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Sunwait – Week 2

Last night, we held our second Sunwait ritual. I like this practice. I wasn’t sure how it would be, incorporating something so obviously modern into our household practice, but it’s making us so much more mindful of the coming yule and what that means, and how we can best prepare. It’s also making us far, far more aware of the important role the House of Mundilfari plays in our liturgical calendar (and seasons, days, planting, harvesting, all of it). They literally hold the architecture of the worlds together.

For our Sunwait wreath I bought an advent wreath from Lithuania. My dad’s side is all Lithuanian so I liked that it was coming from the same place half my ancestors did, and the one I chose was quite pretty. Of course, that only covers four candles so I was two short. For that, I found a smaller two-candle holder on etsy that had Jormungand biting his own tail in the center and runes about the base (I think, it hasn’t arrived yet – I’m making due with a small cast iron holder that I already had for now, but I think it has runes on it. If not, I’ll put them there lol). Last night we lit the Uruz candle. 

I have a bag of candles of various sizes that I keep in a closet upstairs, and a huge, huge box of tealights that I picked up last year so we didn’t need to buy candles for our Sunwait. I just chose six of roughly the same size at random. When I was prepping the candle for last night ( carving the rune on it, putting oil on it – I used solomon’s seal oil because I like it—and then rolling it in a blessing incense) part of the bottom broke, so I just cut it off making it was even again. It was a large candle and I didn’t want to waste it. Were I using it for some sort of conjure charm, I would probably not have used a broken candle, but once I doctored it, it was just fine to burn for ritual. 

I prepped a horn (my husband cracked up when I was preparing. I held up a young but lovely bottle of Puilly Fume and said, “We’re drinking this tonight. It’s too good for the horn but what the hell.” I was joking, but his response was priceless. For the record, nothing is too good for a horn that is to be used in ritual for the Gods. We tend to use various meads but not tonight. I set out an offering of the wine for the Gods, ancestors, and spirits of our household, and a separate offering for Sunna and Her family. I consecrated the start of the rite with fire and blessing chant. Our housemate Tatyana gave the prayer for Sunna (which I’ll include below), I galdred uruz and oh boy, did the rune click. It came as the horn that connects to the well of the dead, the well of memory, of Urda and the Tree. It came with a sense of pounding vitality and life. It came as mystery and initiation, the transition of young to adult, of boy to man, girl to woman, child to fully functioning member of a tribe. We hadn’t intended to do a full symbel as part of the night’s rite, but given how strong the connection between the horn carried in ritual and uruz was during the galdr, we ended up including it. So, after the galdr, we passed a horn, hailing Gods and ancestors. We closed with Sigdrifa’s prayer and then poured the offerings outside. 

Next week, the rune is thurisaz and I am curious to see what insights Sunna will bring, working through this rune and what it will teach us about Yule and the coming holy time. 

Prayer to Sunna for Week 2 of Sunwait
(by T. Vitta)
 
Great Sunna, the Lovely Wheel,
Rides the sky,
Echoing herds of aurochs 
Riding down the ancient planes of Eurasia.
 
Heat and warmth,
Some of many mysteries of Your unyielding will,
Locked into the soil,
Germinating ceaselessly.
 
A steadfast journey,
Rooted
In its sacred task,
As one by one
You wake all creatures of the flesh.
 
Every living thing
Learns from this strength, 
Rooting itself in turn
Into the earth,
Gaining its strength and wealth
From the soil.
 
There is nothing that you fear, Goddess,
No darkness,
No cold,
No sadness
Too dark or dreary for you to waive away.
 
A fiery circle,
You bring raw vitality to all that you touch,
Reminding the very earth itself
Of its waking power.
 
We are fed through the basic fibers of life,
We grow from these,
But embedded in all 
Is the All-Shining,
Warmth that will without fail come back again and again
And cajole life to beckon.
 
Teach us Sunna
To likewise have the courage and the endurance to be free.
Just as you move through the sky
You teach us of Your will and your stamina,
So we ask that you teach us to be strong, willful and courageous
In the face of all our challenges,
How to manifest our will
Even when life 
Is drained of beauty and hope.  
 
You are the fierce contender,
Interminable will
Manifesting,
As you ride through the sky,
Raw vital power 
That will ride to face all that stands in its way.
 
Teach us to likewise ride 
Without flinching and cut through those who stand in our way,
How to manifest the best parts of us 
And how to never lose our shine,
Even in the darkest of times.
 
Hail Sunna!
 
 
 
Sunna in Her glory

Honoring the Ancestors: The Martyrs of Verden

After the autumn equinox, we turn almost immediately to thinking about and honoring the dead. Now, honoring the ancestors for most polytheists, is a year-round practice, but the autumn is a time of particular attention and ritual (1). I’m not sure why autumn is such a potent ancestor time but it is, in multiple traditions. I think maybe it’s that the vibrancy and abundance of summer is fading away as the earth itself prepares for winter, something that can lead to a certain melancholy and contemplation of death, but that’s just speculation on my part. It does seem appropriate as the seasons shift to honor the dead in special ways and this leads nicely into the more intense holy days surrounding Yule.

At the end of this month, from October 27 through Nov 2, my House does a whole week of ancestor rituals for various groups of our dead and for our ancestors and allied spirits as a whole. That is still a month away though preparations have already begun in my home. Before we get to those rites though, we have our first feast-day for the dead coming up on October 4: a commemoration of the Martyrs of Verden. 

It is no surprise to anyone with even a passing knowledge of European history that the spread of Christianity across Europe brought with it religious and cultural genocide. Charlemagne in 8thcentury France was no exception. The grandson of Charles Martel, Charlemagne destroyed sacred sites and holy places of the Saxon Heathens and, when these brave men and women refused to convert (i.e. to abandon their ancestral Gods and practices), slaughtered them en masse. Four thousand, five hundred of them, at the very least, laid down their lives in defense of their Gods and traditions in 782 C.E. at a bloodbath that is known to historians as the massacre of Verden.  

After the Saxon wars, i.e. after Charlemagne’s crusade against indigenous polytheism, the children of Saxon nobles were sent to monasteries as oblates, and sometimes they were forced to take binding vows as monastics (there is a famous case a few decades later of a man who jumped the wall, fleeing the monastery after having been forced to become a monk and during the resulting trial, one of the senior monks said, in the trial transcripts, that any and all abuses toward the Saxons were justified because they weren’t Christian at the time (2)). 

I could go on. I have strong feelings about the man (3). I don’t, however, want to focus on him in this post beyond what I have done in order to provide historical context. I’d rather focus on the martyrs, those who were killed because they refused to convert (4). That’s exactly what my household will be doing too on October 4. 

We’re still working out the proper rites by which to honor our sancti, sanctae, and martyrs. We don’t have a set format yet. Usually we purify the space, invoke whatever Gods seem appropriate, and then pour out libations to the dead in question, sharing stories of them as we go. More offerings may, if anyone involved feels it appropriate, be made. It’s both low-key and straightforward. We will often have a communal meal afterwards. 

Since we’re all home now due to Covid restrictions, we may set up memorial candles and keep them going all month. I’ve been playing with the idea since it was something I used to do on my ancestor shrine throughout October and November. We give water to refresh them, candles to light their way, food and drink to nourish them, and the gift of memory, of telling their stories. If it is not enough, it is at least a good starting point. 

What are all of you doing for your ancestors this month? 

Notes:

  1. At least it is in my tradition. Some polytheisms have their ancestor time in late winter, usually February. 
  2. See Matthew Bryan Gillis’ Heresy and Dissent in the Carolingian Empire: The Case of Gottschalk of OrbaisThese monastic schools are, I believe, best seen as precursors of the 19thand 20thcentury “Indian” Schools in America, complete with the abuse, destruction of cultural practices, and forced induction into Christianity such later “education” entailed. Those later atrocities didn’t come out of the aether; they’d been perfected hundreds of years earlier by a mass murderer who could barely write his own name.
  3. There are certain subjects I avoid as a medievalist and Charlemagne is one of them. I turn into Cato ending every speech, no matter the topic, with his famous “Carthago delenda est” though in my case it turns into a shrieking “Charlemagne delendus est.” He just turns my stomach. But then, on my mother’s side, I’m descended from the Saxons he didn’t manage to kill. I should point out, that it was no easy job to pacify them. A generation after Verden and then some, there were still “Heathen” uprisings. Of course, as an historian, I acknowledge that Charlemagne did great things for France, and for the spread of education in Europe but I will not forget that this happened on the bones of my ancestors and the tattered shreds of their religious traditions. 
  4. I highly recommend a small book by James Chisolm called Grove and Gallows: Greek and Latin Sources for Germanic Heathenism. 

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NEW BOOK: Modern Guide to Heathenry Releases Today!

 

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At long last A Modern Guide to Heathenry: Lore, Celebrations & Mysteries of the Northern Tradition officially releases today from my publisher Red Wheel / Weiser Books in the US & Canada (sorry UK readers, you’ll have to wait until January).
The book takes what I created in Exploring the Northern Tradition: A Guide to the Gods, Lore, Rites, and Celebrations from the Norse, German, and Anglo-Saxon Traditions (2005) as a foundation and significantly expands upon it with more than 70,000 words of new material especially on devotional work, honoring the ancestors, and theological exegesis. It’s basically twice the word heft of its predecessor!

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An accessible yet in-depth guide to this increasingly popular pre-Christian religious tradition of Northern Europe

Heathenry, is one of the fastest growing polytheistic religious movements in the United States today. This book explores the cosmology, values, ethics, and rituals practiced by modern heathens.

In A Modern Guide to Heathenry readers will have the opportunity to explore the sacred stories of the various heathen gods like Odin, Frigga, Freya, and Thor and will be granted a look into the devotional practices of modern votaries. Blóts, the most common devotional rites, are examined in rich detail with examples given for personal use. Additionally, readers are introduced to the concept of wyrd, or fate, so integral to the heathen worldview.

Unlike many books on heathenry, this one is not denomination-specific, nor does it seek to overwhelm the reader with unfamiliar Anglo-Saxon or Norse terminology. For Pagans who wish to learn more about the Norse deities or those who are new to heathenry or who are simply interested in learning about this unique religion, A Modern Guide to Heathenry is the perfect introduction. Those who wish to deepen their own devotional practice will find this book helpful in their own work as well.

 

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Pre-Order is Live for my new book, A Modern Guide to Heathenry

Modern_Guide_to_heathenry_circleAn accessible yet in-depth guide to this increasingly popular pre-Christian religious tradition of Northern Europe

Heathenry, is one of the fastest growing polytheistic religious movements in the United States today. This book explores the cosmology, values, ethics, and rituals practiced by modern heathens.

In A Modern Guide to Heathenry readers will have the opportunity to explore the sacred stories of the various heathen gods like Odin, Frigga, Freya, and Thor and will be granted a look into the devotional practices of modern votaries. Blóts, the most common devotional rites, are examined in rich detail with examples given for personal use. Additionally, readers are introduced to the concept of wyrd, or fate, so integral to the heathen worldview.

Unlike many books on heathenry, this one is not denomination-specific, nor does it seek to overwhelm the reader with unfamiliar Anglo-Saxon or Norse terminology. For Pagans who wish to learn more about the Norse deities or those who are new to heathenry or who are simply interested in learning about this unique religion, A Modern Guide to Heathenry is the perfect introduction. Those who wish to deepen their own devotional practice will find this book helpful in their own work as well.

PRE-ORDER LINKS

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