Lord of Winter

One of the worst things about the Christianization of Europe was that many of the facets of the Old Gods were erased from memory, or disguised very deeply in folklore. Odin’s facets are one of the most attested in the lore, however. Just look at His names! There are over 200. They all refer to His various domains of knowledge, magic, war, fury, kingship, seidh, death, etc… and then there are two, Jólnir and Jölfuðr. They mean “Yule figure” and “Yule Father” respectively, referencing to His role of Lord of the Wild Hunt. I’ve often seen Odin in connection to evergreens and plants of winter, which is all UPG, but He does seem to have an affinity towards spruce and yew. I’ve also felt that this also extends to fir and pine as well.

Evergreens like firs were traditionally brought in ancient Germanic households during Yuletide to mark everlasting life in the snowy infertile season and as a reminder than green growing plants and crops would come soon. And Odin is Master of Yule, like Frau Holda is Queen of Yule. Some heathens have remarked that they feel Odin more strongly during the autumn/winter months, and I think that His domains correspond more with the nature of the colder seasons. His frost giant blood too may have a role. Also, there are plenty of storms in fall and winter, and storms and piercing, howling winds are also one of His facets. In fact, Lord of storms and wind may be His earliest facet perceived by Germanic peoples, as I’ve heard from several heathens. The etymology of his his perhaps derives from the proto-Germanic word *wodanaz, which means “fury” or “rage”. What’s more furious than the winds of storms?

Odin has His darker facets (and dark doesn’t mean bad!), and so that reflects His connection to winter as well. In Germanic countries, winter is pretty damn dark, and the sun hardly rises during winter in northern Scandinavia. So, when I got the inspiration to call Him “Lord of Winter,” I saw that He said I was correct-He IS Lord of Winter. There are other Lords and Ladies of winter in Germanic lore, like Ullr (Odin’s son), and Skadi, and I’m sure several frost giants have taken the title too, but I believe they serve as different functions of winter. Frost giants are the bodies of ice and snow, Ullr rules over skiing and hunting in particular, and Odin… well, I think He rules over the shrieking, howling madness that can accompany a fierce winter storm that leaves the unawares and unexposed bare and frozen. Odin sweeps away all that’s not necessary to your core, bare essence, and that’s what a fierce winter can do.

Odin is also draugadrottinn, Lord of the Dead. Commonly in Europe, the start and the thick of winter marked a time when the Dead were more active in the land of the living, which is why we have holidays like Samhain and Winternights. It’s easy to see why. In northern Europe, deciduous trees and shrubs have shed their leaves, annual plants die from frost and snow, and perennials hide their life deep underground. Some animals are awake and walk about, and others hibernate. Hibernation is a bit like a little death in that body temperature, metabolism, and heart rate go down in such a way where if the animal were to experience that state in an awake and warm-weather month, it’d probably die. Many forms of life in winter store their energy, saving it for the explosion of spring. For those life forms that do not hibernate, well… there’s a good chance they may die in the cold and snow, which is what happened to many of our ancestors. Any livestock not expected to survive winter were slaughtered and their meat preserved for the people. For Europeans in their agricultural years, they had to ration their stores to survive the winter and they couldn’t grow more grain during that time. To these ancestors, winter meant death was never far away.

Odin as Lord of Yule and Death would mean there’s a likely chance He is also Lord of Winter. It also makes sense, given His way of demanding you to give up the things that do not serve you in your personal and spiritual life. Winter does that too… it can be quiet, peaceful, and contemplative, or stormy and frightening, but either way, it exposes your innermost nature and your core needs and wants. It strips and simplifies, yet builds up.

Thank you, Lord of Winter, for all that You have done. Hail the necessary sacrifices you have made.

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What is Urd?

Urd is, of course, the eldest of the Norns, the Lady who owns our history and memory. Her well contains waters that cycle throughout the Nine Worlds, and I firmly believe that our physical water here on Earth is part of it. Actually, I believe that Jord, the Earth, is Urd’s granddaughter by way of Nott (Night). It makes sense though. The waters of Urd’s womb are also Her wells…. and Jord has Her own vast amount of water in Her body, and memory and time has shaped the Earth… you can see how it is connected in the lore.

Urd is also the Old Norse word for Wyrd, the Germanic law of cause and effect. So, Wyrd is not only a concept, but also an entity… as is Urd. The Norns water Yggdrasil from Urd’s well, Urdabrunnr, and then dew from the tips of the branches fall back down to the well at the roots, completing the cycle. Urdabrunnr therefore contains all of life and the potential for life in the Nine Worlds, as water here on Earth flows in and out of living things everywhere, for as long as those living things have existed. The water we drink has been in and out of dinosaurs, the first cellular organism. It’s a bit gross to think about in a physical sense, but pretty awe-inducing in a metaphysical sense. We really are all one.

The lore states that no one knows from where Yggdrasil’s roots run. I don’t either, because if the Gods don’t know, how should a mortal know? I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that the Well runs from Ginnungagap, the Yawning Gap from which Midgard sprung. Ginnungagap as the Primal Void, it contains nothing and everything, chaos and silence. It howls for eternity, and it’s the most primal of all howls. It’s an incredible paradox and one that is difficult for beings (especially mortals) to comprehend. How can a thing be empty and yet full of everything and BE everything all at once?

We can skip over to our Indo-European cousin, Buddhism. Buddhism teaches that everything is essentially empty in that nothing has permanent qualities. The universe isn’t empty is a nihilistic sense, because Buddhism acknowledges that All is One, it’s just that it’s not permanent in that nothing has an unchanging essence. Many schools of Mahayana Buddhism go ever further to say that there is no such thing as independent arising, meaning that things never come from just itself, in a vacuum. Everything and everybody is what and who they are currently because of everything else acting around you. Does that sound like Wyrd? I think so.

It’s liberating and yet scary to fully realize what Wyrd is. On one hand, it’s a way to counter the sickness of isolation. Your mind may want you to feel cut off from the rest of humanity and the Earth, saying that you are alone and that no one can possibly love you, or even see you. That’s a very modern illness, where the mind fixes upon the illusion that there is no true community, and that it’s “every man for himself.” Everything in the universe has affected you, and there’s no such thing as a true vacuum, so how can you think that? Modern life with its dependence on individuality (making true independence an illusion) and depression can cloud the true nature of the universe as One. It sounds so New Agey, but it’s true-we are all connected and One under Wyrd. We cannot separate ourselves from it, so we cannot separate ourselves from others.

What’s scary about it? The scary part is that every choice you make also affects the cosmos. Not necessarily profoundly, but we are co-creators in our decisions. Our will may be shaped by every previous circumstance, but we can still take myriads of directions. The waters of Urd and Ginnungagap cannot do this in Their form-this is why I think that They take forms in life. The undifferentiated Source and Void is like a drop of water-the individual molecules that comprise will never stay together to be a distinct physical entity. Instead, they flow and shift and slide and embody all sorts of motion and will inevitably end up on different sides of the globe, constantly changing shape. Of course, it’s inevitably that they will come together again too, given enough time! This, I think, is part of the mystery of water. It is fluid. It changes. It is contained within all of us. It IS us. But it is not easily differentiated as an individual thing.

This piece is inspired by this article here. It has inspired me for a long time, and it confirmed what I had thought since I was fairly young: we are all One, but different. Given that the author is a chaos magician as well as a heathen, it makes sense. The chaos magic symbol represents how magic and potential all come from the ultimate Source, which is chaos (or, at least that’s how I understand it-I’m not a chaos magician so I’m probably getting it wrong somewhere!). Ginnungagap could be seen as a Norse equivalent to the Greek Chaos, the primordial void. I don’t think any mortal can really plunge themselves right into Ginnungagap, as their embodied form is so alien to it; however, we can detect that like darkness, all things come from it. It’s just pure potential. So, everything exists but everything doesn’t. It’s like the Norse version of Nagarjuna’s playground.

Heimlich A. Laguz says that “We live to give their [the waters] irrepressible essence form and flushing life.” This is a powerful concept. The waters contain all potentiality and will inevitably be in all of us. However, even though water has its many wights contained within it, the Waters of Memory want to also experience life and its myriads and myriads of ways to be incarnate. And that is Life. We are One in the Waters and the Void, yes, but our manifestations are also different from one another too. The differences contribute to the whole of the universe and serve as a balance. We can’t all just be pure potential-that’d be like the Big Bang. The Big Bang gave rise to stars, planets, life… I think that pure unlimited potential and chaos can’t exist on its own without the flip side of differentiation. It may be some immutable law of some sort. We’re recycled as water is recycled, the Waters of Urd’s Well are recycled, but they are able to experience the joy and pain of incarnation in us. Further away from the Source, we become more and more differentiated (which looks like the chaos magic symbol and the Big Bang) and I think that’s where we can get hung up on feeling separate from everything around us, but if we look into the Source then we’re One. Both are wondrous, by the way… I don’t think that we need to forsake our individual identities to become more spiritual. Every species on Earth has a different function, and even though we’re all ultimately related doesn’t mean that we have to overlook all diversity. Diversity is what keeps balance, after all. Pure chaos isn’t that conducive to life, and so I think differentiation is useful and inevitable.

What does this have to do with Urd? She is the keeper of memory and Wyrd (and is Wyrd Herself), and she tends to the waters in Her well and helps to spin the threads of our fate. She is a distinct entity and not just a concept, although She DOES hold a concept. I think it was She who ordered time in the beginning… not that there’s really such a thing as time, as a human construct, but things happen, and that’s a fact of the universe. I think time, or the flow of occurrences, was a lot more chaotic in the beginning. Looking at the Big Bang, such a different set of circumstances than today and highly concentrated energy fluctuating would probably lead to “time” flowing differently than it does today. To be conducive to life, it probably had to calm down and become more orderly.. which is what I think Urd did. She didn’t make it linear, as linear time is an invention of Judeo-Christianity, but She probably made it into a smoother cycle. The ancient Germanic way of looking at time is cyclical, like most agricultural peoples. Motion for motion’s sake won’t create life, but order in motion will. No wonder Urd is a frost giant! Many heathens believe that the primordial fire and ice union that created Midgard is representative of the Big Bang. Ice is solidified matter, the quality which can lead us to be differentiated conscious beings, and fire is energy and entropy. Combine matter and energy, you got life. And everything else in the universe. Urd can then be seen to solidify being, which She does through Wyrd. Water flows quickly, ice does not. Wyrd and Urd is our keeper. She forms us.

I realize that this all sounds rather monistic, which many heathens don’t believe is a valid way of looking at divinity and the universe. However, I don’t view this monistically in a monotheist type way, but rather as an acknowledgment that we’re all related and have divinity within. We’re all separate entities, and that’s the whole point of this post. We’re separate, but related and interconnected. Just because we’re all made of matter and energy that probably all came from one source at one point in time does not negate polytheism. It’s just what is. Ginnungagap and Urdabrunnr and its waters are life source-we are but the manifestations of that life source. Does this life source have a consciousness of its own? Maybe. Is it personal? I’d say not, because it’s just too big. It becomes personal only when manifest as being. When not manifest, it’s just Ginnungagap. And chaos. Which isn’t bad. It’s the most sacred thing there is, as it is the One Thing, but yes, it’s still the size of the known universe and all of the Gods and their worlds and beyond. There’s no comprehension down to a human level besides the relationships we form with other beings.

There’s been debate among Hindus for over a good couple thousand years as to whether or not the divine is personal. Some posit the Godhead is impersonal and is akin to a force, while others believe it’s personal and is manifest in their primary deity. I actually think these are not mutually exclusive. Call me a bit of a pantheist, but divinity is within everything, and is both simultaneously personal and impersonal in that we all have the waters within us (flow of memory), yet we are all individuals who can be as radically different from one another as can be with many different agendas and natures.

Regardless, Her waters are healing, as they contain all life and everything that was and will be. They contain the present. They contain our being as it is right now. What a joy that is.

Uncle Loki of the Nebula

A few days ago I made a point of making offerings of water and honey whiskey to the Holy Powers, ancestors, and wights because the past several days before I’d been either a). enduring a bad headache/migraine deal, b).nauseous from said headache/migraine deal, and c). busy whenever I felt at least somewhat well. Actually, even for the past few weeks I’ve been a bit neglectful, since I tried out a new medication that left me feeling incredibly sleepy all the time… and really anxious and depressed! So I went off that. Unfortunately, it was supposed to help with migraines, so I’ll just have to hope the botox treatment I got last week for that will work.

Anyway, I decided to clean my shrines, light the candles on them, and go outside and pour honey whiskey to as many of the Powers who like the stuff. I got an impulse to pour out some for Loki after I when I thought I was done, knowing in the lore it says one should pour out a drink for Loki whenever Odin gets one. I’m sorry to say I had never done that before-oops! It’s not like I’m one of those heathens who hate Loki; on the contrary, I really respect Him and his place in the pantheon and cosmos. He had never really approached me before, however, and it seemed like no signs pointed towards me needing to work with Him. So I was a bit surprised by the impulse, and I went and poured out a shot for Him. I said something along the lines of “Hail Flame-Hair, He who tells the truth through lies, I honor you through this offering so that you may live.”

And boy, one thing I learned IMMEDIATELY about Loki is that when He’s honored, or even mentioned, it piques His interest very, very much. He’s very likely to show up.

He immediately came into my mind’s eye. I could tell He was pleased by the offering, but I could tell that it was only a small part of how He appeared to me. It was like he was bouncing all around me, and He was super chatty. He reminded me of going to a party and talking to the person who’s the center of attention and keeps talking, but in such a way that is nevertheless very warm and inclusive. He likes attention, but I really got the feeling that He also loves paying attention to those who invoke Him sincerely. He wants to return the favor.

As soon as He appeared, He started talking. He said something along the lines of “Why haven’t you paid attention to your great-great uncle Loki?” and He POUTED. Seriously. In jest, but still. Calling Himself as my uncle caught me a bit off-guard, as I have been wondering about my devotional relationship with Odin lately-many devotees feel that they are children of their God, or lovers, or friends-so perhaps from Loki’s statement, Odin’s my father. “I’ll let you do all the cool uncle things your dad won’t let you!” He said, and smirked. If I already didn’t know He was a Trickster, I’d certainly guess then!

Our conversation was so interesting in that He seems to be pretty attuned to pop culture, because he made points through songs. We somehow got into the subjects of love and lust, and we (I’m not sure who started it, really) started singing “What Is Love?” by Haddaway (again, I’m being dead serious), and when He sang “Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more,” He remarked that’s what love is-the opposite of hurt. Loki’s been hurt so much in His life that he knows what pain is so intimately, and I think that’s how He connects to a lot of His followers. He knows torture, madness, betrayal, and grief. I’ve heard from Lokeans that He truly doesn’t want humans to suffer in the ways He has, so He works especially well with those with mental illnesses and those who have endured abuse. He said “Whenever you’ve been hurt, come to Me. I’m the deity to come to when you’ve been hurt.” He didn’t want to talk about His pain, but I could tell it was underneath the surface. I think that if we follow Him, and treat Him with respect, it eases His pain slightly. And so He does the same for us.

The Loki I encountered can be present anywhere. I could see Him popping out to chat even in the unlikeliest places, much like a cockroach can pop out pretty much darn near anywhere. The Loki I encountered is fun. The Loki I encountered is compassionate. Most of all, the Loki I encountered is loving. He really does love His followers, and cares for them. As the fighter of entropy and as a fire deity, Loki brings dynamism and love to the darkest places, even in His own dark places. I think Loki haters have never encountered the true Loki, or if they did, He showed up and they pushed Him away regardless. Chaos is scary, but necessary, and is a vital part of the universe. Interestingly, it brings up the questions of whether or not chaos is also joy and love. I wonder if those beautiful nebulas we see in pictures are actually singing and orgasming in the love of their creation. I saw a vision wherein Loki is embodied in these nebulas. They are beautiful creation out of fire, formed from the previous destruction of a star. We all know Loki’s role in Ragnarok. Yet, even Ragnarok brings renewal and new worlds, which is precisely what nebulas bring. They are the childlike wonders of new stars, babies, but also immensely old. Their components are as old as the universe itself, anyway. All things were created from everything else around; in fact, they are just transmuted. So while Loki embodies the pain and joy of destruction, He also embodies the pain and joy of creativity. All the same, He says. It is all joy and colors and riotous flame, an orgy of burgeoning life.

Hail Uncle Loki of the nebula! May He who brings life and flame bring them down to His people. May those who are hurt rush to You, and may You feed them!

Thank you Uncle Loki.