Hindu Festivals: Janamashtami

Today is Krishna’s Birthday! Yaay! Here are a few things you need to know about this festival and the god whom it is meant for.

Well, first of all, Krishna wasn’t technically a god. Yes I know he is worshipped as one and ISKCON devotees believe him to be the Paramatma, the great creator spirit. But in older traditions, Krishna is only an avatar of Vishnu, who lived here on Earth as a human many thousands of years ago. That is how it’s possible for him to have a birthday. He was born on the eighth day of Bhadrapada month – Hindus use a Lunar calendar when it comes to most celebrations; it’s around August-September in our calendar.

Born as one or not, he certainly is a very popular god with devotees. He is said to be very attractive, and is the god of compassion, tenderness and love. I would personally add ruthless politics and trickery to the list due to the role he played in the Mahabharata but that’s just me. Most people worship him as the innocent looking charmer with the flute and cows.

So. How do you celebrate a god’s birthday?

1. Clean the house. Just like you would when hosting a birthday party for a human.

2. Cook something yummy for Krishna. It must be vegetarian. He is said to love butter so you could leave some for him at his altar/statue. I normally cook chick pea curry with puri (deep fried breads) and some sweet dish – this year I have made date laddoos. I will leave a link at the bottom with the recipe for these.

3. Celebrate him! Chant his mantras, watch movies about him; keep him in your mind. A good movie that came out fairly recently and I really liked is OMG – Oh My God. It is in Hindi but you might find it with subtitles.

4. Go to a mandir or gather with friends and keep a vigil. Krishna was born at midnight, so people keep vigil to wait for his arrival and wish him happy birthday.

5. Many people fast on this day (I don’t but I make sure I only eat vegetarian food). If you decide to fast you can do it sunrise to sunset, or until the next day morning. You can also do a light-fasting, with eating only fruits and water. Hard core believers will not eat anything and won’t even drink water all day until the next sunrise.

6. If you are in India or in an Indian community, there are always dance and drama performances to honour him. ISKCON temples are a good choice to go as obviously Krishna is their main god. And of course there is a special tradition to commemorate his stealing butter from his mother’s kitchen: dahi-handi. A pot full of yoghurt is hung really high up. Then people have to make a human pyramid in order to reach the pot and break it. The group who manages to break it gets the blessings of Krishna – and some presents from the organisers.

Happy birthday Krishna, I’m sure you are having a blast this year too!

Chick peas curry:

https://www.cookwithmanali.com/punjabi-chole-chickpeas-curry/

Puri:

https://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/poori-a-kind-of-fried-indian-bread/

Dates laddoo:

https://hebbarskitchen.com/dates-ladoo-recipe-khajur-laduu-recipe/

Generational Trauma, Dolphins, and Neptune

Odin, the Norse All-Father, recruited me into Polytheism. Since outside of Odin, no other Norse God seemed interested in me, I questioned my baffling experiences. Later I found out that there is a Group of Gods (Sekhmet, The Morrigan, Odin, Hekate, and Dionysus.) who recruit people into Polytheism. (Recruiting Gods will often leave the person once they become a Polytheist.) However at the time, I was frustrated and disappointed at having no rapport with anyone.

During my struggles, I attended different rituals held by other Polytheists. When I went to a Roman one, I met Neptune. During this rite, I felt a 1,000 volts of electricity coursing through me. My head was on fire and my hair stood on end. Neptunus Pater (Father Neptune) made Himself known to me. I was welcomed into the Roman Pantheon of Gods. I felt as if I had come home. Later, I realized that the Roman Gods wait before introducing Themselves to practicing Polytheists.

It turns out that my family had a long relationship with Neptune. For generations, they thrived in union with the sea. Mariners, boat builders, and fisher folk received their livelihood from the ocean. However, like all reciprocal relationships, both sides require sacrifices.

The rupture with Neptune came when my grandfather’s father lost his entire family in a horrific storm. They were fishing on Georges Bank in the Atlantic at the time. Following the news, his sorrowful mother made him (her youngest) promise never to go to the sea again. She cursed it for destroying her life. Afterwards, she would chide laughing or happy people with, “Remember you were born to die.”

After that, his father took to farming and was miserable. He passed that misery onto his family and to future generations. Since we are not independent of our ancestors, this transgenerational trauma becomes a part of us. The sickness in my family came out as abuse and addiction.

Since ever I could remember, I disliked dolphins. I could not abide people gushing over these ill-tempered bullies. Dolphins symbolized the deep trauma of my family losing an entire generation. Instead of saving the drowning men, the dolphins acted as psychopomps guiding them across the water to the Afterlife. Neptune had wanted his offerings from my family.

After years of living inland, my father settled us next to the sea. Then the healing could begin. In middle age, my father discovered joy in puttering about in his small sailboat, a blue J. Sailing in the Long Island Sound between New York and Connecticut, he had fun. Sailing with him was an exercise in not caring if we were lousy sailors or not. We had finally made peace with the sea.

Repairing my family’s relationship with Neptunus Pater has been healing for me. The trauma that my family carried is now dissipating. My relationship with Him now is one of sacra gentilicta – keeping rites for the God of my family. It is my sacred duty to make offerings on behalf of my family including the Ancestors lost at sea. I have weekly devotions to Neptunus Pater, and an annual rite during the Neptunalia in July.

Ritual is an ideal way of healing transgenerational trauma. It offers a container to hold the grief. By reconnecting with Neptunus Pater, He allowed me to move the trauma from the present to the past. Stoicism had allowed my family to survive this tragedy. We never mentioned their names again. I released the trauma through radical inclusion by acknowledging those lost at sea.

Meanwhile, I have also made peace with the Dolphins, His Messengers. I forgave Them for not saving my family, and understood that guiding my family to the Afterlife was equally as important. The name of the blog is our reaffirmed relationship with each other.

“Sea Fever” by John Masefield (1878 – 1967, English)

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Works Used

Patricia Kathleen Robertson, “Connect With Your Ancestors.” 2017. Peaceful Possibilities Press: Calgary (CAN).
—, “Let Your Tears Flow.” 2017.
—, “Step Into the Light.” 2019

The Values of Rökkatru: Part 1

What exactly the values of Rökkatru are tend to be defined by how people understand and experience the Rökkr themselves, and yet there are general ideas about what these values are that seem to be more or less agreed upon. What this means is that Rökkatru read and analyze the lore, and take what they learn from this together with what they’ve learned from their personal spiritual experiences with the Rökkr, as well as common shared personal gnosis, to form an idea of what value or “lesson” each entity in the Rökkr pantheon teaches.

This is part of the reason why defining the pantheon itself—who is included and who isn’t—is an important question. Regardless of whether or not that question has been properly answered (given that depending on who you ask some entities may or may not on the list of Rökkr), we can look at the values that individual Rökkr are generally considered to teach, especially the ones that have been written of. It is also feasible from this starting point to begin analyzing the lore around other entities whose values may not have been explored or defined yet, as well as meditating, journeying, and divining to learn more about these beings and what they represent.

Let’s begin first with those beings that are consistently counted among the Rökkr, and take a look at what their values are generally considered to be:

Loki is in many ways considered the “father” of the Rökkr pantheon, given that he fathered Fenrir, Hela, and Jörmungandr with Angrboda. It is his family that clearly makes up the core Rökkr pantheon, and as a result he holds a place of prominence and importance among to Rökkatru.

Though outside of the Rökkatru and Lokean communities Loki is often known as a liar due to his nature as a trickster, within the communities which hail him it is this very nature that lends to him being associated with the value of self-knowledge. Through his stories harsh truths are often faced or stated, often unwillingly. This isn’t something that Loki only does to others, as seen in Lokasenna. It is something that Loki often undergoes in the stories himself, when he is forced to own up to mistakes he’s made or tricks he’s played and fix them.

In addition to this, many Rökkatru and Lokeans describe a relationship with Loki that demands that they be honest with themselves. Honesty with the self is often described as being a precursor to being able to speak hard truths to others. For this reason, a lot of people will describe this value not as self-knowledge, but as self-truth or self-honesty.

Angrboda can be considered the “mother” of the Rökkr in the same way that Loki can be considered the father. In some ways she may considered as even more deeply rooted in the Rökkr pantheon than Loki: to the best of our knowledge she has never lived among the Æsir and her only tie to them is through Loki, who has made a home among them. She is jötunn through and through.

Very little is known about Angrboda from the lore. She is believed by many to be the volva from Voluspa and is known as the mother of Loki’s monstrous children, but there isn’t much else to go off of. She is a jötunn, however, and the lore makes very clear that the jötnar are an incredibly diverse lot: they are described in all manner of shapes, forms, and sizes. There doesn’t seem to be one single idea of what a jötunn must look like.

Beyond the little that we know from the lore, in modern practice many people associate Angrboda with strength and leadership, particularly in often being viewed as a powerful figure among the jötnar of the Ironwood. This is drawn not only from scholarly inferences and extrapolations (from mentions of an unnamed jötunn woman in Járnvid or the Ironwood in both Voluspa as well as Gylfaginning) but is also informed by Unverified Personal Gnosis (UPG) and Peer or Community Verified Personal Gnosis (PVPG / CVPG).

Due to this association not only of Angrboda as a mother of Rökkr but also as a chief or leader among the jötnar, she is strongly associated with diversity (recall how diverse in shape and form the jötnar are). It is due to this that her value is so often considered to be diversity, and unconditional acceptance of that diversity. On the Northern Tradition Paganism website it is stated that, “Being close to Nature, [the jötnar] understand that diversity is survival and strength, while homogeneity is inevitable weakness.” This is something we do see in nature: homogeneity is often related to genetic bottlenecks, which can be linked to weakened immunity and increases in genetic mishaps that result in overall negatively impacted health.

Given that the jötnar are so closely tied with nature and are represented so diversely, it only makes sense that they should be associated with diversity and the strength. Because Angrboda is often recognized as a very prominent jötnar, it is equally logical that she should be seen as carrying that value of diversity.

I might add that values of acceptance and community would be closely tied with that of diversity, not only because of how we see these three values interconnecting in our world but also because of Angrboda’s assumed position within a community of such diverse entities that are welcomed and accepted no matter their shape, color, or presentatation.

Fenrir is perhaps the most demonized and disdained of Angrboda and Loki’s children. A monstrously sized wolf, he is prophesied to devour Odin at Ragnarok, and otherwise wreak havoc and destruction at this time. It is for this reason that he is bound by the Æsir, during which Tyr sacrificed his hand to Fenrir as a means of gaining Fenrir’s cooperation in their “game.”

Due to this prophecy, which is referred to several times throughout the Eddas, Fenrir is primarily associated with destruction and forces of destruction. This is sometimes generalized to include unbridled chaos and even rage or anger. As such, Fenrir is associated with all those things that we dislike, try to avoid, and in our own selves try to repress or cut out of ourselves.

Because of this Fenrir has become very closely associated with the concept of the shadow or shadow self. This concept originates with Jung’s archetypes, and, simply put, represents the idea that there are parts of ourselves that we want to shut away and not acknowledge, typically the parts of us that are not considered societally acceptable—the parts of ourselves that are violent, sexual, crude, vulgar.

So Fenrir’s value or rule has come to be shadow, or, more specifically, acknowledging and honoring the shadow. This is closely linked with Loki’s values, as one much first be honest with one’s self and know one’s self before they can truly learn to accept, be at peace with, work with, and honor your shadow.

Hela is the goddess of one of Heathenry’s underwolds/afterlives. She rules over Hel (the place with which she shares a name), the realm where those who die of old age, illness, etc. go to reside after death. (As an aside: Huginn’s Heathen Hoff has featured a lovely blog post about how the Heathen afterlife is much more complex than is often realized).

Obviously Hela is most strongly linked with death. In the lore her most prominent presence is in the myth of Baldr’s death, and beyond this there is little else recorded about her beside her notable appearance and her relationship to Angrboda and Loki.

Death’s vision is much different than that of life—it sees what may be overlooked or even unseeable by life, it sees farther than any life can stretch, and in itself is both a truly neutral and truly equalizing force. Think of the Rider Waite Death Card: even kings and popes must come to Death’s door eventually, just as must all others. Because of these factors, Hela’s value has come to be known as vision or perspective.

 

Jörmungandr is the giant serpent prophesied to kill Thor during Ragnarok, just as Fenrir is prophesied to kill Odin. The perpetual enemy of Thor and child of Angrboda and Loki, Jörmungandr was said to live in the oceans of Midgard (our world) and to have grown so long that his body could coil around the earth.

Jörmungandr is a creature of the in-between, born of Jötunheim but cast to Midgard. The serpent is also felt by some (in UPG/PVPG) to be of ambiguous gender. Snakes have also historically often been associated with death and rebirth due to the shedding of their skins—things which live on the edge of human consciousness and are associated with transition.

These things lend well to defining Jörmungandr’s as liminality. Liminal times and places are often associated with great spiritual and magical power in many European traditions. Translated into more mundane times and places, when humans find themselves in spaces that are liminal they often also find that they places are horribly uncomfortable—and can be periods of some of our most intense growth, depending upon the individuals and circumstances involved. The value of liminality here may be a reminder that these difficult and uncomfortable spaces can be acknowledged, accepted, and valued, respected, and even productively worked with, much in the way that Fenrir reminds us to approach the shadow.

God, Moving Along the Cape

“I would rather be in the mountains thinking about God, than in church thinking about the mountains.” (attributed to John Muir)

I.

I spent the first of August hiking with my parents on a remote island nature preserve off the coast of Maine. We’d been once before years ago when the trails weren’t quite as established and the handful of fellow naturalists and hikers we encountered this time weren’t as numerous. Despite the increase in visitors, the island loop remains at best a narrow deer trail through the thick of the bog, eventually spilling out into a rocky coast where the trail continues, so long as the tides permit passage.

A few wooden planks have been installed to elevate your walk over rocks and brush in the interior sections. Larger boulders and rock faces provide resting points along the way to the shore. All around you are dangling lichens and tropically toned peatmosses. The thick spruce and coastal jack pine underbrush provide an insulating layer of delicate soil where dozens of amanita mushrooms thrive and wild blueberry and cloudberry bushes cling to whatever depth they can manage to root down into. Pitcher plants and other carnivorous fauna dot the acidic soils, evolutionary remnants of retreating glaciers and a testament to the extremity of this environment. The trail is marked with shining blue blazes easily missed if one is not careful, and in a few spots, iron rungs and gnarled tree roots aid you in climbing back up onto your path.

At first we planned to just hike to the shore and probably back the way we’d come already. This feat alone took about two hours. 

For most of the journey, I stayed ahead of my parents, even when depending on my cane for balance. There’s just something about wild spaces like this which call to me, which set me into a rhythmic gliding as part of the landscape. I can’t go any slower. I just can’t. Enormous island birds cawed at me, and I cawed back to them. We circled one another and told the trees about the other. The only human apart from one other hiker passing in the opposite direction and my parents a quarter mile or so behind me, I increasingly felt the spine-tingling awareness of wild things all around me. 

The island is the kind of wilderness where something always seems to be lurking not far off the trail. For the whole hike to the shore, my mind replayed the truth that in all the hikes I’ve been on, in all the parts of known bear country, never, not once have I crossed paths with a bear. I wondered then if these thoughts might be some sort of premonition that one was about to appear. I’d had that kind of intuition before–where I could almost see the bear just waiting on the path around the next corner–but here it seemed just as likely I might instead pass the next tree to find a stark naked wizard challenging his mind to some sort of mystical experience on a nearby rock. Neither appeared beyond the passing images of my mind.

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Lammas — Rökkatru Style

Traditionally Lammas or Lughnassad are celebrations of the beginning of harvest. In Norse paganism there is a correlation to the holiday Freyfaxi or Freyr’s Feast, similarly associated with the fertility of the earth and its bounty.

For those of us walking the Rökkatru path, however, Freyfaxi isn’t quite our flavor. We may want to celebrate Lammas/Lughnassad, but how can we celebrate this traditionally Anglo-Saxon/Celtic holiday in a way which honors our particular path?

My initial thought was to honor deities of death during this season of reaping—Hela who gathers the dead or Skadi who fells her prey. But, though it may seem a bit cliché, I couldn’t help but think that Samhain, the final of the harvest festivals and the holiday most directly and clearly associated with death and the dead, is a more appropriate holiday to honor Hela. Meanwhile Skadi is a distinctly winter goddess.

One important aspect of Lammas which underlies the celebration of the beginning harvest is the fertility of the earth itself, something often associated with mother goddesses. When thinking of mother goddesses within Rökkatru or who align with Rökkatru, two primary deities come to mind:

Jord and Angrboda.

Jord is a jötunn woman who embodies the earth. She is the mother of Thor and is referred to in Gylfaginning as the daughter of Nótt and Anarr. Because she plays no role in the myths and we have no surviving lore about her outside of these tiny scraps, some scholars think she likely wasn’t honored or considered literal and personified in her own right. As is written over at Norse Mythology for Smart People, “’Earth’ here seems to be more of a general concept than a discrete figure.” (1) These are the only hard facts that we know about her. Anything else is conjecture or unverified personal gnosis/peer verified personal gnosis.

SUPRA

Statue titled Moder Jord (Mother Earth) photographed by Alexander Henning Drachmann.

Because there isn’t much known about Jord, and because she could well have been considered a general concept rather than a specific entity (though as a hard-core animist I would argue that even “Earth” as a general idea or concept still has a spirit to be honored) we have a lot of room to get creative in how to honor her. There are many symbolic associations which already exist to draw from in creating a small Lammas blót in honor of Jord: salt is often associated with earth, as in “salt of the earth,” as are the colors green, brown, black, and yellow.

A small blót for Jord on Lammas can be quite simple—with as much or as little extravagance as you desire, you can set up a ritual place incorporating earth symbolism picked up from other places or that is personal to you to create a space in which to make an offering. If you are lucky enough to have the space put offerings directly on the earth, fantastic! Given the spirit of the season, if you are able to get yours hands on a sheath of wheat, or even just a few stalks, giving this to the earth as well as sliced apples and a healthy pour of wine or mead would make a perfect offering to Jord this Lammas.

In honoring the fertility of mother deities during this season of harvest and plenty, now would also be a prime opportunity to honor the mother aspect of Angrboda.

The Unlucky Family featuring Angrboda, Loki, and their children by Hellanim

Though she is most often known as a dangerous feminine figure, associated with prophecy, witchcraft, and wolves, she is a notably fertile figure in the Jotunheim: by Loki she is the mother of Fenrir, Jormungandr, and Hela. In many ways she is the mother of the Rökkatru pantheon, so honoring the wild and unbridled fertility of the Mother of Monsters on this day celebrating fertility seems only fitting.

Given that Angrboda is such a prominent, important figure among the Rökkr, a larger or more focused ritual in her honor seems worth investing the time and energy in. Offerings to her on this day don’t necessarily need to be so different from those offered to Jord—in the spirit of the season a sheath of wheat, apples (perhaps spiced and baked or otherwise prepared and endowed with your focus and energy), and wine, beer, or mead are suitable offerings. In addition, however, meat is always a worthy offering for Angrboda of the Wolves.

Lammas is a time for doing astrology, and because Angrboda is a goddess associated with prophecy (often the völva in Voluspa is believed to be Angrboda) this could be something that you work into a ritual for Her on this day. Feasibly astrology could be used as a framework for designing a ritual for Angrboda—offerings could be made, candles or a fire lit in her honor, her names ritually spoken, perhaps even a divination session could be held. Whatever shape your ritual takes is up to you, but in my experience with Angrboda it is good to make sure you are being deliberate, thoughtful, reflective, and checking your baggage at the door.

I would be delighted to hear of any Rökkatru rituals any of you lovelies undertake this season! Feel free to let me know in the comments if you have any alternate ideas about how to celebrate this holiday in an especially Rökkatru fashion, or any alterations or inspirations you may have based on the ideas shared here.

And most importantly, have a blessed Lammas.

Skål.

(1) McCoy, D. (n.d.). Jord – Norse Mythology for Smart People. [online] Norse Mythology for Smart People. Available at: https://norse-mythology.org/jord/

How Babylonian and Roman Gods Recruit Followers

The Roman Gods do not actively recruit from the greater population. I was recruited into Polytheism by Odin, the Norse All-Father. After following the Norse Gods for some time, Neptune of the Romans showed Himself to me. Since then, I have encountered people who have become Roman Polytheists after being Norse. They said it was a natural progression from the “chaotic” Gods to the more “orderly” Ones. Different pantheons have different expectations of their followers. Roman Gods prize order and structure, whereas the Norse are comfortable with chaos.

Since there is overlap with Greek Gods in many people’s minds, the Roman Gods would rather leave the followers of the Hellenic Gods alone. I have noticed that conflation occurs for various Gods such as Poseidon and Neptune in discussions about Gods in general. Recognizing the differences between the Two Gods can be difficult.

Moreover many Celtic followers are resistant to Roman Gods because of the Romans’ war with the Druids. There are Celtic-Roman Gods such as Sulis but their worship does not seem to extend to Roman Gods. Then there is the “coolness” factor of the Norse and Celtic pantheons which people find exciting. Perhaps this is because of all that exposure that people have to Greco-Roman myths and none to these other pantheons.

In my observations, Roman Gods refer people who are already practicing Polytheists. From my experience with Roman Polytheism, it requires daily and regular practice. Since These Gods are “Romans,” They do prize organized over ad hoc devotions. Perhaps that is why the Roman Gods are more reluctant to actively recruit, since many Pagans have eclectic practices.

The Babylonian Gods have a problem in attracting many followers. They and the Canaanite Gods are often first encountered in a negative light in the Old Testament of “The Bible.” Therefore, it is hard for the average Pagan to want to know any of these Gods since they associate Middle-Eastern Gods with Christianity. Also, the Old Testament treats these Gods as figments of people’s imaginations. For these reasons, Marduk, Nanna, and the other Gods do not seem as “real” as the Egyptian Gods. Often the Babylonian Gods will fade into the background.

Another problem for the Babylonian Gods is the meme set forth by the late Zecharia Stichin that the Anunnaki are space aliens who created humans to be their slave species. Stichin took various Babylonian myths and re-invented them to fit his theories. These aliens come from the planet Nibiru (“the 12th planet”) which supposedly passes by Earth every 3,500 years. At that time, they come to earth to bedevil humanity. The meme goes downhill from there and into ancient astronaut theories and alien-human hybrids.

The popularity of Inanna (Ishtar), the Goddess of Love and War often impede people from knowing the other Babylonian Gods. (A popular chant includes Her Name with others Goddesses.) The Pagan devotion to Inanna is often divorced from the other Babylonian Gods. Usually, it is centered in Goddess Worship, whose followers see the Goddesses as individuals and not rooted in particular pantheons. Therefore, Inanna becomes attached to Isis and the other Goddesses.

The devotion to Inanna does not usually transfer to the other Babylonian Gods. This is in contrast with Isis and Hecate, who followers will become acquainted with other Gods from their respective pantheons. I think it has to do with the Babylonian Gods Themselves. More formal in their relations with humans, these Gods expect a sense of propriety from their worshippers. Moreover, They want to be their worship to be rooted in their culture, which makes These Gods reluctant to deal with Eclectic Pagans.

My experience with the Babylonian Gods came from studying mythology and comparing various myths to popular culture. At that point, Marduk decided that I understood the “Enuma Elish,” the Babylonian Creation Epic. From intensive studying of that epic, I developed a devotion to this pantheon. The Babylonians, from what I can infer, prefer people who have little or no Christian residue, and are willing to take their myths seriously.