Some New Features

There have been a few improvements to Weaving Wyrd over the last couple of weeks that I wanted to flag in case people were visiting strictly through our syndication system.

First and most importantly we’ve added a Services page that provides information on workshops that we help at or attend, public rituals that we will be assisting in, and other services such as intuitive/divinatory readings as we move forward into the future.

The second addition is that if you click on a post and look at the full page for it, there are Facebook and Twitter links at the bottom. If you really like (or hate) a post and want to share (snark) it, these should make it easier. On the other hand, I’ve tried to make it as unobtrusive as possible if you don’t want to deal with it.

Finally, I’ve tweaked the layout options and font size to make things a little easier to read. If you get a chance, let me know what you think either by commenting on this post or through our contact form.

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Energy Work 101 – Centering

Energy Work 101 is a series of articles designed to instruct beginners in techniques for responsible use of energy.

Centering – Theory

Centering is the practice of personal awareness – bringing your thoughts and energy into the center of your being and being conscious in the moment.

Through our daily routines, we allow our thoughts and our energy to become scattered: we think and give energy and focus to our work, family, friends, relationship, hobbies, and circumstances of the daily grind. We daydream and we wish, ponder and solve problems, which fragment our attention and separate our mind from our body, and vice versa. Energy work requires a lot of focus and attention to be used responsively, which is why centering is essential before beginning any work of this nature.

Centering – Practice

Centering is very similar to grounding, but instead of working with equalizing energy, we’re instead pulling back awareness and thought into our own bodies. This is best to do right after grounding.  The basic steps are as follows:

  • Establish a breathing pattern
  • Visualize yourself and your thoughts
  • Pull thoughts into your center

Establish a Breathing Pattern

This is the same breathing pattern from Energy Work 101 – Grounding, so maintain the breathing pattern that you used for grounding.

Visualize Yourself and your Thoughts

Continuing the breathing pattern,  close your eyes, and turn attention towards where your energy is and where your thoughts are. It’s very common for your thoughts to be scattered after long days at work at home, especially when keeping mental to-do lists. You’ll also find that if your attention is on a person, place or thing that isn’t you, then your thoughts may not even be in your body proper, but a distance away from your physical body. These distances take a lot of energy to maintain, so we’re reclaiming the awareness and energy before doing our work.

Here are some common visualizations for thoughts:

  • Clouds of thought (scatter-brained) that can be inside or outside of your body, close or far away – usually comes with the feeling of having to chase down or ‘catch your thoughts’.
  • Cords of thought or energy emanating from your center to the objects of interest. Closely related to links.
  • Quickly moving, rapid objects that resemble racing thoughts, or sluggish thoughts that amble around the body.

(Notice that the above examples are very strong towards sight and touch – these are the senses that I’m the most familiar with energy-wise, yours may very well differ. You may ‘hear’ your thoughts off in the distance or very close, quiet or loud – or even taste or smell them. Experiment to see which senses work best for you!)

Pull Thoughts into your Center

Once your thoughts are now being registered on an energy level, it’s time to pull or lure them into your center.There are as many ways of doing this as people – you’ll find that you’ll have best success to collect your thoughts using the same senses that you used to detect them.

Examples:

  • ‘Roping in’ tactile thoughts
  • ‘Toning in’ audible thoughts
  • “Seeing” your visible thoughts coming into your center

My personal way of centering is to draw in all the thought cords that I’ve thrown out into the universe, as well as netting all the loose thoughts around my head. I pull them gradually in (visually/tactilely) and let all my thoughts be at the core of my being.

Most beginners are confused about where the ‘center’ of your body is, and the location may vary. Some schools of thought say that the solar plexus is the center, which tends to be a good place to start due to its position on the body. Experiment to see what  center calls out to you, move the thoughts that you’re collecting from chakra to chakra to determine which place resonates the most for you. If none of the chakras are doing it for you, then your center could be somewhere else entirely, which is fine. I’ve known people to have their ‘center’ be in an extremity, such as an arm or a leg. What matters most is finding where your true center is and collecting your thoughts there.

Continue pulling thoughts into your center until you feel your attention is 100% on your body, breath, and mind. This may take a while for your first couple of attempts, but it does get easier with practice.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

All Energy Work 101 topics gain the most benefit when performed on a daily basis, it usually takes a month . Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Practice centering right after grounding. Most of the major practices of energy work involve grounding and centering as the two required activities before doing anything else. Ground, and then while keeping your breathing pattern, hop right into centering. Soon, it will be second nature to center as soon as you’ve finished grounding, which is A Good Thing.
  • Trouble ‘seeing’ your thoughts? Shift through the different senses to see if you can hone in on your thoughts easier. You can use as many or as few senses as you prefer.
  • There are some thoughts that simply won’t quiet down or come back to your body, especially the first couple times centering. If this is the case, have a notepad ready. Jot down the nagging thought (a chore, a feeling, a person) with the intention that you will revisit the thought at a later time. Once you release the thought onto paper, it should be easier to pull that energy to you.
  • If you find some extraneous negative energy, or feel off balance energy-wise while centering, it’s perfectly normal to go ahead and ground out.

Suggestions? Questions? Feel free to post a comment below!

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October and November Charities

One of our latest features on Weaving Wyrd is a Charity sidebar, where I list the charities that I donate to each month, as well as a link to their main website so that you can read more about the cause and get more information.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in that spirit, I chose Susan G. Komen for the Cure. This charity does more than just raise awareness of breast cancer, it pushes forward in offering outreach programs and research grants to eliminate this illness.

November’s charity is in direct response to a personal event that occurred during October. On October 3rd, two days after my birthday, my father attempted suicide. This event, coupled with the recent incline of teenage suicides headlining on the news, that pushed me into donating to a cause regarding suicide awareness and prevention. In honor of my father still being here on this earth, November’s charity is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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Ethics Part One: Virtues and Values

Parts of this I have posted elsewhere, but this is a more unified theory of values and virtues

I will be posting more on this topic in the coming weeks.

Seek the Truth- Courage, Truth, Discernment

Courage-  Courage is not A virtue; it is THE virtue from which all other virtues flow. Courage to face all challenges both internal and external is vital to any kind of meaningful spiritual practice. Courage enables us to look deep into our inner darkness and learn. Courage enables us to be honest with ourselves even when we don’t want to. Courage enables us to call ourselves and others on BS and walk away from it. Courage enables us to be independent when all around us people are clamoring for us to be part of the herd. Courage enables us to manifest joy. Courage also enables us to stand up and model what we believe in.

Truth- The easiest way to avoid telling lies is to never do anything that you aren’t comfortable telling people about. Know thyself. If you don’t know yourself, it’s hard to be honest with yourself about what drives you, what frightens you, what angers you, what you love, what weird prejudicial land mines that live in your mind and heart. It should be an ongoing process, because no one knows everything about themselves always. We are too changeable as human beings. And when you see/know the truth, that doesn’t mean you need to make other people agree with you.  You are only responsible for yourself and the oaths you make.

Discernment- When you are brave, self-knowledgeable and self-honest, then the little BS detector that every thinking adult must have is in place. Use it. It’s like a tuning fork, someone tells you something and you listen for the pitch. Does it resonate with you or fall flat? Be responsible for your own discernment, rather than relying on the thoughts and words of others.

Minimize Harm- Tolerance, Compassion, Joyfulness

Tolerance- Pagans come in all shapes and sizes, genders and preferences. It is not our place to judge others based on those criteria. Nor is it our place, no matter how much we would like to, to change anyone else’s fundamental nature. There are enough beams in your own eye to be taking care of to even notice the motes in the eyes of others.

Compassion- No one comes to this path without pain. It is not our place to disregard or invalidate that pain. Entering the world of the aware, it is important to be mindful of others, help them if you can, refer them to someone else if you can’t. When you first start out, you think you can do anything. You can’t. Some people/situations/relationships are beyond the scope of your ability to help.

Joyfulness- There is so much energy, work and time expended in a spiritual practice. If your spiritual practice doesn’t lift you up, inspire you, fill you with joy and great gladness, STOP DOING IT. Move on, find something else that does. Now, not every spiritual practice is happy-happy-joy-joy all the time. Some life lessons are hard and painful. But it doesn’t have to hurt to be meaningful. And if it hurts more often than it heals, look elsewhere.

Act Independently-Independence, Self Reliance, Perseverance

Independence-Many heathen constructs are community based, putting the welfare of the many over the welfare of the few. And I’m a believer in community. But if you cannot stand on your own and stand up for your own opinions, then you are not living to the fullness of your potential. Independence in thought, word and deed is to be strived for.

Self-Reliance- The practitioner should try to resolve any personal problems themselves first. If through self-reflection and work you cannot solve that problem, take the responsibility to find the appropriate fellow practitioner, mental or physical health practitioner or mundane mediator to help you solve the problem. You are only responsible for yourself and the oaths you make to others.

Perseverance- This isn’t a path that when things get tough you can just give up. As tempting as it is sometimes, and believe me, I’ve been incredibly tempted at times, the gods and goddesses are taskmasters. They expect you to work.

Be accountable- Honor, Loyalty, Community

Honor- Respect yourself and others. Your personal sense of honor is your commitment to live by the standards you believe should earn you respect from others. In other words, walk your talk. If you find through truth that you are not walking your talk, fix it.

Loyalty- Loyalty to a community, thought, idea or worldview is the making that community, thought, idea or worldview as important to you as your own. Be careful about whom you give your loyalty to, be they person, community, wights, ancestors, or gods. Get to know them, warts and all.  Do they reflect the values and virtues you find important? Have they earned your respect? Do they respect you? When you pledge your oath to something or someone, that is a binding contract.

Community- None of us lives in a vacuum. And the hermit ideal is not a Nordic worldview concept; a common punishment was outlawing, or ejection from the community. It balances independence, for a person without connections is truly alone, and your chances of survival are much less. You are, for good or ill, the reflection of the community or communities (most of us belong to more than one) you belong to. This applies to the otherworldly community as well as the worldly community.

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Pathworking: Building a Sacred Space, Grounding, Centering

Close your eyes and breathe deeply. In… out… in… out… in… out…

Let your body relax. Breathe in… out… in… out… in… out…

You see yourself standing in a field. The day is clear, and it looks to be sometime around late spring. Before you, you notice a hill with a door in it, leading into the earth.

You approach the door, opening it and seeing a staircase through a stone passageway. You feel drawn, following the passages for a ways, past a series of doors . Each of them is different, but none of them have quite the feel of being your door. Eventually through the winding hallway you come to a door that seems to have been pulling you to it.

Opening the door you step into a room. This is your room, and you may place whatever you like in it and decorate it as you please. Take a few moments to look around the room.

In the center of the room you notice a chair. Sitting down in the chair, you see a metal lightning rod leading into the ground by your right hand. Grip the rod, and feel as your excess and negative energy flows out of you and into the ground beneath you.

Now visualize a blue star in your solar plexus. See it expanding slowly, filling your chest… filling out into your arms, into your legs… into your head. Feel as it expands out past your elbow into your hands, and down past your knees into your feet. Feel it continuing to expand and encompassing your entire being.

Now, slowly, start to bring that star back into your core. Bring it into your hands and feet… past your elbows and knees, out of your arms, legs, and head… and see it shrink, smaller and smaller in your torso into it is just a small glowing sphere in the center of your being.

Now close your eyes and breathe in… out… in… out… in… out…

When you are ready, open your eyes relaxed and refreshed.

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On the occasion of the First Snow of the Season

The Lord of Winter came to me and loved me and gifted me with  snow…

I have a conflicted relationship with winter.

As a child, I grew up in NW Montana, where it is grey most of the winter, snowfall is measured in feet deep, and winter was dark, cold and long. 

I carry scars of frostbite and deep bone pain from years of cold and damp to this day.

But I loved winter. Winter was playtime, after the dawn to dusk work of autumn was done, with sledding and igloo building and armies of snow men,women and children that marched through empty hay fields. Winter was ice skating and silent wars of snowballs and sword fights with icicles as long as your arm. Winter was fields of diamonds as the weak watery sun glinted off fields of white. Winter was blizzards where the wind shook your house and snow blew so thick that the world was white. Winter was ice fishing, snow shoeing, cross country skiiing and hunter’s orange and roaring fires in the fireplace.  Winter was hot apple cider and hot chocolate with whipped cream,never marshmellows, mincemeat pie and pancakes with real maple syrup. 

Winter was stories about gods and men, heroes and villians. It was during winters when my father would tell stories of what later became my deities of choice, Odin and Frigga, Balder and Nanna, Thor and Sif,  Loki and Sigyn, Freya and Frey, Tyr, Skadi, Uller, all the gods and goddesses. He also told stories about the Greeks and the Romans, but they weren’t as interesting.  

Then my parents got divorced and we moved into town.Winter lost its charm then, with grey plowed slush and work with no end and the only legacy that was left was the pain and dark. And winter has meant that for me for most of my adult life.

I know that as a pagan, and a Nordic worldview one at that, that I am supposed to be comfortable with the changes of seasons. I have had teachers rail against my dislike of winter.

Part of my dislike is my wrong thinking about winter in the city. I am adjusting my view, because cities live as much as country lives. Even if you mistakenly disregard the spirits of the buildings, roads, trees, cars, the great energy in what has been built, there is enough living in a city to have its own life.

This year if I choose to see something beautiful about winter every day, that it will not be a trial, but joy.

The Lord of Winter came to me and loved me and renewed my joy.

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Basic Elemental Pathworkings

Over the next few weeks, I am going to be preparing a series of basic pathworkings that can help teach basic elemental work, along with techniques such as grounding, centering, and constructing your own space. This is part of my own work in developing a public curriculum, and so feedback is most appreciated ^_^

Pathworkings are a specific kind of guided meditation that are designed to help the participants fulfill a goal. They are designed for group work, but can be done individually either by reading along and following (more difficult) or by reading for yourself to make a recording, which you then use to take yourself through the pathworking. Most will probably find it easiest to find a parter to work with or to record themselves speaking.

These pathworkings will be published at the rate of one per week until the basic course is completed, using the system of elements most common in modern pagan systems (rather than using Norse or Celtic specific systems). It will cover the following topics:

  1. Constructing your own space, grounding, and centering
  2. Air
  3. Fire
  4. Water
  5. Earth

These should all be fairly short pathworkings, and we’ll group then under the tag elements.

Before doing each pathworking, it is useful to sit down and do a basic table of associations. Some of the questions you might ask:

  • What kinds of rocks and minerals do associate with X?
  • What colors?
  • What tools?
  • What gods and goddesses?
  • What runes?
  • What astrological signs?
  • What time of day?
  • Which direction?

There aren’t many right or wrong answers here for the solitary practitioner–it is based around what works for you–though there are some norms that groups tend to establish or base themselves off of (fluorite is an air stone, scorpio is a water sign, etc). If you do want to work with a group–even at a public ritual–then after compiling your answers look up that group and see what associations they use. A lot of this is so that when someone walks over to the west wearing a dark blue sash and calls forth Necksa everyone in the room knows exactly what they are doing and attunes their thoughts accordingly.

Regardless of whether you work with a group, the more time spent considering these questions and thinking about them, the smoother and more productive the trip to the elemental pathworkings are going to be.

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Energy Work 101 – Grounding

Energy Work 101 is a series of articles designed to instruct beginners in techniques for responsible use of energy.

Grounding – Theory

Grounding is the process of balancing and equalizing the energy within a body, ridding it of negative energies and replacing lost energy with energy from the earth (or in some cases, source).

Grounding is necessary for any energy worker to master, as it accomplishes two goals:

  • Grounding rids the body of negative energies and influences. As we move through our daily lives, we unconsciously pick up these energies from our interaction with the environment, be it from a minor inconvenience (someone in your parking spot) to unsettling circumstances (arguments with loved ones, physical threats). These influences stick in our minds because the energy sticks with our body, causing havoc with our energy bodies. Grounding allows us to let all of those moments disappear and melt from our bodies.
  • Grounding replenishes lost energy. We lose energy, sometimes even freely give it away, through our contributions and interactions. We put a lot of energy into our career, our fitness, our relationships, and it can even be stolen without adequate protection. Have you ever felt drained after talking with someone, where after you’re done interacting with them, you feel tired and slothful? This is the result of giving away too much of your energy to them and their situation.

Just as an electrical circuit, the body needs to have a balance of energy in its system to work efficiently. Too much energy in the circuit can cause burnout or having your senses and abilities fried, as your body simply can’t handle that much power in the system. Too little energy and your abilities simply won’t function optimally, as well as creating a lazy and slothful physical body.

In the course of any intensive work, energy or otherwise, energy will always be used to attain your goals. Grounding helps establish your baseline and create an optimal working environment.

Grounding – Practice

There are three steps to grounding energy.

  • Establishing a breathing pattern
  • Creating a conduit through visualization
  • Setting an energy flow through the conduit

Establishing a Breathing Pattern

A breath pattern will be our guide through this exercise – any breathing pattern will do, as long as it’s regular and something your body can relax to. I personally use the four-fold breath, which is four beats inhale, four beats hold, four beats exhale, four beats hold.

While sitting or standing in a comfortable position, start your breathing pattern. Stay on this step until your breathing is regular and relaxed, as it’ll make the energy easier to move the first time you ground.

Creating a Conduit through Visualization

We’ll be creating a conduit through which excessive or negative energy can leave the body, with fresh energy taking its place. Visualizations and methods for this step are as varied as people – experiment with the following visualizations until you find one that suits you.

Example visualizations include:

  • Gathering negative energy around the root chakra, and then imagining a pipe going from the root chakra to deep into the earth (or source).
  • Imagining yourself as a tree, growing roots into the earth with each breath. These roots will discard the excess energy and draw fresh nutrients.
  • Creating a ‘lightning rod’, where upon touching it with your hands will discharge the negative energies.
  • Some simply place their hands or feet on the ground, using that physical bond to carry the energy out of their body.

Once you’ve picked your visualization, close your eyes and focus on the image, bringing it stronger into your existence with each breath. Tree roots grow longer, lightning rods drive deeper into the earth, etc. Continue to the next step once a firm connection has been made.

Setting the Energy Flow

Your breathing is regular, your body’s relaxed, and your conduit is ready to go. With all of these steps in place, you’re ready to start the energy flow.

First, any overpowering negative energy should be discharged and sent into the earth as soon as possible. Usually this shows up as ‘dark energy’, black or dark grey in color, and can have emotions or specific events tied up into it. Gather this energy and then send it right down your conduit. Watch it as it travels deep into the earth, severing its connection with your body.

Second, cycle your flow with your breath. Inhales will bring up white, fresh energy up from the earth, exhales will send the dark, gloomy energy deep into the earth. Visualize your body’s energy steadily turning brighter with each breath cycle.

Continue this breath cycle until your energy body feels adequately cleansed. The easiest way for beginners to sense this is to evaluate your mind and body for relaxation, such as muscle relaxation and improved emotions.

Practice Makes Perfect

Skills take time to develop – grounding included. Don’t be discouraged if you’re unsure of your thoroughness in cleansing your energy body, or if it takes much longer than expected. Grounding is a very personal process, and different techniques work for different people.

The first time I seriously grounded was before my first public ritual, when I had no idea what grounding was. My best friend took me through a visualization exercise where the focus/conduit was a lightning rod, and the results were actually very poor for me – it took me a long time to ground myself, since I had a hard time imagining the energy flowing through my hands at the time. Later on, I found a visualization technique with tree roots, which worked out much better for me. This eventually morphed into the grounding technique that I use now. Feel free to experiment and pick the pieces that work for you.

I recommend practicing this technique everyday for a week to a month until it becomes second nature. Once you’re comfortable with grounding, you can practice doing it faster – a proficient grounder can equalize their energy within a second’s notice, connecting with earth and doing an immediate negative energy dump, followed by a quick refuel.

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30 Days, Day 11: On Urban Spirit Work

This is a revised version of an earlier essay I’ve written. Reposting here as part of my 30 days since it remains extremely central to who and what I am and what I am doing, especially with Weaving Wyrd.

One of the challenging things about my path is that it is entirely urban. This doesn’t mean that I create new, urban deities and follow those but rather than my practice draws me to the city and binds me to the city in a way that some people are bound to the countryside.

I don’t follow Squat, Skor and Skram or make offerings to Asphalta, I don’t get tattoos for competition representing capitalism (particularly because, for most of us, capitalism is cooperative and not directly competitive), and I don’t have body piercings or plan to get them. I don’t use gasoline or antifreeze in my rituals, and I think if I ever think that such is a good idea for my elemental practice I should have someone commit me to an asylum. I am not a tribal eclectic pagan or chaos magician who happens to live in the city, which seems to be who Kaldera and Schwartztein’s book The Urban Primitive: Paganism in the Concrete Jungle is aimed at. I am also not studying what is called Technoshamanism, per se, and am not a member of the modern primitive movement. I have no issue with those who practice such paths, but they are not my path.

At the same time, I do not hold the countryside or “nature” up on some pedestal. I do not, as one review put it, revere the wilderness as a source of magical power and dismiss the cities in which they live as spiritually dead places. I have no calling to go live or even spend time working on a farm (beyond, perhaps, as a journey to learn more as an Odinsman, but that is a separate matter), to raise or slaughter animals, or anything else along those lines. The countryside is also not where I go for rituals: most of my rituals are performed well within city limits.

I do not own a car, do not plan to ever own a car if I can avoid doing so, and thus even if I had a deep desire to “escape to the wilderness” every so often I could not do such on a whim. I do enjoy outdoor, “wildernessy” activities such as hiking in the mountains, skiing, and camping but they are not intrinsic to who I am. I have no desire to hunt, not because I am squeamish about it but simply because I can get meat through other channels and have no particular desire to do it. While I practice spinning, I have no desire to start from grease wool simply for the sake of doing it (I might if my friends end up owning sheep, however) and most (though not all) of my clothing is machine made.

I sincerely doubt I will ever have a home in the countryside.

My teacher–who is heavily Vanir focused–needs to escape to nature every so often and get out of the city, but I simply don’t have that drive.

My life and my livelihood are tied to cities (and to computers), and I have no plan on changing that nor any desire to change that. I am a white collared technical professional and while I tend to avoid true “concrete jungles” such as NYC, I have no issues in cities such as Denver, Kyoto, or Bangkok which are more open.

That said: I follow old pagan gods. I have longstanding relationships with Odin and Grandfather Raven, among others, and have either received help from or had pleasant conversations with a variety of individuals of races including (but not limited to) the Vanir, Dokkalfar, and Jotuns. For whatever reason to date I’ve had minimal dealings with the Duergar and the Ljossalfar (that I remember, anyways). I am learning–slowly, at the moment–how to be a spirit worker and study seidhr. Some of these gods have trouble adapting to modern city-life, but so far most of them (especially–unsurprisingly–Odin, Loki, Coyote, and Raven) seem quite adept at working inside of modern cities.

Ravens, rabbits, crows, and even Coyotes have adapted beautifully to life in the city (favorite quote: We couldn’t find an area in Chicago where there weren’t coyotes), and their grandfather spirits seem to have done the same.

Meanwhile our offerings are also becoming reflective of this shift. I’ve heard a few people comment on several of the norse gods liking M&M cookies, and I’ve heard of Atomic Fireballs being used as an offering to Loki.

That is not to say that there aren’t difficulties. Finding a tree I can wrap myself around (an exercise mentioned in The Wind is my Mother by Beart Heart) without someone asking if I am okay or calling the police is difficult–though I can put my back to one in most cases and just rest there. When I do need a “bit of greenery” it tends to be limited to an organized, structured form such as a groomed park. Finding places to leave offerings is a challenge, and sending something more complex than a piece of paper up in smoke is frequently quite difficult (especially in CO, where the joke goes that if you shoot someone on your property put a gasoline can in their hand and it will be considered justifiable). In my experience pathwalking is also more difficult in a city, because there are too many “this world” things that need to be paid attention to such as traffic, both legal and practical restrictions on where you can go, roads that curve repeatedly in inconvenient ways, etc. One also has to focus more on blending in.

On the other hand, there is also a strong and increasing need for spirit workers and shamans inside of city limits. People need spirits cleared from houses or get their livers eaten by trolls and need someone to figure out what happened to it. Places of work can be high stress and filled with a variety of energies that need a good shamanic practitioner to deal with them. There are spirit-forms and landspirits that live in cities, some of which–like coyotes–have just “moved in” and made themselves at home, others of which may be unique to cities. Others just cluster around large groups of people (fear feeders and other dark water creatures, for example).

Most pagans today live in cities, and thus as spirit workers our corporeal clients–as well as our best sources for human instructors and knowledge–tend to be here. This is also not a modern phenomena: There are signs of ancient settlements in Cappadocia that would use underground cities to hide from invaders, Damascus (دمشق‎) was inhabited as early as 5-6000 BCE, while Gamla Uppsala was a thriving population center in the 4th century. Our cities have become denser, larger, and more people live in them. We have covered them in concrete and asphalt instead of cobblestone, but the existence of cities is in no way new. We are part of our environment, and it is part of us, and cities have their own spirits and energy that–even if we choose to not deal with them–our corporeal clients frequently must.

Basically I have found no true conflict, at least so far, with following these paths–spirit worker, Northern Tradition Pagan, follower of Odin, etc–and living inside of a city. At least, so far, for me.

This is not to say that the spirits don’t sometimes place demands on us that require us to move outside of the city. Some spirit workers find they need to learn how to bow hunt, or feel a compulsion to get “out.” Some find that their gods want them to till the land on at least a periodic basis. Some feel decidedly uncomfortable in cities, or view them as overly complex. Some find the need for body modification or tattoos which make client interactions in white collared jobs difficult. Sometimes we can negotiate how this will work inside of a city (e.g., by joining a farm co-op or getting tattoos in a less visible location), sometimes some people can’t. It varies by individual and depends on their relationship to the spirits.

This also isn’t to say that there is anything wrong with being “called to the countryside.” There is nothing wrong with making a personal decision based on the factors in your life to abandon cities in part or in whole.

I just don’t believe there is anything with being called to the city either, even as part of a nature-based religion. I also think that we, as pagans and as spirit workers, need to be having a discussion on how to adapt our practices for use in the cities. We need to be sharing tips and tricks, and establish for each of us exactly how much cannot be done inside of a city, how much we can adapt to city life (can we put a stang against a wall in the apartment instead of in the ground, for example?), and how much is best done inside of a city.

Further Reading

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Voting

Politics is always a sticky subject. I’ve found that I can agree with someone in the entirety on virtually every issue and still end up voting for the exact opposite candidate because I believe that they are closer to realizing my goals, or simply because while we agree on issues we prioritize those issues differently.

As we approach any election–but especially this one–I start to see a lot of voter apathy. They aren’t happy with their options, they feel that their party is in a good position, they feel that their party isn’t doing enough, or they feel like one vote doesn’t matter. Regardless of the reason, they end up not spending the time to vote.

The question comes up, is it rational to vote? This question was analyzed by Aaron Edlin, Andrew Gelman and Noah Kaplan in their study Voting as a Rational Choice: Why and How People Vote To Improve the Well-Being of Others where they state:

In a large election, the probability that a vote is decisive is small, but the social benefits at stake in the election are large, and so the expected utility benefit of voting to an individual with social preferences can be significant.

So while there may be conscious reasons to not vote, if you care about social welfare and the stakes are high (as they tend to be every two years), it can be a rational decision to vote.

But don’t just vote either. You can enhance you impact and help clean up the tone of politics with your vote and with how you treat that vote. Just voting is a bit like signing a petition: it can help do a great deal, but it helps even more if you amplify it through encouraging others to vote, education, and activism.

Getting out the Vote

If your vote rationally matters (as discussed above), then you can raise that impact by getting your friends and family to vote as well. This is why volunteers are always so important to campaigns: they help get people out and voting.

Even by the mere act of voting you can encourage others to vote (and the ones you encourage can encourage others), and thus increase your impact and the chance of realizing what you are looking for.

Education

What’s more, a lot of people vote for things they later regret or that are actually contrary to their views, because there is so much propaganda, misinformation, and mudslinging. Sometimes amendments or positions are specifically worded as to mislead, or in some cases candidates will publish ads in specific audiences which say the exact opposite of what they stand for.

This is where research comes in. There are several things you can do to help here, and one of the best starts with registering for an absentee ballot. An absentee ballot gives you a lot of advantages for making informed choices: it lets you look through your options, do research, and not have to worry about remembering how you planned on voting.

There are also a variety of great resources to help people make informed decisions:

  • Ballotpedia contains information on a wide variety of things that will appear on the ballot. It will tell you what amendments, for example, are on the ballot, history of similar attempts, text of the changes, arguments being put forth and against and by whom.
  • Judgepedia has information on judges and links to their performance reviews.
  • Project Vote-Smart and their project VoteEasy, which can help you ascertain candidates positions and help you match them with your own.
  • GovTrack.us is a great site for tracking specific pieces of legislation and their status.
  • Various fact checking sites. These are susceptible to their own kinds of bias and manipulation, but they are still essential to evaluating what is being claimed.

These are all great tools for helping people make informed choices about what is on their ballots. If it seems daunting don’t worry: just take it step at a time, starting with Vote-Easy for candidates and Ballotpedia for everything else.

Activism

President Obama is fond of saying that change is not a spectator sport. There is a lot of truth to this, and I sometimes feel that many of the people who elected him felt that everything would be fixed within a few weeks of him taking office and that their job ended with the vote they cast in November 2008.

That is not where the hard work for change stopped, however, that is where it began.

Get out there and advocate for what you believe in. Donate money to organizations that you believe in the mission of, write letters to the President and Congress, and help get others to vote. Volunteer or donate in your local area for causes you believe in as well. Also: Don’t get discouraged. Ultimately, we need to be willing to accept that the perfect is the enemy of the good and that progress is neither easy nor quick.

Conclusion

I have a tendency to vote for the candidate that I believe brings us closer to rational discourse. Not based, necessarily, on agreement with positions, but rather which candidate shows themselves to be intelligent, thoughtful, and rational? Which one do I think will make a good leader and which one do I think will sensibly evaluate the issues and listen to a variety of expert counsel.

Ultimately, that is the kind of conversation that I want to dominate politics.

Do I think that my vote this election will realize it? Not necessarily, especially not until we realize that plurality voting is horribly flawed and implement something like Approval Voting. However, when my vote will matter, I don’t want it to not pass because I wasn’t there or because those people who I could encourage to vote weren’t there.

If I want the dialog to change–which I do, desperately–then I believe that one of the best ways to do it is to vote and keep voting while advocating that others do the same.

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