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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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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Paganism? What is the Maypole

Paganism? What is the Maypole

Yesterday was “May Day” a throwback to our ancestor’s celebration of spring and the Maypole. Most of us have heard of this, and it’s likely if you haven’t heard of the Maypole specifically somewhere in your culture you have a spring festival that celebrates the season and hopes for (and prays for) a fruitful spring and growing season.

Is it Pagan though? Well yes and know. Like many holidays now, they are derived from rituals in the past which, were for all intent in purposes continuations of customs from our pagan ancestors. Prior to monotheistic religious beliefs there were several gods and goddesses the world over. I know it sounds silly now doesn’t it? Thousands of years from now maybe our religions will be silly to, as a wise man once said, todays religion is tomorrows myth….

Link to Specifics “The origin of May Pole dancing dates back to the Pagan times, and the Maypole was basically a phallic symbol. Trees have always been the symbol of the great vitality and fertility of nature.  May Pole dancing was therefore strongly associated with fertility. Traditionally May Pole Dancing was performed by the young girls from the Medieval villages as part of the May time celebrations. The History of the Maypole and May Pole dancing was connected with both the Druids, Wiccans and the Romans. May 1 was an important date for the Druids as this was when the festival of Beltane held. Beltane marked the beginning of the pastoral summer season and was celebrated by lighting fires. Wiccans celebrated by dancing round a Maypole and choosing a May Queen. Then the Romans came to occupy the British Isles. The beginning of May was also an important feast time for the Romans which was devoted primarily to the worship of Flora, the goddess of flowers when the Festival of Floralia was held. Over time the traditions and rituals of the Floralia were added to those of the Beltane culminating in May Pole dancing, which is still carried out to this day.”

They were more then “cool” symbols to your ancestors, most likely.

Maypole dancing of course requires a maypole so they are directly correlated in that regard. So we have druids, wiccans and romans tied to it, all of which are pagans. Of course “may day” historically is a celebration of a season, and as we do today people decorated, danced, sang, drank, met with friends and celebrated life. Many of the celebrations and rituals we have today harken back to our pagan ancestors. Did you have a Maypole in your area? Did you visit it? Did you dance around it and say a prayer?

Maybe next year it would be a cool unique think to do. IT doesn’t mean you are anti religion or a bad person, you are just celebrating a symbol that has been celebrated for thousands of years. Fertility, spring, rebirth, new life, trees waking up, flowers blooming, the sun is higher, the temperature is warmer, why not celebrate that?

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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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It is time for Thorrablot

As this blog entered 2022 I said that I would spend more of my prose on holidays, not just U.S. but some of the old Norse holidays. For the new reader, I am a pagan. Let me be clear here though, paganism like any other religion has a wide swath of individuals who practice. The level of zealousness in said practice can vary person to person, season to season. You see this in all religions really, some more than others. I no longer practice as much as I used too. There was a time when I was younger I insisted on a yule log instead of an Xmas tree, I participated in other pagan ceremonies as well.

Those days are passed for me, I am older and wiser and realize now that spirituality doesn’t lie within external expression but rather internal reflection and external application. Maybe I am lazy, or more diplomatically, more comfortable with life. At 52 I have enough of a back story to pull from to make the present more seneschal and the future less harrowing. Some call it wisdom, but I digress…

But you are here for Thorrablot….

Fenrir has not broken his bonds…… YET

First let’s get one thing out of the way. In Norse lore, a blot is a blood sacrifice to the gods. Yes, a living thing is sacrificed (killed) in the hopes that it will please the gods and they will give you their favor. There should be no illusion about this, a thousand + years ago your pagan ancestors were sacrificing humans and animals to their gods. Maybe they weren’t Norse ancestors but somewhere in your vast family tree.

The Thorrablot was specific to Thor, as you might have surmised who, in ancient times, protected Midgard (earth) from the frost giants. It was believed that prayer and sacrifice to him would make the winter more bearable. With religion we have to be very careful on the nuances of words. “Frost Giants” reads literal but the giants likely meant the large storms, winds, cold, snow cumulatively. For most ancient peoples the natural world and its events were oft described by unnatural causes, like giants as an example.

This particular blot happened mid-February usually and is often combined with Disting. They are basically one in the same but I suspect subtlety different depending on the region you lived. There was a sacrifice and a feast and essentially the gist was “please god(s) let us survive the winter”. Today many Norse pagans follow Asatru which is kind of a blanket/catch all for everything Norse paganism today. Its codified holidays, assigned its meaning, even made official holidays etc.

Do we celebrate anything like this today? Sort of, we have ground hog’s day a pseudo mechanism by which we try and determine how much more winter there is. That’s all our pagan ancestors were trying to do as well. They didn’t have oil burners in their home and amazon and door dash weren’t a thing yet for food, so their stress level in the middle of winter was slightly higher…..

So the next time you are out this week and if it is very cold, imagine life in 692 and you are freezing your ass off. You might pray to whatever god would listen too….

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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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The Tradition of Christmas

As I am a pagan myself I get asked from time to time about Christianity. Let me be clear, I respect other religions and I think Christians are fine people. But what about the notion that “Christians stole Christmas, they don’t even know when Christ was born”.

This is mostly true, at least the part about when Christ was born. It’s very unlikely he was not born on December 25. That said I have a very simple answer for my pagan friends who believe Christians stole “Yule Tide” and made it Christmas. It’s done, railing against the past means you never move forward. Or as one of my Christian friends explained to me once in a reply blog post:

“The traditional date of December 25 goes back as far as A.D. 273. Two pagan festivals honoring the sun were also celebrated on that day and it is possible that December 25 was chosen to counteract the influence of paganism. To this day some people feel uncomfortable with Christmas because they think it is somehow tainted by the pagan festivals held on that day. But Christians have long believed that the gospel not only transcends culture, it also transforms it. In A.D. 320 one theologian answered this criticism by noting, “We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of him who made it.”

I’m pretty sure he/she copied that from somewhere else but I like the ending. Have a great holiday no matter what path your spirit travels and for my Christian friends, Merry Christmas!

What is Yule ?

Many of my readers know I am a pagan. Now like most people who practice religion I am not devout. Many of you go to church regularly, or the mosque but pagans like me not so much. Most of my beliefs are remnants of the past. Specifically, the ways in which our ancestors lived before monotheism religions. The fact is, peoples of all races and times have had gods. Its only recently that we have devoted ourselves to ONE god.

So, what is Yule? Yule is a period of time around the winter solstice. The name Yule is derived from the Old Norse HJOL, meaning ‘wheel,’ to identify the moment when the wheel of the year is at its lowest point, ready to rise again.

During this time the “Yule tide” is observed and celebrated which is where we get the “12 days of Christmas”. Christians when they spread their religion to northern Europe adopted several pagan customs to help ingratiate the populations into the new religion.

There is a great reference here This illustrates many of the similarities between yule and the Christmas season. From the site:

“Most of the symbols associated with the modern holiday of ”Christmas (such as the Yule log, Santa Claus & his Elves, Christmas trees, the Wreath, the eating of ham, holly, mistletoe, the star…) are derived from traditional northern European Heathen Yule celebrations. When the first Christian missionaries began trying to force the Germanic peoples to Christianity, they found it easier to invent a Christian version for popular feasts such as Yule and allow the celebrations to go on largely unchanged, rather than trying to suppress them. Halloween and Easter have been likewise assimilated from northern European Heathen religious festivals.”

There is so much more to expand on when it comes to Yule and ancient pagan practices. The Wreath, the Holy Tree, the Yule Log… on and on. Maybe this Christmas when you’re thinking about the season, harken back to your ancestors. I’m betting at least one of them, somewhere was celebrating Yule, dancing with their family and community, waiting for the long winter nights to slowly bring spring.

I hope you all enjoy this time of year and have some form of celebration in your life. No matter where you are from, your race, your gender, your sexual preference, your political affiliation I am glad you are here. Happy holidays, Merry Christmas and a joyful Yuletide.

Karac

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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Paganism? What is the Maypole

Paganism? What is the Maypole

Yesterday was “May Day” a throwback to our ancestor’s celebration of spring and the Maypole. Most of us have heard of this, and it’s likely if you haven’t heard of the Maypole specifically somewhere in your culture you have a spring festival that celebrates the season and hopes for (and prays for) a fruitful spring and growing season.

Is it Pagan though? Well yes and know. Like many holidays now, they are derived from rituals in the past which, were for all intent in purposes continuations of customs from our pagan ancestors. Prior to monotheistic religious beliefs there were several gods and goddesses the world over. I know it sounds silly now doesn’t it? Thousands of years from now maybe our religions will be silly to, as a wise man once said, todays religion is tomorrows myth….

Link to Specifics “The origin of May Pole dancing dates back to the Pagan times, and the Maypole was basically a phallic symbol. Trees have always been the symbol of the great vitality and fertility of nature.  May Pole dancing was therefore strongly associated with fertility. Traditionally May Pole Dancing was performed by the young girls from the Medieval villages as part of the May time celebrations. The History of the Maypole and May Pole dancing was connected with both the Druids, Wiccans and the Romans. May 1 was an important date for the Druids as this was when the festival of Beltane held. Beltane marked the beginning of the pastoral summer season and was celebrated by lighting fires. Wiccans celebrated by dancing round a Maypole and choosing a May Queen. Then the Romans came to occupy the British Isles. The beginning of May was also an important feast time for the Romans which was devoted primarily to the worship of Flora, the goddess of flowers when the Festival of Floralia was held. Over time the traditions and rituals of the Floralia were added to those of the Beltane culminating in May Pole dancing, which is still carried out to this day.”

They were more then “cool” symbols to your ancestors, most likely.

Maypole dancing of course requires a maypole so they are directly correlated in that regard. So we have druids, wiccans and romans tied to it, all of which are pagans. Of course “may day” historically is a celebration of a season, and as we do today people decorated, danced, sang, drank, met with friends and celebrated life. Many of the celebrations and rituals we have today harken back to our pagan ancestors. Did you have a Maypole in your area? Did you visit it? Did you dance around it and say a prayer?

Maybe next year it would be a cool unique think to do. IT doesn’t mean you are anti religion or a bad person, you are just celebrating a symbol that has been celebrated for thousands of years. Fertility, spring, rebirth, new life, trees waking up, flowers blooming, the sun is higher, the temperature is warmer, why not celebrate that?

Thank you for coming by and supporting my blog I really appreciate it. Want to see another post like this one? Click here.