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!


  1. Very well written. I am adopted and have been a part of three families (now four with my fiance'). I honor all of my ancestors of blood heart and spirit.

  2. Very enlightening and beautifully written. peacefully, Davy Jones.

  3. What a beautiful post! I know very little about the Heathen Tradition and what I do know I am learning via various posts; I just love this project! I enjoyed reading this, thank you for sharing your Tradition with us. Blessings!