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A Couple of Things…

Orthodox Ritual Praxis

This morning I read an article on Greek and Russian Orthodox Church services and it was fascinating. The services, particularly around holy week can be quite grueling. They last for hours and in the most traditional churches people are standing that entire time. Of course, they don’t just stand: they pray, they sing, they move to various icons and light candles and pray some more as the spirit moves them. It’s interactive and quite physically demanding. Here’s the article I read, which actually downplays quite a bit the physical exertion and discipline required.

So I read this and think: we can’t even get people willing to offer water without them whining about how put upon they are, and how they feel being expected to actually DO something is elitist, ablest, classist, insert ‘ism of your choice here.

If people cared about their Gods as much as they cared about the latest cause or video game or Dr. Who episode maybe we’d actually be getting somewhere but I look at articles like the above and realize exactly how far we have to go to hit even a bare baseline of active devotion.

 

The Vikings Didn’t Need Islam to be Religiously Fulfilled.

Then there’s this little gem. Apparently, the Arabic word for God (Allah) was found on some Viking textiles and a group of academics is using this as an opportunity to normalize Muslim invasion of Europe, and to erase our indigenous religions. The scholars involved are claiming that Vikings were influenced in their burial practices by Islam, extensively influenced, because of course Heathen religions couldn’t possibly have complex and fulfilling beliefs about the afterlife. Of course, the Vikings would have had to turn to a monotheistic religion for that. It’s utter bullshit and frankly bad scholarship along with being subtle pro- Muslim propaganda. It goes without saying a certain portion of our communities are celebrating this.

Yes, religions communicated. We know this. No religion evolved in a vacuum and there were borrowings across history. This is a normal part of the conversations that happen culturally between different groups, including religious groups. That, however, is not what the article is saying. It’s flat out giving Islam credit for Viking burial practices and doing so with zero evidence.

Why were there Islamic textiles in the Northlands? Most likely trade. And frankly, given that silk is a luxury item, it shouldn’t be too surprising that it’s found in burials. Why wouldn’t you want to bring back and give pretty, rich things to the dead that you love before sending them off? (I’ve seen this before though in academia. Secularism and/or atheism holds such sway in certain fields, along with the blanket assumption that if you’re educated you will not be religious,  that I’ve actually attended lectures on religious topics like pilgrimage wherein the speaker put forth every possible explanation for why someone would undertake this difficult and expensive process…except devotion and piety. There is a swath of academics who simply cannot conceptualize devotion. It’s quite sad and leads to some seriously shady scholarship or at the very least, scholarship that misses its mark significantly).

Why is that surprising? This is right up there with archeologists finding multiple burials of women having died of war wounds, having been buried with weapons – repeatedly—and acting confused, claiming that perhaps the burials were contaminated because women can’t have been warriors to the degree they’re finding. There is a level of obtuseness and flat out stupidity in this that I find mind-blowing. The standard attitude of academia toward polytheism in the ancient world (they hardly ever acknowledge it in the modern) is to insist it didn’t exist, to insist it was solely a matter of praxis, that there was no meat or belief or devotion or passion there…despite quite a lot of evidence (linguistic, literary, archeological, etc.) to the contrary. The contemporary academic response to polytheism is, essentially, erasure.

Bringing this full circle, it’s bad enough when academics try to erase our devotional worlds. It’s bad enough when they damn our ancestors and their traditions like this. You know what’s worse? When we do it ourselves by simply not giving a damn.

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Third submission to Nehalennia’s Agon

Arrival
by Dr. Emily K.

Welcome Home!
We shouted from the docks on the day You arrived,
Splendid and sailing up from the South,
Your barge trimmed with beaten gold.
A noble hound attended Your right hand
And a basket of the sweetest fruits spilled from Your left.

We have You now!
O Queen who has travelled in many lands,
Now at last in these low fields
Walled off and dug from the ocean
You are home at last.

Keep safe our sailors, silks, silver, slaves,
And all the wealth our merchants will display.
You will be our Mother
Until the day we come sailing to Your harbor
Hounds and health-bearing fruits laid by our sides
As we lie in earth
Seafaring in the mound
Then You will say to us:
Welcome Home!

Winner of Persephone’s Agon and First Submission to Nehalennia’s.

The Winner of the Persephone Agon, chose by div,  is Alexeigynaix. Congratulations. i’ll be in touch today about your prizes. 

Everyone else, thank you so much for submitting such lovely pieces to the Agon. May Persephone ever and always be hailed. 🙂 Please contact me at krasskova at gmail.com with your mailing addresses and also to let me know which prayer card you would like. 

Here is the first submission to Nehellenia’s Agon. 

Prayer to Nehalennia

Nehalennia,
May my life,
Be a boat under your guidance and protection,
Grant me strength,
To hold the rudder of my life,
And follow to the right direction.
Grant me wisdom,
To discern between the moment,
To anchorage or to start new voyages.
May the winds blow gently,
And no storms destroy the pleasure of living.
Grant me access to my inner treasures,
And to your deep mysteries.
Oh Lady, grant me prosperity and fullness!

Hail!

by Bela Síol, 06/11/2012. (This. prayer is part of The Oracle and Nehalennia author Bela Síol and the artist Igor Alexandre).

An Example of Heathen Piety

I was thinking about the ‘Lay of Hyndla’ today. There’s a beautiful, haunting passage where Freya talks about the piety of Her servant Ottar, whom She has transformed into the boar, Hildsvini — apologies to Old Norse readers. I’m typing this directly into WordPress and can’t figure out how to do the accent marks.  In Stanza 10, She tells Hyndla about Ottar, indicating why, perhaps, She is willing to help him on his quest. She’s arguing with Hyndla, who is basically a Goddess of genealogy,(1) so that the latter will recite Ottar’s ancestry, enabling the hero to tap into his ancestral blessings. It really shows how important it is to have proper relationships with the Gods and ancestors, and that if you have one, They’ll help with the other. 

10. “For me a shrine | of stones he made,–
And now to glass | the rock has grown;–
Oft with the blood | of beasts was it red;
In the goddesses ever | did Ottar trust.

In other words, Ottar made so many sacrifices, and committed those sacrifices to immolation on Her altar, that the heat of the fires turned the stones to glass. Note that it’s his piety that wins Freya over, not some great heroic deed. May we take him as an example of good, religious behavior.(2)

Notes:

  1. Not everyone in the Northern Tradition views Hyndla as a Goddess, but my particular tradition does.
  2. * sarcasm* I guess that makes Ottar one of the original members of the Piety Posse.

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Wyrd Curiosities at Etsy

My academia.edu page

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Walking the Worlds Journal

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My blog about all things strange, weird and medieval.

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Submission to the Hoenir Agon

For Hoenir
by Sarenth Odinsson

You Who gave us oðr
Swift-legged, Long-legged
Mud King, Marsh King
Vili
You Who gave us Will
Hail to You!

Whose friend and aide is Mimir
Who is confidante and conspirator to Odin
Who brings action in Vé’s wake
Hail to You!

Whose mouth is full to bursting
Whose hands held Ymir down
Who helped Odin and Vé craft many Worlds
Hail to You!

Whose silence is full of wisdom
Whose countenance is fearsome
Whose counsel is prudent
Hail to You!

Who knows the many ways forward
Who even the Gods seek in counsel
Whose divination sees the Worlds set aright
Hail to You, Hoenir!

Submission to the Hoenir Agon

For Hoenir
by C. Greene

Hoenir, King of the lands of plenty,
what wisdom have You found amongst the marsh birds and the eels?
God Who granted will to Ask and Embla,
terrible will born of a slayer of Ymir,
Haunter of the lands most filled with Ymir’s blood,
what do You seek there?
Are the bog lamps the lingering flicker of Ymir’s synapses,
does wyrd stretch out its threads before You in the fog,
or are the cleansing places of the world whispering their secrets?
With whom would You share Your heron-wit?
Will the descendants of the driftwood born be worthy of such a gift,
or will we burn brightly and fade like the will o wisps of Your holy places?
Silence in the bulrushes may greet the querent, but that may be an answer in itself. May we be worthy Hoenir, may we learn from Your primal acts, and in Your silence may you not be forgotten.

Submission to the Hoenir Agon

To Hoenir the Long-Lived
by P.S.V.L.

It was sense and wit You gave
when Óðinn and Loðurr made humans—
the High One and Vé, Whom men call Loki,
came together in You, Víli, to form minds.

It was sense and wit You showed
when in Vanaheim’s hostage-ship with Mimir
and You kept holy silence therein—
only the best advice fell on Your ears.

It was sense and wit You had
When Óðinn was in exile and with Vé
You stood in His stead over the Æsir—
it brought you to bed with Frigg.

And, it will be sense and wit that are needed
when You stand after Ragnarök
casting blood-wands for Viðarr and Vali,
Magni and Móði, and Baldr—wise Hoenir, hail!

The Identity of Lóðurr

In the beginning, when materiality had been ground into existence by the conflicting forces of Niflheim and Helheim, when the great cow, born from that primal ooze had nourished the proto-giant Ymir and the first race of what would eventually evolve into our holy Beings was crawling from out of His mass, there arose three Brothers: Odin, Hoenir, and Lóðurr (or to use Their other heiti, Odin, Vili, and Vé). These three Brothers slaughtered Ymir, Their eldest ancestor and set the worlds and the cosmological order that binds us all into being. It was a defining moment in our theogony, the moment when those proto-beings, from Whom our Gods evolve, stepped up, looked far ahead, made choices that shaped and defined Their existence and everything that would come after it, and took necessary, decisive action. It was at that moment that existence truly began.

Of course, we know Who Odin and Hoenir are from the surviving lore, but the identity of that third brother, the one that gave us our rushing blood, and goodness of hue (healthy, living color i.e. vitality and life force), has been a bone of contention for years. Yet it shouldn’t be. It’s quite clear from [albeit later] sources that Lóðurr is in fact Loki.

Dagulf Loptson discusses the relevant passages in his article here and I encourage everyone to read this marvelous piece. He notes that the Eddic reference to Lóðurr helping to forge the worlds occurs in Völuspá 18. There is, however, a later c. 14th century ballad, Þrymlur, most likely drawn from earlier oral sources, that have Loki clearly addressed as Lóðurr (the relevant sections are Þrymlur I-III 21). We know that our Gods have many heiti. Odin, for instance, has hundreds. He may be called Yggr, Hangagod, Runatyr, Sigtyr, Oski, Gangleri, and so on and so forth (pun probably intended lol). Freya may be called Syr, Mardoll, Vanadis, etc. Likewise Loki has His bynames too.  With regard to the name Lóðurr, one thing that we do know is that He is a figure strongly associated, as Hoenir is, with Odin. That in itself is telling, given that of all the Gods with Whom He dallies (take that word as you will), it is Loki that is recognized as Odin’s blood brother. Perhaps there is more to that tale than has come down to us.(1) What we take as ‘lore’ after all, is hardly a complete record of what our ancestors believed and the stories they told about our Gods. It’s reflection of their worldview is partial at best and while a good starting point, it is not a complete map.

As Loptson suggests in his article, Loki as Lóðurr is Loki as a creator God, but as with His brothers, that moment of creation is born of blood and violence a theme which recurs throughout our cosmology. It is through these Gods, Loki included that such conflict is transformed into something fruitful.

Our Gods have so many different facets. It is easy to say, when one has only known a playful or gentle aspect of Loki, that the hungry, violent, driven nature that shows forth in Lóðurr could not possibly be Loki, just as one might opine that the kindly gift giving Oski could not possibly be Odin, but we should be cautious in doing so. The Gods have histories of which we cannot conceive and are far, far greater than anything we can imagine. My mother used to say a prayer to Loki almost daily, one that sums up how to approach the Gods without attempting to bind them to the limitations of either our experience or awareness. I’ll end with that prayer now:

“For the life that brought me to You, I thank You.
For the rapture of knowing You, I thank You.
For the heartbreaks that open me to You, I thank You.
For the hunger that goads me to You, I thank You.
For Your kindness and Your harshness,
For all You give and all You take away from me,
I thank You.
For the death that will legitimate my life, I thank You.
For all You were, are, and shall be, I thank you.
My beloved God.”
(–F.A. Plaza)

Notes:

  1. See here for an article by Þorgeirsson that discusses the debate around this name and Loki, as well as the reasons for giving credence to the attribution.

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Be sure to check out my other sites:

Wyrd Curiosities at Etsy

My academia.edu page

My amazon author page.

Walking the Worlds Journal

My art blog at Krasskova Creations

My blog about all things strange, weird and medieval.

And if you like what you see, consider becoming a sponsor at Patreon.

Othala is Not a Hate Symbol

1200px-Runic_letter_othalanI saw someone on Facebook today opining that the tattoo they’d gotten so proudly to honor their Gods was now being taken over by a neo-Nazi group. No. Many things can be corrupted and coopted but it doesn’t change the inherent nature of those things. It may alter our perceptions, yes, but othala remains othala, a conduit to a rune spirit of tremendous power, one that has nothing to do with our contemporary politics. It is only lost to hate groups if we allow it to be.

This rune is the rune of lineage and tribe, of tradition, of connection to our forebears, of right order. By that latter, I mean sacred covenants (with Gods, ancestors, land) in place and active. It is a rune of protection, of nurturing and nourishing the family, community, and all tribal bonds. It is that which keeps a community healthy, hale, and whole.  Those are all good things. We should be working to keep our families, our communities, our tribes if we had them anymore, safe and secure, healthy, we should be maintaining healthy boundaries and working for overall abundance and well-being. Othala is the transmission of knowledge and in a sacred context mysteries from one generation to another. It is one’s active connection to one’s ancestors and lineage, complete with all the obligations that entails made manifest. I think this is perhaps why it is a favored rune for white supremacist groups. It speaks to tribe and culture, tradition and lineage but what they miss when they co-opt it, is that it speaks to that for each group of people. It doesn’t just speak to that for those with white skin. It speaks to the goodness and necessity of connection to one’s forebears, and protection of one’s family for every tribe and people. That is contained in its nature, encoded in its DNA so to speak. This is what it holds, what it is. How do you make a people strong? How do you ensure that the next generation will be healthy and hale? How do you ensure clean transmission of tradition from generation to generation and what does it mean to do so? All of this is contained within this rune.

Generally, when I work Othala, I find that it connects very strongly first to the ancestors and then to Odin. For the former, it is very much about the active relationship with one’s honored dead, the give and take now as it immediately impacts one’s daily life. It’s about healthy transmission of knowledge, and daily maintenance of those sacred covenants. When it is more Odinic in its manifestation, it speaks to the obligations of sacred hierarchy, of kingship, of sovereignty, and the give and take between king and vassal, or in modern parlance, the necessary work to keep those covenants healthy and functioning properly. It speaks to the need for good boundaries, for self-knowledge, and for being able to look ahead – like Odin on Hlidskjalf— beyond the morass of daily emotions and Sturm and Drang of living to the problems that may face a family or community or tribe down the road, it speaks to the necessity of preparation, and of conscious piety being part of the best prep.

Most importantly of all, Othala is our connection to our folk. I hate that term ‘folk’ because of how it’s so often used, but it is our connection to those ancestors who were functioning polytheists. It is the bridge between what we have now as we work to restore, and what once was and as such it is a reminder of our obligations to be vigilant and strong in our work toward restoration. It reminds us that our ancestors hold the wisdom we need and with their help we can bridge the gap between what was, what is, and what we very much wish to create. Othala is the citadel, under protection of the Gods and dead that has never fallen and will never fall so long as we continue fostering right relationship with the Powers, including our own communities.  

I too grow angry when I see hate groups mis-using our sacred symbols, all the more so when it is people who clearly have no devotion to or veneration of the Gods and spirits in question. It angers me greatly. It is not theirs by right. It is not theirs to corrupt. It is not theirs to smear their pollution upon. (I feel the same way when I see Wiccans or Pagans handling the runes without any thought to the Mysteries behind them. I feel the same way when I see Marvel misusing the Valknot or other symbols. It’s appropriation. It’s disgusting. I do understand very much the anger and disgust such misappropriation can evoke). But that they do this does not change the inherent nature of the rune or the rune spirit itself and I think it’s important to not let people’s mis use cause us to abandon these things that are in fact the right of all those steeped in the Northern Ways, or bound to its Gods, or called by its spirits. To abandon that which is ours by right is as great an error as to claim that which is not. We simply have to be louder in proclaiming our traditions, in showing the rune in the proper context, in working as we have each been called to work for the restoration of our traditions. In the end, if the Gods will and our work is successful, those traditions will stand and their ignorant usurpers will be nothing more than a pathetic blip in the march of history. Othala is about preserving and building, not tearing down and not hate.

 

 

 

 

Third submission to Hoenir Agon

For Hoenir
by C. King

Brooding hostage, silent God
Muddy throne, Your hall of reeds-
Sway and twist like feathers falling
Mossy hued, those slender spears-
Chime and shudder from Your spirit.
Wordless, primal prayers sung
That ripple and tug the vault of heaven.
There amidst the marshy bank,
With Ymir’s blood smeared as mark-
The dappled Crane nests and watches
Before the countenance of Man becomes it.
You that roused urge and longing,
With rune-song sang up and awakened.
Wise He who saw the first and sees the last, what will be the after?

Gray Song, may the riverbanks ever be Your treasure.
Demure Council, may wisdom ever consider all avenues.
Knowing Maker-strengthen our people against those coarse to the Holy Powers.
Long Foot, ward us against the profane and arrogant. Where our clumsy feet trail Midgard-strengthen our resolve to be worthy of the Gods that shine brightly.

Clever God, of mist and wing-
That briny fog your cloak and down.
Whom appears at will to mortals few-
And whispers wisely second thoughts.
I thank You, Vanir Captive.
I praise You, Vili of Odr
May Your name ever live on the tongues of Ash and Embla’s progeny.