Tag Archives: Asatru

Clearing Up Confusion About the Conversion of Europe

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Cross of the Celts by Mad1Dave on Deviant Art

When people speak about conversion from the Old Religion to Christianity in Europe, they tend to use universal terms, as if it happened the same everywhere all at once. It didn’t.

There are a lot of generalizations and blatant falsities put forth from many different angles. Many Christians insist that conversion happened peacefully and voluntarily.  Many modern Pagans insist that all of conversion was bloody and forced.

What we need to remember is that the conversion of Europe occurred in a time span of over one thousand years.  The process happened differently in different areas.

Since this blog focuses on Northern Europe, defined by me as the area stretching from the British Isles to Russia, barring countries speaking a Romance language (sorry, France), I will not go into the very early Church in the Middle East and Mediterranean.

The Celts:

The  area where the biggest misunderstanding seems to lie is with the Celts who were the earliest converts outside of the Mediterranean. Wiccans, who tend to cling to Celtic culture and claim to follow a form of Celtic paganism, are often the worst offenders of spreading false history.  Sadly for them, the Celts were one group in Northern Europe who converted by and large peacefully and voluntarily.

Because they converted so early, very little is known about what Celtic pagans actually believed and practiced.  Since the Church arrived early in Ireland in the 5th century, they were the minority and therefor  had to tread lightly, and this conversion happened organically and willingly (much to the chagrin of  Wiccan writers who have been reading garbage by unqualified writers who don’t fact check).

There was no Druid slaughter by Christians. That is a myth. The Druids are thought to have blended into the Celtic Christian priesthood.  One reason for the confusion is that the Romans DID slaughter druids. But this was simply due to the fact that they were a political threat. It had nothing to do with religion. In fact, this slaughter occurred nearly 300 years prior to the conversion of Rome! It’s called the Menai Massacre, and it is the only known large scale slaughter of druids.

Also, Saint Patrick was NOT a slayer of druids. Please read this blog by The Wild Hunt and this one by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, a Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan and scholar for more information on this rumor.

Druids by Alex Martinez on Deviant Art

The Anglo-Saxons:

The area that became England was home to many Christians when they were occupied by Rome. At this point in time, Christians and pagans lived side by side. It was actually a very diverse religions environment, where people practiced both Roman, Celtic, and a hybrid version of paganism called Roman-Gallo paganism.  When the Romans left Britain, Christianity faded away with the influx of the pagan Anglo-Saxons early in the 5th century.

Replica of the Anglo-Saxon helmet found in the Sutton Hoo burial site.

Replica of the Anglo-Saxon helmet found in the Sutton Hoo burial site.

The Church did make huge missionary efforts to convert the Anglo-Saxons. Again this was very early (tail end of the 6th through the 7th centuries) and was a complicated process. At this point in time, virtually all Germanic people were still pagan (barring the Franks who had been long Romanized by now and no longer retained their Germanic language, religion, or identity). However, France had converted to Christianity one hundred years prior under the Frankish Merovingian king Clovis I, in the year 496 A.D. Between the French to the East and Celts to the North joining up with the Roman Church, the reach of Christian political military and political power was now stretching further out of the Mediterranean. So, it appears this is the point where political pressure began to be a true factor in the conversion of the Kings and people of Northern Europe.

However, Anglo-Saxon conversion still happened very gradually. Their kings were not known for using violence to forcibly convert their people. And there were many tug-of-wars when a Christian king’s pagan son inherited the throne. The common people retained their pagan customs for many years, as is so famously lamented by the Venerable Bede. The Anglo-Saxon retained a lot of their pre-Christian culture even after they were by and large fully converted. It was really when the asshole NORMANS came in with their stricter version of Christianity when the Germanic systems of fairness in rule of law became oppressed by the choke hold of Norman rule.

A wonderful fiction novel, but one that was meticulously researched, about the old religion of the Anglo-Saxons and their conversion is The Way of Wyrd by Brian Bates.

Charlemagne’s Epic Battle Against the Valiant Pagan Saxon King Widukind:

Saxon Shields by Endakil on Deviant Art

Saxon Shields by Endakil on Deviant Art

Ok, so along comes Charlemagne in France. Just as his predecessor Clovis converted to Christianity and united the Franks, the Christian Charlemagne sought to unite the German tribes and used forced conversion as a tool. He was one of the first rulers actually use forced conversion en masse.

HOWEVER, it should noted that Charlemagne was defending Europe from onslaughts of Muslim invaders from the South (ever heard of the Reconquista? the reclaiming of Spain?). In case you haven’t noticed, uniting pagans is like herding cats. The Germanic tribes were fiercely independent and more prone to tribal raiding for land and goods than large scale war. I believe Charlemagne used Christianity as a way to unite Europe under one banner to keep the Muslims from conquering Europe.

(The Crusades are another story, but that’s another false history that the Christians were to blame. The Crusades started as a response to Muslim invasions, that had a long history. Vlad the impaler is another “hero” who kept the Muslim invaders from getting in through Southeastern Europe.)

Ahem. That said, Charlemagne is responsible for the conversion of the Saxons. The brave pagan Saxon king Widukind (who’s name means Forest Child, how perfect is that) fought against Charlemagne for years in what is known as The Saxon Wars. He was finally forced to surrender to save his people from slaughter, and his conversion was a self sacrifice to protect his people.

The Norse: 

On to the Norse. King Olaf converted as a political move in the year 995, because by now most of Europe had gone over. Olaf was an asshole. He brutally forced his people to convert or die. It was Olaf who slaughtered the Volvas and Norse pagan priesthood or “wise people.”

There’s not a heck of a lot more to say on that. Other than that the things people think happened with the Celts, actually DID happen with the Norse. It was a vile and bloody forced conversion and their religious leaders and “sorcerers” who were sort of equivalent to Druids were slaughtered by Christians. Sorry Celts, the Norse win the prize!

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King Olaf Trygvasson had seidmen tied up and thrown on a skerry at ebb.

The Balts and Slavs – Crusades in Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe:

The Teutonic Crusades, also called Northern Crusades, Baltic Crusades, and the Wendish crusades occurred a few centuries later. By now the Germans and Norse had been completely assimilated by the Borg (I mean Church) and were used as fighting-bots to go out and slaughter remaining pagans. This is how the Balts became Christianized, and in the case of some of them, especially the Prussians, this is even considered by many to be a genocide. The Wendish crusades were against the Slavs, I believe Poland and nearby areas.

Lithuania held out very long, until the late 15th century, when the now Christian king of Poland waged war on them. You will notice a pattern here.  Forcibly convert a people, assimilate them into the machine. Then send them off to assimilate their neighbors. That’s how the Borg, I mean the Church, worked.

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Destruction of the Baltic Pagan Temples by the Christian Teutonic Knights

The Last Holdouts – the ones that hardly anybody even knows about:

Saami Shaman Spirit Drum

Saami Shaman Spirit Drum

After that the main pagans left were the Saami in the tippy top of Scandinavia, a Finno-Ugric people, who were still pagan as late as the 18th and 19th century. It was the Lutherans who went out of their way to go after the Saami, and their tactics were remarkably similar to how Christians in America assimilated Native Americans and attempted to make them lose their languages and native religions.

The Mari El in Russia have an unbroken line of pagan tradition. Probably due to their remote location, they were left alone more than other groups, however they still faced many periods of persecution. They are still pagan today (although many are Christian, the pagans still thrive).

In Conclusion:

So, there we have it.  As you can see, conversion was a long and widely varying process.  Anyone who speaks of it in sweeping generalities simply demonstrates that they don’t actually know much about it!

We’re building our section for pagan scholarship and reliable history in our shop.  So please give it a gander. Books covering the conversion have also been added 🙂

~ Post by Aelfwynne ~

Comments on “Ten Things You Might Not Know About Christmas” by Addicting Info

All in all this article is pretty good. I support all efforts to resurrect Olde Yule, and get to the roots of many of our holiday traditions.  There are just a couple of items mentioned here, though, that I would like to address.

Influences that preceded Santa:

409px-Georg_von_Rosen_-_Oden_som_vandringsman,_1886_(Odin,_the_Wanderer)One great point in the article is something I have been saying right along, that Santa is an amalgam of many influences – BUT he is not simply Odin repackaged like a lot of Asatru bloggers keep saying.  There seems little doubt that the white bearded Odin/Woden/Wotin who flew through the air on his magical horse to participate in the Wild Hunt at Yuletide was certainly a major influence. However, there are many other influences to consider. The archetype of the wise man, magician, sorcerer was prevalent in Northern European society from Britain to Russia. Certainly Odin is a part of this tradition, as he is known as the Wanderer in pointed wide-brimmed hat, tattered robes, often carrying a staff or walking stick. He is associated with magic, bringing us the Runes and he is said to have learned the Norse magical tradition called “Seidr” from Freyja.

ded_moroz_by_brzoza77-d35np1hHowever, the image of the mage, the wise sage who is a wielder of magic is seen elsewhere in Europe.  Think Merlin, Taliesin, and Finnish sorcerers/wizards which are so common in old Finnish folklore.

Shamanic influences are also strongly theorized to be an influence on Santa. The Finnish wizards were affiliated with Finno-Ugric shamanic tradition.  Another FInno-Ugric group with a strong shamanic tradition are the Saami.  Their shamans were known to eat the red and white fly agaric costume and then journey to the spirit world aided by the beating of their drums. These drums were often adorned with jingle bells.

Other figures across Europe follow this same pattern of being influenced by “the wandering sorcerer” archetype. Ded Moroz is one such Christmas figure from Russia (pictured above). And the English Father Christmas is another (pictured below).  I do understand that other internet writers aren’t as well versed in European folklore, so they don’t mean to be dismissive of other cultures. But, I personally feel it is disrespectful to other Northern European cultures whose traditions have  a legitimate influence on Santa Claus to leave them out.

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Saints were usually made up by monks to dissolve cults to local deities:

Another point of contention I have with the “influences” of Santa mentioned in the article, and this is no fault of the author as it is the common theory espoused about the “history” of Santa, is Saint Nicholas.

Now, a bit of nerdy Medieval explanation is necessary. When one is a student of Medieval Studies, one becomes familiar with a genre of writing not well known by the general public: hagiography.  Hagiography is a genre of literature dealing specifically with saints’ lives. However, it differs from biography because hagiographies were written with an agenda to spread the Catholic cult of saints. They were very popular during periods of conversion, when the church targeted locally venerated deities and attempted to replace them with Christian saints.  One such swap out is very well known – goddess Brigid to Saint Brigid.

StbrigidIn their campaign to build up the saint while diminishing the god, hagiographers literally made shit up.  Straight up inventions based on nothing but the imagination of the writer.  They bullshitted their way through it. Sometimes a real figure could be used as a model, and then merged with the god they were trying to erase.  But the lives were typically completely contrived, and all manner of miracles and benevolent acts were ascribed to the newly invented saint.

Therefore, it is my strong opinion that the Saint Nicolas theory is but more bunk that was put round by the Church to distract people from their traditional Christmas figures.  Many local Yuletide characters were unsavory to the church.  Italy’s Befana is a witch, and Germany’s Krampus is a creepy goat-man with likely roots as a Pan-like agrarian deity, just to give two examples! There may well have been one or more real life men who the story of Saint Nick was based on. But, more than likely, the story was purposefully devised to replace and distract people from Odin and the other figures mentioned above.

** Edit – Someone made a comment on Facebook that “the author is downplaying the real Saint Nicholas.”   Ahem. In helping a friend find scholarly sources for Valentines Day, I was reminded that it was yet another holiday rooted in a pagan past; the old Roman Lupercalia.  Saint Valentine was grafted on to the holiday in the SAME way as St. Brigid became the patron saint of Candlemas, which was formerly Goddess Brigid’s Imbolc.  If you don’t see a pattern here and want to continue to believe the tale of “real” Saint Nicholas, you go right ahead.**

Santa’s reindeer are not based on a horse. They are based on, erm, reindeer:

Corrected_Sapmi_in_Europe (1)Another point of contention is the assertion that Santa’s reindeer are based on Odin’s magical horse Sleipnir.  As explained above, the bearded magic man flying through the air at Yule does have connections to Odin and his flying horse.  However, the reindeer are more than likely inspired by the Saami reindeer herders.

Although the Saami are largely unknown by the general American public today, they were referenced quite often in writings of the 19th century when the American version of Christmas as we know it today was formed.  Back then they were referred to as Lapps, and they were of great interest to folklorists and travel writers to whom “Lapland” was an exotic and fascinating foreign location.

Reindeer herding has been a traditional livelihood of the Saami for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  The Saami live at the tippy top of Scandinavia reaching from Norway and Sweden to Finland and over to Russia. Most of this area is considered Arctic, and it is virtually undeniable that the Saami in Lapland (Sapmi is the politically correct term for this region today) were a huge influence on our image of “The North Pole.”

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The Saami tie to Santa’s reindeer goes beyond simply the coincidence of them being affiliated with reindeer in the North Pole. As mentioned above, Saami shaman used the fly agaric mushroom to spirit travel.  Well, as we would have it, the Saami reindeer herders did as well. According to folklore and historical sources, the Saami herders would watch when their reindeer rooted out the mushrooms from beneath the snow. After the reindeer ate the shrooms, the herders would collect their urine and drink it to “fly” themselves.  And there you have it: flying reindeer. This is pretty straightforward and difficult to debate. Sorry, Sleipnir! Not that I don’t love you and your eight legs or anything, but I’m not going to make up a tenuous connection just to pander to what people want to read! Especially when the truth is equally cool! If you don’t believe me, maybe BBC can explain it to you:

Fly agaric was a super uber common motif in German, Norse, and Finnish Christmas, which in all likelihood is a hold over from old Yule  All you have to do is Google it and you will find numerous images like the one below which clearly demonstrate how Santa got his red and white suit (Sorry, Odin! No rags for Santa!):

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** Quick edit with massive EYE ROLL and condescending sigh.  Yes, Coca-Cola made today’s image of Santa famous. Duh. We all know that. But this article is more about addressing the information given by the other article referenced at the top than an exhaustive meticulous history of American Christmas. However to address some comments made on Facebook… ahem, do you think the artists working for Coke lived in a vacuum?  Obviously they lived in the same culture as everyone else and were exposed to the same culturally pervasive motifs and imagery that were common to the time. As I said above, the fly agaric mushroom was a popular Christmas symbol and that pre-dated modern images of Santa.  Coke’s artists, just like everyone else at the time would have seen these everywhere. So when they were choosing colors for his outfit, there could be little question as to whether these images played a large role in their inspiration.**

Christmas Caroling began in Pagan Europe, not in the Christian 15th Century:

One last thing to mention. The article mentions Christmas “songs” going back to the 4th century in a Christian context, and that carols originated in the 15th century.  Again, no blame on the author as this information is very hidden and not well known. But Christmas caroling is a VERY pagan tradition!  It is yet another indigenous European pre-Christian custom that the Church literally rallied and launched campaigns against.  They finally decided to try to wipe out the pagan custom by replacing it with a Christian one, the same tactic mentioned above with the saints. Please read this article which explains it in detail: The Hidden History of Christmas Carols. 

winter solsticeAnd there we have it. ~ Aelfie

Please check out our section for Pagan roots of modern holidays in our shop. I will be developing and adding more great resources and recommendations to it 🙂

How the “War on Christmas” Made Me a Pagan

I’m going to share something personal with you guys. Maybe you’ve heard Christians give their “testimony” about how they “came to The Lord.” Well this is my story about how I came to discover my own ancestral indigenous religion.

Unlike some of the pagan stereotypes out there, I was never a goth chick, never obsessed with magic or “playing witch.” What I was, simply, was a deep thinker, inquisitive, curious, an avid reader, a history nerd, an animal lover, nature lover, and passionate about the things I care about.

Being raised in the church from birth, I was naturally very gung-ho about it up through my teenage years, and my thirst for knowledge lead me to learn a lot about the Bible and church history. But, there was always a frustration because it was clear from childhood that my Christian peers tended to be very shallow thinkers and I butted heads with them on their hypocrisy and sheer lack of logic. By my late teens and early twenties Christian dogma was just no longer jiving with my own ability to process information and what I knew to be true about the world at large. So I entered a period of what I might call “agnostic spirituality.”

As someone who avidly absorbed myself in history since I was a kid, I always knew about old Yule, and always had an interest in world cultures in general, but also my own cultural heritage which is generally British and Northern/Central European. So one year during the Christmas season, when I heard Bill O’Reilly launch into his “War on Christmas” tirade, something inside of me just snapped!

Now, this was nothing new. I was raised with this rhetoric. But after having been released from the brainwashing for a few years, it just really irritated me to hear this complete and utter bull. I sat there thinking “what about when Christmas warred on Yule?!” How ridiculous and hypocritical to bang on about your holiday being attacked, when your holiday attacked and hijacked another!

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It led me to thinking on how much of Old Yule is still present in our current Christmas traditions. This spawned more and more research, and something inside me just clicked. To get to the truth, you must scratch away the facade. Christianity has been a veneer painted over Europe (and European descendants in the New World) which has separated and hidden us from our roots.

I don’t mean to leave out other ethnic groups because the same is true for many. Other ethnic groups experienced this assimilation and erosion of culture more recently so it is more well known. The attack on indigenous European culture is further back in time and very well hidden. By the time Christianity began assimilating other cultures, it had become ubiquitous with Europeans, so people saw it as “white man’s religion.” We had lost our own tribal and indigenous identities by then.

By emphasizing my ancestral roots, I make no claim on any kind of superiority what so ever. Every person should connect to their ancestral roots, and to all aspects of it if you are of mixed heritage. I do not mean to exclude anyone. But the fact of the matter is that American and European “Christmas” was stolen largely from Germanic Yule. There are many other winter solstice traditions all around the world, and I urge everyone to research solstice traditions from your own heritage, or simply embrace what speaks to you.

Yule has a special place in my heart because it was the moment I had an epiphany. It was my rational and knowledgable side that thought “um, no. Screw you and your fake war on Christmas! And screw your lack of knowledge of history. Screw your hypocrisy. Screw your idiotic lack of conceptual understanding that there was, indeed, a religious holiday preceding yours that your religion usurped and waged war on!” From that moment on I became a shield maiden. No, actually I always was a shield maiden, it’s in my blood! But it activated my inner warrior to stand up for what is good and right, for the truth, and for my heritage. It spurred my entire “Heathen awakening” if you will.

I hope to have the time to post more on Yuletide traditions and history this season, but life has been busy and I have been dealing with serious illness. The Northern Grove FB page will be sure to share informative posts in the upcoming weeks.

~ Aelfwynne ~

PS – UPDATE:

People have been asking where to find info on Yule, and Yule’s influence on Christmas. I’ve added some great books on this to our Amazon shop and created a new section for Heathen/Pagan holidays ! 🙂

pagan christmas

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Feast of the Einherjar

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By Ásfriðr Godardsdottir

Today is a day where we honor our fallen or Einherjar. Many of amazing people have sacrificed their all not only for this country, but our ancestors who were slain on the battlefields as well. This is where one of my many strong connections to Odin and the Einherjar come into play as I am a Veteran myself, seeing my friends come home and some who didn’t come home standing on their own two feet. Today we honor the slain warriors of past and present. For today I feel the Einherjar are especially training for the day Ragnarok comes, and when night falls they will feast and drink as much mead as the Valkyries can hand them. Honor our current generation of war fighter who have fallen and joined the ranks of the Einherjar. Today we honor the values the Einherjar abide by, courage, honor and duty.

HAIL THE EINHERJAR !
HAIL OUR GENERATIONS WAR FIGHTER!
HAIL THE ANCESTORS AND THE GODS!

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Thoughts on Wyrd – a Germanic concept similar to fate or karma

Wyrd is a complicated concept because we no longer have an equivalent in Western civilization. I am by no means an expert, but I will try to explain what I have learned and how it relates to my previous thought for the night.

In the old Germanic (meaning continental Germans, Dutch, Norse, and Anglo-Saxon) cosmology (meaning how the universe works), there was a concept called Wyrd. This is sort of like both karma and destiny intertwined.

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Art credit: user Gut Monk on Wikipedia Commons

Think of it as a great web in time. It is your past and your future. It is all of your past decisions and how they might affect your future. But it is also subject to factors outside of your control. It is influenced by things such as your family and the decisions they made before you were born.

We like to think we are independent of our parents and grandparents and their decisions don’t affect us. We are our own person. But, that is simply not true. Decisions and actions made by our predecessors have a direct impact on us and weave patterns into the Wyrd of our lives.

But, unlike the Greek concept of Fate, it’s not set in stone. It’s not some predetermined thing that is inevitable. But things that came before us might be obstacles or complications that we have to work through in order to change the outcome of the future.

The good news is, at any one moment in time, we can change our destinies. Every decision, every action, every word we speak begins a new ripple effect into our future Wyrd.

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Art credit: User Ganjalvi on Deviant Art

But, of course, the web you laid down for the past however many years, that is still there. So you can’t expect things to change immediately. What you can do, is start making every moment from this step forward a change for the better, and start weaving new Wyrd. Eventually the ripples from the past will taper off and the ripples stemming from the moment of change will be dominant in your web of life.

Earlier I posted that a leopard doesn’t change their spots, so don’t give second chances. Someone commented, and this is not to call that person out because many people respond with this, that “we shouldn’t judge because everyone screws up.”

This is true. And I would respond with this: One spot does not a leopard make. Two spots does not a leopard make. And so on. How many spots does a leopard even have? 20? No way, a leopard is covered by pattern.  One mistake is not a pattern. A bad decision here or there is not a pattern.  But the overall trends visible in a person’s life do create a pattern.  When you can see patterns develop and repeat over and over again in your own life, stop and assess your choices.  And if you see a loved one or friend generating destructive patterns, I’m not advocating turning your back on them.  Of course we should bring it to their attention and offer support, advice, and guidance.  But if they reject guidance, or continue to generate negative and harmful patterns in their life, it is up to you to decide if THEIR negative patterns are bleeding into YOUR life.

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Image source: European Space Agency & NASA

We ALL screw up! One mistake is a blip on the radar, it does NOT define you.

But when you see someone who makes screw up after screw up, ruin relationship after relationship, who seems to have no stability, no sense of direction in their life… If you entangle yourself with them, you are inviting that dysfunction to weave it’s way into YOUR web of Wyrd.

This could be a romantic relationship, a friendship, a business partnership, and so on. Everyone has Wyrd, and it ripples with various levels. From that of a drop of rain, to a pebble, to a rock, boulder, to a full blown tsunami. But even the tiniest drop of water into a still pond will create a ripple that bleeds into the ripples of other drops.

Don’t judge a person by one screw up. Look at their character. Is their character that of someone who LEARNS from their mistakes, and grows, and evolves as a person? Or are they a dumb schmuck making the same mistake over and over again?

Wyrd is made by YOU, and unfortunately by those around you. As a child, you have no control over who is around you. Growing up, we gain more and more control.

So take control of your life. Over your own thoughts, motivations, desires, actions, and the words you speak to those around you.

But also, pay attention to those with whom you surround yourself. If someone else is bringing you down, change the level you allow them to influence your life. Or cut off harmful people before they can do serious damage.

wayofwyrd~ Aelfie ~

Brian Bate’s “The Way of Word” is available in our Amazon shop. Highly recommended!

It is fiction, but the author put meticulous research into Anglo-Saxon history and indigenous spirituality before writing. Even though it’s a narrative, you learn so much through the story about a culture heritage so many of us are connected to but have been cut off from. Remember, a huge part of culture is language. If you are a native English speaker, no matter what race or where in the world you live, you are an inheritor of Anglo-Saxon culture.  Embrace it!

Regarding Kindred

As of lately, I have been asked many times, and as well received many emails from fellow followers of the heathen path/s in regards to the topic of kindred.

Usually wondering or asking my thoughts on this, or how does one go about finding one or forming one?

Well the answer to such a question is well simple, yet at the same-time complex.

Here I shall express my thoughts on the subject based on from what I know from my own path as well as others I know personally.

First of all: Like I mentioned the answer is in a way “simple”? Well I mean this in the sense that the root of it or foundation is “right under your nose” (so to speak.)

Well for one the truth of the matter is…… Everybody has/is apart of some type of “kindred.”

You have been since day one, and throughout your entire life! Who or what is this? It is your family, your community, that “network” of ppl that raised and nurtured you.

This is where you learned and were taught your social values and helped you form your concept of personal boundaries. These are the people one is obligated too and closest with first and foremost! They are the essential influences in your own “web of wyrd.”

Like I said this is our family, whether or not those who raised you or call “family” are related biologically. (as in today’s world there are many “blended” families and those “adopted.”)

Your “personal kindred” is the community that helped form and nurture your sense of identity. As many of you know one of the main, essential values of Asatru/Heathen culture is that of a sense of commitment to ones “folk” community, and most importantly family.

One of the key “virtues” or ideologies that is expressed through our ways, is that of the understanding that ones life and life itself is not just about “them” ones life gains it’s value meaning and merit through our deeds and actions, as well as how these things influence those close and dear to us! Or what sort of impact we ourselves make in those people’s lives, is what over all effects our personal “value” in this life. Our lives would be rather well…… Meaningless! If it was not shared with others, and without the ones we love!

This overall ties into the basic needs of human nature. Our species as a whole is that of a social-animal, these relationships are one of the most essential components of the human experience. Our social needs! So what better place to start other than realizing your core y foundation, those who you are most bounded to as of now. These are the ppl you owe the first and foremost obligation too. Here is where one of the essential aspects and values of Heathen culture is not just “theory but real practice!  (you gotta walk the walk, folks!)

For example, what better way to pay homage to beloved mother Frigg than showing your love and respect to your mother, and/or the special matrons in your life. What better way to pay homage to Freya and the Dis than by acknowledging and  showing appreciation to all the great, wonderful and inspirational women in our life. If one wants to truly understand our “gods” on a personal level, one must first truly understand and bond with one’s own personal ancestors. After all we see our gods as not just some “over-lords” ( or over-ladies) that we serve, we are not servants! Nor are they our “masters” We perceive them as our family we perceive them as   our ancestry! They are our “spiritual” family. Treat them and perceive them as such. When you make peace and build and/or affirm ties with your own family and ancestry you are doing so with the gods.

Often the issue comes up for many (especially those who are completely new and have no “background” in Asatru/ Heathen ways) “My family isn’t pagan or heathen?” Well the truth is that even those of us that do come from this sort background, are at least going to have a few relatives and ancestors that were/are of other beliefs or even ethnic backgrounds. So does this make this complicated? No, not at all! The point is they are still your folk. they are still those who play a role in one’s wyrd and orlog. They are all apart of the aspects that made you, you! You need to embrace them all! Even if one does not come from such a Germanic/Norse or pagan background, the truth is you may find those ethics and values held in high regard to us, all around in the people you hold dearest. Having such characteristics as honor, loyalty, courage, and hospitality is certainly not exclusive  to those of culture and path. Quite honestly I think our mighty deities care more about upholding these values than how many times you “Hail their name!” Besides another core value is “give and give.” Thus you give the most loyalty and love to those who have shown you the most loyalty and love.

When it comes to regarding  finding and/or forming a “Heathen” kindred/community.

Well my advice is before that one must have the previously mentioned in order and priority. With this, then one can further create new healthy and beneficial ties to add to ones “web.” Also commune and network with others that are on the same page and hold these same values. With this one can be certain you are building a healthy, functioning, as well as coherent social structure.

One of the things I love and admire most of my culture is the great value it places on community and social bounds and how it acknowledges the importance of these things in our lives, how they shape our boundaries and sense of identity. As well, we are encouraged  to grow as dynamic individuals, finding and contributing new and great things to our folk, family and kindred/s.

Much love &Wassail to you and yours! 🙂

~FreyaDis Image

Follow Up to Easter/Ishtar/Eostre Silliness

When an article is rather lengthy, there is a tendency for people to skim and pick out bits and pieces out of context, and respond to what they think they just read, while missing the other points.

The previous post was in no way meant to insinuate that there are not many Spring festivals all around the world.  There are!  Many of them use some of the same imagery, eggs, rabbits, etc.   It was not to imply that Germanic culture corners the market on that.

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The point was to address the meme going around the internet that states incorrectly that the word Easter derives from Ishtar.  So perhaps it’s my own error in not being more clear. (Incidentally, I am far from the only person taking issue with this meme, by all means read Megan McArdle’s article and the Belle Jar Blog).

The fact of the matter is, the word Easter derives from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre. In Germany  you will find Ostern, deriving from Ostara.  Both were Spring Equinox festivals.

In old Celtic society you will find the Spring equinox festival Alban Eilir, celebrated by contemporary practitioners of Celtic Druidry and paganism today.  According to the Order of Bards and Druids, eggs are also a traditional symbol of this holiday.

I recently responded to questions and comments on our Facebook page about why I’ve been mentioning Brigid in conjunction with Ostara, and had to clarify that while they are not connected linguistically, and while their holidays fell at different times of the year, Brigid’s holiday Imbolc (usually celebrated between Jan 30th to February 2nd) is also a heralding of Spring.  Milk and dairy held significant meaning to the Celts who celebrated Imbolc, and symbolically they had a similar meaning as eggs do on Easter.  The milk and eggs functioned in the same way, to stand for new life, rebirth, renewal, as well as nurturing sustenance.

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CLEARLY this happened all over the world! Duh! The point is not that Germanic culture as the one and only culture with a claim on Spring!  My point is just that all cultures deserve respect. Ishtar deserves respect within her cultural context.

People all around the world are attempting to reconnect with old ways that were often suppressed and hidden to history. It’s not just Germanic and Celtic descendants.  There are Hellenic pagan groups in Greece, Italian-American Stregheria practitioners, revivers of the Old Religion in Italy, Slavic Rodnovery, Lithuanian Romuva, and even people attempting to revive Canaanite paganism and Egyptian Kemetic pagan religion. Image

So for non-pagans to whom all of this “pagan jargen” is foreign, as well as to Wiccans and eclectics who haven’t been exposed to this other heritage influenced paganism, here’s a newsflash: it is NOT  just the Germanic heritage that makes a connection between pagan religion and cultural heritage. It is happening all over the world with many cultural groups.

At Northern Grove, we support ALL of these people!  And while we do support  and would love to network with them, obviously every group has to have a focus, and ours is on the Northern European traditions. So our page attempts to explore and learn more about the Germanic, Celtic, Baltic, Slavic, Saami, Finn, and other groups in the region.

Anyway, the whole point about Ishtar and Easter was simply that Easter is an English word deriving from an Old English goddess.  Ishtar is a Babylonian goddess, who likely had her own festival. I did Google it and couldn’t locate one, though. So by all means if someone knows it, link me to some info 🙂

I don’t put anybody’s culture above anybody else’s. But I hope as the Pagan movement grows, we can be respectful of ALL the cultures we’re representing.

Sure cultures overlap and have connections. People attempting to “school” me on this point have obviously not spent time on my Facebook Page, where I continuously butt heads with white supremacists (who turn up hoping we support that and get very angry when they discover we dont!)  and I constantly point out that nobody’s ancestors lived in a vacuum. (Except perhaps those in harsh climates and remote islands, lol)

I have to roll my eyes at some of these comments, which yes, I am deleting.  I stand up for respect of other cultures pretty much EVERY DAY.  I continuously share articles with commentary about the way our ancestors interacted with other cultures, and explain that racial or cultural purity arguments are bogus.

But, there comes a point when the double standard has to be called out. Here I constantly say those things, but when I say “wait a minute, you’re taking an Old English word and attributing it to a Babylonian goddess, please respect my culture!”  People try to turn it into some kind of racial purity thing.  Ridiculous!

I’m also incredibly interested in Baltic paganism and Lithuanian Romuva and have discussed the connections and similarities between it and Hinduism. But look, there is an Indo-European background there. Not some long lost ancient connection from so many thousands of years ago that it barely makes sense to force a comparison.

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I’m done with this rant, and hopefully now we can move on to more interesting topics!

~ Aelfwynne ~