Reblog: Reconstruction, Revival, and Styrofoam Cake Syndrome

Rev. Tamara L. Siuda has an excellent point in her post on Polytheist.com: Reconstruction, Revival, and Styrofoam Cake Syndrome

The Shinto poet Matsuo Basho, who also lived during a period of thoughtful, intense polytheist reconstructionism, wrote: “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old. Seek what they sought.” When I came to my work with Kemetic Orthodoxy, despite that Basho never worshiped the same gods that I do, I took his advice to heart, and it has remained with me since. It is just as important to know the how of one’s polytheism, as it is to know the why. Rituals are important to us as polytheists, often to the exclusion of creed or belief, whether we are the polytheists of today or five thousand years ago. Going through the motions of a ritual with neither a purpose nor an understanding of the meanings of those motions is pointless.

I know people who are obsessed with fiddly historical details. I know people who are obsessed with trying to match the values of their ancestors regardless of what we’ve learned since then about our fellow human beings. I know people who are more set on what a Medieval Christian monk recorded about their gods than they are about what they and the people around them actually experience of those gods.

It doesn’t WORK. Yes, studying our gods is important, and I’m as fascinated by the history as the next academic geek, but when it comes to having a relationship, which is more important, interacting with the other person, or knowing facts about them?

One of the things we teach our students in the extended Hrafnar community, via the Trance Class, and other contexts, is to construct a ritual of hospitality aimed at an individual by practicing designing a ritual based on the idea of invoking yourself. (This actually has other uses that I won’t get into here.)

So if I were going to invoke myself, I would have a can of Coca Cola, and a plate of my favorite pasta, and symbols for rabbits, stags, lions, fire, etc. All those things I connect with my sense of self, sure. But simply having that list doesn’t mean someone knows me. If someone invited me to meet with them and had asked others who knew me what to have ready to be sure I felt welcome, and thus gathered these things, I would be honored they’d thought of it, perhaps, but I wouldn’t mistake it for our already having a relationship.

Such gestures are the invitation to begin a relationship. The relationship itself takes interaction, listening to each other, and offering of ourselves. Making sure the environment in which we do so is respectful and comfortable for each other is a necessary precursor to avoid alienating each other before we even begin, but it’s not the work of building the relationship itself, it’s just the work of making sure building a relationship is possible.

–Ember–

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About EmberVoices

Ember Cooke has been a member of Hrafnar and Seidhjallr for more than a decade, where she trained to be a Seidhkona, Galdrakona, and Gythia. She founded the Vanic Conspiracy and made ordination vows to the Vanir and her congregation in the summer of 2013. She has contributed to several publications on Heathen and Northern Pagan subjects and regularly presents rituals and workshops at festivals. Her personal practice is more diverse, as the Vanir have lead her into cross-training and service for the wider Pagan community. This has including medium and servitor training in American Umbanda, clergy training with the Fellowship of the Spiral Path, and jail ministry for local counties. She holds a BA with honors in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University. Ember has lived all her life in the south San Francisco Bay Area, and is intimately bound to the valley of her birth.
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12 Responses to Reblog: Reconstruction, Revival, and Styrofoam Cake Syndrome

  1. Reblogged this on Danusjourney's Blog and commented:
    A very well written post that reminds us that everything takes work to build a relationship and conscious thought and effort are needed both to develop that deeper connection with your deity.

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  2. LOL! Excellent points. I love the Shinto quote! A balanced practice should not be based solely on ancient texts.

    I am but new to building altars for certain deities or ceremonies and cooking for them (well, for Loki -.-‘) and all. But I speak and dream with Him a lot and we have “our” personal story.This is the base of our relationship, much more than on the stories of the Sagas.

    Often people tells me : “Ugh! Loki is going to betray you! Haven’t you read about the Ragnarok? Lokasenna? He’s doing slut shaming, that’s not even funny!” I answer that Loki often shows his soft, gentle side… TO ME. That’s our relationship. I’ve just started to connect to Freja and, in comparison, she is much more violent and heavy… WITH ME. It somewhat clashes with her persona in the saga, or even what I read about her online.

    When you think about it, the stories gathered in the Eddas are influenced by mouth to ears, personal alignments and values and the sociocultural and political elements of that period. But they are all true to some extend, the gods will act differently with different people, don’t we all?

    I’ve bee thinking about what I’d take to invoke me… probably French Canadian Poutine. Yes, that precise, but I’d be there everytime 😀 Thank you for the wonderful post.

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    • EmberVoices says:

      You know, I hadn’t specifically considered that Loki was slut-shaming there? That’s a surprisingly liberal argument against Him. Most of the arguments I’ve heard have been conservative, dualistic, or absolutist.

      I always took it that the particular insults were geared towards what the audience (meaning the Aesir within the story, and the humans telling it on a meta level) would find significant, not necessarily what Loki Himself (Hirself? Eirself?) would actually be bothered by…

      -E-

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      • LOL! In fact it was my very first thought after reading Lokasenna, it was very “westerner/neo-feminist” of me lol! That’s true that it is not the first comment I get when I mention Him though. It’d be more like : Loki is bad cause bad is bad is bad. ehm… ok? (I reject the christian notion of good and bad, it’d make more sense to say this is blue and this is yellow.)

        I’ve always find funny how He is pointing the fact that the goddesses are not virtuous because they spread their legs too often, but point out lack of virtue to male deities by questioning their honor. I can’t remember if it’s in Lokasenna or else where, someone tell him that he should be ashamed because he bore children as a woman on Midgard (and Splendir, but hey that’s a complicated story). So in this instance, Loki is also suffering from slut-shaming and we all know how is honor is constantly questioned. He gets insulted both on his feminine and masculine side. The duality is still very much alive today, needless to say it also was during the Edda’s redaction time… So to make a link to the original topic, I believe that the kind of insults Loki spurt during the banquet might be a “man-made”. (Don’t throw stonessss, I work for the bringer of change!!).

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        • (Also pardon my spelling and styling mistake as English is not my first language!!)

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        • EmberVoices says:

          Well the whole story is human composed, of course, but if we take the insults in context, we could perhaps argue that Loki had learned what the Aesir had considered shameful, and was playing the game on Their terms. -E-

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          • Right. Loki likes a good verbal fight, and he won it hands up! (my humble super-subjective opinion :D)

            I find it odd though that he’d insult Freja, patron of sexuality, on her sexuality. He mentioned incest with Her brother. Is this considered shameful by Her or by the Aesir (Vanir?) community, or by the people of Midgard?

            I really enjoyed your post and your thoughts 😀

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          • EmberVoices says:

            Sister-Brother marriage is recognised by the Vanir but forbidden by the Aesir, according to Snorri, which is why Njordh and His Sister-Wife were separated, and Freyja is mocked for Her relationship with Freyr. And it’s why Njordh is who defends Her. -E-

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          • EmberVoices says:

            Oh dear… I should probably clarify. Sister-Brother marriage is recognized *for the royal gods* among the Vanir. That does not mean that the Vanir consider it a good idea for *Humans* to engage in it. **It is not encouraged by Vanatru that humans should engage in incest.** But the royal line of the Vanir appears to consistently be a pair of twins, brother-sister, who give birth to another pair of brother-sister twins. So that’s A Thing. -E-

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  3. Reblogged this on journeyintoinsanity and commented:
    I really enjoyed this. She makes some excellent points. 🙂

    Like

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