Okay, it does, a bit. That was clickbait. But it seems to me that the Aesir generally have a lot more to do with human concerns and the inner states of our minds than they have to do with natural phenomena. The Aesir, I think, are about how we as humans relate to the world. I don’t think that all of our gods would exist if humans didn’t exist. There are nature deities, for sure, Thor and Sif can be considered nature deities in large part, for example, and of course we have the Vanir and the jotnar who are even closer to nature.
(It hurts a little to admit this, but I always felt there was something missing from Norse mythology/religion. It wasn’t until I met Veles that I knew what that was.)
Maybe it’s just me misinterpreting things, but I don’t think we have any deities (jotnar aside) who embody natural phenomena. Skadi lives in the mountains, but she is not mountains herself. Njord lives in oceans and harbours, but he is not the ocean himself. Freyr is lord of fertility and harvest, but he is not the yield. None of them are 100% Aesir; the only one I can think of who is undeniably a nature god is Thor. Even then, he is descended from giants.
Perhaps this reflects the societies that existed when our historical records were written down. I suspect that an actual Scandinavian pagan would reflect a different worldview and a different view of the gods.
But it does strike me that our gods, as we know them from Teh Lore, are human-based; that is, how we think of them and what we know of them is all based around our existence as human beings. There aren’t any gods worth mentioning, seemingly, that exist whether or not we think of them, that don’t give a shit about us.
I don’t know where to go with this. I would love to hear other people’s thoughts.
For those who raise the bowl in offering and veneration of the Old Gods, there is a glimmer of their connection to the past. Much of the Yule Celebration is based around this key concept for those who identify with Asatru, the revival of the traditional Norse pagan religion. It is the attendance to and memory of ancestors, the veneration of them just as the Gods, both of which can be traced back in a familial lineage. As Thor, Freya, and Odin are mentioned, faces around the table can envision what those names meant to their family deep in the past. The power of thunder. The perseverance in battle. The strength of conviction.
Yet it is not those elements that most of those with quick glances see when they notice a small silver Mojinir around a believer’s neck. Today Asatru is one of the most divided areas of the new…
Recently I had to identify a deity who I kept sensing (and have been sensing for years, though I didn’t realise it). It wasn’t easy. I thought I’d set out my process for anyone else who might need it.
First of all, is it a deity, or is it a local or regional spirit? This might differ based on your worldview, but essentially, spirits or regional deities might only manifest in specific locales or regions. For example, Arduinna is a goddess of the Ardennes forest. For some, however, she might be a deity of forests in general. Consider your own worldview. This will help you later in your search when you’re trying to narrow it down.
Looking for clues. What specific things give you the sensation of this entity? What gives you the vibe/feeling? For me, it was forests; specifically, a feeling of darkness, richness of soil and moisture, and decay. The more specific you can be with these ‘clues’, the better. Try and get to the core of what gives you the sensation. Clues could be certain animals (for example, rabbits or bears), geographical locations (e.g. beaches, mountains), colours, seasons, or more abstract things, like “creativity”, “companionship”, or “romantic love”.
Divination. Many people will want to try divination at this stage. If you can tap into the sensations you get from the entity, do divination at the same time. If not, just focus on the clues you’ve identified. Use whatever method you’re most comfortable with. I used runes. Try asking the deity for some symbols or associations of theirs. If you’re feeling lucky, you could ask for their name. Otherwise, you could ask them to send you some signs or dreams.
The search. Time to search the world’s knowledge. Come up with search terms using the clue you identified. I used “forest deities” and “tree gods” to begin with. Again, the more terms you can come up with, the better. If you have a feeling what culture the deity is from, this can be a useful search term to add, although be careful not to narrow your search too early – you might overlook some important information. Use different terms in different combinations. Go beyond the first page of Google results. Don’t be afraid to use Google Scholar. If you have access to a good library, it’s worth checking out old-fashioned encyclopedias or other more scholarly books. They have good, solid info that the Neopagan web doesn’t. Write down any deity names or other information that ring true to you. Pass over anything that doesn’t ring true, but keep in mind that you might have to revisit it later in case your search doesn’t turn up anything.
At this stage, you might have pinpointed who it is. You might have a name – hooray! If not, start again, and branch out, think outside the box a little. Follow steps 2-4 again. I had to do this four or five times. When I thought I had it, I did some divination to confirm – success!
However…you might have done all your research and done your divination and still not have a name. You might have found an unknown or ‘forgotten’ deity, whose name was lost to history but who still remains. In that case, it’s up to you to find out more about them.
There’s a lot of advice out there on what to do in your spiritual practice. Some of it’s good, most of it’s bad. People throw around a lot of rules about what it is to be a real Heathen, or a real witch, or whatever else. Often these people will be self-proclaimed authorities of some sort.
Ignore all of that. Think for yourself.
What’s the point of your path? Why are you here, delving into different aspects of life and spirituality? Why are you pursuing what you’re pursuing? It’s for you, isn’t it? It’s not for anyone else. Your growth isn’t for anyone else. Your path is for you. And you have an obligation to remain true to yourself, because that’s the only way you’ll find your truth. Your path is there to serve you and you alone.
I’ll boil this down to three points:
Don’t listen to people who tell you what you have to do to be a [good] Heathen. Follow your heart. People will tell you shit like “You have to be dedicated to your community to be Heathen”, or “you have to honour your ancestors”, or “you have to honour your ancestors”. Ignore this shithouse ‘advice’.
Question things before you incorporate them into your practice. Question whether sources/facts are, in fact, true. Question things already in your practice to make sure they still work for you. It can be tempting, starting out, to lap up every piece of information you can find, uncritically. But you should be critical.
(2a. Question whether you give a shit if your sources are good or true.)
People will try to shit on you. This doesn’t matter.
Don’t let anyone discourage you from following the path you’ve been called to. If people tell you that you’ve crossed a line, listen to them openly and honestly. You might have crossed the line without knowing it. Be culturally sensitive and respectful, and keep an open mind.
Mostly, question everything. And keep questioning it.
It is hard to come to terms with the fact that we cannot be human without consuming. We consume meat, and vegetables, and we consume oxygen. We occupy space. We clear land to build houses for ourselves and grow food to eat. Beyond this, we buy our clothes and belongings with money that has come through cycles of countless others consuming.
It’s impossible not to consume in some way.
This is just being human.
It’s harsh, and cruel, but it’s the price of having a physical form.
There is another side to Týr, apart from thestaunch, justice-driven, action-oriented side. He is a god of war and battle, of course, and that can mean many things.
I’ve mentioned before how I found it difficult to connect to the warlike side of Týr. Since then, I’ve actually had a little breakthrough where War and Battle are concerned.
I’ve recognised my own righteous anger. My positive fury, my determination, my stubbornness.
I’m not a soldier. But I do have my own battles. I have to remain true to my better judgment and avoid the temptation of slipping into depressive habits. And, a battle that has become more visible and constant as of late, standing up and speaking my mind when I see wrong. Fighting bigotry and fighting fear. Týr is that urge, that near-thoughtless instinct to protect, to FIGHT.
Týr is ordered force, yes. He is concerned with justice and order and making things Right. But he is also the rage and fury that gives rise to justice in the first place.
An interesting piece of UPG: the movie Mad Max: Fury Road gives me Týr vibes. The blue and orange colour palette, of calm justice and unbridled fury. The wildness of the desert cultures. The tension in the soundtrack. It’s all so intense, immediate, and Týr.
I am trying to build a relationship with Tyr. Since I’ve never been the first one to try and start a relationship where gods are concerned, this is new to me. But I think I’m on the right track.
I’ve been aware of Tyr for a while. I remember the first time I felt Him. I was meditating on the sky, for Heimdall, as I often do, but instead of Heimdall I felt Someone Else. Very distinctly not my fulltrúi. Somehow, I knew it was Tyr. Stern. Focused. Not quite as diffuse as The Ram.
After that, nothing for a few years. I’d always associated Tyr with the bright blue sky, similar to how I associate Heimdall with a cloudy blue sky. So when I decided to forge a connection with Tyr, the sky was where I started. It was hard to sort the feelings I had for Tyr from the feelings I have for Heimdall. I’m so used to tuning myself to Heimdall’s frequency that I had a hard time finding Tyr in the one place I knew I could find him – like having two friends who live in the same apartment building, but only knowing the apartment number of one of them, and ringing the same buzzer every time.
So I’ve branched out. I know Tyr is a god of justice, honour, right action. These things have always been foremost to me. Big surprise, Heimdall is all those things to me, too, especially honour. They resonate, a lot. Tyr seems to be more about direct action, whereas Heimdall has a focus on thought and being. Attention. Perception.
Tyr is also obviously a god of war, battle, and victory. These resonate with me much less, but I’ll talk more about these aspects of Tyr in another post.
Now, the other similarities:
They are both liminal gods. Heimdall, who is descended from giants, became an Ás. His job is to guard the border between worlds. His home is on a cliff, between the land and the sky (and the sea, in my UPG). Tyr is also descended from giants, and is one of the oldest gods (that we know of), and he also became an Ás. He is part of two cultures. It could be said that he witnessed the ‘changing of the guard’ when Odin became chief god, and Tyr took a back seat.
They are both sky deities. Apart from being associated with the literal daytime sky, they might be associated with space and the cosmos, as well. (Heimdall certainly is, but more of that in another post, perhaps.)
They both have to do with honour and duty. It is Heimdall’s duty to stand watch, no matter how cold and bitter it gets. It was Tyr’s duty to give up his hand so that Fenrisúlfr could be contained. They do their duties silently and resignedly, and the gravity of their actions speaks for itself.
They both have very strong links with the World Tree. Heimdall, who sees high and low across the universe, who has nine mothers, has been compared and even equated with the World Tree. As god of perception and awareness, his consciousness is all-encompassing, as is Yggdrasil, and his nine mothers echo the nine worlds. Tyr’s symbol, the Irminsul, is a symbol of the World Tree also, the axis of the universe. Granted, worship of the Irminsul is a more Germanic occurrence than Scandinavian, and that makes it less valid to link the two, but Tyr-as-Irminsul is a very strong link to Tyr as the World Tree.
The thought I had while researching Tyr was this: given these similarities, is it plausible that Heimdall and Tyr were once one deity, or that Heimdall developed out of an offshoot from an earlier Tyr?
Honestly: there’s not tons of evidence, but since the historical record is spotty, we have no idea. It could be true.
It’s obvious to me now why I’m drawn to Tyr, even though I have a hard time with his warlike aspects. If Heimdall and Tyr are descended from the same god, or if Heimdall is an offshoot of Tyr, that would certainly explain my attraction. I’m a sucker for liminal figures and figures of honour and duty.
I personally think they are distinct deities – they certainly were in the Viking Age and later. They have distinct presences to me, even considering the similarities. But Heimdall is not about war, and they have distinct roles within the pantheon that tells me they have long been separate beings, if they were ever once the same.
This was not what I wanted my first post about Tyr to be, but it was the thought that occurred to me while doing research. More on Tyr soon.