In recent times my path has even more meaning as I am so blessed to have discovered my Ancestry and heritage through a family DNA discovery. Yet to say its a mix of Irish and Nordic.. it answers a deep knowing that I felt for such a long time and makes sense of the path I have followed unknowingly. part 1 will give you a anchor to what I am sharing..
We are 48% Irish 48% Nordic and small mix of French... I found out as I gazed out the window onto The Full Moon.. My brother had recently researched our DNA and had a ancestry test.. That had been gifted to him...
"Their are friendships in this life that run a thread through time, yet way beyond and before this life and incarnation.. I am blessed that many of my friendships, if not all, have this elk about them... Forged on Honour, Love Care and Trust!! Woven so deeply coming from a time where a hand shake or a look, a kiss on the forehead, spoke a thousand words, and carries a thousand more memories.. Kin, Clan and Tribe..
As I sit beside the fire, I remember, The Smoke Swirls and the Embers Dance, I remember what it was to shape a place, The Land and Its Stories.. The mountains, valleys, lochs, lakes, forests and coastline of the place, she accepts all comers but quietly transforms them, shapes them in her own image.
It is time for us to remember, for their is important work to be done.. For soon we will move from harm to healing.." extracts from my journal February 2021
Writing the above words makes so much sense to what follows next.. And Part 1 of this story and journey...
The following was shared with me and truly brings a sense of belonging and roots to a path that I am honoured to walk, that has threads that run around 1000 years ago...
Its threads are of Heathen origin.. now lets illuminate that path a little more..
The original Heathens were the pre-Christian North European peoples who lived a thousand and more years ago in the lands around what is now called the North Sea. These included the peoples of Anglo-Saxon England, Scandinavia, Sweden Germany and Frisia (Modern day Belgium and the Netherlands).
The Northern Tradition, and In Iceland, which did not convert to Christianity until the 11th Century, Heathenry has once again become an official (nationally recognised) religion and path.
Heathens work to build healthy relationships with Gods and Goddesses, ancestors, spirits of the land, and others in their communities, both through holy rites and through their day to day actions.
There are literary sources that tell us how Heathenry was practised before the advent of Christianity. The main such sources include medieval Icelandic Eddas and Sagas, Anglo- Saxon poetry, the works of the 8th century English monk Saint Bede, and the Germania by the Roman historian Tacitus.
Although most of these were written in Christian times, they record the religious beliefs and practices of a culture that existed before Christianity came to Northern Europe.
Gods and Other Beings.
Heathenry, like all ancient European pagan religions, is polytheistic and recognises a large number of Gods and other spiritual entities. Although the Heathen Gods are best known from Norse mythology (and often called by Anglicised versions of their Old Norse names) they were honoured by many peoples outside of Scandinavia. For example, the God known to early Germanic tribes as Wodhanaz became Odhinn in Old Norse, Woden in Anglo-Saxon and Old Saxon, and Wuotan in Old High German.
He is now most commonly known as Odin. Some of the most well known Heathen Gods are enshrined in our English days of the week.
Tuesday is named after Tiw (Tyr), Wednesday after Woden (Odin), Thursday after Thunor (Thor) and Friday after the Goddess Frige (Frigg) Freya. There are also many place names across the country named for Heathen Gods. For example Dewsbury is named for Tiw (Tyr), and Wensleydale is named for Woden (Odin).
As well as Gods, Heathens recognise and relate to a wide variety of spiritual beings or ‘wights’. These include the Norns – who are three female entities who weave the web of wyrd – and the Dísir – who are female ancestral spirits attached to a tribe, family, or individual. Heathens also work with ‘hidden folk’ such as elves, brownies, dwarves and etins.
They interact with the housewights or Cofgodas who live in their homes and the landwights who occupy features of the landscape such as streams, mountains, forests or fields. Having a relationship with landwights is an important feature of Heathen religion and outdoor Heathen rituals will not proceed until the permission of landwights is sought and obtained.
Another characteristic of Heathen religion is the respect and remembrance given to ancestors. These may be a person’s literal forebears, or may be people now dead who have inspired them in some way.
There are no central authorities in Heathenry and no single organisation to which all Heathens belong. Many Heathens belong to smaller regional groups made up of Heathen friends and family members. These groups are sometimes called ‘hearths’, ‘kindreds’ or ‘kiths’ and meet for religious rituals, discussion and socialising in ’ homes, outdoor spaces, pubs etc.
There is no widely recognised priesthood, although sometimes individuals may be recognised as Godhis and Gydhjas (priests and priestesses) within their own communities. There is no ‘qualification’, the old ones are the teachers here...
Rites and Celebrations
The main rites celebrated in Heathenry are called blōt and symbel (pronounced sumble). Heathen groups and individuals hold feasts and celebrations based around blōt and symbel at rites of passage (such as weddings or baby-namings), seasonal holidays, oath-takings, rites in honour of a particular God or Gods, and rites of need (in which Gods and/or ancestors are asked for help).
Historically A blōt was a offering to the Gods , alfs or ancestors. A feast followed afterwards at which the meat was shared amongst the participants. Blōts were held to honour the Gods or to gain their favour for specific purposes such as peace, victory, or good sailing weather.
A modern blōt centres around the offering of food or drink (often mead) or other items to the Gods and tends to be followed by a feast. It may be a simple rite or a more elaborate one depending on the purpose of the blōt and the number of participants. In an indoor blōt where food is offered, it is common to lay a place for the God, ancestor or alf at the table. During a blōt held outdoors offerings are often thrown onto a fire. Or butter laid on a scared stone outside the dwelling or home..
I have for many years instinctively offered a offering of Oats and Honey and Mead to the land and the old ones especially as the Wheel Turns and the Seasons shift...
Symbel is a ritual drinking ceremony in which one or more drinking horns or other vessels are filled with mead (or another appropriate drink) and used for toasting or boasting. It is common for modern Heathens to pass the horn(s) around all those participating after liquid is blessed. The first round of toasts may be to the Gods, the second round to wights or ancestors, and the third round may be to whatever else the assembled Heathens wish to toast.
There may be many more rounds, or the symbel may stop after a designated number. A separate libation (drink offering) may be given to the Gods, landwights or housewights, or some of the contents of the horn may be poured out as an offering to them.
As well as major offerings to the Gods or alfs, Heathens like to leave gifts for their domestic hidden folk: the wights who live in their garden and house. For this purpose, many Heathens keep a special bowl to leave offerings in the house of cakes and ale, or may leave food or drink on or near a small garden altar. Or again on a sacred Stone...
This makes me smile as I have often sensed Odin as a story teller gathered around the fire sharing tales with a horn full of mead...
Many Heathens will give offerings to their housewight whenever baking or brewing, as these things can easily go wrong, and so it is important to have the wights favour. It is also important when dealing with wights to be respectful of their space. In the case of a housewight this can be done by keeping the house clean and tidy.
Different heathen communities celebrate different cycles of seasonal holidays based on their cultural affiliations, local traditions, and relationships with particular Gods. There is no fixed calendar of Heathen festival dates. The three Heathen festivals most commonly celebrated in the UK are Winter Nights – usually celebrated in October or November, Yule – a twelve-day festival that begins around the time of the winter solstice, and a festival for the Anglo-Saxon Goddess Eostre in the spring.
In recent times the Asgardian Heathen Festival has become an important part of the Heathen calendar in the UK. Whilst it does not tie in with any historical festival, it is now the biggest annual gathering of Heathens in the UK, with hundreds attending the summer event each year. The festival involves rituals, workshops, talks and traders, covering all aspects of Heathenry.
The festival has given the opportunity for many solo practitioners to experience the community aspect of Heathenry for the first time, and led many to get much more heavily involved in the community.
Heathen festivals do not follow the ‘Eight-Fold Wheel of the Year’ based on solstices and equinoxes. Their rituals do not involve ‘casting circles’ or ‘calling quarters’.
Wyrd and Ethics, Magic and Seership
One of the central concepts in Heathenry is wyrd, the force that connects everything in the universe throughout space and time. Heathens believe that all of their actions can have far reaching consequences through the web of wyrd. They understand that who they are, where they are, and what they are doing today is dependent on actions they and others have taken in the past, and that every choice they make in the present builds upon choices they have previously made.
With an understanding of wyrd comes a great responsibility. If we know that every action we take (or fail to take) will have implications for our own future choices and for the future choices of others, we have an ethical obligation to think carefully about the possible consequences of everything we do. Thus, one of the principal ethics of Heathenry is that of taking responsibility for one’s own actions.
Another Heathen value is frith, the maintenance of peace and friendship within a social group. Obligations towards friends, kin and community are taken seriously by Heathens. Like many peoples living far apart in a harsh climate, pre-Christian Heathens put great stress on hospitality, and this is still valued by modern Heathens. A related concept is the giving of gifts, though both gift-giving and hospitality are bounded by reciprocity, a principle that Heathens consider important.
Plain speaking, honesty and forthrightness are also important to Heathens. This may be seen as part of a value system based upon personal honour, which eschews deceit and dishonesty towards members of the social group. Thus, Heathens place great value on the giving of their word, and any form of oath-taking is taken extremely seriously.
This often means that Heathens will not sign their name to something unless they can assent to it in both letter and spirit. Breaking an oath is one of the worst social taboos a Heathen can commit and has the potential to destroy ones reputation.
Shamanism and Seership within the Nordic Tradition was a core aspect of its culture, known as a Völva is a female Shaman in Old Norse culture, religion, and mythology.
The word Vǫlva comes from the Old Norse word “vǫlr” which means “wand.” Vǫlva literally translates to “of a wand” and culturally translates to “wand carrier.”
In Old Norse society, the word “wand” was a reference to a Distaff — a wooden staff designed to hold a bundle of raw fiber (e.g. flax or wool) while a woman spun it into thread or yarn. Though women and men in Old Norse society did participate in many gender-neutral tasks and responsibilities, the art of spinning thread and weaving it into cloth was exclusively considered women’s work, which is why Völva — the practitioners of Norse shamanism — were almost exclusively women.
A Völva practiced three different kinds of indigenous magic within Old Norse society:
Seiðr, or shamanic ritual, was the ceremonial weaving of a new or different future utilizing the distaff as a ritual wand. Ceremonies included drumming, music, dance, herbal concoctions, and often more than one person would be involved. A Völva’s role was to oversee preparations and guide the ceremony to both its climax (energetic result) and conclusion (communal resolution). Seiðr often included both Spá and Galdr.
Spá, or prophecy, was the art of foreseeing the fates that were being continuously woven into existence by the Norns. A Völva was versed in the art of divination; not only in casting ritual objects and/or reading omens, but delivering their portents in language that others could both understand and utilize.
Galdr, or incantation, was the art of singing or chanting for the purposes of changing or influencing an outcome. A Völva would combine various forms of vocalization, including chanting, singing, and screaming or yelling, with carefully chosen words that often rhymed or formed what we think of today as specifically metered stanzas.
In essence, a Völva was a woman who represented the gods’ influence over Wyrd, or Fate, within Old Norse society. The goddess Freya was considered to be the original Völva; it was she who brought the practice of Seiðr to Midgard (Earth) and Völva looked to her for guidance and protection.
As a Völva grew into her role in Old Norse society, which modernity now labels the Wise Woman, she often left her family and other domestic responsibilities to travel from village to village, exchanging her gifts and skills for various forms of payment that included shelter, protection, food and drink, and treasure or riches. Völva were respected and revered in pre-Christian Norse society; burial sites include jewellery, herbs, horses, wagons, and other physical symbols of cultural wealth and sophistication.
It wasn’t until the introduction of Christianity into Northern Europe that the Vǫlur (plural for Vǫlva) were labelled witches, demons, or practitioners of black arts; the Vǫlur were prosecuted for centuries by both Catholic and Christian religious organizations.
Because there are so few sources of original Old Norse writing and literature that survive today, the historically accurate depiction of a Völva doesn’t truly exist. What knowledge we do have has survived through the writings of Christian authors describing Old Norse society (not always kindly or accurately), archaeological sites, and/or scholars piecing together fragments of tomes or scrolls that are damaged or weathered. Old Norse society did not rely on the written word to capture history; it was primarily an oral tradition society, and so Sagas, or stories, that feature the Vǫlur must be taken in context.
It is said that the Norse Goddess Freya is a Volva and practices deep Norse Magic.. Norse magic and shamanism that involved discerning the course of fate and working within its structure to bring about change, often by symbolically weaving new events into being.
In the Viking Age, the völva was an itinerant seeress and sorceress who travelled from town to town performing commissioned acts of seidr in exchange for lodging, food, and often other forms of compensation as well. Like other northern Eurasian shamans, her social status was highly ambiguous – she was by turns exalted, feared, longed for, propitiated, celebrated, and scorned It was also said that there were few rare male equivalents.
Heathenry is focused on right living, in the here and now and does not place as great an emphasis on the afterlife, yet there is such a strong relationship to the ancestors and those that come before us, and with their guidance we shape things for those who are yet to come, forged with grace and heart.
Odin’s hall – is popularly seen as the Norse equivalent of heaven, this is a misconception. According to the mythology as recorded in the Eddas, Valhalla is only for warriors who die in battle. Even then, half of these battle-slain warriors go to Freyja’s hall and half to Odin’s hall. Those who drown at sea go to the Goddess Ran’s hall. People who die of natural causes go to the hall of the Goddess Hel. Most of today’s Heathens see Hel as a neutral place where they will be reunited with their ancestors.
Sources do not enable a complete reconstruction of the pre- Christian Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon views of the soul. One concept, however, which is still retained in folk stories, is that of the fetch or fylgia. The fetch was held to be a part of the person which might be contacted during life, but which would not be physically seen until just before death. The sight of one’s fetch was, indeed, a signal of the ending of one’s life.
Who is Odin
Odin is mostly portrayed as an old-man with only one-eye and a long beard, usually wearing a hat and a cloak, holding his spear, Gungnir, in his hands. It is believed that Odin’s spear was a part of Viking age beliefs, as there are many findings of small spearheads throughout Sweden. Another item of incredible power owned by the All-father was a piece of viking jewelry, the ring Draupnir.
Furthermore, Odin is often showed with some of his faithful animal companions. He rides an eight-legged steed called Sleipnir. His two ravens. Muninn and Huginn fly around the nine realms gathering news and whispering their finding while standing on their favorite spot, Odin’s shoulders. While in Asgard, Odin is usually accompanied by Geri and Freki, his two wolves. Last but not least are Valkyries. They are quite often connected to the All-father, and are usually showed as female warriors who were tasked with bringing the fallen Vikings chosen by Odin back to Valhalla.
Odin’s ravens are called Huginn (Old Norse "thought") and Muninn (Old Norse “mind” or "memory"). Each morning, Odin sends them on a quest to fly around the world and gather important news. They would return in the evening and whisper to the All-father about their findings. At times they are not out exploring the world, the ravens sit on Odin’s shoulders.
Odin, Mead and Story's
Odin liked to speak in poems, and it is believed that he was the one who gave poetry to mankind. He did it after stealing and drinking the Mead of Poetry, and trust us when we say that stealing the mead was quite an adventure.
There was more about this mead than just poetry. Alongside poetry, Odin acquired the ability to persuade and inspire others after drinking the mead.
Heathens differ from wiccans and many of the other modern day pagans in many other ways. They reject the concept that all Goddesses are aspects of ‘The Goddess’ and that all Gods are aspects of her consort. They also reject the Jungian concept of Gods and Goddesses as archetypes in the unconscious mind. Perhaps the primary difference is that Heathens are ‘hard polytheists’: they honour a large number of individual Gods, Goddesses and other spiritual beings whom they see as existing independently from humans. And in common with many indigenous religions world- wide, they also honour their ancestors.
In researching this my heart is full it brings so much validation and conformation and above all else, belonging.. I have been led home.. To sit beside the fire of my True Ancestors..
A little Insight into a beautiful discovery into our Family Heritage and Ancestry, one of which I am so proud of, and I deeply resonate with, a path and a way of life that I have followed unknowingly my whole life.. Now there is deeper belonging... Deeper Roots My Heart is Full...
"We touch the ground and reach deep into the earth with our bare hands, we pull those stories up into the light , like lost seeds, that are yearning to be reborn , retold and remembered .. This is how we move from harm to healing …. Through our collective story"
Words: Shane Christian Gadd
In time to come my hope and vison is to hold and caretake small heart led rites and festivals for community.. To honour those who have come before us.. For those for that are yet to come, for the land and its people...
Additionally, the lessons that we can all learn from these tales today is that gaining something valuable, like wisdom, usually comes at a certain price. And if something is really worth having, it will undoubtedly require a sacrifice that we should all agree to, regardless of the cost. Just like Odin did on many occasions.
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Resources to Honour and Thank:
Some of This summary draws on a 2003 BBC website article by Alexa Duir, Arlea Hunt-Anschütz, Jenny Blain & Jez Green. It was updated by Dan Coultas and the Heathens of Yorkshire, with further assistance by Geoff Davison and Rich Blackett.
Images Pinterest and Wix Media