Hail Holy Vanir of Fertile Fields
Whose Cart carries blessed seed and soil
to whoever’s home it visits
Hail Holy Vanir of Fertile Fields
Whose Bounty bring virility to Vanaheim
shared selflessly with kith and kin
Hail Holy Vanir of Fertile Fields
Whose Hands have graced our gardens
through Your reach, the roots grow deep
Hail Holy Vanir of Fertile Fields
Whose Body rides upon the roads;
Your veiled visage a holy Mystery
Hail Holy Vanir of Fertile Fields
Whose Ways wend to beauty and blessings,
let all live with You in good Gebo
The loamy earth that welcomes the seed
The black soil that bursts with life
The tree who overgrows the bones
The ground who eats the bodies
The inundated ground that bears the rice
The sandy ground that bears the spears
The grove where the deer mate
The fields where their young are born
The ever-breathing forests
The ever-teeming swamps
The ever-eating earth
The ever-giving earth
All these things You are
Hail to you, O Nerthus!
They sank down into the waters
Held down by iron grips
A sacrifice for seeing Your holy Face
They sank down into the bog
Their blood reddening the waters
A sacrifice for keeping the community clean
They were offered to You
O Holy Nerthus
That the ways between us
May be kept well
So now I am inspired to do a month of devotional poetry and song for Gefjon. I am counting the two prayers I last posted for the start of this project. This is the prayer I wrote for Her yesterday. I will have another prayer for Her later today.
Charming of the Plow Prayer to Gefjon
If any know how to Charm the Plow, it is You
If any know the work of claiming land, it is You
If any know the work of tilling the darkness of Jörð, it is You
If any know how to carefully cultivate the grove, it is You
If any know the work of bringing in a hearty harvest, it is You
If any know the work of a well hewn hall, it is You
If any know the work of a healthy hof, it is You
If any know the sacred work of the gyðja’s charge, it is You
Inspired by Galina Krasskova’s Agon dedicated to Gefjon, I wrote these two poems.
A Hailing Prayer to Gefjon
Hail to Gefjon, Far-seeing Goddess!
Hail to Gefjon, Who knows Her own Worth!
Hail to Gefjon, Who shapes liche and hame!
Hail to Gefjon, Who drives hard Her Oxen!
Hail to Gefjon, Who plowed and claimed Zealand!
Hail to Gefjon, Who claims Her own pleasure!
Hail to Gefjon, whose halls house the virgins!
Hail to Gefjon, Ásynja!
Hail to Gefjon, Mother of Jotnar!
Hail to Gefjon, Whose Consort is Skjöldr!
Hail to Gefjon, Whose Plow is Mighty!
Hail to Gefjon, Whose Courses are Swift!
Hail to Gefjon, Whose Lands are Fertile!
Hail to Gefjon, Whose Ways are Wise!
Land-finding Prayer to Gefjon
We seek, we seek land of our own
Growing green and good
We ask Gefjon to lend us your aid
So we may settle soon!
We ask for land for orchards
We ask for land for grain
We ask for land for goat, hive, and lamb
Whose harvests shall be great!
We seek, we seek a place to build
A hof to call our own
Where we can raise a horn to You
Within our hallowed home!
Something I have been reading quite a bit is the use of the word ‘tribal’ as a derogatory term, especially in online places and discussions on Heathenry. Mostly, it is being used as it appears in the Oxford Dictionaries’ second definition “The behaviour and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group” rather than its first: “The state or fact of being organized in a tribe or tribes.” The word ‘tribe’ is not without its issues; tribe was a word used by colonialists to describe the indigenous cultures they saw, as the definition for ‘tribe’ notes. That said, most people understand what you mean when you say a tribe, whether one is using it in the first or second definition. Some folks use the word tribe when describing their indigenous communities, others do not. It is still used to describe some indigenous groups, such as Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah. They define tribe as “a group of people organized through kinship or family relationships.”
As a Heathen, tribe, tribal, tribalism, and tribalist as terms carry meanings more in line with the first definition and with how the Piaute Indian Tribe of Utah uses it. I would at least like to get some dialogue started on why that is, and why I use ‘tribal’, ‘tribalist’, and ‘tribalism’ as terms to describe my understanding, and living of Heathenry.
Many of the cultures I take as inspiration and much of my understanding of my religious path were organized into what is usually referred to as tribal groups. The Suebi or Suevi, for instance, were a recognized tribal group that was itself known to be made up of smaller tribes. This was first recognized in what writings we have from Julius Caesar, and later Tacitus and Pliny. Funny enough, like a lot of indigenous groups, the name Suebi may mean something to the effect of “people” or “we, ourselves”.
What Tribal Heathenry means
Tribalist Heathenry means that you worship the Gods of Northern Europe, England, France, Iceland, etc., your Ancestors, and vaettir (spirits), and that you care for and about those in your group, your tribe, first. It means that those you count as within your walls, in your innangard/innangarðr, are within your society. Those who are utgard/útangarðr, are outside of them. This does not mean that those who are utgard are without meaning or not considered when looking at the impacts of a decision, but you do not owe loyalty to them as you do to those in your innangard, and they generally have far less impact and say in your life. Rather, they are guests when they are within your walls, and given the amount of writing that exists on how hosts and guests are to treat each other, are important, but not in the same way as those who are part of your people.
There is another side to this besides the human interaction level, though. Those one brings into their innangard, or who are brought into another’s, tie their Wyrd together far tighter than those who are utgard to one another. We tie our hamingja, our group luck, into one another’s. Me keeping my word is far more important for those who are within my innangard, particularly with important things like big promises to those within the community, or oaths to the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir, because it directly impacts their hamingja, and through this it can affect their maegen, or personal power.
Tribalist Heathenry as it applies to my life
Friends are within my innangard, and acquaintances are utgard. Allies are within my innangard and those without alliance to me are utgard.
This means that those I care for, am loyal to, responsible to and for those I have deep personal and/or community connections with, whether they are family by blood or choice, friends, or allies, are first priorities in my life. Note that the way I am using the word friend does not have a thing to do with Facebook definitions of ‘friends’. When I call someone Brother, Sister, or a term of endearment meaning equivalently the same thing gender-neutrally, such as friend, these mean very specific things to me. The same goes with the term ally. I have very clear lines of distinction, then, between friends and acquaintances.
If I count you as part of my tribe, family, a friend, or among my allies, generally speaking, I would take a bullet for you and, in equal measure, I would use such means to protect or save you. This means that while I count myself as part of the Heathen communities, the communities I am not a member of mean less to me both socially and spiritually speaking than the ones I am part of. This understanding of things is how I allocate my time and resources, and to whom I owe loyalty and make spiritual ties with. This is discernment in action.
Reviving tribal community and reviving tribal worldviews
I am a tribalist, a universalist, and a reconstructionist-derived Heathen. Being a tribalist means that I care for those within my innangard. Being a universalist means that I believe that anyone regardless of ancestral background can come to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir of Heathen religion. Being reconstructionist-derived in regards to archaeology and the texts regarding Heathen Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir means that I respect that these things can teach us information on and give some understanding of our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, practices and beliefs that have survived the conversion periods are incomplete. It means that I recognize some practices are unsuited or impractical to reviving a religion and culture for where and when we are, or that we simply lack the information necessary to do so, and I am willing to innovate with the help and guidance of the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir and community where needed or called.
In reviving tribal community and tribal worldview associated with Heathen paths, what I am seeking is to revive the concept of the tribe itself within a polytheist Heathen context, and the attendant worldview which informs it with those in my innangard. I do this by referencing and revitalizing the concepts that are essential to this, and where this is not possible to follow what old ways we do know about, we communicate with the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir and with one another to innovate and adapt what we can to work with us in this time and place.
Tribalist Heathenry as I understand and live it cannot be revived in full from where ancient Heathen cultures were prior to conversion or destruction of the cultures and folkways. There is simply too much time between us and the Ancestors from which these ideas, structure, and worldviews spring. In other words, the maps of archaeology and texts are useful to a point until we recognize it is outdated or no longer referencing the territory before us.
Given the diversity of religious/cultural paths within Heathenry, I do not expect our Michiganian Northern Tradition and Heathen tribalist religion or culture to look like another’s, even those that may be located in the same State. I would expect our religious calendar to look different, especially from, say, a Texan tribalist Heathen’s religious calendar. A given tribe’s worship of Gods might be very specific, i.e. only worshiping Anglo-Saxon Gods, whereas we worship Gods from a variety of culture backgrounds. A given Heathen tribalist or their tribe may only worship the Aesir and/or Vanir, whereas mine worships the Aesir, Vanir, and Jotnar.
It is my hope this post is a gateway to more conversation, not a stopping point. I encourage folks to post in the comments, to write their own posts exploring this, to talk with friends, family, kindred, and talk with their Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. I encourage us to deepen the dialogue around these things, so that our communities grow, and keep growing, strong, healthy, and well.
My family has taken up brewing mead. For us, we’re doing this as dead simple as we can, namely by using as little as we can to make as wide a variety of meads as we can.
Since we do not want to blow up to 2 lb. or more of honey and 1-3 (I usually favor 3) months of brewing just to see if a recipe works out, we are doing all of our experiments in mason jars. Our first mason jar mead was started about 3 months ago. All the mason jars we use for this are quart sized, the water comes from our well, and rather than buy baker or champagne yeast, we use wild yeast. I cannot remember which websites we ended up using as our guide, so I will list our usual procedures below. After testing samples ourselves, and especially by very dear friends, I can say with certainty that our experiments with mead have been very successful and very tasty. We also took some samples to our local homebrew store, and they loved them, and are interested to see how the latest batch turns out!
The first thing to do when getting ready to brew mead is to figure out what kind you want. There’s a lot of different kinds of mead out there; one of my favorite sites about mead is this one.
Our first batch of mead was made up of 12 quart mason jars. We had Fall and Spring honey from a local grower for about half of our meads, and when we ran out of Spring honey we had a single mixed honey from this source. These came in glass bottles which we have been reusing for holding honey from other sources. For the rest we used Michigan-sourced honey from Meijer in the 5 lb. plastic jugs. The honeys imparted different flavors, especially since the Spring and Fall were concentrated from their harvest times, but both the local organic Michigan honey and the Michigan-sourced honey from Meijer’s did the trick for fermentation equally well. When I say something like ‘this was an 8oz mead’ what I mean is that the honey put in was 8oz with the rest of the quart being filled with warm water.
In the first batch we made one metheglin with 8oz of Meijer honey and one ounce of Mugwort wrapped in cheesecloth. We made a single melomel with 8oz of Meijer honey and one ounce of organic raisins. We made a roughly equally mixed 6oz Spring and Fall mead. We made 4, 6, and 8oz each of Spring mead, and made the same for Fall. The last 3 made were 4, 6, and 8oz of Meijer honey. We also made an experiment with some of the batches: we tried doing the open fermentation for three days using cheesecloth as a cover, whereas the rest were simply opened for the three days. We did not see a significant difference in taste or brewing between these two methods.
We left the mead alone as much as we could, and almost every time we went to interact with the mead we would cleanse ourselves physically and spiritually. Here’s the fun part about working with non-commercial fermentation: heads sometimes develop on the mead that is unlike what happens when I have worked with a carboy. When they do, it is simply a single transparent layer or it is a single layer of green powder on top of a semi-transparent film. We take this off with a clean, sanitized spoon, and have had no issues with it.
At first this threw me, and I damned near panicked and threw out the whole batch because I thought I had bad mold. Then, I did some research online, and it turns out that racking will usually solve this. Most sources I have read recommend using 1 campden tablet per gallon at this point, but I wanted to see how the mead would go on if we merely racked it. So, we racked it, and the substance did come back. I believe it did this because we intentionally left the lids of the mason jars a little lifted so they wouldn’t blow up from the pressure of fermenting. Most of the things that sources say to look for, such as sour taste, chunks in the mead, and so on, were not present. Many of the sources said a small film, which is what developed on top of the mead in all of these cases, seems to be yeast proteins. There have been no ill effects from myself or others, and the mead tastes quite good. Before we tried them, we racked them again, and then put the top down tight without heating up and fully sealing the mason lid.
Steps for Making Our Mead
Please note that I am an amateur mead maker, and that this is a guide to how we have made our own mead.
Figure out the meads you want to make. When preparing this keep in mind the purpose of the mead. If it is to serve a religious purpose, as the metheglin with mugwort will, make it with that in mind. If it is to serve as a gift, make it with the person’s tastes in mind. If it is for a God or Goddess, Ancestor(s), or vaettir, make it with Their desires in mind. Our son has put together a mead in our new batch that I expect will be fairly alcoholic: 8oz of honey with 1/2 ounce of cherries and 1/2 ounce of raisins. He will be sharing at least some of it with Thor.
Source and measure out the honey and other ingredients you will need for each jar’s recipe. Especially if you are on a budget, this can help with approximating how much honey and other ingredients you are going to need to make the meads you want.
Clean and sanitize everything to be used, and wash your hands very frequently.
Add honey and any other starter ingredients to the cleaned and sanitized mason jars.
The proportion I make for my mead in the carboy is about 2 lb of honey to 1 gallon of water. 2lb of liquid honey equals 32oz. 1 gallon is about 128oz. A quart is about 32oz itself. Taking the proportion of 2lb, or 32oz of honey, to 1 gallon, or 128oz, you can develop an idea of how much honey you will need to how much water. The ratio works out in this case to about 1:4.
A simple way of figuring out ounces is that one cup is about 8oz, so half a cup is about 6oz. A quarter cup, then, would be about 2 oz. A lot of Pyrex liquid measuring tools have both measurements on them, but I figured for those who do not this would be helpful.
I tend to warm the water to make it easier for the honey to dissolve in it, but I do not use boiled water. Once the ingredients are together I will pick up the jar, and shake it until the honey is dissolved into the water, and a light white bubbling head develops on the water’s surface. Then we take them upstairs, unseal them enough that air can get in and out, and will generally leave them be for 3 days open, or close to it. After that we tighten the lids down a little so that escaping air can push up the lid, but not so that if we knock into one of them that they will spill.
Our latest batch we actually sprung for the grommets and airlocks for each of our jars. Our local homebrew store drilled holes in the jar lids, and we installed the grommets and airlocks after thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing them all at home.
Wait. This is perhaps the hardest part for me. After about 1-3 months I will put it through the mead’s first rack. Racking is transferring the mead out of the old fermenting container and into a clean, sanitary new one to finish the process of fermentation. We use a strainer like this, and if we have that film I talked about earlier, we use either a clean, old t-shirt, or cheesecloth over top of it. It works very well.
Then, we wait some more, depending on when it was first racked. In total I usually wait about 2-3 months for the mead to ferment.
Bottle. Or, in this case, jar. If the mead has a head with filmy material like I described above, we rack the mead one last time, and seal down the new jar once this is done.
Enjoy and share the mead.
Hail to the Mothers with us!
Hail to the Mothers who have blazed the path before us!
Hail to the Disir!
Hail to all the Mothers!