Thoughts on Orthopsychy

“Could you share your thoughts/opinions on the concept of “UPG,” and especially how it relates to orthopsychy? Do you see these ideas as similar, overlapping, very different?”

Let’s start with some definitions, since clear communication is always important.

I personally define UPG as unverifiable personal gnosis. To me, UPG is that you know or have experienced that is simply not verifiable by its very nature. I consider it similar (perhaps even synonymous) to one of the religious concepts of Mystery – those things we know or see or experience that are virtually or completely ineffable in human words and to human reasoning. I am well aware that this definition of UPG is vastly different from the several standard ones, but you asked my opinions, and these are them.

To define orthopsychy is a bit harder. It’s a term that doesn’t exist in any dictionary, or in any common religious parlance (though it should and I very strongly advocate for it becoming so). The literal definition is “right-spirited”, “right-souled”, or “right-lived”, and I use it in a couple of ways. The first is to describe the concept of the great pattern of existence, where everything is interconnected and every being, human or not, living or not, animate or not, has a unique and vital place in that pattern. This is similar, though a little different*, from what PIE religion terms Xártus.

The second is to describe what that place actually is, what some (such as Plotkin) have termed a person’s “soul-image” – an image or story or idea or symbol that fully encapsulates and defines each individual’s concept of wholeness, of connection, of being fully integrated into the wider cosmos, of their unique gifts that they have to bring to others. Mine is the image of Raven spinning tales in a twilight glen. Someone else might be a woman singing the true songs of her soul, or a serpent with iridescent scales remaking the world, or any other of the innumerable soul-images that make up the pattern from beginning to end.

These could be classified as “unified orthopsychy” and “individual orthopsychy,” or outer and inner, or however you want to call it.

There is a third type of orthopsychy, and that is “local” or “communal” orthopsychy. Given Waincraft’s intense focus on bioregional animism and diversity, this local orthopsychy serves as an intermediary between the other two forms, shaping each person’s experiences, metaphors, images and gnoses with the patterns that are unique to each geographic bioregion. Thus, at the level of local orthopsychy, the greater pattern takes on the attributes, flavor, history, etc. of the local landscape and ecosystems. This is the level at which experiences begin to differ between practitioners, and the Powers take on the attributes and personalities that a hard polytheist would define as individual distinct beings.

Now, to answer the question – How do I think UPG relates to orthopsychy?

My definition of UPG is fairly similar to both the first and second types of orthopsychy, in that it is extremely symbolic and relevant to the greater pattern as well as the individual person.

The standard definition would probably fall between the second and third kinds, in that it is knowledge gained by an individual that is not shared by others’ experiences. The reasons for that can be because it is only relevant to that person’s soul and needs, or because the nature of their local landscape is necessarily different from that of someone living in a different biome, and thus their experiences and gnoses will also necessarily differ, because they’re using different symbol sets.

For the end, though, I think UPG as a term is only as useful as an agreed upon qualifier that is used by someone to classify their own paradigms. I am firmly against the practice of labeling someone else’s practices, experiences, etc. as UPG in a derogatory, belittling or diminishing sense.


*For example, there is no distinction in orthopsychy between creation and destruction and the Powers and beings that embody those forces. There is no such thing as an Outsider in the Waincraft cosmology, because it is all a part of the pattern, and the powers of destruction and chaos are as vital and inherent to the cosmos as those of creation and order, represented in the figures of Wildness and Abundance, who are twins, and thus share one soul.


Altars and Shrines in a Waincraft style

“How important are altars/shrines to you and your practice of Waincraft? Also, what’s a good example of what could be on a general Waincraft altar/shrine? I know the general answer will probably be that it depends on one’s orthopsychy, but I’m more curious about YOUR opinion.”

Personally, altars and shrines don’t hold a lot of importance in my practice. I have them, but they’re not the main focus, as I am not devotionally-bent, and believe the best altar and shrine is the world around us.

The majority of the items on my altars/shrines are for magical purposes, and most don’t really have anything to do specifically with Waincraft. I do have a statue of Night and the Divine Twins (re-purposed from my CR days) with a circle of stones in front, a space for photos of my family dead, and a space for imagery (including a raven plushie that speaks :3) as remembrance of my membership and initiation into the Raven Tribe, but that is the extent of any specific Waincraft elements to altars and shrines for me.

I think part of it is that altars and shrines, at least as they are commonly used in paganism, are seen as way to commune with and focus worship on beings that are mostly considered purely spirit with little to no presence in the world as it is, or only a partial presence*, whereas Waincraft holds the position that all divinity and spirit is immanent within multiple realms, and thus to commune with and worship Night or Sky or Ocean or Life, all you need to do is be in it, look at it, spend time with it. The Relations are just as divine as gods and humans, and you don’t need to have an altar to Salamander to commune with it – go play by the creek, and Salamander will be there with you. So, in a sense, altars and shrines separate from the world around us is somewhat superfluous.

However, that does not mean that standalone or separate altars and shrines have no place in Waincraft. For example, if one does magical workings with various of the Beings, it can be useful to set up an altar or shrine to concentrate energy, sacralise space, and provide a focal point for will and connection. Or, one could set up a shrine as memory for times when going outside or spending time in the world around are not available options for whatever reason, or a small portable shrine for when you travel outside the limits of your personal bioregion to serve as connection and grounding support.

For instances like that, I would probably suggest some or all of the following: some imagery, perhaps with strong emotional symbolism, of a few of the Powers you most connect with (I would say any altar should include at least Night, since she is the beginning of everything, anything else is personal preference); some imagery or symbols of a Tribe if you have been contacted by/come in contact with one to represent and memorialize that relationship; a place for house-bound Fair Folk with a corresponding place outside for wild ones; a space for the Dead, to remember and commune with if you cannot visit them personally (as is often the case in the US with our culture of mobility); and maybe some figurines or images of Relations and Spirits that you have connected with in your locale, not as sole communion or focal points of worship, but as memory – similar to sharing a photo with family or friends. You should still strive to connect and commune with them where they actually are (and barring pets, that will not be inside)

Of course, all of that is for inside altars. Outside altars would be a bit more practical, at least with regards to those Beings that do not have tactile forms (the Fair Folk, the Dead, the Tribes, some of the Powers), but not everyone has the space to set up on personal land, and public land tends to frown on overt religious displays. That is when you should go to the Beings where they are – stand in the sunlight and receive Zir healing; wander through dark Night’s embrace; share an intimate moment with the creek, touching and being touched; sing with each individual raindrop and shout with each flash of lightning; hold a philosophical debate with the robins, and attend the owl parliament; meditate in the stillness of the mountain’s shadow, melding your quick thoughts with their slower ones and feeling the passage of eons as a single lifetime.

I hope that begins to answer your question?


*For an example, a Pagan prominent in the blogosphere opines that there is no point in worshiping nature, only the spirit within or behind it without allowing for the possibility that the spirit is not separate from the physical in natural persons and phenomena any more than your spirit and soul are “separate” from your body. There are some beings in the Waincraft cosmology that are considered to be mostly non-physical (the Tribes and Fair Folk, to be exact) in that they cannot be sensed with the physical senses, but they still have natural and physical associations and attachments.

What is Waincraft?

Could you explain Waincraft, please? Like, what is it?

Well the short version is that Waincraft is a New Religious Movement (NRM) derived from the melding between neopaganism, animism, bioregionalism and depth psychology, focusing on a portable, adaptable cosmology that still carries meaning and relevance across multiple landscapes and biomes, as well as helping create an ecocentric worldview (à la Plotkin) for the future by encouraging people to find and manifest their unique gifts and deepest calling – the power, identity and actions that make their soul sing, which I have termed orthopsychy as a counter to the typical religious foci on orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

The cosmology features 6 distinct-ish (there’s a great deal of overlap in practice) categories of other-than-human beings that inhabit existence with us – the Powers, the Tribes, the Fair Folk, the Relations, the Elemental or Nature Spirits, and the Dead.

The Powers is a pantheon of variably 24 personified natural and/or conceptual phenomena (variable because some biomes do not contain certain elements/forces, others may need more or different than the “standard” 24) that, by and large, can also be found in most or all European/IE mythologies and occasionally in neighboring non-IE ones (Finno-Ugric, Magyar, Basque, Kartvelian, frex), mostly because they’re common across the world (i.e., the sun shines everywhere, night comes everywhere, etc., not counting the polar extremes during the solstices).

The Tribes are denizens of the Otherworld that represent and embody specific mysteries of life and development – e.g., Birth, Memory, Initiation, Magic, etc. Waincraft works with 23 of these Tribes, each associated with a particular animal or animal type. (For those interested, yes, these are the same Tribes as those of the Vanir/Eshnahai as elicudated here.*). Their main focus as far as the [Waincraft Training Program] goes, to which I’ve gotten agreements for, is “adopting” participants during phase 2 to help them with finding and embodying their orthopsychy; however, for general practitioners, they are still approachable and well worth the time of cultivating a relationship with even outside of the program.

The Fair Folk are the fairies, pixies, tomte/nissen, brownies, domovoi, elves, dwarves, daoine sidhe, dusii, leszi, vilas, nymphs, satyrs, etc. – those non-corporeal beings that primarily or exclusively reside in the “physical” world but aren’t the spirits of animals, plants, or elemental forces. This category is one of the blurriest, as some of the fair folk are actually Tribes-people, others are larger elementals, and some are active Dead.

The Relations are the bodies and spirits of all the animals, plants, fungi, protozoans, etc., that inhabit or have inhabited the physical world. Basically, if it’s on the Eukaryote family tree, it’s a Relation.

The Elemental or Nature spirits are the personification of actual individual elemental/non-“living” objects – raindrops and swamps and oceans, flames and lightning and volcanoes, breezes and winds and tornadoes, stones and metals and mountains, etc.

The Dead are, of course, those in the Homo family tree that are no longer corporeal, from H. habilis to the approximately 14k who died today and every day.

There is a cosmological orientation of 14 – 7 physical directions and their corresponding mirrors in the Otherworld. Above, Below, North, South, East, West and Center. Each of the cosmological beings is associated with one of the directions – Above is the sky, clouds and mountains, while the Upperworld is associated with the Powers, who represent and embody knowledge, archetype and unities; East is the closest to Above, and is the realm of the Elemental Spirits; South follows the descending spiral and is the realm of the Relations; Below is under the ground, caves, tunnels, all existence that cannot be seen from the surface, and the Underworld is the realm of the Dead; West is the closest to Below, and is the realm of the Tribes, who represent and embody mysteries, wisdom and diversity; North continues the ascent as a double helix, and is the realm of the Fair Folk, intermediaries between Spirit and Soul. And Center, between and touching all, is humanity, because this is a model and cosmology created by humans for humans and human development.

There are only two “worlds” to speak of, this world and the Otherworld. Both are divided into three realms of Under, Upper, Middle or Sea, Sky, and Soil Land (see what I did there? :P)

Religious observances will vary based on both the needs of the practitioner and the cycle of the local bioregion, but the basic solar and lunar events are encouraged (solstices, equinoctes, and dark and full moons). Following common myths, Waincraft typically places the year-shift at the winter solstice, but it could equally be at the vernal or autumnal equinox, summer solstice, or one of the cross-quarter days should those be included (Feast of the Dead is a good candidate). The book included all of the “standard” Wheel of the Year observances with non-culture-specific names, as well as a twelve-day observance for the winter solstice, a Feast of the Dead mirror on May Eve/Walpurgisnacht, and an observance for the Fair Folk which can take place at any point throughout the year (the book places it in late autumn based off the Heathen Álfablót)

The primary focus in regular practice should be on integrating physical and spiritual realities, re-enchanting and re-animating the world. Learn the name and personality of your local mountain, forest, rivers, desert, cliffs, etc. Leave out offerings for the spirits who take the form of ants. Know the signs of the seasons. Be able to converse with the tree in your backyard. Pay reverence to the sun as zie goes through the dance of the year. Do the same for the moon in zir dance. Make new myths about the rain and the sun and the mountains and the birds and the rabbits, based on how they actually act in your bioregion. Praise the light of dawn and embrace the comfort of night. The passage of time is a god, the same god who dances with the bears and has an overflowing cornucopia – time is wealth and abundance. Learn where your food comes from, your water, your air. From what direction the storm? What stars dance solemnly above, and what is the pattern of their dance? How is Hare’s mystery of Renewal echoed in the rabbits in springtime? How is Serpent’s wisdom and magic echoed in a garter snake, or a cobra, or an iguana? How is the Otherworld mirrored in the one that surrounds you, and how does it mirror in turn? What role do you have to play in the dance that goes on around you? Everything is connected, but how have you removed yourself or been removed from the wider pattern?


*Note: Waincraft is not associated or affiliated with Vanatru or Heathenry, but it does share this particular group of spirits with certain strains of Vanatru and Vanic practice.