Category Archives: Germanic Pantheon
This is is very interesting book that covers and obscure religious and spiritual practice. This book is not like anything else on the market related to Celtic traditions. This book is very unique, and while it does cover Celtic spirituality and Druidry it does some from the tradition of the Picts. Most books on Celtic Paganism or Druidry cover Irish or Welsch traditions. Very few touch on the Picts and their tradition.
The author covers this tradition from the way it was taught in his family. In places where his family tradition had gaps the author did his best with research into history and lore to complete the tradition. This book is his way of preserving his view and style of Pictish Druidry.
This book is not really broken into chapters but parts with related sections. Aside from the introduction there are eight sections in the book. Each section focuses on unique aspects of this tradition providing information on lore and history as well as theory and practice of ritual and magical workings.
In the Introduction the author starts by presenting several common terms and definitions used within the book and Pagan traditions and spirituality. Next the author explains his approach to reconstructing religious and spiritual traditions. This is essential to understand as the practices in the book are a mixture of reconstructed practices and traditions passed down in his family. The introduction concludes with a summary of principles. Here the author also outlines what exactly he considers Pictish Tradition to entails.
The first section of the book is entitled Pictish Orthodoxy. This section begins with an overview of Celtic spiritual traditions and the different forms out there. The author presents an argument for Pictish Tradition origins and how we does have information to build a base on. This section here is also where we are introduced to the Gods.
The section on the Gods covers a basic introduction to the world view. It covers several of the spirit concepts as well as the type of Polytheism that Pictish tradition followed. Here the author introduces the idea that the Picts would have adopted some Norse traditions.
Here the author covers information on the various Gods of the Pict tradition. He gives their names and attributes. The author covers three different “tribes” or types of Gods worshiped. There are the Greater Gods, the Brethren Gods (Norse Gods), and the Tuatha DeDannan. Through the categorization of the Gods we get a view for the complex syncretic path that is the Pictish Tradition.
The section ends with a discussion on the concept of the trinity and the sacred three. Here we learn about the Celtic three other worlds and the Celtic Knot. The author also explains through this sacred three why certain deities are seen as a Triad. To tie in the Norse tradition with the exploration of the Celtic other worlds (3) the author lists the Nine Norse Realms.
The section part in the book is called Awen. This section is about taking action and how worship is through action. Here the author covers the sacred Holidays. The section on the holidays is rather small. It does present a few examples of how those sacred days could be honored through actions and activities rather than ritual.
The third part of the book is one of the most interesting. This is the section on the Faerie faith. Many spiritual traditions work with beings called the Fae. This section is about the Pictish tradition and their take on the Fae. Here we get a taste for ritual work and how the Picts dealt with contact with spirits.
This chapter had some of the most useful information. It starts out by explains what the faerie spirits really are and how the modern view of fairy’s is actually quite far from the historical perspective. The author explains that he believes this would have been the practice of the common folk and was less to deal with Gods and was more animistic in nature.
After giving brief examples of offerings and how the Faerie Faith may have been practiced the author begins to discuss the different types of Fae. Here we see the variety of spiritual forces found within the Pictish tradition beyond the Gods. The author gives several different types of fae including descriptions of Norse Fae.
Once we are familiar with types of Fae we get into the first practical bit of spiritual work within the book. Here we are learning how to set up an altar to suit the practice of the Faerie faith. The author covers three different types of altars to the Faerie people and the types of fae best honored at each.
The chapter ends with ideas on how to make contact with the Fae. Here the author covers plant talismans and flowers in your garden that could attract the fae. The author also presents a detailed guided meditation to use meditative techniques to meet fae and work with them. In all reality the section on the Faerie faith could be a book in its own right. The author does a great job of presenting information that gives an introduction to the practice within the context of this particular cultural view.
The fourth section of the book is about the priesthood. Here we find out the authors view on Priesthood and why its not a mantle to be taken up easily. The author covers the different types of priests and Druids in this chapter. With each type of druid or priest the author covers the roles they had and how they worked for the Gods and the community. Here the author also covers the various Norse Priests that would have filled similar roles to the Druids. The author makes it clear that for him priesthood and ministry are the same thing.
The fifth section is where we first get introduced to the practice of magic. The practice of magic is one of the main draws to practices like Druidry, Shamanism, and witchcraft. The idea of being able to perform rituals and take specific actions to create change in ones life is very appealing. So it is important to cover the use of magic and the theories behind it.
In this section the author covers the hows and whys of magic. Before getting into magical laws and theory the author outlines the phases and steps involved in spell casting. He explains several magical laws and magical theories. This gives you the basis to start exploring the magic discussed later.
The majority of the section on magic focuses specifically on the Druid practice of magic. The author gives examples of types of magic he calls Low, Middle, and High. In each section of low, middle or high there are examples of types of magical workings and practices that would fit within those concepts.
The chapter ends with a discussion on Druid rituals, tools and the organizations. With the information on ritual and tools the reader now has enough information to create simple spells and workings within this magical paradigm. It is here that we have really begun to be able to piece together a practice from the material presented.
The sixth section in the book is on Magical languages. Here the author introduces Ogham and symbols that are used in magical ritual. The author covers tattoos and scarification rituals as ways that the Picts used magical symbolism on their body. The section on magical languages ends with a brief introduction to Runes and Runic magic.
The seventh part of the book is dedicated to Runes. This is one area of the book that is entirely dedicated to a Nordic aspect of the tradition. Here the author covers the Rune poems and the three different Rune systems. He covers the use in magic and the use in divination. The author even covers creating your own traditional Rune staves and doing traditional Runic readings. This section and the Faerie faith chapter are the two section of the book with the most practical information and the most unique information.
The author ends the book covering a variety of related spiritual traditions. The author begins the section by covering different Druid and Celtic traditions and organizations. Here the author covers traditions like Shamanism, Wicca, and general Witchcraft. This shows that the author not only respects these other spiritual traditions but he also sees how they are connected and possibly related to his own traditions and practices.
Overall the book provides great insight into this spiritual tradition. There is enough information that the reader could decide to explore the practice for themselves personally. The author gave enough information to form a workable practice without doing all of the work for you. He allows the reader to start with this information and work with the spirits and Gods through personal work to develop their priesthood and their practice.
I would recommended this book to people interested in both Celtic and Norse Pagan traditions. While I may not agree with all of the information presented on the Norse traditions, I feel that the author did an excellent way of presenting how the Picts would have adapted the Norse Gods and practices into their traditions.
The book The Way of Wyrd is a fictional story of a Christian Monk who is sent to learn the ways of the Anglo-Saxon pagans. The story is rich and entertaining. The author worked hard to research and present the information in a way that was informative and entertaining. By working the true beliefs of the Anglo-Saxon sorcerers into this work of fiction the author has brought back the use of stories to transmit knowledge and information.
The book is actually in two parts. The first part focuses on the early aspects of the Monk’s training. Here the monk is very skeptical of all the powers the sorcerer claims to work with and hold. While he works hard to learn all he can learn, Brand (the name of the monk) never really believes the ways of the people or that the powers are real.
In this part of the book the author introduces the basic beliefs of the people. The story actually opens with Brand working with Wulf (the sorcerer) at a healing ceremony banishing an evil spirit. This powerful start to the book illustrates a few of the key practices and beliefs that Brand is exposed to as he begins the training. This ceremony is set after he has completed his journey so we see here that Brand has much to learn and yet he was open to them.
In this first part of the book Brand is highly skeptical of the beliefs and practices. There are some that even scare him. Though he is fascinated with the tales of the Gods and of the spirits he does not appreciate their real value aside from primitive beliefs and practices.
The first powerful ritual that Brand is exposed to is an example of his difficulty in attempting to switch worldviews to learn the beliefs and practices. Here Brand is taught about gathering power from plants and how to properly gather the plant and give it an offering.
Other powerful rituals are experienced in this section. Here the author also goes into reading the omens of nature such as the flight pattern of birds and the way fish swim. The largest concept of Germanic paganism introduced here is the concept of Wyrd and knowing how to read and work with Wyrd.
The final experience in this section of the book Brand has is watching Wulf heal an elf shot horse. When Brand declares the process a fraud Wulf knows then that he must make Brand experience these forces or the mission to learn their ways will be a failure. The experience at the farm and Brand’s declaration of being a fraud.
In the second part of the book Brand is forced to encounter the shamanic aspects of Germanic paganism. Here we learn about spirit flight, how our spirits can be stolen, and how to work a soul retrieval in the practices of the Anglo-Saxon sorcerers.
The authors use of the narrative story teaches several elements of Germanic paganism. There are tales of the Gods taught, beliefs about plant lore explored, beliefs of the soul, and much more. The book provides through the story a basic concept and outline of many main beliefs found in Germanic Paganism as well as in Traditional Witchcraft, Anglo-Saxon shamanism, and much more. This book was well researched and written allowing a student to learn concepts in a way that non-fiction books may not be able to portray them.
For many years the only definition of heathen was one who was not Christian. If you look in the dictionary you will still find that as part of the definition of heathen. Today however I am not talking about the dictionary definition. I am talking about how it relates to the modern Pagan culture and the culture of Germanic pagans. My heathenism studies have been a major influence in my path and on my craft as a witch.
The heathens of today are often hard to define. For some people it is an umbrella term for an eclectic Germanic recon path. For other people is a very specific tradition with in the label of Germanic religions. I consider it to be a term for an eclectic approach to being a semi Recon based practitioner.
You may be thinking wait a minute you can’t be both eclectic and a Reconstruction can you? When it comes to the Germanic religions it is more possible. There are several Germanic cultures to choose from. You have the Angels and the Saxons, The Danish, The Norse, The Icelandic, the Franks, and several other tribes. Each tribe had slightly different lore. By studying the lore of all the paths and tribes a person can gain a fuller insight into the lore for Germanic paganism.
It is the Nordic lore which we have the most information from. It was also in Norway and Iceland where the religious practices of the Germanic tribes lasted the longest. Several of the sagas that many heathens use as source texts for their practices and understanding of the culture are preserved in a book titled The Sagas of the Icelanders. These sagas tell of the social structure and the social etiquette. From these sagas we learn how they lived. That is why they are excellent sources to use. The other books which provide sagas and lore about the Gods are:
Right now I am in the process of reading Heimskringla. I’ve already gotten some information about lore but not a whole lot. Snorri used the same tale about Odin founding the Kingdom of the Norse in both the prose Edda and in Heimskringla. Both tales are very interesting and explain a bit of the culture of the Gods. Yet my preference is for the origins discussed in the poetic Edda.
My Heathen Practice
My personal heathen practice is more related to the magical practices and the crafts. Witchcraft as we know it ultimately came from the Anglo-Saxon culture. There are three primary deities associated with Magic and witchcraft Odin, Freya,and Loki. Many of the books I have read on Traditional witchcraft have had a Germanic slant. That’s one of the things that started my more invested study and practice with Germanic pagan traditions.
Aside from Raymond Buckland’s Seax Wica there are several other traditions of witchcraft which have a more Germanic leaning.. These books along with the Eddas and Sagas has helped me develop and understand how Germanic magic worked and what the culture was like. As a witch I have found this knowledge and information immensely helpful and informative. I have gained much wisdom from those practices. Yet it is not the only part of my heathen practices.
So what makes me a Heathen? Worship of the Aesir, Vanir, and Jotun. I have accepted the Nine Nobel virtues as part of my moral and ethical guidelines. The Germanic tribes had a concept of Fate of sorts called Wyrd. There is a lot about Wyrd I am still trying to understand and evaluate for myself, I am not discouraged by it though.
The Norse were very much a warrior culture. For them it was about honor and the battle. Yes they had head hunting and other practices that today are considered “Barbaric” but to accept the deities with out accepting an understanding of the culture which worshiped those deities is meaningless. Yes. The Germanic tribes were considered barbarians to the Romans & Greeks, but so were the Celtic tribes. It is only by understanding or trying to understand the culture in which the deities were worshiped that we can truly understand how the religion and spirituality of those times worked.
My interest as an anthropologist really plays into why I work so hard to reconstruct what I can. It is actually through historical sources such as the Sagas of the Kings and warriors and the few archeological finds that we have any concept of what that culture was like. The practice of heathenism also plays deeply into my desire to connect to something from my blood ancestry. For me it was sort of embracing a part of my history and understanding where my family origins were.
What my heathen practice entails
I have not fully developed a comprehensive unified product of witchcraft and Germanic paganism. While witchcraft is a part of my worship and practice of Germanic paganism, there is a lot more to it than that. My heathen practice entails doing a specific form of ritual called a Blot to the Gods. It involves prayers and obviously magic.
I am looking into learning more about rune lore so I can try my hand at runic magic. Working with the runes would also allow me to learn the mysteries of the Runes. Rune magic is actually one of the priary forms of magic used in Germanic paganism. It was gifted to Odin after he sacrificed himself to himself on the tree of knowledge and wisdom. There were several sets made I know of one for humans, one for the Gods, and one for the Dwarves.
My practice also entails a lot of study. There is probably more study than worship at times, and that works for me. My worship is actually often times more impromptu than it is for specific holidays or occasions. I have even developed my own ritual structure for their worship which they don’t seem to mind which is a combination of a Blot and a typical religious witchcraft ritual. One of the reasons I study so much is there is a lot of lore to pour over and assimilate and there is also a lot of history and multiple translations of sacred texts to read.
The path to wisdom is never ending. This is just one place you may also be able to find wisdom and truth.
The essence of life and much more
No real introduction to this post. I am just going to cut to the chase, This is a post I have been meaning to write for two weeks because there are essentially two key points that I wanted to make with this topic that would benefit two separate posts. One is on the origin of it’s spiritual component and the other is on a magical aid and as a trance inducing practice. Like I said both of these posts would be related in that they are both centered around the concept of breath and what it means.
One of the reasons I have both felt the need to write these posts and have been unable to complete or even begin starting these posts is that here in Maine its the middle of winter and that’s bad news for asthmatics like myself. If I am struggling to breathe properly it makes sense that while I would both be in the perfect state to explain the properties of Breath as life I am also not in the best states to think of anything but focusing on my own breath.
It is with both of these things in consideration (and the personal stress I was feeling for not posting for two weeks at this point) that I have decided to write this post. I have a lot of different sources to pull on how breath is both life and is also counted to be an aspect and an essence of the soul (though I’ll try to give enough info for you to create your own opinion). This is a wide topic so let’s start with science and the birth of a human baby and the “actual full death” of a human.
Breath in the human life cycle
After a mother has given birth to her child the doctor slaps the baby on the ass to begin crying and thus start breathing. A human is not considered alive if they are not breathing. If a baby does not cry with that action they are not alive and thus need work to be able to breathe or may be considered dead. In the elderly a person’s whole mind and spirit could be gone yet their body kept alive through food and automatic breathing considered “life support”.
The ability to breath and to have the freedom to some what control one’s breath has always been part of what makes a person alive. So long as a person is breathing and their body can “physically” function even with the support of machines a person is technically considered alive. This is a thought and a concept that has been buried deep within human cultures and thoughts for many reasons and a lot of it relates back to lore and mythology.
I mention that this has been buried deep and that would be correct. There are many different mythologies around the creation of man. There are two central themes I have found that in the creation of humanity. One is that we have been physically created out of the earth by the hands of the Gods. The other is that it wasn’t until the Gods gave us breath that we became fully alive, even if other Gods had contributed other factors to what made a human being, we were not alive until we were given breath by the Gods.
There are two examples that I can think of that support this though. . While many people may not be able to understand and accept this, when it comes to the creation and what actually brought humans to life Christians and those who follow Germanic paganism have one thing in common: The breath of life from their High God.
I’ll start with the creation myth of humans from the Poetic Edda (one of the Norse and Germanic sacred texts):”
17. Then from the throng | did three come forth,
From the home of the gods, | the mighty and gracious;
Two without fate | on the land they found,
Ask and Embla, | empty of might.
18. Soul they had not, | sense they had not,
Heat nor motion, | nor goodly hue;
Soul gave Othin, | sense gave Hönir,
Heat gave Lothur | and goodly hue.”
Here Soul is often equated with physical life. The warmth of our body and fact that it actually reflects life was the gift of Honir. Two of the elements that make humans alive were given from one deity. The abilities to make sense/understand the world is one of the gifts of the Gods. That gift was given by Honir. Finally we have Odin’s gift. Other translations list Odin’s gift last as it is not until breath and life is actually given to Ash and Embla that the first humans come to life.
As you can see from my analysis soul and breath in Germanic lore are associated. The breath of life is important. It enters our body at birth and leaves at Death. The breath can be seen as being the vessel for the soul. It enters at birth and leave on death. That s what the soul is. In some ways the soul and the mind and the breath can all be linked exactly to life. The heart starts working before the mind, and the breath.
In the book of Genisis humanity is not aware or alive until God gives them the breath of life:
5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.
6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
So that is the connection in the creation of humanity. In both cultures humans were born from the earth in some form. In Christianity it’s from dust. In Germanic lore it’s from trees that we were born. In both sets of lore it is also only through the gift of the breath of life that humanity becomes aware and able to live.
Last week my post was dedicated to the beginner and the start of building an altar. As I said building an altar can seem very overwhelming to a beginner. The same problem can be seen to occur with people have have been on their path for a while or have finally chosen their specific paths after a lot of exploration. This post here is going to address how a more advanced pagan can develop altars specifically dedicated to their paths.
Path specific altars and specificity
Last week I mentioned that some paths have very specific altars and there are some times reasons why you may need to change your altar for a specific sabbat, spell, rituals or activity. The more you read and research the more ideas and concepts you may want to try. For this reason it’s important to understand the rituals and the magical practices you are exploring . You may need to have different supplies from those supplies that you started with.
This post will cover a few specific points on the topic of seasonal, magical, and path specific points. Each one of these points will illustrated why there really is no wrong way to set up your altar unless you are on a very specific path. Like I said in my previous post exploration, trial and error are going to be all you need.
The topics covered here will be:
- Eclectic witchcraft altars
- Brittish Traditional Wicca altars
- Traditional witchcraft altars
- 8 sabbat altars (Wicca and witchcraft)
- Ceremonial magic
- Asatru altars and items used
- Hellenic (Greek worship)
- Religio Romano (Roman worship)
Each of these paths have very specific altars and ritual tools. Each of these paths have specific ritual forums for which their altars are designed. Each of these altars has a different use and different specific ways to be used in the altars. I’ll start with what I practice myself. That way I can ease into the paths I have explored but have little to no personal experience with. I am always studying and I am always willing to try something new, but lets start with that which I know.
Eclectic Witchcraft Altars:
As an eclectic witch there are really no real limits and style for the altar. However there are some common themes in the altar set up. Ultimately each witch has to choose how to make their own altar based on what works for them and how they worship the God and Goddess or the spirits they work with. This is where the comments of my last post and directions of my last post come into play. I will however list a few of the common traits and guidelines I have come across for more dynamic and specific worship set up.
One of the most confusing things about an altar can be what direction it’s supposed to face in ritual. Some authors say the altar should face north. Other say it should face east or west. Very few authors I have encountered over my studies have suggested that the altar should face south for fire. When a seeker or an advanced practitioner may set out to set up their altar for ritual they still may ask themselves where they should place the altar in the circle and if they want to have the altar face a certain direction.
I have found for myself that ideally my altar would be placed in the center of the circle facing no specific direction. While yes the altar will ultimately be facing a direction I find no reason for me to be worrying about if my altar faces the wrong way. For me the altar is the center of my worship structure. It is there where I place my offerings and where I place my tools during the altar. Which is why I would prefer to have it in the center of my circle. Unfortunately that doesn’t always work when you have limited space for ritual and moving all the furniture is not a reasonable option.
One of the other reasons I like having the altar in the center of my circle is that during ritual if I am going to use ecstatic practices such as dance, scourging, movement, or even the basic circle dance it becomes much easier to move around. It also makes it easier for me to define a very specific ritual area and I’m able to work ritual with in that area thus creating such a special sacred space. For many reason this makes it easier for worship and magical practices.
Elemental symbols on the altar
Most of the books out there mention that as part of ritual and practice there should be some basic symbols of the elements on the altar. Much of the modern witchcraft philosophy plays into the thought that each of the elements is involved in every part of magic and worship. Many witches believe in the Gods and elemental spirits that rule the winds and the powers of those elemental. This practice was firs seen in the Golden Dawn. Since modern witchcraft as we know it has its origins with the OTO and other forms of ceremonial magic as well as the local natural magic and folk practices of the Isle of man I can understand how Gardner (father of the witchcraft renaissance) formed the practices together. I appreciate this practice and have come to my own understanding of the elemental spirits and guides.
As a witch or magician there are many ways to work with the elements in magic and ritual. For many people there is a red candle for fire, a bowl of salt for earth, a bowl of water for water, and some form of incense for the representation of air. In my early days on my path this was something I had chosen to do on my own. It was simple and it was a very effective mode for my early years and some of my time when my living arrangements were less than grand for my religious and spiritual practices.
Aside from symbols that are literal representation of the elements there have often been tools used in ritual to invoke and call in the elements during the practice of circle casting. Sometimes the water and salt mentioned above are used in the invocation, but more often than not there are other tools involved within the rituals. Typically these are the athame (ritual dulled dagger), the wand, a bell, and occasionally the drums. There will be more talk of the elements and the common elemental tools when I make my post on the elements. For now I’ll post an altar that has the elements mentioned and get on to the next type of altar, a traditional Wiccan altar.
British Traditional Wicca Altars
There are only a small collections of BTW traditions. The traditions that are identified as BTW are:
- *Central Valley (a collective term for the traditions named below)
- -Silver Crescent
- -Daoine Coire
- -Assembly of Wicca
there are some very specific structures to the altar and it has to be set up this way. One of the reasons for that is that Wicca is a tradition defined as:
It is the orthopraxic nature of Wicca which is addressed in this post. The set up a BTW altar is going to be very specific. While they may change with various rituals in general the set up of BTW altars is set up a specific way. This plays largely into how they work rituals and how it’s vastly different than how eclectic practice rituals and use their altars. BTW is a coven based religion as such there would only be the coven’s set of tools on the altar and personal tools would be on your person.
There are different set ups for initiation and different sabbats. The Farrar’s in their book A witches Bible they had diagrams for the various altars that they were using. While it’s true that there are oathbound practices and lore, the Farrars gave enough information to get the concepts needed behind the placement and purposes of the items that a seeker would be able to have some concepts behind what they were exploring.
I have never been initiated into a Wiccan coven. So I have nothing more than the understanding of a seeker. I have a few friends that are initiates and I have been seeking more and more. While I am not specifically seeking Wicca at this point I am seeking truth and wisdom found in witchults and witchcraft traditions.
Traditional witchcraft is yet another form of witchcraft. The basic difference between those who identify as Wiccan and those who are practice the common form of Eclectic witchcraft is that Traditional witchcraft is more focused on the practices of witches that occurred pre-Gardner. Traditional witchcraft focuses on folklore from various cultures and the central theme is ancestral worship (which is discussed in my other blog). In many ways the tools and the actual worship is more land based and more nature oriented than the typical eccelctic path as it explores in depth all aspects of life and creation as well as death and destruction and the relationships between them.
This is reflected often in their altars. There are two ways traditional witches can set up their altars. The first is:
The second type of altar is the prefered style of many traditional witches. Traditional witches in many ways prefer to have their worship outside as the conection the the land is much more powerful. Even a few of their sacred space techniques would be much more powerful outside than inside. It’s the nature of their practice:
The third image is what the second image often starts out with during the initial prep. Instead of a table the Stang (the forked staff) when planted into the earth is used to hold ritual tools and items as well as be the center of the worship. The stand is often associated with the world tree and thus is a central part of the worship in traditional witchcraft.
I have a stang and a staff. One day I will use them in ritual together. For now I have other influences from traditional witchcraft in my path which I will get into little by little in these posts or in my other blog. My main influence from traditional witchcraft now aside from my underworld views, is having an ancestral altar:
Now I am on the last topic that is directed specifically towards the nature of witchcraft religions and practices. This last practice is tied directly into the lore of each of the sabbats and how each witch practices those sabbats. So here we go,
Altars for the 8 sabbats
The 8 sabbats in the various forms of religious witchcraft are one of the primary ways they connect with and worship their deities. Each sabbat leads into a key point or mystery of the nature of the universe and the cycle of life from birth to death to rebirth. The sabbats also go over the nature of the dynamic relationship of the God and Goddess they worship.
Each sabbat will there for have a unique altar setting. In many witchcraft traditions the winter solstice or Yule is considered to be the start of the cycle. I however feel that the cycle actually begins with the midwinter holiday of Imbolc.
Imbolc has always been associated with the birth of new animals. There is the symbolsim of milk being the first food for mammals and it’s prcesseses. Here we are able to really plan for the start of the year and the growing season to come. Its where in ancient times Farmers would finally start to have a source of income from the milk and cheese which would provide needed nutrition and additions to the diet that has been upon them since the last harvest.
I see this as where the God is born of the Goddess. That is why I believe the wheel of the year starts here at Imbolc. The altars at this time of year are decorated with signs of the light really returning and plans for the future.
Ostara: Spring Equinox
The next sabbat in the cycle is the sppring equinox. The sun has really returned. The day and night will be of equal length. The light has been increasing slowly since Imbolc but now it has returned. Here is really the symbol of rebirth. The trees have spread their leaves and there are more buds coming from the ground. Planting is in progress and the animals born at the time of Imbolc are starting to be more independent (baby chicks and bunnies for example).
Here at Ostara the Goddess is as a maiden young and innocent and the God is a boy of around the same age (I typically picture between 4 and 7). They are just starting to explore and understand the world. This sabbat is essentially about the freedom of inspiration and imagination that is often lost after childhood. Its about growth and development hopefulness and a zest for life.
This is one of the highest holy days in many of these traditions. Here sex and sensuality are explored and celebrated. In the cycle of the year the God has reached sexual maturity and is going to be taking the maiden he met at Ostara and enjoying the nature of sexuality and sexual contact. This is also known as May day. Here the God will give the Goddess his seed and she will be carrying his child (to be born at Imbolc).
Litha: Summer solstice
Litha is the height of summer. Its the summer solstice. The light is in full swing. Crops are starting to be grown and some are being harvested already. The Goddess is pregnant with growth and glowing with maternal pride. The sun gives her fertility for growth every day. As the sun heats so do the crops grow and develop.
Lammas or loaf mass:
This is the first of the three harvest festivals. The summer is reaching it’s end. The grains of the summer are ready to be harvest at this time. This will be ground and separated into feed for the animals and flour for bread and biscuits and the like. Some fruits are enjoyed and loved at this time. The rituals here are typically around harvesting the first hard work of the spring and enjoying the fruits of that labor. There are a lot of rituals involving the sacrifice of grain and the blood of the “sacrificed king”. It is believed that the God is sacrificed here so that the land will remain fertile between now and the end of the growing season.
The lord of the grain has been given up so that the lord of the animals and winter could take over the land slowly. The blood spilled will nourish the land. This can also be seen in how the sun seems to be dying at this time of the year. The difference in light has started to be more noticeable with more night starting to be more in control.
This summer I experienced that change and power during the camping trip that I mentioned in my welcome back post. I was able to forget everything and just revel in the power of nature and the dying of the sun enjoying the last of his life before the darkness takes control and his real underworld journey to be reborn begins.
The wheel continues to turn and we turn to where the light and the dark are equal.
Mabon: The Fall Equinox
Mabon is the second harvest. The majority of the harvest is being harvested and enjoyed. There is plenty of food to go around. In many ways this harvest has been described as the witches thanksgiving and I wold have to agree that that is true. The god’s essence is being given to the people through the food they eat. The Goddess is mourning the loss of her love and is nurturing his son growing with in her womb. Here the focus starts to be more on the animals. This is the time of year when hunting and gathering would truly begin. This is why we have hunting seasons to this day.
This is the most famous holiday of witches. Many of the traditions associated with the Halloween stories and decorations have roots in various witch lore and history. The green skin, the crooked teeth, the hat, and many more come from witch trails and lore as well as other folk lore. The dressing up as goblins or other “scary” spirits was done when traveling from place to place at this time to scare away malevolent spirits crossing over. The essence of the “haunted season” is in that spirits of all sorts are more active on this week.
This is also the last harvest festival. It also the night where the ancestors can cross over and visit their living loved ones. This is why there are so many traditions relating to crossing over at this time of year. The veil between the underworld and the world of the living and life as we understand it is at its thinest.
As you can see the altar both represents that which is alive and that which is dead. The seeds of the harvested plants can be gathered and prepared as the stalks and leaves fade and dye. The seasonal leaved trees have almost all lost their leaves while the evergrees are still vibrant. Life and death are equal here and now.
The God has descended into the Underworld and is ready to start his journey to be reborn. Part of his essence remains in the land and in the forest as the Lord of the wilderness and in the Goddess as the Lord of the sun and grain yet to be born).
Yule: Winter solstice
This is the final sabbat in the wheel of the year, This sabbat is the day when the night overcomes the day. Here we are now in a time of the underworld. Nothing can really grow at this time of year and we are dependent on the food that was stored during the harvests. The animals have been slain so that now only the strongest and best remain. It is the time to reflect on everything that was done that year and to start thinking about how the new year will bring new opportunities and will be a time for changes of what will be needed.
In essence the spirit of the God is reborn with in the people. They feel the sun and inspiration and hope for the future growing with in them. They also start to understand that even though some real tough times are ahead until planting begins they can get through it. It will be the last time they can really celebrate and renew themselves for the next year.
The sun is reborn on the morning after the solstice as it is from that that we know the sun will overcome the darkness. This is how we know the God lives and will exist again. His shadow is still slightly in power as the symbols of this time are reindeer and evergreen forests. These are symbols of the God as the Lord of the Hunt and the Lord of the animals and how they live together.
The first altar will be one of my own Yule altars and the next altar will be one for a generic concept of the season
Now the wheel turns and brings us back to Imbolc which was the first seasonal altar I posted. I hope this gives you and understanding of how different altars can be made and created for specific holidays and celebrations, Now I will get into the last real magic and directly Occult type of altar I planed to discuss.
Ceremonial magic is one where the altar has direct symbols for the elements and is focused on a connection with the God head. In many ways it is often connected with Christianity and Christian mysticism. The truth is the early forms of ceremonial magic were based on Christian Occult and mystery practices. Here was where you could find the practices of “Christian Magic”.
Many of the rituals are based on calling in the arch angles and the invocation of their power into the magical space and to help empower the magical actions being taken. This rite can be traced back to the Ritual in short hand known as the LGBRP which means the Lesser Greater Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. I am trained in this ritual and have used it many times. This is a complex ritual which I will go over in length when I have my post on ceremonial magic. In essence you call in the four arch angles to protect the space while vibrating the various names of Yaweh to sanctify the space and prepare it for magical ritual and practice.
I have said before that I practice a form of dragonic witchcraft and magic. This is very true. That practice is very ceremonial. The opening ritual is very much designed after the LGRBP. I call upon the dragon guardians and guides that I have a relationship with rather than angels. The symbolsim is in the structure of the ritual, the tools used, and the altar.
The tools mentioned in the eclectic witchcraft altars can trace their origin to the LGRBP and many other rituals performed by the OTO. Gardner who was the one who crafted the new form of religious witchcraft as we know and see it to day was a member of the OTO and other occult practices. This played into how he crafted the religion of Wicca.
The altars I have shown above may very much resemble this altar:
It is what I would use more often than not in the presence of a Christian friend who wished to attend my ritual. This is also where the heremetic philosophies of the Kyballion allow for there to be witchy changes and views. All of them are essentially the same practice, but the rituals are designed to be related to be specific to that path and that practice.
Finally I can start getting into some of the more path specific altars regarding more culture specific altars. This next section is directed more towards those who have found the deities and the paths they follow. Some of these are more recon style (recreating in modern day to the best of their ability the ancient religions of various cultures) and some are still semi inspired by previous eclectic practices.
Asatru & Other Germanic faiths
Asatru is the recon of the Norse beliefs and religion. The focus is typically on the Aesir. The primary sources of their lore is the poetry and the sagas of the Norse and Germanic people. These inclde the Poetic and Prose Eddas, the Sagas of the Icelanders, The Vinland Saga, and many more. The altars and worship style is very simple and elegent. Their rituals are known as a Sumbel or a Blot depending on the content and the like. Both of those are other topics I will bring up over the course of this year.
I have two sample altars to show you:
This is an altar that some one shared online. The tools are simple and the ritual is still rather joyous and intimate. The next altar shows what each item is called and as I said I’ll be going over this in more depth when I discuss Blots.
The next two religions are often discussed together as they are very much associated. The first is Greek reconstruction often known as Hellenismos and the second is Religio Romano which is the reconstruction of the Roman paths. There are some very substantial differences between the two paths. To be honest I haven’t explored either of these paths as indepth as I would like. While I do have an interest in both of those as they were the first deities I met and worked and worshiped as a teen my path and practices have lead me in other directions.
Both altars are dedicated to the Olympic or Cthonic Gods. There are very interesting cleanliness restrictions of these rituals and in their worship that in some ways to me is ridiculous. However they also had the most sophisticated sanitation and irrigation systems than any other cultures of their time.
Religio Romano: Roman Reconstruction
The altar in the traditions of ancient Rome was called the larium, There are specific designations for what goes on the larium and in the practices of their religion. They also have very strict cleanliness requirements. They also hold that if there is any mistake in the performance of a ritual they must cleanse themselves and the larium and start the ritual over from the begining. It is a orthopraxic religion much like Wicca though they focus on any and all of the Roman Gods.
As you can see there are some very different altar structures and set ups for the different paths one may encounter as they seek. You may find yourself attracted to one culture and want to learn more about how they were worshiped in ancient times and then find that you may find it’s to strict for you so you do something inspired by them. That is why the first post was about seeking and basic introductions and the second post was mostly directed at specific paths and how they are different.
Frigga: The All Mother
One of the things I have mentioned is that I have a connection to the Nordic deities. The three deities I have the most connection with are Frigga, Odin, Niord. The first Blot I ever held was in honor of Odin and Bragi as poets. I have since honored Nirod at school. Nirod being the God of the seas is quite at home on my college campus (which is on the ocean and has three beaches on the campus). Odin and Nirod came first. Then I started to be open to Frigga as there were mother issues I have had to over come.
My relationship with Frigga came out of a desire to help heal my abandonment issues from my biological mother. I am adopted. When I was two and a half the state took me away from my her due to the abuse and living situation. I had never really forgotten the pain that caused me. Since that day I had abandonment issues.
It got even worse when I was six and taken away from my Foster family that had raised me for four years. Those wounds were things that have hurt me deep. Several years ago my adoptive mother (from now on called mom) moved away. I felt abandoned as she had always been about half an hour drive away. Now she was almost three hours away. I felt alone and abandoned.
With Frigga’s love and embrace I was able to start to forgive my parents for the abandonment I was feeling. I started to feel the pain that they had for leaving me. I began to see that it was their love, the true unconditional love of a mother that was what let them have me go under the care of another family. The immense anger and rage I felt towards them was dissipated. There remained a bit of anger, but it was towards the men who abused me and not the mother who let the abuse happen.
When my mom moved back into the area develop a more mature relationship with my mother. My mother until that point has still been controlling and wouldn’t accept no as an answer to a question regarding what’s going on in my life. She even still unrolls my pant legs when they get rolled up…It for me was really annoying.
I called on her to help me develop a relationship where she would respect my boundries as an adult. I didn’t want her to ask about my finances or my therapy or anything any more. That stuff was no longer her daily concern. After giving an offering to Frigga I started to have the courage to stand up to my mom.
It was her devotion to Baldur that got my attention. When she heard of the prophecy of Baldur’s death she traveled all the worlds and made all the plants and animals vow that they would not harm Baldur. Even though she forgot the mistletoe she was still devoted entirely to saving her son’s life.
While my relationship with Frigga started out asking for her advice on helping me with a mother, there was much more that developed. When I found my love for philosophy and began to understand what true wisdom was she started to become stronger. It is said that Frigga is the wisest of the Goddesses and that she knows the Fate of all things though she speaks it not.
Her wisdom is one of the reasons I have continued to have a relationship with her. She is wise and I aspire to be as wise as I can in her honor. I feel that she has forced her hand in my life towards become a philosopher and ultimately a teacher and priestess who helps others find wisdom. I also feel her arms wrapped around me as my own mother.
I have also felt Frigga angry with me when I have been highly disrespectful to my parents. I feel as if her eyes are looking at me coldly. I then end up getting calm and apologize and try to explain what my feelings were much easier. I try to do my best to honor Frigga by being a good daughter and learning all the lessons that come my way.