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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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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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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