Posted on

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.

Posted on

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.

 

Posted on

What In The Hoo-Hah is Hygge?

Today is supposed to be the last day of my sabbatical.  Usually sabbaticals are restful; then again, usually they’re also a paid period of leave.  For me, neither of these has really been the case.  Sure, I’ve earned a lot of things that money simply cannot buy–a certain sort of peace that I did not have before–but I’ve also worked myself to the point of abject exhaustion on more than one occasion, and the work on the new house (especially my office/studio) seems to be neverending (which is now stressing out the cat, in addition to me!).  So instead of this being the last day of my sabbatical, I’ve decided it’s the first day of a new sort of life: a hyggelig life.

Hygge, and by extension, its adjective form, hyggelig, is a Danish/Norwegian concept that has become more than a bit of a fad here in the U.S. over the past year.  Pronounced hoo-gah, I first stumbled upon the term when researching decorative motifs for our new home. I wanted a definite coastal vibe (in homage to Njordr, and also so that our house would feel like a permanent vacation-home), but with heavy Scandinavian motifs (so that our whole house would represent our Heathen/Pagan Faith), and a comfy, cozy Mid-Century Modern ease-of-living.  When you Google Search all of that, you’ll likely be surprised how often the word hygge comes up.  I certainly was, to the degree of thinking “where has this been all my life?“.

Like the word lovehygge has that rare distinction of being at the same time both a noun and an adjective.  Also like love, it is a feeling.  I’ve heard it argued by some that “if you treat hygge like it’s a verb, you’re doing it wrong”, but honestly, I think it has that in common with the concept of love, too: hygge really isn’t hygge until you can give it away; until you can share it with someone else who is dear to you.

So what in the hoo-hah is hygge?  It is a consciousness–a mindfulness, if you will–of being fully present in a moment of coziness, specialness, and that indescribable feeling that is home.  In its most basic form, hygge is homecoming.  I don’t mean that in the sense of you’ve actually just come back home from having been somewhere else; I mean that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you finally arrive at a place or a moment where you deeply know this is where you belong.  You may get that feeling sitting in candlelight drinking a warm cup of tea, or you may get that feeling relaxing on the couch papercrafting.  The most important thing is that you build it into your life somewhere.  We could all use some hygge now and then….

An interesting thing about hygge: etymologically, it traces back to the term hugr. Sound familiar?  You may remember it as one of the four aspects of the Norse “soul”, which I talked about previously in this blog post.  The Hugr would best be understood by us moderns as the “inner self”: a person’s personality as reflected in their conscious thought processes; very much in line with the oft-misquoted Buddhist ideal of “what you think, you become”.  In a very real sense, hygge is food for the soul.  I made a conscious decision a long time ago that that is my business in life: the feeding of people’s souls.  But how to do that?

Since we changed the angle of this business to papercrafting and digital art a year ago, it has been no secret that I have often felt very at-sea over exactly how to keep us rolling in that direction, while still remaining passionate about both my business and my life.  When we made that change back in July 2016, our initial tagline was Remember To Whimsy.  What I didn’t know then, but have discovered over the course of this sabbatical, is that what we really meant was Infuse Your Life With Hygge.  Ultimately, that is what every product we design, every blog post we write, and every interaction we have in this business–whether creating votive art, or sharing our spirituality with others–has been designed to do.  We want to remind people to live in their most precious moments–those moments of homecoming–and be mindful of the warmth and joy they feel there. We’ve never just wanted to sell people things; we want to give people feelings, that they can come back to again and again.

Most folks are familiar with the old saying “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you can feed him for a lifetime.”  I can give you a nifty set of digital papers and elements, and keep you busy for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, but if I can teach you to be mindful of your most treasured moments in the first place, and maybe couple that with a recipe here and there for something yummy to imbibe while you’re crafting, plus ideas for your home that make it a more enjoyable place to craft in, then I can help you find hygge for a lifetime!

Which is why I say today is not the end of my sabbatical, but instead the beginning of a new, hyggelig life.  It’s a life I intend to share with all of you, and hopefully spread the hygge as liberally as butter (or in my case, cheese!) on bread.  But before I can help you learn to infuse your lives with hygge, I’ve got to start the process of infusing my own.  That starts with the “unplugged mornings” that I promised myself when we first moved in; mornings which I was doing a great job with for the first week we lived in our new house.  After that first week, however, I fell sick, so I’ve been sleeping in most days.  On top of that, I have a rather unrealistic gaming schedule that keeps me up til 1am four nights a week–which doesn’t exactly promote getting out of bed before 9am!  Sleeping late means that by the time I finally do crawl out of bed, I’m in an urgent rush to hop online and let my Beloved know that I’m okay, which then leads to being locked online til noon.  So my real day doesn’t start until 1:30 in the afternoon! On most days, that means I have around three hours to get everything I want to get accomplished in a day actually done, which isn’t nearly enough time to do those things without feeling like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs! Needless to say (I hope), that leaves very little room for hygge.

So I would like to invite all of you to join me for unplugged mornings.  If that means you have to get out of bed a bit earlier than you normally would, by all means, do so: it’s worth the sacrifice.  Wake up, stretch, make yourself a cup of hot tea (or coffee, if that’s more your style), and then just sit and drink.  Most importantly, remember to enjoy that moment.  Bask in it.  Depending on your work schedule and everything else, it may be one of the few such moments you get all day, but it gives you a touchstone moment that you can come back to again and again throughout the day, when things get nuts. Leave that cell phone on the counter; leave that computer in the other room; don’t turn on the TV.  There will be plenty of time for those things later.  For the length of that cuppa, just be present in the sweetness of that moment; just be you and the tea (or coffee, as the case may be).  This may seem like a trivial change in your schedule at face value, but like that famous quote from the movie The Crownothing is trivial…..