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Relationship-Based Heathenry: Ethics and Practices: Part Two

By John T Mainer

[Snip] Reciprocal gifting relationships are what Heathens seek to develop between each class of being they interact with. We build these relationships with the wights, being classified as all things having spirit includes all living people, animals, plants, the spirits of rivers, lakes and streams, of field, forest and home. The laws of hospitality in the Havamal guide us in building these relationships between people, but apply as well to the other wights, the animals and plants that surround us, and that we not only share our land with, but depend upon. This building of relationships through exchange of gifts becomes the centerpiece of practice for spiritual matters as well. We offer to the wights of the lands we are in, we offer to the ancestors that came before us, and to the Disir, the female ancestral spirits whom tradition has guide and guard our lines still. We offer to powerful and self-aware spirits of the lands around us, the alfar, the Jotun. Some we seek to build relationships with, some we seek merely to placate because their nature is not friendly to our presence. The volcano will not be your friend; it might perhaps not kill you today.

A question that drives most new heathens nuts is “who is a god?” Well that is a funny one. In heathenry, godhood is relationship based. Jotun or giants are classified as powerful self-aware discrete knowable entities of tremendous power, embodying powerful natural forces. Gods are those with whom we have built reciprocal gifting relationships. Our gods are of the tribes of the Aesir and Vanir. Most are at least half Jotun by blood, some completely so. What makes them Aesir and Vanir is the honouring of those bonds, the acceptance of duty. It is the reciprocal gifting relationship that makes Skadi a goddess, even though she was a Frost Giant until demanding her suffering price. Sif, Gerd, and most of the goddesses are in fact Jotuns won in marriage from those tribes. Their marriage vows made them Aesir and Vanir, and brought with them ties to us.

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Translating the Life of Merlin

By Callum Seymour

This essay analyses three of the most prominent translations of the Life of Merlin, in order to discern how the translator’s differing methods have resulted in subtle, yet important, changes in meaning. There have been three academic translations of the Life produced since 1925, and each of these translations has a distinct feel and way of approaching the text. This essay first examines in depth the approach in each translation, it then focuses on four particular sections of the Life: the opening passage, Merlin’s fall into madness, his first awakening from madness and finally his subsequent capture at court after his madness returns. These sections form the first third of the poem, and establish the major narrative themes involving the wilderness and madness that recur throughout the remainder. By closely examining each translation of these sections of the poem, it can be demonstrated that each is not only distinct, but also influenced by factors such as the translator’s context, and how previous editors have presented the Life.

The Life of Merlin was written be Geoffrey of Monmouth. Geoffrey was a Latin author writing in Oxford in the twelfth century. Originally educated in Monmouth, Wales, Geoffrey was influenced by the history and traditions of the Celtic and British peoples. His most famous work, The History of the Kings of Britain, introduced the figures of King Arthur and Merlin to Western Literature, and consequently Geoffrey is considered an influential figure of the Middle Ages. Although his Arthurian material was accessible to such a wide audience because it was written in Latin, during his text’s cultural diffusion the stories were also translated into other European languages. In translation, these characters were influenced by the cultures which became interested in them, and so adapted to different purposes in the hands of translators from as early as the time Geoffrey was writing. Over time, these stories continually changed and this is evident in how different they are today from the original texts that Geoffrey produced.

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Shiva: Horned God of My Heart

By Jason Mankey

I have been a devotee of the god Shiva for nearly fifteen years. While my experiences with Him haven’t quite been as dramatic as those with Pan, Dionysus, or Cernunnos; he still holds a place in my heart. On an emotional level I feel as if I understand Shiva, on an intellectual level when reading about Him I sometimes feel as if I’m reading about dozens of different deities that all just happen to have the same name.

Writing about Shiva presents a multitude of challenges for a variety of reasons. The worship of Shiva is a very real, continuing thing, and has been for over 3000 years. I worship several gods that have been a part of the historical record for at least that long, but they all have long gaps in their worship. Shiva’s worship has been constant, and he’s not a god re-emerging in the Modern World, he’s been an active part of things since he was first worshipped. Gods like Pan have been reconstructed to some degree to fit the modern age, Shiva has just always been. Any “tinkering” has been done on the fly.

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Survival of the Old Ways

By Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried

Recently, while considering what to feature in a new post, I asked our Icelandic friend Kári Pálsson if he had written any articles on Icelandic traditions since his essay on “The Valley of the Gods.” He didn’t have a new piece, but he was kind enough to search for an interesting item through back issues of Vor Siður (“Our Way”), the newsletter of the Ásatrúarfélagið (“Æsir Faith Fellowship,” Iceland’s heathen organization). Since writing his last article, Kári has been elected to the Ásatrú group’s lögretta (very roughly translated as “board of directors”).

Kári found the following piece by Agnar J. Levy and emailed it to me. I loved it. While seeking permission to translate and post the short article, I found out that Agnar is the father of Jóhannes A. Levy, a friend who has helped me track down Icelandic sources for several articles (including this one). Jóhannes not only gave me permission to post the piece, but he also kindly provided a collection of related information on his father and on rural life in mid-20th-century Iceland.

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News Flash: Fairy Tales Are All about Goddesses

By Jeri Studebaker

The idea that fairy tales were born out of Pagan religion is not a new one. Over the years scholars have often written about fairy tales being pre-Christian in origin. In fact, almost as soon as literate Europeans began to take an interest in fairy tales they admitted that these stories contained secret, coded information about old Pagan religions. Here for example is what Swiss Jungian psychologist Marie-Louise von Franz had to say about the matter:

Scientific interest in [fairy tales] began in the 18th century with Einckelmann, Haman, and J.G. Herder…. Herder said that such tales contained the remnants of an old long-buried faith expressed in symbols…. Dissatisfaction with Christian teaching and the first longings for a more vital, earthy and instinctual wisdom began then…. It was this religious search for something which seemed lacking in official Christian teaching that first induced the famous brothers Jakob [sic] and Wilhelm Grimm to collect folk tales (1987: 3).

According to von Franz, fairy tales reside “in the realm of the gods” (1976: 4). Likewise, goddess scholar Heide Gottner-Abendroth says fairy tales are ancient religious myths: “…the fairy tale, being a veiled myth, conveys the same religious message as the myth, and is equally complex” (1993: 136), and Jungian scholar Bettina Knapp too suggests that many kinds of fairy-tale characters were actually Pagan deities: “With the onset of Christianity, fairies, along with other supernormal figures, were said to have descended from ancient gods and goddesses, or in other cases from nymphs, fallen angels, unbaptized souls” (2003: 6). Even Jacob Grimm himself assumed that many to most fairy tales were all about Pagan religion.

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Odin and his Brothers: Common Threads of the Odinic Tradition

By Timothy J. Stephany

Abstract: Within the Poetic Edda Odin, Lodur (Loki) and Haenir are responsible for the creation of
humanity in Nordic mythology. Odin can be seen in an early form as a god of the sky, Loki as a god of fire, and Haenir as a god of water. These gods of creation can be connected to Syrian myth in the case of Vili and Ve (Eilli and Ea) and to Indian myth in the case of Loki and Haenir (Agni and Soma). These associations are reinforced through parallels relating specifically to similarities of the myth of the mead of poetry with that of the soma in the case of the Indian and in the Baldric tradition in the case of the Syrian. There is some potential of establishing a latest possible date for the origin of the myth, as well as an original form of the myth, when common details are identified.

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How to Do Interfaith: Basics For Pagan Beginners, Part 1

By Holli Emore

Someone asked me recently, however did you gain acceptance in South Carolina as a Pagan interfaith leader? Honestly, the story is not much of a mystery, but I’ve learned some things along the way which you may find useful.

1. Show up. Patrick McCollum was asked once what is the key to successfully building Pagan community. His answer was, “Show up.” If you want to be part of something, you have to be there when the action happens. That may mean visiting religious services, meetings, discussion groups and the like. It’s how you get to know people.

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Religion in the Ancient Novel

By Froma I. Zeitlin

Abstract: This chapter of the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to the Ancient Novel, ed. Tim Whitmarsh, (2007) surveys the pervasive presence of religion and the sacred in the extant Greek and Roman novels and addresses the much discussed issues of its roles and functions, with an emphasis on the challenges the topic poses to the interpretation of the genre’s core erotic ideology. It also explores instances of the fictional imagination at work in absorbing, modifying, and creatively refining a few selected religious elements.

Religion plays a central role in the plot of virtually every fictional narrative, influencing the lives, actions, mentality, practices, beliefs, and eventual fates of the characters (and narrators); the types, interventions, and motives of divinity or other uncanny forces; the use of mythological exemplars, and more broadly, the array of
problems that the entire subject poses for interpretation of the genre’s conventions. The novels are full of: temples, shrines, altars, priests, rituals and offerings, dreams (or oracles), prophecies, divine epiphanies, aretalogies, mystic language and other metaphors of the sacred (not forgetting, in addition, exotic barbarian rites). Indeed, religious elements, such as these, familiar to virtually any inhabitant of the ancient world, are richly attested, of course, in history and archaeology. The topography of any ancient city, for example, would be unrecognisable without its temples and shrines, its statues and votive offerings, its frequent public festivals and processions, and its generally familiar modes of worship. Such is the case in the novels, for all their differences, in which its characters range far and wide in the course of their wanderings and communicate with the sacred in these habitual ways, whether in the cities of Asia Minor (Ephesus, Miletus, Rhodes, Sidon, Byzantium), Egypt (Memphis, Thebes, Alexandria), Greece (Delphi, Corinth), Italy (Syracuse, Rome) and elsewhere.

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(H/T History of the Ancient World)

Lughnasa – Festival of the Harvest

By Morgan Daimler

Lughnasa is also called Lughnasadh, Lunasa, Brón Trogain, Lunsadal, Laa Luanys, Calan Awst, and Gouel an Eost, and Alexei Kondratiev conjectures that the Celts of Gaul may have called this celebration Aedrinia (Kondratiev, 1998). The many names of the holiday show it’s pan-Celtic character, and demonstrate that it could be found across the Celtic world. Several of the names for the holiday are references to the beginning of autumn or of the harvest.

The most well known Irish name of the festival, Lughnasadh or Lughnasa, can be broken down into Lugh Nasadh and translated into either Middle or Old Irish as the assembly of Lugh or the funeral assembly of Lugh. The connection to a funeral assembly undoubtedly references the belief that the celebration was originally created by the god Lugh as a memorial for his foster mother, Tailtiu, after her death, and the assembly of Lugh is thought to refer to the many athletic games and competitions associated with the harvest fairs that occurred at this time.

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Heathen Woman: The Sacrifice

By Heather O’Brien

When we consider the stories of the Norse gods that are found in the Eddas, one common theme is that of self-sacrifice. The most obvious and talked about sacrifice is Odin’s eye, which he traded to Mimir for a drink from the deep well of wisdom. Some scholars have debated as to whether the eye that Odin left was perhaps his third eye, so that he could see into extended depths throughout the realms and further his pursuit of wisdom in various matters. Others, however, say the eye he left was a physical representation of how far the Allfather was willing to go to obtain the truth and wisdom that was held in each of the nine worlds. I am of the belief that it was a physical sacrifice, but regardless, it is just one instance of Odin’s willingness to give up a part of himself in consideration of the bigger picture and the part he plays in it. It is his role in being the chieftain, shaman, guide, and wise counselor to seek and know the intricate details and spiritual energies of living beings.

Odin proves his commitment to the pursuit of wisdom once again in his quest for the runes. He hung for nine days and nights upon the tree Yggdrasil after being pierced by his own spear. Without food, water, or aid, he remained in a determined effort to reach for, and bring back, the runes. In Midgard, he instructs us to learn and study until we ourselves understand what they represent and the energies that they possess.

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