Today Belongs to Freyja, Friday’s Namesake, Goddess of Abundance, Fertility and War

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Today Belongs to Freyja, Friday’s Namesake,

Goddess of Abundance, Fertility and War

Freya was the sister of the god Freyr, and was one of the Vanir, the Norse deities of earth and water that lived in Asgard. Venerated by women, heroes and rulers alike, she was the Scandinavian goddess of fertility and abundance. Freyja could be called upon for assistance in childbirth and conception, to aid with marital problems, or to bestow fruitfulness upon the land and sea.

In some traditions, she is known not only as Freyr’s sister but his wife as well.

Like Freyr, she is associated with material wealth. She was known to wear a magnificent necklace called Brisingamen, which represents the fire of the sun, and was said to weep tears of gold. In the Norse Eddas, Freyja is not only a goddess of fertility and wealth, but also of war and battle. In fact, she is the lady of the hall of the battle-fallen in Valhalla. While some have theorized that she was the leader of the Valkyries, the Eddas don’t specifically identify her as such. She also has connections to magic and divination.

Freyja was similar to Frigg, the chief goddess of the Aesir, which was the Norse race of sky deities.

Both were connected with childrearing, and could take on the aspect of a bird. Freyja owned a magical cloak of hawk’s feathers, which allowed her to transform at will. This cloak is given to Frigg in some of the Eddas.

Author

Patti Wigington, Paganism/Wicca Expert
Article published on & owned by About.com

 

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Odin, Ruler of the Norse Gods, Wednesday’s Name Sake

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Odin, Ruler of the Norse Gods, Wednesday’s Name Sake

In the Norse pantheon, Asgard was the home of the gods, and it was the place where one could find Odin, the supreme deity of them all. Connected to his Germanic ancestor Woden or Wodan, Odin was the god of kings and the mentor of young heroes, to whom he often gave magical gifts.

In addition to being a king himself, Odin was a shapeshifter, and frequently roamed the world in disguise. One of his favorite manifestations was that of a one-eyed old man; in the Norse Eddas, the one-eyed man appears regularly as a bringer of wisdom and knowledge to heroes.

He pops up in everything from the saga of the Volsungs to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. He was typically accompanied by a pack of wolves and ravens, and rode on a magic horse named Sleipnir. Odin is associated with the concept of the wild hunt, and leads a noisy hoarde of fallen warriors across the sky.

Odin was said to summon dead heroes and kings to Valhalla, which they entered accompanied by the host of Valkyries. Once in Valhalla, the fallen engaged in feasting and combat, always ready to defend Asgard from its enemies. Odin’s warrior followers, the Berserkers, wore the pelts of a wolf or bear in battle, and worked themselves up into an ecstatic frenzy that made them oblivious to the pain of their wounds.

As a young man Odin hung on the world tree, Yggdrasil, for nine days while pierced by his own javelin, in order to obtain the wisdom of the nine worlds. This enabled him to learn the magic of the runes. Nine is a significant number in the Norse sagas, and appears frequently.

Odin continues to maintain a strong following, particularly amongst members of the Asatru community.

Author

Patti Wigington, Paganism/Wicca Expert
Article published on & owned by About.com

The Yule of Our Ancestors

The Yule of Our Ancestors

by Wlfgar Greggarson

The Yule tree is probably one of the most recognizable symbols of the Yule
season. For me, the tree always stood for the coming together of family. It has
been one thing that bound my family together, the center focus for the children
eagerly awaiting the present-opening ritual. For the adults, it was a
comfortable place to drink and catch up on old times. The Yule tree was a
much-needed place of peace for my large family. Now, as an adult with a little
more worldly knowledge, I have found a deeper understanding of the Yule tree’s
lore and purpose.

Customarily, the tree was a spruce or other evergreen, which symbolized the
survival of green life through the barren months of winter, the people’s hope
and nature’s promise that the earth would once again spring back to life. It
was a symbol that the cold touch from the god of death would wane with the
rebirth of the newly returned sun. Surely the goddess of life would and could
replenish all of the earth after Old Man Winter had his fun.

In various parts of Europe, fruit-bearing trees were an important feature
during the Yule season. In more natural times, the folk would gather at a large
apple tree on Twelfth Night to hang cider-soaked bread on its branches for the
good spirits and all the fey and thus renew and strengthen the fragile and
cherished relationship with the wee folk.

Yule has also been a time to begin certain harvest magick. In parts of Denmark,
the people would go out and shake the fruit trees, then hang a token of the
Yule season in their branches and pray for a good harvest in the summer. The
fruit tree is also a sign of the triumph of life through death, much as the
evergreen is a symbol of life’s continuance.

Possibly the origin of decorating the Yule tree lies with the people known as
the Lapplanders or, more correctly, the Sami. It is said the Sami would take
small portions of meals eaten on holy days, put them in pieces of birch bark,
then after making ships out of them, complete with sails, hang them on trees
behind their homes as offerings to the J”l (Yule) spirits.

At some point, it became unsafe to observe heathen Yule practices publicly; it
is probable that, at this point, the Yule tree was brought into the home. Pagan
Yule practices, symbolism and holy tokens became enmeshed and hidden within the
Christ birth mythology. Yule’s theme of honoring the sun, newly reborn, and the
triumph of light through darkness is quite an easy target for an opportunistic
religion.

There are many other Yule traditions, such as wreath making, cake baking, ale
brewing and so on. Another was wassailing, a kind of ritual toasting and
singing, which comes from the words Wes Hal, meaning to be whole. Wassail the
drink was usually a hot cider mixture drunk from a maple turned bowl.

The actual Yule feast is also a favorite of this hungry heathen. The Yule
season ended on Twelfth Night, which is now celebrated on December 31. In more
ancient times, Mothers Night was observed on December 25 and the festivities
continued until January 5. Mothers Night, the beginning of the Yule season
ritual observance, was practiced on different days at different places and
times and is now celebrated beginning at sunset on December 20. Mothers Night
activities included making wreaths woven with wishes for the coming year, a
rite to bless the family and exchanging gifts.

Wreath making can be a fun activity for a coven, kindred or family. Wreaths can
be made using a circular candle holder that holds four candles. Evergreen
branches, sprigs of holly and nuts are good items to offer as gifts to the Yule
spirits. Being that a gift calls for a gift, we can tie small pieces of red
ribbon onto the wreaths with our requests and wishes for the coming season, to
be answered by the Yule spirits.

The Yule log is probably one of the most important aspects of the Yule time
festivities. The log traditionally was kindled from the burnt remains of the
previous year’s Yule fire. The Yule log symbolizes the light returning to
conquer the darkness. Decoration for your log can be of various evergreens,
holly, mistletoe, nuts, fruit and so forth. There are many traditional ways to
collect your log; what I do, because it seems most practical, is save the
thickest part of my Yule tree when it comes time to throw it away. This I keep
through the year (making sure a well-intentioned friend doesn’t accidentally
throw it in the fireplace – no names mentioned), then I decorate it, put
offerings on it and send it to Valhalla.

The burning of the log can be a fun party for your group or family with a round
of toasting, boasting, bragging or promises for things to come in the next
year. In my opinion, this is best done drinking hot cider, because when mead or
ale is drunk, the toasting, boasting and bragging can get out of hand.

Appropriate items to hang on our trees include cookies in the shape of horses,
swine, birds, cats and trees. Apples if available, most varieties of nuts,
strings of cranberries and popcorn are also nice. I like to use my scroll saw
to cut wood into shapes such as horses, swine or other holy tokens such as
pentagrams, labrys, Thor’s hammers, sun wheels and, one of my favorites, the
Valknut, which is three interlocking triangles, a symbol sacred to Odin.

Other Yule season facts are out there, not far out of reach. We can research
and find these things and revive the practices that touch our heathen hearts.
It is our right and responsibility to revive this old lore and educate others
of the many pagan origins of this very heathen time. I hope this small article
will stir your interest in our pagan heritage.

Wassail!

Deity of the Day for August 6 – The Valkyries

Valkyries

by Micha F. Lindemans
The Valkyries (“Choosers of the Slain”) are beautiful young women, mounted upon winged horses and armed with helmets and spears. Odin needs many brave warriors for the oncoming battle of Ragnarok, and the Valkyries scout the battlefields to choose the bravest of those who have been slain. They escort these heroes, called the Einherjar to Valhalla, Odin’s hall.The Valkyries are also Odin’s messengers and when they ride forth on their errands, their armor causes the strange flickering light that is called “Aurora Borealis” (Northern Lights).

Some of the Valyries are Brynhildr, Göll, Göndul, Gudr, Gunn, Herfjoturr, Hildr, Hladgunnr, Hlokk, Hrist, Sigrdrifa, Sigrún, and Svafa.

Old Norse: Valkyrja. An 8th and 9th century term for them is Wælcyrge

Calendar of the Sun for May 30th

30 Thrimilchimonath

Meinherjar: Feast of Valhalla

Color: Red
Element: Fire
Altar: Upon a red cloth lay many weapons, a horn of mead, and four red candles.
Offering: Tend the graves of the honored dead.
Daily Meal: Beef.

Meinherjar Invocation

Hail to the fallen dead!
Hail to the brave ones
Who fought to the end,
Whether the enemy was disease
Or failure of the body
Or weariness of soul
Or the hate of another.
Hail to those who fell
Guarding the helpless and weak!
Hail to those who fell
Defending the land of their ancestors!
Hail to those who fell
Righting great wrongs!
Hail to those who fell
Succumbing to the powers
Of the creeping deaths
And their dark cousins.
Show us the truth, legions of Valhalla!
The only straw death,
The only dishonorable death,
Is one where Death is met
Not as an honorable opponent
Or a welcome bridegroom
But as a fearsome master
To be groveled before.
Give us your courage, legions of Valhalla!

(The horn of mead is passed around, and each names a member of the fallen dead that they particularly respect. The rest is poured out as a libation to the dead. Each steps forward, takes a weapon from the altar, and bears it from the room in honor.)

[Pagan Book of Hours]

Deity of the Day for March 29th – FREYA

FREYA

Also known as FREYJA

 

Goddess of Love, Fertility and Sexual Desire. She’s also a feisty warrior and Queen of the VALKYRIES.

The daughter of NJORD, and the beautiful twin sister of FREYR, she is — to put it in modern vernacular — a bit of a goer. She did marry a God called OD, causing much confusion amongst academics and historians who have confused him with ODIN leading to further confusion by confusing her with FRIGG. (This is why you need Godchecker.) But OD was a bit of a goer himself and nipped out one day for pastures new.

 

This caused much weeping of golden tears, but as usual FREYA made the best of a bad job and really went off the rails. She ran wild with Gods, mortals, giants and dwarves.

The stories and allegations of how she gained possession of Brisingamen, the golden amber necklace of desire, are scandalous. Especially the one about her bedding four dwarves in turn before they would give it to her. But this sort of thing is just titillation. In any case, the necklace was stolen by LOKI and — although it was rescued by HEIMDALL — we don’t think she got it back.

Being a strong-willed warrior maiden, she joined and then led the VALKYRIES — so that she could have first pick of the slain battlefield warriors. Most of the slain go to VALHALLA, but the good-looking heroes go straight to her palace for rest and recuperation.

But FREYA does have a softer side — she loves romantic music and bunches of flowers. Her daughters are the beautiful HNOSS and the equally beautiful GERSEMI.

Deity of the Day for December 23rd – Odin

Odin – Ruler of the Norse Gods

By Patti Wigington, About.com Guide

In the Norse pantheon, Asgard was the home of the gods, and it was the place where one could find Odin, the supreme deity of them all. Connected to his Germanic ancestor Woden or Wodan, Odin was the god of kings and the mentor of young heroes, to whom he often gave magical gifts.

In addition to being a king himself, Odin was a shapeshifter, and frequently roamed the world in disguise. One of his favorite manifestations was that of a one-eyed old man; in the Norse Eddas, the one-eyed man appears regularly as a bringer of wisdom and knowledge to heroes. He pops up in everything from the saga of the Volsungs to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. He was typically accompanied by a pack of wolves and ravens, and rode on a magic horse named Sleipnir. Odin is associated with the concept of the wild hunt, and leads a noisy hoarde of fallen warriors across the sky.

Odin was said to summon dead heroes and kings to Valhalla, which they entered accompanied by the host of Valkyries. Once in Valhalla, the fallen engaged in feasting and combat, always ready to defend Asgard from its enemies. Odin’s warrior followers, the Berserkers, wore the pelts of a wolf or bear in battle, and worked themselves up into an ecstatic frenzy that made them oblivious to the pain of their wounds.

As a young man Odin hung on the world tree, Yggdrasil, for nine days while pierced by his own javelin, in order to obtain the wisdom of the nine worlds. This enabled him to learn the magic of the runes. Nine is a significant number in the Norse sagas, and appears frequently.

Odin continues to maintain a strong following, particularly amongst members of the Asatru community.

The Yule of Our Ancestors

The Yule of Our Ancestors

by Wülfgar Greggarson

The Yule tree is probably one of the most recognizable symbols of the Yule season. For me, the tree always stood for the coming together of family. It has been one thing that bound my family together, the center focus for the children eagerly awaiting the present-opening ritual. For the adults, it was a comfortable place to drink and catch up on old times. The Yule tree was a much-needed place of peace for my large family. Now, as an adult with a little more worldly knowledge, I have found a deeper understanding of the Yule tree’s lore and purpose.

Customarily, the tree was a spruce or other evergreen, which symbolized the survival of green life through the barren months of winter, the people’s hope and nature’s promise that the earth would once again spring back to life. It was a symbol that the cold touch from the god of death would wane with the rebirth of the newly returned sun. Surely the goddess of life would and could replenish all of the earth after Old Man Winter had his fun.

In various parts of Europe, fruit-bearing trees were an important feature during the Yule season. In more natural times, the folk would gather at a large apple tree on Twelfth Night to hang cider-soaked bread on its branches for the good spirits and all the fey and thus renew and strengthen the fragile and cherished relationship with the wee folk.

Yule has also been a time to begin certain harvest magick. In parts of Denmark, the people would go out and shake the fruit trees, then hang a token of the Yule season in their branches and pray for a good harvest in the summer. The fruit tree is also a sign of the triumph of life through death, much as the evergreen is a symbol of life’s continuance.

Possibly the origin of decorating the Yule tree lies with the people known as the Lapplanders or, more correctly, the Sami. It is said the Sami would take small portions of meals eaten on holy days, put them in pieces of birch bark, then after making ships out of them, complete with sails, hang them on trees behind their homes as offerings to the Jöl (Yule) spirits.

At some point, it became unsafe to observe heathen Yule practices publicly; it is probable that, at this point, the Yule tree was brought into the home. Pagan Yule practices, symbolism and holy tokens became enmeshed and hidden within the Christ birth mythology. Yule’s theme of honoring the sun, newly reborn, and the triumph of light through darkness is quite an easy target for an opportunistic religion.

There are many other Yule traditions, such as wreath making, cake baking, ale brewing and so on. Another was wassailing, a kind of ritual toasting and singing, which comes from the words Wes Hal, meaning to be whole. Wassail the drink was usually a hot cider mixture drunk from a maple turned bowl.

The actual Yule feast is also a favorite of this hungry heathen. The Yule season ended on Twelfth Night, which is now celebrated on December 31. In more ancient times, Mothers Night was observed on December 25 and the festivities continued until January 5. Mothers Night, the beginning of the Yule season ritual observance, was practiced on different days at different places and times and is now celebrated beginning at sunset on December 20. Mothers Night activities included making wreaths woven with wishes for the coming year, a rite to bless the family and exchanging gifts.

Wreath making can be a fun activity for a coven, kindred or family. Wreaths can be made using a circular candle holder that holds four candles. Evergreen branches, sprigs of holly and nuts are good items to offer as gifts to the Yule spirits. Being that a gift calls for a gift, we can tie small pieces of red ribbon onto the wreaths with our requests and wishes for the coming season, to be answered by the Yule spirits.

The Yule log is probably one of the most important aspects of the Yule time festivities. The log traditionally was kindled from the burnt remains of the previous year’s Yule fire. The Yule log symbolizes the light returning to conquer the darkness. Decoration for your log can be of various evergreens, holly, mistletoe, nuts, fruit and so forth. There are many traditional ways to collect your log; what I do, because it seems most practical, is save the thickest part of my Yule tree when it comes time to throw it away. This I keep through the year (making sure a well-intentioned friend doesn’t accidentally throw it in the fireplace – no names mentioned), then I decorate it, put offerings on it and send it to Valhalla.

The burning of the log can be a fun party for your group or family with a round of toasting, boasting, bragging or promises for things to come in the next year. In my opinion, this is best done drinking hot cider, because when mead or ale is drunk, the toasting, boasting and bragging can get out of hand.

Appropriate items to hang on our trees include cookies in the shape of horses, swine, birds, cats and trees. Apples if available, most varieties of nuts, strings of cranberries and popcorn are also nice. I like to use my scroll saw to cut wood into shapes such as horses, swine or other holy tokens such as pentagrams, labrys, Thor’s hammers, sun wheels and, one of my favorites, the Valknut, which is three interlocking triangles, a symbol sacred to Odin.

Other Yule season facts are out there, not far out of reach. We can research and find these things and revive the practices that touch our heathen hearts. It is our right and responsibility to revive this old lore and educate others of the many pagan origins of this very heathen time. I hope this small article will stir your interest in our pagan heritage.

Wassail!

Samhain God – Odin

Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard. Homologous with the Anglo-Saxon “Wōden” and the Old High German “Wotan”, the name is descended from Proto-Germanic “Wodanaz” or “Wōđanaz”. “Odin” is generally accepted as the modern English form of the name, although, in some cases, older forms may be used or preferred. In the compound Wednesday, the first member is cognate to the genitive Odin’s. His name is related to ōðr, meaning “fury, excitation,” besides “mind,” or “poetry.” His role, like that of many of the Norse gods, is complex. Odin is a principal member of the Æsir (the major group of the Norse pantheon) and is associated with war, battle, victory and death, but also wisdom, magic, poetry, prophecy, and the hunt. Odin has many sons, the most famous of whom is Thor.

Odin had three residences in Asgard. First was Gladsheim, a vast hall where he presided over the twelve Diar or Judges, whom he had appointed to regulate the affairs of Asgard. Second, Valaskjálf, built of solid silver, in which there was an elevated place, Hlidskjalf, from his throne on which he could perceive all that passed throughout the whole earth. Third was Valhalla (the hall of the fallen), where Odin received the souls of the warriors killed in battle, called the Einherjar. The souls of women warriors, and those strong and beautiful women whom Odin favored, became Valkyries, who gather the souls of warriors fallen in battle (the Einherjar), as these would be needed to fight for him in the battle of Ragnarök. They took the souls of the warriors to Valhalla. Valhalla has five hundred and forty gates, and a vast hall of gold, hung around with golden shields, and spears and coats of mail.

Odin has a number of magical artifacts associated with him: the spear Gungnir, which never misses its target; a magical gold ring (Draupnir), from which every ninth night eight new rings appear; and two ravens Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Memory), who fly around Earth daily and report the happenings of the world to Odin in Valhalla at night. He also owned Sleipnir, an octopedal horse, who was given to Odin by Loki, and the severed head of Mímir, which foretold the future. He also commands a pair of wolves named Geri and Freki, to whom he gives his food in Valhalla since he consumes nothing but mead or wine. From his throne, Hlidskjalf (located in Valaskjalf), Odin could see everything that occurred in the universe. The Valknut (slain warrior’s knot) is a symbol associated with Odin. It consists of three interlaced triangles.

Odin is an ambivalent deity. Old Norse (Viking Age) connotations of Odin lie with “poetry, inspiration” as well as with “fury, madness and the wanderer.” Odin sacrificed his eye (which eye he sacrificed is unclear) at Mímir’s spring in order to gain the Wisdom of Ages. Odin gives to worthy poets the mead of inspiration, made by the dwarfs, from the vessel Óð-rœrir.

Odin is associated with the concept of the Wild Hunt, a noisy, bellowing movement across the sky, leading a host of slain warriors.

Consistent with this, Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda depicts Odin as welcoming the great, dead warriors who have died in battle into his hall, Valhalla, which, when literally interpreted, signifies the hall of the slain. The fallen, the einherjar, are assembled and entertained by Odin in order that they in return might fight for, and support, the gods in the final battle of the end of Earth, Ragnarök. Snorri also wrote that Freyja receives half of the fallen in her hall Folkvang.

He is also a god of war, appearing throughout Norse myth as the bringer of victory. In the Norse sagas, Odin sometimes acts as the instigator of wars, and is said to have been able to start wars by simply throwing down his spear Gungnir, and/or sending his valkyries, to influence the battle toward the end that he desires. The Valkyries are Odin’s beautiful battle maidens that went out to the fields of war to select and collect the worthy men who died in battle to come and sit at Odin’s table in Valhalla, feasting and battling until they had to fight in the final battle, Ragnarök. Odin would also appear on the battle-field, sitting upon his eight-legged horse Sleipnir, with his two ravens, one on each shoulder, Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory), and two wolves (Geri and Freki) on each side of him.

Odin is also associated with trickery, cunning, and deception. Most sagas have tales of Odin using his cunning to overcome adversaries and achieve his goals, such as swindling the blood of Kvasir from the dwarves.

On September 2, 2009 an amateur archaeologist found a small silver figurine at Lejre in Denmark. It has been dated to around AD 900. The figurine is only 2 centimeters tall and shows a person sitting on a throne adorned with two beast heads and flanked by two birds on the arm-rests. The excavator interpreted the piece as a representation of Odin, Hugin and Munin. Scholars specialising in Viking Period dress and gender representations, however, pointed out that the person is dressed entirely in female attire, making it more probably a goddess such as Freya or Frigga.