Who are the Rökkr?

The easiest answer to the question “Who are the Rökkr?” is that they are a subgroup of jötnar that have been highlighted by devotees and practitioners as occupying a special or important role, particularly roles associated with the darker sides of the natural order (decay, death, chaos, etc.) So let’s start with the jötnar (singular: jötunn).

The jötnar are a class or delineation of entity in the Norse pantheon. They are often, though not always, described in strange and fantastical ways—sometimes monstrous and sometimes beautiful, but almost always primal. They are so frequently associated with primal energies and natural forces that many, including myself, believe they are a remnant of an older, animistic hunter-gatherer religion which arose in a pre-agricultural Scandinavia, much as the Titans of the Greek pantheon have been viewed.

There is some debate about whether or not the jötnar can be considered gods. A few are listed by Snorri Sturluson among the gods, but godhood according to Snorri’s Edda is almost exclusively reserved for the Æsir and Vanir. Notable exceptions to this are Skadi and Gerdr—both female jötnar who gained a place among the Æsir, and both scenarios involved marriage to Vanir who were already considered to be gods.

Related image

Jötnar are most often called “giants” in English, but the word has also been translated at “trolls,” “etins,” and more. Painting by John Bauer.

The debate about what exactly constitutes a god is one that is quite a bit above my pay grade, but I do believe that there is sufficient evidence in comparing and contrasting Germanic mythological forms not only with the Greek but also with the myths of the Babylonians, Hittites, and Phoenicians (all of which preserve in their mythologies the existence of older, more primal gods being subverted by newer pantheons1) to believe that the jötnar are older, primal deities. The mythology we have inherited is fragmentary at best, having been collected into a written format only after Scandinavia had begun converting. The myths themselves often seem to refer to other stories which are entirely unknown. This doesn’t even take into account the sheer length of time people have occupied Scandinavia and the long evolution of the religious practices the first people in Scandinavia brought with them, as well as the co-mingling and evolution of religions brought by subsequent immigrants into the area. Given all of this, I tend to err on the side of believing that the jötnar were once gods, and that the passage of time and the erosion of their myths and legends doesn’t change that.

There are too many jötnar to list here, though I am in the process of compiling a list of jötnar mentioned in the Eddas and sagas as well as their associations and what is known about them. This list will be shared when it is completed in a post of its own, so hopefully it will suffice for now to say that there are many of them. They show up in the myths wearing many different shapes and forms, some more and some less human, and they show up with all variety of morality and motivation. As a group they seem largely amoral, something which fits in nicely with the interpretation of the jötnar as nature deities/spirits. Individual jötnar are known to behave in ways that are more antagonistic toward the Æsir while others, such as Gerdr and Skadi, actively make peaceful alliances with the Æsir.

Within the ranks of the jötnar are the Rökkr. Which deities do and do not fit into this list is up to interpretation, as Rökkr is not a sub-pantheon defined by the old myths in the same way that Vanir or Æsir are. Rökkr is a new delineation conceptualized by modern practitioners, and what precisely defines the boundaries of what makes an entity Rökkr or not is, as is much of Rökkatru, in flux due to its newness. Generally though, there are certain deities which are consistently named among the Rökkr:

  • Loki
  • Angrboda
  • Fenrir
  • Hel/Hela
  • Jörmungandr

Also frequently listed among the Rökkr are:

  • Sigyn
  • Surt
  • Nidhogg
  • Skadi
  • The Nine Sisters/Undines of the Sea
  • Rind

This is not an exhaustive list of which deities do and do not fit into the definition of Rökkr, but it is a starting place to begin getting to know what Rökkatru is all about. Each of these deities carries with them particular lessons and values that are important to Rökkatru and the communities that Rökkatru practitioners are developing. This is a list that we will look at more thoroughly later, and will very likely be expand on as well.

Next time, we’ll take a look at what the values of Rökkatru are.

Skål.

1 Burkert, Walter. The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age (Revealing Antiquity). Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1995. Print. Pgs 94-95.

What is Druidry?

“What is Druidry?” is probably the most common response for people when they hear the term. The funny thing is, if you ask ten practitioners of it, you’ll walk away with eleven definitions. There is no umbrella definition that quite covers it but I will do my best to give you a ballpark idea.

When people hear the term “Druid”, one of two images tends to pop up. One is a Merlin-esque elder doing strange rites among standing stones during a foggy night. The other is more in line with an eco-hippie who often samples “The Green” among other substances. While at some point this may have been correct for a specific individual here and there, I would like to delve into both the historical and modern context as well as my own take upon the term.

Let’s first start with the historical aspects. Druids were the main priestly class of the Celtic peoples of west-central Europe and the British Isles. The exact role Druids played in Celtic culture is somewhat debated and may have varied based on the various subcultures such as the Gauls, Gaels, Brytons, Scots, and Whelsh just to name a few. The commonly accepted version of “Druid” was an initiatory priestly class who aided in carrying on Celtic oral tradition and lead the community in spiritual rites and holidays. From here some sources claim that they could have either been advisors to leaders, bestowers of leadership and sovereignty, philosophers, users of mystical arts, or even as judges in legal matters. As we piece together these ancient cultures, we can only hope to discover the truth. Before I continue, I must stress that there is no such thing as a living Druid lineage in the modern era. Between Roman invasion and Christian conversion, druidic spirituality was no longer a living practice. Some theorize that a few of the remaining druids became monks in the Catholic church in a last bid to preserve their ways, even if it was with a Christian veneer. I will let you draw your own conclusions on that one.

Now we move on to the modern context and here is where the water gets much murkier. Druidry, along with other “Occult Traditions” saw a boom within the last three centuries. Secret societies with varying philosophies and practices popped up, mostly among the aristocratic and gentry classes of Europe and the Americas. As such, many varying versions of “Druidic” practice formed and would be a wild goose chase to try and give you even a brief account of all of them. In the 1900’s you saw all these esoteric versions start to boil down and consolidate as pagan revivals shifted from the backrooms of white-collar practitioners to something an average person could gain access to. Many versions of Druidry at this point tended to focus on “Green Magick” or “Green Mysticism”. These ideologies hold that the primary way to do metaphysical workings (Spells, curses, charms, etc.) was not through some nebulous force or eldritch entity but through nature, which is accessible to everybody. Why ask some angel or demon for help when all you need is the soil under your feet, the trees around you, and the clouds overhead?

At this point, I will talk about the two main organizations I am aware of for education in and practice of Druidry that are still around, more may exist but I am not privy to them. One is OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids) and the other is ADF (Ar nDraiocht  Fein). Fair warning, I am somewhat biased to ADF as that is where I got my start in not only Druidry but general polytheism. I only have second-hand information on OBOD so I will be brief. If you are familiar with Golden Dawn, Wicca, and Hermetic principals, OBOD practice will ring a few bells. Check the site out yourself to gauge how informational they are. ADF focuses on open/public ritual, which basically means that besides a few members of “Clergy” who are there to conduct it, anybody who shows up can participate if they choose. ADF has also managed to put together a nationally organized temple system with basics of standard practice. Regionally, there are groves which are hubs of the druid community in the area that do rituals and classes. The “Mother Grove” is the overarching organizational body of the group that sees to organizing groves and oversees their training programs. They try to stick to scholarly work to inform their practice but are not strictly reconstructionist (aka practice EXACTLY as the ancient practitioners did).

Now I will get into my own personal brand of Druidry. This is not the Gospel Truth or anything. I openly admit that my way of seeing and doing things will not jive with everybody and I am okay with that so long as others are respectful of my path. Besides our normal waking world, there are two that are coterminous and open to our perception if we are open to them, the Upperworld and the Underworld, each having an internal twin within us. There are no words known to man to accurately describe either but I will try but I can tell this bears scant resemblance to the Heaven and Hell of Christian doctrine. The Upperworld is home to many ethereal or sky deities (Aesir or Olympians for example), luminous beings, and Ascended Masters (Those souls who had achieved some form of enlightenment). The internal version is the Superconscious, otherwise known as the soul, that is the seat of morality, judgment, and many other things that have been called virtues in the past. The Underworld is home to Chthonic deities (Often relating to death and some to fertility), spirits of the dead who await or are resting from reincarnation, and beings more alien to our understanding. Internally, this is the subconscious, the seat of instinct, raw emotion, and hidden things. Where these two meet is our Middleworld. The middle world has local entities versus the broader upper/under deities. Think “Goddess of this specific river” not a “Goddess of Rivers”. This is internally or normal, conscious mode of operation. If you cut off or over-emphasize either the upper or the under, you will see negative effects in the middle so balance is recommended.

Finally, The role of a Druid is to know how to balance the two to sustain the third and know when to use which to achieve a result. From here, leading the public or being more private, focusing on the metaphysical or just “Living the message”, even which culture to pull from for practice is up to each individual Druid.

With that, I will close for now and thank you for reading!

©Twilight Druid 2019