Sunday, March 2, 2014

Nine Men's Morris - My First Board

This is a Nine Men's Morris game board, and the first one I've made. Nine Men's Morris, or Mills, is an ancient game. It likely originated with the Romans, but our Northern European ancestors also played Mills. Many Tafl boards had a Mills boards carved or burned on the on the flip-side. Some viking food boards had a Mills board on the flip side, so they could play the game after a meal. It took me a several days to finish this board, because my daughter and I kept playing the game on the unfinished board!

Click Here to view the full album on Facebook.

The holes were drilled, the lines were burnt, the board was stained, and then the playing area was dry-brushed with gold paint. Then everything was given a nice glossy clear coat.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Establishment of Local Heathen Communities is a Holy Act

The establishment and growth of an active and tight-knit Heathen community here in Kansas City is quite literally a Holy act on the part of everyone involved. It is a right and worthy deed to which all of us can contribute and benefit. It is not about individual needs, though clearly many individual needs will be met. It is not about personal glory, though as a group our efforts may obtain some level of recognition. It is a community effort. We are each a cog in the machine working toward the same community-oriented goals. We are each important to the effort, but no one of us is more important than the effort, or each other. It will take dedication, generosity of time and effort, and sacrifice. But, in the end we will have built something that no one of us could have accomplished on our own. We will have created something from nothing, and be able to pass our efforts on to those of our children that wish to carry the torch forward. And what will this effort require?

It will take a willingness to be there regularly, once a month, so that we may build bonds, honor our Gods and Ancestors, learn together, and begin to work together. It takes the dedication to give the practice of your religion and community-building efforts some priority in your life. Family and being able to support that family always comes first, but where does your loyalty to your Gods, your Ancestors, our Ways, and your fellow local Heathens fall in your life? What priority are you willing to give these things? It means getting involved. Offering to help with things that need doing. It means reaching out and opening yourself up to making new friendships with those that share your beliefs and your practices. It means a shift in how you view that you see yourself as an integral part of the Heartland Hof & Hall effort. And why do it?

Being involved in the Heartland Hof & Hall effort will enrich your life and the life of your family. Involving yourself in the local Heathen community assists you to be more focused on your native Folkway. It makes it easier to learn and grow more solid and knowledgeable in your beliefs. It allows you to put your Heathen world-view into practice, as you interact with an entire community of Heathens who share that same world-view. It allows all of us to be there for one another, when each of us inevitably needs a little moral support. For me, there is also the spiritual aspect of knowing that our Gods and Ancestors watch us every day. What are we doing to remember them and honor them? What are we doing to ensure the survival of the Ways of our People? What are we doing to pass our ways onto the next generation of Heathens? And that brings us full circle. Our involvement in building and growing an active and tight-knit Heathen community here in Kansas City gives our Gods and Ancestors their answers to these questions. This effort is quite literally a Holy act on the part of everyone involved.

I think it is important to be very intentional in your deeds, and to understand exactly what drives you.  Living intentionally requires understanding the meaning of your own actions in your life and the lives of others.  I believe that every effort to bring Heathens together into local groups and communities is a spiritually important and Holy act.  If you don't see your own efforts in this light, think on it a bit.  If the establishment of local Heathen communities is not a Holy act, of the greatest importance to ourselves and our families, then I don't know what is.  Seeing these efforts in this light, can bring new focus and energy to your own efforts, whatever stage of success you find yourself.

To learn more about the Heartland Hof & Hall effort, visit the HHH Page.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

First Heartland Hof & Hall Meeting - Jan 12, 2014

Starting in January of 2014, we will be start something called the Heartland Hof and Hall Meetings every month. These monthly meetings will be open to the public. At each meeting, we will honor our Gods and Goddesses with a faining. There will be a workshop on topics that we will announce, followed by a study-group activity.

We feel it is important for Heathens in our area to gather as a group on a monthly basis in order practice our religion and learn more about our ways together. It has been the goal of Heathens in our area to work towards having land and a place of our own in which to worship, and the ultimate goal of the Heartland Hof and Hall Meeting is to work toward that goal as an united community.

Visit the Heartland Hof & Hall Website to learn more about this new monthly event in Kansas City.  The meeting dates are there for all of 2014, as well as a summary of the activities and theme of every meeting.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Monday, September 30, 2013

Nine Worthy Steps to Advance Heathenry

The Nine Worthy Steps described below represent our approach to advancing our native Folkway.  As modern Heathens we face a daunting task.  How do we reconstruct what was taken from our People?  How do we return members of our Folk to the ways and world-view of our pre-conversion Ancestors?  How do we transition from the mainstream culture within which we were raised, to the culture and values that are natural and appropriate to who we really are?  What steps are necessary for building something lasting for both ourselves and the generations to come?

These nine steps are not the only deeds that can advance our Folkway forward.  This list and the brief descriptions of each step are simply a method of outlining the work that many tribal Heathens are doing at this very moment.  Much more could be said about each deed and, with time and experience, we will of course learn more about what needs to be done and how to do it.  But, these nine worthy steps are the focus of the work being done by Jotun's Bane Kindred and many other good Heathen individuals, families, and kindreds among our People.

FIRST WORTHY STEP - We must bring positive attention to our Folkway, making it easier for members of our Folk to find Heathenry, learn more about it, and become actively involved.

The vast majority of our Folk do not even know that Heathenry exists, let along what it is, what we do, and for what we stand.  They are in the thrall of the foreign religion or, being dissatisfied with it, have run to another foreign religion, or become agnostic or atheist.  These members of our Folk are lost in darkness, whether they realize it or not.  It is up to us to shine a light into that darkness, and serve as a beacon so that our People can find their way home.  But, how do we do this?

It is not difficult to share resources and information on-line and through other forms of communication.  Outreach can take many forms.  As a heathen individual, family, or kindred we can make ourselves available to new Heathens in our local area giving them some guidance and advice by phone or in person.  We can start study groups or hold local Heathen events that allow those that are curious or new to Heathenry a way to actually meet other Heathens and learn more.  We can schedule classes and workshops on Heathen topics at a local bookstore, coffee shop, or community college.  We can share links to existing resource websites, assist with the improvement of these websites, or start our own.  We can even blog or post about our own beliefs and practices, and what they mean for us in our lives.

When we encounter someone curious or new to Heathenry, we can give them a good first impression.  Be understanding of the fact they are new, and give them information and advice without attempting to demean or alienate them.  If we live honorable lives of worth, when new Heathens contact or encounter us they will see by our example that living by the values and beliefs of our Folkway makes our lives more natural, fulfilling, and successful.  Bringing more members of our People home to their native ways and world-view takes a lot of time and effort.  But, it is the first step in advancing our Folkway forward.

SECOND WORTHY STEP - We must encourage our families to become involved in our Folkway, and structure all of our efforts to encourage other families to become involved.

This step can be difficult for some depending on their situation.  Many individuals find Heathenry later in life, and while they embrace our native Folkway - their spouse may not.  It is not advisable or healthy to attempt to force or coerce your spouse to convert.  Even if your spouse never converts, always make sure they know they are welcome at Heathen activities or gatherings you attend.  Many kindreds have non-Heathen spouses that attend all the events and truly enjoy interacting with everyone there.  Heathenry is more than just a set of religious beliefs and practices.  Heathenry is a world-view, or a way of looking at things.  It is a culture and a set of values that anyone can benefit from, even if they are not particularly religious.  So, making sure non-Heathen spouses feel welcome and included is an important part of getting families involved in our Folkway.

In other cases, non-Heathen spouses do become Heathen over time.  Usually, interacting with other Heathens face-to-face convinces them that Heathenry is a positive and healthy belief system.  Sometimes they see the positive changes it makes in their Heathen spouse, and this convinces them to become practicing Heathens themselves.  But, this is something that is their decision, and it happens in its own time.  It requires a very intentional patience, as well as a high level of communication and understanding to smoothly transition a family in its entirety back to the native ways of our People.

Having families involved, brings depth, strength, and longevity to the results of our efforts on behalf of our Folkway.  Families honoring the Gods together and working side by side, can accomplish more than individuals can alone.  Kindreds with families involved, tend to be more stable than kindreds without families involved.  In addition, no matter how much you accomplish in this life, it is nothing compared to what your children, and their children, and so on...can accomplish when they add their own efforts and deeds on top of the foundation you have created for them.  Involving our families in our ways, practices, and traditions is the second step in advancing our Folkway forward.

THIRD WORTHY STEP - We must build bonds among our Folk at the local grassroots level,  bringing together Heathen individuals and families for local events, such as coffee-shop moots, pubmoots, study groups, Heathen workshops, fainings/blots, pot-luck dinners followed by symbel, and other community-building activities.

Our pre-conversion Ancestors focused heavily on both family and community.  Bringing together Heathen individuals and families at the local level, provides the opportunity for face-to-face Heathenry in our daily lives.  This lessens our dependence on the internet for interaction with others that share our beliefs and world-view.  Creating local communities based on friendship, respect, and loyalty brings into existence a network of support where none existed before.

These local communities give us other Heathens of worth with which we can talk, study, honor our Gods, exchange ideas, interact socially, and help each other when help is needed.  Many of the values and concepts within the world-view we are reconstructing involve how to interact honorably with other people in our lives.  Interacting with local Heathens gives us the chance to be around people that share an understanding of these concepts and values, and who live by them as well.  This is a rewarding experience for adults, but it also allows our children to observe and learn from these interactions.

Just as Heathen families can often accomplish more than a single individual, Heathen communities working together can often accomplish more than a single family could.  They also provide an excellent environment for new Heathen individuals and families to become more fully involved in our Folkway.

FOURTH WORTHY STEP - We must form stable local kindreds made up of dedicated Heathen families and individuals of worth, with a focus on building a state of true Frith among those involved.

The natural result of creating active local communities, is the eventual formation of kin-groups or tribes of loyal, like-minded, and hardworking Heathen families and individuals.  Membership within these groups is clearly defined, and they are usually based on some form of kindred-oath or obligation.  The Heathen families and individuals within each kindred share Frith, meaning that every accomplishment is celebrated as a group, every hardship is faced as a group, and everyone involved shares collective Gefrain, Luck, and Honor.

Kindreds made up of multiple families and individuals offer a level of encouragement and support to their members that is similar to what one would expect from a close-knit and healthy extended family.  Over time, kindred traditions, beliefs, and practices form and evolve that represent the shared expectations and understandings of the group, based on trial and error and their collective experiences. Involvement in an active kindred provides a context for living one's Heathen life that cannot be provided by any other organizational structure.

These local kindreds are the grassroots engine that make things happen within modern Heathenry, at both the local level and the regional level.  The frith and strong bonds of loyalty and friendship they share, combined with the various strengths, talents, and skills brought together within the group, allow kindreds to accomplish things that Heathen individuals, families, and even local communities cannot make happen.  Kindreds host both local and regional gatherings and they create and provide resources for other Heathens.  They also provide a point of contact for new Heathen families and individuals in their area, and host open events in their area that local Heathens can attend.

Many of the remaining Worthy Steps are made easier, or can only happen, through the efforts of hard-working and dedicated local kindreds.

FIFTH WORTHY STEP - We must share practical information between individuals, families, local Heathen communities, and kindreds regarding personal practices, group practices and traditions, and organizational methods, with an understanding that we can learn from each others experiences, but that we will likely all do things differently.

Scholarly study and understanding of the Lore and world-view of our ancestors is important.  But, there is a deep need for the sharing of practical how-to information among those practicing our Folkway.  How to build a local community, how to start a kindred, tribal dynamics within a group, the role of a Chieftain or Godhi within a kindred, information on how to maintain a kindred and its traditions, building relationships with other Heathen in your region, or tips regarding Heathen marriages and families.  The choice of topics is endless.

The motivation for sharing this practical information should be to simply help others learn from your experiences.  It is not about control.  It is not about making people do things your way.  It is not about creating divisions within our native Folkway.  Those receiving the information will use what works for them, and they should discard that information that does not work for them.  The sharing of information should be a give and take, back and forth between Heathens and Heathen groups, allowing all of them to learn from successes and failures of those Heathens they know and trust.  The reciprocal exchange of information allows individuals and groups to build on each other's knowledge and experience.

Information shared between Heathens that actually know each other on a face-to-face basis, is much more valuable than information you might read in a book or on the internet.  When you actually know an individual or group, then you know if they actually walk the walk, or if the information they are sharing is just talk.

SIXTH WORTHY STEP - We must bring our People together at regional gatherings and with face-to-face visits, so that Heathen kindreds, families, and individuals can build bonds, work together, learn from each other, and come to personal understandings of each other that helps prevent needless conflict.

The only true way to know a person, is to meet them face-to-face and spend time with them.  It can't happen on a message board or social networking site.  We must encourage Heathen kindreds, families, and individuals to gather together at face-to-face events, and get to know one another.  These events build friendships and alliances.  They encourage the exchange of information and ideas between people that actually know each other, and this exchange will drive our Folkway forward.  These gatherings also build trust between Heathens, and this trust helps prevent or diffuse unnecessary conflicts among our Folk.

The more often Heathens are able to gather together, the more their friendships and trust will grow.  The more often they can gather, the more opportunities there are for them to exchange information, work together, and assist one another.  So from a practical standpoint, regional gatherings must be our focus.  Here in the Midwest, many of us can travel and attend gatherings around the region 5 to 6 times a year, or more.  We see our friends around the region every month or every other month.  In this context, the bonds between Heathens in our region are relatively strong.  It is impossible for this same frequency of interaction to happen on a widespread basis on the National level.

Meeting other Heathen kindreds, families, and individuals at regional gatherings also inspires an increase in travel and personal visits between Heathens within the region.  Both the gatherings and personal visits encourage the next generation of Heathens, our children, to play together, learn together, and build friendships and trust.  As our children across the region grow into adult Heathens, they will already know each other and share bonds that will serve their own families and kindreds, and the region as a whole.

SEVENTH WORTHY STEP - We must put regional organizational structures in place that encourage positive cooperation between Heathen kindreds, families, and individuals in the region, while also respecting the autonomy and independence of those involved.

The goal is to engender a sense of unified purpose across the region without requiring or attempting to enforce unified orthodoxy or orthopraxy.  As bonds of trust grow and deepen across the region, alliances and formalized methods of interaction and cooperation can be put into place.  This requires everyone involved looking to the similarities they share with others, rather than harping and fighting over their differences.  The leaders of the participating kindreds and families, must be mature and reasonable enough to accept that beliefs and practices among Heathens will differ, and that this is healthy.

Whatever method of formalized organization is put in place, it is important that the autonomy of every involved kindred and family is respected.  A Thing structure or loose confederation of kindreds and families, allows each kindred to participate, contribute ideas, and partner with other kindreds and families in the region without any one person being in charge.  Strong independent kindreds can then participate, communicate, collaborate, and support one another, without any one kindred or person being "in charge."  This maintains the grassroots tribal nature of our native Folkway, and avoids top-down organization, dogma, and divisions among our People.

A Thing structure of loose confederation of kindreds and families must be based on face-to-face meetings and interaction.  This is most easily done at regional gatherings of our Folk.  The telephone and internet can be used for communication between gatherings, but without the foundation of real face-to-face conversations and relationships, organizational efforts are unlikely to succeed.

EIGHTH WORTHY STEP - We must acquire at the local level tribal land where we can establish Hofs and Halls as a regional gathering place for our People.

In this early stage of the reconstruction of our Folkway, Heathens tend to gather in each other's living rooms and finished basements.  As local kindred's and the Heathen communities around them grow, gathering in someone's home becomes increasingly crowded and difficult.  When multiple kindreds and families gather in any sort of numbers, we are forced to rent a campground, or reserve space in a hall or hotel.  Logistically, it makes sense that we should move toward establishing at the local level, facilities for gathering that we own and maintain.

There is a sense of permanence that comes with acquiring tribal land, and establishing holy places and halls in which to gather as a People.  These local hofs and halls become a gathering point for Heathens in the local community, and an important destination for Heathens in the surrounding region.   Events can be held there.  Weddings.  Funerals.  Coming of age rituals.  A burial ground for Heathens can be set aside, so that we can honor our dead in the ways that we wish.  Imagine for a moment three hofs and halls in your region, and what that could do for face-to-face Heathenry and regional efforts.  Imagine a few years later, there being ten such gathering places, and what that would do to advance our Folkway.

Most hof and hall locations would be suburban or rural in their surroundings, while a few might border on an urban environment.  These locations could offer religions activities and workshops, but there is also an opportunity to offer traditional craft classes and cultural events that would draw in members of our Folk that have not yet found their way home to Heathenry.  The only organizational structure that has the resources, man-power, and motivations to establish tribal land on the local level, are kindreds.  Very few individuals or families could ever afford to establish and maintain a facility of this nature.  Loose-knit Heathen communities usually do not have the structure or unity to successfully mount the effort, or maintain it.  National Organizations may one day establish a national headquarters or gathering point, but it is unlikely that it will be in your local area.  (And it most certainly won't be in the Midwest).  For the Eighth Worthy Step to happen, it will take the work of local kindreds.

The kindred or local group that is able to establish tribal land and to build a hof and hall will be leaving an amazing foundation for their Heathen children and the next generation of Heathens to build upon.

NINTH WORTHY STEP - We must pass onto the next generation of Heathens and Asatruar a solid foundation upon which to grow and develop our native Folkway far beyond what we were able to accomplish.

We are rebuilding our native Folkway against incredible odds.  The world-view, as well as the religious and spiritual perspectives, of our People were drastically changed by the Christian conversion.  The beliefs and practices of our Ancestors were suppressed and buried, so much so that the vast majority of our People do not even know that they are following a foreign religion that was methodically and successfully forced upon us.  That leaves us often reconstructing our Folkway from bits and scraps of information.  It leaves us in the position of an "alternative religion," and a rather small one at that.

But against these difficulties, we put a determined will and enormously hard-work to the task at hand.  The final, and probably most important step, is that we leave our children and the next generation of Heathens in a better place than we find ourselves.  Success at the previous 8 steps will accomplish that goal.  If when we are done, there are more Heathens, more Heathen families, larger Heathen communities, more Kindreds, better sharing of practical information, bigger and better regional gatherings, a regional organizational structure that helps everyone involved, and hofs and halls on tribal land here and there across the landscape, then our children and the next generation will be able to take our Folkway places that is likely impossible for us to achieve in our lifetimes.

But, this also means teaching our children and giving them the knowledge and the tools to be better at this than we are.  They aren't coming to Heathenry 20 or 40 years into their life.  If we are doing our job, then they are being raised within a family, a community, and a kindred that lives Heathenry.  They are immersed in our world-view, and participating in its reconstruction from an early age.  These  young Heathens will have plans and goals that are completely beyond us.  They will have a drive and determination that will shame us, if we live long enough to see what they accomplish.  They are our partners in what we do...they are the next leg of the race...and we need to give them the best start we are capable of providing them.

CONCLUSION - Are there other deeds that can grow and strengthen our native Folkway?  Of course there are.  These worthy steps reflect the focus of my kindred, and other like-minded tribal kindreds.  These steps were carefully chosen to express the vision behind the work we do.  We are utterly dedicated to making progress on these steps.  They were also carefully put into an order that shows the natural progression that often occurs on the local and regional level.

These steps are never-ending, or cyclical, in nature.  Even if you are attending regional gatherings and visiting other Heathens in your region (Step Six), you are still attempting to attract new Heathen individuals of worth (Step One) and attempting to involved families in your efforts (Step Two), and so on.  Even when we reach the point where the next generation takes the reins (Step Nine), the next generation will still be working on the previous eight steps, maintaining, improving, and building upon the foundation we have built.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Religious Activities at Lightning Across the Plains 2013

Lightning Across the Plains is a heathen event, where heathens from across the Heartland come together to honor our Gods, our Ancestors, and the Vaettir. At LATP tribes, families, and heathens come together for this purpose as part of a larger regional community.

GOD HOF - To the West of our main camping area, there will be a Hof established at Lightning Across the Plains 2013. It will include images and statues of Odin, Thor, and well as areas within the Hof for honoring other Gods and Goddesses. If you have statues or objects you would like included in the Hof throughout the weekend, please bring them along. When you check-in at the registation table, please provide us with those objects. We'll record your name so that we can make sure you get your items back at the end of the weekend. Sacrifices to the Gods can be offered at the Hof, and we will ensure these items are properly sacrificed.

ANCESTOR'S HALL - To the West of our main camping area, we will also set up a hall for the remembrance of our Ancestors.  You can bring artifacts representing and honoring you ancestors to include on the tables in this hall.  There will be chairs in the hall, for quiet contemplation of what we owe our ancestors.  You can write stories or details about your ancestors in the Ancestors Book, which is kept in the hall throughout the event.

OPENING & CLOSING RITUAL - At the start of Lightning Across the Plains there will be an Opening Ritual, declaring grith and frith over the gathering. Tyr will be honored, and the perimeter of the gathering area will be walked in procession, with gifts given to the Vaettir of the land to ensure their goodwill and protection from baneful wights. The help of the children at the gathering will be enlisted, and they will have the honor of distributing gifts to the land wights.

VISITING THE VE - Jotun's Bane Kindred has established an outdoor Ve at Gaea Retreat. It is a cleared circle in the woods, at the roots of a large powerful oak tree named Forn Halr ("old man" in Old Norse).  This is our holy tree, and the Ve has a large stone harrow, a firepit, and benches around its perimeter. It is a beautiful and peaceful place, and it is where our kindred takes our kindred oaths. On Saturday morning we'll lead a walk over to the Ve for those that would like to visit it. And we will honor Forn Halr...and leave offerings for the land wights.

ODIN BLOT - Friday evening after dinner, we'll gather for an Odin Blot led by Fimbul Winter Kindred and other  Heathens from Colorado.  This celebratory event leads directly into Friday night's Folk Symbel.

FOLK SYMBEL - Friday night after dark, we'll gather around a fire and have a Folk Symbel. A horn will be passed, and we will toast the Gods and Goddesses, our Ancestors & Heroes, and then boast of our accomplishments. As a gathered Folk, we'll put our good words and deeds into the Well. If you know a good poem or a song worth singing, please share it with everyone during this Symbel.  While this Symbel is more informal in its structure, every year it is one those events that has a lot of impact on everyone participating.

SATURDAY NIGHT FAINING - After dinner on Saturday night, we'll gather as a Folk and celebrate with a large Faining our relationship with our Elder Kin.

SATURDAY NIGHT HIGH SYMBEL - After the Faining, we will enter the Hall as Tribes, Families, and individual heathens and conduct a High Symbel. At 2012's Lightning Across the Plains, over 150 adults sat in Symbel and spoke good words over the horn. This is a formal event, and if you have garb to wear and are so inclined please wear it. But garb is not required. This is a night for bold and Tru words, gift-giving, and the forming of bonds among the Folk.

THOR FAINING - On Sunday morning, prior to the Heathen Auction, there will be a Thor Faining led by Hridgar Folk Kindred from Texas.  Asa-Thor is honored and asked to grant his protection to everyone in attendance on their journeys home from Lightning Across the Plains.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Workshops at Lightning Across the Plains 2013

At Lightning Across the Plains 2013 on Sept 26-29 there will be a wide variety of workshops, classes, and discussions presented by Heathens from across the Midwest and beyond.  We encourage both adults and teenagers to attend workshops and participate in these discussions.

GROUP SPIRITUALITY - Planning and maintaining the spiritual activities and focus of a Heathen hearth, kindred, or family. Presented by Eric Sjerven.

THE WORTHING PROCESS - A discussion of the formal process of earning one's place and proving one's worth within a Heathen kindred or tribe.  Presented by Gunner Miller.

ASATRU / HEATHENRY 101 - This discussion of our native Folkway, will discuss the worldview and core values of our religion and way of life from a modern tribal point of view.  This workshop will be interesting for those new the Heathenry, but can also be useful for those with more experience.  Presented by Mark Ludwig Stinson.

THE ART OF VIKING WIRE WEAVING - Hands on instruction on how to weave wire into beautiful necklaces and other jewelry.  Presented by Erin Marshall and Ralph Romig.

BLACKSMITHING DEMO - Forges, hammers, anvils, and making cool stuff from iron using your strength and skill.  Presented by Jarnsmidur Kindred

TRACING THE WEB OF WYRD - A practical exercise that illustrates the interconnected nature of shared Wyrd and Orlog. Presented by Eric Sjerven.

STAVERS IN THE HOUSE - A casual gathering for women and men to learn the basics of staving for song and ritual - meet on the wooden stage at the Pavillion. Bring your staff and stick. One of two workshops required in order to perform with Kari in the concert on Saturday Night!  Presented by Kari Tauring.

NORDIC MOVEMENT - Learn about Svict, Tyngde, and Kraft...Weight, Wave and Power in Nordic walking, skiing, and dancing. Kari will teach how the spine stav, the world tree, and the runes manifest in our bodies as we move. All ages workshop, parents and children, elders and youth are all encouraged to attend. We will practice the concepts through Komme Alle, the Bear Hunt Ritual Dance, and other ancient circle dances. The second of two workshops required to perform with Kari in the concert on Saturday Night!  Presented by Kari Tauring.

THE RITUAL OF ACHIEVEMENT - How to use the power of Symbel to get what you want from life.  Symble is a time for community bonding. It is also when we stand right on the edge of "what is becoming!" The ritual as recognized today is a powerful formula to program your subconscious to reach your goals and a way to declare your desires to the Aesir, your ancestors, and friendly wights. Presented by Everte Farnell.

PERSONAL PRACTICES WITHIN HEATHENRY - The workshop will focus on those personal practices that you can perform on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.  Obviously, there is no "correct" way to do these things, but this workshop will give you plenty of ideas and get you thinking.  Presented by Mark Ludwig Stinson.

NORTHERN MAGIC - FORGING THE WILL - This presentation is meant to deconstruct preconceived notions and build a broader understanding of what it is, its application, and the limits of the human potential.  Presented by Matthias Waggener.
A HEATHEN FAMILY'S INTRO TO PREPPING - This workshop will introduce participants to how to prepare their family, hearth, or kindred for whatever emergency hardships may come their way.  Presented by Jason Van Tatenhove.

NORDIC BATHING RITUALS FOR WOMEN - This workshop discuss all the sacred body types in Nordic art and iconography from the Ice Age, Bronze Age, and early Viking Era. Learn new ways of honoring and share your ideas for the excellent hygiene the Northlanders were known for.

WORKING WITH THE WIGHTS - This class will go over some of the basics of working with the Wights, Elves, Trolls, Dwarves, and House Fae. It will focus on the traditions of our northern ancestors, and how to bring these practices into modern heathenry.  Presented by Zanna Israelson.

NATURAL MEDICINE IN MODERN LIFE - An introductory survey on using herbs and natural healing methods in your own home, covering children, pets and adults. We will talk about what herbs and tinctures to keep on hand, how to read labels, where to find fresh herbs and where to look for more information. Bring your questions and notebooks!  Presented by Shawna Jones.

The workshops at LATP are just one of many reasons to attend.  We'll see you there!

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The History of Lightning Across the Plains

Well, it is the fifth Anniversary of Lightning Across the Plains this year. And we thought it would be interesting to share some of the history of the event, how it was started, and some of our expectations five years ago when it began.

Back in October of 2007, before Jotun's Bane Kindred had begun...the future founding members of JBK were meeting for only the third time. The five of us were sitting around a dining room table talking about what sort of group we would like to form. We were discussing how it would be structured, how decisions would be made, and even what the group would be called. That night we decided to call our future kindred "Jotun's Bane Kindred" and we decided that someday we would like to host a regional Heathen gathering that we would call "Lightning Across the Plains. We would not actually hold the first Lightning Across the Plains until two years later, but we knew what we wanted to do and we knew what we wanted to call it.

In 2008, we spoke with a kindred here in the region about the possibility of co-hosting a yearly regional gathering, with the idea that we would rotate hosting the event year to year. The name of this kindred is not really important at this point. But, this other kindred had been around a long time, and we were pretty thrilled that they were interested in cooperating with us and helping to co-host the event. Over time though, they wouldn't really talk to us about any concrete plans. They also seemed to have a vision for the regional event that was very different from our own. The lesson that we learned from this, was the idea that if we wanted to follow our vision for what this regional event could be, we were going to have to begin it and host it ourselves.

In late 2008, our kindred began internal conversations about whether to go ahead and launch Lightning Across the Plains in 2009. It was quite a discussion. There were two schools of thought in the kindred. Some believed that we were ready to host such an event successfully, and that it would be well worth it to get started right away. We were pushing for a September 2009 date for the event, and that meant we had 9 months to plan the event, promote the event, and get everything ready for our first shot at this thing. There was another school of thought in the kindred that we weren't ready. That there was not enough time to get ready. And that perhaps we should delay starting the event for a year or two more. Ultimately, those of us that wanted to push forward and schedule the first LATP for September 2009 were convincing enough, that a kindred consensus formed that we should move forward with our plans.

In planning for the first LATP, we attempted to estimate how many Heathens would attend. We had attended a number of gatherings hosted by other kindreds in the region, and we were forming friendships with other kindreds. So, we added up our friends across the region, and attempted to calculate who would attend. The number we came up with, including members of our own kindred, was about 60 people. We looked at what sort of supplies we would need for 60 people. We decided to provide the evening meal each night of the event to everyone in attendance. We created a tentative schedule for the event, with very specific objectives in mind, including providing plenty of activities for both adults and children. We learned a lot about how to host an event from the kindred gatherings we attended across the Midwest. Volkshof Kindred in Minnesota is one group that we learned a lot from. I'd like to think that this exchange of information and ideas has been very reciprocal over time, but early on it is clear that their annual Heathen event had a lot of influence over how we planned the first LATP. With a plan in hand, we reserved the location for the event, built a website and on-line registration system, and announced the event everywhere we could think to announce it.

LATP was started with $200. We had recently decided that kindred members should pay monthly dues to help pay some of the expenses of our group. Jennifer and I paid our dues in advance for the next year, providing the kindred with the $200 we needed to reserve the Ridge and the Pavilion at Gaea Retreat. That $200 was the initial investment...the seed money that made LATP happen. Rather than the 60 Heathens we were expecting, 120 Heathens showed up that first year. And about 1/3 of the attendees were children...a trend that has continued over the past 5 years. Now, how can any kindred pay for an event with 120 people in attendance with only $200 at the start? It is basic capitalism at work. We required participants to pre-register, and the registration fees were enough to cover nearly everything we needed for the event. The financial health and continuity of the event has always been ensured by a Heathen Auction we hold at LATP.

When we planned the first LATP, we set the registration fees as low as possible. We understand that for many Heathens, money is tight. We did not want registration fees to ever be the reason someone couldn't attend. Over the years, we've never allowed our registration fees to stand in the way of someone attending our event. In five years, we've never increased the cost of registration. A couple of years ago, we added an additional day and night to the event, and created two levels of registration. There is now the full-event registration and the weekend-only registration. That weekend-only registration in 2013 costs exactly the same amount it did in 2009. Every decision we make is aimed at making attendance at the event something affordable for both individuals and families, no matter what financial situation they find themselves in.

Weekend-only registration is $40 for an individual and $60 for a family (of up to five members). Full-event registration is $50 for an individual and $80 for a family registration. And these registration fees include a dinner provided every night you are at the event.

That first year, we were shocked that 120 Heathens attended the event. It was a number that doubled our forecasted numbers. So, we were amazed in 2010 when 240 Heathens attended the second LATP. It was that second year when it really sank in that one of the largest, if not the largest Heathen gathering in the world was right here in the Midwest. It was also in that 2nd year, that other kindreds in the region began helping with certain aspects of the event. Participating kindred volunteer to help prepare the evening meals. Some kindreds help by organizing some of the Fainings/Blots, workshops, and other activities at the event. Some kindreds help with setting up certain areas of camp, or preparing for certain aspects of the event. And this regional assistance that began in 2010, has only expanded and increased over time. It is only through these cooperative efforts, that our relatively small kindred is able to host an event that had 260 participants in 2012.

Another aspect of LATP that we did not fully anticipate when we began in 2009, is the Regional Midwest Thing that is now held at LATP. The name for the "Midwest Thing" came from an annual event hosted by Volkshof Kindred in Minnesota. Volkshof Kindred and Jotun's Bane Kindred are aligned with one another, and we consider each other sister kindreds. We share many of the same goals, and after much discussion it was decided that moving the Midwest Thing to LATP would ensure its accessibility and growth. Volkshof Kindred changed the name of their event to the Northern Folk Gathering, and if you haven't attended this event yet...look into it. It is a great event. The Regional Midwest Thing at LATP brings together the Chieftains, Gothar, and Elders of our various kindreds to discuss the needs of our region, as well as projects and efforts that will have a regional impact. A Lawspeaker is elected each year, but this Lawspeaker is merely an organizer and facilitator, and does not directly impact the autonomy of any participating kindred. The Thing does not interfere with internal kindred matters, but instead focuses on regional issues and goals.

The goals and intentions of LATP have shifted and evolved over the past five years. That first LATP in 2009 was all about bringing Heathens together, in face-to-face interaction. A pretty simple goal, really. We wanted a highly organized event, with plenty of things to do, including workshops and religious activities. We wanted attendees to go home feeling they had more than gotten their money's worth, and looking forward to returning the next year. Over time, LATP has become an event where marriages happen, so that they may be witnessed by all the folk in our region. LATP has become a place where many new kindreds take their kindred oaths, beneath the limbs of Forn Halr, our holy tree. LATP is where ideas are exchanged, friendships and alliances are built, inter-kindred projects are launched, and where the next generation of Heathens play and learn together. The web of friendships and bonds that have formed at LATP and other events in our region strengthen all of our individual efforts. LATP is more important than any one person...or any one kindred. LATP is truly a regional event, where many Heathen individuals, families, and kindreds from across our region gather together in order to honor our Gods and make our ancestors proud.

There are more details that could be added to this brief history. But, I think I've hit the main points I wanted to make. All good Heathens are welcome at LATP. So, please feel welcome to learn more about Lightning Across the Plains and know that you are invited to attend.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods