Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mother's Night 2011

The Winter Solstice for the Northern Hemisphere (Summer below the equator), occurs this year on Thursday, 22 December,  at 05:30 U.T.C., or 5:30 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time. As this blog involves pulling threads from the web and weaving them into posts for this blog, there will be no entries made here from Mother Night until the end of the "Twelfths," which will be 2 January of 2012. Hail and Glad Jule blessings to all who have been frequenting this site. See you next year.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Forget the crisis - Iceland survived 500 years of Danish rule

"How a deserted island became Snowland, and then Iceland, adopted Norwegian sovereignty and then Danish, took all our cash and gave us back ash." This encapsulation of Iceland's history, which includes the legend of  Ingólfur Arnarson, is available for viewing at the Copenhagen Post.

Mistletoe's lengthy history

"In Norse mythology, Frigg, the goddess of love and beauty, was the mother of the god Baldr. Frigg asked all living creatures to swear an oath never to harm Baldr after he had a series of visionary dreams. Baldr was protected from all harm, rendered invincible except for one plant: mistletoe. Frigg thought it was too small and innocent to do him any harm. Loki, the trickster god, fashioned a spear of mistletoe that proved to be Baldr's demise." Read the full article on mistletoe's folkloric history and life cycle at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

A gift from Santa: Santa Pete shares his insight on the real St. Nick and Christmas Read more: Cleveland Daily Banner - A gift from Santa Santa Pete looks at Christmas

"Describing how Saint Nicholas and early legends of Norse gods became the magical symbol of Santa Claus, Edna Barth, in her book, “Holly, Reindeer, and Colored Lights, The Story of Christmas Symbols” wrote, “Swedish children wait eager for Jultometen, a gnome whose sleigh is drawn by Julbocker, the goats of the thunder god Thor. With his red suit and cap, and a bulging sack on his back, he looks much like the American Santa Claus.”

In the chapter, “Santa Claus and his Ancestors,” Barth says, “Thousands of years before Christ, the Scandinavian god Odin rode through the world at midwinter on this eight-footed horse, sleipnir, bringing reward and punishment.

“His son, Thor, god of farming, thunder and war made his home in the far north. At the same season, the gentle German goddess Hertha descended with her gifts of good fortune and health. The Christian religion brought an end of such pagan gods, in form at least. Later, as St. Nicholas and Father Christmas, they reappeared in spirit.”

Read more of this article by William Wright at the Cleveland Daily Banner .

Rediscovering the spirit of Sibelius

Lemminkäisen äiti (Lemminkäinen's mother) by Akseli Gallen-Kallela 1897 – Lemminkäinen's mother on the banks of the river of Tuonela reviving her son. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

"Sibelius's seven symphonies loom like dark, brooding enigmas over the entire orchestral repertoire. Nearly 90 years after the last was completed – the radical and still influential Seventh in 1924 – they still pose a challenge to orchestras and conductors keen to realise their brave new worlds of sound. There are things in Sibelius's symphonies that music had never done before, new kinds of sounds at the outer limits of orchestral possibility. At one pole of his imagination are the evocations of epic landscapes, as in the unforgettable big tunes at the end of the Second or Fifth. At the other, there's the microscopic detail of his orchestration, the subtlety and shimmer of his string-writing – as if Sibelius had taken the lens of his musical imagination and zoomed in on individual pine needles in the vast forests of his Finnish homeland."

The full text of this article by Tom Service about the composer who gave musical life to the Kalevala, in much the same way Wagner did for the Nibelungenlied, may be read at the Guardian.

Christmas or Yule? Pagan secrets of the festive season

"Around 730 AD the Venerable Bede recorded a custom of the Anglo-Saxons, from whom many modern Britons and Americans are descended. 'They began the year,” he wrote, “with 25 December, designated by the heathen term módraniht, that is, the mothers' night.'

The Anglo-Saxons had another word for it: Geol from Jol in Old Norse, the language of the Vikings, and the origin of our word Yule.

At this time the Vikings would honor the gods Odin, Niord and Freya, as well as departed friends. As the leader of the Wild Hunt, Odin would fly over the countryside bestowing favors on those who honored him best and food would be left out for him. Think of Santa's elves, sleigh and reindeer."

Read the full article at the Sierra Sun.

Sculpture at home at Calf Pasture Beach

"The 35-ton tall steel-and-concrete sculpture was shaped by Lundberg in New York City more than 10 years ago. It since has been on display there, in Providence, R.I., and most recently at Oyster Shell Park.

The sculptor, whose parents are from Sweden, said he orignally named the sculpture 'Odin' after the Nordic god. Lundberg said he and others are now trying to think of a new name for it."

Personally, I think the sculpture should keep the name it has. The full article may be seen, with a photo of the sculpture, at The Norwalk Hour

Odinist woman wins 'family life' human rights case

"An American woman who worships Norse gods has won the right to stay in Britain because of her 'family life' with her boyfriend and his wife.
Home Office officials told Emily DiSanto, 25, that they would not grant her permission to stay in Britain because the law bans what are in effect polygamous relationships.
But now she has won an extraordinary legal case in which she was allowed to remain here on the basis of her human right to family life."

In sum, Ms. DiSanto claimed that her lover's beliefs as an Odinist forbade him and his wife from divorcing, and this precipitated their living together. The article does note that Britain's main Odinist group, Odinic Rite, does not forbid divorce, but other Odinists, and other Heathens, may share different views on the matter. The complete article may be viewed at the Daily Telegraph.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Immortal Maidens: The Visual Significance of the Colour White in Girls’ Graves on Viking-Age Gotland

Via Medievalists.net:

"In some Viking-Age (AD 800-1050) burials on Gotland, an island in the Baltic Sea, a large number of white shell-beads have been recovered together with glass-beads predominantly coloured yellow, green, red, blue and turquoise as well as beads of exotic materials such as carnelian and rock crystal. The beads were part of bead-sets from necklaces worn by females. Previous research assumed that the shell-beads were made of local limestone, but analyses have revealed that the beads were actually crafted from the exotic cowry shell (cypraea pantherina), originating in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea." Read the full article by Susanne Thedéen in a PDF edition of Making Sense of Things: Archaelogies of Sense Perception, pp 103-120.

Viking hoard provides new clues to 'previously unknown ruler'

"One of the most important hoards of Viking silver ever found in Britain contains valuable coins bearing the identity of a previously unknown ruler, it emerged yesterday.
The “hugely significant” hoard of 1,000-year-old artefacts includes more than 200 coins, ingots and pieces of silver jewellery that was found buried underground in north Lancashire." Read the full article at the Daily Telegraph.


A demonstration of the ancient custom of  wassailing, specifically that of the Orchard-Visiting wassail:

Some excerpts from Wikipedia's artcles on wassail and wassailing:

Some scholars prefer a pre-Christian explanation of the old traditional ceremony of wassailing. How far the tradition dates back is unknown but it has undeniable connections with Anglo-Saxon pagan ritual. Of recent times the word Wassail (from the Anglo-Saxon toast Wæs þu hæl, "be thou hale" — i.e., "be in good health") has come to be synonymous with Christmas. The word wassail is old English (OE) and so may predate the Norman conquest in 1066. According to the Oxford English Dictionary "waes hael" is the Middle English spelling parallel to OE "wes hal". The American Heritage Dictionary, fourth edition, gives Old Norse "ves heill" as the source of Middle English "waeshaeil". The correct response to the toast is Drinc hæl.
Christmas was not celebrated anywhere before the third century, and only gradually moved northwards through Europe. It was probably the Normans who brought the celebration to England. Traditionally, the wassail is celebrated on Twelfth Night (mostly regarded as January 6, but more properly the evening of January 5). However most people insist on wassailing on 'Old Twelvey Night' (January 17) as that would have been the correct date before the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752.

In the cider-producing West of England (primarily the counties of Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire) wassailing also refers to drinking (and singing) the health of trees in the hopes that they might better thrive.
An old rhyme goes: “Wassaile the trees, that they may beare / You many a Plum and many a Peare: / For more or lesse fruits they will bring, / As you do give them Wassailing.”
The purpose of wassailing is to awake the cider apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the Autumn.{"England In Particular", Common Ground 2007} The ceremonies of each wassail vary from village to village but they generally all have the same core elements. A wassail King and Queen lead the song and/or a processional tune to be played/sung from one orchard to the next, the wassail Queen will then be lifted up into the boughs of the tree where she will place toast soaked in Wassail from the Clayen Cup as a gift to the tree spirits (and to show the fruits created the previous year). Then an incantation is usually recited such as
Here's to thee, old apple tree, That blooms well, bears well. Hats full, caps full, Three bushel bags full, An' all under one tree. Hurrah! Hurrah!

Then the assembled crowd will sing and shout and bang drums and pots & pans and generally make a terrible racket until the gunsmen give a great final volley through the branches to make sure the work is done and then off to the next orchard. Perhaps unbeknown to the general public, this ancient English tradition is still very much thriving today. The West Country is the most famous and largest cider producing region of the country and some of the most important wassails are held annually in Carhampton (Somerset) and Whimple (Devon), both on 17 January (old Twelfth Night).

At Carhampton, near Minehead, the Apple Orchard Wassailing is held on the Old Twelfth Night (17 January) as a ritual to ask God for a good apple harvest. The villagers form a circle around the largest apple tree, hang pieces of toast soaked in cider in the branches for the robins, who represent the 'good spirits' of the tree. A shotgun is fired overhead to scare away evil spirits and the group sings, the following being the last verse:
Old Apple tree, old apple tree;
We've come to wassail thee;
To bear and to bow apples enow;
Hats full, caps full, three bushel bags full;
Barn floors full and a little heap under the stairs.

Lamb's wool or lambswool is a variety of wassail made from ale, baked apples, sugar and spices. It is mentioned in Poet's Pub by Eric Linklater.
Next crowne the bowle full
With gentle Lambs wooll,

Adde sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of ale too,
And thus ye must doe

To make the Wassaile a swinger.

In ancient tradition, the first day of November was dedicated to the angel presiding over fruits, seeds, &c. and was named La Mas Ubhal, that is, the day of the apple fruit, and being pronounced lamasool. The English have corrupted the name to lamb's-wool.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Snow Queen

This story by Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen contains elements very reminiscent of the old sagas and legends. The title character, particularly as portrayed in the 1957 Soviet animated film, shares many characteristics with the Frost Etins. Also, the heroine's name, Gerda, is a variation of Gerd. Gerda ventures to the land of the Snow Queen to free her love Kay from the queen's icy palace. In the original story, Kay has his mind enchanted by splinters from a troll's mirror. In the animated film, his heart is turned icy by splinters from the snow queen's ice mirror, and Gerda hopes to rekindle his love and warm his heart. This is something of a turnabout on the story of Frey striving and succeeding in winning the heart of Gerd, the daughter of a Frost Giant.

Here is a clip from the first cinematic adpatation of the Andersen fairy tale, Snezhnaya koroleva, produced in the USSR in 1957. Per Wikipedia,  it was "later dubbed by Universal Studios with the voices of Sandra Dee as Gerda, Tommy Kirk as Kay and introduced by Art Linkletter. In the 1990s, the film was redubbed again, this time featuring the voices of Kathleen Turner, Mickey Rooney, Kirsten Dunst and Laura San Giacomo." This clip is in the original Russian.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Norse in Newfoundland: L’Anse aux Meadows and Vinland

Via Medievalists.net:
Wikimedia Commons
"One thousand years ago, the Old World and the New stood face to face in the Strait of Belle Isle. The landing of the Norse on the shores of North America was not the result of a sudden journey but the endpoint of a step-by-step expansion stretching over two centuries. This expansion began in southwestern Norway, where chieftains and minor kings jostled for power over a growing population. In such a competitive context, migration across the North Sea to the Scottish Isles and the Faeroes was an attractive alternative to staying home. The contemporary development of seaworthy ships, capable of safely crossing open oceans and transporting people, their worldly belongings and livestock, made emigration possible."

Read the full article by Birgitta Wallace at the Newfoundland and Labrador Studies website.

Riding With Holda

Thanks to Jim in Oklahoma for finding this.

"Like someone else we know, this yuletide goddess also flew through the air, slipped down chimneys, and delivered gifts." This essay by Selena Fox on Holda and Her close variants, - Hulda, Holle, Perchta, Frigga, - may be read in its entirety at Belief.net.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Remnants of Revenants: The Role of the Dreaded Draugr in Medieval Iceland

Via Medievalists.net: "The term 'revenant' is a French term for ghost, derived from the verb revenir, 'to return.' The Icelandic term is more specific to the returning and violently unhappy dead: the feared draugr. These Scandinavian ghosts are almost always purely physical. They rise from the burial grounds (howes), bash the living, and generally make horrible nuisances of themselves until heroes overpower them and destroy their corpses for good. They owe their place in folklore to earlier Germanic literature: a heroic and supernatural tradition that shows up in the medieval Icelandic sagas and ghost stories from northern England."
Read the full article by Mistresss Caitlin Christiana Wintour at Caitlin's Crossroad.

Tips For Helping Your Heathen Child Deal With Prejudice

Thanks to Wild Boar for finding this:

"As much as it warms our hearts that our kids have the opportunity to grow up in our folkway, we can’t forget that they live in a far different world than we do. They have some very perilous territory to navigate, and holding beliefs that are different from the majority make it that much harder."  You may find the full article at the Hridgar Folk's website.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"We Are Our Deeds" back in print!

Thanks to Jeff Wolf for bringing this to my attention.

"Good and evil. Right and wrong. Law and sin. All of these words can be found in the ancient Germanic languages and all of them are still used today. But what did they originally mean? In We Are Our Deeds, these words are traced back to their original meanings and significances, revealing the sophisticated system of ethics possessed by the ancient Germanic tribes. Unhappily, for history, none of this wisdom ever found its way into any direct literary tradition, which the ancient Germanics did not possess; instead, it is all to be discovered in a close analytical consideration of what we know of their ideas and folkways, the words they used and how they used them. In We Are Our Deeds, Eric Wódening examines the words, customs and laws of the ancient Germanic tribes, with an eye to the more accurate reconstruction from such materials of the true elder pre-Christian heathen ethic." Considered a contemporary classic by many modern Heathens, this book is now back in print and available through Lulu.

A Visit from St. Nicholas (and Black Peter)

"Our present-day North American Santa Claus is a surprisingly recent incarnation of the Christmas gift-giver. In 1823, Clement C. Moore, a professor of classics and theology, published his famous poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas. Moore based much of his jolly old elf on the figure of Sinterklaas, the St. Nicholas of his Dutch-American neighbours.

But Moore was also a keen scholar of Norse and Teutonic mythology, and borrowed from Scandinavian legends elements of the jovial trickster who presided over northern midwinter festivals."

Read the full article by Paula Simons at the Edmonton Journal.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas traditions and performance rituals: a look at Christmas celebrations in a Nordic context

Via Medievalists.net:

"The article explores some pre-Christian, Christian and post-Christian celebratory rituals that exist in a Nordic tradition of Christmas feasts, with a particular focus on the Norwegian Yule. A key theme is the presentation and discussion of rituals and performative events in the described celebrations, along with observations on the interesting etymology of words and names, as well as myths and legends, associated with Yule celebrations. The article looks at some roots of theatre in early religious ritual and dramatic elements in folk practice, and at beliefs and customs that have shaped present day Christmas – or Yule - traditions in the North." The full article by Stig A. Eriksson of Bergen University, Norway, is available in PDF format through Griffith University's website.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Learning Magic in the Sagas

The völva from Völuspá. An illustration
from Fredrik Sander's 1893 Swedish edition of the Poetic Edda.
Via Medievalists.net:

"The image of magic spells being taught by more seasoned practitioners to others eager to learn them comports well with what can be deduced about the actual practice of witchcraft and magic in medieval Scandinavia. For example, at the conclusion of that most remarkable document on love magic, jealousy and sexual intrigue from ca. 1325, De quadam lapsa in hæresin Ragnhilda Tregagaas, Ragnhildr tregagás of Bergen claims that the incantation and performative magic she uses against her erstwhile lover are ones she learned in her youth from Solli Sukk. In a similar case from Sweden in 1471, a witch in Arboga referred to in the surviving records as galna kadhrin ‘Crazy Katherine’ instructs Birgitta Andirssadotthir on how to prevent her lover from pursuing another woman. Another late 15th-century Swedish case likewise describes how Margit halffstop says that she learned from another woman, Anna finszka, the spell by which she could bewitch a man from a distance." The full paper, written by Stephen Mitchell of Harvard University and presented at the 11th International Saga Conference in 2000, may be read at the University of Sydney's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences site

There Are No Dead Languages

"For Tolkien, Anglo-Saxon was not a dead language. Nor was Middle English, the variant born of the Norman Invasion, which he also taught–and could recite beautifully according to other of his students who were not so dour as Amis and Larkin." Read the full article by John Farrell at Forbes Magazine.

Ancient Ireland: The Vikings

Courtesy of the Witches' Voice, Inc:

"The Viking Age in Ireland began in 795 when the Viking sea kings pillaged the Christian monasteries on the island’s west coast. Prior to the Viking age, Ireland was a remote island at the edge of the civilized world. Unlike the neighboring island of Britain, Ireland had not been a part of the Roman empire and this meant that it did not have roads, cities, or political institutions. It was generally seen by people in “civilized” Europe as being inhabited by a barbarous race. Following the Christianization of Ireland by St. Patrick, Ireland became the home to many monasteries. The monasteries were usually poorly defended militarily and they contained easily portable treasures and sacred relics which the Christian monks would pay high ransoms to retain. The monasteries thus attracted the Viking raiders." Read the full article at The Daily Kos.

Smoochin' under the mistletoe

"In Scandinavia, the mistletoe plant was a symbol of peace. When enemies met under a tree that had mistletoe in the branches they would set aside their weapons and be at peace with each other until the next day. ... The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe probably came from an old Norse legend, namely the myth of Baldur...."
Read the full article at the Danville, VA News.

Legend of the Silver Pine Cones

Thanks to Christy for finding this:
"There once lived a poor family without enough food to eat or enough wood for their fire. The mother decided to go into the forest to search for pine cones. She was planning to use the pine cones to build a fire for her family, and she was also hoping she could sell some of them to get money to buy food." Read the full story and how to make your won silver pine cones at the Odinic Rite's Acorn Hollow site.

Christmas Throughout Heathendom

Following is an excerpt from an article by O.M. Spencer , "Christmas Throughout Christendom," which first appeared in the January 1873 issue of  Harper's Weekly:

In Germany the Christmas holidays appear to have been substituted for the old pagan festival of the "Twelve Nights," which extended from the 25th of December to the 6th of January. The Twelve Nights were religiously observed by numerous feasts, and were regarded by the ancient Germans as among the holiest and most solemn of their festivals. Regarding, in common with other pagan nations, the active forces of nature as living personifications, they symbolized the conflict of natural forces by the battle of the gods and giants. Thus in the old German mythology Winter is represented as the ice-giant, heartless ,inexorable, the enemy of all life, and the relentless foe of gods and men. By the aid of his powerful steed Swadilfari, the all-stiffening north wind, he constructs a formidable castle of ice, which threatens to inaugurate the reign of Night and Winter, of Darkness and eternal Death. Then follows the conflict of giants and gods, of Winter with Spring, of North Wind with South Wind, until Thor, the god of the thunder-storm, demolishes with his thunder-stone the castle of the ice-giant, when Freija, the beautiful goddess of spring, resumes her former sway; and life and light and prosperity return.

But the restless giants ever invent new stratagems to regain their lost supremacy. Thrym, the prince of the giants, robs the sleeping Thor of his dreaded sledge-hammer, and hides it eight leagues under the earth. This insures the reign of Winter for the eight months of the year when the thunder-storm slumbers, until Thor, accompanied by Loki, the spring wind, again demolishes with his recaptured hammer the castle of the ice-king, when the Winter Storm is again compelled reluctantly to retire. This eternal conflict of the opposing forces of summer and winter frequently occurs under various forms in the German mythology, and constituted one of the most striking features of the old German poesy, as the beautiful legend of Idunna and her apples and the giant Thiassi, in the poem of "Edda."
In the midst of this struggle of the conflicting forces of nature the Germans and other Northern peoples celebrated the festival of the Twelve Nights. This festival, as already stated, commenced on the 25th of December. Though in the depth of midwinter, when the ice-king was in the full flush of victory, it was nevertheless the turning-point in the conflict of natural forces. The sun-god having reached the goal of the winter solstice, now wheeled his fiery steeds, and became the sure precursor of the coming victory of light and life over darkness and death.

But while a pagan festival might be transformed into a Christian holiday, there was no place in a system of theism, unless in its poesy, for the pantheon of pagan gods. These were therefore either relegated to oblivion, or, metamorphosed into demons, witches, and ghosts, are now supposed to have special power to work mischief, particularly during the Christmas-time. Hulda, once the producing night of spring, now bewitches the distaff of lazy spinner-girls. Odin, the god of fecundity, who formerly pursued with impetuous ardor the fair and beautiful Freija, now, as the wild huntsman of hell, sweeps through the air with his devilish crew, foretelling future wars or portending coming calamity. The once-resplendent Berchta, now a malevolent witch, hung with cow-bells and disguised with a horrid wooden mash, has become the bugbear of children, as she mutters from house to house,
          "Children or bacon,
          Else I don't go away."
A singular rumor of sea-birds, during the nights of November and December, in the island of Schonen, is still known as the hunting of Odin.

In the Bavarian and Styrian Alps the Twelve Nights are called "Rumor Nights," on account of their visions of ghosts and hobgoblins, when priests and prudent housewives, with prayer and invocation, holy-water and burning incense, fumigate dwelling and outhouse, and sprinkle their cattle with salt. Hence these nights were also called "Fumigating Nights." As an additional protection against "witches' feet" and "devils' paws," the initials of the holy magicians were formerly inscribed upon the door-posts. On the dreaded Twelfth-night, when Frau Holle, or Berchta, issues with her fearful train from her wild mountain home, where she dwells among the dead, she is generally preceded by the faithful Eckhart, an old man with a long beard and a white wand, who warns every one of her terrible approach.

There is a pretty legend related by Von Reinsberg in his "Festliche Jahr" (to which we are indebted for much of the material and a number of the illustrations for this article), that on one occasion the good Eckhart met two little children, who, coming out of a beer shop with a pot of beer, were overtaken by the fearful troop, who drank all the beer. Having no money to buy more, and apprehensive of punishment, they cried bitterly, when the faithful Eckhart comforted them with the assurance that if they would never tell what they had seen, their pot would always be brimful of beer. And so it was, until their parents prevailed upon the children to divulge the mysterious secret, when the miraculous gift disappeared.

As with Christmas as a holiday, so with many of its characters and customs. If not of pagan origin, they constitute a curious medley of paganism and Christianity. This is particularly true among the Germans, who were strongly attached to their old religious ceremonies. The Christ-child with his gifts and masked attendant all belong to the German antiquity. In the procession of the star-singers the three kings replace the pagan gods. Only the names have been changed, while the custom has received the rites of a Christian baptism. The German custom of some one going, in a state of nudity, at midnight on Christmas-eve, to bind the fruit trees with ropes of straw, or of frugal housewives shaking the crumbs from the table-cloth around their roots in order that they become more fruitful, clearly points to the mysterious influence attributed by the ancient Germans to the time of the Twelve Nights. In the Tyrol the fruit trees, for a similar reason, are soundly beaten. In Bohemia they are violently shaken during the time of the midnight mass; while in other localities they are regaled with the remains of the Christmas supper, to which they had been previously and specially invited.
A similar custom, probably of German origin, still prevails in some parts of England. In Devonshire a corn cake and some hot cider are carried into the orchard, and there offered up to the largest apple-tree as the king of the orchard, while those who take part in the singular ceremony join lustily in the chorus,
          "Bear good apples and pears enoug' —
          Barns full, bags full, sacks foil!
               Hurrah! hurrah! Hurrah!"
Mistletoe and holly, Yule-log and Yule-candle, belong to the same category. The mistletoe was regarded by the Druids with religious veneration, and its berries of pearl, as symbolic of purity, were associated by them with the rites of marriage. From this the transition was but slight to the lover's kiss beneath its mystic bough during the Christmas-tide. At this festive season also they kindle bonfires upon the hill-tops. Nor must we forget that our pagan progenitors burned a great log and a mammoth candle upon the 21st of December, which, being the shortest day in the year, was regarded as the turning-point in the conflict between the contending forces of winter and spring.

The original article may be found in its entirety at Wikisource.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

To see if reindeer really know how to fly ...

"The sacred mushroom of these people was the red and white Amanita muscaria, also known as “fly agaric.” This mushroom commonly is seen in books of fairy tales and usually is associated with magic and fairies. It contains potent hallucinogenic compounds once used by ancient peoples for insight and transcendental experiences. Most of the major elements of the modern Christmas celebration, such as Santa Claus, Christmas trees, magical reindeer and the giving of gifts, are originally based upon the traditions surrounding the harvest and consumption of this most sacred mushroom."  Read the full article at Animam Recro.

Yorkshire Dales National Park reveals Anglo Saxon building

"The stone building, near Selside, North Yorkshire, was uncovered by members of the Ingleborough Archaeology Group. ... Samples of charcoal found in the soil floor were carbon dated. That revealed they date from between 660 and 780 AD." Full story is available at the BBC.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


It's not Mother's Night yet, but here is an early gift, a modern tale of the "Yule Lads" from Paul Bristow at Tales of the Oak:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Scandinavian Christmas Fair Dec 3rd, 2011, Raleigh, North Carolina

Thanks to Ana for this:

"The Scandinavian Christmas Fair in Raleigh, North Carolina is an authentic celebration of the traditions of the Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.

This old-world celebration is certain to get you in the spirit of the season. This year marks the 12th anniversary of the Julmarknad (Christmas Fair in Swedish) and it attracts people from Scandinavia and of Scandinavian descent as well as many Americans who have made this an annual tradition."

More information is available at the Scandinavian Christmas Fair site.

£32,000 to dig up evidence of the past

"A project to unearth Bingham’s past has received £32,000....Mr Peter Allen, the association’s chairman, said the project was designed to look for evidence of the original Anglo-Saxon core village and to show how the village grew and changed, right up to the 20th Century." Full article is available at the Newark Advertiser.

Verdi and/or Wagner: Two Men, Two Worlds, Two Centuries by Peter Conrad

Wikimedia Commons

"...Wagner sought to use the myths of the ancient Germanic tribes and of the Middle Ages to create a new religious experience for the civilization of the West. The faith that the French Revolution and Darwinian evolution had undermined, Wagner devoted himself to replace with a new creed. His temple to music at Bayreuth in Bavaria was built to become the new Delphi, with himself as the prophet and oracle of the modern world." Read the full review by Ed Voves of this comparison of Wagner with Verdi at the California Literary Review.

Spiritual practice is a lot closer to art than science

"However, for me, spiritual practice is a lot closer to art than science. It's outside the realm of a set of testable hypotheses (current attempts to link magic to quantum theory, for example, just don't work). Some religious practitioners make absolutist claims for their beliefs: I've no interest in doing this, nor do I have any interest in converting people, which is doubtless a relief to anyone who has feared finding me on their doorstep asking if they'd like to know more about Odin." Read the full essay by jounrlaist and "practising pagan (sic)" Liz Williams at the Guardian.