Monday, March 31, 2014

High Holy Day Essay: Spring Equinox

For the spring equinox, Prairie Shadow held a Greek ritual honoring and welcoming Persephone back to the world. It was held in my living room, since unfortunately the weather was rather dismal; not very spring-like. Since it was indoors in a relatively small house, we did not process; but each person entered the ritual space after rinsing and drying their hands as an act of purification. We offered to Demeter as Earth Mother and welcomed Hermes as our Gatekeeper for the rite, and gave gifts of flowers to Persephone. I unfortunately do not recall the omen that was given for this rite, but I do remember that our sacrifices were accepted. After the main offering and the receiving of the blessings, we thanked the Kindred and closed the Gates.

 This ritual was also somewhat nerve-wracking for me. Because Amber was very sick that day, I had to lead the ritual myself; and unfortunately I don't have a connection to any Greek deities. There were many members of the Red Grail there (another group I had joined) and they were thankfully happy to help out; reading parts and helping build energy despite my stresses. In the end, it went rather well.

Friday, March 28, 2014

G is for Garden

Thank goodness for being able to schedule posts, because I've been pretty absent over the past couple of weeks.  Between illness in the family and the loss of someone I'd grown up with but hadn't seen for quite awhile, I haven't really been up to writing.  But here I am, getting some words out into web.

This week I'd like to write about gardens, and how gardening is my most satisfying expression of my Paganism.  My patron Goddess is Nerthus, whom Tacitus in his Germania called the Earth Mother of Suebi tribes.  Though She is a complicated deity, and has many influences and interests outside of green and growing things, it is the primary way I encounter and honor Her.  Not only is She very present in the act of gardening; but in replacing generic green grass with plants that give food and support to both humans and animals, I feel the affirmation and appreciation of the local land wights as well.  After caring for my garden for a few years, I have become very close to the spirit of the soil there.

The first step to a good garden is clearing and preparing the earth.  It is in this step that I feel closest to the primal Earth.  Coming to gardening without knowing anything about it, I assumed the soil before planting would be pretty boring, requiring only a few holes and seeds to bring it to life.  But the truth is that the soil is already alive!  Each spade turned over reveals beetles and earthworms, centipedes and pill bugs, living off of and giving life to the decayed matter that makes up a large part of a garden's earth.  Working compost into the soil gives even more life, adding fuel to the biological processes that are already taking place, providing nutrients to feed an already thriving, but tiny, ecosystem.  The soil itself has a life to it - the feel, the texture, the smell, is different in every location.  Here in Nebraska, my soil is rather dense and clay-like, difficult to break apart and plant in; after a lot of shoveling and a bit of compost, it becomes more like the black, rich dirt we instinctively know is right for planting.

The next step is putting in the seeds, and watching over them while they sprout and begin to grow.  This is perhaps one of the most exciting times in the garden - growth is fast, new leaves are added every day, and the hard work of the gardener is quickly on display.  It's also one of the most magical.  It seems almost impossible that such large plants, such vibrant life, could come from such tiny seeds.  As each plant grows, its own unique personality and uses can be seen.  Some are showy and bright, spreading wide and tall, with beautiful flowers.  Some are more inclined to grow close to the ground, with just small green leaves to show their presence.  Some guzzle down the water from the rains, and some seem to prefer a drier summer.  Getting to know the plants, their ways of growth and their preferred conditions, has been my biggest and most rewarding challenge as a gardener.

Here in Nebraska, for many fruit-bearing plants, after the planting and initial growth comes a long summer full of watering, weeding, and various garden-care tasks that can seem to stretch on forever with little result.  Growth has slowed and become less apparent (though those plants are certainly still growing!) and pests move in that can be difficult to drive off.  Flowers come and go, and it's not until August or even September that tomatoes, peppers, and others are big and ripe enough to be harvested.  I always tell my children this is the season of patience - if we continue to put in the work and care for what we've planted, we will reap the rewards in the fall; but if we forget or put it off as sometimes happens, the little lives we are responsible for can suffer greatly.  During this time, I see the plants almost like another part of the family.  I am responsible for their care, for their well-being.

And then in the fall, we are richly rewarded with a lovely harvest.  There's nothing like biting into a tomato gifted from a plant that has received offerings of water and care through many months, warmed by the sun and fed by the cool earth.  After those glorious few weeks, the frost sets in, and it's time to pull up the annuals and trim the perennials, and place them on the compost pile to give life to next year's garden.  This process, repeated year after year, has attuned me not only to the local seasonal cycle but to the tiny ecosystem that fills the world of my backyard.  This intimate knowledge, this camaraderie built with giving and receiving over the years, feels more Pagan to me than anything else I do in my practice.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Crafting the Runes: Tiw

Modified from original sketch by John Bauer
Public Domain

Tiw is a guiding star; 
well does it keep faith with princes;
it is ever on its course over the mists of night
and never fails.

Tiw in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem seems to obviously be describing the North Star.  Like the deity for which the rune is named, thought to preside over matters of justice, the North Star is a fair and impartial guide when finding one's bearings in the night.  Interestingly, neither of the other extant rune poems make a reference to the star, instead dwelling exclusively on the deity.  The Norwegian rune poem states that "Tyr is a one-handed God; often has the smith to blow".  The Icelandic rune poem says this: "Týr, God with one hand, and leavings of the wolf, and prince of temples".  The first lines link Týr with perhaps His most famous story, where He places His hand in the mouth of the giant wolf Fenris to trick him into being bound, and loses His hand for the deception - a story that strongly links Him with a sense of justice and fair-play.  The other ideas mentioned, smiths and "prince of temples" are more obscure, I wasn't able to puzzle out what they may be referring to.

This rune is one of only two in the Anglo-Saxon futhorc that are specifically named after a deity (the other being Ing).  The rune, and its meaning, are strongly linked to Tiw's nature as a deity of justice; it "never fails".  This rune can mean that something is certain to pass, or it can also represent the need to look at one's situation objectively, almost as a judge deciding a case.  Used in magic, the rune can call the aid of Tiw specifically, or merely the idea of fairness or keeping faith.  Like Sigel and Sunne, this rune can be used as a fine representation of Tiw on an altar or shrine.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hreda and the Month of March

Public Domain
The Venerable Bede, an English monk and scholar writing in the 8th century, leaves us a very incomplete, but helpful picture of the Anglo-Saxon ritual year.  One such celebration is Solmonath (Solmōnaþ), roughly equivalent to the month of February, when cakes were offered to the Gods.  I find it reasonable to assume, based on the Æcerbot where cakes are offered to the earth in exchange for growth and fertility of the crops, that the deity honored in the rituals of Solmonath was the Anglo-Saxon idea of the earth mother Goddess.  Bede also mentions two deities of the Anglo-Saxons by name: Rheda (a Latinized form of the word Hrêða) and Eostre, from the month names Rhedmonath and Eosturmonath (Ēostermōnaþ).  Eostre is a fairly popular Pagan deity nowadays, and I've written about Her before; but I'd like to dedicate at least one post this month to Hreda (or Hretha) - the much less popular Goddess of March.

Bede tells us little besides that the month of March is named for Her.  Some modern Heathens identify Her with Hertha, a deity similar to Nerthus attested in northern Germany, but I feel that the linguistic links between them are tenuous.  Also, since I honor the Earthy Mother deity of the Anglo-Saxons during February, my personal UPG is that Hreda is a different sort of being - though not completely dissimilar, as we see with Eostre, who is still very much a deity of growth and spring.  Hreda's name can be linked to a few Anglo-Saxon words: primarily 'glory', 'victorious', and 'swift'.  Philip Shaw, in his book Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World: Eostre, Hreda, and the Cult of the Matrons, argues that Hreda is the matron of a specific kin group.

Lately I've been thinking about the Christian idea of Lent, which often coincides with much of our modern March.  The word Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon 'lencten', which means spring.  It's been speculated that Lent, a traditional period of fasting before the Christian Easter, was a natural result of the food shortage at the end of winter and beginning of spring - when supplies were running out, and milk from the ewes was often all people had to sustain them.  It seems possible that Hreda, a victorious and glorious deity, was associated with this lean time with the purpose of Her eventually triumphing over the difficulties and ushering in a more prosperous time of year.

I was born in the month of March, and have always had a certain affinity with the strange weather that can happen in the midwestern US at this time of year.  The wind is said to roar like a lion, and temperatures can fluctuate wildly: from beautiful balmy days to heavy dumps of snow.  Hreda comes to me in the weather of my own country, different as it may be from Britain's; I see Her primarily as the late winter/early spring wind that can be so powerful here.  She too roars.  Eventually all that blustering wind blows in warmer weather, just as Hreda ushers in Eostre as the months continue to turn.

There is so little concrete information on this Goddess, I feel there are few wrong ways to honor Her.  However She chooses to manifest in a person's life, I do think it is important to continue to offer to this lesser-known Goddess, who was obviously important enough to the Anglo-Saxons that an entire month was named for Her.  This weekend is the full moon, when I choose to observe the mid-point of the Anglo-Saxon months and also their festivals; so this weekend I will be doing a ritual in honor of Hreda.  I've written a  prayer that incorporates mostly my UPG surrounding Her (how could it not, given the lack of information), feel free to use it or modify it to better reflect your own experience of the Goddess of March.

Hreda, Goddess of March,
roaring lion and swift wind.
Drive out the snow
and bring the shining sun,
the glorious warmth of spring.
That the plants may grow,
that animals may mate,
that life may wake from the land.

Francesco La Barbera
Creative Commons license

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Crafting the Runes: Sigel

From the Runic Tarot
by Caroline Smith and John Astrop

The sun is ever a joy in the hopes of seafarers
when they journey away over the fishes' bath,
until the courser of the deep bears them to land.

Sigel, the sun, "is ever a joy".  The Anglo-Saxon rune poem above talks specifically about the sun being helpful to seafarers, but we know that the sun was very important in many aspects of life for the various Germanic tribes.  The Icelandic rune poem calls the sun "shield of the clouds, and shining ray, and destroyer of ice," and the Norwegian rune poem states that "sun is the light of the world".  In addition, we know from Caesar's Commentaries, authored by Julius Caesar in the first century BC, that the Germanic tribes "rank in the number of the gods those alone whom they behold, and by whose instrumentality they are obviously benefited, namely, the sun, fire, and the moon".  So not only is the sun praised as a great benefit to humankind, but it was also beheld as a deity - which could refer to an early iteration of the Germanic Goddess Sunna (Sunne for the Anglo-Saxons).

In divination, I would see this rune as very positive, bringing with it warmth and light; and perhaps specifically good guidance or advice, as referenced in the AS poem.  In magic it could be used to promote positive outcomes, or the light that is necessary for growth.  Naturally, I also think of it as a rune representing Sunne, and is a fitting representation of Her on an altar or shrine.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sorting through Spirituality: Vanatrú in Heathenry

Freja by John Bauer
Public Domain
I have been a devotee of Nerthus for many years, before I knew Her name.  I often hear other Heathens talk about how Heathenry isn't nature-centered - and I know it's not necessarily earth-centered - but my Heathenry is, and always has been.  There's a lot of talk about Óðinn and Thor in the Heathen community, great warrior deities who fight the good fight, delaying Ragnarök.  Frey has His devotees, and Freyja is often talked about as a love deity.  But when people separate Heathenry from generic Paganism by saying that it's not earth-centered, full stop, I think this erases a very important part of the religion of my ancestors.

The Vanir are represented by Snorri as a separate tribe of Gods from the Æsir, and this has prompted the creation of the term Vanatrú (loyal to the Vanir) as opposed to Ásatrú.  Some contend the true separateness of the two tribes, especially in the Anglo-Saxon culture I work in; but there's no question that the deities traditionally identified as Vanir have different attitudes, rites, and expectations than the Æsir.  Frey's priests are described by Saxo Grammaticus as wearing women's clothing and dancing effeminately, and according to the Heimskringla, Njörðr married His sister (suspected to be Nerthus) and had children with Her - an action forbidden among the Æsir.

Though I have honored Nerthus for many years, it's only relatively recently that I began to explore a relationship with Frey and Freya.  Looking for more information on Them, I came across more and more references to the term Vanatrú.  I'd heard it before, mentioned in passing on forums or on some sites talking about Nerthus, but I'd never been very interested in exploring it further.  This time around, I decided to take a look.  Reading websites like Cena Bussey's Wane Wyrds and Gefion Vanirdottir's Adventurs in Vanaheim, and Svartesól's book Visions of Vanaheim, I felt the idea take hold somewhere inside me.  I'm not declaring myself Vanatrú - for one, separating myself from the general Heathen community is not something I'm interested in; and two, I tend to be more lore-based in my Heathenry than many Vanatrú practitioners - but the idea of a truly nature-centered way to practice Heathenry feels like home.

Civilization, culture, and society have their place in many religions; and I think a very important place in Heathenry.  I continue to honor Thunor, Frige, and Woden, because they are the Gods of my ancestors, and because I am a mother, a homemaker, and a scholar.  I can't always wear the hat of eco-activist, and I can't go out and live under the trees and stars, because I have a responsibility to my family and my community.  I can't sacrifice my life to Nerthus like Her slaves of old - but I worship Her.  I continue to honor and offer to the land wights around me.  And now I honor Her children as well; and in doing so I move closer to the cycles of the land, the circles of the Earth.. birth and life, death and decay.  Nerthus is leading me to Her people.  In one of his famous poems, Rumi wrote: "The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.  Don't go back to sleep."  In beginning to honor Ing Fréa and Fréo, I can just barely hear mumbled whispers coming from the dark earth.

Friday, March 14, 2014

F is for Fréo

Freya and the Necklace
James Doyle Penrose (Public Domain)
Fréo of the cat-drawn chariot,
Fréo of the falcon cloak,
Fréo of the passions of all men:
with your vitality, with your passion, with your magic,
come and bless me and mine.
Fréo of the amber and gold,
Fréo of the soveriegn land,
Fréo of the boundless seidh:
with your vitality, with your passion, with your magic,
come and bless me and mine.
Fréo, strength of women,
Fréo, golden beauty,
Fréo, fierce in battle:
with your vitality, with your passion, with your magic,
come and bless me and mine.
- prayer to Fréo

Fréo is an Anglo-Saxon Goddess, experienced by many Anglo-Saxon Pagans, though not obviously attested - though one reason for this may be the similarity between Her name and Frige's, making it difficult to discern who place-names are referencing.  I experience the AS deities as separate, though similar to Their Germanic counterparts; Fréo is linguistically related to the Goddess Freya, of whom we have many reports.

She is a member of the tribe of the Vanir (the Wanes in Anglo-Saxon), a tribe of deities closely associated with nature and the earth.  Talking for a moment about Freya, there are many stories describing Her skill at magic (particularly seiðr), Her multiple sexual partners, Her warrior associations, and Her sovereignty.  Many see Her as originally being a sovereignty Goddess, granting Odin His power over the land through sexual relations - this is corroborated by the Sörla þáttr, in which not only is Freya described as a 'concubine' of Odin, but He becomes extremely jealous when He discovers She has given Her sexual favors to others.  Whatever Her function originally, it is clear in the many other stories of Her that She has become much more.  In Gylfaginning, it is said that "whenever She rides into battle She takes half of the slain," clearly marking Her as also a warrior Goddess.  She is also said to have taught seiðr magic to Odin - whether seiðr is Her own power or knowledge common among the Vanir, we do not know.  She is also portrayed as sorrowful; Her husband Óðr is frequently gone, and She is described as weeping tears of red gold for Him.  Her associations with fertility and the Earth are obvious.  It is speculated that many plants now named after Saint Mary in Northern Europe were originally named after Freya.

It is my impression that Fréo is a Goddess of the land, but not as much so as Her mother or Her brother, Ing Fréa.  She is associated with those parts of our lives that are still very much tied to our animal instincts: sexuality, hunger, etc.  And yet She also calls us to the mystery that lies behind these seemingly simple pleasures, the mystical experience of otherworldly trance and magic that stems from that which is green and growing.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Crafting the Runes: Eolh

The Eolh-sedge is mostly to be found in a marsh,
it grows in the water and makes a ghastly wound,
covering with blood every warrior who touches it.

Eolh is an Anglo-Saxon word describing a kind of sawgrass that grows in marshes all over Europe (though we have no way of knowing now exactly what species).  It has sharp, cutting edges; dangerous for anyone walking through with bare skin.  An older Germanic name, Algiz, is linguistically related to the Elk, and so the Elder Futhark rune is often associated with defense.  In his book Wyrdworking: the Path of a Saxon Sorcerer, Alaric Albertsson extends this meaning to the Anglo-Saxon elk-sedge, theorizing that the cutting nature of the elk-sedge is protection for the marsh - in contrast to Thorn, a sharp and dangerous plant that is regarded as an ill omen.

The wikipedia article on Agliz, which is actually very informative, talks about the transition from the rune's initial sound as an ending 'z' to its Anglo-Saxon use, a 'x' or 'ks' sound.  I feel the Anglo-Saxons saw the marsh as a dangerous, and yet mystical place.  To me, this rune represents the dangers and benefits of traveling out into wild places where people are not necessarily welcome.  Rather than being protective, I see this as a warning: come no farther, traveler, the dangers of the marsh lie beyond.

Monday, March 10, 2014

TC Blog Project: Calendars

Wheel of the Year from the 
Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle
Creative Commons license
Calendars - they can be such a touchy subject for Pagans!  For many outside the regular Wiccan paradigm, telling another Pagan that you don't exactly follow the Wheel of the Year (or even close) can lead to confusion and sometimes arguments.  I do follow the regular 8 holidays with my ADF grove and Wiccan coven, and the local Heathen group celebrates the solstices and equinoxes.  But in my family's practice, we have a bit of a different liturgical calendar.  I've posted before about my Anglo-Saxon holidays; this calendar includes my personal Gaelic holidays, some cultural holidays, and a couple to honor other deities.

Imbolc - February 1 (set out a brat to be blessed by Brighid, bless the house)

Ériu Day - March 17 (honor Irish ancestors, prepare traditional Irish food, honor to Ériu)

Cailleach Day - March 20 (bid goodbye to the Cailleach)

Earth Day - April 22 (ritual and offerings for Earth deities)

Arbor Day - April 25 (a big holiday in Nebraska, we visit Arbor Day Farms and discuss tree lore)

Beltane - May 1 (collect dew for holy water, ritually rekindle the household fire, decorate May tree with bright ribbons)

Midsummer - June 21 (tend a flame through the night, offering rushes to Manannán and milk-soaked bread to Áine)

Star Day - July 27 (a new moon, good day for star viewing, and honoring a star Goddess)

Lughnasadh - August 1 (honor Lugh, harvest the first fruits of the garden, make a large feast to share with the Gods, athletic fun and games)

Samhain - October 31 (honoring the Ancestors)

Totensonntag - November 23 (honoring recent Ancestors - this is a 19th century German holiday, and many of my near Ancestors came from Germany after that time)

Friday, March 7, 2014

E is for Eostre, the Holiday

This is not a post about the NeoPagan holiday of Ostara, but rather about the word from which early Wiccans borrowed the name of their holiday.  Ostara is a reconstructed Old High German word, reconstructed based on the Anglo-Saxon word Eostre.  The origin of Eostre itself is somewhat questionable.   The venerable Bede, writing De temporum ratione in the 700s, gives Ēosturmōnaþ as a name for a month in the Anglo-Saxon calendar that corresponds roughly with April (for more about the Anglo-Saxon calendar, Wednesbury Shire's website has some fantastic info).  He also notes that the month is named after the Goddess Eostre, whom the Pagans would honor with feasts during this month.  She is not attested in any other works, but her name can be linguistically linked with several other Indo-European dawn goddesses.

As an Anglo-Saxon Heathen, I think that celebrating the month of Ēosturmōnaþ is vitally important to my religion - in his writing, Bede references very few beings worshiped by his ancestors, which leads me to believe that the customs he does mention were very important that that time.  I choose to celebrate this holiday as a one or two-day affair rather than the entire month, though I do give honor to Eostre through all of the spring (which is considerably longer than a month here in the midwest).  Given that the Anglo-Saxons had a lunar-based calendar, I have chosen to celebrate Eostre's holiday on the day following the Full Moon - which usually ends up falling quite close to Easter, given that Easter is calculated as the first Sunday after the Full Moon after the spring equinox.  This year I'll be celebrating on April 15th, almost a full week before Easter.

In De temporum ratione, Bede specifically references feasts being given in honor of Eostre.  The feasting at least is very much practiced in our culture today - every Easter, my family and many like mine get together and enjoy a ham or turkey.  In our culture, which is becoming more secular, good times and good food with family are the markers of many holidays (which works out great for a Heathen!).  According to the Wednesbury Shire, many of the English-speaking world's Easter customs, such as egg decorating and the celebration of hares, go back almost to Anglo-Saxon times.  Alaric Albertsson in his book Travels through Middle Earth talks about the effects of light on the egg production of hens: by Eostremonath, the hen's eggs would have been an abundant food source, making them both an important symbol of the season and an object worthy of reverence.

So much like my Christian childhood, my children and I will be decorating eggs, cutting out bunnies from paper, and cooking up a delicious feast this mid-April - only instead of hauling them off to church that Tuesday morning, I'll be taking my children outside to explore all the changes happening around us: what flowers are sprouting, which trees have nests in them, what birds have brought their song back to our prairie now that the winter is over.  We'll rise with the dawn to give honor and thanks to Eostre for the return of the light and the warmth.  And that night, we'll all sit down and enjoy a feast together, leaving Eostre Her due on the altar.  For us, this is how Eostre's holy day is celebrated.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Crafting the Runes: Peordh

From Ralph Blum's Rune Deck

Peordh is a source of recreation
and amusement to the great,
where warriors sit blithely together
in a banqueting-hall.

Peordh is the most confusing rune in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem that I've encountered so far.  It appears to have no precise pronunciation, with many sources giving many different suggestions.  The wikipedia article on the rune cites a German book published in 2006, Das fuþark und seine einzelsprachlichen Weiterentwicklungen by A. Bammesberger and G. Waxenberger, which gives a etymological link between peordh and a Common Germanic word for pear-tree.  The article then goes on to link this to a woodwind instrument, or a game made out of the wood.  Alaric Albertsson in his book Wyrd Working: the Path of a Saxon Sorcerer, mentions and disputes a possible interpretation of a chess piece, stating that it can most likely be interpreted as related to some game of chance (and using the usual interpretation of the shape of the rune resembling a dice cup).  The rune is not mentioned in either of the other extant rune poems we have available.

Unable to find any more references or explanations for the translation, I suppose the traditional explanation of a game of chance is as good as any.  It certainly fits in with the poem - it is a game often played when people gather together, and is seen, even into our modern times, as a "source of amusement to the great".  Many will associate this rune with fate or chance; and given that I am learning these runes partly in order to practice a casting sort of divination with them, it doesn't seem entirely out of place.  But what the rune poem seems to suggest is more about camaraderie - warriors sitting together in a hall, feasting and drinking and playing games.  This reminds me more of family game nights or get togethers with friends than the mighty forces of fate and chance.  While I think either is a valid interpretation, in my own divination and magic, I think I will primarily interpret it as good times with friends and companions.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Daily Devotionals

With three children and a crazy schedule, it's difficult for me to find the motivation to do daily devotionals.  But they're incredibly helpful when growing a spiritual practice - since I've been offering to different deities or spirits most days, I feel more connected with the earth and my spirituality than ever before.  But these are all simple prayers to just one deity or spirit, and I really feel the need to have a more consistent practice day-to-day.  So, I've taken the time to put together a daily prayer that hits all of the points I find important, and can be done in less than 10 minutes - that's less time than it takes to go through Ian Corrigan's guided Two Powers meditation!  Modified a bit, it can be a thanking prayer for night-time rituals, or even done twice daily, at morning and night.

I come here, on the earth and under the sky, to call the day to being.
I stand before my mothers and fathers,
before the spirits of land and place,
before the Gods and Goddesses,
to call the day to being.

Max, Hattie, George, Opal, 
Herman and Anna,
Lena, my namesake,
and all my beloved dead,
watch over me and mine on this day.

Nebraskier(1), prairie-grass,
oak, maple, garden-fruits,
rabbit, robin, house spirits,
and all the spirits of this land,
be friendly to me and mine on this day.

Nerthus and Manannán,
Brigid and Frige,
and all the honored Gods and Goddesses,
give freely of your blessings to me and mine on this day.

With reverence, I give these gifts
To my ancestors, the beloved dead,
to the spirits of this land and place,
to the Gods and Goddesses I honor,
as I call the day to being.

Let the day begin!

1) I use the name the Otoe Native American tribe gave to the local river as Her name.  I struggled with this for a long time - whether it would be more disrespectful to continue to call Her by the name European conquerors had given Her, or to use the name She had been called for years and years though I have no affiliation with the Otoe tribe.  I chose to use Her Otoe name, though I know it's not a choice everyone would make in this circumstance.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Fréo and Ing Fréa - More Fun with Salt Dough

For the past month or so, I've felt a pull towards the Wanic deities.  Well, that's not exactly right - I've been honoring Nerthus since before I knew Her name.  But recently, I feel as if I'm being asked to explore Her children as well.  Nerthus was the earth-mother Goddess of the Saxons before their migration to England, and it is assumed She was still very important to them, especially considering the Æcerbot's reference to the earth as a mother deity all the way in the 11th century.  Ing Fréa, whose name can be linguistically traced to Freyr and is thought to have many of the same qualities, was one of the three most important Gods in Anglo-Saxon times (the other two being Woden and Thunor).  Fréo, however, seems to have managed a complete vanishing act - though according to Alaric Albertsson in Travels Through Middle Earth, it's very possible that Her place-names are now impossible to distinguish from Frige's.

My interest catalyzed this past weekend when the local Heathen group offered a class exclusively focused on Freyja.  It was so interesting to discuss Her roles and stories.  As a hard polytheist, I do consider Her and Her Anglo-Saxon counterpart Fréo to be different deities; but in my opinion they are like close cousins.  Learning about Freyja has increased my desire to try to connect with both Fréo and Her brother, Ing.

After a few offerings, I've decided to make representations of Them to sit on my nature altar next to Nerthus.   I made them out of salt-dough, which is almost like playdough to work with, and super cheap to make.  I shaped them based off of an image of Freyr from an archaeological dig in Sweden (though no visible penis - this is being displayed in my kitchen, after all!).  After drying them out in the oven, I painted them with greens and golds to imitate vegetation and wheat.  I painted Fréo an amber necklace, though I don't believe She was connected with an Anglo-Saxon version of Brísingamen - however, since we know so little of Her, there's no way to say Fréo didn't have an amber necklace of her own either.

I've been offering Ing and Fréo birdseed, which is what I keep to offer to Nerthus, but I may begin experimenting with other offerings related to the earth or plants.  I've been saving some rose petal powder to burn as incense that I'd like to see if Fréo enjoys.  If my readers have any offerings suggestions, please let me know in the comments!