Hærfest Part 2

Somewhat predictably in my last blog post I completely failed to mention one of the largest parts of my Hærfest celebrations, namely the offerings and gratitude expressed towards my ancestors during a separate ritual. I find it is important to reserve one ritual for my ancestors and one for the gods, because the reasons for contact and ritual are entirely different. I tend to conduct rituals to my ancestors on a far more frequent basis than I do the gods for reasons outlined in my Ancestral Worship post.

Needless to say, my previous post appeared to suggest I was conducting a ritual solely for the gods and nothing could be further from the truth!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hærfest

Wesaþ ġē hale!

It has been a little while now since my last update. Midsumor has come and gone and we are now well into Þriliða with Mōna reaching his height in just a few days time whereupon I will celebrate Hærfest by breaking bread and offering the first fruits of the season. This celebration is for the start of the Harvest season which will run through until the first Winter full moon (Winterfylleð) in October. Many celebrate Hærfest on the 1st of August but for me, that makes little sense as the luni-solar calendar doesn’t allow for this, therefore I am content to make my offerings and celebrate on the full moon of Þriliða this year, being the first full moon after the start of August. All of my ritual practice follows the full moon with the obvious exceptions of Yule and Midsumor. Next year, the Hærfest full moon will be on 26th August and falls within the month of Weodmōnað and therefore my personal ritual and celebration will be aligned to that date accordingly.

The offering will be made to Bēowa, the God of the agrarian cycle and who has long been associated with farming from the start to the very end of the cycle. He is held dear by many associated with brewing and farming for obvious reasons. I myself have wanted to brew my own mead for some time but have yet to be afforded the time for the pursuit. I am now a father of two and my responsibilities to home and hearth outweigh my personal desire to tinker and experiment with homebrewing! I certainly will look into attempting such in the future, however. For now, I must content myself with acquiring my mead from the local supermarket and pray that the Gods see no slight in this when it is offered to them.

Bēowa will be offered bread, beer and seasonal fruits by me. Whilst the physical fruits of the season should be presented in gratitude, it is also a time to reflect on the fruits of our labours in other pursuits. In this modern world, productivity is no longer measured in simply what is grown from the soil, but also what is grown within our hearts and hearths. I will take a moment in ritual to reflect upon my achievements this year, I.E. the sowing of the seeds I have planted in a very literal sense. I have become a father again and I have also achieved an examination pass which will allow me to pursue promotion in the coming years, both things for which I am extremely grateful. I will be taking the time to thank Ingui for blessing me with virility, Frīg for the health and wellbeing of my children and hearth, Wōden for the inspiration to expand my knowledge and wisdom in achieving my exam pass, Nerþuz for keeping me grounded and grateful, and Tīw for inspiring me to fight against injustice and chaos within my societal Innangeard.

The year ahead will also be considered as my options and opportunities reveal themselves slowly but surely. Frīg will therefore also be consulted as the all-knowing Wyrdwebbe (Wyrd Weaver) as I make my desire known and state my intention clearly before the Gods. Wyrd favours the bold and the mead will clearly be in full flow for this Hærfest celebration!

May you keep frið within your own hearths this Hærfest and give thanks for all you have achieved and continued to achieve.

Ode to Ingui

Rescued from my last blog. Hope you like this little poem I knocked up a while back in honour of fair Ingui.

Rode he by me in his waggon of gold

His hair whipped by the prevailing wind

A greater sight has never been foretold

That great might ‘neath his alabaster skin

*

We followed him then o’er the great sea

And steadily did our fortunes then grow

Oft did we sacrifice to our Lord Ingui

And then field after field we did sow

*

As children were born unto this land

Our cups did we raise in his name

He held our tribe close in his hands

And lords of all England we became

*

Lost to the flow of Wyrd are his many deeds

That to our great shame are forgotten

Yet mighty things may grow from a tiny seed

To be sown in our fair children begotten

*

Those of us who recall shall exalt him still

And give thanks for seasons of fair weather

His waggon tracks still lead o’er England’s hills

And his name shall be honoured forever

*

Midsumor

Midsumor.

It is a word that has become deeply ingrained in the national psyche and yet appears at odds with modern accepted practice in terms of the changing of the seasons. These days, Midsummer actually signifies the beginning of the summer months, whereas back in the so-called dark ages, it is posited that only two seasons were acknowledged, namely Summer and Winter. As has been mentioned on other blogs, the Anglo-Saxon calendar was Luni-solar in as much as each Mōnað (Month) was governed by the phases of the moon, yet arguably the two most significant holy tides, Liða and Gēol (Midsummer and Yule respectively) fell on the two solstice days of the year, thus keeping everything “on track” as exact points of reference. Thus Midsummer fell in the middle of Summer and Yule in the middle of winter. Autumn and Spring were not specifically observed on their Equinoxes and today, many heathens, particularly Fyrnsidere, observe the changing of those seasons as part of the Winterfylleð (Winter full moon) and Wintersdēað (Easter) celebrations, being the first full moons after the equinoxes.

Midsumor is a time to celebrate the massive power of Sunne as she continues to pull her flaming chariot across the sky for the longest period of time in the year. She drives out the darkness for longer than any other day in the year, giving rise to the “longest day” which is celebrated as being the very height of her power. Consequently, we celebrate this in ritual format on the Summer Solstice.

As my praxis is entirely hearth-centric, and solitary, my rituals are both personal and perhaps somewhat solemn. The celebration of Midsumor evokes visions of people gathering in large numbers, singing, holding hands, basking in the warm glow of Sunne and then lighting a large fire in solidarity with that mighty Goddess, casting their offerings into the flames and proclaiming their deep gratitude for the light and warmth that She brings to our hearts and souls. As a solitary practitioner, such a celebration is far more muted in comparison, however I present it below from memory so as to assist any others who are in a similar position but seeking some sort of steer about what to do.

 

I began my ritual by cleansing myself and then my wīgbed (altar). For me this involves a simple process of washing my hands and face with warm water only. As discussed previously, water is a liminal substance that is of major importance to the Fyrnsidere. It helps us to connect with the numinous.

For the cleansing of the wīgbed I light a candle and passed the flame three times Sunwise around my wīgbed, calling to Þunor to hallow the space and make it sacred. Whilst my wīgbed is already dedicated to the Gods and Goddesses, this ritual cleansing helps me to not only ground myself but to set the tone for the use of the wīgbed and reinforce the use of it as a sacred space.

My wīgbed is situated in our garage on a shelf midway up the wall. To remain in contact with the wīgbed for ritual purposes, I therefore remain standing as opposed to kneeling which is perhaps more standard practice.

I then called to Nerþuz as a liminal deity to allow me communion with the divine. To me, Nerþuz acts as a gatekeeper between Middangeard and the other worlds and represents a threshold between worlds. Wada is often used as a deity for this function also, particularly when water is used at the wīgbed. I am comfortable using water or soil from my homestead for this function. If using water, my preference is to use rainwater or standing water from within the garden or grounds of my homestead so that the element used is within my personal control and thus more relevant to the ritual coming from within my Innangeard. Whilst petitioning to Nerþuz to allow me communion, I place the soil upon a small dish on the wīgbed, ensuring I am touching the soil whilst doing so.

Some light incense at this stage whilst making further prayers or supplications, however I use herbs growing in my garden, rubbing these between my palms to evoke a strong scent as incense sticks are not practical in my garage. I prayed to Nerþuz at this point, calling to Her as Eorþan Modor to thank Her for the fertility of my gardens and the produce She has given not only to my heorþ but to the animals and insects that frequent it. She is a deity of life, as well as death and thus I also give thanks to Her for receiving the dead leaves, animals, plants and insects within the boundary of my heorþ, thus ensuring the continuing life-death-rebirth cycle.

My intention for the Midsomer ritual was to make offering to Sunne but also to Ingui, who I had previously petitioned and made offering to when my wife and I were seeking pregnancy at the end of last year. We had just been blessed with the birth of my second daughter and thus it was important to me to show my gratitude to Ingui by making Him a further offering, and to Sunne for blessing us with warmth and light during the period following my daughter’s birth. To enable these offerings to pass to Ingui and Sunne, I petitioned Frīg as Heorþmodor to ferry the offerings to Ingui and to Sunne. Frīg is a protector of children as another aspect of Her many functions and therefore this seemed particularly appropriate to me for the ritual. I also prayed to Her in gratitude for the health and wellbeing of my children whilst again crushing herbs in my palms, the scent an offering of supplication to Her.

I then recited a prayer to Ingui and then to Sunne. These I do not prepare ahead of time, though many do. I speak from the heart, clearly and with feeling. I say who I am and who they are to me, what they mean to me and express my gratitude to them and why I am making them an offering. I petitioned Sunne to continue to light the darkness in my life and to help me see clearly the threats to my heorþ and to my folc. To Ingui I petitioned Him to help me connect with my ancestors and to draw upon their strength in supporting my heorþ.

To Ingui I then made an offering of mead and to Sunne I made an offering of a dedicated candle to burn through the darkness in solidarity with Her as the days will now begin to draw in. I was careful to ensure the candle was not unattended for safety reasons.

I then thanked both Sunne and Ingui for hearing my petitions, Frīg for conveying my gits and I then called once more to Nerþuz to close the gates to the numinous, thus ending the ritual.

I would recommend to anyone looking to create their own rituals to take a good look at the Lārhūs Fyrnsida website which has an excellent article on Ritual Format which I will link here.

Site Updates

Wesaþ ġē hale!

I have been busy populating some of the pages of this blog with Fundamentals, Deities, and the Anglo-Saxon Heathen Calendar. I will write more about my own Hearth praxis in the coming days and weeks but just wanted to put this short post up to prove I wasn’t doing nothing at all! I have credited where it is due and a lot of my information comes from the indomitable Lārhūs Fyrnsida website. I have provided a detailed section on the Goddess Helið that some may find of interest or use. I would welcome any comments on any section and look forward to writing more soon.

You may notice that there are some leaps of faith or “UPG” which stands for “Unconfirmed Personal Gnosis” that may not be to some peoples tastes, however in a world where the unknown outweighs the amount known, such things are, in my submission, acceptable if they can be suitably justified. I am more than happy to discuss these further with anyone who disputes them or feels they challenge common sense.

 

Helið and the Þyrs of Cerne

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The people of Cerne were a hardy folk, well used to surviving amongst the chalk hills of the Cerne valley that rose up from the river of the same name. They grazed their cattle and sheep upon the land and they showed their gratitude to the gods with their sacrifices and offerings in keeping with tradition. There rose, within Cerne, a well-spring from deep under the chalk hills, known to the locals as the Seolfor Cwylla and it carried with it fresh water that it was said could cure the ills of the local folk and could be depended upon to water the fields and provide sufficient refreshment for the cattle so that the people of Cerne would continue to thrive when the skies ran dry during the Summer months.

There lived nearby a crone, bent and twisted with age and she took a copse of trees for her home high in the hills above Cerne. She was said to be a gyden who had lived in the hills for longer than man could remember, tending to the wild places and keeping them free from maleficent wihta and outlaws. She was said to be very wise and knowledgeable in the ways of healing worts and their applications. The folk of Cerne named her as Helið and took her for a goddess of their own. They would leave their offerings to her at the site of where the Seolfor Cwylla reached the surface, and merchants would throw pieces of silver downstream to pay their respects to Helið as their wares were pulled from one marketplace to another throughout the Frome Valley of Dorset and beyond.

Cerne was a place of peace and plenty for many a year until the coming of a mighty Hyll Þyrs one night following a mighty thunderstorm. The Þyrs appeared from out of the trees, carrying an enormous club hewn from the trunk of an oak. He was naked and proudly so, staking his claim to a new home on one of the hills above the village. From his lofty perch he demanded the villagers present him with sacrifices from their finest stock, and when at first they refused, he slew their strongest warriors with a single sweep of his mighty club. The villagers succumbed to his demands and despaired, their flocks of sheep and oxen rapidly diminishing as the Þyrs gorged itself on their carcasses. At night its heavy footsteps could be heard and felt around the village as it helped itself to more livestock.

It became known that whilst the Þyrs was in possession of its club, the Þyrs could not be defeated. Warriors came from near and far to take on the Þyrs and each were summarily beaten, slain and consumed by the Þyrs of Cerne, as it became known. The villagers knew not where to turn. Then one night the Þyrs discovered the Seolfor Cwylla, pushing aside the underbrush and attempts by the villagers to disguise their pure water source and, having developed a terrible thirst from the consumption of so many of the beasts of burden belonging to the villagers, he then gorged himself on the pure waters of the Seolfor Cwylla and drained it dry in a single sitting.

And thus did he anger Helið, as he drank the waters that fed the copse of trees within which she dwelt. Her anger was terrible to behold and it was said that the beasts and birds of the Ūtangeard did fall silent as she smouldered with fury within the dying trees of her home. Yet it was from here that she plotted her revenge. From stiðe she wove a net, strong and durable; lacing it with a deadly poison. Waiting until the moon was full, she strode down from her home, casting a glamour all about her such that she shone with the radiance of the full moon, her hair appearing as pure as the silver waters from the Cwylla and her countenance was said to be as fair as Frīge herself.

The Þyrs was stood high on its hill, looking down at the village as he intended again to help himself to the cattle and livestock, his hunger once again upon him. Helið approached from the mouth of the wellspring, striding with apparent swiftness towards the Þyrs. It beheld her as she approached and was struck dumb by her intense beauty. Such was its arousal at her countenance that it lowered its mighty club, leaving itself open to her approach. Helið did not falter. She did not delay but cast the net she had created wide, throwing it upon the Þyrs as it stood enraptured, the bonds tightening about it and the poison setting to its task with startling rapidity. The Þyrs bellowed in pain and surprise, its legs giving way beneath it such that it fell against the hillside with a mighty crash, its head striking the chalky earth so hard that its skull did break. Helið stood watching in silence, gathering in the net she had woven and stowing it safely away. The Cerne Þyrs was dead, and from its broken head did pour the waters of the Seolfor Cwylla, leaking back into the chalk hill.

The folk of Cerne rejoiced in the death of the Þyrs and Helið strode back through the village, her glamour now failing as the moon’s rays dissipated behind clouds, returning her countenance once again to that of the crone that she truly was. As she passed by the Seolfor Cwylla, the waters it had previously provided once again burst forth and with it returned the life and purity of the surrounding area. Helið returned to the hills to tend to the wild places once again, and the people of Cerne never again faced the threat of a Þyrs, marking the site of the dead creature by grinding its bones into the chalk beneath the grass of the hill which serving as a warning to others that here was one that met its end.

And the folk of Cerne created their idols to Helið in recognition of her deeds, and from that day until the coming of Augustine, they lived in harmony with one another and paid tribute to their goddess at the Seolfor Cwylla. Many now do not recall the deeds of Helið, but there are some that do and will always honour her. Should you pass through the village of Cerne in your travels, ensure you pay tribute to her at the Seolfor Cwylla, the Silver Well, which still runs to this very day through the heart of the village whilst the image of the defeated Þyrs remains imprinted for all time on the hill above it. On a moonlit night you may see her still, watching over the village and the hills above Cerne, bent and haggard with age and care, but determination burning from eyes of the purest silver.