Archive for February, 2009

Rocky Mountain High : The Power of Pilgrimage

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on February 24, 2009 by Harmony041297

Many are familiar with Colorado poet, John Denver’s song, “Rocky Mountain High”. Different people interpret in varying ways, but what he says is true, there is a high, a buzz, an inebriation that is bestowed by Colorado’s stunning wilderness. I count myself lucky to be a Pagan living in Colorado Springs, where scores of untouched wilderness parks are available within minutes of my home. One of my favorite places of meditation is Palmer Park, which is literally a five minute walk from my backyard.

    Here one can find beautifully alien rock formations, breathtaking views, and, if one knows what one is looking for – places of Power. It is here, in this park, that I discovered an emanation of the World Tree Yggdrasil. This gnarled old evergreen stands on the north end of a huge mesa, towering over the other trees like a grandfather overlooking his progeny. Upon this weather-beaten tree are strange markings caused by squirrels, wind, time and perhaps even the fingers of the Fey. These markings appear runic in nature, and many of the Futhark can be seen upon it’s skin. The branches have twisted into sculptures of the mythic beasts said to reside in the branches of the World Ash. The Deer, the Eagle, even the quarrelsome gossiper Ratatosk the squirrel can be seen. This tree has three of it’s roots exposed, and a small cavern beneath where one can almost see the Norns weaving the fates of Men and Gods. It is there, to that sacred tree, that I make pilgrimages.

 

It is as John Muir says, “In every walk with nature, he receives far more than he seeks.” I find this to be a magnificent iteration of the mystic experience of pilgrimage, of questing for a sacred place. For, as one finds, it is not the object of the quest that fulfills the spiritual need, but rather the quest itself. I just got back from a wonderful hike. I had only myself, my dog, and a satchel of simple ritual objects I planned to use when I arrived. Shortly into my hike over the varied and sometimes technical terrain, my legs began to burn, sweat beaded upon my brow and my heart thumped like a tribal drum, calling the village to ritual. I tasted my life-force upon my drying tongue, coppery and salty, like sweat and blood. I pushed on, refusing myself a break. I sought and received an ecstasy that can only truly come from pushing one’s body, the burn of oxygen deprived muscles, the slamming of the heart, the pulse running hot and high like a steam engine.

The mind is freed, at this point, the spirit elated. The body is no longer running the show, but a servant of it. As I crested the top of an adjoining mesa to the one I sought my heart soared. Below me were tiny cars parked on the dirt road that winds serpentine between the hill of my habitation and the object of my quest. The sun was sinking behind the Rocky Mountains with much pomp and orange circumstance. Below me plummetted a nearly sheer hillside, to my north, a cliff, to my south, a winding labyrinth of trails. I weighed my options, wander through the shaded woods, or take the thrilling trek down the near-cliff. My faithful dog decided for us, looking at me tongue hanging lopsided, she seemed to smile and pulled towards the cliff-posing-as-hill. I could have laughed as she and I half slid, half ran down the precipice.

It was then, as we slid and ran, half tumbling down that hill that I realized that this was allegorical to life. Life often gives us options, many times we can take the easy, confused route of mediocrity, or we can take a chance, leap off the rocks and into the rolling chaos of joyful abandon. The Gods often place these options before us, to test our mettle, our courage, and our zest. They will not punish us if we take the easy way, but we may not reach our destination in time for their presence. I took the dangerous way, and was rewarded by a powerful presence. It felt as if Woden literally sat with me in spirit, listened to my concerns and shared the cheap wine from the flask I had brought along! Had I taken the twisting, level route, I would have probably missed that sacred “In-Between-Time” known as dusk, when the sun still peeks over the horizon, arriving just minutes too late to partake in communion with my beloved Valfadher.

 

I encourage all Pagans to get out into the local wilds. I encourage them to seek out places of spiritual power and divine alag (onlay). They are all over this country. Many are forgotten, polluted and forlorn, yet they wait for us; the nouveu Pagani to return and restore them. 

Get out there and get a “Rocky Mountain High”!

Approaching a Pagan Orthodoxy

Posted in Uncategorized on February 17, 2009 by Harmony041297

We have all heard this said at some time or another amongst Pagans, “Getting Pagans to agree on something is like herding cats!”.

This amusing quip was perhaps meant at first as a good-natured joke, but I believe that is has become an unfortunate truth within our community. Wiccans quibble with Recons, Recons quibble with each other, Thelemites argue with Discordians and the list continues ad infititum. While I myself believe that there is a serious need for intellectual debate over controversial subjects, and that our differences must be discussed, defended and challenged, I also believe that we must know, as a spirituality, to set our differences aside and gather together for strength and support.

What we need is simply this: A Pagan Orthodoxy. Now, I know what you are thinking, and before you begin gathering the Bell Book and Candle to banish my heresy. . .hear me out.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines Orthodox as:

1or·tho·dox            Listen to the pronunciation of 1orthodox
Pronunciation:
\ˈȯr-thə-ˌdäks\
Function:
adjective
Etymology:
Middle English orthodoxe, from Middle French or Late Latin; Middle French orthodoxe, from Late Latin orthodoxus, from Late Greek orthodoxos, from Greek orth- + doxa opinion — more at doxology
Date:
15th century
1 a: conforming to established doctrine especially in religion
So what, you may ask, should the established doctrine be? And what purpose would this established doctrine serve? Well, I am no Pope, and I do not believe that I have the right to speak for all Pagans, so determining what the Orthodox Pagan Doctrine(s) should be is a task better left for discussion at this point, but I believe that I can share my vision of what I think the doctrines should be, and what purposes they could be made to serve.
Let us begin with revealing a proposed “statement of faith” for lack of a better term.
I am a Pagan,
I believe the Earth to be our Mother,
I believe Nature to be inherently Divine,
I believe that as a Pagan, it is my duty to always view the Earth and all of
Nature in this manner,
I believe that the Divine is immanent in all things; there is no seperation between Nature and the Divine.
There is no part of me that is not of the Gods.
My spiritual pursuit shall be to grow a deeper and more passionate connection to the Land that surrounds me, and to work according to my means and abilities to protect and benefit the Earth in it’s entirety.
All who hold the Earth to be Divine, Sentient and worthy of devotion are my spiritual kinsfolk.
I will help my spiritual kinsfolk, regardless of tradition or difference in belief.
Now, the above creed is open to revision and discussion, it is merely my first stab at attempting to get us independant folk to agree on something. A house divided cannot stand, and a house that cannot stand will not last.
As far as the purpose a Pagan Orthodoxy would serve, the possibilities are endless. Would it not be wonderful to be able to attend Groves and Temples that are as easily accessible to lay-people as any street-corner Baptist Church or Lutheran Chapel? Would it not be wonderful to be able to visit a Pagan Temple whilst on vacation to get a boost of moral and commune with like-minded people? I think it would be.
If we had an Orthodoxy that we agreed upon, it could serve as a skeleton for non-sectarian, Earth-oriented religious services to be built around. Attendees would have no need to be Third Degree High Grand Poobahs of Whatsit to be able to attend or understand the service. These Temples could act as focal points for the local Pagan communities, where people could get handfasted, rites of passages could be celebrated, picnics and fundraisers could be held, and people could gather to engage in social and environmental activism and ministry.
I believe it would be wonderful for there to be a Pagan foodbank, a Pagan battered womens and childrens shelter, no-kill animal shelters, clothing donations and housing assistance, all provided by Pagans to the rest of the community, Pagan and non-Pagan alike.
Now, while I love to debate Pagan topics and beliefs, let us begin applying these passions many, if not all of us hold. Let us show society that we are relevant and we have something to offer. Our people are just as compassionate, and our belief system just as powerful for social good as the Presbyterians, the Methodists and the Evangelicals!
If we had this proposed Pagan Orthodoxy, it would not be a rigid structure that forced all to conform to one way of thought within Earth-based religions, rather it would be a positive affirmation of the things we can agree on. What I propose is building a set of agreed upon rituals and services that speak to Pagan belief in general that these temples can perform on a weekly basis. These services would retain their Orthodoxy, allowing whatever Path that operates the temple to hold their own tradition-specific rituals seperately yet alongside and in addition to the Orthodox rituals.
I know this is a big dream, and my desire is to engage the entire Pagan community and all it’s intellectuals and spiritual leaders in the formation of this. What I hope to see in the next year is a Pagan Council of Nicea, a symposium of Pagan spiritual leaders who shall gather and work these ideas out, come to an agreement and begin implementing them. Nothing is impossible save what is perceived to be so!
Frith,
Bjorn Odinsson Thompson
 

The Relevancy of Reconstructionism

Posted in Uncategorized on February 17, 2009 by Harmony041297
The only time anyone’s admitted they were a Christian before was when they were busy telling me why they’re better than me.
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Randy K. Milholland, Something Positive Comic, 10-19-06

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
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Voltaire (1694 – 1778)

God made so many different kinds of people.  Why would he allow only one way to serve him?  ~Martin Buber

There are three religious truths:  1) Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.  2) Protestants do not recognize the Pope as the leader of the Christian faith.  3) Baptists do not recognize each other in the liquor store or at Hooters.  ~Author Unknown

This is actually a blog-response to Treegod’s well-formed thoughts on his blog: http://thegroveofquotes.wordpress.com/2009/01/02/continuity-in-history-and-spirituality/

I encourage any readers to check out this posting as it brings forth some fascinating subjects and presents the other side of my argument as presented in Why is this Relevant? Since I trust that people will link to Treegod’s blog and read his thoughts, I won’t spend too much time prefacing, but get right down to the meat of the debate.

 

There is a misconception, I believe, amongst many in Paganism. This misconception is that, because Christianity has been ruling for a short fifteen-hundred years that this means that it is undefeatable and that culture would not exist as we know it if we were to cast off Christian ideology and forge a new path. If this were the case then the vast cilizations of India and Japan should have already ceased to exist. These are polytheistic cultures that still follow their ancient traditions while being pragmatic enough to accept the changing world and change with it. It is foolishness and ideological arrogance to believe that simply because Christianity has been the sustaining “bread-and-butter” of the West for less than two-thousand years that it is necessary to our society’s equilibrium. European culture had great successes for five thousand years before the upstart religion from Judea ever began. Some anthropologists trace primal Paganism back 10,000 years, and there is burgeoning evidence that even the Neanderthal peoples of thirty-thousand years ago had an animistic, polytheistic spirituality!

So why should Christianity’s fifteen-hundred years of domination be of any concern in a possible time-frame of 30,000 years? I don’t believe that it should. However, I digress.

 

My main purpose is not to wipe out Christianity, or even dominate it as they dominated my spiritual and ethnic ancestors. My goal in this incarnation is to simply take back some ground from them. To encourage a climate of diversity and equality within the greater society, where we Pagans are not subject to the constant barrage of Christian bias.

What I am championing is an internal battle to be waged within each and every one of us. To cease to validate Christianity within ourselves and to cleave to the ancient principles that guided our great peoples for millenia before the arrival of the Church. I believe it is self-defeating for a Pagan to try to squeeze in his or her newfound faith into an outdated philosophical construct such as Christianity.

I myself, when I discovered my true faith and began worshipping the Old Gods, found that I had much guilt and fear left over from my 18 years of being an Evangelical Christian. Doubts and paranoia about Hellfire and eternal damnation seethed within my mind. My parents hounded after me to return to the fold, and old friends from the Church harrassed me; adding to my misery. Then, while in meditation with my Patron Deity, Woden, I came to an epiphany: I had sworn myself to Christ in ritual, I would divorce myself from him in a similar fashion. The ritual worked beautifully and I have never doubted my direction since.

From that point on my faith in the Old Gods and my Ancestors grew and strengthened and my understanding of the nature of polytheism grew as well. Far from being a contentious system that supports rival gangs or tribes warring with each other for resources, Polytheistic Reconstruction encourages more respect for other peoples and other ways of life.

As a true polytheist, I believe that all Gods exist, and that they are all important to their people, thus their people take on a greater importance to a true polytheist, for they are the lifeblood of their Divinities.

I think that the point of view that some put forth, one of universalism and unity of faith is frightening in the extreme. As a lover of diversity, I stand against all forms of conformism and I believe Pagans should be the loudest voices against conformity, especially against Christian conformity. Christianity and Paganism have two vastly differing views of the world. Christians believe that all have sinned and fallen short. They believe that unless we subscribe some sort of Mystery Religion that we will all burn in Perdition. Pagans, both ancient and neo believe that humanity is neither perfectly good nor inherently wicked. Paganism believes that we are our ancestors, and that our antecedents were the very Gods we love and honor, thus we are the literal descendants of Gods. Christianity believes that the Earth is just a thing, an innert conglomeration of resources to be multiplied upon and dominated for our own material gains. Paganism believes that the Earth is a Goddess, or at the very least, a consortium of local Land Goddesses, and it should be respected as such. 

The list of differences could go on forever, so the above is just the tip of the iceberg. If we stop trying to force pieces together that have no relation we will begin to see the vast conflicts in these two religious traditions.

In my opinion, a Pagan that continues to validate Christianity – to feel thankful to it for recording our past in the written word, or to thank it for civilizing the warring tribes of the world – is no better than an African American circa 1950’s America that averted his eyes in the presence of Whites and held a self-denigrating opinion that the White-man had civilized him. We applaud the African Americans for standing up for equality and not validating White Supremism, and rightly so! Should we not take a note from those brave revolutionaries that refused to sit in the back of the bus, or to be cowed by the barking of the White Man’s police dogs? We no more owe thanks to Christianity than African Americans owe thanks to the slave-traders. Neither was beneficial for those oppressed, and neither should be validated.

If one finds a deep sympathy for the teachings of Christ, but dislikes the cultural amorphousness of American Christianity, then perhaps they should seek out a culturally relevant sect, such as Irish Catholicism, Christian Judaism, Russian Orthodoxy, Greek Orthodoxy etc..  These sects however, are not Reconstructionism, nor are they Paganism. They are mystical versions of the commercialized Western Church, that is all, and that is all they should remain. A mystic, seer, or sorcerer who follows the teachings of Christ is no more a Pagan than a Honda is a Ford. Both will get you from point A to point B, but one is more reliable and gentler on the Earth than the other.

 

 

 

 

Bjorn Odinsson Thompson

Why is this Relevant?

Posted in Heathenism, Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 16, 2009 by Harmony041297

burning-times1

Many within the Pagan community at large continually wrestle with a deep philosophical and spiritual question. This question wears on their minds and the conundrum is further exacerbated by the greater society of America and it’s obvious bias. The question is simply this: What is the relevance of Christianity and it’s teachings for a Pagan?

This can be very confusing for many of us who are desperately seeking to return to the Old Ways. While our society becomes more and more secular on the surface, a powerful and outspoken group of fundamentalists bully America with revisionist history and social momentum and ennui. Many who have been raised in America are oblivious to the fact of Christian chauvinism because in many ways it is subtle in it’s manifestation. This illiberality is an outdated part of the old guard in America which is, thankfully, becoming more pluralistic every day. However where we may say Happy Holidays in honor of the diverse nature of celebrants in December there are still much residue from the cultural tyranny of Christianity.

As an example, I was watching a History Channel special of “History’s Mysteries” on Witches. The program was horrifyingly biased towards the Christian world-view, as the narrator constantly referred to the old, religious method of chronology (B.C. and A.D.). The narrator did not refer to this understanding of time with the standard initials, but went as far as to say literally “Before the Birth of Christ” and “After the Death of Christ”. Another irking element of this program was that the amount of time devoted to pre-Christian, Pagan religious practices was extremely punctuated. Ten minutes approximately was devoted to these thousands of years of Pagan thought and practice, while the rest of the one hour episode was devoted to the Church and it’s attempts to destroy Pagan belief.

    Now this would have been marginally more acceptable had they devoted the end of the program to interviews with modern Neopagans and Witches. However this was not the case, while they mentioned them in passing, the program was mostly about how the Church saved people from superstition and heathenism (in not as many words).

 

Tell me, how can a program that proclaims itself to be devoted to History be so biased? Because we in the West and especially in America are still culturally bigotted against anything “other”. The writers of History determine the heroes and the villains. There is no reason that outside of a Christian dissertation on historical events that we should ever read the annotation: B.C. or A.D. which refer to “before the birth of Christ” and “Anno Domini – The Year of the Lord”. We have a perfectly acceptable secular chronology and is becoming widespread in the collegiate and academic circles: C.E. and B.C.E (Common Era and Before Common Era).

 

This admittedly long-winded example was presented as only one representation of the widespread manifestations of Christian predilliction and bias. Everything up until now has been examined through a Christian filter, according to Christian morals and ideaologies. Many in America, whether they attend Church or not are culturally Christian in their understanding of the world. Lacksidasically perhaps, but these cultural Christians-by-association still hold Paganism in distrust and superstition, they still believe however loosely in the Judeo-Christian concept of God. Many in the New Age and Pagan community still believe in and seek out Angels, which are Abrahamic constructs.

 

Another example is a letter to the Independant (a local newspaper in Colorado Springs), in which the author is responding to the HBO special on Ted Haggard and a subsequent article written by the Editor of the Independant. In this letter she proclaims herself to be a Pagan and admits to being hurt by New Life’s congregation. She then justifies Christianity by saying that she believes that she walks a Path similar to Christ, and that New Life has fallen away from the true path.

 

This seperation of the mythological figure of Christ from the practices of his devotees is silly at best. A God is defined by the actions of His or Her followers. According to Druid thought, “The Gods made us, and they need us to survive.” It is through their temples that the Gods find life and sustenance, for without these believers the God would either cease to exist or lose it’s relevance, which is essentially the same thing. Therefore, the Church is the physical manifestation of Christ in this world. If you wish to assess what this God has evolved into, simply examine the practices of the many sects of Christianity. You will undoubtedly find a schizophrenic amalgam of differing opinions and warring theologians all agreeing on their mutual disdain for those who have rejected Christian thought.

 

We as Pagans must cease to validate a theology that preaches spiritual and moral superiority at best –  and outright violence and hatred at worse – towards our most ancient beliefs and practices. We do not owe Christianity any respect as Pagans, for it was this belief-system which systematically destroyed and stamped out our ancestors’ beliefs and honored traditions.

 

If you seek justification from the text of the Bible as to why Christianity should have no relevance outside of it’s culture of origin, Judaism, then simply look to the book of Matthew 15:24 – 26

“He answered: ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.’ The woman (a Canaanite) knelt before him. ‘Lord help me!’ she said. He answered, ‘It is not right to take the Children’s bread and toss it to the Dogs.’.”

 

This clearly shows, among other such verses in subsequent books about the life of Jesus that he was focused on giving Judaism a new way to look at the Torah. He was a Jewish Rabbi who was teaching Jews how to be better Jews and have a greater relationship with their tribal God. He did not come to save all of humanity from some supposed original sin. He did not intend for his teachings to become a world-wide religion. This was all done after his alleged death, “revealed” through visions to fanatical disciples who desired a way to conquer their Roman oppressors. What better way than through spiritual power? Which we know, thanks to Constantine and Justinian eventually did happen when Christianity was given favor as a preferred religion in Rome.

 

To wrap up a broad and complicated topic that will surely need far more dialogue amongst the Pagan community, I will say one more thing in closing.

The Christian tradition has been one of bloodshed and imperialism. Utilizing terrorist tactics in it’s domination of Pagan and Heathen peoples. It has been the impetus for enslaving peoples all over the world, stealing natural resources, and destroying traditional ancestral cultures globally. No amount of historical revision or Pagan “turning the other cheek” will change this bloody and disturbing fact. We, as followers of the Old Gods, must cease to validate or in any way respect this tradition.

 

Frith,

Bjorn Odinsson Thompson

What is Heathenism? Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2009 by Harmony041297

In the last post I covered the essential Aesir and Vanir. Now I would like to write about the others that play a part in the spiritual realm. I am going to begin with the Monster Children of Loki and the Giants.

HELLA: Hella is the daughter of Loki by the Giantess Angrboda. Hella’s realm is called Hel and Helheim depending on the source. She is a grotesque goddess, being half flesh and half rotting corpse, other sources say that half of her body is black and the other half white. Her character is dual, being both a torturer of the wicked and a gentle if not morose hostess to those who died of old age or sickness but otherwise lived virtuously. The journey to her underworld realm is a harrowing one, where the souls of the dead must traverse through swamps of blades and spears and over sharp, cutting rocky trails. Those who were oathbreakers, adulterers, murderers and secret-killers (betrayers of trust) were taken by the swartalfar, dark malicious dwarves who whipped the damned and poured burning poison down their throats. These unlucky souls were cast down into the frozen wastes of Hel, where there is no warmth and no rest, as they constantly ran from the dreaded dragon Nidhogg who gnaws upon the roots of Yggdrasil the world-tree and whose wings are lined with corpses. The Lore is not clear if this is an eternal place of damnation, or merely a purgatory-like way-point where the damned are extirpated of their crimes and are then reborn without Hamingja or Fylgja to start anew. My opinion is the latter, as the Norse did not seem to believe in “eternity”, as even their Gods must die to rally in a new Era. 
    The virtuous dead were ushered into a somber place of melancholy beauty where they could rest and visit their kin in Midgard. I believe that after a time these souls would then choose to be reincarnated through their family line in hopes of dying a warrior’s death and being ushered into Valhalla.
    However Hella will play an important role in the doom of the Gods, as it is she who will rise up from Helheim, accompanied with the souls of the dead to make war upon the Aesir and the living. It is said that she will tire of her dank halls and seek to usurp the Shining Ones. Hella is often honored during the winter months, especially around Blotamonth (November) when many surplus animals were slaughtered to be preserved for food through the winter months. She is a goddess to be summoned when working dark majik such as curses and necromancy. She is not tame and should be called with the utmost respect and caution.

JORMUNGAND: Jormungand is the World-Serpent, another of Loki’s children by Angrboda. This wyrm was cast into the sea by the Gods, where it grew large and wild. It is said that this monster is so large that it circles the entire globe and can bite it’s tail. Jormungand has a deep hatred for Thor, as it was Thor who almost slew it at one point during a fishing trip. Jormungand will slay Thor at Ragnarok. Wild ocean storms are said to be this monster flailing it’s infinite coils about the sea-floor, and sailors dreaded this beast, having special incantations to chant when his presence was felt.

FENRIR: Fenrir is the giant wolf son of Loki and Angrboda, feared by the Gods. At first, when he was a pup, he was tolerated in Asgard, yet only Tyr dared to go near enough to play with and feed the beast. As the wolf grew he became increasingly violent and cunning and Odin, perhaps having foreknowledge of the fate of this wolf decided that the animal must be chained. The Gods, pretending to be playing at testing his strength, tried all the strongest chains they had, but Fenrir broke every one.  Finally the Dwarven smiths wrought a chain of deep majik that was guaranteed to be strong enough. However, Fenrir was suspicious at this point, and refused lest one of the Gods offer insurance by placing a hand in his jaws. As mentioned in the previous post, only Tyr was brave enough to do so. When Fenrir saw he could not free himself, he exacted payment by ripping Tyr’s sword hand off. The sagas tell us that in the final Age Fenrir will free himself and do battle against the Gods. Odin shall fall to the wolf, being eaten alive, but he shall slay Fenrir in the process. Fenrir should not be called to, and it is my opinion that he has gone quite feral in his imprisonment.

SLEIPNIR: Perhaps the only benevolent monster child of Loki, Sleipnir was born under the most bizarre of circumstances, for Loki in the case was not his father but rather his mother. The sagas tell of a Giant who came to Asgard in the guise of a simple human laborer and offered to build a wall around Asgard. He arrogantly demanded the Sun, the Moon and Freyja for payment. The Gods were about to strike him down for his insolence when Loki intervened and said that they should accept this offer, but demand that the wall be completed in three seasons. No mortal could possibly do such a thing, and the Gods agree under these conditions. The man accepts the deal and begins to build the wall with astonishing speed. The Gods become wroth with Loki, for it appears that the man will indeed complete the walls in time, so Loki changes form into a mare and entices the man’s powerful stallion (without which he obviously cannot complete the project) into the woods. The man becomes angry and lets his guise fall, revealing his Giant nature. The Gods realize that they have been dupted and slay the offending Giant. Loki returns nine months later with an eight legged steed and presents it to Odin as recompense for his misjudgement. 
    Sleipnir is the fastest of all horses and with it Odin is able to travel the Nine Worlds with great speed. Odin cut runes onto the horse’s teeth, hooves and saddle tack, perhaps revealing a practice for protecting war-horses. Sleipnir has been a powerful ally to me in my shamanic journeying through the Nine Worlds, and riding him can be a useful meditation for astral travelling.

More to come. . .

What is Heathenism? Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2009 by Harmony041297

Some who have stumbled onto this blog may be wondering what, exactly, is Heathenry/Asatru/Teutonic Recon?

That is a very good question and one that I will attempt to answer here and now.

Heathenry is an umbrella term that describes the pre-Xtian (I have omitted the “Christ” from this word as it is offensive to me) practices of the Germanic and Scandinavian peoples. Asatru is a slightly more specific term, and it infers the practices of many modern day reconstructionists as derived from the Icelandic Sagas and peoples. I prefer the term “Heathen” since I draw from many sources other than the Icelandic. As well as Asatru, a student of Heathenry will come across the names “Forn Sedr” meaning Ancient Way or “The Way”, a simple term that adherents in Scandinavia are often apt to use, and Theodish, referring to the Anglo-Saxon Heathen practices. These are only a few, but they are the most common terms in the community as of now.

Now, readers may be questioning the word Heathen. Many believe this word to mean godless and barbaric, as this is the common vernacular amongst English speaking peoples. However this word means neither. Dictionaries define the word as, among other things, “Being of non-Judeo-Christian values”. This is close but is not the full definition. Heathen literally means “of the heath”, and was a term used to refer to the hardy Northern European peoples who lived “on the heath”. It does not mean devil-worshipper or evil one. It is simply a denotation of geographical relation.

Heathenism is considered a decentralized, individualistic spirituality. The Nordic peoples were renowned for their fierce non-conformism, and it has reflected in their religion as well. The Heathen tradition is a patchwork of cults and sects that were based on local spirits and deified heroes. Each tribe had their own culture specific folktales and mythologies, all united loosely under a general understanding of two divine tribes of gods, the Vanir and the Aesir.

The Vanir, according to many historians and scholars, are probably an older family of Gods. They represent the Agrarian practices of the Bronze Age. Their chief concern is the fertility of the stock animals and the fecundity of the fields. However, only a few are mentioned, which has lead many researchers to believe that this more ancient cult of the Vanir was absorbed by the Warrior invaders and their cult to the Aesir. The Vanir are:

NJORD: God of the Coast and the Fjords. He seems to have been a Father God, ensuring bountiful hauls of fish and calm weather for the fishermen. He was the father of Freyr and Freyja, male-female twins. There is no hard and fast reference to who his consort was, but many reliable scholars believe that she was probably Nerthus.

NERTHUS: An Earth-Mother, Nerthus seemed to have been a local deity, and her worship was not widespread. She ensured that the fields gave forth a full crop. Little is known as to the specifics of her cult, however there is information from the Lore about one of her major festivals. Once a year her icon would be paraded through the tribelands on a cart. The folk would come out to lay offerings on her cart and make supplications for bountiful harvests. Once the Goddess had completed her circuit she would be returned to her temple, where animal and human sacrifices were made to feed her and ensure the fields were fat with grain. Mythologically it has been presupposed that Njord and Nerthus split after the war between the Vanir and Aesir, when the two tribes of Gods exchanged prisoners. Nerthus refused to leave her homelands, so Njord left with their children to live in Asgard, the home of the Aesir. This cannot be taken as gospel truth as this is unsubstantiated, yet it makes sense in a mythological context.

FREYR: Freyr is the male twin child of Njord and (possibly) Nerthus. He is a fertility deity, but there is evidence from the Lore that prior he may have had hunting and war attributes as well. The justification for these elements come from the sagas that refer to his mighty sword which flamed and fought on it’s own and ensured victory to whomever held it. He also is depicted as riding a golden boar, an animal that both represented the warrior ethos and a prize hunting trophy. He represents masculine virility and was asked to bless stallions, bulls and other male stock animals. He may have correlations to Cerrunnos in the Celtic tradition, as the later is depicted with antlers and Freyr is said to do battle with an antler.

FREYJA: Freyja is the female twin child of Njord. She is an elusive figure, and seems to cover a wide range of attributes. She, unlike her brother, is not related to Fertility, but rather moreso to war, death, sex for the indulgement of it, witchcraft and the honored dead. She, like her brother, often rides a boar, but seems to prefer her chariot pulled by two cats. Many read of Freyja’s association with cats and assumes this is referring to domestic housecats. This could not be further from the truth, however in modern days it has seemed that she has adopted these minature felines into her affections. The cats that pull her chariot are most likely Siberian Tigers, or Mountain Lions. These are wild cats that are predatory and allude to her sexual and battle prowess. She is a powerful sorceress, possessing a majik cloak made of falcon feathers which allows her to change into the bird of prey, with which she can traverse the Nine Worlds.

These are the only Vanir mentioned by name in the Sagas, however it is believed that there are more, perhaps local gods that were not widely known enough to be canonized.

The Aesir is the other tribe of Gods that Heathens owe allegiance to. The Aesir are believed to have come later than the Vanir, as they represent ideals of a more advanced society. These are the Gods of law, warcraft and kingcraft. These Gods are concerned with morality and justice and the more philosophical ponderings of an Iron Age culture. There are many more Aesir directly mentioned than there are Vanir, but due to time constraints I will only make reference to the key players in the Aesir. The reader is encouraged to read the Poetic and Prose Eddas as well as the Voluspa for more information regarding the many Gods of Heathenry.

ODIN: Also known as Woden, Odhinn, and Wotan, this is perhaps one of the most complex Gods of all mythologies. He has 49 epitaphs, each of which describe is many attributes and purposes. He is the Cheiftain of the Gods, a brilliant warrior and leader. He is cunning and an information junkie. He is always followed by his two wolves, Geri and Freki (Greedy and Voracious) and his two ravens Huggin and Munnin are constantly patrolling the Nine Worlds, observing all things and bringing the whispered rumors of goings on upon their shadowy wings. Huggin means Thought, and Munnin means Memory, and of the two he fears losing Munnin the most. Odin knows more than any other demigod or spirit in the Norse cosmology. He is the wisest of beings. Upon his High Seat he can see everything that happens in the Nine Worlds. He is one of the patron Deities of the Skalds (poets similar in function to the Celtic Bards), as well as the patron of sorcerers, seers and berserkers. He is said to be the distributor of the four Rages or “Gangs”; the rage of the seer who is consumed with visions of things to come, the rage of the poetic shouting torrents of song and verse, the rage of the warrior who cannot be slain, and the rage of the sorcerer who directs curses to their enemies.  Among other things he is also a Psychopompos, a leader of the dead. In some local cults he is said to be the leader of the Wild Hunt, a seasonal procession of the restless dead who ride through the winter skies in a great shrieking procession, scooping up the unwary to ride eternally with them. He also accepts those who have died courageously into Valhalla, the Hall of the Slain. This warrior’s paradise consists of battles all day long at the end of which, the fallen rise again and gather to feast upon pork and quaff mead all night. They awake to do it all over again. This appealed to the wild Nordic warriors sentiments, and all brave men and women lived in hopes to be granted entry there. Those inducted to Valhalla were called the Einherjar, the Holy or Honored Slain. They were Odin’s elite forces that he sought to surround himself with in anticipation of the Ragnarok, the doom of Gods and Men; a final “armageddon”-type conflict where the forces of the Aesir and Vanir would do battle against the forces of entropy and chaos. Odin knows that he will lose this conflict, but is determined to die with valor.
      Odin, as I said, is a very complex God, and I have not even come close to exposing his multi-faceted character, more can be found in the Sagas.

FRIGGA: She is the wife of Odin, but much more. She is the patroness of the home and hearth. Married women prayed to her for domestic peace and prosperity. Her symbol was the distaff and loom. She is attributed to weaving the thread that the Norns (Fates) spun into mens’ destinies. She knows all things but will not speak of them. There is a Cassandra element to her foresight. She remains silent (much to Odin’s chagrin) about her clairsentience for she knows that nothing can change these matters of destiny. The only time when she attempts to interfere with Fate is when her knowledge foretells of her son, Balder’s death. Yet even this mighty Goddess is thwarted by Fate and her son still dies. She is a cunning woman, and the perfect role model for any woman who devotes her life to domestic concerns. She and her husband are often at odds and engage in battles of wit and wile that she most often wins. Frigga blesses marriages and oversees matters of the home and family. She is a mighty protectress of children, and I have often prayed to her for my own childrens’ safety and well being. 

BALDER: Balder is the son of Frigga and Odin. Very little is known about this God, but most agree that he represents the Summer Sunshine. He is referred to as the Bright and Beautiful God, and the runes of eloquence are cut upon his tongue. All the Gods loved Balder dearly, but he soon became morose, weeping and having horrible nightmares presaging his death. Despite Frigga’s best efforts, Balder does die, struck down by his hapless blind brother with the help of Loki. His death heralds the beginning of the end for the Gods, for Balder will not return until the Gods die. He now languishes with his loyal wife in the halls of Hel, the Norse underworld.

THOR: Thor was perhaps the most beloved of Gods. He is a jolly red-haired giant of the God. His mother is Jord, the Earth Giantess, and his father Odin (Yes, Odin is a philanderer as well). Many mistakenly think of Thor as a war God, this could not be further from the truth. While Thor often fights and makes war on the behalf of the Aesir, his true role is as a protector. He is called the Friend of the Folk, and Defender of Midgard, the world of Men. He blesses the crops with rain, and fights off the Giants of Ice who would destroy the crops with hail and unseasonable snow. He carries with him his mighty hammer, Mjolnir, which always returns to his hand when thrown. His chariot is drawn by two goats, and thunder is said to be the sound of his wheels upon the sky, lightning the wrath of his hammer. Mjolnir is the symbol that modern Heathens use to identify themselves. They tattoo it on their skin and wear pendants around their necks. A hammer pendant is said to be a powerful charm against misfortune and invokes Thor’s aid and protection. His two goats can be slain, eaten, and then revived the next day, so Thor is also a God of plenty and prosperity. It is he who blesses Marriage rituals, and the Ritual Hammer is often placed in the bride’s lap to bless her with many offspring.

TYR: Tyr is the one-handed God of justice. His weapon is the sword, and all warriors’ swords should have Tyr’s rune – Tiwaz – inscribed twice upon the blade. However, despite Tyr’s reputation for honesty and justice, he lost his hand in an act of treachery. One of Loki’s monster children, Fenrir, a giant wolf, was becoming far to unweildy and untrustworthy, so the Gods devised a way to chain him. Fenrir is cunning however, and would not allow himself to be chained unless one of the Gods ensured that he would be able to break the bindings by placing their hand in his powerful jaws. Tyr was the only one brave enough to do so. When Fenrir saw that he could not break the chains, he took Tyr’s hand in vengeance. 
    Tyr is invoked when going into battle, his aid is called upon when facing unjust persecution and legal problems. However, the practitioner should be sure that they are in the right before calling upon Tyr, as he is unbiased and will rule against the one invoking his aid if he sees that they are in the wrong.

IDHUNNA: Idhunna is the beautiful maiden of apples. Scholars are not sure if she is Vanir or Aesir, but it is she that tends to a tree in Asgard that grows golden fruit. These apples grant eternal youth to the consumer, and this is how the Gods live as immortals. Very little is said in her regard, there is only one story where she plays a central role, when a Giant kidnaps her and deprives the Gods of her apples. The Gods grow old and weak and she must be rescued by Loki (who seems to be beyond the need for her fruit). While she seems to be a sideliner, her role is imperative to the Gods’ well being. Young women in the flower of their youth should honor her with offerings of apples, and she is often celebrated during the Rites of Spring.

SKADI: Skadi is not necessarily of Aesir or Vanir stock. She is a Giantess, the perennial enemies of the Gods and men. Her father was a frost Giant named Thiazi, who Odin killed. She storms Asgard seeking vengeance for her father’s murder. The Gods admire her courage and strength and make a pact of alliance with her by allowing her to marry one of their number. She falls for Balder’s beauty, but the Gods devise a game where she must choose her husband by his feet only. The male Gods line up behind a curtain barefoot. Skadi assumes that since Balder has the most beautiful face that his feet must follow suit. So she chooses the God with the most beautiful feet, which is in fact Njord. The marriage is doomed, as Skadi cannot tolerate Njord’s seaside home with the cawing gulls and roaring waves, and Njord cannot handle the ice and cold of Skadi’s mountain stronghold. So they decide that Skadi will dwell with Njord half of the year, thus bringing the snow and ice to the coasts in winter.
     Skadi is the Goddess of skiing, hunting and mountainous regions. She should be placated when venturing into the mountains in winter, and with the proper offerings will protect those from avalanches.

ULLR: Ullr is not a well-known deity. He seems to a winter masculine counterpart to Skadi, being pictured with skiis and archery equipment. He is the God of winter hunting, and some local cults say that he takes the throne from Odin during the winter, when Odin rides with the Wild Hunt or wanders the earth in the wizardly Vegtam guise. He is not the nicest of Gods, and it was considered a bad thing when he took over power in the winter.

BRAGI: Bragi is another son of Odin’s, and it is not clear if Frigga is his mother or Saga (perhaps another aspect of Frigga). Bragi is the God if Poetry par excellence. The runes of inspiration are on his tongue and he teaches the mystical art of music and story to his devotees. All storytellers, poets and writers should make friends with this God, as he has much wisdom and inspiration to give to those who love him.

SAGA: Saga is another Goddess that seems to be breezed over by the myths. However it is obvious to the student of the Lore that she is important. Every day Odin drinks mead with her and she tells him the sagas of the Nine Worlds. She is one of his most important sources of knowledge. Those attempting to reconstruct the Old Ways will find her an indispensable source of gnosis.

There are many more lesser Gods and Goddesses, spirits, elves, dwarves, Giants, and monsters in the cosmology. The last God I will explain in this posting will be Loki.

LOKI: I have decided not to include him in either tribe of Gods as he seems to be an Outsider. He is of neither tribe and varies in occuptation from prankster to source of evil. Loki might even be older and more powerful than the Gods, as there are some recorded accounts of the Creation Story that place Loki in the beginning before the Gods had proliferated and become strong. In these accounts he was there in the formative moments, attempting to outpace the Gods by creating offspring of his own that outmatched the beauty of the Gods’ creations.
    In the mythic origin of the Folk two trees, an Ash and Elm were pitied by the Gods and given attributes of life. Odin gave them breath, Hoenir gave them Blood or Strength, and Loder/Loki gave them beauty and vital spark. Loki often causes problems for the Gods, and is always the one to bail them out as well. Loki to me represents Chaos. Without chaos we would never evolve or grow. It take tribulation to make us stronger, and it is Loki’s function to provide these things. He has been the source of great gifts to the Gods, bringing Thor his mighty hammer, Odin his majik spear, and Freyr his foldeable boat.  However he often causes the Gods great insult or puts them in harms way. From accusing Thor’s wife Sif of adultery to causing Balder’s death, he is a trickster that cannot be trusted. Eventually his list of crimes becomes great enough that Gods punish him by tying him to a rock in the middle of the sea with his son’s own entrails. Skadi hangs an adder above his head that drips burning poison into his eyes. Loki’s devoted wife dwells in exile with him, catching the poison in a bowl. But when she must empty the bowl the poison drips into Loki’s eyes, causing him to scream and shake the earth in agony. It is from this that earthquakes are said to ensue. Loki’s presence in the world is hampered by this exile, yet his lips are not bound, and it is in his voice where his true power resides, so he continues to effect the world of men, though in a diminished way.
     When Ragnarok begins Loki will free himself, Hella shall break free from Hel and the doomed dead shall rise against men and Gods. 

Next posting I will discuss the various other beings, as well as Loki’s monstrous children. These beings are not generally worshipped in modern Heathenry, however they are often placated with offerings so that they do not effect our lives adversely. Hella, Loki’s daughter, is perhaps one of the exceptions to this rule. However all that shall be covered in the next post.

I hope that this was informative, but please understand that these writings in no way seek to define these Gods or Folkways in their entirety. There are many differing schools of thought, and the views expressed only represent my own understanding and experience with these Deities.

Frith, Worth, and Might,

Bjorn Odinsson

Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2009 by Harmony041297

Hey all, this is Bjorn. I finally overcame my temporary phobia of the computer and got logged in lol.