Category Archives: Heathenry
For Heathens, this is one of our holy symbols. It may, in fact, be our holiest of symbols and it’s certainly the one that the majority of us wear to indicate that we are Heathen (in much the same way a Christian might wear a cross or a Jewish person a star of David) (1). I’ve been meditating a lot on what the Hammer means, especially since it seems I cannot wear it these days without questions and occasionally direct hostility. The more I think about it, the more I realize that this gift, crafted by the duergar, given by Loki, wielded by Thor for the good of the worlds is the most important symbol we will ever bear.
Thor is a God Who brings holiness. There is nothing foul or polluted, wicked or spiritually wrong that He cannot conquer. He renders His protection without contract or stipulation. For this reason, He is called “Friend of Man.” More than any other God, He watches over Midgard – the human world, our world – ensuring that it maintains its integrity (despite our own depredations of our home). He travels with Loki, the God most gifted at finding loopholes. I think this is particularly important. I think that very special care must be taken when the Gods act directly in our world, that doing so promiscuously threatens to weaken the very scaffolding They seek to maintain, and perhaps Loki is Thor’s favorite traveling companion because between the Two of Them, They can find all those loopholes too, never missing an opportunity to drive back evil and entropy threatening existence (2).
I often think that Thor is one of the Gods most often underestimated. Despite one of His by-names being “Deep-Minded,” despite the fact that He is the Son of Odin, despite the fact that He is the son of the earth (Fjorgyn), the Goddess Who provides all we need to sustain our world, He’s quite often dismissed as … a dumb jock. He’s pigeon-holed in a way that I also see with Goddesses like Freya. We reduce Him in our minds to a one-dimensional character in a book. I don’t think this is purposeful or intentionally disrespectful, I think it’s what we’ve been programmed to do by popular culture, by the way our Gods are treated in academic writing, by the way they’re treated in comparative lit., and by the way They were treated by the working-class founders of American Heathenry. But our Gods are not characters in a set of stories. They are living Holy Powers, Immortal Beings, the Creators of our very existence and the space in which it plays out.
Consider a few of His by-names (heiti ): Atli (The Terrible), Einriði (One Who rules alone – in other words, I interpret this to mean that He is more than capable in and of Himself of purifying and rendering holy, and carries the blessing of the sovereignty of the land through his Mother), Harðhugaðr (strong spirit, fierce soul), Rymr (noise, which makes me think of how sound, like rattles, drums, bells, chanting, etc. is often used to clear spiritual pollution and purify people, places, and things), and last but not least Veurr (Hallower, Guardian of the shrine). Thor hallows. Wherever He is, whatever He touches, wherever He chooses to make Himself manifest, there He hallows and in hallowing creates space where the enemies of the Gods simply cannot exist.
Thor’s hammer, then, is a sign that the Gods are engaged with us in the ongoing process of creation. It is a sign that They guard us, that Thor girds the world against dissolution, against entropy, against all that would threaten the cosmic and divine architecture. Like His mother, Thor provides. He sustains. Like His Father, He battles back the enemies of the Gods. Like He, Himself alone, He renders holy those places He has been, those spaces through which He has passed. When we wear the Thor’s hammer, we are signaling that we too are aligned with divine order. We are signaling that we stand with Him in maintaining, protecting, and most of all nourishing that which the Gods have created.
So, wear the hammer proudly. When people ask you about it, or the ruder ones challenge you for wearing it, explain exactly what it means and hold your ground. We must not give up a single inch of space, not in mind, not in body, and not in soul. That hammer signifies that we are hallowed ground, reclaimed, rededicated, consecrated to our Gods, committed to Thor’s protection. Wear it proudly, wear it mindfully, and every time you touch it, give thanks to this God Who sustains His Father’s creation.
- Some Scandinavians will wear it as a cultural symbol and then of course it’s endlessly misappropriated by individuals who have no faith in the Gods, but you see the same thing with other religions’ symbols too, at least the latter use by the godless.
- I think there are cosmic rules that the Gods adhere to, blocking how directly They may act in our world. This is hinted at most fully in the Homeric corpus but I believe it holds true amongst our Gods as well, that the more they violate those structures They Themselves have put into place, not only the more They weaken the cosmic architecture, but more importantly, They provide openings for the Nameless, that unnamed force – the Kemetics called it Isfet, Native Americans had different names for it – that ever hates and threatens divine creation to also come in. I think there’s a cosmic détente and no God is better at finding ways to act without violating that détente than Loki.
As many of you know, I get called a nazi pretty regularly. I’m not; in fact, I find Nazism and white supremacy vile (as I’ve articulated numerous times in my work for years), but that doesn’t matter. I even come from a military family with close relatives who fought actual Nazis in WWII and that doesn’t matter either. The only thing that matters is that I won’t be swayed from whatever theological position vis-à-vis our traditions that I’m holding by emotional blackmail and clumsy sophistry, positions that have nothing at all to do with politics.
Because it probably needs to be restated yet again, racism, white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia are gross, ugly, and have no place in our traditions. Our Gods are there for those who love and venerate Them. Our traditions are there for those willing to take up the privilege of learning these sacred protocols. But I digress…
This all got me thinking tonight about how many people in Heathenry and in other polytheistic traditions stay quiet on religious matters about which they care deeply because they are afraid of being termed a ‘Nazi.’ Mind you, there are places in the world where people are dying for their Gods and their ancestral ways, places like Brazil for instance where Pentecostal terrorists are murdering Candomble practitioners who refuse conversion and who refuse to desecrate their shrines. Even here in America people can lose their jobs, or custody of their kids for being outed as Polytheists or Pagans. Yet, while devout, committed people fight for their religious freedoms we have anti-theistic Wiccans, Neo-Pagans, and assorted eclectic playgans for whom it’s all make believe (of course, this is not all Wiccans, or all Neo-Pagans but I think you know who you are). We are literally not speaking the same language, practicing anything approximating similar traditions, or even moving in the same intellectual worlds.
So, I wonder how many people are afraid to practice Heathenry or to speak out when these outsiders come into our traditions trying to erase not just basic piety but the polytheism itself at our traditions’ core. Because when those same people cannot “win” a debate by means of fact, and when their emotional blackmail doesn’t work, inevitably cries of “Nazi,” “Racist,” “Patriarchy,” etc. will come next, along with other assorted ad hominems.
Let those things come. At this point, those terms are pretty much meaningless. Such hysterical people have been debasing the intellectual currency of those words and giving openings for actual evil people to prosper. When people who have worked their entire public careers fighting this stuff get labeled “Nazi,” well, when an actual neo-Nazi does, they can just shrug it off. How will interlocutors tell the difference? Every time you call someone a Nazi undeservedly, you’re actually helping the white supremacist movement erode and infiltrate our community. Good job, assholes.
As to my readers, you know what you believe. Any decent person that knows you, knows what you believe and will stand by you knowing such slander to be false. Those that don’t are cowardly parasites and you don’t need them in your life. If people insist on attempting to demean you by such insults, that speaks to their character, not yours. Let them show who they truly are.
Our Gods, our ancestors, our traditions, our communities deserve better and we can be better, do better, and cultivate moral courage in the face of this utter nonsense, because that’s all it is: people with arid theologies, incapable of reasoned debate, oppressed by differing views, and upset that we hold our Gods and traditions more highly and more precious than their feelings. They’re like little yapping terriers that have never been house trained; and that’s about as much import as we should give them.
Don’t be afraid of the words people throw at you. Stand for what you believe in and never let your voice be silenced.
So, already the stupidity has started. This time around the idea of a tradition and what it is. I’m not sure why this is difficult but I do know that it was one of the issues that predicated the online schism c. 2012 leading to many Polytheists refusing to use the word “Pagan” (even though the two words should be synonymous). It would be comforting to simply dismiss it as “stupidity” of this group or that, but to do so is simply not accurate, and more and more I realize that when we speak with those who are not polytheists (and sometimes, sadly, even with those who are) we’re simply not speaking the same language.
This is particularly true when discussing “tradition.” It was this word and the argument around it that really drove home for me today the huge disconnect between those of us who value this as polytheists and those coming from other, less structured traditions. “Tradition” is a key word for us, a highly-charged word, and it denotes something extremely sacred (1). We use this word differently. When I speak about a tradition, I am speaking about a careful scaffolding passed down from the Gods and ancestors, protocols for engaging with the Holy Powers, a way of doing things that is licit, clean, that creates reverence by its very structure. It does not come from us, though we are tasked with maintaining and preserving it; it will pass on after us and it is our sacred obligation, our duty to pass it on to our students and our children in as clean a way as possible. This understanding of tradition draws on the Latin etymology of the word as something that is passed down from one generation to another.
A tradition however is more and it’s that more that I find really difficult to articulate. There is more to it. There’s the Mystery element, there’s the unchanging, eternal element, there is that which it is not in our remit to alter at our whim. It is not transient. Tradition is eternal, a thread in the skein of a people’s wyrd, protected, cherished, that is essential to the expression of piety and reverence for specific Gods in specific ways. It involves lineage because it is a living thing, passed from elder to student, parents to child, teachers to neophytes and before all that from the Gods to the people They cherish. It is a language, a dialect, a grammar, a syntax of the sacred. It defines us in our interactions with the Holy. We enter into it and it changes us, it changes our grammar of the sacred. It changes the very language we speak. It becomes the lens through which every single part of our world is filtered and articulated.
Neo-Pagans have never experienced this level of tradition (2). Trying to explain it to them is like trying to explain the color “blue” to someone who is blind. I don’t say this to be nasty. I say it because over and over again, this is precisely the disconnect I have experienced in inter-religious dialogues (or let’s be honest, arguments). I think this is why so many of them see nothing wrong with coming into our spaces and attempting to define our traditions for us, or dismissing our traditions’ requirements with things like, “there are no rules,” or “just do what you want,” or “there’s no right way to practice.” Well, within a tradition yes, actually, there is.
That doesn’t mean that it’s static and unchanging. A tradition is a living thing and each generation adds to it by their piety and their presence. There are protocols within traditions to allow for necessary change, the thing is, what drives a tradition is the Gods from Whom it comes, not us.
I’m still not capturing everything inherent in that word ‘tradition’. I could write a dissertation on the subject and I would still not be able to capture everything. “Tradition” is something that has been imprinted on our souls. It is like the walls of Asgard that the Gods spared no expense defending. It is our job to upkeep it and see that it is not breached. Understanding that comes with terrifying obligation. Maybe that right there is the problem and why so much is “lost in translation (3).”
- There is a difference between “I have a tradition of lighting candles every New year’s eve” and “my tradition dictates that we approach sacred space in this way…” or “within my tradition, we have x protocol for approaching this Deity for the first time.”
- Which I understand; what I don’t understand is why, just like so many anti-theists, they think nothing of coming into our spaces and conversations with words about how traditions have no rules, but when we call them on it, they inevitably lose their shit and accuse us of being angry, judgmental, Christian, etc. The thing is that for us, “tradition” does have rules. It has requirements. It has a governing, sovereign power because it is that which the Gods have given us to allow for clean, healthy communication and gnosis. The problem that we as polytheists face then is different from that of Neo-Pagans but no less vexing: we have to restore threads that a generation of our ancestors cut, dropped, or had torn away from them with the spread of colonizing Christianity (or in some areas Islam). This is also a problem and one that complicates our understanding of what it means to live in a lineaged tradition, that weight and responsibility and moreover how to do that cleanly and well.
- Way too many people want the benefits of what tradition has to offer without the obligations. Tradition is a loaded word, it’s powerful, sexy, it can make one seem “better” than other people but in reality, it comes with responsibility and duty to preserve and maintain and pass it on; and we live in a world that for a very long time has been very hostile to any kind of responsibility, even in the most mundane sense. If we can, after all, shirk even our responsibilities of being competent, adult men and women why wouldn’t we shirk this too? That’s the lesson that we’ve been taught in our modern world: that we don’t need to be responsible for anything. That this is a lie that diminishes us each and every day we let it take up space in our mental worlds doesn’t change that it defines the field on which we live and breathe and fight.
I eat the holy
spewing forth prophecy and portents
too many sadnesses
my gut clenches
they double me over
gods come out of my mouth
the diamond hard fire of numen
i devour the holy
and that fire takes me over in turn
I am never far from the Tree
the crows eat my eyes
worms of revelation turn in my brain.
Razor edged leaves flens and flex
Shearing bits and pieces of me
Until the blood brown body
The spine of the worlds
I met a wayfaring strnger once
In the tangled thorny woods
In which my heart took refuge.
He was a brutal man
He took me down
With the resonance of His voice alone.
He was not a man.
He was not a man.
I saw Him die and walk again.
I saw Him tear the words apart
Yet we live.
I saw and the crows spat gold
Where before my eyes had been.
It burns and this man not man laughs
And tells me to bend myself forward
And drink of the holy
Then my prayers will burn too
Like napalm from my tongue
And I will be the worm
Gnawing on the brain of the world
I will be the crow opening the door
Through which the dead will come.
I will bring revelation.
I met a wayfaring stranger once.
He was not a man.
He wore the skin of being.
He keened with a voice
Like a razor wrapped in velvet.
His hands were long, his nails were cold
He ate my heart
And breathed his icy fire
into the space where it had been.
I breathed his madness
He brought me to life.
(by G. Krasskova)
So, for Christians, the Christmas season traditionally concludes on January 6 with Three Kings’ Day or epiphany. This is, I think, when the three magi, kings, or wise men (take your pick of epithet) brought gifts to the baby Jesus in the manger at Bethlehem, guided there by a star. Ok, so I’m a sucker for Christmas lights (my goal is for my house to be viewable from space one day lol though I have to admit, this year we didn’t do much decorating). They make me happy and they’re pretty. Please, my Christian friends, keep them up at least through epiphany. I’d be happy to see them up through Chinese New year to be honest. The more lights the better but I digress…
It occurred to me today that we Heathens should totally repurpose this holiday. Seriously, it was probably some polytheist celebration anyway originally (Sannion said, for instance, that there was a Dionysian feast about the same time) and we know that Christians adapted and incorporated many elements of Pagan/Heathen feast days (logical, not only to smooth over the rough edges of forcedconversions but also because religions influence each other by sheer proximity. It’s an ongoing cultural conversation) so why not reclaim, repurpose, re-appropriate?
Think about it, we begin Yule on Dec. 20 with Mothernight, honoring both our female ancestors and our major Goddesses (in our house, we give this night to the Mothers Frigga, Freya, and Sigyn, and also quite often Nerthus – there are many other Goddesses that we might honor, but these are major deities in our home cultusso we tend to focus on Them usually for this rite). There would be a certain balance to conclude Yule not with New Year’s but with Three Kings and for my household that would Odin, Frey, and – because we work in a blended tradition – Dionysos, Whom we syncretize with Freya’s husband Oðr (1). If my household weren’t blended, I’d be honoring Odin, Frey, and probably Thor. I might anyway, after all, there’s no rule that says there has to be only three Deities honored on this night and I do hate to leave any Deity out.
I actually start preparation for yule not long after the fall equinox, which we also celebrate as a harvest holiday (we honor Frey and Gerda, sometimes Thor and Sif). Then there is winternights in October for the ancestors – we do it over a span of days from about the 28thof October through Nov 2, November 11this for the military dead and Odin, December 6 is Oski’s day… then on each full and new moon we’re honoring Mani in some way. We will reclaim all that is lost and our own experience in doing so will birth more celebrations, more holy tides, more ways to honor the Gods Whom we love and that is good. That is exactly as it should be (2).
Meanwhile, come January 6, my household will be honoring the Kings of our tradition.
- There’s actually a surprising amount of lore to support this. If you’re interested in learning contact sannion.
- This year I just learned about a lovely tradition called Sunwait. I plan on incorporating this into my household’s yule preparations next year. Learn more here. I’ll probably light candles, make offerings, and do prayers on Sundays for Sunna at this time, but I”ve a year to figure it out.
Last night, I was reading a small book my mom gave me years and years ago. It was a collection of quotes from the Havamal with random historical notes inserted every few pages (the book is called “Ferocious Common Sense.” It’s a treasure to me because it has my mom’s hand written notes here and there throughout). One of the things I learned that made me laugh outloud was that upon marriage, a Viking age husband commonly turned the keys to his home, pantry, and stores of wealth over to his wife. That part I knew — it’s what is symbolized by the bundle of keys a married woman would wear at her waist. What I did not know, is that if the man did not do this, it was grounds for immediate divorce. ^_^
So…all y’all “brosatru” out there, I hope you are handing your pay checks over to your wives and living on the allowance they grant you. If not, I don’t really want to hear you spouting lore. I think it’s time instead for, as my husband said, “traditional Heathen values.” ha.
happy new year, y’all.
I just got an email informing me that that there is a kindred not only with an atheist godhi but now an atheist volva (seeress). Really? What is she doing? Communicating with the mental sock puppets of those in her group? It’s really just quite obscene. It’s also impious as hell. If you’re an atheist, you have no business taking a leadership position in our religious community. None. You have no business serving as a religious specialist in any religious community. You may be welcome to share in the ritual and the socializing that occurs after, but no religious group of any integrity would allow more than that and I personally, wouldn’t even permit you at the ritual. This isn’t play acting after all and if you don’t actually believe in and more importantly venerate the Gods with a full heart, mind, and spirit, then you have no business in our sacred spaces.
That I have to say this is fucking appalling. It shows not only the tremendous lack of sense in some dark corners of our community but also the tremendous lack of piety. It is so offensive for these people to appropriate the term volva considering all the effort, pain, and sacrifice that goes into making one a competent seeress. If you don’t have relationships with spirits and Gods, you’re not a volva. You’re not a godhi. You’re nothing at all insofar as our communities go.(1)
It is well beyond the time when our community should stop accepting this. Better to worship alone than in such polluted spaces. Better still to drive such people out. Most atheists don’t behave like this. They’re decent people who work hard to live good, moral lives. They have zero interest in being involved in someone else’s religious traditions. They want to be left alone and since they don’t want to have religion forced on them, they usually don’t harass and force their atheism on others. People who do what we’re seeing describe above …there’s something wrong with them. It’s gross; it’s polluted; it’s impious; it’s obscene and we need to stand up strong and united against it.
- Go be a happy atheist in happy atheist spaces. Gods know, you have enough of them. Go participate, if you want the experience, in cultural things like the SCA or reenactment groups. All respect to that, but that’s not religion. If you have any integrity at all, you will not force your way in to religious communities demanding primacy of position.
I intended this piece to be an exploration of prayer but then I really thought about what I’ve experienced in Heathenry over the last three decades. I thought about how powerful and potent the traditions of our ancestors once were and the horror of having those tradition destroyed, swept away, or willingly tossed away like garbage. I thought about the future generations and what we’re leaving them, and most of all I thought about the debt we owe those ancestors who fought for their traditions and the Gods Who sustained them and the debt we owe to both. Then I got a little bit upset.
I believe that our community is at a crossroads. For fifty plus years we’ve been fighting the same ideological battles, going back and forth over the same ground, and making very little headway in restoring anything approximating a tradition. Why? Because like a plague riddled corpse, Heathenry is infected with way too many who eschew devotion, prayer, piety, and even the Gods Themselves; and if they kept to themselves it would be one thing but they don’t, they try to take leadership positions in our community, they hold themselves up as decent Heathens, they try to destroy whatever flickers of actual piety and religion might burn anywhere – because Gods forbid someone, somewhere might actually be honoring the Gods. It’s sickening. Our Gods deserve more.
This ongoing pushback against prayer is a typical example. Bring up prayer and inevitably someone is going to say, “our ancestors didn’t pray.” Well, first of all bullshit. We have plenty of examples of prayer in the surviving lore (not that I put any particular weight in a body of evidence written by Christians well after conversion and solely for literary or political ends). Even if we have the occasional example of a denial of prayer, why elevate those examples of Heathen ancestors filled with enough cowardice, impiety, degradation, and willingness to accept their own ideological slavery that they rushed headlong into conversion and then bragged about it by writing it down? Instead, why not elevate those who were devout and who held true to the Gods? Our community interprets out any piety, any devotion, any prayer, any mysticism found in the lore because they’re at heart the worst kind of Protestants. Devotion is too much for them. Scandinavian Heathens can’t get past having a culture, and American Heathens can’t get past their envy of one. In neither equation do the Gods play a part.
People in our communities who refuse prayer, devotion, veneration, sacrifice, and basic piety are parasites. They want the blessings and good things the Gods and a religious community can give without the potential inconvenience of having to show basic respect. How do you build a tradition on that? Better that we aim to emulate Ottar. In the Lay of Hyndla, Freya praises him for making so many prayers and sacrifices to Her, that the altar upon which he sacrificed turned to glass from the heat and overwhelming number of the offertory fires (stanza 10). Even the lore sometimes gets it right.
Perhaps I am wrong. Maybe the problem with prayer isn’t general laziness and impiety, a desire to take and not return even the most basic courtesy to the Gods. Maybe it’s lack of comprehension about what prayer is. Therefore, allow me to clarify.
Too many people define prayer solely as asking for something. I’ve always balked at this. If you only pray, after all, when you want something from the Gods, then you’re like that relative that only shows up for holiday dinner or worse, bail money. If this is what constitutes prayer for most Heathens, then don’t pray. I totally support your lack of prayer because this is not piety.
A more accurate definition of prayer is (to quote Merriam-Webster dictionary): “an address to a God in word or thought.” That’s it, end of story. It’s some form of communication, of verbal address to a Deity. It’s an act that lays the groundwork for any type of relationship with our Gods. It’s what raises up our awareness of our religion to something other than role playing. It is a reaching out, with the petition being that we are heard. It is taking the time to put yourself in Their presence, taking the time to reach out, to step away from mundane consciousness and acknowledge that there is something more. It is acknowledging moreover, that the Gods are more than capable of engaging with us and affecting our lives. Maybe that’s why so many pseudo-Heathens have an issue with it: it acknowledges that the Gods are real and that we can be in relationship with Them. Moreover, it reifies our place in that hierarchy.
I’ve noticed a theme on tumblr, twitter, and elsewhere today: when some of us refuse to turn our religious practices and our traditions into a morass of social justice insanity suddenly we are faced with accusations that our entire religion is appropriative. Think about that: there are those who claim to be Pagan who are purposely trying to discredit entire religions because those religions honor the Gods. Think about that long and hard.
Here’s some of the unmitigated bullshit I’m seeing:
*Asatru is appropriating Icelandic culture (with at least one person asserting that Asatru was started in mid 20thC. in Iceland solely for Icelanders. Um, no. Do some research please. The term was first coined for contemporary practitioners in, I believe, Denmark, in the mid nineteenth-century and the revival of the religion began in the nineteenth century as well. I talk about this in my book “Trangressing Faith”).
*You cannot practice an ATR if you weren’t either raised in it or are a person of color. That’s not true at all as any santero or santera will tell you. There are numerous practitioners carrying licit initiations who are not people of color. They may have a steeper learning curve but they are welcomed by many Houses to the worship of the Orisha. It is not for any outsider to determine who may or may not seek them out.
*My favorite: if you say shamanism, you’re really referring to ‘animism.” Bitches, please, I know how to use language. If I were referring to animism, I’d say so. I do agree that Harner core “shamans” are garbage and this has certainly muddied the waters but anyone actually engaging in shamanism pays them as little mind as possible. We prefer competent people. Harner’s crew does appropriate and dangerously so.
*Then, finally, there’s this gem: you only use Polytheist, or Pagan because you want legitimacy Neo-Pagan doesn’t give you. Um, we use Polytheist because Neo-Pagan is a nebulous term full of half witted people who honor neither gods nor ancestors and who want everything watered down into meaninglessness. We, on the other hand, have traditions, traditiosn with roots going back into the ancient world, we give a shit about them, and prioritize the Gods over your human garbage.
So, maybe stop mentioning traditions and practices and religions that you A) clearly know nothing about, B) don’t comprehend, and C) and are using only to virtue signal for others. I find it quite telling, that the people engaging in this rhetoric are always, ALWAYS either non-theists, or those who think activism equals religious truth and tradition (but whose activism is also always a matter of slandering people with outright lies, posting online, and never actually getting out there and making a difference in the world), or they are solely animists who despise the concept of tradition and especially of initiatory traditions. Well, too bad, sister. Those things exist and they are good and holy.
What is actually going on here is those outside our traditions are spewing this nonsense in exactly the same way they call anyone who disagrees with them ‘nazi’ or ‘racist’ regardless of what political beliefs that person might actually hold. It’s an attempt to destroy our religious traditions because we won’t do it ourselves. It’s an attempt to undermine the people actually practicing, defending, and furthering those traditions. It’s an attempt to again ideologically speaking, smash our shrines, destroy our icons and statues, and condemn the Gods to the pages of history. Resist.
Tomorrow is St. Nicholas Day. In parts of Germany and Switzerland, children would receive small gifts, and certain sweet foods would be shared. There are smells and tastes that I associate with this day alone – something I was reminded of this morning at work when a coworker walked in with gifts of coquito for her advisor. That too is something typically made only for Christmas and she said the smell of the cinnamon when making the drink conjures the holiday spirit like nothing else. I get that. St. Nicholas day is like that for me.
My mom always called it Oski’s Day and keeping the same custom would honor Odin as the Gift-Giver (Oski) on this day. She’d make leckerli (sort of a Swiss gingerbread), we’d have dates, candied walnuts, and mandarin oranges and we’d burn beeswax candles in offering to the God. That combination of scents brings me back powerfully to all the winter holidays we shared, because while Dec. 20 is traditionally the start of Yule, for us it started on the 6thwith this small exchange of gifts.
For those wanting a taste of this holiday, here is a traditional recipe for Basler Leckerli.
Odin is a God of so many things, awesome in the oldest sense of the word, terrible but He is also the winter king Who fills our homes with abundance, Who comes sharing wealth, warmth, and joy. He bestows sweetness. In the midst of the dark and the cold, He is fire burning.
(image by Righon)