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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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At Your Service: What Is Druid-Craft?

I’ve talked a lot lately about my life (and so have my “Graphics Elves”/”Spirit Guides”) as a Historical Reconstructionist Druid, but the truth is, when it comes to what we ultimately practice–and what we ultimately will be teaching you–that might more concisely be described as Druid-Craft.  Having a Welsh base, and practicing largely as a Dewin (a shamanic Druid practitioner of magick), my “particular brand of Druidry” is necessarily different from that practiced by other modern Historical Reconstructionists, such as those at ADF or OBOD.  The other major members of my mini-Grove (which is self-contained, pun-intended, since those “ranking officers of the Grove” come here and practice on this plane through me!) are a Bard and what we term in our Grove Rigfenneidh, which basically means “chief Fianna” (and, yes, that’s Irish, not Welsh; he is basically a Warrior-Bard-Dewin with fairly heavy Norse/Germanic/Teutonic leanings),  thus the entire tone of what we practice and what we teach tends to be not only Welsh Druidic, but also highly magick-based and magick-driven in its practice.

So what the heck is Druid-Craft, and is there any historical basis for such a critter?

As the Professor noted in the last blog entry, being a Welsh Historical Reconstructionist Druid is hard!  Unlike those with an Irish base, very little of our historical data is just “handed” to us: we have to do the digging ourselves.  This is largely due to the heavy-handedness of the Romantic Druids of the 18th century, who have caused most of the written materials we have, such as the Barddas, Mabinogion, and Hanes Taliesin, to be heavily called into question, insofar as any “historical Celticness” whatsoever.  So we have to become armchair archaeologists/anthropologists in order to find anything remotely resembling a truly “ancient” root to what we practice and believe.

We’ve done a lot of that over the past twenty years–“digging” into the ancient history of Wales, as armchair archaeologists/anthropologists–and in the process we’ve discovered some pretty interesting things about our ancient Welsh Ancestors-in-the-faith.  Firstly, most of the “Celtic overtones” of Welsh Mythology come to us circa 350BC from a group of migrating Irish Celts who settled in what is now Gwynedd, Wales.  These were the folk who eventually established Anglesey, the center of Druidry in the British Isles.  The other Celts in Wales–the Silures, Ordovices, and Demetae–were most likely migrants from the Halstatt Culture (so-named after their original homeland, in Austria).  These were what the Romans would’ve termed “Germanic Tribes”, which means exactly what it sounds like it implies: they shared a common cultural bond to the Norse/Germanic/Teutonic pantheon of deities.  Therefore, the ancient historical sources for Welsh Druidry become a combination of the Irish Celtic and the Norse/Germanic/Teutonic.

Most of the magickal practices we know about the ancient druids practicing come down to us either through the writings of their Roman contemporaries (such as Tacitus), or from evidence collected at archaeological sites, such as Penbryn and Cerrig-y-Drudion.  From these combined sources, we know that the Druids did, in fact, measure time (days, nights, weeks, months, etc.) by the phases of the moon (much like modern Pagans), reckoning “periods of time not in days but in nights; in celebrating birthdays, the first of the month, and the beginning of a year, they go on the principle that night comes first and is followed by day” (Julius Caesar, De Bello Gallico, 58-52 BC).  A series of small ceremonial swords discovered in continental Europe and bearing lunar imagery on their hilts, when combined with the contemporary histories of Caesar and others, suggest that these blades may have been used in druid rituals which not only marked time, but may also have involved divination (wherein they used the blade and its symbols to somehow determine “lucky” or “unlucky” days).  Symbols similar to those found on these swords have been found on a series of spoons uncovered throughout Britain, but most notably at Penbryn, Wales.  These spoons are always found in pairs (when discovered amongst grave goods), and are marked with a four-fold division (a cross), and various differing inlays (which are suggested to represent moon phases).  Since one spoon has a hole in it, it has been suggested by archaeologists/anthropologists that these spoons were used in a form of divination, wherein water was poured through the hole, onto the other spoon which bears the cross (four-fold division). Which quadrant the water landed in would then designate the most auspicious quarter of the lunar month in which to do….whatever. When combined with descriptions of the tarbh feis among the Celts of Ireland (some of whom settled in Wales, remember), it becomes pretty obvious that divination, in one form or another, was very important to the Celts.

While I don’t use fancy swords or spoons (or regularly slaughter cattle and eat stew, as in the tarbh feis), my daily ritual observances do rely quite heavily on divination (as can be seen from the fact that I’m also a Professional Tarot Counselor), and our High Day Rites include a section of ritual wherein we use modern means of divination (such as Tarot) to receive “feedback” from Deity.  These ancient Welsh spoons and the Irish observance of the tarbh feis also lend themselves to the practice of kitchen witchery, which is very much part of the practice of the Dewin (shamanic druid practitioner of magick).

From other archaeological sites (such as that at Hounslow, Middlesex) we know that totem animals were also profoundly important to the ancient Celts. This is further echoed in the extant myths which remain, both from the Irish source material, and from later Welsh translations, in such stories as that of Math ap Mathonwy, Gwydion, and Gilfaethwy, as well as that of Cerridwen and Gwionn Bach, and in many stories from the Irish Fenian Cycle.  Small effigies of animals have been found among grave goods at many sites, most often depicting images of pigs/boars, dogs, deer, and horses.  These specific animals also figure prominently in extant mythology (even that which has been called into historical question, such as the Mabinogion), as again in the tale of Math ap Mathonwy, that of Cerridwen and Gwionn Bach, and, again, also in the Fenian Cycle of Ireland.  Because of this, totem animals, and our relationships to and with them, also figure prominently in my practice of Druid-Craft.

Sacrifice is also an important part of my practice and belief system, as it was for the ancient Celts, based on both contemporary accounts and archaeological evidence. Sites of “ritual deposition”–the depositing of “perfectly good treasures” into lakes, rivers, and peat bogs, as a “gift for the gods”–have been found throughout Britain and continental Europe, and the contemporary accounts of the Romans (if they are to be believed) even speak of human and animal sacrifices (there is also archaeological evidence for both).  The sacrifice of a modern Druid, however, doesn’t involve blood; it involves soul, instead. It is a far more internal thing, and, therefore, is often even more symbolic and esoteric.

The divinatory, shamanic, and sacrificial practices of the ancient Celts are almost perfectly mirrored among the Norse/Germanic/Teutonic peoples (which makes sense, given the historical term “Germanic Tribes” coined by Caesar, and also given the “birthplace of modern Celtic Culture”: Halstatt).  We see this shamanic element expressed especially in the description of the tarbh feis in Ireland, but we also see it mirrored in the mention of seidh in Norse/Germanic/Teutonic source materials (such as the Eddas and Sagas), once again providing something like a “magickal bridge” between the two cultures.  My own practice of “shamanic mediumship” has kinship to things practiced historically within both cultures (if we are to consider them disparate cultures at all, in fact, when it all comes down to brass tacks, as we say in the South).

At its most basic, then, Druid-Craft might be described as a profoundly shamanic path which focuses heavily on divination, magick (particularly herbal magick, magick involving divination, and kitchen witchery), and places a great emphasis spiritually on the concept and practice of sacrifice.  It isn’t a “go to Church on Sunday” sort of religion; by that, I mean it isn’t something one does only on designated days or in designated places or at designated times, but is, instead, something that permeates every waking moment of my life.  That can make it incredibly difficult to teach as a practice: I mean, how does one teach something that has become so natural to your life that you barely even realize anymore when you are doing it and when you are not?  To put it in incredibly mundane terms, it’s like trying to remember one’s own phone number.  You all know how hard that is to do, right? I mean, how often do you call yourself?  When something is so much a part of the natural fiber of your being that it comes as naturally as breathing, it becomes a bit difficult to find the starting point of that “breath” so that you can teach it to someone else. But I intend to try!

If this article has piqued your interest in possibly learning Druid-Craft, I would beg a precious moment of your time, and ask you to please fill out this short survey for me.  Don’t forget to also join my mailing list, as I teach quite a lot for free in my weekly newsletters (and there is also a free e-book on beginning magick available for download at sign-up). I am very excited to finally be able to share this decades-long journey (and all of the research that went into it!) with others and can’t wait to go on this journey with you, together!