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Not Enjoying The Silence

Back in May, a white supremacist touting himself as a Heathen stabbed and killed two young men on a train in Portland, Oregon, when those two young men attempted to protect a pair of Muslim women from the supremacist’s attacks on them.  Members all across the Heathen Community raised their voices in an attempt to educate the rest of the world on what we actually believe and practice, lest we get lumped in with the “bad Heathens”.  I rarely get political, but it was enough to drive me to write a blog post about Declaration 127.

(You can find that blog post here, and Declaration 127 here.)

On August 12, 2017, violence erupted when white nationalists gathered for a “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Ostensibly organized to prevent the removal of yet another remnant of Confederate history–this time, a statue of Robert E. Lee–from a city park, it quickly became apparent that this “march” was more about making history repeat itself, than about defending history so that it doesn’t repeat.  The white nationalists gathered around the site, “defending” it with Viking-styled shields.  Don’t believe me? Check this out:

(You can find that photo here.)

The response of the Heathen community in the wake of what has been described by some as an act of domestic terrorism? Thus far, I’ve seen maybe two posts. And I’m not enjoying the silence….neither is Tyr.

As technically-a-person-of-color (I’m of Asian descent; Chinese, specifically) who happens to be Heathen, and also happens to be spending his afterlife inhabiting a white Southern woman, I find that once again, I cannot keep my mouth shut.  I can’t keep politics off of this blog right now; to do so would go against every fiber of who and what I am. Before I proceed, you might want to thoroughly acquaint yourself with the beginning of that last sentence: I am notwhite guy; repeat: I am notwhite guy. I’m also devoutly Heathen. All set? Okay, that clarification completely out of the way, let’s continue:

As a group of people practicing a Reconstructionist or at least Reconstructionist-derived religion, Heathens, on the whole, are obsessed with history.  We only know what we know about our faith–enough to actually have this faith and have it continue to exist–because of historians, and anthropologists, and archaeologists.  Because we are so needfully well-acquainted with history, most of us are also very well aware of that old adage: 

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. ~Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke was an Irish statesman–a Dubliner, to be precise–as well as an author, orator, political theorist, and philosopher, who supported the American Revolution.  It’s a great quote, and growing more and more powerful by the day in our modern age, but the truth is, there are absolutely zero corroborating sources proving that Burke ever actually said or wrote those words.  That he said them first is a tradition.  However, we do know of someone else who absolutely said something quite similar:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” ~George Santayana

So who the heck was George Santayana?  He was a Spanish philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist who was raised and educated in the United States from the age of eight and identified himself as an American, even though he maintained dual citizenship.  In fact, he spent most of his life not far from where I’m writing this: in Boston, Massachusetts, the birthplace of the very same Revolution that Edmund Burke so firmly supported. 

Why is that so important for this discussion: that Santayana was of Latin/Hispanic descent?  Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two years, you can likely arrive at that answer easily enough.  A person of color, and specifically, an immigrant person of Spanish descent actually said the words that both sides of the present argument are constantly using against each other in the worst ways imaginable. Chew on that for a minute.

Michelle and I both have written numerous posts here and elsewhere in defense of not tearing down Confederate monuments, and not erasing the Confederate flag as a symbol of heritage (not hate!), largely based on the argument of Santayana’s famous quote.  We stand by those arguments. However, on the other side of our arguments, which come from a very genuine place of standing behind that aphorism, there are people like those guys with the viking-style shields in Charlottesville, Virginia who are ostensibly defending the same things for the same reasons, but not really.  And they proved that conclusively on Saturday, August 12, 2017.

Because those people wouldn’t “dirty their mouths” with a quote from a Spanish immigrant, if they had actually known that was who said it.  It would be totally valid and “okay” if it had been said by the white guy from Dublin, but, oh my, the shock and disgust if they realized it had been said by a Spanish immigrant! (Who’s mother, by the way, was raised in the Philippines.)

This brief history of quotes (and the juicy irony involved) aside, the fact remains that the initial vision of those white nationalists (before the “real violence” ensued) is an image of a bunch of white, bearded dudes, standing in solidarity, behind a freaking Viking-style shield wall.  The guy who actually drove the car that killed the one person who perished in this “debacle”–who, incidentally, was white, just like the two young men who lost their lives in Portland, Oregon, back in May (not that that should matter, mind you, but the tragic irony should not be lost on anyone, which is why I point it out)–also stood in that initial wall, holding a shield.

(Don’t believe me? Check out this photo. He’s the second from the left, in front of a poster bearing yet more appropriated Heathen symbols, as well as appropriated Christian symbols: the Algiz rune, and a Chi Rho, respectively.)

And yet the Heathen community stands largely silent this time around, and I would really, very dearly, like to know why? So would Tyr.

For that matter, why aren’t Christians screaming about their symbology being appropriated by these asshats?  Because not all Christians are of the conservative, alt-right variety, anymore than all Heathens are of the white supremacist, neo-Nazi variety….

Plenty of people were out there screaming and yelling and having hissy fits back in 2015, when the outcry against the Confederate flag grew so loud that the General Lee, the car driven by the Dukes of Hazard, legit got a makeover, and resulted in the show (still in syndication) getting banned, even though most of its storylines that even touched on race relations in the South involved inclusiveness, rather than bigotry. (Though I never really cared for the show, I can honestly say it was a bit of a “redneck primer” on inclusivity, and I give it kudos for doing that way back in the 1970s.) Yet when it comes to actual religious symbols from whatever faith being bastardized, everybody’s suddenly mute? What gives?

Instead of an outcry on either side of the religious divide over such important matters, the one thing that everybody seems to be able to agree on is crucifying our current president for his statements in the aftermath of Charlottesville 2017.  I am not a fan of Donald Trump.  I try to largely keep my opinions on such things out of this blog, off of our Facebook page, and generally out of my sphere of discussion in general. Trump gets zero frith in my heart or mind, to the point that he’s so utangardh that he basically doesn’t exist to me.  In other words, I put him so “far away from me” that I don’t let his energy touch my own in any capacity. I find that’s healthier for me.  However, while I can understand people’s outrage that he did not single out the white supremacists involved (further proof, most argue, that he’s “in bed” with those people), that’s not the rhetoric being used by most people in opposition to his reaction to decry what he said.  No, what he’s being crucified for is saying that there was wrong on both sides.  Honestly, this is one of the few times in his presidency that he’s actually said something halfway honest or halfway correct.

So how dare I make such a statement?  How could somebody–anybody–who is against racism and patently against Trump himself deign to say such a thing?  Because we’re living in a world where everybody so desperately wants their side to be right that they’re willing to invoke violence to prove it, no matter how wrong they actually are, and even an imbecile like Trump can see it!

Don’t get it twisted: I am in no way, shape, form or fashion attempting to defend Trump in all this. What I am saying is that if what he actually meant in his statements is that “two wrongs never make a right“, then for one, brief shining moment in his presidency, he’s actually been right about something!  And we should probably all take a moment to bask in the shock of that, before moving on toward cohesion.

Because I don’t know if anybody else has recognized this yet, but our country hasn’t had anything remotely resembling cohesion, when it comes to racial relations, since seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin fell to gunfire on a rainy February day in Florida in 2012.  That was during the Obama administration, folks–long before Trump was even a glimmer in the eye of the American conservative right-wing; back when he was just some orange-haired loudmouth whose primary vocabulary consisted of the words “You’re fired!”.  That was when we actually had a president of color!  That was the tragic death that began both the “Black Lives Matter” and the “Thin Blue Line” movements, and yet, forgotten by most people in the ensuing violence, raging arguments on both sides, and subsequent hate crimes, the dude who actually shot Trayvon Martin was also a person of color, and patently not a cop:  George Zimmerman is a man of Hispanic descent (specifically, Peruvian) who worked as an insurance fraud investigator while working towards an associate degree in criminal justice.  Zimmerman shot Martin while “serving” as the head of the local Neighborhood Watch program: he thought Trayvon “looked suspicious”, pursued the young man, and subsequently shot him.

What color the people involved in a situation–any situation–are ultimately does not matter when innocent lives are being lost. The symbols of my faith and your faith ultimately do not matter when innocent lives are being lost, either.  What ultimately matters is that we are all one family–the human race–and when we lose even one member of that family, we all lose.  There are no sides in that; there shouldn’t be any sides at all!  When someone dies innocently, everybody loses. Period.

If people are going to be building shield-walls around anything–any ideology–it should be that one!  Yet, that isn’t the case, unfortunately.  In fact, in most circles nowadays, if you have the cajones to say the words “all lives matter“, you’re instantly labeled as part of the racist scum! How the hell does that work out?

I became Heathen because faith, folk, and family was an ideal I could get behind: because, for me, treating other people honorably and fairly is the very crux of my faith, and the entire human race is both my folk and my family.  Very quickly, I discovered this was patently not what these words represented to most other Heathens, thanks to the bastardization of that phrase by the white supremacists among us.  To that subset, faith means guarding (white) folk and their (white) family from any outside forces seeking to “muddy” those waters with “other colored blood”.  Gobsmacked really is too small a word to describe how I felt upon said discovery.  I came to this Path because the core of it–that phrase, now bastardized–represented everything to me that I have believed my entire life, and now I am left with the astonishing realization that, like that famous quote from The Princess Bride, that phrase “does not mean what I think it means”.  

And maybe that’s the main reason why people are so gods-damned silent in the wake of Charlottesville 2017, even when the bastardization of the symbols of our faith are so morbidly less hidden in this “debacle”, than they were in the crime committed against those two young men (and the Muslim women they were trying to defend) in Portland, Oregon, three months ago.  Maybe it’s because the very foundation of our faith has become rocky ground on which to stand.  Or maybe it’s because there are far too many would-be Vikings among us, and not enough faithfilled people.  That “us versus them” sentiment was the very thing on which the Viking mindset rested, wasn’t it? I mean, after all? We see the thirst for it–that “us versus them” mentality–every time a member of our community says foul things about “those Christians”, lumping every follower of Christ in with the conservative crap-eaters; every time a member of our community talks about the Christian “weak god” or “dead god”; every time a member of our community types the letters UPG with hate and disdain as an expression of how “non-historically-accurate” true experiences of living faith are or possibly can be. It’s hard to cry out against people taking sides–no matter what those sides might be–when you’re a community divided in upon itself because people are so damned busy creating sides to take!

As a Chinese-American dead guy inhabiting a white Southern woman, I am quickly reaching a point where I am honestly afraid to wear my Thor’s Hammer in public or proudly show off any of the other symbols of my Heathen faith–runes included.  I’m afraid that people will “get the wrong impression” and label me as a racist. I am just as afraid, at this point, of the “inclusivity-championing liberals” as many Muslims, Hispanics, and African-Americans are of certain factions of the conservative right-wing.  And it patently should not be that way for either side of the equation! Yet, here we are.  And silence by our community in the wake of Charlottesville 2017 only serves to perpetuate that climate of fear.

So I will not join in that silence!

My faith is in a Deity(s) Who looks down upon this human race and sees, without doubt, and for once and for all, that we are all the same family.  My folk are those who will stand with me, against injustice: whether that injustice is due to race, creed, gender, or any other “dividing” factor.  And my family is the human race.  As Bruce Lee once said:

“Under the sky, under the heavens, Man, there is but one family.”

And I raise my own shield, not to defend some statue wrought by human hands in another time or place, or even some distant history which is too easily revised to suit the current political climate, but instead to defend that Truth which has always been with us:

We all matter.  Every man and woman is someone else’s mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, child. And every mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, and child matters.

We will never enjoy true peace until we realize this. Hate will continue to grow, no matter how bright and shining the motives of those who decide to take the side of the Right and the Just.  Until everyone is on that same side–so long as sides remain–we’re all living in No Man’s Land. And No Man’s Land is the place of stalemates, not victory.




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Artist Journaling As Votive Art

Background paper: January Gathering: Winter Wonder: Winterfell; Skeletal Deer: January Gathering: Winter Wonder: WinterTime; Branches: January Gathering: Winter Wonder: Winterfell; Page Blend: January Gathering: Winter Wonder: A Winter’s Tale; Rune: upcoming; Antlers: upcoming; deer on left: The Graphics Fairy; Verse: Traditional (Christian) hymn.

By now, most of you know exactly what artist journaling (AJ) is, but what the heck is votive art, and what does it have to do with what we do here at Iaconagraphy, and what you might be doing with our yummy digital assets? 

Votive Art: art that is offered, performed, or created in fulfillment of a vow, or in gratitude or devotion.

The image at the head of this post is a piece of digital votive art.  So are these:

Background Paper: January Gathering: Winter Wonder: A Winter’s Tale; Journal Block: January Gathering: Winter Wonder: A Winter’s Tale; Seashells: By The Sea (will be re-released); Page Blends: Notions: Masked 1: Ornate; Owl upcoming. Prayer by Xan Folmer, Huginn’s Heathen Hof.
Background Paper: January Gathering: Winter Wonder: Winterfell; Sword: January Gathering: Winter Wonder: Winterfell; Page Blend: January Gathering: Winter Wonder: WinterTime; Rune, upcoming; verse original by Connla; image featured in page blend is Tyr and Fenrir by Viktor Rydberg and is in the open domain.

Votive art can be created as a gift for Deity for some blessing which has come into your life (which is the case with all three of these), as an act of devotion (in the same way one might sing a hymn), or as the fulfillment of a vow (i.e., you promise Deity you are going to make something beautiful in their honor, and then you actually do).  Votive art can also act as sort of a “digital altar”: you may not have enough room on a physical altar for all of the images you create (or even for one more item, for that matter, even if it’s just a tiny piece of printed paper), but how might it change your life if you could set a piece of votive art that you’ve created as your desktop on your computer? Or as the main screen on your phone? Or maybe even as a Facebook header or avatar?  

We’ve spoken (briefly) in the past about paper magick, but the concept of votive art sets that concept completely apart from active spellwork (which, let’s face it, a lot of you are coming at this from a Christian background, and are probably wondering where you fit into this topic at all, and y’all definitely aren’t doing spellwork, at least not in the classical sense of that word).  And paper magick is great (I do it every chance I get, and no, I don’t mean active spellwork–I mean creating with paper for the glory of Deity, ala the Christian verse, Romans 12:1), but let’s face it, we live in a digital world.  Most of us are going to be spending far more time with pixels than with paper, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could find a way to actively bring our spirituality into that digital world?

Digital AJ as votive art makes that completely possible, and not just for Druidic-based Heathens like me, but for any of you, no matter what your Faith-base.  In the Determined to Shine 30 Days of Artist Journaling Group on Facebook, I have seen some of the most beautiful and heartfelt Christian votive art you’ve ever laid eyes on! It’s so honest; so deeply felt, and it frequently hits me right in the heart.  This isn’t just a concept for the “Pagan Community”; it’s actually a thing that’s as old as time, I’m just working to get you looking at it in a different way.

We are, in fact, called Iaconagraphy in the first place because it is a play on the term iconagraphy, particularly as it relates to religious iconagraphy.  (Iacona, of course, being the last name of the woman who makes all this amazing-ness possible!)  

Iconagraphy: the traditional or conventional images or symbols associated with a subject and especially a religious or legendary subject.

So I think it’s high time we discussed the offerings here at Iaconagraphy in that context, and in the process, talked about what you can do with all of these assets in that context.  I’ve honestly considered at some point offering an online course on the topic, in a similar vein to Tangie Baxter’s courses on Symbology (I’d love to get feedback on how many would be interested in such a thing!).  For now, though, this blog entry will let us all “dip our toes” in that particular pond.

Where does one start with creating a piece of votive art?  Let’s talk about that specifically with a gratitude focus (because I’m feeling particularly thankful right now, and because gratitude is something we could all use a little bit more of in our lives).  When someone does something particularly nice for us, we might send them a thank you card, right? Why can’t we do the same thing to God/dess?  

  • Start by thinking of something for which you are particularly grateful, and which you know would never have happened without Deity. (Which can be literally anything!) 
  • What color does that thing for which you are showing gratitude make you feel?  Something having to do with money might feel green, for example; something having to do with health issues or healing might feel red or purple.  Choose your background paper based on this. (If you’re coming from a Pagan/Heathen base, there might be specific color correspondences that relate to the particular Deity you’re thanking, or to the “subject matter” of what you’re giving thanks for; use that!)
  • You may have elements or photographs which relate to the thing for which you are giving thanks (or even to the particular Deity you’re thanking).  Start choosing your elements (and photographs) based on this. If you have photographs, you may also want to start thinking in the direction of which page blends/photo masks to employ in the creation of your page.
  • Start arranging your elements and photographs in a way that feels both pleasant and grateful. (In other words, you want it to be aesthetically pleasing, because, I mean, who wants an ugly thank you card? But you also want to infuse the image you are creating with your personal gratitude.) I strongly recommend working in layers!
  • Once your images have been arranged, create a layer for your journal blocks and journaling.  You may not want journal blocks; you may wish to write directly on the background paper, or even on one of the elements or the image itself: that’s okay! Do what feels right to you!
  • When everything is “just so”, merge layers and save in whatever format suits your needs.

And what should you do with this votive art, now that you’ve created it?  You can set it as your desktop on your computer/laptop, or as your phone’s main screen, as a way of “sending” it (as far as I know, Deity doesn’t have a physical mailing address!), or if you’re bold, you can post it to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and remind the world to be a little more grateful, too. And, of course, you can always feel free to come over to the Iaconagraphy Page and share with all of us there! You can also, if you feel so inclined, actually print it out and place it on your altar (or even on a bulletin board/vision board in your home).  

This is definitely a practice and a topic which is personally speaking to me right now, and which is creating blessings in my life which I honestly never would have dreamed possible (until they actually happened!).  If any of you would like me to further explore (and give a mini-step-by-step like the one above) on votive art from a devotional or vow-fulfilling perspective as well, just let me know in the comments below, or comment at Facebook. And if you’re interested in an actual online course on AJ as votive art, feel free to let me know that in the comments below or on Facebook, as well. Our 2017 promise to all of you to be “unboxed, uncaged, and unfettered” seems to be resonating with many of you, and this is definitely in line with that, and it feels spectacular!