Midsummer, Etc.

So I figured I’d make a post telling you all about my wonderful Midsummer festivities, as well as fill you in a little as to what I’ve been up to for the past month and a half.

So the biggest thing was that my boyfriend graduated from college. He’s going to be an architect, and I’m very proud of him.

After he graduated, he moved in with me, and we’ve been working on all kinds of projects we’ve been wanting to work on for the entire five years we’ve been long-distance. (OHMYGODSICAN’TBELIEVEIT’SREALLYOVER!!!!) We started a garden. We’re growing some flowers, which aren’t doing so well, and some herbs, which are growing like crazy. We’ve got basil, thyme, oregano, and lemon verbena. Please ignore how hideous our back patio is. We live in a cheap house in a city.

I got a very good omen from Freyja regarding our garden. Just as I was sweeping out all the dead leaves from last autumn and the previous tenants, I found an amber marble hidden beneath the leaves. And the garden has reinvigorated my love of life, which was lacking recently due to all the goings on in the news.

We’re making some lemon verbena infused vodka out of some of our lemon verbena leaves. Its smells delicious.

In other news, I have done some less-religiousy things as well. One of them is that Gent has me interested in the World Cup. I never knew I cared about sports at all, but what can I say? He’s so excited it’s been rubbing off.

I also began rehearsals for and performed in a burlesque show. It was fun because it was just barely outside my comfort zone. But I didn’t have to get too naked, and it was a good way to see a different side of my lady–the place where dancing and sex coincide. My pieces were really fun. I was in a girl fight against a serious boxer character. I won by “accidentally” tearing her clothes off and then swinging my hair in her face. And I was in a balloon dance, where we were dressed entirely in balloons, and then popped them all off ourselves. Here’s a picture of rehearsal for that piece.

Anyway, moving on to Midsummer. We have a tradition that’s started on the first anniversary of my oaths to my gods that’s three years old now. That means that this was also the third anniversary of my oaths. I’m a bit shocked it’s been so long already, and yet it seems like they’ve been a part of my life forever. Anyway, the tradition is summer solstice berry picking. We went and picked this many berries:

And then we made this out of some of them:

In addition, we also started brewing some mead that we plan to consume for Yule.

After all the baking, I went down to the basement to my new temple and made my prayers. I told my gods that I still love them and that I still am glad I made my oaths. I talked to them about how my relationship with them is important, but changing with all the ways that my devotions and sacrifices are becoming ever more fully in my day-to-day life with things like dancing getting so busy and the garden and the cooking we’ve been doing and my hair and skirts. And I love it. I’m finally living my faith. And having Gent with me has actually been quite spiritually transformative. I’ve been longing for so long for a family, a home. And now he’s here and I have him and my sister, and I live with my entire family.

For the three years that I’ve been a heathen, every time I’ve done a rune reading about Gent, it’s read that we’re good for each other, but to wait. Always, always there was Jera. Every time. Telling me that my life was in my future, and that was where my joy was. And now he’s here, and last night, the runes said we’d be happy. And out came othila–the rune I’ve been waiting for for years. Telling me that I’m home with my family now.

So now, at the height of summer, when Sunna glows brightest on Earth, I have the greatest gift of my heathen years. I have the family and the home and the hearth that my faith has been seeking.

Some Thoughts on Othering

At my college filled with hyper-intellectual students, class discussions often left whatever obscure novel we were reading and went to things like Othering.

Othering is the process by which you mark people as being outside your group. In the Southeast where I was raised, Othering focused mainly on religion, leaving people in social groups designated by the church they went to. The Southeast US is a world in which being asked what church you go to by complete strangers is an absolutely commonplace occurrence. Knowing where people go to church allows you to know whether they are in your group or if they are Other, the feared group of strangers who are probably all going to burn in hell. I really knew Baptists when I lived there who feared to spend time with the Methodists because it might land them in hell.

For some reason or other, identities always come with a feared Other—the antagonist of the group. The Aesir have the Jotuns. The Heathens have the Neo-Nazis. We talk a lot about how we’re not Neo-Nazis and how we aren’t racist. Because the existence of the racists who claim to be a part of our group threatens our existence—we fear for our safety because we fear being branded white supremacists. We know that a religion of white supremacy will never get legitimacy in the modern world, and so the existence of modern heathenry holds it as our Other.

But this is not a rant about the Neo-Nazis. I am sure that my readers hold a similar stance to me on them, and the issue has been discussed at length. No, my question here is about Othering.

Most heathens, for one reason or another, have converted from their birth religion because they felt like an other. My own birth religion (those darn Southern Baptists!) has become a sort of source of contention for me in the past. For years, before I finally told my mother this past Yule season of my conversion, knowing that I had to out myself to my mother as the Other—Oh no! Not the dangerous pagans in my own family!–my fear of becoming the Other was something I thought about often.

Look at these strange and exotic Vikings! How interesting they are!

And so I occasionally wonder if the tendencies of this culture we live in to romanticize the exotic, the other, have anything to do with why I became a heathen. I like about my religion that it isn’t something everyone else does. I like that it makes me sound interesting and exotic to the people I tell about it. Except for my parents, everyone I have told has been fascinated by my decision, and I love having that one crazy thing about me that makes me mysterious.

What if we like heathenry because we like the exotic? It’s an interesting question, but it doesn’t answer the issue. If we really just liked the exotic, wouldn’t we want to convert to a more exotic seeming religion like Buddhism or Hinduism? Something from some far away place we have no real connection to but a romanticized image?

But then, on the other hand, those people are our geographic Other. We call ourselves “the West” as opposed to the “East.” Sure, we romanticize the hell out of the East, but we also start a lot of stupid wars there. How many Eastern countries have we vilified at one point or another? We, here, are the West, the height of logic, reason, and Civilization! The East has the evil Communism and crazy backward ways!

I am exaggerating, of course. And I’m making no theses here—clearly far more issues are at play in our little revival, but I do wonder—is Heathenry our answer to Othering? It is our little compromise between the fearful other and the attractive exotic? A thousand years and a continent certainly make it far enough away that it can be easily romanticized. But then, we emphasize that it is our own religion, our own history, our own people so much. Is this because we fear the Other that we so much want to be?

Anne Sexton

Here is a poem by Anne Sexton that always fills me with joy and reminds me of Freyja and her brother. It’s one of my favorite love poems of all time.

Us

I was wrapped in black

fur and white fur and

you undid me and then

you placed me in gold light

and then you crowned me,

while snow fell outside

the door in diagonal darts.

While a ten-inch snow

came down like stars

in small calcium fragments,

we were in our own bodies

(that room that will bury us)

and you were in my body

(that room that will outlive us)

and at first I rubbed your

feet dry with a towel

because I was your slave

and then you called me princess.

Princess!

Oh then

I stood up in my gold skin

and I beat down the psalms

and I beat down the clothes

and you undid the bridle

and you undid the reins

and I undid the buttons,

the bones, the confusions,

the New England postcards,

the January ten o’clock night,

and we rose up like wheat,

acre after acre of gold,

and we harvested,

we harvested.

In other news, my life is starting to calm down a little bit, so I should be able to write a new post sometime in the next week or so.