Despite the more obvious practices of Seidhr, spells, enchantments, divination and shapeshifting, there is another powerful magic in the Iron Wood: the women Themselves.
The women are the fiercer, more powerful sex among the Jotnar – think of Angerboda and Skadi, of Groa and Gerda. But this strength isn’t just physical, and nor is it purely ‘magical’. Their true power lies in Their personal power, Their Sovreignty, Their sacred expression of Their Selves. They are empowered women, the ones who stand up for Their needs and desires, standing Their ground, asserting Their boundaries.
To the writers of the time these powerful, self-assured women must have been seen as a real threat to the ‘way of the world’. These are independent Goddesses who know Their needs and magics and are respected for it. How much of the ‘terrible and terrifying’ description of Them is really true, and how much is the filter of the writer?
While these amazingly strong Goddesses can be fierce and awe-inspiring, is there a chance They have been somewhat misrepresented? How much of Their true nature has been rewritten or lost? Just as Sigyn is reduced to the long-suffering wife of Loki in the Eddas, with the gift of her magic as galdr fetter hinted at in one epithet, how much of the Jotnar and Iron Wood has been lost?
In being drawn back to the ways of nature, the Earth and the crystal, plant and animal kingdoms I feel my inner ‘wild woman’ calling. This is part of me I have been too afraid to claim, but now I’m tentatively curious. Whereas Angerboda used to terrify me I can now be in Her presence with a great deal of respect for Her power. I know She values physical strength, but She also values strength of will and heart.
Beside Her more obvious Iron Wood connections, to me She is a Goddess of empowerment. Part of Her gift is bringing us into our own power. While this manifests differently in each of us – due to different personalities, abilities and paths to follow – She is the embodied Powerful Feminine.
Although Hers can be a tough love, She does love… and fiercely. She is loyal and true to Her Self and to those She loves. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
At Beltane cattle were often herded between two fires to cleanse them. It’s also believed the heat killed off the insects, and that the cattle were blessed by the process.
One way we could take advantage of this custom ourselves is to do a meditation asking a particular God or Goddess to safely surround and suffuse you with Their flames. You can ask for help to cleanse any negativity or release any ties that you need to let go of. Deities aren’t limited to the way Their energies and healing can work, but they may have a particular speciality you can call upon.
For those of us with limited energy reserves or physical capabilities it can sometimes be difficult to do devotions. So I thought I’d share a few things that have helped in my own practice.
- Have some sort of visible ritual calendar so you don’t forget important dates. If your calendar has large enough daily sections write the dates on in a different colour to normal entries. A wipe-board is also useful for this purpose, especially if you want to write notes of supplies or ideas for rituals and prayers. If you have to be in bed a lot have this where you can see it clearly.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t do the devotions! Just talk to Them, apologise for not being able to do the devotions, but tell Them that you still honour and love Them.
- Say good morning and goodnight to Them. It’s a simple greeting but brings Them into your daily life even if you’re not able to do devotions.
- Usually cleansing of some sort is appropriate when entering the sacred space of the shrine or devotional area. If you don’t have the energy to wash, or the focus to mentally cleanse, make up an aura spray for that purpose. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; just water and some salt in a spray bottle is a good start. You can add more ingredients if you wish to. Use before devotions or when you want to talk to Them about anything specific or important.
- If you can manage nothing else try to put a glass of water out for Them. It is a basic offering but shows you’re committed and making an effort.
For some of us 2016 has been a pretty rubbish year for a variety of reasons. Change happens, whether we want it to or not. The best we can do in the aftermath is to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, take a deep breath and start again.
Sometimes I feed my worries, negativity and confidence issues to Ammit. She seems to deem them a suitable enough offering and consumes them for me. She is usually friendly; there is a familiarity between us. She told me not so long ago that a lot of people don’t approach her through fear, or they don’t deem her approachable or worthy of worship.
Ammit deserves to be honoured, and has a place in the modern world. She is the ‘sin-eater’ for the modern generation. She will devour the fear, negativity and loathing we keep in our hearts, just as she devoured the hearts deemed unworthy in Ancient Egypt. All our issues of self-esteem can build up, all those knock-backs and self-doubts chip away at who we are. She will take them into her.
In giving our negativity and the fear we harbour to Ammit our own hearts can be somewhat lightened, and we incorporate her into our lives in a positive, proactive way. Then we have no reason to fear her, but to embrace, honour and love her. Ammit is our ally.
My theory suggests both yes and no. Humans have created linear time; it helps us keep things in order and it’s easier to wrap our heads around. However, time itself isn’t linear. Time is a series of cycles and can twist back and around on itself. It is like the lemniscate (the 8 having a lie-down).
Think of Doctor Who and how he travels around in the TARDIS. He isn’t constrained by Earth’s linear time and can crop up anywhere. His companions, on the other hand, experience linear time because they live in a fixed timeline on Earth. This doesn’t mean that the Doctor can’t go back or forwards in his own timeline to see them again, though. For fans of the show ‘timey wimey’ sums it up nicely. Time is linear to us because we live through it as thus; the planet is our fixed point. The Deities, who aren’t restricted to a human lifespan, physical body, or Earth timeline, will experience time differently.
In our linear lifetime Loki may be bound or free many times. He may be pals with Odin, or Asgard’s ‘public enemy number one’. He may be with Angerboda, or Sigyn, or on his own. Our lives may be linear, but Theirs are not.
Imagine we live only in 2D and They live in 3D. If you take a piece of paper it is flat and thus linear. If you make a cube from it it’s no longer linear; where does it end and where does it begin? This is where the lemniscate (the ‘lazy 8’), or the ouroboros, come in. They are perfect representations of this.
So for those of you who wonder if Loki is ‘still’ bound, perhaps right now in this linear-time moment he hasn’t even been bound yet. Some further food for thought: going by the same theory, Asgard is whole and fallen, and Ragnarok is impending and over.
While melting down bits of my old soy candles it struck me that this was a process I am going through too.
Sometimes we are scraped out of our comfortable or worn out containers, and thrown into the melting pot. There we simmer away until all the old parts resemble some congealed kind of mess – the soup of chaos, out primordial state. We are poured into our new container, a fresh wick placed within our Being. We wait, our new mass solidifying, settling. Again we wait… this time for the match, the spark that will ignite our Being and release our new Self, our new purpose, out into the world.
A candle may be snuffed out, but it can also be remade. Only when there is no more wax left has our purpose on this earth been fulfilled.
In my previous post I listed a few ideas of how to connect with the Deities on Valentine’s Day. One of these was through the medium of food, so here are a few suggestions of my own. Some may seem fairly obvious, but others are a play on attributes, words, or just a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun. I wanted them to be items you could just quickly nip to the shops and find, although obviously this depends on your location, your local shops and country.
Don’t take them too seriously, and I apologise especially to Tyr, and any of his followers for the crisps recommendation – I just couldn’t resist. Hopefully He and you will forgive me!
Perhaps Valentine’s Day is just another day for you, whether you have a significant other or not. Why not make it an ocassion to show the Deities who mean the most to you just how important They are.
European polytheism: a personal look
Following recent discussions with other polytheists, which made obvious a divide in attitudes and perspectives between the two sides of the Atlantic, I’ve been considering the topic more extensively, taking into account the idiosyncrasies of the United States, western Europe in general and my country in particular. Things like History, politics, social dynamics and attitudes towards the State. And the more I thought about it, the more I kept going back to three points. So in order to clarify things, I wrote this post explaining where I stand as a European polytheist and in contrast with what comes across as a significant trend in US American polytheism.
This is a fantastic article by Helios on some of the (generalised) differences between the way polytheism is approached in Europe compared to the USA.
After feeling like I don’t recognise a lot of the mentality behind certain prominent blog posts by American authors the last week or so, reading this article made me sigh with relief. It does, however, make me realise just how important it is to read articles and books written from your own culture’s perspective, not just those that may be more readily available or more popular.