Tag Archives: Heathen

Web of Wyrd

 

Norns under Yggdrasil by L B Hansen

Welcome to the March, and my final, article for ‘The Pagan and the Pen’.

The topic this month is the ‘Web of Wyrd’, rather fitting I think. You will see what I mean as we go on. Today, I’ve asked Austin “Auz” Lawrence to give his comments on what the ‘Web of Wyrd’ is, but first, a little about Auz.

‘Austin Lawrence is active in the Pagan community of Ontario, Canada.  He has worn a hammer continuously for the last 14 years.  Austin is a civil servant with a Master’s degree in Anthropology.  He is a member of the American Vinland Association and is an oathed goði, who serves sometimes as a Heathen officiate for rites of passage, an advisor to seekers on resources and lore, a counsellor to friends in local kindreds, but mainly as a land steward for sacred space and as a facilitator of gatherings. Austin is one of the coordinators of Canada’s largest Pagan gatherings, the Kaleidoscope Gathering.  He is also a steward of Raven’s Knoll, a campground at which Pagan and Heathen gatherings are held, where sacred sites have been established for the use of our community.’

Wyrd

Hail to you.

In Heathenry, concepts of fate and predestination are complex and varied.  In the modern context, as probably in the ancient world, there are many different opinions on the subject and much misunderstanding.  Edain has invited me to provide you with a few words introducing to you how I view the concept of wyrd.

The Word Wyrd

The word wyrd is a noun in Old English from the verb weorþan, which means “to become.”  In Old Norse the term is urðr.  The term harkens back to a common root word in all Germanic languages, and has been reconstructed as the Proto-Indo-European root *wert– “to turn, rotate.”  It is associated with the Old English weorþ, with the meaning of “worth” in the sense of “value, amount due” as well as “honour, earned esteem.”

The Norns

The single concept of wyrd was the main focus of most writing in the Anglo-Saxon regarding fate, likely because it was appropriated and re-defined to more closely match Christian theology after the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons.  Wyrd is also the most basic concept of fate that is elaborated in Scandinavian belief through a more mythologically complex understanding of fate.

In the Old Norse tradition, there are three mythological women that personify fate.  In Gylfaginning 14, Snorri Sturluson,* writes: “Under the ash near the spring stands a beautiful hall; three maidens come out of this hall whose names are Urd, Verdandi, and Skul; these maidens determine the life of men; we call them norns.”

The names of the three Norns are often roughly translated as Past, Present, and Future.  However, their true nature differs in important ways from a common understanding in modern English.  From the verb verða (to be), comes the name Urðr for “became” and Verdandi for “becoming,” as well as Skuld with the sense of “shall be, intended, debt owed.”

The action of the laws of fate that the Norns embody is portrayed through the metaphor of women continuously weaving in passages of the Völuspá, and throughout skaldic literature and later folklore.  It is by weaving that the Norns lay down ørlǫg.  The term comes from the word ór with the sense of “out, from, beyond” and “primal, ancient” combined with the word lǫg with the meaning of “law” and the sense of “layers, precedent.”  Ørlǫg is both a process of becoming and a completed thing.  (In Anglo-Saxon contexts often the term wyrd comes to stand for some combination of ørlǫg and urðr.)

The Norns are not known to be related to either the Æsir gods or the adversaries of the Gods the jotunar.  Nor do any clear accounts of their origin exist.  The Norns personify time and action, yet they exist outside of time.  Even the most powerful of the Norse gods, Óðinn – he who rules the home of the gods in Asgarð and created the world from the jotun Ymir’s body – will eventually die because of the course of events.  The forces of fate that the Norns embody, apply to everyone; even a god that gave shape to the world we live in.  As one Old English poem states it: “Wyrd bið ful aræd.”  (Wyrd remains completely inexorable.)

Time, Wyrd and Ethics

In modern English, concepts of fate and predestination are terms with roots in the Romance languages, often now infected with Christian theology.  In Romance languages past tenses are conjugated as compounds, while future tenses are single word conjugations.  In Germanic languages, the past tense is a single word conjugation, while the future is a compound conjugation.  Bauschatz observes that this distinction embodies a fundamental difference in how fate is viewed in the two worldviews.  In essence, the Germanic worldview weights ‘fixed reality’ to the past, while Romance language cultures weight ‘fixed reality’ to the future.

The way I see it, everything that I am physically (human evolution, the genetic happenstance of my family tree) and mentally (ideas learned through culture, education, being socialized in a family, psychological reactions to life events) is the result of the past.  Although a product of the past that is more than me, I am still a unique being with my own free will.  This free will, however, is constrained by all that I am and all that I encounter in my life.  All of which is the product of the past.  But, part of ørlǫg is our unique decisions.  As we act, so the Norns do weave.

I personally experience the Heathen view of fate in this way: We live in an eternal present that is the sum of all past action.  The past very clearly and definitely exists and cannot be changed, as it is the basis for all reality, what our consciousness views as “right now.”  The past cannot be changed.  The future, however, is not fixed.  (Nor, does it actually ever arrive since it is always “today.”)  But, the future is predetermined in a manner.  The future is constrained by what has occurred in the past, since action in the past is constrained by that “which is,” the wyrd that gives form to all present reality and options.  Due to wyrd things are bound to happen.

There are deeper mysteries and philosophical implications to the Heathen view of fate than anything I have presented here.  It is all rather wyrd and confusing, but life is like that!  What Heathens tend to focus on is trying to embody what they believe is good character in their action, the virtues, since this is what our tradition teaches is the best way to meet the debt that past action has determined is owed.  At the least, as strophe 23 in the Hávamál reminds us, there is no use staying awake at night worrying about the past.  It is better not to worry, get some sleep, and in the morning meet the day as the best person you can be and do something about whatever might be troubling you.

Heilir þeirs hlýddu!

Austin “Auz” Lawrence

* Snorri Sturluson was a 12th century Icelandic politician, poet and antiquarian who wrote down a vast body of pre-Christian Scandinavian lore and myth in what has come to be known as “The Prose Edda.”

Selected Sources

  • The Oxford English Dictionary.
  • The Poetic Edda.
  • Bauschatz. The Well and the Tree: World and Time in Early Germanic Culture
  • Mitchell and Robinson. A Guide to Old English.
  • Simek. Dictionary of Northern Mythology.
  • Sturluson. The Prose Edda.
  • Zoëga. A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic.

A huge thank you to my special guest, Auz, for taking the time to share his thoughts.  His description and interpretation of the Web of Wyrd is excellent, in my opinion.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed the twelve glimpses into Heathen life during the past year. I’d promised to write articles for one year and then to re-evaluate my time, as I knew many of my writing and publishing projects would be coming to a head after that year. As predicted, my projects are rapidly moving into the fast lane and I will no longer have the time to donate to this column. A huge thank you to the owner and writers of The Pagan and Pen for allowing me to ramble on for this last year and for the excellent company along the way. 🙂

I wish you all peaceful and safe travels along your strands of the Web and hope the Norns give you a wonderful and interesting life.

Blessings to your Hearth,

Edain
Edain Duguay.com
Paranormal/Fantasy Novelist, Best Selling eBook Author and Award Winning Blog Writer.


Author of the blogs:
English, Pagan and in Canada
Gramarye, The Magical Homestead

Contact Edain @ Facebook Twitter YouTube Blogger

Runes

Handcrafted Rune Sets from Hernes Craftes.

This month, I want to talk a little about the Runes, which are an integral part of Heathen Tradition.

For a few years, albeit many years ago, I used to give family and friends Runic readings at New Year. Unfortunately, I only knew a small amount about them then and could only give a basic reading, but my readings were always well received.

Over time, and exposure to the deeper meanings of the Runes, I have come to learn that they are a most fascinating and interesting extant remnant of the Northern European way of Heathen life.

A bit of a background on the runes and what they mean can be found here on The Runic Journey website.

One of the best authorities, considered today in the Heathen community, is Diana Paxson’s book ‘Taking up the Runes’. A few years ago my husband was gifted this book and, as it is an excellent learning tool, I began to read it.  With time and practise, I now see the Runes differently from how I did all those years ago. I would like to put this in words for you, but I think that the author, Diana, who has kindly agreed to give her comments on Runes here for us all to share, can say it much better than I…

‘The runes are many things—shapes, sounds, symbols, mysteries. They can be used for purposes as mundane as writing sales slips, as they were in the trading town of Birka, or as doorways to the Nine Worlds. The goal of rune study should not be “mastery”, but integration.  Rather than seeking the runes as a path to power, whether over them, or over others, we can learn to work with them to focus and fulfill our potential and enrich our lives.

Because the runes operate in many dimensions, “taking them up” requires a multi-level approach, sensory, experiential, and spiritual. At the sensory level we learn the shapes and the sounds, and draw the runestaves.  According to educational research, most people have a dominant sense through which they learn most easily. Visual learners remember best by reading and contemplating. Aural learners do best by hearing and speaking. Kinesthetic learners need to physically interact with the object of study. However we have found that working with secondary senses can stimulate areas of the brain that are less used. When studying the runes, all the senses should be used—learning to recognize the shapes, chanting them, and writing them.

The next level is experiential, in which we learn the significance of the runes for the Germanic peoples and how they manifest in our own lives. Fehu, for instance, means cattle. Most of us would associate that with milk or steak—a tasty part of the diet, but no more.  In the old days in the North, cattle were the major food source and the measure of wealth, prosperity on the hoof. Studying Fehu is a good time to work on a budget, evaluate your resources, or look for a more rewarding job. When we understand Fehu, we can look at how we measure prosperity in our own lives. How do we get it? How do we tend it? And how do we use it? Fehu can also lead us to a study of the Vanir, the clan of gods who were particularly (though not solely) associated with agriculture and prosperity.

The third level of integration is spiritual. Once you have internalized knowledge of a rune through study and experience, you can use each rune as a doorway to meditation, in which your unconscious mind combines the information in new ways, and the powers behind the runes lead you to new insights. Contemplating the runes in various combinations illuminates new aspects of each one.

The runes are a basic tool for working magic in the Northern Tradition, a key to Germanic beliefs and culture, and a path for spiritual development. Divination may be the most popular application, but it is by no means the only one. Once you have internalized their meaning, you will find yourself using them in many ways, including healing and protection. The runes have been called a magic alphabet, or perhaps an alphabet of magic. Certainly they bring magic into our lives.’

~Diana L. Paxson is the author of twenty-nine novels of historical and legendary fantasy, including ‘Sword of Avalon’ and the ‘Wodan’s Children’ trilogy, and non-fiction books such as ‘Taking up the Runes’ and ‘Essential Asatru’. She is an Elder in the Troth and edits their journal, ‘Idunna’. She is also a pioneer in the recovery of oracular seidh and has just finished a book on the history and practice of oracle work. www.avalonbooks.net , www.westria.org , www.hrafnar.org

I would just like to say a huge thank you to Diana, for taking the time out of her busy life to contribute here today.

Over the years, I’ve tried both the Runes and Tarot and somehow, the Tarot just doesn’t fit with me at all whereas the Runes seem to be just right and are still a wonderful journey of discovery.

Why not get yourself a set of Runes, like the ones pictured above and take the time to get to know them and their various meanings. They are a great tool for any spiritual practise, whether Heathen or Pagan.

Go on, discover something new.

Blessings to your Hearth,

Edain
Edain Duguay.com
Paranormal/Fantasy Novelist, Best Selling eBook Author and Award Winning Blog Writer.


 

Author of the blogs:
English, Pagan and in Canada
Gramarye, The Magical Homestead

Contact Edain @ Facebook Twitter YouTube Blogger

Heathen Celebrations

As we know, Pagans, generally, celebrate the turning of the ‘Wheel of the Year’ with the following festival days:

 

Imbolc (February)

Ostara/Spring Equinox (March)

Beltaine (May)

Litha/Summer Solstice (June)

Mabon (August)

Lughnasadh/Autumn Equinox (September)

Samhain (October)

Yule/Winter Solstice (December)

 

In Heathenry, there’s not one structure of celebration like the Pagan ‘Wheel of the Year’. However, here is a selection of events that are generally celebrated, they are somewhat different from, but still have similar attributes to, the Pagan ones. Of course, these are modern-day interpretations of the ancient Heathen celebratory days.

 

The Charming of the Plow/Disting /Solmonað* (February)

Summer Finding/ Eostre/Hreðmonað* (March)

Walburga/May Day (May)

Midsummer/Summer Solstice (June)

Freyfaxi/Thing’s Tide (August)

Harvest/Háligmonaþ* (September)

Winter Finding/Winter Nights (October)

Yuletide (Jul, Jól) (December)

(* Represents the names of the Anglo-Saxon celebrations mentioned by Bede in his work ‘The Reckoning of Time’ (Latin: De temporum ratione) dated 725.)

 

A caveat to the above list, most Heathens don’t celebrate all these dates and the dates are movable. Basically, many Heathens celebrate their festival days depending on the movement of seasons within their own countries rather than a rigid calendar.

For more information of the meanings of these celebratory days please consult the following websites:

The Ring of Troth

Irminsul Ættir

Anglo-Saxon Heathenry

 

Whatever the date and reason for a celebration there is usually a blot. What is a ‘blot’, you might ask…

A blot is a Heathen ritual. The word ‘blot’ comes from the word ‘blood’ and means a sacrifice. The Ancestors thought it perfectly normal to feed a community with an animal, which had been ritually slaughtered at such a rite. Today, Heathens make different sacrifices and there are good mythological reasons to use mead or other alcoholic drink for this. The part of the blot where it’s drunk is called ‘Sumble’ (see my ‘Sumble 101’ article), and Heathens will make ritual toasts and boasts whilst passing a horn of hallowed mead around.

However you celebrate the passing of the seasons and year, remember to spare a thought and perhaps a horn of something for the Ancestors, without whom, none of us would be here.

Blessings to your Hearth,

Edain
Edain Duguay.com
Paranormal/Fantasy Novelist, Best Selling eBook Author and Award Winning Blog Writer.

Author of the blogs:
English, Pagan and in Canada
Gramarye, The Magical Homestead

Contact Edain @ Facebook Twitter YouTube Blogger

Yule and the Wild Hunt

Odin’s Wild Hunt by PN Arbo 1872

Yule is one of the most important celebrations in the Heathen calendar and is usually celebrated on or around the 21st of December. The date of Yule/Winter Solstice can vary by a day or so each year, this year the Solstice actually falls on Tuesday, 21st December at 11.38pm.

For this month’s article, I’ve invited Vaygar Yngvi Elmersson, the Godi/spiritual leader of Rheinwood Hearth Kindred, to give his comments on Yule and the Wild Hunt.

Thoughts on Yule
By Vaygar Yngvi Elmersson

The concept of Christmas has often been a source of disappointment for me even after a life-long experience in Christianity. Coming into Heathenry twelve years ago, it was such an easy and enjoyable transition to observe Yule instead of the Christ-mass. Yule is possibly a Heathen’s most highly celebrated holiday. As a matter of fact, many of the traditions used in Christmas have their origin in the pre-Christian expression of Yule; the most immediately notable is that of the bringing of a tree inside the home and decorating it. So the idea of honestly celebrating something more aligned to my Germanic heritage excited me beyond measure, minus any guilt that might be levied against me via the Church hierarchy.

Heathen Yule actually has two stories prevailing within it. My initial exposure to Yule was that which surrounds the Winter Solstice. The second story is that of The Wild Hunt.

The Wild Hunt is a story involving Odin and his cohorts riding through the skies during the dark nights of Winter snatching up souls who venture outside their homes. As horrid as this spectacle might seem, to me, it makes perfect sense considering the land and the origin of this Myth. Coming from the Northern European Tradition such as this story does, in my opinion, it has been told, retold and embellished in an effort to discourage anyone from leaving the confines of their home during the dark and snowy nights of winter. Realistically speaking, it was simply dangerous to go outside one’s home for anything after dark for fear of getting lost or misguided in the night. It was easier for adults to tell children horror stories to scare them into submission rather than fill their heads with fanciful ideas. Connected to the Wild Hunt are even more realistically scary ideas of Berserkers and wild animals. Superstitions can play a vital role in controlling group behavior. I can see those of the Warrior/Viking aspects of Heathenry preferring to adhere to the stories of the Wild Hunt as it makes for much better story telling around the hearth-fire through Winter. This continues to be played out in today’s society with Heathen groups focused more on masculine deities like Odin, Thor and Tyr.

The Yuletide Celebration that I encourage with Rheinwood Hearth Kindred is that which surrounds the more agrarian nature of the Winter Solstice; that being, the shortest day and the longest night of the year with the encouraging of the return of the sun and warmth to the land. I have replaced “The Twelve Traits to Remember” previously offered by Swain Wodening; often connected to the Twelve Days of Yule (predecessor to the Twelve Days of Christmas), with our commonly held Nine Noble Virtues plus three very important dates of Mother‘s Night, the Winter Solstice and 12th Night which in my opinion were overlooked by Swain‘s effort. Rheinwood’s Twelve Days of Yule, starting roughly around December 20th, are patterned thus:

1st day of Yule – Mother’s Night-honoring the feminine
2nd Day of Yule – The Winter Solstice-encouraging the return of the sun
3rd Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Courage
4th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Truth
5th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Honor
6th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Fidelity
7th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Hospitality
8th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Discipline
9th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Industriousness
10th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Self-Reliance
11th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Perseverance
12th night-oaths, boasts and toasts

Any time during these Twelve Days of Yule, Rheinwood Hearth Kindred can meet for feasting and celebration! We also don period garb in an effort to connect with our culture, ancestors and gods. We celebrate our relationships with each other as Kindred by speaking words and sharing mead over our Kindred drinking horn.

The Rheinwood Hearth Kindred is located in Wichita, Kansas. We invite you to check us out.

For many Heathens the Wild Hunt is a strong tradition, which they still uphold even in this modern age. If you would like to find out more about the Wild Hunt, please go to each of the following links as they all have different points of view:

The Wild Hunt – Wikipedia page

The Wild Hunt – Orkneyjar page

The Wild Hunt – Hlidskjalf page

However you celebrate Yule, whether it’s by raising a horn to the ancestors or quietly sharing time with your loved ones, I wish you and yours a very Happy Solstice.

Blessings to your Hearth,

Edain
Edain Duguay.com
Paranormal/Fantasy Novelist, Best Selling eBook Author and Award Winning Blog Writer.



Author of the blogs:
English, Pagan and in Canada
Gramarye, The Magical Homestead

Contact Edain @ Facebook Twitter YouTube Blogger