In the Norse myths, Jormungand is known to be the son of Loki and Angurboda. He takes the form of a giant serpent. Tossed into the ocean, he eventually grows so big he outgrows the water and encircles the world. He currently bites his tail, but during Ragnarok he is predicted to release his tail as calamity follows.
This, combined with the fact I spend lots of time in astronomy apps and observing our night skies, has made me wonder if he might just be meant to tie to the visible sight of the milky way in our night skies. Just as the earth we live on (Midgard) rotates daily, and then annually around our sun, our solar system in turn is in motion spinning around our galaxy of the milky way. Every star visible in the night sky is an object that resides within our galaxy. Most of the objects in our spiral galaxy appear like a disc in what is often referred to as the galactic plane.
Something came to my attention these last few days, and I cannot be silent.
Some of you may know the pseudonym Swain Wodening, and others of you may not. He joined the Troth back in the late 1980s, then joined the Winland Rice (a Theodish group) in the early 90s, splintered from that to form Angelseaxisce Ealdriht in the mid 1990s (with Winifred Hodge who in her own right had been quite influential in her time). The Ealdriht would eventually be re-structured and would lead to the founding of Miercinga Theod. So in the 90s and 00s, he was an influential leader and author, especially in the areas of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry and Theodism. His books were well known, and he was on a range of mailing lists and message boards (social media wasn’t really much of a thing yet) within the religious community at large. (I may be a hair off on some of this timing, and I may be missing some nuance of the Theodish structural changes. Regardless this conveys a sense of his place at one time within the community).
Swain happened to live in my general area. He was part of the core members of the local White Sage Kindred, which I would join. White Sage Kindred was not a Theodish group. Some members were also members of a Theod, but most members and those who came to worship were just local heathens. For years I was present at nearly every religious gathering of the Kindred. So I spent quite a bit of time around him in the presence of the rest of the kindred. I learned pysanky from his wife (of the time). I would eventually take his ex-stepson to my work as part of career day. I took a vacation day so I could help a kindred member get to and from an outpatient surgical procedure. So when I say the man is an oathbreaker, nithling, and predator please understand I mean every word of it and the statement comes based out of fact and direct interaction, not rumor-mongering.
I was at a heathen gathering where many Theods and a few others had gathered in Mexia, Texas for a weekend of heathen fellowship. I was in my early 20s and still at university. He was (I think) around 40. I had left the mess hall after dinner to go back to the shared communal bunkhouse cabins to take my medicine before the forthcoming ritual. Everyone else was still at the mess hall (cleaning up from dinner, prepping for the ritual, and/or drinking & socializing). So I was alone as I went through my bag to get my medicine. Suddenly he was there. He had me cornered, and was blocking the exit. He preceded to make advances trying to get me to touch him. Some doubters may say oh it was innocent, or oh you misunderstood things. No, I really didn’t misunderstand the circumstance I had found myself in.
My way was quite intentionally blocked as he stood in the doorway. His hips thrust out to me, as he was trying to get me to feel the fabric of his ritual garb near his crotch. I recall being very much stunned, and shocked. While my brain started to try to figure a way out of the situation. Someone else came in, and I used the distraction to exit that situation as quickly as I could. Informing his spouse when I could get her alone later was one of the most awkward conversations I ever had to initiate. (She would divorce him). And for any idiot that would think oh you must have been dressed provocatively or somehow led him on, no I wasn’t and no I hadn’t. (And shame on those of you who would even think it).
I will (thankfully) never know what would have happened. But categorically it was wrong. (1) He was married, (2) it was unsolicited, and most important of all, (3) it was deplorable behavior for any man, but especially an authority figure. Despite the fear and disgust of the moment, it is nothing compared to some of the far worse things that happened to others.
I have received in confidence knowledge of other reprehensible actions and egregious offenses committed by Swain. These accounts are not mine to share, the story of those persons who suffered pain and abuse at his hands belongs to those victims. They should have the agency of choice to maintain their privacy, or the choice to share their testimony publicly. But I witnessed the very real physical aftereffects of the trauma some of them endured with my own two eyes, nor was I the only one to see it. Even all these years later, I still pray for the victims continued healing, that they may thrive. I also know a few select figures in the community at the time were made aware of some of his worst actions. To protect privacy of those who had been traumatized, certain things weren’t said publicly to the community at large. But there was very much a reason why he seemingly disappears from the community. Behind the scenes the leaders that knew of his ill deeds had begun to force him out at various points throughout the community (and yes that included White Sage Kindred too). He also self-confessed to certain aspects of his foul horrific misdeeds (in a pathetic attempt to victim blame) at his since deleted personal blog.
At some point afterwards he decides to not just leave the religion, but he decides to denounce the Gods, becomes Christian and writes about it under his birth name, Berry Canote. The description of the book, Letting Go to Live with Christ states: “Saddled with a religion that lacked compassion, author Berry Lee Canote finds himself returning to the religion of his childhood.” Sorry, not sorry. No one should have compassion for abusive men and predators. His brother (who published under the pseudonym Eric Wodening) wrote the book “We are Our Deeds” so I find it quite ironic that Berry/Swain has shown us exactly who he is by his deeds: a nithling.
So what prompted this distasteful trip down memory lane? He has, under his birth name, joined some Asatru and Heathenry groups on Facebook (and it would not surprise me if he’s found other groups to join as well elsewhere) in the last few days. For the moment he appears to be lurking like the cockroach he is, but this indicates to me that he may be returning to our religion. While he might personally want to return to the gods, that’s a discussion between him and the gods. But he should never, ever, ever be in a position of any authority or mentorship in our religious community ever again. Because no one who has publicly denounced the gods has the right to be in a position of religious leadership, but just as importantly because he has proven himself abusive.
I have publicly held my tongue for many years because I didn’t want to burden the innocent victims who might be re-traumatized by the triggering of old wounds by my words, especially when he was gone from our community. My story is so slight a thing in comparison to the much greater harm endured by those other victims. But I also won’t let that nithling come back into our community without speaking out either.
I swear upon the Gods and my ancestors that every word spoken/written here is true.