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.
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…
The Wild Hunt posted an update on the efforts of myself and others in the community group, No Hate In Hurst, in our efforts to combat a hate cult. An excerpt of the media mentions follows:
Last month, the SBC was served with an eviction notice for violating the tenets of their lease by using violent language that included encouraging suicide and physical harm. The posted notice required SBC to be moved out by noon on March 3, and it appears the organization complied with the order. Pastor Jonathan Shelley denied the charges but a video posted to YouTube that incorporated footage from his hearing as well as footage from some of his many sermons contradicts the pastor’s denial.
As Ukrainians rally in defiant resistance against the invading Russian forces, the rest of the world is also coming together to help. Including a number of foreigners heading to the country to join Ukraine’s foreign legion to fight. Around 20,000 fighters so far, with more coming.
Some of you may be familiar with Canadian based Heathen and Goði Austin Lawrence (aka Auz) of Raven’s Knoll campground, he is a member of both the American Vinland Association and The Troth. He also runs the HeathenHearth YouTube channel that explores foodways that are inspired by the historic and ethnographic imagination.
Austin posted a fundraiser to Facebook because his daughter Kadri Lawrence‘s partner Dani Kay (a Canadian combat veteran and inclusive Heathen) is soon en route to Ukraine to join their Foreign Legion.
I wanted to leave this well enough alone but things have reached a point I cannot ignore and with the skills, teachings and experience I have as well as being of Slavic descent I feel I have a duty and responsibility to do everything I can. Arrangements have been made so that I may do this.
The family is asking for financial assistance to offset costs for travel, and to help them purchase and bring some of the needed gear. Since the foreign legion is volunteer, that means those joining up are responsible for all associated costs of getting to (and eventually from) Ukraine. The Ukrainian Government while providing gear to the volunteers, is also encouraging their newest recruits to show up with whatever gear they can.
GoFundMe per their terms of service won’t allow for fundraising for men or women intending to go fight. Austin who had set up a fundraiser to do just that, ended up getting his account deleted. So if you’d like to help offset the costs for Dani who is heading to Ukraine to fight, here’s how you can help to make it happen. Whether you can give $5 or $500, every little bit helps and is deeply appreciated.
For those in Canada, you can send etransfers (EMT) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please just contact Kadri and let her know the password for the transaction.
For those outside of Canada, donations can be made via PayPal sent to email@example.com. This is the PayPal account for Kadri’s parents (as neither Kadri or Dani have a Paypal account). Kadri’s parents will make sure the money gets to Dani. Please indicate it is a GIFT so the fee is not taken off as it is a business account.
Donation Update Day 2 [March 12, 2022]: $5158. I…I don’t have words. We are so grateful for the support. This will be instrumental in helping Dani be as prepared as possible in Ukraine, to do as much good as possible, and to come home safe. Any unused funds will go to organizations on the ground helping refugees and those in need. You are all amazing. BRB while I go have a wee cry. ❤
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.
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)
book & Bible burning (Pastor Shelley made a special trip to host some libricide)
In the Norse myths, Jormungand is known to be the son of Loki and Angurboda. He takes the form of a giant serpent. Tossed into the ocean, he eventually grows so big he outgrows the water and encircles the world. He currently bites his tail, but during Ragnarok he is predicted to release his tail as calamity follows.
This, combined with the fact I spend lots of time in astronomy apps and observing our night skies, has made me wonder if he might just be meant to tie to the visible sight of the milky way in our night skies. Just as the earth we live on (Midgard) rotates daily, and then annually around our sun, our solar system in turn is in motion spinning around our galaxy of the milky way. Every star visible in the night sky is an object that resides within our galaxy. Most of the objects in our spiral galaxy appear like a disc in what is often referred to as the galactic plane.
In honor of Veteran’s Day, I am giving away for free Sigdrifa’s Prayer Bookmarks to any US veteran or active duty pagan or polytheist (though you must have a US address, military APO/FPO addresses count), while this year’s supplies last. I also have the bookmarks for sale, the proceeds are used to help me make the bookmarks available for free to the veterans. I’ve been doing this since 2010!
Sigdrifa’s Prayer is a rare remnant and surviving prayer for those within the Northern Tradition umbrella, found within the Sigdrifumal. A microcosm of the macrocosm of our cosmology. For all the details, including learning about the prayer itself, how to request for those who qualify, or to purchase one to support my effort (entering it’s 11th year), jump to the link:
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.
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…
Unlike some other traditions, those of us within the Northern Tradition have a scant sampling of prayer that has survived to us from antiquity. Primarily Sigdrifa’s Prayer, and occasionally a snippet of an epithet. This no doubt is the reason why I have long seen within Heathenry that newcomers yearn for examples that they can be inspired by or use within their own religious practice. Newcomers, and sometimes even those who may have been within this sphere of influence for some time, forget or don’t know that even in antiquity offerings could be quite personal and beyond the mere scope of physical goods. Words were deeply valued.
Odin is a god of many things, and here is an invocation I’ve created and I sing in devotion to him.
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.