A Frankish Creation

Once, there was nothing but swirling blackness. This blackness stretched as far as the eye could see in all directions, and in the center, it twisted and melted and crushed itself together to create a great monster, the giant Reo. He was simple, but large, and would spend his days laying on his back, staring idly at the almost invisible movements of the darkness.

The darkness made a second creature, a cow, and her milk would feed Reo as she chewed on the hair of his head as if it were grass. And in these early days, things were not yet separate, so that Reo was both man and woman, and the cow was also a bull. So it came to pass that Reo gave birth to a son and a daughter, and the cow gave birth to Inguo and Isto and Irmin, the first Gods. Reo stupidly allowed the young of both races to dance and play on his face, ignoring them like so much dust, and the giants and Gods became grown, and the Gods married the daughters of the giants and the two races flourished.

But one day, the cow stopped producing milk, no longer able to support so many young men and women. There was a panic; the Gods and the giants feared they would die of starvation and thirst. But Inguo had an idea, and gathered his brothers. “We will kill Reo,” he said, “and his blood will become water to drink and his flesh will become meat to eat.” And his brothers agreed, so they traveled through the mess of Reo’s hair and struck him over the head, and a great spring formed from the wound.

The blood from Reo’s head was too much, and threatened to drown all the creatures who lived on his face, and so the Gods fashioned a great pole, on which they propped him up. This being done, the blood from Reo’s wound ran down in rivulets, dripping over his face and chest, and became all the rivers and oceans of the world, and the Gods could sail down these rivers or climb down their pole to reach the worlds beneath Reo’s head, which they called Salihaim.

The giants were very angry with the Gods for killing their ancestor, and came to Salihaim bearing weapons. So Tiw, who the Romans called Mars, stepped forward, and said to them, “Was it not good that we killed Reo? Had he lived, we would have all died thirsty, but now there are many rivers of fresh water for us to drink.” And the Giants told Tiw, “we have nearly drowned because of your meddling, and we will not leave until we have had revenge!” Hearing this, Tiw went to Inguo and had all his brothers called to arms, and they drove the giants down to the bottom of the pole, and into the thick hair of Reo’s legs, and they called that Widuhaim and left it to the giants, who grew angrier with every passing day.

So it was that the Gods descended into the area of Reo’s belly, seeking to harvest food there. They tore deep gashes in his stomach and made them into fields, and grew many kinds of things. But they tired from farming, and from fighting back the giants, who were now building great fortresses in this land, and so they set to making allies. Inguo and his brothers cut two trees, and alder and an apple, and from the alder made a man and the apple a woman, and named them Aldar and Apaldar. They left the humans alone for a time, and upon returning found they had no sons, but three daughters.

Seeing this, the Gods thought it was no good, and so Irmin laid with the youngest of them, and fathered many sons and daughters, and sent them throughout the land. And Isto laid with the middlemost daughter, and had many sons and daughters, and sent them throughout the land. And Inguo laid with the eldest daughter, and had many sons and daughters, and sent them throughout the land. From them, all the men of the world descended, and the Gods called this world of men Bodohaim.

The Gods now went forth and taught lessons to the men. Inguo taught them how to fish the seas and till the earth, and to breed cattle and pigs, and those who learned Inguo’s lessons were among the largest part of all men. Donar came among the men, and from the farmers and uneducated both he taught them how to fight, and his made up the next largest part of men, and in this way Donar came to know both the world’s warriors and those who took lessons from Inguo. Finally, Tiw went among the men and taught them what was just, and when to make war, and how to pray, and the smallest part of men learned under him, and it was from these lessons the types of men were decided, and the descendants of Inguo, Isto, and Irmin chose kings from the smallest class on the advice of their ancestors, and created many kingdoms.

And that is how the world and the kinds of men came about.

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The Birth and The Becoming

Let’s be harshly honest here: heathens do not generally become heathens because of superior philosophical leanings in Heathenry. That’s not to say that the philosophy is flawed or inferior in some way- I would hold the opposite, in fact. What I mean is, most of us are not heathens because in the beginning, we agreed that this was a worldview of fundamental truth.

Heathens, for the most part, come into this religion by some mixture of three currents: Romance, Reaction, and Revelation. True, we are seeing an increasing number of second and third generation heathens reaching adulthood and keeping the faith, but the vast majority of us are converts, from a culture where there are few people out converting through reason and morality. We come to Heathenry with less than pure intentions, although ultimately, I don’t think it’s our intentions that matter here.

Many of us start out eclectic pagans, witches, or occultists. Here, all three currents are present- We are Reacting against a perceived spiritual lack in the overculture, we are taken in by Romance of an old religion from an old world with old Gods, and it is not uncommon for those already mystically aligned to be pushed over the edge into a germanic religio-magical practice by a Revelation.

Heathenry flourishes in hotbeds of racism. This is again Romantic and Reactionary, a longing to return to world as understood by a mythologized white race that never existed, a lashing back at a society that one feels they are losing a foothold in, driven by an overculture that is more and more blurring the lines between one thing and another, which can be threatening to some people. In prisons and gangs, we see people turning to an old European religion in an attempt to understand and justify this threat, to make sense of a world that collides with an immutable worldview, and adopting it’s tenants to hold together a group of like minded individuals.

Military Heathenry, Ethnic Heathenry, Asatru, Northern Tradition Shamanism, seemingly endless pools of Heathens who do things in seemingly endless combinations of ways, being pulled together by these three main currents. Some people remain in their pool forever, living their lives twenty something years and longer as Asatruar, as Seax-Wiccans, as an Odinist, while others lose interest and return to the overculture a Christian or Atheist. I’m not judging these people in the slightest; part of the human condition is our utter inability to know what is happening in heaven, and there’s certainly value in the majority of these things. What I’m doing here is acknowledging; some people move away from the larger subsets of Heathenry and simply begin to call themselves “Heathens”, often with tribal or cultural modifiers. These people begin to change, to change in the way other heathens may not.

This is a process of Becoming. It’s been said before, it’s been written about in pages and pages, but it’s what we are doing in every moment of Heathenry. We focus our efforts, we see something we want, and we begin to Become. As we learn and study, we are more and more convinced that there is something there for us, that there is something lost that needs to be reclaimed, that we are doing this for a reason beyond our initial Romanticism or Reactionism or divine experience. This is something we want.

It’s a long process, and I’m not sure if it can ever be finished. It took me about three years to just grasp the idea of Wyrd, and even now I’m making near constant tiny modifications to my understanding of a foundational concept. And it’s not just understanding; we are always doing, Becoming something new in our actions as well as thoughts. I, personally, have found it harder to lie, to cheap out, because Heathenry has fundamentally altered the way I look at the world- Do not break your oaths, do not go back on your word, because that is not right, that is dishonorable. This is a good change, it is a change I am proud of, I am proud I have become someone honest and reliable where if I had walked a different road I may not have, and it is profound. I have, in that way, Become a heathen.

But it’s never enough. There are always a thousand milestones, roadmarks we aren’t even aware exist at times, to making us more heathen. There are always roads we look at and must decide, “Should this be left in the past?”. Every day, we alter the world we walk in because we alter ourselves. Every day, we do things in a thousand unheathen ways- How many of us blaspheme because we’re told all along either that our Gods aren’t real, or that they “have a sense of humor”? How many of us fail to return a gift because the thought doesn’t even cross our mind? How many of us value our sense of individuality so highly we allow it to harm others in our lives? Do you genuinely believe that the dead are not gone? Do you disrespect your surroundings, never thinking for once that a sapience might be living in that forest, in your attic?

Heathens are going to be constantly barraged by thoughts from two currents- the overculture, and the new age. We will never be able to achieve a perfect balance between Heathenry and the overculture, and it is senseless to try and appease the New Age, but we must regularly come to terms with the thoughts these things give us. Both of them will call us strange and maybe even ostracize us for piety- Most people don’t handle well the idea of multiple Gods, and too many that acknowledge Gods lash out at the idea of worship. Our practices and philosophies may seem brutal and outdated- we build rock altars and sacrifice chickens on them, we are, by and large, not pacifists who believe that everything must be resolved with minimal damage.

We cannot allow the process of Becoming to alienate us, because without our communities, heathen or otherwise, we will be incomplete. But I do not think I am alone when I say we cannot allow ourselves to revert, to become another generic pagan, to be re-christianized, because we have seen and felt things that we can no longer live without. We have experienced the ecstasy of worship, we have known the peace of brotherhood, and we have built foundations of the moral-legal rocks of oaths and frith. If anything, we need to double down on our efforts, for those of us who the Becoming has not yet become naturalized, and go deeper into what it is to be heathen, to explore this world with every aspect of us, our logical minds, our emotional hearts, our practical bodies, and to explain and dissect, to encourage others, to move forward at all costs.

An Update

Well, I’m finally back in Louisiana and well rested after a long trip for work. Quite a bit has happened, religiously speaking, since December, and as such I think it’s time for an update.

As some of you might already know, I was recently made gravio in the TFA. It’s a very exciting development! Since I’m now back home, I’m beginning to observe the prerequisite obligations. I am currently preparing offerings to the local spirits and gods, which will hopefully all be made before I leave again. The first will be an offering made in Lake Charles. The location I’ve chosen is near I-10 bridge (in vulgar cajun, “that death trap we still drive on”), the spot where the Calcasieu River empties into Big Lake, which in turn empties into the Gulf of Mexico through canals and smaller rivers. I think it’s an ideal spot, culturally intertwined into the local understandings of what Lake Charles is and physically connected to all the major waterways of Calcasieu. I’m currently gathering coins to present as the offering, and collecting them in my ritual cup. When it’s full, I’m headed out to the site and presenting the cup full of coinage along with dip and some sort of drink (likely milk, since I cannot easily get good wine). After that, I’ll have a few more cities and towns to make similar offerings in.

I am also organizing a desk I’ve had for some time and converting it into a scriptorium. Ideally, I’d have at least a corner to set aside solely for this purpose, but this will do in the short term, until I move. There’s quite a bit of cleaning to do still, because I am the antithesis of an organized purpose. Religion, at least, gives me a reason to keep things neat. I still don’t know why I’m finding middle school papers, especially since I did not live in this house when I was in middle school. I have my eye on a certain calligraphy set that I want to use as part of the parcel, and would also like to put a few icons on desk as well, but I think all that is a bit far off at the moment. As it is, I have a desk. A messy, messy desk. At least I have a journal I’m using exclusively for religious records.

In non-strictly TFA religious works, this year I will be holding a mock human sacrifice to Nerthus. The highlight of the affair will be a doll I’ve been coddling since December, my dear, sweet Annabelle. I anointed her with a small amount of a libation and named her during a religious ceremony, and she has been traveling with me and observing my rituals. In place of a larger statue, I’ll be washing and worshiping my personal icon of Nerthus, which usually remains on my altar. The sacrifice of Annabelle will take place alongside offerings of food and drink, sometime around the dawn of spring.

As of early January this year, I’ve been fooling around with my first store bought rune kit. I haven’t read runes in years, not since I was a teenager drawing them on pennies with sharpies, but I think I still got it. While I’ve recently taken an interest to other forms of divination, such as augury, I’ll likely also read runes after major rituals to help clarify any signs that may be present.

I’ve been mulling around a lot of ideas in my mind for things to write. Ancestor worship, cult sites, prayers, adaptations of Salic Law, ect. Expect to see a good bit of writing coming from me in the next few months.

Perchta and Frau Holle: A Gory Fairy Godmother

Berchta is an interesting, complex, and all too often forgotten deity. She is likely synonymous with Holda, being similar in function and existing in regions where Holda does not. Despite having no written record on the scale of other continental or cross-cultural deities, she appears across Germanic cultures and left behind a rich tapestry woven of festivals, footnotes, and fairy tales.

I would like to put forward that Berchta is a dualistic deity- on one hand, she spins flax and watches over the children, and on the other she is a monstrous maiden of the forest. She is a unique mix of “hearth and hell”. This much is evidenced by the Perchtenlauf festival of Austria. Here, two groups of people dress as opposing races of spirits- the Schonperchten and the Schiachperchten, or beautiful and ugly perchten, respectively. These two groups then have a mock battle with sticks as part of the festivities. Here, we have two seemingly contradictory sets of entities taking their name from Berchta (Perchta). This festival is likely a recreation of myth, representing the struggle between Good and Evil or some similar concept, and we have our goddess presiding over both sides.

The Perchtenlauf festival is not alone in it’s association of Berchta with both beautiful and ugly creatures. In Scandinavian tales, we find the Huldra, a name possibly connected to Holda (It’s worth noting that “Holda” means something along the lines of “Kindly” whereas Huldra means “Hidden”). Here, the beautiful and the ugly are divided by gender, with the beautiful Huldrafolk being female and the ugly male. These are entities closely associated with forests and underground places, with the females being generally kind to humans.

Grimm gives an absolute treasure trove Perchta/Holda’s grisly nature; he describes her as one of the leaders of the wild hunt, with one foot like a swan’s, and having the form of both a young maiden and an old hag. He suggests that she was once a goddess of very high standing. Later Christians associated her with Diana, Herodias, and Abundia, in this case associating her with witchcraft and the Fair Folk. But despite the grisly, chaotic nature of Berchta, she was also a goddesses of rewards, punishment, and prosperity. As “The Bellyslitter”, she would gut children who misbehaved, but she would also leave silver coins for good children. As Frau Holle, she sees that the good daughter is rewarded handsomely while the bad daughter receives a rather nasty burn. In Bavaria, Thomas Ebendorfer denounces the practice of leaving Perchta food offerings in hopes of receiving blessings. In the Rhineland, we can find three devotional stones raised to one “Hludana”, possibly Holda (But also, perhaps some iteration of Eorthe after the Norse “Hlodyn”). Even the names suggest beneficence: Holda roughly means “Kindly” whereas Perchta is “Bright”.

Berchta/Holda is an adequately two sided goddess, representing at her most cruel a dealer of harsh punishments and leader of evil spirits, who takes the souls of stillborns and guts bad kids, but at the same time a beautiful goddess of bounty who rewards kindness and hard work. She is as closely associated with the forest and witchcraft as she is the home and spinning. While I think we still have a long way to go in terms of understanding this goddess, I would definitely like to remain on her good side.

As a little aside, Perchta’s worship picked up during winter. She associated with the twelve days between Christmas and the Epiphany, and even the Epiphany itself, likely as a holdover of earlier festivals and feasts. During these days, people would leave behind bowls of food for the goddess. Additionally, the Perchtenlauf in the Tyrol occurs around the Christmas season. In Slovenia, at least, she was associated with the Ember Days, or three days of significance each season in the Catholic church, possibly a holdover from Roman agricultural customs.

Book Review- We Are Our Deeds

“We Are Our Deeds” has pretty much cemented it’s place as a seminal text of modern heathenry, despite being less than a hundred pages excluding prefaces, appendices, etc. As with essentially everything about modern paganism, there’s a fair bit of politics surrounding the text, and while I’m far from an objective observer, I’m going to leave this for readers to look into themselves if they’re so inclined and focus primarily on content.

“We Are Our Deeds” is essentially a short exploration on Anglo-Saxon morality from a mostly historic perspective. As opposed to purely textual or comparative analysis, the text is about 90% etymology, and good etymology is always something we could use more of. I’m not much of a philologist myself, but I did do a bit of fact checking (not always easy with indo-european words, unfortunately) and it all seems fairly sound, by my reckoning. Some words will be recognized as staples of modern heathen “lingo”, like maegen, whereas others will come across as foreign to newbies, such a Wihaz. Regardless of how long you’ve been heathen, the “wordhoard” or dictionary in the back makes a handy little reference, although I’d like having one a bit longer on my shelves.

For those coming from a more eclectic or less traditionalist pagan culture, one is likely to find a fair bit that contradicts idioms frequently espoused by demographics like Asatruar. The book discusses heathen sin, the delineation of the sacred and profane, and the implications of things such as bodily illness in terms of morality. This is a treat for me, because I am a bitter old hag, who likes making people stammer and cry. From all this, it would become clear that this is a reconstructionist work even if one is unfamiliar with the name “Wodening”. I would want to complain about the oversimplification of the strict definitions of words in some places, but I recognize that brevity is one of the book’s virtues and a pedantic analysis of vocabulary would probably detract rather than improve.

I took issue to the listing of the “thews” in the later chapters, but even Wodening recognizes the futility of the exercise, and is pretty hand-wavy regarding any sort of authority or objectivity in them. If these were presented as a bit more absolute, I’d likely rage and rage, but as they are, the list provides a good, succinct reference. They aren’t worth using as some kind of list of “heathen commandments”, and as a code aren’t much better than the Nine Noble Virtues, but ultimately make a useful simplification to pick up the ideas at a glance.

The text is very good at establishing a coherent worldview. It tends to follow threads back to their source and then on to other threads, weaving the tapestry of how all these little heathen concepts interconnect and build off one another. It gives passing mention to other concepts like wyrd and luck, while introducing others that one might not be as familiar with. While the specific scope of the book can be seen as a bit narrow, lending to the brevity of the work, it overall manages to work its way into a much wider historic narrative.

Those of you who are writers or editors yourself might find this one a difficult read. It’s loaded with grammar and spelling mistakes, and it can honestly be very distracting. I make the same mistakes constantly, but the sheer volume of of errors is pretty disconcerting. As far as I’m aware, there aren’t mistakes in the Old English terms that are translated, so the issue seems to be primarily legibility and not practicality.

Overall, “We Are Our Deeds” is a book definitely worth picking up. It’s almost required reading at this point, recommended almost as often as Culture of the Teutons. It’s fairly cheap and a light read, so money and time shouldn’t prove much of an issue. I would recommend grabbing some aspirin for the headaches and some other authors to double check the relevance of anything that doesn’t seem applicable, though.

FAQ

WHO ARE YOU?

I am Frankish Heathen of Cajun descent living in Louisiana. I have been a polytheist since age 13 and a heathen since age 15. I am a member of TFA (Thia Franskisk AldSido/The Frankish Aldsidery).

WHAT IS FRANKISH HEATHENRY?

Frankish Heathenry is a new religious movement that seeks to reconstruct and preserve the customs of the Franks in a way that is applicable to the modern world. It is a polytheistic, animistic tradition that place emphasis on civility, prestige, and respect for family both living and dead.

HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER FORMS OF HEATHENRY?

Frankish heathens are set apart from other Germanic pagans due to our recognition and use of the heavy syncretism apparent in regions occupied by Franks. It is in some ways a mixture of Roman, Celtic, and Germanic religions. Because of this mixture, and because of the unique historical conditions the Frankish tribes were forged in, we exhibit differences in cultus from other heathens, including calling divinity by Roman names, performing rituals that may not be present in other forms of heathenry, and adopting gods of Gaul and Rome into a generally Germanic practice.

Additionally, while many sects may appear as Frankish heathenry grows and becomes more popular, TFA recognizes the divinity of the King Merovech and the need for a formal organizational structure.

WHAT SOURCES DO YOU USE?

Sources may vary, but I am personally fond of Tacitus, Grimm, Gregory of Tours, Culture of the Teutons, The Well and the Tree, Beowulf, Legends of Charlemagne, and the Lex Salica, as well as comparative studies and the occasional necessitated borrowing of tradition from other Indo-European polytheists.

DO YOU PERFORM SACRIFICES?

Yes! Frankish heathens will sacrifice food, drink, valuables, and in some cases, animals (killed humanely, of course) to the Gods and wights. Among those that worship Nerthus, there is some presence of the practice of mock human sacrifices performed by making an effigy in the shape of a human person and offering it up with the other sacrifices, no slaves harmed in the production of these rites.

DO I HAVE TO BE WHITE TO BE A FRANKISH HEATHEN?

Not at all! TFA is very much open to people of non-French or non-European descent joining, although there is a larger number of those of french descent, due to the nature of Frankish heathenry tending to attract those with hereditary ties. Additionally, I personally refuse to accept both racialist and transphobic practices within the heathen community and wholly support a person being welcomed into to heathenry regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ect., based their merits and not their circumstances.

SO WHAT EXACTLY IS TFA?

TFA is, to my knowledge, the largest and most prominent group of Frankish heathens that exists today. You do not have to be in TFA to be a Frankish heathen, and TFA has a certain theology that sets it apart from other heathens.

The Ankou, The Agony, The Reaper

The Ankou is not a god, but a spirit of the graveyard. Typically associated with the Bretons, I believe him to be much more widespread throughout the Celtic and French world, which I will explain further later. For the moment, let’s look at his attributes.

 

In “The Legend of Death”, Anatole Le Braz claims that The Ankou was “The Henchman of Death”, and was the last dead of the previous year. Here, Ankou is the protector of the graveyard and the collector of souls. To build on this, his name literally  translates as “The Agony”, marking this as one immediately associated with fear and pain, through death. On the topic of the purely scholarly nature of his identity I’ll say little more, except that there are carvings of Ankou throughout Brittany and his presence survives in modern folklore. Hopefully, Le Braz gives an accurate summary of his nature, because we will need it in mind as we explore the presence of The Ankou elsewhere.

 

THE OTHER ANKOU

 

Ankou-like creatures are found throughout the Celtic world. As these aren’t my area of expertise nor interest, I’ll give a simple rundown of a few.

 

Among the Manx, there is the Keimagh, a spirit that watches over cemeteries. He is not well attested, the only reference to him I know of being a short insert in an old dictionary of Manx folklore.

 

In Scottish folklore, we have the concept of “The Grave Watch”. This is the duty of the most recently deceased person to watch over the boneyard and protect the bodies therein.

 

While I am hesitant to associate The Dullahan with The Ankou, there are those who do so. If this interests you, please read up on Dullahan lore, since I find the evidence to be flimsy enough to deserve little more than a passing mention.

 

I think it is quite clear that Ankou-like creatures are a hallmark of Celtic myth and originated either in Gaul before being imported to the British Isles, or in the British Isles before being imported to Francia.

 

THE COMING TO FRANCIA

 

Would the Franks have been aware of the Ankou? I would argue yes, undeniably. While he did not pick up popularity among what we commonly think of as “Franks”, the simple fact of the matter is that Ankou legends primarily existed in an area of Frankish presence, and must have arrived from the British Isles during the 4th century, when the Bretons immigrated to modern France. If we mark the 6th century, when Clovis converted to Catholicism, to mark the end point of Frankish Paganism, this gives us two centuries for the myths to diffuse. Not only this, but Frankish soldiers would be exposed when they traveled abroad at the behest of Rome, further increasing their contact with The Ankou. It was not that the Franks did not know of Ankou, it was that the Franks did not speak of The Ankou, whether it be from disbelief, disinterest, or some other reason. Certainly, the Normans, who eventually, through assimilation and intermarriage, became indistinguishable from the Franks (although it would be more accurate to think about that the other way around, or rather to think of this issue in simplicity rather than complexity, before the ethnic jumble that was Francia dissolves our weak, mortal minds), knew of him.

 

THE RELEVANCE TO MODERN PRACTICE

 

The Ankou is not a god, but a spirit. He is not to be worshipped, but perhaps regarded, respected, feared. Ankou stains our mind in the way as superstition does, becoming a habit, a story, something we may not fully believe, but acknowledge nonetheless.

 

And not all Frankish Heathens will even acknowledge The Ankou. The Franks were a big boiling pot in which a bit of everything was dumped, and not in equal proportions; go to one city, and they will believe a different thing than the next city, or the same city 50 years before, go to one family and they will disagree with every other. This was not a homogenous lot, and the Ankou was a narrower belief than many.

 

For most people, there will be no need for the Ankou to be relevant. He was confined to a small geographic region on the continent; he is most strongly associated with a different ethnic group. For others, the allure of the skeletal gate keeper of the cemetery will be too much, and they will find themselves announcing themselves when they go to leave their offerings at the graves, perhaps leaving some closer to the gates.

 

Take him or leave him, The Ankou was in Francia. Whether we bring him overseas and across time is a question that has yet to be answered.

A Meditation on Frith

Frith is something that is always heavy on the minds of heathens. It is something that many insist is at the heart of the worldview, and I don’t entirely disagree with them. However, it is something we have great difficulty comprehending, as it is completely at odds with modern life. Many of us have broken Frith, and many of us have forged the chains of Frith without understanding what we are doing.

 

Frith is something that does not exist in our modern society. This is simply truth; the concept is, at it’s heart, alien to us. Many times, when we partake in Frith, we are experiencing a watered down version of us, tempered by our modern understanding of the world. Frith is universal law. It is as inevitable as the rising of the sun; it is as unbreakable as human will. At least, these are the ideals, the true nature of it.

 

Frith is the power of the oath. The elder heathens had Frith simply by being born; the act of birth itself was an oath to the clan. Simply being born entailed that one must strive to protect the clan. Frith was not easily broken in elder times; should one brother kill another, the third would not take action against him, but rather shield him from persecution. To break Frith was not only unthinkable, but impossible; those who manages this feat were abberrations of the highest order, an inexplicable anonmoly in an otherwise sensible universe. To kill ones brother for killing ones brother was unthinkable; it would only increase the pain one felt, and only further weaken the clan.

 

But Frith was not the passive allowance of another to do as he wishes; it was to protect those who engage in it, actively, without heed for anything else. The murderous brother would not only be allowed to live, but would be protected from the forces of the law for as long as possible. A brother could not testify against a brother, but this was not written law; this was unspoken truth, this was an unalterable fact of how the world worked.

 

It was not only the bond of blood that formed Frith. Frith was the creator and the creation of the oath; the oath could not be abandoned, for to do so would be to break Frith. This is the essence of marriage; it is taking in a lover as if they were blood, by means of oaths. This is what was meant by blood brothers, an oath, a bond of words and love so intense that one would protect a man as he would his own brother, without fail.

 

Frith is dangerous. Indeed, Frith cannot harmoniously exist in modern society. To maintain Frith, pure Frith, in the form of the elder heathen, makes one toe a dangerous line. How long before one is charged with harboring a fugitive because their brother committed some atrocity? How much abuse must we take because we cannot raise a hand or hold court against our father? How many horrid, “newbie” mistakes must we make, only to learn later that we took an oath before our gods and clan that bound us in spirit and blood to some shameful creature? When faced with these honest inevitabilities, how will we come to terms with Frith? Will we fight our society, and protect our brothers against all odds, soiling our names, our reputations, and our opportunities, perhaps doing more damage to the clan than if we had turned him over? Will we continue to dilute Frith, to allow it to become nearly meaningless? Will we be willing to sacrifice ourselves for another, bound by an oath we had no choice in taking?

 

Thankfully, Frith is less binding to us today, for the simple matter that we do not take our birth-oath; our society does not demand that we harbor our blood from the law. Our society does not demand that our falling outs remain in the family, that we forgo recompense from our transgressors simply because a shared progenitor does not approve. Our oaths are different; yes, we must protect our brother, but the extent to which we are socially obligated is lesser; our responsibility to our parents, that written by our society in our deep seated unspoken codes, is to return the favor of care when they cannot care for themselves. Our duties are different, but the oath was taken at our birth, and it is different from the one the Elders took.

 

And what when we oath ourselves to others? Marriage. Blood brothers. Kindreds. Tribes. These are all meant to be lasting unions; divorce is painful and difficult, both through the processes of law and the processes of the heart. Who do we oath ourselves to? We must take greatest care. The wrong oath can ruin our reputations, and if we stick to them as faithfully as our elders did, our very lives. What madman would oath themselves to pedophile, knowing full well what he was? And yet it happens. If he was unknowing, he may be given a pardon, even honored, as one who was tricked, but stood by his oath. But who would risk a tying himself inexorably to a man who cannot be forgiven in the eyes of society, and defaming not only himself, but all those oathed to him, by blood or word?

 

And yet these things happen. Frith is dangerous, tricky. When brought under the slightest scrutiny, how we interact with it will defame us. Should we neglect it, we are defamed in our faith. Should we embrace it fully, we risk defamation at the hands of our society.

 

Reputation, honor, Frith. These things are difficult, perhaps impossible, to reconcile with our lives as we born into. Sometimes, the lives we were born into alters these things, turns them into something new. We can walk among this New Frith, this New Honor, for a while, but in the face of other heathens, we will be asked if it is enough. And as heathens, we need to place our foot down, and decide what is enough.

Tiw or Mars Thincus

At Housesteads Roman Fort, located along Hadrian’s Wall, two altars bearing inscriptions to “Mars Thincus” were found. This god is immediately recognizable as Germanic in origin, as “Thincus” itself means “of the Thing”, and is believed to have been imported by Roman soldiers from Belgium. In all likelihood, Mars Thincus is identical to Tiw or Tiu (Norse Tyr).

Tyr is at his most basic the god of War, Justice, and Law. To delve more into his myths, we find a widespread belief (as evidenced textually by the various rune poems) that he had only one hand. The Eddas explain this further, claiming he lost his right hand in a gesture of sacrifice which allowed the wolf Fenrir to be bound and cast away. We see his name appear in Tuisto, an ancestral deity of several continental tribes, and entomologically his name is related to that of the proto-european Sky God, although his nature changed into a more martial or legalistic deity by the time Germanic myths began being recorded and there’s no solid evidence of such a nature archeologically. He lends his name to the Tiwaz rune, which has a shape often referred to as a stylized spear.

Since Tiw was associated with Mars by the Romans, I should also give an overview of this Roman god. Keep in mind that I am no where nearly as well read in Roman matters, and that it would probably help a great deal to research the cult of Mars yourself. I will be expanding on my understanding of Mars Thincus as time goes on, as I continue researching and studying his cult. Much of the information given here can be found at ( http://www.deomercurio.be/en/marti.html ) and was fact-checked by Hellenic friend of mine.

Mars was a protective deity of the Roman empire, especially associated with war. In this role, he was of a different temperament of Ares, the Greek war God, who was more impulsive and tended to begin quarrels and end them with violence. Mars, in contrast, was more level headed and embodied qualities of honor, using violence not to “prove” anything, but rather to protect the Gods and the Empire. There were also cults of Mars that seemingly had no martial quality, cementing him as the protector of the empire. In his iconography, he is usually represented by a man in armor, holding a sword, spear, and/or shield, and sometimes having a beard. He lacks a physical anomoly as distinctive as Tiw’s missing hand.

Using what we know these two gods, we can begin to paint a picture of Tiw as Mars Thincus: we are presented with an honorable warrior, a protector of the people, capable of great sacrifice. We have very little in the way of iconography (although I have heard there is an icon out there somewhere, I have not been able to find a photo or description of it), but since Mars Thincus presumably leans more to the Germanic side of the scale (as will be discussed), it should be appropriate to portray him in a manner similar to Tyr: a bearded, one-handed warrior-king.

Now, it would be useful to look at the name and the circumstances surrounding the small cult site to Mars Thincus at Housesteads. This was a fort along a wall, but it is notable in that the fort’s main purpose was seemingly not to defend the wall. It was positioned unusually and there is no evidence of a battle of any sort having taken place there (unless, perhaps, you wish to call an ancient double homicide a “battle”). Although it was said to have held 800 soldiers, it was likely only a fraction of that maximum was present at any given time, as others were on leave or stationed elsewhere. While Housesteads would probably be able to hold up in a battle, it clearly was not meant primarily for the defense of Hadrian’s Wall. Rather, it was near, and oriented facing, a road. The Fort was likely there as a bit of “Law Enforcement”, to solidify Roman rule in Britain. Soldiers would patrol the road and apprehend criminals and outlaws who fled to the edges of Roman country, as well as discourage highwaymen from committing crimes along this road. Ironically, the fort’s remoteness and pre-supplied defenses made it a hiding spot for criminals in later centuries, after the Romans had left Britain.

If these soldiers were not engaged in combat during their stay at Housesteads, why did it become a cult site for a war God? Well, quite simply, Mars Thincus would have been predisposed to protecting soldiers in any situation, given his status as a deity of war, but the answer also lies in the name. “Thincus”, or “Thing”, refers to a meeting of community leaders in Germanic cultures (the details of what happened here may vary from tribe to tribe). Mars Thincus was not Mars the Warrior or Tiw the Hero, but rather he was Tiw, Lord of the Thing. He protected the Roman soldiers on a legal and social level, perhaps favored due to their duty as the “ancient cops” of this area, or perhaps he was offered to do that he may preside over certain military procedures or rituals.

Back on the continent, Mars Thincus or Tiw may have been invoked at the Thing, or petitioned before a trial for good luck in court. Tacitus claims the Germanic tribes laid down laws in accordance to the will of the God of battle (that is, Tiw), so he could have been turned to for guidance, or by lawmakers and Kings, and his perceived will could be used as justification for what is deemed “right” or “wrong”.

On a final note, it should be said that Mars Thincus was not worshipped alone. Inscriptions at Housesteads link him to the alaisiagae, a pair of Celtic Warrior godesses. I’ll be looking more into this connection in the future, and then combine the information on these deities into a workable practice.

Establishing the Hearth Cult

It may be best to envision heathenry as a series of cults. The lowest, foundational cult would in such a model be the hearth cult, the home. This is where the family comes together and worships, and where we live out our ideals day to day. Recognizing that many heathens are solitary, this will be written from the perspective of the individual, for the individual, though it should be easily adapted for the family, and uses germanic, roman, and gallo-roman inspirations for practice.

The Ancestors

The Veneration of ancestors is one of the foundational practices of modern heathens. This, more than any other hearth practice, should be personal and regionalized. You know best what would please your family.

I suggest paying respect to the religion of your ancestors; as I come from a Catholic family, my altar includes a bible, a rosary, and saint medallions, and I sometimes say a hail mary over the altar. Also recommended is leaving offerings that would be appreciated by the recently deceased, those you knew in life. I like to leave my grandmother offerings of coffee and dew berries, and sometimes I share my morning coffee with her as I tell her about my week.

That being said, the ancestor altar should also have the basic rudiments of ritual in order to be conducive to contact with the deceased. An altar, at minimum, should have a candle, white or of a color enjoyed by a certain ancestor, a glass for leaving simple drink offerings, and photos of the deceased, as an icon. I also choose to leave items I received as gifts for the recently deceased.

Those longer dead may be referred to simply as “the ancestors”. It is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to recall and honor the entirety of one’s lineage by name. You may also choose to include particularly notable ancestors of the distant past in your more in depth worship. For Americans of Old World descent, you may choose your First American Ancestor.

Remember, an altar is not the only way to honor your ancestors, nor is it the most traditional. Praising the ancestor’s names and deeds is a very common, and I feel necessary, practice.

The House Wihte

There are questions to answer when discussing house wihtes. In my personal opinion, these are not animistic representations of the house, as some may argue. Rather, when looking at the fairy tales of Europe, or even the religion of the Romans, the house seems to be inhabited by a variety of spirits, although their existence is often intricately linked with the home itself.

With that in mind, it is possible that a given house may not have wihtes. In British folklore, we can observe certain rituals performed during or shortly after the construction of a home to bind or attract a spirit to the house, such as a practice of nailing a worker’s shadow to the wall of the new home. In the Roman tradition, certain deities associated with the hearth may bring a retinue of spirits with them. A home could very well be “spirit-dead”.

There can be a vast manner of ways to bring a wihte into the home. One could argue that this is a function of the land taking ritual, or they could observe some sort of ritual to bind a spirit to the home, such as a sacrifice, or they could even perform some sort of modern ritual to attract spirits, such as those popular among Wiccans and witches.

Once the home is inhabited by a wihte, I believe that, like the ancestors, it is the duty of the homeowner to establish how the relationship is best maintained. In some folktales, it is an insult to thank the spirit for the work done in the home. In other sources, it is a prerequisite. One may choose to simply leave a bit of food out, or have an entire altar dedicated to the household spirits. The head of the house or the lady of the house may be designated to deal with the wihte. There is very little written on this aspect of the hearth cult in germanic cultures, so one may want to look towards Rome for inspiration.

Hearth Goddesses

There are numerous Goddesses associated with the hearth and home. These watch over the housework, traditionally the woman’s work, and therefore the lady of the house, and in some cases the children. When establishing the house altar, it may be preferable to put an icon of a chosen hearth goddess in a place of especial honor, such as the center of the altar. She may be invoked to watch over religious rites in the home.

There are a variety of hearth goddesses to choose from. I personally worship Berhta (Berchta/Holda) in my home, and give her offerings at the beginning of every major household ritual. One may also be attracted to some iteration of Frigga, or to the Gallo-Roman Matronae (while not necessarily hearth goddesses, they should fill the role quite nicely). After choosing a certain goddess, I suggest studying them in depth to find appropriate offerings, or else leaving simple offerings, such as a bit of the family meal or a stick of incense.

The Altar

While there is little evidence of household altars in most Germanic societies, it has become a staple of modern paganism and was certainly present among the Romans. Ideally, the altar will be placed in the foyer, or the main room of the home. If this is not possible, place it in the kitchen or near the fireplace, should you have one. If this also proves impossible, the bedroom will suffice (if you have an altar in the foyer or kitchen, you may wish to put a second altar in the bedroom anyway). The altar should not be somewhere so out of the way you forget it, but also not in the way where it may be jostled. Only items to be used in religious ritual should be stored on the altar.

The altar can be made of any flat surface; I use a book shelf. Other options may be an end table, a countertop, or a nightstand. An altar with shelves or drawers will be ideal for holding ritual supplies when not in use. Over the surface should be laid an altar cloth; this can be a cloth specially purchased and blessed for this purpose, or it can simply be a nice, clean towel or blanket.

The altar should at very least have a bowl in which to receive offerings, a candle or oil lamp, an incense burner and a case in which to store incense, and a vessel (preferably a pitcher) to hold drink offerings prior to being poured. This is based off a Roman household altar, and if you perform more Roman-style rituals in your home, it would also be nice to include a container for salt.

You may wish to place icons of the Gods on the altar. Excellent choices would be your hearth goddess, a god or goddess designated for frequent worship by your family (I personally worship Nertha (Nerthus) heavily, and am in the process of procuring an icon for her), or various deities you have a particular attraction to. My own altar includes icons to Sunna and Manno (Mani).

There is an excellent outline for use of the altar in ritual here. I prefer to only burn the candle while I am present and performing the ritual; others may prefer to burn it until it extinguishes itself