Greetings, and welcome back to Wyrd Words. Keeping the Thor in Thursdays, here on Agora!
So you know that overused trope of how all new parents are completely exhausted because babies don’t let them sleep ever? Yeah, that’s not just a ‘T.V.’ trope. Week three and this has already become a war of attrition. The enemy is both cunning and devious, using a number of advanced tactical maneuvers like ‘crying’, ‘being adorable’, and ‘extreme sleep deprivation’. This unstoppable engine of war demands unconditional surrender in the form of food and snuggles.
Sadly, life does not stop just because you’re getting your butt kicked by an infant. We still have chores to do, money to earn, and deadlines to meet. Even now, I’m writing this article with little Helena strapped to my chest in a Moby. (Which is this bizarre cloth wrap that makes me feel simultaneously like a hipster and a desert nomad.) Life has a way giving not the slightest whit if you’re running off of so few hours of sleep that you can barely remember your own name, the world still expects you to fulfill your obligations. Which is how my wife and I ended up hosting a celebration this weekend.
In the Jewish tradition baby boys receive a ceremonial naming (called a bris) on the eighth day after their birth, welcoming them into the community. It’s only within the past forty years or so that the tradition of hosting a baby naming ceremony for girls became common practice. It’s easy to see why this newer tradition would be incredibly important to a family full of Jewish feminists. Thus, despite my wife and I’s shared desire to hide in a cave and sleep FOREVER, we’re going to be throwing a party and announcing Helena’s Hebrew name instead.
The interesting part came when I was asked to write the blessing for my daughter’s ceremony. While a girl’s baby-naming isn’t a firmly scripted as a traditional bris, it is still usually a distinctly religious ceremony. If this were just some informal gathering of our own design, it would likely be more interfaith flavored, but this is an expressly Jewish ceremony. I had to find a way to express my hopes, dreams, and values without going against the spirit of the tradition. (I can say my Hail-Odin’s whenever I like, but it’s bad form to do it in the middle of somebody else’s religious ceremony!)
I’ve written before about the juggling act of being in an interfaith relationship. Navigating through a religious gathering that may or may not approve of your personal beliefs can feel a bit like tiptoeing through a minefield some days. Toss in the added challenge of juggling a baby at the same time, and the only think your act is missing is a tight rope! I stalled for days while I tried to figure out what to write for this blessing, but oddly enough it took stumbling across one of the first blog articles I ever wrote to remind me that I solved this dilemma two years ago.
I’m going to keep my word and raise our children to be Jewish; however I intend to raise children that any Heathen would be proud of! I intend for my children to grow up understanding frith, and the unwavering support and loyalty of kith and kin. I will teach them honorable conduct, regardless of whether or not modern society recognizes the value of honor. I will teach them to be self reliant, and to never stop questioning. I will teach them the value of holding their word as their bond, and the rewards of perseverance. My children may or may not ever choose to honor the Aesir and the Vanir. They may devote their lives to Judaism, following their mother into the Rabbinate. If I can instill these values, these core tenants of my belief, then I will state with pride that I have taught my children all I have to offer.
-Wyrd Wiles: 2013
I love the old legends, and find inspiration in the stories of the gods. However, it’s the VALUES of Heathenry that really mean the most in my every day life. My marriage functions because those are values my wife and I share, if for entirely different reasons. Two years and a baby have happened since I wrote that first article, but that much hasn’t changed. Once I remembered that, the blessing seemed like the most obvious thing in the world.
Helena, we’re all here today to welcome you into the family! You are the newest chapter in a thousand stories, and we’re all excited to see what tales you’ll be weaving into the family legend. You come from a large and diverse tribe, with more experiences and wisdom to share than any one person could ever hope to master. Learn from them, and become the best part of all of us.
Learn from the strength and ambition of your fore-mothers,
who have overcome so many obstacles, and continue to drive this family forward to greater things.
Learn from the patience and resolve of your fore-fathers
many of whom have come from hard places, and learned to find happiness in the little things.
May you become a shining beacon of what this family has become.
Burn brightly, little torch.
And share your light with the world.