Be sure to check out more from The Herb WitchHERE.
Many of us, do not live in the place that our ancestors lived. I was born in England but moved to Canada as a child. As a Heathen, I use herbs daily in my daily practice as well as in my sacred spaces and it has been quite the journey researching the type of herbs and plants that my ancestor would have used. This is my experience, and I am not going to tell you how to Heathen. I will chat a little bit about how I use herbs to connect with my ancestors, the gods, the land spirits and wights.
I often have Offering fires in which I offer food to my ancestors, a drop of ale poured on the ground and certain herbs to burn in the fire as an offering. In my personal ritual I use the herbs that were common and abundant in the time of my ancestors. The herbs I offer are usually wormwood, mugwort, lemon balm, peppermint, clary sage, rosemary, rose petals, lavender and chamomile. I often interchange this with cedar, juniper and pine tips, black walnut, beech, birch, poplar, willow and elm barks. There is no need for a specific list, I offer what is at hand and what is available to me at that time. Better yet, bundling cedar, pine and juniper with these herbs is a wonderful offering as well and these bundles can be placed directly in the fire to burn along side any incense or loose herbs that you would like to add.
Herbs for the Land Spirits or Landvaettir
Throughout all the seasons, I will often walk through a field or a forested area and leave an herbal offering for the land spirits. I will often tie up a cloth bundlewith various herbs and flowers and seeds and lay it in a clear area for the landspirits. Upon laying down the bundle, I open it up and lay it down flat on the earth. For me it acts as a token of my gratitude for all the gifts that I receive from the land. You can also sit in a spot of your choosing and burn an herb offering bundle or loose herbal incense. These are only suggestions, and you can certainly create your own way of offering up offerings to the Landvaettir.
When offering to the Gods the rationale I use to select herbs is to select herbs that symbolize the qualities and skills of that God. I will provide you with a short list of the herbs I use for offerings to the Gods.
Baldur – Sunflower petals, Marigold, Chamomile (flowers I associate with being bright)
Thor-Nettle, Thistle (protective yet aggressive plants) Oak bark ( sacred to Thor, Donar)
Woden – Mugwort, Plantain, Watercress, Chervil, Mayweed (Wild Chamomile), Dried Crab Apple, Nettle, Fennel and Viper’s Bugloss (borage). These are the herbs from the Nine Herbs Charm poem.
**This is just a sample as I prepare herbs for many gods, but hopefully this gives you a bit of an idea. Please use your own intuition and definitely use what is at hand.
When crafting bundles or incense for burnt offerings to my ancestors I like to offer what ever is in season as well as offering two specific flowers of herbs to my bundles. I often add Forget me nots to my bundles as well as Black Eyes Susans as they are said to act as a conduit to the beloved dead.
I go by the seasons, in early spring it is the first flowers such as violets, tulips and daffodils. Further into summer I will offer roses, lavender, calendula, peppermint, rosemary, clary sage, thyme and what ever else is in season. I the end, it is an offering of what you have and what is available for you to offer up.
Many Blessings to your home and hearth! wyrþe þanc!! The Herb Witch
A highly recommended Youtube channel is that of Freyia Norling who is extremely knowledgeable regarding the use of herbs and more with Norse Folk Medicine.
The Fox is an incredible animal who is as diverse in its sub-species to where they live which is every continent except Antarctica. They can be found from Australia to the Arctic and just about everywhere in-between. So it is not surprising that when it comes to folklore and mythology both newer tales to those of ancient times you will find the Fox mentioned more than any other animal from Japan to the Native American tales. The Fox also happens to be a personal favorite of mine so featuring them on my Blog for me is a must.
Foxes in Folklore
Symbolism and metaphor are often used in folklore to explore the depths of human emotions and how we have connected with the world around us. Animals in particular, have long been a popular source of inspiration, acting as reflections of our best and worst qualities, or appearing to us as magical creatures linking the mortal and spirit realms.
There are maybe only a handful of animals, both real and mythological, that are more commonly found in folklore globally than the fox. Considering the relatively close proximity humans and foxes have had with each other, it is no surprise that we included this relationship in our mythologies and tales. Even the ancient Sumerians were inspired by foxes and included one in the Eridu Genesis myth, first recorded around 1600 BCE.
In general, there is a split consensus cross-culturally when it comes to the depiction of foxes in folklore. The fox is perhaps most well known as a trickster, sneaky and cunning in behavior, creating devious plans which they occasionally fall victim to. In Aesop’s Fables, they are egotistical, con artists, and benefit from the misfortune of others. Phrases like “sly as a fox” and “outfoxed” are references to the trickster persona.Continue reading HERE. And find Part 2 HERE.
It would be difficult to compile a complete list of all the available fox mythology. In the Scandinavian countries, foxes were believed to cause the northern lights. These aurora were called “revontulet” in Finland, meaning “fox fires”.SOURCE
A more modern version of the of the Northern Lights regarding a Fox written by Don Fowler is a favorite of mine which I want to share with you.
Long ago when the world was young there lived in the forest of Midgard a small fox named Rav who was as black as night. He was a sly little fox who liked to play jokes on the other animals of the forest. Needless to say, he didn’t have many friends in the forest.
One day he was confronted by some rabbits that wanted to make fun of his abnormal black fur. He ran past them and swiped his tail over the grass in passing, lighting it into flames. The scared rabbits bound off in fear and hasted deep into the forest to escape the flames.
The land wight of the forest lake got upset with Rav and scolded the fox for causing such trouble. Rav tried to lie to the forest lake, telling her that he would not do such a thing again. But the forest lake knew better than to trust a fox and sent him from Midgard across Yggdrasil to Jotunheim, the land of giants and trolls.
Jotunheim is a cold, icy land, and there the fox found his lovely black coat had gone arctic white. Worse than that, now the little arctic fox was all alone and had to constantly flee from the giants and the trolls of the wild north. He did well at protecting only his own hide and the years passed before he knew it.
Then on a bitter cold day he spied a small fire where two travelers were eating. One had red hair and a beard and carried a mighty hammer. The other had black hair and seemed, to Rav, to be very cunning and fair. But as he was watching the giants played a trick on the travelers by making the snow storm so hard the travelers could not find their way. Rav knew the lost travelers would come under attack by the giants soon.
It was then Rav felt regret for his own actions in the past, and felt sympathy for the bold travelers. Running ahead, he swept his tail over the snow, sending up a whirl of fire into the sky making it like day. It was enough to startle the giants as he lit a path to the Bifrost bridge for the travelers.
At the top of the bridge one of the travelers companions could make out what was going on far below. He quickly alerted all in Asgard of the danger of the trouble making giants. So it was that in the end the travelers made it back to their land safely despite the snow storm.
Impressed with the little arctic fox they made Rav a small home at the base of the Bifrost bridge where it meets the frigid snow of the north. It would be the little arctic fox’s duty to send up flames nightly so that anyone lost could see and find their way back home. He was so good at making his northern lights that they became known as the Foxfires or the Revontulet.
Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 19. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) : “On this highway is a place called Teumessos (Teumessus), where it is said that Europa was hidden by Zeus. There is also another legend, which tells of a Fox called the Teumessian Fox, how owing to the wrath of Dionysos the beast was reared to destroy the Thebans, and how, when about to be caught by the Hound [Lailaps (Laelaps)] given by Artemis to Prokris (Procris) the daughter of Erekhtheus (Erechtheus), the Fox was turned into a stone, as was likewise this Hound.”
THE ALOPEX TEUMESIOS (Teumessian Fox) was a giant fox sent by the gods to ravage the countryside of Thebes as punishment for some crime. Kreon (Creon), regent of Thebes, commanded Amphitryon destroy the fox–an impossible task for the beast was destined never to be caught. The hero solved the problem by setting the magical dog Lailaps (Laelaps) on the trail, for it was destined to always catch its quarry. Zeus, faced with a paradox of fate–an uncatchable fox being pursued by an inescapable dog–, turned the pair to stone, so freezing their contest in time.SOURCE
Kitsune(狐, キツネ, IPA: [kitsɯne]) in the literal sense is the Japanese word for “fox”. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore; in English, kitsune refers to them in this context. Stories depict legendary foxes as intelligent beings and as possessing paranormal abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. According to Yōkai folklore, all foxes have the ability to shapeshift into human form. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others – as foxes in folklore often do – other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives.
Foxes and humans lived close together in ancient Japan; this companionship gave rise to legends about the creatures. Kitsune have become closely associated with Inari, a Shinto “kami,” or “spirit,” and serve as its messengers. This role has reinforced the fox’s supernatural significance. Continue reading HERE.
The Role of Foxes in Slavic Mythology and Folklore
The early Slavs often had a similar perception of the fox that is still popular in modern culture across the world today. No matter the species, foxes were seen as sly and cunning tricksters. They use this skill often to deceive protagonists, and this makes them often villains in folk tales. Among the Slavs, though, the fox has positive roles as well.
When tricksters are mentioned in Slavic mythology, it’s impossible not to mention Weles (Veles), god of the lowlands, underworld, serpents, and cattle. Like the fox, Weles is often incorrectly perceived as evil, stealing Perun‘s cattle as well as his son, Jaryło. The god serves a crucial role, though, and so does the fox, serving as the symbol of mind over brute strength.Continue reading HERE.
Last night I had the pleasure to be a guest on The Witch’s Hour podcast on Inner Demon Media and it was a great hour of discussion and conversation. I talked a bit about how I began my spiritual path, the “dark” side of paganism, Gatekeeping and its detriment to the Pagan community plus more. I am looking forward to being invited back in the future for another episode.
Be sure to also check out their Facebook page HERE.
Ocean Jasper or Sea Jasper is characterized by the presence of small spherical aggre- gates (spherulites, or “orbs”), just a few millimeters in diameter, that derive from a process of alternation and silicification of volcanic tuff and rhyolite flows. As one of the many known types of Jasper, Ocean Jasper is a member of the Quartz family. Its high mineral silica content accounts for the specks of shimmering druzy quartz often found in Ocean Jasper. This includes orb-like shapes alongside other patterns and strips of colour – hence the name, orbicular Ocean Jasper.
As the deposits are part of the shoreline they can only be seen and mined at low tide. With no roads in this remote area, material must be removed and transported by boat.
TYPES OF OCEAN JASPER:
Eight different veins of Ocean Jasper have been discovered and each has produced slightly different looking stones.Although this crystal is more commonly found in white, green and brown, Ocean Jasper is sometimes also found in black, blue, red, pink, orange, yellow and gray.
The stone was named “Ocean” jasper by an American mineral dealer in 1922, simply because the first known deposit was located very close to the sea itself as well as its resemblance to waves, ripples, and water drop rings.
The best known research on Ocean Jasper is by Dr. Werner Lieber. He theorized that it is a sphärolithischer Chalcedon (German, “spherulitic or orbicular chalcedony”)Spherulitic refers to spherulites, a more technical name for the orbs.
METAPHYSICALHEALING PROPERTIES OF OCEAN JASPER:
Ocean jasper is said to provide calm, uplifting energy to the holder in trying times, feeding into a more optimistic outlook on life. The stone aids clearer communication, and enhances self-confidence as well as insight.
This beautiful stone draws its soothing power from the element of Water, outputting strength and renewal with a slow, steady frequency and a deep circular energy that embodies the interconnectedness of all things. A highly spiritual Shamanic stone, Ocean Jasper is said to purify everything around us as well as connect us with protective and healing nature spirits.
PHYSICAL HEALING PROPERTIES OF OCEAN JASPER:
Ocean Jasper is also popular among crystal healers for its believed ability to address and relieve certain physical ailments as well as activating and aligning solar plexus, heart, and throat chakras.
Ocean Jasper is thought to be highly restorative for tissue deterioration of the internal organs. Said to help stabilize nutritional absorption of vitamins and minerals, especially in balancing sodium and iodine levels and relieving water retention, Ocean Jasper is highly sought out for it’s believed physical healing properties.
Known as the “Supreme Nurturer,” Jasper is a stone of grounding and stability, providing comfort and security, strength and healing. Its presence balances the aura to a level of wholeness and peace, and acts as a reminder that one is not here on the physical plane simply for oneself, but to bring joy and substance to others.
The Goddess Hecate (Hekate) is a Goddess that holds great importance within the pantheon of Greek mythology for quite a few important reasons which I plan to cover in this blog post. I myself have not personally worked with her much but have read about her quite a lot and even researched the well know Wheel of Hecate. So knowing how important this Goddess is to so many, I took great care in putting this together so as to make sure I did her justice in honoring her importance and assisting in educating others about who she is, her origin and how to connect with her power and magick.
Everything You Need To Know About Hecate (Maiden, Mother, Crone)
By Danielle Mackay, BA Classical Studies and Linguistics, MA Classical Studies
The goddess Hecate is one of the lesser-known goddesses of the Greek pantheon. Child of Perses and Asteria, she was the only Titan to retain her control under Zeus’ reign. Hecate’s powers transcended the boundaries of the sky, the earth, the seas, and the underworld.
Although there are few myths about the goddess Hecate, her tales reveal a lot about her spheres of influence. During the Roman era, many of her attributes fell in the realm of the underworld. Yet, she also controlled elements that placed her firmly in the light. The goddess possessed extensive powers, which were later assimilated by other deities. Hecate could bestow wealth and blessings on her worshippers, yet she could also withhold these gifts if she were not adequately worshipped. This article will explore who Hecate was and what her attributes and symbols were.
Classical scholars dispute the origins of Hecate’s worship in Ancient Greece. For many, the goddess’ worship has a pre-Greek origin, while for others, it originated in Thrace. Among the theories, the most popular is that Hecate was accepted into Greek religion from the Carians in Asia Minor. According to scholars, it is believed that the goddess came to Greece during the Archaic age. The presence of Hecatean worship in Caria is attested by the number of cult sites dedicated to the goddess. The most prominent of these was in Lagina. However, due to these Anatolian cult sites’ late dates, other classicists argue that an Anatolian origin is impossible for the goddess.Continue reading HERE.
To those at the forefront of Pagan scholarship, the rise of Hekate is neither coincidental nor surprising. Sorita d’Este, author of Circle for Hekate and over a dozen other titles, is a researcher whose work is rooted in mysticism and mythology. She is also the founder of Avalonia, an independent publisher of Pagan and esoteric books.
“In the ancient world, Hekate was a goddess of many names and many faces,” said d’Este. “She was also worshiped by people from many nations and places, so her continued ability to adapt and be relevant today should not really come as a surprise. Hekate is relevant and present in the 21st century. This is evident in the surge of interest in her but also the number of appearances she makes in pop culture, the number of books written about her, and the way that she has a place in the worship and work of polytheists, as well as Pagans, Wiccans, Witches, Druids, Heathens, ceremonial magicians, and even Buddhists and Hindus.”
In 2010, d’Este produced Hekate: Her Sacred Fires, an anthology in which nearly 50 individuals from around the globe share their own personal visions of the goddess. Shortly thereafter, she created The Rite of Her Sacred Fires, an international devotional event celebrated every year during the May full moon. d’Este then formed Covenant of Hekate, a “network of devotees from different traditions and backgrounds who share their works with one another.”SOURCE
“Hecate’s themes are the moon, beginnings and magic. Her symbols are serpents, horses or dogs (Her sacred animals), light (especially a torch), myrrh, silver and moonstone. This Greco-Roman Goddess rules the moon and opportunities. Tonight She opens the path through which the old year departs and the new enters. People customarily worship Hecate at crossroads, where worlds meet, which may be why She became a witch’s Goddess. On this, Hecate’s Day, She bears a torch, lighting the way to the future.
At the eve of a New Year, take a moment and pat yourself on the back for a full of Goddess-centered thinking and action. Note your achievements, and thank Hecate for helping you find the way when your vision seemed clouded. An additional benefit here is that speaking this Goddess’s name today banishes unwanted ghosts, including those figurative ghosts of past negative experiences. Let Hecate take those burdens so your new year will begin without anything holding you back.
To accept this Goddess’s powers in your life throughout your celebrations today, wear white or silver items, and light a white candle in Her honor. For a token that will emphasize Hecate’s magic and lunar energies whenever you need them, bless a moonstone, saying something like:
‘Hecate, fill this silver stone keep your magic with me where ever I roam.’
Carry this, keeping the Goddess close to your heart and spirit.”
The Hecate’s Wheel is a powerful symbol that represents the goddess Hecate. It is also referred to as the Strophalos of Hecate. Hecate’s Wheel is a circle that has a circular maze surrounding a spiral. This symbol draws its inspiration and power from the Moon, Earth, Sea, and Sky. This is more so because the deity Hecate is the ruler of these spheres of the Universe.
Hecate’s Wheel draws attention to the 3 phases of the triple Hecate, the goddess of the moon. It accentuates the 3 phases of the female cycle. The female life starts as a Maiden, graduates to a Mother, and later to a Crone. Hecate’s Wheel indicates the immense blessings and goodwill this goddess provides for the family.
Those with this symbol as their religious icon find it easy to attract prosperity, growth, and progress in their families. Traditionally, Hecate has been seen to be the guardian of the crossroads. This evolved with time, and she became the guardian of magic and witchcraft. Hecate’s Wheel aptly captures the evolution displayed by the goddess Hecate throughout history.
Up to 500 BCE, physical representations of Hecate indicate her evolution through the various phases of womanhood. Hecate’s Wheel started inculcating these images as early as 100 AD. Some of the earliest images of Hecate’s Wheel also depicted the influence of Aphrodite in the affairs of Hecate. In modern times, Hecate’s Wheel has become an important pagan spiritual symbol. It has gained a lot of traction amongst modern pagans. Continue reading HERE.
“Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronos honoured above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honour also in starry heaven, and is honoured exceedingly by the deathless gods…. The son of Cronos did her no wrong nor took anything away of all that was her portion among the former Titan gods: but she holds, as the division was at the first from the beginning, privilege both in earth, and in heaven, and in sea”.
Her gifts towards mankind are all-encompassing, Hesiod tells:
“Whom she will she greatly aids and advances: she sits by worshipful kings in judgement, and in the assembly whom she will is distinguished among the people. And when men arm themselves for the battle that destroys men, then the goddess is at hand to give victory and grant glory readily to whom she will. Good is she also when men contend at the games, for there too the goddess is with them and profits them: and he who by might and strength gets the victory wins the rich prize easily with joy, and brings glory to his parents. And she is good to stand by horsemen, whom she will: and to those whose business is in the grey discomfortable sea, and who pray to Hecate and the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker, easily the glorious goddess gives great catch, and easily she takes it away as soon as seen, if so she will. She is good in the byre with Hermes to increase the stock. The droves of kine and wide herds of goats and flocks of fleecy sheep, if she will, she increases from a few, or makes many to be less”.
Hecate was carefully attended:
“For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for favour according to custom, he calls upon Hecate. Great honour comes full easily to him whose prayers the goddess receives favourably, and she bestows wealth upon him; for the power surely is with her”.SOURCE
Otherworldly and rare, Phantom quartz is a variety of quartz consisting of visible layers of overlapping crystal growths. The outline of the inner crystals can be seen due to some variation in composition or mineral inclusion making the boundary between growths visible. The interior crystal layers are known as phantoms.
About 2000 years ago, naturalist and philosopher Pliny the Elder wrote that Quartz crystals were formed in icy environments particularly in caverns and dark clefts in the mountains. This became the widely accepted belief in the 18th century when modern geology was just burgeoning in Europe. Around that time, Phantom Quartz crystals were called ‘ghost crystals’ and ‘shadow crystals.’
Phantom Quartz in Spirituality
Shamans consider Phantom Quartz to be the light stone. It symbolizes the light residing in every person. Toltec philosophy claims that every living being is a light being, which means all organisms come from the same source and are interconnected.
But our light can get dimmed and often not seen by the naked eye. This causes us to feel disconnected from others and the world. Phantom Quartz counters this effect. Its light helps restore our bond with every living creature.
Metaphysical Properties of Phantom Quartz
It is believed that the crystal can heighten intuition and create a connection with one’s spirit guide. Phantom Quartz is used to access the angelic realm. It is beneficial in unblocking and activating the third eye and crown chakras. As a result, greater consciousness and spiritual growth is achieved.
The crystal also has the ability to balance the root and sacral chakras, the areas that can get blocked by a person’s traumas. Blocked lower chakras can lead to fear and low self-esteem. Phantom Quartz clears out and balances these energy points to replace unproductive energies with love, creativity, sexuality, and stability.
Phantom Quartz is effective at cleansing auras and dispelling negative energies. It helps with personal inner growth and overcome stagnation. It aids and enhances healing abilities and facilitates the elimination of toxins from the body. Phantom Quartz connects to the earth and higher realms.
Phantom Quartz is only found in Minas Gerais, an inland state in southern Brazil known for its wealth of minerals and mining activities.
Phantom quartz crystals have been referred to as ghost crystals, spectre crystals and shadow crystals. The name quartz comes from the Saxon word querklufterz which meant cross vein ore.
Fireflies are in my top five of favorite insects and a lot of those reasons will be within what you find in this post from their mystical appearance at night to the significance they hold in a lot of folklore. The Firefly also known as a lightning Bug can be a significant meaning in your dreams, as a totem and even a spirit animal which will be covered here as well but first let me share with you a story about myself and Fireflies which sometimes I wonder if there are Fae among them in disguise.
Many years ago I lived in a beautiful part of the Appalachians on a property with a pond in front of my house over an acre in size with it surrounded by grass. Every day right at dusk I would sit or lay on the grass in front of the pond. I would watch the fish nipping at the bugs on the surface of the pond ass the Bats began swooping like acrobatic jets above beginning to feed. All the time as it darkened the Fireflies would emerge from the grass undergrowth and it truly looked like a scene from a fantasy movie. Truly an amazing experience every time.
In China, long ago, it was believed that fireflies were a product of burning grasses. Ancient Chinese manuscripts hint that a popular summer pastime was to catch fireflies and put them in a transparent box, to use as a lantern, much like children (and adults) often do today.
There’s a Japanese legend that lightning bugs are actually the souls of the dead. Variations on the tale say that they’re the spirits of warriors who fell in battle. Our About.com Japanese Language Expert, Namiko Abe, says, “The Japanese word for a firefly is hotaru… In some cultures, hotaru might not have a positive reputation, but they are well liked in Japanese society. They have been a metaphor for passionate love in poetry since Man’you-shu (the 8th-century anthology).”
Even though fireflies put on a pretty great light show, it’s not just for entertainment. The flashing of their light is how they communicate with each other – especially for courtship rituals. Males flash to let the ladies know they’re looking for love… and the females respond with flashes to say they’re interested.
Fireflies appear in a lot of Native American folklore as well. There’s an Apache legend in which the trickster Fox tries to steal fire from the firefly village. To accomplish this, he fools them and manages to set his own tail on fire with a piece of burning bark. As he escapes the firefly village, he gives the bark to Hawk, who flies off, scattering embers around the world, which is how fire came to the Apache people. As punishment for his deception, the fireflies told Fox that he would never be able to use fire himself.
Using Firefly Magic
Think about the different aspects of firefly folklore. How can you use them in a magical working?
Feeling lost? Catch some fireflies in a jar (please, poke holes in the lid!) and ask them to illuminate your way. Release them when you’re done.
The Symbolic Meaning of Crossing Paths With a Bright Little Firefly or Lightning Bug This Summer by Rebecca Norris
Fireflies—which are technically a type of nocturnal beetle!—often go unnoticed until nighttime. But, as soon as the tail of their abdomen begins to glow, the little bugs (also called lightning bugs) transform into seemingly-magical creatures that create specks of light in the dark evening air, leaving children and adults alike in awe. What makes them extra special is that they’re only around for a few weeks in the summer, and only in certain areas (in the U.S., that means warm, humid climates east of Kansas).
According to Honigman, fireflies serve as powerful and empowering reminders for anyone who sees them. “A little light shining bravely in the darkness,” she says of their symbolic meaning. “Small and alone, showing us that we are each worthy, that every person shines their own unique light, and in our own world, be represented in the global struggle for illumination. Light over dark. Positive over negative. However tiny you are, your light still illuminates the darkness.”
Honigman says they’re also reminders to be intentional about the light you seek in others. “Fireflies have a unique way of shining their light, in order to draw the exact right mate to them,” she explains. “They flash their light in specific patterns, and only the right mate responds to each individual pattern. This reminds us to be specific with the people we keep around us, and to be intentional with our circle. One firefly won’t be drawn to another one unless communication is exact and specific. Similarly, the right people for you will heed your call. If it feels ‘off’ then this isn’t your person.”Continue reading HERE.
by Bliss Carman
The fireflies across the dusk Are flashing signals through the gloom— Courageous messengers of light That dare immensities of doom.
About the seeding meadow-grass, Like busy watchmen in the street, They come and go, they turn and pass, Lighting the way for Beauty’s feet.
Or up they float on viewless wings To twinkle high among the trees, And rival with soft glimmerings The shining of the Pleiades.
The stars that wheel above the hill Are not more wonderful to see, Nor the great tasks that they fulfill More needed in eternity.
Finland is a country filled with rich history, amazing people, fascinating folklore, great culture and a beautiful landscape. It is a country I have been fascinated with for many years for a myriad of reasons. Today I wanted to explore a period of time in Finnish history that is not discussed enough in my opinion and that is what was going on in Finland during the Viking age. The Viking age in Scandinavia and throughout Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean had a huge impact. So The question is this, how was Finland effected during this period of history? Well that is exactly what this blog post is about.
Viking Age Finland is a topic which is rarely discussed when talking about Finnish history. In schools, pupils learn next to nothing about pre-Medieval Finnish society. Also, historians have been rather reluctant to deal with the topic in-depth in recent years, and so very few works have emerged. It is almost as if it were taboo.
Because of its remote location, Finland has always been a little bit behind in technological advances. The Bronze-age had just made its arrival, when in they already started to become out-dated in the cradles of civilization. However, during the iron-age, there were strong contacts with the Finnic tribes on both sides of the Gulf of Finland, as well as to the east and to the west. During the Viking age, the tribes of Finland were more or less at par in technological development with their neighbors to the west, east and the south. Differences between western Finnic tribes and eastern Finnic tribes of Finland become evident by the Merovingian period. Finland is commonly divided between Western Finnish Cultural Sphere and Eastern Finnish Cultural Sphere. The Pre-historic period of Finland stretched all the way to Swedish conquest in the 12th century, and in eastern Finland it stretched all the way to the late 13th century.
The entire area that is thought to have been possessed or controlled by the Finns during the late iron-age was most likely not a united province politically until the medieval times under Swedish rule. There appear to have been some key areas, which formed which are thought to have acted as political entities. The most important of these areas are the Turku-region, and the area known as Vakka-Suomi, which has also been referred to as “Kaland” in some historical sources. It is impossible to tell exactly how these areas were governed, but some educated guesses would suggest a very “democratic” style of decision making. The strong men of different villages would decide together on a common course of action, as no single leader was strong enough to dominate the entire province, very much like the Vikings are thought to have operated. One cannot talk of a nobility or aristocracy as such, but there are evident class-distinctions. These become evident when looking at the items found in the graves. As swords were expensive and hard to come by (as they had to be imported from over-seas), they act as a good marker of a wealthy and usually important person within the community. As mentioned earlier, the Finns of the Turku-region and Vakka-Suomi had a very good geographical location to engage in trade with the west, especially with Birka, as this had become a dominant (if not the dominant) trade-centre of the Baltic by the Viking age.Continue reading HERE.
There is evidence of both peaceful trade and not-so-peaceful conflict between Finns and the neighboring Vikings during this time, and Finland is thought to have been a regular stop for Vikings on their way east, with significant evidence of trade with the Viking trade center of Birka (situated near modern-day Stockholm) found in archeological sites in Finland and Sweden.
Finnish ports along the Baltic sea were thought to have been key factors behind the Norsemen’s expansions eastwards, and it is believed that individual Finns did take part of Viking raids and expeditions.
Furthermore the island of Åland was considered an important Viking port at the time, and it was considered to be Finnish back then too. The Norse also acquired important knowledge about the Russian lands from the Finns, which is thought to have been crucial information enabling their future eastern endeavors.SOURCE
The Ålandic mystery
Åland has been ”a contact zone between Finnic and Scandinavian linguistic and cultural groups for at least two thousand years” (p. 7). Recurrent themes in VAÅ include some ”mysteries”. Åland is conspicuously absent from Old Norse sources, mentioned only once, in Fundinn Noregr (The discovery of Norway); but there it appears in an accurate itinerary, indicating familiarity, as Schalin with Frog point out (pp. 277–278). The lack of place names in Åland older than the late Viking Age and the dearth of artifacts from the late 10th through the 11th century have been taken as evidence of a possible discontinuity in settlement near the end of the Viking Age. Another mystery is the clay paw amulet, a grave practice mainly restricted to Åland, from which it spread to Timerëvo in central Russia. Frog focuses on this rite in relation to bear ceremonialism generally (arguing convincingly that the paws are more likely to represent bear than beaver), situating Åland between Finnic and Scandinavian mythological traditions.
Many contributions adopt indirect approaches to problems for which the evidence is minimal. Ahola, Frog and Schalin explain the methodological problems involved in trying to ascertain the language(s) spoken in Åland during the Viking Age. Aalto explores the meaning of the Norse ethnonym Finnr, which in addition to Sámi and (occasionally) the residents of present-day Finnish territory may have included Ålanders, even if they were Scandinavian speakers. Place names indicate that continuous Swedish-speaking settlement in Southwest Finland dates to around 1100 AD, according to Mikko Heikkilä. Schalin with Frog argues for Germanic etymologies for most of the older place names in Åland. Jomala, a Finnic name for ’god’, is likely an old name for the largest island, and may reflect a Viking Age borrowing of the word into Scandinavian as an appellative for Finnic sacred places (pp. 286–289).
Ahola discusses traditions in Kalevala-meter poetry associated with Saari ’Island’, which has sometimes been identified with Åland. Rather than indicating that these epic stories are based on historical events in Åland, as Kaarle Krohn thought, Ahola suggests that mainland Finns may have come to view Åland as a mystical place because of the valence of islands in epic tradition.SOURCE
Many years ago I began reading about and studying the folklore, deities and overall mythology of the Slavic culture mainly after discovering I have some Slavic lineage. What I quickly learned was how much I enjoy it and even to this day still am always on thew lookout for books regarding this subject. In particular, as I am all about anything with water, I especially enjoy learning about Beings that reside in or around the water of Slavic folklore and even Kupala who is the Slavic goddess of joy and water. If you enjoy Slavic folklore as much as I do then I hope you will enjoy this blog post I thoroughly enjoyed putting together for my readers.
Beautiful, mysterious, deadly: mermaids of Russian folklore
They meet by moonlight, rising out of lakes and ponds or drifting down from the branches of birch trees, hair drip-ping with dew. Their corpse-pale skin reveals their inhuman nature. Their watery essence links them to ancient, elemental forces. In Russian and Ukrainian tradition they are called the rusalki, and they belong to the spiritual world of women, as the mythology surrounding them testiﬁes. For not only do they bring the fertilizing spring rains when invoked by village maidens, but they also punish any man who chances upon them, using as a weapon the very element that the women so longingly call forth: they lure the interloper into the water and drown him.
In some versions of tales about them, the rusalki are portrayed as shape-shifters, most frequently appearing as unearthly and beautiful young women, but also as birds, particularly water birds such as swans or ducks. This aspect of their nature as a mixture of animal and human relates them to other female water-beings found throughout mythology and folklore around the world, from the sirens that tempted sailors to their doom in the Odyssey to the mermaids that continue to appear in popular modern films and literature. Joanna Hubbs, who has traced the lineage of the rusalki in her book Mother Russia: The Feminine Myth in Russian Culture, views them as the descendants of an earlier Slavic water elemental, a character part woman and part beast, “the beregina, [which] assumed in folk art the form of the half-woman and half-bird or ﬁsh-siren.”1 Hubbs states that the name of the rusalki’s ancestor ﬁnds its source in the word “bereg,” which may be translated as “shore.”Continue reading HERE.
Vodyanoy – Water Spirit/The Spirit of the Lake
Also known as Vodnik, the Water Spirit of Dvořák’s opera is better known in folklore as Vodyanoy (amongst other names, such as Wassermann or Nix). Dvořák appeared to be particularly fond of this Water Goblin, writing a separate symphonic tone poem titled Vodník.
Hailing from Slavic, German and Czech’s shared folklore, Vodyanoys were often depicted as humanoids with toad-like features, such as gills, webbed fingers, a greenish hue and anuran features. Usually found riding along the river on a half-sunk log, the Vodyanoy were generally viewed as elderly old men, in stark contrast to the youthful feminine Rusalkas.
Whilst not necessarily viewed as malevolent, Vodyanoy (along with Rusalki) were often blamed for drownings, with the Vodyanoy storing the souls of the drowned in teapots. Usually thought to be pretty lazy, they pass the time by playing cards, smoking pipes, and watching the water pass by.SOURCE
Waters and Sacred Spaces
We know from the accounts of chroniclers that pagan temples at Radegast (Rethra) and Wolin, both in modern Poland, were surrounded by bodies of water: swamps, moats and lakes . Chroniclers tell of local beliefs about spirits in these waters, and we can speculate about their use in ritual: bathing and sacrificing in these waters during holy times of the year.
Veneration of springs is a well known in Slavic cultures and persists even to this day, in the form of cults of Christian saints, in many rural areas. But this practice is certainly ancient; aside from the desire for the health benefits of mineral water, springs were either the object of worship or accompanying shrines to gods among Slavic pagan tribes living near the Elbe river.
The Głomacze tribe’s spring was famed for its fortune-telling: it was coated with acorns, oats or wheat to predict peace, and ash or blood to predict war . Acorns covering these waters meant nearby oaks to drop them: oak being a sacred symbol of the thunder god, Perun. Similarly, in Szczecin, a fountain at the base of a large oak tree was venerated as a shrine, to which god the chronicler does not name, but we might speculate it to be the thunderer .Continue reading HERE.
Surprisingly, the Slavs imagined their own Styx, a border river between life and the underworld, and in Russia, this river was called Smorodina, which translates quite clearly as “The Stinky One.”
The river is “stinky,” because it is made of constantly burning and fuming fire. Smorodina is the border between our world and the afterlife that a man’s soul needs to cross to get to the land of plenty (probably The Three Nines Kingdom).
“The melting river is ferocious, a fierce river, the angriest one of all. Its first trickle is like a fire, another one is a spark falling, and because of the third one, the smoke is coming down in columns,” an old Russian bylina (oral epic tale) “Dobrynya and The Serpent” relates. Continue reading HERE.
It was also believed that in ba’nyas (Russian saunas) lived the water spirit named B’annik. He might do various evil things: to scare you while washing, throw stones from the oven or even to raw. He always washed after all the humans at night accompanied with demons, L’eshijs, mermaids & other minor spirits. To please Bannik people left a broom, a bar of soap & some water in a bathing barrel. Besides it was forbidden to build a house on the sauna’s place. This area was considered to be cursed. SOURCE
When asked by people who are first diving into the spirituality of what is commonly known as Norse Paganism I always recommend the Hávamál, the Eddas and of course the Sagas. These I feel really can build a foundation for anyone interested in starting a spiritual path regarding this subject. But of course there are thousands of books regarding the tales of the folklore and the Gods and Goddesses of Scandinavia, many of which are in my personal library which will eventually be added on blogs posts here. But for now I want to focus on five books in my library so let us get to it.
A unique body of medieval literature, the Sagas rank with the world’s greatest literary treasures–as epic as Homer, as deep in tragedy as Sophocles, as engagingly human as Shakespeare. Set around the turn of the last millennium, these stories depict with an astonishingly modern realism the lives and deeds of the Norse men and women who first settled Iceland and of their descendants, who ventured further west–to Greenland and, ultimately, the coast of North America itself.
The ten Sagas and seven shorter tales in this volume include the celebrated “Vinland Sagas,” which recount Leif Eiriksson’s pioneering voyage to the New World and contain the oldest descriptions of the North American continent.Get your copy HERE.
Popular in the 19th century for its sweeping, adventurous, romantic plot and tender love story, the Saga of Fridthjof the Bold was largely neglected in the 20th century. Now, a new and fresh translation of both versions of this Old Norse saga restores it to glory. Also included is the swashbuckling Saga of Thorstein Vikingsson, the father of the hero Fridthjof; the Tale of King Vikar, telling of Fridthjof’s descendants; and plenty of notes and commentary giving the saga’s historical and cultural background. These tales of adventure, war, magic, and love can still thrill the heart today, as they did centuries ago.Get your copy HERE.
The Norwegian island of Hrafnista was long remembered in medieval Iceland as the ancestral home of a family of powerful chieftains, who were said to have faced and triumphed over dangers ranging from tyrant kings, to storms and famines, to giants, dragons, and sorcery. Descendants of these Men of Hrafnista settled in Iceland and gave rise to prominent families, who passed on tales of their ancestors for generations until they were written down. For the first time, the Old Norse sagas of the Men of Hrafnista—the Saga of Ketil Salmon, the Saga of Grim Shaggy-Cheek, the Saga of Arrow-Odd, and the Saga of An Bow-Bender—have been collected in one volume, in English translation. Enter the world of Viking legend and lore with these tales of high adventure. Get your copy HERE.
Huge in stature; living in far-distant wastelands; sometimes comically stupid or crude; but possessing vast wealth and knowledge—such are the giants of Norse myth and legend.
Four Icelandic sagas and six tales, spanning five centuries, are brought together for the first time in all-new English translations. All tell of mighty giants, and of the heroes who dared to face them, fight them, and sometimes befriend them. The giants and trolls of old still live on in these legendary sagas of old times. These tales of epic voyages, wars, and romance will appeal to both scholars of Norse mythology and fans of Viking adventure.
The sagas include the Saga of the Kjalarnes People, the Saga of Halfdan Brana’s Fosterling, the Saga of Sorli the Strong, and the Saga of Illugi Grid’s Fosterling.
The six shorter tales are: the Tale of Halfdan the Black, the Tale of Hauk High-Breeches, the Tale of Jokul Buason, the Tale of Brindle-Cross, an excerpt from the Saga of the Fljotsdal People, and the Tale of Asmund Ogre-Lucky. Get your copy HERE.
This gem may not be so easy to acquire as it is out of print as far as I know. My copy of Three Icelandic Sagas is a first edition published on Januray 1st, 1950 and is my favorite in my Sagas collection. The three Sagas told in this book are the Gunnlaugs Saga, Bandamanna Saga and Droplaugarsona Saga which all took place from the late 10th century to early 11th century in Iceland. The book is so well written and even includes some beautiful art depicting scenes from the Sagas. If you manage to get a copy of this first edition it is one you will thoroughly enjoy.