Sunwait – A Countdown to Yule

Yule is one of our most sacred times of the year. Not only do we have the twelve days of Yule usually bookended by Mother’s Night and Twelfth Night in our observances, we also have other celebrations like Krampusnacht (and with it the rebranding of Saint Nicholas’ Day as Oski’s Day), Lussinatt, and more throughout December and through the wassailing season, which concludes by early January. So many folk customs have persisted from what were once surely pre-Christian practices, that we get excited to have so much we can sink into as we celebrate the holy tide. We also are opportunistic, seeing traditions from mainstream religious observances around us and deciding to do our own thing that speaks to our own religious pathways.

In modern times, heathens have created a new tradition in the 21st Century known as Väntljusstaken (literally, candles we light to wait) or Sunwait. Sunwait began specifically in Sweden, and it quite intentionally was started to echo Christian advent style countdowns towards Christmas. Sunwait starts six weeks before the winter solstice, and is an anticipatory lead-in towards Yule. One candle is lit per week leading up to Yule. Each candle is also symbolically tied to the first few elder runic letters: ᚠ – Fehu, ᚢ – Uruz, ᚦ – Thurisaz, ᚨ – Ansuz, ᚱ – Raido, ᚲ – Kenaz. Traditionally Thursday evening’s at sunset is when each candle would be lit, but others have created timings that work for them instead. Some decide to have it coincide with Friday’s because of work schedules, or choose instead to have each week fall on the same weekday as the winter solstice does in that given year. Still others opt to observe it on Sunday, since that day of the week is named for the solar goddess Sunna.

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Iðunn – Norse Goddess of the Apples

While it may not feel like autumn yet in Texas, I always in particular venerate Iðunn (or Idunna), an ásynjur (one of the Norse Goddesses). Her most well-known story involves her abduction by a giant, which causes the gods to age thus revealing her important ties to vitality. Iðunn is known within Skáldskaparmál as the Gods’ Lady, and indeed this is because the vitality (and therefore immortality) she provides is gifted to all of the Gods and Goddesses. While she is part of my regular praxis throughout the year, I always feel her most strongly in autumn through the winter. I decided to do an exploration into her heiti and kennings. There’s a lot to unpack here, and I feel like there’s much more that I’ll be musing upon for a long time to come too.

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Murderers Don’t Go to Valhalla

In the wake of the tragic mass shooting at the Tops Market grocery store in Buffalo, New York on May 14, 2022 we have been learning more about the murdering criminal who had perpetrated the attack. He was wearing a sonnenrad (a swastika related symbol), the assault rifle and shotgun were adorned with the Othala rune, and the shotgun also featured a Celtic Cross (which is a variation of our solar cross symbol). He also had references on his assault rifle to five other mass shooters (who I am choosing not to name) behind the following attacks: 2011 Norwegian attacks in Oslo and Utøya, 2011 Tree of life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the 2015 Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, the 2019 Chabad Congregation in Poway, and the 2019 Christchurch attack.

He signed off his manifesto with the words “Goodbye, God bless you all and I hope to see you in Valhalla.” Compare it to the manifesto from the shooter behind the 2019 Christchurch attack and there’s lots of similarities (basically plagiarized with slight rewordings) including the sign off “Goodbye, god bless you all and I will see you in Valhalla.”

I’d like to say something for the hate spouting extremists in the back. Murderers don’t go to Valhalla. In fact in our lore we know murderers go somewhere else entirely. In Gylfaginning we are told by Odin (in his guise of Þriði) that those who commit evil go to Nifolhel (Misty Hel). In another section of Gylfaginning, and supported also in Völuspá, we learn that within Nifolhel we have Nástrǫnd (Corpse Shore), and that is where oathbreakers and murderers go in the afterlife. Nástrǫnd is home to the serpent Níðhöggr (Malice Striker) who gnaws for eternity on the corpses of murderers and oathbreakers that have been condemned to the serpent’s hall. We think that Nástrǫnd may correlate to the Old English Wyrmsele, which means serpent hall, it appears in the poem Judith found in the Nowell Codex (which is the manuscript source for Beowulf).

The heathen afterlife is first and foremost Hel. Hel, is more than just a name. Her name literally is not only the realm of the dead, but etymologically is the very earth where the dead are buried and reside, from the great cairns and graveyards. To speak of Hel is to speak of both the Goddess, Her realm, and all those who dwell there. Sooner or later we will traverse those halls, because as the Havamal states, “cattle die and kinsmen die” because the most fundamental truth of life is that sooner or later we die. From the sources we know that there were certain places or deities within the afterlife of Hel that played host to the dead: Odin’s Valhalla, Thor’s Bilskirnir within Valhalla, Freya’s Sessrumnir, the hall of Vingolf (mentioned three times: once connected to Odin, once to the Goddesses, and once just generally as a place for the dead), Gimlé where the just go, and then we know that the Goddesses Ran and Gefjon also play host to specific types of the dead (respectively those who died at sea and maidens).

One of the commonly misrepresented beliefs of our afterlife is that the end goal is for us all to go to Valhalla, it isn’t. Valhalla is specifically intended for a select few, and only for those that Odin thinks has the right skillset to his warrior purposes and thus chooses. Killing in self defense, or killing in the course of war is one thing. Gunning down a bunch of innocent people in a grocery store makes you only one thing: a murderer, a nīðing (nithling) which is one of the worst labels given to a person, as it means the person has no honor and is a villain.

This gunman doesn’t represent my religion nor my beliefs. In fact both he and the Q-Anon Shaman from the January 6, 2021 Insurrection in Washington DC use the singular Christian god in messaging, but combine it with some of our religion’s sacred symbols and places. This is sadly yet another despicable real world example of what should be sacred being profaned for the purposes of hate. Let me be clear, in the Northern Tradition these are the races that exist: the Giants, the Gods, the Dwarves, the Disir, the Alfar, other vaettir of land and sea, and the human race. That’s it. If you look at our creation story we see that as the Gods create the first people, Odin breathed life into them, Vili granted them intelligence, and Ve gave them their senses so they could see and hear. So whether an individual or any other cultural or religious group believes that or not, if someone believes and worships Odin then to my mind you should believe he is the All-Father of humanity, not the Father of only some.

You would think after decades of being a Heathen and seeing white supremacists pervert the sacred, I’d be used to this. But I’m not. I’m furious. Each time we’re here I’m just as outraged as the last time. So I had to do something, in this case I made a meme. Yes, it is but a small act, but maybe if we can educate there’d be fewer people misusing Valhalla. If we can burst the fantasy bubble around Valhalla, maybe we can start to dismantle part of the appeal in how white supremacists who don’t even worship our Gods use it to galvanize others to hate. Share it, spread it. Let’s make this go viral.

Murderers don't go to Valhalla. 
Valhalla is but one place in the heathen afterlife. It is specifically intended for a select few, and only for those that Odin chooses because he thinks they have the right skillset 
to his purposes. In Gylfaginning, Odin tells us that those who commit evil go to Niflhel, 
and we learn that oathbreakers and murderers go to Nastrond, where the serpent 
Nidhogg gnaws on them for eternity, for they are nithlings lacking in honor. 
Murderers Don’t Go To Valhalla

Exploring Our Gods & Goddesses: Sinthgunt [Revised & Expanded]

Our only (specific) surviving reference to the Goddess Sinthgunt comes from the Old High German Second Merseburg Incantation (also known as the “Horse Cure Charm”), which dates to around the 9th or 10th Century. The Merseburg charms are the only examples of pre-Christian Germanic belief recorded in the Germanic language.

sinthgunt_small
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Interview with Ukrainian Freya’s woman Tove Freyjudottir — Part 1

Freya devotee and Northern Tradition polytheist Tove, was born into Soviet Ukraine. She fled with her immediate family to the United States. Today she still has family in Ukraine. This is the first of a series of interviews, from someone with a unique perspective and insight into current events. In this one she talks about what it was like for her and her family to live under Soviet control.

Gangleri's Grove

This is the first part of a multi-part interview with Gyðja-in-training Tove Freyjudottir. Over the next few weeks, she will be sharing her thoughts and experiences watching her home city of Kharkiv, where she still has immediate family, being bombed.

This interview will be broken up into several parts, since it turned out to be quite long. I plan on posting a new installment every week or so until the interview is complete. For those who may have questions for Tove, or want to reach out she kindly gave me permission to share her email: elise33 at gmail.com. You may also follow her website here.

Firstly, I’d like to thank you, Tove for taking the time to answer my questions, especially at such a difficult time. I want to start by giving a little of your background for my readers. Tove is a long-time Heathen devoted to Freyja, and…

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When Slavic Folk Custom, the Goddess Morana, and Current Events Collide

Morana is a Slavic Goddess. found within the region of cultural impact from the Slavic pagans. Their territory was found in areas roughly found between the Adriatic, Baltic and Black Seas. But the old folk traditions and stories have seemed to survive the best in the territories once belonging to the Eastern areas of Europe, such as: Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, etc.

Map of Europe showing the Slavic Territory in the 7th – 9th Centuries
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For my Ukraine

Polytheist and Freya’s devotee Tove talks about her Ukraine.

Freyja's Frenzy

Kupala Night by Andrey Shishkin

The rivers and the forests of Ukraine flow through me, what happens to it happens to me. I shall lie on its soil as it will embrace and engulf me. I shall rest there as one would in their home. I am Ukraine and Ukraine is me. But even as Ukraine cries and struggles, the land is mighty and it knows itself. Its Spirits and Deities are ancient and large, and lie deep in the soil below the surface. The things that happen on the surface may wake up the anger of its Gods, but they cannot harm them. We carry Ukraine in our hearts, it is not contained in buildings of wood and stone.

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Ukraine, Snake Island, and the tie to Hellenic Polytheism

Today on Facebook I came across a post by Hellenic polytheist Мария Новосильцева reminding us of the history that ties to the polytheistic tradition of Snake Island, where 13 Ukrainian soldiers had one final defiant exchange with the invading Russian forces.

Snake Island
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Hate Cult’s Appeal Denied

About 8 months ago my home town had a rude awakening, during the pandemic Stedfast Baptist Church, a cult and identified hate group by both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, had moved in.

So what was so egregious in their preaching?

  • rebellious children should be stoned to death  
  • lazy gamers should be killed
  • all LGBTQ persons should commit suicide or be executed; all LGBTQ persons are pedophiles; this church also has a history of celebrating the Pulse Nightclub Mass Shooting, praising the actions of the mass murdering gunman, and praying for the death of the victims who were in ICU fighting for their lives
  • witches should be slaughtered (and they like to use the label for any ‘uppity’ woman too)
  • anti-Semitic
  • book & Bible burning (Pastor Shelley made a special trip to host some libricide)
  • and so much more

My community was galvanized into action.

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The Importance of the Religious Processional within the Northern Tradition

All too often among modern worshippers of the ancient gods of Germania and Scandinavia, they focus on rites like blot (or the modern alternative faining), and traditions like sumble. But they tend to ignore other religious ritual customs we have ample evidence of in both historic textual accounts and archaeologic artifacts, especially including the religious processionals of yesteryear.

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