Saturday, August 25, 2012

Kari Tauring

Hello and Happy Saturday!

I wish to thank Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold for his wonderful interview. I really enjoyed reading your answers and learning more of your faith. Very interesting!
Thank you so much for sharing with us Nicholaj!

Today we have a new interview so please welcome Kari Tauring. Kari is a Heathen and I know you'll enjoy her interview as well!

Here Is Kari Tauring's Introduction:

Kari Tauring is a staff carrier of the Nordic folkways she was raised with in Minnesota where she still lives. She makes her living teaching, writing and performing Nordic roots song, dance and spirituality. A consummate scholar, Ms Tauring holds degrees in philosophy, English, and a Master of Arts in education. Her book, "The Runes: A Human Journey" (2007, became an inter-active iPhone application in 2010 with mp3s of her "runelokk" (rune calling). She pioneered the use of stav and tein (staff and wand) for creating rhythm for rune singing and "wand riding," soul travel and journey through the nine worlds. Her system of training is called "Völva Stav" and she travels widely in the United States and Norway to teach and share her ethnic heritage and spiritual training and to learn how others are expressing this heritage. Her "Völva Stav Manual" (2010, and YouTube videos are available on line and in DVD format.

She received a Folk and Traditional Arts grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board for her Nordic Roots Dance project to incorporate ancient runes and their bodily expressions, and mythic stories and songs into the living tradition of Scandinavian dance in Minnesota stemming from the Immigrant Era. She is perhaps the first "elected völva" in modern times. Healing the Inherited Cultural Grief of the Nordic orlog is the motivating factor in all Ms Tauring does. Remembering, grieving and healing the trauma of being cut off from pre-Christian folk ways is the essence of her performance art, workshops, and private healing sessions.

More can be found at: and

1) What religion do you practice?

I practice the cultural folkway I inherited from my parents here in Minnesota, USA. I honor my ancestors and the land on which I was born with Norwegian, Latvian, Celtic, Germanic, French-Canadian and American songs. I honor the deep ancestors in their deified forms through studying the lore and keeping the ceremonies.

In Minnesota we often call this way, Nordic root practice, old folk ways or living traditions. Some people also adhere to Asatru (re-constructed pre-Christian religion) or Christianity as well as practicing the old folk ways. There is historical precedence for this combination of religion and folk way.

Within my practice I am a völva (Old Norse), staff carrier or wand bearer for my orlog (ancestral, cultural and environmental inheritance) and that of the shared Indo-European tree of cultural roots.
A deep and continuous study of forn sed or old knowledge is the foundation of the volve (Norwegian spelling) path. Wisdom in written sources, archeology, art and artifacts left by our ancestors is essential. My staff carries songs, dances, stories, and learning for children to the elderly. In healing, I specialize in orlog repair and "Inherited Cultural Grief" which always starts with family of origin. I carry spae (prophecy) and work with naturae (nature entities) and runes (the sacred nature magical symbols/alphabet of my heritage).

A modern category for my ethnic practice is "heathenry." As a reclaimed word meaning "Heid bearers" it fits me well. Heid was one of the first human volve. I define "religion" as the consensus-based codification of spiritual practice for the purpose of group identity and cohesiveness. Asatru is a religion (501 c3) based on Heathenry. It means true to the Asa (elder god and goddesses, our spiritual grand parents).

As volve, I remain un-afilliated with any specific religion. I am expected to remain "utgard" outside the community and to be available to everyone in the community for my impartial medicines, teachings, and performances of the songs and dances of our heritage. As a ceremonialist, I am registered by the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin, ordained in 2007 with the Church of Spiritual Humanism.

I was elected volve representing the Midwest Tribes at the Midwest Thing, 2010 and 2011.

2) Are you a convert/revert or were you raised within this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
In ethnic based or core culture spiritualities, it's more a deepening realization, acceptance and emergence into the fullness of spiritual heritage.

I was baptized a Lutheran at 10 days old. Lutheran and Norwegian were inextricably bound in my mother's lineage. I was taught to honor nature and ancestors as we did from pre-Christian times, though growing up, this was also bound to our "Norwegian/Lutheran-ness."

My studies on the path to becoming a volve began in 1987 when I was introduced to the runes in a college linguistics class. The runes provide the patterns to reconnect broken orlog (spiritual inheritance) and I followed it from Lutheran to Catholic to Viking to the Bronze Age to the caves of Mira and back again.

Within the Nordic community, I serve whomever I am called to serve with my teaching.

So there was no "conversion" but rather a gradual deepening of my roots into the traditions in which I was raised. I feel no impulse to reject anything within my orlog, rather to heal and mend it back into the forn sed.

3)Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal)? What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?
There are as many dialects of Heathenry throughout the United States as there were European immigrants. This is a spiritual way that begins in the family of origin. It is simultaneously experiential as re-constructive. How we were raised, life condition, and level of healthy functioning informs what ancient art, writings, and concepts we will look at and how we will interpret them.

The Minnesota protestant ethic, believing that personal relationship to the Divine trumps heirarchy's edicts is reflected in the great diversity of practice in Nordic spirituality here. There are some literalists within Heathenry who take the myths as truth and some who see them as Jungian templates for the Northern psyche.

A volve travels, it is part of the job. So I have been in gatherings all over the United States and Norway. There are many differences in practice but generally, to honor these differences, the host sets up clear rules and good boundaries. At festivals in the Midwest such as the Northern Folk Gathering (MN), Superior Heathen Gathering (MI) and Lightening Across the Plains (KS), these rules and expectations are well laid out.

As with other ethnic based spiritual traditions, there is a continuum. The most liberal will say that all who identify with the culture are welcomed. The most conservative will say that only those of Nordic/Indo-European blood are allowed. It is an on-going debate in the Native-American community where some adhere to "blood quantum" and some ask, what does DNA have to do with culture? Another example is traditional Jewish culture, where you are not a Jew unless your mother was a Jew. Ethnicity is based on mitochondria which is only passed through the mother.

Everyone in raised in Minnesota has been affected by Nordic heritage. 800,000 Norwegians immigrated to this state between 1860 and 1910. Similar numbers of Germans, Swedes, Finns and Irish. There was much intermarriage with Ojibwe in the area and other sharing such as medical practices and social values, reverence for Birch and it's healing, truth telling and ancestor honoring, the things I learned from my grandmother.

Aside from a way of living, some Heathens are called to create community, learn the ancient languages, and aspire to a priestly or ceremonial role within a given community. Others are satisfied by tending their ancestor altar and meet a few times a year for blot (horn ceremony). What ever the range of activity, Norse spirituality and Asatru are integrated into the daily lives of the people through a shared ethic, common observances, and honoring ancestors and nature entities.

4)Within your religion what degree of observance are you ((ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal) ? Why did you choose this degree of observance?
As a volve my personal practice is continuous with serving the community. It is my full time occupation and I am financially supported by my diverse community in this work. My days are filled with research, study and practice of the songs and dances. I follow a 13 moon calendar and participate in ceremony several times a month. This degree of observance is necessary for me to serve the varied population of Nordic people who need a völva.

My view of who is allowed to participate in Nordic ceremony is based solely on the sincerity of the applicant.

I view humanity from Pan Gaea, we have one originating human orlog and it all needs healing.

5)What is the Afterlife within your religion? For example: what happens when a person dies? Are there places for reward/punishment? (such as a Heaven/Hell concept)
Norse tradition believes in a soul complex. There are many Heathen theologians who study and philosophize on it. In my practice I believe that upon death, our mott and megin (bodies and connective energy) returns to Jord, the Earth Mother, to become part of the living return of mott and megin in the universe. Our Hamingja (ancestral soul) returns to the living wyrd of family/tribal orlog called the "hall of our ancestors." Part of our souls contains hugin, munin, hamr, and ferah (thought, memory, and astral body and emotional body). If we have nourished the soul in our life work, this complex stays together and walks the "Hel road" (Hel is the Nordic Goddess of death and life whose name gave Christians their word, hell) to be considered for the deeds done. Hel holds secret to rebirth as she is half crone and half maiden, the dark mysterious. Some will be re-born into their family line to complete an orlog, some will join their hamingja in the halls of their ancestors, some will endure "scyld" payment for ill deeds done in their lives (especially, as our lore tell us, oath breakers). Norse tradition places extreme importance on telling truth and honoring our word. Sobriety and moderation are other values that are essential to keeping our word.

Everyone must pass over the gjoll bridge to Hel's hall unless they have worked intimately with a disr (a deified female entity such as norns and valkyries) or who have dedicated their essences to a particular deity such as Freyja or Odin who can take the soul directly into their custody.

Of course, Christian heaven and hell exist for those who wish to go there and I expect I will meet many ancestors in both places if I continue carrying the staff after death.

6) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
Indo-European tradition is similar to it's Indus root, Hinduism. We believe the individuated soul has lessons for the group/family soul that must be learned. Personally, I have always believed that life and death are very similar, it's all what you make of it. What you strive for in life is what you strive for in death. If I were to die today, I hope that my disr would help me pass Hel's gate.

If I die in my old age, I hope that I would have worked diligently enough to become disr for my family in the nine worlds and continue healing my family orlog as well as the human family web of wyrd.

7) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
It is my heritage. I couldn't authentically be any other way.

8) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
Keep in mind that Norse tradition considers every day to be holy, there is a rune for day - dagaz. In "orthodox" way, I observe the beginning of the new day at sunset as the ancients did. Each kind of work for the day had songs and rituals attached to it. Some of the daily work songs are still sung and adhered to in families of immigrants.

Bringing cows to the summer pasture is an example of traditional work that occurs once a year which was imbued with ceremony. Now, I live in the city of Minneapolis and don't do this traditional work, however, at the spring celebrations, we still sing the cow charms to ensure they will return. This teaches the children about what our ancestors did, valued, and believed and makes a connection to the cosmic cow, Audumbla, who helped create our universe.

Other "once a year" holy days are based on the solar and lunar calendars. Here is another way that I am "orthodox." I keep accurate track of solar and lunar times and celebrate with personal observances - sometimes fasting and out-sitting, sometimes feasting and blot (sacrificial horn ceremony).

Two major times of year that are still kept into the Christian era are Jul (Winter Solstice) and Midsommarsdag (Summer Solstice). Asatruers and Christians come together at these times of year in Minnesota, to observe ancient customs and celebrate our heritage as a community.

Though the horn ceremony was not kept, the ritual of sacred drink has remnants in the ceremonial punch bowls and coffee urns. No gathering of Nordic people is without a component of food and drink.

As a ceremonial representative, I create such celebration events around these times of the year in order to invite the larger community to participate in Nordic tradition. I specialize in the music, dance, and story telling of these times of year and received a grant to help integrate the ancient music and dance with the Immigrant Era music and dance to deepen the understanding of our culture, preserve the traditions of our ancestors, and contribute to the living cultural heritage of Minnesota.

9) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
I have many friends of many faiths. We are brought to friendship through mutual respect for our ways and for what this diversity can teach about the human condition.

10) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
I have done so. It's important for me to understand other faith traditions and cultures as I teach my own. Though in honoring other ways, I do not presume to enter into communion with ways that are not Native to me.

In other ethnic spiritual traditions, I am respected and invited wherever appropriate. In my public ceremonies, all religious and ethnic affiliations are invited.

11) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
Since my spirituality stems from my culture I would reject the imposition of another cultural tradition over me. I reject religious imposition of all kinds.

It is in my Northern European orlog that my ancestors did just this. Historically, Norse people converted to Christianity in order to trade with "Christian Nations" and were forced into it through violence and oppression. This created trauma and grief in the Northern European orlog. This in turn caused Northern Europeans to violently convert others while taking their land and cultures away.

There is still a great deal of pain in the Nordic orlog from being cut off from our indigenous folk practices and core cultural values. It is this pain that I seek to heal in my capacity as volve. Once we identify the source of this pain in ourselves, healthy and mature people do not want to impose this pain on others. They want to heal it.

12) Are women allowed to hold religious office (priest, minister, rabbi, iman etc) in your religion and how do you feel about it?
Historically, women held the highest spiritual office. Völva were staff carrying women. There were some men who followed this path (vitki - wise men) but only women were völva. Men who followed this spiritual practice were considered emasculate, in later times especially. In modern times, there are more men called to this spiritual office and the spectrum of gender identity has become less rigid. I think this is a good thing and more closely models the pre-Viking tribes in the North.

In Asatru, there are positions of office. Gender specificity lies within the jurisdiction and beliefs of individual kindred groups.

13) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?
There might seem to be segregation between the sexes to an outside observer. In historical ceremony, the horn of mead offered by a woman who listens to the oaths, challenges where necessary, and through whose female power the words spoken over the horn are allowed to settle into the well of wyrd created by the group gathered and into the wells of the cosmic tree which connects the universe. In orthodox religion this is a gender specific office.

In more liberal ceremony it is the spirit of the role and connection to the wells of the world tree that is represented. Physical gender has nothing to do with it.

It is common that most chieftains are men. In tradition, this is an elected post and can be non gender specific. Deep in our history, women owned the farms and out buildings and so did not often travel to the Thing (political gathering). Each farmstead held their own ceremonies and did their own ancestral worship. In these modern times, women are often elected chieftain and will travel to Things representing their people.

14) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
As mentioned, I live full time as a volve, traveling widely teaching, performing ceremony, and providing spiritual services to whomever is in need. Because our most ancient doctrines were passed down orally and only written down after Christian conversion, there are no rules about modern concepts such as gay marriage or abortion. Infanticide was practiced among even Christian converts in the Northlands due to limited resources and extreme poverty in many areas. Marriage was about property contracts and had very little to do with divine edict about sexual expression. That is a very modern concept.

My own grandmother, while very much a Lutheran, did not approve of any sort of discrimination. In her words, everything and everyone has a use and purpose in the world or it would not exist. It is up to each individual to find their use and purpose and up to each of us to support the good works of others. This is a Nordic sentiment, especially coming from a culture living so close to the edge with very few weeks in the year to plant and harvest for the long and difficult winters. Every person is valued for the work they are best at.

As relates to abortion, many Nordic people believe that the soul complex develops slowly as the physical body becomes more able to contain it. At the end of the first trimester, the rational capacities are developed and hugin and muni are able to be sustained within the physical entity. This is the quickening. Even in Nordic countries today, first trimester abortion is legal but special dispensation must be given for abortion after the quickening. This is what I teach also.

15) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
 The happiness of my children is my main concern. They will always be connected to their ancestors and their ancestral ways. If their part in our completion of orlog is to blend with another tradition, then that is their job and I hope they do it well.

16) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell? Not applicable (see above...everyone walks the Hel road!)

- I think a lot of people will go to the Christian hell because they think they will. I will certainly want to visit my ancestors in the Christian heaven because that is where they wish to live. My personal relationship with Jesus and integration of Christos energy will allow for this. If I am able, I will go to the Christian hell to help heal ancestors trapped there, if there are any. I hope to earn the responsibility of volve in the afterlife and be made useful to others in their spiritual growth where ever they find themselves in the nine worlds and beyond.

17) Who do you think is not a practicing ----- in your religion and why? ie who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not?
There are some very extreme people such as neo-Nazi's who use Norse mythology to justify a feeling of racist superiority. This is not how my ancestors taught me to believe. I think this extremism comes from the deep sense of self hatred born out of inherited cultural grief and a suffering orlog.

As mentioned above, being cut off from your ethnic, cultural spiritual root through violence creates trauma in the orlog. This ancestral/historical trauma, if left untreated, manifests in all manner of dysfunctions such as depression, survivor guilt, self loathing, alcoholism and drug addiction, child and sexual abuse, racism and other violence. I have learned much about this phenomenon from studying how it manifests in Jewish and Native American cultures and have benefitted greatly from the healing modalities developed for healing in both of these groups.

There are many "some kind of white" people who do not understand that being cut off from their core cultural values and traditions is the source of their dysfunction in modern society. They are constantly looking outside themselves for meaning and deep spiritual connection to the Earth and other humans.

At it's worst, this dysfunction takes on the outward expression of emotionally adolescent and polarizing claims "us against them" and hate-centered action, the root of extremism in any culture suffering with Inherited Grief. Take the recent example of Norwegian, Anders Brevik, so far removed from his deep cultural spirit that his dysfunction festered into a hate crime like nothing Norway has ever experienced in modern times. He is an example of what I call the concentration of inherited cultural grief into an individual who must either be contained and healed or who will explode.

18) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
I have experienced hatred towards my practices only a few times. It's part of being a public figure. I was once "preached against" before coming to a festival in a small town in greater Minnesota. These incidents are born of the great fear of our pre-Christian roots instilled in Nordic people through hundreds of years of Christian oppression. I have only experienced rejection in my own ethnic group as part of the unhealed orlog. Other ethnic spiritual practitioners are very respectful and honoring of me and my practices.

19) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
No. I am uplifted and supported in every way through my spiritual practice. I am invited to teach and heal in as many Lutheran church basements as Heathen gatherings.

20) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
Practicing my cultural traditions deepens my sense of self and purpose and restores my identity as a Nordic-American and a Minnesotan. Knowing that my mission in life is to heal the broken traditions of my heritage propels me, uplifts me, and motivates me every day.

21) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
Nordic people have always believed that our ancestors are born back into our families. Even during the years of immigration to America, when a baby died, they were looked for in spirit and personality in the next baby born. Often the new baby would receive the dead baby's name.

We don't believe that you can come back as a rock or bug...we believe you come back into your human ancestral lineage (though parts of the soul can manifest in animal form). We also believe that we can speak to our ancestors from the grave. This is one of my skill sets as volve, to contact departed ancestors for others. I am often present at baby namings and other occasions to read the orlog of the child, the family, and the community that surrounds her or him.

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