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Earth

Hello folks – I’m sorry I’m so late posting today, and I promise, I will get back on track for this project and write about humanity later this  week – sadly the last two weeks of I’ve been rather ill. I’d been feeling sad the end of January, than physically wonky, and then had a flare up of a chronic health condition I get that kicked my ass. I’m thankful I have a job that lets me take the time off with pay! Anyway, on to Earth!

As a Heathen, and Northern Tradition Pagan, the earth is actually manifested for us in a variety of ways.

Unlike some of the other pagan religions, Heathenry is not a tradition that is generally ‘earth-centric’. With the exception of a few sects, the wheel of the year is not celebrated, nor is the holiday calendar cyclical, but rather the focus is more towards honoring the Gods rather than on seasonal festivals/turning the wheel. (The exceptions would be traditions such as Norse Wicca, Vanatru (which is focused on the Vanir, who are agricultural Gods) and Northern Tradition Paganism) Though personal practice may vary. As a Northern Tradition Pagan, my Kindred and I come together to honor our Gods on or near the 8 Wheel Holidays, but not quite the way a Wiccan Coven (or even a Norse Wiccan coven!) would do so.)

This does not mean, however, that we have no love for the Earth! Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, my religion and spiritually have definitely change, improved and deepened my relationship with the earth around me!

I understand that everything in Midgard has a spirit of its own, has sentience, and has a will, and nothing here exists in a vacuum. This world is delicate ecosystem, an interdependent web.  You pluck one thread here, two vibrate over there, and another thread breaks. You know the deal – a butterfly flaps its wings in China, and now its raining in New York.

This is why it is important to get to know the spirits in the world around us – the better we know them, the better we know how to work with them, rather than simply use and consume them. It allows us to be in right relationship with them, to be respectful, and shows us how to maintain balance. Asking a tree permission and giving it a gift when you cut a branch from it; taking what you need rather than clear cutting, and making it an equitable exchange as best you can. Gebo is everything.

In my day-to-day life, this means I’m more likely to take a picture than pick a flower, and either way, I usually tell the flower itself how beautiful it is. I talk to my car. I don’t kick rocks.  I pick up litter.

As well as the animistic spirits in the world, in my practice I recognize and honor a variety of Spirits (Wights) that live in and around me as part of this world as well. My house has its own spirit He’s got a nice little pot of coins that he really likes, a funny little toy, a candle and he gets honey and I do my best to keep things nice in here. He really did not like people when I first moved in, as some of the tenants in the house in the apartment below us weren’t so nice to it, and the guy who lived in my place was disgusting. Once he realized my house mate and I were going to be awesome to him, he warmed up to us.  I rarely lose things now, unless I’ve been lax in offerings, and I’ve seen the wight be a dick to the fellow downstairs who he dislikes.

The land I live on in Philadelphia has a spirit – several, actually. I get the idea there is an over arching ‘Philadelphia’ spirit, but there are also smaller local spirits. West Philly definitely has its own (It lives in Clark Park.).

Some natural features will have their own spirits – be they called wights or etins or just spirits. Mountains, rivers.

The Earth itself has a spirit, personified as the Jotun woman, Jord; (also known as Hlóðyn, Fjörgyn and Fjörgynn). She is related to many other natural spirits, and was a lover of Odin. To him, She bore His son Thor, who is probably the most well-known, and to this day most widely worshiped of all the Norse gods. (Tacitus identified Thor with Hercules, and writes of His widespread worship among the Germanic people back in the Roman period!)

While Jord is the very personification of the earth herself, and literally a mother (of Thor!), there is another Goddess in the Northern Tradition who is also identified as an Earth Mother.

Nerthus, called ‘Terra Mater’ by Tacitus in his accounts of her worship, is a mysterious, Vanic Goddess associated with Njord linguistically. Much like accounts of Frey’s worship, a statue of Nerthus would be carried around the countryside in a wagon as part of a procession with Her priests, to visit and bless the people.  No one was permitted to see Her statue’s face except Her priests – after the procession, the slaves who helped bath Her in a sacred spring were then drowned in said spring.

Nerthus is identified with Njord, as her name is linguistically connected to his as the feminine form. Some scholars have theorized they were perhaps once a hermaphroditic deity, but those who honor Nerthus generally identify her as a sister-wife to Njord, in a dynamic not unlike that of Freya and Frey.

Clearly, the earth is a complex ecosystem, with a nearly unimaginable web of spirits!

Often you hear people talk about ‘right relationship’ in regards to different aspects of polytheism (and paganism). It’s a broad idea, and unique to each area of focus. But I’d like to at least try to put my idea of right relationship with the earth into words:

Right relationship with the earth is first recognizing the other spirits which we share this space with. Once we recognize these spirits exist and have, to some extent, their own sentience, right relationship is respecting the power of these spirits and learning to treat them with respect. Right relationship is the offering given when you cut a branch; it is using respectfully, and with awareness of the sacrifice of the spirit. Its taking what you need, and not more, and not wasting what you do take. It’s the reciprocal relationship, a give and take, and ultimately, our bodies return back to the earth itself, thus engaging us anyway.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Today, I would like to talk about Luke.

Luke is a homeless man I see regularly when I’m heading home from work. He’s usually right at 40th street near the SEPTA station. I was seeing him every Saturday after work for a while, and I would stop and give him change or food or something – I usually tried to have something. I’d swing by Wawa and get a big ass meat hoagie and a coffee and stuff, or grab a couple of extra bagels at work or part of my lunch. It usually worked out that I had something.

It occurred to me one day that I ought to ask him his name, since I saw him so much, and I have a feeling people don’t stop and talk to him often. I see lots of people just drive right by. He remembers my face and my car, but usually forgets my name. Once I got into a little fender bender and he came over to see how I was – thankfully the other dude just decided we could drive away!

But I hadn’t seen Luke for a few weeks, and I had been hoping he found somewhere warmer to be for the season. Then I saw him yesterday while I was driving home. I said hello and gave him a dollar (all I had at the moment) and he asked my name again, and then I cried the rest of the drive home because it was so cold out. (I’m trying not to cry now at work while thinking about it). My house mate works for one of the Philadelphia Domestic Violence hotlines – I know how hard it is to find and get into a shelter here WITH help, let alone figuring out yourself. And I can imagine there are plenty of reasons why one wouldn’t want to go either.

So as soon as I got home, I put one of my spare quilts in a bag, and my housemate gave me a pair of gloves and scarf and a hat, and I had a spare scarf too, and I ran back out and stopped to get a bagel and some coffee, since we didn’t have anything around the house. However, by the time I got back there, Luke was gone and there was a cop at the intersection directing traffic (on the way home I had passed a fire truck and they had partially closed a street – by the time I made it back over there they had closed things down farther) I assumed he scarpered as soon as the police showed up – he had told me a couple of weeks before that he had been hassled by cops (I think he said it was the FBI. I’m not sure if he’s paranoid or not, but it was right when all the Ferguson protests were really in high gear, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they had given him grief.

I walked around a bit, figuring he’d have gone the opposite directions of the cops, but it was getting very late, and very cold, and finding one single person who’s probably always moving isn’t easy. So I left the bag in my car and if I see him again, they’re his.  I took the coffee and on my way home , walked through the park and said a prayer to the Wight of West Philly for him and poured it out.

Part of me feels like a dick – I had been thinking I ought to walk back one of these days to talk to him, to find out his story and how he wound up here, and this was the first time.

While walking, I realized our stories probably aren’t that different. A human was born. Then, shit happened. The difference is what happened after shit happened, I would assume. Much as I can dislike, them, I have blood family who will help, and an extended network of tribe, kindred and friends to help me

On my walk home, I was crossing the street and looked down and saw this painted on the side-walk: “This one time, I almost did something, and then I didn’t”

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I had said to myself a couple of times before, I ought to stop and talk to him, and of course the one time I did, this is what happened – I missed him. But I’m glad I Did The Thing – or at least, Tried to Do The Thing.

I was thinking, on my walk to find him, about how I was raised in New York/Long Island. The ‘secret’, the ‘trick’ to dealing with NYC was no eye contact. You never look at the homeless – your eyes slide right past them, and you pretend they don’t exist, and that’s how you get by. I had shaken this habit off in the past few year, but I didn’t realize quite how fucked up it was until very recently.

Realistically, there isn’t much I can do to help – I can’t find him a place to stay, I can’t feed him forever, i can’t fix whatever it was that brought him to where he is now. But the least I can do is acknowledge him as a person, as a fucking human being. I can’t help everyone.

But at the bare minimum, I can look people in the eye, call them by name, and shake their hand. I can treat them like people. All of us can do that. We can take back a little bit of our own humanity by honoring the humanity of others, and not walking past them like nothing.

Hospitality is more than having food and drink for your guests; it is more than what goes on in our own homes. I am engaging in hospitality by sharing what I have with those who don’t, and by honoring the human that they are, flaws, issues and all.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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