Aesir, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

The Bet: Does love or gold rule the hearts of women?

 

One morning Freya had been listening to a translation of the newly recovered Hamaval.  In particular she was listening without amusement to Odin’s words on the fickleness of women.  Her ire aroused, the passionate Vanir confronted the one-eyed wanderer and took him to task.

“Your one eye has blinded you, old fool”  Freya shouted with her famous passion “It is the passion of love, not of gold that moves women.  Perhaps in your dotage you meet only those women whose affections YOU must buy.”

As all of Asgard prepared for the second round of their most famous war, the Wise Counsellor laughed deeply and long, his great white beard shaking in mirth.  Odin offered the golden goddess a challenge:

“I will wager a hundred heroes from my hall, that any woman we agree on will chose for gold over passion in the end.”

“Agreed!” Shouted Freya, “No magic from you or I shall sway this, let it only be mortal choice that holds the day.  You may speak only to the couple, nor may you set any other against them, and I will agree to the same”

The couple they agreed upon was an uptight young English woman of good family.  Her name was ancient, and her fortunes vast.  Possessed of a rare beauty and poise, she was much sought after by suitors, as there was no family lord from whom her hand could be bartered, she was free to choose.

Edwardian lady holding white cat, ca. 1920s:

Odin the victory father was watching the young lass (Cassiopeia) carefully.  She doted upon the cats that she kept, and once tossed out a young man for scaring one.  She rode often to the hunt with flare, and kept only the finest blood stock, and mocked other riders who had lesser mounts or lesser skill.  The suitors that surrounded her were the height of fashion, wearing only the best, eating only the rarest and most fashionable of dishes.  Odin saw all of this, and cast his plan.

Freya goddess of passion and magic saw with other eyes a woman surrounded by men obsessed with petty pursuits, elaborately bored with life, and obsessed with the games of social status.  She smiled casting her own plans.

Jonathan was the third son of an ancient family.  Sent to the new world to pursue his fortune, it was expected that the eager but not overly bright lad would take his remittance and stay gone, but to everyone’s shock he succeeded in mining in the Yukon, winning for himself much gold and renown, and returning to a somewhat shocked and bemused family.

Frontiersman II

 

Lacking guile utterly, and with the friendly eagerness of a puppy rather than the elaborate courtesy of the court, he had been corrupted by the loose frontier ways and lost most of his early graces.  His family despaired at finding a match for him, and so set for him the impossible task of Cassiopeia, whose wealth and grace were such that she would swiftly and gently send the half wild boy home to consider more modest prospects.

He began the courting journey sitting upon a well bred horse that he rode poorly; having spent the last years with mules and donkeys rather than high bred horses.  Wrapped in the latest fashions, he held a roll of large nuggets from his claim tucked in belt, and a thick wad of paper money in his tunic.

As he rode, he came upon an old man at the side of the road leading two of the most beautiful donkeys he had ever seen.  He stopped and asked the old man where he came by such beautiful beasts, and the old one eyed gent advised him:

“Only a fool would risk a great lady on a stupid and flighty horse, when a good solid donkey is available.  These fine donkeys are the finest breeding pair in all of Britain, and I bring them to London to trade for a stallion.”

Jonathan saw his opportunity and offered to trade his flighty and overbred stallion for the two donkeys, and began his ride to London.   Everywhere he rode, men and women pointed at him, and he just knew they wished they could be rid of the overbred horses and ride big eared sturdy donkey like he and his wife to be would.

As he rode further into town he saw an old man with selling meat pies.  The smell made his mouth water, and he stopped to buy one.  The taste was like nothing of this world!  He begged of the old man what was this meat, and the old man swore it was cat.  The old man said the Lady Cassiopeia was famed for her cat, but few enough men would eat it, let alone ask for it.  Jonathan swore right then he would be the first!  Riding away, he began to wonder what plague it was that left so many old men with but one eye!

Coming upon an old man standing bare chested in the street, giving his clothes to the poor, Jonathan asked what the old man did.  The old man replied that Lady Cassiopeia had said no thing spoke better of a wealthy man than giving the shirt of his back to the poor, after all they were rich enough to replace it a hundred times!  Jonathan thought Cassiopeia was the best among women, and right then gave his fine coat and shirt, and damnable riding breaches to the poor, determined to out do the other suitors.  Besides, after years of working the gold fields, he was unused to tight clothes and heat, and his massive muscles did poorly in the tight clothes of modern England.

Sure that victory was his, Odin looked in to see how Freya fared.

Freya sat beside Cassiopeia, wearing the guise of a widowed aunt.  Cassiopeia looked at the delicate men picking at the feast, sipping wine delicately while picking daintily at the food, each piece carved to be an artwork itself.  The men talked of the hunt, politics, gossip, and ignored her completely when not competing with each other to out compliment her.  With each she dueled with words and gestures, each weighed for effect in a play more elaborate than any stage, each calculated and bloodless as any card or board-game, with points won and lost in high societies game of status.

Freya whispered to Cassiopeia,

“Do you ever dream of the days when half naked barbarians would sweep in and sweep up a woman not because of her land, or horses, or wealth.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a man who wanted to spend the time with you, not riding to hunt, or playing at cards?   The suitors here all seem soft of hands, without a drop of passion in them, hardly the sort to rip a bodice, nor strong enough to carry a woman off without at least two servants for lifting.”  Cassiopeia just sighed deeply.

Jonathan approached the fine mannor and laughed to see the poor fools had all come in carriages, with not a single donkey among them!  Lace and waist coats seemed the order of the day, and they seemed to be eating pastries. Clearly they knew nothing of women!  Determined to make a good impression he rode his donkeys up the stairs and into the courtyard, hearing the amazed gasps at his entrance.  Seeing Cassiopeia in all her loveliness standing proud and imperious at the head of the table, he slid off his donkey and spread his wide well muscled arms and smiled.

Cassiopeia stared transfixed as her suitors and guests gasped at the heavily muscled tanned gold bearded savage standing in a breach-cloth between the two snow white donkeys.  Her eyes travelled his smiling face, down his tanned and sweaty rock hard chest and to his, frankly, hugely bulging breach clout and gasped.

Seeing she was taken by the obviously fine donkeys, he proclaimed their strength and endurance that she know they were not just pretty, for he was a fine judge of donkeys.
“I swear if you take me as husband, I will ride that ass all day, and still have strength to ride all night”

The men gasped, and some of the maidens swooned; Cassiopeia felt her heart beat faster

Gesturing to the pâté, goose, quail, and beef on the heavy tables, Jonathan remembered the old man’s words about her pride in the cat she served, and the generosity she sought in her men.  Boasting proudly he proclaimed:

“Marry me, and I swear I will eat nothing buy your sweet pussy for the whole honey-moon. I have given my clothes to the beggars in the streets, for with you I will not need them!”

Knowing that women have practical needs, and well pleased with his success in the gold fields, he slapped his breach clout where his rolled up deer-hide held his heavy gold nuggets, and gave it a tug, as frankly the sight of Cassiopeia was making it a bit tight!

Pointing to his bulging underwear, he proudly boasted:

“With what I have in here, you will never want for anything again!”

The assembled suitors were shouting now, the maidens fanning their faces and swooning.  More than a few of the servant girls were eyeing him openly and whispering, but the room grew still as stone when Cassiopeia leapt from her vantage point with a growl that could shame a leopard, tackling Jonathan to the ground in a confused kissing tangle.

One hundred heroes walked from Valhalla that evening, for all the tricks of the Evil-Worker are no match for the passion of youth. The couple lived long, passionately untidy lives littered with adventures and children.   The gods blessed their union and line, for steadfast hearts are the gods true wealth.

Donkey Kiss

 

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Freya: Modern need, ancient goddess

Goddess Freya true

I am Heathen, which honestly is not the same as pagan.  I am a hard polytheist who understands the gods and goddesses, however imperfectly we understand them, are discrete knowable entities with a nature that springs not from our need, but from their essence.  The gods that I have built a relationship with are the gods of my northern European ancestors; those familiar to the Scandinavian or German, rather than the Celt, Frank, Latin, or Pict that is also in my lineage.
We build relationships with them through the gifting cycle because of our need, but I do not honestly think they are born from it, anymore than I think Oxygen is released by plants because we need to breathe it.  We need much from them, and I would suggest from the length of the reciprocal gifting relationships we have built between our folk and our gods and goddesses, that they either need or want something from us.  I am going to look at one particular goddess, and how she is needed in our age and lands right now.  The goddess is Freya; wielder of the Brisengamen, the Van-dis, lady of the slain, and Gullveig the thrice burnt.  Due to the terrible scholarship and overly romantic fixations of the Victorians, most remember her as goddess of love and fertility, and forget her role as the only magical peer to Odin, first among witches, and she who receives the first half of all the dead heroes.

Freya is the goddess that many in the modern Heathen community have a hard time embracing for the simple reason that she is such a powerful and unapologetically female goddess.  Freya is goddess of love, but it is not the safe love of the marriage bed, but the wild passionate love that falls where it will, and cares not for the cost or conventions.  Brisengamen, the necklace that is her token, she had from four magical dwarven smiths who would only give it to her in exchange for her spending a night with each of them.
Ah yes, here we go.  The conservatives are already getting edgy.  How can our goddess be a slut?  She owns her sexuality and uses it like she does any other weapon, like her magic, to accomplish her own ends.  Like Odin seducing Gunlod, Freya uses her sexual power to get what could not be bought.  She has no shame for this act, any more than Odin does for his.  They sought something, and they gained it.  They needed the power and knowledge they sought, so where their magic could not gain it for them, seduction and desire could.  Sexual power without shame or apology.
Freya cannot be dismissed as a slut, for her sexuality is her own.  She owns no master or husband, but loves where and how she chooses.  In the Voluspa, Freya is sought by the builders of Asgard’s walls, but she will not trade herself even for the security of Asgard, so Loki is forced to use shapeshifting trickery (that ended with him pregnant with Sleipnir) to keep the wall builder from finishing on time and seeking to collect.  Later in the Lay of Thyrm, Mjolnir (the hammer of Thor) is stolen and the giant who has it requires Freya as his bride to return it.  With Odin and Thor demanding, she refuses because even in the face of the two most potent Aesir, she has the power to refuse them.  Far from being a cheap slut, she is the epitome of a woman who owns her own sexuality, and loves as SHE choses, not as others would tell her she must.

Voluspa remembers her thus; Gullveig the thrice burned.  The match to Hor (Odin) in might and magic in the first war (Aesir/Vanir war).

  1. The war I remember, | the first in the world,

When the gods with spears | had smitten Gollveig,

And in the hall | of Hor had burned her,

Three times burned, | and three times born,

Oft and again, | yet ever she lives.

  1. Heith they named her | who sought their home,

The wide-seeing witch, | in magic wise;

Minds she bewitched | that were moved by her magic,

To evil women | a joy she was.

The modern Wiccan and their famous creed “an harm none, do as you will” is not the kind of witch Freya was, nor that her followers were.  The famous catskin gloves of Freya were the mark of a volva, a seeress, a witch who dared to wield the most primal of magics.  Sought for knowledge of the future, or for advantage in battle, there were no restrictions on the magic of Freya about harming none; this is the only peer Odin ever faced in magic, who traded knowledge of Seidr to him for his knowledge of Galdor.  Her magic was a war winning tool, and for it Odin was forced to give an equal measure of knowledge and power.  Receiving half the einherjar, the honoured dead, it is Freya who choses first.  She is goddess of the dead, as much as she is the goddess of the renewing earth.
Freya means Lady, as in the title given to women in leadership positions.  Her name became the honorific for women in positions of power or authority.  Freya was synonymous with power to her people.  This is not a goddess who relies on some big strong god to defend her, but one who weilds power in her own right to her own ends, and whose power is often begged by other gods to assist them towards their own ends.

Two figures are portrayed as leading the Wild Hunt, the fall ride of Odin, and the spring ride of Freya.  In each the Wild Hunt is the epitomy of primal magic, of passion, blood and power.  The Wild Hunt is possibly the best and most enduring symbol of the magic of madness, of the divine power than admits no constraint, no law, not even reason.  Freya (or Holda for our Urglaawe kin) is the goddess of unrestrained passion, of primal power that is unbound by reason or law, simply and inevitably existing as what she is, not fitting neatly into any (or even all) the boxes we want to put her into.

Freya Hunt

Who is Freya to us today?

Freya is a goddess whose nature reaches deep within us, stretching back to the before times, before the technological civilization, the rule of reason.  Freya touches the primal essence of us, that part of us that has never fully been separated from the land, that part of us that has not forgotten how to see and speak with our dead, or the spirits that arise from the life around us.  Freya is tough for modern Heathens to deal with because she does not stoop to fit in our little boxes, and some parts of her will pass without hesitation or remorse right through our comfort zones and out the other side.  She is what she is, not what we want her to be.  Oddly or appropriately enough, that is exactly what we need from her.

When you struggle to deal with PTSD, two of the most popular coping mechanisms are alcohol/drugs, and love.  The former stops your mind from remembering, but that latter allows you to lose yourself and connect on a level below thought to life again.  One ultimately chips away at your self and becomes one of those coping mechanisms that goes on to kill you, and the other allows you to learn to tie yourself to life when the wounds you have taken are trying to force you to flee from it.  Freya is not simply about rejuvenating the earth as part of the growing cycle, she is about the power of passion to fire us; we poor half broken humans.  She rekindles the flame in those whose life fires have been brought low because life has taught us that we are either incapable or unworthy of the fires of life and love.

Freya teaches passion, and the passionate use of your power.  Freya does not separate the parts of her nature; her sexuality, spirituality, leadership, independence, mystery, knowledge, are all expressed fully not as foolish excess, but as the awe inspiring expression of purity of purpose.  The lore does not describe Freya as being a slave to passion, but one whose knowledge and passion are matched, whose primal potency and mysterious knowledge combine.  There are those who will say that Freya is sacred female sexuality, but I would say that Freya’s call to own and embrace your sexual self, and your own personal power are not restricted to any gender or orientation.

We live in a world that has grown so complicated and conflicted that we are taught to be guilty for wanting, for enjoying, for striving, for needing, and in some religions even for being born.  Freya teaches us to live.  To embrace life.  Restoring, healing, empowering or just waking us the hell up.  Freya may well be the goddess that best allows us to remember to be human, when we have tied ourselves so tightly in social constraints that make that almost impossible.

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Decoding Slut

man-woman-at-barRecently I heard a joke which seemed to both capture our societal attitude towards female sexuality, and struck me in a very heathen sense as being deeply wrong. The joke compared men to keys and women to locks and concluded that a man whose key opens many locks is awesome, while I woman whose lock opened to many keys was worthless.

Everyone seemed to find it funny, but what strikes me as strange funny, rather than amusing funny, is this joke would make total sense to ISIS, whose belief that women are property can thus view a woman’s sexuality as being her husband’s property, and infringing on those property rights would make that property less valuable.  As deeply offensive as that attitude is, it is at least consistent with their misogynist ethic.

Whether you stone sluts or merely make jokes about them, the acceptance that women who have the same sexual freedom as men are sluts seems to be accepted quite broadly
I thought rather than arguing about whether we should use the word Slut, be proud of the word, or ban the word, it was time we should decode the word. It is time we took a look at what it means THAT we use the word slut. Heathens understand worth, so we actually understand the mechanism that is at work when we build or tear down our own, or another’s worth, so perhaps we above all should be the ones to decode “Slut” and examine what it says about the society that uses the word.

For a westerner to laugh at that same joke is disturbing.  Examine what this paradigm requires to be true.  For if a man’s worth is increased by sexual knowledge of many women, and a woman’s worth is decreased by sexual knowledge of many men, then a man is literally taking a woman’s worth away by having sex with her.  This is the language of conquest, for in making love we are not exchanging anything, I am taking from you.  The job implied by the joke is for men to prove their power or worth by conquering many women, and cautioning women that their worth could be easily lost by such conquest.

So basically western thought still accept the premise that all heterosexual sex is rape.  That my wife and I do not make love, I rape her.  Those women that I have known over my life I have taken from, not an honest exchange of love and or pleasure, but the outright theft of their worth, as I built mine by taking hers away.

Oddly enough, I have a problem with this.  In our own lore I think of the origin of Brisengamen, the necklace by which the goddess Freya renews the earth, the focus of the ever renewing bounty of this earth.  To win this necklace, Freya had to sleep with all four of the dwarven smiths who had taken the fallen amber of her tears and the gold from deep in the earth to forge this token of power.

Freya and Dwarves

If you wish to apply the label of slut to a woman of many lovers, you must certainly apply it to Freya, but do so with caution my friends, for the sexuality of women, and that of men, was more truly understood by our pre-Christian ancestors that those of us who live in the hate filled age that follows the people of the book placed men and women not as partners or symbiots,but predator and prey.

Freya took no husband, but loved how and where it suited her needs or her whims.  Rather than being a slattern of no worth, she was desired by all those of high estate or low, and beyond the power of any to compel.  The myth of the building of the wall of Asgard and the Lay of Thyrm both have as their driving force that the Jottuns risk all, and generally lose it, for the chance to lie with Freya.  Were she a slut as we envision things today, a woman of no character or worth made base by her lack of husband and her having multiple lovers, it should have been easy for any to persuade her, but indeed Odin himself could not compel her.  We see Freya helping Thor dress in a wedding gown in her place to retrieve his hammer rather than Freya.  Why?

Thor in wedding dress

The answer is simple, because a woman’s worth is not lessened by her lovers, and the power of Freya was treated with respect.  Equal to Odin in might and magic, she received half the slain, and first choice at that.  Is this a woman cheapened and lessened by the laying with four dwarves to win her necklace?  Hardly.  Trifle with Freya at your peril, what she gives is by choice and is a blessing indeed, but no god or giant can compel her.

Freya Goddess Falcon cloak

To be a man in this western age. is to have to question the definition of manhood that we inherit.  I am no rapist, and to slut shame a woman is to say some important things we need to think about.
First: For a woman to be shamed by loving a man, men must by definition be unworthy of that love, for if we were worthy of the love she had shared with us, neither one of us would be lessened by it.

 

You see the truth of this statement?  Do you see the ugliness implied in it?

 

If a woman can be shamed by consensual sex with a man, if her worth really is found in NOT sleeping with men then the choice of men is to be rapist or failure.  To be a successful predator, or a failure. No where is there worth to be found for men in love.

Alright, lets ignore feminism altogether, this deal sucks for men.  You are either a monster or a weakling.  Piss on that.  That is Christianity and Islam speaking.

When two people come together, reguardless of gender, in love it is a sacred thing, a beautiful thing, and a binding of not only the two people, but of two lines that stretch in both directions to the most ancient ancestors, and forward to the last of the descendants yet unborn.  We speak of witnessing and solemnizing the vows, to witness before the community the covenant of union between two people that we marry.  We do not wave a magic wand, or use some special licence to join these people, their love and their troth, their desire, their hard work, their commitment, their love and understanding of each other have made the magic, and we as a community, and as officiating priests are here to bear witness and recognize what two people have made together.  This is a new thing forged from the love of two people, something greater than either of them alone, and more than the sum of their selves.  This is not passing ownership of the bride from father to husband (or wife) like some chattel or farm animal.  This is not the groom taking the worth of the bride, this is both bride and groom (two brides, or two grooms, whatever) coming together in love to plight their troth and join themselves in union forged of love and mutual dedication into something stronger.  This is a sacred thing, a powerful thing, and a worthy thing.  To make it ugly with violence, hatred, scorn or manipulation is to make what should have been holy profane instead, but that is true of any duty.  If a duty can build worth done well, it can destroy worth done poorly.

When two people come together in passion, whether seeking to see of such a deeper relationship may one day be possible, or just because they wish to brighten each other’s lives with shared moments of joy, this too is a blessing.  Not as great an offering, not as great a reward, but a powerful affirmation of life, a true exchange of joy.  This too is a thing that builds rather than destroys worth, if done with mutual respect and affection. Again, you can make a bright thing foul by duplicity, violence, or manipulation, but done with honest love and joy it is a bright and blessed thing indeed.

To accept that love lessens a woman is to state that men are unworthy of love, and to know it is to be either thief or rapist.  I reject this.  To say a woman must either be virgin or without virtue is to take her power away, make her prize rather than person.  A woman who chooses to love, or not love following her heart may earn worth based on being true to her feelings and treating her partner with the respect she expects to be treated with in return.  A man who chooses to love, or not love in the same fashion likewise builds his worth by honouring those relationships.

Take back your sexuality, I don’t care if you are gay or straight, but know that if you love truly and honestly, you are building your worth.  Know that the joy you bring your partner does not lessen you, rather it, like any reciprocal gifting relationship, builds your worth even as it both strengthens and sustains you.

Hail Freyr, ever rampant Hail Freya ever loving.  I embrace love as a path to worth and reject utterly the language of Slut and the definition of men and women as predator and prey.  This was never our way, and it is time we remembered that.

Ken and Mary Joy Wedding

 

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized, Yule

The Story of Mistletoe

Inside the greatest stories are a hundred little stories that get forgotten.
In the story of the first winter, the death of Baldur the bright, there is a story too of little Mistletoe.
At Yuletide now we hang mistletoe, and whenever a boy and girl pass beneath it they must kiss, but so many have forgotten why. The tale of mistletoe is one of love and pride, foolishness and forgiveness.

First and best of the sons of Frigga and Odin was Baldur the bright. The shining one, his laughter and courage were beacons to the Aesir, and his gentleness the offer of peace when the battle din had faded. Where the world carved by Jottun and Odin from Ymir’s bones was cruel and cold, would Baldur add a touch of gentleness and wonder. Where spear sharp mountain was cut by icy stream, would Baldur carve a hidden flowered glen, and softly whispering pool. Where Muspelheim’s fire clawed at the ice and rock of earth would Baldur twist and twine them to forge a bubbling spring of warmth to bring the promise of life to the most forsaken fell.
When the first war raged between Aesir and Vanir sweet Frigga feared for her son, for ever was he first in battle, and all too swift to offer mercy where death strokes were safer. In time the Aesir and Vanir swore to peace,
and the Vanir too grew to love Baldur. For a time the nine worlds were near peace, the Aesir and Vanir united, the raiding with the Jottun more friendly sport than earnest war.
At this time did Frigga vow to make her Baldur safe from harm from all.

To the dwarvish deeps she went, and begged favour of the dwarves:
“Let not stone or steel, nor metal forged dare harm sweet Baldur’s hide!”
The dwarves looked deep into the secret earth, at the ropes and rivers of gold, the sparkling diamonds promising the wonders of the night sky, and the thousand secret riches that Baldur had woven into the iron deeps when the world was new forged and so they swore. To the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, the whales and fishes of the deep did she go and beg safety for bright Baldur, and as each would look to the beauty Baldur had woven into their world, they would promise his protection.
From Yggdrasil and all lesser trees did Frigga then beg favour, and one by one they all swore Baldur’s weal for the beauty he had given them.
At last came Frigga to the youngest of plants, the newborn Mistletoe. She begged protection for her son, and Mistletoe said no.

Mistletoe in tree

Mistletoe lives on the oak, and never sees the sun. Far from the ground, it sees not beyond the mighty oak´s dark leaves. The oak itself did lend its voice to beg and plead with Mistletoe, but Mistletoe had never seen the gifts of Baldur’s making. All Frigga’s tears and oak´s stern words did not move Mistletoe to mercy, in ignorance and pride it swore no oath to the lady mother.

Alone of giant, man and god was Loki is his jealousy. Baldur’s love meant nothing to him, and he ever sought to mock him. For all his jests did him no good, as Baldur never angered, but laughed instead with right good will
when Loki’s wit did best him. With envy and rage did Loki plot to do fair Baldur evil, at last he thought to ask of Frigg the protection she had won him. In the high feast hall with a gentle smile did Loki come to Frigga.

“How you must fear with such a bold son, that evil must befall him.
Of all the gods your Baldur’s courage in the vanguard ever finds him”

At Loki’s words did Frigga smile, never suspecting evil. She shared with her kinsmen her sons defence, the secrets of his protection.

“The stones of earth, all metals forged, all beasts of water, wind and land have all sworn him protection”, did Frigga smile.

Loki pressed for answers, “What of tree and leaf and nut? What of dandelion or rose?”

Frigga laughed at his silly words, and revealed the last of her secret:

“Trees and grasses, bush and vine have all sworn his protection. Only lowly mistletoe of all that lives still dares withhold protection.”

Loki laughed and slid away, his mission now completed. Sweet Frigga did not suspect yet that Loki plotted treason. Down to midgard with a silver knife did Loki make his harvest. A slender wand of mistletoe
that in the fire with spells he hardened. His arrow forged of mistletoe, and murder in his heart, Loki crossed the rainbow bridge and came to Odin’s court.

“A game!” cried Loki shouting loud, “A sport to test our mettle!”
Loki’s challenge drew every eye and he worked his trick so vile.
“Let Baldur stand before the host, let every warrior try him.”
Loath were the gods to raise hand against him, but Baldur did beseech them.

“What harm in this? Lets have a game, let all my friends and brothers try their mightiest of strokes and let me judge the winner!”

Baldur’s words stirred every heart with honest love for battle, and laughing
did they all array to try their strokes against him. Odin’s spear and Thor’s dread hammer, swords of Frey and Heimdall, the bow of Uller all did fail amidst the warriors laughter. Blind Hod alone did not take part, until dread Loki urged him on and promised his assistance.

“Come now brother, what’s the harm” smiled Loki in his treason.
“I’ll guide your hand upon the bow, let your warrior´s heart remember”

Hod then smiled and drew his bow, and Loki fit the arrow,
dread mistletoe struck Baldur dead and the light of the world fell with him.

All remember what happened next, how sweet Sunna (the Sun) fled from a world without Baldur,
how winter came to the world. All remember the punishment of Loki, a binding and torment
that would last until the end of days. Each Yule we remember Baldur’s arrival at Hel’s own hall,
how she bade him to sit beside her and join her in her hall until the end of days, when he
will return to lead the survivors. Who now remembers the fate of Mistletoe, the agent of Baldur’s bane?

When Baldur fell, sweet Sunna turned her face away and fled. Without the light of the sun, the world grew cold and dark, the trees lost their leaves, and for the first time Mistletoe saw beyond the embracing arms of oak. Everywhere the dying light showed emptiness and loss, but here and there would beauty shine and mistletoe did weep.
“Who has made this?”, would Mistletoe ask at each thing of majesty and wonder, “Baldur” was the answer every time until the heart of mistletoe was shattered.

Mother Frigga in her rage demanded the death of her sons dread slayer.
Of Odin and of Yggdrasil, of Frey and gentle Nerthus she begged the price
of mother’s vengeance, until every god condemned it. Alone of all the gods did Freya hear the weeping.

Goddess Freya true
Alone of all the Vanir did she stoop to hear the reason. To mistletoe she swiftly flew within her falcon cloak, upon the oak tree did she land beside the weeping plant. Love´s golden goddess softly asked, why mistletoe did weep?

“For Baldur slain, for beauty lost, for love gone out the world!”

Freya asked of Mistletoe, what wergild would it pay? How could it give back the beauty lost, the love that Baldur offered? When Mother Frigga in her rage came down the Bifrost bridge, Freya stood with mistletoe to greet the grieving mother.

“Blessed Frigga, will you accept the wergild of the weeping flower?
Or will you slaughter and stain the memory of the loving son you’ve lost?”

Frigga stared hard eyed and cold to hear the wergilds terms, Mistletoe in humble grief did make this solemn vow:

“Where Yuletide brings the pain of loss will Mistletoe bring love, beneath my humble leaves let love be now kindled.

What fairer grave goods for the sun bright lord than the promise of love new kindled? When two now meet beneath my leaves, let loves kiss light between them.
Let the light of love remember him that the world weeps for this season.”

Now down the ages we remember beneath the mistletoe, a kiss the promise of new love, within this coldest season.

Mistletoe hanging
© John T Mainer

Story of Mistletoe

 

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MayDay Magic

Mayday!

This is the story of young Andrew McLain, of oaths taken at twilight, faery dating, sacrifice, and the healing power of love.

Andrew loved Jenny with all of his heart, and most of his lower regions.
Jenny liked Andrew, but had been known to be fond of Kurt, and his lower regions as well.
On this fine Mayday, Andrew had called upon Jenny with a diamond ring,
only to discover Jenny taking Kurt for a vigorous canter across the sofa.

“Damn all women anyway,” he snarled as he stumbled out into the twilight of the first of May.
He stopped at the forest edge and howled out his youthful pain to the listening woods:
“Screw women, screw springtime, and SCREW LOVE!”
He staggered into the woods, not heeding where he went. Opening the bottle of Champagne he´d brought along and still had in his hand, he poured the foaming liquid into a ring of mushrooms at the base of an old oak muttering,

Fairy RIng

“This was supposed to toast our love, but now there’s not a woman born I’d share it with!”
Then, with a cry he hurled the diamond ring into the woodland stream, screaming:
“Take that love, and screw you too! I say, screw every inhuman one of you!”.
Dangerous words already on a Mayday evening, made worse by how he ended it……
“Gods, I’d rather die than love again. Let love just take the heart she ruined anyway!”

There are strange things that lurk in the forest deeps.
There are things that walk the borders between the night and day, things ancient and inhuman; just listening and ever so hungry.
There are two powers that even gods must bow to: Love and fate.
This is a story of both.

Andrew stomped his way further into the campus forest, kicking mushrooms and ferns as he passed. Little noting the sun dipping below the horizon, he stalked into the Mayday night, into the dark primeval forest, and another age. On certain days, when the world hangs between dark and night, between the seen and unseen, the hills open, and the paths to Alfheim open again. In the dark of Yule, the knights of the Wild Hunt ride behind the coursing wolves of the Allfather, but in the wild night of Mayday, on Walpurgsnight, it is Freya who leads the ladies of the elven court in a wild hunt of passion, the stuff of dream and nightmare.
Andrew stopped and turned, aware at last that something was amiss. He heard a sound like sirens in the near distance. Not quite sirens, not like trumpets, more like the conch shells he had heard in Hawaii. The sound came again, this time with the baying of hounds and the faint strains of laughter.

It sounded like the fox hunts you saw in some old movies, but what would something like that be doing in the University forest? With a start, Andrew saw a dozen slim silver steeds with belled and richly tooled harnesses sweep into the clearing.
Gowned ladies of eerie beauty and cold perfection sat easily in split skirts in high saddles with lances sheathed by the right knee. Inhumanly cold beauty stared at him from all sides, cold white faces and bloodless lips in a smile that could teach a cat cruelty, and eyes that burned with smoldering passion. “Look,” rang a voice like a silver bell,“The night’s stag!”

elf maiden

While slim white hounds circled him, Andrew protested he was no stag but a man. Each denial made the perfect inhuman beauties smile wider. Finally, surrounded by hounds and mounted ladies with drawn lances,
a final figure rode astride the neck of a golden boar the size of a rhino. More beautiful than the pale elfin beauties, this woman burned like fire in the night. Shining white skin, with a golden necklace burning bright in the hollow of her half-bared breasts, her laughter rang like birdsong at dawn, and her smile brought a stammering blush to Andrew’s angry features.
“Now then, young man,” purred the golden woman with a sensuous smile,
“You poured out an offering at the Faery ring, and threw a golden offering in my sacred waters, and made strong oaths before us.

You summoned my ladies on my holy night, and you promised to ‘screw my women, to screw the springtime, and to screw love’.”
Laughter rang from the inhuman beauties around him, and set the hounds to snarling again.

“My women ride, the spring is newborn and hungry this evening, and I am love.If you would play stag in these woods, little man, you will need more than rage. You will need Hoof and Horn!”

Her voice echoed strangely and the women began circling and chanting, “Hoof and Horn, hunt till the morn!”

Over and over they chanted and circled until Andrew fell down, confused and burning. His hands and feet merged into stags split hooves, and proud antlers sprung from his brow.

With a shout Andrew sprang from the circle and burst down the trail, desperately fleeing the spears of the women, and fangs of the hounds. On through the forest Andrew bounded, his muscles bunching and stretching with effortless power.

Stag in Forest

All the rage of frustrated love burned within him, and he fed on the thunder of his blood, growing in power and rage with every bound. Soon his pride and power could not abide the chasing hounds, and he spun at bay. Flicking his antlers left and right, he smashed two hounds against the looming trees, and spun with his hoof to catch the hamstringing third. He charged among the hounds with the fury of his frustrationand humiliation, reclaiming his manhood in fury and blood. At last he stood at bay in the clearing, the living hounds slinking behind their mistresses.

“The stag is come!” shouted the golden goddess on her gleaming boar.
“Come to me!” she called, throwing off her cloak and shining in naked glory before him.

Maddened with rage and lust, Andrew lunged. In a cat-like move, the boar danced aside, and Andrew’s proud antlers
became stuck in the tree, with his legs raised in the air in his aborted lunge at the naked rider.

One by one the circling ladies cut at him shallowly with their lances as they passed. Roaring his rage, Andrew wept,
once again tricked and humiliated by women, he waited for the final thrust that would end his pain.

One by one the maidens slipped from their gowns and from their horses. Trailing fingers in the wounds they dealt him, they stroked his strong thighs and heaving chest. With burning kisses and lightning touches they transformed and enflamed him until he stood, a naked man, blooded but unwounded, crowned with a proud stag’s crown.

Cernunnos

Down they pulled him to the earth, and the golden goddess brought him low with a single kiss. She whispered to his fevered ears in tones of honeyed fire,

“Love is death and rebirth, love is pain and healing, love is forgetting and forgiving, love is my gift and my worship both.”

With a cry she mounted him, with a cry he answered. With laughing maidens kissing and caressing, he did as stag’s duty, and knew a man’s healing. As the night ended, and twilight again lit the trees, Andrew cried at last, and let go his rage. He whispered her name softly, and she smiled.

Freya stood with her elfin maids, and looked down at her lover, her prey, and smiled.
“You will know a long hunt, my stag, before you find your mate.
Run you as hard for her as you ran from me, and you may yet find her.
Fight half as hard to get her as to flee me, and you may win her. Love her just as fierce as me, and you will please her.”

Goddess Freya

Dawn found Andrew standing by the Faery ring. He looked down on the Champagne bottle he had thrown to the ground; thoughtfully he picked it up. Dropping to his knees, he also retrieved the cork and wire from the green ground, and other bits of garbage. Finally standing up and stepping away, he made one last heartfelt, if clumsy, bow to the now unseen powers he had known.

With a smile he turned and walked into the dawn and his future, whistling a love song.

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Einherjar blot: Remembrance day

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Do you hear the call, o my brothers?  Do you hear, o my brothers and sisters who fell that we for whom you marched away call you back?  Einherjarblot, Remembrance Day.  At the 11th hour of the 11th day, we call to you who answered once, and did not return.

Victory Father, Feeder of Ravens, great Odin whose hall rings with the stamp and clash of our honoured dead, release them to us.  Battle-glad, High One, we ask you let them return to us for but an hour, that they may answer the roll when their brothers call, that they may see strong sons and proud daughters speak their name, and give them praise, that they may take their place beside the brothers and sisters who marched with them, and lived to return.

 Van-Dis, golden goddess, mighty Freya whose hall rings with the laughter and boasts of our honoured dead, release them to us.  Lady of love, fire of passion, guide their steps to the torch that burns, that from their failing hands we took and still hold high.  Let them hear the praise sung of them, taste the offerings poured to them, see the strong and frithful land their dear blood bought.

 Black Ran, she of the deeps and endless hungry dark, eternal and hungry sea grown rich and dark with the blood of our fallen, release them to us.  Faithful Ran who loves best those she clutches to her breast, those who fell broken by their service into your waiting arms, we ask for but an hour.  Let those who fell in service now return when their comrades call.  Back to the light above the waves, and hearths forgotten, to hear their  name ring again, to receive the glory that is their right, and our only offering, before returning to the sea in which they fell.

 Noble Disir, guide the sons and daughters from halls shining gold, or silent dark.  Return them to us for but an hour.  The torch we took from failing hands is burning, and held yet high.  We yet keep faith with those who fell, and bid you aid them return to us.

 Hear our call, my brothers.  We call the roll of honour; the sons and daughters who answered their nation once, and are silent now.  Return to us. 

You did not grow not old, as we that are left grow old

Age does not weary you, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember you.

 

Mingle now with your comrades again

See the hearth fire burn, and laughter sound

Know that we labour to preserve what you defend

When to honoured grave you do return

We will remember

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Gods and Art

It is humbling to realize how often our, poorly educated, often illiterate ancestors, were brighter than we are.  Of course this happens fairly frequently, so you would expect some of the sting would be gone.  At Nanaimo Pagan Pride this year, Old One Eye decided he had waited long enough for me to suit action to words and deal with the wonderful Odin statue that I loved so much.  I had won a Freya statue at Vancouver Pagan Pride, shortly after her mother Nerthus’s procession.  Done in the ancient style, it was crudely styled, harshly primitive, more suggestion than depiction.  Made of fired clay it looked like something pulled from Sutta-Hoo, or Ranheim.  My Odin statue was bronze, and elaborately detailed.  At Nanaimo Pagan Pride, before Thor opened the sky to signal the Heathen business of the day was done, and the pagans could run for their lives, Odin weighed in on statuary.

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       A swift gust of wind came and blew over the statues.  Odin landed atop Freya, and smashed.  Bronze met clay and shattered.  I looked down at the ruins of the fine, admittedly Grecian in detail, statue of the god, and saw instead the magically unmarked clay goddess, and the stone carved valknut looking back at me.  The gods spared all of our flyers, and our mead, but destroyed the attempt to capture the primal essence of a northern god in southern elaboration.  OK, lesson learned.  All the gathered heathens sharing sumbel at that point discussed how the while the grave good recovered in the heathen digs at Sutta-Hoo, Upsala, Ranheim, showed incredible detail in the secular grave goods, the statuary was always harshly primitive and evocative.  The essence of the gods can be glimpsed, can be felt, but cannot be captured by the arts of man.

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     I am skald; I use poetry and prose to capture what I feel, what I learn about the gods.  I don’t write as much in the way of essay on their nature because words are as poor a tool as bronze or stone for capturing the unfathomable depths of the gods.  They can be evoked by our arts.  They can be experienced indirectly through song, poem, and the power and purity of primitive art, where they can not be captured by the most learned of treatise, nor by the most perfectly formed statue, frieze, or painting.

      Our ancestors were a sophisticated and worldly folk who understood what technology could do for them.  More than any other, they sought out arts and learning from every land on earth, and brought new technologies home with an appetite legend would pretend they held only for gold.  Yet their god statues remained primitive, evocative, powerful.  They understood where the power lay; in the purity of essence, not sophistication of form.  In our society of style over substance, this is a hard lesson to learn.

John T MainerImage

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