Compassion versus Pragmatism

So. I haven’t posted since July? Where does the time go?

Oh right.


It goes to Skyrim.

Well, I have a fun topic tonight. Iceland’s sort-of-ethnic-cleansing-but-not-technically-ethnic-cleansing of fetuses with Down Syndrome.


Super fun stuff (Lumi said facetiously).

Yes it’s horrible, and yes, we should probably condemn it, but on the other hand, the technique works. And it’s got a long history of doing so. It’s essentially the core of what Eugenics was all about: controlled breeding of humans the way we do with cats, dogs, sheep, geese, and all sorts of animals allowing us to prioritize stronger genetics and weeding out over multiple generations the most problematic genes, increasing the viability of the total stock as a whole. On paper, it makes sense. Logically, it makes sense. Theoretically, it’s all about making a better human race according to the oldest and most effective means we’ve ever devised.

Eugenics has a bum rap today, but when people like Margaret Sanger and Adolf Hitler are very vocal fans of something… yeah. Bad reputations will happen. And it deprives freedom of choice to those it culls or sterilizes, which is a big no-no in modern Western Society for damn good reasons. Worst of all, as Adolf Hitler showed, when your government puts Eugenics on a pedestal, things can go to shit with alarming speed. It’s no small wonder that people have been making Nazi comparisons during the run of this program from its inception.

So what’s the breakdown on this issue?

Playing the Devil’s Advocate: it’s a relatively low-cost solution of eliminating birth defects in future generations with the highest success rate of any sort of method of preventative measures in world history. This is absolutely not to say that it’s morally right, but the cold logic and math does work out. After all, one can hardly deny that you can’t have Down Syndrome anymore if there are no potential vectors to pass it on.

The moral question is: does one choose a world of mercy –in which these sorts of disorders will persist for the foreseeable future and have MASSIVE impacts on the afflicted that will affect them every day of their life– or, do we make the very ugly and cruel but a very pragmatic decision and eliminate it in the only way we currently can, and possibly snuff out future contributions that might change the world forever, and for the better?

How societies answer this question is important for a whole host of reasons, both economical and moral.

Iceland has come to the decision that individuals with Down Syndrome represent too great a risk to maintain, and they’ve done some serious math before coming to that conclusion. Ultimately, they’ve concluded that DS citizens are too big a drain on families and social support networks and have decided, essentially, to “cut the head off the snake”, as it were.

In America, most families would beg to differ with that approach. There are many cases that show that DS individuals can go on to become fully independent and lead very productive, satisfying, and dare I say it, HAPPY lives. Iceland would argue that these are exceptions in defiance of the math, in defiance of the “rule”. Mathematically, it is even likely they are correct. But just because a thing is mathematically correct does not equate to moral correctness.

Sadly, no proper cure exists, though I continue to hope that politicians and special interest groups will unfetter the Geneticists constantly searching for one. Perhaps a cure that does not equate to genetic cleansing, Spartan style, will emerge within our lifetimes. I hope it does, because that will finally mean the end of this ugly question of morals vs pragmatism… at least on this topic. We are finally at a point where “kill all the sick people” no longer needs to be our best option. The gods gave us these phenomenal minds and intellects. They also gave us unbelievable potential for compassion. So let’s put all that to good use. Let’s solve this problem in a way that moves everyone forward and doesn’t come at someone else’s expense.

And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, someone with Down Syndrome will be responsible for that cure. Maybe.

We can always hope.

This is a very deep topic, and there’s a lot of interesting and/or valuable opinions on it, so I am genuinely interested in hearing what you have to say on this. Drop a comment below, and I’d love to discuss the matter further. Is there a silver lining to this? Is it uniformly and altogether evil? History will make its own judgments as it always does, but I’m pretty sure we already know where we stand on this now, so let’s talk!


No. Just… no.



Just… NO.

Odin cares about kids in his own way, but it’s definitely not in the “gentle father” type.

Think more Ra’as Al Ghul kicking a battered, burned out, and winded Bruce Wayne who can barely stand, screaming “DEATH DOES NOT WAIT FOR YOU TO BE READY! DEATH IS NOT CONSIDERATE OR FAIR!”

Odin doesn’t want “wretched survivalists”, he wants the very best for his army so he can win the field at Ragnarok.

Odin has no use for a scared kid who can’t hold a sword. Just… GRRRRRRRR.

Odin isn’t Jesus the Redeemer.

Odin is a tricky, hard-edged, mission-first god of blood, death, and winning wars, and occasionally he’s a god of wisdom when he isn’t engaged in the first three. He’s not here to babysit children. He’s here to lead men and gods.

I used to want to believe he’d consider my personal struggles a battle too, but no, he really does not give a single shit about that stuff. He doesn’t care about a soldier, he cares about the war, and therefore the army.

And things get so much easier when you finally realize that Odin is not a deity to turn to for compassion — we have Frigga and Freyja for that. Even Loki has more compassion, even if only for the spurned and outcasts among us.

There are gods who would do this sort of thing; Odin is nowhere CLOSE to being among them. He may be the All-Father, but he’s the harshest father you’re ever gonna meet.

End rant.

Piecing things together

I’ve been meditating on missing crucial pieces quite a lot lately.

Things that really would have helped to have, if it had survived.

Because there are questions I have. Questions that will probably bug me for the rest of my life. These are things I ask Lilith all the time, but I don’t think I will ever receive a straight answer to (not in this lifetime, at least). I really first noticed this for the first time when I studied my Norse ancestors. Well, I’d noticed it before: Lilith is nothing if not a controversial and shall we say “multi-faceted” figure, but I hadn’t truly noticed it. I hadn’t felt it in my bones, and really truly realized that there were things that were missing: entries in the historic record that mattered in a major way that could never have a hope of being accurately reconstructed.

Some of these missing bits are answers to very basic questions I would ask of Lilith. Questions like “what is it that you actually DO?”

I’ve been a loyal child for 12 years now, and in 12 years I’ve heard twice as many explanations of what Lilith did before She was condemned to a demonic reputation by the monotheists. I’ve heard of her as a wind spirit, a Handmaiden of the Queen of Heaven, a fertility goddess, a protector of Home and Hearth, a guardian of children, a Divine Consort, and more. Enough survives to indicate that any or all of those theories are true, but perhaps equally likely is that none of it is really true. Her existence in the historic record is highly fragmented, to the point that really anyone could say anything and there’d be a partially obliterated stone tablet they could point to as evidence.

Needless to say, this rather mucks up the process of attempting to understand my Divine Mother, but I’m hardly alone in such trials. Asatru also suffers from a great deal of this, despite their original sources being fairly well documented by comparison to most other reconstructionist faiths that I can think of that originate in Northern Europe, such as Druidism.

Ironically, Christianity itself has not escaped this trap, despite having a well established reputation as a professional force of “missing piece makers”. Just look at the seemingly infinite subdivisions and denominations of the faith to see how there have been people endlessly reinterpreting a work to justify a particular claim. Or take a look at the number of so-called “Apocryphal Gospels” that emerged over history, each with its own take on the life and teachings of Jesus, or one of the Apostles. Or the number of these that were discarded as the Church was saddled with the unenviable task of determining their Biblical Canon. How many of these actually existed? We have no way of knowing. How many of them will go unseen, probably forever, by the eyes of the modern day faithful? The sad truth is, probably the vast, overwhelming majority of those books.

Every faith has its missing pieces. Some are lost to accidents, many to intentional destruction… and on rare occasion, some are just plain and honestly misplaced and forgotten in the sands of time. I’ve got quite a lot of big holes in what I’m trying to work with, but I’m nowhere near the First Place position in that particular race, nor do I envy whoever actually is.

So what do we do, when we find a gap and are unable to intuit what might have originally filled it? Well, I really wish I had a better answer than “take what you know for sure and let your heart decide the rest”, but that’s honestly the only valid answer I know to give. It’s in places like these that Faith is more important than ever before.

When the historical record is reading a blank and your gods won’t answer a direct question, take what you’ve got already, and go with your gut. At least until it leads you to a brick wall or something. There’s really nothing more sage-like I can say than that, however underwhelming an answer it might be. It is what it is.

May the gods guide you, as always.


Some thoughts should only ever be thoughts

So I had an altercation with a family member.

The nasty verbally-violent “I hate your guts” type.

It wasn’t pretty.

Things were said that neither of us (I’m sure. I hope.) really meant or are particularly proud of. And it was bad enough that my subconscious actually dredged up some cathartic murder fantasies. About a family member that, fights aside, I love very much and want very much to remain alive. Yeah. The Id is an absolute bastard.

There’s a place for thoughts and fantasy. It’s in your head. Let the fantasy take you somewhere in your head that is cathartic and relieving — that’s why your subconscious brings them forward to the conscious mind in the first place, after all. But no matter how sweet the Id’s whispers, don’t ever bring a finger of harm to someone else unless they are already trying to hurt you.

If there’s one  thing that my time studying the myths and legends of the Norse has taught me, it’s that the price of blood is always steep, and that kinslayers never end up in a good way. Never-goddamn-ever.

There’s a place for these kinds of thoughts, and it’s in your head.


Some thoughts should just be thoughts.

This has been a brief update and murky window into my life masquerading as a PSA.

Gods guide you.

Drifting? No, Sailing.

A spiritual journey is a funny thing, rather like a roller coaster in that it is full of ups and downs and turns you often don’t see coming.

Sometimes, things that we expect will turn out great don’t turn out at all, great or otherwise. And so it was with my connection with the Norse gods. Academically, they’re still fascinating to me. The Eddas and Havamal are still terrific sources of wisdom. But for all my efforts, I know that I have drifted far from that direction, and I’m not likely to sail back now that I am presented with the choice to do so.

At least, not for a while yet.

The people are partially to blame. In the last several years I’ve had to come to the sobering realization that several close friends of mine who were Asatru were also agents of Hydra  white supremacist and anti-Semitic “folkish” heathens, and I’ll admit that this shook me heavily. That’s not a world I inhabit or wish to be vaguely near to. For obvious reasons, these former friends had to go, even though they’d done nothing to me personally. I’m a pretty open minded soul and I do my best to build friendships with many groups of people, but racial supremacists are right out. In the world which I seek to help build, there’s no place for monsters like that.

The other reason was the quietude of it all. Maybe I’m not the sort of person gods like to talk to long term, but after a few years of study and communion, contact just sort of… stopped. Like I was very suddenly speaking to a brick wall. While this happened before I cut the Hydra agents Nazis out of my life, if it turns out that the gods of my ancestors cut me off because I don’t believe a person’s skin color makes them superior or inferior to others, well, then fuck them. Any god that is so small minded is not worthy of me. But I don’t believe that’s the case. I think gods just need to do god things and there’s no room for me in that. At least, I sincerely hope that is the case.

As for why I’m not headed back anytime soon?

While it is the most easily researched part of my Northern European lineage and my voyage certainly began with them, the Norse are not the end of my quest to understand who I am. I have documented ancestry in Scotland, Ireland, and Gaul as well — a proud dual strain of Gaelic and Brythonic Celtic ancestry beats within my blood. If I am to seek my ancestors, I must seek ALL my ancestors, and it’s frankly easier to do that if I am not tied down anywhere spiritually. I don’t think that I’ll ever owe allegiance to one set of gods or another. Individuals, yes. I’m quite fond of Frey, Loki, and Skadi on my Norse side. I’m fond of Lilith on a personal side. Hopefully in the year or so to come, I can forge new bonds with gods from my Celt ancestors who are at the very least new to me. If this next leg of my journey is anything like the one I have just completed, I think I should stand to learn much and grow more.

Sometimes we are knocked off course, or becalmed in spiritual doldrums. Sometimes we lose track of where we are or where we’re going. We are each Odysseus, each of us navigating to get somewhere that strikes us as “home”. But just as each instance of those created a new chapter in Odysseus’ journey back home to Ithaca that made him a better leader, a better warrior, a better man, or simply reminded him of his ultimate goal and hardened his resolve. With that analogy in mind, I think that we should come to celebrate these drifts and off course moments. Unfamiliar seas mean new sights, and new sights are new opportunities to grow in one way or another. And sometimes, just sometimes, we find a place that’s worth staying for a spell before we get back in the boat and resume our voyage home.

I’m not mad that the Norse gods aren’t speaking to me. I might be annoyed, but that’s harmless to both sides. During this time of quiet from one source, I have elected to sail on and explore uncharted waters, and I’m very fortunate that I live in a time and place that allows me to have this option when my ancestors by and large did not.

That’s my solution. What will yours be?

Gods guide you.

Disciplined Pagans

Labels are tricky creatures.

Used wrongly, they can be incredibly harmful. Used correctly, they have the ability to inform and helpfully categorize. In faith-based circles, labels are used to help serve as a spoken or written shorthand that summarizes what we believe much faster than a paragraph or a list. It may not be exact, but they seldom need to be 100% precise.

I don’t have a label.

I don’t have a metaphorical badge on my chest I can use as shorthand, to others or to myself.

I love Lilith, who is but a piece of a much greater Goddess that exists unseen, unfelt, and uninteracted with all around me. I’m proud of my Norse and Celtic ancestors and all that they accomplished — but that same accomplishment causes angst that I might not ever measure up in their eyes or even my own. I am fascinated by my ancestral gods and find great wisdom in their teachings that have come down to me, but I’m now ready to say that I don’t really follow or worship them in any conventional sense.

I’m not Wiccan. I’m not a Druid. I’m not Asatru or Vanatru.

I don’t get to have a word that really says “this is the gist of what I cherish and believe to be true about the world”.

I get a paragraph, at the shortest.

The closest word in the pagan community seems to be “eclectic pagan” but that’s not really a solution. All that really says is that one’s beliefs tend to fall outside the more mainstream frameworks. If you want to be any more precise, well, get your flashcard with your best descriptor paragraph on it ready.


You mean you don’t have flashcards?

…Okay, I actually don’t have flashcards either.

But “Eclectic Pagan” still doesn’t really communicate anything but “Fringe” on it’s own. It still needs to be explained on a case by case basis if your beliefs are to be understood.

There’s got to be a better word than that, but damn if I know what it is.

“Agnostic Pagan” is imprecise and arguably worse.

“Self-made Pagan” just makes us sound pretentious and somehow spiritually hipsterish in the worst possible way (not that I have anything against hipsterdom in and of itself, but let’s not kid ourselves: most people do).

Perhaps we ought to take a note out of Plato’s book and refer to ourselves as “Disciplined Pagans” if we are shooting for maximum precision. Plato, after all, regularly and frequently maintained that the definition of discipline is “to know oneself”.

Valdis Leinieks wrote the following in his book “The City of Dionysos: A Study of Euripides’ Bakchai” to clarify Plato’s views on discipline.

Plato characteristically gives a highly intellectual twist to his definition by further defining knowing oneself to mean knowing what one knows and what one does not know. The definition of discipline as knowing oneself, however, need not be taken in this restrictive sense. The definition includes not only knowing what one knows and what one does not know but also knowing what one is able to do and what one is not able to do. It involves the recognition of one’s strength or lack of it with respect to other men and the gods. This aspect of discipline leads to recognition of one’s weakness with respect to the gods and is equivalent to thinking like a man.

Disciplined Pagans.

I almost like the sound of that, to be honest.

If we are to take Plato at his word, then it’s an apt term that calls for us to garner a personal understanding of ourselves, our beliefs (especially those that set us apart from more mainstream movements) and how we judge ourselves to fit into this world spiritually through our strengths and shortcomings, and how all of this relates to the gods we have chosen to worship. Of course that’s easy to say on paper. Almost everything is easier said on paper.

What would it mean to be a Disciplined Pagan?

I posit that it’s a better term than Eclectic in the 21st Century.

While Eclectic is, let’s be clear here, a perfectly chosen word (at least for those who give a damn about word meanings), we also live in an era where word meanings are becoming irrelevant to on the spot touchy-feely emotion. Eclectic carries a feeling of randomness or cherry picking the best aspects of something, and in today’s world where a burrito-stand can be shut down for “cultural appropriation”, I’m not sure that that’s a target many pagans want to paint on their backs for today’s rabid social justice warriors.

But discipline?

There’s a big strong word. It commutes a meaning of orderliness, honor, and inner strength. Combined with its Platonic definition, I think that’s a term that could serve us “Disciplined Pagans” well into the future.

I doubt the term will catch on, and honestly, even if it did, it still isn’t frankly a brilliant solution for the root problem of lacking a word that can sum up my beliefs or someone else’s in a single word. But maybe some things aren’t well suited to being described in a single word. After all, the Author knows better than anyone else that a thousand words can often be better than a single picture — just ask Geoffrey Chaucer or William Shakespeare (or if you’re one of those ultra modern types, ask JK Rowling).

Just remember to carry discipline in your practices, whatever they may be, and your future will be all the better for it.

Gods guide you.

A blog post to inform you of an upcoming blog post

My update schedule thoroughly sucks. Hence I am writing this little blurb so that anyone who is still subscribed will see it and know my future plans (sadly not World Domination even though my ideas for that are pretty awesome).

In the next day or two, I hope to have a formal entry up. I’ve been thinking about the topic for several days now but the proper wording still eludes me. The topic is somewhat personal, but I think there are enough pagans out there like me in this regard that it will be worth publishing.

Stay tuned for further updates!

Spiritual Wayfinding

So, the Tumblr experiment was a bust. Try as I might, nobody really seemed to pay attention to it enough to like or dislike it. As it goes, c’est la vie.

Honestly, it never really stopped feeling awkward for me. I might keep updating it, but it and my blog are once again trading priorities. So Ithildin Goddess on Tumblr will now be the secondary source, which I think suits it well enough. I’ll still try to keep it posting useful notes, helpful tips, or just some appropriate images aggregated from around the witchy side of Tumblr, but essays and thinkpieces are going to move back in here to be the bread and butter of this blog going forward.

I guess that concludes what they call “old business”.

New business!

I’ve been reading up on the Picts recently. Fascinating stuff, really. It had occurred to me a month or two ago that I have a TON of Scottish ancestry. I’ve known this for a while, but I never really focused on it in any aspect beyond the odd reference here and there in conversations that veered towards that topic. And then it really hit me this year. I have Scottish. Ancestry. …And therefore probably also Pictish ancestry. At the end of the day they were a mostly illiterate confederation of tribes and clans and didn’t keep records of that sort though, so really it’s anyone’s guess. It’s probably true, but I have no way of pointing to documentation that could conclusively prove it.  But probably.

And really, the things that drew me to my Norse heritage are also largely true for the Picts. Or rather, they should have been. They were a set of proud and fierce peoples who in their own manner beat the Roman Empire. I should know everything there is to know about them. I should fixate on that place and time in history, and the people therein, no less than I did the Norse. I should be knowledgeable about their spirituality, their gods, their heroes.  And yet I know more about the Irish, with whom I have far fewer historical blood ties (not to say they aren’t there, but far fewer of them), and even for them I don’t know more than a handful of names and stories. So that was kind of sad.

Here is this group of amazing people who literally defined the course of Scottish history, and therefore that of my family, for several centuries that I know functionally nothing about. So a month or so ago, I elected to fix that. A few cursory web searches convinced me that this really isn’t a topic I could just skim. I had to read up. So I bought some books and I’ve begun digging into this heretofore unknown (at least to me) period of history. If you’re thinking that I’m gonna do a book review, you are absolutely goddamn right I’m gonna do a book review.

Just not today.

I haven’t finished it.

But this has reminded me of a huge part of paganism’s role in my life. Wayfinding. Far be it from me to not place a reference to Disney’s Moana at an opportune moment.

Quoth Maui:

It’s not just sails and knots. It’s seeing where you’re going in your mind, knowing where you are by knowing where you’ve been.

Knowing who we are by knowing who we were played a huge part in life for all my ancestors, who partook in ancestor worship, and I’m willing to bet the same was true for yours. It helps us feel our place in history, and understand and appreciate ourselves, our parents, and our children. But it’s more than just boring knowledge, of the sort that might help you ace a school exam or go far at a pub quiz. Paganism helps connect me to my family history more than words on a page ever could. It makes the connection spiritual rather than simply prosaic academia. My Norse ancestors believed that theirs –what would be my ancient ancestors– were on their side, taking an active role in guiding them to greatness, or failing that, a good life. I don’t think our ancestors ever stopped doing that. We just forgot how and when to ask for that help. But if those who have lived our family stories are really in our court as much as the Norse believed, surely we lose nothing and gain much by adding to that spiritual familial support team as much as possible. And if we are to do that, we need to know who we mean to add.

Know who came before you. Understand what they did and why. Appreciate all the help they stand to offer, both direct and indirect. If they could make it, you can too. In fact, it’s not limited to merely a weakly worded and bog-standard “you can make it” self-help line. Far more than that. You owe it to your past family to survive and forge your own link in the family chain. Because one day, you might find yourself in the hereafter, looking at those who came after you, and they will need your help just as you needed the help of those who came before you.

Know where you are by where you’ve been. Know who you are by who you’ve been.

And then blaze the trail further.

To me, that is what ancestor worship is all about. That helps me to give a damn about all of this. That’s a big part of what Paganism does for me.

Spiritual wayfinding.

So go out and find yours.

Gods (and ancestors) guide you.

I swear this is as political as this blog will ever get

As usual, this is published a week after it premieres on my Tumblr (also titled The Ithildin Goddess), and includes some minor edits.

As I think on my ancestors, I don’t think they would have felt as strongly as I do today about “harm none” and “diversity”. My viking ancestors would have robbed immigrants blind at the border, and I have a strong feeling my Celtic ancestors would have killed them at the border just for the crime of being strangers at the border.

Thing is, I try to honor my ancestors as best I can, and that understandably creates a bit of a quandary for me. It can be difficult to honor past generations when they would tell you to do something you believe is wrong because they knew it to be right.

My ancestors were not nice people. Their gods were not nice gods. Their world was not a nice world. But they also made great things and shared in the same struggles I face today.

Every problem we face today were faced by our ancestors, and our ancestors overcame them — at least well enough long enough to clear the path for their children to do the same for theirs. We owe them literally EVERYTHING that we are, while still coming to grips with the fact that their world was hard and cruel, and they had to adapt by doing the same.

When is it time to abandon tradition? Can we abandon traditions and still claim to honor our past family generations? Honestly, I don’t really know the answer to either question for certain. I just know that sometimes, we must.

The world won’t get better until the people in it do.

There are monsters out there, and the worst hide in the shapes of men. But if we are to become better, we must not let our fear of the monsters stop us from uniting in compassion. It is when tribes strike up alliances that they become an unstoppable force.

If we can do that, the monsters will come to fear US.

With their long view from beyond, I hope my ancestors can see and at least appreciate that.

I actually kind of forgot about this

I suppose that’s only natural, what with me running this as both a Tumblr and a WordPress with virtually no traffic on either – doubly a shame as the WordPress at least had a small following at one point.

I suppose I’ve no one but myself to blame. Well, that and my uneventful life. My blogs have always tended towards responding to events. Something would happen, I’d think about it, and write down the resultant insight. And people seemed to like that. I liked it too.

But then things stopped happening. Not entirely, mind, but the stuff I would write about on blogs like this did.

And I sort of forgot this existed as a result.

My bad.

Mea culpa and all that.

So, this Yule, I’ll throw myself onto the Pagan side of Tumblr and try to find some juicy stuff to connect to, because on every day I don’t write something, I die a little on the inside.

I’ll see what I can come up with, and hopefully earn some followers as I do so.

May the gods bless your steps.