From 2007-2010 I was one of the leaders of the Vanatru movement under the name Svartesol; in 2009 I put out a book called Visions of Vanaheim which was considered the essential Vanatru text (which has in 2014 re-released in a revised and expanded version, available in paperback and PDF). A rising star, I burned out pretty quickly, not having the interpersonal skills and boundaries that I have now… and when I burned out, I tried to walk away from the Vanir for awhile. One of the reasons why I call this blog Roads to Vanaheim isn't just because it's a catchy title within the limit of 18 characters, but because my own path with the Vanir has been a long and winding road – I've found myself lost a few times, I've been tired… but your heart knows where home is, and so it is that I keep crossing the ways into Vanaheim to know them, and invite them here into this world as well.
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There has been so much talk lately of peace. The world is not an easy place right now, and I see difficulties all around, from the level of geographical turmoil to communities in chaos, to quieter, more internal distress. And I see friends, well-intentioned and hard-working people, left bereft of direction, unsure of what to do in the face of it all.
We are all part of something. Family, tribe, online and in person, we have those we love and who love us in turn. We try to reach out, to help where we can, but it can be very difficult, as the connections become loose. Understanding can be lost as beliefs differ, opinions clash, cultures seem confusing. There is never just one side to a story.
I often say that I do my best, because that's all I (or any of us) can do. And I mean it, even if some days, my best doesn't seem like very much at all! But as a Druid and a Pagan, I feel the connection with those around - both human and non-human. My hilltop home, but also the pull of the lands of my childhood (varied though they were) and welcoming places that I've visited, both across the UK and overseas. So many lives, so many stories. How many do we touch, as we walk our paths? What effect do we have on the tides of this world?
It's a pleasantly cool August night, and my partner and I are drinking Mojitos on the patio, the laughter from our friends drift up from the pool. Once in awhile, we hear the melodic chants of the guest Coven, raising energy in the new sacred space we carved out in the woods just last week. The lights are dim in the freshly painted cabins, as some of the greatest minds in contemporary Paganism arrived last night to circle and discuss Magickal and theological gems. Within the walls of our sacred Pagan space, we have no need to explain ourselves. Trees get hugged, and there's no eyebrow raising. The Fey get their due respect without reminders. The Unicorns are only ever fed with the produce from our collective garden and Peter Dinklage makes a nightly stop to simply have a chat and sometimes lets us ride his pet dragon around the area. It's a great place.
Anchoring a God...
There is no clean land in all of Ireland, no fields not blood-soaked nor polluted by tears and death, for the Great War had raged across the land for ages. The war and its reasons, the dead and their Kings, their celebrated champions no longer matter. One royal husband slain and the victor wed, and Tailtiu, still Queen of Ireland, never took part in the fighting....
Though she is not as well-known as some of the other Minoan deities who made their way into the later Olympian pantheon, Eileithyia, the divine midwife and goddess of childbirth, was profoundly important to the ancient Cretans. There is some speculation that Eileithyia is actually her Minoan/pre-Greek name, which is unusual among the deities from Crete; we know most of them only from their later Greek epithets. In the Cretan dialect her name is Eleuthia (e-re-u-ti-ja in Linear B), which may connect her to Eleusis and the mystery religion celebrated there. A goddess of birth could certainly have a place in the transformational ceremonies of a mystery religion. The meaning of her name is disputed, though it may have its roots in the term ‘to bring’ or ‘to deliver,’ which would make sense for a goddess of childbirth, or possibly in the word for ‘to aid or relieve.’ She is sometimes depicted as multiples – the Eileithyias – rather than a single goddess, and sometimes as a dual goddess, one who either slows labor or speeds it, depending on her attitude toward the laboring woman. To me, her multiplicity links her to the oldest female deities such as the Fates and the Mothers (Meteres or Matrones).
The Minoans worshiped Eileithyia at a cave near Amnisos, the ancient port that served the city of Knossos. Archaeologists have found evidence of her continuous worship in that cave beginning in Neolithic times, so she is one of the oldest Minoan deities. According to legend, she was born in that cave, making her a part of the living landscape of the island, much like Rhea. In the cave archaeologists have found figurines of women in childbirth, nursing babies and in prayer postures. These votive offerings women made to this goddess tell us what they wanted from Eileithyia, which is pretty much the same thing pregnant women have always desired and still hope for: a safe and fast delivery of a healthy child who nurses strongly and grows well. In this way, Eileithyia ties us to our ancestors going back through the generations and the millennia....
Continuing the story of my early experiences that led me to Asatru, I finally arrived at the trailhead of the heathen path at 17. In this quote from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts, my older brother’s girlfriend Cynthia gave me a gift that set me on the road of the runes:
“On my 17th birthday, Cynthia gave me a slender book, Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic, by Edred Thorsson. Reading it felt more like recognition than discovery, and by the time I put it down I knew I had seen Truth. As a devotee of Tolkien I knew that runes were ancient writing, and could be used for magic. Now I saw infinite levels of meaning in the mysteries the runes symbolized. What clinched the feeling of Truth for me was that, understood metaphorically, nothing in the eldritch rune lore contradicted what I knew of science. In Norse legend, in the beginning was the void, and the first other thing to exist was the differentiation of fehu and isa, fire and ice, the primal energy and the primal pattern. It was easy to read this as energy and matter, two sides of the same coin, or the same magically charged void, but also a realistic description of the first things to exist in the multiverse, particles / waves. Only then came the multiverse, then the giants or old gods, then the new gods, then our world, and then us. Human beings were shaped from trees, and then followed a succession of human types known as Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather, Grandmother and Grandfather, Mother and Father, and finally Noble—that’s us. It was evolution writ large, gods included.