Posted by: nicanthiel | September 8, 2009

Expectations

Boar, Birch and Bog…

The book is coming out shortly after I return to Nerthus’ service from my sojourn at the Brú with Óengus. And the test copy is sitting here as I look at it, and for some reason, it’s not as fulfilling as I thought it would be. Sure, I am now A Pagan Author(TM), and have a number of writing projects lined up for the foreseeable future, but I sit here and look at this book, and I know what I put into it.

And it doesn’t feel like enough. Especially in this downtime when Herself is withdrawing from the world, going somewhere I can’t follow. She is making the Descent, going through the worlds of the dead, giving and receiving power in the dark as She has done in the light. And I can’t follow. I am stuck here, in the cycles of ever-burgeoning Life, and I need to find a way to compost the excess.

I’ve been feeling the lack of Presence very strongly these past few weeks, particularly in the last day or so, and there is still three months to endure through.

So, the expectations I had for all of this have rather fallen flat, as has my inclination toward and connection with spiritual matters. They are dying with the leaves, and it is a horrible feeling…

Posted by: nicanthiel | June 18, 2009

Peace and Good Seasons Released

Peace and Good Seasons

“I am pleased to announce my third book, Peace and Good Seasons, a devotional for my beloved  fulltrui Ing-Fréa (Frey), and the second devotional book released by my imprint Gullinbursti  Press.

Peace and Good Seasons is a devotional for Ing-Frey, which discusses His importance in antiquity as well as His relevance to today. With advice on how to begin communing with Him, and sample prayers, rituals and devotional practice, this is a great addition to the bookshelf of Freyfolk everywhere.

The book is 82 pages. It’s $9.89 for a paperback and $3.75 for a download.

Get it here:  http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/peace-and-good-seasons/7218284

May this book bring a better understanding of Frey, and may His presence bless your life.-Svartesól”

I encourage you all to get a copy. It’s sure to be a good one  :)

Posted by: nicanthiel | June 9, 2009

PSA: New Web site released

Hello all, what readers may still be following this blog:

I’m pleased to announce the arrival of my new website on the Vanir and Vanatru, Hearth of the Vanir.

Posted by: nicanthiel | May 15, 2009

BBB Dormant until further notice

Due to limited Internet resources currently available to me, I am deep-sixing this blog until further notice. All the current posts and pages will remain open, but no new posts will be made.

Posted by: nicanthiel | May 6, 2009

Book Review: The Lost Gods of England

As some of you may know, I am a member of the Geferræden Fyrnsidu. I have recently been admitted to the Weofodþegn (clergy) program, a part of which entails two book reviews. The first review will be Branston’s The Lost Gods of England¹, a look into the gods and mythology of the Anglo-Saxon peoples.

Branston starts the book off with a meditation on the AS tribes, and what they mean for his own contemporaries, referencing the story of Völund (Wayland) as introduction to how one may come to know what the Old English may have believed. Of course, that needs defining, and he goes on to give archeo-historical background, including linguistic characteristics, of the Indo-Europeans, narrowing his focus to first the Germanics, and then the specific invading cultures. For the time period, his facts are decent, and well accompanied with many illustrations and photographs (reminiscent of Piggot’s work, The Druids, from the same publisher [1985]). However, in the main text of the book, he falls short in many ways, at least from the perspective of a Heathen.

The major part of the book is broken up in sections focusing on the major themes that Branston follows in AS archeo-mythology: namely, the major deities of Tiw, Woden, Thunor, and Frige. His largest problem is the modernist tendency to first, identify a pantheon while ignoring the minor deities, and then, to conflate all other mythological personages and events as a part of not only the identified pantheon, but as imports from the Near East.

Branston’s version of this goes as follows:

There is Wyrd, the sovereign governing force in the universe. He draws comparisons to the Nornir, the Morai, and the Parcae, as well as the Weird Sisters from Macbeth.

There is the Sky Father, supreme above all, except Wyrd. He is the *Deiwos from which come Zeus, Dyaus, and Jove, as well as Tiwaz/Tiw.

There is then the Wizard, the god of storm, of death and of wisdom. He mentions the Wælcyrges (Valkyries), and does discuss their original seeming, before the traditional view from the Norse sources (that of civilized battle-maidens serving in Odin’s halls) took hold – wailing and vicious death-dealers; he also draws a comparison between them and the Erinyes (Furies), but interestingly, does not mention the Mórrígan at all, though all of his descriptions (including the paradox of three and one) fit them as well.

The Thunderer is next, which he insists is a borrowing from the Gallic Taranis, as he is beginning to set up his main theory at this point.

Frige, the Mother/Lover is his next topic, and it is here that the fatal flaws in his argument come to light. He spends most of the time discussing the Mediterranean/Near Eastern Great Mother cults, and propounds that the majority of the Heathen mythological corpus is a mutation of those cults, squeezing everyone from Frig to Frey to Balder and Nanna into that mold, and reducing them all to archetypical representations of the Great Mother and Her Son/Lover.

The next few chapters are devoted to the same topic, with different characters, i.e., Frey and Freya and Balder and Frig/Nanna. He even goes so far as to equate Balder with the Dying and Resurrected God model of Tammuz, Osiris, and Jesus, using the obscure, and highly vague, Dream of the Rood text as proof.

Overall, Branston starts off with many interesting and intruiging facts and opinions; however, his failure to avoid the endemic faults of modern mythologists detracts from the majority of his work. For a Heathen audience, the book seems hollow, and like every other work of its kind, condescending to our beliefs. Take it with a large salt-shaker.

2.5 lost gods out of five.

——–

¹ Branston, Brian. The Lost Gods of England. Thames & Hudson, Ltd. London; 1957

Posted by: nicanthiel | April 30, 2009

Wealdburganiht

Tonight (sundown April 30) is Witches’ Night, more properly termed Walpurgisnacht (or, since we’re dealing with Old English on this blog, Wealdburg(h)aniht); on this night, folklore goes, all the witches gather and go into the mountains to do magic and curse people. It is terribly unsafe for any “good Christian folk” to go out of doors until morning. The Saints’ Day following (May 1, Feast of St. Valpurga) banishes all evil back that had been loosed the night before.  However, that’s for the Christians.

Heathens, particularly Continental and Anglo-Saxon heathens, see it a bit differently. There is still the danger of running into roaming fairies and elves, and I believe one more danger that isn’t normally associated with Ye Olde Merry May Daye – the ride of the Valkyries (and no, not the epic Wagner bit).

First, let’s examine the name of the “holy-day”: Wealdburganiht. The last third, niht, is fairly obvious as “night.” The Old English Dictionary gives weald as two things: a forest, grove or wood (where we get our word wold froml the Anglian version was wald); or power, dominion, mastery (and possibly a pun for male genitalia). Burg or burh is the Old English word for a fortified town (where we get borough, burg, berg, etc.), but can literally mean a dwelling place. So, it seems that Wealdburgasniht could mean either “dwelling place in the night woods,” or “power dwelling in the night.”

The first potential definition is interesting: it refers to a grove or wood that people sleep in on this night. I have already discussed the apparent Vanic affinity for sacred groves, and on this night when the doorways between worlds thin, it is only natural that those seeking to commune with the Gods and spirits would go to those very same groves and sleep there (an echo, perhaps, to the tradition of sitting out on grave mounds)

Likewise, the second definition brings to mind the folklore tradition of the witches and elves wandering in the night, waiting to catch any unwary person. The Vanic women (and men) are very much affiliated with folk magic and wiccecræft, and it would be no surprise that several Vanic Goddesses show Their “spooky” faces this time of year, including Freya and Nerthus.

But there is one other possible definition that may be relevant to tonight. The first part of the Continental form, Wal/Val-purg, may probably be cognate with the Norse/Icelandic val- as seen in Valhöll and Valkyrjar, referring to the slain warriors. The Old English form of Valkyrie is Wælcyrge/Wælcyrige, which seems suspiciously close to Wealdburg. If there actually is any correlation, it would add the meaning of “night of the barrow-dead” (burg, or béorg, also means grave or burial mound, and is the ancestor of the barrow), a fitting name for the seaonal counterpoint to Hallows, when the dead ride the winds. (Interestingly enough, if you look back at the former definitions with this version of burg, you will find that the definitions change to “Barrow-mastery night” or “burial-grove night,” keeping with the general fear of necromancy and witchcraft in folklore for the night.

Just some food for thought.

Myrge Wealdburganiht

Posted by: nicanthiel | April 26, 2009

Ethics 4: Sylen

This is one of my favorite þéowas. According to the compilied Old English dictionary at Old English Made Easy, sylen is defined as ” a gift; 2. a giving, gift, donation, grant, tribute; 3. the habit of giving, liberality, munificence,” and is closely related to the verb sellan, from which we get our verb “to sell.” (though, interestingly, most of the definitions for sellan have to do with giving or entrusting something rather than exchange or selling for a price.)

Most Heathens know of the maxim in the Hávamál, “a gift for a gift,” and of the Germanic tribal customs of ring-giving and sharing wealth. As such, this is not usually a contested virtue in the way that ellen and árfæstness are. However, there are some things that do need to be said.

It is common in certain areas of Heathenry to exaggerate the requisition of the gift, so much so that one will not give without promise of return, or immediate return. As such, they twist their generosity into a form of miserliness and self-entitlement (an endemic problem in American society), rather than focusing on the joy and honor of giving freely, as the third definition states – liberality and munificence.

Too, many Heathens would also argue that the line in the Hávamál where Hár talks about giving too much is a reason not to be generous without expectation. However, there is a difference between giving generously of surplus, and giving “till it hurts,” as is expected by many Christians. Our Gods expect us to be proud enough to live in what measure of comfort we can based on our hard work instead of purposefully beggaring ourselves or being “downwardly mobile”; at the same time, They expect us to be generous enough to be able to give to others as they need and we are able, the idea here being moderation (another overly-neglected virtue among many Heathens).

American society has a very bad relationship with money and possessions. The honest attainment of wealth through hard work, and the enjoyment of it, is seen as sinful and undesirable (echoes from the Christian majority that has ruled our society and culture for the last several hundred years); conversely, being content with the things one has is seen as foolish and quaint, and everyone strives to have more and be like every other household to the point of ruining finances and families, and even national and global economies, as seen by the current recession that may very well become a depression all caused by speculation and people playing with money they didn’t have.

But sylen, in a Heathen context, is about the nature of giving rather than the gift itself. No one appreciates a gift given in resentment or grudgingly. In fact, most of the time, such an exchange isn’t a gift at all – it’s a tax. A true gift must be given generously, with gladness and no ulterior motive (though it’s always nice to receive one in turn). A gift creates a bond of friendship between the two parties, and if the cycle of reciprocity is continued, that bond can only grow stronger. And that is the true purpose of gifting – to create solid relationships between people, or between people and the Gods. It is also a community-building and maintaining practice, because generosity toward the less fortunate, sharing the Gods’ blessings among your community, enables all to live and grow together without undue envy or feelings of resentment or exclusion.

Posted by: nicanthiel | April 22, 2009

Earth Day

Today is the international holy-day, affectionately termed Earth Day, in which we are urged to be mindful of our presence among the biosystems of our planet. It is important now more than ever to be aware and conscious of the choices we make in regards to the effects those choices have on other species, and even the life quality of the non-biological spirits and wights. We are poisoning the lands of our ancestors, and what is worse, many of us moderns are poisoning the lands of others.

My Lady is often hailed on this day, as is proper for the Lady of Land and Mindfulness; however, too many Heathens ignore Her the rest of the year, all the while defiling and besmirching both Her land and their own honor. Lip service does not please the Gods. When They receive devotion and praise, They expect us to follow-up on our promises and intents, not shove them aside to be trotted out at the next “convenient” time in order to show how “Heethin” we are and gain a name that we do not otherwise deserve.

I have been talking on here about the Anglo-Saxon virtues. So far, I’ve covered honor, piety, and courage. And certainly, all of these can be related to the fight to save our planet – it is honorable to live in symbiosis with nature; it is certainly pious to care for the earth as though it were our mother (which it is, if one considers that Hertha-Jörð is the mother or grandmother to many of the Gods, Who are in turn the ancestors of humans through Mannus/Rig-Heimdall); and it takes a great deal of courage to stand up and go against the general grain of anti-environmentalism or pseudo-environmentalism, especially if you are coming from a minority religious standpoint, and most especially in the wider Heathen subculture, as many are conservative and scornful of anything smelling of “nature-religion.”

There are three other þéowas that speak to proper attitudes toward environmentalism in ASH – holdness (hospitality, lit. “graciousness”), ȝemyndignys (mindfulness, lit “being in memory-ness”) and sóðfæstness (truthfulness, “truth, truthfulness, faithfulness, good faith, fairness, fidelity, sincerity; 2. truth, righteousness, justice; 3. truth of speech or thought

We are obviously the most species-powerful animals on the earth. While our power certainly isn’t absolute, it is our actions and choices that determines the fate of biosystems to the greatest degree. Thus, being both host and guest on this earth (for even in our hubris, we are utterly dependent on the cycles of nature for our basic survival), it is our duty to treat fairly and graciously those we are sharing this earth with, to be as careful and conscious of our actions toward them as we would to a human host or guest.

This care for proper conduct obviously leads us to mindfulness. Eco-mindfulness is the proper result and goal of environmentalism, as it brings us back into touch with the greater cycles of nature that we have long been removed from, to our own peril.

And finally, truthfulness requires that we not only seek the truth of climate issues, not letting others sway our opinions, but also to then use that truth and proclaim it widely, teaching it to those under our care and educating those around us. If we truly hold fast to the truth, we cannot allow ourselves to ignore the clear signs of problems that we have caused, whether that be widespread special extinction, carbon dioxide saturation, ever-growing lack of resources, or any of the dozens and hundreds of ways that we have adversely affected our environment and the environments around the world.

Éalá Eorðe, modor ús eallra. Ús fácendǽd úre forȝief.

Posted by: nicanthiel | April 21, 2009

Ethics 3: Ellen

Ellen is a curious théow, in that it is derived from the name of the goddess of the virtue it embodies rather than actual lexical composition. The Saxon goddess Ellen (quite probably the same as the Dutch/Frisian/Belgic Nehellenia) is the personification of Courage (the definition of ellen from the Old English Dictionary is: “zeal, strength, power, vigor, valor, courage, fortitude; strife, contention”; also, interestingly, “elder-tree”*).

Courage is greatly talked about in Heathen circles, usually by the same type of people that emphasise the external version of “honor” that I talked about previously. As such, it is no wonder that the conception of courage as espoused by those people falls somewhat flat.

Generally, the mainstream conception of courage is based strictly on the last two definitions: strife, and contention. Thus, courage becomes a purely battle-based virtue, and anyone need only look at the excessive belligerence of many Kindreds and groups to see how and why that becomes a problem, especially when combined with the conception of external honor.

However, courage, with the full definition, is a much greater and expansive virtue. The first four definitions speak of active force or vitality – zeal for the defense and pursuit of values; the strength of mind, body and character to live against the flow when that flow leads only to dishonorable and corrupted actions and pursuits; the power of reputation, of eloquence and mægen, of personality to be an example in dark times to those who are trying to find their way; and the vigor of integrity, right action, and a life well-lived.

The next three definitions speak also of force and vitality, but where the first four were outward and offensive, these three are inward and defensive. Valor is a virtue that can only be accessed by the truly honorable, because it requires great strength of character and self-knowledge, which those who focus solely on the outward rarely have. Likewise, courage is dependent on good judgment and the ability to be clear-headed in the midst of heated and dangerous situations; it is also dependent on knowing and facing your fears and shadow sides, for courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the refusal to give into it. And lastly, fortitude is a concept well-known to any gamer as the strength and force of the individual-as-a-whole; in this sense, fortitude is the end result of all the other definitions and conceptions of what ellen really is – strength, power, and vigor of body, mind, soul, and character that enables people to face their fears and shadows, to make sound judgments in unsound and emotion-driven situations, and to fight for and defend those things they hold dear with no quarter.

That is being courageous.

——

*Old English Made Easy: Dictionaries

Posted by: nicanthiel | April 20, 2009

Ethics 2: Æfæstness

In this second essay on Anglo-Saxon ethics, we will be exploring the virtue of æfæstness, or piety. As árfæstness involved being “fastened” to something, so too does æfastness involved being fixed – æfæstness is “being fixed on the Gods” (The Æ- here is cognate with the Norse Æsir, the tribe of Ése; the Anglo-Saxons did not distinguish between the tribes of gods the way the Norse did, and the Æ- here refers to “all the Gods,” including the Wenagodes).

But, how can one be fixed on the Gods, without becoming fixated on Them? Life in both modern and Anglo-Saxon society required the great majority to be a part of the “mundane” world, and indeed, only a small number of people are wired for frequent or constant communication/communion with the Divine and/or spirits. Yet this is a théow for everyone, not just those few. So, what does æfæstness mean for the average Joe Heathen?

Well, I believe that the Gods are our friends; not necessarily the type of friend who always hangs around you like a puppy dog, or even the friend with connections that can get you stuff that you want. But They are the type of friend that is interested in you, that wants to know more about you, and wants you to know more about Them, and likes spending time with you every so often. As it says in the Hávamál:

Hast thou a friend whom thou trustest well,
from whom thou cravest good?
Share thy mind with him, gifts exchange with him,
fare to find him oft.

Thus, I feel the proper expression of æfæstness can be distilled by those three guidelines. If you would be the Gods’ friend, and hold fast to Them, share your mind in prayer, in meditation, in contemplation (all things anyone can do, even if they don’t have a “God-phone”); present Them with gifts of song, of dance, of music and poetry, of food and drink, of hospitality, of a life well-lived in Their name (even if you’re not “good” by others’ standards, They appreciate intent and effort); and most of all, make time in your life to commune with Them frequently. Too often, we moderns get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our mechanised world, and forget to take time for the soul-feeding things like reading, stillness, relaxation, comforts and indulgences; communing with the Gods falls into this category.

In this view of piety, unlike that of the majority religions, a pious life is not the judgments you make according to an outside standard, but the actions you do with purpose, with intent, and with love – the most powerful magic of all. For indeed, piety is its own form of magic, if we use Dion Fortune’s definition of “changing consciousness at will”; nothing changes consciousness quite so much as actively identifying and communing with a particular Deity or Deities. It’s the entire premise behind one of the most sacred Hindu yogas – that of bhakti yoga, or “devotion to the Deity” though contemplation, meditation, and identification (the actual bhakti is similar to the various God-human relationships that are popping up all over Heathenry and Neo-paganism in general, especially that of the Divine Lover/Spouse).

May you live in æfæstness, and bring the blessings of the Gods upon you.

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