non-Heathens, but we are not nor should not be anything other than a resource for the community entire or anyone else who could use our assistance.

It is a calling and a privilege, not an accomplishment.

When I feel up to it, I will be swinging back to the Odin Brotherhood forums as Tyrienne, but other than that, I have people to celebrate holidays with and invites I still would like to work up the nerve to accept from kindreds who operate on a more equal, appropriately ‘each person is a descendant of Gods’ model. (Hi MJG: Call me again, we need to catch up.)

Otherwise, the absolute most important thing to my spirituality at present is being here for my godchildren who are now all reaching that critical puberty age where I can take some stress off the parents by providing a thorough religious education on our beautiful tapestry European polytheistic religions and watch them bloom. One of my little goddaughter’s has even developed an obsession with fox fylgia and I am absolutely thrilled by that!

I do love talking about foxes, and in a few weeks I look forward to seeing my eldest godchild and her grandma before she leaves Pennsylvania for the summer for upstate NY.

So, this is where my path is right this moment in May of 2018. I will have my husband post this on the facebook page for me, and if any of you from real life or OB still need my phone number, email me at renalexanders@gmail.com

Also, summer solstice is coming up, it would be a great time now to scoutout your local mountains…and while doing so, I still support #Wotennetwork and Woten on the Peaks created by Stephen McNallen. Bring your horn and raise it high for the purpose of our Gods stirring up the blood of the collective ancestral spiritualities of our folk to the old (and very good!) Ways of our Gods and ancestors!

Hailsa!ūü¶ä

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I am not leaving.

Posted in Uncategorized on May 9, 2018 by Tyrienne

I am not leaving. I deavtivated facebook, I vent on Reddit, I play my viola/cello/violin (badly), and text people one on one.

I find myself pulled, as if addicted to overstare details of the more fucked up moments I have seen in real life, real time, instead I am saving them up for future blog posts.

Basically: How do I live my life and try to respond to the challenges life throws my way with an Odinist ethic?

This is what I think about often, among other things. How do I msintain a consistent, ethical response to all life events to the very best I am able.

There is zero guidebook that informs you on how to respond to modern life written by Tyr Himself, nor even Odin.

After the Hamaval, it is just us, doing the best we can to represent virtues we value.

Sometimes, I regret that my primary focus is gross honesty.

This entire post is the equivilent of vaguebooking. Truth is, at this moment I am dealing with recent trauma I am attempting to assimilate into becoming a benign thought in a sea of other traumas.

The problem with being traumatized at a young age is the inevitability of finding new, more bizarre traumas seeking you to completely fuck up your entire view of yourself and how much or little your life interfaces with other people in your life.

I have very good friends, the best therapist, support networks for days. The worst decision I make in my life is interact with people who hurt me and I recoil like a fucking viper and randomly strike back with my flashbacks and try to get people, like my family, to care about the times I was strangled as a child because tgey didn’t help me enough, call 911, protect me.

The above paragraph is part of what I am objectively experiencing in my mind right now, I am stressed and overwhelmed. It triggers. Not the co opted word ‘triggered’. I am having a psychological/medical episode I am treating with medication and writing out my thought processes.

The writing content, intensity, and style changes as I manage phonecalls from my shrink and my friends checking in on me. It is embarrassing I need that, but I am very grateful to have them all.

The problem is this time this is something new. I never saw this before, and I am frightened for everyone else who has seen what I have, and my other problems seem so alien compared to seeing a disease worse than the worst disease you know literally eat the brains of your best friend like a goddamned zombie buffett.

I wish I could talk about it and vent everything, but I can’t until they literally die.

For what it’s worth, I estimate that will be in under a year unless he decides otherwise.

But seriously, don’t lie to your friends for ten years about your problems because the 11th hour quickly moves to midnight and leaves me with nothing left to work with.

P.s. my husband will be posting my blogs on The Lokean fb page. I might just delete this post anyway.

Nookk has left the hospital at last; she was last seen eating trash and driving a Fnord

Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2018 by Tyrienne
Tastykaaaake!

This is the only picture of Leah Beam/Nookk Finn that belongs entirely to me. I share…also, here is the link to her Gofundme for her actual, biological family for her funeral expenses she created herself before she died: https://www.gofundme.com/7cpyp-leahs-funeral-expenses

Yeah, I got something to say: Asatru/Odinism/Heathenry, as a whole has nothing on the love that is flowing through the electronic veins of every social media site, forum, and group of Discordians and Chaotes the past month. The worshippers of the Norse have proven time and again to be more full of division, chaos, and discord than the actual movement CALLED “Discordianism”.

A few years ago, I stumbled across a post by a young girl on a Discordian page with over ten thousand members. I have no recollection of what she posted that impressed me so much at the time; however, my immediate action was to bring her into the wonderful, sweet center of Discordianist groups- the schisms and sweet little cabals in which we whisper our secrets and fears.

I even gave her the The Key.

For almost ten years there has been a myth about “Discordian Key Membership”- I forget who added me, but somehow, I ended up a moderator along the way… so I added her. Out of thousands of people on facebook, we agreed, before she was even old enough to legally vote, that she embodied the best of Eris herself.

Personally, I got so wrapped up in my anger at the Asatru community for not being better that I did not see “my people”. Although I moderated several larger cabals in Discordianism, my activity was so sparse that the few times I commented in the larger groups- It was met with confusion:

“Wait, why does it say you are a moderator? Are you an alt?”

“Nope, been here for years, I just don’t post often. ūüėö”

My moderatorship has not been to ban or to remove, but to sort people into the right communities: the artists into the glitch groups, the meme and content creator’s into others, and even further, to petition to allow those of us who are depressed, ill, or just going through some shit into groups where we provide one hell of an internet family.

Online, I joined Asatru and Discordian communities concurrently. I read “Condensed Chaos” by Phil Hine around the same time I began reading books on Runes before I even hit puberty.

As a Heathen, I am constantly having to both downplay/ stand up for myself for a variety of reasons: My political beliefs, the Gods I worship, right down to taking a fucking DNA test to prove to the most conservative among you that not only do I meet you quotas for “blood quantum”, I exceed most of you with being 100% made in Europe…and ironically, posting this screenshot caught me a 30 day fb ban(I will post the pic that got me my second ban at the end of this post.)

Every. Single. Fucking. Time. Someone I care about dies, I learn something that changes my life.

So far, so few people have died in my adult life I have not learned very much yet, but thanks to Leah-and the process of organising myself to perform her memorial service in less than a week, I have learned just how fucking much Discordians, Chaotes, and pagans OUTSIDE of Asatru come together internationally without conflict.

No mistake, there are some incredibly difficult, violent, and downright volatile feuds, however, those feuds are not about ideas…but between individuals. We have several who do not get along one on one, but it is fairly easy to navigate.¬† The feuds are usually legendary, but seldom divide us into “taking sides”.

We divide into schisms over entirely random reasons usually.

We know some people are miserable bastards, and others have actual, serious traumas they experienced that we try to be sensitive about (loss of a loved one, combat, disfigurement, etc). Some people create the most famous memes on the internet, some are employed by various governments and just hang out to talk freely where they cannot otherwise.

We have our own term for not being Discordian enough: Greyface. It means, basic, boring, dull, uninspired, and intellectually inferior.

We have serious, Hellenic, theistic Discordians with home altars to Eris, we have Heathens like me who honor Eris and Idunna as the same Goddess and we have Atheists/Agnostics who love the pseudo-religious aspects of the movement. They coexist… and honestly, much of the time we would have difficulty identifying one from the other.

We have actual celebrities and the conventionally successful commenting and writing content right alongside the disabled and the homeless. We do not care about relative wealth or status in the ‘conventional’ world in our Discordian communities.

When I am running my crisis chat, at least 75% of the people I help are in the Chaote communities.  They are my online family that is truly reciprocal.  We help each other without posturing or talking like we are on a Game of Thrones set.

Chaosists and Discordians are thoroughly modern, and may be the second most recent, spontaneous religion in numbers… the most recent being the new worship of the Ancient Egyptian Chaos-deity, Kek; the frog headed.¬† Fascinating stuff!‚úī

In setting up this memorial service, I learned more people in the entire world exist and belong to Discordian/Chaote/Chaos Magician groups several times over than Asatru as a whole.

Furthermore, when the Lokeans and Surtr worshippers were attacked online and in real life, excluded and derided by American Asatru groups: without pause, many assimilated into Discordia and Chaos Magicka communities. I swear I have seen more Heathen tattoos from friends in Disco than actual Hearhen groups.

We have our own authors, musicians, rituals, and organizations both online and off. Discordians are not fighting for recognition as a religion because, overall, very few require that sort of validation. They came from other belief systems and are tired of lables, or just tired of hierarchies.

Discordians do not have “leaders”, we have “key members” who are basically nodes who are connected to the most other members. We have people some of us really, honestly love and respect…but not usually universally.

Anyway, Leah is one of those people who actually *is* loved throughout every group I have seen among those that knew her. A tiny, twenty-two year old woman had the enormous power to bring hundreds of people defined under a title that suggests the opposite of accord.

Leah Nookk is still showing us how strong an unintentional community can bond, and also, how a single person can have such a profound, positive impact on not only the individuals they interact with, but improve an entire community that is both religious and anti-religion concurrently.

So, for the next several moments, fuck you, modern Asatru… for almost everything: from the disrespect you show to the belief systems of my family from Latvia to your bullshit faux-viking reconstructive rituals which are simply Wicca but with more alcoholism.

By birth, I am Heathen…but our American Heathen community is usually pretty awful and filled with petty bickering and too much heartache all.the.damned.time.

I am an accredited, degreed, chaplain. I can enter any hospital or hospice to perform my calling if I am asked.

I remember when I was suicidal and give as much time as I have to give to anyone who wants someone to listen and help them find a way to experience wanting to live again.

I think maybe the passing of my friend has given me more to process and disseminate than even the death of my former kindred brother whose passing clearly marked the end of an age of local Heathenry where the Folkish and Universalists got along. Time has proven that much.

Leah? Our ‘Nookk Finn’ has already proven that her life is the beginning of a new, positive movement around the entire motherfucking world of people who (mostly) read “The Principia Discordia”…and our strength together as a supportive, batshit crazy, but has true freedom of expression from SJW to Alt-Right, often in the same online forums, not even arguing since it is impossible to tell who is just “having fun” by poking both bears with sticks and who is home wearing drag wearing nothing but a MAGA hat in all seriousness and solemnity.

And goddamn, on Monday I will be filmed dressed like a raccoon, celebrating the life of Leah with as much joy as I can give you from my heart, and raising a horn to Discordia’s newest Saint, Queen Nookk, Leah the Goddess whose reputation and inspiration will long outlast the incredibly fortunate twenty two years we had her on this Earth, and has already become a legend: the woman who Made Discordians All Get Along, She Who Likely Had No Enemies.

Which makes her the quintessential Chaote among Chaotes, the most ironic of the absurd, and we gladly make her yet another icon to add to the infinite pantheon collective of every God, Goddess, and processed hotdog Chaos Magicians already honor as a whole.

This memorial is open to all and will be Totemist/Absurdist but still vaguely Odinist since Odinism is my own base.

The service will be held live 4/23/2018 at 3:23 EST

For the first time I can say: “Man, I am fucking glad to be Lokean and clergy to do this ritual.” For Heathen stuff I really have to lean so far into my existence Tyrsvolk I forget what “smiling” means anymore.

Thank you, Leah. Wherever you are right now, thank you for helping me work so hard to create this for you on Monday, and I hope it would make you smile for real if you got to watch me while you still wore your meatsuit like the rest of us here!

There will be snax. ūüíõūüĖ§ūüíõ

As promised, this is the picture that got me a 7 day ban that ends Friday on my “tame” account. The Zuccbots think my couch is literally a penis.

Although it has not yet been removed from my “spicy” account, it was too sexy for facebook and declared “posting obscene materials” and the picture has been deleted by facebook where I captioned it with the seductive title in several groups “So, I remodeled my basementūüėā:

In light of this, the service will be held live in this most controversial space with Sexy Couch posing seductively behind me during the broadcast.

Eris=Idunna to me and many others and She definately has Her own ways of indicating what She thinksis appropriateritial space.

Leah will forever be 22 years old to the world that loves her; the Germanic Goddess of Eternal Youth was her Goddess who loved her by the name of Eris, and this is *my* belief.ūüćéūüĆ≠ūüćŹ

To learn more on the connections I make between European paganism and modern Discordianism, please search my other posts with the word: Discordian

(I am le’tired of editing: I wrote this on my phone.¬† There are grammar/spelling mistakes.¬† I have better things to do than keep editing a mostly intelligible article.¬† If you see an error, assume it it intentional chaos‚úī…because IDGAF ūü¶ä)

Lead by Virtue, Become the Change

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2018 by Tyrienne

(I am writing this on my mobile at 2am and likely will not get to correcting any formatting/autocorrect errors until later: beware)

Whatever hand life has dealt, the past you endured, your collection of regrets and regrets you collected… there is nothing at all stopping an inner drive for self improvement outside the self.

To be in a controversial movement and to forward it with legitimacy, strive to be strong, honest, courageous, and admirable. There is no excuse for dishonesty nor for permitting obstacles to continue to limit your growth in other directions.

You can no longer dance? Learn to sing.

You can’t walk? Learn a stationary talent- write, take up an instrument, keep fucking trying to improve where ever you can, physically or mentally.

Strive to improve, even in sickness, and you will never be a burden.

I survived depression and both physical and psychological maladies, but I worked my fucking ass to improve. Of all the things that helped the most was entirely dropping people out of my life who were not equally willing to continue to strive for a greater, more meaningful existence… while bringing me down with their inability to take care of their own, personal garbage.

I am not inviting the untruthful, those who ever threatened me harm, those who harm innocents, nor will I ever be ‘holding the door ever open’ for even relatives who cannot even fathom what personal pride even feels like anymore after convoluted lives built upon precariously stacked lies.

If I can live 100% honestly, I expect no less from those I continue to share my time with.

Since decisively removing myself from people who do not add any meaningful contribution to my continued existence, especially degenerate family members, I seem to have reconnected with better, more stable individuals who add to my life instead of collapsing my sanctuary.

My peace is my own to disrupt or to keep. To keep the abusive in my life was my greatest absurdity, and it is difficult to concentrate when always, there is that feeling of waiting for the next bullshit drama from the same offenders, those who would rather wear their afflictions like a cross or medal instead of an obstacle to either overcome or work around.

My goal is to lead by example- to continue to improve in mind and body. To the ideal of becoming beyond reproach and emotionally bullet proof against the ethically and/or intellectually inferior who strive to destroy all that is honest and beautiful in this world.

If you have lied about me, you are unwelcome.

If you have put me in danger by your actions without my consent, you have only earned my disregard.

But for those of you, hundreds of you who also have found the taste of freedom in no longer being apologetic for our existence: Welcome!

May we all strive to rebuild a community despite our broken families and prior experiences of degenerate peers and disingenuous friends, to move beyond permitting the mantle of unholy scapegoat to be placed around our shoulders without objection.

Instead, stand up- look down at your detractors and be merciless in your deconstruction of them should they dare attempt to bring you down to their level one final time. Destroy them with your words once, then never again waste your time on them.  Or even better, ignore them completely: if you can live without formal closure.

Gods know my life is better if I follow my own advice!

I am no Christian to be a bended knee fool to appease anyone outside of the Gods.

If my Gods are also ‘unacceptable’… you too, can fuck right off. ‚ėļ

Laptop ist kaput.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 2, 2017 by Tyrienne

…and writing via phone is annoying. You will see more words when I get the motivation/ability to replace said laptop. In the meantime… If I post, be kind regarding whatever autocorrection failures I miss in editing!

Who Will Defend the Village?

Posted in Justice, Uncategorized on March 31, 2015 by Tyrienne

Enemies had been spotted at sea and young Sven ran as quick as his legs would carry him to the village to rally all the people together to defend themselves.

There, he saw Olaf, dipping his genitals into paint and pressing them up against every house he could.

“Quick, Olaf! We need your spear- the village is going to be attacked!” exclaimed Sven.

“Sven….can’t you see that I am making a statement here? ¬†Without my genitals pressed against these walls, people will not know my displeasure at the thought of the village being invaded!”

Sven shook his head and ran further into the village where he met Ilse, the swordsmith.

“Oh, Sven… I would love to help defend the village- but you see, I need to lose an ENTIRE boulder’s worth of weight before I am fit to be seen outside the village by invaders!”

“But….you make swords…”

“Yeah, I make swords….but what is the point of holding a sword if I can’t look AMAZING doing it?”

Sven shook his head, and ran further in where he ran into Eske-

“ESKE!!!! You are the strongest man here! Please! Help me defend the village!”

“Stongest? ¬†No….you mean FATTEST! ¬†The invaders would laugh at me, I’ve seen their paintings and they don’t look as I do. ¬† Sorry, but I am too embarrassed by my size to help you- try someone better looking.”

So, frustrated, Sven went to Axel, the most beautiful man in the village….he was painting a picture of himself on a rock.

“Save the village? ¬†SAVE THE VILLAGE? ¬†Can’t you see that I’m busy? ¬†I’ve worked SO HARD to be this perfect that it is of utmost importance that I paint a picture of myself for the ages for other people to admire my physical perfection…besides, if I were to fight, I might get disfigured- then who would the people look to for inspiration?”

Time and time again, Sven went to each villager and begged them for their assistance in saving their home- and each time, he was met with superficial excuses regarding trivialities which each villager thought was more personally important. ¬†Whether it be debating other villagers on the finer points of village-defense (without lifting a single weapon), working to be better looking or strong-enough looking to be worthy of defending the village, or simply telling Sven “They didn’t feel like it”- Every adult had a reason why they could not defend the village, but some were kind enough to offer their sympathies.

“YOU FUCKING IDIOTS- CAN NOT YOU SEE THAT OUR VILLAGE IS ABOUT TO BE DESTROYED?!” Sven exclaimed in the center of the town.

An old man in the village replied “Oh, Sven…. your problem is that you aren’t focusing on the present moment! ¬†I don’t see any invaders… In my wisdom I have learned to live just for this moment, for there might not be another. ¬†Invaders might come, they might not…. you don’t know….”

“LOOK, YOU CAN SEE THEIR MASTS ON THE HORIZ-”

“Yeah, but they ain’t here yet!” said another , “I am busy making necklaces…. if I don’t finish them tonight they won’t be done in time for the next feast!”

“THERE WON’T BE ANYMORE FEASTING IF-”

“Well, I think that would be a great idea to not have feasts anymore,” replied Ilse, “Then, I wouldn’t gain anymore weight. ¬†How will I ever be fit to be seen enough to hold a sword unless I lose more weight?”

“JUST PICK UP YOUR DAMNED SWORDS YOU-”

“You just don’t understand what’s important, Sven… I am improving MYSELF… you are simply just trying to upset EVERYONE with your constant yelling. ¬†It’s really irritating.” said Axel. ¬†“There is nothing more noble than Self Improvement and the admiration of others!”

Defeated, Sven went to the woods where he saw the children playing with their wooden swords, and he asked them, “Would you like to be REAL warriors, children?”

All the children, boys and girls from youngest to almost teenager screamed in unison:

“YES! ¬†OH GODS YES!”

“Then follow me.”

So, Sven lead the children to the shore and inspected their weapons, encouraged them to fight on the beaches to their hearts content as he waited for the invaders. Fat or slender, beautiful or ugly, tall or small, all the children had a marvelous time waiting for the invaders.

When the leader of the hostile ships came to shore, Sven cried out to them in several languages until he found one to which the leader of the ships replied… “What is it you want, little man?”

“I want to tell you there is a village full of idiots over that hill, and the children and I would like to help you, join you in showing you where they keep all their food, since you are likely starving from your journey, ¬†and in exchange become real warriors by joining you rather than staying here surrounded by these boring people…. People might call you ‘invaders’, however, this village would never have the guts and initiative your people have shown by even reaching here. ¬†I think our children deserve better than what this village can offer them.”

The leader of the invaders looked confused, then remembered his children at home… and shrugged. ¬†Why not? ¬†Seemed like a fair exchange all things considered, and together, the invaders, Sven and all the children pillaged their entire village leaving the idiots homeless as they sailed off and had great adventures for the rest of their lives- Learning that living in cooperation with other people was so much more satisfying, educational, and fulfilling than all the silly “self-improvement” that the other villagers were so singularly focused on. ¬†The children had never had such kind adult attention before since all the adults of their old village were always “too busy” for them as well. ¬†They were much happier with their new people- and from those children, legends were made.

As for the village?  No one ever heard of them again except for countless paintings of genitals  found in the wreckage and a rock that bore some resemblance to some random guy.

The end.

/Check your priorities, stop taking selfies, and contribute something meaningful to humanity, damnit.

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. ūüė¶ )

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.