Saturday, March 3, 2018

Individuating Kinnish

Once again the Web in my little corner of the Wyrd has dramatically unraveled and is reweaving itself anew. The last time my Wyrd shifted this much I had just come home from Iraq to find my family, my marriage and my home in complete ruin.

But the brutal truth is that my life really wasn't all the great, and the that secret to the success of my marriage was that I was always gone. In hindsight I realize that all the critical life changing events were just the "Labor Pains" necessary to give birth to a whole new life. 

This one. The one that I have been living for the past thirteen years. But as I said, it's being renovating, again. But rather than just skipping forward to where I am now, I want to continue telling the story of how I got here in my own Forrest Gump-ish way.

So. A late last fall my Friend and Kinsmen drafted a new set of bylaws for our Kindred. The Mason in me took a special interest in the topic and great pleasure in fruits of his labor. 

One of the biggest ironies in Paganism has always been the Pagan community's desire for recognition; to be taken seriously, despite the fact that the majority of them don't take themselves seriously. A good gauge of any organization is its legal documents, and the bylaws are always a good place to start. 

Does it read like a Stoned-Hippie-Manifesto? Or does it read like an authentic and mature legal document? Is it appropriately framed and formatted? Does it contain the common core legal vernacular? Does it focus on the legal issues which define its actual purpose? Or does it hyper-focus on establishing the identity of the group and its fervent dedication to "the gods?"

My Kinsmen's draft was designed to meet legal necessity and only contains the criteria necessary to meet those needs. Among the various pleasantries it contained, I found one particular facet to be a revelation. 

The division of authority. 

Most Pagan groups operate under the authority of a Supreme Leader, usually a High Priest or Priestess or some other "Grand Poobah" like title. This usually happens for one of two or more reasons; 1. the Grand Poobah (GP) established and maintains absolute control, or 2. the GP can't get anyone else to step up and share in the responsibility. 

As a former cult leader myself, I can say from personal experience that brainwashing people into thinking for themselves is hard as fuck because most people are lazy and prefer to be spoon fed. They are quick to turn over personal authority, and responsibility, to a spiritual leader like the GP and in return the GP has an obligation to meet their spiritual needs. 

Yeah, fuck that.

These bylaws took the standardize Heathen GP Gothi  leadership construct and divided the church from the state. A chief and a gothi, each with their own areas of authority and responsibilities. One to lead the group, one to provide religious services. 

There is a distinction to be made. 

One hat per head. Because religious training, experience and credentials does not quality someone in any or all other roles. Anyone who has been a Grand Poobah knows how draining it can be doing the work of Priest, President, Secretary, Treasurer, Organizer, Host and Custodian. 

Also because being in an organizational dictatorship with a less-than-grand-poobah can really suck ass. 

The Kinnish community organizational structure is a Commonwealth, like a republic. Our Commonwealth is composed of citizens who represent and/or are affiliated with a Hof (house). 

The commonwealth is governed by an Althing, a board of directors composed of citizens who have been elected for a limited-term to serve as leaders in key areas of responsibility similar to a president, chaplain, secretary, treasurer, sergeant at arms, etc.

The people are the leadership. Not the person.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Innovating Kinnish II

That last post was running a little longer than expected. So I decided to stop where I did and take a break. I always have a general idea of what I want to express in each post, and in my head I’m always three or four posts head of the last  one published. But the writing process is very organic, and most of my best stuff pours out while I’m trying to say something else.

Now where was I?

Oh yeah, rambling about innovation. Funny story; many years ago I was having a conversation with a Golden Dawn Ceremonial Magician about this very topic of innovation, making the same points about the romantic validation of a belief, practice or tradition based on how old it is; and how not only is it okay to make up you own stuff, many times it’s actually better. After some discussion and some civil debate we came to an interesting agreement:

“It’s okay to make stuff up, as long as you do it right..”

Which leads to the second form of validation, popularity. While I stand fast to my assertion that it is the benefit of beliefs and practices that determine their validity, and their value; most people settle for popularity. 

In other words, it doesn’t need to actually work well, as long as enough people are doing it. If I were using a Big Bang Theory theme, this episode would be called “The Population Validation.”

Yeah, fuck that.

Seriously. Don’t we get enough mindless orthopraxy from the other areas of our lives? Fuck. That. Life is too short. I’ve got less than 50 years left on this rock, so my time is too valuable to be wasted on voluntary bullshit that does not benefit me. 

I’m all about quality over quantity. I want good high quality times, spent with good high quality people, doing good high quality things, like good high quality Heathenry. And all of my Kinnish innovations have been developed to enhance those good high quality experiences.

So, I'll leave you with a small simple example of a recent innovation.

We read in the lore about the war between the Aesir and Vanir. How they came together in truce, and how as part of that truce, each of them spit into a vat. Their spit mingled and from their combined saliva; Kvasir, wisest of all beings was born.

They came together under a banner of truce, Grith. And their grithy spit produced the “wisest being.” I found that quite inspirational. 

From that one might make the argument that this portion of lore supports the mixing and mingling DNA, to “produce good natured wisdom.” But that’s another post. For now let’s just apply that theme to formally establishing grith at gatherings.

The Grithhold is a vessel, like the vat. Mine is a nice wooden bowl. And in that bowl is a fresh dirt from several specific places on my property, the Nichterhof. And when people come to the Nichterhof for blot, they spit in that wooden bowl full of dirt as a gesture of grith.

This gesture indicates their compliance to the policy that “no business will be conducted on continental grounds.”

It’s a simple innovation inspired by lore. But it becomes sacred when we share it. 

And you can’t make Frith without Grith.

Innovating Kinnish

Organized Freemasonry celebrated its 300th anniversary in California this year. Which made it a very cool year to be installed as Master of my Lodge. I’ve been a Mason for over 15 years now, and I have been active for most of those years, But when I wasn’t active in lodge, I was active in my personal studies, and have come to be known for my knowledge and work in the field of Masonic Edification. I am the founder of Providence Research Society, and Have been lecturing about Masonry to other Masons for some time now.

That all being said; I don’t know where Freemasonry came from. None of us do. So we say “since time immemorial.” Which is a really slick way of saying “we don't know.” So, of course, many theories have been developed regarding the origins of the world’s oldest fraternity. And those theories are one of the favorite topics of discussion among Philoso-brothers.

While the vast majority of Masons seem to prefer the Templar origin theory, I personally prefer the less grand, less romantic, and therefore less popular, Morality Play Guild theory. But it has always been quite the tired subject for me because in the end, I really don’t care. And that seems to drive people crazy. My reasoning it this: if indisputable proof of the Templar theory was discovered today, it wouldn’t change anything for me. If indisputable proof of the Morality Play Guild theory was discovered today, that wouldn’t change anything either. 

“Great. Now we now. So what.”

My point is, although as interesting as the origin may be, it remains trivial. I don’t benefit from the information. Knowing the origin does make Masonry more or less valid. It doesn’t make me more or less a Mason. It doesn’t increase or decrease my interest or investment in Freemasonry.  I am far more interested in what Masonry is, than I am in what it was. Because those are two very different things. And because there’s very little value or benefit to be found in what it once was. How much do I, as a member, benefit from my membership? Right now. Because that is what determines its value.

Unlike Masonry, Heathenry really isn’t that old. American Heathenry only came into being around the same time that I did. Technically, I’m a few months older than Asatru. But age should not be a characteristic used to determine the validity of a belief system. 

It is the benefit of beliefs and practices that determine their validity, and their value.

But, unfortunately, most people subscribe to the romantic idea that if it's really old, it's valid. And that the way they did a few thousand years ago is the only true way. And that the way we think they did a few thousand years ago is the only true way.

I call bullshit.

With absolute and unadulterated confidence, I call bullshit. I don’t believe that our venerable European Ancestors held a hummer up to each of the four directions, suspiciously similar to that way all contemporary Pan-Pagan rituals do. That’s an innovation. Just like Wicca. But that's okay.

More specifically, Gardner’s tradition. Gerald Gardner, the Mason; who took Masonic ritual structure and technology and wrapped it in Witchcraft. Any Mason can take a Masonic highlighter and light up Gardner’s “Book of Shadows.”

But, I honestly don’t find anything wrong with that. I think he could have done a much better job, but it got the job done. To his credit, look what he started. 

Heathenry is no different. What was not known during the development of modern Asatru was borrowed or invented out of necessity, like the Nine Noble Virtues. Those who use an alternative system like the “Thews,” innovated that system and those Thews out of their aversion for what was available at the time and their desire for something better suited to there needs.

Nothing wrong with that either.

After all, isn't that what we’ve always done? I started out this Kinnish Series with the full disclosure that I had fallen in love with the idea of Wicca, but found that Wicca sucked. So I made my own way. 

Since then I have found my home, and part of myself, in Heathenry. And I am extremely happy with things, for the most part. But, I do see room for improvement, room for innovation, room for developing new techniques, new traditions.

New Folkways. 

But it's not my place to pimp out Asatru and push it on everyone else. So, when I'm with the Kindred, I do as the Kindred does. But I'm an Innovationist, and an active contributor. So, in addition to the Kindred way, I also have my own Kinnish ways.

I'm a Heathen, but I'm a Kinnish Heathen. 

I'm a big boy, and I'm allowed to be what I want. Even if that means I improve, invent, develop and innovate my own Folkways. And that too, is okay. I mean really, where do you think everything you're doing came from?

It doesn't matter how old your religion is. Whether it's been around for 50 years, or 5000. 

It started out as an innovation.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Observing Kinnish

My greatest dissatisfaction with Wicca was the lack of any mature, complex or cohesive theology. So when I decided to have a go at filling that void for myself, I began sorting through what Wicca did have. And in doing so, I found a pattern which seems to permeate throughout all religiosity. The pattern is that all religious behaviors and spiritual activities seem to fall into one of five primary categories, which I call “The Five Labors.”

In my opinion, I sincerely believe that “Observation” is by far the most important labor. In my system, there are two primary types of religious observances; Feriae (feer-ree-eye), and Vicis (vee-cheez). Feriae are holidays like Yule, Ostara, Mid-summer. Vicis, Latin for a “series of steps or sequence of stations” refers to the various phases of the human life cycle; pregnancy, birth, puberty, adulthood, parenthood, etc. 

Quick side note: I use a Latin nomenclature throughout my entire theological system. My reasoning for this is based on the same model used in most of the classical Arts and Sciences, such as biological sciences where Latin in used in a system to identify species of plants and animals.  

Over the past 15 years I have come to emphasize the importance of formal Rites of Passage. I have preached, argued, lectured, presented, and written quite a bit on the topic. Including at least two post here; once about My Son’s Rite of Passage, and another about My First Presentation at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies, where I gave my first presentation on the topic of Rites of Passage to the academic community, an experience which turned out to be a rite of passage for me, and to quote myself:

“..rites of passage are important because we have a need for validation and acceptance. Rites of passage fulfill these needs and we are fulfilled spiritually, psychologically and emotional by them when our community celebrates our big step across the threshold, and is there to welcome us. This fulfillment sustains us and we can then move on other pursuits.
..we as communities have lost these rites, but we as individuals have not lost the need for them. A need unfulfilled remains a need. These needs unfulfilled, we find ourselves distracted by the pursuit of that validation and acceptance. Left to our own devices we create our own rites, like losing our virginity, committing our first crime or serving our first prison sentence.”

Another (mostly) Wiccan practice I have always found fault with was the premise of “Self-Initiation,” the idea that you could "initiate yourself" into the religion or a tradition of Wicca. Something I consider to be an oxymoron, being that by definition, an initiation is an activity which is done to you by others marking your entrance and/or acceptance into their group. So, to be clear, there is a distinction to be made between a “Self-dedication” and an Initiation.  The primary essence of that distinction is the presence and recognition of a group or community. 

How sweet is your success if there is no one to celebrate it? How warm is your welcome if there in no one there to greet you? When you cross the threshold into adulthood and there’s no one there to see it, did it happen? 

Kinnish is a Kin-centric community where the Observance of life cycles is the most Sacred Folkway.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Elaborating Kinnish

Just a quick reminder to everyone before we get started; that although I am an active member of a thriving Kindred, I do not speak on their behalf. Nor do my views or opinions necessarily reflect those of my Kinsmen or women, individually or collectively. This is all me and only me.

Kinnish is a Sacred Folkway

It’s always a great personal victory when someone you respect unknowingly validates your views and opinions, and for me, it was just the icing on the cake of our Kindred Harvest Feast this past weekend. Like a large tree, our Kindred has several main branches; two in my state and two more in two other states. And there are several gatherings each year that everyone moves Asgard and Midgard to attend, despite the distance between us.

Not for the Gods, but for each other.

And since the first Yule gathering I attended a few years ago, I have never missed a Kindred Event. I have done more driving in these most recent few years, than I have in the previous ten. And I have yet to regret a single mile. The reunion with Kinfolk satisfies both spiritual and emotional needs; to share gifts, share food, stories, laughter and prayers. It is in every way, a pilgrimage.


Image for a moment that you’re surrounded by everyone in your life who is important to you. That all the people that you love and care about, and that love and care about you, are all standing around you; singing to you in thunderous blissful unity. Even though one or two of them may not care very much for each other, they’ve set aside those difference, for you. And sing together. For you.

Social Mores are customs, habits and/or mannerism which often satisfy human needs, while also enforcing moral codes and perpetuating social taboos. A wedding might be an example of a Social More because, although it seems to be falling out of fashion lately, a child born out of wedlock was often considered an “illegitimate” or bastard child. Enforcing a taboo against unapproved sexual relations, and the need for socially recognized matrimony.  

A Folkway is like a Social More in that it is a common social custom, that also satisfies basic human needs, but without really enforcing any certain moral significance. A birthday party is a good example of a Folkway; it satisfies deep emotional needs to be recognized and celebrated. To receive gifts, to be visited by those we don’t often see. To be sung to by those we know and love. And to feel loved.


Many years ago I stood beside an altar among a group of men in a cozy prison chapel in central California. I was setting up the altar for Pagan religious service. The room was noisy and bustling. I had not been there in several weeks and so the energy was high and conversations were contagious.'

While catching up with attendees, I noticed an unfamiliar face hovering near the altar, eyeballing the various ritual tools. He picked up the chalice for a closer look and was immediately reprimanded by a bystander, “oh, don’t touch that, it’s sacred.” He instantly reacted with apologetic remorse, “oh, my bad, I didn’t know.”

“Sacred” is a very powerful word.   

My curiosity bit down hard on this observation, and I began my own meta-analysis of the meaning of sacred. What made the “chalice,” which is really just a fancy word for a “cup,” sacred? Is it what it’s made from? No. Just your average cheaply silver plating, a less than $20 value. Was it “blessed” through some “magic” ritual, which imbued a once ordinary object with supernatural qualities and/or power? Thankfully, no. Otherwise we would have had to break-away and conduct a meta-analysis of the meaning of both “blessed” and “magic.”

So what was it, that made this cup so “sacred” that someone was told not to touch it? It was, after all, a ritual tool. And we would be passing it around the circle very soon, and then everyone would touch it. That’s when it hit me. It is not what the cup was, that made it sacred. It is what the cup does, that made it sacred.

Each person takes a turn raising the cup in reverent prayer, taking a drink, and passing it to the person next to them, while saying “may you never thirst.” The cup was sacred because it facilitated our relationship with each other, and with the divine.

It was sacred because we shared it.

Kindred gatherings may involve the veneration of our deceased relatives, our ancestors, and our legendary celebrated heroes. They may involve the adoration of our Ancestral Gods. But that’s not what makes them sacred. Our gatherings are sacred because they facilitate Tribal Kinship. Like the cup, our Horns are sacred, not because we raise them to our Gods, but because we share them with the people standing beside to us. People who drove a very long way to share them with us.

And that, is why it’s a pilgrimage. Another Sacred Folkway.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Elucidating Kinnish II

Once again I have received and observed positive responses to my writings on the topic of Kinnish. Most of which continues to manifest in the form of affirmational nodding via social media Likes, Shares and the occasional few words. And so far there have only been two issues, that I know of, which I feel inclined to respond to. 

So rather than drag my feet, I’ve decided to address those two points now so I can move on to the next new post, Elaborating Kinnish. Because my life is in the process of changing again and time is becoming a more limited commodity, so I would like to get all the formalities documented here and out of the way before I move into the next phase of my plan.

Christian Seminary?

My reference to learning about the three aforementioned types of worship in seminary has some readers curious about my background. Which is, I think, an interesting bit of useless and irrelevant personal information. But here it is: I was raised New-Age-Neo-Pagan, I have never been Christian, Buddhist, Mormon or any other mainstream religion. The closest thing to anything like that I could say I have been a part of is a Native American Spiritual Tradition.

As a child I only wanted to be two things when I grew up; a Jedi, or a Priest. The problem with being a Jedi was of course, the lack of access to light sabers, the fact that I kept getting in trouble for wearing my dad’s bathrobe, and trying to Force Choke my little sister for telling on me.

The problem with being a priest was of course that we weren’t Christians, nor did we (me) want to be. So how exactly do you do that? Well I spent much of my life trying to figure that out, but that’s a whole other story altogether. The short of it is that I ended up becoming the first State Recognized Minority Faith Chaplain, providing a variety of services to a variety of faith groups in a variety of prisons and a state hospital.

Two of the prisons and that state hospital wanted to find a way to hire me, but non-denominational chaplain positions did and still do not exist. So, as it stands, the great state of California only hires Christian chaplains, Catholic chaplains, Jewish chaplains, Muslim chaplains, and Native American Spiritual Leaders. But at the time I had hope for the future, and chance favors the prepared mind, so I sought my degree in religion.    

My G.I. Bill would only pay for certain accredited universities, and I needed something online so I ended up at Liberty. To be honest, I secretly take some pride in the idea that I may very well be the only Pagan to ever attend and graduate from Jerry Falwell’s Baptist Seminary. It was a unique experience, I learned a lot more than one might think. So, anyway, that’s why WitchDoctorJoe attended a Christian Seminary.

Inverted Priorities? 

So, I have always taken a great deal of pride in generating and transmitting my own useful original material. But every now and again the best explanation is someone else’s. I’m not sure who said it, but I read it on a Facebook discussion board forum once some time ago. So, to paraphrase something someone once posted on Facebook...

I’ve never met the current President, but I’ve read a lot about him, especially lately.

I know the President actually exists and is alive and present on this planet, yet my access to him is extremely limited. I mean, what are the odds of you or I sitting down with the President of the United States and having I nice chat about Odin over a cup of coffee? 

Not necessarily this President; if you prefer, the last president, or the next president, any president will do. But really, realistically; what are the odds of you, the reader, reaching out, making contact with, setting a date with, and sitting down with, a current United States President?

Ok. So, what are the odds of sitting down with the Senator of your state? Still not very good, but better than meeting the president, right? How about meeting the Governor of your state? Better than the Senator, but still, the odds seem fairly slim to none. 

How about the Mayor of your city or town? Even better odds, right? That could actually happen. A City Council member? That could actually happen today. What about reaching out to a neighbor? A friend? A family member?

I have never met Odin, but I’ve read a lot about him, especially lately.

I don't know if Odin actually exists, but I do find great pleasure, strength and benefit in believing He does. And if He does, my access to Him is *extremely limited.* I mean, really; what are the odds of you or I sitting down with the Odin and having I nice chat about the current President over a cup of coffee? 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Elucidating Kinnish

As a habit, whenever I am explaining or discussing things like Paganism, or Heathenry, I have always preferred to frame things in a positive or affirmational context rather than a negative one. This is mostly because I have observed so many people over the years who have defined their religion in negative terms. For example, “we don’t worship the devil,” and/or “we don’t curse people.”

The reoccurring frame of statements being we’re not, we don’t, we never, etc.  It is my opinion that many people explain what they are not, because they are not exactly sure what they are. And that they are quick to assert what they do not do, or do not believe; because they are not exactly sure what they do believe. And quite often, are not always exactly sure why they are doing whatever it is they do.

And in my last post, I made the mistake of Clarifying Kinnish in negative terms. 

However, in my defense; it was in an effort to clarify some misconceptions which had been drawn from the original Breaking Kinnish post. But still, shame on me. So, it is my aim to elucidate, elaborate and recapitulate what Kinnish is in a more positive and affirmational frame from here on out. 

Queue the music...

Kinnish is Kin-centric

In seminary, I learned about different tiers or types of worship. The three primary tiers are Dulia, Hyperdulia, and Latria. So for example, within the Catholic model; Dulia is a moderate level of veneration which would be afforded to the various Saints. Whereas Hyperdulia, an enhanced form of veneration, would be afforded to the Virgin Mary; and Latria, being the highest degree of adoration, is reserved for God and/or Jesus.

Within a Heathen context, we generally see Dulia assigned to the Land Wights and the like. While Hyperdulia is given to the ancestors, deceased relatives and even celebrated heroes. But Latria is most often reserved for the Gods; like Odin, Thor, and Tyr. (these are generalized observations, your mileage may vary).

But this is where Kinnish deviates.

The single greatest concern of Kinnish, is the Kin, and Kindred. Kinnish is an extremely people centered tribal model. The primary focus of all Kinnish activities is meet human needs through positive and meaningful human interactions. 

Kindred and Kin are afforded the highest form Sacred Regard: Latria. The ancestors and deceased relatives still receive the Hyperdulia they so richly deserve. And the Gods, which I dare say none of us have had the same sort of deep meaningful relationships we have had with other human beings, receive the honor and veneration of Dulia.

We Kinnish can, and do, offer Latria to our pantheon; in our own way, and in our own time. But when we gather together; the vast majority of our time, energy, and resources are spent on enhancing the quality of our communion with those we share our meal with, rather than those we send our prayers to.  

So, to my Kinfolk: I love you more than I love my Gods.