Modraniht, Mother’s Night (Ritual)

This is a personal ceremony I designed for my Modraniht observances. It requires some sort of offering and three candles. (The three candles should ideally be: a well-used stub, a partially used candle, and an unlit candle. For best use, use the mother’s candle this year for fore-mother’s next year and the daughter candle from this year for the mother’s candle next year.)

(Start with the most well used candle already lit.)

Tonight I call out to you to join me in celebration. I call you this night to join me in remembrance.

(You should call out to your individual matronae now.)

We have all lost loved ones, mothers and grandmothers in our years.
Their hands guided the strands of our wyrd; they shaped our Orlæg (Orlog).
The goddesses too have their place with us tonight as they guide us all.

Tonight is Mother’s night, tonight we remember
Our mothers, grandmothers, who to sheltered us here
Listening to them spin tales next to dying ember’
Tonight, we once again lend them our ear

Four rounds we take, with the flame
We pass the fire like stories and knowledge
We pass the fire from generation to the next

Once round first for the old ones with the burnt stub
So well used tis only a small nub
For our foremothers, we give thanks

(Circle around with the first lit candle.)

Second, for the mothers who here or not,
Have us so much given and taught
For our mothers, tonight we give thanks

(Use first candle to light the second. Circle around with the second lit candle.)

Third, one candle brand new, never lit
For daughters who one day beside a hearth will sit
For our daughters, now and future, we give thanks

(Use second candle to light the third. Circle around with the third candle.)

Remember the goddesses, for candles three
Weaving and spinning together your family tree
Tonight, give thanks to all mothers come and gone
as we await the rising of the new dawn.

(Put out an offering for your matronae. I use small cakes I baked for the occasion but some grain would do nicely.)

* Take some time to quietly remember your mother(s), grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and any matronae you have in your family, all your fore-mothers. When you are done, thank them once more and snuff the candles out. Leave the offering out over night and dispose of it in the morning.

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Propitiation

Propitiation is a concept in paganism that does not receive the discussion it deserves. You see we do a fairly alright job of describing the gifting cycle and those concepts regarding offering. We know that as we gift a friendly god we build a relationship of reciprocal gifting with them that increases over time. But we fall short when describing offering to chaotic forces.

While I have taken issue with the concept that the gods universally represent order, they do on a whole represent order a majority of the time. That is not to say they are not on occasion fickle; they do have their destructive or chaotic moments. That said, there are forces which are much the inverse of the gods in that where the gods represent order, those other forces represent chaos. In terms of sheer power the chaotic forces are often on par with the gods. But whether you call these things Ettins or baneful wights the end result is the same, these beings are chaotic and can cause destruction and devastation and unrest and suffering. Are they gods? I would argue that the only thing truly separating them in might and being from the gods is their attitudes and bearing towards men. But hesitate to call them gods in the same respect. Yet It Is here that the difference between propitiation and the gifting cycle comes into play.

Propitiation implies appeasement. It implies that it is to lessen the negatives of something. Chaotic forces can be offered propitiation to appease them and keep them from killing you today or tomorrow or from wrecking your day. I have seen rituals where people offered propitiation beforehand so that outside forces would not impede the ritual. But that doesn’t make them benevolent, it means you can pay them off. They will drop you like a hot rock the second they see fit. It isn’t the gifting cycle. The gifting cycle builds a relationship. You cannot build a relationship with chaos.

The wild places. The rivers. The untamed places. The mountains. The Glaciers. The thorny places. The Ettins. Chaotic deities. They’re all like the gods in their might but not all deities are benevolent and not all are kind and not all have equal disposition towards humans and not all enter gifting cycles that benefit humans.

The wilds will send forth beasts. The rivers will flood or even on the best of times dash your head on the rocks. The untamed places will make you lose your way. The mountains will drop rocks onto you or make you lose your footing. The Glaciers will send forth icebergs and sink your boat. The Ettins and chaotic deities will devour you and your sacrifices with equal glee.

If you work with the forces of chaos you should understand this, you’ve been practicing propitiation. All your sacrifices do not build a truly lasting relationship as relationships are a function of order. It’s not a gifting cycle, its paying the chaotic forces off. It’s like the Danegeld, don’t be surprised if the chaotic forces decide to turn on you eventually because you’re courting chaos after all.

Midsummer – Liþa

Midsummer was this past week, the summer solstice, the longest day and the shortest night of the whole year. For heathens, Midsummer is one of the holiest tides we can celebrate throughout the year.

The Anglo-Saxons celebrated Midsummer as Liþa, midnesumor, and midsumordæg. These celebrations were likely as important in their own right as Yule was when considering the similarity in the month structure of their calendar as recorded by Bede. The calendar was primarily lunar, with the months based on the movements of the moon. The two exceptions to this are the celebrations of Liþa and Geola (Yule) which were celebrated by the solstices. These also represent the midpoints in the seasons, Liþa as the middle of summer and Geola as the middle of winter. They used these solar points to reset their primarily lunar calendar to maintain order throughout the year; thus it was a lunisolar calendar and gives Midsummer and Yule great importance.

Today we can trace back many pre-Christian midsummer rituals throughout Europe. They were collectively incorporated into early Catholicism under St. John’s day. They existed and persisted throughout Eastern and Northern Europe where to this day you can find many individuals practicing ritualized activities surrounding Midsummer. Bonfires are a commonality as well as general frivolity such as singing, dancing, floral hats, games, etc. It is and was a celebration of fertility, plenty, and the gentleness of this time of the year.

The ritual I created for my local group for Midsummer was simple enough and I will outline it here:

[Say these words after you have cleared your area bu the method of your choice.]

Six months have passed since Yule and we have gathered this day in thanks and celebration. The sun rose this day, and the longest day, to beat back the night. Tonight, the shortest night, we light fires to bring that light down into our lives.

Hail to thee, Sunne, day rider 

Hail to thee, brightener, shiner, awakener

Hail to thee, goddess of sunny summer so bright

Hail to thee, sister to the shadowy moonlight

Sunne, we thank you for your ride this midsummer.

You chased the shadows back to hiding

Today, longest of days, we give thanks to you.

Shine on us this evening, shine on us as you ride this year.

Shine on us and let the light and day into our lives.

[Say these words to each if you will be passing a blessing bowl:]

Sunne shine on you and let her light fill your life

[Pour out the remainder of the offering onto the focal point, be it a hearg, altar, tree, or ground.]

This Midsummer we offer to you that your bright gifts to man

Shall never be taken for granted by us, long though the days span

Though your ride is unwaveringly regular, though gentle the days may be

Let none here today forget the gift that was bright Sunne to see.

Sun Chariot
Trundholm Sun Chariot from Trundholm moor in Odsherred and now housed in the National Museum of Denmark.

The Ritual Power of Horses

Horses were among the most sacred animals to the ancient heathens. Testament to this fact was their nearly ubiquitous use in burial goods and sacrifices. Admonishments against eating horse flesh appear in a papal ban on the practice by Gregory III. The purpose of the ban was to ultimately enlighten the Germanic pagans. It falls directly before a ban on sacrifices to the dead. It is no coincidence that the two fall together, they are inextricably linked. It is that connection, between death and horses I would like to elaborate on.

The horse appears in the Rune poem as the rune Eh. No matter how you feel about the use of runes in divination, the runes have power and meaning. The poem for Eh reads:

Eh byþ for eorlum æþelinga wyn,
Hors hofum wlanc, ðær him hæleþ ymbe,
Welege on wicgum, wrixlaþ spræce,
And biþ unstyllum æfre frofur.

The last section, “biþ unstyllum æfre frofur” to me speaks to the horse’s qualities after death. Unstyllum could translate as unwaveringly or tirelessly or restlessly. You could translate the last line then as “and is (and shall be) restlessly, unwaveringly, always a comfort (consolation).” The word unstyllum to me hides the implication of being active even after it should be still. Biþ is simultaneously “is” and “shall be” and differs from the earlier use of byþ. So you have this creature which is a joy and comfort in life, what use could they hold afterward?

Archaeology has granted us the understanding of much that was located at the burial site. We know dogs and horses were cremated as burial goods very often. Later, the use of a horse’s teeth are found in burials. Their role there? Death is not a straight shot, it is the first step on a journey. The implication has been there all along, why bury goods at all if they’re going somewhere they have all they need? The horse’s function is like that of a boat, it speeds the journey, and it even helps guide the journey in the horse’s case. See such work as Saxo Grammaticus’ story of Hadding for a look into the journey.

The horse has powerful role to play for the deceased. If I were to spell it out most plainly, you can take it with you (but only if you can carry it). Our usual final resting place, Hell, we have to get there first. Why else are boats and horses involved at all? Why should you have a horse if travel is not involved? Why a boat if you’re not going somewhere in it? Essentially, the horse is an aide to the deceased on their journey.

Now to the terrible truth of our world, we cannot afford to sacrifice horses in today’s society. We’re left with then the use of votive offerings. There’s plenty of historical examples which show that votive offerings were meaningful to the ancient heathens and the greater pagan world. The votive can take the place of a sacrifice. No one I know can spare a horse, but a votive offering of a horse? That’s manageable.

Recently there was a death in the local heathen community. We gathered and all brought gifts to cremate. I made a votive horse of bread as an offering to burn. My hope is that the horse (with the Eh rune on it) would manifest itself to the intended offering recipient as a horse and not as a bread horse. I further hope that even if it doesn’t do that, it will carry the ritual power of a horse to help guide and speed their journey to the halls of their ancestors.

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