These two little books byBen Waggonerare two little gems I highly recommend for your library.
A Pocket Guide to Runes is a great little resource and guide regarding the Elder Futhark Runes regarding each one’s meaning and use.
Weland the Smith tells about Weland also known as Volundr, Wieland and Wayland. His name lives on as the name of the most masterful craftsman ever known. Captured and crippled, forced to make treasures for a cruel king, he plots not only how to regain his freedom, but how to take a terrible vengeance. His legend was told for centuries in England, Germany, and Scandinavia. Here you will find the major sources for Weland’s legend, translated from Old Norse and Old English.
Not so well know is the subject of the Vikings of Estonia during the late Viking age and into the 12th century even though there are historical accounts of them existing. Most like over shadowed by the far more famous Vikings of Scandinavia. Yet the history of these maritime raiders from Estonia landing on shores from the Baltic’s to throughout Scandinavia is in my opinion a piece of Northern European history more should explore and be aware of.
Estland (Eistland or Esthland) is the historical Germanic language name that refers to the country at the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, and is the origin of the modern national name for Estonia. The largest island of Estonia is called Ösel in Swedish and its inhabitants used to be called Oeselians.
The Oeselians were known in the Old Norse Icelandic Sagas and in Heimskringla as Víkingr frá Esthland (English: vikings from Estonia).
The Livonian Chronicle describes the Oeselians as using two kinds of ships, the piratica and the liburna. The former was a warship, the latter mainly a merchant ship. A piratica could carry approximately 30 men and had a high prow shaped like a dragon or a snakehead as well as a quadrangular sail.
A battle between Oeselian and Icelandic Vikings off Saaremaa is described in Njál’s saga as occurring in 972 AD.
On the eve of Northern Crusades, the Oeselians were summarized in the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle thus: “The Oeselians, neighbors to the Kurs (Curonians), are surrounded by the sea and never fear strong armies as their strength is in their ships. In summers when they can travel across the sea they oppress the surrounding lands by raiding both Christians and pagans.“
Saxo Grammaticus describes the Estonians and Curonians as participating in the Battle of Bråvalla on the side of the Swedes against the Danes, who were aided by the Livonians and the Wends of Pomerania.
From the 12th century, chroniclers’ descriptions of Estonian, Oeselian and Curonian raids along the coasts of Sweden and Denmark become more frequent.
The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia describes a fleet of sixteen ships and five hundred Oeselians ravaging the area that is now southern Sweden, then belonging to Denmark. In the XIVth book of Gesta Danorum, Saxo Grammaticus describes a battle on Öland in 1170 in which the Danish king Valdemar I mobilized his entire fleet to curb the incursions of Couronian and Estonian pirates.
Perhaps the most renowned raid by Oeselian pirates occurred in 1187, with the attack on the Swedish town of Sigtuna by Finnic raiders from Couronia and Ösel. Among the casualties of this raid was the Swedish archbishop Johannes. The city remained occupied for some time, contributing to the decline as a center of commerce in the 13th century in favor of Uppsala, Visby, Kalmar and Stockholm. [Some have addressed Sigtuna as the then capital of Sweden]Source
Ravens are perhaps the most common bird symbol in the mythologies and religions of ancient cultures. They assume a variety of roles, ranging from messengers of deities and sages to oracles and tricksters. They play a central part in many creation myths and are typically associated with the supernatural realms lying beyond the ordinary experience. What is so lurid about these black-feathered creatures and why does the sight of them send a wave of shivers down one’s spine? Studying the folklore of different cultures may unravel the motives underlying the superstitious beliefs and religious faiths.
In most North European mythologies birds such as ravens, vultures and others feeding on carrion—the flesh of the dead—commonly pass as symbols of war, death, and misfortune. Celtic and Irish goddesses were believed to appear in the form of a crow or a raven, gathering over the battlefields, where they would feed on the flesh of the fallen warriors. Also, seeing a raven or a crow before going into a battle gave a sense of foreboding and meant that the army would be defeated. When the giant Bran, king of Britain in Welsh mythology, was mortally wounded while warring against the Irish, he commanded his followers to behead him and carry his head to the Tower of London for his burial and as a sign of protection of Britain. A popular superstition arose declaring that if the ravens ever fled the Tower of London, the monarchy would fall. As long as they nested there, Britain would never be successfully invaded. In medieval times, these pagan legends resulted in demonetization of crows and ravens, which were consequently depicted as familiars of witches.
However, the raven as a symbol, also have a positive interpretation. The omniscient god Odin, one of the chief gods in Norse mythology, had a pair ravens called Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Mind) perching on his shoulders. Each daybreak they were sent out into the world to observe what was happening and question everybody, even the dead. By sunrise, they would come back to whisper their master what they had seen and learned. Since they embodied Odin’s mind and thoughts, they symbolized his ability to see into the future. The book also makes a mention of an early Norse poem Hrafnagaldur Óðins (Odin’s Raven Chant), in which Odin sends the ravens to the Underworld to investigate the disappearance of the lost goddess Idunn. Sometimes Odin himself would turn into a raven.
In North American folklore ravens are the creators of the world. Details of the creation tale differ, but essentially “the Raven”—a creature with the human body and raven’s beak—is believed to have made the world. He gave light to people, taught them to take care of themselves, make clothes, canoes and houses. He also brought vegetation, animals, and other benefits for the human kind. Much like the biblical story of Noah, he is said to have taken animals two by two on a big raft in order to save them from a massive flood. After all, he had done for the humans, he wished to marry a woman in turn, but her family refused to let her go. As a revenge, the myth says, the Raven created mosquitoes from crushed leaves to pester the humans forever.
Learn more about the raven in folklore, myths and spiritual meaning below.
Nimrud was the great legendary ruler of ancient Mesopotamia. One day, his two sons, Hunor and Magor went hunting. They saw a great white stag which they pursued. The stag continuously eluded them and led them to a beautiful and bountiful land. This vast land was Scythia, where Hunor and Magor eventually settled with their people.
The descendants of Hunor’s people were the Huns, and the descendants of Magor’s people were the Magyars. As they grew in strength and numbers, first the Huns, and then the Magyars went on to conquer new lands.
This story not only symbolizes the close ethnic relationship between the Huns and the Magyars, it is also a clear reference to their Sumerian and Scythian origins. The stag has also been an important symbol in the Sumerian and Scythian cultures.
The mythical story of the Wonder stag illustrates how myths and legends are based on historical facts as the archeological and ethnology-linguistic evidence supports the Sumerian-Scythian-Hun-Magyar relationship which is told by this story in ancient traditional mythological form.
Just as in Sumerian and Scythian mythology, in Hungarian mythology, the stag is also seen as a mystical being with magical powers and whose role was to indicate the will of god and to guide the Hungarians accordingly.
The Prose Edda is absolutely one of the most important books regarding Norse Paganism and the Gods and Goddesses of the Norse. Whenever someone new to the Norse faith comes to me and asks for reading material this is one I always recommend as I feel it is essential to have in your library of Norse religion studies. Some do seem to get overly and in my opinion ignorantly negative regarding The Prose Edda simply because of its author Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) who was born in western Iceland and it can be seen that yes there is some perhaps christian influence in the Edda however he really did have a deep fascination with the old tales, folklore and stories of the Gods. So I feel it is important to read this book with an open mind but at the same time we should never consider it like a bible of the Norse religion because there are so many other books that expand upon where the Prose Edda began. So with that said I do encourage everyone to have this in their library not just as a foundation of Norse Paganism but it is an iconic book that has lasted the test of time.
He or She who wishes to ride through the air like a witch shall inscribe this stave on a bleached horse’s skull with two types of blood: from the man himself as well as from a horse, combining it in thirds, two parts being the horse’s blood, from beneath the frog of the hoof of the right foreleg, and the third part from beneath the big toe of the man’s left foot. The stave is to be drawn with a chicken feather, and he who has a witch-ride bridle will then be able to ride through air and water, wherever he feels like going. A witch-ride bridle is created by digging up a newly buried man and cutting a strip of skin from the length of his spine. This will be used for reins. Next, the dead man must be scalped, and the scalp will be used for the bridle. The dead man’s lingual bone is to be used for the bit and his hip bones for cheekpieces. A spell also needs to be recited over it, and then the bridle is finished. All that needs to be done is place the witch-ride bridle over a horse’s head. It will then fly into the air with whomever is riding it, and fly faster than lightning wherever its rider wishes, creating a great whistling sound.”
Icelandic scholar Þorsteinn Konráðsson began collecting Galdrastafurs in 1890, but it was not until 1943 that he collected his volumes of data and wrote about them which included hundreds of Icelandic magic symbols (Staves). His style was unique, using a two-toned black and red to bring out a dramatic effect visually of the Staves. This Galdrastafur appears in several other manuscripts and how long it has existed lies in mystery. It is said that this one was a favorite of Þorsteinn.
Cats – The Folklore, Symbolism, Spiritual Significance and Paganism
It has been said that a cat is more a spirit than an animal. Historically, little distinction has been drawn as to the difference between witches, fairies, spirits, goddesses, and the feline, for at different periods in time the cat was believed to represent them all in corporeal form. –from Cat Spells by Claire Nahmad
The cat has always been considered a Moon creature, and sacred to such Goddesses as Isis, Bast, Artemis, Diana, and Freyja. When Diana became known as Queen of Witches in the Middle Ages, the cat was associated with Witchcraft and Goddess worship.
Followers of the goddess Diana also considered the cat sacred because she once assumed the form of a cat, and cats were under her special protection. In Scandinavia, Freya’s chariot was drawn by cats. The Celtic goddess Ceridwen was also attended by white cats, who carried out her orders on earth.
It is generally assumed today that witches’ familiars were (and are) always cats. However, during the Burning Times any small animal that was kept in the house was suspect, and records show that accused witches were forced to confess having familiar spirits in the form of cats, rats, mice, dogs, weasels and toads. It was also firmly believed that witches could take the shape of cats, and accusers sometimes claimed that they were followed or tormented by witches in the shape of cats.
Witches regard their cat familiars as founts of wisdom and occult secrets. Cats can lead their mistresses in dreams to spiritual knowledge. They can foretell the future, predict the weather, and bless magickal endeavors, and represent the soul of magick, secrecy, and freedom.
Spell To Become Closer To Your Cat
Preparation: You will need brown candles and the following herbs:
Catnip -helps create a bond between you and your cat
Vervain -for Peace and Protection
Gardenia -for Spirituality
Saffron -for Strength
Love Seed -for Friendship
Passion Flower -for Friendship
Consecrate each herb before starting. Take 1/2 of the empowered herbs and wrap in a small square of brown cloth and tie it off with a brown cord or string. Take the other half and make a smaller satchet for your pet. Wear yours four days meditating with your pet at least once a day. You can tie the pets satchet on while meditating. After those four days take all the herbs and burn as an incense while sharing a meal with your pet.
Magick Cat Collar
What you need:
1 yellow candle
1 candle holder
1 Amethyst stone (fairly small)
1 Brown collar
apple, peach or lavender oil
5 silver paper clips
brown fabric paint
This spell should be done during the waxing moon. Light the candle. Take four or the five paper clips and bend them all out as straight as possible (use the needle-nosed pliers). Now take the paperclips and (do what feels right to you) wrap the stone as you would a crystal. Chant the following while doing this:
“This collar I have made by hand shall protect my pet, all evil shall be banned. It will keep him/her in good health and always loved it is a source of good luck that is always watching from above. No harm shall ever come to my pet. And m will, So mote it be!”
Anoint the collar with the oil you have chosen. Attach the wrapped stone to the collar (like you would a license tag).Source
The Anglo-Saxons were Germanic barbarians who invaded Britain and took over large parts of theisland in the centuries following the withdrawal of the Roman Empire. They were initially less gentrified than other post-Roman barbarian groups such as the Franks or Ostrogoths because they had less contact with Mediterranean civilization. The Anglo-Saxons were originally pagan in religion. The main group, from northwestern Germany and Denmark, was divided into Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. German tribal affiliations were loose and the original invaders included people from other Germanic groups as well. Although some of the early Anglo-Saxon invaders had Celtic-influenced names, such as Cedric, the founder of the house of Wessex, the Anglo-Saxons had a pronounced awareness of them-selves as different from the peoples already inhabiting Britain. Their takeover led to the integration of Britain into a Germanic world. Unlike other groups such as the Franks they did not adopt the language of the conquered Celtic and Roman peoples, but continued speaking a Germanic dialect.
It is possible to reconstruct what little we know about Anglo-Saxon beliefs by using a wide variety of literary sources and place-names. What comes to light is an image of a people and a religion in a symbiotic relationship with nature, the powerful, uncontrollable and life-giving forces upon which their existence depended.
From the Roman historian and scholar Tacitus, we learn that Germans in the first century AD worshiped an Earth Goddess called Nerthus. Tacitus also mentions two war gods: Odin (or Woden) and Tyr. The great Viking scholar Magnus Magnusson claims that Woden was one of the chief gods of the Anglo-Saxons. Woden was so important to them, in fact, that most of the early Saxon kings claimed descent from the god as proof of their right to rule. Magnusson also identified the Saxon god Thunor, God of Thunder, who was known as Thor by the Vikings. During times of Viking settlement, Thor was revered above Odin in daily life.
But the strongest evidence for the identity of the Anglo-Saxon gods is found in place-names. Using this evidence, scholars have been able to add Tiw and the goddess Frig to the list of deities the Anglo-Saxons were known to worship. In addition, the Old English word “lea” added to many place-names in Europe is thought to be evidence of places of worship, as it refers to a clearing in the forest. These “sacred groves” were very important to the practice of Anglo-Saxon religion. There is also evidence of worship of the Sun and the Moon as deities, both in charms that have been preserved and in the names for Sunday and Monday.
The regular practice of the pagan religion in Anglo-Saxon times involved several seasonal festivals. Nearly everything we know about the religious festivals of the pagan Anglo-Saxons comes from a book called De temporum ratione (“The Reckoning of Time”), written by a Christian monk known to us as the Venerable Bede. In his book, Bede describes the yearly calendar of the Anglo-Saxon people, which usually consisted of twelve lunar months, much like our current calendar.
According to Bede, the greatest pagan festival was Modraniht, or “Mother Night,” which was held on the winter solstice – about December 25th. It is thought that this Yule festival, as it is also known, involved decorating with evergreen branches, the burning of a Yule log, and a feast centered around a boar’s head. Modraniht marked the beginning of the Anglo-Saxon year.
The next festival Bede talks about is in Solmonaþ, the Anglo-Saxon name for February. This festival involved baking special cakes that may have had symbolic significance, not so much in ingredients, but in shape. According to Bede, these cakes were offered to the pagan gods.
March was the time of year Anglo-Saxons would make sacrifices to the goddess Hreda, but the more important spring festival appears to have been Eostur-monath Aprilis, a festival dedicated to the goddess Eostre. Celebrating spring and new life, the festival of Eostre would likely have involved flowers, dancing, and feasting.
Although Bede does not mention a midsummer festival, it is a common celebration that took place throughout Europe – and continues even today. Bonfires were a key component of these festivals, and it is thought that people would dance around or even jump over the fires, while casting herbs into the flames to ward off ill health and misfortune.
The month of September was known as Halegmonath, or “Holy Month.” While little is known about the origin of the name, it is thought that a festival was celebrated at this time of year, and likely included feasting in celebration of the harvest. Owen also proposes that the mythical figures of Sheaf and his son Beow (barley) were once associated with this festival.
Finally, November was known as Blod-Monath, meaning “Blood-Month.” The festival of Blodmonath was, according to Bede, commemorated with animal sacrifices, likely oxen. This practice likely served a dual purpose – both as an offering to the pagan gods, and as a source of food for the coming winter. Bonfires were likely a feature of this festival as well, since we have illustrations in late Anglo-Saxon calendars of revelers tending to fires.
“From this brief survey of the pagan year, we can see that the people in general would have been closely involved in these festivals, raising crops and animals, baking cakes, collecting fuel for bonfires, flocking to see images or wagons carrying the gods and joining them in procession. Above all they feasted, enjoying the fruits of their own labour while propitiating the deities” (Owen 19).
Runic writing was widely known among the Anglo-Saxons. They were believed to be magic symbols that, when carved into wood or stone, possessed mystical properties. The Runic alphabet is also known as Futhark, , a name composed of the first six letters of the alphabet. Why the letters were ordered in such a way, no one really knows.
Anglo-Saxon marriage was nothing like the marriage ceremonies of today. When a man wished to marry, he would bring a dowry to her that consisted of oxen, horses, shields, spears, and swords. If she accepted him, she would then “gift” these items back to her new husband. It is also thought that swords were used in the marriage ceremony itself. According to Owen, the bride and groom would each lay their hands upon the sword “in token of their heroic duty” (61). Swords may also have been symbolic of fertility.
Ritual Drinking and Gift-Giving
Among the more important rituals associated with the mead-hall, ritual drinking had great significance to the Anglo-Saxons. Hosted by a lord or king, an organized banquet would be prepared for guests or favored retainers. Women played a ceremonial role at the banquet, carrying the ceremonial drinking vessel to the king and each of his guests in the hall. There was usually only one cup, which everyone shared. Making speeches (boasting, or “oral resumes”) and gift-giving often went hand-in-hand with this ritual. The lord or king would often bestow gifts and praise upon his valiant warriors through a very ritualistic reward system. Young men, those yet untried in battle, would receive weapons as gifts which they would then be expected to use in defense of the gift-giver. These kinds of rituals helped to maintain hierarchy and allegiance in Anglo-Saxon society.
“Thus the Anglo-Saxons lived their lives, cozy in their brightly lit halls, cheered by feasting and music. They placated their gods with sacrifice and strove to keep out the hostile creatures who lurked in the outer darkness. They enjoyed formal ceremonies – pledging of oaths and speechmaking – and superstitious rituals, like the casting of lots, decided the major issues of their lives. The ritual which was perhaps the most important of all came, however, at the end of life. The pagan funeral ceremony…honored the achievements of a lifetime and, it was hoped, equipped the dead one for the afterlife” (Owen 66).
Anglos-Saxons clearly believed in a life after death, because they provided their dead with objects that they felt might be required. A man might be buried with his spears, while a woman would be wearing her best jewelry and costume. The higher status a person had in Anglo-Saxon society, the more elaborate the burial, and the more affluent the grave-goods. It is because of this practice that researchers know as much as they do about the Anglo-Saxon people.Source
Finnish mythology dates its animistic and shamanistic beliefs of nature spirits to 3,000+ years ago. The objects of nature (sky, sun, moon and stars) are all considered distinct entities and deities. The earliest written accounts are from Bishop Mikael Agricola (1551), Gabriel Mexenius (1733), Daniel Juslenius (1745), Zacharias Topelius (1822), and then later Elias Lönnrot (1849) in the Kalevala.
Finnish mythology is from the close geographic region as the Norse pantheon (Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark) yet is distinctly different. Where the Norse mythology influences are Germanic and Indo-European, the Finnish mythology stems from eastern Finno-Ugric languages. Interestingly, the Finnish legends go back so far they don’t even mention Swedes, Germans or Russians which is one of the reasons the poems are thought to be at least 3,000 years old. They may have originated during the time before the Finnish people separated from the Hungarians.
From Runo 9, The Healing Of Väinämöinen
“I myself know iron’s birth,
I can say the start of steel:
Air’s the first one of the mothers,
Water, oldest of the brothers,
Iron, youngest of the brothers,
Fire, the brother in the middle.”
The land of Finland and its climate are reflected in the poetry and folklore of the myths. Finland is a places of mountains and marshes with lakes, rivers, seas and islands that often figure in the stories. The climate is cold and winter lasts a minimum of seven months. It is not surprising that their more prominent god controls snow, ice and hail. Due to the long winters, there is more focus in the myths on hunting, fish and herds of cattle rather than agriculture or fields, especially compared to other religions. The mythical beings focus on nature and not the realms of human emotion; there is no specific attention paid to wisdom, justice or law and even love is given to the realm of a forest demon.
Painting credit:The black swan of Tuonela, the realm of the dead in Finnish folk mythology. Painting by nationalist painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela.