The Healing Gods of the Ribe Skull Fragment

I updated my older article, The Healing Gods and Goddesses of the Northern Tradition with information about the Ribe Skull Fragment, an interesting find from the archaeological record which contains a runic inscription invoking Gods for healing including Odin, and what appears to be his father Borr, the god Tyr, and Ulfr (which means wolf and may possibly be Fenrir). You can read up on the skull fragment and some interesting research, and some of m own thoughts about this archaeological remnant at the link.


Prompted by recent discussions, I was inspired to draft this in honor of Weyland.


Archer’s Companion,

Elfin Prince,

Lord from the waters.

Your breath steams.
Heart hammering
Cinders banked in coals.

Toiling in bondage.




and maimed.

Bellows from the deep.


Patterned to cunning.
Your honed,

Sharpened mind

Wields designs of bite.


Your wrath is like

a billowing wave.

Destroyer of Fetters,

Fly to your freedom.

Armer of Heroes

Shield of the People

Luck and Wealth

To the community.

Hail Weyland,

He who overcomes.

Weyland artwork by Grace Palmer, part of the Prayer Card Project.

Names, Epithets, and ‘Lame’ Gods

When you think of how history, especially forms of monotheism have tried to erase and destroy information about polytheistic traditions, I am always flabbergasted when I come across members of our communities trying to help in that destruction.

There’s 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 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 left in ruins, 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.

And now there’s portions of the at large pagan and polytheistic community who are trying to take away the names and identifiers of those Gods too. In this specific case, the blacksmith god Hephaestus, and his epithet Κυλλοποδιων ( lame/of the crooked-foot) out of a misguided push for political correctness and social justice.

To quote Krasskova, “I’m seeing nonsense like, “you can only use this epithet for Hephaestus if you yourself are mobility impaired.” Well, wrong. Anyone may use it whenever that person wishes to connect to Him and gain deeper understanding of His power. That’s what this epithet is about: His power. You do not have to be mobility impaired to call Him by this name.”

The name Κυλλοποδιων (lame/of the crooked-foot) is not only an epithet, it was a career marker. Many cultures depict blacksmith Gods as being lamed, disabled, handicapped, or even physically malformed in their legs in some way, and that’s because Their depiction imitated the real-life occupational hazards of the craft. In antiquity blacksmiths used arsenic in part of the process to make bronze, as a result many blacksmiths suffered from lameness and cancer caused by the continual exposure to the arsenic. So Hephaestus of the lamed and crooked foot, is an occupational marker. In my own tradition, I have the blacksmith god Weyland/Volund, and he is also depicted as having been lamed after surviving an ordeal.

Blacksmiths represented the luck, fortune, and self-reliance of a community. The weapons the blacksmith made defended the home, supported daily aspects of everyday domesticity (cooking, sewing, dinnerware, utensils, etc.), and also helped make the very tools used in agricultural aspects of life: from working the fields, to contending with the livestock. Having a blacksmith in your community meant not only wealth, but that your community was not vulnerable to being preyed upon by others who may literally steal your fortune, or who figuratively would steal your fortune in charging outrageous sums/barters for what you needed. For these reasons, blacksmiths granted a community both fortune and a certain level of independence as well.

Blacksmiths have to be masters of all the elements. Obviously metal ore is used to craft the tools of his trade, but other elements of the earth from clay, to sand, to dirt, and various minerals are also sometimes used. Fire is an element used to heat and anneal the components so that they can be shaped. Air must be used to both control the flames and heat, but also used to air cool and quench certain items during the annealing process that you can’t afford to use the more rapid method of water-quenching on. If we look to the natural world, these processes are essentially at a geothermic scale the very elements that drive plate tectonics.

Take a moment to really THINK about that REAL imagery of a lamed blacksmith God, and the portents of that symbolism. That to commit to one’s craft is to sacrifice, that power has a price. In their story we can see and relate to Gods, realizing they are not disconnected from us but are capable of understanding the suffering of mere mortals too. Think of the power that comes from one who has overcome such great obstacles, that understands the stakes, the risks of bondage, of being subjected to degradation and abuse, and now they take their skill and their determination as one who has overcome to focus all of their skill and craft into the weapons and armor to the heroes who must now go tackle monumental tasks to save others. Those who know not only their own worth, but the value of their craft as well.

To strip them of their titles, and descriptors, their by names and praise names, the epithets, the kennings, the heiti is how you lose the stories of them. How you lose the most powerful bits of lore, biographical details, the most potent symbols we latch onto.  Of course, all things that monotheism will cheer for: Yes, pagans please do go ahead and destroy and forget why these Gods were worshipped in the first place.

These terms and phrasing were long used by the cultures where these Gods and Goddesses originate in deep antiquity. They are recorded in prayers, some carved into stone, others in manuscripts and scrolls. All these epithets were part of the very cultus that worshipped those Gods. These epithets were descriptors, encapsulations of cultus and lore. They weren’t derogatory or degrading in nature.

Take away the descriptors, and suddenly the Gods start to lose their uniqueness, their distinctiveness.  

  • One-Eyed God (Odin)
  • The Hanged One (Odin)
  • The One Handed As (Tyr)
  • The Cargo of Her Arms (Loki)
  • Ruler of Lions (Sekhmet)

Each epithet encapsulates a story, sometimes the story is lost to us and all that remains is that descriptor and now you have people wanting to erase that too.

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. When you take away their identifiers, which are encapsulations of their power, you are only helping to undermine the tradition, pissing on all those who died because of their beliefs in worship to those Gods, both then and today.

If you’re concerned about making sure your religious path is welcoming to those with disabilities, then yes push for equal access for mobility challenged and disabled individuals at rites, and holy sites and temples. (Did you know, that while not conclusive, there is evidence suggestive that the ancient Greeks had ramps to try to help with mobility access to at least some religious sites). If there are others who are degrading or mocking those in your midst, yes call them out. But trying to find degradation in something that was venerated, something that is part of the identity of a God and their tradition of cultus is just destructive to the religious tradition and cultus, and not helpful. Can you imagine if suddenly all Christians decided to completely ignore the crucifiction and the lead up moments (known to some as the stations of the cross) because it was perceived as glorying in tortue, degradation and physical abuse? Suddenly the cross as a symbol is gone, no more artistic depictions of Christ on the cross, or even with the wounds in his hands (which technically would be in his forearms above his wrists) no one talks about it anymore cause it’s not perceived as appropriate. It’s ridiculous. It’s such an underlying aspect of the Christian faith. Trying to take this epithet from Hephaestus is equally absurd.