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What In The Hoo-Hah is Hygge?

Today is supposed to be the last day of my sabbatical.  Usually sabbaticals are restful; then again, usually they’re also a paid period of leave.  For me, neither of these has really been the case.  Sure, I’ve earned a lot of things that money simply cannot buy–a certain sort of peace that I did not have before–but I’ve also worked myself to the point of abject exhaustion on more than one occasion, and the work on the new house (especially my office/studio) seems to be neverending (which is now stressing out the cat, in addition to me!).  So instead of this being the last day of my sabbatical, I’ve decided it’s the first day of a new sort of life: a hyggelig life.

Hygge, and by extension, its adjective form, hyggelig, is a Danish/Norwegian concept that has become more than a bit of a fad here in the U.S. over the past year.  Pronounced hoo-gah, I first stumbled upon the term when researching decorative motifs for our new home. I wanted a definite coastal vibe (in homage to Njordr, and also so that our house would feel like a permanent vacation-home), but with heavy Scandinavian motifs (so that our whole house would represent our Heathen/Pagan Faith), and a comfy, cozy Mid-Century Modern ease-of-living.  When you Google Search all of that, you’ll likely be surprised how often the word hygge comes up.  I certainly was, to the degree of thinking “where has this been all my life?“.

Like the word lovehygge has that rare distinction of being at the same time both a noun and an adjective.  Also like love, it is a feeling.  I’ve heard it argued by some that “if you treat hygge like it’s a verb, you’re doing it wrong”, but honestly, I think it has that in common with the concept of love, too: hygge really isn’t hygge until you can give it away; until you can share it with someone else who is dear to you.

So what in the hoo-hah is hygge?  It is a consciousness–a mindfulness, if you will–of being fully present in a moment of coziness, specialness, and that indescribable feeling that is home.  In its most basic form, hygge is homecoming.  I don’t mean that in the sense of you’ve actually just come back home from having been somewhere else; I mean that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you finally arrive at a place or a moment where you deeply know this is where you belong.  You may get that feeling sitting in candlelight drinking a warm cup of tea, or you may get that feeling relaxing on the couch papercrafting.  The most important thing is that you build it into your life somewhere.  We could all use some hygge now and then….

An interesting thing about hygge: etymologically, it traces back to the term hugr. Sound familiar?  You may remember it as one of the four aspects of the Norse “soul”, which I talked about previously in this blog post.  The Hugr would best be understood by us moderns as the “inner self”: a person’s personality as reflected in their conscious thought processes; very much in line with the oft-misquoted Buddhist ideal of “what you think, you become”.  In a very real sense, hygge is food for the soul.  I made a conscious decision a long time ago that that is my business in life: the feeding of people’s souls.  But how to do that?

Since we changed the angle of this business to papercrafting and digital art a year ago, it has been no secret that I have often felt very at-sea over exactly how to keep us rolling in that direction, while still remaining passionate about both my business and my life.  When we made that change back in July 2016, our initial tagline was Remember To Whimsy.  What I didn’t know then, but have discovered over the course of this sabbatical, is that what we really meant was Infuse Your Life With Hygge.  Ultimately, that is what every product we design, every blog post we write, and every interaction we have in this business–whether creating votive art, or sharing our spirituality with others–has been designed to do.  We want to remind people to live in their most precious moments–those moments of homecoming–and be mindful of the warmth and joy they feel there. We’ve never just wanted to sell people things; we want to give people feelings, that they can come back to again and again.

Most folks are familiar with the old saying “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you can feed him for a lifetime.”  I can give you a nifty set of digital papers and elements, and keep you busy for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, but if I can teach you to be mindful of your most treasured moments in the first place, and maybe couple that with a recipe here and there for something yummy to imbibe while you’re crafting, plus ideas for your home that make it a more enjoyable place to craft in, then I can help you find hygge for a lifetime!

Which is why I say today is not the end of my sabbatical, but instead the beginning of a new, hyggelig life.  It’s a life I intend to share with all of you, and hopefully spread the hygge as liberally as butter (or in my case, cheese!) on bread.  But before I can help you learn to infuse your lives with hygge, I’ve got to start the process of infusing my own.  That starts with the “unplugged mornings” that I promised myself when we first moved in; mornings which I was doing a great job with for the first week we lived in our new house.  After that first week, however, I fell sick, so I’ve been sleeping in most days.  On top of that, I have a rather unrealistic gaming schedule that keeps me up til 1am four nights a week–which doesn’t exactly promote getting out of bed before 9am!  Sleeping late means that by the time I finally do crawl out of bed, I’m in an urgent rush to hop online and let my Beloved know that I’m okay, which then leads to being locked online til noon.  So my real day doesn’t start until 1:30 in the afternoon! On most days, that means I have around three hours to get everything I want to get accomplished in a day actually done, which isn’t nearly enough time to do those things without feeling like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs! Needless to say (I hope), that leaves very little room for hygge.

So I would like to invite all of you to join me for unplugged mornings.  If that means you have to get out of bed a bit earlier than you normally would, by all means, do so: it’s worth the sacrifice.  Wake up, stretch, make yourself a cup of hot tea (or coffee, if that’s more your style), and then just sit and drink.  Most importantly, remember to enjoy that moment.  Bask in it.  Depending on your work schedule and everything else, it may be one of the few such moments you get all day, but it gives you a touchstone moment that you can come back to again and again throughout the day, when things get nuts. Leave that cell phone on the counter; leave that computer in the other room; don’t turn on the TV.  There will be plenty of time for those things later.  For the length of that cuppa, just be present in the sweetness of that moment; just be you and the tea (or coffee, as the case may be).  This may seem like a trivial change in your schedule at face value, but like that famous quote from the movie The Crownothing is trivial…..

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Everyday Magick: gods, goddesses, and God: How Does That Work?

As those of you who get the newsletter already know, my Spirit Guides and I have been reading A Practical Heathen’s Guide to Asatru by Patricia M. Lafayllve, and last night, something in one of the chapters (over on page 118) really got us thinking (and arguing with the author from my desk chair), so I thought perhaps it was high time I did a blog post explaining how in our little corner of the world there can be gods, goddesses, and God (the Christian God), all at the same time. Lafayllve writes:

“…the innangardh/utangardh balance….is why heathens consider the gods and goddesses, and those related to them, as part of our innangardh (inner circle).  This is also why those outside of that pantheon are considered utangardh (outsiders; outside our inner circle; strangers).  The other pantheons do exist.  Polytheistic logic suggests that there is more than one everything, so it only makes sense that every other god and goddess exists just as ours do.  That said, heathen worship is for the Norse gods and goddesses, among others, and not generally given to those not in our pantheon.  Does that make another pantheon ‘less than’ or ‘better than’ ours? No–it simply means ‘different.'”

(Additions in parentheses are my own, to make it easier for the non-reader of this book to understand what Lafayllve is saying.)

Certainly, there is both historical and contemporary proof of this innangardh/utungardh “balance” of which she speaks–of insider versus outsider dichotomies between those who follow specific religions and the gods/goddesses/God of other religions.  Honestly, we see it every day in the way both some modern adherents of Islam treat modern Christians, and the way some modern adherents of Christianity treat pretty much everyone who isn’t a Christian (or their definition of what one should be).  If you watch the show Vikings (which is based on the story of Ragnar Lodbrok, a legendary Danish Viking King, as related in several Norse Sagas, Norse and Scottish skaldic poetry, and the Gesta Danorum by Saxo Grammaticus, which is considered the first full history of Denmark), you definitely see this insider/outsider dichotomy heavily at work in the relationship between Floki (the Viking healer/warrior, who frequently communes with the gods) and Athelstan (the transplanted Christian priest).  However, I would hardly call this a balance; instead, as you can see from this paragraph (and likely played out in the life around you), it is more of a divisive dichotomy!

To say that such a view doesn’t “make another pantheon ‘less than’ or ‘better than'”, in my opinion, is to live in a misinformed la-la bubble at best, and to attempt to literally support religious bigotry at worst.  If your own faith is regarded as “inside”–as close to you; as part of your extended family; as something worthy of reverence and respect–while all other faiths are regarded as “outside”–as foreign to you; unable or even forbidden to have relationships with; as unworthy of reverence and respect–how can that possibly mean that other pantheons (or faiths) are not “less than” your own?  How can your own not be considered “better than” those others?  Divorce this discussion for a moment from the talk of pantheons, and let’s put it in the perspective of people, and the actual bigotry that we’ve watched unfold in our past history:  at one time, African American human beings were seen by Caucasians as foreign to them, unable or even forbidden to have relationships with; as unworthy of reverence and respect–as outsiders.  (This still happens in some places, mind you, and in some places, the complete opposite is true, with African Americans now viewing Caucasians in this way.)  What happened in those scenarios? (or happens?)  The same thing happens when we view pantheons and faiths through this dichotomy. One need look no further than the current rise of terrorism to see that I’m right.

Reading this section in the book last night, it was a lucky thing our resident Hereditary Heathen, Fenrir, wasn’t the one “driving” (primarily in-body; in control of motor functions), otherwise the book likely would’ve flown across the room!  It was, in fact, difficult for the rest of us to even keep reading, because in our little corner of the world, such dichotomies do not exist, and we certainly don’t view these types of insider/outsider prejudices as balance! No, in our little corner of the world, gods, goddesses, and God coexist just fine! We practice what might be considered polytheistic monolatry or henotheism.

Those big words are just a “nutshell” way of saying that all gods are ultimately one God. The modern practitioners of Kemetic Orthodoxy (another Historical Reconstructionist faith, based on the practices of the Ancient Egyptians) have a particularly apt way of explaining how this works: because God (whom they refer to as Netjer, the Supreme Being) is so much larger than our teeny tiny human brains can fully understand (a good word here would be ineffable), God appears to us in various forms, almost like “deified compartments”, that are small enough for us humans to be able to understand and form close relationships with.  These “deified compartments” may come to us in ways that we are more able to understand from our present cultural perspective (such as Allah for the Muslims, who were originally Bedouin Tribesmen), or Odin (the All-Father of the Norse Pantheon, who was both warrior and wise-man), or they may come to us in ways that encapsulate a certain lesson that we absolutely need to learn right now, but might not learn if it were “dressed up” in typical “God-talk”, such as Arianrhod (from the Welsh Pantheon, who teaches us about Sovereignty, but also about not feeling shame), or Loki (from the Norse Pantheon, who teaches us to laugh at our own mistakes, but also teaches us the grave price to be paid when we do things that harm other people).

I have found, as I have worked hard in my capacity as an ordained minister, that when I talk a lot about Jesus Christ here in this blog or elsewhere, people literally tune out and turn off, but if I talk about things from my Druid-Craft perspective, I get more and more readers, and more and more people actively attempting to learn and better their lives.  I can talk openly about Lleu Llaw Gyffes or Odin–who teach many of the same lessons to us as Jesus–but if I talk about Christ, people effectively “check out”.  Having dealt my whole life with Christians who openly promote the very same “insider/outsider” dichotomy that Lafayllve contends is upheld by modern Heathens, I can’t say that I really blame those folks who “walk away” on the internet when you start the “Christ-Talk” or the “God-Talk”.  While I don’t have an issue with Jesus, about 90% of His supposed followers clearly missed out on pretty much everything He tried to teach them! Because of this, I can easily understand why when you start talking about “JC”, people literally fear that you’re “one of those people”.

I’m not “one of those people”, and neither are my Spirit Guides–not even my resident Hereditary Heathen, Fenrir.  When it comes to gods, goddesses, and God, there is no “inside” or “outside”. Ultimately, they are all expressions of One Big Being that is just too big for us humans to understand when taken all in one big gulp.  I don’t have to work to prove that as a fact: you can see it all around you every day in the way most strict monotheists treat not only other faiths, but also other people.  The information they’ve been fed, through the narrow view of strict monotheism, is just too big for them to understand, much less practice the very good lessons that are often within those specific faiths.  I do my best to try to teach those very same good lessons, only in language (and through gods, goddesses, and, therefore, ultimately God) that people who have been hurt by strict monotheism can fully grasp, understand, and put into practice for themselves (and for Deity).  The only thing that is outside for me (and, by extension, for us) is True Evil: anything, deity or otherwise, that goes against our Values, as defined previously.  I’m sure we can all agree that there is nothing evil about not being a bigot, religious or otherwise.

And that’s how this “works”–having gods, goddesses, and Gods, all at the same time.  If you’re interested in exploring Druid-Craft further, or if you’d just like to become a part of my Tarot and Oracle Card Customer Loyalty Program, please sign up for my newsletter, and join us on Facebook!  I try to live my life in such a way that there are constantly new things both to learn and to teach, and I would love to continue that journey with you!