folketro

Things to Remember Regarding Heathenry

All of the deities are either a) jotnar b) descended from jotnar or c) married jotnar, the idea that jotnar represent non-white races is racist bullshit that, ironically, means the deities are either not white, biracial, or in interracial marriages. Sorry racists! All ur faves are biracial.

Innangard is bullshit.

The Nine Noble Virtues are also bullshit. Here are some concrete reasons why they’re bullshit. 

Frigga is not “just” a housewife. She canonically tricks Odin twice. (Once in the Longobards’ origin story, and once in Grímnismál). So-called “women’s work” like textile production and cooking were vital to survival in the Viking Age (if you don’t believe me, look up how prominent spinning and weaving is in Norse myth–and fairy tales).

Angrboda is mentioned a grand total of twice in the lore. The whole “Angrboda is feuding with Sigyn” thing is UPG. Lokavinr put together a helpful list of Loki’s children by various women with lore references. Please give it a read.

All ur fave deities are queer. Some of ur fave heroes are also queer.

Heathen culture is neither closed nor living. You cannot “appropriate” Heathenry. There is a REASON we call our religions “revivalist” or “reconstructionist”.

Folkishness is racism, full stop. If you aren’t a racist crapbag, don’t call yourself folkish. (Note: Not to be confused with folketro, which means “folk belief”).

Icelandic Magical Staves

Hulinhjalmur

Hulinhjalmur (“Helm Of Disguise”) is a visual magic sigil that allows the user to appear invisible.

The complex task of creating the ink to make this sigil is done by collecting three drops of blood from the index finger of one’s left hand, three from the ring-finger of one’s right hand, two from the right nipple and one from the left nipple. Then the blood must be mixed with six drops of blood from the heart of a living raven and melted with raven’s brains and pieces of human stomach.

Once that is done the sigil must be drawn out in this ink on brown coal (lignite) and then pressed into the brow, activating this visual magic to prevent your enemies from being able to see you.

- hedendom

Vintersolverv

The shortest day, the longest night
Sol is in absence,
The longest moon, the shortest light
Måne rules this sky,
Darkness envelopes a world less bright,
Just as the embers of the midwinter fire,
Until the sun rises, they must stay alight,
The knowledge that days grow longer now,
Hope grows stronger now,
And warmth supports survival,
As Frøy returns on his golden steed,
To sow the seed of life,
For one more year, give thanks,
Sol is reborn.

Til års og fred!

Artwork by @svartsno

Icelandic Magical Staves

Veldismagn

Where many would think to use Ægishjálmur (particularly in tattoo’s as I have seen), it would often be more appropriate to use Veldismagn.

Where Ægishjálmur must be carved in metal and placed between the brows (acting as a visual magic), Veldismagn is drawn out in blood and placed on the chest. Since tattooing draws blood this might actually activate this overlooked sigil and in doing so create a charm so that nothing evil can harm you and you will return healthy and without sickness from any journey.

- hedendom

Gloson

In Swedish folktradition, Gloson is a terrible ghost pig that was a part of the challenges a year walker faced on a year walk (Sw. årsgång). She, the pig is usually a sow, could run between the legs of a person and cleave him or her in half. Sometimes she carried a scroll or a book in her mouth, and the one who snatched it could learn magic.

Artwork by fromfarbeyond and description by suttungsbrew

Havsrå

Known as the “Sea Wife”, the Havsrå is the oceanic equivalent of the Huldra and is the keeper or warden of the seas. Passing sailors can get her good graces by offering a coin, food or gloves (in cold weather) as a gift. In return, she may reciprocate the gesture with a warning of any any approaching high winds, storms or icy conditions. She may also help fishermen who show her such favour with information about how and where they can land a big haul.

Havsrå can take many different forms but usually appears as an incredibly beautiful woman with long, flowing hair that she is often seen combing atop rocks. Sometimes her back is hollow (as with the Huldra) and she has many aquatic features such as a fishes tail where her legs would be. She may also transform into the guise of seals, sea birds or other marine animals.

There are also Havsmän (“Sea Men”) but it is not know if they are connected to the Havsrå. Some believe that the two are sexual partners and this is how their existence continues but others say they are solitary creatures (much more like the Nøkk). The Havsmän can often be seen walking or waterskiing on the ocean waves just before a storm.

The Havsrå lives at the depths of the ocean in an underwater castle on the seabed with enormous halls, each one finer than the one before, where she lives with her children and other aquatic vættir. Under favourable weather conditions a sailor may catch a glimpse of her palace which has given rise to tales of sunken castles out at sea.

It has been known for a handsome sailor to stumble upon a Havsrå castle and that he be taken in to live with her forever and lose all memory of their home and life back on land.

Sometimes, if a fisherman happens to pull in a remarkable catch, he may find in his nets a Havsbarn (“Sea Child”), a child of the Havsrå. If he takes such a child home and raises it as his own, the Havsbarn will grow up to be the greatest of fishermen and possess a mystical connection to the sea that others lack, despite living out their life as a normal person. One day, when they have reached adulthood, the Havsbarn will hear a call from their mother, the Havsrå. They will then reveal their true nature to their adopted parents and thank them before sailing out to sea and jumping in, never to be seen again. Many Scandinavians who come from remote islands and seafaring families claim that their ancestor was such a Havsbarn.

It has been known for a Havsrå to stop a passing ship and offer to buy it’s cargo. It is wise to be polite and take the deal, as the Havsrå pays very well and rewards the kindness with good wind in the sails and fine conditions. On the other hand, refusal or rudeness will invoke her wrath and the ship may soon feel her power, sinking down to the murky depths.

Loke, eller den som er i midten

The following article was written by Elisabeth Keller of Forn Sed Norway. She is currently reading for a Master’s degree in Nordic, Viking and Medieval Culture at University. She works at the Norwegian Folk Museum. The original was in Norwegian so I thought I would translate it so that others may enjoy it. I have used some translations that include potentially offensive language (such as “gender bender” and “female magic”) but these are the closest translations and I did not wish to colour the article with my own interpretations.

Loki, “The One in the Middle”

Loki is without doubt one of the more controversial characters in the Old Norse pantheon. In this article I will examine his position as a mediator. Loki is constantly between the extremes. This applies to his allegiances, behaviour, morals, ancestry and more. I want to look more closely at three of these different aspects of Loki. His position in the middle of opposing forces, his position between man and woman and especially his intermediary position between the elements of fire, water and air.

Loki, “The Inbetweener”:

Loki is one of the most frequently occurring characters in the Norse myths but does not seem to have had his own following in the Viking Age, since we have not found archeological evidence of a cult or place of worship. The closest we come is the Snaptun Stone, an example of a rock that would protect the blower from the heat of a forge, which appears to be decorated with a figure with a sewn mouth. Such a stone is placed between the fire and blower, roughly halfway between the two. 

He is often described as a beautiful young man, who has a bad character. In this aspect (along with some others) he resembles the Christian devil and he has been compared with both the name and function. I have no doubt that Christian ideas have played an important role in how the Norse myths were written down, and in all likelihood that the representation of Loki will be influenced by Christian ideals and made meaner in the process. It seems only logical, not least because it has the same thing that happened to the Christian devil too. Much of the earlier research has characterised him as a so-called ”evil god” or as a carrier of culture. I would argue that he is both and neither.

In my opinion, Loki is the element that causes change - both good and bad. He is the one who stands in the middle between extremes. Ursula Dronke has suggested that Lodur is part of Loki. This makes sense if we regard Loki as an intermediary between the beginning and the end. In the beginning, Lodur gives the very life blood to the first humans, Ask and Embla. Finally at Ragnarok, Loki leads the giants against the gods. One possible interpretation of Loki’s name is that it can mean “close”, but this is far from certain and there are several other possible explanations. 

Some believe that, as a catalyst of advancement, Loki only contributed to the invention of the fishing net but, if we allow a broader definition of catalyst, I think Loki hass had many a success. Constantly challenging or forcing the gods to seek out new “technologies”, new solutions and not to get stuck in their ways. Ultimately to be prepared for the final battle. He is not chaos, although his actions may seem chaotic, but he has a predetermined goal as he works against the other Æsir. He is the force that drives the story forward, toward its inevitable conclusion at Ragnarok.

As a rogue god Loki breaks all the rules, he is witty and cunning, funny and insulting, but he is not just playing any pranks. He has a silver tongue and can convince anyone of what he wants but also causes much trouble with his tongue and so he gets his mouth sewn together.

He is a liar, a thief and a murderer, but friends of both Thor and Odin. He is a beloved husband, that commands the devotion of his patient and kind wife Sigyn after he is punished for the death of Balder. He sometimes causes both the gods and himself to get into trouble, both by lying and stealing, but usually it is also him who gets them out of it again. He does not do all this for his own amusement alone, but because he has to make sure that the cycle of existence for the world proceeds as it should. At the same time he also makes sure that everyone is prepared for the events at the end of the world.

Loki, “Gender Bender”:

Another great aspect of Loki as the middle person is his ability to change his shape. He is the child of giants but he is counted among the Æsir as a blood brother to Odin himself. Both he and Odin have forbidden knowledge of the female magic called seidr. As Brit Solli points out, this gives him the abilities and characteristics of a shaman. Apparently these skills transferred to him when he mixed his blood with Odin.

He is also a very liberal person and is not ashamed to transform or disguise himself as a women, unlike the other gods who regard this as perverse and shameful (as Thor does when he disguises himself as Freya). Loki has even given birth to several children in addition to being the father of a many too.

Loki’s disguises and transformations are a complete transformation, where he actually becomes whatever he turns into, rather than just taking on the appearance. When he becomes a mare to seduce the stallion Svaðilfari, he later gives birth a foal - Sleipnir. 

In Lokasenna, Odin accuses Loki of having survived underground as a woman for eight years while he milked cows and gave birth. On one occasion he alleges that Loki must have eaten a woman’s heart and due to this he is the mother of all witches. His role as a mother is stressed several times, not least in terms of kennings attached to him. As a man or a woman, he is difficult to define. Using seidr magic he stays in this unsteady and intermediate position. A figure that is hard to understand, who consciously lives somewhere in between what is acceptable for most and that which seems unacceptable to many. Loki defies words and even gender norms and limits.

Loki, “Between The Elements”:

The third and final aspect of Loki’s nature that I want to take a look at is his connection to the elements. He has been proposed as a personification of three different elements. I think he should represent both all and none. Fire and water can only exist if there is something between them. The element with a mythological correlation between these elements must be considered to be air.

The most commonly proposed elementary link with Loki is that he is or may have been a fire god but he loses in a competition against wildfire fire and so I do not see him as a general deity of fire. He is commonly called flammehår and it is not unlikely that Logi is another aspect of him. Logi literally means “fire” and is the brother of Hler (water) and Kari (air). Which interestingly enough are the other two elements he is more or less often connected. Noke is said to be again another aspect of Loke and this name is connected to the element of air. He is also called the celestial wanderer and sky traveller, which are connected with the air and the sky. Loki turned into a fly in order to win a bet against dwarf blacksmith. He has also been interpreted as a water deity because many of his transformations are water-related. He does, for example, transform to both salmon and seals. If we are to accept Lodur as part of Loki, we can also use this to link him to the water-related domain. It is Lodur providing the first people with the life-giving blood and can be interpreted as a parallel to the life-giving water. In addition, he also brought the fishing net to the people, although Anna Birgitta Rooth has suggested that this is one of things that marked him as a spider-god.

In my eyes, the three elements on their own are unlikely to be found as representations in one person, especially since two of them would annihilate each other. Again I find the solution to this is in the intermediate area with Loki. He is extremity and also situated between extremes - fire, water and air.

As I have shown in this brief essay, Loki is not so much a god of contradictions, but a deity or spirit for those between extremes. He is the child of giants but counted among the Æsir by becoming a blood brother to Odin himself. Thus he puts himself in a intermediate position. He is a vile murderer but a beloved husband. A monster and a lover. He is a prolific and excessive man but not ashamed to be a woman. He is a handsome young man, but often with an ugly character. He can convince everyone, but also lie without scruples. He has been suggested as a fire, water and air spirit among many other things. He creates difficulties for both gods and himself, both by lying and by stealing, yet he is also the one that gets them out of the predicament again, often with new acquisitions for the Æsir.

He is neither good nor evil, despite his role in the death of Balder and Ragnarok. He is the agent of renewal and progress in the cosmic plan who always drives the action in the stories toward its inevitable conclusion.

Bibliography

  • Brunvand, Jan Harold: Review in Midwest Folklore, Vol. 12, No. 4, Bloomington, 1962
  • Dronke, Ursula: The Poetic Edda: Volume II: Mythological Poems, Oxford 1997
  • Golther, Wolfgang: Handbuch der Germanischen Mythologie, Leipzig 1895, new edition from Wiesbaden 2004
  • Holtsmark, Anne: Norrøn mytologi – Tru och mytar i vikingtida, Oslo 1990 Solli, Brit: Seid, Oslo 2002
  • Steinsland, Gro: Norrøn religion, Oslo 2005

Linnorm

The Linnorm (or Lindworm) is a giant serpent from Norse mythology and Scandinavian folk belief, the most famous of which include Jörmangandr (the Midgard Serpent) and Fáfnir (which is slain by Sigurd in the Völsunga saga).

These snake-like dragons were known for their great size, venomous bite and destructive nature. A fearsome opponent to deal with and the antagonist of many folk tales.

In one such tale, we learn of an Earl’s daughter who had been taken hostage by a Linnorm until she is rescued by a warrior in fur trousers named Ragnar. This earns him his soon famed nickname of Ragnar Loðbrók (Hairy britches)!

It is also held in folk belief that if you can acquire the shed skin of a Linnorm you will greatly increase your knowledge and skill of nature and medicine.

- hedendom

Artwork from vaesen.se

The myth of the Huldra predates even the oldest Norse Mythology, originating in the time when mankind lived off nature, scavenging the forests, rather than agriculture and farming.

The Huldra protected the forest and all the flora and fauna within. Her home was a single large tree surrounded by smaller trees in a grove. She appeared as a beautiful young woman but this was not her true appearance. Few had seen her true image and fewer still had lived to talk of it. She would lure men into the woods with her song and depending on their character would either kill them or marry them.

She was neither good nor bad, instead she would respond to the intentions and actions of the person who encountered her. If a hunter was kind to her she would assist the hunt. To gain her favour she could be offered blood but one must be careful that she did drink them dry.

Artwork from Simon Flesser of simogo.com
6

Trolls

The troll is a very important part of modern Scandinavian folklore which harks back (or maybe even claims direct lineage) from the Jötnar of the high mythology. The terms Troll, Jötunn and Þurs are all mentioned throughout Old Norse Mythology to describe a variety of beings and there is confusion and overlapping in the use of those terms. It has been suggested that they are separate types of related creatures:
Jötunn are the lords of nature
Trolls are nature beings
Þurs are hostile monsters

Said to inhabit remote areas, like mountains, under rural bridges and caves deep in the forest. There are many different ‘races’ of troll depending on where they live and they display great diversity in their size and appearance. They are said to be very old, very powerful yet plodding and unintelligent enabling them to be defeated.

Scandinavians believe Trolls are frightened away by lightning (a holdover from the mythology of Thor killing Jötunn), church bells and iron (particularly an iron trollkurs or ‘troll cross’). It is said they also turn to stone if they are hit by direct sunlight. But if you cannot beat them you would best beware as they are known to kidnap and eat humans as well as destroy a persons property and home.

Today it is said that the lack of Trolls is down to the result of lightning strikes and there are many stone landmarks in Nordic lands that are said to be the result of Trolls that were caught in sunlight!

The day which Heathens traditionally considered New Year was sundown on the night of the first full moon after the midwinter solstice. On this night, it was believed that the barriers between the realms were at their thinnest. It was a night when many would attempt to commune with the powers and attempt rituals that required crossing between planes of existence. Such rituals would include Årsgång (Year Walking), Spådom (Premonition), Trolldom (Nordic Folk Magic) and doing positive things that would help set a precedent for the coming year!

The artwork comes from an 1875 book and depicts someone partaking in Årsgång.

5

The Ring Of Brodgar

Long, long ago, there were trolls in Orkney. They were big, loud, brash creatures, quarrelsome and slow witted, but they did love to dance. During the day they had to hide away, for the sun would see them and turn them into stone. They lived in fear of the yellow face, only coming out at night when the moon shone softly down on them.

One night they gathered at the place between the lochs to dance. A fiddler struck up a tune and the trolls shouted with joy, linking hands and dancing around in a great big circle. Around and around they went as the fiddler played faster and faster. The sound of their feet as they danced must have sounded like thunder and felt like an earthquake as they sped around and around. They were having fun, in fact they were having so much fun that they completely forgot about the time.

Suddenly, the sun rose above the horizon and caught them with its fiery eye. The music and the dancing stopped as each and every giant turned into stone. They are still there to this day, only now we call them the Ring of Brodgar. The Comet Stone that stands in the field next to them was the fiddler; now silent in stone.

Where To Find Our Faith

Regardless of the name you use, be it Ásatrú, Forn Sed, The Northern Tradition, Norse Heathenry or any other title, the question of how and where to learn more about the old ways always comes up.

Academic study is great if you wish to learn how others practice (and I do read and take an interest in what remains from the era) but ultimately the only perfect way to find this faith for yourself is to experience it.

You will not find experiences in books.

You will find it in woods and forests, mountains and anywhere else that makes you re-enter the ecosystem as a participant instead of a viewer.
You will find it in the customs, traditions and folklore around YOU (possibly including but not limited to those incomplete fragments from Iceland many hundreds of years ago).
You will find it in your own heart.

Our ancestors didn’t read books about how to practice. They looked at their world, experienced it, and created our tradition to fit themselves. They did not follow written word like a holy book and try to make themselves fit those words.

I know a heathen brother who has a profound understanding of the old ways and he cannot even read. Yet he is a man of the earth and spends all of his time in nature, where he truly found his faith.

To me it isn’t study. It’s living, experiencing and growing!
It’s a living religion, a way to make sense of our world. Go out and enjoy it!

- hedendom

Norwegian Pirog aka “Troll Snacks”

These savoury pies, made with fillings such as Jarlsberg cheese, ham and other Norwegian regional favourites, are known as “Troll snacks” in and around Gudbrandsdalen, Norway.

The region is recorded in folklore as the setting for the famous folk tale of Per Gynt, who takes on many great adventures, rescues dairy maids from trolls and defeats the giant worm-troll, Bøyg!

It is said that by offering a few of each batch that you bake you will stop unwanted attention from trolls and stop them interfering with your home and family.