Savernake Moot

Thor Oak tree Savernake forest UK

 

12:00

Sunday 15th July 2018

Savernake Forest

Come for a wander in the woods, meet some ancient trees and some local heathens.

Send us a message or comment for any questions and further details. 🙂

See you then!

Woodhenge moot

Our next moot is next weekend at Woodhenge. Bring drinks and snacks ready for an afternoon at this fascinating historic site set within the Stonehenge landscape.

Sunday 6th May

12:00 noon

Woodhenge, Larkhill, Wiltshire

See you then 🙂

 

 

Heathenry for Beginners – part three

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Sacrifice

“People reciprocate gifts given by other people and thereby demonstrate that they are indeed related people… They are people because they give and receive gifts… gifts are given and received not only by humans but also by trees, forests, rivers, seas, and all other living persons, communities and/or domains.”

Graham Harvey – ‘animism – respecting the living world’

 

In Heathenry, most of our rituals involve sacrifice. A Heathen will give gifts to gods, to the earth or particular places, trees, stones, grave mounds, or land spirits. We believe that this strengthens the relationships between us and the other – than – human people with whom we share our world. Whether we focus on spiritual beings, features of the landscape, or personifications of natural forces,  giving in thanks, or in the hope that giving will obligate the receiver to give back, is fundamental.

Ritual can sometimes be a literal act of giving in return for a favor, or a more symbolic acknowledgment of the role of a deity in someone’s life. It is connected, too, to the importance of hospitality; if you visit a wood, bring gifts for the wights – you wouldn’t turn up empty – handed if you were a guest in a human household. According to the Havamal, gift giving is important to the growth of friendships.

“Friends shall gladden each other | with arms and garments,
As each for himself can see;
Gift-givers’ friendships | are longest found,
If fair their fates may be.

To his friend a man | a friend shall prove,
And gifts with gifts requite;
But men shall mocking | with mockery answer,
And fraud with falsehood meet.”

Havamal, Bellows translation

Practice

‘Rituals are the traditional core of heathenism. It is not a dogmatic religion that places the belief in its teachings in the centre, but a living relationship to the gods, to nature… Being a heathen means to practice heathenism’

Fritz Steinbock, -translation from Stefanie von Schurbein’s ‘norse revival- transformations of Germanic paganism’

 

So, what do these practices look like?

Well, it turns out that even these vital, Heathenry- defining practices can be remarkably vague. We know very little about Pre – Christian rituals, and rituals today, like in the past, will vary from group to group. Influential descriptions of sacrifices often come from the sagas, for example –

‘Thorkel left Thverá, he went to Freys temple, and taking an old steer up thither, made this speech:–Thou, Frey, said he, wert long my protector, and many offerings hast thou had at my hands, which have borne good fruit to me. Now do I present this steer to thee, in the hope that Glum hereafter may be driven by force off this land, as I am driven off it; and, I pray thee, give me some token whether thou acceptest this offering or not. Then the steer was stricken in such a way that he bellowed loud and fell down dead, and Thorkel took this a a favourable omen. Afterwards he was in better spirits, as if he thought his offering was accepted and his wish ratified by the god.’

http://sagadb.org/viga-glums_saga.en

 

“It was an old custom, that when there
was to be sacrifice all the bondes should come to the spot where
the temple stood and bring with them all that they required while
the festival of the sacrifice lasted.  To this festival all the
men brought ale with them; and all kinds of cattle, as well as
horses, were slaughtered, and all the blood that came from them
was called “hlaut”, and the vessels in which it was collected
were called hlaut-vessels.  Hlaut-staves were made, like
sprinkling brushes, with which the whole of the altars and the
temple walls, both outside and inside, were sprinkled over, and
also the people were sprinkled with the blood; but the flesh was
boiled into savoury meat for those present.”

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/heim/05hakon.htm

We don’t hang people from trees, or sprinkle blood around, all that often these days. Time spent litter – picking or volunteering, making a carving or a piece of art, writing and performing poetry or music, are all common ways for modern Heathens to honor the gods. Rites usually start with a setting aside of the ritual space in some way, either with a procession up to it, a fire or alter set up, a blow of a horn, or just organising those gathered into a circle. Gods, ancestors, and land – wights are usually hailed, or perhaps the ritual is dedicated to someone or something in particular. Offerings are usually poured out onto the ground, or into a bowl, to be poured out once the ritual is finished. Readings, stories, or music might be included too.

Day to day heathen rituals may be as simple as sharing a drop of beer with the god – idols in the garden, or putting bread, milk, butter or porridge out for the elves. Seasonal festivals or feasts for special occasions may be more elaborate – we’ll get on to those in the next couple of posts.

Further reading –

Several different varieties of heathen celebrations are described here http://www.norsemyth.org/2017/03/nine-heathens-speak-of-spring.html?m=1

Here is a history of the modern blot in more detail, including a ritual outline-http://odin.heathenthing.org/?page_id=43

Take a look this Jackson Crawford video on Norse worship and beliefs –
https://youtu.be/E_xi8QQZo0Q

 

Heathenry for Beginners – Part two

Part two: Gods and Giants

Disclaimer: The following is only one heathens opinion, mine, and I’m learning as I go just like everyone else. Different opinions by better educated folks are available.

Out of Ymir’s flesh

was fashioned the earth,
And the ocean out of his blood;
Of his bones the hills,

of his hair the trees,
Of his skull the heavens high.

– Bellows, ‘Grimnismal’

In Norse mythology, we have the Aesir, the Vanir, and the Jötnar ( the giants.) The Aesir and Vanir are the gods that are worshiped, holy powers of creation, prosperity, and order, and the giants are older powers, who like to break things; they are wildfire, avalanches, floods, the hag in the dark wood and the serpent under the sea.

In the Poetic Edda, the giants were here first. The creation of the earth is described as an act of violence against them – the gods Odin, Villi, and Ve kill the giant Ymir and use his various dismembered body parts to make the world, and this theme, this tension between chaos and order, creation and destruction, is common throughout the Norse stories. The Eddic poem Völuspá speaks of monsters, long held in check by the gods, breaking loose from their bonds and making a terrible mess.

Now Garm howls loud

before Gnipahellir,
The fetters will burst,

and the wolf run free;

– Bellows

In Anglo – Saxon, Eotenas is cognate with the Old Norse Jotunn. Giants in English folklore are often portrayed as hostile, powerful, and greedy. Like the Norse Jotnar, they were from the edges of the world, outside of civilization.

‘The outside was considered a place of wildness and chaos where untamed spirits dwelt and danger lurked around each and every corner.’
https://larhusfyrnsida.com/fundamentals/innanbord-utanbord/

The giants are not just wild, but because of their great age, they are a source of ancient wisdom, and there are several tales of Odin visiting to question them and find out what they know. The Vanir god Frey marries the giantess Gerd, and his father Njord marries the giantess Skadi; there’s no clear, all – out war between the two groups. The giants are dangerous enemies, but the gods are frequently seen tricking them, loving them, stealing from them, or, if you’re Thor, hitting them with a really big hammer.

‘Nor did he only fight these battles on behalf of the gods… he was struggling for mankind, and for the precious civilization which men had wrested from a hard and chaotic world.’

 – H R Ellis Davidson, ‘Gods and Myths of Northern Europe’

Despite being firmly on the side of the gods, Thor travels often with Loki, who is portrayed in the Völuspá as one of those monsters who breaks free, riding with the giants at the end of the world. In Asatru the gods are not wholly good, or the giants wholly evil, and neither are people. We do not need to be saved, or fixed; there is no need to be purified, or for a spiritual journey towards perfection. We can just enjoy good soil, good weather, good friends, and develop strong communities to support us when life is bad.

In Norse mythology, change and conflict are often necessary to create new things. The environment on Earth is stable enough for human life to flourish, but without the occasional catastrophe, such as the extinction of the dinosaurs, we might not have got here at all. It is like ice and fire; ice is unmoving, fire is destructive. Too much of either and nothing can live. But in the Prose Edda, it is in the space where those opposites meet that life begins.

The year turns between cold and hot, stillness and movement, order and chaos, and we make time in each season to give thanks to the gods, to those powers of nature that carved stability from the primordial giant.

‘The victory of the gods over the Eotenas was the re-assuring victory of order over chaos, the assertion of human values over disorder… the giants were elemental forces of nature, temporarily held at bay but never to be finally overcome.”

 – Stephen Pollington, ‘The Elder Gods – The Otherworld of Early England’

Further reading –

The Jötnar in more detail –

https://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/giants/

Were the Jötnar worshipped? Maybe 🙂

http://www.heathenhof.com/worship-jotnar/