FREYFEST & LAMMAS

So it’s been a while but one of the areas I declared I would spend more time covering on the blog is paganism. Now this isn’t a religious blog, it’s really just things that cross the mind of this a gen xer (hence the title of the blog). I am a pagan but like most practioners of faith I am not devout. I do not celebrate every tradition and ceremony; I am not rigid in the observations of holidays either.

I am however in tune to Norse paganism and specifically how much of it correlates to nature, and specifically the celebrations place in the life cycle of a year. Freyfest & Lammas is really a combination of a few pagan traditions. For the Norse this was the mid-point celebration between summer and fall. Many of the rituals you see in paganism is the celebration of earth providing life to all via seasonal changes that promote the harvest. The harsher climates, like northern Europe especially had emphasis on these rituals.

Now technically this and many other Norse pagan festivals are blot’s. A blot is a sacrifice and sacrifices run the gambit from human to life stock, to food. Ancient customs were brutal to modern sensibilities but we always have to keep in mind that the inception of these ceremonies were by people who were doing what they could to survive and life was so harsh that giving over to faith was about the only mechanism they had to inspire hope.

The All Father sees all

July 31st – August 1st marks the halfway point between the Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox.  In many cultures, it is the time of year that signifies the first harvest, mostly of grains.  Bread is traditionally baked in various shapes to celebrate the holiday.  The word Lammas derives from the Old English phrase hlaf-maesse, which translates to loaf mass. In early Christian times, the first harvested grains and baked loaves of the season were blessed by the Church.

Lammas, Lughnasadh, Freyfest (Freysblot) are just a few of the names given to this time of year.  The first harvest represents the first moment during which we can finally begin gathering the fruits of our labor from our hard work during the preceding months.  We are more aware of the bright reds and yellows of the autumn season that are just around the corner.

Source:

This is a time to celebrate and for joy. Be happy with what you have, enjoy the bounty of nature. Freyfest is the marking of the first harvest of the year. For you and I? We can drive to the grocery store. Maybe you have a small garden at home, maybe some peas or a tomato is ready? Harvest it and maybe hold it up to the sky and thank Frey for the bounty and then enjoy.

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Friday: The day of Frigg

Do you ever wonder where these names come from? Why Friday? What does Wednesday mean? Why are the days named the way they are? We aren’t going to do a deep dive, it is Friday after all…. Friday is “The day of Frigg” it was in our distant past a celebration of the goddess frigg. That’s right, another pagan reference we still use today in modern society. There are of course many interpretations of how “Friday” came about, what connotations were used when, and at what time exactly did these meld into an accepted commonality. I can’t unwrap that here, what I can say is immediately after the death of Christ the Roman’s began expanding deeply into the European continent.

They conquered and stayed and what happened over time is the peoples they governed adopted some of their language, the romans adopted some of theirs. Fast forward to the expansion of Christianity which at the time the western world’s universal language was Latin. Again, they adopted some regional words/dialects, the regions adopted some Latin. At some point, let’s say the renaissance somethings began to become universally accepted. Units of Measure, accepted terms of trade, months on the calendar and days. Of course there are pockets of exceptions, not every town in every country in 1500 called Friday, Friday but I think you get the point.

So who is Frigg? She is the highest ranking goddess of the Aesir and wife to Odin, in Norse Mythology. Ya she is a big deal. She is forever tied to Freya and when we study Norse mythology we find in many examples the two are nearly identical in application but separate in name. It’s almost as if there are two deities doing performing the same role, and to a large extend they are. This is explained in the simplest terms of the “tiers” of gods you had in Norse Mythology. There are Aesir and Vanir, so we have duplication as Freya is both, Frigg is Aesir (high god only).

A good resource for more info.

Frigg is a Volva and that means she is a practioner of Seidr which is the Norse magic/power of discerning and affecting fate. Fate, in Norse mythology is arguably the most powerful concept which is the overarching theme of the entire practice, much like faith is to a Christian. Why Frigg is associated with Friday or more accurately Friday with her (and Freyja) is the celebrations of Frigg happened to fall on the 5th day of the Christian calendar at the time of observation. Viking concepts of time weren’t necessarily broken out into days, I know that’s hard for us to imagine now as time is honed down to the second.

Remember in parts of Scandinavia there are days when the sun does not set, and other days where the sun does not come up. Their concept of time was different than others. Regardless we now have Friday as a result “Thank god it’s Friday” or “I can’t wait for Friday” we still celebrate Friday in our culture as a prelude to the weekend. Funny how our Norse ancestors still reach forward in time and gift us with these small, but meaningful rituals.

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A Norse God House Found.

As we enter the winter season in the northern hemisphere I was reminded recently that Yule is right around the corner. This blog isn’t a pagan blog I don’t do a lot of pieces on paganism and the ancient ways but I am admittedly a pagan. Like so many other people out there I do not adhere to a strict doctrine of a religion. I am more spiritual and I find that “God” or “Gods” are usually manifestations of the mind to explain the unexplained and the human condition.

To be blunt, I don’t know if there is a god or not, or several. I believe in higher powers but the notion of some old guy sitting in the clouds watching my every move and recording it seems as far-fetched as a god riding on an 8 legged horse and hanging from a tree of wisdom.

In my –pagan- travels around the web I found a great article here, a temple to Thor and Odin has been unearthed.

From the article: “This is the first time we’ve found one of these very special, very beautiful buildings,” Diinhoff told Live Science. “We know them from Sweden and we know them from Denmark. … This shows that they also existed in Norway.”

The Norse began building these large “god houses”, as they’re called, in the sixth century. The god houses were much more complex than the simple sites, often outdoors, that the people previously used to worship the Old Norse gods.” It is a stronger expression of belief than all the small cult places,” he said. “This is probably something to do with a certain class of the society, who built these as a real ideological show.”

This is a great find and it may serve to do a bit more back work on softening the stigma of Norse culture. Of course we have all heard of Vikings, ruthless pagan raiders who terrorized the west after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Yes that’s part of their story, and a big part. They were also very spiritual people, as were most in antiquity. While we can haggle over whose god is the only god, like most civilizations the Norse had representation in their god hierarchy similar to the roman, Greeks, Egyptians and other ancient cultures.

Come from the land of Ice and Snow?

As others who have studied Norse mythology and the dark ages will tell you, they valued home, they valued family, and they strove for measures of equality. They celebrated the harvest, feared the winter and relished the spring and fall. Its great news when we find glimpses into our ancient past. Regardless of what you chose to believe or where your particular ancestors come from, it’s always interesting to see what our distant cousin’s lives through.

This find is great for archeologists and for pagans a like. It’s important for us to understand the reverence that was paid to the gods at the time. This was, for lack of a better term, how they understood they were supposed to worship god(s). They weren’t so unlike our modern interpretations of faith now really, perhaps even more devout. Yes they were Vikings, they were brutal but so were most people and most religions at one time or another.

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