Essays for The Troth 1.2 Innangarð

This is a response to a question from The Troth’s 101 course, prerequisite to the Lore program! Here is my masterpost of Troth 101 essays.

In Our Troth and other resources, we learn about the concept of útgarðr (out-yard) and innangarð (in-yard). Make a list of all the people in your life who you consider part of your personal in-yard (ie family, kindred, friends, community). Examine the way that some people fit into more than one category, and think about how this impacts your view of the world.

I see the boundary between innangarð and útgarðr as a certain amount of flexible, and the vast majority of wights falling neatly into neither category but rather into “unclassfied/unknown” (at least so long as modern technology keeps us living in cities and in touch with way more people than those living in our immediate neighborhoods).

In the cosmic sense I see innangarð as the habitable world. útgarðr is the outer layers of the atmosphere and the space beyond, the deep areas of the ocean, the centers of deserts, the coldest of latitudes: the powers beyond those boundaries are much more hostile to (my) life. Innangarð can be extended, but negotiating life in the boundary regions is an exercise in frith – it takes honest recognition and respect of those natural powers to live safely, and only by keeping frith with them (to not “dig too greedily or too deep”, to not reach beyond one’s grasp, to not externalize costs) can innangarð be extended without paying for it later. I would consider the dust bowl an episode of breaking frith with land-wights and suffering for it. Global climate change the same. Depletion of aquifers from over-irrigation in the Southwest.

In the social sense, I consider útgarðr any person who denies my humanity with their actions. Any person who treats me as an object. Any person who treats others as objects. útgarðr wights are the spirits of entirely dangerous objects: disease-wights, plutonium and uranium and carcinogen wights. Invasive species like false bamboo and garlic mustard are útgarðr here, though they might be innangarð elsewhere (rabbits for example, are innangarð here and útgarðr in Australia). The spirits of detrimental concepts rampant in my culture. Moloch, who entered my soul early, very útgarðr.

To start from innangarð, I would claim my house and land and watershed wights, my animal and plant neighbors that I know by sight, and the others necessary for their existence, whether or not I find them annoying or nonbeneficial (mosquito, etc). My housemates who live with me, my small group of closest friends from childhood. People whose fate is tied up with mine, by accident of geography. My family who raised me are innangarð: I share history with them and am stuck with them, and love them even when I don’t like them. These are all people I would do a favor for, without expecting anything in return. (I think the “obligation” part of extended kin spreads out fractally from one’s own nearest and dearest – the people my kin consider kin are included in a slightly wider ring of give and take, from me, and so on and so forth out to Kevin Bacon. I’m just trying to quantify in heathen jargon the relationships that I think are naturally felt by most people. The closer your relationship to a person, the more of their people you might be willing to stick your neck out for, because of your investment in a shared friend.)

I don’t think innangarð and útgarðr are categories that any wight can belong to both at once. I mean, a wight can be innangarð to someone but útgarðr to someone else, but I don’t think any can be both innangarð and útgarðr to me. What they can do is transition from one group to the other. Outward by broken promises and negative actions, inward (more slowly and cautiously) by mutual understanding, and built trust.

To me the purpose of a frithstead is to be a place where people who are útgarðr to each other can interact and build relationships, and (hopefully, eventually) change that status wrt each other. To hold that space – to enforce that peace – is sacred work that very literally extends the size of the individual’s habitable world.

(When the Pope talked, recently, about “a culture of encounter”, and “meeting [nonchristians] there” to “go forward little by little”, that sounds like first class frithweaving to me)


Essays for the Troth 1.1 Auðumla

This is a response to a question from The Troth’s 101 course, prerequisite to the Lore program! Here is my masterpost of Troth 101 essays.

1.1 Consider the importance of Auðumla in the creation myth. How does having a cow feed the first being play itself out in what was, essentially, a cattle-culture? How does the importance of cattle to our ancestors impact us in the modern day? Write down your thoughts.

Auðumla is a reminder that the universe is not all about humans.

The anthropomorphic deities may be orders of magnitude beyond humans and may sometimes embody paradox, but with their humanlike motivations and humanlike relationships and roles they are a certain amount of graspable. This similarity is how we can talk and give gifts and enter into devotional relationships with them. But there are principles of the universe more fundamental than those deities.

Ymir, for one, has much more distance from the familiar. Solitary, e cannot be monarch, servant, parent, child, sibling, or even male or female: all those things only make sense inside a humanlike society. Ymir, the foundational matter of the world(s) is described with a humanlike body at the very least. Auðumla is even less familiar than that.

Similar to the Kemetic Coronation of Heru (in which every member of the nobility and the trained clergy is rejected – in favor of a literal falcon – to act as the earthly presence of Heru) Auðumla forces a person to look into nonhuman eyes and see the power and will and transcendence of a god. One must put aside the idea that humans are the crowning achievement of evolution, or the greatest of Earth’s species. Auðumla is at least the equal to Ymir, and is a being on which e is dependant.

Without a understanding of history as linear progression, iron age cattle culture would not have the 1900s-style understanding of cattle domestication as “something humans did”, and they definitely would not have the modern-genetics understanding of domestication as an evolutionary relationship that changed both humans and their ally species, but they would recognize that among the species of the natural world – where there are allies and enemies of different degrees of hostility and friendship – the cow is one ally that is almost uniquely close with humankind.

Auðumla defines Ymir by contrast. The first relationship is not one between male and female, or monarch and servant, or youth and age, or hot and cold, or chaos and order, but between the humanlike and the nonhuman. It reminds us that the rights and obligations of relationship exists not only between humans and humans, but between humans and other wights as well.

Everything is Full of Gods

It appears I’ve offended the Tetrad++, if only by offending their most ardent and devoted priest. This clarification is for Them: Panpsyche, Panhyle, Paneros, Pancrates, Paneris, Panprosdexia. May they be as eternal as they are novel and necessary.

Here goes: I hate irony. It gives people the illusion of objective distance.

Unless I am greatly mistaken, there are no self-consciously fictional works of literature in the ancient word. Fabulized, sure. Cleaned up into a neater narrative, sure. But stories that weren’t about the places and people at hand were grounded in family history, or the eternal realm of myth. Story was meant to be emotionally/spiritually/ontologically relevant, to urge changes in behavior, to deepen people’s relationships with the more-than-human world. It was all real.

Today, we still tell stories. Most of them are expected to be ‘dead’ by the great mass of people paying attention. And yet, people still find the stories relevant, stories urge changes in behavior, stories deepen people’s relationships with the more-than-human world. They are all real.

I believe that inspiration, insight, uncommon skill all come from outside the individual. From spirits and gods. From the other people. That when a person is moved to worship, that impulse comes from outside the individual. From the pull of a spirit or god. The target of worship is always something genuine. Acts of worship are always genuine. I want my foot-stamping to come through in text somehow: Always, always, always!

Imagine the world we would have if suddenly there could be no ironic distance, no form without substance. If everything people did could only be fully earnest, and everything those acts implicitly say must be recognized.

Imagine how suddenly grounded people would be if they recognized the soul in their deep and ardent regional loyalties: Seahawks, Badgers, Yankees, Red Wings. If people saw with their eyes that magical thinking was behind wearing their favorite’s numbers, that that impulse was real and genuine, and it meant that symbol and reality were entangled.

Imagine how our civic buildings would ring out if people looked up at the neoclassical mosaics and granite sculptures and saw Justice, Liberty, Progress, Legislation not as allegories but as names. How things might proceed if people stopped denying that their work went on under those holy eyes.

Imagine how much larger the world would be if we could acknowledge all of our works and stories, rather than leaving some bastard children out of the inheritance. If we could say that we, inspired, made these artifacts of our inspiration. We let them speak themselves through us, from wherever they came. They share our reality with us, and we look at each other as at mirrors. There are other worlds! How else could we imagine them if they could not exist? How could we love the people there if they were not real?

Yes, Virginia, there is a fucking Santa Claus. We made these things – they are real, we made them: real. Even with their fingers crossed behind their backs and believing only in the dead shape of them writers and actors bring them before our eyes. The evidence is here on the page and on the screen and stage, in stone and glass and fiber. We have such allies in these other people, and we already know them so well.

The problems are real as well. Any story that resonates poorly with this or that group deprived of power, any story that shores up damaging habits of belief is identical with that literal sickness, that literal demon in our culture. Change the stories and change the culture, change the culture and change the stories: magic.

There is a lot of chaff. Not every story can be Eye of the Heron. The “body” of sacred stories has been dead – has been seen as only allegory, only fiction for a very long time. Not everyone will see the same amount of spark in the same parts, sometimes writers or editors will smother that spark. But please, nobody give me that thoughtform crap: even between one genuine text and one genuine author there is more other reality there than can ever fit into the words.

I don’t know if the practices of pagans engaging with spirits-as-they-are-presented-in-Deep-Space-9, or gods-of-a-civilization-in-Morrowind will outlast those pagans or the accessibility of those stories, but so long as they exist they are genuine. Call it the emergence of old spirits under new names and guises, if you must, but acts of worship are always genuine. I think the beings who demand recognition from the first, whose unvarnished purpose is myth and the cycle of blessing and worship are the strongest and their cultus the most potentially long-lived, (and here is the Tetrad’s story, for those not in the know) but the existence of great gods is not an argument against the existence of small gods, the existence of gods is not an argument against the existence of spirits, the existence of spirits is not an argument against the existence of other people.

Always, always, always real. No difference between invented and discovered. Real.

Gratitude, “Some God” and Mother Rot

The way I see it, there are two kinds of event:

There are things you do yourself.

And there is everything else.

Even when it comes to things that must happen because of cause and effect, the details of those happenings are often heavily influenced by chance. Very little – even simple physical interactions like lifting and dropping – in people’s day to day lives happens in the vacuum chamber of repeatable experiment. There are winds and weather, moods and health levels, imperfections and complications, other people and other things that push most situations outside the level of rational predictability.

And that realm of happenings is the realm of omen and the hands of gods.

Before I admitted to animism and polytheism as the two front wheels of my worldview, I “practiced gratitude”.

I found a quarter on the street? I said thank you. I had an easy day at work? I said thank you. All of my friends happened to be free for the thing I was planning on short notice? I said thank you. Whenever the dice rolled in my favor. I was doing this as a self help exercise. What was important to me was not a relationship with maxwell’s daemon but an attitude that improved my life: to consider good things happening nice surprises rather than to consider good things my due and difficulties the proof of a hostile universe.

It turned out that regardless of my intentions, I was putting myself in a good relationship with the more-than-human world that lives around me.

I usually find a sudden topic change to the Pillars of Western Literature a baseless appeal to the authority of tradition, but bear with me here: In the Iliad, Homer continually depicts his heros interacting with “some god”. “Some god” grants this or that warrior menos (a Heathen would say megin or ásmegin) a welling-up of power that renewed his fight. “Some god” or “some spirit” inspires especially good or bad ideas, sudden recognition or unexpected ignorance. Often the narrative voice recognizes which god does what to whom, but the individuals themselves may not know. Very rarely does that god reveal themselves.

There is “some god” I interact with. I call her Mother Rot. Her image is a girl in a dress with a skeleton face, holding two candles, which like all deity-images is a poor approximation. It is enshrined outside, but she isn’t exactly a land spirit. She isn’t exactly a death spirit, she isn’t exactly a fertility spirit. I came to understand her while contemplating the limits of heterosexual sex as a useful metaphor for vegetable fertility. (protip: it is often totally useless as a metaphor for nonhuman fertility, and props up heterosexuality as “normal” in human culture to boot.)

Mother Rot is … asexual desire. The desire to consume that animates all life. The desire to bring the Other wholly into the self, or to be wholly devoured. The desire to be fueled, the desire to become more, to fruit and flower and transform and move through. She is best represented in mushroom caps, in flyblown meat, in the chichi of ancient ginkgo trees, in mossy bones, in the reproductive act that goes on between the seed of a honey locust and the hind gut of a ranch horse. She is turbulent and all-consuming and terribly strange desire, and at the same time she is powerfully solitary and cryptic virginity.

I answer questions at a resource for new pagans (Pagan101, on Tumblr) and many of the questions are “identification” questions. “I see these symbols, I sense these communications, I have these dreams, who is this god?”

So who is Mother Rot? Is she a particularly generative face of Hela? Sometimes that seems right. Hela shies away from no part of the transformation of body to earth. Is she a particularly cthonic face of Freyja? Sometimes that seems right. Freyja filled the Vanir warriors so full of terrible vitality that their corpses on the field “kicked the ground”.  Could she be a goddess undescribed but named? Could she be Artemis, or Itzpapalotl, or a new deity?

It’s funny because so many parts of my practice are all up in my head, and research-based and carefully thought out, but I just couldn’t care less. It seems like my relationship with this being – some being – is going well. They mesh with my ritual framework and accept my offerings. I am satisfied filling a gap in my symbolic universe. It is nice to look ahead in time and see just infinite understanding out there to come to, infinite mysteries to untangle, piece by piece.  I see the mysteries of this goddess literally everywhere I look right now. Her name is literally the least interesting part of Her, right after her anthropomorphized face.

// //

Book Review: The Love of Destiny


First of all, this book is a free ebook, and it’s relatively short, so just go over to the author’s website and read it.

It’s a little examination of the roots of the modern idea that the physical is here and the spiritual is ~somewhere else~, and the author’s interpretation of the worldview of pre Christian polytheism (any pre Christian polytheism, really, but his examples are Germanic) where the physical and the spiritual are identical.

I recommend it highly because it is the best introduction to the idea that I’ve ever read. (I especially appreciate that all the examples are Germanic, so I can hand it like a conversion tract into my coreligionists’ hands, without asking them to generalize from this reconstructed religion to that one, or to apply phenomenology to their life, or anything)

Because I criticize books I love, here are my criticisms:

1. I was already on board with the idea that the scientific/rational worldview is an outgrowth of Enlightenment Christianity. BUT many people are not. I’ve hit a similar problem in anti-civilization activism. People think of “civilization” as “any interaction between two or more human beings” and “science” as “any attempt to make predictions from observation”, and stop there and don’t listen. Perhaps some other phrase (“Scientific absolutism”? “Reductionism”? “Rationalism”?) would mean the same, and be easier to swallow.

2. The author makes the mistake of looking at Platonic philosophy only from the lens of Christianity/modern philosophy. This might be appropriate, because that’s the way it influences the underpinnings of our culture, BUT both Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophers suffered greatly when later writers shoehorned their ideas into monotheist orthodoxy. “The One” and the the unreality of the Forms are much less of a thing than you might expect. For a modern polytheist reading and interpreting these philosophers, check out .

3. Frankly that’s it, this is a really good and smart book, go read it.


I came across a crop of the perennial criticism of a certain kind of Polytheist devotional relationship, and felt like chiming in.

The criticism goes like this: “So and so is always talking about how the deity they are devoted to controls their life. The deity wants them to wear or not wear certain stuff, do or not do certain stuff, read or not read certain stuff, spend all their money” This seemed, to the critic, manipulative and abusive (on the deity’s part) if it wasn’t false and delusional (on the devotee’s)

Yes, I agree it is manipulative. But this is not a relationship between humans. Manipulating their devotees is how a deity acts on the world. Think about the great temples built where this or that deity was said to be born. How did they get built? Once somebody went to that place, and heard that story for the first time. Some individual. Speaking directly to Deity. Nebt-Het wants me to spend all my money on Her! says a whole city. We are not that far into a renaisance of religious plurality, but we are moving closer.

I believe people with the kind of mental wiring where they can communicate so directly with Holy Powers would be more obviously priests (or dedicants, anchorites, seers, servants) if there was a living religious infrastructure for the deity they are devoted to. Those people set themselves apart with their dress and their actions. That is not to say that they don’t take on the role of priest, servant, seer, anchorite today, simply that the more people walking a particular path, the less unusual any one of them looks. The Orisha who owns my head will only let me wear white for a whole year! says every iyawo in the world.

Some choices are for the benefit of humans: the white greasepaint of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence mark them “on the job” as community servants. But more choices are between one devotee and their deity and only fully make sense (or not) in the context of that relationship.

The denial that deities can or should have specific demands on their devotees seems to me to be a denial that the world outside the human psyche is real. If your spiritual life is based in fantasy or imagination then yes, of course, the shadows you interact with tell you only positive things, never infringe on your freedom. But if a Holy Power can demand your attention and focus, direct your choices, teach and bless and awe for real… Well, often accepting the truth of that means a bigger change in thinking about the world than the skeptic is willing to make.

People are still free. People break ties and leave religious paths all the time. People come up against demands: to travel, to spend their fortune, to enter or break human relationships, to cross the street; and sometimes reject those demands. The outcomes of those choices are their lives. People negotiate the terms of their religious lives with their deities directly even within the most rigid of paths.

On top of that, nobody is a saint until after they are dead. People are allowed to talk lightly about serious experiences. People are allowed to complain about the path they are called to walk, even as they commit of their own free will to walking it. People are not on a mission of outreach on their personal blogs 100% of the time. People are not beholden to explain themselves to their critics.


I just got a small crop of followers from somewhere, hello!

Know that this blog is not defunct or on hiatus. There are a lot of drafts in the works, and a lot of discovering a working pace that works for me, and figuring out what I actually want to talk about.

I have that unfortunate kind of mind where everything is connected, and I can either write a 20 page essay with appendices or nothing.

Working on this. Updates soon ❤

In other news, I entered a writing contest, for a god (Ares, hosted by blogger Aspis of Ares) I know only passingly well. I adore this kind of thing in principle, and figured it was right to participate in it in reality as well.