How do Norse neopagans typically view Rökkatru?

This is a slightly edited version of an essay originally posted on Huginn’s Heathen Hoff.

In Snorri Sturulson’s Prose Edda, the jötnar are often portrayed as amoral, dangerous, and destructive. In texts which are more blatantly Christianized, they may be more depicted as outright evil.

In our decidedly Christianized modern society, these things feel very bad and frightening. The knee-jerk reaction is to recoil from and demonize them. This is what has happened with the jötnar, despite their integral role in the Norse pantheon—including the lineage of most of the gods including jötnar, and their frequent romantic interludes with the Vanir and Æsir.

The Æsir, in particular, frequently include jötnar among their ranks; like Mímir or Skaði. The effect in the community of demonizing an entire tribe of spirits or deities in the Norse pantheon is palpable: people who honor or worship the jötunn are often just as demonized as the entities they work with. Often this results in outright dismissing them as either evil or stupid and barring them from certain Norse pagan events and spaces.

Unfortunately, due to the widespread destruction and suppression of pagan religions and traditions by the Christian conversion, modern paganism is by its nature separated from its roots. No evidence exists of a continuous line of Norse pagan practice, and if there does exist today someone who is practicing a version of Norse paganism which was handed down to them in an unbroken chain, they are quite good at hiding. What this means is that Norse neopaganism is largely an effort to reconstruct an old religion lifted from its context, based on texts which were written well after the conversion by Christians who grew up in a Christian culture. The subsequent effect of Christianity on those texts is often overlooked. Furthermore, Scandinavia had long-standing religious traditions prior to the much-glorified Viking age, which culminated in the religious practices of the Viking age, and with which most of us are entirely unfamiliar.

Lacking in that context and desperate for source material upon which to rebuild the old Norse religion, many modern pagans latch onto the Eddas and Sagas, treating them as though they are absolute: the last word on the gods and their stories. This is understandable, but the result of clinging to a text without also thinking critically about it is, at its base, a lack of academic accountability. Such a lack of academic accountability has not only failed to offer anything productive to neopaganism as a movement, it has very real, very negative effects on the Norse neopagan community.

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I recently came across a forum thread where, amid a very legitimate discussion of troubling things some neopagan leaders have done and said, another note was struck which somewhat undermined otherwise very real concerns: dislike for those who honor the jötnar. One commenter quoted the following from Goði Rod Landreth:

“She [Galina Krasskova] and her Etin-lover1 kin want to muddy the waters on all sorts of theological point in and around heathenry…I do not advise any Tru heathen to read her or her Etin-lover kin.”(1) It should be noted that I was unable to track down this quote to corroborate.

The quote shows clear derision for “Etin-lovers,” or those who honor/worship the jötnar, and seems to focus on their desire to “muddy the waters,” presumably by introducing jötunn worship into their practice and promoting this. The quote was presented in the context of evidence that Kaldera, Krasskova, and others are niþing, defined in the same quote as a person who “nobody is allowed to protect, house, or feed…The outlaw is not only expelled from the kinship, he is also regarded henceforth as an enemy to mankind.”
Ehsha Apple of Witchcraft from Scratch notes:

“According to Bosworth-Toller’s Anglo-Saxon Dictionary: ‘a villain, one who commits a vile action.’ Contemporary use translates to ‘a coward, a villain; a person who breaks the law or a code of honour; an outlaw.’ …A nīþing or nīþgæst (denoting the ‘spirit’ of the person) is perpetually considered lower (as in ‘’neath’—beneath) than those around him.”(2)

Its citation in a discussion grounded very much in the real-world harm done by cultural appropriation and malpractice seems very out of place—though very much in line with more common criticisms leveled at public figures like Kaldera and Krasskova. In many other respects I actually agreed with the criticisms being laid against these authors, who I have have increasingly moved away from over the years due both to the very valid ethical concerns brought up in relation to Kaldera and the outing of Krasskova as a xenophobe.

Doing research on the worship of jötnar can unearth many similar attitudes. One such example is a short piece titled “Why I’m Opposed to Jotun Worship” by Hauk Heimdallsman. In this, Heimdallsman states that he is “violently opposed to the concept” of worshiping or honoring jötnar. Many of the comments that follow fall in line with the expressed sentiment that jötnar are not worthy of worship, but that they are explicitly and solely “destructive” forces, and the question abounds why anyone might worship forces of destruction. Heimdallsman states: “Jotnar are not our Kin. They have shown time and again they are not aligned with us, have attacked the Gods, and show no concern for the lives of us here on Midgard.” In the comments, he does acknowledge the jötunn blood of many Aesir gods and others do acknowledge the lineage of gods being drawn back to the primordial jötunn Ymir, but this is largely dismissed as inconsequential. Heimdallsman goes as far as to say that those worshiping or honoring the jötunn “May as well be a Christian if you want to worship massive destructive forces.”3

This neglects the history of the surviving lore as modern practitioners know it today—lore that was recorded after the conversion of Scandinavia by Christians. Furthermore, the attitude of a good vs. evil paradigm—in this instance framed as a “destructive vs. beneficial”—is itself emblematic of Abrahamic religions, and is likely a holdover of such, considering the extreme Christianization of modern western societies, especially the United States.

One commenter, whose screen-name is Wyrd Dottir, highlighted some of the historical and literary oversights in the original post, saying:

“The Lokasenna doesn’t appear to be derived from a pre-Christian tale, but rather appears to be an example of contemporary Christian Medieval Literature that mimics Lucian’s Assembly of the Gods, in much the way that Snorri uses other elements common of Chrisitian Europe’s Medieval Literature by alluding to other great works (those Western “classics” from Greece and Rome), this is afterall [sic] why he attests that the God Thor is descended from the Greek Agamemnon featured in Homer’s Iliad & Odyssey, and later mentioned in Virgil’s The Aeneid. It appears that the Lokasenna followed the formula set by Lucian, and just dropped in Norse Gods instead… Let us not forget that the lore as we know it was penned almost exclusively of Christian scholars, and it’s not some sacred holy text written by believers, but rather is a text written as ‘entertainment’. If everything was rainbow and sparkles, the stories would be boring. The sheer amount of feud you see in Icelandic literature I think screams of the fact this was entertainment. War and blood makes for a far better story than ‘the crops grew, the people were blessed with abudance, [sic] and the Gods were honored’ to the original audience of the lore, Medieval Christians.” (4)

The fact of the matter is that the history of Scandinavia itself is being roundly overlooked and disregarded when it comes to the discussion of jötunn worship, meaning that the birthplace of Norse paganism is being overlooked, or worse, cherry-picked. To begin with, the religion of the Vikings was not born in a vacuum—it, like many other religions, evolved with the people and culture which practiced it, and there is a plethora of evidence of religious practice across Scandinavia long before the time identifiable as the Viking period or even their immediate predecessor, the Vendals. Shortly, we’ll dive into this historical and cultural context, but first we’ll look at some of the most common misconceptions/misunderstandings about Rökkatru.

Until next time

Skål

(1) Re: Raven Kaldera “Northern Tradition Shaman.” Reply #5. Phillip63. http://www.newagefraud.org/smf/index.php?topic=3819.0
(2) Ehsha Apple (A. “Niþing and Holmgang.” Witchcraft From Scratch, WordPress.com, 4 July 2013, ehshaapple.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/nithing-and-holmgang/.
(3) Heimdallsman, Hauk. “Why I’m Opposed to Jotun Worship.” Post shared to Temple of Our Heathen Gods by Mark, September 14, 2010.
(4) Wyrd Dottir. Facebook Comment, Re: “Why I’m Opposed to Jotun Worship.” Temple of Our Heathen Gods. September 14, 2010.

Magic and Me

In my first post I talked about how divination, magic, and energy work fit into Christianity. For this post I’m going to talk about what this means for me in my practice.

Divination wise I primarily use two techniques. First is with bibliomancy: divination with the Bible. There are different ways to do this, I generally use a random number generator to indicate what book to look at. Then depending on the book, I may use the random number generator again to narrow it down further. Sometimes I have a specific question in mind with this technique but often it is done with more of a mindset of seeking what God wants me to think about. I used it for a specific question when I was contemplating the old practice of libations and offerings that were done in the Old Testament. I wondered if God wanted libations from me. I prayed about it and thought about it. And for the next three days, my randomly generated readings included an emphasis on libations and offerings. At that point, I went with yes. Now a few times every month, or whenever I get the urge, I offer a libation to God of red wine. I also frequently burn incense for the Trinity as an offering.

The other technique I use for divination is tarot. Unlike many tarot readers though my deck is specifically dedicated to the Christian Trinity. I pray to Him about a question or situation and ask that if it is His will I will be granted some clarity with the reading. Sometimes I do a weekly draw asking about what I should be aware of for that week. Sometimes I do multiple cards, asking other questions like what I need to be focusing on or what God wants me to do that week.

Magic is one thing I do not practice much. I have done one spell in regards to health. I do not endorse, under any circumstances, doing magic instead of going to a doctor. But I knew enough about the situation to know that the doctors would tell me I had been foolish (I had) and that all they could do was wait and see. I did a spell to support my body healing. I asked a friend more versed in Christian based magic than I for advice. The spell involved an index card with my name on one side, my specific request on the other. I grounded and centered myself next. I placed the index card under a red candle holder with a small green candle in it, the colors for healing and associated with specific Christian angels for healing. I read out loud the verses from psalms she recommended and prayed. Then the candle was lit and I let it burn all the way down. It worked. My body healed for which I am very grateful as if it had gotten worse it would have meant surgery.

I do a lot of energy work. I pray regularly. Both quick prayers-like for patience or strength-and longer communing prayers. I described this second style of prayer to a friend once and she said it sounded rather shamanistic. I always thought of it as a form of visual meditation. I am more likely to have a bit more of a back and forth in this form of prayer. I’m not talking about hearing God speak in terms of a voice in my head. Ideas, inclinations, maybe a fleeting emotion. Sometimes my goal in this is not a conversation as much as to feel a connection to the Trinity.

Other forms of energy work include warding my apartment. I created a few of them with slightly different intentions, tied them to a decorative cross on my wall, and handed the reins over to Jesus. This was after an overnight guest that was more sensitive than I had an encounter with a less than friendly spirit. It flat out ignored me in my room and focused on her in my living room. I am not so sensitive but thought it would be a wise idea to ward my apartment anyway.

I also utilize an amulet, a crucifix necklace that I made. It would work as an amulet whether or not I did anything intentional with it energetically because of the centuries of belief that have been poured into the shape. I also try to remember to cleanse it regularly and charge it with the intention of helping to shield me in my day to day life.

The Eucharist is another instance of energy work. I ground and center and use prayer and energy to bless the wine (and wafers, when I have wafers). In this case, I channel the Trinity’s energy into the wine and wafers before consuming them. This would be an instance of me being different from most Catholics. According to the Church, I cannot do this myself.

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Overall, I feel like these practices have brought me closer with God and strengthened my relationship with the Trinity.

Christian…Magic?

Defining terms is important. Magic to me means the intentional raising and focusing of energy for a specific goal. Magic can include spells, charms, incantations, or longer rituals. Energy work is the maneuvering of energy for a specific goal. Some examples of energy work are shielding and warding. Divination is the utilization of one of many tools to communicate with spirits in an attempt to bring clarity to a question or situation. The purpose of defining these terms is for me to explain why I see all of them included in Christianity in their various forms.

There is a common conception that Christianity contains none of these practices and that they are in fact considered taboo. The Bible says as much, right? Go ahead and google it, there are numerous lists that refer to the various passages of the Bible that condemn such practices. Of course, that would be ignoring the various places that don’t condemn the practices. I recommend that you google that as well. There are ample cases of casting of lots in the Bible, this is a form of divination- using a tool to divine the will of God. There are other cases in the Old Testament that cover different types of divination that were approved by God. Why the contradictions? Largely it seems to be context. Overall it seems that specific forms of magic and divination were not supported. Human sacrifices, working against the benefit of others, and the utilization of spirits other than God stand out as common themes. Although in some cases it seems that cursing was allowed if it was using God against a non-believer.

This common idea of taboo also ignores the traditions of Conjure, Ozark Mountain Magic, Braucherei, Appalachian Granny Magic, or Espiritismo. These are all Christian magical practices that are in use today.

And for those who are going to brush those off by saying that many do not practice those paths consider a few other things. First, the Eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church. The Church in this case believes in transubstantiation. The wine and wafer become the body and blood of Christ in essence if not in taste and appearance. Other Christian belief systems, like Lutheranism, believe in consubstantiation. This is the belief that the substance of the wine and bread exist at the same time as the blood and body of Christ. And how does Christ get into the Eucharist? I consider this to be energy work done by the clerics working with God. Exorcisms, though not as commonly done in these modern times, I would consider a form of magic. Faith healing-popular in some Protestant practices- I would consider magic. Prayer, depending on who is involved and how it is done, can be seen this way as either magic or energy work. Blessings on a home done by a lay person or by clergy are a form of warding-energy work. Crosses and crucifixes can help shield an individual or a space as they are amulets. They can be even more effective when utilized intentionally.

Why isn’t magic, energy work, and divination in these forms acknowledged in Christianity? That answer is fairly straight forward. Power dynamics. And I am not dumping on Christianity. Religious persons holding close to the vest practices that give them an edge has been in play likely since cultures began. In some ways it makes sense. Do you really want just anyone trying to perform an exorcism? Not likely. There is training and practice needed to channel the energy of a deity into wine and wafer to change them to hold a divine essence.

©Brightest Twilight 2019