Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Spinning and Weaving in Myths and Magic

Weaving and spinning, once basic household tasks for every woman, have more links to magic, myth and lore than any other craft.

Nornir and Babies
In Northern European Mythology it was the Nornir that spun the Wyrd of Gods and Men (in this context, the word Wyrd is more accurately translated as 'doom' or 'death') and as such, there are many folk traditions concerned with ensuring a good fate for the child. Some even go as far as to keep the woman from all spinning and weaving activities so as not to inadvertantly affect the fate of the child in anyway. One custom practiced by Swedish women is particularly of note:

This belief led to rituals performed by Swedish women, who in the seventh month of pregnancy drew blood from their finger with a sewing needle, and used it to mark a strip of wood with protective symbols. Then she spun three lengths of linen thread, which were dyed red, black, and one left white. The wooden strip was burned, and its ashes mixed with mead or beer. A burning twig from the fire was used to burn apart seven inch lengths from each of the linen threads, which were then boiled in salted water and left to dry in the forest on the limb of a tree for three days. These were then wrapped in clean linen and saved until the day of birth. The white cord was used to tie off the umbilical cord of the newborn. The red was tied around the baby's wrist as a protective amulet, sometimes strung with a bead to repel the evil eye. And the black , symbolic of death and ill-luck, was burned to ash and the ashes buried. Often the afterbirth was buried beneath the tree on which the linen threads had dried.

For magical purposes, spindles were made out of different materials so as to add to the magical properties of the thread being spun. Some spindles have been found made of rock crystals and others, have been found made of amber and jet (otherwise known back then as black amber).

Battle Magic and Causing Death
Given the life and death importance linked to spinning, maybe it comes as no surprise that weaving, the usual goal of spinning was used in battle magic among the Northern Europeans. There are two very well known examples of weaving as battle magic to be found in the sagas. Perhaps the most famous is that of the Raven Banner which was described in the Orkneyingarsaga as:

One summer it happened that a Scottish earl called Finnleik challenged Sigurðr to fight him on a particular day at Skitten. Sigurðr's mother was a sorceress so he went to consult her, telling her that the odds against him were heavy, at least seven to one.

'Had I thought you might live forever,' she said, 'I'd have reared you in my wool-basket. But lifetimes are shaped by what will be, not by where you are. Now, take this banner. I've made it for you with all the skill I have, and my belief is this: that it will bring victory to the man it's carried before, but death to the one who carries it.' It was a finely made banner, very cleverly embroidered with the figure of a raven, and when the banner fluttered in the breeze, the raven seemed to be flying ahead.

Earl Sigurðr lost his temper at his mother's words. He got the support of the Orkney farmers by giving them back their land-rights, then set out for Skittern to confront Earl Finnleik. The two sides formed up, but the moment they clashed Sigurðr's standard-bearer was struck dead. The Earl told another man to pick up the banner but before long he'd been killed too. The Earl lost three standard bearers, but he won the battle and the farmers of Orkney got back their land rights.

Also in the Orkneyingarsaga is the account of a shirt that was woven with either poison or killing magic:

...the sisters pulled off their bonnets, tore their hair and said that if he put on the garment his life would be at risk. Though they were both in tears he didn't let that stop him, but no sooner was the garment upon his back than his flesh started to quiver and he began to suffer terrible agony. He had to go to bed and not long after that he died.

So fundamental is the connection between weaving, death and fate in this worldview that not only is weaving oft used as a metaphor for fate but it was also used as part of a description of Valkyries on the battlefield and their craft.

Blood rains from the cloudy web
On the broad loom of slaughter.
The web of man grey as armor
Is now being woven; the Valkyries
Will cross it with a crimson weft.

The warp is made of human entrails;
Human heads are used as heddle-weights;
The heddle rods are blood-wet spears;
The shafts are iron-bound and arrows are the shuttles.
With swords we will weave this web of battle.

The Valkyries go weaving with drawn swords,
Hild and Hjorthrimul, Sanngrid and Svipul.
Spears will shatter shields will splinter,
Swords will gnaw like wolves through armor.

Let us now wind the web of war
Which the young king once waged.
Let us advance and wade through the ranks,
Where friends of ours are exchanging blows.

Let us now wind the web of war
And then follow the king to battle
Gunn and Gondul can see there
The blood-spattered shields that guarded the king.

Let us now wind the web of war
Where the warrior banners are forging forward
Let his life not be taken;
Only the Valkyries can choose the slain.

Lands will be ruled by new peoples
Who once inhabited outlying headlands.
We pronounce a great king destined to die;
Now an earl is felled by spears.

The men of Ireland will suffer a grief
That will never grow old in the minds of men.
The web is now woven and the battlefield reddened;
The news of disaster will spread through lands.

It is horrible now to look around
As a blood-red cloud darkens the sky.
The heavens are stained with the blood of men,
As the Valyries sing their song.

We sang well victory songs
For the young king; hail to our singing!
Let him who listens to our Valkyrie song
Learn it well and tell it to others.

Let us ride our horses hard on bare backs,
With swords unsheathed away from here!

And then they tore the woven cloth from the loom and ripped it to pieces, each keeping the shred she held in her hands... The women mounted their horses and rode away, six to the south and six to the north.

Weaving was also used in protective and healing magic and there are two accounts of women weaving protective shirts for their loved ones.

Spinning, Weaving and the Law

During and after the conversion period, women were encouraged not to:

name other unfortunate persons either at the loom, or in dyeing, or in any kind of work with textiles
-Elgius of Noyon

While Corrector of Burchard of Worms, ca. 1010, set the following penance for magical weaving:

Have you been present at or consented to the vanities which women practice in their woollen work, in their weaving, who when they begin their weaving hope to be able to bring it about that with incantations and with their actions that the threads of the warp and the woof become so intertwined that unless someone makes use of these other diabolical counter-incantations, he will perish totally? If you have been present or consented, you must do penance for thirty days on bread and water


The soul and afterlife - Recon Heathen stylee
Here's something that's been buzzing around in my head a fair bit recently thanks to reading stuff by a certain Bil Linzie. The concept of non-dualism and the probability that the concept of soul (in the sense that contemporary culture be it secular or Heathen understands it) has absolutely bugger all to do with the actual Heathen worldview pre-conversion.

What do I mean by non-dualism in this sense? Well I'll leave it to Simek to explain because he does a much better job than me in his Dictionary of Northern European Mythology

'Detailed investigations since the beginning of the 20th Century have led to the insight that it is extremely unlikely, at least for the late heathen period, that the North-European peoples had a dualistic belief i.e distinct division between the decomposing body of the dead person and the further existence of his soul. The extant sources suggest that the concept was rather that of the 'living corpse' which lived on the gravemound. Although the saga literature(written 200-500 years after Christianization) is otherwise extremely unreliable for Heathen beliefs, these sources do show unanimity, particularly with regard to these concepts, so widely divergent from Christian thought. Admittedly they may be strongly influenced by the folklore of Mediaeval Iceland. Nevertheless, we may assume that the concept does indeed reflect Heathen beliefs.'

Now this sounds pretty horrendous, right?

Especially when you compare it with the other ideas about a Heathen afterlife flying around that are mostly all filled with more hope than the idea of going to rot in the earth with your ancestors(if it's a family mound) and gravegoods.

Then there's the question of just where does the Draugr come in? Well, it's obvious that not every corpse will become a Draugr and then there's always the Hamr to consider...but more about that further down.

According to Eric Christiansen there are 7 possiblities for the dead Heathen

1.Living with the Gods -a concept not seen until the 10th century and thought to have been brought in as a poetic device.
2. Valhalla -believed to have originally referred to as an actual physical place - a mountain where the dead were interred.
3. Hel -no kennings for Hel as a goddess of the land of the dead until the 10th and 11th centuries - definitely conversion era. However as Lindow points out in his Handbook of Northern Mythology "The place Hel (or the noun hel) originally probably just meant 'grave.'". Simek agrees with this saying that the word Hel was used for hundreds of years to refer to the gravemound.
4. Under the sea (with Ran)
5. An earthly land of the dead.
6 With the poor over the stream.
7. Reincarnation - There are some mentions of reincarnation in the Lay of Helgi Hundingsbani however there are no more in an entire corpus of literature. Also one has to consider the possible leakage of early Christian reincarnation belief into Northern European belief. The concept of 'Aftrborinn' would be the nearest thing in North European culture to reincarnation. Aftrborinn is the passing on of traits, qualities and in some cases duties to your offspring.

Out of all of the possibilities listed above, neither Christiansen or Simek are convinced that the Heathen worldview in pre-Christian times in terms of death went beyond the concepts of Hel or the gravemound.

Another thing that's pretty prevelent in modern Heathenry is the concept of the soul complex with its 9 soul parts. I'm yet to find any evidence or any mentions in any of the original sources that back up the idea that this concept is any older than 30 or so years.

Maybe you're wondering how someone with Seidhr leanings could buy into this...after all, I've sat mounds, I've had countless run ins with the dead and dealings with landvaettir and I have a habit of disappearing off through the worlds(or at least projecting my hamr or dreaming my way).

If anything a non-dualist belief clears up some of the confusion - it's also sort of reassuring in that you will always get back to your body because it cannot be separated from you. What is really going about would be your Hamr (skin) that you're projecting. I also don't see why the dead cannot project their Hamr in this way - as long as they're strong enough....maybe that's why ghosts are reported to fade over time? This kind of clears a lot of stuff up.

I'm having one of the most exciting headblags of my life....can you tell???

Poem transfered from LJ

The Birch Lady and the Wounded Patch
(just something I've been wanting to write about for a while)

There are eyes upon me
In this wood of mists
This wood of birch

I look around
Try to seek them out
My friend watches me

That's when I see her
Pale, slender and full of grace
She moves among the birches
And I follow

As fast as I dare
I run through the bracken
and rocks
To the birches where I saw her
Then I stop

A fleeting glimpse
And I'm chasing again

She leads me to birch
where three grow in a triangle
where branches hang with brooms
And the grass grows dark within

This is her place
I feel her once more as
I open myself to the forest
And bitter Yuletide cold

She's not happy about the people
That meet by the oak tree
So I promise her action
And no harm from me

The trees seem to relax
The winter seems less cold
As I make my way back up
To the wound tree

When we leave the woods, we're followed
Sometimes you see it and sometimes you don't
A large black hare that shifts in our wake.

A week later we come back
Our minds fixed on surprise attack

First we stop by
The birch lady's place
Make goodwill offerings
Of bread men, cider and cake

Then we wend our way
Up the twisted path
To the wounded tree
In its wounded patch

One by one I hammer them in
And my friend walks the ground
As I sing their runes
She carries incense around

I sing to cleanse
I sing of strength
I sing of fury and storms
I curse
I protect

Then comes the point
When the place is taken back
The forest swells up
Reabsorbs this wounded patch

This time we when leave
Nothing follows us on
As we make our way to seas of grass
And circles of ancient stone

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Weirdness - the fini

LOL Yet more unbelievable shit from Cat.

Today I went for a walk to take out the food and wine that I had put out in a kind of a mini Dumb Supper. My original aim was to walk to the Hain and that lovely clearing I found last week and then leave them somewhere private.

However what really happened was way cooler. I didn't even make it to the woods. I was walking along the canal bank below the court house and I noticed this raven hopping around. He spotted me and hopped off away from me and I stopped. Thinking I would try my luck and how perfect it would be to feed those offerings to a raven after the weirdness of Friday, I turned my MP3 player off and crouched down. I opened the bag of cake and the cheeky chappy looked interested. I threw some cake down a little distance away and waited. After looking at it and me for a few seconds, he hopped up and took it in his beak before hopping over to some grass and hiding it under a leaf. While he was doing that, I took the opportunity to sprinkle some crumbs a little closer to me. He came and started to eat and so I decided to pull out some more cake. This time, he took it from my hand and ate it. Some more people started to come along the canal bank and so he flew away. Thinking he was gone, I got up and started to leave. The people passed and so I went back. Crouching again, I pulled out my bag and started to make a clicking noise that I hoped would coax him out. I spoke to him in English and told him how beautiful he was and he came back. I fed him the rest of the bag and it was amazing. Ravens are such beautiful, intelligent and comical birds. At times I could have sworn he was laughing. I am so going to go back, this time with my camera, and try to get some pics of him because he really was a fine looking bird.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween Weirdness

Being as I am from the landmass surrounded by water in Northern Europe known as Britain, there is often some crossover between beliefs and practices that are straight up Heathen, stuff that is Celtic and things that come from the folk traditions of my native area. I don't see this as a bad thing. Balances are important to me and so is the number three. For me, balancing between two things is when I go wrong, however balancing between three is fine. It's like the number three makes a lot of sense in my head.

Halloween is a time where all three of these factors in my practice come together. Winternights was celebrated earlier but that was in Iceland where things are colder faster in the year. By Halloween, the British Isles have usually seen some cold temperatures that signal the start of winter and so it often makes sense for me to celebrate that at the same time as Halloween.

I never do anything too crazy at Halloween in terms of ritual. Or at least that's not the aim. I rather like having a no-shit celebration and then getting to settle down and relax with a movie and a glass of wine or two. Usually I light some candles for dead family members and make offerings to the Gods and Disir. I also leave food and drink for them. When I have my own house, I will probably make a meal for my family and set a place for those that have passed before. There is something beautiful about the Dumb Supper. Slightly chilling but beautiful all the same.

Normally I don't get decked out in anything. The only reason I usually wear a costume is to scare kids that come trick or treating and that consists of a lot of black, a witches hat and a skull attached to a stick. That tends to do it!

This year was different though. I didn't get decked out in any special clothes but I felt really sort of like I had to put my raven feathers in my hair. I don't do that unless I am going to do some serious Seidhr. However this year, it was not so much an urge but a sense of not having a choice in the matter. So I did. I also put on my ritual amber necklace (never usually cracked out unless doing some crazies). Putting this stuff on was just bizarre. But once it was on, I thought to myself 'eeeh, Josh hasn't seen me like this before, I'll take some pics'. And so I did. I then got on with my blot and even though I felt the pull to do some Seidhr at the end, I stopped myself because I really wanted that movie night and Seidhr is something you cannot just do in five minutes. It takes some commitment in terms of time and potential shit scariness. Especially when it comes to dealing with the dead.

After the ritual, I took out the feathers and the amber and then checked the pics to see which to send to Josh. One photo really stood out. I need to give you a little backstory on this so you understand. During the time that I thought that Seidhr was all about trance journeying, I went on a journey. Like all of these journeys, they are pretty realistic to the person experiencing them. In this one, I came across Old One Eye and ended up being asked to sacrifice something in exchange for a gift. At this point, I felt this pain in my right eye, as if it was being ripped out. Being very wary of him, I told him I wanted time to think about it because I didn't trust him as far as I could throw him. He told me that he would allow me that but that I wouldn't have too long. 2-3 months later, on my way home from work for 3 days straight, I was met by two huge ravens(real ones) on the path to the bus stop (which is in the middle of nowhere). They would sit on the fence and let me get within 2 metres of them before flying across my path and leaving a feather in their wake. Ravens aren't rare in my area but crows are much more common and I was leaving work at different times of the day for those three days. I decided to take it that my time to decide was up. So I decided to say yes and see what happened. As soon as I agreed, I felt like I had the most horrendous pain in my right eye that lasted for about half an hour. Eventually it subsided and I went to go and look in the mirror. When I did, for a split second it looked like my right eye was gone.

All the trance journeys I did after that were only with one eye.

I don't do trance journeys really anymore. My idea of Seidhr has changed a hell of a lot. I'm not even sure how to regard the story above. My 3 raven feathers are still packed away at home in England and I get lots of irritation in my right eye before anything of significance happens in my life. And yet I really don't know what happened. I am also not adverse to thinking that I had some kind of delusion because quite frankly that is the better option to making a deal with One Eye.

So anyway back to the photos. I took two of them. One after the other, sitting in the same place. The first one is freaky. My right eye is messed up to fuck, the lighting is somehow different and quite frankly, I look at this picture and I know it is me but I see someone or something else there instead. I don't look like me. The second pic was taken seconds after and is completely different.

First picture:Photobucket
Second picture:Photobucket
So, what do you lot think? Something funky with whatever being? Subconscious Hamr distortion?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Brigantia, Trees and Heathens

Last night, I dreamed. Usually when I dream, it's about nonsensical stuff however last night was another deity dream. I was in a market and kept getting drawn to a stall where this lady was selling a pendant with a miniature of the Brigantia statue on it made out of porcelain but labelled as 'Brigid'. There was also a gold/bronze Brigid pendant.

The porcelain one was 25quid and the gold/bronze one was 35. Every time I tried to walk out of the shop, an alarm would sound and would only stop when I came back in and picked up the Brigantia pendant. In my dream, I bought it.

It was odd.

Today I went for a walk and found a really pretty park in Bamberg. Really pretty. It had the most gorgeous European Larch tree in it. One of the few bits of green left in the blazes of yellows, reds, oranges and browns around it. When I saw the tree, I didn't know what it was as it only grows in Alpine regions and I'd never seen one before. I guess Bamberg is close enough to Frankonian Switzerland for this tree to grow here. So I took a piece of it back home with me for identification and also because I'm a terrible hoarder when it comes to nature. I also brought back rowan wood and holly. I was going to get some Belladonna (because you never know when you might need it) but a big gang of nuns disturbed me and so I had to give up collecting the poisonous berries. But nevermind, I know where yew grows and I know other places I can find Belladonna here.

Not that I am planning anything - those who know me know that I tend to assemble something approaching a botanica in every home where I live. I'm usually the most likely candidate to ask if you happen to need to get your hands on bones, poisonous snake skin or magpie wings.

On the way back, I walked on a different section of the path and had the sensation of walking over a lay line. This was a really powerful one, like made my feet tingle powerful and not too far from where I saw the wight the last time I was there. Grinning, I carried on towards home until I came across an elder tree (I think it was elder...I didn't have my glasses on to look at the leaves properly). This tree had four trunks coming out of it's base and on three of those trunks there were runes painted on in spray paint.

From left to right they were Thurisaz, Nauthiz and Ansuz.

There be magic practising Heathens out there hidden among the Catholicism of Bamberg me thinks!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fare thi e'er well

Fare Thi E'er Well

The first day I met you, it was already cold
The snow crunching under my feet
I had never come across someone like you before
With so many needs

We bathed you and dressed you
We fed you and loved you
We took you for wheelchair races
And delighted in your laugh

But as time passed, you began to waste away
And I will never forget that day or the tears we shed
When your bones came clear through your skin
For we all knew full well what that meant

Your limbs began to seize up, breathing became hard
You could not walk or speak
But you could always smile and let us know
That you were not yet ready to go

Then one day, there came a man in black.
Officious and tall
You were to be moved from this place
He just had to do the paperwork - that's all.

As he sat and began to write, the wasting fell away
You regained your speech, could walk again
You could eat and you could play
But soon the paperwork was done, and it was time to go

And so you went with the man, walked out of the door
And got into the car that had not been there before
You gave a goodbye and he started to drive
I waved you off then went back inside

These times are sad, I was sorry to see you go
And you go with the love of many of us from 'the Hall'
Wherever you end up, I wish you well.
Rest in peace Rachel Bennett, fare thi'e'er well.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


During my first month here in Germany, while I was looking for somewhere to live, I lived in a tent that was pitched on the banks of the Regnitz river.

It wasn't an ideal situation but it was much better than sleeping at the barracks with Josh and having to get up at 4am every morning. The army doesn't recognise unmarried couples and so I would have to leave for 5am and then spend 2-3 hours wandering around with nowhere to go until cafes opened. The campsite was a much better option.

Actually it was really quite nice.

The weather was good and I'd actually missed living outside.

Yes that's right, I'd actually missed living outside. There is so much about living outside that I love. I love waking up all snug in my sleeping bag, the air cool around my face and taking in a breath of really nice fresh air. I love the little green lights of fireflies settling on my tent at night just as I am going to sleep and I love sitting out(obviously covered in DEET) as darkness falls. Solid walls, while I wouldn't ever want to forgo them in winter shelter us from so much. Most of all a feeling of just being a part of it all.

Nothing compares to being in a tent during a really huge thunderstorm.

It exhilarates and yet calms all at the same time.

The only downside to living in a tent that I can think of is the lack of security and feeling of being exposed.

One night I woke to hear footsteps outside my tent. You learn to sleep light in a tent, especially during high season on a campsite because you just never know who is knocking about and torches make really good clubs. Quietly I reached for the torch, trying not to give away the fact that I was awake so as not to lose the advantage of surprise should anything untoward happen and that's when I saw it.

Unbelievably there was a girl stood in the middle of my tent. She was dressed in clothing from the 20s/30s and dripping wet. I didn't see her head. My tent is only a dome tent and she was too tall. One can only assume that her head was sticking out of the top if there at all!

At that point I did the only thing I could be bothered to do. I swore, turned over, did my best to ignore her and tried to go back to sleep despite the constant feeling of someone walking over my grave.

Eventually she went and I went back to sleep wondering if I could shift my pitch from the riverside to under the nice oak tree further inland.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Seidhr and Choices

In all the accounts, save one, all Seidrworkers are single and itinerant. They have no relationships except for the one Seidrkona that has a son.

Yngona Desmond's book 'Voluspa - Seidr as Wyrd Consciousness' agrees with this, further stating that Seidhworkers involved in relationships don't have the same amount of focus to take things as far.

A while back, before I met Josh, this idea of being alone, of living on the outskirts of the community and using my particular scary talents didn't bother me. It was something I strived for. I wanted to become adept and earn the title of Seidhrworker.

Now I've become aware of a choice that's been creeping up on me but has remained unnoticed for quite a while for one reason or another.

The choice between my love and an art.

To be honest, if it came down to it and perhaps this is a sign, I'd choose my relationship, my love.

I don't know what that would make me - I will always have this extra 'awareness' about the worlds, knowledge and experiences. I cannot change that anymore than I can the colour of my eyes or skin. I would use that as needs be for the benefit of my family and community. I just won't be on a dedicated path to learn about Seidr anymore. I know it would be kind of foolish to throw away the chance to learn more and take things further but I think it would be more foolish to throw away the kind of love that I have found with my lovely man.

This relationship and the love we have has its own mysteries, as does motherhood and even though this is often overlooked for its mundanity, I think I would be happy just stopping here( if I could). I'm not prepared to sacrifice this in order to take things further with Seidr.

Maybe its not my role to, maybe my role is to use my skills to build community(unlikely with my lack of diplomacy I know but I think I'm getting better and I want to) and raise Heathen children and maybe point any fledgling Seidus in the right direction?

There will always be the rituals and different magics, that's typical of a Heathen woman full stop. Women were always the ones that did this stuff in the past. I just won't be getting my Seidr on unless necessary. I won't be going out of my way to take that stuff further.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Given the crazy events that have transpired in my life since last year, I've been thinking a lot about luck recently. Both my personal luck and shared luck.

This year has quite possibly been the luckiest of my life.

I got a job I mostly enjoy in Korea, I've managed to get mostly out of debt and I met the love of my life.

In England, I was pretty much forced out of living there. My job prospects went to shit, I had no personal safety and I couldn't see much of a future for myself there. It was clear that my time to move on was overdue. I really wish I'd moved on when I'd first gotten the hint too...

When I finally accepted that I had to move, I walked into a job in Korea within days of starting to look - it was handed to me on a plate with rent free living thrown into the deal. So I came out here and within about a month I met one of the four other Heathens in Korea - my Josh. What are the chances?

7000miles from anything, in Pyeongtaek city I met the love of my life.

And you know what? Even then I knew it!

Now you're probably thinking 'yeah yeah you lucky cow' but you know what else I believe? I believe that I damn well earned that luck.

Oh yes....I think those three years I spent working with people with learning disability, getting chased round, assaulted, wiping bottoms and whatnot earned me luck because of how people began to see me and consequently my family then.

I don't know this for sure of course - UPG all the way.

I'm still not entirely sure how luck is earnt however I'm pretty sure that it's got a lot to do with how you reflect on your family and how you are with your family.

We prove ourselves in different ways.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Newbies, Christians and Heathenry

When I was a newbie to all this non-Christian lark - back in the early/mid-nineties, I used to search for any and every bit of 'proof' that Christianity was wrong and that I'd picked the right path.

I used to care what Christians thought of me and yet went around spelling the word Christian with an 'x' in a very childish attempt to show my disdain for them. Then again, at that point the word 'magic' had umpteen number of spellings and everyone's online name either included the name of a deity or the word 'Lady' or 'Lord'.

Over the years, I came to care less and less about what Christians thought of me and as the polytheistic mindset really sunk in - I was no longer threatened by the existence of the God of Abraham whereas previously I tried to find ways to prove that everyone was deluded and that he wasn't real. I developed a taste for Catholic art and at one point even considered getting a tattoo of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. I was a languages major and through my studies of Spanish and consequently Latin American culture, I grew to love the aesthetic. One Pagan housemate was shocked and disgusted. She hated my tacky plastic pictures of the Virgin Mary, she hated my Fatima pin that I used to wear on my punky jacket with the pink flames on and she definitely hated the Virgin of Guadalupe patch that I had stitched to my excessively baggy jeans for a while.

'Why the fuck do you wear/have that shit if you're a Heathen?'

'Because it's fucking cool and it's not like it means anything to me. I just like the way it looks'

She was rather new to it all and very anti-Christian and I think that is something that we all go through in the process of conversion.

People seem to think that conversion is just a matter of a ritual or just deciding but it's not. It takes years and years for that change to happen - especially if you were raised in a religious family.

My family aren't particularly. They'll show up at church for 'hatches, matches and dispatches' but other than that - they don't really see the point of churches. My father has quite a recent habit of changing his religion(one day he's announcing he's a spiritualist, the next a shaman and the next a traditional Christian!). My mother just thinks that it doesn't really matter what anyone is as long as they're good people although I would say my mother is a bit of a Pagan type but doesn't really know it yet. And my brother....well.....to say he's completely unreligious is a bit of an understatement. Gideon bible?? Smoked it.

Yet in spite of growing up in a family that thought it was funny that they buried the last pope in a dress with shoes that didn't quite match - it was still a bit of a process to get to where I am now because I read a fair chunk of the bible, I went to church for a while (less than a year - stuck to that one, didn't I?! LOL). And really, we underestimate all the Christian stuff that exists in our society and ideas regardless of your upbringing. For example - I opted out of the Religious Education course at school but they still made us do modules entitled 'Caring, a Christian perspective' and 'Marriage,a Christian perspective' and sent us to do community service activities for good measure.

My first community service activity involved having to pull cancerous skin from a senile old lady's leg before covering it with cream.


Anyway, back to the point. It takes years for you to change and part of making that change is being rabidly anti-Christian - guess it's the only way of dealing with the cognitive dissonance. But eventually the change comes when none of it matters anymore and you go into a church service and haven't got a clue what's going on, hungover and wishing the fucker that keeps ringing the bell would fuck off. You find yourself having to have Christian concepts explained to you and you might as well be having Hinduism explained because it's just that foreign to you. Bible stories end up being 'fucked up' but highly entertaining costume dramas and you figure you might as well take the local Christians that are offering freebies for everything you can get.

There is so much Christian baggage in modern Heathenry - not that it's not to be expected or anything. But I think give it a few years, let the first generation of children born to Heathen parents come through, let folks come to terms with the conversion process or even admit that there is a process to get over it.

It's only when Heathens stop giving a shit about how they're seen or about what they're doing and how it relates to every other bugger that we'll start to become credible.

Er...yeah...not really a point to any of that but nevermind.

It's my blog and I'll post if I want to :P

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Once a lady walked the heath
The fallen dead to find
And as the mists curled round
She sang a lullaby

The dead, they heard
That beauteous song
And gathered all around
And as she sang
The dead came out
Entranced by the sound

The more she sang
The more the mist
It grew all around
The more she sang
The colder it got
Frost forming on the ground

The dead they liked her oh so much
Decided then and there
That they would steal her clean away
From this middle earth

Now the lady is with the dead
Singing her lullaby
Trapped deep in a mound
Forced to sing
That cursed lullaby.

Let this be a lesson for all you here
Be careful what you sing
For even a children's lullaby
Can be a harmful thing.

Cat Houghton, April 22nd 2008

This was something that sort of came to me this morning before class....maybe my subconscious telling me not to make anything I write too good? *snigger*

I even got a tune with it but luckily no reality/dead calling effects that I can ascertain as of yet.

P.S This is not my Vardlokur chant....

On Writing Vardlokur

This my fiends is going to be one of those dirty, UPG and woo-filled posts.

I'm leaving Korea in about three weeks and I'll be going back to Europe. A place where I can interact with the landvaettir and where they don't so much mind me doing crazy Seidhr type stuff. Being here in Korea has been so restrictive. The land spirits are just not used to immigration yet and aren't very accepting of other cultures and peoples. From the get-go, it became very apparent to me that practising any kind of Seidhr was a no-no. This isn't my turf, I am foreign and no matter how much I come to understand the lore of this place, what I might encounter and what I might do in order to placate the things I might encounter - that still doesn't mean that they would accept that placation.

The impending move back to Europe, to land and spirits that aren't completely alien to me must be having an effect and I'm being rather seriously nudged to take a slightly different path and to do a form of oracular Seidhr ritual.

Most people have only ever heard of the oracular Seidhr ritual in conjunction with the Hrafnar group and like the Hrafnar group, I'm looking at Eirik's Saga Rauda for my recon clues.

However I differ from Hrafnar on one rather key point. I don't believe that the Vardlokur are sung with the intention of singing the Seidkona or anyone else on a journey. I believe they are songs for enticing in the spirits. For pulling/enticing them in.

Why do I think this?

In the past I have come across songs which, when played alter reality, they facilitate that 'shift' between normalcy and that state in which the dead come through. Certain combinations of notes, certain 'feels' of music.

I know from personal experience that it is possible to 'pull' them in however I would much prefer that they come willingly.

There is also this section from Eirikssagaraudr:

But on the morrow, in the latter part of the day, she was fitted out with the apparatus she needed to perform her spells. She asked too to procure her such women as knew the lore which was necessary for performing the spell, and bore the name Varblokur, Spirit-locks. But no such women were to be found, so there was a search made right through the house to find whether anyone was versed in these matters.'I am unversed in magic,' was Gudrid's reply, 'neither am I a prophetess, yet Halldis my foster-mother taught me in Iceland the lore which she called Varblokur.' 'Then you are wiser than I dared hope,' said Thorbjorg. 'But this is a kind of lore and proceeding I feel I cannot assist in,' said Gudrid, 'for I am a Christian woman.' 'Yet it might happen,' said Thorbjorg, 'that you could prove helpful to people in this affair, and still be no worse a woman than before. Still, I leave it to Thorkel to procure me the things I need here.'Thorkel now pressed Gudrid hard, till she said she would do as he wished. The women now formed a circle all round, while Thorbjorg took her seat up on the spell-platform. Gudrid recited the chant so beautifully and well that no one present could say he had ever heard the chant recited by a lovelier voice. The seeress thanked her for the chant, saying that she had attracted many spirits there who thought it lovely to lend ear to the chant-- spirits 'who before wished to hold aloof from us, and pay us no heed. And now many things stand revealed to me which earlier were hidden from me as from others.

As you can see for yourself in the above excerpt from Chapter 4 of the aforementioned saga - Thorbjorg categorically states that the chant had attracted many spirits.

Unfortunately we don't know exactly what Gudrid chanted/sung and so logically, the would be practitioner of oracular Seidhr is left with two choices.

a. Give up and forget the idea
b. Use the information that can be deduced as to the nature of the chant in order to write a new one that can be used.

From the above excerpt, we can easily surmise that the Vardlokur had several characteristics.

* It had a rhythm to it. All chants have a rhythm.
* For a chant to be a successful and memorable chant, it had to be quite short and have repetition. This can still be seen in most chants from folklore. Another possible aspect of such a chant could be 'counting' as can be seen in chants such as the 'Magpie chant' (one for sorrow, two for joy etc etc).

From these two facts we can possibly also surmise that the Vardlokur is something that is at once hypnotic and yet builds into something a little more ecstatic.

Another thing to take into account is that some children's chants have a tune to them. From personal experience I know that certain tones and rhythms have different effects and that some indeed attract the dead.

One interesting angle that I have considered in writing new Vardlokur comes from a couple of things that the Viking Answer Lady says in her essay 'Women and Magic in the Sagas:Seidhr and Spae' (http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/seidhr.shtml)

Where a Saami or Siberian shaman would rely upon the beat of a drum to achieve the ecstatic trance, the völva requires a special type of chant, the Varðlokur. No words have been preserved of this chant, but since the Varðlokur had been used by Guðríðr's foster-mother as a lullaby, it seems likely that the chant was repetitive and soothing in character.

and also her references to the law codes in Anglo-Saxon England that suggest that Spae-craft was not necessarily a dead art during and after the conversion period:

The spae-wife is not absent in Saxon England, either, for a Christian penitential states:
Si qua mulier divinationes vel incantationes diabolicas fecerit, I annum poeniteat, vel 3 XLmas, XL dies, juxta qualitem culpae poenitentis.
"If a woman makes prophecies and incantations by diabolic means, she is punished for one year, or 40 masses, 40 days, with the punishment being proportional to the guilt" (Crawford, 107).

Could it be possible that somewhere, floating around there is an early folk song/ballad/chant that holds remnants of an Anglo-Saxon variant of the Vardlokur? In the same way that some Heathen lore was preserved for the Christian audience by Grimm's fairy tales, could it be possible that there is knocking around out there, a really old folk song that in some way preserves parts of the Vardlokur or derived from it? Although I am unsure as to where the Viking Answer Lady comes up with the 'lullaby' link (I can only think it was something expressed in the untranslated text as opposed to the translation that she herself gives on the site), if it is the kind of song that could have been used as a lullaby, it may have been quite an innocuous chant of the kind that can still be spotted in English folk chants to this day.

Chants along the lines of

'Jenny Wren fell sick upon a merry time,
In came robin redbreast and fed her cakes and wine'

seem innocuous though they contain fragments of folk belief that, although not ancient, refer to a form of Pagan belief.

So I have been searching not only for possible chants/folk songs/ballads that could have been referencing enticing the dead (even in an abstract manner) but chants/folk songs or ballads that could possibly (either from their tunes or subject matter) be used in such a way. There is a power in tradition and it would be good to use it.

So far I have come up with nothing except a great liking for a folk song called 'Three Ravens' - but being an Odinic type, what do you expect ;)

I do have a form of chant/song that needs refining and that I think could do the job but I'll have to try it out properly when I get back to England so all is not lost if my dreams of finding something older don't come through ;)

The saga continues....

Thursday, April 17, 2008

To Join Or Not To Join...

That be the question.

You see, I'm a bit of a walking contradiction because on the one hand I want to be involved in the wider community and do something of service to the Heathen community- I've sort of considered joining some kind of org and doing some kind of clergy training - I mean, around ten years experience as a Heatheny type person has to count for something, right? And I do know that the training in itself does not a gythja make - acceptance by your community in that role does.

However on the other hand, I make enemies faster than Don Giovanni due to my inability to be subtle...I'm as subtle as an airraid. I also kind of enjoy taking the piss out of some members of the Heathen community. If it makes folks feel better, I do it to members of the Pagan community too. Well, it's not my fault if they dress up all funny and come out with daft shit! They're asking for it.

And you see, it's this complete lack of tolerance that keeps me in this quandary. As soon as I hear any shit, it's like these alarms go off in my head and before I know it, my gob is open and I'm giving out about whatever that person is talking about.


There's a reason why my friends gave me the nickname 'Human marmite'.

There is simply no middle ground with me. You either love me or hate me.

And I do try to be diplomatic. Mr Josh - my lovely man is a very diplomatic chappie but I have a lot of trouble with that. It's ok on the internet because I can take a step back, think about what I'm going to say and edit anything too inflammatory out of my posts. In real life it's different. I don't think I'll ever master face to face diplomacy and I just know that were I to join an org, something would happen - I wouldn't be able to sit there with a straight face/without making an outburst/without making enemies with well known people and it'd all go down the pan.

Oh hum.....

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lancashire and Lancastrians

I come from a part of England called Lancashire which is made up of working-class mill towns, woodland, moorland and the occasional 'posh' place where the toffs live.

But to me, Lancashire means so much more.

I think of Lancashire and I think of vast seas of grassy, peaty moors. Windswept and desolate. Beautiful in their own way. I think of the way the land feels and the wights I know. Their places - the mounds, ruins and groves. I think of places that buzz beneath my feet, places where the air sometimes crackles with energy and that stay warm even when everywhere else is cold.

I think of the trees and what herbs grow where. I think of how close I feel to my Gods there. I think of Brigantia - the Goddess linked to the land itself and I think of the people that once walked buried in the hills.

People with whom I have little in common except the land. Ancient Britain or British bitsa, we both came from the same land. We both belong there. Those hills will never be foreign to me no matter how far or how long I travel.

In the 1700s, Lancashire was described as a 'wild and lawless county full of Catholics'.

But Lancashire is the reason why I'm a Heathen. I was lucky enough to grow up somewhere where the wights still live and that still has presence. Walking those hills I learned most of what I know now.

Well not just in walking those hills - growing up in my family too.

Put it simply - Lancashire is a place where people are often brutally honest. It's a trait I have too and even though the county has been at least nominally Christian for over a thousand years, old concepts still remain. The concepts of luck and familial luck - of gaining luck. The ideas about community and being prepared to go to the wall for your family and friends. After all - blood is thicker than water.

As children - we told stories about 'Granny Greenteeth' who drowns children that swim in her ponds, about 'hungry' rivers and moorland ghosts. We told stories about things that usually couldn't be seen but we knew to be there and without really thinking I found myself leaving offerings at certain places.

This post is my tribute to Lancashire - the land I really want to see. My land. Just for a little while at least before I go off to Germany.

Heathen men

I would like, if I may, to introduce you to a rather strange and varied species.

The species I am talking about is the Heathen male. There are many different types of Heathen male and as a longterm observer of the species, I have noticed several types emerge.

The Wannabe Viking

This first type is perhaps the most prolific and easiest to recognise. The Wannabe Viking is usually has the biggest Thor's hammer you've ever seen and then just in case you don't quite get it - a t-shirt - also with a huge Thor's hammer. The Wannabe Viking will talk tough...and very loudly. He probably doesn't realise that Vikings weren't the be all and end all of Viking age Scandinavian culture. He also probably doesn't think much about women - except in terms of 'loot' and 'booty' or even.. 'wench'. The more respectable among them may even think along the lines of 'Valkyrie' but only because of the serving drinks angle.

The Wannabe Viking can most often be found at Heathen events, mouthing off loudly, mead horn in hand and talking absolute bollocks. But hey...as long as he looks tough, what's the problem??

The Theodish King

The Theodish 'King' likes social hierarchy - especially one where he gets to be at the top of it without having to work hard to get there. People obviously don't recognise his greatness though and except from a few sycophants that would be better off roleplaying or just being honest with themselves and taking that step to being an S&M slave - everyone else will probably think he's a jerk.

These types can come in all shapes and sizes. Some may even look normal...ok, I said 'some'....They're not so easy to spot but look out for the sycophants asking dumb questions like 'Does this _____please you my lord?'

The Theodish King's greatest fear is for people to find out the truth - that he's really covering up rather dramatically for his inferiority complex which comes out rather magnificently if challenged about anything.

The Lokean

These are usually the chaps that look like they *still* wet the bed. They usually dress quite gothic and if you ask them why they play with Loki, they get all whiny and bang on about discrimination. They also blame Loki for anything they fuck up usually saying 'Loki made me do it!' so as to avoid accepting any personal responsability for their actions.

Having said that - I've come across Lokeans that don't fit this mold and although I still personally don't get the 'Why Loki' thing, I don't mind them.

I still have my reservations about being in a blot/faining with Loki involved though....

The Great And Knowledgable One

This variety sits on forums and seems to talk down to anyone with a pair of tits and vagina - of course - a woman couldn't possibly know more than he.....and of course he would only ever have consulted research put together by a woman when he was a 'beginner'.

Of course the thing he dreads most is it getting out that he's actually still probably a beginner and he's trying to cover up his lack of knowledge instead of doing what he should and asking questions and learning.

The 'Godslave'

These are often the most stoic of all. They are only alive because Odin lets them be...or whatever.

They do not question anything and often can be spotted because they're speaking in some bad version of 'Olde Englishe' (They go to the 'shoppe' instead of the shop)

The Anacronist

This boy is easily spotted because he's still living like it was 699AD baby!!!

It's just a pity that the police/fire department/hospital/his neighbours can't understand that.

The Lesser Spotted Lovely Decent Heathen Man

These are very difficult to spot and if you do happen to come across one - snap him up!! He lives in the now, he treats you like an equal (but still has enough of the traditional about him to make you go weak at the knees), he has a good sense of humour and often makes you laugh. He doesn't take himself too seriously and has a sense of honour that makes you feel safe.

Like I said ladies- snap them up if you find them!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A New Day, A New Blog!

For years I've been a Livejournal chick. In fact I was on there when you had to get a code from a friend in order to be able to join. Well, either that or pay....

This blog isn't moving on - not really. This blog is going to be my exclusively Heathen blog for all my Heathen related blurbs. Of course daily life will get in there somewhere - that can't be helped because being a Heathen isn't a weekend activity or something I turn on or off or even can turn on or off. This is for recording my perspective on things, my UPG and my ideas so that I can look back and see how I've changed.

I change a lot. My life is a constant state of flux- especially emotionally. I think Goethe described it best when he said 'On top of the world yet in the depths of despair'. One day I'm flying high on dreams for the future and the next I come crashing down as I worry about the coming challenges and some of the harsh realities of my situation.

My ideas change a lot too, especially about Heathenry as I question and learn and question and learn.

That's all going to go here.

Some days I may not post and others I may post a lot.

Oh well - I have a class to teach.

Toodle pip!