Blood & Fire

(originally published on Ordgeþanc, on 5/26/2014)

Modernity makes much of the revolutionary. Modern nations have been founded upon revolutionary wars, and the concept of revolution continues to supply an aesthetic ideal for youth, a heady mixture of equal parts anger and hope. One suspects that, in the West, this desire for revolution is the desire to make real the mythos of the Day of Judgement, to bring the desired terminus and dealing of justice upon the unrighteous.

Experience recommends caution.

The ethic of the revolution is the ethic of the avalanche, or better still, of the forest fire. It is the ethic that sets off vast destructive forces with their own patterns of being and movement that do not pay heed to men. The revolutionary raises voice and hand against the old and, to his mind, the corrupt; some forests need the fire, and are better afterwards for it. Revolutions feed themselves, though, and are rarely sated by the achievement of their initial aims: the revolution is never complete enough, never successful enough, but must be furthered and protected from “reactionary” tendencies. Thus, the revolutionary ethic sees any growth, any striving upward as a thing to be put down, as an invitation to the flame. All must be burned for the revolution, all cleansed by fire, over and over again in more violent and frequent conflagrations until all is reduced to equality in the democracy of ashes.

For those of us seeking to rebuild after centuries, millenia of destruction, I think the better ethos to follow is that of the forester: to find a place to defend against revolutions, wherein to allow growth, development, the burgeoning complexity that abides in healthy, living systems, be they ecologies or religions; to plant one’s deeds carefully and patiently, seeding what one wants to have flourish generations and centuries on. This must be long, patient work; what grows quickly does not stand long, and the sturdiest things grow the slowest.

(originally published on Ordegeþanc, on 8/24/2013)

“The religious impulse and the artistic impulse are one.”

I was told this by my mentor early on in my Théodish career, along with a number of other pronouncements of wisdom which have all, over time, proven to be true. While I don’t think that all of my ideas on religion can be boiled down to this one, it does certainly loom large in the constellation of those ideas, and it has certainly informed much of my religious practice.

Art, as I understand it, is a manner of expressing that which is too large for the intellect. At a certain point, words arranged into logical statements lose their explanatory force, and beyond that there is no more reason, only feeling. Words themselves seem to come unmoored from their referents. Nothing fits. Nothing seems to be the right thing to say. No descriptions can covey the enormity of what is in front of you.

There are, of course, ways to express the indescribable, so long as sincerity is given more weight than certainty. These ways are poetry, music, dance, all that falls under the name of art. True art is the skill of expressing the indescribable, of relating something that the intellect falters with, of taking a flash of inspiration and carrying it in a vessel to others so that they may see it – feel it – too.

Emotions are ultimately ineffable, and so form the content of a great deal of art: love, in all of its moods and guises; longing; fear & awe; sorrow. Anyone who has truly felt love deeply – or truly known profound loss – knows that these are things more powerful than oneself, that they take one up and do with one what they will, and the thought occurs: behind something so powerful there must be a god.

The gods themselves are more ineffable yet; love and loss are known to the entirety of humanity, but how many have felt the presence of Wóden? How many have felt the eyes of Þunor upon them? These experiences – even when strong – are subtly complicated, difficult to express, and known these days to only a few. It is therefore very important that there be skillful artists who can bring us, in different modes and manners, a part of the mystery that is the being of a god.

I would like to introduce you to such an artist. Her name is Jesseca Trainham. After seeing a triptych of Wóden that she did for my friend Jeffrey, I contacted her and asked about the possibility of having some images of the gods made. This began a fruitful and warm conversation about symbolism, ritual use, and what, exactly, I wanted in an icon. The results are pictured below.

I am deeply grateful to Jesseca for producing such incredible works of art. These are now on the altar-shelf in my house’s “holy corner” by the table, and I plan and hope that they will remain in my family for many generations to come.

If you wish to disseminate the images, please be respectful of the artist and include her name, so as to spread her renown. She is doing something important, and deserves recognition.

Ing icon – front
Ing icon – back
Þunor icon – front
Þunor icon – back
Wóden icon – front
Wóden icon – back

Religion & Art

Seeing, Feeling, and Thinking

(originally published on Ordgeþanc, on 12/04/2011)

It has been said that small-minded people talk about things, the mediocre talk about people, and the intelligent talk about ideas. I think that approaches to religion, to the gods, can be divided in the same way. Such a division need not imply a hierarchy of ways of approaching the gods going from lesser to greater, although that hierarchy is often implied, which I want to get back to later.

First, there are the “things” of religion: cult objects, “fetishes”, idols, visual symbols, descriptions and iconography of the gods’ appearances, parts of the physical world that are associated with specific gods such as mountains, rivers, and forests, and also living things such as specific animals or birds; in short, all of those ways in which divinity is approached through the senses.

Second, there are the “personalities”: specifically, the personalities of gods as we know them from myths, and with whom we identify, or whom we identify against; these are the ways that the gods are approached through the emotions.

Third, there are the “ideas”: theologies, mysticisms, or the web of concepts that might be associated with a particular god, and that form lines of conjunction and relation between gods; these are the ways that the gods are approached through the intellect.

Sensory experience being basic to our interaction with the world, the sensory part of religion is the first experience of the gods for most people: for instance, one might see lightening, hear thunder, see an oak tree, see the famous bronze figure of Þórr from Iceland and think “This is Þórr”.

Later on in the development of one’s religious understanding, one might identify the figure of Þórr in the myths as the reality of the god, and reject the reality of what is available to the senses, as if to say “That was merely a symbol or a reflection of the reality, but this is the real Þórr.” This is where most people stop.

Some people might go further, and come to a theological understanding of Þórr, wherein “Þórr” seems to be a concept or a web of concepts, e.g. Force, Protection, Warriorhood, etc. one might then reject the mythological “person” of Þórr as likewise a symbol of the reality of Þórr, which are these concepts; the idea of Þórr is seen as the ultimate reality, of which the sensory and emotive elements are mere shadows and reflections.

It seems to me that this progression from sensory to emotive to conceptual is not enough, and there must be another level of understanding that very few these days have reached.

For one thing, the rejection of the visible, audible, and tactile apprehension of the holy for the emotional apprehension, and the rejection of the emotional apprehension for the conceptual apprehension, seems to privilege ever greater abstraction. If a linear progression of further abstraction is the key to understanding the Holy, then we might say that each god, even taken as an abstract web of concepts, is symbolic of some other thing, something beyond gods, and that we may as well then dispense with the idea of gods altogether, and give idols, myths and theologies little or no credit for being about anything real. There exist such schools of thought today, and I think that that ground has been well-trodden, to the point that I have no interest in it as a direction of thought. I think there is another way, a more interesting way that does not result in the intellectual rejection of everything about our religion.

This is not to say that abstraction or intellectual understandings of our gods are going in the wrong direction; merely that they are incomplete. The problem lies in the rejection of the sensory for the emotive, the emotive for the conceptual. One who has reached the level of understanding gods as concepts must then make the full circle, and see that coming to know a god through the senses, through the emotions, and through the mind are all important: the idol, the mountain, the thunderstorm; the Þórr of the myths; the ideas and concepts associated with Þórr; all of these partake of the being of the god. Someone who has this insight can come back to the beginning, and see the idol, hear the myth, and know the concepts like they are new, and experience the presence of the god in all of these ways simultaneously.

There will always remain something of a god that is beyond knowledge, beyond human understanding, but experiencing gods in things, in personalities, and in ideas, all together and at the same time, gives a broader and deeper understanding than any one of these singly.

Change and Continuity

(originally published on Ordgeþanc, on 9/7/2010)

These days, one finds everywhere the notion that change has overtaken the world in the last few centuries. From the scientific advances beginning in the Renaissance and the erosion of faith in the dominant Christianity that accompanied them, on to the technological advances that enabled the Industrial Revolution and its attendant upheaval of societies’ means and aims of production to this day, change has been the byword of existence for quite some time. This change has been accompanied everywhere by philosophical trends that first lauded the dawn of the Age of Reason and the unshackling of human labor and intellect, but which have since gone to describing with horror the Age of the Titans, of Technology without Purpose, of the Machine.

These philosophers and their criticisms of the modern world deserve to be taken seriously, and the upheavals that occur with the greater changes in society are keenly felt when and where they happen; I’m thinking mainly (but not solely) of the change from primarily rural agricultural societies – and hunter/gather societies in many places – to primarily urban factory/technology/market societies that started with the Industrial Revolution and has continued until today, and all of the other changes that that greater change entails. It occurs to me as I write that this great change, whatever it might be, is not finished, and might never be finished until human life is snuffed out by the excesses and imbalances set in motion by this change. Suffice it to say that we have not yet entirely “changed over” into the mode of life that would seem to be the logical end of this particular centuries-long trend, and I’m not sure that we really ever entirely can (regardless of how much we might damage, in the meantime, by trying).

So, this is our “changed world”. One of the early victims of this “changed world” has been the authority of Christianity, a result that a Heathen like myself might well praise. However, it hasn’t been merely Christianity’s authority that has suffered, but the authority of religion itself in Western culture (Christianity itself having uprooted the authority of other religions). That result is, I think, less than praiseworthy, and has resulted in a number of unforeseen consequences which I won’t elaborate on here; I think that religion is, on the whole, a good thing (despite some highly pervasive bad examples of it), and that its loss is the loss of something ineffably valuable.

Many people disagree, of course, both on the worthiness of religion itself and, in a perhaps softer disagreement, on the role that religion ought to play in this “changed world”. People who, like me, pursue the practice of ancient religions and cultures often have to deal with the question of these religions’ and cultures’ relevance in the modern “changed world”; this is true for “mainstream” religions as well, for instance Catholicism, which has an uninterrupted history of practice going back to the Roman Empire. The question of relevance is ostensibly even more serious for religions like mine, which do not have such an uninterrupted history. For instance, people can (and do) question to what extent early Germanic culture, even only Germanic religion (as though the two were separable), should or could be brought into the modern “changed” world. Others argue that there is no place in this “changed” world for old religions like ours, which are better forgotten.

This whole line of thinking raises some questions for me. I think that there are many criticisms that could be raised about this point of view, not the least of which being that it is based upon a linear notion of progress that is ultimately derived from a specifically Judeo-Christian view of time. That is, the notion that things change over time generally for the better, and that one neither can nor should want to “go back” or “turn back the clock” is not a matter of objective fact so much as one of a worldview that is strongly pervasive in Western culture, but by no means universal or necessarily correct. One could simply (though certainly not easily) change how one views the world, and the criticism from the notion of “progress” loses all meaning.

In general, I see the role of religions like mine as having the same relevance in the modern world as a vaccine in a diseased body. If we are not a product of the main trends of the last few centuries, it is because these trends represent overall decay of a body that was, I think, already sick; Western Culture – seen as a whole – invited its own decline by its excesses and its poor foundations. Our goal is not to revive Western Culture; this goal is taken up by other radicals than us. No: we, and people like us, are here to revive the cultures that preceded Western Culture and which were, to greater or lesser extents, incorporated into that Borg-like collective. We are rebuilding cultures that were once viable and able to survive vast changes, because we think that they can be that viable and hardy now. Also, importantly, we revive these cultures because they are ours: they belong to us as an inheritance from our beginnings, and conversely, we belong to them as well.

Or, from another perspective: we are – to whatever in Western Culture remains of the organic cultures that preceded and were incorporated into it – something like an immune response, a reaction from within Western Culture to break free of this artificial thing and to return to a kind of culture more natural to us, more in line with our own manners of being. From this point of view it can be seen that the movement towards religions like ours has its roots in the Romanticism of the 19th century, which was a reaction against the industrialization and urbanization of the time. Romanticism, which inspired great art, also inspired a great deal of scholarship; it began the scholarly interest in pre-Christian European religions, in native European religious and cultural identities. Romanticism’s art and scholarship inspired the interest among some people to go back to practicing pre-Christian European religions. We, therefore are part of that same current of reaction against, rejection of, modernism and its tendencies to dehumanize and denature.

So, now that I have attempted to establish our roots and our place in and relation to the modern world, does this reaction against the changes of “modernity”, changes that now seem to define the everyday existence of many people, have any hope of success?

To answer that question with a question: has the world really changed that much, and are the evident changes fundamental, or merely on the surface of things? To many, these will seem like ridiculous questions. It seems obvious that the world has changed, doesn’t it? One might point to all the technology we have, and what it allows us to do, as evidence of the world’s fundamental difference from how it was a century ago, much less a millenium. I am uncertain whether technology is capable of changing existence in a fundamental fashion (or even the fundamentals of our experience of it), but technology certainly seems to have changed things: more powerful scientific tools give us a greater knowledge of physical existence; communications networks allow us to know what is happening around the world in an instant; weapons technologies allow us (at least in part) to wage war from afar; agricultural technology “liberates” the vast majority of people from having to grow food for a living (although I am by no means convinced that this is a good thing). All this is so, but I don’t know that any of these things really “change” the nature of the world in any fundamental sense. If anything, I think that technology gives an appearance of change that is ultimately a distraction from the underlying continuity of things, and thus from an interaction with – and understanding of – the underlying and eternal things about reality.

Nor do find much evidence that human nature has changed. People still have the same instincts and emotions, and largely want the same things as they always have. The change that people feel in the world is, I think, rather in their understanding of and relationship to the world. As an example, there is the notion that things are reducible to material, mere matter with no other meaning or existence than as objects to be shaped and transformed by human will. This kind of thinking enabled the Industrial Revolution, and the results of that revolution continue to lead to that kind of thinking.

This kind of sea-change in people’s understanding of and approach to the world leads, I think, to the flourishing of many lines of thought that would have been clearly absurd, if not unthinkable, in previous eras. I find that many people these days have a number of ideas that they seem to hold precisely because they are at odds with old wisdom. Of course, such a thing only makes sense from the point of view that states that things are fundamentally different now than they ever were before. If that isn’t true, though – and I think it’s not – if things haven’t really changed all that much, then old wisdom is still useful, especially in circumstances where the seeming newness of things has apparently deprived people of any wisdom whatsoever.

And that, when it comes down to it, is what religions like ours really are: old, traditional wisdom, ways of understanding and interacting with the world and with existence that we firmly believe have a great deal of value in the modern world; and this not despite the fact that these ways are old and from another time, but because of that very fact. Part of how people like us serve as an antidote to modernity is by questioning the modern rejection of traditional wisdom. Religious projects like ours are predicated on the belief that the world has not changed so much that traditional wisdom is useless, and that traditional wisdom helps to remedy the alienation from the world that is part of modernity.

In another essay, I hope to look at the implications the ideas in this essay have for how people these days approach the practice of ancient religions. Specifically, I would like to look at the fear of or disdain for tradition that I’ve seen among some Heathens and other Reconstructionists, and how that is contradictory and ultimately self-defeating.

… the Beginning

 

 

“Myth is not prehistory, it is an eternal reality that repeats itself over history.”

Ernst Jünger

This Old Saxon hymn is one that I sing on Twelfth Night.

(Originally published on Ordgeþanc 12/31/2016)

Hwē mah wārlīko· gimang wermannum
werthigōsta tėllian· waldgodo dėdio
thero thea ādrosto· ēsi makodun,
hwan godu werolda· grôta skappun,
ertha brêda· uphimil hôhan
ėndi wallandan· wāgsêo diopan?

Sō munan ik mōt · medo mah ik drinkan
af themo Alswīthon· eofullen horne;
Sōtho mīnan sang· singan mīk lāte
sō sōthword ekir· singan ik mah.

That fregoda ik mid ferahum· forawitono mêstono
that ertha ne was· noh uphimil
noh bôm nênig· noh berg ne was
noh swigle sterron· noh sunna ne skên
noh māno ne liuhtida· noh was the māri sêo.

Thanna Wōdan wrisi· thena wildan slōh
thrīrosum than slōh· thuris ovargrôtan
gėgin argan eton· mid ordum slōhun:

is blōd warhtun· bremflōdu mikleru
wellandum watare· wāge brêdum
themo ėgislīkeru ahu· ėndi ovardioperu;

is flêsk warhtun· foldu brêderu
grunde wīdum· grōneru wurthi
erthu areru· jak alberanderu;

is bên warhtun· bergum stênīnum
holmum hôhum· huvilum stėgilum
wīdum fėlisum· wundargrôtum;

is hār warhtun· hardum diopum
bômholtum brêdum· berewidum grôtum
waldum thiustrum· wundarmirkum;

ôgon is warhtun· alsehanderu sunna
wīdglōiandum rathe· welglītandum skildo
māran mānon· themu metandan ôk;

hôvidbên is warhtun · himiles thakke
wegakkare sunna· wandarfelde mānon
that sterrono land· stormo ermanero;

githāhtium is warhtun · thiustria wolkanun
ėndi ūstwolkanun· althėkkianda
stormwolkanun grôta· strīdiga ja grimma;

tandium is warhtun · torne stênos
harde fėlisos· hėviga lėia
unôthia klif· ėndi ênharda;

brāwum is sia warhtun · bergandian riki
eder swīthlīkan· īsarnīnan tūn
brêda marka· bittara withar fīandun
etonum undar· in ūtlandum
jak middelgarde mikilum· mankunnies hême.

An medeme wahsid· middelgarda
brunnon ovar diopōstum· bôm hôhōsta
an sôthe bi sūli· sōnastėdi standid
sia ēsi thār· ādrosto samnodun
ja dōmos rėthodun· dag ėndi naht
morgan ja namodun· ėndi middendag
āvand ja ūhta· alle mahlidun
tīdi tō tėllian· that tal gēres.

Sunna sia sėttidun· swigle sterron
of wegum iro āwėndian· ja wathalōndan māno
hevan tō hėbbian· hêtun sia than
Ôst ėndi West· Ertha an rande
North ėndi Sūth· nithara radure.

Wōdan tō were· ja wīve than gaf
thrīrosum than gaf· tharflīka geva
līf gavun līk gavun· lud ėndi āthom
ferah gavun gêst gavun· farwi ėndi hêli
Mannes kunnie· māgum askes.

Irminsūl hêtid· aska grôtōsta
hôh ist that bôm· hwīte sindun asti
wīd ist the strunk· wurti sindun diopa
brêdum undar astium· brunno wellid
thār webbia thria· wėllu an sittiad
Wurd ist thero êrista· Werthanda ōthara
skerrad of stokkum· Skuld thea thriddia.
Mahtig sindun thea webbia· mahtig that wėbbi
mahtig iro giskap· ovar mannum ėndi godum.

Hôho in bôme· in hevanwangum
in tīrlīkum sėlium· tīwos giwonod;
diopo undar erthu· gidwerg būad
ėndi bihwelvide· hėlwonārios;
mankunni an middie· in middelgarde.
Hôriad an hevane· gī hôhe godu
ūs hēr anskauwad · mid unwrêthum ôgon!
ūsa gibed unnun· blīthie ēsi
that that irminbôm· eomêr stande!

Translation:

Who among men may truly
tell in the worthiest way of the ruling gods’ deeds
those that the gods did earliest,
when the gods shaped the great world,
broad earth, high up-heaven,
and the welling, deep wave-sea ?

As I must remember, so may I drink mead
from the ever-full horn of Alswītho;
True One, let me sing my song
so that I may sing only words of truth.

I learned of the greatest fore-knowers among men
that earth was not, nor up-heaven
nor was any tree, nor mountain,
nor shining stars, nor did the sun shine
nor glowed the moon, nor was the famous sea.

Then Wōdan struck the wild giant
one amongst three he struck the over-great thurs
against the evil giant they struck with points:

of his blood they wrought the great brim-flood
welling water, broad waves,
the awe-like water and overdeep;

of his flesh they wrought the broad earth
wide ground, green ground,
ripe and all-bearing earth;

of his bones they wrought stony mountains,
high hills, steep cliffs
wide boulders wonder-great;

of his hair they wrought deep woods
tree-holts broad, forest-woods great
forests dark, wonder-mirky;

of his eyes they wrought all-seeing Sun,
wide-glowing wheel, well-glistening shield,
and also the famous, measuring moon;

of his head-bone they wrought heaven’s roof,
Sun’s way-acre, Moon’s wander-field,
the land of stars, of great storms.

of his thoughts they wrought dark clouds,
and storm-clouds all-covering,
storm-clouds great, battlesome and grim;

of his teeth they wrought bitter stones
hard boulders, heavy rocks
unlight cliffs and very hard;

wrought they of his brows a protecting hedge,
a strong fence, an iron fence,
a broad march, bitter against foes,
between giants in outlands
and great Middleyard, mankind’s home.

At the middle of Middleyard grows,
the highest beam over the deepest well;
a judgement-stead stands at the well by the pillar;
there the gods gathered themselves earliest
and spoke dooms, day and night
and morning named, and midday,
evening and early-morning all spoke,
time to tell, the year’s tally.

Sun they set, shining stars,
to wend on their ways, and wandering moon,
then they ordered to heave heaven
East and West on Earth’s edge
North and South below the sky.

Wōdan then gave to man and wife,
one among three, then gave needful gifts:
life they gave, body they gave, shape and breath,
life they gave, ghost they gave, color and health
to Man’s kin, to the relatives of the ash tree.

Great Pillar is called the greatest of ash trees
high is the beam, white are branches,
wide is the trunk, roots are deep;
under broad branches a well flows,
there three weavers sit at the well:
Wurd is the first, Werthanda the other –
they score upon staves – Skuld the third.
Mighty are the weavers, mighty the web,
mighty their fate over men and gods.

High in the tree, in heaven-fields,
in glorious halls gods dwell;
deep under earth dwarves live
and the hidden Hell-dwellers;
mankind in the middle, in Middleyard.
Hear in heaven, ye high gods,
see us here with unwroth eyes!
grant our prayer, blithe gods,
that that great tree forever stand!

The End…

For years after I first became a Heathen, I struggled with the meaning of Yule: as a child, Christmas had been my favorite holiday, and research into Christmas customs had led me, eventually, to Heathenry. Yet as a Catholic child, I knew what Christmas meant. I had no such understanding of Yule, and that caused me a great deal of angst.

Thus, one of the most important moments in my religious education was when I read about sacred time in Eliade’s “The Sacred and the Profane”, and that end-of-year holidays across cultures draw most if not all of their meaning from end-of-world myths. I immediately began to see connections between the customs that I had studied and the general schemata of celebrations occurring at the end of the year/world in a vast number of cultures the world over. Thus, I drew connections between Yule and the myth of Ragnarǫk.

(I know that there are those who think that the myth of Ragnarǫk, even the entirety of both Eddas, have little if anything to do with Germanic religion as it was practiced and understood. I am aware of their arguments and, respectfully, I differ.)

So here is something that I wrote in Old Frisian, borrowing freely from both the Old Icelandic Vǫlospá, and the Old High German apocalyptic poem Muspilli. This is one of the hymns that I sing on Mothernight, the first night of Yule.

(Originally published on Ordgeþanc 12/10/2016)

 

Thet hêrde ik rêda· thâ riuchtwîsa
thet Winter skal kuma· thi wunderlang
ône Sumur ênich· ne sefte weder
swart skal thâ skîna· Sunne therefter.

Thâ skal thi hund jella· fora helledore
bende skal bersta· blôdiga renna
thâ dâda mugun alle· diâpithe ûtrunna
âk on hrêwei kuma· hellewenere.

Brôthera skelen hiâ bēra· âk tô him bana wertha
swesterlingar· sibbe skelen forderva
herd is thet in hâmum· hôrdôm mizil
skathatîd, skefttîd· skeldar send klovene
windtîd, werchtîd· êr thiu warld falleth
ne mei ênich mann· ôthere sparia.

Thet bâm warlda· biviath mith windum
este skeddath· all ondrêdath
Etenar mith orloge· tô Êsum farath
Hâga mith hâvde· hâmelîke rêdeth.
Sâ thet himelisk horn· jihlûded wirdith
and him thi warldwaldere· on thene wei urhevith
thanne hevith him mith· herana mêstera
thet ist all sâ frevellik· thet him nâmann jifiuchta ne mei.

Thâ Wêda with wolf· thene wilden rîdeth
Walfeder falleth· in warges maga
wîdere steppeth· wrêzelik sunu
bodeme twisk and himile· balmûla rendeth.
Thâ skal thi warldslanga· mith Wîthuner strîda
thi werch ist jewêpned· under him wîch forbilgth
kampum send sô kreftlik· thiu kâse ist sô grât
skel hî in thêra wîchstede· wund bifalla
and in thâm sîthe· sîlâs wertha.

Wîchthuner with werm· thene wrêthen strîdeth
dâthslachta driupith· mith duriga hamre
bana hî wirthith· thes baluwermes
hwande nêdra êttere· thâ nitherfalleth.

Thach wênath that manich· werthige godamenn
thet âwerded werthe· in thâm wîge Thuner
sô thet sathuneres blôd· on erthe jesîpith
sô urbarnath thâ bergar· bâm ne jestandith
ênich on erthe· â ordrukniath
foraswelketh hit môr · swilath logum thi himel
môna falleth· middeljerd barneth
stên ne jistanth· thane stêringedei hider farith
farith mith thâm fior· ferch tô ofbarna
thâ ne mei thanna mage ôthra· helpa thâm muspille fora
thanne thî brêdlik brand· forabarneth all
and fior and luft· urfurviath hit all
hwêr ist thanne thiu merke· thêr jâ mann mith magum sînum facht?

Erthe skal rîva· âk uphimel
Sunne tâwath hia swart· sîgeth Folde in mere
hwirvith of himele· hêdere stêra
springith hâch hête· with himel selven.

Eft skal up kuma· ôthrere tîde
erthe ût thēra â· âmmêrgrēne
thâ water fliâtath· waldar blôiath
âk unsiâde· ekkerar waxath.

God skelen samnia· et gadringelôch
âk mêna thêr· on meindômar
erva skelen wenia· in Alfederis hove
and thêr skelen walda· wathemar goda.

Uppa hrênere erthe· mith hâgere froude
menn skelen wenia· in morgen nîa,
Sunne skal rîsa· sê skal walla
bâm skal blôma· men balu wilia.

 

Translation:
That I heard the right-wise say,
that the wonder-long Winter shall come
without any Summer nor soft weather,
the Sun shall then shine black thereafter.

Then shall the hound bay before Hell-door,
fetter shall burst, bloody-one shall run,
then may all the dead flow out of the depths
and the Hell-dwellers come on the corpse-way.

Brothers shall threaten each other and become each other’s banes
sisters’ children shall ruin kinship,
that is hard in the homes, great whoredom,
scathe-tide, shaft-tide, shields are cloven,
wind-tide, warg-tide, before the world falls,
nor may any man spare others.

The tree of worlds shakes with winds
branches shudder, all are in dread
etens fare to the gods with war
High One secretly speaks with a head .

As the heavenly horn is sounded,
and the world-ruler heaves himself onto the way,
then heaves with him the greatest of armies
that is all so bold that no one may fight against it.
Wóden rides against the wild wolf,
Walfather falls in the warg’s maw,
Wider steps the vengeful son,
between ground and heaven rends the bale-maw.

Then shall the world-serpent against Wîthuner strive,
the warg is weaponed, the battle will begin between them
the fighters are so strong, the cause is so great
he shall fall wounded in the battle-stead
and become bereft of victory in the way.

Fight-Þunor strives against the wroth worm
drops death-blows with brutal hammer
becomes the bane of the bale-worm
then falls down from the adder’s poison.

Though many worthy gods’ men ween
that in the fight Thuner becomes wounded,
so that sathuner’s blood seeps onto the earth,
so the mountains burn up, no tree stands
any on earth, waters dry up
the moor consumes itself, heaven burns with flames
moon falls, middleyard burns
no stone stands, the day of destruction fares hither,
fares with the fire to burn lives away
then may kin not help the other before the Muspille
for when the broad brand burns up all
and fire and wind sweep it all away
where is then the march where before a man fought with his kin?

Earth shall split and up-heaven
Sun shows herself black, Earth sinks in the sea
the clear stars whirl in heaven
high heat springs against heaven itself.

Afterwards up shall come, another time,
earth out of the water, ever-green
then water flows, forests bloom
and unsown acres grow.

Gods shall gather at the gathering-lea
and think there on mighty dooms
heirs shall dwell in Allfather’s court
and there shall rule the gods’ holy places.

Upon the clean earth with high joy
men shall dwell in a new morning,
Sun shall rise, sea shall well
tree shall bloom, but bale fade.

Winternights

This Old Frisian hymn reflects some of my thoughts on the identity of the cult of the ancestors with the cult of the elves, which combines information from figures such as Fróði and Ólafr Geirstaðaálfr.

(Originally published on Ordgeþanc 10/7/2012)

 
Liâcht hochnisse· lêdeth mî thruch
diunkernisse dimme· et deis enda
dei wirthith kort· diunkernisse lang
wind wirthith kald· sâ wanath thet jêr.
Thet webb ik weve· worda thrêda
lâre-thrêdar lendze· lang ik hiâ spanna.

Êrist ik hûgie· êdilena formra
the skînath in rîmum· rinkar ethele
Hengst thene sterken· Hars thene gôden
folkwalda Frôda· frô in hôge.
Lange in berge· lidzeth kening
slêpeth in drâmum· sôthkening rîzes
diûpe hî drâmeth· hwenne diôre nêd
bêreth sîn liôde· mith bêrum thiûstrum.

Tô hôch-keninge· helenum liôdum
êdilum ûsrum· alfskînendum
jefta wî jevath· jernmôdige
walkumen wî biâdath· winternachtes
thiâd tôgadere· in thiûsternisse kêthath
quika âk dâda· kêthath tôsemine
warath ûs jî holda· wîtath ûs jî helena
sâ wî jû hugiath· sâ hugiath jî ûs
êdila ûsre· fora âmmêrmâr.

 

Translation:
Light of memory leads me through
dim darkness at day’s end
day becomes short, darkness long
wind becomes cold as the year wanes.
I weave the web of words’ threads,
lengthen lore-threads, long I stretch them.

First I remember, of the first ancestors
that shine in songs, noble heroes:
Hengest the strong, Horsa the good
Fróði folk-ruler, the lord in the howe.
Long lies a king in the mountain
the true king of the kingdom sleeps in dreams
he dreams deeply until dire danger
threatens his people with dark threats.

To the howe-king, to the hidden people,
to our elf-shining forbears,
we give gifts eagerly,
we bid welcome at winter-nights,
we call the people together in darkness,
the living and the dead we call together;
defend us, you true ones; guard us, you hidden ones,
as we remember you, so remember you us,
our ancestors, forevermore.

Harvest

In this Old Frisian hymn, the section on Wêda (Wóden) draws not only from the myth of the mead of poetry, but from a couple of Low Saxon harvest-songs mentioned by Grimm in Teutonic Mythology that call upon Wode or Wold, which seem to be names in Low Saxon folklore derived from Old Saxon Wōdan.

(Originally published on Ordgeþanc 12/13/2010)

 

Wî hugiath ûta alde · êdere tîdum
eldiûre mêre, · êdilena rîmar:
wî goda hêrdon · grâtere mechte,
enste gôdere · tô offrerum:
urjetath wî ne · grâtena dêda,
nerendum wî thankiath · fora nêdhelpe.
Kumath jî mith Hâga · hêrlike Êse,
Êsinna alle · ethele mith Frîa!
Bakkenes brâdes · brêdera hlêva,
biâres brewenes · blîthmôdiges,
bêthera ondfâth · barmhertiga,
langlîvige · lof âk froude!

Herefedre wî singath, · hâchsta âk ferista,
warlde skeppre · âk weifara,
the landa lane · ûrlange geng
tô finda âk ofnima · fîand-handum
wîsdôm urstilen · efter wîch-grithe.
Geng sâ Baluwirza · bivia linda
ekkrum rîpe · Etenalandes,
mêdum brôthres · meda hôderes.
Nigun ther sturvun · in nîthslachta,
wrise thâ warth nû · wimmerelâs;
nigunfalde wimmede · nêta gêres,
mēde sumurlang · jēn mededranke
berge in, of breide · bergade, junge.
Slanga bilîke · smûgede hî binna,
upward hî flâch · ernlîke thana,
mede hî brochte · mêna Êsa;
breide thoch lâvde · bittere târar.
Thû heven-kening · fon hâchêdum siuchst
hwet biskiath elle · and thû skâwast dene;
in ûsere feldum · stath fôder gôd
fora hungerich hars; · kum Hâga tô ûs,
thi lest allra skôva · lêvath wî thî,
wesa walkumen · Wêda hâchsta
âka ik lof jâta · the ût lippum rinnth;
hî môd frîath · hî mênhêde stêrth,
fon thîne medejefte · sē mîn mûth â full!
Jef gôd âr jâ · jefst thû ûs êr
thâ jef thes eft · jêrum efter!

Folde wî singath · feste onstallde
môder gomena · âk môder goda,
full bist thû waxen · fethmes Êses;
thû erthe brâd · âk alberand,
ûseren sang hêr thû · onsiuch ûs hîr
unwrêthe âgum, · enstlike môde!
Jef gôd âr jâ · jefst thû ûs êr
thâ jef thes eft · jêrum efter!

Thunere wî singath · thrûthiga kampa
hwâm mith fîr-wurpna · fioriga hamre
bergiath thâ feld, · bringeth rîpe
geldene âre · gerstakornes,
hwît-berdades · hwêtekornes,
râd-geldenes · roggakornes,
gêt-fêdandes, · god-fêdanes havra,
ellik kornes · allera felda.
Mechtich ist sîn wald · mann tô helpa!
Thuner Ellemechtich · ûsere thankar hêr!
Loviath wî tô himle · thene hlûden dôm
wîheftiges · Wêdnes suna,
almechtiges · Erthe suna!
Jef gôd âr jâ · jefst thû ûs êr
thâ jef thes eft · jêrum efter!

Inge wî singath · ever-bald wîgand,
waldande hêra · weinrîdande,
fretho thû bringest · froude mith and hêle
skiprîdere · âk skôfberand
the wela bringeth gôd, · walnissa alle,
rîza and sunde, · rein hâlsumen.
Under thînre walde · waxe thâ feld,
korn wal grôwe, · thet kind ekkra!
Under thînre walde · waxe swêga,
hrîtherfiâ grôwe · hôvedes kennes!
Under thînre walde · waxe thet folk,
wer-kind âk wîf-kind · wammum ûtberne,
megar and megitha, · mann uppa erthe,
thrûthige liôde, · thiâd ûrmechtich!
Jef gôd âr jâ · jefst thû ûs êr
thâ jef thes eft · jêrum efter!

Hrôpath wî ji hâga · hêrlika, ethela,
hêrath âk siath ûs, · hugiath wî ji âmmêr,
enst wî biâdath · edilena goda,
jerne wî offrath · grâtum êsum!

 

Translation:

We remember out of old, early times
very precious tales, ancestors’ tales:
we heard of the gods’ great might,
of good favor to sacrificers:
we do not forget the great ones’ deeds,
we thank the saving ones for help in need.
Come you with the High One, lordly gods,
all noble (beautiful) goddesses with Frige!
Of broad loaves of baked bread,
of blithe-mooded brewed beer,
receive both, Gracious Ones,
long-living praise and joy!

To Army-father we sing, highest and first,
world’s maker and wayfarer
who walked the over-long road of lands
to find and take from enemy hands
wisdom stolen after battle-truce.
The shaker of shields walked as Bale-Worker
to the ripe acres of the land of giants,
to the meadows of the mead-warden’s brother.
Nine died there in hate-slaughter,
the giant then became reaper-less;
nine-fold reaped the user of the spear,
a summer-long payment for a mead-drink
in the mountain, guarded by a young bride.
Like a snake he crept therein,
upward he flew, eagle-like, from there,
mead he brought to the gathering of gods;
though he left behind bitter tears for the bride.
You heaven-king, from the heights you see
all that happens when you look down;
in our fields stands good fodder
for a hungry horse; come High One to us,
the last of all sheaves we leave to you,
be welcome, highest Wóden
as I pour praise that runs out of lips;
he frees the mind, he destroys falsehood,
may my mouth be ever full of your mead-gift!
If ever before you gave us good harvest
then give thus again in years after!

To Earth we sing, firmly placed
mother of men and mother of gods,
you are grown full of a god’s embrace;
You broad and all-bearing earth,
hear our song, look upon us here
(with) unwroth eyes, favorable mood!
If ever before you gave us good harvest
then give thus again in years after!

To Thuner we sing, powerful fighter
who with far-thrown, fiery hammer
protects the fields, brings to ripeness
golden ears of barley-corn,
of white-bearded wheat-corn,
of red-golden rye-corn,
of goat-feeding, god-feeding oats,
every corn of all fields.
Mighty is his power to help men!
Thunor Almighty, hear our thanks!
We praise to heaven the loud fame
of the hallowed son of Wóden,
of the almighty son of Earth!
If ever before you gave us good harvest
then give thus again in years after!

To Ing we sing, boar-bold fighter,
ruling lord, wagon-riding,
you bring frith with joy and hail,
ship-rider and sheaf-bearing
who brings good wealth, all of wellnesses,
riches and health, wholesome rain.
Under your power may the fields wax,
grain grow well, the child of fields!
Under your power may the herds wax,
cattle grow of the hoofed kin!
Under you power may the folk wax,
man-child and woman-child born out of wombs,
youths and maidens, men upon the earth,
a powerful people, a greatly mighty tribe!
If ever before you gave us good harvest
then give thus again in years after!

We call you high ones, lordly ones, noble ones,
hear and see us, we remember you always,
we wish for good favor of ancestors’ gods,
eagerly we sacrifice to the great gods!

Midsummer – Wóden

(Old Frisian. Originally published on Ordgeþanc 6/3/2010)

Hrôpe ik ût · over himilbrêde,
over wêdenblâw · over wolkengrê,
over thēt wîde · weinpath thēra sunne:
Hlesta thû Wêda, harka thû Wêda
wîsange hâgum, · wordum holdum!
Hêr thû on himle, · hêr thû on erthe,
hêr thû on saltum · hâstum flôdsê!
Hêr thû, Hâchsta, · ûser hrênen sang,
kum thû âk hlesta · krîga hîr froude.
Allfederis êre · âmmêr ik mêne
nâ urjete nâmmêr; · ik ûtjâte sîne lof!

Evenhâch in aldrum · êristum skôp
thene unlenda sê · hwan mith orde hî slôch
jēn ergen eten · thene overgrâta,
bandēde from! · hwan thet blôd ût rann;
âk grât erthe · grēna mith wexma,
thene brêda grund · hû berith alle;
âk himil hâgen, · hâren, wîden,
thene hêliga hrôf · hêrlikstra goda.

Sêle stulten · Sôtha upstôth
hâch tô halda · himiles wîde,
êwatrē erthfest · âmmêrgrēne
bâm âk burna · fora blîthe god,
âstede in êwe · alderlangre.
Etenar bibenn · jonda ûtrosta sê,
Bêlâge skôp · bolwerk stôklich,
mechtigen tûn · middelgarda umbe,
wathem hî worchte · Wêda hêlich.
Lof wî him jevath· lîfdegar alle
êre rêkath· in ênisse!

Hangade Hâga · hâch on bâme,
Wêda sellde · Wêdne selve
Wêda sâ offer · wîjefte sum,
blôtere, blôtena, · blôtnama underêna,
dâgole kunda · ût diunkernisse feng.
Lof wî him jevath· lîfdegar alle
êre rêkath· in ênisse!

Skînanda skeppre · unskînanda âk,
aldfeder thēra goda · aldfeder manna
âk keninga feder · kenna allra,
Wêda, hlesta · wîsange hâgum!
Wêda, harka · wordum holdum!
Nâwet sunder thî · kumith sî tô mann;
Sîfeder Wêda, · sî jef thû ûs!
Nâwet bihalva thî · kumith hêrskip tô mann;
himilesk hêra, · hêrskip ûs fremme!
Ône walde thîn · kumith nên wîsdôm tô mann;
Wittich Wêda, · wîsdôm ûs selle!
Gêrwerpere, · grimm Sîdgrano,
herdmôdich hêra, · hêl sē thû âmmêr!
Folkfêra hildes, · fêdere wolva,
lof wî thî jevath· lîfdegar alle
êre rêkath· in ênisse!

Translation:

I call out over heaven-breadths,
over woad-blue, over cloud-grey,
over the wide wagon-path of the Sun:
Listen Wêda, harken Wêda
to a high holy song, to gracious words!
Hear in heaven, hear on earth,
hear on the salty, forceful flood-sea!
Hear, Highest, our pure song,
come and listen, receive here joy.
Of Allfather’s honor always I think
nor forget never, I pour out his praises!

Just-As-High in earliest ages shaped
the deep sea when he struck with point
against the overly huge, wicked giant,
a doughty killing! when the blood ran out;
and the great earth, green with growth,
the broad ground that bears all;
and heaven high, lofty, wide,
the holy roof of the most glorious gods.

The True One stood up a proud pillar
to hold high heaven’s expanse,
a law-tree, earth-fast, evergreen,
a tree and well for blithe gods,
a law-stead in age-long eternity.
He banished the giants beyond the outermost sea,
Bale-Eye shaped a stiff bulwark,
a mighty fence around the middle garth,
he wrought a sacred place, holy Wêda.
We give him praise all life-days,
give him honor in eternity!

High-One hanged high on the tree,
Wêda gave to Wêda himself
Wêda as sacrifice, quite a sacred gift,
sacrificer, sacrificed, sacrifice-taker altogether,
took secret knowledge out of darkness.
We give him praise all life-days,
give him honor in eternity!

Creator of the seen and the unseen,
ancestor of the gods, ancestor of men
and father of kings of all kins,
Wêda, listen to a high sacred song!
Wêda, hearken to gracious words!
Not without you comes victory to men;
Victory-father Wêda, give thou victory to us!
Not without you comes good rule to men;
heavenly lord, give us good rule!
Without your power comes no wisdom to men;
Wise Wêda, give us wisdom!
Spear-thrower, grim Wide-beard,
hard-minded lord, be hale always!
Folk-leader of war, feeder of wolves,
we give you praise all life-days,
give you honor in eternity!

Midsummer – Þunor

(Old Frisian. Originally published on Ordgeþanc 6/10/2010)

 
Tellinga ik hêrde · triûwe, alde
umbe fîrkûthen heleth · felekreftigen,
mechtigen kampa · mēga Wêdnes,
fêra blixna · fêring jelik.

Wîthuner hlesta! · Warldwara harka!
Tô êkwaldum hêr, · Erthe sunu,
ernum himles, · ekkrum wolkna,
tô hovum Êsa, · hâgum bergum,
alinga weinfarene · wolkenstrête!

Fon thîna êrdôme, · Elmechtiga,
jerne ik singe, · gâslêker mâsta!
Sîjera besta · singe ik thî!
Welkumen wesa thû· wîganda sterksta!

Harkiath alle · hû herde hî slôch
wither nêdre kopp · oppa nêdkalda sê,
hâved wermes · mith hamre stêt,
wundade stîthe · walden slanga,
hwan bana hî warth · thes baluwermes,
nêdrewinna · hine nitha warp thâ,
kêne kampa! · Zetel hî brôchte
elewarste Êsa, · ellemechtich Thuner,
dôm unlîttik! · Sîn drêden hamer,
waldliken wêpen, · thisse weindrîva
jēn etenhâvdum · ofta wirpith,
quâddiâr quelleth · mith kreftslachtum,
weldegeth hî over · in wîga elk,
â winneth sî · ênstrîda skîre.

Hêrath alle · sînen hlûden dôm
over tham bergum, · bôgingum manna,
waldum diâpum, · wêga brêde,
over tham feldum · fulle mith wexma.

Ellemechtich god! · Êsa kampa!
Weindrîvere! · Walda blixnes!
Bukka drochten · âk bûra friônd!
Wara ûser thiâde · wither thâm wanfîande,
wither thâm wanriuchte, · wither thēra wandêde;
with wanweder wara · wâgar âk hrôf,
skardinge âk kornfeld · âk skip oppa sê;
Wîthuner, wîa · wathemar ûsre!
Warldwara, wesa thû · welkumen âmmêr!

 

Translation:

I heard true, old tales
of a far-known, greatly strong hero,
a mighty fighter of Wóden’s kin,
a bull-like wielder of lightenings.

Hallow-Thunor listen! World-protector hearken!
Hear in oak-woods, Earth’s son,
heaven’s houses, fields of clouds,
in gods’ courts, high mountains,
along the wagon-travelled cloud-road!

Of your honor, Almighty,
I eagerly sing, greatest sudden-striker!
Best of victors, I sing of you!
Be welcome, strongest of fighters!

Hearken all how he struck hard
against adder’s head upon the woefully cold sea,
hit with hammer the worm’s head,
wounded harshly the violent snake,
when he became the bane of the evil worm
adder-conqueror threw him down then,
bold fighter! He brought a kettle
to the gods’ ale-feast, almighty Thuner,
unlittle fame! His dread hammer,
a forceful weapon, this wagon-driver
often throws against giant-heads,
kills evil things with strength-blows,
he overpowers in each fight,
the shining lone-fighter always wins victory.

All hear his loud fame
over the mountains, dwellings of men,
deep woods, broad water,
over the fields full with growth.

Almighty god! Gods’ champion!
Wagon-driver! Ruler of lightening!
Lord of goats and farmers’ friend!
Ward our tribe against the evil enemy,
against the injustice, against the evil deed;
against bad weather ward walls and roofs,
yard-fence and grain-field and ships upon the sea;
Hallow-Thuner, hallow our holy places!
World-protector, be welcome always!