Tag Archives: nordic

The Oseberg Ship: Pagan Ritual Tool or Means of Transportation?

14 May

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The Oseberg ship, along with several other ships found in Norway  during archaeoogical excavations, is on display at the Oslo Viking Ship Museum (Vikingskipshuset). Visitors from all around the world flock to the exhibitions to catch a glimpse of real Viking history. They imagine fierce warriors poised in the ships, navigating the high seas in search of adventure and mischief, commerce and crime. Perhaps their thoughts wander to the image of heathens of yesteryear, as the Vikings became christianized only after their misdaventures began.

Besides the aforementioned Oseberg ship, the mighty Gokstad ship (in its well-preserved state measuring  23.8 meters long and 5.1 meters wide) stands to be viewed. The Gokstad ship was found at the site of the “Kings mound” (Konungrhaugr in old Norse)  or Gokstad mound in Sandefjord Norway. The skeleton of a man in his 40s or 50s was found buried along with this largest of ships found in Norway. The skeleton is thought to have belonged to a powerful king or chieftain. The ship and mound date back to the 9th century.

Similarly, the Oseberg ship date back to the 9th century and is believed to have also been involved in some sea voyages.  The length of the ship was measured to be 21.58 meters and was 5 meters wide. In contrast, the Oseberg ship was ornately decorated with intricate knotwork, as compared to the more simple and utilitarian build of the Gokstad ship. The skeletons of two women were unearthed. The exhibit text refers to one of the women having been a queen.

Upon closer look and some mental “reading in between the lines”, you might come to notice some curious points not clearly discussed in the exhibit’s accompanying text.

While the Gokstad ship is somewhat larger than the Oseberg ship ( a good meter plus) the Oseberg ship features carvings decidedly more ornate. The amount of time and care that such demands is not insignificant. The Oseberg “queen” was likely not just a queen, but a priestess whose status was based on the role she would have played for her people.

Items such as a ritual rattle (seen below) , a meditating figure seated (reminiscent to a Buddha figure) and other unusual things besides jewelry and vauables indicating status were also uncovered.IMG_1932

 

Such a rattle would have been wielded and used to create rhythmic sound, perhaps similar to that of beating a shaman drum (several of which were found in Finland and also Norway, belonging to the Sami peoples )

The only individuals accorded higher status than a king would be those holding spiritual power within a society.  In indigeneous societies even today, the shaman is charged with traversing the other world, navigating the world of the spirit, gleaning information or helping the dying cross over, or to bring back the sick or wounded. Similar in function in Norse mythology/legend were the Valkyries, women who helped the dead find their final resting place. This coincides with the thought that the Volva, or seeress/shaman-like figure was a woman who could divine using runes and other instruments and go into trance-like states to obtain useful information for her tribe.

The Oseberg ship served as the priestess’ burial vessel and contained many items that would serve her in the afterlife. Perhaps symbolic, or recepticles containing energetic residue that would resonate with her while she and her companion (a family member or perhaps a helper) found their way to the afterlife.

It is still a shame that museum authorities do not see the evidence for the Oseberg “queen” being compelling enough to refer to her as a priestess. Enough artifacts are present to deduce this however as private persons visiting the site. The curious can take their travels to the site where the ship was found and observe whether it “speaks” to them, if they are intuitively inclined or sensitive to energy.

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The Vanir- Æsir War

3 Apr

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Should the conflict between the two groups of nordic gods be considered a reflection of a historic event or a portrayal of the shift of the people of the north, or both?

Was this war between the mainly fertility-concerned Vanir and the more battle-ready Æsir reflecting the invasion of outsiders to a more peaceful people?

It is a complex topic to consider, and to begin to contemplate the possibilities of a time where war was, in fact, not the law and the norm of life for people.

The book series, The Ringing Cedars of Russia, by Vladimir Megre, describes the Vedic Russians, a group that is little known by history, and surely not learnt about in school. The Vedic Russians were deeply spiritual, according to Megre, and cultivated their food as they cultivated their connection with the earth and the universe, and the one united force we could call God (the universal consciousness). The connection the Vedic Russians had with nature was at the same time their connection with all of life, and with the prime spiritual force in life. They ate no meat, as there was an abundance of plant life readily available to them and they were able to communicate closely with animals which caused a natural bond, the animals surrounding them were something like pets, so they of course could not kill them.

These people were not interested in war, but if invaders came, they could easily fend them off. They could think quickly, and had spiritual powers that modern man has long since lost.

Were the people of the north as similarly connected to the earth, to the plants, to the animals? Were they slowly invaded and caused to evolve to adopt a less nature based approach?

War and the warrior have been revered by modern man, and civilizations as long as history has recorded. We think war is the only way. Indeed, it is correct to be ready to stand up for oneself, to defend one’s people, to put obstacles out of the way. But mankind’s purpose is not to bloodthirstily rip up other people. The soul, the deeper spiritual aspect of all people longs for a peace, a unity and sense of comfort. This is in fact, a strength-not a weakness. Seeking conflict leads to a never ending cycle of conflict.

Especially among the people of the north, where the revival of interest in the pagan legacy of the north has sparked, it is the war-like vikings one usually first thinks of. The Hammer of Thor is  a strong symbol to wear, to invoke and evoke strength, daring and protection: all very good things. We have to be ready to defend ourselves if need be.

That said, admiring plundering, thieving, perpetual war is not a way to a more developed spiritual being. One only lives by “might is right”, instead of weighing justice and truth as principles that should be lived by- no matter who has the stronger arm.

Revering only the blood-thirsty will only lead to more conflict. If we want to live a sustainable life for ourselves, and our children, we have to put ourselves on the road to a sustainable future that is based on a closeness, an intimacy and appreciation with the earth. A bond with the finer things in life, an appreciation for the defenceless, for the intuition, for art, for aesthetics, and the very practical act of cultivating food for oneself- which leads to freedom and to possibly, if done in harmony with the earth (organic, permaculture) a deeper spiritual connection can be cultivated.

We can learn many things from both the Vanir and Æsir. We know that death is an inevitable part of life- but seeking the death of another is not necessary. If one does this for the furthering of one’s material status in life, one is living against the harmony of nature. Defending oneself is necessary. Living justly is necessary. Seeking out and finding a bond with the spirit and nature is necessary. Otherwise we simply only continue to live in the materialistic, utterly distanced from the spirit society we find ourselves in today.

The Heart of Frey

25 Mar

Frey is the nordic god of fertility, peace, of prosperity and wealth. He is associated with a giant boar the dwarves made for him, and once possessed a sword which fought by itself (good thing too, because he is a man of peace). He is a god of sensuality and of plenty who falls deeply in love with a giantess and sacrifices his sword for the love of her (and later on his life, as he is killed in Ragnarök without the protection of his sword.)

Very often in the realm of nordic heathenism, the role of the peaceful and sensual, life-affirming aspects of the gods are overlooked in favour of the rough, fighting, fearlessly seeking battle and embracing death aspect that we often think of Thor and others in terms of. It is very common to regard the gods as being connected solely to the viking times, since this was a very prominent period in history and very appealing for men and boys. And why not? The vikings rode their ships to foreign soil, traded and admittedly sometimes engaged in battle. This captures the imagination of the fighting spirit, and gives the will something to strive for- how to be a fighter in life who goes after what he wants.

To balance this side out though, the masculine aspect of the nordic realm is more multi-faceted and complex than that. There is the beauty of Baldr, which inspires such love from all, whose wife mourns so that she would give her own life to follow him. There we see devotion and sacrifice. This too, though is tied with death, but also resurrection- the promise that even in the darkness lighter days will follow.

Further along these lines, we can consider Frey. He is often portrayed with his sword, but it is perhaps more remarkable that he gives it up- for the love of a woman. (A giantess, but still a woman). Instead of seeking battle, he seeks love. He is a god who presides over the fields, over good harvest, over the home and happiness. You can find him in the sensual warmth of the longer days of spring and summer.

It is important to give attention to the life-affirming, as the fields which provide us with their bounty are that which sustains us on our journey, respectively. Good, organic fruit and vegetables are the domain of Frey and his warm energy. Enjoying them and growing them ourselves can give us a means to understand our ancestors better, who worked well with the soil, and understood the connection between the nourishing of the earth with the nourishing of their own bellies. Frey would have been clearly in their hearts and minds as they lived from the land.

Now, we are more distanced from these aspects and tend to think more of the chaos around us. It seems harder to relax and listen to the earth, to our senses, to our feelings, to what we love. We can easily be lead about by hate, and see only battle all around us. Although we should never hesitate to be warriors in life, we must acknowledge and facilitate the peaceful and the life-affirming.

The heart of Frey is the energy of peace and of connection to the earth. It is being willing to sacrifice the material for the connection of love. Love is the energy of the universe, and is connected with that universal consciousness that is all gods, all beings, all things in life. Understanding Frey better can bring us closer to the forces that affirm the cycle of life and the common thread of the universe. We can delight in seeing the sunnier side of northern heathenism.

As spring draws nearer, it is a good time to slowly clear out the shadows and prepare for sewing the seeds of the future. It could be the literal seeds of the field and garden, or the seeds of mind and soul, where we consider what we want to cultivate for the days that are to come. We can choose to change our lives and surroundings for the better by focusing on that which affirms life. We can consider the importance of love, and the light side of the rune feh.

Idunn, the springtime Goddess

24 Mar

bjarkan

Idunn is the nordic goddess most associated with youth, the fertility of all things that grow and maintaining what is beautiful in life. A symbol which comes to mind upon contemplation of this fresh energy is the apple, as she is the keeper of golden apples which hold the gods young and healthy. She is also the wife of Bragi, who is the god of poetry. The two sew the seeds of lively enjoyment of life, and the refreshment of the senses.

During the spring and summer when the sun is seen and felt more often, we are warmed by the rays of forgiving and generous light that causes the plants to grow, which in turn nourish us with their bounty. The sun directly provides us with vitamin D, a hormone which helps metabolism and affects the mood positively. The more sun we get, the happier we are.

Idunn’s energy can be felt more during this warmer, friendlier times. We are inspired to be outdoors while the golden light warms the face and makes outdoor activities more pleasant and easier to sustain than in the colder harsher months. The fresh air and warm light might make us more cheerful and inclined to the poetic, the artistic, the aesthetic, the fine in life which keeps us young and active.

As the cold months approach, it is like Loki comes along and steals Idunn away, leaving us to wither to grey. The apples are no more, the warm sun shies away, while we seek shelter before a fire, reminded of our mortality and the temporary nature of every season. Although, Idunn returns, the times of suffering in the cold without the friendly sun are there to remind us that the wheel of the year continuously turns. Everything goes through phases, goes into the dark to return to the light. It rises and falls. We experience joy to experience deep lows. We learn from the pain and grow stronger. We experience the freezing cold to appreciate the wonderful spring. The frozen lakes thaw, sleeping gods awaken.

Although Idunn is a more beautiful, youthful goddess of the nordic pantheon, we could not appreciate her fully without contemplating the cold nature of lady Hel. Hel seems harsher, more foreboding, she is just as integral to the balance represented. Without the cold, we cannot fully appreciate how lovely the warmth is.

As spring approaches, Idunn slowly awakens from her slumber to make us feel younger and more alive. We will soon be blessed with fresh fruits and vegetables, green hills, and flowers growing everywhere. As the cold air still stings, we can appreciate the contrast and call upon inner strength to help us learn from what each season has to teach.

The many faces of Freyja

11 Nov

 Bilete

Freyja is the nordic goddess of love. She is also associated with war, life, death, rebirth. Her name means “lady” , and as such, is heavily connected with the feminine principle, the divine feminine. “Freyja” is the old-nordic name for this goddess, and other names which are in use today include Freya, Frejya, Freyia, Frøya, Frøjya, Freja and Freia. In Norway, the most common name for the goddess today is Frøya. In Sweden, she is referred to as Freja or Fröja. In Iceland, the old-norse name prevails, she is still called Freyja there.

 

As many names she has, as many faces. Some speculate as to whether she is one and the same as the goddess Frigg, or Frigga. Indeed, both are strongly feminine archetypes concerned with matters of love and birth. Freyja now, is perhaps more seen as an adventurous, risqué type whereas Frigga is seen more as a noble housewife, to her husband Oden.  But this polarization seems to me more a product of christian influence on the nordic mentality.

 

It would be easy to lump Freyja together with Mary Magdalene, who is viewed by christians as a sort of divine whore. In Snorri’s, and other post-christianization authors’ telling of various nordic legends, Freyja is told to have slept with four dwarves in order to obtain her impressive necklace the Brisingamen. This is a whorish endeavour just to obtain a material object, and for an ancient pagan god, seems a questionable thing to do. Many attribute this action to a symbolic ritual of sorts, where the dwarves should symbolize the four directions, north, south, east, west, as a completion of the turning of the wheel. Perhaps we must not take this act too seriously. Is the essence of this goddess a sort of sexual promiscuity for favours? Is she really such a whore?

At any rate, she is replaced in the mindset of the nordic people as a witch, and a promiscuous woman.

 

The goddess Frigga is seen as the ideal housewife, in christian retellings. She also knows the fate of all people, and has the glow of a true deity, of the true divine. She is pure and all-knowing, mercyful and respectable. It seems, this archetype and that of the virgin Mary could easily be melded one into the other.

 

Now, the critical mind must ask, “did these similarites happen because the christians found a way to graft these archetypes together, or did Snorri tell the old stories in a less than favourable way in order to make paganism less attractive and christianity more attractive?” We also must remember, these stories may be among the little recorded word we have on these gods, but we must not accept them as the final word. Christianity changed Europe forever. In the place of nature religions, comporable with the nature-harmonious lifestyle of that of the Native Americans, there was now a dominate-servitude religion in its place. Whereas before, the gods and goddesses were all around, in nature and within the human himself, divinity was now confined to a master structure: the priest, bishop, etc. If you wanted to pray, you needed the approval of some outside human. This removed the natural order of things and replaced it with a hierarchy, and an unnatural one.

 

Since this time, there has also been the dogmatization and redefinition of sex and love. They are no longer seen as parts of the same whole, by the masses, but by separate and exclusive things. Media and judeo-christian religion have separated the sensual and sexual nature of love, and reduced sex to a “sinful” act, or one only fueled by the need for “procreation” (as now science separate from spirituality would also define it)

 

Nature spirituality recognizes the connection of all things, that nature and mankind are part of each other, and that the gods are man and man are the gods. Redefining gods and archetypes for selfish means is akin to attempted control over mankind. If “god” is one omnipotent man in the sky, independent of the feminine principle, there will be no balance within the collective consciousness. The scales only tip toward the masculine, and at the same time, men suffer. They are not “allowed” to be real men, since the masculine principle is the “one god” in the sky. Atheists would have you worship science or the material, and the controlling elite would have you worship money and live in fear. If you find both the masculine principle and the feminine principle within nature, and within you, you can balance these forces appropriately, and recognize them for what they are.

 

We must take the nordic gods for their essence, and not for the details in their accounts. Find your own intuitive connection to them. Freyja is not exclusively sensual, she is a devoted wife to Od. And if she is simply another face of Frigga, then she also knows the web of fate woven for all of us, and is the mistress of wyrd, or destiny. She is sexually charged, but full of love. She misses her husband terribly, and searches for him. What energies lie behind these notions? Does this resonate as true, or is perhaps Freyja’s essence best captured when meditating quietly next to the femininely powerful birch tree?  She is the mistress of Seidr, of the intuition, of trance-induced vision quests. She is a shaman and a warrior. She is love and of sex. These are parts of the same whole. When they are reintegrated to the collective consciousness for their ESSENCE then, the nordic spirit will regain balance,and with it the collective spirit of all mankind.

 

Find what personal connection you have to the gods. Question everything. Don’t accept Snorri as the one authority, nor any one else. There are many pagan writers out there, read them, question them, look them up, debate with them, forge new bonds, make new contacts, be creative, be thoughtful and continue on your quest for truth. No one else can know your personal truth but you.

 

Bilete