Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Althings Kinnish


Last February we blew out the first candle on the Commonwealth Birthday cake. It's remarkable, to me, what we've accomplished in our first year. It was brought to my attention this past weekend, at our first Annual Althing; as the Lawspeaker read his Annual Report, which included a record of all our activities and accomplishments since our inception.

Seeking to distance ourselves from beliefs and values we did not agree with, we left the Kindred we were members of, and started something completely new and unique. Not another X of Y Kindred. But a Commonwealth.

Seeking to organize and govern ourselves; we drafted, approved and adopted a constitution and bylaws, and a parliamentary procedure by which to operate.

Seeking to take a definitive stance on several hot topic issues in Heathenry and Paganism, we drafted and adopted The New Heritage Charter.

Seeking a private space, to retreat to, from the arena of daily life, we bought land.

Seeking to be authentic to who we are becoming, we reframed how we view, define, and label ourselves

This weekend at the Althing, we amended our bylaws, and the charter, to reflect these changes. And, perhaps more interestingly, we held our elections..

We have had thoughtful discussions on the topic many times in over the last few weeks. Open and honest talks about who would do well, and what would be best for the community as whole. Especially considering the critical work yet to be done.

In my year as Goði I performed the first Kinnish Wedding, a funeral, and two of my favorite rites - Baby Namings! We joking say that we don't actively seek to recruit new members  - because we just make our own.

My mission, as the Goði, has been to provide spiritual care and support to my community, and to perform religious rites and ceremonies that serve to meet the needs of the Commonwealth.

I left that position feeling confident that I have accomplished that mission, in accordance with my own personally high standards. And I admit that I accepted my new role as Vikti with giddy-gleeful excitement. (Much more to come on that topic)

Arguably, the most interesting outcome of the Althing, was the election of our new Lawspeaker. As previously mentioned, we don't keep to the traditional Grand Poobah model of leadership. That being said, Lawspeaker is still a critical role in our community, which is why that responsibility was given to a woman.

Wife. Mother. Athlete. Yogi-mom. Kinnish Community Leader.

Hail the Gods. Hail the Ancestors. Hail the Vaknir.

Hail the Chief..   tain..   ess.. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Redefining Kinnish


You really have to have you're shit together when you're working in "the system" as Pagan Clergy. And working as a Pagan Prison Chaplain, I learned that an important part of having your shit together is being able to take firm definitive stances on basic issues such as defining basic key terms.

Like "Paganism."

And most Heathens know, as all Pagans know, the impossibility of defining these kinda-sorta-important-terms. This is an old hat for me. I sat by quietly watching firestorm after firestorm after firestorm, every time someone made the mistake of attempting to define the word Pagan.

Yet, I found myself needing to offer a definition for Paganism, as well as other terms, in order to communicate effectively in my role as a religious representative of a large and extremely diverse population of incarcerated Pagans. 

And I did.

Well, kinda..

Technically, I codified how we use the word, what we're usually trying to communicate when we say the word, without actually "defining" Pagan or Paganism. And it has worked extremely well the vast majority of the time. And always with the caveat, that I'm not speaking for all other Pagans; only for myself, my tradition,my organization, and the community I represent.

Image result for central valley pagansSo, there's a group of us, referred to as "Central Valley Pagans," who are featured in the course textbook by the same name, who have been lecturing a Fresno State for over 10 years now. 

(I'm the guy on page 19.)

For the longest time, I was the first presenter the series of presentations on different sects of Contemporary Paganism. I enjoyed being first. I enjoyed breaking the ice, rolling out the welcome mat, mapping out the "Umbrella of Paganism" on the white board, and showing everyone around.

I always welcomed the audience to the Pagan community by explaining how - utterly incapable we are - of agreeing on the definition of the very word we use to identify and label ourselves. But maybe that's okay, because it keeps the Umbrella big enough for everyone. And I've always been okay with that.

So, I would personally defined Paganism as: "an umbrella term used to indicate association with a large diverse group of, predominantly but not exclusively, Indigenous European
based traditions of religious beliefs and practices."

Then I would outline the predominant traditions, themes and foundational narratives, such as: Witchcraft, Druidry; and of course, those Heathens, whom I lovely referred to as the "Klingons of the Pagan world." It's intended as a compliment, I always like the Klingons. Looking back, it makes perfect sense that I would end up in the Heathen community.

Which leads me to my point. 

That the Vaknir Kinnish Commonwealth is very unique in its theology, in its philosophy, in its "theosophy." Too unique, in fact, for the Heathen communities. We've received numerous confirmations from multiple sources, that, despite how we might choose to identify ourselves; apparently, we're "not really - real Heathens."

Well poop.

Seems to me, I've heard this song and dance before..

Oh, yeah, that's right; I heard it for the entire 10+ years that I identified as Wiccan. The really interesting thing was, they were actually right the whole time. Not for the reasons they thought, but still.

So, that got us thinking and got us all talking. And, as it turns out, several of us no longer feel like the term Heathen is actually a good fit for us. Even my wife, who identifies as a Kinnish Pagan; because she's Kinnish, but she's not a Heathen. 

To clarify, we all identifying more and more as Kinnish, and less and less as Heathen.

And although our default narrative and theme is Norse, Germanic, Pre-Christian Indigenous European - our religious ceremonies, rituals and activities are not limited to that single Norse Narrative. You will find Day-of-the-Dead sugar skulls on the altar when we honor our ancestors, because several of our members have that heritage too.

Our community members have diverse ancestries with rich mixed heritages. It would be a disservice to them, if we did not accommodate their spiritual and emotional needs, because their needs didn't match our theme. 

We're Kinnish, We love each other more than we love our gods.  

The purpose of our Kinnish folkways is to meet the needs of our communities diverse membership. And there is room for them in the Kinnish Commonwealth. There will always be room on Kinnish altars for all ancestors.

We Kinnish are now painting with a much broader brush. One which allows each individual member to identify themselves as they see fit. And, while "Pan-Indigenous" is technically the most accurate nomenclature for the Vaknir Kinnish Commonwealth, we're simply taking a step up the taxonomy ladder, to the embrace the whole Umbrella of Paganism.   

As for me, I just, simply, Kinnish. 




Saturday, April 6, 2019

Forging Kinnish




There is an old saying, "trust in god, but lock your door."

It’s an interesting statement - have faith in the divine, but take appropriate measures, take responsibility, for your own welfare.

Well, I'm a pocket knife guy. I always have been. I've been carrying a Spyderco Endura 4, with the serrated edge, for the past 15 years, and carried a similar blade for the ten years before that. 

A pocketknife, and a handkerchief, have always been two things I put in my pocket every morning when I get up and get dressed. Just like the pen in my left breast pocket. They are part of my "everyday carry" which has become a common hashtag term among those who share a "prepared mentality." 

This practice is often validated by the Hávamál, Stanza 38, which states "Never go, even a single step, without a weapon at your side; you never know when you'll find yourself in need of a spear" (Jackson Crawford translation).  


Although, it's important to point out that I never viewed my knife purely as a "weapon," but rather a "tool." One that comes in very handy, very often. And should I ever need to defend myself, yes, I'm prepared for that as well.  

I once made the same point about a hammer, Thor's Hammer. A well known weapon of war, yes. But a hammer can build just as well as it can destroy. The difference, the use, the application, is up to the hand that wields it. 

The same could be said for other things which are primarily viewed as a weapons. I won't be arguing for guns today. But I would like mention my personal favorite, the axe.

Over five thousand years ago the everyday carry, for Ötzi the Iceman, included a forged copper axe, flint knife, bow and arrows. His axe was a weapon, but also valuable a tool. In fact the axe is one of the oldest tools in the human toolbox. 

The earliest axes date back more than forty-four thousand years. I find it safe to say that the axe, historically, transcends the limits of a culture, or an ethnicity; and that it has earned its place at the seat of humanity. And that's part of the reason we wear it. 

The metal ores were mined, melted and poured. Axes were cast into molds, forged, honed and sharpened. With a good sharp axe, one could sustain ones self; one could build a shelter, feed and cloth, and protect ones self and loved ones. 

Just as some wear Thor's legendary axe, Mjölnir, as a symbol of their faith in the Gods; so do we, the Vaknir, wear the Genja, an axe, as a sign of our faith. 

Faith in ourselves, and our self-sustainability. Faith in each other, that we share a supportive and dependable Kinship. Faith in the ancestral line that produced us. Faith in the Gods that have awakened us from our sleep.

We are forging a new community, and new folkways. It seems only fitting that we forge our own tools as well.

"While Óðinn prepared Loddfáfnir with counsel at Urðarbrunnr, Þórr raised Mjölnir at the forge, preparing his genja.." - Vaknismal


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 Útiseta 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.

There will be 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.