1. Holy crap! Do you realize it’s been over two years since we’ve talked? Seriously. Can you forgive me?
Of course. We should both be grateful that we have such busy, interesting lives. It is good to connect with you and the Magical Buffet again, though.
2. We first talked back in 2009 when “Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan” came out and again in 2010 when you talked about your work with Taren Martin in creating The Martin Rune Deck. Since then there has been a whole other book, “Wyrdworking: The Path of a Saxon Sorcerer”. Can you tell my readers a little about it?
Just as “Travels Through Middle Earth” was my book on Saxon Pagan spirituality, “Wyrdworking” is a book about Anglo-Saxon magic. I had originally intended it to be two books – one discussing the Anglo-Saxon runes, and one discussing other magic modalities – but early on I realized the topics would be more salable if I combined them. Most of the first half of the book explores rune lore. Most of the rune sets sold today are the 24 symbols of the Elder Futhark, which were popularized by authors like Ralph Blum and Edred Thorsson. “Wyrdworking” examines early English runes, known as the Futhorc, which include nine additional symbols.
The second half of the book looks at other magical practices (including incantations, herb magic and divination) as these were practiced in England. We can reconstruct many of these practices from what we know of folk magic and Old English healing and fertility charms. But “Wyrdworking” is not an abstract study of Saxon sorcery; it is a practical guide. The book explains how to use runes both for divination and active magic, how to design effective chants, how to prepare herbal potions and how to choose the tools and supplies you would need for your own magic.
3. I asked this back in ’09, but for those just tuning in you follow the path of a Saxon Pagan. For my readers who may be curious, how does this differ from Celtic or Nordic paths?
The Celtic Britons had some influence on Saxon praxis due to their proximity, but for the most part they were an entirely different culture with their own gods, their own language, and so on. As for the Norse, there is much more similarity. The Saxons were, after all, Germanic people just as the Norse were. The Saxons had a goddess of the spring, Eostre or Eastre, who was unknown to the Norse. Conversely, the Norse had Loki. (I think we have the better deal here.) Saxons also tend to be VERY tribal. Ásatrúar often form kindreds, but it tends to be perceived as more of an option rather than a fundamental aspect of the religion. Obviously there are some solitary Saxon Pagans, but most of us feel there is something incomplete if we cannot worship with an inhíred (tribe or family).
4. Back in 2009 I asked, “What challenges do you see facing the Pagan community? How can the community resolve those issues?”
And you said, “I think the biggest challenge we face – and we have been challenged by this for as long as I’ve been Pagan – is a tendency to believe in One True Path. Face it, most of us are still first-generation Pagans, and part of our baggage is the One Way Syndrome. I believe the central defining quality of Paganism is, or should be, an acceptance that there are many gods and many paths. My way is the best way for me. It may not be the best way for you. Superficially we all seem to agree with this, but on other levels I constantly see people behaving towards others in ugly, judgmental ways.”
Do you still feel that way, or have other issues moved to the forefront?
No, I still think this is our most crippling challenge. Just this past year a woman who has contributed to her branch of Paganism for decades came under heavy fire because of who she would and would not allow into a ritual. I was not there when the incident occurred, and I do not dispute that it could have been handled more diplomatically, but I was very disappointed by the self-righteous zealots who screamed about how “wrong” this woman was for her choice of who she felt comfortable worshiping with.
In my own Saxon e-group, the most common problem that I or one of the other moderators must address is one person telling another that he or she is doing something “wrong”. I do not expect people to agree about everything, but sometimes it gets so negative.
5. On Facebook you occasionally talk about your chickens, and I generally find your chicken status updates so amusing. Can you share with us a little bit about deciding to have chickens, getting started, and now having them?
Oh, chickens are not new for us. We had a small flock when we lived in Missouri. Only then we were in a more rural area, so our flock was larger and always included a rooster. (Who I always named “Stu”, to keep in mind where he would eventually wind up.) Now, in Pennsylvania, we are suburbanites with a tiny flock of three Rhode Island Red hens. If you have never had a fresh egg, you have never really tasted an egg. The factory-farmed eggs you buy at the supermarket are not “fresh” by any rational definition of that word. I missed fresh eggs, and chickens are really so easy to keep. We have a parakeet in the living room, and three hens in a coop in the back garden, and caring for the hens is no more time consuming than caring for the parakeet.
You do want a sturdy coop, because EVERYBODY loves the taste of chicken. Dogs, hawks, opossums and raccoons will all cheerfully devour your birds. Otherwise there is not a lot of work involved, and most people would be surprised to know that a lot of cities allow a family to keep two or three hens. Sometimes there are specific rules, such as how far the coop has to be from other residences, so it is important to find out what the law says in your own city. Roosters are almost always illegal in urban areas. Because, you know, the pastoral sound of a rooster crowing is so much more annoying than ambulance sirens, gun shots and screaming children.
6. Speaking of Facebook, how do you feel about the rise of social media? A lot of authors I know love the access to readers it allows but curse it as a horrible time sink.
I like Facebook. It isn’t a time sink for me, but then I do not feel that I have to respond to everything. If somebody has a reasonable question I answer it succinctly, but I really don’t spend that much time on social networks. Also, a lot of the same questions are asked again and again, and do not take long to answer. I don’t “cut and paste”, but typing a response is very quick if I’ve answered the same question a dozen times before.
I do think we are living in a very exciting era. Not only can people connect more directly with me, but I have been able to connect with authors (like Paul Huson and Louise Huebner) whose books I read 35-40 years ago.
7. You present at and attend a lot of festivals and events, what are some of your favorites?
I’m going to have to say the Heartland Pagan Festival, but I’m extremely biased. Heartland is held every year in – well, in the heartland, of course – in Kansas. In the 90’s I was actively involved with the group that puts on the festival, so it will always have a special place in my heart.
In recent years I have been very impressed with the Earth Warriors Festival held every autumn in Ohio. Earth Warriors tends to have more of a focus than many festivals, which gives it a sense of purpose and direction that is often lacking. And they have the best meal plan ever.
8. Now that spring/summer season is gearing up, are there any events that you already know you’ll be attending and/or speaking at?
I plan to attend Heartland this May, although just as a participant this year. In June I will be speaking at the Steel Valley Pagan Festival in Ohio. It is a single day event, and this is their first year, but the organizer is very enthusiastic. In August I will be speaking at Summerland, an ADF festival held near Cincinnati. Then in September I’ll be speaking again at the Earth Warriors festival, also in Ohio.
It isn’t a festival as such, but I will be one of the speakers at Pittsburgh’s local Pagan Pride Day celebration.
9. What’s next? Do you have any projects my readers can look forward to?
I’m currently working on a book about living as a Pagan. “What to do after the ritual is over.” The book is filled with suggested activities to help a person live more fully with an earth-centered spirituality. And, yes, keeping chickens is among those many activities. I don’t want to say much more than this, because I’ve learned that I stop writing whenever I start talking about what I’m writing. It sort of dissipates my energy.
I’m hoping that Llewellyn will pick up this project. If they are not interested I will market it elsewhere, but the people I have worked with have been very respectful of my writing and helpful in promoting my books.
10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question!
How long is it going to be before we do this again? Two years is too long!
I don’t know, I hadn’t meant for it to be two years this time! We should definitely do this when your next book about living as a Pagan is coming out, or when you have some really good chicken stories.
About Alaric Albertsson:
Alaric is the author of “Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan” and “Wyrdworking: The Path of a Saxon Sorcerer”, both published by Llewellyn Worldwide. Alaric first embraced polytheism in the summer of 1971, and has never looked back! Over the past four decades his personal spiritual practice has developed as a synthesis of Anglo-Saxon tradition, country beliefs, herbal studies and rune lore. For Alaric, a reverence for the earth and respect for ancestral and indigenous spirits are fundamental defining qualities of Pagan religion.
During the 70’s, living in the Ozark mountains, Alaric had the opportunity to talk with rural people with traditional customs – moon lore, weather lore, healing superstitions – passed on for generations. During this time he was also influenced by spiritist traditions. He eventually moved to Kansas City, where he served as Vice President and on the Board of Directors for the Heartland Spiritual Alliance during the 1990’s. In 2001, on the day of the winter solstice, Alaric left the Midwest and moved to Pennsylvania, where he currently resides.
Alaric and his partner Scott co-founded the Saxon inhíred Earendel in 2003. Like all inhírdas, Earendel is an extended family and not open to the public, but its members strive to foster a greater public awareness and appreciation of Pagan Saxon traditions in southwestern Pennsylvania. As an author, speaker and drýmann, Alaric himself travels around the United States giving presentations and classes throughout the year.
You can learn more at www.alaricalbertsson.com.