Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Yuletide Verbots and Completing Projects

Yule starts at sunset tonight.

In the Urglaawe tradition, recommended practice is, prior to sunset, to open projects that you wish to work on and to complete before sunset on December 31 (the start of Twelfth Night and Berchta's feast day). Currently-open projects should be completed by Twelfth Night or abandoned completely and restarted in the New Year. Ongoing projects can identify a goal of a phase completion or a stopping point. New projects should be delayed until the New Year once Yule begins; focus instead on completion of that which is still in process. 

Historically the oldest references to Verbots (bans, taboos) on new projects were to spinning and weaving but Pennsylvania German oral tradition also extends it also to smithing, canning, and carpentry. Urglaawe examines the mindset behind the need to complete open tasks and the Verbot on starting projects during Yule, and we apply the concept to all aspects of our lives wherever it is practical and possible.

Job requirements may make some of this difficult or impossible to avoid, but the mindfulness applied to figuring out appropriate areas in your life to recognize the need for completion does matter.

Berchta and the lesser-known Berchtold are deities associated with the end of something or the completion of a cycle prior the the restart. There are many considerations that go along with the mindfulness: responsibility, deprivation, organization, preparation, and being willing to abandon partially-completed work if procrastination is a problem.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Story of Mistletoe

There are many myths that surround the Yuletide.  One of the oldest is that of the death of Baldur.  The main myth cycle is dramatic and the focus of much song and poetry, but inside the larger myth are a number of lesser stories also worth telling.  One of those is the story of Mistletoe, the plant that was at the heart of the murder of Baldur, whose small but tragic part bears examination in its own.  This is a tale of consequences and forgiveness, of love and redemption.

A Tale of Santa

When I became a Heathen parent, the question of how I was to treat the holdiays became a critical one to answer.  My children were raised in a Heathen household, yet went to public schools in a society that was largely current or post Christian, so at least socialize with largely Western Christian traditions, even if fairly secularized in practice.  Now I could demand we ignore the world and do things our way, and isolate my children, or I could choose to bridge the gap.  What we in the west celebrate is mostly Yule already.  Santa is a barely disguised Yule Father, so rather than re-invent the wheel, we decided to bridge the gap between the Yule father that is, and the Santa they know.  Put the sacral reason back in the season, and we can celebrate along side our friends and neighbors, understanding the sacred purpose of what we are all doing already.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Standing Together

Today, many Heathens are posting this video to express our solidarity with the Standing Rock protesters, and I would like to share my personal sentiments as well.
The opening of the video makes a reference to the forces of nature, personified in the giant troll women, turning against King Frothi for his unjust leadership, thereby bringing down his kingdom. 
We Urglaawer just completed the observance of Allelieweziel. Part of our observance is the recognition that the settlers of Allemaengel had violated a social contract that exists among all living things, thereby causing the plants and animals to abandon them. Had the settlers not recognized their error and been instructed by Hexes and Brauchers to make amends, the colony would have perished. 
Standing Rock presents the potential for the same circumstance. I recognize that the matter has some complicating angles. For example, I drive vehicles for my private use as well as for part of my paid job. I recognize that fuel is necessary for our society to continue. However, does the pipeline need to be built through the sacred lands of the Dakota and Lakota? Does their water supply really need to be put in jeopardy?
The history of the relationship between the tribes and the US government is well known: Broken promises, broken treaties, broken arrows, and wounded knees. The Standing Rock Indian Reservation is itself the result of a broken treaty that unilaterally altered the Great Sioux Reservation. A feature of this action was to break up the tribal culture and relationship that existed among the tribes and bands in the region. Something about that undermining of a folk culture sounds familiar to this Deitsch man.
The broken promises and broken treaties are of critical importance to me as a Heathen. The keeping of oaths is central to our religion and our social integrity. The US breaking treaties affects our Wurt as a nation, and our government's actions toward the tribes diminish our honor and imperil our future. 
Additionally, the pipeline construction endangers burial grounds of the tribes' ancestors. As a Heathen who owns a cemetery, I recognize the importance to my own soul of honoring my ancestors. 
To allow for the disruption or destruction of the tribes' sacred graveyards is beyond reprehensible and places a stain on us that will last from generation to generation. How would the average American feel if his or her ancestors graveyards were overturned for someone else's profit? It is appalling that we are even having to talk about this in the current era. Have we learned nothing since the 19th Century?
Apparently we have not. We are seeing the violation of Standing Rock sovereignty and Dakota/Lakota dignity in order to feed the corporate machine. We are seeing a disrespect for the land, for the land spirits, and for those who have gone before. We are witnessing the violation of promises and treaties. This is unacceptable.

Robert L. Schreiwer

Standing with Standing Rock


November 23, many Heathens will be posting this to their timeline to show support for the peaceful protesters at Standing Rock.

This is a divisive issue, and by no means one clear enough that the Troth as an organization can have an organizational stance. Individual Troth members who feel strongly are invited to share their thoughts, as I am now.

The Sioux of Standing Rock and their allies are protesting the construction of a pipeline that passes within a half mile of their lands, and they feel threatens their watershed. The $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline is meant to carry crude oil from the Bakken fields of western North Dakota to Illinois, 1,170 miles to the east. In support of the Sioux stance, the pipeline was redirected towards Native land after Federal Regulators felt it represented a threat to Bismark ND http://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/pipeline-route-plan-first-called-for-crossing-north-of-bismarck/article_64d053e4-8a1a-5198-a1dd-498d386c933c.html

While we have witnessed violence of the basest kind from both sides of the recent Presidential Election, the protesters at Standing Rock have remained peaceful. These peaceful protesters are being subjected to escalating attack and harassment by authorities in what I find impossible to view as anything but a travesty of justice, abuse of both authority and process.

This is not the first time that leaders have sought wealth above the needs of their folk. In our lore, King Frodhi was given the gift of a millstone and two Jottun maidens to turn it. From this mill would come gold. In his endless greed, he drove them to grind day and night without rest, ignoring his duties to them, ignoring everything in his quest for more gold They were ordered to grind on, and in turn released their curses and ground his doom upon that same millstone.

Many Heathens have come together to show that we learned the lessons of King Frodhi's Millstones, and will be sharing this video on their feed tomorrow. I know that I will


John T Mainer
Redesman, Western Canadian and Military Steward of The Troth

Friday, November 11, 2016

Ewicher Yeeger: Why Honor Death?

Tonight starts the final day of the Urglaawe observance of Allelieweziel. Now we honor Holler, who is also known as Ewicher Yeeger. His association with death is reflected in the translation of His byname into English: the Eternal Hunter. Indeed, He is seen by many as Death personified, and imagery and versions of folk tales over the centuries have presented Him as a bringer of disruption, disease, destruction, and, well, death. So, this begs the question: Why honor Him?

There are many possible answers to this question. Ironically, the most significant tale about Holler shows a merciful side to Him that is not typically associated with death. While death appeared imminent to the settlers of Lynn Township, the fact that they recognized the error of their ways and gave up offerings caused Holler to save the colony. Driving game over the Blobarrick ridge provided the settlers with food to survive through the winter months. 

While this story is one version of the best known tale of Ewicher Yeeger, there are bits of knowledge and remnants of other tales that reflect a complex character to this god. One of the more curious remnants reflects the push and pull among the various forces in existence as viewed within our physical world. After Holle’s departure and the burning of the Butzemenner, King Frost’s armies are on the move into our realm. The Frost Giants seize the spirits of the plants and animals (and humans, for that matter?) that they kill, thereby removing them from the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. In this tale remnant, Holler brings death and/or dormancy to the weaker plants and animals. Those who die are released to the Wild Hunt, which ensures their continuity in the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The Frost Giants pass by the dormant spirits, who sleep safely until Spring under the care of an entity named Schlumm. 

In this case, we see Holler playing a role in tandem with Holle. He aids in the ongoing cycle of life even while bringing death. This reinforces the idea that death is a part of life and also of rebirth.

Another tidbit is a little more confusing because it conflates Ewicher Yeeger with aspects of Krampus. In this instance, Ewicher Yeeger is a punisher and a wild, primal beast. This tidbit is an outlier from most understandings of Ewicher Yeeger, but it is not the only one. Other versions reflect lore related to the Wild Hunt found in other Germanic lands. Some say Ewicher Yeeger is actually a cursed nobleman (much like Count Hackelberg in Germany) who is doomed to hunt as payback for his misdeeds in life. 

These stories are worth mentioning, though, because they reflect the convolution of tales over many centuries and across many lands, including the Deitsch lands in Pennsylvania. However, the most intact story from the Deitsch cultural context places Ewicher Yeeger as an entity (or in the Urglaawe context, a god) strongly associated with death yet not to be pigeonholed.

The understanding conveyed to me about Ewicher Yeeger throughout my lifetime has been one of an entity who is much larger than our understanding. He has His own agenda and purposes for actions that we cannot always fathom. In Braucherei, He is appealed to for brute strength, terminations, and transformations. 

The transformation aspect plays a major role in our understanding of death. Death is scary. Death is unwanted. Yet Death comes to all of us at some point. One theme of Allelieweziel is that we live in a society that, on the one hand, likes to pretend that death does not exist. Yet, on the other hand, we are obsessed with it. We depict is so cavalierly in movies and on television, yet we don’t want to plan for the end of the lives of our loved ones or of ourselves. 

Most Urglaawer believe in some form of rebirth. The most common belief is that at least one part of the soul is reborn into a new, unique construct, thus giving us opportunities to grow and to expand our consciousness from lifetime to lifetime. We hope that, at the end of this cosmic cycle, we will be where the deities were at the beginning of it. Our corporeal forms have limits to our lifetimes, but each experience in this physical realm affords us the opportunity to increase the human life wave. 

Thus, death is not to be feared per se; instead, it is part of the continuity of life and the evolution of existence. While we are to embrace our lives and to make the most of them, the eventuality of death is something with which we all must reconcile ourselves. 

Therefore, we take a moment at this time of Ewicher Yeeger to understand our mortality, to consider how to make the most of the current life we have, and to ponder the prospects for a better future for humanity. We honor the god who helps us to prepare for and to confront the reality of death even while celebrating the life we have. 

Thus, at this time of the observance of Ewicher Yeeger, let us hail Holler.


This information has been posted for educational purposes and may or may not represent the beliefs and practices of many members of The Troth.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Out of the Shadows

When I began to write about the amazing women in Heathenry, one of the goals that I had was to cause them to raise their own voices, to tell their own tales.  I have been honoured by a young lady of some accomplishment.  She is not free to be openly Heathen in her public life, and I respect that. There are real world consequences for the intolerance of others, not all of which we can even pretend to be immune to.

I cannot tell you who she is, but I can tell you that she holds some standing in her community and commands respect in other communities due to her carriage, her words, and her very worthy actions.  While young, she exhibits the best of what we hope are the virtues of our community.  Her words are worth hearing, her tale worth examination both on its own merits and for what it can teach us about our own community.

Heathen Community
When I was in high school, I thought that both genders were treated equally nowadays in the United States, and the only thing left was the wage gap and the final glass ceiling into executive positions both in companies and within the government. I was wrong. I can’t begin to list all the sexism I’ve experienced, from having a male suite mate treating me like a maid (even after strongly protesting this, several times), to being cat called and followed on the street, to losing people I thought were good friends of mine when I said I didn’t want to hook up with them (and systematically being told by men that unless they could get sex from me, our relationship was worthless/I contributed nothing just as myself), to being sexually assaulted and raped, and then being told ‘well what did you expect?’
What did I expect? I expect to be asked always whether or not someone can touch me. I expected for people to listen when I say ‘no’ or that I’m not alright with something.
But now I expect something else. I expect that a man wanting to have some sort of relationship with me is only interested in sex. I expect that men are likely to violate my boundaries. I expect to be viewed as an object for sex by a lot of men. I expect to have my life put in danger if I fight back, or if I stand up for myself. I expect to have very limited relationships with men, in order to keep myself safe.
Now I’m trying to change expectations. I have gone to places where consent for everything is required, and where it is safe to say no (and yes, as a woman a lot of the times it is not safe to say no, and that includes social repercussions). Where I can start to trust that the men there will value me as me, will listen to what I say and respect that. I want to be respected, I want to feel safe, I want to expect that that will happen.
Within the Heathen community, I have had men be shitty/sexist towards me or there be a sexist dynamic. I have had men be supportive and welcoming. There has been both.
I want the Heathen community to be a place where I expect to be respected and am proven wrong by a few, not to expect to be disrespected and be proven wrong by a few. To help with this I wanted to list a few things that people do that make me feel respected and safe as a woman
Letting other people know it’s okay to say no to a request.
Taking a moment to really listen to what others are saying.
Check your assumptions – ask if what you’re assuming is correct/clarify anything you’re not sure of.
Be honest and open about your intentions.
Ask what people’s boundaries are.
It goes a long way to know my voice will be heard and respected. It goes a long way to know it is safe for me to speak out, because every time someone says something sexist, I have to weigh the probability of them being able to physically hurt me and/or the social/political repercussions against the benefits of speaking up. Moreover, in places where I know my boundaries will be respected, I tend to feel appreciated for the human I am, and feel my accomplishments to be more fully acknowledged.
Being Heathen has been one of the most empowering things in my life. ‘You are your deeds’ speaks strongly to me, and has gotten me to fight sexism/rape culture in a multitude of ways. It puts the responsibility in my hands, ‘what am I going to do about this?’ And the gods have played an enormous role in my healing and determination to stand up for myself.
This isn’t about me and what women themselves do to combat sexism. This to me is about culture and expectations. I am strong and will fight back in anyway I can, the question is not what will I do, but what will I have to do? Will the heathen community be a place where I’ll have to fight, or will it be a place where the fight’s already won?
Disclaimer: this focuses a lot on the men-women dynamic. I want to note that women (& people of any other gender) can be shitty, sexist and can violate boundaries. I also want to note that men can be super respectful of boundaries. I just wanted to write about my experience with men in general and my experience of sexism in general.

Disclaimer # 2: This is not an article telling you how to act, do whatever you want. But if we are really our deeds, then you might want to consider that if you’re deeds are not making half the population feel respected ;)

Women In Heathenry: Their Words

I have been excited to meet heathens of so many local communities over my time in Heathenry, often inspired by the presence of known and well respected members of that community who have been esteemed for some time.  In each and every occasion I have visited with Heathen groups in person, I have been pleased with the Heathen’s I knew about and came to meet (in retrospect almost always men) and absolutely blown away by the amazing heathens I never heard of before (almost always women).
After long enough being beaten over the head with the same observation, the unknown and amazingly worthy heathen women in our communities, I take a look at three images I see of heathen women.  The general pagan community that views Heathen women as some oppressed minority kept silent, pregnant, and in the kitchen (odd because they have met too many of our women to think any force in the nine worlds could effectively oppress them at all), the image of the outside largely Christian community that paints them as basically flakey hippy pastries just left of the wiccan fairy unicorn princesses, only way hotter, and the heathen community which oddly enough seems to accept that they exist, when reminded, and value their own, but honestly seem to be able to discuss heathenry at length of hours before bringing them up at all.
So dismissible to invisible seems to be the worth that Heathen women are frequently held in.  As a Heathen, my practice demands reciprocity, the return of a gift of equal value for the gifts that I have received.  I have received so much from the Heathen women in my community, both my local community, and the broader Heathen community.  I have met, and been honoured to meet, some of the most amazing women on earth, and seen them living their heathenry in ways that moved me deeply.  I cannot tell you what heathenry means to them.  I can tell you what they mean to Heathenry, but maybe it would be better for all if I asked them a little more about how they live their heathenry, and we can all get a better sense of the worth they have built for themselves, and brought to our community.  Perhaps we as a community can then do a better job of that reciprocity, at giving honour equal to the worth and contribution these amazing women have already given to us personally, and our community.
Q-How long have you been drawn towards your path, which for simplicities sake we will collectively refer to as Heathenry (with the understanding by members of this broad community that the actual name for individual practice does have very specific and important meanings).
Freydis Heimdallson, Heathen Freehold Society of British Columbia
A: For just about as long as I can remember. I was a devout Christian as a child, but it never quite felt entirely right to me. There wasn’t enough of the natural world, if that makes sense. There weren’t enough trees.
In Grade Four we had these big books with stories for Grades Three, Four, and Five in them. I was a great reader already and read all of them, and in the Grade Five section I found the Norse myths for the first time that I can remember.
There was a real shock of recognition as I looked at the picture of Odin, ravens on each shoulder, sitting on his throne with his wolves at his feet, and I remember being really saddened when the book said these were the gods of a dead religion that no one followed any more. I sometimes wonder now how my life might have changed if I had known then that they were not dead, they still had followers, and that in only a few more years, it would once again be legal to follow them (or any gods one pleased) in my country.”
Freydis Heimdallson has been on the Witan or ruling body of the Heathen Freehold since its founding. She has held a number of offices, and has been the voice of reason that kept the peace at more than one occasion.  When I was new to Heathenry, and looking to see if the Heathen Freehold was right for me, I attended my first Althing.  On seeing some of the people there I still was not sure.  Then Freydis pulled up in her truck (pregnant at the time) and introduced herself.  She was the epitome of what I thought a good and worthy Heathen ought to be.  That was my initial impression.
Since then her and her husband have become Kindred and kin to us, and each has agreed to take in the others children should both parents be lost.  That is the kind of trust and esteem I hold her in.  People love to give me credit for the Kindertales books, and I did co write them.  She also co wrote them, also edited, illustrated and published them, yet I hear them touted as my work.  Funny, she was the driving force behind organizing it, and the greater contributor by an order of magnitude.
In point of fact, we are now seeing the first generation raised that can answer how much different it CAN be knowing the old gods’ followers are indeed still active among us.
Lorrie Wood: Hrafnar Kindred,  Northern California Steward, holder of more Troth offices over the years than I can comfortably list.
Sumble Troth
A:I was raised Roman Catholic, with regular infusions of Southern Baptist from my father’s mother every summer.
At Mass, I saw some of my favorite people, the nuns, ministering the Eucharist (“handing out the God cookies”). I thought that was all well and good, but wondered when I might see the sister behind the altar, in the fancy robes, because clearly being a priest was thething: the whole structure of the Mass, the layout of the church, tells you this.
I was told she—and by extension I—never would, because we were women. Not because we weren’t good enough, but the simple rule that Women Couldn’t Do That.
In 1992, I had a free ride to Case Western Reserve University, a prominent engineering school in my native Cleveland, Ohio. Here, I got experience on an Internet without walls, learning more about paganism through Usenet (something rather like today’s forums). As was expected of someone learning about non-traditional Faith’s in the early nineties, I had the campus bookstore order in Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance and Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon. All I remember of my first reading of The Spiral Dance was being quite annoyed at the idea that, somehow, having a One Great Goddess was supposed to “balance” the single great God I’d been raised with. Having multiple gods—at least two, but why not more?—seemed a more reasonable approach!
Shortly after that, I was taught enough basic magical/energy practice not to embarrass myself, and was taken to my first Pantheacon in 1996. Here, among other things, we went to a reading of a new book by Diana L. Paxson (I was used to people reading things aloud, but having the author do so seemed entirely novel!). Of Diana, my friend Nina said with her usual gruff directness, “Well, she does that Viking stuff. I thought only Neo-Nazis did that, but I know Diana wouldn’t have any truck with that, so it must be all right.”
Mallory Brooks: Kith and Kin Kindred, Gythia and founder.  Idaho and Montana Steward of the Troth
A:I have been drawn to Heathenry since I was 15 (I am going to be 31 this year). I was first drawn to Freyja, and the rest came along with Her, of course. Through research and practice, I have found my home and where I belong. “
So the long hard work that the elders put in before us has born this much fruit, it is growing easier for young people to find our ways, and those who practice them.  This at least is good to hear.
Q–Are you drawn primarily to the individual practice or the community expression of heathenry.  If you are drawn to both, can you separate what you get from each? 
Freydis Heimdalson
A: I have not honestly had much experience with the community side of things, not having lived close enough to other Heathens (that I have been aware of) to be able to get together more than a couple of times a year. So group gatherings are a special treat for me, a chance to hang out with other like-minded souls without having to censor that side of myself so much. I am growing more and more open about it in my personal life—having moved out of the Bible Belt where we largely had to hide that side of ourselves for fear of our religion negatively affecting our home business—but I am still more outspoken when I am with other Heathens. I have less concern that I will accidentally let slip something that will give away our religion, or how seriously I take it, to someone who does not understand it and might think it cause for alarm. That is something that as a parent I especially have to watch out for, whereas I can relax in a group of my fellow Heathens without worrying about people getting twitchy when I talk about “sacrificing” wine or food.
Lorrie Wood
A: Oh, goodness. I’m not sure I see them as separate. My community is everywhere, I touch them whenever I pull out my phone. Listening to them informs my own practice, and those are runes I share back out in turn.
Mallory Brooks:
A: I feel drawn to both the individual practice and community expression.  The community expression is what I feel more drawn to. I feel like without community we wouldn’t be Heathens at all. It is part of our core. A great example is welcoming those who have traveled far with a horn of mead and some warm food for their stomachs and souls. The community expression is what truly makes me feel connected to the Gods and Goddesses.  I do also feel drawn to the individual expression since I have spent many, many years being a solitary Heathen, without others around to practice and connect with. I do tend to put more energy and focus into the community expression, since I do believe community is a prime part of being Heathen.
As you can see, where you live will have a great effect on your experience for this issue.  Monocultural rural deeply religious areas are not as accepting as urban more racially and culturally diverse cities are.
Q--The image we get from Paganism is that men follow gods, women follow goddesses.  Heathenry includes the honouring of the gods and goddesses, the wights of the lands and waters, the honoured Disir and sacred ancestors.  While elements of all of these will be part of everyone’s practice at some level, which figures do you have the most developed relationship with, and can you tell me how you came to develop that specific relationship in such depth?
Freydis Heimdalson
A: I am closest to Thor, and after that probably Freya, although when I am in the hospital, partially sedated and in pain from some procedure or other, I always wake up calling on both Thor and Odin for help. So I suppose I have the most developed relationship with them, although I ask Odin for help less often (when severe pain isn’t involved) these days as he usually just tells me to sort it out for myself. Reminds me a bit of my mother that way, actually.
Lorrie Wood
A:…what? That’s rather a bit of bullshit, if you ask me (and you did!).
Hrafnar has never had the restriction that anyone should be limited in what gods, beings, or anything one might honor due to their gender. This starts at the top, of course, as Diana has been an Odin’s woman since 1987. The closest we’ve had is that, for some years, we had a women’s group that explored our goddesses, but it had important caveats:
  • Given that Odin had no problem going to Sam’s Isle to learn what women did, a man might join, and attend, the women’s group’s meetings if he were willing to wear a skirt. Important addendum: no, kilts are not skirts.
  • In no way did this keep a man from—for example—working with Freyja or Frigg. The very idea is a bit boggling, really. The idea that somehow only women could work with Frigg tried to emerge in our community, and we stomped on it quickly for the nonsense it was.
Additionally, in Hrafnar we honor all our ancestors, in keeping with our history as one of the US’s oldest continuous-running inclusive kindreds. This cannot be limited to strictly ancestors of the blood (not everyone has the best of relationships with their kin), nor to any particular country of origin or gender. We care about our members’ ancestors because they’re the ancestors of our members, and we honor and respect the traditions that each brings. In this way, it’s entirely appropriate for me to bring Polish pastry for Disablot. It’s about our ancestors; it’s the spiritual technology we use to approach them that is Germanic.
As for spirits of place, your several varieties of wights, we strive to build relationships with the wights of home, hearth, and garden.
Mallory Brooks:
A:I have been close with Freyja and Loki. I do feel that often times women do tend to follow Goddesses and men follow Gods. There are always exceptions of course. If you are being called by a specific God or Goddess, your gender does not matter to them and it shouldn’t to you.
My relationship with Freyja started when I was still a teenager, and She is who brought me to Heathenry. She helped me find my way as a teen and into my adult years, both spiritually and in my daily mundane life.
My relationship with Loki started when I was in the midst of a bad abusive first marriage. He helped me gain the strength to finally leave for good. He helped me create the necessary changes to make the leap and leave.
Q–We are our deeds.  This phrase echoes through heathenry across the spectrum, so to look at Heathenry as a tool that either works or doesn’t; what has your heathenry changed for you in how you face your daily mundane challenges and decisions?  Is your practice something separate from your daily life, or has your practice deepened your daily life and decision making process?  If so, how, and to what effect?
Freydis Heimdalson
A: As a child, I was meek, timid to the point of being perpetually fearful. I was absolutely unable to stand up for myself in the slightest way, down to the point of not being able to point out I had been missed when papers were handed out at school, and just being left hoping desperately that someone noticed. If I saw something doing something wrong, if I saw an injustice, all I could do was to hope that someone else noticed and did something. If someone did a wrong or an injustice to me—all I could do was hope that someone would notice and rectify it.
Becoming a Heathen has given me my voice, and strength. It has given me determination. If someone needs help, I provide it. If I need something, I either do it myself or find another to help; I no longer rely on someone else noticing my quandry and aiding me unasked. It has given me the strength to face some very difficult challenges that Christianity and atheism were never able to help me with. I cannot meekly hope that some distant God will look after me when things go wrong. My gods allow me to not be alone in my struggles (the way being an atheist was leaving me); but they do not promise easy, empty assurances that things will somehow work out for the best, or at least all be “part of God’s plan.” What they do offer me is the determination to stand up to my challenges and fight to resolve them myself, or with concrete aid that I ask for.
Lorrie Wood
A: I tried to keep my Heathenry out of my everything else, but after several experiences showed me the folly of this, they’ve been integrating madly for the past decade or so.
My Heathenry has gotten me into home brewing, and it’s rare now that I travel without a couple bottles secreted about my luggage. When I meet with folks from my favorite online game, I make it a point to hand bottles as gifts to the group’s leaders. Any heathen would recognize this gift-giving, of course, and it amuses me.
Mallory Brooks:
A:My practice is part of my daily life. It is one in the same for me. I feel that it should be. We aren’t Christians. We don’t “sin” all week, and then go to church on Sundays so we can “repent.” We, as Heathens, are responsible each day to live honorably and to do what is necessary to take care of ourselves and others. We have a responsibility to uphold our values and virtues each day, not just at a kindred meeting or when we hold a Blot.
Q--How accepted do you feel as a woman within the Heathen community?  Do you feel you can speak up, especially to disagree or offer alternate options?

Freydis Heimdalson
A: I have never felt shy about speaking my mind within the Heathen community; but then, I usually do not see myself from the perspective of my gender. I am a wife, a mother, and a daughter; but I do not usually think of myself as a woman. I think of myself as a person. Honestly, I am slightly gender-fluid.
However, while I don’t see very many women at Heathen gatherings in the first place, far too often the ones I do see are hanging back, not speaking up, and not wanting to share their opinions even when we are with a small group, the men of which I know absolutely would listen respectfully and accord them the same privileges they would any other person around the fire, and that has always annoyed me. I don’t see very many women at Heathen gatherings. Some I do see and some are outspoken; and the ones that seem to stick around are the outspoken ones. The others fade in quietly from the sidelines, are present for a while in the background, and fade away again, leaving little hint of their presences or personality.
And that bugs me. I speak up, and don’t sit quietly, and am constitutionally unable to hold my tongue and let anyone else finish a complete sentence; so why won’t they speak up, I wonder? And I can only assume it is the same sort of social conditioning that I fell prey to growing up. Sit quietly and listen; don’t speak out; children (and women) should be seen and not heard.
Blow that.
Lorrie Wood
A:  Diana and I run Hrafnar. Of us, I tend to be more outspoken, but due to the pride of my position I have no problem challenging her.
As kindred Thyle, that extends to much of the rest of the kindred as well.
Outside of that, e.g. in the Troth, I feel that my opinion is lightly cast aside unless one of my friends expresses support in short order. I don’t know if that’s due to my gender or due to a pile of other things that I’ve done, or have been said about me, over the years.
Mallory Brooks:
A:  When I first came into Heathenry, I didn’t feel accepted or like I could speak up. Now that I have been Heathen for many years, I feel differently. I feel accepted and that I can have a discussion with any Heathen man that crosses my path.
Q--What do you get out of our community as a whole that you take back to your daily life?  Are we giving back to you, as you are giving to us? 
Freydis Heimdalson
A: That is a difficult thing to answer, because most of my interactions with any kind of a Heathen community have been with people I don’t know very well, online. However, the few close Heathen friends I do have I know I can rely on absolutely, that at need, they would drop everything and move heaven and earth for us, as we would for them. What I have from them is a select group of people I can trust not only with my own life, but also my children’s lives, quite literally. And that is a very rare and valuable thing.
As to the rest, I suppose what I get is fellowship, but I prefer to have it around a fire with a horn of mead in my hand. Facebook is an exceedingly poor substitute, and not a place I feel I can truly speak openly. I don’t trust the privacy settings, nor the corporation. And there are too many names I know only from there, and not as people, as faces in the firelight…
More fame and praise would always be nice though, ha ha.
[As an aside, beyond being the driving force behind the Kindertales project, Freydis was also the leader of the Women’s Guild project that created the far fame Heathen Freehold Banner, as well as the carver of the raven headed rune carved banner staff that flies it.  Her accomplishments in the Freehold are a big part of the organization’s word fame, precious little of which seems to have stuck to her]
Lorrie Wood
A:  That’s an excellent question, especially given how the Troth, known primarily as “that US-based organization that’s not the AFolkA but they’re more heathen than the ADF I guess”, has been treating its volunteers and membership of late.
Hrafnar gives back. My kindred values me and my work, and trusts me to come up with interesting activities, assignments, challenges, and foods.
I do not feel that my work for the Troth over the years has been as well recognized or valued. If Diana and I weren’t in such close partnership, I would have left long ago. I don’t think that’s because I’m a woman, though—the Troth has some significant systemic challenges in its road and needs to make significant advances in inclusion and transparency if it wants to be an organization for the years ahead.
Author’s Note: “The Troth has done much to make that lost ground up since I wrote those words. While they were true THEN, they are less so NOW-Lorrie Wood”
Mallory Brooks:
A:  I truly love being able to be around others who are Heathens and who have similar values as I do. I love being able to take these values back to my children to teach them.
Q--What are we (by this I mean Heathen men)  doing wrong?  I am specifically asking the question because the women in Heathenry are truly our only peers, our only equals, and in many cases shining exemplars whose deeds should be the focus of emulation and source of instruction.  Heathenry is half of what it could be, because half of our community is effectively passing under the radar.  We, by this I mean the men and women of the community, really need to do better.  I would hope that we are willing to do better, but speaking in utter honesty, I don’t know how  to do so.
Freydis Heimdalson
A: I’ll be honest; I don’t know. I really, honestly don’t.:/
I think part of the problem with asking for my perspective on the question may be that I not only do not think of myself as female, really (beyond in the very obvious, biological sense, which I can’t really get away from; but the [ ] Male [ ] Female boxes on forms always make me exceedlingly uncomfortable because neither one feels right and both are to an extent appropriate); but that I often think of myself as at least slightly male. So I think I sort of fit in with the other men in Heathen gatherings pretty well, and certainly better than some women I have seen. But I also don’t know how many of those women were actually Heathens themselves, and how many were merely there because their boyfriends were, and they had a passing interest. Or were Wiccan and felt it was largely the same thing (when I would argue that, while both pagan religions, the outlooks on the mindset of the universe and the structures of the gods are completely different in Wicca and Heathenry, almost diametrically opposed, in some ways), until they discovered that it wasn’t, and no longer felt they fit in. So are the women not participating because they are not truly interested? Or because they have been trained since childhood by our society to defer to the men in the room, especially if the men are being boisterous (as Heathen gatherings often tend to be)?
Thinking back on my own lengthy meek phase, what would get me involved was to ask me directly what I thought about something. Part of the trick is to ask what the person thinks, and not just “Do you agree?” because if it can be answered with a yes or no answer, that is often all you will get; and women will often agree with the men’s opinions (generalizing heavily here, of course) even if they don’t particularly actually think so, simply to avoid what they expect will be an argument and being shouted down and being told why they are wrong and their experiences invalid, or somehow unrelated or an exception.
So I guess I would say, if you notice a woman sitting quietly, just listening, not participating in the conversation, then ask her directly what she thinks, listen to her answer, and before you tell her all the ways she’s wrong, find things in her statement that she is correct about. And, please, gods, not just “Well, I can certainly understand why you’d feel that way!” If it would be an insulting thing to say to a man, it is just as insulting to say to a woman; the only difference is that we will all too often just smile politely, albeit with clenched teeth, back down, and simply resolve to not bother arguing about it with that person or group again.
And once that happens, what’s even the point of showing up?
Lorrie Wood
A:  This is a strange question for me. I don’t divvy up my community based on gender. My people are my people. Some of the ways in which they ask to be recognized as my people means I have to stash “preferred pronoun” and “potential gender presentation(s)” in the mental cubbyhole next to “name” and “dietary restrictions”. I’m rubbish at names already, but I do what I can.
Let’s start by treating one another as individuals, each on our own merits—though obviously there’s going to be baggage and things that one may say about another based on previous association. Let’s cherish what being female means to this one, what being heathen means to that one, what the other’s identity as a Lokean means, and try to understand that it can be a brave thing indeed to say, “yes, I’m looking pretty femme today, but please understand that I’m genderfluid; if I’m presenting male tomorrow, try to keep up. If unsure, ask.” I care more about what you’ve read and thought lately than your gender; let’s get back to work building community together, the better to forge fellowship.
Mallory Brooks:
A:  I have run into many Heathen men who do think that they are better at “being” Heathen than any woman. I have quickly put them into their place. I realize that there are many Heathen men who are simply just new to the faith and get sucked into that “I am Heathen man, here me roar. Smash.” I am hoping as time goes on we can find these young men and show them that there is no reason to be this way.
There is also a brand of older Heathen men who are stuck in that frame of mind. I really don’t know how to get those men out of that state. They have been that way for so long.
In summation
I am not going to tell you this represents every woman in Heathenry, or even claim it is a representative sample, because it is not.  These are some of our best.  What they have to say speaks very well of them, not so well of us, but does hold out hope that not only is change possible, but on some fronts we are actually moving forward.
I did not get the answers I thought I would when I asked the questions, but that just shows that you can be living inside a forest for twenty years and not notice the trees.  I should have known this, I should have raised my voice for change at least a decade ago when I first had the standing and responsibility to do so.  There are a whole lot of worthy Heathen men out there that are going to read these words and suffer the same sense of shame that I do, that our women were thus slighted in our presence for decades with us silently permitting it.
I can’t tell you where we go from here, but I think that as a community, we need to communicate better across the genders, and has been noted here several places, begin seeking out the quiet ones and talking to them.  Too much I have heard that the silence is not entirely by choice, and its acceptance means accepting the marginalization of women in our community.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Updated Rede, Officer, Representative Oath of Office

Hail The Troth!

The Rede has voted to amend the oath that is taken by all titled representatives (Rede members, Officers, committee Chairs, Stewards, etc.) of the organization. The new verbiage includes some small changes to the third paragraph to make it read more easily and the inclusion of a new paragraph (fourth) that reflects current Troth policy. This oath applies only to current and future official representatives of the organization.

We will be rolling out options and opportunities for current Troth representatives to take the oath with this new verbiage as well. The original oaths are in effect until the new oath is taken, at which time the new oath will be in effect until the completion of the original term.

We on the Rede see this step as a positive, proactive change that is aligned with The Troth's Mission and stated positions. 


I, [Insert Name], accept the position of [Insert Office] in The Troth, for the advancement of our organization, our religion, and our gods and goddesses.

I swear to fulfill my office to the best of my ability, in word and in deed. I will fulfill the responsibilities entrusted to me in a discreet, timely, and responsible manner.

As a leader in this organization and in our religion, I will extend good will to all Board Members, Executive Officers, Officers, and Volunteer Staff and show due respect and consideration to all the members of The Troth.

With The Troth I stand against any use of Germanic religion and culture to advance causes of racism, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy, ableism, or any other form of prejudice.

As my word is my bond, I will strengthen my good name and the good name of The Troth.

This post represents official Troth policy or is an official Troth statement.