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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Northern tradition

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Draugadrottin

Continuing with my exploration of the Names of Odin in alphabetical order, He doesn’t have many heiti, or by-names, beginning with the letter D.  However, the one we'll be discussing today is among my favorites of all of His names anyway because it tells us so much about the essence of who and what He is.  It is generally translated as meaning “Lord of the Dead.”  Lets break it down, though, and see if we can learn more from it than that.

The drottin part of the name means chieftain, or lord, and has a cognate in the Anglo-Saxon drihten. The particular connotation here is that of a military lord, the leader of a war band (from Proto-Germanic *druti). This implies the sort of kingship portrayed in Beowulf, for example; not necessarily a hereditary role, but one decreed by merit and ability, the man who is elevated to kingship because other men look to him and trust in his abilities, the ring giver and keeper of the web of oaths that tie a war band, a tribe, or a people together.

The other half of the name, drauga, means the dead, but here again a particular type of dead person is implied.  In Germanic belief, the “ordinary” dead go to Helheim, where they are perhaps reunited with their loved ones and have a period of rest and rejuvenation prior to being reborn or going on about whatever work lies before them between lifetimes.  Some dead, in my belief, go to the abodes of the gods they have served during life if those connections are strong enough and if the god desires their continued service and companionship.  The Poetic Edda and Snorri’s Edda alike tell us that the battlefield dead are divided between Odin and Freyja, with Frejya getting first pick.  (Ladies first, after all.)

But the draugr (singular) is in a category all his own.  As depicted again and again in the Icelandic sagas, the draugar (plural) are “walkers” or “those who walk again after death.” 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Spring, interrupted

Here in Eugene, we are in a valley surrounded by the Cascade mountains, which means we ordinarily get milder weather than the rest of Oregon.  By the first week of February, we have usually left winter behind us and are embarking on early springtime.  The plants never completely die back during the winter (the summer is our dead season instead, when the bright west coast sun sears everything brown) and we get so much rain that not only the ground but also the tree branches are covered by a layer of bright emerald moss.  (Hence Eugene’s moniker “the Emerald City”–a nickname that brings me no end of joy, considering my love for The Wizard of Oz.)  The rains come daily, the sky is always overcast, and when it is not actually raining the air is filled with a gentle mist.

This year, however, the winter was a lot drier than usual, and the moss was a dull brownish green. We got hit with an uncharacteristic snowstorm in December (about ten inches!), and then in January sparse amounts of rain, punctuated by bright, cold days, the sun shining in a clear blue sky, interspersed with days captured in a grey, freezing fog that turned your lungs to ice.  But at the beginning of February springtime seemed as sure as ever; the smell of the air itself had changed and there was now a green note, a whiff of damp earth and ozone. Last week, I found a patch of wild violets that I began harvesting—a handful at a time–to make a syrup.

And then came the snow. 

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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Be safe and warm; up here in Portland-environs we've had hundreds of car accidents in this weather. At our house, we have been nei

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Blindi (Pagan Blog Project)

(This one is a week late; I posted it on time over at my own blog, but forgot to share it here!)

Since I’ve already written at length about Odin in His guise of Bolverk (the face He wears in the Mead of Poetry myth cycle), and have at least touched on Bruni and Bjorn (both referring to His bear persona), for this post I decided to focus on a different B name: Blindi.  This name quite obviously means “blind,” and in fact there are several of His names which have to do with His eyesight, such as Tviblindi (“twice blind”), Bileygr (“feeble-eyed.” or possibly “one-eyed”), and Baleygr (“blazing eye”)–although the latter may have more to do with His gimlet gaze than with the loss of eyesight.

Odin’s sacrifice of an eye to Mimir’s Well is one of His most famous myths, second in familiarity only to His ordeal on the Tree.  In Snorri’s version of the tale, as well as in the Havamal section of the Poetic Edda, the transaction is a literal one: Odin wanted to drink from the Well guarded by Mimir in Jotunheim (twin to the Well of Wyrd in Asgard, and according to some views, the very same Well, which is so real and so fundamental to reality that a version of it appears in all worlds, just as with the World Tree itself) and the price named by the Well’s guardian was one of His eyes.  Not to be deterred, Odin obligingly, and without flinching, ripped an eye from His own head (no one can say which one, and last time I checked He wasn’t telling)  and handed it over.  In return, He received His prize: a deep draught from the Well of Memory (Mimir)–basically, the accumulated consciousness and wisdom of all People, from all races—divine and mortal—throughout all time.  What is more, Mimir then cast the severed eye into the Well, where it—according to some—continues to see, and somehow continues to transmit information back to the One who once wore it.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Unlike Greek mythology and even Egyptian mythology, the Gods and heroes and lore of northern Europe appear rarely in books aimed at children. This is unfortunate, as Norse mythology is rich with wondrous tales, grand adventure, amazing Gods, and tragic but noble heroes. There are several picture books that I recommend though, as well as chapter books and teen books and a few activity books; there are also some general mythology books which feature good sections on Norse lore. These would all make great additions to the private libraries of Heathen families, or even lending libraries maintained by particular Kindreds.

There are several picture books which the youngest children will enjoy; some retell a single myth while others focus on a specific Deity or hero. First is Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Norse by Leonard Everett Fisher* which features short, encyclopedic entries on the Deities along with beautiful full-page chalky illustrations, a map, and a pronunciation guide. Iduna and the Magic Apples by Mariana Mayer and Laszlo Gal, which I profiled in a previous column, retells the story of that Goddess's kidnapping and rescue. The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God by Lise Lunge-Larsen (author of the wonderful Gifts From the Gods) and Jim Madsen, is a humorous and exciting collection of that God's most well-known stories, while Shirley Climo and Alexander Koshkin's Stolen Thunder: A Norse Myth focuses on Thor's quest to reclaim his lost hammer from the Frost Giants. Leif the Lucky by Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire is a biography of the famous explorer, while Sister Bear: A Norse Tale by Jane Yolen and Linda Graves is a folktale featuring a spunky heroine, an adorable dancing bear, and some terrible tattooed trolls.

For those interested in collections of short stories -- which work great as bedtime reading -- Favorite Norse Myths by Mary Pope Osborne and Troy Howell collects fourteen tales (including some lesser-known adventures); it is unfortunately out of print, but copies are readily available online and at your local library. It's worth tracking down just for Howell's stunning paintings.    

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  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    @Shirl: if I missed any good ones, let me know. … Like I have any room on my book shelves ….
  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski says #
    Thank you for this treasure trove of words and pictures, and the recommendation for Willy Pogany's work for those who don't know i
  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    @Tim: glad I could add to your father-son reading list. If you have any favorites that I missed, please let me know.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
On spinning and magic

Why do I spin? The question comes often enough from non-crafty people—which probably includes most people out there--who don't really even understand that there's a difference between spinning and weaving, and who just can't see the point of knitting a sweater or scarf (much less spinning the yarn in order to knit one) when you can buy one a lot cheaper at Walmart or the local mall. But I'm sure there are also a lot of spiritual types out there who read my blog and wonder why I—a spirit worker, and married to Odin for crying out loud—spend so much of my time spinning and prepping wool for spinning.

Not that I am equating myself with Her, but the question sort of begs me to invoke Frigga's name. Because, after all, She is married to Odin, and She spins—and actually, it was partly Her influence that prompted my obsession with the fiber arts in the first place. So, why does She do it? The reason She is so closely associated with spinning (and the Norns and Valkyries with weaving) has to be partly a mundane and culturally influenced one: in the past, as the majority of Walmart shoppers probably don't realize, spinning was not just an odd pastime for middle aged women, it was a necessity of life. There were no stores in which to buy clothing, but there were sheep, and flax, and nettles, and other sources of fiber, and one day people discovered that this fiber could to be twisted to form a strong thread that could then be woven into cloth to make garments and other useful items. (Knitting came much, much later.) But you needed a lot of thread to weave enough cloth for even a single garment, so spinners spent virtually every spare moment of their lives spinning, and because spinning is something that can be easily set down in order to tend a baby, and is not a dangerous activity to practice around children, spinning (and to a lesser extent, weaving) naturally fell into the domain of women.

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  • Eric Crouse
    Eric Crouse says #
    I've been spinning since 2010. It calls to me like no other. I have started to be more on the look out for stories regarding spi
  • Cathleen M. Collett
    Cathleen M. Collett says #
    I have been diagnosed (at sixty-five!) with the entity formerly know as Asperger's Syndrome. One characteristic of this is "stimm
  • Julia Glassman
    Julia Glassman says #
    Thanks for this wonderful article! I'm a passionate knitter and aspiring spinner, and I love learning about the connections betwee

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
NOT WAGNER

When I started to wander out into the brick-and-mortar Pagan community, I noticed that there were a lot of people who believed in Norse mythology and Pantheon. Some Asatru, some called themselves Heathen, some Northern Tradition, etc.    And when I'd talk about how I wanted to find out more about how Pagans relate to music, especially if any relate to Classical music, I found that some Norsefolk liked metal and Beethoven, and others liked Richard Wagner.  Richard Wagner, for those who don't know, is hailed as having "revolutionized" music during the middle of the 19th century, and he did this via writing operas about Scandinavian 'sagas' and the 'Nibelungenlied.' I wouldn't be surprised if Wagner was the origination for a connection between Norse/Scandinavian spirituality and anti-Semitism.

I am against the man and his works.  Alright, maybe not.  Maybe I am confused and heartbroken that someone who could write such beautiful and moving music, on such a thoroughly Pagan basis, was a megalomaniac, an abuser, and a bloodthirsty anti-Semite.

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  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch says #
    I happened to come across the following article today, and thought of your post: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20130807-how-i-
  • Robert Brown
    Robert Brown says #
    This is an individual question, and an important one. Have you seensome of Hitler's art? He was an awful, terrible guy. Some of

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Deity Centered Polytheism

 

I just returned from a creative retreat where I spent the better part of the week blade-smithing and oil painting and I intended to move on to issues other than the current 'pop culture vs. devotional polytheist' Pagan debate. Upon returning, however, I found this brilliant post: http://www.witchesandpagans.com/Pagan-Paths-Blogs/gods-of-consequence.html by Anomalous Thracian, and realized that I wasn't done yet. In light of some of the comments there, I think that perhaps I need to articulate where I'm writing from a little more clearly. Because one thing that's getting lost (purposely, I think) in this debate is that what it really comes down to is those whose practices are devotionally centered on the Holy Powers (Gods and ancestors) and those for whom the human experience, human emotions, human society,  the human mind. and most of all human comfort is centric. I actually think that this is the heart of many of the misunderstandings that we're seeing. We're not speaking as one community. We will never speak as one community so long as devotion to the Gods is being marginalized. We will never speak as one community so long as devotional polytheists are expected to accept a certain homogenization of our beliefs, predicated on acceptance of attitudes and practices that to those of us who prioritize the Gods are objectionable. We're not speaking from the same place. We're not even speaking the same devotional language. Instead, we're each fighting to wrest the roots of our various traditions from out of the other's hands. 

I will begin by focusing briefly on my own spirituality, because it is not all that out of the ordinary to anyone actually rooted in any sense whatsoever of their own indigenous traditions. That's the kicker isn't it? Some of us are working as hard as possible to restore our traditions and some of us are working only to make themselves feel good. So let me get this out of the way from the start: My polytheism, which informs every aspect of my life, is not people-centric. It is not focused on making human beings feel better about themselves, or about fitting into a nice social group. It is not an excuse for intellectual masturbation, nor do I practice it for my own gratification. It is not always comfortable, and is quite often inconvenient. My polytheism, as I believe devotional polytheism by its very nature should be, is very, very Deity centric. I honor and serve the Gods because it is the right and proper thing to do as an intelligent, responsible adult. While my practice is in part about building community, that community is one centered in devotion to the Holy Powers. That is the only community in which I am interested. I would go so far as to say Paganism that isn't Deity centric isn't Pagan. It might be fun. It might be a intellectually entertaining. It might be a nice, accepting social gathering. It's not, however anything approaching polytheistic spirituality. 

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  • Marie Dees
    Marie Dees says #
    One of my teachers in my spiritual path was Hindu. I remember that he had a great devotion to the goddess Durga. Devotion is recog
  • Betty Prat
    Betty Prat says #
    I support you and agree with you 100%. These people are just causing dissension because they have nothing better than to slander g
  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    Byron, thank you. That means a lot right now. thank you. and looking forward to chatting with you next Wed on the show.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Meditations on Hávamál, 15-18

More in this continuing series on the poem of gnomic wisdom from Old Norse: this entry focuses on courage and wisdom as well as how travel broadens the mind.

15.
Þagalt ok hugalt
skyli þjóðans barn
ok vígdjarft vera;
glaðr ok reifr
skyli gumna hverr,
unz sinn bíðr bana.

16.
Ósnjallr maðr
hyggsk munu ey lifa,
ef hann við víg varask;
en elli gefr
hánum engi frið,
þótt hánum geirar gefi.

17.
Kópir afglapi
er til kynnis kemr,
þylsk hann um eða þrumir;
allt er senn,
ef hann sylg of getr,
uppi er þá geð guma.

18.
Sá einn veit
er víða ratar
ok hefr fjölð of farit,
hverju geði
stýrir gumna hverr,
sá er vitandi er vits.

15. Silent and thoughtful the ruler's child should be and battle-bold. Glad and joyful should each of men be until he suffers his death.

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So you wanna be a Godspouse? (some plain talk)

[Cross-posted from my primary blog by request.]

First, an announcement: as of today, January 1st 2013, I will no longer be available to answer either seidhr or divination questions along the lines of "Does Deity X (fill in the blank, but Loki and Odin are the usual suspects) want to marry me/sleep with me/date me?" or even, "What does Deity X want from me?" in which the unspoken subtext is, "Does He/She want to marry me?" Once again, any seidhr questions or reading requests that follow some variation on this pattern will be refused, and a link to this post given.

This includes any similar questions that I have already tentatively indicated I would try to respond to, as of this date.

The reasons for this decision are many, and frankly they include the preservation of my sanity, since in the past couple of months this has become the most popular variety of question sent my way, not only for seidhr but just randomly dropped in my inbox via email or Facebook, even after I had posted a notice in the sidebar of my blog, months ago now, that I would not be able to answer ANY free questions outside of my regular posted seidhr schedule. Even being in the midst of Yule, the holiest time of year for me, or days before my 10th anniversary in one instance, has not hindered people from doing this or prompted them to consider that perhaps they should wait, that perhaps their approaching me at such a time might be inconsiderate or disrespectful. It has seriously been annoying enough to make me consider putting my seidhr practice on hiaitus altogether for a bit, and I was set to do exactly that until I saw how many people I was able to help in unexpected ways during the Samhain and Yule sessions (this last being one of the primary reasons I began my oracular practice in the first place).

The root of the problem came out during a discussion with Jolene the other night, and was echoed by a recent comment someone else posted to my blog: entitlement. Too many people among the newest crop of would-be godspouses and spirit workers apparently feel somehow entitled to not only have the help and guidance of those who have been on this path for years, but to have it now, on demand, when they are ready and not when the other person is ready to help them (assuming there is such a time; please see further below for more on this).

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  • Beth Lynch
    Beth Lynch says #
    Paolo, I have run into a couple of male lovers or spouses of Odin, but you're right, they do tend to be a lot less public about it
  • Paolo Nugent
    Paolo Nugent says #
    It's interesting to me that I have never heard of any men being Goodspouses within the Northern Tradition (don't know much about p
  • Cat
    Cat says #
    Very well said.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

While my spiritual path is Hellenic and I primarily honor Greek Deities, I nonetheless am fascinated by the many, many different traditions out there that fall within the large Pagan tent (or set up camp right next to it). As a result, I have a pretty sizable personal library of books on other-than-Hellenic traditions. 

Northern Traditions, and especially the Goddesses honored by those traditions, are a particular favorite subject.* I am always on the lookout for new books on Frigga or Freyja or Epona or Skadhi or Medeine.**

HR Ellis Davidson is a well-respected scholar of Northern mythology and religion, and her Roles of the Northern Goddess is at the top of my list. Though a bit dry in places -- and obviously not written with polytheists or Pagans in mind -- it is still an informative and wide-ranging study. This is one of the few texts I have been able to find in English which does include information on Eastern European Goddesses.

...
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  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    @Kalyca: I love hearing from librarians! There are surprisingly few really good books out there about the Norse Goddesses. Please
  • Kalyca Schultz
    Kalyca Schultz says #
    Thank you for this book list! I look forward to dipping my toes into some of these, especially the ones about Freyja. Just publish

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Mysteries of the Hearth

Finally, autumn has come to the Willamette Valley here in Oregon.  I say "finally," although summer is brief enough here and most Oregonians would probably wish for a few more weeks of it.  Autumn, however, is my favorite time of year and I look forward to it year-round.  The early morning crispness has changed to a genuine chill that lingers through more of the day, the acorns have started to fall and the squirrels scamper after them, eager to begin fortifying their nests against the winter.  The leaves have begun to turn color and soon their branches will become a canopy of gold, scarlet and pumpkin orange.  It is September, and my thoughts turn to my home, my own nest, and to what fortifications I might make now to make it a welcoming and nourishing place in the months to come.

What is the center of your home, its heart?  For most Americans, the answer would probably be "the television."  However, hopefully that is not the case with the average pagan, and a few of you have probably guessed where I'm going with this: in traditional European pagan cultures from Greece to Scandinavia, the center of a household was the hearth.  However, there is room for a little interpretation in what constitutes the hearth for you.

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  • Justin Patrick Moore
    Justin Patrick Moore says #
    Beth, I forgot to mention... I'll be following your series of posts with great interest!
  • Beth Lynch
    Beth Lynch says #
    Thank you, Justin! *g* Yes, I agree that we definitely need both Hearthkeepers and Husbandsman--and I love that term. It perfect
  • Justin Patrick Moore
    Justin Patrick Moore says #
    I always liked the meal prayer given by poet Gary Snyder ever since I first read it: "Thank you for this food, the work of many ha

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