Category Archives: Holy Tides
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.
My husband and I were having a conversation about a couple of the pieces that I wrote yesterday on my blog at a local diner this morning when I noticed his gaze was fixed on the family in the booth across from ours and he was grinning. It took me a moment to notice what had caught his attention but when I did we both burst out laughing. The couple had given their toddler a butt-plug shaped toy to play with. I’m sure (pretty sure: our town has had a large influx of hipsters) that it wasn’t, and I’m equally sure that only a small percentage of the customers in the diner would have looked at that and had their minds go the places ours did. Which, as my clickbait title suggests, led to an insight about the ongoing debates within our communities – though not really John himself. He’s just a metaphor, a symbol expressing a certain set of ideas to which I’m opposed.
And I’m opposed to them because polytheist isn’t just a word for me; it’s a culture built on shared experiences of the Gods. I wrote about that here yesterday.
That shared experience is what makes things like humor possible and I think it just makes more sense for people to gravitate towards others with similar values and worldview and culture. These are not insignificant things. That is in part what helps to create a cohesive tradition. It’s not the only thing, but it is an important one. This of course begs the question of what is the shared experience of polytheism. I would hope that it is the experience of the Gods as Gods. That’s the thing that brings us all together despite our individual traditions and positions within the polytheist rubric. It’s the baseline that impacts everything else, every decision, and certainly our way of being in the world. I’ve seen John talk about having experiences with what we would call Gods but, in his own words, interpreting them differently. Ok. That’s a crucial difference. He’s having experiences but lacks the relational framework of a polytheistic understanding and perspective. He is not a polytheist, and that’s ok. Someone outside of the tradition can if they wish, become a good ally (of course part of being an ally isn’t trying to guide or define the development of the tradition, but that’s a different post).
Years ago, oh, maybe two decades now, I had an experience with a Holy Power that I’m pretty sure most of my Christian friends would call Jesus. It was cool, very cleansing, and my Gods were likewise very present. (I was dealing with a very wounded Christian client at the time – sometimes one must approach one’s client’s Gods). When that was done, I got on with the business of honoring my Gods. I told this to a Christian friend once and she simply could not wrap her mind around it. To her, it was a ‘born again’ experience but I was still a polytheist and still had and wanted nothing to do with the cultus of Christ. She could not comprehend. For me, the answer was easy: at best this is one of many Gods and not mine. What’s the big deal? For her, it was a mind blowing and paradigm challening thing. I lacked her framework of interpretation. Since I had zero desire to come into her religious world and space, in the end it didn’t matter but had I been trying to position myself as a member of her church, there would have been – and should have been—problems. My approach would have been corrosive and corrupting to their tradition.
That’s why I fight so hard to hold the line. Because when that’s compromised, meaning becomes diluted and confused. It’s not that I think people like John don’t have a right to exist, or to do their atheist thing (however incomprehensible that may be to me) – it’s not because they’re horrible people. Look, I don’t know John Halstead the man, only the character he plays on the internet through his various blogs. Nor has it been my intention with the majority of my writing to attack him personally. I want very much to attack and gnaw on his ideas and words. Ideas spread and have corrosive power. That being said, we really should hold ourselves to the standard of arguing ideas not people (and I fell short of that standard yesterday with one of my posts, for which I apologize. I got swept up in the argument and severely missed the mark).
Maybe in the time of our polytheistic ancestors, a tradition could grow and thrive by itself. It was a different time and a very different world. It was a world where everything in the dominant culture was also polytheistic. In our world, everything in our dominant culture is diametrically opposed to polytheism, either openly or, as some of my Hindu friends have experienced, more insidiously. There is nothing that supports the traditions we’re attempting to build. If we’re not dealing with a Christian influenced culture, we have humanism and atheism held up as normal and progressive. For them, maybe they are, but not for us, and opening the door to those things as polytheists is a problem. Those things have and deserve their own spaces. Likewise, we deserve ours. Each tradition needs uncontested space in which to grow and develop without external interference.
In the meantime, folks, please don’t give butt plugs to your children. Eostre is right around the corner, give them some chocolate eggs instead. 😉
31 Adorations to Hreðe
I adore You, Victorious One.
I adore You, Famous One.
I adore You, Goddess of the lion winds of March.
I adore You, Herald of Spring.
I adore You, Untamed.
I adore You, Proud.
I adore You, never forgotten.
I adore You, friend of Eostre.
I adore You, Who will not be bound.
I adore You, Who can never be captured.
I adore You, friend of the winds.
I adore You, Racer.
I adore You, Dancer.
I adore You, Laughing Whirlwind.
I adore You, Fierce One.
I adore You, Irresistible One.
I adore You, Warrior
I adore You, Friend of children.
I adore You, Friend of farmers.
I adore You, Who steals away the chill of the land.
I adore You, Who delights in wild places.
I adore You, Patron of those born in the sign of Aries.
I adore You, Who opens the way.
I adore You, Far-sighted One.
I adore You, Implacable One.
I adore You, Never Still.
I adore You, Goddess of gaiety.
I adore You, Goddess of raw, chilly places.
I adore You, Who delights in Her solitude.
I adore You, Who delights in freedom.
I adore You, Who delights in the seasons
and never-ending inevitability of change.
Hail to You, Hreðe. Hail Goddess of the whirlwind. Hail Goddess of March, Who prepares the way for Ostara’s blessings.
I always get a bit wistful around our holy tides. I mean, we have our small groups and our individual venerations and that is awesome and absolutely crucial, and we have our online communities (and even when we fight at least it shows there are enough of us to be having these debates and that’s good), but I want so much more for our polytheisms. I don’t want us to have to sneak time away from jobs that wouldn’t acknowledge that it’s a holy time for us. I don’t want any polytheist or any pagan for that matter to feel they are the only one in their town or state. I want celebration and veneration to be joyful things that bring the community together, despite any differences we might have (because really, ancient people argued vociferously too). I wish we could have huge, mind-blowing public processions and rituals and sacrifices and performances (some Gods were traditionally honored with songs or plays or dancing), and a thousand other things.
I would like to live in a time and place, hopefully in the future, where our town will have its parts that are bedecked in celebration of our sacred times. I’d love to head home after a long day’s work and stop at a roadside shrine to make offerings to one of our Deities, and find the shrine thronged with people. I want to see our world colored with the joyful parts of veneration: shrines festooned with flowers, the scent of incense carried around corners, the shrine of Hermes outside a shop, well tended by the shopkeeper, or a shrine to Saga inside a library, overflowing with small offerings made by patrons, and all the many other ways that polytheisms are lived on a large scale. I dream of a polytheism that is big enough and unified enough to redefine our world .
It sounds like a dream, but it was the world once: shrines everywhere, active temples, objects of devotion and animals for sacrifice easily bought and priests available with skill and training to facilitate rites, diviners, oracles, dancing processions, chanting hymns, incense and devotion bound up in every paving stone. I don’t think our ancestors took that for granted, but I also don’t think they realized how quickly it could significantly change and change when it came (in the third and fourth centuries) happened almost before anyone realized what was going down. That is an intensely painful thing for me to contemplate. I tap right into it, see it, feel it – the joys of being an ancestor worker. It hurts terribly; but, and this is a big but that I often forget: it could change again. What we’re building is possible. We may need to sweep out some space here and there (and maybe in ourselves most of all for it to happen) but our polytheistic traditions can develop into something huge. Look at Lithuania. Under the communist regime, religion of any kind was, if not banned, then certainly actively campaigned against. Now, however, within a generation of Lithuania’s independence (and in large part through the resistance and pioneering work of Jonas Trinkunas) Romuva, Lithuanian polytheism, is a recognized and thriving tradition, in the land of its birth. It is growing and knowledge of it is growing. That is an inspiration.
Ostara is in part about renewal and restoration. So I want to share this dream. I want to see all our polytheisms flourish: Heathenry, Kemeticism, Hellenismos, Cultus Deorum, Canaanite polytheism, Romuva, Hinduism, and every single one that I didn’t mention here specifically (there are a lot of them!). I don’t know all the steps to get to that goal. I just know it’s possible. I have the image clear as fire imprinted on my mind by my ancestors a long time ago: what it was, what it should be in cohesion, what it can be in our world now. Well, maybe not now, but soon. I would move heaven and earth to see it happen.