It’s a Girl Thing – Germanic Heroines, Warriors, Seers, Witches and Goddesses *Part 2*

written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

This is the second part of the Germanic Women series. In the first part the role of the Sibyllen/Völvas, Matrons, Norns and Disir were covered.

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Walküren (Valkyries)

The Walküren once were more than just „Wotan’s Wishmaidens“. The independent guardian spirits of the dead suddenly had a stern, “all-powerful” master in Wotan, and were not good for much else than to fulfill his personal demands and act on his whims.
The origins of the Walküren lie in the pre indo-Germanic mother/Goddess cult. Their name alone sparks terror, for Old Norse valkyrjar and Old English waelcyrge mean those who choose the corpses (from the battlefield) or literally “corpse-chooser”.
The only account regarding the original independent nature of the Walküren is found in the Njalssaga. It speaks of twelve females sitting at a weaving chair inside a mound. Their weaving wool is made of human intestines, the weights for looms are made up of male skulls. They are singing a song about harvesting the warriors on a battlefield.

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After finishing their grisly incantation the Walküren leave the mound, six of them ride towards the South and six towards the North. (Six to Muspilli and six to Nifl? Also, six is the number of rebirth or renewal by destruction; this is the Kenaz rune principle, the sixth rune of the Futhark dedicated to world-renewer Loki.)
It is insinuated that while they are sitting inside the mound weaving the warriors’ fates they are at the same time present on the battlefield itself.
Like the Nornen the Walküren alone decide what to weave, what warriors, both male and female, to choose and who to spare.
Neither prayer nor offering will change their decision; they are independent and do not answer to any God such as Wotan, let alone humans.

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As already mentioned their independence was taken from them later on; but even worse, in Medieval Skaldic Poetry the Walküren are described as lowering themselves enough to fall in love with mortals.
These beings obviously have nothing in common with the strong, independent female guardian spirits that once wove the fates of warriors; instead they let humans determine theirs (!) as the story of Brünhilde and Siegfried (Das Nibelungenlied) shows.

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This particular storyline of the Nibelungs is especially interesting as it points to the death of the Mother Goddess cult, which did not suit the rigid and patriarchal structures of Medieval, and most importantly increasingly Christian, society.
In the course of the story Brünhilde the Walküre is betrayed and dethroned by men. Still, as long as she is in possession of her magical belt, she remains independent to a degree.
Siegfried and Gunther trick her, forcing off her belt and Siegfried rapes her in front of her husband, Gunther. The matriarch is dead, figuratively speaking, and as she falls and the balance between male and female rule is destroyed, thus falls all of mankind: The saga of the Nibelungs ends with an inferno no one survives, a kind of Ragnarök on a smaller scale.

Die Walkurie! (The Valkyrie)

The same principle can be found in Véølundarkvipa. Here, as much as in several folk tales, the Walküren are depicted as swans. The swan, representing purity both spiritually as well as physically, was also associated with the soul and death in general.
In Véølundarkvipa the swan girls fly through the dark forest to “ørlog drýgja” – decide (clan/family) fate. They sit down at a lake, taking off their wings and feathers to “weave fine linen”, in other words they weave the fate(s) of the warriors on the battlefield.
Wölund and his brothers steal their feathers and force them to take them as husbands. 7 years go by in which the Walküren yearn to return to weaving the fates of the warriors. In the 8th year they plot their escape, in the 9th year (note the sacred number 9 in this context) they leave behind their captors and children to become what they once were. This, of course, is a bit of a happier ending, if only slightly.

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There is also an Anglo-Saxon blessing in which the Walküren are basically described as a witch army riding in the sky and casting their spears down into the warriors’s backs, claiming them thus. The (German) Saxons held a similar view of the Walküren and so even in today’s German we use the word Hexenschuß (“witch shot”) for lumbalgia.

It is the Idisen (Disir) that are specifically named in the first Merseburg Incantation, yet it is impossible not to think of the Walküren when reading the following:

“Eiris sazun idisi, sazun hera duoder,
suma hapt heptidun, suma heri leridun,
suma clubodun umbi cuoniouuidi:
insprinc haptbandun, inuar uigandun”

 Once Disir were sitting, sitting here and there.
Some were binding fetters, some were restraining the army.
Some were undoing the fetters, ????????
Free yourself from the fetters, escape the warriors!

Are the Walküren Hlokk (“restraint/chain”) and Herfjotr (“fetter”) described in this charm? It becomes clear that the idea of Idisen, Walküren, Nornen, Alrunen (witches), anthropomorphic Fylgjen, Hamingjen and others all seem to have influenced each other to some degree; it can be tricky to distinguish between them nowadays because contemporary Norse and Germanic Pagans mostly don’t make the same tribal distinctions between Gods, beings and practices anymore as was common in the old days. To shed some light on the Idisen/Walküren mystery though: In Germany the Norse Valkyries were adopted from the Norse and the Idisen turned into meek, benevolent female spirits, often ancestral spirits.

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Alrune, Heid, Haegse – The Witches

There is a common misconception amongst the majority of today’s witches that everything was peachy for witches in “ye olden days”. This is not completely the case with the Germanic peoples.

There were Healers and Herbalists, those we would call Naturopaths today. They applied their potions, crèmes and herbs while whispering charms or prayers.
Healing used to be a solely female occupation and was passed on from mother, aunt or grandmother to the younger female generation of one family; there are no accounts of male healers from those times at all. Under certain circumstances women could fight alongside the men on the battlefields, yet men were barred from entering the areas of “female mysteries” without exception.

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Countless accounts from Viking times mention that the Germanic healers that accompanied their army or troop set up their tents near the battlefield and treated both their own men as well as the hostile warriors.
They treated them no differently and if need arose, they buried them and spoke a blessing over their grave as well.
One example is the account of the healer Halldora:
“Halldora called her women to follow her into the battle between Glums against Thorarinn. – “We shall tend to the wounds of the men who are still filled with life, no matter which army they are from”.
The story mentions another interesting belief from those days; healers could not only heal but resurrect the dead as Helga did with Thorarinn.

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What might the mighty Walküren have thought of this? Or did this happen in accordance with them?
Another thought comes to mind. – What of Iduna and her “magical” (healing) apples? Once the Asen Gods did not have them at their disposal they grew old and withered. Had Iduna not returned in time to rejuvenate them and they had died, would she have been able to resurrect them as well?
It is Eir that is the healer amongst the Asen, but not even she holds the power to resurrect the dead. This truly is a practice that reeks of witchcraft rather than (natural) healing.
Many unanswered questions remain when it comes to “loopholes” in the usually very structured Germanic belief system of old.

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The Völven (aka Sibyllen, Spákonur, Wicce – Wise Women/Seers), already mentioned in part 1, often traveled from Hof (farm) to Hof, offering their services and in return demanding food and shelter until they journeyed on.
Whether these women, who were often called to mediate between two opposing tribes or political factions within one tribe, possessed actual magical powers or were mainly mentalists with exceptional power of observations is a matter of interpretation I presume.
They did, however, consult the runes (as described in the accounts of the battle between Sueban king Ariovist against Cesar 58 BC for example) and worked with other oracles and incantations called vardlokkur (spirit-luring) in Old Norse.
The lines were blurred between Völven and Wîsiu Wîp, wise women, as they were called in German and Spákonur (seeing women) in Old Norse.

bded9915dd4405a531e923cecaf6e7eeDivination was regarded as a high magical art indeed, yet witchcraft was also often viewed as harmful and dangerous as it was a direct infringement onto the personal wyrd and orlog of a person. The further the North was christianized the more Christianity influenced the beliefs of those who remained Pagan.
Had they already been skeptical and partly fearful of certain types of witchcraft, they now fell prey to the mass-hysteria and bottomless fear of witches; they persecuted and banished those accused of practicing magic almost as much as the Christians did.
There were many different names for witches, specifying what kind of witchcraft they practiced. The more Christianity wreaked havoc the more negative connotations these originally rather neutral names received.

seidr 1To give a few examples:

The word Haegse originally meant fence-seer in Old High German. It was related to the Old High German word Hagazussa meaning fence-sitter and the Old Norse word Túnridur meaning fence-rider.
Both are pointing to the Shamanic practice of traveling between the worlds.
Later, however, the Haegsen and Hagazussen were suddenly described as being monstrous, evil magic-weavers living in the deep, dark forest and coming out at night to plague and harm common people.
The word fence-sitter or fence-rider was reinterpreted as meaning that the witches were breaking the “Hoffrieden” (literally: farm-peace) and destroying the sacred barriers (fences) of the community against unlucky and negative forces.

CaptureLikewise the terms Myrkridur (Old Norse: Darkrider), Kveldridur (Old Norse: Eveningriders), or Nahtvrouwen (Old High German: Nightwomen) were also reinterpreted to mean something solely negative and sinister, instead of describing the practice of diving into the “dark”, i.e. subconscious powers within via Shamanic or other magical journeys.

The Hamhleypa (Icelandic: Running into a different Shape = shapeshifter) were accused of transforming into an animal and bringing on hail, storms, being responsible for a bad harvest, the death of cattle or children. These misconceptions about witches lived far beyond the middle ages and frighteningly are embraced by a majority of the followers of the monotheistic religions to this day.

familiar_medThere is one famous incantation in the Hávamál (13th century) against the “evil witchcraft” of the Hamhleypa:

“One tenth I know, when Trollkonor (Magical Women)
Ride through the air in flight:
Make them change their route I can[.]
Homeward, robbed of their cover (their animal form or (dis)guise)
Homeward with a confused mind.”

The author of the Hávamál, the Icelander Snorri Sturlason, was a Christian who lived in a completely Christian society already, so his accounts of witches (and alleged incantations warding them off) better be taken with a grain of salt.

0362ba31c164f7c63bd5f558b6f333a8Similar to the Hamhleypa was the practice of Hamfór and Gandreiðr. As mentioned in part 1, a Gand or Gander was a kind of wand, but Gandr also meant spirit, ghost, other-worldly creature. A Gandreiðr was “spirit-riding”, basically a magical, Shamanic journey during which you could see your past, present or future in a different light. Likewise the Hamfór was a spiritual journey during which your soul left the body and traveled through different spheres to gather information.
The giantess Hyrrokin was described as riding on a wolf (gezäumt) with snakes when attending Balder’s funeral. Hyrrokin is sometimes equated with Angerboda. Did Angerboda-Hyrrokin attend Balder’s funeral during her Gandreid in order to see or secure his future after Ragnarök? If not by her consort Loki’s doing, Balder would not have been kept safe by Hel during the end battle so he could return to the New World afterwards.

p206Other names for witches were Alrunen (all-whisperers/rune-expert), Heid (clear, bright), Fordoeða (Murderer), Wicce (pronounced “witcheh”. Anglo-Saxon: knowledgable, wise, from which the modern term “Wicca” comes from), Anglo-Saxon Witega (knowing signs), Old High German Wizago (German: “Weissager”) and Old Norse Vitki all describe someone who is knowledgeable in the art of divination (usually conducted with runes).
The Old Norse word Galster is related to Old High German Kalstahari, a term for someone who knows how to sing the magical songs, the vardulokkur or galdralát as described above.
Although there are some historians and scholars who insist that all witchcraft was persecuted pre-Christian times, the different descriptions and attributes of the different terms for ‘witch’ indicate otherwise.
After all several Gods (Freija, Holle-Frigga, Iduna, etc.), Jöten and Thursen (Hyrrokin, Heid, Gullveig, Elli, Fenja and Menja, etc.) and wights practice magic and/or witchcraft without any negative connotation in lore. The Völva of the Völuspa, Heidi, is human even and both humanity as well as Gods were grateful for her messages.

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Bindrunes for galdraworkings

The Edda teaches that Wotan even crossed the social taboo of forcing himself into the sacred space of female mysteries such as healing, witchcraft and divination; he learned the “womanly” art of Seid, the art of divining with the help of the spirits (of the deceased), something that Völven traveling from Hof to Hof also often engaged in.
However, Seid (Old Norse: Seidhr) became popular enough for several males to become Seidmen. These men were often looked down upon, probably because this “womanly” practice was of female Wanen origin and it was mentioned that the war-happy Asen were helpless against the Seid magic of the Wanen deities.

tumblr_lu81k7dtRq1r1d1wro1_500Seid could also be used against people as described in the stories of the witch Busla who curses a king with galdr to do her bidding and in Laxdoelasaga it is the farmer Thorleikr who asks the witch Grima to help him curse his neighbor.
In both cases the witches cursed the men while they were asleep and helpless, something that influenced the medieval (Christianized) belief of “demonic” Alben riding people’s chests at night in order to cause bad dreams and bad luck.
Since the Germanic peoples were all highly virtuous and incredibly brave folks with a strong morale of right and wrong it comes as no surprise that such cowardly practices that avoided a fair and open fight were condemned and despised.
In fact, they were even punishable by fine or in the case of Ragnvold in the Förnmannasaga it was even punishable by death.
It’s also possible that Seid, “death magic”, was also feared more than other forms of divination, because of the old Germanic belief in aptrgangr, draugr, other kinds of revenants and ghostly beings out to harm humans.
Seid is often described as being accompanied by heavy storms, the Gerningaveðr (magical weather).
In later times people were of the opinion that only evil magic brought on such storms.

tattooYet…where was Thor when his domain was invaded like this? Is this just an indication that the Gods did not intervene unasked, much like nowadays when we pollute and destroy the earth given to us, or that while humans viewed such witchcraft and storms as evil the Gods did not? Who knows.
Fact is that even in today’s Germany we know the term Wetterhexe (weather witch) which is used either to describe meteorologists but also people very sensitive to the weather, and is not associated with anything harmful or negative (anymore).
Viking female warriorFemale Warriors

There were active and passive female warriors. The passive warriors accompanied their tribe’s army or troop and cheered them on from the sidelines of the battlefield.
Plutarch writes that during one particular battle the Teutonic warriors tried to retreat. Their women ran at them with axes and swords, fighting them – the traitors – as much as their enemies, the Romans. This appears to be a common phenomenon amongst the Germanic tribes as Tacitus in his “Germania” and Cesar in his “De Bello Gallico” confirm.
Furthermore, Tacitus writes that the women used psychological warfare against their own men by shouting at them to spare them and the children the humiliation of Roman captivity and all the gruesomeness it entailed.
If their men fought successfully the Germanic women would bear their breasts and shake them so as to keep up the motivation of the warriors.

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Active female warriors (“shieldmaidens”) often bore names ending with or including the syllables wig, hild, gund, gart, hadu, ger (spear), brünne, helm (helm) etc. They were found in all known Germanic and Scandinavian tribes. Were they raised to become warriors or did they choose their (warrior) names later on as they decided to join the army?
Even in the saga of Erik the Red we hear of brave Freydis, the pregnant wife of a warrior, who actively joins the battle, fighting with exposed breasts. Something that confused and frightens the enemies so much that they escape as quickly as possible.

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Two factors influenced the drastic change in Pagan Germanic societal structure in which women had had a relatively good standing: The diffusion of the Wotan cult and the increasing contact with the Christian Romans who did not grant any rights to women.
Before the Winniles had accepted the Wotan cult and renamed themselves Langobards their women had had the right to carry swords, axes and other weaponry and use it as well. If not for them, they would not have defeated the Vandals.
However, in 568, after they had settled in Northern Italy, they enacted laws that clearly stated that women were absolutely forbidden to carry or use weapons.
Either due to societal change or by (Christian) law and conversion, one after another all Germanic tribes began treating their women as second-class citizens without any rights, feelings nor wits. The beginning of the dark age.

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The Fylgjen – Guardian Animal Spirits

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by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

In the Norse traditions the Fylgjen (Old Norse: Fylgjur = followers) are guardian spirits. The concept of Fylgjur was adopted by today’s German Heathens and Germanic Pagans, though the guardians prayed to were originall the Idisen (Old Norse: Disir. > https://paganmeltingpot.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/its-a-girl-thing-germanic-heroines-warriors-seers-witches-and-goddesses-part-1/ ). Every human being and every Asen and Wanen deity has at least one such guardian spirit representing the specific soul energies and personality traits of its charge and always gently guiding them back to who they truly are. These spirits usually take the form of an animal and in Scandinavia they are said to take on the shape of young females also on occasion.

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Thunar had his goats Tanngrisnir and Tanngjöstr, Freija had her cats, Ingvi-Fro his boar Gullinborsti, Heimdall his rooster Gullinkampi and his faithful horse Gullintop, Wotan his wolves Geri and Freki and his two ravens Hugin and Munin, and so forth.

It is notable that the Jöten and Thursen (giants) do not possess Fylgjen. What would they need protecting or guarding from? Also they are the forces of nature embodied and nature is endowed with an immeasurable multitude of facets and soul energies. And how would you lead nature back to itself? This, it seems, is necessary for simpler creatures but certainly not nature.

Traditionally Fylgjen would take the shape of regional animals (Germanic spirituality was irrevocably tied to land, soil, family and fate).

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Fylgjen don’t show themselves to their charges until they reveal themselves to them in the final hour of death. However, there is one exception. It was believed that they show themselves to those who possess the “second face”, people with special connections to the spirit world, Sibyllen (seers), Alruner (witches) amongst others.

If you do not possess the gift it is still possible to find out what or who your Fylgje is. According to folklore you must wrap a handkerchief around the blade of a knife three times. Hold up the knife at the ends of the handkerchief and begin thinking of or speak the names of the animals that come to mind. When the blade slips through the handkerchief and falls to the ground you know which animal represents your Fylgje – the last one you thought of.

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Other names for the Fylgjen are Forynia, Vardivil, Vardögl, Vardöiel und Vardygr, Folgie or Ham(ingja).

Quick Facts – The God Kári

Copyrighted and written by Penny Rebel

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Kári [Kah-ree] is the Norse God of winter, frost, snow and the Northwind – or rather – he IS the Northwind itself. Like hardly any other God Kári represents the harshness of the Northern climate and overall life in Scandinavia and Germany. Fathered by the frostgiant Fornjotr he is brother to Loki (fire) and Aegir (water). On 18th century German paintings he is sometimes depicted as a youth in a spring setting and as an old man in winter settings; an indication that he changes and ages with the seasons.
The only mention of Kári in the Eddas is in one of Snorri’s thulur (rhymes) but traces of him can also be found in the Finnish Hversu (as the ruler of Finland) and Orkneyinga Saga. It is unclear whether Kári is father of one son named Frosti (frost) according to the Orkneyinga Saga or whether his name is Jökull according to the Hversu or whether these are two different sons. By Frost’s son Snaer, however, he is great-grandfather to Fon (snowfall), Drifa (snowdrift), and Mjöl (powder).
Although he is often accompanied by reindeer or depicted as riding a reindeer, being a God of the air and sky he is also associated with Northern birds such as the snow goose, snow owl, robin and it is also from thence that he started being regarded as the ‘patron’ of singers, bards and those who otherwise use their voice artistically or professionally. In spring Kari’s own voice is the gentle breeze caressing the first buds and leaves, but in winter his song is more of an eerie howl or screech as he haunts the North with blizzards and snowstorms, bemoaning his own age and approaching “death”. Alas, he will be born again in the ever-repeating cycle of the seasons.

Quick Facts – The Hindu Goddess Chinnamasta

Copyrighted and written by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014

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Chinnamasta, a Hindu Goddess with origins in Nepal and Northern India also acknowledged by Buddhists, is a Goddess of (sexual) abstinence and self-sacrifice. Emphasizing the latter of her main traits, she cut off her own head and thus her name literally means “She whose head is severed”. Depictions of her usually involve her standing on a copulating couple with blood spouting from her decapitated neck. In offering her own head/third eye and crown chakra to the world she represents the triumph of willpower and spirit over flesh. Unsurprisingly, she has few followers and is known as a ferocious and merciless Goddess to those that stray from her path of enlightenment. Her worshippers mainly include yogis, certain kinds of Tantric practitioners and askets or other world renouncers.
Although Chinnamasta is a Goddess, she both possesses as well as grants “demonic” powers to her worshippers. These include control of one’s foes by “poetic speech”, removal of obstacles, ability to sway kings or authority figures in genereal, conquest over the “weak-willed” and finally, salvation.

Hetanism and Tseghakron, Armenia’s ”national Pagan religion”

Written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014.

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Before we explore Armenian Hetanism, or in translation “Heathenry”, a bit further, let me take you on a very brief semi-political excursion.
The revival of Armenian Paganism has been widely criticized due to the political affiliations of its revivers.
Edik “Slak” Kakosyan and Garegin Nzhdeh both are known as “nationalists”. Most of us, especially in the West, have an idea on what nationalism is; we associate it with tyranny, dictatorship,racism, world wars and the death of millions.
Whilst these forms of nationalism are ghastly, fascist, absolutely and without a doubt condemnable, nationalism by definition neither includes these things, nor the glorification of violence in general. I am neither advocating nor condemning nationalism in this article, merely explaining the background of this (and other European) Pagan revival movements.
Often the survivors of a people that were wiped out systematically turn to fervent patriotism or nationalism and thus the nationalist movement in Armenia comes as no surprise.
(References re. the Armenian Holocaust by the Turks:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_Genocide and also http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-479143/The-forgotten-Holocaust-The-Armenian-massacre-inspired-Hitler.html)
In 1991 Kakosyan had founded “The Order of Ari” (Order of the Aryans or also Order of Ari (the first form of men) or also Children of Man. Please note: Aryan in its original meaning also has nothing to do with nazi ideology and is just another word for indo-European. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aryan ), following up on Nzhdeh’s ideas, ideals and goals of the Tseghakron, “religion of the nation” as brought to life shortly after the end of the Armenian Holocaust around 1915. Kakosyan, while in exile, had also codified Nzhdeh’s Ukhtagirk, “Book of Vows” in which Nzhdeh was almost deified and compared to the Pagan high God, Vahagn, God of the sun, of war and the Aryan Armenian nation.

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(photo: Nzhdeh)

Although many were skeptical towards the latter mentioned Hetanism grew steadily, not just Pagans but even devout Christians soon started gathering at the Temple of Garni  to celebrate the ancient holy days and festivals and also celebrate their heritage. Some even insist that it helped them overcome the trauma of the genocide they still dealt with.
It has gained enough acceptance for the current president of the Republican Party of Armenia to out himself as a Hetanist. Former Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan is a big supporter of the Hetanist movement to this day.
Despite the fact that it was the conservative, republican and nationalist parties, clubs and organizations that helped Hetanism to its feet, the priests of the Temple of Garni are not allowed to join any political organizations, parties or make their personal political opinion publicly known. Hetanism is for every Armenian is the credo.

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(Temple of Garni)

Other than by Armenian intellectuals Tseghakron is favored by the rural population which often kept their folk traditions, customs and beliefs as inspired by the Old Pagan Religion. It is due to them that fragments (!) of the old poems and songs survived Christianization until this day, further filling in blanks about the nature of worship and spiritual everyday life. It was easier for them to relate to Storm- and Sungods, a spiritual duality and animism rather than Armenian Orthodox Christianity. They also often believe in the Gods as physical entities while neo-Pagan intellectuals subscribe to the concept of Nzhdeh’s “divinely inspired” Ukhtagirk: monism. –  According to this book, first there was Ar (reminding of Norse Ginnungagap or the Christian nothingness that was before God created light) and Ara the “universal architect”, who reminds of Zoroastrian Ahura Mazda or Hindu Brahma was the creator of the Gods, earth and universe and has no form, no qualities nor personality. He was later called Aramazd.
Etymologically Ar is the origin of words such as womb, blood, sun, art.
Just like many other ancient civilizations or belief systems, original Tsegakhron along with almost all sources, texts and artifacts, was destroyed by Christianity. Hence Hetanists rely on the Ukhtagirk for spiritual guidance regarding rituals, celebrations, holidays and conduct.
The historically most reliable source of information – despite single accounts of Hetanism in the works of Plato, Heredotus, Xenophon and Strabo – is the Hayots Patmut’yun, “The History of Armenia” by Movses Khorenatsi, which was written in the 400’s AD. Hetanism is only partly a reconstructionist religion, today’s followers fill in the blanks with elements from sibling-traditions such as Hellenism, Zoroastrianism and Hinduism.

There are three rites of passage in Hetanism, the Knunk, a baptizing/saining ritual for those who convert or rather, revert to their ancestors’ religion. Second is Psak – wedding and then the last rite or death ritual. These are held individually within smaller communities and kindreds or even solitary but also regularly at The Temple of Garni in the Kotayk province (ca. 3rd century BC), the only Pagan, Hellenic styled Temple which survived the Christianization and was dedicated to Zoroastrian/Armenian Sungod Mihr and Greek Zeus before it was rededicated to Vahagn.
Other Hetanist holy days include amgonst others
Terndez on Feb. 14th which is similar to Pagan Valentine’s Day,
Hambardzum (Ascension Day celebrated 40 days after “Easter”),
Vardavar which was connected with The Goddess of beauty – Astghik and her love with Sungod Vahagn. Khaghoghorhnek is a day for the remembrance of the ancestors (Sept. 20th),
Zatik is the Aryan New Year and birthday of the Sungod Vahagn  (March 21st) on which winter is separated from spring, in fact Vaha meaning God and Agn meaning Fire (note: In Hinduism Agni is the God of Fire as well) and the Navasard.

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As in all other Pagan religions the Sun and Moon were sacred, days were dedicated to each, Hetanists prayed facing the East and were also buried facing East in the hope of “rising in the afterlife”. The Moon was venerated, but also slightly feared as it was associated with (female) mysteries, death and also (evil) spirits and believed to be a “young maiden in the sky” whereas the Sun was actually a young man smiling down upon the land.
As far as we know women were still treated well, often not just equally to men but they were looked at as sacred children of the Moon/Great Mother.
Depending on the specific (sub-)cult or community, the stars were believed to be the children of Sun and Moon or the ancestors and the Zodiac, sun and moon phases were paramount in order to determine one’s destiny. They were the means by which Ara (the great impersonal life force) communicated with the people.
Bronze age pictures, statues and bas-reliefs depict the lion, bull, deer, bear, horse, sheep and ox as well as the stork, eagle, rooster, crane and swallow in a spiritual or “holy” context and indicate that Hetanism was a totemic religion.
The worship of the elements appears to also have been a part of original Hetanism, but it is their fervent worship of the element of Fire which earned them the name of “ash-worshippers” by early Christians that came in contact with this religion. Fire represented not only physical light or illumination but also metaphysical enlightenment. To this day putting out a fire, and if it is only a candle, requires more than just snuffing or blowing out the wick, for many Armenians there is a ritual to be followed in order not to invite unwanted spirits. Even less spiritual Armenians and non-Hetanists at least put out fire or a candle with care and some basic respect.
Some of the ancient Gods, demons and beings are still found in Armenian fairy tales, though they are often not called by their original names out of fear of persecution by the church back then.

I mentioned earlier that Ara(mazd) basically translates to life. Now, it is interesting to note that his wife’s name was Sandaramet and she was the female equivalent of Hades, basically Death embodied.
Aramazd’s “shepard on earth” or attending incorporeal spirit was Tir, meaning “writer”. He walked the earth, recording mankind’s deeds and thoughts, taking his accounts of it back to Aramazd who then judged each individual according to his/her deeds and thoughts after death. Tir represented both hope and fear and whenever someone had cursed loudly or spoken badly about someone whispers would be heard, warning of Tir’s possible presence.
Mihr was Aramazd’s son, the God of Fire to whom many temples were dedicated. Much like Norse Týr was replaced by the foreign Wotan/Odin, Mihr faded into the background after Vahagn became more popular.
Aramazd’s daughter Anahit’s Greek equivalent was Artemis. She was called “the spotless Goddess” or “Golden Mother”, representing purity and chastity. She was Armenia’s protector and benefactress.
Anahit’s sister Astghik married Vahagn. He was also called Vishapakagh, “uprooter of dragons” (snakes), as he roamed the lands in order to free Armenia and its population from evil spirits, demons and monsters.
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(Vahagn as Vishapakagh)

Aramazd’s third daughter’s name was Nooné. Especially the rural population could relate to her best since she was the Goddess of contrivance. Odds were often against her but she always somehow emerged from trouble, woes and tight spots triumphantly.
Except Vahagn most of these Deities were rather gentle deities, this is also reflected in the Armenian holy days which often central around love, beauty and fidelity.

Hetanism is a small religion mainly heard of and lived in Armenia itself, although the Armenian Diaspora (especially in the US) is finally starting to catch on and embrace its native Pagan roots. Hopefully it will grow and prosper just as much as the majority of the other indo-European Pagan religions currently are. At least I am hoping for some timely in-depth literature on this fascinating religion!

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(Celebrating Vardavar at Garni Temple)

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.

04 drei nornen
(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. 😉

sith

The Runes – A General Introduction

written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, May 2013

ImageIn Paganism, many dabble in runes. However, in order to understand runic vibrations one must understand a bit of cosmology. Whether you accept it is up to you, however, it won’t change the nature of the runes.

They have been described as the building blocks of the universe (or rather in Germanic/Norse cosmology: multiverse). Maybe comparing them to something we’ve all been taught at school might illuminate the issue at hand a bit better: DNA.
You’ve all seen a picture of a strand of DNA before, it looks like a ladder (or in Northern terms: it is the world yew tree Yggradil).
The ladder is constructed of different amino acids. These four acids combine in various patterns to make up the rungs of that ladder. Alone the runes already hold power, but in the right combination they create life, they ARE the building block of the universe itself. The more they interact, the stronger and more effective they are.

dna realqq9worlds

In order to understand the worlds, let me begin with the first three, namely Muspellheim (the “fire world”), Nifelheim (the “world of ice”, and Ginnungagap (the “empty space”) that arose from this duality. Fire and Ice world are the polar worlds: matter and energy, order and chaos, light and dark, etc.
However, without the gap, there would be no uncharged place for the worlds. Ginnungagap is the empty field upon which we build, the place that cleanses, purifies, destroys and rebuilds (recharges) and so forth. It is the basic of the circle of life.

ginnungagapplace

Ginnungagap amidst Muspelheim and Nifelheim. Ginnungagap from which the giant race and hence mankind was born.

In my specific belief system we know that the runes are created in the springs beneath the world tree Yggdrassil, in Urd’s/Mimir’s well. Those charged waters supply the great tree and through the tree reach the nine worlds. The waters are formed by the mixed states of Muspellheim and Nifelheim.
When they are joined in Ginnungagap they are transformed into a vibrant pool. In those waters, the runic energies take their most basic form. Each possessing a unique trait of both worlds. They remain charged but stable while in the empty space.
As they are drawn into the tree, they begin to combine into the tree (DNA ladder), each combination forming a unique pattern with a specific purpose. They feed the worlds with the power needed to be sustained.

marbled_tiwaz_by_luckmann-d3d3qd8

The last eight runes of the elder Futhark are referred to as Týr’s Aett, Týr-Saxnot being our original chief God. In his Aett we find the world tree rune Ehwaz (“Yew” for the world tree Yggdrasil) as well. See https://paganmeltingpot.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/yggdrasil-yew-not-ash-tree/

Some worlds need more of Muspell (fire) and other more of Nifel (ice). The tree itself acts as a control gate, dispensing the energies as needed. Midgard, home of the humans, is the most balanced, receiving a very even mix of fire and ice.
The runes continue to vibrate as they seek to combine, for although they become relatively stable in their designated worlds they still continue to vibrate in the way we think of life more or less. (I could imagine those interested in quantum physics might find that interesting.)
They are still always seeking to recombine in new ways, that is chaos and stability working hand in hand. No stagnation, but rather: evolution.

As you work with the runes you send back the energies and your specific intentions through the tree. It is but a giant cycle, each rune depending on the other as much as each world, each being, each God and man doing so. That is the beauty of Germanic cosmology.
Vibrating runes each have a unique “sound”. When Galdr (Norse rune magic) is performed, we are calling out to the “free radicals” of the runes and the loose combinations, bringing them in, structuring them into a new creation of our design.

yoga

Rune Yoga. Not a traditional (historic) Germanic practice, but definitely something interesting to try at least once.

Often, I encounter people who – as I initially stated – “dabble” in runes. Maybe it is now that you can see as with all other magical practices that runic magic is to be performed with great care and respect. Any magical practice, once removed from its context and origin, practiced without full understanding, may either not work at all as the “free radicals”/energies swerve around without a place to dock or they may also bring VERY unwanted results; this especially in the case of runes, as they make up the cosmos!
This creates instability and the “radicals” that fill those voids then, will likely change the structure of other things. It is of course rather easy to google the meaning of single runes, but just as with the Tarot, Lenormand, I-Ging or other, that is not all there is to them.
While Fehu may stand for wealth, it may also stand for something quite different in combination with other runes or in the context of the question asked in a reading.
Becoming a rune master requires a lot of study, dedication and ultimately, a lot of emotional investment as well. It often takes a year or two until one is trained enough to begin working on bindrunes.

2e99c1457477b27e34cd64bbe4d3dabdPersonally, I recommend starting out your runic journey by learning the names and simple meanings of every rune. Learn to chant them, take a week each to get to know them, bond with them, form a relationship with them. After that, learn how to protect yourself.
Those of us who cast a circle, create a Vé, wear a pentagram, Týr’s rune, Eye of Horus or other pendant of protection know how imminent it is to keep yourself safe during magical workings, simply because as with all magic, accidents may not just but are bound to happen in the early stages. It is best to know how to counter and/or neutralize your own unstable magical creations to avoid even more damage, chaos or confusion.
Once you feel comfortable with the runes -with ONE Futhark you ought to stick to for a while – and the spirituality they are deeply embedded in, you can begin your Galdr lessons. Be prepared for an interesting rollercoaster-journey through the multiverse!

anglo_saxon_runes

Anglo-Saxon Runes

hungarianrunes

Hungarian Runes

TurkishRunes

Turkic Runes as used in Mongolia. The huns and Germanic peoples had frequent and regular interactions.

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