Against Monism and Omnipotence

So there is this concept in Neo-Platonic thought called Monism. In a nutshell, this guy Plotinus had this concept of “the One” which was like an everything god or more properly THE everything god. In a sense it is like the softest of soft polytheism, so soft that all the gods and really everything everywhere gets boiled down to the One. This is really at issue in some polytheist philosophy today in that there is a disagreement on the nature of omnipotence because Monism would have an omnipotent force because it is all of everything and therefore omnipotent. I am here to give an argument against Monism and thereby once more against omnipotence.

I would contend that Monism is inconsistent with something that appears to be evident through experience, namely, that there is a plurality of things. I see rocks and not all rocks are the same and certainly trees are not rocks and people are not trees. There is a plurality of things that are observable. We shall assume that a plurality of material things exists, and so barring radical skepticism about both perception and observation, there seems to be strong observable evidence for existence pluralism.

It is obvious through perception and observation that there is a plurality of concrete objects. It is intuitively obvious that since there is a plurality of concrete objects, then there is good evidence based reasoning to believe that there is a plurality of insubstantial objects. Let me be clear in this, if I ask you to imagine the idea of a chair that idea would be different from the idea of a frog and the idea of the frog from the idea of a cup. Even though I have asked you to imagine these things and they did not exist in the concrete world but instead were the mere idea of these things, your mind reached out and grasped the idea of these things in a way that shows that there is a plurality of insubstantial objects as well. So even in the insubstantial realm we can see that we can observe evidence of a plurality of insubstantial objects.

Even in science there is a plurality of things. The element Hydrogen is not the element Selenium is not the element Tungsten. They behave entirely different. If we go further and say they are built of the same things, we can know quite well that the proton is not the same as the neutron is not the same as the electron. And even further our scientific knowledge tells us that dark matter exists and it is fundamentally different from matter. These things differ, even in the scientific world there is a great plurality of things.

If we see such overwhelming evidence of the plurality of things in both the concrete and insubstantial realms of observation, how can we argue for the one-ness of everything? Monism is thereby contradicted by and should be found to be completely and totally inconsistent with observation and with perception.

To tackle it from another direction, let me bring up Plato himself. Plato held the idea of the existence of a multi-part soul, itself not unique to Plato but being an offshoot of a general belief in the multiplicity of the soul. However Socrates in Plato’s Republic Book IV rationalized it and provided the logic for proving a multi-part soul could and should exist. The rationale was essentially that if something is at one with itself it is not in conflict and that if conflict does indeed exist in the thing it is indeed not one thing. This goes into the law of non-contradiction.

In a sense, a person can be in conflict with themselves and that provides the rationale for the soul being multi-part, because if it were not multi-part then we would be of one nature and could not be in conflict with ourselves.

Furthermore, on divinity we utilize the stories about divinity as well as our own experiences of divinity to shed light on the nature of the gods. In even this we see conflict, and where there is conflict there is not one thing but many because to be one would mean to be in a state where conflict did not exist. Furthermore, seeing as how divinity presents itself as multitudinous, why would we consider it otherwise? That seems to me to be hubris – that we in this way think so highly of ourselves we think we know better than the gods. If a divine entity is throughout time appearing as an individual in and of themselves, who are we to argue with that entity’s expression of self?

There is conflict within the universe around us, it is readily visible and observable; how does monism overcome this most basic thing? Monism would need to completely disregard the extremely apparent conflict in the nature of the observable universe and indeed the conflicting nature of all things in order to rationalize that away into one-ness. I am sure that someone will try, but if to hold a philosophy one must contort the very nature of the universe and everything inside of it to do so then it is an unnatural thing twisted and contrived and not one inspired by observation and perception.

The Bifröst – Rainbow Bridge of the Gods… or is it?

So the other day I was thinking about the colors of the rainbow when something I had read in the Prose Edda came back into the back of my mind and began to nag and eat at me. The Prose Edda says that the Bifröst has three colors. Three colors. Three. That just did not compute for a hot minute. I sat there stumped thinking about how a rainbow on even a meagre day has more colors than that. So I decided to look it up and see what else I may have glazed over. As it turns out there are actually a few potential hiccups with our interpretations of the Bifröst, especially in how the texts we have described the thing itself. (Check out the rest of the Bifröst source material at the end of this post if you want more than I post to read here.)

 

The best description for the Bifröst comes from the Prose Edda and reads:

English, Brodeur Translation (1916):
“Then said Gangleri: ‘What is the way to heaven from earth?’
Then Hárr answered, and laughed aloud: ‘Now, that is not wisely asked; has it not been told thee, that the gods made a bridge from earth, to heaven, called Bifröst? Thou must have seen it; it may be that ye call it rainbow. It is of three colors, and very strong, and made with cunning and with more magic art than other works of craftsmanship. But strong as it is, yet must it be broken, when the sons of Múspell shall go forth harrying and ride it, and swim their horses over great rivers; thus they shall proceed.’
Then said Gangleri: ‘To my thinking the gods did not build the bridge honestly, seeing that it could be broken, and they able to make it as they would.’
Then Hárr replied: ‘The gods are not deserving of reproof because of this work of skill: a good bridge is Bifröst, but nothing in this world is of such nature that it may be relied on when the sons of Múspell go a-harrying.’”[1] Gylfaginning XIII

Old Norse:
Þá mælti Gangleri: “Hver er leið til himins af jörðu?”
Þá svarar Hárr ok hló við: “Eigi er nú fróðliga spurt. Er þér eigi sagt þat, er goðin gerðu brú af jörðu til himins, er heitir Bifröst? Hana muntu sét hafa. Kann vera, at þat kallir þú regnboga. Hon er með þrimr litum ok mjök sterk ok ger með list ok kunnáttu meiri en aðrar smíðir. En svá sterk sem hon er, þá mun hon brotna, þá er Múspellsmegir fara ok ríða hana, ok svima hestar þeira yfir stórar ár. Svá koma þeir fram.”
Þá mælti Gangleri: “Eigi þótti mér goðin gera af trúnaði brúna, ef hon skal brotna mega, er þau megu þó gera sem þau vilja.”
Þá mælti Hárr: “Eigi eru goðin hallmælis verð af þessi smíð. Góð brú er Bifröst, en enginn hlutr er sá í þessum heimi er sér megi treystast, þá er Múspellssynir herja.”[2]

 

English, Brodeur Translation (1916):
“Then said Gangleri: ‘Does fire burn over Bifröst?’
Hárr replied: ‘That which thou seest to be red in the bow is burning fire; the Hill-Giants might go up to heaven, if passage on Bifröst were open to all those who would cross. There are many fair places in heaven, and over everything there a godlike watch is kept. …’”[3] Gylfaginning XV

Old Norse
Þá mælti Gangleri: “Brenn eldr yfir Bifröst?”
Hárr segir: “Þat, er þú sér rautt í boganum, er eldr brennandi. Upp á himin mundu ganga hrímþursar ok bergrisar, ef öllum væri fært á Bifröst, þeim er fara vilja. Margir staðir eru á himni fagrir, ok er þar allt guðlig vörn fyrir. …”[4]

 

From this we can gather that the Bifröst is *perhaps* called a rainbow, has three colors, and is covered in a visible burning fire.

 

We find mention in both Prose Edda and Poetic Edda the quality of the Bifröst burning or being covered in visible fire (Þat, er þú sér rautt í boganum, er eldr brennandi). Sure they say it was perhaps called rainbow (kann vera, at þat kallir þú regnboga), but they never said that for certain merely that it could be (kann vera). It also said it had three colors (Hon er með þrimr litum). These things simply do not jive with each other if it is a rainbow. But perhaps we’re thinking about it in the wrong way, perhaps our entire interpretation of the Biföst is some kind of mild misunderstanding. Now let me spin you a tale.

 

What if the Bifröst is not a rainbow at all as we know it but is instead the Aurora Borealis? The Aurora Borealis is unlike the rainbow in many ways but is like the rainbow in others. It is multi-colored like a rainbow and can technically be seen in several colors, but it really only usually comes in three (or four) main colors – red, green (sometimes blue in there), and like a pinky violet.[5] And this apparently has to do with what elements the solar wind is affecting and at what height in the atmosphere.[6] I am not a physicist so I’m relying on others here and my sources being from student website projects done at the University of Fairbanks Alaska (because they were concise and had understandable graphics that help). So it is not a precisely perfect color match entirely to fit *perfectly* in the three; but because it is less frequent to see and it is variable it is then also far more likely that they could register and justify three colors typical for the Aurora than they could three colors for a rainbow.

auroracolors[7]
This image shows that the greatest possibility is within the green spectrum but that technically a fourth color of blue is possible but is still within the mostly green spectrum.

 

AuroraSpectrum[8]
This image shows a comparison between the ordinary rainbow which is represented by the spectrum of light and also the spectrum of light possible in the Aurora which greatly reduces the number of colors you can see in relation to the rainbow.

 

The other quality and one that is mentioned far more often is the burning nature of the Biföst. Nobody to my knowledge has ever mistaken a rainbow for burning. But that is precisely what has happened time and time again through history with the Aurora Borealis.

One notable example comes from Seneca who was discussing the various phenomena visible in the sky when he began talking about the Aurora Borealis –

“Among these should certainly be placed a phenomenon of which we often read in the chronicles – the heavens appeared to be on fire. The blaze of it is occasionally so high as to mount to the very stars; occasionally it is so low as to present the appearance of a distant fire. In the reign of Tiberius Caesar the fire brigade hurried off to the colony at Ostia supposing it to be in flames; during the greater part of the night there had been a dull glow in the sky, which appeared to proceed from a thick smoky fire. No one has any doubt that these burnings in the heavens contain flame as really as they display it; they have a certain substance in them.”[9]

Now here we have a Roman talking about the Aurora Borealis and speaking of it that it truly contained flames as it appeared so full of them. Yet in the next paragraph section he wonders about the illusory nature of the rainbow because it appeared to be some kind of illusion or phantasm or apparition and did not seem substantial.[10] This can show that to the ancient world there is a big difference in the realness of these two astronomical events, the Aurora Borealis is something that is so real looking and so flame like that it warrants mustering the fire brigade while one wonders if the rainbow is just a trick and illusion. This is further not the only occurrence of the flame-like quality of the Aurora Borealis, history and folklore of people the whole world wide who have remarked on the flaming nature of the Aurora.

 

The next thing to consider is that the Norse peoples would have been far enough north to see the Aurora in ways that more southern folks would not have been able to see. This works two ways, making it probably somewhat more likely for it to work its way into their myths and conversely making it harder for southern-minded people to recognize it when the northern-minded people wrote about it.

 

To recap, there are three descriptions for the Bifröst written about in the Eddas: that the Bifröst is perhaps called a rainbow, that it has three colors, and that it is covered in a visible burning fire. All three of these are well suited to describing the Aurora, however only one of these is useful in describing an actual rainbow. But the most telling aspect may be in the name itself, Bifröst. Let’s discuss etymology.

 

We can learn from the etymology which for Bifrǫst seems to be either from bifa (“shake, tremble”) or in the case of the variant Bilrǫst would be from bil (“moment”).[11] Neither of these is incredibly conducive for describing a rainbow but do fit fairly well with the Aurora which moves and shimmers and shakes in ways that the rainbow never has and never will and is furthermore far less predictable and far more in the moment than a rainbow. The “-rǫst” is somewhat more puzzling and I propose more important because it is related to “rest”.[12] The word Bifrǫst seems odd to use “-rǫst”, rest, when it could have used “-brú”, which would have been applicable seeing as how it means bridge, a word they were well accustomed to using even when describing supernatural bridges; unless the “rest” aspect is in fact very important.[13] I propose that it is precisely this that gives us the last clue that the Bifröst is indeed the Aurora Borealis – “-rǫst” being rest indicates evidence that it took place at night when people were intended to be resting.

 

Being a person living in the south and never having seen the Aurora, I would like to think that the Bifröst would be the rainbow for selfish reasons that I would get to see it. However, I can no longer personally support that conclusion because everything in the evidence is screaming at me that the Bifröst is actually the Aurora Borealis. It typically has the proper number of colors, it appears as if on fire and indeed was historically mistaken for fire, it is rainbow-like, it shimmers and shakes, and perhaps most importantly it appears when people are resting – hence the “-rǫst”. Given these things, it is most probable that the Bifröst is best understood as the Aurora Borealis.

 

 

 

 

Sources for the Bifröst:

 

Fáfnismál – Poetic Edda

Sigurth spake:
14. “Tell me then, Fafnir, | for wise thou art famed,
And much thou knowest now:
How call they the isle | where all the gods
And Surt shall sword-sweat mingle?”

Fafnir spake:
15. “Oskopnir is it, | where all the gods
Shall seek the play of swords;
Bilrost breaks | when they cross the bridge,
And the steeds shall swim in the flood.[14]

 

Grímnismál – Poetic Edda

  1. Kormt and Ormt | and the Kerlaugs twain
    Shall Thor each day wade through,
    (When dooms to give | he forth shall go
    To the ash-tree Yggdrasil;)
    For heaven’s bridge | burns all in flame,
    And the sacred waters seethe.

  1. The best of trees | must Yggdrasil be,
    Skithblathnir best of boats;
    Of all the gods | is Othin the greatest,
    And Sleipnir the best of steeds;
    Bifrost of bridges, | Bragi of skalds,
    Hobrok of hawks, | and Garm of hounds.[15]

 

Gylfaginning – Prose Edda

XIII. Then said Gangleri: “What is the way to heaven from earth?” Then Hárr answered, and laughed aloud: “Now, that is not wisely asked; has it not been told thee, that the gods made a bridge from earth, to heaven, called Bifröst? Thou must have seen it; it may be that ye call it rainbow.’ It is of three colors, and very strong, and made with cunning and with more magic art than other works of craftsmanship. But strong as it is, yet must it be broken, when the sons of Múspell shall go forth harrying and ride it, and swim their horses over great rivers; thus they shall proceed.” Then said Gangleri: “To my thinking the gods did not build the bridge honestly, seeing that it could be broken, and they able to make it as they would.” Then Hárr replied: “The gods are not deserving of reproof because of this work of skill: a good bridge is Bifröst, but nothing in this world is of such nature that it may be relied on when the sons of Múspell go a-harrying.”

 

XV … Each day the Æsir ride thither up over Bifröst, which is also called the Æsir’s Bridge. These are the names of the Æsir’s steeds: Sleipnir [The Slipper] is best, which Odin has; he has eight feet. The second is Gladr [Bright or Glad], the third Gyllir [Golden], the fourth Glenr [The Starer], the fifth Skeidbrimir [Fleet Courser], the sixth Silfrintoppr [Silver-top], the seventh Sinir [ Sinewy], the eighth Gisl [ Beam, Ray], the ninth Falhófnir [ Hairy-hoof], the tenth. Gulltoppr [ Gold-top], the eleventh Léttfeti [ Light-stepper]. Baldr’s horse was burnt with him; and Thor walks to the judgment, and wades those rivers which are called thus:

 

Körmt and Örmt | and the Kerlaugs twain,
Them shall Thor wade
Every day | when he goes to doom
At Ash Yggdrasill;
For the Æsir’s Bridge | burns all with flame,
And the holy waters howl.”

Then said Gangleri: “Does fire burn over Bifröst?” Hárr replied: “That which thou seest to be red in the bow is burning fire; the Hill-Giants might go up to heaven, if passage on Bifröst were open to all those who would cross. There are many fair places in heaven, and over everything there a godlike watch is kept…”

 

XVII. Then said Gangleri: “Thou knowest many tidings to tell of the heaven. What chief abodes are there more than at Urdr’s Well?” Hárr said: “Many places are there, and glorious. That which is called Álfheimr is one, where dwell the peoples called Light-Elves; but the Dark-Elves dwell down in the earth, and they are unlike in appearance, but by far more unlike in nature. The Light-Elves are fairer to look upon than the sun, but the Dark-Elves are blacker than pitch. Then there is also in that place the abode called Breidablik, and there is not in heaven a fairer dwelling. There, too, is the one called Glitnir, whose walls, and all its posts and pillars, are of red gold, but its roof of silver. There is also the abode called Himinbjörg; it stands at heaven’s end by the bridge-head, in the place where Bifröst joins heaven. Another great abode is there, which is named Valaskjálf; Odin possesses that dwelling; the gods made it and thatched it with sheer silver, and in this hall is the Hlidskjálf, the high-seat so called. Whenever Allfather sits in that seat, he surveys all lands.

 

XXVII. “Heimdallr is the name of one: he is called the White God. He is great and holy; nine maids, all sisters, bore him for a son. He is also called Hallinskídi and Gullintanni; his teeth were of gold, and his horse is called Gold-top. He dwells in the place called Himinbjörg, hard by Bifröst: he is the warder of the gods, and sits there by heaven’s end to guard the bridge from the Hill-Giants. He needs less sleep than a bird; he sees equally well night and day a hundred leagues from him, and hears how grass grows on the earth or wool on sheep, and everything that has a louder sound. He has that trumpet which is called Gjallar-Horn, and its blast is heard throughout all worlds. Heimdallr’s sword is called Head. It is said further:

Himinbjörg ‘t is called, | where Heimdallr, they say,
Aye has his housing;
There the gods’ sentinel | drinks in his snug hall
Gladly good mead.
And furthermore, he himself says in Heimdalar-galdr:
I am of nine | mothers the offspring,
Of sisters nine | am I the son.

 

  1. … In this din shall the heaven be cloven, and the Sons of Múspell ride thence: Surtr shall ride first, and both before him and after him burning fire; his sword is exceeding good: from it radiance shines brighter than from the sun; when they ride over Bifröst, then the bridge shall break, as has been told before.[16]

[1] Snorri Sturlson, The Prose Edda, Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur (New York, NY: The American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1916), accessed August 15, 2019, http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/pre/pre04.htm (I have formatted the structure of the paragraph to better match the Old Norse but have not altered the text.)

[2] Snorre Sturlason, Snorres Edda, accessed on Völuspá.org August 15, 2019, http://www.voluspa.org/gylfaginning11-20.htm

[3] Snorri Sturlson, The Prose Edda, Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur (New York, NY: The American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1916), accessed August 15, 2019, http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/pre/pre04.htm  (I have formatted the structure of the paragraph to better match the Old Norse but have not altered the text.)

[4] Snorre Sturlason, Snorres Edda, accessed on Völuspá.org August 15, 2019, http://www.voluspa.org/gylfaginning11-20.htm

[5] Christina Shaw, “Why are there Colors in the Aurora?”, University of Alaska Fairbanks, accessed August 15, 2019, http://ffden-2.phys.uaf.edu/211.fall2000.web.projects/Christina%20Shaw/AuroraColors.html

[6] Christina Shaw, “Why are there Colors in the Aurora?”, University of Alaska Fairbanks, accessed August 15, 2019, http://ffden-2.phys.uaf.edu/211.fall2000.web.projects/Christina%20Shaw/AuroraColors.html

[7] Christina Shaw, “Why are there Colors in the Aurora?”, University of Alaska Fairbanks, accessed August 15, 2019, http://ffden-2.phys.uaf.edu/211.fall2000.web.projects/Christina%20Shaw/AuroraColors.html

[8] Alex Slaymaker, “Welcome to Colors”, University of Alaska Fairbanks, accessed August 15, 2019, http://ffden-2.phys.uaf.edu/webproj/212_spring_2014/Alex_Slaymaker/Alex_Slaymaker/Colors.html

[9] Seneca, Physical Science in the Time of Nero: Being a Translation of the Quaestiones Naturales of Seneca, translated by John Clarke (London: MacMillan and Co., Limited, 1910), 40-41. Accessed August 15, 2019, https://archive.org/stream/physicalsciencei00seneiala#page/40/mode/2up

[10] Seneca, Physical Science in the Time of Nero: Being a Translation of the Quaestiones Naturales of Seneca, translated by John Clarke (London: MacMillan and Co., Limited, 1910), 41. Accessed August 15, 2019, https://archive.org/stream/physicalsciencei00seneiala#page/40/mode/2up

[11] “Bifrǫst”, Wiktionary, accessed August 15, 2019,  https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Bifr%C7%ABst#Old_Norse (Bifröst is my usual spelling but my source here uses the more accurate Bifrǫst)

[12] “Reconstruction:Proto-Germanic/rastō”, Wiktionary, accessed August 15, 2019,  https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Germanic/rast%C5%8D

[13] “brú”, Wiktionary, accessed August 15, 2019, https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/br%C3%BA#Old_Norse

[14] Henry Adams Bellows, trans., The Poetic Edda (New York, NY: Princeton University Press, 1936), “Fafnismol”, accessed August 15, 2019,  http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe24.htm

[15] Henry Adams Bellows, trans., The Poetic Edda (New York, NY: Princeton University Press, 1936), “Grimnismol”, accessed August 15, 2019,  http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe06.htm

[16] Snorri Sturlson, The Prose Edda, Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur (New York, NY: The American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1916), accessed August 15, 2019, http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/pre/pre04.htm (I added the translations for the horse names from the footnotes but did not bother with the other name translations in other verses. I like horses.)

Eostre & Ostara, We Need to Have a Talk

So here is the deal, we need to talk about Eostre. Every single year it would seem we run the gamut of people not only being woefully ill-informed and spreading misinformation but also people debunking misinformation. But the problem with this is that you also have overzealous debunkers who throw the good out with the bad. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to try to break out my sources to debunk someone else who is trying to debunk something about Eostre. And you know what? If those people are incorrect they are even more likely to cleave to their misinformation than those they are trying to debunk. Here is the thing, I’m a college educated historian, I study history. I can be swayed if the sources are compelling enough; I have altered my opinion many times as new information comes to light. Furthermore, I have come across lay historians who have no degree at all who are as well informed in their preferred subject or more so than I am. It is not a degree that matters in history; it is adherence to the historical method. But if you are trying to have a historical argument and the primary sources are staring you in the face and contradicting everything you are arguing then you’re not really having an academic argument and you should not keep that pretense. Heathenry is full of contrarians fueled by their own self-righteousness claiming they are academics yet many are ignorant of the sources or fully willing to ignore sources entirely. Reading Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology doesn’t make you an expert or an academic. This is not only an Eostre issue, it is a wider issue in heathenry, but today I am talking about Eostre.

The main source for Eostre comes from the Venerable Bede, in particular his book De temporum ratione (The Reckoning of Time). In this book he goes into a brief aside about the English months and how they were named.

 

The Latin source regarding Eostre reads:

“Eostur-monath, qui nunc paschalis mensis interpretetur, quondam a dea illorum quae Eostre vocabatur, et cui in illo festa celebrabant, nomen habuit, a cuius nomine nunc paschale tempus cognominant; consueto antiquae observationis vocabulo gaudia novae solemnitatis vocantes.”[1]

 

The Faith Wallis translation reads:

“Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month”, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs names Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.”[2]

 

The primary source telling us about the names of the months of his time period and their origins, Bede, has informed us that the month was named after a goddess who was celebrated by feasts in the same general season as Paschal. Some people argue that Bede is lying and that no such goddess existed. First off, Bede has no reason to lie about this because it was not ordinary for clerics to invent new gods but was however common to find them arguing against ancient gods that they knew about from earlier times. Basically, he has no reason to lie about so small a detail. Furthermore, he is generally a very reliable source of information when he is relaying information from his own time period. Bede is not a bullshitter; if he wrote it in this capacity then it is very fair to say that he genuinely believed it was true. Also since he was writing about things within his own area of the world he was better equipped to know about this material than most anyone else. We can then conclude that the evidence we have is indeed pointing toward the existence of belief in a goddess named Eostre.

So who was Eostre?

This is where the record gets a little bit murkier. There is no Anglo-Saxon source for understanding what Eostre is associated with or how she acts as a goddess. But then again it is an Indo-European religion and there is a considerable overlap between Indo-European religions; religion must have developed before the tribes broke apart and migrated considering the overlap. The religions of each culture developed with their own flair but in many cases a core kernel of continuity can be discovered and many times there are linguistic or mythological links between the cultures. Essentially, it is accepted practice to examine Indo-European religions for similarities because those similarities can help inform on the other religions.

 

In this vein of thinking, if we examine Eostre we can see that she is not the isolated unknown and unknowable goddess that some try to make her out to be. Eostre is linguistically related to several goddesses through the PIE root word *haéusōs: Eos (Greek), Aurora (Roman), Aušrinė (Lithuanian), Auseklis (Latvian), Ushas (Vedic).[3] Each of these goddesses is linked both to dawn and the east in this linguistic way, which makes sense given the location of dawn in the east.

 

I will provide a more full and actionable reconstruction of Eostre through these goddesses as a lens soon.

 

Now you know I feel conflicted about Jacob Grimm. On the one hand his book is incredibly old and full of too many leaps than a historian should make and stay within the boundaries of the evidence. On the other hand, Grimm also says many things most historians think in the subject but would never say because to do so would be to step beyond the evidence. Grimm is also biased. Grimm is a nationalist and wanted to condense and boil things down into a Germanic mythology. But Grimm was also pretty damn good at historical linguistics. Grimm, being German-centered, goes straight to Ostara. Now I can hear your alarm bells going off – *warning*Ostara alert *warning*. But really, we have to examine in ourselves why we react this way to Ostara. Let’s examine what Grimm actually has to say on the subject and then we will examine his sources and thought process.

 

“We Germans to this day call April ostermonat, and ôstarmânoth is found as early as Eginhart (temp. Car. Mag.). The great christian festival, which usually falls in April or the end of March, bears the oldest of OHG. remains the name ôstarâ gen. –ûn; it is mostly found in the plural, because two days (ôstertagâ, aostortagâ, Diut. 1, 266a) were kept at Easter. This Ostarâ, like the AS. Eástre, must in the heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries. All the nations bordering on is have retained the Biblical ‘pascha’, even Ulphilas writes paska, not áustrô, though he must have known the word; the Norse tongue also has imported its pâskir, Swed. påsk, Dan. paaske. The OHG. adv. ôstar expresses movement toward the rising sun (Gramm. 3, 205), likewise the ON. auster, and probably an AS. eástor and Goth. áustr. In Latin the identical auster has been pushed round to the noonday quarter, the South. In the Edda a male being, a spirit of light, bears the name of Austri, so a female one might have been Austra; the High German and Saxon tribes seem on the contrary to have formed only an Ostarâ, Eástre (fem.) not Ostaro, Eástra (masc). And that may be the reason why the Norsemen said pâskir and not austrur: they had never worshipped a goddess Austra, or her cultus was already extinct.

Ostara, Eástre seems therefore to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing, whose meaning could be easily adapted to the resurrection-day of the christian’s God. Bonfires were lighted at Easter, and according to a popular belief of long standing, the moment of the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning, he gives three joyful leaps, he dances for joy (Superst. 813). Water drawn on the Easter morning is, like that at Christmas, holy and healing (Superst. 775, 804); here also heathen notions seems to have grafted themselves on christian festivals. Maidens clothed in white, who at Easter, at the season of returning spring, show themselves in clefts of the rock and on mountains, are suggestive of the ancient goddess (see Suppl.).”[4]

 

Obviously he is incorrect on a number of his ideas like the thought of male counterparts and trying to shoehorn the Norse into having an Eostre goddess. I cringe a bit in reading them. But Grimm is not trying to tell you the gods-honest-truth here; he is trying to spitball ideas. Furthermore, his goal is to find some overarching Germanic mythology and to stop short of at least trying to spitball the idea would not have fulfilled his biases. But just because his work is biased and flawed does not make it useless. I read here in this section more truth than falsehood on the whole, but only if you are able to distinguish the two. The key to this section though is that he sees a link between Eostre and various other PIE dawn goddesses, and in this he is almost certainly correct. He further links Eostre to Ostara, and rightfully so. And that is a link all too often ignored because of many heathens having overriding bias against anything perceived as being too touched by Wicca or something else similar. Here is the thing though; Ostara is not the “fluffy” and baseless thing many of you have been led to believe.

 

A brief history of Ostara:

Ostara is first mentioned in Eginhard’s Vita Karoli Magni (the Life of Charlemagne):

 

Latin:

“Mensibus etiam iuxta propriam linguam vocabula inposuit, cum ante id temporis apud Francos partim Latinis, partim barbaris nominibus pronuntiarentur. Item ventos duodecim propriis appellationibus insignivit, cum prius non amplius quam vix quattuor ventorum vocabula possent inveniri. Et de mensibus quidem Ianuarium uuintarmanoth, Februarium hornung, Martium lenzinmanoth, Aprilem ostarmanoth, Maium uuinnemanoth, Iunium brachmanoth, Iulium heuuimanoth, Augustum aranmanoth, Septembrem uuitumanoth, Octobrem uuindumemanoth, Novembrem herbistmanoth, Decembrem heilagmanoth appellavit.”[5]

 

English translation:

“He gave the months names in his own tongue, for before his time they were called by the Franks partly by Latin and partly by barbarous names. He also gave names to the twelve winds, whereas before not more than four, and perhaps not so many, had names of their own. Of the months, he called January Winter-month (Wintarmanoth), February Mud-month (Hornung), March Spring-month (Lentzinmanoth), April Easter-month (Ostarmanoth), May Joy-month (Winnemanoth), June Plough-month (Brachmanoth), July Hay-month (Hewimanoth), August Harvest-month (Aranmanoth), September Wind-month (Witumanoth), October Vintage-month (Windumemanoth), November Autumn-month (Herbistmanoth), December Holy-month (Heiligmanoth).”[6]

 

Of course there is a lot to work with in this list for calendar reconstruction shenanigans but of interest in this capacity currently is Ostarmanoth. I have never seen a sufficiently compelling argument for how Ostarmanoth existed without there being a native festival on the continent when it is fairly obvious that the naming convention persisted in the continental Germanic world until the time of Grimm when he noted the naming convention was still in use. I once read, though I cannot remember where, a theory thrown up by historians that Ostarmanoth was an English export and that British monks popularized it based on their own Eosturmonath. There are many theories but ultimately they are lacking evidence, especially when what we do have argues against what they are saying. We should, as historians, be led by the sources whenever possible and not try to shape them to our biases and desires. Those historians who try to brush this under the rug are completely avoiding and obfuscating the truth of the matter, Eosturmonath has no plausible path to influencing Ostarmanoth. There is this big and gaping hole in the matter. If Eostre existed in England and had an Anglo-Saxon festival and a month and these were named after the goddess Eostre, and indeed these are so given the sources already presented as evidence, then the Anglo-Saxons as Germanic migrants to England would have originated on the Continent and the cult would have had some continental precedent prior to migration. These people did not typically just spontaneously develop new gods and goddesses willy nilly, most of them were well entrenched before migration, especially when they carry linguistic cognates to one another. Eostre parallels and cognates out to several related PIE goddesses of the east and dawn. This shows a level of continuity. And you then also have Ostarmanoth appearing on the continent? And you’re going to conveniently ignore that just because some Wiccans? That’s not good historical practice.

 

What this shows is that through this continuity you can essentially show Ostara to be a perfectly well founded continental Germanic goddess and the festival equally well founded. There is enough proof and enough corroborating evidence through the Venerable Bede and through Eginhard to argue these things perfectly well. What we do not have in these sources is how to celebrate this festival. That comes through folk traditions and other survivals.

 

Let me break it down for you another way:

  • Bede says Eostre is a goddess and the month Eosturmonath is named for her.
  • Bede has no reason to lie and is generally reliable.
  • Eginhard says that the Germans also have an Ostarmanoth.
  • There is no plausible reason not to have Ostarmanoth as a native festival.
  • They are from similar time periods (Bede ~725, Eginhard ~814).
  • Eosturmonath and Ostarmanoth are perfect linguistic cognates of one another having shifted with their respective languages.
  • If Eostre is the root of Eosturmonath, then Ostara should be the root of Ostarmanoth.
  • The Angles and Saxons and Jutes came from Germania and migrated into England.
  • Eostre cognates out with several other PIE dawn goddesses, so too does Ostara.
  • The linguistic evidence shows religious continuity.
  • This gives evidence that they brought Eostre with them from the continent.
  • If they brought her with them, she must have existed on the continent prior to migration.
  • It is reasonable then to say that Ostarmanoth is the continental continuation of the festival expressed in England that was held in common with the local Germanic peoples of that area of the continent.
  • It is reasonable and indeed logical to say that Eostre is to Eosturmonath what Ostara should be to Ostarmanoth.

These all show continuity and give evidence to say it is only logical that Ostara was indeed a local Continental Germanic goddess and that it is a parallel path in the development of some proto-Germanic goddess that split into Eostre on the one hand and Ostara on the other in much the same way that Thunor and Donar developed along parallel linguistic lines.

 

And this all continued; Easter is still Ostern today in Germany. They have a whole range of nice words based on that root. Furthermore, the practice of calling it Ostarmanoth had persisted until quite recently as Grimm noted that it was still in use in his time. That this survived shows no shallow import theory is plausible; instead this must have been a deeply engrained, native cultural phenomenon to survive conversion against the grain of Paschal.

 

Some final thoughts:

 

The Historian’s opinion in me:
I cannot support the idea that Ostara historically extended to the Norse peoples because the linkages are simply not there. They celebrated Paschal up there just fine with no real evidence of Eostre or Ostara to speak of. There is no one Germanic paganism, but instead there were many variations expressed regionally and in time. These variations morphed and adapted.

 

The Pagan’s opinion in me:
Heathens were and are polytheistic. If a goddess jives with you then worship her. Plus you’d basically be a fool in today’s time to pass on the feasting and wonderful cultural traditions involved in Easter. It is culturally relevant to English speaking people and as “Norse” as someone’s religion may be you’re living in an English colony, speaking the English language, and steeped in English culture. Eostre is big enough for the both of us as long as you understand and respect her history.

 

So the next time you hear someone bad talking Eostre or even Ostara, inform them that there is in fact enough evidence to show Eostre and Ostara were indeed culturally specific goddesses and had festivals in that spring time of year. If you want, you can also inform them that it is generally people unable to remove their bias that argue otherwise. Further inform them that there are also ample linkages to be able to do a reconstruction of the goddess from other PIE dawn goddesses for personal religious use. Or you can just tell them that they can go shove it, either or.

 

 

[1]The Venerable Bede, “Caput XV: De mensibus Anglorum”, Beda Venerabilis: De Temporum Ratione, accessed August 12, 2019, http://www.nabkal.de/beda/beda_15.html

[2] The Venerable Bede, Bede: The Reckoning of Time, translated by Faith Wallis (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1999), 54. (This is in my opinion the best translation of this work that I have ever read and it is well worth buying if you’re into Bede. But be aware that the pertinent section for calendar reconstruction of the English months is literally two pages so if you buy it do so for the whole thing and not just for the two pages on the English months.)

[3] J.P. Mallory and D.Q. Adams, The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006), 300-301, 409. (This can be accessed online on this site if you want to check it out: https://smerdaleos.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/ie-mallory-adams.pdf )

[4] Jacob Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, Vol. 1, translated from the fourth edition by James Stephen Stallybrass (London: George Bell and Sons, 1882), 290-291. (You can access this volume using this link: https://archive.org/details/teutonicmytholog01grim/ )

[5]Einhard, “EINHARDI VITA KAROLI MAGNI”, The Latin Library, accessed August 12, 2019, http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/ein.html#29

[6] Einhard, “The Early Lives of Charlemagne by Eginhard and the Monk of St Gall”, edited by A.J. Grant (London: Alexander Morning Limited, 1905), Project Gutenberg, accessed August 12, 2019, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/48870/48870-h/48870-h.html#id52 (I have inserted the original month names from the corresponding footnote in parentheticals next to the translated month so that both may be viewed at once; besides this, the quote is direct.)

Runes – the Good the Bad and the Ugly

The runes present a major problem in heathenry and paganism in general that most people are not even aware of. Let me put it like this, the runes suffer from the same issue as any part of religious ideology in that once you have formed your opinions on them they are very difficult to adjust no matter how false they may actually be. Those thoughts for many of us have become set and now here I come in the 11th hour trying to upend your thoughts and feelings. Furthermore, the runes like heathenry in general do have a racism issue. I am bound to ruffle some feathers, but all I am truly trying to achieve is to get you to think about some of these things so just stick with me and keep an open mind. You are likely to find your thoughts and feelings and opinions challenged, that is the point. I am also intending this to be a brief introduction to the Runes. So new or old, this is for you.

The Bad and the Ugly:

First, there are some glaring inconsistencies to examine. The vast majority of heathens are Norse heathens that are focused on the Viking age right before the era of conversion. There is not really a good reason for this except for prevalence of the imagery in popular literature, culture, and mythology. Yet despite the majority of heathens being Norse heathens, the vast majority of heathens who use the runes utilize the Elder Futhark, a set of twenty four runes used and discarded hundreds of years before the Vikings. The Vikings utilized instead the Younger Futhark, a set of sixteen runes that actually fit their language. So we have to ask ourselves why. Why are these Norse Heathens using the Elder Futhark that was not used by the culture they are patterning their religion on and that doesn’t fit the language or the culture when they have access to the system of runes that they actually did use? The answer is not actually very simple and is hard to swallow in some cases.

The prevalence of the Elder Futhark system is primarily grounded in the work of the earliest, and indeed racist, heathens who were trying to sell people on the concept. Partly this tendency is due to the area of Germanic studies becoming highly taboo due to the post-WWII period associating it with Nazism and it is also partly due to a lack of reliable scholarship when the pagan community needed it so the pagan community turned to earlier work from the racist past.[1] It is also however due to racists steering people incorrectly for their own motivations. For example, one of the biggest names in runes is Edred Thorsson otherwise known as Stephen Flowers. Thorsson/Flowers is one of those early influential personalities that had his hands in a lot of pies. He was deep in the Troth, he was writing books, he was “academic”, he was steering a lot of things on the esoteric side of studies for decades. But he is also a racist and a white nationalist and has an unhealthy obsession with the Nazis; this flavored a lot of his work. Furthermore, he may have been an academic but his esoteric works are anything but academic. He put a polish onto the system of runes he was trying to popularize that was built up through falsification of information or hiding his methodology. If you were to crack open his book Futhark, you would find a “polished” system with all kinds of information telling you how to use the runes, how to interpret the runes, how to do runic standing stances like yoga, and even how to mumble out some runic “galdr” which amounted to noise making. (By the way, that Galdr nonsense of just making rune noises that sounds like mooing is complete hogwash and I will debunk it on another occasion because it has obscured the reality of what Galdr actually is, essentially any vocalized incantation.) The issue with this is that none of it had any basis in history; it was entirely falsified and made up. As polished as it seems, it is gilded on the outside but rotten at the core. To make it worse, he did not point people toward the sources that would have actually allowed people to check where he was getting this information. He delivered the Elder Futhark and a complete system for its use that is entirely poppycock but is presenting itself falsely as historical or academic.

If people had been able at the time to see his sources they would have found out that all the parts of it that were remotely of worth were derived not from the Elder Futhark but from the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc. There are no Elder Futhark sources that would give us any way to use them or interpret them. Not a single one. But the Futhorc contains every Futhark rune inside of it, they must be interchangeable right? Not at all. There is no way for us to remotely know how those people might have conceived of several of the runes because the ᚨ for instance split into three different Futhorc runes each with its own meaning. So which one of the three do you take? You lose two in the process. That is only the issue with one rune and that is assuming that the meanings would have been remotely comparable hundreds of years prior. There are also runes which vary considerably in meaning between the Futhorc and the Younger Futhark showing that the meanings may not have stayed as constant as we would like.[2] To just strip out the meanings from the thirty three Futhorc runes to apply to the twenty four Elder Futhark runes also means that you will be losing several runes from what would have been considered a full set already and if they were used for cleromancy then it is likely that the meanings of the lost ones would have been important for the overall effectiveness of the set. So in a nutshell, everyone using the Elder Futhark is using an incomplete Futhorc set every time they use their runes. The meanings were stripped out of their context and slapped onto the Futhark in ways we have no ability to say would be remotely within the context of their meanings for the original Futhark and they are missing eleven runes to boot which would have originally been part of the set of symbols used alongside the others.

Here is a rule of thumb going forward, if they are not giving you access to the ancient rune poems from which we derive runic meanings then they have an agenda in hiding them from you. If they are not giving you access to a complete set of complimentary poems for the set they are pulling from then they have an agenda too.

So why did these early people push the Elder Futhark instead of the Futhorc when they were so obviously using the Futhorc to derive the meanings for the runes they were using? I cannot say for certain. There was a very early bias on older being better and that probably had a lot to do with things. It is also likely that once the earliest people had begun pushing the Elder Futhark that the commercialization of the rune sets gave supply to meet demand and once that was set it was set. There were also some racist reasons because the idea at its core in some of the earlier racist heathens seems to be that the closer to the Germanic origins was the most “pure” in this way. This is the same bent as the Nazis pushing the imagined concept of Aryan purity. Coupled with the early racist texts on the runes these paint a bad picture. They are one in the same; these two thoughts are derived from the same thinking. So the next time you go to pull one of your Elder Futhark sets remember that some Racists are one of the main reasons you’re pulling out of 24 runes because they generally and erroneously equated earlier with more pure. They’re also the reason your runes are the shape that they are too.

It should also be noted that the runes do not have a single form as most popular modern books seem to try and steer people into thinking. This standardization was not an ancient thing; the runes were written any number of different ways already. For instance, the runestones can give us a clue to this as the runes on many occasions were written boustrophedon, basically in a snaking pattern that paid no attention to orientation of the runes as one would letters in the modern way of writing. [3] This alone blows a huge hole in the concept of “merkstave” because there is no such thing as a backwards or upside down rune, they carried the same phonetic meaning in any and every orientation and they give every indication of being very flexible in form. If they carried the same meaning in writing, there is literally nothing to point to saying they would have any meaning other than the meaning they ever had in any orientation. The static, unyieldingly straight runes that descended to us are descending to us through Nazism yet again and uniformity of shape was one of their aesthetic additions they laid onto the runes (like the S.S. symbol”. The runes are meant to be crooked, to alternate in height, to be jankety and wibbly wobbly, and to be in all manner of orientations. Rigid, unyielding runes are anachronistic and a sign of fascist meddling.

1937_runenkunde_1115_32364606352564486566.jpg

This image, showing the stark, dark and straight and rigid lines we are used to for the runes is from a Nazi publication in 1937, Runenkunde. The Nazi form of the runes is bold, rigid, and unyielding. If you think the runes must be one way, one direction, and must be straight, bold, and rigid then you’re right in line with the Nazis in the S.S. because that is where this style of runic imagery is originating.

So let’s dispense with this whole loaded history for the moment and instead of gobbling up what those early racists wanted you to buy into, let us go back an examine the runes and let us build together through looking at the primary sources a reconstruction of how one can utilize the runes for cleromancy. The casting of lots for divination is called cleromancy by the way.

The Good:

I know this has been difficult to face but now we’re through it and we can begin to look at how we can reconstruct the idea of runic divination as a system to fill our need for heathen religious cleromancy in the modern world. Do not let people tell you that the runes as magic and potentially as divination have no basis in history because it does. While that flimflam peddled by Blum and Thorsson/Flowers has no basis in history; let me instead build you a case for a more historically friendly runic divination.

First let’s begin with Tacitus. Tacitus in his Germania gives this very interesting look into the divinatory practices of the early Germanic peoples.

“For divination and the casting of lots they have the highest possible regard. Their procedure in casting lots is uniform. They break off a branch of a fruit tree and slice it into strips; they mark these by certain signs and throw them, as random chance will have it, onto a white cloth. Then a state priest, if the consultation is a public one, or the father of the family, if it is private, prays to the gods and, gazing to the heavens, picks up three separate strips and reads their meanings from the marks scored on them.”[4]

  • Tacitus Germania

This excerpt lets us gather several important thoughts. First we see that cleromancy and divination were incredibly important and prevalent in the Germanic society of the 1st century CE. It also lets us see that if not only the priests but also the heads of households were able to conduct this divination by lots then the symbol set must have been universally understood and carried the same meanings no matter who looked at them. This symbol set would then be universally understood and had fixed meanings. That is a major thought because even if they weren’t using precisely the same runes we are they were using something similar; the entire concept of divination was indeed very important in their world view.

kam-med-runer-fra-vimose_do-4148_20006435375669561541813.jpg

Jump forward and we find some very early runic inscriptions. The Vimose comb for instance is from about 160 CE which makes it only about 70 years after Tacitus wrote his Germania. This means we get the runes as symbols very early, they would have been known earlier because they wouldn’t just spontaneously come into existence in 160 CE in what would more modernly become Denmark. Especially not since the system of writing was based on Etruscan and Latin back to Phoenician. This would have had to have spread over hundreds of years to get to that point in both area and development. Page, the most unimaginative of runologists, even says that the runes had to have been in use for a minimum of a hundred years to have the complexity of system and form that they achieve by the time we have any apparent inscriptions.[5]

Now we skip forward to our next piece of evidence, the Old English Rune poem. This poem was written in the 700s or so CE in England.

ᚠ Feoh byþ frofur fira gehwylcum;

sceal ðeah manna gehwylc miclun hyt dælan

gif he wile for drihtne domes hleotan.

Feoh

Wealth is a comfort to all men;

yet must every man bestow it freely,

if he wish to gain honour in the sight of the Lord.

ᚢ Ur byþ anmod ond oferhyrned,

felafrecne deor, feohteþ mid hornum

mære morstapa; þæt is modig wuht.

Ur

The aurochs is proud and has great horns;

it is a very savage beast and fights with its horns;

a great ranger of the moors, it is a creature of mettle.

ᚦ Ðorn byþ ðearle scearp; ðegna gehwylcum

anfeng ys yfyl, ungemetum reþe

manna gehwelcum, ðe him mid resteð.

Thorn

The thorn is exceedingly sharp,

an evil thing for any knight to touch,

uncommonly severe on all who sit among them.

ᚩ Os byþ ordfruma ælere spræce,

wisdomes wraþu ond witena frofur

and eorla gehwam eadnys ond tohiht.

Os

The mouth is the source of all language,

a pillar of wisdom and a comfort to wise men,

a blessing and a joy to every knight.

ᚱ Rad byþ on recyde rinca gehwylcum

sefte ond swiþhwæt, ðamðe sitteþ on ufan

meare mægenheardum ofer milpaþas.

Rad

Riding seems easy to every warrior while he is indoors

and very courageous to him who traverses the high-roads

on the back of a stout horse.

ᚳ Cen byþ cwicera gehwam, cuþ on fyre

blac ond beorhtlic, byrneþ oftust

ðær hi æþelingas inne restaþ.

Cen

The torch is known to every living man by its pale, bright flame;

it always burns where princes sit within.

ᚷ Gyfu gumena byþ gleng and herenys,

wraþu and wyrþscype and wræcna gehwam

ar and ætwist, ðe byþ oþra leas.

Gyfu

Generosity brings credit and honour, which support one’s dignity;

it furnishes help and subsistence

to all broken men who are devoid of aught else.

ᚹ Wenne bruceþ, ðe can weana lyt

sares and sorge and him sylfa hæfþ

blæd and blysse and eac byrga geniht.

Wynn

Bliss he enjoys who knows not suffering, sorrow nor anxiety,

and has prosperity and happiness and a good enough house.

ᚻ Hægl byþ hwitust corna; hwyrft hit of heofones lyfte,

wealcaþ hit windes scura; weorþeþ hit to wætere syððan.

Haegl

Hail is the whitest of grain;

it is whirled from the vault of heaven

and is tossed about by gusts of wind

and then it melts into water.

ᚾ Nyd byþ nearu on breostan; weorþeþ hi þeah oft niþa bearnum

to helpe and to hæle gehwæþre, gif hi his hlystaþ æror.

Nyd

Trouble is oppressive to the heart;

yet often it proves a source of help and salvation

to the children of men, to everyone who heeds it betimes.

ᛁ Is byþ ofereald, ungemetum slidor,

glisnaþ glæshluttur gimmum gelicust,

flor forste geworuht, fæger ansyne.

Is

Ice is very cold and immeasurably slippery;

it glistens as clear as glass and most like to gems;

it is a floor wrought by the frost, fair to look upon.

ᛄ Ger byþ gumena hiht, ðonne God læteþ,

halig heofones cyning, hrusan syllan

beorhte bleda beornum ond ðearfum.

Ger

Summer is a joy to men, when God, the holy King of Heaven,

suffers the earth to bring forth shining fruits

for rich and poor alike.

ᛇ Eoh byþ utan unsmeþe treow,

heard hrusan fæst, hyrde fyres,

wyrtrumun underwreþyd, wyn on eþle.

Eoh

The yew is a tree with rough bark,

hard and fast in the earth, supported by its roots,

a guardian of flame and a joy upon an estate.

ᛈ Peorð byþ symble plega and hlehter

wlancum [on middum], ðar wigan sittaþ

on beorsele bliþe ætsomne.

Peordh

Peorth is a source of recreation and amusement to the great,

where warriors sit blithely together in the banqueting-hall.

ᛉ Eolh-secg eard hæfþ oftust on fenne

wexeð on wature, wundaþ grimme,

blode breneð beorna gehwylcne

ðe him ænigne onfeng gedeþ.

Eolh

The Eolh-sedge is mostly to be found in a marsh;

it grows in the water and makes a ghastly wound,

covering with blood every warrior who touches it.

ᛋ Sigel semannum symble biþ on hihte,

ðonne hi hine feriaþ ofer fisces beþ,

oþ hi brimhengest bringeþ to lande.

Sigel

The sun is ever a joy in the hopes of seafarers

when they journey away over the fishes’ bath,

until the courser of the deep bears them to land.

ᛏ Tir biþ tacna sum, healdeð trywa wel

wiþ æþelingas; a biþ on færylde

ofer nihta genipu, næfre swiceþ.

Tir

Tiw is a guiding star; well does it keep faith with princes;

it is ever on its course over the mists of night and never fails.

ᛒ Beorc byþ bleda leas, bereþ efne swa ðeah

tanas butan tudder, biþ on telgum wlitig,

heah on helme hrysted fægere,

geloden leafum, lyfte getenge.

Beorc

The poplar bears no fruit; yet without seed it brings forth suckers,

for it is generated from its leaves.

Splendid are its branches and gloriously adorned

its lofty crown which reaches to the skies.

ᛖ Eh byþ for eorlum æþelinga wyn,

hors hofum wlanc, ðær him hæleþ ymb[e]

welege on wicgum wrixlaþ spræce

and biþ unstyllum æfre frofur.

Eh

The horse is a joy to princes in the presence of warriors.

A steed in the pride of its hoofs,

when rich men on horseback bandy words about it;

and it is ever a source of comfort to the restless.

ᛗ Man byþ on myrgþe his magan leof:

sceal þeah anra gehwylc oðrum swican,

forðum drihten wyle dome sine

þæt earme flæsc eorþan betæcan.

Mann

The joyous man is dear to his kinsmen;

yet every man is doomed to fail his fellow,

since the Lord by his decree will commit the vile carrion to the earth.

ᛚ Lagu byþ leodum langsum geþuht,

gif hi sculun neþan on nacan tealtum

and hi sæyþa swyþe bregaþ

and se brimhengest bridles ne gym[eð].

Lagu

The ocean seems interminable to men,

if they venture on the rolling bark

and the waves of the sea terrify them

and the courser of the deep heed not its bridle.

ᛝ Ing wæs ærest mid East-Denum

gesewen secgun, oþ he siððan est

ofer wæg gewat; wæn æfter ran;

ðus Heardingas ðone hæle nemdun.

Ing

Ing was first seen by men among the East-Danes,

till, followed by his chariot,

he departed eastwards over the waves.

So the Heardingas named the hero.

ᛟ Eþel byþ oferleof æghwylcum men,

gif he mot ðær rihtes and gerysena on

brucan on bolde bleadum oftast.

Ethel

An estate is very dear to every man,

if he can enjoy there in his house

whatever is right and proper in constant prosperity.

ᛞ Dæg byþ drihtnes sond, deore mannum,

mære metodes leoht, myrgþ and tohiht

eadgum and earmum, eallum brice.

Dæg

Day, the glorious light of the Creator, is sent by the Lord;

it is beloved of men, a source of hope and happiness to rich and poor,

and of service to all.

ᚪ Ac byþ on eorþan elda bearnum

flæsces fodor, fereþ gelome

ofer ganotes bæþ; garsecg fandaþ

hwæþer ac hæbbe æþele treowe.

Ac

The oak fattens the flesh of pigs for the children of men.

Often it traverses the gannet’s bath,

and the ocean proves whether the oak keeps faith

in honourable fashion.

ᚫ Æsc biþ oferheah, eldum dyre

stiþ on staþule, stede rihte hylt,

ðeah him feohtan on firas monige.

Æsc

The ash is exceedingly high and precious to men.

With its sturdy trunk it offers a stubborn resistance,

though attacked by many a man.

ᚣ Yr byþ æþelinga and eorla gehwæs

wyn and wyrþmynd, byþ on wicge fæger,

fæstlic on færelde, fyrdgeatewa sum.

Yr

Yr is a source of joy and honour to every prince and knight;

it looks well on a horse and is a reliable equipment for a journey.

ᛡ Iar byþ eafix and ðeah a bruceþ

fodres on foldan, hafaþ fægerne eard

wætre beworpen, ðær he wynnum leofaþ.

Ior

Iar is a river fish and yet it always feeds on land;

it has a fair abode encompassed by water, where it lives in happiness.

ᛠ Ear byþ egle eorla gehwylcun,

ðonn[e] fæstlice flæsc onginneþ,

hraw colian, hrusan ceosan

blac to gebeddan; bleda gedreosaþ,

wynna gewitaþ, wera geswicaþ.

Ear

The grave is horrible to every knight,

when the corpse quickly begins to cool

and is laid in the bosom of the dark earth.

Prosperity declines, happiness passes away

and covenants are broken.

The Bruce Dickins 1915 translation is not my favorite translation I have read. It is however free to use online due to its age and it is an accurate enough translation such that it will not misinform. [6]

This poem is our oldest understanding of the runes. It is also our longest and most detailed rune poem. It is generally believed that the rune poem was intended to be read without the title of the rune but that the title was added later.[7] This is well in line with the understanding of the word rune as mystery.[8] The runes were therefore mysteries that were intended originally to be puzzled out, poetic riddles that needed solving but that were solved by the transcribers. It is also notable that several runes lack riddles and there is no real reasoning for that given; we have their name but no riddle. Either they were missing or unavailable or forgotten or they never had a riddle. Of these possibilities I personally tend to think it is most likely that they have been lost to history at some point along the line. It is a minor miracle that the poem survived in the form it did at all and its survival is due to it being copied in 1705 before a 1731 fire destroyed the original document.[9] So now we have the 1705 copy which gave to us the completed riddles. I have often heard the criticism of the Old English Rune Poem as if it were some kind of “A is for Apple B is for Barn” kind of alphabet book. However, the existence of the poem as riddles more or less precludes its usefulness in that regard and far more lends itself to some kind of esoteric meaning. So if we take these as some kind of meanings for the runic symbols we should examine more sources.

The Poetic Edda provides ample sources for the understanding of runes as magical.

Havamal

  1. Certain is that | which is sought from runes,

That the gods so great have made,

And the Master-Poet painted;

. . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . of the race of gods:

Silence is safest and best.

  1. Runes shalt thou find, | and fateful signs,

That the king of singers colored,

And the mighty gods have made;

Full strong the signs, | full mighty the signs

That the ruler of gods doth write.

  1. Othin for the gods, | Dain for the elves,

And Dvalin for the dwarfs,

Alsvith for giants | and all mankind,

And some myself I wrote.

  1. The songs I know | that king’s wives know not,

Nor men that are sons of men;

The first is called help, | and help it can bring thee

In sorrow and pain and sickness.

  1. A twelfth I know, | if high on a tree

I see a hanged man swing;

So do I write | and color the runes

That forth he fares,

And to me talks.

Sigrdrífumál

Sigrdrifa said:

  1. “Beer I bring thee, | tree of battle,

Mingled of strength | and mighty fame;

Charms it holds | and healing signs,

Spells full good, | and gladness-runes.”

  1. Winning-runes learn, | if thou longest to win,

And the runes on thy sword-hilt write;

Some on the furrow, | and some on the flat,

And twice shalt thou call on Tyr.

  1. Ale-runes learn, | that with lies the wife

Of another betray not thy trust;

On the horn thou shalt write, | and the backs of thy hands,

And Need shalt mark on thy nails.

Thou shalt bless the draught, | and danger escape,

And cast a leek in the cup;

(For so I know | thou never shalt see

Thy mead with evil mixed.)

  1. Birth-runes learn, | if help thou wilt lend,

The babe from the mother to bring;

On thy palms shalt write them, | and round thy joints,

And ask the fates to aid.

  1. Wave-runes learn, | if well thou wouldst shelter

The sail-steeds out on the sea;

On the stem shalt thou write, | and the steering blade,

And burn them into the oars;

Though high be the breakers, | and black the waves,

Thou shalt safe the harbor seek.

  1. Branch-runes learn, | if a healer wouldst be,

And cure for wounds wouldst work;

On the bark shalt thou write, | and on trees that be

With boughs to the eastward bent.

  1. Speech-runes learn, | that none may seek

To answer harm with hate;

Well he winds | and weaves them all,

And sets them side by side,

At the judgment-place, | when justice there

The folk shall fairly win.

  1. Thought-runes learn, | if all shall think

Thou art keenest minded of men.[10]

Henry Adams Bellows Translation 1936

Of course this is not a comprehensive look at all references to runes in the Poetic Edda because I have omitted the creation of the runes and other verses. I am here focusing on one idea; if I were to boil both of these down it would give you the basic understanding of the runes are magical. Not even for divination or cleromancy but for magic in general. It further gives us the understanding that runes have particular magic meanings that they do not share with other runes. For instance there are runes for different purposes and there is not just one catchall magical sigil that is being put onto things. So the runes are magical. This is later than my other sources but it shows a continuity of magical thinking and that thinking being applied to the runes. I suggest you look more fully into runes referenced in the Poetic Edda on your own because it is really fascinating, I am just trying to be more brief here than it would allow to go deeper in depth on the Eddas beyond what I already have here.

The next piece of information to build on comes from a saga, in this case the Vita Ansgari by Rimbert.

“In reply to Anskar’s request that he might be allowed to preach the Christian faith to his people, the king decided that lots should be cast in the open air in order to discover whether it would be right to accede to his requests.” Introduction

————————————————–

“When the father saw that he had become bereft of all that he had possessed with the exception of one little son, he began, in his misery, to fear the anger of the gods and to imagine that he was suffering all these calamities because he had offended some god. Thereupon, following the local custom, he consulted a soothsayer and asked him to find out by, the casting of lots which god lie had offended and to explain how lie might appease him. After performing all the customary ceremonies, the soothsayer said that all their gods were well disposed towards him, but that the God of the Christians was much incensed against him.” Chapter XVIII

————————————————–

“Meanwhile the king proposed to the Danes that they should enquire by casting lots whether it was the will of the gods that this place should be ravaged by them. ‘There are there,’ he said, ‘many great and powerful gods, and in former time a church was built there, and there are many Christians there who worship Christ, who is the strongest of the gods and can aid those who hope in Him, in any way that He chooses. We must seek to ascertain therefore whether it is by the will of the gods that we are urged to make this attempt.’ As his words were in accord with their custom they could not refuse to adopt the suggestion. Accordingly they sought to discover the will of the gods by casting lots and they ascertained that it would be impossible to accomplish their purpose without endangering their own welfare and that God would not permit this place to be ravaged by them.”[11] Chapter XIX

Translation by Charles H. Robinson (https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/anskar.asp)

This particular piece shows us that cleromancy is alive and well in the 800’s and still carried the vital importance that could be seen hundreds of years earlier in the time of Tacitus.

Now here is a word of caution. Tacitus does not describe the symbols in depth enough to know which ones were being used. Similarly Rimbert doesn’t describe the symbols being used. However, one of the important things to note is that as a reconstructionist we do not have to stop when we have a hole we simply try to note the best available solution and be willing to show how you reach your conclusions. In this case we have what appears to be a continuous thread in Germanic society in which importance is placed on the casting of lots for divination (cleromancy). We know that the set of symbols in the society should be almost universally recognizable and share common meanings. We also see the runes as magical symbols and mysteries. We also are provided with esoteric rune riddles which detail the meanings of each rune in the Old English Rune Poem. It does not take a genius to make that logical leap that in today’s world if we want to fulfill the important aspect of Germanic world view that was divination by lots with a universally understood symbol set then we should use this symbol set with prescribed meanings that we have available in the rune poems.

Now it is here that things went awry with the 80’s. They did not tell you any of this. They just plopped down a “perfect” and polished system and said have at it. They did not even give you the rune poems, probably to obfuscate the fact that they are then missing a bunch of runes from the poem that they used as their core meanings and that their probable desire for Germanic purity by turning to the relatively unknown but older Elder Futhark was misguided and founded in racism. They sold you on bold, stark lines with a stylistic look straight out of Nazi Germany with rigid form and function that could lose their meanings if altered or reversed. They lied.

Now the case for turning away from the Elder Futhark should now be pretty obvious. We do not truly know the Elder Futhark meanings. We can hazard a guess obviously but the variability of the runes between sets makes that a difficult issue. Those who were pushing the Elder Futhark were hiding the Futhorc from people and not sharing their sources. Those who were in early days pushing the Elder Futhark like Edred Thorsson / Stephen Flowers are known racists and were likely pushing the system because of antiquated and racist ideas about Germanic purity. There is no good reason to use a system we that have to break apart another system to glean information on when we can use the other source we are gleaning from.

The case for the Futhorc is this: you can turn directly to the original source material and see it and interact with it. You can puzzle through the riddles like they were meant to be puzzled through. Books do exist that can help you through the process; most notably Alaric Albertsson’s A Handbook of Saxon Sorcery and Magic, much of which is devoted to the runes and includes the original Old English and the English translations of the poems. You don’t have that same level of racist taint on the runes because you can return to the beginning and follow the primary sources rather than rely on racist secondary sources as a foundation or as the case today is tertiary sources founded on racist secondary sources. The Futhorc also actually fits the English language because it was linguistically made to be for English. And finally, you get thirty three runes, most of which have meanings that have survived, to work with that were intended to go with one another instead of losing several to please the purity sentiments of some racists decades ago.

There is a case to be made for the Younger Futhark as well because it too has rune poems and these are the runes that the Vikings would actually have used. The downside is that it only has sixteen symbols which does hinder the usefulness of the Younger Futhark runes for divination. Also the poems are shorter and less detailed which makes it far more difficult to utilize and puzzle over.

I use the runes, I use a set of Futhorc runes and I have opted, like Albertsson, to fill in the missing rune poems through personal pondering on the names themselves. I differ somewhat on one of the poem-less runes in my interpretation than the ones Albertsson provides, but I am mostly in line with his interpretations.

I hope you have gotten this far and that this has been thought provoking. I also hope this may have given you a slightly better understanding of the Runes.

[1] Stephen Pollington, Rudiments of Runelore (Cambridgeshire, England: Anglo-Saxon Books, 2011), 80 and R.I.Page, Runes: Reading the Past (London: British Museum Press, 1994), 12.

[2] R.I.Page, Runes: Reading the Past (London: British Museum Press, 1994), 15-16

[3] Stephen Pollington, Rudiments of Runelore (Cambridgeshire, England: Anglo-Saxon Books, 2011), 15.

[4] Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Agricola and Germania, trans. Harold Mattingly (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2009), 39.

[5] R.I.Page, Runes: Reading the Past (London: British Museum Press, 1994), 9.

[6] Bruce Dickins, trans. Runic and Heroic Poems of the Old Teutonic Peoples (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1915), 12-23. https://archive.org/details/runicandheroicpo00dickuoft and https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Rune_poems

[7] Frederick George Jones Jr., The Old English Rune Poem, An Edition (University of Florida, 1967),

[8] R.I.Page, Runes: Reading the Past (London: British Museum Press, 1994), 11, and Stephen Pollington, Rudiments of Runelore (Cambridgeshire, England: Anglo-Saxon Books, 2011), 10.

[9] Elliot Van Kirk Dobbie, editor The Anglo-Saxon Minor Poems (New York: Columbia University Press, 1942), XLVI.

[10] Henry Adams Bellows, trans. The Poetic Edda: Translated from the Icelandic with an Introduction and Notes (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1936), available at http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe01.htm .

[11] Rimbert, Life of Anskar, the Apostle of the North, 801-865, trans. Charles. H. Robinson (London: 1921), available at: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/anskar.asp

Reconstructionism 101

The hope of this video is to give an introduction to reconstructionism. This talk was originally given at Mystic South 2019.

At just over an hour in time we were still condensing things greatly and so not everything was discussed in the detail or clarity that I might have liked under ideal circumstances. This is after all a big topic. So treat this like a brief (but not so brief) introduction to the topic and I will return to some of these topics later to elaborate on them.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=HjKpDScCez0&feature=youtu.be

Not Beyond Good and Evil

Evil, and for that matter Good in the same way, is not an imposition of an outside culture onto Germanic peoples. Germanic peoples had a native concept of Good and Evil.

Let’s break this down. Good and Evil are Germanic words. They aren’t coming into our language from Latin or Greek or French. Those words were already there before anyone else showed up to add things to our language.

An Evil etymology:

Evil comes from the Middle English evel, ivel, uvel, which in turn comes from the Old English yfel, which in turn cones from the Proto-Germanic *ubilaz, which in turn comes from the from Proto-Indo-European *hupélos and probably also from *upélos.

Evil has been with us from the beginnings of our language. The deepest down the roots go show it meaning to cause harm, treat badly, mistreat, harrass, or to go beyond acceptable limits.

A Good etymology:

Good comes to us from Middle English good, which in turn comes from Old English gód, which in turn comes from Proto-Germanic *gōdaz, which in turn comes from Proto-Indo-European *gʰedʰ-.

Good has also been with is since the beginnings of our language. The deepest roots of Good show it had a core meaning of to unite, be associated with, or to suit or be suitable.

So wherever you’re all getting the idea that Good and Evil do not exist in the heathen or Germanic world view, you are sorely mistaken. The cultures of the Germanic peoples were steeped in ideas about Good and Evil. But like most other things, they differed slightly in how they saw them.

The Bosworth-Toller has ample examples of Evil in Anglo-Saxon (Old English). It registers several different meanings including Evil or ill. Of people, Evil could be registered in a moral sense. Of objects or of things, Evil could show something could be bad or not good according to its kind in comparison to the rest. Further, Evil also was for that which was hurtful or grievous, including Evil spirits (Yfel wiht). For goodness sake they even believed in the evil eye (Yfel gesihð, literally evil sight).

The Bosworth-Toller is as amply rich in references to Good in Anglo-Saxon (Old English). Good in Old English has multiple meanings as it still does today. Good can mean having extra or enough of something, take a good handful; or it can mean being morally good, he was trying to do good; or it can mean something was good in comparison, each good tree bears good fruits; or it could mean good qualities in a person, he was good (courageous) on the battlefield; or it could be more nebulously moral, often good judgements have evil consequences; or it could just mean favourable, it was a good year and a good harvest. Each of these examples is either a rough translation of an actual Old English sentence or one that is similar to the thoughts expressed in a group of sentences. There are more uses for good but these show the basic understanding of Old English gód is no less varied than the Good of today.

And before you Norse people start thinking otherwise, you have Good and Evil too.

Old Norse was prone to using Illr (comparative to English ill) derrived from Proto-Germanic *ilhilaz, itself derrived from Proto-Indo-European *h₁elk-. They also had vándr which came from Proto-Germanic *wanh-. Vándr carried with it all the basic ideas of Evil that we find elsewhere and indeed is the ancestor the words for Evil in Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, etc. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. The Norse then have a term for Evil and Ill just like Old English.

Good for the Norse is more directly related through góðr which is like the Old English gód also derrived from Proto-Germanic *gōdaz. This means that there is a direct link, a direct linguistic link to these terms.

Basically, there is a well developed concept in the ancient Germanic culture of Good and Evil and as we can see it encompassed much of our modern linguistic usage for modern Good and Evil. The ancient heathens were therefore not beyond Good and Evil, they lived in societies that deeply believed in these concepts.

That which is Good is that which is beneficial or desirable or that which is fitting. That which is Evil is that which harms or hurts or diminishes or goes beyond. These are societal values, they judged people and things and spirits and emotions by these values.

The only difference that I can discern is that there is little proof I have been able to find for ultimate good or ultimate evil. There is no ancient Germanic view of omnibenevolence or omnimalevolence. Those concepts smack of illogic today and had no foundation in Heathenry. That said, the absence of omnibenevolence does not preclude benevolence and the absence of omnimalevolence does not preclude malevolence.

Evil exists, Good exists, and Good is preferable to Evil, and that these existed in Heathenry as societal values. To deny Good and Evil as a part of that society’s religion and ethics and values is not historical despite how many people I see making this argument.

Sources:

Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (gód, gód, gód, yfel, yfel, yfel)

Wiktionary (good, evil, vándr, illr, góðr)

Why are Racists Attracted to Heathenry?

Heathenry has a racism problem. But it’s deeper than that. We have a bad habit of trying to classify ourselves into three categories of heathens: Universalist, Tribalist, and Folkish. But by making these categories (themselves deeply flawed and a false trichotomy) we have allowed race to be conflated with Heathenry. By saying “I’m a Universalist”, you’re saying race is important enough to register as part of your religious beliefs and identify you on a spectrum that includes other people’s racism and it shouldn’t be. You should eschew these ridiculous categories, there aren’t three separate heathenries but there is instead one Heathenry and a social question separate but oh so important – “Are you a racist?”.

Why are racists attracted to heathenry?

Many racists are brought by the same feelings as many non-racists.

There are many of us in Heathenry that are here to not just connect with gods that we enjoy from stories but because of a tangible connection to them through the bonds of ancestry. Basically, in many cases our ancestors worshipped these gods, far back down the line our ancestors worshipped these gods before the arrival of Christianity. This is undoubtedly a major draw to the religion and many people get their first introduction to Heathenry due to some ancestral link. This religion of ancestry is intriguing to many ordinary people but also many racists are brought by these same feelings of connection to pre-Christian ancestors.

The difference is this, people can be drawn to explore their ancestry and that’s all amazing and good. The issue only arises when folks attempt to block others who might not have that ancestral connection from also exploring in a respectful way. The difference is in telling someone else they can’t do something because of their ancestry when you could based on yours – that’s exclusionary.

Ancestry doesn’t give a person any special leg up with the gods in Heathenry. There is no DNA, no metagenetic link, that makes a heathen special because of their ancestry. It’s not who you are but what you do, our offerings and prayers to the gods matter more than your makeup.

Beginning Heathenry by looking into your ancestry is great! But don’t stop there. You’re more than your DNA, your deeds matter far more than your DNA ever will. Beginning Heathenry without a scrap of Germanic ancestry is great! It’s not needed in the slightest and wouldn’t offer you any benefit anyway. You’re ancestors were Irish? Cool! Welcome to Heathenry! Your ancestors were Chinese? Wonderful! Welcome to Heathenry! Your ancestors were from Norway? Awesome! Welcome to Heathenry!

Does this mean it’s a free for all?

No. For those people who are freshly exploring religion, it’s a pretty universal thing that if you’re exploring in a respectful way and not cherry picking and appropriating incorrectly then there is likely no issues. Note I say a respectful way, nobody likes people to roll up and completely pervert their religion. After all, religion is not just yelling Skal or hail, it’s prayer and belief, it’s offering to the gods, it’s studying too. But if you’re here to learn respectfully who you are shouldn’t matter one iota.

This isn’t always the case in all religions but this is the most fair way to conduct religion.

What else brings racists?

Honestly, racism and anti-Semitism drive racists towards Heathenry. Some of these folks have swallowed up anti-Semitism so hard that the thought of a foreign, Jewish-based religion galls them and sticks in their racist craw. They can’t stomach things that relate to non-European anything, even worse if it’s rooted in something Jewish. So they think that they should turn to the native European religion as part of their racial identity. They turn away from Christianity because of its Jewish roots.

Religion is not the racist’s primary cultural identifier, race is. Race overrides all else and religion only exists in most cases to bolster that racial identity.

For some it’s hardly about religion at all. The Racists have a very strong culture building aspect to them, they base it on race, but it’s engineered to fill a cultural void in the folks they are engineering it all for. Not just a spiritual void but a cultural one. And it’s something that is hard to compete with because the racists are willing to make things up to tailor fit their audience where many of us are unwilling to do that. But much of it has less to do with spirituality and more to do with building culture, albeit typically shallowly on race.

This is how we get so many racists practicing “heathenry” on such a shallow level. For them, Heathenry exists as an aesthetic cover over some underlying beliefs that really have nothing to do with Heathenry. Some are practicing some kind of harsh racial monotheism completely at odds with heathen polytheism deep down. Some don’t actually worship anything and just wrap themselves in the aesthetic alone.

Our aesthetic attracts racists

As full of racists as Heathenry seems to be and often is, finding devout heathens who are actually practicing and studying the religion while being racist is fairly rare. Most of the racists are really only here for the aesthetic.

It’s problematic, but being a heathen and having a group is going to attract racists looking to join in on the aesthetic. The easiest way to get rid of these people is to draw a line in the sand regarding bigotry. Yes, this means excluding people, excluding those who are racists.

Most of the time if you’re an inclusive group the racists won’t really want to be a part of your group anyway. They want to be with other racists, they want to surround themselves in their aesthetic bubble.

Nazis, the real Nazis

The history of racism’s uses of Heathenry’s symbols predates Heathenry. Nazis were using the runes and using Germanic mythical imagery long before any real religious revival of Heathenry took place. No, there is no hidden history of underground Heathenry. Hundreds of years of historians scoured every little village and hamlet in Europe. Know what they found? Christians who had festivals and stories of pagan origins but no actual pagans. All heathenry is a recent innovation, a new revival of an old religion. The Nazis aren’t appropating our symbols and runes, they got there and used them before we even got around to reviving the faith. When we use the runes which were used peripherally by the Nazis in the 30s and 40s and definitely by racists today they’re going to be loaded imagery for some people, we cannot truly get upset when someone mistakes us for a racist because we cannot stop the racists from using the same symbols as us. We can be gentle and kind and explain ourselves and our beliefs. We can also have the grace to steer clear of symbols with overwhelming taint.

No, you can’t reclaim the swastika.

The Nazis straight up invented the black sun symbol, it’s not an ancient symbol at all. And the swastika? If you think it was some big, important symbol for ancient heathens in the version the Nazis adopted then you’ve already swallowed some of the Nazi’s kool-aid and propaganda. The Nazis may not have invented the symbol but they chose one with almost no real substantial use in ancient Heathenry, certainly nothing that looked anything like the swastika of the 1940s. It wasn’t important to heathens in ancient times, it’s not worth anything now. Some symbols are better left in the 1940s.

A message to racists and folkish people:

You probably haven’t gotten this far but your entire premise is flawed. You’re trying to close off Heathenry. Why? Maybe you’re afraid but honestly, people of color are not beating down the doors of Heathenry to get in. And even if they were, what would it matter? You’re worried about nothing real. We don’t have a cultural tradition any richer than any other, there is nothing worth appropriating that hasn’t already been appropriated for books, TV, movies, and everything else.

What can we do about all of this?

Don’t associate with racists. Don’t stand in circle with them, don’t raise horns with them, don’t buy their things, don’t associate with them in any capacity. We cannot control much beyond our own actions and associations. Beyond that, I’m still muddling through that myself as best I can.