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!
I took a week off of social media, and I included my blog here at WordPress for that time.
It was a good time, coming right off the heels of Sacred Firetending at Michigan Paganfest.
It really made me think, though, about a lot of things. Not the least of which is the time I waste on social media. Now, a lot of my writing here? That tends to be time well-spent because I am sussing things out, writing devotional poetry and other works, or otherwise devoting time to my Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir.
My time away made me realize just how fucked up social media is, when you get down to brass tacks. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do a lot of networking on it that is not only useful, but downright necessary to interact with the folks in my Kindred as well as the larger Pagan community. However, what I am really coming to grips with is how damned sick, lacking a better term, social media is. When something takes off, it takes off like a virus. After all, a post, a picture, a video gaining mass popularity is called ‘going viral’ for a reason. If it is incorrect information, it spreads the wrong information and it infects all those who take it in as fact.
This is where inoculation or sanitation and treatment come in, or, in terms polytheists would be more familiar with, purification and cleansing. We purify a space so that it is cleansed of vaettir (spirits), and likewise, any magic or spiritual force that would seek to do us harm or disrupt the ritual, ceremony, etc. we are about to perform. We purify a space, such as a vé (sacred place; it might have an altar or be a natural thing, such as a boulder or tree, etc.), hörgr (a stone vé, sometimes stacked, or an altar of stone). We cleanse ourselves and any objects we would seek to bring into this space so we are in a state that is clean for the same reason as purification. If you are facilitating a ritual, it is likely you have cleansed yourself and any things that you are bringing into the area, then purified the space.
These procedures are recognizable to anyone who works in healthcare: your inoculation makes you resistant to diseases that can harm your patients and yourself, your hand-washing prevents you from spreading disease, and your personal hygiene prevents you from becoming sick. If you refuse to do these things you are not doing your due diligence to those in your care. That is not to say that sickness is completely unavoidable. It is not, just as impurity in sacred space does happen. It is also not to say that sickness is morally wrong; it is not. It simply is. However, it is our obligation, whether healthcare or in religious matters, for us to do our due diligence so that those in our care are as healthy as can be. A ritual leader who refuses to do purification and cleansing work is analogous to a doctor who refuses to be sanitary.
Of course, there are folks out there who will say I am being dramatic about this.
If we take our religions, and our roles within them seriously, then this kind of preparation to erect or inhabit a sacred space should be normal. There may be exceptions to this rule, i.e. polytheist religious paths I have not come across that do not carry out purification rites in general or for specific workings because it would be detrimental to the rite, working, etc. I am not speaking to these. The polytheist religions I have been in or had contact with carry similar enough ritual protocols for these to be general, such as cleaning yourself physically and spiritually before a ritual, or if you do not have time for a shower, at least doing some kind of cleansing work, whether a simple ritual of washing the hands, sprinkling water on one’s head, passing fire about the place and one’s body, and so on.
If I am to carry out a ritual, it is my Gebo to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir that I am a living example to those in the ritual. I need to be clean in body, mind, and spirit. I need to show good protocol for engaging with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. As much as the ritual actions are my role in the ritual, so too is my living example. If someone is coming to me for divination I need to be clean and the sacred space it takes place needs to be clean. My obligation to the shamans, diviners, Rune-workers, Runemeisters, the Runevaettir, and Odin Himself is to do the work and do it well, whether that work is the preparation before the reading, the reading itself, or any work that occurs coming from the reading. To do this, I need to have good signal, and to have good signal I and the space need to be clean for the reading. Whatever my role, I owe this Gebo,this obligation of doing the prequisite work well to those who came before me in these roles, to my Elders, Disir, Väter, Ancestors, and so on. I also owe this Gebo to the Gods, Ancestors and vaettir to do this work well, not just for the work present in the moment, but to provide an ongoing living example of the work in action.
In order to do well, to be excellent, the foundation must be cared for. The foundation of good religious work is to do the prerequisite work well. This includes the education one needs in order to be an informed participant in the religion, and the carrying out of one’s role in the religion that arises from that knowledge. It is not some out-of-reach perfection I am talking about here either, nor am I talking merely about the role ritual leaders hold in being ritual pure or helping to make purified religious space. The foundations of religious work are carried by everyone in that religion. Purification and cleansing are part of those foundations so we enter into sacred space clean and well, so that the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are prayed to, offered to, experienced, and understood well. Purification and cleansing help us to keep these things clean so that what we do and pass on is healthy for our religions, our communities, our tribes, our Kindreds, our families, and ourselves.
May Eir and Mengloth bless those in harm’s way
May the healers be careful, skilled, and compassionate
May Thor protect those in harm’s way
May the communities be safe from harm, secured by His Hammer
May Loki, Angrboda, and Sigyn bring laughter, protection, and perseverance
May mirth, solidarity, and determination lift up those harmed and grieving in this tragedy
May Tyr and Forseti bring justice to the Dead, to the families, to all those harmed
May justice be done, lawful and swift
May Freyr, Gerda, and Freya bring Their love, sensuality, and vitality
May we celebrate ourselves together, and with Them, stand by those we love
May Odin and Frigga bring wisdom to the leaders
May action be guided by wisdom, may work be guided by insight
May Hela take up the Dead
May She bring Them comfort and care
May the Landvaettir be heard
May They, too, have justice, and may Their needs be met
May The Dead hear the calls of Their loved ones
May They know They are remembered, and may those They left behind be comforted
May the newly-Dead be long-remembered
May They be remembered for more than Their deaths; may Their lives be remembered well
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.