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.

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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.

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

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.

Viking Oracle Review

Viking OracleViking Oracle –  Review by Jan Tjeerd

The Viking Oracle by Stacey DeMarco with art by Jimmy Manton was published by Blue Angel Publishing in February 2017.  Many folks who are interested in divination using Rune cards and Viking themed oracle decks may be interested in the deck for the images connected to the Elder Futhark or as an oracle deck connected to the Gods and Goddess of the North and inspired by Viking-era history.

Based on the description of the deck by Blue Angel Publishing, one would think this could be a suitable deck (even with the mention of the “25 Nordic runes” which we will address later).

 Combining the symbolism and divinatory significance of the 25 Nordic runes with a further 20 Viking-themed cards, the Viking Oracle is a powerful and comprehensive tool for insight and guidance from the Norse tradition. This deck offers a portal back through time into the intriguing culture of ancient Viking society―moving beyond stereotypes of warriors and raiders and delving into the extraordinary Norse mythos and the intricate and powerful belief systems of this ancient people. You’re invited to work with a range of card spreads and striking Norse imagery to deepen your connection with the fascinating world of the Vikings.” – From Blue Angel Publishing’s website (1).

Given that, there are some pros and cons to this deck and system. Prior to getting right to the artwork and meanings, Let’s cover some items that are easy to address and set aside.

The Layout of the Deck

Viking Oracle_ValkyriesThere are 12 female, 11 male, 14 objects, and eight rune designs that make up the artwork for the deck. The artwork is done by Jimmy Manton who has worked with DeMarco on other decks such as the Halloween Oracle, Gods & Titans and Goddesses and Sirens as well as on other projects. It is bold, colorful, and creative.

My first reaction was formed by reading the promotional text and seeing just a couple of the cards when this appeared for pre-order on Amazon late in 2016 was to set it aside to maybe consider it at a later date.  I was not very impressed.  Mostly because of the “25 Nordic runes” comment. This meant that they include the “blank” rune as one of the runes of the Elder Futhark. However, I thought it might be worth using the rune cards as an option for readings and  was how they would include the Gods and Goddesses.

I think the biggest issue with this deck is a lot of missed opportunity as a whole, but the runes in particular. Beginning with the artwork, a lot was wasted with the posed figures in winged helmets and bulging biceps.  The box stated it wanted to move beyond stereotypes, yet all of the figures are nothing but stereotypes. These images basically appear to be mannequins for the costumes.

“Viking” Imagery

The clothing is certainly not of the Viking era. While beautiful gowns, cloaks, and armor adorn the figures, they seem to be a mix of Celtic, Greek and Roman styles that make for nice fantasy dress up, but do not represent the era the deck is supposed to reflect. I showed examples to a member of a living history group who confirmed these do not represent Viking era styles. One would expect that a deck extolling the “wisdom of the ancient Norse” in a “Viking” oracle, the clothing would be true to the period.

Another note is the excessive use of winged headdresses and helmets. It really seemed that these were drawn for day tripping Viking festival patrons rather than those seriously working with the runes and divination tools.

The Runes

VIking Oracle_Tiwaz.pngAmong the rune portion of the deck, the major issue here is Demarco does not make any effort to connect the art to the meaning of the card. For example figures drawn are generic male and female that do not relate to the rune. Even on the runes that actually ARE connected to a God or Goddess (such as Tiwaz for Tyr, Ingwaz for Freyr Ing) they opted to use an image of the rune.

Given that the rune was provided at the bottom of the card with the name written out, this was very disappointing that the images were not connected to the  runes better. The deck also included the “blank” rune as part of the runes. However, this is easily corrected by just shifting this card to the oracle side of the deck.

The Oracle Cards

But the problems continue with the images for the oracle portion of the deck. Many of the cards specifically name a God or Goddess for the divination. Yet the image bears little resemblance or seem to include any of the things we know about Them from the lore (such as Brinsgamen, the cat-drawn chariot or falcon feathered cloak for Freya, the depiction of Hel as half decaying/half beautiful, etc are not included).

Descriptions of the Cards

Regarding the text in the book about the runes and the oracle section, there is a lot better resources out there to reference for the runes and to create conclusions for the oracle cards. The author includes a poem for each of the runes  but they are not from the rune poems we are aware of (I assume the poems are her own as she did not credit any other author).

DeMarco includes meanings for each rune and expands on the meaning she provides, which are basically alright. Without a bibliography, it is not easy to determine where her meanings are sourced from.  However, it does seem she possibly draws from Ralph Blum’s oracle.

The stories associated with the Gods and the era of the people in the Age are generically OK – they seem to be more tales of what the author recalls were told her some years past rather than researching better sources and coming up with a divinatory connection to the subject of the card.

Conclusion

This really leaves the Viking Oracle to have not accomplished what it states it set out to do. The deck may not be entirely valueless, however, for those who may have already purchased it.  I suggest that if someone has purchased this and wants to try to find a use for it, just set aside (or discard) the book that accompanied the cards and go with what you already know, or read up on the subject of the card to create a meaning for it (as well as to draw the eight and ninth world on the Nine Worlds card which appears to have only seven of them).

Although the deck did not meet with the uses I can recommend, the cards may still be an inspiration to some and not a total loss.  To make the best use of this deck, set aside the accompanying book.  Approach learning the deck in two sections, the runes and the oracle.  Obtain a better source of rune knowledge such as  Katie Gerrard’s Odins Gateways (a good beginning rune resource) or Diana Paxson’s Taking Up the Runes. 

Shift the blank 25th card (called the blank or the “void”) to the oracle portion of the deck and make some associations based on information found in resources through the stories of the tradition.

However, for any who have not purchased the deck and may have them on a wish list to obtain later as rune cards or a viking-era themed oracle, do a little more viewing of the images to see if they resonate with you.  There are a some better rune decks already available.

If you are interested in a more detailed description, check out the audio or video podcast on episode 11 (audio) and the Gifts of the Wyrd  YouTube channel (video).

 

  1. Blue Angel(r) Publishing. Website: http://www.blueangelonline.com/viking_oracle.html accessed September 11, 2017

Viking Oracle Review

I am so excited to be getting the podcast back on track and into the groove. Life has been crazy this year (as noted in previous post). It seems like just when I get the apples back on the cart, it gets knocked over again with something else to work on. This isn’t always terrible or bad – it’s just things come up and need to have attention.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My first podcast in several months was the review of the Viking Oracle by Stacey DeMarco and Jimmy Manton produced by Blue Angel.

To accompany the visuals, I also did a YouTube version of the review.  In this version, I show the cards as I discuss the images included.

 

 

 

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