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Struggling Faith: The God Of Green Hope

Digital artist journal page by Connla Freyjason for Iaconagraphy, using our upcoming ArtLife set of digital assets, by Frances and Connla.

May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your spiritual life, filled with the life-giving energy of inspiration, will brim over with hope!

I began my arduous search for the God of green hope in February of 2016, following the realization that I had become hopeless.  Clearly, Jesus wasn’t “that guy”, because He and I weren’t exactly on speaking terms by that point.  Lleu Llaw Gyffes wasn’t “that guy”, either, even though I had considered myself a practicing Druid for a number of years previously.  So I began my dive into the Norse Tradition, in hopes of finding “that guy” there.

I had been a “weekend Druid”, but I was anything but a “weekend Heathen”.  From the very start, my journey down the Norse Path led me to daily prayer, weekly blots, and active participation in my newfound Faith.  By June of 2016, I had finally begun to “feel better”, but I still hadn’t fully recovered my hope, nor had I met the God of Green Hope.  A year on, in February of 2017, I still had not found Him/Her/It, and those feelings of quiet desperation began to slowly seep back in, this time compounded by my inability to figure out the “riddle” within that verse that I had been given.

The truth of it was this: I couldn’t find the God of Green Hope because I was looking in all the wrong places.  I was looking outside, when I should have been looking within.

I am the God of Green Hope.  You are the God of Green Hope. We are the God of Green Hope.

I automatically hold anyone suspect who says in a serious tone that they are the god of anything. Sure, people may jokingly say things like “I am the god of homemade tacos”, and I’m perfectly fine with that, because it’s a joke.  But to claim godhood for oneself smacks of a brand of pretentiousness that I have a difficult time fathoming.  It’s part of why I take issue with the writings of Aleister Crowley.  Yet, hear me out.

For a full year, I prayed, participated in rituals, researched, and searched, trying to find that one, great, outside source that would fill me up with joy and fill me up with peace as that passage promised.  A full year, and yet I still felt that I was hanging on the tree.  I looked outside, and outside, and outside, but only on the rarest of occasions did I look within.  And even when I did, my focus was on where I fit into our business, rather than on where I fit into the World.

In March of 2017, I finally looked inside.  The business was tanking yet again, and as I sat in my office literally crying, it finally dawned on me that doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results is the very definition of insanity.  So I decided to do something different: instead of shaking my fist at the heavens, I took a deep, long look within. And I discovered something I definitely didn’t want to discover: I was the problem.  The good news was, if I was the problem, I could also be the solution.

Becoming the God of Green Hope:

  • Stop looking back; you aren’t going that way!

Mistakes and triumphs you’ve experienced in the past are precisely that: in the past.  The longer you dwell on either, the more they are allowed to control your present, which in turn leads them to shape your future.  Do you want a future shaped by your past mistakes and triumphs, or do you want a future shaped by you, yourself?

  • Stop mourning, and start celebrating!

Stop mourning all of the things you don’t have, haven’t accomplished, or didn’t do, and instead focus on celebrating what you do have, are accomplishing, and are doing via showing gratitude.  You’re likely great at sitting down and making detailed inventories of things to mourn; take that skill, and instead turn it towards making a detailed inventory of all the things about your life that are actually good.  These don’t have to be big things!  Things for which to be grateful can be as seemingly insignificant as a shockingly blue sky outside your window, or as mindblowing as having your art published on the cover of a popular newsletter or magazine.

  • While you’re making lists, make one of everything that worries you right now.  Read through it, and then discard it, and actually let go.

Worrying is basically looking towards the future with dread, instead of looking towards the future with eager expectancy.  We all do it, and we all have done it, and even after you make this list, discard it, and make a conscious decision to let go of those specific worries, the chances are fantastic you will find a whole new list of things to worry about at some point in the future.  When that happens, you should repeat this exercise.  Worrying is a useless endeavor: all it does is leave you feeling defeated, and make you tired.  It actually accomplishes nothing, so why keep doing it?

  • Rediscover joy.

The marrow of what we really want out of life is locked inside the bones of those things which bring us joy.  Make a third list: a list of everything in your life, no matter how big or small, that actually sparks joy in you.  In case it’s been so long that you’ve forgotten what joy even feels like, these would be things that create a sense of well-being for you; things that make you feel successful or fortunate; things that make you deeply happy or cause you to brim with delight.  Your gratitude list might be a helpful jump-off point for creating this list.  Once you have your list, take some time to actually spend time with these joy-sparkers.

  • Realize that you are enough.

Re-engage with yourself.  The first question too many of us ask when attempting to “find ourselves” is “am I worthy?”  That is an adversarial tone, and we all know what such a tone gets us when we’re talking about exterior human relationships, right?  So why do we think it will go differently with interior ones?   Think about it like this: let’s say you’ve just met a new person with whom you’re considering building a friendship.  What would happen if, upon first meeting them, you introduced yourself by saying “I’m me, and I’m wondering if you’re worthy of being my friend”?  That likely wouldn’t go over terribly well, now, would it?  They would likely find you rude and pretentious, and they wouldn’t be wrong.  So why do we approach our selves that way?  The simple answer: we shouldn’t.  Enough means “occurring in such a quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations.”  If you are enough, that means that you are capable of meeting whatever life throws at you halfway.  Look around at your life: you’ve made it this far.  You’re still breathing; you’re still sitting here reading this.  If you’ve made it this far, that is empirical proof that you are enough, and enough is the first important step towards plenty:  a large or sufficient amount or quality; more than enough.

Once you have found the God of Green Hope within you, you should start experiencing more joy and peace in your life.  You may find that you need to do these exercises multiple times–I certainly did–and there’s no shame in that. Don’t worry if you don’t immediately feel as though you have been filled up with joy and peace; that will come with time.  This is just the beginning, and we’ll discuss where to go from here in the next blog post in this series.

 

 

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Go Where The Wind Takes You….

All elements from Iaconagraphy’s January Gathering: Winter Wonder; masked photo is Cliffs of Maine by Connla Freyjason; masked image of Odin by Hans Thoma, open domain; Quote by Lindsey Maxwell, author of Fenris: The Wolf and the White Lady, available via Amazon, and soon from Saga Press.

“Not bound to swear allegiance to any master, wherever the wind takes me I travel as a visitor. 

Drop the question what tomorrow may bring, and count as profit every day that Fate allows you.” —Horace, Roman Poet (65-8 BC)

I’ve officially decided to become a Viking.  Not in some culturally inappropriate “Brosatru” kind of way, but in the very real sense of what that word actually means.  You see, to those uninitiated in Norse Culture, the term Viking has come to mean an entire cultural period and the Norse people who lived during it, when, in fact, it was originally a job title, from the Old Norse vikingr based off of the root word vik (creek, or river).  The word could be used as a noun or a verb: as a noun, it meant a person who lived near a bay or harbor who sailed up rivers seeking adventure; as a verb, it meant literally to sail up a river seeking such an adventure.  When I say I’ve decided to become a Viking, I don’t mean that I’m preparing to run out and buy myself a seax and the oft-misrepresented horned helmet and take up sailing! No, when I say I’ve decided to become a Viking I mean that I have finally realized that I am a man living by a bay (Boston or Salem, MA; take your pick!) who has decided to live every day, not in the toil of flogging a day-job, but instead sailing upriver towards whatever new adventure awaits!

Ragnar Lodbrok gives excellent advice for the modern would-be Viking in the History Channel show of the same name:

Don’t waste your time looking back; you’re not going that way!

Last week, as I watched my social media numbers slip while I took some much-needed time away to settle things here in “unplugged life land”, a rather catastrophic realization dawned: I have spent most of the past twenty four years looking backwards.  Even at times when my afterlife has been its happiest, I have steadily cast a longing eye back on the “life I had before”, whether that backward glance was to remember money, fame, fortune, or the legacy-that-only-halfway-was.  Meanwhile, I’ve been gifted, literally against all odds, with the second chance at life that I have right now, right here, today.  Now, if that seems stupid to you–maybe even a little bit selfish–let me be the idiot who tells you you’re not wrong!  Those backward glances have only gotten more frequent, as I have attempted to whip Iaconagraphy into shape as an actual business. With every single newsletter unsubscribe, every single newsletter unsubscriber who labels us as spam without ever even opening the damn email in the first place, every item that never sells, and the daily lack of any Patreon subscribers whatsoever, I look backwards, and contemplate how things might be different if I was still the me that I was before. But I’m not that me, and I can never be that me again, and honestly, I don’t want to be him again. I like the me I am right now, right here, today.  

Looking backwards is just a waste of time and energy.  So, why have I continued to do it?  Well, there is, of course, that old saying: “Hindsight is 20/20“.  But is it, really?  For it to really be 20/20 (crystal clear; a perfect vision), it would have to not be tainted by our own perceptions.  It would have to not be colored by our own baggage.  And face it: neither of those two things is ever the case with us humans.  As we go through life, very few of us “pack light”.  Instead, we build up perceptions, and memories (both true and false) of how things once were, and amass more baggage than Rose in the movie Titanic!  And then we look backwards while life is screaming “Iceberg! Right ahead!”, and wonder why we keep hitting the damn thing!

A Viking doesn’t do that; a Viking “packs light”.  You cannot sail to the points on the map where it says “Here Be Dragons” while continually looking backwards. If you do, you will summarily be eaten by said dragons!  I’m sure your average, every day real Viking had plenty of regrets, memories, and mental baggage, just like the rest of us humans, but the overriding and very real to them concepts of the Norns, Orlog, and Wyrd kept them looking forward, instead of backwards.  In the mindset of the pre-Christian Norsemen, the past, present, and future were “ruled over” by the Norns: Urd (“What Once Was”), Verdandi (“What Is Coming Into Being”), and Skuld (“What Shall Be”).  Now, their understanding of past, present, and future was not fixed in a linear conception of time like ours; instead, they held a cyclical view of time that included things that had already happened (and, therefore, could not be changed), things that are happening (which can change “on the fly”, as it were), and things that needed to happen (which might change or might not, depending on a combination of past, present, and what we moderns might call “fate”).  Don’t get me wrong here: the past was definitely important to the pre-Christian Norsemen.  Urd (“What Once Was”) served to define who they were in the present moment, and nothing and no one could change that definition, which was based on past actions, past occurrences, past battles, both won and lost (on the battlefield as well as in life).  But they understood wholeheartedly that the past could not be changed, so why focus on continually looking backwards and fondly wishing for a change that could never come?  Urd was (and still is) Orlog: the layers of that which has become, and those layers are set in stoneOrlog cannot be changed anymore than the modern laws of physics. Wyrd, however, can change.  Paul Bauschatz explains in The Well and The Tree: World and Time in Early Germanic Culture that wyrd  “governs the working out of the past into the present (or, more accurately, the working in of the present into the past)”.  In other words, the past doesn’t just influence the present, as we understand things within our modern concept of linear time, the present can also influence the past.  Since the very definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again, while expecting a different result, it therefore makes zero sense to constantly focus on the things that cannot change–by looking backwards, into the past–but much more sense to focus on what can change–by looking at now and looking forwards, into the future.

That does not mean worrying about the future, however! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the difference between the expressions “I dread (fill in the blank)” versus “I am looking forward to (fill in the blank)” , but just in case you need a little extra help with those two concepts, here are their definitions:

dread: anticipate with great anticipation and fear; a strong feeling of fear about something that will or might happen.

look forward to: anticipate eagerly; to expect something with pleasure

Looking forward means going forth in life with exuberant curiosity about what might lay around the next proverbial curve of the river or bend in the proverbial road, as did the Vikings (the “job description”, not the culture, remember!).  The Havamal, the “sayings of the High One” (i.e., Odin All-Father) given to us in the Codex Regius (13th century AD) has this to say about worrying vs. looking forward to:

The witless man is awake all night,
Thinking of many things;
Care-worn he is when the morning comes,
And his woe is just as it was. –Stanza 23

In other words: worrying is stupid (“the witless man”) and a waste of energy that only makes you tired (“care-worn he is when morning comes”), and accomplishes nothing else (“and his woe is just as it was”).  Instead of lying around dreading what’s ahead, or even looking backwards at what’s come before, we should be actively participating in our present, in order to shape our future:

Cattle die, and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one’s self;
But a noble name will never die,
If good renown one gets.

Cattle die, and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one’s self;
One thing now that never dies,
The fame of a dead man’s deeds.–Havamal, Stanzas 77 and 78

Orlog is fixed, that much we’ve already established. Up til now, however, we’ve focused on how that relates to the past. It also relates to the future: it is certain and unchangable that every man will die. (Take it from somebody who knows that a little too well!)  It is what happens between those two fixed points (or, in my case, even after the latter) that matters!  In order to gain a noble name, one must get renown, which requires active participation–getting out there and viking in the verb sense of the term.  In order to be remembered for one’s “famous deeds”, those deeds actually require doing!  Over time (and, I’ll confess, in a lot of ways, I am still learning this), I have come to finally understand that the point of death is not when your physical heart stops beating; it’s when you stop doing things in this world. When you are no longer actively participating in life, whether through constantly looking backwards, or through worrying about forwards, then you are truly dead, whether you’re clinically alive or not.

Choosing to live your life in such a way that you “go where the wind takes you” is clearly not for the faint of heart, but the terms Viking and bravery have become nearly synonymous with one another in our modern world for a reason.  The actual maps of our world may no longer be emblazoned with the words “Here Be Dragons” in many places, but the maps of our lives most definitely are!  We can risk being eaten by said dragons, by losing focus in looking backwards at a past we cannot change or wasting our time worrying about forwards, or we can choose to loose the sails of the present and actively participate in battling those dragons (and fjording those streams!), like Sigurd battling Fafnir in the Volsunga Saga.  I choose the latter.

I’ve decided to become a Viking.  I’m not wasting my time looking back anymore; I’m not going that way.  Nor am I going to continue to lie awake at night, like the witless man in the Havamalworrying about forwards.  I am a man living between two harbors–Salem and Boston–who is striking forth daily on an adventure: the adventure of life!  And I will sail upriver bravely, no matter how strong the current; I will viking (the verb) every day, no matter the strain, or the pain. Because if there are deeds to be remembered, first I must do them; if there is renown to be gotten, first I must get it.  So long as we’re all still doing–still actively participating in life–we’re not dead yet, and it is high time I stopped living like a ghost, and sailed forward as the man that I am.

 

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Advent Event: Third Day of Advent: Banish Fear and Accept Joy

The third Sunday of Advent is a call to banish fear, in favor of joy.  We can’t possibly experience true joy so long as our hearts are filled with fear, nor can we experience true love, for real love banishes all fear from the heart and mind.  Banishing fear might seem like a weird topic for Christians to focus on during the Christmas season, but the shepherds mentioned in the Gospel of Luke certainly felt it, and so do all of us, on a pretty regular basis. Yet, for those shepherds to embrace the joy of the message the angels were bringing, and for us to experience true joy in our own lives, we’ve got to get rid of fear once and for all.  This is a call to joy: to being truly happy, released from all fear and excess baggage, so we can spread light not only in the world, but in our own individual lives.

Whether or not you grew up as a Christian, you’ve probably at least seen the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, where Linus tells the Christmas Story from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2:

And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.

So why were the shepherds afraid of the angels?  I mean, our modern image of an angel is usually a really good-looking dude in a white dress with a pair of big, white wings; what’s so scary about that?  Why would a dude whose job it was to fight off lions and wolves with a stick be afraid of a good-looking guy in a dress, with or without wings?  Well, the truth is, real angels aren’t cute little babies with rosey buttcheeks and tiny feathered wings, like all of those pre-Raphaelite paintings, or that one scene in Disney’s Fantasia. Real angels are a force to be reckoned with, and they look like it, most of them. The heavenly choirs of Seraphim are described in the Old Testament as fiery beings, who are six-winged and many-eyed, and the actual Cherubim (also in the Old Testament) are only vaguely humanoid at all–they are four-faced, with the feet of birds. Archangels, of course, are more “human-looking”, but even they often wield swords, and generally come accompanied by a brilliant white light and the rushing sound of many wings. Even the lower echelons of angels are warriors and messengers with great wings and a feeling of power about them. So when those shepherds looked up as the skies unfurled before them, they were struck with terror, for they knew angels for what they truly are: powerful beings that were anything but “cute and fuzzy”.

And these weren’t just any angels that were coming to deliver this news to these particular shepherds, either, this was the angel: the head honcho of all angels; the General of God’s army, and we are told:

And the angel said to them: “Fear not; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people”…And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.”

So, the angel was soon accompanied by the rest of an army of angels. How does one usually react when faced with an entire army of anything, whether it’s ants, zombies, or angels? Fear. Real, dyed-in-the-wool, hope you’re wearing your brown pants, fear.

But then the head-honcho angel says: “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy,” and that banished the fear those shepherds held in their hearts and minds, the same way it still does for all of us.  Joy banishes fear. Pure and simple.

What about those other things we fear? You know, those things that nobody really wants to talk about or even admit exist, like the negative entities that can sometimes come lurking around us when we allow too much negativity into our lives.  Can joy banish those, too? Believe it or not, yes, it can!

We know what fear is, but what is joy?  It is both a feeling of great happiness, and a feeling of success in doing, finding, or getting something. When we are truly happy, and feeling successful, there is no room in our hearts for fear. It’s the reason people ride roller coasters: if we weren’t happy in the first place (that’s why they’re called amusement parks, folks; they’re designed to make you happy), and we didn’t think we would feel successful after having survived something so “scary”, we would never get on a roller coaster in the first place! In reality, life is just one neverending roller coaster; unfortunately, it isn’t also located in an amusement park!

There is nothing amusing about the prospect of having our hearts broken, facing disappointments, dealing with other people’s judgments, accepting the existence of negative entities (much less facing them down), or potentially failing, yet that’s what we have to deal with, when it comes to living our lives, no matter how much of a positive attitude we adopt going into all of that.  Yet, here we all are, and we’ve got to ride this thing, like it or not.  We can ride it in fear–white-knuckled, gnashing our teeth, miserable every single step of the way–or we can ride it in joy.  That’s our choice. If we’re going to ride it the way we were put here to ride it–as luminous beings–we’ve got to make the decision for joy.

How do we make that joy decision?  A good place to start would be to follow this advice:

Celebrate [Spirit] all day, every day.  I mean, revel in [it]!  Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.  Help them to see [the Spirit in them].  Don’t fret or worry.  Instead of worrying, pray.  Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers…before you know it, a sense of wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.   It’s wonderful what happens when [Spirit] displaces worry at the center of your life.

–Philippians 4:4-7

(Paraphrases in [] are my additions.)

When we worry, we dwell on all the negative things that could happen, instead of focusing on our faith in all the positive things that could happen, and when we do that, because we are energy, we literally draw those bad things to us.  You get what you put out, right?  So if we were putting out positivity, we would get back positive stuff, but when we worry–putting out negativity–those worries become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because they attract the negative stuff straight into our lives.  A worrying life is not a life focused on the spiritual, because it’s a life focused on shadows and darkness, rather than the light.

What good is prayer going to do us, though?  I mean, isn’t prayer something only religious people do? Look carefully at Timothy and Paul’s phrasing up there; they say: “Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers”.  Petitions are requests, like “please let this good thing happen”.  What happens if we phrase that the other way, and say “please don’t let this bad thing happen”? We get all caught up in worrying about that bad thing actually happening, right? We’re screwed from the get-go when we do that.  But when we say “please let this good thing happen”, we start to hope for that good thing, and eventually, that hope turns into faith that it will actually happen.  Praises are like compliments; it’s like saying something good about yourself or somebody else.  Praises reinforce the positive petitions: if we say something like “I’m awesome, so please let this good thing happen”, that builds both our hope and our faith.  However, if we replace those praises with curses, and say something like “I know I suck, but please let this good thing happen”, there’s not much room for hope or faith anymore, is there?  A petition plus a praise equals a prayer, whether you’re a religious person or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not; it does matter that you’re spiritual, because that’s what we were all born to be.

And that’s how Spirit can displace worry at the center of our lives: we recognize what we really are, and in acting from that place, light not only comes into our own lives, but we start to spread light into the lives of others.  There’s no room in a life like that for worry or fear.  There’s only room for sheer joy! And that joy can not only fulfill us, restoring our sense of wholeness, it can also protect us, if necessary.  Celebrate the light that’s burning in you all day, every day. I mean it–revel in it!  Make it clear to everyone (and every thing) that this is what you’re all about: you’re all about the positive; you’re all about spreading light.  Don’t fret or worry. When you feel tempted to worry, pray, through praise and positive petitions, and before you know it, you’ll find everything coming together not only for your good, but for the good of everyone around you.