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The last year was very happy one for me, and full of wonderful travels, meetings with new friends, and blessings were poured like rain.
I really hope that the coming year will be also fulfilling and peaceful; and "let the God/s you honor, will send you everything you wish for, and gives their blessings to your friends, families, children and neighbors"...
For my first post in 2016, I want to share some of my devotional poetry again - written in honor of Thoth-Hermes-Djehuty.
I have my soul
ignited with your light…
when I whisper the words of love
I feel your wings
around, protecting me;
when I speak your praises -
it’s the only reason to know how to speak,
when I live for you -
it’s the only reason to remember again,
how to breathe…
- Þveginn ok mettr
- ríði maðr þingi at,
- þótt hann sé-t væddr til vel;
- skúa ok bróka
- skammisk engi maðr
- né hests in heldr,
- þótt hann hafi-t góðan
- Washed and fed
- shall a man ride to the Thing,
- though he be not clothed well;
- of his shoes and his britches
- should no man be ashamed
- nor of his horse neither,
- though he not a good one.
The Thing was the assembly to settle differences, plead suits and socialise in all kids of ways; in Iceland, the annual national gathering, the Alþingi is still the name for their governing body though the no longer meet out in the valley in tents (a few politicians have suggested that doing so would make the government work a little faster). Traditionally the law speaker recited at least a third of the laws that he had to keep memorised. Thus legal matters were decided there: as much as Icelanders pride themselves on having the longest existing democracy, the medieval version demonstrates that might (usually through having supporters, but sometimes through outright violence) made right. This verse counsels that one must make the best appearance possible. If your clothes were not the best at least make sure they are clean and mended, your shoes clean and your horse stepping out the best she can, even if she wasn't going to win any races -- or in the case of male horses, any fights. Horse fights were a brutal but popular sport.
- Snapir ok gnapir,
- er til sævar kemr,
- örn á aldinn mar;
- svá er maðr,
- er með mörgum kemr
- ok á formælendr fáa.
- Snapping and stretching,
- when it comes to the sea,
- the eagle to the billowy sea;
- so is the man,
- who among the crowds comes
- and has few supporters.
The man without sufficient supporters is like the eagle who swoops down at a fish only to see it disappear beneath the waves. Don't wait until you get to the gathering to form your alliances. Much of viking life was about gift giving and hospitality because you never knew when you would need an important ally. Feuds could break out over fairly small disagreements -- about where your land ended and your neighbour's began, or who got to use a certain path to summer pasturing.Alliances were essential.
- Fregna ok segja
- skal fróðra hverr,
- sá er vill heitinn horskr;
- einn vita
- né annarr skal,
- þjóð veit, ef þrír ro.
- Ask and reply
- shall each of the wise ones,
- he who wants to be called sensible;
- one must know
- but another shall not,
- all the people know, if three do.
Wisdom is highly prized: we have seen several verses on that topic. But being able to hold your own counsel is also important, the poet tells us. You should shrink from sharing secrets with anyone at all if you can avoid it. If you tell someone and they tell a third, then the secret will not be kept and everyone shall know. If you are heading to the Thing and bringing a suit, it's best not to let the cat out of the bag until you are certain you have sufficient support.
- Ríki sitt
- skyli ráðsnotra
- hverr í hófi hafa;
- þá hann þat finnr,
- er með fræknum kemr
- at engi er einna hvatastr.
- His power
- should each of the wise
- have in moderation;
- then he finds that
- when he comes among the bold
- that none is keenest of all.
- Power in this sense seems to be connected to the idea of anger (as the wise man said, 'Anger is an energy.') I connect it with the previous verse: just as you should not show your cards until you're ready with a firm phalanx of supporters, you should not show your anger until you read the room (or the tent). If your opponent is even more angry, he may be able to sway your supporters -- perhaps simply to not support your action, but worse, over to your opponent's side. Hold your anger in check: the sagas are full of unwise men who let their emotions lead them into rash decisions.
- -- -- -- --
- orða þeira,
- er maðr öðrum segir
- oft hann gjöld of getr.
- [missing lines]
- For those words,
- which a man says to another
- often he gets repayment.
In a similar vein, your angry words can be repaid by more of the same, while your measured speech may meet with likewise thoughtful responses. In the medieval world people were much more cognizant of being part of a community. Ostracism -- including outlawry and banishment -- put people in a truly vulnerable position that many could not survive. Men like the famous Grettir only survived such a fate because they were able to call upon both the friends they had made prior to being banished and were extraordinary enough to convince people to offer help despite the risks of aiding a fugitive.
- See more of the verses here.
The start of the Egyptian year was the First month of the Inundation (named Dhwty) and was a time of great celebration, coinciding with the rising of the Nile. “You shall follow Thoth, on that beautiful day of the start of Inundation.”
During this month there were three festivals for Thoth, held on the 4th, 19th and 21st. Entries from various calendars give the following descriptions of these feast days. 4th day - a “Festival of Thoth”. 19th day - a “Festival for Thoth, the very great, in the whole country”. [...] 21st day - a festival to “celebrate ‘the triumph of Thoth’ in the presence of Re”. [...]
Bomhard suggests that the first day of the new year, which coincided with the rising of Sirius, was the 19th July.
This would give the festivals in Dhwty the following modern dates; the 4th as the 22nd of July, the 19th and 21st as the 6th and 8th of August and the 26th as the 13th of August. (Quoted from: -- Lesley Jackson "Thoth, the history of Ancient-Egyptian God of Wisdom)
For this festival day, I'd like to share some of my devotional poetry...
In the year 981, the German missionary bishop Friedrich arrived in Iceland along with native guide and translator Thorvald Konradsson, an Icelander who had been converted while on the Continent.
Their mission failed because a skald (a word thought by some to be kin to the English word scold) composed a scurrilous little poem about the two of them which made them the laughing stock of Iceland. They were forced to leave the island in 986 because no one would take them seriously. You can't preach to people that are too busy laughing to listen.
Iceland officially accepted Christianity in the year 1000, largely because the Norwegian king held the sons of numerous prominent Icelandic families hostage: conversion by blackmail. Being Icelanders, of course, they added the parenthetical proviso: But if you want to keep offering to the Old Gods in private, well, that's your business.
But two lines of poetry had bought the Icelanders 14 years of freedom, and more than 1000 years later, we still remember them.
Sometimes, I can't sense a particular goddess's energy in the places I travel, even when they are palpably sacred. And sometimes, no matter how much I yearn for the feminine energy, the locations pulse with masculinity that can't be ignored. One particular place that sticks in my mind is Lake Coeur d'Alene in Idaho, where I've had the good fortune to spend snatches of summers here and there with my husband (a west coaster by birth). Since I'm feeling a bit nostalgic today, I thought I'd share a poem with you that I wrote years ago, upon my first experience at that magical lake.
Beannachtaí Féile Imbolg! Beannachtaí Féile Bríde. Blessings of Imbolc! Blessings of Brigid's Feast! At Imbolc we are at the crossroads of the winter, six weeks past winter solstice, six weeks until spring equinox.
The first days of February have been clear, frosty, but the sun has such a seductive heat in Ireland even in February. They say that weather like this augurs more cold, as the Cailleach is yet to release a vice-like grip on the land. If it had been overcast and mild then the springtime was come....