Friday, September 18, 2020

Norse Recreation of the Cosmos and Opening of the Ways

(Re)Creating the Cosmos

In our tradition, the Sacred Tree, among the Norse Kin referred to as Yggdrasil, is the World Tree, the Axis Mundi, the pillar of the worlds that anchors the Sacred Center at which we hold our rites and do our work. It is beneath the branches of this Tree with the roots running deep into the ground to draw from the Sacred Waters that feed the Well of Wisdom and branches crowned high in the sky, upholding the Sacred Fire above, that we recreate the cosmos that we may stand at the Sacred Center of the Worlds.

The Sacred Tree not only holds the Sacred Center in place, but also acts as a gateway through which our offerings and prayers may echo through the Nine Realms.
We bless this Tree (cense and asperge) and mark it as Sacred once more as we recreate the cosmos here in our midst. Sacred Tree, Grow within us!
So, too, does the Well before us serve as a portal through which our love, honor, and respect may be received by the Ancestors, our beloved heroes and kin of old, and through which they may return their knowledge and blessings.
We silver the Well (drop silver) and mark it as sacred once more as we recreate the cosmos here in our midst. Sacred Well, Flow within us!
So, too, does the Fire serve as a gate to the upper realm, to Asgard, where our prayers and devotion may be received by the Gods themselves, consuming and transforming our offerings as we feed them unto the flames.
We kindle and feed the Fire (pour oil) and mark it as sacred once more as we recreate the cosmos here in our midst. Sacred Fire, Burn within us!

Gatekeeper Invocation

Heimdallr, Holy One; Hallinskihdi, Whitest As,
Keen-eared and sharp-eyed, biding on Bïfrost,
Gjallerhorn's holder, to you we offer.
Son of Nine Mothers, by Fire and by Water,
Sire of Jarl's sons, Shining guardian,
Rune-shower Rigr, Hight Jötun bane
Great golden-toothed Turner of hearths,
Unsleeping reed-giver who hears the wool grow
Well-known wise watcher, Warder of Asgard,
Heimdalr, we hail you!
Heimdalr, Accept our offerings!

Opening the Ways 

Now we bid Bïfrost be here among us!
Descend from the dwelling of the Gods, bright Asgard,
A rainbow of light from all ways flowing.
Carry our calling to all the Kindreds!
By Nine Flames shining, by Waters flowing,
By Heimdalr's magic, and by our word and will,
Let the Ways Between be open!

Visualize the ways between the realms opening before you, in your mind's eye and in your heart. Let yourself be open to the magic and fellowship of this rite and these allies. Meet them with reverence and love in your words, thoughts, and deeds. 


Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Beyond Yes Means Yes: A Glossary of Terms Related to Consent

Rev. William and I had the opportunity to prepare a workshop for the upcoming Summerland Gathering. Summerland is an ADF festival that is typically held in Yellow Springs, OH. Due to COVID restrictions, this year's event has been moved online. 

One of the things that became apparent as we've been working through the material is the need for a proper glossary of terms. It is difficult to have a discussion if we don't have consensus on the meanings of the words we use to communicate such important issues and ideas. 

To help create a framework for building a culture of consent, including religious consent, I am sharing our glossary (so far) that we may all understand one another fully. Please let me know what words we need to add!

  • Boundaries: guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits. They are built out of a mix of conclusions, beliefs, opinions, attitudes, past experiences and social learning.
  • Cancel Culture: the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.
  • Coercion: the practice of forcing another party to act in an involuntary manner by use of threats or force.
  • Consent: voluntarily agreeing to the proposal or desires of another.
  • Culture: the social behavior and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in these groups.
  • Culture of Consent: a culture which normalizes the action of asking for consent and respecting whatever responses are given. It affirms that each individual has bodily autonomy and maintains that boundaries (a person's right to choose what is comfortable to them) should be respected unconditionally.
  • Dominance: individual, situational, and relationship patterns which attempt to control another party or parties; a personality trait which involves a motive to control others, the self-perception of oneself as controlling others, and/or a behavioral outcome resulting from these motives or perceptions.
  • Dominance Hierarchy: a set of implicit social norms that guide behavior according to social status.
  • Ghosting: the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.
  • Horsing: a type of possession in which a practitioner allows their body to become a vessel, usually temporarily, for another being. 
  • Intimacy: close familiarity or friendship; closeness.
  • Mediation/Mediating: a dynamic, structured, interactive process where an impartial third-party assists disputing parties in resolving conflict through the use of specialized communication and negotiation techniques.
  • Orthodoxy: “right belief;” the idea that there is a correct or true belief.
  • Orthopathy: “right feeling;” the idea that there are correct ways to feel with someone(s).
  • Orthopraxy: “right practice;” the idea that there is a correct way to do something.
  • Peer Pressure: influence from one’s peer group to behave in a specific way.
  • Power: latent possession of control, authority, or influence over others.
  • Privilege: a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed by a particular person or a restricted group of people beyond the advantages of others, often based on social identifiers or economic circumstances.
  • Professionalism: conducting oneself with responsibility, integrity, and accountability.
  • Quid pro quo: a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something.
  • Sex: a collection of intimate physical behaviors that the individual(s) involved define as such (e.g. kissing, touching certain body parts, etc.).
  • Value: one's judgment of what is important in life.
  • Virtue: a trait or quality that is deemed to be morally good and thus identified as a foundation of principle and good moral being, moral excellence, traits that promote collective and individual greatness.



Friday, July 10, 2020

Leadership Tip 10: Leading Through Change

Leadership Expectation: Be a Visionary

Everyone reacts differently to the prospect of change, and most of these reactions are based on emotion. When an individual is presented with a change, their response will be informed by their internal opinion on whether this is a “good” or a “bad” change—and we each decide what is good and what is not based on our past experiences. Change is inevitable, and helping others manage their responses is a big part of leading through it.

Tips for leading others through change:
  • Make a good first impression. As leaders, folks around us watch to see how we will react. Then, they use this observation to inform their own reaction. When presenting the team with a change, try to find the positive or at least deliver the news in a positive way without going overboard or minimizing the scope of the effect. When your positivity fails, try confidence as a way to carry your message. State facts instead of opinions, and keep conversations focused on those.
  • Be consistent. Continuing to move forward with a positive attitude, even in smaller group settings, is an important part of keeping the positive vibe around the change. If we speak in a positive manner in front of the group but talk down about the change in private conversations, this will not only diminish the positivity of the team but will also serve to hurt the trust they have in you as a leader.
  • Keep communication open. Be honest, be straightforward, ask questions, and leave room for answers.
  • Relieve barriers as they arise. With change comes a learning curve as well as potential barriers to successful implementation. As a leader, do not hesitate to escalate when a barrier arises and help alleviate what you can.
  • Model the behavior you want to see. Be the champion of the change! Reward and reinforce the positive behaviors and coach those reluctant to accept the change to work their way toward acceptance.
  • Most of all, give people time. Even if a change must occur immediately, everyone needs to work through their emotions on their own pace. Working through their emotions does not mean they do not have to comply. It just means they don’t have to like it. 

A note of caution: leading through change does not mean WE will not experience our own emotions. We must also give ourselves the time we need to adjust to the change. Being open and honest about our concerns and fears and moving forward in spite of them will demonstrate the culture of how our collective "we" adopts and implements change.

Tip #10: When faced with a change, lead others through it with confidence, honesty, and consistency. 

Saturday, June 20, 2020

The Blue Flower

The Summer Solstice is usually a time for in-person celebrations: food, fun, sunshine, and fellowship. This year, with the social distancing in full swing, it feels a lot less festive. This seriousness in the air has left me a bit more contemplative than usual, and the following is a result of such musings.

As many of you know, my youngest son has stayed here in Colorado with us for the summer. The older two will also be staying in Columbus for safety. To help alleviate the pang of loss, I've dedicated to taking him hiking every weekend for the duration of the good weather. Our first couple of hikes were at the Rabbit Mountain Open Space, since many of the other trails were closed temporarily (more social distancing). I was surprised by the tapestry of flowers visible this time of year, since I typically only hike in the later summer months when the older kids are in town. I took dozens of photos of all the plants I met along the way, but one flower in particular captured my thoughts.

There was this tiny blue flower, tall stem, little green leaves, four petals, growing straight up in the shadow of a large bush. At first glance, it looked really lonely in there. There were so many other flowers just six feet away, and here is sat, in this dark space, alone. It looked to fragile there. I didn't take a photo of this flower, because of the looming bush. but the image was burned into my mind. What was it about that flower that was so remarkable?

After another mile or more of walking and thinking, I had the realization that the flower, seemingly alone in the dark, was actually well protected. The bush provides shade from the harsh desert sun and a barrier from the powerful mountain winds. It won't be bent or broken by a rainstorm or trampled by a human. It's free to be there, safe and hidden away from what would cause it harm. Then it hit me: this flower is so remarkable to me, because it IS me.

My life hasn't always been easy or gone as planned. I've been through some pretty big things, and in the shadows of my own thoughts and feelings, I have felt alone and isolated. But, I have also been blessed with protection, support, and shelter from the storms that rage around me--and that has made all the difference.

During this time of uncertainty when the world feels far away, remember that in the darkness surrounding you are a whole host of others who are your companions in this. Draw strength and comfort from them and know you are not alone, just like that blue flower.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Kisa Gotami and the Mustard Seeds: A Tale of Growth through Understanding

Read the tale of Kisa Gotami and a lesson in compassion on the Mountain Ancestors Blog: Prairie Tidings.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Leadership Tip 9: Recognizing and Leveraging Strengths

Leadership Expectation: Support Personal Development

We’ve spoken at length about recognizing and leveraging the strengths of our team members, but what does that mean? How do we determine a person’s strengths, let alone “leverage” them? 

It starts with relationship-building. As we build professional relationships, part of our getting to know one another must involve making note of self-reported best qualities (what others think they are good at) as well as observed performance (what we have evidence that they are good at). The four most common and useful strengths are: Communication Skills, Planning Skills, Problem-Solving Skills, and Tenacity. 

Communication skills are not always easy to teach. Some folks are inherently good communicators and others are decidedly not. Placing a good communicator in connection with an under-communicator can often help the under-communicator to improve.

Planners and note-takers are typically undervalued, but these folks are necessary, especially for complex projects or long-term goals. They are also typically good at keeping track of progress and seeing the big picture where others may only see the parts relevant to them. 

Problem-solvers think outside the box, and when you find yourself stuck in one, you will be grateful for their ability to find solutions to problems that allude the rest of the team.

Tenacity is a latent skill that doesn’t show itself until it is needed. Tenacious employees rise to the top when the going gets tough. They perform well under stress and often do their best thinking under difficult circumstances (when the planners start to lose it). 

Finding the strengths of our team members is an important part of developing them as individuals, because it shows us what types of tasks will help them grow and which ones will give them the opportunity to shine. Development is a balance of validating the skills they already have while pushing them to try new things. 

Start now by building relationships and getting to know what those around you are doing well. Make note of when they ask for help and what those tasks are. As we build these strengths profiles for those around us, we can open ourselves to finding the right balance of tasks to lead our employees to become better versions of themselves. 

Finally, personal development mandates that you also make a list of your own strengths. What are you good at? What do you struggle with? Where do you have room to grow? Learning to recognize and leverage your own strengths will show you best how to do this for those around you.

Tip #9: Find the balance between doing what you know you are good at and trying something new.

Bonderud, D. (2018). How to identify and leverage employee strengths. Spark. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A Journey of Protection and Knowledge

You may wish to grab some paper and a pen, etc., to write down notes at the end of this journey.

Breathe with me. Breathe in and feel your lungs expanding with fresh, clean air. Exhale and feel yourself letting go of the worries and concern you’ve been holding. Feel your shoulders relax, feel your body sink deeper into your chair, feel yourself at peace as you continue to breathe.

In your mind’s eye, you see a path before you. It is a path you’ve walked before, and you know it leads to your inner nemeton, the place within the otherworld where you meet with your spirit allies. As you begin to follow this path, you notice the signs of wildlife and new growth. This place smells of wildflowers and damp, cool earth. You breathe in these smells, filling your heart as you fill your lungs, with memory.

When you reach the nemeton, you notice a fire in the center of the clearing, right where you’ve kindled it many times before, and you know others have been here, tending and caring for this place as is your bargain. You walk to the altar where fresh flowers have been strewn about the shrine of the Earth Mother, grain spilled onto the ground in her honor. You add your offerings to this shrine with reverence and respect. You feel her gratitude in the bottom of your feet—a deep heart-beat pulsation in the earth.

You take up the solid incense and oil and move to the fire. You take your seat before the hearth and make offerings, calling to those who would guide you in this work. You speak their names into the aether within and feel their echoing reply.

Now, rest deeply into your seat before the fire and allow your mind’s eye vision to blur. Close your eyes, if you would like, and follow the path of your breath to your center. Create a sphere of protection within yourself, and enfold your heart within it, protecting you from emotional pain and suffering. Breathe in and as you exhale, enlarge the sphere to include your mind, protecting you from painful thoughts and psychic harm. Breathe in and as you exhale, enlarge the sphere to encompass your entire body, shielding you from that which means you ill. And as you breathe in once more, enlarge the sphere to encase the clearing where your nemeton lies, protecting all those you allow within from outside harm.

Seated, safe and protected, within your sphere, you open your mind’s eye to see the shimmering boundary of your orb, swirling and pearlescent in the firelight. You see a shape approaching the orb which resolves into a familiar one—your guide and guardian, come to stand sentinel in your space, admitting those who pass scrutiny for good intentions.

Now, open your awareness to take in your surroundings. You feel animal and plant spirits going about their business in the clearing and beyond. You see others, beings you know, appearing, drawn by your Good Fire. They come before your guardian ally.  They nod to one another and the first being enters. You gesture for them to sit opposite you across the hearth and wait. When they are settled, you ask why they have come and listen to their words intently, making note of them in your waking mind to recall later. *pause*

They thank you and rise to depart with the council you have given them. You look toward your guardian ally to see if anyone else comes, repeating the hospitality and sharing as others arrive, noting their requests and concerns. *pause*

You sit mindfully with the fire when all the guests have gone, reflecting on what you have learned. *pause*

After careful cataloging of the experiences and requests made of you, you rise, and thank your guardian for their work. You begin to retract your sphere, slowly shrinking the orb until it encompasses you alone and becomes one with your flesh, a protective layer that shimmers, brightens, and fades into you.

You wave your hand over the fire, which dims, smolders, and finally goes out, trails of smoke leaving the spent logs like incense in a censer. You begin walking away from your nemeton with a final nod in thanks to the Earth, Mother of all, who witnesses and holds your every journey.

Once you have reached the place where you began, you turn your mind’s eye back to your physical body. Become aware of your heartbeat. Feel your breath in your lungs. Feel your body in your chair and begin to stretch and awake yourself once more. When you have fully arrived, take a moment to recall your exchanges, preparing to share what you can with us.

Write a few notes, if you wish, to remind you of what you have learned today.