Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lil Miss Abnormal

Maybe it's the darker nights, or the howling gails that echo down our chimney. Maybe it's the weather or cold. Maybe it's none of those things, maybe it's all of them. Whatever it is though, for whate ver reason, at this time of year, my thoughts always tend to run off into more 'esoteric' directions. Scary experiences that I haven't thought of for years come to mind, snippets of stories about family members passing, pieces of folklore and traditions all float around in this noggin of mine to produce this winter ridiculousness. I'm also possibly reading way too many posts on

Maybe some if this is normal, I don't know. Normal and I have been in an abnormal relationship for some time now.

This week has been surreal, like something out of a movie. You know the kind...awkward situations during festivities, then crime (not me) and family scandal, followed by a present I really wished we'd never got and aren't quite sure how to dispose of.

It almost makes you think the creepy memories you have from being a kid are normal in comparison.

My mother always said I should write those stories down, make them into some kind of horror book. Make some money.

And to add to this, the UPG/MUS also comes thick and fast at this time of the year. Not only that but this time I have the hugest urge to talk about it somewhere. But where? A lot of those that would are pretty crazy (says me...'Lil Miss Abnormal' over here...) and I've learned to be guarded about this over the years with everyone else.

It's probably going to come spewing out in some.embarassing webpost at some point that I'll look back on during some Yule in the future and repeatedly berate myself with the words ' What the FUCK was I thinking posting *that*!'

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Woman's Honour

So I've been trying to figure out how to make this kind of a blog post for a while. To say it's not an easy one would be an understatement.

However, over the past week or so, I've come across this phenomena twice.

Ladies pulling down ladies.

Now if your brain instantly flashed to two scantily dressed women, wrestling in a mud pit, you wouldn't be alone. I went to festivals a lot when I was younger and that was a popular entertainment.

But in all seriousness, I think it's a problem and while I normally don't really care what folks outside of my inner-yard do, I think women in Heathenry face enough crap that it really doesn't make sense for us to pull each other down, not if we want better for our daughters.

As I've mentioned before, women are treated differently in Heathenry. At best, we face social censure more often than guys do for our opinions, in some communities we are questioned/hassled about our breeding choices (as if our uteruses are anyone's business but our own and our parters), we may find ourselves excluded from any serious lore conversation and at the very worst, we're exploited sexually. But this is very much a 'mileage may vary' kind of deal. If you are a woman that's reading this blog, you may or may not have experienced any of this. We all have different communities with different histories. BUT, I will say that I have heard of all of the above happening to women in various American communities and all within the last 5 or so years.

And of course, this is not acceptable.

However adding to these issues are the issues that women create for women, to tear them down (and presumably attain some kind of status for doing so). During the course of the past week, I've heard of and/or dealt with one Heathen woman that has repeatedly made sexual advances towards the husbands and boyfriends of other Heathen women and another who basically wanted to point out how she wasn't fat but her sister was, on a group that her sister wasn't on. She even posted photos.

Both, to put it mildly, are shitty behaviours and they're really not the extent of it either. I once heard a workshop on Ravencast about gossip and how gossip was used to exert social control by women. Now that's all well and good, but seeing as we modern women live in a society in which we have more rights than our forebears did. And therefore don't NEED to rely on gossip and shaming our menfolk in order to get any amount of social control - or at least we shouldn't. My point is, shouldn't we be aiming a little higher? Instead of gossiping, or inciting others to do our dirty work, shouldn't we be taking control ourselves and going out and dealing with those that we have issues with directly? Surely that is what *should* be socially acceptable?

We often hear talk of honour within the context of men, but what of a woman's honour?

What *is* woman's honour? Is it, or should it be any different from that of a man and if it isn't, shouldn't we be judged the same as a man for doing as honour requires?

We need to talk about these topics, we need to decide how we'd deal with a lack of honour shown by women in our local communities and most importantly, we need to make sure that we stand together when one of us is treated differently because of gender. Be it when speaking out or trying to act with honour...whatever that may be.

I look forward to reading any thoughts and feelings on this.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Let's Push Things Forward

During the course of this past weekend, we've had the pleasure of having Heathen friends over on both nights. After coming from living in Germany, where our nearest Heathen was almost 2 hours away and very busy with grad school, this is a complete (dare I say it?) luxury. To be able to talk about subjects that we are passionate about, with people that also get it is just incredible and not something that my husband or I would ever take for granted.

These conversations have given me much food for thought over the past day or so, nothing truly groundbreaking as I was already of the same opinion when it came to these topics, but it's kind of like the same feeling that you get when going through a cupboard and finding something you haven't used or looked at for a while.

On the first night, we discussed reconstructionist Heathenry and how there shouldn't be this distinction made between reconstructionist Heathenry and mainstream. It should just be either Heathenry or not. Let's face it, there's a lot of stuff in mainstream Heathenry that really has no place but has been there for years and years and just regurgitated to the next generation regardless of veracity or usefulness to the wider community. Something that isn't well rooted can easily float off with the fairies and it's increasingly my personal opinion that it is the rootless nature of a lot of practices or concepts that are taken for granted within the Heathen community,that has contributed to a lot of the craziness and controversies that can be found as well. A lot of it comes from the era that a lot of the first modern Heathens started out in and while we must never forget that without these folks, we probably wouldn't be around and accord them their due respect for this, we mustn't be afraid to examine and be critical of the things that have been passed down from the earlier days either. That which doesn't change and adapt, dies. That which doesn't have strong roots, will eventually wither and if our communities are to thrive and grow, we need to have those strong roots and we need to also be able to adapt.

Herein lies the problem. We're still looking for those roots, we're still examining them and trying to figure it out. The actual historical concepts that we're discovering are receiving little to no dissemination to newbies and when the newbie becomes more experienced, it's hit or miss whether they're ready to consider any other viewpoints than the ones that they initially found in the 'Asatru 101' books. Ezines like Odroerir are starting to try and address this issue, but not all newbies know about it and some might find it inaccessible if they're really 'green'. We have no equivalent of the 'Asatru 101' book that gives concepts in easy-to-swallow chunks. This is an issue. Another multifaceted issue is the issue of communication between those that identify as being reconstructionist and those that don't. The 'reconstructionists' don't always express their disagreement with prevalent views in the best way, the 'non-reconstructionists' become very defensive, the whole thing turns nasty, repeats, and a needless fault-line occurs.

Now I'm not saying everyone should just jump and change, just that people should at least know what is accurate, try and adopt the worldview behind the actual concepts that existed and acknowledge that the practices they *want* to stick to have become their tradition (and there is nothing wrong with that). As my friend said on Saturday night, we need to push things forward. Unfortunately as long as the people trying to reconstruct worldview remain in the minority, we won't manage that. We'll just become a joke like some aspects of Wicca have. I want better for Heathenry. I want something cohesive and beautiful in its simple, rooted elegance. Not weighted down with dross and clunky concepts that don't work properly even within the paradigms that spawned them. As German friend of mine once said:

'I guess at the root of things we're following a heathen path because we receive strength from the cult and that's it what it's all about for me: religion is for the people,but ours isn't opium, but a strengthening medicine to help us live our lives in the best possible way. '

Is the prevalent Heathenry really doing that for us? I don't believe the 'clunk' strengthens. It confuses. When we're in a place where we believe that some deity has selected us to be Odin's special little snowflake and that he's talking to us and going as far as to tell us how to wear our hair, how he likes his cookies and which way to walk or where to park, then something has gone drastically wrong. We're in a place of weakness (and quite possibly mentally ill). When we're in a place where we let synchronicity run our lives, we're in a place of weakness and next to no good to our communities or ourselves. Hell, to use a less insane example, even when we're in a place where we believe that a deity really gives a shit about if we behave in daily life or not and is going to punish us in some otherworldly place for transgressions, we're weak. What is the point of doing something that weakens?

However there is a lot of resistance to calling this kind of thing out, and this leads me to the conversations on Sunday night. We are Heathens, we reserve (or should) reserve the right to call judgement on those that we come across or that come into our communities. Be it about silly, faux-viking names, behaviour, generally accepted concepts or someone that believes that they are so special, that a deity takes a personal interest in their life or has even wooed them in the romantic sense. One might cry for tolerance but these seemingly harmless affectations often hide a myriad of other problems.

Ironically, it's often those that cry for tolerance in those cases that are the least tolerant and ultimately the most venomous. In my opinion, it is those people, that tend to cry for tolerance, that tend to be the ones avoiding the 'you' statements, that tend to speak of how their feelings were 'hurt' by disagreements and that throw the word 'bully' around, that are the most manipulative and ultimately the most harmful to a community. To heap on the irony, they are using more passive aggressive bullying tactics in order to try and stifle opinions that they don't like. This kind of behaviour is yet more of the 'clunk' that Heathens need to call out for what it is in their communities and censure accordingly.

Let's push things forward.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Turtle Island

Leaving Europe was hard, really hard and there were several times on the flights over that I found myself hiding tears from my husband. Eventually, I took myself off to the bathroom and gave myself a stern talking to. As an Englishwoman, I have to keep something called 'stiff upper lip' and so this seemed to work.

I won't bore you with more about how much I love Europe and how much I'm going to miss it. That goes without saying. Instead I'll talk about what it's been like here so far on the huge chunk of land that lots of the Native Americans call Turtle Island.

To say it's strange and a mixed bag to be here should also go without saying. I feel rootless here, I have no ancestors buried here and there's so much I don't know about the land, the myths and hell, even basic stuff like the fact that over here, 'Entrees' on the menu means 'main course' and not 'appetisers'. Sure I've lived in places where I've had no bones in the land or cultural links before, but it was different because each time, the culture was obviously different as opposed to this deceptive feeling of similarity between American cultures and English (or indeed German).

On my second or third night here, my grandmother-in-law gave me a huge bag of knitting/crochet yarn, needles/hooks and pattern books. Some of these items came from my husband's mother, some from his grandmother and some from his great-grandmother.

This gift blew me away. There is so much history and so many stories with these knitting needles and crochet hooks. Tucked among the books are notes that the great grandmother made of all the people in her family she was going to make mittens for, their various sizes and colour preferences. This list is quite long. Other notes are dated and tell of growing children needing new mittens, mittens which she'd then knit up to keep her family warm in the frigid New England winters.

I can't crochet, but my husband's mother could and so I kind of feel pushed to learn. There is the most beautiful example of crochet I've ever seen, a fine lace doily that's already found its pair in my own grandmother's tablecloth which I've oathed to finish. Looking through these treasures, I felt a little less rootless and pulled out my grandmother's tablecloth, examining the stitches that my grandmother struggled to make until the arthritis and blindness stopped her.

These items are made with love, they're truly precious and in a weird way, I kind of feel a pressure from both my husband's female ancestors and my own to lovingly craft things for family, friends and my home. I think that would be the most perfect repayment for such a gift.

The next day, I started knitting a duckling to send to my niece. It's finished now and really very cute. I now have a baby whale on the go for another child.

This is one hell of an adjustment, but by the same measure, it's exciting. It's so pretty here and people have been very friendly so far. I'm now in a land where bears, moose and coyotes aren't just something that you see on films, they might be in your backyard! The house where we're staying at the moment is surrounded by trees, a little way up there are goats and chickens and then you have a wooded hill with the most amazing rocks on it, dumped by the slowly receding glaciers way back when. Some of them reminded me of the 'fairy rocks' from back home and being a tactile person, I ran my hands over them. At that moment, it got a little easier, I stopped feeling down about everything I'd left behind in Germany and England and decided that I want to learn about this land and thrive instead of being wary of the bears and moose and coyotes and whatever else there is that is strange to me. I want to discover this big nature.

And then probably poke it with a stick.

Just kidding :P.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


There's something of the familiar here
'Homely' as we'd say where I'm from
It's a good word
Positive word
A word of bright fairy lights against a cold winter's night
Of warm homemade blankets against snow
Maybe it's the accent
The same as family dead and gone
The 'I'll love you and leave you's
and cups of 'Rosie Lee'
My Auntie Ada's voice superimposed on my own
I grew up in the North
But I had blood here
My dad's successor was shot at the tube station down the road
Family survived the blitz here
Lived here, grew here
Until the time came for them to go North
And then it was 'Never again, London!'
'Not even for a gold watch!'

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Health and Holiness

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a Sumbel with a local group.

One custom of the group when passing the horn from one person to the other, was the spoken exchange of 'Trink Heil' (drink hale) and 'Sei Heil' (be hale).

Unfortuantely, most people have only ever heard the word 'Heil' in reference to the nazis. Everyone has seen the old footage of Hitler and thousands of jackbooted followers giving their salute and shouting 'Sieg Heil!', but that's not all there is to this word. In fact, that does a great disservice to this word and the sacrality represented in those four, little letters.

'Heilen', the verb from which 'Heil' is derived in modern German is generally given the meaning of 'to cure', 'to heal', or is even found as 'das Heil', 'salvation'. 'Heil' can also be found in compound words such as 'Heilkunde'or 'medicine' and even 'Heilig' or 'holy. The word 'heil' can be traced back to Old High German (in which it can also mean 'safe'), after which there are two theorised proto-Germanic etymological origins of the word 'heil'.

*Hailaz (parent to the OE word 'hāl' and the Frisian word ' hēl), meaning 'whole' and theoretically derived from the Proto-Indo European word *koylos, meaning 'healthy, intact, well-omened).

*Hailan (parent to OE word 'hael' and ON word 'heill'), noun 'heil', meaning 'luck'.

If you look at the Anglo Saxon Magico-Medical charms, the focus is much more holistic than modern medicine tends to be. The focus is on whole-making, protecting, strengthening. A break in the 'scinn' (skin - sometimes referring to the physical skin but also potentially referring to an 'astral' skin similar to the ON concept of the 'hamr') could cause a person to lose 'hǽlu'. To lose 'hǽlu' invites sickness, which back then, was either conceived to be due to invasion from an outside force (such as 'flying venom' or 'elfshot'), something that subtracted from the 'wholeness' of the person (such as a supernatural creature that fed off them) or something that disturbed the balance of the body (also attributed to elves).

Of further interest in the Anglo Saxon worldview are words connected to 'hælu', such as:
hæle2 [] m (-þes/-þ, -as) man, hero [] m (-þes/-þ, -as) man, hero

So what kind of a picture can we build of the concept of health in (at least) Anglo Saxon Heathen culture (and possibly others)?

Hælu and its cognates were linked not only to 'health' and 'wholeness, but to 'safety', 'holy', 'luck' and 'salvation'.

What though, does this have to do with us as modern day Heathens?

In our modern day world, we often tend to think of physical health as being completely separate from anything remotely 'spiritual' (for want of a better word). We've all grown up in a culture that values this thing called the 'soul', often at the expense of the physical body. We grew up in a culture that is heavily based on a religion in which mortifying the flesh or putting it through hardship was considered an admirable spiritual endeavour. Something that is still practiced by Christian sects in various parts of the world. There's a disdain for the physical, it's considered worthless. Is it then really any wonder that so many of us have such little regard for our bodies?

We live in a culture in which most of the food we buy, barely passes for actually being food. Hot Pockets, microwave burritos, Hungry Man meals, frozen pizzas, Hamburger Helper and bread that is so pumped with fake nutrients and sugar, it should come with a health warning. What's even crazier is that this non-food that is sold as food, is actually cheaper than real food. For the first time in human history, the poorest people are actually the fattest!

On Heathen sites around the internet, I read a lot about people doing 'daily devotional practices', about them 'building a personal relationship with _(insert deity name here)_' and asking about things like 'growing spiritually'.

This is plug in and play spirituality.

It's time we started to look to the physical and get over this whole mentality of a spiritual/mundane dichotomy. As I've said in this blog before, Heathenry is world accepting. We are part of this world, our bodies are part of this world. There is no separation between our 'spirituality' and our physical bodies. If we really want to grow, we should not only endeavour to grow in our physical communities, but grow our bodies well too.

Now I'm not talking about weight here or having the perfect bodies or all Heathens looking like the Asgardians from the Thor comic. I'm talking health, strength and capability. Those should be our goals. Not only for ourselves but our communities as as we become stronger and increase our capabilities, we also increase our usefulness as members of our communities.

You want to do something Heathen? Educate yourself about exercise and nutrition. Cook nourishing food for your families and friends. Gift nourishing food to people in your community that you care for and who might not be eating enough of what they need (I'm thinking mostly of older people here). Strengthen your bodies. Respect your bodies. Recognise the worth in your body and love it for what you can do with it. Enjoy your bodies. Make yourselves whole.

Waes thu hael!


Leechcraft - Stephen Pollington

Woerterbuch der Indogermanischen Sprachen:
Dritter Teil: Wortschatz der Germanischen Spracheinheit - Fick, Falk & Torp

Bosworth and Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary:

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I arrived here on the 1st of June, 2008.

I'd fallen in love with a soldier in Korea less than a year before and we'd decided to stay together by both going to Germany. Germany was our hope for two people from different worlds to stay together.

When I arrived, I was homeless, jobless and hoping for enough luck to not only survive but thrive. I had money that I'd saved in Korea, but the won to the euro is a huge leap in terms of how far your money will get you and soon, I was almost out of money too. To complicate matters, my then fiance, was scheduled to be deployed in August.

For the first month, I stayed in a tent, lined up job interviews in various places and then attended them, dictionary in hand.

Things started to get desperate but somehow, in the first week in July, I got offers for two different jobs and found a room in an apartment that I could afford.

I worked hard and so did my fiance and at some point, we started to consider marrying sooner than we'd wanted. On the 6th of August 2008, we tied the knot in a small ceremony without family and about two weeks later I saw him off to war.

To this day, it upsets me to think about that night and how it felt to say goodbye and not know if I'd see the man I love ever again.

For a year, I worked hard, resolved to grow roses from the shit I was being given and try to make my husband proud of me. I taught in about four different cities, travelled, moved house alone and tried to make a home.

I made friends, great friends that somehow brightened this time.

Around the 20th of August, I welcomed him home and we started out life together.

On the 4th of December 2009,our respective families and those true friends travelled to Denmark, to witness my husband and I marry in a Heathen wedding. The lady that introduced us in Korea performed the ceremony and an online friend that happened to live on the same island as we had our wedding became a real life friend too. It was beautiful. A couple of days later, we went on our honeymoon, travelling through Denmark and Sweden.

Now we're packing up to leave Germany and begin the next stage of our life together. Another land, another way of life.

We have had the best of times and the worst of times here in Germany, but this place feels like home to me, or the nearest thing now that I feel like a tourist when I go back to my own country.

Germans are in some ways very similar to the English, a little more skeptical by nature (unless what they're being told is in some course that they've paid for - like the 'therapy' session I used to spy on through a window in Erlangen in which people would dance round a stick in the middle of the room while banging on drums). They have a wonderful sense of humour, don't offer friendship in a fake way and I love the way the Franconians talk.

No matter how far I travel from Germany, I think my idea of heaven will now always be sitting in a beer garden, in the middle of a forest, on a hill, surrounded by elderly Franconians and enjoying spectacular beer and Schaeuferle.

I have 23 days left here.

This last weekend, we were honoured to spend Herbstfest with a local hearth by the name of Bilskirnir and attended a very moving offrung in the woods before returning to feast and sumbel. Today, my husband and I climbed the Neubuerg for the last time while we're here and made offrung there too.

Time is running out and in some ways, I'm trying to grasp onto what I can, like the sleeping dog that clings to the rug that's being pulled from underneath him. In other ways, I *know* that the next stage of life lies over the sea, in the New World and to some degree I embrace it.

So, this is to Germany, a land I love and hope to return to one day.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

On Susan B Anthony and UPG

A couple of days ago, I read a blog post entitled 'Prayer, Indigeny and Conquest' by Galina Krasskova ( To be found here ). To summarise for those of you that don't wish to read it, Ms Krasskova contends that modern Heathens focusing on lore is a form of fetishism. That we should look more to our ancestors and reclaim what monotheism has taken from us. She even goes as far as to say:

"You come from a tribe, from something that is so much bigger and you want to trade it away for lore, lore not even written by people who practiced their ancestral traditions? From lore written by collaborators? That lore is not designed to bring you to any reality or connection. It is a product of the corporate machine. It’s a product of soul sickness and spirit sadness. We have eaten the poison of our conquerors and in some sad sort of Stockholm syndrome, we continue to deny ourselves the only antidote that matters: ancestral connection, connections with our Gods, direct experience, and a reclamation of our own indigeny. In other words, our birthright. It’s time we all wake up."

Now I have my issues with monotheism, I'm not going to deny that but did you just see what she did in that quote?!

And for someone that claims to value and respect her ancestors, she sure shows a hell of a lot of disdain for the generations of them that were monotheists and found comfort in that.

Let me tell you a story that my father told me about his mother when she was dying.

When my grandmother went, she'd battled a life of sickness, starting from the TB that she'd had while pregnant with my father to the blindness and then cancer she'd contracted later in life. During her final days, she was so upset due to an altercation that had occurred with a priest that had told her she'd go to hell because she'd not been to church or donated to the plate. My grandfather had kicked the guy out on his arse, but my grandmother was still very upset. So he went out and bought her a gold cross, then took it to another priest and asked him to bless it for his wife - which the priest did. My grandmother took a lot of comfort from that cross, the blessing and the act of love that my grandfather had performed in doing that for her, in bringing her that comfort. That cross sits on my ancestral shrine, along with her wedding ring and a photo of her and her husband that loved her so completely to the end.

My grandparents were Christians, the generations before that were also Christians, but you know what? So fucking what?! They're family and that comes first before anything or everything else. I really don't understand this whole anger against Christian ancestors because they didn't have the faith that you would prefer them to have had. We'd be angry if someone told us that we couldn't be Heathens and that we had to have certain beliefs, how the hell is this any different?!

Why be divisive against family because of something as daft as religion? I really hate to pull this one too, because this has got to be breaking some kind of internet 'law', but being divisive against family is totally a Christian thing.

To (allegedly) quote that carpenter from Galilee:

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39 NASB)

Really? Are we Heathens going to ignore all Frith and allow, what I would say is the the true cost of Christianity, to continue taking its toll?

As for the lore, I would probably be classed as someone that 'fetishises' the lore due to my refusal to spew UPG wherever I go on the internet. I know a lot of Heathens that also refuse to participate in this. Does that mean that they don't have connections beyond their study of the lore or experiences or UPG?

Does it hell!

It means that for most of the people I know at least (and myself included in this), UPG is PRIVATE and personal business. Spewing it everywhere looking for points in the apparent yet unspoken 'who has the greatest relationship with (insert deity here)' contest cheapens it.

I would talk UPG with a trusted friend, but I wouldn't tell anyone and everyone like it's really that important and that they all *need* to know this stuff like it's some kind of a universal revelation.

As Susan B Anthony quote once wrote:

"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires."

For much as these people would like to imagine that those gloried ancestors (you know, the ones that never knew the 'taint' of Christianity), would accept them for all their shenanigans, I think were they to somehow invent a time machine and go back in time, those self same ancestors would think them insane and either give them a wide berth or sink them in a bog.

And for all the insistence that we 'fetishise' lore, they really aren't getting it either.

Reconstructionists take a multi-disciplined approach, we look at lore, yes, but we also look at archaeological finds, outsider views of that society, laws, legal documents, contracts etc. We look at what life was like for people back then to see if what is spoken about in the lore and what is commonly believed was practical or would have tallied with their worldview.

We *care* enough about those ancestors to give them the respect of trying to figure out what they actually did as opposed to relying on some unverifiable, alleged, spiritual experience with an impossible-to-track ancestor that in all probability is really just a brain fart or wish fulfilment. Now don't get me wrong, I have strange things happen to me all the time, but you have to show a level of scepticism and stay anchored or you lose all grip on any kind of reality. If you have some kind of experience like that and research bears it out later, that's awesome. That takes your UPG from the 'Probable Brain Fart That's Interesting To Ponder' category and into the 'Way More Interesting' category.

If you really want to reclaim your indigeny, try showing it and your ancestors some real respect first!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

When Reconstruction Diverges From The Personal

Generally speaking, Reconstructing a worldview often reminds me of a toolkit, in which all the parts are missing. You have the plastic moulds in the box to show you roughly what tools went there, or their basic shape, but you don't really have a clue about that tool until you find it. Each piece of worldview discovered is a new tool, that can be then used to build new things.

However sometimes, you come across a tool that you can't, for some reason, use. Kind of like when a left-handed person tries to use right-handed scissors. So you must adapt the tool a little, or maybe more than one tool can fit there?

I've come to that point with my musings on the afterlife. In terms of the sources, it makes massive sense that people were non-dualist and world accepting. However, while I am absolutely world accepting and am very much concerned with what is in this world, I've come to this large sticking point of what happens after death. When I was growing up in my nominally Church of England family, I was told that after death, we all end up back with family that had passed on. We have tales of family members that saw already deceased family while on their deathbeds. The whole thing seems natural to me, that people who were tightly knit with their kith and kin in life, would also perceive it to be the case post mortem too.

This reminds me of the account of Radbod of Frisia who refused to convert to Christianity after being told that his non-Christian ancestors would be burning in Hell and that he'd rather be in Hell with his ancestors than in Heaven without. I wonder how much Christian influence is in the concept of going to your family after death if at all. Maybe for some Heathenisms, there was a 'different shaped tool' when it comes to the afterlife part of the puzzle? I don't know.

However the idea of going with family fits both my own family tradition and what feels right in my heart. Don't ask me about soul parts and stuff, because I don't know. I haven't a clue really. I still think the 'soul matrix' is a pile of crap that was invented by people no earlier than the 70s. Do I believe in something other than the physical body? Yes. Would I call it a soul? No, not in the same way. Could I explain that further? Not at all.

But you know what? I'm perfectly comfortable with that.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

'Northern European'

I guess I should give fair warning and say outright that this is a post that is probably going to offend a few people.

But I can't not say this anymore. It's been eating at me and pissing me off for about a week now, ever since I saw the usual claims from Folkish Heathens that they somehow have a 'right' to decide who gets to be a Heathen based on ancestry and blood.

Now it's all well and good saying that you don't understand why someone that's not of Northern European ancestry would be interested in something that is as intrinsically linked to culture and reverence for ancestors as Heathenry is. I couldn't imagine ever being Santeria, I simply don't have those cultural/linguistic/ancestral links, or an inner calling to do the requisite work to join a community. I know people though, who are involved in Santeria without those cultural and ancestral links and who did do that work and find much fulfillment in those ways. Horses for courses.

But it's quite another to deny that people of different ancestries don't have a right, like you're some kind of appointed gatekeeper who gets to judge if each person is 'Northern European' enough to qualify.

And it's quite another when those people that feel they have the right to do this judging aren't even Northern Europeans.

Yep, you heard me. Being a whitey born in America with ancestors that were from Northern Europe doesn't make you Northern European. Not in the slightest. You're American.

And let's not even kid ourselves that it is somehow about ancestry and 'having the right blood'. How many people of colour have some European ancestry? I'll give you a clue – lots of them. Some of it from intermarriage, some of it because their ancestors also came from Europe and some because at some point, somewhere, some guy of Northern European ancestry thought he had the right to rape a woman because she wasn't white and he considered her to be nothing more than a domestic animal, to be used and abused as he wished.

Yes, let's not get away from that one, especially not if there are going to be 'race traitor' allegations being thrown around. According to the typical White Supremacist view of things, their own antecedents in terms of ideology would be the biggest and first 'race traitors' in America.

Another funny thing about claiming to follow the ways of ones ancestors and the 'wrongness' of blowing off the ways of one's ancestors for something new, is that the vast majority of modern Heathens have done just that by eschewing about a thousand or so years of ancestors and their Christian/Jewish ways for Heathenry.

And really, does this judgement ever really come down to having the magical number of drops of the 'right' kind of blood? Or the 'right' ancestors? No, let's not kid ourselves here either, it's about skin colour.

Regardless of the fact that that has FUCK all to do with any kind of historical Heathenry. Yes, Scandinavians did have slaves, but a Norwegian could just as easily take a Swede for a slave as an Irish person or someone of colour.

At the end of the day, 'folk' was defined by 'us' as opposed to 'not us'. Usually this was down to kith and kin, but entry in communities could be gained through proving oneself to the community, learning the community ways and taking them for one's own.

And here we come to perhaps the most polemic point of this entire post.

This using 'Northern European' as though it's just representative of just one set of beliefs, customs and traditions, has got to stop. Northern Europe is a varied place. We are not the same culture or peoples to be lumped into some kind of a monoculture because it fits the needs of Folkish Heathenry.

Also, unless you were born and raised in Northern Europe, you're not Northern European. You can enter into the culture at a later stage through becoming a part of a community, learning the language (if it's different), learning the customs and being accepted. You still wouldn't be Northern European, but you'd be a member of the community and a part of the culture – adopted if you will. If you were born on American soil, even to parents that came from Northern Europe, you're still American. You still grew up in one of the many American cultures (which btw isn't Northern European but I will concede that some still have certain aspects).

And you know what? There is FUCK all wrong with being an American and tackling Heathenry from an American POV. Hell, I'm loving the different Heathen cultures that are springing up in different parts of the US and the geographical differences and similarities that we're seeing coming up. That's great because generations of your American ancestors have given their blood, sweat and tears to give you what you have today, their bones lie in the land of your birth, now it's time for you to continue building on that and claim that birthright instead of trying to lay claims to things that simply aren't yours but were at one point. Americans are diverse people too...just something to think on.

In 874, a new land was settled and Heathen peoples figured out ways to still be Heathen in a land that was strange and had its own beings. They learned new ways of working, stopped looking towards Norway for anything but supplies and their worldview changed, they became distinctively Icelandic Heathens.

This is a great example for American Heathens to follow and be inspired by.

Oh and to the 'gatekeepers' in the American communities, the gate/s isn't/aren't yours, so piss off!!!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lancashire Moorland Fires

I'm upset. Not on a day to day level, but a deep down level, down to my core.

I grew up in a town on the foothills of the West Pennine Moors. From a young age, I've walked that boggy moorland, learned how to walk, where to walk, how to see where I'm going in the thickest of fog and I know all this sounds easy. It's easy to walk, right? One foot in front of the other, yeah? Not on this kind of moorland. It's a peat bog/moorland. The landscape alternates between quagmire and tussocks. You learn to move, to spring, to judge the grasses, the lay of the land. You learn to judge the clouds, the wind, the fog. You learn not only to survive but thrive and enjoy one of the most inhospitable and barren places on the earth. Not only that, but you crave it, it becomes a part of you. You want to see it, to be in those uplands, that wild, barren space and the only place in the whole wide world where you truly feel like you can breathe.

Now that area I love, those places, are burning and have been burning for the past seven days. It's peat, the fire doesn't extinguish easily -if they get it to extinguish. Sometimes peat fires can continue to burn underground, working their way through the underground peat layer, until some poor soul (or the ground becomes weak enough on its own) causes a fall in. Then oxygen meets smouldering peat, someone/something gets incinerated and a fire is sparked anew. Don't believe me? There are peat fires in Indonesia that have been smouldering since 1997. Sometimes fire services *can't* put peat out.

The average moorland fire is fast, very fast. Like orange, red and yellow tongues devouring entire masses of land at breakneck speed. When I was younger, I learned that if I were to be caught in a moorland fire, to put on all of my survival clothes (waterproofs), hoods up, to douse myself in my entire water supply and to dig into the land. Don't leave any skin/flammable surface undowsed and to just let it pass overhead. I know people who have done this. They've dowsed, dug in, survived and continued to walk the charred moor left in the wake. In spite of how easy they are to survive, I resolved never to get in one of those. The one time I nearly was, I ran as fast as I could to the nearest body of water.

But these fires aren't as quick, as surface. These fires are igniting the earth itself.

And I have an impending move to another continent coming up. One I am very apprehensive about. One of my biggest draws back to my homeland is that land. That barren highland where I feel like I can breathe. When I was younger and going through a lot of issues, that was where I laid my troubles. I'd walk until I wept and then I'd continue to walk until I'd found my peace and happiness again. I feel like it's been torn away from me. People are saying that it'll take about 30 years for it to be what it was again. I just wanted one more chance to walk those hills before I left again.No matter how far or how long I roam, that land is what I still crave. The place where land meets sky.

Monday, April 18, 2011

More on Gandr and the bare basics of Heathenry (IMO)

In my previous post, I talked about the gandr/gandus as being something akin to the hamr as opposed to being some kind of spirit helper in the neo-shamanic sense. Well, a rereading of Eldar Heid's paper 'Spinning Seidr' has shown me that I wasn't too far off the mark in this assessment. He however, most excitingly for me, links the gandr to spinning too!

My studies on gandr have been a gateway to this view. In several sources, gandr is a designation of such a mind-in-shape emissary that the seiðr performer could send forth. This is evident in the description of the Saami noaidi séance in Historia Norwegie (60–63), and is the most reasonable interpretation also in Fóstbrœðra saga (243), Þiðriks saga (303–04) and Þorsteins þáttr bœjarmagns (76). Several of the early eighteenth-century sources for Saami religion also support this view (Heide 2002:77ff). The word gandr is still in use in Norwegian and Icelandic, and modern Icelandic also has retained the derivative gondull, as göndull. Some of the meanings of these words connect them with spinning. In Modern Icelandic, göndull may mean ‘coarse yarn’ and other twisted items (Sigfús Blöndal 920:282). Gand in modern Northern Norwegian may mean ‘spinning top propelled by a string’ (Aasen 873:207), which closely resembles a spindle twirling on the floor (using a certain spinning technique). These or related meanings of gandr/gand and g ̨ndull/göndull probably existed in Old Norse, as there was not much contact between Northern Norway and Iceland after the Middle Ages.If so, the “spinning” or “twisting” meanings of gand/göndull suggest that the mind emissary that the seiðr performer could send forth could be conceived as something spun or spinning.

Source: Spinning Seidr

So yet again, we're back to spinning. It's perhaps worth noting that the type of spinning in this instance is the supported spindle, in which the spindle, rather than left to drop, is set spinning on a surface while the spinner drafts and spins the fibers before winding. Perhaps this link between the spindle touching the floor/earth and the act of turning creation of a 'mind emissary' is significant? This also makes me wonder if any of the current spinning supersitions about spinning clockwise or anticlockwise were known/had their roots in earlier magical practice involving spinning.

On another note, a friend of mine has recently decided that she's now a Heathen and this got me thinking about what I consider to be the basics and my personal golden rules of Heathenry.

For me, the Heathen worldview boils down to a few, very easy to understand key concepts.


Firstly, the most important concept is that the Heathen worldview is WORLD-ACCEPTING. This can be quite difficult for us when we first become Heathens, because we generally grow up within world-rejecting religions, in which adherents are taught that salvation exists outside of the physical world. The physical world is bad and 'sinful'. Adherents are taught to care more about their souls than their physical bodies and more about what happens post-mortem than what happens in life.

In a world-accepting worldview, the here, the now and the mundane are what is important.In fact, there is no separation between mundane and 'spiritual'. We live in the now and we *cherish* our days on Midgard. From another POV, nothing is ever truly supernatural either. Everything is a part of this world, some things just happen to be largely unseen. All the same, it's natural and all fits into the hierarchy as we do. As an interesting sidenote - door courts used to be called to banish hauntings. The dead were considered to be under the rule of law just as much as the living lol.

Then there are the concepts of of innangard vs utangard, or in plain English, 'inner-yard' and 'outer-yard'. But what do we mean by these?

Basically, on a human level, your 'inner-yard' is your kith and kin. Those that you would bleed for and who would bleed for you. Their falls and failures hurt you and vice versa. The 'outer-yard' is basically everyone else. You have obligations to your inner-yard, to defend and do your best by, but absolutely none to the outer-yard, unless you choose to.

On a religious level, the inner-yard/outer-yard dichotomy can also be applied to religion itself. 'Religion' as a word and concept did not exist in Germanic languages before Christianity came. The word, 'Religion', is itself a loan word from Latin. There are no Germanic cognates. But what we do have are words referring to tribal custom (these words are Thew/Thau and Ewa) and that is entirely the point. There never was one, unified Heathenism. But many, as different and varied as the communities that practiced them. Yes, there were commonalities, but a person's 'religion' was basically the custom of his or her people/tribal group/community.

On another level, the 'inner-yard'/'outer-yard can refer to the cultivated land/human places vs the wild/liminal places. Neo-Paganism has the natural world as some kind of loving, non-harmful environment, full of beings that are just waiting to be your friend as you dance gaily through the fields while wearing green and being all floaty and spiritual. Nature isn't like that, nature can also harm and any cursory glance at folklore can tell you that not all beings that could be come across out there, are friendly (incidentally enough, in a few folktales, when people are being pursued by unfriendly beings from the wild, just the act of crossing back onto cultivated land can be enough to shake the pursuit).

Lastly, you have the importance of reciprocal relationships. The most succinct and beautiful expression of this concept that I've found is the phrase said at rituals at ECT (East Coast Thing):

From the Gods, to the Earth, to us. From us, to the Earth, to the Gods.

Ok, so it's not perfect in its explanation, but it's very, very poignant. Basically, as I mentioned in the part about world acceptance, we and the animals that can be seen are not the only things on this earth. As well as us, there are the wights (land-spirits) and the Gods. The wights can be like our neighbours, or people that we share our homes and land with. If we keep them happy, they'll keep us happy. We might find that nicer things happen to us, that plants grow well on our land and that we have happy homes to live in. If we don't, well...The wights are more immediate to us, as are our ancestors. On a day to day basis, the wights and ancestors are the unseen that Heathens interact with the most (be it an offering of a cup of ale, flowers, homemade bread etc). It's much rarer to go to the Gods (or at least it *should* be) and generally we go as a community.

If we ask for things, we have to pay for them. As the Havamal says, 'a gift deserves a gift'. And it'd better be a good enough gift for what you're asking too!

I've tried reading some of the Heathenry 101 books that are on the market, and the one thing that strikes me every time I pick one of these books up is just how much they complicate Heathenry. It's crazy!

When I first came to Heathenry, I spent much of my time being very, very confused by various explanations of different concepts that, in the end, on deeper examination, didn't really have anything to do with Heathenry in any kind of a historical sense. Reconstructionism has been a sanity saver for me. Concepts like 'the soul complex' or conflated ideas of wyrd and orlog do nothing to help the beginner and yet they're to be found in every, single Heathen 101 book.

This brings me to my two, personal, golden rules of Heathenry:

* Very few concepts are fixed. Heathenry is still in a state of flux and we're all still just trying to figure it out. What's accepted as a theory now, might not be in a few years.

* When you get down to it, what we *know* of historical Heathenry is often devastatingly beautiful in its simplicity. In other words, if a concept is too complex, the chances are that it's probably a new-age invention.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gandr/Gandus, Horses Wolves and Trees.

Reconstruction is a very, careful process, in which we have to be careful with everything. From the validity of the evidence we're presented with, to the way in which we interpret that evidence and how our interpretations of that evidence may be affected by long held ideas or beliefs about certain things that we've not yet been able to deconstruct.

I find myself in this interpretation quandary when it comes to looking at an old paper from the 2006 International Saga Conference entitled 'Riding the Tree' by an Yvonne S Bonnetain. In what seems to be an (admittedly on the author's part) attempt to put too much information and too many angles in too short a piece, a few points can be gleaned.

First of all is the emphasis on the role of the 'utangard' in magic and with reference to personages from the Eddas and sagas being linked to the 'utangard'. Examples of this that Bonnetain gives are:

1. Odin's speech in Harbardsliod

Nam ec at mönnum
þeim inom aldrœnom,
er búa í heimis scógom.

(I learned from the people,
from the old ones,
who abide in the forests of the homeland).


Þó gefr þú gott nafn dysiom,
er þú kallar þat heimis scóga.
(Neckel, 1983, 85)

(So you give the mounds of stone (over the dead) a good name,
by naming them forests of the homeland).

2.In Hyndluliod, Hyndla is referred to as 'forest dweller' in stanza 48.

This concept of the wild (green) world as the sort of gateway to the supernatural/unknown vs the man-ordered and cultivated world of the mundane is not a new one (for further exploration of the liminal character of the colour green,see Anna Zanchi's paper 'The Colour Green in Medieval Icelandic Literature: Natural, Supernatural, Symbolic?'). In the Eddas, we have the story of the trip to Utgard, in which the normal rules do not apply, nothing is as it seems and death is a character that seems too close for comfort. Fairy tales across Northern Europe, emphasise escape from supernatural entities (found in the natural world beyond the reach of cultivated land) by either jumping over a flowing body of water or by getting back onto cultivated (i.e 'taken') land. In many tales, Seidhworkers live in these liminal places, firmly cementing their characters as 'threshold' dwellers.

Other elements/places seem to play a role as ways across the 'threshold' too. From the vast array of bog offering finds, cultic places linked to various beings and folklore about water being an entry point into another world (i.e Grimm's story 'Mutter Holle') or a dwelling place for otherworldly beings, it would be a reasonable assumption to say that water was considered to be 'threshold'. In the Eddas, we have the examples of Odin and Skirnir having special horses that can withstand the journey through the 'vafrlogi' (wavering fire)to either Helheim or Jotunheim respectively. Not to mention the accounts of burning the dead. Possibly fire was also considered to be one of these threshold elements? Seen in this way, the thrice burning of Heid in the Voluspa must only have served to reinforce her status as one with mastery of the threshold (and her prowess as a witch) in the eyes of the Aesir.

Bonnetain then goes on to lightly touch on staffs and the possible symbolism/use of the staff for the Volva and then, interestingly, she mentions the Gandr. To quote Bonnetain herself:

It is also possible to understand gandr as a staff, which is attributed with phallic significance. Thus, göndull in Bósa saga (11) is used in the sense of ‘penis’. Accordingly, the term gandreið – by which we have another intersection of means of travel, seiðr and the other world – can also be read with a sexual undertone.4 The most extensive discourse on the connection between völur and seiðr, sexuality and gandir has been conducted by Neil Price (2002), to whose work I may only make reference in the framework of this presentation.

It is also notable in this context that this meaning variant of gandr is not reflected in translations of Jörmungandr and Vánargandr. On the contrary, here gandr is frequently translated as ‘monster’, which actually forestalls interpretation. Vánargandr is found only in Skáldskaparmál (23), in which Vánargandr is used as a synonym for Fenrir:

Hvernig skal kenna Loka? Svá, at kalla hann ... föður Vánargands, þat er Fenrisúlfr, ok Jörmungands, þat er Miðgarðsormr... (Guðni Jónsson, 1954, III, 126f.)
‘How shall Loki be called? So, that he may be called… father of Vánargandr, that is the Fenris wolf, and of Jörmungandr, that is the Midgard serpent...’).

Confirmation of the meaning ‘monster’ cannot be inferred from this passage, in which Vánargandr is used parallel to Jörmungandr.

Ursula Dronke (1997: 12ff.) translates gandr in Völuspá as ‘spirit’. With this, she follows the argument already put forward by Cleasby/Vigfússon (1874: 188) and Johan Fritzner (1877, 166-170) based on a well-known passage from the Historia Norvegiae. 5 Maybe such a gandr is also the reason for the switch between the first and third person singular on the part of the völva when referring to herself in the Völuspá (McKinnell, 2001, 394-417). Apart from the interpretation as two seers, one could also assume that there is a third figure in the form of a helpful spirit,6 comparable to the usage of gandr in Fóstbrœðra saga (9):

Víða hefi ek göndum rennt í nótt, ok em ek nú vís orðin þeira hluta, er ek vissa ekki áðr. (Björn Karel Þórólfsson and Guðni Jónsson, 1943, 234)
‘Far did I run with gandir into the night. Now I know things I knew not before.’

Cleasby/Vigfússon (1874: 188), too, had already point to the possibility of interpreting gandr in gandreið as a spirit. Moreover, attention is drawn to the meaning of ‘wolf’.

So far from reading that passage, the word gandr, can mean/or is linked to either 'staff', 'penis' (the penile aspect is further explored by Eldar Heide in his paper, 'Spinning and Seidr'), 'a spirit', 'wolf spirit'. Which is it to be? The author draws no conclusions in her paper, however in a paper by Clive Tolley, entitled 'The Historia Norwegiae as a Shamanic Source', we are given a translation of an excerpt from the Historia Norwegiae:

Moreover their intolerable paganism, and the amount of devilish superstition they practise in their magic, will seem credible to almost no one. For there are some of them who are venerated as prophets by the ignorant populace, since by means of an unclean spirit that they call a gandus they predict many things to many people, both as they are happening, and when delayed; and they draw desirable things to themselves from far off regions in a wondrous way, and amazingly, though themselves far away, they produce hidden treasures. By some chance while some Christians were sitting at the table amongst the Sámi for the sake of trade their hostess suddenly bowed over and died; hence the Christians mourned greatly, but were told by the Sámi, who were not at all distressed, that she was not dead but stolen away by the gandi of rivals, and they would soon get her back. Then a magician stretched out a cloth, under which he prepared himself for impious magic incantations, and with arms stretched up lifted a vessel like a tambourine, covered in diagrams of whales and deer with bridles and snow-shoes and even a ship with oars, vehicles which that devilish gandus uses to go across the depths of snow and slopes of mountains or the deep waters.

He chanted a long time and jumped about with this piece of equipment, but then was laid flat on the ground, black all over like an Ethiopian, and foaming from the mouth as if wearing a bit. His stomach was ripped open and with the loudest roaring ever he gave up the ghost. Then they consulted the other one who was versed in magic about what had happened to them both. He performed his job in a similar way but not with the same outcome – for the hostess rose up hale – and indicated that the deceased sorcerer had perished by the following sort of accident: his gandus, transformed into the shape of a water beast, had by ill luck struck against an enemy’s gandus changed into sharpened stakes as it was rushing across a lake, for the stakes lying set up in the depths of that same lake had pierced his stomach, as appeared on the dead magician at home.

In this passage, we meet the term 'Gandus', which, according to a comment made by John McKinnell (2003: 115) who works from the perspective of Norse (rather than shamanic) scholarship: ‘This passage probably represents Norse beliefs about Saami magic rather than the reality of it, for the word gandr does not exist in the Saami language.’

Now this is one key area where any examination of Seidh becomes tricky.We know from various sources, that there were (or it was believed that there were) cultural exchanges when it came to Seidr. There is mention of 'Lappish' characters or characters that spent time among the Sami, learning their witchcraft (Queen Gunnhildr being the best known example here). However there is, to my mind, a HUGE sticking point in then applying aspects of what we know of Sami worldview to Seidh. For starters, we have a lot of evidence that the Sami are/were dualist in belief, but we have no definitive evidence that the Norse were. Thomas Du Bois does a great job of examining the intercultural dimensions of the Seidh sceance from Erik the Red's saga, however the whole issue is far from clear.

We also have to remember that while the term 'Gandus' is included in the above quote from the Historia, it was written very much post conversion (and dualist), and so the events that are described (if real), would have been written from that POV. However there is one point that I find interesting and worth further investigation:

*In the ON sources, the gandus is potentially a kind of spirit helper or not dissimilar to ( or even the same as?!) the hamr . Could it then be possible that travelling with your 'gandr' might not refer to having something to travel with, but a means for your hamr to travel by? Hence the link with wolves and horses as being potential shapes to shift your hamr into?

* In the account from the Historia, the drawings on the drum are interpreted by the Christians as being 'vehicles' by which the gandus can travel. It would be interesting to read a Sami interpretation of drum symbols and just what the 'gandus' could have been referring to from a Sami POV.

And this is where my quandary lies when it comes to interpretation. I'm non-dualist. Seidr in the actual lore-based sense makes absolutely NO sense to me from a dualist perspective. Because of this, I'm very aware that I'm always looking for ways to interpret evidence from a non-dualist perspective and I worry that sometimes that's not the right way to go and that I may just be as 'guilty' as I consider others to be in the Seidr-community.

So, no conclusions, just more reading....anyone anything to add/new directions to go in to all of that 'written too late at night' posting?


I've just been reminded of Gna's horse, Hofvarpnir and its ability to 'fly' through the air and run on the sea. Gylfaginning 35:

The fourteenth is Gná: her Frigg sends into divers lands on her errands; she has that horse which runs over sky and sea and is called Hoof-Tosser. Once when she was riding, certain of the Vanir saw her course in the air; then one spake:

What flieth there? | What fareth there,
Or glideth in the air?

She made answer:

I fly not, | though I fare
And in the air glide
On Hoof-Tosser, | him that Hamskerpir
Gat with Gardrofa.


'Riding the Tree'

'The Colour Green in Medieval Icelandic Literature: Natural, Supernatural, Symbolic?'

'The Historia Norwegiae as a Shamanic Source

Monday, March 7, 2011

Frau Holle Teich

It's probably no surprise to those of you that read this blog that I love the process of reconstruction. Because I do. The oft-cited argument for reconstructionism, is that of Christopher Parkening and his study of medieval tapestries in order to better reconstruct lute playing in a more efficient manner. As reconstructionists, there's often the assumption that it's just all an academic exercise or that we're trying to make like it's 699AD or something. This is simply not true.

Most reconstructionists, are the most respectful and genuine Heathens with the 'faith' aspects of Heathenry that I know.

In a conversation with a recon friend last night, we discussed the whole respect thing and if a lot of people that fall under the Heathen banner actually believe or are using it as some form of self-help. It sounds harsh, but hear me out. The world was not a nice place back then, life was harsh and it's no surprise that the gods themselves could be harsh too. And yet, as a modern Heathen, it's so common to come across people that talk about having personal relationships with deity in a really 'chummy' way. Occasionally people will make jokes/not-jokes about Odin screwing people over but I often wonder if the sentiment behind it is real. If there is any real fear there. Some folks seem to be of the opinion that the gods are at their beck and call, to do anything they want in exchange for the burning of a cheap joss stick or splashing mead on the ground. Again, to me, this shows a lack of real respect or belief. A recon is more prepared to give the best they can or even shed blood. Not because a book says so, or because it was 'how it was done back then', but because they believe in that exchange of gifts. This doesn't mean to say that I don't think others don't have any real belief, just that I think as a movement, we've got a hell of a long way to go.

It's perhaps to be expected though, we all mostly come to Heathenry from a faith that emphasises its adherents having a 'personal relationship' with Jesus and that demands adherence to certain rules in exchange for whatever. For us, it's about the gifting process. A gift for a gift.

This conversation with my friend about real respect was timely because on Saturday, I got a kick up the arse.

Ever since taking up handspinning, I've been interested in spindle lore and as I live in Bavaria, this led to looking into Perchta. Then I found a folktale from my local area about Frau Hulle (translated in an earlier post in this blog) and the interest in all things Holle grew from there. A friend recommended a book by a chap called Garden Stone. His book, 'Goettin Holle' is impressive (and I would recommend it to anyone reading this - there's an English translation coming soon), I really like his approach. The first chapter is a little like a guidebook and encourages people to travel to the places that are linked with Frau Holle. Other chapters cover plants associated with her in folklore, an impressive collection of folklore and sayings about Holle and much more.

Last Saturday, we decided to take a trip to a place called the Frau Holle Teich. It's a pond, with a small piece of land at one end with a statue of Frau Holle on it. According to the local lore, it's a place where people have been offering to Holle for years. So, deciding to make this into an adventure for our small family, my husband and I packed the dog into the car and set off for the Meissner-Kaufunger Wald area of Hessen. In total, we drove for around six to seven hours on Saturday. When we arrived there, we parked up at the side of the road (where google maps told us to - hubby had his iphone) and walked up the hill. Well, what we thought would be short, turned out to be a slightly longer trek up hill and down icy paths. Still, the scenery was absolutely beautiful, really really gorgeous. When we finally made it to the Teich, it was stunning. The Teich was completely frozen over, and the statue looked ethereal in the middle of it all. Especially with the way the warm air was hitting the icy ground and producing this lovely, white mist.

We walked around the pond to get closer to the statue and I realised that I didn't have an offering. So I decided to offer one of my silver pendants and so after a bit of deliberation with the husband and determining that the pond was frozen enough to walk on, I walked over to the statue to place my offering.


Not the ice walk, although I wasn't happy about that - ponds rarely freeze enough in Britain to walk on and so it's drummed into your head from being small that you don't walk on iced up lakes/ponds/rivers. No, it was the sense of presence around that statue. I found myself bowing my head deferentially as I buried my offering in the snow and ice at the foot of the statue, hoping that in the melt, mud and spring rains, it would find its way into the Teich itself. In my 30 years, I have never felt that mixture of fear/awe that I got when I stood before her statue.

Once I made my offering, I left quickly across the ice, as I touched solid ground again, I realised I'd heard something on my way over, this strange sound that my husband hadn't heard at all. We stood on the banks of the Teich a little and this gorgeous sunshine burst out from behind the trees and it was definitely a sense of 'offering accepted'. My husband and I kissed in what was now the bright sunlight before thanking Frau Holle and making our way back to the car.

Once we left the Teich, we realised that google maps had really led us wrong and that had we just driven another kilometer down the road, we would have been parked right outside the Teich.

Still, we didn't mind and spent most of that kilometer walk along the road back to the car laughing our heads off about it.

So yes, the talk I had with my friend was timely, because that brush with Frau Holle has definitely changed my views somewhat on a level I'm still trying to sort out.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


I'm envious.

For weeks, I've been looking at certain people that I really shouldn't be envious of and finding myself a little envious of them.

If you know what I'm talking about and you're still reading, I'll explain why.

There are a couple of reasons, first of all, they have people with the same focus that they can talk to, I'm not talking about the sicko stuff, but the weird stuff that can get a person ostracised from mainstream community. Of course, they have found a community of weird people where they can talk about weird stuff but still...on some level I wish I had that. I used to be more open about this stuff, but increasingly I don't feel able to talk about this anymore. It's a lonely place to be in.

Secondly, they don't ever seem to question their sanity. I do, all the damn time. I know that maybe makes me sane(r) and maybe that's a good thing, but I wish I had the freedom of truly not giving a fuck about that. I hate the questioning that comes a day after something messed up happening and that feeling like the world has somehow pulled the carpet out from underneath me and that everything is somehow less 'real'. Paradoxically, I hate having witnesses even more, because most of the time, I convince myself that nothing really happened and if there are witnesses, I can't do that.

So yeah...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Law and Spirituality

I had a dream last night (staring Odin) that was pretty interesting. Now I'm not saying that this was Odin or that I'm Odin's little snowflake, because I'm not. My brain simply churns things over when I dream and makes connections that I don't see when I'm awake.

My husband, Odin and I were going from court to court to court, all at different levels (as you do...). From a 'door court' to a modern high court, to a magistrates court and again and again, we were told that 'this is how it must work with the Holy Powers too'.

When I woke up this morning, I couldn't help but consider the role of law in Heathen society, how they considered law to apply to the living as well as the dead (as evidenced by the 'door courts' held to resolve hauntings in properties) and the possible parallels between how we conduct ritual, how court was conducted and also how we view/deal with gods in the equation.

Heathen society was 'world accepting' in that a person wasn't looking for some otherworldly salvation or goal. Spiritual growth wasn't about getting closer to a deity, it was about community and growing in your community. So surely it would make sense that one of the ways in which a person could do that was through the Allthing ? How he or she represented herself at the Thing would invariably affect how his or her community would see him/her and ergo the amount of regard that person was given.

However it does also bring up what we as Heathens should consider to be the law and, in line with another debate that's occurring at the moment, what do we do when we feel it's violated.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Lost on the Moors

This is a short story about a folkloric being from my local area that we all used to tell each other about as kids and one fictitious man's encounter with that being. When we were children, we were told not to go in certain bodies of water to swim because of this being. Her folklore has fascinated me for a long time and I wanted to write a short story about her. I'm aiming to do this for a few other beings from folklore in future. For those of you that know all about her already, I know I took a bit of artistic license with some bits of this story - especially the ham but I wasn't sure how else to extricate my character from his situation. The dialect is just my interpretation of how it sounds like it should be written to me and is based on the strong dialect of a guy that used to live down my road. You lot know there are no spelling rules for Lanky Twang :P. This story isn't really set in any time and the photo is of a place where we were told was one of this being's favourite hangouts.

It was getting dark by the time the man was making his way home across the boggy moors and he was getting nervous. The moors are a wild place, full of ghosts and boggarts. He'd heard the stories many a time about people that hadn't made it home or who had seen the large, black, demon dog with flaming eyes only to die a few days later.

Why was he on the moors at night again? He'd been warned against that since he was a child.

It had been market day in town of course, no getting out of that if he and his family wanted to eat and the moors were the quickest way home. He should have been over them by now though. He should be home with his family, stretched out in front of the hearth and eating his wife's bread and broth.

The paths were treacherous though and easily mistaken for sheep paths;maybe he'd taken a sheep path? Maybe that's why he wasn't home yet?

He didn't want to think about being lost, not up here and certainly not at night.

There was a bloke that used to live down his street called Fred Thistlethwaite who didn't believe in the old superstitions, and would go hunting with his old wolfhound at night. 'Tis allus t'best time' he used to say as he headed out into the twilight with his snares in hand and dog following close behind. One day though, he hadn't come back but his dog had, shaking and whimpering down the street until someone took it in. A search party had gone out and found him dead, his face frozen in terror and hands clawed as if trying to fend off something ghastly.

He didn't want that to happen to him but he was most certainly lost and not even sure he was on a sheep path anymore. Not knowing where he was, he carried on walking as he seemed to be going slightly downhill. Downhill's a good thing, right? There was also no mist and he was thankful for that too. There were all kinds of nasty things that could come in the mist.

Suddenly the moon exited the cloud cover and he spotted the sparkle of a tarn in the distance. He knew tarn water wasn't good but he was just so thirsty and so he headed towards it.

As he drew closer, he fancied he could hear singing, there couldn't be anyone still up here could there? Before his death, Fred Thistlethwaite might have been up here so it could be possible! Even so, he approached with caution.

It was a woman, reclining on a rock at the side of the tarn and combing her long, straggly hair with her fingers as she basked in the moonlight.

'Excuse me please!' the man said, 'Could tha be suh kind as t'tell mi how ah con get back to Brinscall?'

The woman looked at him fixedly and in the next moment she was at his side, smiling a toothy smile with teeth that looked like they were made from small, sharpened, alge-covered rocks. The man was afraid, nothing natural could move like that.


He stopped as the woman came to stand before him. The hair she had been finger combing now looked like pond weeds and she had a distinctively inhuman quality. Almost as though her skin was shimmering water.


Her voice sounded watery too, as though she had no breath in her body and he gasped as a memory surfaced of childhood and the older children warning him about certain watery places and a 'Granny' that haunted them. It had been a favourite story in his group of friends. His eyes widened and she smiled her sharp, green, smile again.

'Tha's too owd fer my tastes lad!'

Frozen in place, the man waited as she walked around him, a cold draft passing as she did. He shuddered. What could he do? His mind began to race and go through the stories, all of them were about children and how she took her pleasure from drowning little boys and girls. There was nothing about adults! How could he get out of this? It's not like he could throw salt on her – he had none and wasn't even sure it was going to work! Getting a grip on himself, he decided to try talking to her again, it's not like it could do any more harm than had already been done, right?

'Ah'm er...very glad t'hear that mi lad-'

'Call me 'Granny'!', the woman said quickly.

'Ahh, reet, yes....ah'm very glad t'hear that 'Granny'. Ah'm sorry to be botherin yer though, ah got mysel' lost 'ere on't moors...'

'Granny' eyed him more closely and smirked cruely, 'Followed a sheep path did yer? Ah'v ad a few that way....that there algae is reyt slippy under certain circumstances'

She came closer, meeting him eye to eye and breathed, 'Ah keyps the algae wet on purpose...'

The man nearly gagged on the smell of stagnant pond.

'Ok, ah sed, ah'm glad am t'owd fer thi....ah really need t'be getting back t'Brinscall, so ah must bi off!'

Bravely he turned as thought to march away from her but as he did, he found her standing before him as though he'd never moved.

'Hast tha geet owt for me? Ah do so like gifts.'

Not taking his eyes of her, he took his pack from his shoulder and searched through it for something he could maybe give her. In the end, all he could find was his last crust of bread, some hard cheese and a small piece of ham.

'Ah'm sorry, ah'v nowt else.,' he said as he handed the gifts over to her, 'It'd be different if ah'd come across yer before ah'd gone t'market...'

'Granny' smiled genuinely and reached out to take the gifts. She seemed especially delighted with the ham.

'There was a time, when folk would gi me this stuff wi'owt avin t'ask...'

The man didn't know what that meant but she had almost sounded wistful.

Slowly she walked past him, staring at the ham and taking her time to inhale it, her sport with the man almost forgotten.
'Yer path is o'er there, follow it t'trees, tha'll see a barn on yer right, go past it, t'road'll get bigger after that and you'll end up back in Brinscall.'

Thankfully the man picked up his pack and headed off, not entirely sure if he should shout a quick thank you to the 'Granny' or if it was best to stay forgotten and disappear into the night.

He opted for the latter and found the path as 'Granny' had described it. When he got home, he hugged them gratefully and slurped up his broth with enthusiasm before sitting them all down to tell his tale of Granny Greenteeth.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Traditions: Mourning The Passing Of The Old And Celebrating The Birth Of The New

I've come to the conclusion that all the celebrations around the new year make me homesick. Every year back home there are certain traditions that are observed on new year's eve that really make the night for me. The being with friends and family, the standing with crossed arms and holding hands with everyone you're celebrating with in a circle to sing 'Auld Lang Syne' at the stroke of midnight before going round hugging and kissing each other with best wishes for the new year, the newer tradition of fireworks in our too-small gardens,the old tradition of going knocking on your neighbours' doors with a bottle of whatever's handy to wish them a happy new year. I miss all of that. I don't even think it would be possible in other places because people don't live close enough to each other. Growing up on a row of terraced houses, you're never really alone. Everyone knows what's going on with everyone else. If it rains and you have washing drying on the line in the yard, your neighbours either knock on your window to let you know or they'll take it in for you if you're out. In summer we stand in our yards and talk to each other over the fences. When I was younger, homebrew kept in sheds would be shared too. There were street parties, we would sit on the street and talk to each other.

I don't think I'm really homesick for any place at new year's eve but rather a time. I see those old traditions disappearing even back home and it makes me sad in the same way that my dialect and the decreasing numbers of speakers of that dialect does. And I really believe in keeping traditions, they're our link to our ancestors but sometimes they're just not possible.

So you sometimes have to create anew and I think last night, we finally came up with something nice.

Being outside in the falling snow, with a background of fireworks, dancing our own dance and singing 'Auld Lang Syne' was really nice. A bottle of whisky tucked in my bag kept us warm and when we got home, I kept an old tradition that I could keep in its entirety: opening the door to let the old year out and the new year in.

Today more new traditions were created. We cleaned the house, then we cleaned ourselves and our clothes before I blessed the house with mugwort again and said a short prayer to Frija and Holda.

These new traditions feel good, even though I still mourn the old ones that are passing into memory and I hope they help bring us luck.

So, happy new year people and I wish you all the best for this coming year.

May it be a lucky one for us all!