Today's post is in answer to a question posed by Selena. She asks
"I'm really struggling to write a series of prayers to "say my beads" with. Thing is, the aspect of Odin that I know best, the Face of His that I know and love, that called me to be His priestess, isn't one that I hear much about from other Odinspeople. My God is the God of not just the wounded warrior, but "collateral damage": the non-combatants, like those hurt in explosions, or those poisoned in the womb because of chemical warfare their parent survived. Those indelibly touched by war, even if they never saw a battlefield.
I'm having trouble extrapolating from the lore and finding names that acknowledge this aspect. Yes, there are the einherjar, but , they are restored to health and wholeness and serve in a different way.
What names would be appropriate (and where would I find proper pronunciation guides! :) ), and are there any (English) sources that mention this?"
Firstly, working with prayer beads in the way you are, is an opportunity to honor Odin by heiti upon which you would not normally call. He's quite often about pushing boundaries and pushing past our comfort zones and this is a tiny way to do that devotionally. So I would certainly not restrict myself solely to those facets of His nature, those names that represented aspects I already honored.
My own instinct is that any of His heiti that refer to Him as a God of war would comprehend the collateral damage, the horror of war, the wounded warrior. These things a warrior knows.
For non-combatants, well, while I'm not aware of anything in any of the requisite sources, when has that ever stopped me? The Gods gave me and you a brain, the capacity to reason, and the ability to experience Them through personal gnosis for a reason. I would look to the heiti of Odin that represent Him as healer and the main one (and his is attested to in the Merseburg charm and, if one looks between the lines, in at least one AS Source) is Woden.
Farmaguth, "Journey Empowerer" might be appropriate to call upon for those who either have a long journey back to wholeness, or those who have died as a result of war, but not as combatants, and must journey to Hela's realm.
I sometimes wonder if Grimnir wanders for knowledge or because of what He as lord of battle has seen.
There is Odin as Kjalar, nourisher. I might call upon Sigmundr, one who protects victory, to ensure that non combatants remain safe and one's victory does not turn Pyrric.
Valfodr, father of the slain is not an aspect to be neglected. While we assume that this is Odin as master of the valkyries, chooser of those who die in combat, it need not necessarily *only* be that. I would be just as comfortable calling upon Him to shepherd those killed as a result of other peoples' battles to the lands of the dead. I have actually called upon Him in this capacity before.
Finally, Vinr Lothurs…friend of Lothur, Lothur being one of the primal Gods who bestows warmth, the flowing of the blood, the beating of the heart. There is something here, at least so my experience and gnosis tells me, that speaks to restoration after such horrors as you describe.
These are simply a few of His heiti that leap out at me immediately. Perhaps this is something upon which to meditate, and to pray to Him about. It would make a powerful journey, a powerful task, a means of developing your relationship with Him, to go *to* Him to explore this.
In the meantime never doubt that He can heal, or that He knows the pain and anguish that so often accompanies battle. I'll leave you with the Second Merseburg Charm, one of the few surviving references we have to Odin being called as a Healer:
Phol and Wodan rode into the woods,
There Balder's foal sprained its foot.
It was charmed by Sinthgunt, her sister Sunna;
It was charmed by Frija, her sister Volla;
It was charmed by Wodan, as he well knew how:
Bone-sprain, like blood-sprain,
Bone to bone; blood to blood;
Limb to limb -- like they were glued.
He is a healer too, our God. Is there any knowledge He would allow Himself not to know?
I'm taking a leaf (no pun intended) from Sannion and his blog The House of Vines wherein he asks his readers to send him their questions about Dionysos, which he will then answer on his own "Blurring Boundaries" blog. I liked the interactiveness of this, the way the conversation could be stretched throughout various fora as well as the accessibility for the reader to join into that conversation. So I asked him if he'd mind me doing the same thing (obviously he told me to go for it).
Moreover, I recently asked readers of my Heathen Heretic blog to ask me their questions either about piety or my personal practice wherein piety might be a concern. I was delighted by the questions that a couple of folks asked. They were thoughtful and they made me think when I sat down to answer them.
ASK ME YOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT ODIN. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT HIM? WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE WAYS IN WHICH I HONOR HIM?
Ask your questions here in the comments section, and I will answer them, either here or more likely over at "Heathen Heretic."
Bring on the questions, folks.
For those who are interested, here are the links to all these blogs:
The House of Vines: http://thehouseofvines.com
Blurring Boundaries: http://www.witchesandpagans.com/Blurred-Boundaries/Blogger/Listings/sannion.html
Heathen Heretic: http://www.witchesandpagans.com/Heathen-Heretic/Blogger/Listings/tamyris.html
My lover once told me of a man,
who was snapped up
by the mad God's fire.
He ran across mountains
leaping amongst angels,
feverish with the fire
that consumed him,
feverish with the grace
that spat him back to earth again
He was the first to be kissed,
to lose himself in the blessings
of the twice-born, two horned
born of the thigh of Zeus,
and Semele's lightening-struck womb.
He was the first
to be taken up,
caught in a net
of ivy-thronged sweetness.
It was unspeakable
and yet His God
bestowed upon Him
the gift of speaking true,
of bearing sacred incantation
via the gateway
of tongue and lips --
steeped far too long
in His inhuman grammar.
I see him in my dreams sometimes,
bare feet like cracked leather,
bones and shells woven in his dreads,
disheveled, wild eyed, joyous:
a thousand years it seemed
he was swallowed up
learning his mad God's songs.
Is anyone ever prepared
for such dissolution?
Salve et coagula.
these words belong to another God,
but I believe Dionysos owned them first.
his prophet, with skin like polished onyx,
eyes glowing with dark, crimson-hued flame,
spat them out upon his unsuspecting world.
He became a mask
through which Dionysus
He became the garb
of a mad God dancing.
It makes me wonder
what was left
of the first one taken up
by Odin's power,
the first who swallowed
of that ancient storm wind,
who bore that awful Hunger forth,
who fell into that ravening maw.
I wonder at the first of my lineage,
who lost themselves on the ancient Tree
and found themselves
on the paths of Power,
I have heard the whispered vestiges
of that one's screaming
as the Tree plucked flesh and spirit
in its feeding.
we make such sacrifices for our Gods
but oh the magnificence we create,
as we tightwalk across that abyss.
There is such beauty in our dying,
the whole universe sings.
I fully intended to sit down tonight and write a bit of poetry for Odin. I wanted very much to do this thing but poetic fire comes but seldom even to one who has tasted of the Old Man's heart, and swallowed breath from the roughness of HIs lips. I am a savage thing, and when the bite of His fire spends itself within me, there's often little of me left for poetic musings.
He breaks open the head. All Gods do, I suspect. They wind Their way into our hearts, They seep into the fissures in our minds, They expand. They fracture us. They break us down. I have been a thousand broken shards lying in a glittering pile at His feet. I have been an anguished scream echoing in a heart too weary to loose its pain. I have been on fire, joyous, a madwoman dancing, leaping through the charnel House of a dozen savage worlds. Or maybe just nine. One loses count after awhile. I have been His Valkyrie and I have seen the glee born on the razor edge of His spear. Of these things I will not speak. This world would break in the onslaught of that pounding pleasure.
He has wrung me out, this God Whom i adore. He has wrung me out until I am a broken trembling thing awash in fear and the passing breath of His ecstasy. He has wrung me out. I have lost count of the many masks of me He has devoured. I have lost count. What I remember are the rhythms of the Tree, the rushing flow of wyrd, the incantation of His presence, the melodies of power whispered to those who paid a price in blood to hear them. I remember the gifts He has poured into me---I am empty enough to hold so much---and the careful selection of the one into whose hands I have been placed. I have been blessed indeed, but there are times, in the midst of my blessings when the echoing remembrance of His passage through my world drives me to my knees again, that I might remember the broken places He tore away.
But first, before anything, He broke open my head. He spat fire into the gaping maw of me. He allowed my heart to be shredded until for Him, I was transparent pain. He swept me up in a joy so vast it shattered worlds. He bound me together in ecstasy and hunger. He knit me up with sinews, wrought of His will and vicious power. He taught me to dance in the crackling wyrdfires of the Gap. He taught me to sing as He sang when the runes pilfered what passed for His soul.
Do you know what it's like to be destroyed by a God? Do you know what it is like to be plunged into madness, shoved into death, cast deep into the terrible brine of the Gap and to be pulled back again? I know His secrets now, this God of death and madness. I know what He saw when high He swung in the boughs of the Tree, the Tree that knows neither mercy nor satisfaction. I know what His eye sees, having been plucked by His own bloody fingers and cast away in exchange for power. I know these things. I have seen those dark places that haunt His eons. I have seen the nightmares of a God, and i have tasted the heat of His dreams. These things have made me. They have washed my humanity away.
Because of Him, I hear the worlds screaming their secrets. There is a clamor in my brain. Even silence holds no quiet on days when the dying place exerts its claim. Because of Him, my soul gleams like a polished damascened blade and cuts as keenly too. Because of Him, I bear a map of scars marking all the many places of His passage in the terrain of me. Because of Him, I am a madwoman dancing, or shrieking, or sobbing, or laughing, spitting forth runes, spasming with His power, vomiting up oracles, and standing down His foes. Because of Him, my flesh marks the Tree. Because of Him, its fire runs in my veins. Because of Him.
I do not know how to end this thing the force of Him through my world has writ. It is monstrous, as He is monstrous. It is beautiful beyond longing. It is a key or a lock, or a tiny crevasse through which one may creep. I do not care. I would poison the world with Him if I could. I would breath Him out with every word and carry Him into every threshold. I would scream Him into being in the desiccated flesh of Midgard. I would scream Him into being through the window of me.
People ask me all the time: how do you know you are His. How do you know it's Odin. Howdoyouknowhowdoyouknowhowdoyouknow. and i laugh and laugh and whirl about madder than any dervish. fuckfuckfuckfuck. How can you not? Knowledge of Him comes not through the lips, or careful words carried in muted tones from bloodless lips and ancient tomes. It comes with the wrenching tightness of His hand on your heart. It comes with the punching blow of His fist through the cavity of your world. It comes and when He has come nothing is ever the same again.
So laugh and dance and wail and plead…He will not heed you but go ahead and plead….and swallow the joy He brings, and roll around in the pain and throw yourself into every abyss His bloody hands carve out for you and in you. You'll know. You and me, the Godfucked few. You'll know. and then your world will burn. Then you, if you tend your lessons well, will burn the world in your turn. Praise Him.
I belong to a savage God. i don't think anyone Who has had any in depth experiences with Odin would argue with me on that count. Even those who merely know HIs nature from reading the lore, often know enough to understand that He is ruthless and capable of great savagery in His causes. I don't think anyone would question that.
This morning, Sannion posted an article about Dionysos as savage God, the impossibility of fully knowing a God, and the inadvisability of trying to fit Them into narrow mental boxes:
When I read this, I was struck that anyone would question whether or not Dionysos could be savage or militarily adept. I'm not a Dionysian, but I am training as a Classicist and while, as Sannion notes, one ought not depend on single sources, for me reading "the Bakchai" in the original Greek was the alpha and the omega for things Dionysian. If i ever questioned whether or not Dionysos had the potential to terrify, to dominate, to bring the scent of tremendous (justified, i might add too) violence, this play -- a mystery play if ever there was one---put those questions to rest.
One passage stands out for me particularly, a section of the opening wherein Dionysos says that first He is going to come to Thebes (where a mad and impious king, Pentheus, rules and where those who honor Dionysos are persecuted) and show the people there that He is indeed a God, but then He adds:
ἢν δὲ Θηβαίων πόλις ὀργῇ σὺν ὅπλοις ἐξ ὄρους βάκχας ἄγειν ζητῇ, ξυνάψω μαινάσι στρατηλατῶν.
(but if the city of Thebes should, in anger, seek to drive my Bacchae out of the mountains by force of arms, I shall rise up against them, a general at the head of my army--literally "being a general with His army of maenads"). Eur. "Bakchai" lines 50-52.
Later in the play, we see Dionysos take a swift, cunning, and bloody (very bloody) vengeance on Pentheus. I look at this, as someone belonging to Odin, and three things stand out:
1. The God in this play refers to Himself as a general. Euripides was the product of His culture, a culture in which Dionysos was venerated. He didn't pull this attribute out of thin air. I don't know, maybe it's simply that belonging to Odin as I do, I know the scent and smell of savagery when it shows its face in Divine guise. I can smell a God drenched in blood and wine and recognize what that scent means. But I digress...
2. No God Who has the power to bring that much bloodshed, lacks comprehension of the arts of war. I'm going out on a limb here, but the level of violence, the associations in other sources with Maenads being given the strength to drive back soldiers in battle (it happens in "The Bakchai" too, where their ivy wrapped wands turn to spears), where they are blessed with frenzied passion and violence…these things are kin to that which is found in battle. Do moderns dismiss His battle-face because His army is one of women? that would be stupid, people, really, really stupid. READ "The Bakchai" again and pay attention to what some of those enchanted women can do. Also, I think we need to be very careful not to project our modern ethical sensibilities onto the Powers. Just as They cannot and will not be bound by our limited and narrow preconceptions, so too They may not choose to be bound by the narrowness of our ethics, particularly our knee jerk unexamined ethics. Gods like this are Gods that carry within Themselves the fullness of every possible hunger and passion, not just those with which we moderns are comfortable. It is not for us to dictate which ought to be given expression.
3. most importantly, I believe we can tell much about the nature of a God by the gifts that God bestows on His or Her devotees. Look at the Maenads and tell me Dionysos isn't a God of violence. Just look. Go. read a book, read a classical source and think about it.
I note this, because I occasionally do see the same type of thing coming up with Odin. A couple of years ago I was castigated by a fellow spirit worker for calling Odin the God of the ordeal (because you know, hanging oneself in a tree, plucking out an eye, getting strung up between who raging fires, gender-play, and all the other things Odin habitually does couldn't possibly be ordeal, it couldn't possibly have meaning). I was accused of calling Him a sadist and psychopath, I suspect because the idea of ordeal was deeply triggering to the person in question.
Then of course, there was the fact that He wasn't coming to this person in that guise. Newsflash folks: just because a Deity doesn't behave in a specific way with you, does not mean that He or She treats all supplicants and devotees the same way. They are *individuals* as are we. There are no cookie-cutter templates here. More to the point though, i think that in acknowledging Odin as a ruthless, vicious, savage God, a God of the ordeal, a God who would embrace sadism without a second thought if it brought Him closer to what He wanted, if it furthered His agenda was a terrifying thought for spiritworker X. It should be. It doesn't fill the heart with warm fuzzies. Why? Because if Odin is showing those parts of His nature to me, if He is demanding ordeal of me, when at one point our (mine and spiritworker X's) experiences of the Old Man were very similar, then what's to stop Him from suddenly turning around to her and showing that face as well? What's to stop Him from suddenly demanding that which she was afraid to give (the answer, by the way, is not a damned thing except Odin Himself)?
Our gods can't BE that. They can't be cruel. They can't be mean. They can't be harsh, or brutal or savage. They can't demand things of us. They can't violate consent. Those things frighten us, they terrify us and they should because oh indeed the Gods can be all of those things and more. It's easy to ignore …until you have living examples of spirit workers who embody this truism walking around right in front of your eyes, "flaunting" it in ways that can't be easily hidden or dismissed.
In "the Bakchai," Dionysos is a dread and savage God. He is not so, however, without provocation and justification. There are reasons for the extremity of His anger. He does not unleash Himself until Pentheus has been given multiple opportunities to adjust himself and his attitudes. It is only when the women who belong to Dionysos are threatened, and His mother's name impugned, that He goes on the warpath. For me, upon first reading, the whole play was a charge against impiety.
Likewise, i would say that Odin is not a cruel and savage God without reason. When He chooses to show those sides of Himself --and make no mistake, they do exist--there are reasons. Those reasons may be His alone to know but they are there. There is nothing arbitrary about it.
still, it's frightening. It drives home how little control we have over the experience of the Gods when we actually engage. Liberation and freedom seem to always be frightening--why so few people seek them out, i suspect. Falling into Gods like Odin, and like Dionysos too I would posit (though I am hesitant to speak for one owned by Him) carries with it the potential for finding those elements of the Gods' nature in ourselves, for becoming in however small or large a way, transformed by Them, by the contact, transformed into becoming a bit more like Them in outlook…i've seen it happen with spiritworkers. It happened with me. And then it's possible to see in our Gods aspects of Being that terrify us to our core, that make us question everything we've been taught to view as 'good,' to drive home that in the Presence of the Holy there is no safety here.
What it should also bring home is the need to question the paradigms with which we've been raised. Rather than wailing and thrashing and calling on the power of lore to compel you, instead of denying that these dangerous elements exist in our Gods, maybe we should instead ask why they exist and what that means for us as devotees. Maybe we should ask how we can better and more productively embody everything our Gods bring to the devotional table, not just those aspects that comfort us, or with which we are content. Maybe we should stop trying to define our Gods and what They can do, and how They can be and instead throw ourselves into honoring Them. Maybe we should gnaw on the fear and the terror They bring and let it eat us up. Maybe we should remember that these Beings are *Gods*.
I'll tell you something too: i'm glad Odin has those sides to His nature. It means there is nothing in me that I need fear to acknowledge in His presence. There is no part of me that is too intense, too harsh, too awkward, too violent, too passionate, too…anything that I need feel shame over it in His presence. It frees me to stand in a place of tremendous openness, tremendous vulnerability, tremendous liberation. I am grateful that my God has these dark and bloody complexities about His nature. In the microcosm of my heart, I do too. It is yet another thing we share and in the end, that doesn't terrify so much at all. It brings spice. Edit: Sannion has written a follow up post here: http://thehouseofvines.com/2013/03/11/the-inability-to-accept-savage-and-wrathful-gods/ that is pure brilliance.
For my own edification, I want to start recording how I prepare for the oracle work that Odin has asked me to do. I suspect that it might change and hopefully deepen over the years and I'd like to have a record. Plus, others who may be called to engage in this work might find it helpful.
I have to say, I didn't want to do this. In fact, I argued with Him about it at first. It's terrifying work. It's exhausting. It's grueling. It hurts, physically hurts afterwards and it can be disorienting as one draws close to the moment the God seats Himself. It can also lay me out for days.
It's very different from divination. When I divine for someone, I'm using a set of tools or talking to a family of spirits in order to see someone's wyrd, and all the threads and flowing rivers of potentiality and promise, I'm reading the knots and the pattern, the warp and weft found there and bringing that information back to the querent. then we can discuss the translation (which is really what I find divination to be: http://krasskova.weebly.com/1/post/2012/01/doing-divination-well.html) and possibly suss out deeper interpretations.
When I serve as an oracle the experience and process, the technology is quite different. I prepare myself, enter into a light trance state, call upon Odin, and allow Him to flood into me, pushing my senses and consciousness into the background. He pours His knowledge, the answers to the oracle questions, or whatever words He wishes to give through the gate of my mouth. Sometimes, there is no preparation. I have been taken up, dumped into the flow of wyrd, and had a Deity just burst through my mouth in the course of Work. There's no control, no interpretation, no *me* involved.
the force of having a Holy Presence pouring Him or Herself through the human vessel is exhausting and painful. It stretches the body and human consciousness out of true. It's a humbling experience, but I have to admit, afterwards i'm usually face down on the floor nauseous and incredibly weary. I'm told, by other oracles, that the process gets easier over time, but never *easy*. This remains to be seen.
So how do I prepare? I'm usually lucky enough to have an assistant, who is usually present during the oracle itself, and who takes dictation (we both record and she takes dictation during, just to be sure we miss nothing). I'll usually sit for forty minutes or so with my assistant beforehand, smoking and making offerings, and usually doing divination…nothing heavy or too serious, but lighter questions to start shifting my headspace away from the mundane. It sort of 'primes the pump' so to speak.
now this will have been on my mind all day. I tend to prefer to do my work in the evenings, so from the moment I wake, the pending oracle work weighs in my mind. That sense will determine much about what I do for that day. About nine pm in the evening, sometimes a little later, I start the aforementioned preparations.
I make offerings to Odin and to the ancestors. I make sure that all my shrines are tended and any outstanding obligations or debts that I have to any of the Deities or spirits I honor are taken care of. then I brew up a strong infusion of His nine herbs. I take a cleansing bath in which that infusion has been poured (along with any other ingredients I might feel necessary), making sure to submerge myself fully--even and most especially my head--in the water. I drink some of the infusion separately prepared (nasty as shit).
I put on clean clothes and a wrist cuff that Odin told me to wear for this. It has passages from the Havamal and His name in runes hammered into metal places that are riveted into the leather of the cuff. This is more for my benefit: He's giving me something that will develop into a psychological trigger for me, something that will make the transition into oracle headspace and out of it much easier over time. Coming back to mundane headspace is always difficult, at least for me. Having a physical trigger to help, in whatever capacity it can, facilitate that is a real boon.
At that point, i go into my work room, sit down with a glass of wine and begin to chant the spirit song that Odin gave me to call Him into me. At some point during the galdr, He usually takes me over. If He decides not to, I stop and proceed no further, thanking Him and making an offering. Once He's present, my assistant reads the questions one by one, with all identifying information of the querent having been previously redacted by me, and she records the answers He gives.
When He's done, He goes and my assistant removes the bracelet. I usually go down at that point, head to the floor. The transition back is mentally and physically nauseating. My assistant (and kudos to her, she's brilliant) helps me downstairs and usually makes sure that I have food and drink. the last thing I think i want to do after work like this is eat, but within a half hour i usually find myself scarfing down whatever's put in front of me like an animal and intellectually i know it's important to eat and replenish my reserves.
After I eat, she and I sit down and she reads off the responses and i type them into emails. When I'm all done, I give thanks to Odin, delete all the original emails with all the questions, tear up the hand written notes and burn them. Only at that point, and after another offering to Odin is my work for the day done.
As I do more of this work, I will continue to refine my preparation and aftercare.
This is a reminder to readers that I am currently accepting submissions for an upcoming devotional anthology for Odin. I haven't yet decided on a title, but I am looking for the following:
*Recipes (incense, offerings, oils, baths, etc.)
*black and white artwork
I will consider relevant stories/fiction but I'm extremely picky about such things.
Right now, it looks like this devotional will be released through Asphodel Press. All contributors will be given a copy of the finished devotional in payment.
Please contact me at tamyris at earthlink.net if you're interested in submitting something. Be sure to put "Odin devotional" in the header in case you accidentally get shuffled to my spam filter (I will rescue you, never fear :)). The more contributions I have, from the more varied perspectives, the more windows for Him we can provide through the lens of this book. If you have a devotional relationship with Him at all, please consider submitting something.
Feel free to pass this along.