Today’s Browser Tabs

Let’s start something that will both amuse me and help me stay organised.

How many tabs do I have open?

  1. Animals in Saxon and Scandinavian England” — probably open since it was posted in early August and still unread.
  2. Burying the Carnival” in The Golden Bough. Fascinating stuff.
  3. From Fairytale to Goddess: Frau Holle and the Scholars That Try to Reveal Her Origins” by Catherine Heath.
  4. Walburgisnacht by Any Other Name” — there for some references that I need to remember.
  5. Berchta – the White Lady” — also reference material for something later.
  6. The February 2012 archive for Die Braucherei. This is mostly for the White-Haired Woman article, though.
  7. The Brotherhood of Woden. Hilariously bad and incorrect and causes random music to play in the background if the tab reloads, which just recently freaked me out when I hadn’t been near the computer for half an hour.
  8. Revenant” on Wikipedia. This is mostly for the links at the bottom of the page, which proved surprisingly useful.
  9. Waking the Dead in Icelandic Folk Legends“.
  10. The library page for the Temple of Our Heathen Gods.
  11. German legendary creatures” on Wikipedia.
  12. The Discoverie of Witchcraft” on Wikipedia. I wish that more books these days had titles like its full one.
  13. English legendary characters” on Wikipedia.
  14. The table of contents for Joseph Jacobs’ books.
  15. Di sma undar jordi” on Wikipedia. I had never heard of this before and I have enjoyed it immensely, despite how little information is available, even when translated from the Swedish page.

Only fifteen today! Much better than yesterday.

Language and Mysticism

Heathenry in the Anglosphere has this penchant for using foreign languages in its rituals. Most commonly this is Old Norse, but periodically you’ll see Old English, which is just as foreign to most by virtue of its age. (Amusingly, I’ve yet to see Old High German, among others, used in this way, but I feel that this is related to the dearth of language resources.) There’s a level of mystery when you use a foreign language, which many seemingly feel is a requirement for religious activities. But it doesn’t need to be this way.

I feel that this comes from two different things:

  1. The usage of Latin in Christian rituals, even though that usage has declined considerably in recent decades in the wake of such events as the Second Vatican Council (1962 – 1965).
  2. A way to impress others by showing that you know another language, despite how badly it’s being butchered oftentimes. In monolingual communities, especially America, this can carry a surprising weight.

The earliest works in modern Heathenry came at a time when Latin was still used in church services, but poorly understood at best. The first organisations were founded in the 1970s and their membership had grown up with a foreign language being on the public conscience, even if other Christian denominations didn’t aways go that route. Simultaneously, Wiccan rituals had a similar knack for using language in order to provide mysticism. Materials were then written with these in mind. These resulting rituals, such as the Hammer Rite, were then thoughtlessly copied, barely with changes, over the decades to the point that contrasting opinion barely exists.

Multilingualism is notably absent in the United States, although it’s a bit less of an issue in Canada and the UK with the presence of French and other languages. The 2007 American Community Survey found that only 20% of households spoke a language other than English1United States Census Bureau, “New Census Bureau Report Analyzes Nation’s Linguistic Diversity” (2010)., although this does not mean that 80% of households are monolingual or that 20% are multilingual.2Michael Erard, “Are We Really Monolingual?” in The New York Times (2012). Fluency in another language, however, is nonetheless lacking. If anything, it’s overwhelmingly Spanish.

Thus I take issue with Heathen ritual and the absorption of these things. Language should not be mysterious, nor do we need mysticism of that stripe. We are a pragmatic bunch, just as our forebears were, but many come with baggage that they don’t see.

Words matter. Orthopraxy is ultimately among the more important concepts for us, but doing the right actions should require you to understand what you’re doing. If you’re uttering broken Old Norse without an inkling of what’s being said or completing actions without understanding why they’re done, this is hardly orthopractic. You might as well sign a binding contract without actually knowing what is written.

There is nothing wrong with plain English (or whatever else you wish to use). If spoken truthfully, your words are just as powerful. The gods will understand you just as well. Your ancestors would presumably understand you, especially the more recently departed who are likelier to have spoken what and how you do. We have no evidence to show that religious happenings were conducted in another language, so we emulate nothing in doing so now.3Poetry did have a habit of using otherwise archaic or dialectal words, but these were still understood.

Oddly enough, people do not seem to realise that this idea of using another language is not followed everywhere else. Icelanders use Icelandic, although that’s not far off from Old Norse in many respects. The rest of Scandinavia uses their modern languages. When you watch a video made by adherents of Urglaawe, it’s in Pennsylvania German and English. And let’s not forget the many Christians who worked historically to have church services done in the vernacular instead of Latin or to have translations of the Bible at all. They had an issue like we do and they got over it in many respects. We don’t need to repeat the mistake.

I’ll conclude by saying that there’s nothing wrong with learning a dead language for enjoyment and enrichment. You can learn a great deal by learning a language, as it shows you how a people saw the world. But let’s not obscure what we’re doing now and make it opaque to those around us.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. United States Census Bureau, “New Census Bureau Report Analyzes Nation’s Linguistic Diversity” (2010).
2. Michael Erard, “Are We Really Monolingual?” in The New York Times (2012).
3. Poetry did have a habit of using otherwise archaic or dialectal words, but these were still understood.

When a Cognate Isn’t Cognate

Fyrnsidu has periodically seen bursts of activity in using native words as much as possible. Some of this is very easy, as we have the words either still in Modern English or in a very similar form to what is in Ásatrú. It can be rendered far more difficult, however, when we don’t have a known cognate at all.

It’s this difficulty that causes people to make cognates. We can solve it in one of two ways:

  1. Understand the Proto-Germanic word and make an educated guess as to the form in Old English (and possibly beyond) by applying the relevant sound changes.1Wikipedia, “Phonological history of English”.
  2. Produce new compounds that mirror what is used elsewhere, commonly Old Norse for our purposes. The parts of the compounds may already be attested on their own or may require some of the above, but are not otherwise attested as the compound itself.

Regardless of what is done, the resulting word is properly marked with an asterisk in order to show that it’s hypothetical (or perhaps outright incorrect, as the case may be). Many people are already accustomed to this to a degree when seeing Proto-Germanic words, as they’re all marked as reconstructions by way of comparative linguistics. Consider *Þunraz, which became Old English Þunor and Old Norse Þórr, but is not attested in extant sources. The names of runes in the Elder Futhark are frequently and properly seen this way, too.

It’s not enough to find cognates alone, though. The meanings must also be relevant. A classic example of this comes from Old Norse heimr “home, abode; land, world; village, ham”.2A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic, “heimr” pg. 192. This is cognate to Old English hām “home, house; property, estate”.3Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary“hām”. Only the first set of meanings of each is directly comparable. Any reference to heimr as a world cannot be translated as hām without drastically changing the meaning. This nuance is often lost in any attempted translation, though.

Fyrnsidu has had this issue and painfully so. In emulation of Ásatrú, a surprisingly large number of people will say that there are nine worlds, even though the Nine Herbs Charm4Sacred Texts, The Nine Herbs Charm. states that there are seven:

ðas VIIII magon wið nygon attrum.
Wyrm com snican, toslat he man;
ða genam Woden VIIII wuldortanas,
sloh ða þa næddran, þæt heo on VIIII tofleah.
þær geændade æppel and attor,

þæt heo næfre ne wolde on hus bugan.
Fille and finule, felamihtigu twa,
þa wyrte gesceop witig drihten,
halig on heofonum, þa he hongode;
sette and sænde on VII worulde

These worlds are not named within the text. This lack of information has not stopped people from making cognates of Norse worlds and assuming that they would equate exactly, even when there are centuries between the Anglo-Saxons and what was written down in Iceland.

Let’s use the list provided by Swain Wodening5Swain Wodening, Hammer of the Gods: Anglo-Saxon Paganism in Modern Times (2003) pp. 15-18. and the Wednesbury Shire6Wednesbury Shire, “The Nine Worlds“. Archived on 18 February 2014., among others. Vowel length for Old English has been added as needed.

  1. *Ēsageard for Ásgarðr. Comparable and cognate.
  2. *Wenahām for Vanaheimr. Indefensible. The Vanir are not attested in Anglo-Saxon mythology and they are barely attested in Norse mythology as a separate group.7Rudolf Simek, “The Vanir: An Obituary.” The Retrospective Methods Network Newsletter (2010) pp. 10-19. The meaning of the word is unknown. No cognates are known, so it cannot be reconstructed in Proto-Germanic, let alone Old English. The second elements have differing meanings.
  3. *Ælfhām for Álfheimr. Indefensible. The second elements have differing meanings.
  4. Middangeard for Miðgarðr. Comparable, attested, and cognate.
  5. *Eotenhām for Jǫtunheimr. Indefensible. The second elements have differing meanings.
  6. Hell for Hel. Comparable, attested, and cognate.
  7. *Sweartælfhām for Svartálfheimr. Indefensible. Black elves are unattested in English folklore, although dwarves are. The second elements have differing meanings.
  8. *Mūspell for Muspelheimr. Indefensible. *Mūspell is unattested in Old English, but cognates appear in Old Saxon as Mūdspelli and Mūtspelli and in Old High German as Mūspilli as events and not worlds. These and Old Norse Múspell all deal with fire, but these are the only similarities in extant sources. Etymology is unknown. The name for the Old Norse world is Múspellsheimr, not Muspelheimr.
  9. *Nifolhām for Niflheimr. Indefensible. The second elements have differing meanings.

As seen above, the original scholarship, which is presumably from Swain Wodening, is utterly lacking. Sadly, Wodening was a somewhat prolific poster of content online and his books were often the only printed resources for Fyrnsidu, especially after Garman Lord’s Thēodish books largely disappeared a decade ago. This original poor understanding spread to many of today’s adherents of Fyrnsidu. To make matters worse, it assumes that the Anglo-Saxons practiced the same things as the Norse, for which we have no such proof. It also presupposes that the one line in question from the Nine Herbs Charm is a proper and accurate representation of Anglo-Saxon polytheism.

This should underscore why it’s important to conduct scholarly discourse properly. In our efforts to reconstruct the religion, we must be careful not to introduce falsehoods. If we fail at this, we’ll only build upon a poor foundation and hurt ourselves later when everything comes crashing down.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Wikipedia, “Phonological history of English”.
2. A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic, “heimr” pg. 192.
3. Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary“hām”.
4. Sacred Texts, The Nine Herbs Charm.
5. Swain Wodening, Hammer of the Gods: Anglo-Saxon Paganism in Modern Times (2003) pp. 15-18.
6. Wednesbury Shire, “The Nine Worlds“. Archived on 18 February 2014.
7. Rudolf Simek, “The Vanir: An Obituary.” The Retrospective Methods Network Newsletter (2010) pp. 10-19.

Holidays and Calendars

I enjoy reading people’s lists of holidays. Some are very simple, like mine, while others are stunningly complex and may even require a different calendar system in order to calculate dates. But most people’s lists come from publications of  the Asatru Free Assembly or The Troth, whether they know it or not, and these lists are often ahistorical.

The AFA’s original list was relatively simple, as it was based on the Wiccan Wheel of the Year:

  • Yule — 21 December
  • Charming of the Plough — 2 February
  • Summer Finding — 21/25 March
  • May Day — 1 May
  • Midsummer — 21 June
  • Freyfaxi — 1 August
  • Winter Finding — 21/29 September
  • Winter Nights — 31 October

The Troth’s Our Troth (2006) has a longer list:

  • Yule — winter solstice
  • Þorrablót — late January to early February
  • Disting — late February to early March
  • Remembrance for Eyvindr kinnrifi — 9 February
  • Feast of Váli — Valentine’s Day
  • Ragnar Lodbrok’s Day — 28 March
  • Remembrance for Haakon Sigurdsson — 9 April
  • Ostara/Sigrblót — April
  • Remembrance for Guðröðr of Guðbrandsdál — 9 May
  • Einherjar Day — Memorial Day
  • Remembrance for Sigurd — 9 June
  • Midsummer — summer solstice
  • Remembrance for Unnr the Deep-Minded — 9 July
  • Lammas/Freyfaxi — 1 August
  • Remembrance for Radbod, King of the Frisians — 9 August
  • Remembrance for Herman the Cheruscan — 9 September
  • Remembrance for Leif Ericson and his sister — Columbus Day
  • Winter Nights — mid October
  • Remembrance for Erik the Red — 28 October
  • Remembrance for Sigrid the Haughty — 9 November
  • Wayland the Smith’s Day — Thanksgiving
  • Remembrance for Egill Skallagrímsson — 9 December

This was hardly the first version. Stephan Grundy’s Teutonic Religion: Folk Beliefs & Practices of the Northern Tradition (1993) had a similar list:

  • Yule — 20 December to 1 January
  • Remembrance for Raud the Strong — 9 January
  • Feast of Thunar — full or new moon of January
  • Remembrance for Eyvindr kinnrifi — 9 February
  • Feast of Váli — Valentine’s Day
  • Charming of the Plough — new moon of February
  • Eostre — near the Spring Equinox
  • Ragnar Lodbrok’s Day — 28 March
  • Walpurgisnight — 30 April
  • May Day — 1 May
  • Einherjar Day — Memorial Day
  • Remembrance for Sigurdhr the Völsung — 9 June
  • Midsummer — solstice
  • Remembrance for Unnr the Deep-Minded — 9 July
  • Death of Olafr the Lawbreaker — 29 July
  • Loaf-Fest — 1 August
  • Radbod’s Day — 9 August
  • Remembrance for Herman the Cheruscan — 9 September
  • Winternights — near the Autumnal Equinox
  • Remembrance for Leif Ericsson and his sister — Columbus Day
  • Remembrance for Erik the Red — 28 October
  • Remembrance for Sigrid the Haughty — 9 November
  • Wayland Smith Day — Thanksgiving
  • Remembrance for Egill Skallagrímsson — 9 December

Still others have a “Feast of the Einherjar” or a “Feast of the Fallen” on Veterans Day. And let’s not get into the Asatru Alliance’s list of holidays, which is largely plagiarised with a splash of self-congratulatory nonsense and a lot of funny names.

With a start in the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, there’s been little hope to see the US organisations admit to the error of their ways. All of them are trapped in cults of personality that don’t permit them to say that they made mistakes. To do so would dispel the public image that they’ve worked so hard to create over the decades.

The Troth’s beloved remembrances are silly at best. I’ve seen few of them ever actually practiced, though lots of people like to have them listed in order to show their piety. And I’ll never understand why they’re largely placed on the ninth of a month. If there was ever a reason for that, I’ve missed it or it’s been lost to the sands of time. I would almost bet that there was some numerological meaning behind that with no basis in Germanic polytheism, as the early days were filled with people interested in magical numbers and hidden meanings.

The glossing of US holidays is hilariously bad. These holidays already have meanings, even if one doesn’t care about them. The Feast of Váli? That’s not Valentine’s Day at all. Grundy says that it’s folk etymology, but it’s not. He clearly doesn’t understand that term. Stuff for Leifr Eiríksson and his sister, who is oddly never named in these lists? I get the idea behind putting it on Columbus Day, but it’s foolish. Americans are mildly obsessed with Columbus and they don’t even understand the history surrounding him, let alone where he actually sailed. Finally, Grundy openly says that he doesn’t know why Wayland Smith Day is magically on Thanksgiving, so why do some do it at all then?

I’ll never get over the idea of having “Feast of the Einherjar” placed specifically on a holiday about veterans, dead or alive. That creation was definitely a mixup with Memorial Day and thus why there’s a similarly named event on that holiday. How that persists is beyond me.

I find “Charming of the Plough” to be woefully misguided. It’s definitely an attempt to bring Plough Monday into Heathenry, although a month later than traditionally celebrated. But many places are not like England. Many places are frozen solid still, so the agricultural year can’t start by any means. Here in New England I laugh at the idea of doing any meaningful outdoor work in February, let alone January. But my main contention is simple: most people aren’t farmers these days. Why have an agricultural holiday when you have no relation to the event at all? People celebrated things that mattered to them. In the past, everyone was involved in farming in some way. That’s hardly so nowadays! Most can’t even describe what a crop rotation is or how soil drainage is important for some species, so why bother? It’s a hollow gesture.

Equally problematic is the fact that these calendars are a mixture of cultures. These events were not all celebrated side by side. Lammas did not happen seven months or so after Þorrablót, as Lammas (< Old English hlāfmæsse “loaf-mass”; mæsse < Vulgar Latin *messa < Late Latin missa “mass; Christian eucharistic liturgy” < Latin mittere “to send, announce, yield”) is attested in Anglo-Saxon England onward, while Þorrablót was first mentioned in extant records in the early thirteenth century, didn’t come to its current popularity until the late nineteenth century, and is in Iceland.

These calendars are also invariable for the most part. For a bit in the ’90s people were realising that setting exact dates for things that don’t have exact dates didn’t especially make sense. It seems that the last decade has seen people reverting to rigid dates again. It causes them to celebrate things that have no bearing. Midsummer isn’t on the same day every year, after all. Equinoxes move around. Seasons aren’t precisely the same everywhere. Why are people celebrating Winter Finding at the end of September in subtropical regions? Worse yet, why do people celebrate Yule in the middle of the Summer in the Southern Hemisphere?

Modern people forget a key fact about the past: people were often very pragmatic. If it didn’t matter, it was far less likely to be done. We’re accustomed to having edicts from far away officials who decide legal holidays for us. Our ancestors didn’t especially have that and were far more localised. This is exactly why we encounter such variation in relatively small areas. One village did one thing, while the neighbouring village did something potentially very different. Priorities and interests varied, so outcomes changed.

We’re very dogmatic about how things should be done. We want everything to line up neatly, even when evidence says otherwise. It’s important that we adapt and accept that we have differing needs and cares. I don’t farm, so I don’t do farming rituals. I do, however, value my female ancestors, so Mothers’ Night is celebrated every December as Yule begins.

Don’t blindly accept what some person far away pushes onto you. Learn your heritage. Find out what your ancestors considered important and see where there’s overlap in your life. Research locally important dates. We don’t need to be fully unified in our holidays; doing so would erase what matters to us and our kin. And, if you really want to make a new holiday entirely, go ahead, but admit to it and make it something meaningful because it matters, not because a poorly written book without citations says so.

What and How I Practice

Germanic polytheism is a religion that I’ve known my entire life. My mother raised me to understand the holiness of the world and the many gods who form a part of it.

From around 10 to 13 years of age, I would tell people that I followed the Teutonic religion. This didn’t get me very far, as few at that age had any idea what Teutonic meant. I had inherited the term from Stephan Grundy’s Teutonic Religion: Folk Beliefs & Practices of the Northern Tradition. I wasn’t especially well versed in my own religion’s practices; I was functionally agnostic at the time and didn’t know what I was doing. My own ineptitude would earn me scorn from one classmate, a certain Robert, who would not accept my poor responses to his probing questions. This very person would a few years later tear my hammer from around my neck.

I stopped being so open about my religion once I entered high school. I knew that I wasn’t very good at what I professed. Around this time I had learned about the term Ásatrú. I used it sparingly, as I knew that it would get me just as far as my previous term. I dug into more books at this time, including a lot of books on magic. I was enthusiatic, but a lot of it left me uninterested at the same time. None of it was well written. It all seemed so hollow! My acts of devotion, such as they were, died for the most part until my senior year of high school. I was reminded by way of an English assignment of what I had dropped and started learning again.

University prompted me to examine my practices further. Many things were not practical by any means, living with four other guys in Providence, Rhode Island. I stopped saying that I followed Ásatrú and instead used Fyrnsidu, Old English for “old custom”. This hardly mattered at the time, as I didn’t know any other Heathens, let alone pagans, and wouldn’t meet anyone else until I was 21.

These many transitions caused me to look at what I did and why. While I said that I cared for the gods and offered things to them, in truth I did not care much about them. They were distant. After all, would a leader of a nation have any care about a random citizen who wanted help in improving something in his life? Not at all. I wouldn’t understand it yet, but it was my ancestors who received the most attention, if only without specifics, and that I was performing a marginally more historically accurate form of Heathenry.

Ancestors and Ancestry

A great deal of my religious activities is directed toward my ancestors, especially my grandparents, whom I knew in life with the exception of one. I have the ashes of my maternal grandparents at my altar, while the ashes of my paternal grandparents are (allegedly) scattered on my paternal grandfather’s old property in Kents Hill, Maine.

I spent a lot of time learning about my family’s past in my mid-twenties. I loved learning about my ancestors in my teens as well, but it was difficult at best to get information from my parents. My father is a bit of a hermit when it comes to relations with other people, while my mother didn’t know useful details. My own teenage laziness did not help. That finally changed when I was able to afford Ancestry.com and I gathered what I could and learned everything that I could. Ultimately my family tree accumulated 789 people, of whom a vast majority is on my father’s side.

I was shocked to discover that my direct paternal line had been in North America since 1638. Years of rumours had led me to believe that there would be a Welsh ancestor somewhere, too, but such a person was never found within several generations of me. I found remote connections to marginally famous people, including one who married into royalty, though no such people existed in direct relation to me. I located deeds to land long since sold. I learned much.

Ultimately I saw that I had a long connection to New England, just as I did to England through my paternal grandmother (and more distantly through my paternal line as a whole) and to Germany through my mother. All three became very important to me, although I always had a strong sense of nationalism, for lack of a better term, for New England.

In the years since, I’ve worked to make sure that I did better in regards to my ancestors. It was during this time that I received the ashes of my maternal grandparents; my grandmother had been in possession of my grandfather, but she died just two months ago. Near my altar is the flag of Germany. (I also have one of Iceland, which I desperately wish to visit, but I have no relation to that place.) I nurture a sawn log with lichens from a fallen tree; I’ve kept the lichens alive for a while now as my connection to the land here. This tree was damaged during a particularly bad storm and had been in the nearby cemetery; I’ve worked in that cemetery often in order to post data to Find a Grave and taken a particular liking to three individuals there. My items relating to England are rather lacking, I admit, but I periodically receive gifts from friends who visit London and use those where I can.

For my ancestors I burn oats, which is more difficult than it sounds when in an apartment. I try to learn the recipes to meals that they enjoyed in life, where possible.  I hope to build a hearg (Old English, “pile of stones, altar”; cognate with Old Norse hǫrgr) on my parents’ property with stones from their current and previous homes, as well as well from my grandparents’ various homes in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Virginia, if not more.

They are my everything. They’re important in everything. Their decisions made me in every possible sense of the idea. Without them, I would literally be nothing. Their triumphs and failures live on in me. I inherit what they’ve done.

I hope to live up to what they wanted for me, which I never heard directly from them in their lives. I hope to give them great grandchildren sooner rather than later and to teach those children about their ancestors. It is, in many ways, a singular goal of mine.

Gods

In some ways, the gods are more concrete than my ancestors. My family isn’t as firmly set in my mind, for they’re amorphous in their great quantity. My ancestors’ wants and desires blend together over the ages, while the gods have their affiliations, if loosely, that may remain rather consistent.

Throughout my many years as a Heathen, I’ve remained particularly fond of Ing Frēa. My early years were spent referring to him as Freyr; even now he’s often referenced in my head as “Frey”. His importance has been so great that my first tattoo at age 22 was of his associated Anglo-Saxon rune (ᛝ) on my right arm. One of the most influential people in my religious development was Jordsvin, a gay goði of Freyr. I gobbled up whatever I could find on the deity and went to him in times of need. His associations with peace, pleasure, fertility, and fruitfulness of the land remain very important to me. I have a statue and a woodburning of his associated rune dedicated to him.

There are, of course, other gods.

Wōden, whom others in Ásatrú may know as Óðinn, is rather important to me. Many, many people have said that he is a prolific recruiter. This isn’t completely true for me, as I wasn’t recruited by any means, but I can understand how that could be so for others. My parents and both grandfathers are lovers of history and writing. All of them have previously written for personal enjoyment at the least, while my parents also have written for profit. Like them, I have a strong love for history and writing. It was in this that I am not surprised that I may have once seen Wōden on my family’s property in my youth. (As someone who is skeptical to a fault in a lot of things, I don’t always know what to make of that, if it was anything at all.) I have a statue associated with him.

Tīw, known elsewhere at Týr, is not someone whom I’ve ever really experienced. He is for reasons of comparative mythology the leader of the ēse. He is the god of justice, war, governance, and oaths and is, for lack of a less overused term, the sky father. I called upon him once (in conjunction with my ancestors) when I had been wrongly and baselessly accused of a crime. The accusations were dropped a week later once they were seen for how empty they were. Additionally, I swear oaths on a long dagger that I associate with him.

Frīg, often erroneously written as Frīge and cognate with the Norse Frigg, holds a special place in my heart. She is both a mother and a lover. She looks over her family. She is Wōden’s wife. I have prayed to her when I have had  family issues and looked to her for guidance in domestic affairs. I associate with her a drinking horn that has the boutonnières from my wedding sticking out the top.

Þunor, known as Þórr in Norse sources, is the bearded god of thunder, the defender of the common man, and the wielder of an ax (or hammer, depending on other references and comparative mythology). He is the son of the Earth and is associated with oaks. He rides across the sky with his goat-drawn chariot. I have never called upon him directly, but he is included during more generalised offerings. Plenty of others pray to him for good rains or praise him during thunderstorms. I have a statue of him and a small blade with a goat foot for a hilt associated with him.

Earth (< Old English Eorþe), or alternatively Folde (< Proto-Germanic *fuldō < Proto-Indo-European *pelth₂- “broad, flat”; cognate with Old Norse fold and Old Saxon folda), is quite obviously the goddess of the Earth. The aforementioned sawn log with lichens is dedicated to her.

Sun (< Old English Sunne) and Moon (< Old English Mōna) are self-explanatory. I have nothing associated with them on my altar, but I have a copy of the Nebra sky disk nearby.

At this point, I go into more obscure territory or have not found a way to honour the god or hero properly.

Bēow is the (putative) god of barley, to whom I have assigned the attributes of John Barleycorn. I also view him as being largely synonymous to Byggvir. I have nothing associated with him, nor do I honour him, as I don’t grow barley and I know no one who does.

Ēostre remains elusive. Plenty of people celebrate her, but often without any sort of historical understanding. The name shows that it might have belonged to a local deity, which is nice to know, but it doesn’t provide much more than that. How this name came to be so widespread then is another issue, though. Nothing is conclusive.

*Hreda/Hreþe/Hreþa has even less to work with and there’s no consensus by any means regarding the name. This goddess, if there is one there at all, is thus ignored.

Seaxnēat‘s exact role in the world is lacking in extant sources, either as being a “sword-companion” or as a national god of the Saxons. He seemed important once, but there’s little to go by.

Wēland is worthwhile as a god of smithing, but I do not do smithing and any construction that I do perform is far less laborious. I am interested in smithing, so perhaps one day he’ll be more relevant, but for now he goes unnoticed specifically.

Hengest and Hors have no function for me, but they are undoubtedly similar to other horse twins in Indo-European mythology.

There are other possible deities out there, such as Garsecg, Metod, or Fornet, but they remain even more hidden than the others in extant sources. Vague things may be gleaned here and there, but most information comes from a single sentence or etymology at best.

The Land

I would like to say that I honour the land second only to my ancestors, but truthfully I do not. Living in a city and a degree of laziness have stopped me from going out and offering to the land as much as I should.

This is not, however, to say that I do nothing. I offer milk to the wights regularly on my altar, typically alongside offerings of alcohol to the gods. I also paid my respects to the local river for a while and hope to give offerings to it eventually.

Everything else is less spiritually inclined and more of a general kindness. Scraps of food are left outside for animals. Native, flowing plants are grown on the balcony for bees and butterflies. Less directly impactful I use only energy-effecient LED lightbulbs for the most used lights.

While I cannot do too much within a city, I do work on my parents’ property. Large numbers of flowering plants are grown for bees and butterflies. Many vegetables are grown (and often consumed by rabbits before harvesting). Bird feeders are fully stocked. Additional trees are planned alongside the many preexisting ones. A hearg is partially built.

Holidays

Holidays are loosely defined for me and relatively few in number.

The equinoxes and especially the solstices are fun. If it’s a quieter time, candles are lit and small parties are had. Midsummer in particular involves a larger fire on my parents’ property, the burning of offerings, the consumption of alcohol, and other celebrations.

Yule is a magical time for me, as I’ve always had wonderful memories from that time while growing up. Decorations are everywhere, gifts are hidden until the right time, music is played, and the world actually starts to shut down for once. The celebration is started with Mothers’ Night, which for me involves honouring ancestors and cleaning the home.

Outside of these, I have little in particular that may be considered Heathen. I do not celebrate the start of the growing season, nor its conclusion, as I do not grow anything of substance. I have no set time for honouring the elves. Halloween is a purely secular affair in my mind, so no veneer is put over it. Most things are ad hoc.

More loosely I at least take note of important events and people in history. These do not have celebrations attached to them currently, but I keep them on my mind when the time rolls around. They had their impact on history in ways that would have changed my life considerably otherwise, if my life were even to happen at all without certain events, so it behooves me to understand that.

Conclusion

This is the more involved overview of my practices. I am undoubtedly forgetting some particulars, but the framework is there.

As a reconstructionist, historicity is utterly important. While new growth in the religion is needed and must be done for it to survive, a proper foundation must be laid first.  As nearly clichéd as it may be to say, this truly is a religion with homework, just as it is for the other reconstructed religions. More mainstream religions have centuries or millennia of scholarship, spiritual growth, and traditions behind them, while we are trying to bring something very old into the modern world. Many things will survive this transition, some of will go away, and others will be modified, but this will happen regardless.

Many Heathens are first generation by virtue of having converted. Some, such as I am, are second generation. It is during this time that we will make an impact. If we falter in what we do now, future generations may not have Heathenry available to them. We could be relegated to being a footnote in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

So we read and write. We get the word out to the population at large. We get involved in our communities instead of hiding as small groups that are unknown even to other Heathen groups. We do the work so that our children will have an easier time and a fuller experience with our gods and ancestors.

I hope to see more posts like this one from people in the future, not to mention more websites. It would show that our religion is healthier than ever and that we are on any path at all, rather than stagnant and forgotten.

Introduction

I’m Karl Benson. I live in New England, where my father’s line has resided since 1638 except for two dalliances. I am happily married to a wonderful man since April 2013.

I’m a second generation polytheist. While my father remains something of an atheist for the last several decades, my mother raised me with reverence for nature and a love for the gods of our ancestors. I was, however, a poor student under her and didn’t especially care about religion while growing up. I understood the ideas, but I never especially cared; science stole my attention readily. It wasn’t until my teen years that I finally started getting involved and reading what I could regarding Germanic polytheism. It has been a decade and a half since that started.

In those years I have developed a passion for history (like my parents), linguistics, medicine, and writing (also like my parents). And, like my parents, I maintain a strict sense of academic rigour. Concepts must be understood as fully as possible, facts must be compared to extant knowledge of related cultures and languages, and biases must be acknowledged both in one’s own thinking and in publications.

For many of the intervening years, I had a deep love for web design. I started learning HTML in 1999 at the age of 12 and continued doing so merrily for over half a decade. While I am not what I once was, I have retained a good portion of that knowledge and have provided my expertise where needed for a variety of pagan projects. It is refreshing to use that knowledge again in order to provide this site.

My earlier days of polytheism were spent identifying myself as practicing Ásatrú. Those days were a bit fluffier than I care to admit, but it was also par for the course for what was available at the time. My usage of Old Norse names had felt odd at the time, but I continued to use them, despite my own mother having used German forms predominantly when trying to teach me in my youth. It was not until university that I finally started feeling that I wasn’t honouring my ancestors properly; my family is from England and Germany, not Scandinavia.

It was around 2006 that I started saying that I practice Fyrnsidu (Old English “old custom”) instead. I feel that the term is more descriptive in a way, as there’s more to the religion than the gods. It had the added bonus of being Old English, of which I have a greater understanding and to which a cultural connection. I continue to follow Anglo-Saxon practices to this day, filling in the blanks where I can with comparative mythology and general Indo-European practices.

This website shall serve as a place to store information about Germanic polytheism and more broadly Indo-European polytheism and to get back into the habit of writing, which has been sorely lacking as of late. Many reconstructionists don’t discuss their personal beliefs much and instead focus solely on existing lore; I wish to do differently where possible. Many don’t discuss our religion in relation to the world around us, choosing to keep religion fully separate from the world, despite saying that “it’s a worldview”; we deserve more. I want to fill in the gaps.

I hope that everything here will be useful for those who find it.