As part of my monastic path of service and hospitality, I make the Hermitage available by appointment for visitors. I host contemplative retreats and in-house library reading and study days.
About the work I do here:
Because the main focus of my service work at the Hermitage is to support the development of future Norse polytheist religious orders and monasteries, I give priority scheduling to folks who are interested in collaborative efforts to develop organized monastic traditions appropriate for polytheists interested in the pre-Christian religious and folk traditions of Northern Europe (i.e. Heathenry, Norse Paganism, Forn Sed, etc.) However, I’m happy to host folks from other traditions, and for other reasons, too!
The privately owned live/work studio condo in downtown Portland where I host visitors must, of necessity, serve double duty – it’s both my personal living space and a space for my work in hospitality and community service. Modern revived polytheism is in its infancy, and except for the Maetreum of Cybele (the only legal Pagan convent in the US), we don’t have any polytheist monasteries yet, let alone ones with provisions for religious hermits. So I don’t actually live in seclusion. However, Those I serve have tasked me with doing what I can to make inroads toward the day when established polytheist monasteries will exist. So I do the best I can, within the constraints of my situation, to live as I would if I had taken a religious vow to live and serve as a Sister in a hermitage affiliated with a recognized polytheist church or monastery.
I live by the hands of the deities and spirits in all that I do. Although I am keeping an eye out for a long-term permanent home for the Hermitage that will provide for greater separation between my personal living spaces and the spaces I use for community service work, my assignment for now is to do the work right where I am, in the heart of the city, and to make the best of the limitations of the space I inhabit.
Information and guidelines for visitors:
The space is very small. Claustrophobics take note: you may find the Hermitage a little confining, especially if you’re used to a larger space with lots of room to move around, and are planning to visit for a full weekend. It’s a 550 sq. ft. open floor plan studio. I use subdued mood lighting, dark sun-blocking curtains, and other methods to keep it as cave-like as I can get it. Given that it’s on the seventh floor of a modern brick building, that is quite a challenge! I’ve found that the sense of being cocooned inside the contours of the space – away from the prying eyes of the outside world – greatly facilitates incubation, deep listening, meditation, and creative flow, but it presents its challenges as well. If you think you may feel too confined, I recommend booking a day visit first to get a sense of your reaction, before booking an overnighter or weekend visit.
The space is always kept organized and clean. Order is important in this space, as it is for monasteries of other religions. Being well-organized is the only way I can fit a library of 900+ books, a Black Tent Temple space, and several shrines into the same space I use to live, write, and run my business. Clutter and disorganization are drags on my attention, and interfere with the flow of my practice. If you love organized spaces as much as I do, great! You’re likely to feel right at home. If you prefer a more free-form environment, you probably won’t want to stay for long.
Welcoming space for the marginalized: The Hermitage has always been, and will always be, a welcoming space for LGBTQIA+ folks of all genders and ethnicities. I will use the correct applicable pronouns and religious forms of address for you (e.g., sister, brother, sibling, gydja, gothi, etc.) as soon as I am made aware of them. I am a queer-identified cis woman myself (pronouns she/her), and I will stand with you against bigotry in all forms.
I cannot host tobacco smokers or those who use fragranced personal care products. This is due to an invisible disability: I am chemically sensitive and have allergic reactions to smoke and fragrances, so I can’t allow them at the Hermitage without compromising my health.
I’ll repeat that for emphasis, since I’d hate to have you put in the effort to get here and then be turned away at the door! I cannot host visitors who smoke cigarettes or wear synthetic fragrances. This includes not only perfumes and colognes, but also clothes washed in conventional scented laundry detergents such as Tide, and scented personal care products such as hair sprays. However, if you are an MCS sufferer, please note that I do use aromatics with no additives: handmade cedarwood incense and pure essential oils made from conifers such as spruce, fir, and pine. I’m happy to provide fragrance-free personal care items during your visit – shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent, and hand soap. If you’re in doubt about a product you use, please ask about it in advance.
Parking: I recommend that people use Tri-Met public transit to and from the Hermitage whenever possible, as parking can be difficult to find. There is no guest parking for the building, and even street spots alongside the building require a city-issued permit, which I do not have. For those who drive, there is a garage one block away where visitors can park for $2.50 per hour, $10 for a weekday, or $6 for a full weekend. (You do have to hike from the parking lot up a hill to reach my building, however, so please factor that into your planning.) You may have to go back and feed the parking meters if you pay by the hour. So please plan carefully if you’re going to drive.
Accessibility: Unfortunately, the Hermitage is not wheelchair-accessible at all. I’m told that due to the age of the building, no ADA modifications are required. Stairs are the only way to get into and out of the building. If you can’t climb stairs, you won’t be able to get in. I apologize, but I have tried all avenues to change this, and have had no luck. I am well aware that if I were to need a wheelchair one day myself, I’d have no choice but to move out. Other questions about accessibility? Please contact me – I’m happy to answer them. If I’m unfamiliar with your disability, I will gladly take time to educate myself about how to improve accessibility, and will do my best to accommodate your specific needs.
Food and drink: Meals during your time here will be your own responsibility, though if you are a good cook, I’d be happy to make arrangements to barter my services in exchange for meal-sharing, as I am not much of a cook at all! There are stores, restaurants, and a weekly year-round farmers’ market located within walking distance of the Hermitage, and you are free to use my kitchen, refrigerator, and dishwasher for preparing meals. Tea service (western-style) is provided for all visitors – I have a full tea cabinet and I keep a Zojirushi hot water boiler going all day long so my guests can enjoy hot tea whenever they wish. If you prefer coffee, please bring your own! I can provide a French press for brewing.
Gift work: This is monastic hospitality service work done on a pay-what-you-want or gift basis. No fees are charged. Barter exchanges are welcome, and gifts are also gratefully accepted, in keeping with an ethic of reciprocity. This allows me to accommodate a diverse range of budgets and still meet my own needs.
In her wonderful article “Life Support Systems”, Fjothr Lokakvan writes:
“Resilience is strengthened through reciprocity, maintaining healthy networks of relationships in which members support each other (not necessarily directly; things can be passed on, or through, one member to another). Reciprocity can be viewed as a form of love-in-action – it does not require strong affection for other members of the network, but a desire for the overall network to live and thrive. Capitalism…perverts the practice of reciprocity by making gift-giving an excessive obligation…”
Since my aim is to help polytheist Heathen & Pagan networks to thrive and improve their resilience, I gratefully accept support from visitors, as this support allows me to further my mission of monastic service: creating space for leisure and sacred endarkenment. At the same time, I try to create an environment free of coercion and excessive obligation, to the extent that is possible within an extreme capitalist culture like that of the US. Suggestions on how I can improve are welcome.
“…it is clear that for the old Heathens generosity and hospitality were fundamental practices that benefitted both the individual and the collective.”
~ Heimlich A. Laguz, “Thoughts on Generosity“
Support: As with all the services I provide, I invite those who want to and can afford it to support the Hermitage by making a contribution via PayPal.
Other gifts: If you’d like to offer me a material object as a gift, please check in advance to see if I’ll be able to use it or have a place for it. The Hermitage is quite full, and I don’t keep anything in my home that I don’t love and/or use regularly. If I don’t use and/or appreciate something, I don’t keep it – I donate or gift it to someone who can make better use of it than I can. Gifts I receive may be passed along to others.
Amazon wish list: Another way to support the Hermitage is by buying books for the in-house library from my Amazon wish list. Bonus: this is a gift that directly benefits future visitors!
Other questions? I’m happy to answer them. Contact me via e-mail:
shrine.of.skadi AT gmail dot com
Photo credit: Ilana Hamilton of Blackthorn Photography