The Mōdru

Across Britain, and indeed throughout Roman/Germanic/”Celtic” Europe there is evidence of a cult to the Matronae or Matres, meaning “mothers”. Often depicted in triplicate, they were commonly depicted as holding infants, and/or fruits or bread. In some cases they were linked to the Roman Fates.

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Book review: Arcane Perfection, edited by Pat Mosley

Arcane Perfection is subtitled An Anthology by Queer, Trans and Intersex Witches. I picked it up as an ebook because it was £0.99 and I am always on the lookout for pagan and polytheist material from an LGBTI+ perspective. I was especially intrigued because the title specifically shouted out intersex people, which is rare.

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June Book club

This month on Skiđblađnir discord server, for book club (or what in my past life in biomed research we would have called journal club) we read Pantheon? What Pantheon?, by Terry Gunnell [1]. This paper covers the evidence that the classical concept of a pantheon of Gods, each responsible for distinct functions, worshipped alongside each other, is not applicable to the Heathen context.

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Danelaw Recon Project

Map of England and Wales, 878 CE – By Hel-hama – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19885072

On the Heathen Discord server Skíðblaðnir, I was recently involved in highly interesting discussions around the concept of a “framing narrative” for reconstruction. That is, defining for yourself a narrative around the person, or group of people, whose practices you wish to reconstruct. How our pre-Christian Ancestors lived and worshipped varied through time and in different communities, [1] so there’s an almost infinite array of possibilities here. Having a narrative helps focus and prevent you from running off down every intriguing side-path. (Hopefully. There are a lot of intriguing side-paths in this religion.)

For me personally, I have historically been Norse-focused perhaps by default, but also because my Heathen path began with a strong personal connection to Òðinn. I have close relations with other Norse Gods, most notably Sif and Frigga, as well as the Goddesses known by some as “Frigga’s Handmaidens”. However, I have recently felt a strong pull towards a more Anglo-Saxon mode of Heathenry. I have also increasingly felt that the aspects of the All-Father I have had a deep relationship with are perhaps more represented by Wōden than Òðinn per se (as described in [2]).

During conversation on this on Skid, the idea of Danelaw Heathenry was mentioned. This was something I had been tentatively thinking about, and others suggesting it felt like a nudge in the right direction.

The old Danelaw, where I and my mother’s side of the family were born and bred, is an area of England where the Danish Vikings ruled rather than the Anglo-Saxons. This formal territory existed for approximately a century between the mid-800s to the mid-900s. However there was a wider period of Danish and Norse colonisation and cultural mixing with Anglo-Saxon England beyond the strictly-defined Danelaw, the influence of which can be observed today in place-names and dialect [3]. “Viking England” or “Anglo-Scandinavian England” might be a more correct term, however at this time I feel “Danelaw” suits my purposes because it is culturally well understood and the term used in modern Britain for this aspect of our history.

Instinctively I would focus my narrative around York, famously a centre of Viking culture in England, and Yorkshire in general. Of course I will take in evidence from the rest of the Danelaw, but as this is both where my personal roots are and a key part of the Danelaw it makes sense. I also aim to reconstruct the religion of ordinary people, farmers and craftsmen, rather than the elite or aristocracy. I imagine the persona whose religion I am working towards being a woman of mixed Anglo-Saxon and Danish/Viking heritage.

Having this focus and purpose in mind, and undertaking a project of reconstruction myself rather than simply building on that of others, feels like an incredible step forward for me. I’m sure this will be a difficult undertaking, that I will need help and will make mistakes, but I am happy and proud that I am taking this challenge.

References

  1. Pantheon? What Pantheon, Terry Gunnell, 2015 Scripta Islandica 66: 55–76 [link]
  2. Uses of Wodan, Philip Andrew Shaw, 2002, PhD thesis, University of Leeds [link]
  3. The Danelaw: A place or an idea?, Judith Jesch, 2019 https://emidsvikings.ac.uk/blog/the-danelaw-a-place-or-an-idea/

Reflections on Ancestor worship, race and genetics

Heathenry is at it’s core an attempt to reconstruct and breathe new life into the lost practices of our pre-Christian Ancestors. For many Heathens, myself included, veneration of our Ancestors is a key aspect of our religion. We see our Ancestors as members of our family, still present, still with us, honoured and beloved. But what if love of and pride in your Ancestors has been historically twisted to serve racism, imperialism, and white supremacy?

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Performative Environmentalism in the Pagan & Witchcraft communities

Some weeks ago I was browsing an occult Facebook group, (which was my first mistake) and came across something interesting, and exasperating. People were posting pictures of basic spells they had done, frequently drawing sigils on their wrists, “to make it rain in Australia”. My suggestion to consider donating to relief funds and write to representatives urging action on green policies was greeted with hostility.

Now clearly this is one example and it’s quite egregious, but it highlights a tendency I have seen elsewhere in the pagan, polytheist, and occult communities, of what I might call performative environmentalism.

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Rebirth

The last time I wrote here, in June 2019, I noted I’d had a difficult year. The following six months were harder still.

In six months I lost three friends prematurely, one dying along with their young child. These are compounding losses that left me numb. Unable to feel emotion, connect to anything spiritual. Unable even to listen to music for weeks on end.

And the new year came, an arbitrary marker in the sand, and I felt a page turn in myself also. Felt called back to my altar, to kneel and offer and perform what we in Heathenry call hearth cult.

Midwinter has always been my time of year, the time I am most myself. And I am coming back to myself, now, again.