Norse pagan · Norse paganism · northern tradition · polytheist community

Do Pagan Women NEED Goddesses?

(A brief disclaimer: I’ve tried to make this clear within the post itself, but in case I’ve failed in that: when I refer to “women,” “men,”, “females,” or “males” within this post, I am in no way excluding trans or non-binary persons. As you were.)

One quibble I’ve always had with Heathenry is the notion of adhering to traditional gender roles–which I see from some of the newer Norse pagan channels on YouTube is very much still a thing. And part of this whole notion is the idea that men SHOULD naturally gravitate towards male gods, while women SHOULD gravitate towards goddesses.

It was partly for this reason–because I found this idea to be inherently sexist–that I fought for years against what I felt to be the expectation, within both my local community and my extended online community, that I needed to “find my goddess.” Especially since at the time I was so laser-focused on my relationship with Odin–something that I think made my co-religionists uncomfortable at best.

For the record, I still find this whole idea to be sexist. People should follow whatever deities they have the strongest connection with on a personal level, regardless of the gender of either the deity or the worshiper. (This also begs the question of what, exactly, we mean by gender when applied to deity in the first place–let alone the complexity of the gender issue when it comes to humans–but I digress.)

Now, I am aware that in elder pagan/heathen times there very much WERE traditional gender roles, consisting of the males leading war bands and raiding parties, while the females stayed behind to run the farms, bring in the crops, raise the children, preserve food, and produce textiles to be used in making clothing, ship sails, and shelter (via those “traditionally feminine” arts of spinning, sewing, and weaving).

Most of the above roles are no longer needed in our 21st century society, and others have altered dramatically. With women just as capable of working for a living as men, men just as capable of raising children and maintaining a home, and people of all genders shopping at Walmart rather than making their own clothes, most of the traditional chores are no longer practiced, or if they are, they’re done as hobbies rather than necessities. 

But I do find that the older I get, the more the traditional arts of the home and hearth appeal to me. This is not at all a gendered issue, but I have come to accept that I am a hearth witch at heart, and that the old world arts of spinning, weaving, knitting, sewing, and cooking are all very dear to me. Again, I am certain that there are people of all genders out there who feel the same! (And as a reminder, I say all of this as one half of a same-sex marriage, and with the awareness that just being allowed the time and tools to practice these arts is a privilege.)

Which brings me to Frige (aka Frija, aka Frigga–but I’ve always leaned towards the Anglo-Saxon side of heathenry, so I think I’ll call Her Frige, which is pronounced Free-ya). Years ago, as a baby heathen/Norse pagan, when older and wiser priestesses urged me to befriend one of Odin’s wives among the goddesses as a way to counterbalance the intensity of His influence in my life, I fought them. I dragged my heels. I protested that although they might need this, I most certainly did not. My ego was on high alert, ad in full feather. (And yet, with the benefit of hindsight years after the fact, which of us burned out and suffered a multi-year spiritual crisis? I know I did. I’m betting they didn’t.)

And because I recognized in Frige an introverted kindred soul not unlike myself–Someone who was very capable of running the kingdom of Asgard (Osgeard? aka the home turf of Her Husband’s war band) while Woden was away, but who preferred to sit and spin in Her marshy hall by the sea–I fought especially hard. Because who was I to identify myself with Her, even privately? And on the other hand, how dare anyone suggest that I needed an intermediary in my relationship with Woden? (Again, for the record, this was NOT what anyone suggested, nor was it what Frige Herself offered. It was what I, in my ego-fueled indignation, assumed.)

But the people who advised me to befriend one of Odin’s divine wives or girlfriends were not wrong. And I think it’s having taken up hand spinning again that’s led me to this conclusion.

Spinning is a slow art. It requires patience, a cool head, and steady but nimble fingers, as you scour the dirt and grease out of the wool, wait for it to dry (a lot of fiber processing consists of “hurry up and wait”), comb and card the fibers to recombine and reorganize them, twist and smooth them to give them form, all the while keeping the strands in order, untangled, so that they can, finally, be wrapped into a skein or a ball to be used in the creation of fabric (whatever may be your preferred method of doing that). Spinning is no longer a necessary art or craft; it is a privileged one–but doing it successfully still takes a certain temperament, a certain kind of person. It is tedious, requiring long hours spent alone or with like-minded and similarly-occupied people. It is repetitive, downright boring at times; it requires a love of the feeling of the fiber moving between your fingers, of the way the wool smells, of the way it looks when, having been soaked to set the twist after spinning, the original crimp of the sheep’s fleece reveals itself once again. And when you have mastered the process to the point that your fingers and hands move through it on their own without input from your conscious mind–well, that’s when the magic comes in. That’s when, as pagan writers have fantasized and as some of us who have practiced the art can attest to, Woden Himself looks on in wonder as Frige spins the threads that keep the universe turning.

Again, spinning is not a gendered art; let me be clear, none of the traditional household arts are. But they do require a certain temperament, and it is NOT that of the person who needs to claim the spotlight, who needs to be the center of attention. By and large, these are not arts for the extroverted, the charismatic folks whose mere presence draws the rapt attention of crowds. This is, in brief, why Woden does not spin, but Frige does. They are not gendered arts, but I believe that in past ages society assigned what we now call extroversion to men, and what we now refer to as introversion to women. To be fair, people didn’t know any better, and were laboring under thousands of years of misguided tradition. 

So, do women NEED to worship a goddess? No, absolutely not. But, depending on the other influences in your spiritual life, and depending on your own temperament, you may find, as I am finding now, that it’s helpful to have a counterbalancing influence, Someone who can act as a tether for you, an anchor, a mooring. Much as Frige Herself does for Her wandering Husband, Woden.

Norse pagan · videos · YouTube

What Kind of Norse Pagan Am I? | Defining My Practice

What is a Norse Pagan? (From my perspective.) Also, what parameters (solitary versus community-oriented, reconstructionist versus “woo” aka mystical) define my personal practice?

I’m sure long-timer readers of this blog already have a pretty good idea how I would answer the above questions, but I’m letting YouTube land know in this video.

About me · Norse pagan · odin

A confession, in story form

Once upon a time, there was a woman who pledged herself to Odin. She promised herself to Him for life and beyond, without having any idea what that meant.

She had heard whispers that He was a dark god, a dangerous god, that He would turn her life upside down–and in response to that, she smiled and said “Okay.” She felt that, at the time, her life was long overdue for some radical change.

And besides, she had felt the overwhelming charisma, the heavy presence, the unwavering love of a god who–for the first time in her life–had stepped into her world and truly awakened her spirit. Why would she not follow Him wherever He might lead her?

And for a time–for quite a long time–follow Him she did. She became a champion of her god, a defender, a priestess. She hailed His name and deeds far and wide, and did all that she could–as a relatively young mother, and a recently single one at that–to serve His people in His name.

After years had passed, something within her began to break and crumble, and her faith slowly began to erode away, one tiny fragment at a time. The requests for help that came her way from the people began to feel like an impossible task that she could not possibly fulfill. Worse, she couldn’t stop comparing herself with the other priests and leaders who were also helping the followers of her god. She compared herself and continually found herself lacking. She wondered whether, with all she was continually giving to her god and to His people, there would be anything left of her own self. She wondered whether anything she had to give had been any good in the first place. Why had He ever chosen her, when there were so many other, better people available? But she gritted her teeth, and tried her best to believe, and plowed onward.

At about the same time, when she asked her god to take her deeper into His mysteries, He–as the Wanderer He is–began to show her other traditions, other cultures, other gods He had encountered in His long journeys.  Misunderstanding, she thought He was handing her over to these other gods, abdicating her to these other cultures. Abandoning her.

It was this that finally broke her. She had been an adopted child, abandoned and handed over by her birth mother, and this was the one thing she had begged Him, under any circumstances, not to do.

To protect herself, she began to erect walls against Him. She forgot their history together and focused on the pain, the anger, she was feeling. She cast Him as her enemy, her betrayer. And her heart shattered into a million pieces.

After that, she wandered for a time–a time that was merely a few years but felt like far longer, because she felt she had been cast adrift, without her faith and with only an empty place where it had once lived. And in her anger and her grief, she forgot that this separation was of her own doing. She forgot that, in the countless stories told of her god throughout the ages, this was one of the ways in which He broke his people down before rebuilding them into better, truer, stronger versions of themselves. She forgot that should she ever call out the name of her god and ask Him to return, He would. Because He had promised her so.

And then one day, the longing for her god overflowed to the point where she could no longer contain it, and she did call out. Her anger had diminished, to be replaced with only loneliness and yearning. She couldn’t remember, even, why she had been so angry in the first place. Her resentment and envy of others in her god’s wider human community had also ebbed away into dust. All that was left was the desire to reconnect, to reclaim what she had spent years building with her god and with her community, and to rebuild and continue on her mission as His priestess.

And this is the story of how she came to this day, to this moment, to these words.

Hail to thee, Odin, and hail to thee, people of Odin and people of the Norse gods. As I’m sure readers of these words have realized, I am the woman in this story. My wanderings have changed me, even as Odin’s have changed Him. But I am finally ready to go home, And this only means that I have brought back new knowledge, new experiences, and new gifts to offer to Him and to you–which, of course, is what He intended all along.

To be continued…

Norse pagan · northern tradition · odin · seidhr

“Why won’t the runes give me a straight answer?” (another old-ass post)

(I’ve discovered a small trove of old posts I had saved to Evernote in anticipation of possibly publishing an Odin book–which might still happen, but in the meantime I’m going to share snippets of these old posts as I feel appropriate.)
Due to the fact that last night’s oracular seidhr kicked my ass, and that I still have the answers to send out as well as another post I need to make, this week’s installment of “Ask Me About Odin” is going to be shorter than usual.  However, it also has an unusual distinction in that this week, rather than “ask me about Odin,” it is “ask Odin.”

It was actually one of last night’s seidhr questions.  As sometimes happens when the question is either from one of His own or on a subject matter He is closely concerned with, Odin took my body over to answer the question more directly, and the answer was so shattering that Jolene wondered, as she was taking it down, whether it was something she was even allowed to hear.

At the same time as He was speaking through me, however, Odin also informed me that the answer was to be shared more widely than just with the original querent.  “Let them know the price,” He said.

The question was:  “I have fallen in love with the Runes so to speak and am trying to learn to work with them at present, I guess what i need is for them to give me a straight answer as trying to read for myself is confusing, what do they (The Gods) want me to do?”

And Odin answered:

“The runes speak in riddles and poetry, not in straight answers. They share their mysteries and they hint and they whisper and they shout, but they do not speak in plain language – not what anyone who has any sense would call plain language, anyhow. To hear them, therefore, you must lose some of your sense. You must let go of your logic, and listen to the spirits of the runes as they speak to you.–as they sing and as they clamour and as they cajole and threaten. They will lead you down many a merry path, winding through landscapes you never dreamt existed, but you must go willingly, though the soles of your feet bleed and you cannot bear to take another step. One does not master the runes – not even I. One is penetrated by them, one is consumed, one is possessed by them. When you have become mad, you will hear them clearly. Sanity is the sacrifice they demand.”

2018 Edit: And it dawns on me only now that if this is the price, I think in the past two years I have finally paid it.

Masks of the High One · Norse pagan · northern tradition

Names and Epithets of Odin

Why are there so many? One reason is that Odin is a master of disguise, and will often use an alias when traveling to certain places, or interacting with certain people or in certain situations. (Such as His use of the name Bolverk–“Bale-Worker”–when He snuck into Hnitbjorg to rendezvous with Gunnlod and steal the Mead of Poetry.) Another reason is that He has a multitude of different aspects, faces, and masks, and through the years His devotees have assigned various “handles” to some of these in order to gain a greater understanding of them.  A third reason is that from His earliest interactions with humans to the present day, Odin has always inspired an instinctive superstitious fear. Because names have power, many people have been wary of speaking His for fear of drawing His attention (we can call this the “Voldemort Phenomenon”), so they resort to a number of aliases because that seems safer.  (Hint: It isn’t. Odin is very smart Man; He still knows you’re talking about Him.)

And so, here are the “traditional” names of His I’ve managed to collect via internet research and books–“traditional” meaning they are from Scandinavian primary source material–aka “the lore.” However, since ALL the lore was committed to writing–in the form we now have it–AFTER the conversion to Christianity, these names may or may not present an accurate picture of how He was perceived in ancient heathen times.

I’m pretty sure this isn’t a complete list.

Aldaföðr -“Father of Men”
Aldagautr -“Gautr of Men”
Aldingautr – “The Ancient Gautr”
Alfaðir, Alföðr -“All-Father”
Angan Friggjar -“Delight of Frigg”
Arnhöfði -“Eagle-headed One”
Atriði, Atriðr -“Attacking Rider” or “Attacker by Horse”
Auðun – “Wealth Friend”
Bági ulfs – “Enemy of the Wolf ”
Baldrsfaðir – “Father of Balder”
Báleygr – “Feeble Eye” or “Flame Eyed”
Biflindi – “Shield Shaker” or “Spear Shaker”
Bileygr – “Feeble Eye” or “One Eyed”
Björn – “Bear”
Blindi, Blindr – “Blind One”
Bölverkr – “Bale-worker”
Böðgæðir – “Battle Enhancer”
Bragi -“Chieftain”
Bróðir Vilis / Vilja -“Brother of Vili”
Bruni, Brunn -“Brown One”
Burr Bors – “Son of Borr”
Darraðr, Dorruðr -“Spearman”
Draugadróttin -“Lord of Ghosts”
Ein sköpuðr galdra -“Sole Creator of Magical Songs”
Ennibrattr -“One with a Straight Forehead”
Eyluðr – “Ever-Booming”
Faðmbyggvir Friggjar – “Dweller in Frigg’s Embrace”
Frumverr Friggjar – “First Husband of Frigg”
Faðir galdrs -“Father of Magical Songs”
Farmaguð, Farmatýr – “Cargo God”
Farmoguðr -“Journey-Empowerer”
Farmr arma Gunnlaðar -“Burden of Gunnlöð’s Arms”
Farmr galga -“Gallows’ Burden”
Fengr. -“Snatch” or “Gain”
Fimbultýr -“Mighty God”
Fimbulþulr -“Mighty Thule (Poet)”
Fjölnir – “Very-Wise” or “Concealer”
Fjölsviðr, Fjölsvinnr – “Much Wise”
Foldardróttinn -“Lord of the Earth”
Frariðr -“One Who Rides Forth”
Fundinn -“The Found”
Gagnráðr -“Contrary Advisor” or “Gainful Council”
Galdraföð -“Father of Galdor (Magical Songs)”
Gallow’s Lord
Gangleri -“Wanderer”
Gangráðr -“Journey Advisor”
Gapthrosnir -“One in a Gaping Frenzy”
Gauti, Gautr -“One from Gotland”
Gausus -“Gautr” (Latinized Langobardic version)
Geiguðr -“Dangler”
Geirloðnir – “Spear Inviter”
Geirtýr -“Spear God”
Geirvaldr -“Spear Master”
Geirölnir -“Spear Charger”
Gestr – “Guest”
Gestumblindi -“Blind Guest”
Ginnarr -“Deceiver”
Gizurr -“Riddler”
Glapsviðr – “Seducer”
Goði hrafnblóts. -“Goði (priest) of the Raven-offering”
Godjaðarr -“God Protector”
Gollnir, Gollor, Gollungr – “Yeller”
Göndlir – “Wand Bearer”
Gramr Hliðskjalfar – King of Hliðskjalf
Grímnir, Grímr -“The Masked One” or “The Hooded One”
Gunnlod’s Embracer
Gunnar -“Warrior”
Gunnblindi -“Battle Blinder”
Guodan -“Master of Fury” (Romanised Langobardic )
Guodan, Gudan – “Master of Fury” (Westphalian)
Hagvirkr – Skillful Worker”
Hangaguð – “Hanged God”
Hangagoð – “God of the Hanged”
Hangi -“Hanged One”
Haptabeiðir – “Ruler of Gods”
Haptaguð -“God of Gods”
Haptasnytrir – “Teacher of gods”
Haptsönir – “Fetter Loosener”
Hár -“High One”
Hárbarðr -“Grey Beard”
Hárr – “One Eyed”
Harri Hliðskjalfar – “Lord of Hliðskjalf”
Hávi – “High One”
Heimþinguðr hanga – “Visitor of the Hanged”
Helblindi – “Blinder With Death” or “Host Blinder”
Hengikjopt – “Hang Jaw”
Herföðr, Herjaföðr – “Host Father”
Hergautr – “Host Gautr”
Herjan, Herran – ” Host Lord”
Herteitr – “Host Glad” or “Glad of War” or “Glad in Battle”
Hertyr – “Host God”
Hildolfr – “Battle Wolf”
Hjaldrgoð – “God of battle”
Hjaldrgegnir – “Engager of Battle”
Hjálmberi – “Helm Bearer”
Hjarrandi – “Screamer”
Hlefreyr – “Famous Lord” or “Mound Lord”
Hnikarr, Hnikuð – “Inciter”, “Thruster” or “Shaker”
Hoarr – “One Eyed”
Hotter – “Hatter”
Hovi -“High One”
Hrafnfreistuðr – “Raven-tester”
Hrafnáss – “Raven God”
Hrammi – “Fetterer” or “Ripper”
Hrani – “Blusterer”
Hrjotr – “Roarer”
Hroptatýr – “Lord of Gods”
Hroptr – “God”
Hrossharsgrani – “Horse-hair Mustache”
Hvatmoðr – “Whet Courage (Mood)”
Hveðrungr – “Roarer”
Itreker – “Splendid Ruler”
Jafnhár – “Just As High”
Jalfaðr – “Yellow-brown Back”
Jálg, Jálkr – “Gelding”
Jarngrimr – “Iron Grim”
Jolfr – “Horse-wolf” or “Bear”
Jölföðr – “Yule-father”
Jölnir – .”Yule”
Jormundr – “Mighty One”
Karl – “Old Man”
Kjalarr – “Nourisher”
Langbarðr – “Long Beard”
Loðungr – “Shaggy Cloak Wearer”
Lord of Light
Lord of the Wild Hunt , Wilde Jaeger
Niðr Bors – “Son of Borr”
Njotr – “User” or “Enjoyer”
Óðinn – “Frenzied One” (Old Norse)
Óðr – “Frenzy”, “Divine Inspiration”, “Breath”
Odroerir’s Gainer
Ofnir – “Opener”
Ómi – “Boomer” or “One Whose Voice Resounds”
Óski – “Wished For” or “Fulfiller of Desire”
Ouvin – “Master of Fury” (Faroese)
Rauðgrani – “Red Moustache”
Reiðartyr – “Wagon God”
Rognir – “Chief”
Runatyr – “God of Runes”
Runni vagna – “Mover of Constellations”
Sanngetall – “Truth Getter” or “He Who Guesses Right”
Sannr, Saðr, Sath – “Truth”, “The Truthful”
Siðgrani – “Longbeard”
Siðhottr – “Slouch Hat” or “Broad Brim” or “Deep Hood”
Siðskeggr………”Long Beard,” or “Broad Beard”
Sigðir – “Victory Bringer”
Sigföðr – “Father of Victory”
Siggautr – “Victory Gautr”
Sigmundr – “Victory Protection”
Sigrhofundr – “Victory Author”
Sigrúnnr – “Victory Tree”
Sigthror – “Victory Successful”
Sigtryggr – “Victory Sure”
Sigtýr – “Victory God”
Skilving, Skilfing – “King”, or “Trembler”
Skollvaldr – “Treachery Ruler”
Sonr Bestlu – “Son of Bestla”
Spjalli Gauta – “Friend of the Goths”
Speedy One, The
Sváfnir – “Luller to Sleep (or Dreams)”
Svipall – “Fleeting” or “Changeable”
Sviðrir – “Wise One”
Sviðurr – “Wise One”
Svolnir – “”Sweller”
Thekkr – “Welcome One”
Thrasarr – “Quarreler” or “Raging, Furious”
Thriði – “Third”
Thriggi – “Triple”
Thrór – “Burgeoning” or “Inciter to Strife”
Throttr – “Strength”
Thrundr, Þund – “Sweller”
Thunnr, Þuðr – “Lean” or “Pale”
Tveggi – “Double”
Tviblindi – “Twice Blind”
Unnr, Uðr – “Beloved”
Váði vitnis – “Foe of the Wolf ”
Váfoðr, Vafuðr – “Dangler”
Váfuðr – “Wayfarer”
Váfuðr Gungnis – “Swinger of Gungnir”
Vakr – “Awakener” or “Vigilant”
Valdr galga – “Ruler of Gallows”
Valdr vagnbrautar – “Ruler of Heaven”
Valföðr – “Father of the Slain”
Valgautr – “Slain Gautr” or “Gautr of the Slain”
Valkjosandi – “Chooser of the Slain”
Valtamr, Valtam – “Slain Tame” or “The Warrior”
Valtýr – “Slain God”
Valthognir – “Slain Receiver”
Vegtamr – “Wayfarer” or “Waytamer”
Veratýr – “God of Men” or “God of Being”
Viðrir – “Stormer” or “Ruler of Weather”
Viðrimnir – “Contrary Screamer”
Viðurr – “Killer”
Vingnir -“Swinger”
Vinr Lopts – “Friend of Loptr”
Vinr Lóðurs – “Friend of Lóðurr”
Vinr Míms – “Friend of Mímir”
Vinr stalla – “Friend of Altars”
Vodans – “Master of Fury” (Gothic)
Vofuðr – “Dangler”
Völsi – “Phallus”
Völundr rómu – “Smith of Battle”
Vut – “Master of Fury” (Allemanic, Burgundian)
Weda – “Master of Fury” (Frisian)
Wild Huntsman, Wilde Jaeger (German)
Wise Victory Tree
Wôdan – (*Proto-Western Germanic, OLG ) “Master of Fury ”
Woden – (Anglo-Saxon) “Master of Fury”
*Wôðanaz – (*Proto-Germanic ) “Master of Fury”
Wolfe – “Wolf” (German)
Wolf’s Danger, The
Wuotan/Wuodan – (Langobardic, Old High German)”Master of Fury”
Wunsch – “Wish” (German)
Yggr – “Terrible One”
Yrungr – “Stormy”

As if this wasn’t enough, Odin has also acquired quite a number of new heiti in recent years, coined by modern devotees. Old Bastard comes to mind; not only has it become fairly popular, but I’ve also heard Him apply it to Himself. Mr. Wednesday is another one that’s gained in popularity, courtesy of Neil Gaiman. Personally, I also favor “The Oncoming Storm,” a la Doctor Who. Feel free to share some of your personal favorites in the comments to this post, if you wish. (Nothing X-rated, please.)