Monthly Archives: November 2013

I need a holiday… A long holiday…

Hello all! I just wanted to inform you all that I am going to be taking a little holiday from much of the internet, which includes this blog. There is a lot going on in my life right now, and I think I need to reorganize my priorities a bit. I won’t be posting at all for the rest of the year at least, but it may be longer than that.

As a final update at the moment, the first addition of The Wanderings will no longer be available. It is going through quite a rework at the moment, and the first edition is frankly out of date. I made several mistakes, and many more sections I just don’t like. Also, my “Michigan Vikings” trilogy has moved to editing. No set date of publication yet, but the thing currently stands at 250,000 words. Not a bad year’s work I would say.

Been a bust of a hunting season so far. I have seen plenty of deer and small game, just haven’t landed any shots yet. Late archery season starts in a week, so that is another demand on my time. Hoping for a little better luck!

Also, my spiritual life has kind of turned on its head. There is a lot going on that has been quite… unexpected. That is the largest reason for this holiday. I need some time to meditate and work this out.

Thanks for reading and see you after the new year!


Ancestors Part 2 – The Gods and the Giants

As the second part in this series, I wanted to explore the idea of Gods, and by extension giants, as the eldest among our ancestors. A fair place to begin is with a recap of the creation story. However, this is told in a little different way, and is actually an excerpt from my current project. Just bare with me for a moment. This may be considered a plug, but I think the point is valid too.
“Take your ‘creation story’ as an example. I’ve heard it a hundred different ways, and most of them miss the most important point. Ymir, that great bonehead, arises when some ice melts because there is some fire nearby. Then a cow shows up in that icey-firey spot, and Ymir loves her milky tits. This makes him tired, and three kids just pop out of his pits and his feet. The cow likes some salt because lactating makes it hungry, and poof! Buri shows up out of the salt lick.
I ask what the hell kind of story is that?
Ymir was not the first giant, nor even the first life form. No one has any clue whatsoever if there was even a first ‘life’ if you get my meaning. Let me tell you this story a different way.
Once there was Fire, and Fire was a lonely sort of fellow. He was the son of Fire, who was the grandson of Fire. One day he is out wandering, and he comes across Ice, the daughter of Ice, who was the granddaughter of Ice. She is beautiful to him, but kind of uptight and cold. He says to her;
‘Hey beautiful, how about a dance?’ So he takes her hand, and the two of them dance. It is a very sensual dance, and Ice starts to melt. Fire starts to steam, and she starts to sweat. Then, nine months later out comes Ymir. You see what I am getting at here? Of course you too. I saw the dreamy wide-eyed way you look at each other. Humans, I tell ya.
The point is Ymir had parents, and they had parents before him. Same for Audhumla, and the same for Buri. Born from a salt-block my oversized ass. That is the thing you humans miss. Ymir didn’t just spring out of the void, neither did Audhumla or Buri. Nor did any of their kids, or dwarves or man or any of them. Creation is procreation you thick headed idiots!
Every family of gods and giants has descended, provided of course the descendents of others didn’t kill off said family. I’ll use some names you are familiar with. Mimer got it on with some frisky maid, and they had kids. Somewhere along the line those kids had kids. And so on, until those runts became known as dwarves. Mimer is not the dwarves creator, he is their daddy!”

I hope you all had a good laugh. I know I did while writing it. Yet, I think it only helps to bring the point home. I am not a literalist, especially where creation myths are concerned. Origin stories are important, but as a storyteller I realize that they change with every telling. Each narrator will emphasis different parts, add in certain details, leave others out. The process of storytelling is a very fluid, dynamic and organic thing.
So with that in mind, I want to examine the story of ‘creation’ a little more closely. First a few definitions. I come from an animistic background, meaning that I believe nature and the universe is just crawling with life, seen and unseen. There is a vast assortment of spirits, great and small, that keep everything going. Forces, mountains, energy, lakes, winds, forests, spirits all in some form or another. Giants are those spirits that I would consider natural forces. The powers of air, fire, water, earth, mountains and seas. Giants are those spirits that cause earthquakes and floods, wild fires and tornadoes. Big spirits. Powerful spirits. Follow so far? Now gods are those giants whose skills, abilities and influence intersect with the human world. To put this another way, gods are giants that actually take an interest in human affairs. Most giants just don’t give a damn one way or the other. It’s kind of like stepping on an ant hill. A god will say “sorry ants, let me help you.” Whereas a giant will go; “what a pity, but you were in my way.” As a boy, I stepped on a lot of ants.
All gods and giants are spirits.
All gods are giants.
Some giants are gods.
Got it? Good. Now this sets up an interesting concept when we consider gods and giants as ancestors. Everyone likes origins stories, likes to have a sense of where we came from. This is a good thing, but they should not be taken literally. Much of what follows is my intepretation, so please keep that in mind. As such, Fire and Ice are our most distant known ancestors, because all things we know of started here. Non-human ancestors to be specific. I like to use the categories of non-human, near-human and human ancestors. Just makes thing easier. All gods and giants are non-human ancestors. They may live, die and breed, but they are not human. So from Fire and Ice comes Ymir, and by extension Audhumla and Buri. From these three come every being and creature known in the literature.
Ymir’s three kids with Audhumla (because he loved her tits) are Mimer, Bestla and Thrudgelmir. Of course, depending on interpretation. Some scholars theorize Mimer and Bestla are siblings. In the Poetic Edda Bestla is the daughter , or even granddaughter of a giant named Bolthorn, not Ymir. Either way, take it or leave it. God and giant genealogy is complicated enough. I’m going with the three of them as Ymir’s kids, for simplicity’s sake.
As was mentioned above, I think of Mimer as the God-Father of dwarven kind. At first came the family of dwarf-gods, which includes Ivuldi and Sindri. (known as Durin and Dwalin to the dwarves. Their language is difference than ours, so are their names for things.) From Thrudgelmir comes Bergelmir, and from him all giants after the death of Ymir, which floods the world and kills most everything.
From Bestla and Bor come Odin and his two brothers, Vile and Ve, or Honer and Loki. This is one of those cases I think the two are one and the same. Most gods I will treat as individuals, but I think Honer and Loki are Vili and Ve. Odin had 99 names, why can’t his brothers?
As the general course of the myth, from these three comes all the peoples of the Norse men. I would say that Ash and Embla are their children, their human children, in some way. The men worship their “divine ancestors” as gods, and rightly so. The older of the non-human spirits are the gods, and later their mortal descendants which are the humans. In this way, the gods can be considered as a another type of ancestor.
That is another reason why ancestor worship is so central to what I do. Genealogy and ancestor work, lead me step by step, back through time to my mortal ancestors, and then to their gods. The gods of the North.


Ancestors Part 1 – Dwarves, Elves and the Dead

I can finally get some writing done here, now that my other project(s) have come to an end for the time being. It has been a long year, but now I have pushed a 250,000 word project on to editing. It is nice to have a little time to breathe. My mind now turns to my other project. A revision of the Wanderings, which is in for a complete overhaul. My plan at least is that it will be part story, part thesis when all this is done.
Which is where most of my blogs will be drawing inspiration from. They are my current attempt to get my thoughts and order, and start putting together the pieces for the next edition of Wanderings. I am even considering changing the title. It just doesn’t convey what I want it to. But that is another matter entirely.
My spiritual path has been a winding one, and it started nearly a decade ago. While that recap is going to be glossed over heavily, I wanted to say that my ancestors have been a core and central aspect of my path. They have defined my path more than any other aspect. I started as a Wiccan, without any real sense of heritage or foundation. That was around the same time I got into genealogy. As my understanding of my ancestors developed, so did my spiritual path. I traced them back to Ireland, Scotland and England. My path turned from Wicca to more Celtic and Druidic. But the buck did not stop there. Once the paper trail dried up I went to DNA testing. That took my ancestors back to Scandinavia, Norway specifically. I turned to the Northern Tradition/Heathenism after that.
To put a fine point on it, my ancestors have been foundation. Every sense of heritage or spiritual practice I currently steams from them. They are core and center of most of what I do right now. Long and short, I owe everything to them, from my flesh and blood to my spirit and heritage. I would not be who I am today if it was not for my ancestors. And that is a term that has gotten much wider for me lately. That may be a whole other post entirely.
With Winternights come and gone, I have been contemplating the ancestors quite a bit lately. I have a lot of work to do in this area, and certain new revelations have come forefront. But recently I read “The Ancient Heathen Afterlife” about all the places the spirit can end up. In summary, it is quite complicated. Here is just an overview. A great deal has been written about these, so I will not go into great depth here.

Hel and Helheim;
The goddess of death and her dwelling in the underworld, literally “Hel’s Home.” She often takes those that die of old age, famine or the “common” dead. She favors the poor and the elderly, and the common folk. As a good transition; “While Odin and Freya divide fallen warriors and Thor gets the common folk, Hel receives those who die of sickness or old age…” (Norsemyth.org Part 6)

Valhalla and Folkvang
The halls of Odin and the Freya’s dwelling. Both of them like to “split” the dead that fall in battle. Odin brings his chosen warriors to dwell with him in Valhalla, and Freya takes her share and, generally, they become the Valkyries.

Thor
See above. I have read this before somewhere else, but Thor was considered the champion of the common folk. He has multiple dwellings, including Thrudvangr (thunder/power fields) and Bilskirnir, his palace, which is said to have 540 rooms. A lot of rooms for just Thor and his family I’d think.

But the multiplicity does not end there by any means. We find other places like Nastrond, where the evil dead go. Also there is Svartalfheim and Alfheim, the homes of the dwarves and elves respectively. This is things really get interesting. The lines between dwarves, elves and the ancestors is sometimes blurry. In the long view, they are all related. I will do my best to make distinctions between the three. I wills start with the dwarves

Svartalfheim (I prefer Dvergarheim as a term) and Nidavellir (The Downward Fields)

Once again, I will not be recapping the vast stores of knowledge that have something to say on the dwarves. Dwarves are the most ancient of mortal ancestors. They are the “first” created of the gods, formed in far ancient times from the flesh of the earth (Ymir). There are a few stories on this regard, creation myths aside. In my opinion they are not unlike the neanderthals, having live far in the ancient past before modern man came into the North. They are shorter than modern man, but stronger and more crafty. Their intelligence often exceeds our own, as they are an ancient people and have accumulated much knowledge and wisdom over their long existence.
In several sources, dwarves and closely connected with the dead. It is my interpretation that the dwarves are one kind of ancestor. I consider them near-human ancestors, like the neanderthals, beings that once had a mortal existence, though that not longer reside in the Middle World (Midgarde) as we know it. Over the long years we have interbred with them and they have been absorbed into human lines, and pushed entirely into the Underworld. They now have an almost entirely “otherworld” existence. Nidavellir is one realm within Dvergarheim, and its name means “The Downward Fields.” In my meditations this world appears to me as a mirror of the upper world, a place of rich forests and mountains. There are animals there, and humans and dwarves. I have met several of my ancestors in this place, and I would propose it as another “option” in the manifold afterlives.

Alfheim

The Alfar and the Disir, being male and female elves respectively, are another type of ancestor. Alfheim is a place for the honored ancestors, those of great wisdom and courage who are honored among the living. They are not unlike saints, or folk heroes. They are those that did great deeds for their people and the well being of others. Here they dwell as semi-divine beings, to watch over and aid their descendants in need. Shamans, priests, teachers, mentors of all sorts. These are the wise folk, and those that live revered lives in their communities may end up here. In my experience, dwarves, humans, giants and many others may be counted among the “elves.” The Alfablot and Disirblot were to honor ancestors of this type.

In conclusion, there is a lot of the places the spirit can end up in the Northern Tradition. All of these realms can be subdivided, and I am sure there are others that have not been uncovered or have no names. Nor is this survery exhaustive by any means. The word ancestor, does not only mean blood relations. Gods, giants, spirits, dwarves, elves, humans, plants and animals may be counted among ancestors. At the spiritual level at least, a fair amount of intermixing appears to be possible.

In some way, I would propose, that there are a great many of possible afterlife destinations. It would depend greatly on the gods you serve, and your ancestors. Chosen by Odin? Valhalla may be your destination? A devotee of Freya? There is always Folkvangr. Thor could pick his own, as could the dwarves, the elves, Ullr, Skaid, Njord, Heimdall and the rest of them. Loki could take his own, and Angerboda hers. Those with dwarven ancestry may end up in Nidavellir. A wise wo/man may end up in Alfheim. Could it be said there is a certain amount of choice where we end up? I would say so. Morality plays a part as well, but once again, a topic for another time.

In the next part of this series, I will look at gods as ancestors.

Sources;
http://sacrediceland.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/the-ancient-heathen-afterlife-not-as-simple-as-you-think/
http://www.norsemyth.org/ “The Gods and Goddesses Parts 1-6)
http://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/ancestors/
http://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/elves/
http://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/dwarves/