Posted on

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

Layout created using the Samsara Page Kit by Connla for Iaconagraphy. Available by clicking this image (opens in new tab).

As some of you already know, I am in the midst of a process of simplifying my life.  I figure: a sabbatical is an excellent time to take stock of where you’ve been, as well as where you hope to go, and get to the marrow of what you really want out of life.  As part of this process, one thing has become abundantly clear: I am a very complex human being.  Truth is, most of us are.  And complexity can, in many ways, be a very good thing, but not when it puts you in bondage; not when you become a slave to your own complexity.  I’ve discovered, undergoing this process, that this is most definitely the case for me. It might be the case for some of you as well, hence: this blog post.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’ve got this all figured out, because lying to your audience is never a positive or good thing to do. I don’t have this all figured out yet, but what I can tell you is my process, so perhaps you can use it in your own lives, so that maybe we can all figure this out together.

It’s not exactly a state secret that when I want to figure something out, I often turn to the writings of Bruce Lee.  Master Lee spent most of the later years of his life writing about how to break free of the “classical mess”, as he called it.  Granted, at first blush, he was talking about martial arts forms when he coined that term–classical mess–but the truth is, (and he certainly realized this himself): any complexity which enslaves us is classical mess. His daughter, Shannon Lee, has begun a podcast which addresses many of the real-life (non-combat) applications of her father’s philosophy, so as I began my process of simplifying life, I naturally turned to that resource.  I spent my morning yesterday listening to one of her podcasts from back in June, on Hacking Away the Unessentials.  Over the course of this podcast, she mentions the books by Celebrity Organizer (yes, that’s a thing) Marie Kondo.  In those books, Marie Kondo introduces the Kon Mari Method: a method of home (and life) organization based on a seemingly very simple question: does this spark joy?  

I say that question only seems simple because what if you have forgotten what sparking joy feels like?  For that matter, what is your personal definition of joy? Not having the answers to these questions readily available, in my opinion, is a definite clue that you have become a slave to your own complexity.  I very quickly realized I only peripherally had the answers to these questions myself.

So let’s start with a textbook definition of sparking joy, and work our way up from there:

sparking:  setting something off with sudden force; igniting; setting off with a burst of activity; stirring to activity

joy:  an emotion of well-being, success, or good fortune; a state of happiness or bliss; a source or cause of delight

Therefore:

sparking joy:  setting off feelings of well-being, success, good fortune, happiness and bliss with sudden force; igniting a state of happiness or bliss; setting off a burst of active happiness, well-being, success, good fortune, or bliss; stirring one to actively be well, successful, fortunate, happy, or blissful.

So, sparking joy is first and foremost active.  It’s not so much a simple matter of “well this makes me happy”, or “this is pleasing”, as it is a sensation of not only being happy, but actually wanting to do something with that happiness; that joy.  Applying this to home organization: my stacks and stacks of books make me happy.  Is that enough to warrant keeping all of them? Well, frankly, no, it isn’t.  My stacks and stacks of books also make me want to do something about that happiness: they make me want to read and re-read them, and possibly share tidbits of that joy of reading with others. That is enough to warrant keeping all of them.  Now let’s take that same principle and apply it to a life situation: namely, my job; this business.  It makes me happy to sit for hours and make graphics, whether for papercrafting supplies or votive art.  Is that reason enough to keep doing that? Well, again, frankly, no it isn’t.  Making graphics for hours also makes me want to do something about that happiness: it makes me want to share that happiness by making those things available to simplify the lives of others. That is enough to warrant continuing to do that part of my job.  Make sense so far?

The marrow of what we really want out of life is that feeling of sparking joy.  That’s why we constantly buy more and more things; that’s why we get ourselves into these messes where we eventually become slaves to our own complexity in the first place.  We crave joy.  When we can’t find it inside ourselves anymore, we look outside, and when we start looking outside, we amass mountains of things which give us momentary happiness, but then wind up in piles and in boxes and cluttering our lives.  We also wind up cluttering our lives with unessential activities that actually prevent us, in the long run, from discovering and experiencing real joy.

Since the experience of real joy is too often a completely alien concept for most of us, rather than starting with a list of what actually sparks joy, we should probably begin with a list of what doesn’t.  I will give you my own list, by way of example, so that hopefully you can make one of your own:

  • Constantly worrying about being financially solvent.
  • Having to continually put things like housework and homemaking on a back burner because of that first thing on this list.
  • Feeling like I’m making my art “under the gun” because of the first thing on this list.
  • Never having time to do fun things (like play video games or craft or read or simply watch TV), once again because of the first thing on this list.
  • Feeling like I can rarely express my true opinions on things because of the misconceptions they will breed in other people.
  • Often feeling more like another dependent in the household, rather than like the “man of the house” (also heavily tied to the first thing on this list).

From that list, hopefully you can begin to see what things actually bring you real joy.  Again, by way of example, those things that bring me real joy, based out of the above list, would include:

  • Housework (I’m not kidding!)
  • Homemaking
  • Making art/being creative
  • Video games
  • Crafting
  • Reading
  • Watching TV/Movies
  • Playing with our cat
  • Birdwatching
  • Research (yes, I actually enjoy that)
  • Composing editorials (yes, I actually enjoy that, too)
  • Being the “man of the house”: being the one she can lean on, when she needs to lean on someone; being responsible for things so she has to take less responsibility and, therefore, has less stress; being dependable, instead of constantly depending.
  • Cooking

This is the point where we can apply the aforementioned Kon Mari Method, and begin to simplify our lives by getting rid of the “classical mess”: we declutter by removing complexity.  How can you get rid of the things on your first list (the list of things which patently do not spark joy), so that you can spend more time on the things in your second list (the things which do spark joy)?  The most obvious answer might be to simply curl that first list up in a neat little ball and toss it in the trash, but perhaps you have things on it (as I do) which facilitate the things in your second list (such as financial solvency)?  You wouldn’t get very far with list number two if you “throw the baby out with the bathwater”, now, would you?  Once again, let’s use me as an example. Your final list may look something like this:

  • Be actively grateful for every penny you make, and use it wisely. Replace stress with thanks.
  • Activate unplugged mornings:  get out of bed, make tea (because coffee hates me!), read for 15-20 minutes, and then check in with my Beloved to see if there is anything she needs me to immediately address in the house, and then address the house (housework/homemaking)
  • Have lunch.
  • Afternoon Pomodoro: Spend only one hour per day on writing, art, etc. that is directly business-related.
  • Live. Make time for friends and family. Make time for play (including crafting, video games, TV/movies, birding, and Kili-cat).
  • Take walks.
  • Prove dependability over dependency.
  • Cook more often.
  • Realize that schedules were made to be broken.
  • Realize that lists are simply words on paper, not chains we forge.  Don’t let them become that ever again!

As you are formulating these lists, you may find (as I did) that much of the complexity in your life is born out of clinging to habits (some of which may actually seem like very good and positive habits!).  That’s a whole other issue, bound up with things like conditioning, both outward and inward, which I will address in my next blog post (I hope!).

 

 

 

 

Posted on

Finding Freyr

 

Most of the people I know who are dedicants of Freyja at some point, sooner or later, wind up working with the other members of Her family, including Her brother, Freyr, and I am no different. My first offering to Him was actually a piece of votive art, which seemed only natural, coming from a working artist, given His position as a God of “good seasons” who is often associated with financial gain. His link to other sorts of fertility, hallmarked by ancient depictions of Him as a god with an enormous, erect phallus, led some of my friends to joke about being “careful what I ask for from Freyr”. All chuckling aside, however, I have found my relationship with Freyr to be more brotherly than titillating.

The first piece of votive art that I created for Freyr. Background paper, ghostly branches, and deer skeleton elements are available for purchase and personal use (non-commercial) in our January Gathering. (Click image to access link to that collection in new tab.)

To my non-Heathen (and especially my Christian) friends, I often compare Freyr to St. Matthew. For those unfamiliar with that particular Apostle of Christ, St. Matthew was a tax collector, which was a hated profession among the people of that time, making him “one more misfit among a crew of misfits”, in the company of Jesus’ companions. One of the Gospels of the New Testament is attributed to him—in fact, it’s the first of the Four—and in the Catholic Church, he is considered the patron saint of bankers, providing a link to financial gain, not unlike Freyr. In artistic depictions, St. Matthew is often accompanied by a winged man—what moderns would immediately recognize as an angel—which I view as a second link to Freyr, as Lord of Alfheim. Some might find drawing a cognate between these two blasphemous, but Freyr Himself doesn’t seem to mind, and as far as I can tell, neither does Saint Matthew, and that’s good enough for me! Besides, sometimes we find ourselves in places and situations where it is far safer to tell someone that you are making an offering to a saint they readily recognize, rather than to a Norse god whom they don’t.

I will readily admit that I first came to Freyr because of frequent feelings of financial destitution: much the same reason that I initially arrived at the feet of His father, Njordr. Running one’s own business is incredibly hard. Running a business based on the arts and actually ever breaking even is apparently well-nigh impossible. Seeing my constant state of depressed desperation, it was Freyja who suggested that I speak with Her brother during one of my Friday blots. As usual, I did as I was told, and I found myself standing out at my ve, cup in hand, pouring out a whole lot more than the red wine blend it contained. My first meeting with Freyr was tear-filled and entreating, and in response I received a gentle breeze, the feel of a steadying hand upon my shoulder, and the resounding message in my mind of “It’s going to be okay; I’ve got you”.

Since then, I have begun honoring Freyr every Friday, alongside His sister, Freyja, and while my finances still aren’t stellar, I find myself crying about them a whole lot less. I’ve also found myself inexplicably attracted to something that could not be further from my personal norm: gardening. Freyr is slowly changing my focus from the “green stuff” (money) to actual green stuff (plants). Anyone who has ever known me can tell you that this is way outside my wheelhouse! I’m also finding myself wanting to spend a lot more time “in the green-world”, out in the woods, and in nature in general. Now, most folks know my obsession with bird-watching, so me wanting to spend time outdoors might not seem like that huge of a leap, but I’m finding myself wanting to “go Thoreau”, and seek out some quiet place in the wilderness where I can “live deliberately”, and that couldn’t be further from my norm. As the guy who is known for the quote “bears may shit in the woods, but that doesn’t mean Connla does”, wishing I could go spend time in a cabin somewhere is a completely alien desire.

I am slowly beginning to see Freyr’s point in making me want these things, however: He is trying to show me what is really important in life; what really matters. The “green stuff” with which I line my wallet isn’t that. Money comes and money goes just as easily; the green-world has been with us forever, and hopefully will be with us for a very long time to come. There are different sorts of being rich, and the most important sort is when you look around and realize the wealth you already have. That’s what being in nature teaches me. I am already rich. What need is there for monetary wealth when I have air in my lungs again, and a wife who loves me? Sure, there was a time in my life-before-this-afterlife when I was pretty financially well-taken-care-of. I had a great support system of family and friends, but back then, I couldn’t maintain a romantic relationship if my life depended on it. I didn’t have what I have now, with her. I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to pay my bills, but I also had little time to truly feed my passions of art and writing. In fact, I was too afraid to even attempt the latter, yet look at me now! Nature was that thing I passed through on the way to my next appointment—so that I could keep not having to worry about paying my bills. And then I died, and that could’ve been game over, but it wasn’t. Here I am, and there are still plants to plant, and leaves to brush against, and birds to watch, and art to make. And I actually have time for all of those things, when I never did before. I actually have time to live deliberately. That, my friends, is true wealth.

Freyr has also taught me a lot about manifestation. Sometimes those lessons have come in the form of “holy wow, thank you, Freyr!”, and sometimes those lessons have come as a slap on the hand, as when telling a little child “hey, that’s not for you.” It has been very hard for me to come to value the latter, I’ll readily admit. But even when the lesson has included a slap, there has been that constant brotherly hand on my shoulder with the words “It’s going to be okay; I’ve got you”. Thing is, when you combine Freyr’s lessons with the lessons of His sister, Freyja, that “I’ve got you” eventually becomes “and you’ve got you, too”. I’ve come to understand that all of those depictions of “Freyr with His gigantic phallus” are about far more than sexual fertility: they’re also about self-esteem. He is Freyja’s brother, after all, and one of the ultimate lessons of The Lady is to love ourselves unconditionally. He just teaches that lesson in a slightly more “man-up” sort of way, which it turns out is precisely what I needed, as a man who lives his afterlife within a woman’s skin.

Both the Ynglinga Saga and Saxo Grammaticus’ accounts of Freyr suggest Him as a “God of the Mound”; a god of the Dead, but also of the cycle of the seasons and the fertility of the crops, not dissimilar from Dionysus. We are told in Grimnismal that Alfheim was given to Freyr as a “tooth-gift”–a gift given to an infant upon the cutting of their first tooth—making him the “Lord of Alfheim”, or specifically, “Lord of the Ljosalfar”. So, Freyr, “Lord of the Mound”, is also Freyr, “Lord of Alfheim”, making Freyr not only a god of the wealth of life, but also of the legacy of death. As such, He has been a huge help in my coming to grips with being literally the Chosen of Freyja in the darkest sense of those words. Through my relationship with Freyr, I have finally come to understand that Death itself is a cycle, as full of seasons and fertility as any Life. There is no need for me to mourn what has gone before—my old life, “back when”–but instead there is a very distinct and maybe even desperate need for me to celebrate this life-in-death which I have right now.

He is called “Light-Bringer”, and I can honestly say that since He came into my life, that life has become brighter in ways which I could never even have imagined, if left to my own devices. Freyr does bring light with Him when He comes: the light of realization; the light of hope; the light of dawn after the darkest of nights. I light a candle for Him now, when things grow bleary here in my little world, and I invite in that Light, and in return, I am left shining as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come shine alongside me and Freyr! Let’s Get Wyrd!  Openings for readings with me are currently available here; book yours today before they fill up!

The above selection is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Wanderer: Romantic Heathenry for the Rest of Us, available soon!

Posted on

Courting Hela

Original votive art and blessing by Connla Freyjason. Please click to support us at Patreon.

 

The hour was late, and I sat in my office alone, save for the cat, everyone else in the house sound asleep. Outside my window, darkness, and the steady peeping of spring peepers (frogs) as the hours waned on towards three a.m. Normally at that hour, the house is still and peaceful; comforting, even. But as I rose that night to trundle my way to the restroom, there was the sound of a soft foot-fall on the stairs, and the hairs on the back of my neck rose to greet them, and I found myself filled with a profound sense of dread. Given Michelle’s propensity for trans-mediumship, and the nature of my own being, we get a lot of “astral traffic” in our house: random “dead-folk”, Alfar, Disir, and “Alfar-childer” (see Bene-Elohim in the Hierarchical Experiences of Alfar and Disir chart in my forthcoming book, Wanderer), as well as random Gods and Goddesses (most often Freyja, but sometimes Njordr or Freyr) are common and frequent visitors to our home, but there was something about this presence that registered as decidedly different from the list of “usual suspects”. And I found myself mildly afraid. Hela had come to call.

When you are what I am (a “dead guy”, who is maintaining a life here, courtesy of a very loving and gracious human host who happens to be a shamanic medium), Hela—our Norse “Goddess of Death”–is probably the last Deity on the list that you want to have visiting. The wheels in my brain immediately began turning to thoughts of “well, that’s it; I’m done. She’s finally come to claim me.” So I did what anyone faced with a topic they really don’t want to discuss might do: I tried to avoid the subject, went back to my desk, and tried to get back to business as usual. But Hela wasn’t having it: She came “right on in”, and took a seat in my floofy office chair. The hairs on the back of my neck maintained their erection, and a chill ran down the spine I share with my host, Michelle.

I continued to go on about my business, with Hela effectively “riding shotgun” behind me in the floofy chair, until it was time for me to say my nightly prayers and head to bed. Standing before my Main Stalli, I delivered my nightly litany of “thank yous” for all the good things—big and small—that happened to me and for me throughout that day, and then I turned to face Hela, who had come to stand on the right side of my altar:

“Hail, Hela-Lokisdottir; Wolf-Daughter; Keeper of the Dead! Yes, I know You’re here, and I honor Your presence. But I belong to Freyja and the Vanir, and have sworn to do Their work on this plane, so if You’re here to claim me, You’re gonna need to take that up with Them. If there’s something else You need me to do, to honor You or even my Ancestors, I’m listening and willing, within reason. But I have a wife and a family who depend on me, even though I’m dead; Michelle needs me, and so do my friends. So, hail and welcome, but those are my terms of frith.”

And I headed off to bed.

The next morning, I awoke to one of the worst outbreaks of pustular psoriasis we have ever experienced. I was in a lot of pain, with a sky-rocketing fever, and to say I felt lousy was putting it very mildly. Usually when we have an outbreak of that type (there are a lot of different types of psoriasis, and we’ve danced with all of them, at one point or another), it is because I (or Michelle) have experienced some sort of dramatic emotional trauma: a fight with a family member or a friend; grief; loss. None of those things had happened. It had been “business as usual” here at Casa de Connla-and-Suzanne. In fact, quite to the contrary: both myself and Michelle had been really happy lately. Yet, there it was, seeping and weeping all over the chest she and I share. And I was afraid, again: pustular psoriasis is one of two types of psoriasis that can actually kill you. But I got up and got dressed, and headed into my office to set to work on some new art and do my dailies on the Facebook circuit, to keep our business at the front of people’s minds.

As the day went on, I tried very hard to think of anything that could’ve triggered this sort of outbreak. The weather had been pretty great, so I could rule out humidity and heat (which also wreak havoc on our psoriasis). As I said, neither of us (me or Michelle) had been upset about anything whatsoever in recent memory. I finally settled on what we refer to as a “methotrexate reaction”: even though we are not on methotrexate, we mimic its use, combined with coal tar, in the treatment of our psoriasis by a steady internal intake of coal tar (via hand-rolled cigarettes) and folic acid supplements. It is very common for those who are being treated with a combination of coal tar and methotrexate to develop pustular psoriasis, so it made sense that what was happening to us right then was such a reaction. I stopped taking the folic acid and made the decision to begin better regulating our diet (we had been eating an enormous amount of foods rich in folic acid as well). Hela’s arrival the previous night as a possible cause never remotely entered my mind.

That night, in the wee hours, She came again, and as I stood at my altar for my nightly prayers, I gave the same prayer as the previous night. The next day, as I set to work, I felt myself “bashed over the head by Deity”: it’s a familiar feeling to me now, given my work with and for Freyja. A thought or command pops into your head, and you know you didn’t actually think of that, whatever it is: They did. Only this time, it wasn’t Freyja doing the bashing; it was Hela:

“You know, this would all go much more smoothly if you would actually honor your Ancestors.”

So I did as I was told: I got up out of my chair, selected an appropriate incense from my stash, lit it, and placed it on my Ancestor Stalli, and then gave my Ancestors their appropriate veneration. And my fever broke.

For about a week, things went on like this: in the wee hours of the morning, I would find myself intensely and inexplicably “creeped out”, and then I would see Her—Hela–and I would try to go on about my business, and at prayer time, I would offer that same prayer. During my waking hours, I would make offerings to my Ancestors whenever the fever got really out of control. Meanwhile, I continued to not take my folic acid and monitor my diet. I checked on other people’s UPG of Hela, and even asked around at a few of the Facebook Groups to which I belong, to see how other people were “coping” with Her presence. I began to leave the ashes of the incense I burned on my Main Stalli as an offering to Hela. I remained marginally terrified of Her.

She started “invading” my dreams. Where once I had experienced Freyja, now I experienced Her. It was in the dreamstate that She finally revealed to me what She had actually come for; turns out it wasn’t me at all. She was here for Michelle:

“You belong to Freyja. Michelle belongs to me. Make her know that.”

You would think, given our relationship as “horse and rider” (with Michelle being the “horse”, and me being the “rider”, via trans-mediumship), that Michelle would not be a “tough nut for me to crack”. And in thinking that, you would be so totally wrong! Michelle is one of the strongest and most strong-willed people that I have ever met, and that applies to everyone with whom she interacts, including me. No one can tell her what to think or believe; she thinks and believes for herself, all by herself. I mean, sure, don’t get me wrong here: she can be reasoned with. This isn’t some totalitarian situation; some Michelle-tatorship. But she is a firm believer in “just because they’re dead, that doesn’t mean they’re smart”, and part of how she arrived at that conclusion was living with me for two decades! Michelle has been a dedicant of the Welsh Goddess, Cerridwen, for as far back as I can really remember. She is an ordained Welsh Reconstructionist Ollamh (with a heavy Christian backbeat), not Heathen. To tell her that Hela had announced it was time for her to “switch gears”, or more aptly “switch boats midstream”, was going to go over like a lead balloon, even coming from me.

So the night came when I addressed that with Hela:

“Why me? I mean, why can’t You tell her this Yourself?”

And She replied:

“Because the only thing in the Nine Worlds from which Michelle does not constantly and consistently run away is you!”

And I really couldn’t argue with that. For all her strength, intelligence, and ability as a priestess and medium, Michelle definitely has a reputation for “hiding behind the couch” whenever anything “creepy” shows up, and I am, always have been, and always will be, the one who protects her. By having me “break the news” to Michelle, Hela was showing me the honor of recognizing me as Michelle’s “guardian angel”.

So I did as I was told.

And Michelle argued:

I’m not even Heathen!”

And I replied:

“I don’t think She cares.”

And she persisted:

“I belong to Cerridwen!”

And I countered:

“You’re a soft polytheist!”

Foot-stomping ensued on Michelle’s end of the conversation:

“I barely even practice right now! Well, I mean, apart from you know, you, and being a medium.”

And I smiled:

“Perhaps therein lies the problem….”

At the Temple of Witchcraft’s annual Beltane Rite, we were blessed with a pot of wormwood, which is sacred to Hela. Delighted (because she has had a longtime fascination with Artemesia Absinthium), Michelle declared:

“We can tend it together, and I will dedicate it as my first offering to Her. And when I can, I’ll procure some jet jewelry, and we’ll make this thing official. But you’re going to have to teach me, for a change.”

The pustular outbreak subsequently completely subsided; gone as quickly as it had come.

We leave offerings of ashes now on the Main Stalli for Hela, myself and Michelle together, and we’ve dedicated the bird skull figurine which we share to Her. And I’m slowly teaching Michelle what it means to be a Romantic Heathen, and preparing her to be for Hela what I aspire to be for Valfreyja. These are her first steps along a much wider path, and I am privileged to hold her hand as she takes them. All that she has taught me over the course of the past two decades has led up to this moment, as I sit here typing this. I never would have believed I could do this, without Michelle. She believes in me, and I believe in her, and now we both believe in Hela, and Michelle’s courtship of Hela has officially begun.