I do have an altar of sorts, but I have not really added much to it as of yet, I consider it in its infancy and really wanted to get some more things for it at the 2020 Pagan Pride Day, but Covid-19 sort of put the ol’ kibosh on that. Currently I have some stuff on a bookcase next to my bed, but I want to have a more dedicated Stalli somewhere else in my house at some point. I have some random odds and ends strewn about my house as well as some of those tacky bronze-coated statues from Wish.com that depict the Wagnerian imagining of some of the Pagan gods. I somehow ended up with $200.00 in Wish cash that I can only assume was a huge mistake, so I ran with it. Hopefully I can get this new altar set up and update this blog about it.
To be honest, I do my best spiritual things outside, and I have a place under my deck, on my back patio where I have placed lanterns that flicker as if filled with actual fire. It’s very calming and helps me focus quite a bit. I have also done small rituals in the space such as one for the previous kindred I was in. Perhaps at some point I will try to make an outdoor Vé.
Have you attended any sort of Heathen gathering? Why or why not? (And if “yes”, write a little about it. If “no”, what would you like to attend/what would you be looking for in a gathering if you were able?)
I am very lucky in that I have been able to attend a few Heathen gatherings in the past few years, although the Covid-19 Global pandemic has really hurt this in 2020. When my girlfriend and I first stepped into this adventure, we joined up with a kindred that was advertising on Facebook. We attended a few Blóts before most of the group had a falling out with the guy that called himself the “King” of the group. There was some shady stuff going on, but you basically had a case of a dude that wanted to be in charge of something without doing any work whatsoever to actually build respect. It sucked and it hurt because in a Kindred you are trying to become a family more-or-less.
I ran a few Blóts at my house, which honestly I should not have been doing considering I was less than a year into heathenism at the point, but when the main guys all decide to bail the day before a feat or something, somebody has to step up. It was around this time, I was able to attend Pagan pride Day in Kansas City. We went in treating it as a craft faire, which it honestly is, not realizing that we were ultimately going to be shopping around for a new Kindred at the same time. We ran into a new group that seemed to “really have their crap together” as I told them, and we started the process of making ourselves well-known to them.
With this new group, we have been able to attend a handful of feast days and celebrations which has been amazing. They are cool people and we hope we can officially join at some point. Having this community set-up is something I missed during my exile from church decades ago, so having it back, but not in the rotten world of organized religion is great. No matter where you are, I’d definitely recommend looking to see if you have a local Pagan Pride Day around. Ours is really solid.
Another great way to attend a “Pagan gathering” is to follow Pagan music and hope some of the bands come to your area. Last year, I was blessed to be able to attend a handful of such shows including The Pagan Rebellion Tour and Tyr, the latter not being Pagan themselves, but the crowd seemed to be full of dudes wearing Mjolnir necklaces LOL.
Don’t get discouraged if you run into a bad kindred like we did – network, look for other Pagans nearby, hell – make your own! all it takes is a few people to make a gathering, and the fun you will have is immeasurable.
How have your friends and family dealt with your faith? (Not public yet? Tell us a little about how you were raised. Too personal? Tell us about the family member to whom you are closest.)
Truthfully, that’s not really anything I have to deal with much anymore- my parents have sadly passed away at this point and I have very little contact with extended family. Losing my Mother in 2016, in many ways, is what caused me to become the person I am now. Yes, I hit my absolute lowest point ever as my mother WAS my family for the longest time. The stress surrounding that caused my marriage to fall apart, made me gain a ton of weight, and not take care of myself. Good news is, I’m better – I’m in a happy relationship, am basically a step-father to a young boy, slimmer, and am feeling the best spiritually I have for a really long time – perhaps the Gods needed to tear me down to finally get me on track? Who knows.
I was raised Catholic, but haven’t practiced since High School – My Dad was Catholic until the very end, but my Mother waivered. She only really re-accepted her Catholic faith when she was on her deathbed, but for a while veered somewhat close to some form of Paganism, like a vague Native American Animism or something. Mom wouldn’t care – when I was Gnostic she, albeit thinking I was New Age or something, supported me.
When I was married, I had to hide my spirituality. As discussed in my previous post, I considered myself to be an Occultist/Gnostic for the better part of 15 years – my ex’s family was VERY Christian. I simply did not talk about it around them, and had to pretend I wasn’t myself for the longest time. I’m sure that if they knew exactly what I practiced at that time they would have been very upset with me. And now? I’d imagine they’d see Paganism as being akin to the cartoonish 80’s notion of what a Satanist is. While I miss those guys, its honestly better for my mental health to be away from that.
My Girlfriend’s family is supportive – they honestly don’t care what we practice despite being Christian themselves. At one point they even asked if we could pray for their neighbors in a very trying time.
As for friends / co-workers, most of them don’t care. I have had people at work act weird when I started wearing things like a Odin charm carved from a coyote bone around my neck or a Runic hat that I’ve been wearing due to having to wear a Covid mask (to help hold it on). Some assumed I was an avid fan of the TV Show Vikings – something that I honestly have not seen that much of, nor did it factor into me being into paganism in any way. This was very confusing to them, as many are used to people becoming fake versions of things to show fandom to a show like the fake bikers that Sons of Anarchy created.
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.
NOTE: I found these questions on another blog post HERE, and I’ve seen them circulate a few times, figured I’d join in. I will answer these the best I can, and try not to sound like too much of a moron in doing so.
When did you become a heathen? Tell us about that time. (Alternatively, what flavor of faith do you practice? i.e. Asatru, Norse polytheist, vague interest in heathenism, etc.) What drew you to Heathenry?
I’ve been a fully-fledged practicing Heathen (I call myself Norse Pagan) for merely a few years, I guess you could say I’m a novice at it at this point. That isn’t to say that I was randomly thrust into this recently, it was a slow build deeper and deeper into what I feel my spirit was behind drawn to, no matter what my brain thought I was trying to get into. I have been an avid fan of reading about the Germanic pantheon for a long time, have collected some books on the topic (now even more), and have held a general fondness for it since sometime in High school.
I think the first time anything Heathen came into my view was likely when I was around 18-19 and an avid music collector. I had just come off of a brief affinity to the short-lived Nu Metal scene and started reading a magazine called Metal Hammer which introduced me to European metal music including Norwegian Black Metal and German folk metal. Both genres have a way with how they paint the bands ancestral past, and many bands express Pagan beliefs – it was around this time that I realized there were still practicing Pagans out there aside from Wiccans I knew from school. I poured over these pages and filed away some of the great tidbits I found.
Later, during my senior year in college, I had a class that every college senior had to take, it rotated around to various topics and was based on whatever major you had. With me being a history major, I was worried it was going to be some overspecialized “Handbags in the middle ages” sort of thing, but was pleasantly surprised that year when it just happened to be “Viking and Anglo-Saxon Literature”. This class was one of my favorite college classes I had in my entire time there, and considering it was with a professor I previously did not like, I was amazed at how great it was. In this class, I was introduced to The Icelandic Sagas, Eyrbyggja saga and Egil’s Saga to name just a few – it was amazing! I ended up scoring like 115% in that class due to extra credit and my team delivering a great presentation on The Danelaw that the professor loved. Not sure why I didn’t embrace Heathenism at that time, but it was still going to be a minute.
It was for the next decade or so that I considered myself to be more of an occultist leaning Gnostic, that is if I was to chart my religious views. I was dabbling in all things esoteric including Hermeticism, OTO, even a bit of reading on Luciferianism. I had become fascinated with how the Christian Bible was cobbled together by a small handful of existent texts out of thousands that were discarded, and how the Church used this selective bias for controlling the masses. Problem was, despite reading all of this material, I never felt a real spark in it. As time went by I fell further and further away from Occultism and Gnosticism.
I think in my youth, I was drawn to Gnosticism to give a giant FU to my Catholic roots – Gnosticism is often seen as being anti-Catholic. These groups also don’t have much of a community aside from stuffy Areligious scholars and outright cults. Basically, nothing to really help a novice embrace their path, no real sense of belonging. There’s also a large holdover from Abrahamic religions where the earth (and your body) is seen as a prison for the soul, almost evil. I can’t reconcile that, its against my nature to hate the natural world.
After I got divorced, I stepped back from everything that made me feel miserable, and my religion of egotistical smugness about what TRUE Christianity was, was simply not cutting it. Some people find themselves in God in times of need, for me and Gnosticism I felt nothing. It was just another thing on a list, like my favorite color or blood type. I was starting to became drawn more and more to my ancestral heritage during this time. Being a muddle of blood from Scandinavia, Dublin Ireland, Britain. Scotland, Germany and France, it seems that my entire heritage can draw a line directly to the old Gods. So I thought of the feelings I had listening to pagan music, I thought of how happy I got reading things like The Sagas and Eddas, and took the plunge.
My girlfriend and I joined a, sadly, questionable Kindred that was pretty cool for a while, but I can talk about that one a different prompt. I’ll just say we found another group and are doing great and its all looking up from here.
A Novel by Bernard Cornwell a.k.a Stonehenge 2000 BC
Last year I went on a bit of a Stonehenge kick around the same time I visited a museum exhibition devoted to it, and decided to pick a few books up to add to my “pile of shame”. That is, books that I hope to read but rarely get through – taunting me as they sit there. While I’ve slowed down a bit on this (considering that was a year ago) I have been forgoing my usual endless YouTube rabbit hole every night and have made progress on a few of these books. One of the first I decided to check out was this older novel by Bernard Cornwell called Stonehenge: A Novel, or alternatively Stonehenge 2000 BC as my copy says – I guess they decided to make it slightly more historically plausible as new information about the relic has come to light since this book was written. With Stonehenge being of such immense significance to many Pagans, especially druids, I figured why not branch out a bit on here?
“One summer’s day, a dying stranger carrying great wealth in gold comes to the settlement of Ratharryn. The three sons of Ratharryn’s chief each perceive the great gift in a different way. The eldest, Lengar, the warrior, harnesses his murderous ambition to be a ruler and take great power for his tribe. Camaban becomes a great visionary and feared wise man, and it is his vision that will force the youngest brother, Saban, to create the great temple on the green hill where the gods will appear on earth. Saban’ s love for Aurenna, the sun bride whose destiny is to die for the gods, finally brings the rivalries of the brothers to a head. But it is also his skills that will build the vast temple, a place for the gods, certainly, but also a place that will confirm for ever the supreme power of the tribe that built it.”
The story in this book takes place in 2000 B.C./B.C.E. In the British Bronze age. Everything is centered in and around the site where Stonehenge stands today, with fictionalized names of various areas that correspond to real places. Sadly, unlike many of Cornwell’s books, there isn’t a handy map included, so the actual scope of these speculative Chiefdoms is somewhat vague. Hengall, the Chieftain of the Ratharryn tribe has three sons: Saban, the youngest, is perhaps the most level-headed of the three, and rumored to be eyed for the next Chieftain. His eldest brother Lengar is a manipulative hot-head with a passion for being a warlord. Finally, Camaban, the middle son that suffers from a disfigurement that makes him nothing more than refuse to his own people, but perhaps special for his Gods. We follow these three as they shape the story of why Stonehenge was eventually set in stone, so to speak.
I was initially VERY worried about this book as it begins with Lengar being the primary character – Lengar is, quite an unlikeable character, to say the least. He spends the first few chapters basically bullying everyone around, threatening to rape everyone female, nearly kills both of his brothers at one point, and storms of in a tantrum after not getting his way. I was relieved when he turned out to be one of the primary antagonists. I would not have been surprised if Lengar had a bigger role, as this book does exist as a test to moral relativism; pretty much every single thing that happens is very problematic, if not outright disturbing. I’ve seen people on review sites say that they had to stop reading this for this very reason, due to depictions of frequent child sacrifice, sexual assault, and slavery. it’s tough, but immersing yourself in a plausible idea for what this time period could have been like is interesting.
I will say, this book was hard to get through for me, but for a different reason – the middle draaaaaaaaaaaaaags quite a bit. The beginning and the end are pretty exciting and entertaining, but there is a whole section where Stonehenge is actually being built that just seems to go on forever. There is also a false climax in the middle of the book, that makes the second half feel sort of strange, at least in my opinion. It doesn’t help that this reads like a George R.R. Martin book, in that basically nothing good happens in it – there might be glimpses of happiness to be found – only to have them crushed a few chapters later. The ending is very bittersweet, it is a perfect ending for what comes before, but boy was I hoping for some glimmer of happiness in the book. Most of the characters end up pretty messed up, without going into many spoilers.
That isn’t to say that this was a bad book or anything, it just dropped into being a book that I slowly read over the span of a year due to having to pace out the middle of the story, and the overall bleakness of the whole story. perhaps one of the highlights of the book are the descriptions of the religious practices of the various tribes we see in the story. With this being a Paganism blog, I figured I should touch on it just a tad! Ratharryn, the three boys’ original home originally had a temple to the Moon Goddess Lahanna, which appears to be the prevailing deity of the area, and especially in neighboring village of Cathallo. She has started falling out of favor for her “rival” a sun God named Slaol.
Many people worship the Gods differently in this book, for example Lengar takes to the Sun God, but re-interprets him as a war god based on his life outside of Ratharryn living with barbarians. This is used against him, as he is manipulated into helping build Stonehenge until his usefulness is lapsed. Most of the book discusses the “real” reason for Stonehenge, and that is very simple – Camaban, the middle brother, has deemed himself the true keeper of Slaol’s teachings and demands a new temple worthy of Slaol. If they build what we call Stonehenge, perhaps Slaol will create balance between himself and Lahanna, to eliminate winter and force a change in the circle of life.
Cornwell takes care to show various rituals, the priest and shaman class for them, and how the everyday man feels about such things. In many books similar to this, especially fantasy books, none of this is ever elaborated on. When reading Conan, for example, you will see people worship the evil snake God Set, but we rarely see a nuanced discussion of the whys and how’s, it’s just there. This is where Cornwell definitely excels, and it’s VERY impressive here because he didn’t have any actual information to go off.
Since this book was written, new information has come to light that paints it somewhat less historically plausible than in 1999. For example, it is now believed that it was largely erected in 3000 B.C.E. rather than 4000 years ago, with parts like the chalk lines being even older. Also, nobody knows for sure, but we now know that the building of Stonehenge took a loooong time, perhaps most of the Neolithic age, in this book it’s presented as if the whole thing went down in one generation, for twenty years. Cornwell seemingly also overstates the level of technological prowess that was at hand during this time, but both of these were obviously done for narrative purposes.
All-in-all, I’m glad I read Bernard Cornwell’s Stonehenge, but it’s not one of his better books that I’ve read. while I felt the book dragged a lot, the descriptions of the everyday life of these people is interesting and takes us back to a period that is very hazy for many people.
“Yet the temple stands to this day, the names of its gods forgotten and the nature of its rituals a mystery, yet still a shrine for whatever aspirations we cannot answer by technology or human effort. Long may it remain.”
To read my review of the first half of this story, please CLICK HERE
Note: For the purposes of my review, I used a digital copy of the soon to be released “Collected Edition” of the entire story. When my psychical edition of this comes in, I plan to do another quick addendum-styled review of it.
One of my new favorite ways to enjoy pop culture works based on my Norse Pagan religious beliefs has been my foray into graphic novels and comics in that vein. Yes, there have been Marvel’s Thor comics for decades, but they are hardly representative of anything resembling actual Norse Pagan stories. I have quite enjoyed finding books that take the source material of ancient Germanic folklore and religion seriously. So far, one of my favorites has been a self-published horror/action book called The Wife of Freyr by V. Fleckenstein. Chapter 1 was released on Amazon last year and Chapter 2 appears to be exclusive to Kickstarter at the moment. A Facebook group for the author’s projects can be found HERE as well.
PLOT: AD 970. Gunnar Thangbrand, eager missionary of the Danish king Harald Bluetooth rages on the coasts of Norway. His goal is to convert the pagan Norwegians to Christianity, to make them faithful citizens of the Danish Empire. But the Norwegians resist bitterly and fight back the Danes. Gunnar, the only survivor of the danish mission, flees from the vengeful Norwegians to the east. To Sweden, Where the Prayers of the bloody Fertility God Yngvi-Freyr are living.
The author has billed this story as “The Wicker Man (1973) and Midsommar(2019) meets Vikings (2013)” which is pretty accurate considering the theme of “folk horror” that this chapter excels at. For those, not familiar with the term, folk horror usually casts Christians into the role of a wide-eyed innocent person that comes in contact with some of of Pagan or “Satanic” cult. I found a pretty solid definition of the “genre” from an Australian TV website of all places:
Folk horror generally – but not always – deals with rural, often British settings where the scares come not from an intrusive outsider, but the revelation that the location itself, stripped of its benign daytime face, holds horrors, often tied to pagan religions, witchcraft, ancient curses and what have you.
This is flipped on it’s head in The Wife of Freyr – Chapter 2 – Freyja’s Revenge in a way since the “horror” is actually a lot the protagonists own cultural biases. The very things he sees as “evil” are pretty benign, his own action however are the true evil of the story, a point that comes back to haunt him later on.
Gunnar Thangbrand has successfully escaped the Norwegians hunting for his head, and is traveling with the Freyr cult that he infiltrated in chapter one. He has decided to take the mantle of Freyr himself, using it as a cover to hopefully get to the next port on his journey and create just that much more distance between freedom and his own execution.
The problem is, Gunnar has become far too comfortable in his new life. Partaking in the lifestyle of a God, he is presented with endless food, drink, and sex – something that makes him lazy, fat, and perpetually drunk. Gunnar snaps out of it, and returns to his old ways, but things don’t go exactly as planned as he tries to rid Sweden of the Pagans once more. I’ll avoid more spoilers, I’ll just say that the comeuppance I was hoping for in the first chapter is exquisite.
One of the strong points of Chapter two is easily the many depictions of Pagan rituals that we see the Swedish Cult of Freyr engage in. There are instances where we see things done in repetitions of nine, an ancient holy number, as well as sacrifices of both man and beast. With a lot of our ancient Pagan heritage in shambles due to a millennium of Christian destruction, seeing plausible rights and rituals is always a treat for me. I particularly enjoyed a point in the book when Gunnar posing as Freyr weds the priestess Freyja. She takes a ceremonial place as the human embodiment of the giantess Gerðr (Freyr’s wife) and rekindles their marriage once again in human form.
These rituals are, of course, horrific to Gunnar as he has been largely sheltered from his own heritage by a Christian upbringing. For every horse that is slaughtered, he drinks more and more to hide his mind from having to cope with beliefs that are not his own. Normally he’d destroy such people and practices, but he is forced to be VERY uncomfortable and it starts to unravel his mind. This shows shades of how many Pagans see Christians today, especially when Gunnar shows his true colors. Freyja poses a few very important questions to Gunnar: How can a man serving a supposed God of love be so cruel and hateful? And considering how many bad things have befallen Gunnar, how is his God not a god of losers? Ultimately, she settles on him being a hypocrite.
Mr. Fleckenstein once again does a great job building suspense in his story with his art, we see a mix of some great battle scenes, horror scenes, and scenes of pure titillation starring Freyja, The Priestess. As with the first book, there are sex scenes in this chapter, but they do not cross into the vulgar side of things that some books like this tend to go into. their purpose is not to be “porn”, but to show the practices of this Freyr Cult and how society worked in these times. Think how similar scenes are presented in Game of Thrones, as an example. That said, this book is definitely not for children as it contained language and imagery most parents would find objectionable.
All in all, I really enjoyed The Wife of Freyr – Chapter 2 – Freyja’s Revenge, It is a solid conclusion to this adaptation of the famous story, and is a very entertaining read. For me, chapter 2 was the superior half, everything that the author got right in part one was elevated in part two. Characters are fleshed out, backstories are told, and justice is served. Perhaps my only quibble were a few typos here and there in the script, but for the most part these were not distracting nor did they ruin the book itself. I would recommend trying to get a copy of the collected edition if you can if/when it is available outside of Kickstarter, the entire story is just under 70 pages and well worth it.