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The Boar’s Head

The Boar’s Head is probably the oldest continuing festival of the Yuletide season. This pageant is rooted in ancient times when the boar was sovereign of the forest. A ferocious beast and menace to humans, it was hunted as a public enemy.

“The boar is the beast of death,” Robert Graves says (White Goddess. pg. 210), and much of the sacred and symbolic import of boars and pigs in general is in fact connected with death. Death is, of course, a central concern of most religions, but in those which emphasize the danger to the soul of devouring demons, and in those in which human sacrifice is an important element, contemplation of death takes on a special vividness and immediacy. The pig is, among other things, a devourer; it is a menace to crops and to people, it is voracious and it is omnivorous. Even the strong-stomached goat will not eat meat, its young, or manure. Thus for dangerousness the pig has no rival among domestic animals, except the bull.

To the modern mind the uncleanness of the pig is obviously connected to the pig’s affinity for dirt. To the ancients the concept was more ambiguous. The primary meaning of uncleanness was holiness. Therefore, to come in contact with an unclean creature, that is, a creature highly charged with spiritual power, was somewhat equivalent to touching a radioactive object. Among the Egyptians also, touching a pig was unclean, and swineherds were a class almost of untouchables, forbidden even to enter a temple (Frazer. p. 548). Once a year, however, pigs were sacrificed to Osiris and to the moon, and at that time their flesh was eaten. Thus, the eating of pork, at the proper time, was a sacremental act. There is in myth a tendency for things to mean, or to be, also their opposite; the pig’s very holiness makes it unclean.

The pig is, in fact, rather human in its omnivorousness, its propensity for violence, and in the sparceness of its hair. A pig hung up to be butched does look disconcertingly human, especially from a distance. The heart of a pig has valves in it sufficiently close to human heart valves that it is the heart of choice from which to harvest replacement valves to save human lives in the face of a failing human heart valve, especially in the older population.

Pigs, however, have been gods as well. According to Frazer (Frazer. 554), “it may almost be laid down as a rule that an animal which is said to have injured a god was originally the god himself.” Attis, Adonis, Diarmuid Ua Duibhne and Osirus all had been boars, if this is true.
According to Joseph Campbell (Primitive Mythology. 446), the gleaming white boar’s tusks represent the moon, and their significance is that they are crescent shaped. The moon, which wanes, dies, and is reborn is a symbol of rebirth, thus linking the boar to the cycle of birth-death-rebirth. Here we see the aspect of the boar that is feminine, for Cerridwen, a Celtic grain goddess, was depicted as a sow; and apparently at one time the Greek grain goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone were also pigs.

There is, however, at least one example of a pig whose divine role is both masculine and feminine as well as solar: the Norse fertility god Freyr rides a chariot through the sky drawn by a great red-gold boar and his sister, Freya is shown riding a boar. Freyr’s boar Gullenbursti (“Golden Mane”), was manufactured by the dwarf Sindri as the result of a wager between Sindri’s brother Brokkr and Loki. The bristles in Gullinbursti’s mane glowed in the dark to illuminate the way for his owner.

Freya rode the boar Hildesvini (Battle Swine) when she was not using her cat-drawn chariot. According to the poem Hyndluljóð, Freyja concealed the identity of her protégé Óttar by turning him into a boar. In Norse mythology, the boar was generally associated with fertility.

While the pig is mainly a night, lunar, underworld creature, there are solar pigs that do exist. In addition to Freyr’s gold bristled boar, there is the Calydonian boar, which Ovid in his Metamorphosis describes as a boar that behaves like the mid-summer sun. Although the solar nature of this boar may seem only conjectural, it does show the transition from a more earth oriented religion to a more masculine sky-father one.

The three colors sacred to the moon goddess–white, black and red are also the common colors of pigs. The white pig, a sow of course, primarily represents fertility. The Celtic Cerridwen, in fact, means white sow. The city founded by Aeneas, Alba Longa, the forerunner of Rome, was also named for a white sow, for the river god Tiber told Aeneas to build where he found a white sow lying with thirty newborn piglets at her udder. The black pig, on the other hand, is the underworld death pig. The red boar is probably the solar beast.

Like the bear, it was revered not only because it was feared, but also because it was admired for certain of its characteristics. Pigs are known for their large litters of young and for being fiercely protective as parents. Their survival comes about because they can and do eat such a wide variety of foods: everything from plants to fungi to meats. Served at specific times of the year, the sacrificial pig is offered to the feasters as the taking of the body of the god into one’s own.

At Roman feasts, boar was the first dish served. Like the American Thanksgiving turkey, it was a staple of medieval banquets. A boar was sacrificed to Freyr at the Winter Solstice. Amid trumpets blaring and minstrels singing, the boar’s head with an apple in its mouth, was carried in on a gold or silver platter. This is the theme of the Boar’s Head Pageant.
Thought to be the oldest carol, here is a version from a publication by Thomas Wright in 1841 of the Boar’s Head Carol that was first published in 1521. Also included are the translations of the Latin.

The boar’s head in hand bear I
Bedecked with bay and rosemary
I pray you, my masters, be merry
Quot estis in convivio.
(However many are at the feast)

||: Caput apri defero,
Reddens laudes domino. :||
(I bring the boar’s head,
giving praises to the Lord)

The boar’s head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all this land,
Which thus bedecked with a gay garland

Let us servire cantico
(serve with song).
[A tastier version of this line:
Servitur cum sinapio.
(It is served with mustard)]

Our steward hath provided this
In honor of the King of bliss
Which, on this day to be served is
In Reginensi atrio
(in the Queen’s hall).

First stanza repeats.

To see part of this pageant and hear the carol sung, go to:

Posted in Forn Seðr, Uncategorized.

Charming of the Plough

February 2nd is the traditional day for the Anglo-Saxon Charming of the Plough. While the date is traditonal the day in which the Charming of the Plough could be later due to winter like conditions in the immeidate area. As often is the case even in the time of our ancestors. While it may be spring like conditions in England and southern Germany, in Norway, Sweden and Icealand winter is still going strong

Typically this would have resulted in a delay in different regions. Just as there is a difference today, the individual / group needs to observe the local conditions and plan accordingly

Here in the mountains of NC, it is hard to say right now if it will be spring like come February 2; so far this winter it has been above average warm with today being cool with a high of -2 C. However despite this it will not last, and as such either some planting or preperation of planting

While there has been a removal of many people from the land and the loss of their connection to the land, we try to maintain a sizeable garden and other food producing plants; in part while this keeps a connection between us and the land, it also provides a great deal of food.

Typically we will make an offering to Freyr, Freyja and to Thor. A seperate offering is given to the landvaettr to share the bounty of the land with them


Posted in Forn Seðr.

History Channel to feature a dedicated show on Vikings

So while watching some mindless history channel last night there was a promo come on for a new show starting March 3, 2013 called Vikings.

I am first of all very skeptical on the ability of the History Channel to pull this off without perverting the facts as they have done so many times to portray the Scandinavians as Europe’s backwards godless retards.

The concept behind this show appears to be a 10 episode scripted series following Ragnarr Loðbrók, focused on his rise to king.

It will remain to be seen if the History Channel has changed it views or if this will turn into another bash fest for the History Channel.


Posted in Forn Seðr.

Teutoburg Forest

September 9 – 12 will mark the anniversary of Varus’s defeat by Arminus at Teutoburg Forest. Raise a horn to honour our Germanic ancestors and remember their victory over tyranny as Rome tried to steal their lands, resources and destroy our culture and people.

The Battle of Teutoburg Forest was the tipping point that led to the collapse of the Roman Empire forcing it to divide into Western and Eastern sections. Ultimately the Western section collapsed completely.


Posted in Forn Seðr.

Harvest Time

For those who have been able to grow crops this year, the time for harvest is here. Traditionally in the northern regions the harvest would begin in early September to ensure the crops were not lost to early frost.

We’ve been harvesting for some time now, as this year has been especially wet, I don’t recall having to irrigate but maybe two times all summer long. On the other hand being so wet the potatoes had massive failure and the tomatoes didn’t do especially well either. Other crops did good or above average. This year was a good year for the grapes.

As with tradition one should leave something for Freyr and I like to include Freyja in the first harvest, and for me subsequent harvests a small portion for Thor and on the final harvest for Sleipnir and Óðin. Alternately one could leave a portion to the landvættir, I do an offering to them separately at the end of the growing season and again before planting. It is really up to the individual how they choose to do their offerings and to who. Generally though I try to thank the Gods, Goddesses and wights that are involved in helping make the crops grow.

Good luck in your harvests!


Posted in Forn Seðr.


Today marks the mid summer point in the Nordic lands. In the non-Nordic lands it marks the beginning of summer.

Take some time and acknowledge the Gods and Goddesses, upon this the longest day of the year.

I will be holding my midsummer blót a little off schedule this year and will be doing it next week, when I plan to be up in the higher mountains.

So tonight I raise a horn to Sól as she lingers a little longer and to Máni as he does a quick sprint across the night sky.


Posted in Forn Seðr.


Today marks the anniversary of Lindisfarne, an event that most historians and scholars agree on is that the raid is the beginning of the Viking Age.

Following the Lindisfarne raid were a series of raids throughout the British Isles. Some the raids become a means of colonization by various Scandinavian groups.


Posted in Forn Seðr.

Éostre, Ôstara

Today is the full moon after the spring equinox; which I am told by those who can keep time-reckonings straight, is Éostre/Ôstara’s holy tide. The month of April equates, according to Bede, to Eostur-monað, during which the goddess was venerated, and his remarks in reference to Xian Easter indicate that the full moon should be the peak of the celebration. However, on the Continent they spoke of Ôstarûn, which is a plural (and for those who speak German, is why the modern German Ostern ends in n). That and Bede’s harping on the month auggest a multi-day celebration – similar in that respect to Yule, perhaps, or simply a month focused on its midpoint, the full moon.


And there, sadly, the trail goes cold. Possibly because there is nothing in Old Norse lore about Éostre/Ôstara, she’s a bit neglected by many modern heathens. A lot simply celebrate the equinox itself, along with the wiccans. It’s been suggested she’s Iðunn, which is a bit odd – the apple trees are only now blooming in the mild climate where I am, but of course the chickens and other birds have been busy laying.


And of course we’re all (except those unfortunates still waiting for the snow to get out of the way; and the antipodeans) rejoicing in the springtime. Things are growing again. There are fresh greens at the farmers’ market. Gardening is more than reading seed catalogs and trying to protect things against frost and wind. Everything is leaping out of the ground, in most places, and the trees are setting about clothing their bareness. The animals are glad of the warmth and the longer days, and so are we.


Éostre/Ôstara’s name is cognate with those of various Indo-European dawn goddesses, and although the beginning of the heathen year is back at the start of Yule, this is the start of the growing year; recall that our forefathers started the day at sunset, which is why Hávamál advises us not to praise the day till evening – when it is over and the new one beginning. We’ve made our way through the dark days, the evening and the night of the beginning year, and now here is the sunshine of morning.


So I hailed and thanked Éostre this morning, and will continue to do so as this (lunar) month continues. It is churlish to forget her just because the Norsemen apparently hid her away under some other name – or Snorri forgot to mention her. (We have lost so much. Maybe he did not approve of the traditional rites of the tide, such as running barefoot in the fields, juggling eggs? Maybe he wasn’t aware she could be related to Greco-Roman?) At least the Anglo-Saxons and Germans preserved her name, and they preserved so little, we should value it all the more. Besides, the springtime is a lovely time, even for those who love the winter. It’s a time of promise and possibility.


Hail Éostre, hail Ôstara.

Posted in Forn Seðr.


It has been just over a year now since the transmigration of Wulfmann (Frank), known to many simply as Wulfy. As with traditions of our folk it is customary to remember the passing.

Wulfy while troubled by health problems tried to be part of the fragmented Heathen community, wanting to look deeper to his own spirituality; unfortunately in many of the self reflections his confidence became shaken and the core of his beliefs questioned.

Upon the time of his transmigration from this world to the Other World, he was in a dark place within his beliefs, due to the rapid decline of his health it became increasingly difficult to help him through the darkness.

Now a year later it is time the transmigration be completed, while it can not be done by me at his final resting place the winds carry the words to the trees to speak all the same. I debated on posting this writing in English and decided that it would be best that I did for those who knew Wulfy:

Passing of Máni and Sól upon the Gods’ disc.
Twisted woods with dark paths.
Water cold flows to the knees now.
Now deep with in dark the colours all faded.
No exit from this land can be seen by most.
With the pale orb high take my hand to escape this wonder land.
Troubled spirits echoing on time lost to most.
Winds carry the words silently spoken upon the songs of birds.

Power is the earth … power is from the sky high above.
Take the mark of Týr and keep your head held high.
The road lays before now, go forth to make the journey in the Other World.
Where the line of your ancestors becomes clear.
Go forth through tall trees with open paths.
Huldrefolk lead the way to the clearing of woods.
And soon you will find paradise!

Monsters of this world you are free of now.
Your spirit is faded from the view of most.
All the life that once was is a ghost to you now.
Those across the gods’ disc will see you again.
When they fall asleep.

May you find what you were looking for but could not find in this world.


Posted in Forn Seðr.

The Tripartite Theory

One bugaboo that haunts our and others’ thoughts about the gods is Georges Dumézil’s Tripartite Theory.


Briefly, based on an analysis of “mythologies” of the Indo-European language family, and using texts such as Rígsþula as keys, Dumézil grouped the gods (and as an afterthought the goddesses) into one of three functional niches: sovereignty, war, and fertility (often referred to as first, second, and third function respectively). He saw the first function as characteristically divided between two gods: a “sovereign god of law” and a “sovereign god of magic” (his type examples are Mitra and Varuṇa, respectively). The second function is pretty easy to understand: gods like the Hindu Indra, the Greek Ares, and the Roman Mars. For the third function, he was heavily influenced by Greek and so regarded fertility gods as also having to do with death: chthonic. Dumézil saw the fertility gods as characteristically paired and associated with twin-ness; this partly because of the Greek Dioscuroi and Vedic Aśvins, both divine twins, and partly because sexual relations require two bodies. The Vanir seemed to him to obviously fit this third function, and this is probably why so many heathens have absorbed the notion that Freyja and Freyr are not just sister and brother, but twins. It was in fact the Germanic pantheon that led him to divide the first function, that of sovereignty, between two gods: in order to accommodate both Týr and Óðinn. Some of the details of his theory show this quite clearly: the first kind of sovereign deity (Mitra, Týr) embodies divine Law and is implacable, while the second (Varuṇa, Óðinn) manipulates things and is from a human point of view cruel and capricious. Týr is god of the þing and does not laugh; Óðinn is called furor (fury) by Adam of Bremen and rather often kills his followers. Whereas Mitra and Varuṇa tend to be contrasted by calling one day and the other night, one the god of the visible and the other of the invisible, and so forth; a lot more abstract.


Dumézil’s theory was developed primarily based on gods of ancient India and the Zoroastrian figures that are successors to them and on Roman history, legend, and custom that tell us about the effaced pantheon of ancient Rome. In these materials, there is quite a clear element of social stratification, the Indian castes being quite blatant. One way of defining mythology that is widely accepted in academia is as stories that teach social relations in religious terms. In some sense of course, this is obvious; we learn a little bit from every story, in particular about human relations, behavioral options, and morals, and a story about the gods, being important, is thus particularly influential. But Dumézil glommed onto the threefold class heirarchy presented in Indic texts in particular, and welcomed Rígsþula as an almost unambiguously similar statement among Germanic texts. So there is a definite element of classism behind his analysis: he does indeed regard the gods of the first function as superior to those of the second, and those of the second as superior to the agricultural gods of the third function. Applied to heathenry, this leads to the idea that Thor is a god of churls and that followers of Óðinn are inherently better – as sometimes seen in the works of Edred – and to dismissal of the Vanir. It’s also been the main point of protest against Dumézil now that the shine has worn off his work since he died: he was personally enamored of class and authoritarianism, and anti-imperialist nativists are among the main attackers of the whole Indo-European enterprise, so they don’t like that at all.


But in any case – this doesn’t fit heathenry at all well. To begin with Rígsþula: that’s an anomalous poem about a god otherwise unmentioned in the lore, whose name is the Irish word for king, and who may or may not be Heimdallr. It also breaks off after defining four classes: Kon Ungr, the prototype of the king, is Rígr’s grandson, the son of the last of his three sons. And where is the support in the rest of the lore for social stratification related to different gods? All I can think of is the gibes in Harbarðsljóð.


“Gods of the peasantry” is a poor way to think of the Vanir. They were winning the war against the Æsir at one point – they devastated Asgard so that it had to be provided with a new wall by the giant builder. Freyr is betstr allra ballriða (best of all warriors – Lokasenna), folkvaldi goða (leader of the host of the gods – Skírnismál), and even ása iaðarr (lord of Æsir – Lokasenna again). Lest we think these terms are tongue-in-cheek, let’s recall that in addition to being the or one of the leaders of an army that breached the defences of Asgard, he not only killed a giant with a stag’s antler – he could have done it with his bare hands (Gylfaginning). And he’s called veraldar goð (god of the world, a term that lived on in Sami religion) in both Ynglingasaga and Flateyjarbók. That’s your “warrior function” as well as your “sovereign function.” And in any case, Germanic armies have always been fairly meritocratic. They started as levies of all the suitably aged men of the tribe and continued as levies of the menfolk of a shire or a country. That’s the same guys who farmed the fields. And in the Viking Age, the viking went out harrying to get treasure – with which to settle on a farm. (Unless of course he made himself king of some place like Sicily.) Classes of people who don’t farm, let alone a middle caste who only make war, are a late development in Germanic society, only really coming about under feudalism. As we see from both the sagas and the lore of the gods, such a division of labor is just not Germanic, especially the brushing off of farming. What mattered more was how free the farmer was.


And our gods all have something to do with sex. Thor blesses the marriage with his hammer! In fact, Thor single-handedly casts the tripartite division into doubt. He’s not a muscle-bound brute – he’s djúphugaðr, the deep-thinker (Haustlǫng), and he bests the dwarf Alvíss (all-wise, heh) handily in a contest of wits. Conversely, pretty much all our gods have to do with war – Týr, Óðinn, and Thor are often grouped together as “war gods,” and of course Týr is particularly identified that way. Not with rulership; some people don’t even known he is also god of the þing. Dumézil was troubled from the start by this “flattening” effect whereby “first function” gods of sovereignty were “pushed down” to the “second function” of war, and he became so troubled by the variety of manifestations of strength in Germanic “myths” that he bisected the second function, too, to account for Thor’s associations with fertility and the earth and for the frequent occurrence of chaotic warriors in Germanic stories. Of course, that meant he had each of the three “functions” divided between two types,  making it simpler and potentially more accurate to resolve the system as a dualistic opposition between constructive and destructive.


But in Germanic terms, it simply won’t wash anyway. Freyr won’t fit well into his system; Thor won’t fit well into his system; Óðinn frankly won’t fit well into any system; and what about Freyja taking half of those who die in battle? If that is simply the death part of being a “chthonic” deity, then what about the other half, that Óðinn takes? And looking at sovereignty, don’t Baldr and Forseti fit that model quite as well as Týr? One of the big problems is that war was the ultimate way of settling judicial questions in Germanic culture; this remains so even after the custom becomes accepted of saving general bloodshed by having a duel between designated representatives stand in for battle between armies. So it simply isn’t true that sovereignty and legal judgment resided in a sphere distinct from war. War was a legal judgment and the ruler had to be a warrior, not just a general. Dumézil’s class stereotypes don’t fit, and Germanic tribes did not set roles apart even in the manner of the three Vedic castes. Also, Freyja’s magic (and many names) are a counterpoint to Óðin’s. And where does Ullr fit in the neat system? Never mind Loki . . .


One reason the Germanic pantheon busts out of Dumézil’s system may simply be that we have an unusually large number of gods and goddesses recorded. Snorri tried to say there were 13, presumably on the model of the Greek pantheon, but there are far more in his own work. But those we know most about fit least well into the niches. And the whole thing presupposes that the Germanic pantheon changed only slightly after the tribes left the Indo-European homeland. That flies in the face of a lot of evidence. The Æsir-Vanir war and subsequent treaty. The substantial indications that Týr and Ullr are older gods. (One cannot have it both ways – if Týr was originally the same figure as the Greek Zeus, and a sky god, then it’s plain his role in the pantheon has changed.) In fact the rigidity of Dumézil’s theory and its problems accommodating our gods and goddesses cast into question the closeness of our pantheon to other Indo-European ones. It reminds one of how different the Ṛg-Veda and the Greek and Roman myths are from our lore. They have very different themes and obsessions (gods and goddesses manipulating people; gods giving people a whole raft of rules to live by . . . ) That’s why Rígsþula is so anomalous – it’s more like those other scriptures than the rest of our stuff is. And it’s the contact point with Dumézil’s theory.


So I think we’re better off not letting it color our view of the gods; and rolling back the influence it has had in our thinking, such as Edred’s assertions about Odinists being superior to Thorians, the comparative neglect of the Vanir, and views of kingship as inherently Germanic.

Posted in Forn Seðr.

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