Ritual for Ægir

Referred to as “mountain-dweller,” Ægir is a giant attested in Hymir’s Poem. He is the husband of Ran, also attested to in Lokasenna, First Poem of Helgi Hundingsbani. Known for often hosting the Æsir for magnificent feasts and having a friendly relationship with them. His name, simply meaning “Sea,” may be have its origin in a Proto-Indoeuropean word (Cleasby, Vigfússon (1957:758).

Ægir is additionally referred to in the 10th century Icelandic poem Sonatorrek, as well as repeated attestation in the Prose Edda.

He is the husband to Ran, with whom he had begotten the nine daughters Blóðughadda, Bylgja, Dröfn, Dúfa, Hefring, Himinglæva, Hrönn, Kólga, and Uðr — the Nine Waves. He has two servants, Fimafeng and Eldir, one of whom is killed by Loki in Lokasenna. Scholars Jan de Vries, Rudolf Simek, and John Lindow have pointed out that he is often regarded as the same as the sea giant Hlér, being mentioned in both “How Norway Was Settled” (contained in Flateyjarbok) and “Saga of the Orkney Islanders” as the son of a giant named Fornjót. In these accounts he is called both Ægir and Hlér. Here he is identified with the sea, and has the brothers Logi (fire) and Kári (wind), positioning him firmly as associated with the element water, and in particular the waters of the seas (though certainly this was already clear).

Due to his friendliness with the Æsir and Ran’s listing among the ásynja, Ægir’s nature as a jötunn has been questioned by some. It is important to remember that animosity to the Æsir is not a qualifying factor in identifying an entity as jötunn, as plenty have friendly relationships with one or more Æsir and other female jötnar whose nature isn’t questioned have been ranked among the ásynja due to their allegiances with the Æsir.

Fountain Depicting Ægir and His Daughters by J. P. Molin

He is also known as Gymir (sea-engulfer). Because of this some scholars believe he is the farther of Gerdr, wife to Freyr. This connection is unclear, however, just as is the etymology of the name. It had variously been translated at “the earthly,” “the wintry one,” “engulfer,” or “protector.” It is unknown if this name being associated with Ægir is a mistaken attribution of kennings.1

Community/Peer Verified Personal Gnosis indicates that he is a generous and jovial but demanding god who may expect offerings in exchange for safe passage on the sea. He is additionally known for brewing beer or mead.

There is a possible place name associated with Ægir, potentially indicating pre-Christian cultic sites. This is the modern day Læsø, which was historically called Hléysey or Hlér’s Island (recall that Hlér was one alternate name for Ægir).

Ægir, Rán and their Nine Daughters preparing ale; from a 19th century, illustrated version of the Poetic Edda

Due to his association with alcohol, wine, beer, or mead seem exceptionally good offerings to bring a ritual for Ægir. If it is possible for any such ritual to be done at the ocean, that would be ideal. However, the reality for most of us is that the sea is not so readily accessible. Any natural body of water can act as a substitute, especially if you know that the water eventually reconnects to the sea. Otherwise you can opt to have a bowl of salt water to represent Ægir in your ritual or skip the need to physically connect with the sea altogether. As always, do what feels most appropriate to you and best suits your practice, needs, and ability.

Once you have settled on a place where you will conduct your ritual and you have your offering ready, it’s time to begin. If casting a circle is an element of your practice, do so now as you see fit. (I call on Jord for Earth, Ran and Aegir for Water, Surt for Fire, and Hræsvelgr for Wind/Air.)

Set your offering on the ground or on a ritual altar if you’re using one. Kneel before the offering and bow your head, moving your hands and/or arms into a position of reverence, and say:

“Hail Ægir, Mountain-dweller.

Hail Ægir, Sea-Engulfer.

Hail Ægir, Husband to Ran.

Hail Ægir, Læsø’s Ancestor.

Hail Ægir, Fimafeng and Eldir’s Master.

Hail Ægir, Logi and Kári’s Brother.

Hail Ægir, Fornjót’s Son.

Hail Ægir, Father of the Nine Waves.

Hail Ægir, Who is the Sea…”

If you have a specific intent for this ritual outside of simply honoring Ægir, state it now. Ægir is often depicting as hosting the gods, so he might be called upon in advance of a gathering in which you are hosting. Being the embodiment of the sea, he might be called on for any sea-based magic you seek to do. If you are to be traveling over the sea, perhaps you specifically want to ask for his protection as you cross the sea. These are only a couple of examples though—it’s your practice, so be creative with it!

Otherwise, proceed with the following: “I call on you Ægir also called Hlér to receive my honor, reverence, and offering.”

If you have anything to ask of Ægir, be it a boon, aid, wisdom, etc. ask for it now.

Raise the offering over your head and say

“Hail Ægir of the sea!

Hail Ægir of Læsø!

Hail Ægir friend to the Æsir!”

If you are at a body of water, you may pour your offering into the water now if this feels correct. In the Americas, I recommend against pouring alcohol out onto the earth, as this feels disrespectful to the spirits of the land whose people have been ravaged by trauma-based, generational substance-use problems. You may also call Ægir to receive the drink through you—plenty of traditions around the world avoid waste by having the practitioners themselves ritually consume offerings of food and drink, and if this feels appropriate to you, you may do so. My only guidance on this is to ensure you are practicing a mindful consumption, not just slogging the drink down as quickly as you can but taking your time to experience the scent, texture, and taste of it. Otherwise, if you are in your home, you can leave the offering out (in a safe place where animals or children can’t fuss with it) for a full day and night before disposing of it.

Bow to the ground, pressing your forehead and your palms to the ground. Any energy you have felt raised through the process of this ritual, ground it out as an additional energetic offering, while thanking Ægir for his presence and bidding him farewell. (If you’re doing this ritual in advance of a party or gathering you are hosting, you might want to save this part until after the gathering has departed, taking time to consciously gather and ground out the energy of the gathering.)

When this is done, close your ritual in whatever way best suits you and your practice.

1Simek, Rudolf (1996). Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S. Brewer. p.126-127

Rise the Wind and Rise the Waves: An Ego-Sacrifice Ritual for Jörmungandr

Note: the following is a person story about my efforts to de-center myself during a time when we all need to prioritizing community. It’s an account I share in the hopes that it might be meaningful and helpful for others who are similarly realizing that they need to engage in a sort of “ego death” to better de-center themselves and prioritize community and movements that aren’t about them, but which they can support. I don’t discuss it explicitly but this is also a story about me beginning a path toward healing from recent traumas and mental health problems. It’s not going to be perfect, and I understand that. I only hope that it might be valuable to other imperfect practitioners seeking to improve in deeply personal ways.

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This holiday post is a little bit different. For many of us time has ceased to have meaning during quarantine, and I’m no exception. If you’re interested in my take on how to celebrate Litha in a way catered to Rökkatru, check out last year’s post. Today, I want to tell you about my inadvertent solstice ritual for myself, for Jörmungandr, and for the world at large.

If you haven’t noticed, the world is in a bit of a state these days. I’ve seen and heard many Rökkatru and Lokeans discussing what they’ve been experiencing on a spiritual level, and it’s interesting to say the least. While there are communities in Africa practicing traditional religious rituals to curse American police and witches and pagans from all over America joined to do spells in support of #BlackLivesMatter (that were additionally supported by Christian prayers, nonetheless) many who work with the Norse gods are reporting a certain rumbling.

I’ve recently seen an uptick in people seeing a lot of activity from Loki and his kind in recent meditations and divinations. I recall seeing at least one person getting the distinct impression that Loki was well at work—and that the entire pantheon was behind him. It only makes sense that the Breaker of Worlds would have a hand not only in a pandemic that had shaken the entire world to its core and in the process us unveiled many ugly truths about our societies, but also in a simultaneous uprising that has laid bare a deep vein of corruption and oppression in a particularly potent system of power. This has been laid so bare that #BlackLivesMatter protests have been staged across the globe.

Now is a time for endings. Now is a time for beginnings.

It occurred to me recently that my own ego was getting in my way, preventing me from more effectively supporting the cause from the sidelines, where I’m stuck due to COVID-19 and close friends and chosen family who are immunocompromised or have loved ones who are. I had to prioritize my community and my ego was throwing a hissy fit about it.

I’m not sure why it struck me then that Jörmungandr could help me with this, but that notion struck me hard and felt right.

Gosforth_fishing

I’ve not worked with Jörmungandr much, though not for lack of trying. Jörmungandr is a deity of the liminal. The concept of the ego is itself a bit of a wishy-washy thing, certainly much more in the realm of the mind and psyche than anything solid and tangible. This made sense to me—and if I wanted to shed my ego like a snake sheds its skin, then it made additional sense that it was the Midgard Serpent that I should petition.

The ritual itself was, fittingly, rather nebulous in my mind. I would go to a body of water, for greater connection with Jörmungandr, and I would enter the cold waves as a minor ordeal. I would cut off my hair—which I’ve been growing out for years and which I had a certain amount of pride in—as a physical symbol of the ego I would be sacrificing to the Great Serpent. I might try to sing, might chant, but I did not know what words.

From the day that I decided to do the ritual, I counted out nine days of preparation for the ritual, which largely took the form of working on undoing energetic blockages associated with recent trauma and mental health problems. That put me at the 21st of June—the summer solstice, though again I didn’t realize that until the day of. Additionally it ended up being the first day of my menstruation, which I wasn’t particularly stoked about but which lent an additional, um….flavor? to the ritual.

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I went to an inlet connected to the ocean. I stripped down to my underwear and walked into the water. It was late morning and the sky was overcast. The water was biting cold, and I immediately began to shake and shiver as I began casting my circle, calling on Jord of Earth, Hati and Skoll of Air, Surtr of Fire, and Ran, Aegir, and their Nine Daughters of the Sea. At last I faced west and knelt in the water and called on Jörmungandr.

“Let my blood call out to you

Great Serpent, the Circumscriber of the Seas

Let my blood call out to you as it calls to all hungry

Watery beasts.

Come find me Jörmungandr of magick and liminal spaces

Where the sea meets the soil.”

For all my attempts to sing these words, my voice was shaking and my teeth chattering as the cold settled into my flesh. My voice was weak but I gave it a try, having been told that Jörmungandr is quite fond of singing.

“Come to me you who encompass Midgard

You whose hide is emblazoned with

The constellations of the Milky Way.

Come find my sacrifice, Jörmungandr

And may it please you well.”

Putting the scissors to my hair, pulled into pigtails for the occasion, and I began to cut.

“Let me shed my ego

Like the serpent sheds its skin.

Come take this ego as offering ad sacrifice

Consume this ego and all its pride and self indulgence

Feast on this sacrifice, Jörmungandr, and feast well.”

I pinned the locks between my knee and took the scissors to the remain pigtail.

“As the snake sheds its skin

So I shed my ego.

As I shed my ego

So let this world shed all its old fetters

Of cruelty, of fear, and hatred;

Of tyranny and terror and oppression.

Let the world shed that heinous skin

And be born anew of all its cold viscera.”

While I spoke, my eyes closed and my face turned out across the water, I felt the waves rise around me. They rocked me, my whole body moving back and forth under the gentle force of their push and their pull. Along with the waves, the wind rose as well. A tree leaned out over the water beside me, and I could hear the wind whispering through the leaves just as I could feel it stirring my now cut-loose hair. For most of the ritual I was too enraptured by the cold of the water to get a good spiritual sense for what was happening around me, but in this moment I felt a great swell within me as I felt the swell of the water around me. I felt and heard my voice becoming strong, commanding, and forceful as the scissors snipped through my hair.

With my hair cut, I dug into the silt and rocks beneath the waves. “Take this sacrifice Jörmungandr,” I half prayed and half pleaded as I pressed the locks into the bottom of the hole and began to cover them with rocks and silt. “Take this sacrifice and take this ordeal—may it please you well Jörmungandr, and I plead you hear our words.”

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It struck me then that I wasn’t quite done. My hair was cut, my sacrifice was made, but something felt incomplete about the ordeal (however minor). Another swell rose up in my chest—an impulse or impression. It felt right to do, and so I dunked myself and my freshly cut hair beneath the cold waves, feeling the shock roll through my body from the top of my head and down my spine. I dunked myself nine times over my buried sacrifice in the waves that were beginning to calm.

After the ninth dunk I stood shakily up. Shivering, I put my hands together and began to thank Jörmungandr and bless their name before bidding them farewell. I thanked Ran, Aegir, and their Nine Daughters, Surtr, Hati and Skoll, and Jord for baring witness to my sacrifice, and bid them all farewell.

When I scrambled out of the water, shaking and covered in goosebumps to where my fiancee was waiting with a towel, I did feel lighter. It had been a sort of catharsis, leaving me less burdened with my own nonsense. More clear of vision, and ready to keep showing up for the fight—however I can, in whatever capacity best serves the community, regardless of my own ego or preferences.