Wednesday, 29 February 2012

D is for Disir - the female ancestors

None of us come into this world alone. We come with a line of ancestors, forefathers and mothers, stretching back many, many generations. In the heathen tradition we are constantly connected to our Alfar (male ancestors) and Disir (female ancestors), who always maintain an interest in their family line. We believe the dead k ow their children.

In many traditional pre-Christian cultures, including the Norse and Germanic cultures, it was generally believed that the living had obligations to the dead. Where these obligations were properly carried out the family would receive luck, abundance and wealth. One of the most difficult things that happened with the spread of Christianity was the severing of those ties to the ancestors and the vilification and demonisation of these practices. Heathenry honours the dead and we set out feasts to them, include them in family decisions, communicate with them and call upon them for wisdom and advice. One doesn't have to be a blood relative to be honoured as an ancestor. The heathen connection to the ancestors becomes part and parcel of our daily consciousness. Especially, the Disir, the female ancestors, were influential in the life of the living family and there are many stories of the Disir warning their descendants of danger and sharing wisdom. They often appeared in dreams to give warnings. The Disir usually connected a family. They could be protective. Apparently a man could send his Disir with someone else to protect them. Celebrations often took place in a private home, but there were also 'Disarsalir' - halls of the Disir.

In the times when the Christians were sending missionaries to convert, one group of women were burned alive in a house rather than give up celebrating the Disir's feast. In 'Viga-Gum's Saga', the friends and relations of a householder gather in his home and celebrate the feast together.

Disir also tended to be used as a plural for all the goddesses as well as individual special goddesses, such as Freya and Skadhi, who were both called 'dis'.

The last month of the old year and the first of the new were together called Giulli or Yule. The most sacred and important of all the Heathen celebrations falls within this period - Mother's Night or Modraniht. This is a celebration honouring the tribal goddesses and one's own Disir. Mother's Night is on or around the Winter Solstice. In my hearth, we meet and chant the runes and beat out the old year and in with the new with tree branches and we celebrate with mead. Winters Nights, in October, around Haloween, is also a time to honour the Disir. Heathens make offerings to the dead and remember Kur ancestors. We tell the stories of the Alfar and the Disir, they are given offerings and are hailed with mead. Winters Night is seen as the day of the dead, a time when the veil is thin between the two worlds.

So with this blog I honour the Disir, my female ancestors, those of my bloodlines, those of my tribe, those of my clan and those of my land. Hail.

PS. This isn't pagan related, but I want to note the passing to the spirit realm of a D, Davy Jones of The Monkees. I'm devastated as it's the end of an era. Rest you well in the otherworld. Get banging that tambourine!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Dagaz rune

I tried unsuccessfully to copy an image of Dagaz rune but obviously still don't know how to use Blogger properly.

Dagaz is the 24th rune in the Elder Futhark and in the Anglo Saxon poem:

"Day is the Drighten's (God's) herald, dear to men
Great Metod's light, a joy and a hope
To rich and poor - for all to use."

Because of its shape which looks like 2 triangles with the top points touching, it looks like the shape of a double axe, and so celebrates the double axe which was a sacred weapon both for the megalithic cultures and the Indonesia-Europeans. This is also the shaped of Mjollnir, Thor's hammer.

Dagaz symbolises consciousness, awakening, conceptual, realisation, enlightenment, non-duality, synthesis, transmutation, awareness, paradigm shift, faith, reason, safety and justice, shedding all confusion in favour of clarity.

The meaning of the rune is "day". It is like the light of day. It is the sunrise of consciousness, that hazy moment when out of the night emerges the light of day. A new reality dawns on us and we are refreshed, infused with rested energy and excitement for the day ahead. It indicates that good things are coming, though possibly slow and measured.

It is the rune of spiritual awakening and brings inspiration of hope. It signifies a powerful and important deep shift in perspective if we can realise it within ourselves.
Using the magic of Dagaz we can transmute ourselves powerfully into increasingly awakened beings, shedding all confusion in favour of clarity.

Osborn and Langland (1964, "Rune Games") see Dagaz as the light of strength and comfort that comes from the creator, the sun. Thorsson states that Dagaz is the rune of daylight, especially at dawn or twilight, and of awakening. It is the mystical moment of paradox and liminality. Diana Paxson says Dagaz is the midwinter rebirth of the sun.

This can be backed up by the fact that Dagaz symbols were found carved by some later Viking visitor at the entrance to the ancient monument of Newgrange in Ireland by a later Viking visitor, where the light of midwinter's dawning strikes down the
Assays to the centre of the mound.

Freya Aswynn writes that she finds it particularly useful in transmuting consciousness by linking the activity of left and right brain by drawing Dagaz from one eye to the other so that the line crosses over the 3rd eye in the centre of the forehead.

Drawing the rune across yourself nine times for nine days and nine nights (9 is very sacred to the Norse people's and modern day heathens) will initiate powerful changes within yourself and circumstances around you, that will slowly unfold over the coming months. Let me know how it works for you.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

C is for Choices and Connection - Chrysalis and Community!

How many Cs can one pagan write about? I was going to write about cats but lots of people wrote about that. What else? Charms, crystals (I did that last week), Celts (as I'm Irish), Chronicles (of the Anglo Saxon variety), casting the runes, chanting (lots of people did that too), crone, Cailleach, Chaos, Chrysalis, candles, community, Christianity, Catholicism... So many choices. Choices. That's it.

Becoming pagan and being pagan involves so many choices. When I first left Catholicism ( that dreaded C-word) I looked into a variety of alternative paths - Spiritualism, New Agey stuff, Wicca, hedge witchery, goddess spirituality... and after dabbling in bit of each of them I finally discovered the perfect meld of shamanism and gods and goddesses which is the heathen shamanic tradition of Seidr. Ever since becoming a heathen I know I've made the right choice for me.

One of the things I found hard about leaving Catholicism is that it provided a sense of community. You were born a Catholic, you went to a Catholic school, you met the same people at mass every Sunday. In particular growing up in Ireland, the whole village or town would have that sense if community or belonging. When I was really involved in Charismatic Catholicism I went on something called a Choice Weekend, which I then subsequently helped to run as part of the team. I see now that these were structured to bring you down to a low point in laying bare your emotions and becoming aware of yourself and your needs - and sins - and then brought you back up again to realise how much you were all part of the Catholic family, which was aimed to bring you a sense of belonging and keep you there!

 I think all of us search for that sense of belonging, to family, to people, to places and to a religion or spiritual path. At that point in my life it was Catholicism, along with habit and guilty fear of letting go of those deep-rooted beliefs.

Whatever path we choose in paganism, once it fits and feels right, it's like coming home. The deep sense of connection to the land, the gods, the wights, the ancestors gives that feeling of finding that which we have been looking for all our lives - and even better when we find a supportive and loving pagan community to belong to.

This year's We'Moon diary has the theme of Chrysalis, by which is meant "a protected creative state of being resourced from within, that allows deep-rooted transformation to take place." "Chrysalis is both the birth-place and the death-place where old forms disintegrate. The old orders are in decline. The Chrysalis stage is a necessary precondition for total transformation, where life as we know it is completely overturned and we have to give up who we think we are to empower who we are becoming.  In the process of dissolving the structures that formerly contained our spirit, we enter intot he unknown, a formless state out of which a new form emerges."

This, I feel, sums up perfectly that process of change when we make the choice to move from one spiritual path to another. It's a difficult process to undergo, like the shamanic transformation into  new being, we emerge a new, stronger person, into a community where we have probably always belonged in this life and in many previous lifetimes. It just takes that awareness that we need to make the choice to change and connect to the old gods and goddesses and to the sacred landscape upon which we live.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

C is for Crystals

I've thought long and hard about what to do for C, as so many things I wanted to write about begins with a C, although not many of them related to my heathen path (not a lot of Germanic/ Norse things begin with C!). But I decided on Crystals as without encountering crystal healers and healing, I probably wouldn't be on the path I'm on now. When I first came out of Catholicism and was becoming more involved in more spiritual things, I met someone who had studied crystal healing so I went on a course and there I met so many different kinds of alternative people - Spiritualist, Reiki healers, New Agers and in particular, Pagans of different traditions. I was really sceptical about crystals at first, wondering how a piece of rock could heal or even have power. But when I learned to tune in and attune to them the energy and power I felt in my hands was so tangible it was amazing. I spent three years studying to be a crystal healer, a year doing a 'Masters' and another three years learning to teach crystal healing and awareness. I however never practises as a crystal healer as I didn't feel right making a living from it and also didn't want to buy and sell them. I wanted to work with them and bring the awareness to others.

Crystals are one of the oldest healing and power tools on earth. For thousands of years our ancestors have used them as actual tools or for healing and magic and wore them as symbols of power. There are over 200 references to crystals in the Christian bible, such ad the High priests wearing carnelian in their breastplates. Every culture and tradition has their lore with regards crystals. The Romans drank out of amethyst goblets to stop drunkenness, they exchanged moonstones between lovers as the symbol of Diana. The Egyptians buried their Pharoahs in ornate tombs adorned with lapis lazuli and other semi precious stones. The South American shaman would throw crystals such as sunstone into fires so that the would split and the shards go up to the gods. The Aborigines believe strongly in the power of the quartz crystal. And so it goes on. When I started to follow a heathen path I didn't come across many references to the heathen ancestors using crystals, until I noted the archaeological evidence of small crystal balls being found mainly in women's graves in England and pieces of agate, as well, of course, as the Amber and jet jewellery. And more recent hordes have uncovered more exotic crystals, possibly as spoils of war.

These days much of modern day technology uses crystals, often in its replicated silicone form - watches, computers, laser equipment at the hospital, TV sets and the latest equipment being used to send out waves into space with an oscillating quartz crystal at its centre.

Over the years I have accumulated large numbers of different crystals, buying them whenever I felt the energy surging through me. I also bought lots of crystal jewellery, probably too many to ever wear and many that I've hardly worn since. But I became aware of the unethical way many crystals are mined and that I didn't need to keep buying more. I've given quite a few away. I also became aware of a lot of the New Age twaddle that is spouted about crystal work, some of which contains grains of truth or fact, but much using pseudo scientific language about opening Multi dimensional portals or connecting with ascended masters. Don't get me started on New Age stuff, particularly after reading "New Age or Armageddon" by Monica Sjoo!

Finally, crystal work can lead on to working with ordinary stones and pebbles that lie around us. Once you learn and feel the energies in crystals you can sense the energy in all stones, albeit a duller, denser, slower 'throbbing' energy. We work with ordinary stones to connect to the wights and landscape around us, often asking the Wight (spirit) in a particular location, eg a stream or wood to enter into the stone thus bringing some of the energy of that particular location away with you.

The mineral kingdom is a special, important realm of energies and beings to be honoured and to be thanked for what it has given to our realm fr thousands if years, but most especially to be treated with reverence and care so that we do not damage the balance of the planet more than we already have.