Deity Offerings Series: For Odin

This post is the first of many in which I will be detailing the offerings that I give to the deities and spirits with whom I’ve built strong relationships over the years.

December 2017 will mark the ninth anniversary of my taking up the runes and the beginning of a deep and serious relationship with Odin. Over the years I have worked to grow closer to Odin and to understand his preferences in all things, especially as those preferences influence my devotional work. One important concern in building a mutual and healthy relationship with any deity is sacrifice and offering. Here I present a list of common offerings that I make to Odin. In the lore we see the Old Norse words mjǫðr, vín, and ǫl used most often (which are beer or ale, wine, and mead respectively) to describe alcoholic beverages available at the time. Each has its place in my work with Odin in addition to other offerings.

Mead

Mead is the first and foremost offering for Odin as it was the greatest and grandest of beverages among the Vikings – the iconic libation of kings and those favored by them. As such, mead is an appropriate offering to Odin especially as an acknowledgement of his status as Mighty God and Most High. In addition mead has deep associations with magic and poetry.  It’s also often aligned with the runes given that they are mysteries which one may access through sacrifice, magic, and deep draughts of this holy brew. So it is bound up with Odin as shaman, rune-winner, and wordsmith as well.

By cunning and wit Odin won the mead for the Gods and favored mortals. He entered Gunnlöð’s court, seduced her for three nights, took the mead in three long gulps, and flew away in eagle form, escaping Suttung – the Jotun owner of the mead, before Odin – who was in hot pursuit. We learn of these works and their blessings in the Skáldskaparmál:

En Suttungamjöð gaf Óðinn ásunum ok þeim mönnum, er yrkja kunnu. Því köllum vér skáldskapinn feng Óðins ok fund ok drykk hans ok gjöf hans ok drykk ásanna.

But Odin gave the mead of Suttungr to the Æsir and to those men who possess the ability to compose. Therefore we call poesy Odin’s Booty and Find, and his Drink and Gift, and the Drink of the Æsir.

~Brodeur translation

Yes, mead is first and foremost for me in my devotional offerings to Odin. However, he is a multi-faceted god with many aspects, and many interests and investments. Consequently, there are other alcoholic beverages, in my experience, that when well given will gain his favor.

Wine

Lore is often cited in order to make the point that Odin is sustained solely on mead. In Grímnismál verse 19 commonly used to argue this point, the original Old Norse word vín is translated as mead:

Gera ok Freka seðr gunntamiðr
hróðigr Herjaföður;
en við vín eitt vápngöfugr
Óðinn æ lifir.

~from the Codex Regius

The chief inur’d to toils in war,
Removing from the feast afar,
Bids Gerr and Freker daily eat,
The smoking honors of the treat:
But Odin, great in martial deeds,
With mead, immortal vigor feeds.

~Cottle translation

Freki and Geri | does Herefather feed,
The far-famed fighter of old:
But on wine alone | does the weapon-decked god,
Othin, forever live.

~Bellows translation

However, a closer look reveals that vín is actually more accurately translated simply as wine. Odin is sustained “on wine alone”, if we rely solely on this bit of lore. What we know about wine within its temporal and cultural context is that it was hard to obtain because of the lack of grapes in Scandinavian lands. It could be acquired through trade with wine producing countries, but was quite expensive for this reason. As a result, it was reserved for nobility, especially kings, and Odin is absolutely that, so I give him wine to honor him as nobility.

In addition I work with a number of Greek and Roman deities. Within those ancient cultures, wine was central to the symposium. The symposium was an aristocratic event marked by poetry readings, the singing of hymns, deity libations, philosophical conversation, political strategizing, and entertainment of a musical as well as a sexual persuasion. Symposia seem like events that a seeker of knowledge and wisdom from a distant land (who also has skill with disguises) would have happily wandered right into the middle of. And so I use wine to honor Odin as scholar, philosopher, and political mastermind as well as god of commerce, trade especially by ship, and long-distance travel. In my experience many wines available today suit his tastes well. I find that Odin appreciates blood red wine in general, as well as most German varieties.

Beer and Ale

Óminnis hegri heitr sás of ölþrum þrumir,
hann stelr geþi guma;
þess fugls fjöþrum ek fjötraþr vask
í garþi Gunnlaþar.

A bird of Unmindfulness flutters over ale-feasts,
Wiling away men’s wits;
With the feathers of that fowl I was fettered once
In the garths of Gunnlodr below.

~Verse 13 of the Hávamál , in its original Old Norse above with The Viking Answer Lady’s English translation below

In the Havamal we have the Sayings of the High One, who is generally accepted to be Odin himself. From the above verse we see that Odin is well acquainted with ale and the feasts that it presides over, and during his encounter with the giantess Gunnlodr he drank deeply of the ale he was offered. We also know from Hymiskviða aka The Lay of Hymir and from Lokasenna aka Loki’s Wrangling that the gods serve ale/beer at their own feasts too.

Beer and ale are on my list of offerings for Odin. As a wanderer Odin moves among gods, mortals, and etins alike – whether overtly or in disguise – seeking knowledge and wisdom, bestowing gifts and asking favors, laughing and loving, and shaping wyrd and weaving wonders. That mighty god can and will drink the beer and ale that would have been available in any hall or household at any time. Beer or ale would have been the equalizer in that both nobility and common people who have had access to it and consumed it. It’s my belief that any drink offered in the spirit of frithful hospitality (no foul play involved) was and will be well received by Odin.

Other Libations

In addition to mead, wine, and beer/ale, I offer Odin honey whiskey, whiskey, and vodka. I keep hard liquor on hand in larger quantities than mead, wine, and beer. In my experience, he enjoys them. As stated above any fare given in frithful hospitality can potentially be acceptable to him.

Incantations

Because Odin is a god of poetry as well as the written and spoken word, I offer improvised as well as painstakingly crafted verse in the form of a recitation or a song. I also sing songs and recite poetry from others of his devotees who have been so kind as to share their work on sites like Odin’s Gift.

Suffumigations

I often burn incense for the deities and spirits that I have relationships with. For Odin, I burn mugwort or wormwood (either alone or in combination with other herbs and resins) because both have strong associations with travel throughout Europe. I also burn ash bark and leaves because of this tree’s associations with Yggdrasil and with the Ansuz or Æsc rune. From among the resins I give frankincense, myrrh, and dragon’s blood. I often associate frankincense with heady, elevating, contemplative/meditative, soul caliber raising energies which fits well with Odin’s might. Myrrh has the power to draw me into the dark for reflection and/or healing and so I have come to see it as an extension of Odin’s might. Lastly dragon’s blood is one that I’ve come to associate with Odin and burn in his honor because I associate it with everything hot and martial. It is a resin of warfare, happy to lend its energies to anything from campaigns against general stray astral entities causing trouble unintentionally to campaigns against big malevolent things that need to be full-on exorcised, and so dragon’s blood is Odin’s because I haven’t forgotten his ties to the fight and dragon’s blood packs a punch.

Food Offerings

I rarely give food but it’s not unheard of for me to do so. I share a meal with Odin every once in a while. If the lore telling us that Geri and Freki receive Odin’s food is accurate, I’m happy to offer to Odin’s canine allies in this way.  I have also given them red meat, unattached to a larger meal that I’ve made for myself. To Huginn and Muninn, Odin’s ravens of thought and memory, I’ve given hard boiled eggs which they seemed to like. The wolves and ravens need love too!

I hope that the above gives others a starting place in establishing an offering rich devotional relationship with Odin, and for the folks who already have that kind of relationship with him, hopefully some of the above sounds familiar. Hail Odin!

Personal Spiritual Practice: Past and Present

Since I was very young, I have self-identified as a spiritual person. For me, relatedness and interconnection are at the core of spirituality. Spiritual pursuits link me to the beings of this and the other Worlds. Consequently, when I think of spiritual practice, it is a practice that identifies, maintains, and strengthens relations between myself and the other beings that I share this and the other worlds with. Consequently, spirituality is a critical part of my existence. Because everything exists is dynamic, complex, interconnected relation, to not be spiritual is to be alive but not living, to be out of touch with what matters, to drain meaning away from life. In the past, when my spirituality waned with various emotional tides, I felt like all the color and taste were being bled out of my experiences. Oftentimes, in the absence of a strong spiritual sense, I felt isolated and alone. However, when my spirit is full and functional, I feel plugged into everything and the boundaries between me and other beings, between here and there, fade and I feel integrated into something larger, something shared. I maintain spiritual practices in order to return to that sense of interconnectedness and to strengthen relations across the Worlds.

Over the years, the practices that support my spirituality have changed quite a bit, taking multiple shapes. Way back in the day, an active social calendar and prayer were the lion’s share. I have always been social and I consider that part of me to be an important part of my spirituality. People, human beings, are a part of the Worlds and so I count my fellow mortals among the folk that I feel a need to connect with and form meaningful relationships with. Prayer was critical because that was my link to the Christian God. Sometimes I felt heard, sometimes I thought he might be answering; however, the positive feedback was limited and I was not convinced that I was not imagining said positive feedback so my practices eventually morphed into small rituals and deity invocations of the Pagan variety with Pagan concepts of the divine at the core. The social calendar of course remained. Some of my socializing was not with people of my spiritual persuasion and some of it was. Once I made the switch to a Pagan worldview, I felt more like I was on the best track for me and my spiritual development.

When I was still living at home with my mother, before beginning college, I would establish an altar for ritual but nothing permanent that I kept in the house, not because my mother was not open to it but because I was just not quite there yet on my spiritual path. In addition to my periodic Pagan ritual altars, I also engaged in meditation and energy raising on a semi-regular basis. My favorite thing was to sit on the porch during a rainstorm and form energy balls that I would promptly reabsorb after I was finished. I also took those times on the porch -rainstorm or not – to speak with the Divine Feminine, the Goddess. She was not terribly talkative but I could feel her presence and her “unconditional positive regard” more certainly than I could sense the same the Christian God, so I was content for a time with the Goddess. Her Mother aspect was near and dear to me in the formative years of my Pagan spirituality. It was also during this time that I purchased my first tarot deck, entitled the Mythic Tarot. The deck was and still is a really great tool for me. In my mother’s house and in the Mother’s care, my meditation, energy exercises, and divination were happening, in some combination, a two to three times per week.

Once my college years rolled in, I began keeping a permanent altar in my dorm room. Meditation tended to fall to the wayside quite a bit because I was busy socializing with friends and writing papers in the wee hours of the morning. However, my energy exercises and some form of divination held the course. The one thing that I regret about those years is that my schedule for energy exercises and divination was thrown off. Although regularity was difficult to find in terms of practice, my personal belief system, the network of understandings, meanings, and perspectives that would undergird my future practices, continued to develop. I would spend late nights (or rather early mornings) before bedtime pondering the gods, the nature of energy, the existence of all types of spirits and the like. At this time, I was not terribly concerned with spirits (beyond the elementals) and ancestors so my practice did not really integrate them very much, beyond certain times when the Wheel of the Year called for such work. When I occasionally kept sabbat rituals, the focus was on working with the gods, and the elements, and honoring the turning of the year. As college pressed on, I felt the need to return to a more regular practice but I was not sure what direction I should take for myself. As a result, once I graduated from college (upto about 1.5 years after), I continued to maintain an altar but meditation at this point was long gone, energy work was extremely limited, and divination was a big fat “no”. I was pretty done because I was not sure where I was going and emotional hang-ups were interfering.

Once I decided to attend graduate school, I felt invigorated again in all parts of my life, including my spiritual life. Suddenly I felt good about returning to regular spiritual practice. I returned to mediation, energy work and spell casting, divination, ritual craft and the like. I joined all those groups I mentioned in my previous post and I attended regular sabbat celebrations.

Over the last four years, in my personal practice, I have been doing a lot of deity work. I make weekly prayers as well as offerings of flame in the form of candlelight and incense. The incense varies, but in the last few months I have been giving Purple Haze to Hekate, Mercury (planetary) to Mercury, Goddess of Love to Freyja, Root Chakra to Nerthus, and High John the Conqueror to Odin. I obtain all of these incense varieties from Beads-n-Botanicals in Urbana. I typically select them based on their baseline energy as well as their fragrance. It is less important to me that the incense bear the name of the deity and moreso important to me that the incense be energetically sympathetic. Consequently, I have used incense varieties other than those listed but the one’s given here are the current winners. Several times per year, I also make more complex offerings. For example, at High Days, I may make herbal offerings for Hekate, Mercury, and Nerthus (often but not always Mugwort, Marjoram, and Patchouli, respectively). Odin and Freyja usually receive mead or a hard liquor that I have on hand, like vodka.

Additional deities that I have recently begun relationships with (like within the last six weeks or so) also receive weekly incense offerings along with the Fabulous Five mentioned above. They are: Elegua, Oya, and Dionysos. Elegua and Oya receive the lovely Elegua and Van Van incenses respectively, Dionysos gets the Satyr incense. Again, all from Beads-n-Botanicals in Urbana. I made my first High Day offerings for Elegua and Oya recently, where I gave them cinnamon vodka which they both seemed to appreciate. Dionysos and I have yet to have a High Day but I recently gave him a wine libation. Thus far, Dionysos seems the easiest to please of the three. I am still working out what Elegua and Oya would like in terms of offerings. Rum and candy seem to be very high on Elegua’s list though he seems alright with Tequila in a pinch. Oya is a bit of a mystery lately. However my research is yielding a number of viable options.

Beginning this week, I hope to go back to basics, to return to a regular meditation practice. I think it will help me to recenter and “tune in” to energy a little better. I also want to do more experimentation with energy work. I hope to test out a few different methods for raising energy and note the differences between the methods, a bit more of a scientific approach. I generally favor that approach but I want to make the process more regular and more meticulous, taking less for granted. This will be in addition to my regular “temple maintenance” work for the gods as well as the future directions mentioned in my previous post.

Offerings at the Shrine of Dionysos

Here is an image of Dionysos’ shrine from a tiny ritual I conducted last night in his honor. The offerings are oats, incense, flame, and Riesling.

Shrine to Dionysos with Offerings

The oats are an impromptu substitute for barley, which I do not have on hand at the moment. Never fear, I am fixing that. The incense is called Satyr and is made by Catherine, the lovely owner of Beads-N-Botanicals in Urbana. I really like that the burning incense tip is awake with Fire, so much so that you can see the blue-purple in the orange burn. It feels inspirited! The tealight has a similar animated character; in the picture it looks like a perfect orb of light, perhaps deposited on the altar by a nymph of Nysa :-D. The Riesling is lightly sweet and delicious, tasting of flowers. In addition to prayers and offerings at the shrine, I danced for Him (quite spontaneously), which I rarely do in a ritual context. For some reason, not only did it seem appropriate but downright necessary! With the stimulating prayers and rising spirit of the god himself, I felt compelled to arch and twist, to curve my back and whirl my head in spirals of delight. I enjoyed it, but at first I felt a little awkward. Me thinks He may wish a repeat performance, despite my reservations. And since my reservations are quite silly, rooted in fears and insecurities that He heartily laughs at, I will sate my lord’s desire for a dance every time he calls for one.

Leader in the dance of the fire-pulsing stars,

overseer of the voices of the night,

child of Zeus, be manifest,

with due companionship of Maenad maids

whose cry is but your name.

~Excerpt from the choral ode to Dionysos in Antigone by Sophocles

“To Kneel and Kiss the Ground”: A Reflection on Service

The title of this post is drawn from a line within “Spring Giddiness”, a poem by the 13th century Persian mystic known as Rumi. Although written in the context of living love and divine beauty, the full line – “There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” – makes me think of service, or rather Service, where Service (with a capital “s”) encompasses those acts that transcend boundaries, offering macrocosmic and microcosmic benefits to the gods, the ancestors, various spirits (including animal, plant, and nature), and human beings. service is easy: start a community garden, work at your local homeless shelter, say your prayers, make your offerings, tuck your children in at night, etc. But Service is hard. Service is a program of service that is intentional, meaningful, and consistent with roots and branches that reach across the worlds. When we are in Service, every act is a prayer and an offering. An active prayer and willing sacrifice to the gods, to the ancestors, to the spirits, and to our fellow human beings.

That community garden has the support of the local landwights, brings the community together, offers the children rich soil to dig their hands into, provides produce for low income families in the area, attracts environment-minded people to the neighborhood, makes the news with its sustainability efforts, and shows the local politicians what the people in that neighborhood value. Your work at the homeless shelter consciously honors wandering gods and spirits, extends hospitality to those in need (consciously honoring the gods of hearth and home), fosters social bonds between human beings who have and those who have not, makes the local news for its innovations in assisting the homeless, links those without homes to vital resources, and let’s your local politicians know what you and your neighbors value. When you tuck your kids in at night, you are aware of the ton of children who do not have the same benefit and you actively ponder ways to improve the lot of those children in your community while also pouring libations to the Disir (female ancestors) and Mother/Father deities with whom you work for their care and good health.

When in Service, your prayers and offerings are in where you choose to spend your time and energy on a daily basis, what you include in your letters to local politicians, the charities you contribute to, the way you recycle, the lights you turn off when not in use, the water you save, the smiles you tickle out of children and in what you leave at the base of a sacred tree in thanks to the landwights, the libations you pour to the gods and ancestors in supplication and gratitude, your most recent trance journey to the Otherworlds to build bridges and form bonds with the beings there, and your latest oath to a god, spirit, or wight, your initiation into a mystery cult/tradition.

Service (with a capital “S) is not about being everything to everybody. Some of us do not have the resources to do everything listed above. With that fact in mind, “[t]here are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground”. My point is that Service is a program of small acts that is intentional, meaningful, and consistent. It is co-determined and co-created with your gods, ancestors, spirits, and other living human beings to ensure that it serves all who are involved and invested in the harvest of your Service. Consequently, Service strengthens relationships across the board and improves the quality of life across the board. service can be done on any given Saturday; Service is a life(style) choice that is constantly being shaped, worked and reworked, and adapted to who you are, where you are, why you are, and how you are as well as the who, where, why, and how of your gods, spirits, and ancestors. Service acknowledges and duly considers the ways in which every small act and the larger program of Service itself may reverberate within the Well of Wyrd.

As I work to integrate the various facets of my life and my spiritual practices, I hope to move from loosely strung Saturdays of service that have limited intent and consistency toward a life dedicated to Service. It is my sincere wish that such a life will honor the gods, the ancestors, the spirits of the Worlds, and my fellow human beings.

Hail the Worlds and the Ties that Bind Us!

Seidhr, Hamrammr, and Other Wyrdness

As mentioned in previous posts, seidhr (pronounced “say-the”, according to Jenny Blain in Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic) is a Norse/Germanic shamanistic practice that many Heathen magickal practitioners are reclaiming. Seidhr has a mixed wrap. Some people view it as a positive practice for healing, prophesy, faring-forth, shapeshifting, weather-work, wyrd-working, and spirit communication (especially with the Ancestors and Wights, but also the Gods – of course). Others associate seidhr primarily with maleficent workings like mind tampering to cause delusions and bring on madness. If you are looking for a crash course on the who, what, when, where, and why of seidhr, the Viking Answer Lady gives an excellent treatment of this art for those who seek detailed information that is grounded firmly in the lore. Diana Paxson, Kveldulfr Gundarsson, and the folks at Vanic Paganism also wrote very strong articles on the subject. Just follow the links above directly to the articles!

I have been working seidhr for about two years now. The majority of my experiences and budding skills have been in the areas of spirit communication, faring-forth, and prophesy. I have also done some shapeshifting but I am still getting the hang of that. Frankly, the initial phases of shapeshifting can be a little disorienting and disconcerting! There is nothing quite so odd as sliding into the perceptual framework of another creature! Sight, taste, smell, sensation, all change. Not to mention, you get shorter so you are seeing the world(s) from a completely different vantage point :-). Very cool. Very useful. Very wyrd. My hope is that as I improve at shapeshifting, as I become hamrammr (shape-strong), the transition from human to animal and back again will become smoother. What is interesting to me is that something like shapeshifting is not outside the scope of seidhr as defined across ancient and modern Norse/Germanic shamanistic practice. Seidhr is everything that I mentioned above, and more.

At this point in my development as a seidhkona, I feel good about my growing abilities and I of course want to continue to strengthen them for the service of the community. While testing my existing spiritual skills, I also feel like I can take on a little more; I hope to begin learning seidhr for wyrd-working! This totally qualifies as “and more”. I would definitely begin small and work my way up to more complex weavings. I am actually not certain how much a seidhkona can change an individual or group’s wyrd given the profundity of the wyrd – what it means – but I hope to study with a deity or other weal-willing spirit in order to learn more. Soon I will propitiate Freyja for her guidance on the matter likely through both journeying (aka faring-forth) as well as through the runes (my new-found spirit allies in the process of working wyrd). I’ll approach her with questions like: Is this a good course of action for me to take? Is this the right time? What must I learn or do first? And others. I think I may also approach the Nornir for their counsel and, of course, I will consult Odin, whose insight in such matters is quite invaluable. All will receive proper sacrifice of course because nothing in any of the Nine Worlds is free. A gift for a gift as the Havamal teaches. Right now, I am thinking dry mead for Odin, perhaps a rich dark beer for the Nornir, and a cyser for Freyja.

Hail the Ancient “Seithing” Arts and the Ones Who Weave Wyrd!