If there is one thing that baffles me at times about Heathendom, it’s that people with little understanding of history and culture will gladly tell everyone about their UPG and mysteries, while those with a much stronger background in such will almost never discuss them. Periodically this goes so far as to say that all UPG is false and should be discouraged entirely. Others, such as Ale Glad of An Ásatrú Blog, will say that such things shouldn’t be discussed publicly, as doing so would diminish the power of the events.
I can understand why Ale Glad could feel that way. Some things are very private and are only to be discussed amongst close friends and family. But I also think that it’s a disservice to the religion that we don’t discuss anything of what we’ve experienced; we’ve left those discussions to the fluffiest of people who in turn put serious people off. We’re allowing the discussion to be dominated by people who have little interest in learning more and whom many circles would rather not have around. Not only this, but we are likely holding back the religion by not finding commonalities, thus moving from UPG to SPG. This stifles growth potentially.
I honestly don’t know how to fix this. Convincing people to discuss what they’ve experienced can be difficult, although asking directly eventually causes some to talk. Organising this is next to impossible and, as far as I can tell, no one really catalogues anything outside of a few, poor, ill-conceived attempts on Tumblr. When the more well known heathens talk, however, it can have the problem of causing people to follow it blindly as truth; Galina Krasskova is the source of many insanities, for example.
For now I can only talk about what has happened within my family, as short and simplistic as the list may be.
- In my very early teens, if not slightly beforehand, I was in the kitchen. I happened to look back through the living room and into the backyard. Just outside the window stood a shadow of sorts. I looked at it for a moment, didn’t feel any alarm whatsoever, and went back to what I was doing. It took me a moment to register what happened and I immediately looked back, but saw nothing. In the years after I thought that it might have been Wōden for whatever reason, but I’m entirely uncertain. The skeptic in me compels me to admit that I had been watching a lot of ghost movies at the time.
- In Summer 2003, my mother, brother, and I were visiting my grandmother in Virginia. My grandfather had died just a few months earlier. These trips happened twice a year and were painful for me; there was no Internet connection and the TV was often dominated with uninteresting news. During this particular trip I managed to secure the living room for myself, allowing me to stay up late and watch Adult Swim. I had been asleep for a bit when I woke up to the feeling of someone sitting at the foot of the bed. I opened my eyes and, instead of the expected darkness, I saw a screaming, gaping, black mouth, two black eyes, and swirling, bright colours. I wasted no time in fleeing to the kitchen and turning every light on. Eventually venturing back to the living room, I found nothing. I slept with the light on for the rest of the week.
- When my mother was 6, she and her parents returned to Germany and were visiting the Black Forest. Part way through the trip, she saw a black boar walking nearby. No one else saw it.
- My mother is a part of a group that does shamanic journeying. She can’t stand most people in these groups, but she uncomfortably admits that they see a lot of things in common during their journeys. She’s unsure what to make of this.
- While my husband and I were getting ready to leave after this last Thanksgiving, my father was packaging some things for us to take home. Two packages were destined to go with us, while a third was put to the side for him. We took our leftovers, but the third package entirely vanished. My brother wasn’t present, my mother wouldn’t hide it, and my father had just placed it on the counter where I had seen it last. He attributed its disappearance to elves, an oddity from a quasi-atheist.
All in all I don’t have many things to report. My family is rather mundane and can in no way claim to have spiritual or magical events happen often. I have no concrete experiences to tell me what the gods might prefer. I haven’t prayed for something unreasonable and suddenly had it the next day. I don’t hear voices, for better or worse.
But I do know that people have learned or experienced odd or interesting things. I can only hope that they talk about them eventually. It would be a great service potentially.
I like to ponder what we’re missing in our religion and what we’re ignoring for simplicity’s sake. We tend to gloss over a lot of things; many act as though our world is a simple one and seemingly want as few divine entities as possible. A notable absence in my mind are wind gods.
The Greeks have a very detailed list of wind gods, mostly contained within the Anemoi (“winds”). The Romans have the Venti (“winds”), who mostly took on the attributes, but not the names, of their Greek counterparts. Slavic religion evidently has Stribog, god of winds, sky, and air. Hinduism has Vāyu, lord of the winds, also known as Vāta. There are also the Dikpāla. In Iranian religion, Vate is the god of air and wind.
Njǫrðr has this function, but to me this only makes sense in the context of sailing. Largely forgotten, there are also Norðri, Suðri, Austri, and Vestri. They are mentioned in Gylfaginning as four dwarves and may be related to Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr, and Duraþrór, the four stags of Yggdrasill. (I’m personally inclined to say that they are unrelated, that the four stags are a later invention, and that Eikþyrnir was the original, sole stag.) Whether they are related to wind is up for debate.
I’m conflicted about these dwarves. They hold up the skull of Ymir, although this seems like an odd job for dwarves. I’m of the opinion that they were not dwarves originally or at least had a much more detailed story to themselves once. We’ll likely never know anything else.
Despite this, I decided to have some fun in reconstructing their names in Old English, even if we have no such evidence for them. Undoubtedly at least one deity governed the winds, so let’s go with what we have.
Barring any mistakes on my part, the names of the dwarves are merely the names of the cardinal directions (norðr, suðr, austr, vestr) plus the suffux –i (< Proto-Germanic *-į̄, which forms an abstract noun from an adjective). In Old English, the cardinal directions are norþ, sūþ, ēast, and west. The cognate suffix is –u, which later became –o, and causes i-mutation:
- norþ > *nerþu
- sūþ > *sȳþu
- ēast > *īestu (*ēstu in dialects other than West Saxon)
- west > *wistu
Let’s go further into Modern English. Vowel changes were drastic during the Great Vowel Shift and all word-final vowels in polysyllabic words were lost, thus erasing the suffix entirely.
- *nerþu > *nerth /nɛ(ɹ)ð/
- *sȳþu > *sithe /saɪð/
- *īestu > *eest or *east /iːst/
- *wistu > *wist /wɪst/
Had things gone very differently, we might have been worshipping Nerth, Sithe, Eest, and Wist and asking for good winds from them.