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reconstruction of heathen culture and religion.

The Heathen Journal

VOLUME
II

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Óðrœrir 1

Odroerir
The Heathen Journal
Volume II Team:
Editors:
Josh Rood
Mathias Nordvig
Matt Walker
John Wills
Erik Lacharity
Bil Linzie
(With special assistance from)
Alyssa Paulsen
Benjamin Kowalski
Cat Ellis
Cat Heath
Christian Avis
Benjamin Kowalski
Terence Plumb
Tim Shanks
Art and Layout Team:
Christine Foltzer
Dan Oropallo
Odroerir would like to give a special
Thank You to the following:
Terry Gunnell
Christopher Abram
Stephen Pollington
Without your invaluable insight and advice, our academic standards would be much lower.
All art by Dan Oropallo unless otherwise stated.

................ 27 Shane Ricks Symbel: The Heathen Drinking Ritual? ...................................................................... 98 Caspian Smith .................................... 76 Anssi Alhonen Self-Directed Language Learning .........................In This Volume Introduction ................ 59 Dan Campbell Tree Cults in Frankish Heathenism ........................................................................................... 6 Joshua Rood Establishing the Innangard .... 68 Erik Lacharity The Finnish Tradition: An Introduction .......................................................................................................... 4 Joshua Rood Articles “Heathen” Linguistic Origins and Early Context ........................ 17 Joshua Rood Cult and Identity in Modern Heathenry ........ 43 John Wills Feeding the Wolf ......................

.......... 175 . 155 Contact Odroerir ... Ashlad and Redfoks .......... 114 Josh Heath Beer and Brewing Culture Through Eyes of a New England Heathen .......................Living Heathen A Springtime Procession ........................................................................................................................................................ 110 Christopher Robert Two Yule Rituals ............. 135 Jon Cyr Poetry .... 149 Various people A Snake Story ................................................................................................................... 153 Josh Heath............................................................................................................................................. 122 Mark Andersen Some Brew Recipes.....127 Mark Andersen.......................................................... Jon Talkington Living Lore Skald Craft Understanding and Writing in the Old Norse Meters ...........................156 Tim Gladu Bibliography ....................................

experience. It set the tone of what sort of approach we take to heathenism. Article formats may show some variation. and give advice that we gladly took. and we would suggest that it be read before this present volume. and the sections are not rigidly distinct from one . and our desire to act on it has driven us to maintain a high academic standard for the material we present. That is precisely what we received. The decentralized nature of our contribution base has resulted in a bit of a nebulously structured second volume. but now consider friends. This conviction is the foundation that Odroerir is built upon. but who volunteered to edit. We are confident in saying that Odroerir is a credible resource for those interested in contemporary heathenism. and it attracted others who do the same. To simply direct people to a rare and expensive stockpile of academic works was not enough. We also decided that. Our goal to bridge the gap between the academic knowledge of ancient heathen traditions and the implementation of ongoing ones today depended on the contributions of others throughout the general heathen community. if we were to make an attempt to represent contemporary heathenism. When we first conceived the idea of Odroerir. Our work would have been impossible without the research and writing of contributors with whom we were previously unaware of. We saw a need to provide documentation of our own dialogue if we wanted audiences to understand how we saw and understood heathenism ourselves. The diversity of our contributors is matched only by our uniting belief that reconstruction of our various traditions is dependent on understanding their origins. We introduced Odroerir as a vessel that needed the wisdom. We have received more submissions – artistic. and artistic talent of the heathen community to help fill it. We never dreamed we would get the readership that we have. We have been humbled by their generosity. The journal’s contributors are involved in a grassroots movement in both America and Europe – a movement that encompasses greatly varied cultures. Our ability to present this journal is greatly indebted to the rich variety of individual talent from throughout the heathen community and the enthusiasm with which people contributed and reviewed the material. and we have been inundated with emails of support. we realized that our approach had produced few publications to which we might direct interested individuals. We were fortunate enough to be able to assemble a team that we felt confident could hold us to the high standard we set for ourselves. That was precisely what we needed from a debut issue. proofread. poetic and academic – than we have been able to make use of. we needed to insure – to the best of our ability – that our claims and conclusions were supported by (and consistent with) the work of modern authorities on the subjects we would be presenting. We wanted to expand with subsequent issues. We have realized with great joy that what was started out of fear that our voices weren’t being heard has become a rallying place for those across the heathen communities who are excited to present heathenism as it really was. and we have been able to expand tremendously. It has also played another role which was critically important in order for Odroerir to really become what we envisioned. we were just a handful of individuals representing a variety of groups with a shared approach to heathenism. but information is nothing without a community. In our discussions with each other.Óðrœrir 4 Introduction Odroerir: The Heathen Journal is an accumulation of the research and experience of men and women engaged in the reconstruction of the heathen traditions of northern Europe. local customs and religious practices. as it really is and as it perhaps can be. We could not have done this without the deep insights and guidance of academic authorities on the matters we are presenting. This Volume Volume I was an introduction of sorts. advice and general inquiry. We are indebted to those who were not even a part of the Odroerir team.

family. The second section is a shift in focus from research towards heathen experience. Lastly. Odroerir is able to present information from a variety of cultures related to heathenism without mixing them together or confusing them with one another. and to contribute if you believe you have something to offer. we have our book reviews. Germanic heathenism refers to a variety of local and regional religious practices. and whose authors may not even refer to as “heathen. Feel free to share this with friends. In addition. Historically. Odroerir overwhelmingly flows out of a “Germanic heathen” focus. This should be expected and we prefer to allow for an organic development for each issue rather than to try and force a particular stylistic and structural appearance at the cost of information.Óðrœrir 5 another. There is no established “theme. and enjoy! Joshua Rood Odroerir Editor April 2. The same is true of our contributors. For this reason. The first section contains research oriented articles that cover a wide variety of subject matter relevant to heathen religion. Articles which focus on a specific culture will always make clear which culture they are referring to. We are proud of Odroerir's second volume.” The Odroerir team agreed only that we should strive to at least address some of the more “basic” topics before we can build off of them. Regarding the variety of “traditions” contained in this and future issues. Thank you for reading. society. but it would be academically dishonest to present heathenism as an insular. our contributors gave an array of content. and we were able to expand the journal in multiple directions. singular tradition. we have decided to allow a place for some articles which focus on religious practices that are relevant to heathenism but are not necessarily Germanic. There was also a good bit of cultural exchange with neighboring European cultures. We’ve structured the content into four loosely categorized sections and tried to establish a flow between topics. The third section contains some living lore in prose and poetry. which naturally has variations. Terminology and personal and place-name spellings may differ slightly between authors depending on their region and background. and worldview. In this way. practice and implementation. 2012 . and community. and those which focus on a culture which is not Germanic will contain the name of their focus in their title.” By default Odroerir's articles stem from the common Germanic heathen viewpoint. and we hope that the heathen community is also.

For the sake of simplicity. and what this might have meant for the people implied by it.Codex Argenteus. I will identify the source of the word heathen and I will trace it throughout the time period which the “heathen” Europeans existed. a Syrophenician by nation. These books are still preserved in multiple manuscripts. but most notably the Codex Argentius3 where it is recorded on thin purple velum of high quality and written in gold and silver ink. and a stranger.Ibid. 4 . It has also been the title most favored by modern people who are engaged in the reconstruction of preChristian Germanic traditions. early history. Among medieval historians it is used more precisely to identify those “Germanic”1 peoples who still practiced their indigenous religion.4 In the context of the story. this paper will use the term “Germanic” to refer to the people who have conventionally. She was not one of the Jews to whom Christ had been ministering prior to her arrival. but also as a self moniker. 3 . She was an outsider to the group. Saurini fwnikiska gabaurþai. The word first appears in the Gothic language as a translation of several New Testament books by the Bishop. The woman was a haiþnô. 2 . She was a foreigner.At least. not only to describe those religious practices they are reviving. and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. Ulfilas (ca 310-383).2 this article focuses on the context and implications that it would have had while that demography coexisted with the scribes who recorded it. The Book of Mark goes on to explain that Jesus met 1 .Articles “Heathen” The Linguistic Origins and Early Context • By Joshua Rood The modern English word heathen has long been the favorite label used in academic circles to identify the unchristian peoples of western and northern Europe during the Middle Ages. . 2004. jah baþ ina ei þo unhulþon uswaurpi us dauhtr izos. and more importantly the context of the word heathen. It is my hope that this endeavor will allow the reader to have a serious understanding of the origins.” despite the issues that rise from pigeonholing vastly different groups of people under one moniker. Because the word heathen pertains to a particular demography. within the circles I have described. and it contains the first recorded mention of the term as we know it: Wasuþ þan so qino haiþnô. the woman in reference was a Greek who had been born in Syrian Phoenicia. been labeled “Germanic. The following passage is taken from his translation of chapter 7 of the Book of Mark.

Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. pāgānus had originally meant ‘rustic villager’ in reference to the rural communities that existed outside of Rome’s great urban centers. which literally means “Of the Greek Nation” and is similar to Greek ethnos (ἔθνος. is literally a person who lives in the uncultivated wastelands of the wilderness. Middle High German. 1999. each being in the Septuagint and Vulgate translations of the Hebrew Bible for the word goyim. The traditional. It is assumed that Ulfilas had chosen a Gothic word on model of the Latin pāgānus.Metcalf. Neither was she someone whom Christ had been associating with. and Iðavellir from Eden). Sophus Bugge challenged this explanation by offering that the word haiþnô was not an original Gothic word at all. Ulfilas would have recorded his translation during this latter period and may have wished to portray the woman as dwelling in the countryside or wastelands away from civilization. The traditional explanation for this is that it stressed the root sense of “rural”. in this context the woman was a Greek. However in the years after Christianity had established itself as an urban religion and while ancient deities were still retained in rural districts. writings does not. that the term was used as a Gothic gloss for the Greek hellēnis (ἑλληνίς). used to signify an uncultivated forest. 6 . heide. and instead refer to a person’s status as belonging to a foreign nation. See also Liddell and Scott. open country”.” With this response. The definition has changed little and appears in Gothic haiþi (feminine) and genitive haiþjôs as “field. Christ hesitated to heal anyone other than his own people and responded rather harshly. our gentile) happen to be equivalents. widely accepted explanation is that the term heathen is a derivative of the abstract noun heath. and that they were all derivatives of the Classical or Christian world. for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. but was a product of the Classical Mediterranean world. Within a Christian context the meaning is shifted from non-Jewish nations to non-Christian.” religiously and nationally. 7 This theory is consistent with his belief that the Germanic people had no original religious or mythological systems.5 A heathen then. The prevalence of heath and its linguistic variations throughout all Germanic languages demonstrates that the word is not only very old. and an offshoot of Armenian het’anos.See Simek’s Dictionary of Northern Mythology. In his most famous work Studier over der nordiske Gude og Heltesagns Oprindelse. “let the children first be fed. See also Lewis. not a Jew. Bugge made his argument through attempting to connect the etymologies of Norse words to classical and biblical sources. . 1883. “yes. and Old Norse heiðr. 8 . hei. This information is relevant because we will see heathen used often by Germanic scribes as a translation for gentili in earlier Latin 5 .” The foreign woman responded. this woman who is referred to as a haiþnô asked Christ to drive out a demon that had taken up residence in her daughter. open untilled land. His supposition has by and large been rejected.6 In 1896. goyim. As we can see. In addition to this bias. Old High German. Middle Low German hêde. The word haiþnô stems from the formative suffix haiþi-. Bugge fails to explain why a foreign word like het’anos would spread through the Germanic languages while the term gentili.Watkins.8 When put into the context of the Hebrew Bible. Dutch heide. Indeed. meaning “nation” or “people”). and gentili refer specifically to non-Jewish nations. pasture. 7 . In the Book of Mark then. It is clear however. none of these words hold any relation to “heath” or the concept of wilderness. ethnos. She was “other. as should his explanation for haiþnô. (Loki from Luzifer.Simpson and Weiner. 1989. and translates as “being of the haiþi/ of the heath”. This corresponds precisely with Old English hǽð. While he was there. 1890. Christ claimed that her daughter was healed.Óðrœrir 7 her when he had gone up the Mediterranean coast to the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon. Ethnos and Latin gēns (gentilis. Urðarbrunnr from Jordan. There have been two conflicting theories pertaining to the origins and etymology of the term. which was far more popular in Ecclesiastical. it came to refer to their religious status. German heide. 2000. but that it reflects innate Germanic concepts. Middle Dutch hêde. The Indo European origin of the word heath is the root kait.

Bede goes on to describe the departure of the bishops Mellitus and Justus from the barbaros (barbarians) of Kent who had refused to be 9 . otherwise Annals of Senat: A Chronicle of Irish Affairs. referred to as the Anglo Saxon Chronicle9 is exactly that. Æthelberht. After relaying the death of Æthelberht. We will also observe a pattern that develops which demonstrates its shifting definition during the period in which Christian and native German people were intermingling.Bede. along with most of the other tribes that dealt with the Roman world would subsequently become a part of that world. but while our records of them demonstrate that they are the oldest Anglo Saxon vernacular texts by far and the word heathen does appear in them several times. and heavily impacted the surrounding tribes who had not been Romanized and had retained their own cultures.” the entry in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle records simply that he was living in hæðenum (heathendom). Vol. 11 . The Goths. 2011. This enabled a “classical” ecclesiastical culture to be established. both texts go on to highlight the refusal of his son Eadbald to become a Christian. it does not appear in surviving records for the next several hundred years in any way other than in reproductions of the manuscript containing the Gothic Bible. the Carolingians helped import the writings of Rome into the northern “frontiers” of Christian Europe. and they were bound and held in Rome with little contact or influence on other tribes aside from those which were highly Romanized. For this purpose it is also beneficial to explore the Irish Ulster Annals.Annala Uladh. . Through this route Germanic and Christian thought in northern Europe would intermingle and syncretize. It is a chronicle of the Anglo Saxon people through dated entries from the mythical Anglo Saxon past. the time of Christ. into the year of its compilation. The wealth of tribal laws we have from this period are in Latin. and in it the word heathen is used twice as a translation of Bede’s text.11 The chronicle’s entry is a gloss of his work. One of these sources was compiled during the reign of the Anglo Saxon king Alfred the Great. translated from Latin into Anglo Saxon. The first mention of the word heathen within the Anglo Saxon Chronicle is from an extensive entry for the year 616 in reference to the death of the first Christian king of Kent. 1. There are two particular bodies of work which help to demonstrate the context that heathen had come to be used in. Since this text was all compiled at once. 1887. Likewise. Annals of Ulster. While the Bishop Ulfilas introduced what would become the word heathen in text during the mid 4th century. we will need to investigate other sources before we can really put the laws into an appropriate context. shortly after his own peace treaty with the Danish king Guthrum and the establishment of the Danelaw around the 890s. Book Two). Rome would deteriorate.The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. When Charlemagne had his renaissance in the beginning of the 9th century and attempted to revive Roman culture. This work. and expanded in subsequent centuries. vernacular literacy had finally begun to pick up among Germanic groups as exemplified in the early 7th century Anglo Saxon law codes.Óðrœrir 8 texts. and the Gaelic Irish. 1972. the scribes needed to backdate entries which required that they draw from other sources.10 considering how neatly the entries coincide between the two in relation to this study and the significant likelihood of influence between them. The works of “Germanic” writers like Ulfilas had become a part of the literature of the Latin world. Whether or not the word would have been spoken or written on perishable material during this period cannot be determined but it does not appear to have been used by any scribes. the Picts. The Anglo Saxon laws do hold a wealth of valuable material. While Bede refers to Eadbald as living in a sinful manner that was so corrupt that it was “not even heard among the gentes (gentiles). and its culture with it. The entry draws from an original source which is clearly Bede’s Historiam Ecclesiasticam Gentis Anglorum: Liber Secundus (Ecclesiastical History of the English People. and it doesn’t appear in any of the law codes that were recorded by the multiple Germanic people who had settled in and around the Roman borders on the continent. The Anglo Saxons at this time would have also intermingled considerably with the Brythonic peoples. 10 .

the Anglo Saxon scribe who translated this work had decided to bring these two separate implications from two separate terms under the same moniker of hæðen. Essentially then. when they are 12 . to the peace treaties between Guthrum and Alfred in the end of the 9th century.In this case. and fiery dragons flying across the firmament. In the end of the eighth century. earmlice hæþenra manna hergunc adilegode Godes cyrican in Lindisfarnaee þurh hreaflac mansliht. it refers to “Scandinavians. and daemonicis cultibus in clear condemnation of the worship of deities which were in Bede’s opinion. the harrowing inroads of heathen men made lamentable havoc in the church of God in Holy-island. After 840. This year came dreadful fore-warnings over the land of the Northumbrians. Anglo Saxon territories were invaded and subjected to plunder and slaughter. The term no longer implied “foreign” or “country dweller”. þæs ilcan geares on . Regarding the initial Viking raid in 793 when they destroyed the monastery at Lindisfarne and slaughtered the monks. Both the Irish and Anglo Saxon sources record the wars between the Danes in the form of yearly entries between 793 with the Viking attack on Lindisfarne. Both sources go on to demonstrate a correlating pattern associating “otherness” with the Danes. slaughtered monks. the Danes are interchangeably referred to as gentilibur and gaill (OI-foreigner). and targeted churches.” 13 . 2008. They were both foreign to the Anglo Saxons and still held to their native religion. and whirlwinds. by rapine and slaughter. He did not use the term gentes in this instance however. Its context is both that of being “outside a Christian state” and “condemnable”. The invaders were Danes12. These tremendous tokens were soon followed by a great famine: and not long after.vi. “Danes” does not refer to the people of modern day Denmark. þæt wæron ormete þodenas ligrescas. and terrified the scribes who wrote about their incursions. Within the Irish Annals between 793 mentioned above and through the entire 9th century to follow. Þam tacnum sona fyligde mycel hunger. Jutland. clearly evil. The implications here are that while Bede chose the word gentes to refer to Eadbald’s people who were part of a nation which was foreign to an established Christian nation. “Devastation of all the Isles of Britain by gentiles. terrifying the people most woefully: these were immense sheets of light rushing through the air.Annala Uladh. Idus Ianuarii.Óðrœrir 9 converted. fyrenne dracan wæron gesewene on þam lifte fleogende.Avalon Project. but rather in implies people from Norway. The Anglo Saxon scribe who translated Bede chose not to differentiate between the terms gentes and daemonicis cultibis and used the term heðene (heathen) a second time. and described their religious practices as being a “daemonicis cultibus” (demonic cult). litel æfter þam. 14 . They also held no consideration for Christian sanctity. . þæt folc earmlic bregdon. and Sweden. on the sixth day before the ides of January in the same year. while the Irish Annals label them gentilibur. They would go on to change the entire political and religious landscape of north and east England by establishing their Danelaw.”13 The entry that appears in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles was recorded later: Her wæron reðe forebecna cumene ofer Norðhymbra land. the Ulster Annals say simply. Both sources provide a wealth of terminology which is exceptionally telling of the nomenclature that developed regarding the Danes during this century of conflict.14 Here the foreign invaders are referred to as “hæþenra manna” by the Anglo Saxons. 1887.

After 830. over other “foreign” groups at the time. Between 830 and 890 we see them referenced nearly thirty more times. multiple laws were enacted to attempt to bring the Anglo Saxon people more in line with Ecclesiastical Canons and to extinguish indigenous. Between the 7th century and the Danish invasion in the 9th. interchangeably referred to as hæþen and Dæniscan.Thorpe.” it had also become indicative of the customs and practices of the Danish people in particular.Ibid. Vol1. to the Anglo Saxons. In the Ulster Annals. However. for example. 1989. as witchcraft. entries concerning the invading Danes dominate the annals and demonstrate how serious a presence they had become. Only once. It is likely that the Anglo Saxon chronicler used the Ulster Annals or related documents as a source in his compilation. as well as incantations other than Christian prayers. The word hæþen appears for the final time in the chronicle in the entry for 871 regarding a series of battles between the Dæniscan and their hæþen kings. 18 . they were still unable to shake free from their association with “othernesss”. stones. after they had begun to settle and clearly had established cordial relationships with some of the island’s factions. They are referred to as Norððmanna occasionally albeit rarely after 836 but this is clearly introduced by the Anglo Saxons as it is an Anglo Saxon word. where 15 . auguries. Two of these entries call them hæþen and one in 787 refers to them as Norðmanna from Hæreðalande. These practices are described.”18 and they appear in 8th century Canon Law.The recorded tallies between these two sources are the result of this author’s own research. and who were heavily impacting the social and political landscape. The word heathen only appears in the recorded Anglo Saxon laws after the conversion of the Danes when king Guthrum signed for peace with Alfred of Wessex. . after which peace treaties were signed. Prior to the 830’s we only see three entries regarding the Danes. sacrificing or making oaths on wells.OED. As the term had now come to designate a specific people and had essentially “acquired a face for the name. they were referred to as dubh-gaill to specify them from other gaill. we see them called dubh-gaill and dubh-genti. between 830 and 840. and while they were used to refer to any foreign group of people. Over the course of the 830’s through 900. The very earliest that we see the word actually written and not backdated is in 826 where it appears in the Charter of Ecgberht from that year. Before 830 we see the words gentile and gaill used most often in reference to them. 17 . Despite the detailed descriptions of these forbidden practices.Óðrœrir 10 first reported to have established a settlement at Dublin. these words had developed a connotation with the Danes specifically. over the course of nearly a century of continual struggle against invading Danish armies and reavers. hæþen and Dæniscan had developed to become implicative of one another.15 The same overall pattern exists in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles. the land of thieves. who are referenced with greater frequency through the 9th century. and we see the word heathen used as a gloss for gentili and any other word which signified “foreignness” to both country and religion. Likewise. the use of the terms gentili and gaill double what they had been for the preceding thirty seven years. we see a notable spike in the term’s usage. In just 10 years. 16 . Instead of being properly called Danes. they were never actually given a label in vernacular until immediately after the conversion of the Danish King Guthrum in 878. when the Danes had become a considerable threat and had forced the different English factions to bury their residual differences or all be conquered. unchristian religious practices. in 989.17 The Laws of Withraed (690) record “fines inflicted on those who offer to devils. and trees. are they referred to as Danes. 2004. by and large they become associated with the Danes. Both gentilibur and gaill (with its derivatives) are used to demonstrate the Danes status as “outsiders to the community/religion”.16 Recorded Anglo Saxon law extends back into the early 7th century in the oldest vernacular laws of Æthelberht.

Kings and ecclesia continued to further define that label in order to help eradicate those practices. it wasn’t until now that those illegal practices were given a label: Hæðenðom. 20 . and with elders.Óðrœrir 11 the word hæþen first appears in the Laws of Alfred and Guthrum written into the treaty which established peace between the Danes and the Anglo Saxons. 21 .” The canons of King Edgar (959) state: We enjoin. and forbid well worshipings.Thorpe. to bring those Danes of the Danelaw out of dangerous “otherness” and into Christendom. the son of Alfred has the treaty recorded in the preamble to his own laws recorded later in 901. and with “frithsplots”. on behalf of Anglo Saxons. and idola weoþunga (idol worship). and zealously renounce every kind of hæðenðom. if he be a king’s thane. and totally renounce all heathenship. by words or by work. Vol 2. or worship idols. with which men do much of what they should not. and man worshipping. that every priest zealously promote Christianity. Oððe on blote oððe on fýrhté oððe on swýlerá gedwiméra ænig 19 . 2004.21 The laws of the Northumbrian Priests give a similar description: If then anyone be found that shall henceforth practice any heathenship (hæðenscipe). let him pay X halfmarks. and totally extinguish every heathenism. Edward. Oððe morð-weore ge-fremme. or in any way love witchcraft (wicce-cræft). It was in reference to foreigners and Danes who were religiously and physically outside of the Christian world. and divinations (Hwata).22 The Anglo Saxon laws of the eleventh century Danish king. treow-weorþunga (tree worship). stanweorþunga (stone worship). we see hæðenðom used in contemporary law specifically targeting Danish religious practice. and with many various delusions. as ‘wite’ or ‘lah-slit.Ibid. Now it is written into a treaty intended. Prior to this point it had only ever been used as an Anglo Saxon vernacular gloss of Latin and Gaelic texts.’ according as the deed may be. Cnut attempts to actively define the word “hæðenscipe”: We forbeódað eornostlice ælene hæðenscipe. and the vain practices which are carried on with various spells. Hæðenscipe bið ðæt man idola weorðige ðæt is ðæt man weorðige hæðene godas and sunnan oððe mónan fýr oððe flod wæter-wýllas oððe stanas oððe æniges cýnnes wúðutreowa. and the definition of the word Hæðenðom was given greater specificity within the Anglo Saxon law codes. All of these now fall under the definition of “hæðenðom. half to the king. half to Christ.Ibid. We are all to love and worship one God.Ibid. Dooms are enacted throughout them forbidding the practices of wil-weorþunga (well-worship). and also with various other trees. and necromancies (lic-wiglunga). “they would love one God. and strictly hold one Christianity. . Oððe wicce-cræft lufige.”20 Once the Danes had been brought into the folds of the Christian world. and with stones. either by sacrifice or by “fyrt”. While Anglo Saxon kings had previously attempted to put an end to the indigenous religious practices that had existed among the populace. let him pay as well ‘were’. On ænige wisan. and enchantments (galdra). 22 .”19 In his own laws Edward includes the doom: “If anyone violate Christianity or reverence hæðenðom.

It provides some of the finest examples of how the term had come to be used to describe specific people and their religious practices. but with no other 23 . Over the course of the next several hundred years this definition will become solidified in the vernacular writings throughout northern Europe and Scandinavia. Within these writings. during the tenth century. the word heathen always relates to the “old religion”. But if I die here.” (Hákon) said.Thorpe. then give me such a burial place as seems most fitting to you. Members of both religions served in the courts of kings such as Hákon the Good where politics between the two groups played out and were brought into contrast with one another. 25 . Norwegian kings and chieftains were forced to address the pressing Christian religion. Christianity in turn was forced to reconcile with the reality of a predominantly heathen Norway. We earnestly forbid all heathenism. and it had taken on a much more specialized definition which most closely sums up the “religions” of the Germanic people.25 “If I be granted to live. or by ‘blot’ or by divination. water-wells or stones…or forest trees of any kind. all use the cognate heiðni. . One of the primary reasons for this is that a good deal of sagaic subject matter relates to the period of intense religious conflict and change that Norway and Iceland experienced. 2004. ok urpu þar haug mikinn ok lögðu þar í konung með alvæpni sitt ok hinn bezta búnað sinn. or promote murder-work in any wise. vísuðu honum til Valhallar. The word’s original meaning of “foreigner” was essentially lost. Heathenism is that men worship idols. that they worship heathen gods. þá veiti mér þann gröpt er yðr sýnist. that is. “I would leave the country to abide among Christians and do penance for what I have sinned against God. which eventually took a foothold within the courts of the king. en ekki fé annat. and the sun or the moon. The collective body of literature that was composed in Iceland during the 13th century. The Anglo Saxon epic Beowulf describes the practices of the Danes as hǽþen. fire or rivers. among heathens. as well as those of all the peoples of northern Europe who were still to be Christianized. Mæltu þeir svá fyrir grepti hans. sem heiðinna manna siðr var til. 1872.23 With Cnut’s definition. or perform anything pertaining to such illusions. Litlu síðar andaðist Hákon konungr þar á hellunni. segir hann. þá mun ek af landi fara ok til kristinna manna.Linder. en ef ek dey hér í heiðni. V1. Snorri Sturluson depicts one of the most vivid scenes regarding the two religions: En þótt mér verði lífs auðit. 24 .Heaney. not only marks the end of the period which this article investigates. hæðen had evolved to fully represent the indigenous religious practices of the Danes.24 The Scandinavian sagas and poems which make up the largest body of literature we have pertaining to old Nordic religion. Writing about Hákon’s death in Heimskringla. or love witchcraft.Óðrœrir 12 þing dreoge.’ And a short while afterwards king Hákon died on the same slab of rock where he was born…They raised a great mound and in it buried the king in full armor and in his finest array. 2000. er ek hefi brotit við guð. sem hann hafði fœddr verit…. ok bœta þat.

29 Arianism was their “national religion”. The context that we have investigated the word “heathen” from has been an entirely Christian perspective. and subsequently struggled against the condemnation and strict legal restrictions of Christian church and kings. 29 . the word was developed and defined from the Christian side of the fence. churchmen.Hollander.Óðrœrir 13 valuables. 27 . “Ulfila’s Own Conversion” in The Harvard Theological Review. and was how they identified in order to maintain their own 26 .26 The Saga of Hákon the Good. thrived. this investigation still offers valuable insight into some of the underlying heathen worldview and how it might have affected individual peoples reaction to the term.Ibid. who had no way or recording their own words is of course. To try and suggest any perspective by a people over a large period of time. which was called Arianism. However. While Ulfilas27 obviously had a Christian audience in mind when he penned his Gothic Bible. Christian Romans. 2009. see Hagith. To the Goths and most other Germanic people. inherently theoretical.For an interesting look at Wulfilas’ own religious change. They practiced a Christianity that would soon be declared heretical.Russell. come into contact with.” and had no interest in intentionally preserving a fair reaction from those people. and they have painted history in their own light. Christian kings. According to James Russell’s Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity. and they put him on the way to Valhalla. To provide some clues as to what the term might have meant to the people that we see referred to as heathen. specifically the Arian denial of the trinity mattered little to most Goths. The remainder of this article is an attempt to give a voice to the other side of the conversation. but it had spread and become saturated into the linguistic culture of the North. These are the people who we have looked to for information regarding native Germanic religion. Words were spoken over his grave according to the custom of heathen men. I have traced the use and context of the word “heathen” as it developed throughout the time period that the indigenous religious practices of the Germanic and Scandinavian people would have existed. it must be noted that these were not traditional Nicene Christians. After all. We have nothing written by heathen hands which may tell us how they reacted to the Christian-dubbed moniker. Both of which tried ceaselessly to eliminate these practices with one hand while recording their own perspective on them with the other.28 when Ulfilas presented his bible to the Goths. not theological reasons. The term had grown out of and had developed contemporarily with the people that it came to refer to. 1994. while written in the 13th century. someone of a foreign nation and religion to Latin speaking. demonstrates that the term heathen specifically referred to the old religion within the minds of 13th century Icelanders. . and writers came to describe the people of northern Europe as “heathens.” Thus far. Its definition had changed little since it had been developed and put into writing in England during the 10th century. By the time Scandinavia had been integrated into what was at this point in history becoming a European identity of “Christendom”. the older traditions were likewise identifiable as “heathen. Theodoric and the nobility essentially viewed religion as a part of politics…the Ostrogoths as a people clung to Arianism for political and social. 28 .” I have already said that to the indigenous Germanic people. the term “heath dweller” would have been synonymous within their culture as the definition of gentili . we can look to Germanic people who had converted to Arianism for assistance in understanding their native religious concepts. the majority of the people were not yet Christian and those who converted did so to Arianism: Theology. In many ways. the word haiþnô was related to the haiþjôs (the heath) and the literal meaning of the word haiþnô was “heath dweller. but it still only provides us with one side of a two party dialogue.

their morality and their identity as a people. They have left us no native name for their religion with which we may refer to. 2006. we are given the opportunity to study the closest thing to genuine heathen language outside of runestones. among others. there are multiple occasions on which the term “heathen” is used. 2nd Revised edition. their “right and wrong”. That individual would be a foreigner. Simply put. and siðr is as close a concept for religion as the heathen Germanic people have left us This information puts the word “heathen” in a different context.Hoops. Arianism must be understood as a tribal religion.1993 . 1985: See also Vikstrand.Ibid. 32 . 2005. folk centered point of view. Berlin. A foreigner in this context would be beyond a community’s siðr in every way. their laws. However. and so that they would not be absorbed into the universalism of the Roman Empire and rising Catholicism. it preserves in oral tradition much easier than prose. generally defined as garðs. long so much a part of agrarian life.Hastrup.31 It has cognates in every old Germanic language and refers dually to the customs and the religion of a people.32 Beyond the boundaries of a people’s recognized community or territory. “religion” was not simply a matter of personal belief and it was not as centralized as the invading Christian belief system. Beck. It is no wonder Germanic Christians wielded this word against those which were both foreign and outside of Christianity. Arianism allowed them to be Christians and hence. and community. 31 . Since skaldic poetry was composed in stylized. Volume 28. and their siðr maintained. “Arianism was understandably slow to penetrate the elemental world of pagan cult practice. There is a very real and very simple reason why this essay is concerned with the word “heathen” and not one which better describes the native Germanic religious customs. outside of their cultural identity. The native religion of the Germanic people was tied directly to their land and to their social connections which shaped their siðr. 33 .Óðrœrir 14 culture. Furthermore. it could be understood in terms of both physical and conceptual boundaries. alliterative verse. part of the greater world of Romanitas without saking their Gothic pride or their ancestors. this understanding of the word does not seem to promote a group of people like the Danes or anyone else actually calling themselves “heathen”. law. Yet evidence suggests that at least in some circles. their ancestors had developed. Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde. Johannes.Pulsiano and Wolf. It was very much local. customs and identity no longer existed. Walter de Gruyter. To the heathen Europeans or even early Christians. The invading Danes were indeed “heathens” to the Anglo Saxons. A “heath dweller” to a member of an early Germanic tribe would not simply be an individual living in the country. The closest word we have relating to the Germanic religion is Old Norse siðr. Returning to the middle of the 9th century.”30 Ulfilas’ translation of the New Testament was fashioned to allow for the natural Germanic state of a tribal. It was tied directly to the community that practiced it. Heinrich. and not the writer of the saga themselves. What they have left us are concepts which help give a better depiction of their religious worldview. Through skaldic poetry. That individual would dwell beyond the garðs where their gods dwelt. Eyvindr Finnsson Skáldaspillir33 was one such skald who. An impressive collection of skaldic poetry is preserved within the sagas that pertain to this period. their religion no longer existed because their laws. served at the court of Hákon 30 . we can get a more spectacular glimpse at the point of view of unconverted Norwegians than through the prose of 13th century Icelanders. and their morality. This brings us to the native Germanic point of view. to the death of Hákon the Good and the events in Norway that followed his death. Both of these entities are subsequently tied to the laws of a people. Since the Germanic concept of “religion” was inseparable from land. the siðr of a Germanic tribe are what define their social mores. they did. Within the preserved collection of skaldic poetry. and many of the poems are attributed to the skalds within the sagas. their customs.

ever since Hákon to the heathen gods fared. and in a twist of fate. and one of them. They appear to have chosen heiðinn. adherents to the old religion required a name for their identity which they could fix into the lexicon. but combined they provide solid evidence that Eyvind’s Hákonarmál is not an isolated instance where the term is used as a self identifier by heathens.38 The authenticity of single verses such as these two later examples is probably more questionable. síz Hákon fór með heiðin goð. This reaction to the perceived threat of Christianity is reminiscent of the appearance of Mjölnir pendants throughout Denmark. All three poets would be a part of Jarl Hákon Sigurðarson’s retinue following the deaths of King Hákon the Good and Harald Greycloak. Wolf. . Hákonarmál was written in dedication to Hákon after he was killed in the battle of Storð around 961. 36 . 34 While Hákon was a Christian. This was a period when Christianity was pressing in from all sides. 1993 38 . Jarl Hákon was not only a powerful ruler. The courts of Jarl Hákon were hyper aware of their heathenism. Hallfreðr Vandræðaskáld makes use of it in lausavísa 837 and Tindr Hallkelsson uses it in a fragment of a drápa about Jarl Hákon. mörg er þjóð um þjáð. It seems very reasonable that at least within the courts of kings and poets. Cattle die Kinsmen die. All we have is the information presented to speculate with. Two of Eyvindr’s poems and fourteen single stanzas have been preserved. but he was a heathen who sought to reestablish the old religion’s dominance in Norway. they had never needed a name to contrast themselves with before the encroachment of Christianity. and they sought to bolster and entrench it. Many a liege is laid low. Land and lieges are whelmed.36 There are at least two other appearances of the word heiðinn within skaldic poetry that allegedly date before 1000. and was likely a heathen reaction to the threat of the cross. As previously stated. Norway. and it might well have been an individual or communal 34 . Deyja frændr. In the final lines. his dedication poem to Hákon sends the dead king off to Valhalla.35 This is the earliest appearance of the word heiðinn in Old Norse that we have preserved. This term asserts the pagans’ identity as a religious group.Ibid. in areas where Christianity was most prevalent. 37 . eyðist land ok láð. It cannot be said how the men and women who populated the communities and farmsteads that were miles removed from the halls of kings might have reacted to the label they were given. where the new and old religions competed for power. and Sweden.Pulsiano. but such an assertion of identity would hardly be necessary if their own religion was the only one they knew about. 1872. Eyvindr was a heathen.Abram. According to Christopher Abram: The fact that Eyvindr felt the need to specify the gods were ‘heathen’ seems to indicate a new awareness that there were alternatives to traditional paganism.Óðrœrir 15 the Good.Schultz. 2011. creating an environment of constant pressure and conflict with the native Norwegian religion. the poem reads: Deyr fé. 35 .Ibid.

Óðrœrir 16 issue. in general there was clearly an overarching socio-religious structure which tied the various preChristian Germanic people together into a commonality which must be recognized as something for the purpose of distinguishing it from Christianity and other religions as well. After all. if one understands that history and the context with which the word developed. these were active. We seem to have stuck with the term heathen. even if they are in their original form. However. breathing communities of men. We must remember that even our skaldic examples. While the term is ingrained in the history of northern Europe’s conflict with Christianity. than to sum them all together under one identity. composing for a specific audience. It may make more cultural sense to identify heathen people by their clan names. or the regions and cults they belonged to. women and children living in a time of tremendous change over which they had little control. Those people of western and northern Europe who retained their native beliefs are then lumped together as heathen and distinguished from one another with their tribe or regional name which would have been closer to the name of their religion. People would have reacted individually. express the words of one man. . Heathen is a word that would not have been necessary as a descriptor but for Christianity. it may not be a bad thing. and yet I cannot provide any better substitute. despite the connotations it holds.

If there is divinity. 5 . In general. it is generally seen as either omnipresent. represented as physical plots. of men and monsters. or beyond this world.Oxford English Dictionary. exists. In all cases.Ibid. 2011.4 The cosmological places retained in Norse literature such as Ásgarðr. 1982. and morality was built into it. we know how important the concept of heathen worldview is.1 This requires recognition of part of the spatial and cosmological landscape that helped shape heathen societies. Morality is universally applicable.See Rood. and holiness are universal and world encompassing. we need to be able to understand and adopt the outlook that heathen peoples may have held. and action as belonging within identified boundaries. and political systems were intimately bound to the immediate geographical and social terrain. to any significant degree only as a location or container for the occurrence of action…whether of individual men. Innangarð ad Utangarð For the Germanic peoples. 3 . 2 . where the model for their cosmological. 1989. In many ways. and even modern English yard. and determined through this perceived divinity and a personalized individual relationship between it and those who believe in it. societies.3 Religion and concepts of holiness would have also been tied to physical and social locality. and modern traditions may be developed. It’s well understood that in order to develop practices that are rooted in ancient heathen religion. Asgard5 is the enclosure that contains the collective Æsir. The concepts and basic layout presented here can be used to establish part of the foundation for a working modern heathen worldview. The original meaning of the word was ‘wall or hedge’. This was not the case in heathen Scandinavia or central and western Europe.Bauschatz. Old English geard. 4 . I have decided to present . morality. custom. because the protocol for religion. or whatever.Due to the variety of languages and forms that many of the names and terms covered in this paper appear in. plot of ground or space in relation to that wall. cultural. of men acting in consort or in opposition. Morality and Religion • By Joshua Rood As modern heathens who have dedicated our lives to reestablishing the pre-Christian traditions of Scandinavia and Northern Europe. concepts like religion and accompanying ideas like cosmology. immediate actions are discontinuous and separable deriving power and structure from the past. This landscape is essential to comprehending every other bit of mythological and cultural information.2 From a modern perspective. Útgarðr can easily be understood in relation to the walls (either symbolically or literally) that distinguish their contained space from ‘other’ space. these systems correlated with geographic enclosures. space as it is encountered and perceived in the created worlds of men and other beings. and it evolved to indicate an enclosure. Miðgarðr. The common word used to designate these plots appears as Old Norse garðr. from which lore and academia may be processed and applied. the heathen Europeans recognized space. Midgard (middle enclosure) 1 .Óðrœrir 17 Establishing the Innangard Some Concepts Relating to Custom.

Per Vikstrand points out that it is widely used throughout Scandinavian languages and implies “An outlying farmstead. they were semantically separate them in the form that their sources provide. were constantly interacted with for better or worse.”7 and elaborates that these two spaces should be understood as being that which lies within the controlled space of close-knit social relations’ and that which is outside of it. They would have been perceived as uncontrolled. much more important place within heathen worldview. which contextually mean “not from our farm. there are epithets such as utgårds. utangårds. Icelandic poetry primarily represents Icelandic cosmology. more central farm or village. 6 . It does not necessarily represent. 9 . but were by no means geographically fixed.Hastrup. from wolves to deer could inhabit a community’s utangards.Ibid. innangarð and útangarð. and the outlying lands surrounding it as periphery. dependent on or owned by another.” The center of their world can more accurately be related to the garðs that surrounded the cultivated and orderly safety of their given community.Referring to peripheral land as “Útangarð” as opposed to “Utangarð” is most likely a mistake on Hastrup’s part. They. The identification of these boundaries may have at times been represented with physical enclosures. could refer to the outer enclosure surrounding Midgard. and the reader should always be aware of the variation that words and names appear in. surrounded by the world of the unknown. I kept her spelling for her own quote at least. and separated it from the world beyond. and they certainly would not have been the foundation of their religious worldview. 2006.6 Hastrup refers to these counter spaces as they appear in Iceland as “inni and úti. they are only a fraction of what would have been in the background of heathen religious focus. and looked after by the world of the gods. Secondly. Innangard and utangard were primarily conceptual. This is only for the sake of consistency in this paper. Utgard is not simply a name for the fixed space beyond Midgard. more locally relevant microcosm. A wide range of beings. they would not have been the cosmological centerpiece of the heathen Scandinavians. and created distinct semantic spaces in relation to one another. and wild. the preserved mythology does not accurately represent the layout of the heathen cosmology when taken at face value for numerous reasons. Firstly. However. Trondheim. While Útgarð is an accurate spelling for the mythological realm. Wessex or Jutish myth. and then I will often standardize them in an Anglicized version. Utgard. on earth the concept of “outer” in Iceland is referred to as “Utangarð”. from landvættir to jötnar to trölls. Vendil. the world of men. like anything else beyond a person’s familiar community. The mythological landscape to the heathen was not centered around a universal depiction of “The world of men. whom men seek out for help. and Utgard existed in some form among these people. Also dwelling in the utangards were people and other established communities with their own innangard and utangard. 1985. 8 .Vikstrand. from somewhere else. shaped through the eyes of the skald who presents it.”8 In Swedish dialects. While these mythological spaces may have been universally recognized to some degree. specifically referring to Eddic poetry. While concepts of Asgard. and utangårding. the mythology that we have only represents a fraction of the body of mythos that would have existed among heathen peoples.Óðrœrir 18 most simply means the enclosure that contains the inhabited world. uncultivated. Aside from concerns regarding Christianization of the literature. Individual groups would have been focused on a more specific. for example. Midgard. skalds shaped poetry to fit their specific agenda and target audience (most often an aristocratic court). Many poems that we have preserved are as much or more of a social commentary as they are a reflection of religious belief. 7 .”9 That which was utangard was that which was beyond the semantic barrier that separated it from a person’s social community upon which they were dependant and which was dependent upon them. It has a much more personal. . In most cases this borderline was drawn between the farmstead as the center of the world.” or “the fences delimiting the inlying fields of a village from the outlying fields.

The geographical landscape of a community specifically shaped those religio-political traditions. even while they tried to consolidate their own religious and political control. artisans and travelling religious experts (shamans) are derived from the perception that they travel between the cultivated and settled spaces and the wild and dangerous territories of the utangards. Religio-political ceremonies such as sumbl (OE symbel) were intended to bind groups of otherwise unrelated people (usually warriors and aristocrats) into fictive kinship. and it cannot properly be translated as any one of these terms without losing a great deal of its context. 1985. At the Icelandic Althing of the year 1000.12 Hastrup suggests that the berserkr (bearshirt). ‘forest-going’). seodu. with equivalents as Old Norse siðr. An outlaw existed beyond the protective confines of a settlement. Snorri Sturlusson describes the sacrificial cult in Trondheim. which were often religious in nature. The Common Germanic term sidu. The nature of this expression of religious and political custom can be clearly demonstrated in the heathen notion of “religion” and “holy”. siðr is attested in religious and ritual contexts regarding pre-Christian Scandinavia. They shifted with the social.Óðrœrir 19 from an individual’s own inner yard. and with modern equivalents in every Germanic language except English. who were often outlawed. beliefs.11 Hedeager speculates that part of the supernatural qualities attributed to smiths.13 Likewise. Sidu: The morality of tradition. skóggangr (lit. custom and law. at allir bœndr skyldu þar koma sem 10 . tradition. which meant that they existed outside of the laws. sanctified its religion. and certainly there were wide spread myths. One of the prime purposes of marriage was to join two communities. Within the innangard of a community lay its laws. All of these are culturally circumscribed. These customs gave a community its identity. Siðr is found in Old Norse prose texts. While heathen society held a shared heritage. 13 . These concepts were intimately intertwined. 2005. Communities could split or they could merge. moved from the social space of a community into the “other” space that is beyond it when his mind shifted and berserksgangr came over him. 12 . Local sovereignty was so important that kings who sought to rule vast territories were required to participate in regional religious events. siodu. the heathens and Christians declared themselves to be ýr lögum “out of law” with each other. and formed the foundation that they were developed from.Hastrup. it refers to concepts of ritual.Hedeager. customs. and religion. they were expressed within the confines of. 1996. Skóggarmenn were equated with the otherness beyond the community. and throughout medieval laws and skaldic poetry.10 In Iceland. and proper behavior. is the closest word we have to “religion” in old Germanic languages. and customs. Old High German situ. and in many cases can hardly be distinguished from one another. outlawry literally entailed going outside of that established community.Enright. but it also refers to morality. Norway in the following terms: Þat var forn siðr. and the expression of its identified religion. The barriers between communities were never static. or they could leave it.2002. Gothic sidus. and religious winds. þá er blót skyldi vera. sito. In prose literature.Hoops. as defined by the word for greater outlawery. political. The law of a community was coterminous with its traditional customs. its social mores. 11 . and reaffirmed its laws. People and groups could become part of the recognized innangard of a community. . Old English sidu. and in regard to the well being of specific recognized communities.

Icelandic Saga Database. “He set out carrying fire in accordance with the old custom/ritual (at fornum sið) and laid claim to land…”15 It has been suggested that the purpose of these rituals was to symbolically transform unknown.Ibid. 2005. Snorri relates that: Mæltu þeir svá fyrir grepti hans. after the king had died. at í þat mund muni orðit siðaskipti. 1872. and the entering of the high-seat as part of a ritual.21 Throughout the sagas.22 In Laxdæla saga.Ibid. 19 . sagadb.16 The term is often used to describe the religious activity concerning death ceremonies.Óðrœrir 20 hof var ok flytja þannug föng sín. 2009.14 The account describes the public sacrificial rituals. and faith’ in a general sense as well.18 In Yngingla saga.Hollander. Schultz 1872. 16 . Eyrbyggja saga mentions the last services to the dead which Arnkell had rendered to his father Þórólf.19 In Hákonar góða saga. meðan veizlan stóð.Hollander 2009. þau er þeir skyldu hafa. the practice of raising burial mounds for notable men and holding specific yearly sacrifice are also referred to as the siðr in that land. the holy objects and the participants in the cult activity all as a part of forn siðr (ancient religious custom). unoccupied territory into habitable land with structures. and did not always imply a form of action. belief. 20 . heathen religion is referred to as heiðinn siðr. .”17 Snorri uses the term siðvenja when describing the rituals of the funeral and inheritance feast after the death of King Önundr Yngvarsson. Ancient religious customs/heathen practices (hinn forni siðr/ heiðinn siðr) are contrasted with Christian liturgy and beliefs (hinn nýi siðr(new custom)/kristinn siðr). the skald praises the king for supposedly turning the people away from the doubtful siðr and who had rejected wicked gods (fra vondum sið ok nitti illum godum). all farmers were to come to the hof and bring along with them the food they needed while the feast lasted. sagadb. The religious rituals of the Norwegian colonists performing land-taking rites in Iceland are also called forn siðr. which included libation ceremonies. Wrapping cloth around his father’s head.Hoops and Beck. ok muni sá þinn bóndi hafa tekit við þeim sið. 18 . er vér hyggjum. Gest explains one of Gudrun’s dreams: en nær er þat mínu hugboði.Ibid. at miklu sé háleitari. vísuðu honum til Valhallar.20 The term siðr is used for ‘religion. If this is true. form and norms. sending him to Valhalla. It was ancient custom/ritual that when sacrifice was made. oathing. sem heiðinna manna siðr var til. 14 . 22 . Vatnsdœla saga relates that Sæmundr landed in Skagafjörður. Icelandic Saga Database.org. 2005 17 . he “got him ready for burial according to the siðvenju of the time. 15 .org.Hoops and Beck. 21 .Vatnsdæla Saga. where land was unsettled in every direction. In Óláfsdrápa Tryggvasonar. it would have symbolically established the boundaries that separated the newly established innangard from the surrounding wilderness. Words were spoken over his grave according the siðr of heathen men. Linder.Eyrbyggja Saga.

and Beck. ealle samod clypigende and eweðende.Translated by this author with the help of Georg Pétur Sveinbjörnsson. that from the 12th to the 15th century it appears in Icelandic texts that describe Christian virtues. Eigi skalt þegja. sidefull mann Then in the meanwhile all the folk went to the house of Ægeas. morality. which survives into the late Middle English period.”26 In contrast.” Ælfric of Eynsham uses it in his Homilies to describe Christ. we can find an example in Hugsvinnsmál where it refers to immorality. The same word that identified the customs of a people was so powerfully tied to their ideas of morality.Harmsól 26 . It was their word for ‘morality. In the Harmsól it’s used to describe Christ’s purity. In the Eddic poem Helgaqviða Hundingsbana in fyrri.Rood.Hugsvinnsmál 28 . he became renowned for such conduct (til sliks siðar).”25 “Because you comfort my mind with your sweet virtues/purity. It was proper action within a community. 29 . yfir annars ósiðum27 You must not keep silent. which expressed their religion and defined their social mores. 2005 25 . and appears in multiple original and translated works as something akin to “full of virtue.Literally the English word “morality” and the term “social mores” has taken the place of the word sidu after it had become defunct in the English language. When Óláfr Tryggvason is said to have fought alone against two brave kings and one jarl. but it was also the common word used as a description of morality. even when asked to be.Laxdæla saga. Þa betwux ðisum eode eall þaet folc to Egeas bottle.Óðrœrir 21 My mind forbodes me that by the time a siðaskipti (change of faith/belief) will have come about and your husband will have taken the sið (faith/belief) which we are minded to think is the more exalted. þótt sér þess beðinn. about another’s poor ways/immorality28 Its use to define morality is most obvious in the Old English word sedeful/sideful/sidefulle. full of pure morals29 The sidu of a particular people was their customs.23 Not only did sidu embody the customs and religion of a particular people in a particular land.’30 their “right and wrong. such as bravery. 1844. Georg Pétur Sveinbjörnsson 2011. or poor character. . Quote edited by this author.Thorpe. all crying together and saying. 27 . Their “right and wrong” was not a matter of judgment which the gods bestowed on individuals for abiding by universally ordained codes. and it was that community that defined what “proper and improper” action entailed through 23 . good customs. þæt swa halig wer hangian ne sceolde. Sinfjötli accuses Guðmundr of being siðlauss (indecent or without morals). 30 . “þvít hugga fríðir hug mínn siðir þínir.” Literally it can be defined as “full of sidu. 24 .Hoops. that so holy a man ought not to hang. a man strict of conduct.” It directly reflects the native German perspective of religious morality.24 It’s used to refer to exemplary military conduct.

Hedeager points to the hall and the close-lying hof as being the cosmological. golden. which was widely applied to words for cult centers. 2007. Danish dýrka which not only means “to honor”. and further cultivates the holiness of that space. Whether or not this is truly the case or Christian bias.33 The holiness of the wíh appears to be determined similarly to the sidu of the community. By preserving custom. physically designating it from space beyond its boundaries. meaning “gods. this space could be. Christian law forbade the creation or worship of these sites. Many have not been identified as being such. It is expressed in the ON term dýrr. idols. At the center of this identity were established gods.Adam of Bremen claims that the grove is made sacred through the death and purification that took place in the grove. It also wasn’t a state of purity. The ritual action in these places can be defined as worship. specifically around groves.32 What matters in all of these cases is not whether a space is naturally holy. but rather that they are all given a hallowed nature that is manifest in their specific location. 1972. It is validated through repeated ritual action which reaffirms the tradition and identity of the group participating. Wíh did not have to be strictly associated with natural locations.Fabech. OE weorðian (worship)35 means “to glorify. Joand Toller. to give worth (weorþ) to. Multiple circumstances must be taken into account.”34 Likewise. 2006. 34 .” and “to grow.Fabech. According to Charlotte Fabech. We see it in the ON term véar. the sacrifices that adorn the location do add to its sacredness. brought numinosity out of natural vé spaces and into the hall at the center of society. but I also find that it is a very appropriate description for the maintenance of and development of a communities well being (luck/wholeness/health) through worship. and it is always speculative as to whether or not a find was religiously deposited. and it identified them and their religion. In Old English a friðgeard/friðsplot (frith yard). ON vé. It was something that could be established and cultivated within earthly boundaries and maintained by specific communities. 36 . temples sites. and often was marked off. miniature boats were 31 . archeologists have excavated a tremendous wealth of what has been identified as the remains of sacrifices. Terry Gunnell argues that the rising power of the aristocracy. a community preserved and strengthened their identity and their social order.”36 To worship something is to reaffirm and build on its worth and its holiness. Holiness. Likewise. Adam of Bremen describes the holy grove at Uppsala as being filled with the hanged bodies of animals and people. we cannot be sure. during the Migration Period the hall and hof (building used as a temple) with hörgr (altar fashioned form piled stones) and idols were as sacrosanct as natural spaces. and why. holiness was not universal or all permeating. and in Scandinavia a Stavgård (stave-yard) was a space that was set aside as sacred.Not all hoards indicate religious ritual. to establish. but recently more and more hoards that have previously been identified as simple “treasure hoards” were in fact temple hoards. 38 . The commonly used term to designate sacred space is CG wíh. Obviously that which is cultivated resides within the familiar territories of a people. wells and mounds. 37 .We may note that the ON dýrr meaning “to cultivate” and the OE connection to growth both share a connection with cultivation. However.Gunnell. ancestors and local wights. social.Bosworth. which defined its sacredness. contained in a far-off otherworld.Fritzner. and political center of the Gudme settlement. tied to the Odin cult.” and it implied holiness set into a physical place. and mounds. to reaffirm. 2006.38 Approximately 100 tiny. idols were furnished with gold and silver rings and other ornaments. established and maintained Like sidu. 33 . 32 . The sagas and traveler’s accounts tell us that within sanctuaries. 35 . An example of this is the Hoen treasure found . and separated from the surrounding world. Sidu was tied directly to a people’s land and social connections. the temples were covered with gold.” as well as “to decorate. but also “to cultivate. 1896.Óðrœrir 22 the establishment of customs which were an expression of religious belief.31 Like the parameters of a community.37 How many of these descriptions are exaggeration. who shaped the wholeness and health of that community. perhaps by decorating it or through words and actions.

Óðrœrir 23

discovered near Nors in Jutland.39 The remains of a hof at Tissø, Zealand contained a large gold ring,
along with many animal bones and multiple silver hoards. Similar cult sites with hoards have been found
in Tune in Gotland where more than 400 ring fragments have been discovered. At Borg in Östergötland
a cult house was found that held 98 amulet rings and 75kg of unburnt animal bones. A hörgr was found
within with 2 amulet rings on it. A silver hoard from Eketorp in Närke contained amulets, a snake pendant,
coins, and even a Mjölnir pendant which many modern pendants are modeled after. The biography of the
hoard estimates it at being active for 300 years. Likewise natural places identified as cult sites have been
found, for instance at the hills of Ravlunda, Scania, the mountains of Ålleberg, Västergötland and the bogs
of Hannenov, Denmark which all contain gold neck rings and deposited coins.40 Hedeager relates that the
settlement of Gudme in Denmark is not only surrounded by 3 hills with sacred names (Albjerg-hill of the
shrine, Gudbjerg-hill of the gods, Galbjerg-either hill of sacrifice or of galdr,) but that the great wealth
excavated there, including bracteates of an Odinic nature, coins, ornamented scabbard mounts and ingots
“indicate Gudme was not just a central place for trade, but one with sacred connotations.”
Deposits in sacred spaces consisted of religious objects, as well as monetary wealth and status symbols.
Most often, particularly when the sacred space was associated with a hall or a hof in the center of a
settlement it would be associated with the religio-political leader, and was contained in the same space
where communal binding rituals (sumbl, for example) would take place. These spaces were closely
associated with the history of that community, where objects were laid down, much like the law (ON lög,
literally “lay” as in “laid down”) that defined the tribe. They would have been religiously charged by the
continual acts of reciprocal exchange that took place there.41
We should also consider that what we archaeologically uncover are the remains of rituals, not the rituals
themselves. We know that animals were sacrificed, as we find their bones at cult sites, and we can assume
that there is some truth to the descriptions of cult ritual in the sagas, but we cannot determine the extent
of their accuracy. If the descriptions of blót are consistent with reality, then the spattering of blood on the
idols, rings, hörgr and pillars would be a part of the ritual action that is deposited in a holy place. Not
only is the blood literally layered upon the wood and stone, but the ritual action and the words spoken are
as well. The actual actions that took place and words spoken during cultic ritual are not deposited with
the bones of sacrificed animals and the votive offerings, but the sidu of a group is defined in many ways
through proper action during cultic ritual. What that specific action was would have varied from place to
place and from occasion to occasion, but in all ways it would have been an important designator of group
identity and socio-religious mores. In return for appropriate gifts and the correct observance of sidu,
which tied them to the living community, the beings honored, be they gods, ancestors, or local wights,
would grant gifts in return, including “holiness.”
Our word holy is derived from the adjective heilag (Gothic, OHG, OS and OE), and its original meaning
was “hale, healthful, whole.” As a noun it is found in OHG, OE and ON as heil/heill meaning “good
luck, the potential to prosper, to heal, fertility.” While these may all seem to be mundane qualities, they
define holiness, and it is a blessing from the gods, and which could attach itself to certain people, objects,
and places. Tacitus reports that the Suebi gathered in a sacred grove where they held sacrifice, and that
the figures and emblems which they took into battle were kept in that grove. Oath rings, which were
reportedly sacred and which all men were to swear oaths on are reported to have been kept inside of the
temple, and regularly reddened with blood. One meaning of the word heill is that of ‘amulet’, and it may
near the Drammen River in Norway. Charlotte Fabech talks more about this in her cited article.
39 - Simek, 2007.
40 - Fabech, 2006.
41 - Ibid. Also see Tarzia, 1989.

Óðrœrir 24

either be an object filled with holiness, or an omen, which we see often associated with sacrifices and
religious rites in the sagas.42 While holiness was a gift from the gods, it could also be taken away by them
through negligence of communal sidu, and improper gifts or performed rituals.
Even though they may have been set aside as manifested holiness, either due to the actions that took
place within their confines, or because of some perceived holiness already cultivated in that spot, places
of sacrifice would have been perceived within the community barriers. According to Fabech regarding
natural worship places (groves, bogs, hills); “It is characteristic that you can see the main settlement from
the find spot, and that the find spot is visible from the settlement. Thus they are natural elements in the
construction or cultivation of the central places. They are natural constituents of the arranged centre
complexes.” Geographically they tend to fall within the physical innangard of a settlement, which is broken
up by natural terrain. The centrally established settlement could organize the natural surroundings into
an ideal “religious” landscape. According to Hedeager, a community might often organize the settlement
and surrounding landscape as a microcosm of the Nordic cosmological world. Whether or not this was
literally the case, it certainly seems evident in locations such as Gudme and Odense (Odin’s Vé), which
have been argued to mirror the layout of Norse cosmology, and correlates more appropriately with our
understanding that the heathen religious world was a local microcosm of the greater Germanic cosmology.
Certainly not every aspect of a community was drawn on physical boundaries. Not every holy grove lay
directly beside a settlement. However, if a community identified with that grove, and carried out their
religious customs there, then it was a part of their perceived landscape and their innangard.
Conclusion
While the pre-Christian cultures of Northern and Central Europe held a shared religious heritage which
may be categorized as heathen, it would have manifested through unique, regional and local traditions,
myths, and social mores. The holy lake that the goddess Nerthus was bathed in was central to her holiness,
and to the identity of the tribes that were located in that region. The hills surrounding Gudme, and the
layout of the settlement reflected and reinforced the religious and cultural traditions of that community.
The Saxons had their sidu, and the Vendil had their siðr. We can infer a great deal concerning heathen
belief and tradition as a whole by investigating pan-Germanic religiosity, but we must also recognize
central role of region, locality and tribal/kin identity. Today we identify with, and strive to reestablish the
heathen religion of Europe, and this religiosity certainly has clear boundaries of what may and may not
be defined as “heathen.” We should be sure that our customs and social mores are consistent with those
that we are reviving. Consistency does not mean that we “emulate’, however. As we have seen, customs
should be relevant to a group’s immediate land and needs. We should develop customs that are tied to our
land and our local communities. We can look at, respect, and perhaps even honor local folklore and myths
in a “heathen fashion.” We should reestablish appropriate boundaries of innangard and utangard, not as
“human society” and “other.” Rather, we can identify those who belong to our close-knit community, our
family, our friends and neighbors, our kindred and tribe, and those that are not a part of that. We can infer
that morality isn’t drawn from emulating the gods43 as they appear in the myths we have, nor is it a “do as
42 - Green, 1998
43 - The gods certainly play an important role in our morality, but not through individual emulation of their actions and specific words. If
we keep the concepts of this article in mind, we can infer that specific actions and words from the gods are intended to benefit specific
communities in specific situations, and are also perceived through specific cultural models that are directly relevant to the upkeep of
an individual community. The gods are their own and do as gods will. If they established the oldest sidu, which was to benefit and
maintain their own tribe, its a group’s responsibility to do the same, and to establish a reciprocal relationship with their gods, in order
to maintain wholeness between them.

Óðrœrir 25

you will” concept. Ethics and matters of right and wrong should be tied to how a person benefits or harms
the well-being of their innangard, which should be beneficial to local and regional society, and in line with
federal and local law. Morality also entails the development and maintenance of proper customs and a
gifting relationship with the gods, ancestors, and wights that a group wishes to identify with. I call myself
a heathen, but it is more appropriate to identify myself as a member of my own specific kindred, which is
part of a greater regional community whose taboos, holidays, and customs I adhere to. There is a grove
that is maintained by a local family, and which is a big part of our identity as well as for a big portion of
the local heathen community. That grove is holy to us, and we hold sacrifices to the gods that we worship
there, and we gift and hold a close relationship with the family that tends it. We have idols that receive
offerings, and we have specific traditions regarding those idols that we abide by. There are local holidays
that are only celebrated by the heathen community in my region, and those holidays are dependent upon
our regional geography and seasons. Our customs are being passed on to our children, and continue to
develop organically, fused with our gods, our land, our ancestors and our neighborhoods. These living,
breathing, growing traditions stem directly out of the foundation of heathen worldview, as we have been
able to reconstruct it.

By Dan Oropallo. .Óðrœrir 26 An artistic depiction of the microcosmic view of a single community.

4 The ability to reconstruct accurately is obviously limited by the data 1 . 4 . The combined research efforts and tendency to share resources dealing with the limited nature of the data regarding these subjects tend to result in homogeneity of models. 3 . terminology. The latter has acquired for themselves a negative reputation among many reconstructionists. There are two extremes that find frequent and common commentary in modern heathenry. There is a number of reasons for this apparent lack of variation among average heathens. The most conservative of heathens adopt the position that speaking of specific and/or personal religious experiences is strictly off limits. the core of heathen reconstruction that is used to measure the validity (which very nearly amounts to conservativeness) of conclusions drawn and practical application of the results of reconstructionist efforts.Harvey Whitehouse. Their rituals often show little variation from those portrayed in the sources.The extant source material does not perfectly describe every ritual and situation of significance in the lives of historic or modern heathens. Reconstructionist groups that focus on a specific Germanic culture within a particular time frame find themselves with the least data to work with. This is part of their dedication to reconstruct as accurately as possible the culture’s worldviews and religiosity. and conclusions even when those involved focus on different branches of the Germanic tribal tree.Óðrœrir 27 Cult and Identity in Modern Heathenry • By Shane Ricks The pine that stands in the village no bark or needles to cover it. so is a man. As a matter of necessity. st. 2009) discuss the process of religious standardization and formatting. Modes of Religiosity: A Cognitive Theory of Religious Transmission (Altamira Press. the least conservative tend to share their experiences with everyone with little regard to the appropriateness of their actions.All translations are mine unless otherwise noted. The result is an unwillingness to share personal variation in cult and the tendency to shame those that do.3 Another contribution to this is the taboo among some heathens regarding speaking of the particulars of their own group’s thew. On one end of the spectrum is the tendency for reconstructionist heathens to attempt to replicate cultic ritual precisely as it is portrayed in the literary or archaeological remains. 2 . This leads us back to the issue of sharing the same data and applying them to the same models regardless of any individual focus or variation.1 The transition from the intellectual effort of reconstructing pre-Christian and conversion-era Germanic worldviews and religiosity to a practical living religion can be a bit of a conundrum for modern heathens. On the other hand. that no one loves Why shall he live long? Hávamál. most heathens fall somewhere in between2 and they often do so with remarkably little variation. At the other end of the spectrum is the tendency to create an entirely new ritual model that has no basis in historic heathenry whatsoever. 50. This results in the development of beliefs and behaviors reflecting those historically undocumented situations. This becomes the standard. 2004) and Oliver Roy.Theodism is a modern reconstructionist religious movement that involves groups focusing on the reconstruction of specific Germanic . Both standardization and formatting describe the dialogical process of adjusting and reforming of expressions of religiosity with the intent of making disparate conditions and resulting conclusions compatible and acceptable. Holy Ignorance: When Religion and Culture Part Ways (Columbia University Press.

: “Underlying great people. 2007). Social Identity and Conflict: Structures. Heathens are needed for heathenry to survive. Identity (Ashgate Publishing. and behavioral claims of the group with which the individual is identifying. These statements can be useful for a cursory introduction to a particular group’s brand of heathenry.” 6 . and many times the modern meanings differ greatly from the historic as well. cognitive. often in the link between ancestor and descendant that is perpetuated in the rites of ancestors that are performed by the living. such as various denominations of Christianity. Unfortunately very little in the religious repertoire of these groups resembles anything that would be recognizable to historic heathens. 2008). In other words. their identity becomes established through the association of negative statements.” Axenthof Thiad. For more information on Theodism and reconstruction see Shane Ricks.5 To all outsiders without specific knowledge of the groups in question.org/theodism_and_retroheathenry. What happens as a result is that heathens appear to lack creativity and a willingness to develop their thew beyond the source material. perhaps the foundational drive is as evident amongst human beings as amongst other animal species and cultural intensification is a way of describing the social manifestation of biological life. of the ongoing survival of a society. identifying with a particular group becomes inconsequential. for further information regarding the dynamics of self-conception and social identity and categorization. As a result. “Theodism and Retroheathenry.Óðrœrir 28 and therefore the robustness and uniqueness of their reconstruction becomes related to their willingness to model elements of their reconstruction on elements from cultures and groups of varying degrees of relatedness. Dynamics. Limited resources and shared information are not a problem for neo-heathen groups that create new rituals from the ground up.Abby Day.html>. Religion and the Individual: Belief. such as Wicca and ceremonial magic groups.axenthof. Too strict a methodology leads to a lack of variety of ritual because the value and models for many rituals go undocumented in the extant source material. the issue of survival predominates.” 7 . or those models common to many modern alternative religious movements. the identities of all of these groups appear very similar. Too liberal a methodology risks developing a model that is only barely recognizable as being based in a particular culture’s thew. as all groups appear essentially the same and perceived commonality is shared with all groups. None of these situations are overly problematic in their own right. The models which the new rituals are designed around are often the same. <http://www. even these groups demonstrate a lack of variety. Web. but do little to provide any real information about the group in question. Korostelina. or natural locales of ecological health. . Of particular importance is the necessity of the salience of emotional. 2011. prospective heathens will lose interest and no identity or thew will be established for the cultures. 14. the sacred places marking ethnic.: “…if there is a wish to distinguish the in-group from an out-group. Once pressed for specifics. Often the only thing that ties these groups to historic thew is vocabulary. 53. many of these groups will define themselves. 2009. The robustness and uniqueness of the rituals of these groups is only limited by the group’s creativity. 1995). Outsiders seeking information on heathenry will often find themselves confronted with many more statements of what a group is not and what it does not do than who they are and what they actually do. then greater similarity between the two groups will stimulate a stronger demarcation by the in-group. Nonetheless. Survival. or be defined. Where these situations do create an issue is in the establishment of identity and the survivability of heathenry into the future.7 If heathens rely on negative statement associations as a means of demarcating identity from other groups. Similarity and Demarcation: Studies in Ritual Behavior (Brill Academic Pub. then identities must be established and differences between group thew must be discernible and relevant to prospective heathens. national or religious identity. It is evident in long-standing and widespread graves that should not simply be viewed as memorials of the past but also as symbols of endurance. Nov. Practice.6 Where statements of positive associations are encountered the statements are often vague and perceived to be commonly identifiable elements of heathenry.See Karina V. and Implications (Palgrave Macmillan.Jan Snoek. 5 . by who they are not and what they do not do. generally derived from those already familiar to the individual. These comparisons often come in the form of contrasting or comparing heathenry with Christianity or one’s own group with other heathen and non-heathen groups. In order for would-be heathens to identify with other like-minded heathens. 25-6.

even though the formal study of emotions is. needs to develop beyond the heathen standard while maintaining its heathen origins. beliefs and the social organization of life from the psychological facts constituted by emotions and varieties of feeling states as is increasingly acknowledged within religious studies at large. Maintaining an identity that relies on negative statement associations is only possible as long as there are related groups from which the group in question can directly differentiate itself. lines 175-9. 8 . which includes cult and identity. being multiple adoptions of the “heathen standard” mentioned above.the notion of ‘cultural intensification’ [is] a means of fostering the integration of cognitive and affective streams of life. Traditional custom dictated the proper expression of obligations towards three fundamental objects in the life of Germanic heathens: their people. The resulting anomie often leads to the dissolution of the group and many times the religious conversion of those involved towards what is hoped to be a more fulfilling religion and away from heathenry. The particular characteristics defining the expression of these obligations and categories of reciprocity delineated the hierarchy of identities or in-groups in which the individual held membership. what remains for many heathen groups looks quite similar.” . Swylc wæs þeaw hyra. Therefore. and their gods.Óðrœrir 29 future.. wordum bædon. Heathen thew. states that “[l]ittle is to be gained by isolating the social facts constituted by values. Beowulf. Maintaining these proven traditions was the foundation of Germanic society.8 To guarantee the survival of heathenry and heathen thew it is necessary to combat these trends. This coupled with the fickle nature of men results in a high turnover of membership as interests and associations change over time. the locations where they took place. Examples will revolve around this expression of heathen worldview in a manner that reflects and informs the lives and worlds of both historic and contemporary heathens. Such was their custom the hope of heathens. hæþenra hyht At times they promised to temple-sacrifices idol worship. 8. Cult and identity in the world of Germanic heathens were dynamic plays defined by the actors involved. itself. once the laundry list of negative statement associations runs out. The primary claim of this article will be that there is no heathenry that is not relevant to the modern lives of heathens in its expression. they are considered the extremes of reconstruction for the intent of this piece. The negative statements retain value as statements of demarcation.. their land. Additionally. Cult and Identity in the Historic World Hwilum hie geheton æt hærgtrafum wigweorþunga. this article will be directed at the average heathen who is involved in reconstructing and applying historic heathen thew in a living and meaningful manner in their modern lives. This will illustrate that relying solely on a precise replication of imagined historic expression may cause modern heathenry to take on a non-heathen quality. words prayed that he life-bane. Since culture-specific and modernist neo-heathen groups are both limited by their objective and vision.Day. þæt him gastbona geoce gefremede wið þeodþreaum. and the history informing the participants. to grant safety with people’s distress. in its early stages.

The saga of Viga-Glum also provides a description of the official use of the oath ring: 9 . 62. Þar var allt friðarstaður fyrir innan. trans. There within stood the high-seat pillars and therein were nails. Social Identity in Early Medieval Britain (Contnuum. all expressions of Germanic heathen religiosity are weighed against this image of what is believed to constitute an accurate representation of historic heathenry. L. Anglo-Saxonism and the Construction of Social Identity. An historic example of official religion is the swearing of oaths on rings for legal purposes.” 11 . Þann hring skyldi hofgoði hafa á hendi sér til allra mannfunda. 13 .Marc Bloch.. 2009). A Companion to the Early Middle Ages: Britain and Ireland c. ch. (University Press of Florida. 4. 1000) (Franz Steiner Verlag. “Food and Drink in Merovingian Gaul” in Dieter Hägermann and Brigitte Kasten. law and ancestral land11. 1997). Ritual and Ethnic Identity: A Comparative Study of the Social Meaning of Liturgical Ritual in Synagogues (Wilfrid Laurier University Press. “The Use of Non-vernacular Language in the Sabbath Morning Service of a Reconstructionist Synagogue” in Jack N. Þar fyrir innan stóðu öndvegissúlurnar og voru þar í naglar. Within the temple was a house in the same likeness as the choir in churches and stood there a stall in the middle of the floor the same as an altar and lay there a ring without joint. Frazer. . 116.Barbara Yorke. For further information on language as a marker of religious identity in another modern reconstructionist movement see Madeleine McBrearty.. 10 . 81-88. 1: The Growth of Ties of Dependence. Yuitzhak Hen. eds.500-1000 (Wiley-Blackwell. Frantzen and John D. That ring shall the priest have at hand for all man meetings. eds. 72-3.Janet Thormann. Lightstone. Many of the descriptions about the oath ring and its usage in the temples also describe official practices related to the temples.A. 99-110. and behavioral cultures. Innar af hofinu var hús í þá líking sem nú er sönghús í kirkjum og stóð þar stalli á miðju gólfinu sem altari og lá þar á hringur einn mótlaus. “The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Poems and the Making of the English Nation” in Allen J. They were called gods-nails. tvítugeyringur. and there is wider evidence from medieval Europe for variation in hairstyles and facial hair as ethnic markers. 2002). The door stood in the sidewall and near the other end. 52: ““Archaeological evidence confirms that the different peoples of Britain did dress differently. Voru dyr á hliðvegginum og nær öðrum endanum. ed. Where these forms of religious expression are being discussed. 1995). no. 1966). Þeir hétu reginnaglar. esp. dress and facial hair10. The standardization of heathenry by reconstructionists is effectively creating what can easily be construed as a modern official religion. Feudal Society Vol. og skyldi þar að sverja eiða alla. et al. 26.Barbara Yorke. c. Niles. As was pointed out above. and shall there to it shall all swear oaths. the attempt is frequently made to bring their expression more in line with the developing “official” heathen religion.Bonnie Effros. twenty ounces. “Britain and Ireland. 111.. “Political and Ethnic Identity: A Case Study of Anglo-Saxon Practice” in Andrew Tyrrell and William O. Manyon. Tatigkeitsfelder und Erfahrungshorizonte des landlichen Menschen in der fruhmittelalterlichen Grundherrschaft (bis ca. There let him raise a temple and it was a great house.500” in Pauline Stafford.. There was always a place of peace for those within. eds. As a result. 2000). 12 . This trend by individuals to make their private religiosity and by groups to make their popular religion conform to the developing official religion runs counter to the data drawn from the surviving Germanic mental.Óðrœrir 30 Some common methods of displaying different social identities in pre-Christian and conversion-era Germanic Europe included food9. (University of Chicago Press. language12 and religion13. describes the nature of the oath ring: Þar lét hann reisa hof og var það mikið hús. Creating Community with Food and Drink in Merovingian Gaul (Palgrave Macmillan. material. Eyrbyggja Saga.. 2006). popular religion and private religiosity are finding less and less commentary and expression in larger groups and online forums.

Ritual and Folklore in Old Icelandic Sources. Jón Hnefill Aðalsteinsson points to the possible implication of popular cult centers in addition to the “chief cult center” mentioned in Landnámabók. In discussing the differences between Eyrbyggja Saga and Landnámabók. 15 . what is more distressing than any kind of punishment.The tendentious nature of the division between “official” and “popular” religion is problematic. 1999). 2007). 14 . See also Robert. Thorarin moved against and fetched a hundred men. but are not subject to the dooms of the legal authority of official religion. What may be the most interesting example of Germanic heathen “popular” religion in action is the procession17. That man is to take temple oath shall take the silver ring in hand reddened blood of bulls for sacrifice and should not stand less than three ounces. From attendance at this festival no one is exempted. 167. When they came to the temple there were six men in the temple. Elves in Anglo-Saxon England: Matters of Belief. Christopher. Additionally. those who have already adopted Christian[ity] redeem themselves through these ceremonies. at nine-year intervals.14 The conversion of the English folc following their kings15 and the sacrifices at Uppsala every nine years are also examples of official religion. Gender and Identity (The Boydell Press. Terry Gunnell and Joan Turville-Petre. 17. . Sá maður er hofseið skyldi vinna tók silfurbaug í hönd sér þann er roðinn var í nautsblóði þess er til blóta væri haft og skyldi eigi minna standa en þrjá aura. trans. A Piece of Horse Liver: Myth.18 Communal rituals such as marriage and funerary rituals are the most common forms of popular cult used to demarcate identity and express religious beliefs. These rituals are directed towards communal and familial affairs and benefit all involved participants. The official nature of the sacrifices at Uppsala is described by Adam of Bremen: It is customary also to solemnize in Uppsala. For related commentary see Alaric Hall.S. Chaney. 208.Jón Hnefill Aðalsteinsson. “A Springtime Procession” Óðrœrir. Kings and people all and singly send their gifts to Uppsala and. Health. The morning after sent Glum after Thorarin and bade him to come to Djupadal no later than mid-morning to hear the vows. the definition of popular religion is expansive and imprecise leaving the possibility of an arbitrary categorization of popular religious belief and practice.William A. The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England: The Transition from Paganism to Christianity (Manchester University Press. 16 .Francis Joseph Tschan and Timothy Reuter. 1995). but admittedly this can be considered an example of official religion as well. 46. Þórarinn veikst við og fékk hundrað manna. I have retained the division to note what may be implicit differences and to maintain commonality and ease of communication. En er þeir komu til hofsins þá gengu sex menn í hofið. Brewer. með Glúmi Gissur og Ásgrímur en með Þórarni Einar og Hlenni hinn gamli.Óðrœrir 31 En um morguninn eftir sendi Glúmur eftir Þórarni og bað hann koma í Djúpadal eigi síðar en að miðjum morgni að heyra eiðana. 1998). but whether he believed there may be qualitative differences is not mentioned. History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen (Columbia University Press.For more information on procession and cult wagons see: Terry Gunnell. (University of Iceland Press. a general feast of all the provinces of Sweden. 17 . Gissur and Asgrimur with Thorarin. with Glum. 2002). Einar and Hlenni the old. 2012 18 . The Origins of Drama in Scandinavia (D. Vol. 2.16 There can be no denying the existence of official heathen religion based on a concept of religious and accompanying legal authority that demands adherence by all members of society.

On this horse had he so much love. að hann strengdi þess heit. og honum gaf hann alla hina bestu gripi sína hálfa við sig. that he made a solemn vow.Nordic Religions in the Viking Age (University of Pennsylvania Press. Hrafnkell built throughout the valley and gave men lands. 2002). vin sínum. Thomas DuBois notes the veneration of boars. which he called it Freyfaxi. and popular cult can be seen in Hrafnkels saga Freysgoða.” She says. A bull then Kormak slaughter and with the bull’s blood redden the outside of the hill and make a feast for elves of the slaughter and you will recover. They need to find greater acknowledgement and acceptance as expressions of heathen religion in their 19 . With that was lengthened his name and called Frey’s Priest. but wanted to be their leader (literally “above-man”) and took chieftainship (or priesthood) over them. þann hest hálfan. Hrafnkell byggði allan dalinn og gaf mönnum land. his friend. cows. er honum þótti betri en annar. Hrafnkell elskaði eigi annað goð meira en Frey. In contrast. It was a horse brown-blue dun in color. 20 . Kormáks Saga and the skaldic poem Austrfararvísur both describe sacrifices to elves. fall under the auspices of accurate reconstruction. bulls. er hann kallaði Freyfaxa sinn. Norse Mythology: A Guide to Gods. and horses. He gave Frey.19 Kormák’s saga tells us of how Kormák was instructed to sacrifice a bull and make a feast on a hill where elves lived in order to heal his wounds: Hún segir: “Hóll einn er héðan skammt í brott er álfar búa í. Graðung þann er Kormákur drap skaltu fá og rjóða blóð graðungsins á hólinn utan en gera álfum veislu af slátrinu og mun þér batna. . Hrafnkel’s oath to Frey regarding Freyfaxi and his care for the sacral animal exemplifies private religiosity in historic heathenry: Hrafnkell átti þann grip í eigu sinni. Heroes. But then Hrafnkell had land setted at Athalbol. Hrafnkell loved nothing more than the god Frey. Hrafnkell allowed to make temple many. he was better than any other.20 The significance of the distinction between private religiosity. Hrafnkell lét gera hof mikið. that he shall be the bane of the man rode him without his will. að hann skyldi þeim manni að bana verða. Hrafnkell had a treasure in his possession.John Lindow.Óðrœrir 32 Private religiosity is also expressed in the surviving source material. only Sigvatr’s Austrfararvísur refers directly to the álfablót. then strengthened his great sacrifice. as John Lindow points out. Það var hestur brúnmóálóttur að lit. and Beliefs (Oxford University Press. sem honum riði án hans vilja. en vildi þó vera yfirmaður þeirra og tók goðorð yfir þeim. þá efldi hann blót mikil. Á þessum hesti hafði hann svo mikla elsku. “A hill here is a short distance from this place the elves dwell in. such as the veneration of animals. 54. 54. Við þetta var lengt nafn hans og kallaður Freysgoði. 1999). popular and private.” Additional offerings made to local wights and ancestors are described in the surviving literary and archaeological records and express the personal nature of private religiosity. the temple built by Hrafnkel and the many sacrifices made to the gods and Hrafnkel’s service as goði to his people provides us with a clear example of heathen popular religion: En þá er Hrafnkell hafði land numið á Aðalbóli. half the horse. though. These religious expressions. Hann gaf Frey. and generously gave him half of his best treasures. Rituals.

2000).Erik Lacharity. Gods and other honored wights were without question the gods of the people. the boundaries of that land were very important and their maintenance elicited a strong emotional response.Barbara Hanawalt.Óðrœrir 33 proper contexts by modern heathens. 12.Eric Christiansen. holy mountains or mounds. Byock. like those used for Germanic national assemblies. 21 . and the gods would constantly inform and be informed by the cult and identity of the community. The significance of the location and the recipients of the offerings remain elusive and must be assumed by those studying the remains.J. would differ from local cult centers. while individuals are visible any sense of self is obscured except in as much as physical attributes of the individual were acknowledged by society. and perhaps a weaker sense of identity with the region or tribe and eventually the kingdom. its inhabitants. The cult rituals at these sites served to distinguish the national social identity. Arnold states: Early Anglo-Saxon society. weapons and armor.23 This emotional attachment with the familial land and the traditional methods of interacting with the land were an inseparable element of heathen identity that finds little real expression in modern heathenry. C. The most common argument for the relationship with the land is the celebration of heathen holidays at a time that is appropriate to heliocentric cycles and local agricultural cycles. like any human society. 22 . Similarly. 179. This official religious cult would have been distant from the lives of the common heathen and would rarely be actively expressed during prescribed times of the year.An Archaeology of the Early Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: New Edition (Routledge. As a result of the fact that all aspects of heathen life played out on and in relation to the familial land. . drinking vessels. further the prosperity of the king and his folk. Due to their natures and purpose supra-regional cult centers. For whatever reason. was made up of individuals between whom there were varying real and perceived relationships. and reinforce the value of law and morality. Such individuals would have had membership of a variety of groups. the literary and archaeological remains fail to demonstrate a universally shared pantheon of gods. The Ties that Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England (Oxford University Press. the discussion of local holy springs or lakes. the rituals and wights associated with the offerings often remain ambiguous. Vol. and even human remains. 254. Archaeologists have documented offerings of flax. What is described in the literary sources and the archaeological record is the worship of specific gods and wights who are directly relevant to and intimately concerned with the life of the tribe but do not always bear resemblance to those of other sources. 1986). while historic heathens shared a Germanic and Indo-European cultural heritage. Though this cult would still retain its significance to historic heathens. 23. Feud in the Icelandic Saga (University of California Press. it would be less immediately critical in their lives and they would relate more to the cult and customs closer to home. 24 . “Frankish Sido. cattle. even though these places were the targets of conversion-era prohibitions against heathen worship and religious practices. holy trees or groves. While the sacral offerings to gods and wights are readily visible. Indeed. Supra-regional centers represented the cult of kings and chieftains and were marked by their legal character and the national character of the direction of the cult. Tree Cults” Óðrœrir. 1993) 69-71. 2002) 252. The relationships between the people. both within the family and outside of it. some of which may not be visible. 2012. Chaney.21 Heathen cult was the articulation of a world where survival was the result of performing right action22 for the land. The Norsemen in the Viking Age (Blackwell Publishing. 2. a strong sense of identity arising from the lineage group. the land. and its gods. butter. and other holy sites are largely missing from modern heathen religious dialogue24. 23 . Jesse L. Writing about identity in Anglo-Saxon society and in general. The basis for defining individual identity may have been drawn from many possible factors.

” VSNR Web Publications. 47. heathen liturgy is largely underdeveloped or completely lacking altogether.” Saga-Book. n. 1994. This is precisely what is most critical about understanding the relationship between the gods and men and how that shapes identity and worship. if descent from the gods is fundamental. I went alone.org. modern heathenry has come a long way since its revival in the twentieth century. the lack of which has been noted multiple times on heathen internet forums. If this popular belief was considered a fundamental element of their world and their identity. Additionally. With attention being directed at reconstructing historic heathenry. in general. “Scandinavian Sacral Kingship Revisited.Óðrœrir 34 The literary sources attest to the claim that the gods of the tribe have a very clear relationship with the tribe. they are focused on removing the extraneous. is one I found.vsnrweb-publications. Hávamál. Cult and Identity in Modern Heathenry I was young of old. I thought myself wealthy. Discussions on heathen theology and philosophy are mostly nonexistent. My woven cloth gave I to field two treemen. Instead of developing new forms of worship appropriate to group or individual identity. were the objects of worship and sacrifice. Nov 2011. heroes they thought. pan-Germanic heathen pantheon would have ever existed for every tribe. then it would be unlikely that a larger.uk/ Descent-from-the-gods. shameful is the naked poet. when they had clothes. non-historic. It is presumptive to assume anything about these powers beyond the fact that they were directly involved in the life of the people. However. its expression is becoming less developed as heathens become more concerned with conformity to the source material. This of course is largely a reflection of the individual and rarely an issue 25 . Even with the tendency towards focusing on official religion. are often considered to be holes in modern and historic heathenry that need to be filled. sts.pdf>. . man is man’s pleasure. Viking Society For Northern Research. and others. universal. Web. In terms of scholarship. The earliest references to the gods seem to be as a collective of powers that directly influenced the world and lives of heathens.25 These gods then have a familial relationship with the luck-wielders of the tribe and demarcate identity just as direct familial relationships did in the Germanic world. Rory McTurk. other elements of expressing heathen religiosity and worldview are being ignored. Descent from the gods would reflect a popular belief that was informed by official cult. 49. “Descent From the Gods. The gods of the people are only ever the gods that influence their social and private worlds. <www.d. elements of their thew. In these sources the gods are described as the ancestors and founders of the tribes. These elements. then was I false road.Anthony Faulkes. These powers. any other relationships of the gods would not necessarily earn those relations worship from the members of the tribe. 24:19-32.

Words and deeds in particular seem to be immensely important while seated at symbel. Modern symbel is most frequently the formal.Óðrœrir 35 of heathenry. oaths. Modern heathen identity is largely distinguished by the branch of the Germanic tree that provides the names for the gods (Norse. is the raising of the horn to what are considered praiseworthy traits. The conviviality of the hall-joys was expressed through fellowship. John. It is precisely these elements that have historically delimited the identities of differing groups. This challenge and affirmation of the right to be seated on the mead benches seems to have been the impetus behind the boasts of one’s deeds and claims to descent from folk heroes and the demonstration of skill in poetry and music. There can be no honor given to a trait or a virtue itself. Old English. their native lands. . We see symbel related to gebeorscipe. This couldn’t be further from the truth since heathenry has always been about honoring immediate relations at the expense of far distant relations.26 Informal rounds may or may not follow depending upon the disposition of the participants. though not quite at the level of approaching official religion yet. This practice is based upon reading the saga of Hákon the Good.ibid. But in contrast to this. Vol. In the Old English version of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum. Available descriptions do not illustrate a situation where the act of drinking is religiously significant. but only to the act of making true that virtue in the world. If you do not know anyone in your community who meets those standards then you need to become more involved in your community or find a better group of people to associate with. but should always raise a horn to the expression of that trait by other men. See: Wills. The second is directed towards heroes or ancestors and the third is for making boasts. many heathens forswear the traditions of their more immediate kin. “Symbel: The Heathen Drinking Ritual?” Óðrœrir. or personal dedications. 2. This is a strange occurrence and suggests some lack in the social aspect of being heathen. but it is indicative of the need for heathenry to be relevant to the lives of modern heathens. While both of these elements are in perfect accord with historic heathen identity. People deserve the honor of having a horn raised to them. A man should never have to arbitrarily raise a horn to a trait. a word that conveys the idea of a group of people drinking together. 28 . OE hall-joys. Social honor was challenged and affirmed in the seating positions of the participants. ritualized drinking of three rounds. The first round generally goes to the gods. It is possible to assume that since there are no references to food being present during symbel that it is related strictly to the consumption of alcohol in a formal social setting. and local wights is somehow “unheathen”. kin. An example of a private ritual that has become standardized in heathenry is symbel. Do not raise your horn to the virtue of perseverance. such as one of the Nine Noble Virtues or Three Wynns. lands. and local wights for an idealized heathen substitute that is imagined to have existed historically. 2012. and gift giving. Old High German) and other wights.27 The majority of references to symbel is vague and provides little insight into the actions of the participants. and the holy powers. The assumption seems to be that honoring these modern traditions. Another significant element of symbel is the experience of the seledreamas. we are told of Caedmon: 26 . they should not be the primary means of distinguishing between groups.Another common occurrence. and occasionally by which international or national organizations the individuals and groups belong to. their native lands. music. This is a commonly held position even though symbel is often rendered as “feast” by translators and even occurs during a feast in Lokasenna. 27 . poetry. When we look at the primary informative elements of historic heathenry we encounter a world where heathens were principally concerned with relationships with their kin. 1.It has been noted that symbel is not mentioned in the saga and further argued that the original does not refer to the ritualized drinking of alcohol. On the other hand the setting and actions of the participants outside of the act of drinking are clearly socially28 and religiously significant. Because of this lack of distinction in thew between groups many popular and private forms of religious and cultic expression are becoming part of the standardization of modern heathenry. but raise it to the man in your community who has persevered against all odds.

. hann var einhendr. when he saw the harp approach him then he arose out of shame from the symbel and homewards went to his house. as he was in the east road. þonne he geseah þa hearpan him nealecan þonne aras he for scome from þæm symble ond ham eode to his huse. Bragi and Idun. hann hafði búit ásum öl. er öðru nafni hét Gymir. a fact perhaps further illustrated by the many words of warning in Hávamál and Riddle 25 of the Exeter Book. Sif var þar. Byggvir ok Beyla. Margt var þar ása ok álfa. Loki var þar ok þjónustumenn Freys. To the feast came Odin and Frigg. Aegir. þonne þær wæs blisse intinga gedemed. This quote from the story of Caedmon is another example of an expectation of participation in ritualized activity associated with the drinking of beer. 1. he had prepared the gods’ ale. Týr var þar. Þórr kom eigi.29 The social ritual of being seated at symbel and gebeorscipe is clearly one that has both a mindful and respectful element as well as one of joy and pleasure. því at hann var í austrvegi. . his other name was called Gymir. he was 29 . þæt heo ealle sceoldon þurh endebyrdnesse be hearpan singan.Óðrœrir 36 Ond he forþon oft in gebeorscipe. Þar var Njörðr ok kona hans Skaði. Though the descriptions are not detailed. And because often at gebeorscipe. that they all shall in succession sing to the harp. his wife. sem nú er sagt. þá er hann hafði fengit ketil in mikla. the significance of providing and giving the drink is clearly portrayed. Thor came not. Víðarr son Óðins.Fenrisúlfr sleit hönd af hánum þá er hann var bundinn. his wife. when there was deemed to be cause for joy. Til þeirar veizlu kom Óðinn ok Frigg kona hans. Tyr was there. Thor’s wife. he had found the mighty kettel. kona Þórs. Bragi ok Iðunn kona hans. Caedmon is shamed by his inability to perform as well as his companions. Beowulf and Lokasenna also evince the fact that honor is a conditional element to participating in symbel and gebeorscipe. Sif was there.ibid. In the prose prologue of Lokasenna the sharing of ale is part of the feast provided by Aegir for the gods and elves: Ægir. Freyr ok Freyja. as now is told. The drinking of alcoholic beverages is also mentioned in relation to other religious and social activities.

It was custom in that time. There was Njorth and his wife Skathi. at hann skyldi auka ríki sitt hálfu í hverja höfuðátt. that the funeral feast shall be duty-bound after kings and earls. The additional relation between the fulle-cup and symbel is illustrated in the Old English Maxims I.     wig geweaxan. provides a description of the traditional significance of alcohol during social ritual. Ynglinga saga. sit at the edge before the high seat. sitja á skörinni fyrir hásætinu. where he had come to inherit all after him. which is also described in the saga of Hákon the Good. solemnly he then vows. And the men were drunk through the evening. Svipdag’s sons. Loki was there and Frey’s servicemen. billowing there they struck a fire. þar er erfi skyldi gera eptir konunga eða jarla. Instead we see the familiar boasting of the new king with the cup in his hand and the drunkenness of the other guests.Óðrœrir 37 one-handed — Fenris wolf snapped his hand when he was bound. Many were there gods and elves. þá mælti Ingjaldr konungr til Fólkviðar ok Hulviðar. drink from the cup. eða deyja ella. at þá er Bragafull kom inn. lines 81-92: Cyning sceal mid ceape     bunum ond beagum. var hann þá kominn til arfs alls eptir hann.     cwene gebicgan. after then shall he lead to the high seat. Ok er menn váru drukknir um kveldit. Vithar Odin’s son. then shall he lead the funeral feast. at þeir skyldu vápnast ok lið þeirra. strengði hann þá heit. then said Ingjald king to Folkvithar and Hulvithar. Þat var siðvenja í þann tíma. þat er kallat var Bragafull. stóð upp Ingjaldr konungr ok tók vit einu dýrshorni miklu. sona Svipdags. Frey and Freya. Should he then stand up take the Bragafull and bind solemn vows. which belonged to his father. Þeir géngu út ok til hins nýja sals. which was expected in the evening. and until inheritance shall be conducted. that they should arm themselves and their team. er átti faðir hans. bu sceolon ærest Guð sceal in eorle. he shall increase his reach by half in every direction. þá skyldi sá er gerði erfit. stood up Ingjald king and took one mighty drinking-horn. They went out and with their new payment. 40. and then after took the hall to flames. ch. Again there is no mention of a specific number of rounds or a specific objective to each round. Byggvir and Beyla. sem ætlat var um kveldið. ok til arfs skyldi leiða. báru þar eld at. We also see the relationship between the full. with that the Bragafull came in. or die instead: he drank after that of the horn. Skyldi sá þá standa upp í móti bragafulli ok strengja heit.   geofum god wesan. there until completed was the bearing of the cup that was called the Bragafull. drakk af síðan af horninu. Now it was so done. drekka af fullit síðan. ok því næst tók salrinn at loga. ond wif geþeon . alt þar til er inn væri borit full. eptir þat skyldi hann leiða í hásæti þat. Nú var svá hér gert.

Óðrœrir 38

leof mid hyre leodum,    
rune healdan,   
mearum ond maþmum,    
for gesiðmægen    
eodor æþelinga    

leohtmod wesan,
rumheort beon
meodorædenne
symle æghwær
ærest gegretan,

forman fulle    
ricene geræcan,    
boldagendum    

to frean hond
ond him ræd witan
bæm ætsomne.

The king shall bribe with    
cups and rings;    
be good food-givers.    
his army increase,    

the queen purchase,
dwelling they shall first
With battle shall earl
and wife to prosper

beloved with hired men,
easy-going with drink,
secrets she keeps,    
be kind-hearted
horses and mighty treasure,    at drinking
before war band    
symbel in every case
the prince of house    
first to approach
give the first fulle    
rule reaches,    
homeowners    

in lord’s hand
and him advise as counselor
both together.

Another example from the saga of Hákon the Good illustrates the relationship between alcohol and
religious feasts in a manner that suggests a lack of formality in the rounds and their focus.
Hann setti það í lögum að hefja jólahald þann tíma sem kristnir menn og
skyldi þá hver maður eiga mælis öl en gjalda fé ella og halda heilagt meðan
öl ynnist.
He set that in law to start Yule at the same time Christian men and shall they
have one man make one measure of ale in tribute fee and keep it holy while
the ale lasts.
Presented with this information, social rituals and roles reaffirmed over drink should be reflective of the
social group and not the mimicking of a description in a single source. It is clear that the number and focus
of the rounds were nonspecific. Alcohol clearly played an important role in social and religious ritual and
it is right for it to continue to do so for heathens today. But as these examples illustrate, the use of alcohol
in ritual should not always be expressed in a manner that resembles the symbel description in Lokasenna
and Beowulf or the rounds in the saga of Hákon the Good. These examples suggest that the setting and
the participants would define the nature of formal and informal drinking rituals. Thew surrounding the
consumption of alcohol in social and religious settings should develop as a natural expression of the
character of the group and should not be forced to conform to a standardized model of heathen ritual.
There were other forms of religious rituals as well. Aside from symbel, which has been argued as

Óðrœrir 39

being amongst the holiest of rites30, modern heathens often practice what is commonly known as blót.
Historically blót specifically referred to sacrificial feasts that involved the slaughter of living animals, but
today it is frequently used for any form of heathen worship that involves making an offering to the gods
or other wights.31 Blót was also historically associated with all three aspects of religious worship: official,
popular, and private. Strophes 144 and 145 of Hávamál allude to other heathen rituals that reflect heathen
religious belief:
Veiztu hvé rísta skal?
Veiztu hvé ráða skal?
Veiztu hvé fáa skal?
Veiztu hvé freista skal?
Veiztu hvé biðja skal?
Veiztu hvé blóta skal?
Veiztu hvé senda skal?
Veiztu hvé sóa skal?

Do you know how to cut?
Do you know how to counsel?
Do you know how to receive?
Do you know how to prove?
Do you know how to bid?
Do you know how to sacrifice?
Do you know how to send?
Do you know how to atone?

Betra er óbeðit
en sé ofblótit
ey sér til gildis gjöf
betra er ósent
en sé ofsóit
svá Þundr um reist
fyr þjóða rök
þar hann upp um reis
er hann aptr of kom

Better not bidden
than over sacrificed
A gift always looks to payment
better unsent
than over-atoned
So Thund cut
before peoples’ fate
where he rose up
and he afterwards came

Though these strophes are often assumed to relate to the runes, they are clearly technical terms for
heathen ritual acts with other purposes. Rísta could easily have been translated carve or write as well. The
carving of words, not just runes, on stone monuments and other artifacts is well documented in heathen
culture. The corresponding ráða could have been translated as advise, interpret, or read as well. Again, the
offering of advice and wise counsel are praiseworthy character traits for Germanic heathens and Christians
alike. Tacitus also informs us of the importance of reading and interpreting signs. The line containing fáa
has been translated paint or stain in every commonly available English translation used by heathens. This
is presumably based on the contraction of the double vowel to fá32 and as a continuation of strophe 141.
Since strophes 144 and 145 appear formulaic with repetition of elements of the first strophe in the second,
and following the assumption that the formula is significant, fáa has been translated here as “receive”.33
30 - “Symbel.” Wikipedia. n.d. Web. 25 Nov 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbel>. I am aware of the problems surrounding the
credibility of Wikipedia entries as source citations, but the descriptions in this entry are indicative of the opinions and conclusions
of modern heathens regarding modern Germanic heathen religion. It is also relevant in the discussion of heathen religiosity as it is
frequently used as a credible and authoritative source of information on heathen religion by new heathens. This contributes further to
the standardization of heathenry.
31 - “Germanic Neopaganism.” Wikipedia. n.d. Web. 25 Nov 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germanic_Neopaganism#Rites_and_
practices>.; “Blót.” Wikipedia. n.d. Web. 25 Nov 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blót>.
32 - Sophus Bugge edition makes the contraction to a single vowel, while Guðni Jónsson’s edition does not. The contraction may or may
not be significant. In comparing the usage of the verbs, I found far more occurrences of fáa and fá meaning to receive or to get.
33 - The formula seems to be made apparent within the two strophes and not a direct continuation of the preceding or following strophes.
The inquiries and following imperatives are clearly related to something Thund carved in days of old and not to the preceding runes or
the following magical songs.

Óðrœrir 40

Freista could have been translated try, test, tempt, or to risk. The semantic field gives the idea of “putting
something to the test” or the equivalent of “testing one’s mettle”. This is reminiscent of strophes 81 - 88,
of Hávamál where the speaker warns against the danger and unreliability of the unproven thing. Biðja
takes on the semantic character of asking for something or praying for something or urging someone to
do something. It is used in the sense of “I bid you welcome” or “pray tell”. Therefore, it could have been
translated pray, ask, or beg. Blóta is sacrifice. Translating it any other way is to ignore what it is and how
it is used in the surviving literature. Senda is also pretty straightforward and means “to send”. Sóa is the
most difficult to translate. In the prose sources it means “waste,” but has been argued to mean “to appease”
or “to atone” based upon cognates in other languages. Based upon a reading of Ynglingatal, 5, it has been
suggested that it clearly means to sacrifice, to make an offering, but in a way that is distinguished from
blóta.34 If these meanings are related, the semantic field would suggest the proper means for atonement or
appeasement of the powers involving the sacrificial destruction of an object or person that, because of its
distinction from blót, perhaps did not involve ritual feasting afterwards.
The particular significance and methods of conducting the acts described in these two strophes can only
be assumed. Even with our modern ignorance of the particular meanings in this context, it is clear that
their significance would have been understood by historic heathens due to the imperative nature of the
statements. There are enough examples in the archaeological record and literary sources to provide plenty
of inspiration and models for heathens to develop a religious and social identity around, but the discussion
regarding these ritual acts are lacking. The development of wagon cults, the return of idols and groves,
and the performance of traditional blótar by multiple heathen groups are tremendous steps forward but
are also merely the beginning.

Concluding Thoughts
Efforts to reconstruct historical heathenry are essential to developing a modern religion that reflects the
beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors of our heathen ancestors. At the same time, for modern heathenry
to be truly heathen, it must not forswear our recent ancestors, our local lands, and our local wights and
gods. The discoveries made during the reconstruction of historic heathen religious belief and practice
must be the foundation and the model, but the building materials can only ever be local.
With that in mind, developing a modern thew based upon the reconstruction of elder heathen thew
and maintaining relevance to the land and people of today requires understanding the significance of the
varying expressions of heathen religious belief. Official holy days should reflect their significance and
value as the religious expression of a belief shared by the larger group and, therefore, adherence to that
belief should be in relation to the official nature of the days. These holidays would not change based
upon local and regional situations, but would be consistent annually. These meetings will reflect the
official nature of larger groups where numbers of individuals, households, and groups meet religiously and
socially at specific, consistent times throughout the year.
In contrast to this, local holy days should reflect the local world and not be based upon an attempt to
replicate religious and social acts that are largely irrelevant to the local world of the heathen or reflect
the demands of a single household or individual. Popular religious holidays will be directed towards
the benefit of the local and regional communities and should reflect the needs of those communities.
Communities that still rely on agricultural or pastoral industries will have rituals that reflect those industries.
34 - “578 SOFARI -- SÓKN.” Germanic Lexicon Project. 26 Nov 2011. Web. 27 Nov 2011. <http://lexicon.ff.cuni.cz/html/oi_cleasbyvigfusson/b0578.html>.

But everything else that heathens do should be done for kith and kin and this is how heathen identity and thew will be developed and will survive into the future. We entertained our guest with the tale of The Little Red Hen. Each round consists of words. With the lady of the house bearing the horn. and this time of the year will determine if it is possible to get another. copper coins. proper cult should develop around the needs of the people. poems. and welcoming all who have come. For if you do. and one more to our kin. And see you do not spill. inviting our guests to join in recognizing the event being honored. Heathens honor the gods for the world and thew they have established. the founders of the feast. As the head of the household. bearing the horn. Here’s a health unto our kith. but as a folk religion that is defined by its socioreligious and socio-political expression. Heathens honor the gods because of what the gods have done and continue to do. and objects from our household and jobs made their way to the corn dolly and other wights. This was followed with the offering of poems. Chorus: Then drink. friends. or sometimes our daughter. Each of us composed a poem and offered them in honor of their intended recipients. An Example from our Household Symbel in our household takes place before the feast and signals that the event is both socially and religiously significant. Cult is an act that requires participation and direction. For we are all good folk. For ’tis our folk’s good will. and their gods. our community. Handmade trinkets and tokens. whate’er we take in hand. their land. particularly hay. We began by offering her the seat of honor and gifting her with the words of Miri It Is. Private religiosity will meet the needs of the household. symbel is socially significant and therefore our children will participate. and true to this land. At our winter full moon celebration this year. we began the drinking of the rounds. In addition to the offerings of words.In our region we get multiple harvests of various crops. Because this time coincides with the determination of the final harvest of the year35 this celebration included a bit about shared efforts and harvest. What will follow will be a nonspecific number of rounds over the horn with my wife. Instead of following the standard model for symbel we followed a more traditional drinking pattern related to the harvest season. The worship of and paying honor to the gods is a fundamental aspect of heathen religion. you shall drink two. I set the stage with my words over the horn. or songs being offered in honor of gods and other wights.Óðrœrir 41 Predominantly urban communities that rely on other industries will have cultic rituals that reflect those industries. After the offerings were presented. there were many physical objects presented as offerings. drink. 35 . . So may our doings prosper. our guest of honor was the corn dolly and a feast was offered in her honor. In our home. each other. it is the active expression of the beliefs of a people. or to bid a good and prosperous year or season. we drank the full after singing the following song based upon a traditional English harvest tune: Here’s a health unto the powers.

It is inseparable from our heritage. During these feasts. all members participate. To our good wights’ health. The specifics of these fainings are protected as solemn events and will not be described here. We incorporate these traditions into our traditions as well. After the feast was completed the physical offerings. are inclusive. in a Theodish setting.Óðrœrir 42 Now summer it is ended and supper it is past. In these instances. though directed at honoring others. our community. friends. In contrast to this. Because of the culture of our region many tunes and much symbolism from early English cultures are retained in the traditional cultural songs of our area. We foresee a future where the singing of this song and the recitation of the words to Miri It Is will become part of the customary celebration of the harvest season and the winter full moon. as a Theodish household we observe Axenthof thew and Theodish thew when we participate in and perform holy rituals as a thiad. The feast consisted of a meal that incorporated the meaning of the celebration and held meaning and value to us and our heritage in particular. By our reckoning Haverfest and the winter full moon coincide in some years and are two distinct celebrations in others. and our gods. is a dynamic and growing expression of our identity. and the ritual acts. so y’all drink off the beer. Fainings in Theodish thew are rituals honoring gods or wights in relation to specific holy tides. our particular cult. our homes. the lord of Axenthof has the honor of leading symbel and fainings. The song was sung and the horn was tipped and each passing was the cause of more and more good cheer. We chose not to marry Winterfylleth and Winter Nights as many heathens do and instead focused on celebrating important cycles in our lands in a manner historically associated with heathenry. It was not a dish that was made because it was common to our distant ancestors. and the written words to the poems were bogged at the base of a large tree in our local lake. The rituals in fainings are generally exclusive and involve the officiant leading the ritual and all other participants primarily observing the solemnity of the act. The religious expression of our beliefs. which is why we sang these specific songs during the celebration of the tide. Symbel. will have three formal rounds followed by any number of informal rounds as necessary. and make us all good cheer Here’s to our family’s health. After enough rounds to “drink off the beer” the horn was placed aside and the feast was set. the remains of the feast. a full and flowing glass. For they bring good luck. .

If this was the case then its mention in The Dream of the Rood “…on heofonum. what it is from a Reconstructionist view. The obvious conclusion is that the ritual is a social one not a mystical one. The second misconception is that symbel is overtly Heathen. on the choice of chiefs. The first misconception is that symbel is a mystical ritual linking humanity and the unseen in a similar way that the Christian communion links humanity and Christ.Bauschatz. The primary sources show that symbel is an activity for both man and god. I will examine where symbel comes from. It should be considered that there is no one right way to symbel as this ritual is a tradition within each folk. 1982 2 . family or group. would be most odd to say the least. Symbel is mentioned throughout the corpus of Old English poetry with the main source being Beowulf. on the forming of matrimonial alliances. “in heaven there are God’s people sat at symbel”.. This misconception is debunked in the Lokasenna where the gods are “sumbli at”. was not practised by the other Germanic peoples of the early medieval period. Heathen and Christian. 1 . it should be noted that some of the poems containing references to symbel are overtly Christian in their nature such as the Old English Dream of the Rood. þær is dryhtnes folc geseted to symle”.Ibid. what it is not and what symbel means to the members of the Þunorrad Þeod in England. but there are wrong ways to symbel or wrong perceptions of symbel which are due to misconceptions and influences from other religions which I will discuss as they arise. “at symbel”. . it is also mentioned in Old Saxon poetry and the Eddas1.Óðrœrir 43 Symbel The Heathen Drinking Ritual? • By John Wills If there is one thing that links all Heathen practice it is the early medieval drinking ritual “symbel” also known as “sumble”.. In Tacitus’ Germania. he comments in chapter 22: To pass an entire day and night in drinking disgraces no one . Whilst the bulk of our knowledge of symbel comes from English and Scandinavian literary sources it would be wrong to assume symbel. Yet it is at their feasts that they generally consult on the reconciliation of enemies. unless there exists higher gods than those gathered in Ægir’s hall the notion that symbel is communion between man and god is unfounded2. Evidence for Symbel in Literature. or an equivalent. This tradition is lifted straight from the pages of Beowulf. In this essay. finally even on peace and war. Just a brief examination of the poetry removes common misconceptions about symbel. on earth and in “heaven”. The Eddas and other Germanic poetry and is a ritual that equally unites and divides the various flavours of modern Heathenry whilst remaining an act at the core of all our social structures and gatherings. for they think that at no time is the mind more open to simplicity of purpose or more warmed to noble aspirations.

This may not be a description of what a symbel is in later literature but it is undeniable evidence of the use of alcohol at important or formal events. RhinelandPalatinate. Physical evidence of high status drinking can be seen from the find of the 5th century Frankish/Merovingian glass drinking-horn from Bingerbrück. The use of horns and glass will be examined later.) and the similar 6th century Lombardic glass drinking-horn from Sutri. Late 6th century Lombardic blue glass drinking-horn from Sutri. Lazio. both on display in the British Museum.Bauschatz. Another important observation is that 3 . Germany (fig 1. and one is “seated” or “sat” suggesting a structured event3. it is a specific event more than an action. 1982 . Germany Fig 2. Fig 1.). Italy (fig 2.Óðrœrir 44 Tacitus’ study was of the peoples of the Anglii southwards through mainland Germany in the first century. Rhineland-Palatinate. Italy The way symbel is presented in literature is that one is “at symbel”. Lazio. 5th century Frankish/Merovingian glass drinking-horn from Bingerbrück.

Such ambiguity is also found in Beowulf where at one symbel is in the “beer-hall”. The grain harvest normally happens during July and August and beer has a brewing time measured in days making it easily ready for the autumn symbel. In both Beowulf and Lokasenna only the drinking of alcohol is mentioned. Beowulf and Lokasenna remain. The lack of description in other literature can be seen as an assumption by the author that the poem’s intended audience was so aware of the practice that no explanation was necessary. Loki is addressing 4 . the only hard rule being that it is alcoholic. these buildings are not described as temples or shrines but as halls the secular centre of the community from where the ruler gives his judgements and gifts4. there is no food. modern October). Mead not being ready for at least six months is more appropriate for a spring symbel. that said mead has a much longer shelf life measured in years. ale and mead are interchangeable words for alcoholic beverage however taking into consideration the timing of the symbel from the last lines of Hymiskviða it is likely that beer is the drink being consumed. the clearest explanations of what actually happened during an early medieval symbel. It is possible that beer. Ægir” clearly stating it was ale that Ægir brewed. Prior to the events of Lokasenna is the Hymiskviða which in the first two stanzas contain “sumblsamir” and “sumbl”. they use twigs and blood (Woden’s glory-twigs of the Nine Herbs Charm?) and see that Ægir has many cauldrons. Old English literature also gives the possibility for wine to have been used at symbel. lines 491-496 . one long bench for everyone is impractical however using Beowulf as a reference for seating we have a scene with a high bench and additional benches for other ranks. meaning one that the gods attend in person. in Lokasenna the Æsir gather Ægir’s hall. in Genesis we find that both Noah and Abimelec are “symbelwerig” (literally “symbel weary”) after being called “wine druncen” (drunk on wine) and both are sleeping. Beowulf. 1982. As noted above in Lokasenna the gods are seated. In the first stanza the gods are hunting and want a drinking feast. repeatedly using the word “öl” when referring to the drink. much like today we would say “I was watching TV” or “we were at a football match”. The poem ends with Loki saying “Öl görðir þú.Bauschatz.Óðrœrir 45 symbel is always indoors and specifically in a beer or mead hall (these terms are interchangeable for the same structure).Pollington 2003 5 . In the second stanza. from the description of the conversation between the listed gods and Loki they are seated such that Loki has an equal audience with them all suggesting a long bench. The poem ends by telling us this symbel happens every “eitrhörmeitið” harvest or autumn dependant on the translation (this may actually be a cognate feast to the Old English “Winterfilleð” which is the full moon in the month of Winterfilleð. ale. sumbl or sumbli is used seven times making it clear that this event is indeed a symbel. This mixture of terminology for the drink used at symbel suggests that “only mead should be used” is another symbel myth and that the drink consumed is chosen for cultural and seasonal reasons. mead is only used when Loki returns demanding to drink and when Sif offers him a cup. for the symbel. Honey collection is typically between June and September and mead requires at least a six months brewing time. sweet drink”5. Hymiskviða goes on to tell of Þorr’s adventures to acquire a kettle large enough for Ægir to brew “ölðr”. The poem is definite in that the symbel is one of beer or ale drinking. It is clear that the participants sat at a bench or benches in some order of their rank within the community and such that key players are visible to each other and heard when speaking. The symbel events in Beowulf take place in Hroþgar’s and Hygelac’s halls. Þorr confronts Ægir demanding he hold regular symbel for the gods. The opening prose of Lokasenna gives a list of the attending gods but says that many more gods and elves were there. the drink is poured from an “ale-cup” and it is a “clear. above all other references. Hymiskviða has set the scene and now Lokasenna picks up the action at one of the symbel events.

Fimafeng. In Beowulf. who now carries the “cup”. Hroþgar’s wife. when he arrives he is sat with the young and untested warriors but after his defeat of Hroþgar’s enemies he is sat with the proven men. for example in the Old English Battle of Maldon we find Ælfwin saying to the remaining men after Byrhtnoð’s death: Gemunan þa mæla þonne we on bence hæleð on healle. this time Hroþgar does not give any speech. One of the servants. The response of “you are drunk” can be taken as an insult and point to an expectation that during symbel you should attempt to remain sober or at least in control of your mouth. the speeches are about past deeds and boasts. Eldir. It should be noted that the Beowulf poet uses the seating arrangement at symbel to demonstrate Beowulf’s success and honour. lines 625-626 . lines 333-339 7 . This again is matched in Beowulf. about cruel war. Then we on the bench rose up a boast. These men at the Battle of Maldon were Christian but it is evident that they knew of and practised symbel as a binding ritual. the above can be condensed into the following elements required for a drinking ritual to be 6 . when Beowulf arrives at Heorot gives his name and purpose to Hroþgar’s “herald” at the door6 and inside it is a thane that carries the “ale-cup”. nu mæg cunnian þe we oft æt meodo spræcon beot ahofon. The hero in the hall. a boast of what he had done and affirmation of the boast he had previously made declaring he would kill Grendel. thanked god wise words7. there are accusations and rebuttals. We also see at this symbel the servants are male and female gods who sit at the benches. the thanes and older warriors. it is strictly dictated by rank and by instruction of the hall-lord. The similarities between the first Beowulf symbel and the Lokasenna symbel continue with the interactions between the attendees. something that his challenger has failed to do. Symbel is also alluded to in some poems which can be used to back up the descriptions of boasts from Beowulf. (Battle of Maldon.Beowulf. ymbe heard gewinn. 212-215) This passage shows that those words spoken at symbel will be remembered and must be lived up to. Remember the times that we often at mead spoke. To recap. Wealhðeow is said to know the correct procedure. is serving and the other. In the second Beowulf symbel the male servant is replaced with Queen Wealhðeow. first offering the cup to Hroþgar and then crossing the hall to Beowulf.Óðrœrir 46 only the high bench. the hero after beating Unferð in the word battle goes on to boast of how he will kill Grendel. hwa cene sy. it is Wealhðeow who speaks to Hroþgar advising him to be happy. The primary accusers are Loki and Unferð to whom the defenders make the same initial response “you are drunk” before going on to set straight the story told about them. She greets Beowulf and at this point we have a reference of divinity in that she “gode þancode wisfæst wordum”. This movement between benches is further enforces the importance of seating arrangement that is no accident or personal choice of the individual. after her speech Beowulf says his words.Beowulf. Now (one) may prove who may be keen/brave. appears to be guarding the door as he attempts to prevent Loki re-entering the hall.

just as in modern times one may raise a glass “to absent friends”. Other elements that are common to the descriptions of symbel but included in all are. Engl. a rimy cup. Sks. where as the later form kaleikr is used in the ecclesiastical sense only]:. calix. nú tók hann kalkinn ok hönd hennar með. mead or wine • Absence of food • A “cup bearer”. 230. as opposed to and older than the common Jötnar (Giants). ‘Rime-giants. ketil-hrím. from the froth on the mead. Fms.H. 53. 34.G. rim-frost. 32. Fm. Gm 31. 7. Vþm. hrímkálki works well as a description for these items (fig 3). nú er hér kalkr. vi. chalice. the presence of (high status) women. It is also worth noting that in all the poetic examples of symbel only high status individuals are present: the warrior class and people of office. a silver cup. Fas. 53. 33.’ the Titans of the Scandin. [A. Vþm. hailing the gods or ancestors may have formed part of the words spoken at symbel. I. of the waves. 38. hoar. frost” and kálkr “chalice”. none of these can be older than the Danish settlement in England: the form kalkr is used in a heathen sense. The Christian influence is clear in Beowulf but is also in Lokasenna when the poet wrote the line “þá gekk Sif fram ok byrlaði Loka í hrímkálki mjöð ok mælti”8. Ls. hoar. R. calic and calc. hrím-kalkr. ale.(in a verse). Korm. m. cp. though it occurs in the ancient poems. eptir þat tók hann kalkinn. the black soot on a kettle. Dan. COMPDS: hrim-drif. m. O. m. the giving of gifts. Hrím-þursar. kelk. kalk. goblet. Hrím-faxi.14. Rime-mane. f. the word came with Christianity from the Engl. hrím-kaldr. 28. frost. m. 29. 51. 29. 30. Hkr. usage. (in a verse). Edda 38. adj. silír-k. hrím-kalkr. Sks. Germ. the Saga of Hakon the Good. 109. Skm. i. Hkv. It should not be considered that because the symbel descriptions are of Christian symbel or told using Christian words that symbel is itself a Christian activity. the phrase hrímkálki for the “cup” Sif gave to Loki did not enter the Norse language until after the Danish settlement of Christian England9. One possible argument against this comes from Saga Hákonar góða. 38. horse. one who carries the drinking vessel around the symbel • Oaths. what it does illustrate is that symbel was not considered a form of worship or communion between man and god and played an important (if not vital) role in early medieval social systems. n. the second to Njord and the third to Freya. rime stones. 1874: KALKR.. 48. cup. So far in this investigation all the texts have been either overtly Christian in nature or have been recorded after Germanic Heathen contact with Christian culture. hrímþursar ok bergrisar. Vþm. hrím-steinar. pl. er hann hafði af drukkit kalkinum. m. er þú skalt drekka af.Cleasby. 10 . hrîm. Akv. name of a giantess. Gullþ. 3. rime-maned. [borrowed from Lat.. 31. Germ. Vþm.a chalice. Ls. frosty or icy chalice” from hrím “rime. A. Dan-Swed. in Heimskringla by Snorri Sturlusson. Hrímkalki is a taken in some translations to mean “crystal cup”10 although more rightly it should be “rimy. rime. G. In chapter 16 of this saga there is a detailed account of a drinking ritual in which the first cup is dedicated to Odin.ii. 50. speeches. Edda 56. it occurs in the poems Hym. The identification of symbel as a social not mystical or communication ritual is not to exclude gods from speeches or well wishing during the ritual. Skv. boasts. 50. Edda 4. part. Merl. 49.S.Óðrœrir 47 considered a proper symbel: • An indoor setting • Organised and ordered seating arrangement • Medium strength alcoholic beverage. Rm. freq. a drift of rime. Edda 10. hrím-frosinn. a. 15. 21. Hjorv. rime cold. 30. The evidence shows that symbel is not prayer or sacrifice. it is a binding together of the people present through their words. Skm. part. reif] . Enlg.rime.S. another cup 8 . Glass drinking vessels such as claw and cone beakers are common in high status burials. 25. þa var enn eptur í kalkinum. COMPDS: Hrím-gerðr. 1936 .Lokasenna verse 53 9 . Hkr. n. II. i.Bellows. 23 (in a verse). 230. Hm. 37. pl. for. mythology were so called. hrím-fextr. challenges and defences These elements should be considered as the base requirements. rimy. HRÍM. a mythol. material splendour and merriment. and Vigfusson. chelih. Ls. in mod.

Mucking. it is not completely clear whether it was this ale in the cups or the blood or cooking juices. slaughtered and cooked with the blood being collected. which was called “hlaut”. blood of sacrifice. was then sprinkled on the participants and the walls (inside and out). England The ambiguity of the drinking vessel is similar to the ambiguity of the actual drink consumed. Although men brought “öl”. “of sacrifice”. If Snorri had not called the event blót the presence of food. Essex. The chapter is entitled Frá blótum. other than as a comparison between symbel and blot. The blood. the event is explicitly called “blót” and “blótveizlu” with all of the events revolving around blood and the eating of sacrificed animals. It is therefore wrong to use this source as a research tool for symbel. Fig 3. Sigurðr is described as blótmaðr.Lokasenna verse 54 . Migration Period (early 5th century) Claw Beaker from grave 843. It is very tempting to use this as evidence of symbel and a direct dedication to the gods however this would be wrong as the Old Norse manuscript makes it very clear that this event is a blót not a sumble. and tells how cattle and horses are taken into a temple.Óðrœrir 48 is emptied for Bragi and another for the ancestors. a worshipper or one for sacrifices. ale or possibly mead. after Sif’s words in Lokasenna the poem continues “Hann tók við horni ok drakk af”11. now the vessel is 11 . slaughter and blood singles this event out as very different to any other example of drinking ritual that we identify as symbel.

2008 . when symbel is mentioned in The Wanderer the speaker is lamenting the removal of the seating and cups: … Hwær cwom maþþumgyfa? Hwær cwom symbla gesetu? Hwær sindon seledreamas? Eala beorht bune! Eala byrnwiga! Eala þeodnes þrym! … … Where went treasure giver? Where went symbel seats? Where are hall joys? Alas bright cup! Alas mailed warrior! Alas king’s host! . The use of horns for drinking in England is evident from the archaeological record. lines 92b-95a) The Wanderer. Notable horns include those from the Anglian high status burials at Sutton Hoo and Taplow. for example. seated symbel. Late 6th century drinking horn from the Taplow Court barrow. from all the evidence above this is clearly not the case. The Wanderer is lamenting the loss of the hall and his folk and in these lines tells us of gifts. the “bright cup” (which may be either mead or a decorated drinking vessel). and the Saxon princely burial at Prittlewell12.Pollington.. (The Wanderer. Buckinghamshire.. drinking must be from a horn. England 12 . Fig 4. and the high status of those in the hall.Óðrœrir 49 referred to as a horn. merriment indoors. We know from the pictorial evidence in the Bayeux tapestry’s depiction of Harold’s feast at Bosham that in England horns were used for high status dinking as late as the mid 11th century. demonstrates in the lines above much of what symbel is. This exposes another modern myth about symbel. again from the Christian period. These burials are from the Heathen and conversion period. There is no mention of horns in Beowulf or other Old English poetry.

7 cynge XII scll’. There are two important elements here: First. both knew the rules of symbel and this is evidence that symbel crossed both religious and national divides. without a crime.Tacitus. and the king has twelve shillings. If a man a weapon unsheathes whilst men are drinking and there is nothing wicked nor death. granting old law a shilling punishment to those that the hall is property. Gif an oþrum steopp asette ðær mæn drincen. an eald riht scll’ agelde þam þa þæt flet age. If that hall is blooded is worth. 7 VI scll’ þam þe man þone steap aset. Tacitus comments on the presence of weapons during drinking sessions in his Germania15 as do the Laws of Horþhere and Eadric. The presence of weapons in this passage is not without precedence. now Egil drinks and makes a speech14. If another’s beaker is taken away whilst men are drinking. XIV. The “old law” is likely to be a traditional custom predating written law as no mention of this is 13 . Æþelstan was a pious Christian whereas Egil was a Heathen. Germania 22. 1982 . shows the importance of passing the “beaker” and allowing a man to speak: XII. The carrying of weapons is unusual.Óðrœrir 50 Explicit literary evidence of a known Heathen participating in symbel and the use of horns can be found in Egil’s Saga from Iceland. 2003 14 . There are two other significant laws from this period pertaining to the behaviour whilst drinking. Both Egil and Æþelstan are carrying their swords. however. Christian kings of Kent in the late 7th century: XIII. 12. Gif þæt flet geblodgad wyrþe.Pollington. in Bauschatz. forgylde þem mæn his mundbyrd 7 cyninge L scill’ 13. it would appear to break the rules of grið that weapons must not be carried in the presence of the king13. and six shillings to the man whose beaker was taken. again from of Horþhere and Eadric. however both place their swords on their laps where they can be seen. buton scylde. Egil sits in the gift stool. How the weapons are placed suggests a ritual between two men who must trust each other contrary to their natural instincts. Gif man wæpn abregde þær mæn drincen 7 ðær man nan yfel ne deþ. it is only a crime if the man whose beaker is taken is innocent of any wrongdoing. 7 cyninge XII scll’.Magnusson. Æþelstan takes a ring from his arm and passes it using his sword over a central fire to Egil who takes it using his sword. Pollington 2003 15 . 1999. a shilling to that hall owner. the first. and is handed a horn but refuses to drink instead he raises his eyebrows at the king. and the king has twelve shillings. scilling þan þæt flet age. 14. Egil visits King Æþelstan after fighting the Scots (most likely at the battle of Brunanburh). 55. pay double that man his fine of compensation and the king has fifty shillings. which is made clear for him. Egil also wears his helmet and carries his shield. Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar chap. and second that the fine paid to the hall owner is from an “old law” or “old right”.

Óðrœrir 51

made in the previous law code of Æþelberht16. The “crime” which would allow a drink to be taken from
a man is not specified however, the second example of drinking law, this time from the Laws of Ine of
Wessex written in 694, helps shed some light:
VI v. Gif ðonne on gebeorscipe hie geciden, 7 oðer hiora mid geðylde hit
forbere, geselle se oðer XXX scill. to wite
6 §5. If while in beer-drinking they chide (each other) and one of them
forbears with patience, let the other pay 30 shilling as a fine.17
When sat drinking one must not start name-calling, quarrelling or scolding the others with you or if
someone starts to behave in that manner one is to sit it out patiently. This polite behaviour is also advised
in the Icelandic poem Havamal that has a number of verses warning against speaking when drunk, over
drinking and mockery.18
These laws about drinking are more than “drunk and disorderly” laws they are enshrining into law the
traditional drinking etiquette, the “eald riht”, and provide us with evidence of the behaviour expected
in the drinking rituals described in the poems and sagas. The position at the start of the law codes also
highlights the importance of drinking at the heart of society.
Applying these laws and the Havamal verses to Beowulf and Lokasenna we can see that Unferð’s
challenge is not the same as Loki’s behaviour, and, why the outcomes are different. Loki was punished
because he did not stop; he made challenge after challenge, chiding and mocking the gods, each challenge
getting progressively more personal and abusive breaking both the laws of men and the moral code of the
Havamal.

Symbolism in Symbel
So far, we have looked at what happened at symbel, where it was held and the sources of evidence.
Before suggesting how to reconstruct a symbel, it is important to identify the symbolism within the ritual,
why it existed and why it continued. Symbel was so important in pre-Christian Germanic culture that it
was retained after conversion and its legacy is still felt today in northern European societies where it is
common practise to wish someone good health after giving them a drink.
The gathering together of a community or social group inside a building sets that group apart from
those people and things outside of the building. The action of coming together and closing the door on
the outside world is a physical representation of the Germanic model of the cosmos, one of insiders and
outsiders19. The seating arrangement and the order in which each person drinks further emphasises the
hierarchy of the group inside. By being inside one is affirmed as part of the group and where a person sits
shows to everyone else in attendance their status. This is social and political symbolism.
The two prominent seats described in the poems and sagas are the high seat of the lord, chief or ruler
and the gift stool on which the honoured guest sits. This seating arrangement gives a physical arena in
16 - Attenborough , 1922
17 - Translation by S. Pollington
18 - Havamal verses: 11 to 14, 17, 19 and 30 to 32
19 - The community and one’s family are the “insiders” people outside of this circle are “outsiders”, from a reconstuctionist Heathen
perspective one aims to always benefit one’s community and family. “Ásatrú spirituality is based on the interacting with the real world
in a way which supports the well being of family and community. It is not and never has been about looking outward or inward.”
Rood, 2011

Óðrœrir 52

which the “gift and favour” social system can be enacted, that is the buying or rewarding service with
gifts from the highest rank to lower ranks20. Egil and Æþelstan are a good example of this as is Beowulf’s
promotion in seat position after killing Grendel. Again, this is social and political symbolism.
It must be remembered that symbel is not egalitarian nor a democracy. It is not clear from the surviving
literature if all the people in the hall participated in the drinking. The Battle of Maldon suggests that it
was “heroes” in the hall who spoke “at mead” which is echoed in The Wanderer who laments the “mailed
-warrior” and “king’s host”, such people were the high ranking members of early medieval society which
marks drinking in the mead hall as a special privilege.
The political and social importance of the hall and seating do not explain the drinking or passing of a
drinking vessel although they do go some way to explain why after conversion to Christianity the traditional
ritual continued to be practised unmolested and unchanged. The poems Hymiskviða and Lokasenna give a
mythological insight into possible religious origins of symbel.
Bauschatz, in The Well and the Tree, puts forward a theory about the physical symbolism of symbel.
He argues that at the heart of Norse cosmology is Yggrdassil (an ash tree at the centre of the universe) and
Urðarbrunnr, Urth’s Well, at its base, Volsupa and Gylfanning both tell us it is at this well that the Norn’s
determine the fate and lives of men and decide law. Bauschatz made a strong argument that the captive
liquid inside the horn passed from man to man is symbolic of the water of Urth’s Well21.This theory is
plausible although not without fault.
The importance of wells and springs outside of Norse literature is evidenced in Anglo-Saxon culture
by the multitude of place names referring to wells or springs, for example Sywell (seven wells/springs,
seofon wella) and Twywell (two/double wells/springs, twi wella) in Northamptonshire22. Wells and springs
in the early medieval period (as now) were often the only reliable source of safe drinking water, different
in physical nature and cleanliness to other bodies of water such as rivers, lakes and seas where monsters
and powerful creatures live. It is no accident of imagination that Grendel’s Mother dwells at the bottom
of murky pool, the surface of the water is a gateway to another world and one outside the world of man.
However, in contrast the spring bubbles up from the ground into the centre of our world bringing us life
and refreshment.
I believe, if Bauschatz is correct in his hypothesis, that this is actually the tip of the iceberg and the
symbolism goes deeper and that this is evidenced in the Hymiskviða and in the archaeological record.
In Hymiskviða the plot revolves around the acquisition of a cauldron or kettle in which to brew the
ale (or maybe warm the mead) for a symbel for the gods. In the Lokasenna the liquid is drew from this
“kettle” and poured into the cups; the same action as one would use when drawing water from a well.
These two poems are the only references to symbel related cauldrons or kettles in literature; however,
“princely” burials throughout Heathen period England such as Wollaston, Sutton Hoo and Prittlewell23
all contain cauldrons, some with suspension chains. The acceptance of the horn’s use in symbel from a
relatively small number of literary references compared to cups is strengthen by the inclusion of horns in
high status graves; this can (and should) be extended to the cauldron or kettle. By extending Bauschatz
proposition to the cauldron the symbolism of the contained liquid becomes a more holistic representation
Urth’s Well in the mead hall.
Such an extension of Bauschatz’s position also helps to explain the reason for the setting inside the
mead hall. If the underlying symbolism of the ritual was to enact the drinking from Urth’s Well at the
20 - Pollington, 2003
21 - Bauschatz, 1982
22 - English Place-Name Society
23 - Meadows 2004, Pollington 2008

Óðrœrir 53

base of Yggrdassil then why was it not performed in a grove with a spring under an ash tree? Volsupa and
Gylfanning give answers to this by telling us it is at Urth’s Well where the Norns make law and the gods
hold council. By bringing the symbolic spring into the mead hall where men make laws and hold council
the status of both are confirmed; laws are passed where the well is and the well is where laws are passed.

Fig 5. Sutton Hoo hanging blow or cauldron

The use of intoxicating liquor is part of the symbolism; it is mind altering and therefore different to
ordinary water. It is not clear as described above whether the alcohol was mead or ale but what is clear from
each description is that it was alcoholic and likely to make the drinker drunk even though drunkenness it
has been shown was not a good state to be in during symbel.
What is clear is that the drink was special; Beowulf describes clear sweet liquid, which contrasts with
river water or herbal infusions, as does the clear bubbling water of a spring. The head of froth on ale in
the glass and during fermentation can also be seen as a connection to springs and with its alcoholic effects
potentially to Urth’s Well or “otherness” in general.
The speaking and actions during symbel are of as much importance as the setting and paraphernalia. A
symbel cannot be held in silence, the literary evidence is clear that words are spoken over the horn before
drinking. Here Bauschatz makes his most interesting point in his examination of symbel: the words are
heard by the liquid as we speak them and then we drink them, we take the words back into ourselves and
we become one with our words24.
If we make insults or slurs then we carry them always after drinking, if we make boasts then we must
live up to them and if we make oaths then we must stand by them. Urth’s Well is the font of wyrd, by
symbolically bringing this well into our ritual and sharing its issue we are drinking our wyrd and shaping
ourselves in the eyes of all present both seen and unseen. The cup or horn, from the evidence and the
symbolism proposed from Bauschatz work, should be held below the mouth so that words spoken go
over the liquid. The horn may be raised above the mouth after speaking or drinking but not before as this
prevents the words from entering the symbolic spring water that the speaker will then drink.
The Bauschatz theory of Urth’s Well has one major flaw in that symbel continued into the Christian
period. If the ritual were so intimately bound to this part of Germanic cosmology, it would likely have
been frowned on by the new religion. There is argument that Urth’s Well is only recorded in Norse
24 - Bauschatz, 1982

the ritual would not have been so important to our Christian ancestors. this is no less related to wyrd (a concept incorporating fate. . choosing who will speak and who will not. their thoughts of the present and memories of the past for all to hear and to be held accountable should these words be untrue or not fulfilled. Each speaker is making clear their intensions for the future. At the point at which the speaker drinks.Óðrœrir 54 literature however the evidence from English literature and place naming reflects the notion of wells and water being of special significance. she can be seen as a representative or symbol of the unseen: a Norn. Bede demonstrates this in recording such events as the destruction of Heathen temples by their priests. the past and the present into one) than the symbolism of Urth’s Well25. we have people gathered in a place separated from the rest of the world. The ritual and temple described in Saga Hákonar góða would not have been tolerated by the new faith. speaking her words before the drinker and ensuring the proper order of things. the high status female cup bearer carrying the drink from drinker to drinker can be seen as the final key to overall symbolism of symbel. During the ritual. valkyrie or wælcyrige carrying men’s fate around the room. vows and boasts sealing these with the shared action of drinking from a communal cup. Valkyrie figure carrying a horn from Birka. symbel survived.Wyrd (OE) is cognate to Urðr (ON) from which the name Urth’s Well comes. else. In the Bauschatz model. If Urth’s Well is removed does symbel still work? Obviously the answer is “yes”. Valkyrie presenting a horn to Odin on the Tjängvide image stone to be removed in the first place?” Without the Well. The best examples of this role in practice are Wealhðeow presenting the cup to 25 . Sweden Fig 7. publicly displaying their ranks within society and making their speeches. The liquid and its container in this picture of symbel now represent the oneness of the social group which ties each speaker to the others. those words are committed to the group and become part of the social binding. Somehow. this then begs the question “was Urth’s Well there Fig 6.

The “Lord” or host. A suitably ornate or distinctive vessel such as a drinking horn or large cut crystal glass. these are women who under any other circumstance would be served not serving.Herbert. It is in this aspect that the Heathen symbel resembles other religions’ rituals. 26 . The evidence clearly sets out a correct framework within which to practice symbel.Beowulf lines 612 to 628 27 . Without the Bauschatz model the high status woman continues to have a major social and symbolic importance. Key roles: 1. Reconstructing a symbel can prove to be a spiritually difficult task because of preconceived ideas based on alternative world-views to that which is Heathen. calm and greeting words as they hand over the cup. 3. eating bread and drinking wine does not make a Christian Eucharist. Being served by the high status woman demonstrates the honour and privilege being bestowed onto the male participants of the symbel. An indoor area with adequate seating for all attending the symbel. Basic material requirements: 1. Reconstructing a Symbel Reconstructing a symbel should not be a physically difficult task considering that it is. both use polite. This is a required role. Using the literary evidence above it is possible to create a generic template from which a symbel can be devised to suit most groups. it is the participant’s belief that the bread and wine have for that moment transformed into the actual flesh and blood of their god that makes it the Eucharist. The social position of women was not one of second-class citizens: they were the equal to males but different. accepting and believing the underlying reason for symbel is what differentiates a reconstruction from a re-enactment of the ritual. Medium strength alcoholic beverage such as mead or ale (5%-15% ABV). 1997 friðuwebbe and Clark Hall. The words spoken by the women in literature are in contrast to challenges made by the male spokesman.Óðrœrir 55 Hroþgar and Beowulf26 and Sif presenting the cup to Loki27. the women encourage good words and promote a peaceful atmosphere in a situation that could otherwise become a drunken brawl. for example. 1997 29 . Understanding. it is wrong for anyone to dictate the “one true way” to symbel. who became brides of a rival folk to build peace between the two people29. it is initially servants that carry the cup but as Loki becomes more aggressive and abusive it is Sif. who presents him with a cup and soothing words in an attempt to bring peace to the proceedings. the þyle. As stated in the preamble to this study. continues the theme of wyrd and this woman indeed does weave backwards and forwards between the participants of the symbel.Lokasenna verse 5 28 .Herbert. The use of the noun webba. “friðe-webba” female noun. at its core. a weaver. the wife of Þorr.28 The high status of these women must not be overlooked. There are a small number of roles that should be filled and objects that are required. This female role of maintaining the peace within the hall brings to mind the high status women known as friðuwebbe. . there are also some dos and don’ts to be considered. In Lokasenna. a simple drinking ritual. 2. 1916. a peace maker (literally “peace-weaver”). this is either the location owner or highest ranking individual present in a communally owned or rented space.

The rounds may continue requiring an attendant to follow to ensure the cup does not empty. He then sits. the person taking this office should be thick skinned and knowledgeable of lore and the group’s history and politics. 7. this person is the guest of honour. Queen Wealhðeow sits by Hroþgar’s side after she has offered the drink to Beowulf and he has returned the cup 30 . there is a situation mentioned in Egil’s saga where we hear of every man having his own horn and another where men being paired with drinking partners32. the literary evidence does not include the closing of a symbel nor make clear how rounds progressed after the first speeches. The “Door Guard”. each receiver of the cup has the opportunity to make a speech. 5. Depending on the custom of the group. 6. the person sat opposite the host.Magnusson 1999. they would be taking the seat to the right of the host demonstrating the role of cup bearer to be one for the highest of office. 5. 48 . 4. The cup bearer/Lady presents the host with the first draught with suitable words. 6. Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar Chap. make a boast or simply thank the host. The direction of the cup should be clockwise30 although if someone is sat in the guest seat he may be offered the cup directly after the host.Óðrœrir 56 2. This is a required role. The guests enter the symbel room and are seated in accordance with the wishes of the host. Sequence of events: 1. this is the person who will carry the drinking vessel between each participant. an entertainer. The “Scop” or “Skald”.Pollington 2003 31 . this person calls the participants to symbel and closes the door when they are all seated. 3.Magnusson 1999. this role is not required but adds merriment and joy to the otherwise solemn ritual. The “þyle” or “Challenger”. 3. 44 32 . the drink may have been blessed in private beforehand or during this part of the ritual by the host. the Lady sits down. This role is not required but is useful. this person challenges the boasts made by the guests on behave of the host thus saving the host the embarrassment of entering into or loosing an argument. Again. 4. If the cup bearer takes a seat at the end of the first round. a singer or story teller (who may also be the þyle). The cup bearer/Lady takes the cup around the room personally welcoming each participant to drink who stands to accept the cup. The “Guest”. When the cup reaches the host again. Some groups may prefer not to bless the drink at all. an optional role. In Lokasenna there appears to be numerous cups in use. The “Lady” or “Cup Bearer”. Beowulf only describes the cup moving around the hall between the key characters’ speeches. Egil’s saga tells of drinking rounds leading to helpless drunkenness and vomiting31 although this drinking is at a dísablót not a symbel. 2. Before drinking. The host stands and takes the cup and makes a welcoming speech thus opening symbel. The drink is brought into the room by the cup bearer or Lady. It is at point six that the reconstruction of symbel becomes less clear and open to interpretation. it is completely at the host’s discretion if this role is filled. the participant should return to his seat. he also prevents others from entering without announcement. Each time the cup reaches the host it is at his discretion whether it should continue or the symbel closed. In Beowulf. After drinking. possibly with the assistance of the door guard. Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar Chap. This role is taken by whoever the host wishes to honour.

  It is also where the community shows their trust in him.  It is both the start and the end of his success. Hwicce Ealdormann. my fellow ðeodwitan have kindly provided me with their thoughts for publication in this article. and it is that. Symbel’s persistence into the Christian period and potentially up to the Norman conquest of England and the end of the Viking Age suggests that it changed to suit the religious and social climate. Alternative arrangements may be made such as after drinking checking there is enough for the next person and if not calling out for a refill.  Indeed. protection and joy that is his theod. lines 639-641. It is clear that should the cup or horn continue to make rounds amongst the assembled participants it must be accompanied by an attendant whose role is to ensure that it does not run dry. this could be a grove. that I would consider to be the core of a “heathen” way of life.Beowulf. and share in the wholeness of the group. Þunorrad Symbel Symbel is core principle within the Þunorrad Þeod. Þunorrad Þeod: “Symbel to me is the act  of myself reforming my ties and commitment 33 . when it is the symbel is over. so my folk do the same. laughter. his standing amongst them and his worthiness to share the warmth.”   Liam Green. whether she took a drink is not mentioned33. spring or grave. but whatever solution is adopted the cup should not run dry during a symbel. . restating my luck and my strength. we become obligated to each other and are each expected to maintain and uphold our wholeness. more than all other things. other overtly non-Christian elements may have mutated or fallen by the wayside. as I speak words to my gathered folk. tree. I will leave this final step open ended for each individual group to decide what is right for them.  The story of everything he has known to have said. Þunorrad Þeod: “To my mind. However the drinking the vessel is emptied. Symbel’s original symbolism steeped in wyrd and the unseen world was over taken by the spoken word for its own value.  I would say that it is that expectation which acts as a guide and a drive throughout my life.  And with our ritual words and drinking.Óðrœrir 57 to her. sealing these words with potency and permanency by drinking from the shared horn or cup. or failed to do may be retold in front of his people. done. Þeoden. Lee James. The recording of symbel is Christian and therefore any ritual activity with the remaining liquid such as pouring onto the ground as a symbolic gift to the ancestors or other ritualised disposal would have been viewed as “demonic” or “devilish” thus no longer practised and ignored in literature. The leader of the symbel may drink the last drop symbolically taking in all the words of all the participants and enforcing his role as “luck carrier of the folk”. The final issue for complete reconstruction is what to do with the cup and remaining drink at the end of symbel. symbel is the time and place for a man to be truly measured by his community.  Every time I symbel. taken to a sacred site and gifted to the unseen there or to the ancestors. The liquid can be placed into a votive bowl and left for unseen guests. we become tied and bound together.

Josh Rood. equally not to be given this opportunity can be humiliating or angering. Loki being refused a drink for example. a social ritual binding people together and to their words. we can’t show them the respect they deserve. etc.Óðrœrir 58 to my kin in the Theod in the eyes of its leadership. as with the cup comes a great responsibility to make your speech and to stand by your words. Symbel is a political ballet performed in public and in which each participant be they a speaking. This is at the discretion of the Lady carrying the cup. participants may refuse the cup until gifts have been exchanged. serving or observing being are of equal importance to the overall event as during the cup’s rounds the whole structure and ethics of the group are laid bare for all to see and its future is declared. the Gods. Acknowledgements I would like to thank the following good folk for their comments and assistance with this article: Lee James.) and duties to the leadership and the community as a whole.” Conclusion Symbel is. as the Peace Weaver she may present the cup to someone not in favour with the group leader to allow this person an opportunity to make his peace with the group or alternatively pass someone by due to their low rank.   “In my opinion Symbel is crucial to my and any theod. its fellow members. Shane Ricks. rents. It also reaffirms my place within the Theod and the sharing of mead with its members signifies that the position I hold in it to the leadership in the sense that I wish to continue in this position along with the responsibilities (Hospitality. Being present at a symbel may not entitle you to participate. . and Stephen Pollington. Peter Nalder. As shown above from Egil’s Saga. at its core. unless a firm social structure is in place and that structure is accepted by the membership and community as whole and hopefully Wyrd willing recognised by our Gods and ancestors we can’t begin the process of engaging with them for the good of ourselves our community and descendants and more importantly. It could be seen to be easier and safer not to be offered the cup. Liam Green. our collective and personal ancestors and Wyrd itself in hope of bringing  further good luck to my Theod and my Family.

1996) 9-12. and when the gods traced the prophecies stating that from these siblings great mischief and disaster would arise for them. But rather than that you question my courage. The tale shows the price that individuals must pay to gain. Lee M. But such an interpretation overlooks the symbolic value of the wolf in Norse mythology and the social mores reinforced by the wolf's binding. and 58 in: Carolyne Larrington. trans.M. Lokasenna stanzas 39 and 41 (Larrington 91). trans. then they all felt evil was to be expected from them. Then they all laughed except for Tyr.Snorri Sturluson. and all prophecies foretold that it was 1 . and it was only Tyr who had the courage to approach the wolf and give it food. Jörmungandr. the tougher became the band. He lost his hand. in the Mythology of Fenrir • By Dan Campbell I am reluctant to have this band put on me. and keep. 2 A simple interpretation of this statement. the benefits of kinship and common cause. a characteristic that links Fenrir to the underlying symbolism of the wolf in Norse myth and literature: The Æsir brought up the wolf at home. But all the Æsir looked at each other and found themselves in a dilemma and all refused to offer their hands until Tyr put forward his right hand and put it in the wolf's mouth.c. Edda. the binding of the wolf Fenrir can seem cruel and unfair: a self-fulfilling prophecy that turns the wolf into the gods' slavering enemy because of how they treat him.Óðrœrir 59 Feeding the Wolf The Theme of Restraint. 53.3 would be that the Æsir bind Fenrir because he is kin to their enemies among the giants and will play a critical role in the destruction of all things at Ragnarok. trans. Hollander (Austin: University of Texas Press. 3 .. and of references to Fenrir in eddic and skaldic poetry. Dent. and Hákonar saga Góða. Anthony Faulkes (London: J. The Poetic Edda (Oxford: Oxford University Press. VafÞrúðnismál stanzas 46. the band grew harder. But what moves the Æsir to bind Fenrir is the wolf's appetite. In Snorri Sturluson's tale of the binding of Fenrir. 47. 2 . And now when the wolf kicked.: Völuspá stanzas 40. and 53 (Larrington 47-48). 54. . 2007) 127. to begin with because of their mother's nature. let some one put his hand in my mouth as a pledge that this is done in good faith. 1987) 29. the binding of Fenrir shows the restraint required to maintain the reciprocal social bonds that support and protect the common good. 44. and the harder he struggled. 49. Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway. but still worse because of their father's [Loki]. the chief reason given for the Æsir’s actions is a mix of prophecy and Fenrir's innate character: And when the gods realized that these three siblings [Hel. Setting aside questions about the gods' morality. and its Lack. Grímnismál stanza 23 (Larrington 55). stanza 100 in: Snorri Sturluson. And when the gods saw how much it was growing each day.f.Snorri Sturluson.1 To modern sensibilities. and Fenrir] were being brought up in Giantland. 55. Edda 27.

are similarly identical with Fenrir. Vsp.. 28 May 2011 <http://lexicon.Larrington.”10 In that line from Völuspá. 9 . 1874) 172. the second line of the refrain from Völuspá stanzas 44. and 58 reads: “festr mun slitna en freki renna. Richard Cleasby and Gudbrand Vigfusson offer the following definition for freki: freki. Eddukvæði: Sæmundar-Edda..Völuspá.”11 in which freki is the word alluding to Fenrir and translated as “ravener” by Larrington.” with connotations of “exorbitant. harsh. Edda 27. 6 . the word translated as “ravener” by Carolyne Larrington connects Fenrir with what wolves represent in Norse myth and literature. that they made a very strong fetter.Simek 80. Snorri describes the devouring rampage of the wolf Moongarm: “He will fill himself with the lifeblood of everyone that dies. and 58 explicitly links Ragnarok with the wolf’s hunger: “the rope will break and the ravener run free. freki more literally means “the greedy one”13 and is derived from the adjective frekr.SnorriSturluson. 12 . freki and the hunger of wolves also appear in Grímnismál stanza 19: 4 . and breeds there Fenrir’s kind. 5 . Sköll and Hati as individuals distinct from Fenrir. Earlier. Edda 15. Sköll and Hati. . for his jaws gape open to swallow all there is between heaven and earth.SnorriSturluson. Rudolf Simek asserts they are the same and that the other two named wolves. it is the wolf's hunger and growing size that prompts the gods to act. and he will swallow heavenly bodies and spatter heaven and all the skies with blood. Sköll and Hati is alluded to both in Snorri’s account in Gylfaginning. sired by Fenrir. poët. who devour the sun and moon. they are nonetheless all the same kin.heimskringla..Snorri Sturluson.cuni. 2005.Snorri Sturluson. in Gylfaginning. voracious. meaning “greedy.html>.Cleasby and Vigfusson 172. hungry.6 Even if one interprets Moongarm. reddens gods’ halls with red gore.”5 While Moongarm would appear to be a different wolf than Fenrir.” and he quotes from Völuspá for support: “He gorges the life of doomed men.no/wiki/Eddukvæði>. 19. Germanic Lexicon Project. 49. m. 25 April 2009 <http://www. 7 . Heimskringla: Norrøne Tekster og Kvad.9 In this second image.Óðrœrir 60 destined to cause them harm. then the Æsir adopted this plan. Edda 53 10 . 13 . Gm. 12 However. in Ironwood. quoted above. Thus it says in Voluspa: In the east lives the old one. the threat of Fenrir’s hunger and growth are emphasized. An Icelandic-English Dictionary (London: Oxford University Press.4 While Snorri continues to emphasize the prophecy in the Æsir’s motivation. Guðni Jónsson.”14 As mentioned in Cleasby and Vigfusson’s definition quoted above.”7 The fact that Fenrir shares the destructive hunger of Moongarm. ed.Snorri Sturluson.cz/texts/oi_cleasbyvigfusson_about. the refrain about Fenrir in Völuspá stanzas 44. a. 10-12 11 . Indeed.Richard Cleasby and Gudbrand Vigfusson. Edda 15. It would gape wider if there was room. 51.ff. 49. In Old Norse. 14 . 8 . a wolf. as Snorri describes with reference to Völuspá: “The ancient giantess breeds as sons many giants and all in wolf shapes. Edda 27. and it is from them that these wolves are descended.8 and in his later description of Ragnarok: But Fenris wolf will go with mouth agape and its upper jaw will be against the sky and its lower one against the earth.Simek 90.

the sense of this image will be readily apparent.SnorriSturluson. / our way is wolf-beset if we go on this errand. 19 . violently defending their share of the kill either against other predators or against lower status members of their own pack.”23 In Reginsmál. fire is called “ravener by the giants. 17 . consuming as much as possible to hold them over until the next kill. 45. 25 ..Eddukvæði.-h 20 .” and second when Gunnar responds. . / though he seems to be gladdened by gold.”19 while stanza 28 echoes the theme with wood called “fuel by the giants.Snorri Sturluson. he satiates. the greed of wolves is extended to greed for gold and their hunger to its loss. In stanza 26. Heimskringla 45.e. 21 .22 In the eddic poems about Sigurd. to eat like a wolf. Eating wolves appear ferocious. when Hogni says to Gunnar. it is clear that wolves were synonymous with greed in Norse thought. Heimskringla 18. Edda 41.” The ravening appetite of fire is similarly put to good use in Snorri’s description of the eating contest between Logi and Loki.Larrington 112-113. for wolves “wolf down” their food. tamed to war. 23 .20 Two stanzas by Thjóthólf quoted in Ynglingasaga bring together the greedy appetites of fire and wolves: . Alvíssmál stanza 26. Fafnir.Óðrœrir 61 “Geri and Freki.Larrington 211-212. and the gleedes’ greedy-dog [fire] bit the liege-lord21 By bay bight the building-wolf [fire] swallowed up Óláf’s body. 18 . But what is the origin of the association? The image of the greedy wolf survives in the modern English saying “to wolf down” one’s food. if Gunnar is going to be lost.. often seen scavenging corpses on the battlefield.”16 by way of the adjective gerr. by saying. Sigrdrífumál stanza 38 warns Sigurd: “never trust / the oaths of a wrongdoer’s brat” for “the wolf is in the young son. Regin plots to use Sigurd to win Andvari’s gold from his brother.” 17 Frekr.Larrington 154.Simek 106.”24 Atlakviða uses wolves twice to warn that Gunnar will lose his wealth: first. / the old grey guardians. To anyone who has watched a nature film that shows wolves eating. gulping one’s food quickly as if one were starving and unable to fill one’s belly. “I have expectations of winnings from a ravening wolf.Larrington 172.”15 Looking up geri in both Simek and Cleasby and Vigfusson reveals that it also means “the greedy one. in which Logi is later revealed as fire itself. “The wolf will have control of the Niflungs’ inheritance. 22 . gluttonous. This violent behavior of wolves at a kill may help explain the Norse perception of the wolf as a creature of the lawless wild. in the form frekan18 and translated as “ravener” by Larrington. further appears as a kenning for fire in Alvíssmál.SnorriSturluson. 24 .Cleasby and Vigfusson 197. “I found a hair of the heath-wanderer twisted round the red-gold ring.the fire did turn. meaning “greedy.Larrington 54. / the glorious Father of Hosts.”25 From the evidence related above. 15 . 16 . i.

whilst the fallen in battle are described as meals.26 Examples can be drawn from multiple sources.Krákumál 78. in: The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok. wolves. and 116-117. 165. quoted by Snorri in Hattatal. and 24 of Krákumál. and the metaphor is often extended to ravens and eagles. 320.. their behavior and equipment.. 445. 569: “Tawny she-wolves’ teeth a twelfth time the king reddened” “who filled with meat the maws of wolves” “Gorge we the hungry wolf-brood!” “Heaped he. 586. and 19: “The wolf welcomed our offering of corpse-windrows” “never suffered the she-wolf to starve” “many fell into wolf’s jaws”31 A verse of Egil’s. stanzas 62. and trans. 18. 540. 41. 8.. 210. 166.27 but a few selections should suffice to demonstrate the motif’s emphasis on hunger. 148. ed.Scudder 75 and 166. Egil’s Saga. 9. 2009) 75-82. 472. Einar. Hall and Thord (Sturluson. 76. 573. 454. 519. “feeding wolves” is a cliché kenning referring to battle and the prowess of warriors. 2006) 120. 31 . Stronger associations are found in warrior kennings which refer to them as feeders of ravens. 16. Heimskringla 257. 497.. 573. 146. and stanzas 2. quoted by Snorri in Hattatal (Sturluson. 328. as well as stanzas 10. 2001) 75. 441. greed. 328. 80.Óðrœrir 62 In skaldic poetry. and 15 from the poem Egil delivers to King Eirik to ransom his head. 505. dwells on the “feeding wolves” motif and further connects it to Fenrir: 26 . 50. As Aleksander Pluskowski summarizes: Skalds used predatory kennings for warriors. 647. 401.Aleksander Pluskowski. stanzas 12. 16. 569. 81. 12. 495. 592 and 597 in Sturluson’s Heimskringla. 547. Edda 135-136. 427. 438.Snorri Sturluson. 27 . 30 . Arnor. 29 . 581. 3. (New York: Penguin Books.Snorri Sturluson. . 290. 126.. in: Bernard Scudder. 438. 518. eds. 412. Illugi. “Harnessing the hunger: Religious appropriations of animal predation in early medieval Scandinavia. and the devouring of the dead: From Skaldskaparmal: “Evil lineage of she-wolf swallowed much-harmed corpse” “the prince reddened Fenrir’s chops”28 From Heimskringla stanzas 210. and interactions. Edda 199). whilst personal names incorporating animals (in runic inscriptions and later literature) are almost exclusively drawn from wild species. Ben Waggoner (New Haven: Troth Publications. 200.” Old Norse religion in long-term perspectives: origins. 13. another verse by Egil. 460. 19. 85. Egil. 320. Kristina Jennbert and Catharina Raudvere (Lund: Nordic Academic Press. 133.hills of high-piled slain for hungry wolves” “gorging the greedy mount-of-ghouls” “feeder-of-famished-wolves”29 From Egil’s Saga stanzas 12 and 53: “who stain wolf’s teeth with blood” “make meals for the wolf with his sword”30 From Krákumál stanzas 9. though I doubt this list is comprehensive: Snorri on the word warg with quotes from Thiodulf. in: The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection. 10. changes. 544. and eagles. 28 .These are all of the references that I found to “feeding wolves”. Anders Andrén. 194. Edda 135-136). trans. 476. 11.. 519. 528. 696. and 53 quoted in Egil’s Saga. 14.

Kinship. wolf-age”. The Old Norse word vargr. as alluded to in stanza 45 of the Völuspá (translation mine): 34 Bræðr munu berjask ok at bönum verðask.Nonetheless. In the east sat an old woman in Iron-wood and nurtured there offspring of Fenrir38 32 .Cleasby and Vigfusson 680. and the Gods” Idunna 89 (Fall 2011). are compared with wolves. and skógarmaðr. Hard it is in the world.Snorri Sturluson. . a burning flame. sword-age” and a “Wind-age. 36 . a cawing crow” and “a flying dart” are named in a list of things that should not be trusted. “’The Bound God’: Fetters. in which “A stretching bow. 24. its hunger. 37 . (Eddukvæði. vargöld. Axe-age. while literally meaning “wolf”. hórdómr mikill. mun engi maðr öðrum þyrma. “forest-going”.Larrington 25. such as in Völuspá stanza 40.Óðrœrir 63 Who would nourish the bloody-bristled she-wolf with the wound’s red drink unless it were that the prince strengthens the wolf’s greed many a day? The leader provides the watcher [wolf] with wounds newly pierced by edge. Völuspá 45) Brothers shall fight and become each other’s slayers. munu systrungar sifjum spilla.Jesse Byock. vindöld. and caused by. The army sees the front claw of Fenrir’s shaggy paw redden. until the world is overthrown. sword-age. 35 . In a prior paper. there is much adultery. and is thereon declared accursed”. áðr veröld steypisk.36 The terms for full outlawry and full outlaw—skóggangr. I pointed out that the breaking of the bonds of Loki and Fenrir is equivalent to.33 To be or become wolf-like means becoming a threat to the social order. used of one who commits a crime in a holy place. recalling the skaldic kennings for battle. and the violence it will do to satiate itself is more than a grim metaphor of war. The threat represented by both wolves and weapons reappears in Hávamál stanzas 85-88. being outside the law (and thus outside the social order). skalmöld. 38 . Edda 76) and Odin feeding Geri and Freki in Grímnismál stanza 19 (Larrington 54)—in each case showing them to be gods of battle and warfare. / a gaping wolf. skeggöld. Wind-age.Dan Campbell.Larrington 9. 33 . Cousins shall commit incest. No one shall give others hospitality.32 While the “feeding wolves” motif naturally derives from wolves worrying corpses on the battlefield. 34 . “forest-man”37—further emphasize the wolfish character of the outlaw by echoing verse about wolves in the wilderness. 35 Such lack of trust and the inherent dangers in unrestrained appetites also apply to outlaws and berserkers who. which cannot restrain itself. the “feeding wolves” motif as a kenning for battle is likely behind both Tyr’s epithet as “feeder of the wolf” (Sturluson. being an agent of destruction. Edda 199. the breaking of the bonds of kinship and community. is a legal term for an outlaw. hart er í heimi.. skildir ro klofnir. Note that such a time of social disorder is described as an “Axe-age. the symbolism of the wolf. “esp. 2001) 231. shields are cloven. Viking Age Iceland (London: Penguin Books Ltd. wolf-age.

41 . The match is not appropriate for the women or their families.Byock.”44 In telling the story of the berserker brothers Halli and Leiknir. 40 . however.40 Berserkers are also compared with wolves and typically portrayed as outlaws-waiting-to-happen. The Rune-Poems.. the murderer could be outlawed.39 The distinction in Icelandic law between manslaughter and murder shows that a lack of restraint underlies the comparison of full outlaws with wolves. . 47 . Eyrbyggja Saga portrays them as lacking restraint. storming about like mad dogs and afraid of neither fire nor weapons. Heimskringla 10. trans. As Jesse Byock summarizes: The law gave people the right to take vengeance and to defend their person and their honour.”41 and berserkers appear as trouble-makers in need of killing in Egil’s Saga. Volume 1: Introduction. the wolf is reared in the woods.Scudder 124-126. before they could.Byock. lay their hands on the wise man. wolf-meat they gave Guthorm to eat. there are two occasions in Norse myth where an individual is forced to become wolf-like so that they will ignore normal social boundaries. Grettir’s Saga 113-114 44 . Viking Age Iceland 225-29. Killing someone and confessing (or boasting) about it was considered manslaughter.45 Echoing the berserker’s lack of restraint. Flowers. 45 .Óðrœrir 64 The first stanza of the Old Norwegian Rune Poem: Gold causes the strife of kinsmen. 43 . The last echoes Ynglingasaga and emphasizes how berserkers are outside of human society: “They used to go berserk. Translations and Glossary (Smithville: Rûna-Raven Press. as well as for “those men who are present except if they restrain [the berserker]”..47 39 . and then later when the berserker seeks the hand of Skyr’s daughter. The fourth stanza of Fragment of a Poem about Sigurd and stanza 20 of A Short Poem about Sigurd both describe the same event: Some roasted wolf. a crime which could be settled through compensation and so avoid further bloodshed.Larrington 174. When they first enter Vermund’s service. The eddic poems about Sigurd use wolf-meat as a means to make Guthorm kill Sigurd. desiring [Sigurd’s] ruin..Stephen E. 42 . they threaten him: “if ever you refuse us anything which we want and you have the power to give. Viking Age Iceland 314. This threat bears fruit when Halli asks Vermund to find him a wife.Hermann Pálsson 68-71. showing a consensus among the population for allowing vengeance-taking but only within the limits of acceptable windows of opportunity.42 Grettir’s Saga. 1989) 68-69. Murder. Texts. upsetting the social order. 46 .Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards. and Skyr contrives to kill the berserkers rather than confront them directly. 46 Turning such social restraint on its head. the act was just as likely to lead to revenge killings and feuding.. some sliced-up serpent. If discovered. was a killing where the perpetrator did not confess the deed.the law book entries agree with the general thrust of the sagas. 2002) 21. Snorri describes berserkers “as mad as dogs or wolves. Eyrbyggja Saga (London: Penguin Books. Icelandic law carries a penalty of lesser outlawry simply for going berserk. we won’t be at all pleased”.43 and Eyrbyggja Saga. they were wholly unlike human beings. in contrast. In Ynglingasaga. but only within limitations. 76-80.Snorri Sturluson.Byock.

51 . the eleventh stanza of Völuspá in skamma. which means “to give birth to. the idea of feeding an outlaw echoes the "feeding wolves" motif of skaldic poetry. The Icelandic legal term bjarg-ráð means “help or shelter given to an outlaw” and was forbidden.Cleasby and Vigfusson 184. 52 .Eddukvæði. destitution The more explicitly food-associated term ú-alandi is derived from ala. they avoid direct responsibility for Narfi's slaying by turning his brother Vali into a wolf. support” and thus encompasses raising children along with feeding and aiding individuals. meaning “one who must not be fed”. The same meaning occurs in several poems with reference to wolves. he was away when the oaths were sworn. to rear. 58 .51 The first term is a compound derived from bjarga. identical to Old Norse fœðisk.Larrington 185. according to Snorri’s tale of the Æsir binding Loki with Narfi's guts.Cleasby and Vigfusson 65.Larrington 9. as shown by the legal term ú-alandi. Just as "gorging the greedy mount-of-ghouls”50 results in ruin and slaughter on the battlefield. 57 . 59 .Larrington 258. why he ate so slowly bjarg-leysi. relies on ala to convey the same idea: “Loki got the wolf on Angrboda”. so feeding an outlaw supports their lawlessness. Similarly. causing Vali to tear his brother Narfi to pieces”. to give birth to. is føðesk. help” but with connotations of feeding or eating. 49 . nourish. not so experienced. 43. as shown in the following phrases and one compound from Cleasby and Vigfusson page 65: bjarg úti. to gain one’s bread hví hann byrgist svá lítt.54 “In the east sat an old woman in Iron-wood / and nurtured there offspring of Fenrir.”55 Likewise. the reflexive of fœða52 or fæða. Heimskringla 647.Eddukvæði. . Edda 52. capable of savage violence that breaks the bonds supporting the social order.57 Ala also appears in stanza 12 of “Sigurðarkviða in skamma”58 as part of a warning that recalls the law term ú-alandi: Let the son go the same way as the father! Don’t nurture for long the young wolf. 56 . 55 . when the oaths were sworn and the pledges made. of cattle.48 By eating the meat. 50 .Eddukvæði. 658. to graze bjarg sjálfr. Guthorm becomes like a wolf. bring up. meaning “to save.Óðrœrir 65 We should prepare Guthorm for the killing.Snorri Sturluson. 53 . for to which man would revenge come easier— afterwards in recompense—than if the son were still alive?59 48 .56 incorporated as the fortieth stanza of Hyndluljóð by Larrington.Snorri Sturluson. starvation. The verb meaning “reared” in the first stanza of The Old Norwegian Rune Poem. quoted above. both literally and metaphorically.Larrington 183. give food to. 54 . “to feed.”53 The same word appears in Völuspá stanza 40. our younger brother.49 Interestingly.Flowers 20-21.

but the foolish man never knows the measure of his own stomach.61 To the Icelanders. 60 .Óðrœrir 66 The theme of restraint also appears in the Hávamál. other leaders banded together in an effort to counter his immoderate behaviour. In the opposite of hóf. Fenrir is without restraint. Metaphorically. will eat himself into lifelong trouble. the epitome of lawless violence. and leaving a sword in his jaws. and crimes with compensation. unfairness or injustice in dealings with others. disturbed the consensual nature of decision-making and set in motion a series of coercive responses. the man who’s foolish about his stomach. Ójafnaðr. then Icelandic society benefited from the lack of violence and the resulting disruption.60 Icelandic law emphasizes restraint in its proscriptions against feeding or aiding outlaws and the penalty of lesser outlawry for going berserk or failing to restrain a berserker. he has óhóf. to protect the world of men and the gods. he must be bound. Viking Age Iceland 190-191 . the raving prowess that breaks all bonds of social order. If a dispute could be settled through arbitration. battle and the betrayal of all we hold dear. and then they leave the pasture. While to modern sensibilities the preemptive actions of the Æsir appear unfair. Among these admonitions. He is this way simply because he is a wolf: a raving killer. are the only hope we have of social stability. stanzas 20 and 21 emphasize restraint in eating habits. the hunger and greed that urges violence. as quick to consume as fire and just as merciless in the destruction of wealth and well-being. óhóf. Icelandic society valued hóf. for example. and Icelandic society's response to it. and his growth exponential. binding him.Byock. which is often translated as 'being overbearing' or 'unjust'. to how much one should drink and how best to maintain friendships. 61 . not feeding the wolf. providing a direct contrast to the imagery of feeding wolves: The greedy man. for to feed the wolf is to encourage death. when an individual's greed or ambition threatened the balance of power. his eating habits ferocious (judging from Tyr's courage in feeding him). His appetite is never ending. often he’s laughed at when he comes among the wise. the binding of the wolf symbolizes the restraint that all members of a community must exercise both within themselves and with each other. Because he cannot restrain himself (as the Æsir believe). which frequently stresses caution and moderation in adherence to social norms--from knowing when to speak and when to be silent. Cattle know when they ought to go home. Fenrir's very nature requires them to impose the restraint he lacks.Larrington 17. The wolf is the will to cause strife among men. a devourer of corpses. meaning unevenness. can be found the rationale for the Æsir’s binding of Fenrir. Similarly. unless he guards against this tendency. over the vengeance of feuding. moderation. As Byock describes: The practice of óhóf was known as ójafnaðr.

. and threaded it through a great stone slab—this is called Gioll—and fastened the slab far down in the ground.Snorri Sturluson. It howls horribly and saliva runs from its mouth. Edda 29. There it will lie until Ragnarok.. This forms the river called Hope.The wolf stretched its jaws enormously and reacted violently and tried to bite them.62 62 . the hilt touches its lower gums and the point its upper ones. which is called Gelgia. They thrust into its mouth a certain sword.Óðrœrir 67 When the Æsir saw that the wolf was thoroughly bound they took the cord that was hanging from the fetter. This is its gumprop. .

1 These places were widely used by heathen peoples to fulfill these relationships.Reconstructed Old Low Franconian root-word by Keobler meaning ‘holy’ based on Proto-Germanic *w­īhaz used here in the sense of Old Norse vé with the same reconstructed semantic value 2 . stones and trees. There are examples of historical heathens engaging in a hall or *w­īh1. Equally important to the relationship is where the relationship or its expression is taking place.Óðrœrir 68 Tree Cults in Frankish Heathenism • By Erik Lacharity Heathendom can be understood as an interwoven web of relationships that are formed between both individuals within a community and communities with each other. group rituals and all other modes of symmetrical or asymmetrical reciprocity. Note that this is for ease of categorization and may not reflect the . at times taking on qualities of altruism. which express the heathen worldview. whether of men or holy powers.For the purpose of this article the history of the Frankish Empire and France will be divided into three periods. the medieval French and modern French peoples2 followed by the drawing of a line of similitude 1 . The Franks 300 – 800. but also at places such as rivers. Medieval French 800 – 1500 and Modern French 1500 – present. we tend to focus less on our relationships related to the features of our soil held to be sacred by the community and put most of our energy into symbel and blót2. As modern heathens. The focus of this paper will be threefold. These relationships may take any number of forms from gifting. The first focus will bring to light the historical expressions of tree cult among the Franks.

since we have heard that many come to the churches of Christians and. but that the food is offered to a divine agent contained within the tree itself making the tree a natural contact point between the offering party and the holy power within. then it points to those people being more concerned with the tree itself than any of their temples or idols. 4 .Óðrœrir 69 back to the earliest expressions of the cult among the Frankish peoples. worship trees. what is unspeakable. This then points to the ferocity of the early Frankish Church towards the condemning of offering food to various heathen sites and then partaking in the feast. 5 .com/2011/03/what-is-ie-ald-frankiskon-sido.8 Once again we find the early Frankish Church.blogspot. Tree cult expression past and present The annals of Frankish and French history reveal many forms of heathen behaviour and custom throughout the people’s history. It is clear in this statement that the object of worship is the tree as he clearly differentiates between idol various historical periods of a kingdom at times much divided. when he vows to cut down their sacred pine. Tree cult among the Franks The earliest mention of tree cult practices among the pre-Christian peoples of modern France is Sulpicius Severus’ recount of the account of the ‘falling of the pine tree’ by St. to which the population does not wholly object. In 597 in a letter to Queen Brunhild of Austrasia5 Pope Gregory the Great asks her to: This too we urge equally that you should restrain other subjects of yours under the regulation of discipline so they do not sacrifice to idols. Then at the Council of Orléans in 533. this label translating to ‘Frankish old custom’ in Modern English. The investigation needed to catalogue and present the many customs of the Franks is beyond the scope of this paper and so only those customs relating to trees will be observed here. St. The second focus will be to understand why this cult remained so strong up to the modern era and finally a point-by-point rendition of the core cult elements so as to reconstruct the custom for modern practitioners of Frankisk Aldsido3. Tours’ life was a great inspiration to later Churchmen looking to combat paganism. St. waterways or fountains and stones as well as numerous behaviours regarded as pagan in the eyes of the early Church3. Furthermore. It may be that the food is not offered to the tree per se. do not give up the worship of demons.4 in the early 5th century4. trying to quash the worshiping of trees. Furthermore these various peoples contemporary with the account joined the later polity of the Franks and presumably brought their earlier custom with them. under the leadership of the pope. See <http://aldsido. One was ritualistic customs relating to trees. Martin tells them that ‘there is nothing sacred in the trunk of a tree’5 and that it was ‘dedicated to a demon’6 which further points to the importance of the cult site being the tree itself. Caesarius of Arles makes it clear that people should avoid partaking in ‘devilish banquets held in the vicinity of a shrine or springs or trees’ and that even if they did not participate in the banquet that they should not eat the food offered to demons in their own home. 3 . This is a clear example of a ritual in which food is offered to a tree. Although the Franks had not invaded this land before the 6th century. make sacrilegious sacrifices with heads of animals. This was compounded at the Council in 541 when he compared such an act ‘to vomit’7.Frankisk Aldsido is a reconstructed Old Low Franconian term used as a label for the modern reconstructionist expression of preChristian Frankish custom(s) and worldview(s) as coined by Erik Lacharity. However. In the story. .The account is in reference to pagan custom among the people of Gallia Aquitania.Austrasia being one of the kingdoms of the Franks. they take great offence.html> for more info. If we are to take this account as containing some truth. Martin of Tours. Martin vows to destroy the heathen temples.

With this rapid Latinization we could expect that many Franks. Martin that those participating in heathen acts felt strongly about the sanctity of the trees and refused to bring them harm. the common Frank may not have been fluent in Latin. but also (or accompanied by) a votive offering. It was further added that the common folk believed that these sites had curative powers and would bring them gifts and lights. wells and stones were condemned. In the coming pages I will demonstrate the lasting effects of such a doctrine on the folk Christianity found in modern France. Once again this does not point to the tree itself being the agent bid. Such as one dealing with the ‘performing of religious rites beside streams or trees or sacred stones’ or ‘offering prayer at sacred springs or trees’14. Although this reference concerns the Anglo-Saxons. would have heard the hymns of Fortunas and would surely have been influenced by them. In 658 at the Council of Nantes the cult of trees. The word often describing these vows or these trees is sacrivi. Once again we see.15 Hendrik Kern in his translation of the Lex Salica translates sariuus as sacrifus. Into the 8th century we have evidence of Charlemagne’s crusade against his Saxon neighbours. Venantius Fortunas. which further served to blur the lines between heathen Frankish beliefs towards trees and those of Christianity. We know that in 780 the Christian Franks enacted many capitularies against the perceived heathenism of the Saxons. it is essential that they should be changed from the worship of devils to the service of true god.’9 Here we see one of the first cases of the Church attempting to convert heathen holy places to Christian ones. Once again. not only courtiers. wrote many hymns throughout his life. that the heathen temples should not be destroyed but rather that ‘if the [pagan] shrines are well built.16 the sacred. Albeit. Eligius at another Council of Nantes (possibly 9th century) also ordered the destruction of sacred fountains and trees.17 As such it is possible that what has come down to us as vow not only means a prayer or solemn vow. Before his death in 600 he had composed a very influential hymn entitled Vexillia Regis (the Royal Banner). One constant theme that we see emerging from these various examples is the mention of making ‘vows’ or ‘prayers’ to trees such as by Caesarius of Arles. These trees were so sacred that the people refused to cut their limbs or burn them and so the Church urged its clergy to do just that12. . It is therefore quite likely that if this process of Christianization of heathen holy places must have also taken place in continental Francia. as in the time of St. it should be noted that the early English Church owed much to the leadership of the Frankish Church. must have been a powerful tool against old heathen customs. but that within it. Here he used Psalm 96 ‘Tell it out among the heathen that the Lord reigneth from the Tree’ as the last line of strophe 3 and reiterates the connection between God and the Tree in strophe 4: O Tree of Beauty! Tree of Light! O Tree with royal purple dight! Elect upon who’s faithful breast Those holy limbs should find their rest!10 The tree is a powerful religious symbol in many world religions including Christianity. the people refused to bring the wood of sacred trees home for firewood13. St.Óðrœrir 70 worship and tree worship. who still performed sacred acts at or near trees. The constant battle of the Church to supplant these beliefs with Christian ones must have been on the minds of the royal court and so to formulate verses in honour of trees in a Christian light. a divine power resides. but it cannot be mistaken that during this historical period of the Frankish Church trees were an important element of heathen folk religion. they did rapidly assimilate with the more numerous Gallo-Romans11 so it would not have been long before Latin became the Lingua Franca. and glosses it with uotiuus meaning ‘vow’. an influential court poet of the Merovingians. In 601 Gregory wrote to his nephew Mellitus among the Anglo-Saxons.

It shall be demonstrated further on that the cults were alive and well. Louis. Many of the following sources will be from French and Belgian folklorists who collected information in the field through interviews with common folk. there was a strong tradition of trees playing an important role in community. the instances where the trees are present are a clear motif of Romanesque style reflecting clear Christian iconography.21 In Brussels c. Mamert. The pine tree is referenced ten times and nine of those references place the pine tree at a momentous event.22 Brault is right when he asserts that the trees in the Song of Roland represent Christian iconography. namely that of Roland. First let’s take a look at the chanson de geste7 the Song of Roland (11th century). surely we can imagine a community coming out to the village court-tree to hear proclamations and justice rendered by their leaders. It is important to remember that although these customs and beliefs recorded in the 19th and 20th century are relatively recent. St. public prayer and processions three days before the Ascension and lasting days or weeks being locale specific with regards to custom. the role of the tree remains the same as it was when the many Frankish councils were forbidding the making of vows to trees---the clear role of the tree was as a witness to the community and point of maintenance of communal order. during sermons as in Brussels or that these trees were confined to a churchyard as it was with the tree in Diedendorf23 gives them a communal ritual aspect.19 This custom of holding court beneath a tree is by no means uncommon. those by St. yet the similitude between the councils held by Charlemange (back dated to 8th century). such as in Diedendorf up until 1743.Óðrœrir 71 Tree cult among the Medieval French and Modern French In Medieval France.1850 a priest gave sermons at the Elterken. Louis (1214-1270) is said to have rendered justice while sitting beneath an oak tree in the forest of Vicennes. The fact the episodes of history in which these trees are mentioned take place either after church. 6 . I will now describe four cases of tree cults in modern France and Belgium. such as with St. Although this role was no longer cloaked in its original heathen narrative and now reflected the various folk-Christian narratives. For if we imagine a time when men were travelling to a specific tree to make vows. this does not mean that the recorded material is in and of itself recent. and compare them to each other and isolate the pertinent information in each to draw a line back to the various councils and edicts of the early Frankish Church. Gudule. the clergy of St. Elterken of Brussels During the period of Rogations8 on the 17th of May. Louis in the 13th century and the proclamations of the mayor and priest in the 18th century point to something more. to his people in times of war. Within its pages references to trees are numerous. It will now be necessary to peer into the folkloric record to find those vestiges of the Frankish tree cults for the Church by this time either turned a blind eye to the various practices or integrated the trees into the many local folk-Christian customs. the central role that the tree cult played in the community still held the same purpose of being the focal point of communal rituals relating to unseen forces6.French heroic lay 8 . These events include councils held by Charlemagne. 7 .18 According to Brault.20 There are also examples in Germany of court-lindens or Gerichtslinde that were known to be places to render justice and proclaim regulations to the citizens of a village. Although the narrative that is given is clearly Christian and inspired by the many symbols inherent within the faith.A celebration of the Roman Catholic Church consisting of fasting. but rather as witnesses to important events. . surrounded by their community. after a visit to the chapel of Ixelles. yet they are not cast as agents worthy of offering. both ancestral Frankish territory. Instituted in 469 by St. scenes of treason and armament and sense of death. I shall demonstrate in each case that the information gathered by these folklorists does indeed point to more ancient practices and were at the time of recording investigated for the first time with a more critical eye. an ancient linden tree.

Here translated as Midsummer from the French St. During the Kermesse9 the clergy and laymen would dance around the tree. the logging activities of a few local residents. who was grazing his herd on the mountain. allusions are made to either real dancing ceremonies or imagined ones on holy nights.Óðrœrir 72 travel to Elterken where a priest performs an open air sermon.24 From this example we can see that the tree was considered a focal point of communal activities such as feast. It was to give the site a Christian importance that the clergy attached to the tree a likeness of the Virgin Mary. At 9 .A church sponsored fair 10 . Jean (St. Additionally. went to find him. an extraordinary event augmented visitation to the tree. John’s eve). A shepherd. Gudule. Lodewyk Van Velthem composed a work called Spiegel historiael which told that between Diest and Zichem there was a sacred oak that formed a cross that was well venerated by the locals. It is there that according to popular belief. the rain drops could cure fevers. Many would visit it in hopes of cures to ailments and healings for paralysis. It also had curative powers and the ability to provide sanctuary. he took it into his hands and immediately he was frozen and could not take a step. Nearly a hundred years later. Wanting to keep it for himself. It was also believed by the residents that after raining. dancing and sermons. Notre-Dame de Zichem Around the year 1300.25 In this example. sing and make merriment and eventually would have a feast at its foot. This tree was also called a vryheideboom or freedom tree as it at one time offered sanctuary or divine protection to the seeker. he was told of the incident and then returned the likeness of the Virgin to the tree.26 This tree is dedicated to a saint. This celebration lasted no less than six hours before the clergy and folk would return to St. . but only in times of war. they erected the chapel at that same place. revealed a statuette of the Virgin Mary in the trunk of a fallen tree. in a village called Namêche there is located a tree that is said to be sacred to St. When he came upon the man. as J. if a child was placed under that linden. This is why there is a sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary at Scherpenheuvel covered over with bandages. but by 1400 many traveled to the tree for cures for their fever. As the legend tells. Lipse tells it. Namêche On the right side of the Meuse and at a certain height. They tried in vain to abolish this cult. Those who were healed left their crutches and bandages at its trunk. it is held by the French and Belgians that this date is Midsummer. hence to a divine power. The owner of the grazing lands became worried that his shepherd had not returned at nightfall. the witches gather on Good Friday or Midsummer10 and in the holy nights so that they may dance their infernal dance around its trunk. At Vauzelles There was constructed in the 15th century a chapel near a sacred elm. This statuette could not be physically removed from its home and seeing this as an act of supernatural will. stumbled upon the fallen image of the Virgin Mary. Anne. although nothing is mentioned of the communal activities of the local residents it does demonstrate the belief that the divinity of the tree was inherently within the tree itself.

It was clearly a supraregional cult center and still is to this day. One year later in a moment of zeal. Martin. where the sick bring their bandages in exchange for healing. There is little doubt also that the early Christian hymns told stories which could be interpreted through Christian or heathen eyes. yet providing a new and accepted religious narrative to cloak the practices in the end preserved them. Italy. When he urges his nephew not to destroy . It must be clearly stated here that idols and trees are two different things and should not be regarded in the same light. pilgrims began taking pieces of the tree home with them. What is more. It is important to remember that although not every tree that is regarded sacred today was historically a heathen holy site. as was claimed by St. the clergy was forced to cut the tree down. by processing to the tree with the folk and dancing and feasting for six hours. but that the tree is a necessary point of contact between man and the holy power of the tree. In 1602 a small chapel was built beside the tree to accommodate the pilgrims. One half of the tree was sent to Austria to Archduke Albert and the other half was carved into a likeness of the Virgin Mary. due to the efforts of Pope Gregory the Great. but that does not mean that food was not eaten in honour of their local and national saint St. To this day she is venerated throughout Belgium. Some 1300 years later. in his letter to Brunhild in 597 urges the Queen to keep her subjects from worshiping trees and idols. Austria. Simply by replacing older heathen imagery and narrative with (folk) Christian ones. but the decision to tolerate or condemn the practices were made at a local level and no longer imposed by Church-wide edicts. All the differences can not be wholly known without a thorough analysis of the two forms of cult. such as those written by Fortunas. Twenty thousand pilgrims then descended upon the site. Gudule. Review and comparison between Frankish and French tree cults Harkening back to the cutting down of the pine tree by St. the local clergy partakes and encourages the event. People still flocked to the site and concluded that the statue replacing the original must have been the originally stolen one. Gregory makes a strong distinction. Hence. Martin of Tours.’27 From this lengthy and detailed account we can see that the oak had curative powers. All are either named after a saint and/or have some saintly or Christian iconography affixed in/on its trunk. Gregory. Germany and Belgium. as did most contemporary clergymen. and had a profound affect on the people. the divine power of the tree is credited to the saint’s intercession.28 The prevailing characteristics of these cults are their curative powers. There can be little doubt that not all clergymen were supportive of the cults. This would be only a slight deviance of the heathen narrative for the Chrisitian one. and to prevent calamity. it was the tree that was/is divine and worthy of worship and not the saint. between the two. Clearly. The event may have lost the custom of offering food to the tree. we can see with the later examples of the modern French cults that contrary to his assertion that there is nothing sacred held within the trees. In 1587 after the original likeness was stolen. we can count no less than 276 sacred sites to those of Veuzelles and Zichem.Óðrœrir 73 this time he is freed from his plight and returns the herd to the home of his master. there indeed was. Caesarius of Arles in 533 made a strong case in condemning the feasting near trees and making offerings to them. the Archbishop of Zichem bought a new statue from a pious woman of Diest and placed in the empty crevasse left by the theft. what is key is that the customs persisted and new sites were founded based upon customs and beliefs rooted in heathendom. the cutting down of the sacred trees was no longer necessary. we see that trees such as Elterken still benefited from feasting by the community. From modern France to Spain. This does not however preclude the notion that there was some agent acting through the tree. It also had an image of the Virgin Mary affixed within it and many divine interventions were the result of the image. Highlighting those similitudes would only serve to reinforce the heathen beliefs. as the healings continued.

after they make their vow. The idea of a vow being a part of a votive act finds its modern form in the cultic expression of the tree at Zichem. held to be important by the folk. Essential elements of the Frankish tree cult Although the enumerated elements below may not be present in all historical and modern expressions of the tree cults. So. whether a prayer or bidding. between the 7th and 12th century. We know that people held these places to provide healings and that the trees were so sacred that to bring any of their wood home was taboo. The original heathen idols must have been of such a nature contrary to the teachings of Christian doctrine that they could not be repurposed and were thus deemed too wicked to ‘save’. from Scandinavia to Brittan possessed a piece. we can clearly see that the tree is made to take part in the life of the community. He most likely was influenced by the life of St. the tree at Zichem demonstrates at least one case where modern sacred trees were pillaged of their wood. but the decision as to what tree cultivar to honour should be up to the modern kindred to determine. The Medieval references to trees witnessing or presiding over judgements are another testament to the divinity of the tree. . By the 12th century nearly every monarch in Europe.Óðrœrir 74 the trees. as referenced by Caesarius of Arles in his sermons. People left their crutches and bandages at these trees most likely as an act of faith in the power of the tree. heathen belief and Christian belief was greatly conflated and the taboo concerning the possessing of a piece of a holy tree (which was at times used as a metaphor for the True Cross) was now something to be coveted. the list is provided for a general overview of its many components. In the case of the tree at Diedendorf and the Elterken. we know that the curative powers of trees was well known and accepted and so it would make sense that edicts were pronounced to curb this belief. wish11 or prayer they bring their lesser healing implements (those made by man) in exchange or in demonstration of proof of the tree’s superior and divine healing power. relics such as the True Cross were extremely common in the West. he insists that the idols must be destroyed. court deciding. warring. who also put an emphasis on the destruction of idols and temples.In Modern French voeux translates to wish. Martin. By holding court near a village tree. From feasts. it is made to feel a part of the people and may well be seen as overseeing the doom and weal of the folk. This is of little surprise as by the age of the crusades. which may well be the root of the term ‘wishing tree’ 12 .29 It would thus be only natural that the common folk would want such a thing. the idea is reinforced that the tree is at the heart of the community and effectively its hub binding the spokes. to bring their powers home. two important pieces of information regarding the sanctity of trees comes down to us. As for the sacredness of the wood and the taboo with bringing it home. In 658 at the council of Nantes. The tree is divine Solemn communal vows and events are held before and involve it Feasts and merriment are held at the tree Food is shared with the tree The tree has curative powers The tree is not a cultivated variety12 11 . dances.It should be noted that in the sources none of the trees are what we would consider a cultivated variety. The reason for this difference in treating both cultic forms must lie in the fact that trees can be repurposed with Christian ritual and in time the affixing of Christian saintly idols. law proclaiming. From the example of Zichem and Elterken and many more not mentioned here. The making of vows at trees. most likely referred to solemn words spoken to a tree. Owning a piece of the Cross meant that man was in direct contact with the Christian divine and would benefit from its miraculous benefits. In a sense.

not to find a communal tree. in the older villages and towns. but words that implicated the doom of a community or an individual. we will never know. feasting should take place in the vicinity of the tree and it should be felt to take part in the festivities. In short. the tree in the modern Frankish community must be seen as holding the health of the folk in its limbs and that it has the final say over the providence of good health bestowed upon mankind. it should not be assumed that all of these sacred sites must be found together. A further testament to the power of the tree over the individual and his kin is its curative powers. In any case words would have been spoke aloud and shared. that to our modern understanding there were rituals and celebrations located at the trees or in their honour of a religious nature and others seemingly secular. Even the many cases. modern and ancient. Conclusion It is my sincerest hope that all modern heathens see the value inherent in claiming a tree for one’s folk. We do know. So powerful is this belief up to this day that many trees known for healing the sick are heaped over with ligatures. when a modern Frankish (or other) heathen community feels the need to celebrate. Feasting. In a modern expression. We now know that whatever it is. I see it as something that is lacking for many heathens today. Thus. Hence. it should do so in part or whole at/with the tree. drinking and merriment are vital to the health of a heathen’s constitution. not merely words of the mundane type. springs and temples in the extant sources of the early cult. idols. it is man who goes and seeks the tree for healing. Clearly these are legends or true events that developed as a means to legitimize the power of the tree in the eyes of the Christian. in the same place. in which all participate and festivals of the community must be held to which the tree is welcomed. In modern France and Belgium it is rare. Whether these are affairs of a purely religious or secular nature. . This is not to say that the tree was viewed as equal to the community.Óðrœrir 75 Modern reconstructions of the Frankish tree cult First and foremost it must be understood by the modern heathen that although there are mentions of trees. though not all here enumerated. As has been reiterated above many times over. bandages and crutches as tokens of the tree’s success in curing the sick. a holy power contained within its trunk or the trunk of the tree itself that was held to be the source of the trees power and devotion. of statues of the Virgin Mary miraculously finding their way into the tree must be viewed with a high degree of suspicion. a divine agent. What’s more is that if not all the community members can participate at the feast. however. the trees were points of communal affairs. the case must be made that the addition of religious iconography to the tree is a later Christian product. Festivals should be held in its honour. a share of the food should be brought to them so that they may presumably share in the prosperity afforded by the tree. If one wishes to adopt the Frankish tree cult(s) as a part of their communal practices. any modern expression of the cult should be devoid of idols affixed in or upon the tree being venerated. the tree to be honoured must be made to feel welcome and a part of the community. This demonstrates further that at the heart of every Frankish community was found its tree. it is my hope that the information here gathered will help illuminate the possibilities of Frankish heathen cult expression and that through knowledge we may rebuild the many worldviews of the historical ancestors of our Aldsido. In all documented expressions of the cult. clearly it was not as its destruction caused unimaginable distress to its community and in time Christianity had to mould itself to the realities of the cult rather than the cult being extinguished all together. To my Frankish brothers and sisters.

to the religious practices of later agrarian communities. for example. 2 . The ancient Finns lived in a world in which the survival and continuation of life was dependent on the conditions of nature. . from the Shamanism of the Stone Age. and even language and morals. Juha. The ancient tradition of making communal sacrifices at these sacred sites seems to have transformed into the custom of giving donations to church officials. for it is living on a land that gives birth to a characteristic and unique way of perceiving the world.” In Valoa kansalle. spells and stories which were collected by Finnish scholars in the 18th.Oja. For the sake of brevity it is not possible to include all of the possible customs and beliefs. Lumen ja valon kansa: Suomalainen kansanusko. lifestyle.Hyry. Arvo. 1995. The old practices persisted in the guise of novel social and theological ideas. When studying the beliefs of my Finnish ancestors I am often surprised to see how many of the old traditions continued to be practiced even after conversion to Christianity. 58-63. 19th and early 20th centuries. religious beliefs. much to 1 . Ulla Piela and Maija-Liisa Heikinmäki. nor is it my wish to present the geographical differences in great detail. were developed1. In other words. Another example of this. Strictly speaking. 1989. although retaining many archaic traditions. Western Finland was historically affected by influences from countries to the West and the South. This paper shall instead focus on the religious beliefs and customs of the Finnish folk religion as documented during the 18th and 19th centuries. Maintaining balance between man and nature was crucial as it was the basis on which people’s livelihoods. There have also been additional geographical differences. but inside the new church. Literary sources of pre-Christian Finnish paganism are scarce or nearly nonexistent. it is probably impossible to reconstruct any kind of meaningful version of Finnish paganism by using sources outside of those originating from the syncretist folk religion. edited by Pekka Laaksonen. Forssa: Forssan kirjapaino Oy. Katja and Pentikäinen. for example. Therefore. was influenced by the Russians and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Antti and Pentikäinen. “Karhuntaljat entisajan kirkoissa. It is not my wish to sketch a time line for the evolution of religious beliefs in Finland. Christian saints were equated with the old spirits and most holidays from Christian folk tradition carried their share of customs and beliefs from pre-Christian times. The perplexing result of this being that the common folk continued to worship the original spirit of the place. The oldest medieval churches in Finland were actually built on top of old sacrificial sites2. in my opinion. The donations of items such as elk antlers and bear hides were used in church decorations in a similar manner as they were probably used at sacred sites during pagan times. while Eastern Finland.Óðrœrir 76 The Finnish Tradition An Introduction • By Anssi Alhonen For every nation land is a sacred thing. in some villages it was customary to honor the bear killed during the bear feast (a tradition that perhaps dates back to the Stone Age) by playing the church bells. Porvoo: WSOY. Traditions have varied substantially through time. when trying to understand traditional Finnish spirituality our main sources are the traditional songs. this is not a paper on reconstructed paganism. Court records from the 17th century indicate that people were convicted of blasphemy because they had made ‘illegal’ sacrifices inside these churches. The aim of this article is to provide an overview of the indigenous Finnish spiritual tradition.

Belief in spirits that reside in nature (including those of animals).Kemppinen.V. even during the thousand years of official Christianity. In Ethnologica Uralica 3 (Northern religions and shamanism). Suomalainen mytologia. This pole was connected to the Pole Star. was the participation of village priests at their local feasts in honor of the thunder god Ukko during the 17th century3. the giant world-pole. At the roots of the tree. the upper. I. Iivar. In certain cases. The great birch tree (or in Finnish tradition. the Sampo. World View The ancient Finnish conception of the world was a layered one. The roots of ancient Finnish cosmological concepts can be found in Proto-Uralic mythology. 1992.Oja. Suomen kansankulttuuri. supported the dome. It is my contention that the Finnish folk faith offers a unique and holistic world view which can be understood for the most part without reference to Christian theological concepts. the central object that was believed to support the sky and all creation was considered to be a world tree (the ‘Great Oak’) or the world mountain.V. middle. and this connection allowed the world pole to rotate around its axis. Napolskikh has proposed a fascinating reconstruction7. SKS.Napolskikh. and lower worlds. a spring flows and marks the source of 3 . My main sources of information for this are the Finnish Folklore Archive and. 5 . respected scholars identify this ‘axis mundi’ with a mysterious object from Finnish mythology. This presentation of indigenous Finnish religious beliefs and practices will focus on four key factors: 1. 1990. Pentikäinen. Budapest: Akademiai Kiado. “Karhuntaljat entisajan kirkoissa. Christian and Pagan influences were liberally mixed. a mythology for which the scholar V. Ilmar. 1960. At the center of the sky-dome where the sky-god resided. Lumen ja valon kansa. “Proto-Uralic World Picture: A Reconstruction”. It is for this reason that the main theme in Finnish mythology.Talve. order and chaos6. the fight between the cosmic gods and the forces of Pohjola for the Sampo. The survival of Balto-Finnic myths and spells as a living oral tradition. A way of life closely connected to nature based almost entirely on self-sufficient agriculture or hunting and fishing. The dome was called the ‘lid of the sky’ (Taivaankansi) and the night sky was known as the ‘bright lid’5 (Kirjokansi). the works of leading Finnish scholars in this field. In rural areas.Óðrœrir 77 the dismay of church officials. 4. V. Hoppal and J. can be interpreted as a symbol for the eternally rotating world and the struggle between life and death. It is for this reason that even though literary sources for Finnish paganism are very scarce. which can be viewed independently of Christian theology and liturgy. Arvo. The world was thought to include a flat disc-like earth that was covered over by a huge sky-dome4. I have concluded that the aforementioned factors. giving birth to a syncretic religion that was still very much alive in the latter part of the 19th Century.” 4 . instead of heaven or hell. or ‘axis mundi’. one could argue that the ethnic religion of the Finns never truly died out but continued to live and take on new forms. 3-20. The upper world is located in the skies and also to the south. The concept of ancestor spirits living in the afterlife. . Today. According to Napolskikh the Proto-Uralic world view consisted of three different worlds or layers of reality. ‘Taivaannaula’ (also known as the ‘nail-star’ or ‘sky-nail’). 3. 7 . 6 .Hyry and Pentikäinen & Pentikäinen. the giant oak) grows there. edited by M. of course. can be considered the defining features of traditional Finnish folk religion. 2. at least in the remote parts of Karelia.

Iivar. She is the sender of souls and the mother of the gods. The mountain rising up from the land of the dead and up to the skies signifies a place in which all pain and suffering is gone and the world is as one. In the underworld everything is backwards when compared to the human world. an ocean into which many northern rivers flow and the Northern Lights were said to glow near the gates of Pohjola. . up is down and so forth. In the Finnish folk religion this upper world became a warm and light world located in the south called Lintukoto (or ‘home of the birds’) and the sea of life became a body of warm water surrounding the Lintukoto. For all intents and purposes. geese and maybe swans were thought to carry human souls to the otherworld8. The word ‘Lovi’ is probably a synonym for Louhi. from Pohjola the world river runs into a wide bottomless abyss. and eventually into the land of the dead. Sarajas was perhaps considered to be one and the same as the northern Arctic Ocean. his soul faring to the underworld to gain information from the souls of deceased legendary shamans was said to fall through a slit (Lovi). or ‘tietäjä’. There the world river flows into a freezing cold ocean called ‘Sarajas’ and it is in the middle of this ocean that we find the dark and cold ‘Pohjola’ (‘the Northern Place’). Beyond the middle world and to the north lies the lower world. or Linnunrata (the ‘Birds’ Way’) in Finnish and in other Balto-Finnic languages. “Proto-Uralic World Picture: A Reconstruction”. Near the tree and spring there is a warm lake. There the world river turns around and becomes ‘Tuonen Joki’. Left is right.Kemppinen. Uralic belief states that migrating water birds are messengers of the gods that are traveling from the upper world. or as it may also be known. where water birds and human souls are renewed. According to certain folk songs. V. According to this belief these birds travel between worlds via the Milky Way. 8 . pain that is exorcised from the patient. Andres. helper and protectress of motherhood. healer. In Finnish mythology a mysterious virgin by the name of Iro is said to have given birth to the three divine brothers at the beginning of times. is also located in the center of a cold ocean. the divine mother is the Virgin Mary (or ‘Maaria’ in Finnish) and she is remembered in songs and spells as a spiritual mother.Óðrœrir 78 the world river. the river of the land of the dead. This upper world is ruled by an old woman. Suomalainen mytologia. 11 . Birds such as black throated divers.Ibid. giving the appearance that Pohjola and the underworld are one and the same thing. When the Finnish healer. called either Manala or Tuonela. In the heavens it returns to the spring at the roots of the birch tree. Pohjola is located both in the north and under the flat earth. 10 . returns to this mountain. If this is the case both ‘Lovi’ or ‘Louhi’ would signify a hole in the ground which can be used as a pathway to the land of the dead. motherhood and water birds. or ‘sea of life’. This is the eternal cycle of life11. The world mountain motif is well-known from the cosmologies of several nations10. protectress of childbirth.V. In the Finnish folk religion this land of the dead. “Names in Estonian Folk Astronom – From ‘Bird’s way’ to ‘Milky way’”. the matron of Pohjola. flowing down from the upper world to the middle and lower worlds. In Finnish folk religion. Pohjola9. In this form the river flows from north to south and upwards again towards the upper world. Folk Belief and Media Group of Estonian Literary Museum. In some folk songs the world mountain is said to rise up from Pohjola and reach all the way up to the sky-dome and the Pole Star. In Electronic Journal of Folklore 22. From there it flows down through the skies once more as a world river.Kuperjanov. 49-61. This world mountain is called ‘Stone Hill’ or ‘Pain Hill’ and in healing spells. fell into a trance. the ruler of all life. 9 . The Milky Way was then seen as the heavenly version of the world river.Napolskikh. 2002.

he was the guardian of smiths. fire.Talve. Together water.Salo. He creates the world through his movements while floating in the primeval sea. The sky god Ilmarinen first brought fire to the world by causing the first lightning to strike over the primeval sea. and rain and snow. When he is done. shamans. Ilmaroinen. Ilmar. Iron is thought to be the second oldest of the brothers. Väinämöinen was called. but also protectors of culture. healers and poets. “Ukko. The divine brothers seem to be connected with the primeval elements. Unto. Hence the Finnish scholar Kaarle Krohn concludes that originally Väinämöinen was the god of water13. wind. which continued long after Finland 12 . Suomen kansankulttuuri. As a god of fire. wind and rain. Väinämöinen moved his leg and the egg broke forming the world. Consequently. The myth tells about a bird who dived into the primeval sea and brought up earth from the seabed. he was the god of slash-and-burn farmers. December 1 / 2005. As a sky god. he places the stars on the sky-dome. Because of his intricate wisdom regarding fire and wind. Väinämöinen’s famous kantele is made from the jawbone of a pike and the ancient Finns called certain patterns on the surface of water the “Path of Väinämöinen”. Ilmarinen (or Ilmari. In Mankind Quaterly. It is possible that the strong folk devotion to the Virgin Mary. Ilmarinen is also a creator god who forges the sky-dome and the world-pillar. iron. he helped sailors and fishermen. The oldest. especially when connected with the air from the bellows of the smith’s forge. Therefore the youngest brother mentioned then is by virtue of logic. Väinämöinen is also a mighty shaman and the world’s first healer who travels to the underworld to receive the right words for healing and enchants the whole world with his singing. As previously mentioned. and which was also preserved by the Orthodox Karelians. It is to these brothers that the appellation the ‘Cosmic Gods’ is given. Porvoo-Juva: WS Bookwell Oy. Väinämöinen was the oldest and Joukahainen the youngest. Ilmarinen might have also been a fatherly god who people turned to when they were in trouble14. he builds a legendary boat and swims several times to the underworld in the form of a fish or otter. is associated with water. 14 . Which is clearly the element of the smith-god Ilmarinen. since they were born before the world was formed and contributed to making the world what it is today. The myths recount that at the beginning of time the virgin Iro gave birth to three divine sons. who was at the time floating in the primeval sea. 1915 / 2008. It is for this reason that the cosmic gods are not only considered to be gods of natural elements. or Joukahainen (although there is no direct evidence of this connection in the folklore). Ilmarinen and Joukahainen. One is the ‘Earth-Diver’ myth which is widely spread in Eurasia and Northern America. Ilmamoinen) rules over the elements of air: clouds. Väinämöinen is the god of water. . Suomalaisten runojen uskonto. In Finnish spells and folk songs water is called the “oldest of the brothers”. Väinämöinen is heavily associated with water. 13 . The other myth tells that the world was formed when a water bird laid its egg on the knee of Väinämöinen.Krohn. This myth is thought to have been adopted by the Baltio-Finnic people as a southern cultural loan during the Iron Age12. Väinämöinen. These objects gave birth to the whole of civilization. lightning. When the spiritual power of water was conjured. wind and fire made it possible for humans to create better weapons and tools. Väinämöinen is also involved in bringing the fire to the world but he is not the bringer of fire since his element is water. Kaarle. Ilmamo. The Cosmic Gods The ancient Finns had two different creation myths recounting how the world or the earth was formed.Óðrœrir 79 II. Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen appear together in many myths. When Väinämöinen wishes to leave the human world he sails in his boat through fiery rapids. Väinämöinen. the Finnish God of Thunder – Separating Pagan Roots From Christian Accretions”. thunder. As a god of wind and storm. Additionally. storm and calm.

however. This was also true of some places or beings in the human domain. as they believed she had a role in the birth of bears. 16 . Kaarle.Óðrœrir 80 officially converted from Catholicism to Lutheranism in the 16th century. stones. In modern times. During his journey he overcomes several dangers which resemble shamanistic imagery. like Odysseus. He is not invited to the feast at Päivölä (meaning the place of the sun) but Lemminkäinen chooses to travel there anyway. Juha. 17 . and barn. animals and plants were all controlled by guardian spirits. The sun symbolizes the center of the world. Lemminkäinen is a hero who. edited by M. This sequence of events resembles the initiation rite of a new shaman. Another shamanistic element to Lemminkäinen is his dramatic death. and just as in a number of other European mythologies. Pentikäinen argues that the feast of Päivölä takes place in the realm of the sun. and so it would follow that Maaria and the mother of Lemminkäinen are the same being. In light of this it is worth mentioning that traveling between mythical places is also the role of the tietäjä’s soul. 18 . They were each considered to have their own 15 . As a result he kills the master of the house in a fight and flees to avoid retaliation. his body cut into pieces and thrown into the Tuonela river.Ibid. Maaria was also believed to protect cattle and save people in times of crisis. “Lemminkäinen – Shaman or God?”. Juha. fire. Most respected scholars. however. Suomalaisten runojen uskonto.Pentikäinen. have emphasized the archaic shamanistic nature of Lemminkäinen16. cattle. the bee signifies a lack of sexuality. 287-309. When he arrives at the feast Lemminkäinen is disrespected. In addition. water. Budapest: Ethnographic Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. fireplace. Lemminkäinen’s mother collects the pieces of her son and brings him back to life. Eventually Lemminkäinen is hunted down and killed. In Ethnologica Uralica 1 (Northern religions and shamanism). Hoppal and J. virginity. homeless and always compelled to leave for one reason or another. squirrels and bees are associated with Maaria. where the shaman-to-be must die and be reborn as a shaman17. people have focused on Lemminkäinen’s role as a wanton lover-boy. For instance. not in Pohjola as Lönnrot’s Kalevala and certain other later sources claim. Lemminkäinen is the young hero of the folk poems. she was said to heal the sick. he is destined to die and to be resurrected18. After the death of Lemminkäinen. 1989. creating almost like a Kalevala version of Don Juan. In the folklore. his mother collects the pieces of her son and brings the body back to life with magic and ointment brought by a bee from sky. is forced to travel for eternity. the bee symbolizes sexuality. Pentikäinen.Krohn. everything in nature had its own invisible soul which was somehow connected to the natural phenomenon perceived by the senses. such as a flaming birch tree. but he fails and disappears into the sun. . such as home. or ‘haltijat’ in Finnish. Lemminkäinen is also a warrior and a skillful rune singer. help weavers and bring lifesaving warmth to people15. “Lemminkäinen – Shaman or God?”. III. Then as previously related. was based on the memory of older female deities.Pentikäinen. Lemminkäinen tries to reach that place and the celestial gods. In Maaria’s case. This theme of death and rebirth gives Lemminkäinen Christ-like features. He is the combination of a tietäjä and a proud viking hero. Trees. The bee is also believed to bring Maaria healing ointments from the sky and it is here that we find an interesting connection between the mother of Lemminkäinen and Maaria. Haltija: ‘The Invisible Nature’ For the ancient Finns. He is proud and brave. bear hunters used to petition Maaria. ‘Maaria’ is a popular figure in Finnish spells and her help is sought for a multitude of reasons. he is cut into pieces and given a new life. Juha Pentikäinen sees eternal wandering as the main attribute of Lemminkäinen. but short-sighted and prone to bragging.

23 . Johanna. It was well understood that humans could not for instance. and snow. “Ukko. Unto. University of Helsinki.Hyry and Pentikäinen & Pentikäinen. Ukko-Ilmarinen: the Ruler of Wind. Finland. and Thunder The scholar Unto Salo argues that Ilmarinen was a hammer-using sky god and the god of thunder who evolved into a ruler of winds. ‘Old Man’ and ‘Old Woman’21. Spirits were generally considered to be invisible but sometimes they appeared to people. albeit mostly in dreams22. In ancient times it was an honored title given by the community to older men who had gained wisdom. Also.Ahtinen. 20 . The ancient Finns lived in constant interaction with both the visible and invisible forces of nature.Ibid. however. If a person treated the spirits with respect he could gain their protection. Even non-concrete things like death and sleep had their own spiritual forces19. the spirit could burn down the house or cause other damage. 2008. . The name ‘Ukko’ means ‘Old Man’.Salo. In Eastern Finland nature spirits had names like ‘Mother’. In order to secure luck and success in life one had to maintain a balance with the spirits. but bad or thoughtless behavior would result in revenge. and a position of respect in the community.Talve. rain. Lumen ja valon kansa. Rain. ‘Father’. The word ‘haltija’ is of Germanic origin and is interpreted to mean ‘mother’ or ‘father’. the Finnish God of Thunder – Separating Pagan Roots From Christian Accretions”. Ilmar. Suomen kansankulttuuri. 21 . in Eura. the Finnish god of thunder. the forger of the sky-dome and a smith-hero. but instead they had to treat it as an equal partner. storm. At the same time Ukko was a euphemism which was used in order to avoid saying the real name of the thunder 19 . guardian spirits. is no separate god but in fact the same sky god as Ilmarinen23. rule the forest. These guardian spirits protected their own domains and drove away intruders and any beings with evil intentions. Respected house ‘haltija’ protected the house and warned the family of any approaching dangers. If insulted. 22 . each human being was accompanied by a guardian spirit that helped the person to reach his goals and protected him against physical dangers and hostile spiritual forces20.Óðrœrir 81 Gifting the Nature Spirits: A woman gives offerings to the spirits of the forest at a “cupstone” located in Harola. This belief in guardian spirits made people aware of the spiritual order of things. life experience. “Luonnohaltijoiden sukupuoli itäsuomalaisessa ja karjalaisessa uskomusperinteessä”. This means that Ukko.

. 24 . Uno. the character has understandably caused lively debate among scholars over the years. Unto. Many mythologies associate rowan with thunderstorms. the Finnish God of Thunder – Separating Pagan Roots From Christian Accretions”. “Ukko. it would not be unreasonable to say that this is probably true. The Finnish bishop Mikael Agricola mentions the mysterious “Rauni” in his 1551 list of ancient Finnish gods. As to whether this theory is credible. The Sami people famously refused to recite the name of the god during thunder storms until as recently as the 19th century. The most common interpretation has been that Rauni is an ancient Finnish goddess and Ukko’s wife. and which resulted in a new harvest. cattle.Ibid. Suomalaisten muinaisusko. but because Rauni is not even a Finnish word.Salo. hunter’s traps. This would make ‘rauni’ an epithet of Ukko instead of an independent god. In Finnish folklore there are several extant sayings and beliefs which associate thunder with sexuality. fate and natural cycles. the sun god. For instance. the sun seems to be associated with the cycle of the year and shamanistic imagery. Since Rauni is not mentioned anywhere else in the folklore. 27 . the sky god. The Sun God Päivätär Uno Harva and other Finnish scholars have assumed that the ancient Finns. but in Finland it was also believed that the sky god uses lightning strikes to destroy evil spirits hiding on earth. Only a few prayers to the sun have been collected. is more of a mythological figure than a god to be approached in prayer.Harva. Suomalaisten muinaisusko. the original meaning of the name has been traced to Germanic roots.Óðrœrir 82 god. “Ukko. One theory that has gained ground is that Rauni comes from the Germanic word ‘raudna’ meaning the rowan tree. and divine powers. and other items25. Rowan was a sacred tree for the ancient Finns. When we take into account the importance of the sun as a bearer of light and life and the further symbolism connected to these things. Porvoo: WSOY. In Finnish mythology. Moreover. The union of gods fertilized the earth. that the sacred marriage that brought fertility to the fields was the union of these two divine beings. Lightning and rain during thunderstorms was perceived as a sacred marriage.Harva. all originating in Eastern Karelia. the Finnish God of Thunder – Separating Pagan Roots From Christian Accretions”. Päivätär or Päivä. Agricola’s Rauni seems to be connected to Ukko. So “Rauni Ukko” mentioned by Agricola probably means ‘Rowan Tree Ukko’24. 25 . Unfortunately.Salo. This is highly problematic. Unto. Uno. and therefore possibly the result of Slavic influence28. not only because there are no other mentions of this word outside of Agricola’s account. information on ancient Finnish sun-worship is very scarce. practiced sun worship27. however. It is perhaps a little surprising then. Unto Salo argues that this maiden was the spirit of water26. how much of a role the moon plays in folk religion in comparison to that of the sun. or ‘hieros gamos’. 28 . it was believed that the god of thunder does not strike a rowan tree when he is destroying evil spirits lurking on earth. 1948. the answer is probably yes. small loops and sticks made out of rowan twigs were used to protect houses. Heavenly Bodies: the Sun and the Moon The brightly shining sun and the mysterious moon play their parts in mythologies the whole world over. while the moon is associated with luck. in Western Finland it was said that forest fires were caused by a nude maiden rising up from a spring and seducing the lightning to strike. In Lithuania for example. 26 . Each house had its own rowan tree on the yard. like numerous other nations. There is no direct evidence linking thunder and rowan trees in Finnish tradition.

Óðrœrir 83

In folk songs it is recounted that at the beginning of the world the celestial lights (Taivaanvalot) could
not shine freely and that the world suffered periods of darkness and cold. The darkness was caused by a
great oak that had grown so huge that it covered the sky with its branches. A mythic hero rose from the sea
and cut down the oak, bringing light back to the world, causing flowers to bloom and the leaves of trees
to turn green. Some scholars have interpreted the myth of the great oak as being a reflection of the cycle
of the year; the tree is born on midsummer and grows until midwinter, when everything is shrouded in
darkness. The tree is then cut and spring can return29.
Moon and Fate
Ancient Finns believed that the outcome of one’s actions was directly related to the phase of the
moon30. By choosing the right time for some particular work one could have the best possible results.
This knowledge of the effects of the moon on man’s work was highly uniform and still commonplace
in Finland but a few generations ago31. The moon, like any other natural phenomenon was thought to be
a living, soulful, being. The moon had a birth and a death, a beginning and an end. Phases of the moon
were interpreted from the sky and from using rune staves. The complete cycle of the moon was called the
‘Heavenly Moon’. One heavenly moon was the time between two new moons: approximately 29 days.
The cycle of the heavenly moon was divided into four periods, each about a week long. The time of
the new moon was regarded as the birth-time for the moon. The first days following the birth were called
the ‘early moon’. They were part of the upper moon (yläkuu) phase which extended over the first two
periods. Each upper moon ended with the full moon, which started a lower moon (alakuu) phase, which
extended over the remaining two periods. The last days before the birth of the new moon were called the
‘end moon’ or the ‘old moon’. The impact of the upper and lower moons can be summarized as follows,
the upper moon grows, the lower moon destroys. The days of the upper moon were fresh, full, and of
vitalizing strength. Every aspect of life in which growth was desirable was carried out during the upper
moon, e.g., planting crops, getting married, counting money. Conversely, during the lower moon was the
time for dealing with that which people wanted to destroy, stop growing or dry out32.
Kuutar, the god of the moon, seems to be connected with human fate. In Balto-Finnic legends a
heavenly maiden, the moon’s daughter, sits on the upper branches of the world tree and weaves people’s
fates together. Each fate is represented by a silver thread of life. The fates are weaved together in the skies
to create the complete picture of the life of the world. When the maiden accidentally snaps a thread, she
begins to cry, and her tears fall down as three rivers which form three hills with three birches growing on
top of each of them. At the top of each birch a cuckoo sings as a sign of fate to the person whose life thread
has been snapped33.
Water Spirits
Water, like all the other natural elements, was thought to have its own spiritual force called ‘väki’.
Väki was controlled, or symbolized, by the guardian water spirit which was believed to have been the first

29 - Lintrop, Aado. “The Great Oak, the Weaving Maidens and the Red Boat, not to Mention a Lost Brush”. In Electronic Journal of
Folklore 11. Folk Belief and Media Group of Estonian Literary Museum.
30 - Ibid.
31 - Pöyhönen, Anne. Yläkuu ja alakuu. Ajoituksen taito suomalaisessa kansanperinteessä. Yläkuu kustannus, 2008.
32 - Pöyhönen, Anne. Yläkuu ja alakuu.
33 - Lintrop, Aado. “The Great Oak, the Weaving Maidens and the Red Boat, not to Mention a Lost Brush”.

Óðrœrir 84

person to drown in that place34. Fishermen naturally had a reciprocal relationship with this spirit35. The
fisherman gave offerings to the water spirit and in return was given good fishing luck. After each catch,
the guardian water spirit was thanked through the offering of either money, silver, or more commonly, the
first fish from the catch36.
In the spring, when the lakes and rivers were freed from the ice, the first catch was a major event, and
the guardian water spirit was given offerings. Sometimes the spirit appeared in the fishermen’s evening
fire and future fishing luck was divined by the outward appearance of that spirit. One might anger the spirit
by breaking certain taboos associated with fishing. One of these taboos is very characteristic of Finnish
tradition, the need to keep different väki apart. For instance, one could not go fishing on a hunting trip
because this brought the forest väki and the water väki into close contact, which “ruined” the lake37.
Fire Spirits
Kaarle Krohn argued that the Finnish tradition shows no certain signs of fire-worship38. As far as I
know, Finnish people did not sacrifice to the fire directly. If, however, we take fire-worship to mean that
the fire is considered to be a sacred, living, being, and has a central role in religious rituals, the Finns
were certainly fire-worshipers. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, fire has a divine origin in Finnish

Birth of Fire Ritual: Hela is celebrated in Springtime. Here a man starts a holy fire while people dance in a circle
around him and sing the ritual song “The Birth of Fire.

mythology. Secondly, the burning and kindling of sacred fires has been a major component in many yearly

34 - Krohn, Kaarle. Suomalaisten runojen uskonto.
35 - SKS. Suomen kansan muinaisia taikoja II. Kalastus-taikoja. Porvoo-Juva: WS Bookwell Oy, 1892 / 2008.
36 - Ibid.
37 - Ibid.
38 - Krohn, Kaarle. Suomalaisten runojen uskonto.

Óðrœrir 85

feasts39. Lastly, the fire was also believed to have the power of purification and to ward off evil spirits40.
The story of how fire came into the world states that fire first came to existence in the heavens when
Ilmarinen struck the first lightning over the primeval sea. As previously mentioned, fire played a major
role in the various feasts during the spring and early summer. Great bonfires were set in remote places and
people gathered around them to sing, dance, and to welcome the spring. The sacred bonfires, which were
kindled according to strict ritualistic rules, and by using ancient methods no longer used in everyday life,
were thought to secure good harvest and cattle luck.
The main reason for setting the fires was to protect people and animals against evil spiritual forces.
Sacred fire was regarded as a primeval power, of which all the hostile spirits were afraid. Especially
powerful was a fire mixed with tar (called “the sweat of Väinämöinen”) and juniper41. Matti Varonen
claims that during the pre-Christian times, sacred fires had a dual role: to attract friendly spirits, such as
nature spirits and the spirits of the ancestors, and to ward off evil spirits. When the old beliefs started to
fade away, the idea of attracting good spirits was forgotten, and only the idea of driving away evil forces
remained42.
Land Spirits
The land was divided into two domains: that of human land (e.g., fields, arable land and the yard),
and that of natural land (e.g., forests, swamps, lakes, rivers). All these areas had their own väki and their
guardian spirits. Fields and yards were guarded by male and female spirits called different names such as
the ‘King Of The Land’, ‘Black Man’ and ‘Black Woman’, etc. These land spirits secured the luck in the
fields and in the yard. Every time beer was brewed or something was baked, the spirits had their offerings
before anyone else could eat the food or drink the beer. The land spirits also blessed the cattle with good
luck. These spirits could be angered if the offerings were neglected or the people of the house did not live
up to the moral standards valued by the spirits43.
When a person moved to a new house the first thing he had to do when stepping inside the house was
to bow to each corner, greet the land spirits, and offer them bread and salt. Whenever a new person, such
as a bride, or a temporary farmhand moved into a house, the person had to give sacrifices to the land
spirits and greet them with certain words44. The land spirits were also often greeted outside the yard when
the earth was needed for use. One example of these were the offerings made to the land spirits before a
deceased person was buried, in order to make sure the they approved the final resting place. In a similar
vein, hunters used to ask permission from the land spirits before they laid down for the night on their
hunting trips45.
Forest Spirits
The ancient Finn lived his life surrounded by forests. The forest was a source of food and tools, a place
to hide when the enemy attacked, and a sacred place for praying and sacrificing. Even today many Finns
feel that their souls ‘rest’ when they have a chance to visit their beloved forests. The forest was of course
thought to be full of väki, and ruled by the spirits of the forest.
39 -Varonen, Matti. Vainajainpalvelus muinaisilla suomalaisilla. Porvoo-Juva: WS Bookwell Oy, 1898 / 2009.
40 -Talve, Ilmar. Suomen kansankulttuuri.
41 - Vilkuna, Kustaa. Vuotuinen ajantieto. Keuruu: Otavan kirjapaino Oy, 1950 / 2010.
42 - Varonen, Matti. Vainajainpalvelus muinaisilla suomalaisilla.
43 - Krohn, Kaarle. Suomalaisten runojen uskonto.
44 - Ibid.
45 - Ibid.

or as it was known. While the best known of these guardian spirits is that of the home. 50 . 2001. In Western Finland the guardian spirit of the house helped the family and ensured that moral values were adhered to. “Haltijakäärmeperinne Suomessa”. “Haltijakäärmeperinne Suomessa”. The ‘Haltija Snake’. Giving sacrifices to the forest spirits was not only an expression of goodwill between the hunter and the forest.Krohn. the rabbit was the lamb of Tapio. It can be argued that the spirits residing in the human environment were originally nature spirits whose power was somehow relocated to buildings.Talve.Krohn. Teos. 53 . was connected to the luck and fate of the house. for instance. the insulted spirits could also steal things from the hunter48. Tuo hiisi hirviäsi. tabulaeformis) were thought to be sacred for Tapio and offerings were left there. were originally thought to be water spirits. April 2. as the snakes were called. Kaarle. Grass snakes were thought to symbolize the guardian spirit and they were fed and left to roam freely around the yard and buildings. While the guardian spirit could not prevent accidents from happening. the bounty was not going to be good. etc. the ‘Castle of the Forest’. they were also thought to be found in the buildings created by humans. This snake tradition is almost definitely of preChristian origin53. the house had success and luck.Ibid. . Metsästyksen kulttuurihistoria Suomessa. but also an attempt to avoid the wrath of the spirits47.Lehikoinen. It should be mentioned that often the hunters imagined the forest as a woman with two sides – either as the loving and benign Mielikki. or the cold and cruel Ajattara. Angered spirits could cause the hunter to get lost in the wilderness. Heikki. The forest animals were called Tapio’s cattle. It was widely believed that the person who bought the land from the spirits in order to build there. mill. Spirits of the House and Farm Guardian spirits in Finnish tradition were not limited to natural places.Muhonen. Timo. Lecture in the “Myyttinen käärme” conference in Hämeenlinna. Ilmar. Certain peculiar spruce trees (Picea abies f. 51 . or blood from his finger into the nest and hunters could tell from the outward appearance of the spirit how he felt about the man’s plans. was the first person to die there. Timo. it was a good sign46. Suomen kansankulttuuri. As with all the other places of importance. 48 . 2007. If it was treated badly or even killed. If the spirit appeared in plain clothes and looked rude. the house faced terrible times54. sauna was a sacred place to cleanse the body and spirit. Tuo hiisi hirviäsi. the bear was Tapio’s oxen.Lehikoinen. the nest served as a symbolic pathway between the humans and the spirits. Suomalaisten runojen uskonto. If the snake was treated well. it could warn people about them in advance52. liquor. Tapio also had wife called Mielikki49. who was imagined as the wealthy patriarch of his forest mansion. Kaarle. For the ancient Finns.Ibid. Some hunting prayers had clearly sexual overtones as the hunters tried to seduce the forest with the right words to provide bounty for them50. 47 . other buildings such as the barn.Óðrœrir 86 The main symbol for the forest’s väki was the anthill. part of it was sacrificed into the anthill. Suomalaisten runojen uskonto. The forest spirit was personified as Tapio. Metsästyksen kulttuurihistoria Suomessa. or was the first to make fire there.Muhonen. In order to thank the forest spirit for the bounty given. Heikki. the sauna was also guarded by a guardian spirit (‘saunanhaltija’) whose job it was 46 . sauna and the cattle shed were also considered to have their own spirits. the fox was Tapio’s dog. The mill spirits. If the spirit showed up in beautiful clothes and looked benign. 52 . 49 . became the guardian spirit of the place51. 54 . It was believed that the spirit of the forest would visit the man who sacrificed silver.

In certain celebrations. the name of the spirit of this particular crop came to refer to all of the field spirits58. getting drunk was almost mandatory. fighting. Even Väinämöinen is said to have sung after drinking beer. and it was thought that when one cleanses one’s body.Ibid. 58-63. Where there is barley. There were several customs regarding sowing and harvesting. water was poured on the stones for the spirit to enjoy the warmth of the sauna in peace56. and thus the spirit of beer. “Kylpynormit ja saunatapain yliluonnolliset vartijat. When people were finished. 1989. In Finland beer was enjoyed as a sacred drink at feasts such as the ‘Ukon vakat’. Pikka). Kaarle. . and violence. The arable land was sacred to the ancient Finns as the source of nutrition and life. Sauna was also the place where women gave birth and healers did their work. Sauna was at least as much of a sacred place as the church. The role of beer at a feast was to bring joy. and if the field spirits were remembered and treated with respect. which were aimed at showing proper respect to the spirits57. 58 . Ulla Piela and Maija-Liisa Heikinmäki. Uno.Pentikäinen. and singing. 57 . and probably at some point in history. 56 . a Finnish god of singing59. The haltija of the field was called Pellonpekko or just Pekko (Pekka. Juha. Suomalaisten runojen uskonto. Barley is one of the oldest cultivated grains in Finland. 59 . usually in springtime.Krohn. Riittipaikka Mansikki: A sacred “rite-site” in Mansikki where gifts are given.Harva.Ibid. mind and behavior must also be purified. 55 . Forssa: Forssan kirjapaino Oy. which makes Pekko. Field Spirits Each field and each crop was believed to have its own spirit.Óðrœrir 87 to ensure all the norms and customs regarding sauna were followed properly55. laughter. People were expected to act respectfully and calmly in the sauna.” In Valoa kansalle. the spirit of beer. edited by Pekka Laaksonen. Sacred beer consecrated with spells and mythical songs was brewed for the yearly festivities. good harvest luck ensued. there is always beer. Suomalaisten muinaisusko. but the folk songs strongly condemn any kind of misuse of alcohol that would lead to arguing. was probably originally the Finnish spirit of barley.

the Finns imagined the Big Dipper as a golden basket in which the very first bear was lowered to the earth. Kaarle.Krohn. or the environment of the animal in question60. It was also believed that some humans could take the form of a bear64. from the word ‘emä’ or ‘mother’. and ‘honka’ which means ‘pine tree’. Metsästyksen kulttuurihistoria Suomessa. 64 . if insulted she would hide them away from the hunter’s guns and arrows. or the primal mother of the species. one example of this is the use of the honorable title ‘Ukko’ rather than the sky-god’s real name. 63 . . but his original name was ‘Ohto’.Óðrœrir 88 IV.Leinonen. After every bear feast the bear’s skull was lifted and placed on the top of a pine tree so that the soul of the bear could return to heaven. This demonstrates that the real name of the bear was a taboo. Tuo hiisi hirviäsi. 61 . Ison karhun alla.Lehikoinen. and that this was obvious even from the outward appearance of the animal. Like many other Finno-Ugric peoples. and the soul could lose its direction if the body was killed.Leinonen. People turned to the ‘emuu’ when they had something to do with its living descendants. the biggest predator and undisputed king of the Finnish forests. Heikki. In modern Finnish the bear is called ‘karhu’. 2001 / 2008. since the animal’s soul was thought to be out of body. was thought to be the elder. the behavior. Hunters prayed that the emuu would allow them to hunt some of her “boys” and asked for her forgiveness after the kill was done. all the existing animals or plants were considered to be her sons and daughters. It was believed that since the ‘emuu’ protected and guided her own sons. and people refrained from using it not only out of respect for the divinity of the animal. It was especially a grave insult to kill a sleeping animal. This 60 . Ilmarinen. Hence the hunters always whistled before killing an animal that was sleeping61. in fact. The name of the species’ ‘emuu’ was usually somehow related to the qualities. including the venerable ‘He’63. Helsinki: Bildit Oy. For instance. The bear was thought to be able to understand speech and even to read minds. The guardian spirit of each animal or plant. Ison karhun alla. the bear’s ‘emuu’ was called Hongotar. thus signifying that the bear had his origin in the heavens62. the Heavenly King of the Forest Bear worship has been a crucial part of the religious practices of the northern peoples since ancient times. Heikki. This kind of traumatized animal soul could haunt the hunter and drive him to insanity. Antti and Willamo. but also because they did not want to lure the bear near their cattle.Lehikoinen. Similar taboos have been associated with other divine beings. the bear was associated with both the midwinter and midsummer. In Karelia. Antti and Willamo. was a sacred animal for them. Metsästyksen kulttuurihistoria Suomessa. which is a combination of the ‘-tar’ suffix denoting ‘female’ and consequently ‘motherhood’. Heikki. This mythic mother was called ‘emuu’. Bear. hundreds of different names have been collected. Suomalaisten runojen uskonto. Yet ‘karhu’ is by no means the only euphemism for the bear. Midsummer was traditionally celebrated on the 13th of July and was called ‘The Day of the Bear’. Karhu is a euphemism indicating the roughness of the bear’s hide (‘karhea’ means rough in Finnish). possibly because of the mythic marriage between a bear and a woman who were the founding ancestors of the bear clan. 62 . people did not eat bear meat as late as the early 20th century as it was regarded as a form of cannibalism. and the Finns were no exception to this. Emuu and Animal Beliefs Animals and plants also had their guardian spirits. In terms of the cycle of the year. This story is known amongst many Finno-Ugric tribes. Bears were also thought never to harm women. Heikki. The bear. Tuo hiisi hirviäsi. Ancient Finns believed that the bear had a strong connection with the human race.

V. lakes and springs. “Karhuntaljat entisajan kirkoissa. In Kansanomainen ajattelu. Vuotuinen ajantieto. The scholar Arvo Oja speculated that. Midwinter was in mid-January. the mythic birthday of that animal. offerings were placed inside 65 . where July was called ‘the Month of the Bear’ and the 13th of that month. In eating the bear’s flesh. near Kuopio. the people took on a part of his soul and qualities. for example. edited by Laura Stark and Eija Stark. The ancient marriage between the woman and the bear was also symbolically repeated66. Uhrikallio Suovu: Gifts are left during Karhujuhla (The Feast of the Bear) in midsummer in Suovo. nature was full of sacred places: stones. sacred trees located in the yard (pitämyspuu. a great celebration was held during which the bear was treated as a guest of honor. the bear hide was placed in the sacred grove after the feast67. When offering to the guardian spirits of buildings. Sacred Places For the ancient Finns. Suomalaisten runojen uskonto. this was the time when the bear was killed. . When the feast ended. such as cup stones. Juha. in ancient times. Offerings to nature spirits were made in natural places. and a feast was held65. The Finns were famous for their arctolatry. 2007. trees. Helsinki: SKS. The bear cult was very strong in Finland and continued until modern times. and according to Kustaa Vilkuna. a practice not completely unlike the Holy Communion practiced by Christians. when hunters killed a bear. hills. Kaarle. There is evidence that in rural areas of Central Finland bear skulls were being put on top of old skull pines until as late as in the 1930s68. karsikko) or at the local graveyard. Kustaa. or to the watery places for the water spirits. 67 .Óðrœrir 89 was also known in Estonia.” 68 .Krohn.Pentikäinen. and so the bear’s skull was raised to the top of a great pine tree called ‘The Bear Skull Pine’ (Karhunkallohonka) to the accompaniment of farewell songs. 66 .Oja.Vilkuna. “Viitasaaren teksti”. Arvo. Offerings to ancestral spirits were made at sacrificial sites near the house. the bear’s soul was to be returned to the heavens. people sacrificed to the anthill or to certain trees for the forest spirits.

Talve. Food. Ancient sacred places can be identified relatively easily from old place names. Groves. In Finland there 69 . The sacred place was separated from the profane human world. In general. Tartu. as a further sign of respect. May 4-6. People would only gather at these sacred sites for religious reasons during certain holidays. as were places with close proximity to natural water73. Anne.Hyvärinen. these places were at one point considered to be taboo places with very strong väki70. hiisi as a place is associated with ancient graveyards and sacred groves71. In folk religion though. sacred sites were called ‘hiisi’. and healing. and the prevailing theory has it that hiisi originally meant ‘sacred place’ but later became the name of a demon due to Christian influence. coins. 70 . Sacrificial Stones and Springs Kuppikivi Rapola: A cup stone from Rapola dating back to the Bronze Age. . In ancient Finland and Estonia. In Finland. 2007. Hiisi is also an evil spirit.Krohn. Suomen kansankulttuuri. a demon of sorts. include the word ‘pyhä’ (sacred). Over one hundred Finnish place names. “Hiisi-Places on the Landscape of Eastern Finland in the Light of Archive Materials. the human impact on the place was kept to a bare minimum. Disturbing a sacred site destroyed the luck of the violator. and the luck of his descendants. Porvoo-Juva: WS Bookwell Oy 1894 / 2008.” Paper presented at the international seminar “Holy Groves Around The Baltic Sea”. The sacred places of the Finno-Ugric peoples are usually located on top of hills. In other words. Another possible sign of the ancient sanctity of a place is the word ‘hiisi’.Óðrœrir 90 these buildings or at nearby trees or stones69. mostly lakes. and jewel offerings were left there.Ibid. Estonia. Suomen suvun pakanallinen jumalanpalvelus. Ilmar.Talve. sacrifice. Julius. ribbons were tied to the trees72. No tree was cut there nor was cattle grazed or the earth dug. High and naturally beautiful locations were valued. 72 . Suomen kansankulttuuri. Hiisi was a place for prayer. meaning ‘sacred place’ or ‘sacred grove’. 73 . 71 . Ilmar.

81 . as well as some parts of Savonia and Central Finland75. When a new house was built. one of the first things that was done was to choose a place for the karsikko. Karsikko: the Tree of the Dead The creation of the ‘karsikko’.Krohn. but there is some evidence that the highest hill near the village (often known as ‘Ukonvuori’ or ‘Ukko’s mountain’) was the location for sacrificial feasts in honour of Ukko. The Finns also regarded springs as sacred. this memorial could also be a rock81.Ibid. natural stones. 79 . 75 . were sacrificed into the springs. they gave a little offering of the money before it was spent on anything else80. Details about the dead were carved on the tree. man-made ‘cups’ on the surface (the actual technique used to make these cups is debated among scholars). was a tradition that was predominantly found in Savonia. or literally ‘one who has been pruned’. and money. Suomen kansankulttuuri. one single tree. The scholar Hornborg suggested that in pre-Christian times each family had their own karsikko78. The word ‘karsikko’ could mean either a group of karsikko trees. Janne.Krohn. .Ibid. Money was also given as an offering to the karsikko. Midsummer night was considered to be an especially good time to make offerings to the guardian spirit of a spring. the game. which have one or more small. it marked the memory of certain significant events or disasters. Suomalaiset vainajien karsikot ja ristipuut. this involved leaving food offerings overnight74. Ilmar. Water was ‘bought’ from springs and used in healing and folk magic76. This kind of karsikko forest was a sacred grove of sorts where the offerings were made to the ancestors.Hornborg. and this plot became the karsikko as the years went by and trees prepared for each person to die in the household 79. this was believed to prevent the return of the souls of the dead from the graveyard77. among other things. 1992. Cup stones are known from all over Finland. Suomen muinaismuistoyhdistys. As with other spirits. The tree was trimmed at the scene of the event. Suomalaisten runojen uskonto.Ibid. Suomalaisten runojen uskonto. 80 . it was thought crucial that the offerings were made before anyone else had tasted the foods.Vilkuna. Karsikko trees were often located along the road between the house and the graveyard. The ancestral spirits were given the first share of the crops. Whenever people made a successful trade. In Virittäjä-lehti 1886. 82 . and the year of the event was carved on it. Kaarle. “Karsikoista”.Óðrœrir 91 are no great mountains. It’s worth mentioning that several karsikko trees were created at the places where people were murdered during the bloody Finnish civil war in 191882. 77 . or even piece of wood collected from a Karsikko tree which had fallen down. most often the initials and the dates of birth and death of the deceased. It was especially important to remember the ancestors during family celebrations. the milk. 78 . Sacrificial stones have been either unshaped. but was often shared by the ancestors of a certain house or family.Hornborg. and the fish.Talve. Kaarle. Usually this meant that a section of the forest near the house was left standing. or drank the beverages. or so-called ‘cup stones’. except in Northern Ostrobothnia. 76 . and are most commonly located in areas that had major Iron Age settlements. but instead of the life of a person. or silver. Hornborg also mentions the so called memorial karsikko. “Karsikoista”. This pruned tree could be dedicated to a deceased person. This kind of karsikko was made in the same way as the usual karsikko. 74 .

People might. a small tree sprout was also planted in the yard to be tended to by the new owners. Alder was associated with the forest spirits and also used in folk magic85. his goal was to renew his luck. and crops.Virrankoski. The pitämyspuu was promised that it would be left to grow in peace and that not a single twig would be harmed. unlike folk poems which were always sung90. 85 . since it was believed that the tree spirit wouldn’t serve anyone younger than itself86. The relationship between luck and fate is twofold. Luck or ‘onni’ (sometimes also known as ‘lykky’. Suomalaisten runojen uskonto. libations were also poured for the tree.Ibid. Firstly. 90 . However. 1989. Suomalaisten runojen uskonto. Forssa: Forssan kirjapaino Oy. Ilmar. Personal and communal luck was protected at all costs89. Additionally. childbirth. 91 . different livelihoods had their own luck associated with them. the oldest tree in the forest was venerated and called the elder of the forest83. 87 . and it was this that gave juniper smoke the power to fend off evil spirits.Talve.Ibid. at the foot of which he would bury his offerings to the spirits. hunting.Krohn. which were recited aloud. Luck was mainly protected and acquired by means of spells. Suomen kansankulttuuri. the inhabitants of the house pledged that they would offer to the tree the same foods they were having at each feast. Luck was therefore something that a person was born with and that he carried with him throughout life. if the master of house was not pleased with the protection the tree was offering. Kaarle. Pentti. During pregnancy. and has counterparts in Scandinavian countries. or ‘säästi’ in Karelia) was protected and maintained through the right actions and rites88. This tree was associated with the land spirits. For every situation it was of the utmost importance to secure a divine mandate from the spirits or 83 . The rowan tree was also sacred. 86 . affect the outcome of their actions by following omens. When a house was first built. When a person became ill. This tree was also regarded as sacred. During wedding ceremonies the bridal couple’s luck was protected. In addition. There were also beliefs about the other trees in the forest. or ‘the tree that is cared for’. the word ‘onni’ was sometimes used to refer to a person’s fate and their guardian spirit. In every yard a special tree was grown called ‘pitämyspuu’ . “Rantsilan noita ja hänen ihmisnukkensa.Ibid. and cutting it down brought bad luck. 202-207.Krohn. Luck and Rites Every human being needs a certain amount of luck in order to reach his goals. cattle. and the naming of the child. etc. it was his share of life. he could cut it down87. it was crucial to secure the luck of the community and the family with regards to their livelihoods and critical moments of life. On the other hand it was believed that people had the ability to influence their luck at certain sacred moments of the natural cycle. 88 . and it was used extensively in folk magic84. Ulla Piela and MaijaLiisa Heikinmäki. and taboos such as keeping the different väki apart91.” In Valoa kansalle. edited by Pekka Laaksonen.Óðrœrir 92 Sacred Trees of the Forest and the Yard Every self-respecting hunter and fisherman had his own sacrifice tree. Lumen ja valon kansa. moon phases. 89 . . Juniper was known to have an especially strong and beautiful guardian spirit.Ibid. as previously mentioned.Hyry and Pentikäinen & Pentikäinen. steps were taken to protect the luck of the mother and the newborn child. VI. for instance. growing crops. 84 . The tree spirit was said to protect the house. For the ancient Finns. and the human lifespan. Kaarle. and a person might possess luck in fishing. and to get through the critical moments in life.

Ibid. and he was the spiritual leader of his community. Often the inherent capability to be a tietäjä was inherited in the family and the older sage would teach his skills to a younger relative he had chosen to continue the craft. People asked for the tietäjä’s help with many different issues.Ibid. Pyhä ja profaani. The tietäjä was always an abnormal person who was both respected and feared. Vainajainpalvelus muinaisilla suomalaisilla. In the rituals. Different spells and rituals were also used to affect the outcome of events (e. Vainajainpalvelus muinaisilla suomalaisilla. Luck with the crops was secured by carefully evaluating omens before starting work and honoring the spirits of the fields in a proper manner93.Óðrœrir 93 ancestors for your actions or at least to make sure the spirits were not hostile to your plans. Jane.Varonen. a child born with a tooth in his mouth was particularly adept to learn these skills since he carried with him the soul of a tietäjä. The wisdom and knowledge of the tietäjä were highly valued. from marrying to negotiating land sales95. According to one belief. 93 . A tietäjä. As the ancestor spirit made its home inside the person. Through ritual. Interaction with the spirits followed the principle of do ut des. might drink from a human skull in order to gain excellent memory. Mircea. using magic and spells to enhance a girl’s erotic allure in order to attract suitors) or to protect oneself from harmful forces92. When the normal. The favor of the spirits was established through sacrifice and prayer. the world regained its original potent sacred power94. 95 . actions. or use other rituals related to the dead to gain the increased mental powers which would help him in his work.Ibid. and they often had the gift of clairvoyance. these skills could also be sold. Matti. the ‘noaidi’. everyday life of his community was disturbed. People could. Porvoo. The belief that spiritual power is received from the dead is very apparent in the Finnish tradition. 97 .Varonen. Juva: WSOY. This demonstrates the connection between ritual and myth. for example. he was approached to give his counsel. people repeated through words. Tietäjä: Healer.. 94 . for instance. and during this sickness. In some places.Tuovinen. and prepared him for life as a shaman98. or ‘I give so you may give’. were considered highly powerful and people traveled long distances to meet them96. the tietäjä always drew his power from the underworld before doing healing99. cause the person to fall ill. . after which the spirits would agree to protect the person’s actions if the spirits so wished. Tietäjistä kuppareihin: Kansanparannuksesta ja parantajista Suomessa. which tell how the pieces of the sampo helped to create the world’s first harvest.g. Helsinki. 92 . the fertility of the field was strengthened by singing the old mythic songs about the sampo. Seer and Sage The Finnish tietäjä was an important and respected person in his community. transfer the ancestral soul into the person. Ritual is the place where myth lives. come to meet the tietäjä and learn his skills even though they were not kin. a healer and a sage. This gruesome sickness brought the person closer to the spirit world. Matti. VII.Eliade. They might. the myths which recounted the reasons why the world is the way it is.Ibid. Most importantly. The ancestors had dramatic ways to instill their knowledge in the shaman-to-be. Loka-Kirjat. A tietäjä usually learned his or her skills from an older tietäjä. The scholar Matti Varonen argues that the power of tietäjä was believed to come from the ancestors97. he had a special connection to the spirit world. 2003. The sages of the Sami people. 99 . however. he was thought to possess higher wisdom. 96 . 98 . and symbols. 1984.

The life-soul is the thing separating living beings from the dead. Lumen ja valon kansa 108 . 107 . Suomalainen mytologia. It was believed that the child 100 . Anna-Leena Siikala. Instead. and in death returns to the underworld to live among its kin. The human psyche is formed by the ‘itse’ soul. which literally means ‘self’. . the life-soul enters human beings while in the uterus. Suomen perinneatlas. The third soul-being associated with humans was the guardian spirit. 1967. Lumen ja valon kansa. The soul without a place continued look for moral compensation for the pain suffered.Hyry and Pentikäinen & Pentikäinen. Human Souls Humans beings were believed to have several souls. Several scholars have discussed the possible link between the kantele and the shaman drum. In former times. 106 .Haavio. 110 . wanting. If a person died a violent death or as a result of some other wrongdoing. the soul was caught between worlds. ‘Body-Soul’).Hyry and Pentikäinen & Pentikäinen. or a fly103. 111 . and also appear as a ghost106. The kantele was believed to be of mythical origin.Siikala. 105 . Suomen perinneatlas. and these souls were also thought to wander without a place107. The henki. and was said to manifest itself as the signs of life: breathing.Hyry and Pentikäinen & Pentikäinen. or ‘life-soul’. 103 . warmth. Martti. VIII. Matti. and would not be able to enter the realm of its ancestors to exist in peace. 101 .Varonen. SKS. the henki was believed to leave the soul in the form of a small animal such as a butterfly. 102 . Matti. Sometimes the soul might even turn to the living to help them to accomplish some mission that the soul had failed to finish during his own life109. where it remained a soul without a place (‘Sijaton Sielu’). Suomen perinneatlas. ‘vapor’. 2007. or if the possessor of the soul was a wrongdoer himself. Suomalainen samanismi. which was called the person’s ‘luonto’. Matti. or it might try to be born again into the world. the soul would become confused. The scholar Haavio claims that the luonto could be the mythic mother of the person’s clan. Matti. Anna-Leena. but it was also part of everyday life for ordinary people100. 109 . represented the life force of the human body.Ibid. people who had committed suicide were not buried on hallowed church ground. For instance.Óðrœrir 94 A Tietäjä’s instrument was the kantele. or simply ‘life’. which the first healer and tietäjä Väinämöinen played at the beginning of time. Because of this pregnant women would avoid places where traumatic events such as murders had taken place108. and to possess magical qualities.Sarmela. When a person drew his last breath. Names for the ‘lifesoul’ in Finno-Ugric languages translate to ‘breath’. a little bird. We can identify three different soul-beings connected with each person: the ‘henki’ or ‘löyly’ (‘Life-Soul’. 104 . literally meaning his ‘nature’ and ‘temper’. even in modern Finnish.Sarmela. suggested that the kantele is an evolved Baltio-Finnic version of the shaman’s drum101. Porvoo Helsinki: WSOY. Suomen perinneatlas. The itse belongs to the family. which would make the luonto an ‘emuu’ of the human being111. and the ‘luonto’ (‘guardian spirit’). A luonto was the spiritual guide and protector of the person. the same soul can be reborn into the family line. and feeling being105. sometimes the guardian spirit even appeared in a place before the actual person arrived110.Ibid. blood circulation. For the Finns. Vainajainpalvelus muinaisilla suomalaisilla. and other vital signs102.Sarmela. those who breathe from those who do not104. This soul makes the newborn a person by giving him consciousness and personality. at the point when the first signs of life begin to become apparent.Sarmela. Lumen ja valon kansa. Itse is the personality which can exist outside the body as a knowing. it could appear as his doppelgänger. the ‘itse’ (the ‘Self’). heartbeat. Matti. one of those scholars.

The extraordinary mental powers and the charisma of remarkable people. 115 . 119 .Talve. 116 . the ancestors were neglected or insulted in any way. Matti. Hence the ancestors can be said to have had a greater influence on people’s lives then the higher gods117. 113 . If the living fulfilled their responsibilities to their ancestors in a proper way. they were believed to be able strengthen it through carrying out the appropriate rituals115. for this was when the soul was not yet fully located in the underworld. or a butterfly. Suomalainen mytologia. Karjalaiset riitti-itkut. the spirits continued to protect and support them.Harva. VIII. On the other hand.Sarmela. This resulted in an ecstatic state which helped the healing and gave the tietäjä exceptional powers114.Haavio. Matti. receiving their offerings.Konkka. and it was only then that the child was fully accepted into the family. A person without a spiritual guardian was unlucky.Varonen. Ancestors For the ancient Finns. and sick. and hearing their prayers. During certain yearly feasts. and would allow it to possess him completely. the dead were in contact with the living. Ikuinen ikävä. such as the tietäjä. traditional ways.Talve. depressed. The individual person and the family asked guidance from the ancestors in all major decisions. Anna-Leena. the spirits of the dead were thought to reside in the land of the dead. The ancestors might appear as ghosts in their former homes. In Karelia. 1985. among other things. 114 . Ilmar. they went to the land of dead which was thought to be located at the graveyard. Visiting ancestors might appear in human or in animal form118. Even after death. consisting of both living and deceased members116. since they might the carrying the souls of their ancestors. 117 . Suomen kansankulttuuri. Suomalaisten muinaisusko. Martti.Siikala. people also had a more personal relationship with the dead and would visit their graves. was explained by him having a powerful guardian spirit113. When people died. The family was thought as a single whole. The dead soul was thought to appear as a bird.Óðrœrir 95 received his guardian spirit at the time of his naming. Uno. A luonto could appear in the form of a person or animal but sometimes it was understood as the ‘nonpersonal luck’ of the person112. Helsinki: SKS. by means of experiencing a traumatic event. or when he got his first tooth. The difference between these two approaches can probably be explained through the status of the deceased. or as a flower. If a butterfly flew inside the house. A person with a strong character was thought to have a strong guardian spirit which provided him luck and the ability to carry out his plans successfully. take the soul of a living person to the underworld with them. talk to them. and in the worst case. Unelma. however. it was not touched. problems would ensue. he would use spells in order to call his luonto from the underworld. On the one hand. Suomalainen samanismi. there was no real barrier that separated the living from the dead. . the spirits of the dead were thought visit their living relatives. It was also possible for a person to lose their guardian spirit. belief in this kind of reincarnation and the soul was widespread. where they could only be reached by the soul-traveling tietäjä. The danger was at its highest during the first 30-40 days following a death. 118 . When the tietäjä did his healing work. Vainajainpalvelus muinaisilla suomalaisilla. Meeting dead relatives again could also be a positive experience full of joy. Suomen perinneatlas. and certainly not killed119. One’s own ancestors were 112 . If a person had a guardian spirit that was weak. The relationship between the living and the dead seems to have been curiously twofold. Ilmar. and give them offerings. Suomen kansankulttuuri. If. The ancestors were the upholders of the family’s moral values. and children were advised not to harm the birds. and societal structures.

Matti. which was held around the end of October. It was also believed that ancestors visited their relatives at this time of the year. and so changes in temperature became the deciding factor. there was little reason to follow the Solstices and Equinoxes (which are decided in accordance with the movements of the sun). these two concepts do not contradict each other121. Vuotuinen ajantieto. IX. When spring arrived.Vilkuna. Kaarle. ‘Tuonela’ and ‘Manala’ became more abstract concepts122. and the spring started to return to the world. as well as at Kekri125. July is usually the hottest month in Finland while January is the coldest123. and a summer half. In an agrarian society. and formed a community of the dead in the graveyard.Vilkuna. Joulu ended around the mid-winter. and many traditions originally associated with Kekri were transferred to Joulu124. Vainajainpalvelus muinaisilla suomalaisilla.Ibid. So it would not be unreasonable to say that the ancient Finns probably thought that they continued to live in their graves. 121 . During this time. branches of spring. and in the middle of the winter half. the “house of Tuoni” simply refers to the grave. Kustaa. During these feasts.Óðrœrir 96 regarded as somewhat closer and more familiar (albeit still with the element of fear and horror that is always present when the living approach the dead). However. Cycle of the Year Finland has four distinctive seasons. during Easter. from the 21st of December to the 13th of January.Varonen. and the sacred fires burned. ‘Tuoni’. the second idea is that the souls reside in an underworld called ‘Tuonela’ or ‘Manala’. Suomalaisten runojen uskonto. 123 . Vuotuinen ajantieto. In later times. people would gather in natural places to celebrate the new season of growth. when the winter’s back was said to be broken (like the great oak was cut down in the folk songs). But as Kaarle Krohn has shown. The coming of spring was hurried during Shrovetide by certain rituals. In the middle of the summer half was midsummer in July. decorated. Kekri was a harvest feast and a memorial celebration for the family’s ancestors. Finnish spells and folk songs also represent two ideas about the location of the souls of the dead. 124 . Christmas). The ancient Finns divided the year into a winter half. The first idea is that the dead simply live in their graves. sacrifices were made to the spirits in order to ensure luck for the future. From there. with the two yearly transitions between the two halves occurring in mid-October and mid-April. The god of death. did not originally mean the personification of death but the dead corpse itself. nature spirits were worshiped. Matti. however. who were thought to visit the living on that occasion. or beginning of November. were regarded with fear120. 126 . .Krohn. called ‘Talvennapa’. The Joulu period lasted for three weeks.Varonen. This tradition still lives in Finland as part of children’s culture126. Vainajainpalvelus muinaisilla suomalaisilla. Each year ended and the new year began at the ‘Kekri’ feast. 122 . Yet in many folk poems.Ibid. Cattle were put out to 120 . This explains practices such as memorial feasts in the graveyards and the need to lay the dead person at rest in the graveyard of his own community. These sacrifices were mostly given mostly to household and land spirits. young children would walk from house to house to show off the first. and of other powerful people. midwinter in January. 125 . and finally became the name for the ruler of the land of the dead. The next major celebration was ‘Joulu’ (Yule. but the souls of the powerful tietäjä. and to recite spells of good luck to the hostess of the house. which probably grew in significance over time due to Christianity. it evolved into a general term for death. Kustaa. which have had their effect on the yearly festivities.

food was offered. Cattle and horses were again brought inside. As the editor.Óðrœrir 97 pasture. and the ancestors.Ibid. great communal feasts for Ukko were held. -Cat Heath Photographs: Kuppikivi Harola. During May and June. Editor’s Note: The author would like to let it be known that some of the Finnish words that are capitalized here would not normally be so in Finnish. Birth of Fire. during July. the word ‘luonto’ would not normally be prefaced with an article in Finnish. and people prayed to Ukko that he would give them rain and good harvest. and magical rituals were carried out for their protection during the summer. the household spirits. 128 . The great communal gatherings in the spring gave way to more family-focused celebrations held inside the house and in the yard. Talvennapa: The back of Winter breaks and the bear turns his side. As the year progressed towards autumn and winter. I have tried to tread a line between the Finnish and English rules. Secondly. and people once more prepared for winter128. Uhrikallio Suovu and Kuppikivi Rapola images courtesy of Ranys Tuunainen. At these feasts. In English. in referring to the ‘luonto’. . Talvennapa and Riittipaikka Mansikki images courtesy of Jani Koski. This man is performing a rite to help break Winter’s back. the celebrations became more associated with land spirits. 127 . this is not possible as it would cause ambiguity for the reader. there was the Day of the Bear127.Ibid.

sagas and skaldic poetry in a written form. descriptive and well-trusted the secondary source may be. However.asp . reconstructionists understand this issue and require little persuasion of the value of primary sources. Textual meaning is open to varying interpretations. making it more difficult to find teachers. Some of these sources give firsthand accounts and impressions of historical events. others record oral traditions. An Anglo-Saxon reconstructionist could read essays or listen to lectures about Beowulf.http://www. Heimskringla is a collection of sagas that reveals information about the society and politics of medieval Norway. These textbooks and later works are called secondary sources.Óðrœrir 98 Self-Directed Language Learning Strategies for Reading Primary Sources in Their Original Languages • By Caspian Smith In recent history.fordham. But when it comes to language learning. traditional handicrafts. What is a source language. but these would be secondary sources. brewing. in part because their areas of interest are less common ones. and a translator must make interpretive decisions when choosing how to translate vocabulary and how to structure sentences. it is natural to seek out a more experienced or knowledgeable person for instruction. reconstructionists can gain a valuable skill. However.http://www.asp 2 . with guidance on how and why to approach self-directed language learning. but selfdirected learning is growing in popularity because of its many benefits.edu/halsall/source/robinson-sources. Beowulf is an example of Anglo-Saxon literature.wisconsinhistory. Beowulf and Heimskringla are primary sources. 2 In general.1 For example.org/turningpoints/primarysources. Reconstructionists as a group tend to embrace self-directed learning. 1 . Relying solely on secondary sources would be equivalent to reading film reviews without ever viewing the film itself. but also because they have come from (or into) a strong Western cultural background that supports the individual’s quest for knowledge. No matter how accurate. Primary sources are extremely valuable to historians and reconstructionists for several reasons. believing that they need experts to present new subject material to them. it is not equivalent to the primary source itself. Because of this. and what is the value of learning one? A source language is exactly what it sounds like: it is a language in which one or more primary sources are written. one obstacle still remains. they are unsure where to begin. Many textbook authors and historians discuss historical events and make references to (or attempt to interpret) primary sources. many people are reticent to take charge of their own learning. Reading a primary source in translation is not equal to reading it in its original language. Whether a learner chooses an accredited university course or an online workshop. the learning process has been the domain of the education establishment. Many reconstructionists teach themselves history. and folk skills.

etc. as primary sources are literature rooted in a specific culture. A living language is one that is commonly spoken today. a Canadian who decides to learn Dutch in preparation for a trip to Holland. Latin is not considered a living language for. the decision to learn a source language usually arises within the context of attempting to reconstruct the target culture. Linguists differ in their definitions and categorizations of languages. The older definition of a dead language simply required a language to have no native speakers. Most definitions include the requirement that the language must have at least some native speakers. The Devil Knows Latin: Why America needs the classical tradition (Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Old West Norse. 2001) 23-24.E. although it is spoken fluently by scholars and Roman Catholic authorities. The language and the culture are best learned in tandem. is a dead language. Whether a reconstructionist focuses on Old Norse. so before contrasting the differences between learning a living language and learning a dead language. The other definition of an extinct language is one for which all knowledge of its grammar. staring through the window at the riches within. There is general consensus about the idea of a living language. by many definitions. requires a dead language to have neither living native speakers nor a living descendant language. because no one could interpret its writings. has been lost. no living people speak it as a first language learned from birth.3 Living. moving from a translation to the original document removes another barrier. By this definition. By this definition. for example. Dead. pronunciation. There was no one generation with which AngloSaxon died. Christian Kopff. Ancient Egyptian was considered extinct before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon are dead languages. Anglo-Saxon is not a dead language because it evolved into Middle English and then into Modern English. partially informed by Darwinian ideas of evolution. After the Rosetta Stone was discovered and Egyptian hieroglyphics could be interpreted. If moving from secondary sources to primary sources removes one barrier of interpretation that stands between the reconstructionist and the target culture.. Other linguists would complicate the discussion further by thus terming Anglo-Saxon as a dead language (no living speakers) but not an extinct language (no living descendant languages). . By this definition. and Extinct Languages A reconstructionist who has been persuaded of the value of learning source languages and has chosen to learn Old West Norse has a very different task than. However. Anglo-Saxon or another language. reconstructionists understand that a person who is not prepared to fully participate in one culture is left on the outside of every culture. the language came to be viewed as dead instead of extinct. The newer definition. but there is more dissension about how to categorize others as either dead or extinct. Dutch is a living language.Óðrœrir 99 Important and telling elements of a text may be glossed over or lost by the very act of translating. it simply changed incrementally into something else. Mastering the original text of Beowulf makes sense within the context of learning Anglo-Saxon culture. the discussion will be summarized and terms will be defined as follows. For reconstructionists. 3 . the language learning process can be long and difficult.

Differences between Learning a Dead Language and Learning a Living Language The aforementioned Canadian who is travelling to Holland might buy a Rosetta Stone program or find a Dutch speaking partner to practice with. vocabulary or lore. but in its inseparability from the culture being reconstructed. As detailed in the following table. whether it has living descendant languages or not. The possible exception to this is Old Norse. are currently becoming completely extinct as their last remaining native speakers pass away and no documents exist to preserve their grammar. many of which were never written down. which can be read without difficulty by speakers of modern Icelandic. vocabulary and stories.http://www. The possibility of this happening to Old Church Slavonic.4 Oral Written Receptive Listening Reading Productive Speaking Writing 4 . then. or the scarcity of Gothic speaking pen pals? Hardly. or most other languages valued by Northern European Reconstructionism is virtually nil because of the written record. subscribe to a Dutch newspaper or host a Dutch exchange student. there are four main language skills. Importance of Preserving Dead Languages In addition to learning a certain language in order to access primary sources. A language with no native speakers. Anglo-Saxon.Óðrœrir 100 For the purposes of this discussion. will be considered a dead language. S/he could rent Dutch movies. and each can be categorized as productive (active) or receptive (passive) as well as oral or written. By this definition. reconstructionists are often aware of their role in preventing their ancestral languages from becoming completely extinct (all knowledge of its structure and literature being lost). the value of learning a dead source language lies not in the need to preserve it from oblivion. even if they have never done so. The more students there are of a particular dead language. This paper is mainly concerned with Northern European languages.org/lingualinks/languagelearning/otherresources/gudlnsfralnggandcltrlrnngprgrm/FourBasicLanguageSkills. most of these strategies are geared toward learning living languages.sil. Languages such as those in the Athabascan family. a task which is very different from that of learning a dead language. For reconstructionists. a language that is currently spoken and which has native speakers will be considered a living language. the source languages studied by reconstructionists are dead languages. However. Reconstructionists have many advantages over business travellers in this case. people have some idea of how to go about learning a language informally. In today’s global society. Should reconstructionists bemoan the lack of films dubbed into Old Church Slavonic.htm . the lower its chances of eventually becoming extinct. most of which have extant documents and do not depend on current native speakers to orally pass down grammar. as the skills needed to master a dead language are specific and fewer than those required by a living language.

requires complete reading fluency (including knowledge of genre structures). reading and listening are the two receptive skills.htm 6 . the great difference becomes apparent. There is no way around learning grammar. students who previously considered themselves language dunces can acquire a high level of reading fluency. which has only 50.com/facts/2001/JohnnyLing.6 In addition. When learning any language.com/od/spanishvocabulary/a/size_of_spanish. but the list of vocabulary itself is much smaller than that of most living languages. This focus on reading and listening is a boon for the learner of a source language as receptive skills are easier to acquire. or one-sixth as many words as Modern English. Modern Spanish has around 100.Óðrœrir 101 Mastery of a living language must eventually include mastery of all four skills. Unfortunately. Skills Required for Mastery of a Dead Language Reading The necessity of fluency in reading is obvious considering that the end goal when learning a source language is to read primary sources. but when contrasted with the end goals of learning living languages. but when it is approached as an interesting puzzle to be solved and learners are passionate about the language and its culture. As seen in the chart above. and most other living languages have a comparable number. on the other hand. the word “grammar” appears to be a powerful magical spell which immediately causes eyes to glaze over and mental paralysis to set in.000-60. The Anglo-Saxon language that a student invests hours in learning this year will not change at all over the next twenty years.http://spanish. for better or worse. there is no new slang. saga or chapter at 5 . The Anglo-Saxon reconstructionist’s main interaction with the language takes place through reading difficult texts in multiple genres. The Canadian traveller may never have to read more than street signs and menus in Dutch. receptive skills increase more quickly and nearly always exist at a higher level of mastery than productive skills. from the evolution of language. as is demonstrated by the many people who can read and understand a college textbook but would be hard pressed to write at that level.000 words.shtml . Students can focus their efforts on the vocabulary of one poem.000 words. Not only is the student of dead languages freed.000 words. In addition.http://hypertextbook. This is true even for native speakers. while writing and speaking are productive. or the audience members who appreciate the rhetorical abilities of a politician but could not deliver the same speech with such effectiveness.about. especially for the self-taught learner. no technological vocabulary that arises with each new invention. Reading with comprehension requires understanding of the language’s underlying grammatical structure. Mastery of a dead language. with new ones being added and old ones falling out of use constantly. some listening ability (for languages such as Anglo-Saxon whose bodies of literature contain many works meant to be performed aloud). Set list of vocabulary Modern English has around 300. but no writing skill and very little speaking ability.5 Contrast that with Anglo-Saxon. not all the vocabulary words of a source language are necessary to read the text of a single work.

reading articles and puzzling through about fifty unfamiliar words. The beginning learner will usually translate on paper. frequently with the aid of dictionaries. language enthusiasts or fellow reconstructionists.000 Dutch vocabulary words. pronunciation is important. the beginning of the sentence may have been forgotten. not for reconstructionism) of having a limited number of target texts quickly becomes apparent. Pronunciation practice can be combined . while reading Heimskringla in Old Norse. The Canadian traveller has to translate the Dutch she hears into her native English. Each time the book is reopened. friends. most likely it will be for family. The advantage (for language learners. not to communicate with a community of Anglo-Saxon speakers. No modern bard or skald. the reader still did not need to learn 31. saga or other text in public. the vocabulary set remains the same. However. and only one is necessary for learning source languages. Translating in your head or on paper Fluency in translation is necessary. In other words. bless his heart. But far from boring the student. “In public” probably does not mean Carnegie Hall. Even if each line has ten words. As skill is gained and the speed of translation increases. and the day after that as well. This is another major difference between learning a dead language and learning a living language. and manages to re-read it about three times a year. the traveller sits in an Amsterdam coffee shop for a couple hours. the repetition allows him/her to glean new meaning and deeper understanding from the lines. These two directions of translation are two different skills. Still. the Anglo-Saxon student has worked through the entire 3182 line text of Beowulf. most of the recorded literature comes from oral tradition and was originally intended to be performed aloud.820 words because most of those words are common ones which are repeated many times. wants to butcher the pronunciation so badly that the audience receives the impression that Beowulf just couldn’t speak German very well. the need to write the translation will eventually cease. because the translation must be done one word at a time. Many learners will eventually want to share their ability by reciting a poem. the Canadian traveller needs to know around 3. and also has to translate her own thoughts from English to Dutch before communicating them. having studied a language and text. The student thoroughly enjoyed reading Beowulf. the learner’s goal is to read source texts. mastering one text before moving on to another. Correct oral pronunciation At first it may appear that pronunciation skill is not necessary. After a year of heavy exposure to the Dutch language. after all. and by the time the end of the sentence has been translated. also with about fifty unfamiliar words. the reader acquires meaning by mentally translating each phrase from Old Norse into her native language. In order to read any single edition of a Dutch newspaper.Óðrœrir 102 a time. There is no need to translate anything from her native language into Old Norse. Meanwhile. finishing the newspaper with a smile. but only from the source language to the reader’s native language. But tomorrow there will be another newspaper. The next day will bring another list of new vocabulary words.

rather than being limited to the length of a three-credit hour college course. is not identical with the skill of speaking. necessity spurs creativity. The skill of pronunciation. plan. methods. with the major difference that a learning project can be as small or as large as the learner wishes. However. “I understand Anglo-Saxon” or “I recite Anglo-Saxon”. For these learners. . often memorizing it. This can roughly correspond to a course and its curriculum. the learner is taking a completed text. So. An example of an overly general goal is: Become a fluent reader in Anglo-Saxon. necessitating the learner’s further response to that answer. 2. These four major parts will be analyzed and modified if necessary throughout the duration of the LLP through the use of self-evaluation. but that is how it is commonly referred to within non-academic circles. It usually requires thinking on one’s feet as the conversation partner responds. for the learner must take on the roles of both teacher and student. as for their ancestors. and then pronouncing it correctly. Rather. Reciting a saga or an epic poem does not require the language learner to respond to a conversation partner or to create original material.Óðrœrir 103 with translation practice (discussed above) by using progressively longer passages to memorize and recite aloud. A more specific goal would 7 . complete with correct grammar and accurate vocabulary. this approach also requires greater initiative and commitment. Developing a Language Learning Project Set goals and objectives Goals are general and often difficult to measure. Usually it would be inaccurate to claim that one “speaks” a dead language when one’s skill actually lies in reading or studying the dead language. putting that thought in the target language. This builds memory and correct oral pronunciation as well as mental translation skills. “I speak Anglo-Saxon” is very different than saying “I read Anglo-Saxon”. Speaking requires forming an original thought. Self-directed learning allows the language learner to move at his/her own pace and to take advantage of the most convenient hours and his/her strongest learning styles. Objectives are specific and can be measured. for a learner to say. which will consist of four major parts: 1) a goal with objectives. and takes most of the responsibility for executing and sustaining a language learning effort. Self Directed Learning of a Source Language Most language learners do not find themselves living two blocks from a major university with twenty hours of free time a week and a thousand extra dollars in their pockets. is to design a learning project. 3) texts/materials. and 4) a study plan. Review of Applied Linguistics in China. whether one is learning a language or another subject. “Selling Self-Directed Language Learning”. materials. while necessary. 7 The first step in self-directed learning. 2) methods/strategies. The discussion that follows will guide learners in developing a Language Learning Project (LLP). and evaluation. 2006. all at a much lower cost. and then forming the sounds correctly. Self-directed language learning can be defined as language learning efforts where the learner makes most of the choices regarding goals.Don Snow.

go at your own pace. Objectives should be specific and realistic steps toward reaching a goal. may easily define goals but have a more difficult time with objectives. However. 8 . and classrooms and curricula are now being designed in new and creative formats so that all students can learn in the way that is most comfortable for them. The number of objectives will stem from the learner’s personality and learning style. you will be better able to choose approaches that work for you.Óðrœrir 104 be Read Beowulf in Anglo-Saxon without having to stop to look up more than one word per page. Language learning is not a sprint. the theory of multiple intelligences is well-known. Once goals have been defined. If your textbook lists 200 verbs. for example. you prefer abstract or concrete ideas. Again.Linda Verlee Williams. one who looks at the big picture. there is no escape from the necessity of using both audio and visual learning methods. Narrow and specific goals are easier to complete. as long as 1) they help to attain the goal and 2) the learner works toward them consistently. choose another one. 1983) 182. . vocabulary. Choose strategies and methods Strategies and methods are the ways learners work towards their objectives. If you are unsure of your personality type or preferred learning styles. formulating the objective Memorize all 200 verbs in six months is concrete. For the language learner. Teaching for the Two-Sided Mind: A guide to right brain/left brain education (Simon & Schuster: New York. The objective Memorize five verbs a week for forty weeks is a better breakdown of the task at a more realistic pace. and they give the learner a sense of measurable progress. A global learner. Once you know whether. The number of objectives initially chosen does not matter. objectives can be chosen. Chosen goals should be interesting and relevant in order to help the learner sustain interest. the strategies chosen depend in part on an individual’s learning style. there are many articles and tests online to help you explore your abilities. more abstract and more heavily text-based. poetry memorization. the learner must set a pace that is sustainable even after the initial excitement wears off. and after that objective has been attained. A details person who loves the nuts and bolts of a project may revel in choosing twenty graded objectives. this tapers off as the subject material becomes more advanced. one could choose the objective Translate one page of Beowulf on paper per week. but it is too long-range and vague to be a good objective. Secondary goals might deal with specific levels of mastery for skills including reading. It is extremely important to start with your strengths. it is a marathon. the subject material will be even more heavily text-based (visual). Remember. although teachers have had great success implementing multiple intelligence strategies at the elementary school level. This person may choose to define only one objective. idioms/kennings and/or pronunciation. For the learner of a dead language. Instead of the vague Translate Beowulf on paper. The main goal should address the language to be learned and the level of mastery desired. and give yourself every chance for success.8 Among educators. translation. or whether you think randomly or sequentially. Specific objectives that assist in attaining that goal could include: Translate the first page of Beowulf or Memorize twenty Anglo-Saxon verbs.

For some kinesthetic learners. although a textbook is usually necessary at the beginning. and modified or changed if necessary. “Selling Self-Directed Language Learning”. with each word being correctly identified ten times before being removed from the deck. Each study time should therefore begin with reviewing the material from two lessons (or study periods) ago. Alternation is another possibility. In this way. Sometimes a method that works at a certain time in life. as the eventual goal is to read specific texts in the target language. . Review is necessary in order to solidify learning. In other words. Problems can arise when the textbook becomes a substitute for the goal. martial artists and the like. Even experienced language learners do not always hit upon the right strategy the first time. all new grammar and vocabulary will be reviewed two times as the learner moves through the material. Sometimes simply reordering vocabulary study and text reading in different configurations helps to find an approach that is most effective for the individual. in which a fifteen minute vocabulary drill is followed by fifteen minutes of stairs or stretching. vocabulary exercises and listening exercises. and material should ideally be reviewed two to three times. the act of typing or writing provides enough physical activity. strategies for implementing a kinesthetic approach to memorizing verbs may have only a tenuous connection. When choosing strategies and methods that work. but faster progress than a fellow kinesthetic learner who goes against his/her natural tendencies by trying to sit still and stare at verb tables for an hour at a time.Snow. These older vocabulary words can be kept in a separate deck for occasional review. The kinesthetic learner who chooses one of these approaches may make slower progress than the learner who is naturally visually oriented. activities necessary for learning a dead language must include reading texts. so note-taking is a very useful exercise. All strategies should be evaluated for effectiveness on a regular basis. a certain environment or while learning a certain language will not work at a later time or for a different language. learners may find it useful to remember which of their school teachers they liked best. Regardless of the learner’s personality and preferred learning style. followed by a review of the previous lesson. Others who require more physical involvement may choose a partially integrated approach in which the learner studies grammar exercises while walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. The strategies and methods a learner chooses may be dictated in part by the chosen textbook or materials. and why.Óðrœrir 105 Even though the theory of multiple intelligences recognizes. In addition to strategies discussed in textbooks and on language learning websites. the learner must implement a regular review time. A stack of vocabulary flashcards should be added to and reviewed regularly. which will be discussed below. translating words and sentences. before addressing new material. This should not be as much of a problem when learning source languages. the learner’s main goal could be Read five sagas in 9 . which is exhibited by dancers. instead of a tool for reaching the goal. 9 Choose texts and materials Not all texts are textbooks. for example. a kinesthetic (movementoriented) intelligence. Some of the methods used by those teachers can be adapted to the learner’s Language Learning Project.

mp3s or online recordings to assist in learning pronunciation. Set a study plan In setting a study plan. which can clear up questions that the target language textbook brings to light. mythology. the textbooks published most recently will be the most accessible for learners with little or no previous language learning experience. While not strictly a material resource. it is also helpful to find a study group or discussion group. Online booksellers are nice tools for this. with the intention of examining them at home and returning the least preferred ones. and are largely unfamiliar with grammar. but this is not always possible in real life. Language study undertaken only once a week is too infrequent. In addition to textbooks. By reading all the five-star reviews and all the one-star reviews. Online groups may also be a place to find textbook recommendations and buy. the learner will get an idea of what strategies and approaches each textbook takes. culture. etc. The latter is an inappropriate goal because it focuses on the textbook instead of the target language and source material. cds. assume previous language learning experience (often Latin or Greek. learners must be realistic about the amount of time they can devote to a LLP. while excellent. Ideally. In general. unfortunately. both). which types of learners love the book and which hate it. Most of the older textbooks. because the reviews are usually sorted by rating. even though the latter actually involves more minutes spent studying. sell or trade materials. history. other important materials include source texts in their original languages. Because it is unlikely one will be able to find and compare several Old Norse textbooks on the shelves of the local bookseller. which were formerly required subjects) as well as a solid grasp of Modern English grammar. Twenty minutes of study twice a week is far better than a ninety-minute study period every two weeks. active study should be undertaken for a short session each day. a learner would do well to read as many reviews as possible. as language learning requires repetition and reinforcement. of the culture in which the source language was used). A learner in this situation who chooses a textbook that assumes knowledge of grammar can supplement his studies with an introductory level English grammar textbook or reference book. the learner will set aside at least two study times a week. audio recordings of complete songs or poems. as well as any gaps it may have. This group of people interested in the same language can help sustain motivation and answer questions a new learner may have. One main difficulty that arises when choosing texts and materials comes from learners choosing materials that are either too hard or too boring (or. When choosing a textbook. . a twenty to thirty minute active study period twice a week may be sufficient. vocabulary flashcards (make your own from index cards) and cultural materials (books on the art.Óðrœrir 106 Old Norse rather than Complete all the exercises in the Old Norse textbook. it may be necessary to order three or four online from a seller with an excellent return policy. At the beginning. technology. although these will lengthen as the learner’s skill increases. as it is unlikely there will be many others in the same town who are studying the same language. Most learners of dead languages will find a study group online. Ideally. Many of today’s North American college students and young adults attended schools which used whole language curriculum.

g. whether the study plan is sustainable. Without evaluation. A study plan will detail how much time to be spent studying (e. learners should examine their schedules for opportunities for passive study. This study plan should be reassessed every month to ascertain whether it is sustainable in conjunction with the learner’s schedule and whether it is sufficient to accomplish the learner’s language learning objectives. the learner is responsible for observing and understanding his/her own successes and failures. self-evaluation is critical. If the result is less than 70% accuracy. which helps the learner to analyze the success or failure of a study session as well as to solidify the learning from each session. and a percentage grade assigned and recorded. Without an outside teacher to provide tests and quizzes. All these strategies are part of a study plan. The time spent writing a journal entry increases the length of the study period by forcing the learner to recall what has been done. but also while . how much material to cover (e. “Self-test on Chapter 1 on Tuesday” or “Review journal entries on Thursday”).Óðrœrir 107 In addition to active study. Anyone who has lived with a language learner quickly realizes now many opportunities there are to fit study into one’s weekly routine. s/he should study in preparation. “Study X minutes on Tuesday and Thursday” or “Listen to cd tracks 1-5 each morning”).g. not only at the beginning of designing a LLP. When working through textbook exercises. The goal of a study journal is to gain a better understanding of the self as a language learner. This reaches the very core of self-directed language learning. “Do exercise 3 on Thursday”) and some form of self-evaluation (e. as the goal is not only to learn the language. This involves keeping a log for each study session-recording what activites were done. Self-analysis should accompany the whole process of study.g. If the learner feels unprepared. A learner who tapes a verb table to the washing machine and reads it aloud each time s/he does a load of laundry adds several grammar reviews a week. Self-evaluation For the self-directed language learner. so do not be discouraged at the idea of fitting in some language study each day. the learner should revise study methods or add more study time. the learner simply decides that every fifth or tenth exercise will be completed without referring to notes or textbook. One method of self-evaluation is the self-test or self-quiz. and to create informal research questions about language study methods which the learner can then explore while carrying out the LLP. A learner who listens to a pronunciation cd for 10 minutes every morning while getting ready for work has added 50 minutes of passive study a week. but also to learn how to learn the language. or whether objectives are being accomplished. how long the study period lasted and so forth-and recording reflections about what is noticed in the language learning process. the four exercises preceding the test should be reviewed and the test repeated before continuing. If a pattern of less than 70% accuracy emerges. Another valuable method of self-evaluation is the study journal. The mistakes will be corrected afterward in consultation with the textbook. the learner cannot know whether the methods and materials chosen are appropriate.

referring to the flashcards for words I didn’t know. only those pertaining to today’s session. it is helpful to use a template. Maybe I should highlight each column in different colors.10 In order to reduce repetition in journal entries and make them less tedious. The new material I covered: Read page two of the excerpt. corresponding to the different tenses? Or make up a rhyme to repeat the chart out loud. and flagged them with a post-it note for review next study session. She did not write down the objectives that deal with Thursday’s study session. Strategy of reading to review isn’t working. the learner studies grammar exercises from a textbook on Thursdays.Snow. Wrote down all unknown words. Looked up the verb charts that showed those tenses. . and if so. but I’m having a hard time remembering them. highlight the column I’m having trouble with. Review vocabulary flashcards daily-preferably after supper (I’m an evening person). Re-read the page. looked them up and made flashcards for them. (Originally this was studied 2 sessions ago. which I made in my last study session. and whether they worked: Played Mozart cd in background to stimulate right brain thinking. Once the template has been designed. The methods/strategies I used. (Note to reader: In this example. the learner simply has to fill out a sheet after each study session. Read through entire page before going back and looking up unknown words.) The material I reviewed: Reviewed verb charts on pages 37-38 of Sweet’s Primer. after which adjustments can be made so as to tailor the LLP to the individual learner. Photocopy verb chart.) Reviewed vocabulary flashcards from page one of the excerpt. Review flashcards daily. photocopied multiple times and cheaply bound or placed in a folder. My Objective (s): Read and translate one page of the excerpt each Tuesday. and then review the journal entries every four weeks or so. Tasks to do between now and next study session: Listen to pronunciation mp3s each morning while driving to work. because I’m a global thinker. Had problems with two verbs. how they approach verb charts. since I’m an audio learner? Will ask online discussion group members if any of them are audio learners. to let members know that I am 40% of the way to completing my current goal! 10 . writing down all unknown words and making vocabulary flashcards for them. 40 minutes My Goal: To read a five-page excerpt from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle without having to look up more than one word per page. Reviewed verb charts. Here is an example template that has been filled out: Study session date and length: March 25.Óðrœrir 108 executing the plan. “Selling Self-Directed Language Learning”. and find a place to stick it where I’ll see it regularly (the inside of the medicine cabinet door?) Post in online discussion group.

not by opportunity to interact with a teacher. the learner can review them and detect patterns that only reveal themselves over time. as they integrate their deeper knowledge of source materials with the culture they are attempting to reconstruct. 182. Conclusion Prepared with multiple strategies. . and who is developing greater awareness of the importance of strategies in language learning. For a larger reward. or favorite foods or music can follow a completed study session. Which strategies work best? Which need to be changed? At first learners think they will remember details of each study session. 11 Rewards for progress and strategies for sustaining motivation: Language Learning Projects are often difficult to sustain simply because language learning inevitably involves a significant amount of work. but after a few weeks. Reconstructionists in particular can benefit from learning a source language at their own pace. a learner might choose to buy a very nice edition of Beowulf to commemorate having read the text in its original language. often of a repetitive and even boring nature. for most people) can be used to earn enjoyable activities. as well as a few larger rewards to be earned at certain levels of language mastery. weaponry or a tattoo after having read a certain number of Old Norse sagas. can attain a level of language mastery that need only be limited by time and dedication. Choosing a reward that is somehow related to the language and culture being studied is especially effective. Teaching for the Two-Sided Mind. lessons begin to blur together in memory. Because of this. the self-directed learner can approach a new language with confidence. Minutes spent on unpleasant tasks (grammar drills. motivational strategies can be as important as learning strategies.Óðrœrir 109 When these journal entries are used regularly. 11 . A reflective analysis jotted in point form immediately at the end of each study session will prove helpful in the long run in deciding which methods and materials need revision. or commission a piece of statuary. Learners should choose many small rewards to be used frequently.Verlee Williams. who understands the importance of making one’s own decisions in the language learning process. A student who is learning how to plan a self-study program and choose material with care.

stopping at members’ homes along 1 . In the weeks leading up to that day in May. performed a procession wherein members placed an idol in a wain (a trailer) and traveled the highway loop that encircles Houston. votive sacrifices and animal blots. No one goes to war.Living Heathen A Springtime Procession Reconstructing an Ancient Practice for Today’s Heathen • By Christopher Robert The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake.A. We believed that the community was interested because of the response received. we held rites in her honor and offered gifts. Lone Star Kindred performed a springtime procession around Texas with a goddess idol riding in a wain in May of 2011.Tacitus. — Meister Eckhart As a heathen. . he escorts her in her wain through the countryside and there are rejoicings and celebrations. Mattingly & S. Tacitus tells of a number of Germanic tribes who shared a common worship of a goddess. taking our idol to places where people could gather. Cornelius. no one takes up arms. Those gifts would be sacrificed into boggy wetlands near my home. Our plan was to travel a bit over 600 miles in a day and a night. Nerthus or Terra Mater. He writes that the tribes believe that she involves herself in human affairs. Hanford. and honor the goddess. The idea grew from the actions of other groups. I pondered for many years the question of how to reconstruct old or construct new practices for today. and resides in a sacred grove on an island in a wain draped with cloth which none but her priest may touch. a synchronicity of occurrences. gave rise to our actions. Tacitus indicates when the priest perceives the goddess’s presence. Trans. For some years. The Agicola and the Germania. until the goddess has had enough of the society of men and is restored to her sacred precinct by the priest. and then only. Further. travels among the peoples. we sought to strengthen the gifting cycle with our goddess. 1 BACKGROUND: For many years as a kindred. are peace and quiet known and welcomed. enjoy the company of other Heathens. In previous years. the procession seemed to be an ideal opportunity. 1970. we desired to find ways in which to honor this goddess that were different from the common fashions employed by many Heathens. Texas. every iron object is locked away. H. give gifts. In Chapter 40 of his Germania. In the 1990s. Then. Inc. Midgard Hearth. Penguin Putnam. In light of that writing and quiet contemplation. in the forms of potential omens and fortuitous coincidences. Desiring to give more honor to her and to give Heathens in Texas an opportunity to honor her as well. a now-defunct heathen group in Houston.

we determined to perform it on a specific day that allowed for all of us to participate. we discussed this year’s procession.See generally: Davidson. THE LORE Literary references to gods or goddesses riding in wains or wagons are limited. P 92. Ellis. Pelican Books. Rudolf. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. The route and timing were easily determined given my driving habits (600 miles was easily attainable). Q: Would we cover the idol? 2 . In addition to references by Tacitus. given the busy nature of our kindred’s members’ lives. Q: Would we wait to perceive the goddess’s presence to begin the procession (as indicated in Tacitus)? A: No. while spending time with two former members of Midgard Hearth. we also received a number of questions as to our plans.2 Further. Given the distances. Consequently.5 When confronted with a lack of foundation. Midgard Hearth drew inspiration from that story and Lone Star drew inspiration from our friends. 1993. To that end. I asked our kindred to be aware of peculiarities that might be observed and considered. an ox-drawn wain was not optimal (but was possible). 3 . once given a schedule. Their actions formed the basis from which we decided to have this year’s procession. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. P 116-119.Simek. Syracuse University Press. Myth and Symbols in Pagan Europe. 5 . D.Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. Davidson. Brewer. we chose a pickup truck (oxen) and a small trailer (wain). as a kindred. We decided that we might not be able to make such a determination. 4 . As we like to say in Texas. there are references to the god Frey making an annual journey in a wagon in the Ögmundar þáttr dytts ok Gunnars helmings as related in the Flateyjarbok. 1988. THE PREPARATIONS: Our preparations began simply with an idol and an idea. P 92-95 & Myth and Symbols in Pagan Europe. We hold that our gods can communicate by means of omens.R. In addition to obtaining those things necessary to actually perform the procession. To my surprise. Flateyjarbok also contains another story of the King of Sweden consulting with the wagon-borne god. we believe we have received omens in response to our actions and we could receive such a response here. Moreover. H.3 H. Further. 1964. we decided to move forward with the procession while constantly consulting among ourselves in order to establish a tradition of review among our group to guard against far-flung interpretations or actions. These questions gave us good reason for further study to make sure we got it right. Ellis.Óðrœrir 111 the way..R. In the past. . We also agree with the inherent gender roles that women are much more intuitive when interpreting signs and omens. In the end. When we spread the news. Ellis Davidson briefly discusses these stories and some of the surrounding archeology4 and Rudolf Simek indicates that the Freyr story fits in nicely with the procession of Nerthus as told by Tacitus. The ladies of the kindred. we consulted on what we believed could happen. one of them told of how the original idea grew from an apocryphal story of a group in England who traveled throughout the London Underground with a small wagon (similar to a Radio Flyer wagon) containing an idol to perform a procession.Ibid. they did us proud. sprang to action and organized welcoming places for the goddess to be received and honored. we believe that omens were seen and that they were positive.R. H. Cambridge.S.

we started south. As the sun tipped the horizon on the 22nd. After a hearty meal. members of the kindred noticed more synchronicities that suggested positive omens. other kindred and family members observed related occurrences almost simultaneously. on the day of the procession. where a number of people awaited with a warm reception. slaves washed the wain. we once again turned north to head for home and race the sun. To that end. For days afterwards. we stopped in Dallas (one of the requested stops) and overnighted north of there. we turned west for Killeen. yet more occurrences were noted and omens considered. the goddess would accept my bribe. We determined to have three stops where local Heathens could gather. With that settled. Two days later I gathered and bundled the gifts. I planned to buy my life with sacrificed silver and hoped the goddess would accept. a kindred member sewed a silk covering for the idol and she remained covered from the beginning of the procession until well after the end. For that gift I am thankful. We received a number of requests for additional stops along the route. knock myself out and drown in the bog. previously washed and honored. Departing at sundown on May 21 with a wain (trailer in which rode our idol. I gathered the gifts given in the goddess’s honor and wrapped them together in a burlap bag bound with silver wire and tied off with an antique key. the procession was a success and the underlying intent proved proper. The response was positive and surprisingly widespread. I explained what I observed and asked that they confer and consider what it could mean. Further. THE TRIP: Leading up to the actual day. The ladies conferred and made the declaration that these occurrences were omens and that they were positive. during one of the stops made. and bogged them to the goddess’s honor. stopping in Fairfield (another requested stop) and in Conroe. my children will not lose their father in a freak drowning accident. At each of the stops. we made two additional stops that sparked good additions to the overall procession. As mentioned. a member of another group (Hridgar Folk) came to my rescue with a handmade doll that served as a surrogate slave and was bogged in my stead. I conferred with members of Lone Star to coordinate where to stop and what would occur at the stops. barring my genetic stupidity. because. traveled to a wetland area near my home. . those gathered were allowed to give gifts for the goddess. a member of Hridgar Folk presented me with a handmade doll to act as a slave to take my place in the bog at the end of the procession.Óðrœrir 112 A: Yes. we put out the word to the local community of our plan. Further. I guessed that if I did not trip. To that end. At the local wetlands. the vestments and the idol in the sacred lake where she resided and were themselves drowned. After returning home. We were not even halfway into the procession when I started to notice occurrences that prompted me to contact the ladies in our group. From there. Overall. How do you plan to account for that? A: I made a number of jokes about it and was a bit concerned when that time came. Q: Tacitus wrote that after the goddess’s time among men. Indications from Tacitus are that the idol was covered and we would continue the practice.

we commissioned a hand-carved idol from a talented Heathen artist that will become a centerpiece of our kindred. we will try to make the procession an annual event.Óðrœrir 113 FUTURE PLANS: Given the success of our actions and the response from the community. just as the goddess herself is such an important part of our family. For the next procession. With this first try. we wished to adhere to those writings with a reconstructionist point of view. . CONCLUSION: When trying to translate practices recorded in old books into our modern day. we practiced a bit of trial and error and now know what worked and what did not. Additionally. To that end. we believe the procession to have been a success and we will perform it again in the new year and try to bring about practices that adhere to an older mindset. we will have a new wain dedicated to the purpose and decorated for such.

how we took what we learned and how we actually applied it to our lives. and fellowships and organizations. located in New Jersey. Internally to the Northeast. both physically and relatively. That takes an intense amount of desire. The Northeast. the US is broken up into loose regions that have certain distinctive cultural traits. relationships built on the lack of true mirth are not as deep as those that encourage both time for laughter and time for seriousness. Which means. I want our history to travel. for inviting us to their Húsel to end Yule. and I don’t want everything to be super serious all the time. Army and though she is English. and I American. What follows are two stories about the 2011-2012 Yuletide. (Dramatic. and dedicated Heathen community. engaged. Why? I don’t want whoever reads this to get bored. my family or the Project. I want everyone to realize that laughing doesn’t reduce the sacred nature of our rituals. For those that do not know. we have made a life of craziness together. 10. Do you want to read a story about why we worship the way we do? Or do you really want to know what we did? Or do you want to know a little bit of both? Modern Heathens work constantly to understand the worldview of those ancient Heathens that we base our worshiping and worldview upon. and such. and work to interpret correctly. which has allowed us to help U. kindreds. Continue reading to get more of my skewed perspective on Heathen events in this era.Óðrœrir 114 Two Yule Rituals One Heathen’s Experience in the Northeast US • By Josh Heath My name is Josh Heath. Just keep expecting it and it might happen. focus. I do not believe in stoicism in Heathenry and at some point you can expect a paper relating to Heathen philosophy from me. This is all my humble opinion of course. maybe a 100 or even 1000 years from now to know the positives and negatives of our experience with reconstructing Heathenry. Together we helped to build The Open Halls project. there are many different groups. So. It has been an awesome experience so far. Thankfully we have dedicated researchers who really are intent on discovering the underlying . 20. in a fit of insanity I took it upon myself to begin documenting different Heathen events I attend. and I want folks to look at ritual as an integral part of our lives. What will you discover? What will I reveal?! Read on then to discover. Many thanks to the Oak Ridge Fellowship. for inviting us to their Yule celebration. area. we can leave important parts of our history to those that will follow us. and Things. groups invited us to celebrate the beginning and ending of Yule. I want some new Heathen 5. has an incredibly active. Korea while I was in the U.S. I am married to the most wonderful Catherine Heath. and we already feel like an important part of this community. We met in S. blóts.S. the point is humor is good for you. huh!?) So. Located in Eastern New York. Two distinct but close. it is required. We recently moved into the Poughkeepsie area of New York. which stretches loosely from Maine to Maryland. sometimes it isn’t just good to laugh. Laugh with me people! No seriously. military members find community wherever they travel. Thank you to Laerad Kindred. My long term hope is that by creating a record of our worships. This year our Yule was bookended by two very different but equally powerful events. This however is not a story about me. **** I’m going to take a moment and change the tone.

but actively being an integral part of it. Engaging the members of the community in such a sacred act. For me. and a good cup of coffee charged up my batteries and the day began in earnest. living your life in all its parts as a Heathen. I remind you future reader that this doesn’t reduce the sacred nature of the ritual of which I speak of with a more gentle humorous tone. After all participants had arrived. Gary had organized feeding our porcine friend apples soaked in mead a few hours prior to blót time. the Landvaettir. I’m going to give you both. and all are real aspects of life. and Gary chose to push back the start time to ensure everyone would make it. however. You. several folks were due to arrive a little late. gives them a feeling of not just witnessing blót. So. We marched ahead of the procession of the extended fellowship into the grove. This was a unique honor for us. So early in fact that the sun wasn’t even beginning to peek up over the horizon when I first rolled out of bed. If you wish to build a reciprocal relationship with the Gods. just outside of their cleared backyard at the edge of the . Building relationships is essential! The Oak Ridge Grove is on Lisa and Gary Golden’s land in New Jersey. and hopefully the book around it will survive that long. and holes are common. To say I was honored to do so is an understatement. our gracious gregarious Gothi Gary handed out the roles to those in attendance. and that you want to know how and why we called ourselves Heathens and how and why we worshipped the way we did. and they had opened their lovely home to us. dips. but had been made to feel like members of the community immediately. YOU! I’m being incredibly pretentious assuming this paper. and she was generally fairly relaxed when we arrived to bring our honored guest to the grove. and kept up with them through Facebook. The ground leading into the grove is uneven and roots. I was chosen to help carry the pig to the grove. Four of us used metal poles to lift and carry the pig while she stood inside her cage. Coffee and excitement helped to motivate those as they awoke from the previous night’s merry-making. than occasionally this will be filled with laughter.Óðrœrir 115 reasoning for the actions and finds we have discovered. a shower. Enough with the pretense. for the faith of a foreign strange cult. Excitement. and to offer a bread man to the Odin idol as well. Blót was originally supposed to begin at 7am. we had just moved into the general area. exposition and plain bollocks. Onwards! **** Our first ritual was one which I think requires a serious tone and it will be presented that way. Blót: Honoring the Gods with the Oak Ridge Fellowship My wife Cat and I had been invited to begin Yule with the Oak Ridge Fellowship in New Jersey. The biggest pressure on my mind was making sure I didn’t trip while carrying the sacrifice. and occasionally it will be filled with tears and silence. anticipation brought a charge of electricity to the air. Our day began early. Living Heathenry is just that. all are valid. As folks began to awaken from their slumber. your Ancestors. The grove is set behind the Golden’s property. This had a calming effect on her. You. who are likely the descendant of someone in my today. who wanted to know why their ancestors gave up their ancestral faith. All are important. It helped that we already had met several folks at the East Coast Thing a few years ago. who may be some crazy kid a thousand years from now who has found this crumbling manuscript in a recently uncovered internet era archaeological dig. this was one of the decisions I applaud him for the most. Since you didn’t ask.

Again. Gary took a hlaut twig and sprinkled the attendants from the bowl with the sacred blood. This moment was all about our deeds. and Gary often used it to clean and butcher animals he had hunted. And yet his words were not meant for us. Gary ensured this was the case. It was over incredibly quickly. At the moment Gary took the shot. this shed was one set aside as a work space. It seems difficult to describe. and it acts as a vessel for the symbolic circulation of luck between god and man. our actions were so overpowering. in the end. and patiently took aim. and I didn’t interact with others until quite some time after we had finished. The gothi takes a portion of the blood from the bowl. Gary spoke softly. we all smiled. everything was set where it should be. and laid it upon the Frey post. ready to take the blót rifle to clear it once the deed was done. Gary is not one of those people. it wasn’t important. We cut the head from the pig’s shoulders. and another stood just behind Gary. it shows both our dedication to them. We made it into the grove without incident. the action seemed so correct. I still don’t remember exactly what was said. these included a portion of the blood from the pig mixed with mead. It had been years since . They were an offering for any of the landvaettir that wished to have them. The ritual slaughter of the pig is done so we have a connection with the animal. and then Gary began to stain the idols with our blót’s sacrifice. and took aim again. and he symbolically spreads the luck that they imbue it with around to those in attendance. but in person everything seemed to be as it should. My wife. but the moment was quite a bit fuzzy in my mind. spilled some corn on the ground to entice her out. we know where our feast meat is coming from. I know many that would have been terrified at this occurrence. The blood is offered to the gods. an altar sits in the center. He apologized to the pig. Taking care that the animal is in as little pain as possible is essential. but strongly. This shot was perfect and it went down immediately. so much that they would have failed to take action. and that the offerings were where they should be. Deeds over words is something we hear a lot as Heathens these days. skinning. We processed as a group to the god pole of Odin. A portion of the blood was poured into a horn. The entrails were removed and placed within a shallow hole. I am told there was a feeling of reverence and a deep emotional effect on those there. but not in the spot intended. I had initially prepared things I’d wanted to say. but again. she moved her head. All seem to require flowery speech and large amounts of verbal bombast. This was just a second look at the space to ensure the most positive response from the gods and from the land for our actions. Most of the group returned to the house at this point. Set behind the house. It is walled in with low stones. and two large god-poles stand towering just taller than most men. The image that written words convey seems slightly gruesome. it took only a couple seconds from his first to his final shot. When it was placed there. and bread. At this god pole we again made offerings. my words seemed to echo hollowly in my mind and I chose to refrain. and his one eyed gaze watched us as we entered. The bullet struck. We do so in a respectful manner because we recognize a life is given so we can eat. Laerad had brought their Odin idol as well. The blot-swine was carried back to Gary’s shed and we began the process of cleaning.Óðrœrir 116 woods. once it has been sanctified by the gods. but a few of us returned to the grove to field dress the sacrifice and to organize the ritual space. There are many ritual formats given in books written for new adherents to Asatru. Cat stepped in and collected the remainder. We grabbed hold of the pig and we set her upon the table. settled the pig down beside the god-poles and waited for everyone to gather. All in all. Gary opened the gate to the cage. We expect our meat to be butchered humanely and safely. One person held the rope we’d tied around the blót-swine’s neck. at all times respect was felt for the animal we would eat and that gave its life for us. They were meant for the Gods to hear. and butchering. I was asked to assist with the butchering. and efficiently. We made sure the altar was back in its original position. The two poles are for Thor and Frey. a bowl was held under the neck to catch the first blood that our Gothi’s blade let loose. mixed with mead and would be offered to Gary’s Odin Pole which sat outside the grove. Most of our group went back to the house.

We assembled the dining area. Sumbel is a ritual that is overdone. It reminded me of the Passover Seder I attended while I was stationed with the Army in Iraq. and chatted as normal. but it was like being home with this group of wonderful people. Jesse and Christine. After everyone was sat. It lived a good life and was treated well. Once washed and dried. and it felt like wherever we were placed had purpose. misunderstood. but that was simply a warm up for what would follow. Historically. Factory farming animals has removed us from the beauty of life in so many ways. and caring. Gary seemed a little worried about not hitting his mark correctly the first time. Most of these folks I’d only met a few times prior. enjoying the festivities. and had a purpose. natural. Lisa.) to join us. good food and drinks made their rounds. Tears flowed. we had chosen to engage in a sumbel. brought around a bowl of water and white cloths. The feeling in the air was one that I’d only felt before at family holidays. underdone. I respect the animal that has given its life so that we can eat. As an outsider at such a ritual I could only feel comfortable to a certain degree. I personally saw a hawk. and then I got back up. Folks drank a little. Gary opened the sliding door to his backyard. but ritual cleanliness as well. seemed pleasant. laughter. After we butchered the meat. a pleasant one. The atmosphere was festive from that point on. This again had the feel of ritual. For me it’s the opposite. but we wanted to ensure the most humane treatment we could provide. our hostess.Óðrœrir 117 I’d witnessed this process. This feast was an extended part of the ritual nature of the day. and we kept an eye on which ones had chosen to do so. That was her choice to make. I invited my godfather Spec (Arthur Dicey Jr. The pork was set to roast around 12 noon and preparations for other dishes for the meal began as well. Our modern feasting is then based in the same concept. Lisa took to her role as the lady of the hall and she seated everyone in their respective places at the tables. Near the dining area. so that we had a chance to wash out hands. understood . At this blót. I felt like I belonged and this small ritual was just one small aspect of that feeling of belonging. We feasted at this point. and Gary took the absolutely correct actions when this occurred. chatty. and a cold chill crossed by shoulders as everyone invited those who had passed to join us for the feast. The hall was filled with thirty or so people and they all called on others to join us. it was a great representation of the thirty or so people that attended the feasting and the Sumbel. blót would likely not have been as clean. a small altar space had been set up to host pictures of the ancestors of those who attended. that what we’d done was right. We all took this as a good omen. Though I lay down. though ritualistic. I was so full of energy that I just sat there until my wife fell asleep. and Gary and Lisa worked incredibly hard at preparing both the feast hall and the meal. laughed a lot. and it was done well. and Cat invited many members of her family to sit with us as well. Feasting was historically a very important ritualized event. but hadn’t made the blót would make it in time for the feast. and he began to ask the ancestors to join us. As the day progressed we noticed birds landing in the grove. Knowing the animal your meat comes from bothers some people enough to stop eating it. The meat cooked quickly and calls were made to ensure that those who were coming for the meal. but a familiar one. Filled with photos from one end of the large table to the other. and one that had the purpose not just of physical cleanliness. After the feasting. a falcon. I knew again. both members of the Oak Ridge Fellowship. People were pleasant. killed well. At this point I took a well needed break from the morning’s activities and headed back to bed. but I and many others assured him that his skill and his steady nature was what mattered. came and added a marinade to flavor it. Nothing could be done about the pig moving her head. and a vulture take part in the offerings. and the pork was wrapped in foil. Truly it felt like our ancestors were in the room with us. and it was amazing to me. This was awe inspiring. I couldn’t bring myself to sleep. This action.

This year we began what will hopefully become a regular tradition. or bundles of birch twigs. to show my appreciation to them. Sumbel is about reaffirming the frith-bonds between members of that community and the passing of the horn symbolically represents the weaving of those bonds. ours oversaw the gift . I know of groups that attempt to do sumbel with groups of 500 or more people. Sumbel this time was no exception. but specific words failed me at the time. Our last round was open for anyone to toast. I raised the horn in honor of the gods that dwelled within the Oak Ridge grove and asked they gift us in return for our gifts to them. and I hope to successfully transcribe the words said during the event. Sumbel is one of the most sacred rituals in heathenism.Óðrœrir 118 without question and done for the right. Eric Stanley Trueblood will always be remembered. I will do my best to never have your name or deeds forgotten. this sumbel fit that requirement perfectly. After we finished the sumbel the feasting area got cleaned up and we reassembled again to witness the ‘Klandestine Krampus’ gift exchange. This round was dedicated to Ancestors. The title Frithweaver is welled earned in this regards. This should not be seen as a serious ritual. Unlike the traditional Krampus. I have an audio recording of the sumbel. and the wrong reasons. and I chose to honor those soldiers that had passed into their ancestral halls. Blót is about the community’s dedication to a reciprocal gifting relationship with our gods. The first round was dedicated to the gods. I had tried really hard to write a skaldic poem in honor of Lisa and Gary’s hospitality. This was a three round sumbel. Sometimes you just have to laugh a lot. Can any of them really say they know everyone they are choosing to entwine their luck with? Done correctly. representing both her role as lady of the hall.’ The AmeriKrampus takes portions of the traditional Krampus story and integrates them with aspects of American redneck culture. on a par with blót. and he paired it with a baseball cap. sparkly mid-rift shirt with gut pouring out over his pants and a checkered shirt. Sergeant Trueblood. I meant to say that SSG. these words are dedicated to both digital and written form. The ‘AmeriKrampus. Alliteration was considered a great poetic skill in Medieval Scandinavia. This ancestral line was and is usually the most difficult as it quickly can become emotional. The second round I made a mistake with my words that still digs into me. Sumbel is cathartic and bonding. Lisa acted as the cup bearer. and this was totally one of those times! The Krampus is an assistant to Santa Claus in Bavarian tradition who takes the naughty children and stuffs them into his sack. He carried a version of the Krampusruten. Consider a society that doesn’t have access to dictionaries or thesauruses. or boast in any fashion they felt was appropriate. and the physical representation of the active frith bonds being forged through our words. it was a fun exchange designed to break up the serious nature of sumbel. His Krampus horns poked out through the cap and his monstrous expression was well applied. I don’t know if the history of this style of poetry was known to the assembled community. So in honor of them. the ability to string related alliterative words together that way would have been pretty impressive. but with a different focus and purpose. I used a bit of time honored skaldic alliteration.

a group of Heathens in the New York region had invited us to celebrate the ending of Yule with them at the home of Murray Lorberer and Lorien McCabe. Atop the horg was set a large brass bowl that would be used to house a fire. that the gifting is . worship. I hope for many more in the future. and prepared for the worshipping. jokes were made. After the gifts were all delivered the main parts of the night’s ritual activities were over. This wonderful group of Heathens have quickly become our close friends. Some. and it was right that he lead the Húsel. Laerad was hosting the worship and they were working diligently to ensure the best outcome to the event. As the sun began to set. Juniper was laid around the base and this greenery gave the area a very classic yule look. worship. Additionally there were copper plates. Coal was also thrown liberally around the living room that had become our Krampus den. tied together with string. and it is always an awesome time when we hang out with them. Odin is arguably (I mean seriously arguably. There were small wreaths with entwined copper. They marked the barrier of that holy space. Each of these trees was decorated with ribbon. and candles were set upon his crown. dressed. and hellos were heard all around. Before it was set a horg. It was one of the best Yule gatherings I’ve ever been to. Jólnir is one of the lesser known names of Odin. and happily introduced ourselves to those we had never met before. silver. The space was established as a holy ve and fire was traced around four trees that encircled the horg and the tree it sat before. Before I arrived at the horg. and we were greeted well. Sat before the tree. Beer was drunk. They shined with beauty. All you need to know is that they rock! Speeding along the road I thought we would be showing up just in time for the festival Josh Rood was calling the Jólnir’s Húsel. We pull into Murray and Lorien’s yard. turn. Small precious stones were interspersed around them. and blót should be seen as a big thing. These plates were embossed with imagery from our myths. This shows to me two parts of our worldview. and merry making occurred late into the night. Rood’s connection to Odin is strong. Húsel: A Formal end to Yule Laerad.Óðrœrir 119 exchange and gladly smacked everyone that received a gift with this Krampusruten. people argue constantly about it) one of the most major deities of our time. In the darkness it was difficult to make out all the details on them. in case folks had not prepared any themselves. Time passed and preparations occurred. look to those who are the right choice to officiate a particular blót. At this point we transitioned into spending time with each other and just enjoying the night. Being invited to participate in ritual. Odin was crowned with a wreath. the space was consecrated. and wrong turn. Many groups honor him. and yet understand his roles and worship him very differently. but in the descending darkness these became simply peripheral to the main area around the horg. We happily said hello to folks we hadn’t seen in years. Josh Rood would act as Gothi. a stone cairn designed to be used as an altar. that is humbling and wonderful. Offerings would be made to the fire and would be hung upon the tree. and brass threads. The worship was twofold. Turn. both members of Laerad. the hand carved idol of Odin was carried to the tree that would be the centerpiece of the worshipping. his one eyed gaze was obvious and open to all assembled. Some groups today choose one person to be a Gothi for their group. beer. Laerad had constructed offerings to be thrown into the tree. or ritual. Hugs. Allowing folks to enter one’s inner-yard and participate in the holiness of gifting between that group and the Gods.

some bow their heads. and open to their gifts. Take my opinion for what it is. that idol is the god.. this is UPG. among them his presence at the formation of Laerad. and to its connection to those assembled. a member of the Laerad crew. we took the idol into our feasting hall with us. and challenges were spoken around the table. and will make us keep our word that we would follow through with the challenges issued to us. and showed both his honor. and Jesse Orton (a guest invited by Laerad) placed one of the first idols he’d carved into the flames. you show respect to your parents. We ate.Óðrœrir 120 important. allow our worship to be honored. but I felt it appropriate to point out here. once the worship has occurred. that you read these words and see the worth of those that took these actions.. but these three I remember clearly. The tree can be seen to act as a method for showing worth. The action is important. Others threw things onto the tree. I hope someday future Heathen. and respect for the One Eyed God. Some bend a knee to the Gods.. Plus I kind of like being able to see what is going on around me. we held a sumbel. good deeds. Respect for the gods is important. He bent his knee in respect before the idol. I won’t hold it against you. as long as it shows that you have that respect. I have to say I feel they were. but it was the principle of offering that is important. the future generation. If the Poetic Edda still exists in your time fair reader. and into the flames. We have tales of hanging offerings in Uppsala Sweden for Odin. knowing they are terrible. As with the Yule feast with the Oak Ridge Fellowship. My wife had crocheted two hanged men made of flammable wool. In turn we took our offerings and threw them into the tree. As well as the hung offerings. and around the fire. Wanderer. but kept my eyes open to watch the assorted members of our community. The omens that came afterwards are important to deciding if our gift was accepted. Or ignore this paragraph completely. kindred. Good words. They are too many to name here. The húsel meal is important for its connection to Laerad as a whole. please look up the many names of Odin. both to the tree for its connection to Odin. and dedication to the gods. The idol becomes the deity for that particular group. In my mind. They were all sacrifices of time. Dan challenged our deeds. Once the worshipping was done. and honestly. In ye olden times. and the goal was to create a bond between those seated at the table. and those that are hosting you. Rood began the ritual by inviting Odin to attend the worshipping we had prepared for him. I placed a piece of an elf house I am building into the flames. and a portion was set before the idol of Odin in case he chose to eat with us. an opinion. and the other Gods assembled there. I realize gentle reader that the idol was carved of wood. I take my role of recorder. I bowed my head slightly. reporter. to those who have earned a place where they deserve respect. or fellowship. to our community and to you. Now. Rood placed the first copy of the journal Óðrœrir into the bowl. and we stood before the tree. Fjolnir.. This sumbel was intended to be a little more open ended than most. He listed the deeds of the One-Eyed god. You never know what could jump out of the woods at just the wrong time. These we attached to the offerings provided by the Laerad crew. Rood invited Odin to accept our gifts. and to grant us luck for our actions. He recited an alliterative poem he had composed to honor Odin. After we feasted. A portion of the sacred meal was set aside for Odin and this portion was set in the flames of the horg after the meal. a bowl of water was made available for people to clean their hands. and more. when the god or goddess is present. unverified personal gnosis. Our Thul was designated as Dan Oropallo. and he recited many of his names. . Odin. and some show they respect them by meeting their eye. and that it is hospitable to ensure that all involved can participate in the gifting. hanging offerings for Odin may have been common. The meat from the meal included a dish made from a ritually sacrificed ram called Ottar. Grimnir. and to honor our One Eyed guest again. at a certain point the idol becomes the god being worshipped. When worship is given. and teller of tales seriously.

Making oaths. Remember our deeds. It’s worth it. we live on forever. Our deeds define us. because with your memory of us. There was talk about telling stories. The húsel was done. as showing a deeper understanding of our community. trust not just in those challenging. and to be accepted by those who hear it. and trust that the Thul would ensure we kept our words or forced us to pay recompense for the failure to follow through with our word. the story I had to tell still sits within my brain untold. but being challenged. but waiting to be told to those around me. Sadly. keeping our word. and my wife Catherine and I returned home. this is supremely important to us. . and your humble recorder had one prepared. This record is done for now my future friend. Remember us. A shame too. Don’t forget to laugh once in awhile either. The sumbel went on for several hours.Óðrœrir 121 Doing this requires trust. as they are wont to do. and our words should reflect our deeds. please remember this. time flew by quickly and we chose to forego the tale telling. Dear future Heathen.

I took up the hobby of home brewing. but by the community as a whole. I was also struck by the fact that folks were very hospitable when it came to sharing their beer and mead. Nothing I brewed during that 2-3 year period was particularly good or memorable. I bought lots of new equipment. The more time I spent around other heathens. Ultimately. I tried a variety of things. dusted off some of my old equipment from the 90’s. My non-heathen ex-wife wasn’t very friendly towards the process. One of the things that struck me most was the variety. and in most cases. I have since found out that the CCLAMS (Cape Cod Lager and Ale Makers) home brew club. that summer. That was the . Rhode Island. Aaron was a member of a local Asatru Alliance kindred at the time. the two of us decided to attend our first ever Asatru event. but I learned the basic mechanics of home brewing using only extract recipes and a stove top kettle. my knowledge of beer in general was very limited. Then I met a fellow heathen named Aaron Bennet at a pubmoot in Providence.Óðrœrir 122 Beer and Brewing Culture Through the Eyes of a New England Heathen • By Mark Andersen Back in the mid 90’s. including shifting to outdoor brewing with a big 10-gallon kettle and propane cooker so I could do full boils. and began brewing a variety of extract and partial mash concoctions. but something was still missing. It is one thing to share a store bought bottle of beer with a fellow heathen but it is ten times better to share your own home brew. My fellow Raven Kindred North members would politely (but not too emphatically) praise some of my beers. not only by the individual brewers. After the year 2000 I got divorced. I realized that there was something more to it. There seemed to be a real sense of pride in this homemade beer and mead . a big plus. the quality of the home brewed beer and mead at the event. It also is a great way to bond with other members of the community. I would bring bottles of it to local heathen events. the East Coast Thing. Not long after. Shortly after my first East Coast Thing in 2004 I began a flurry of brewing activity. and not long after met my current wife who introduced me to the world of Heathenry. What I came to understand is that home brewing is an integral part of our culture and highly valued by the heathen community. I gave it a fair go. I attended his annual Oktoberfest party where he put on a keg of home brewed Oktoberfest. there really weren’t any other home brewers that I knew on Cape Cod at the time. Back then. Also. started around that time. Some of the batches came out pretty good. Usually she complained about the smell of malt boiling on the stove and the mess made in the kitchen. Becoming a proficient home brewer is one way that an individual can gain a good reputation within the community. however. I gave it up. Undaunted and armed with the book “The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing” by Charlie Papazian. home brewing technology and ingredients weren’t nearly at the level they are today. It was as if a significant part of the pleasure derived from brewing and mead making came from sharing it with other heathens and the socializing/bonding that went along with it. What was it that brought about this inspiration? Learning that good quality beer could be home brewed and subsequently enjoyed was. I was really impressed with it. of which I am now an active member. as well as several other improvements. Finally in 2004. This event and meeting other heathen home brewers provided the inspiration I needed to really delve into home brewing again. I still had not reached the point where I was wowed by any of the beers. and not that many people were home brewing. almost a decade before I converted to Asatru. of course. None of them were anywhere close to being home runs.

a kegerator in the living room. assuming you know where to look. I had read about “all grain” brewing quite a bit even back in the 90’s but was a little intimidated by it. came when I visited Germany for the first time also back in 2007. and generally poor quality cheap beer. based on the beer that has been exported to us. and of course the beer! Having joined RKN a couple of years prior. Aaron generously invited me over for a brew day to show me the process. Luckily we can reproduce these historical styles either by purchasing pre-smoked malted grain or even smoking the grain ourselves. I also think that in experiencing the traditional German beer scene. and we worked our way from North to South doing a beer tour of Deutschland that would bring us from the border of Switzerland all the way to the northern city of Hamburg. and beer in general. Ingmar had since started Raven Kindred Deutschland after moving back to Germany from Boston a few years earlier. In many small breweries in Bavaria and Franconia. It really was an eye opener of how great it can be. well-established and very. I was completely hooked. We’ve come to know lager here in the United States as a bland. It was in the city of Bamberg that I first tried a beer that the city and region is renowned for called Rauchbier. but a tour of my home will reveal a brew cellar complete with lagering tank. 2. Heller Trum brews a beer called “Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier”. the smokiness comes from the practice of kilning the malt over a beechwood fire before mashing it. Schlenkerla does give the impression of almost drinking liquid bacon. I’ve been insane about home brewing ever since. I got the run down on the equipment needed and made a commitment to do “all grain” brewing from then on. Aaron told me that one big reason for the better quality in his beer was that he used the “all grain” brewing process instead of using malt extract. I can’t tell you how much time and money I’ve since invested in it. they still use the process of step mashing called decoction mashing. the geography. the quality of beer in Germany. With a lot of mentoring from Aaron. What I discovered is that the German beer culture is substantially different than our understanding of it here in the United States. In their case. pale. My first home run came when I brewed a Maibock to be served at Raven Kindred North’s May Day celebration back in 2007.and the madness has really just begun. especially in the Franconian and Bavarian regions. I got pretty good at it and started to produce the quality beers for which I had always hoped. This is a more labor . there is. Admittedly. racks of grain. many carboys both empty and full. First. I had a chance to become good friends with a longtime member of RKN from Germany called Ingmar Lauer. Second. it did look easier than I had previously thought it to be. the history. in quite a few places. and so on. I think this is a result of these breweries using a much higher standard in both the ingredients that they use and the process that they employ. I had always wanted to visit Germany as I had been fascinated by the culture. There are quite a few very interesting practices in German brewing and beer drinking that you can experience and I’ll enumerate a few of them here: 1. very traditional beer brewing and beer drinking culture in place. grain mill. a fully packed fridge just for hops and yeast. My second big inspiration for brewing. In 2007. a deeply.Óðrœrir 123 home run I had been trying to achieve. is a lot better than what we’ve been exposed to. I discovered in Germany that this is not the case with many breweries. Rauchbier has been jokingly dubbed “bacon beer” by many because of the very smoky beer made by Brauerei Heller Trum of Bamberg. I was witnessing a window into the past as to how beer was brewed and enjoyed and thankfully still brewed and enjoyed in some places today. I met Ingmar in Switzerland. They are one of a couple of dozen breweries in the Franconia region of Germany that still brew this historical style. I reckon that most of the beers brewed historically from Germany all the way through Scandinavia had this smoky aspect to it because of lack of modern kilning methods.

This region is in Northern Bavaria not far from the Czech border. Over the last few years I have made a habit of organizing heathen brew days at my house once or twice per year. by us beer tourists. Here in the US. Mittereich. and it seemed as if they all knew each other. Neuhaus. a few local friends. Neuhaus kommunbrauhaus is set up for hospitality. his daughter. or you’ll be sitting outside in a gorgeous bier garten or bier keller enjoying the scenery along with the beer. 3. breathing example that can still be experienced today of beer drinking customs that were probably far more common historically than they are in our modern age. Many of the bier kellers in Franconia even have playgrounds and swing sets as they are often the weekend hangout for families looking to enjoy a nice day out with good food. all while. apart from the spectacular Zoigl beer. annoying waitresses. A Zoigl Stube is what we would call a pub but are essentially attached to the home of the family that operates it. I think that this is a living. and even the town sheriff.. with a really nice little room for visitors. loud music. etc. Drinking beer. laughing. The atmosphere was like drinking in a friend’s kitchen or living room. and generally enjoying each other’s company while enjoying the locally brewed communal beer. This again can be seen in the Zoigl town of Neuhaus. Incidentally I stayed out at the Zoigl stube that night until close to 3am when the son and daughter of the braumeister kindly gave us a ride back to our hotel.” So here. Nowhere is this communal aspect of brewing and beer drinking (mentioned in #3 above) better witnessed than in a section of the Oberpfalz region affectionately called.Óðrœrir 124 intensive process that can be employed by the home brewer to bring out smoother. going out for a few pints entails sitting in a bar staring at the TV’s on the wall. They also have a tradition of having rotating Zoigl Stubes. as a visitor. especially when it is combined with the process of lagering the beer at cold temperature. Often times. you will find yourself sitting at a table with benches and conversing with complete strangers. These Zoigl Stubes take turns opening on pre-designated weekends. I think we will see more of . I was even fortunate on that one evening to sit at a table with the braumeister who had been a Zoigl braumeister for 38 years. Zoigl is the name of the beer that is brewed in the 5 remaining towns (Windischeschenbach. This is not the case in a traditional brewpub in Germany. People were wandering in at all hours. There is even a calendar available over the internet identifying which Zoigl Stube is open in each town on any given weekend. I was lucky to be able to visit the neighboring Zoigl towns of Windischeschenbach (called Eschawo by the locals) and Neuhaus in July of 2011. his son. and clearer lager beers. and Eslarn) that still preserve the practice of communal brewing. all too often. and talking together at a table in the home of neighbors and/or relatives without distracting televisions. Falkenberg. there exists much more of a community aspect both to brewing and beer drinking. feasting. was the tight knit community aspect of drinking in a Zoigl Stube. we see that brewing itself is a social occasion where the brewers interact with the locals and the rare traveler that is lucky enough to be invited to the occasion. drinking beer that is brewed by the local braumeisters for the community connected the past with the present. Usually this happens once in the spring and sometimes once in the fall. There was lots of singing. maltier. What struck me most about this visit. Both home brewers and just fellow heathens that want to hang out and socialize and drink good home brew are invited to attend. A fellow Zoigl beer lover from Ireland had this to say about his attendance at a brew day in Neuhaus that he was invited to: “The people in Neuhaus really do know how to organise a p*** up in a brewery and how! Unlike Eschawo. Zoigland. I have found the camaraderie and good times at these events to be outstanding. In certain parts of Germany. and great beer with other members of the local community. conversation. I also think that the activity of brewing itself is a community activity.

he describes a beer brewed by Vello made with smoked malt.Óðrœrir 125 these in heathenry as our communities continue to grow and solidify. how cool would it be for a group of us heathen home brewers to each brew a bock beer in the spring and have our own Bockbierantisch at our home on a rotation just like they do in Oberfranken? I have spent a lot of time experimenting with and brewing various German styles. and in addition use smoked malts to hopefully reproduce something similar to Gotlandsdricke. http://barclayperkins. This event is called Bockbierantisch. Helles lagers. http://www. and into December. Talkington brought a home brewed example of a beer using Juniper berries to East Coast Thing. During the months of October. In it. The late Michael Jackson (no not that Michael Jackson) was known during his life as the “beer hunter” due to his extensive travel and research worldwide regarding beer styles and local brewing culture. 1. is participating in something that is a big part of our heathen cultural heritage. According to Papazian. Germany (Oberfranken). Rauchbiers. He also mentioned the use of smoked malt and juniper berries. We know from various sources that juniper berries were used in Scandinavian brewing in lieu of hops. This region has the highest density of breweries per capita than anywhere else in the world (and it’s not even close!). The experimentation never ends and that is one of the beauties of being a heathen home brewer. Gotlandsdricke brewing is widespread on the island of Gotland and done mostly in small home/farm breweries.com/documents/19133-000103. hops. as a preservative and to add flavor. He wrote a very interesting short article about the mountainous west of Norway where he discovered that many families keep their own supply of liquid yeast for home brewing that get passed down from generation to generation. I am now looking forward to learning more about and brewing historical Scandinavian styles.html 3. many of the small local breweries of Upper Franconia work together to coordinate the timing so that each brewery can have its own day to celebrate the release of its bock beer. brewing logs.” The famous home brewing writer Charlie Papazian wrote a very nice article about his visit to the island of Gotland and to a Farmhouse brewery run by an elderly gentleman named Vello Noodapera. I have brewed seasonal bock beers. com/documents/19133-000103. they didn’t have hops readily available a long time ago. and even making a social event out of a day of home brewing. This is a very useful and interesting website listing all the breweries of Upper Franconia. and recently even a Zoigl beer using information gathered from my aforementioned visit to the Oberpfalz region. Historical beer researcher and blogger Ron Pattinson has a blog that is a treasure trove of information regarding historical beer recipes. I’m hoping to do the same this coming year. among other things. November. and other articles. and juniper berries called Gotlandsdricke ale. I’m going to end this article by providing some interesting links that readers can use as sources to explore more about German and Scandinavian beer and other interesting tidbits.beerhunter.html 2. In his book “Microbrewed Adventures. One example that survives even today is Gotlandsdricke ale from the Baltic island of Gotland. Let’s face it. First the article written by “The Beer Hunter” Michael Jackson about Norway: http://www. A few years ago a fellow heathen brewer J. So.blogspot. they used juniper berries. and there is even a schedule posted so bock beer lovers will know what brewpub to be at and what day and time to be there.beerhunter.com/ . I feel that home brewing. Now. Pilseners. Another fantastic example of the community and cooperative aspect of brewing in Germany can be seen every Autumn during the Bock beer release season.

The late John White of England wrote a very good travel article about Zoigland with lots of info and links and his wife was kind enough to keep his website up in his memory as a reference for us beer lovers to use. Website of the twin Zoigl towns of Windischeschenbach and Neuhaus.uk/zoigl. It’s always nice to have a Zoigl calendar handy so you know where to go and when.Óðrœrir 126 4. http://www. blogspot.pdf Last but not least a shameless plus to the “Beer Gnome” blog of yours truly for those interested in reading about and seeing pictures of my various beer travels and brewing adventures. zoiglinfo.de/pdf/Zoiglkalender_Internet.whitebeertravels. http://www. http://www.zoiglbier. http://the-beer-gnome.co. If you click through you can find links to the various Zoigl Stubes in the two towns.html 5.de/ 6.com/ .

For example the Wyeast Bavarian Lager yeast strain causes an unpleasant sulfuric character right after primary fermentation.066. I think at least 2 months is required and I tend to shoot for 3. It is very important that a bock beer undergo a significant lagering period. The recipe below is done using Bavarian Lager yeast and is thus fermented and lagered at more appropriate temperatures for the style. yet robust beer then a well brewed Maibock is a real treat. If you want it to taste like the great Maibocks/Helles bocks of Germany you must lager the beer. 1. that if it is called Maibock it was brewed in the winter and served during springtime.Firstly and most importantly is the lagering process.e.068. . Maibock is very much a malt forward beer with very subtle hops in the background. The recipe below has an estimated starting gravity of around 1. Sometimes it is called Helles Bock by German breweries and not necessarily served only in the spring time. golden colored. The long cold lagering period eliminates that. there are two things in the brewing process that homebrewers normally don’t have to worry about with most homebrews. You can also find Helles Bock on tap during autumn or winter. easy to drink. Now this may be a problem for some homebrewers that lack a cellar and/or a lagering fridge. The lagering process helps in giving the beer more clarity and smooths/rounds out the flavor. Typically Maibock is a German style strong lager beer (i. malty.Óðrœrir 127 Some Brew Recipes maibock • Mark Andersen 10 years Home Brewer In the winter of 2006 I started brewing my annual Maibock beer to be served at our kindred’s May Day festivities that we hold on the 1st weekend of May every year. That number is 1. For those beer drinkers that love a very smooth. bock beer) that is brewed in the winter and lagered for 2-3 months to be served in the springtime. Also. it probably goes without saying. However. For those that really want to brew a bock beer but lack the these things one can always make a hybrid and try using the California Lager Yeast that is more tolerant of higher temperatures but even then you should at least be able to ferment and condition the beer at no higher than around 65 degrees. In Germany a beer must have a minimum opening gravity before it can be labeled a bock.

012-1. a decoction mash is not required to make a bock beer. You don’t have much hop flavor or dark and roasted grains to hide the flaws that might show up in a Maibock. Ingredients Grain Bill 8 lbs German or Bohemian 2-row Pilsener malt. Yeast 2 packages of Saflager W34/70 dried lager yeast or only 1 package if doing a yeast starter.60 minutes 1 oz Hersbrucker Hops . When in doubt I always recommend experimentation. Other Germany noble hops such as Hallertau and Tettnang are good substitutes. Thus any flaws in the ingredients or the process are more likely to be obvious. Primary fermentation time is about 14 days. Secondly one may want to consider employing a decoction mashing process on brew day. This yeast strain is from the Weihenstephan brewery in Bavaria and is extremely reliable and produces a very clean lager beer. I think it’s a great style of hop to use in a malt forward German style beer such as this. Hops and other additives 2 oz Hersbrucker Hops . See for yourself what version you like the best. However. Try one doing a single infusion mash and use a decoction mash on the same exact recipe. Now this does assume that you will be doing an all grain batch in the first place. In the recipe below I will describe both processes. Starting Gravity: 1.014 . in my experience after experimenting with both processes. 4 lbs Munich Malt 8 oz Weyermann’s Cara Foam 8 oz Weyermann’s Cara Hell Comments – the ratio of Munich malt to Pilsener malt can vary.Óðrœrir 128 2. You can do an extract bock beer but I really think this style as much any other really needs to be done all grain. You can make a bock with well modified malt grains and a much simpler single infusion mash. a decoction mash does increase the malty and robust flavor of a bock beer. Germany.30 minutes .5 oz Hersbrucker Hops – 15 minutes 1 tsp Irish Moss – 15 minutes I like to use Hersbrucker hops in this beer because of its very mild and pleasant flavor and aroma. Okay that being said. Primary fermentation temperature should be between 48-58 degrees.068 Final Gravity: 1. I’ve also had good results with Wyeast Bavarian Lager yeast and White Labs Bock Yeast. I use the Cara Foam to help with head retention in the beer and the Cara Hell to give the beer more body without darkening it too much. This is because the flavor of this beer is much more dependent on the flavor of the malt than any other. This hop variety is from the Hersbrucker region of Franconia.

e. any kettle big enough to hold it). Pull the heaviest one third of the mash and put into a decoction kettle (i. I will usually heat up more sparge water than I need just in case (5-7 gallons).8. You want the temperature here to be between 150155 degrees (the higher the maltier). Bring it right to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. 6. Leave it there for a protein rest for 10-20 minutes then start decoction #2 5. Slowly mix it in until you reach about 105 degrees.2 to 5. One this is done you’re ready for decoction #1. Repeat the process in step #3 above except pull a higher proportion of the mash.Return decoction to mash tun and mix thoroughly. Sparge as slow as you can to fill kettle with 6. 2. . My water at home already is in this range but I still do a short acid rest to be sure. Temperature should be in the 118-128 degree range. 1. Leave it there for Saccharification/Dextrinization rest for around 15-30 minutes before starting decoction #3. Be careful of boil over occurring. The idea is to get the PH level is between 5. You will probably have to pull some of the thick stuff to get to 40-50 percent. Noonan. Return for final rest (hopefully at 170 degrees) for 5 minutes.e. Even though you’re after the thick part of the mash some liquid mash is good to help keep the grains from sticking to the kettle and makes it easier to stir. Let it sit for 15 minutes. 3. You can test it with PH strips. Be very careful to stir it frequently to keep the grains from sticking and burning at the bottom of the kettle. Be prepared to boil some water if you fall short or add cold water in the unlikely event you come out too high. liquid portion) of the mash. If you have extra boiling water than save it for later or toss it but don’t go above 105.5 – 7 gallons of wort. This is the acid rest.Óðrœrir 129 Decoction Mashing process First of all if you are going to attempt the decoction mashing process I highly recommend you get a copy of the book “New Brewing Lager Beer” by Gregory J. Lauter decoction. Return the decoction to the mash tun and stir thoroughly. 9. 4. It goes into much more detail about the how’s and why’s than I do here. Bring at least 14 ounces of water per pound of malt to a boil and slowly mix it in with the doughed in mash. Once you get up to a boil this is not a problem but is when it is getting up to the 150-158 range. I find that somewhere between 40-50% is required to get the temperature for the next rest where it needs to be. Let the mash rest for about 20 minutes. Pull off 40-50 percent of the thinnest (i. 8. Very slowly bring the mash up to a boil (stopping to let it rest between 150-158 degrees for 5-10 minutes on the way up) and boil for 5-10 minutes. While in the final rest heat up sparge water to 170-175 degrees. 7. Dough in the crushed malt by slowly mixing it with 24-28 ounces of cool water per pound of malt.

Boil and Chill and Pitch Yeast I bring the wort to a boil and plan on about a 75 minute boil altogether.Óðrœrir 130 Single Infusion Mash 1.5 quarts per pound of malt and mix it in until I get to the temperature that I want. 2. Lagering After racking the beer into a secondary fermentation carboy. Once the boil is done. See the hops ingredient above for the stages to add the hops at. Ideally 153-155 degrees. Enjoy! .Heat water up to about 170 degrees and slowly mix in with the grains. Let it sit for about a 1 hour Saccharification/Dextrinization rest. chill it and pitch the yeast and start primary fermentation at 48-58 degrees. Follow step #9 above. With 60 minutes left add your first hops. As you can see the single infusion mash is much easier. I usually heat up 1. place the carboy into your lagering fridge and set the temperature of 33-39 degrees and patiently let it lager for 2-3 months before bottling or kegging.

smokey base beer with the citrusy and piney flavors of juniper. To that end. 16 year Home Brewer & Mead Maker Oaky Smokey Porter is my annual Yule feast beer and is meant to be shared amongst friends and kindred members. The aroma is reminiscent of a campfire – smokey with hints of pine and citrus from the juniper and hops. Gotlandsdricka. juniper berries. multi-layered flavor. uses Scottish peat smoked malt. malty.5 oz Palisades Pellet Hops 0. and Baltic Porter.25 oz Palisades Pellet Hops 1 oz Crushed Juniper berries 1 tsp Irish Moss 2 lbs Buckwheat Honey Fermentation 11 grams Danstar Windsor Ale Yeast . The oakaging smooths the beer out and adds a subtle vanilla character. They also used bread yeast to ferment the beer. I chose to combine Finnish Sahti. a variety of pale and dark malts. Ingredients Mash 8 lbs American 2-Row Pale Malt 2 lbs Scottish Peat Smoked Malt 1 lb Belgian Special-B Malt 8 oz Chocolate Malt 8 oz Black Patent Malt 8 oz Roasted Barley Boil 1 oz Palisades Pellet Hops 0. with the flavors of juniper subtly lingering on your tongue. Finnish Sahti is a traditional beer brewed with smoked malt and juniper. roasty. which acted as a filter bed when running off the wort. They can also be referred to as Imperial Porters and heavily roasted versions as Imperial Stouts.Óðrœrir 131 Oakey Smokey Porter • Jon Talkington Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. tasting slightly smokey. The beer has a thick mouth feel with a smooth finish. At one time they lined the mash tun with juniper branches. My hybrid of the three. Baltic Porter is a beer reminiscent of an English brown porter but with higher alcohol content and complex. When I created the beer I was looking for a dark. Gotlandsdricka is a juniper beer similar to Sahti but they use birch smoked malt and age it in oak barrels. deep black with a tan creamy head that laces the glass. Oaky Smokey Porter. It is an opaque. as well as buckwheat honey and then aged with French oak chips.

When the boil is over add the 2 lbs Buckwheat honey. Mash out for 10 minutes at 168° F. Chill wort and transfer to your fermenter. boil 60 minutes.020 Process 1. .10 days. 9. Ferment 8 . Add 1 oz of Palisades. At 15 minutes left add the 0. 3.080 Final Gravity: 1. 10. Prime and bottle or keg. Turn off the heat. Add grain and mash at 150-152° F for 1 hour. pitch the 11 grams Danstar Windsor Ale Yeast. then rack to secondary and age on 2 oz French Oak chips for one month. Juniper berries. 4. Heat 4 gallons of water to 165° F.5 oz Palisades. At 5 minutes left add the 0. 11.Óðrœrir 132 Secondary 2 oz French Oak Chips Starting Gravity: 1. Sparge slowly and collect 6 gallons of wort. 5.25 oz Palisades. 7. 6. 8. 2. and Irish Moss. Bring to a boil and start your time.

In fermentation bucket 10 lbs Buckwheat Honey 10 lbs Wildflower Honey 3 lbs Wild Blueberries 1 oz Crushed Juniper Berries 1 oz Hallertauer Leaf Hops 1 Tbsp Ginger Powder 1 Orange – Zest & Juice Fermentation 22 grams Safbrew T-58 Dry Ale Yeast 5 grams Fermaid-K Yeast Nutrient 5 grams DAP Yeast Nutrient Secondary 2 oz French Oak Chips Starting Gravity: 1. this was a practice done in the ‘old days’. and were fermented with beer/ ale yeast instead of wine yeast. 16 year Home Brewer & Mead Maker Perkunas is my take on Lithuanian style mead or ‘Midus’. Aging on oak chips really mellows the mead giving it a ‘barrel aged’ character. Traditionally these meads were flavored with hops. The blueberries give the mead a really nice color and subtle fruitiness. spices.040 . By not boiling and using modern techniques and processes you will have a faster fermentation and quality mead. this process destroys the flavor and aromatic properties of the honey. I let it age one year in the bottle which really allowed the flavors to meld. I based this recipe on traditional Lithuanian and Russian recipes I read about while researching this style of mead. In many traditional mead recipes the honey is boiled in water.145 Final Gravity: 1. I wanted this mead to be sweet. The ingredients all come together nicely and make for very complex mead. Meaderies in Lithuania still use these ingredients to make this unique style of mead. juniper berries.Óðrœrir 133 Perkunas (Lithuanian Style Mead) • Jon Talkington Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. While this makes for clearer mead by coagulating the proteins in the honey. allowing the rich flavors of the buckwheat and wildflower honey to shine through. fruit juices such as blueberry or black currant.

When fermentation begins add the Fermaid-K.097 add the DAP. pour into a fermentation bucket. 7. when the gravity reaches 1. Bottle when clear and stable. 2. Fermentation should be kept around 68 – 70° F. Mix honey and ginger into 1 gallon warm water. Rehydrate yeast warm water. and then rack into another carboy. 6. and crushed blueberries into a mesh bag. 5. Put juniper. hops. Allow the mead to ferment for 10-14 days. and then pitch yeast.Óðrœrir 134 Process 1. orange zest. . 3. 4. A fining agent may be added to speed up the clearing process. When clear. and then add cold water to top to 5 gallons. Cork in wine bottles for long-term aging. rack into a secondary fermenter – a clean glass carboy and age on oak for a month. aerate must. rack off of the sediment which usually takes 3-6 months. This will make racking easier.

Skaldic poetry seems to have developed during the Viking Age to serve as homage for contemporary kings. whether they are religious. Aarhus Universitetsforlag. The term itself is borrowed from Snorri Sturluson’s book on Old Norse mythology from 1220 called Edda. The direction of this paper will be one of modern practical application so that listeners will be able to apply the concepts learned to their personal or professional poetic endeavors.1 Where Eddic poetry seems to have roots in a common Germanic form of poetry about gods and heroes. ljoðháttr and fornyrðislag. . Ed. Skaldic poetry is a specifically Scandinavian metrical form that does not seem to have any counterparts outside Scandinavia in general and the WestNordic area in particular. the decades of scholarship have failed to contribute to the most important body of listeners: the audience of common would-be poets and budding artisans who are ripe with a genuine and fervent love of Old Norse culture. 2006. The metrical forms that are identifiable as “Eddic” must have been established for some time in a common Germanic heritage and Skaldic poetry likely sprung out of these older. The term ‘Eddic’ has been imposed on a group of poems composed in different meter. Other practical guides to writing poetry in the Old Norse meters do exist. The most prominent meter of Skaldic poetry is commonly called dróttkvætt and this poetic form is mostly known for its complex circumlocutions called kenningar and heiti. Preben: Kapitler af Nordens litteratur i oldtid og middelalder. Rather than point out the errors of modern authors. Judith. magical or purely artistic in nature. In 1 . Old Norse Poetry: Eddic and Skaldic Old Norse poetry is in modern times classified in two distinct groups: Eddic and Skaldic poetry.Jesch.Living Lore Skald Craft A Practical Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry in the Old Norse Meters • By Jon Cyr There have been many approaches to the study of Old Norse Poetry. Meleungracht Sørensen. three of which are galdralag. simpler forms of alliteration. but mainly about the same subject matter: Old Norse mythology and legendry. They have asserted sometimes arguable theories varying from simple to complex and from mundane to fantastic. this article can equip the reader with the ability to identify correctly conforming poetry that adheres to the restrictions of each meter. However (un)interesting the results may be. Modern academia has spent an exhaustive amount of effort in identifying metrical patterns and trends within the lines of the voluminous collected works. Eddic poetry comprises several metrical forms. Many however are woefully incomplete and the works of up-and-coming skalds have suffered.

Michael “Early Runic ‘metrical’ inscriptions-How metrical are they?” In Versatility in Versification Multidisciplinary Approaches to Metrics Vol 74 of Berkeley Insights in Linguistics and Semiotics. he makes brief mention of the ancient oral traditions practiced by all pre-literate Germanic peoples and the songs sung regarding the heroes of that day. is has been pointed out by scholars that it contains basic alliteration. discovered in Denmark bore this runic inscription: Ek hlewagastir holtijar / horna tawidô I. Cornelius Works of Cornelius Tacitus. Includes Agricola. A Dialogue Concerning Oratory. beginning with the Roman historian Tacitus in the 2nd century. Although the composition of this verse must be examined later.3 Image shows a museum replica of the Horns of Gallehus and its runic inscription made from drawings of the now lost horns In the 5th Century. Although no alliterative poetry from this period has been discovered. and I personally believe it may demonstrate the foundational components of the Eddic meter fornýrðislag and thus all Old Norse alliterative poetry to follow. The Annals. 2009 .Tacitus. Dewey. the horn made. the well known Golden Horns of Gallehus. Tonya Kim/Frog (Ed).Óðrœrir 136 many ways we may trace the evolutionary path that Old Norse poetry has taken.2 In the 4th Century. which allows us to better understand its varied forms. The Evolution of Old Norse Poetry There are many examples of ‘pre-poetics’ in history to choose from. New York. the Kjolevik Stone bares the following inscription which has also been observed 2 . Germania and The Hisotories.Schulte. Hlewagastir Hoti’s son. MobileReferences 2009 3 .

de/abfragen/standard/deutung2_eng.Schulte. Snorri. The Prose Edda. Poetic Edda. 2009 . Jesse (Trans. A common misunderstanding regarding Old Norse poetry is that it cannot be written in English. it is a compilation of mythological and heroic poetry. Carolyne. 2009 5 . Oxford World’s Classics.)5 Eddic Poetry is most readily accessed by the modern reader in the publication entitled. HarperCollins Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1995 8 . The modern Asatruar wishes to write in the Old Norse meters for reasons of artistic.) (A bird to enemies screaming. The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún.8 It is nearly impossible to convert an Old Norse poem into English and retain its meter – something must be lost in translation.Larrington. The Poetic Edda. Once thought to be the collections of Saemund the Learned. Anthony. Dewey.http://www.. Surely dróttkvætt is to Skaldic poetry as fornýrðislag is to Eddic poetry. The use of the rare galdralag.uni-kiel.6 Examples of Skaldic poetry can likewise be found from many sources but none as thorough and comprehensive as those rendered in Háttatal found in Edda by Snorri Sturluson.asp?findno=380&ort=Eggja&objekt=runsten. Hverr of kom Heráss á hí á land gotna? Fiskr ór fjanda vim svimandi.). Rímur as it was practiced from the 14th century until today is the next developmental step in Old Norse as it was practiced in Iceland.Óðrœrir 137 to be alliterative.7 Dróttkvætt acts as a base or template for many of the other Skaldic meters have clearly evolved from it. (Trans. New York. málaháttr. It is beyond the scope of this paper to give it more than passing mention. dating from the 7th to 8th century. religious or magical practice. and which may demonstrate an early version of what will become the Eddic meter of ljóðháttr [3]. fogl á fjanda lið galand (To whom comes the War-Ás) (High to land of men) (A fish from enemies swimming. 7 . Oxford: Oxford University Press.runenprojekt.See also Sturluson. Michael “Early Runic ‘metrical’ inscriptions-How metrical are they?” In Versatility in Versification Multidisciplinary Approaches to Metrics Vol 74 of Berkeley Insights in Linguistics and Semiotics. Everymans Library. general alliteration and caesura. Components of Old Norse Poetry 4 .Byock. Faulkes. Tonya Kim/Frog (Ed). The meters represented consist of fornýrðislag.. hadulaikaR ek hagustadaR hlaiwido magu minimo (battler dancer) (I the stubborn one) (buried son of mine)4 The Eggjum Stone. (1996).%20gnejs 6 . and ljóðháttr.Tolkein. The Lay of Hárbath follows no true meter but still uses stanzic form. roughly half of which is found in the manuscript Codex Regius (GKS 2365 4to). also makes several powerful appearances. Although the physical differences between Old Norse and English do present some difficulties. Penguin Classics. Present day skalds may write both Eddic and Skaldic poetry in English and any flaws may be kept so minimal that it will still compare soundly to the licenses taken by skalds of the Viking age as many historical examples contain intentional imperfection. JRR Tolkien wrote a rendition of the Sigurd lays called The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún. JRR. perhaps demonstrates what may be the earliest example of galdralag. Edda. with each line written in fornýrðislag.) (2006). nothing could be further from the truth.

here is a question in the form of a kenning. • Flokkr: less formal poem. Mardoll Thor Atli ram Heimdalli ox Hlid Odin Har Kennings: These are phrases that point to a more common name. Heiti: A single word or name used to describe a more common name. Common Name Kenning Frey Suttung’s Slayer head burden of the neck king ring giver sea whale ways gold barrow flame Kennings may be further complicated by forming kennings within kennings. • Mansöngr: erotic love poems. thus defaming them. and displays artistic and . The above examples are considered first degree kennings. considered illegal on the grounds that it can entrap or ensnare women.” The answer is: Brisingamen! According to Snorri. They comprise a list of ‘poetic words’ or terms that listeners may or may not have readily known. What is the “twig’s-bane in the barrow sorrow-drops Goddess’s made-of-maggot-wights’ payment. Here is a second degree kenning: Common Name Second Degree Kenning Hugin longship Gullinbursti Hanged-Tyr’s First Raven (Odin’s First Raven) serpent of the abode of Nine Daughters (Serpent of the Sea) Frey’s shield-shaking mount (Frey’s battle mount) Kennings may be confounded to the fifth degree. • Drápa: formally constructed poems. the more it could be understood and appreciated.” For fun. heiti and kennings expand the vocabulary resources. • Lausavísur: an impromptu verse spoken “off-the-cuff ”. They were archaic words in the sense that they were archaic even to the skalds of the Viking age. Saga material reports even the complex meters such as Dróttkvætt could be spoken by gifted skalds. place or thing. place or thing. • Niðvísur: scathings or insulting poems. Here are just a few examples of heiti below: Common Name Heiti Freyja Sýr. The more poetry one studied. often in gnomic style and with refrains. These types may manifest themselves in any meter of the age and are not to be confused as meters themselves. usually short. They may reference a commonly known mythological story or poem.Óðrœrir 138 There are many types of poetry and further classifications to describe their general character or purpose were deemed to define them in ways beyond their structure or form. Snorri describes anything more than this is “unprofessional.

line 1 will contain staves that must alliterate with the main-stave which is the first stave in line 2. etc. The lines are usually ‘coupled’ in this manner. . The Skaldic meters derived from dróttkvætt contained ‘internal’ rhymes rather than end-of-word rhymes which the old skalds considered inferior. Hler. Alliteration: As it applies to ON poetry. It would not be much of a challenge for someone to ‘Christianize’ these verses below: Thor our Protector. Hammers the troll. ‘truth’ and ‘taking’ both alliterate with the ‘t’ sound. made up of a fixed number of syllables a line (= foot) of completed meaning with relative tense. Line three must alliterate in the main-stave of line 4. separated by a pause (caesura) allowing its sense to be made clear and producing a “stately effect”. However. line 5 is governed by line 6. the end rhymes were added to the traditional form. 910 – 990) presents the first historical example of the use of ending rhymes in Old Norse poetry. internal rhyming and a fixed number of syllables. All vowels sounds alliterate with each other vowel sound as well as with the soft ‘y’ sound expressed in Old Norse as a ‘j’. In the later examples. Therefore. also helped preserve the content of Old Norse poetry. This is to say. but ‘truth’ does not alliterate with words such as ‘today’ or ‘tomorrow’. he did not use it without first adhering to the rules of the meter in which he was writing. Main-stave (hofuðstafr): This is the stressed syllable that dictates the alliterating sound for the odd line that precedes it. An example of an internal ‘half-rhyme’ called a skothending is ‘skald and colder’. Given the natural differences between English and Old Icelandic. The consonant sounds are the same but the vowel sound is differing. etc. the stresses fall on the second syllable of the word rather than the initial sound.Óðrœrir 139 verbal skill. Consonant blends alliterate as long as their initial sound is the same (Hval. In both examples. This is always the first syllable in the even line. not an easier one.’ The same vowel and consonant sounds appear in each word. An example of a full rhyme called an aðalhending would be ‘talk and stalking. Rhyming: Strictly speaking.) with the exception of sk. the sounds do not need to appear at the end of the word. Structural Attributes Foot and Caesura (these are modern terms): as it applies to Old Norse poetry. not replacing it creating an additional challenge for the author. Troche (a modern term not used by Snorri): it is the characteristic of the best lines to be ending each with an unstressed syllable. Therefore. Alliteration of staves. Eddic poetry does not contain rhymes. a knowledgeable author has more choices of words to use in the content while still keeping the rules of the meter. a basic unit of rhythm. sp and st which only alliterate with themselves. For example. Reminder: a stressed syllable may not always be the first sound in a word. this rule is often the most difficult to observe. Hrafn. Staves (ON Stafir): These are the stressed syllables within the poetic lines that must alliterate in sound in order to “tie” the verse together as a whole. Snorri’s primer addresses this characteristic of form in terms of “syllables and staves per line” and whether or not the syllables create a uniform whole of the stanza. alliteration occurs when the same sound appears at the beginning of stressed syllables (stafir). Egil Skallagrimsson (ca.

(I will bold stressed syllables). The words affected by the rules of the form. On a similar note. • May have fixed or without fixed number of syllables but usually has four syllables in each line. • Each line contains two stressed staves. We wish to extol. Of hallowed ram. • At least one stave in the odd line must alliterate with the main stave. such as the subject and the verb denoting the subject’s primary action. distort or subtract from an old poem. if the poetic form before you uses a set number of lines. by happenstance come at the end of each line and are seldom the main subject of the verse. Of Ancestors gone. He thwarted the Etin. This verse is very difficult to Christianize without a total re-write. The Eddic Meters: Fornyrðislag – “words of the past made” • Formed of symmetrical stanzas of 8 lines. I’ll toast my kin. The subject and verbs are easily changed without disruption to the ending rhyme. In twisted horns. This verse is. Laughed at his foes. And call the names. not in alliterative form: it simply contains end rhymes only. it usually can be identified by scholars who understand the old meters. it is far more difficult for the literary vandal to make an addition to the poem. Furthermore. the alliteration most often falls on the stronger more integral words of a line. The memory drink. Loki’s lead man. stanzas or syllables. Here’s a short poem in fornyrðislag honoring a great Icelandic sheep sire. Ottar. • Main stave is the first stave in the even lines. To All-father’s halls.Óðrœrir 140 This friend of man. His curling crowns were fashioned into beautiful drinking horns. When someone attempted to add. of course. The mead so sweet. Thus the subject and its action are the hardest things to alter. (main stave is italic). Thor the thewful. Now look at the inscription from the Golden Horn of Gallehus examined earlier: ek hlewagastir holtijar horna tawidô Malaháttr – “Speech–meter” • Like fornyrðislag except: .

The tip of his finger. The fence posts of cedar. (I will bold stressed syllables). • The above format is repeated to make a stanza of 6 lines. These four stanzas of ljoðháttr are regarding the eating of the heart of a slaughtered ram from a flock of Icelandic sheep we used to keep at the farm. Those watchful amber eyes. By knowing the stressed placement within the poem. • The third line contains three staves. Horns won’t grow from my head. The gallant saga. He gained the main. (main stave is italic). His tongue tasted the magic. Of this skald will thicken. Are safe from breaking. the Old Norse verse can be read more authoritatively and with additional feeling. Learned cant of common birds. Ljoðháttr – “Song-meter” • First line contains two stressed staves. Could some small gift. Of the mighty wyrm. two of which must alliterate. Of Sigurd Volsung. He merely touched. Fafnir’s fearless slayer. Be passed from beast to person? Perhaps he’d impart That prudent gaze. despite the orator’s lack of understanding. usually five. I wonder on words of legend. I will skip any examples of malaháttr because its difference to fornyrðislag is so minor that to hear it spoken in English seldom produces a different effect – at least to our modern ears.Óðrœrir 141 • Has a regulated number of syllables in each line. Of a healthy strong ram. My strength will stay as before. • Main stave is the first stave in the second line. "Sigurd Slaying the Dragon" by Christine Foltzer The Kjolevik Stone mentioned earlier can be read in the same manner. Be given to me. hadulaikaR ek hagustadaR . I doubt the skull. While eating the heart.

Help from the hands. Wend the soreness away. Wish the soreness away. (I will bold stressed syllables). (I often don’t keep this rule . Make whole the bruise on bone. yet all of the books regarding magical practices of the Old Norse skip an examination of galdralag and instead focus on ceremonial magic or other traditions. Heal the bruise on bone. transitioning the meaning.” • Formed of symmetrical stanzas of 8 lines. Wend the soreness away. usually 6 – as in this case (the number of syllables will follow each line). (main stave is italic). The transformed or ‘magical line’ is similar to the one preceding it yet it has added a statement for a slightly shaped future. Here is a quick prayerful stanza of galdralag I wrote after my wife was involved in a car accident. Help from the hands. Wish the soreness away. • Fixed number of syllables in each line. Of hallowed Dis. (Transition from ‘heal’ to ‘make whole’) Give thanks that she. Give thanks that she. Of hallowed Dis. • Odd lines must contain two skothending syllables (half-rhymes). • At least two staves in the odd line must alliterate with the main stave. By Thor was helped. By Thor was helped. • The added lines change in word slowly from line to line. Make whole the bruise on bone. usually ljoðhattr. (I will underline alliterations). • The last stave in the odd line must precede an unstressed syllable.Óðrœrir 142 hlaiwido magu minimo Galdralag – “Galdr or incantation – meter” • An extra line or lines added to a stanza of another form. • Each line contains three stressed staves.it isn’t kind to English and is much easier to stick to when writing in ON). Heal the bruise on bone. Skothendingar contain a different vowel sound but same ending consonant sounds. one of which must come at the end of the line. It is both to show thanks for Thorr’s protection as well as including the 4th and 8th lines which are transformed lines 3 and 7 respectively. (I . (Transformation from ‘wishing’ to ‘wending’ away pain) Skaldic Meters: Dróttkvætt – “Noble-speech. Examples of galdralag and how it was used can be found in Havamal and Skírnismal. • Main stave is the first stave in the even lines.

sighting. A stag in blowing snow. Úllr from the North comes forth. He wears the wild caught furs.   These four stanzas of dróttkvætt were written to honor Úllr and is entitled “Lakeside Hunter. Staring from stand of firs. His light-brown colored coat Crests shine tawny from dawn.Óðrœrir 143 colored skothendingar in red). Wending it splits the wind. Feathered tail of felling. Pierced by painful arrow. The grip of fletch bound tip. Whispers in lake air crisp. Firmly sets biting wýrm. Raising. The forest greets their meeting. His prize from hiding rises. (6) – aðalhending . Faltering hoof steps halt. Bounding full he soon finds. And squares to horse tail hair The gust from grasp released. On laced frames hunter braces  He bends the yew wood bound. the breakdown will follow: The Ás is crossing ice. one of which must come at the end of the line. The hart from forest shore.  (Aðalhendingar are in blue).” Here is normal textual version first. sizing. Aðalhendingar contain the same vowel sound and the same ending consonant sound. Borne through hindering winds. (6) – skothending Úllr from the North comes forth. Seeking the bone of his cheek. Lashings light on his feet. On frozen firth he rises. Úllr the Hunter then hailed. • Even lines must contain two aðalhending syllables (full-rhymes). The Ás is crossing ice. Woolens hold back the cold. Squinting eye scopes the point. On blades of bone he slides. The bow kept taught held low.

(7) – aðalhending Bounding full he soon finds. (6) – skothending Whispers in lake air crisp.Óðrœrir 144 On blades of bone he slides. Falls merciless Mjölnir. Jökull á Eyjafjöll. (6) – skothending   And squares to horse tail hair (6) – aðalhending The gust from grasp released. (6) – skothending The bow kept taught held low. (6) – aðalhending Lashings light on his feet. (6) – aðalhending On frozen firth he rises. Shaking glacier quaking. (6) – aðalhending Feathered tail of felling. (7) – aðalhending Squinting eye scopes the point. (6) – skothending A stag in blowing snow. (6) – skothending The grip of fletch bound tip. On molten glowing flow. (6) – aðalhending Úllr the Hunter then hailed. (6) – skothending Seeking the bone of his cheek. The island-mountain riled.cold rhyme) Staring from stand of firs. (6) – aðalhending Raising. (6) – skothending Firmly sets biting wýrm. (6) – aðalhending (don’t be tempted to stress ‘back’ it ruins the hold . sizing. sighting. (6) – skothending Woolens hold back the cold. (6) – skothending The hart from forest shore. (6) – aðalhending His light-brown colored coat (6) – skothending Crests shine tawny from dawn. (7) – skothending The forest greets their meeting. Stories of old retold. (6) – skothending His prize from hiding rises. (6) – aðalhending Wending it splits the wind. This poem was inspired by all of the remarkable photos of the volcanic eruptions in Iceland’s Eyjafjalajökull. . (7) – aðalhending He wears the wild caught furs. (6) – skothending On laced frames hunter braces  (7) – aðalhending He bends the yew wood bound. (6) – aðalhending Pierced by painful arrow. Shuttering sky is shattered. (6) – skothending Borne through hindering winds. (6) – aðalhending These next two stanzas of dróttkvætt are for Thorr. (6) – skothending Faltering hoof steps halt. Storm-God’s ire is stirring.

(I will bold stressed syllables). Skothendingar contain a different vowel sound but same ending consonant sounds.7 – aðalhending Behold the havoc he wields .6 – aðalhending Ashes searing and soaring . (I colored skothendingar in red). • Each line contains three stressed staves. • At least two staves in the odd line must alliterate with the main stave.6 – aðalhending Falls merciless Mjölnir .6 – aðalhending Storm-God’s ire is stirring. see the description in dróttkvætt).7 – skothending Shaking glacier quaking .7 – aðalhending Thríhenda – “Thrice rhymed. one of which must come at the end of the line. Lashing out rage unleashed.6 – aðalhending Lashing out rage unleashed .6 – aðalhending Wild the blaze is rising . . .6 – aðalhending Shuttering sky is shattered . .  (Aðalhendingar are in blue). (main stave is italic). Hlórithi whose name is Thorr! Jökull á Eyjafjöll.7 – skothending Hlórithi whose name is Thorr! . .6 – skothending With whirling brimstones hurled. . (I will underline alliterations). Lightning the storm-cloud brightens. •E  ven lines must contain three aðalhending syllables (full-rhymes).though seldom conformed to. one of which must come at the end of the line. . Aðalhendingar contain the same vowel sound and the same ending consonant sound.  .6 – skothending The island-mountain riled.Óðrœrir 145 Wild the blaze is rising. • Main stave is the first stave in the even lines. Behold the havoc he wields.6 – skothending Lightning the storm-cloud brightens. .  •O  dd lines must contain two skothending syllables (half-rhymes).7 – skothending The cinders blown by winds . The cinders blown by winds. With whirling brimstones hurled.6 – skothending Stories of old retold. Paired lines must contain a balance when read as in all stanzic poetry.6 – skothending On molten glowing flow. • Th  e last stave in the odd line must precede an unstressed syllable (difficult.” • Formed of symmetrical stanzas of 8 lines. Ashes searing and soaring. •F  ixed number of syllables in each line .

• The last stave in the odd line must precede an unstressed syllable.aðalhending Marching with host abreast.   -8– skothending Praying that it stays high and raised. . -6– skothending Boldly holding on shoulder.aðalhending Moved were the skalds of old. -7 . and the alliterating sounds in a line must only be separated by one syllable (I will underline alliterations).aðalhending Sig-Tyr’s symbol of doom.   -6 . -7 . Boldly holding on shoulder. -8 . • At least two staves in the odd line must alliterate with the main stave. Gripped lest it dip or slip. Soaring before the warriors. -7 .aðalhending   Skjálfhenda – “Shivering rhymes” • Formed of symmetrical stanzas of 8 lines. Paying severely to bear it. • Main stave is the first stave in the even lines.Óðrœrir 146 This poem in Thríhenda is about the fabled “Raven Banner” which guaranteed victory to the army it flew before. Wind in Grimnir’s standard. -7 . Then flight off white field bright.    -6– skothending Soaring before the warriors.aðalhending First baleful flit and flutter. Spearmen cheer as it nears them. -6 . -6– skothending Grave is the Raven’s waving.   This Spirit was spun in linen. This Spirit was spun in linen. (main stave is italic).aðalhending Grandiosely held and shield-less. Praying that it stays high and raised. First baleful flit and flutter. -7 – skothending Then flight off white field bright. yet death to its bearer. (I will bold stressed syllables). Moved were the skalds of old. Sig-Tyr’s symbol of doom.aðalhending Wind in Grimnir’s standard. Marching with host abreast.   -8– skothending Spearmen cheer as it nears them. Grandiosely held and shield-less. • Each line contains three stressed staves. -8 . -6– skothending By a man who ran for the banner. By a man who ran for the banner.  -8– skothending Gripped lest it dip or slip.aðalhending Paying severely to bear it. Grave is the Raven’s waving.

I composed it afterword with a heavy mind while working through a cold night on the late shift. one of which must come at the end of the line. For example. It is similar to dróttkvætt in many regards. (6 syllables) Deem their future gleaming. (6 syllables)   There are of course more types of Skaldic meters. From this river I come. Some are made from Eddic forms with controls and rules to the content. Refhvörf or ‘fox-turns’ is a poem of any meter where each line contains two subjects that are in opposition to each other such as shown in the brief example below: The chaser found quarry. To Skald three bairns were born. Skothendingar contain a different vowel sound but same ending consonant sounds.Óðrœrir 147 • Fixed number (6) syllables in each line.” Snorri tells us this meter was invented by Thorvald Veili after being shipwrecked on an outlying skerry in the cold ocean. Bright and shinning these lights. Greppamini may be a stanza of fornýrðislag with the first four lines asking questions that result in the last four lines producing the answer.  • The first and fifth in a stanza which must have two skothending syllables (half-rhymes). (6 syllables) From this river I come. Strong and striving long. the skald is in constant struggle to make things fit.  This poem in skjálfhenda was prompted from a discussion on the afterlife with kin. (6 syllables) Bright and shinning these lights. (6 syllables) Strong and striving long. Skalds are often surprised. though pleased.  (Aðalhendingar are in blue). many of which are not expanded forms of dróttkvætt. (I colored skothendingar in red). like the boy trying to plug . Aðalhendingar contain the same vowel sound and the same ending consonant sound. Power from Fylgja flows. (6 syllables) To Skald three bairns were born. by the end results of their work. (6 syllables) Stream flows forth and forward. one of which must come at the end of the line. Readers are familiar with the “word leading to word” passage in the Havamal. Stream flows forth and forward. How fitting this meter is: Skjálfhenda – “Shivering rhymes. Deem their future gleaming.  When writing in Drottkvætt. (conquered is opposite of defense) Conclusion The strict metrical and compositional rules and the prolific use of heiti and kennings truly make Old Norse poetry a challenge to both writers and listeners. Power from Fylgja flows. Pray to Dísir daily. • The remaining lines must each contain two aðalhending syllables (full-rhymes). (6 syllables) Pray to Disir daily. (chaser is the opposite of quarry) And conquered defenses.

This is perhaps the true great origin of our holy myths. another problem soon presents itself. As he fixes one.  For example. By attempting to convey stories about our eldest ancestors in skaldic meter.  The process is emboldening and humbling at the same time.  Words map out the tale for us – using the contours of our being.   .  A layer of words isn›t just followed by more words. they shape the words to be. we can catch a glimpse of how inner pathways reveal the story along with us. you may correct one word to make it ‹half-rhyme› only to discover you are now in violation of an alliteration rule.  The meaning however has completely changed from the skald’s original intent or idea.  Several hours later. one might find a complete stanza of conforming lines.Óðrœrir 148 all of the leaks in the dam.

This one to thank. Brilliantly staring. The one dethroned. No longer the song. Both high and proud. Evergreen sprig. I cannot conceive. His regal blood. His crown of power. Of Ancestors gone. By crafters wanted. Dipped into the bowl. .  And gathered folk. Deep bellied voice. Bright golden orbs. A better way. Guarded in wool. Gone to the knife. Curling and wide. Always watching. Of hallowed ram. To All-father’s halls. The wide muscled chest. Sung to his ewes. The mead so sweet.Óðrœrir 149 POETRY Ottar’s Tribute • By Jon Cyr Fornyrðislag This poem was presented to Laerad Kindred by Jon Cyr along with the great Iclelandic sheep that sired his flock. A tribute to Ottar. I’ll toast my kin.  The weavers’ desire. The sheep was sacrificed in blót and this poem was dedicated to him. Around the horg. The coveted locks. A noble beast. Luck you will bring. Or call to mind. I’ll miss those eyes. Valiant and pure. Gods and Goddess. His coat of warmth. His horns were fashioned into drinking horns that are used only for ceremony purpose. To honor the lord. In twisted horns. The memory drink. Though worthy still. The guardian strong. On God-staves flecked. Holding his head. And call the names. Now borne away. Gifted with feast. Lending us strength.

Towheaded tot waiting Tiny lad misses dad A year her heart’s yearning Youthful bride cries with pride Rich are those he reaches Roaming no more from home. Twice Tiwaz carved for you. the battle is won. Tyr I call twice for all. Ready today’s rally Roar victoriously Community And countrymen Prosperity Or poverty Whether fit Or feeble This is Midgard. We are Mannaz.Óðrœrir 150 Tiwaz Mannaz • • By Jill Evans By Jill Evans Dróttkvœtt Between Earth And Asgard Philosophy And religion Between science And sorcery I find Self And solace. Safe. Young men battled Jotuns Yesterday flew away. the sounds have ended Son. Art by Rachel Jacob . Dedicated to my friends and relatives who have served or are serving in the Armed Forces. For seldom seen soldiers Sacrifice felt back home.

and the huntsmen reply.  the huntsmaster calls out.  the same bone chilling shout Hear the din of the hounds resound throughout the hollow Hear the ancient fell cry  of the huntsmen who follow Wod Ho.Óðrœrir 151 The Wild Hunt • By Matt Walker When the days have waned shorter  and shadows grown long And the geese have come singing  their wintertime song They course the night skies  in their search of fair prey Wise folks stay inside  to keep out of harms way When the moon lights the sky  like a great silver pearl The furious host  sees its banner unfurl And woe be to those  who’ve out in the night strayed Who should happen afoul  of this dread cavalcade and with thundering hooves  and the baying of hounds the dead rise from within their old burial mounds Midden in dem wag!  comes the troups’ warning cry best heed these few words  or you surely will die Wod Ho. the huntsmaster calls out And the huntsmen reply.  the same bone chilling shout . Wod Ho. Wod Ho.  the same bone chilling shout Middle of the way! booms the voice from the sky face down on the road and they may pass you by Over fields across lakes  and through woods go the pack great fiery black dogs. Wod Ho the huntsmaster calls out And the huntsmen reply. the dread host at their back Wod Ho.

I tell men | to honor the gods the far famed ones | favor to good men high holy powers | our people’s providence I pray the One-Eyed god | hail the GallowsBurden Father of Hosts | God of the Hanged words I give | for Raven god’s weal Hail heaven’s warder | holy hammer wielder fare forth swiftly | friend of men great in battle | the bane of giants Hear. caught you. Wild-hearted Warden Wight-lord of the field Wholeness and Health Heilag you bring Gladly we gift for  The gains in our luck Since captured you. I bid | battle-bold Ing boar-rider | folk-leader give wealth | and fertile seasons I pray the One-handed god | leavings of the wolf proud faith-keeper | prince of temples mighty glory-god | guide us well A gift for a gift | good folk true wealth for men | honor for gods memory for the dead | and weleful wights I wield words for | world’s mighty warders sharing hall joys | just in giving fair fame | kindly words Praise and wisdom | we seek in life Happiness and health | for kith and kin right action | wide wealth Corn Wight • By Josh Rood Fornyrðislag This poem was written in honor of this season’s corn spirit and the idol we built for it. Corn-Idol made you .Óðrœrir 152 Winter Full Moon Bede • By Shane Ricks Hear.

not too old but not young either. “Yuh mind if I join yah?” again he sounded like he could be an old native. He set his cooler down and reached towards his feet.” with a broad smile on my face I replied. I’d do so.Óðrœrir 153 A Snake Story • By Josh Heath It was a nice warm early fall day and I was basking on top of Rattlesnake Mountain. It was a tad past mid-day and clouds were floating by. almost made him sound foreign.” his crisp voice traveled over to where I sat. “My name’s Alex. Usually good for short relationships. those that want to be more outdoorsy and intrepid. With a strangely serious face he said back. you know the ones were kids are pointing at the different shapes and what not. made his way gracefully up the path.” he chuckled and left it at that. It was trimmed and combed well though. “Ayuh. Maybe he’d just retired. It’s one of the easier climbs in the state. Familiar. It was one of those nice places to relax. His accent was odd to say the least. but I wasn’t worried. and like his long hair. Or something like that anyway. and had his distinguished gray hair tied back in a ponytail. maybe talk to a few of the other hikers and let all the worries of the week pass by. It was one of those big blue ones. I sat there in between the crook of two larger rocks and sipped slowly out of a pleasantly cool water bottle. You can tell the type. it was a good way to reenergize after a week of work. white top and handle. I figured he must be a forest ranger. “Hi.” he chuckled. quite a bit bigger than most hikers would have carried. stretching his arms down towards them. He wore a long beard. especially when you get to meet the day hikers that bring their girlfriends along on a “short” hike. I put forward my hand in introduction.” . but he didn’t have the usual patches on. something you could do in a few hours and then still make it to the party you had to go to later that day. “Mountain’s not mine. just seemed to work. He carried with him a cooler.” I called back respectfully raising my right hand in greeting. but the way his hello came out. I’d known someone would come by before too long. I think the interactions with other folk are one of the most interesting parts of the hike. it was guaranteed this time of year. but rarely make it past the stairs in the mall. but go on long enough to enjoy the company.” I smiled back again. I can’t say I’ve made a habit of it. if I could tell you not to get old and you’d listen. I usually did this hike once a week. Actually. You’re welcome to. He could have been an old timer from around here. “If I could stop it I would. An older gentleman. but not quite what I’d expect from one of the people around here. I’d had the sense to throw a few ice cubes in before I left the house. “Arrrgghhh. “Hello young’n. I’d do the same” I looked him over one more time and sat up straight. and I really enjoyed the atmosphere and view from the small peak. the kind you see at a barbecue. “Yuh right ‘bout that. but I’ve met my fair share of women that way. He sat down near me on a rock that had been worn down with so many other folks doing just the same. He had worn tan boots on. I heard the footsteps of someone coming up the path. He was dressed in green slacks and a green button up shirt. but just not quite right. the kind you know won’t go too far. mountain don’t belong tah no one anymarh.

” Again. a really good fake too. because I couldn’t quite tell which one.” I asked from my train of thought. tiny rattle on the end of its tail swaying slightly side to side. Usually a silence like that can drag on. I got the sense that he’d been here for a long time. About a hundred years ago the last of the rattlesnakes had been killed off in the state. Public Relations’ Department in this heah mattah.Óðrœrir 154 He took it with a firm grip. I was sure that some bureaucracy would stop that from happening though. “Ayuh. that’s impressive you know the date and everything?” “Ayuh. so they’d had a pretty wide territory back in the day. “Wow. June 16th.” “Ayuh. “Kinda ironic the name of this place isn’t it.” “Last one was killed in 1906. Both of them moved a little differently than the other. but had an odd knowing sort of look on it. The snake was beautiful though. yeah. The rattlesnake wound his way up his arm. At first I couldn’t believe my eyes. its markings were slightly different from any I’d seen before. I’m not part of the wadeya call it. he pulled out a small snake. I’m not one of those folks who have any sort of phobia about snakes.” . This small mountain was just one of two in the region with the name. “He seems to be really comfortable around people. so they finally OK’d that program huh?” I asked hoping the old man wasn’t doing this on his own volition.” “Well take a peek at what I got here.” he laughed and smiled broadly. He raised the lid slightly. I realized the old man had two different colored eyes. and seemed content. long enough to pick up the colloquialisms but not long enough to get rid of that foreign accent he seemed to have. this here’s a little head start for the fellas.” he said while cracking open the lid of his cooler. and he seemed to have no fear from the old man holding him. here was one of the snakes that had been so long ago snuffed out. they’ll have started the official release soon. sure is. “Uhh. but not this time. I saw him breathe in deeply quite a few times. Gently putting his hands in. taking in the mountain. Some mothers group against snakes or something.” His smile broadened and he laughed a little. “When you gonna tell the public?” “Well. I thought. that sort of thing could lead to a real mess. As I watched him handle the snake.” I sighed with relief that he wasn’t just going to release a snake by himself and hoped it worked out. I make it my business to know. What was he going to do with it? Let just one of them loose? It wouldn’t make much difference. and I realized he was doing something I tended to do when I first reached the summit: breathe in the clean air. The locals didn’t take to them very well. and I realized one of them had to be fake. It flicked its tongue a few times.” the smile on his face was one of satisfaction at his knowledge. “Ayuh.” “Grim it’s a pleasure to meet you. don’t you think?” His echo of my exact thoughts was a little strange and his smile was pleasant. and I heard a faint rustling sound come from within. they’ll ah hear about it real soon.” Hasn’t been a snake here since the earlier 1900’s. “I’d say this mountain could use a few mah snakes and a few less flatlandahs walking around on it. I kind of find them interesting. My opinion was this mountain could use a few more snakes and a few less flatlanders walking around on it. it was a pleasant day. and there weren’t enough to really make it hard.” “Wow. and came to rest in the sun that was shining there. and it was nice to see someone get the same enjoyment as I from it. We sat for a few minutes gazing at the same view. but you can call me Grim if you like. “I go by quite a few names. and I’d heard a rumor about a project to reintroduce the serpent.

And without looking back he ambled down the path. I figure. but last place before I came heah were Iceland. “I’m gonna let em out down the way a bit. “Where you from?” I called down to him as he left. . Be bringing a few more in the next few days. Maybe he misspoke. however it looked like somehow a container of the snakes had gotten away from an assistant Warden and had been let loose. A few days after that I heard a story on the news. he’s a bit of a shy one.” he called over his shoulder. give em a chance anyway. “Just the one though?” I asked in a curious way. the Fish and Game department had officially decided against the snake reintegration.” At that point he stood slowly.” he had a mad sort of grin on him. don’t want to put em too close to where the people congregate just too soon. I’m sure they’ll ah take to their old home pretty well. “All ovah. No one could pin point exactly who the assistant warden was either. I’m sure he meant to say he spent a lot of time with the snakes. I sat there for a little bit longer trying to get my head around what was going to happen to my little mountain.Óðrœrir 155 “Not really. Well it’s been good talkin’ to yah Alex. and placed his charge slowly back into the cooler. Fish and Game had decided to allow those 6 to roam and would keep an eye on how they were doing with the local population and the program would go from there. “Nope. but I’ve spent some time as a snake I got the smell on me.” he stroked the top of the snakes back while the little rattler’s tongue flicked around for a few seconds. got 6 of em this trip.

the second Anders. and Frey bless your majesty. he too met the old troll hag who begged him for food. “go along. mocking so he fell to berating the cook. While he was hard at it. and broke their necks. There stood the king in the dooryard. Sometimes he drove the king’s sheep and goats over the cliffs. and on all the days that Sunna hid so did they. he was so given to grief that he seldom ever saw folk. for he always sat and poked about in the ashes. many hundred goats. Anders decided it was his turn.” So Per got mead in a skin. He threw his pack on his back and trotted down the hill. and the third Espen. He too got mead in his skin. who was the eldest.” and the kitchen maid called Anders a clumsy boy. and then he threw his pack on his back and trotted down the hill. till he came at last to the king’s grange. “Yes. my boy. “What sort of a runt are you?” said the cook. One day he asked his father if he might have leave to go out into the world and try his luck. But for all of that. you shall have it. Next he tore the heads off all the king’s ducks and geese.” said Per to himself. When he had gotten on his way. and they trampled down fields and meadows.” and so he went into the kitchen and sat down on the bench as though he were a great man. and then they rubbed salt into the wound and sent him home again the same way he had come. but he strode past her and made no answer. for there was a troll who was forever making such waste and worry there that folk could hardly travel to the king’s grange in peace. At the king’s grange he did not fare at all better than Per. “Ay. “you may just stand there and scatter corn and cackle chicken-tongue till you turn into a bear. and many hundred horses he had too. it would still have been bad. The first day he shook all the ashes . and food in his knapsack. First the troll let all the horses loose. In such a state he had been ever since his youngest daughter was lost. “Ah. Sometimes he killed the king’s cattle in the barns. People lived in fear of the dark and cowered inside at night. dreaming the day away. and you shall see what you shall see. he had driven all the fish to land. and sent him home with a sore back. Then. That. in came the king. he passed an old moss-green troll hag who lay by the roadside. feeding the roosters and hens. Per. They were capable youths. was said to be the most capable. and ate up the grain.” said the old troll hag. The king called.Óðrœrir 156 Ashlad and Redfoks • By Tim Gladu ONCE ON A TIME there was a king who ruled a newly settled farmstead. ay!” said the troll hag. give me a morsel of food today. Ashlad crept up from the hearth and began to brush himself. the first was called Per. Per thought. and then he held his head straight and went on his way.” said the old fellow. and scattered corn both east and west. He had many hundred sheep. called Ashlad. “Well. “Chicky. and farther than far. my dear boy. But Per hardly so much as looked to one side. Even if he had never lost her. Every time folks went to fish in the mill pond.” said Per. “Chicky! Chicky!” said the king. There was an old couple who had three sons. “Late is better than never. “Good evening. Silver and gold he had in great heaps. for Per had not yet gotten his beard. When he was going to beat her for that. and left them lying there dead. and took no heed of Per. much less spoke a word to them. many hundred cattle. in came the cook with a butcher’s knife and cut three red stripes out of him and rubbed hot embers in them. Once Per was home. and food in his knapsack.” So Per went far. who made the cook cut three red stripes out of Per’s back. When he had walked a while.

Some of these he spread in the pond and some on land. “Is it true that you could protect the fish in the mill pond so that the troll could not harm them? For that is what they tell me you have said.” So he breathed deeply of the air. “Just look at him. “Come with me. I have nothing better or worse to give you but when you look through the hole at the top. “Here you have an old silver key. she always let Ashlad scrape the porridge pot.” said Ashlad. however it was. you can see what may be. “You have all the day before you. “Well.” said the old woodwife. It’s not good in the arms.Óðrœrir 157 off him. whether you said it or not. as she fumbled down in her big pocket.” The wolf crone nodded. and thin in the back.” he said.” said Ashlad. Some of the other kitchen helpers were envious of Espen. and so at last he had leave to go. and the door in the mound was closed. long way he met the old woodwife who lay by the roadside. who was not slow in telling the king. He began plucking all that he could find of the nine needed herbs.” Ashlad would not give up. As he went he took his time. yes.” “Bide a bit. it was warm. “I guess you are starving. and all the while he looked around him on the road.” In the evening Ashlad set to work.” But Ashlad paid his brothers no mind.” From that day on. he trotted away from the cottage.” said Ashlad. “but if I had said it. if I must.” said Ashlad. His brothers were not in favor of letting him have a morsel of food with him. for the troll chased them all over the cliffs and crags the whole night. too. “You must take this old sweater of mine. He looked up and she was gone. but now the sheep suffered for it. but his mother gave him a cheese rind and a bone with very little meat on it.” Anders said. Then one of the servants came to Redfoks and said that Ashlad knew a charm to protect the sheep as . When he got to the king’s grange. After a long. “Are you? Then I’ll share with you. “Now we have a new sun shining here. I suppose you are off to the king’s grange to find his daughter and win half the kingdom? Better stay in the ashes and lie on the hearth.” “Many thanks. “It is too heavy for you. She sat before an open door in the earth and sang softly. but once on a time. and the third he dressed himself in his best clothes. “You are freezing.” said Ashlad.” “I have not said so. what do you know of the world? Best crawl back in the ashes where you belong. as he saw how her teeth chattered.” “I am glad for the help. The rest he spread over the brink of the dam. she was. “You’ll be there soon enough. They went and told lies to Jarl Redfoks about him. “The poor old cripple.” the king said.” said Ashlad. and wandered up the hills.” said Per. “I have no need to go about with red stripes under my jacket.” he said to himself. and as he said that he gave her the meat bone. the kitchen maid was hard at work drawing water. “but it is just what I am fit to do. With these. and he went to his father and asked leave to go out a little into the world. He knew what herbs were needed to ward off trolls.” said the kitchen maid. and what do you think will become of you? Your thoughts are never on what you are doing.” “Well. when it was new. my lad. The troll had to leave the fish in peace. “What are you to do out in the world?” said the graybeard. and afterwards the moon will rise if you have any luck. I would have been as good as my word. and that was great toil to her. I must. “You have spent all your time in the pantry at Mother’s skirts. “It did not fare so well for either Per or Anders. One day the king came and asked Ashlad. you must try this task if you wish to keep a whole skin on your back. The second day he washed and combed himself.

Just as he got near his grange. He had nothing either to eat or drink. As they approached the waterfall they realized there was no way past. Then the cattle and the horses got the same treatment. Redfoks had managed to stay behind. and his clothing fared so ill in the thorns and thickets that at last he had scarcely a rag upon his back. The king and his men made their way onto a mountain pass. But the buildings next bore the wrath of the troll. Then the troll came to him. At last he made an ointment with tar and rubbed it well into them. then the plants will speak and teach us their use as medicines. Then with a piercing shriek and a deafening thud the troll was upon them. bending trees out of his way. There was no end to his work. In short order Redfoks told the king. swords and shields at hand. The beast leapt down from above into the midst of the warriors. The trees parted and the troll allowed himself to be seen so all would know how the king had come to be home again. The king raised his sword to charge toward the troll. shields raised. not knowing how to break the spell the troll had cast over their king. In just a few passing heartbeats the king stood alone with the troll. for the king thought it would surely be his little dog.” agreed the king. As he went on binding. Finally it was decided that the princess would have to be delivered to the troll. A huge waterfall thundered by from on high. The king threatened that he would cut three broad stripes out of Ashlad’s back if he did not do what he claimed he could. The king. I will guide you home to your grange. “If you promise to grant me the first thing you set eyes on when you get back on your own land. and walked directly through the waterfall. and then they stopped eating it. There was no going up. Everyone was in great despair. When the king realized that she was the first to meet him. “How did you learn your plantcraft?” asked the king. out came his eldest daughter and all the people after her to meet the king and to welcome him back safe and sound. Three abreast they could walk along the narrow tract. rode round and round for many days bewildered and lost. he could have that. . That night such an endless rain of boulders besieged the folk that the king was finally convinced to send out a hunting party. insisted the servant boy.” said Espen. All they could do was fall back. “Treat the spirits of plants like you treat other human beings. From that moment forward he remained befuddled and addled.Óðrœrir 158 well. Attempting to pass through the torrent meant a personal greeting with the jumble of rocks hundreds of feet below.” “Yes. who then went out to Espen and spoke to him as he had spoken the first time. Ashlad then burned the nine herbs and smudged the ashes on the house. Then he went to an old gnarled mountain ash and said. who spent the whole night rending and tearing the barns and storage houses to pieces. they went on eating and they ate faster than he could bind. He grew until he towered above them. for as soon as he bound herbs the sheep they ate it off one another’s backs.” He then took some berry laden branches and hung them over the troughs where the cows and horses and sheep fed. The troll stepped over the king. There was no help for it. and said. if he only chose to use it. The men dismounted from their horses and made slow and wary progress. He gathered his best warriors and they rode out that very morning to much fanfare. but the bodies of all his men lay between them. and so they had peace from the troll. “Grant me leave to cut some branches. unable to deal with his loss.” He then pulled out his knife and said to the mighty rowan. So he committed himself to his herb mixture again. he was so cut to the heart that he fell to the ground on the spot sobbing. “Help me now as you have helped Thor. which always came hustling out to meet him. shrunk down in size. Ashlad thought. That Ashlad had said he was capable enough to do it was the very truth. The cliff face went straight up for an equal measure on the other side as well.

“‘Oh yes. and was the first buff. but he was so afraid that he climbed up into a tall spruce tree. We went in and out of the wood..’ “‘Well. and Redfoks was to be married to the oldest daughter. he pulled the cheese rind out of his knapsack in a heartbeat. that would be fine fun. with all my heart. so that the dust flew and the wood rang.” “Huh. He let loose a little breath. he spat at him.’ “No. so that the dust flew and . “Hold your tongue!” he cried to the troll. ‘What are you gazing at now?’ “‘I am looking out for a star at which to throw. They went in and out of the wood. and squeezed it till the whey spurted out. Redfoks was to go with her. Just then up came Ashlad. I’ll squeeze you as I squeeze the water out of this white stone. spotting Espen he said. and the troll ran and stumbled over the stumps. As he said that he hurled his iron spear at Ashlad so that it sliced deeply into the rock. He was so heavy footed that all the wood groaned and cracked for a whole mile round. son of. Then she took a gold ring off her finger and knitted it into his hair.” “Uffda!” said Ashlad. “‘Yes. “or.’ “‘Yes. “He proved no match for me. weeping.’ “‘Nay. and the troll ran and stumbled over the stumps. who are you?” “I am Espen. Now that the troll was gone. ‘you may have it again then. There was a great silence in the forest. ‘Do you see that tiny little one due north? That’s the one I choose. She was dressed out in her best and sat in a field out by the lake. There was such joy in the king’s grange that it was heard and talked of over land and realm.” interrupted the troll. Ashlad was so quick and ready on his feet that he easily dodged the spear as the troll hurled it. When the troll saw Redfoks sitting up in the treetop like a little rooster. who sat down on the ground by the side of the princess. but perhaps you would not mind if I tossed you up to the moon just once. ‘let it be as it is.. When Espen arrived back at the grange he was asked by the other kitchen boys what had happened. “‘Haven’t you a mind to play blind man’s buff?’ I asked him. and you shall see something like a throw.” “Never heard of you.’ I commanded the troll. the troll would have nothing to say to that either.’ said the troll.’ the troll said. “To fight with me is not a child’s task. right at the troll’s eye level.’ “I took care to make sure the troll should be the first to have his eyes covered. puffing and blowing. Redfoks found his courage and came out of the felled treetop and carried off the princess to the grange as though he had been the one to set her free. ‘but you shall be blindfolded first. The troll roared then. His spear was as big as three gate poles. and there he stuck. he taunted the troll for being so afraid of one as little as himself and took to running and jumping like a deer in an effort to lure the troll away from the princess. He was not slow.’ I said.’ said I. You must not throw away my iron stake. “Huh. and then we shall not have anything to quarrel about. yes.Óðrœrir 159 One evening the troll was to come and fetch the princess. and down toppled Redfoks and the spruce tree to the ground. Ashlad then looked at the troll through his silver key. that would be best. There he lay sprawling like a fish out of water. Up came the troll.” said the troll. for they knew Redfoks well enough not to trust the words of the fox.’ said the troll.’ I told him. She was so glad to see that there were still good folk who dared to stay by her after all. “‘Hu!’ grunted the troll. ‘but the fairest way is that we draw lots. like blowing out a candle. ‘Hand over your toothpick. Emboldened by what he saw.

he had to promise that folk and flock should have peace.” “So where is the young princess?” asked the boys.’ said the troll. Laughing mightily.’ “Meanwhile. They were trapped in the huge damp chamber filled with skulls. ‘and I’ll stand still and call till you come and catch me.’ I said to him and then assured him that there were no stumps or logs. hard was the climbing but he did not mind it. “There is the princess. “‘Haw!’ screamed the troll at last. “You promised to set her free in exchange for your life. He peeped through his silver key and saw. “‘Your ears can tell you there is no wood here. I pulled up some tree roots and ran round to the other side of the lake.” answered Ashlad. All the land between them and the sea stood open to his gaze.” said the troll. here I stand. There was no help for it but to send in Ashlad again. and they both went inside. Ashlad arrived at the troll’s mountain home.” said Ashlad. and splashed into the water.’ for he was in a great rage. Ashlad had brought the youngest princess as far as the garden when they heard the news that Redfoks was to marry the oldest princess that very day.’ I called out.” she said. a large barrow atop a cliff overlooking the ocean. The troll met him there and in they went. The huge door then slammed closed.Óðrœrir 160 the wood rang. The troll bent down and snapped the chain. Then I let the troll out.” answered Ashlad. ‘Now come. I flicked out an eye with the root whip every time he got his head above water. Espen pulled out his silver key once again and peered through the hole. The troll. He saw a great waterfall and a narrow path. “What is in the horn?” asked the princess. “Saliva from tortured snakes. through the wall. bones rattled. gives magic strength. Redfoks went at Ashlad with threats. Ashlad and the princess went to the back of the cavern and. Redfoks. and down. whom all thought had saved the princess was to drive off the troll. “I’ll damn well walk out of here. inched themselves through the waterfall and out onto the ledge beyond. Ashlad saw a wolf and the princess escaping along the ledge. the princess chained to the wall along with some cows. “Now the troll begged so prettily for his life that I thought it was a shame to take it. and there was nothing but fear and dark and bones. ‘Now come along!’ “So the troll set off again. “Can you walk?” Ashlad asked the princess. Carvings and paintings depicted forest and mountain scenes. lush with golden and silver threads. The walls were artfully sculpted out of the living rock and the whole chamber gleamed gold and silver from torch-lit reflections in huge piles of gold and silver and all things precious to men strewn about. ‘I’ll not be the blind buck any longer. Trusting in his fylgja. not . Ashlad always felt more comfortable in the mountains. “I am off to the troll’s home to fetch the youngest princess now. which was so deep it seemed bottomless. Besides that. but first the troll had to give up the princess and to bring back the other whom he had stolen before. in no mood to argue. Espen had seen a drinking horn hanging on the wall and taken it on their way out. Redfoks himself was there to meet them. “‘I dare say there are logs and stumps in the way. claiming he was born of bear. and there lay the troll in the lake. opened a huge door in the wall by pounding on it with a pole. amid an enormous heap of skulls. off the boys ran to find Redfoks and spread the fanciful tale. “‘Bide a bit. sounding like voices.’ I said. Espen and the princess journeyed together back to the king’s manor. pressing their backs to the wet wall. hung on the walls and finely wrought furniture stood before them. Tapestries.

but for all his trying and all his crying there was no help for it. wanting not to insult the king. Espen was happy to tell the tale. Upon his return everyone wanted to know what had happened. . His grandfather was a coal biter. The troll laughed. and nailed them in tight with ten penny nails.” replied Ashlad. Six smiths also I need. “I stole a turnip. The smiths did as they were bid. Better eyes I hope no human will ever have!” Then the king came with the two princesses and wanted to see the troll. “Haw!” bellowed out the troll. and then I cut it to the sizes I needed. “Who is your grandfather?” Espen. they shall not have water to boil. Redfoks begged and prayed for himself. and rubbed it well over with ointment. and when they reached the troll’s house in the mountain. He took a gulp from the troll’s drinking horn.” said the troll. In the end.” Ashlad said. to make it red hot. utilizing his newly gotten troll-strength.” said Ashlad. The king then asked. he drove the spear down through the ground and into the troll’s backbone. “I’ll remember you. and agreed to pay for all the damage he had wrought.” said the troll. “There will be no wedding today. so Espen decided to try burning the troll instead. “What did you say your name was?” asked the troll. and all his back was burnt and singed up to his neck.” The king learned that it was the felling of the great trees of the wood by the folk for their homesteads that had so offended the troll and the king agreed to let the old trees be. come and work for me. the troll had gone down under earth and stopped all the springs of water. down he had to go into a pit full of snakes. which is twenty-five feet long. and Redfoks walked so bent and bowed.” And now it came out how it had all truly happened.’” Redfoks said. Ashlad went and gathered a score of cattle and headed on up into the mountains after the troll.” the king announced. There was a smell of burnt hair for fifteen miles around. but Ashlad was not slow. the troll was to make up the fire. then. He caught the troll on a stake that had thyme twisted round it. and whether the troll would return. and there he was forced to lie till he told Ashlad where he had gotten fresh eyes from after those he had were poked out. and he departed.’ that is what the troll said to me.Óðrœrir 161 wanted. Redfoks then led the young princess home to take credit for her rescue as well. his rump was higher than his neck. ‘If I cannot do them any other harm. while I went to fetch water for our supper. Water soaking had not worked. “What have you got there?” he asked. “Espen. “I will need that iron spear which the troll had. “‘We have worked quite well together. “I was willing enough. “My offer was for a prince. “nothing but the ring your daughter gave me when I freed her from the troll. There stood two iron pails so big and heavy. that I could not so much as lift them from the ground. Espen agreed to help once more. “If you must know. “Oh. ignoring the king and directing his question to Ashlad. “I heard the troll say. Burning did not work. for the troll himself related the tale. Then Ashlad peeped through his key and saw the troll just as easily underground as he would have if the beast were above ground. told the truth. He then told them that just as they were preparing to feast. “let me out!” In an instant he came tearing up through the hole. Then the king caught sight of something glistening in Ashlad’s hair.

‘I think these belong to Hops!’ he shrieked. Here is payment for your king.Óðrœrir 162 “I said to him. Then. and brew a barrel of malt. ‘before we cook supper the cows must be put back in the barn. After the feast. ‘but first I split them up. the biggest one in the middle. to drink and dance at the feast that had been prepared in Espen’s honor. indeed. me and the dog. “‘You said plenty of hops.’ I said. “We shall see what we shall see. I went out to the marsh and slaughtered the troll’s three goats.’ With that he pushed the great sleigh down the mountain. and I’ll go and fetch the water. “And where is this great sled filled with treasure?” Espen then presented the great sleigh for all to see.” The king interrupted. Espen gathered a heaping bowl of stew and took it into the forest for the woodwife. to the place where Ashlad had taken that score of cattle.” and invited Espen to join him.’ I said. the troll said. “The troll then went to his house and kicked a great heap of bones out of his way and pulled out an enormous sleigh. The folk then began to be noisy and merry. “‘Yes. they are hungry. “‘I can stand it no longer. Then Hops squeezed inside under some loose boards. I turned them on their backs with their legs sticking up and put them in the water. Hops. The king then said. “I brewed the malt and when I saw Hops. Then I waited for the troll. The dog will show you the way. Meanwhile. but without uttering a word. He then heaped up great piles of gold and silver and finely wrought things and pushed the sleigh out the door. Then make a goat bridge so that they can cross the marsh. I will just go and fetch the spring itself. ‘Hops will show you the way. “‘Is supper ready?’ bellowed the troll gruffly. far up to the new howe Espen had built on the far end of the ridge. “When the troll saw his goats had been killed.’ I said. just you make up the fire. ‘You finish up cooking. . Then Hops and I returned to the house where the troll was building the cook fire.’ I answered. with a splendid ocean view.’ “‘Nay. So I chopped the cows into pieces and tossed the pieces in under the loose board.’ Then the troll set off to check on his cows. he was quite angered. he went across the bridge and on to the house with me following. put plenty of hops in it. I tossed him in the barrel. dear friend!’ said the troll. nay. the troll disappeared over the mountain. ‘I can’t afford to lose my spring. and he was given the place on the king’s bench by his right side. “The troll picked up a ladle and was about to taste the drink when the ladle came up full of bones. “‘Yes. up to the barn. ‘Bah! It isn’t worth my while to touch these thimbles.’ “Off we went. made just as you directed.’ So when he came back with the water. They feasted on goat meat and beef and enjoyed quite a strong brew. opposite his youngest daughter.’ “The troll said. There was no door on the barn and I quickly realized that the troll just picked up the building and set it over the cows.’ he said. “‘Are the cows put away already?’ asked the troll. ‘I am moving from this mountain.

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