F is for Frith and Faining

I tried for five days to write a post about (F is for) Frustration. I called that one all right. I had intended to talk about the I Ching and hexagrams 29 and 39 with Changing Lines. It was to be graceful, it was to be blithe, it was to be erudite. It was not to be.[1] Maybe later? Now, I sit at my PC pissed that didn’t get to my PBP post before the weekend ended.[2] But here goes. If trying to write about frustration lead to frustration, perhaps writing about Frith and Faining will bring something better.

Not quite two whole moons ago, I held a Plow Faining[3] (aka Blessing of the Plow or Charming of the Plow) with the new but growing local Pagan community committed to sincere ritual and the spiritual advancement it brings.

It’s odd being a Heathen among other Pagans. But, somehow, I always thought it was just me. I mean, I had been formally trained in an initiatory mystery school. I was certainly a Witch. I had studied (really studied) and practiced sorcery and magick for years. And I  learned to embrace Heathenry (and spent years studying Old English language and Anglo Saxon culture[4]) alongside some very cool details concerning my father’s family heritage. So, I have been picking away at Heathenry (and Ásatrú, I guess–but more precisely, Germanic sorcery) for a good while. But solitary Heathenry doesn’t exactly work, now does it? I wanted, more than any other motivation, to simply incorporate the ethics of Heathenry and the communal goals of frith and cynn (peace and kinship) into my public faith.

In our Plow Faining, I did what I could to make everything seem familiar to the predominantly Wicca-centric group (even as uninitiated solitaries – the tradition is the tradition) but found myself squirrelling around the Elhaz-stodhur for fear of being misconstrued as overweening. (The Bad Witch is a little gun-shy from having been called some pretty horrible things in my last community: with “powermonger” among them. (This was in reference to the time the TBW was asked to “cast a circle in your tradition,” doing the familiar LBRP, I called on archangels for protection. Ooooh, scarey.)  And, so, obvs, I avoided the beot altogether.[5]) In my opinion, I flubbed the whole thing.[6]

I was asked by a Druidic friend later, “Do you think being a Godhi would have made a difference? In Wicca, the Lady seems to take center stage; in our trads, like Ceremonial Magic, being a boy helps.”

Do what now?

I argued that, historically, working seiðr was “women’s work” and that (after the monks got their hands on the Eddas and the Sagas) magical working was interpreted as effeminizing for a Post-Christo Heathen man. But then again, the sun, Sunna, was imagined as maternal in Norse tradition (as opposed to the moon in many Witchcraft traditions). I replied in my particular idiom: “It’s an entirely different kind of flying, altogether.”[7] I admit that Druidry is uncharted territory for me, so I cannot speak to his interpretation of gender imbalance there. But I do know that in the original *culture* as evidenced by non-written cultural artifacts and as evidenced by ancient linguistics (if not the translated post-Christian literature), women were highly revered as völu (plural of völva) and spækona. The wand was not a phallic symbol, but a woman’s instrument to manipulate energy – an aetheric rheostat. Our post-Christian understanding of what men and women were and weren’t allowed to do has been tainted by translation and the inevitable mutation of Romanized cultures. Duh.

I don’t think I flubbed the blót because I am a woman – that’s redonkulous up one end and down t’other. I think my feeling of having flubbed came from my impulse to “assimilate” Heathenry into a “common tongue.” To meet it half-way. It was neither this – nor that.

Then, this weekend. Ahhhh.

Let me back up a minute; on Ostara, I’d taken part in our community’s first private ritual together – followed by the eatings and the drinkings and the laughings and the funtimes. It was all “hooray” and “do it again!”

Then, this past weekend there were the public rituals from various covens – Druidic, Heathen, Eclectic, and so on. (It’s amazing to finally find oneself part of a broader whole. Yes, we have our small group. But it is fantastically healthy to have contact with, to learn from, to venerate deity with, and to combine energies with the broader Pagan Community here in the Deep South. Avoiding that insular sense of inbredness that I talked about in “Evolution” is particularly important in the stereotypical blinkeredness of Alabama, no?) Oh, and the workshops. One on magical timing (during which I got to watch the joyful interaction of three adorable students as they waxed on about their “homework” and “group projects” – it did my soul good), one on wheel-of-the-year correspondences (during which I got to see the “lights go on” for The Bad Husband – it did my soul good), one on politics and Paganism, and others on and on.[8] And the beginnings of sun and windburn from having my whiteness outdoors all day. Plus there were cookies.

As I sat in the circle discussing basic magical timing: moon phases, days of the week, planetary hours, and tidal flows, I heard the Moot

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Dir. Adam McCay. Perf. Will Ferrell. DreamWorks. 2004. Film.

horn. Like being called from one realm to another, I left the circle of intellectual discussion to wend my way to the harrow, the horn, and the hammer. The ritual was a simple Thunor Faining: with its “Thunor weoh!” and its “Hail Thunor,” and its “Thanks to you, oh, Mighty Hammer, Protector of the World!” and it’s inevitable “Drink up!” and “Wassail!” Simple as it was, it spoke to me. Truly and deeply. I was at home with brethren (and sistren?) and had a deep filial understanding of what we were sharing – as if my DNA remembered something.

Think on’t: I have been solitary for over a decade (after a decade of dedicated communal work) and I have studies Heathenism for about twice that long. Yet, this was – ironically – my first Heathen community experience. Well, you know, aside from belonging to a family with tight-knit loyalties of kinship and our own rituals of . . . hey, I’m starting to remember our last family reunion; it was rather like a sumbel – but with loads of food but no (yeah, right) booze.[9]

Thrilled to see real Pagan groups doing real work in the Deep South, I have been on such an extended high that I may have offered to hold yet another ritual in my space.[10]

Pretty sure it will be Heathen.

And not half-way.

Gimme the day to grade some stuff and I’ll get back to you.

[1] In between then and now there were “family adventures” involving four leaks (a toilet, two refrigerators, and the ever-evolving outdoor irrigation system) ; a child who decided to paint her bedroom all by her grown-up self; a sick Lhasa Apso; an episode involving a tent, cupcakes, and smores; twenty topsy-turveys; and chickens.

[2] Last night I’d had two days of vitamin D and fresh air and had added a big glass of wine and the best-dang supper to my belly. My house was clean, my yard was – um – in progress, my lips were chapped, and I’d had a bath. I . . . just . . . fell . . .asleeeeeeeeeee

[3] Or a sort-of Plow Faining – a Plow Faining is similar in intent to any tradition’s land rites: bless the land, thank the gods and spirits of the land, give a gift and begin the cycle of gebo, that sort of thing.

[4] Studying turned to teaching and teaching turned to more earnest researching and researching always leads to The Dark Side.

[5] I was also called “oathbreaker” (when TBW refused to make an oath to a *human being* seeking a blood sacrifice – my blood, BTW). Still not sure how an unmade oath can be broken, but OK. Oathbreaking was punishable by death in Anglo Saxon culture, this was not a charge the ancestors would have bandied about lightly just to hurt someone’s feelings or damage their reputation. And “liar” (when I perpetuated a perception of events that did not support the collective-ego of the group). I’m thinking, that is not a place to find frith and cynn, now is it? Better to skip town, so to speak.

[6] However, everyone in attendance seemed to like it OK.

[7] Ted Striker (Airplane. Dir. Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker. Perfs. Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen. 1980. Paramount Pictures. Film.)

[8] At the end of the day we lamented, “We forgot to take pictures!” Ah, well – it happened all the same.

[9] Oooh, I feel another post coming on.

[10] I have also offered to (or been pressed to, I’m not sure how it happened) host a bunch of poets from Arkansas so’s I can show ‘em how hospitality’s really done.