Many Gods West – Saturday

So, Saturday.

Those who know me know I’m not much of a morning person, so alas, I missed the first two presentation slots entirely, which is sad, as I was actually very interested in several of them! But it would have been very, very hard to choose, so perhaps it’s for the best. I attended a talk on Heathen Cosmology, and two rituals, one for Cathubodua and one for Dionysos, which will have to wait for the next post.

Heathen Cosmology by Heimlich A. Laguz

I almost went to Finnchuill’s talk about re-enchantment which was the presentation Lon attended, but at the last moment sitting with him, Lon read to me the full description of what was listed on the schedule grid as “Heimlich A. Laguz – Heathen Cosmology”, which honestly hadn’t sounded very interesting to me from just the title.

It was actually a talk on “Dreaming, Death, and Memory: Sketches for a Heathen Cosmology”, which is past fascinating and into necessary for me, so off I went. Luckily those two talks were in the same building.

His presentation was based on his article (published under the name “Henry Lauer”) in Hex Magazine in 2010. His wife had a few of the back issues on hand to sell after the presentation, one of which I immediately snagged. I wish I had followed this magazine while it was in publication. I vaguely recall running across it and not being sure what to think of it. I have learned to be wary of random Heathen publications, after all.

I admit, when he started talking about his radical background and how Heathenry is more a worldview, a headspace, than per se a focus on the gods, I was braced for a lecture on how I’m not something enough to be A True Heathen. Heck, depending on his arguments, I was prepared to concede the point, and keep on being Vanatru anyway out of sheer stubbornness. I wasn’t raised anywhere in Scandinavia after all. My practice is very much grounded in my life in California.

But no! Listening to his talk, I was pushed to realize that I’m actually far MORE Heathen than I have been accounting for – at least by the standard he was presenting. He pointed out how important throughout the lore are the value of memory, the nature of death, and – perhaps most pertinent for me personally – the experience of dreaming.

Whether or not I happen to be living up to it at any given time, I do agree with the underlying point that the Heathen worldview is more fundamental than any focus on one or another of the Norse gods. You have to get into the cosmology, the relationships between the ancestors, the land, the Tree, the worlds, look at the underlying forms of magic and attitudes towards life and death. If you don’t see how they all entwine, you’re missing a large part of the picture.

The way they intertwine for HL is clearly very Odinic in flavor, but I could easily see how the same threads wound back to the Vanir in many places as well. More to the point, they are grounded in the human experience of these relationships regardless of any allegiance to one or another tribe of gods.

Really, I need to stop trying to keep parts of myself separate from my work in Vanatru. One of the first things I learned from the Heathen community is how important it is to keep my chocolate and peanut butter separate, at least when practicing with other Heathens. The more I actually dig into everything, the more wrong that seems to me, but I’m not entirely sure how to correct the habit without things getting muddled. The great thing about peanut butter mixed with chocolate is that both flavors remain distinct.

I should go back through the article and remind myself of what all he said, because it was honestly more than is at all easy to absorb in one sitting, and it was obvious when he was talking that he was only giving us the tip of the iceberg. I can’t do his lecture a fraction of justice. Hopefully the article will be made available in some digital form for those who can’t acquire one of the few remaining copies of that issue of Hex.

Devotional to Cathubodua by Coru Cathubodua

That was an intense ritual. I arrived a touch late because my need to stop for self-care (food!) trumped my privilege to attend the ritual. I was prepared to miss it entirely if it was no longer possible to join in, but they let me enter and cleansed me quickly before I joined the circle.

It was just dark enough at the far end of the room, and the room just long enough that I couldn’t always hear or understand what was being said, nor see Morpheus, Rynn, or the third Coru priest clearly.

I will say, my absolute favorite thing was the music. The music was absolutely wonderful. I want to write more layered music like that for ritual use.

Morpheus’ summoning of the Battlefield to the space certainly made a mark on the ritual. I went from being slightly confused but overall comfortable to distinctly uneasy, which frankly seemed entirely appropriate.

Then Rynn invoked the purpose of the ritual – Cathubodua’s gift of endurance. Ouch.

(An aside: Morpheus is often a striking figure, so she naturally gets a lot of attention. Goodness knows, she packs a serious spiritual punch in a ritual setting, and I have enjoyed that very much in the rituals I’ve gotten to attend where she was involved. But I have to say, Rynn gets underestimated, and that’s a serious mistake. Rynn’s spiritual punch is every bit as intense as Morpheus’, but where Morpheus conveys a sense of being just on the edge of encroaching wildness, Rynn seems very tightly, fiercely focused. I wouldn’t want to get between either of them and their goal, but that’s okay because we’re generally on the same side. But I digress.)

I’d braved sitting down on the floor despite everyone I could see standing, and repeated references to standing, because I just couldn’t stand that long without my knees trembling and my back starting to seize. Of course, sitting on the floor without my seat cushion (which I had remembered to bring north with us but nevertheless consistently forgot to bring into presentations with me) meant that legs were falling painfully half-asleep triggering the chronic nerve pain in my hips and legs. On the one hand, that pain is often worse. On the other hand, if I’m already on the floor, I can’t fall down, right?

When Rynn started drilling this gift of endurance into us, I became intensely aware of how much pain I was in. I was suddenly very angry. Endurance!? That’s what this goddess is blessing me with – the ability to be in more pain for longer? Seriously? Can we perhaps focus on removing or at least reducing suffering instead of on merely enduring it?!

I caught myself starting to spiral into a sense of fury and despair in a worldview where problems simply can not be solved, only endured or allowed to destroy us. I pulled myself up sharply to an arms-length analytical perspective on the message being conveyed, and realized quickly enough that the angle from which this divinely granted endurance was a blessing was simply not the angle from which I generally live my life.

I work for gods of peace and plenty, who, granted, can win wars when They have to, but certainly don’t live in a perpetual state of conflict. My own life is also not frequently in conflict. Clearly I do not work well with at least this aspect of Cathubodua.

And yet…

The Morrigan in Her/Their various forms have frequently sent students my way many (possibly all) of whom have been suicidally depressed before or during their studies with me. I have identified several common threads in what kind of students are sent my way by The Morrigan, and I have wondered over the years why She/They so rarely contact me directly for or about them. Odin will talk to me, Freyja will talk to me, Brighid will talk to me, and many of those same students end up working with some or all of Them too, even if I never bring Them up or instruct them to do so.

But The Morrigan has always kept Her distance. I asked a question. Now I have an answer. What I am that makes me of such use for helping those particular students find and believe in a brighter world is not something She can support in me. She needs me to be what I am, but She can’t help me uphold it. So She sends them my way, and keeps Her distance from me, letting indirect messages and other gods handle those aspects of the work, while She supports Her most desperate children from the other side.

And I can very much see why what She offers IS help to them, how much they need it and Her. But now I can also very much see why She keeps Her distance from me, and for that knowledge I am very grateful to Coru Cathubodua.

It’s far too late, and I have too much to do tomorrow. I’ll have to write up the Dionysia and my Freyja ritual in another entry.