[This issue, we sit down for a Fast Five with Galina Krasskova. A poet and an artist, Krasskova here discusses her new chapbook, Nine for Odin; the prayer cards for various Deities which she has published; her series of polytheist coloring books; and her many future projects.]
Eternal Haunted Summer: You recently released Nine for Odin, a poetry chapbook. How did you decide which poems to include, and were they created specifically for this chapbook?
Galina Krasskova: There is a story behind those poems. My adopted mom died in 2010. She and I were very, very close and her death was something that I don’t think even now I’ve managed to process. Grief can crush a person and without proper guidance, it can also have devastating effects on one’s spiritual life. That happened to me. When she died, it was like she took part of me with her and I didn’t know how to get it back, how to walk in the land of the living again, or even if I wanted to (in many cases I still don’t know the how, but at least I know I must). One of the effects of that was an almost complete severing of my devotional relationship with Odin.
Oh, I still honored Him but there was hatred and anger and a deep, deep aversive bitterness in my heart that slowly but surely led to the calcification of that relationship. I’d do my job, but wanted nothing else to do with Him. In fact, one of the hardest things about fighting my way back was how much I felt a complete aversion to His Presence and to Loki’s too. There was damage and it wasn’t that He was turning away from me – far from it, in fact—but I was pushing Him as far away as I could, fiercely. All I could think of was “You let my mother die.” Nothing else mattered, not any knowledge or wisdom I’d gleaned as a shaman or priest, just the reality of the loss, which felt like a betrayal.
I was almost seven years before I realized how badly I’d allowed that to affect my spirituality. There were other Gods Who patiently helped me get over myself and the day came when I realized how badly I had wronged my God, Odin. He was holding the space for both of us, never wavering, never turning away from me and I was basically calling Him a bastard and flipping him off…metaphorically. I was behaving like an untaught child. (Had I any sense, had I not been so crippled with grief, I would and should have sought out spiritual counseling and grief counseling after my mother died. That would have transformed this entire experience because grief doesn’t just go away. It nests in your soul and roots in your bones).
I realized that the connection that was once an open, rushing river of Presence I’d purposely torn down. His side was open, mine was most egregiously blocked and I needed to cleanse that out, to go to Him and restore. It was funny too, what really brought me to my knees. As part of a pedagogy seminar, I was allowed to audit an Old English course one day. On that day the class was reading Alfred’s sermon on Job. Fucking Job. It was exactly what I needed to hear and I realized how much hubris and arrogance had come to infest my soul and how I needed to humble myself before my God and ask forgiveness – not for my grief, but for how I had savaged our relationship in its wake, over and over again. So I did, and then – now—there is the long road back.
One of the ways that I often process my devotional relationships and the intense emotions they raise is through poetry. Since Odin is a God of poetic inspiration I thought that would be a useful tool to repair and heal my end of our relationship. It had been in the past quite helpful in rooting myself in Him and His mysteries. I found though that I was so knotted up and damaged there that I could not reach Him with my own words. My husband told me about this form of poetry called a ‘cento,’ where each line was taken from someone else’s work. I thought it was strange and sat down one night to experiment and the first Cento in this book came rushing out. Dionysos helped tremendously throughout this process. I found that while I couldn’t yet approach Odin with my own words, I could do so through the words of others. Cento is so strange – it’s a very architectural way of working but each line becomes a word knot, a doorway to the original poem adding shading and nuance to the finished product, which is yours alone. I was hooked. I decided that I’d write nine of them and by Cento three I realized I was telling the story of grief for my Mom overtaking me and of having to fight my way back to my God. I wasn’t sure how many there would be – nine or eighteen. (Nine is Odin’s sacred number). I didn’t know how quickly I’d progress through the story but by Cento seven there was a turn (what in poetry, especially in sonnets is called a ‘vertu’) and I realized somewhere along the way I’d made peace with Odin and we were again moving into a proper pattern and I was able to end the collection with nine.
I must say though, I’m fascinated by the power of this form and I may in time write more of them.
EHS: Your prayer card series has proven very popular with the larger polytheist community. Was there are particular card for which finding the right artwork and prayer was especially difficult? Are there Deities you want to create prayer cards for, but the art and writing have just not yet materialized?
GK: The writing is actually less problematic than the art. In a pinch, I can almost always write the prayer myself. That being said, people have been great about stepping up and offering prayers for the cards. I really appreciate that because I would always rather have a prayer by a devotee of the Deity in question, than my own mediocre efforts.
Likewise, I’m working with an absolutely amazing group of artists, amazing each and every one, and sometimes I’m blown away by their talent. Where problems occur it is completely a matter of my having a very, very specific idea of what a Deity should look like – which is ridiculous. They’re Gods, They can and do reveal Themselves as They wish! But sometimes I have an idea of how I want the God or Goddess to look and the artist has a different idea and then I need to get over myself. LOL.
The biggest problem is fundraising. Each card from start to finished printed product can cost anywhere from $100 to $450 depending on the artist. For the first two years of the project, I was paying that out of pocket. Now I’ve put out over seventy cards – do the math! It’s just not sustainable. So I’ve had to turn to the community for fundraising for each card and sometimes it doesn’t happen. I have people contacting me asking for cards for specific Deities and I hate to say, “if you want it, you have to pay for it, at least in large part,” but that’s where it’s going. Fortunately, of late, people have been more and more invested in the project and I’ve been able to commission more cards.
I want to keep the project going as long as I can. When our traditions were originally destroyed by the march of monotheism across the world, our holy places and images: statues, icons, god-poles, etc. were also destroyed. I think it is very important to bring as many images of our Gods into the world as we can. It’s reclaiming space, not just in the physical world but in our minds and hearts. In this way, our artists are doing tremendously sacred work: their images become windows through which the Gods may reach. We’re de-colonizing our minds from the poison of monotheism. It’s crucial work: to fill our world with Gods and Their images once more, crucial work.
I’ve also seen the impact that having, perhaps for the first time in one’s devotional life, an image of one’s Gods can do. It transforms. There is power in having such touchstones. So anyway, needless to say, I’m glad that others are as excited about the project as I am. I moved it to my Etsy shop WyrdCuriosities because it was easier to manage orders.
EHS: You have released two coloring books, one for the Greek pantheon and one for the Norse pantheon, with gorgeous artwork by Grace D. Palmer. Will there be more coloring books in the future, and, if so, can you give us a hint as to which pantheon/s will be featured?
GK: While I will certainly reprint the Greek and the Norse coloring books, I have no intention at the moment of offering anymore. The set up costs were extraordinary. I’ve had requests for an Egyptian one, but unless someone is willing to foot the $2300 the commissioned line drawings would cost, it’s not going to happen any time soon. The interest in the existing coloring books just isn’t there to justify it.
EHS: The chapbook, prayer cards, and coloring books are available through your etsy shop. What do you think of etsy’s policy changes in regard to “metaphysical” material? Has it affected your shop in any way?
GK: It hasn’t been a problem for me yet, but I opened my etsy shop well after those policies came into being. I didn’t have to change anything. I do think the policies are crap. They’re obviously discriminatory (I see plenty of Christian junk on etsy, including prayers and such being offered, which is as metaphysical as you can get) and it does bother me to see the blind privileging of monotheistic faiths. So far, however, it’s not been an issue for what I sell. I don’t offer divination through etsy (people may contact me directly if interested in a session at firstname.lastname@example.org), so it’s a nonissue for me. What bothers me more is that etsy now allows third party sellers and such, I believe, so it’s no longer a site that best serves the small, individual artist. I wish there was a better alternative but so far, there isn’t. That being said, there are some wonderful artists using etsy and it’s probably the most intuitive platform available.
EHS: What other projects are you working on?
GK: Too many to count. I have a devotional to Hermes that’s been in the works for over a year. I’m hoping to get that finished this summer. I’m also slowly working on a book of Heathen theology, a compilation of theological essays about various points of the lore. That one is going to take longer and it’ll probably be at least a year if not more before it’s available. I’m also just starting work on a book about cultus deorum -— Roman polytheism -— sort of a how-to book to get a newcomer started. I practice both Heathenry and cultus deorum myself.
I also just transferred out of the Classics program at my university and into Medieval Studies so there will at some point be a thesis in my future.
Of course, there’s also Walking the Worlds journal, which is published twice a year (at each solstice). That’s an ongoing project and I’m really pleased with how it’s taken off. Plus I write for polytheist.com and I’ve just started writing for hinduhumanrights.info, so I’ve a pretty full dance card.