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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Beyond the Trees

Ostara – The original Easter

This is another post in my “Pagan/Holiday” series and this one might be more controversial because to be blunt, the only way to explain Ostara is to accurately articulate how Christianity absorbed this pagan holiday. This isn’t an anti-Christian piece. We are just going to make some observations here please take it in the spirit in which it is offered, an examination of Ostara.

Ostara is celebrated on the spring equinox around March 21. The feast marks the beginning of the summer half of the year and is a celebration of fertility and was known as a fire festival. It is named after the goddess Ostara who was an integral part of pre Christian Germanic culture that the Christians stole and absorbed it as their own spring feast which was adapted for the Paschal holiday, and was converted to the Christian Easter. Her name is related to the Germanic words for “east” and “glory”; she was the embodiment of the springtime and the renewal of life.

We have to keep in mind that the evolution of holidays/celebrations are fluid there is no fixed “time” for any of it. Easter (check the origin of this name…) is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ but this wasn’t always the case. In the very early years of Christianity Christ’s resurrection was celebrated weekly. It can’t be emphasized enough here how important his resurrection is to the Christian narrative. It wasn’t for another 200 years or so that Christians decided to celebrate it once a year, on or around the largest holiday of their closest rival’s pagans.

May Day is coming soon !

You have to keep in mind that the word in 200 AD was filled with “pagan” religions. Christianity was just another one of many it was not large. However, Christians had one thing many pagans did not. Their drive to further the word of Christ convinced them that others needed to be “converted” part of that conversion, in the early years was copying, and eventually absorbing holidays. Many Christian celebrations happen around the equinoxes, Easter is no exception and so we have this melding.

The Easter bunny? Pagans were decorating eggs at Ostara hundreds of years before Christ. The Hare was a sacred beast for the goddess. Pagan’s of the time decorated eggs and hid them for a hunt to signal to Ostara the hastening of the lands rebirth at spring.  It is a major pagan holiday; the spring solstice marks the beginning of the summer period. This meant you survived the winter which was no small task at the time of its inception. Christianity was very smart in their approach to bringing their religion to the tribes of Europe.

They created their own holidays and celebrations close to those of the pagans and wove in parts of the tradition to help make the transition more palatable for the common person. Conversion at the time was far different then what you see in movies. Most of the narrative around Christianity is born from the medieval period. These events were taking place 1000 years before that. Conversion was a process that was not forced. Christians at the time did not have armies and countries to enforce their will they had the word of god and their will to share it with others, and their wit.

So this year if you paint an Easter egg, or hear of the Easter bunny maybe Ostara will smile down at you and make your spring time fruitful and full of joy and rebirth.

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Norse Mythology – How Odin created the world.

In most if not all (I haven’t studied all of them) religions/myths there is a world origin story. Now many of them are fairly silly… Norse Mythology is one of those silly origin stories. To be clear, I am a pagan but like most spiritual people I do not follow literally the doctrine of a religion per se more so the intent of the prose. Simply put, it’s been my experience that most practioners of faith seek the message rather than the literal. We often get caught up in historic nuances as many religions were taught literally.

This is mainly due to the masses being illiterate and a literal rendition of a concept was the simplest way to convey the message. Once the masses began to have available to them books and literacy we enter the period of enlightenment (in the west anyway) where individuals were able to discern the meaning rather than take literally the text. Here we are in 2022 and many of the old religions don’t translate well. I had a wise old man once say to me “Today’s religion is tomorrows myth” and what he meant was, faith evolves.

Thousands of years ago your ancestors were likely worshiping idols of gold or statues of some kind. They were wishing for and hoping for the same thing as you are now but the times dictated a different means to the same end. Faith is a wonderful ideal and if you can get there, regardless of the path I tip my hat to you. So what about the Norse mythos of how the world was created?

In the beginning there was Muspell.

The Vikings saw the world as created by Odin differently. When they looked up at the sky, they believed that it was the skull of Ymir (a god Odin killed) and the world they lived on must be his dead body, mutilated and stuffed into his skull. If that’s the case, then the oceans must be his blood, the mountains his bone, and the clouds his brains.

We find the tale of Ymir in many Edda’s and there are some rune stones that depict this episode. The leap of detail though (the body parts making up the physical world) is a creation of the story tellers at the time. They had no other way to discern how all these things got here. How do you explain why a mountain is where it is in 650 AD? You attribute it to the gods. “Why there though?” someone asks and your best guess is after killing the prior good Ymir they cast his body aside and it formed the world.

I mean do you believe the clouds are an old giants brains? I suppose it’s possible but we now know through science how water, dust sun light etc. plays roles in the formation of weather on the planet.

The point here was to illustrate to you faith is a hard thing to discuss because we often decide (rightly or wrongly) that our faiths are the word of god(s) and its absolute. We examine a little closer, with knowledge, and see that many of the stories we hold dear are part of our religions are in fact creative acts of fantasy. The overall message? God created the planet. That’s what the Norse pagans believed and many of us practicing today believe. Very similar to other religions, do we think it’s because he defeated the great giant Ymir and used his body parts? No, however we do concede its possible….

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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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FALLFEAST – Pagan’s Rejoice !

It’s fall in the west. It’s likely that in a non covid year you would have some sort of festival near you happening. Oktoberfest’s are usually the most popular those combine to ancient festivals, the harvest and the feast of harvest.

As many of you know I am a pagan, no I don’t sacrifice animals, I am not a witch, lol. I simply try and celebrate the old ways, respecting nature, respecting the seasons.

Below is a page pull from http://odinsvolk.ca/ It illustrates what the Fall Feast is, and why or Viking ancestors celebrated it and how some of the old ways built community.

“Fallfest of is another joyous festival in the Asatru holy calendar, and falls on the Autumn Equinox, and is the beginning of autumn in the northern hemisphere: the moment when the sun appears to cross the celestial equator, heading southward; the equinox occurs around September 22 – 24, varying slightly each year according to the 400-year cycle of leap years in the Gregorian Calendar. Fallfest represents the second harvest of the season.

Celebrate your Ancestors, they are watching.

Bonfires, feasting and dancing played a large part in the festivities. Even into Christian times, villagers cast the bones of the slaughtered cattle upon the flames, cattle having a prominent place in the pre-Christian Germanic world. (Though folk etymology derives the English word “bonfire” from these “bone fires,”) With the bonfire ablaze, the villagers extinguished all other fires. Each family then solemnly lit their hearth from the common flame, thus bonding the families of the village together.

Materially speaking it marked the beginning of the gathering of food for the long winter months ahead, bringing people and their livestock in to their winter quarters. To be alone and missing at this dangerous time was to expose yourself and your spirit to the perils of imminent winter. In present times the importance of this part of the festival has diminished for most people. From the point of view of an agricultural people, for whom a bad season meant facing a long winter of famine in which many would not survive to the spring, it was paramount.

At the equinox, the sun rises directly in the east and sets directly in the west. In the northern hemisphere, before the autumnal equinox, the sun rises and sets more and more to the north, and afterwards, it rises and sets more and more to the south.

In ancient times, our European ancestors celebrated their Harvest Feast, where they have found many reasons to be thankful and to celebrate. Our people have done this for as long as we can trace our history. Although what our people have felt thankful for has certainly changed over the many years, remember you sit down this year with your family, you’re participating in an ancient tradition. And it’s a great time to figure out what you’re thankful for.”

So many of our current traditions are based on our distant past. This isn’t a religious post, it’s actually an illustration of how close we really are. Have a great fall and a bountiful harvest. May you and your family be prosperous and may you come out of the dark days of winter in good health, and good spirits.

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Wisdom from the Havamal

Yes another foray into the Norse world with your pagan friend Karac.

First, what is the Havamal?

The Havamal (Hávamál) is “The Sayings of the High One” telling stories about Odin the All father and his journey of acquiring knowledge and wisdom. The Havamal is neither heroic or mythological. Rather, it is somewhat didactic. Simply put, these are similar to Christian commandments in the sense it is meant to instruct ones morals. Unlike our Christian friends these are not laws to build society on, but rather sayings one internalize that allows you to evaluate the character of others.

The saying that has served me well as I age:

The cautious guest

who comes to the table speaks sparingly.

Listen with ears,

Learn with eyes.

Such is the seeker of knowledge.

Of course you have seen some iteration of this saying in your travels. Listen more, speak less etc. This is ancient wisdom, and every culture from antiquity has some reference to it in some form. This still holds true to today and as individuals with anxiety it is a prudent course to take.

When you are an expert, or very experienced on a subject it is important to speak on it. When you are not, you listen to what others say but the most important part of this saying is how you learn, with your eyes.

When someone is speaking, how are the other people reacting? What do you see? Are their arms folded? Are they leaning in? Are the using a lot of hand gestures? It’s vital for all of us to be very careful who we listen to, and understand who is speaking. This of course is applicable anywhere. As we garner more and more information in life from more and more sources we have to be diligent not to leap too quickly to a conclusion.

Do you want to read more about the Havamal? Check it out on the Wiki

Be mindful of what you hear, listen, watch and learn.

You are doing awesome, one day at a time….