Put this on a Vanatru board and could hear crickets…. bummed out. I understand WHY, but where’s MY community where I don’t have to worry if people will feel defensive or confused? I get tired of having to make myself smaller and deny my truths to be friends or in groups. If you KNOW this stuff and more importantly are DOING this stuff, CONTACT ME PLEASE. I don’t want teachers or students, I want PEERS. Equals in knowledge and experience for mutual respect. I know you’re probably off the grid without internet (I envy you), but, come on, Freya! Get your living Vanatru religion people together as a community of appreciative equals excited to share what we do, with the psyche decolonization and collective group skills to make it sustainable so when we change the outet structure, the old mentality doesn’t ruin it, where solidarity about ecology and devotion to your family nourishes us in living your work. Please! I’m tired of being the educated, experienced radical alone comprising my voice to fit in anywhere pagan. This ain’t to dis anyone, but I want MY community. Yours works for you, not me. I’m not better, I’m different. I want peers. If you feel defensive, why? I’m not attacking you. If you feel defensive, work out your perceived threat on your time, not mine. You’re hearing your own criticism of yourself, not mine. I just want people who meet me where I am. Isn’t that what you want? It’s harder for me with total isolation. I want real understanding and mutual support about what matters to me. People living similar values.
Since religion is what we live , not a hobby on holidays , I’m really interested in how people integrate the main Vanir values of healthy safe food (seeds in Frey’s testicles), oceans and soil which are the main Vanir priorities, into daily life. Being given severe multiple chemical sensitivity was Nerthus way of removing me from everything in this culture that they possibly could for their own reasons which I totally understand – it has nothing to do with how willing I was to do all of the stuff that they wanted at all . I’ve heard someone say that the people who get really sick needed that but those who don’t get sick were more willing consciously – I haven’t experienced that at all in my own life or many others. (Envy of really sick people is weird!)
My liver genetically has problems with detoxification so that means I will get MCS/ was born with it. It is how that was used – considering I was already hard-core ecology , off the grid bioregional animism and also working as a psychic and being really involved with polytheism, pristessing rituals, ministry to prisons, homeless, indigenous rights, Act Up waayyy back – obviously they didn’t have to take me away from anything like that which I embraced . By age 26 i accomplished all of my goals in life but there is no way that I would’ve been able to continue living my values without getting severe MCS and also since I already had mild MCS I was already unable to function well in mainstream society.
The sacrifice function as it was explained to me before it happened was to be able to lead people through all of the stuff I navigated which was a million emotional, legal, physical , mental , spiritual things that if you haven’t experienced it you just cannot be a guide for someone else . With 30% of the “first world” nations populations having MCS but usually not knowing it and for the “majority world” where MCS is rampant , this has always been tied to my spirituality – Lifeway . I built the world’s largest MCS international resource website, SafeCanaryNest.org and am the Vermont “go to” person for MCS . Which is hard ministry because people are so sick and desperate and having malaria/babesiosis makes me more ill than they are but I have changed laws here and found programs and have with Freya’s help created the ideal MCS home and medical and social services that other people with MCS I know can only dream about having.
I really don’t believe that you can have anything called a nature religion when things at the ceremonies harm nature . Having MCS gives me a much better first-hand pure knowledge of what the assault is on Nerthus and thus makes it easier for me to guide pagans in having ceremonies, ritual supplies, etc. that actually help, don’t hurt the land sea or sky. Working in pagan boutiques and visiting Indio warehouse – it’s all an environmental nightmare and incredibly consumerist and I know a lot of pagans like to collect stuff so my writing about where all of these things come from was popular in the UK where they are much more concerned about ecology due to the British forms of Druidry but not so much in the United States where it is more New Age consumerist for the individual , “I want what I want when I want it .”
That is why I’ve consistently been a voice for the Vanatru values even when Freya was the only one that I personally knew since I was nine, before my dedication. There’s just no way to be devoted to Ingvi and not be working to keep topsoil, stop GMOs, stop pesticides – that’s especially important for Nerthus – protecting bees from colony collapse , the ocean, there so much like making seed balls of native heirloom organic flowers to having a worm composter – that really is for me the focus of the religion.
The spirit work (seidr or spakona) is a nice side line gig, but to me having safe food is above pretty much anything else in life. Vanatru for me is not woo woo; it’s survival.
So serving Vanir, it was very easy because I knew that humans had to make drastic changes in their lifeways to regenerate the land and ocean, and was already involved with Permaculture, bioneers , bioregional living , rewilding – things that really made the land happy . I remember once I was chanting to the land and it said “Would you want to be sick and need some help and just have somebody come and sing at you?” Then I just started picking up trash and planting heirloom seeds.
So how does this ecological focus of the Vanir manifest with others?
The last ceremony that I was well enough to lead in person involved making seed balls which also had magical intentions for peace and health and justice that were scattered all over intercity abandoned lots. Our group focused on traditional skills before electricity. I did not have any diagnosis of MCS or anything at this point – it was just obvious to those of us who were animists that respecting the land and ourselves and the great harmony and healing the giant separation that has created the illusion that humans are not nature and are not “in nature” all of the time , we knew that spiritually this was what the gods or the spirits depending on who people with wanted humans to be doing now.
I received a beautiful made totally from scratch necklace from one member who even handcarved all of the wooden beads . Instead of glue he used pine pitch – I used to be able to do that – but now it’s too much like turpentine.
There was a big focus on studying natural sciences as well as learning traditional skills and doing rewilding and it was for healing ourselves and the earth and removing the false separation that Cartesian thinking created by separating and labeling everything . I was also taking classes in Ecopsychology although I just ended up reading dozens of books on my own , studying Permaculture, indigenous technology, scavenging and upcycling , not buying things – we had conversations about how hard it was because you cannot be pure and so you have to “Bloom where you’re planted” and from there work with the gifts that you have and the challenges which is quite a lot like how I feel about devotional polytheism . How many clients have I told “you don’t need to move to Portland ” to? “You can do it right now right here.”
So we put a lot of effort into cost-benefit analysis . Like today in Vermont where 50% of the ticks carry Lyme disease is it even safe to meet outdoors? Probably only on one of the many many many fresh lakes or river beaches . And it severely limits the amount of foraging – we are lucky because there’s so many abandon apple orchards . I would love to be well enough to prune them so they keep healthy.
And we came to the decision that everything revolves around food and that human beings get that relationship straightened out the majority of other problems will be straightened out as well. So I started getting free organ meat from local organic farmers and also chicken feet and began eating much more like my ancestors . The healthiest part of the animals for free!! Making sure we always have broth and that we were fermenting food. A lot of focus on preserving food without refrigeration if necessary . Plus forging of “weeds” to eat and also drink. Which meant learning a lot of natural science again .
All of this Freya says was to also help me understand how ancient heathens live so the religion would make sense – and the mythology which so many people have turned into new age spiritual – psychotherapy and all metaphysical . When she says “it was about living , not dying.” And of story. And that is what she wants to focus on now. The religion is about living not dying but in a very different world , Eaarth, not Earth. Since there’s no such thing as sustainable electricity at least not 24 seven all of this stuff was really important to her.
So when I when I was diagnosed with severe MCS, there wasn’t much change except that I financially somehow manage to fight enough to get my needs for everything organic , having all of these air purifiers and water purifiers (can’t stand using the electricity for them ) , the purest supplements – almost everything was fair trade or from some Canadian eco-company. So our money went to everything we supported and we went without things like socks or housing.
But there is the cost/benefit analysis – with MCS I definitely needed to have the Internet so I could have some connection to the world of people and also by the one pair of pants that are pure enough for me and in my size – things like that because most of the companies are so tiny and spread out from Maine to Vancouver . However I helped two of my most important businesses with expanding and also marketing for the things that I need to survive and it benefited them and the MCS community. And of course the environment.
Yeah, I don’t blog about it but I work with businesses for free in getting MCS safe items. I change the world. I change laws.
I just wish that the fatigue and pain which are the baseline for Lyme disease and babesiosis/malaria would heal – my specialist now says it will be several years because having MCS makes it so much harder to detoxify as it’s really dangerous because when things go out , I’m as sick as if they were going in . If I had my physical strength back there are so many things I would be building and also sewing and just so many “primitive skills” and “traditional skills” that are part of practicing Vanatru.
When Chas Clifton put out the question ” if somebody just watched how you live without knowing anything about the rituals, just based on how you live your life , would they know that you’re pagan ?” For me and my community before I got so sick that meant ” committed to nature in a real tangible way as well as ending the atrocities of patriarchy including for men and a commitment to social justice and environmental issues where you are willing to invest a lot of time and possibly be in danger” that was just really part of my pagan community in Toronto which came out of Reclaiming and also my bioregional animism community later when I moved .
One thing about mainstream Heathenry now is that animism is much more accepted because it’s in the Lore, it got very popular in the UK with Druidry because of Emma Restall Orr’s book , and the more that I work with the Vanir as they are today and what they want today – that is so key ! What do they want today!? I find that I can return to Wicca or British Druidry which can be very atheist with a focus just on creativity and ecology – there’s something about Vanatru that crosses so many different religions that I understand unlike people who are obsessed with the Lore, as opposed to thinking about the world we live in today and what we really need the help of the gods for and what they need our bodies for doing not understanding Vanatru at all .
Any spirituality that puts ecology at the center qualifies for a Vanatru practice in my eyes. Joanna Macy’s workshops – I put together one of those and it was so good to collectively grieve and release so much and then to be able to move beyond . With MCS there is constant grieving for the world the more that you know about what everyone is doing and sometimes my mother and I feel like where Science Fiction in the future watching when the earth was dying – but that level of planetary grieving which usually paralyzes people when we were forced to live with it and never practice avoidance because we can ever avoid it but there’s a point when we went through and I was able to write ” a myth that will be told about us in the future.” Which is people in the future asking how did we do it ? What went wrong and how did we fix it ? And it was used as a Unitarian Universalist sermon in Idaho of all places.
So one of the main places where I diverge from most pagans is that my focus is on nature worship. I worship what keeps me alive. The Vanir are very close with that and so being guided by them in how to do it now is for me at the center of Vanatru and also devotional polytheism when working with this family.
How do other people live the values and also cope with the “1 foot in one world, 1 foot in the other” that isn’t necessarily about being a shaman , but about usually having to have a job that goes against your values and things like that because we don’t have the freedom of choice. We don’t live in a culture that supports decentralized bioregional communities . Or even going outside.
What are Vanir saying to you today about fertility of the land ocean? What are they asking you to do? How have you incorporated that into ceremonies and lifeways?
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