Posts tagged ‘UPG’

Visions of Vanaheim: Book Review

Visions of Vanaheim by Nornoriel Lokason

Available on: Amazon, Createspace, Etsy

V of V was previously published in 2009 under the name Svartesol, in its new edition it has been greatly expanded with information gained from the author (and others’) personal spiritual experiences astrally travelling to Vanaheim. However it is made pretty clear throughout the book what information is from historical sources and what is spiritual experience.

While the term Asatru, meaning true to the Aesir is sometime used generically to mean a Norse polytheist (esp. reconstructionist) religion, a growing number of people have come to see Heathenry as including three pantheons- the Aesir, the Vanir and the Jotuns. While most Heathens focus on the Aesir (assuming that this includes at least some of the Vanir- Frey, Freya & Njord), others have come to focus on the Vanir, calling themselves Vanatru, and the Jotuns or Rokkur, Rokkatru. Lokason believes that the Jotuns are the oldest pantheon, the Vanir branched off of them and the Aesir came in later on. He goes through a timeline of archaeological evidence in Northern Europe and interprets it through this theory.

There are chapters on both the deities traditionally seen as Vanic- Njord, Nerthus, Frey and Freya, as well as deities named in the lore that the author and other Vanatru believe to be Vanic, such as Idunn and Eir, and beings that Lokason has learned about or encountered through his spiritual journey.

The Eshnahai (which is what the Vanir call themselves) are a race of elves (the distinction between elves and gods being minimal) and Lokason shares with us details of the 24 Eshnahai tribes, named after various animals that they can shape-shift into, aspects of their daily life and spirituality. The holidays of the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year have their equivalent in Vanaheim, and descriptions of how they are celebrated there as well as how they might be here in Midgard by a solitary or a group are given.

I will admit that I am a rather unlikely reader for this book- I tend to be skeptical when I hear of information gained from shamanic journeying, channeled from spirits and the like. However, this is how religions are formed- from visions, from extra-ordinary claims of miracles. To truly explore religion means that at some point, you will have to open yourself up to possibilities of the uncanny. So while I’m still not sure if I am necessarily a True Believer in all of Nornoriel’s Lokason’s experiences, I am keeping an open mind and enjoying the ride.

I think this book would be enjoyed by non-Pagans who enjoy mythology and fantasy fiction, by Pagans who otherwise might not be interested in Heathenry, but are open to a more visionary perspective on it. Heathens who want to explore further their relationships with the Vanir, elves, connection with nature and practice of magic and seidhr would also find a lot of value in the book.  I also think Celtic Pagans and Druids would find a lot of that resonates within these pages.

Above all, you can see the love and devotion with which it was written. There are a couple of errors in the text, unsurprising for a self-published work, but not enough to take away from the reading experience.

This is the first book in a planned series of four- the next one entitled Voices of Vanaheim is set for release in November 2014. It will be a collection of stories told from different perspectives about the history of Vanaheim and the Eshnahai.

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October 20, 2014 at 11:30 pm 1 comment

Tiptoe among the Tulips, I mean Heathens

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What, me fluffy? (Photo of bunny rabbit in Viking helmet & shield.

So I signed up for a Asatru/Heathen group on Facebook, and I was reading thru their long list of rules, which hey, I do appreciate it when the rules are specifically laid out- and that is well-moderated. Unlike in person interactions where I may have to figure them out the hard way! But I was just thinking, Wow, I think hanging out with all these Lokeans and Vanatruar online has kind of “corrupted” me, at least as far as the No UPG Thanks, We’re Serious Asatru Recons are concerned.  (This is the part where y’all get the chance to cackle!) I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, if they want to focus more on scholarly stuff in that group, and don’t want to get sucked into UPG arguments, fine.

Celtic Recons sometimes have a reputation for being anti-UPG, but the information we have available on Celtic polytheism is even more limited than what we have of Germanic traditions, so at they very least we have to be open to different ideas or we won’t have much to go on. Not to mention, every now and then some scholar will come out with a paper saying so-and-so wasn’t historically worshipped as deity. If someone has been worshipping that deity, and connecting with them and having experiences, it seems ridiculous to drop that practice based on the direction of current scholarship, which might change when the newest journal comes out. Same with Germanic religions- it was mentioned in the rules that discussing the worship of beings who are mentioned in myth but have no historic cult is verboten. Umm, that’s a lot of gods…I kinda wondered if that really was about Heimdall, Baldur, Skadi? Or someone else with red hair….

I pretty much consider myself neutral as far as the Loki/jotun worship issue is concerned, which is kind of like trying to be neutral about abortion among feminists or something…my partner (who’s agnostic, but familiar with Norse mythology) said to me once “Isn’t worshipping Loki kinda like voting for the Pro-Ragnarok party?” “Maybe so, I said. But everyone loves a rebel, particularly pagans!”

So no, I’m not going to say that honoring Loki & co. is a good or bad idea (heck, some people have rather dubious reasons for worshipping Odin…) mostly I’m just bugged by the obsessive Lokean-bashing that goes on among some heathens. I also notice that the most vocal about this, frequently use ableist, homo/transphobic language in their bashing, and seem to be more frequently (though not necessarily) associated with the folkish wing of Asatru. Hence I will be avoiding the AsatruLore forums…  I also have made the acquaintance of many bloggers/posters who have behaved courteously to me, and share many interesting and thoughtful ideas in their writings who are Loki-worshippers. Are there other Loki-worshippers who behave badly? Yes, I’m sure there are, just as they are badly behaved worshippers of every deity.

As for Vanatru, I do not necessarily label myself as such, but I do find that many Vanic identified folks are a lot friendlier, more open to new ideas, but often still scholarly. They tend to have a less of a Macho Viking Warrior mentality- a mentality which I think is very unhealthy, and also more reflective of modern projections of what some people want the ancient Norse to be, and the bias of the limited information we have on the religion.  Even people who don’t specifically call themselves Vanic/Vanatru, but happen to have one of them as their patron, seem to be friendlier.

I don’t care whether your spiritual practice is totally something you came up with yourself, or based on painstaking PhD. level research. If you behave honorably and politely, and treat people who are different from you and disagree with you with respect, and don’t put up with racists/sexists/homophobes/abusers etc. in the name of “frith” or “what will the neighbors think, let’s sweep this under the rug” then I will consider you a worthy person to discuss ideas with, whether online or offline- maybe even a friend. And I’ll tell other people that when they talk about you behind your back.

I don’t want to get into these arguments. I’ve had enough of many of the same ones among Celtic Recons. I will just be careful where I go, and what I talk about. Much like life outside the Internet.

(Oh and for the record, I’m pretty sure both major American parties are Pro-Ragnarok, at least as far as their policies are concerned…)

July 24, 2014 at 2:42 am 1 comment

Reconstructionism and American Culture

Sometimes I feel as if the Internet is more of a curse to our communit(ies) health and vitality than a blessing, but I do thing one huge benefit to it is being able make friends from other countries and learn from their points of view. I was reminded of this again reading Naomi’s blog today-

Sli na Firinne (The Way of Truth)

“Imbas is not the same as UPG. It is ‘inspiration’ – it’s closer in meaning to ‘awen’ in the Welsh. However, UPG is not a term that I recognise anymore. I didn’t come up with it, nor did my community. It’s not Gaelic or Brythonic. It’s also a very American phrase – I’ve never heard a British Pagan use it. And also, I’m starting to doubt that our ancestors would have needed a term like that. I suspect they went where the inspiration flowed, rather than forcing themselves to live by ‘lore’. They were not fundamentalists.”

UPG (Unverified or sometimes Unique Personal Gnosis) comes from the American Heathen/Asatru communit(ies)- some factions of which seem to have problem with the influence of Biblical literalism and fundamentalism. I hear a lot about Heathens who are “lore-thumpers” and argue about textual citations in a similar way to Christians. There are similar problems in other recon traditions. Some of us come from conservative Christian upbringings, and in general, our country was in part founded by religious dissidents who were very concerned with finding the One True Way of following God/Jesus- the Puritans were trying to “purify” the Church of England, but were persecuted as heretics so they came here. Then they persecuted other people but that’s another story…

I’ve noticed British and European Druids & Pagans tend to more relaxed about “going with the flow” (like awen/imbas) in following where their spirits lead them. Whereas I think reconstructionism has become a bigger thing in the U.S. because we feel lack a sense of legitimacy, because we don’t live in the lands of our traditions, and we feel disconnected. And then some of us think we know the “right” way and tell our fellows across the pond how to do things. We need to cut that out 🙂 Here is another post also by Leithin Cluan the gap in perspective of British and American style Druidry

Related Links (I don’t necessarily with everything said here, just more food for thought) 

A Caution Against Pagan Fundamentalism by Lupa

What Constitutes Pagan Fundamentalism? by Sarenth Odinsson

I’d like to highlight one of the commenters on the second piece (Myriad) was German and mentioned a difference in understanding of racism/sexism/homophobia etc. from a German vs. American view. 

July 10, 2014 at 1:25 am 7 comments


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