Sunna and Mani

I feel like a bad Northern Tradition person, because it’s Memorial Day, and it really makes more sense for me to be writing about the Einherjar today. As it is, I’ll likely be pouring out a libation for the dead warriors in my family later on, but this is what wanted to be written, so I’m going with it, rambling and incoherent as it is.

I had thought, coming from an eclectic Neopagan practice that had its roots in Wicca, that it would be strange, shifting from a view of the sun as male and the moon as female to the Norse view, which is the other way around. After all, being female, I was supposed to be in tune with the obviously feminine lunar cycles, through my very own menstrual cycle.

I could admire the idea of sun and moon as female and male, respectively. After all, the menstrual connection aside, there was something annoying in the idea that the sun — the warm, projective source of life and symbol of intellect — was inherently male, and the moon, cold, receptive, and tied up with the murky depths of the subconscious, was inherently female, fit only to take the masculine sunlight and reflect it back at us, and fuck about with our watery feminine natures. And as much as I love the tarot, don’t even get me started on the symbolism behind the Sun and Moon cards and the gender associations I keep seeing there. Just don’t. I may start to froth at the mouth.

This isn’t to say that I think these associations are wrong, mind you. I’m not going to argue with all the sun gods and moon goddesses out there about their existence. I try not to be that stupid, really. And obviously, those associations work for a lot of people, and are powerful, important things. Diana is an awesome lunar goddess, for one, and a wonderful, empowering being for women to work with. But I really dislike the idea that certain archetypes belong inherently to one specific gender. The sun is male because masculinity means x, and the moon is female because femininity means y (though, when it comes to chromosomes, perhaps it should be the other way ’round?), and of course this is the natural order of things, blah blah blah, excuse me while I bash my head against the nearest wall.

Just because I don’t wear my own rather ambiguous and shifty gender stuff on my sleeve these days, it doesn’t mean the overwhelming gender dysphoria of my late teens early twenties was just a phase I outgrew. I’ve become a lot more comfortable in my own skin, but I still have days when I’m more Jacque (or Jack) then Jacqueline, though I’ll still answer to Jaqui, either way — and yes, dropping the c is deliberate, because that’s how it looks right to me. On those days I tend to stare blankly when people use female pronouns for me, and then remember that, oh yeah, I have boobs.

So yes, I can get touchy about gender associations, and how lunar energy and the presence of a uterus seem to go hand in hand in modern Neopagan practice, as well as what seems like every fantasy novel ever. (Really, you guys? Really?)

All the same, I was somewhat wary of the switch, especially given the menstrual associations. Queer as I am, did I really want a male deity in charge of my female reproductive cycles? Was that even more heteronormative than the inverse? Would it just be vaguely uncomfortable, dealing with that shift in perspective? It’s one thing to say that a certain symbol set is limiting, another thing entirely to actually switch one’s worldview around.

And yes, these seem like awfully silly and irrational things to worry about. Typing this out, I’m laughing at myself. But gender issues are a big part of my spirituality, and that’s not changing in the forseeable future.

Of course, the thing about gods is that, no matter what symbolism you choose to hang on Them, it doesn’t change the fact of Their existence. Moon goddesses are still there, no matter what we think Their existence may say about us, and some of them are quite happily subverting what we tend to think of as traditional ‘feminine’ lunar associations. The same goes for sun gods. And yes, this applies to moon gods and sun goddesses as well.

So I decided to start actively looking for Sunna and Mani when sitting outside, instead of dicking around with theory and my own gender issues. My personal practice tends to rock the UPG, and since there’s not a whole lot about either of Them in the lore, the sensible thing to do was go out and see what happened.

It was easiest to get a fix on Mani — I tend to be nocturnal, despite (or perhaps because of!) seasonal depression on my part. Daylight is safe and happy-making, so I want to curl up and sleep in the warmth and safety and contentment. And, seeing as how I’m a hermit by nature and not living alone for the first time in years, nighttime is good for being alone and destressing, without having to worry about unexpected people getting their energy all over my space. But I digress.

Mani was surprising. I sat outside, staring at the moon, remembering the childhood ‘man in the moon’ references. Seeing a face in the moon was easy enough, but as part of my Wiccan teenage years (before Silver Ravenwolf ever wrote trendy books about being a Teen Witch), I’d trained myself to see a woman’s face instead of a man’s. Consciously shifting my perception back to a male face there was difficult, but it seemed as good a place to start as any. I sat and watched the moon, feeling my way around the twist in perception, and just as the pattern of craters on the moon’s surface resolved itself into a male face, He was there. Or rather, He’d always been there, and I just hadn’t known how to look for Him.

For all that I’d tried to tap into the vast well of feminine lunar energy, the actual sense of Presence when I tried to do so always seemed rather remote to me. “Okay, yeah. Here’s some energy. Now run along and play.” Mani was completely different — He was very strongly present for me. I don’t remember if words were said; unlike Loki, He didn’t seem particularly chatty. He was just there with me, while I sat out on the front porch. He was… lovely, in the sense that appeals to the emotions as well as the eye. Quiet, too — I almost want to say ‘shy’, but that tends to be linked with social awkwardness, and it very much wasn’t that. The impression I got was of someone who doesn’t share much of Himself on short acquaintance. He was there, and He was friendly, in His quiet way, with a remarkably soothing presence, and that was enough.

I very much wanted to hug Him.

…Yeah, so much for “BOYGAWDTHINGEH MESSIN WIF MAH UTERUS? DO NOT WANT!” I feel silly now, and not just because I rendered that in lolcat.*

Of course, I’ve only scratched the surface where Mani’s concerned, and I know it, but the anxiety is entirely gone.

Sunna, on the other hand, was a different experience. Not the drawn-out sense of presence I got with Mani, but then, here in Texas, She tends to come on rather strong, and I overheat easily, so long periods outside during the day aren’t very good for me. Also, staring at the sun is generally considered a bad idea, so I couldn’t quite do what I did for Mani.

With Her, especially given my need for sunlight to keep from going into a rather nasty depressive cycle, it was more an impression of warm hands on my shoulders, and a strong feeling of, “Look, it’s not so bad. See? …If you need to sleep, by all means, but if you just need a little boost, here. Now you can go out and do things.” Not to say She spoke to me in those words, but that’s the best translation I can give for the way She felt. She was warm and friendly, but in a very indiscriminate way. My time spent tuning into Mani’s particular energy felt a lot more personal. Even so, She had that same sense of solidity to Her that Mani did; she clicked with me very strongly.

For all that I’m not completely cut off from other pantheons — it’s a big universe and there are a lot of different beings in it; it’s silly to expect me to only have to deal with one pantheon’s worth — the deeper I get into this, the more I seem to have a ‘reserved for:’ sticker on my perceptions. There really is a tangible clicking sensation, and the Northern Tradition gods and wights come across more strongly, while the others are… still there, but more distant. That’s Sunna up there for me, not Helios, for all that I could probably reach Helios if I tried. But unless there’s a specific reason for me to need to deal with Him, if I just reach for ‘solar energy’, it’s Sunna that’s on the other end.

It’s very reassuring, in a way; I know where I fit, and who I need to be learning from, and that’s a kind of spiritual security I haven’t had since my days as a wee Catholic.

Some people would find it strange that I’d get this sort of security from Loki showing up in my life, but it really does seem natural for me, and I can’t thank Him enough for this. It’s more than a bit frightening at times, but I’m so very, very grateful, all the same.

* Yes, I enjoy cat macros far too much. This leads to things like the nagging desire to translate the Poetic Edda into lolcat, as is being done with the Bible.

The Pagan Blog: An Introduction

So here we go: official blog-opening time, where I introduce myself.

I consider myself a baby spirit-worker, in that I have very little formal training, but I’ve been Doing Stuff at the behest of various Powers since I was twelve… which is all well and good, except ‘stuff I’ve been doing since I was twelve’ isn’t actually a formal discipline, and leaves me with big damn holes in my education. I’m trying to fix that.

I was raised Catholic at my grandmother’s insistence (an amazing, if sometimes infuriating, woman — today is her eighty-eighth birthday, in fact), but my mother and both of my stepfathers were various flavors of Neopagan. This made for a somewhat confusing religious upbringing, and led to my calling to religious service taking several different forms.

After exploring Wicca in my teenage years, I spent the better part of a decade as an eclectic Neopagan in service to an Egyptian goddess. I looked into Gnosticism, which was wonderful for reconciling my feelings of hurt and betrayal toward the Old Testament god with the profound spiritual experiences I’d had when attending Mass as a young child, but for the most part, I stuck firmly to my eclectic Paganism.

I made a lot of stupid mistakes, and found myself stuck in a cycle of focusing so intently on spiritual matters that my mundane life went straight to hell, and then burning out and being spiritually dead for a while, until something would yank me back into the spiritual side of things and the cycle repeated itself. That’s something I’m still struggling with; I tend to be a creature of extremes, and finding a balanced middle ground is hard for me… but it’s something I have to learn to do, because if I’ve learned anything in all these years, it’s that the spirits don’t just go away when you’re tired of them.

A few years ago, after a series of rather profoundly life-altering experiences spanning a two-year period, my Lady released me from Her service, and pretty much told me point blank that where I needed to go wasn’t somewhere She could take me.

I’d been reading about Northern Tradition Paganism for a while, and lots of things there called to me in a way that Asatru never had. I had, in fact, written off all things Norse as Not For Me, until Loki showed up and started dropping hints the size of anvils in my lap. And the more I read about spirit-work, the more I realized I’d been spending years doing what was basically ‘spirit-work lite’… and what’s more, when I was doing it, it felt right. It felt like I was doing my job. I was lacking context, structure, and a full set of tools to work with, but the job description was a familiar one.

So this is where I am now: putting together a personal practice in the Northern Tradition, studying the runes and the lore, adding my own UPG to it — kind of a necessity, since it’s the Jotnar that snatched me up, rather than the Aesir or Vanir. That said, I’m still studying what books I can get my hands on that are Asatru-specific: even if parts of it don’t apply, if I’m going to be part of a reconstructionist-derived practice, I need to be intimately familiar with just what it’s derived from.

Hi. I’m Jaqui. I’m twenty-eight years old, and I’m a baby spirit worker. We’ve all gotta start somewhere.