Husband and wife, Josh and Cat Heath, who have long been the operating force and co-directors behind the Open Halls Project have announced that they are shutting down. For those unfamiliar with the Open Halls Project, Josh Heath was on active duty in the US Army from 2006 to 2011 (deployed 2008-2009 In Operation Iraqi Freedom). He saw a need and decided to act upon it. He wanted to make it easier for military heathens to find heathens wherever they might be posted, both civilians and other active duty or veteran military heathens. That included penpals, care packages, connecting heathen clergy, kindreds and other believers. It evolved into making resources for military chaplains available. It had been an over decade fight by others (including the Heaths) to get pagan and heathen symbols approved for veteran tombstones. There was a national rally on the Washington mall in DC on July 4, 2007 towards this end. The pentagram was added in 2007, and the mjollnir added in 2013. (You can view the symbols at the official Veteran’s Affairs emblem database).
The Heaths decided that they wanted to tackle getting the religion added to the US Army. On June 16, 2011 they put the call out seeking US Army soldiers (past and present) who identify as asatru or heathen, as they were working with other organizations to get heathen/asatru added to the religious preference list for the US Army.
When it comes to religious, pagan celebrations most people are familiar with the eight holy days or sabbats that comprise the Wheel of the Year, such as Lugnasadh. In the Northern Tradition, we do not call these celebrations sabbats. Instead, based on words (like the Old Norse hátíðir) used to describe the most holy of these celebrations (like Yule) as high tides, we tend to call the various religious celebrations we recognize today as holy tides (since not all of the holy tides are considered high tides).
Since we practitioners of the Northern Tradition are dealing with a general umbrella culture that existed in vast plurality we look to ancient Germanic, Scandinavian (Norse, Icelandic, Swedish, Danish, etc.) and Anglo-Saxon sources. It is important to understand that these ancient cultures reckoned time in different ways in comparison to one another or to the modern world. They existed in different latitudes, lived amongst different types of geography with unique climate conditions that affected the local agricultural cycle. This means that sometimes the timing between when one group would celebrate and another would celebrate a similar type of holy tide could be several weeks apart.
Sometimes we can see an obvious and clear link between these cousin cultures to a specific holy tide like Yule, in other cases things are a bit less clear, or the celebrations of the different groups can sometimes seem vastly different even when they have a similar root, or some celebrations may be unique and not echoed in extant sources elsewhere.
Hlæfmæsse translates in our modern English tongue to Loaf-Mass, and is sometimes also called Lammas, we have numerous instances in Anglo-Saxon literature that talk about this particular Christianized celebration and some of the traditions attached to it. Since mass denotes a Christian ritual, some have theorized that the pre-Christian name for this holy tide may have been Hlæfmæst (feast of loaves), and for this reason some Heathens will use this name instead. That theory may not be far off reality. The ninth century text, Old English Martyrology, refers to August 1st as the day of hlæfsenunga, which translates to ‘blessing of bread’.
Did you know we have possible evidence of cultic worship to Loki from antiquity?
Al-Tartuschi (also known as Ibrahim ibn Yaqub) hailed from the Cordoba Caliphate (specifically the Al-Andalus area from the Iberian peninsula), and wrote of his travels abroad in Europe in 961 – 962 CE. He records seeing worship connected to the Sirius star in Hedeby, Denmark. The population size is estimated to have been around 1500-2000 people. Hedeby of the time was a commercial center populated by a range of groups: Danes, Frisians, Franks, Germans, Swedes, and Slavs. So that suggests to me the possibility for a much wider dispersion of the practice outside of Hedeby.
And for anyone having difficulty reading the image the text is quoted below:
The Theodosian Code 16.10.11 tells us that on this day, February 24, in the year 391 CE, Roman Emperor Theodosius I decreed the closing of the temples and shrines. In the next few years there were further erosions to religious practice including the destruction of those holy sites, and the punishment of those polytheists who tried to worship their Gods.
Over 1600 years later and the Gods and Goddesses are still worshipped, new temples and shrines are being erected.
So on this day, let us post pictures of the new temples and shrines, post pictures of your altars to the Gods and Goddesses. Greet the Gods by name, lay offerings out to them, give them your prayers. Long may the Gods be hailed!
While the decree by Emperor Theodosius I obviously had a huge impact on ancient Roman polytheism, these restrictions also impacted other traditional polytheisms as well within the width and breadth of the Empire.
So yes, I think it’s a great idea to post my current altar in testament that the Gods are still hailed. In that spirit here is Weyland, Gerd, Freya, Eir, Hlin, Nott, Odin, Heimdall, Nerthus, Thor, Frigga & Baldr.
Every religion and culture has an iconography which is uniquely it’s own, and the Northern Tradition is no different. Common symbols found in conjunction with this religion are the Valknut, Mjolnir, Irminsul, magical staves (known as a galderstav, such as the Ægishjálmur & Vegvisir), Sunwheels (including solar crosses and the misappropriated swastika), etc. But what do they mean?
So you want to learn about the Northern Tradition, but don’t want to read scholarly analysis, or any ruminations from modern practitioners. You just want one source from the culture to learn everything that’s historically authentic to the culture but tells you about the cosmology, and the details of all the rituals? Well sorry to burst your bubble, but that doesn’t exist.
There is an old joke, that ours is the religion with homework (and really, all religion has homework). There’s a lot you need to understand in the big picture before you can really start to tease out the details of pre-Christianity.
Before I go down the very nuanced rabbit hole, I want to make one thing abundantly clear: the history, the stories, the folk customs, the archaeology are all useful and important. But a faith is a living thing, and you have to live a religion, which means finding ways to practice it. How do you conduct rituals? What offerings do you give? What prayers do you say? What are your devotions? How do you live a religion? You can find helpful resources and inspiration from the past but at some point you have to venture out and find your own way of living the religion.
I also want to stress that you do not need to be a scholar to follow this religious path. The only thing standing between you developing a relationship with our Gods, the ancestors, and the vaettir is simply you. Some enjoy delving into the history, to immerse themselves and tease out nuances. Others don’t, and merely want a framework of understanding so they can then move onto living the religion through the customs that come with a living and ever evolving practice. But for those of you who want to delve into the vast knowledge from antiquity, the following should help define a helpful framework to have in mind before you start your own explorations of the sources. This is useful as well to read, even if you only ever plan to do a little bit of exploration into the ancient sources on your own.
We can find a lot of information if you’re patient by going through the old literary and archaeological sources, but it’s not easy. For those of us in the Northern Tradition we have the misfortune that so little has survived to us from ancient believers. Unlike some other major polytheisms, like the unbroken tradition of Hinduism, or other major polytheistic traditions that have a large corpus of work by believers from antiquity about their own religious culture that survives into the present day: Kemetic, Hellenic, and Cultus Deorum, etc.
First you have to understand the history, the various sources (and how they connect to the historical context). Then comes the harder element, the fact even when rituals are mentioned it’s usually in passing, or only in vague context. In order to obtain our creation story you have to look at five different sources: Völuspá, Grímnismál, Vafþrúðnismál, Gylfaginning, and Alvissmal. So it’s very common that we have to take little puzzle pieces from a range of material to try to piece together specific details. This means to fill in the gaps many look at the entirety of the Northern Tradition umbrella from the lore (various literary sources including (but not limited to) the sagas, eddas, & skaldic poetry, various Anglo-Saxon sources, as well as Byzantium, Roman & Arab accounts, late appearing folk customs & tales, and even archaeological finds. Approaching this material with an understanding of how this culture viewed the seasons, and drafted their calendar can help you tease apart the timing of some of the rituals too. While we can find commonalities in the over-arching shared worship to Odin/Woden, there were also unique traditions tied to specific settlements or tribal groups that to our knowledge did not appear elsewhere too. This has led in the modern movement to a range of different approaches, some are strictly reconstructionist from a specific area, and others may be more universal across the entirety of the umbrella, plus a range of other denominations in between.
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.
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.
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.
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 Poem
ᛟ 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.
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.
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 temporumratione, 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).
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.
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, we have a description of the ancient holy tide of Disting. A sacrifice was offered at Uppsala for both peace and victory to the king. 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.
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.
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.
Not only have I personally picked up some work from SacredPathArt (I love her version of the Goddess Sif), but I’ve been seriously eyeing VisaVisJewelryLA‘s Thor pendant for a while, as well as the Idunna pendant and Eir earrings.
Yule is one of my favorite times of year, and to help spread some holiday cheer I decided to create the Yuletide Shopping Guide to help people find goods for their homes, and gifts. Hopefully in the process, helping to steer some business towards some very talented artisans, including some within our religious community. So far I’ve spotlighted resources for crafters, resources to trim the tree & deck the halls for the holiday, highlighted Krampus goods, and now I’m moving onto artists and artisans.
VisaVisJewelryLA specializes in jewelry made with bronze and gold, sometimes with a cloisonné technique too. There’s a range of polytheistic traditions represented across the bling worthy offerings: Assyrian, Sumerian, Norse, Celtic, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Hindu, and more.
Making Magick features a husband and wife artisan team from our religious community based in North Carolina creating goods in ceramics, wood, metal, fabric and more…