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Posts Tagged ‘pagan blog project’

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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(A third G entry for this week, because I thought of it on the way in to work yesterday. Now I’m all caught up with the PBP2014! Yay! On to H!)

Generosity brings credit and honor, which support one’s dignity;
it furnishes help and subsistence
to all broken men who are devoid of aught else.

Gyfu is one of the runes identified in the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem, and it represents Generosity and Hospitality, and the very important cultural concepts of both. For the Indo-Europeans, the guest-host relationship was extremely important (which I talked about in my post on *ghosti) and provided a lot of the substance of social interactions. It provided for care of travelers, established social relationships, and represented humanity’s relationship with their gods. One’s hospitality was a measure of one’s worth, and it was extremely important to maintain those cultural and social bargains.

As a rune, Gyfu is the “gift for a gift” transaction that comes out of that relationship of hospitality. It is common in ADF to hear that we have given offerings, and we now ask for blessings, “as a gift requires a gift in return”. Not in a manipulative sort of way, but in a way of cultural and social understanding of how the world worked for the Indo-Europeans. This transaction is what is called for in this rune, and it can be representative of needing to uphold your own side of the bargain, or a representation of something coming back to you as a return gift. (No rune is without nuance, of course, so interpreting it in the situation is important.)

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*Ghosti is a concept we hear a lot about in ADF. (The asterisk is used to denote that it is not an attested word, but instead is a linguistically reconstructed word from the Proto-Indo-European language.) Our English words “guest” and “host” both come from this word. Mutual obligations between people are expressed with this concept, as well as the relationship between worshipers and gods.

From an article by Ceisiwr Serith:

*ghosti- is a word in Proto-Indo-European which translates as “someone with whom one has a reciprocal obligation of hospitality.” The English “guest” and “host” both come from this root. That describes the ghosti-relationship nicely. We are both guest and host to those with whom we have a ghosti-relationship; guest on one occasion, and host on another

And the ghosti-principle operates in the relationship between human and divine. We give gifts to the gods, and they give gifts to us. We offer a share of the sacrifice, and they grant us blessings. We are the hosts today, and they are the hosts tomorrow. Sometimes this is called a “do ut des” relationship — “I give that you might give.” It is seen as a cosmic buying off — we pay the gods to get what we want.

There is so much more to it than that, though. It is not a mere business transaction. Exchange is what Indo-European friendships are made of. By engaging in ghosti-relationships with the gods, we become their friends. And since in Indo-European society the king must give more in such a relationship than a commoner, the Great and Shining Ones grant marvelous blessings in return for our more humble gifts.

For me, *ghosti is tied into the virtues that I strive to practice on a daily basis – it is part of piety and hospitality especially, because it defines my relationships with both other humans and the gods and spirits. If I’m honest, I’m not always good at the truly reciprocal form of hospitality with my friends, and I am terrible about remembering people’s birthdays, but I tend to buy random gifts when I find something that strikes me as something that someone I know would love. Or buy them dinner or whatever. I also try very hard to support my friends who are artisans, even when it’s something I could technically make or purchase less expensively elsewhere, because I believe it’s important to support people who are doing and making beautiful things (though that’s less about *ghosti and more about me wanting to support my friends… which I guess is a form of *ghosti in a way).

One of the things that drew me to ADF (and has kept me here) is the idea of a transactional, reciprocal relationship with the gods and spirits around me. I need them and they need me, we mutually support each other through gifts, sacrifice, blessings, and offerings. If I uphold my end of the bargain, they will uphold theirs, in a very mutually beneficial sort of way. This way of thinking just makes sense to me, and it’s been one of the things I was looking for in a religion since before I was part of ADF. Having that relationship, based on mutual respect and “gift giving”, where sometimes I am the gracious guest, and sometimes I am the gracious host, just works for me.

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Grove is the (slightly cliché, I’ll admit) term for a group of druids. It’s the standard operating system for ADF, and the point toward which the majority of ADF ritual is designed. Groves are groups of ADF members who meet regularly and celebrate rituals together at least for the 8 major high days of the wheel of the year.

The heart of ADF, groves provide places of community, worship, and learning. There are currently 75 groves in ADF, spread around the world (though most are in the United States). Unfortunately, while that seems like a pretty big number, and it is constantly growing, there are still big gaps between groves in a lot of the US (and even more so worldwide), so a lot of druids end up as solitaries (and some may even choose to remain solitary even in a place with access to a grove or protogrove).

My local group is a Protogrove – the step before becoming a full grove. It requires fewer people, but the ultimate goal is to work towards full grove status. Groves perform regular community service and provide a space for public ritual and community, fulfilling the vision of ADF to become a public Neopagan church.

Grove-centered spirituality is a different beast for me, since I am so strongly tied to my solitary practice. I’ve enjoyed working in the small group that is my study group, but I still do solitary rituals for high days. My local protogrove is also strongly Irish/Welsh focused, and while I don’t mind doing rituals in whatever hearth culture the group prefers, I still like to have my Anglo-Saxon/Germanic rituals when possible.

Still, plugging into a local Neopagan community, however small they may be, has been useful for me, at least in terms of inspiring me to stick with the practices that I know are important to my work, and in giving me something to help keep me accountable (the study group is really good for that).

I am hoping that our work as a study group will help further the local protogrove and vice versa, and I really do think that the two will work well together, blending their ritual practice with the more academic side of Druidry. And hey, maybe we’ll rub off on each other a bit in the meantime, and start to see more crossover between the groups. From what I have seen of the two groups, they can bring us some of the joy and levity that is so important in a good working religion, and we can provide the reverence and study that form the other half of ADF’s work. I think it will be a good partnership.

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(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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(Catching up on the Pagan Blog Project – it’s been a rough two 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!)

Fertility is one of the virtues of ADF, and you can read my original essay on the subject here. It’s something I am directly trying to increase in my life (not in the “making babies” way but in the “fertility of mind and spirit” way), especially in my career.

This is a very fertile time of year, even here in the Swamp, where things are starting to heat up and it’s now too late to plant vegetables that aren’t okra or hot peppers. I didn’t put in a garden this year (I ran out of time to get the bed prepared), but I am working on fertility in other parts of my life. Career wise, I am looking for new opportunities for growth and change, as what I’m currently doing for my job isn’t what I want to do for the rest of my life. In ADF, I’m trying to turn more attention to fertility of mind, as I work on leading my study group and progressing on the IP. (Right now it is a very scattered effort; I have one or two questions answered in several different courses, since I haven’t had time to really prepare well for any one course all at once.)

These two things are, of course, related – both are ways I’m trying to bring the energy of fertility and rebirth into my life, whether it be as a spiritual practice or as a part of my mundane job.

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