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Archive for the ‘Hela’ Category

If I had to pick, I would say I operate in a Vanic-influenced Anglo-Saxon hearth. My rituals draw on Anglo-Saxon symbolism most strongly, but I work primarily with the Vanir/Wanes – the gods and goddesses of the land and fertility, using their Anglo-Saxon names where they are attested (So (usually) Ing Frea and Freo, but also Njord and Nerthus and Frau Holda. And Hela, who kind of is her own category.). It’s an interesting little mishmash, but it suits me well, and seems to work well in practice. There is considerably more information about Scandinavian paganism in particular, but since they’re essentially sister cultures, I don’t mind borrowing too much. I try to stick to Anglo-Saxon myths where they exist, and branch out from there.

That said, I also do a lot that is “ADF” flavored. I love a lot of the ADF language – Fire and Well and Sacred Tree, flow and flame and grow in me, that kind of stuff. Generic and Neopagan, I am drawn to the poetry because it is easy to remember and it rhymes. (Simple, I know, but it works.) My everyday practice isn’t particularly hearth flavored anymore – it revolves more around fire/well/tree and less around specific hearth practices. I’d like to build more hearth flavor into that practice, but it feels odd to combine the two. I need to find a happy medium. (Perhaps just adding runes would be a good start.) Right now I do Anglo-Saxon “influenced” ADF rituals for the high days, and my personal practice is much more Neopagan Druidry. I’m a bit conflicted about this, because … well, I’m not sure why. There’s no rules against doing this (at least in my personal practice) and if it’s working, hey, why not? I would like to do more personal rituals and not just queue them up for the high days though.

I can’t really explain why I’m so drawn to the Anglo-Saxon hearth over just going with the (better documented, more common, more easily accessible) Norse/Scandinavian one, but for some reason the Anglo-Saxons just clicked with me. I blame Alaric Albertsson’s Travels through Middle Earth book primarily, as it resonated so strongly I pretty much immediately started working in an Anglo-Saxon paradigm.

But I still definitely am a modern Pagan and Druid – I have never been and will (probably) never be a reconstructionist. I’m too firmly rooted in working in a modern context for that. I don’t pretend to be reconstructing anything, only using the history and lore as a way to inform and deepen my practice. So I’m a bit of a hybrid, and that seems to be working out just fine for me.

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Hail to you, Hela, Grandmother Death.
Silent your wisdom, yours my last breath.
Reading our wyrd in cobwebs and lace,
Ancestor´s hostess, grant us your grace.

Hail to you, Hela, ender of strife.
Half fair, half rotten, mirror of life.
Cool is your comfort, equal for all.
Highways and alleys end in your hall.

Hail to you, Hela, Lady of Dust.
All wyrd will ever go as it must.
Carving our way on the edge of a knife,
Éljúðnir´s Mistress, teach us of life.

© Michaela Macha

This poem is in the Common Domain and may be freely distributed provided it remains unchanged, including copyright notice and this License.

I have an interesting relationship with Hela. To be quite honest, I’m still uncomfortable with the whole practice, but I figure it’s better to do something uncomfortable than ignore the blatant requests of a goddess, especially one like Hela.

Some background.

Last year, as I was first starting to work with the runes (and while I was still working with the Futhark, before I’d started working with the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc), I started having a run on Hagalaz. It didn’t make sense – I wasn’t going through a period of change or destruction, my life was actually pretty stable, my relationship was good, my job was fairly consistent, my health was stable. Nothing that would suggest my repeatedly drawing a rune of destruction, especially in the context of blessings received.

So I turned to someone whose runework and seidhr I trust – Laure Beth Lynch – and asked her to look into the matter at one of her open seidhr sessions. She got a clear response back from Hela Herself that She was looking for me, trying to get my attention, and that I needed to pay more attention to my dead. There was no ambiguity to the response Beth got, and even a hint of “Well, everything else I tried didn’t get your attention, so I figured this might work”. Not exactly a comfortable response, especially for someone to whom work with the dead does NOT come naturally or easily. (I’ve always loved learning about my ancestors, but I had, at the time, only a cursory practice of actually honoring them.)

I have since deepened my work with my Idesa (and the Prairie Godmothers), and joined ADF’s new Order of the Dead, which focuses on work with death, dying, and the ancestors. My work there is still pretty new (the order has only existed for about a month), but it wasn’t something I hesitated about at all – I saw the call go out on ADF’s email list, and immediately knew I needed to be there.

I am still building my practice though, and building what can loosely be called “shrines” for my ancestors. I make offerings and burn candles to my Idesa on my stovetop (my “hearth”), and I have a special bookshelf where I keep all my family histories and stories, which I am fortunate enough to have excellent documentation for, thanks to my mom, my paternal uncle, and my husband’s maternal aunt – all of whom have done extensive research into our families.

For someone who is deepening a practice with the dead, I am not overly fond of skulls or skeletons or other typical “death” imagery, so I’m still searching for things to keep on my altar as a representation of the mighty dead. I also don’t have an altar representation for Hela herself yet, though I am actively looking for one. That said, when I make offerings to the Kindreds, I call out Hela by name, alongside Ing Frea, as they are the two deities I work most closely with. (I am aware of the irony of the two of them together – Ing Frea as a god of fertility and peace, the god of the harvest – who is sacrificed and spends time in Hela’s realm every year. They are an odd pair, but who am I to argue?)

It all still feels very new and strange though – I’ve never had a fascination with the dead, death, or the otherworld, and I’ve never been into the typical “death” imagery or séances or anything like that. I have no ESP, I can’t feel or talk to the dead. (Yet?) I have very few “ancestors” in the sense of people I have known who have died (I would probably count four people on that list, and only two are family members).

I can’t deny that the calling is there, but it’s taking a pretty big step out of my comfort zone to approach it with the kind of dedication that a practice like this deserves. Still, I am not willing to ignore such a blatant message that it’s something I need to do, so I am doing it.

Hail to you, Hela, Grandmother Death.

 

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