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.