I’ve been working my way through a twenty-seven night runic initiation. The first nine nights consisted of working through Freyja’s aett (Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raidho, Kenaz, Gebo, Wunjo), but I have now begun working with Heimdall’s aett (Hagalaz, Nauthiz, Isa, Jera, Eihwaz, Perdhro, Algiz, Sowilo). Some would consider nine nights working with those particular runes to be a weighty–possibly even a profoundly negative–exercise. However, I am finding a peace within Heimdall’s runes that I never might have expected.
My ultimate guideline for the study of each rune has been stanza 143 of the Havamal (literally: “Sayings of the High One”; the sayings of Odin, Codex Regius, 13th century):
Do you know how to carve them?
Do you know how to use them to advise?
Do you know how to paint them?
Do you know how to prove them?
Do you know how to pray them?
Do you know how to blot them?
Do you know how to send them?
Do you know how to destroy them?
And within those first four runes of Heimdall’s aett, I have found a “recipe”, if you will, for getting through the more stressful times in life:
Rune of destruction and controlled chaos; of testing and trial which lead to harmony.
Advises against catastrophe, stagnation, suffering, and pain.
Proven by accepting those things which are beyond one’s control.
Sent forth as harmony in the face of opposition
Rune of resistance leading to strength; of delays and restrictions; of endurance, survival, determination, self-reliance, and the will to overcome.
Advises against deprivation, imprisonment, and distress.
Proven by standing fast in the face of trials and via innovation born of strength of will.
Sent forth as strength and compassionate endurance.
Rune of challenges and frustrations; of standstills and times for introspection and/or turning inward; of holding fast.
Advises against treachery, illusion, deceit, and betrayal.
Proven by standing still and seeking clarity.
Prayed: Be Still.
Sent forth as stillness and the ability to hold fast.
Rune of reaped rewards and fruitful seasons; of peace and happiness; of cycles and of change; of hopes, expectations, and successes earned.
Advises against bad timing, conflict, and reversals of fortune.
Proven by hoping and dreaming; by accepting and understanding the cycles of life in the Universe; by working hard to manifest one’s dreams.
Sent forth as peace and good seasons.
When faced with the stresses of life, it is all too easy to get caught up in them; to cling needlessly to the suffering and pain that they cause (Hagalaz). However, if we follow the example inherent in the runes Nauthiz and Isa, we may learn to turn tragedy into triumph by quieting our minds and hearts, and, as we endure, using the force of our will to fuel innovation. Jera promises that if we do this–accept and understand the cycles of the Universe–we will be gifted with reaped rewards and fruitful seasons.
Last night, as I sang the galdr for Heimdall’s aett, I was gifted with the bind-rune, depicted in the upper left of the image above, as well as the accompanying galdr and prayer. For those among our audience who are not working from a Norse base, I have also included Christian and Celtic-based cognates for the prayer. I hope it will help others have a little less-Monday Monday.
Sigyn, show me how to Overcome;
Gerdha, Grant Peace and Good Seasons,
That Skadi may show me how to Be Still.
Rhiannon, show me how to Overcome;
Taillte, Grant Peace and Good Seasons,
That the Cailleach may show me now to Be Still.
Archangel Gabriel, Help;
Mother Mary, show me how to Overcome;
Saint Ruth, Grant Peace and Good Seasons,
That Saint Elizabeth may show me how to Be Still.
Commercialized Magic: Employing supernatural powers or demonstrating the power to apparently influence the course of events via mysterious or supernatural forces purely for the sake of profit and/or financial gain.
That is not what we do here at Iaconagraphy. It never has been, and it never will be. However it has recently been brought to our attention that some people view any use of spiritual gifts in the creation of a product to sell as precisely that, so we felt the need to blog about it, and clear up any misconceptions or preconceived notions that might be held by others of our followers and folks within our customer base. We’re going to be doing this blog post a wee bit differently from our norm, as Michelle and I are co-writing this one. She has served as a psychic service professional for far longer than I have, with a combined thirty years of Tarot and oracle card reading experience, though only in a paid capacity for the last two. I have personally been “tossing runes” for twenty years, as well as reading oracle cards for myself and friends, also as an un-paid reader, until now. She is ordained; I am not. She is published; I’m not yet. Therefore, I feel that hearing both our perspectives on this issue is not only worthy, but warranted.
Warning: If you are sensitive to certain types of “language”, be forewarned. This post contains some mild profanity.
So what does qualify as commercialized magic?
Connla: As far as I’m concerned, anybody who “hangs out their shingle” as a “psychic service professional” based more on what they can gain than on what they can give is committing an act of commercialized magic. The key word in the phrase “psychic service professional” is service. If the only thing you’re intending to serve is your own damn wallet, then you need to stop muddying the waters for the rest of us who are actually here to perform a service to other people.
Michelle: First of all, I don’t consider “psychic readings” to be a form of magic; I consider magic to be magic. A psychic reading does not actively attempt to “influence the course of events”. We aren’t “making shit happen” by doing a reading for you. We will hopefully be providing you with tools, so that you can “make shit happen” yourself, but no amount of advice “makes shit happen”, psychic or otherwise. Anyone who tells you that a reading they have performed for you is going to “make shit happen” in your life probably also has a bridge over the Marianas Trench they’d like to sell you! That’s “snake oil salesmanship” at its finest. I consider active spellwork to be magic, because that’s precisely what active spellwork is: it is performing an action with the direct intent of “influencing the course of events”. Neither Connla nor I will ever participate in active spellwork for money, for a variety of reasons. First, because that obviously is actively doing magic for money (though that doesn’t necessarily mean that even that falls under the heading of “commercialized magic”, as defined above), but our reasons go much, much deeper than that. Magic always comes at a price, and I’m not talking about money when I say that. Simple physics tells us that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”: when you perform a spell, there will be some “equal and opposite reaction” incurred. As such, active spellwork is an intensely and necessarily very personal thing. Neither of us are “into” incurring anybody else’s equal and opposite reactions! We create enough of those of our own, on our own. I’m not willing to say that there aren’t people out there who are selfless enough to take those sort of risks for you–the conjure community has been full of precisely those sorts of people going all the way back to ancient Africa–what I am willing to say is that doing readings of the type that we do here at Iaconagraphy is taxing enough, without adding active spellwork to that mix. For the record, not all active spellwork for money is “commercialized magic” as defined above, either: if someone is doing that as a service for others, rather than solely for what they personally financially gain from it, then that’s not commercialized magic; that is simply a different sort of psychic service profession from what we do here at Iaconagraphy.
How is what you do different from commercialized magic?
Connla: First, and quite simply: we’re here to serve others, not to serve ourselves or our own wallets. The financial bottom line is not what I was put here to serve: I was put here to serve the Gods first, and other seekers second. While the old adage of “a gift for a gift” and an active energy exchange are necessary for our very survival in this world, I made a decision months ago to no longer be a slave to our bank account. I don’t serve it; I serve the Gods, and I’m here to serve all of you.
Second, most paradigms of commercialized magic put forth a “here, let me do it all for you” perspective, which makes the person purchasing said “services” wholly dependent upon the person performing said “services”. This is how things like “Tarot addiction” get started. The “Tarot addict” becomes as dependent on the Reader as the alcoholic is on their local bartender, or the drug addict is on their local dealer. That’s how such people keep the money flowing in: they continue to build on that dependence exactly the same way as a drug dealer. “Your life is shitty?” “Here, let me do another reading for you and give you all the answers so it will be guaranteed to be less shitty; that’ll be $200”. We don’t do that. Our readings are designed to be stepping stones; nothing more. They provide advice that could potentially help you improve your life, sure, but they are never put forth as the “be all and end all” answer to all of your problems. We can’t do that; we’re not Gods!
Michelle: One would hope that the answer to this question would be self-evident, from my answer to the first question, but just in case it isn’t, let me be overtly honest: a person who was actually offering readings as a form of commercialized magic (especially of the “snake oil salesman” variety that has been implied in this particular situation) would not be as deeply offended as I am right now! I lived in the South for most of my life–forty-two years, to be exact–in an area of the country where any psychic ability was either viewed as being “of the Devil” or “fakery for the sake of money-making”. When I began to read Tarot at the ripe young age of fifteen, for free, as a service to my peers, I received death threats after they proved to be uncannily precise. Meanwhile, the local “psychic reader” in our town, who was a complete charlatan, performing readings purely for the sake of making money, was allowed to practice in peace: no threats of burning crosses in her yard; no threats of “we’ll burn you at the stake in the local churchyard”. That experience taught me at a very young age that if I ever, ever considered making money off of my God-given gifts, someone would actually make good on those death threats! I subsequently did my level best, for the next twenty-seven years, to hide away my psychic gifts as much as was humanly possible. When you’re me, that’s a little bit hard to pull off. I consequently became agoraphobic. I reached a point where I was actually afraid to go out in public and remotely be myself, much less remotely entertain the thought of offering my skills as a service for money. Three years ago, we moved to Massachusetts, and I suddenly found myself living in the “Girdle of the Goddess”, instead of the “Bible Belt”. Here, my gifts are seen as precisely what they are: gifts. Here, there is actually an industry based on people offering such gifts in service to the public. I could finally be wholly myself. Not only that, I could finally be recognized as what I am: a gifted psychic service professional.
How do you personally feel about commercialized magic?
Connla: I feel the same way about commercialized magic that many Heathens feel about the AFA: those people muddy the waters for the rest of us. Those of us who are really into this for the right reasons get lumped together with all the “boardwalk psychics” and “gypsy fortune tellers”, and get the same bad rap, and fall victim to the same levels of disrespect–disrespect which we patently do not deserve. Just because I perform this sort of service for people for money doesn’t make me a con artist or charlatan, anymore than me being a Heathen automatically makes me a racist!
Michelle: My simple two-word answer to this question would be: that depends. Depends on what exactly? Mostly, it depends on whether or not the person in question is actually legit. If a person is legitimately gifted with the ability to perform magic (and “psychic activity”), and is selfless enough to be willing to do that for other people, and then chooses to charge for their services as a way of either avoiding the necessary “equal and opposite reaction” (energy craves energy; “a gift for a gift”), or as a way of maintaining their lives (i.e., simple survival), then I certainly don’t take issue with that. Go them! I just know that isn’t a life for me, or for Connla. We have enough of our ownendemic mental and physical backlash, without courting other people’s. However, if a person is a “snake oil salesman” of the magical variety, they are actively making our lives more difficult by promoting the stereotype of the “boardwalk psychic” and the “gypsy fortune teller”, and that, quite simply, pisses me off. Either a person is actively working in service to the community (services for which they should wholeheartedly get paid), or they’re a con artist and a grifter; they just choose to dress up their con and their grifting in the language and trappings of the supernatural.
What’s the difference between a psychic service professional and a “boardwalk psychic” or “gypsy fortune teller”?
Connla: A psychic service professional does exactly that: they provide counseling services to others, for which they are paid, which rely on their own gifted (psychic) abilities. They attempt to lead you to a point where you can develop your own answers, providing you with potential tools along the way to assist you in doing that. A psychic service professional understands the old saying “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” They’re not there to essentially pour that water down your throat. A “boardwalk psychic” or “gypsy fortune teller”, on the other hand, bases their “services” on either telling the consumer precisely what they want to hear, or the exact opposite (so that they can then provide answers for how to avoid catastrophe), in an effort to keep the money sliding across the table and into their hand.
Michelle: To me, that’s like asking “what’s the difference between a barber in the Old West (who usually also performed the occupations of surgeon, dentist, veterinarian, and mortician) and a modern surgeon”? Or, better yet, “what’s the difference between the Seidhkonas and shamans who served our Ancestors and the old lady downtown with the neon ‘Psychic Reader’ sign in her window who is basically only pedaling bullshit for money because she possesses no psychic ability whatsoever?” In the Old West, if you suffered a gunshot wound, you hoped the barber could fix you up; in our modern world, going to the barber with a gun shot wound is pretty much a guaranteed way to die! (Better hope he’s also a mortician; chances are, he’s not!) In the ancient world, people with actual psychic ability were held in extremely highesteem: we need look no further than the evidence of artifacts within their collections of grave goods to see the truth in this statement. That they might remotely be a fake was not a factor: theirs was seen as a sacred duty, not only by the perpetrator of the action (the shaman, Seidhkona, or other “magickal practitioner”), but also by the people whom they served. I see what I do as a sacred duty in exactly that same way, and so does Connla. The little old lady passing herself off as a psychic while pedaling bullshit for bucks clearly does not! As Connla said above, a psychic service professional does exactly that: they provide a service to others; they are not merely servicing themselves!
Why offer such services for money? Isn’t that a slippery slope?
Connla: Other people in service professions get paid, why the hell shouldn’t we? Service professions are defined as professions which require special training in the arts or sciences in order to serve others, and include accountants, dentists, pharmacists, morticians, hairdressers, barbers, psychiatrists, and social workers. You likely wouldn’t entertain the thought of not paying your hairdresser, right? Why should it be any different when it comes to us?
Insofar as it being a slippery slope, I would ask you: Do you consider paying your hairdresser the first step down a slippery slope? Sure, there are people out there who are out to take your money, and that’s all they care about. That’s been a reality in the Universe since time began. There are also people like us who are out here to do our jobs. When you sit down for a haircut, are you thinking in the back of your mind “well, what if they cut my hair crooked so that they can charge me extra for fixing it?” For most people, the answer to that question is “no, of course not”. That’s because we tend to go to hairdressers we know beforehand we can patently trust. When choosing a psychic service professional, the same rules should apply: pick someone who has proven they can be trusted. Otherwise, caveat emptor: buyer beware. No slippery slope necessary.
Michelle: The Seidhkonas, shamans, and other “magickal practitioners” of ancient times were paid for the services they rendered, why shouldn’t modern people performing the same services likewise get paid? I’ve heard it argued that such people of ancient times amassed all of their wealth because people paid them respect, of which those items were an outward sign. Isn’t money paid to a modern practitioner the exact same thing? Or are we somehow less worthy of respect, simply because we are separated from that time period by a few thousand years? I’m sorry, but that is, quite simply, bullshit! In case I haven’t made this clear enough, I’m sorry, but I’ve been fighting to have my giftsrespected for forty-five years! The primary difference between now and then, insofar as how that respect might be shown, is that back then, part of the respect factor involved not only the giving of gifts in payment, but also bowing down before the person in question as a revered individual. I explicitly chose the title of Ollamh (essentially: “Poet-Teacher”) at the time of my ordination precisely because I don’t believe any person is worthy of the title of “reverend”. People aren’t meant to be revered, only Gods are! So the modern way of showing that respect is by expressing that person’s worth in the form of monetary payment, which mirrors the giving of gifts to the person providing the service as a sign of respect, as has been done since such services have been practiced by humankind.
Insofar as charging for such services creating any sort of “slippery slope”, I would refer you to Connla’s perfectly eloquent response above.
Isn’t marketing such services almost like a form of “spiritual prostitution”?
Connla: Gee, let me think: Is a hairdresser practicing “hair prostitution”? Is an accountant practicing “number prostitution”? Is a dentist practicing “tooth prostitution”? All of these other service professions depend on a person choosing an occupation based on their gifts. Hairdressers become hairdressers because they are gifted with the ability to style hair well. Accountants become accountants because they are gifted with an ability with numbers. Dentists become dentists because they are gifted with an ability to treat people’s teeth, and an interest in doing so. All of these professions require years of study and practice. We don’t look down on them or judge them based on their gifts, nor their active pursuit of said study and practice; we’re just very grateful they had those gifts in the first place, and put in the time to become adept at their professions. Psychic service professionals are exactly the same, our gifts just happen to be of a supernatural variety, and without years of study and practice, we wouldn’t be professionals, we would be little more than dabblers. So why is it that when we use our gifts, after years of study and practice, to actually earn a living, we get accused of “spiritual prostitution”, but your local hairdresser or dentist is seen as a valid service professional? That is, quite simply, unfair.
Michelle: I have heard some professional readers liken the way their services are treated by tourists to a form of psychic prostitution, yes. I have also felt that way myself on more than one occasion, when a client has come back six times with the same damn question, simply because they don’t like the responses they’ve received, and are hoping this time they’ll get what they really want to hear. I’ve also felt that way myself when people expect my services to come for free. (In fact, I’ve even joked, when referring to the latter situation that I am “patently a prostitute, not a whore”!) When readings are treated as nothing more than a form of entertainment, rather than an actual serious service that is being provided by the reader, then, yes, this definitely becomes the equivalent of “psychic prostitution”. But I personally feel that is the case with any Spirit-driven profession. If you are making what is ostensibly votive art, for example, purely for the sake of “what can I put on a t-shirt this week?”, then that is also a form of “psychic prostitution”. During the medieval period, when the Catholic Church offered plenary indulgences in return for money, that was also a form of “psychic prostitution”. For a moment, let me do as Connla so eloquently did above and take the “psychic” part out of the equation. We are all gifted with something that we’re so skilled at doing that it could potentially be the basis of our occupation. That’s simply the way the world is designed to work. Painters, paint (and I don’t just mean the artistic ones; I also mean the ones who paint houses for a living). Those who are gifted at medically taking care of other people become doctors and nurses. Those who are good at arguing points become politicians and lawyers. At what point do any of those professions based on a person’s natural gifts become “pimping your gifts for dollars”? At the moment when that person–or the people employing their services–views that gift and its subsequent off-shoot-profession as nothing more than a money-making activity; at the moment that they or the people employing their services either overvalue or undervalue the part that the individual performing said services personally plays in getting whatever job in question done.
Why seek a reading from a psychic service professional, when I could just “throw my own cards” or “toss my own runes”?
Connla: We are all human, and, as humans, we tend to have our own inborn biases. If you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you can “throw your own cards” or “toss your own runes” without any of those biases entering your mind as you interpret those cards/runes, then you may never need the assistance of a psychic service professional. That assumes that you know how to read cards or toss runes in the first place, which not everybody does. It also assumes that you’ve put in the same level of study and practice as most people who choose to do this for a living, as a professional. Finally, it assumes that you have confidence in yourself as an intuitive/psychic. If the answer to any of those things is a resounding “no”, then a professional reading would be a good investment.
Michelle: If you feel that you can perform the exact same services which we provide for yourself, all by yourself, then by all means, do so. Also, it is very nice to meet someone else who has put as much time and effort into the study of this field as we have, and with similar psychic gifts. We don’t meet many people like you, so please, let’s chat, hang out, or something!
How do you determine what to charge for your services?
Connla: How does any other service professional decide what to charge for their services? We do it exactly the same way! First, we figure our overhead costs. When dealing with a service-based industry, as opposed to an industry that is based on shipping actual crafted products, those overhead costs include all the things that are necessary to stay in business: things like your internet connection, maintaining your website, equipment used to perform the service (in our case, cards, runes, incense, and a computer), room and board (because if you don’t have a roof over your head and food in your belly, chances are, you’re going to be physically unable to do any job in the first place!), marketing and advertising, and any necessary further education/study/necessary certifications. If you’re charging less for your provided service than your overall overhead costs, then you’re doing it wrong. Next, you consider how much labor (work) your service actually requires: how physically or mentally taxing is the service provided? This is commonly referred to as labor cost. Labor cost is why, when you go to a mechanic, you don’t just pay him for the parts! Finally, you weigh things like experience and skill. What is your level of experience and skill worth monetarily? The final price on something is not just a source of income, but also a signal of its worth. This commonly breaks down in the human brain as “cheap cost=shotty service”.
Our overhead costs include everything on that list in my first paragraph. This site isn’t being hosted for free. Our internet access is not free. Our cards and runes did not come cheap, nor did this computer on which I am typing (which we use not only to advertise our services, but also to provide them in the final format of a PDF delivered via email), nor does the incense and other things required to reach an alpha state and perform the readings in the first place. Our room and board expenses should not be dependent solely on the “good graces” of other people–we are not Stewart from Big Bang Theory! Marketing and advertising are neither cheap nor free. Resource materials to improve our skills (such as books and classes) are, for the most part, neither cheap nor free. Any further certifications in our field (and, yes, that’s actually a thing!) cost money.
Our labor costs are determined based not only on what it takes out of us, both mentally and physically, to perform this service, but also on how much time performing this service takes away from performing the duties of the rest of our business and our life in general. Every reading is, on average, a good three to four hours that we cannot be working on writing, art, marketing, or “earning our right to live here” (i.e., helping to maintain the household). When we are done with a shamanic reading (the type of readings we presently offer), we are tapped out. Achieving the alpha state alone is enough to require a good, long nap. Mentally and physically, this involves a whole lot more than just “getting down on the floor with some cards and some runes”. Shamanic readings require a psychic connection with the querent, as well as with those entities, forces, and energies which are coming in, to assist in giving answers in the reading. This service is, therefore, both mentally and physically taxing. Wearing ourselves out like that shouldn’t come for free, anymore than a mechanic wearing himself or herself out under your car, covered in grease and oil, with the potential of that car coming down on them and crushing them (accidents do happen!), should come for free!
Finally, our worth is high: we have a combined fifty years of experience (thirty on her side of the equation; twenty on mine) with psychic ability and performing readings (runes, Tarot, and oracle cards); she has proven psychic ability, and I’m a “dead guy” and a practicing vitki (which I didn’t become overnight, on a whim). That’s a level of experience, and those are skills, that you don’t run across every day. That is worth something! I’m sure you probably have your own distinctive personal skills and experiences which you offer in your own field of work. What if your employer suddenly told you those weren’t worth anything?
Michelle: When I first began doing readings for money, I significantly not only undervalued my abilities (because I had been led to believe my entire life that what I can do was not only worthless, but also dangerous), I also severely underestimated the toll doing this for a living would take on me, mentally and physically. I neither considered the effects it would have on the time constraints of the other parts of this business (writing and art), nor did I consider the effect it would have on the people around me (friends and family members who also require my time and who patently do not like constantly being told not to disturb me). I subsequently wound up in situations where I would perform a reading which took me six hours from start to finish and then making $20. That’s not even including subsequent personal counseling sessions. In the end, I was averaging making $1.00 or less per hour of my time. That’s way less than minimum wage, in payment for a distinctly skilled labor service profession! Thankfully, I have Connla, who worked out all of the stuff he talked about above. What we can do is worth more than $1.00 or less per hour! I am worth more than $1.00 or less per hour, and so is he!
We hope that this blog post and mini-interview clears up any misconceptions or preconceived notions that people might have about exactly what it is that we are doing here at Iaconagraphy, when it comes to offering paid-for psychic services. Above and beyond anything else, at the end of the day, we are here to serve you: whether that be as writers, artists, or psychic service professionals. Everything that we do is in the nature of that service: service to all of you, who have supported us on this journey, and service to the Gods, for all of the gifts which They constantly pour into our lives. Anything less than that, and we would not be living to the full potential of who we have been created to be. We would not only be performing a disservice to the community, but to ourselves, and to the Gods. When all is said and done, this is about far more than money; this is about living true. And that, my friends, is priceless.
If you are interested in employing Connla’s services as a psychic service professional, please click here. We would be delighted to serve you!
Tired of being told “you’re doing it wrong”? You’re not alone! By some Heathens’ standards, I’m still relatively “new” at this, having only arrived at the Northern Tradition in my own spiritual practice roughly a year ago. Before that, I was raised Buddhist/Taoist with a minimalist Christian backbeat, before becoming a Druid (from a Welsh Historical Reconstructionist background) roughly twenty years ago. I dabbled in Kemeticism (Egyptian Reconstruction) for about a year in 2001, but that only really spoke to me on the surface, so I pitched my hat back into the Druidic ring, until Spring of 2016, when (what seemed like an endless stream of) historical research to “validate” my Welsh Druidic Path led me to my first brush with Heathenry. I’ve been working with the Norse Gods ever since. For the record: They aren’t the ones who keep chanting “you’re doing it wrong”!
No, I didn’t run up against the “you’re doing it wrong” mantra until I started spending a lot of time writing and creating art for other Heathens. Those who follow the Norse Tradition are an interesting mix of straight Historical Reconstructionists (“screencap of where it says that in the Eddas, or it didn’t happen, dude!”), Pagans with a Norse base (“I’m surprisingly okay with Unconfirmed Personal Gnosis”), Ceremonial Magickians who “dress up” their practice in strictly Norse trappings (“A little bit of Chaos Magick applied to 13th century Runic sigils is perfectly apropos”), and Brosatru Tagalongs (“Look at me, I’m a Viking!”), to say nothing of the Aryan Poster Children (“If your ancestors were not of white/Scandinavian descent, you shouldn’t be here. No, I don’t just mean in this group; I mean, like, on Earth…at all…”). Pardon me for the over-generalization there, but if you’ve ever even stuck your toe into an online Heathen group, you likely recognize all of the above. You probably have also had arguments with parties from at least one or more of these over-generalized groups in which they’ve patently told you “you’re doing it wrong”.
Face it: “you’re doing it wrong” is why most of us became Pagans in the first place! One too many hits with the “you’re doing it wrong, and will be eternally punished for having done so” schtick is the number one reason why most of us decided to divorce ourselves from mainstream Religion in the first place, whether that religion was of the Judeo-Christian variety, or something else. So why in the heck would that attitude be suddenly “okeydokey fine” and perfectly acceptable, simply because it’s all dressed up prettily in Pagan/Heathen clothing? World’s simplest answer: It’s not!
Unless you’re one of the aforementioned Aryan Poster Children, chances are grand that you are not, in fact, “doing it wrong”. You’re just doing it your way, and if you cannot be a true individual in relationship to your Deity/ies, then whatever religion you’re practicing isn’t a true one. What do I mean by that? In the immortal words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
God enters by a private door into every individual.
Whether you choose to define your personal faith-practice as a religion, or whether you prefer the term spirituality, at the end of the day, when it is all said and done, your personal faith-practice is precisely that: personal. Ultimately, you chose to walk this particular path, out of all the myriad paths available, because of who you are, as an individual. So the only “wrong” way to “do it” is if it requires you to act contrary to that–contrary to who you are, as an individual—or if it requires you to crush the individuality of others. In the end, if you’re “not doing you”, and allowing others to “do them” wholeheartedly and completely on the daily, then, yes, you’re “doing it wrong”.
There are, of course, certain linchpins that set what you and I are practicing apart as specifically Norse. These are things or themes which define what we are doing in our daily practice as something specifically not other faiths, such as Christianity, or Buddhism, or Islam. In March of 2015, the California Court of Appeal established three objective guidelines of what actually constitutes a religion:
It must address fundamental and ultimate questions having to do with deep and imponderable matters;
It is comprehensive in nature, consisting of a belief system as opposed to an isolated teaching;
It often can be recognized by the presence of certain formal and external signs.
Addressing fundamental and ultimate questions includes providing answers to the “Six Big Questions” of human existence:
Who am I? (What defines me? Is there anything unique and special about me?)
Where do I belong? (Why do I feel so alone in this world? Where can I find acceptance? How do I form deep and meaningful relationships?)
What should I do with my life? (To what should I devote my life? What is my calling?)
How do I make the right choices? (How do I tell right from wrong? Ethical questions)
How can I be happy? (Is this all there is to life?)
What is the point of striving when life is so short? (What is the point of building something only to have it swallowed up by death?)
Obviously (I hope), different religions answer these Six Big Questions in ways specific to that religion. For example: the Christian answer to Who am I could be either “a child of God”, or a “brother of Christ”, or even “an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven”, whereas a Norse Traditional answer to that same question might be “I am a spouse/lover/child of Freyja (or other Norse Deity)”, or a “brother of Thor (or other Norse Deity)”, or even “an agent on Earth working to the benefit of the Aesir/Vanir/Rokkr”. In other words, how these questions are answered from a Norse Traditional perspective is part of what makes your path specifically Norse/Heathen.
The second part of those three guidelines, that what you believe in is “comprehensive in nature, consisting of a belief system as opposed to an isolated teaching”, means that your faith-practice includes more than “edicts of behavior” or even an “edict of behavior”, but also includes a cosmological framework that includes an afterlife, deities, etc. Part of how we arrive at this “comprehensive nature” lies in how we answer questions five and six of the Six Big Questions. Again, this will be distinct from religion to religion. For example: Christianity is composed of far more than “an isolated teaching”, regardless of how many picket lines you see full of signs emblazoned with quotes from Leviticus. There’s more to it, as a faith, than the Ten Commandments, or even the Great Commandment of the New Testament; there is also a distinct cosmology (whether one considers the “spiritual landscape” of Heaven/Earth/Hell, or even the numerous hierarchies of angels), a defined Deity (or, as most Christians would likely not appreciate me pointing out: Deities, including God The Father, Jesus Christ, and Sophia, aka the Holy Spirit). By the same token, Norse Tradition/Heathenry consists of far more than simply the edicts of the Aesirian Code of Nine or even the Havamal from which it is (in part) based. There is, likewise, also a cosmology (the Nine Worlds), and a series of numerous defined deities and “spirits” (such as the Alfar, the Disir, and the Landvaettir).
Finally, a specific religion can be recognized by its own distinct formal and external signs, such as defined places of worship, specific religious texts, and the rituals it enacts. Christianity has the Catholic Mass, its churches (Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox, all of which generally possess architecture unique to the Christian faith), The Bible, and the common practices of tithing, praying, and performing acts of charity (when they aren’t “doing it wrong”!), while Islam has mosques, The Koran, and the common practices of praying, fasting, making pilgrimage, and almsgiving (again, when they aren’t “doing it wrong”!). Likewise, in the Northern Tradition we have the Ve and the Hof, the Eddas and Sagas, and the common practices of blot, sumbel, sacrifice, and prayer.
You may or may not be doing your Norse Faith the same way as the other Historical Reconstructionists, Norse Pagans, Runic Ceremonial Magickians, or even the Brosatru, but if you are answering the Six Big Questions with distinctly “Norse-motivated” answers; if you believe in the Nine Worlds, and in the Aesir, Vanir, Rokkr, Alfar, Disir, And Landvaettir; if you worship at a Ve, a Hogr, or a Hof via blot, sumbel, sacrifice, and prayer and use the Eddas and Sagas as your sacred texts, then your faith is distinctly Norse. It just happens to also be distinctly your own interpretation of the Norse Tradition, and if it is effectively answering those Six Big Questions, while in the process making your life and the lives of others better, then you’re definitely not “doing it wrong”!
In my own personal practice, I employ my own brand of soft polytheism, which is a sort of “polytheistic monotheism”, combined with “light reconstruction” and a heavy Druidic backbeat, with strong shamanic overtones. Lots of card-carrying Heathens would likely not only tell me I’m “doing it wrong”, but positively scream it! In fact, some might even disparage me even claiming the titles “Heathen” or “Norse Traditional Paganism” at all for what I personally practice, even though it definitely shares all of the aforementioned features of what would make a faith system distinctly Norse (or Norse-driven, Norse-derived, or even Norse-inspired). That being the case, I’ve recently begun referring to myself as a “Wanderer”, and to what I practice as “Wandering”–or, at least, I’ve begun doing so in private and with those closest to me. More accurately, a lot of what I practice might be termed “Heathen Revivalism” or “Romantic Heathenry”, in the same manner and tone as Celtic Revivalism: an attempt to practice a Norse religion or spirituality within the context of the modern world, while drawing from the historical reservoir of Norse Tradition and sometimes merging it with traditions and practices that are not necessarily strictly Norse in an effort to embrace the spirit of ancient Norse religion. This is my official invitation to you: come and walk alongside me, down this winding road together, for a mile or two or three. I will not tell you that “you’re doing it wrong”, if you’ll pay me the same courtesy. Nor will I try to tell you that my way is the right way for you, for it may not be. Ultimately, I do not own this road; only the feet that carry the heart that walks it. Some parts of this map may work for you; others may not. They all work for me, but your mileage may vary….