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Mindful Monday: Pre-Mother’s Night

Image created by Connla Freyjason using digital elements and papers from January Gathering: A Winter’s Tale, available in our store by clicking this image (opens in new tab), as well as our upcoming Imramma. Digital painting of the Disir by Fenrir for Iaconagraphy. Poetry original, by Connla Freyjason.

That’s right: Pre-Mother’s Night!  That’s how I choose to view the American holiday of Thanksgiving, that oft-maligned feast of ultimate political incorrectness (Pilgrims and Indians, really?) that is, for most, an excuse to pig out on copious amounts of turkey and fall asleep watching football.  It is also the ultimate Kitchen Witch’s holiday, and this year, I am looking very forward to actually being in the kitchen with my favorite Kitchen Witch: my Beloved, Suzanne.

“The Kitchen Witch of it all” is in large part why I see Thanksgiving as a sort of Pre-Mother’s Night celebration.  For those unfamiliar with the Norse-derived observance of Mother’s Night, it traditionally falls on the eve before the Winter Solstice, and is more or less the “kick-off” of the Yule season (which either runs for the 12 days following December 21st, or from December 21-January 12, depending on your source material).  It is a night to toast Frigga, Frau Holda, and Freyja, and also to honor the Disir, including those female ancestors who have paved the way for us.  In other words, it is a night to thank those women (Goddesses, as well as goddesses-in-their-own-right) who were bastions of the Hearth and Home: we’re talking about more than the “glorified housewife” here, folks; we’re talking about recognizing women as the heart and soul and guardians of what it means to be us, as human beings.  Since falling in love with Suzanne a few years ago, she has taught me that the heart of Kitchen Witchery is one very simple maxim: Food is love.  If you’ve ever been blessed with eating her food, you know, as I do, that you can literally taste the love in it. And that is why Thanksgiving has become, for us, Pre-Mother’s Night: it is a time for us to begin (a bit early) to show our gratitude to the Disir, for in our house, we understand that gratitude is one of the most vital outpourings of love that anyone can give.

Subliminally, in my heart and mind, I have always understood Thanksgiving as a part of Yuletide.  While everyone else is sitting around complaining that there are already Christmas decorations available at Wal-Mart in the heart of October, I am secretly rubbing my hands together in anticipation of the Yuletide cheer I can spread throughout our humble home.  That has always been a part of me: long before I ever dreamed of becoming a chronic crafter, I was a chronic “Christmas nut”.  Even as a child, I would get very upset if my Mother didn’t put up the tree before Thanksgiving, and many was the time that I was scolded for asking out loud (in the home of someone who had not dutifully decorated pre-Thanksgiving) “why don’t they have their tree up yet, Mama?  Don’t they know it’s almost-Christmas?” Because to me, almost-Christmas was a holiday season unto itself: that quiet time before the holiday rush when people could actually contemplate and enjoy the Yuletide season.

My first year in Massachusetts, when November rolled around, I immediately began plotting almost-Christmas: “Look, Honey, we can put the tree up there, and I can do a glorious run of garland down that banister over there, and we can do another garland over the sink, maybe with peppermints? And we can cuddle on the couch and enjoy the warmth of all of it, and eat yummy things, and remind ourselves why we’re so thankful!” And she looked at me like I had lost my ever-loving mind!  “It’s not even Thanksgiving yet! We don’t decorate for Christmas until December.”  I was literally agape; I was horrified!  No almost-Christmas?  This cannot be! But there has been no almost-Christmas for four long years…..

Long before I was remotely Heidhrinn, I somehow understood that the period between Samhain (Alfablot) and the end of Yule was a season unto itself.  Samhain (Alfablot) marks the beginning of a season when the “veils are thin”:  it is understood as the beginning of the Dark Half of the Year in most Pagan circles in the northern hemisphere.  At Samhain (Alfablot) the Dead and other denizens of the Otherworld begin to more easily make their way into our mundane world.  That doesn’t end the moment you pack up your Halloween decorations; it is a phenomenon which continues through Yule, and even slightly after, until the dawn of February.  It is a time for contemplation and introspection, but also a time for gratitude, that most sincere expression of love.  And within that gratitude, we also find cause for joy: hence, Yule.

So pre-Mother’s Night may not officially be a “thing”, but it is at our house, and as we hurtle towards Thanksgiving on Thursday, here at our house, we will not only be preparing to pig out on turkey and fall asleep watching football.  We will also be lighting candles and incense on our altars, placing images of our beloved female Ancestors in a prominent place upon them, and pouring blot to Frigga and to Freyja and to the other Disir. And I will be preparing those first forays of decorating for what I once called almost-Christmas, but now understand as that solemn time of quiet gratitude and love that lays the foundation for the joy of Yule‘Tis the season!

 

 

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Wednesday Wisdom: Look Around

Page created with elements and digital papers from Absinthe and Wormwood, January Gathering: A Winter’s Tale, and January Gathering: Winter Time, all of which are available in our shop when you click this image. (Opens in a new tab.)

Before walking through any doorway,
One should look about;
One should peer around keenly:
Because one may never be certain where a foe
Sits within the hall before you.

–Havamal 1, Translation by Connla Freyjason

At face value, this may seem like an extraordinarily paranoid way of living one’s life.  It calls to mind those warnings which now run at the beginning of a movie everytime we visit a theater:  “Look around you and find the nearest exit; if someone behaves oddly, make your way to the nearest exit and move far, far away.” It’s a sad, scared world that we live in, and apparently, it was also a sad, scared world for our Ancestors.

But there’s far more to this passage than apparent paranoia:

  • It is also a reminder to take the time to pause in life, and take a look around.

How often do we rush through life, never taking a moment even to pause to look over the threshold of a doorway before walking through it? I mean, when was the last time you paused, say, before your own front door, and took a moment to look at the door itself, or the wreath or besom you may have hanging upon it?  Maybe even took those few extra moments to turn around and look back at your yard, and perhaps notice a blue jay or a squirrel who has likewise taken the time to pause, and look at you?

  • It is a reminder to look before we leap.

How often have you gotten yourself in too far over your head because you simply jumped in with both feet before looking at all the angles of a situation?  If you’re like me, this happens to you quite often!  An important part of mindfulness is actually taking the time to “roll something around” in your mind and “peer at it keenly”.  There may be pitfalls ahead that you might otherwise have overlooked.

  • And, yes, it is a reminder to always have an exit strategy!

Taking those extra moments to be mindful of the situations in our lives can also help us to “find the exits”, and form valuable strategies for when we need to “bow out gracefully” (or even not-so-gracefully). On occasion, situations arise where we need to disentangle ourselves–maybe even flee–in order to live to fight another day.  Such behavior is neither cowardice nor giving up, but instead, saving face and surviving: sometimes, having an exit strategy is the only way to keep our hamingja (our reputation and legacy) intact.  It might be what is necessary to prevent you yourself from becoming the enemy.

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Mindful Monday: Hagalaz-Nauthiz-Isa-Jera

 

I’ve been working my way through a twenty-seven night runic initiation.  The first nine nights consisted of working through Freyja’s aett (Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raidho, Kenaz, Gebo, Wunjo), but I have now begun working with Heimdall’s aett (Hagalaz, Nauthiz, Isa, Jera, Eihwaz, Perdhro, Algiz, Sowilo).  Some would consider nine nights working with those particular runes to be a weighty–possibly even a profoundly negative–exercise.  However, I am finding a peace within Heimdall’s runes that I never might have expected.  

My ultimate guideline for the study of each rune has been stanza 143 of the Havamal (literally: “Sayings of the High One”; the sayings of Odin, Codex Regius, 13th century):  

Do you know how to carve them?
Do you know how to use them to advise?
Do you know how to paint them?
Do you know how to prove them?
Do you know how to pray them?
Do you know how to blot them?
Do you know how to send them?
Do you know how to destroy them?

–Translation Mine

And within those first four runes of Heimdall’s aett, I have found a “recipe”, if you will, for getting through the more stressful times in life:

Hagalaz:

  • Deity: Heimdall
  • Rune of destruction and controlled chaos; of testing and trial which lead to harmony.
  • Advises against catastrophe, stagnation, suffering, and pain.
  • Proven by accepting those things which are beyond one’s control.
  • Prayed: Help
  • Sent forth as harmony in the face of opposition

Nauthiz:

  • Deity: Sigyn
  • Rune of resistance leading to strength; of delays and restrictions; of endurance, survival, determination, self-reliance, and the will to overcome.
  • Advises against deprivation, imprisonment, and distress.
  • Proven by standing fast in the face of trials and via innovation born of strength of will.
  • Prayed: Overcome
  • Sent forth as strength and compassionate endurance.

Isa:

  • Deity: Skadi
  • Rune of challenges and frustrations; of standstills and times for introspection and/or turning inward; of holding fast.
  • Advises against treachery, illusion, deceit, and betrayal.
  • Proven by standing still and seeking clarity.
  • Prayed: Be Still.
  • Sent forth as stillness and the ability to hold fast.

Jera:

  • Deity: Gerdha
  • Rune of reaped rewards and fruitful seasons; of peace and happiness; of cycles and of change; of hopes, expectations, and successes earned.
  • Advises against bad timing, conflict, and reversals of fortune.
  • Proven by hoping and dreaming; by accepting and understanding the cycles of life in the Universe; by working hard to manifest one’s dreams.
  • Prayed: Bring.
  • Sent forth as peace and good seasons.

When faced with the stresses of life, it is all too easy to get caught up in them; to cling needlessly to the suffering and pain that they cause (Hagalaz).  However, if we follow the example inherent in the runes Nauthiz and Isa, we may learn to turn tragedy into triumph by quieting our minds and hearts, and, as we endure, using the force of our will to fuel innovation.  Jera promises that if we do this–accept and understand the cycles of the Universe–we will be gifted with reaped rewards and fruitful seasons. 

Last night, as I sang the galdr for Heimdall’s aett, I was gifted with the bind-rune, depicted in the upper left of the image above, as well as the accompanying galdr and prayer.  For those among our audience who are not working from a Norse base, I have also included Christian and Celtic-based cognates for the prayer.  I hope it will help others have a little less-Monday Monday.

Norse Version:

Heimdall, Help;
Sigyn, show me how to Overcome;
Gerdha, Grant Peace and Good Seasons,
That Skadi may show me how to Be Still.

Celtic Version:

Manannan, Help;
Rhiannon, show me how to Overcome;
Taillte, Grant Peace and Good Seasons,
That the Cailleach may show me now to Be Still.

Christian Version:

Archangel Gabriel, Help;
Mother Mary, show me how to Overcome;
Saint Ruth, Grant Peace and Good Seasons,
That Saint Elizabeth may show me how to Be Still.