Balder, Frija and the Relics of the pre Germanic Fertility Cult

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written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

The hero was inextricably connected to the matriarchal Goddess. Just as she, the Earthmother, was the embodiment of the cycle of life as maiden, mother and crone, the hero, Sunfather, in his birth/son, sacrifice and rebirth aspects was too.
He was not permitted to age or die of old age; otherwise the cycle would have been broken. Instead, he was sacrificed.
In other words, he was given back to the cycle during the height of his fertility, so he would return renewed, refreshed and the cycle would begin anew.
By returning into the Earth (mother) he fertilized her until she was ready to give birth to him again.
Some people are offended by these apparently “incestuous” ideas, but it is important to understand that they are not to be taken literally.
These were metaphors known in almost every ancient culture. They were merely a way of explaining the circle of life in a non-scientific way with strong images everyone could relate to at that time.

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Frija/Frigga/Frikka the great Weaver, depicted with swans (also the attribute animals of the Valkyries and Idisen).

Traces of the Earthmother/Sunfather idea can be found in the tale of Balder and Frija (Frigg). Balder (Lord) and Frija (Lady, originally “beloved” from Sanskrit priya) belong together as the later siblings Frikka and Frikko or Freija (Lady) and Frey (Lord) do.
Originally these were not divine names but only titles with which they were respectfully addressed.
These titles lived on the Old High German word frouwe and nowadays German Frau for “woman”, “miss/misses”, (“wife”) or Fräulein for “young miss” (literally: “little lady”).

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Balder’s death

Balder is not just gentle and fair, his beauty is so overwhelming that it is described as “gleaming”, he is “like the sun”, loved and appreciated by all.
Frija, his mother, knows the future of all beings. She foresaw Balder’s death.
It is hard to believe she would just “forget” to ask the thistle to swear an oath on not harming her beloved son.
Especially if she foresaw that in order to rule in the New World Balder had to “die”/fare to Hel so he would survive Ragnarök.
She must have acted in accordance with Loki and the “masterplan”.
This was remembered in the annual ritual spearing of a boar, slaughter of a white horse or the stag that was shot with an arrow around the time of harvest. This ritual sacrifice and the following celebration were similar in style to the original Celtic Lughnasad celebrations, although the background stories differ mostly.
By the way, boar, white horse and stag are attributed to the God Frey as well.
(Compare https://paganmeltingpot.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/holy-horse-horses-in-the-germanic-and-other-polytheist-traditions/).
In this charm Balder is first called “Phol” (Foal God) before it is mentioned that the foal he was riding on had twisted its ankle. Most scholars were quick enough to identify Phol as Frey, but for some reason refused to equate him with Balder.

bacchus03In Southern Germany Frija was known as Frikka. At least two local legends in the Schweinfurt (“Pig (boar)’s ford” – !) area near Frikkenklingen are about her and her son Lall (also: Loll, Löll, Lell, Lull), meaning “Little Lord”, to whom a fenced iron statue was dedicated.
It was the statue of a young boy with poppy wreath draped around his neck and shoulders and curly hair as fair as the sun (>sunwheel/cycle of life).
With his right hand he was touching his tongue in lustful jest (>maturation), in his right hand he held a cup of wine filled with ears of corn (>sacrifice).
He was naked save for a loincloth and the effigy of vitality, fertility, youth and beauty, a remnant of the ancient “Sunfather” God, youthful companion of the Mother Goddess.
The German word lallen (to babble) is directly based on the child-God Lall. He marks the transition from babbling infant to child and child to young adulthood. These children are still called “toothers” (Zahner) in German.
This is also where the idea of the “tooth fairy” comes from:
A Swedish legend says that when Frey was little the Gods gave him Albenheim (Alfheim) as a gift for growing his first tooth.
A custom that was adopted by many peoples in the North, giving little gifts to their toothing children in order to soothe their pain and welcome the next stage of their lives.

tooth-fairy-silhouetteAs the patriarchal Wotan cult and the Roman influence altered the originally matriarchal structures of pre and early Germanic society from simple to developed to dependent matriarchy and then – at last – patriarchy, this had to be explained in lore somehow.
This is the origin of the Wanen-Asen war.
The Wanen deities were given male counterparts who dominated them or had distinctly more power.
In some cases they were replaced by superior male Gods; in Saxon Nerthus’ case: Njörd who was made father of Freija and Frey.
Wotan did not replace but marry Frija, but he “stole” her presidency as head of the Wild Hunt, amongst many other things.
In fact Frija, the weaver of fates, the Nornen Queen, was suddenly good for little else than to bless marriages and watch over them.
When her husband had been away on his travels for so long the Asen thought he was not to return anymore, his brothers Vili and Ve decided to divide all his riches but share (!) Frija.
This humiliating practice was common law in the Germanic and Norse societies in the early middle ages.
Furthermore, Freija, both maiden and crone aspect of Frija, the mother, was degraded to being a whorish love deity who slept with four dwarves for a necklace…amongst other things… Welcome to patriarchy.

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“Holy Horse!” – Horses in the Germanic and other polytheistic Traditions

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written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

Alongside the multitude of deities in Germanic Paganism there are several other beings of importance, which are all too often overlooked.
The horse is an especially sacred animal in the Northern traditions, particularly to the Saxons.

Horses attested to in Lore

Sleipnir

There is, of course, the most famous horse Sleipnir, the eight-legged son of Loki. Unlike his siblings Fenris, Hel and Jörmungand, he is not met with general hostility. This is the story of his conception:

mason-svadilfariBlast, a Hrimthurse (frost giant) was asked to build an impenetrable wall around Asgard. As payment he asked for the giant siblings Sunna (the sun), Mani (the moon) and – should she have him – Wanen Goddess Freija, hostage of the Asen deities.
The Asen pretended to agree to Blast’s terms, but resorted to threatening Loki with a painful death if he didn’t find a way to cheat the great builder out of his payment.
Svadilfari (“Unlucky traveler”) was the name of the Thurse’s horse that helped him carry the heavy boulders used to build the Asgardian walls.

Odin_Loki_and_Sleipnir_by_Hellanim

image by Hellanim

Loki turned himself into a female horse, luring away Svadilfari from his master and mating with him in the forest. The story’s end varies from culture to culture. Here we know that despite being delayed by the absence of his horse Svadilfari the great builder still finished Asgard’s walls on time. Outraged, Wotan and the rest of the Asen Gods sent Thunar to murder the Hrimthurs. Another story is that they murdered him only after finding out he belonged to the race of giants.
Shortly afterwards Loki gave birth to Sleipnir (“Swift Glider”) who – according to different stories – was either claimed by or given to Wotan as a gift.

Sunna’s Horses

Many other horses are attested to in the lore. Amongst them are Alswinn (“Very swift one”) and Arwark (“Early Guard”), Sunna’s horses. Then there are the Goddess Dag’s (“Day”) horse Skinfaxi (“Shining Mane”) and Hrimfaxi (“Frost Mane”) who belongs to the Goddess Nótt (“Night”).

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In 1902 a Bronze age artifact was unearthed in the Moor of Trundholm in Sjelland, Denmark. As can be told from the image below this sun chariot has six wheels (Could this possibly be linked to the sixth rune of the Futhark, Kenaz, the fire-sun of life?) and carries one large disk which strikingly resembles the sun itself – the Goddess Sunna.

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The Nibelungs and others

In the Nibelungs we have Goti, Gunther’s (Gunnar/Gundahar) horse that refused to pass Brünhild’s ring of fire and famous Siegfried’s (Sigurd) Grani, a descendent of Sleipnir. The name Grani has been translated as “Grey” but also as “Conifer” (even today the word gran means conifer in the Scandinavian languages.) The latter translation would point to a connection with Saxnot-Týr and the world yew tree Yggdrasil.

There are those horses belonging to humans, Beli, Falhofnir (“Fallow hooves”), Skeidbrimir (“Snorting”), Swedish King Adil’s horse Slöngwir and King Ali’s horse Hrafn (“Raven”).

Giants’ Horses

The horses of giants like Gullfaxi (“Golden Mane”) who belongs to the giant Hrungnir (“Hunger”), the giant who challenged Wotan to a horse race and who was then murdered by Asgardian Thunar.

CaptureThere is even a giant with the name of Hrosstjofr, simply meaning “Horse Thief”.

A German folktale from the Harz region knows of the giant Bodo who had a run-in with Brünhilde in the forest.
He wanted her for a wife, but terrified, she fled on her horse. Bodo, also on his giant horse, chased after her.
Finally, Brünhilde reached a great ravine. As Brünhilde preferred death over being married to a giant she forced her mare to leap, but instead of falling into the divide they both safely landed on the other side.

Brunhilde-Sprung__716x500_The impact had been so severe that until this day you can see Brünhild’s horse’s hooves on the “Roßtrapp” stone.
On the other hand Bodo and his horse – too heavy for the jump – had both fallen into the ravine. All he has left of Brünhilde is her crown that she had lost during the fall. He is still holding on to it and keeps everyone who attempts to dive to the ground of “Bodo River” (Bode) in order to retrieve it in his watery grave.

_hufabdruck2There are even children’s books loosely based on or inspired by this tale such as “The Giant and the Nymph” (Der Riese und die Nixe) from the 60’s.

Dwarves’ Horses

One of the known dwarves’ horses is Verdrasill, usually translated as “Path-Horse” but possibly meaning Earth-Horse, which appears to make a little more sense.

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Asen Horses

The horses of the Asen we know of are Gisl (“Whip”), Glad (“Happy”), Heimdall’s Gulltopp (“Golden Braid” NOT Golden Mane!), Gna’s Hofwapnir (this could mean “He who throws his Horse-Shoes” but it could also mean “Farmyard Protector”), Lettfetti (“Lightfoot”), Silfintopp (“Silver Braid”) and Sinir (“Sinewy”).

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 Horses, Magic and Shamanism

 Horse Blessing

Northern polytheistic Shamans use the ancient “Horse Blessing” (Pferdesegen) to this day. In recent years the medieval rock band In Extremo has turned the Pferdesegen into a song quite popular on our Medieval Fairs.

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The Original Text (plus translation):

Fonna demo uelle in diz tulli
Gang ut, nesso, mid nigun nessiklinon
Ut fana themo marge an that ben
Ut fan themo bene an that flesg

: Ut fan themo flesgke an thia hud
Ut fan thera hud an thesa starla :

Gang uz, nesso, mit niun nessinchilinon
Uz fonna demo marge in deo adra
Uonna den adrun in daz fleisk
Fonna demu fleiske in daz fel

: Ut fan themo… :

Translation:

Crawl out,
Worm, with nine other worms,
From marrow into vein,
From vein into flesh,
From flesh into skin,
From skin into hoof. (Literally: sole of the hoof)

Crawl out, Worm,
with nine other wormies,
From marrow into bone,
From bone into flesh,
From flesh into skin,
From skin onto this arrow head.
So you can be shot far away.

There have been countless (fruitless) attempts at making sense of the Horse Blessing intellectually and several German shamans have warned academics that this is something to be understood “with the heart and soul only”. Of course, the questions are valid and remain: Why 10 worms all in all? Was the Horse Blessing only meant for horses or for men as has been stated before?

Runes

Whatever the answer, one thing that is for certain is that horse and man have a deep (spiritual) connection in the Germanic belief system(s). Even in rune lore we don’t only have Raido, literally ride, but find that Mannaz (“Man”) is strikingly similar to the Ehwaz rune (“Horse”). Maybe because “Marr er manns Fylgja” (Mare is man’s Guardian Spirit see https://paganmeltingpot.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/the-fylgjen-guardian-animal-spirits/) was the motto of several Germanic tribes, and especially the Saxons, the “horse people” as they often called themselves.

ehwazmannaz
Ehwaz is etymologically related to the Eiwaz rune also known as “Eo” or “Eolh”; eoh in Old High German means horse. This would complete the yew world tree/Shamanic horse travel circle.

Oracles

009 white horseWhite horses were the oracle animals of the Saxons. The white horse represents spirituality and spiritual purity, the “Otherworld” or other realm, Shamanic travel, also in other cultures. These horses were kept in sacred groves where they were tended to with loving care. Alrunen (witches), Sibyllen (seers) or other cunning women read the future of their tribe from the behavior of the animals, sometimes in combination with the runes.

NiedersachsenLower Saxony’s crest consists of a rearing white horse (German “Schimmel”) connecting horse divination with the legend of the Schimmelreiter (rider of the white horse, linked to the Wild Hunt). The story has survived in stories such as Theodor Storm’s novel of the same name, albeit drastically altered.

Second Merseburg Incantation

Original text (plus translation):

Phol ende Uuôdan uuorun zi holza.
Dû uuart demo Balderes uolon sîn uuoz birenkit.
thû biguol en Sinthgunt, Sunna era suister,
thû biguol en Frîia, Uolla era suister;
thû biguol en Uuôdan sô hê uuola conda:
sôse bênrenkî, sôse bluotrenkî,
sôse lidirenkî:
bên zi bêna, bluot zi bluoda,
lid zi geliden, sôse gelimida sin!

Translation:

Phol and Wodan were riding to the woods.
And the foot of Balder’s foal was sprained
So Sinthgunt, Sunna’s sister, conjured it.
and Frija, Volla’s sister, conjured it.
and Wodan conjured it, as well he could:
Like bone-sprain, so blood-sprain,
so joint-sprain:
Bone to bone, blood to blood,
joints to joints, so may they be mended.

merseburger zauberspruchOn 5th and 6th century bracteates Wotan is often shown as healing the front leg of a foal or horse, so the content of the second Merseburg Charm is clear.
However, some of the names in this old 9th/10th century incantation had scholars scratching their heads for a long time.
Who or what is Phol/Fol? – It is none other than Balder-Frey himself. In Germanic lore there is hardly one God that did not appear as the aspect of another at some point.
Both Balder and Ingvi-Fro (Frey) are referred to as “Fohlengott” (Foal god).
Unrelated to this, one of Frey’s Swedish attributes is “yew tree god”. The god of the (world) yew tree or Yggdrasil was Saxnot/Sahsnotas to the Saxons and Týr-Tiuz in the rest of the North of Germany. And thus the story comes full circle.

As for Sinthgunt, her name is mentioned nowhere else. Might she be a personified star if she is Sunna’s sister? The Northstar perhaps? Whether any of this will ever be reliably solved is doubtful.

History and Legends

The Saxons

Offering_by_LundThere have been some misconceptions about the “Barbaric, brutish” Saxons having slaughtered and eaten horses in twisted ceremonies.
This is not correct in its entirety and derives from the attempt of (early – and later…) Christians to present everything non-Christian as blood-crazed insanity. (Ironic considering they practice theophagia, something that no sensible Germanic Pagan would have ever dreamt up in their wildest nightmares).
The truth is that on major holidays or very special occasions – such as a Blót or wedding – a horse was slaughtered and its body consumed completely, as was the standard for that time.
Its head was often hung from a pole or from the main hall’s door.
Its blood was sprinkled on an offering stone and sometimes on the foreheads of the newlyweds or participants. This was considered a blessing, as the horse was “holy” due to being tied to the Yggdrasil (Yewhorse, Yewpillar see https://paganmeltingpot.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/yggdrasil-yew-not-ash-tree/) and its blood, the essence of its life, held significant magical/Shamanic powers.
The horse’s skull, its hooves and some of its bones were later used for a Nidstang, but that is a post for another day.
Anyhow, the idea that you can eat deer, hares, pork or beef but not horse meat is a socio-cultural development, a Christian development. This hysteria could be compared to the hysteria of moslems who claim that pork is “unclean” and pig and dog  “filthy beasts”.

gans2These “horse Blóts” are still somewhat remembered in Grimm’s Fairy Tale The Goose Girl/The Goosemaid (“Die Gänsemagd”) in which the horse Falada’s (note the runic incantation in this name!) still speaking head is hung from the city gate, dripping blood onto everyone who passes under him.

Hengist and Horsa

Hengist HorsaFamous even across the borders of both Germany and England are Hengist (“Stallion”) and Horsa (“Horse”), the legendary Saxon warriors and conquerors who invaded the English island.
To some they are only heroes, to others semi-Gods, and then there are those that apotheosize them.
The Greek historian Timaeus (345-250 BCE) already wrote about the North Sea Germanic peoples that they worshipped a pair of mythological twins, which he equated with the Greek Dioskouri (Castor and Pollux).

Hengist Horsa PferdeschmuckFact is that the beautiful carved horse head gables representative of Hengist and Horsa embellish many of our houses in the North. Like back then, these horse head gables are supposed to watch over the household and family, and they literally do.
Whether White Horse Hill (Uffington in Oxfordshire/Berkshire) has anything to do with Hengist and Horsa has been wildly disputed, however, this impressive piece of art was formed by filling dug trenches with crushed chalk.

horse in ukHorses in other polytheistic religions

Gallo-Roman

Of course the horse wasn’t only sacred in the Germanic belief system. Epona is a Celtic horse Goddess or more accurately a Goddess in the shape of a horse.

Celtic

Celtic horse Goddesses are Irish Macha (“Mare”) and Etain Echraide (“Etain Horserider”) for example.

Welsh

rihannonRihannon is usually depicted as riding on her white mare.

Pictish (Scottish)

The Kelpie is a water being or spirit inhabiting the lochs (lakes) of Scotland. It either appears as horse or human to other humans.

Greek

Poseidon is the Greek God of the Sea whose waves were called “mares of Poseidon” by poets and whose chariot was pulled by a hippocampus.
In his hieros gamos, sacred (spiritual) wedding, with Demeter, the latter turns into a white horse in order to express her grief over Hades having kidnapped her daughter Persephone.
Poseidon falls in love with equestrian Demeter and changes himself into a steed to woo her.

Another famous Greek horse is winged Pegasus, who was born out of the bleeding neck of Medusa after Poseidon had decapitated the Gorgon woman.

birth-pegasusAbraxas, Bronte, Eous, are sungod Helios’ faithful horses.

Aithon has alternately been used to identify the horse of Ares but also one of the horses of Helios. Other horses belonging to Ares are Phobos (“Fear”) and Phlogeus.

Zeus’ four horses, corresponding with the four winds, are called Anemoi. Their individual names are Euros, Boreas, Zephyrous and Notos.

Kyllaros and Harpagos are the horses of Castor and Pollux.

Hindu

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHayagriva is a guise/avatar of the God Vishnu. The early Indus Valley population venerated Hayagriva as the deliverer of the Vedanta and horses in general for their speed, strength and intelligence.

Ancient seals of the Indus Valley population already depict the Unicorn as we still know it.

Roman

Since Latin poet Virgil was the first to mention them, Hippogriffs might just be of Roman origin. However, Hippo is Greek for horse but griff comes from Roman gryph for griffin.

The October Horse was the annual sacrifice of a horse to the God Mars.

Mongolian

wz-windhorse1The soul of a person is referred to as wind-horse.

Ksaya Tngri is an equestrian deity protecting souls and earthly riches.

The horse of a Mongolian “Robin Hood” figure lifted itself and his master off the earth and flew across a river when they were pursued by lawmen.

Slavic

sva

The God Svantovit owns a white horse.

Chinese

langmaHorse is part of the Chinese zodiac. Horses in general play an important role in Chinese mythology. Langma is the “dragon horse” and Tianma is a type of Chinese Pegasus for example.

Swedish (contemporary)

dalahc3a4stIn Sweden the Dalahästar, the crafty and beautifully painted wooden horses from the Dalarna region are popular souvenirs and are usually found in standard Swedish homes as well.

English (contemporary)

The Red Vale Horse is a work of art first recorded in the 16th century and maintained until this day. It is similar to the White Horse Hill mentioned earlier in this post. The only difference is that instead of using white chalk, red clay was used.

Yggdrasil – Yew, not Ash Tree

world_tree

written by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

In my specific belief system it is uncontested that Yggdrasil is a yew tree and not the ash tree that is only once mentioned in the Völuspa of the Edda, although the descriptions of Yggdrasil clearly are not those of the ash tree.

In the light of the persisting Wotan cult we mostly read that Ygg, “the terrible”, is another name for Wotan and drasil is the Old Norse word for horse.
This has been linked to the Wild Hunt, led by Wotan. Alas, originally it was Frau Holle (Hulda, Frigg) who led the nightly Wild Hunt before Wotan replaced her.

Another attempt at a translation is “terrible tree” (Gallowtree), also linking this to Wotan hanging himself from the world tree for nine days and nights in order to receive the runes.
The hanged Wotan is also known as Hangatyr. Why would Wotan’s name be “Hanging Tyr”? Here we have more proof for Wotan replacing all the old (high) Gods and his cult establishing him as some sort of almighty Allfather figure.

On top of this, Wotan’s tree is the ash, his spear Gungnir made of this wood as well. Since Wotan had replaced our old chief God(s) it is not surprising that certain elements were modified.

Sahsnotas Irminsul

Hangatyr, Týr-Irmin who hung himself from the world tree

The term Gallowtree is not so far-fetched, considering that the yew tree is linked to death (and rebirth), basically the circle of life. The Elder Futhark rune Eiwaz/Eo and the Anglo-Saxon rune Yr symbolize this tree. There is no rune symbolizing the ash tree.

A more reliable translation for “Yggdrasil” would hence either be Yewhorse or Yewpillar. The Old Norse yggja and Germanic igwja are words for the yew.
Drasill could as well be a form of the indo-Germanic syllable –dher, meaning pillar, support.

Another name for Yggdrasil is Irminsul, Irmin’s pillar. Irmin is another name of our original chief God Sahsnotas (Saxnot-Týr).

Irminsul my old poster

From “Drasill’s” Mouth – Accounts of the Nature of Yggdrasil in the Eddas and other Lore

In modern translations of Gylfaginning 17 (Edda) the word barr has been mistranslated as leaves. Barr means conifer.

Throughout the Edda it is emphasized that the world tree is an evergreen tree. The ash is not evergreen but the coniferous yew is. Even in the Norwegian Rune Song it is said of the Eiwaz/Eo rune: “Yr is the most evergreen tree”.

In Gylfaginning 16 it is mentioned that intoxicating honeydew (mead) is dripping from the world tree. The ash tree has many wonderful healing properties, it does not have one single component that is intoxicating though.
The yew tree on the other hand does. Its poison Taxin has an equally intoxicating and hallucinatory effect similar to LSD.

Valknut-I-Wotans-Knoten-I-Walknut-T-Shirts

The Walknut, originally not a symbol of Wotan, (just as the line of Wal and the Wal-küren were once not of this God either) is representative of the world tree (nine worlds). What tree does this remind you of, a yew perhaps?

In Fjölswid 13 we are asked, “Tell me the conifer’s name whose branches are encompassing all lands?”

The rune Eiwaz is also known as Iwaz and the Old High German word iwa means everlasting, eternal. As eternal as the “evergreen” leaves of the yew tree and as everlasting as the circle of life.

eihwaz-yew

The God Ull lives in Ydal (Yew Valley) and his bow and arrow are made of yew, just like Skadi’s are. Even in Iceland Yggdrasil was associated with bow and arrow. Bows and arrows were traditionally made out of yew due to its near indestructible, robust quality. Europe and especially Germany was “the land of yew”.

The Yule tree has traditionally been a conifer tree and where I live it was traditionally a yew tree up until the 19th century. The Yule tree is symbolic of the world tree Yggdrasil. I am not sure about you, but I have never heard of anyone having put up an ash tree for Yule…

Now, this might be coincidence or over-interpretation, but it always struck me as funny that when you turn around Thunar’s hammer Mjölnir, it resembles a tree, or yew tree more accurately. Mjölnir is the sustainer of the world tree and ultimately the multiverse. Since most of our ancestors were not Viking raiders but farmers it is obvious why they depended on the hammer which brought on rain and hence growth of crops. Thus hammer and tree are connected.

Irminsul yule

Here you have it from the horses – or “drasill’s” – mouth, it is made very clear in lore what kind of tree Yggdrasil really is and always will be.

Who by Fire? – Fire Deities and Symbolism in Paganism

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written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

From the Hindu God of fire to Celtic Lugh to Loki, from the bonfires at Eostre’s Day, Mittsommer and Lughnasad to the candlelight of carved pumpkins and Yule tree candles or logs and from the fires of Muspelheim and its sons and daughters to the smoke rituals in Shamanic traditions – fire, it appears, is central to all Pagan religions. Fire represents the Gnostic “spark of life”, creation itself but just as much it stands for the inferno of destruction, for Ragnarök, the end of the world, itself.

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In northern European Shamanic traditions the act of ceremonially or ritually making a fire by hand, wood and stone is an act of creation. The wooden hand drill symbolizes the phallus, whereas the fireboard is yonic. The spark or fire created could be viewed as the “fire child”. Without each other phallus and womb are nothing, together they create the sacred fire of existence.

The Anglo-Saxon “Runesong” speaks of the yew tree as the “keeper of the fire”, in Germanic traditions it is either the yew or ash tree (Yggdrasil) that represents all of existence. But fire was not only viewed as friendly as we can see in the Anglo-Saxon Yr- and Elder Futhark Eiwaz-rune, both representative of the yew tree as much as death. The circle of life is complete in the fire-symbolism. Death begets life begets death and so forth.

 agni

One of the more popular fire deities is the three-faced (life, death, rebirth) Hindu God Agni. Most other indo-Germanic high Gods of fire are based on him, not only etymologically. Agni might be connected to Irish Goddes Aine and he is Ogni in Slavic Paganism, the German word Ofen (oven) derives from it. The Russian word ogon means “ignite” in English. – Germanic Ing, Yngvi or Ingvi-Fro (Frey) is the God of the sun, of growth, creation, crops. He is also an aspect of Sahsnotas (Saxnot-Týr). The Ing-rune stands for the hearth and hearth fire and the sun wheel is dedicated to him and his sister Freija. And Agni is married to Swaha, whose name means offering or literally “offering gift”. The Sanskrit word Swastika (Hindu sun wheel) is related to it.

diwali-swastika

The holy Hindu Swastika and our indo-European sunwheels deriving from it have nothing to do with the 3rd Reich, Hitler or nazism.

Germanic Sol is not just the Goddess of the sun, she is the sun itself. When the sun goes down her brother Mani (“moon”) gifts the earth with his silvery light.

Lugh is an Irish deity and former hero/semi-deity, whose name means “the shining one”. He is usually depicted with his spear, which is referred to as “the finest of the yew”. Here we find the yew-fire correlation once more. Lugh’s holiday is Lughnasadh, (“nasád” meaning assembly). Historically, the Gaels celebrated very differently than today’s Pagans, Wiccans and some Celtic Reconstructionists do. Nowadays the sun (Lugh) is praised and given thanks to, the harvest season is welcomed, lavish celebrations including food and drink are mostly a part of the holiday.

lughlammas

Lughnasad was originally dedicated not only to Lugh, but especially to his foster mother Tailtiu, who died of exhaustion after having plowed all of Ireland so it would be a fruitful island.

Lugh was known as a fine craftsman and crafty, albeit in a different way, is Loki, his Germanic equivalent. Loki is a son of Muspelheim, the realm of fire, but his father is none other than the Jotun (giant) Fornjot(ur). Loki’s brothers are the northwind (Air) Kári and Aegir, God of the Sea (Water) and Byleist (maybe an earth or forest jotun?). – This would complete the cardinal points. For the four elements played a greater role in the Germanic and Norse traditions than is usually acknowledged today. (For example we have Austri (East), Vestri (West), Sudri (South) and Nordri (North) the dwarves, and four stags eating at the branches and roots in all four cardinal points of the worldtree, namely Dainn, Dvalin, Duneyrr and Durathror amongst others.

Loki appears to be etymologically related to Lugh, yet his name (also) means “closer”, “ender”, “finisher”. He closes this cycle by ending the world, he brings on Ragnarök, so a new, fresh world can come from it. Surt, the King of Muspelheim, sets fire to the world, but it is Loki who prepared the way throughout lore.

There has been a common misconception that Loki is nothing but a “trickster god”, “chaos deity” and especially to American converts to Heathenry he is often a kind of Nordic Satan. This is not a polytheist way of thinking but stems from the old mindset as found in monotheistic religions. The inability to fully comprehend polytheism seems to be one of the biggest challenges that modern Paganism or Pagan revival movements face today. The cruel aspects of life and nature were equally held sacred in the “old ways”.

Loki Rackham 7766

Ragnarök is a metaphor, one which emphasizes that fire is both representative of death as much as life (or rebirth) and to say that the giants are “the enemies of the Gods” is hence incorrect. The giants and the Gods (as much as all other beings) are all part of a very complex belief system that developed over thousands of years, it is too simple to state that they are enemies of each other because they pursue different goals. In the end, both of them “win”, the giants as the forces of raw evolution destroy this world, but the Gods return and as the forces of “consciousness” and stability ensure the duration of the next one. Well, until the next big leap that is.

 Ragnarök - earth burning

However, luckily not all fire deities are as controversial and have been demonized as much as Loki has been by pseudo-polytheists.

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Pele is the Hawaiian Goddess of volcanos and magma (liquid fire) who is in constant rivalry with her siblings, all water-related deities.

In the Vodun religion (“Voodoo”) Maman Brigitte is a Loa (spirit) who tends to and lights the candles on the graves of the deceased. She is related to the other spirits of the dead. There is Baron Samedi, Baron Saturday; Saturday being Saturn’s or also Loki’s day, the 6th day of the week, whereas the 6th rune of the Futhark is Kenaz=fire.
Baron Cemetiere means Baron Cemetery and last there is Baron De la Croix, Baron of the Cross. Maman Brigitte likes it hot – usually the offerings to her include (cayenne) pepper, often mixed into rum. Hot beverages and foods have often been associated with the burning sensation of fire and thus it comes as no surprise that she is syncretized with Celtic and Irish Brighid/Irish Catholic Saint Brigid who is also associated with fire.

MamanBrigitte

Maman Brigitte

 The Aztec Goddess Coatlicue (coatl = serpent, snake) is also known as “the one with the skirt of serpents”. She is the Goddess of life, death and rebirth, mother of the South and southern stars and of “fire and fertility”, sometimes called the “fire *of* fertility”.

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Tohil is the sungod in the Mayan religion.

In Japanese mythology Kagu-tsuchi is the kami of fire, the Chinese “kitchen god” or God of stove fires is Zao Jun.
Shapash is Caanite El (YH) and Asherah’s (WH) daughter, she is the “torch of the Gods”, in related tribal religions Asherah’s name is also Shua and the union between her and her husband is “Yeshua” – Jesus, also known as “the light of the world” in Christian mythology.
In Gnostic traditions Lucifer (often) signifies the fire of enlightenment, knowledge, self-gnosis.
See https://paganmeltingpot.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/the-forgotten-lord-of-self-gnosis-lucifer-the-lightbringer/

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Many Pagan fire and solar deities have crowns of fire, Jesus, the “light of the world” has his halo.

Slavic Svarog is the god of blacksmithery, fire, the sun and his Greek equivalent is Hephaistos.

Aryaman is another Hindu deity of fire (note the similarity to Zoroastrian Ahriman). Ar or Ahr is an Armenian God whose name means life, his son is Mihr – “Fire”.

You could possibly also link Germanic Thunar and his Slavic equivalent Perun to fire as they are the Gods of lightning amongst other things. Lightning brings rain, which in turn helps crops grow. Another cycle of life symbolism.

 perun-lightning

There are just too many examples of fire deities, fire beings such as the Phoenix or generally fire representing life, death and rebirth/evolution to list on here. A google search will surely reveal a few more or less complete lists for those interested in delving into this topic a little deeper.

Today, fire has become something so common in everyday life that most people, especially non-Pagans, completely overlook how much we depend on it. Lighters, cigarettes, candles, batteries, guns, stoves and ovens, light bulbs, street lamps… Electrical devices are powered or set into motion by a “spark”, an impulse. Yet we do not even take this into account anymore. Everything is fire, everything is alive.

If you light a candle on your altar tonight…perhaps give special thanks to the fire deities of your distinctive path and the cosmic force of creation – the fire of life that connects us all.

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Arabian Paganism and Islam’s Pagan Origins

written by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

(Mohammed and his followers went on a rampage to destroy every trace of Paganism in Arabia, but at least a few survived! A relief of AlLat, 100 AD)

Muslims call the time pre islam “jahiliyyah” – age of ignorance. In turn what muslims are ignorant of is that the Allah/Al-ilah they worship is but an ancient Pagan deity. 

Most of what we know of Arabian polytheism is from scanty reliefs and stone inscriptions and from Ibn al-Kalbi’s “Kitab al-asnam”, Book of Idols.

The name Allah is the personal name of the God of the moon. He was married to the Goddess of the sun and had three children with her, the “daughters of Allah”.
His daughters’ names were AlLat (“The Goddess”), Goddess of harvest, fertility, and love. Like her mother she was associated with the sun. She might be related to Greek Leto, mother of the sun God Apollo.
AlUzza (“the Mighty One”) was the Goddess of honor, justice, war, and passion. She was associated with the stars.
Manat was the Goddess of fate, death, and the afterlife. Like Allah she was associated with the moon. Medina is named after her.
The Gods in this divine family were considered “high Gods”, meaning they were at the top of the pantheon of Arabic deities.

deusas

Some view them as separate although connected deities, but most non-islamic scholars agree that Allah and Hubal are one and the same God. One of Hubal’s names is also “Lord of the seven oracle arrows”, the number seven representing the moon.
The “horns” of fertility of the moon deity Hubal towered atop the Kaaba as the most powerful deity of all. The horns were made up of the crescent moon with its tips (horns) pointing upwards. The same crescent moon that is now adorning so many flags of islamic countries and is essentially the symbol for mohammedanism today. On the same Kaaba quadrat annually circled by Muslims instead of Pagans now. The religion changed, the God they worship is still the same old lunar deity though.

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It is important to note that muslims, christians and jews do not worship “the same God” hence! Christianity is a religion that pieced together its beliefs from Osiric, Dionysic, other proto-Indo-European and samaritan-jewish tribal ideas of a savior figure.
Judaism’s YHWH was actually the unity of the heavenly couple. Yeh was another name for El, the fatherly God. His wife was Ashera or also sometimes called Hava or Shua. Their union was Yeh(ha)va YHWH or Yehshua. Think about it… – Yeshua is the Aramaic name of Jesus…

But back to Arabian Paganism.

Djinn

Central to polytheist Arabian belief was the idea of ‘barakha’. A holy and animating power or blessing instilled into humans through Gods or djinn (spirits). This power cannot be seen with the eyes, it is a universal soul (power).
The only proof for the existence of the Gods was the effects of their deeds in this world, by natural occurrences, miracles and so forth. They are for the most part messengers and mediums of Allah who is “not of this world”, so consequentially the original source of the barakha is Allah himself. Like Catholics pray to God through the Virgin Mary, angels and saints the Arabic people prayed to Allah through these other, “lesser” Gods and spirits.

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Originally the tawaf was a pilgrimage to and the circling of the Kaaba to worship the 365 God statues inside. (One for each day of the year.) The Kaaba pilgrimage for once united the different tribes and their different practices and Gods.
The Kaaba was circled seven times in honor of the seven planets (of the week) and the four lunar phases which each took seven days. The heavenly bodies, as was established earlier, were central to Arabian Pagan worship.
Lesser tawafs were made to other holy places, shrines (hajj) all over Arabia also.

Typically, worship and rituals were not planned in advance and occurred spontaneously. and can occur at any time. However, there were fixed holy days all revolving around astrology and especially the moon. Common practices included meditation, divination, the erecting or visiting of a temple, swearing an oath or oaths to one or more deities and curiously lion hunts. (If anyone knows more about the connection to lion hunts to Arabian worship please enlighten me!)
Also upon entering another village an offering to the local Gods and landspirits had to be made.

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In the islamic religion the talbiyah (invocation to their god) is the same as during Pagan times. Allah is praised as the highest God. In conclusion if there is a “highest” then there must be lesser Gods. Talbiyah is a prayer formula that Mohammed appears to have neglected to alter accordingly when creating his new monotheistic religion.

During the Pagan janazah (funeral) ist was customary for women to shriek, wail and beat at themselves. Some say this was to ward off evil spirits, others say it was so the spirit of the deceased would not enter and possess a living body. Women were considered to be especially susceptible to spirit possession.

The ritual animal mass slaughter-bloodbath by the hands of woman, man and child (after the holiday of Eid) is widely known in islamic culture. This, too, stems from Pagan times when the first goat of the flock was sacrificed to AlLat, Goddess of harvest, after summer’s end. It might be best to comment that only men and sometimes women sacrificed to AlLat, never children.

Ancient Arabian lunar chart

Aqiqah is the islamic practice of sacrificing a sheep or lamb to Allah when a child is born. The Pagan meaning of this sacrifice was to appease Allah so he would take the lamb instead of the child. (Infant mortality was high in ancient Arabia.)

Idols called wathan (hence the new name Wathanism for Arabian Neo-Paganism) were interpreted as the temporary house of the baetyl, deities, not as the specific deity itself. They were power points at which the worshipper could invoke the presence of the deity.

Wathan for a baetyl

The deities and beings of Arabian polytheism are too many to list on here, a list and more thorough description of who they are and their interrelations can be found at sacred-texts archive online or on Wikipedia for example.
Many of the later ones already bear the hallmarks of Christian influence. For example Uj ibn Anak is a jabbar, giant, said to have bred with humanity. The whole story reminds a bit of the tale of the nephilim, whereas in the Bible it was angels that had bred with mankind and brought forth the giants (nephilim) hence.
Maryam (Mary) was acknowledged as a deity in Arabian Paganism and many Gods from other cultures in the general area were adopted into the pantheon of Arabian Gods as well.

Other ways of devotion were tree, animal, phallic worship and the devotion to the Mother Goddess. Unfortunately, despite such rich tribal pantheons of female deities women were still treated rather horribly in the Arab society. Something that the mohammedian religion only made worse evidently.

Shevaun-Docherty-Date-Trees

It’s questionable whether there is an actual existent Arabian Neo-Paganism to speak of. There are no written records of it, only accounts of what once was. It is rumored that in the Levant Neo-Paganism is growing, albeit in secret as apostasy from islam is punishable by death.
I have found only one person online that described himself as a Wathanist and he was a third generation Jordanian American from a non-muslim family already.

Does anyone know of an online forum or Wathanist blog other than the blogspot one, which appears to be dead? If you do, please drop me a line.

Naströnd – “Hell” in the Germanic and Norse traditions

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written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, June 2014

Heathens and Germanic Pagans will often be quick to tell you that there is no hell in their religion, but that Helheim is the place of those who did not fall in battle but died of old age, due to illness and such. While Helheim means nothing else but “Hel’s home” (home of the Goddess of the dead, Hel) Niflhel etymologically already hints at something more sinister. “Dark beyond” or “’cloudy beyond” doesn’t sound like an inviting place at least.
In Gylfaginning King Gylfi learns that Niflhel is a place where “evil’” people go. Now, the Eddas are already full of Christian mythology and a good vs. evil approach, originally foreign to our Germanic ancestors. A more detailed description to what “evil” or wrong is can be found in the tales of the the Sibylle (seer) in Völuspa. She tells us: Naströnd, the “Corpse Shore” or “Dead Man’s Shore” is a place in the realm of the Goddess Hel, a place where the dragon Nidhögg lives and chews on both corpses as well as the roots of the world tree Yggdrasil. Who goes to Naströnd? Nidings, (cowards) in other words: Murderers, adulterers, blood-oath- and just general oath-breakers. And even suicides as suicide was viewed as something just as abhorrent as oath-breaking by all Germanic tribes alike.

“…a hall I saw standing
remote from the sun (From the realm of the living/life)
on Dead Body Shore (Naströnd)
Its door looks north (Into eternal darkness)
There fell drops of venom
in through the roof vent.
That hall is woven
of serpent spines (Reference to Loki being bound with his sons’ intestines)
I saw there wading
onerous steams
men perjured
and wolfish murderers
and the ones who seduces
another’s close-trusted wife.
There Nidhögg (=Malice Striker) sucked
corpses of the dead,
the wolf tore them. (It has been debated whether this wolf would be Fenrir or possibly another of Angerboda’s children)

Naströnd is sometimes described as a realm cut off from Helheim, bordering on it but only on the margins of Hel’s jurisdiction, and sometimes Naströnd is referred to as a castle within Hel’s kingdom, which is made up of venomous snake skin, poison dripping from its walls and toxic fumes filling it.
In German folklore both Nighögg as well as Naströnd survive Ragnarök, Nidhögg continuing to gnaw on the roots of the tree that Lif and Lifthrasir survived the end battle in. Even in the “new world” there will be a place for those who did not use their chance of living in an uncorrupted world butwho choose to do evil. And the dragon/serpent Nidhögg will stand guard of this place, continually poisoning the bolverkers (evildoers) with his toxic breath and dripping venomous saliva in order to keep the ergis in Naströnd.
Unlike the rest of Helheim’s citizens, who will either be reborn or be called to take their place on the ship Naglfar, in order to bring forth Ragnarök, the lost souls of Naströnd will remain stuck forever, never being granted a chance to re-emerge again.
For Saxon parents the warning, “Nastrond fahan dig!” (Naströnd will take you!”) was a common warning or curse towards disobedient children.

Zalmoxianism (Romanian Paganism)

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written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, June 2014

Due to the lack of written records little is known about the Thracians (~2000 BC – ~375 AC) who settled in nowadays’ Bulgaria, Turkey and Romania).
Information may be scarce, but also there are no two sources that will agree upon who and what the Thracians were exactly, how they lived and worshipped. They were mentioned in the Ilias and Odyssee, by philosophers like Herodot and described as hard-drinking and rough-necked, which paint them as some sort of bon sauvage.
Since Roman and Greek philosophers’ accounts of history and other cultures are best taken with a grain of salt it is unclear whether these depictions of them are somewhat correct or rather misinterpretations of the actual Thracian culture(s). Greek and Scythian sources mainly speak of them as people dedicated to art, “just war”/justice and courage.
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Amongst reconstructionists the debate whether their forefathers’ spirituality was a monotheistic, monistic, partly pantheistic or simply polytheistic one has been avidly discussed on various online forums.
Some of the confusion might stem from Herodot’s accounts of the Thracian people. He writes, “These Thracians, when there’s thunder and lightning, shoot arrows towards the sky, threatening the god, because they think there is no other god than theirs.”

The Thracians were one of the oldest and largest indo-Germanic people, consisting of about 90 tribes which yet were never unified. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ancient_tribes_in_Thrace_and_Dacia Each tribe/community was led by a high priest often called priest-king, basically a shaman.
Even within the Thracian spirituality different tribes worshipped and acknowledged different Gods or adopted foreign tribes’ Gods who lived in close proximity to them. (>Greek Hestia, Zeus etc. part of several Thracian pantheons.)
Now, whilst this is a common Pagan phenomenon, it is not exactly comparable to Germanic Paganism for example, where the same Germanic Gods were known under different names, depending upon the tribe, yet rituals and religious conduct were the same or at least very similar to each other. Thracian spirituality and culture was geographically specific and there were only marginal overlaps. This is one reason it is so hard to paint a complete and reliable picture on “THE Thracian belief” – there simply was no such thing.

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The creation myth of the Thracians (southern Carpathians) speaks of an impenetrable darkness and its ocean from which a God emerged. First, there were a worm and a butterfly both floating on the ocean. The butterfly, madly and desperately batting its wings, rose from the ocean, whilst the worm remained ‘trapped’. When the butterfly was first transfigured into a handsome young man and shortly after into a God, the worm became a kind of ‘devil’.
This further illustrates the Thracian belief of a life of struggle (for perseverance, self-sufficiency and justice) even further. From the butterfly mankind descends, and once they “fall”, sin, do evil etc. they “lose their wings” and regress to the “worm state”. Life is all about maintaining their “wings”.
In most creation myths there was a “void” or “chaos” in the beginning – without any mention of any creature or being as in this early Thracian tale though.
This reminds of the Babylonian Enuma-Elish and other Mesopotamian and the Zoroastrian creation myths in which pantheism and monism played a role.
Zoroastrian Ahriman was also a “worm in the dark” and even in the Finnish (Ugric) Pehlevi scriptures, which were influenced by the Persians, the original “evil” entered this world in the form of a worm, a lower being without (common) sense, slave to its animal desires, while the ‘true’ God was depicted as pure light or a winged creature representing light, everything good, pure and free from human boundaries (the body).
Interestingly, the Thracians did not only have contact with the Persians (today’s Iranians) but were ruled by them for a while, which might explain the similarities in creation myth.

Amongst the Thracians were the Getae and Dacians (who resided in the area around today’s Romania and Moldova) with their own distinctive pantheons and culture.
Gebeleizis was one of the main Gods of the indo-Germanic Getae, the God of thunder and lightning, often depicted with a spear, lightning or arch in his hands facing/battling a snake.
It is not only this but also his bushy large beard and bright red hair that remind of another God of thunder – Germanic Thor.
Gebeleizis, also called Derzelas, Derzis or simply “The Thracian Knight” can also be found in Macedonian mythology as well as the Greek one where his name was Zeus. (On a side note, the main God of the Saxons, “Saxnot” aka Týr, Teiwas, Tiw, Ziw was also known under the name Ziu or Zius. Not only by name but his traits did he remind of Zeus).
It is from Gebeleizis that the Armenian Hetanists (Armenian “Heathens”) adopted him around the 7th century BC and gave him the name Vahagn, God of War and the Sun, the “snakeslayer” who was also equated with Zeus.
Traces of him can even still be found in the tale of “St. George” slaying the dragon.
As Gebeleizis name was greconized to Zbelsurdos beliefs of a female alter ego started forming as well. Her name was Bendis, in other traditions she was named Kotys, the Great Mother Goddess, deity of the moon, womanly cycle and the hunt, (>Artemis) often depicted standing between a deer and a snake, representing her role as a deity of balance and the cycle of nature.
The Mother Goddes(ses) were highly revered and worshipped by both men and women. It comes as no surprise that although the cultural roles of men and women were clearly defined, spiritually they had the same rights and freedoms.
Thracian/Phrygian Sabazios, the King (rather: shaman) of the “horsemen” possessed traits of Wotan, especially in his regard to his eight-legged horse Sleipnir and the fact that he was linked to the underworld and realm of the dead. Although Gebeleizis and Zalmoxis are often equated Sabazios and Zalmoxis appear to have more commonalities.
These just as a few random examples on how complex, interwoven and yet distinctive from each other the Thracian Gods within their sub-cultures and traditions were.

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One thing that almost all scholarly sources agree upon (and even the cantankerous online folks) is that Zalmoxis/Zamolxis/Salmoxis/Zalmoxe was the high God of the Dacians and (most of) their sub-tribes.
It is unclear whether Zalmoxis was a man, namely a slave of Pythagoras, who then was elevated into “Godhood” or not. We only know that he was and is worshipped as a God, albeit with the connotation “man-God”, which might just as well describe his role as the “God of man(kind), the main god, “All-father figure” et al.)
However, his followers believed that they would join their God in the afterlife for eternal pleasure after a hard-working life striving for justice. To ensure this, they “sent a messenger” to him every four years. – Meaning a human sacrifice.
To be chosen as a sacrifice was considered an honor, now whether the “sacrifices” (victims?) agreed we’ll never know… The sacrifice was chosen by lot and he/she was then immediately cast high into the air and onto 3 sharp spears.
Needless to say the victims did not die instantly in most cases and were visited during their long, painful hours of slow but certain death by family who cheered them on or asked them to deliver messages to Zalmoxis.
In some cases however, the sacrifice did not die. This was considered to be proof that the sacrifice was “unworthy”, that he/she had lived a life in vain, one of evil or sin. (The concept of good and evil was deeply embedded in the Thracian mindset.) Once a sacrifice lived, another one was chosen instantly.

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Dacian life revolved around Zalmoxis and the (rewards of) afterlife. It was Herodot who mentioned the similarity of Zalmoxis, the “man who became (a) God”(6 BC) or “daimon” to Pythagoras who is sometimes said to have been his slave-master and/or teacher. The set of religious ideas whose origin is attributed to Zalmoxis does indeed resemble Pythagoreanism. Besides immortality, Zalmoxis is said to have also taughthis followers a highly praised form of psychosomatic medicine based on incantations, magic and charms, whose purpose was to bring healing by unifying the soul with the body. (Plato: Charmides)
This medical tradition appears to have been long-lived, as 40+ Dacian names of medicinal plants were inserted in the famous Materia medica of the Greek physician Dioscurides and in De herbis (3rd century CE).
Today’s Romanian incantations (folklore, “folktro”), rituals of the dead, folk dances like the Hora etc. still bear resemblance of what is known of the Dacian culture(s).

If you visited Romania recently, maybe you took notice on the plenty of bars, pubs, sports clubs or even stores which carried the name “wolf” in them. The word “Dacian” means nothing other than wolf itself (daos=wolf).
They were the wolf people, pack people. In battle, much like the Germanic berserkers frenzied themselves into battle rage, the Dacians would imitate the wolf’s howl and ready themselves for battle. They fought for their “pack”, for justice for their pack. It is surprising that they appear not to have had a Goddess like Germanic Angerboda, wolf/pack mother of Iron Wood.
Another animal sacred to them was the serpent, or more specifically its mythological variant, the dragon. Even today’s Zalmoxianists revere and celebrate the “holy fire” and wolf and dragon adorn many a flag, banner or are found in the logos of neo-Pagan organizations.

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In the spirit of “ye olden days” today’s Zalmoxianism is not “one religion” and its followers are not unified. There is an ongoing debate between the various groups on who actually follows the “true” Zalmoxianism. A debate inherited by early 20th century historians such as Nicolae Densușianu, Vasile Pârvan, Giurescu, Jean  Coman, Constantin Daicoviciu, and Mircea Eliade. Their claims and research material is still as controversial as it is incomplete and often takes a political or (Christian) religious character.
However, it is true that 21st century Zalmoxianism heavily leans on Romanian folklore rather than actual Geto-Dacian or general Thracian spirituality hence.
The ethnologist Ion Ghinoiu states that the Romanian lives in the proximity to the divine and that he personifies stars, creatures (animals, birds, reptiles, insects), plants, natural phenomena, illnesses, sentiments, soul feelings. And indeed most neo-Zalmoxian worship and practices are pantheistic in nature or embed core pantheistic elements in their set of beliefs.
For the early Indo-Europeans, the worship of fire was central to their beliefs as it was pivotal to their survival. (Comp. Armenian Hetanism and Tseghakron – https://paganmeltingpot.wordpress.com/category/armenian-paganism/)
Nowadays, no one sacrifices animals or even humans in Zalmoxian ritual anymore of course, instead their fire worship is of rather meditative nature. Candles or bonfires are lit, sometimes hymns and songs are being sung or a few prayers to Vesta, goddess of fire (not the similarity to the holy book of the Persian Zoroastrians – “Avesta”) are being spoken.
At Zalmoxis’ Temple in Detunata, Romania, followers gather annually to celebrate the revival of their ancient Gods together. During this ritual celebration of the “fire of creation” the deceased are being asked to reincarnate and spirits are being called upon to manifest.
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But even here rituals are not entirely free from Christianity. Alongside the 6-petaled flower the Christian (Celtic) cross is bowed to, it is placed in the center of the altar, those Zalmoxians believing in “Dumnezeu” (The Lord of Lords, also the Romanian name for the Christian God) even call upon Jesus. Undeniably this is a kind of eclecticism that doesn’t make much sense anymore in terms of a fulfilling or somewhat traditional (logical?) spirituality. To each their own of course.
In 2010 the attempt of writing the “Book of Zalmoxis”, basically a Romanian Bible, was initiated. It contained the collected interpretations of historians, philosophers, poets like Mihai Eminescu and even scientists. The blanks were filled in with other related indo-Aryan beliefs, mixed in with tidbits of Christianity. The symbol chosen for this Romanian Bible was declared as the new symbol of all of “Zalmoxiana” – Zalmoxis’ cross. (Astonishing enough since there is no mention of a cross in connection with the God Zalmoxis anywhere in historic documents…) It is an equal four-arm cross displaying The Flower of Life symbol, reminding of the original (non-political) swastika (Hindu/indo-Aryan symbol of good luck and life).
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Other modern symbols regarded as sacred are the square (symbol of masculinity and linearity), the crescent moon (Bendis/Kotys), triangle (Bendis/Kotys), Hexagon (unification of male and female principle), circle (of life).
The book claims to state historic facts, yet it is at best mainly a curiously eclectic and speculative work. Zalmoxian babies are baptized in the name of Zalmoxis, polyamory and(spiritual) polygamy are the new hit (…) and although there is no mention of it in any historical records why not throw in some sex rites and orgies in the mix, too.
Zalmoxians celebrate the usual Pagan holidays (wheel of the year) along with a few other more Romania-specific, semi-political ones. A few traditions still stem from Roman times or the Gothic occupation.
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As is often the case the organized reconstruction of ancient Pagan religions, complete with a “Bible” to go along with it, it doesn’t work. It is in fact against the core of common (ancient) Pagan spirituality, which was mostly un-dogmatic, adoptive and free-spirited, relying on ideas rather than set rules, “commands” and regulations.
There are several Pagan movements out there today whose political extremism (both left- and right-winged), religious intolerance, Christianized mindset, sexual deviance and confused eclectic rituals have turned them into one big embarrassing mess after all.
Anyhow, the largest reconstructionist Zalmoxian groups in Romania are the “Societatea Gebeleizis” (Society of Gebeleizis) with approx. 500 members split into 15 branches. Due to their core values and motto of the Societatea, “O Familie, Un Neam, Un Teritoriu” (One Family, One Nation, One Territory), left-wing extremists have accused the society of being nazist. There are rumors of scandals within the organization, however I personally haven’t found any concrete proof regarding these alleged “scandals” nor their nature. (Should anyone have information on this please do contact me though and I shall revise this entry.)
Other well known groups are Zalmoxe and Terra Dacica Aeterna as well as several smaller and lesser known ones.
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Thursatrú – “Norse Satanism”

written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014

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The first response to my mentioning “Norse Satanism”, better known as Thursatrú, in a Norse group on facebook was complete and utter astonishment, followed by reluctance and ridicule at the various “trús” that have befallen us modern Norse followers.
Someone dared ask if there was such a thing as Alfatrú and Disatrú as well. Now, whilst I have no idea regarding the two latter, Thursatrú has existed prior to Vexior’s Gullveigarbók in disorganized form for at least around 15 years.
My religious studies brought me to be with a group of MLO Satanists  (MLO = Misantropisk Lucifer Orden or in translation from Swedish: Misanthropic Luciferian Order) at the cusp of this millennium. I was not a member of the MLO itself and even the members I personally knew blended different Satanic traditions together randomly.
A few in this commune desired to have a Chaos-Gnostic Satanism free of even the last trace of Christian influences.
They wanted to connect with Chaos in a more native way.

Attending “ecumenical” Pagan and Heathen meetings rather regularly, they were met with skepticism and the unwillingness to make room for them and their ideas, but they still took away a few of our ancestors’ practices and principles and eventually creating a new left-handed “trú” – Thursatrú, the belief in what they deemed anti-cosmic and chaotic Gods – the Thursar (a tribe of giants). The Jötnar (forces of evolution WITHIN the multiverse) were and still are looked at as enemies. Only destructive forces are venerated.

It would be false to say that this kind of “Norse Satanism” isn’t reactive, Satanism is always an anti-religion, from the literary kind to the Process Church to the Temple of Seth, Church of Satan to “youth Satanism” which usually has no philosophy in itself but devotes itself to vandalism.
In Thursatrú Odhinn – instead of YHWH for example – is viewed as the demiurge who out of the desire to rule and be above everything/everyone else created the universe, and rather violently too.

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from Vexior’s Gullveigarbók

The early and disorganized brand of Thursatrú that I was allowed to look into drew from Crowley, Eschner and ceremonial magic (much like Wicca, but in a very different way of course).
It included pain- and fear-training, destruction of form and order any way possible and some really risky and sloppily performed rituals at least of the group I briefly joined. I would like to state that this hardly reflects what we know as Thursatrú today, religions grow, evolve or at least change, and so did this one apparently.

Thursatrúr these days often insist on not being called (Norse) Satanists, mainly due to the reluctance of labeling themselves anything to do with Christianity, but also because the term Satanism unfortunately has rather negative connotations. They prefer the term Chaos-Gnosticists or Anti-Cosmic Gnosticists.

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MLO “pentagram” as used by Jon Nödveidt and Dissection on stage as well. The top is open so as to symbolize the possible escape from order and form back into the chaotic formless state everything once had.

Where the MLO worked with the Liber Azerate, Thursatrú’s main sourcebook is the already mentioned Gullveigarbók. It was written by Vexior who is also known as Shamaatae from Swedish Black Metal band Arckanum or simply under his birth name of Johan Lahger.
The insistence by several facebook-Odinists that it was Heathen author and left-handed dabbler Edred Thorsson/Stephen Flowers who wrote it is completely false.
Despite the Gullveigarbók (http://de.scribd.com/doc/58774173/Gullveigarbok-by-Vexior) the Prose or Poetic Edda is a large source of radically reinterpreted information they draw from.
Sagas and folk tales, such as this one (http://www.naturestory.com/Goodies/skollandhatia.html) also play a role. Vexior points to Swedish historian Viktor Rydberg’s “Studies in Germanic Mythology” (1886) who has been widely discredited due to acknowledging the darker aspects of Norse cosmology and offering alternate interpretations.

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from Vexior’s Gullveigarbók

Ragnarök, the end of the Nine Worlds and the Cosmos in general, are central to Thursatrú beliefs, albeit in a different way than for Rökkatrúr. Rökkatrúr are inclusive in their beliefs and looking forward to “the New World” after Ragnarök. The end of the world is a metaphor for some, a big leap for others, the next step in evolution, the new cycle, fresh start, welcomed. Thursatrú’s goal is the formless (chaotic) state after utter desolation of the multiverse, the return to Ginnungagap, the “great nothingness”, because only then will (their) spirit roam freely, we will all be one great consciousness. The tale of the two humans Lif and Lifthrasis hiding out in a hollow tree to recreate the New World are Christian fiction to them.
The two religions are neither the same nor are they compatible in essence.

For those who believe that Thursatrú is not Heathen or is “evil”, consider that while our ancestors were rather simple people who had little time to deeply ponder philosophical questions but relied on folk tales, mouth-to-mouth propaganda, they were still open-minded enough to adopt new Gods into their pantheon (from Týr as the AllFather to foreign God Odhinn) and whose beliefs varied from tribe to tribe, being much less dogmatic and organized than nowadays.
Thursatrú might not be historical or a “reconstructive” religion, but it is a religion nonetheless. And it is on the fringe of Heathenry, whether Heathenry will like or acknowledge it or not.

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from Vexior’s Gullveigarbók

On samfundetfornsed.se the member Garm wrote that, “[…] In the darkness there is all wisdom: Odin looked into the Underworld (author’s note: by hanging himself from the world tree for nine days) and from there he received the runes. From Loki he received Sleipnir who is also a Thurs. With Sleipnir’s help Odin can travel the Underworld to gain more knowledge.
Mimir is a Thurs and his well’s source is in the Underworld. Odin sacrificed one of his eyes for wisdom – and even this only with the closeness/interference of a Thurs. Odin is the wanderer who wakes the dead hence studying the darkness and the unknown. […]
And if you now look at this from a chaos-gnostic perspective – like an adept of darkness he will be devoured by the Fenriswolf at Ragnarök and this can be viewed as his entering so-called Chaos.”

odin mimir befragend questions head walhall illustration emil doepler norse mythology mythThis perspective is interesting, although not Gullveigarbók-Thursatrú since there Odin is viewed as a demiurge who will suffer the consequence of  his greed of wanting to rule all and be the “AllFather”, alpha God.
In other words, just like within Heathenry and Paganism there is no one way or set of beliefs within this path. In fact, it is less insistent upon dogma derived from reconstructionist attempts but a rather modern and intellectual path.

Thursatrú’s main (religious) practices are sorcery and meditation (called Setas). Vexior prompts to “Experiment and innovate, become eclectic and syncretic in your sorcerous practice; as long as you keep to elements which correspond to the Thursian Powers.”
This is interesting because while many of Vexior’s followers are not fond of eclecticism, here he basically states that there is a universality to “darkness” or chaotic, anti-cosmic powers. Later in his book he mentions Lilith and Ereshkigal, obviously Sumerian/Mesopotamian/Babylonian Goddesses and – nowadays – Judeo-Christian “devil” kind of types.

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Chaos Star popular in chaos-gnosic spirituality, but also popular in Lokinism and Rökkatrú.

Thursatrúr usually will have one altar, called stallr, for weekly devotions and meditations as well as one outside in a remote area. On their stallr they’ll have an offering bowl inscribed with runes and bind-runes, hlaut – blood mainly drawn from themselves or any willing participant; a blót-knife, a cencer or bowl/cauldron to burn herbs and incense, an offering plate, black candles, talismans and fetishes as needed.
Talismans may vary from crows’ feet, bones and skulls or a sword representing Surtr the Fire Giant of Muspellheim etc…

ImageGods/Thurses acknowledged due to their hostility towards the corrupt tyrant Gods, the Aesir (Vanir and Jötnar) Gods and most or all of creation are amongst others: Gullveig, Nidhhöggr, Thjazi, the Thursatrú “AllFather” Ýmir (also called Aurgelmir), Surtr, Vafthrudnir, Fenrir, Jörmungandr and Hrimgerdr. They are  especially revered and rituals and meditations dedicated to them and what they stand for.

Without speaking for nor against Thursatrú I still have to remark that it is indeed a heavy flaw of much of modern Heathenry and especially those who call themselves “Ásatrúr” to mainly overlook all other worlds except Midgard and Asgard and deny the beings, Kings and Queens of the other seven realms the respect they deserve. Why is Odhinn called “the God of the Dead” when it is Queen Hel who reigns over Helheim, the Underworld? He is a self-proclaimed God of the Dead, a self-proclaimed AllFather who himself WAS created from out of the Chaos of Ginnungagap, related to the very Thurs – Ýmir – that he slew so viciously.

Frolich32OdinandVafthrudnirOdhinn has mistakenly been described and accepted as “the wisest God of all”, although even the Eddas clearly renounce this assumption. In Vafthrudnismál Odhinn excitedly praises the giant Vafthrudnir’s wisdom and revelations to him. If Odhinn was the wisest of all, why would Vafthrudnir have anything new to reveal or teach to Odhinn at all?
Just like Christians believe that the fruit in the garden was an apple although the nature or name of the fruit has not been revealed in the Bible once, Heathens and Norse Pagans accept “truths” that are easily disproven by the Eddas, simply because they are popular beliefs as pushed by (Ásatrú) kindreds and global Heathen organizations.

The MLO heritage is still imminent in (some of) Thursatrú due to the fact that it acknowledges not nine, but eleven worlds. (The #11, along with 218 and a few others bears significant meaning in the MLO and in many occultist traditions 11 representing Lucifer/the adversary), and there are several other links and connections of course.
In Thursatrú you have Asgard, Vanaheim, Midgard, Ljusalfheim, Svartalfheim, Muspellheim, Niflheim, Helheim, Jotunheim just like in “traditional” Heathenry, but they are accompanied by Ginnungagap and Utgard.

ImageWhat, some of you may wonder, is so special about Gullveig, that Vexior’s book is not entitled simply “Thursatrú” but Gullveigarbók?
It is common UPG (unverified personal gnosis) that Gullveig is the same as Angrboda. [footnote *1] As I wrote in my blog about Angrboda https://paganmeltingpot.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/angrboda-and-the-dark-mother-figure-across-the-cultures/) before she is not only the Rökkr/Thurs’ Loki’s wife/lover who bore him Hel (Queen of the Dead), Jörmungandr (Midgard Serpent) and Fenrir (the mighty giant wolf) but she is the “hag” or “witch” of Jarnvidhr, Ironwood, the place in which she prepares her offspring for the battle of Ragnarök. She is, in essence, the mother of Chaos, herself.

Religious holidays of Thursatrú:

Varblót

April 30.
The Spring Ritual is held on Walpurgis Night and is looked upon as the beginning of the Múspell-workings. The winter has ended and gives way to the heat/fire of summer.

Miðsumarblót

June 21.
The Summer Solstice Ritual is on Midsummer Night and is looked upon as the climax of the Múspell-workings, and should thereby have a grand ritual which includes the full Múspell-working.

asatru rueda solar ardiendoHaustblót

October 31.
The Autumn Ritual is on Samhain Night and is looked upon as the beginning of the Nifl-workings.The summer has ended and the winter approaches.

Miðsvetrarblót

December 21.
Winter ends.

On a personal note the celebration of something as mundane as the seasons, especially “Yule” – or here: Midhsvetrarblót – comes as a genuine surprise. It is marked as the beginnig of the Nifl-workings, nifl being old Norse for “dark”.
Thursatrú isn’t shy of praising the quality of darkness and the adversarial or dark powers and Gods of course. But paying respect to the return of light/sun by honoring the dark/nifl is a twist of some sort. Does this light have Muspell qualities? Is this a metaphor for the burning of the worlds and the “darkness” that will follow? (Muspilli itself is another word for Ragnarök after all.) For some “regular” Heathens Yule marks the return of Sunna, sometimes the return of Baldr after Ragnarök, neither of which would bear significant meaning in Thursatrú.

Anyone having more insight on this – please use the contact form below or post a comment, thank you.
All in all, Thursatrú, as a chaos-gnostic/anti-cosmic religion seems to be anti-dualism most of all.
If we take that into account, neither revering darkness nor light makes much sense. “Chaos”, then, would be something else, something other than either dark or light, something beyond, something that cannot be grasped with limited human senses but only with the heart and soul, it is but an inkling;  something vague but grand to be hoped for, but maybe too vague to actually turn into an intellectual, philosophical or religious concept in a dual world as ours – ?

1357608_24437769-390x600Footnotes:

[*1] My personal thoughts on the interpretation that Gullveig is the same as Angrboda are that this is a misconclusion.
Gullveig is a Rime-Thurs, a frost giantess, being “of ice”. She was burnt thrice and yet returned every time. Now, what happens if you burn ice? It melts, it vaporizes, it vanishes.
Loki on the other hand is known as a shape-shifter turning both into male as well as female form. As a fire-giant he would have an easy time escaping “death by fire” as fire would not harm him one bit.
As an agent of Ragnarök, would he not gain more by starting the Aesir-Vanir war in the guise of Gullveig?
Why would Angrboda, packmother, move away from her Ironwood abode where she is known to tend to her offspring to nurture and nourish them to make them strong for the end-of-the-world fight? In Ironwood, she is protected – iron being a ward against “evil” or adversary forces in Norse cosmology and the Aesir – at least in Thursatrú and partly Rökkatrú cosmology being the most evil of them all.

What is Norse Wicca?

Copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014.

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Most Heathens gasp in terror at the notion of Norse Wicca and are quick to point out that Wiccan principles and Eddic ones could never merge, while not even raising a brow at Egyptian, Hellenic , Roman or other types of Wicca.
What riles the majority of them most is Wicca’s alleged “fluffy” nature – the rule of three and harm ye none.
Our Germanic and Norse ancestors were a harsh yet playful people and the revival of the Norse spirituality often forgets the playful and joyful part and instead focuses on the warrior-like nature of it. But ripping one element out of context of a whole spirituality of course makes little sense and thus I proclaim that Norse Wicca comes much closer to our ancestors’ spirituality than what today’s – especially American – Heathens have turned this faith into.

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(From the shrines of the Matrons and the Nornen we have the “threefold Goddess”)

Simply because most of our ancestors were in fact farmers, traders and craftsmen rather than Kings and/or heroic Warlords. They lived a life full of austerity during the long, bitter winters, a life filled with hard work and the struggle to survive all year long. They enjoyed games, contest and competition and a rather unceremonious but light-hearted spirituality to compensate for that.
The (folk)lore and sagas were traditionally passed on to the next generation orally and the Eddas themselves were written down in the 1300s by an already christianized Icelander named Snorri Sturlason.

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He was in the quandary of having to abide by the strict church laws declaring everything non-Christian heresy and blasphemy under the penalty of death, while still wanting to note down the tales and beliefs of his Norse ancestors.
It may very well be assumed that he had to “compromise” in certain areas, so everything that has been written about our ancestors and that wasn’t taken directly from rune stones must be taken with a grain of salt.
However, the Eddas and especially the Hávamál, the Words of the alleged “High One” aka self-proclaimed “AllFather” Wotan/Odin, regularly speak of retaliation towards one’s enemies as well as a strong moral code of loyalty, honesty, truth, honor and defending yourself and your own, whilst praising physical as well as mental strength.
And it is also by death and carnage, by Wotan’s murder of the Jotun (giant) Ymir, that the nine worlds and ultimately mankind were created.
Wotan’s son Thor is another “giant murderer”, faring to the lands of the Jötnar whenever boredeom strikes him in order to wield his mighty hammer Mjölnir and kill everything in his way.Surtr will burn the worlds at Ragnarök, the Norse equivalent of Armageddon, and there are many more of that nature.
In other words: War definitely IS a common theme in the Eddas, yes. But by far the only one.

ThorHeathen

There are just as many Gods and Goddesses of a gentler nature, whose stories find lesser recognition amongst the war-struck Heathens of new.
There’s Eostre from which the holiday of the same name, better known as “Easter”, comes from, Hönir who (ast least in the Edda) helped Wotan create the worlds together with Loki and is referred to as “The silent one” which may also be translated to the meek one from old Norse. Eir is the Aesir Goddess of healing, Baldur the God of rebirth, peace and beauty. And on and on it continues.

Baldur_by_Johannes_Gehrts

If we now go back to the principle of “An ye harm none do what you wilt” I personally don’t know one single Wiccan who would attest to that without explaining this a little further. The principle here is not much different from Buddha’s golden rule, Christianity’s “Don’t do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and many other religion’s central law. It is even rather close to philosopher Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative.
It is a “Do your best not to harm anyone” or also a “Try to find a solution which will do the least harm to everyone involved.” Harm none otherwise is impossible. Many Wiccans I know eat meat, wear leather shoes, unlike me use a flyswatter, make Freudian slips or get on people’s bad side every once in a while, so to take it completely literal makes little sense of course.

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As for the rule of three, “Whatever you do it will come back to you times three” the core of it may just as well be found in the Eddas as “What goes around comes around”. What else is Lokasenna about?:
In this chapter of the Eddas, the Aesir Gods along with Loki, sit in Valhalla enjoying a large feast, when Loki rises to turn to every single God to remind him/her of his/her mistakes, misdeeds (sins) and concludes his statements with personal insults.
And right he is, the arrogant tribe, the reigning “caste” of the Aesir Gods with Wotan – the God of corruption and crime, as their King – will face all their mistakes made out of fear to lose their status and superiority. At Ragnarök, the worlds’ will end. What goes around comes around indeed.

Wicca is not a dualist but a very inclusive religion, it accepts that all of nature and all elements of the circle of life are necessary and beautiful in their own way, not just the stars, the moon, spring blossoms and majestic sunsets, but also thunderstorms, tornados, the food chain and death just as much as life. Gerald Gardner was eager to promote a more positive image for witchcraft and Wicca and emphasized its meeker, gentler and more joyful qualities, but it is more than just that.

Germanic and Norse beliefs are partly very similar to that concept, although they, too, have been twisted and willfully misinterpreted by most “Heathens” or rather Heathen converts.
The Aesir Gods are always holding back the Jötnar and Rökkr Gods (those who will bring about Ragnarök). They are usually deemed chaotic, but in truth they are the evolutionary forces of nature; stagnation and evolution constantly struggling with each other, some say keeping each other in check.
The Vanir are somewhere in between these two, after the Aesir/Vanir war the Vanir were basically annexed but still were not at war with the giants at least. A trinity of balance if you like.

Of course the next thing extremist Heathens will attack is magic (or, as one spat at me, “Your Pagan magjickckk or whatever you call it”.), claiming that our ancestors did not practice magic.

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Really!
And what would you call Seidr, Spae and Galdr? Why are there magical incantations or inscriptions on drinking horns, battle helms and weaponry and even other everyday items, found of nearly a thousand  years ago?
Did not Wotan himself learn the “womanly” practice of casting the runes, of the magical practices named above? Oh, we had magic alright.
Even a simple Blót by the use of blood already had something magical, meant to weave a connection between man and God or to call upon a certain God or Goddess – hence the name “Blót” simply meaning blood.

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Some Heathens, especially those on the fringe of it like Odinists, criticize Ásatrú’s practice of calling upon the four dwarves when creating a Vé (holy space) or beginning a Blót, ritual or holiday celebration, because it is most likely not historical and reminds of calling the four corners. In fact, there is much critique trying to establish new rituals based upon our ancient moral codes, beliefs, lore and the little we know about our religion and magic.
Sadly almost all of it was destroyed due to violent Christianization and thus we have to piece together the facts and fill in the blanks where facts are missing. Maybe it is less about “right and historically authentic” ritual, but much more about the intention behind such a ritual? At least in the case of…simply not having any historical sources to go with?! … After all, over the ages our ancestors had developed and kept developing their practices as well, quite naturally and over time.
And not every tribe held the same beliefs, believed in the same Gods or even knew of them. So maybe a tad more acceptance and open-mindedness would suit our angry Heathen brethren regarding the ideas and concepts of Norse Wicca.

Sadly it is especially an (American) Heathen issue to keep the mindset of monotheism, the “versus mentality” of “If you are not for me you are against me”. Dealing with the Heathen community feels a lot like my time at Catholic church or the mosque. A repressive atmosphere with all too many sugary sprinkles of self-righteousness mixed in. Bon appetit!

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As for the celebration of Sabbats, while not all overlap, several of the Germanic and Norse ones are similar to Wiccan ones. Differences would be the Germanic Cake Fest on the first new moon after Yule and the Horse Fest on Sept. 22 (especially important to us Saxons) for example. And the Germanic peoples had no Imbolc but especially in Sweden the Disablot was celebrated around that time of year. So yes, there are a few differences here and there, but there are a few – more than a few – differences in the Germanic, Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Icelandic traditions too, although they were all related. Anyhow, Nordic Wiccans and Germanic and Norse Pagans alike have come up with ways to incorporate the Germanic holy days into the Year of the Wheel and I was happy to witness the merging of Brighid/Imbolc with a wonderful ritual dedicated to Baldur and his wife Nanna. A very thoughtful choice to celebrate Baldur on that day.

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What else Norse Wiccans will or will not do varies greatly. As many Heathen kindreds, hofs, cults, sub-cults and the like there are, Norse Wicca is just as versatile, albeit on a more individualistic level without the righteous Heathen condemnation of everything and everyone who disagrees with their views and practices.

Generally, to Norse Wiccans all Gods are still essentially the one God and all Goddesses the one Goddess. Nature is sacred, the Eddas and sagas are the texts they draw strength, wisdom and inspiration from, there are Norse Wiccans focusing more on the Aesir, many on the Vanir and some even on the Rökkr, depending on their personal preferences or inclinations.
Norse Wicca is a small faith, often practiced by solitaries and even covens are not very outspoken and a little shy to speak about their practices. They are sometimes slightly feared by other types of Wiccans because those have already mostly made very negative experiences with Heathens, as much as they are hated and ridiculed by Heathens, labeled “Wiccatru”, fluffy bunnies or much worse.
The use of Norse symbols and symbology is a given, in addition to that Norse Wiccans just like every other Wiccan have the pentagram. Often assigning their patron and matron deities or just the Gods they work closest with to the single points. For example: Fire – Surtr, Air – Loki, Earth – Fjörgyn, Water – Ran and Ether – their personal high god, sometimes Odin as the “AllFather” for the Aesir-oriented Norse Wiccans or Freyr for the Vanatrur or Loki for the Rökkatrur.

It is my sincerest hope that while the hardcore Heathens keep bickering and excluding everyone who dares disagree with them at least Wicca and other Pagan traditions will slowly start being more open towards Norse Wiccans, and that the latter will finally start stepping out of the shadows and claim what is theirs – a rightful place in the worldwide Pagan community.

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Edit/P.S.: Just for reference, I’m not Norse Wiccan. I got a dozen replies of (American of course) Heathens, half of them all in capital letters (…) the other half offering to teach me “their ways” and told me my religion was as “real” as believing in the Jedi. To those I say: I grew up in the Firne Situ, so I really don’t need your convert opinions on our Northern European ways, thanks. And thanks for proving me right regarding everything I’ve written about you folks on here. 😉

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The forgotten Lord of Self-Gnosis – Lucifer the Lightbringer

written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriuntl, 2014

ImageIn the Pagan religions, the divine ‘adversaries’ are without exception integrated into their pantheons, often at least marginally included in ceremonies and sometimes even deeply revered (Kali, Shiva, Loki.) They are also – like the Biblical Morningstar – linked with light or its more aggressive and passionate twin, fire. As fire is also a cleansing agent in magical workings, there’s suddenly a completely new (metaphorical) meaning to both hell and purgatory.
Why then is it that the majority of Pagans still cringe upon hearing his name whilst mainly Wiccans deny his very existence, claiming he was an exclusively Christian invention?

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(This is actually a book written by P. Baker, but for those without humor: it’s also tongue in cheek)

In order to understand the role of Satan, the “Adversary” we must take a closer look at his beginnings. When his name was still simply Lucifer he was “the most beautiful Angel of God” and a most humble servant of the latter.
However, there is a hint of his role as future Satan in the name Lucifer already. Latin lux/luc = light and Lucifer literally meaning Lightbringer or –bearer. Now, another translation is Morningstar, in other words Venus. (Also the planet associated with Christ Jesus, a different form of Lightbringer.) Even his Hebrew name הֵילֵל, Heylel, translates to The Shining One, while in Greek he is ἑωσφόρος(Eosphoros), Bringer of Dawn.

T19.12Helios

Eosphoros/Phosphoros

The term Morningstar was a coined phrase during these days and thus not every Morningstar addressed in the Bible refers to Lucifer. Herein originates the misconception of his fall from grace and Heaven. Isaiah 14:14 teaches us that “I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” and has been proven by historians refers to King Nebuchadnezzar rather than the angel Lucifer. In the New Testament this false belief had already solidified and with Revelations mentioning that “the old Dragon, the old Snake” will bring about the end of the world as we know it, Lucifer’s once immaculate reputation had been sullied successfully.
nebuchadnezzarOne might argue that whilst all this might be true, Lucifer already acts as Satan/Adversary in the Old Testament’s Book of Job. Not only do we get a glimpse of the lengths Satan will go to in order to test Job’s faith but he obviously does so with the full consent of God him/herself.

Let us examine the events a little closer: As Satan returns from one of his “walks” on Earth, God asks him whether he took proper notice of his most faithful servant, Job of Uz. Satan remarks that it is no great achievement to be faithful when you have been blessed with a large family, wealth and the fulfillment of all your mundane dreams and suggests testing the steadfastness of Job’s faith once he loses his family, wealth and health. Job curses, rages, begs for death, suffers horribly, yet in the end he renews his faith as God keeps exerting pressure on him.

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Hiob/Job

In the New Testament’s book of Matthew 4:1-11 Christ Jesus withdraws into the desert in order to fast for forty days. It is said in Matt 4:1 that “the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted”. This time God and Satan’s roles are reversed since God initiates the test. Also it is God who stays in the background, not making his/her voice heard as Satan exerts the pressure, asking Jesus to cast himself from the highest point of a temple in order to prove his unwavering faith that the Almighty would save him from death. When Jesus refuses, Satan offers Jesus all the earthly riches imaginable and the whole world to reign, if only he bow to Satan. Yet Jesus – without hesitation – rebukes him. Thus concludes the test.
Both Job and Jesus come to their own individual personal self-gnosis. Neither enters the preceding temptations voluntarily, yet emerges from them with newfound determination and a stronger fundament of their faith. They are – in other words – enlightened. Satan, the Adversary becomes Lucifer the Lightbringer once we break the chains of our mind and dare look beyond the physical/mundane.

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The Lightbringer “tempting” Yeshua in the desert.

There is a plethora of Gnostic traditions and approaches. In some, God and Satan are working together in harmony to maintain the balance of the universe. Then there are those that believe both are but avatars of the same Spirit or Life Force – essentially one God.

Despite the fact that some scholars deem Lilith’s tale a hoax I will use it to reinforce my hypothesis that the (pre-)Biblical tales are less about the fight between good and evil but about universal balance through individual self-gnosis.
Lilith, or Malkah ha-Shadim, was Adam’s first wife. This story cannot be found in the Christian Bible but the Jewish Midrash (Talmud), Dead Sea Scrolls and the much later Alphabet of Ben Sira (8th – 10th century).
Like Adam Lilith is made out of Earth, in other words she is Adam’s equal in every way, yet Adam demands that she obey him. When she refuses, God appears to reprimand her. Lilith then calls out God’s secret name yet escapes Eden. Note: Magically the knowledge and usage of a name, especially a secret one, means being able to exert power over the owner of the name. Lilith had enough knowledge and power to speak God’s name but chose integrity over exerting power over God, hence demonstrating her point that no being should be the slave of another in a unique way. She is, in many ways, the first feminist as well as human rights activist.

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Malka ha-Shadim, the Dark Mother Goddess Lilitu

Although God sends the angels Senoy, Sansenoy and Lucifer to apprehend Lilith, she strenuously resists. Lucifer falls in love with Lilith and they marry. Whatever one may think about the authenticity of the actual story, there is enough in the above paragraphs to make one’s heart jump for joy. Last but not least another etymological reflection. Looking at the semitic origin of the name Lilith, L-Y-L (Layl or Layla), it translates to Night.
Let that sink in for a moment: The Lightbringer marrying Night. Yin and Yang, making peace with the Steppenwolf inside you. Harmony. Balance.

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To close with Austrian theologist Adalbert Stifter’s words: “Pain is a holy angel which has brought humans more gnosis than joy ever could”.

Angerboda and The Dark Mother Figure across Cultures.

Copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014

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Almost every ancient culture and/or religion acknowledges a “Dark Mother” kind of figure who is often confused with a Goddess of Evil and/or Death.
Quite the opposite is true. But life comes with the price of death and the Dark Mother is all three: maiden, mother and crone, abundantly giving, nourishing but also merciless in her destruction in order to bring renewal. She is the Mother of necessary but painful change and knows but duty and the higher good instead of motherly love for love’s sake.

We have Lilith or Malkah-ha-Shadim in the (pre-)Jewish (and Christian) religions, Maha-Kali in Indo-Germanic spirituality, the Mórrigan in the Celtic and Angrbodha in the Germanic tradition. Just to name a few.

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Let us look a little closer at Norse Angerboda or Angrbodha, a Frost-giantess whose rune is Isa, and who is the mother of almost the whole Rökkr-pantheon that will bring about Ragnarök, destruction of this world to create a new one.

She is also referred to as the “Mother of Monsters”, “Hag of Ironwood” and “Packmother”. The latter for once because she is a devoted mother who pursues her childrens’ interests incessantly and ruthlessly for the higher goal of Ragnarök.

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She also earned that name because several of her children are wolves. The most popular of them probably gargantuan Fenrir and in turn his children Hati and Skoll who chase the sun and moon and hence give us the gift of daylight and moonlight.

In the Aesir’s view she is the “Mother of Monsters” who brought forth not only Fenrir but the Midgard serpent – Jörmungand – and the Goddess of Death – Hel. All these children were fathered by Loki and play a pivotal role in the evolutionary great leap which the Norse apocalypse is.

Some Heathens and Germanic or Norse Pagans, especially Rökktatrúr, believe that Angerboda is the same as the cosmic cow Audhumla who was a key figure in the creation of the nine worlds which the Norse multiverse consists of. Audhumla means both “void darkness” as much as “nourisher”.

(The prefix “An” in Angerboda already indicates her maternal nature and significance. In Sanskrit “Ana” means mother and so Anath is the Mesopotamian (Dark) Mother Goddess. Egyptian Goddess Anuket/Anukhet was the giver of life and later merged with Dark Mother Goddess Nephtys, the devourer. In the name Anukhet we can still trace the Ankh – the symbol of life.

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In England we have Black Annis who much like Indo-Germanic Kali devoured her prey and sewed clothes from her victims’ hides and intestines. This reminds a tad of what Loki did with his companion Angerboda, mother of three of his children: he ripped out her heart and devoured it in order to partake of her greatest gift: the gift of life by death; and hence Loki was able to give birth from that moment on as well. (He gave birth to Sleipnir shortly afterwards, Odin’s eight-legged horse).

Angrboda (as much as most of the Rökkr-Gods) is widely misunderstood and misrepresented, even by Pagans and Heathens unwilling or unable to give up the monotheistic mindset they were often raised with. The actions of these Gods are often depicted as vile, chaotic and nonsensical. Yet Angerboda for whom fostering children with Loki was but part of her wyrd (personal fate and life obligation) did not just bring forth three of the most powerful creatures who would help create a new world, she was also married to the giant Eggdhir with whom she had Gerda. Gerda was so beautiful that Freyr, a Vanic God who had joined the Aesir Gods, took her as his wife. Thus Gerda, remembering where she came from and her obligation, was able to secure the Sword of Victory for the Rökkr Gods.

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The message of the Dark Mother/s is constant change, challenge, relentlessness, unfettered love for “the cause” and also unselfishness. It might be hard to understand for some that Angrbodha’s rune is Isa – ice, halt, consistency. Paradoxically, it is this “frozen”, i.e. consistent mindset, that is responsible for upheaval, new beginnings and change.

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Pagan Virgin Births and the Case of the misunderstood Savior

Written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014.

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It is with astonishment that I continually witness Pagans deeming Mary’s virgin birth of Jesus greatly amusing at best and dangerously discriminating of women at worst. Most Pagan paths view sexuality as healthy and many as sacred. Especially those who grew up in a religion where the reverse was the case, virgin births appear to spark all sorts of enmity or at least skepticism.

In fact, virgin or miraculous births were not only established, but the event itself as much as mother and miracle-child held in high esteem in many pre-monotheistic religions. I shall explain the reasons thereof after delivering a few more examples of Pagan virgin births. These were mostly of religious figures, but also of especially enlightened humans, leaders, thinkers. Like Greek philosopher Plato for example.

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Numerous Greek Gods and Goddesses are considered “parthenos”, virginal or of “pure conception”. Many will be surprised to hear that Zeus, commonly known as the stereotypical philanderer, also was considered parthenos.

Although the virginity of Isis has been disputed, since one single depiction of Horus’ conception shows Isis impregnating herself with dead Osiris’ severed phallus, in all other accounts and depictions she is shown as a falcon hovering over Osiris’ dead body and miraculously conceiving Horus this way. Isis, like a plethora of virgin goddesses and human mothers, remained virginal her whole life.

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Let us also take a closer look at Osiris himself. He was called “KRST,” the “Anointed One.” Born of the virgin Isis-Meri on December 25th. His earthly or adoptive father’s name was Seb, which translates to Joseph. He taught at the temple at age 12 and was baptized at age 30, inbetween this time he had vanished or at least nothing is known about his life from 13-29. He was baptized in Iarutana river (Jordan) by Anup which translates to John. Anup was later beheaded. His suffering, death, and resurrection are celebrated annually by his disciples on the spring equinox, in other words, Easter.

The nymph Moye bathing in a river in China is touched by a lotus plant, and the divine Fohi is born.

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Siddharte Gautama Buddha was born of the Virgin Queen Maha (=the great) Maya. (Interestingly maya is also the Hindu concept of this plane of existence being an illusion.) Maya dreams of a white elephant with six white tusks entering her right side, shortly after which she notices she is pregnant. In “The life of Buddha” we read that he descended on his mother Maya, “in likeness as the heavenly queen, and entered her womb,” and is “born from her right side, to save the world.” He teaches in temple at age 12, Jesus does at age 13. Other similarities to Christianity: In Tibetan Buddhism, Buddha was tempted by Mara, the “Evil One” while fasting. He healed the sick, fed the hungry and obliged followers to renounce the world.

In Siam (Vietnam), a teenage girl is impregnated by sunbeams while taking a walk in her garden. She later gives birth to Codom, the “great and wonderful deliverer”.

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Quetzalcoatl (also: Kukulkan or Kukulan) is a Mesoamerican god-man whose name means snake or also precious feathered serpent. He  – together with his twin Xolotl – was born of the virgin Coatlicue. He was associated with the planet Venus, the morning star, as was Jesus. (And on another note: So was Lucifer, but that is a subject for a whole other article. 😉 ) He renounced Tezcatlipoca, the “Prince of Darkness”. His blood resurrects the dead. He is often depicted as bearing a cross on his shoulders. In addition to that he is also often depicted with a cross on his head and his temples bore a cross on top of their roofs also. The cross here represented the four directions, as fitting for a wind-god, but some sources speak of the cross representing the four elements, also.

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Mithraism was a religion followed by Romans just before the forceful conversion to Christianity. It contained the following:  Virgin birth, born in a stable or cave, visited by wise men bringing treasures, twelve disciples, last supper, died on a cross and was resurrected. Mithras Day was celebrated on December 25th. (Even though Jesus was NOT born on that day it is after all the day his birth is celebrated.)

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Attis of Phrygia was born of a virgin around the Winter Solstice. He was nailed to a tree for the salvation of mankind. He was buried around Eostre/Ostara but on the third priests found the tomb empty. His followers were baptized in blood to wash away their sins, after which they called themselves “born again”. Dionysus of Greece strikingly resembles this tale. On top of the above mentioned he was identified with the lamb and called “Only begotten son”, “Sin bearer” and “Redeemer”.

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Indian Krishna’s nativity was heralded by a star and he was born of the virgin Devaki. Krishna traveled widely, performing miracles such raising the dead, healing the sick and feeding the hungry. The crucified Krishna is pictured on the cross with arms extended. Pierced by an arrow while hanging on the cross, Krishna died, but descended into Hell from which He rose again on the third day and ascended into Heaven. Krishna is the second person of the Hindu trinity.

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At least one folk tale speaks of Balder having been conceived by Frigga magically/not by physical means.  Balder was the God of Light, Righteousness, bringer of a new era. Whether he was sacrificed or murdered is a matter of interpretation, but he, too, will come back from the Underworld to reign over a new world.

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(Zoroaster/Zarathustra)

The prophet Zoroaster was claimed to have been born of a virgin, as was Tibetan Indra, Baal of Phoenicia, Tammuz of Syria, Bali of Afghanistan, Esus of the Druids… I could list yet another dozen virginal births, but let’s keep it at these most obvious examples.

So, back to Pagans, often feminists, opposing everything to do with virgin births: The interpretation that no human woman can live up to the expectation of this kind of physical “purity” is mislead. These tales are less about physical purity or “sinful sexuality”. When I attended Christian Science services for a while they raised an interesting point. The Bible speaks of man having been created in the likeness of God. What is God? Spirit. No matter if in monotheism or polytheism Gods are known to be able to take shape or “manifest” but they are, ultimately, spirit/of the spiritual world.

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The impregnation by “spirit” illustrates nicely mankinds spiritual heritage. Even in the case of human mothers the children of these virginal births were godly or (a) God, emphasizing the gnostic principle that if we are made in the  likeness of the divine and ARE like God(dess in essence, we are a part of the divine or basically the divine is in us as much as we are in it – one.
(Even Jesus claimed “I am in the father as the father is in me”, leading people to believe he was the “only begotten son of God” or “God in the flesh” instead of realizing that the same held true for them.)

If mankind lived by this principle, in the awareness that everyone is godly, including themselves, there would be no war, no murder, no fraud nor deception and no feeling of being better than anyone else. What war for monetary gain would be justified to be started if you knew what you are doing to another people will ultimately hurt yourself because you are all connected through the same source? (“Three times three”, “Do unto others…”, “golden rule”.)
While our human traits, talents, backgrounds all make us different individually and we are separated by different traditions and cultures (and hurray to that kind of diversity!), our spiritual traits all make us “the same” or equal. Virgin birth – basically a wonderfully comforting and liberating message of “As above, so below”.

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Wenet the Swift One – and other Hare Deities

Copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014

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To the ancient Egyptians God/dess permeated everything. There was no living being that was not in correspondence with at least one deity and everything and everyone was interrelated through deities. There was one divine source but a plethora of Gods and Goddesses, these deities were the building blocks of life.

In early times the cult of (the God) Toth knew four main creator deities, two with frog-heads and two with serpent-heads. Today we do not know how this came about exactly, but one of the serpent-deities was later turned into a hare Goddess, Wenet, meaning “The Swift One”.

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Wenet’s male counterpart, sometimes interpreted as companion, was Osiris in the guise of  hare-headed “Un-Nefer”,  meaning “Beautiful Renewal”. As Un-Nefer he was sacrificed to the river Nile every year, in order to facilitate the renewal of land and crops. (The latter bearing similarity to the Norse Goddess Eostre from which our modern/Christianized “Easter” as well as the “Easter Bunny” derived.) The hieroglyph “Wn” (=Wen) itself stands for the essence of life – it depicts a hare over flowing water.

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Unsurprisingly, Wenet was believed to bear restorative and regenerative magical qualities, she was a symbol of renewal, fertility, protection (against “overwhelming” powers), as well as a symbol of swiftness of movement and mind.
But that is not all. She is also the Goddess of the Otherworld as “The Book of Toth” (Toth, amongst other things, is also the God of the judgment of the dead.) asserts, and there are scrolls on which she is depicted guarding the Underworld’s entrance. In that particular role, her title is “Lady of the Hour”. Coffin texts often speak of Wenet as the one granting the souls a “scepter” on the journey to their new (after)life, most likely standing for authority, as well as “firmness of the head”, possibly meaning strength.

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Hares or Hare-Deities in general were the archetypal symbols of femininity, associated with the lunar cycle, fertility, longevity, and rebirth. But in every culture they are also ambiguous, paradox if not downright contradictory. They are feminine but also androgynous, cowardly and courageous, of rampant sexuality and virginal purity. (See Virgin Mary example below) The Hare is also the messenger of the Great Mother Goddess, carrying Mother Moon’s messages to her children at night (Yoruba, Egypt, etc.) Hares are also often known as ambivalent trickster deities in Asia and Native American Tribes (like Algonquin/Ojibwe/Winnebago/Menoimini/Ottawa God Nanabozho). There are many folk tales in which they are pitted against creatures much larger, stronger and mightier than them, but the hare perseveres every time, even if sometimes by questionable or borderline immoral means.

The hare and Hare-Deities in other cultures:

Mother Hare

Menabosho is an Algonquin spirit or God of the dead.

Eostre/Ostara is the Celtic/Norse Goddess of renewal, spring, fertility and rebirth.

487428_495872893783530_770232264_nFreya, despite her Fylgjas being cats is also often linked to hares. Probably due to her being a Vanic Goddess.

Both Artemis’ as well as Aphrodite’s sacred animal is the hare (amongst others).

Depictions of the Virgin Mary with a hare at her feet symbolize the triumph of the spirit over flesh, or basically: life over death.

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(Well…on this one she’s petting a hare, whatever that means…why Mary, you bad girl, you…)

Before Odin replaced our individual Germanic tribal High Gods and Goddesses, (Frau) Holle/Hulda was the leader of the Wild Hunt, a large group of hares bearing torches illuminating her way.

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Hares and Rabbits in (children’s) literature:

Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit (in Alice in Wonderland)
Richard Adams’ Watership Down

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My experience with the Latter Day Saints (Mormons)

Copyrighted by Penny Rebel, 2005.

It was a mild cloudy September afternoon. My friend and fellow trainee from the young adult library and I were walking towards the train station from work, chatting and laughing.
We turned around a corner and there I saw them. Well dressed young men, wearing suits and shiny silver name tags and girls in long dresses, buttoned up to their neck, their long hair in buns. Their name tags said „Sister (name)“ and the guys‘ said „Elder (name)“. They were Latter Day Saints, better known as „Mormons“ in Germany.
They were on my list of religions to explore – of course – and when Maike saw me stop in the middle of my sentence and excitedly clap my hands, she sighed, „Go on. I know you want to meet them.“ It is fascinating how I can suddenly overcome my usual shyness when I have found a new study object. I approached „Elder Christensen“ and before he got to open his mouth to try and save me, said, „Hello, I am Erin. And I am going to need a Book of Mormon along with some study material. Oh, and while you’re at it, the address of your church at Wartenau.“ He goggled at me like I was a creature from a different planet. Then broadly smiled, gathering some info material, while saying. „Well, it looks like you know the true religion of God already.“
„Ohhhh,“ breathed I, „you have no idea,“ fully meaning it. But I could see he didn’t detect the apparent irony in that statement.
He told me he had been a missionary in Germany for 16 months already and was surprised when I tell him I hope he will get home safely in two months. Mormons train to become missionaries overseas directly after high school (and often before college) and remain in the country they’re designated to for 18 months. I’ve always admired how fast they learn the language of the place they’re being „shipped off to.“ I’ve met Mormons in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Hamburg and they all mastered the languages that they hadn’t studied for more than half a year before leaving the US.
He asked me what else I know about „the religion of God“ and as usual I cringe inside, but smile politely, answering what I know of the particular religion that claims to be the one and only. Of course I held back. It would have been unwise to start out a religious science study project saying something like, „Well, I know you guys believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob and you have a book you claim is the second half of the Bible, full of historical errors. (*I’ll get to that later.) Your prophet Joseph Smith’s brother decided to become a Freemason (Freimaurer) and it is quite apparent that your secret temple rites are EXACTLY like the Freemasonic ones. Coincidence?! Who knows. ImageYour church prohibited African Americans or generally „colored“ people as you call them to become ministers till 1972 as the book of Mormon states that they are inferior to the white race.  Your church abandoned poligamy, although never officially, but the fundementalist group that split from the official church still engages in it as well as underage marriage. We are talking 13-year olds being sold to 50-year olds. (google Warren Jeffs and his FLDS for further information.)“
Yes, I remain skeptic about what I know of Mormonism and have trouble concealing it, as my main issue is their obvious racism. I don’t care if people choose to believe gummibears can save their soul, but racism is something that just makes me shut down completely. But of course I know there is no place for prejudice in religious science. In theory at least. I know my job is to dive in and become one of them. For a while. My job is to let go of everything I knew  or only thought I knew before and understand the mindset of people who believe that they hold THE truth in their hands – from within.
What I knew of Mormonism was scarce, admittedly.
Joseph Smith, born on December 23rd 1805 (As a Capricorn ImageI’m always ashamed when Capricorns publicly turn insane…) came from a poor family, who moved to wherever his Dad would find work. It was a time of spiritual upheaval. Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists and Christian Scientists were all starting to expand and young Joseph was confused as to what the „real church“ actually was. According to his biography Joseph Smith went into the woods near his house to pray to God which church to join. He was 15 at the time. He then was visited by two „light figures“ – God and Jesus. They told him that none of the Christian religions were right and that Joseph Smith was supposed to guide mankind to the true religion. Three years later an angel called „Moroni“ (no pun intended) came to Smith and told him to dig up a few golden tablets that had been written by American prophets hundreds of years ago. The angel guided Smith to the hill they were supposed to be buried under, but he wasn’t allowed to keep them or show them to anyone else. The prophecies written on those tablets are found in the book he wrote down after the angelic experience, the „Book of Mormon“.
There are further strange and magical things regarding the founding of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Smith happened to meet a man who was in possession of three Egyptian mummies. Inside the mummies‘ bandages he had found scrolls. Smith was eager to purchase them. He translated them and proclaimed that these were lost prophecies of Abraham. He published the translations together with photographs of the original scrolls. Several Egyptologists agreed on Smith’s „translation“ being complete humbug. There was no word of Abraham, instead of Osiris and an ancient unnamed Goddess as the papyri were indeed excerpts of the Egyptian „Book of the Dead.“
More strife, confusion, tumult and fraud followed. And after having broken into a publishing house who’d „defamated“ the Church of Latter Day Saints Smith was shot during a riot.
Brigham Young, who was also responsible for the discrimination and racism towards African Americans in the church of Latter Day Saints – became his successor.

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Latter Day Saints have several appointed apostles who are said to be in direct contact with God. He speaks to and through them and they pass on his holy laws to the Mormon community. God seems to change his mind a lot, because there are frequent changes and new laws passed down. Let me get back to the racist issue within the Church of Latter Day Saints in this regard:
Until the 1970s the apostles were at one with the „holy law of God“ that „negros“ (I’m simply quoting the term here) were not qualified to serve as priests. They were allowed to join the church as members but were looked down upon out of the reasons stated above. Mormon apostle Bruce McConkie wrote in his book „MORMON DOCTRINE“ in 1966 that „…negros are denied priesthood in this life (!) and can under no (!) circumstances represent God and his will on earth. The gospel and its message of salvation aren’t meant for them. This is God’s eternal law of justice…“ (p. 527 ff)
And then! In 1976 the Salt lake City Tribune reported that a member of the church ordained a „black“ priest. He was excommunicated ten days later.
There was a national uproar following the excoummunications, many Mormons left the church, numbers kept dwindling over the next two years. Until. Until one fine morning in 1978 the 12th mormon president issued a letter to his brothers in the faith (no, there was no talk of the sisters…) saying that since he and the other apostles had been „painfully aware“ of the unhappiness of „colored brothers“ prohibited to become priests they had locked themselves in to implore God for several days that he may revoke this law. Apparently God reconsidered and remembered that he had indeed created the „blacks“ as well as the „whites“ (way to go, God!…). Many Mormons stated that these news had been as shocking as the word of president Kennedy’s death. Go figure.

When I asked around amongst my acquaintances, friends and family what they knew about Mormonism, the first thing they mentioned was their incessant genealogical research and their gargantuous archive at their main church in Salt Lake City. Upon my asking none of them knew why genealogy was so important to Mormons. It is in fact only because that they collect or try to collect the date of EVERYONE who EVER lived, because they baptize them after death.  Why? So that they will not go to hell once Armageddon comes.

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Mormonism is often accused of not being Christian. Of course, if we define Christianity by what is in the Bible, the old testament Bible itself isn’t Christian, but Osiric (which would then fit fine with Smith’s Egyptian papyri.) and the new testament and Yeshua’s (Jesus) message one of gnosis if anything. But that is something to be illustrated in a different essay maybe.

Anyway. What can be said without question is that Mormonism isn’t a monotheist religion. When Smith published the Book of Mormon in 1830 his understanding of God/religion was still very Biblical/monotheist. God is „spirit“ (> Alma 11:26 ff) and the only one/spirit there is.
In his issued Book of Moses, Smith reports of how God creates the universe, using the term „I“ for God.
However, in his later issued Book of Abraham he suddenly speaks of several Gods creating the universe! Nowadays (google forums and Mormon-based/issued webpages on their religion) Mormons believe that the various Gods differ from THE God only by being inferior to him, less powerful and hence less important. They are on a different „level of evolution.“ (!?)

The second rather „un-Christian“ belief is that according to Smith God is an exalted human being. He publicly proclaimed this during a speech he held on April 7, 1844 in Illinois.
Thought: If God has a physical body in Mormonism then Mary cheated on Joseph with God in the flesh and there is no virgin birth. Of course the virgin birth is very Catholic in essence as amongst other things it was invented to prove that Jesus was without „original sin.“
Conclusion: God is not eternal in the Judeo-Christian sense – perfect, omnicient, omnipotent, etc. He is also just another being, albeit higher developed than humans are at this point. That was also supposed to explain the constant change of „holy laws“ passed on by the apostles. Problem: These laws are said to be passed on when the believers were „ready“ for change. BUT let us remember the disbelief, shock and reluctance that Latter Day Saints received the revelation of „negro priests“ with. „Ready“????? Hmmm…

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Mormons, much like for example Christian Scientists (and no, this is NOT Scientology, you Philistines!) say that they do not believe in the trinity, yet strangely they also make a distinction between „Holy Ghost“ as a person of the „package“ of God, son and holy ghost (=trinity?!) while the „Holy Spirit“ is the force/power emanating from all of them.

Mormons believe in procreation taking place IN heaven. These children are called spirit-children. They can progress to godhead.

If humans obey the laws of God in this life they can become Gods in the next life. “If we prove faithful to the Lord, we will live in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom of heaven. We will become exalted, just like our Heavenly Father…” “These are some of the blessings given to exalted people… 2. They will become gods.”
(Gospel Principles, 1997. Chapter 47 “Exaltation.”

Of course there are several other contradictions, such as that according to the book Alma (in the Book of Mormon) Jesus was born in Jerusalem (!) not Bethlehem.

Of course, the above are only tiny fragments of the religion of Latter Day Saints. To comprehend it fully it would be best not to rely on these amateurish scribblings, but to read the Book of Mormon/Abraham as well as several non-Mormon books on the church and faith as well.

But all I told Elder Christensen was a small and uncriticizing biography about Joseph Smith; he was impressed and asked if I would care for a loose get-together with a few other Latter Day Saints our age that to discuss the Bible and the Book of Mormon with. We agreed to meet up on Saturday, and he asked if it would be fine to meet up in the late afternoon since he was helping out a friend in V~. „In that case,“ I laughed in surprise, „you and your friends are invited to come to my place, I live in V~.“ He was radiant with joy. „See?!“ Elder Christensen exclaimed, „This is God working his miracles! Oh, I’m telling you I feel in my heart that this is a sign that we are supposed to pry you away from Satan!“  Sure. Okay.
At home I kept going back and forth between the kitchen and my room, glancing through the open living-room door. The tenth time I did this, my pappa calls, „What did you do?“
I tip-toed into the living-room, deciding to come clean.
„I met some Mormoms today!“
„Oh my God.“ My Dad says. „The Mormons now. Weren’t you just Jewish a few weeks ago?“
I shook my head impatiently. „That was two years ago. So um, can they come over this Saturday for tea?“
My father stared and sighed deeply. The sigh of a man who has known defeat many, many times.
„Please tell me this is not going to be like the time the Hare Krishnas danced out in our garden for all the neighbors to see…?“
„Um.“ I looked away nervously. „I think we’re just supposed to study the Book of Mormon.“ I huffed avoidantly. Pappa agreed and so I walk back to my room to study the Book of Mormon along with four other books on Mormonism I got from the library. A perfect and very common evening .

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon. I was wearing my huge MayheM shirt (for all of you who are unfamilar with Satanic Black Metal – I guess now you get the idea…) The doorbell rung at exactly 5 PM. I stormed to the door and found myself face to face with three young Elders (is that a contradction in terms? Hmmm…) and two sisters. After a lot of avid hand-shaking and introductions I guided the little herd into the living-room. Pappa was watching „The literary Quartet“, but dutifully got up to greet them. As I beckoned the five towards the patio Elder Christensen turned around to whisper to me, „Maybe your Dad would like to join us?“ It sounded hopeful. The compassion of a man who sees nothing but lost souls, hellfire and eternal damnation amongst non-Mormons. „My Dad is good with the old Germanic Gods,“ I smile confidently, and Elder Christensen looked at me as though I’d just offered him some heroine. I was the only one laughing.
„Tea?“ I asked politely, gesturing to the huge pot on the garden table. Silence.
„We’re not allowed to drink tea. Or coffee. Or pop.“ One girl volunteered. Ah. I hadn’t read that anywhere yet.

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„Oh, didn’t know that.“ I mumbled as I was stuffing in a piece of Swedish snuff into my mouth.
More silence.
The Latter Day Saints each got out their Books of Mormon. No Bible, I noticed.
„So.“ Elder Christensen ceremoniously says, straightening up in his chair. Clearly, he is the „leader“ of this little group. „We would like to start this meeting out by saying a prayer if you don’t mind.“ Like on command, everyone bows their heads. I bow mine as well. Elder Christensen’s voice was full of passion when he asked God for guidance and blessings for this get-together. After a few minutes his voice became even louder, the prayer turning into a kind of sermon. He stroke his fist into the other hand, gesturing, opening his arms, wrapping them around them, his eyes half closed as if in rapture. I involuntarily had to think of the Shakers and Quakers. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed my Dad leaning forward in his armchair, eyebrows raised, face pale. He nodded at me through the open terrace door as if to ask „Is he okay?“ I grinned and he leaned back to watch his show again.
„Okay.“ I announced, ready to take matters back into my hands. My turf. My rules. My meeting.
„So I know you’ve come here to read the Book of Mormon with me, but I do have a couple of questions if you don’t mind.“
I acknowledge my standard set of questions is very…basic, boring if you like. At first meetings I don’t usually dive into church or religious history, passages from scriptures to be analyzed or contradicted. I ask what most people ask themselves every day. Why are we here, why are there so many religions, how do you know that your religion is the only true one. What happens to good people who aren’t members of your religion after death, why does God allow evil, sickness, violence, rape, death. In this case of course – I added one question. Why weren’t they allowed to drink tea? I assume I would get a similar answer I got from the Hare Krishnas about the body being a temple of God that was meant to be kept pure and clean of stimulating substances. „But you are allowed to eat, right?“ I couldn’t help but ask. „Of course, why wouldn’t we?“ one girl asks. „Because food can be very stimulating, especially after a long day at work. It’s hot out today, right? Ever notice that on a day like that you couldn’t stop thinking about a nice fruit salad? It’s your body craving vitamins and fluids. And ever notice that after you had your delicious fruit salad you feel like your endorphines are dancing?“ The Mormon group chuckles insecurely, they’re still not sure what this is all about. „Well, that is a kind of stimulating to your body, right? It’s reviving. For someone with low blood-pressure a cup of coffee or tea in the morning can do the same a fruit salad can do for you on a hot late summer’s day.“
Silence.
I was disappointed. Somehow I would have expected them to be better prepared. I often noticed how trivial every-day questions seem to unsettle believers of whatever faith. The whole get-together seemed very chaotic, my questions and thoughts were met with more silence and hectic turning of the pages of the Book of Mormon. It must be hard when you can’t answer for yourself, always to be afraid you might say something that might be contradicting to your beliefs accidentally. At 7 PM, I decided to break it off.
Elder Christensen asked me if I would care for joining the Sunday service tomorrow. „Ohhh, I’d LOVE to“ I lied, „but I have to help an elderly neighbor with her gardening.“ The Latter Day Saints seemed delighted. „We can help! It’s no problem. That is what we do! We help people!“ I somehow managed to convince them it was best I tended to my friend’s garden by myself, but I still got an invitation to an informative meeting at the house of another Elder. As surprised as I was after this awkward encounter, I still agreed.
Elder Christensen gave me the address and I didn’t manage to hide my surprise. This was not just the rich side of town, this was the millionaires‘ side of town.

poderes-unidos-kolob_01
(depiction of the planet Kolob, the planet wich the Mormon God inhabits. Don’t fret, my dears, if you convert you will all get your very own kick-ass planet after death and become a God or Goddess yourself!)

It was hot out on the day I left for the meeting. My pappa kissed me goodbye after I gave him the names of the people present, the telephone number and street address of both the house the meeting is held at and the actual church. This is our agreement regarding my religious science studies that have been going on for 9 years now. Looking over the contact info he called after me, „Don’t let them baptize you, I’d hate to lose a daughter to Moroni!“
As I was making my way to the house I noticed two men in suits both wearing name tags. I speeded up and called to them in English and after a quick glance at their name tags greeted them with „Elder Stewart“ and „Elder Pozniak“. They asked me how long I’d been in Germany. I was confused. „Quite a while now?“ I laughed, totally not getting it. „I know what you mean,“ one of the boys said. „It feels longer being here than I actually am. It’s a tough country.“ I was still confused. „Did you convince anyone of the true religion yet?“ he asked me. Ohhhhhh. It was only then I realized what they were thinking. I couldn’t help but burst into laughter. „I’m not a missionary,“ I giggled, „I’m a guest, see, I’m not even wearing a name tag!“ I pointed at my chest. They blushed and apologized for having „insulted“ my country. „You look so…Mormon!“ one of the Elders, a scrawny Afro-American teenage boy, exclaims. Of course I do. I got a cheap polyester dress with tiny flowers online, one of the ones I’d seen the „sisters“ wear. If I was doing this I was doing this right.
The house the meeting was held at was not a house. It was not even a mansion. It was a castle. And I didn’t like it. I don’t know where I got this strong (strange?) sense of frugality from, but lavishness has always brought out rebellion in me. When I look at the abundant churches of the Catholics, filled with gold and glitter I can’t but feel ashamed for them. I always wish I could tear down the golden crucifixes, sell them and feed the poor, abused and hungry. Looking at this palace brought out the same kind of feelings in me.
The Walkers were a „typical“ American family. (I don’t mean to promote stereotypes, but I think that most of us agree that the word „mentality“ is not just a word shell.) Mrs. or „Sister“ Walker was an extremely motherly, warm and kind woman with big poofy hair and bright intelligent eyes. Mr. or „Elder“ Walker worked  for the church. He had soft, slim, clean hands like a doctor. I caught him glimpsing at his wife while he was shaking my hand. He was taller than her, but he was „looking up“ to her, his head slightly bowed. Clearly, Mrs. Walker was the „man of the house“. The children, all in their late teens, were extremely well-behaved, polite and eager to make us guests feel at home. So not your typical teenagers all in all. The dining room table was almost collapsing under the tons of food and we were encouraged to sit down and „dig in.“ As the others were talking I once more took the time to look around me. Family pictures. Pictures of the current apostles. A picture of Joseph Smith. No crucifixes, no Jesus, no Bible anywhere. Just a shelf packed with books on Mormonism.
I sat down next to elder Walker. I didn’t come for food after all. I thanked him for having me over and explained my interest in the religion. He seemed delighted and began telling me about the advantages of being „saved“ immediately.
After dinner and polite small talk we were guided to the living room to watch a movie on Joseph Smith, the founding of the church and its progression today. I was bored as I was not learning anything new and I noticed my reluctance growing. I looked around and saw the pricy furniture, the 30×30 inch silver frames, the Villeroy and Bosch vases…I cocked my head to read the label better – Mrs. Walker’s shoes were Prada.
I hadn’t wanted this to end too early… ‚You don’t know how much they might donate to charity. All the good they might be doing. Prejudice is the only sin you believe in, remember?‘ I tried to remind myself, but it was too late. I knew how this was going to end that night.
After the movie was over Elder Walker turned back on the lights, smiling welcomingly, opening his arms as if to hug us all and asked if we had any questions.
„Yeah I got a couple, if you don’t mind“ I heard myself say, cringing at the sound of my own voice.
Oh Erin. Really? Do you always have to fight for what you deem justice like the Erinnyas? Why did your pappa call you Erin again? Right…
„So why are the female members of the Church of Latter Day Saints called „sisters“ while the men are called „elders“?
I saw the corner of elder Walker’s mouth twitch slightly, but he replied calmly and in all earnesty.
„Because God has bestowed men with other talents and abilities than women. God created man first, and woman as his companion.“
Now I’ve had enough.
„So the Church of Latter Day Saints says that archeology and history prove the Book of Mormon right, did I understand that correctly?“
„Absolutely!“ Elder Walker’s eyes glowed excitedly.
I leaned back in my armchair. I thought I could enjoy the comfiness of the huge, puffy American furniture just a while longer before the inevitable.
„So… What is your explanation for the mention of metals – coins, weapons and buildings that did evidentially NOT exist until at least 900 AD? Because until the conquistadors arrived all that was used were stone weapons.
Also I noticed the mention of chariots, but there were no wheeled vehicles at that time either.
I also wonder how the growing of crops like wheat and barley could have happened without plows or specialized farming techniques absolutely unknown during the times described in the Book of Mormon?
And while I’m at it, one final question – how did donkeys, horses, pigs and elephants get to the American continent before the conquistadors?“
Elder Walker’s smile disappeared as though someone had switched it off. His wife made an offended little sound, the guests didn’t know what had hit them, they were looking back and forth between me and the Walkers.
„Dear girl,“ Elder Walker says, „there are many things archeology hasn’t been able to prove yet. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.“
„Like that elephants lived in America a few thousand years ago.“ I stated, grinning from ear to ear.
(Edit 2012: I hated myself for being the devil’s advocate, but a few years back the extremism of certain religions concerning the „womens‘ role“ and the various „races“ was something I thought I could fight by using reason and logica as my weapons. Little did I know how wrong I was…)
„Ohhhhhhh! Ohhhhh!“ Mrs. – or sister – Walker then grunted, raising her finger in the air. „You are an infiltrator! You are possessed by the spirit of doubt which is the devil’s spirit!“

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I raise more and more questions, „desecrating“ their holy temple rites by explaining the ritual to the other guests, and of course the one question  causing everyone to jump up from the furniture, point at me and start raising their voices is the one concerning the Mormon racism. „African Americans weren’t allowed to become priests?!“ the dark-skinned kid asked wide-eyed. „It wasn’t LIKE that!“ Elder Walker says determinedly, but then helplessness overwhelms him. „The sin!….was too big!“ The Afro-American kid still stared in disbelief.

It was dark outside. There were hardly any street lamps. I stumbled towards the train station, calling my pappa from my cell phone.
„Everything in order?“ he asked.
„Always. I got kicked out.“ I laughed.
„Thank God!“ he exclaims. „What are you going to be next? Hindu?!“
„I think….“ I paused. „I’m just gonna be me for a while…“

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