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).

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About ganglerisgrove

Free-range tribalist Heathen, Galina Krasskova, has been a priest of Odin and Loki since the early nineties. Originally ordained in the Fellowship of Isis in 1995, Ms. Krasskova also attended the oldest interfaith seminary in the U.S.- the New Seminary where she was ordained in 2000 and where she later worked as Dean of Second Year Students for the Academic year of 2011-2012. She has even given the opening prayer at the United Nations Conference “Women and Indigeny”. Beyond this, she took vows as a Heathen gythia in 1996 and again in 2004, She is the head of Comitatus pilae cruentae and a member of the Starry Bull tradition. She has been a member of numerous groups through the years including the American Academy of Religion. She has also served previously as a state government contracted expert on the Asatru faith, and been a regular contributor to various print and online publications geared towards modern pagans and polytheists, and for a time had her own radio program: Wyrd Ways Radio Live. Ms. Krasskova holds diplomas from The New Seminary (2000), a B.A. in Cultural Studies with a concentration in Religious Studies from Empire State College (2007), and an M.A. in Religious Studies from New York University (2009). She has completed extensive graduate coursework in Classics (2010-2016) and is pursuing a Masters in Medieval Studies at Fordham University (expected graduation 2019) with the intention of eventually doing a PhD in theology. She has also been teaching University classes in Greek and Latin. As part of her academic career Ms. Krasskova has written a number of academic articles, and also presented at various academic conferences including Harvard University, Claremont University, Fordham University, Ohio State University, Western Michigan University, Villanova University, and the City University of New York. An experienced diviner and ordeal master, her primary interest is in devotional work and the reconstruction of Northern Tradition shamanism. Her very first book, The Whisperings of Woden was the landmark first devotional text to be written in modern Heathenry. Ms. Krasskova has a variety of published books available running the gamut from introductory texts on the Northern Tradition, as well as books on shamanism, runes, prayer, and devotional practices. She is also the managing editor of “Walking the Worlds,” a peer-reviewed academic style journal focusing on contemporary polytheism and spirit work and the first journal of polytheology. While very busy with teaching and school, she does also occasionally lecture around the country on topics of interest to contemporary Heathenry and polytheisms. A passionate supporter of the arts Ms. Krasskova enjoys going to the opera, theater, and ballet. Her affection for the arts began early as she discovered dance, which she pursued professionally becoming a ballet dancer: first with a regional company in Maryland, then in New York City. After suffering career ending injuries, she would find new forms of expression in the visual arts. For a few years Ms. Krasskova co-owned an art gallery in the Hudson River Valley of New York, and over a course of numerous years she has studied a multitude of art mediums: glassblowing, watercolor, acrylic, photography and more! She is now an avid collage artist, acrylic painter and watercolorist and has even enjoyed placement in international artist-in-residencies programs in New York, New Mexico, and Poland. Her work has been exhibited globally from New York to Paris. She has taken her passion for the arts and polytheistic devotion, to create the Prayer Card Project. Since so much religious iconography has been destroyed, or defaced in the course of human history, she is actively making new religious prayers and iconography available to the various modern polytheistic communities to support those who are building their religious communities, building their devotional practices, and hungering for art that represents their religious faith. All while also supporting the artists within these burgeoning communities.

Posted on May 28, 2017, in Heathenry, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thank you, Galina, and I am going to be ordering your book. I think as these polytheistic faiths are largely reconstructions that it is a positive thing to use the words that we understand, such as miasma. After all the Vikings traveled a lot and probably brought words of other peoples into their language as English is also a blend of many languages. I appreciate the ancestral words also. What is important is the ritual, routine purification if we are going to engage with the Gods and Goddesses that is simple respect. If we are working with energies this is also practical energy management of our own spiritual well being.

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  2. You and I were discussion Harner Shamanism, when you had to stop since it was so polluted. I have been pondering that aspect of pollution… What I came up with was irreverence to the holy and sacred, the lack of respect of the holy and sacred, and that it was so man-centered in that the Gods are creations of the mind and hence cosmic bellhops.

    Would you consider Moralistic Therapeutic Deism which permeates Harner’s to be pollution?
    From Wikipedia: A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.

    If so, how does one purify the mind when in contact with it?

    Second question, is pollution the same for everyone? I have been able to critically read Harner’s stuff. Well maybe not, got bronchitis in the middle of it……. So there is my answer. But how to do you attempt to rebut this stuff or do you?

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