The Æcerbot Charm

The Æcerbot Charm is a Christianized version of a clearly pre-Christian traditional ritual of blessing for the fertility of fields. There is reference to a “holy keeper” which is perceived by Rosenberg (1966) to be Þunor which is not at odds with the heathen practice of using a hammer of Þunor or indeed invoking his name as a blessing to consecrate and bless. Herbert (1994) suggests that the plough is a symbolic penis; hence it is used to inseminate the ground with seed, thus is a possible reference to the importance of Ingui as a fertility god. Rosenberg also theorizes that the bread that is laid is symbolic of the “corn-baby” that was widely used across Europe. There are obvious links to other gods in the ritual that can be used in substitution by the modern Fyrnsidere to replace the Christianized form and I have included these in my own version of the charm following the original Old English version below.

I recognise that my own version of this ritual may not be to everyone’s taste, however it is a personal thing to me that I would consider if seeking a blessing with any planting I was looking to do in a field that seemed curiously afflicted with a poor ability to grow crops.

The original is below in Old English, followed by my own interpretation for modern use. I have not provided a direct translation as these are widely available on Google.

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Her ys seo bot, hu ðu meaht þine æceras betan gif hi nellaþ wel wexan oþþe þær hwilc ungedefe þing on gedon bið on dry oððe on lyblace. Genim þonne on niht, ær hyt dagige, feower tyrf on feower healfa þæs landes, and gemearca hu hy ær stodon. Nim þonne ele and hunig and beorman, and ælces feos meolc þe on þæm lande sy, and ælces treow – cynnes dæl þe on þæm lande sy gewexen, butan heardan beaman, and ælcre namcuþre wyrte dæl, butan glappan anon, and do þonne haligwæter ðær on, and drype þonne þriwa on þone staðol þara turfa, and cweþe ðonne ðas word:

Crescite, wexe, et multiplicamini and gemænigfealda, et replete, and gefylle, terre, þas eorðan. In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti sit benedicti. And Pater Noster swa oft swa þæt oðer.

And bere siþþan ða turf to circean, and mæssepreost asinge feower mæssan ofer þan turfon, and wende man þæt grene to ðan weofode, and siþþan gebringe man þa turf þær hi ær wæron ær sunnan setlgange. And hæbbe him gæworht of cwicbeame feower Cristes mælo and awrite on ælcon ende: Matheus and Marcus, Lucas and Iohannes. Lege þæt Cristes mæl on þone pyt neoþeweardne, cweðe ðonne:

Crux Matheus, crux Marcus, crux Lucas, crux sanctus Iohannes.

Nim ðonne þa turf and sete ðær ufon on and cweþe donne nigon siþon þas word, Crescite, and swa oft Pater Noster, and wende þe þonne eastweard, and onlut nigon siðon eadmodlice, and cweð þonne þas word:

Eastward ic stande, arena ic me bidde, bidde ic þone mæran domine, bidde ðone miclan drihten, bidde ic ðone haligan heofonrices weard, eorðan ic bidde and upheofon and ða soþan sancta Marian an heofones meaht and heahreced, þæt ic mote þis gealdor mid gife drihtnes, toðum ontynan þurh trumne geþanc, aweccan þas wæstmas us to woruldnytte, gefyllan þas foldan mid fæste geleafan, wlitigigan þas wancgturf, swa se witega cwæð þæt se hæfde are on eorþrice, se þe ælmyssan dælde domlice drihtnes þances.

Wende þe þonne III sunganges, astrece þonne on andlang and arim þær letanias and cweð þonne: Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus oþ ende. Sing þonne Bendicte aþenedon earmon and Magnificat and Pater Noster III, and bebeod hit Criste and sancta Marian and þære halgan rode to lofe and to weorþinga and to are þam þa þæt land age and eallon þam þe him underðeodde synt. Đonne þæt eall sie gedon þonne nime man, and gegaderie ealle his sulhgeteogo togædere; borige þonne on þam beame stor and finol and gehalgode sapan and gehalgod sealt. Nim þonne þæt sæd, sete on þæs sules bodig, cweð þonne:

Erce, Erce, Erce, eorþan modor, geunne þe se alwalda, ece drihten, æcera wexendra and wridendra, eacniendra and elniendra, sceafta scira, hersaewæstma and þæra bradan berewæstma, and þæra hwitan hwætewæstma, and ealra eorþan wæstma. Geunne him ece drihten and his halige, þe on heofonum synt, þæt hys yrþ si gefriþod wið ealra feonda gehwæne, and heo si geborgen wið ealra bealwa gehwylc, þara lyblaca geond land sawen. Nu ic bidde ðone waldend, se ðe ðas woruld gesceop, þæ ne sy nan to þæs cwidol wif ne to þæs cræftig man þæt awendan ne mæge word þus gecwedene.

Þonne man þa sulh forð drife and þa forman furh onsceote, cweð þonne:

Hal wes þu, folde, fira modor! Beo þu growende on godes fæþme, fodre gefylled firum to nytte.

Nim þonne ælces cynnes melo and abacæ man innwerdre handa bradnæ hlaf and gecned hine mid meolce and mid haligwætre and lecge under þa forman furh. Cweð þonne: Ful æcer fodres fira cinne, beorhtblowende, þu gebletsod weorþ þæs haligan noman þe ðas heofon gesceop and ðas eorþan þ we on lifiaþ; se god, se þas grundas geworhte, geunne us growende gife, Þæt us corna gehwylc cume to nytte. Cweð þonne III Crescite in nomine patris, sit benedicti. Amen and Pater Noster þriwa.

*****

And below is my own version of the ritual to fit with my personal Fyrnsidere praxis presented in Modern English:

Here is the remedy to a land that has been bewitched or fouled by unclean wīhta (Wights), malevolent entities or any untoward thing such that your crops do not grow as they should. On the night of the new moon, take four pieces of turf from four parts of the land and mark how they previously stood. Then, take oil (Rapeseed, sunflower) and honey and the milk of every animal which may be on that land, and a piece of wood from every kind of tree which is grown on the land, save sacred oak and beech, and a piece of every named plant, except only burdock, and then put Þunor-hallowed water sourced from the land onto them, and let it drip three times into the place of each piece of turf, saying these words:

“Grow and multiply and be filled, this earth. In the names of Ingui (Ing) and Nerþuz (Nerthus) may it be blessed” Afterwards, carry the turfs to your wēofod (altar) and sing four blessings over those turfs to Ingui, to Nerþuz, to Bēow (Bue) and to Frīg (Free), and let the green sides be turned towards the altar. Afterwards have the turfs brought to where they were before the setting of Sunne (Sun). And let Þunor (Thunor) have four signs of the hammer, made from rowan-wood with the Þorn (Thorn), Ear (Earth/Grave), Ēðel (Estate) and Ing (Ing) runes carved upon each. Let the hammers lie in the bottom of the pit and then say:

“Þorn, Ear, Ēðel, Ing” above each.

Then take the turfs and lay them above the hammers and say these words nine time above each: “Grow! Þunor-Corngrowere (Thunor-Corngrower) bless this ground.” And then turn yourself to the east and raise your open palms skywards and say these words:

“Eastward I stand, favours I ask for myself
I ask the famed master, I ask the great Lord Ingui
I ask the great keeper of the honoured dead, Nerþuz
I ask both below and above
And the true holy mother, Frīg
And the high hall of Wōden
So that with Ingui-
Ēowend’s (Virile Ing) permission this charm I may
Satisfy with thought turned towards firm purpose
Awaken the fruits of this land for our use in the world
Fill these fields with steadfast trust and faith
Make the this soil complete with earthly riches such that all may benefit”

Then turn yourself three times sunwise. Then stretch yourself out and recite the Rune Poem. Then make offering to Ingui-Ēowend, and to Bēow-Sulhhandla (Ploughman Bue) , and to Þunor-Corngrowere, and to Frīg-Eallmeaht (Almighty Free) and to Nerthuz-Eorþan Modor (Nerthus Earth-Mother) and to the honour and grace of him who owns the land and all those who are dependent upon him. When all this has been done, then let an unknown seed be taken from the needy and then give to them twice as much as is taken from them. Have all the ploughing-gear brought out and put together. Have a hole bored on the plough-stick filled with incense and fennel and Þunor-hallowed soap and salt. Then take the seed, set it into the plough’s shaft and say:

“Erce, Erce, Erce, mother of earth
may the fertile one, the lord of the Ingaveones
grant fields growing and sprouting
increasing and strengthening
with shining shafts of bright crops
and the broad barley-crops
and the white wheat-crops
and all the crops of the earth.
Grant to him oh Lord Ingui
and all the blessed Gods
that this tilling be protected against any enemy
and it be victorious against any evil
of witchcraft and malevolence seen throughout the land.

Now I ask the ruler who shaped this world
that no woman be so word-strong nor man so clever
that he or she should be able to turn aside my words thus spoken”

When the plough is driven out and turns the first furrow, then say:

“Hale be thou, Nerþuz, earth-mother!
Be thou growing in Ingui’s embrace
Filled with food for the use of men”

Then take each kind of meal (Flour made from the crops of the land) and bake a hand-sized loaf and knead it with milk and Þunor-hallowed water and lay it under the first furrow. Then say:

“A field full of food for the race of men bright-blooming may you become blessed in the name of the gods and this earth on which we live; the gods who made these lands grant growth to us as a gift so that each grain may come to us for our use.”

Then say three times: “Mighty Þunor-Corngrowere, let it be so blessed”.

 *****

You will note that there are multiple gods and goddesses referred to throughout this piece. The following is offered in explanation:

Þunor: As previously mentioned at the beginning of the article, it was identified by Rosenberg in 1966 that the “Holy Keeper” referred to in the charm may relate to Þunor whose name was, and still is invoked as a means to consecrate, hallow and hold spaces and objects which were to be used for sacred purposes. I have used him for the purposes of blessing both within my hearth and without, therefore to me he remains a natural choice in his aspect as “Corngrowere/Corngrower” to essentially sanctify the land.

Ingui: Ingui in his aspect of “Ēowend/Virile” is called upon as a giver of life and as a literal “sower of seeds”, called upon to take an earthly role in impregnating the land with the seeds given by the needy/almsmen/beggars in the physical form of the plough itself, entering the earth with the act of sowing. He is the perfect choice for such a role, given his strong link to virility and fertility.

Nerþuz: The Æcerbot charm refers directly to Nerþuz in her role as Eorþan Modor/Earth Mother and the Earth in the Angle tradition of life and death is both womb and tomb, essentially. Given her strong role in the charm, I have referred to her by her known name whilst retaining the alternative reference to her as “Erce” which is within the original charm in Old English. To all intents and purposes, it is to her that we are pleading that the seed of Ingui will take hold for our benefit.

Bēow: As the Barley God concerned with the agrarian cycle, in my view such a pleading in this ritual would also need to include some reference to him for he lives and dies each year with the cycle and we are asking him to come forth in this aspect and grow to his fullest potential. He is also known as the Sulhhandla /Ploughman and would be concerned with such when seeking to turn around the fortune of a blighted field.

Wōden & Frīg: Perhaps the more contentious of the God’s/Goddesses I have included in my version of the charm. I have referred to them because the literal translation from the Old English refers to the “true holy mother” and the “high hall” which, it could be argued, relate to Frīg in her aspect as mother-figure to mankind, and Wōden in his aspect as All Father. Wōden could be appealed to here in several aspects – Wordsāwere/Wordsower as a means to enforcing the strength of the charms words, Lǣce/Healer to appeal to him as a healer of the land, or even Wēstend/Destroyer in his aspect as a Desolater to destroy the presence of that which has seemingly cursed the land. To that end, I have used his name in the general form, without being specific.

With regards to the moon cycle I have chosen for the selecting of the turfs, this is so that the ritual is completed on the day following the night of the new moon as it has all the connotations and associations with new beginnings and new efforts that appealed to my common sense.

The runes are referred to twice in my version, as in the Old English version it recounts having crosses made of ash and marked with the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, therefore I have selected four runes from the Futhorc that I would etch upon hammers made from rowan-wood – runes that I felt lent themselves nicely to the spirit of the ritual though you could justify the use of many other runes in their stead should you so wish. The recitation of the Rune Poem replaces the litanies referred to in the Old English version.

And finally, the “water taken from the land” is an extrapolation of mine away from the “holy water” concept in the original, because I feel that water as a purifying and liminal agent used frequently in hearth praxis, should be taken from the land on which one resides. I find this an important concept as the water is already associated with the land and ties in nicely with the plants, wood and turfs that have been sourced already. This should be hallowed by Þunor also if it is to be in keeping with the original ritual.

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Hægtessan & Burgrune

Taken as a gloss for “witch”, the word has uncertain origin and has also been strongly associated with “Hag” or “Crone”, however the Old High German cognate, hagusizze has the meaning of “border/hedge-sitter” and may specifically relate to a class of females who would literally sit upon the border or boundaries of sanctuaries such that they straddled them and received power and knowledge from being dwellers of both the profane and the sacred.

These women were also associated with some of the characteristics of Wælcyrigean in sharing their raw and bloody power. The term “Hægtesse” is referred to in the Lacnunga charm, Wið Færstice as a specific group associated with other beings of the Otherworld (Namely, the gods and elves) therefore these women may well have been supernatural in origin, considered to be powerful, almost deific in origin and certainly to be feared by mere mortals, yet possessed of extraordinary insight and knowledge.

Both Bede and Coifi refer to heathen temples in similar fashion indicating the importance of boundaries when setting aside the sacred from the profane:

ða wīgbed ond þa hergas þara deofogilda mid heora hegum”

“…the altars and the harrows of the temples with their boundaries” (Coifi c.627 AD)

“…aras et fana iodlorum cum septis quibus erant cirumdata”

“…the altars and temples of the idols, with the fences by which they were surrounded” (Bede 731 AD)

The fact that Bede remarked on the boundaries of the sanctuaries implies that these were significant and has allowed us to draw the conclusion that some form of emphatic boundary would be necessary to designate the point at which the worshipper crossed from the profane to the sacred space.

The significance of sitting on a boundary is that it is a liminal space, open to influences from both sides and thus important in the heathen worldview. We know from evidence that those who worked magic or sought information from the Otherworld were in the habit of sitting on a barrow mound in Norse traditions and that this was known to the Anglo-Saxons similarly “sittan sundor æt rune” or “sit apart in secret thought”.

The Hægtessan are remembered in the place-names of England, such as Hascombe (Surrey ) and Hescombe (Somerset) meaning, literally “Witch Valley”.

A Burgrune has similar meaning, specifically “female skilled in mysteries of the high place” and is also glossed from the Latin “parcas” meaning “fates” which ties in well with practices of divination in high places on platforms raised above the surrounding land, such as seiðr rites. The term may have some reflection upon tales such as Rapunzel and the Germanic seeress Veleda who performed her prophetic magic in a high tower. The boundaries that would be straddled in this example may be between earth and sky as profane and sacred places, set apart from more traditional sanctuaries.

A Hægrune means “one of the boundary who is skilled in mysteries” and is one of a group of terms associated with female supernatural or magical figures, also including Leodrune “one skilled in mysteries within the tribe” or Helrune meaning “one skilled in the mysteries of the world of the dead” and could therefore reflect a more shamanic leaning, involving the Otherworld in journeys and necromancy.

Of particular interest is that these roles appear entirely associated with powerful female supernatural beings with extraordinary powers and magical abilities. There appears to be no male cognate and thus the domain of prophecy, divination and mystery seems to be exclusively female. The one notable exception to this is that of Wōden himself, whose use of magic to divine information and wisdom seems to be unique in terms of male deities that are known within the Anglo-Saxon pantheon.

The Way of Wyrd

It has been many months since my last post on this page. I have longed for a more constructive piece to put out there but I have been distracted by a large life event looming on the very near horizon. My hearth has been spiritually neglected and I am the first to admit to it. I have not been able to make the time for meaningful discourse with my ancestors and I have acutely felt my inability to show them the respect they deserve in a manner that befits them.

I have much to be grateful to them for, particularly with my desire to force meaningful change upon mine and my family’s lives that will enable us to flourish and grow, away from the confines of our location. Dorset is a county on the South coast of England, nestled between the great counties of Hampshire, Devon, Somerset and Wiltshire and has long been known for its amazing coastline and dramatic history. As I have previously mentioned on this blog, there is a God or Goddess of “place” at Cerne Abbas, the Mistress of the Silver Well that I know as Helið, and I have made offering to her on several occasions.

However, I am not from this county. I am not from Dorset. I have called it home for many years but I lived just over the border in Hampshire for most of my life. Again, however, I am not from Hampshire. I was born in Wiltshire. Yet again, I am not from there. I have stated before that my family tree has been traced back, at least as far as the 1700’s on my father’s side but the significance of it did not hit me until about 6 months ago when my wife and I began to look further afield, growing tired of a life near the coast and the associated cost of living that come with it. We felt shackled, I think, by that feeling of having to remain where you are because it is “what you know”. That is perhaps not unusual. Most people feel compelled to remain within relative touching distance of their friends and family for obvious reasons, however we felt a “tug” to look elsewhere.

So we began to look elsewhere. I take my job very seriously. I consider it a vocation; a calling if you will and not a simple job that I can pick up and put down. I swore an oath to my sovereign to serve the people of my country and I still feel very strongly that I have that duty and responsibility for as long as I am able to. We therefore began a search for a part of the country or even the Commonwealth that I could transfer to and be able to provide a fantastic life for my family, specifically my two daughters and maintain my oath in continuing my work in a new location. Both of my daughters are at pre-school age and we felt that a move now would be better than a move in 10 years’ time when they have already settled and established a friendship base.

The search took several twists and turns before we settled on three counties: Lincolnshire, Cumbria and County Durham. I applied to all three and then waited for the results. Before long a clear frontrunner emerged and I took the opportunity to focus on just one county – Durham. My application was successful and so began the search for a new home in the county. My wife and I pored over the map of the county, searching for viable locations, looking for all the little things that would determine whether we could view a property favourably or not. We found several and set about organising a trip up to the County, some 6 hours drive away, in order to view the properties.

When we arrived, we were hugely disappointed and dispirited by what we found. We arranged several hasty viewings and time after time the houses disappointed and the locations proved to be incompatible. That is, until we viewed the last property of our trip away. It wasn’t even in County Durham, just over the border in North Yorkshire, nestled between the Dales on one side and the Moors on the other, less than an hour away from four major cities and yet, tantalisingly, we had an enormous amount of countryside and history on our doorstep, plus we were just a short distance from the Pennines and the Lake District.

The house was stunning. The price was right. The location was perfect. It fit, and I felt some sort of connection like I have never felt with a place. I felt like I belonged in that place, like I was a part of it and had a resonance with it that I have never known before. We snapped up the property and are now in the process of completing our move up to the North East from the South West at the end of the month.

Little did I realise just what sort of a connection I had with the place. Subsequent to applying for the move, and finding the house, I discovered that my known ancestors hailed from County Durham and North Yorkshire. My oldest known ancestor is buried less than 30 minutes from our new home and I am delighted to be able to visit his grave and pay my respects. Furthermore, a whole branch of my family I have never known may be living in and around Darlington, a large town in County Durham less than 20 minutes from our new home and so the possibilities of reconnection, discovery and completion are now suddenly, and wonderfully close to realisation.

My wife felt that connection too. We both felt; literally felt that we belonged there.

So our adventure has just begun and I am full of hope and positivity for the move. I will establish our property boundary, marking it with flame and then re-establish my sacred space when we have moved in and settled. Following on from this I will re-dedicate my weōfod in some quiet and contemplative space, free from the hustle and bustle of the household and out of the way of tiny grasping fingers to allow it a sanctity and peace that it truly deserves. Our new home will be beside a fast-flowing river and near both fields and trees – an ancient ruined abbey mere walking distance away. I hope and I pray fervently to my ancestors and to the gods, that this will be the start of a meaningful, peaceful and settled existence for my family and I, and that I can maintain my oath to this great nation and my folc by keeping the Ūtangeard at bay as best I can.

Gæð a wyrd swa hio scel

My Hearth Ritual Praxis

Establishing ritual hearth praxis is the single most important exercise that we Frīfolc can take religiously.

My house, my home is my sacred enclosure, my entire cosmos and the very centre of my life. To all intents and purposes, I am our household Þingere, or familial priest, charged with the responsibility of directly engaging with divinity and our ancestors alike. As such I am responsible for establishing and maintaining those connections with fervour and respect.

There has been a drive of late amongst fellow members of the Frīfolc to share their ritual hearth practice, something which had previously eluded newcomers when seeking to establish a “how to” guide to forming some kind of standard. My ritual, like that of the Lārhūs Fyrnsida is placed within the context of the tradition of Fyrnsidu and is broadly similar to that format with very minor differences. I recommend their article on the subject if you are interested in the why as well as the how.

The tradition of household practice holds that the domicile is a sacred enclosure, but there are sites which are specifically given over to the proper veneration of household deities and divine ancestors.  This place is the “Weōfod” (Pronounced “Way-oh-vod”, meaning altar), and is the personal altar of my family. Some refer to this as a wīgbed, which is a term often used to describe a hearth altar, specifically. Whilst my altar represents my hearth, it is not placed physically at my hearth, therefore I prefer to use the term weōfod, which is perhaps slightly more general in meaning.

My preference would be for this to be set within the home, either near to the hearth itself, or in some quiet and contemplative place within the home that can be satisfactorily used as a sacred space. This can be difficult. In my own home, I am the sole practitioner of Fyrnsidu and my wife is not supportive of my weōfod being kept within the confines of the house proper, therefore mine is maintained in our garage at the bottom of our small garden. It is out of the way, but it is private and thus not liable to being disturbed.

My weōfod is upon a shelf mounted on to the wall. It is small, comprising of a single shelf along the rear wall, near to the corner. Corners are associated with liminality, a meeting of two points suggestive of an area between Middangeard and the divine reality of the Gods. Most importantly, this space has been given over to the gods and is not used to store or maintain other goods or profane objects which are not intended for ritual. I keep it clean and free from extraneous material.

The practice of home worship within the hearth can be as complex, or as simple, as the household wishes it to be. I tend to keep mine simple and heartfelt, rather than overly elaborate. My own praxis has developed and will continue to develop over time. This includes the various tools which are used within the hearth cult on the weōfod.

However, the basic tools of the heathen hearth cult should be considered as follows:

Clǣnsungfȳr (Cleansing Fire): I have no statuary items, no idols upon my altar. I feel very strongly that such would need to be personally crafted in order to be charged with meaning for my own hearth, and at present I have not learnt the required skills to create these in a manner that would do me and the Gods justice. Until then, I use a votive candle to represent the requirement of the sacred flame. It is lit on the weōfod during ritual.  Not only does it provide the representation of the traditional sacred flame, but it is also useful in the establishment of sacred space through circumambulation, reenacting the sacred cosmogony to delineate the space of the other for ritual.

Offrungdisc (Offering Bowl): This is a small bowl that I use as the receptacle to store offered food or other offerings.  This enables me to share offerings directly from meals to the ancestors and the Gods. I also use a hand-crafted goblet for the offering of libation, which is my usual preferred method as I like to offer mead where possible. Sometimes other offerings are more representative or appropriate, such as seasonal foods, petals during Blōstmfrēols or Ēostre, sprigs of holly at Yule and the like.

Rēcelsfæt (Incense Burner): I have no incense burner as such, but I do select various plants from our garden that give off aromas that I will burn during ritual. I find that incense allows you to engage another of your senses in the ritual, opening all of your senses to what is happening and thus fully committing yourself to the process.

These items are considered to be the bare minimum of materials required for enacting cult ritual in the hearth.  I have added to this with a representation of my ancestors in the form of a bronze figurine that belonged to my grandmother, as well as futhorc runes that I associate with the specific Gods that I tend to entreat. I am keen to replace these with my own hand-carved ones as and when I can perfect that process.

My Ritual Format

One is encouraged to kneel when addressing the divine, although not if this places the weōfod out of practical reach. For me, this would be the case and so I stand before my weōfod in the position of the Eolh rune: ᛉ

I stand with my palms facing upwards and I feel this shows that I come before the Gods and my ancestors unarmed and open. I do not cover my head, however some choose to do so as it is not uncommon in polytheistic religions to do this.

Clǣnsung (Purification/Cleansing): Prior to communion, I perform a rite of purification on myself in preparation of speaking directly to the divine. For me, this is a simple washing of the hands and face, or perhaps a bath or shower. In Fyrnsidu, water plays a key role in liminality and as such cleansing oneself with water is an ideal way of preparing for petitioning communion.

Hālgung (Hallowing): I then begin the ritual hallowing of my weōfod. As previously mentioned, I do this via demarcation with fire in a sunwise direction by using my candle in a circular motion over the weōfod. I do this 3 times as 3 is an important number in Germanic cosmology. I personally choose to invoke Þunor-Hālgunghealdend (Hallowing Protector) at this time as he is associated with hallowing sacred spaces.

Forespræc (Preface): Once ritual purification and demarcation of space has been completed, I then address the deities who are invited to witness the sacrifice. The steps are as follows:

  • I petition Nerþuz-Þerscoldweard (Nerþuz Threshold Guardian), to allow divine communion to occur. In order to do this, I take a pinch of earth from the grounds of my home to signal my personal link to the land and thus to Nerþuz
  • I offer Rēcels (Incense) to Nerþuz-Þerscoldweard alongside prayers and further supplications.
  • I make a petition to Frīg-Heorþmodor (Frīg Hearthmother), to deliver the offerings to the ritual’s intended recipients. She is significant in this regard as she is a deity of the hearth itself, therefore strongly linked to my family.
  • I then give prayer and offerings to Frīg-Heorþmodor (further incense, a libation poured, grain burned etc.) as thanks for her role in the rite.

Hālsung (Entreaty): The hālsung constitutes the body of the ritual.

  • I recite a prayer directed to the deity who is being honoured. This prayer follows a similar format to that espoused by the Lārhūs Fyrnsida.
  • I then state the reason for the offering and what goods will be offered.
  • Then, on occasion but not always, I may entreat the deity to return a gift in return for a gift (the offering).

Gifu (The Gift): Once the hālsung is completed, I then give the intended offerings to the deity/deities.

Endespæc (End Speech): After the offering has been given, closing statements can be made, thanking and appreciating the deities invoked, always finishing with the line “And hail to Nerþuz, that gives to all men”. Nerþuz-Þerscoldweard is once again petitioned to close the gates, thereby ending the ritual.

My 2018 Calendar

To begin, a slight word of caution. There has been much discussion and debate about how the various calendars are formed because the Anglo-Saxon year was based on a Luni-Solar calendar. The year was separated into a number of months based on the phases of the moon, however it was aligned to the Solstice’s marking Midsummer and Midwinter accordingly. In reaching the dates for my calendar, I have taken note of the fact that the New Moon was only considered such once the first sliver of light from the Moon appeared in the night sky, which is normally considered to be approximately one to two days after what we consider to be the New Moon in today’s society (Which is actually a dark moon). What this means, in short, is that the first slither of light in the night sky signalled the beginning of a new month, and that is reflected below in my calendar. Now calendars will vary according to the location of the relevant hearth so the calendar should be tweaked accordingly. A great resource for finding out the new and full moons for 2018 and beyond can be found on MoonPhases.co.uk

I should also point out that some have disputed where the Winterfylleð full moon fell in 2017. Some have it as 3rd into 4th of November 2017, whilst others celebrated it on 5th October. However, that would mean the Blōtmōnað full moon would be on 3rd into 4th November and Ærra Gēola full moon on 3rd December, with Æfterra Gēola commencing on 19th December, which is actually before Yule itself on 21st December when it should be after it! The clue is in the name, as Æfterra Gēola means “Following Yule” or even more directly, “After Yule”.

Consequently having Winterfylleð on 5th October 2017 throws out the whole calendar for 2018 by making the subsequent months start too early. By that reckoning, Winterfylleð in 2018 would actually start on 11th September which is far too early for a Winter full moon, as it is before even the Autumn Equinox would be! Now I know that Bede suggests that Winterfylleð fell on the first full moon after the Equinox, however whilst that may usually have been the case, it would not be unusual for it to land on the second full moon after the Equinox in an intercalated year, which is what 2017 is by the reckoning of the vast majority of interested parties.

In any event, the below calendar is relevant to my hearth and may not be relevant to others. It is set to UK time; hence the full and new moons are set to GMT making the calendar more accurate than my previous version and slightly different to that of the Ealdríce calendar who have used similar principles when devising their calendar. People may use it as a guide or verbatim, it matters not. I will be celebrating Blōstmfrēols this coming year and it is a relatively new reconstruction from the excellent article on the Lārhūs Fyrnsida website, written earlier in 2017. You can find the original article here

It helpfully suggests a date towards the end of April and beginning of May as a possible place for this festival, viewing it as a fine ending to the Ēostre period. Now because I follow the Anglo-Saxon calendar as opposed to the Gregorian, for me this would not sit on a set date each year. I have decided, therefore, to set the festival at the very end of Ēostremōnað on the very last day that a slither of moon would appear in the night sky. For 2018, this will be on 14th May in the UK. Þrimilcemōnað will begin on 16th May so it sits well with me to use the 14th as the date for this new and very welcome festival.

Also, some of the more eagle-eyed may note that I don’t celebrate Hærfest on 1st August each year as for me I again align that festival to the full moon which is normally in Weodmōnað or Þrilīða depending on the year.

And so, my calendar for 2018 is as per the below. Please do feel free to use and reproduce as you deem fit:

 

Calendar 2018

Wōden & The Mead of Poetry

The below myth has been adapted from the Norse myth regarding the origins of the mead of poetry. I have, where possible, attempted to adapt the names from the Norse to Old English equivalents or “near-as-dammits” as I call them. I am not traditionally a big fan of adapting in “like for like” fashion but this is one that I particularly enjoyed, removing such items that have no obvious cognates in Fyrnsidu (Such as Ásgarðr, the Aesir/Disir war etc.) and I have substituted some of the locations and other details to reflect a more “Englisc” feel to the story that hopefully comes across in the reading.

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Wōden & The Mead of Poetry

There did come a time when the gods and goddesses sealed a truce by spitting into a great cauldron. From their spittle they formed a being that they named Hæcine (Grape Water). Hæcine was the wisest human that had ever lived. Indeed, none were able to present him with a question for which he didn’t have a satisfying answer. He became famous and travelled throughout the world giving counsel to many kings and leaders.

Hæcine was soon invited to Hwītdolg (White Scar), the cave home of two dwarfs named Beswīcend (Deceiver) and Fryccea (Herald). For all his wisdom, Hæcine was unsuspecting of the true purpose of the dwarfs. Upon his arrival, the dwarfs slew Hæcine and brewed mead with his blood. This mead contained Hæcine’s ability to dispense wisdom, and was appropriately named Æteōwedniss (A Revelation). Any who supped of it would become a poet or a scholar.

When the gods questioned the dwarfs about Hæcine’s disappearance, Beswīcend and Fryccea told them that Hæcine had choked on his wisdom. The gods were suspicious, yet none intervened.

The two dwarfs found that they delighted in murder. Soon after this incident, they took the giant Gētla out to sea and drowned him for sport. The sounds of Gētla’s weeping wife irritated them and so they killed her as well, this time by dropping a millstone on her head as she passed under the doorway of their house.

But this last mischief got the dwarfs into trouble. When Gētla’s son, Druncen (Saturated), learned of his father’s murder, he seized the dwarfs and, at low tide, carried them out to a reef off the coast of Scotland that would soon be covered by the waves. The dwarfs pleaded for their lives, and Druncen granted their request only when they agreed to give him the mead they had brewed with Hæcine’s blood. The dwarfs retreated back to their cave dwelling and were not seen again. Druncen hid the vats of mead in a chamber beneath the mountain Scafell Pike, where he appointed his daughter Cempestre (Female Warrior) to watch over them.

Now Wōden, the chief of the gods, who is restless and unstoppable in his pursuit of wisdom, was displeased with the precious mead’s being hoarded away beneath a mountain. He bent his will toward acquiring it for himself and those he deemed worthy of its powers.

Disguised as a wandering farmhand, Wōden went to the farm of Druncen’s brother, Bēag (Ring). There he found nine servants mowing hay. He approached them, took out a whetstone from under his cloak, and offered to sharpen their scythes. They eagerly agreed, and afterwards marveled at how well their scythes cut the hay. They all declared this to be the finest whetstone they had ever seen, and each asked to purchase it. Wōden consented to sell it, “but,” he warned them, “you must pay a high price.” He then threw the stone into the air, and, in their scramble to catch it, the nine killed each other with their scythes.

Wōden then went to Bēag’s door and introduced himself as Wēstend (Destroyer). He offered to do the work of the nine servants who had, as he told it, so basely killed each other in a dispute in the field earlier that day. As his reward, he demanded a sip of Druncen’s mead.

Bēag responded that he had no control of the mead and that Druncen guarded it jealously, but that if Wēstend could truly perform the work of nine men, he would help the apparent farmhand to obtain his desire.

At the end of the growing season, Wōden had fulfilled his promise to the giant, who agreed to accompany him to Druncen to inquire about the mead. Druncen, however, angrily refused. The disguised god, reminding Bēag of their bargain, convinced the giant to aid him in gaining access to Cempestre’s dwelling. The two went to a part of the mountain that Bēag knew to be nearest to the underground chamber. Wōden took a bore made of silver out from his cloak and handed it to Bēag for him to drill through the rock. The giant did so, and after much work announced that the hole was finished. Wōden blew into the hole to verify Bēag’s claim, and when the rock-dust blew back into his face, he knew that his companion had lied to him. The suspicious god then bade the giant to finish what he had started. When Bēag proclaimed the hole to be complete for a second time, Wōden once again blew into the hole. This time the debris was blown through the hole.

Wōden thanked Bēag for his help, shifted his shape into that of a wyrm, and crawled into the hole. Bēag stabbed after him with the silver bore, but Wōden made it through just in time.

Once inside, he assumed the form of a handsome young man and made his way to where Cempestre was guarding the mead. He won her favour and secured a promise from her that, if he would sleep with her for three nights, she would grant him three sips of the mead. After the third night, Wōden went to the mead, which was in three vats, and consumed the contents of each vat in a single draught.

Wōden then changed his shape yet again, this time into that of a raven, and flew off towards his great hall with his prize in his throat. Druncen soon discovered this trickery and took on the form of a red kite before flying off in pursuit of Wōden.

When the other gods spied Wōden approaching with Druncen close behind him, they set out several vessels at the rim of Wōden’s great hall. Wōden reached his abode before Druncen could catch him, and so the giant retreated in great anguish, whistling with rage and thus giving the red kite their haunting call to this day.

As Wōden came to the cauldrons, he regurgitated the mead into them. As he did so, however, a few drops fell from his beak to Middangeard, the world of mankind, below. These drops are the source of the abilities of all poor and mediocre poets and scholars. However, the true poets and scholars amongst mankind are those to whom Wōden gifts his mead personally, and with care. Such a gift must be met with an equally precious gift and many are those whose wyrd dictates that their lives be notably shorter, though the richer in talent for it.

 

Ielfe

Elves are commonly referred to throughout Old English and Old Norse myths and legends. They are often inferred to be negative beings of numinous origin. Indeed, the Norse believed them to be descended from the Vanir, a family of deities that is not referred to by that name in Anglo-Saxon custom. For beings that are feared and respected in equal measure, it is perhaps surprising that many Anglo-Saxon children were given elf-based names such as Ælfmær, Ælfræd, Ælfric and Ælthryth. There is some disparity between the Anglo-Saxon and Norse traditions concerning elves but the relation to the gods is an idea they do share.

Elves, like dweorgas (dwarfs) are associated in Old English tradition with causing illness or harm and Beowulf lumps them in with other anthromorphic beings as follows: (1.112) “eotenas ond ylfe ond orcneas”, therefore with ettins/giants and orcs which are similarly considered to be negative entities. The passage in full reads:

From there all monsters arose –

Etinns and elves and orcneas

Likewise the giants who strove against god

For a long time – he gave them their reward for that

In Scandinavia, they have an Álfablót or “elf-blessing” as a custom which appears to be intended to secure the blessings of the elves. Evidence from the sagas indicate this involved the sacrificing of a bull, reddening the outside the dwelling of the elves with the blood and making an offering of the meat. Elf-dwellings may have been considered to be what we now refer to as barrows, thus indicating an association between elves and the dead.

Elf is a sort-of parent species from which we have such off-shoots as Woodland Elves (Wuduelfen), Mountain Elves (Dunælfen), naids, dryads and from the Lacnunga Manuscript we have a specific reference to Water Elves (Wæterælfen). Land wights are also linked to Elves in that they were considered to be powerful natural beings whose goodwill was necessary for the well-being of society as a whole.

In a study by Hall, he found that elves were originally a class of powerful male-gender beings associated with the gods who could harm humans through provoking illness, connected with transgressive behaviour and its consequences – I.E. those behaviours of moral or social violations. Consequently, they can be viewed as a means of maintaining and upholding moral and social values. Sometimes transgression could bring benefits, however, to spirit-healers and the like and the Ielfe were thus connected to hallucinogenic substances, sudden pains, prophetic speech and trances.

In Britain today, you will still commonly find flint arrowheads in and around sights of historic significance where man has known to have lived for thousands of years. This are associated with Neolithic or Bronze Age hunters but are often referred to as “Elf-shot” and believed to be physical evidence of the psychic attack of an Elf as per the “lytel spear” or little spear of the Wið Færstice charm when it was “shot into” the body of a person and thus causing a malady.

Old Norse Seiðr, or Old English Ælfsiden is a form of divination associated in name with Elves and translates as “Nightmare or magical apparition”.

Whether friendly or nefarious, elves were considered dangerous as men could not expect to deal with them on equal terms. This placed them as potentially on the same side as hostile forces. Indeed, by early mediaeval times they were also linked to succubi, female elf-beings of astounding beauty that would tempt men in order to extract their seed for fiendish reasons known only to themselves. Elf-fair or “Ælfscienu” particularly relates to these dangerous beings and indicated an otherworldly beauty.

Despite their sometimes negative associations, Elves are said to be fair to look at and thus not “monstrous” in their countenance. This leads many to feel that they were not automatically deserving of aggression or hatred, and instead should be respected and mollified. Yet they were not said to be necessarily friendly with men, and therefore for some they became worthy of worship and engagement in terms of sacrifice and gifting.

Welund the Smith is said to have been a prince of the elves and is associated with metalworking; something that would later become linked to dweorgas as opposed to elves. In modern fiction, this is perhaps represented well by JRR Tolkien where he presents both the dwarfs and the elves of Middle Earth as being exceptional smiths with wildly differing conceptions of weapon and armour smithing and the qualities those items should expound.

Elves are also intrinsically linked to the Norse god Freyr (Ingui / Ingui Frēa) who is said to be Lord of the Elves and thus connected with both fertility and death.

Elves are characterised as being either invisible or extremely difficult to see, characterised in Anglo-Saxon art as the Nordendorf motif where the face of the elf is not shown clearly but must be pieced together from the form presented, thus explaining the sudden sighting of a face in bark, or in stone formations or glimpsed in the water of a running river. These faces can also often be found woven into metalwork on swords, scabbards and jewellery.

In short, “Ælfe” is a catch-all term for beings of the Other, that are powerful, natural entities linked with death, illness and protection. Elusive and yet sometimes seductive, they are not to be dealt with lightly. The protection they can offer may come at a severe price, though for many they will consider this a price worth paying. Respect, deference and propitiation coupled with honest intent may well be the order of the day, for those of us not seeking confrontation with these powerful entities.

(Adapted from the entry on Ilfe by Pollington, “The Elder Gods – The Otherworld of Early England”)

Se Hræfngod

5-hugin

A distinct black shape, tumbling in the updrafts of a mountain crag – a raven at play. The ‘gronking’ call of a raven is one of the most evocative sounds of Britain’s uplands. The raven is probably the world’s most intelligent and playful bird. In the world of myth, it is a bird of paradox, and something of a dark clown. Its association with playful intelligence is perhaps exceeded by its image as a bird of death. Its harsh call, and its presence in remote wild places and at scenes of death, has earned it a reputation as a bird of ill-omen. After all, the old collective noun for a group of ravens is an ‘unkindness’. Yet there is so much more to the raven.

An old Scottish name for the raven is ‘corbie’, which is thought to have been derived from the Latin ‘corvus’. One Scottish legend reflects the dark beliefs about this bird. It tells of an evil hag called Cailleach who appeared in the form of a number of birds, including the raven, and feasted on men’s bodies.

This large crow appears again and again in Celtic lore. In Welsh folklore, Bran the Blessed (Bran is Welsh for raven) is a kind of primordial deity and guardian of Britain whose totem is a raven. Bran ordered for his own head to be cut off, after which it could still speak words of prophecy. Eventually it was said to have been buried beneath Tower Hill, at the Tower of London. The presence of ravens at the Tower is an echo of this legend and the prophecy says that if the ravens ever leave the tower, Britain will fall (hence their wings are clipped, just in case!). Interestingly this Welsh word appears in Scotland, and Strath Bran, in the north translates as ‘Strath’ or Valley of the Raven. They are still present there today.

Arthur, another legendary guardian of Britain, is also associated with ravens. In Cornwall, which is also steeped in Celtic lore, it was believed that Arthur didn’t really die, but was magically transformed into this bird.

The Celts were a warlike people, and the presence of ravens on the battlefield would have been very familiar to them. The Irish goddess, Morrighan, had a number of different guises. In her aspect as bloodthirsty goddess of war, she was thought to be present on the battlefield in the form of a raven.

Odin (Wōden), the chief of the Norse gods, was accompanied by a pair of ravens, Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory/mind), who would fly far and wide to bring news to Odin. One of Odin’s names, Hrafnagud, means the ‘Raven God’. I refer to these two spiritual raven companions to Wōden as Þōht (thought) and Gemynd (memory/mind).

In the Old Testament, the raven is the first bird Noah sent to look for land, and Elijah is described as being provided for by ravens. They are used as a symbol of God’s providence in both the New Testament and in Christian art.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have observed the keen intelligence of this bird. It has a well-documented habit of deliberately revealing the whereabouts of deer, so that wolves can find their quarry, and leave spoils, which the ravens could eat. Even some modern deer-stalkers report that ravens will help them to locate deer, as the birds know that they will receive the ‘gralloch’ or guts after the deer is killed. However, there was apparently a belief among some stalkers that three ravens was a bad omen.

The indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest of North America were well aware of the raven’s multifaceted nature, and Raven was revered as a major deity and something of a trickster. He features frequently in the distinctive artwork of these people.

There is probably more folklore concerning the raven than any other bird in Britain. While some of this is somewhat sinister, the more we get to know this playful and intelligent bird, the more respect we might realise it deserves. To make an offering to a raven, even in passing, is to show these fascinating birds that you are open to their interaction. Ravens can and have been tamed, even learning to speak words of human speech and to use tools to reach food.

Thought and Mind/Memory are often considered to be one and the same. Indeed the word Gemynd means both “memory” and also “thought” and gave rise to the modern English word “mind”, however there is a distinction between the two that offers a unique perspective on understanding the riddle posed by the Poetic Edda sonnet, Grímnismál which reads as follows:

(From 1866 Benjamin Thorpe in Edda Sæmundar Hinns Frôða “The Lay of Grimnir” 1883 Gudbrand Vigfusson in Corpus Poeticum Boreale “The Sayings of the Hooded One”)

20 Hugin and Munin fly each day over the spacious earth. I fear for Hugin, that he come not back, yet more anxious am I for Munin

In this translation (And in many others), Odin talks of fearing for Hugin (thought) and yet is more anxious for the return of Munin (memory/mind). Thought and Mind are clearly therefore different concepts and some have linked these to shamanism. I am not a shaman and have no knowledge or understanding of the full shamanic process, however some do ascribe shamanistic features to Wōden in that he seeks knowledge all over the world and may arguably use shamanic practices in order to achieve this on some level.

Most people only ever use “Thought” to get them through life. They think about something (Even if only for a split second, unless acting entirely on instinct), and then they act. This may be because generally modern man is not even aware of the existence of “Mind” as they think that “Mind” and “Thought” are one and the same. Mysticism, amongst other practices has taught us, however, that the mind clear of all thought is in fact the greatest steer for us through life and is best able to give us true sight, much further through relative time and space than “thought” will ever carry us. One of the prime rules of meditation is to try and empty your mind of thought – to send “Thought” out and then you will allow “Mind” to be free also. From that moment on the calmness that inhabits us and the sudden greater awareness that many describe from the process can only really explain the sheer amazing possibility of using one’s mind over using one’s thoughts.

Mind is also known as Memory and this is a key concept in heathenry and particularly to the Fyrnsidere when considering the principles of remembrance and ancestral worship and how that ties in so strongly to hearth practice. The raven is therefore a hugely symbolic bird and one that I revere. These beautiful birds deserve our consideration and thanks whenever the opportunity arises.

It is perhaps understandable, therefore, that Wōden is more concerned about the return of Mind than he is of Thought, because he knows that Mind is more likely to find you the successful way through life itself and is therefore to be considered of greater importance overall.

Food for Thought… Or is that Mind?

 

 

(N.B. Some of this article is directly quoted from TreesForLife.org.uk)

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!