Friday, November 23, 2018

Retreating Kinnish

It has been more than 20 years since I followed the local medicine man, a Sun Dance Chief, deep into the back of hills of Tennessee. The property was enormous and we walked in silence for what seemed like several hours. We stopped to rest, then smoked a while. He pointed to our distant destination, we finished our tobacco and continued on. 

When we came to the clearing, it was obvious that we had arrived. It felt like the right place. He pointed to the exact place I felt drawn to, and began cast the boundary of the sacred space with prayer ties once I took my position. The significance of his words here magnified by the hours of silence they broke.

None of the Lakota religious ceremonies I have ever participated in were easy. Success was always earned through physical, emotional and spiritual discomfort and endurance. And the Hanblecha was no different. 

But the results were life changing. 

I have perpetuated my own similar practices, intermittently over the years. The last time, a group of Kinsmen and I rented a place; not easy to get to, and not easy to find. But once we arrived, we found it to be a more than adequate environment for us to conduct a rewarding Ăštiseta ceremony. 

The key to a spiritual retreat, is the "retreat." It is as much about the travel, as it is the destination. The very process of a pilgrimage properly prepares the mind for the events, soon to come, once arrived at the a place set aside for sacred things.

I have heard many groups, over many years; talk, plan, and dream of owning their own land. Of building their own temples. With only a select few having accomplished those dreams. But last week, one more was added to the short list of success.

I am proud to announce that last week several acres of remote and undeveloped land was purchased near Red Rock Canyon State Park in Southern California.

A place now called Vakinheim or "home of Awakening."

A place we can retreat to, when we need to re-awaken ourselves; this land has been acquired and designated to serve as a Spiritual Retreat Center. 

There are plans for multiple individual primitive camping sites, and a open air Mead Hall. But no plans for electricity or plumbing. We're keeping it old school.

Site development is scheduled to start next week. The inaugural Land Taking and Dedication Ceremony is scheduled for early next spring. 

The Vaknir Kinnish Commonwealth now owns its own tribal land.

We're planning to sell t-shirts.


Sunday, November 4, 2018

Affirming Kinnish


If necessity is the mother of invention, then effective and coherent communication is the mother that has given birth to the majority of my work. And somewhere along the way, wordsmithing became an intimate and gratifying labor of love and conception. 

The sole reason and purpose I resurrected this blog space from the archives of my past was to communicate. To continue forward with it's original purpose, to communicate. To serve as a place to share with you, my process, and hopefully, my progress. And now, to share in my new adventure, communicating Kinnish, that process and progress.

I have mentioned in the past that I have general aversion to defining, describing and communicating in negative terms, such as "we don't believe in this" or "we're not like that."

So when the notion hit me to frame Kinnish principles into a formal declarative manifesto, I knew I wanted to phrase it in a Pro-form. As a result, I drafted The New Heritage Charter, consisting of what I call The Nine Affirmations. 

Many of the principles these statements affirm have been addressed here previously. The 5th affirmation, for example, was the topic of Elucidating Kinnish. The 6th can be found in Innovating Kinnish II.

But as I've also mention recently, it's not just about me anymore. And that we are Collaborating Kinnish now. Which means my work needed to accepted and approved by the Kinnish Allthing. So, after some conversation and tinkering, it's finally official. I proudly present:  

The New Heritage Charter 

1. We honor the cultural heritage of our Indigenous European ancestors.

2. We support the right of all to practice Indigenous European based faiths, regardless of ancestry or identity.

3. We affirm the freedom of all to assemble and self-govern, even if we oppose their beliefs and values.

4. We acknowledge that not all Indigenous European social conventions and religious practices befit contemporary states.

5. We value natural human kinship above supernatural engagement.

6. We embrace philosophical, theological and liturgical innovations that serve to meet the needs of our community.

7. We recognize multiple views of divinity, and the right of all to self-determine their beliefs.

8. We claim the sovereignty to perpetuate new sacred folkways of celebration and kinship.

9. We declare this our new heritage as Kinnish Heathens.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Binding Kinnish


It’s interesting to me, how our minds work. For example; the subtle yet profound influence our organic brain, and how it’s wired, has on our everyday cognition. 

Over the years I’ve noticed a pattern; groups of humans have been doing something for hundreds of years, then more recently, scientists discover that there’s are sound scientific principles which completely validate that ancient practice.

Take Freemasonry - an institution which has existed for more than 600 years; and which defines itself as “a system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols.” 

Illustrated by symbols.

Undisputedly the most recognized symbol of the Freemasons, the square and compass, contains several layers of significance. With more than 20 minutes worth of verbal lecture hidden within its symbolism. 

And that’s just one symbol. We have many. Any Mason worth his salt can look at a piece of Masonic art, such as a tracing board, and recite verbatim a 45-60 minute lecture from memory.

How?

Symbols.

Why?

Science.

As it turns out, the brain is primarily a visual image processor. The part of the brain responsible for this is bicameral, a large portion of it occupies both sides of the back brain mass. It’s like cutting an orange into halves and holding them to the back of your head near the base of the skull.

By comparison, the part of the brain responsible for processing language is ridiculously smaller, maybe a table spoon sized amount of grey matter, located behind the upper part of your ear. You know, the space that holds the arms of your glasses.

As a result, the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it processes language. Images tend to go straight to long term memory, while language loiters around in your short term unless/until it occupies enough cognition to earn its way into the long term. This is why you’re better with faces than with names.

This is also why memes are so popular, why "branding" is one of the hallmarks of marketing, and why groups create logos.

Because brand recognition - is just simple science.

So, it is therefore in the name of science that I announce the "VAKNASTAFR;" the official bindrune of the Vaknir Kinnish Commonwealth. 

Any Heathen worth their salt recognizes the three primary runes used to build this brand: Algiz, Gebo, Othala; which represent the three primary tenets of Kinnish Heathenry. In addition, the letters of our tribal name “Vaknir” are also hidden in the bindrune; and, there is a little something extra which only the designer is aware of.

Call it a trade secret. 

So, if you ever see this on the back of a vehicle, it’s me, or one of my Kin. If you ever see it scratched out in chalk on the sidewalk or side of the road somewhere, we’re nearby. 

And, if you ever see a version of this that’s missing Gabo, it’s just a cheap knockoff. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but there's only one Kinnish, and we grow ever stronger.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Collaborating Kinnish

Historically; several of my large mistakes have all fit into a common theme I like to call "Misplacement." For example, I have repeatedly misplaced my trust in the wrong people. Moreover, I have repeatedly misplaced the credit for my successes.

Over the years I have started several different Initiatives. A Coven, a Religious Tradition, a Prison Ministry, a Correctional Chaplains Association, a brick and mortar Community Church and Seminary, and several private Social and Fraternal Organizations. (Holy shit it really sounds like a lot when I stop to list them all)

My point is that these past initiatives were products of my own original ideas and concepts. I designed and developed them, I started them, I funded them, and I led them. But when I spoke, I always said "We" not "Me." We have come a long way. We have put in a lot of work. We should be proud of what We have built. When the simple truth is that I did all the work, and everyone watched and nodded.

My main reason for sharing credit for what I viewed, at the time, as success was my aversion to ego. I didn't want it to become the JOE SHOW. I didn't want to become a cult leader. So, I shared everything with everyone, except the work. 

To my own credit, I tried. 

Cult leader create followers, I wanted to create more leaders. But people are lazy, and I love the work, so on and on WE went, until I finally came to my senses and walked away. 

Which is why none of those initiatives still exist. Because I chose to walk away. The only failure was in my ability to keep repeating those same mistakes. #positivefailure #lessonlearned

 Flash forward.

As I mentioned in the previous post, it's been a year and ten days since I Broke Kinnish, and so much has happened since then. The most significant has been the establishment of the first Kinnish Community, a Commonwealth. This past weekend we gathered to celebrate the second child born into our commonwealth with a naming ceremony; also, to celebrate the Taking of Land by the parents, and to recognize their new home as the fifth Hof in our community. 

A community that shares responsibility. a community in which each Hof takes its turn hosting a gathering, Hospitality; and each member contributes to the feast and the funds. A community that has told me "we don't you paying for that out of your own pocket, the commonwealth has money for that."

I may have begun laying a foundation, but there is now a whole a community, building itself. I may have Broken Kinnish, but it is no longer up to me alone to say what comes next. From here on, we are collaborating Kinnish.

I am Vaknir, and We are many.    

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Establishing Kinnish

When you stop to consider how important communication is, you would think that we would be better at it by now. Yet effective communication continues to elude us more often than we would like to admit. I personally believe that the single greatest cause of miscommunication is a simple matter of definitions. 

Perhaps this is because, while we may share a language and a vocabulary, we don't have the same definitions for the words we share. For years I have strongly encouraged the students attending my lectures to ask each of the other lecturers on the topic to define words like Wicca, Magic, or Paganism.

Because the truth is that there are several thousand people who identify as Wiccans and Pagans. Yet they cannot collectively agree on a definition for either one. Because it means so many different things to so many different people.

As a prison chaplain I found that it was an absolute necessity to be able to clearly define and explain terms, conditions and standards in order to function in the state and federal correctional systems. And to that end, I drafted and employed a definition of Paganism as:

"An umbrella term used to indicate an association with a large and diverse group, of predominantly but not exclusively, Indigenous European based traditions of religious beliefs and spiritual practices." While some would say it was the best they had ever heard, there were always those who would still venomously condemn me for try to define Paganism, for them. 

How dare I.

But the truth was that I was not attempting to define terms for them. I was taking a definitive stance, for me. So that I could function effectively within a system that required definitive stances. 

Heathenry; as it turns out, is no different.

Long story short. It was this very issue of defining Heathen terms such as "Folkish." which first started me down this path of Breaking Kinnish, to invent a whole new word, and publish post after post, clearly and methodically defining that word, under no uncertain terms.

Well several important developments have occurred in the short year that I have been establishing Kinnish. First, people started agreeing with me, and my own Kinsmen started identifying themselves as Kinnish Heathens.

Sometime later; due to a combination of geographic isolation from the other branches of our kindred, and personal philosophical differences; most of the members of our branch, fell from the tree. And from that fallen branch the Vaknir Kinnish Commonwealth was born. 

We're a new kind of Heathenry.

And if you like what you've been reading about Kinnish so far, you're going to love what's coming next.

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.