Sometimes Ravens Fly

I have left Hrafnar. It feels a lot like moving the last of my stuff out of my parent’s house. I haven’t lived there in a long time, but I never stopped thinking of it as home. Until I did.

I was first introduced to Hrafnar when a dear friend invited me to his handfasting at a Heathen campout. I discovered that many people I already knew and liked were regular attendees. So when I found myself working in the Oakland hills, I started attending Hrafnar, thinking of myself purely as a curious, hopefully welcome guest.

When I started hearing the gods, I was unprepared, and ran away for a while.

I joined Hrafnar again in earnest the January of 2003, at the encouragement of several friends, including the couple I have come to consider my Pagan Godparents. Alas, they had to move away shortly after I returned. But that was okay, because Diana Paxson and Lorrie Wood immediately took me under their wings. I joined the Rune Class Diana was teaching, and Diana had Lorrie take me on as a personal student to come up to speed in Heathen lore and trance ritual techniques.

Over the course of the next couple years I spent much of my spare time with Lorrie, often with Diana, learning everything I could about Hrafnar’s ways, joining Seidhjallr, helping Lorrie with email admin duties where I could, and even joining the American Magic Umbanda House, of which they were also both members at the time. Diana also mentored me through the Clergy training program with the Fellowship of the Spiral Path, although I did not ultimately choose to be ordained by them.

It was with Lorrie and Diana’s support that I and fellow members of Hrafnar and the Hammer Oak kindred founded the Vanic Conspiracy in 2004. As the Vanic Conspiracy became my focus, I continued on with Hrafnar, my role shifting from Lorrie’s student and Diana’s mentee to Hrafnar’s default Vanic Priestess. I took my ordination vows to the Vanir in Diana’s home, Greyhaven. As my attention became more divided, Hrafnar, which I knew was well in hand, tended to get dropped in favor of commitments that needed me more.

Even though I have always lived in the South Bay, I still spent most of my spare time in Berkeley after I stopped training with Lorrie full time, because I was dating Hobbit, who lived in North Oakland – a man I met again through the Hrafnar community. It was with the support of that Berkeley-centered community that I was able to finish my degrees first in Network Programming, and then in Religious Studies.

After I graduated, though, my focus became increasingly centered within my own Santa Clara Valley. My clergy time was spent on building RedWood Vanatru with the Vanic Conspiracy, and on helping my new boyfriend, Lon Sarver, build Thiasos Bakkheios. I was no longer training with Lorrie or Diana. I was no longer dating Hobbit in Oakland. I had hived off of Seidhjallr with other members who lived in the South Bay. I was no longer involved in the American Magic Umbanda House. My connections to Hrafnar were increasingly vestigial.

But I do not let go easily. Since committing to my involvement with the Vanir and Ostara, I had diligently attended Hrafnar’s Ostara ritual and Vanir Party each year. Whenever possible I also attended Yule, and the Odin party as well. The only time I did miss Ostara, I was dismayed.

Last year, Lorrie let me know that her husband had gotten a job in another state. She was moving away from the area, and was preparing to transfer all her email services. As I had remained a backup admin for Hrafnar the whole time, I agreed to take on more of those duties for her so that her and Hrafnar’s transition could go more smoothly. It was painful to watch Lorrie go, but I have been able to visit her in her new hometown, and maintain my connection to my dear friend and former teacher.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, though, that it was this year I found myself unable to attend Hrafnar’s spring Vanir Party for the first time. Another clergy commitment had been scheduled first, and I couldn’t keep the same dates open that Diana ended up needing. This was after I had already accidentally scheduled myself to be out of town for Ostara the previous month. For the first time since I joined and trained with Hrafnar, I haven’t been able to attend Hrafnar in over a year. I missed it, and yet, I found it was a relief to put those remaining commitments down, even temporarily. That should have told me more than it did then.

Over the summer, Hrafnar has been dealing with a lot of policy concerns and challenges. I won’t get into the details here because contrary to how it may seem to those involved, it’s only peripherally relevant to my departure. I have watched from afar as they struggle to deal with what is before them. I have given them what support, information, and wisdom I had it within my power to give. And in the process, I realized that somewhere along the line Hrafnar stopped being “Us” to me, and started being “Them”.

No living organization is static. Hrafnar is very much alive. Diana is a stable presence at the helm, but the membership is always shifting. Much of the current core are people I am barely acquainted with. Diana and Lorrie, and many others I was once close to will always be family to me, but clearly Hrafnar is no longer home.

I know that Hrafnar has a lot of important changes coming over the next few years. I do not have the ability to help them make those changes from within. I heard once in a song:

“The old road is rapidly aging.
Please get out of the new one
if you can’t lend a hand…”

I’ll always be a raven, but sometimes, ravens have to fly.

–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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