Modraniht Ritual 2022

Given that I live in the Southern Hemisphere, Modraniht this year fell on Monday, the 20th of June. Because this was a workday, and because of other plans, I wasn’t able to do a whole, proper, deeply meditative ritual like I wanted. However, when I sat down and did my ritual, as rushed as it was, I still felt a connection to the Matres and Matronae in a way I hadn’t before.

I ran out of room on my actual altar, so I had to improvise and use a desk. Shown in the image are the three candles used in the ritual, the tarot cards and Gaulish runias I pulled for the divination component, and an unrelated Hoberman sphere that I neglected to move.

The elements: Three candles (a stub, a partially used, and a new), food offering (in this case, duivekater and elderflower cordial), and a method of divination.

The ritual:

Establish the ritual space.
“Welcome, Mothers and maternal ancestors. I honour you tonight.”
Light candle stub.
“Sanctis Aufanis, Matronae Aufaniae, I honour you and thank you for your protection of the past.”
Light the used candle from the stub.
“Nehalennia and Nantosuelta, I honour you and thank you for safeguarding our passage and providing our bounty.”
Light the new candle from the used.
“Suleuiae, I honour you and thank you for guiding us ever forward.”
Give the food offering(s), eating with the goddesses if desired, and meditate.
“Mothers, Matres and Matronae, help me look into the past and reflect on my actions.”
Perform divination.
“Aufaniae, Nehalennia, Nantosuelta, Suleuiae, thank you for your presence.”
Snuff candles and save the ‘new’ stub and ‘new’ used candles for next year.

The explanation: To begin with, the cult of the matres and matronae is both a Celtic and Germanic one, and seems to have been taken up by (or perhaps contributed to?) the Romans as well. Certainly groups or trios of female figures appear all over the continent; some examples are the familiar Greek Fates or the Scandinavian Norns and dísir. The Norns, at least, are associated with divination, wisdom, and aspects of time – past, present, and future, to be very simplistic. Other groups of female deities, like the matres and matronae, are associated with fertility and abundance. Many individual female deities, Celtic and/or Germanic, appear with the same iconography as the matres and matronae – some examples are Nehalennia and Nantosuelta. Because of these similarities, and because I am working to blend Gallo-Roman and Germanic traditions, I have squished all of these elements together and I associate divination, abundance, fertility, and funerary rites (see Nehalennia and Nantosuelta) with “the mothers” and Modraniht. The name itself is Anglo-Saxon.

For the ritual, I used three candles: one new, one used, and one a stub (inspired by the Wind in the Worldtree’s Modraniht ritual). In my mind, these represent the past, the present, and the future – and as Modraniht falls right before Yule, lighting these candles and passing the flame symbolises the turning of the cycle of time. I also used an offering of duivekater (Dutch sweetbread), specifically for Nehalennia, who is depicted with something that could be a duivekater, oatmeal with stewed pears (a good winter food, a grain product, and a fruit to boot, matching matronae imagery), and elderflower cordial (elderflower for Berchta and her weisse Frauen, who are also female figures with mater/matron attributes, though I don’t address Berchta in this ritual). The divination is specifically linked to the Suleuiae as the Good Guides. It’s also customary at the dark time of the year to do divination for the coming year; the German Rauhnächte, which is a time around Yule, are a time of reflection and clean(s)ing, and since I’m incorporating Germanic and Gallo-Roman elements, Rauhnächte components have helped inspire this.

I hope to expand and refine this ritual in future years.

New Calendar of Gaulish Polytheism

While I admire community efforts to locate historical holidays within their original time frames, and then translate those to our modern calendar, in many ways it’s much easier to “convert” the Wheel of the Year to a Gaulish framework and celebrate these, admittedly modern, holidays with the majority of Pagandom. This is an excellent list with Gaulish names and practice guidelines – one I will definitely be using!

Nemeton Nigromanticos

This calendar of religious dates and holidays is not academically sound. This is the religious calendar from my personal practice and reflects a number of things, including…

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Morning Prayer

Having moved away from Norse Heathenry, I no longer use those excellent passages from the Sigrdrífumál as my morning prayer. They don’t feel right anymore. So I’ve written something else. The first version was just okay, but didn’t feel quite right after road-testing it for a little while, so I took out the Gaulish, Slavic, and Anglo-Saxon words, and instead asked myself what I really wanted and felt. The current result is simple, snappy, and has just a little spice of other languages. Here it is.

Salve!
To the rising of the ancient sun
And the shining of the bright day.
May your light fall upon me
And keep me safe and whole.
Slava!
To the wheel that turns overhead
And the earth that lies underfoot.
May I be honoured by my place
Within your vast cycle.
Sāli!
To the gods who surround us
And the ancestors who witness us.
May I be guided by your wisdom
And face the world with courage.

I wanted some words to represent the Celtic, the Slavic, and the Germanic parts of my current practice. ‘Salve’ is a Latin greeting, but would have been used in the Roman Celtic world. ‘Slava’ is used in Slavic paganism and means roughly ‘glory’. ‘Sāli’ is, technically, reconstructed Proto-West-Germanic (at least, according to Wiktionary…) and means something like ‘joy’, ‘happiness’, and wellbeing. I picked this word because I wanted a Germanic word of roughly the 100-500 CE period that could be used as a greeting or interjection, and ideally started with an ‘s’ to match the rest of the words. I didn’t use ‘hail’, which would have been easy, or any of its older variants, ‘hāl’ (Old English), or even ‘*hail’ (Proto-West-Germanic), because it doesn’t feel right – reminds me too much of Norse Heathenry. ‘Sāli’ may not have been – and probably wasn’t – used as a greeting, and might not even be appropriate, but I can’t time travel and I’ll never know. But for now, it sounds and feels good, so I’m gonna use it.

How I Am Making My Own Tradition (Part 2)

My new practice is still a work in progress. In part 1, I talked about the time periods and pantheons I was drawing from, and came up with a provisional list of the entities I’d like to include in my worship. In this part, I’ll lay out the cosmology, worldview, and related aspects that I’ve chosen.

There’s two approaches I took to this. 1) Find things that Germanic, Celtic, and Slavic practices have in common (focus on Germanic and Celtic), and 2) Choose things from individual practices that resonate with me.

For instance, I’m an animist, which is absolutely part of each of these traditions. I am also borrowing from their ‘ancestor’ culture and partially using a Proto-Indo-European ritual structure (thanks to Ceisiwr Serith); what Germanic, Celtic, and Slavic traditions have in common there is that they’re all daughters of PIE. However, something like ritual cleanliness, which is a thing in Celtic practice but much less of a thing in Germanic and I’m not sure about Slavic, is something I’m trialling as part of ritual.

Enough rambling. Let’s get messy. Did I mention this is a work in progress?

Cosmology

Basically, there are three worlds in Gaulish thought: this one, the one above, and the one below. Borrowing from Bessus Nouiogalation, these can be called *Bitus (this world), *Albios or Nemos (the one above), and *Dumnos or Antumnos (the world below; the underworld). (Those with asterisks are reconstructed; those without are attested.) Click through to BNG for more information.

I also call our world Mittangard (Old High German) or Midjagardaz (Proto-Germanic), much as the Norse called it Miðgarð. The ‘middle enclosure’.

I’m big on the idea that there is a great tree at the centre of the universe. Bessus Nouiogalation posits the Celtic name Drus, or we could call it Irminsul, which the Saxons called certain sacred trees which may or may not have symbolised the universal tree. This is all conjectural, but I like it. (Why not ‘Yggdrasil’? Because that’s Norse, and it’s not the right historical period.)

Afterlife

There are similar ideas in Slavic, Celtic, and I think some Germanic sources that say the place where the dead reside is across the sea, over the waters, and is perhaps an island of green meadow. Procopius relayed the notion that, among those who dwelt on the southern coast of the North Sea, there was the belief that the souls of the dead had to be ferried across the water to the island of Britain. Now, I’m not taking that account detail-for-detail, but I do think it rings true given similar beliefs in the area. It’s relevant to me, too, that Nehalennia, whose shrines are found on the Zeeland coast, is depicted with what could be funerary imagery. Therefore, to me, Nehalennia is the one who ferries the dead across the North Sea to the land of the dead. By extension, She also carries the dead across “the waters” (no matter where you live geographically) to the underworld, which is ruled by Veles.

Holidays

I’m awful at holidays. Also I don’t really care. But with this new path, I’d like to celebrate some major holidays. I’ve picked a choice few from Slavic and Germanic traditions. I admit, I like the Wheel of the Year, so I’ve adjusted the dates to fit. The ones I’ve picked are below, along with dates for the Southern Hemisphere.

  • Velesa Den (St Blaise’s Day, adapted): Feb 11
    • I borrowed this one from Solntsa Roschcha. Since Veles was sort of ‘absorbed’ by St Blaise in a lot of ways, it’s fitting to use St Blaise’s feast day as a feast day for Veles.
  • Modraniht: held on Christmas Eve historically, though now held on the night before Yule, ~20 June
    • An Anglo-Saxon holiday recorded by Bede. Presumably practitioners honoured their ancestral mothers and perhaps ancestors in general; the name brings to mind the Matres and Matronae.
  • Yule/Ġeola: Winter Solstice, ~ 21 June
    • You know what Yule is, I’m guessing. The Proto-Germanic name is *Jehwlą, and I assume the Germanic people of ~100 CE had winter celebrations, but we can’t be sure what they called them. ‘Yule’ will work for me.
  • Midsumor/Liða: Summer Solstice, ~ 21 Dec
    • For me, this celebration is much more like the Wheel of the Year Litha, and not particularly the Anglo-Saxon Liða, although it’s possible they’re pretty similar. I don’t know, this is just my first year.

The reason this is all so messy is partially due to the inherently abstract nature of things like cosmology and worldview, and partially because, when it comes to the above aspects, I don’t care as much about historical accuracy as I do about current, real-world practicality. Thus, I’ve followed my nose and haven’t worried too much about sources.

And there you have it.

How I Am Making My Own Tradition (Part 1)

I’ve realised I need to make my own practice/tradition.

It’s not that I think the way other people have created their traditions is wrong – on the contrary, I would take many of the same approaches. But I believe that everything needs to be transparent, and there needs to be visible sources for every single thing put into a tradition, whether that be historical sources, linguistic reconstruction, or even UPG (yes, UPG is okay if it’s signposted as such!) – I want to know where everything comes from. And that’s a problem for me regarding lots of neo-Pagan traditions in the Germanic and Celtic sphere: I don’t know if your terms are attested or reconstructed. I don’t know if your deities are attested or amalgamated from barely-there inscriptions. I don’t know if your rituals are attested or if they’re based on, for example, Gardnerian tradition (Hammer rite, anyone?). I don’t know how much you’ve used comparative mythology or linguistics to reach your conclusions, and if you have, I can’t tell if you’re using good sources or not.

Basically, I need something “real”, and I can’t tell if your “real” is the same as my “real”. It differs for everyone. And I’d like to be able to make that choice for myself.

The thing about a reconstructed religion, and especially one made for the modern day with modern analogues, is that some, if not much or most of it, is not going to be linked to historical practice. It’s just going to be too different.

Back up a bit. The whole point of me doing this is to create a practice that 1. reflects and matches the experiences I have had in my life, 2. makes me feel whole and connected with the natural world around me, and 3. allows me to contact some form of “the Divine”, whatever that means. I’m a pagan through and through, and Continental Germanic stuff speaks to me, and I think Gaulish polytheism might too, so I’m basing my janky practice on Germano-Gallic practices. With a little Slavic thrown in. Gee, that sounds hard.

How shall I do this? Follow my nose. (Note: while I have gone through available sources and applied a cursory critical eye to their quality and ‘accuracy’, a more in-depth, rigorous survey would be valuable. The work I’ve done is good enough for my personal pantheon, but nowhere near quality enough for an academic pursuit. Researching will be an ongoing iterative process.)

Step 1: Start with Germanic sources (Continental and southern Scandinavian) – 0-500 CE

Basically I combed through all my Davidson books and similar to find out what was said about (continental) Germanic practices before the Viking Age – this means Roman Iron Age (roughly 0-300 CE) and Migration Period (roughly 300-800 CE). And maybe a little pre-Roman Iron Age thrown in, whatever. What sources do we have? Of the written sources, mostly all we have was written by Classical authors, chief among them Tacitus. Archaeological sources include lots of things, which I am not across because I am a word person and not an object person, but important runic finds include the Lindholm amulet and the Elgesem runestone.

From what I can find, these are the important deities (Proto-Germanic *ansiwiz) of this period and region, with respective languages listed where known or relevant:

  • *Wodanaz (Proto-Germanic)/Uuodan (Old High German)/Wodan (Old High German)/Wuodan
  • *Tiwaz (PG)/Teiws (Gothic)/Tyz (Gothic?)/Tiw (Saxon?)
  • *Thunraz (PG)/*Thunr (Proto-West Germanic)/Thonar (early OHG)/Donar (OHG)/Thuner (Old Frisian)
  • Nerth[us]
  • Ing/*Ingwaz (PG)
  • Ull
  • The Mothers
  • The Alcis Twins
  • Nehalennia

Other observations are that the people of this region held lakes, trees, and groves to be especially sacred, and that serpents/dragons were associated with the dead and with funeral rites.

Step 2: Fill in with post-Migration Germanic (e.g. Alemannic, Frankish) – 500-800 CE

Why the split between these two first-millennium periods? Roughly, and by that I mean really roughly, post-Migration Era is around when Christianisation started occurring in what is now Germany, so I place greater weight on information before about 500 CE when it comes to pre-Christian practices. Important sources for this period include the Merseburg Incantations, Agathias’ Histories, hagiographies like the Vita Columbani, the Nordendorf fibulae (Alemannic), and the absolute plethora of bracteates we’ve found.

Deities (also called *ensî in OHG) include:

  • Donar
  • Wodan/Wuotan
  • Ziu
  • Baldag (Old Saxon)/Bældæġ (Old English)/Balder (OHG)
  • Perchta/Berchta/Bereht (OHG) (probssibly later than this period – more on her later)
  • Frija

Agathias has this to say about the Alemanni, a tribe who lived in southern Germany, Alsace, and parts of Switzerland:

“They worship certain trees, the waters of rivers, hills and mountain valleys, in whose honour they sacrifice horses, cattle and countless other animals by beheading them, and imagine that they are performing an act of piety thereby.”

Histories, Book 1, 7.1

Step 2b: Fill in further with Anglo-Saxon (~400-800 CE)

Yeah, there’s sub-steps. While I want to focus on the continent, i.e. what is modern-day Germany and surrounds, Anglo-Saxon has a lot to offer us because a) the people who settled in England were from Germany, and b) there’s a lot more written sources available, though unfortunately in the form of Christian accounts. Basically, I operate on the assumption that if the Anglo-Saxons did things around 400-800 CE, it’s possible that people on the continent were doing the same things. Up to a point. And if they weren’t doing those things, well, I’m trying to make a usable practice, so I won’t worry about it overmuch. (However – the continental people who migrated also mixed with the people who were already living in the British Isles.) Sources I used for this section include the Old English Rune Poem and Bede’s writings.

Deities (also called ēse in Old English) include:

  • Woden
  • Frige
  • Tiw
  • Thunor/Thur
  • Saxnote/Seaxneat

Why not Eostre or Erce? Simply put, the evidence provided wasn’t enough for me to assume that they were considered deities by Anglo-Saxon pagans. But you do you.

Step 3: Select what feels right from Gaulish practices (~0-500 CE)

A brief summary in one sentence: Gauls were Celts who lived in Europe from ~400 BCE to 500 CE, centring on France, Switzerland, and southern Germany. Generally, sources for the Gauls are archaeological, since they didn’t write anything down, although we have inscriptions written by Romans, Gallicised Romans, and by Romanised Gauls. I don’t fuck with inscriptions or archaeology; I just read secondary analyses about them. Written records include accounts written by Caesar, Tacitus, and Lucan. (Don’t get me started on interpretatio romana.) The thing about the Gauls is that they had an absolute shitload of gods, many of them apparently local spirits/deities of specific natural features, regions, or tribes, so it’s hard to say who the most “important” gods are – instead, I focused on the gods who were linked to the area where my ancestors are [probably] from – the Schwarzwald area, Karlsruhe, and the Upper/Middle Rhine – and also gods who just tickled my fancy.

Deities (also called dêwoi) include:

  • Abnoba
  • Artio
  • Caturix
  • Damona
  • Erecura
  • Grannus
  • Loucetios
  • Matres and Matronae
  • Meduna
  • Nantosuelta
  • Nemetona
  • Nodens
  • Rosmerta
  • Sirona
  • Taranis (or Taranus if we correct Lucan)
  • Visucius

Another interesting thing to note is that water, light, and healing seem to have been associated with each other, and there are many deities linked to healing waters and natural springs. Here’s a very brief summary of the way natural features were perceived:

“Animal and plant species were sacred because they were part of a system maintaining and ensuring the survival of the human race. Animals were hunted or bred for food, while fruit, vegetables and plants were easily picked up and prized as food. Hill-tops and mountains seem to have been particularly revered. Their majesty, mystery, impressive size and potency in the landscape certainly inspired a feeling of smallness and admiration. Hills and mountains were often chosen as a place of ritual observance or habitation where fortified cities or sanctuaries were built.”

Beck, 2009

Gaulish/Celtic cosmology, too, is very attractive to me, but that will be described later (it’s also mostly reconstructed rather than drawn from the historical record).

Step 4: Bring along my Viking Age ride-or-die’s (~800-1000 CE)

Gods that I simply cannot “leave behind” as my practice changes are as below:

  • Heimdall
  • Hodr

Step 5: Slavic deities (~500-1000 CE)

I’ve never been a proper Slavic practitioner, but I have incorporated some Slavic elements into my practice before, and I intend to keep these deities with me:

  • Veles
  • Svarog
  • Mati Syra Zemlya

The Final Result: A Gallo-Germanic pantheon with a little Norse and Slavic spice

After some thinking and reading and tentative offerings, here’s the list of deities I’ve initially settled on for my pantheon:

  • Tiw/Teiws
  • Taranus
  • Donar
  • Abnoba
  • Nehalennia
  • Berchta
  • Nantosuelta
  • Nemetona
  • Loucetios
  • Matres and Matronae
  • Sirona
  • The Alcis twins
  • Sunne
  • Mano
  • Heimdall
  • Hodr
  • Veles
  • Nerthus or Mati Syra Zemlya

I should note that, while some scholars think there are specific roles that most Indo-European religions fill, I think that’s…simplistic, so I have not sought to fill a pre-determined list of roles with these choices. You might notice I have two thunder gods and several sky deities. Yes! I guess I have a thing for sky gods! It’s also interesting to note that some gods, like Nehalennia and Nemetona, seem to be both Celtic and Germanic – or, at least, it’s unclear where their names stem from and who they “belong” to, although distinguishing between Germanic and Celtic peoples in the Iron Age is probably missing the forest for the trees.

But these are just the gods! And a practice is more than just a list of deities. I’ve also chosen a rudimentary cosmology, list of holidays, and a [heavily borrowed] ritual format, which will be addressed in Part 2.

References

Beck, N. (2009). Goddesses in Celtic Religion — Cult and Mythology: A Comparative Study of Ancient Ireland, Britain and Gaul. PhD thesis. Université Lumière Lyon 2, École doctorale: Lettres, langues, linguistique, arts. https://theses.univ-lyon2.fr/documents/lyon2/2009/beck_n

Frendo, J. (1975). Agathias: The Histories. Walter de Gruyter: Berlin.

Depression: Baldr and Hope

I had never felt hope before I met Baldr.

From 2009 onwards, and possibly earlier, I was super depressed. I’d moved to a new country, hated my new school, felt like an outsider, and also was a teenager. Suffice to say, I felt dead inside (except for the constant anger), and every day was a struggle to get up. At times I’d wish I would just fall asleep and never wake up. Things improved a little once I finished school and moved to a university town, but the real culprit of my depression – my mental habits and brain chemistry – was still very much there.

I’d struggled for a long time. Therapy helped a lot, but not enough to get me over the line. One day around 2013, as I was contemplating the sky, I felt a presence in my head, and felt the words, “Do you trust me?” It was Heimdall. I said yes. From then on, I felt him take a big step back, and a new presence made itself known in my life: Baldr.

Close-up of the chamomile species called Baldr's Brow in Norway and Sweden. It is a daisy-like flower with a yellow centre and long white petals.
Baldrsbrá chamomile (Stefan.lefnaer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

To me, Baldr is simultaneously bright and happy, intense like the sun, but also dark and perhaps a little bitter. He has, after all, been exiled to Hel, and even though his light shines bright all the way from the underworld, he’s still waiting to come back out into the day. I believe Heimdall introduced me to Baldr to give me the emotional tools to get better, not just the rational tools that had taken me far but not far enough. The thing I was missing was hope: a real belief, ‘faith’ if you will, that I could and would get better. Not just the dogged determination to keep going and spite the universe. Real hope. Real warmth. Earnest hope.

I’d never put much stock in hope before. It seemed like a foolish emotion (and it still kind of does) – but I began to see how important hope was when Baldr taught me how to feel it for real. Choosing to light a candle instead of cursing the dark. With Baldr, I felt a glimmer of light and warmth for the first time in years and years. That was the edge I needed to climb out of the pit. (Hödr appeared, too, but I’ll talk about him at a later time.) So, with CBT and religion on my side, I got better. Baldr’s presence faded. I relapsed a little, and was reminded of the lessons I’d learned from him, and went back to therapy, and started anti-depressants. I got better.

I was handed back to Heimdall and that’s the last I heard from Baldr. I suppose I haven’t needed him. At first, I was sad at his absence, but now I know that it’s not about me. (Oddly.) Perhaps it’s about cosmic order. I’m just a little piece in a greater something, maybe. I don’t really know. But I know that Baldr was there when I was desperate.

Drifting Away: or Perhaps Towards?

Over the past two-ish years, I’ve felt very disconnected from Heathenry.

Now, a lot has been happening over the past two years related to COVID-19: death, fear, lockdowns, vaccines, lockdowns, more lockdowns. For those of us living in Melbourne, who have been locked down the longest and, as far as I’m aware, the hardest in the entire world, it sure has been two fucking years.

A dead tree trunk in the middle of a clearing.

So right now, the eve before our lockdown ends, I can say I’m not in a normal state of mind. I’m depressed. I’m tired. I feel I’ve lost friends even though it’s just that I haven’t seen them. I’ve felt my world grow smaller and I’ve seen those around me struggle, too. Just as I’ve receded from the world, I’ve receded from my religion. I’ve not felt the Presences I used to feel when I prayed or when I spent time outside. I’ve not felt that feeling of awe and ‘fitting’ in my chest when I read the myths and history. I’ve felt hesitation to wear my hammer and when I do, it doesn’t feel like it represents me, or that it fits me anymore.

I don’t feel at home with Norse Heathenry these days.

Now, some of that is definitely being absolutely goddamn exhausted from all the white supremacists out there, clogging up my tumblr suggestions and my YouTube feed. I’m so, so sick of vetting every single Heathen website I visit just to make sure I’m not wasting my time or money on people without any critical thinking skills or compassion. I’m sick of the macho warrior mindset that likes to see everything as an enemy to be fought. I’m sick of Heathenry being made up of Viking memes.

I’m tired, and I want peace. I want compassion. I want patience, and the strength to reach out to others. To be open to change your own mind, and to draw a line and say ‘no’ when someone else has gone too far.

I know plenty of Heathens with those good qualities, in real life and on the internet, so it’s not like Heathenry is exclusively a hive of scum and villainy. There’s extremists and exclusionists everywhere, right? It’s just, I don’t have the energy to fight for a religion that doesn’t feel like home anymore.

I’m looking elsewhere. I’m taking Heimdall with me. I’m taking Veles with me. I’m taking my animism and my polytheism. I have a good idea of where I’ll end up but I need to take the journey first.

Small Altar Setup: What to put on an altar

I moved into a new place about a month ago, and the only place for my altar is a cubby in an IKEA Kallax bookshelf. I’ve had to prune it down to its minimal (for me) elements while still being functional.

When designing your altar, think about function. What do you need it to do? What do you want it to do? How does it make you feel?

Norse/Slavic altar in a square bookshelf. Circular from left to right, there is an offering cup, a mirror with a ram frame, a glass bottle, a beeswax candle, a carved box, and at centre a wand and sheep's wool.
My current, minimal altar to Heimdall and Veles.

It doesn’t look minimal, I know. Let me break down how I decided what should go on here. I needed:

  1. a place or vessel to do offerings of wine, mead, or water
  2. a representation of both my major gods (Heimdall and Veles)
  3. a representation of both my paths (Norse and Slavic)
  4. an object to focus on for meditation.

I’m guilty of adding a few small extras since I set this altar up (e.g., the gumnut top I found on my walk, the sheep’s wool I found in Tasmania, the little clay ram I made for Heimdall). But the major elements fit my basic needs:

  1. The iron teacup is what I use for offerings.
  2. The ram mirror is a representation of Heimdall and the bottle with water from a sacred pond is a representation of Veles (for now. I have a statue coming).
  3. The Mjolnir (my very first hammer) represents my Norse path, and the carved box, made in Poland from traditional designs and which belonged to my great-grandmother, represents my Slavic path.
  4. The beeswax candle I light and focus on for meditation, especially when I meditate on Veles. The wand, which was custom-made for me, serves as a focus when I meditate on my path in general and my own life.

You’ll notice I also have an amulet of Heimdall chilling next to the ram mirror – I keep that necklace out, because it looks nice, but my main devotional jewelry lives inside the box.

This isn’t a minimalist altar setup, but it is minimal for me, and it is stripped back to its bare purposes. All my ritual tools, extra hammers, runes, incense and candles are stored under the bed for when I need them. I find my altar is more efficient this way. Streamlined. Allows me to focus.

I’m lucky that I have inherited or bought items that I find so meaningful, because having meaningful items works really well for me, but it bears repeating that you don’t need fancy or unique items to make a good altar. I myself have discarded wool, fallen gumnuts, and handmade statues on my altar. You can craft meaning and create connections with just about any object.

What functions does your altar have?

Lessons in Death

Life and death are intertwined at every juncture. They are not separate. We are dying as much as we are living. Living beings. Dying beings. See how living is inherent in dying? You cannot have death without life, just as life needs death.

Get to know it.

It is your blood, always in a cycle of destruction and replenishment. your skin. your hair. your nails and piss and shit. It is the food you eat and the clothes you wear.

Death is not the end. It is life’s fellow.