Family Coats of Arms

I must apologize for not posting to this blog for a while. I just have not found anything interesting to share with my fellow Heathens lately. I have been enjoying time with my kindred, as well as enjoying my personal practice. In the meantime here is a link to a post I made on one of my other blogs. Heraldry is a topic that is dear to me. I am fascinated by the artwork and how heraldry ties into family histories. Many families have ancestors that had coats of arms. No single one represents an entire family. Coats of arms were awarded to individuals not families. That said I wrote a post on how certain companies are taking advantage of folks wanting to learn their family histories. You can read what I say at: http://missouriandthings.blogspot.com/2014/04/beware-of-companies-selling-you-family.html. Feel free to reblog it, share it on Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, and other places.

In the meantime I will be thinking about a Heathen topic to post here. If you have any ideas, let me know.

Repeal Daylight Savings Time

I wanted to let you know about a new petition I created on We the People, a new feature on WhiteHouse.gov, and ask for your support. Will you add your name to mine? If this petition gets 100,000 signatures by April 09, 2014, the White House will review it and respond!

Here’s some more information about this petition:

Cease the practice of Daylight Savings Time and go to Standard Time all year long.

We need to move to Standard Time year round. Every November and March we change the clocks backwards and forwards. Studies have shown each time we move the clocks backwards or forwards there is an increase in car accidents, workplace accidents, and heart attacks in the two or three days that follow. It has been shown that Daylight Savings Time does not save energy as it was supposed to do, and costs millions in lost revenue. Many children have to get up and go to school in the dark in March when clocks are moved forward, and then again in the early Fall months as days get shorter. Going to Standard Time year round would prevent the increased risk of accidents and health issues as well as allow children and workers to travel to school or work when it is light outside.

You can view and sign the petition here:

http://wh.gov/lyePA

A Sample Section of “Path to the Gods: Anglo-Saxon Paganism for Beginners”

One of the things that folks like about my book “Path to the Gods: Anglo-Saxon Paganism for Beginners” is the fact it is the first of my books to have fully fleshed out rites, and not just outlines. Below is the section on Éosturmónaþ complete with the rites (you can buy the ebook at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/286086 or the soft cover at http://www.amazon.com).

Éosturmónaþ

Éosturmónaþ is sacred to the goddess Éostre and perhaps one of the most popular holy tides in modern Anglo-Saxon paganism. There are many traditions surrounding her holy tide, some of them perhaps dating back to pagan times. Water drawn from brooks and springs was thought particularly holy if drawn on her day (the Full Moon of the month of April). During the Middle Ages it was said that maidens in white were seen frolicking in the fields on Christian Easter. Eggs and hares are holy to Éostre, and they play a role in the activities of the month. Éosturmónaþ is a time of new beginnings, the first signs of spring. Trees leaf out and the first flowers bloom. Many animals begin to have young at this time. Some of the customs associated with Éosturmónaþ are below:

Bonfires

Many places burned bonfires on Easter. These bonfires had many activities associated with them, among them fire leaping (a practice I advise against due to the obvious dangers). Modern Anglo-Saxons can of course incorporate these into their rites.

Decorations

At Easter in many parts of England up until recently many decorations were put out. Trees, wells, houses, and other things were garlanded. Eggs were often blown out and hung on trees. In the United States this tradition is coming back.

Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny or Hare is a German tradition that caught on in England and the United States. Hares and rabbits are seen as symbols of fertility and begin having young in the spring. They are very good mothers being very attentive to their young. In parts of England, hare hunts were held at this time.

Easter Eggs

There are many customs associated with Easter eggs and modern Anglo-Saxon pagans have adopted these. If you are with a group, coloring eggs can become a group project. The night before your celebration and offering you can color eggs for the games the next day. Besides Easter egg hunts, egg tossing was also done. If you caught the egg unbroken it was thought a sign of good luck. In the group I worship with we have the opposite tradition. If the egg breaks on you it is though the next year will be a fertile one for you (eggs that break on the ground do not count). Egg rolling is a custom that is observed in parts of England. Eggs are taken to the top of a hill and rolled down. This could be incorporated into a race if you want.

Winter Effigy

Many groups make an effigy of winter at this time and beat it and burn it. In this way, they seek to drive out winter and bring in the spring. This makes a great activity for children.

Below is a sample rite for use with your Easter rites. You will need colored eggs, your blot bowl, a hlót-tán, a bottle of mead or wine, and your horn or goblet. This rite should be performed on the Full Moon of April.

1) The Creation of Sacred Space: Circle the area you will be performing the rite in with a candle and as you are doing it say:

Fire I bear around the frithyard
And bid all men make peace
Flame I bear to encircle this space
And ask ill wights to fare away
Þunor make sacred, Þunor make sacred
Þunor make sacred this holy site.

2) Hallowing: Pour the mead or wine or other liquid into the horn and blot bowl. Then place the eggs in the blot bowl with the liquid. You then hallow the food and/or drink by passing them over the flame of the candle or torch. As you are doing this say, “Þunor make sacred this food and drink.” If you are using incense, this is a good time to light it. As to what kind of incense you use, that is your choice. Use what smells good to you. I tend to use raw herbs and usually use a blend of mugwort and white sage.

3) Blessing: You then perform the blessing sprinkling the wine or mead or other drink on yourself and any others present with the hlót-tán.

4) The Prayers: Here you will want to say a prayer to Ėostre. Below is one I frequently use:

Wassail Ėostre, go well Ėostre,
Goddess of the dawn, bringer of day,
Lady in white bringing water from the wells,
Beautiful goddess, all pure and good,
Bringing waves of grass after winter’s chill.
Goddess of the spring, goddess of dawn,
All clad in white full of right good will,
We beseech you now, with this bede,
Give us wonderful days with your winsome smile.
We ask you now and call on your name,
Give us fertile fields and lives full of love.

5) The Myne or Toasts to the Ancestors: Make a toast to your ancestors.

6) The Housel: At this point you consume part of the food or drink. When you are through drinking from the horn, pour the remaining liquid into the blot bowl.

7) The Yielding: Then if doing the rite indoors take the blot bowl and any other items you are giving outside, and pour it out under a tree with the words, “I give this to Ėostre.” If you are doing the rite outside, you may pour the drink under a tree, or if using a hearg (stone altar), pour it on it.

Piracy of “We Are Our Deeds…”

It has come to my attention that folks are sharing PDFs of my brother’s book We are Our Deeds: The Elder Heathenry its Ethic and Thew. This is piracy and therefore theft. The book has never been offered for free as a PDF. No one has permission to do so. If you ever see someone uploading PDFs of it to Facebook groups or other places please bring it to their attention that the book is under copyright, still in print, and that by making it available as a free PDF what they are doing is stealing. The very fact they are willing to do so shows they do not understand what the book is about.

Heathen authors do not make a lot of money off their books. What they do make is not enough to pay for the time they spent researching and writing. It costs quite a bit of time and effort to write a Heathen book; an author has to buy books for research material, buy the software to compose the book with along with a computer to compose the book on, add to this the effort to write the book, not to mention time spent away from friends and family… A lot of work goes into writing a book. It does not just flow from one’s head onto the computer screen. Most Heathen authors never make back the money and time they put into a book. You do not expect to work for free so why should they? By pirating Heathen books you are discouraging Heathen authors to produce more books, and by doing so hurting all of us. Heathen authors do not expect to make a lot of money, but they do hope to make a little to offset costs.

For those that think it is okay to pirate books because “knowledge should be free,” remember that even Odin had to hang nine nights on the tree to win the runes, and he had to give up an eye for wisdom. Nothing is ever truly free. “Aye, a gift always calls for a gain,” says the Havamal. If you do not pay for a book that was not offered by the author for free, Wyrd will surely find a way to make sure you pay, perhaps in ways you do not like. Please by all means report piracy to the sites hosting the material, and notify the author so they can take steps to have it removed. Believe me, most Heathen authors give away plenty of material they have written and are more than willing to answer questions. They are not just out to make a quick buck. All they ask when they sell their books is to be reimbursed for their time. By the way if people want to buy a copy of We Are Our Deeds… it is available in print. You may purchase it at http://www.lulu.com/shop/eric-wodening/we-are-our-deeds/paperback/product-15978203.html

Why I Do Not Call the Horn Bearer in Symbel a Valkyrie

On my personal account on Facebook we are discussing the use of the term Valkyrie for ale bearers at symbel a modern custom I have always been against. The argument most groups use for using the term is that it is used with great respect and because the ale bearer is serving mead just as the Valkyries do in Valhalla. There are several problems with the use of the term in my mind however. I have boiled them down to the following.

1) We know from the Anglo-Saxon glosses the Wælcyrgan (Valkyries) were equated with vicious, wrathful beings, with not too attractive features. While their appearance may not be that unattractive as the word Wælcyrge also glossed Venus, the fact remains most of the glosses are for such beings as the Classical Furies and the Gorgon. The fact that a group is using the term for ale bearer out of great respect to the Valkyries may make no difference to them. In other words using the term may pack supernatural repercussions of wrathful beings that feel they are being disrespected by mortal women being equated with them. I for one would not want to do anything to piss them off.

2) The use of the term Valkyrie simply because the ale bearer plays a similar role to the Valkyries of Valhalla at feast would be like me calling myself the Ás (one of the Æsir) of Symbel simply because I am playing the role of Odin as host. Were I to do that I would be laughed out of Heathenry. Why should using the term Valkyrie for ale bearers in symbel be any different?

3) No where in the lore are the Valkyries said to pour mead at symbel. They do so at feast in Valhalla, but no where that I know of is symbel mentioned as taking place in Valhalla. Were a symbel to take place in Valhalla the role of ale bearer would fall to Frigga as she is Odin’s wife and therefore lady of the hall. It is her place to play that role of high honor not the Valkyries.

4) One of the roles of the ale bearer in symbel is to be a friþwebba “frith weaver.” This term is used of Wealtheow in Beowulf in reference to her role in symbel. The horn bearer is the one to keep peace during the rite. Valkyries are not peace keepers they are wights of war. The view of Valkyries as beautiful blonde maidens with slender arms pouring mead for the heroes of Valhalla with kind words and soft eyes is a romanticized view. Instead they are more like warlike women wading through the gore of the battlefield marking heroes for death. Picture a vicious Xena Warrior Princess even more warlike covered in blood killing the heroic and carrying them to Valhalla. This is a far cry from the image of Wealtheow in Beowulf as the elegant jewel bedecked lady of the hall serving mead with flattering words, kind eyes, and only once leveling a very diplomatically worded veiled threat to Beowulf.

All that said there are many other perhaps more appropriate terms and phrases one can use for the lady of the hall’s role in symbel. The term used in the Old English lore is ealu-bora “ale bearer.” One could adapt this to medu-bora “mead bearer.” Another could be hyrn-bora “horn bearer.” One of my friends used the phrase Lady of the Mead. Another term once commonly used is mead warder. Why it ever fell out of use I do not know. I always like horn bearer myself. Alternately, one could use words for “lady” like Old English ides or Old Norse dís which were used both of mortal and supernatural women. Or one could come up with their own term that describes the role other than Valkyrie.

One thing I do want to point out is the role of horn bearer by the lady of the hall is a role she should only play the first round or first couple of rounds of symbel in my opinion. After that the role of pouring the mead should be taken over by what we in Wednesbury call byrelas (singular byrele) or “cup bearers.” These are usually young men and women. They take over so the lady of the hall can sit down and enjoy symbel.

This has long been an issue for me. And I do not mean to sound critical of those that do use the term Valkyrie for the ale bearer in symbel. There are many groups and individuals for which it is the custom to use the term Valkyrie of the horn bearer that I deeply care for and/or respect. I merely want to point out why I do not use the term myself that way, and why I discourage others from doing so.

We Are Our Deeds: The Elder Heathenry its Ethic and Thew

We Are Our Deeds: The Elder Heathenry its Ethic and Thew is still available from White Marsh Press through Lulu. This book is nearly essential for any Heathen. Here is a description from the publisher:

Good and evil. Right and wrong. Law and sin. All of these words can be found in the ancient Germanic languages and all of them are still used today. But what did they originally mean? In We Are Our Deeds, these words are traced back to their original meanings and significances, revealing the sophisticated system of ethics possessed by the ancient Germanic tribes.

Rampaging barbarians sacking Rome; Viking hordes descending on helpless monasteries… these are a few of the images people associate with the ancient Germanic tribes. And while there is some truth in these stereotypes, they are not entirely accurate. Most of recorded history’s early commentators, after all, were foreign foes, who only knew the Germanics at a sword’s edge, or else Christians, only interested in anathemizing and condemning the Germanic folkways and folk, all down through the bloody centuries of trying to convert them. The result has inevitably been to leave us with an impossibly distorted picture of a remarkable ancient culture.

In truth, while the ancient Germanic warrior tradition was certainly a splendid and spectacular one, the ancient Germanic tribes were nonetheless normal people like anyone else, for whom the family and the local community formed the real nexus of their society. The were farmers, blacksmiths, weavers, traders, artists and poets as well as warriors, the great majority of whom would have been as well content with crafting a beautiful work of art or pushing a plough as wielding a sword. Nor should we be too surprised to discover that they were also ethicists, philosophers and thinkers, in their own right.

Looking past the brutal savage stereotype, we soon discover that in fact the ancient Germanic peoples had a strong sense of right and wrong, good and evil, their own unique metaphysical world view and their own epistemologically sophisticated and highly developed code of ethics, very distinct from the Judaeo-Christian morality we take for granted today, and especially emphasizing individual human worth and the importance of family and community.

Unhappily, for history, none of this wisdom ever found its way into any direct literary tradition, which the ancient Germanics did not possess; instead, it is all to be discovered in a close analytical consideration of what we know of their ideas and folkways, the words they used and how they used them. In We Are Our Deeds, Eric Wódening examines the words, customs and laws of the ancient Germanic tribes, with an eye to the more accurate reconstruction from such materials of the true elder pre-Christian heathen ethic.

By the way the cover of We Are Our Deeds was beautifully illustrated by Nathan Wild. If you do not have a copy of We Are Our Deeds make sure to pick one up today. It is not officially available as a PDF or in ebook formats.

You can purchase We Are Our Deeds at: http://www.lulu.com/shop/eric-wodening/we-are-our-deeds/paperback/product-15978203.html

White Marsh Press Webstore Updated.

The White Marsh Press Webstore has been updated. From it you can purchase such great works as The White Marsh Gealdorbook, a collection of prayers in Anglo-Saxon; Chanting Around the High Seat: An Exploration of SeiðR which is perhaps one of the best works on the topic; and most important of all We Are Our Deeds: The Elder Heathenry its Ethic and Thew by Eric Wodening which is considered essential reading for Heathens by many. We Are Our Deeds… is available in hardback and paperback. The hardback edition is a limited run, so be sure to get your copy today. You can purchase these books and more at: http://www.whitemarshtheod.org/publications