Posts Tagged ‘anglo saxon’


This course is the first of two intended to provide an introduction to the practice of liturgical writing. Topics covered in this first course are primarily foundational: the purposes of ritual; the use of source materials; and the nature and forms of heightened language (or, for the purposes of this course, poetics) applied to writing liturgical material, such as prayers.

This course also assumes a familiarity with the ADF order of ritual and completion of the ADF Dedicant Program. While much of the content of this study guide is couched in general terms, the student will be asked to apply those general concepts to a consideration of how they are exemplified by ADF liturgical practices and having those practices in mind while reading the material will be helpful.

Course Objectives

  • Students will analyze and discuss a variety of purposes fulfilled by the ADF Core Order of Ritual.
  • Students will identify techniques utilized within effective poetic expression and begin to incorporate these techniques within their liturgical writing.
  • Students will be able to create a prayer appropriate for use in high day ritual and select an appropriate offering to accompany the prayer.

1.    Describe how ADF’s order of ritual expresses the following concepts: “Serving the people”; “Reaffirming shared beliefs”; “Reestablishing the cosmic order”; “Building enthusiasm”. (Min. 500 words)

  “Serving the People”

ADF’s Core Order of Ritual is a type of service in and of itself, for it was designed to be a shared, public Neopagan liturgy. Isaac’s vision was one where ADF groves held rituals in public, for their entire communities, in a way that was normal and affirming to all who might come and worship the kindreds with us. Public ritual is a service that groves provide, and a service that ADF clergy provides at festivals, to the various communities that they serve and are a part of.  This service allows people to strengthen their ties to the kindreds and to their gods and spirits through offerings and receiving the blessings, and it facilitates the building of social structures as well, which are ever more and more important in today’s often frantic society.

“Reaffirming Shared Beliefs”

The first steps of the Core Order are about reaffirming shared beliefs. We process into the space together, often in song, as a show of solidarity of spirit and purpose. Each member is purified, but then we create the group mind, often through the Two Powers meditation, establishing our connection to each other, to the powers of the Earth and Sky, and maintaining our sacred space within the worlds. We then state our purpose for being in ritual, a step that is both about reaffirming our shared purpose and beliefs and that teaches newcomers what to expect in the ritual. These steps form the “set up” at the beginning of any Core Order ritual and provide a shared system of belief and a feeling of community that pervades the rest of the ritual. As each offering is made, the community responds in kind – “Accept this offering” and “Accept this sacrifice” – as each offering is both personal and communal. Our shared beliefs are upheld when we make offerings together. (Newburg)

“Reestablishing the cosmic order”

The cosmic order is maintained through our ritual actions each time we do ritual, in the “middle” of the setup of a Core Order ritual, after the affirmation of shared beliefs and the introductory parts of the ritual.

While world-creating aspects of liturgy “are sometimes present just to commemorate the creation… more often they are also meant to orient the ritual participants to other parts of the universe and to all the other beings in it” (Bonewits 31). Bonewits says that the first step of this part of the ritual is “defining a ritual center,” which ADF does through creating the sacred center in the Fire, the Well, and the Tree, as well as the three “worlds” of Land, Sea, and Sky. This requires creating a “center of the world” (Eliade, in Bonewits 31), which is the place where the deities created everything and a place where you can have access to anywhere in the various worlds. This is usually represented by the axis mundi – the Tree in ADF’s cosmology, which can be represented by any number of axes, including Yggdrasil, Irminsul, Omphalos, and Bile.

ADF then completes this sacred center by opening up a gate, with the aid of a Gatekeeper spirit (or spirits), through which all of the energy of the ritual will flow, both inwards to the other realms and then back outwards to the participants in the ritual.

“Building Enthusiasm”

Building enthusiasm is the creation of energy that is raised for the benefit of the spirit or spirits that are the central focus of the ritual itself. This preliminary power raising can be done by “singing or chanting, by a sacred dance, or by formal evocations or invocations” (Bonewits 33). In ADF ritual this is typically done through a combination of song and evocative prayers, where calls are made and energy is raised through offerings that are poured into the fire. Drama is key here, and a boring evocation with no poetry or ‘magic’ will often fall flat, where the same or similar evocation given with oomph and a flair for the poetry of the situation can be truly inspiring. The peak of this power-raising is the Prayer of Sacrifice, where all of the good intent, offerings, energy, love, and praise of the community is focused through the gates in a big final push to the gathered spirits (Newburg).

ADF ritual also builds another kind of enthusiasm – the enthusiasm for community and shared experience. Often if a group is feeling flat or dull, performing ritual together can spark life and energy back into the core of the group. This enthusiasm is built through our ritual structures, and brings us back full circle on this question, as it feeds back into the idea of serving the people.


2.    Create a prayer of praise, offering, or thanksgiving to a deity modeled on a mythic, folkloric, or other literary source of at least 75 words. Include a summary of what your sources were and how you utilized them (summary at least 150 words).

Hail Frey, Lord of the fields!
Beautiful lord of the Vanir
Golden of hair as the fields of wheat and corn,
Bringing riches of heart and hearth to the folk.

We hail you with the grain that springs forth
And falls again to nourish us.
We hail you, mighty boar in flight,
Lord of Frith that is bound to land,
You who can warm the cold heart,
Warrior without a weapon
Who give your prosperity to all of your kin,
You guide and sustain your descendants.

Lord Ing, Providing god,
God of the bees and the barley,
You who make the grain spring forth,
We sacrifice this, our first loaf,  to you
As the grains are sacrificed for us each year.

I have an ever deepening relationship with Frey, and have since I was working on my Mental Discipline requirement for my Dedicant work in 2012. Over the years, I’ve collected a number of books about him, and read all of his myths multiple times, but I’ve found that in popular culture this multi-faceted deity gets flattened to only be about fertility.  Ann Sheffield, in her Frey: God of the World, summarizes the kennings that are used to describe Frey in the Poetic and Prose Eddas. I consulted this list extensively. Some of the kennings that Sheffield quotes include:

  • Most renowned, most glorious among gods
  • Harvest-god, god of prosperity
  • Foremost, best of gods
  • Beli’s bane
  • Bright
  • Sacrifice-priest
  • Freyja’s brother
  • Battle-wise
  • Wealth-giver
  • (one who) guides, governs the people
  • People’s ruler of the gods
  • Fair, beautiful
  • Wise
  • Temple-priest
  • Chieftain
  • Mighty
  • Providing
  • Shining
  • Njordh’s son
  • Vanir-god
  • God of the world
  • Weaponless, unarmed

These kennings and bynames come from the Skirnismal, Gylfaginning, Ynglinga Saga, Grimnismal, Skaldskaparmal sections of the Poetic and Prose Eddas, by Snorri Sturlusun, or poets that he quotes (Sheffield 2-3). I noted that most of these references are to Frey as a giver of wealth and prosperity, and thus made that the focus of this prayer of offering, which references as well the first-loaves that were a common offering around this time of year (early August). I also make reference to Gullinbursti – Frey’s boar of golden bristles – which also comes from the Skaldskaparmal section of the Prose Edda. The reference to Bee and Barley is a reference to Beyla and Byggvir, Frey’s servants as quoted in the Lokasenna portion of the Prose Edda. The reference to warming the cold heart is to the story in Skirnismal where Frey sends his servant Skirnir to woo the Jotun-maid Gerda, who then becomes his wife.


3.    Discuss a poem of at least eight lines as to its use of poetic elements (as defined by Watkins): formulaics, metrics, and stylistics. Pay particular attention to use of meter and phonetic devices, such as rhyme and alliteration. (Minimum 100 words beyond the poem itself.)

Riddle Forty-three:

Ic wat indryhtne              aethelum deorne
giest in geardum,            tham se grimma ne maeg
hungor scethan                 ne se hata thurst,
yldo ne adle.                  Gif him arlice
esne thenath,               se the agan sceal
on tham sithfate,             hy gesunde aet ham
findath witode him         wiste ond blisse,
cnosles unrim,               care, gif se esne
his hlaforde                hyreth yfle,
frean on fore.                  Ne wile forth wesan
brothor othrum;              him thate bam scetheth
thonne hy from bearme          begen hweorfath
anre magan                       ellorfuse,
moddor on sweostor.    Mon, se the wille,
cythe cynewordum        hu se Cuma hatte,
edtha se esne,                 the ic her ymb sprice.

(Porter 74)

I know of a lofty stranger
in the yards, beloved by noblemen,
whom sharp hunger cannot harm,
nor hot thirst, old age or sickness.

If the servant serves him kindly,
who must go away on that journey —
they will find at home, certain
and unharmed, happiness
and a hot meal, countless children.
But sorrow, if the servants
obeys his lord poorly,
his master along their way.

Brother does not fear brother,
who injures them both,
when they both depart, eager for yonder
from the lap of a single kinsman,
mother and sister.

Let the one who wishes to
name this stranger in familiar words,
or else the servant,
who I’m talking about here.


John Porter calls the Anglo Saxon riddles a collection of “lyric poems”, and defines these riddles as “metaphor, transformation and analogy, poetic perception, verbal play, language under creative imagination, ‘making it new’” (Porter 7). These poems are the essence of Old English poetry, and provide classic examples of the highest valued portions of their poetic forms – primarily alliteration and rhythmic forms. I have included both the Anglo-Saxon original and a readable translation for the analysis here, since it’s hard to analyze alliteration in a translation.

Formulaics is the use of repeated words and phrases, sometimes across languages, which serve as a poetic cue to the reader and to the poet (Watkins 12-19). While Watkins primarily compares the Vedic and Greek poetry for shared words and phrases that share syntax and meaning, the Old English literature is not discussed – perhaps because by the time it was written down it had branched so far from the original languages as to only share formulas with closer, sister-languages such as Old Norse and other Germanic languages.

Even so, this riddle is an exercise in poetic formulas from top to bottom, and – in fact – is a sort of poetic formula by its very nature, being that a riddle is in some ways an elaborate kenning for a greater topic. As well, there are formulaic pieces within the riddle as well, the most prominent of which is part of the key to solving the riddle. John Porter says that the answer to this riddle is “the body and the soul” (the stranger and the servant). Thus would the “single kinsman, mother and sister” be the earth itself (Porter 135). The oral traditions of poetry that Watkins discusses were incredibly successful thanks to these formulas, and the Anglo-Saxon language is no exception. There is very little written in Anglo-Saxon, and what we do have was written post-conversion.

Metrics is the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in poetic forms, as well as the use of pauses, or caesura, mid-line (Watkins 19-21). The basic pattern of the lines in Riddle Forty-three is two half lines that are connected by alliteration (consonants with consonants, vowels with vowels), where the alliterated words have more stress. Each line includes a caesura mid-line.

Stylistics is all of the other linguistic features that distinguish poetry in a language, like alliteration, parallel structure, simile and metaphor, rhyme, repetition, and others (Watkins 21-27). As is typical of Old English poetry, there is no rhyme scheme in this 16 line riddle – and in fact there is no rhyme scheme in any of the riddles, which vary dramatically in length. Alliteration, however, there is in plenty – giest, geardum, grimma, maeg (line 2), his, hlaforde, hyreth (line 9), bearme, begen (line 12). The greater style of all of the riddles is one of extended metaphor – the subject of the riddle is compared to or described as many things in an attempt to get the listener to correctly guess the riddle’s subject.


4.    Create a prayer suitable for the main offering of a High Day rite which includes invocation of at least one deity suitable to the occasion, description of the offering and its suitability to the occasion, and the purpose of the offering, totaling at least 100 words. Any stage directions necessary for performance of the offering should be included.

This invocation was made to Sunna at Nine Waves’ Midsummer ritual in 2016 and 2017.

Radiant Sunna, whose rays wash the land in light,
All nature vibrates with your energies
And the Earth is bathed with warmth and life
Fire of sky and air, your brightness draws us forth.
You are called ever-glow, day-star, and all-bright seen
Daughter of Mundilfari, you mark our days,
And with your brother you tell the time for us

Shine brightly upon us, Sunna,
On this the feast of your strength and speed
Your longest journey is today,
Let your light shine upon the fields in our hearts and minds
And may the harvest grow strong and tall there
Let your light shine upon the land around us
And may the harvest grow strong and tall there

May your blessing fall on our homes and all the crops we have sown
Until the time of harvest draws near.

Shining Sunna, accept our sacrifice!

(Throw sunflowers into the fire.)


Works Consulted

–. Anglo-Saxon Riddles. Trans John Porter. Little Downham, Ely, Cambs: Anglo-Saxon Books, 2003. Print.

Bonewits, Isaac. Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals that Work. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2007. Print.

Dickins, Bruce. Runic and Heroic Poems. London: Cambridge University Press, 1915. Print.

Hostetter, Dr. Aaron K. “Exeter Book Riddles.” Rutgers University. Web. 1 August 2017.

Newburg, Brandon. “Ancient Symbols, Modern Rites: A Core Order of Ritual Tutorial for Ár nDraíocht Féin.” ADF. Web. 1 August 2017. <https://www.adf.org/members/training/dedicant-path/articles/coortutorial/index.html&gt;.

–. The Poetic Edda. Trans. Carolyne Larrington. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Print.

–. The Poetic Edda. Trans. Lee M Hollander. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1990. Print.

Sheffield, Ann Groa. Frey: God of the World. Lulu.com, 2007. Print.

Sturluson, Snorri. Edda. Trans. Anthony Faulkes. Clarendon, VT: Everyman Press, 1995.

Watkins, Calvert. How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Print.


Read Full Post »

Sometimes, when you get asked to do something, you don’t always know the outcome, but you know that the answer is to say yes. So I did. We’ll see what shakes out from that decision.

On more seasonal subjects, my Lammas sacrifice was accepted – I drew the rune “Wynn” (Joy) when I made the offering. I hope that I can keep to it, but like any practice, I expect that it will be something that I struggle with and possibly will fail at sometimes. But I hope that it will be of benefit to me, and that my addition to the sacrifice will aid in the overall sacrifice of the year.

This year, the grove ritual was to Ing Frea, and I got to give the main offering, which was particularly nice. I celebrated at home as well, using a variation of the Core Order Ritual that I use in my monthly and weekly rituals. Obviously instead of the main offering being to the earth mother and gatekeeper, though, this ritual was for Ing Frea. I didn’t actually write down the invitation I used, choosing instead to speak improvisationally. It came out well, I think.

The omens for the ritual were as follows:

  • Have my offerings been accepted: Daeg – The Day – Light which shines upon everyone equally, with blessing and bounty.
  • What blessings do the ancestors offer me: Mann – Mankind – The ancestors offer community, which is the delight of community, and give us each other for strength. My voice was joined with all those who raised their voices to the Kindreds tonight, and our Wyrd was strengthened as a result.
  • What blessings do the nature spirits offer me: Ur – the aurochs – The nature spirits offer strength, the strength that charges, bull-headed towards an obstacle and forces its way through. It is stubborn strength and a hard fought victory.
  • What blessings do the deities offer me: Ior – the beaver – flexibility, adaptability. The beaver lives in the water, but forages on the land, and thus must I be willing to adapt to our situations to find the blessings and the victory to triumph.

I also, as was the custom for the Anglo-Saxons, baked cornbread, blessed it with the waters from the ritual, and placed it in the four corners of my home as a spell of protection for the next year. My “Loaf Fest” isn’t from the wheat harvest, because I don’t keep wheat flour in my home (celiac), but it still felt right to do. I’ve done a variation on this as part of my personal practice for several years now, and it always feels like “August” is really here when I do it.

My personal omen draw for the week is as follows:

  • Nyd – a need – I typically draw this rune in one of two ways – either there is a need that is unmet, and that I must seek to meet it, or a warning of impending hardship that can be avoided through careful work and planning.
  • Peordh – a dice cup/unknown – The rune poem reference in this one is of companions playing dice in a hall; a friendly game of chance. It is the rune of Luck, and of unknown outcomes, but often has positive connotations when I see it. If anything, it’s a surprise coming my way that I can’t really plan for.
  • Os – a mouth/a god – I typically read this rune as “wise speech”, as it is Woden’s rune, and cunning and cleverness are his hallmarks. It can also mean conversations, and inspiration.

I’ll be honest, this reading is a little troubling – I’m not usually one for cunning or wise speech – I’m a pretty straightforward person. And the runes of Need and Luck in the same reading… could mean things are about to go pear shaped. Or perhaps I’ll have a need and it will be met in an unexpected way.

Read Full Post »

Nothing new on the report this week, just continuing to try to slow down and practice. I’m seriously considering adding a full core order into my weekly practice, having enjoyed the one I did last week so much.

Right now I feel like the world is pulling me deeply into my divination practice – I’ve been doing readings of all kinds (tarot, playing cards, runes) for all kinds of people. Several a week at this point. Which is good, I always enjoy the practice, and it’s good for me to stay in regular work with all the various systems I use, but it takes up a lot of time and can be a big drain on my already strained energy levels.

I have started tracking my omens that I draw anytime I do a personal ritual that includes a rune draw. I think it will be interesting to see what runes “inspired” my clergy training when I’m done. I talk a lot about Gear, Feoh, and Eolh inspiring my dedicant work, but those were drawn in a ritual at the very end. This, I’m hoping, will give me the ability to see what the distribution of runes is over the entirety of my CTP1 work.

Also, this week saw me adding a massive new pile of responsibilities at work, so it’s been harder than usual to slow down and find time to sit and practice and breathe. I know that’s part of the discipline, but I’m very glad I have such a simple ritual right now, or there’s no way it would be getting done.

Next week is Midsummer, which I will be celebrating with my grove. The requirements for this course include the celebration of a high day privately, according to your hearth culture. The Anglo-Saxons likely celebrated Midsummer, calling it Litha, but there is much more known about the high day that will show up at the end of my journaling for this course (Lammas). I think I will be writing about both, since one will be more of a mundanely/modern inspired practice, and the other will include at least Anglo-Saxon and English folklore. We don’t actually know a whole lot about how the heathen Anglo-Saxons did much of anything, because what little DID get written down was only done after conversion, and much of that was destroyed in the intervening centuries. That said, the English folk traditions for these high day festivals are wonderful, and I am totally not above co-opting them. I think it might be very interesting to look at how the (Christian) English celebrated Midsummer, and then maybe pull a few practices into my own celebration next week.

The solstice this year falls on the 20th astronomically, but the celebration is typically held on the 21st.

Read Full Post »

Briefly describe the symbology of your chosen method of divination, and include a method of application for that system. (minimum 100 words overall description plus at least one sentence or line per symbol)

The runes are an alphabet, with each letter representing a sound in one of the Germanic languages. This particular set of runes is derived from the Anglo-Saxons, and is slightly different than the typically seen Elder Futhark, which contains 24 runes. The Anglo-Saxon rune poem describes 29 runes, though the actual number of Anglo-Saxon runes can vary, up to a possible 33. The rune poems give a description of the “meaning” of each rune, whether as a source for divination or simply as a mnemonic device for memorizing them I do not know. (It is certainly more sophisticated than A is for Alligator, B is for Bear.) The translation I’ve quoted below of the Anglo-Saxon rune poem is from Runic and Heroic Poems, by Bruce Dickins (13-23).

You can see the images of the runes here, but note that this includes 4 additional runes that are not part of the rune poem, so I have not included them as part of my rune set.

Feoh – Cattle – Movable Wealth, Generosity, Money, Exchange of Goods

Feoh is about having enough wealth to share it freely, about not being miserly, and about recognizing the inherent instability of wealth (especially wealth in cow-form).
Wealth is a comfort to all men;
yet must every man bestow it freely,
if he wish to gain honour in the sight of the Lord.

 Ur – Aurochs – Strength, savagery, bravery, courage, fortitude

Ur is bull’s strength, both in the sense of great physical strength and in having a great deal of courage or intestinal fortitude/mettle.
The aurochs is proud and has great horns;
it is a very savage beast and fights with its horns;
a great ranger of the moors, it is a creature of mettle.

 Thorn – Thorn – A warning, caution, impending danger, potential hazard

Thorn is a prickly warning, a hazard coming your way, and it can be seen as particularly bad luck (especially if, as in the rune poem, you sit on one, yowch).
The thorn is exceedingly sharp,
an evil thing for any knight to touch,
uncommonly severe on all who sit among them.

 Os – Woden – Language, wit, cunning, communication, inspiration, guidance, wisdom

Os is often translated as Woden, but I see it also as being about beginnings (the source) and wit and wisdom. Like Woden, that can come in many forms.
The mouth is the source of all language,
a pillar of wisdom and a comfort to wise men,
a blessing and a joy to every knight.

 Rad – Journey – A journey, movement from place to place

Rad is a journey, and not necessarily an easy one – it might look easy from the outside, but when you’re traveling it, it can be pretty challenging, even with a stout horse.
Riding seems easy to every warrior while he is indoors
and very courageous to him who traverses the high-roads
on the back of a stout horse.

 Cen – Torch – Light, fire, creation or, if uncontrolled, destruction

Torches light halls, and are the ancient equivalent of “We’ll keep the light on for you” – but they also represent fire which, if mishandled, can cause great destruction. (In the Icelandic poem, Kenaz is ‘ulcer’, which is distinctly more negative, so I try to read this rune with nuance. It should not be confused with “ken” or knowledge.)
The torch is known to every living man by its pale, bright flame;
it always burns where princes sit within.

 Gyfu – Gift – Reciprocity, partnerships, friendships, social obligations

Gyfu is a gift, though whether it’s a gift that is coming to you, or a gift that you owe someone else will come out of the reading and context. In general, it’s a favorable rune.
Generosity brings credit and honour, which support one’s dignity;
it furnishes help and subsistence
to all broken men who are devoid of aught else.

 Wynn – Joy – Delight, Contentment, Having enough, Having what you need

Wynn is contentment, in the sense of having enough of what you need to get by. To the Anglo-Saxons, this was true bliss – not knowing need.
Bliss he enjoys who knows not suffering, sorrow nor anxiety,
and has prosperity and happiness and a good enough house.

 Haegl – Hail – Destruction, transformation, a problem that might turn out to be beneficial in the end (but is definitely currently a problem)

Haegl is extremely destructive, and while something good might come out of it in the end, it takes the work of transformation (for it to be beneficial, it has to become water, instead of being ice), and in the here and now, it’s almost always negative. It does not, however, represent the end of a situation, merely the destruction of what is there now and the possibility of transformation into something different in the future.
Hail is the whitest of grain;
it is whirled from the vault of heaven
and is tossed about by gusts of wind
and then it melts into water.

 Nyd – Need – Hardship, Loss, Difficulty, Strife, Struggle, A need unmet, A problem that might be avoided with proper planning, a warning

Nyd is the experience of hardship and loss, but can be avoided or mitigated with quick action. This rune should always be examined closely.
Trouble is oppressive to the heart;
yet often it proves a source of help and salvation
to the children of men, to everyone who heeds it betimes.

 Is – Ice – All is not as it seems, A warning, Caution – tread carefully, lest you slip

Is is very beautiful, but also very dangerous; it is the personification of things not being as easy or as nice as they look. Take careful action.
Ice is very cold and immeasurably slippery;
it glistens as clear as glass and most like to gems;
it is a floor wrought by the frost, fair to look upon.

 Ger – Year – Fulfillment, Reward for hard work or actions, Plenty, Right Order

Ger is the time of plenty at the end of the year, when the harvest is fully in, and nobody is hungry. It represents all being right with the world, and the order of sowing and reaping.
Summer is a joy to men, when God, the holy King of Heaven,
suffers the earth to bring forth shining fruits
for rich and poor alike.

 Eoh – Yew – Reliability, Something overlooked, “All that is gold does not glitter”

Eoh’s bark is rough, and it might not be particularly beautiful, but it is strong, well rooted, and reliable. The yew is a very slow-growing tree and, due to its ability to live for literally thousands of years, can be seen as connected to the ancestors.
The yew is a tree with rough bark,
hard and fast in the earth, supported by its roots,
a guardian of flame and a joy upon an estate.

 Peordh – Dice cup – Friendly competition, games of chance, an unpredictable outcome

Peordh is about the games of chance played frequently by idle warriors; as an outcome, it is as unpredictable as a game of dice.
Peorth is a source of recreation and amusement to the great,
where warriors sit blithely together in the banqueting-hall.

 Eolh – Elk-sedge – Protection, Defense, Careful action in the face of danger, Warning

Eolh is found in the liminal marshes and can dish out a nasty wound to someone who treads there without being careful. It is defensive, only wounding when touched, but may also represent a warning about the dangers of the marsh.
The Eolh-sedge is mostly to be found in a marsh;
it grows in the water and makes a ghastly wound,
covering with blood every warrior who touches it.

 Sigel – Sun – Guidance, Good advice, Good fortune

The sun was used as a source of navigation, and thus represents a sunny outcome and good advice or good bearings in difficult waters.
The sun is ever a joy in the hopes of seafarers
when they journey away over the fishes’ bath,
until the courser of the deep bears them to land.

 Tir/Tiw – The North Star – Order and Truth, Justice, Fairness, Keeping faith

Tiw is both the North Star and the God of Justice; as such, it represents order, truth, and fairness in all things, as well as keeping good faith and giving good guidance.
Tiw is a guiding star; well does it keep faith with princes;
it is ever on its course over the mists of night and never fails.

 Beorc – Birch – An unexpected (but probably positive) outcome, creativity

Beorc trees reproduce in an unexpected way – they are internally strong and creative, and very beautiful.
The poplar bears no fruit; yet without seed it brings forth suckers,
for it is generated from its leaves.
Splendid are its branches and gloriously adorned
its lofty crown which reaches to the skies.

 Eh – Horse – A strong ally, empowerment, strength

Eh is a great blessing and a strong ally, both to warriors and to rich men.
The horse is a joy to princes in the presence of warriors.
A steed in the pride of its hoofs,
when rich men on horseback bandy words about it;
and it is ever a source of comfort to the restless.

 Mann – Man/Mankind – Relationships, community, tribe (Positive or negative interactions)

Man can be both kind and cruel to his fellow man. The social relationships will define how those interactions go, but ultimately ones wyrd determines the outcome.
The joyous man is dear to his kinsmen;
yet every man is doomed to fail his fellow,
since the Lord by his decree will commit the vile carrion to the earth.

 Lagu – Water, The Sea – Imbalance, Instability, Lack of preparation, Unreliability

Lagu is an unpredictable thing and must be treated with respect. While I instinctively want to read a “water” rune as overflowing and carrying blessings (because as a modern human, I have a deep love for the ocean), in the rune poem it is clearly negative.
The ocean seems interminable to men,
if they venture on the rolling bark
and the waves of the sea terrify them
and the courser of the deep heed not its bridle.

 Ing – Ing Frea – Ancestor worship, Fertility, Divine connection

Ing was the progenitor of kings, and thus one of the mighty ancestors. He is also a god of fertility, and one who goes among men.
Ing was first seen by men among the East-Danes,
till, followed by his chariot,
he departed eastwards over the waves.
So the Heardingas named the hero.

 Ethel – Estate, Home – Inherited wealth, Home, Family, Prosperity

Ethel is the kind of wealth you can count on – your estate. It represents true prosperity, possibly due to the value placed on owning land in ancient times.
An estate is very dear to every man,
if he can enjoy there in his house
whatever is right and proper in constant prosperity.

 Dæg – Day – Blessings, Good fortune, Hope, Happiness

Daeg brings the rising sun, which shines upon both the fortunate and the unfortunate. It is a source of hope and happiness in a very real sense.
Day, the glorious light of the Creator, is sent by the Lord;
it is beloved of men, a source of hope and happiness to rich and poor,
and of service to all.

 Ac – Oak – Adequate resources, A potential challenge

Ac feeds livestock (with acorns) and provides the wood for ships – where it’s good faith is tested by the sea. It is an extremely useful tree.
The oak fattens the flesh of pigs for the children of men.
Often it traverses the gannet’s bath,
and the ocean proves whether the oak keeps faith
in honourable fashion.

 Æsc – Ash – Stability, Reliability, Defense, Stubbornness, Strength against Odds

Aesc is often used to make spears and tools as it’s extremely hard and durable wood. It sustains a beating against the odds and is stubborn in its resistance.
The ash is exceedingly high and precious to men.
With its sturdy trunk it offers a stubborn resistance,
though attacked by many a man.

 Yr – Longbow – Skill, Ability, Success, Craftsmanship, A practiced art

Yr represents the skill and craftsmanship of the longbow, and the art that is practiced by an archer. It is a positive rune, though it comes with hard work, and it represents a skill that is reliable.
Yr is a source of joy and honour to every prince and knight;
it looks well on a horse and is a reliable equipment for a journey.

 Ior – Beaver or Eel – Adaptability, Flexibility

Depending on the translation, Ior is either Beaver (which makes sense in the poem) or Eel (which makes less sense, as eels do not eat on land). However, both are good representations of adaptability and flexibility, and I think that is well expressed in the rune poem.
Iar is a river fish and yet it always feeds on land;
it has a fair abode encompassed by water, where it lives in happiness.

 Ear – Grave – Endings, Death, Sadness, Loss

Ear is the grave that will take us all, and represents endings – not in the transformative sense (which is more to be seen with Haegl), but in the sense of finality, mortality, and loss. All things pass away, and though this loss is not necessarily catastrophic, it is still sad.
The grave is horrible to every knight,
when the corpse quickly begins to cool
and is laid in the bosom of the dark earth.
Prosperity declines, happiness passes away
and covenants are broken.

Read Full Post »

Identify and describe one method of divination to which you find yourself attracted, and discuss its relationship to paleo-pagan divination. (minimum 300 words)

I have a fairly long relationship with divination, having been given my first set of runes when I turned approximately 12, by an uncle. (My parents did not know what they were, or I would not have been allowed to keep them, and they included the infamous “blank rune”.) I turned to tarot quickly though, finding that I couldn’t make heads or tails of my rune readings. This may or may not have been due to my using entirely New Age meanings for them, but we shall see how my relationship deepens now that I’m using more historically minded source material. Since joining ADF, I have rekindled my interest in runes, specifically in the Anglo-Saxon rune set, as part of my Anglo-Saxon hearth culture. While there are only very brief and vague mentions of runes being used for divination in Paleo-Pagan times, they are very clearly a Paleo-Pagan alphabet, and there is some (if scant) historical evidence of using alphabets as sortilege type divination throughout the Indo-European language group.

As an alphabet, the runes started in the northern part of the Germanic lands (probably Denmark-ish), and spread quickly. The Elder Futhark, with 24 symbols, was adapted for different languages and areas, which included Iceland and England (Angle-land), where the Anglo-Saxon rune poem dates from. While it contains elements that have been Christianized, the essential flavor of the runes remains, and (of course) the more overtly Christian elements can be translated out.

While there is no direct paleo-pagan source for using runes as a divination method, there is attested use of runes for magic and for writing, and in Tacitus Germania, there is a reference to divination by something which sounds a great deal like it would be runecasting. Small pieces of wood are carved with symbols and cast upon a cloth, where a seer chooses among them and reads them to divine the future (Germania 10). This sort of divination, at least in terms of the casting of lots inscribed with magically meaningful marks, is incredibly similar to the process I use for rune readings.

I am attracted to the runes as a source of wisdom and knowledge, both from a mythological standpoint and from a love of language and poetry. Woden is said to have sacrificed himself on the world tree to gain the knowledge of the runes, and then chose to share that knowledge with humanity. As a seeker of wisdom, I think it’s fairly smart to study things that are known to bring wisdom and knowledge, but also I greatly appreciate the sheer magic that is writing. Though most Anglo-Saxons were illiterate, most modern English-speakers are not, and I think we forget the magic that is inherent in language. I can read words that were written down by people hundreds of years ago, and they make sense. I can push some buttons on my desk, which makes little electric marks on this imaginary page, and you (my reviewer) can read and understand them (hopefully). Language is powerful, and using a language based divination system appeals to me greatly.

Read Full Post »

Within the context of a single paleo-pagan Indo-European culture, discuss three different forms of divination or seership, and give an example of each. (minimum 100 words each)

Working from Tacitus, the Sagas, and the Poetic Edda, I’ve found three different forms of divination used by the Germanic culture group, which includes the Scandinavian and Icelandic cultures. While it could be argued that these three cultures are separated by both time and geography, their similar language, alphabet, cosmology and mythology is more than enough for me to be comfortable talking about them as a group together.

First, there’s a documented form of trance-like seership called seidhr. In Leif Eiriksson’s Saga (ch. 4) a seeress named Thorbjorg is featured who is highly honored by the farm she visits. She is brought there during a difficult time for the farm, and she spends a night there, honored by the various guests and given special food (milk porridge and animal hearts). After some reluctance (ostensibly due to being Christian) the women of the farm come and form a circle around her, and sing the ward songs, and she is visited by the spirits, who tell her that the hardship will last no longer. As well, she sees great reward for the woman who sang the ward songs. This type of divination is also seen in the Voluspa, and is perhaps the most formal and ritualistic type of seership among the Germanic and Norse cultures.

In Tacitus Germania, there is a reference to divination by something which sounds a great deal like it would be runecasting. A little bough is chopped off of a tree and cut into small pieces, which are given certain markings. They are thrown at random over a cloth, and then either the priest (or the head of the family) chooses three of them and finds meaning according to the marks. This is extremely similar to most modern practices of runecasting (Germania 10). Also, later sources (Egil’s Saga, Ch 44) show runes being used for magic, and Thorsson believes that runes were “born from a magical tradition, not a purely linguistic one” (5). Between the rune’s associations with magic and their predating Tacitus’ encountering them among the Germanic tribes (Thorsson states as early as 200 BCE (12)), I am comfortable considering runic divination, at least in terms of the casting of lots inscribed with magically meaningful marks, a divination tradition among the Germanic and related cultures.

In Svipdagsmal (Poetic Edda, Hollander) young Svipdag is given a terrible task by his evil step-mother (proving that Evil Stepmothers existed from quite a ways back). In order to get help and learn how he can complete his task, he goes and sits outside on his mother Groa’s grave, a practice called utiseta or “outsitting”. Groa comes through for Svipdag, and he not only learns how to complete his terrible task, but also is granted nine magical spells. This practice was also used in the conversion of Iceland to Christianity, when Thorgeirr (who was chosen to moderate the conflict between the Pagan Icelanders and the Christian forces from Norway) sits out for a day and a night under a skin in order to determine the fate of religion in Iceland. This practice of outsitting is a way of getting information and help, often specifically from the ancestors, and divining the future with their aid.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »