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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Celebrating Ostara

American Asatru has a major holiday that does not exist in Icelandic Asatru, which is Ostara. Ostara is the heathen and pagan Easter. Because Easter is a major cultural holiday in the USA, with many holiday traditions in which people of all faiths participate, it has also become a major holiday among many American pagans and heathens. Like many of the seemingly secular traditions surrounding Christian holidays, Easter has pagan roots. 

Ostara is the Germanic spelling of Eostre, the English goddess name that developed into the word Easter. A goddess of spring and dawn, Ostara's sphere of influence is the fertility of animals, as exemplified by the fertility symbols the bunny and the egg. The holiday of Ostara can be celebrated on the Spring Equinox, or for a few weeks after. The American secular holiday tradition of hiding dyed chicken eggs and then having the children hunt for them replicates the way real farmers hunt for the eggs of free range chickens. 

The Easter Egg symbol is used in different ways by different individual heathens and pagans and by different heathen and pagan groups. Some families do the traditional American Easter Egg Hunt for their children. Like other Americans and some Europeans, they might dye or decorate the eggs at home, a project in which children can participate. Others buy candies in the shape of eggs, chicks, and bunnies as substitutes for the real thing.

Some kindreds fill blown eggs with confetti and break them on each other's heads to bless each other. There was a group in California that had an annual Ostara campout at which eggs and nickels were placed in a replica Viking longship, and the boat was set on fire and launched into the Pacific Ocean as a sacrifice to the sea goddess, Ran. 

Find out more about American holidays in my book American Celebration: http://www.amazon.com/American-Celebration-Erin-Lale/dp/1304916138/ref=la_B004GLACQQ_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425318146&sr=1-3

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One of the frequent questions I get from budding Heathens is "Where do I start?" . After fielding two such questions in the same day from a divination client and prospective student, I began this series of articles. More resources can be found on my website.


 Shirl Sazynski_Come With Me Love

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One of the frequent questions I get from budding Heathens, Asatruar and Norse pagans is "Where do I start?" After fielding two such letters in one day from a divination client and a prospective student (who already summons spirits in a Ceremonial framework but wanted to connect with the Norse Gods), I began compiling a page of resources on my website-- and this series of blog posts.


Heathen from the Swedish group Forn SedSince Heathenry is a living faith of active practice, the best place is always with a good local group, a kindred of kindhearted people open to teaching you. To find a good kindred, ask around among your pagan community or attend a regional Heathen gathering, a moot. Go to a Pagan Pride Day in your area, stop in at the metaphysical shops and book stores, and look for websites and Facebook pages for nearby groups, especially those who offer teaching and community outreach or participate in larger events.

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Watery Wednesday Community News Jan 147

In today's Watery Wednesday community news, we've got a new Asatru temple in Iceland; Heathens recognized by the U.S. military; Pagans in Costa Rica?; John Becket on social costs of being Pagan; a new location for the Sacred Harvest festival.

It's about time: the first Heathen temple built in Iceland in a millennium is coming soon.

The United States Army has finally added Ásatrú and Heathen as options in its religious preference list.The Norse Mythology blog covers the story.

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  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    Anne, I'd love to take credit for John Beckett's writing, but I can't.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

One of the frequent questions I get from budding Heathens, Asatruar and Norse pagans is "Where do I start?" After fielding two such letters in one day from a divination client and a prospective student (who already summons spirits in a Ceremonial framework but wanted to connect with the Norse Gods), I began compiling a page of resources on my website-- and this series of blog posts.


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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Good summary! That's the exact reason I wrote Asatru For Beginners, because when I was manager of the MSN Asatru Group, beginners
Faithful Friday Jan 2, 2015

It's a new year, and our Faithful Friday post today looks a bit like the Roman crossroads god Janus (for whom January is named): looking backwards to 2014 and forward to 2015 at the same time. A tour of Asgard, did you leave your religion this year, Tonanztin (aka Our Lady of Guadeloupe); welcome to Aweism; did you miss this major interfaith milestone?

This post from Eric Scott
(one of our favorite religion writers of the past year) takes us on a guided tour of Asgard. (Ok, well, it's actually Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, but who's counting?)

Did you leave your religion in 2014? These four writers (collected in one essay at the site "Longreads") did, and if you left your family faith (especially if you were previously Christian) their stories may resonate.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Festival Memories

Continuing my story of my personal journey on my heathen path, it was the early 1990s and I was still living in Sonoma, California. I had some great times at heathen festivals Ravenwood and the Ostara gathering in the Marin headlands, and the CAW Convocation.

A quote from my memoir:

      “There were two campout festivals a year, one in the spring on the beach, where we rolled out our sleeping bags on metal cots in an old World War One bunker in the Marin headlands, where we gathered at dawn to ignite a model longship loaded with eggs and nickels and push it into the sea as an offering to the goddess Ran, the other in the summer, where we pitched tents in the redwoods, held toasting rituals called sumbel, and a general rite to all the gods.  At the summer festival, the feeling was very much that the rituals were an excuse to get together, hold discussions with people who actually knew what we were talking about when we spoke of our personal discoveries and academic theories about our religion, and of course to sing pagan songs by the campfire all night, the selections becoming progressively more bawdy as the night wore on.  One year the summer festival happened to be Fourth of July weekend, so we all drove up to the bare top of the hill in a van and sat in the warm breeze, looking across the water to San Francisco.  All we could see of the fireworks display was colored lights in the heavy fog that clung to the City, though the rest of the bay was clear.  Pink, green, blue, yellow, the fog flickered.  We called it “wizard lights” and made jokes about how our primitive ancestors would have interpreted them.  We laughed all the way back down the hill.  I was one of very few who did not pair off for the evening, either with someone they brought with them, or an old acquaintance from other Festivals, or a perfect stranger they would not recognize in the morning.

     Nighttime in the redwood forest, before the music and dancing started up for the evening, held an otherworldly quiet.  Fog came in like muffling cotton.  The torches under the trees cast rings of light through the mist, seeming to splinter into rainbow-edged crystals as from far away came the ancient, dragonish sound of drummers heat-tuning their bodhrans over the fire.  It was a moment of pure magic.  All seemed still and at the same time I saw air moving across the firelight, for the mist off the ocean looked like air grown visible.  The eldritch woods, black against the starry sky, the red flame of torches, the glowing gold mist; it was an elvish night.”

 I also attended pagan festivals as well as heathen ones.
 
A quote from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts:

      “Because the heathen group Ring of Troth was based in San Francisco...I also looked for any pagans closer to home, and came across The Church of All Worlds, which was based on... a science fiction novel.  The devotees of Stranger in a Strange Land did not, of course, practice cannibalism, as did the Martians in the book.  Water drinking was their main activity, and nudity as weather permitted.  I did not actually join their group formally, but I did attend their meetings for a time, mainly because they were held in Sonoma.  I was originally attracted to them after attending one of their beach rituals, where the priest invoked the god into himself and I sensed power there.  It seems odd that there could be such eloquence in the mere flaring of nostrils, but that is what I chiefly remember:  when the god awoke within him, tasting the wind as if newly after a long time discorporeate, and then opened his eyes and spoke, I really felt I watched an entity larger than time squashed down to three dimensions.

     "The CAW Convocation was held on some private land north of Sonoma.  I went as a vendor. ... I spread my mummy bag right on the dry summer grass, and left my glasses on so I could look up at the stars before I fell asleep.  It was a wonderfully dry night, and I did not wake up covered with dew as I’d worried.  I joined a small group cooking by the edge of the flat area, looking down into the oak and madrone woods below.  Some fog was starting to roll up the hillside, which if it reached us would turn the whole Convocation dark and cold and wet.  A dark-haired man named Duncain positioned his folding chair facing the fog and announced he was going to stare down the fog bank and save the festival.  Several hours went by, while everyone else cooked, hauled water, put tents in order, and so forth.  Someone asked him to help with something, but he said not to break his concentration, he was pushing away the fog.  At midmorning the bank of ground clouds started receding, and by noon the whole woods below were visible.  Everyone cheered and proclaimed him a successful weather witch, and gave him the eke-name Duncain the Fog Bane, by which he was called from then on.”

Around '94 or '95, after I started studying the Bersarkr martial art and magical tradition, I performed the Bersarkr dance to festival drums one night at the Ostara gathering.

A quote from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts:

      “In the evening, when Diana and her group set up for seidh in the bunker and most of the people at the festival went inside to watch, a small number of people were left around the campfire.  Some people started drumming, and I found myself tuned into Angela’s drum.  She was a heartbeat drummer, regular and unchanging as time.  I felt myself caught by the power of her drumming, and I began to dance.  The berserker trance came over me, and I leapt into the air, doing martial arts kicks and then coming back down to land growling and moving to the rhythm.  I got overheated and dumped my cloak and sweater on the table, and I was vaguely aware that I no longer had my glasses on, but I could still see, and that was a peculiar sensation.  Occasionally the drums stopped and I headed for the bench like a spent racehorse, but then they started again, doing a different style, but each time Angela’s drum caught me and held me and the trance returned.  Each time I jumped back up, feeling exhausted somewhere inside but unable to stop, unable even to moderate my movements as I would have if I had been dancing some other way than entranced.  I continued to dance at full force, leaping and gyrating and kicking.

     Berserker folklore says one does not recognize one’s friends while berserk, but I recognized Vlad when he approached within the thirty foot circle all the others had the good sense to give me.  Then he stopped cold and stared at me a moment, and retreated.  I continued to dance.  Then it was over.  I felt boneless as I staggered toward the water faucet to relieve the burning of dehydration.  Then I came back to the picnic tables by the campfire and sat down, and put my glasses back on.  I felt wobbly all over.  “How long was I dancing?” I asked.

     Angela replied, “About three hours.”

     “Hours?!  I usually can’t sustain the berserkrgangr for more than one song.  And why didn’t I have an asthma attack?”

     Angela asked, “Fox?”

     “Lynx.”

     “I thought it was something small and furry.”  She nodded to herself.

     “You saw?”

     “Yes.”

     “Most people can’t, you know,” I said.  “In old stories they say berserkers are shapeshifters, but only the psychically gifted can see the change.  Though I should have expected you could, since you’re such a powerful drummer.”

     “Thank you.”

     It was only then that I noticed the naked man.  He was busily cutting himself on the arms, legs, and chest with a straight razor.

     “What’s with him?” I asked Angela.

     She replied, “He says he’s letting the goddess Diana have her way with him.”

     “Hmm.  I’ve never met a male Dianic before.”

     Through all this, despite getting language back right away, I had had to work at slowly unbending my fingers from their clawed state.  Now the fire threw a loud popping spark and I jumped up and my hands clawed up again.  Vlad offered a sheathed knife as a pry bar to unbend my fingers, and it actually worked.

     “I forgot,” I said, “it’s Loki’s Day.  April first.  He had to show us he was around.”   

At the time, that was not a controversial thing to say. Like in Icelandic and European Asatru, there was nothing remotely controversial about Loki in the American Asatru that I first encountered in California in the 90s.

As I grew closer to Odin while studying the Bersarkr tradition, I started receiving more inspiration for my writing. That's another story, and will be the subject of my next post, Poetic Inspiration.

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