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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!

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An Eye For An Eye Makes The Whole World Blind

All art and words by Connla Freyjason for Iaconagraphy. Please click this image to open a new window and support us at Patreon.

In war, it is unwise to use your sword arm to pat yourself on the back.  Yet I look around at the current “war on discrimination” that is raging within the better half of the Heathen community, and over the past two days, I have seen a lot of people doing exactly that. In fact, I have even seen some people encouraging such behavior through memes suggesting that we all take credit for the Facebook ban of the AFA, even if we were not actively involved in making that happen.  On the flip side, even as this “victory” was taking place, I have sat back and watched as many of those same Heathens who espouse complete anti-discrimination policies (and I am firmly on the side of no discrimination of anyone ever) attack Christians and Christianity as a whole, and attack people for the virtues they are oathsworn to protect (even when they began their post with a caveat patently stating they didn’t expect everyone to uphold those same values).   We cannot pretend, as a group of people, to make war on discrimination while we vehemently maintain our own ways of discriminating against people.  When we do that, the only thing we’re patting ourselves on the back for at the end of the day is hypocrisy.

For those on the outside of the Heathen community, here’s a brief snapshot of what has been going on for the past year:

In September of 2016, Huginn’s Heathen Hof published Declaration 127, which is based on stanza 127 of the Havamal (literally: “Sayings of the High One”, from the Codex Regius, 13th century; believed by Heathens to be the sayings of Odin All-Father):

“When you see misdeeds, speak out against them, and give your enemies no frith.”–Translation on the HHH website

“When you see evil being done, call it out as evil, and show the evil-doer no peace.”–My Translation

This Declaration is accompanied by a sort of “petition”, which people and organizations may sign to demonstrate their complete denunciation of, and disassociation from, the AFA (the Asatru Folk Assembly).  Those who support Declaration 127 are essentially binding themselves to an oath that:

“While [we] fully recognize the AFA’s right to govern themselves as they see fit, and with full autonomy, we hereby exercise the same right. We will not promote, associate, or do business with the AFA as an organization so long as they maintain these discriminatory policies.”

Further, Declaration 127 states:

“The AFA’s views do not represent our communities.  We hereby declare that we do not condone hatred or discrimination carried out in the name of our religion, and will no longer associate with those who do.  We will not grant the tacit approval of silence in the name of frith, to those who would use our traditions to justify prejudice on the basis of race, nationality, orientation, or gender identity.  The AFA is free to stand for whatever principles it sees fit.  They are free to stand alone.”

I wholeheartedly supported Declaration 127. 

Why? What had the AFA done that was so wrong as to spark all of this?

The AFA has its roots in the Viking Brotherhood, which was founded by Stephen McNallen in 1972.  This, in turn, became the Asatru Free Assembly in 1974, which gave birth to two other major Heathen organizations: the Asatru Alliance and The Troth.  In 1986, the Asatru Free Assembly was disbanded because McNallen was apparently “too busy” to keep it going. Then, in 1994, he formed the Asatru Folk Assembly (the AFA of today), founded upon a Declaration of Purpose which includes, among other things:

2. The preservation of the People of the North (typified by the Scandinavian/Germanic and Celtic peoples), and the furtherance of their continued evolution;

10. Working to secure the existence of our people and a future for white children. (emphasis mine)

A brief visit to their website (yes, I went there!) sheds further light on the AFA worldview.  Their statement of ethics includes the following (and I really couldn’t begin to make this stuff up):

“Healthy families are the cornerstone of folk society and its strength and prosperity is derived from them.  We in Asatru support strong, healthy white family relationships.  We want our children to grow up to be mothers and fathers to white children of their own.  We believe that those activities and behaviors supportive of the white family should be encouraged while those activities and behaviors destructive of the white family are to be discouraged.” (Again, emphasis mine.)

So, clearly, the AFA is not only racist, but also anti-LGBTQ.  

Which is why it became blatantly obvious to me that I should support Declaration 127.  I mean, clearly, there is zero room in my heart for frith for anyone or any organization who is discriminatory towards people of color, other cultures, other faiths, or members of the LGBTQ community.  And the AFA not only discriminates against these groups that they consider “outsiders” (utangard), but they also muddy the waters for the rest of us who patently do not.  I have experienced this “muddying of the waters” firsthand: to many people outside of the Heathen community, the AFA represents what we all believe, even when they patently do not.  Add to this a large dearth in Heathen publications that are not either advocated by, published by, or have publishing rights owned by the AFA, and you have a recipe for situations in which simply carrying a book in a shop which is remotely associated with the AFA becomes grounds for accusations of Neo-Nazism. (It happens. It has happened. I witnessed it with my own two eyes.)  Such also becomes grounds for those who support Declaration 127 to not give those shops their business, even when said shopowners are in no way, shape, or form remotely affiliated with the AFA.

It’s a slippery slope that has been built, to say the least.

That slope becomes even more slippery when one ventures into the dogmatically Reconstructionist world of many of my fellow supporters of Declaration 127.  I personally reached a point where I no longer shared my writings or my art because “daily crucifixion” is not my idea of a “good time”. I have sat back and watched, stunned, as other people were attacked (to the point of fleeing a group) for having values (to which they were oathsworn) which mirrored the Nine Noble Virtues, purely because those virtues were supposedly first espoused by McNallen and his compatriots, and supposedly not directly derived from historical sources (even though every single one of the virtues in question appear directly in the Havamal).  I have read through countless posts railing against the dreaded “Christian-grafting”, and Christianity and Christians on the whole, even while also espousing a “show it to me in the lore, or it isn’t valid” attitude: when our lore is all a product of Christian authors, written in the post-Christian period.  In short, I have observed those very same people who were so opposed to discrimination constantly discriminate: against those who are “less Reconstructionist” than they are; against Judeo-Christianity on the whole (which, when you think about it, can border on Anti-Semitism, in and of itself), and against anyone who is so “misinformed” as to accidentally promote something which has ever been “tainted” by the AFA whatsoever (in a world where, until about a decade ago, the AFA was pretty much “the only show in town”, and largely remains such when it comes to quality published source material apart from the Eddas and Sagas themselves).  

Many among the supporters of Declaration 127 see this recent Facebook ban of the AFA as a victory, and on many levels, they are not wrong to feel that way.  However, I keep coming back to those last words of Declaration 127; those last words that were still floating in my head as I signed it myself almost a year ago:

“While the undersigned organizations listed here fully recognize the AFA’s right to govern themselves as they see fit, and with full autonomy, we hereby exercise the same right…The AFA is free to stand for whatever principles it sees fit. They are free to stand alone.”

Actively working to get an organization banned from Facebook is neither fully recognizing their right to govern themselves as they see fit, and with full autonomy, nor allowing them to be free to stand for whatever principles they see fit.  Actively working to get an organization banned from Facebook, while supposedly upholding the above principles, is bullying at its basest.  One cannot stop bullying simply by being the better bully!  Yes, there are places within the corpus of the Havamal that suggest “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and bust their heads open while you’re at it”: a thrice-fold sort of vengeance, to make sure things really get sorted and your enemies fully know “who’s boss”.  There are also places within the corpus of the Havamal that say “never trust a woman” and “beguile women with soft words”. We tend to downplay those latter verses, with the argument that we’re living in the twenty-first century, and such sexism has no place here.  Well, there is no place in the world in which we are presently living for thrice-fold vengeance, either. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leaves the whole world blind and toothless, and that is all such attitudes accomplish.

Maybe we have won a battle, with Facebook actively recognizing that the AFA fosters hateful attitudes and hateful speech, but we have not won the war.  So long as we are shackled to our own hypocrisy while at the same time patting ourselves on the back with our sword arms, when the next battle comes, we will have no appendages left available with which to fight!  A zero tolerance policy for discrimination needs be exactly that: a zero tolerance policy.  So long as it is still socially acceptable to point an accusatory finger at someone based on a difference in faith (anti-Christian, anti-Judeo-Christian), or to argue the concept of ergi as anti-LGBTQ as a point of historical fact within our faith-base that still holds true, we patently are not maintaining such a zero tolerance policy.  Instead, we are merely ignoring our own transgressions and shortcomings by loudly focusing attention on the transgressions and shortcomings of others. Until we stop doing that, we will never win this war; we will only serve to perpetuate it.

Declaration 127 is a great ideal, but like most “high ideals”, once you throw actual humans into the mix, things have a way of going terribly, terribly wrong.  I commend its author for what he was trying to do, when he created it, and put it out there to gain the support which it has gained.  I admire him for having the cajones to do something like that, because it took some serious cajones.  Anytime one voice rises up against the Darkness and tries to get others to join them in that fight, it takes courage.  I hope that you will all keep that in mind after having read this post….

 

 

 

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Finding Freyja

Original digital painting by Connla Freyjason (working under the pseudonym “The Warrior”), April, 2016. Available as wall art via clicking this link.

 

Every Friday, without fail, I pour blot to Freyja. I began this weekly ritual in April of 2016, after She came to me in a dream, and claimed me as Her own. Those first few weeks, I knew Her only as “Freyja, Queen of Cats”; a gentle presence, not unlike the huge felines who pull Her chariot, or even our own family cat, Kili, who could creep into a room quite unnoticed, yet fill the entire place with reverberating love, and passion that was quick to rise, sometimes even baring claws. With my whole heart, I poured a sweet red wine blend for Her, and I spoke the few kennings I knew, as well as the one She had, in fact, taught me: “Freyja, Queen of Cats”. And then I poured out my heart to Her. Every Friday, without fail.

On the twenty-seventh of February in 2017, I finally realized that I should take the plunge, and dedicate myself to the service She had already chosen for me. Two nights prior, I had participated in a Dark Moon Ritual at Enchanted Shop in Salem, Massachusetts, led by Priestess Renee Des Anges. During the meditation portion of that ritual, I was gifted a bind rune by The Lady: Algiz, Sowilo, Wunjo.

Algiz is a warrior’s rune. I wouldn’t fully understand the depth of Her gifting it me until two months later, when it finally dawned on me the form in which She had first chosen to visit: Valfreyja. For several years, I worked under the pen name “The Warrior” as an artist; my Beloved, Suzanne, in fact calls me “Her Warrior” as a pet-name. So it’s quite appropriate that Freyja first made Herself known to me as Valfreyja; it’s not Her fault that I’m more than a little slow on the uptake! Algiz is also the rune repeated on the Helm of Awe, a galdrastafir to which I have been heavily drawn from the first moment I saw one over a year ago. It is a rune of protection. It is also a rune of friendship with the gods, and of communication with Higher Powers. Message received.

Sowilo is a rune of promise, strength, warmth, and joy. It is the sun melting the snow with the promise of Spring; success, when we think all hope has otherwise been lost. These are the very things She had come to be to me over the course of the preceding year: when things were at their absolute darkest, Freyja always was there. And She reminded me to hope; She reminded me constantly that I am an artist, and that the Way of the Artist has never been easy, but has always been worthwhile. Message received.

Wunjo is as close as a rune can come to true bliss; a rune of “happily ever afters”. It is a rune of fulfillment, but it is also a rune of bonds forged: the bond of a friend to a friend; of lover to lover; of Goddess to Dedicant. It brings transformations of the best kind; the kind where one stops feeling like an outsider and becomes a part of something greater than themselves. Message received.

It was time; She had told me so. Now the question became: how does one “perform” a dedication to a Deity in the Norse Tradition? I had no clue. Certainly, I had read about others who had done so—Cara Freyasdaughter had written some wonderful articles on the topic at Huginn’s Heathen Hof—and I knew that there was a certain measure of “contractual deal making” that took place within a ritual context when “finally taking the plunge” with a Norse Deity, but that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge on the subject, apart from my previous experience as a Welsh Druid. Still, I wasn’t exactly “going in blind”: I had, after all, spent the last year getting to know Her better, both in a ritual setting (during our Friday blot), and in a research capacity. So I did what I almost always do with everything that I’m passionate about in my life: I jumped in with both feet.

Rather than use a simple white candle as I normally do when creating sacred space, I chose a lavender chime candle from my “stash”, and with my ritual dagger, I carved upon it the bind rune which She had given me. I then placed it in the small holder which I keep within the cast iron cauldron (which I also use as my hlaut-boll) on my altar, and set about creating sacred space. It isn’t often anymore that I do the full rite before my altar: as I’ve said before, I’ve called sacred space into being so many times in that area that it’s practically a permanently liminal space. But that night, I felt driven to do so. She told me to do it; and I did as I was told.

How do you know when the gods are telling you to do something? Sometimes it may come as it does when any physical person tells you to do something: in the form of an audible voice. Other times, like that night, it may come in the form of a burning need. Suddenly, you feel driven to do something, with every fiber of your being, often to the point of actually feeling physically ill if that thing is not done. That night was like that: if I had not called the space with the full rite, I knew instantly that I was going to suffer for not having done. There would be a definite headache. There might also be nausea. So I went for it. Like I said: I did as I was told.

I centered myself. I laid the fence—every movement purposeful and driven. And then I lit the lavender candle which I had inscribed with the bind-rune, and I stared deeply into it, letting my mind go blank as one typically does with candle-scrying. And She stood there, in the flame. I saw Her again, as I had that night a year past, in my dreams. And I apologized for being “a little bit slow” mentally, and then I told Her what She already knew:

I belong to you.

And then my promises to Her—the conditions of my service to Her—flowed out of me, not in some makeshift version of a legalese contract, but in poetry:

I am the
Walker Between The Worlds;
I am the Raven
On the wing,
And I sing the
Song without the
Words,
For I have no
Voice to bring.
Yet still with this
Voice
That is
Mine-not-mine,
I raise that
Voice
And sing.

All elements and words, Connla Freyjason for Iaconagraphy. Digital painting featured at center is available on a host of products at Red Bubble, via clicking this link.

My “adventures in galdr” began the very next day, and I’ve been on that song-filled journey ever since. She chose me to be Her servant; I take no titles for myself, except those She might give to me in future. It doesn’t seem to matter at all to Her that my singing voice is very much like that of the raven that is my fylgja: I squawk to the glory of the gods now on a regular basis! And I know that each time I do, I am doing right. Singing for Her fills me up as few things ever have.

I’m glad I finally “bought a clue”. I’m glad I finally found Freyja. I’m glad She took the time to find me.