REVIEW: Celtic Spirituality (2021)

A book by Philip Freeman

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

“Translated from their original languages—Gaulish, Latin, Irish, and Welsh—the passages and stories in Celtic Spirituality are true artifacts of the Celts’ vibrant and varied religion from both the pre-Christian and early Christian period. From a ritual of magical inspiration to stories of the ancient gods and adventures of long-forgotten heroes, Freeman has unearthed a stunning collection of Celtic work. The translation is accessible to the modern reader, but maintains the beauty and vibrancy of the original. Celtic Spirituality includes material that has never been translated before, offering a new glimpse into the wisdom and wild magic of the Celts.”

I’ve read a few other books on Celtic Paganism, but most were trying to create a narrative interpretation of the mythology of the Tuatha dé Danann or the Celtic “Gods”. I put that in quotes because the Celts themselves did not necessarily treat them as such, as they were described as legendary magical people more often than not. This book, however, has this same material that those books build from as well as editorialized contemporary accounts of rituals and practices translated form of their original fragments from church leaders and the like.

Of course, The Celts did not write anything down themselves as this was seen as a way to ruin one’s memory among the Druidic class; many of which studied for up to twenty years to memorize ancient stories. As a result, what we have is through the lens of churchmen who often felt that the Celts were summoning demons and other dismissive ideas.

The material is presented as a series of short passages with a header paragraph describing the fragment, followed by a translation of the millennia old writings. examples include rituals, both described and copied, heroic stories, scathing rebukes, fantastical slander, and even humorous asides. I liked the structure of the book for this very reason, as it kept everything as true as possible without shoe-horning a modern eye on the material, or an attempt to make these ideas practical. There’s a time and place for that, but many of the introductory Pagan books include stuff like that as filler, and it generally fogs up the books that contain it.

I will admit, I’m not really drawn to Celtic mythology as much as I should be despite being of considerable Irish descent. For me, there’s a huge barrier with my ability to pronounce many of the Celtic words, and having to constantly look things up or risk fumbling through it slows me down a lot. That said, this was a well-done book and I enjoyed reading it. It’s a quick read and sets a steady foundation for anyone that wants to venture into the more practical stuff afterwards.

REVIEW: Old Norse For Modern Times (2021)

A book by Ian Stuart Sharpe

Having an interest in all things Viking, and learning Bokmål Norwegian led me to check this out. I currently don’t plan to attempt to learn Old Norse in any way, but I was curious into exactly what this was. From the description, I could tell this was a humor book rather than a learning tool, so I wasn’t disappointed when that’s exactly what it was. I was also drawn to this because I have a book in The Vikingverse line (The Allfather Paradox, I need to review that on here), and had no idea this company was based here in Kansas City, which makes me excited to hopefully meet these dudes at Comicon or something one day.

“Never be lost for words again…with this book of lost words. Have you ever wanted to wield the silver tongue of Loki, or to hammer home your point like a Thundergod? Old Norse is the language of legends and the stuff of sagas, the inspiration for Tolkien and Marvel, for award-winning manga and epic videogames. It is the language of cleverly crafted kennings, blood-curdling curses, and pithy retorts to Ragnarök. Old Norse for Modern Times gives you the perfect phrase for every contemporary situation—from memorable movie quotes (“We’re going to need a bigger boat.” Þurfa munu vér skip stærra) to battle-cries to yell on Discord (“Do I look to be in a gaming mood?” Sýnisk þér ek vera í skapi til leika?), from mead hall musings (“This drink, I like it! ANOTHER!” Líkar mér drykkr þessi! ANNAN!) to tried-and-tested pickup lines (“Nice tattoo!” Fagrt er húðflúrið”). With over 500 phrases inside (plus the chance to add your own!) it is the perfect guide for Vikings fans, whether they are re-enactors, role-players, or simply in love with Ragnar.” –Book Description

Old Norse For Modern Times Is almost like a parody of a travel phrase book that somebody might pick up visiting a foreign country. There are phrases of all natures, from social media lingo, to sci-fi references. Is any of it very useful? Probably not. But is it funny? Yes it is! Quite a few of these gave me a good chuckle, like “Beam me up Skadi” or “Where is the Batman!?” However, I honestly think this would work best as an audiobook, and I believe that is available according to the preface in the book. Sadly, I did not have this, so knowing things like correct pronunciations (or as close as we can get today) are lost on a book-only reader.

As a result, I can’t go in with a huge recommendation of getting a print or eBook of this if you plan to actually say these things out loud – go with the audiobook, or a combo of both. As a humor book, this is a fun little diversion for a little while. a quick read that you can have fun with. If you enjoy things like books written in Klingon and the like, definitely check some version of this out.

Arcadia Pod

A book by Ian Stuart Sharpe

Having an interest in all things Viking, and learning Bokmål Norwegian led me to check this out. I currently don’t plan to attempt to learn Old Norse in any way, but I was curious into exactly what this was. From the description, I could tell this was a humor book rather than a learning tool, so I wasn’t disappointed when that’s exactly what it was. I was also drawn to this because I have a book in The Vikingverse line (The Allfather Paradox, I need to review that on here), and had no idea this company was based here in Kansas City, which makes me excited to hopefully meet these dudes at Comicon or something one day.

Never be lost for words again…with this book of lost words. Have you ever wanted to wield the silver tongue of Loki, or to hammer home your…

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My Väntljusstaken / Sunwait Candles 2020

This year, I decided to make a Väntljusstaken / Sunwait Candles arrangement for the Yule Holiday. Yes, I am already a few weeks late, but I plan to do a few weeks all at once this upcoming weekend. I think it turned out pretty good 🙂

For more info this is a solid link.

REVIEW: TYR – Hel (2019)

Official album artwork

It had been quite a while (nearly six years) since TYR blessed our ears with their critically acclaimed album Valkyrja (2013) – but in 2019 they triumphantly returned, with their newest and eighth overall studio album – Hel (2019). This was somewhat of a re-introduction to the band for me, as I think I last purchased The Lay of Thrym (2011), and sort of lost track of the band (I have rectified this since). The long pause for the band could be chalked up to many reasons: Touring schedules as Metalblade Records works its bands pretty hard, a few roster shake-ups with two drummer changes, and a bit of a scandal wherein the band was falsely accused of being white nationalists because they use Runes, which is easily one of the stupidest instances of cancel culture I’ve seen. So how is Hel, was it worth the wait?

For, me very much yes. I know I am in the minority here, but I feel some of TYR’s more popular older songs come across almost like folky Dream Theater songs – not necessarily a bad thing, but not my cup of tea. This usually resulted in long drawn-out and overproduced albums like How Far to Asgard. This got better in the 2000’s when the band settled on the sound that they currently still more-or-less use. Hel, isn’t really a concept album any more than any other album they’ve done, considering all of the TYR albums deal with Norse Lore, but the songs all do have an overlying theme of dealing with heroes deaths, Hel and the underworld.

Hel | Týr

Perhaps there isn’t one BIG classic song like Hold the Heathen Hammer High on this album, but this album is not a one-hit wonder like others – its a competent work from beginning to end. I honestly couldn’t pick one song to say it was “the worst”, and more than one song went into my permanent rotation. Gates of Hel, and Empire of the North are two of my favorites, but I also quite enjoyed the handful of more folky songs sung in Faroese such as Álvur kongur and Ragnars kvæði are awesome, and show how this band surpasses other similar bands of their kind whilst avoiding pretention.

  1. Gates of Hel 06:42
  2. All Heroes Fall 05:16
  3. Ragnars kvæði 04:08
  4. Garmr 04:53
  5. Sunset Shore 04:42
  6. Downhill Drunk 04:27
  7. Empire of the North 05:11
  8. Far from the Worries of the World 05:35
  9. King of Time 04:57
  10. Fire and Flame 05:39
  11. Against the Gods 05:43
  12. Songs of War 05:16
  13. Álvur kongur 07:24

I know the lead singer, Heri Joensen, is a divisive figure for these types of bands. He has come across in interviews, at times, seemingly saying he dismissed some heathens as being “re-enactors” which confused and hurt some of the band’s audience, but that said TYR delivers Pagan music to Pagan fans no matter if they want to do that or not. I believe Heri, is at least, an atheist and he has every right to feel the way he does and it doesn’t detract from the music in any way whatsoever.

If you have yet to purchase this album, please give it a shot, there are few bands that exist to make purely “Viking” music that are as prolific as TYR, and few can continuously make quality music without seeming like they are simply “painting by numbers”. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait a further seven years for the next album, my fingers are crossed that a break in touring may result in some work being done.

30 Days of Heathenry – Day 30 “Future”

Public Domain via Pixabay

Question

What do you feel the future holds for you in regard to your path?

Answer:

I don’t have too much to say that hasn’t already been addressed, but I can put my three hopes for myself and my path on here to finish this out.

  1. I want to be more active – Assuming 2021 isn’t another solid year with Covid-19 looming over us, I would like to go to more events. Here’s hoping more opportunities pop up for things such as Pagan pride Day, lectures, book signings, Blots, and Sumbels. I want to be an active member of this community the best I can.
  2. Obtain my learning goals – In a previous prompt, I listed things I was trying to learn such as me taking Norwegian classes on Duolingo – I want to keep at this. I crave knowledge, and want to do well. I also hope I can avoid my tendencies for unintentional ADD and put things down forever at a time.
  3. Hopefully fully join a Kindred – I have been an associate member of a Kindred for a while, and Covid has really stalled my ability to attend events with them. Here’s hoping that in 2020 I take the plunge and join up with some cool, like-minded people.

That’s it folks, its been a wild 30 days. I’m not going to lie, blogging every day is pretty rough – I may not do another challenge like this for a while, but we’ll see LOL.

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30 Days of Heathenry – Day 29 – “Misconceptions”

Public Domain via Pixabay

Question:

Do you feel that others have misconceptions when it comes to your faith?

Answers:

OHHHHH YESSSS LOL

I could probably write a book about this, but here are some that always make me chuckle. In no particular order.

History Channel’s Vikings

I am not wearing this because I love a show from History Channel – I already touched on this one on a previous post, but its too good to ignore – One of my clerks (I’m a supervisor in my office) would ask me weird questions about various thigs pertaining to a shirt I was wearing, or some jewelry, etc without actually coming out and asking if I was Pagan which I know he was hinting at. This man was VERY Christian and obviously was trying not to offend me, but it was funny to see him root around the elephant in the room without addressing it. My job (prior to a big layoff) actually had a large number of Pagans working there, so it is a healthy place for me despite the occasional Christian zealot that I can easily stay clear of.

The best part of it was when he decided that I must be a HUGE fan of the TV show The Vikings on US TV via The History Channel. Truthfully, I have watched about three seasons of the show, but I watched it before I was a Pagan and it did not cause me to switch teams in any way. Most days would be like “Hey, have you seen season six of Vikings?” to which I’d be like “nah, I’m really behind on that show, I have to be in the mood to watch it.” This would shake him, “huh, I figured you were into that”.

Thulsa Doom

No, I don’t worship snakes – This actually comes from my days as a Gnostic, but it still stands. I sometimes wear an ouroboros pendant around my neck as a symbol of my never-ending quest for knowledge, this has become somewhat of a personal motif of mine throughout the years. Now that I am a Norse Pagan, it could symbolize Jörmungandr, but I have not come to terms with the implication of the symbol on my faith.

A LOOOONG time ago, somebody once asked me about the significance of my necklace, and I basically said “just like you wear a cross, I wear this ouroboros”, to which they replied “So, uh…..you worship snakes?”. Yes my Child, as a priest of temple of Set, me and Thulsa Doom from Conan go way back…..I didn’t say that because I am not a jerk, but I always imagine James Earl Jones when telling this story lol

Game, Rpg, Dungeon Keeper, Master Of The Game
Public Domain via Pixabay

I am not LARPing – Here’s a fun one, just because I am Norse Pagan, that doesn’t mean that I think I’m a Viking, I am not LARPing my religion any more than a Christian would be, separated by even more time from their own religion. I have friends that are into medieval martial arts, they are not LARPing either – to insinuate it as such is honestly asinine.

I see this a lot of pseudo-intellectual Christian neckbeards a lot. They wade into a discussion on something they have no understanding on, to try to paint entire swaths of practicing Pagans as Avid Lord of the Rings fans or something. I’ve also seen this sentiment a lot from the more Racist heathens out there, they like to dismiss anyone not into Folkish ideas as being LARPers. Honestly people need to cut the crap – if your religion isn’t brand new or anything, of course people are emulating the past – that’s kind of how it works. I guess everyone’s a LARPer by that argument :/

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30 Days of Heathenry – Day 28 “Younger”

Public Domain via Pixabay

Question:

What would your current self like to tell the younger you about Heathenry?

Answer:

Perhaps, one of the best bits of advice I’d give myself is to just drop Abrahamic religion entirely. I drifted so far from my Catholic upbringing, to a point where I was completely against YHWH and a practicing Gnostic, believing “God” to be a charlatan at best, perhaps almost on the evil side at worst. I was starting yo begin leaning towards the understanding that maybe the whole thing was a colossal misunderstanding, and that parts of Judeo-Christian lore were legit frauds. Instead of clinging to “here’s what Christians REALLY did back them, as a way to call out fundamentalism, I honestly should have listened to my heart and left it for good about a decade before I did. And that is in all its flavors, not even Lucerfianism Gnosticism etc.

I had a few bad experiences in the past with friends that were Wiccans not taking stuff seriously, and basically using it as a way to be hateful against others without actually practicing any Wicca at all. I should have realized they were bogus, and to not judge “PAGAMISM” as a whole based on them. Just like having to endure fake Heathens nowadays that watched The Vikings, and have based their entire woldview on that, I assume there was an explosion back then Due to the popular film The Craft. Learning to separate these fringe elements from the greater body of the Pagan Community has helped me a lot.

I also would have re-assured myself that there are still practicing Norse Pagans out there despite what the Christians want one to believe. Its kind of like how many people talk about Native Americans as a historical footnote – especially with Thanksgiving and all (which is why this comes to mind). Hey guys, they’re still here, and tired of being marginalized. Same for Pagans, people like to act like Paganism was “barbaric” and that “we’ve evolved past it, to the reeeaaal religion” or some nonsense. Separating oneself from that idea is the first step at de-colonizing oneself from it entirely.

So basically, Younger me: drop the Jesus talk, be more like your ancestors, and don’t be so judgmental to others that may be unexperienced. Yeah, pop culture religious types exist, but cut them some slack.

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30 Days of Heathenry – Day 27 “Divination”

Public Domain via Pixabay

Question:

Do you do any divination? Have you ever had any done for you? Do you have any interest in this realm? What is your relationship with the runes?

Answer:

Not much unfortunately. I learned how to read tea leaves a couple of years ago – it was pretty cool, but I don’t have much experience with it, so I’d like to try it again. To get more specifically close to Heathenry, I have read a number of books on Runes, but have yet to be able to set aside time to learn rune meanings and the like. With me currently trying to learn Norwegian, I don’t have enough time to devote to it right now.

Last year, when I attended Pagan Pride Day in Kansas City, I did pick up a starter divination kit from a merchant that was basically small sticks that had been painted in different ways. The caster would throw these, and depending on how they fall, there was chart for the result corresponding to an answer to a question one might ask. Perhaps I will start with these and move forward.

My girlfriend is much better with this sort of stuff, as she has done Tarot cards for a number of years, its just not simply anything I’m too experienced in, but am willing to learn.

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30 Days of Heathenry – Day 26 “Creativity”

Art, Watercolors, Arts And Crafts, Paint Brushes, Blank
Public Domain via Pixabay

Question:

Make something with your own hands today, in an attempt to connect with your faith. (This could be anything: writing, crafting, even a making meal. Or researching anything related.) Report back.

Answer:

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