Patreon Topic 61: On The Year of Aun

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From Maleck comes this topic:

“Year of Aun. What is it? When is it? Resources for folks looking to know more? What are you planning for it and how can folks join in if they want to?”

The Year of Aun 2023 Celebration designed by Ludvig Levin, used with permission from Rune Hjarnø Rasmussen

What is the Year of Aun?

The Year of Aun is a celebration of the realignment of ourselves with the world, and accordingly, the Ginnreginn (the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir) we share it with. It is a year of healing ceremonies to bring us back into alignment with being good Ancestors with the example of the worst: that of Aun himself.

The Wikipedia entry on Aun the Old is not bad. However, it is not as deep as the sources and interpretation provided to us by Rune Hjarnø Rasmussen and Jósúa Hróðgeir Rood, the latter of whom coined the term Year of Aun. So, what are our sources? Thankfully, when I asked him, Rune provided me these:

Thietmar of Merseburg:
“Because I have heard marvellous things about their ancient sacrifices, I will not allow these to pass unnoticed. In those parts, the centre of the kingdom [of the Danes] is a place called Lejre, in the region of Seeland. Every nine years, in the month of January, after the day of which we celebrate the appearance of the Lord [6 January], they all convene here and offer their gods a burnt offering of ninety-nine human beings and as many horses along with dogs and cock – the latter being used in place of hawks. As I have said, they were convinced that these would do service for them with those who dwell beneath the earth and ensure their forgiveness for any misdeeds.” Thietmar of Merseburg, Book 1: 17. Here quoted from: Ottonian Germany. The Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg. Translated and annotated by David A. Warner. Manchester University Press 2001, p. 80

Adam of Bremen:
“For all their gods there are appointed priests to offer sacrifices for the people. If plague and famine threaten, a libation is poured to the idol Thor; if war, to Wotan; if marriages are to be celebrated, to Frikko. It is customary also to solemnize in Uppsala, at nine-year intervals, a general feast of all the provinces of Sweden. From attendance at this festival no one is exempted Kings and people all and singly send their gifts to Uppsala and, what is more distressing than any kind of punishment, those who have already adopted Christianity redeem themselves through these ceremonies. The sacrifice is of this nature: of every living thing that is male, they offer nine heads with the blood of which it is customary to placate gods of this sort. The bodies they hang in the sacred grove that adjoins the temple. Now this grove is so sacred in the eyes of the heathen that each and every tree in it is believed divine because of the death or putrefaction of the victims. Even dogs and horses hang there with men. A Christian told me that he had seen 72 bodies suspended promiscuously. Furthermore, the incantations customarily chanted in the ritual of a sacrifice of this kind are manifold and unseemly; therefore, it is better to keep silent about them.”

These are Rune’s own thoughts on The Year of Aun through his website on Nordic Animism. You can read the full post here. I have reprinted the bullet points and the thrust of why we celebrate it with his permission.

“• We are Aun as our economic order is based on camoflaged, structural violence against other humans in other parts of the world.
• We are Aun as our endless consumerism reduces us to paralyzed captives of luxury and indifference.
• We are Aun in our acceptance of the gruesome and life-annihilating behaviour toward the non-human or other-than-human beings that give us life by becoming our food.
• We are Aun in our complicity in the omnicidal attack on all life by which Western civilization is mercilessly driving us towards the biggest collapse in the history of life for 66 million years.
• We are Aun in our loss of social connectedness to the people closest to us, as our social instincts are being hacked by synthetic systems that enclose us in algorithm-generated mirror cabinets that enhance our stupidest and basest sides and erode the political and social debates that should hold our societies together.
 We are Aun as we are the worst imaginable ancestors.

The Aun year is about acknowledging that we are Aun and calling on the healing of those pathological and abusive patterns with which our society and social order is predicated on violence and mistreatment of our world and of others in our world. That is why we will recover and celebrate the ancient tradition of the octennial celebration in “the Aun year of 2023”, a term coined by Jósúa Hróðgeir Rood as a call for the whole of 2023 to be a year under the theme of healing the rupture.”

When is the Year of Aun celebrated?

Per Rune on Nordic Animism: “We therefore call on you to participate in the ways that you find meaningful, both on the specific days that mark the octennial celebrations in 2023 and throughout the year (January 6 in Lejre and March 6 in Uppsala).”

Rune suggests we celebrate in these ways:

“Make Aun-themes for your 2023 celebrations. Make pilgrimages to regional sacred sites. Celebrate this year of Healing: make rituals for it, pray for it, dance for it, dialogue about it, celebrate it in your gatherings and festivals, call for the cyclical healing of the Aun year. Sacrifice elements of your life ways that derive from the abusive aspects society. Make oaths under the rune of Aun to change life ways that are predicated on destruction.”

Rune for the Year of Aun used with permission from Rune Hjarnø Rasmussen

My plans for the Year of Aun 2023

I plan on following in the steps that Rune has laid out here. Starting with the Yule celebration December 21, 2022, and continuing it in 2023 starting on January 6th. These first rituals will lay the groundwork for a series of both personal and communal rituals that will be oriented the work of healing our relationship with and to Jörð, and being better Ancestors. The pilgrimages I take will be oriented around sacred places where I live in Michigan, such as my local stream, rivers, and the Great Lakes. I began a pilgrimage working several years ago, starting with Lake Superior in which I was inspired to make a Heathen poem for the Great Lakes.

The healing work with the land we have already begun in our home will continue, as will my work with Crossing Hedegrows Sanctuary and Farm and the powerful work we as a community do with the land there. Crossing Hedgerows itself is a sacred site, and so the rituals I do there will be oriented around the healing work we do with the land. I invite folks of good will to contact us and work with us at the Sanctuary in good Gebo with the landvættir.

What does this healing work with the land look like? Something Jean of Crossing Hedgerows has taught me in my years of working with her is to just sit with the land and watch what it does already. That is how they began to heal the land they live on and with. It was severely abused farmland. I remember the land before they moved into their home. It was a monocrop farm operation being seeded, sprayed, harvested, and sprayed again year on year in a vicious cycle. They let the land rest, recover, and watched. They observed the first year. Over time they encouraged the land through berms, swales, the erecting of a hoophouse, and partnering with their chickens to do what it wanted to do, growing food forests alongside everything else. Crossing Hedgerows Sanctuary and Farm is a living example of partnering with the landvættir in healing.

My family and I are taking these lessons in healing and applying them with our relationship with the landvættir we live with. This first year we have planted a small garden in the garden plot the previous owners made, letting the strawberries and various plants they left here grow. Aside from this, and one shave of the land with a lawnmower, we have left the land be. We are letting Them show us what is here, what They want to do, and then we will assess in the early Spring with Them what to do next.

How can folks join in celebrating the Year of Aun with me?

Join the work with my community at Crossing Hedgerows. Reach out and develop rituals for persona and communal healing. Develop mutual aid networks in your own communities and between ours so we rely less and less on the capitalist systems ravaging not only Jörð, but our landvættir and our communities. Share places of pilgrimage with one another.

An idea I have had that has resonance with ancient Scandinavian rituals is the idea of the procession wagon. In those days a wagon with a representation of Freyr would go around to the various towns and bring blessings and healing. Celebrations would be had, and armed conflict would cease while Freyr was present. We could do this in the modern age, with a person or group bringing representations of the Gods, such as Jörð, Freyr, Freyja, and Njörðr, to folks in our area interested in receiving Them. With the return of Their representations being done in a sacred place by the communities They have touched. We could partner with Crossing Hedgerows and/or with interested people and their communities in their sacred places to bring this sacred procession in the Year of Aun to various places.

The Year of Aun is calling us to bring the beauty and power each of us can to the Work of this Year. Each of us who dedicates their time, power, beauty, and work to this Year of Aun helps carry on that healing work with our Ginnreginn to future Years. Each of us has something to contribute, to bring to bear. Each of us has our own work to do. Each of our communities their own work to do. All who celebrate the Year collectively have their work. Each of us contribute to the healing between ourselves and Jörð and our Gods and vættir of the Earth, the betterment of ourselves as Ancestors, and good Gebo with our Ginnreginn.

 

Where to Start?

I have been pondering this question for a while now.  Where do we start when we are new to a path?  Do we dive into worshiping the Gods?  Should we?

I start at the Beginning.  A very good place to start.  Now that I’ve gotten my obligatory homage to Sound of Music out of my head…

I start with the Creation Story.  I start with where everything began, how it came to be, and I let the listener make up their mind how they wish to interpret it.  The point is, is that the Story is told.  We, eventually, are placed within the Story.  Without the cosmological understanding of how and why the Universe came to be, and where we fit in, what point is there in going on to the Gods?  If you do not understand how you relate to the Gods it is hard to begin to understand Them, much less worship Them, in anything like a proper context, or understanding.

Even if we do not understand the stories of creating the Worlds, the plants, animals, insects, etc., as literally true as-written, we can understand it on a level that transcends literalism, being true in its own way.  In the Norse Creation Story the first two Elements are Fire and Ice, Surt the Black being the First Being followed by Ymir.  Without going exhaustively through the text I can already tell some basic things: Fire and Ice are the Prime motivators of all life that follow, and all things began in the Void, the Ginnungagap.  They come into being naturally, needing no external force, or at least, no external force(s) that are remarked upon in the Story.  That, in and of itself, is important.  The Gods are not above or beyond the bounds of ‘what must be’ or ‘what is’ or ‘what is to come’ (Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld).  They are, as much as They might be representatives, controllers, and/or arbiters of ‘what must be’, ‘what is’, and ‘what is to come’, in various fashion, part of Creation.  Nearly every Creation Story I can think of starts in darkness of some kind, some kind of nothingness.  So we come from what was not, becoming what is, and following into what is to come.  All things are bound in Wyrd in this way.

I start with teaching the belief that the Gods and spirits are real, that our Ancestors live on in Death in a spiritual form even if They reincarnate, and that there are spirits all around us in many forms.

When new to a path I encourage people to ask questions, and then again, I encourage questions when one is well-seasoned on a path.  There can never be enough questions.  Even at ten years of being a Pagan I still have questions.   So ask, and do research.  Explore.  Keep researching.  I have been a Pagan 10 years and I am still, and I pray, will always, be learning new things.

I asked if we should dive into worshiping the Gods.  I think that if you can you should.  The same with praying to the Ancestors and spirits, especially the land spirits of where you live.  If you can stand before an altar, a tree, a rock, and/or an image and offer words, a cup of water, a small candle, or a ‘hello’ just to start, do it.  Do it even if you’re not 100% sure that the Gods, Ancestors, or spirits are real.

Sometimes the best prayers are simple.   The purpose of prayer is to thank, ask questions, and/or make a request of a God/dess, Ancestors, and/or spirit,  Sometimes learning a prayer, such as Sigdrifa’s Prayer, is both an offering unto itself in addition to being a beautiful prayer.  Images on on your computer work well for visualizing the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, and lighting a digital candle is fine as an offering in my book.  I used to live in a dorm room, and when I started I had 8 salt crystals in a small glass bottle and prayed on my dorm room floor.  I started worshiping the Gods after doing a little bit of research and a single lesson.  My relationships have changed fairly dramatically, but I learned how to worship the Gods, by-and-large, by worshiping Them.  I learned how to worship the Gods by refusing to not ask questions.  To explore, and to screw up.

However you can, start.  However you can, keep it up.  Do the best you can wherever you can.  Learn as much as you can, read all the stories of your Gods that you can get your hands on.  Learn all you can about your Ancestors, if you are able.  Learn about the spirits from your tradition(s), and especially from the locals if you know any.  Network, if you are able to and it is safe to do so.  Cultivate the relationships between yourself, the Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and communities around you however you can.  Know that you might not get clear answers from Them, that many who have worshiped the Gods their whole lives don’t always receive clear answers if they do get one.  Sometimes, maybe every time, you get silence in response to your prayers, and that is okay.  There are going to be down days, up days, days where your faith in your path, Gods, Ancestors, spirits, life itself, etc. is going to be challenged, and shaken; there may be days where your faith is blown clear out of the water, or raised up so high you’ll wonder how it was ever down.  However you can just keep walking.  Ultimately the relationship is between you, the Gods, the Ancestors, and the spirits.

This is just the start.

Wandering in a New Direction

I’ve known that Odin would want me to wander at some point.  He’s told me that since He started working with me.  I’ve asked Him, myself, other Gods, spirit allies, and friends, physical and not, what roads this could go down.  Now I finally have the first piece of that puzzle.  It was a relatively simple click to get it into place, but it took me hearing it and seeing it for it to fall into place.

I believe in living as sustainably as one can, from recycling and reusing as much as possible, to living as much on the land as possible.  Yet, I have no job, and no training on how to do a lot of the things necessary for it.  Sure, I’m learning to grow vegetables and herbs (I finally have my own space for herbs!) and I am willing to learn how to raise chickens, goats, and the like.  I’d be willing to learn every aspect of life that my folks grew up with on their farm.  Yet I didn’t even know how to start; I kept thinking “what about the price of having a home?  The utility costs?  The costs of getting everything around?”  Then, some friends of mine from my local shaman gathering told me about training they are taking this fall with the Earthship project.  I asked about it, and as they spoke, I could almost feel that puzzle click into place.  Holy shit.  It made sense.

Don’t get me wrong, at first I was skeptical as hell.  I thought How can you live so completely off-grid?  What about water, food?  Turns out the way the place is laid out you actually can grow food year-round in-house.  Water is collected from melting snow and rainwater, and electricity is made by wind and solar means.  There’s a lot more, but the website goes into more detail and gives it more justice than I can.  To put it simply, my fears were laid to rest.  These people built shelters that are designed to be earthquake resistant for the people of the Andaman Islands, and they built homes for Mexican families in the wake of Hurricane Rita.  The walls were built out of ordinary materials that we Americans have in plenty: old tires, plastic bottles and aluminum cans, and cement, with plaster for the outward finish.  It seemed unreliable when I first heard about it, yet they stand tall and strong against even monsoon weather, as experienced in the Andaman Islands.

I wasn’t just skeptical for practical reasons, but spiritual too.  After all, it was kind of convenient that the answer fell in my lap.  That said, I don’t much believe in ‘coincidence’ anymore; more often than not, when I do pay attention to them, positive outcomes ensue.  I tend to kick myself later when I don’t pay attention.  I did a few readings to confirm that I wasn’t just listening to sock-puppets in my head, while the next was for the next as-important question: why?  The two Runes that I remember best from that reading (it was about a week ago) were Naudhiz the Rune of Need, and Othila  the Rune of Ancestral Land.  Naturally, there are other interpretations for these two Runes, but again, these two may as well have hit me in the face.  Of course, I could have just read it as NO from their Futhark-to-English rough letter translation.  I didn’t read it like that because neither were merkstave, and there wasn’t anything from the previous Runes to doubt the message screaming from them to me.  Still, I had another person who I hadn’t had any of this explained to her to read my cards just to check.  This time the message did club me over the head, and several times.  I needed to do this.  I needed to go for training, and it was part of my next step in my life in all its forms.  Okay, message received, stop the clubbing.

I asked Him why this would be part of my Wandering.  He told me that I needed the skills before I hoped to set out on my own, that having all the spiritual tools were good, but I “needed to learn to live in Midgard”, and that is what has largely been missing from the past couple of years.  I’ve lived, by and large, on others’ resources, time, and good will.  If I am to live in the future as a person, father, shaman, priest, and Pagan, I needed to change my relationship to the world.  If I believe in sustainability as more than a pretty word, as a lifestyle and as part of my spirituality, then I need to live it.  By learning these techniques I hope to live sustainably.  By learning all I can, I hope to live closer, and in better relations with the landvaettir, the Vanir, the Jotun, and the Aesir, and other Gods who have called to me.  It’s my hope that by Wandering here, I am able to leave a land worth inheriting to my children, with a right relationship with the landvaettir, Gods, and people, who call it home with me.  This may not be the end of my Wander, but it certainly is the first of many steps.