Mythology is a Finger Pointing at the Moon

Yes. Exactly!

The words are our road signs, they are not the road itself, much less the destination. The map is not the territory, no matter the map’s age, and all maps are affected by the assumptions of the cartographer who drew it!


Drinking From the Cup of Life

The stories of the gods are not the gods. The descriptions of the gods given in those stories are not the nature of the gods. They are fingers pointing at the moon.

moon-map This is not the Moon.

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There Is No Away

I’m ranting lately. It’s been a hard week in a hard month in a hard year, and I just want it all to go away.

All the things I just can’t deal with, all the people who hurt me or those I love, all the problems that can’t be solved easily, all the systems that don’t work. I want them to go away.

The world is a big place. Too big. I can’t keep it all in my head. I can’t always cope with the chaos.

The Universe is even bigger, and only as orderly as it needs to be to hold together.

That’s not enough. I want it to be fair.

It’s times like this I understand why people want to believe in Ragnarok, in Armageddon, in any and every Apocalypse, now please. Because it seems like if we can wipe the slate clean of all this…



…then maybe we can get somewhere with the better worlds we can imagine?

But that means throwing all THIS away, first. And I can’t swallow the delusion that only the things I like will survive.

I can’t even swallow the delusion that I would survive.

If I want to live, this is the only world available for me to live in. I have to be willing to live in it, flaws and all.

Horrors and all.

The Worlds are not disposable. What does it even mean to be disposable? What does it mean to make things and people go away? Where is away?

Even if I decide I can’t deal with it, and run away, I’m still somewhere, still have problems and needs and responsibilities.

Every problem I can’t deal with is still a problem until it’s actually solved.

Every item I’m done with is still somewhere in the world, contributing to a compost pile or a trash heap.

Every person I can’t stand will still exist, still have needs and rights and still affect the world whether I continue to acknowledge them or not.

Every system I want to opt out of is still there for everyone else stuck in it, and if I did manage to somehow remove it, all the things it was there to take care of still need taking care of.

All the people nobody likes, all the criminals and the crazies and the broken people nobody wants to take care of anymore, they still have to eat, they still need shelter, they still have a right to exist.

If I make them not my problem, then whose problem are they?


There is no away.

Away is an illusion, a lie we tell ourselves, to make the world small enough that we can live in it without fear.

The Worlds are but jewels on the Tree, and the Tree is engulfed by the Void.

And even the Void is not Away.



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Ember on Gifts of the Wyrd!

Several weeks ago Jan and Laine interviewed me for their podcast Gifts of the Wyrd. We talked about Vanatru, and what makes RedWood Vanatru what it is.

My interview is up now! Go listen!

[Edit] For anyone having trouble with the podcast page, here’s a handy widget instead:


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On Closed Traditions

(Edited to Add Note: This is not an essay about the history of Christianity and Judaism. They are merely familiar examples of traditions which people recognise as generally open and closed, respectively. There is no way I could possibly summarize the history of either, much less their interactions, in an essay of this length.)

I’ve been thinking about this for a while. What does it mean for a spiritual tradition to be closed vs. open? The usual example seems straightforward:

Christianity in general is clearly open because not only is anyone welcome to become Christian, people are actively encouraged to do so.

Judaism is closed because if you’re not born and raised Jewish, you’re strongly discouraged from converting, unless you marry or are adopted into a Jewish family–and even then there are requirements for the process.

But I look a little closer and it gets more complicated. I have at least one Jewish friend who feels that Christianity is appropriation from Judaism. Aside from it being far too late to undo that, appropriation is about taking things out of their cultural context. Christianity was founded by Hellenic Jews who chose to open the tradition to gentiles from the inside early on. Christianity remains an open tradition today. You can not appropriate what is being given away.

It’s more complicated yet, though. Continue reading

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Declaration 127: Boycott the AFA

Huginn’s Heathen Hof has organized a declaration, signed by many different Heathen and some Pagan or other Polytheist groups, declaring our intent to boycott the Asatru Folk Assembly. They are calling it Declaration 127. Here is the meat of it:

In a recent statement the AFA declared point blank that non-white and LGBT Heathens were not welcome in their tradition. While the undersigned organizations listed here fully recognize the AFA’s right to govern themselves as they see fit, and with full autonomy, we hereby exercise the same right.

We will not promote, associate, or do business with the AFA as an organization so long as they maintain these discriminatory policies.

The AFA’s views do not represent our communities. We hereby declare that we do not condone hatred or discrimination carried out in the name of our religion, and will no longer associate with those who do. We will not grant the tacit approval of silence in the name of frið, to those who would use our traditions to justify prejudice on the basis of race, nationality, orientation, or gender identity.

The Vanic Conspiracy has signed this agreement, and we take it as an oath to not associate with the AFA as an organization. We encourage other Heathens, Pagans, and Polytheists who are tired of seeing the Norse Gods represented as gods of racism and bigotry to sign on as well.

–Ember Cooke–
Gythia, Vanic Conspiracy
RedWood Vanatru Tradition

Posted in Ancestors, Community, Folkism and Racism, Interfaith, Ministry, Personal, Politics, Praxis, RedWood Vanatru, ST4R, Vanatru | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Isolation Won’t Help

I keep running across a particular narrative online, and occasionally in person:

“There are bad things in the world. Isolate yourself to avoid harm!”

“Other people don’t agree with you. Isolate yourself to avoid being tainted by them!”

“Anything unapproved of is a waste of time. Isolate yourself to focus on what matters!”

“You’re too sensitive. Isolate yourself and get out of our way!”

“You lack social skills. Isolate yourself to avoid hurting people!”

“Something is wrong. Isolate yourself!”


Isolation is toxic. It is literally maddening. We are social animals. Granted, not everyone is equally social, but even introverts aren’t better off being totally isolated. Avoiding perspectives other than our own undermines our empathy, which is a necessary component of compassion. Isolation certainly doesn’t help people become less sensitive or more socially skilled, but I would hope that’s obvious. Basically, isolation can transform even the kindest, sanest, most cheerful person into a suicidal depressed, possibly even delusional, misanthropic asshole.

Just about everything humanity has accomplished for good (and, yes, also for ill) since well before recorded history has been a product of collaboration and social interaction.  Even the mistakes are part of our growth, individually and socially. Good judgement comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgement, eh? One of the great benefits of being human is having the ability to learn from history, the ability to acquire good judgement from other people’s experience.

There’s a reason abusers isolate their victims. It’s much, much easier to gaslight them, because lack of a reality check makes it much, much harder to question the abuser’s lies. Without other human beings to interact with, we quickly lose touch with what is real and what is our fears or egotistical delusions of grandeur shouting in our heads.

Continue reading

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Gang Aft A-Gley

So…. if I keep working with Dionysos, He’ll help me turn my overcompensation into being fabulous? Yes please? -E-

Drinking From the Cup of Life

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley–and also those of polytheists. For our August devotional, I’d planned for Thiasos Bakkheios to have a high-woo trance journey, so that each member could meet the god in person, and discover which aspect of Dionysos they most resonated with.

Well, no. Scheduling problems, on-the-job injuries, and just plain bad scheduling conspired to make it seriously uncertain who (if anyone) was going to be able to make it, and guaranteed that at least a few folks would not be in the right space for trance work. So, thought I, let’s just have a dinner party in his honor.

Dedicating the time and effort and resources to cooking up a fantastic spread for the god is one of my favorite forms of devotional work. Moving (dancing) about the kitchen, hands-on raw meat, fire on the stove… It gets me high, when mixed…

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