On Miasma in Heathenry and the Northern Tradition
Here’s a sneak peak at an excerpt from my forthcoming book on Miasma and Pollution. This is taken from chapter 1.
I’ve had push back from Heathens and other polytheists for using a term that is specific to Greek polytheism but miasma as a word exists in English and it is a perfectly serviceable word to express a concept of spiritual pollution that is common to nearly all polytheisms. If Heathenry did not have a concept of pollution and cleansing, it would be quite unusual amongst the family of Indo-European religious traditions to which it belongs. We know the Norse and Germanic tribes had clear ideas of the holy and where there is a sense of the holy there is likewise a sense of pollution as a matter of course.
Norse words pertaining to holiness and pollution include:
Helgan (f): sanctity,
Helga (v): to appropriate land by performing sacred rites, to hallow to a deity, to proclaim the sanctity of a meeting,
saurr (m): mud, dirt, excrement (defilement?),
saurga (v): to dirty, defile, pollute,
saurgan (f): pollution, defilement,
saur-lifi (n): lewdness, fornication, lechery. Its opposite is Hreinlifi, which means chastity. Hreinn is the opposite of saurr. It means clean, bright, clear, pure, sincere (as a noun the same word means reindeer, interestingly enough).
Hrein-hjartaðr (a) means pure of heart,
Hrein-látr (a): clean, chaste,
Hrein-leikr (m): cleanliness, chastity,
hrein-liga (adv) cleanly, with purity.
We also have Hreinsa (v): to make clean, to cleanse, to purge, to clear and hreinsan (f): cleansing.
Then there is the word vé, which means “holy place,” (shrine) and which is such a powerful and important concept that the three creator Gods (Odin, Hoenir, and Loður) may also be called Odin, Vili, and Vé.
So when Heathens complain that this is not relevant to Heathen practice, I strongly suggest they think again. It’s not just in the lore, but in the very language our ancestors spoke. (Thank you D. Loptson for your help in hunting up these etymologies).