Friday, February 27, 2015


So this month, the topic was Downtimes/slumps/Fallow periods.  I think these are things that we all face, in pretty much all areas of our lives.  Things move in waves, sometimes you are at the peak and sometimes you are at the bottom, but they are always changing and moving towards the other end.  I chose to title this post Downtime, because I think that slumps and fallow periods have a really strong negative connotation, and while it definitely can feel bad when you are in them, I think they are a vital part of the growing process and prefer to look at them as rest times, or downtime!

I'm sort of an obsessive type person.  Doing things in moderation is something I have to work at.  When I get drawn to something, I dive right in, and want to surround myself with it.  If it is a new show, I want to watch it all day.  If it is a new practice, I want to do it for hours.  If it is a new subject to study, I will look up everything I can find on it, devour anything I can read, and take copious notes.

Sadly this often leads to burnout.  I will get a bit brain fried, and have to step back.  No matter how much I may still be drawn to a thing, just the thought of doing it may make me feel like not doing anything at all.

It used to really frustrate me, these high and low periods.  I like things all tidy and finished and complete, and when I would rush in, and then turn away, it always felt like I was only doing things partway and giving up.  What I have found is that most of the time, this period of not engaging in the activity actually leads to a better understanding of it.

I think that when I am utterly steeped in something it's like being too close to something:  it's hard to get an objective perspective of it.  I am so consumed by the thing itself I can't see how it applies or interacts with other aspects of my life.  By take a step back, by letting it fall to the wayside as I do something else, it's like putting a pot on the back burner.  The heat may be on low, but it will still continue to stew, and the flavors will only intensify.  If you try to cook everything on high, you end up with lots of burnt outsides and raw insides.

This stepping away process works very well for me in regards to creative problem solving.  If I have an issue that is really giving me trouble, I will delve deep into it for a period of time until I have exhausted all my thoughts and resources on it, then I will deliberately turn away.  I will sleep on it, and not seek it out for a few days.  At the end of that time, I can come back to it and look over my notes or rethink it through and most times I have a good solution that comes to me quite quickly.

I also find it very helpful when learning new information.  A perfect example is songs or chants.  I can put a chant on loop, listen to it for a day straight, have the lyrics in front of me and chant along, and at the end of the day, I still might flub the words when I try to chant it on my own.  If I then put something else on to listen to, don't look at the lyrics for a few days and then come back to it, I can normally remember all the words just fine.

I think that we all have a certain amount of resources, energy that we draw on as we go about our day.  And not just one type of energy, but different energies for different things.  I can spend all day doing errands and running around, and still feel fairly energized when I get home and want to exercise, because, for me, they are different types of activities and they draw from different pools of resources.  And sometimes things are just so powerful they drain all your pools.  I find this very true when I am giving of myself or when I am very stressed.  If I am spending all day in a hospital or doing caregiver work, I will just feel absolutely drained and need to do something luscious for myself, something decadent that makes me feel refilled.

That is something that is key for me:  learning to listen to what my body, mind and spirit need and to honor the ebb and flow of the energies within me.  Instead of focusing on how empty I feel at times, I try to look at what would fill me up.  I have recognized this empty feeling since I was a child.  I deep hollow all encompassing feeling that would come over me.  For a very long time, I sort of sunk into it, and just wallowed in it.  Which only fed into the emptiness.

I definitely find that I can fall into a pattern, either of stillness or movement.  And either one, taken too long and too extreme becomes hard to break from.  If I am too busy, eventually I will sort of break down, and just have no desire to do anything at all.  Conversely, if I have spent a lot of days just sitting around, watching tv or wasting time, then I start to feel like I absolutely have to do something, anything, just to break free of the pattern.  And each state has it's own momentum, so the longer I have been still or busy, the harder it is to slow down or speed up.

Ultimately, I think that there is are two types of turning points:  there is a balance point in the middle, and then the apex point at the top.  Staying near the balance point and alternating states may keep you from the deep stillness, but it also keeps you from the great heights.  Pushing to the edge means you have more to climb and more to fall.  I still haven't figured out which one works best for me, but I do know that staying balanced is harder for me to maintain.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


This might be late for C, but I really wanted to write about this and kept here it is anyways!

A word I see tossed around a lot in regards to Heathenism is Clannish.  There is a very common perception that Heathens are very insular, and that they have very distinct ideas about who is in and who is out. To a great extent I think this is true, and it is one of the reasons that I don't identify as Heathen, nor have I sought out a Heathen group to join.

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with being a Clan.  I think of Clan like an extended family group.  In fact, the local Pagans that I work with and socialize with often refer to our group as a Clan.  Much like a blood family, a clan has pretty clear lines over who is part of the Clan and who is not.  And, kind of like a blood family, you can become part of the group even if you weren't originally.

I don't think that this concept of group identity is a bad thing.  Our local Clan is very friendly, and we have no problem socializing with other people and interacting with them.  But there is a very real feeling of family for those of us who have been together for a while.  We support each other, and if I am having a hard time or need help, I know that I can turn to them and they will have my back.

On the flip side, there are a lot of negative stereotypes about Clans.  Living in the south, the first things that come to my mind are the KKK and some of the backwoods redneck clans.  Both of which have very negative connections.  And I think they take the idea of a clan to its most extreme and unhealthy level.  If you are so exclusive that you only associate with members of your own clan, you close so many doors on yourself.  And it does often lead to an 'us or them' mentality which can lead you to be very violent to anyone outside your own clan.

I have seen groups that act like this that bear the Heathen label.  They take the idea of a clan and push it to it's cultish side.  They isolate their members and some flat out cross the line into racial purity and other things that I have no intention of ever being a part of.  In fact, by many of these extreme Heathen groups, I am absolutely disqualified from being a member of their faith by my blood and upbringing (being half-Chinese and not raised in a Heathen household).

But like with many things, I don't think we should judge the entire group by these few bad eggs.  There is nothing wrong with being clannish, with wanting to create a family and to build a community of people who share your faith and ideals.  For many of us, we are isolated by our very faith from our birth families, from the communities we live in, and from most of the people we deal with in our every day life.  The idea of having a clan to turn to is very appealing.

I think that the thing to remember is that a clan is like a family.  Many families can live in the same neighborhood, and each family might have different rules in their own home.  But just because they have different ways of doing things, doesn't mean they can't all co-exist together and maybe even gather for a neighborhood picnic from time to time.  It just calls for a bit of courtesy.  I don't go into my neighbors house and demand they do things the way I do at home.  I also don't get offended because my neighbors want to eat dinner at home with their own family.

I feel there is a whole image of Heathens that needs to be broken.  Being Heathen doesn't mean you are a white supremacist.  It doesn't mean that you feel like every Heathen is better or more honorable than every non-Heathen.  It doesn't mean you think that your gods are better than everyone else's gods.  And it doesn't mean that you don't want to hang out with or associate with non-Heathens.  I think these are images that need to be broken and the way to do this isn't to keep pointing the light on those groups that make these undesirable examples, but rather to create new examples of healthy Clans and Heathen groups and to let those groups speak for themselves.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Coming out and Community

As I mentioned before, I don't consider myself Asatru, Heathen or any of the other Norse oriented branches of Paganism.  It's not that I have anything against any of them, in fact there are quite a few that I think would be lovely places to make a home.  However I know that my particular flavor of practice involves quite a lot of things that are outside the Norse sphere and these are things I hold near and dear to my heart and am not willing to give up.

This leaves me in a kind of a vacuum community wise.  A part of me really wants to socialize with other Norse oriented peoples.  I want to be a part of that community that shares practices, deities and social customs.  But I also know that it is those very differences that I embrace that would make me feel like an outsider, even if the community I was hanging out with didn't have any intention of excluding me.

But let's be honest for a second.  Or at least, let me be honest about my personal experiences.  I have lurked on several Heathen message boards, or checked out Heathen groups, and turned away because I get the sense that they are very clannish.  That is to say that they have a particular way they do things, specific definitions of what they feel is Heathen (or part of their way if they are one of the other Norse oriented groups).  And while they may be perfectly friendly with people who are outside their group, they are not going to invite you in unless you meet their requirements.

So many Heathen groups have such particular requirements that they have developed quite a reputation, both within the larger Pagan community and even outside it.  To those not in the Pagan community, many Heathens are indistinguishable from certain white pride groups, skinheads and flat out racists.  And I have seen some Heathen groups that definitely deserve to be in those categories.  Even within the Pagan community, there is often a judgement about Heathens and what they believe and how they treat non-Heathens.

Very often, this leaves me reluctant to identify Norse at all.  Not only do I not want to deal with Heathens or other Norse practitioners telling me how I'm doing it wrong, but I also don't want to have to break through any preconceived notions that people might have about what a Norse oriented practitioner is or does.  

Sometimes I feel like the Norse oriented are kind of the red-headed step-children of the Pagan world.  I have seen people put them just a step above Satanists (for those that put Satanists at the bottom of the Pagan umbrella or those who would rather Paganism not be associated with any form of Satanism at all).  And while I think that there are groups that take the Norse religious ideas and use them to support a political or racial agenda, I definitely don't think that all Norse oriented people or groups deserve to be judged by those extremists.  It's like judging all Christians by the measure of those loudmouths who end up in the news.

I have seen a lot of attitudes change in the Pagan community over the years.  I have seen a shift within the Norse oriented sub-group, where many people are starting to voice their objections to the more radical groups and try to show people that we aren't all that way, that we don't all hold those attitudes and opinions.  I truly hope that this continues, that people look beyond the stereotypes to the actual words, deeds and beliefs of the people they interact with, and that Heathen grows out of it's negative associations.