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Posts Tagged ‘norse paganism’

(Catching up on the Pagan Blog Project – it’s been a rough few weeks in the Swamp, so I’m a bit behind. I’ll be trying to get caught up to the G’s this week, so you’ll be seeing several posts, hopefully!)

Since I only have two F entries, I’m combining these two goddesses into one post. They are closely tied in the Anglo-Saxon practice, but generally different (as Freyja and Frigga) in the Scandinavian sources. Whether this is from linguistic changes happening in different places, or simply because their worship shifted strongly, or just because we have so few real sources on Anglo-Saxon paganism (and the names are linguistically similar, making it difficult to discern from place-names), I don’t know. However, I definitely address them as two separate goddesses, and I take from both sources for my personal practice.

Freo is a goddess of war, sexuality, magic, and fertility. As one of the Wanes/Vanir, she is closely tied to the land and its fertility, though she is not a typical “fertility” goddess in the way most Neopagans approach fertility (nor is she a typical “love” goddess either, though approaching her for help with love and sexuality would not be inappropriate by any stretch). She’s a complicated character, who knows her own worth and does powerful magic in support of those she loves. She may also be related to sovereignty (especially as it relates to sacred kingship and the land.) She is said to have taught seidhr to Odin, and to take the first choice of those slain in battle to her hall. In her honor, I have a “feather cloak” – a shawl painted with amber colored wings – that I wear when I’m doing particular kinds of trance journeys, patterned after Freyja’s traveling via her feather cloak to search for her husband Odr.

To quote from The Pagan Grove again:

It is my impression that Fréo is a Goddess of the land, but not as much so as Her mother [Nerthus] or Her brother, Ing Fréa. She is associated with those parts of our lives that are still very much tied to our animal instincts: sexuality, hunger, etc. And yet She also calls us to the mystery that lies behind these seemingly simple pleasures, the mystical experience of otherworldly trance and magic that stems from that which is green and growing.

I don’t have a ton of experience with Freo, though I do honor her regularly as part of my practice. She has not made herself directly known to me, but I hope that by continuing my practice I will deepen that relationship. I am also hoping that my work with the ADF Order of the Dead will coincide nicely with Freo’s role in choosing the slain to go to her hall, at least where it concerns my ancient ancestors.

Frige is the goddess I go to for hearth and home. She is a spinner, wife of Woden and queen of Asgard/Ases, and it is said that she sees all the possibilities and futures before her with her gift of prophecy, but chooses to be silent about them. She is represented on my altar with a drop spindle filled with my own handspun wool. She is queenly, but not distant, and I see in my ancestor practice many women who remind me of qualities of Frige. I honor her specifically on Modranicht, just before Yule, with the rest of the female ancestors, when I do a special cleaning and then put aside all housework in honor of the Idesa and Frige, giving them (and myself) a rest from our domestic duties.

Frige/Frigg is the basis for our English word Friday, and she may be related to Frau Holda in the Germanic folklore tradition as well (which makes for yet another F-entry that I should really write).

The stars we know as “Orion’s Belt” were known to the Norse as Frigga’s Distaff or Spinning Wheel (or possibly Freyja’s, though Freyja usually is not usually associated with spinning). As a spinner and fiber artist (I spin, knit, and sew), she is something of a patron of the arts that I follow, and so I try to make appropriate offerings in that vein.

As with Freo, I haven’t had much direct experience with Frige – I make offerings to her, so I feel like I am building a relationship, but I wouldn’t consider it a particularly deep or expressive one. With both of these goddesses, I am hoping that my connection deepens over time.

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The Ancestors play an important part in my spiritual practice. Under many names – the Ancestors, the Mighty Ones, the Mighty Dead, Idesa and Alfar – they are one of ADF’s Three Kindreds and an important practice in the Norse and Anglo-Saxon cultures.

The Mighty Ones are the Ancestors, those of our folk who are presently resting in the Land of the Dead. They watch over their descendants and lend their power to aid us. It is proper for every Druidic worshipper to honor her immediate ancestors, her Grandmothers and Grandfathers, as well as the Heroes, those great women and men who are honored by her folk. – The Worlds and the Kindreds

Some articles and references for the Ancestors, particularly the Disir/Idesa/Matronae (Female ancestors and guardians)

Historically, the Norse/Germanic/Anglo-Saxon cultures had strong beliefs about their ancestors being a part of their family’s good fortune. These beings – which are sometimes confused with Nature Spirits after awhile, especially if they are connected to a burial mound or site – watch over their descendents and protect them in life, often interfering to bring good fortune or luck in battle. If you wanted to speak with a particular Dis, you would go out and sit all night on her burial mound, seeking her council (a practice called out-sitting).

In my personal practice, the Ancestors are a part of my daily life. I make regular offerings to a group of Idesa I call my “Prairie Godmothers” – women whose strength and courage helped bring their families to the United States, where they lived as pioneers. Every time I clean my kitchen, I light a candle to them, and make them a small offering of thanks. I want to channel their courage and inner fortitude in my own life, so I invite them in regularly.

I’ve also been called directly (through a blog-friend who does Seidhr) to work more with my dead and spend time with my ancestors. I don’t know exactly what this means, but I have tried to incorporate more work with them into my practice, and to spend additional time with them when I do ritual. I’m not very good at it yet, but I am trying to make this more a focus of my practice. As part of this, I’ve been collecting family genealogy from both my and my husband’s family in a central location in our home. Keeping this information current and easy to reference helps me connect to my direct ancestors. I would like to expand this practice to more spiritual ancestors, whether they be ancients or just other figures in history who can guide me in my spiritual work. Hopefully this will help me fulfill the request to pay more attention to my dead.

I put a lot of stock and respect in the answers I got from Beth on the subject (prompted by my constantly receiving the rune Hagalaz while not seeing elements of destruction and chaos around), so I trust that this is important, both to my ancestors and the mighty dead, and to Hela herself, as the goddess of the underworld. Admittedly, I’m a little intimidated by cultivating a relationship with a Goddess of Death, but I am well aware that my being uncomfortable is either something she doesn’t much care about, or is actively seeking. It’s definitely outside my comfort zone.

I had some particularly interesting dreams about two ancestors of spirit, back when I was practicing Wicca, but I haven’t seen or sought them out again. I need to begin seeking some Anglo-Saxon and Norse ancestors, particularly women ancestors (for some reason I am very drawn to them). I don’t know much else to do beyond granting them offerings and paying attention to them, but as I develop better trance and meditative listening/journeying skills I hope I will have some better ideas of things I can do – and maybe even names or personalities I can begin to associate with them.

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A brief account of the efforts of the Dedicant to develop and explore a personal (or Grove-centered) spiritual practice, drawn from a specific culture or combination of cultures.” (600 words min.)

I came to Druidry after almost two years of pre-initiation study with a Gardnerian Wicca coven that turned out to be incompatible with my mental health issues. I was very upset with the loss of my coven and found I couldn’t practice Wicca on my own in a way that I found satisfying, so I needed something to challenge me spiritually in a way that would be different from what I had been doing before (since that was no longer something that was going to be an option). After a few months of reading everything I could get my hands on about ADF, I joined and started the Dedicant Path immediately, with the idea that I would have the best chance of really giving this new mode of operation a try if I worked on their introductory study program. I didn’t make an “official” first oath, but I promised myself that I would finish the Dedicant Path within a year of starting it, and that I would use that time of spiritual searching to decide if this had the potential to be a lifelong path for me.

I also went in hoping to have a Grove to learn from and with, but that hasn’t worked out well for me. My efforts to get in contact with the local protogrove have not been productive, and their only meetings take place at a private home (and I am uncomfortable having my first meeting with people I’m intending to do ritual with taking place in a stranger’s house). Their hearth culture is also very different from mine (at least as I am currently practicing), so I have contented myself with finding my Druid community online, especially with the support of my Regional Druid and the ADF mailing lists. It is curious that I did so poorly practicing as a solitary Wiccan, but have settled into practice as a solitary Druid. I think it is the community online and the structure of the Dedicant Path that has helped me stay on track. Having something that I am pursuing as an academic and spiritual study has done a lot of good, and is encouraging me to continue my studies in ADF.

I started this path fairly certain that I was going to practice in a Celtic hearth of some kind, but after only one High Day, started looking elsewhere – the mythology just wasn’t clicking with what I felt I should be doing. I have since done several Gaulish rituals that went very well, but settled into a Norse hearth culture, with a newly developing transition into a more Anglo-Saxon based style. This was a totally new mythology for me – I am not even a reader of comics, so I didn’t have comic books or movie mythologies to contend with. My first experience was through a good friend who is a practicing Vanatruar. He was telling me of his relationship with Freyr and Freyja (particularly Freyja) and I decided to give the Norse hearth a try just to see how it felt.

I had some serious trepidation about the change, because there are some really unsavory things that are promoted in the name of Norse Mythology, but I figured going through the ADF side of things would protect me from a lot of that backlash. I read my Hearth Culture book, HR Ellis Davidson’s Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, and set about learning about the Norse Gods and their culture. As time went on, though I did make an initial contact with Odin, I found myself drawn very strongly to Freyr, and I had a personal encounter with him in a meditation that put me on the path to working with him in a way that I hope will become one of patronage. While I haven’t had any really close experiences with Him regularly, I feel that relationship will deepen with time and practice.

I have my altar set up in an ADF style (with a few nods to my Norse hearth yet, since I haven’t found any statues that I like) and I light incense and meditate there regularly. I utilize the ADF methodology of Threes as an integral part of my worship – Three Worlds, Three Hallows, Three Realms, Three Kindreds, and though the Norse Mythology claims nine worlds, I connect them all with the World Tree (with the Underworlds Below and the Upperworlds Above), so I don’t see much of a disconnect. I find the Three Kindreds belief system works particularly well for the Norse, since they strongly believed in Ancestor worship, in a proliferation of land and nature spirits in the world around them, and in a full pantheon of Gods with different functions.

Recently, I’ve found myself being drawn toward the Anglo-Saxon strain of Germanic paganism, though I have other aspects of my practice that fit into more of a pan-Germanic worldview. I am cultivating a relationship with Njord and Nerthus, who are not talked about in the Anglo-Saxon sources I’ve seen so far, and I have a strong relationship with my Disir/Matronae/Ancient Mothers, whose cult spanned most of Germanic Europe at various times. I think this will remain something that is somewhat fluid about my practice, since there is a lot of overlap between these cultures, and that doesn’t really bother me. What draws me to the Anglo-Saxon hearth is the similarities to things I understand (being an English speaker) and that it is the culture of my ancestors, some of whom date back to pre-Norman Britain. I will be trying, as I move forward, to add more Anglo-Saxon flavor to my rituals, hopefully through writing more ritual material for my own use.

Overall my transition into the Norse hearth was both immediate (ritually) and slow (personally) – it’s taken me awhile to get to know this new group of deities and their surrounding customs. I work primarily with the Vanic deities, specifically Freyr (or Ing-Frey), and I would like to have a better relationship going forward with His sister and father (and possibly mother – Nerthus is a goddess that I find extremely intriguing, and my research about her has only increased that intrigue). I like that she is a sort of “Earth Mother”, and that she can fill that function in ADF ritual, while still remaining a separate functioning Deity in her own right. Some recent articles I’ve read have put her name as a linguistic cognate to Jord (the other “Earth Mother” of the Norse), and I am fascinated by her role in the hierarchy of Deities, as well as her domains of holiness and peacemaking.

I have kept to my informal first oath, writing this penultimate essay of the Dedicant Path before I have completed the final High Day of my year of observations, and I am very proud to have stuck to it. In a way, it was a promise I made to myself, to give myself this time of searching and exploration of something different. In some ways I feel like I haven’t learned much at all, but then I am reminded of just how far I’ve come in a year, and how many new paths are open to me now.

I don’t know for sure if ADF will be my path forever, but I am finding myself increasingly comfortable here. There is a great deal of tolerance for variation, an emphasis on scholarship (but also an emphasis on practice, when scholarship falls short), and I am drawn to the practice of ADF style rituals. I think the poetry of those rituals makes them work well – even if they seemed very strange to me at first, coming from a traditional Wiccan worldview. While I have not always fully embraced the views that get presented as “ADF’s”, I like that if you ask three Druids a question, you should expect six answers. The balance of scholarship and personal practice/personal gnosis is one that I think I can find myself at home in as I continue this path. I am drawn towards the Initiates Path at this point, though I do not know if I will start on that coursework immediately. I crave a deep, meaningful spirituality, as well as meaningful community and spiritual interactions with other people – something that can be hard to get as a solitary. I hope through ADF’s embrace of technology, through my ability to volunteer to help in the organization, through learning more and mentoring other new Druids on the Dedicant Path, and through furthering my own spiritual practice, I can find my own place here in this corner of Neopaganism.

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Didn’t get a post written yesterday (ever have THOSE days? Yesterday was one of THOSE days) so here’s a Meditation Tuesday post instead.

I’ve been strugging with meditation recently, especially meditation intended to bring me closer to the Kindreds – especially Freyr. A lot of the reasons for that are pretty personal, so I won’t go into that here, but I asked a blogging friend to do some divination and she agreed. The results were very comforting, and so far very helpful.

One of the things she suggested was taking my meditation practice outside. Now – keep in mind that I live in southeast Texas, and it is nearly July. It was 85 degrees this morning at 6am on my drive in to work – and it’s been extremely humid. As such, it’s also high mosquito season. So I’ve opted for an in-between until things are not so blasted uncomfortable to be outside (it’s hard to settle into meditation with sweat pouring off of you). I’ve been meditating in my screen porch – it’s not quite as good as actually sitting on the ground, and the Cult of The Eternal Yard Work has been noisily disruptive, as usual, but it HAS helped some. I’ve been doing these meditations after I exercise (so I’m already hot and sweaty) and it’s been fairly productive at helping me re-make some connections.

I do my stress-reducing meditation inside though. Those are done after a shower, and I’m not wasting a perfectly good shower by then immediately returning outside where the heat index is over 115F.

Usually the summer is a reflective time for me – in the way that Winter is for a lot of people. It really is pretty inhospitable here in summer, and so while I do GET outside, I’m not as eager to stay outside like I am the other nine months of the year. (For reference, my wedding anniversary is in January, and it was sunny and 75 degrees outside that day this year (and on the day we got married!)).

I’ll definitely be doing more outside meditations as we start approaching Lammas and the Fall Equinox. These are big holidays for me, especially in my worship of Freyr (who is the God of the grain cycle, so the grain harvest is a good day to specifically honor Him). I want to try making some kind of loaves to offer as a sacrifice, and I want to deepen my connection to Him in preparation for that time of his sacrifice. The ADF Norse interpretation of this holiday is typically celebrated as the wedding of Thor and Sif (and of comunity coming together for the Thing, so the bounds of community and laws), but I haven’t decided if I will try to split my Lammas rite into two sections, or if I will just honor Freyr as Lord of the Grain Harvest (or if I’ll move my celebration of Freyr back to the Fall Equinox, as a more general Harvest festival, which would correspond more closely to what was going on in my garden). Things to ponder as summer progresses.

(I will also be finishing my “Wheel of the Year” at the Fall Equinox, so I have some big decisions to make about oaths and dedicating myself to Druidry as the ending of the Dedicant Path. I’d like to submit by Samhain, if possible, so I need to get all my ducks in a row with my essays before the Fall Equinox.)

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The Summer Solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere) occurs on or around June 21 every year, and marks the astronomical point at which the sun has reached its highest altitude in the sky. This produces the longest day/shortest night of the year, and the holy day of Midsummer or the Summer Solstice is celebrated at this time. This holiday is often referred to as Litha among various branches of neopaganism, a reference to Bede’s naming of the months of the summer.*

Historically this holiday was celebrated in most of Northern Europe, especially the British Isles, Scandinavia, and the Germanic lands, where celebrations included bonfires and the picking of golden-flowered plants, supposed to have miraculous healing powers. In the Scandinavia, where the sun sets very late and rises very early resulting in extremely long days, the Sun is the central figure, as well as the lit bonfires and celebrations of community. People frequently danced around (and through!) bonfires as a ritual of protection, as well as driving cattle through the fires to protect them. The strength of the Sun makes the crops grow, and there is a great deal of promised bounty as people tend the crops and prepare for the upcoming harvest.

In the Neopagan myth, this is the time of the second battle between the Holly King and the Oak King, where the Holly King defeats the Oak King (who has reigned since Yule) and will then rule until December when the two will battle again. This begins the “Dark” half of the year, where the Sun’s power wanes and the days grow shorter again until the cycle begins anew at Yule.

Bonfires are a very common method of celebrating this high day, often accompanied by all night vigils. This seems to be both an honoring of fire and a warding against wildfires, which are at their most dangerous during the hot dry summer months. The spirits of the land are also important at this time. Most central, however, is honoring the Sun at her (or his) strongest point in the year. I usually make a special point to watch both the sunrise and the sunset on Midsummer, and always have a “bonfire” in my charcoal grill, where I make offerings to Sunna, who is at her brightest (and most destructive!) at this time. As a tropical Pagan, my relationship with Sunna is one of deep respect as well as joy, for while it is sunny here most of the year, and I love basking in her warmth, it is very dangerous to underestimate the power of Sunna in summer, especially on exposed skin.

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Most of my meditation this week was of the “just breathe” variety. Things at work are fairly stressful, and I had a major screwup that caused one of my coworkers to have to cover for me, and it’s sent my anxiety through the roof. My job itself is not in jeopardy, it’s just not the best working environment right now.

So I’m leaning on my meditation practice to be a little safe haven to help think about something, concentrate on my breath, and let things go.

Sunday, however, I did a fairly extended meditation to have conversations with my Disir for Mother’s Day (after celebrating with my living mom on Saturday). I want to honor my Disir, and the group of women I’m calling my Prairie Godmothers (who are like Fairy Godmothers, only with wooden spoons instead of magic wands). These are my American ancestral mothers; the women who held their families together with grit and resourcefulness, who left their homes and came and made a new life for themselves and their families here (some on the east coast, some here in Texas). Some of them are from my own family, some from my husband’s, but I’d like to honor them and learn from them regardless. I made an offering of food (chocolate cake) and incense, and just sat in meditation/light trance to try to communicate with them. I didn’t hear anything definite, but I think it was worthwhile anyway.

Somehow I find it easier to connect to the women who came here to North America than I do to women who would have actually practiced something like Norse paganism. I guess I’ll just have to work my way back to them.

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I’ve felt a strong pull toward working with the Ancestors recently, I think brought on by finding some genealogical research that my family has done. My mom and my (paternal) uncle have done a lot of research into our family histories recently, and it’s been really interesting to see where people have been. My husband’s mother and aunt are both extremely interested in family history as well, so I have pretty well documented family trees that go back several hundred years (in most cases) to the various places of our ancestry.

My heritage is pretty well mixed, but the largest parts of it are Scottish and Italian, with some English, Irish, and Dutch, and possibly French or Belgian (I have an adopted grandparent, so it gets confusing). My husband is German (Frisian) and Danish, with some French (Huguenot) as well. (He looks like a Viking. I look like an Italian peasant. It works out!) At this point both of our families are pretty jumbled up, even though my Italian family didn’t come to the United States until around World War I, and his German family has been in Texas since just before Texas joined the US (in 1846).

Which, of course, makes it a little harder to say “I’m working in this strain of Paganism because I have family heritage there”. Though I certainly have English and Dutch relatives, some of whom have been in the US since New York was called New Amsterdam, I have no idea if they were Germanic (Angles/Saxons) or Celts or Gauls in descent, though there’s some rumor that my ancestral family ended up in England via William the Conqueror’s army. (Alternately William the Bastard, depending on your preferred side in that conflict.)

What I do know, however, is that I am descended from hard working people in both my birth and married families. My (mostly Scottish) grandmother grew up on a farm in the Great Depression, and my husband’s family is still farming in South Texas. While his family no longer speaks German, his father grew up speaking it a little bit at home, and they are very well connected to their history in the hill country of Texas.

So while I am sure I have ancestral ties to my pagan forebears, I have no idea what their religion might have been! It’s likely that they are a pretty mixed bunch at this point.

Still, some (admittedly basic) internet research says that most of north west Europe had a devotion to the “Mothers” (Matres and Matrones), and that’s something I’d like to continue, especially since this seems to have been a very widespread practice (and, if the shrines of gratitude are any suggestion, a successful one).

I’d also like to continue to honor my American “Matrones” – the women whose hard work brought their families here to this country and kept them alive. My grandmother and great grandmothers were strong, determined, independent women who I am proud to be related to – and I have begun to feel the same way towards the mothers of my husband’s family too. Life was hard in the hill country, and they made it work.

I’m especially drawn to find strength from my ancestors (whether Matrones or Disir) when I’m struggling with my mental health, since I need all the extra strength I can get to continue to advocate on my own behalf and work towards balance and wellness. It’s a combination of needing strength and protection, which fall into the sphere of the family pretty nicely.

My first steps toward growing that practice has been lighting a jar candle on my hearth (stove) every time I’m in the kitchen. I light it and say a prayer for guidance from the Ancestral Mothers and for their protection over my home and family. (This makes my kitchen smell nice too, which is a fun side-effect).

I’ve also specifically been mentioning them when I light incense (almost daily), and when I do my morning devotions with my tea at work. I’d like to build a small shrine to them somewhere in my house or yard (and also make an effort to get all my family genealogy gathered into one place in the house).

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