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On Níðhöggr

November 19, 2018 6 comments

A while back I was asked to share my understanding of Níðhöggr by a fellow Heathen. Vikings of Bjornstad lists the meaning for Níðhöggr’s name as ‘Malice Striker’. The first section of the compound name, níð, is related to malice, insult, and strife. The second is related to beheading, striking, blows, or chops. Not much survives on this dragon/serpent survives from the lore. Among the places to look for Níðhöggr are in the Prose Edda, both in Gylfaginning and Skaldskarpamal, and in the Poetic Edda Grimnismal and the Voluspa. While the lore refers to Níðhöggr as male, my interactions with Níðhöggr have leant me to understanding the dragon as female.

I relate to Her as a God of Rot and Death, and a God of the Gravemound as well, especially seeing interlinks between the rotting of death and the eating of poison. My family’s compost heap is dedicated to Hela and to Níðhöggr, as we see Níðhögg as eating the poison of Yggdrasil and the making of it into the healthy new earth that is renewed. The gravemound takes in the Dead and the new growth results within it, holding the power of the sacred items deposited within it and the new growth above.

Most of my understanding and beliefs regarding Níðhöggr is from direct experience of seeing Her and interacting with Her. When I was saw Her, She was chewing the corpses of the Dead, taking the poison of Their lives, Their misdeeds. She does the same with the root of Yggdrasil She chews on, not to damage it, but to prevent poison that is collected in Helheim and the Nastrond from killing It.

A powerful insight of dragon symbolism, at least in terms of how I see it in Norse/Germanic/Scandinavian culture/myth is that part of their destructive nature is what they sit on. In Fafnir’s case it is his bed of gold and the greed associated with it. In Níðhöggr’s case She is lying in the midst of traitors, oathbreakers, and is sitting with the rot and poison of Yggdrasil’s root. She chews on the traitors, oathbreakers, and outlaws, as well as the root of Yggdrasil. One of the passages in the Voluspa says She sucks the blood of the slain. I see Her doing similar, chewing and sucking on the poison in the root of Yggdrasil, removing the rot so it stays healthy. It also explains why Her/His hall is the Hall of Serpents dripping poison because that is Níðhöggr’s environment. My fellow Heathen likened it to a poison dart frog, and I think that’s a fair reading of Her too.

It is telling that the only time She emerges in myth is during Ragnarok and She isn’t destroyed, but takes up roost again beneath the ground. I find Her very purifying, as She has been in the midst of all that rot, poison, and uncleanliness, and yet, She has not lost Herself to it. She engages with this Work before and after Ragnarok. She is rejuvenating and dangerous, the Chewer of Corpses and Warder against Poison. As outlaws and traitors were among the worst one could be, and both were put into the utgard of society, I see Her as a boundary-keeper since She gives these dangerous and vile Dead a place to go to be contained, chewed, composted so they do not harm the community or rest of Yggrasil. She is the God that chews the rot beneath the Tree, rejuvenating both the root and the soil in which Yggdrasil’s root rest; necessary and holy.

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The #DoMagick Challenge Day 15

December 17, 2017 Leave a comment
Algiz

Algiz (Wikimedia Commons)

Today I did galdr with Algiz.

As yesterday, I cleansed with the Eldest Ancestor, Fire.   Today’s galdr was held before my altar to Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir.  When I lit the candle, a white seven day candle, I made the Fire Prayer and thanked the Eldest Ancestor for cleansing me, purifying me for the work ahead.  I then sat the candle on the ground in front of me throughout the galdr.

In my first round of galdr, I felt a hooking into the Earth similar to when I do tree meditation.  The knitting together of roots with my ‘root’, and a connection to Midgard came and hooked roots into my spine.  I felt relaxed as I breathed, and a kind of balance came.  It is worth noting I do not usually do lotus position for meditation work, and here I felt quite comfortable with it.

For the first and some of the second part of the first round of galdr, this is all I experienced.  As I was finishing the second part of the first round and into and through the last part, I experienced being before a great tree.  It was both immensely vast and yet I could still see all its parts, from roots going into the soil to its tower height.

For the second round of galdr  I sat with this great tree.  It was Yggdrasil and it was every sacred tree in connection with It.  It was incredible, it was vast, and Worlds were growing in Its various branches and roots, and yet it was climbable. I could feel the waters taken up in Its roots and I could walk among them.  It felt both like home and uncanny.

For the third round of galdr I had an experience of a rite before a tree.  I felt the blood of sacrifice drip down my upward, outstretched arms, and felt the place become holy.  Then the scene changed and I was standing in a grove and kneeling in prayer, again, arms outstretched.  It felt like arms were reaching down in kind, in answer.  I felt I needed to raise my arms in imitation of the Rune’s form and as I galdred it was a moment of union between the Tree and I, that feeling for a few moments of truly being Ask and Embla’s son.

When I was finished I cleansed with the candle as before, thanking it for cleansing me.  I then did my usual prayers to Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir, asking the Eldest Ancestor to help me come back to normal space as I snuffed the candle, thanking the Eldest Ancestor.  I felt relaxation and peace as the smoke curled up around me.

Link to the Daily Ritual for the Challenge.

#DoMagick

 

Holiness is Rootedness

October 10, 2015 8 comments

In order to have a sense of what is holy, one must have ideas and concepts related to holiness.  In order for these ideas and concepts to be related to holiness, it must have roots in a religion, a theological framework, in which holiness as a concept is able to take root.  If one’s religious framework has no Gods, there is nothing to consecrate.  If there is no God or Goddess, no Holy Power to consecrate, then there is no holiness just as there is no profanity or things lacking in that consecration.

The very notion that an atheist can declare or recognize an image as holy is illogical on its face.  An atheist framework is one in which there is no God or Goddess, and thus, no sacred.  One may hold things reverently, that is, with deep respect, but without a religious framework that very concept that one may hold anything as holy has no basis.  An atheist claiming to hold something as holy is a person claiming something to which one has no right by either religious framework or the result of one’s own philosophy.

If you eliminate the sacred from your worldview you cannot claim to hold onto something as sacred.  Claiming symbols and symbol-sets as your own, when you have neither the investment in a religious framework, nor a religion itself that recognizes these things as holy, is appropriative from those whose identities revolve around the engagement with these symbols of Gods and Goddesses, and the Gods and Goddesses that are embodied by them.  Using them in ritual, or for personal  use, then, can be seen as a violation of communal bounds with those who worship these Gods and regard their symbols as sacred.

Rootedness in the Northern Tradition and Heathenry is what allows a person to understand Gods, the Runevaettir, the Ancestors, and vaettir of these religions.  Rootedness in the Northern Tradition and Heathenry also allows for people, individually and communally, to understand what is held as sacred, holy, taboo, etc.  There are plenty of worshipers of various religious backgrounds who come to worship Norse, Germanic, Scandinavian, etc. Gods without becoming part of Northern Tradition or Heathen religions. Yet, there is still rootedness in the Northern Tradition and Heathenry with many of these people.  It is not any different than someone being on the outside of a religious community coming to a religious community seeking roots in their religion, practices, Gods, and spirits.

The idea of holiness and sacredness cannot exist without a religion and cosmology. One can study the myths as they like, even relate to the Gods, as characters, but holiness and sacredness and the treatment of the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir in a respectful manner cannot be done in this fashion. Without this rootedness in the Northern Tradition and Heathenry, there is no context for the Gods, the Ancestors, and the vaettir as holy or sacred.  Indeed, there is no context for Them at all.  Sacredness, holiness, and similar terms, are the province of religions because religions are invested in the means by which holiness is understood, and the ways of determining what is holy, and held as sacred.  Atheism cannot be invested in this understanding as it has no basis for holiness and the sacred, as atheism denies both on their face by its very outlook.  Atheism denies that Gods exist, and in so doing, denies the cosmology They are rooted within.  The notion of holiness within an atheist context, therefore, cannot exist.

Can people who are not rooted in the religious communities of Northern Tradition Paganism or Heathenry, then, be rooted in the Northern Tradition and/or Heathenry itself?  Absolutely.  There are plenty of folks in these religious communities without a community in their area to call home.  Pagans tend to call these folks solitaries.  Can people who are not rooted in the religious communities of Northern Tradition Pagans or Heathenry, then, be rooted in the Northern Tradition and/or Heathenry?  Yes.  They may be general polytheists without a community to call home or they may have a religious tradition to which they belong, but for one reason or another, are called to or brought into contact with our Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir.  In either case, it is the acceptance of the Northern Tradition’s cosmology or one (or many) of the Heathen cosmologies, respect for the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, and understanding of holiness and the sacred that binds the Northern Tradition and Heathen paths together.  For some Heathen paths, they will say that you cannot practice alone, and that you must have a community to call your own.

I do not take rootedness in the Northern Tradition and Heathen religions to mean that one cannot hold to relationships outside of these religions.  It may mean that your rootedness in other traditions will need to be considered with or against the relationships you have in these Gods vs. Gods of another religion, and it may mean that you may need to consider the obligations you have to this communities vs. the other, but I do not think that Northern Tradition Pagans and Heathens are automatically precluded from relationships with Gods of other pantheons.  What it does mean is that your considerations will need to be weighed, and priorities developed.

In other woods, rootedness need not mean exclusivity, though it may.  Rootedness need not mean that you leave relationships with other religious paths you are walking or have walked, though you may.  Rootedness in the Northern Tradition and/or Heathenry means that you are grounded in the religion, the weltanschauung (worldview) of the Northern Tradition and/or Heathenry, grounded in the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, and from there flows your life, priorities, and relationship with, view of, and understanding of the holy, and holiness.

Opening Prayer for Episode 43 of The Jaguar and the Owl

August 20, 2015 1 comment

I wrote this prayer for the opening of Episode 43 for The Jaguar and the Owl.  For PSVL’s recap of the episode, look here.
The Jaguar and the Owl can be found here.
Episode 43 can be found here.

Kvasir’s blood builds | within the poet’s mouth
Bursts forth with praise | to sky, soil, and sea
Gushes forth with foam | a font of Mimir’s well
Poured out upon the Tree

Surt’s Gift builds warm | within the stone heart
Blesses lodge with smoke | to sky, soil, and sea
Carries the recels | as Muspel’s hearth
Pours smoke out upon the Tree

The wolf-priest comes | a wineskin in hand
Whose words travel far | over sky, soil, and sea
Let all heed their cup | Kvasir’s blood travels long
To be poured upon the Tree

Odin Project: Day 4

November 4, 2012 1 comment

Wisdom long sought | between Well and Tree,

In all the Nine Worlds;

Bought with pain | earned by patience,

Is wisdom well paid

Odin Project: Day 3

November 3, 2012 Leave a comment

You stand atop | Yggdrasil’s branches

The great, all-seeing throne

No thing is hidden | beneath the gaze

Of the One-Eyed God

Loki Project Day 11

July 11, 2012 1 comment

Weariness has settled in my bones

Death rattles on my tongue

You stay beneath Yggdrasil’s leaves

Looking hale and young

 

My heart beats heavy in my chest

My blood has run its course

You stand there solemn, waiting

The mother of my horse

 

My eyes close in Death’s embrace

I hear you softly cry

And in the dreams of Life I find

The reason why I die

 

You wait beside the hanging Tree

The vigil long, it lasts

Into Gap and darkened reach

The Runes I find at last

 

My ever-sweet companion

My brother in the blood

My lover who waits beneath my feet

Within the puddling mud

 

I lose you for a moment

Forever and an age

My soul crying out across the Worlds

I cannot see your face

 

Then as sudden as I left

My eyes open wide

Yet only one sees your face

The one that’s left behind

 

Life comes to me in sudden haste

You help me off the Yew

You bind my wounds and tend my ills

Beloved and renewed

 

Sacrifice to he

Who held his vigil long

Who loves in spit of all I’ve said

In spite of all I’ve done

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