Down in the Valley of the Not-So-Jolly Jotuns

Given this morning’s -30 F temperature and the omnipresent mounds of snow, it’s very easy to confuse the Chicago slice of Miðrgarðr for Jotunheim. Whizzing along on the northbound Tri-State, making my morning transition from Cook to Lake County during my drive to work, it was difficult to not find the landscape tinged with thurz-friendly phantasmagoria—look, there’s Fenris loping amidst the snow-laden oaks, sycamores, and aspens in Busse Woods; Skadi loves stomping about with her snowshoes in a childlike spirit of abandon in the gravelly pit of the major construction site at Willow Road.

I was listening to the sweet strains of Loreena McKennit’s liltingly lovely musical interpretation of Tennyson’s masterpiece, “The Lady of Shallot,” when it dawned on me—just as Sunna’s orange and scarlet robes blinded me in the rear-view mirror—that this day is absolutely, wholly, and unequivocally laced with death. The very air, reminiscent of that primal giant from whom the whole world was crafted, is tinged with it. Try inhaling without a scarf or other covering to shield your mouth while, say, walking a dog for 20 minutes and you’ll feel it, death like a form of anti-pneuma seeping into your lungs. A cold caress that makes your flesh and bones revolt to the touch. Continue reading

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For the Love of Eshu

By way of editorial comment: In the Yoruba-derived West African religion of Ifa (which is also the name of an Orisha of divination as well as the system of divination that He governs–still with me?), every person, regardless of race or station in life, is said to have her head “ruled” or “crowned” by a guardian Orisha. That Orisha’s influence will more than likely have manifested in the individual’s personality, as well as in shaping the person’s True Will, or Ori in Yoruba, in her lifetime. I wrote this praise poem (oriki in Yoruba), “For the Love of Eshu,” in honor of my guard and guide, my Baba (“Father”) Eshu, also known as Elegbara. In Santeria, He is Elegua. Ago mo jubara, Baba!

Eshu, Opener of the Ways!

Eshu, Opener of the Ways!

For the Love of Eshu

Eriwo-Ya!

I received your calling card—red on one side, black on the other—

three times seven times

O Akánle,

Paá paá wàrà

You who conduct your business in fast motions

Ever hurrying, ever sudden

And just this week, on the Washington Street bridge at Wacker Drive,

the grinning old man,

Omokùnrin,

Son of the Sons of Africa

Skin the color of the repository of secrets

curly white hair

red t-shirt, black pants

protruding Styrofoam cup with the jingle of coins, rattled like a call to order

Eriwo-Ya! Continue reading

Go to Hel, Part 3: Bound by Bone—Deepening My Devotion to Loki’s Daughter

The wallpaper on my work PC is a stunning 1905 painting by the German artist Emil Doepler. Entitled “Loki’s Brood,” I find throughout the course of any given workday that I completely lose myself in reverie as I look at Hel. It’s almost as if Her distant gaze, surely focused as it is on Other/Inner Worlds, mirrors my own as I gaze at Her and think on Her glorious Being. Is it possible to truly love—with all the inner reserves of affection and devotion that your heart is capable of squeezing out—a Goddess of Death? Continue reading

Go to Hel, Part 2: “Please, Don’t Squeeze the Shaman”: Journeying Deep into Helheim

It all began in August of 2013, when I moved into my first-ever purchased home: a cozy condo in Chicago’s far northwest corner—a neighborhood, unbeknownst to me at the time, notoriously known for its ghastly history and stupendously huge mass paupers’ graves lurking beneath my very subdivision and a large swath of the surrounding area! Continue reading