Category Archives: Holy Tides
Happy Ostara (or Eostre), dear readers. I know it is a strange time in which we live (as one of my history professor said recently: keep a diary!) and that most of you won’t be gathering this year in person for religious celebrations. That doesn’t mean that you are barred, however, from celebrating and experiencing the equinox and it doesn’t mean that you are barred from honoring our Gods. In fact, quite the opposite. This is a time to reach out to Them, a time to praise Them, a time to honor the land and the Gods that make it fertile. We just have to get a little creative in conjuring a sense of community as we do so while hunkering down and sheltering in place! Here are some ideas:
- write and share prayers to the Deities associated with this holy tide (Ostara or Eostre, Mani, Sunna, Hrethe, et Al). If you work with a group, a kindred, a circle or what have you, you can do this communally. One person starts the prayer and sends it to the next and so on, and so forth until it is complete. it becomes a group offering, a shared expression of devotion.
- share pictures of your shrines and offerings — I have had people email me more times than I can count telling me how inspiring they find the pictures of my personal shrines. I don’t share them often, but maybe I should. Let us see what you’re doing. 🙂 We are a very visual culture, after all.
- Make art celebrating the Gods and this holy tide. Share that online too.
- Reach out by phone (i hate the phone. Do not reach out to me by phone. I’m doing just fine lol) to one of your friends. Make offerings together, each in your own space connected by the wonders of modern technology.
- Send a friend a surprise Ostara gift box.
It’s early for me. I’ve just exhausted all my creativity pre-coffee in coming up with those five suggestions so why don’t y’all help me out? What ideas do you, my readers, have for celebrating and maintaining community in this time of crisis? Please feel free to share in the comments.
I’ve read recently of several Pagans (or maybe I should say Playgans) who fled to Christianity when Covid 19 hit and i cried. It disgusts me how little some people care about their traditions and their Gods (and I wonder what those apostates will do when they discover bacteria exists. Where will they run then? *sarcasm*). Don’t be like that. This is a time to re-commit and re-invest in our devotions, our Gods, our traditions, and all the spiritual commitments that form the warp and weft of our lives. We can choose how we let this affect us. We can choose devotion and, I firmly believe, we will be the better for it.
So, Ostara: what are you all doing? 🙂
Spring always seems to sneak up on me. Maybe it’s because I always mourn the passing of mild winters (it’s been mild in my area and I do love winter), or maybe it’s because the spring semester is always rather frenetic. I just know that the holy tides always seem to sneak up on me. This year March seems particular full since I’m toggling between my husband’s Bacchic calendar, and my own Heathen.
We have the Heathen Ostara coming up, which falls on the spring equinox. I usually honor Mani and Sunna, as well as Eostre/Ostara at that time. I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do this year yet (I know, I need to get on it) and sometime this month I like to honor the Anglo-Saxon Goddess Hreðe. I suspect strongly that She had a feast-day around this time, but if so, that day has been lost to memory. Still, She gets Her share of offerings from us in March.
March 9 is for Olvir of Egg and company, martyrs. He and several other farmers were murdered by King Olaf for not abandoning their faith in the Gods. It’s a good time to pour out an offering to them and to remember their sacrifices and most of all their steadfastness. The lesson I take from them? It’s simple: Never back down from honoring the Gods. Never apologize for devotion to the Holy Ones. Never hide your polytheism to make someone else comforable. Their discomfort is theirs to bear. We have ancestors and martyrs, fierce men and women who were tortured and who died for their polytheism. The least we can do is speak up and be present. That’s my rule of thumb and it’s sometimes very hard, but it’s a challenge I lay to myself and every other polytheist out there: never, ever yield. I look to men and women like Olvir and those who died with him as an inspiration when I encounter situations where it might be very had to be openly polytheist. I meditate on their stories and pray that in doing so, I will shape my own character to be as fiercely committed and fiercely subversive. This month is an opportunity to honor them all anew.
Finally, my household has started giving the first night of the lunar month (which is not necessarily the first night of the month) to Mani and we hold a small ritual where we praise Him, bringing offerings and making prayers. This month, the first day of the lunar month falls on the 25th, so pretty close to the equinox. It’s definitely going to be a Mani-centric month! I think that is pretty awesome. Mani can never have enough devotional attention.
It’s late so I’m going to wrap this up. I’d love to know what everyone has going for the equinox. Feel free to post in the comments.
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.
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)
Last night my household held its Ostara rite. It was a small affair, just the immediate household but it was lovely. Hrethe’s winds were dancing and roaring around us, Mani’s sugar moon hung bright in the sky, luminous and lovely, and as we went to the four corners of the land, making offerings, reciting the Acerbot charm, and praying to our Gods, there was a palpable sense of wholeness and wellbeing infusing the house and property.
I have always tended to prefer the sacred days of autumn and winter – Odin’s presence is so much more palpable then—but I will admit, Ostara holds a special place in my heart. There’s something so joyous about this celebration, and it really taps into the momentum of the land itself, being coaxed into wakening life by the Goddesses of Spring.
So what did you all do for this holy tide? I would love to hear about everyone’s practices.
One of the things that my tradition does of late is, at the start of each season, honoring a specific Goddess. That is not the only Deity that will be honored during this time – month to month, on holy tides, in personal devotions we honor many others, for instance, November belongs to Odin for me—but this is specifically for the seasonal shift. There is something in the power or what the Greeks would call the timai of the Goddesses that we’ve chosen that echoes the energy of the season.
At the start of the Autumn we honor Idunna. This is purely instinctive in our household – there’s something about the magic of Autumn that really calls Her to mind for us. And even though it’s a time when the earth is getting ready for its winter sleep, it’s that very sleep that brings about renewal in the spring. Usually in early September, we do a rite to honor Her for the quarter.
Winter was more difficult. In early December this year we did our rite to Frau Holle. This was a time when we were all focusing on internal household preparations for Winter and so, this seemed appropriate. I could also see honoring Skadhi at this time as well, particularly if one were outdoors a great deal. Our focus on this, however, is the preparation of the household throughout the seasons and attuning it appropriately so we went for this quarterly rite, with Frau Holle.
In early March, we honor Hrethe as a matter of course as a Goddess of March, but the Goddess that seems to dominate Spring as a whole for us is Ostara (or Eostre—same Deity, one name is Old Norse, the other Old English). It is to Her that our quarterly venerations go and we usually do that on the holy tide that bears Her name.
Then in Summer, in early June, we honor Sif and look to Her to govern the cyclical aspects of the season. Much of the household preparation we do throughout the season is dedicated to this Goddess, particularly things like maintaining a sustainable garden and pantry. This has made us overall, far, far more mindful of necessary household rhythms and of ways to connect the work we do in fulfillment of those rhythms to veneration of our Gods.
They’re doing a secret Kalends exchange in the Bacchic Underground (I know this because i lurk :)) and this inspired me to get something like that going here with my readers.
What i’d like to do is pair you guys up and then you guys can exchange cards made in honor of each other’s deities. So let them know Who you honor and they’ll make a card, and you do the same for them.
If you’re interested shoot me an email before next Wednesday, November 30 11pm EST and then I’ll pair folks up and send out the info in individual emails. Y’all can email me at krasskova at gmail.com if you’re interested.
This is a fun way to help build community and to make images and art for our Gods Who are losing Theirs as a result of monotheistic aggression.
Let’s make the holidays polytheist again. ^_^.
(Gruss von Krampus card. 🙂 )
Happy Walpurgisnacht, folks. May the Gods and Goddesses of abundance, sensuality, sexuality, and joy be praised and honored. May our ancestors be remembered. May the land be refreshed and renewed. Let the libations flow.
In my book “Devotional Polytheism,” when writing about this holy tide, I note that it “is about sex. Well, ok it’s not just about sex but it is about loosing creativity and readying the land for summer growth, and the explosion of life that comes with the turning of the seasonal year to spring. It’s a seasonal festival all about fertility and fire, abundance, and rampant, unadulterated, unapologetic creativity. It’s about coming and the burning in the loins, and the earth’s seasonal orgasm that brings a flood of life into being as spring turns to summer and the land yields its bounty to the blazing beauty of the sun.”
So go out there and have a frolicking good time. Let us celebrate this holy tide the way our ancestors did: with abandon. Let us bring back our ecstatic rites and let us celebrate our Gods with joy.
One of the things I did for Ostara was to plant trees in honor of my ancestors, specifically my adopted mom, my bio mom, and my mother-in-law. I went here and had a grove of 25 trees planted for each of them. This is pretty cool and it’s definitely something I know my adopted mom at least would have loved. There are multiple options too; one doesn’t have to purchase 25 at a go.
I looked up a couple of other organizations that run projects like this and found American Forests, and the Arbor Day Foundation. It seemed appropriate both for these particular ancestors, and as a way to honor and keep Ostara and I rather liked the symbolism of trees and ancestors.