When Heathen Gods Crash Your Roman Holiday

Or: A Spirit-Worker’s Year in Review

I haven’t written much about the way Odin has really turned my world upside down in the last year. Not a lot, at least. I think partially, because I’m not really sure where it’s going in regards to where I fall within a religious practice. I think, perhaps, in my private practice I’m coming to terms with simply being a Pagan and Polytheist without a cultural descriptor ahead of it. But I’m not there yet. It’s funny to me that I’ve spent so many years debating the usage of Roman in my label that shortly after finally accepting it, I would be clinging to it and uncomfortable leaving it behind while Gods scream in my ear “Go Heathen, go Gaul, go somewhere else…”

December 17th was the beginning of Saturnalia, which was the first Roman festival I ever celebrated. But last year at around 1 in the morning on that day, I was up too late reading in bed. Suddenly I heard howls coming down the large stoney cliff and over the creek in my back yard. Then I felt a Presence standing outside of my window, which due to the split level is directly above my head. I got the very distinct message that I wasn’t supposed to peek out the window, and honestly I was too terrified to look anyway. In my mind’s eye I saw a pair of brown work boots and dark blue jeans.

My first thought beyond staying as still as possible, like a deer locked in the gaze of a predator was, Holy shit. It’s the Wild Hunt.

Slowly the howls traveled up my drive way, out into the street, and further down it.

The next day, I set about trying to figure out what had happened, because surely I had been in the presence of a God. But it wasn’t Hekate. It wasn’t Apollon.

By the time morning came around, I’d decided to not go with my original instinct, because at the time I was obsessing over Romanizing the local world around me. I quickly talked myself out of the Wild Hunt theory.  That was not my thing.

I asked Facebook. Coyote was brought up. Local Gods. Silvanus. I decided Silvanus was a good enough God for me, so I ran with it despite feeling like I’d gotten something wrong.

The following day, I caught sight of Someone standing on the hill, watching me. I felt Them in my home despite drawing the very specific line of You shall not come into my house. Mr Foxglove reminded me that he’d watched a man walk up the incredibly steep almost cliff-like limestone hill only to duck behind a tree and disappear. I’d rolled my eyes at the time, telling him that there must have been a small hill the man had gone behind.

What scared me the most about the situation, though, was that I had local apples that earlier in the day had been absolutely fine. Suddenly there was one that was so rotten that it was nearly seeping through the hanging basket it was sat in. I threw it out.

About an hour later I turned around and the apple was back again. Along with the Man on the Hill.

So I proceeded to flip out. It had been years since I’ve particularly terrified of things like this happening, because in my life these things happen far too often not only to me, but those who are have contact with me. Non-believers. People who have to believe on some level, because shit happens and Gods arrive. Gods come into my loved ones’ lives like ghost stories. Sometimes They stay. Sometimes They were just there for a fleeting moment. Hekate on a street in Los Angeles, letting an internet friend at the time know that She was watching; Her presence clearly giving me warning that I ignored at the time that another point on my spiritual path was about to be unlocked. The Man with a Hat, now understood to be Odin, chasing off boyfriends in high school as a ghost… Even Mr Foxglove saw Him in the house in Iowa the first time he came to visit me there; I told him it was simply an angry, drunken ghost who lived in the house.

Gods arrive in my life like a knife in the ribs; none of them particularly gentle in Their handling on first contact. I suppose my stubbornness is a strong bolt on the doors They walk through, and when They discover a gentle shake isn’t going to be enough to get my attention, They get out the battering ram…

They stand outside my bedroom window with howling creatures and cause me to panic. That is how you get my attention. I’m almost ashamed to admit it.

The following day, I grabbed up the remaining apples in my home, some pork I’d made the night before, and a jar of milk. I made the trek up and around the block to the hill at the back of my yard. I’ve discovered the logistics of living on the edge of the Ozark Bluffs makes even a small hill one you have to walk around the block to get to the top of. It screws with your spacial understanding… There’s a magic to it, though. Almost like the Tardis, a world bigger on the inside than it seems from the outside.

From the top of the hill, it is another world. It’s a place completely ignored by man, save for people occasionally making a jaunt up the steep almost cliff-like hill to cut across it. It’s surrounded by urban expansion such as a school, golf course, and homes, but for the most part it’s simply an abandoned .6 acres that was possibly meant for constructing houses upon before someone thought better of it. It’s filled with discarded street cement. It’s wasteland. And, amusingly, due to that fact it’s filled with native plants such as horsenettle, which I would have never learned about had I not gone on that walk. In fact, any time I wander up there, I find myself learning something new about the land. I notice a plant or a certain quality of stillness. Coyote droppings. A deer herd. This is the magic world of the liminal, and I understand that is why I love it the way I do.

At the top of that hill, my home looks a million miles away.

And now, randomly during meditation, I will find myself dropped into the middle of that space again and again. I’m a gray squirrel running up the hill towards it. I am laying in the weeds naked. And the Spirit of the Hill, who is wild and far too interested in me now that He’s aware that I’m aware of Him, regularly comes to show me something new.

On the day I left my first offering, I didn’t know any of this was coming. I wanted to be left alone. I asked politely to please stay out of my house. I promised to compost in offering, which has only manifested recently in a place I was shown would be where to take dying plants… A place my husband picked out one day after yardwork, and my mother followed suit. The neighbors, before they moved or died, put their own yard scraps in that place as well.

That day, the first day I was up There, I walked home with my eyes to the ground. These were the days where rocks were appearing as I found myself becoming more and more in tune with the land of my blood. I plunged my hand into the Missouri River 2 months before when It called me to the point where I could no longer ignore visiting it, and pulled out rocks to take home. While getting family pictures taken on a day the winds were ridiculously strong, a rock fell from the sky to my feet. The adults with me looked at it with confusion, wondering aloud where it had come from. When no one was looking I made sure to calmly tuck it into my pocket and carry it home. The golden limestone I brought home from the hill is large… Nearly the size of a baseball. That was the rock I was given that day.

It wouldn’t be until February that I woke up one afternoon from a nap, having dreamed that Odin came to me. We talked of obligation, the blood of my people, and other things I could no longer remember upon waking. He gave me a golden, jeweled cup to drink from that was filled with blood. We both drank from it. I woke up wondering what it all meant. I had spent my time avoiding the Norse pantheon, because I had no interest in it at the time… Or perhaps I was a little scared of it.

Slowly it started to occur to me that Odin has always been in my life. On looking over His Wikipedia page, a picture of Him peering from under His hat made my blood run cold. In my teenage years, I was haunted by a shadowy figure that was the shadow man in a wide-brimmed hat. At times I would catch glimpses of Him about the house, watching me in mirrors for instance. But most of the time I would smell beer or whiskey, feel Him around me. I’d wake up in the middle of the night to Him standing over me and talking in a mumbled language I could never understand. Others started having run-ins with this ghost.

The day it really hit me this was a possible reality, I remembered that shortly after my daughter was born, my mother hand put a letter into my hands from a psychic in the United Kingdom I’d written to in 2001. She said, “I thought you might want to see this.” I remembered it spoke of the Man in the Hat, as I called him. I hadn’t actually re-read it at the time, but I scrambled to find it when it came to mind.

It read:

I do pick up spirit activity around you – You are especially susceptible – he needs to touch your hair he tells me. “You have such beautiful hair.” I know that he means you no harm and is simply there to watch. If you desperately want rid of him, tell him loudly and firmly to “Get lost.” It may take a few goes to get through to him, but he’ll get the message eventually. If you’re okay with him, let him stay. He’s harmless enough.

The other one is not like this. He’s dark and not so happy. He’s old and has beer around for a long time. He says his name is “an old family name in the village.” Sounds like Edward or Edwin. He has clean hands, so he’s never done hard work, but he says “All of this was our farm.” And if you go to the bottom of your land, you’ll see a boundary or a wall, which was a bit of the farm yard. (I would like to see this myself. Nice little bit of history.)

He speaks with an accent, which seems to be broken. Like Swedish or Norway by the sound of his “S” like “Ssss.” Take care, because he’s bossy and used to having his own way.

As a note, the house I was living in was a farm house, but the letter had always been a mystery to me. She was correct about the beer and the darkness. However, I’d spent a good amount of time researching. There were never any Edwards or Edwins that owned the land my house was built on in the town. There were no Scandinavian people. There was no boundary wall. And yet, I didn’t write off the letter; I just brushed it off at the time I was researching. Psychics are rarely 100% right.

Edwin, however, is one of Odin’s names. Reading it now with what little education I’ve gathered of Odin is an exercise in understanding His sense of humor. Finding the letter somehow confirmed momentarily that I wasn’t completely losing my mind, which honestly is something a person who is God-touched likely fears even more than the average person.

Things have gotten stranger and stranger… This last year has been nothing but an exhausting, wild ride as my physical health has turned from bad to worse to tolerably terrible yet hopeful. I feel like it’s just about time for me to start trying to piece it together into a chronological timeline… Like all the things I’ve been experiencing, things I don’t even have the energy most days to talk about let alone write about. Dreams I only have fragments of… The Gods who come to talk to me… Gods I’m not even sure I know who They actually are… An insanely complicated and convoluted language of symbols that I’ve yet to fully figure out what they all mean.

All this year has gotten me is the absolute deconstruction of the very core of my beliefs, friendships, and my body. And yet I have faith. Some argue that faith isn’t a Pagan value… That we don’t intrinsically hold faith as a polytheist value… But I do. Some days I’m not even fully sure that I exist, because more and more my life seems like some novel I should have read in my early teens.

But the Gods exist. The Gods are real. They are here. With us. Meddling. Forcing us to grow.

The Gods are here. That’s my message through all of it. They are real.

Two nights ago, a bomb was dropped that left me uncomfortable and alone. It ripped out my heart and caused me wonder exactly what the end game to this journey actually is. I’ve been told over and over again that the reward will be great, but sometimes I have to wonder if perhaps the reward will be great for someone other than me… And then I’m disturbed by my own internal urge to keep walking the path I am without actually knowing where I’ll end up.

I was told my time with Apollon is over, and I understood that the love is still there. Part of this journey is attempting to find this God’s light in the darkness again, but He is no longer Apollon…

I don’t know who the God I’ve loved all these years is anymore. My mortal mind finds this a hard concept to adjust to. Syncretism is painful, my friends, as much as it is joyous and beautiful. The same could be said about spirit work and mysticism… The Gods are not always beauty and joy. We carry this truth in the pit of our bellies, and despite our attempts to step away from the concept of appeasing the Gods we still seek Their hand in our life with each offering laid out to Them.

I can almost remember the point where I realized that I was to spend my life seeking to make each moment a prayer to Them. Each action a direct connection, an example of how They work through others. People may not know that I am a Pagan, but I try to live my life in a way that gives honor to the label and the Gods we carry in our hearts as if they did should they ever find out.

I said at one point that we shouldn’t seek to be martyrs of our religions, but I’ll openly admit that I sometimes wonder if that’s exactly what some of us are destined to become. Because if we touch the Gods, if we find ourselves woven into the fabric of the World where the Gods truly are, then we run the risk of being wounded by the truths w/We make with each other. We may not be made in the likeness of our Gods, but we are made of the same emotions… I would argue that, truly, our emotions are part of what makes a spark in each of us reach towards the possibility of our own divinity within us.

There is a path taken. The choice must be made on some deep soul-level to walk it. But walk it we must, because sometimes the only other option is to die. So perhaps it’s not a road but a river… Swim with the current or die. Or, in my case, give up and let the current take you where it will.

I don’t know where I’m going. But I know that, even if I wanted this all to stop, They wouldn’t let that happen. The Gods don’t always take no for an answer. There’s no point in being upset about it, because that’s not something that’s going to change. And that, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. Why would I honor Gods who didn’t know better than I do?

Yet I can see why Odin would give His eye these days. I understand that desire to see everything, know how it all will end.

Hail, Apollon. Thank You for Your lessons. I’ll forever love You.

Hold on tight, y’all… I’m heartbroken, but I get the feeling this has just turned into a very interesting ride…

(Hail Florence, patron saint of godspouses everywhere…)

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14 thoughts on “When Heathen Gods Crash Your Roman Holiday

  1. Reblogged this on Exploring Devotional Practice in Polytheism and commented:
    Several years ago I had to say goodbye to my love. I had to let Him go without any promise or guarantees that I’d ever see Him again. Someone told me at the time that learning to be alone, truly alone without Him would be the hardest thing I ever do. So far I think that’s been a fair assessment, and that’s with a heaping load of sorrow from all kinds of sources. I suffered. I suffered in a way that people who have never loved the Gods can never understand.

    They leave sometimes. Sometimes we’re the ones who leave. Separation is part of this road; indeed, the experience of separation is what drives us forward on the path to greater and more profound forms of unity. The awareness of separation is the beginning of communion. But none of this actually makes it easier. Losing the grace of presence freely given is a loss unique and precise in its injury.

    My dear friend (Camilla and others like you), you will hurt and I am sorry. I know this pain. I can promise you that there are secrets inside this pain that can only be discerned by going deep and coming back out on the other end. Let the power of the promises you made carry you through this. Learn new ways to love and don’t let yourself become too cold. I’m sorry but I can promise that (redacted by the Gods). I can promise that you haven’t been forgotten. (There! They’ll let me say that part!)

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  2. Many blessings to you. It seems to have been a year of change in divine relationships for many folks who have been intimately involved with divinities. I’ve been thrown into something brand new myself and it’s terrifying but the only things left to do are to say no or keep chugging. I hope that, in the New Year, at least the physical resolves a bit–emotional upheaval is so much easier to deal with when your body is not being a literal and figurative pain.

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    1. Thank you! And yes, I think had I not had a mini-version of this going on at the moment, I would likely be having much more of a melt-down than I am. Strange times that so many of us are going through situations like this.

      May this upcoming year be a gentler one. 🙂

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  3. I’m so glad you wrote this post. I have been on a strange road myself…and the heathen/Asatru deities have entered my life consistently over the years…starting 7 years ago. I can never let them go. There is a strength and down-right homey groundedness there that I do not find anywhere else except with the Green Man and my patroness, Athena. And I welcome them into my life.
    I believe those of us who have lived very difficult (abnormally so) existences also gravitate to them. They are strong and forceful – they provide a kind of hard-ass durable protection that I have not seen elsewhere. They offer me a chance to redeem my extremely troubled existence, along with everything I have had to do to survive, both bad and good.

    By nature, I gravitate to neo-druidry and the Greek pantheon…but the heathens are there…for good, for always. For the fighters.

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    1. I can see this. I’m watching a very strange exchange happening in the last few months… Quite a few in the Roman community are going Northern and a lot of Heathens are finding their way into the little Roman group I moderate on Facebook. I will say that the more I read about certain Heathen cosmologies, the more I feel like perhaps I’ve always been Heathen in a lot of ways without realizing it.

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  4. I wonder if the new batch of members has anything to do with me mentioning the group on my blog…

    In any case, on the matter at hand, let it flow, Camille. Be aware, be mindful, but let it flow. Sometimes one realizes that the trail one’s on is actually part of a much wider road and sometimes there’s the impression that you’re in a matryoshka, where one religious experience you believed to be conclusive is actually a small doll inside a larger one. And if it takes you to a crossroad between different traditions, let it be your spiritual home. Liminality can be demanding, but also very rewarding.

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    1. I was actually wondering about them coming from your blog as well. I’m excited to see the group growing, so keep doing what you’re doing just in case the theory is correct!

      Beautifully put as well. Thank you! ❤

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  5. Camilla, deepest and most heartfelt of prayers for your healing and for an amazing future. I know how much it hurts when a godspouse leaves, no matter what the reason. Even the promise of growth or knowing that your path continues, somehow and somewhere, doesn’t dim that level of pain. Let go without lingering too long, if you can, but still give yourself time to heal. Struggling over it or attempting to resurrect the past makes it worse and so much harder to endure. Expect moments of grief, moments of hollowness, and moments that feel like forgetting how to breathe. You might feel stark and alone sometimes, even in the midst of other gods and other spirits. Keep a few good friends close, even when no one else seems to understand the significance of the loss or the deepness of the pain. Don’t seclude yourself into more loneliness and sorrow, when those moments hit. Most of all, remember to keep loving. It’s important not to shut down that part of your heart, even if it hurts to keep it open. I hope you won’t struggle to much. Much peace and happiness to you. ❤

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  6. A bit more than a year ago, in the winter, I thought that I would lose Apollon. At that time Odin showed up more and more. It felt like He had the power to destroy everything, the oath, all my boundaries and also my love to Apollon with just one word. I was so afraid of this, that I was barely able to talk to Him.
    I did not know what to do but I realized time after time, that I had no choice but to trust Him and to get involved with him and that whole story. I can’t go into details, it’s much too personal and weird, I guess. But in a symbolical way I went with Odin into the darkness and the freezing cold of a labyrinth and found the strength to create fire out of myself. At this point I got Apollon back and realized that He had never been gone.
    I don’t know if this is some kind of syncretism. Apollon is Odin and Apollon is not Odin at the same time. I do not question this anymore. If I try, it makes me crazy.
    It’s always this question… What are you willing to sacrifice for wisdom? Are you able to leave behind what you love most? If yes, maybe you will get it back.

    I get the impression that Apollon and Odin work together very closely.

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