I was recently asked what advice I would give to someone interested in becoming a Nordic Pagan. This is such a deep and important question, and how we answer says a lot about what Heathenry is to us.
Heathens are not, as a rule, very good at talking about spirituality. Actual spirituality seems often to be brushed aside and regarded as “fluffy” and “New Age-y”. But to me, and I expect to many others, Heathenry is naturally very much about spiritual matters.
On the morning of December 13th most Swedish people, in one way or another, take part in a celebration of Saint Lucy, or “sankta Lucia” as she’s called in Swedish. Surprisingly, this celebration seems to have little at all to do with Saint Lucy, with traditions that likely predate the arrival of Christianity.
There’ve been a few blog posts I’ve seen lately about blóts of later autumn. Cara Freyasdaughter wrote about Winternights and how it differs from Samhain over at Patheos.com a few of weeks ago, and also provided some interesting links to posts on the subject. Indeed, most of my non-Swedish friends seem to celebrate Winternights (or “Winter Nights”, I’ve encountered both spellings) at this time of the year, but in Sweden I only ever hear of people celebrating Alvablot.
Right, so I know I’m breaking a rule of writing by writing about writer’s block – one, because it’s whiny and often feels a lot like trying to get people to praise you, and two, because it’s boring to read! Why would anyone else want to read about how hard it is to write? Write or get out of the kitchen. Don’t complain about it. But, I have this idea about how it relates to Heathenry and our gods, which I feel is a fresh take on a worn out subject.
There is, to my mind, something sacred in the gathering of the ripe fruit or grain, and when I have the opportunity to do so, I would be remiss in ignoring it. Harvesting is holy. The act of harvesting can bring us closer to our ancestors, to whom the harvest was a matter of life and death, and it can make us think about what we do to our environment. This world wasn’t made for us, as the Christians believe; rather, we were made for this world.
I’ve recently come home from a heathen festival in the UK, the Asgardian. It was a fantastic experience and we had wonderful weather with barely a drop of rain – which I believe must be some sort of record for England. There were interesting lectures and workshops covering topics from an in depth analysis of the Wild Hunt phenomenon to magical music among finns, sami and norse peoples. There were vendors selling a lot of good stuff, a couple of food vendors with really good food, and a tavern that was well frequented.
I write quite a lot about children and Heathenry, since my wife and I have two kids and we bring them up in a heathen way, in a heathen context. We try to teach them what we know and include them as much as we can – or as much as they’ll allow us, at least – by taking them to blóts and making them part of the ceremonies we do at home like Torshelgd
It can be tricky to try to teach your kids Heathenry. I know my way around the myths, but I’m reasonably good at retelling them for adults, I’m not always the best at doing the same for my children. Also, I have to compete with Netflix, YouTube and Minecraft for their attention. So, I try to find small ways to reach them, childish things to peak their interest. Childish is fun!
The name Forn Sed, Old Norse “forn siðr”, appears in Snorri’s Heimskringla: “Í Svíþjóð var þat forn siðr” which translates to “in Sweden there were the old ways”. Forn meaning old – in contrast to new way of Christianity – and siðr meaning custom, tradition, practice, moral, way. What we do, our sed/siðr, is far more important to us than than exactly what and how people believe.