SHOUTING ABOUT GWYDION IN A TOTALLY REVERENT WAY Awen in August, Day 31 | Bonfire at Midnight

(co-authored with Seren Lebannen and with much respect toward AGGRESSIVE DEVOTIONS)

SO GWYDION
GWYDION IS FUCKING AMAZING
SERIOUSLY YOU SHOULD CHECK HIM OUT
HE’S SO FUCKING SMOOTH
HE’S THE 007 OF TRICKSTERS
YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME?
HE TRICKED ARIANRHOD NOT ONCE
BUT TWICE.
THAT IS SOME SERIOUS TRICKSTER SKILLZ THERE
BECAUSE SHE KNOWS SOME MAJOR FUCKING ENCHANTMENTS
AND COULD FUCK YOUR SHIT UP WITHOUT BREAKING A SWEAT
NO WAIT, IT GETS BETTER.
HE CALLS TREES UP INTO BATTLE
THAT’S RIGHT MOTHERFUCKERS
ENTS: GWYDION DID IT FIRST
YOU THOUGHT TOLKIEN MADE THAT SHIT UP
NOPE.
AND AS IF ENTS WEREN’T ENOUGH
HE MADE A MAIDEN OUT OF FLOWERS.
HOW FUCKING MAGICAL IS THAT SHIT?
HE’S ALSO IN POSSESSION OF A VERY FINE MAGIC WAND
IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN
AND I THINK YOU DO
GWYDION FUCKING FAB DON.
LOOK HIS ASS UP.
HE’S THE HIPSTER TRICKSTER
YOU’VE PROBABLY NEVER HEARD OF HIM.
BUT NOW YOU HAVE
SO UPG IT UP AND GIVE HIM SOME GOOD WHITE WINE OR SOME APPLES
AND NO CHEAP WHINE
HE DOES LOVE BACON THOUGH
AND AFTER THE SHIT HE WENT THROUGH TO BRING PIGS TO THIS WORLD
YOU’D BETTER BE FUCKING GRATEFUL TO HIM
SO HAIL THE BACON BRINGER
BECAUSE EVERYONE LOVES BACON
UNLESS YOU DON’T FOR SOME REASON
BUT HE WON’T HOLD THAT AGAINST YOU
SO GO HIT HIM UP
AND MAYBE SOMEDAY YOU TOO CAN SAY
“I KNEW HIM BEFORE HE WAS COOL.”

The Marriage of Freyr and Gerd (The Skirnismal, myth embodiment #3)

Heather Freysdottir:

This is probably one of the best commentaries on Freyr and Gerda’s courtship that I’ve read in a long time.

Originally posted on Freya: The Gold Thread:

Last week my main Heathen group, which is focused on the Vanir, did a myth embodiment of the Skirnismal, aka how Freyr won his jotun wife Gerd. This exercise is one that we’d done twice previously–first with the myth describing the Marriage of Njord and Skadi, and second with the myth of how Freya won Brisingamen. Both times the activity yielded up some great insights into the Gods involved as well as a lot of hilarity. (And how often does one activity give you both of these things at once, I ask?)

One of the things that I think this type of exercise does best is to fully flesh out the characters–in our case last week, the Gods Freyr and Skadi; the Jotun (Godddess-to-be?) Gerd; and the eponymous Skirnir, who, as we found out, is neither Aesir nor Vanir nor jotun nor alf. (Actually, nobody knows quite what he…

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Call for Submissions: Masks of the High One — a Devotional Anthology for Odin

Heather Freysdottir:

Reblogging for the signal boost. :D

Originally posted on Wytch of the North:

A little more than a year ago, I put out a call for submissions for Prayers to the Allfather, a book of prayers and rituals for Odin. Well, despite a number of people being kind enough to share my CFS across the internet, I received exactly three submissions. Due to various factors in my life at the time, I just wasn’t feeling equal to writing the bulk of a book of prayers on my own (since when I think prayers, I think poetry, and I am not primarily a poet), so I reluctantly shelved the project for a while.

Then I got to thinking: maybe a prayer book is too limiting. Maybe most other pagans, witches and polytheists out there also shy away from writing prayers for public consumption, either because they feel too personal, or because (like me) they associate them with poetry and feel unequal to the task…

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Where’s the Support for the Maetreum of Cybele?

“If you happen to be thinking that this instance of legal precedence does not concern you because your theology differs from theirs, you ought to think again.  If you believe for a second that your future endeavors to build your own worship space, or convent, or temple to your God(s) is not affected by this, you are sorely mistaken.

Wouldn’t it be a shame if the legal wins of the Maetreum were not available toyour lawyer when your town or local government decides to derail your plans?  Wouldn’t it be a shame if you did not have this legal precedent to fall back on, proving the inherent worth of Alternative Religions, and thus, your religious tradition in your close-minded community? Shame?  Yes.  Shame on you.

So, where is your support?  And if you are serious about Pagan places of worship, temples, convents and the like, then put your money where your mouth is.

The Maetreum’s Paypal is:

centralhouse@gallae.com

Or, send the priestesses a check:

Maetreum of Cybele
3312 Route 23A
Palenville, NY 12463

Talk is cheap, but action is remembered, not only by our communities, but by our Gods.”

–Laurel Columbine, Where’s the Support? | Queen of the Waiting Ones.

Or if you’d like to hear about the Maetreum’s battle in their own words, I interviewed them on Raven About Metaphysics. If you’re able, please, please consider donating to their fight – it affects Pagans and Polytheists, but it will leave a lasting impact on all minority religions.

Guest Post: Silence Maestas, part three

Parts One and Two of Silence Maestas‘ series on the parallels between bhakti and devotional polytheism can be found here and here.  Enjoy!

– H

 

It is time to shift the conversation to devotional polytheism and the parallels that are informed by raganuga bhakti sadhana. Polytheistic faiths have complex cycles of interconnecting stories. Though some modern polytheistic traditions have a wealth of sources describing these stories, they are not regarded as full or complete given the combined actions of time, forgetfulness, and deliberate destruction. Even so, the deities and sacred figures we revere and love are known to have complex relationships among themselves, with humanity, with various aspects of creation, with cosmic forces, and so forth. Polytheism is saturated with nuanced relationships. To downplay this complexity or to ignore the very immediate potential for developing complex relationships with our gods is to miss one of the qualities of polytheism – and indeed of religious experience in general – entirely.

When a devotional practitioner makes the choice to engage with a deity, they become a conscious part of the network of relationships that deity is part of. Nuanced awareness of this participation grows with time and dedicated practice. With time, practice, and study the practitioner may discover a paradigmatic individual within the tradition(s) they draw upon. This paradigm helps them contextualize their experiences by providing a map or model. Their highly personal experiences are revealed to have a sacred, cosmic counterpart. The practitioner feels even more deeply embedded in the sacred network of relationships that contains their chosen Beloved.

It should be noted that feeling embedded in a network of relationships and of experiencing oneself as intimately part of the universe of one’s tradition is not simply the product of a deliberate and conscious choice made of the part of the practitioner. If religious identification were so simple, no one would ever struggle with affiliation with one tradition or another. The process of conversion would be no more complex then the choice of what color shirt to wear. The choice of religious identification and worldview affiliation is a nuanced process of evaluation using information gleaned from many different senses, including those subtle and nameless emotional resonances that repel or draw us towards highly specific divine manifestations. The experience of aligning with a specific paradigmatic individual within one’s particular tradition is as delicate and profound as one’s alignment with the religious tradition itself. If, for instance, I were Heathen (I am not), I might say “I am a Heathen, I am part of Heathenry, Heathenry is part of me.” Am I the sole manifest embodiment of Heathenry? Of course not. But I am one possible guise of Heathenry in this world, one portal by which others can interact with Heathenry, one point of contact by which my wondering mind can explore the profound and timeless truths of the Heathen current. Though I am a mortal individual, I can have a (more or less) eternal identity living within me.

Achieving this level of alignment with the current of a tradition is not simple or fast and whatever identification I feel with Heathenry (for instance) upon my initial exploration of the path is going to become deeper, more complex, and considerably more personal and immediate the longer I engage with it. It is not a process that can be consciously driven forward simply for wanting to. Indeed, since as a Heathen I believe that Heathenry is full of conscious beings with a will and agenda of their own, the process of identity alignment is as much a result of Their decision as it is mine. This is the much the same process that occurs when a practitioner becomes aligned with a paradigmatic individual. Other language might be used to describe the experience of it but if the outcome is functionally the same then variation of terminology may be of little practical consequence to the person encountering an intimate identification with a sacred personality.

Though the identification of devotional polytheists with various paradigmatic individuals is at the moment a topic of shared discussion, I am entirely certain that it is not new. What we have lacked, perhaps, are the means to discuss this among similar practitioners and enough gumption to do so with a volume that others might hear and respond. We have also lacked the time required for such detailed fruition to occur; this fullness is being realized at this moment and will no doubt continue to be. What we currently lack is a vocabulary that allows convenient and nuanced conversation about this particular phenomenon that sometimes arises over the course of a long and dedicated practice. We also lack the kind of comprehensive practice, commentary, and theory that might help explain the value of such an occurrence when it does happen. Though I have used a tradition outside of those typically placed in the category of modern polytheism, I believe that I have been able to offer some explanation and proof that such a degree of identification can, does, and will again happen within a devotional practice.

Bhakti, like devotional polytheism, has been unfairly characterized by uninformed observers and critical commentators. Devotional polytheism has a reputation for expressive emotionality without structure, discipline, or purpose. In a similar vein, bhakti has been said to have no concrete practice or guided discipline. Both of these assumptions are untrue. The actions undertaken by the devotional polytheist as motivated by their emotional response to their chosen deities are continually questioned and refined in order to become a more perfected vessel of expression. Consistent self-exploration is undertaken to uproot the psychological barriers that prevent effective action and arrest increasing emotional connection. Though devotional polytheists do not draw from an extensive body of practical knowledge in the way that modern bhaktas do, we nonetheless seek out supportive peers, experienced practitioners, and elders within our respective traditions. There is an on-going quest to find more structure and more support, not less. This is because we understand, however unconsciously, that structure and support lead to coherent, conscious practice, which in turn is better able to facilitate the emotionally rich spiritual experiences we crave.

Coming to an identification with a sacred figure is not, in and of itself, an indication of a flawed practice or a flawed mind. In fact, seeing oneself as intimately connected to the sacred cycle of meaning and narrative that our deities are embedded in is just one of several possible positive outcomes of devotional practice. It is achieved by a softening of individualistic ego-identity and a merging with those personalities believed to have close, loving relationships with the chosen Beloved. This blended identification is one possible way of bridging the worlds of perception, feeling, and experience, of mingling this world and any possible Other.

It is worth reiterating that this merged identification is not a product of early practice, at least according to the devotional authorities of the Hindu bhakti tradition. I am inclined to agree with them. However, given that a person’s chosen Beloved may indicate the practitioner’s identification with a sacred personality at any point in their relationship, some flexibility in the application of this observation might be required. That said, being aware of one’s potential is in no way a shortcut through the dedicated practice that must precede such embodiment. This too is counseled by the bhakti authorities; one must follow the injunctions of scripture and teacher and tradition before the natural affinity of identification with a sacred personality will develop in the practitioner’s heart.

This lengthy, but by no means exhaustive, article is not specifically meant as justification for anyone’s individual beliefs regarding their spiritual life or practice. It is, however, an informed look at the precedents for similar occurrences in other, related, devotional currents. Ideally, this information can be used as a template or map against which to measure one’s own exploration through spiritual territory. The path trod by countless other lovers can help lead us through an emotional landscape suffused with divinity in all its forms.

 

Silence Maestas

August 21, 2014

(Epilogue: And me? Who are the paradigmatic individuals that inform my practice? What master of devotion do I worship the footsteps of?

I bow down to the holy, grace-filled steps of Mirabai, princess who sacrificed everything to be immersed in the presence of her most sacred Beloved. I recall her mad wanderings and ecstatic cries.

I bow down to the effulgent footsteps of Andal who clothed the Lord with her own garland and claimed him as hers. I recall her marriage to her incomparable Lord.

I humbly recall the disguises of Radha’s joy when he dressed for her pleasure. Krishna, the world’s greatest lover, was speechless and confounded by the love of his love.

I am speechless and cowed by the radiant loyalty of the worthy Sigyn, whose font of renewal refreshes the dullest soul and the most wavering heart.)

Guest Post: Silence Maestas, part two

Part One of Silence Maestas‘ series on the parallels between bhakti and devotional polytheism can be found here.  Enjoy!

– H

 

To contextualize the occurrence of identification with sacred personalities, I borrow work put forward by scholar David L. Haberman. In his book Acting as a Way of Salvation, Haberman references dramatic performance and Indian aesthetic theory to discuss the existence of paradigmatic individuals within, specifically, the collection of stories of the life of Krishna known as Vraja lila. Haberman’s primary sources are the works of Rupa Gosvamin, a 16th century mystic and bhakta who articulated the practice of sacred role assumption called raganuga bhakti sadhana. This practice influenced the development of the bhakti tradition in its many forms. Rupa Gosvamin was also one of the direct disciples of Sri Caitanya, a Bengali saint in part responsible for the spreading of Krishna worship and a prime originator of the bhakti movement that continues to shape Hindu religious expression to this day.

Raganuga bhakti sadhana is a disciplined devotional practice (bhakti sadhana) wherein the practitioner comes gradually to identify with one Krishna’s associates known in Vraja lila. Though bhakti sadhana can be engaged in for the purpose of salvation and for the liberation from the cycle of birth and death, commentators have frequently pointed out that performance of loving action for the sole reason of expressing affection for God is the highest motivation of all. This puts bhakti sadhana squarely in line with many modern polytheistic devotional practices, which seeks to physically embody and express deep emotional impulses without (generally speaking) any other specific goal in mind. Though some modern polytheistic traditions hold that adherents can show proper duty and reverence towards the gods through actions like worship and private ritual, the private emotional motivations of love, affection, and selfless desire are what drive the actions of many modern worshipers regardless of whether their tradition holds that individuals have particular duties towards the divine.

In Vraja lila the Lord Krishna interacts with a vast cast of characters, each of which has their own point and purpose within the story cycle. The cast of characters found in Vraja lila include humans, animals, plants, various divine personages and supernatural entities, and even personified aspects of landscape elements (examples include the Yamuna River and the Vrindavan Forest).

Though directly approaching Krishna through worship is one possible avenue of practice, bhakti is now and was then influenced by subcontinent aesthetic and dramatic theory, which held that relational moods helped inform the emotional state of the actor and audience. This theory has a modern counterpart in Method Acting but its application was not limited to theatrical performance. The assumption of moods helped shape the interaction that the worshipper had with their preferred form of God. It is from this body of religious theory that we get the relational moods of servant, friend, parent, and lover. These relational moods have become part of the common vocabulary of several devotional polytheists and are at least familiar to many others.

The Vraja lila is full of characters and each has their own relationship to Krishna. Even when drawing a narrow focus on the stories we have a wealth of possible connections to consider. Just some of the sacred figures of Vraja lila include:

Krishna’s male companions and friends

  • Krishna’s male companions and friends
  • His brother and twin incarnation Balarama
  • Krishna’s birth parents
  • His adoptive parents
  • His neighbors
  • Assorted villagers
  • Radha
  • Radha and her closest associates
  • Radha’s second-tier associates
  • Collections of rival gopis
  • Husbands and children of various gopis and village women

 

Taken all together we are provided with a picture of complex relationships and a great number of possible relational roles that a bhakta may step into as a natural part of their ongoing spiritual development.

I must apologize to the reader for bypassing a description of why, precisely, the assumption of roles and moods were so important to historic and current students of raganuga bhakti sadhana and its related practices within the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition. Let me briefly say that if your God is a playful God and if all creation is part of that play, then a worshipper who desires to become deeply embedded in this cosmic action typically seeks to follow closely the steps of someone who already knows the dance. Hence the identification with the various sacred figures within Vraja lila. Indeed, the term lila can be translated as the verb, ‘play’.

Part Three

Silence Maestas on Devotional Relationships and their parallels with bhakti sadhana

Greetings, gentle readers. As promised, here is part one of a series of guest posts by Silence Maestas, author of Walking the Heartroad, and it’s about the parallels in devotional relationships and bhakti. When I wrote my latest post on apotheosis, he approached me and brought up some research he’s been doing about a particular type of bhakti, and while bhakti is most certainly a Hindu tradition, it is also the most documented, unbroken tradition of polytheism that we can compare our own devotional or immersive relationships to and gain some context for our experiences. I will add links to parts two and three once they are up, and I hope you enjoy reading about this as much as I did.

– H

 

When learning a new subject it is helpful to go to the experts. In the case of people developing a devotionally-oriented practice within a pagan or polytheistic context, our experts tend to be our direct predecessors and antecedents. We look to what past practitioners wrote about themselves, their actions, their thoughts, their beliefs, and about the actions, thoughts, and beliefs of their peers. Though these accounts can be highly informative, they can lack the specifics that modern practitioners are most curious about. We do not have a very thorough understanding of the devotional practices of our ancient forebears or about the emotions that informed their worship.

Thus, to get a more comprehensive picture of what, exactly, the devotional path looks like it behooves us to seek a more complete picture. Personally, I chose to closely study the modern and historic devotional traditions within Hinduism. I did so because some of my formative religious experiences were related to this tradition and because I found and continue to find enormous relevance to my personal practice within the bhakti current. Since a comprehensive body of writing exists within this tradition about devotional practice and, perhaps more importantly, about how individuals think, feel, act, and react with regards to their practice, I find this a highly relevant frame of reference by which to think about my own practice.

(Is this appropriation? I do not call myself Hindu or a polytheistic bhakta. I do not claim to be practicing any specific form of Hinduism. I take pains to grant bhakti the referential relationship it has to greater Hinduism. I do, however, study and make reference to materials and traditions that have been made accessible to me by Hindu practitioners past and present and by Hindu and non-Hindu scholars, writers, and commentators. I have chosen, in my pursuit for a more refined devotional practice, to learn from the experts. To my mind there are few devotional traditions that can rival the nuance, quality, breadth, depth, and vitality of the bhakti current.)

I began exploring the fundamentals of the devotional path as a teenager, more than fifteen years ago. My metaphysical education goes back several years further than that. I have explored the devotional aspects of many different traditions ranging from self-directed Goddess-oriented spirituality to lineaged, initiatory traditions, from reconstructionism to deconstructive ritual practices. Though I am no authoritative master when it comes to devotional practice or anything else, the many years of focused, concentrated devotional practice and accompanying observation and study has led me to a few conclusions that I feel reasonably qualified to make. Though these conclusions are informed by my worldview as a polytheist, since you, my reader, are likely of a polytheistic bent yourself I feel they can be made directly.

 

  • Devotional practice arises from our innate human capacity for emotional sensation and empathy.
  • Therefore, some consistent expressions of devotional practice and the experience of practitioners can be gleaned because all practitioners are the same species. (This conclusion sets aside the stories of animal devotees because we have no self-directed accounts from them.)
  • As individual practitioners become increasingly related to the sacred object of their (emotional) attention, the distinguishing barriers that are part of ego-identification soften and identification with and as part of an overarching, permeating, and eternal strata takes hold.

I wish to speak to the second conclusion above, that certain parallels can be identified between traditions because we are all dealing with roughly the same building blocks. At the risk of sounding like I am proposing a sort of “core devotionalism” (which I am not), I would like to use this conclusion to explore a specific expression of a devotional tradition that can inform the experiences of practitioners within new and revitalized polytheistic and pagan traditions.

New and revitalized traditions generally lack the kind of comprehensive devotional tradition that informs the practice of people participating in a religion that has enjoyed a lengthy and more or less unbroken expression. Further, some pagan practitioners work within a traditional context where extensive written records were not kept or where known records have not been translated or made available to the practitioner.

The second and third conclusion above allows me to suggest that the experiences of practitioners in new and revitalized traditions will have certain parallels (in form or function or both) within other traditions. Once identified, the known parallel can be used as a model for the practitioner to refer to as they explore a particular new expression within their own practice. This is not a transplantation of meaning or expression. It is a reference that guides continued personal exploration and, ideally, warns of potential misapplications.

Though the reality or non-reality of reincarnation is beyond my ability to speak on, an identification with a sacred figure by a devotional practitioner is something I can provide context for. Stated bluntly, this process of identification is attested to in multiple comprehensive devotional traditions and is likely found in several others that I am unfamiliar with.

Though other examples can be made, for brevity and clarity I will explore one particular expression of devotional identification found in Hinduism. I would like to suggest that such identification is one possible result of consistent and focused devotional engagement. It is an outcome that may result from our innate emotion characteristics as human beings, as a mechanical result borne from the actions of devotional expression, or (as I personally believe) a combination of both. It is not the only potential result of devotional engagement and it is not the final or paramount such achievement. It is simply one occurrence within a much grander process that has the potential to lead to many other – many stranger, even more wonderful – experiences.

Part Two