Patreon Topic 26: On Regional Cultus

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From Maleck Odinsson comes this topic:

“Regional Cultus. Not just in the realm of honoring the local spirits, but also in how the gods are reflected differently in different times and places.”

When I first started writing on this I was approaching this purely from an academic perspective, noting the resources we have available to us are mostly coming after conversion and almost all the earliest sources through Christian writers. The scholars and academics who later gave us interpretation and understanding of these sources, and even the archaelogists, all are operating within a Protestant Christian dominated background.

Generally, our Gods in the academic fields are not being approached as Gods. We have living, dynamic relationships with Them. Even over the course of my life my cultus with Óðinn has gone through changes, so I would hardly expect in a generation other Heathens to carry anything like the same relationship as I. When I began to worship Him, He came to me sometimes as Father, but mostly as Rúnatýr, and Yggr primarily. He was fierce, harsh, and a taskmaster in the early times. He still is at times.

How the Gods are reflected differently in different times and places depends on how the Gods fit into the landscape/environment we live in now, and the relationships we hold with Them. I would have a far harder time relating to Skaði if I lived in a place without snow, and relating to the Gods of the ocean is a lot harder for me here in the Great Lakes than it is when I visited the ocean. I still hold cultus for the Gods of the ocean, but it is a more remote one, less in-my-face than that of the Great Lakes Goddesses.

A big difference in regional cultus I can confidently point to is mine with Jörð, Freya, Freyr, and Gerða. I relate to Jörð through the Earth I stand on, and while Jörð is still Jörð wherever in Miðgarð I go on Her, I relate to Her differently here, especially in my home, vs a hotel room. The difference between worshiping Her on land I have helped cultivate vs a hotel room is quite stark. I have no relationship to the land in a hotel room beyond a place to rest my head. My thanks to Her is much more general, eg She is of the place, and I am grateful for Her being the floor and eventually the ground beneath my feet. Contrast this with the relationship I hold with Her being the good, black Earth I helped to till and plant in that our good harvest has grown from. My cultus with Freya, Freyr, and Gerða is embedded in no small part in that same gardening. It is not that I cannot relate to Them outside of the home, the hearth, or the garden, but that it lacks the specific ways in which our relationships flow as they do there.

The asparagus plant is one group of vaettir in which I relate quite a bit to these Gods locally. As before, I associate Jörð with the garden it grows in. The plant itself clearly associated with Freyr given its virility, fertility, and phallic shape. It is also associated with Gerða in that to harvest it, it must be cut down, and this fits in with my understanding of Freyr as a Sacrificed God whose blood renews the fertility of the Earth. Freya I associate with the pollinators, especially the bees and their sweetness, and the preparation work that must go on so the plants can prosper. It is not just through the garden and all the vaettir within it that I relate to these Gods. I relate to these Gods through the actions I take with the land. Tilling, planting, gardening, weeding, harvesting, all of this is done in relationship with the landvaettir, with Jörð, with Freya, with Freyr, with Gerða, and with the Ancestors, especially those who farmed and/or gardened. All of this with just one kind of plant. How much more so with a garden! How much more so with a biome!

Regional cultus grows from our living relationship with the environment, and if I can find that much connection in and through a single plant then we can certainly make them through the land we live on. It is worth pointing out that Yggdrasil holds the Worlds, and the Worlds are also in relationship with one another. Asgarðr and Jötunheimr are across a river, Ífingr, from each other. Jotunheimen is the name of a range of mountains in Norway. The Worlds are said to be in different direction, eg Niflheim to the North, Muspelheim to the South. We can likewise locate our relationship with the Nine Worlds in such ways, much as our forebears did with regard to directions and the landscape. Perhaps rather than strictly in the East, Jötunheimr is in or has connections to the World in the far more wild forest behind the home. A special rock becomes a hörgr, a stand of trees a vé, and from there perhaps new relationships form with Jötun Gods.

It is really hard predict how regional cultus will develop over time. After all, my family has only lived in Michigan for five generations, including myself and my children. Between major predicaments like climate change and peak oil, the unfolding of the next election and the consequences from that, our unique land here in Michigan, and the unfolding relationships we hold right now, it is anyone’s guess how it will develop. Given the ongoing Work and relationship I have with Óðinn, our strong commitment to direct experiences of our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir on the land we live, and our work on the land, we will have many avenues to understand our Gods and develop relationships through.

Patreon Song/Prayer/Poem 27 -For Freyr, God of the Gravemound

If you want to submit a request for a prayer, poem, or song to be written to you privately or to be posted on this blog or my Patreon for a God, Ancestor, or spirit, sign up for the Ansuz and above level here on my Patreon. This prayer was requested from Maleck Odinsson for Freyr, God of the Gravemound.

You danced in the field

Bells tingling with each step

Blessing

You came to the holy place

Hair wildly dancing

Hallowing

You knelt before the blót vé

Hands open to all

Hailing

You opened the mound

The Dead awaken

Gathering

You open your hands

Inviting Living to Dead

Clasping

You witness the meeting

Binding ties again

Weaving

O Freyr, God of the Gravemound

You bless us with connection

On the mound, on the good Earth

Descendant meets the Ancestor

Ancestor meets the Descendant

By Your blessing!

Hail Freyr, Haugrdróttin!

Patreon Topic 25: On Ancestral Threadwalking and Bloodwalking

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From Streaking Fate comes this topic:

“Your thoughts on following your ancestral threads back or other ancestral work done through trance specifically. “Bloodwalking” is a term I have seen, but I am not sure how widely used it is.”

Bloodwalking is not a widely used term, and from what I can gather it originates from Raven Kaldera in his book Jotunbok. It is a useful term, because it is more or less what it says on the tin. You go into a trance state, sometimes combined with útiseta, to find Ancestors using a person’s blood on a piece of string, yarn, or similar cordage. Maybe you are looking for Them to talk with Them, or find out information. I am going to use another term I’ve made up since I started writing this. Not everyone is okay with working with blood, and not all of our Ancestors are related to us by blood, so I have made the term Ancestral threadwalking. I could see Ancestral threadwalking including bloodwalking if needed because you might be looking for a particular family member in connection with, say, a family friend who may as well be family.

As with a lot of spiritwork this is not something I recommend for beginners. At the least you are going to want a good familiarity and comfort with going into and out of trance spaces, have established Ancestor cultus so you’re not going somewhere outside of the Ancestors you want to contact and/or walk to/with, and you are likely going to want well-established spiritual allies to keep you safe. With regards to Ancestral threadwalking/bloodwalking, as I understand this to be Hyndla’s speciality, I would highly recommend having already started a cultus with Her. Considering this is Ancestor work I would highly recommend a good devotional relationship with Hela.

I would also highly recommend being comfortable with útiseta prior to engaging in this work, as the act of going out onto a mound, near a body of water, and the like to engage in trance work, journeywork, and/or magic may be a required ritual to do this well. Before doing this for someone else or for Ancestors you do not know, I would do a few sessions with this with Ancestors you do know so you can get a feel for the work, how it is supposed to run, and what challenges you may face in the work.

My thoughts on following your ancestral threads back and/or threadwalking/bloodwalking are that it can be incredibly useful and also ripe for a lot of abuse, delusion, and sock puppetry. By ripe for abuse I mean that unscrupulous or harmful others could well use such work in an abusive fashion, eg “The Ancestors say we should be together” or “You have harmful Ancestor blocks only I can remove. Pay me to remove them or they stay in place.” By ripe for delusion I mean that one who engages in this work could fool themselves or be fooled by spirits into believing they have Ancestors they do not, eg the desire to have powerful, cool, or interesting Ancestors overrides whoever the Ancestors are that we need to contact. This ignores the understanding that a good chunk of our Ancestors were actually regular folks and that we may not have a given powerful, cool, or interesting person in our bloodlines. By ripe for sock puppetry I mean that this work could well lead us to interacting not with our Ancestors but with our mental projections, biases, and prejudices of what we think our Ancestors should be. Without the proper groundwork done and the care taken to be sure we are doing the work well what could be good spiritually insightful workings turn into little else than mental masturbation. It can go along with the risks in this work in regards to delusion, but the risks of sock puppetry vs delusion were important enough I felt both needed highlighting.

So, why should folks engage in following their ancestral threads and/or bloodwalking?

There are many of us who have limited access to our genealogical information. Ancestral threadwalking and/or bloodwalking can be useful in connecting us with Ancestors who we may not have been able to reach through conventional means. Even if we have official records, we may have Ancestors who were left out of them. Ancestral threadwalking offers us opportunity for connection that we may otherwise be denied. It may also offer our Ancestors connections They have been craving, or the opportunity to heal old wounds through connection with Their latest descendants.

How to engage in Ancestral threadwalking?

Begin with cleansing, grounding, centering, shielding, and warding the space. Pray to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir you have good, established relationships with, and make offerings for this to be a good working. Work with whatever method is best for you to go into a good and safe trance state. You can combine this with útiseta. The purpose is to find your own or another’s Ancestors and bring back information, establish contact, or talk with Them. Maybe you have a family name, or just an idea of who this person is, eg a great-great-great grandparent you have never met.

You might work with a skein of yarn, thread, or other form of cordage as physical representation or tactile-spiritual sensation of how far back you need to look in time. You might visualize a tree with long branches and deep roots and you are looking for a particular part of a branch, the trunk, or root. You might audiolize a song with many parts expanding from a deep bass or a drum beat into a multipart even multigenre song, and have to listen for a single instrument in all that and then find it. You might just have to wait for a sense of knowing that emerges out of a desire to connect with an Ancestor while doing deep, steady breathwork in a graveyard, next to a body of water, or in/before a vé.

Once you have made contact write or record as much as you can. Far better if someone can do this for you. This is not the time to filter information. Figuring things out comes later. Transmitting the information is key now. You may need to combine different divination methods together with this one, such as tarot, the Runes, or Yes/No binary divination methods.

If Ancestral threadwalking and/or bloodwalking is something you choose to explore it can be a powerful tool in your spiritual toolkit. Be aware of the risks any work where you are engaging in trance or journey work can pose. You should have an established spiritual practice, ongoing good relationships with Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, and familiarity with safely and consciously engaging/disengaging in altered states of consciousness prior to this working. If you have not developed a devotional relationship with Her, I would recommend developing one with Hyndla and/or Hela. I would do several threadwalks/bloodwalks with known Ancestors before doing this with unknown Ancestors, and especially with someone else’s. Done well, this can bring new Ancestors into yours and/or others’ lives, heal broken connections, and empowering you with good, strong allies that have been left by the wayside for a long, long time.

Patreon Song/Prayer/Poem 26 -For Hyndla

If you want to submit a request for a prayer, poem, or song to be written to you privately or to be posted on this blog or my Patreon for a God, Ancestor, or spirit, sign up for the Ansuz and above level here on my Patreon. This prayer was requested from Streaking Fate for Hyndla.

You can trace lines of red back

Back to where the red shifts colors

To light, syrupy sweet sap

Where the branches of lines end suddenly

Where the branches reach into the shadowy places

Where the branches curve, split, rejoin in unexpected ways

You can find them wherever they roam

No matter how hidden

No matter how lost we are

No matter how scattered we are

You, who know all the ways that Urðr has unfolded for each thread woven, each carved tile

You, who knows all the ways Verðandi is weaving now, each tile being scored

You, who cannot see all the ways Skuld will weave and carve

Hail Hyndla, Bloodwalker, Seer, She Who Knows the Lines!

Patreon Topic 24: Crafting Ritual

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From Alec comes this topic:

“Do you think you could possibly go over how you create a ritual? I understand if maybe it’s too personal but I always find myself having a hard time organizing a ritual and there’s so much confusing information I would love to know what you do, if you’re okay with sharing.”

This is something I have gone over in my blog before, but not quite in this way. The posts on ritual praxis are here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. However, since that was covering specifically Heathen praxis I thought it was worth revisiting it here for a more general polytheist and Pagan audience.

First, to define what a ritual is. According to the OED a ritual is “1 A religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.” Thankfully, this definition tells us nothing of what that religious or solemn ceremony actually consists of, only that there is a prescribed order. The fun part of being a Pagan is that your prescribed order may be entirely worked out with your Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and/or developed on our own depending on the relationships, roles, and the reasons for the rituals we engage in. Likewise, our solemnity may follow either the first or the second definition rather than the first alone: “1 Formal and dignified. 2 Characterized by deep sincerity.”

Rituals may be performed anywhere. I mean that sincerely. We may be more or less prepared to do a ritual in whatever the ideal ways are for us are. Ritual is available to us as a way and tool of connection, power, and relationship wherever we go. They can be incredibly simple, from three deep breaths and a “Thank you” to the Goddess Sunna for shining down on us or as complex as a community-wide Haustblot (Autumn Sacrifice) with animal sacrifice and feast.

To make how I craft a ritual easier to follow I will break it down into steps.

Step 1: The Reason for Ritual

Before we begin to design a ritual we need to know why we are doing ritual, what ways of doing ritual are respectful for my Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir, and what role(s) are in that ritual. Is this ritual’s purpose right? That is, does a given ritual deepen my right relationship with a God, Goddess, Ancestors, vaettr, or group of Them? If it is not a devotional ritual, but something like a rite for empowerment or protection, does the ritual provide some kind of positive result for the ritualist(s)?

Step 2: The Form of the Ritual

This is how the ritual will be conducted and where it will be conducted. The language you use, the cadence, tone, and other delivery of it may change depending on if you are approaching the Gods in a formal way or an informal way, or if you are doing ritual for a group. It can also depend on the size of a give group, or the kind of emotion the ritual is supposed to tap into. In the case of a simple devotional rite, like the one above with three breaths to Sunna and a “Thank you”, it a simple ritual of thanks. With a Haustblót it can be incredibly complex, with many ritual steps including leading a group through prayers, offerings, divination, and sacrifice.

Step 3: Consideration for the Ritual

This is about where the ritual taking place and how best a ritual space can be accomodating to its ritualists and attendees. Can the ritual be performed as desired in that space? Is the place for the ritual accessibile to folks with mobility disabilities? Is the ritual or ritual prep going to take a long time and the ritual crew and attendants need food/drink? Are there special props, offerings, etc that must be included or excluded? If alcohol is at the rite is there a non-alcohol option for folks who do not drink it?

Step 4: Roles for the Ritual

This is about who does what in the ritual. If you have a spiritual specialist, or several, what role(s) do they serve and how do they serve it? If you are doing a solo ritual, how do you create your role within the ritual so that you can enact the ritual while also experiencing it? Are there aspects of the ritual you can ask others to perform or do you need to do it yourself, eg divination after the rite? While this step takes on a bigger function in a group setting thinking about your role as a ritualist in private rituals can be helpful in considering how a given rite might affect you, and what you need to do to be in a good mindset for each part of it.

Once these questions are answered we can get into designing the ritual itself. We will go over my basic ritual outline below.

1. Cleansing. Cleanse yourself, the area, and anything being brought into the ritual not consecrated to the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir. Likewise, cleanse any spiritual or other tools that you bring into the space. Cleansing can be done by tradition-appropriate methods, eg khernips or reykr/recels, or by a simple blessing spoken over water and sprinkled on an area/person/item.

2. Grounding. This is letting go of any excess energy whether accumulated throughout the day or disturbed by the act of cleansing. This can be as simple as three long breaths, letting your muscles relax, and getting ready for the next step, or as complex as a multipart tree visualization where you put your ‘roots’ into the Earth and exchange energy with the Earth and/or an Earth Goddess.

3. Centering. This centering yourself in what you are doing and why you are here. For ritual work this is coming to focus on the ritual. In other contexts centering might be focusing on the hereness of your body, the next step in whatever task you have before you, or being present and acknowledging thoughts as they occur and letting them go.

4. Shielding/Warding. This is present in Wiccan traditions as casting a circle, and while most non-Wiccan polytheist religions do not normally do this, there are definitely ways in which a person is shielded or a place warded. Atropotaic symbols adorn temples as well as people the world over. We wear symbols of our Gods, which not only serve as signs of our devotion, but also may call to our Gods to protect us, and/or give us strength to protect ourselves. The bringing of fire around a space in Heathenry to cleanse a space also serves to set the sacred boundary so it is a two-in-one cleansing and shielding. I put this step here because some folks, myself included, usually have a step where a space is formally declared sacred when it is not at our home altars, shrines, or vé and we cannot use something like fire to cleanse and ward.

5. Set the Intention of the Ritual. This can be a simple declarative statement such as “Thank you, Sunna, for shining down on me. I share this coffee with You in gratefulness.” It can be as complex as “Hail to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir! We come together today to celebrate the Haustblót, to celebrate the Fall Harvest, and to sacrifice our offerings so that cycle of gift for a gift continues! Hail to all of our Holy Ones!” The point of Step 5 is to firmly fix what the point of it is and to get undewray.

6. Call to/invite the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir. Again, this can be as flowery or as simple as your Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, tradition, or style of ritual allows for. Sometimes simple is way better, especially starting out. Be sure if you are calling to Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir by certain titles, epithets, heiti, etc that you know what they are and what calling on Them in that way means.

7. Engage in the ritual itself. Take the time you need to do it well. Immerse in the experience in the moment and analyze your experiences after the ritual.

8. Thank the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir for Their Presence. Make offerings, prayers, and do any work needed in thanks, in reciprocity, at this point.

9. Do any ritual aftercare, cleanup, and take down of the vé, altar, etc if needed.

Especially for new folks or folks who are out of practice it may take doing more than a few to get everything down. The work will teach you how to do the work. If you have questions, comments, or thoughts leave them in the comments or email me and we can work from there.

Patreon Topic 23: Found Offerings

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From Elfwort comes this topic:

“Would you discuss found offerings to the Gods and wights in the Viking age and before, such as bog offerings?”

It’s important to note that not all found offerings were found in bogs, though that is certainly one place they were found. Other places, as noted by Claude Lecouteux in his book The Traditions of Household Spirits, were beneath the threshold and beneath the home otherwise. These sacrifices would be snakes, cats, roosters, and the like and were likely to be understood as guardians of the home.

Some found offerings, such as bog people who were clearly strangled or had their head bashed in may have been outlaws or even willingly made offering of themselves, while whole ships and their contents may have been offered along coastlines and interred for high-ranking people. It is not known for certain if the bog people were human sacrifices, as this article from The Atlantic covering the subject states, though my inclination is towards that being the case. This paper, At the threshold of the Viking Age by Sæbjørg Walaker Nordeide, Niels Bonde, and Terje Thun, explores the ship offerings in a particular case in Kvalsund, Norway. Boat parts and whole boats put into the bog would have been known as bog offerings. The famous Oseberg ship is another example of a ship offering.

Why would this have been done? In the case of the Kvalsund bog offering the authors posit that “Because vessels and water are at the core of the activity at this particular locality, and because there is a high risk of shipwrecking in this area, the vessel offerings may have been related to this danger in order to prevent shipwrecks, and therefore save or bring back lives, which is an element of fertility rituals in the widest sense.” The  Oseberg ship, meanwhile, was a burial site. In the case of coastal offerings we could see non-burial ship offerings as made to Norðr, or perhaps to Rán and Ægir. We can speculate that ship burials on land were likely started with elaborate ceremonies that, when finished, would continue to celebrate the lives of those ‘aboard’. The ship itself was a way of securing good passage to the afterlife.

What does all this mean for the modern Heathen? We have a wide variety of ways to take care of our offerings, and that some of these methods of offerings are as old as time. It also points to some interesting ideas about setting up a household guardian. Now, I am not saying every Heathen should go out and bring home a snake, cat, etc to sacrifice to put under their theshold. However, it is important to think about why these sacrifices were made. These were invitations to the vaettr to take up residence inside the house, to guard and care for it. I am all for reclaiming our traditions of sacrifice, though I do not think folks would sacrifice what we now think of as pet animals like a cat or snake.

So, what can we do instead? We could ask the vaettr of a given animal to inhabit a substitute offering, such as one made of bread that we ritually slaughter and place beneath the threshold. Modern vulture culture provides us another way to bring this idea into modern Heathenry. Most of us work with found remains or those that result from a hunt. We could work with the skeleton or other remains of a willing animal or group of animals, and make offerings to them prior to deposition beneath the threshold. While these methods do not have the potency of a ritual sacrifice, for those who lack the skill or desire to these are important modern ways of engaging in practices alike to the old ways.

What about modern boat offerings? Given the proliferation of trash and waste in our oceans, lakes, rivers, and ponds, it is probably not the best idea to mimic our Ancestors in this way. Besides, as noted in the At the threshold paper, “Kvalsund was a bog at the time, not a lake, but the site was turned into a pond due to ritual construction and deposition.” Our offerings literally have the power to radically alter the environment. Taking care as to what and how we offer is important. So, should we carry on ship offerings? No, I would not. Besides, while the boats were made of materials that could decay over time modern boats do not.

Taking into consideration local needs for trees, including the need to retain old growth forest, to keep soil from eroding, and to reduce habitat loss, the use of whole logs to make a ship for the use of an offering, regardless of how impressive or potent it is, cannot be justified. Even seemingly benign rearrangement of stones in rivers to make cairns can have detrimental effects on the local environment, so here too we should be care what, if anything, we leave behind. If we are to leave offerings they should be compostable, or otherwise able to break down wherever we leave the offering without detrimental effect. Consider how much of the Oseberg ship was left intact despite burial and the composition of materials in it.

So does this mean we Heathens should not leave physical offerings? Of course not. It means that we need to be careful in regards to what we offer, where we offer it, and how we offer things. This honors the thing we offer and the Beings we offer it to. This honors and respects the life of the Beings we make offerings of, the Beings we offer it to, the Beings (such as Fire, Water, etc) that we offer through, and the landvaettir from which the offerings came and where those offerings will be laid down.

Patreon Song/Poem/Prayer 24 -For the Huldrafolk

If you want to submit a request for a prayer, poem, or song to be written to you privately or to be posted on this blog or my Patreon for a God, Ancestor, or spirit, sign up for the Ansuz and above level here on my Patreon. This prayer was requested from Elfwort for the Huldrafolk.

Tufted tails and heads full of flowing thoughts

Hidden among rock, stone, and river

Bright eyes and strong spirits

Between buildings and deep in alleys

Among trees and gates

You live among us

The places between, on the edges, in the depths

Guardians, keepers, protectors

Dangerous and kind, gracious and fierce

May we know you better and give better honor to you

With whom we share these Worlds

Hail the Huldrafolk!

Patreon Topic 22: Ancestor Work and Weregild

If you want to submit a topic you would like me to write on for this blog or my Patreon, sign up for the Uruz or Thurisaz level or above here on my Patreon.

From Stephanie comes this topic:

“In the latest episode (#52) you mentioned weregild. Could you elaborate on what this is and how it might come into play with ancestor work? What a weregild might be? Is it like a big crime(what my google search showed) or can it just be emotional baggage they never dealt with?”

Weregild means “man price”. In ancient Germanic societies this was used to describe the damages paid to a person or their family for harm or death. Weregild applied to all people, and so long as they were of sufficient rank in society they could collect on it. The exception to this case were thralls, slaves, who had no weregild price but whose death or injury were often compensated to their owners.

When I apply the term to Ancestor work I am talking about the weight of debt our Ancestors have accrued to each other and to others through the wrongs they have done. This is not just emotional baggage, though it can include emotional baggage having to be worked through if an Ancestor is refusing to handle an issue because of it. I also need to be clear in that when talking about weregild regarding Ancestor work that I am putting the responsibility to paying it on the Ancestors’ shoulders as They have generated it in the first place and carried the burden of it to us. This is different from ‘the sins of the father shall be visited upon the son’ in the way often taught in modern Christian churches.

Weregild owed by our Ancestors is our problem because the weight of that burden causes turmoil in our Ancestral lines. For example, if our Ancestors stole land, murdered a person, abused people, or caused injuries that were neither corrected or forgiven, They carry that debt with Them. That debt is owed to those who were wronged. Sometimes the wrong is so far back in history we cannot hope to contact a physical descendent of those wronged to pay the weregild, and so, we must seek to have our Ancestors right the wrong in another way. This might be extensive spiritual work on our part, eg sitting two sets of Ancestors down and working out past wrongs with them. We might be called on to heal old divisions between our family lines so that the descendents are reconciled with one another. We might be called on to help raise funds to buy land back that was stolen from a people or a person.

We may have situations where we simply cannot compensate the harm done. This may be because the damage done is so egregious or the harmed party is unwilling to allow a settlement. For cases where the wrong was done to people who are all dead, there certainly are things that can be done. As mentioned previous, we can do our best to compensate those who have survived the wrongs our Ancestors visited upon them. We can ask our Gods of the Dead to liase and work out what we and especially our Ancestors can do so weregild is paid.

The point of weregild is not guilt. Rather, it is to correct the wrongs done so that the harm done does not continue any longer in its effects and the harm done is compensated.

Something to keep in mind with this work is that your Ancestors paying their weregild does not absolve you of the work you need to do in this life, either personally or on Their behalf. Americans still live in a system that institutionally targets BIPOC for state-sanctioned murder, maiming, violence, and ongoing harm besides. Likewise, we still live in a system that institutionally does harm to QUILTBAG+ folks. As if this were not bad enough, the harm often intersects the worst with BIPOC QUILTBAG+ folks. Desired or not, whites, especially straight cis whites, overwhelmingly benefit from this situation. This is not something we can pay to go away. These are interconnected injustices that need to be addressed, fought against.

When we put our Ancestors into healthier positions through the spirit work we can do, They in turn can support us and our families better. When weight of spiritual debt is lifted through the payment of weregild and similar work, it is easier for our Ancestors to render Their aid, to do Their work, and to reweave lost threads between our various families, whether by blood, adoption, lineage, and so on. Our reciprocity to our Ancestors is to help Them to be better, and likewise, this is Their reciprocity to us.

Patreon Song/Poem/Prayer 22 -For Muninn

If you want to submit a request for a prayer, poem, or song to be written to you privately or to be posted on this blog or my Patreon for a God, Ancestor, or spirit, sign up for the Ansuz and above level here on my Patreon. This prayer was requested from Leslie for Muninn.

You and Your Brother wander the Worlds

The wisest of Gods holds Your words

Greater than gold

Loss looms long on my mind

The thief of thought and memory

Whetting its weapons

Runes well-written and words to recall

The deeds and direction of my destiny

Carefully is kept

Fear falls fettered

The ravens return to me

Whispering Their words:

Should you forget, we watch and we wait

Returning to Hrafnaguð we will remember

Patreon Topic 21: Fylgja v Spirit Animals

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From Leslie comes this topic:

“”Fylgja v. ‘Spirit Animals’ and Why Fylgja is probably the word you mean.”

I’m going to break this up into two parts, the first covering what Fylgja and spirit animals are, and then “Why Fylgja is probably the word you mean.”

Fylgja translates as “to accompany”, “to follow” or “follower”. Fylgjur is its plural form. Huginn’s Heathen Hof has a good overview of what a fylgja in Part 1 and Part 2. A fylgja is a vaettr, a spirit, who follows. Boiled down to its essence, that is it. A lot of authors and scholars interpret the fylgja as a fetch or wraith, and while that interpretation has some merit, I think that is hardly the whole of it.

To start, as with anything regarding ancient Heathen sources for our religions, it has to be noted that most of our source material in the written works comes from a small spread of time. We also need to note that, generally, what we have is not from Heathens, is not in any way a religious text, and is transmitted by Christians. Archaeology has very little to say regarding fylgjur from what I have read and seen. However, it is clear from what we have that the ancient Heathens would have seen their world alive with Gods, their Ancestors, and vaettir.

It is also legitimate that our own perspectives may not line up exactly with what scholars purport the ancient Heathens believed. A lot of academic work with regard to ancient Heathen sources of knowledge, when it is not directly sourced in the materials themselves, is educated speculation. Again, given the sources we have are relatively few and widespread literacy is a relatively recent phenomenon historically, most information would have been given orally. As many of the everyday and religious items were fashioned from organic materials, namely wood, it is little wonder we have little to no evidence of cult objects.

All of this is to say that I follow a very expanded idea of fylgja that may be at odds with stricter interpretations of what they are. What some authors and scholars refer to in the role of fylgja, namely as fetch or wraith, I look more to the idea of vörðr, guardian. So, how do I understand fylgjur?

A fylgja is a vaettr that accompanies you, that has some kind of vested interest in you whether that be to teach you something, to guide you, to guard you for a time, or to observe you. They may or may not be attached to your familial line. This is where I make the distinction here of fylgja and kinfylgja. A fylgja or kinfylgja can take a variety of forms, human and non-human.

Why would a vaettr accompany you if not because it is part of, embodies, or is a member of your family? A given vaettr might be attached to a God or Goddess that you worship. It might be part of your family, eg a vaettr that adopted your family or has had dealings with them. It might be a vaettr interested in watching your potential in a given profession or work grow. It might be a vaettr who wants to make new ties not unlike the ones traditionally associated with fylgjur. It is important to keep in mind that you are likely the first person in a very long time to pay any attention at all to the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir, so there’s any number of possible reasons for a given Being to come forward.

Contrast the view of what a fylgja is and does with that of a spirit animal. When folks use the term spirit animal they are usually saying something to effect of “That is my spirit animal.” I understand the term as it used today to mean that this is an animal that has claimed a person or has been assigned to them after a vision quest or some kind of deep spiritual work. I generally only see it seriously referenced regarding certain Native American tribes. This Metis-Anishinaabe breaks down why spirit animal is appropriative in non-Native contexts in this post. Given the connotations of Native American cultures and how one comes into relationship with a spirit animal I do not use the term and encourage others to not use the term.

Given that fylgja has its own cultural connections with Heathenry I would rather not see it become the next internet catch-all when what people are generally talking about is something completely unnatached to Heathenry. When folks use the term spirit animal in a spiritual context vs a meme one, they are usually talking about some kind of tutelary spirit, a spirit they have a deep affinity for, or a spirit they identify with/as on a soul level.

Instead of fylgja or spirit animal, I would far rather have folks who are not Heathen or Heathen-adjacent use tutelary spirit or spirit guide to mean a spirit that instructs or guides them. For those spirits they have a deep affinity for, perhaps a beloved spirit. For those who may identify with/as on a soul level to another spirit, perhaps the term kin spirit may work.

What I hope to do is clear up the waters of terminology rather than muddy them. I see part of that muddying is made when folks use terms that do not apply to them. To put it plainly, if you are not Native American then there are other words to use rather than spirit animal. If you are not Heathen there are other words to use in place of fylgja/fylgjur.