The Witch Hunt – SCOTUS, Justice Alito, Abortion, Sir Matthew Hale and the Connection to the Salem Witch Trials

70% of Americans support the rights of women to have a choice with her doctor regarding her own medical decisions. And yet many have been reeling since the leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court of the United States that appears to be ready to overturn Roe v. Wade, the court case that gave women the right to have an abortion.

It’s not just abortion that’s on the hatchet block. Roe v. Wade based it’s argument in part upon a case dealing with birth control as a precedence. If Roe v. Wade is overturned then it also weakens the legal precedence for birth control too. And trust me, I’ve seen some crazies here in Texas who think birth control is worse of a sin than abortion. They think birth control kills more babies than abortion. They’re also coming for IUDs, with HB 813 a recent bill in Louisiana that would not only ban them, but subject women to charges of murder for using them.

Continue reading “The Witch Hunt – SCOTUS, Justice Alito, Abortion, Sir Matthew Hale and the Connection to the Salem Witch Trials”
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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
Continue reading “When Slavic Folk Custom, the Goddess Morana, and Current Events Collide”

Pagan Author, Musician Andrea Haugen murdered in Kongsberg Attack

The news about the attack in Norway has been disheartening, but it struck a bit closer to home for some of us as the names of the victims that died in the Kongsborg Attack have now been released. Among them pagan musician Andrea Haugen who was impactful to the pagan and heathen community at the turn of the millennium.

I remember discovering her music thanks to a review of one of her albums that I came across either at WitchVox or in an issue of one of the BBI Magazines (New Witch, Witches & Pagans Magazine, SageWoman).  I can’t remember which it was now. Her albums released before Myspace, let alone Facebook, or YouTube came along. While she’d eventually have a MySpace page, she never got a huge social media boost for her releases under Hagalaz Runedance the way that probably would have happened had she released her work today. I was excited at the time to find lyrics in English that spoke to my religious cosmology. I feel like groups like Wardruna (formed in 2003) came out of part of what she and other artists like her created in the 1990s.

Hop below to read more info about Andrea at Galina’s blog.

Gangleri's Grove

Among the victims murdered in the bow and arrow Kongsberg Attack on October 13 near Oslo, Norway was a member of the pagan community, Andréa Haugen (also known as Andréa Meyer, Andréa Nebel, and Nebelhexë). She was the author of The Ancient Fires of Midgard, which explored Northern Tradition spirituality and religion. She was probably most famous among the Pagan and Heathen communities specifically though for her impact in the music world as the creative force behind Hagalaz Runedance, which released six albums. While her last album under Hagalaz Runedance released in 2002, she would continue to work on musical projects afterwards rebranding herself as she explored new sounds and varying career interests. For many Northern Tradition followers at the turn of the millennium her music was something latched onto as not only fans of the sound, but as something that spoke to our religious pathway. My favorite…

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Weyland


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


Anund,

Archer’s Companion,

Elfin Prince,

Lord from the waters.


Smith,
Your breath steams.
Heart hammering
Cinders banked in coals.



Toiling in bondage.

Flayed,

flogged,

hamstrunged,

and maimed.

Bellows from the deep.



Crafter,

Patterned to cunning.
Your honed,

Sharpened mind

Wields designs of bite.



Breaker,

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.

Othala Rune Makes an Appearance at CPAC

Florida is hosting this weekend the Conservative Political Action Conference, which appeals to sections of the Republican GOP Party. Look at the veritable who’s who of political leaders speaking at the event, including controversial figures like Trump and Ted Cruz.

FRIDAYSATURDAYSUNDAY
Florida governor Ron DeSantis, Senator Mike Lee, Former governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker, Senator James Lankford, Former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, Sen.Ted Cruz, Rep. Mo Brooks, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, Sen. Tom Cotton, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Sen. Rick Scott, Sen. Josh Hawley, and Donald Trump Jr.Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, Former acting director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell, Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Senator Bill Hagerty, Trade representative Robert Lighthizer, Rep. Devin Nunes, Senator Cynthia Lummis, Rep. Burgess Owens, Rep. Darrell Issa, Rep. Andy Biggs, Rep. Lauren Boebert, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, and South Dakota governor Kristi Noem.  Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Former National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow, and Former US president Trump.  

This year there is a rune, specifically the othala rune, at the heart of the CPAC 2021 conference. The rune forms the shape of the stage made specifically for this event where all the headliners–including former president Trump, and Senator Ted Cruz–will speak.

Othala Rune

The othala rune ᛟ originates as a letter in alphabets related to Germanic languages found in parts of Europe. Eventually it (and the other runic letters) fell out of use as Latin-based alphabets were adopted and used. There are multiple examples in the archaeological record of it inscribed on rune stones, jewelry, artifacts, and later in historical manuscripts as we enter into the early part of the Medieval period.

This is a sketch rendering from the since destroyed golden Gallehus horns believed to date from the 5th Century CE. Note the runic inscription, including the use of the Othala rune. ek Hlewagastiz Holtijaz horna tawidō, is believed to translate as “I Hlewagastiz Holtijaz made the horn.”



The Anglo-Saxon Rune poem gives us an idea of what the runic letter represented. It represents concepts of home and inheritance, and the phonetic ‘o’ sound.

Anglo Saxon Rune PoemEnglish Translation
 byþ oferleof æghƿylcum men,
gif he mot ðær rihtes and gerysena on
brucan on bolde bleadum oftast.
[An estate] is very dear to every man,
if he can enjoy there in his house
whatever is right and proper in constant prosperity.


Usually, it was used in surviving examples from the archaeological record as a more prosaic letter, but it also has some magico-religious connotations too. There is evidence pointing to its use in both runemal, and seemingly divination as well.

In more recent history we see a resurgence in the mystical and magical, and the old gods of pre-Christian Europe slowly start to simmer in the later 1800s. Runes come once again into prominence thanks to the writings of Guido von List who was a popular darling for those yearning for German nationalism. His writings combined some explorations into Germanic religion, and the occultism of the runes would be picked up by some aspects of the Nazi Party. The othala rune becomes used as a symbol for two different nazi groups during World War II. One version with serif (feet or wings) attached to the rune was the insignia for the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen, the other version used by the 23rd SS Volunteer Panzer Grenadier Division Nederland had arrows extending from the othala rune.

Beginning in the 1960s and 1970s we begin to see a big resurgence of pagan and polytheistic belief that has continued through to the present day. For modern pagans and polytheists the runes are sometimes just magical and divinatory symbols, but can also be a symbol of the sacred used to profess religious faith by modern pagans and polytheists. Runes sometimes in more modern times are used as a symbolical representation of certain Gods too. Othala ᛟ is sometimes used for Odin, when spelling out the name of the God Odin in runes, the first runic letter for his name used would be Othala. There are other runes associated with deities as well (for one reason or another) including the rune tiwaz ᛏ is sometimes used for Tyr, the rune sowilo ᛋ as a representation of the solar goddess Sunna, the runic letter thurisaz ᚦ for Thor, etc.

The othala rune has a range of context in the modern era, and understanding what it stands for in any instance can sometimes be quite nuanced. Sometimes it is a magico-religious symbol used by modern polytheists and pagans in profession of religious faith to the Norse Gods and Goddesses, or merely as a magical symbol for divination. But the variation of the othala rune with serif (feet or wings) has been adopted due to its historical Nazi SS past, as a symbol by many Neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups as a unifying symbol for a whites only homeland. To confuse matters, some modern pagan and polytheists don’t understand the Nazi origins of that serifed version of the symbol, and think of it only as a different design on othala and might use the symbol in ignorance of the Nazi connection, and for these persons they may only be using it in support of one of a range of Northern Tradition polytheisms: Asatru, Heathenry, etc.

So when I see a stage at a political conference using a rune, I immediately disregard the prospects that it was used for religious or magical signifiers. If this had occurred a decade ago I would have merely thought it some odd coincidence. But now, I pause and wonder: was this intentionally used to signify to white nationalists?

While Huffington Post is a somewhat biased news outlet, they wrote recently that “every year CPAC does a delicate public relations dance to determine which white nationalists and conspiracy theorists are forbidden from attending the event, and which ones will be given coveted spots speaking on panels or even from the main stage.”  When you combine that with the very present white nationalist groups and iconography spotted during the recent January 6 insurrection on the US Capitol (including the so-called Q Anon Shaman), the fact Nazi iconography was used in Trump’s re-election presidential campaign, and so many other incidences especially in these last few years casts doubt upon this being a mere coincidence.


Holy Tides of the Northern Tradition – Charming of the Plough

For many pagans, this is the time of year where they honor and celebrate Imbolc one of the eight sabbats that comprise the Wheel of the Year. For those of us in the Northern Tradition however, we have our only celebrations known as holy tides (from the Old Norse hátíðir) that we may currently be celebrating instead: Charming of the Plough or Disting.

Explore the holy tide known as the Charming of the Plough celebrated by Northern Tradition polytheists.
Gefion Fountain in Copenhagen, Denmark

Since Northern Tradition religious practices can vary because some groups and individuals opt to recreate the celebrations of geo-specific historic cultures, others look at the vast umbrella that we see amongst the Æsic-worshipping peoples as they appear throughout ancient Germania, into Scandinavian countries (like Sweden, Norway, Iceland, etc.), and into Anglo-Saxon England.

The timing of these holy tides varies based on regional differences in the seasonal transition of climate, as well as in the different time-keeping and calendar methods that were employed by the different cultures when compared to the modern-day calendar used today. Some timing may have also shifted as pagan observances were shifted and syncretized in an intentional joining by early church leaders in post conversion Europe. As a result, while some Heathens opt to sync the timing up with the quarter-day of Imbolc so that their holy tide celebration occurs at the same time as their pagan cousins, others have already celebrated, and yet others more may not be celebrating for a few weeks yet.

Still, in my experience, most Heathens sync up their observance with the astronomical midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox in a more generalized Charming of the Plough observance. This also coincides approximately with the modern Groundhog Day. For those unfamiliar with the custom of Groundhog Day (and I’m not referring to the movie), the folk tradition comes from the Pennsylvania Dutch. Despite the name being ‘Dutch” these weren’t settlers from the Netherlands, but rather they were Deutsch, or German. Specifically speaking their own dialect called Deitsch with language ties to West Central Germany. English speaking Americans misheard this and thought it was ‘Dutch’ and the name stuck. There’s a lot of interesting folk traditions from these European settlers, and if you look among those Pennsylvania Dutch traditions you’d find an array of folk traditions including hex signs, runes, and folk stories about gods–like Wudan (Odin), Dunner (Thor), Holle (Frau Holle or Holda) etc. This presence of folk tradition has given us another branch (albeit it far less known) within the Northern Tradition umbrella: Urglaawe. The settlers we call the Pennsylvania Dutch have a tradition of using a groundhog as a weather predictor for when spring would arrive. The custom back in Europe where these settlers originated seemed to have used the badger instead. Knowing when spring might arrive would be a very important indicator for people to know when to make ready the fields and more importantly plant the crops for the year ahead. Too early, and you’d lose the crop to winter’s frosty bite. So this folk tradition operated as a nature based omen as a sort of farmer’s almanac. While there is no scientific evidence that this custom has any true accuracy, I think the key takeaway here is the timing of early February and the fact this custom ties to the importance of agricultural timing while balancing the change of the seasons to make ready for the year ahead.

According to Bede’s De temporum ratione, the Anglo-Saxon month of February was known as Solmonad, and meant month of mud. Most likely mud month refers to the act of ploughing the fields. According to Bede, this was a time celebrated by people offering cakes to their Gods. The only other time we see offerings of cakes ever mentioned as occurring is with the celebration of Hlæfmæsse (loaf mass), which occurs at the opposite time of year at the time of the harvest. So here we have a mirrored tradition of offerings of cakes or loaves given to the land as a bookmark to the growing season (planting to harvesting).

In England, there is a folk tradition known as Plough Monday (which was the first Monday after the Christian celebration of the Epiphany or Three Kings Day which marked the end of the Christmas/Yuletide). Today that means Plough Monday is celebrated the first Monday that falls after January 6, and features the ceremonial act of ploughing the first furrows in the fields. While the earliest written depictions of this tradition come from post conversion (1400s CE), it is in all likelihood a surviving remnant of the pagan past. Plough Monday is celebrated today in many communities across the United Kingdom (Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire, etc.), while some local traditions vary, typically a village plough was blessed, decorated, and a ceremonial ploughing around the village was carried out. This tradition mirrors what we see in the Anglo-Saxon land ritual the Æcerbot (or Field Remedy).

As an aside, I find it striking that we see this timing of just after January 6th echoed for another major rite among heathen lands, save this time in what we associate with Lejre in Denmark (the probable real world setting for the mythic tale of Beowulf). In chapter 17 of The Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg, it states “Because I have heard strange stories about their ancient sacrifices, I will not allow the practice to go unmentioned. In those parts the center of the kingdom is called Lederun (Lejre), in the region of Selon (Sjælland), all the people gathered every nine years in January, that is after we have celebrated the birth of the Lord [Jan 6th], and there they offered to the gods ninety-nine men and just as many horses, along with dogs and cocks— the later being used in place of hawks.” We see similar types of sacrificial offerings mentioned by Adam of Bremen in chapter 27 of History of the Archbishops of Hamburg in regards to the rites at Uppsala in Sweden (though the specific timing is not mentioned in the source). But we know from Ólafs saga helga that the sacrifices at Uppsala did coincide with Disting (which usually took place typically in February (but it did vary base on the lunar cycle). [More on Disting further below.]

Among the traditions of Plough Monday there is also a tradition of going around trying to earn everything from drink to money, which to me is reminiscent of other caroling and wassailing traditions. Additionally there’s also dancers, and a straw bear (man in straw outfit) which to me evokes other traditions like the Perchten and Krampus processionals. January seems awfully early for some of us to think about readying the ground for new plantings. England while it exists at a more northern latitude that typically would mean much colder winters (see how much colder it is in parts of Canada at the same latitude), the land benefits from its proximity to the Atlantic oceanic currents, or Gulf Stream, which keeps England much warmer than it would be otherwise. So this is but one example of why some Heathens choose to observe this holy tide when it makes sense to do so in their own local climate.

Plough Monday may be an English tradition, but so too is the Anglo-Saxon Æcerbot. While the earliest known recording of this tradition references Christian belief, many believers and scholars believe it was adapted from pre-Christian practices. The daylong ritual was intended to act as a means to restore fertility to land that may not be yielding properly, or was potentially suffering from some sort of blight or infestation. In the ritual described the land is symbolically anointed and blessed before being plowed, we see that the plough is hallowed and even anointed with soap and herbs too, and the personified (and no doubt deified) earth is invoked and entreated for her blessings.

The ritual may have lasted a day, but in most likelihood it would take even longer to prepare. It required taking four sods of earth from each of the corners of your land. The earthen sods would be anointed with a mixture combining oil, honey, yeast, milk (from each cow on the land, and possibly any milking animal like goats too), bits of each tree growing on the land (except hornbeam which is a type of tree in the birch family, this caveat is suggested to refer to all trees not harvested for food), bits of each named herb growing on the land (except glappan, we’re not sure what that herb was referring to in England some have tried to liken it to buck bean used for a plant native to the Americas known for being both bitter and growing in marshy areas so it most likely referred to some sort of unwanted weed), combine with water. The mixture (probably combined into a paste like what we see in the Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm) is then dripped 3 times on the bottom (soil side) of each of those pieces of earthen sod. All this while essentially praying over it to grow, and multiply in bounty followed by an invocation (of the saints in the remnant we have that was recorded).

Not done yet, the rite then has the farmer/landowner taking those sods of anointed earth into town to the church where a priest would bless it (singing four masses over it). There was a ritual structure in turning the earth while this occurred so the green and growing side faced towards the altar. Then the farmer had to hurry home before sunset to put the anointed and now blessed earthen sod back from whence it came. Praying over it again. Marking it with symbols (the cross) made from mountain ash (possibly rowan) and ground meal in those corners. Each corner invoked the name of a saint (and pre-Christianity probably invoked various deities). The earth is then re-interred from whence it came, one corner of earthen sod at a time. Each time the farmer prays over it, tuning the earthen sod eastward, after which the farmer would bow nine times praying (possibly originally to the Goddess Sol as her brightening days would be key to agricultural cycles and growing). The farmer with arms outstretched was to turn 3 times sunwise while reciting even more prayers. (As an aside this Anglo-Saxon source isn’t the only time we see bowing to the east, in the Icelandic Landnámabok it mentions bowing to the east to hail the rising sun. So this teases to a cultic habit that may have existed across the Germanic tribes.)

Now that the earthen sod that has been cut from the land, anointed, blessed, re-interred and prayed over we proceed to the next step: ploughing of the fields and sowing of the seeds. The farmers/landowner is handed seed by his men (presumably those in service to him, or other members of the household). This would make sense to divide some of the labor, as the farmer/landowner has bee very busy up to now with the ritual requirements of the earthen sod. So his people bring out the plough and related gear, they are the ones to anoint you, the ones to hand the farmer his seed. The plough is described as being anointed with soap, salt, frankincense and fennel–obviously this has been influenced by Christianity which we can tell by the inclusion of frankincense, and salt makes it a market of Medieval Europe too. Some in the Northern Tradition umbrella look to another Anglo-Saxon reference, that of the Nine Herbs Charm and use that mixture–consisting of the nine herbs Mucgwyrt Mugwort, Wegbrade Plantain, Stune Lamb’s cress, Stiðe Nettle, Attorlaðe (theorized to be either cockspur grass or betony), Mægðe Mayweed, Wergulu Crab-apple, Fille (theorized as either thyme or chervil), and Finule Fennel–combined into a paste with old soap and apple residue.

The farmer begins to plow, and to pray to the personified earth. In Tacitus’ Germania we see a mention to the Germanic tribe of the Angli (eventually after migration they would settle into a land that would become named for them: Angle-Land or England) “were goddess-worshippers; they looked on the earth as their mother.” Scholar Kathleen Herbert argues that the Æcerbot comes from the Angli’s religious traditions.

Whole may you be [Be well] earth, mother of men!
May you be growing in God’s embrace,
with food filled for the needs of men.

– Æcerbot

Afterwards, special offerings of cakes or baked loaves (made from whatever was the farmer’s grain crop) were placed into the first furrows that had been ploughed. Really consider the level of detail and preparation needed for a ritual like this. This was a MAJOR undertaking, and as such makes it clear this was a major celebration of great import. I think sometimes when so many of us don’t work the land directly, and rely on grocery stores and uber for our food we can forget the amount of time, the vulnerability that can come with being the sole provider of your own food. Farming was very much a matter of life and death.

Aspects of the ritual structure in Æcerbot, are reminiscent of hallowing land or even land-taking rituals that we see in a variety of other sources. These land-taking customs can be seen in the Icelandic Landnamabok, where men might walk around their property with fire, or women who were claiming land could only claim what they could plough in a day from sunrise to sunset. There are folk-traditions in areas of Russia (so named for the Viking Tribe known as the Rus) that describe women ploughing around their communities as a charm against disease outbreaks, so like the Æcerbot which is to make well the land again, we see another tie between plowing and health in this folk tradition.

The ploughing story and land-taking we see most famously with the Danes, when the Goddess Gefjon is seen ploughing the fields with her Jotun (giant) sons in the form of great oxen. The ploughing of this Swedish soil was so deep that the land was uprooted, leaving a lake behind, the uprooted land was named Zealand, and is the most agriculturally ripe part of the Danish countryside today. For this reason, those Heathens who celebrate the Charming of the Plough may honor Her in their celebrations, though others may opt to honor instead the other Goddesses found in our tradition of the Earth, such as the Germanic goddess Nerthus.

There are several scholars (as well as Heathens today) who see a link between Nerthus and Gefjon. In Tacitus’ Germania, he writes of Nerthus:

“There is a sacred grove on an island in the Ocean, in which there is a consecrated chariot, draped with cloth, where the priest alone may touch. He perceives the presence of the goddess in the innermost shrine and with great reverence escorts her in her chariot, which is drawn by female cattle. There are days of rejoicing then and the countryside celebrates the festival, wherever she designs to visit and to accept hospitality. No one goes to war, no one takes up arms, all objects of iron are locked away, then and only then do they experience peace and quiet, only then do they prize them, until the goddess has had her fill of human society and the priest brings her back to her temple.”

Here are two Goddesses, both associated with cattle and the earth, and both who dwell on islands. But more than just this similar motif, scholars see that the medieval place name for the modern-day city of Naerum in Denmark was Niartharum, which etymologically may connect to Nerthus’ name.

In addition to Charming of the Plough, we also have the Swedish known holy tide of Disting as observed in Uppsala. Disting was partly comprised of the Disablot (a special communal ritual to the Disir) as well as a regular Thing gathering. Rituals to the Disir exist at several different times in sources, some we see at the Winternights celebration, another at Yule’s Mother’s Night, and another in the aforementioned Disting, which suggests that observance of the Disablot varied. While the worship of the disir existed throughout the Northern Tradition umbrella, the timing of ritual observances varied by unique geo-specific cultures and their own traditions. The Disir embody the protective female spirits that look after individuals, their families, and the tribe or community. As such Goddesses and female ancestors comprise the Disir, but also most likely the spirit loci as well.

Things, as seen throughout the ancient world, were gatherings of people with appointed representatives where legal matters were discussed, people came together in the spirit of trade, marriages might be sought, and typically were also marked by religious rituals. In pre-Christian times the Swedish Thing at Uppsala happened several times a year at this location, but after the conversion to Christianity only one Thingtide was still observed, the one that fell at this time of year, specifically at Candlemas (a Christian feast day celebrating the presentation of the child Jesus to the Temple observed on February 2nd). While this Thingtide kept its original timing, (no doubt from syncretization of old traditions with the newer Christian religion) the religious aspects of the gathering were removed post conversion.

In Heimskringla’s Ólafs saga helga, we have a description of the rites at Svithjod (The Thing of All Swedes, of which Disting/Disablot was a component): “In Svithjod it was the old custom, as long as heathenism prevailed, that the chief sacrifice took place in the month Gói  (sometime around Feburary 15th until March 15th) at Upsala. Then sacrifice was offered for peace, and victory to the king; and thither came people from all parts of Svithjod. All the Things of the Swedes, also, were held there, and markets, and meetings for buying, which continued for a week: and after Christianity was introduced into Svithjod, the Things and fairs were held there as before. After Christianity had taken root in Svithjod, and the kings would no longer dwell in Upsala, the market-time was moved to Candlemas, and it has since continued so, and it lasts only three days. There is then the Swedish Thing also, and people from all quarters come there.”

In another section of that text, we have a description of a Disablot, which suggests that the King in Sweden oversaw the ritual in his role as High Priest while ritually riding around the sacred hall. Just as we have aspects of land-taking in stories of Gefjon, or as exhibited in the Æcerbot or Plough Monday traditions, we can understand that it is likely that the King’s riding on his horse probably ritually connected to some aspect of land-taking or boundary making as well.

Land-taking isn’t just for the past either. If you look at the way the “Freedom to Roam” laws operate, as seen throughout Europe (including Norway, Sweden, England, Scotland, Wales, etc.), this ancient concept is still in a sense being used. In the case of the Freedom to Roam, it grants rights to citizens who responsibly and without harm to the property, traverse it so they can have access for the purposes of exercise and recreation to these undeveloped parcels of land, or lands specifically set aside for community use like common land and village greens. In other areas, these rights of access to the common land are only upheld so long as at least once in a stipulated period of time it has been used. In some areas there are community-wide traditions where all the able-bodied people will go on a walk to make sure they keep these areas ‘claimed’ as common land. For this reason, some of the more hardy Heathens may opt for a camping trip at this time of year.

There is an 8th century text, indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum, that mentions that in the month of February there was a celebration still on-going in Germany called Spurcalia. Spurcalia is a Latin name used to describe the celebration, and it is believed that it roots to the German word Sporkel, which meant piglet. In fact in parts of Germany the month of February was actually called piglet-month, or Sporkelmonat, and the Dutch name of the month is the very similar Sprokkelmaand. The assumption is made that with the first livestock births of the year occurring, that pigs were most likely sacrificed at around this time. While this is an obscure reference even to most Heathens, there are a handful who use Spurcalia as their inspiration for making sure there’s some pork on the altar given in offering to the Gods and Goddesses.

So how can we celebrate this today?

While most of us when we consider agricultural celebrations we think of deities of the earth and the associated fertility Gods and Goddesses, such as Freyr, Freyja, Gerda, Gefjon, Nerthus, etc. Aurboda is the mother of Gerda and mother-in-law to Freyr. While little is known of her she is a deity of healing and one presumably with a tie to the earth as well. I suspect her skill probably comes with the knowledge and application of herbs: how to find and grow them, how to reap them, how to store and prepare them, and how to use them. For this reason I will also make sure she is honored at this time. In Gylfaginning, Freyr is said to rule over “rain and sunshine and thus over the produce of the earth; it is good to call upon him for good harvests and for peace; he watches over prosperity of mankind.” Thor also has connections with this time, not just as a god of storms and rain but with healing too. We have one reference to him as being a protector for the health of a community. In the Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum, Adam of Bremen records that at the Temple of Uppsala, “if plague and famine threaten, a libation is poured to the idol Thor.” So we see him tied specifically to famine, which of course would come about by impacts to the crop by weather. With his wife the Goddess Sif being a deity of grain crops it might make sense to honor her as well. Sunna makes sense as well since it is by her light that plants grow.

I also like to incorporate into the festivities Wayland (or Volund), who was a blacksmith. After all, blacksmiths represented the luck of a community. They helped to craft the tools used in the agricultural process: ploughs, hoes, shovels, pick axes, shoes for the livestock, etc. By connection we can also think of this as a time of the dwarves (many who we see are tied with the blacksmithing creation of certain tools for the Gods), for where does the metal come from that a blacksmith uses, if not from us mining the earth?

While most of us today don’t make our livelihoods directly from the land, we can still understand this time of year as the time meant to prepare ourselves for the workload ahead, which is why many Heathens who celebrate the Charming of the Plough may ask for blessings regarding career prospects, job offers and other related elements for the coming year. Some groups may have rituals where people and the ‘tools’ of their trade are blessed.  A tailor might bring their scissors to be blessed, a writer might bring a pen, people may bring their security badges for places they work, or anything else that seems appropriate.

If you’re a farmer you may want to create a modified version of the Æcerbot for your own practices. On a smaller scale whether you are a homeowner, or merely live in a place without access to your own land you can plant your own edible plants and do a mini version of the rite, even if it’s just a potted plant of kitchen herbs, or perhaps a gardening plot to grow some of your own fruits and vegetables for the year. The baking of loaves and the offering thereof is still incredibly relevant, and probably the most common element of this holy tide among modern practitioners today.

When talking about the ritual structure of the Aecerbot, I mentioned the nine herbs charm and how it was create as a mixture with soap, apple residue and the noted nine herbs. If we look to the Northern Tradition we see that Idunna the goddess with the golden apples that gives vitality to the gods, has Bragi the god of music as her husband. We know in some areas around the end of the Yuletide the apple orchards were sung to as part of wassailing traditions, in order for them to bear fruit in the coming year. So when I see similar wassailing folk traditions with Plough Monday, I see a continuation and a thought of the need to sing to the land. To invoke the deities of the land. The reference to apple residue being used in the Nine Herbs Charm, depicts to me a connection with the concept of vitality in our tradition because the apple is the fruit and source of vitality: vitality of life, and vitality of the land. You won’t have fresh apples anymore, but even in their residue and seeds there is power. So, while Idunna tends to be more regularly invoked from fall through the end of Yule, there may be something poignantly appropriate about adding something related to apples to your offerings. Not fresh apples as that’s not seasonal, but the sort of products that can be made and stored from apples picked in the fall. Maybe some apple butter to go with your offering of loaves. This can be part of other seasonally appropriate herbs, flowers, and produce for your offerings too.

Egyptian Gods and Goddesses Bookmark Giveaway

Egyptian Gods and Goddesses Bookmark Winners

  • DS in Hinesville, Georgia
  • RD in San Antonio, Texas
  • KL in Houston, Texas
  • JM in Knoxville, Tennessee
  • PW in Rochester, New Hampshire
  • AB in Madeira Beach, Florida

I had fewer entries, than I did bookmarks. That means there’s still some bookmarks up for grabs. So while supplies last you can still enter for the freebie. You can find all the details on the original post below.

Wyrd Designs

As more information comes to the surface since the insurrection in my nation’s capital I just get angrier. I am so furious. I could rant on this topic for hours. While my nation grapples with the series ramifications and fallout, I always think about how it’s important not to lose sight of our Gods during both good times and bad. To that end I am giving away bookmarks of the Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, scroll down to the bottom to learn how to enter.


Queen Nefertari’s Egypt – An Exhibition

I took a much needed mental health break to Fort Worth’s Kimbell Art Museum as it is currently hosting an exhibit to Queen Nefertari’s Egypt. Nefertari was wife of Pharaoh Ramses II. When her tomb was discovered by Ernesto Schiaparelli in 1904 in the Valley of the Queens near modern day Luxor, Egypt, it had already been ransacked. Most of…

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Trolls in D.C.

Angrily flabbergasted is the best way I can describe my feelings as an American today. Our election process is set up that there are bipartisan volunteers at our polling locations, and who count our ballots. Biden won. He won the popular vote, he won the electoral college. The Trump administration and the Republican party challenged results in many locations, this is normal with our elections. But not a single judge anywhere found that a single law was broken. Biden won. Trump is a dangerous narcissist who can’t think about anyone else except himself, except for being right, except for wanting the world to reflect his delusional need of grandeur.

Let’s call it for what it was, he incited a crowd to attempt a coup on OUR HOUSE. His administration has been nothing more than a domineering, abusive, degradation on the US constitution, our democracy, and the truth.

FUCK Commander-in-Cheetoh.

Oh and fuck this clown too.

I want to be clear here wearing a valknut doesn’t make you special. Just as wearing a cross doesn’t make you special. Both the valknut and the cross are sacred symbols to their respective religions: Northern Tradition Polytheism, and Christianity. The valknut is a symbol sacred to the Norse God Odin, just as the hammer (mjolnir) is sacred to the defender of humanity, the Norse God Thor. It’s hard to see in the above picture, but Bull-Horny’s hand is covering a very large mjolnir (Thor’s Hammer) tattoo.

It has been an unfortunate truth that these sacred symbols of the Northern Tradition have in part been picked up by fringe white supremacists who wear the symbols as some made up mythology of superiority. But 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.

I don’t know Bull-Horny here, and frankly I’m glad not to have suffered his presence personally. I don’t know why he has the symbol of the valknut, sacred to Odin, on his body. Nor do I know why he has a tattoo of Thor’s Hammer, a symbol used for hallowing and protection. But I do know he was in a crowd of people carrying signs for Jesus, and giant Christian crosses, and the sign he holds (shown above) clearly mentions a singular God. So he is not a polytheist. He doesn’t worship OUR GODS. He’s just some spoiled brat having a tantrum in a sandbox, but unfortunately his tantrum amounts to him being part of a terrorist mob whose actions led to the deaths of multiple persons. Let’s be clear these are NOT representatives of the whole of either of these religions, these are fringe radicals. But they have been stirred up by some of our elected officials, and make no mistake those persons have blood on their hands today.

After the houses of our legislative arm were evacuated today they ended up mostly sequestered together during the chaos. Once security got things controlled on the Capitol our elected officials went back to work, and finished confirming the election. In 2 weeks, by meeting the requirements set forth in the Constitution and associated amendments, Biden will be sworn in as President. I think I speak for many Americans tonight that I say the next two weeks may have us on edge, and the 25th Amendment is still in play. There may not be much time but the cabinet could declare Trump unfit (which I doubt they will since they were appointed by him) and remove him from office. Congress has 2 weeks to bring up new impeachment charges and the potential to convict and remove him. We have 2 weeks of being on edge to look forward to until Biden is sworn in.

And then comes the weeks to come, the months ahead as we deal with these repercussions as we head to our next major federal elections in 2022.

Is it unsettling to be an American right now? You betcha. While there’s a cynical part of me that can definitely see things spinning out of control quickly, most of me trusts that there’s enough men and women who believe in our democracy from a range of political viewpoints and backgrounds who will protect the underpinnings of our country: the Constitution that has brought us all together.


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.