(Update: I recently gave permission to the Gay Life Newsletter to publish this article here)
Radicalization of violence and hatred towards homosexuals is getting worse in Africa. Today it is outlawed in 41 out of 53 African Common Wealth countries. In Sudan and Somalia, one can receive the death penalty for homosexuality. Law makers tried to pass a “Kill the Gays” – or rather a Death Penalty for homosexuality in Uganda as well, but the act was eventually changed to life in prison. Gays are also increasingly under fire in Nigeria. Same sex unions are punished by 14 years in prison.
Lawmakers in Nigeria are calling gays “Un-African” and state that homosexuality is a decadent import from the west.
Anti-Gay Laws: A Western Import
Yet the ultimate irony is that Laws Banning homosexuality are the Western Import – not homosexuality itself. The current Anti-Gay Laws are actually a remnant of British Colonialism, the laws were designed to punish what the British authorities saw as unnatural sex among the natives. Even today, much of the political push towards Anti-Gay laws in Uganda have received massive funding from Christian Evangelicals in America. A documentary published by The New York Times highlights how money from American Missionaries is funding some very dangerous ideology that demonizes members of the LGBT community (Gospels of Intolerance). According to Mother Jones, Uganda has been a hotbed of activity for Evangelicals who have failed to demonize the Gays in their own country (Mother Jones).
Ancient Homosexual Traditions in Africa
Before European Imperialism in the continent, there was a varying degree of Gay Acceptance in Africa depending on the tribe and culture. It is important to remember that there are numerous tribes and cultures in Africa, so we can’t lump them all together as if they were one big country.
For example, there is the Mevengu tradition carried out by the Beti people in Cameroon. Women would gather together and have rituals to celebrate erotic power and the clitoris.
In northern Nigeria, there are the Yan Daudu – men who dress as women, like to braid hair, do make-up and are famed for their playfulness and sexual ambiguity. The phrase “Yan Daudu” itself means sons of Daudu – who is a fun loving, gambling spirit that is worshipped in the Muslim Bori practice. For more than a century, Yan Daudu were tolerated in the Muslim North. Their trance and dancing rituals were associated with poor, marginalized women, sex workers and the disabled. They even sometimes accompanied politicians in their campaigns. Yet now there is a religious revival sweeping the area, and more Yan Daudu’s are findings themselves under attack for their lifestyle.
Further west, in Senegal, there is a minority group of men known as Gor Digen, which means “man-woman” in the native language. These men dress like women and sometimes work as prostitutes. Even back in colonial times, Senegal’s metropolis was famous for its open and tolerant homosexual prostitution market. In the 1930’s a traveler named Geoffery Gorer reported that these “man-women” were a common sight and suffered no form of cultural oppression – other than the fact that they were refused a religious burial. Yet now homosexuality is punishable in Senegal by up to five years in prison.
The Rain Queen
There is a fascinating custom among the Balobedu people of the Limpopo Province of South Africa called “The Rain Queen.” The Rain Queen is a woman who is believed to have special powers, including the ability to control the clouds and the rainfall. She is not supposed to marry a male, but instead has several wives. However, it is not clear whether she has sexual relations with these women or if they are merely her ladies in waiting. Regardless of the technicalities of the situation, this is a custom of same sex marriage that has existed for 400 years and is very obviously not a modern western import.
The Key to Tolerance? Perhaps It’s Time to Embrace Ancient Cultural Wisdom
I think a key to restoring the tolerance and acceptance that homosexuals once experienced in various tribes is for these cultures to embrace their ancient practices and beliefs. While Ethiopia was technically one of the first places to embrace Christianity (a few centuries before the Europeans did I might add) I will say that much of the variants of Christianity imposed in Africa these days are colonial in nature and intent. Evangelical Christianity itself is a very fundamentalist, American bred outlook that is foiling attempts to deal with the AIDS crisis in a sane manner and is throwing gasoline on the fire in terms of demonizing homosexuals.
However, South Africa shines as a beacon of hope, since it is the only country in Africa where Gay Marriage is legal. On April 9th of 2013, two men tied the knot in South Africa’s first official gay wedding. They had a traditional African wedding as well as a Western Wedding. The grooms dressed in their respective ancestral attire – Zulu and Tswana. You can read more about the wedding here.
A documentary in which a Gay British DJ investigates what life is like for gays in Uganda
I protect my home, for I am the Shaman.
I see into others minds, for I am the Sage.
I mend the broken heart, for I am the Bard.
But of these three there is only one.
For I am Human, like you.
This is not a Metal Gaia creation. Just sharing a poem from a friend.
In Spain the Winds of Change Are Coming
Read Article Source Here (Spanish Wind Association)
¡Muy bien! I take my non-existent hat off to Spain. In 2013, Spain made history by being the first country to use wind as a primary source of electricity. Wind covered 20.9% of the power demand, compared to the 20.8% that was powered by nuclear energy. According to the Spanish Wind Association (the AEE), this was enough energy to power 15.5 million houses – 90% of the total.
What direction will the winds blow for Spain’s proverbial energy future in the years to come? It is not certain. Apparently there could be some government reforms in Spain that would have an unfair impact on the wind sector this year – which could discourage investments.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Spain. !Buena suerte mis amigos españoles!
A majority of my information in this post will come from Uppsala Online
The words “Heathen” and “Asatru” today refer to the modern revival of the old Pagan Norse/Germanic religion. The main difference between these two words is that Asatru refers to a specific set of beliefs in this group – while Heathen is a broader term referring to all Neo-Pagans who follow a Germanic/Norse pantheon of Gods and customs.
Asatru specifically is a modern Icelandic compound of the words Áss (which refers to the Aesir Gods) and trú (which literally means faith). So, question to the crowd, what does this mean? True booty? No. Asatru translates into a faith in the Aesir Gods. (Vanatru has the same roots and refers to the worship of the Vanir). If you are curious about the difference between these two groups, feel free to do research. But today I want to talk specifically about three different perspectives in the modern Asatru and Heathen community: Universalist, Folkish, and Tribalist. Universalism and Folkism are the main two perspectives, but Tribalism has been suggested as a sort of middle ground between the two.
Universalists believe that anyone of any background can become a Heathen. It’s pretty simple. This allows for greater freedom of choice and for more people to come to the Old Norse Religion. For example, if there was a practitioner whose direct bloodline was Japanese, they could still practice Asatru as long as they lived by the nine virtues, understood the lore, learned the runes, took responsibility for themselves and their actions and used common sense.
The main argument I’ve seen against Universalism is that it is too open ended. Folkish and Tribalist Asatru believe that much more criteria should be required before someone can call themselves an Asatru.
In defense of the Universalists, most Universalist viewpoints I’ve read still believe that followers of Asatru should follow certain guidelines and rules – that it isn’t some free for all in which you can do whatever you want.
The Folkish perspective is that Asatru is an ethnic religion that should be mainly practiced by those with a Northern European heritage. They believe that ethnic religions connect the practitioner to their landscape’s ancestors, bloodline and traditions. Folkish Asatruar have made the argument that they are not white supremacists, but that they believe that every Folk should worship its own ancestors. Many Folkish Asatruar cite that Shintoism for the Japanese as an example of a valid ethnic religion – and that they want to do something similar with Asatru and the Northern European people.
One of the arguments made against ethnic based Asatru (Folkism) is that there were many Non-Norse folks in the Eddas and other legends who took part in Norse rituals. Norse slaves came from Celtic, Slavic and even Middle Eastern lands. These slaves were expected to abide by the customs and rituals of the Norse people when they lived in Norse lands. While the lives of slaves were pretty grim and there is certainly no way to sugar-coat such a practice, it is true that the slaves were sometimes emancipated by their masters and allowed to live among Norse society. Conversely, when the Norsemen settled in new lands, they adopted some of the customs in the new territories that they settled in. These points are all explained on Uppsala Online:
“Norsemen, when travelling afar, often took part in the religious rituals of the lands they traveled to, such as is found in the example of prime-signing, where travelling heathens took part in Christian ritual without renouncing their native gods. If the ancient heathens thought every bloodline had its own gods that should be stuck to exclusively, then why did they engage in this practice? Similarly Radbod the Frisian, an Asatru hero, was going to take baptism to honor his friends’ gods (until a Christian priest said something stupid).”
While Universalism and Folkism are the two main spectrums of the Asatruar community, Tribalism has been suggested as a middle-ground, or a third opinion by websites such as Uppsala Online. There is a confusion of terms here because Tribalists still call themselves “Folkish” Heathens, but they typically are accepting of non-white Heathens among their ranks. They describe themselves as Folkish because they believe that there must be a deep adoption of Norse Culture in order for one to call themselves a Heathen or Asatru. They believe that anything otherwise is just a surface level adoption of Asatru. To become a Tribalist Asatru you either must have Norse/Germanic descent or you must be adopted and oathed into the community. This is similar to Judaism where one is either automatically born into the tradition via bloodline, or converted into the community.
I think what is important to remember is the character of the Norsemen themselves. They were a people who deeply valued honor, courage, individuality, exploration and growth. Those of us today who feel called to practice the spirituality of these Norse Ancestors will never get to live in the 9th century and will not directly experience the world of the Viking Age Era…unless you build a time machine that is. For those who feel called to the Asatru and Heathen ways, they will be forced to do so in the context of the modern world. Therefore I say it is impossible to practice Heathenry EXACTLY as the Ancient Norse once did.
However, I personally believe that those who feel called to these old ways, will prove themselves via the mettle of their honor – and not by the shade of their eyes or skin. I agree that Asatru shouldn’t be a simple surface level religion, that it should involve a deeper commitment than simply knowing that Thor is the God of thunder or by simply wearing a cool Mjölnir (hammer of Thor) around your neck. Yet if you gauge admission by appearance – is that not very superficial in practice?
We must remember that Thor’s sons, Magni and Modi, were mothered by the giantess Jarnsaxa, and yet they are not only considered divine despite their “impure blood”, they are considered so divine and mighty that they will take up Thor’s hammer after Ragnarok, and become the defenders of men and gods alike (Uppsala Online).
My personal vote of that which I deem awesome.
The blogs below are the ones I found the must useful in 2013 as resources for learning about topics related to heathenry/asatru. I raise my glass to you and hope for an equally awesome 2014.
A Norse blog hosted by a Religion and Mythology professor. Last year, this blog was best known for kicking off one of the first major attempts to do a worldwide Heathen Census. In addition to having insightful information on the history and culture of the Old Norse people, this blog also supplies many interactive tools for the public such as art contests and the aforementioned census.
This is one of the blogs I see cited the most when I look around different Heathen Forums on the internet. In addition to having much interesting articles about Norse history and culture, there is also a lot of commentary on here about trends among modern Heathens and internet groups.
This blog offers a wealth of information about key tenants of Asatru today, as well as community outreach.
A simple, but informative blog on Norse History and Lore.
A United Nations Panel has recently released a report starting that climate change could soon become impossible to solve if the world’s nations don’t take the drastic steps necessary to solve the problem. A key problem has been the United State’s reluctance to adopt the Kyoto Protocol as well as the tendency for other countries of the world to drag their feet on environmental matters. The full article states that we have about 15 years left to solve these problems before it is too late.
If we cannot summon the will to solve the critical environmental issues of our time, nature will solve the problem for us….just not in the way that we would like…
One new thing I want to start doing on this blog is to post Herbal Remedies to help people with their various aches and grumbles.
METAL GAIA IS NOT A SOURCE FOR MEDICAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE A SERIOUS ILLNESS DON’T BE A DUMB-ASS, TALK TO YOUR MEDICAL PRACTITIONER. ALSO SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE BEFORE TRYING SUGGESTED HERBS, AS THEY MAY CONFLICT WITH YOUR CURRENT MEDICATIONS/HEALTH ISSUES.
Anyways, now that I’ve shouted that disclaimer at you from across the internet, let me talk about my newest remedy.
VALERIAN GLYCERITE HERBAL TINCTURE: For those of you who do not know what an herbal tincture is, it is a combination of herbs and 40% or 80 proof alcohol. The alcohol helps to make the effects of the herb more potent, however Vinegar Tinctures are also an option for those who don’t consume alcohol. To take a tincture, drop one or two drops of the solution under your tongue for the desired effect to take place.
An herbal tincture of Valerian Glycerite is a combination of Valerian and Glycerin. The combination of these two things helps to promote circulation, they act as a sedative, as well as being good for dealing with anxiety, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, muscle cramps, nervousness, pain, spasms, seizures and stress.
You can also buy Herbal Tinctures at your local herb store, health store, spiritual shop or the internet. However, I would caution you to be careful when purchasing edibles on the internet, to make sure you are purchasing from a reliable source, because you don’t want to consume something that is actually poisonous or toxic. That’s why if I’m purchasing something edible, I usually like to buy it straight from the store.
Anyways, hope this helps. Good Luck!
What are the seven gifts of druidry?
1. Philosophy: Which emphasizes the sacredness of all life.
2. Getting back in touch with nature: 8 seasonal celebrations
4. The affirmation of life as a journey, the creation of rites of passage.
5. The openness to other realities.
6. The gift of self development, developing our potential
7. The gift of magic
One word that I’ve recently seen pop up in the Pagan Blogosphere is “God Spouse.” It means exactly what it sounds like: a person who marries a God. Is it possible to marry a God? Does the Honeymoon take place on Mount Olympus? And can you imagine an episode of “Trading Spouses” with this theme? But anyways, I digress. My quest to find more information on this phenomenon was limited, but I’ll try to cover the basics. I’m guessing that the amount of information on “God Spouses” is sparse because of how new the term is.
Yet while the term is new, the concept is as old as ancient history. In ancient primeval rites, there was the idea of enacting a sex act with a God or Goddess. There were also priests who stayed celibate and devoted their lives instead to the worship of a particular deity. This practice has continued today with the practice of Catholic priests, monks and nuns staying celibate as a devotion to God. (Does this mean that God is bi-sexual?) Well, that’s a whole other can of worms that this blog doesn’t have time to get into, but the internet is a big place – go look up that question for yourself.
ANCIENT SEX RITES: HIERO GAMOS
A sex rite between a mortal and a God is known as “Hieros Gamos,” or Hierogamy. This ritual took place in societies in every quarter of the globe: India, the Middle East, in Greece, among Tantric Buddhists and has some metaphorical relevance in The Great Rite practiced in Wicca today. One of the earliest recorded sex rites takes place in early Sumeria about 5,500 years ago. In this ritual, a high priestess acting as an avatar of a Goddess would have sex with the ruler of the society to show the Goddess’s acceptance of this man as the ruler and caretaker of his people. If the ruler was not capable of pleasing a Goddess, than he certainly was not fit to take care of a nation of thousands. (Can you imagine if the modern president was sworn into office with this technique? I bet most our current politicians wouldn’t be able to find the clitoris with a GPS.)
Here is part of the ceremony as translated from an ancient Sumerian poem. The High Priestess, acting for Inanna, is speaking to Dumuzi the new king. Text Source Here.
My vulva, the horn,
The boat of Heaven,
Is full of eagerness like the young moon.
My untilled land lies fallow.
As for me, Inanna,
Who will plow my vulva?
Who will plow my high field?
Who will plow my wet ground?
As for me, the young woman,
Who will plow my vulva?
Who will station the ox there?
Who will plow my vulva?
A further description of the ritual is at Goddess.org
One of the earliest concepts of religious marriage is that of temple prostitution: another practice that took place in several corners of the globe. Around the 5th century B.C. the Greek historian Herodotus wrote about how this custom worked in the Near East:
The foulest Babylonian custom is that which compels every woman of the land to sit in the temple of Aphrodite and have intercourse with some stranger once in her life. Many women who are rich and proud and disdain to mingle with the rest, drive to the temple in covered carriages drawn by teams, and stand there with a great retinue of attendants. But most sit down in the sacred plot of Aphrodite, with crowns of cord on their heads; there is a great multitude of women coming and going; passages marked by line run every way through the crowd, by which the men pass and make their choice. Once a woman has taken her place there, she does not go away to her home before some stranger has cast money into her lap, and had intercourse with her outside the temple; but while he casts the money, he must say, “I invite you in the name of Mylitta” (that is the Assyrian name for Aphrodite). It does not matter what sum the money is; the woman will never refuse, for that would be a sin, the money being by this act made sacred. So she follows the first man who casts it and rejects no one. After their intercourse, having discharged her sacred duty to the goddess, she goes away to her home; and thereafter there is no bribe however great that will get her. So then the women that are fair and tall are soon free to depart, but the uncomely have long to wait because they cannot fulfil the law; for some of them remain for three years, or four. There is a custom like this in some parts of Cyprus.
This act is even carried out in some parts of the world today. In India, for example, “Devadasi” is a form of temple prostitution in which young girls from villages are married to a deity of a temple, and then function as spiritual guides, dancers and sex workers. Human Rights Watch also reports that young girls are sometimes forced into this practice to have sex with members of the upper caste.
HIJRAS (TRANSGENDERED FOLK) IN INDIA MARRY THE GOD ARAVAN
One particularly fascinating form of God Marriage that occurs today in India is the marriage of “Hijras” to their God Aravan. This is a festival that occurs every year. Men put on makeup, jewelry and a garland of flowers in preparation for their marriage to Aravan. See pictures of this festival here. Aravan is a brave hero who requests one night of marriage before his death. Since no other Gods were willing to marry Aravan for just one night, Krishna turned into a woman and marries the hero.
In the festival of Aravan, hundreds of Hijras gather to act out the role of Krishna, as they symbolically marry their God Aravan for one night. Sometimes even heterosexual men dress up like women and marry Aravan in order to gain his blessing, such as getting children in a sterile marriage.
THE GREAT RITE
As I mentioned above, there is an element of metaphorical Heiro Gamos in “The Great Rite,” which is a Wiccan ritual. For those who don’t know much about Wicca, the primary deities in this practice are The God and Goddess. Wiccans believe in a female and male duality that represents the whole of creation. Not all Pagans are Wiccans. Wiccans are different from other Pagans in that they believe in a primary God and Goddess, and that all other Gods are aspects of this male and female divine.
The Great Rite is a metaphorical representation of the union between the male and female divine. In this ritual, the high priest plunges the athame (a ritual knife and male symbol) into a cup or chalice (female symbol) which is filled with wine and held by the high priestess. This ritual is a fertility rite that is celebrated around Beltane. While the ritual is mostly metaphorical, there are a few situations where it is actually acted out sexually.
The history of Hiero Gamos and ritualistic sex with the divine brings me to the modern day phenomenon of God Spouses. It is a situation in which a person becomes so close to a particular God or Goddess that they actually want to have a marriage with this Deity – that they want to interact with this Deity as a spouse in their day to day life.
The most recent tale I read was a post on Witches and Pagans about a woman who felt called to marry Odin. At 35 she felt called through dreams and omens to marry Odin. In her own words, she states “This was the primary crossroads of my life: giving myself utterly to a god, and a god whose path is characterized by sudden, sweeping change, paradoxes, and the continual stalking of oneself in search of power and knowledge.”
Do I believe this union is legitimate? It is not for me to judge or decide. The skeptic inside me naturally raises an eyebrow after reading such a story. Is this a true union with the divine or simply the desire for greater intimacy with someone powerful and wise? I’ll never know the truth. Yet I do know that sexual unions with the divine have been occurring for millenia and that men in India still marry Aravan to this day.
Some see the Gods as a divine masters, others see the Gods as guides and friends and there are a few who see them as spouses. It will be interesting to see how relationships to the Gods develop throughout the years as ideas about spirituality evolve and grow.
Imagine going on a day trip to visit the Oklahoma state capitol. Perhaps after a long walk you’d like to stop and have your children relax in the inviting lap of the Baphomet!
There was much hoopla when the Oklahoma state legislators in 2009 decided to approve the installation of a privately funded statue of the 10 commandments monument. It was installed last year amid much protest from the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
But once the statue of the 10 Commandments was erected, many other groups began to chime in, wanting their own beliefs represented: People for the ethical treatment of animals, The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and a Hindu group have all requested their own statue on the Capitol Steps.
The Baphomet statue pictured above was suggested by a group that calls itself “The Satanic Temple.” Will the statue be used? That remains to be seen.
I myself would love to see a gleaming monument of Jupiter’s Cock encrusted with diamonds shining next to the 10 Commandments Statue. Hey, the Romans believed such talismans brought luck! But if we’re going to honor one religious tradition, we must honor them all. Can you imagine the lawns of all the country’s state capitols, dotted with statues of Freya, Zeus, Krishna, Jesus and Pan? That is what true religious freedom would look like.
Much applause for the Norse Myth Blog! Last year they completed a survey of Heathens around the world. The results are that the most Heathens live in the United States and that Iceland has the highest density of heathens (not surprising for a place where many of the people believe in elves).
However, I must caution, when looking at survey results you must remember that it is a study of the people in the survey pool – not everyone in the world. There is a slight bias in this survey, given that it was administered by a blog based in America written in English. Of course there is Google Translate and fun stuff like that, but if the blog were based in Norway or Iceland, the results may have been slightly different.
But I digress. These survey results are still very significant because there are few major attempts to represent the actual number of Heathens world-wide. Most surveys on religion lump Heathens into broad categories like “New Age,” “Pagan and Wiccan” or “Other.” It would be very interesting to see more detailed survey results in the future. What are the average jobs, hobbies and marital status of Heathens?
Thank you for this survey Norse Mythology Blog!