The earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.

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Ancestry and Ancestor Worship

A major part of Heathenism includes the concept of ancestor worship.

To some people this is at first glance a rather foreign or alien concept; however if you stop and think about it, nothing could be further from the truth.

In our modern society, we still have pictures on our walls of our family members, both living and deceased.

Items that once belonged to loved ones who have passed away tend to get handed down from generation to generation. These items tend to have pride of place in the home, or are kept under lock and key. When brought out for display purposes, they are treated with reverence and respect.

Prime examples from my own life include my Wife’s Grandfather’s WWII medals, or my Uncle’s beer stein from the former Canadian military base he was stationed at in Germany. Even something as seemingly mundane as my Grandfather’s harmonica takes on a special significance as a relic of my ancestry.

I am fortunate enough to have a head start on digging into my own family’s past. My paternal Grandmother was a genealogist. Through her, I know my direct ancestors on my Father’s side moved to the U.S. from Scotland before the War of 1812. They moved north into Canada during that war, and were United Empire Loyalists.

Scottish Kings and Heroes

History, however, has a way of muddying the waters of ancestry.

My mother’s side had no clue where they came from. Their last name, Christo, is an obvious derivative of the Greek “Christos,” or “Christ.” This made sense for the most part. Dark hair and olive skin tends to run through that side, so it was widely accepted that my maternal grandfather’s side of the family were Greek. No other markers of this culture have been passed down, all having presumably been lost to time and distance from the “old country.”

In one of those quirks of fate, it turns out that the “old country” is actually England.

Cornwall, to be exact.

My mother ran into a distant cousin who has been tracking down the genealogical threads of that side of the family, and it turns out I’m part Cornish, and not Greek. The dark hair and olive skin? Apparently the name Christo was changed from Christoe, and the members of that family who resided for generations in Cornwall originally migrated there from Spain. Go figure.

So what does this have to do with Ancestor worship or being Heathen?

Well, my little rabbit trail had a point. Even if you think you know where you come from, your family tree may not be as straight as you think.

Some people think, inaccurately, that to be Heathen you must be able to prove a direct ancestry from Scandinavia. On a broader scale, the Germanic tribes are also generally accepted.

Here’s where History muddies the waters.

Let’s say that, like me, you believe all of your descendants came from the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales… Ok, yes, Cornwall too. Mustn’t leave anyone out.)

It’s generally believed in Pagan circles that this ancestry puts you firmly in Celt territory, and yes, at one point in history, it would have.

However, Northern Europe has a long and varied past. The U.K. being in Northern Europe shares in that past.

If you go back far enough, the map of Europe looks very different.

File:Germanic kingdoms 526CE.png

The Britons were displaced by the Romans. When the Romans left, the Angles and Saxons filled the void. This was a Germanic tribe, practicing their own form of the religion now being reconstructed by modern Heathens.

The Orkney Islands and the Hebrides were, for a long time, considered part of Norway. They are today part of the U.K.

The map shows Europe in 526.

By the 8th of June, 793 the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles tell of the first Viking raid on British soil:

“They came…to the church of Lindisfarne, and laid all waste with dreadful havoc, trod with unhallowed feet the holy places, dug up the altars and carried off all the treasures of the holy church. Some of the brethren they killed; some they carried off in chains; many they cast out, naked and loaded with insults; some they drowned in the sea.”

There’s a lot going on there. First of all, this is an example of an attack by the vikings on a Germanic tribe (the Anglo-Saxons.)

It’s obvious that at this point in history Christianity has displaced the former pagan religion of the Anglo-Saxons, so it can be argued that this isn’t Heathen on Heathen violence. It does, however, give us a glimpse of the motivating factors of the vikings. At this point in history every little settlement was fortified and defended. Churches were not. What the monks of the time view with horror (how dare they trod with unhallowed feet!) The vikings saw as easy pickings.

These weren’t religiously motivated raids. This was a case of the church believing that their god would keep them out of harms way, and thinking that no one would dare defy him by intruding on his house and taking off with his treasure.

This is the modern equivalent of leaving a car unlocked and unattended in the bad part of town, with the keys in it, then walking away and praying that no one enter “with unhallowed feet” and take off in your ride. Innocence? Ignorance? Arrogance? Take your pick.

If you are the one writing the history books, I’m sure you can spin it however you’d like.

Here’s where I’m going with this:

The Anglo-Saxons were raided by the vikings, who were a mix of Scandinavian peoples.

By 1066, the earl of Wessex (an Anglo-Saxon Lord), the Duke of Normandy, and the King of Norway were all eyeing the throne of England. The English King, Edward the confessor had died, kicking off the Norman Invasion.

As a thank-you to a group of Flemish (Belgians) who had fought with him during the conquest, William the Conqueror gave titles and land in Scotland. This is where my ancestor, Freskin de Moravia comes into play. He is the founder of the Scottish Clan from which I am descended.

I’m sure there are remnants of Pictish, British, Celt, Anglo-Saxon, Norman, Flemish, and potentially Norse blood flowing through my veins. History has a way of twisting things around. Conquerors become settlers, who become locals, who become the conquered.

 

Short of DNA testing, there is no way to know for sure who your ancestors were. Taking sides and saying that one group of ancient peoples was somehow superior to another group from a similar culture is…innocence? ignorance? arrogance?

Take your pick.

The fact remains that Northern Europe was a swirling pool of tribes and cultures, from whom our modern western civilization has sprouted and grown. We can take pride in knowing that we are the descendants of an entire region full of people who lived, raised their children, and honoured their ancestors, just as we do today.

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International Pagan Coming Out Day

May 2nd is International Pagan Coming Out Day.

I have shared my own coming out story and reasons that I came out on here previously.

I want to share the following link, and in doing so, share the struggles of other modern Pagans who have made the decision to be open about who they truly are.

http://internationalpagancomingoutday.wordpress.com/

Know your rights. Be brave. Don’t hide who you really are, because that person is amazing.

Photo: No one should have to hide their religion out of fear.

Growing Our Pagan Community

World Tree by Alexander Faolchu on deviantart.com

In a previous post, I mentioned that I am seriously thinking about starting a local Heathen kindred. Here, I will go further to explain where I’m coming from and why I have a real desire to see the Pagan community grow as a whole.

Fear can make you do strange things.

As a new Pagan, I had a fear that other people would find out. I had been raised christian, gone to bible college, and as far as my family was concerned, had been raised “right”.

My wife I had been solitary Pagans for roughly 5 years when we got married. There were three ministers from two different denominations present in the church we were married in. I only tell you this so you have some idea about how deep in the Pagan closet I was hiding.

Then, in 2008 an event happened that literally forced me to march out of that closet in all my Pagan glory. The event was so life changing that I can honestly say that nothing before or since has had such a profound effect on my life.

The event in question?

The birth of our first daughter.

The reason this had such a profound effect on me?

I was forced to man-the-F*** up!

For the first time in my life my actions and decisions had a direct effect on another person’s life. I was not willing to put my child through the confusion and fear of being raised in the pagan closet. I also knew that eventually our family would find out anyways.

Kids say the darnedest things, and all that.

So, when my family started pestering us about getting each of my daughters baptized into the church, we held a simple outdoor dedication rite to raise them in our faith instead.

This is where the “Pagan community” ball started rolling for me…

I found myself in the position of being an openly Pagan parent, with little to no connections to any other local Pagans. We had one Pagan friend, who’s children are roughly the same age as ours.

Seeing the kids play together got me thinking about their futures as kids raised in Pagan homes.

Would they be forced to live through the same hostilities as the Pagans of my generation have had to endure? Or will religious tolerance finally catch up to the point where a person can list being Pagan as their faith without being subjected to ridicule and general nastiness?

Someone needs to do something to ensure a bright future for Paganism locally and globally. Being a DIY kind of guy, I take the “if not me, then who?” approach.

Being a solitary for over a decade, I knew I needed to get some group experience, and make connections with other pagans. Again, I took a local and global approach. close to a year ago I joined a local Druid grove, and an international Druid group (ADF.) I also attended my first local Pagan Pride Day, and dragged the whole family along.

Which brings me up to today. My grove is making plans for Beltane  which my family and I are looking forward to.

The only problem I’ve encountered is time. My current grove is in a city 45 min. from where I live. When they hold events and study groups through the work week I sometimes can’t attend due to shift work. Also, their focus is Celtic, and I’m a Heathen.

I love my grove, and will continue to be an active member as long as they’ll have me, but I feel the need to try and get things rolling on an even more local level. Hence the reason I am thinking about starting a Kindred in my own town.

How will I do this?

I am thinking I will have to start with a broadly focused Pagan coffee social or pub moot, in order to get other local pagans to come out and make connections. Next, I will offer to host a Heathen study group for anyone interested in the old Gods of Northern Europe. From there, I should be able to find a few dedicated and like minded people who are willing to form a strong core for a kindred.

It may sound odd, but I think in order to grow our Pagan communities, we need to approach things from two fronts. We need to reach out to the broadest segment of our community (Pagans as an umbrella group) while simultaneously strengthening and building small core groups, from which we can support and nurture our personal beliefs and practices.

These small groups will be able to reinforce the efforts of other local pagans with regards to showing up at Pagan events and providing alternatives for new Pagans who are looking for the right path for themselves.

Having a strong pagan community is good for every Pagan in that community, regardless of their personal path or affiliations.

I believe that it is up to us to provide the strong Pagan communities that we hope will be there for our children.

If not us, then who?

The Quest for the Horn

I am currently thinking about forming a Heathen Kindred in my town. This isn’t something that I take on lightly. The only thing missing from my solitary Heathen practice, which will be needed in a group setting, is a totally bad-ass drinking horn.

This line of thinking had me googling until the wee small hours of the morning (drinking horns, make a drinking horn, sources for drinking horns, pictures of kittens with drinking horns, you get the idea.)

Surprisingly, in this modern “dishwasher and microwave safe” world, drinking horns are a difficult commodity to come by locally.

Thus begins “THE QUEST FOR THE HORN!” (insert thunder and lightning for effect.)

I am very much a do-it-yourself kinda guy, so seeing some of the inflated prices for drinking horns online kicked my creative-self into high gear.

Short of adding a new, terrifying element to the time-honored tradition of cow tipping, I knew I would need to track down a reliable source for horn.

The little delving that I did on-line had me come a cross a few questionable sites out of Africa (I’m sure the Canadian FBI now has a file on me) as well as the realization that even to get one from the States could potentially end up with my new purchase getting lost while going through customs at the border.

Don’t laugh, I have a friend who purchased a guitar from China which got confiscated at the border because it had been built with some sort of Chinese plant fibers. This “cheap” guitar ended up costing him money for nothing. Let this be a lesson to you…there’s no such thing as a high quality tofu guitar.

And so, yesterday morning I sat down to write what I now consider one of the oddest emails i have ever had to compose:

“To (my local veterinary clinic),

Hello,

I have a bit of an odd question.
I am a local (my town’s name here), and I am looking for a source for cattle horns for crafting purposes.
I am currently a woodcarver, and would like to try carving (scrimshaw style) on horn. I know your clinic does de-horning, and was wondering if any horns you have access to would be large enough for my purposes or not.
If you don’t have horn, do you know any reputable sources in the area that I could contact? I am willing to purchase them for a reasonable price. I am also willing to take horn in any condition, since I am willing to clean it myself.
Thank you for your time, and any response would be appreciated.
Thanks again,
(crazy horn dude)”
So now I wait…

Easter

On finding out that I’m Pagan, my mother and I were talking about the different holidays, and how nothing will change involving our family traditions because the Pagan and Christian holidays overlap. She didn’t get how Christmas could possibly be anything but Christian (“Jesus is the reason for the season, after all!” “Mom, what does Jesus have to do with holly, garland, Santa, Christmas trees, etc.?!?”) Then I told her that historically Jesus wasn’t even born in December.

“Well, at least Easter is a strictly Christian holiday. Will you still let your girls do Easter egg hunts now that you are pagan? They’re going to miss out on the Easter bunny!”

Wow.

First off, I’ve been pagan for over a decade. I’m not just now becoming one, even though she has only recently found out about it. I overlooked this in my response to her, which went something like this:

Me: “What does Jesus have to do with eggs and bunny’s?”

Mom: “I don’t know, they represent spring, and new life. I figured they had to do with the resurrection somehow.”

Me: ” Spring and new life are right. They are symbols of fertility.”

Mom: “No way. Do you think the church knows about this?”

lol.

Pagan Music Sampler

So, as an addition to my “What is Paganism?” post, I figured I’d throw in this small sampling of some of my favorite pagan music.

Be forewarned: Pagan music doesn’t fit into any one category. It is as broad and diverse as the people within the Pagan community. These are some of my favorite songs from across a broad range of Pagan and Heathen artists. These probably won’t flow as well as if I was compiling my favorite classic rock songs into one space. I hope you enjoy these songs as much as I do:

Omnia’s “I don’t speak Human” Is a beautiful, powerful song, regardless of your spiritual beliefs. I’ll let it speak for itself…

Faun’s “Karuna” is another great song. I love when I come across a very well polished and professional sounding Pagan group. This band is great for chilling out to.

The Pagan community tends towards the “do it yourself” ethic. This is how it should be done from a music perspective. No instruments, just voice, heart, and guts. As a guy, I am slightly jealous that this song sounds completely awkward coming from my mouth. 😉

Tyr’s “Hold the Heathen Hammer High” is at the opposite end of the musical spectrum from the last song, but it’s also a great song to pump you up. It’s also a great example that not all Pagan music contains harps and fairy folk prancing in a glade. This is pure, testosterone driven Viking metal. I love it. I’d love it more if I had long hair to whip around…lol.

By the way…Savage daughter? yeah, that woman can rock out the Viking drinking songs too…

 

Nothing but respect.

Do you have a favorite Pagan song?