This is a post which I wrote a little while ago and meant to post earlier on this blog before other life events needed to be addressed first. This post addresses a large part of why I identify as a Norse pagan.
Originally written September 18, 2014
I was born disabled. This ultimately makes my experience of disability different from someone with an acquired illness–although I have those as well. My experience of disability is that it is woven into my character. Being disabled means that I see things from a vantage point that others may not see. It often means that I also see darkness from people who would not be so openly hostile to me if they didn’t feel in the right making certain value judgments about me.
I’ve been drawn to paganism since I was a teenager, and realized only in the last few years that I’ve been watched over by the Norse pantheon for many years before that. I would say, now, from what I am aware of, that Odin has been popping his head in on me for a little under 25 years now. Only recently did I really make a connection between my disability pride and the disability pride that Odin displays. If we are to take the myths at face value, Odin chose disability in order to gain magic.
Tyr wears his disability, the loss of one arm, as a sign of victory in battle.
And these are things which mirrors my experience.
I am a soft polytheist. Odin has gone by more than one name while I have known him, but his energy remains the same to me. It does not mean that I don’t value all of the lore, but rather that I believe, and have been taught that lore goes in cycles, and so does the genesis of the gods. The energy of Spirit, however, does not change much across incarnations. I relate the best to Thor, Tyr, and Odin, but I know they are aspects of Spirit. Still, they are like family to me, people who I can call out to at any hour of the night in any circumstances and I feel them come close and offer comfort. They do not withhold anything because I am “imperfect.” In fact, the way that my life is structured allows me more time to learn from them, grow with them, and love them.
When you are disabled, you are somewhat outside of other experiences, but at the same time, people who are not disabled are outside of your experience. I find the most comfort among my peers, and I am not frightened away by flaws (though that is not the same thing as not having standards. My standards revolve largely around respect.) We can all teach each other, and I believe that the gods are perfect, yet perfect in their experience of imperfection as well.
Disability forces you to confront imperfection, but if I am here on the earth, there is perfection in the fact that I am here. I do not feel judged by the gods, merely given a different starting point and different challenges to meet when interacting with people. But I do at times feel judged by communities of people. I am not here to transcend disability, but rather, develop a spirituality which embraces exactly the challenges I was given. There is no judgment of me for this from spirit. Rather, spirit embraces me as someone committed to living a spiritual truth, and confronting ableism, or anti-disability value judgments, within spiritual communities. I am not afraid to do this. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that my disability has to be factored into my life. Physical limits are real and can only be ignored for so long. But physical limits do not translate into spiritual limits. In fact, they may be spiritual choices. Most certainly, I wouldn’t have quite the vantage point that I do about Odin and Tyr, giving us the closeness that I feel with them (and others) without my disability.