Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Northern Spirit Part 2

I congratulate you for making it through the beast of a part 1 in this series. I may have to go back later and chop it up. We will see.

So, to recap, there are several parts to the spirit in the Northern Tradition. In my last post I covered the major players, but there are so many others I have not covered. There are many names ones, here are some examples from Kaldera’s site; Wod, Ve, Vili, Orlog, Wyrd, Litr, Maegan, Mynd, Gothi, Lich and Ond. In addition, I would say that we are in each our own way a world tree, with roots in the legs and the base of the spine, with branches in our hands and head. As far as my own practice is concerned, the Nine Worlds (homes) are also parts of the spirit, as the spirit is as much part of the land as it is the body, ancestral and current. There are also, especially in the context of fylgja, many personal and unnamed pieces of the spirit, that can come and go with time and place. Some are specific only to children, some to teens, and some to adults. The pieces that make up each person are very unique to that person, so there is not enough space or time to detail it all here.

For this piece, instead of going on and on about the other parts, I want to focus instead on the applied usage of the pieces we have already discussed. In short, the magic of working with each of the different parts. As already has been discussed in the last installment of this series, deliberate and intentional manipulation of the hugr is the basis of all magic. I will extend this even a step farther, that deliberate and intentional work with all the pieces of the personal spirit is the basis of all magic. In light of the fact that the spirit encompasses the mind, the body, and the community of spirits around a person, these techniques range from mental discipline, body conditioning, to spirit work and shamanism. This is because the parts of the spirits vary greatly in autonomy. Some are under your control, such as mind and body. While others, such as vordr and fylgje, are largely independent, conscious and willful beings, beings that you have to maintain good relations with if you wish to work with them.

Here are a few excerpts from Strömbäck to hammer (hamr!) the point home;

” With these conceptions of a more or less materialized soul which was able to free itself from its owner could also be connected the idea that one could lead the vård (vordr) or hugr in a certain direction. And if your thoughts were evil you could… hurt people by making them objects of your intense hatred, envy or discontent” The power of thought in this tradition is immense. Ever heard of right thoughts, right words, right actions? Even your thoughts have power, and when you focus your thoughts on another person, your hugr and other pieces start to interact with that person. Envy, hate and ill will are especially powerful. The vordr, as mentioned, is an entirely different case. Take myself as an example, as my vordr is a wolf. Can you imagine me asking her to attack someone? Not something I would want done to me, to say the least.

“In more recent Icelandic tradition the strong influence from a person’s fylgja is called adsokn. The word is the same as classical Icelandic atsokn which means ‘attack’, ‘onslaught’. In modern Icelandic, however, a special sense has been added to the word, namely ‘sleep or drowsiness caused by the fylgja of an expected or unexpected visitor before his arrival’. In other words: a person’s forerunner or fylgja could have such physical effect upon another person that his influence was compared with an attack.” Fylgje are especially powerful, being spiritual entities in their own right. Like with the vordr, your followers can be used to adsokn others. This can be a conscious or unconscious act. It pays to be mindful. As mentioned, fylgje have this habit of sending others messages on your behalf, to announce your arrival or what have you. This seems to have the side affect of making people tired, and I am not sure why. Perhaps it is because fylgje have an easier time talking to people when they are asleep, and so try to put them to asleep to deliver a message? What a strange thought.

“Generally speaking you could activate your hugr, leading it in different directions and using it for certain intentions. Here in fact lies the germ of the idea of changing shape, the ability to go out from yourself and let your hugr take hamr, that is to say take the form of your second self.” Here we reinforce the idea that the hugr is probably the piece of the spirit most under your direct control, your own will and ability to exercise that through mind and body. Now we get into the real interesting bits. It has been my experience that the vordr, being your closest spiritual companion, is probably the easiest to work with. This is a two way street, and the spirit in question has to be willing to change skins with you. The vordr is often willing, if you build up to it and keep good on your relations. It can sometimes be as simple as asking, but rarely. Fylgje can be even trickier, and the biggest factor is your relations with your allies. They may be willing, or they may not be. In regards to possession and such things, there are cases where you might not be willing. I cannot stress enough the difficulty of these things, as it is very advanced work. I would not recommend trying it without the supervision of a teacher with experience in shape-shifting or skin-changing. There are immense repercussions mentally, spiritually and physically if this kind of thing is done incorrectly. I have trouble with it still, and I have found that the more unlike another spirit is from yourself, the more difficult it gets. Humans would in theory be the easiest to skin-change with, as I would say sometimes happens during sex. However, there are ethical implications with all that as well. Animals seem to be easier than plants, and they more-so than say mountains or streams. There is a degree of foreignness at play, strangeness when comparing one spirit to another. They have different pieces than ourselves, different rules in play for animals and plants.

So to wrap that it all up, where does this lead us? Certainly plenty to think about and much we don’t know. The best advice I can say is get to know your parts, and build from there.

With that in mind, here is a bit of folklore that may help divine your vordr;

“The vordr is an animal that accompanies or precedes you. If you want to know what vordr you have, there is a way to find out. You take your sheath knife, roll it up in a kerchief, and wrap it tightly. Then pass this bundle from hand to hand, first in front of you and then behind, three times. While you move the bundle you say; ‘A horse as vordr!’

If your vordr is a horse, the knife will lie outside the kerchief by the time you passed it the third time. If it is not a horse the knife will still be in the kerchief. You proceed this way naming animal after animal until you find your vordr.”

Don’t forget the small animals! Not all vordr are great majestic beasts like horse, lion or wolf.

Sources;

Strömbäck, Dag., from the book “Sejd” (2000 edition), pages 220-236. The Concept of the Soul in Nordic Tradition http://vnnforum.com/showthread.php?t=84650

http://www.northernshamanism.org/shamanic-techniques/shamanic-healing/soul-map.html

Kvideland, Reimund & Sehmsdor, Henning. Editors. Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend. University of Minnesota. 1988

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The Northern Spirit Part 1

In addition to “Fiction and Spirituality Part 2” I will be writing today about the Northern Spirit as well. This is because I wanted to get a jump start on a month worth of articles, for the simple reason that the next month or so is quite busy for me. Every weekend until November is filled with either hunting and/or some kind of fall activity. As such I won’t have time for regular posting until at least Novemeber, so I am posting a couple of articles now so that my readers have something to chew on until I get back.

As an animist, I believe that all things (or the vast majority of things, as there are some I have encountered that do not appear to. This could user error though, perhaps they are just too small for me to detect) have spirits, so I spend a good deal of time contemplating the nature of the spirits. As will all questions worth asking, there is not definitive answer to this question and the best that I can come up with is; it’s complicated. As far as the Northern Tradition is concerned, the spirit is made up of numerous pieces, each of which has various degrees of will and autonomy. Some are completely subject to my will, while others are independent of me, yet are still a vital piece of what might be called the self. As far as my tradition is concerned, perhaps selves is more accurate.

As I have said, the spirit in the Norse tradition is made up of several pieces. I have seen a range of anywhere from 3 to 18 pieces, but in my opinion there is not a correct number of parts. The reason for this is because, like cells in our body, the number is not fixed, but changes through time. Pieces of the spirit can depart, be loss, or be gained. They are always in flux, cycling, moving around, changing in arrangement, influence and power. During a discussion, I once heard them described as “blocks”, not unlike Legos. Pieces can be interchanged and mixed, and so much like Legos, they are lost and found over time. Different shapes and colors can be used, pieces rotated and moved, all that help to define the spiritual and physical being that is me.

Let us start with a conceptual introduction; “ In Scandinavian folk tradition the human soul is usually referred to as hug(r)…. it refers to the mental life of the individual – to personality, thoughts, feelings and desires. There are various and complex conceptions of the hugr imbuing the greater part of Scandinavian tradition…. It was believed that the hug could affect both animate and inanimate objects – including other people – either consciously or unconsciously. The deliberate manipulation of the hugr is the basis of all magic. The hug can manifest itself invisibly or can take on a shape (hamr). In some instances the shape assumed by the hug has developed into an independent supranormal being, as exemplified by the many traditions about the nightmare (mare).
Other important projects of the hugr include the vordr, which is a kind of presence accompanying the individual; the dream-soul, which leaves the body during sleep; the vardöger or fyreferd, a visual or auditory experience presaging a person’s approach; and the free-soul, which is the soul sent from the body in magic flight.” (Kvideland, pg 45.)

Now we can see a few parts that deserve further exploration; the hugr, the vordr, the hamr. It is important to mention at this point that the different parts of the spirit are deeply interconnected, and they can overlap to a greater or lesser degree. This can cause confusion, so I will try my best to untangle them. We are going to start with the hugr.

Hugr – This is the closest thing, in my opinion, we have to a personal self. An Old Norse word that is close to “thought”, just like Odin’s raven, Huginn and Muninn, thought and memory. Raven Kaldera has this to say on his website; “Hyge (Hugr) is the rational part of the cognitive process; it is the thinking, reasoning left-brain part that can examine input and draw conclusions.” The hugr is the “I” in the spiritual equation, as stated above, the sum total of our personalities thoughts and feelings. Our wills and feelings. Perhaps it is the “core” around which all other pieces revolve.

Vordr – Strömbäck says; ” In Sweden we have a definition of the vård given us by the famous Swedish folklorist Gunnar Olof Hyltén-Cavallius in the middle of the last century and well worth citing in this connection. What he says refers to his home district, southern Småland, where he was a keen observer of folk-belief and folk customs. He says: “The vård (literally: the guardian) is a being attached to the individual, a spirit who accompanies a person wherever he goes, and sometimes reveals itself either as a glimmer or in the form of the person as a second self (hamr), a phantom. The presence of the vård can even be felt, both by other people and by the individual himself when he is out of doors at night…. This term corresponds to Norwegian vord, Old Norse vordr and originally denotes ‘guardian’. You have the same word in Anglo-saxon weard, ‘guardian’ or modern “watch and ward…. ”

My personal Vordr is a wolf, a constant companion, like a loyal pet, and a second-self part of my spirit. She overlaps into ideas of the hamr, which I will get to. We can add a bit from Wikipedia here; “At times, the warden could reveal itself as a small light or as the shape (hamr) of the person. The perception of another person’s warden could cause a physical sensation such as an itching hand or nose, as a foreboding or an apparition. The warden could arrive before the actual person, which someone endowed with fine senses might perceive.” Here we see a spill over into the vardöger concept, whereas your vordr actually runs ahead of you and informs someone else you are on the way. As the vordr is quite independent of my own will, except when she actually listens to me, she can run on ahead with messages or information. This idea overlaps a lot with fyglje here as well, and I will come back around to that. Suffice to say that a vordr is a very specific type of fylgje.

Hamr – The second self, usually as some form of animal. Kaldera has this to say; “The hame (hamr) is the part of your soul that can be shapeshifted into another form, with work and training.” A great deal of work and training. A word of warning here, do not try this at home. This kind of thing is very advanced stuff. I have been trying, with a lot more failure then success. You’ve been warned. My vordr overlaps here, as she is much hamr as vordr, a guardian and a second self.

Fyglje – Kvideland and Sehmsdor say; “The fylgje (cf. the verb fylgja ‘to follow’) is a projection of the hugr that accompanies the person. It either takes human shape or that of an animal.” (Kvideland pg 66.) In my experience, these spirits can be about anything, gods, ancestors or spirits. They are more, general purpose, than the vordr. In my interpretation, each person only gets one vordr for their whole life, whereas fyglje are what might be called spiritual allies. They are followers, and can a wide range of functions and responsibilities. While the vordr is the primary protector, fylje can have much the similar functions. They can send messages, aid in protection and work, or pretty much any thing else. Also, there is nothing, in my experience, that prevents fyglje from becoming hamr, seond-third-forth ect. selves. Once again, really advanced stuff.

Wikiepedia says; ” In Norse mythology, a fylgja (Old Norse, literally “someone that accompanies” is a supernatural being or creature which accompanies a person in connection to their fate or fortune. Fylgjur usually appear in the form of an animal and commonly appear during sleep, but the sagas relate that they could appear while a person is awake as well, and that seeing one’s fylgja is an omen of one’s impending death. However, when fylgjur appear in the form of women, they are then supposedly guardian spirits for people or clans (ættir). Both Andy Orchard and Rudolf Simek note parallels between the concept of the hamingja—a personification of a family’s or individual’s fortune—and the fylgja.”
As mentioned, there is a dark side to fyglje as well, as some of the lore indicates that seeing your fylgja is an omen of your impending death. However, I have “seen” my fylgjur, as well as my hamr, on several occasions, and have not yet died, at least any faster than the normal rate. My thoughts are that stories of this type refer to a specific type of spirit, that is often confused with the more general term fylgje. I have not yet found a specific name for fygje of this type, but I would suspect they are closer to the draugr (living dead/walking dead) than a spiritual follower. Perhaps something akin to an “angel of death/grim reaper?” A special type of spiritual follower that says “it is time to go.” I also suspect you would know fylgje’s of this type if you saw them.

Hamingje – This concept overlaps quite a bit with fylgje and kinfylgje (the ancestors of your own fylgje, or the fylgje of your ancestors). In its more general sense it means “luck”, but it not inherent. Hamingje is something that is created and earned, and thusly can be lost and taken as well. It comes from those around you, from keeping good relations with friends, family and spirits (fylgje, vordr, ect). It is a type of community fortune or power, the kind that is only made with good relations. The willingness of a dear friend to always be there? That is hamingje. Kaldera adds; “For example, a gift has more hamingja than something that you bought, because it has the energy of the giver’s intention and good wishes behind it. A gift that was used frequently by someone or worn on their body has even more. An heirloom passed down over time has yet more hamingja, for the same reasons. Gifts given by children out of real feeling for the recipient seem to have an inordinate amount of hamingja. A bride was considered to have a great deal of hamingja, and the wife was the keeper of the household’s hamingja, because she was closest to the hearth, the center of the home.” (Kaldera)

IF you’ve made it this far you deserve a cookie. Go and get yourself a cookie.

Part 2 coming soon, because this is going to be much longer.

Sources;
Kvideland, Reimund & Sehmsdor, Henning. Editors. Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend.

Kaldera, Raven http://www.northernshamanism.org/shamanic-techniques/shamanic-healing/soul-map.html

Strömbäck, Dag., from the book “Sejd” (2000 edition), pages 220-236. The Concept of the Soul in Nordic Tradition http://vnnforum.com/showthread.php?t=84650

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vordr

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fylgja


Fiction and Spirituality Part 2

“Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.”
– Winston Churchill

It would appear there is more to consider when it comes to the influence of fiction on our spiritual lives. We live in a multi-media world, meaning that cultural and spiritual influences can come from anywhere. Just as important, stories change over time. Our spiritual heritages are always in a state of flux, changing from teller to teller, and generation to generation. When I speak of story telling, I am not simply speaking about literature, but also movies, music, games, and any other media form that has some aspect of storytelling.

As I said, stories change all the time. I would say that innovation is necessary to keep a cultural heritage alive. That is part of the reason I tell stories, especially Nordic-inspired stories, to help keep that tradition alive. How many Beowulf movies have been made? How many stories about Thor, including comic books and movies? There are certainly been a few, and certainly more to come in the future.

However, innovation and tradition are a delicate balance. As a storyteller, especially when working from ancient (Eddas and Sagas) material I am tasked with two things, honor the traditions left by my ancestors, while at the same time reshaping the ancient traditions so that they are relevant for today. In addition, I also have the duty to preserve these things for future tellers, which will make their own tweaks and changes.

Stories are much like living organisms, or perhaps spirits, in their own way. They change, grow, mutate and evolve over time. They reproduce, and change from generation to generation. On the other side, they also decay, die and go extinct. It pains me to think about all the stories that have been lost over time, but I also must rejoice for those that have been preserved, albeit with changes along the way. This I think is as good of place as any to bring in the other examples I wanted to explore in this series, namely Guild Wars 2 and the Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Their are races in these games that are certainly Norse-inspired, and I would like to take a little time to explore these now. Starting with Guild Wars 2.

One of that playable races in Guild Wars 2 are called the Norn; a “race of towering hunters” and that “The individualistic norn live for the hunt, so their tracking, stealth and killing skills make them invaluable allies…” (Guild Wars 2 Wiki)

As to their religion the Wiki says; “The norn have a shamanistic religion where they revere totem animals of the Spirits of the Wild, the spirits of the strongest, bravest, wisest, or most cunning animals of the Shiverpeaks (their homeland in game). The Great Spirit is Bear, who is seen as the strongest of all the spirits and is said to have granted the norn with the ability to ‘become the bear’. The worship of the spirits Snow Leopard, Raven and Wolf is also prevalent because of the assistance they gave the norn in the past… There are many other totem spirits among the norn, such as Ox, Eagle, and Wurm, but they are not as widely revered… Each spirit has any number of shaman. A shaman devotes themselves to a spirit’s sacred area, serving as guardians to that area and teachers of the lessons of that spirit” (Guild Wars 2 Wiki)

Oh, a people after my own heart! Hunters, warriors, and animists, much like the Norse of old! In fact, their very name “norn” is Norse in origin. The norn, Urd and her sisters, were goddess of fate, and they weaved the paths of men and gods. I also see curious parallels here to things I have written about previously. As in the old paleo-mesolithic (See Bears and the Ancient North post) times, the bear was highly revered, and the evidence points towards multiple clans/tribes worshipping the same totemic animal, but perhaps with different stories and traditions associated with it. Elk/Reindeer was another big one in Scandinavia, and there is evidence to indicate the prehistoric existence of a wide spread “Elk/Reindeer Clan.” Certainly there could be said to be Native American influences in the Norn as well, though it should be said their are interesting parallels between the Paleo-mesolithic hunters and the Native Americans. Perhaps that is a whole other blog in itself. There could also be said to be Saami inspirations as well, but I will not dwell into that here.

Be that as it may, there is quite a bit of evidence that speaks to the animistic nature of the Norse, shape-shifting, skin-changing, werewolves, man-bears, what have you. The Norn of GW2 pick up that ancient tradition, and take it in a new, and quite engaging direction. I will circle back a little later, but it is time to move on to Skyrim.

Curiously (or perhaps not), the race of interest in Skyrim, and the other Elder Scrolls games as well, are known as the Nord. Nord, Norse, Norn, Nordic… The names are part of the connection, as Nor, Norr, Nord generally means “north” as a root. Norway means the “northern way” or perhaps “the northern way” or any variant there of.

“Nords are a race that were led to Skyrim by Ysgramor (A nord hero/founder). They are tall, fair-haired and pale skinned humans from Atmora (The Nord homeland) who are known for their incredible resistance to cold and even magical frost. They are enthusiastic warriors, and act as soldiers, mercenaries, merchants and blacksmiths all over Tamriel (The world of the Elder Scrolls games) … Above all else in Nord culture is the quest for honor and glory, and a great emphasis is placed on the family. They thrive in the cold, reminiscent of their native Atmora… Nords are also naturally superior at sea, and have benefited from nautical trade since their first migrations across the sea from Atmora.” (Elder Scrolls Wiki “Nord”)

A bunch of Vikings if I have ever seen one! But things get ever more interesting when we consider the “old” beliefs of the Nords, brought over from their homeland of Atmora, but mostly since abandoned by the time Skyrim actually takes place. Skyrim, as a game, contains quite a bit of written literature in game, and this is a wonderful source for this article. The following excerpt is taken from the in-game book called “The Dragon War.”

“In the Merethic Era, when Ysgramor first set foot on Tamriel, his people brought with them a faith that worshipped animal gods. Certain scholars believe these primitive people actually worshipped the divines as we know them, just in the form of these totem animals. They deified the hawk, wolf, snake, moth, owl, whale, bear, fox, and the dragon. Every now and then you can stumble across the broken stone totems in the farther reaches of Skyrim.
Foremost among all animals was the dragon…” (Elder Scrolls Wiki “The Dragon War”)

There is a difference of note here, whereas Bear takes prominence in GW2, the dragon takes prominence in Skyrim. This is a curious thing, as dragons are central to the stories of both games, as well as taking a role in old Norse literature. Dragons are another one of those topics that could be a whole post in an of itself. The point I really want to show here is the animistic ideas and Norse heritage from which both games draw. While both are works of fiction, can it be said they add material and innovation to the ever-evolving Northern Tradition? While of course fiction should be taken with a grain of salt, certain ideas can help us create a more meaningful connection to the Old Ways.

Sources;
http://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Norns
http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Nord_(Skyrim)
http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/The_Dragon_War


Slaves as grave gifts for the Vikings


Fiction and Spirituality

Life is very, very busy at the moment. I am hoping I will be able to keep up regular postings here. Archery season starts on October 1 here in Michigan, and I have been preparing as time goes on. Ranging in the woodlands and picking my spots for the year, fletching arrows, sharpening knives and broadheads, generally making sure all my gear is in order. Writing progresses at a good rate, I am in the final stretch of my trilogy at this point. Hoping it will be all done with writing by the start of November, so that I can editing and polishing done by the end of the year.

All my ranging in the woods, as I have mentioned before, certainly has a spiritual component to it. As a writer, I also read a lot. I always have to be learning, new words and new ideas that will shape my own stories. My experiences also go into my stories. Recently, I have reread the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien and am almost done with A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. When I say done, I mean with the books so far published. Nearly done with A Dance of Dragons. Those two series are primarily what inspired this post.

My path does not fit neatly into labels. I am a hunter and woodsman, animist, polytheist, pagan and heathen. My gods, ancestors and spirits are those of north, of hunters, trees and wild places. As such, it should come as no surprise that I am drawn to the rangers of Tolkien’s work, the Starks, northmen, wildlings and children of the forest of Martin’s. These works have given me new ideas to play with, new things to consider in my practice and my life.

So I would like to start with a few quotes, to give examples of how and why some of these ideas contained in the stories resound with me, starting with Tolkien.

“But in the wild lands beyond Bree there were mysterious wanderers. The Bree-folk called them Rangers, and knew nothing of their origin. They were taller and darker than the Men of Bree, and were believed to have strange powers of sight and hearing, and to understand the languages of beasts and birds….” It also goes on to tell of how they told “strange and forgotten tales….”

Rangers have a particular kind of magic, very much grounded in the wild places of the world. They are also scholars and lore-masters after a kind, knowing Elvish and well as the tongues of men. Aragorn is the most notable, and at turns appears as wanderer, hunter, warrior and even king. He also is wise and knowledgeable, and knows of herbs and healing as well. These are important traits for someone like me to know, at is is easy to see how this translates to things most spiritual and mundane.

On a practical level, knowledge of land, plants and animals is useful in the woods and during the hunt. Knowledge of this kind, wind patterns, game trails, can really aid in the hunt and the hike, and any other form of general ranging. From a spiritual perspective, working with trees (especially for me) plants, and animals, known collectively as vaettir, or landvaettir, is a large part of my practice. Landvaettir are useful allies and teachers, especially for the outdoorsman.

Moving now to Martin (note that this numerous quotes strung together); “What do trees remember?… The secrets of the old gods… A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, wisdom deeper than the roots of ancient trees… A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, the man who never reads only lives one. The singers of the forest had no books. No ink, no parchment, no written language. Instead they had the trees, and the weirwoods above all. When they died, the went into the wood, into leaf and limb and root, and the trees remembered. All their songs and spells, their histories and prayers, everything they knew about this world. Maesters will tell you that the weirwoods are sacred to the old gods. The singers believe they are the old gods.”

Could not have said it better myself. In Martin’s story, the children of the forest(alternately “those who sing the song of the earth” or “little wise men of the forest”) are people that existed before the coming of the First Men. They worship the trees, the stones, the earth. As I am, I have a special connection to trees, and these ideas resound strongly with me. What do the trees remember? What memories do the vaettir hold? What histories, what stories? Interesting ideas to say the least. Ideas that have some parallel in my own practice.

Both these quotes show elements of shamanism, shape-shifting, skin changing and general spirit travel. Speaking the language of birds and beasts? Shamanic. Changing skins, joining spirits, communing with old gods? Shamanic. A relationship with the spirits of the earth, the gods, and the ancestors. Shamanic.

The idea that there are ancient memories in the world, ancient spirits that deserve to be treated with respect, this is a powerful though, in fiction or in reality.


Raising Our Children in Pagan, Polytheist, and/or Animist Traditions

Sarenth Odinsson's Blog

Inspired by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus’ recent column entry, It’s Hard to “Think of the Children“, I decided to sit down and write about why Pagans should raise our children in our traditions. E’s own column was in response to Patheos’ Symposium Passing on the Faith: Teaching the Next Generation. As second generation Pagans come up in our communities, and as many first generation Pagans have children through birth or adoption, it is something we all need to think about.

When the topic of raising children as Pagans has been raised, I have seen the objection that we, as Pagans, should not indoctrinate our children. There seems to be a misunderstanding of the difference between raising a child in a Pagan tradition and merely indoctrinating them. There is a steep difference between the two. Indoctrination’s definition tells us that it is “teaching someone to accept doctrines uncritically” (Princeton). Raising…

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The Northern Hunting Deities

Another Blog Monday even if it is Labor Day. Allegedly, I am not supposed to be working today. I wish someone would tell that to my busy hands and restless mind.

As an update of the day to day things, I am back in my writing groove, doing about 10,000 words a week average. I am working through the final book of my current project, tentatively called the Wolf Lord Trilogy. At least once a week I add a new story to “Wanderings” as well. That book is going through quite an overhaul at the moment.

As for a spiritual update, everything I have been doing lately has been preparation for archery season. That fire for the hunt is back in my veins again, and this hit-and-miss onset of fall like weather certainly has not helped. I wake up to the cool winter mornings, and I wish I was out in the woods, tracking and waiting for the deer. It is so close, but seems like an eternity as well.

My wife and I expanded our spiritual space lately, and I set up a dedicated altar to hunting, for the gods, ancestors and spirits of the hunt. Will it help with success? I can hope, but success or failure is a complicated thing. A lot of variables. At very least it is an important place for meditation and communion with those I work with.

In that is the inspiration for this blog. I wanted to think about, via this writing, the Northern deities that are honored at my hunting altar. Please note, that some of the below is my own interpretations based my readings of the source material. Not all of it comes from the Sagas and Eddas.

Ullr;

God of skiing, winter and the hunt. Ullr dwells in Ydalir, the “yew dales.” Yew is one of the best woods for the making of bows, and this only strengthens his connection to the hunt. His is a fine archer and warrior, familiar with many types of weapons, and the Prose edda says he is good to call on in duels.

Ullr is the son of Sif and some unnamed man. This also makes him Thor’s stepson. Some theories (Rydberg’s being among them, though mostly discounted) propose that the father of Ullr was the archer-god Egil/Orvendal. This would account for his skill with the bow, as Egil is first among archers, among other things. Whoever the father might be, I think a safe interpretation is that Sif had him before her marriage with Thor, and the warrior god helped to “train” him to be the great warrior he became. Ullr also ruled Asgard for a time after Odin was banished during the Aesir-Vanir War.

Perhaps the most interesting story I have heard is his association with Skadi. I just came across this information recently, and it struck me as quite profound. I came across it first at elfwood.com (see below) when just looking up information about Ullr and Skadi. After the Skadi’s marriage failed with Njord, she returned to her homeland alone to hunt. During one particular winter, she met Ullr while he too was out hunting. The two of them soon fell in love over their shared passions, and we married.

Skadi;

Skadi is the goddess of skiing, hunting and winter, much like Ullr. She is the daughter of the giant Thjazi. There are several stories associated with her, and they can be found in other places.

An interesting note here I found on newwest.net.
“If you talk to folks in Breckenridge, Colorado, they’ll tell you that Ullr and Skadi left Norway and took up residence right there in Breck, blessing Summit County with “the best snow in the world.” In fact, to thank him, every year since 1963 Breck has hosted Ullr Fest, complete with a parade, snow sculpting contests, and parties. Lots of parties.”

The old gods have made their mark even in America.

Egil

Egil, is a bit of obscure god. The below story is from Thridek’s Saga.

Once Egil was captured by king Nidhung, who also captured Egil’s son and forced him to shoot an apple off of his son’s head. Egil pulls two arrows from his quiver and set them in the ground. He splits the apple square in two with the first arrow. The king asked him why he pulled two arrows and Egil says.
“If I had hit my son, the second arrow was for you.”

Thor

It is my belief that Thor belongs in this group, mostly because of his role of “giant hunter.” While the hunting of giants is more in the ‘warrior’ category then the ‘hunter’ category, the two have significant overlap. I like to say that the difference between a warrior and hunter is a choice of prey. One hunts animals, the other men (or man-like beings/giants). Thor is the son of Odin, a kind of hunter god, as well as being the step farther of Ullr. Quite a bit could be written about Thor here, but I think his connections with “giant hunting” as well as Ullr shall be enough at this point. A whole other post could be dedicated to Thor, and perhaps that will be the case in the future.

Odin

Odin belongs in with the hunting gods in his role as the Wild Huntsmen, the leader of the Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt is a great host that rides across the sky and the ground, horsed and with hounds. While Skadi and Ullr are on foot (or skis) and solo hunters, the Wild Hunt is a great host often led by Odin, but sometimes by others as well. The Wild Hunt is an ambiguous practice, at once being a ritual for the hunting of demons, evil spirits or enemies. At the same time, it is sometimes a harbinger of catastrophe. The Wild Hunt is sometimes said to foretell of war or famine to come. Also, it is often fatal to mortals to witness the Wild Hunt. They can be swept up and carried away by the Huntsmen and the Host, or, and much to their dismay, they may become the prey. The Wild Hunt and Odin also have strong connections to the dead.

Sources;
http://www.elfwood.com/~aolson/Ull-Norse-God-of-Winter-Archery-Hunting-Skiers-Snowshoes.2531680.html

http://www.elfwood.com/~aolson/Skadi-the-Norse-Goddess-of-the-Hunt-and-Scandinavian-Winter.2531678.html

http://newwest.net/snow_blog/article/praying_to_ullr_and_skadi/C458/L41/