Sunnasfolk, Silverhof, Hammarheim, etc.
I had been trying to find a local festival or a group that put on public rituals since I had arrived in the Las Vegas area in 1995. The closest heathen festival I could find was the Thing in Arizona, which I went to once. I still wanted something local. If I couldn't find a local festival or other public ritual in which to participate, then I was ready to try a kindred again, despite my disastrous first experience with kindred membership, because I had been informally involved with enough different groups to know that the unsafe one I happened to join was the exception, not the rule, and because after that experience I would know what to watch out for to make sure I would be safe. I tried to find a ritual group to join, and could not find one. I held sort of half heathen, half American style holiday celebrations in my old apartment, but as it was almost exclusively my non-heathen friends who attended, it wasn't completely what I was looking for. I eventually gave up on that and resumed looking for a festival to attend or group to join, but didn't find either in my local area until after I moved from a more urban part of the Vegas valley to a more suburban part at the end of 2001.
After moving from my apartment to our house, I thought, "Now that I have a real house and feel a permanent tie to the land, you know what, I'm going to do it myself."
I have been a gythia of Freya continuously since my dedication to her in 1989. Sometimes I am also the gythia of a kindred. I was gythia of Sunnasfolk, and now I am gythia of the group of heathens who celebrate at my home, which does not yet have a name.
This article explains the multiple definitions of godhi and gythia:
One of the first things I did when I moved from my old apartment to our house was to plant a pine tree that I had grown from seed, which had been living in a pot on my balcony. As gythia of Sunnasfolk, that was my sacred tree which supplied the aspergers used in blot. It's a big tree now, and now it supplies the aspergers for the rituals for my current group.
As with my American style holiday celebrations, most of the people who came to Sunnasfolk holidays were my friends and family who were not necessarily heathen, such as Etta the One Crone Band. She played the accordion and had automated drums, and provided German folk music for waltzing and other traditional dances for the party and feast time after ritual. She's a distant relative I discovered after moving to Henderson. There were actual heathens, too, but they were younger people who all dropped out over the years, mostly because of moving away from the area. College students graduated and moved. College age non-students joined the military and were deployed. Young brides had babies and apparently dropped off the face of the Earth. Sunnasfolk ended when all the other heathen members went away. That was over a decade ago now.
After Sunnasfolk Kindred, I belonged to Silverhof Kindred. Its leader, Eric Hammers, moved away and gave me my carved bone Thorshammar, and I assumed leadership of the group and tried to keep it going, but without Eric, the other members drifted away. After that, I found that several old members of Silverhof were members of Hammarheim, which had a core group of heathens but also a large group of non-heathen re-enactors and was focused on Renfaire and re-enactment events. I was not really that interested in belonging to a Renfaire guild, even though I enjoy the local faire and go every year, I didn't particularly want to spend all my weekends doing faire related things, and had neither the time nor the money to devote to that. I still wanted to be part of a local ritual group, though, so I participated in some of their Renfaire activities, in addition to their holiday celebrations. (The King credits me with saving him one night when he fell into a firepit.) Then Hammarheim sort of spun off into several other groups, all quite large, all with core groups of heathens and larger groups of non-heathens, all centered on our local Renfaire. I've participated in some holiday and other activities with one of them (the one headed by Hammarheim's old King) and visit the others at faire every year. In addition, I have celebrated both heathen and Wiccan holiday rituals at, or sponsored by, local store Well of the Moon, which closed last year.
The photo accompanying this post is me about to go parade with Hammarheim at my local Renfaire, in Viking costume, balancing my sword on my shoulder. I would have liked to post a group photo from one of the 3 kindreds I've belonged to, but not everyone is as totally out as me. (I know straw hats aren't very Viking; this is the Mojave Desert, and it's really hot in the sun. That's my Missouri farmer hat that I bought at PSG after wearing out the hat I brought with me.)
I participate in Pagan Pride Day-- my longed-for public ritual festival at last, even though heathenry is kind of a side event there and both the rituals and the workshops are dominated by Wicca and Wiccanate paganism. I've given talks on Asatru at PPD and one year sang in a band there. In 2014 I was an active member of the local PPD planning committee and led the drum circle.
Recently, I've been leading my own kindred again as a gythia of a group for modernist heathens who aren't interested in being part of a Renfaire guild, going largely with my American Celebration style in addition to blots and sumbels. Also, recently I've been attending local Asatru pubmoots, and may someday attend one of the rituals from that group. I've also attending rituals at the Temple of Sekhmet in Cactus Springs, although those are Egyptian-flavored Wiccan rituals rather than heathen ones. I was also a member, and sometimes the conductor, of the SageWomen Drum Circle, and later led the Unity Center Drum Circle. Also, during my book tour in 2010, I attended Pagan Spirit Gathering and participated in public rituals there. And in 2013, I attended PantheaCon and participated in rituals and led a public sumbel there.
So, in the 15 years I've lived in Henderson, I've formally belonged to 3 different kindreds, 2 of which I founded, and the other one I briefly ended up leading as it was winding down after its founder left. In those 15 years, I've also participated in rituals with 2 other kindreds, and in public rituals with both a nonprofit group and a for-profit store which has recently closed when its owner left the state. That's 7 different ritual groups and 1 permanent temple (not counting drum circles or out of state festivals. Also not counting the Dances of Universal Peace, almost forgot them. Mom and I used to attend with our next door neighbors. And not counting powwow dancing either, obviously, since that's a totally different tradition.) Groups come and go, but family, friends, and the gods remain. The land and the landwight remain. Both the local heathen and pagan community and the wider community on the net remain as well. The community is people, not institutions.
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Sunnasfolk, Silverhof, Hammarheim, etc.
I am fascinated by ritual. Rituals of all sorts. In every culture, in every age there are rituals to commemorate births and comings of age and marriages and deaths. There are high holy days set aside to celebrate the gods, goddesses, fallen (s)heroes, venerated Ancestors and important moments in a culture's mythos. Rituals can be elaborate festivals lasting many days or simple, daily actions such as changing the milk in an offering bowl or setting a piece of food aside for the Fae folk or just taking a moment to pray.
Rituals are made up of many components. There's the liturgy, the actual words that are spoken. There may be songs and offerings and costumes and incense and props of all sorts. For me, whether it's a grand affair or the most humble of rituals, stepping into ritual space is a beautiful and necessary act, because rituals ask us to leave the mundane "outside" of the temple and allow us to connect with life and our past and our future, right now, in the present....
"10,000 Pagans Raise Their Voices For Environmental Action"
This might be the headline this summer....
One of the reasons I was so deeply attracted to Religio Romana was the attention that is given to the Dead and the Ancestors. In February, the end of the traditional Roman religious year, the month is spent paying our dues to those powers higher than us that perhaps we've neglected either knowingly or unknowingly. This shows up with the observation of the Parentalia and the Feralia within it, both to recognize the Lares, the God/Spirits of our more spiritually-developed Ancestors and Heroes, and the Manes, the Spirits of our Beloved Dead and, in my personal tradition, the Spirits of the Unclaimed Dead.
The month of May, a month of purification and possibly named after the Maiores (Ancestors), also has an ancient festival in it focusing on the Dead. But this time it is not for the Manes, the “good” Dead, those who had been given proper rites in burial and were offered cultus by their families, but the Lemures, the angry, restless Dead.
Many symbols and images have held sacred meaning within religious traditions around the world and throughout time: the circle, the cross, the pillar, the pentagram. These symbols don’t necessarily mean the same thing in every tradition, and sometimes we can’t even be sure what the original significance was for each culture. One such symbol is the knot. You may be familiar with the tale of the Gordian knot from Greek and Roman mythology (the one Alexander the Great famously sliced with his sword) or the tyet of Isis from Egyptian mythology, often found in the form of amulets but also related to the knot on some Egyptian deities’ garments. But there’s another one you might not have heard of: the Minoan sacral knot. Let’s explore this symbol and see what we can discover about it.
The famed ‘snake goddess’ figurine from Knossos (in the photo at the top of this post) has an object that Sir Arthur Evans identified as a sacral knot between her breasts, at the top of the girdle that encircles her waist. A second ‘snake goddess’ figurine, also found at Knossos, has a similar, though larger, knot between the front edges of her top. I find it interesting that the snakes themselves form a large knot over her lower abdomen. I have to wonder if that has any significance. What do you think?...
No Horns On These Helmets is a short story anthology with a theme of Vikings, heathen cultures, and Norse and Germanic mythology. I edited this collection of 20 stories by 20 authors, and also have one story in it myself. The genres included are fantasy, science fiction, historical, urban fantasy, and retold folktales.
I was asked to edit this anthology for two reasons: I write and edit in the science fiction and fantasy genres, and as the author of Asatru For Beginners, I know my heathen material. Right from the selection of the title, No Horns On These Helmets, the publisher (Sky Warrior Books) and I decided we wanted this anthology to have stories that got the historical details and the details of heathen mythology and culture right. There actually is one story in the anthology that has a character who wears a horned helmet, but that story is one of the humor pieces. I selected the stories first and foremost for authenticity. Some of the authors are heathen or pagan, and some are not, but they all know their history and mythology.
Link to the book: