A Mother’s Night Prayer

Tonight as the sun sets begins the Yuletide for me with Mother’s Night.

To friends near and far, may you have a joyous Yuletide blessed with the laughter or friends and family (even if socially distanced). May the Gods and our ancestors continue to bestow their blessings upon us, and strengthen our luck for the days that lie ahead.

For those with difficulty reading the graphic…

Let us honor our Mothers, who through joy and suffering endured so that their children, and their children’s children might not just survive but thrive.

I call to our mothers, the light and the life bringers who have guided us from darkness onto the paths our ancestors have traveled, and now the paths we walk down.

All-mother Frigga I hail thee, and I thank thee. For the immeasurable blessings, your guidance and your wisdom. You see all things, even if I may not know them. May your counsel follow me into the year ahead and be the compass from which I navigate.

May the blessings of the Disir be upon you all.

Wyrd Dottir, Mother’s Night Prayer

Say the Names of our Gods and Goddesses

Recently in an online group I am in, there was a post which greatly annoyed me because it hit on one of my biggest pet peeves: a tendency in the interfaith community and some parts of the pagan community to use vague terms in prayers, offerings, or when talking about our sacred powers: Oh Spirit, Great Lady, Oh Goddess.

The offending post in this case:

"The Owl, symbol of the Goddess, represents perfect wisdom. Owls have the ability to see in the dark and fly noiselessly through the skies. They bring messages through dreams. The Owl is the bird of mystical wisdom and ancient knowledge of the powers of the moon."
Double Facepalm Image Meme

To which I responded:

Which Goddess? People died in worship of their Gods and Goddesses. Please use the deities’ names. Otherwise you are complicit in continuing the destruction of what Christianity wrought to the pre-Christian religions of the world.

Wyrd DOTTIR

I meant every damn word of it too.

The spread of Christianity focused on stripping our Gods and Goddesses of their names to destroy their identities. Their idols were destroyed or defaced, their holy shrines destroyed, their worshippers killed, oppressed, and sometimes even enslaved. We know in some ancient cultures denying someone their name was to curse and destroy them. We see this often in the archaeological record in Egypt as just one example. That is what Christianity wants, to take their names, to obfuscate, to destroy so only their God is left.

Christianity took our Gods and Goddesses, they re-branded them to erode what had existed before Christianity tried to usurp their sacred places. Some of the pre-Christian deities became re-branded as Saints while others were vilified becoming associated with devils and things inimical. We see an euhemeristic process introduced where Gods and Goddesses were reduced to just remarkable humans, and in the process eroded the connections of the sacred from them in human consciousness.

Then you had Christian scholars who came and started studying every God or Goddesses as merely aspects of the same divinity. This essentially lump-sums these deities together into ever increasing definitions of marginalization, making them merely footnotes. Afterall the operating ideological paradigm of Christian thought is that Christianity has the only real God so why should you treat these other religions with any claim to their own divinity, to their own power or sacredness? And then you had the revival of modern paganism where people were using this Christian written research that looked at Gods and Goddesses as an amalgam and re-made it into their watered down version of a pseudo religion.

If you’re at a pub, and ordered a pint you want to get what you paid for not some watered down over priced beer. So if you’re going to be a pagan who is a true polytheist, and isn’t afraid of specifically saying their names when they pour out libations, then use the names that the ancient practitioners called their Gods, their Goddesses. Otherwise take your watered down cheap swill and leave. You’re not helping.

Words have power, meaning and nuance. We know in many instances the words and the meaning of a deity’s name helps to show that power too. In some cases all we have left is their name because Christianity so destroyed everything else. When you lump sum deities as a vague unspecified group, you say they aren’t worthy of learning more about their individual uniqueness. You are saying, even unconsciously, that they are less than.

These Gods and Goddesses had names. They were worshipped by Their names. People died in worship of Them, people STILL die and are tormented in worship of them. So use their names. If you can’t call them by their names, get out of the way for those of us that do. Because by refusing to be specific, you are an active participant in the undermining of these Ancient polytheistic traditions. You are in fact being a destroyer and an active participant in the erosion of our polytheisms.

And if you’re still resisting this concept let me ask you something:

How would you feel if for the rest of your life every family member, friend, lover, co worker, neighbor and stranger merely addressed you by : ‘hey you’, while everyone else was also called ‘hey you’. Imagine if you ask ‘hey you’ to do something, it’ll probably get ignored because how does anyone know who the request was for?

So use Their Names. Be specific in your prayers.

The Morrigan is not Pele, nor are either of those goddesses Aphrodite, let alone are they Taweret. Freya is not Sif, nor is she Sigyn, Syn, Skadi, Hel, Skuld, and so many, many more.

SAY THEIR NAMES.


Polytheism is the Reason for the Season

It’s that time of year again, and this is worth a re-share.

Wyrd Designs

Today when we hear people talk about the so-called war on Christmas, it is a battlecry of Christians who feel they have a monopoly on the winter holidays. A common refrain being Christ is the reason for the season. But in Early America, Christmas was outlawed as a criminal act, or was viewed as having no consequence at all by some of our founding forefathers–especially those of Puritan background.

15326592_1715592665132897_6989532568602563026_n.jpg This image is from a real public notice from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, published 1659 in what will later become Boston.

To understand why this notice even existed, first a bit of a history lesson is necessary.
In colonial America, the Puritanical leaders (for this article I am including the Pilgrims in this group) felt that Christmas was indeed a ‘Pagan’ celebration (as explained by Puritan leadership including the minister Increase Mather of the Massachusetts Colony, such festivities were rooted in…

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Glad Lussinatt

Yule is a magical time of year, and when we look to the various holiday traditions from Krampus and Saint Nicholas, to the celebration of Saint Lucia Night, we see the pre-Christian customs as remnants scattered across all of December. But I wanted to acknowledge Lussi, as her feast day approaches. Unfortunately most information about her doesn’t appear in English, but primarily in folk traditions and their accounts from Norway and Sweden (and therefore, in those languages). Usually what we find in English relates more to the Christianized syncretization, and the church’s “Saint Lucia” story.

Some scholars have posited that the Christianized Saint Lucia and the customs tied to her celebration in modern times is most likely a syncretization of pre-Christian customs of Lussi (from areas of Norway and Sweden) with the Italian Christian martyr Saint Lucia. Folk traditions describe Lussi having a Wild-Hunt (oskorei) like horde called the Lussiferda.

Lussebrud from Jösse district, in the Värmland region of Sweden.  
The figure is about 150 cm high (4.9 feet) and was used before 1930. The Nordic Museum.

In some regions of Sweden there would be the lussebrud (the Light Bride). Sometimes the lussebrud was merely a female dressed for the occasion, but sometimes this may be a male or female dressed up in straw as a bride, or the lussebrud may be a straw doll. The lussebrud may also be accompanied by the lussebock (Light buck). This is similar to other Wild Hunt figures in the Northern Tradition: Perchta & the Perchten, Saint Nicholas (possibly influenced from Odinic origins) and the Krampus. Like other Wild Hunt figures, she has ties to the reward/punishment folk traditions. Lussi or her horde would come down chimneys and steal misbehaving children. Lussi might destroy chimneys if certain tasks weren’t done before her night: spinning of thread or yarn was to be finished, cleaning finished, slaughtering for the year to get through the winter, and other such tasks. Symbolically, these were all tasks you’d need to help you survive a winter. If people hadn’t finished all their work, they feared Lussi would smash their chimneys.

The celebration of Lussi’s Night was meant to be culturally connected with the winter solstice, and that is what we see with the older Julian calendar. We can tell this from the clue we have of the celebration’s name from parts of Norway, where it was called ‘Lussia Langnatte’ (or Lussi’s Long Night). In Sweden it’s usually referred more simply as Lussinatta (Lussi’s Night). When a new calendar methodology was adopted, the Gregorian Calendar, we ended up with her celebration on December 13, and the astronomical solstice falling about a week later.

Today in Sweden, Lussinatt falls on the evening of December 12. There exists a multiplicity of folk traditions that can mark the celebrations. Some are secular, some are tied to the church. Previously as we near the modern era, you would have lussegubbar, or youth dressed up like Lussi and go carousing door to door in the countryside singing, in a tradition that seems reminiscent of caroling and wassailing traditions we see elsewhere. Today the songs are still sung especially the Sankta Lucia (which is believed to originate from an Italian folk song, rebranded with Swedish lyrics), but the processions are a bit less wild as they tend to wind their way through town from schools and churches, to nursing homes and hospitals. Today many towns will have an elected (or chosen by random lottery) Lucia who leads the procession (Luciatåg) wearing a candled wreath (known as a luciakrona, which was traditionally worn as a crown decorated with evergreen lingonberry branches), accompanied most usually by young girls as her handmaidens (tärnor) in evergreen wreath crowns and more recently young boys as star boys (stjärngossar) in pointed white hats holding gold stars. Everyone is all dressed in white holding candles. Sometimes they are also accompanied by gingerbread men (pepparkaksgubbar), or in some places they might dress as the local elves.

Traditionally the crowns were adorned with real candles and open flames. But in a move towards safety most places have shifted to using electric lighted versions of the candled wreath instead. In addition to the crowns there are also more candle-ladened items associated with the observance called Ljuskrona (ceiling mounted chandelier) or Ljustaken (table-top candelabara) usually, though some other names include: julstaken, julkrona, or jul tradet. Sometimes they were adorned with handcut and fringed paper decorations, different patterns were known to be prevalent in specific communities in Sweden. These Ljustaken are usually hidden until December 13, then brought out and decorated. It’s quite common for this to be a family activity. They would be part of the decorations in the home throughout the entirety of the yuletide until January 13, when they are put away again until next December.

The practice of Lussevaka – to stay awake through Lussinatt (the evening of December 12) to guard oneself and the household against evil, not only fits symbolically well with a solstice celebration of longest night, but also brings to mind the description from Bede that Mother’s Night was observed for the entire night as well. Today it’s not uncommon for their to be parties as part of the lussevaka observance, sometimes with people actually cooking and making the lussekatter rolls they’d eat in the morning. People may use the time to work on handcrafted projects. Some will drink and be merry with their peers. There are old references to folk traditions of writing Lussi’s name on doors and fences, or in other areas of having weapons at hand (or hanging them up) while you observed the vigil. In some areas you were meant to feast to keep you strong through the terrors of the night. It was a night where animals were said in some areas to be able to speak. Livestock in some areas were given a treat of extra food, or a lussebit, meant to help them survive the evil that may lurk during the long night. There’s some folk customs that include women invoking Lussi for oracles on their future husbands. Others that have the eldest daughter in her role as light bringer might walk the property with her candle from house, through barn and stable, and around the boundaries of the farmstead to ward it from evil. One imagines in pre-Christian times this was probably accompanied by prayers of invocations to the Holy Powers for protection.

In Northern Europe, especially some of the most extreme latitudes there can be very, very little daylight indeed. We know that lack of sun, can be a lack of both mental well-being, but physical well-being as well causing vitamin D deficiencies. The celebration marks the start of the holiday season. On the morning of December 13, households will designate a member of the household (usually the eldest daughter) to serve drinks and baked treats from pepparkakor (ginger snap cookies), mulled wine (glögg), coffee as well as saffron baked goods like cookies or the more iconic treat lussekatter in honor of Lucy’s Day. The yellow color used in those saffron spiced treats are a nod to Lussi’s connections as a light bringer. One presumes this could be the conclusion in some areas to the warding of the property from the night before, and the corresponding nightlong vigil.

While there’s a few different Christian origin stories for Saint Lucia (or Lucy), one of them has her bringing light to persecuted Christians hiding in the catacombs surrounded by the dead with nothing but a lit wreath to guide her. Symbolically, traversing the dark and realm of the dead with light, seems to fit with pre-Christian symbolism. There is another story of how a woman with golden radiance appeared in a boat with food during a time of great hunger as well, who disappeared once the food was delivered. Another comes from what seems to be an attempt by the Church to demonize her, saying she was another wife of the Biblical Adam that consorted with Lucifer, and the unholy product of their union would be the demons or lussiferda.

The traditional depiction of Saint Lucia is of a woman clad in white. We know this is sacred iconography that is referenced time and again in Northern Tradition areas. We see this mentioned in Tacitus’ Germania that priest or priestesses wore white, we also see in the folk traditions mentioned by Grimm that women clad in white appeared at dawn for Ostara/Eostre.

Lussesang – A Song for Lussi

Watch on YouTube

While I don’t agree with the song’s description saying this is for Freya (and thus assuming that Lussi is an aspect of Freya), the lyrics only mention Lussi and Alfrodul (an attested name for Sunna) and the lyrics are perfect for Lussinatt. If you visit this song on youtube, you can find the lyrics in Swedish and English if you expand the description.

Hail to you Lussa holy among the holy, the bright dis of Yule. Drive with your light from the valleys of the Earth the darkness of midwinter.

(Excerpted English translated Lyrics from Lussesang)


At its heart this is a festival of lights in the darkness where observed in Europe, including Sweden, Norway, Finland, as well as parts of Estonia, Croatia, and Italy. Denmark began observing it in 1944 when Franz Wend imported it from Sweden as a cultural counter protest to Nazi Germany and their occupation of Denmark. Plus across the diaspora of communities created through Swedish immigration elsewhere. The Nordic Museum has a small gallery of photos of Lussinacht celebrations from the first half of the 20th Century.

I will leave you with this striking, cinematographic observance of Lussi’s Night “Light in the Darkness” by Jonna Jinton, an artist, musician and filmmaker living in the northern woodlands of Sweden.

Watch on YouTube
*Update: December 2, 2021 with Swedish terminology.
The Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum) has a bibliography of resources (alas, not in English). Skjelberd's "Jul i Norge" is a recent book re-collating together much older folk tradition research, including information on Lussi. 

Yuletide Shopping Guide – Artists & Artisans – Part 1

Not only have I personally picked up some work from SacredPathArt (I love her version of the Goddess Sif), but I’ve been seriously eyeing VisaVisJewelryLA‘s Thor pendant for a while, as well as the Idunna pendant and Eir earrings.

Gangleri's Grove

Yule is one of my favorite times of year, and to help spread some holiday cheer I decided to create the Yuletide Shopping Guide to help people find goods for their homes, and gifts. Hopefully in the process, helping to steer some business towards some very talented artisans, including some within our religious community. So far I’ve spotlighted resources for crafters, resources to trim the tree & deck the halls for the holiday, highlighted Krampus goods, and now I’m moving onto artists and artisans.

VisaVisJewelryLA

VisaVisJewelryLA specializes in jewelry made with bronze and gold, sometimes with a cloisonné technique too. There’s a range of polytheistic traditions represented across the bling worthy offerings: Assyrian, Sumerian, Norse, Celtic, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Hindu, and more.


Making Magick

Making Magick features a husband and wife artisan team from our religious community based in North Carolina creating goods in ceramics, wood, metal, fabric and more…

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Krampusnacht and Oski’s Day

On the eve of December 5th throughout parts of Europe, Krampus makes his appearance. The strange creature sent to punish naughty children. On the morning of December 6th however, Saint Nicholas has made his appearance leaving small gifts or sweet treats for those children who were nice.

If we look to Europe we can see a connection between Wild Hunt figures and the Santa Claus mythos tied to a concept of reward and punishment. We also see that the Norse god Odin has connections to the Santa Claus mythos as well in more than one way, but especially as he has three epithets that connect to the holytide listed in the skaldic poem Óðins nöfn: Oski (God of Wishes), Jólnir (Yule Figure) and Jölfuðr (Yule Father).

Oski, God of Wishes, is an epithet for Odin

There is a small movement among Northern Tradition polytheists to reclaim December 6th, and celebrate it not in honor of Saint Nicholas, but rather in honor of Odin in his guise as Oski. The purpose is not to break the bank with this, but rather to share a little yuletide cheer. Edible treats typical of the season (cookies, candy, chocolate, apples, oranges, nuts) would be appropriate, and other small trinkets. In other parts of the world, including America, we have instead the tradition of setting out stockings Christmas Eve for Santa to deliver some goodies for us. So to think of ‘stocking stuffers’ is a good rubrik in terms of what to gift, but I offer this caution: the ‘stockings’ we so commonly use in our decorations are ridiculously big. In Europe, for December 6th it is shoes that are filled, most commonly a shoe is placed outside the door, though in some households they may opt to have a designated area where the shoes are left. Some will use their actual shoes, but others will use special clogs kept just for the holiday for these purposes (which is a nicer way to avoid shoes that are stinky). So there’s not alot of real estate available to fill up with goodies. This is not where to show your gift giving American largesse.

Shoes left out for Saint Nicholas


Just as there are traditions for leaving out milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve, and maybe some carrots for the reindeer, in parts of Europe they may leave some hay, carrots or other appropriate treat in the shoes for St Nicholas’ white horse. Many Northern Tradition polytheists will instead include treats for Odin’s horse, Sleipnir. This is a tradition that lends itself well to the magic of the season, and especially to those with younger children. But even as I write this I set on a small collection of wrapped goodies I’ve received from friends and kindred members, waiting to open them on December 6th, and I have a few small things that I’ve sent off to others as well with instructions they have to wait till the 6th.