Norse Witch: You’re NOT doing it wrong!

Claiming the Heathen [Heidhrinn] heart – you aren’t doing it wrong

Norse Witch_Connla FreyjasonThere are many in the Heathen community who are very quick to pronounce “you are doing it wrong!” Especially when it comes to practices of a magical, modern, or “not found in the lore.” What those attitudes fail to recognize or acknowledge (in their own idea of what heathenry was) is that in the random time period they select as THE point for all things heathen/asatru is that even at that point – they were practicing UPG (unverified personal gnosis), modern practices, and WITHOUT the “lore”.

In this book, Freyjason has created a dialog and sacred safe space in which those who feel the call of the Northern Gods, Goddesses, and Beings can practice in a modern context in ways that they sense those same Gods and Beings are leading them. Freyjason has a very deep connection to many of the God/desses with very intense and personal relationships as well as knowledgeable foundation of the lore, sagas, Old Norse language, and archaeological findings.

This foundation is a great starting point to bring what we can know from the past, even BM Believemixed with the suppositions and practices that have become established from hopeful surmisings, and provides a way that one with whom this resonates can implement in their day to day practice. The end goal of the book, in my first reading, seems to be that the most important thing to do is connect with Them on a level that you can. Regardless if it was practiced 1500 years ago, 1000 years ago, 500 years ago, or 30 years ago (regardless of the source of the practice – verifiably historical [rare] or reconstructed (from lore sources) or imagined [what they think how viking-era people should have practiced]).

 

Establishing a solid foundation

Norse Witch sets out to reclaim the Heathen (or Heidhrinn) HEART. This is accomplished in a writing style that makes the reader feel like they are sitting in the same room with the author and hearing the experiences first hand. Freyjason cuts through the distance with a writing style that engages on many levels during the experience and entices the Heidhrinn heart to wake up and move forward with how the God/desses are interacting with them.

BM BalanceThe interesting way the book is structured is a very layered style. It’s not necessarily a progressive A-Z manual of steps, although he has certainly put forth early on very key basic information. What he does do is intertwine the knowledge based information (such as who the Gods are, the nature of the Nine Worlds, basic concepts such as good versus evil etc) with experiential exercises. Such as how to meet and get to know the God/desses calling or one wants to meet.

The first 11 chapters or so I think prepares someone who may be newly experiencing the Northern (Norse) “exposure” of the Nine Worlds and helps them to establish a grounding and center for their exploration. Although I moved through the book at a regular reading pace (I have been a practicing Heathen for over 10 years), I recommend someone newly exploring Norse Witch (Heidhrinn) to move at a slower read and to meditate and explore the referenced companion resources (listed in the back of the book under each chapter) as well.

The remainder of the book goes to a bit more next level practices including Rune work, wight-walking (spiritual walking amongst the realm of the animal and nature spirits – vaettir), deeper manifesting work, and the God/desses who are not as proactive in human activity.

BM RitualOne of the best features of the book is the plentiful amount of rites, invocations and meditations. While most have a similar structure, including using the same openings and setting of boundaries, this is very good to establish a familiarity with how to set and maintain well sacred space and activity within it. This will help it become second nature so that as we grow and progress, we can alter and add different elements, poems, incantations, modes and Beings to work with.

Some “cherries on top”
Artwork throughout and the beautiful cover
Poetry by the author or friends he knows
Freyjason translates his own passages of the Eddas and Sagas used in the text
Traveler’s notebook for the Nine Worlds

EddaThumper (wp)

Qualities of the Book

Stylistically, the book is a reference volume. It is sized to carry in a backpack or satchel, but at slightly over 400 pages, it is slightly heavy. This may deter from everyday carrying around and light reading, but when taking a long ride, a trip to a quiet place to read – it’s a great size. The dimensions of the book (6 x 9) are just a good size to hold in the hand. The print size and font is extremely friendly on the eyes and throughout the book (including the gorgeous cover) is artwork by the author himself.

Some of the paragraphs could use some breaking into additional graphs to avoid long stretches and the conversational style occasionally seemed to drift before getting back to topic but they weren’t enough to derail the reading experience.

Wrap Up

BM WyrdOverall, this is a book of introduction and connection to the [Heidhrinn/Heathen] heart. It will be a very good resource for a small study group of folks who can experience, read, discuss, and encourage each other along the path. Some may find it too basic depending on their style of Heathen practice or length of time practicing. But it is a book that can benefit many who are truly seeking to connect with the Northern Divine culture, called to the magical practice of a Norse Witch, and desire to make that a daily experience to enrich their relationships with Them (Gods/Goddesses/Beings) for a spiritually awakened life here on Midgard.

 

Norse Witch by Connla Freyjason can be ordered on Amazon.  View more of Connla’s writings and artwork at Iaconography.  Look for an upcoming interview for the podcast.

Book Reviews: Stories for all ages

Story of ArbuxThe Story of Arbux

by K. Fritz                 Saga Press www.sagapress.ca 

Available on Amazon.

The Story of Arbux is a delightful tale of a 16-year-old’s friendship and adventure with a giant. The book relates the tale through the memories of the protagonist’s grandson as he recounts the adventure as told by his grandfather.

Stories from Opa (Grandpa)
I really enjoyed this book. Reading this brought back many memories of being a young boy doing things with my grandfather in his workshop or in his yard.

He was always telling me stories and teaching me many things that I use throughout my life. It is appropriate for any age and (because of the way the author breaks up the story into different sections) it makes a wonderful book to read to children and to let them read on their own. The illustrations by Caroline K. Jensen are few, but they add a nice touch to the story as we move along.

Friendship, Loyalty, Duty
The format sets up a great dynamic between the four main characters of the book: the grandson, Grand-dad, Grand-dad as a teen, and the giant – Arbux. In between the memories of the grandkids hearing the tale of this great adventure, we are exposed to wonderful lessons that have a greater meaning when coming from a beloved grandparent.

Grandson movingly intersperses memories of Grand-dad taking care of himself and his siblings which adds to the flow of the story rather than interrupt it. Fritz masterfully weaves the memory of hearing the story with the retelling of it in way that we grow up with the children while experiencing Grand-dad and Arubx’ journey to Norway.

We learn valuable lessons of growing up in a loving way that doesn’t feel like preaching at all. Grand-dad treats the children with respect and carefully explains what he means in language they can process and comprehend. Many of the lessons come from “Oddy Quotes”- quotations from the Havamal and Eddas.

Among the lessons were how to treat others, the length of friendships, and being a good host and a good guest. These lessons are such a part of Grand-dad’s character, that we accept the words as if they are from the High One Himself.

Grand-dad’s story progresses from his chance meeting with the giant to building trust and friendship. He realizes that Arbux is out of place, deduces where he might be from (based on his knowledge and belief from the Eddas and the Old Ones) and determines to see Arbux get home.

We are treated to many fun, tense, and touching situations as the two grow closer in their own ways. By the conclusion of the story, readers genuinely feel a connection to Grand-dad’s commitment, love, and sense of honor to his friend. And we find a love for them both too.

Fritz creates a sense of sitting in the presence of Grand-dad with the children waiting for the next installment of the fascinating tale. With the memories of Grand-son, we come to love and to aspire to Grand-dad’s approach to life.

The Story of Arbux would make a wonderful animated film or short series. I really hope someone would take a look and make it happen. It earns a treasured place on the shelf with other favorites and will be very nice to revisit now and then as well as sharing with children. It is definitely one to have as a physical book to more easily go back and forth between the story.


At Friggas FeetAt Frigga’s Feet: Sasha, the Rabbit & The Tale of the Sun and Moon       

by Larisa Hunter:        Illustrated by Laura Bell

Saga Press     Available on Amazon.

At Frigga’s Feet is a great book of two tales that are really nice for little children. The two tales have great lessons that are told by Larisa Hunter in ways that they can understand and enjoy. And are fun to read.

The first story is about Sasha the Rabbit who gets a little greedy and then lies to Frigga to avoid the consequences. But lies get out of control and they harm others, as Sasha found out. The story is told in such a way that parents can interact with their children while reading it to get their feedback and see how they would respond to such a situation. This is a really nice way to impart the value of honesty and doing the right thing.

The second tale is the story of Mani and Sunna and how they came to be the bearers of the Moon and the Sun.

The illustrations by Laura Bell are so colorful and easy to identify with, that I wish there were more throughout the story of Sasha, the Rabbit. The illustrations in The Tale of the Sun and Moon enhance the story and will help little ones visualize the characters as we progress through it.

I look forward to sharing this with the children of friends and family and to sitting down and reading it with them. Each of the two stories can be easily read before bedtime – if the kids are not too tired from a long day of play.

#Heathenry50: Why Heathenry?

Norse Witch_Connla Freyjason

Why Heathenry?

The first topic of the #Heathenry50 Challenge is to ask the question and explore – “Why Heathenry?”  With the myriad ways one can express spirituality and religion, what is it about heathenry (heathenism, heidhrinn) that connects with me?

The road to where I am is not unlike many others. I was raised in the United States during what I thought was the end of an era dominated by Christianity (now it appears there is a movement within the government to implement a state religion of a certain variety of Christian “values” – tossing out the separation of church and state once again). I was raised in a Christian culture, Latter Day Saints (LDS), which was actually not too bad as a child. The importance of family, helping others, and spiritual/religious practices were all good things to learn.

Bronze Age Imagination

At the awakening age of 10 years, I met some kids at school who introduced me to the wonderful world of comic books. I had already been a fan of science fiction and fantasy books and television (The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Space 1999, Star Trek, etc. were all favorites), but this medium opened up a new world of imagination and characters that I fell in love with. And I have not abandoned these characters now 40 years later – they are still fond in my memory and I love to revisit those stories.  This era of comics (roughly 1968-1985) is known as the “Bronze Age” in the comics-world and it is my favorite era.

Among those characters were several who kept my mind open to possibilities. Wonder Woman, Thor, Hercules, and Superman (among others) all had mythologies associated with them that were a part of their everyday lives. Granted, Thor and Hercules were themselves gods; but they were still associated with the pantheons that existed along with them.

I loved reading about Thor being sent to Earth to teach him a lesson of humility by Odin. How Princess Diana (Wonder Woman), always sought the guidance of the Greek Gods and Goddesses for wisdom, strength, and advice. Although I know now that these are not the exact representations of the deities that were worshipped in our world, these characters still represented the basics of who They are and kept Them alive to readers in a way that allows that spark of interest and faith.

The interaction with the Gods by Wonder Woman and others always kept that door in mind from being completely closed, locked and sealed from the possibility that the Gods were still alive and wanting to connect with humans. Although it was another 18 years or so before I fully explored that possibility, it was still always there in some way.

The Gods Move in Subtle Ways

Forward over the years of full Christian immersion (including a period of King James only conservatism) to a point in life where spiritual choices were being made.

These choices led to dropping Christianity and pursuing a more animistic approach to life. My philosophy/theology simplified to the following:

  • I believed that those who went before me were important and deserved to be remembered, talked to, and appreciated for where I am now.
  • I believed that there are spirits in nature and we need to honor, respect and cohabitate with them.
  • Finally, I still believed the Gods exist, live, and want to interact again with humans.  My question was – whom do I connect to and how?

Looking for people to connect with who had similar questions, I found a group of witches and began doing things in tangible ways again (ritual). In 2006, I found Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) at Pantheacon (a west coast pagan convention).  Since I was involved with the local Irish community, I began learning about the Irish Gods and opening relationships with Them.  What a joy to have those doors that were kept ajar by my childhood heroes and their connections to the Gods flung wide open!

Through ADF, I learned a lot about ritual, study, knowing the Gods and developing relationships and practices that work for me today. Although ADF is known as a “Druid” organization, it is not limited to Celtic spirituality. ADF is an inclusive organization that focuses practices on Indo-European spirituality. Among the members is a very large heathen group which includes Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Vanic, continental Germanic, and other practices of the northern regions and pantheons.

But . .  . Why Heathenry?

Indeed, why Heathenry? One would think that with the connection and immersion of Irish culture (I do have Irish ancestors), why would I spiritually migrate? As noted above, the Gods move in subtle ways. Although I do have some Irish ancestry, most of my ancestors are Dutch and Danish.

It was during a time of meditation that Brigid took me by the “hand” and said we were going for a walk. Before I knew it, I was standing before Freya and Odin. Brigid gently nudged me forward towards Freya saying to me that They (the Irish) had fostered me until I was ready to be passed on. From that point forward, the relationships have grown and become strong.

For me, relating to nature spirits, ancestors, and the Gods of the Northern lands connects with me on many levels. I found early in my journey that the Vanir were very interested in a friendship and we connected quite well.

I also appreciate the cosmology within the stories, the variety of personalities of the Gods and Goddesses, as well as the interest in working with and remembering the ancestors (be they blood, historical, or chosen influence) and nature spirits (wights).

These are all key to my practice and it is wonderful to find this within the various practices under the umbrella of heathenry. There are many ways to learn about Heathenry and the wonderful practices within it: Anglo-Saxon, Asatrú, Continental German, Heidhrinn, Icelandic, Norse, Norse Paganism, Rokkatrú, Vanatrú and possibly others. I will post some recommendations that I have found helpful shortly.

Important note! One does NOT need to be of a certain heritage to get to know any pantheon. I absolutely deny that premise used by racists to justify excluding people of color from any Heathen, Celtic, or other path! The Gods will connect with whom they choose to regardless of heritage, skin color, gender, identity etc.

 

Artwork for Norse Witch by Connla Freyjason.

 

Ostara Celebrations

 

Searching for the Goddess Ostara

With the Spring Equinox coming up, many religions have special ways to honor the Gods and Goddesses of their paths. In Heathenry (and most of general pagan practices), the equinox is devoted to a goddess named Ostara or Eostre. There is no historical evidence, however it is claimed that she was worshipped and honored in Germanic lands. The traditions of hares, eggs, and associated festivals have been widely attributed to her.

But were these traditions really held in her honor? Was she indeed a Goddess venerated across the continent and carried over seas to other lands? The truth is we do not know for certain if there actually was a Goddess of Northern Europe named Ostara and worshipped as goddess of the coming spring.

In his book, Eostre Ostara Eostar: Facts, assumptions, conjectures, speculations, guesses and nonsense, GardentStone provides a wealth of texts and information that have been used to support the arguments in favor of Eostre, the Goddess.  He refrains from drawing a conclusion about the topic – neither affirming nor denying the veracity of the claims made by supporters from the 16th century to modern writings.

In fact, GardenStone sets the expectations for the book in the preface to the work, “In this book, the author does not declare himself against or in favor of the goddess Ostara, Eostre, or Eostar,” he writes. “Only the results of historical, mythological, folkloric, literary and linguistic research concerning Eostre/Ostara/Eostar (written that way or some other spelling) are presented here.”

Earliest Mentions of the Goddess

He begins with the most notable and earliest attestations of Ostara as goddess by the 8th century English monk, the Venerable Bede. Bede drew a conclusion that the English month, Eosturmonath (approximately April) was so named in honor of a goddess previously worshipped. Bede has since been the consistent source of the Ostara-is-goddess theory throughout the centuries.

Bede was cited in the 19th century by Jacob Grimm as the source for his writing about the goddess on the continent in his book Deutsche Mythologie. Modern writings about the sabbat, which was reconstructed as part of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year by founder Gerald Gardner in the early 20th century, use Grimm and Bede as the primary resources to support the theory.

GardenStone, however, draws no such conclusions with his work. He has diligently located many resources from pamphlets, papers, books and texts that have varying references the names or roots of the names used for the goddess.  He has systematically arranged the data in a coherent manner that flows in a logical order in three sections: standard sources and etymology, Ostara on the Continent, and common traditions and folklore. Within each section, he provides the conclusions drawn at the time of the writing and which source did or may have influenced the authors.

Much has been written since the 17th century about the topic using the academic strengths of the times.  A lot of emphasis to fill the gaps of actual resources was placed on conclusions drawn from place names and comparisons to other cultural practices, similar root names and parallel deities.

GardenStone makes a keen observation by pointing out that although we do not have extant sources today, it does not necessarily mean that Bede and others also did not have resources to draw their conclusions upon. Fires, wars, and other disasters occurred and documented which could have destroyed many texts leaving only the writings about the topics preserved.

He concludes the book by restating that although we do not have actual evidence of worship of Ostara/Eostre as a goddess in pre-christian times, “…that a Heathen acceptance of Ostara depending solely upon historical evidence or scientific results is unnecessary. Since no God or Goddess is actually provable in these ways, we must rely upon our faith in Them.” – GardenStone

Just the Facts…

GardenStone is of Dutch origin now living in Germany. His research about historic Germanic peoples is a passion that has yielded many books on Heathen topics.  This book is 100 pages and is translated from its original German text.  Although some will notice some minor differences in structure and punctuation, the book is easy to read and follow and these will not impede or detract from the usefulness of the book.

Many of his works on Germanic deities and topics are available in Dutch as well as English (translated from German).  The English texts are available in the U.S. via Amazon through print on demand services as well as from his personal website in Germany.

I recommend, however, to order the books directly from GardenStone’s website, www.boudicca.de. Taking into account the exchange rate and very modest shipping charges, readers will not be paying much more than if they purchase from Amazon. As an added bonus, books ordered directly are signed by the author himself.  An added bonus is that some of the books may have colored plates (such as in Gods of the Germanic Peoples volumes 1 and 2) which are not available in color when ordered from Amazon (being printed only in black and white).

What now?

I enjoyed the book very much. It has provoked me to look at Ostara and evaluate my relationship to Her. On what basis do I explain Her to others now? How will I adjust how I relate to Her and choose to connect with Her? How will this affect public displays and rituals? It is possible (perhaps likely) that she was worshipped as Bede wrote. But with the absence of any other extant evidence – how do we move forward?

For the past several hundred years, a Goddess of Spring has made herself known to many in various lands, cultures and traditions. She has come to be known to us today as Ostara – or Eostre. Whether that was Her name before – we cannot be certain. But we know Her this way now.

The gnosis of millions over times has revealed who She is to us now. How She may have been worshipped in pre-christian times may not be as relevant to us now. What matters is how do we connect and relate to Her now? What is She saying to followers? How does She reveal Herself to them now? Does She enjoy colored eggs, rabbits, chocolate and family feasts? Does she dress in pastels and warms the earth for sprouting plants and blooming flowers? Does she whisper glad tidings in your ears? These are questions for each person to ask and await Her answer.

Ostara –  by Jan Tjeerd

Winter’s darkness gives way to Sunna’s lengthening journey. Warming days heat the earth, awakening the seeds within. Frey Visits and Thor blesses the fields as the sprouts emerge from their slumber. 

Ostara brings the turning time to welcome the change and gladden our hearts. She shimmers with the colors of the flowers that reach for the shining sun. Honor her this tide with colorful eggs, beautiful songs, and bright remembrances.

Hail to Ostara, Goddess of the Spring – renewing our hearts with love, hope and joy. 

Ostara artwork created by Connla Freyjason. Find artwork by Connla on Iaconography.

Eostre Ostara Eostar by GardenStone can be ordered in German and English as well as other books) from his own site or Amazon.    This is a paperback book of 122 pages. ISBN-10: 3738655778 ISBN-13: 978-9798655773

The Heathenry 50 Challenge

Blog component to Gifts of the Wyrd

As I pass the two-year anniversary of the Gifts of the Wyrd podcast, I am very grateful for the wonderful from all who listen join me on the podcast.  It is indeed an honor and joy to be able to have such a wonderful way and opportunity to share our gnosis and experience with our practices and relationships to the Gods, Ancestors, Wights, and other Beings.

What I intend to do is to join the #Heathenry50 to start the process and get into a habit of writing pieces on a regular basis.  These are just my experiences in my practice. They may resonate with the experiences of others, the will not with everyone. That’s ok.  That is what vibrant, living relationships with our Gods, Ancestors, local nature wights, and people around us are all about.

What is the Heathenry 50 Challenge?

That is a good question! It can mean many things but it is a writing project begun by an Anglo-Saxon Druid. The challenge is to write 50 blog posts, one a week for a year. The challenge has 50 topics lined up as a starting point for thoughts, studies, gnosis and experiences about the subject.

I saw him post something about it, likely on a common Facebook group, and decided to join him and use this as the impetus to expanding the content and adding a writing component of inclusive, modern Heathen practices and topics.

I want to thank Matty for announcing the project and inviting other heathens to take part. His blog site is at Meade and Mistletoe where you can read more about why he started the challenge and what he is learning. To share on social media, we will be using the hashtag #Heathenry50.

Why Heathenry 50?

For me, this seemed like a challenge that I would have a difficult time to defend not taking up.  With the interest in doing some writing as a blog, this provided me with 50 topics out the gate. And I can do it along with at least one other person.

I write and edit for my day job, so sometimes the last thing I want to do is add more writing to the day. This gives me a head start on what to write about. Now I just need to compile my thoughts about the topic and how I implement ritual, meditation, magic, and other practices. This will assuredly give me reason to read more books (something I love to do).

There are some really good topics coming up and I look forward to exploring them, exploring how and why they are a part of my practice and learning some new things. Not only in my own research, but in the reading of blog posts after I write mine.

The biggest challenge? Being consistent with a weekly write-up.  But I will do my best to make it happen.

Gratitudes

Thank you, readers and listeners of the podcast. We are in the 21st century on a journey together. We are long separated from a continuous practice and have a heavy background and societal influence from a dominating religion that suppressed relationships and interaction with the Gods and Goddesses of many cultures for a long time.  As Heimdallr’s children awaken to the calling of the Northern Gods (or Others) we restore those relationships to humanity while building a ritual and relational practices that work for us today.

I have been encouraged by many people and thank them all for their many ways of getting me out of my headspace and into action. Among them are two who came into my circle via Facebook. Tonya Threet and Connla Freyason.  Tonya’s album Võluspá has really brought that piece alive for me in a great way. Connla, from Iaconography, has become a really great friend – even though we have yet to meet in person.  He has reminded me not to be too hard on myself and to not listen to the negative feedback that likes to crop in and demoralize our efforts.

Connla’s artwork and upcoming book, Norse Witch, are great connections from the past to the modern spirit.

I am grateful to my mother for teaching me to be kind, giving, fair, and open minded.  And I thank my soon-to-be husband for his constant support and love.  He is a grounding influence that helps keep this airy Aquarian from bouncing like a ping pong ball on a concrete surface.

Let’s Get Started….

And with that, I end the introduction to the challenge and will get started on the first topic and get it posted soon.

Völuspá CD: The Story of the World in Music

Völuspá in Amsterdam with Jan Tjeerd

Heathen musician Tonya Threet has completed her album dedicated entirely to the Nordic creation story found in the Poetic Edda. This is the completion of several years of meditating on the Völuspá, connecting with Gullveig and Odin, composing the music and determining the tracks, and finally hours upon hours in the recording studio and post production.

The album opens with stanzas one and two as Threet’s haunting vocals set the tone of the album as a spiritual journey of the Völva (Seeres). The album contains all of the stanzas of the poem from the Henry Bellows translation and can be followed through the course of the album.  Her vocals are clean and easy to understand which would make it easy to help memorize the text if one was inclined to do so.

Each track has its own “sound” to tell the complete story. She uses different instrumentation, cadence, and effects to empower the stanzas selected for each piece. Each track flows seamlessly into the next drawing the listener along with the story. One can envision at many times being surrounded by swirling mist as the Völva’s words “would you know yet more?”

The pace and power are kept all the way through the 28 tracks of all 66 stanzas from the creation of the Gods, the giants, the world and humans, the war between the Aesir and Vanir, the death of Baldr, Ragnarok and finally the rebirth of the world anew.

The album cover shows a stunning image of Gullveig standing before a majestic rune wheel surrounded by flames. Released just last fall, the album is already inspiring listeners around the world.

Threet’s commitment to the text and the Gods is clearly evident in the time and work she has done to honor Them with this amazing work. The completion of this project has inspired her to continue to compose additional works to the Gods and Goddesses and other Heathen topics. It is great to have music produced by, for and about Heathenry. Listen to samples on Soundcloud and purchase downloads or CDs from CDBaby.

Völuspá by Tonya Threet, Available on Valkyrie Rise Records. Here is a short video of the album and another video with Tonya’s  vocals.

Find Tonya’s page on Facebook.

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