This past weekend marks five years since I made my five-year pledge, which means the time limit on the pledge has closed.
I didn’t satisfy the requirements in full, though I did satisfy it partially, and the partial stuff I did, I feel like I did reasonably well. There was no agreed-upon consequences for incomplete compliance. I don’t know what happens next.
To review, as was mentioned in the one-year post, these were the terms I was supposed to adhere to. Italicized are the ones I feel I did well:
- Oath ring must be worn during waking hours, (leading up to Trothmoot 2019, this became “any time I don’t have a compelling reason to remove it,” and I wore it basically 24/7 after that.)
- Religious jewelry should also be worn under similar circumstances.
- Altars must be cleaned properly at least once per month.
- Celebrate all major heathen holidays with a proven historical basis, plus Lokabrenna.
- I must make a concerted effort to pursue ordination.
- I must participate in and contribute to my local Heathen community, to the best of my ability.
- I must continue studying the lore and language, and do any further research that will improve my service to my gods and my religious community.
- No cutting hair until ordination. (This was added later.)
I did not get ordained through—my own words—”concerted effort.” I did get ordained through the ULC. Case law has since changed, making my ordination actually worth something in the state of Pennsylvania. Hooray. But I have been ordained neither through the Troth, nor through my kindred, which were the other two avenues available to me.
(I could have also gotten ordained through TAC but lol, lmao, fuck that.)
Did I assist my community to the best of my ability? Maybe? Yes. I should probably say “yes,” because in that time frame was when Seasons of Transition and Jarðarblót (and then later the version that hybridizes it with Sigrblót) came about. But, “my community” and “the best of my ability” are constantly shifting targets, even locally. I think it’s safe to say that the local community was well tended to, at least, though it’s hard to measure that by any metric beyond vibes.
Did I keep studying the lore and language? Uh. No. Yes, but no. I did not keep my nose stuck in books like I had planned and hoped. I did not read starter guides to Heathenry with any real commitment. I dragged my feet so hard with Heathen Essentials that the curriculum was completely rewritten by the time I’d finished unit one. I attempted to read some of those guides, even the ones by people I knew (or assumed) I agreed with based on our everyday conversations, and ended up really…kind of hating them. A lot. So much.
Basically, nobody has any business bitching about recons if they insist on defining reconstructionism as fundamentalism.
What I ended up doing, what has ended up feeling vastly more relevant, was getting into capital-T-theory. You can tell me all you like about what the lore says about Frigg. And you should, because I always need the refresher. (Especially now, trying to incorporate her into my Sigrblót ritual for this year.) But nothing has ever described her, and her function, and her meaning and her relevance to humanity, anywhere near as well as Angela Davis did in chapter 13 of Women, Race and Class. And Angela Davis never mentioned her by name. Angela Davis literally was not thinking of her. The Secret Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben spoke to how human trees are, or perhaps to how tree-like humans are, or were, or have forgotten how to be, in a way that put the breath and the blood and the color back into the metaphor of Ask and Embla. This was not lore and language research, but at least it was research that helped me try and serve the community.
Right now, my collar and oath ring are sitting on the altar. The collar came off first, admittedly just for the practical reason that the maille was trapping mineral wool and cotton fluff that fell on me while I was helping friends rip out their old ceiling, and it itched. The cuff came off on the 26th of March, because I realized I had hit the five-year mark and it just…felt like time. Its initial purpose has been served. Soon, I guess I’ll just have to have something resembling an actual conversation with Loki about where we’re at. Even with the pledge, even with trying to maintain compliance, I’ve been distant. I just haven’t felt super motivated to Be Heathen.
I feel very tempted to blame how fucking riddled with influencers the Heathen scene has always been, and how it seems to be constantly getting worse. I feel very justified in this temptation. I basically cannot tolerate interacting with other Heathens online anymore and it’s not a denominational thing. I hate feeling like my practice is a product. Even when I do have things to report, I like to believe that I tend to keep them to myself until I’ve properly processed the sequence of events and have something genuinely helpful for the potential audience to hear.
(“Try it sometime!” I want to passive-aggressively screech, every fucking day.)
That’s not the only reason, though. I’m realizing something while hanging out over in the Tumblr Moomin fandom, in a niche where we are metaphorically gripping each other by the shoulders and somewhat more literally frothing at the mouth about how much of a dad Snufkin is. (Just…read Moominsummer Madness and you’ll understand.)
Talking about Loki simply doesn’t excite me the way it used to. The novelty is gone. The commentary is exhausting. The discourse is repetitive. I have lost my interest in hearing others express their perspective and experience of the divine. (With a notable, loving exception for Lea Svendsen’s Loki and Sigyn, which was a very enjoyable read literally from the first sentence.) I am tired of watching the same arguments continually play out, hearing the same stock phrases used in lieu of ever actually engaging with anything being said. Tired of expressing how fucking tired I am of these things.
The limerence has faded. I have settled in, and I have not learned to settle in as an appreciative lover might—though my dynamic with Loki is emphatically not romantic, and I have insisted from the start that it never will be.
More than once I have contemplated something resembling monasticism, but I think that I have the responsibility to be very much in the world. And what I am craving in that desire for something like operating as a nun or religious sibling is not an outward expression of deep devotion and duty, but rather something far less charming and far more selfish: Structure, importance, absolution from having to make decisions for myself.
Over and over and over what I write in my prayer journal, which I do with less and less frequency, is that I wish I was doing more. I then proceed to never act on it. I am sitting on my ass demanding proof while seeking out fewer and fewer opportunities to have anything proven to me. I am functionally agnostic most days. It doesn’t feel like a tragedy, though I often feel like it should feel that way.
The goal of the pledge was to light a fire under my ass, and it certainly did for at least the first few years. I have gotten a lot done. I don’t know what it all means. I don’t know how much of it counts towards the goals that were set five years ago. I don’t know what happens as a result of what doesn’t count or what didn’t make the cut.
It feels like this ought to be sad. Seeing my bare wrist does feel sad, because I remember how uncomfortably full of love and energy I was when I bought it in an airport in Austin, Texas, back when the only other things I cared about were the loons in the Colorado river and the feral parakeets in the grass and the big, shiny grackles fighting over scraps of food on the sidewalk outside some overpriced cafe, where the only thing I remembered was the sweet potato fries and the complicated trash categories. Feeling the absence of the heavy weight of my collar that Goat made for me does feel sad.
I don’t know where we’re going from here. I feel like it must be standard to express excitement or anticipation for what happens next. But I have so little concept for what it will be, and admittedly, not as much interest as I wish I did. I don’t even know what to expect next. It all feels very formless.
1 thought on “Pledging: Five Years In”
I know this post wasn’t asking for advice so please feel free to ignore me if I’m overstepping.
Now for the unsolicited advice: if you find yourself craving monasticism, maybe it’d be worthwhile to dip your toes into it? Folks of all faiths have been known to retreat into monasticism now and again for contemplation, structure, and rest. Based on what you’ve said here, it sounds like you could use some rest on many fronts. Monastic retreat in some form is often something of a balm for the spirit when one is spread too thin– I feel like the combination of boredom, frustration, and exhaustion, and never-enough you’re describing might be burnout.