I Wrote a Heathen Fable: “The Old Wanderer”

I use to write fiction (mostly sci-fi short stories) quite a bit in my younger days. As I got older and had to spend more and more time doing the whole “adulting” thing, I spent less and less time writing. Until it fell by the wayside almost completely.

I decided recently that I needed to make time to start writing again, and the idea came to me that I should start with a fable. I initially posted this as a Twitter thread, but decided to do some slight editing and post it to my blog as well.

THE OLD WANDERER

An old wanderer came to a prosperous city. He pleaded for a meager meal and somewhere to sleep for the night.

The city folk replied, “We don’t like outsiders. Outsiders are nothing but trouble, bringing crime to our peaceful city. Be gone from us!”

So the old wanderer continued on.

He soon came upon a small town. Again he pleaded for just a meager meal and a place to sleep for the night.

The town’s people replied, “No, we will not give you a meager meal. We shall prepare for you a feast!”

As they ate and drank, the old wanderer told them about his travels, and the many places he had been. In exchange for their hospitality, he taught them many of the folk remedies he had learned along the way. Remedies for every ailment that plagues humanity.

After his meal, they provided him with the best room in town.

A few weeks after the old wanderer departed, a plague fell upon the land. The prosperous city was devastated. Many died.

The small town fared much better. Many became sick, but thanks to the old wanderer’s remedies, they all recovered without a single death. They gave many offerings of thanks to Woden the great healer for their good fortune.

Upon his great throne from which he could see all the seven worlds, Woden smiled as he saw the ‘good fortune’ of the small town that had welcomed him with open arms.

I started out writing a fable about hospitality. I think it does a good job at that, but I’ve noticed other Heathen values that could be gleaned from this as well.

There is a small demonstration of the gifting cycle. The town’s people provided him with a meal, and in return he gave them knowledge that saved many lives. In exchange, they gave him offerings of thanks for the ‘stranger’ that gave them the knowledge that allowed them to survive.

There is the concept of mægen (literally means strength, but it is often used to describe spiritual strength which attracts success and/or luck, and is roughly equivalent to the more generalized Heathen concept of luck) being strengthened by good deeds, and being diminished by evil deeds. The city folk turned him away, and so they did not get the knowledge he could have given them to save themselves. The town’s people welcomed him, and so they got that knowledge and so was able to mitigate the effects of the plague.

I would love to read your thoughts on The Old Wanderer. What did you like and/or dislike about this little story? Would you like to see more such content? Do you see any other Heathen concepts within this little fable? (I see a hint of wyrd, for example.) Feel free to sound off in the comments below!

The Afterlife

Heathenry, like much of paganism, is a religion which focuses on this life. Heathens worry more about cultivating relationships with their divine beings to gain their aid in making this life better, rather than trying to please a god to gain entrance into the hereafter. But to say Heathenry has no afterlife would also be inaccurate. While some Heathens believe this life is all we get, the majority believe that death is only a transition into an afterlife of some kind.

The fact that Heathens make offerings to their deceased family and friends imply that they believe they continue to exist in some form beyond the grave. Otherwise, these offerings would be being made in vain. In fact, this is our biggest clue that ancient Heathens believed in an afterlife of some kind. The grave goods which were made as gifts to the deceased, especially when weapons and food were the offerings made. This shows that they believed the ancestors needed these items in the afterlife.

While we can’t say with one hundred percent certainty what the Anglo-Saxons believed about the afterlife, I’d say the belief in an underworld- the realm of the dead- is a safe bet. Belief in the underworld seems to be almost universal in ancient cultures, and according to Isabelle Wallace, it may be “as old as humanity itself”.

Anglo-Saxon belief in an Underworld can be inferred from Old English literature. King Alfred refers to Cerebus, the hound that guards the entrance into the Greek underworld Hades, as the hell hund. This tells me that his Heathen ancestors’s view on Hell was similar enough to the Greek underworld, Hades, to equivalate the two. The Anglo-Saxons also used the word hellegod (“hell god”) as a gloss for an underworld deity. It would appear that to the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons, Hell was their name for the underworld.

Looking at Norse mythology, there is also an underworld, called Hel. Like the Greeks and Romans, the Norse underworld was ruled over by a deity that had the same name as the realm of the dead (though the Norse underworld was ruled over by a goddess instead of a male god).

So who would be the Anglo-Saxon hellegod? Following the example of other European mythologies would give a deity with the same name as the underworld. In the case of the Anglo-Saxons, it would be the goddess Hell. In The Old English Gospel of Nicodemus, there is actually a female character named Hell who flyts (has a competition of trading insults) with Satan and she even tells him to get out of her home! This Hell, I believe, is a survival in Old English folklore of the goddess of the underworld herself.

So what would an afterlife in the realm of Hell be like? The underworld is generally described as a dark and dreary place, but some mythologies include within it places they aren’t so. For example, in Hades you have the Elysian Fields and the Asphodel Meadows. The first was for Heroes, whereas the second was for ordinary souls who hadn’t committed any major crimes. The wicked were sent to Tartarus, which was more similar to the Christian Hell.

If you accept Frau Holle as an Underworld deity for continental Heathenry, then her underworld contained orchards and cottages, and doesn’t appear to be too much different than life on earth.

One thing is certain. None of the pre-Christian underworlds, including the Anglo-Saxon Hell, were like the Christian Hell. There is no fire and brimstone. Tartarus, in the Greek mythology, is close to the Christian Hell, in that the wicked are punished there, but that’s not the entirety of Hades. All humans went to Hades in the ancient Greek religion, and only the wicked were punished. Most ended up in the Asphodel fields.

A common euphemism in many ancient languages for death is something along the lines of “went to be with his/her ancestors” or “joined his/her ancestors”. In just about every ancient culture, they believed the soul of the deceased was united with their ancestors. They didn’t hope to be with their gods when they died, but rather to be with their loved ones who passed on before them. As mentioned, humans ended up in the underworld after they died, so that’s where they hoped to end up.

So what about Valhalla? Contrary to popular belief, Valhalla isn’t the Heathen heaven. Valhalla is, in Norse mythology, Odin’s hall where half those who are slain in battle go after they die. There, they fight to the death every day, and then are resurrected to do it all again the next day. It’s a training ground for Ragnarok, the apocalyptic battle that kills almost all the gods, giants, and humans. Neither Ragnarok nor Valhalla, as far as I’ve been able to uncover, is attested to in any of the non-Norse Germanic sources, including Anglo-Saxons. Some believe they were inventions of Snorri (the Christian monk who wrote down most of the Norse mythology that has survived), based upon its similarities to the Christian Armageddon. But either way, it’s nowhere to be found in Anglo-Saxon Heathenry.

Before getting into my personal beliefs of the afterlife, I would like to talk about the ancient Heathen belief in the multi-part soul. The ancient Heathen concept of the soul divided it into several interdependent and connected parts. The number of parts and their names and functions very likely varied in different areas and times. But basically, different aspects of one’s self was ascribed to different parts of the soul. So one part was responsible for rationality, another for emotions, another for memory, etc. There was also a part that was said to travel outside the body (the fetch in certain traditions), the breath was considered a part of the soul, as was the body. The subject gets much more complicated, but this basic overview will suffice for the discussion at hand. (A more in depth discussion can be found at the blog Wind in the Worldtree, found here.)

So here is my personal belief on what happens after death. The multi-part soul fractures a bit when our breath leaves us at death, as I believe it is the glue that holds it together. The parts of the soul responsible for a person’s personality (emotions, memories, rationality) stay together, still tied together by the personality of who that person had become. This part begins a journey to the underworld asking with their grave goods, and there is reunited with their ancestors. The afterlife is spent with the soul maturing by learning from the stories of its ancestors, and by observing what continues to go on in the world with their descendants. When the soul reaches a certain maturity, it can return to our world to act as “guardian angels” (for lack of a better term), to protect and to aid their descendants.

Other parts of the soul become ghosts that stay in our world, remembering only a fraction of what had happened in their lifetime. They can eventually join other groups of wights such as elfs, dwarfs, etc, and become that type of wight. (We have Norse sources where the Norse regarded some of these wights as their ancestors, particularly some elfs and disir.) I do not believe all wights are parts of humans souls left behind, of course, but I believe some of them are. I think a part of the soul left behind may even join with the forming soul of a fetus, explaining why some people have fragments of memories from past lives while others seem to remember nothing at all with even the best past life regression techniques.

This is simply my beliefs about the afterlife, based upon my research and experiences. I am not dogmatic about them, and always love to hear differing viewpoints! So I’d love to hear your thoughts on the afterlife in the comments section below.

My Stance on LGBT Issues within Heathenry

A question that many new Heathens often ask is, where does Heathenry stand on LGBTQIA+ issues? The reason why it’s so often asked is simple. Christianity has a long history of being a homophobic religion. Although some factions of Christianity are working to change this, it by and large still remains a homophobic religion. So defectors of Christianity, tired of this homophobia, start seeking a religion that does not have this problem. So they wonder if it’s too be found within Heathenry.

As with many other issues, there is a wide variety of opinions, but they generally fall into one of two camps. On the left, you have inclusion, and on the right you have exclusion. The same people who want to exclude non-Europeans from Heathenry (usually called racialists or folkish Heathens) are usually the same ones who want to exclude non-cisgendered and non-heterosexual people. And generally it’s for the same reasons, too: they want to use Heathenry to justify their prejudice.

Since my knowledge of Norse Heathenry is abysmal at best, I reached out to Twitter user and YouTuber OceanKeltoi (a superstar in the online Heathen community for his very informative YouTube channel) for his help in understanding the ancient Norse Heathen views on LGBT issues. I will quote his response in its entirety:

Similar reasoning is generally used by all Heathens who advocate for the inclusion of LGBT+ people, regardless of the specific tradition they follow (Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Gothic, Old Saxon, Frankish, etc). I couldn’t have said it better myself, but I would to briefly touch upon his final point a little.

I think Ocean hits the nail on the head with his point that even if the ancient Heathens were against the LGBT community (which we have zero evidence of), it doesn’t mean that we have to be. Times change, and cultures change with it. This is the 21st century, and we do just about everything differently than they did back then. Reconstruction isn’t about reenactment. It’s about reviving an ancient religion to be practiced in modern times.

Part of being a modern religion is handling modern issues. Do we reject what modern science tells us about sexuality and gender so that we can accept the “traditional” views of ancient people on sexuality and on gender roles, or do we embrace this science so that we can welcome and affirm LGBTQIA+ people? This is a dilemma for monotheistic faiths with scriptures that seem to condemn homosexuality, although even many modern Christians are reinterpreting these texts to welcome these minorities into their folds.

For us Heathens, though, this is not a dilemma. As Ocean points out, there isn’t anything within Heathenry to condemn homosexuality or transgender people. We have no evidence that pre-Christian northern Europeans held these taboos. People within these minority communities are people. They should be treated as such, and welcomed into our faith. They should be able to celebrate each of life’s milestones just like anyone else, and they should be able to celebrate them with their faith communities.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual, it doesn’t matter. They are human beings and should be treated the same as any other group of human beings. They should be able to fall in love, form families, lead spiritual communities, or whatever else they want. As long as their actions don’t harm others, they should be free to do whatever anyone else can.

So there you have it, my stance on LGBT issues within Heathenry. It’s a stance of full inclusion and full equality, because there isn’t anything within our religion that indicates that we should accept anything less.

Writing in Anglo-Saxon Runes

I threw the idea out on Twitter a couple days ago of doing a blog post on how I write in runes. About 10% of my followers liked the tweet, so I’m going to do it. While this doesn’t really have anything to do with Heathenry, per se, it has uses that Heathens might find handy. Personally, I use them when I want to write down something private or something that is important. Writing in runes seems to impress it into my subconscious a bit more than writing it with the Latin alphabet (which is the alphabet that we usually use to write in English).

Some (many?) Heathens believe that the runes have magical properties, so in that respect writing modern English in runes may not have many uses, except maybe to write spells in runes in candle magic (I admit that in my earlier days in paganism, I dabbled in candle magic a little bit).

I use the fuþorc when I write in runes. These runes were the ones used by the Anglo-Saxons in England. It was derived from the Elder Fuþark which is the runes used by the continental Germanic tribes. Due to Old English acquiring new sounds (languages evolve naturally with use over time), they developed new runes to accommodate these sounds. You can read more about the Anglo-Saxon Runes on Wikipedia.

There are two methods people use to write in runes. One is runic substitution, and is much more common because it is simpler. The other is writing the runes phonetically. This is more authentic to the way they were originally written, and it is how I write my runes.

Runic Substitution

In this method, you use modern spelling but replace the letters with runes. Here is the key I would use to do so if I was going to do this method:

(I hate the Unicode versions of the runes. Anywhere that you see curves, the rune is supposed to be straight. But that’s a rant for another time.)

For TH or NG, use that rune instead of the individual runes for N and G or T and H. For double letters (like the t in letters), only use one rune. I would also suggest for ck (as in back), just use the K rune, and getting rid of any other silent letters. This will make it harder for nosey people to decode your message without a key. Use dots in between words instead of spaces, and colon as an end of sentence (period). For example, I think you are cool. would be ᛁ᛫ᚦᛁᚾᛣ᛫ᚣᛟᚢ᛫ᚫᚱᛖ᛫ᚳᛟᛚ᛬ (To see this in [sloppy] handwriting, check this out.)

Writing the Runes Phonetically

However, the ancient Anglo-Saxons (as with the other Germanic peoples) wrote their runes out phonetically, meaning it was written the way it is spoken. An example would be writing knight or night as nait (the ai is used in many languages for the sound represented by ie in lie, or the y in my).

Here is the key I use:

f, v

u as in put, doubled it sounds like the oo in root.

th in this, and thin

oa as in boat

r

ch as church

g as in go (this sound is the hard g in Old English)

w as in wet

h as help

n

i as hit

y as in yellow (this sound is the soft g in Old English)

p

x as in Saxon

s

t

b

e as bet

m

l

ng as in long

o as in go (same as ᚩ, but I avoid this one due to its association with white supremacists)

d

a as in father

æ, the a in apple

k

Based upon my understanding of Old English pronunciation, I use the following combinations of runes for modern English sounds not represented by the runes:

ᚫᛄ y as in try (æg in Old English made this sound)

ᛁᛄ i as in machine (ig in Old English made this sound)

ᛖᛄ ey as they (eg in Old English made this sound)

ᚳᛄ j as in judge (cg in Old English made this sound)

ᛋᚳ sh as in ship (sc in Old English made this sound)

ᚫᚹ ow as in how

ᚩᛄ, ᛟᛄ oy as in boy

Again, use dots in between words, and a colon for the end of a sentence. Here is an example:

ᚫᛄ᛫ᚹᚢᛋ᛫ᚱᛖᛖᛋᛞ᛫ᚢ᛫ᛦᚱᛁᛋᛏᚳᛁᚾ᛬ᛅᚫᚹ᛫ᚫᛄᛗ᛫ᚢ᛫ᚻᛁᛁᚦᛁᚾ᛬

I was raised a Christian. Now I’m a Heathen.

(This is based upon how I pronounced these words. Because accents vary, you may write these sentences differently. Also, these are obviously not all the runes. They are just the ones that I use.)

Some notes about this key. In Old English, f was pronounced both /f/ and /v/, depending upon the surrounding letters. Manuscripts from the middle ages added a dot to represent /v/, becoming ᚡ. This was post conversion and not used in runic inscriptions from the Heathen period. You may do this if you feel the need though (I don’t).

Similarly, Old English s represented both /s/ and /z/. J. R. R. Tolkien (an Old English expert who used runes in his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit series) used a backwards ᛋ to represent /z/. Since this is not in the Unicode standard, I only use it sometimes, only when handwriting runes.

In Old English, c could represent both a hard c (/k/ sound) or a soft c (ch as in church). I use ᚳ for ch, and ᛣ for k.

To type runes, you need to use Unicode. I use UnicodePad on my Android smartphone, available for free on the Google Play Store.

Writing Numbers in Runes

Writing numbers can be tricky in runes. We have one example from a manuscript from the middle ages that appears to use Roman numerals in runes, using ᛁ for I and ᛉ for X. Based on that, I use the following:

ᛁ=I=1

ᚢ=V=5

ᛉ=X=10

ᛚ=L=50

ᚳ=C=100

ᛞ=D=500

ᛗ=M=1000

ᚾ=N=0

Using Roman numerals, you can only go up to 3,999. In the middle ages, people started using a bar over letters to represent it being multiplied by 1000. I don’t think this would look very good on runes, so I put a runic cross ᛭ before the numbers that need multiplied by 1000, and the other numbers after it. I also surround the numbers with colons because in Old English texts (using the Latin alphabet), Roman numerals were preceded and followed by a period. So 10,562 would be ᛬ᛉ᛭ᛞᛚᛉᛁᛁ᛬

(I have not yet figured out a satisfactory way to write decimals or fractions. I haven’t given up yet!)

So, there you go! That’s how I write in runes. Feel free to leave constructive criticism, questions, comments, and thoughts in the comments below!

A Statement about the #BlackLivesMatter Protests

Wes þu hāl! (This is an Old English greeting that basically means, be well/healthy/whole!) I want to begin this post with an apology for my absence the last few months. The global pandemic and our government’s completely incompetent handling of the crisis has been giving me episodes of depression and anxiety that’s had me unable to do much of anything productive. I spent most of the lockdown buried in tv shows, movies, video games, etc. Unhealthy escapism, I know. The recent murder of George Floyd, and the government responses to the protests that followed, just made it much worse. I’m sincerely sorry if I had anyone worried. I am physically healthy (though still fighting my mental demons, so to speak).

I avoid politics in this blog. Politics have little to do with the practice of Heathenry, or the worship of its divine beings (gods, ancestors, and wights). However, I do condemn the racism that I see within Heathenry, so it’s only fitting that I also condemn the racism of our culture that allows racism to permeate my religion.

All people, regardless of skin color, are equal. They should be treated equally by the law, the governments that make the laws, and those who enforce the law. Police brutality targeted disproportionately at minorities has no place in society. As the founding document of our nation (the Declaration of Independence) says, “All men [men used in the gender neutral sense it often carried in that day, to mean all people] are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (The fact that we polytheists believe in multiple creators does not change the truth of the statement that all people are equal.)

What about the violence that these protesters are showing? you may ask. First of all, it has been reported that in many cases, the protests were peaceful until the police, or more recently the National Guard, attacked the peaceful protestors with tear gas, rubber bullets, and other so-called “non-lethal” methods of “crowd control”. From there, things always get out of control in the panic that follows. Other instances have shown undercover police (or in a few cases, known white supremacists) starting fires and causing damage to property in order to discredit the movement.

In the very few instances where it is the protesters who start rioting and looting, I say good for them! They’re standing up for themselves, fighting for their equality in a society that all too often don’t give a damn about their freedoms.

Martin Luther King, Jr said that a riot “is the voice of the unheard.” African-Americans have been ignored consistently for the last 400 years. According to stats, blacks are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than whites. That’s ridiculous. They deserve the same freedom and equality as any other American.

It’s time to end the systemic racism present in our justice system, and it’s time to hold police accountable for their racism. If it takes another revolution to hold America to its founding principles, sign me up. I sincerely hope that it doesn’t take another civil war, as I will have beloved family members on both sides of that war. But it’s a war I’m willing to fight.

Major Revision of My Post on Hretha

I have done major revision on portions of my post discussing Hretha. Particularly, I added the Greek goddess of victory, Nike, to the post, I expanded upon my thoughts on Andastre (the Celtic Icenic goddess), and added thoughts about March being a war between summer and winter. I also revised my theory about the connection between them, which proved to be controversial among the Heathens that I shared that post with.

Hretha, the Victorious Spring Goddess

On my reconstructed Anglo-Saxon Calendar, today is the beginning of Hreþmonaþ (the þ letter is called thorn, and pronounced as ‘th’ in thin). Bede tells us that it roughly corresponds to March, and the month is named after the goddess Hretha (Hrēðe in Old English, where the ð letter is called eth and is pronounced as the ‘th’ in that), because the Anglo-Saxons made offerings to her in this month. (Hretha is Latinised as Rheda, and you’ll sometimes seen her referred to as such.)

Hretha is one of two goddesses mentioned by Bede that we have no record of anywhere else, the other being Ēastre. So all we actually know about her for sure is her name and that she was worshipped in March. Anyone who tells you different is trying to pass their UPG off as fact. I think we can draw a couple reasonable theories about her from this scant evidence though, so read on for my UPG on Hretha!

In many cases, the name of a god or goddess can give us a clue about them. For example, Thunor literally means thunder. Woden means raging, frenzy and refers to his role in the Wild Hunt. In Hretha’s case, her name means Victory. To me, that seems to point to a war goddess. The first goddess that came to mind was Athena, the Greek goddess of War, and her Roman counterpart Mirnerva. Due to the constant Germanic contact with the Romans, I decided to research Mirnerva and in the course of my research I came across Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory who was said to determine victory in battle. Like Hretha, her name literally means victory. Something in my head shouted at me, There! That is your Hretha.

Victoria was very prominent in Roman society, and they built statues of her in military camps. She was the goddess of both military victory and victory in non-combatant competitions. She was seen as the goddess of victory over death (remember this point, we’ll come back to it later!) and was said to determine the victors, both in battle and in competition. It was also her duty to reward the victors. Many modern pagans see her as a goddess of success in general.

In the Greek pantheon, Nike is the goddess of victory. It seems like she is essentially the same as Victoria, though not as prominent in Greek society as Victoria was in Roman society, with the exception of in Sparta. The warrior-centered Spartans had many statues of Nike put up.

The Iceni had a goddess named Andastre. They were a Celtic tribe that lived in Iron Age Eastern Britain. She was mentioned by Roman historian Dio Cassius and is described by him as their name for Victoria. During the Roman invasion of Britain, an Iceni woman prayed, “I thank you, Andraste, and call upon you as woman speaking to woman … I beg you for victory and preservation of liberty.” Unfortunately, we don’t have any more information on Andastre than this, but it does seem like in the Iceni’s eyes, victory was Andraste’s to give just as it was Victoria’s to give in the Roman’s eyes, and Nike’s to give in the Greeks eyes. I also believe it was seen to be Hretha’s to give in the Anglo-Saxons eyes. The Germanic tribes, including the Anglo-Saxon tribes before they migrated to the British Isles, had extensive contact with both Celtic peoples and the Romans, so it makes sense that influences from each of the groups to the others would make these goddesses similar enough to one another. And according to the Proto-Indo-European Hypothesis (which there is much linguistic and some cultural evidence for), all of these groups are related anyways, which could explain the fact that many of their gods share many similarities.

So why was she worshipped in March? This month can sometimes seem like a war between winter and summer (don’t forget- like many ancient pre-Christian European cultures, including both the Celtic and Germanic [aka, Heathen] nations, the year was divided into only winter and summer). Sure, by the end of the month, summer can be declared the undisputed winner, but the first couple weeks can sometimes feel a bit iffy. Snow isn’t unheard of towards the beginning of March here in the Midwestern USA, and the same is true of many locations. So I can see petitioning Hretha at the begining of the month for summer’s victory, and thanking her later in the month after it has become clear that summer will win. Even though the Anglo-Saxons did not have a season of Spring, Hretha is a Spring goddess in the sense that she is worshipped during the transition from summer to winter, and represents the summer’s coming victory over winter. By the equinox at the end of the month, summer’s victory over winter would be assured. (Summer did not officially begin, however, until the full moon of the following month, Eosturmonaþ. This month roughly corresponds to our April.)

In conclusion, it is my UPG that Hretha was the Anglo-Saxon goddess of victory. She not only determines the victors, she represents victory over death and summer’s victory over winter. She is a good deity to petition when you need other kinds of victory in competitions other than combat, to petition for the end of winter, and to offer to in thanksgiving when winter gives way to warmer weather.

Hail Hretha, the victorious spring goddess of the Anglo-Saxons!

Workplace Wights

In Heathenry, a wight is a term generally used for spiritual beings that don’t fall under the categories of gods (and goddesses) or ancestors. Originally, it had the meaning of any sentient being (including humans), but that’s generally not how its used today.

When Heathens speak of wights today, they are generally either referring to the land wights (known as landvættir in Norse Heathenry) or house wights. The land wights are those spirits that live in nature and are often seen as tending it like a gardener tends to her garden. A house wight is a spirit that lives in a person’s home. Many Heathens will form relationships with these spirits by engaging in the gifting cycle with them.

I had a thought several months ago. Are there wights in the workplace? To my knowledge, our lore doesn’t mention them, but I think that’s mainly because workplaces didn’t really exist back then independent of the home. Farmers lived on the land that they farmed. Craftsmen often worked out their home. Their workplace wights would have been their home wights.

In our modern culture, things are much different. While there are people who work from home, the majority of non-farmers have a place away from their homes that they go to for their employment. Offices, restaurants, stores, factories, etc.

Do these places have wights? I don’t see why they couldn’t. Polytheism often goes hand in hand with animism– the belief that objects, places, and creatures possess spirits. These spirits can be interacted with, and rituals are developed that does just that. So animism would allow for wights of computers, machines, tools, and anything else, really.

So where would workplace wights come from? Since there is no lore (to my knowledge) of workplace wights, there is no way that we can say for sure. It could be that they are land wights that decided to move into the building when it was built. They could be the wights of the trees, metal ores, etc. that decided to stay with the materials when humans harvested them from nature. They could be wights that followed an employee to work and decided to move in. Or they could be any combination of the above. There could be be other reasons as well, of course. We just don’t know.

I’m gonna switch gears now and go from speaking about theory to speaking about my experience. I decided a while back to start a gifting cycle with my workplace wights. I work third shift at a factory that makes automotive parts. Every day, I get a Mountain Dew at the start of my shift, and I have started offering my workplace wights the first sip of it. I fill a small plastic pop bottle lid with some of my Mountain Dew, and I’ll usually say something along the lines of:

To the wights who live in my workplace, I ask for an easy night. Please help my machine run smoothly. I offer this to you as a sign of the peace and friendship between us. A gift for a gift!

I’m not saying that I never have a rough night anymore, but it seems to me that I have far fewer of them. And when I do have a bad night at work, it seems to not be as bad a night as I used to have.

So what do you think of the idea of workplace wights? Do you have any experiences with any wights in your workplace? I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or experiences in the comments!

My Ritual Format

On the r/heathenry subreddit, we get a lot of new Heathens asking how to do offerings. Lārhūs Fyrnsida has a great page on their ritual format, but it is too formal for regular offerings for my tastes and, I think, best reserved for special occasions such as holy tides. What I want to do in this blog post is take you step by step through how I do my regular offerings.

The Basics

The gifting cycle is the foundation of Heathen spirituality. A gift in the ancient Heathen world required a gift to be repaid. Through the gifting cycle, bonds were created between people, cementing together society. It was also through the gifting cycle that bonds were created between people and the gods. You can read more about the gifting cycle on TheLongship website. So the most fundamental ritual a Heathen can do is the offering ritual, which is often called in modern Heathenry a blōt (pronounced like the modern English word bloat).

Next, I want to talk a little bit about the tripartite model of prayer that I use. You can read about it on the Lārhus Fyrnsida’s page about prayer format, but basically it has three parts: the calling, the petition, and the offering. For details on the theory behind this prayer model, see the above link. My template for prayer, therefore, is usually something like this:

[The calling:] Hail {Name of being or group of beings being addressed}, who {description or recounting of deeds}.

[The petition:] I come before you today because {state reason the deity is being addressed}.

[The offering:] I bring to you this offering of {beer/mead/salt/etc.}. May it be well accepted, that our bond may grow. A gift for a gift!

So, what do you offer? A popular opinion is to give things of value. To me, this seems to turn the gifting cycle into a vending machine for scenario. My answer is that the best offering is whatever you think the entity you are offering to will like, based upon research and/or UPG (unverified personal Gnosis).

Now that we got basics out of the way, I want to take you step-by-step through my ritual format.

My Ritual Format

Preparation

First, I get my altar and offerings ready. At a minimum, you need a flame representing your hearth fire (for me, this is usually a taper candle), and an offering bowl. If you’re going to offer incense (a common offering), you will also need either an incense holder (if using incense sticks or cones) or an incense burner (if using loose leaf or resin incense). This is the bare minimum (although it is my typical altar layout), but you can also put anything else on your altar that reminds you of the divine beings (gods, ancestors, and wights) such as idols, as well as anything else you will be using during your ritual (maybe a divination tool, for example). Place your offerings on the altar as well.

Cleansing

The ancient Heathens had a clear distinction between the sacred and the profane. This isn’t our modern conception of profane being bad and the sacred being good. The profane was the ordinary, the things of this world. The sacred was that which belonged to the gods. The dirt that we naturally accumulate as we go through our lives is profane. Therefore, we must remove the profane before we can approach the divine.

This is symbolically done by cleaning ourselves. Before I do ritual, I will wash my hands and my face. Others have different traditions. They may shower or take a ritual bath, for example.

Hallowing

Before we can approach the gods or other divine beings, we must create a space where we can meet them. This space acts as a kind of gateway between the world of the profane and the world of the divine. This space, of course, is the altar.

The ancient Heathens used fire to hallow space. This act re-enacts the creation of the universe, order from chaos. I will use either my hearth fire or a candle lit from it to circle the space of my altar three times, each time saying one of the lines below (starting naturally with the first, then second, and finally the last line):

With this flame I encircle this space.

Sacred flame, please cleanse this space.

Sacred flame, please hallow this space.

Prayers

Now that we’ve cleansed ourselves and made the sacred space to meet with the divine beings, we come to the main event. This is where we address the gods, wights and Ancestors and, through the gifting cycle, deepen our bonds with them.

If you’re making offerings to a hearth deity and gatekeeper deity, you will want to start with that. I generally start with a prayer to the gods collectively, thanking them for their blessings. Here is an example:

Hail the Ēse, those gods and goddesses worshipped by my Anglo-Saxon forbearers. You guided them and cared for them as they left their homes and settled a new land in England.

I come before you in thanksgiving of the blessings you bestow upon Middangeard [the world], which you bestow upon all regardless of whether they worship you or even acknowledge your existence. Thank you!

In gratitude, I offer you this fragrant incense. May it be well received. A gift for a gift!

If I have any prayers that I’d like to offer to individual gods or goddesses, I will now offer up those prayers.

Then I do a collective prayer to my house wight, the land wights who live on the land near my home, and the wights who watch over my family. Then I offer up prayers to any other wights I may wish to offer to.

Then I will do a collective prayer to my ancestors of blood, and of spirit, followed by prayers to any individual ancestors that I may wish to offer to.

Sometimes, my prayers are just three prayers, the three collective prayers to the gods, to the wights, and to my ancestors. Other times, it can be much longer.

Conclusion

Finally, I’ll give a sort of end speech. I will thank all the various entities for being present, for accepting my gifts, and bid them farewell until we meet again. I will then put out any flames, ending with my hearth candle. (I generally leave any incense to burn itself out.

So, that’s how I do my hearth cult. I keep it simple, saving the more elaborate rituals for the holy tides and other special occasions.

I hope this helps those new to Heathenry. And for any veterans who may read this, constructive criticism is welcome. Either way, please leave your thoughts in the comments!

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