Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dwarf

A dwarf is a mythical creature.  Humanoid in form, but short and stocky, they are connected with the Earth and are often said to be miners, engineers, and craftsmen. The dwarf is common in mythologies, fairy tales, fantasy fiction, and role-playing games, and recently were made popular by the collective works of twentieth century fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien.
 
Dwarfs are small creatures made from the maggots in the giants Ymir dead body.  They generally look like old men with long beards or are sometimes ugly or misshapen.  The dwarves were said to inhabit Svartalheim, one of the Nine Worlds created by the Gods, though they also seemed to live in Midgard as well, the world of men.  They live in caves or in holes under the ground and sometimes in hollow trees.  Like dark elves, some dwarves also fear the sun light.  Though usually associated with Scandinavian mythology, dwarfs and elves appear in the myths of many cultures, along with similar creatures such as fairies, gnomes, pixies, and leprechauns.

Dwarfs are sometimes represented as helpful creatures or wise advisers as, for example, in the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. More commonly, though, they are unpleasant, stubborn, and distrustful with an air of mystery about them. They may act in deceitful ways, or they may be openly hostile.  In some stories, dwarfs steal food or carry off children and beautiful maidens.
Dvalin is the ruler of the dwarves.  He is one of the most powerful dwarves. He was also a skilled smith and able to read runes before any other dwarf.

Dwarfs and elves of the mountains are highly skilled metalworkers and artisans who have supernatural powers and make special gifts for the Gods, such as a magic spear for Odin, the king of the Gods; a ship for Freyja, the Goddess of love and beauty; and a hammer for Thor, the God of thunder.  
Four dwarves, Nordri, Sudri, Austri and Vestri, hold up the sky.   But dwarfs and elves of the mines, who keep guard over underground stores of gold and precious stones, are unpredictable and spiteful. This association of dwarfs and elves with mining and precious metals exists in many legends and fairy tales.

Their role during Ragnarok is not clear.






Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold.





Monday, February 18, 2013

Wolf

The wolf is a species of Canidae native to the wilderness and remote areas of North America, Eurasia and North Africa.  The largest member of its family, males average 43–45 kg (95–99 lb) and females 36–38 kg (79–85 lb).  They are similar in general appearance and proportions to a German shepherd, but has a larger head, narrower chest, longer legs, straighter tail and bigger paws.  Its winter fur is long and bushy, and predominantly a mottled gray in color, although nearly pure white, red, or brown to black also occur.

The gray wolf is one of the world's most well researched animals, with probably more books written about it than any other wildlife species.  It has a long history of association with humans, having been despised and hunted in most agricultural communities due to its attacks on livestock, while conversely being respected by some Native American tribes.  It is the sole ancestor of the dog, which was first domesticated about 500,000 years ago.
Wolves are legendary because of their spine-tingling howl, which they use to communicate.  The wolf is a common motif in the foundational mythologies and cosmologies of peoples throughout Eurasia and North America. The obvious attribute of the wolf is its nature of a predator, and correspondingly it is strongly associated with danger, destruction, making it the symbol of the warrior on one hand, and that of evil on the other.  In many cultures, the identification of the warrior with the wolf gave rise to the notion of Lycanthropy, the mythical or ritual identification of man and wolf.
Wolf moon is the name that the Native Americans gave to the full moon in January. Part of the reason the Native Americans chose this name was due to the howling wolves outside their villages this time of year.  The full moon is a time of great power.  This is a good time to work on magic related to protection, both physical and spiritual. Use this time to develop your inner self, and advance spiritually, becoming closer to the higher aspects of your deities.
Wolves feature prominently in Norse mythology, in particular the mythological wolves Fenrir, Skoll and Hati.  Fenrir, a son of Loki, served a dual role in Norse mythology; as the maimer of God Tyr, and as the killer of God Odin at Ragnarok.  The giant Fenrir wolf was feared and hated.  Fenrir is bound by the Gods, but is ultimately destined to grow too large for his bonds and devour Odin during the course of Ragnarok.  At that time, he will have grown so large that his upper jaw touches the sky while his lower touches the earth when he gapes.  He will be slain by Odin's son, Vidar, who will either stab him in the heart or rip his jaws asunder according to different accounts.  
Skoll was depicted in Gylfaginning as a wolf which pursued the setting sun, while Hati chased the moon.  Wolves that chase the horses that drag the chariot which contains the Sun and Moon through the sky, trying to eat them.  At Ragnarok, both Skoll and Hati will succeed in their quests. 
Other known wolves are Geri and Freki, who were the Norse God Odin's faithful pets who were reputed to be "of good omen."  It was once told that Odin and his brothers created the world. In loneliness while traveling, Odin created the First Wolves, Geri and Freki, to accompany him in his travels and to be partners in the hunt. The wolves became Odin's special companions. Wherever Odin went, the wolves went with him.  Odin was also a God a battle and wisdom, and encouraged his men to fight like wolves. This was due to Odin's admiration of wolves, who fought together as a team with strength and intellect.
The wolf has a reputation which is undeserved as a fearsome creature. Most of us grew up hearing stories about the "big, bad wolf." The fact is that wolves are not really all big or bad. Wolves are just animals trying to survive in the world, just like we are. They belong to the same family of animals as the dog you may have as a family pet.  There are many wolf organizations and government agencies working to both save wolves and educate people about them. 
This totem imparts learning, wisdom and access to communication.  Tame wolves tend to be less predictable and manageable than dogs, as they lack any alteration of their predatory behavior.  But with wolf populations in danger in some areas, or others living in a urban land, a domesticated dog does make a good symbol.  Both wolves and dogs are strong, loyal, protective, teamwork and have great senses. 
 
"I call to those who went before me for guidance to travel this days path I ask those who are yet to come what this holds for me of Wolf and Man is what I seek I ask for the Wolf to be at one with the Man and for the Man to walk beside the Wolf I offer this prayer to the Spirits above and humbly ask for their divine help to live my life to the fullest and bring honor to myself and my people."
 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Squirrel


Squirrels belong to a large family of small or medium-sized rodents called the Sciuridae.  Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia and Africa, and have been introduced to Australia.   Squirrels typically have slender bodies with bushy tails and large eyes. Their fur is generally soft and silky, although much thicker in some species than others.  The color of squirrels is highly variable between—and often even within species.

Squirrels live in almost every habitat from tropical rainforest to semiarid desert, avoiding only the high polar regions and the driest of deserts. They are predominantly herbivorous, subsisting on seeds and nuts, but many will eat insects and even small vertebrates.  They can be domesticated into a pet in a home while in other areas they are used as meat. 

The life span of the Gray squirrel is approximately six years.  Most urban squirrels do not reach their first birthday. This is due not to predators, but rather to automobiles.  Compared to its rural counterpart, which often perishes from lack of food.
Whether Urban or Country Pagan, most people have seen or heard a squirrel, or a member of the squirrel family, throughout the world.  They are playful, curious and quick climbers.  The gathering power of Squirrel is a great gift.  It teaches us balance within the circle of gathering and giving out.  They remind us that in our quest for our goals,  it is vital to make time for play and socializing.  Squirrels teaches us to conserve our energy for times of need.

In Native American folktales, squirrels are most noted for their noisy and aggressive behavior.  Squirrel characters frequently spread gossip, instigate trouble between other animals, or annoy others with their rudeness and bossiness.  However, in some stories they are praised for their industrious food-gathering and courage, and among southeastern tribes, squirrels are honored as caretakers of the forest.  Some Northwest Coast tribes consider the squirrel a messenger who may bring warnings of danger to the people.

We’ve all heard not to shoot the messenger, and that may hold true even in the case of the gossipy messenger of Norse myth known as Ratatoskr.   In Norse mythology, Ratatoskr is a squirrel who runs up and down the world tree Yggdrasil to carry messages between the eagle, perched atop Yggdrasil, and the serpent, who dwells beneath one of the three roots of the tree.  Information must come fast and furious.  One theory for the origin of the squirrel likens Ratatoskr to malicious gossips, explaining why the messenger role went to a lowly animal or person.  Another says the role may have arisen due to the tree squirrel’s shrieking warning call, which can easily sound like he’s screaming nasty things.
Ask yourself are you too active, not active enough, afraid of enough, hung up on accumulating and collecting.  Squirrel people tend to be a little erratic – trying to do many things at once.  Take the time to stop and listen to your inner self – and don’t forget to play!

 

"Ratatosk is the squirrel who there shall run

On the ash-tree Yggdrasil;

From above the words of the eagle he bears,

And tells them to Nithhogg beneath."

-Grimnismal

 

 



 

Horse


The horse is an odd-toed ungulate mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the single-toed animal of today. Humans began to domesticate horses around 4000 BC to 3000 BC on different continents.

Horses and humans interact in a wide variety of recreational pursuits, as well as in working activities such as police work, agriculture, entertainment, and therapy. Horses were historically used in warfare, from which a wide variety of riding and driving techniques developed, using many different styles of equipment and methods of control. Many products are derived from horses, including meat, milk, hide, hair, bone, and pharmaceuticals. 

Horses belonging to heroes, magical horses and part-horse, part other-creatures were favorite amongst the stories. Horses have always captivated our imaginations and have become woven into many legends and myths.  They can been found in folklore and legends in a variety of cultures – from the horse Gods of the Celtic lands to the pale horse found in Biblical prophecy.  Horses are known to be strong, freedom, swift, loyal, teamwork, journey and courageous and are one of the more spiritual amongst the animal kingdom.
Horses might be used in magic.  Divination was performed when a horse walked over two spears placed in the ground in front of a temple. The pattern in which the horse stepped over the spears – including whether or not a hoof touched the spears – all helped the shamans determine the outcome of the matter at hand. 

Even parts or images of horses have meaning.  A horseshoe found along the side of a road was particularly powerful, and was known to provide protection against disease.   But sometimes, a horse is representative of doom and despair. Death is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and each of the four rides a different colored horse.  In the Book of Revelations, Death arrives on a pale horse.

During the Beltane season, there are Hobby Horse celebrations in many parts of the United Kingdom and Europe. Wiccan Beltane is a time of lust and sex and fertility, and few symbols are as representative of this as the horse. In England, the hobby horse tradition goes back to the island’s early Pagan roots, as the hobby horse welcomes in the fertility season.  These festivals are also tied to early pre-Christian fertility rituals, as the horse symbolizes the masculine energy of the season.
The Ehwaz rune e symbolizes inner strength, transportation and fortitude. It is a rune of strength, will and determination to perform one’s duties diligently. Ehwaz represents energy and motion and the force and power by which to achieve . Specifically, this is the rune of the Horse, or Horses. The Ehwaz rune represents ‘horsepower’ and the ability to work hard and carry heavy loads.  Ehwaz is telling you to always be proud of your achievements, whilst remaining humble. This will ensure that your travels will be swift, positive and rewarding.

In Norse mythology, Sleipnir is a grey eight-legged horse.  Sleipnir is God Odin's steed, the child of God Loki.  He is described as the best of all horses and is sometimes ridden into the land of death or through the air.  Sleipnir was swift, sure footed and could jump anything. Odin and Sleipner may have been the precursors to the modern tale of Santa Claus and his flying reindeer.   According to Icelandic folklore, the horseshoe shaped canyon Asbyrgi located in northern Iceland was formed by Sleipnir's hoof.   And a statue of Sleipnir stands in Wednesbury, England, a town which takes its name from the Anglo-Saxon version of Odin, Woden. 

There are also Skinfaxi and Hrimfaxi, the horses which bring daylight and night. Skinfaxi possesses a brightly burning mane to lit up the sky and Hrimfaxi sometimes sprinkles the ground with his spit as he runs through the night sky, which explains the source of dewdrops.
But this is not a complete list of horses in Norse lore, there is also Gyllir, Lettfeti, Arvak, Silfrtopp..., the list could go on for dozens more. 
For Old World Pagans who live in the country or on a farm, the power of a horse may be familiar.  They may have used them in the field or to ride to a friend's home.  A horse is loyal, swift, playful and strong.  A horse shoe is a good symbol.

But for Urban Pagans who live in the city or in a suburb, they may not have ever met a horse or even seen a horse.  I like to think of horsepower in those cases.  The horsepower of a car, train or airplane can be use to ride to a friend's home or to plow the driveway.  A car can be playful, travel, strong and comes in a variety of colors and sizes similar to a horse.  A wheel is a good symbol.  Both require feed (gas) and care (washing) - and both can kill you or cause other damage.


O Master - Feed me and care for me, and when the day's work is done, provide me with shelter, a clean dry bed and a stall wide enough for me to lie down in warm comfort.  Amen

-OR-

O Master - Feed me and care for me, and when the day's work is done, provide me with shelter, a clean dry slab and a garage wide enough for me to rest in warm comfort.   Amen

                          



Modern Norse


WG – Does Norse mythology have any influence on today’s society, like Greek mythology apparently does (i.e., Nike shoes, Midas Touch car shop, etc.)?


KS – Just look at your cell phone. The Bluetooth symbol is a bind-rune, which means that it is formed from two runes that are merged together. Runes are the ancient Norse letters that, according to mythology, Odin discovered and gave to gods and humans. Runes actually exist and were used for over a thousand years. They were letters (used to spell things) and symbols (each symbol stood for a specific word or concept). Harald Bluetooth (circa 935-985) united Denmark under his rule; the Bluetooth technology unites different devices under its “rule.”

If you take the rune for “H” –

 

and combine it with the rune for “B” –




you get the Bluetooth logo –



Also, next time you use the restroom in a public place, look at the paper towel dispenser. Chances are, it will have this symbol on it –




which is the logo of Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget, a Swedish paper-goods company. It’s based on a symbol that is associated with Odin in ancient carvings like this one –


Detail of the Hammars Stone in Sweden (8th century)

So, think of Odin the next time you make a phone call or dry your hands!

 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Svartalheim


Svartalheim
In Norse mythology, Svartalfheim (Svartalfaheimr) is the underground realm of black elves, or dark elves, ruled by the dark elf Modsognir.  Svartalfheim is in the middle region of the nine worlds, on the same level as Midgard.  These creatures were not allowed to come to the surface of the earth during daylight hours under penalty of being turned to stone.  The counter part to the dark elves are the Light Elves who live in Alfheim.

The elves were a race of mythical beings, who were, in a way, lesser deities. They weren't exactly Gods in the normal sense, but they did possessed powers.  The truth is that the writers in the Norse myths don't have much to say about the elves. Their roles were developed more later in folklore, fairy tales and in the world of fantasy novels, such as by the novelist J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

An elf is a type of supernatural being in Germanic mythology and folklore.  Elves are first attested in Old English and Old Norse texts and are prominent in traditional British and Scandinavian folklore.  Elves were originally thought of as ambivalent beings with certain magical abilities capable of helping or hindering humans, but in later traditions became increasingly sinister and were believed to afflict humans and livestock in various ways.

The races that comprise the Dark Elves are: dwarves, gnomes, goblins, kobolds and trolls.  The Dark Elves, are evil creatures who grew from the maggots of Ymir's flesh.   The dark elves could be hideous and could be a great nuisance to the humans, many described them as being extremely annoying. The dark elves were nothing but trouble. Many believed that dark elves were also responsible for the nightmares. These dark elves were called mare.  A mare would sit on a sleeping person’s chest and whisper bad dreams to haunt the person.  A mare could also haunt animals, especially horses. But they could not be exposed to sunlight, if the sun’s rays reached them they would immediately turn into stones.
Dark Elves are sinister and often use their magic to evil ends.  Farmers often complain of them riding their horses all night until exhausted.  They are also blamed for poor milk cows, missing shiny objects sure as money, rotten food and smoke billowing back down chimneys.  Generally they are not called on for magic works.  If you do great caution is given and may you find protection in your path.

 

Ruler of the universe,
who closes my eyes in sleep,
my eyelids in slumber.

Let no disturbing thoughts upset me,
no evil dreams nor troubling fantasies.

Peace of sleep is all I ask.

Thank you and Good night.

Midgard


Midgard
Midgard, Middle Earth, is the name for the world inhabited by and known to humans in early Germanic cosmology and specifically one of the Nine Worlds in Norse mythology.  Pictured as placed somewhere in the middle of the Yggdrasil tree, Midgard is surrounded by a world of ocean, that is impassable.  The ocean is inhabited by the great sea serpent Jormungand (Midserpent), who is so huge that he encircles the world entirely, grasping his own tail.  God Thor is its Guardian.

This abode of mankind, is made from the body of the first created being, the giant Ymir.  According to legend, the Gods killed Ymir, rolled his body into the central void of the universe, and began fashioning Midgard. Ymir's flesh became the land, his blood the oceans, his bones the mountains, his teeth the cliffs, his hair the trees, and his brains (blown over the earth) became the clouds.  His skull was held up by four dwarfs, Nordri, Sudri, Austri, and Vestri (the four points of the compass), and became the dome of the heavens. The sun, moon and stars were made of scattered sparks that were caught in the skull.  God Odin and his two brothers Vili and Ve, created the first humans from an ash log, the man and from an elm log, the woman.

Midgard is situated halfway between Niflheim on the north, the land of ice, and Muspelheim to the south, the region of fire.  Midgard is joined with Asgard, the abode of the Deities, by Bifrost, the rainbow bridge.

According to the Eddas, Midgard will be destroyed at Ragnarok, the battle at the end of the world.  Jormungand will arise from the ocean, poisoning the land and sea with his venom and causing the sea to rear up and lash against the land.  The final battle will take place, following which Midgard and almost all life on it will be destroyed, with the Earth sinking into the sea, only to rise again, fertile and green.
Mannaz is the conventional name of the m-rune m of the Elder Futhark.  It is derived from the reconstructed Common Germanic word for "man".  Mannaz represents all of humanity who dwell on the Earthly plane Midgard.  It is about those with whom with have intimate relationships, such as our immediate circle of family and friends, to the wider community. It also extends to our connection with nature and our instincts to be social creatures. Mannaz represents our connection with the Universe and nature, as well as the lifecycle of birth, death and rebirth.   

 

Be happy in life.
Bring happiness to your friends and relations.
Yet be aware that death is always waiting.