Thursday, June 20, 2024

Wheel in the Sky

Here in the northern hemisphere, the 2021 summer solstice fell on a Sunday. In Chicago, it was at exactly 10:32 p.m. on a Sunday night.

At 10:43 p.m. on that Sunday, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the Chicagoland area. It was followed by a “Large Severe Thunderstorm Warning” at 10:56 p.m.

Rather than burning a midsummer bonfire or raising a drinking horn around the old oak tree, we marked the turning point of the year while sitting in the basement until 11:30 p.m., when the tornado warning expired.

Oak fractured by lightning, Maxim Vorobiev (1787–1855)

The lightning flashes came so close together, one after another, that the night sky seemed to be continually illuminated by a white light brighter than any spotlight. The thunder was so close and so loud that we could hear glasses rattling in the dishwasher upstairs from the powerful vibrations.

When I snuck upstairs to peek out the window, the heavy rain was pouring down at a steep angle, and the branches of all the neighborhood trees were waving wildly in the powerful wind.

Midsummer thunder

Eight years ago, Thor’s Oak Kindred met for the first time to celebrate midsummer together. Since then, our annual blót celebrating the longest day of the year has been focused on and dedicated to Thor.

Our schedules don’t always work out so that we can meet on the solstice itself. Back in 2021, we planned to gather on the following Saturday for our first in-person blót since the original coronavirus lockdown back in March of the previous year.

Preparing for that year’s event, Thor had been on my mind. The crashing lightning and rolling thunder at the very hour of solstice seemed special.

During that hour, the flashes of light lit up the sky as if Thor were wielding his lightning-hammer to drive the frost giants from Chicago and preserve the summer season. The rolling thunder sounded like the wheels of his enormous goat-drawn wagon rolling across the ground of the clouds.

Do I believe that there was literally an enormous figure in a enormous wagon pulled by enormous goats throwing an enormous hammer at enormous frost giants in the stormy skies over the Second City?

I do not, but there’s more to religion than literal belief in myth as documentary.

Anyone who went through the lower grades of the American public school system (such as it is) has at least a basic and general understanding of the physical workings of storm, lightning, and thunder.

Very loud and very online New Atheists are fond of attacking any who profess the practice of any religion as anti-scientific naïfs who deny the most basic logic and blindly worship invisible sky gods with power over every aspect of existence.

Such strawmannery doesn’t portray my own relationship to the gods of old, and it doesn’t reflect the religious experiences of an uncountable number of practicing people who live in the modern world today.

We didn’t go down to the basement out of a mindless fear that giants were coming to stomp our home to bits and eat us for a late-night snack. We went because our online devices were blaring out urgent warnings from the National Weather Service about tornado activity in the area.

Minds, however, are complicated things. They are eminently capable of simultaneously holding both a scientific understanding and a mythopoetic one.

Myth as metaphor

Children in grade school can eagerly follow their teachers’ presentations about lightning and still be comforted during intense storms by picturing the great protecting thunder god defending their neighborhoods. They seem to have little difficulty holding simultaneous explanations in their heads and can freely move back and forth between them in the space of a single conversation.

Myth and poetry can offer comfort and deepen understanding without being read literally. Embracing religious imagery as metaphor can be a profoundly moving act and one that enriches our fundamental experience of life without any appeal to fundamentalist literalism.

When the thunder shakes the walls of the house, my mind is filled with associations from the Old Icelandic poems, Snorri’s telling of the myths, Grimm’s reporting of folkloric beliefs, Blinkenberg’s analysis of thunder-weapon lore, Davidson’s decoding of poetic metaphor, and a host of more recent retellings, interpretations, theological works, and academic studies.

Experiencing the world through this set of multiple lenses is, for me, at the core of religious life.

We each have a complicated way of framing our personal experience through the intersection of our various identities and varied life events.

An Icelandic myth of Thor shows him impotently smacking a flooding river and commanding it to stop rising. He eventually notices the upstream giantess causing the flood and, as per usual, smites her.

It’s only when the threatening force of nature takes an anthropomorphic form that the god is able to recognize the root cause of the natural event and take meaningful action.

Here is one lesson of the myth: when we feel overwhelmed or frightened by forces beyond our control, thinking of them in metaphorical ways can enable us to engage them more successfully.

The child frightened of the violent thunderstorm is comforted by the idea that the terrifying sounds are made by a protective deity, as reported in the myths and stories they read and hear.

The adult worried about the damage to life and property a tornado may bring is comforted by the idea that humans have had these fears as long as there have been humans, as evidenced by the tapestry of mythology.

Joni and Charles

As we sat in the basement and told tales of Thor, as he thundered overhead at the exact moment of the solstice we celebrate by honoring him, I was reminded of some of my favorite words penned by Joni Mitchell.

They occur not in a song lyric, but in the liner notes to Mingus, her 1979 collaboration with the great bassist, pianist, vocalist, and composer Charles Mingus.

She writes:
Charles Mingus, a musical mystic, died in Mexico, January 5, 1979, at the age of 56. He was cremated the next day. That same day 56 sperm whales beached themselves on the Mexican coastline and were removed by fire. These are the coincidences that thrill my imagination.
I think about that last line a lot.

“These are the coincidences that thrill my imagination.”

Letting our imaginations run free to thrill in the coincidences of life, giving ourselves permission to be both believers in science and followers of dreams, feeling a jump in our hearts when we hear Thor in the summer solstice storm – these things, too, are part of religion.

These things, too.

An earlier version of this article appeared at The Wild Hunt.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Bruce Lee and the Tao of Ásatrú

Bruce Lee was the first Asian actor to achieve star billing in a Hollywood movie since the silent film era, and he was the first Chinese-American man ever to do so. His performance in Enter the Dragon (1973) made him a worldwide superstar, even though it was released a month after his premature death at age 32. The spirit of his on-screen performances continues to be a felt presence in motion pictures, television shows, video games, and comic books.

From teaching kung fu (which he usually spelled gung fu) in Seattle as a college student to developing the new martial art he called jeet kune do (“way of the intercepting fist”), Lee fundamentally changed and drove the development of martial arts in the United States. Acknowledging his iconoclastic and pioneering approach to training and fighting, Dana White of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has called Lee “the father of mixed martial arts.”

There’s another aspect of Lee that doesn’t get as much attention: his written work as a philosopher.

Bruce Lee stamps issued in Hong Kong (2020)

Like J.R.R. Tolkien with his Silmarillion, Lee was a prolific writer who filled box after box with drafts for the projects closest to his heart but couldn’t quite bring himself to close them off for publication. Tolkien died the same year as Lee, and his major mythological work was assembled from his notes and published in book form four years after his death. Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do was a similar posthumous assemblage, as was the series of books titled Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method. Tuttle Publishing continues to print a series of standalone books compiled from Lee’s notes, letters, and interviews.

The various books credited to Lee aren’t simple “stand like this, kick like this” martial arts manuals. Yes, they have photos, diagrams, and detailed instructions for hand-to-hand combat, but they are also permeated with Lee’s wider philosophical and spiritual concerns. Quotes supposedly from Lee that often pop up online as inspirational nuggets are often actually lines that he spoke in character on television and on the silver screen. His original written reflections are more interesting and evince a deep engagement with his own study as a voracious reader in a wide range of disciplines.

As has happened before while reading other texts, I was surprised to find how much of Lee’s written work resonated with my own experiences in, of all things, Ásatrú and Heathenry – new religious movements that seek to reconstruct, recreate, and reimagine ancient Norse and wider Germanic polytheist paganism.

“A universal family”

Modern Germanic paganism’s relationship with Asian thought hasn’t been great. Some branches of American Ásatrú continue to embrace – sometimes unknowingly – cultural appropriation of Asian materials that came into Pagan practice via Theosophy’s willful mishmash of world traditions and the Third Reich’s recasting of diversely sourced theory and practice as supposedly primeval Aryan.

From so-called runic “intoning” or “chanting” (overtly acknowledged by today’s Heathens as a product of the racist German völkisch milieu and an appropriation of Indian meditational practice) to “rune yoga” (an appropriation of admittedly complicated Indian yoga that was also developed within the German völkisch scene), even self-declared “not racist” practitioners continue to forward the National Socialist merging of elements from the Germanic past and Asian religious traditions.

There’s a great difference between appropriation of and engagement with. I’m disgusted by the first and dedicated to the second. Instead of taking and rebranding, the rightful focus should be on listening and learning – on fostering dialogue, recognizing parallels, and building connections.

As someone who spends so much time engaging with Old Norse mythology and poetry, it’s fascinating to read Lee’s discussions of the “kung fu man” focusing chi that evoke comparisons to the Old Norse megin that swells up within Thor when he is in need of great strength.

When Lee discusses the meaning of the word tao as way, principle, law, beginning, pattern, and truth, it is reminiscent of siðr, the Old Norse word that can mean custom, habit, manner, conduct, moral life, religion, faith, rite, ceremonial, and more.

I’m not claiming that such cross-cultural echoes are evidence of some Indo-European relation from the depths of time. I’m agreeing with Lee that communication across cultural boundaries – which are, by definition, human constructs – can be deeply meaningful and lead us to relate to each other at a higher level.

When asked by a Chinese reporter whether his marriage to a white American woman would “face unsolvable obstacles,” Lee replied:
Many people may think that it will be. But to me, this kind of racial barrier does not exist. If I say I believe that ‘everyone under the sun’ is a member of a universal family, you may think that I am bluffing and idealistic. But if anyone still believes in racial differences, I think he is too backward and narrow. No matter if your color is black or white, red or blue, I can still make friends with you without any barrier (Bruce Lee: A Life, p. 391).
There is much that American Heathens can learn from Bruce Lee on the subject of diversity.

“Return to your senses”

Lee himself was an embodiment of diversity. Born in San Francisco’s Chinatown to Hong Kong residents temporarily in the United States, he was 5/8 Han Chinese, 1/4 English, and 1/8 Dutch-Jewish. Dividing his adult life between Hong Kong, Seattle, Oakland, and Los Angeles, he was called “the ultimate Mid-Pacific Man” by the Hong Kong media – a term used for “Westernized Chinese.”

Birthday party in San Francisco's Chinatown (1912)

Lee dealt with prejudice on both sides of the ocean, with some in Hong Kong asserting that he wasn’t “Chinese enough” and some in Hollywood rejecting him for his Chinese accent. He had the same issues with moving between cultural and linguistic worlds as my father (a German immigrant to the United States), specifically regarding thinking and writing in two languages:
I bought this English-Chinese dictionary originally to help me find the suitable English words when I first went to the United States when I was 18. Now I find that I have to use it to find the Chinese words which I have in mind (Bruce Lee: A Life, p. 363).
After decades living in the United States, my father was similarly suspended between American students who had difficulty understanding his accent and German friends who made fun of him for losing his rolling R’s. Also similar to Lee, he sometimes found himself floating between two languages when writing.

Like the American composer and performer Charles Mingus – who had a mixture of Chinese, German, Native American, African-American, and other heritages – Lee seems to have been drawn to those who didn’t fit into tidy ethnocultural boxes. Mingus felt that he wasn’t accepted as black by his black classmates in grade school and so gravitated towards a youthful social circle including Japanese, Greek, Italian, Mexican, and mixed-race kids. When building his social network of martial arts students and practitioners in the United States, Lee likewise engaged with a diverse group.

Shortly after Lee moved to Seattle in 1959, he was approached by Jesse Glover, a young African-American man who had become deeply interested in martial arts after a drunk and racist police officer broke his jaw. Glover faced a different flavor of racism when he found that no Asian martial arts teacher would accept a black student. In his mid-twenties, he managed to earn a black belt and become a teacher at the Seattle Judo Club but again ran into an anti-black wall when he attempted to study kung fu.

After seeing Lee give a public martial arts demonstration – his first in the United States – Glover asked to study with him. Following a typically intense audition, Lee accepted Glover as his first American student in a break with traditional barriers against black students in kung fu instruction.

Lee’s studio soon grew to include Chinese, Japanese, Hispanic, and white students. Biographer Matthew Polly calls it “the most racially diverse group of students ­– white, black, brown, and yellow ­– in the history of the Chinese martial arts.”

In one of the many versions of an essay he penned on jeet kune do in 1971, Lee wrote that the article
is primarily concerned with the blossoming of a martial artist – not a “Chinese” martial artist, a “Japanese” martial artist, and so forth. A martial artist is first a human being, which we are ourselves; nationalities have nothing to do with martial arts. So please come out of that protective shell of isolation, that proud conclusion or whatever, and relate directly to what is being said – once again return to your senses by ceasing all that intellectual or mental mumbo jumbo (Artist of Life, p. 152).
Here is something on which practitioners of Ásatrú can meditate.

How many of those who repeatedly insist that they’re “not racist,” that they’re not like those awful Heathens over there who declare whiteness a prerequisite for participation in Ásatrú, will happily testify that they came to this religion because they discovered they had Swedish or some other Scandinavian ancestry? How many decide to become Heathen because a mail-order DNA test told them they had a bit of Nordicity in their bloodline? How many announce that they chose to leave the faiths in which they were raised and “return to the religion of their ancestors?”

Ásatrú and Heathenry are not ancient ancestral religious traditions. They are new religious movements more closely related to Scientology than they are to Hinduism, in the sense that they are modern inventions rather than branches of ongoing development on a religious family tree. As such, the decision of who can practice is totally up to us here today, right now. If only more Heathens would actively seek out diverse fellow practitioners as Lee did!

We should be educated on and respectful of the cultural precursors to modern Ásatrú in long-ago times, for sure. The more we learn about how the ancient religions were practiced, the more we are informed on how to build the modern religions in a way that is positive and meaningful for all involved.

Being respectful of origins, however, is quite different from being worshipful of those origins. Being informed should include what learning what to avoid and discard from the old days, as well. The manifestation of DNA test results as driver of religious adherence and an emphasis on ancient “original” practitioners as some sort of “Arch-Heathens” who practiced a purer form of religion is a deadly combination that leads naturally to a fundamentalist worldview.

“Behind these curtains”

On a table by the entrance to Bruce Lee’s school in LA’s Chinatown, there was a small grave with a tiny tombstone that read, “In memory of a once fluid man crammed and distorted by the classical mess.” It was meant as a declaration of Lee’s key concept that rigidly following the classical teachings of particular kung fu or other martial arts schools would hobble the fighter in an actual fight. Instead, he emphasized, the fighter must go with the unpredictable flow of real combat and respond to reality as it is.

Bruce Lee (in black top) in his Los Angeles school (1967)

This was absolutely not an argument for an “anything goes” approach or for the disposal of dedicated training. To the contrary, Lee studied and incorporated elements form a wide variety of fighting forms – from the Wing Chun he studied with the legendary Ip Man in Hong Kong to the American boxing of Jack Dempsey and Muhammad Ali to the finer points of fencing theory and practice. By learning from the strengths of various systems without prejudice and refusing to blindly follow the failures of traditional forms, Lee was able to reach a point where he could truly inhabit the moment and fight by educated instinct.

Lee’s motto for jeet kune do is “using no way as way; having no limitation as limitation.” The emphasis is on flexibility in the face of changing circumstances, on responding in real time to the realities of life, on living in the time that we actually and bodily inhabit. What Lee says about adapting to the changeable moment in street fighting applies, mutatis mutandis, to adapting to the changeable moment in our lived lives as practitioners of modern polytheist religions.

In parallel to Lee, my argument is not for an “anything goes” mindset regarding Ásatrú nor for turning our backs on the historical record. Instead, it is for a breadth of learning that leads to deeper understanding. That breadth should include information and insight from other traditions that is internalized without being appropriated.

A resolute obsession with trying to know the ultimately unknowable interior worldview of ancient Germanic pagans – as if there even were some overarching worldview shared by members of some true and unified universal church of Odin over large stretches of time and distance – leads to a form of fundamentalism that insists on the possibility of reconstructing a Viking Age Icelandic or other ancient Germanic religious world of belief and practice in today’s United States. One result of this obsession is to leave today’s American practitioners “crammed and distorted by the classical mess” as they constantly turn their inner eyes backwards through time.

Lee criticized this focus on replicating the forms of the past rather than engaging with the present:
Instead of facing combat in its suchness, quite a few systems of martial art accumulate “fanciness” that distorts and cramps their practitioners and distracts them from the actual reality of combat, which is simple and direct and nonclassical. Instead of going immediately to the heart of things, flowery forms and artificial techniques (organized despair!) are ritually practiced to simulate actual combat. Thus, instead of being in combat, these practitioners are idealistically doing something about combat (The Tao of Gung Fu, p. 170).
The applicability to Ásatrú seems clear.

When we obsess over how we think things were done in the distant past, whether relating to attempts to self-consciously adopt a putative worldview or replicate ritual dress, we place the “fanciness” of doing methodology over the “simple and direct and nonclassical” being in a living religion.

Lee’s student and movie co-star Bob Baker reports that Lee had planned a sequel to his “classical mess” tombstone:
He always had this idea if he was ever to open another school. When you walked through the door, there would be these large red curtains and then a sign that said, ‘Behind These Curtains Lies The Secret’… And then when you opened the curtains there was just a full length mirror. And that would be the way you get into the school (Bruce Lee: A Life, p. 380).
The message of the mirror for today’s Heathens is we are Ásatrú.

This thing of ours is what we make of it. How we reify the religion in our own lives right now determines what it is today and influences what it will become tomorrow. There is no secret answer hidden within the surviving texts, the found physical remains, and the secular academic theories. These various sources should all be studied and considered, but the living faith emanates from ourselves.

“Constantly changing and constantly adapting”

In another version of “Toward Personal Liberation,” his 1971 jeet kune do essay, Lee wrote of turning away from national organizations:
Upon my arrival in the States, I did have my “Chinese” Institute; but since then I no longer believe in systems (Chinese or not Chinese), nor organizations. Big organizations, domestic and foreign branches, affiliations, and so forth, are not necessarily the places where a martial artist discovers/finds himself. More often this is quite to the contrary. To reach the growing number of students, some pre-conformed set must be established as standards for the branches to follow. As a result, all members will be conditioned according to the prescribed system. Many will probably end up as prisoners of a systemized drill (Artist of Life, p. 176).
Like Lee, I no longer believe in systems nor organizations for Ásatrú and Heathenry.

Not only are the national organizations deeply flawed, it is in the very nature of national organizations to be deeply flawed. No matter what the company line is regarding universalism, acceptance, or inclusion, the fact is that larger groups attract both those who want to dictate and those who want to be dictated to.

These fatally attracted and codependent mindsets necessarily feed upon each other, even when in seeming conflict, and achieve unity when rallying against any who challenge fundamental assumptions in the way that Lee did with traditional martial arts. This tendency only becomes more vulgar in the online and social media world where these organizations largely exist.

Postcard of martial arts performers in Manchuria (before 1911)

When asked about the difference between various schools of kung fu, Lee was openly critical of instructors who pushed one traditional approach over another:
Of course we hear a lot of the teachers claiming their styles are soft and others are hard; these people are clinging blindly to one partial view of the totality. Because if they have understood and transcended the real meaning of gentleness and firmness, they wouldn’t have made such an impossible separation. I was asked by a so-called gung fu master once – one of those that really looked the part, with beard and all – as to what I think of yin (soft) and yang (firm). I simply answered “baloney!” Of course, he was quite shocked at my answer and still has not come to the realization that “it” is never two (The Tao of Gung Fu, p. 164).
Modern Heathenry has had more than its fair share of “those that really looked the part, with beard and all,” as if there were some necessary correlation between pseudo-Viking machismo and polytheist spirituality. As Lee said when teaching responses to street attacks that appear irrational, “There are many irrational people on the streets today.”

I must admit that I long for more of Lee’s type of iconoclast to appear in Ásatrú. I hope for younger practitioners to appear who will throw aside the macho posturing, the knowing or ignorant replication of völkisch practices, and the rote repetition of tired concepts and catch-phrases. Hopefully, we can someday yell “baloney” together.

After distancing himself from national organizations, Lee set out the path he had chosen to follow:
I believe in teaching/having a few pupils at one time, as teaching requires a constant alert observation of each individual in order to establish a direct relationship. A good teacher can never be fixed in a routine, and nowadays many are just that. During teaching, each moment requires a sensitive mind that is constantly changing and constantly adapting. Above all, a teacher must never force his student to fit his favorite pattern, [which] is a preformation (Artist of Life, p. 176).
This statement also works as an argument in favor of the small, local, face-to-face Ásatrú kindred of limited membership and long-term commitment over any national-level Heathen organization. Where the larger organization codifies and enforces, the smaller group questions and evolves. Lee’s small circle of friends, colleagues, students, and training partners is a positive role model for building vibrantly diverse kindreds that practice and grow together.

“Artist of life”

I’ve written before about my personal saints, which include John Coltrane, Jack Kerouac, and Malcolm X. I explained my conception of sainthood in an article on my “patron saint” Jim Bouton, writing that a better term would perhaps be “ancestors, as we use that term ritually in Thor’s Oak Kindred to refer to those now gone who inspire us, those departed souls with whom we feel a kinship that can be stronger than that to an unknown and nameless progenitor.” But it’s fun to say I have saints.

I’ve recently added Bruce Lee to my private pantheon of decidedly un-saintly saints. Like all the rest, he was complex, difficult, inspiring, problematic, hilarious, shocking, and deeply human. What makes him so meaningful to me is that he has that powerful quality which all of these figures have in common, a quality which I summed up in my article on Jack Kirby, another one of my saints: they all “challenged themselves to be greater while publicly speaking out against the failings of their own society.”

In Lee’s case, the self-challenge and the speaking out were defining elements of his complex character. In the final draft of his essay “In My Own Process” from around 1973, he wrote:
Basically, I have always been a martial artist by choice, and actor by profession. But, above all, I am hoping to actualize myself to be an artist of life along the way (Artist of Life, p. 256).
It’s a worthy goal for each of us.

Sources for this column include Artist of Life, Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method, The Tao of Gung Fu, and Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee; Bruce Lee: A Life by Matthew Polly; and Mingus: A Critical Biography by Brian Priestley. An earlier version of this article appeared at The Wild Hunt.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Art Contest – Adult Winners, Midwinter 2023

Here are the adult winners! This year's Midwinter Art Contest celebrates the tenth anniversary of our international Norse Mythology Art Contest here at The Norse Mythology Blog. We received many amazing entries from around the world in the adult division this year, and it was very difficult to choose between them.

You can view the winning work in the teen division and check out comments from the judges by clicking here.

I'd again like to thank my fellow judge Lee Carter (UK artist for 2000 AD, Judge Dredd Megazine, and many other great comics). This contest would not have been possible without his kind donation of time and insight.

The assignment was to create a piece that somehow relates to the character and legends of the Norse gods and goddesses and the celebration of midwinter. There was a really wide range of conceptual and technical approaches in the adult group this year, and it was very hard for us to rank them. Congratulations to all who entered! We are very thankful for all the artists who shared their creativity with us.

Note: You can click on the art to see a larger version.

Nordhild Siglinde Wetzler
Age 25
Småland, Sweden

Nordhild explains her winning entry:
When the days get to their darkest point, we brighten them by spending time with the ones who are closest to us. That doesn't just mean family and friends but also the ones who deserve our time and attention the most – our pet companions. I imagine this is the same even for gods and goddesses, who surely have even more busy schedules than us.

It was hard to find straightforward information connecting Freyja to Yule, but – having two cats myself – I felt most drawn to her. With her being the goddess of love and fertility, I feel those are two things closely related to Yule, which is about the love we have for the ones around us as well as the rebirth that midwinter stands for.

I imagined her sitting in her hall Fólkvangr, surrounded by her pets, enjoying an apple and perhaps waiting for the first guests to arrive to celebrate midwinter.
Nordhild won second place in the teen division of the Midwinter 2013 Art Contest, way back in the contest's very first year. She won second place again in the teen division of the Midsummer 2014 Art Contest. In the Midsummer 2015 Art Contest, she won first place in the teen division.

This year, she moved up to the adult division and tied for first place. I love the calm power emanating from Freyja and her cats. The whiteness of Freyja's wonderfully rendered dress, of the cats, and of the snow outside contrasts beautifully with the warmth of the candlelight and the food and drink of the midwinter celebration. Nordhild really captures the warm spirit of the holiday.

Lee writes, "The perspective works great and draws you in towards the character, then you're gifted with a mountain range that lets your imagination wander."

Congratulations, Nordhild! It's been wonderful to see your art grow in depth and maturity.

First Place (Tie): Nordhild Siglinde Wetzler

Eleanor Rose James
Age 22
United Kingdom

Eleanor writes this about her entry:
I was inspired by the imagery and tales associated with Skaði, the jötunn and goddess who embodies the winter's spirit. Residing at the top of the tallest of frozen mountains, I aimed to depict Skaði as an ethereal elemental and natural force, a sharp frost that sweeps across the land in a graceful and deadly dance.
Lee comments, "A wonderful palette of cool winter colors with a well thought out composition. You can feel the movement and the cold winds."

The colors in Eleanor's entry really are wonderfully chilly. I love the quietly determined look on Skaði's face as she glides across the snow and ice. This is a work of art that really inspires the viewer to imagine the stories that hover behind it.

First Place (Tie): Eleanor Rose James

Dawn Reynolds
Age 44
Columbia, Tennessee, USA

Dawn wrote a very detailed essay on all the elements of her artwork and their connections to Norse mythology. Here's an edited version of her lengthy statement about her image of Kvasir:
Kvasir is a god created from either the saliva of the gods or chewed-up berries spit together as a pledge of peace after the war between the Aesir and the Vanir.

According to lore, the dwafs Fjalarr and Galarr didn't like him, so they killed him and drained his blood. They mixed it with honey to make mead. Anyone who drank it could become prolific in poetry.

In the United States, we could celebrate with beer (hops) or a beverage possibly made from cranberries to represent the berries chewed up and spat out that manifested his creation.

Midwinter where I live is often represented with the colors red and green. We have evergreen trees and holly berries. However, I chose to use gigantic green hops and red cranberries. The snow is all around. What's in the cup? Is it his blood and honey? Is it an intoxicating drink of chewed up, spat out berries?

The hops represented are obnoxiously large. There are two to represent Fjalarr and Galarr. The symbols on Kvasir's cloak fasteners are bees to represent honey. The runes around the border and along the cloak seams are the ones that stood out to me the most in relation to this god of peace and how he became so.

These runes in the painting are meant as an offering from me to Kvasir. They are for protection, harmony, friendship, home, and peace, as well as knowing the hard times that created the wisdom to seek peace.

Kvasir is not alone in this painting. He is observing those who have gathered and is prepared if conflict breaks out. But it shouldn't.

Peace, as we gather at midwinter – isn't it all anybody wants? Not everyone can have that. The challenges may come and even conflict. But we all have mysteries and magical abilities to overcome.

I personally write songs and lyrics to overcome difficulties. The poem on my painting is actually lyrics to a song I wrote called "Dark is Closer" that can be found on YouTube. Without poetry, we wouldn't have lyrics for songs.

There is great peacemaking magic in music and lyrics. This is why Kvasir inspires me.
Dawn was the third-place winner in the adult division of the Midwinter 2019 Art Contest and runner-up in the adult division of the Midsummer 2020 Art Contest. It's great to see her back again with an entry that won her highest ranking yet.

Lee writes, "An intricate piece with your attention being draw towards his eyes, trusting and inviting. Wonderful work with a range of colous that fit really well together."

There's a wonderful sense of welcome and peace in this work with an emanating warmth that truly expresses the thoughtful joy of the midwinter season. I greatly appreciate all the thought that Dawn always puts into her work – thought that brings depth and emotional resonance her art.

Second Place: Dawn Reynolds

Abigail Epplett
Age 28
Uxbridge, Massachusetts, USA

Abigail writes about her artwork:
In this quiet winter scene, bright Baldr and blind Höðr walk together, perhaps on their way to a midwinter gathering. The mistletoe along the path foreshadows their fates.

The body positions of the gods are deliberately anachronistic, as they demonstrate the best way to act as a sighted guide and to navigate with a blind cane.
This entry shows a very different technical approach from the others and – even while being set outside – has a unique wary of communicating a deep feeling of warmth and togetherness. The moment within the mythological timeline in which the artwork is set is interesting in a way that sparks reflection. Abigail shows both artistic skill and a creative imagination. Congratulations on a wonderful work!

Lee comments, "What a wonderul picture! A real sense of friendship and ease, happy and content with each other's company as they wander down the avenue of trees. Great costume design."

Third Place: Abigail Epplett

Jissey Raye L. Rafanan
Age 32
Zamboanga City, Philippines

Jissey's explanation of this wonderful piece:
The artwork depicts some members of the Asgardian pantheon – Freyja, Odin, Thor, and Tyr – around the Yule log. I opted to have them stand in a circle around a Yule log being burned while at the base of Yggdrasil.

Odin, with his back to the viewer, presides over the ceremony, in keeping with his station as the head of the Norse pantheon. Freyja is at his left, due to her role in the partition of the Einherjar for those to attend to her in Fólkvangr. Thor is at his right, since Mjölnir is used in consecration rites.
It's always amazing to see entries come in from all over the world, to learn how far Norse mythology has traveled, and to enjoy wonderful artistic interpretations like this beautiful artwork by Jissey – the piece that most closely sticks to this year's contest theme. Somehow, Jissey manages to draw us into the warm moment even without any of the main characters full facing the viewer. I also greatly appreciate the attention to mythological detail in the portrayal of the Norse deities.

Lee comments, "Really nice rendering of the costumes and armor. The blue shadow across the snow puts a coolness in the air but with the fire keeping a really nice ambience."

Runner-Up: Jissey Raye L. Rafanan

Thank you to all who entered this winter. We really enjoyed everyone's work. See you when the next contest rolls around!

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Art Contest – Teen Winners, Midwinter 2023

This year's Midwinter Art Contest didn't receive any entries in the kids division. The same thing happened back in our Midsummer 2020 Art Contest. It's a shame, because we know there are plenty of children age twelve and under who love learning about mythology and creating their own interpretations of it. Please keep an eye out (like Odin) for our next art contest and share it with any artistic kids you know!

We also only received only one entry in the teen division, which includes artists between the ages of thirteen and nineteen. The same thing happened in Midsummer 2015 and Midwinter 2019, so we can't simply blame the rise of A.I. for it! Stuff happens.

We did receive many amazing entries in the adult division for artists age twenty and up, so be sure to come back tomorrow and check them out.

Just because the teen entry this year is so absolutely fantastic, we've decided to feature it and give our congratulations to the artist for creating such amazing work.

I'd like to thank my fellow judge Lee Carter (UK artist for 2000 AD, Judge Dredd Megazine, and other great comics from Boom! Studies, DK, Top Cow, and many more). I really appreciate the time that he volunteered to rank and comment on all the entries. This contest would not be possible without his generosity and kindness.

The assignment was to create a piece that somehow relates to the character and legends of the Norse gods and goddesses and the celebration of midwinter. Big congratulations to our teen artist for creating such a wonderful work of art!

Note: You can click on the art to see a larger version.

Oskari Korkkonen
Age 17
Lapinlahti, Finland

Oskari provides a short description of the work titled Yule Father, simply stating that it's "an acrylic painting depicting Odin in a red cloak wandering around Midgard at midwinter."

Lee writes, "Oskari's painting is really beautifully drawn. There's a great depth of tone on the character's red robe, with the fur collar rendered perfectly with rough brush strokes. There's a real feeling of travel as Odin makes his way via the directions of the stars."

I agee with Lee, and I really like the combination of Odin's dark red with the pale blue of the snow and the deep blue-black of the sky. There's also a fascinating contrast between the joyfulness of Odin's somewhat Santa-like outfit on one hand and the mystery of his shadowy face and implied threat of his enormous spear on the other. Oskari has really captured the complicated nature of Odin's character in a very special way.

First Place: Oskari Korkkonen

Adult winners will be announced tomorrow!

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Art Contest – Midwinter 2023

Art by Ayu Putri Kenyo Jati (Indonesia), Teen First Place Winner, Midwinter Art Contest 2014


Ten years after The Norse Mythology Blog's first art contest, the theme for our tenth art contest is different than it has been in the past. Be sure to carefully read the entire Contest Theme section so that you understand the assignment.

During the winter solstice on December 21, those of us in the northern hemisphere will experience the shortest day and longest night of the year. This may seem early in the season, but it’s really the middle. From this point on, days will get longer as we slowly move back towards summer.

Throughout Northern Europe, there are local traditions that celebrate midwinter. Some of these practices preserve very old rituals. Your original piece of visual art should capture the midwinter spirit.

I strongly suggest doing some reading and research on myth and folklore before you begin your artwork. What characters and concepts can you discover? Can you think of a way to relate them to the contest theme?

If you need some ideas about mythology, browse The Norse Mythology Blog Archive. You can also click here to check out the past Midwinter Art Contest winners in the three categories: kid, teen, and adult. Most importantly – be creative!


Your artwork entry must somehow relate to the character and legends of the Norse gods and goddesses and the celebration of midwinter.

There are many gods and goddesses in Norse mythology, and most have complex characteristics. Your job is to find something about some of them that speaks to you and inspires you, then combine it with some aspect of midwinter and create your own original work of art.

Art by Levi Simpson (USA), Adult First Place Winner (Tie), Midwinter Art Contest 2014

Norse gods and goddesses have connections to magic, prophecy, runes, wisdom, poetry, song, inspiration, creativity, performance, travel, hospitality, gifting, community, parenthood, childhood, friendship, relationships, religion, ritual, nature, culture, teaching, learning, ravens, wolves, goats, falcons, trees, peace, war, life, prosperity, death, standing against evil, and much more. There certainly is a lot to draw on for your entry!

There are many tales of Norse gods and goddeesses hat you can read to inspire your entry. A good place to start is by reading Children of Odin by Padraic Colum, which retells the major Norse myths and legends in family-friendly form. You can download the book for free from The Norse Mythology Online Library; it can be found in the Retellings and Reinterpretations section.

You can do any of these things:

1. Illustrate some versions of some Norse gods and goddesses and some aspect of midwinter
2. Illustrate the feeling of Norse gods and goddesses and midwinter
4. Create something inspired by Norse gods and goddesses and midwinter
5. Draw something connecting Norse gods and goddesses and midwinter to other characters or concepts from Norse myth and Germanic folklore

You must do this one thing:

Include a short explanation with your entry detailing how your work relates to Norse god and goddesses and midwinter


In this contest, Marvel Comics characters are NOT considered part of Norse mythology or folklore. Art with imagery from comic books or movies will NOT be accepted. Do some reading and research on myth and folklore, then base your imagery on what you learn.

This year, we're also taking a stand for the inspired creativity of human artists and NOT accepting any entries created using AI (artificial intelligence). Please embrace your individuality and do your own work.


I am extremely proud to announce the guest judge for this year's Midwinter Art Contest. I really love his work, and I'm very happy that he agreed to participate this year. The two of us will judge the entries together.

Lee Carter

I became a fan of illustrator, comics artist, and concept artist Lee Carter through his amazing work for the legendary UK weekly comic 2000 AD and the associated monthly Judge Dredd Megazine. His work is often terrifying and always makes a powerful impact through his cinematic design and detailed linework.

In-process art for cover of Judge Dredd Megazine issue 439 by Lee Carter

For 2000 AD, he's drawn both iconic series and new titles, including Dead Eyes, Durham Red, Grey Area, Indigo Prime, Judge Dredd, Necrophim, Rogue Trooper, Tharg's Terror Tales, and Tharg's Time Twisters. Whether the genre is science fiction or fantastic horror, Lee's artistic vision and brilliant craftsmanship pulls you into the weird worlds his work inhabits.

Over at the Judge Dredd Megazine, Lee and legendary Scottish writer Gordon Rennie's Angelic tells a disturbing tale that may or may not be the backstory of the notorious Angel Gang that Judge Dredd first tangled with way back in 1980. It's innovative and intense.

Lee has also done art for 451's Sunflower, Top Cow's The Darkness, and Boom! Studio's Mr. Stuffins. He's contributed to The Dead Roots Comic Anthology, DK's The Most Important Comic Book on Earth, Mam Tor's Event Horizon, Ahoy Comics' Edgar Allan Poe's Snifter of Terror, and Boom! Studios' Cthulhu Tales and Pirate Tales.

I've long followed Lee's social media posts detailing the in-depth process he goes through to create his work, and I think's he's the perfect person to judge the contest this year.

You can learn more about Lee by visiting his official website and following him on Twitter.


There will be three winners in each of the following categories:

Kids: Age 12 and under
Teens: Age 13-19
Adults: Age 20 and up


1. Art must be done with crayon, marker, paint, pen, pencil, or digital materials.
2. Original art only; no photos, collage, or work created using AI (artificial intelligence).
3. Art must be kid-friendly; no nudity or violence.
4. No copyrighted characters. Let’s leave the Marvel Comics to the professionals!
5. One entry per person, please.


Send an email to that includes the following:

1. Your full name (kids can give first name and last initial)
2. Your age (as of December 23, 2023)
3. Your location (city, state/province, country)
4. A short description of your artwork explaining how it relates to Norse gods, goddesses, and midwinter
5. Your scanned artwork (as an attachment)

Seriously, don’t forget to include your art as an attachment!


11:59 p.m. (Chicago time) on December 23, 2023


Lee and I will be judging the entries based on creativity and relation to Norse mythology. Do some reading, do some thinking, and make something original!

Contest winners will be featured on sites and pages of Norse Mythology Online

The three winners in each age group will be featured on the many sites and pages of Norse Mythology Online:

The Norse Mythology Blog

The Norse Mythology Facebook Page

The Norse Mythology Twitter Page

The Norse Mythology Pinterest Page

Your art and your description of it will be posted on all of the above outlets and will remain permanently in the The Norse Mythology Blog Archive.

December 29: Kid winners announced
December 30: Teen winners announced
December 31: Adult winners announced

Good luck to everyone!

Thursday, November 2, 2023

On a Viking Ship: Interview with Stephanie Smith Pasculli

In 2010, construction of the ship known as the Draken Harald Hårfagre began under the curation of Norwegian businessman Sigurd Aase. Scandinavian historians, ship builders, craftspeople, and artists collaborated to build the Draken on the model of the greatest long ships of the Viking Age, basing their work on archaeological finds, traditional techniques, written descriptions from the Icelandic sagas, and a range of other historical material.

Stephanie blows the horn aboard the Draken Harald Hårfagre (Photo: Stephanie Smith Pasculli)

Named for Harald Fairhair, the first king of Norway, the oak ship is 115 feet long and 26 feet wide, with a 3,200-square-foot silk sail and a 79-foot mast of Douglas fir. It has an 8-foot 2-inch draft, displaces 80 tons, can reach a top speed of 14 knots, and took more than 10,000 nails to build. It is the largest Viking ship built in modern times, with room for one hundred oarsmen on twenty-five pairs of oars.

Trial sailing of the Draken took place off the Norwegian coast in 2012 and 2013. In 2014, the ship sailed between Haugesund, Norway and Liverpool, England.

In 2016, the ship sailed from Haugesund across the North Atlantic Ocean to the United States, with stops in the Shetland Islands, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and Canada. The goal was to reproduce the travels of Leif Eiríksson around the year 1000 CE.

In 2018, the ship made a tour of the East Coast of the United States, with stopovers from Mystic Seaport, Connecticut through Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington DC.

Last year, the Draken was docked at the Mystic Seaport Museum as it underwent maintenance and repairs. Stephanie Smith Pasculli was one member of the volunteer crew doing that work.

I first met Stephanie many years ago, when she was an adult student in two of my continuing education courses – one on Norse mythology and one on the mythic sources of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. We’ve been friends ever since. She’s a founding member of Thor’s Oak Kindred, the diverse Ásatrú organization I lead in Chicago, and she’s been an absolute inspiration in many areas of this life we live.

Now living in Norwalk, Connecticut, Stephanie was raised in the northwest Seattle area and the surrounding Cascade and Olympic Mountain ranges, where she spent time camping, snowboarding, and motorcycling.

She’s lived and worked in Oregon, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York. She’s been a visual manager in retail for over twenty years with a twelve-year break in the middle for more education and to run her own business designing and building small structures (treehouses, cabins, barns) and theatrical works (sets, props, parade floats, costumes).

She earned her BA at Smith College while in her thirties, minoring in Medieval Studies with a focus on Old English and runes while majoring in Studio Art with a digital media focus. As a year-round rower, she jokes that she actually majored in crew.

When I asked Stephanie if she wanted to add anything to this amazing list of interesting things about herself, she answered, “I am a mother, and it is amazing.”

Stephanie working on the Draken (Photo: Erik Petersen)

KS – When did you first set foot on the Draken?

Stephanie Smith Pasculli – The Draken came to Chicago’s waterfront in July of 2016 on their Expedition America 2016 – departing from Norway in April – and I was exuberantly in line on the very first day, after following her construction for years. I remember being so excited that it was raining, as it held off the droves and bought my family and I more time onboard.

KS – How did you get selected to join the volunteer crew?

SSP – On Draken Harald Hårfagre’s Facebook page there was a post seeking applicants for a volunteer maintenance crew needed at Mystic Seaport last March. That post was shared 593 times, with hundreds of applicants resulting.

I was not chosen at first, and though I was not surprised, I admit to some graceful open weeping. But I did write back with my promise that if any spot were to open up, I would be there immediately. A spot did open up, and I was there.

KS – What were your duties on the ship?

SSP – Every day, what was needed was different. We hauled out twelve tons of ballast stones one by one. We scraped the dirt and grit out of the tar inside the 115-foot ship. We scrubbed every inch and went back to scrape and scrub some more.

We filled any possible cracks with Boracol [a mixture of borax and glycol], we repainted under the waterline, retarred everywhere and everything remaining – including the 79-foot Douglas fir mast, the rigging, and the smaller sailboat kept on the Draken, charmingly referred to as Baby Draken.

Joyfully, I also took turns making coffee for fika [Swedish coffee break custom], scrubbing the bathroom at Mystic Seaport’s staff lounge area, and jumped into a live classroom video tour for grade school children without notice. Whatever, whenever!

KS – How have your experiences onboard deepened your understanding of the Viking Era?

SSP – Two weeks on the Draken brought subtle openings of understanding, as did being around members of the crew who sailed across the Atlantic.

The ship showed me how hair blown loose in coastal winds embeds into the tar, the pure quantity of strikes it takes to replace one nail, the stiff and surprisingly intense weight of tarred hemp rope.

The crew’s stories of breaking masts, wild storms and racing through icy waters at night forced on by a single, mammoth sail brought another level of understanding. Their comradery, stout spirits, perpetual humor, and absolute commitment to doing what needs to be done easily illuminated for me the quality of character quintessential of earlier times.

Stephanie and friends next to the Draken (Photo: Stephanie Smith Pasculli)

KS – How do you identify in terms of spiritual identity and practice?

SSP – I feel like a nature-based spiritual person who is in the current of an ancient Pagan pulse, as it were. I was raised meditating with an understanding of an essential connectedness and all the ways it lives through the people of the world.

On a trip to the British Isles in my mid-twenties, however, I felt a startlingly physical reaction to a site I learned later was used for Pagan rituals. After returning to the US, I immediately began to research this experience and Paganism for the first time. I ended up attracting beautiful friends and teachers to delve into the earth’s rhythms and magic with, and this experience became my tuning fork for recreating connectedness and personal potentiality.

Decades passed with new friends and teachers weaving into my world, all deepening an ever-widening spiral. California brought time with Starhawk in her Earth Activist permaculture training, Massachusetts revealed the incredibly special Earth Spirit community, and Chicago brought my dear friend, Dr. Karl Seigfried and the Thor’s Oak Kindred blóts and community. All of these continue to be a gift to my soul.

KS – Where do you find yourself spiritually today in relation to where you were when you first came to Paganism?

SSP – When I first came to Paganism, it was 1995 and I didn’t have the internet! It was a while ago!

I only had a feeling in my body and the term druid to research at the library, dictionary, even the phone book, as I had nowhere else to search. I eventually found two books at the University of Washington’s library, and soon after, my people found me. It was the perfect beginning.

We were a small, diligent, magical group who worked together, lovingly and powerfully. Through subsequent years of moving and widening webs, I’ve come to feel much looser and yet stronger spiritually. I see so many ways to connect naturally and globally now, and as years pass with each season absorbed and treasured, my own seasons have a richness and humor too.

Through it all though, my connection to my parents’ Scandinavian roots is raising its head, I must say. I am able to identify more and more that note in my core, and it is awesome.

Stephanie gets into it aboard the Draken (Photo: Erik Petersen)

KS – In a video for fifth grade schoolchildren, you described the Draken as “a sacred site” and “a sacred vessel.” Can you expand on that?

SSP – I can only say what is sacred to me, of course, and what I believe that means. We are all different, but to me, the amount of energy that is imbued in and emanates from the Draken is visceral.

There is the honest intention of all the sweat, soul, and spirit poured for years into its creation. There is the vibrancy of the world’s imagination set loose upon the dark waves. There is the ancestral heartbeat that has found a new hull to ring through for the first time in a thousand years.

The Draken literally hums with power, and you can see it a mile away. To step aboard sings in your feet, and if you are able to sit on the deck with your back nestled into the hull, you feel as if a wild and powerful goddess is smiling down at you specifically.

KS –Were there other Pagans working on the ship?

SSP – There were other Pagans on the ship, for sure. Conversations were natural and simple, as Ásatrú blended in with everyday comments and banter. References to Odin or little jokes involving the Norse pantheon in a sweet and knowing way felt like a type of shorthand for sharing glimpses of the sacred together, while also getting our work done before the rains came.

KS –Since 2018, the Draken crew has collaborated with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography by taking microplastic samples to help measure oceanic distribution of microplastics. Do you see a connection between your spirituality and this sort of environmental work?

SSP – I feel any movement at all towards the health of the earth is direct service to the spiritual sacred.

The crew of the Draken’s efforts and commitment to this research put more light on the term oceanic distribution of microplastics. Because they cared and acted, it is in our conversation today.

To me, environmental work is spirituality on its feet.

Stephanie on the Draken Harald Hårfagre (Photo: Stephanie Smith Pasculli)

KS – This isn’t your first experience with “living history.” Can you describe your participation in Society for Creative Anachronism battle events?

SSP – Oh, the fighting! I love the fighting. I laugh to myself at my love for the Draken. I’m not a sailor, yet! I am a builder and a rower and a fighter who just needs a boat to get her there!

So yes, the SCA is an incredible worldwide organization where folks involve themselves in all aspects of culture before 1600. We do not reenact or pretend to be others; we embody and engage in the activities as closely as possible, and everyone is a participant.

My focus is “heavy list fighting,” specifically sword and shield as my primary weapon form for tournaments and small melees. For larger melees or all-out wars – hundreds against hundreds – I also fight with a spear. The weapons are rattan and are not padded, so all combatants must wear very extensive armor and be officially authorized to participate.

There are no divisions of gender, weight or age in combat, and the diversity of character and weapon type is astounding. I’ve been fighting for fifteen years, and it is soul fire.

KS – Is there a relationship between your fighting in these battles and your spiritual practice?

SSP – Absolutely! But how to describe it? It is an intoxicating mix of complete focus due to the danger at hand, the celebration of survival, and the deep awareness of my ancestors’ engagement with aggression as both sacrifice and conqueror.

There breathes my male and female, my Týr losing my hand into the mouth of Fenrir for others, my strategy striding into a swirl of chaos, my conversation with the violent aggression in me that has a place to shine.

So many fighters call it “stick therapy.” Maybe those are the best words.

KS – I’ve long thought that you personally exude a deeply spiritual presence during the blót rites of Thor’s Oak Kindred, and you always have wonderfully moving things to say around the oak tree and over the drinking horn. Outside of ritual, are there other moments in your life where you feel similar a connection to the divine?

SSP – Ritual keeps finding her way in!

One exercise in Starhawk’s Earth Activist Training I took away and kept close was a four-part grounding technique. We visualized a location where we felt naturally grounded, we said a grounding word aloud, we touched a place on our bodies that centered us, we breathed it all in to root ourselves. The purpose was to build tools to center ourselves amidst the chaos that can happen in activist work. I also found it useful in the family!

The goal was that repeated use of these tools would abbreviate them to provide the same level of grounding with just one quick word or touch. All that is to say that, fifteen years later, a yummy smell from an uprooted tree may prompt a moment to connect and go deeper as I’m walking down the sidewalk.

But the moon though, she stops me in my tracks almost every time. The moon probably lives as my most fluid conduit. That is why she is tattooed on my arms. I have my heart on my sleeve! Along with two Viking ships.

KS – In academic study of religions, the concept of “lived religion” focuses on a dynamic understanding of religiosity that “reconsider[s] American religious history in terms of practices that are linked to specific social contexts.” How has your religious practice intersected with your understanding of yourself as a participant in contemporary American culture?

SSP – I honestly wrestle with how my religious beliefs intersect with my participation in modern America.

I make choices for the environment and spirit – like our family’s vegetarianism, home-based food production, lack of screen time, and political actions ­– but I have work to do here.

Professionally, I work in an environment which drives the perpetual spring modality. It values new growth on top of new growth. Youth is the goal. Maiden is the only goddess.

In my heart and home, we observe and value all seasons, the waning and the waxing, the Mother and Crone. We value the decline, the death, and the rest as much as life itself. This full cycle is sustainable.

So there is tension and yet some progress. We didn’t have free-range chickens three years ago, and they are now the comedy and pride of our typical suburban neighborhood.

KS – Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights with us!

SSP – I am truly deeply humbled and honored to talk with you. Thank you.

An earlier version of this article appeared at The Wild Hunt.
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