Also Available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music, and more! Your hosts get caught up after the Yule break in this first episode of Season 5! Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/around-grandfather-fire/message Suggest a topic or a guest: https://forms.gle/dYrQUpyE7VPDGnUP8 Our Patreon https://www.patreon.com/aroundgrandfatherfire Our Buy Me A Coffee https://www.buymeacoffee.com/agfpodcast — Copyright 2023 — Tinder […]AGF 105 – Thinky Thoughts
Hail to You O Flame-hair
Hail to You O Smoke
Hail to You of the Silver Tongue
Of mad laugh and the joke
You Who’s Crossed all the Worlds
Who’s crossed a hundred doors
Who’s crossed countless homes of Gods and men
With the blessing You have borne
Praise to You who raised up high the Fires in all our kin
Covered in blood, Midgard made
Who will make It once again
Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 3 -For Loki
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 my first Ansuz patron for Loki.
I am the biting fly, hovering at your ear and reminding you I am still here
I am the lusting horse, dragging you from your work to have some fun
I am the writhing serpent, protecting you from the plague bearers
I am the barking seal, diving into waters you fear to see
I am the grinning fox, teasing you to remember there is always beauty and laughter to be had
I am the wise salmon, showing you the way to twist so you understand
I am the little flame, warming your heart when it grows cold
I am the inventive spider, showing you how to knot so nothing escapes your grasp
I am the gentle breath, stoking the embers of your heart to bright flame
I am the Shapeshifter, for every shape is open to Me
I am the Many-Skinned, for I have shared skin with many
I am the Walker Between the Worlds, for I have walked them all and will again, always, forever!
I am Loki!
I am Loki!
I am Loki!
I breathe in slowly
Vindrvaettir about me
Drawing the holy smoke inside
I exhale a prayer
I breathe in slowly
Vatnvaettir thrum in my chest
Each limb enlivened
I exhale tension
I breathe in slowly
Eldrvaettir dance on the cigar’s tip
Dancing a holy ring on my lips
I exhale offering
I breathe in slowly
Jorðvaettir reach up to draw me down
My roots settle in
I exhale relief
I breathe in slowly
Ancestors sit beside me
Speaking, listening, smoking with me
I exhale with Them
I breathe in slowly
Gods on every side
Their Presence comforting, hearing my prayers
I exhale thanks
Across the water
As the grand cathedral burns
Fire climbing the wooden heights
Notre Dame engulfed
A beacon, reminding:
Remember well the past
Spires fall and wood smokes
Remember well the past
Books molder and memory decays
Remember well the past
For under stone and hewn wood a temple lies
The fires gutter and die
Tomorrow the assessments
Followed by work to do
Do not forget:
Many are still waiting
For others to hear Them
On Ritual Praxis -Hearth Cultus
In the Beginning to Worship post I asserted that polytheisms the world over are first based in the home. This is referred to as engaging in hearth cultus and are often contrasted with state or communal cultus. The word cultus itself relates to “care, labor, cultivation, culture; worship, reverence”. The root of this word in Proto-Indo European, *kwel-, relates to “revolve, move around; sojourn, dwell”. The hearth cultus and temple cultus, then, are places where culture and religion come around to live and be cultivated, and are among the centers where worship and reverence take place.
Because a hearth cultus forms the heart of polytheist religions, it must have the backing of a solid worldview as to what the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are, and what and how these Holy Powers are offered to, the hearth’s relationship with the Holy Powers, and how the hearth relates to the cosmology of the religion. Sacred space within the home is established through the acts of cleansing a hearth and setting up a vé, a sacred place for the Holy Powers, whether it is on a physical hearth such as a mantle, the only dresser in a dorm room, or in the heart of a home on an altar. Hearth cultus is engaged in the hearth in both formal and informal worship, and in engaging in divination to determine offerings, questions related to development of personal and hearth cultus, and communication between the Holy Powers and the hearth. All come together in the establishment, carrying out of, and passing on of a hearth cultus.
The center of the home has switched a bit for modern America. In the interim since actual hearths and their fires were the center of the home, literally, metaphorically, and spiritually, the role of the hearth has been split in most modern American homes between the living room and the kitchen/dining room. The living room tends to be where we enjoy one another’s company, socialize, engage in festivities like Yule gift-giving or New Year’s celebrations, and play. The kitchen/dining room is where we prepare our daily meals and eat, talk about our day, and spend a good deal of time together as a family. When the table is cleared sometimes we use this space to do homework, pay bills, play boardgames, or engage in feasting festivals like Thanksgiving or one of our harvest holidays, i.e. the Haustblot. It is unlikely any two hearths look alike for cultural/religious reasons or for the physical layout and needs of a given hearth. Still, most share commonalities of function for the hearth and its members.
The Microcosm and the Macrocosm
A given hearth’s sacred space is both its own space and a reflection of how a hearth relates to its cosmology. This is why a firm understanding of worldview and sacred stories is needed for any polytheist’s development, let alone any cultus. How we relate to the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits of our cosmologies are important questions because it forms the core of who we are and why we do what we do. The worldview of the hearth is how the hearth is formed to begin with, how the members conduct themselves within the hearth, and how the vé of a hearth are made and maintained.
In setting up a hearth some questions need to be answered. Many of these questions were asked back in the post On Ritual Praxis -Beginning to Worship and serve as guides going forward.
The first question of any hearth is: What is a hearth’s place cosmologically, both in terms of representation of the larger cosmos and in terms of on-the-ground worship, reverence, and life for those who gather around it? How do members of a hearth relate to Fire Itself? How do the members of a hearth relate to Gods of the hearth? All of these are powerful questions, as each is intimately related to the kind of place the hearth itself occupies in the heart of a given home.
What Holy Powers are worshiped, revered, and called to in a hearth and how its cultus is shaped depends on how these questions are answered:
What are the Holy Powers and how do we relate to Them? Are there certain directions that are sacred to a given Holy Power, and if so, what are they? What Holy Powers belong in or to the hearth vé? How does the religion relate to Fire and Holy Powers of Fire? Are there established ways to light Sacred Fires within the religion? Are there Holy Powers that should not occupy the same spaces or be close to one another? Should some Holy Powers occupy certain places in a hearth not on the vé at the heart of a hearth, but in some other place such as above the stove, near the front door, near a source of running water, etc.? Are there specific ways each family member relates to the hearth and its keeping?
How the hearth and any vé besides the hearth itself are made and maintained depends on these:
What are the vé or equivalent sacred spaces in the religion? Are there traditional methods in existing sources as to how they are erected, or will new traditions around constructing one need to be made? Does the making of a vé differ whether it is an altar, shrine, hearthfire, and/or mantle? What are the right ways to treat the places where vé are kept? What offerings are good for making in vé? If a vé is at the heart of a hearth, such as above a fireplace or stove, or in the living room or kitchen, does it hold a special place for the family and in the culture/religion of the hearth? If so, what role does a given hearth member take on in relation to the vé?
These are how my own hearth answers these questions.
What a Hearth Is
The hearth is the heart of a family, or writ larger, a Kindred, tribe, or other similarly organized community group. It is where cleansing and purification begins, whether through Fire Itself or through the lives of sacred herbs such as Großmutter Una. It is where sacrifice takes place such as through the offering of Grandmother Mugwort or other burnt offerings, offerings of food which are consumed by the hearth fire or made outside, or where sacrifices and/or tools to make sacrifices are made sacred for their work.
The hearth is placed in an enclosure of Earth, whether it is outside in my family’s sacred grove firepit or in my Kindred main meeting home in a fireplace. The lighting of the Fire brings to mind the sparks that melted Nifelheim, and so, made our lives possible by allowing Ymir and Auðhumla to move about. The lighting of the Fire is also one made in honor of our Ancestors. Once kindled, the hearthfire is the boundless energy of Fire given bounds by Ice, in this case the entropy that occurs as heat and light is given off in the burning of fuel, and contained by Earth in which the Fire is housed and whose fuel Fire burns. Water results from the Ice melted and pushes to the surface of the burning log/Tree, and wisps of smoke from the log and any offered herbs continue the sacred burning of Fire Itself and Air from the smoke of the log and/or herbs. Each Fire is related to Muspelheim and each log to every tree, so we engage in the cycle of Fire that burns the Earth from which we come so that heat and light can warm us and shine on us, take in our offerings, and take up our prayers to the Holy Powers, including Fire Itself and each individual Firevaettr that comes to rest in our hearth.
So, each hearth made and each hearthfire lit is a living recreation of the Creation Story. Each hearthfire lit is itself connected with the First Fire and is a vaettr, a spirit, unto Itself. Each log burned is itself an offering of the Earth and we give offerings to Fire, Earth, and every other element involved in its lighting. In the midst of all this, a hearthfire is also a signal of cleansed, holy space to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, and an invitation for all of us to come closer.
Personal and Sacred
Hearth cults are diverse, whether due to personal relationships a hearth has with its Holy Powers, the land one lives on, or any number of personal factors. A hearth cultus for a lone college student living on campus will look utterly different from that of a family on several acres of land. This diversity should be embraced.
Having been on both sides of this, restrictions can abound for college students that don’t exist for folks in a home. A prohibition against candles will mean that, instead of turning to a lighter or matches, one will probably turn to LED candles to represent the glow of a hearthfire. There is nothing inherently wrong in this; after all, electricity is a form of Fire. Some folks live in homes where size restrictions means that at most LED or tea lights will be the only sources of fire beyond, perhaps, the stove. Whatever the location of a hearth’s vé, the place will need to be undisturbed by animals and respected by those who will be in its presence. If the vé needs to be temporary, only pulled out when actual ritual is going on, then its holding place should be one held in sacred regard.
What matters for a vé is not the size of it, but that it is a place of good and sacred contact between a Heathen and their Gods. Even if the container for one’s hearthfire is a small tin, containing only an image of the Holy Power(s), a tea light, some matches and a small bowl for offerings, this will be enough so long as the Holy Powers are pleased and the cultus can be carried out with reverence. When I first became a Pagan I had a vial with five salt crystals to represent the Five Elements in my rituals. My altars grew from these small beginnings into the altars over time seen here, here and here. My mobile vé for conventions tends to be my collection of prayer cards, an offering vessel, and maybe a few representations of the Holy Powers otherwise. What matters it that you have the means to cleanse the vé, make some kind of offering, and have a container for the vé itself. This is where the map of lore meets the territory of being for Heathens. We bring forward as much as we can, learn as much as we can, and it is here, in hearth cultus, where we put all of this into lived relationship with our Holy Powers.
Making a Hearth
Cosmology, including what directions are sacred and why, what Beings related to the hearth, Fire, etc., need to be known in order for a hearth to become established. A hearth is the culmination of the macro and the micro of a cosmology, the welcoming in of Holy Powers, and establishment of sacred space. Without understanding why it is important to establish a hearth, what establishing a hearth itself means, or the importance of cosmology, myth, and how we relate to the Holy Powers, especially Fire Itself in the creation of a hearth, there is no structure for establishing a hearth nor how to do it. Without these bones there is no point to a hearth, no sacred direction to place it or space one may make it. Without the foundation there is no point to making a hearth. Without meaning behind it, then, there is no hearth.
A hearth is the central sacred space of a home. For many of us, having a physical hearth is an impossibility. So how do we bring in the hearth for hearth cultus without a fireplace? Candles are one way, whether they are burnable or LED.
Are there traditional methods we can see in how to erect a hearth? We can look at how the ancient cultures Heathens erected their homes, and what information remains to us from how their own hearths were established. Most of the information useful to this goal will not be blatantly stated. Given that most of what is available to us in lore is relevant to rulers, not the average ancient Norse, Anglo-Saxon, etc, and given the sources are mostly for skalds and poets to read aloud or for instruction, much of the establishment of modern hearth culture will need to be derived from what we can find for the hints at mindset and worldview in the sources, and from there our own intuition and interactions with the Holy Powers. A simple example is the centrality of the hearth from lore and archaeology. What remains to us is acknowledgement that the path of the Sun was sacred, and so East is a good candidate for a vé to face or be placed in.
As with a great many things, where lore and archaeology tell us little or hint at things, modern Heathens will need to make our best guesses, do divination, and be willing to correct ourselves when new information rises. Likewise, the practical needs of any given space will need to be taken into account as well. Even though the East is a good candidate for a vé to face in, my family’s Gods’ altar stands in the North before the only window in the room. This table has the best space so our Gods’ representations and offerings are not crowding one another and best fits in front of the window.
Since we do not own the home we are living in and our altars are all upstairs, our vé hold primary places for us in the family, namely our bedrooms. Were we to be living on our own I imagine the different vé we worship at would be spread over the home. The Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir we hold the closest cultus to might be in a central vé, such as above a literal hearth on a mantle, or on an altar in the center of the living room. The making of a vé does differ, as a literal hearth at the center of our home would invite variations of ritual that our current set up does not. If our vé were on a mantle we might not have an altar cloth, or if we did it might be made of very different materials such as pelts/fur and/or heavier cloths. Our current Gods’ vé is adorned with different colored cotton cloths marking the different seasons. Sometimes we change our Ancestor vé cloth colors as well to mark the seasons. We have small heat-resistant stands for when we burn candles, incense, reykr, or offerings. Given we are in bedrooms and the smoke alarms are very touchy we do not tend to light candles or burn much in the way of offerings or reykr. This would this change with having a hearthfire, and so would the care of the ashes. Living on our own, we might collect the ashes of the hearthfire to use in crafting sacred things, such as soaps for cleansing or in leatherwork for fur removal.
Our hearth cultus centers around the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir we are closest to. For each of us that differs with our individual relationships, but for both our family and our Kindred it is Oðin, Frigg, Freya, Freyr, Gerða, Loki, Angrboða, Sigyn, Thor, Sif, Mimir, and Hela for the Heathen/Northern Tradition Gods. Other Gods of our family hearth are Brighid, Bres, Lykeios, Lupa, Bast, and Anubis. For our Ancestors we give cultus not only to our blood Ancestors, but also to the Ancestors of our lineages, such as the spiritworkers who came before me, and to those who have inspired me over the years such as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Among the vaettir we hold cultus for are the landvaettir and housevaettir. Each of us also tends our own personal vé to different Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. We engage in our hearth cultus daily, including night prayers and offerings at the hearth, and at the dinner table with meal prayers. We also occasionally share in ritual celebration of different holy days around our hearth, or with the Kindred around its hearth.
An Example of Daily Hearth Cultus
My family’s daily hearth cultus tends to be quite simple. Most of our hearth rites are some variation on this:
- Begin by cleansing.
- Most nights we do this by deep breathing three times, expelling the dross of the day out of ourselves and away from the vé, and breathing in good, clean air so we concentrate on the prayers and offerings we are going to make. If we have had a particularly hard day, if we are in a time of powerful transition (such as after a funeral or during a holy tide), if a ritual calls for it, or if it just seems time to, I make a Sacred Fire with Großmutter Una, making reykr over all of us, and the vé. We may pass a lit candle in a similar fashion to working with Grandmother Mugwort, or work with both Fire and Großmutter Una together, passing them over the vé once or three times in a clockwise fashion around the altar. The number 3 is one we recognize as holy, and clockwise works with the turning of Sunna’s journey and the seasons She helps to bring.
- Cleansing by Reykr
- Make a prayer thanking the Fire, a simple one such as “Hail Eldest Ancestor!” or, a more elaborate one like “Hail Sons and Daughters of Muspelheim! Hail Fire Itself! Hail Loki! Hail Glut! Hail Logi! Hail Surt! Hail Sinmora! Hail Firevaettir! Hail Eldest Ancestor! Ves ðu heil!”
- Lay down the herb to be burned, in this case Mugwort. Make a prayer of thanks, simple like “Hail Großmutter Una!” or “Thank You for Your gift, Großmutter Una, that cleanses us and brings our prayers to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir!”
- Light the match, lighter, or strike the flint and steel. Waft the smoke around once, or three time around yourself, any attendants, and the altar and its contents. If there are items you would like the Holy Powers to bless, waft Them through the smoke before doing this so the item comes into the vé cleansed.
- Make prayers.
- Most of our prayers are fairly short and to the point. We have a Night Prayer we follow, which is a rote prayer my wife and I developed for our many Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. It serves two purposes, the first being is a unifying prayer of thanks for all the gifts our Holy Powers give us throughout our lives, and it also helps our children to come to know the Gods through at least one attribute that They gift to us, and to be thankful for it. We take this time to give any other prayers, whether thanks to Thor for protecting us in the latest thunderstorm, or to Frigg for peace in our home.
- Prayers at the Vé
- Following the format of our Night Prayers, you could use the simple formula of “Thank You <Holy Power> for <Blessing/Gift/Function>! Hail <Holy Power!>”, for example “Thank You Freyr and Gerða for the World around us!” Another form of prayer would be to gather at least three heiti for a Holy Power you are close to, have fondness for, or are trying to get to know, and pray in a format like this: “Hail Oðinn, the Inspirer! Hail Alföðr, the All-Father! Hail Rúnatýr, God of the Runes! I seek to know You better!”
- Make offerings.
- It is not enough for us to only pray. We exist in a flowing relationship with our Holy Powers, receiving and giving good Gebo, gipt fa gipt, or gift for a gift. Given we have several altars we dedicate one day to each group of Holy Powers, the first to our Gods, the next to our Ancestors, and the third to our vaettir. Each God has some kind of vessel in front of Them. Our mainstay offering is water. We also make special offerings, such as whiskey, mead, coffee, or food. If we make a special offering that could spoil before our next round of offerings, we respectfully dispose of it in the sink if it is liquid, giving a prayer to the God it is for and a thanks for Their blessings. If the offering is food or herbs we do not burn at the altar, we place it outside in our sacred grove’s Yggdrasil representation, or wait until a Sacred Fire to burn it. We count food offerings among our special ones because we live on the second floor of a shared home and respectfully disposing of the food offerings as described above once the Holy Powers are done with them is harder to do, especially since most of our offerings are made and disposed of at night.
- Making Offerings
- As our usual offerings are water, herbs, and on occasion stick incense, I will use these as examples.
- For Water Offerings
- Since our worldview is polytheist steeped in animism, we recognize the Elements Themselves as part of our Ancestry. In recognizing this we thank the Elements Themselves and the vaettir Who we are offering to the Holy Powers. We might offer a prayer like “Hail Water, Elder Ancestor! Hail Watervaettr! We thank You for the gift of Your body, that we offer to the Holy Powers!” Good offerings to give in turn to Water and the watervaettir would be care for our sources of water, prayers of thanks and recognition of all that these Holy Powers bless. Honoring Water and the watervaettir are other sources of good Gebo in our daily conduct with water, including conserving and care for water sources we rely on and/or come across.
- For Burnt Herb and Incense Offerings
- Follow the structure above in the Cleansing by Reykr section 1, and in 2, change the language to reflect an offering is being given. Something like “Hail Grandmother Una! Thank You for the gift of Your body in offering to our Holy Powers!” or “Hail Mugwort! Hail to You for being our offering! Holy Powers, we offer this Gebo to You!” or “Hail Holy Powers, we make this offering of Mugwort in gipt fa gipt with You!” When addressing the Holy Powers directly, simply saying “Hail <Holy Power>!” or “This offering is for You, <Holy Power>!” or “I make this offering for You, <Holy Power>!” can be enough.
- Divination and Follow Up Work
- If divination has been called for, whether due to some accident like dropping an offering or knocking over an idol, divination having been requested earlier, or just a prompting from intuition, we usually do it here after prayers and offerings. Some folks regularly practice divination as part of their daily work in heart cultus. I generally do not, since much of our daily cultus takes place at night not long before I have to go to work and I haven’t gotten the message or intuition to incorporate this. Your needs as a hearth and your ability for/access to divination will be the best guide here.
Maintaining Hearth Cultus
The first step to maintaining a hearth cultus once it has been established is to care for the vé physically and spiritually. Cleaning the space regularly, including the disposal of offerings and changing out cloths, and keeping the icons of the Holy Powers clean promotes mindfulness and reverence for the place it holds in a hearth. The next step is to make prayers, offerings, and to do whatever other daily work needs doing at the hearth regularly.
If the vé is in a fireplace then the cleaning of it serves a practical function in keeping the chimney clear of debris and in good working order. This idea is equally true whether the vé is a fireplace, a mantle, a desk, or even a mini altar-tin. Since the practical is part of the spiritual work, understanding the hearth and the process of cleaning the hearth from a cosmological standpoint makes the work take on deeper meaning. In setting up the vé you are asking the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir to help you make an ordered Sacred Space.
The fireplace is no longer just a fireplace; it becomes the hearth, the spiritual heart of the home. The mantle, the desk, the tin is no longer just a mantle, desk, or tin. In cleaning the vé, the hearth being the micro to the cosmos’ macro, you are helping to bring cleansing and order to this cosmos. It is the where you develop contact with the Holy Powers, worshiping Them and making offerings. As your hearth cultus goes on it may grow or shrink, (or in the case of tins maybe you will make/collect more) and so may the qualities it comes to represent and the meaning the place holds in your home and religious life. No matter your source of Fire for the vé, whatever you put into the Fire or set with It needs to be safely burnt. Treating the Fire with utmost care is paramount. Every Fire is connected in our understanding, whether the smallest match, the electricity in an LED, or the largest star, and as the hearthfire itself represents Fire Itself, the care each Firevaettr is given should reflect on that relationship.
Whether it is five minutes a day, a half an hour or longer, many times a day, or as we do, cycling prayers and offerings different days of the week, the point here is to maintain a regular practice of devotional work and care for the hearth. Integrating the hearth into one’s life and keep it at the heart may be a struggle for many folks who have never grown up with this. Regular engagement with the hearth physically and spiritually will help this become part of one’s life. Keeping it front and center in one’s home centers the Holy Powers around which the hearth is based, and right along with it, the cosmology and its worldview.
The hearth is one’s cosmos in miniature even if one doesn’t have all the representations of the Holy Powers yet. As I wrote earlier, there was a time when all I had was five salt crystals no bigger than my pinky nail. Now, my family has statues for some Gods and representations for others. Some folks may find they cannot get or afford statues of the Gods. We have statues of Odin, Frigg, Freya, Freyr, and Thor by Paul Borda of Dryad Designs that we bought from different Pagan/Pagan-friendly stores. For Gerða we have a corn dolly with a rake in Her hand we found at a thrift store. Loki, Angrboda, and Sigyn’s representations are a slat of red fox skin for Loki, a badger claw for Sigyn, and wolf fur for Angrboda, each representation gifted to us. Sometimes the Holy Powers are looking for different ways for us to come into Their representations because the representation has something to say or it exposes us to worshiping Them in a new way. Sometimes a representation is what we happen to have at the time; during Many Gods West I had to leave a lot of representations and spiritual tools at home and ended up printing off pictures of the Gods for the event altar and my own. At the end of the day, use what works to connect your hearth with the Gods.
If one’s hearth cultus is mainly in the kitchen your relationship with the cultus may change, and the Holy Powers one worships there, calls to first, or maintains the boundaries during prayer, offerings, and ritual. One might start a ritual in the fireplace by first calling on the Gods of Fire and then Gods of the Hearth, Hearthkeeping, and/or the Home. A ritual in a hearth’s vé located in the kitchen may do it the other way around, first calling on Gods of the Home and then Fire Gods, as the set up and priorities for the hearth may differ from a fireplace’s hearth. One’s way of offering might change from Fire being the primary element into which offerings are made to Water. One’s focus of the hearth cultus might be on the Wells rather than Fire, since the main tools one practically uses in this space shifts from containing and maintaining Fire centrally to containing and maintaining Water. It does not mean that Fire’s importance is lost, only that the focus of the hearth cultus shifts.
For our family, our relationships with the Gods of family, social order come ahead of Fire given we generally do not work with Fire as much in our daily rites. We involve Fire when we light candles, turn on the light for night prayers, or sit down to a meal, but the centrality that would be there were our vé on a hearthfire or on a mantle is not present. Something that was suggested to me by my dear friend and Brother, Jim, is that since the namesake of our Kindred comes from Mimir and the Well of Wisdom, and that so many of our offerings and work involve water and water-based offerings, that while Fire Itself is still recognized as the First Ancestor, that Water, the Well, and honoring Mimir takes priority. Our family is still working this out with our Holy Powers.
Understanding the role of Fire as central to the hearth does not change, nor does it shift the cosmological importance of Fire. Without Fire we do not see, our altars are not illuminated, our food goes uncooked, our reykr cannot smoke. What does change is how we relate to these Holy Powers and how these relationships unfold in our vé. The cosmogenic unfolding from Fire and Ice meeting still is a powerful source of understanding, one that informs how the Waters that are more central to our familial hearth come about. The Gods of our home will still be central to our hearth cultus even if Mimir and the Well of Wisdom are honored ahead of Them. The fixed points of cosmogeny and cosmology do not change, only our points of relating to Them and the place they hold in our rites with the Holy Powers.
Differentiating Hearth Cultus Rites from Other Rites
What differentiates hearth cultus rites from many other polytheist and Pagan rituals is the general lack of altered states of consciousness and its focus on devotional worship and reverence. There is no ulterior goal or motive in daily hearth cultus. You’re worshiping and revering the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir of your hearth. That is its goal and its focus.
When I was doing the #30DaysofMagick challenges I set the times I did my work with the Runes apart from my hearth cultus work. Not only did this keep my focus on the rites at hand, it also kept my family’s focus since we do hearth ritual as a family and I am the only one among us that does Runework. In keeping the rites separate I kept the kind of ritual focus needed for good hearth cultus in its place, and Rune work in its own. I do have a daily devotional rite I do with Runatyr and the Runevaettir, but again, that is separate from my hearth cultus because that is personal cultus and work I hold with Runatyr and the Runevaettir. Because neither my wife nor our children have initiated into doing Runework that buffer also protects them from collecting obligation or entanglement with Them beyond my family’s already existing ties.
I differentiate hearth cultus from other rites in the use of altered states since, broadly speaking, the focus of the rites which use altered states are generally to another end beyond devotion, worship, offering, and prayer. Altered states like deep trance work tend to operate as uncontrolled liminal spaces even if they are guided. Unlike a hearth rite, in which there are very clear steps, a focus, and end steps in a methodical way, once one enters into even an altered state, let alone contact with a Holy Power in an altered state, the directions one can go with it are many. There may be spiritual work one needs to do, initiation work to prepare for, or, the raw and intense experience of just being in a Holy Power’s Presence among the possibilities.
Gathering Around the Hearth
Hearth cultus can be engaged in by anyone regardless of aptitude for altered states, magical work, initiation, or experience. Its focus, steps, goals, and means to achieve them are clear and accessible to everyone. Many other rites require some kind of ongoing study and/or engagement with Holy Powers and spiritual forces, such as one’s hamr or önd. Some rites will require initiation and others will require exclusive focus on a goal other than worship or reverence.
The heart of polytheism is in hearth cultus. Through hearth cultus we come to worship, pray to, offer to, and know our Gods, Ancestors, and spirits. Keeping hearth cultus accessible to everyone keeps our religions, traditions, and communities alive, vibrant, and engaged. Through hearth cultus anyone can begin, continue, and deepen relationships with the Holy Powers. We bring our traditions from the maps of lore, linguistics, and archaeology into the lived experience of worship, reverence, and engagement. Our worldview is lived through hearth cultus. Through it, our relationships with the Holy Powers is strengthened and enlivened individually and communally. With hearth cultus our religions are not mere abstractions, a collection of holidays or ideas. Through hearth cultus we pass on these ways of life to each generation. With hearth cultus being at the heart of our cultures and our religions, they are part of our lives, immanent for each of us and connective between us. Here, in each of our hearths, our ways of life are made and lived in good relationships with the Holy Powers and ourselves.
To Phosphoros Dionysos
O Phosphoros Dionysos Who Lights the Way!
Who lifts high the Flame that the Lost may See!
The candle in the utter dark
The ember that lights the saving fire
The torch that touches off the soul
Light us afire and set us free
O Soter Phoshoros Dionysos!
Evohe! Evohe! Evohe!
The #DoMagick Challenge Day 25
Today I did galdr with the First Ætt.
Given today was the first time in this challenge I was going to do a full ætt, I did a bit more preparation work, especially in deep breathing. The Fire cleansing seemed especially effective today, and I felt myself fall into the Runework quite well today.
I ended up trying three very different methods of connecting with the Runes, the first two not feeling quite as connective as the last. The first two attempts I tried to galdr the Runes in succession in a single breath using different intoning and croaking methods. What I found worked the best was when I took a cleansing breath, and galdred the Rune on the exhale. When I got it, the first round of galdr brought connection to the Runes, bright and warm, clear connection.
The second round of galdr brought forward more of the rough, the darker aspects of the Runes. Unlike previous galdr, this was more connection with the Runes as family, and there was interplay between the Runes, such as resonance of power and strength in Uruz and Thurisaz. As each round of galdr unfolded I felt and experienced these connections play out differently, the first being more a feeling of warmth and connection, this second was more like seeing them in the world. Fehu was the field, Uruz the auroch, Thurisaz the primal cycles the land and animals follow ending in the auroch’s slaughter, Ansuz a cleansing and celebration of the life given, Raiðo the journey to the feast, Gebo the gifting of the animal and care of its bones, the tending of its horns, and Wunjo the gathering of kin and the celebration of the auroch’s gift and the season’s turning.
The third round of galdr each brought a feeling of echoing back to previous experiences with the Rune. With Fehu I felt rootedness. With Uruz I felt strength. With Thurisaz I felt danger and fury. With Ansuz I felt cleansing. With Raiðo I felt journeying, and a bit of a pilgrimage. With Kenaz I felt the torch in my hand, and was walking the boundary of my home. With Gebo I was exchanging gifts with a dear friend, wrapping paper and all. With Wunjo I was gathering my family and Kindred under a banner that each contributed to, and each was comforted in and by.
As before I made my prayer to Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir, and my prayer to Fire Itself, and cleansed before sitting down, designing the aett above, and writing this.
Link to the Daily Ritual for the Challenge.
The #DoMagick Challenge Day 24
Today I did galdr with Othala.
Today I was distracted internally quite a bit. I did extra cleansing, and emphasized deep breathing even more, doing deep breath work up to nine times in a row before moving on between parts of the galdr work, and 9 times between each round. It did the trick.
In the first round of galdr, the first part I experienced with an ancestral home of some kind, possibly ancient Ancestors as I did not recognize the landscape at all except that there was a grove or forest on the land. The land was mostly plains or expanses of grazing area. I felt very at home there despite the lack of a standing home. I remember some kind of mountain or rocky outcropping nearby. The next part of the galdr I experienced standing before an Ancestor’s grave. Then, as I looked at the grave, the land around me changed and I found myself standing still but the scene around me changing, as though someone had hit ‘shuffle’ and was standing in a lot of different graveyards simultaneously. The last part of the first round I was standing outside in my grove at the home I’ve lived at most of my life.
In the second round of galdr, the first part I felt compelled to sing with a high note, and suddenly felt the crush of Disir around me. I knew some of Their voices, and heard others’. The next part of the round I had an even tone, and Ancestors of my lines came forward, all speaking excitedly, some talking to each other. The last part of the second round, I sang the Rune in a deep, resonating voice, and the Väter arrived, in similar fashion to the Disir. It was being utterly surrounded by the Ancestors…and it felt very warm, familiar, and safe while also feeling like a bit of a kick in the ass. In this month I will start doing small, 5-15 minute sessions of prayer each day for the Ancestors.
In the third round of galdr, the first part I saw how to bring landvaettir into one’s own fold. Making oneself and the particular landvaettir or landvaettr part of each other’s Ancestral lines. I will not describe what I saw or how to do it here. It seems…improper to do. The next part of the third round I saw how to honor landvaettir of the place one lives in, especially land that is inherited and is truly Ancestral land. In the last part of the round, I saw how to inter the Dead into the land, to bring the land and the Ancestors together in the mound.
I did quite a bit more cleansing with the Sacred Fire and a few more prayers than usual this time around. When I came out of the Runework headspace, I felt quite clean, and very good.
Link to the Daily Ritual for the Challenge.
The #DoMagick Challenge Day 23
Today I did galdr with Dagaz.
The earplugs continue to work well alongside the ritual work and prayer I do to prepare for galdr. I initially wondered if I should do galdr with both Dagaz and Othala. As I prepared to do galdr with Dagaz, I let this go and just concentrated on the work with Dagaz.
In the first round of galdr I experienced the sun being pulled in its cart, Sunna guiding Her horses across the sky as I looked up. It was like seeing Her progression with the cart throughout the year, chased by Sköll, almost being swallowed at times. The eclipse as His jaws just start to clench over Her, and She bursts forth from them, Her horses frightened and speeding across the sky to outrun Him. The joy of being in Her glow as She beams down, lighting the World.
In the second round of galdr, I experienced a farm bathed in sunlight. Flowers opened to the sun as it beamed down on them, and life unfolded from petals as bees and others woke to the morning work of gathering pollen. Birds had already filled the air with song, and grew louder as the sun rose. Animals of all kind stirred, other rested. Eggs were laid, hatched, and chicks grew up and themselves raised more chicks, or were taken for slaughter. The compost grew as scraps were added to it, shrank and baked in the heat, and turned brown over the summer into winter, bits of it going into the farm to bring rich black soil to the land.
In the third round of galdr, the scene I saw switched slowly, until I was in a sacred grove of a forest. Light beamed down into the clearing I stood in, and arched down through the trees, and illuminated me. It was a tangible, visceral feeling of the holy as I stood there, light shining through the trees and onto the vé, the hörgr stacked high with stones as the light shined upon it. I felt a feeling of “Yes” as I laid a cup of water on it, the light shining down into it. Then, the scene suddenly shifted, and the last experience I had was of lighting a Sacred Fire with sunstone, beaming the concentrated light onto tinder and catching it. I believe I was still in the grove.
When I came out of the galdr work, I did my usual prayers of thanks to Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir. I cleansed with the candle and prayed prayers of thanks to the Eldest Ancestor. I hesitated, however. I was not sure if, given the New Year, I should simply galdr Othala and dedicated the last seven days of this work to working through each Aett, or if I should let Dagaz be the last galdr of this year and Othala to start the new one. Again, I asked the Eldest Ancestor to cleanse me, and did my Fire Prayer. I then prayed to Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir for guidance. Within a few short moments of breathing deep and communing, I knew the right thing to do was start the New Year with Othala. The symbolism there is packed, and appropriate for the things going on in my life, my family’s life, the life of the Kindred, and my allies. I cleansed again, thanking Fire, Rúnatýr, and the Runevaettir for working with me, and wrote this post.
Link to the Daily Ritual for the Challenge.