May I have everyone’s attention please.

To everyone who’s attention I have received, I thank you for reading. Even and especially if you come to disagree with what I have to say.

Over the course of the last several months I have noticed a pattern that leads to misunderstanding and discord among all polytheists. It goes like this: Someone shares an idea about devotional practice. This time it was about libations given to Gods as a mindful sacrifice. Others challenge the idea, sometimes angrily. The anger is then reciprocated, and rather than either side being reached out to with patience and tolerance to continue a discussion of the original idea, a flame war breaks out that quickly devolves to the point of accusations of impiety and the illegitimacy of another’s practice.

This needs to stop. On all sides. If it does not, then any and all effort put forth to build some semblance of community among those who honor the Gods may one day be lost to it as those who would otherwise turn to the Gods run fleeing from the fire fight. Perhaps it’s a vain hope (one might argue I serve the God of vain hopes anyway) but I write today hoping to address some of the reasons why the current set of misunderstandings came about. I will also be personally reaching out and inviting as many participants in the argument as I am able to identify. To come here, read, think and perhaps talk.

The Source of the Misunderstanding

This time it began with a post by Tess Dawson which can be found here. There as Tess clearly states in the opening paragraph she responded to a question which was voiced to her at another locale (Facebook). The information she provided was specifically tailored to the question asked which was:

“Is it possible that a God calls you to reinstate something? Is this a possibility? Perhaps I was hallucinating?”

Tess very eloquently and generously provided her advice on how to reach out to a God that you are uncertain of the identity of, which happened to include at the end:

“Do not consume the liquid that you pour for the deity. Wait a cycle of a full day and night, then pour the liquid into the earth outside. Yes. Pour it into the earth. It is not “wasteful”–it was given to a deity and the deity consumed the essence of the liquid. By pouring it out, you are completing the process of sending it on to the deity. By drinking it instead, you may have interrupted this process (again, it can depend on context).”
That above is the quote that later became the center of the current conflict, though it is important to note those five words “it can depend on context” and that this was advice for working with a completely unknown divine presence. Earlier in her post Tess also clearly stated:
“Search for a context. If you feel the god was Egyptian, look to Egyptian religion. If you feel the goddess was Greek, look to Greek religion, and so on.”

This is important as I move us on to the next part of this discourse, the responding article on tumblr. It can be found here. In it the author Satdeshret, expresses that in her experience of the Kemetic deities this would not be appropriate and the offering should be consumed. Not having a relationship with a Kemetic deity or researched their worship extensively myself I wouldn’t know, so I am willing to accept this is quite possibly true. However as noted above, Tess did specifically state that if the querent knew the general origin of the God in question than that tradition should be sought out for inspiration, even mentioning Egyptian religion specifically. The final piece of advice was a general fall back appropriate for a wide number of situations when one does not know which God they are addressing. Perhaps the God was Kemetic, perhaps it did prefer the querent consumed the offering as a gift from that God and reached out to explain so. Such things are not for us to know as they are private and wonderful moments between God and devotee, save when the devotee feels called to share the experience with others.

It was several of the comments on the tumblr post, and later else where that spawned the current fire fight. People wrote to say how they felt libations poured out on the ground or otherwise disposed of and not consumed felt wasteful to them and also cited financial concerns about the cost of said offerings in light of their own situations. Several of the responses to this pointed out that offerings need not be expensive or lavish and many have given what they could even when destitute. Conor of Under The Owl’s Wing even wrote a very helpful post here offering advice on offerings one can give on a low budget.

Why not eat perfectly good food?

I have seen a lot of information out there on various methods of how to make an offering and what to offer. What I’ve seen very little of is why a person may wish to do such a thing. That’s quite a bit trickier to explain.

It does at first seem nonsensical to dispose of perfectly consumable food or drink products and goes against the grain of many ideas we grew up with. Ever have someone tell you to clean your plate because children are starving in wherever? Or even just drill into your head over and over again ‘waste not want not’? Those are important lessons and hard ones to act against once internalized. If like me you’ve ever suffered from hunger (by which I mean once having survived on a packet of ramen a day for over a month, until I finally remembered that those food banks I helped donate to as a kid were there to help in just such a circumstance), the painful reaction to disposing of perfectly usable food is even stronger.

Feelings like those as well as more general negative feelings that can crop any time someone asks us to give up what we have, are extremely difficult to work past. Doing so takes time, effort and maybe a little experimentation. Others will probably be upset at me for this, but my advice is to not rush that process. In my experience the most important thing before the Gods is sincerity. Just as there are arguments as to why consuming an offering to a God may be considered impolite in certain traditions coming forward with an offering given begrudgingly and with a feeling akin to paying the tax man is just as impolite if not more. This helps neither the God nor your own personal development. All back and forth arguments about financial ability to purchase offerings or not aside, if a method of honoring a God feels at all wrong or just not something you’re ready to do at the present time: Don’t do it. Do what you feel able to do and allow for the probability that others will differ.

The most common and useful description of why one would dedicate food to a God for the God alone is as an act of hospitality, akin to offering a friend something to eat and drink as they walk in the door. In my own experience recently with making offerings to the Old Man (how I refer to Odin), I’ve begun to also believe it can be a way for me to share smells, tastes and textures with Him from my life that He might not otherwise encounter. Sure He loves mead and that’s always welcome, but until the other day it never occurred to me to offer Him something like 7up. Thinking on it I realized: you probably can’t get 7up in Asgard. Or Coke Cola for that mater, which for equally quizzical reasons to me He also seems to be fond of.

I didn’t always give offerings like this to Him. In fact for the first several years, at least five, since I first became aware of His presence in my life I didn’t make a single offering of anything other than time and prayer. This was very simply because the idea had never occurred to me, having limited knowledge of written sources of information even less of an idea of how to seek out a good mentor. Odin was a major presence in my life during all that time, nudging and sometimes dragging me in directions that ultimately benefited my development greatly even as being the indolent pup that I was I continued to drag back in directions that led me further down less useful paths.

Once I was aware of the idea of giving Odin offerings it took me I’d say at least a year of wrestling with the concept until it made sense to me internally. Early on I even thought such offerings to be for grand public affairs as much of what I read described group ceremonies. The ‘oh’ moment of realizing a single person could do it came after and I struggled with questions about the value of such offerings for months after that.

It has only been in the last year that I began to share offerings of alcohol with Him, beginning with pouring out mead for Him (for those that will be curious, I spend about 15$ on this a month) on a weekly basis. Adding that regular ceremony which I have since been working towards developing into a daily practice for Him I found added a physical connection that I didn’t have before. Its a powerful way for me to say “This is for You, because You’re important to me and I want You to know that”. It really is much the same feeling as when I give a gift to a dear friend.

So I give Him offerings of various tastes and I leave them out until at least the next day (for soda, usually  this means till it’s flat) to give Him a chance to enjoy the offering at His leisure. Which I’m sure for some begs the next question: how do Gods, which we do not perceive as flesh and blood beings directly in front of us, benefit from such a thing?

Linda Demissy who writes the blog Lofn’s Bard (awesome blog that gets far too little exposure) wrote on experiences with this phenomenon back in July. In her post she writes about her experience holding a spirit supper for Frigga, which is a rite in which she and her friends host a meal and set an extra plate as an invitation to a God or Goddess to come and join in the feast (for her group, often Frigga or one of Her Handmaidens).

Towards the end of the post Linda includes an anecdote detailing her experiences learning how to tell when food has been divinely consumed as well as how that changes the food:

“Testing the Offered Food

Sometimes the food gets eaten by the spirit, sometimes it gets blessed for sharing. It’s easy to test for that. Halfway through the meal, try reaching into their plate with the intent to eat a bite. I myself get nauseous if the food’s been “eaten” by the spirit, like I’m trying to eat a plate of rotten food. Another gets a sense of a thick fog that stops their hand, and some just get a feeling of wrongness. That food is drained of all lifeforce, if you eat it you won’t be able to digest it. I learned that lesson well: I and a friend were instructed by a God to eat a meal they had drained to prove the point. It tasted like cardboard and sat in our stomachs like lead for two hours before I thought to eat a bite of lettuce, to infuse it with a bit of life. Only then were we able to digest it. So don’t feel bad about throwing out “good food,” it really is quite dead after they’ve eaten it. It’s fine for the compost heap though, I say a prayer to Nidhogg to let it rot and return to being fertile soil. After testing their food in this way, try the drink, that’s more often what they bless and want shared. If you bring it to your lips and feel fine, then it’s meant for sharing.”

So yes, it has been experienced by some that food offered to a God is actively consumed and in some way the God is able to draw some tangible benefit from the offering. I’ve experienced this somewhat myself in offering bread (a loaf of pumpernickel that I shared with Her, along with some Southern Comfort) to Angrboda. After leaving the offering out for several hours I returned late in the evening to clean up and out of curiosity tested the energy in the bread in rather the same way I do when working with stones. My hand ached painfully when I did, like when I try testing the energy of a cheap piece of plastic or other extremely ‘dead’ thing. For me consumable food has a warm pleasing energy when I brush my energy against it to which this was a stark contradiction.

The one flaw in both these methods, mine and Linda’s, is that both of us are mystics and are able to sense these things in different ways. However, most people that I know (including my wife) are not able to sense and communicate with divine presences and also may not have an affinity for sensing magic, energy, prana, or whatever you want to call that ‘stuff’. Which is normal and just fine. I’ve never known  lacking those traits to hold anyone back from living a fulfilling life. If you happen to be one of these people and you’re confused by some of what’s above, this next discussion is written for you.

What do Gods like anyway?

Lets say “just go ask the God what is expected of you” isn’t really useful advice for you. There are still a number of ways to gather information on how a particular God prefers to receive offerings available to you. A good starting point is examining ancient tradition through what historical information is known and available. How was this God honored in the past? Burnt offerings, poured libations over a statue or on the ground, animal sacrifice followed by a communally shared feast, offerings left out for a time then disposed of or maybe even human sacrifice? Those are just a few different possibilities that I’ve seen reflected in numerous places and cultures in my studies. Granted that last one isn’t as practical in modern times for what I hope are obvious reasons but even there studying the manner of and reasoning for the sacrifice may give you inspiration for an approximation.

Depending on the particular God and culture involved there may be less information available, bordering on none. Even within in a well known and recorded pantheon such as the Olympians some Gods have less written about Them than others. That being the case you can still look to modern ideas. Poke around the net and see if anyone else has written about honoring the particular God, how they did it and why. Perhaps even write to and ask an author or two with questions. Do so with even more of a grain of salt than you did for the ancient sources (which you should still be carefully considering the exact source of and any possible bias involved) and consider each individual suggestion in light of your own experience as you decide if it is something you should implement or not for your own personal practice. After that you can always take what little information about the God you’re trying to honor and use that as a starting point for your own ideas. Look at the stories about the God and see if they give any hints as to what the God might like. Favorite foods, drinks, objects, actions, etc. You can also apply these methods to when you do have considerable historical information to go by in order to expand your ideas.

Those are the two best suggestions that come to my mind. I considered also writing about seeking the help of a diviner for guidance but chose not to on the grounds that I lack any breadth of experience seeking others to divine for me. Any questions or suggestions of good information elsewhere on this topic are more than welcome in the comments!

“Their Gods must not be real to them.”

Not only in the present discourse over the proper nature of libations but in previous conflicts I have seen a number of regrettable and hurtful things said on both sides of each argument. It would take me an inordinate amount of time to sort out everything I have witnessed that I see as attacks not only against the individual they were directed against, but against the very hope of fostering positive and supportive community relationships among polytheists. Therefore I have chosen to discuss only one today, which heads this section of my post.

The retort “Their Gods must not be real to them” I have seen repeated in a number of places and forms and believe it has now become rather commonplace. I have even used it once myself thinking I did so purely out of support for a friend, without really considering the implications of what I said.

If the individual on the receiving end of the comment is a Mystic, it implies that that person is not hearing Gods at all but merely voices in their own head. This could even be taken as a suggestion that the target of the comment is mentally ill. It also somewhat implies that the speaker somehow has gleaned from clues gained in discourse as to the inner mental workings of the recipient, that the speaker somehow knows the difference between what the recipient actually experiences and only imagines.

Proving or disproving the existence of the Gods is beyond mortal ability. An individual may find a proof that works for that individual, and find others who share in that experience. Even then there is still no empirical means of proving these experiences to an individual who does not share them. Or that the Gods exist as more than thoughts in our heads at all. While we may not accept the experience of another, we can no more disprove their experience then they ours. To imply otherwise one must also accept that one’s own experience with the Gods may be disproved, shown to be imaginary, and possibly the result of a deranged mind.

In the present context I have been seeing the implication that another’s Gods must not be real to them because a person does not make physical offerings that are not consumed by the one making the offering. The argument here is that to consume an offering is the same thing as taking away something that belonged to the God. By not acknowledging this principle the one making the offering does not actually give the God anything. Thus the individual must not truly believe the God is real, else would have known to leave the offering alone so that the God might benefit from it. If offerings are not given at all yet the devotee still professes to have a relationship with the God, then the devotee must still not recognize the God as real because he or she is not doing enough for the God to merit the God’s favor.

This implies that with an understanding of the reality of a God, a devotee would already know this. Given that almost all modern Polytheists come from a non polytheistic background this could not be more unlikely. As I noted above when describing developing my own practice of offerings I was unaware of the idea for considerable time and it was some time after that before I felt ready to incorporate offerings into my practice. If as in the above argument I would have already been doing so if I really believed Odin was real, then this implies I did not and several years of powerful experiences of the Old Man’s presence were all imagined.

Further this and related statements such as “if you’re not willing to put in the work then the Gods are not for you” which I have also seen used in the present debate and previously in different ways, creates conflict with the idea that the Gods have agency. Given that the Gods are individuals with the capacity for individual thought, decision making and most importantly action, then it follows that the Gods can and do decide for Themselves who is worthy of their interest, who is not and what is required of each individual. By stating that those who are not making proper offerings must not believe that the Gods are real or otherwise suggesting that such a person does not benefit from a Gods affection and concern without first meeting certain standards the speaker is interfering in that process.

Gods All Bless

In case I have not yet made it clear to the reader it is my personal stance that those who devote themselves to the Gods should put forth as much effort as they are able towards learning how best to honor the Gods in their lives in the context of each individual God’s standing traditions and the devotee’s personal experience. I myself agree with and include the idea within the Northern Tradition that anything I offer to a God is that God’s alone and not mine to interfere with or consume save with an indication from the God that I should, accepting such moments as gifts from the Gods. I hoped to have accomplished through this a moment for all reading to stop and consider how we educate each other in how this is to be achieved and to consider how our words and actions may positively or negatively effect the spiritual development of our peers.

Everyone who is able to read this has my personal invitation to speak freely in the comments. As I have time to do so, I will endeavor to respond as fully to each comment as I am able.

Gods All Bless, and thank you again for taking the time to read what I have written.

– James Grimswolf

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48 responses to “May I have everyone’s attention please.

  1. Great post, two quick corrections though. My name is spelled Conor, though I don’t care too much about that, and the blog title is Under the Owl’s Wing, Under Two Trees is a different blog than my own managed by Aldrin.

  2. Great entry!
    While I love to offer Dunner alcohol, especially beer and ale, when I am able to, I once offered the Big Guy (my affectionate nickname for the Thunderer) some R.C Cola because I couldn’t afford any good alcohol at the time…..And apparently he adored it as it was. We ended up having a pretty good season in our household so now I have that down as things that he likes, at least from me, that is a good thing to give.
    I think, regardless of what we give and how we give it, we need to remember that we are building or maintaining good relation with the Holy Powers, whoever they may be. The whole point is to be hospitible and generous of the heart.

    So I say that do what you can, what you will, but at the end of the day give it from the heart as you would give a gift to your closest friends and love ones here on Manheem.

    • “give it from the heart” < Much nicer way of putting it than anything I thought of… probably I should man up and get over my aversion to anything that seems 'sappy'.

      Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed this!

    • I’ve found a weird love from the Gods of soda. I give Loki Fanta, Coca-Cola, Sprite, etc because, for some reason, He just really likes it. (Of course, for me, it makes sense, in that He seems to love human ingenuity, and soda is a rather “new” thing. It’s fun, essentially. From my understanding, most of the Norse Gods, at least, seem to love the things we create, even if they appear so dreadfully mundane to us: like soda.) I’ve also given Him things like take-out Chinese or other restaurant leftovers and He’s enjoyed it. (Whenever I give Him offerings, I also ask if He wants it. He rarely says no. Actually, the one time He started to refuse offerings was when I started making spicy eggs & rice every day. He got annoyed and wanted me to start making new food items.)

      • I haven’t really offered anything like that to Loki but then again I don’t really offer to him much outside of either offering to him alongside Wodan when I offer drink to him or when offering alongside Dunner sometimes.
        At this point I’ve only offered soda to one other god besides Dunner and that was to Woden and Loki which was a Jack and Coke mix.

    • You’re welcome. It’s been a tricky process learning how to do so… to quote what I said to my wife as I was writing “I’ve had to censor myself no less than an uncounted number of times in the process of trying to get this done right”. She also bears some of the credit for how this turned out, being as she’s put up with my increased stress levels and near tunnel focus on getting this peice completed over the several days it took.

      Oddly the sources I’ve looked back on for how exactly to do that were a mixture of both my earlier Christian roots and looking to the Old Man for inspiration on how The Lord Of Asgard governed His court of diverse members. Still not sure what to make of the increased frequency I’m seeing those two worlds intersect.

      • You sound like me when I get focused on something and for civility’s sake have to step away from my computer so my response is not like a Lewis Black rant with a page full of “Fuck you!”s separated by connected thoughts.

        My other half helps me very much in the same regard as yours. Gods bless those who share in our life and stress.

        • Heh… if only it was so easy as censoring out explicatives. Much of what I fought against was making unfair over generalizations or otherwise carefully editing words and phrases to minimize the chance that a direct attack on a person or practice might even be implied. And I STILL screwed that up at least once (I’ll bet it was more than once), which Bianca was quite right to point out and I’ve tried to address in a quick follow up and edit.

  3. This is a wonderful, well thought out post.

    I wanted to add a bit of perspective, that of someone people come to for answers to their questions about Gods and personal practice. Some people think of me as an elder, although I’m not entirely sure I’m ready for that title yet; however, I *am* someone people ask advice from when it comes to such things.

    It is never my direct intent to misinform or insult a person who comes to me for help. I spend many hours, most of the time on my own dime, to both research the answer among the lore of the mythos the person is asking about, as well as to ask colleagues I trust who might know more than I about the specific question. Even if I think I know the best answer, I still take the time to speak to at least one or two other fellow spirit workers to make sure my answer is as well-rounded as it can be.

    What makes this difficult to do is when someone vehemently attacks, denies, or rejects the answer I have spent a fair amount of my personal time finding for them. To be clear, I’m totally fine with the fact that I am not always right, and that my answer may ring untrue for them. I always accept that as a possibility, even ending suggestions or thoughts with the questions, “Does that seem right to you?’ or “Does this jive with what you were thinking?” If it turns out I am way off base, I am willing to dig deeper and try again. I take my position in my community with a incredibly deep sense of responsibility, and the first and most important part of that is divorcing my ego from The Work. It rarely bothers me if someone feels my advice or counsel is completely off base, as long as they tell me in a respectful and non-confrontational way.

    Recently, a person I had given many hours of my time helping them develop a deeper relationship with their patron decided to write a fairly angry post detailing all the ways I had made mistakes or been off base over the course of a year of counsel. None of these things were brought to my attention privately; and even more to the point, none of them were brought to my attention when they occurred. I am willing to accept that perhaps it was only when they got some distance from thing that they were able to see where I may have been mistaken, especially since we had a close personal relationship while I was working with them (something that broke my general rule that I do not work professionally for those I am in close relationships with, very specifically to avoid situations like these).

    To sum up so far: I enjoy helping out people who see me as a source of experience and knowledge, even if I receive no tangible compensation for my time; and I am under no illusion that every word that passes my lips is perfectly right or true and applicable to every other person on the planet, including the person who asked me for help in the first place.

    Where it gets difficult for me, is when I spend my time sharing my knowledge and experience with someone, and my compensation is the querant publicly denouncing me, denigrating my reputation and vocation, and in extreme cases, accusing me of illegal, immoral, or heretical activities.

    Sadly, things like that have happened enough times that I have a set response for it. I do not respond, especially if it feels like the person is goading me to. I assume the person is no longer interested in working with me, so I do not contact them. I work through my reaction privately (possibly discussing it with colleagues in a similar fashion that service professionals sit around bitching about people who never tip do). I decide that unless the person offers an apology of their own volition, realizing why I might be offended, hurt, or angered by what they had to say, then I will refuse to give them any more of my time or energy.

    As you might be able to tell from how I write about this, this has not happened once. It has happened so many times, to me and to my colleagues, that we have set procedures for when it occurs.

    In this specific case, Tess was asked a question that s/he thought was a common enough query that they decided to post the answer to a blog, rather than write a direct communication to the querant. They took time they might have been using to engage in their own practice, spending time with their family, doing things that actually pay their bills, etc, to share a morsel of their expertise with those who might be struggling with a spiritual practice.

    And they were rewarded with a flame war.

    This sort of behavior is why many experienced spirit workers do not participate in social media or write blogs. If you want their counsel, you are going to have to make an investment in order to get it. If you want Raven K’s insight, you’re going to have to go to Massachusetts. He has flatly refused to engage with co-religionists online, and this sort of flame war is a perfect example as to why.

    There are some of us, myself included, that believes so strongly in helping people live more fulfilling spiritual lives, that we charge forward, putting up with personal attacks, accusations of illegal activity, etc. And it doesn’t end there: many of us have had criminal acts or threats of criminal acts, up to and including death threats. I have been accused of being a rapist, a pedophile, a sexual predator, a cult leader, a manipulative bastard conning people out of money, and more. And I have had to contact the local constabulatory at least twice about credible threats of violence to my person.

    All because I wrote something or said something that someone found to be wrong, misleading, difficult to understand, challenging, not applicable to their lives or personal practice, or UPG that did not jive with their own.

    It makes it terribly difficult for me and people like me to keep getting up and doing it all over again. Not only because of the personal toll it takes, but because now these rumors exist on the Internet and people who might genuinely need my help will read these outlandish accusations and decide they shouldn’t engage. No matter I have hundreds of people who would be more than willing to vouch for my abilities, my work ethic, and my willingness to stand by a friend or client through whatever they may have to face.

    This comment has gotten extremely long, so I’m going to stop for now. This may become a blog post of it’s own, perhaps. But I wanted to share a little insight as to why some elders seem to react out of proportion to the slight at hand. I do my level best not to turn a disagreement into a flame war, but sometimes it gets so emotionally exhausting and disheartening that I end up venting it in insensitive and inappropriate ways. So as much as people beg that we should be kinder to newer folk, I also beg that we be understanding and respectful of those who are willing to engage with strangers over the Internet.

    • This was very well said, and I think is something that not a lot of people know about or give a lot of thought to. Thank you. If the community snaps at people who actually put out information when they do their best, it is a small wonder that many either don’t bother to get involved in anything online to begin with, or get bitter as time goes on. It’s hard to remain gentle and charitable with people when you’re harassed for expressing and maintaining your own views, sharing your practice, holding up your standards, etc.

    • In answer to why someone may angrily reject what you are saying, you may want to look at psychology. You may have hit too true to the issue, and they are in a state of denial. Anger is one of those signs. If you have a decent relationship, letting them vent, and then asking socratic questions, about why they are angry, usually defuses that and lets them think on it. (in my experience)

  4. Excellent post. 🙂

    Concerning the testing of food, which you’ve quoted from my blog: everyone in my kindred got some sort of negative reaction to trying to eat the offered food, and either a positive or neutral reaction to the drink. They’re certainly not all mystics, so I believe it works for most people.

    I’d highly recommend people testing it themselves. Offer some food, and explain to the deity in prayer that you want to learn what happens when that food is later eaten. Come back an hour later, and do the test of reaching for it. If you’re not sure, eat it (on an empty stomach, so there is no other lifeforce mixed in). Warm it up if needed. Notice how it tastes. Notice how your digestion goes. If it doesn’t digest, eat a bit of raw vegetable to get your digestion going again.

    By the way, the lesson I refer to in my post, where my friend and I were forced to eat the food of the feast after it had been consumed by the deity? That deity was Loki. It was a table full of dollar store cookies, and while not being great to begin with, they really did all taste like cardboard to both of us. He sucked all the artificial joy out of the cookies! When we cleaned up a few hours later, my friend asked if I wanted to keep them or throw them. Believe me, I had no remorse in throwing them out at that point.

    • That is intersting… I wonder now if there’s more way’s to experiment with things like that? I know my wife and a few of the other people I work with who don’t interact with Gods and spirits the way I do can still perceive subtle changes in energy and I keep wondering how much of that is universally applicable as tools we can use in sharing these experiences.

      Did recall you mentioning it was Loki to me, but wasn’t sure if that was information meant to be made public so I held it back when I was writing. Thank you very much for sharing it with everyone!

  5. As I think about it, there’s another point to share in this.

    Very often, someone will ask my opinion on a piece of UPG (for example), and when I share my intuition or feelings on the matter, it turns out they really just wanted someone to verify what they were thinking/feeling/intuiting. An easy example is the number of people who have contacted me to verify that Loki was proposing godspousery – they really want me to say yes, so they can join a hearty and supportive online community that seems like it’s having a lot of fun and fellowship. So if I say anything other than “Oh, yes, you’re 100% correct”, on the gentle end I get a “well, everyone has the right to their opinion”, and on the less gentle end, it’s more like “Screw you and all that you stand for, nothing you say is ever right and I now doubt that Loki even knows who you are, you sick sonofagun.”

    It’s a part piece of counsel to share, but I do believe it’s an important thing to consider: it is a different thing to ask someone to support a piece of intuition you have, than it is to ask someone for their unique intuition on something. There is a difference between “I think Loki is a redhead; does Loki appear as a redhead to you?” and “What color is Loki’s hair?”

    I find that often, when people come to me with a question about practice or UPG, they already have an answer in mind. It’s either something they hope to hear reflected back to them, or something they desperately want me to refute. So if I give them anything but one of those two answers, they attack *me*. Not even what I have to say, and most of the time not even me-as-spirit worker, but me as an everyday human being. They try to turn things I’ve shared about myself online, into some sort of sordid dirty laundry.

    It always feels odd to me. I’m actually *happy* when someone who seeks out my counsel comes back with, “Well, I see what you’re saying, but maybe it applies in a different way” or in some other way doesn’t accept what I say as dogma. I’m still just a human being, and even though I have more experience with some of these practices, doesn’t mean that what I say is Holy Writ. Even *I* don’t treat it that way. I’m completely open to discussing things with someone to the end of mutually constructing an answer that is better than any answer either one of us would come up with on our own.

    The part that makes me crazy – not that it was a long trip, mind you – is when people (on both ends – some “elders” are just as guilty) turn a theological discussion into a personal attack war. I’d happily read 1800 essays on why “God Sex” is an inaccurate piece of doggerel, because in its own way it’s teaching me more about a subject I thirst for. But it can be very difficult and draining to read yet another “Because Del writes about sacred sex and kink, he must therefore be involved in illegal sexual activities” or “Del works for Loki, so everything he says is a lie” or “I have decided to interpret something Del said or did in the most negative way possible”. It really makes me want to take my ball and go home; which is why you haven’t seen a substantial post out of me for a while, even though some really thought-provoking stuff has been going on in my world. I’m just not in a place where I can maturely handle some of the personal attacks I’ve been receiving as of late.

    But the lesson is, if you ask for advice, at least be open to the answer. Try to not hold expectations of the answer, but if you have them, be clear about that up front. It’s easier for me to answer a question if I know the querant has a bias – if I agree with their assessment, I don’t have to give a long explanation, and if I don’t, I can craft my response with respect for the opinion already given. But having an answer in your head, and then battering me with it like a 2×4 when what I say doesn’t match? That’s the definition of an unfair fight.

  6. 1. Why are you assuming that those who took issue with Tess 1st post, were younger and less experienced?

    2. Her second clarifying post, soundly deserves the critiques it got. Her third, is not much better. That is really what got many of the posters fired up and I really don’t blame them. It is really insulting. Personally, I am putting Tess in a maybe category too look to for information. I had had respect for her prior to that second article, now, none.

    Having seen many of the contentious essays, against Tess, they expressed throwing out perfectly good food, is wasteful to them, they pointed out, that others may not be able to do so in financial constraints, and it should be considered. It is a valid point, and should not have been so dismissed out of hand by those who you are calling older and more experienced. Those who said, they felt it was wasteful, A. were of traditions where eating the food is ok, and B. have kids and devote other ways, that their Gods approve of.

    In what I am seeing, you are essentially saying respect your elders. However… Why do you think that Tess and those that you respect are those Polytheists elders? Seeing the various comments in many of the blogs, do you not think that those you respect did not behave badly and could own their own role in this? Maybe it’s not the people who wrote fiery opposing blogs that need to stop, maybe this once, it’s the others.

    It is one thing to say, do not consume offerings, because in my experience a and b and c happen. But to try to enforce that on others, and demean others(and yeah, the comments are pretty darn demeaning) for not agreeing with them and having other experiences, is another. Tess’s second post is also very demeaning and I can’t even fathom why she’s getting defended for it.

    Maybe those that are writing the opposing views, do not need to take Tess’s advice, because it doesn’t apply. Maybe instead of getting irritated about not listening to those that consider themselves elders, maybe they should sit down and listen themselves.

    Also, if people don’t do devotions the way they want, and the their Gods are displeased, Can’t those Gods make their point known on their own? Did it really require the Thou shalt do x and only x posts?

    In my eyes, this is more about Ego on one side. I think that instead of saying that older and more experienced, you might want to think that the detractors of Tess are Polytheist peers, who have their own experiences, that may just be as matched as Tess’s. The people I have seen writing aren’t some young whippersnappers.

    • My biggest issue with the whole “respect your elders” thing is that:

      1. There’s no REAL way to gauge who is an “Elder” and who is not. Not in Witchcraft and religion in general where methodology and beliefs differ person-to-person even in the same circles and denominations.

      2. You can be someone who has rightfully earned the “Elder” status in one way… But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should automatically be assumed or considered an “Elder” in all things just because. I’m good with Herbal Medicine and have studied it for going on 13 years now… But if I started speaking out my ass about Magical Herbalism (something I know little to nothing about outside of the small areas where it overlaps with Medical Herbalism- which is basically safety and that’s it), I’d expect people to call me on my shit and not assume I know what I’m talking about just because i’m good at and knowledgeable in something else entirely- no matter how remotely related the two things are.

      3. Being an “Elder” does not always equal someone being “right”, “more knowledgeable”, or “more wise”, etc. My Grandmother is my Elder, but she’s a racist xenophobe who hates Mexicans. Really not exactly the type of person who deserves respect just because she’s older than I am and has been doing “life” longer.

      4. “Elder” status doesn’t give you any authority to say “this is how things should be done” anyways and also doesn’t mean you’re 100% worth listening to in the first place. It just means you’ve been doing your particular method for a while… But having a lot of experience in YOUR method doesn’t necessarily mean you can tell me anything about MY method, or that our methods are equal, the same, etc.

    • “1. Why are you assuming that those who took issue with Tess 1st post, were younger and less experienced?”

      Thank you very much for bringing this point up and getting the conversation going on Ageism in the later comments. Looking back on what I did, it was a quick gathering of various reported ages I had seen on various blogs and including myself in the younger inexperienced crowd. Along with other hang ups including my frustration with having few role models and teaches to turn to on my own path. That was an unfair biased assumption of mine and I have since changed the wording of the sentences that implied this assumption. Again, thank you very much for pointing this out to me so that I could have the chance to try and correct it.

      “2. Her second clarifying post, soundly deserves the critiques it got. Her third, is not much better. That is really what got many of the posters fired up and I really don’t blame them.”

      I agree, and I did read those posts from Tess and several other particularly negative posts that it could be easily argued were direct attacks against those who disagreed with Tess. I considered including those posts in the discussion I’ve begun here, but chose instead to focus on what I saw were the most positive elements from both sides. That being more or less accomplished at this point and a considerable amount of information about the exact nature of the incident and how this post of mine does not reflect several important facts about the root matter (which really had nothing at all to do with what constitutes an appropriate libation), I plan on writing another follow up post this weekend that will specifically address those follow up posts of Tess’ and several responses that fell in the same vein.

      “Maybe those that are writing the opposing views, do not need to take Tess’s advice, because it doesn’t apply. Maybe instead of getting irritated about not listening to those that consider themselves elders, maybe they should sit down and listen themselves.”

      Funny you should say that… I’ve been following though not as yet participating in a conversation on tumblr tagged on to reblogs of this post suggesting exactly this sentiment.

        • I haven’t read that one yet… probably I should. You can expect another post from me regarding information that I didn’t have before I wrote this post that puts a very different light on this madness. You can see some of in Das Heirdha’s comment and link below this one. Piecing together some of the missing pieces and more importantly seeing WHY I was missing them, I’m not sure what’s coming. My intent and approach will still be one of peace, but I’m less hopeful now if that is possible. If it is not… I will at least mark out a few clear boundaries for myself and make several of my own positions and values as clear as I can.

  7. First of all, thank you for including me in the dialogue. I appreciate you trying to bring a meeting of minds on such a hot topic. It’s not an easy thing to do by any means.

    As I said in my blog and on tumblr my biggest qualms came with Tess’ attempts to clarify. She started assuming language which was very classist and racist, which I felt deterred from what she was saying. Making remarks about how those who live in ghettos can “pour a 40 for their homies” is racist and classist. It implies anyone who is impoverished must live in violent parts of town and must be a black criminal stereotype. This type of language is very problematic in the Pagan community, and if Tess is an elder should do more to be an example of how Pagans are welcoming of all backgrounds. This includes not assuming everyone who is impoverished is a criminal nor a PoC. Poverty doesn’t know race, and implying that those who are impoverished aren’t welcome to worship the gods is very hateful and unwelcoming as well. It’s partly this type of language and attitude which contributed to my exit from Christianity. If I recall other Pagan elders have criticized Christianity for the same things. If we find such philosophies unbecoming for Christians, why do we condone it for Pagans who express it?

    I also have problems with another -ism in Paganism and another poster beat me to it: ageism. Not everyone who had qualms with Tess is a teen or twenty-something. It’s often used as a dismissive tactic to assume those who disagree or call out an elder must be some kid with a fire in his or her belly. I am actually in my 30’s, for example. If you want to refer to the reaction as sophomoric, very well. I’ve learned especially from Pagans, however, immaturity and youth don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.

    While I do not agree with what should be done with offerings, I expressed that view as my own and even expressed what Kemeticists do with offerings. I even pointed to sources on how to not “steal from a god” when you take it off the shrine. The post that sparked this was in particular a Kemetic deity and some Kemeticists felt a need to clarify. As others in the conversation posted Kemeticists aren’t the only ones who eat or drink offerings. The biggest issue with what she said appears to be that it was too generic and some Kemeticists felt she was trying to speak with expertise about a religion she didn’t fully know. It only got ugly when people pointed out they couldn’t afford to not ingest offerings which apparently provoked the unsightly response.

    I think if it were more clear that it was generic and without the hate speech this wouldn’t have been an issue for many.

    • ^This is my understanding of the issues in question.
      I took exception to Tess’ use of stereotypes, and her carelessness in responding to justified critiques.

      I didn’t actively participate, however, having more than enough on my plate offline at the moment.

    • +1

      The second post of Tess still has me feeling cold fury. There are now other contributing factors.

      It is a valid theological point, of what about the people who can’t afford to do x. All that needed to address that point, was not to demean others circumstances, or say when I was in bad situations I did it. Nonoriel wrote a valid point your experiences with poverty is not everyones experiences with poverty. It didn’t take aubs tea a long time to come up with a valid and in her path historically accurate, way to give. That could have been expressed so much respectfully.

      It is drama llama now, by many things. The hubris, that any other polytheist needs to adhere to another polytheists way of doing things. It is not going to be out of norm to have someone take a awww hell no stance, who do you think you tone, when faced with you must do my way. Why? Because the basic respect was not given in the first place, they are not under any obligation to return it.

      Apologies inho, need to be made from Tess. Those that agreed with her second post, should also do so. By defending her, and not addressing the stuff she said you agree with it, and therefore you are also being insulting. That needs to be addressed first, it is the source of most of the fury and anger and hurt feelings.

      I do not think that the standards thing can be addressed. It is another matter entirely and will cause more drama in the future.

      • I agree that standards will have to be addressed in a different topic altogether. Right now if we tried to address it I think to many issues, like this one, will be tied to it.

        I think you and I hit on the heart of the issue: the insults, whether perceived or not. I’m guessing had Tess Dawson not felt insulted she wouldn’t have responded the way she did. Even so, what she said is damaging and hurtful beyond the scope of those in this conversation. I have in-laws who, in spite of being upstanding members of their own communities, are still subjected to this type of nonsense because of their skin color. Too many assume because they are Togolese they either are: very poor and live a life of crime; or they assume they are inferior in other ways.

  8. I think we all need to calm down and actually listen to each other for once.

    Firstly, I conisder an elder to be so because they’ve been doing this longer than me, and I trust their opinion. That’s the only quibble with Mr. Grimmswolf’s post I have. Elder is a title based on experience. The 18 year old girl in my aikido class is my elder, despite me being 30, because she’s been doing it longer, knows more, and shows me stuff. I’m am an elder to the 45 year old new guy. Its relative.

    As well, I think what Mr. Grimmswolf is trying to address is NOT the content of Ms. Dawson’s first post, but the way everyone reacted to it. We as a community rarely have civil discourse. We seem to immediately go for the throat.

    Completely disregarding Ms. Dawson and the most recent kerfuffle, which in my opinion, does have issues on both sides that I’m not qualified to address as I was not around for, is not the crux of the problem and I thoughtnk we need to put all the fights over practices and opinions aside so we can address the bigger problem of how the pagan ‘communities’ are broken when it comes to discourse.

    The issue is the stupid cycle we are in, and that is the fault of all of us. Del shared some of his experiences which I understand as him giving an example of why some spirit workers get defensive so quickly, and I understand that. Its very hard to deal with that over and over. It gets to you. And I see new folks getting burned by defensive spirit workers, and are in turn are distrustful of them. It doesn’t help that folks on ALL sides are also activly trolling others and feeding the drama, which seriously needs to fucking stop. That has no place in religious discourse.

  9. I had little problem with Tess’s original article other than Tess sorely butchered the original question in an effort to create a response- and in doing so gave bad information and suggestions.

    In the original and actual case, the God was, indeed, known to the user asking the question. The first time around, Tess gave some damned good advice. When asked how to go about carrying that advice through, however, Tess failed. Since the god was known, and was a Kemetic entity, the appropriate thing to do would be to stick to her original comments about validation, and then point them to the Kemetic community in following through with any offerings, petitions, etc. Instead, Tess wrote the article she did and sorely butchered the original quote so as to strip any and all context from it- which is where the jimmies originally got ruffled.

    She promoted the things she did (which all around is decent advice, though it fails to state it’s her opinion), which are in direct conflict with Kemetic practices (which are historically verified and promoted) when the deity in question was known to be Kemetic.

    The rest of the issue with Her and the rest of her group stems entirely from the fact that those pointing this out were ignored and glossed over (and basically told to “shove it”), and that those who pointed out the problem of poverty were responded to as children and with classist and racist remarks to boot. Everything, in the end, was chalked up to those of us responding to her asininity as “casually throwing around terms in order to manipulate her (and her group) and discredit them”.

    Basically… Tess and her group threw what amounted to a giant temper tantrum after being called out on their remarks in her “classifier” to the original post. Those are the issues here now, from my understanding, and you can see a good amount of their quotes in my own response to their arguments here: http://saltyourbones.wordpress.com/2013/12/21/on-classism-paganism-and-the-piety-posse/

    • My apologies for taking so long to get to this. Thanks to you and others bringing the original conversation to my attention I’ve been able to sort through more of the original source of the situation, and will be working on a post about it now… bear with me. This should get interesting.

  10. Pingback: Quickie Follow Up and Response to Ageism Comments | Grim's Wolf

  11. Hello James,

    first of all I’d like to thank you for including me in this discussion. I would prefer not to go into the discussion that was summarised by you and the previous commenters much better than I could have done. I couldn’t help but realise that the heart of the matter, namely libations and what to do with them, was demoted to a secondary issue in the course of this debate — that, in other words, the most controversy concentrated around classist and racist remarks made by Tess Dawson (whom I had not heard of before this).

    The backlash this created is not unjustified, nor is it entirely a bad thing. This is my opinion, and I state it here, but I would really like that to be the end of my participation.

    Regarding the issue itself, I really believe that your advice to listen to what the Gods tell you is worth more than you give yourself credit for. Most people I know do have an intuitive grasp on it (though some might not realise it even). And if an intuitive grasp is not there, you can always use simple divinatory methods to confirm what to do. Personally when in doubt, I use a pendulum for that kind of query (which reminds me I’ve been wanting to write a post about using simple divinatory tools in one’s everyday devotional life).

    Regarding the point of poverty: I completely understand this, and I firmly believe that so do the Gods. They are old Gods, and They have been Gods for everybody, not just the wealthy, for a long, long time. They could not have been that if They had imposed impossible rules on the people who worshipped Them. The Gods-humanity relationship — in the most general sense — is sustainable and economic. Time has shown this, and no amount of arguing to the contrary will negate it.

    There’s another point that I’d like to address, and that concerns the amount of whatever it is that is offered. I have gotten the impression that there’s an unusual preoccupation with size when it comes to offerings, that I don’t think is at all necessary. When I make offerings of perishable goods, I use a small offering bowl into which I place the offering. The bowl holds little more than two or three tablespoons of food. It doesn’t have to be a huge portion. When making an offering of something I cooked, I specifically set aside the portion of it that I want to give away. A significant part is about intent and awareness. It’s about the bone-deep realisation that this portion is intended for the Deity, which means that its purpose is to nourish the Deity, to invite Them, or to strengthen a previously established bond with Them. It’s about watching the food slide off the spoon and into the bowl and realising the moment it becomes sacred. Size really doesn’t matter in this case, but intent does; it’s a perfectly “valid” offering as long as greed, meanness, laziness are not why one is doing it. If fruit juice is really hard to come by for financial reasons, filling but a thimble with it would be absolutely sufficient.

    While I was with my family these days, Loki had a single candle that I would light, decorated with some fir and a simple bow made with a piece of giftwrapping ribbon. I poured out libations for Him using an egg cup. And you know? He was happy about it; more than that, really. 🙂

    Happy new year (in case we don’t read each other before that)!

    • I rather love your point about -size-. When I moved into my apartment, I bought teeeny tiny dishes–a bowl that holds a few tablespoons (maybe about 4), a small appetizer-sized plate, and a very small martini glass. It’s super tiny. And kinda adorable (because I like tiny things). And He doesn’t CARE that He’s not getting big bowls of things. I make my dinners and it’s “blessed” in essence (as the act of making the dinner is, itself, a devotional activity) and then I give Him a small share, but I eat and save the rest. When I was starving and didn’t have much money to buy extra food, He’d shrug and say “No, I don’t want my portion” or “I’ll take a SMALLER piece than usual.” (Like when I was sort of black-out sick hungry, He wouldn’t require what I was serving.)

      I think, sometimes, it gets confusing not being able to see how much of an offering people mention. When I mention, it’s usually not that large. He gets His own bottles of alcohol, which usually last several months (my bottle of Jagermeister lasted from August to last night), but I’m not out buying several hundred dollar bottles of whatever.

      Someone mentioned this above, but I love it (and its been something I’ve been grumbling about): the Gods are -OLD- Gods. Who’s going to think Random Starving Peasant X has the ability to serve full-fledged meals every day to their Gods? I mean. We live in a time of PLENTY, even if my country is in the “Great Recession,” and no, things aren’t perfect. People go hungry. BUT the Gods GET that. ESPECIALLY any of the Gods who were travelers of sorts because the Gods have STARVED TOO. (Like when Odin, Loki, & Hoenir went through Midgard and ran into Thjassi.)

      I think actually one of the largest issues is that when people mention what you can give as a libation or offering, it seems that we forget to say “water” or “bread” or “the free candy you get from the bank.” (Of course, there’s also the awkward/interesting thing where my consistent offering to Vali is dried nuts I find on the ground. Talk about “not costing anything.”) I always see it as things you need to BUY (alcohol, candles, etc). So I get the whole “it’s expensive” thing. (Especially when there’s a lot of emphasis on “give the Gods their due” and “honor the Gods honor the Gods honor the Gods” and the only thing to give is water–which feels so “cheap” and not like honoring at all.)

    • That was the part I was most concerned would draw a great deal of anger… I’ve been somewhat surprised none of the comments till now were directed at it, but perhaps I just didn’t consider how difficult an issue it is.

      • I saw it after I reread your post. (I just woke up, so I may come off in grunts). People may not have seen it on the first go round.

        It may need to be a separate post, to have the impact. It is oomph feeling, when you do read it.

        I hope that made sense.

  12. Pingback: Questions for Tess Dawson | Grim's Wolf

  13. Pingback: “Their Gods must not be real to them.” | Grim's Wolf

  14. Pingback: Why the Wolf Howls Alone | Grim's Wolf

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