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.

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.

Offerings to Yggdrasil

Offering to Yggdrasil isn’t something that heathens normally do; in fact, I’ve hardly ever heard of anyone making offerings to Yggdrasil. I get the impression that it isn’t an entity (and it is certainly a living, breathing entity unto itself) that requires a lot of offerings. Some deities in our tradition don’t seem to be big on offerings, such as the Norns, although sometimes it truly is prudent to give Them offerings, such as when you request something of Them or They are teaching you something. They are incredibly important, no doubt, but still fairly distant from humanity and individuals who inhabit the Nine Worlds. They won’t refuse offerings even as a general honor, however. I can never see how an offering wouldn’t be well-received by any deity as long as it is given in the right spirit. However, the Norns don’t seem to ask for as many offerings as the deities who are closer to us, such as Odin, Freya, Thor, etc. I feel that Yggdrasil is the same. It is absolutely necessary for our existence, such as that of the Norns, but it’s not exactly barging into people’s lives, asking for devotional work, requiring offerings, and all the things that our deities who are more personal do. I get from UPG that the best way to honor Yggdrasil is to honor Midgard and the other worlds, keep the Earth clean and healthy, and don’t take more than you need. Yggdrasil is a tree, and trees are, well, practical, you could say. Water it, maintain it, feed it once in a while but by and large it takes care of itself and the things that inhabit it.

However, I do get the feeling that certain offerings given once in a while do delight Yggdrasil outside of taking care of Midgard. Pure water, of course, I think is the best and what you can give it the most. Yggdrasil’s waters are holy, and are the source of life for all beings in the Nine Worlds (except maybe the fire giants? No clue. There are so many mysteries). Yggdrasil’s waters run through all of our bodies in Midgard and I suspect without, as these waters are also spiritual and not just physical. They contain all memories, as in the great Wells at its roots, and we are like the leaves, offshoots of this great living wellspring. Pure water given in gratitude will be very well-received by this great entity.

This is also UPG, but a customary thing I’ve developed in giving my offerings is that if I pour any liquid offering to the Gods, spirits, and ancestors outside by the tree that grows next to my apartment, I will often flick a few drops on the tree and say “And for the tree.” It’s not only for the tree in front of me, but also for Yggdrasil. I strongly believe that any tree in our world, so long as it’s willing, can serve as a proxy for the World Tree. All trees are microcosms of the macrocosm Yggdrasil, and so we can have any tree in our world help us journey to and from Yggdrasil. Because of the relationship I have with the tree outside, it’s helped me to journey, where I felt thrust upon it and in my mind’s eye I was climbing the trunk of Yggdrasil. It was almost like pathwalking, except I wasn’t actually walking. As a holy proxy, any offerings you give to an individual tree can go to Yggdrasil if you specify. It’s like Yggdrasil is every tree’s great-great-great granddaddy, and all trees know this.

I also think that scents from wood or resins are also excellent offerings for Yggdrasil, especially if you want to invoke its wisdom. Incense and oils from things such as sandalwood, cedar, dragon’s blood, myrrh, copal, etc. would all be incredibly apropos. I’m pretty sure copal was offered to the World Tree of the Maya as well as to many other Mesoamerican Gods, as it comes from a tree… so logic follows that Yggdrasil would appreciate this, especially in a ceremony in its honor.

Of course, you also have offerings such as fertilizer and compost for trees, which I’m sure Yggdrasil would take as a service offering. Planting trees themselves would be an excellent service offering to Yggdrasil as well as Jord and Nerthus. I don’t think Yggdrasil cares about elaborate ceremonies or offerings, but I feel we should acknowledge its presence in all of our lives. It’s our literal cosmic backbone, and should be honored as such. Its waters give us life and cleanse us. Of course, they kill us too, but that’s another topic… 😉

Hail Yggdrasil. Hail the life you give us. Thank you for nourishing us and for holding us up. Hail!

Frey Says “Slow Down!” And Other Musings of the Vanir

Frey is not a God I have a very close relationship with (of all the Vanir, I feel I’m closest to Nerthus), but I tend to His shrine on my bookcase quite often. I extraordinarily admire His gift of sacrifice, and I offer barley, wheat berries, or honey to Him once in a while when I have these on hand. After all, the lore teaches us that He is literally the body of the grain that we partake, whether it be in solid or liquid form (hail beer! Amirite?). This is such an intense lesson we need to learn: you are not alive unless something else dies for you. Plain and simple. There must be sacrifice for life to flourish. And our Lord Ingvi-Frey voluntarily sacrifices Himself so that we may live. I don’t know why He is sometimes underestimated. Any God who’s willing to get Their throat cut open, blood spilled, and walk the Hel Road each year so that we may live is a bad-ass to me. Yes, He’s a God of peace, but peace can have its terrifying aspects too.

Anyway.

He is very much a God of seeds. In his rune, Ingwaz, we see a seed, the grain that which grows the staff of life for so many of our ancestors. Some people also see the shape of bound sheaves of wheat after a harvest, which I feel is true as well. Some people see a vulva, which I could also see even though it is typically a rune associated with male sexuality. Others see a doorway, and I believe it can serve as a doorway to Frey and Vanaheim.

Ingwaz has been pretty prominent in my life lately in that I keep thinking about it constantly, and the idea of seeds and their wisdom is something my mind drifts to quite a bit. This was started by my relationship with Nerthus, who I believe is also Goddess of seeds, and She told me that Ingwaz was also one of Her runes. Even though I know many say that She is the mother of Frey, Her constant showing me of Ingwaz with a line drawn through it and up and becoming a stalk was a bit confusing to me. Then I learned that the Anglo-Saxon futhorc letter for Jera is Ger… and it resembles Ingwaz with a verticle line running through it! So I wasn’t delusional. This, along with the Elder Futhark Jera, is her rune, and so the bindrune of Ingwaz and a double-sided Fehu emerging vertically from it is Hers as well. It looks like grain emerging from its seed, and a prominent lesson of Nerthus’s is the mystery of soil, of growth from the fecund Earth. The double-sided Fehu also represents wealth, but in this bindrune it’s not necessarily currency-it’s the wealth of the Earth, the food that we grow lest we starve. It’s the grain, the grasses, and all the various seedlings we rely on. We’re certainly wealthy in many ways if the crops grow healthily to give us a good harvest, even for those of us who aren’t farmers! Most of us at least buy food from the store, which was originally grown somewhere and was at some point along its history a seed, a seed that was harvested.

So it is with Frey. He is a very patient sort of God, in my opinion, and He doesn’t have the same sort of frenetic energy that His sister or even Odin can have. He has His own Ecstasy, of course, but it’s not frenzy. He is gentle light, and fertile soil. He is like the plants he embodies. Even the fastest growing plants don’t move as fast as most animals can, and such is the wisdom of plants. They take their time. They don’t move out of their rooted spot. They harness the energies of fertility and reach towards the sky. Frey’s wisdom is a lot like this, I’ve personally found. YMMV, of course, but my impressions of him are a lot like the stereotypical Taurean energy-methodical, patient, slow but in a good way… just like the life cycle of plants. And, like Taurus, there’s a lot of fertility and sexual energy tied in with Him-I mean, look at His cock! Sexual organs create, and some of those things created we eat. Thus continues the cycle of life.

I was in front of my shrines recently, meditating and communing with the Gods, when I heard a gentle voice from within, and I knew it was Frey. He said something along the lines of “You’ve been stretching yourself so much, wanting to get everything done now. You shouldn’t. You need to slow down, see the journey unfold. Enjoy and savor the moments of the process. Be slow and gentle with yourself.” I’ve been stressed lately with lots of responsibilities and taking care of a lot of lives (human and non-human) on top of dealing with finding another job and cleaning an apartment that seems to never stay clean in a physical AND energetic sense. So, Frey was remarking on that I won’t feel at peace unless I go through the motions more mindfully and savor the slow process of growth. Such an approach will certainly reduce blood pressure! It seems like such simple wisdom, like maybe even a God wouldn’t bother to say such obvious things, but They do. The wisdom and mysteries of the Gods can be the most simple, and therefore the most profound. They can show up anytime and anywhere in your life, and their advice, support, and criticisms can be ample, lol. Frey, as an ever-abundant and fertile God, seems like a perfect candidate for profound and simple wisdom that nevertheless lies beneath all things. And that is why he is God of frith, prosperity, happiness, and abundance. Hail Frey!

How I Became A Polytheist-And Devoted To Odin

I never would have thought I’d be a pagan polytheist. I wasn’t very interested in European mythology and folklore while younger, focusing instead on Native American and Asian societies and stories (and I still am, such as in my academic work). I still loved learning about ancient European societies, especially those in Scandinavia, but my primary interests lay in the continent I grew up in. Despite the fact that I learned about many different pagan religions in school and in my own research (I was always a nerd, even as a young kid), I didn’t really think there were multiple Gods. My parents are both Christian, although not very devout-growing up, we only really went to church on Christmas and Easter. My mother, however, was and still has a strong new-agey bent to the way she approaches her spirituality, so she often touts the benefits of psychics, astrology, and the law of attraction kind of stuff. I was always a skeptic about the law of attraction, but her eclectic new age approach to spirituality rubbed off on me and so for my young life, that’s what I was. I eventually bought lots of books on astrology and new age topics, and that influenced my beliefs.

Moreover, I was a very strong “totemist,” I suppose you can say, and found the appropriative pseudo-“Native American” spirituality on the New Age shelves the most interesting. I call myself an animist since birth, because as a kid, I felt I could speak to the trees, hear messages in the wind, and was incredibly drawn to literally hundreds of plants and animals. I would become obsessed with certain species, wanting to know everything about them and research as much as I could pre-internet, and their presence would be constant. I still get this way, and I will still spend hours researching a particular plant or animal. It wasn’t because I was necessarily drawn to IT-rather, it was drawn to ME. It worked both ways, but I honestly feel like that they approach me more than I do them. So, the idea of “totem animals” and “power animals” appealed to me very much. Unfortunately, nearly all information on this is from New Age sources that culturally appropriate the idea from Native Americans. I didn’t believe everything I read, but many elements of this pseudo “Native American spirituality” appealed to me, and that’s where my spiritual life went.

Then, I began working with real Native Americans, and taking classes on real Native American religious traditions when I started university. There I learned of the terrible cultural appropriation that composes the New Age movement, and how it seriously hurts real live Indigenous people. I also learned how most of those elements are made up by affluent white people anyway, and are thus not real. The “Native American spirituality” presented in the New Age movement is incredibly superficial and is truly Protestant ethics disguised in fantasies of the Noble Savage. It sounds so silly now, but I was devastated learning this at the time. I felt like my worldview and everything I had known was shattered. I think many pagan and heathen converts have gone through this process, so I’m sure you can identify with it. Because I had easy access to the internet at college (and before I didn’t), I of course took my crisis of faith there. It was there that I learned of Native Americans addressing white folks who culturally appropriate their traditions, saying that we (white people) should look to our own ancestral traditions if we are seeking a tradition that looks to the Earth and Her powers. There, they said, we can honor our ancestor’s pathways rather than steal another’s. So, in an effort to pick up the pieces of my shattered ego and religious life, I did.

Here’s where access to the internet helped even more. I had a few friends who were Wiccan and had participated in a couple of holidays with them, but I wasn’t that interested in becoming Wiccan. So I delved into research about other pagan paths. I was most comfortable with the reconstructionist ones, or the reconstructionist-derived ones. I feared smearing my ancestral traditions by being eclectic, and I also wanted to be as far away from cultural appropriation as possible. At first I sought out British Celtic reconstructionism, but the very scant info on it drove me off. I was leery about participating in Irish, Welsh, or Scottish recon because some Celts from the homelands look down on the diaspora trying to revive their traditions, saying it’s appropriation also (I’m not familiar with the politics on that one now, but back then in 2009 I just wanted nothing to do with cultural appropriation given my past). I saw things about Asatru, of course, but it didn’t immediately grab me. I read about how some Irish have said that since most Americans are descended from the English, they should focus on that rather than on their scanter Irish blood. I have both Irish and English blood, but I definitely have more of the latter than the former, so that’s where I began looking. I researched about the Anglo-Saxons and other Germanic peoples, and their traditions. I never in a million years would have thought I’d have looked into Anglo-Saxon heathenry, being incredibly disinterested in English history, but life surprises you. I stumbled upon a website long since defunct dedicated to Anglo-Saxon heathenry, and something clicked in my head: this is it. 

And, to the surprise of no one with a close relationship with the Old Man, He showed up. As soon as I read about Him on that website, Woden made His presence known. I could feel His eye looking at me, straight through my soul. I knew He wanted me. I knew He was interested in me and wanted me to follow Him.

And it scared the living bejeebus out of me.

Odin is scary, even to experienced polytheists and heathens. All Gods are scary, of course, but Odin is definitely one of the ones where you can really feel the scary vibes emanating from him even at first glance.  I almost wanted to run away because of it. Since then I’ve heard of many baby heathens saying the same thing, so at least I wasn’t alone. But even though He kept showing up in my thoughts and visions, I still had a hard time accepting the idea of multiple Gods. I still had a huge hangover from the Protestant-derived New Age, where there is generally only one God, maybe a Goddess too, and they are the universe itself. I still retain some of those pantheistic impulses, and I truly think that all that exists is a Sacred Force. However, I do not think it can be defined unto itself, and is probably not that all personally invested in the lives of each of its living things, because we ARE it. The Gods and spirits, on the other hand, are, because they are individual beings just like us.

Anyway, I digress. At the time, interestingly enough (now I’m pretty sure it was a synchronicity) I had decided to switch majors to Religious Studies (another post about why later, perhaps), and so I took my first class in the field. It was about the main deity pathways in Hinduism, so we learned all about Shiva, Vishnu/Krishna, and the Mother Goddess. At first, I felt it was very interesting but I dismissed the idea of multiple Gods. But then as I opened up more to the idea of heathenry, I began to feel Shiva as we talked and read about Him. That was also disturbing. I’m not supposed to think that! I kept telling myself, but He as the Mighty Destroyer of ignorance burned a hole through me, opening me up to the possibility. I honestly think now as I type this that He helped to open me up to Odin and the other Gods. I suppose I should offer him puja sometime in thanks… 😉

Randomly too, I felt Ishtar talking to me that year, remembering her from my enthusiasm about ancient Babylonia. She just kept telling me to go out and have sex and enjoy it (I’ve never pursued a relationship with Her, but I’m sure a Mesopotamian polytheist wouldn’t be surprised at the message!) It’s your first year at college, She said. You need to go out and have sex! I kept dismissing her, as that wasn’t something I wanted to do without a romantic partner, BUT it seems that may have been a prediction about my confusion and confliction about my sexuality that I’d later on endure that year. Deities… they know more about you than you do, ya know?

Since I started accepting the idea of many Gods, and began deprogramming my former New Age self, I felt Odin more and more. He still scared me though, and so a push-pull relationship began… and I’m sad to say I did not truly begin to focus on a deep devotional relationship with Him or the other Gods until I got out of grad school. I suppose it was a lot of fear, and maybe still some unconscious resistance. I nevertheless studied about heathenry and began to rebuild my worldview in accordance to my ancestors. I do not exclusively focus on an Anglo-Saxon path (that feel away after a couple of years) because of the lack of resources compared to the Norse ones, but also because I strongly feel and know that I have Scandinavian blood, so I eventually learned there was no contradiction in practicing both paths, or even combining them. Now I just generally say I’m a heathen, and I really don’t feel that my ancestors care that I don’t stick to one cultural path therein, knowing that I have all sorts of strands of Germanic heritage, and more…

Now I have a regular devotional relationship to Odin, as well as to many other deities in our tradition. He takes up the most time, however. I still don’t know where He is going to take me, but as He is a God of the storms, I know it’s somewhere.

Stones for the Gods

As a sort of follow-up to my post on stones representing the Nine Worlds, I also feel like the Gods also have affinities to certain stones. While this is not traditional at all (besides Freya having a strong association with amber and Frey to gold), and I would suspect it’s a very modern practice, the Gods have not indicated that they are opposed to this, and in fact I’ve had a few besides Freya and Frey who enthusiastically announced that they liked certain stones when asked. I know some of these listed here aren’t technically stones, such as gold or sea glass, but for the sake of simplicity I’m still going to include them on this list.

Odin-Kyanite, sodalite, sapphire, clear quartz, rutilated quartz, snowflake obsidian, onyx

Frigga-Celestite, blue beryl, turquoise

Freya-Amber, tiger’s eye, emerald, gold, peridot, topaz, citrine, rose quartz, carnelian, amethyst, kunzite, garnet, morganite, pink diamond

Frey-Gold, amber

Nerthus-Smoky quartz, moss agate, aventurine, jade, green quartz, emerald, peridot, jet

Njord-Aquamarine, gold, turquoise, sea glass, iolite

Hela-Jet, snowflake obsidian, onyx, mangasite

Thor-Black tourmaline, smoky quartz, ruby, sapphire, garnet, copper, iron, steel

Jord/Erda-All stones, but especially macrocrystalline ones such as granite. Green and brown gems are also good. I could see her associated with smoky quartz

Sunna-Gold, amber, citrine, topaz, ruby, garnet, carnelian, iolite

Mani-Moonstone, beryl, opal, selenite, labradorite, iolite, silver, clear quartz

Aegir/Ran/Nine daughter-Aquamarine, turquoise, sea glass, jade, green kyanite

Skadi-Clear quartz, herkimer diamond, opal, white diamond

Ullr-Clear quartz, amber, herkimer diamond

Loki-Fire opal, ruby, carnelian

Sigyn-Kunzite, aquamarine, rose quartz, morganite

Angrboda-Bloodstone, jasper, granite, onyx

Surt-Obsidian, ruby, citrine, fire opal

Tyr-Ruby, garnet, smoky quartz, rutilated quartz, steel

Heimdall-Rainbow quartz, opal, celestite, clear quartz

Frau Holda-Clear quartz, smoky quartz, jet

Gullveig/Heide-Gold, ruby, fire opal, amethyst

Obviously this list is ongoing, and I’m sure I’ll add and subtract examples as time goes on. Some of these deities I have not worked with personally all that much, so their entries are more along the lines of educated guesses and intuition versus being directly Told. You’ll notice a theme that the stones generally correspond to a deity’s associated colors, such as blue kyanite and sodalite for Odin who absolutely loves blue. Some reflect on a deity’s various aspects, like the ones in Freya’s entry. Amber will cover all of Her aspects, I feel, as it is Her favorite. More specifically, emerald and peridot cover her fertility aspect, tiger’s eye for both fertility and wealth/self-worth, gold, topaz, carnelian and citrine for self-worth, wealth, and vitality, rose quartz, kunzite, morganite, pink diamond, and kunzite for love, amethyst and kunzite for Her seidhkona aspect, and garnet for Her warrior aspect. All of these stones are beautiful, so I suppose all of them could cover Her domain as Goddess of beauty (especially amber, gold, rose quartz, and pink diamond).

Some stones overlap, such as quartz. Being the most common mineral on Earth, I’m not surprised! Quartz comes in a variety of colors, and so you can usually find some in a color of your deity’s choice. Some varieties of quartz have their own name, such as amethyst (technically a purple quartz). You’ll notice I list clear quartz as the most mentioned in the above list, possibly because in our culture we regard white as the most neutral and pure color possible, but also because white is the combination of all colors on the visible light spectrum. Therefore, it can be seen to encompass numerous aspects of deity. I think it also covers Gods of frost jotun and Aesir descent nicely as well.. which includes many in our tradition!

Jord and Grounding

I’ve been trying to get better at grounding and centering, which only comes with practice, practice, and more practice. Grounding and centering is an integral part of magical practice, and necessary to refine your skills at seidh and journeying. While not exactly verified as “traditional” in Heathenry, it’s commonly recommended in modern Western magical tradition to master. And, hey, if it helps, I’m going to use it. And indeed, it does help. It at the very least has helped my stress levels and well-being. It’s also helped to become a bridge to interact with Jord, the Goddess of Earth personified. Also known as Erda and Erce, She is a jotun, the mother of Thor and consort of Odin. She is a mighty Goddess-after all, look how huge and powerful our planet is-and She is mother to us all. All humans are her children, as well as all living beings who live upon this Earth. We literally live on the back of a Goddess, and so utmost respect is warranted by living in our physical incarnation as we walk on Her. When I learned about grounding and centering, I was slightly concerned about the claim that as you ground into the Earth and send down negative, frazzled energy that it was not respecting Jord. The claim is that the Earth, meaning a Goddess, will recycle any jangled energy you have for Her own uses. Then, after you send down energy, you are supposed to bring up energy from the Earth if you feel that you should (especially in preparation for a magical working, where your own energy may not be enough or too risky to expend). I was even more concerned by this, the idea of drawing up energy from Jord. Why should one have the right to draw energy from a deity when one has not asked for permission nor offered anything? Isn’t that the height of disrespect?

While of course one should have an appropriate relationship with Jord and live sustainably and lightly upon her skin, and offer to Her and her land wights regularly, but what resolved my conflict was when I realized that as living beings we are sustained by Her energy ans she governs recycling of our waste. While I’m primarily talking about physical energy and waste, I realized that She also takes care of our spiritual energy and waste and has the ability to recycle it as well. In fact, giving Her extra energy (even our jangled everyday energy) only helps Her to further sustain and create our fellow living beings because She will use all energy that is given. Like the laws of physics, where nothing is ever wholly created nor destroyed, the same thing with Jord. All energy and matter is recycled, and She will do the same with you. Without Her energy, we would not live on this planet. Physical life could not happen without Her energy sustaining us. We would all be dessicated husks at the very most. Energy in our lives is the deepest, most primal process in the universe… we’re all made of stardust, after all, and our planet was forged from the reactions of hydrogen, helium, and so many other processes we have not penetrated. The core of the Earth is an enormous hotbed of energy, and Jord’s power flows from this heat as well as the minerals and soil from Her skin, and the beings that grow upon Her. It is our birthright to be sustained, nourished, and healed by Her energy. It is also our birthright to give her our waste to be recycled (let is be biodegradable), and also to die upon Her body and thus give Her our energy and matter to be recycled. So, it is our birthright to receive Her spiritual energy too-while we give Her our spiritual energy.

Hail Jord. May we live lightly upon You. May we have the sense to honor You. May You have mercy upon us for disrespecting You and Your children. May we weep because we have polluted Your body, Your soil, Your waters, Your blood. May we repent. May we forever hail You!

Stones to Represent the Nine Worlds

I have a few craft projects rolling around in my head to do as devotional offerings to the Gods, and one involves in part keeping an eye out for stone beads to represent the nine worlds. I’m sure others have had thought of this too, and they may have more knowledge of stone lore to figure this out more, but here are my preliminary ideas:

Helheim- Onyx, jet, snowflake obsidian

Niflheim- Clear quartz, Herkimer diamond

Svartalfheim- Smoky quartz, tourmaline, jet, onyx, rutilated quartz

Muspellheim- red or orange citrine, ruby, obsidian

Jotunheim- bloodstone, jasper

Vanaheim- AMBER, emerald, aventurine, tiger’s eye, jade

Midgard- granite

Ljoassalfheim- Selenite, moonstone, opal

Asgard- Clear quartz, celestite, sapphire, kyanite, sodalite, turquoise

I’m sure I’ll come up with more, and edit in the process. Some are quite obvious, like amber for Vanaheim, which is what I will most likely pick although I associate emerald and tiger’s eye with Freya. Others are more difficult… I’m surprisingly having a hard time finding an option for Midgard, perhaps because all minerals that exist on this material plane are found here and therefore perhaps Midgard covers all of them. Granite seems like a good solid base though, as it is a common stone and it represents the grounding bedrock of this world. Svartalfheim is a bit difficult too; if I had the means then some lovely mined precious metal would work but I’m not exactly loaded right now. Plus, it would have to harmonize with the nature of both the duergar and the svartalfs, and that may be tricky to negotiate. You’ll notice I put both onyx and jet in Helheim and Svartalfheim as well. I feel both stones could represent them well, but I will not use the same stones to represent more than one world in the final project. I’ll have to research more kinds of stones, and I’m sure I will have to divine and consult denizens of these worlds to see which ones are approved. The Holy Powers may even suggest entirely different ones than those listed here. And then of course, once I have approval, and create this project (I’m feeling a little uncomfortable as to what it will be right now, but I may reveal it soon!), the fun will begin. Something representing the nine worlds can assist you in traveling to them, and even assist others traveling to you, so it’s not an endeavor to be taken lightly.

I won’t be finishing this project anytime soon, however. I will need more time and collateral to collect the materials. What I will be working on first are painting candle holders to represent various deities on my shrines, and finishing embroidering altar cloths. Yay! I’ll show you pictures once they are done. I’m incredibly excited to craft things dedicated to my Gods.

Seeing Nerthus in Our Soil

It goes without saying that Nerthus is a mysterious Goddess, both in the ancient sense of a Mystery cultus and of the more modern colloquial term of the word. What we know of Her are scant references in Tacitus’s Germania, where he emphasized that the one remarkable thing that united the ancient Germanic tribes of what is now northern Germany and Denmark was their worship of a great Goddess he called Nerthus. Her original Germanic name may not ever be known, as “Nerthus” is a Latinization, but I once read it may have been pronounced Nerþuz or Nerðuz (I honestly don’t remember the source, so bear with me-if I find it, I will reference it!). The -uz ending seems incredibly plausible, as that was a common noun marker in proto-Germanic, just as the -us ending was for Latin and the -os ending in ancient Celtic languages. Of course, there is the ongoing debate in scholarship and the non-academic heathen community of whether or not She is Njord, because her proto-Germanic name as given by Tacitus would be Njord in ancient Norse, the God of seafaring. This has led to many folks suggesting that She is the female form of Njord, perhaps referencing that he is a gender bending God or that He is married to His sacred twin, common among the Vanir and in Indo-European cosmologies. There are those more knowledgeable in this debate that have already written about their opinions on this matter, so I won’t go into it more for fear that I’d give out wrong information. But I digress.

The most striking aspect of Nerthus is how, when every year in these ancient Germanic communities she’d be paraded around in Her ox-drawn cart and everyone would put away their weapons and not wage war, is how the slaves who bathed and dressed her statue had to be put to death. Terrifying as it may seem to many modern people, it makes sense. Tacitus said she was the Germanic Terra Mater, Mother Earth. And just as how Mother Earth gives and nurtures life, She also takes it away. Life and death are both the same to earthly life processes, as everything living feasts off the dead-with gusto! Nerthus was always to remain veiled, and those slaves who had to lift it to clean Her holy form could not go back to the land of the living. Once faced (literally) with the terrifying mysteries of Life and Death, becoming Death, there was no way one could bring that back to a human community. The power is too great. I have heard those who are initiated in Her mysterious, mostly likely Vanic priests, may see her face and not need to be put to death, but I would imagine that initiation would involve seeing Her Face and facing the mystery of Life and Death, the ultimate cycle. That would be holy terror in the greatest word.

So, here we have a Goddess whose rein over death is what nourishes life. I have seen Her so much lately, or rather, felt Her. I have not seen Her face. What I do see and sense is Her presence, which is life force that sparks growth and the dead things that feed it. I feel Her in the soil, the thing that enables all the green things to grow and feed those who feed off of them. She is the fecundity of the Earth. She is the black soil so full of life and nutrients. I believe that without her, land lies barren and infertile, unable to grow living things. Winter here in Southern California, contrasting with most places in the world, gets most of its rainfall in winter and not summer. In wintertime, green things pop up EVERYWHERE. Many of the things that grow are invasive weeds, however. Long ago brought by European invaders, these invasive plants carpet and blanket the hillsides and any patch of bare earth they can get to, and grow thickly and deeply green with the rainfall. So everywhere I go I see things such as oat grass, barley grass, clover, dandelions, plantain… things that are generally considered to be mowed and killed. I see Her as having domain over these grasses that give life-bearing grain, so important to many of our ancestors. I see Her as having domain over the plants that crawl over the earth, low-lying ones that are often overlooked. I even see Her having domain over herbs and shrubs, whatever hangs above the earth and derives its spiritual power from having such close contact with the mysteries of the soil and creeping crawling life. In Her presence I have seen and smelled damp fertile earth, the tang of it touching my nostrils even when I am nowhere physically near dirt. Or are you? She asks. You are never away from Me, little one. 

Her association with bogs is also an important one to consider. We know that ancient heathens regarding them as sacred, as a liminal space between land and water. Since they were in between realms, they were thought to also be a way of in between Midgard and the Otherworlds. I think they still are! I live away from the ocean now, but when I used to, I used to gaze at the vernal pools, where sedges and rushes grew in abundance, and I contemplated the sacredness of such spots. Nerthus has not taken me to bogs or wetlands yet, but what I do see are associations with underwater rivers and groundwater. Below our surface, there is always water flowing, whether it be mighty currents or scarce dampness distributed thinly underground in a desert. Sometimes it is frozen. However, I see Her domain as flowing melted water primarily, the water that feeds the soil and animals in the warmer seasons that precipitate bursts of life. I see Her in the roots of grass, under what we can immediately see, and isn’t that one of Her primary Mysteries? That we cannot see her easily? We humans often cannot see underneath the soil without digging it up first, we can’t see underground water until it flows into a wetland (or accessing it by digging wells or drilling and blasting into the ground to suck it away as moderns often disrespectfully do). Our eyes cannot see all the nutrients in the soil or waters without microscopes, and we often can’t see the bacteria and fungi that make it possible for such nutrients to enter plants and larger animals. Even with worms and the insects we can see we tend to not want to think about, as they disgust many of us. But we all know that without worms, there can’t be life because they aerate the soil. Now we also know that mycorrhizal fungi are necessary for plants to take up nutrients. They live symbiotically on a plant’s roots, and they often adapt to the native soil. Without these, no plants can grow, and sometimes without the native kinds of mycorrhizae, certain indigenous plants cannot grow. It’s a delicate balance. And of course, all nutrients in soil come from death-whether it may be from the original source of a dying star to the death of billions of tiny microscopic bacteria.

There is a sad dearth in modern writings and Work with Nerthus when She has so many gifts. It’s tragic. Part of the reason is because the scant historical resources concerning Her, and I also think it may be because of her inherent Mystery. I see her as simultaneously being very accessible, as all of us living folk live and depend on the fertile Earth, but also not accessible, as the Veiled One. Her mysteries are so profound, however, that this Queen of Vanaheim ought to be honored by all heathens. Hail Nerthus! May your Powers continue to give us life, and let us learn to appreciate the full gravity of Life!