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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Maya

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”.

Devaki with Krishna

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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