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The Road to Hel

 

They say “The road to Hel is paved with good intentions.”

(Yes)

(And Intestines, the restless writhing mess,
it is paved with the teeth of the dead
from mouths made sour by words unsaid

Its paved with the sharp shins,
the straight spines shattered,
the knee of those who remain unbending

The Road to Hel is paved with the skulls of your enemies
If thy enemies are Cowardice, Shame and Fear
for it is that conquered road which will bring peace.

Its paved with the hands of many
untold ages, lifting you up
guiding you to a long Remembered place.

The Road to Hel is caked with the mud
of ten hundred thousand times ten thousand journeys
and the strange prints of those who came before.

Its lit with the stories
of the walks to this door:

“Life is a slow march towards Death”

and

“You have gone nowhere Someone hasn’t walked before”

and that on this road, is comforting.)

Yes.

The Road to Hel is paved with good intentions.

—-
Creative Commons License
The Road To Hel by Úlfdís is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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Posted by on January 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Decommissioning Altar Space

Or: when its time to let go, you gotta let go.

Today, 2/26, I finally took apart the majority of my altar for Odin. Its been time for a long time now.

It was Odin who brought me into Heathenry, and His was the first Northern Tradition altar I had in my home. I have a lovely Dryad Design’s statue; a scrying geode, feathers. All that remains is a greeting card with an image of a raven, which came with the statue, and a stick I brought back from Asgard, which sits between Loki’s space and Frigga’s, which is up,  but may also be modified.

Really, this should have happened ages ago, when I retired my Odin-hoop. (I make my own hoops. My first hoop had prayers and invocations to Odin written on it before being covered with tape.  The last time I used it was when I hooped for Him last summer, to end that chapter.) But I couldn’t bring myself around to it, despite the altar essentially being vacant at that point. I lit candles, made offerings, but…meh. Nothing.

My brother, an Odinsman, agreed with me that it was time for this altar to come down. What it comes down it is that essentially, Odin doesn’t want much to do with me, nor do I have much of anything to do with Him. Just because He’s the one who started me on this path doesn’t mean that He can or should be with me past that. Especially considering the turn my path has taken with Angrboda. (My brother also pointed out that as I do still have a shrine for Loki, that would be the perfect place to offer to Odin when I need to in the future. I’m also planning to keep my print of ‘Odin’s Secret’ hanging up!)

I find that, at least in my experience, its true that when you worship some of the Holy Powers, there are just some you can’t or shouldn’t work with when working with others; however I don’t feel this should carry over into Midgard! Angrboda and Odin are two you might not work with at the same time, but that certainly doesn’t mean Their people can’t, won’t or shouldn’t get along – my brother and I are a perfect example. As I’ve said, he’s Odin’s through and through – and I am Angrboda’s, mostly, and have little interaction with the Aesir. We get along like a house on fire. (That’s probably a terrible metaphor to use in this situation, but what the hell, why not.)

I have great respect for Odin. I am grateful that He put my feet on this path. (I sometimes I get the feeling I was a favour. At that time in my life, it took nothing less than *Odin Himself* showing up to get me to pay attention and get on the right track, else I might never have gotten to Her!)  I am grateful for every terrible lesson I learned from him – even the ones about how broken I could get and still be able to put it all back together. Odin taught me to be specific about how and what I ask, and about making sure I really, really want to know.

I am in no way saying that I will never hail or honor Odin – of course I will, I’m a bloody Heathen. I’m proud to count Odinspeople among my Kindred and community!

Hail to Odin!
Hail to Runatyr, seeker of wisdom!
Hail to the Wanderer, to the One-eyed one,
who seeks the wide world for wisdom.

Hail to the Burden of the Gallows, and of Gunnlod’s arms,
He who rests in Frigga’s embrace, Fulfiller of Desires,
Seducer, Wish-Bringer, Victory Giver!

Hail to the father of Baldur and Thor!
Hail to the Father of Hod and Hermod!
Hail to the Father of Vali and Vidar!
Hail to the Father of Bragi, Bringer of Poetry!

Hail to Sigtýr
Victory Bringer, and Father of Heros,
Hail to Spear Charger, Shield Shaker,
Hail to Glad in Battle, Lord of the Slain!
Hail to Odin!

-Call to Odin, by Úlfdís Járnviðar

Odin's Secrets by samflegal
Odin’s Secrets by samflegal on DeviantArt

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Deity and the Divine – Angrboda and Hearts

As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts on Angrboda in the Deity and the Divine series, one of the symbols that has been the primary focus of my iconography for Her has been the heart – primarily an anatomically correct human heart. The heart is also the primary connection between a variety of stories in the Northern Tradition.

Both the story of Gullveig and the story of Angrboda’s Children tell how each Goddess was speared and burned three times.

In the Voluspa (Bellows translation):

21. The war I remember, | the first in the world,
When the gods with spears | had smitten Gollveig,
And in the hall | of Hor had burned her,
Three times burned, | and three times born,
Oft and again, | yet ever she lives.

22. Heith they named her | who sought their home,
The wide-seeing witch, | in magic wise;
Minds she bewitched | that were moved by her magic,
To evil women | a joy she was.

The first war was instigated when the Van-allied Gullveig was speared and burned upon her visit to  Odin (Har)’s Hall in Asgard.She was reborn as the volva Heith, much beloved by ‘evil’ women/witches/troll women.

Later, in the poem Hyndluljoth (Bellows translation)

43. A heart ate Loki,– | in the embers it lay,
And half-cooked found he | the woman’s heart;–
With child from the woman | Lopt soon was,
And thence among men | came the monsters all.

After having consumed this heart, Loki then gave birth to monsters and witches – because of this the connection is made between the heart and Gullveig.

In Thursatru tradition, the Heart of Gullveig is held to be the seed of chaos; black, rime-cold, glacier made from the primordial black ice. The Cosmic Fire of the Aesir could not burn a heart so cold, and merely half singed it. This heart is Her ultimate Thursian essence.

In the story of Angrboda’s Children, as told by Her to Raven Kaldera, Angrboda is lured out of the Ironwood by Odin, and comes to Him in Asgard.

“The Hag of the Iron Wood stepped carefully into the great banquet-hall, feeling very much the barbarian. A great feast was served, of which she ate little, waiting for Loki to be spoken of. Perhaps he is imprisoned, she thought. Finally she could wait no longer, and turned to Odin. “Where is my fool of a husband?” she asked. “Is that not why you have brought me here?”

“My business with you does indeed involve Loki,” Odin said. “Give me a moment, and I will have this business brought to you, that you might advise me on it.” And he stood, ready to leave the hall, and yet before he left he hesitated. He looked upon the tall, proud giantess in her cloak of furs, and he bowed before her respectfully, and Angrboda saw a sorrow in his demeanor. Then he left the hall, and she sat with furrowed brow, waiting.

He had been gone but a moment when she realized that with Odin’s departure, all others in the hall had also gone, and she was alone. Sensing danger, she started to her feet and drew her blade – she had wondered why Odin had not insisted that she give up her sword – but there was no one to fight. Then, in a split second, the entire hall burst into flames. Fire ran down the tables as if oil had been poured over them, and the roof was an inferno in moments. Angrboda’s long red hair was the first to catch, and she went up like a torch, screaming curses.

Odin and those trusted few who had come to the feast watched the hall burn, and heard Angrboda’s screams. The fire-spell was a dangerous one, and cost Odin dear, but he dared not let her get to the door of the hall to fight. As they watched, the roof fell in, and they saw her figure like a torch, stumbling through the debris. Slowly, slowly, she peeled the flame from her blackened body, and fell to her hands and knees on the earth. They heard her mumbling magics, and saw that her skin was beginning to grow back, her charred flesh to heal. Amazed and chagrined, Odin threw a second fire-spell, and the flames attacked her once more. A second time she burned, and a second time she struggled to her feet and began to use her magics to survive. A third time he hurled the spell, though it cost him so dear that he nearly collapsed, and had to be held on his feet. This time, the giantess did not rise from the flames; they consumed her until nothing was left but a heap of ashes, with her charred heart in the middle.”

Once consumed, Her children were stole away and banished – one to the ocean, one held hostage, and one to Hel. Later, when Loki arrives on the scene;

“For Loki had arrived at night, while Odin was looting his wife’s house, and some took joy in telling him of the death of the Hag of the Iron Wood. He rushed to the hall, which was still roaring in flames, but he had not learned nothing from his foster-father Surt the Black. Leaping through the flames unharmed, he found Angrboda’s burned body, which crumbled at his touch. All that was left was her ashen heart, still solid, so he placed it next to his and fled Asgard as fast as he could.

When he reached her hall, he found it plundered and burned, and her kinsmen dead, and his children gone. He screamed and raged, and the folk of the Iron Wood arose, and they all wept and raged with him. They would have marched on Asgard as they were, armed only with their fury and rude weapons, but Loki recovered himself enough to stop them. “There has been enough death for one night,” he said. “Now it is time to undo at least one of them.” And he placed Angrboda’s ashen heart on the hearth of the burned hall, and took a knife and let blood onto it from his arm, and every one of her kinsmen in the Wolf tribe came forward also and let their blood drip, so that the hearth ran with blood. As the sun rose and the word spread, Jotnar from the other tribes came as well, and may of them shed their blood for her life also, as Loki danced about the hearth and the Wolf tribe howled a strange song.

It is said that half the luck of the Iron Wood clans went into that spell, but that not a one of them ever regretted it. Even those who did not love the wolf-chieftess would rather have seen her alive than bear this insult from the Aesir, so even the trolls from the Hound-Beetle tribe came, and some of them shed blood for her – not for herself, they said, for the Wolf tribe had often fought with them, but because her daughter Hela was much beloved of them. And when the thunderstorm rose that night, Farbauti’s son called lightning down to strike that bloodsoaked hearth, and Loki’s spell came true. Angrboda rose again alive from the ashes of her heart.”

Clearly, these stories are different, but they also strongly echo the same themes, particularly that of renewed life from the remains of a heart.

It is my personal feeling that both of these stories are correct, and that Gullveig-Angrboda was burned and renewed at two separate occasions; at the dawn of the world, She was allied with the Van, and using the name Gullveig visited the Aesir, and Her poor treatment as Their ally sparked the First War.

Gullveig-Angrboda’s rebirth is another indication of Her connection to the Van. The Vanir are fertility and agricultural Powers, part of the Life-Death-Rebirth cycle; some hold the UPG that the Van’s strength in battle during the First War was the magic of Freya, bringing the fallen Van warriors back, so they could arise from death and fight again. Ultimately the First War ended in a standstill, and a peace was negotiated between the two tribes, and hostages exchanged.

Throughout both the known recorded lore, and the UPG and PCPG of spirit workers, the has been a noted good relationship between the Vanir and the the Jotunfolk, including intermarriage (both Frey, and his father Njord, married Jotunwomen, to varying degrees of success.)

One more historical saga has a tale about hearts has ties to Angrboda; the Volsung Saga has the story of Sigurd slaying the dragon Fafnir. (see my previous posts above which further explain how I came to connect Angrboda with the Volsungs) After having slain the dragon, Regin asked Sigurd to give him Fafnir’s heart to eat. Sigurd had consumed some of the dragon’s blood, and thus learned the language of the birds, who told him how Regin was planning to betray him and advise him to kill Regin first. . Sigurd beheads Regin, roasts Fafnir’s heart and consumes part of it. This gives him the gift of “wisdom” (prophecy). As previously discussed, Angrboda is a volva and a seeress, connected both to the Volsung line via the maternal line, and with hearts through her own mysteries.

Outside of ‘the lore’ my own experience, my own personal practice (both magical/spiritual/personal) and my UPG related to Angrboda/Gullveig have heavily featured hearts.

First and foremost, the heart, both stylized and anatomical, has been known as a symbol of love for a long, long time. From Wikipedia:

The first known depiction of a heart as a symbol of romantic love dates to the 1250s. It occurs in a miniature decorating a capital S in a manuscript of the French Roman de la poire (National Library FR MS. 2086, plate 12). In the miniature, a kneeling lover (or more precisely, an allegory of the lover’s “sweet gaze” or douz regart) offers his heart to a damsel.

In this case, they are specifically discussing the <3, the stylized heart symbol.

 She-who-brings-sorrow is also full of love. She is a Divine Mother, giving birth to Gods, and She loves Her children. She loves Loki, her consort. She loves her tribe. She loves those who are Hers. She loves fiercely, She loves honestly. If She loves you, She loves all of you, even the ugly, monstrous bits.

Her body is speared and burnt, but Her loving Heart always survives, allowing her to be brought back. She gave birth to Gods, and to Herself, from Herself. When Loki consumes Gullveig’s heart, and it causes him to become pregnant and birth witches and troll women. When She was burnt again, Angrboda’s heart remained and Love called her back; Her love for Her Children, torn from her, the love of Her people, who’s blood powered Loki’s magic.

As well, the heart serves as a symbol off Gullveig-Angrboda’s status as a prophetess and volva. As we see from the Volsung saga, the heart is also a symbol of wisdom and prophecy in Norse tradition. In chapter 3 of the Saga of Erik the Red, we meet the Volva Thorbjorg, who performs Seidr for the people, to prophecy the future for them. Her entire visit is described in great detail, including the meal she is served:

During the evening the tables were set; and now I must tell you what food was made ready for the spae-queen. There was prepared for her porridge of kid’s milk, and hearts of all kinds of living creatures there found were cooked for her. She had a brazen spoon, and a knife with a handle of walrus-tusk, which was mounted with two rings of brass, and the point of it was broken off.

 One of my personal kennings for Angrboda is Heart of Jarnvidr (this is also the name of my devotional blog located on tumblr) As the Chief of Chiefs of the Ironwood Clans, Angrboda their war leader, and as Chieftess acts as Gythia to Her people. As the Hagia of the Ironwood, She is their Wisewoman. And when She was dead, the Ironwood came together over Her heart, to bring back The Heart of the Ironwood.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Earth

Hello folks – I’m sorry I’m so late posting today, and I promise, I will get back on track for this project and write about humanity later this  week – sadly the last two weeks of I’ve been rather ill. I’d been feeling sad the end of January, than physically wonky, and then had a flare up of a chronic health condition I get that kicked my ass. I’m thankful I have a job that lets me take the time off with pay! Anyway, on to Earth!

As a Heathen, and Northern Tradition Pagan, the earth is actually manifested for us in a variety of ways.

Unlike some of the other pagan religions, Heathenry is not a tradition that is generally ‘earth-centric’. With the exception of a few sects, the wheel of the year is not celebrated, nor is the holiday calendar cyclical, but rather the focus is more towards honoring the Gods rather than on seasonal festivals/turning the wheel. (The exceptions would be traditions such as Norse Wicca, Vanatru (which is focused on the Vanir, who are agricultural Gods) and Northern Tradition Paganism) Though personal practice may vary. As a Northern Tradition Pagan, my Kindred and I come together to honor our Gods on or near the 8 Wheel Holidays, but not quite the way a Wiccan Coven (or even a Norse Wiccan coven!) would do so.)

This does not mean, however, that we have no love for the Earth! Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, my religion and spiritually have definitely change, improved and deepened my relationship with the earth around me!

I understand that everything in Midgard has a spirit of its own, has sentience, and has a will, and nothing here exists in a vacuum. This world is delicate ecosystem, an interdependent web.  You pluck one thread here, two vibrate over there, and another thread breaks. You know the deal – a butterfly flaps its wings in China, and now its raining in New York.

This is why it is important to get to know the spirits in the world around us – the better we know them, the better we know how to work with them, rather than simply use and consume them. It allows us to be in right relationship with them, to be respectful, and shows us how to maintain balance. Asking a tree permission and giving it a gift when you cut a branch from it; taking what you need rather than clear cutting, and making it an equitable exchange as best you can. Gebo is everything.

In my day-to-day life, this means I’m more likely to take a picture than pick a flower, and either way, I usually tell the flower itself how beautiful it is. I talk to my car. I don’t kick rocks.  I pick up litter.

As well as the animistic spirits in the world, in my practice I recognize and honor a variety of Spirits (Wights) that live in and around me as part of this world as well. My house has its own spirit He’s got a nice little pot of coins that he really likes, a funny little toy, a candle and he gets honey and I do my best to keep things nice in here. He really did not like people when I first moved in, as some of the tenants in the house in the apartment below us weren’t so nice to it, and the guy who lived in my place was disgusting. Once he realized my house mate and I were going to be awesome to him, he warmed up to us.  I rarely lose things now, unless I’ve been lax in offerings, and I’ve seen the wight be a dick to the fellow downstairs who he dislikes.

The land I live on in Philadelphia has a spirit – several, actually. I get the idea there is an over arching ‘Philadelphia’ spirit, but there are also smaller local spirits. West Philly definitely has its own (It lives in Clark Park.).

Some natural features will have their own spirits – be they called wights or etins or just spirits. Mountains, rivers.

The Earth itself has a spirit, personified as the Jotun woman, Jord; (also known as Hlóðyn, Fjörgyn and Fjörgynn). She is related to many other natural spirits, and was a lover of Odin. To him, She bore His son Thor, who is probably the most well-known, and to this day most widely worshiped of all the Norse gods. (Tacitus identified Thor with Hercules, and writes of His widespread worship among the Germanic people back in the Roman period!)

While Jord is the very personification of the earth herself, and literally a mother (of Thor!), there is another Goddess in the Northern Tradition who is also identified as an Earth Mother.

Nerthus, called ‘Terra Mater’ by Tacitus in his accounts of her worship, is a mysterious, Vanic Goddess associated with Njord linguistically. Much like accounts of Frey’s worship, a statue of Nerthus would be carried around the countryside in a wagon as part of a procession with Her priests, to visit and bless the people.  No one was permitted to see Her statue’s face except Her priests – after the procession, the slaves who helped bath Her in a sacred spring were then drowned in said spring.

Nerthus is identified with Njord, as her name is linguistically connected to his as the feminine form. Some scholars have theorized they were perhaps once a hermaphroditic deity, but those who honor Nerthus generally identify her as a sister-wife to Njord, in a dynamic not unlike that of Freya and Frey.

Clearly, the earth is a complex ecosystem, with a nearly unimaginable web of spirits!

Often you hear people talk about ‘right relationship’ in regards to different aspects of polytheism (and paganism). It’s a broad idea, and unique to each area of focus. But I’d like to at least try to put my idea of right relationship with the earth into words:

Right relationship with the earth is first recognizing the other spirits which we share this space with. Once we recognize these spirits exist and have, to some extent, their own sentience, right relationship is respecting the power of these spirits and learning to treat them with respect. Right relationship is the offering given when you cut a branch; it is using respectfully, and with awareness of the sacrifice of the spirit. Its taking what you need, and not more, and not wasting what you do take. It’s the reciprocal relationship, a give and take, and ultimately, our bodies return back to the earth itself, thus engaging us anyway.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Practice makes Perfect

Week two and already running late – so I’m right on schedule.

My practice, which I could rightly call ‘The Struggle’ is interesting. With Northern Tradition Paganism being both relatively new to the game, and being extremely personal, my practice varies. Up until I was typing this, I would have told you I have no ‘daily’ practice. That is, I would have said there was nothing I do every single day that is part of my practice.

Currently, I work hard to keep a regular practice, rather than a daily one – I would rather be doing the same thing with regularity rather than the same thing every day for a month and then forget about it. I would ideally like to have a day to day practice that consisted of formal prayer and ritual, but I often feel as if that is a hold over from my Roman Catholic upbringing, though there are some I would like to bring back (For example, I could totally get behind praying before meals.  Really, why aren’t we doing that Pagans? Considering how tied so many of us are to agricultural and hunting traditions, we ought to be giving way more thanks for our food now than we were before! Really, I think we should all be praying more. I always enjoyed prayer when I was Catholic, both formal and spontaneous. To this day, some of the most intense moments I’ve had with my Gods have been when I’ve stood in front of them and talked to them in spontaneous prayer – if I’m weeping, I’m doing it right.)

However, there are two parts of my practice I would like to share:

The first, and these really are part of my personal daily practice, and I didn’t put it together until now, are my taboos. Angrboda has made several requests of me that I honor. The most obvious is covering my hair, which I have done every single day since I started in July. For martial arts and any other occasion where I wouldn’t or can’t cover, I wear my hair in french braids.

As well, at Her request I also only wear natural fiber clothing (currently I have been allowed to keep my ‘pelts’; that is, winter coats, though unsurprisingly they are mostly if not fully natural materials, go figure. I do have several costume pieces as well, because we all need a costume now and then). This has been one of the harder ones for me, as I do very much enjoy clothing shopping and thrifting, and shopping for clothing is a bit more difficult. I swear, I might have to start learning to machine sew again so I can make sure I have enough pants. As well as the fabric being natural materials, She has colour preferences as well – you will notice I tend to wear fall forest colours – browns, reds, orange, dark green, dark blues/purples, black.  Apparently W/we both think October is the best colour.

Along with my clothing, I no longer imbibe caffeine – this one was less Mrs. A saying No and more my body going “NOPE” and then divination confirming it was a good idea to no longer drink coffee.

So, every day, I get up and remember those things – cover my hair, check the tag, and don’t drink that coffee.

The other part of my practice, my favourite part, is Sunday. Yup. Every Sunday is Ancestor day, and usually a “Me” day. I get up, go to Aikido (another devotional request of my Lady), and when I come home I clean the house and altars and make offerings to my Ancestors and my house wight. Once a month, I have a slightly more involved Ancestor ritual, but usually its simple – a fresh glass of water, candles, sometimes rum, sometimes coffee, incense. Sometimes a formal petition, sometimes just a few moments in the mirror and a heartfelt “Thank you”.

Sundays are my favourite days. ^_^

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Pagan Experience – Resolutions

So I’ve decided to try this ‘doing a writing project’ thing again.  Why not. I should write more.

So. Resolution. Honestly? I don’t do New Years resolutions, for several reasons.

The first is that January 1st? Not my New Year. For me, the year died on Samhain, and I’ve found that the time between Samhain and Yule tend to be when I get ready to birth the New Year, and in many ways, Yule is the start of the new year for me.  There’s something about that time between Samhain and Yule, when the year is dead but isn’t, and we’re frantically preparing for winter and stuffing our faces and saying hello to our dead (at least, more than we do the rest of the year. I don’t really feel that the ‘veil’ is particularly thinner around Samhain – our Dead are always present. We just have to listen to them.) and getting ready for the darkness, and I adore that liminal space.

This year I decided to give myself a challenge, and at Samhain, I gave up chocolate for one year.

However, the calendar New Year is a good time for starting projects like this – it makes keeping track of them easier.  I did also decide that as 2013 was a year of annihilation, and 2014 was a year of rebirth and beginnings, that 2015 will be a year of growth.  A lot has happened since 2013. I found my Gods, I left my husband, I helped found a Kindred, and I am now the assistant Gythia of this kindred. I promised Angrboda last year that I would be a völva, that I would be *Her* völva, and this is the year that I put that together, and really learn what that means, how I do that, and hone my skills. (again, these are things that really came together at Samhain. I have been stumbling semi blind, but have been slowing piecing it together.)

Really, everything I do seems to feed back to this – a völva was many things – a reader of wyrd, a caster of spells, a priestess to the people, a woman outside of the dominant society beholden to no one but the Gods. So what I’ve known I need to do is spend more time practicing divining, more time in Aikido,more time with my Lady, and more time figuring out what exactly it is She needs and wants from me.

Oh, and I’ll be opening up an Etsy shop soon for some of the devotional necklaces I have been making. I’ve got about 7 ready to go and would like to have 10 or 15 up as ‘stock’; I will be taking custom orders as well. I need to get a few practical things sorted out for this as well – boxes for shipping items, and maybe cards and a little logo of some kind. Nice and simple. I’ll be announcing the shop once it’s up.

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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On Covering and Uncovering: Vulnerability

I’ll start this by saying, I do some of my best thinking in the shower. In the bathroom, really.  Sometimes, when I’m stressed out, I let the tub get all gross and spend an afternoon scrubbing it back to white. This is rare – the last time I did it was when I decided I was leaving my husband and really needed to think about things.  Its been over a year now, and I haven’t had to do it since.   But mostly, when I am chewing on an idea for a few weeks, I find taking a nice long hot shower tends to unlock my brain.

I’ve been covering my hair since July now, and have spent a lot of time thinking about why I was asked to do this; I have a few thoughts but none have come together as of yet. However the last time I took a long hot shower, I put a bunch of pieces together regarding where and when I cover, and what the common denominator was.

The biggest key was an experience I had helping a friend move. They had stored some items in my attic, and I was going to load them into my van and bring them over right after Sunday Aikido.  My Sundays are fun-days – I start the morning with a shower, braid my hair, throw on a bandanna and head to Aikido class, and usually come home and tend to domestic stuff – offerings to my Ancestors and house wight, cleaning, etc. The few times I vary tend to be things like helping someone move, or if I’m committed to doing another woo activity – things my Ancestors feel fall under “Hospitality”.  So, I came home from class, and started to get things together. I figured since I was ready to go, I might as well stay as I was, contacts and braids and just get things rolling. I knew I’d be moving and lifting, and it didn’t seem…wait for it…prac-tichel (HA, see what I did there?) to stop and fix my hair.

So, braids down and bandanna on, I loaded up and went to do the thing. And I moved and lifted and ate pizza, but a combination of an unhappy back and feeling oddly naked meant I left after a couple of hours. There was another load of stuff coming, but plenty of people to help. I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling so out of sorts. It took a while for me to realize – this was the first time I’d be around that many people, most of whom I’d never met before, with my hair uncovered for that long. Plus I’d been feeling a little vulnerable that morning in class, which was also odd, but we’ll get to that later.

In my thinky-shower, I realized, DUH. Look at when and where I UNcover. I wear a scarf all the damn time so the exceptions are glaring: With my Lady, in my home (and sometimes depending who’s there, I’ll still be covered), in the Dojo, with my Kindred, and during some but not all rituals.

These are all times when I am vulnerable. In my home: well, of course I can uncover there – its my Hall, my domain, and  inside I am well warded and can and should be able to feel vulnerable there. I do sometimes cover when we have folks over, depending on who they are; having my hair down has become a rare intimacy for people. Amusingly, not everyone knew that. My house mate’s partner didn’t realize he was in a small minority of people who see my hair on a regular basis.I have always enjoyed sleeping naked; but now, the ultimate in ‘naked’ for me includes my uncovered, unbound hair. (Again, not always practical. I’d forgotten how much hair I have, and having it down when I have company gets complicated)

In the dojo, being vulnerable goes without saying – a big part of what I am doing there is making myself vulnerable to people who are not necessarily bigger or stronger, but far more well-trained than I am. I am putting myself in the hands of people who could seriously hurt me, but trusting that they won’t. Granted, trying to cover wouldn’t be practical either, but I’m sure I could find a way to do so if needed. My Sensei told me she once had a devout Muslim Aikidoka who would wear gloves, since he couldn’t touch women, so I’m sure I could figure out a way to cover if I needed. I had been doing double braids because its efficient – which are a whole other thing now. Braids have come to mean ‘battle’ or at least ‘getting shit done’.

I mentioned earlier having felt oddly vulnerable in class the morning I was helping with that move, and that too became more clear in my shower. I had been the only woman in class that day. Me, 4 black belts, and a brown belt. It was a hell of a class. But, and this is something that happens now and again, this time I was the only woman there. Even at times when I am the only female *student* there, Sensei is usually either running the class, or watching.  I didn’t realize until I put that all together, but I still feel very vulnerable when I’m the only woman in a group of men. Do I think anything, ANYTHING would happen to me in the dojo, at the hands of a fellow Aikidoka? Absolutely not. But my reptile brain still gets nervous – and then I get mad at my reptile brain for still getting nervous.

It goes without saying that I am, and should be, vulnerable with my Lady. Angrboda is bigger than me. Waaaaaaaaay bigger than me – and a predator. Granted, I am pack, not prey, so I don’t often worry about that; but it feels good and right to be vulnerable to Her, to show her my belly, as it were.

So the act of uncovering my hair has become a symbol for making my self vulnerable to a person, place, or situation.

I am really, really, shitty at being vulnerable. I hate it. I have been forced into so, so many vulnerable places that willfully choosing to make myself vulnerable is difficult for me. Yet…being vulnerable is important. Part of love is being vulnerable, in some way, to another entity. There is strength to come from vulnerability, in the forging of those love-bonds, the trust bonds.

Being able to choose when and how I (literally) let my hair down, and choose how and when to be vulnerable, has been an interesting experience for me.

Covering my hair has become symbolically tied with what I am doing and learning on my path as a woman and a warrior – to quote a friend “You’re learning the limits of your sovereignty, and how to best take advantage of it, because you’re coming from a place where you needed to learn you own (high) value.” But I think that is a topic best left for another day; next up in what is now a series of posts on covering will be an exploration of how I feel while covering, and an exploration of some of the whys, and the nature of covering and modesty.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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