Thursday, February 20, 2014

About Freya and The Goddess

When I first discovered modern paganism,  I was fascinated by all the ancient Goddesses. Something awoke in me,  I had dreams about Mesopotamian temples and tried to find books about ancient mythologies. It was in the time before Internet and not at all easy to find information about pre Egyptian cultures. I thought Inanna was the oldest known Goddess and I wanted to get to know Her.

But I got to a point in my life when I decided I wanted to connect with the energies of the land where I live. I wanted to connect with the old Germanic Gods, Who gave Their names to the days of the week. So I shifted my affection to Freya. Freya is one of the Vanir , the Gods Who were there before the Aesir, so She is the oldest well-known Norse Goddess. And on top of that : She taught witchcraft.  What a match!

But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't feel Her. Not in the way I could feel the presence of Inanna sometimes,  or Mary when I was a child.
I thought that maybe I was just not trying hard enough.  So I went to the forest one day, to do a ritual and make things right. My focus was: I want to connect with the Goddess of this land.
At the supreme moment I threw my hands in the air and heard me say: I want to dedicate myself to Thor!  (something like that, it was in Dutch of course)

Thor?  Yes Thor.  I'm not sure what happened that moment, but I learned there and then it is not the humans who pick their patron God, it works the other way round.
I didn't really know Thor at that moment, but I love Him with all my heart now. And I'm ever so grateful that He picked me, He is the best friend a girl can have.


Years passed by and I started researching seidhr with a friend. Because of this research I visited a group of burial mounts regularly. The people who rest in these mounts, lived in the late neolithics or early bronze age. I would sit on these mounts and go into a trance. In this way I 'met' some spirits, who were not only willing to talk with me, they also wanted to teach me. You can read more about this here

After some meetings with one of these spirit teachers,  I asked about their Gods. He was confused by my question and asked what I was talking about. I started to explain about the powers Who made the sun go round and crops grow, when he interrupted me and said: "oh, you mean She".
"Yes I guess so ",  I said, " what's Her name? "
He answered:" Name?  She has no name, She just IS. "

No Freya there either......


I got seriously involved in a project around a crossing of leylines in the the old city of Amsterdam. I never believed in leylines,  but something was definitely there and it got stronger and stronger, the more rituals I performed there.
Part of the project was that we needed to renew an altar for The Goddess there. So I did. But I was far more concerned with my shamanic work and all the other energies there.

I made a statue with paper mache and worked 69 names of Goddesses into it. For the inauguration of the new altar I organized a procession with this statue, along one of the leylines. The Goddess altar and the leyline crossing were in a spiritual bookshop, that went bankrupt soon after the procession. There was just enough time to bring the statue and some of my personal belongings home, before the doors closed and everything else was sold.

I was disappointed and angry. The Goddess statue was wrapped in silk and plastic and I left it somewhere in a corner in my house.  But the procession had been such a success, I had promised people to do it again the next year. I felt obliged to keep my promise.
While preparing for the second procession, I went to a misa spiritual (read here how I got there) and got this message: I had nothing to walk the procession with,  if I did not take the statue out of this corner to recharge it.


This is how the Goddess took Her place in my house and in my life. At first I thought it would be for just a few months. But She had other plans!
Now 5 years later,  my living room is Her temple. Don't worry Thor has His place of honor there.
In my daily ritual I call Her 'Vrouwe'.  That is old fashioned Dutch for 'Lady'.  She has no name,  She is the One Who Is.

Now those who know a little about etymology might have noticed something. It took me almost 5 years to realize something I had known much longer. It occurred to me only a few months ago.
What is the old Norse word for lady? 

Monday, February 17, 2014

The gap in Norse tradition I fell into

I once considered myself to be asatru. I was true to the Norse Gods, studied the poetic Edda in 3 different translations, discussed the lore with heathens from all over the world on the (then rather new) internet and read every book about Nose mythology and European folk traditions I could get my hands on.
Me being what I am, I've always been a somewhat out of the box asatru of course.  Shamanism and direct spiritual experiences don't go well with many members of the heathen community.

About 14 years ago something happened with me, that caused immobilizing chronic pain. After seeing dozens of doctors and therapists for many years , I gave up the fight and just learned to live with the pain and accepted life would never be the same again.
I had lost my job, walked with a crutch, could not ride a bike (disaster in the Netherlands) and had to rest many hours during the day.

One day I went to get some incense in the Botanica in Amsterdam, where I live,  and was invited to attend the Misa Espiritual. I had told the Santero that I was true to the Norse Gods,  but I was welcome anyway, so I went. I had no idea what to expect, but was very, very curious. It was a strange experience, with a lot of roman catholic prayer and me not understanding at all what was going on.

That afternoon I was told that I was the daughter of San Lazaro.  And that he could heal me, if I did a little ritual for him.
I Was terribly confused when I got home. How could I be the daughter of a South American saint, or even worse: an African God, while I had already been called by the Norse Gods?!
It had never occurred to me before, to ask my Gods for healing. People don't easily talk about these things in the asatru community.
At first I thought that maybe San Lazaro,  would somehow be connected with one of the Norse Gods. But San Lazaro is Babalu Aye, "Father Earth", Who lives at the gate of the graveyard. There is no Norse Deity that even comes close to this African God.
I fell into a serious spiritual crisis.

Eir is the only one in the Norse pantheon known for healing powers. But we know hardly anything about Her.  Scholars are not even sure if She is a Goddess or a valkyrie. We just know the name and nothing else. I had no idea how to approach Her,  what to offer,  how to address Her. And none could tell me,  not in Holland and not on the international email lists.
While the Santero had given me detailed information about what to get for San Lazaro,  colors,  numbers, offerings, even a special kind of fabric.

After months of research, doubt, distress and even feeling guilty,  I decided to cast the runes. They indicated no problem at all! So I went to the botanica, bought the purple candle. I got the red unions, the sack,  black eyed peas, etc and set up a little altar for this Saint who represented an African God.
The candle burned for 7 days and one morning during that week I woke up with the inspiration to do some very subtle, micro level, stretching exercises.
To cut a long story short: I ride my bike again, walk without crutch and can do much more than I could ever dream of in the days before I met  Babalu Aye!

This happened years ago. I've been a regular visitor of the Botanica for a long time and I observed how effective their way of doing things is. I adopted some of the customs I saw there into my own daily practice, after adjusting them to my own ways and my Gods are not complaining at all.
The most important and beautiful thing I learned from Don Azito was how to reconnect with my ancestors. The Norse tradition had never given me the tools to overcome the trauma of a very difficult family history. He taught me how to make peace with myself and the deceased.  The threads were once cut, but my ancestors are standing right behind me now.

I learned all I could in the Botanica and then had to leave,  things were getting uncomfortable. I guess my Gods felt it was enough, I had learned what I had to learn.  I don't go there anymore, but I will always be grateful for Don Azito's wonderful lessons and support. And I keep a little shrine for Babalu Aye in my bedroom.
And you know what?  I've been discovering the healing powers of Thor lately,  Who has been my patron God for so many years. I had to go through all this,  to get to a level of faith that is hardly ever talked about by heathens. Isn't life wonderful!

In another post I will write about how the Goddess came into my life to stay. Another thing most people in the asatru community can't understand. You can find it here: About Freya and The Goddess
I'm OK with that. I just walk my own winding path. I never chose my Gods,  the Gods picked me. And I don't want to call myself asatru anymore, or heathen. I'm proud to be just myself.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Wicca? Witchcraft? hmmm

A while ago there were some lively discussions about witchcraft, in Dutch groups on Facebook. It was just like the 'Old Times' when exactly the same discussions took place on the internet forums that predated Facebook. And after all these years I see the same people, making the same statements all over again. So I would like to repeat my own point of view, which hasn't changed either. But now I can write about it with even more confidence.

Are witchcraft and wicca the same?

Oh no! No, no! they are not!  No matter how hard some Wiccans try to claim the word witchcraft all for themselves.

Wicca is a branch on the tree of the western mystery tradition. It is an initiatory religion, with a set of characteristic of its own.
Casting circles, altars, watchtowers, swords, elements and directions corresponding with each other, it all comes from ceremonial magic and has very little to do with ancient witchcraft.  The basic initiation rites are, slightly altered, copies from the rites of free masonry.The God and Goddess are based on a mythology that developed from the work of some romantic scholars. The 8 festivals are a combination of Celtic folklore and modern Druid influences.

It is a beautiful tradition! Gardner did an excellent job and created a meaningful new religion, that has great importance in this time.

No wonder wicca has inspired so many non-wiccans to copy all that has ever been published about it and start their own little traditions. Some call themselves eclectic witches, some traditional, or hereditary witches, neo wicca, etc.

Just look at how many new traditions have invented their own founding mythologies about grandmother's who were witch queens, or chief high priestesses, while all they offer is a watered down version of wicca, based on the many books published about it. Some ask loads of money for membership of a 'coven', with guaranteed initiation after a year and a day. But they can never offer the quality of a genuin wicca training (which is almost free btw)
So at first sight you would say, that all modern western witchcraft indeed stems from wicca.

But is it witchcraft?

Do you have to believe in a God and Goddess to be a witch?
I don't think so!
Do you have to cast a circle to do the work of a witch?
Not really!
Do you need wicca tools , like pentacle and athame, etc, to be a witch?
No you don't!
Do you need to be initiated into any kind of tradition to be a witch?
Absolutely not!
Celebrate 8 festivals? Dance naked in the moonlight? Cake and wine ceremonies? 
All lovely customs, but it doesn't really make you a witch!

Real witches are found all over the world. Some are good, some bad, most are something in between. They are called with many local names, but in the west we know them as medicine man, witch doctor, shaman. They are men and women who know how to cross the border between the living and the dead, between the world of people and the Gods and spirits. And they not only know how to come back again, with useful information, they also know how to use the information from the other world in a most practical way.

This ancient wisdom can also still be found in modern Europe, if you try hard enough to find it. Some people did and they have nothing to do with wicca or anything like it. Seidhr workers for example, or hoodoo practitioners, or any other practitioner of a  witchcraft tradition from remote parts of the world.

I am seidhr worker and I learned my craft from the Spirits, through shamanism and the study of Old Norse sagas and European folklore. Seidhr is the real witchcraft of Old Europe, not a romantic reconstruction of a made up 'old religion', but the real, sometimes scary, stuff.
When I hold my staff, sing my song and the Spirits gather round  to sing with me,
I am practising witchcraft.
When I sing a little song in the light of the full moon and next morning happens what I was singing about,
I am practising witchcraft
When I let a Spirit work through me while I heal a client with just my voice,
I am practising witchcraft.
When I go out to the local herb garden, to bring an offering to its guardian and pray for the right amount of rain and sunshine for his garden,
I am practising witchcraft.
When I'm lost in the city and a crow comes to show me the way,
it is the result of me practising witchcraft.

This has nothing to do with initiation, fancy tools, or ceremonial magic.
This has nothing to do with wicca, nor with its offspring.

The witchcraft I practise is much older and is taught mostly by Spirits. All it takes is dedicated training, courage and a lot of common sense.
If someone tells me I'm not a witch because I'm not initiated into wicca, it makes me smile. It just shows, that the person doesn't really know what is going on in the worlds.