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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Meditations on Hávamál, 10-14

10.
Byrði betri
berr-at maðr brautu at
en sé mannvit mikit;
auði betra
þykkir þat í ókunnum stað;
slíkt er válaðs vera.

11.
Byrði betri
berr-at maðr brautu at
en sé mannvit mikit;
vegnest verra
vegr-a hann velli at
en sé ofdrykkja öls.

12.
Er-a svá gótt
sem gótt kveða
öl alda sona,
því at færa veit,
er fleira drekkr
síns til geðs gumi.

13.
Óminnishegri heitir
sá er yfir ölðrum þrumir,
hann stelr geði guma;
þess fugls fjöðrum
ek fjötraðr vark
í garði Gunnlaðar.

14.
Ölr ek varð,
varð ofrölvi
at ins fróða Fjalars;
því er ölðr bazt,
at aftr of heimtir
hverr sitt geð gumi.

 

10. A better burden can no man carry along the way than great common sense; better than riches in the unknown place for the wretched man.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
The Darkest Month

As if seen through the wrong end of a telescope, blurred and dimmed around the edges, the darkness of December beckons as November draws to its end.  For the general non-pagan public in America, December is the brightest month of the year, a gleeful blending of commercialism, family ties, and food comas.  For many (if not most) pagans, it is a conundrum of sorts,  a season when non-pagan family obligations directly or indirectly conflict with the allure of like-minded spiritual gatherings.  Historically, for Europeans throughout the middle ages, especially in northern Europe, it was a time of gathering the family tightly together against the outer cold, of taking in travelers and guests with generosity but caution (for who knew what--or Who--might be wandering out there in the freezing gusts, hobnobbing with the trolls), for lavishly feasting the gods--pagan or Christian, depending on the time and the setting--and the dead, but at a careful distance, ever mindful that the next hand on one's doorknob might not be a human one, that the skeletal scraping against windows might not be the branches of dead trees, that the dead walk this time of year, and that things and People far more dire walk alongside them--or worse, fly through the stormy night skies--keeping careful count of debts accrued throughout the year passed, and demanding Their due.

For me, as for my spiritual ancestors, December is the darkest month of the year, with the traditional twelve days of Yule--the "smudging nights," so called in folklore because you had better be smudging your home with protective herbs against the wild spirits that roamed the long nights--beckoning at its black heart.  It is the most precious month of the year for me--for it was in this month that I took sacred marriage vows to my Husband, Odin, that darkest of gods, at this darkest of times.  But it is also the most dreadful month.  It is a time when the air is filled with ghosts and the trolls spill upwards through the cracks in the earth, freed from their underground lairs to walk among humans.   

For me it is, beyond all else, Odin's month--although that is certainly not limited to December.  Although I feel and honor Him equally, yet somewhat differently, throughout the other seasons of the year, during the period of late September through the beginning of January we see His darkest face, the face of Yggr (the Terrible One) who sacrificed Himself on the World Tree, the face of Wilde Jaeger (the Wild Hunter) who rides His flame-eyed steed at the head of the Furious Host.  Perhaps I am biased, but although I do have special festival days throughout the year for Him, and especially in late September through November, for me December is all about Odin, from beginning to end, even though several of the actual festival days within it are goddess-focused.

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  • Jolene
    Jolene says #
    As you already know, I'm of two minds about claiming saints' days for my own calendar. I've tried it, I don't love it, but I can s
  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch says #
    Interestingly, I just read an excellent book by Claude Lecouteux entitled "Phantom Armies of the Night: The Wild Hunt and the Ghos

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Meditations on Hávamál 1-4

Hávamál offers us a glimpse of a past that had already become somewhat nostalgic when a single hand transcribed the poem around 1270 CE.  As David A. H. Evans writes in the Viking Society for Northern Research’s edition of the verses, this second poem of the Elder Edda “is deservedly one of the most celebrated works to have survived from the early Norse world.” It’s full of gnomic advice that continues to be of interest—and application—to us in the modern world. Old Norse text via the Heimskringla Project.

1.    
Gáttir allar,
áðr gangi fram,
um skoðask skyli,
um skyggnast skyli,
því at óvíst er at vita,
hvar óvinir
sitja á fleti fyrir.

2.
Gefendr heilir!
Gestr er inn kominn,
hvar skal sitja sjá?
Mjök er bráðr,
sá er á bröndum skal
síns of freista frama.

3.
Elds er þörf,
þeims inn er kominn
ok á kné kalinn;
matar ok váða
er manni þörf,
þeim er hefr um fjall farit.

4.
Vatns er þörf,
þeim er til verðar kemr,
þerru ok þjóðlaðar,
góðs of æðis,
ef sér geta mætti,
orðs ok endrþögu.

 

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    This is what I needed today. Blessings on your dear head, Laity.
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    You are most kind, my friend.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
And so it begins

I've written before here about how, in our household, Samhain starts early.  For us it begins at the end of September, during the week when we've repeatedly lost beloved pets and on the day when, two years ago, I pledged my service to the Wild Hunt.  This year, that day was marked with an inadvertent bloodletting when the Hunt, not satisfied with the efforts I had made thus far on their behalf, aided me in slicing open the knuckle of my right index finger almost to the bone with a pair of sewing shears.  (Followed, of course, with a expensive trip to the emergency room and several weeks of limited ability to do anything--including typing and crafting--with that hand.  The Hunt does not play.)  

It continued the following week when I made a trip to one of the city's oldest cemeteries (and bear in mind that here on the west coast, "oldest" means the 1800s, and the most ancient looking monuments, crumbling with apparent age, are not truly ancient at all but merely rain-damaged).  I brought with me home-brewed mead and bone meal, to feed the dead, and locally harvested apples for Sleipnir, Odin's giant eight-legged steed.  (Eight legs, by the way; have you ever thought about that?  Why does He--the horse, that is--have eight legs?  Spiders have eight legs.  So does a casket, when borne aloft by four mourners.  Sleipnir is, indisputably, a horse of death, a steed to carry one to the land of the dead--which, throughout the Norse myths, is exactly what He does.)  I discovered an area devoted to the Civil War dead, which startled me because it seemed the wrong coast for that, but the monument statue of a soldier in uniform and the plots of the military dead exuded an aura of welcome for me, a kinship with the "once human" contingent of the Hunt, with Odin's fallen heroes.  Here was succor and support, and so it was here that I marked the stones with my blood, freshly drawn from my finger (not the one with stitches!) using a lancet.  (The dead were especially interested in and enthusiastic about the mead, by the way!)

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  • Jolene
    Jolene says #
    Another excellent post! I'm looking forward to both our celebrations, and I'm thinking that splitting them up as we have this year
  • Soli
    Soli says #
    I found a small pomegranate at the store this weekend and bought it, so I should do something. Just no idea what. Some of it is be
Crossing the Sacred Threshold: The Gods of Small Things

 

I am a Latin teacher currently (and laboriously) working my way toward a PhD in Classics. I read a lot of Latin texts (in Latin and usually with quite a bit of cussing along the way as I attempt to untangle classical Latin syntax). Fortunately, for the most part, I enjoy this and one of the tangential elements that I find particularly satisfying in my studies is occasionally coming across an interesting reference to ancient Roman [polytheistic] religion along the way.  It happens a lot and for all that I am Heathen, not a practitioner of Religio Romana, I find that every time I read about how a man or woman, raised in Roman culture, steeped in its religion honored his or her Gods, I find my own practices enriched.

When I started in Classics I was told (by a PhD candidate) that no one really understands Roman religion. I admit to being a bit taken aback. It always made perfect sense to me: honor your ancestors, honor the living spirit of your city, its genus loci, maintain the proper household and public rituals, and live in a world where everything has its spirit, everything is alive. It made perfect sense to me and I’ll tell you why: for all of their diversity, polytheistic religions – which are indigenous religions-- seem, in my opinion, to share a common thread, one quite alien to monotheistic thought; that common thread is rooted not just in a polytheistic and by extension pluralistic worldview, but in one that is, to greater or lesser degree, animist.

...
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  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    Anne, I"ll try to write something on that soon.
  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch says #
    I've been pushing for a re-recognition of the spirits of the land and household for years, now, both in my personal practice and e
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    I'd love to hear more about *how* to connect with the small gods of place; although I'm quite well acquainted with the larger deit

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Hearth Witchery

It has come as a surprise to me, considering my relationship with Odin (the  Wanderer and hedge-crosser extraordinaire), but I have been discovering lately that I am far more of a hearth witch than a hedge witch.  Don't get me wrong; I do love wandering through the dark woods at night, threading my way through cemeteries, or exploring the Eugene wetlands.  I love to explore these liminal places in a light trance state, letting the already-fragile boundaries between the worlds blur so that I can commune with the spirits there.  This is part of my practice, and it always will be.  (And in the case of the wetlands, I do this every morning on my walk to work, in the early hours when the human world is still barely stirring but the land wights--or land spirits--are awake and going about their day.) But at the heart of my practice, I am a Doorway for my gods and spirits, and to fulfill that function I must be anchored in this world, even as I work at blurring its edges.  

I just had an entire week off from my day job, for the first time in years, and found myself spending much of it at my spinning wheel, or gathering supplies to make prayer beads, or in my kitchen learning to make salted caramels, or planning what I will need to begin producing candles and other non-yarn goodies for my Etsy shop.   When given a choice between wandering outdoors and busying myself with activities at home, I nearly always choose the latter.  Perhaps my physical condition pays a part in this (I have moderate to severe fibromyalgia, and at this point I still work full time so that saps a lot of my energy), but most of the time I find that I would rather be at home, tending a hearth for my gods and for the spirits I honor, rather than out in the world.  My trips out in the world fortify and help to shape my hearth; they feed it and strengthen my center.  In this I am like Frigga, who puts Her apron aside and rides with Her Husband in the Hunt during the dark half of the year, but the rest of the time concentrates Her efforts on creating a welcoming home for Him to return to after His wanderings.

To get back to the topic of setting up a hearth in your own home if you do not already have one, despite my previous definition of the hearth as a place of fire, there is always the option of interpreting "fire" symbolically.  Along these lines, your hearth can be that place that anchors and nourishes your home, that feeds what you love most about it, the "flame" that makes your home a welcoming place.  For some people, it would clearly be the kitchen table where the family gathers for dinner to share stories of their day.  For some, it might be a place of literal fire, such as the woodburning stove (and do I ever wish I had one!) where herbal oils and brews are prepared.

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