Publicada por Arith Härger / 2:31 PM /
I almost forgot, apart from the Frost Giants in Niflheim and some Duergar near the borders between this realm and Svartalfheim, there are a few herbs in this frozen realm, growing in the caves and on the islands. There are a few animals also, once again, near the watery regions, animals such as seals and other mammals who are used to cold water. Birds are seldom seen, but they come often to the islands of the Duergar which I have written in the previous post. Surprisingly, near the border between Niflheim and Helheim, Mammoths can be seen, near the area where the river Gjöll comes out of Niflheim and falls into a huge Waterfall with hidden caves behind it, where Loki once hid himself from the Aesir. Near this are, trees start to grow, and turf fro the Mammoths to feed on.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 2:21 PM /
Niflheim is one of the two primal worlds that collided with each other and created the basis for all the other worlds, fire and ice, the beginning of life. This is the realm of mists, and most of it is frozen. Most of the realm, like I have said, is frozen, but because of a great river called Elivagar, a poisonous river with a particularity which is seldom seen in our own world and even the the other world. The river turned everything into crystallized frost. Ancient mountains lie beneath the frozen wastelands, glaciers can be seen all over the place and nothing grows wherever the river and its streams spread.
The myth goes, that when Muspellheim, the fire world, collided with Niflheim, the frost began to melt away in the southern parts of the realm, and from this event the frost giant Ymir was created.
Niflheim, or most of it, to this day is still frozen and very cold, for the river Elivagar still runs in the depths of the icy realm.
Think of Niflheim as an arctic area, where the changing of seasons is seldom noticed by the people who are not used to this kind of weather, unfamiliar with a snow and ice covered world. As nowadays everybody seems to say "Winter is Coming!" because of the Game of Thrones series, well... in Niflheim Winter isn't coming, Winter is always there!
The days are long but the nights are even longer and the skies are rarely clear, so this might give the impression that it is always dark, for those who are able to travel there.
As I have written, more than half of this realm is covered in ice and snow and it doesn't seem to melt, ever. It is a land with thick fogs, blizzards, snow storms, dense mists and occasional thunderstorms. Suffice to say, this is a very dangerous realm, the nature itself will deal with any traveler.
It seems that this realm and its ice melts where it comes near to Svartalfheim, where the terrain is more mountainous. Most of this part is water formed by the melting ice, so much that ancient mountains now look like islands scattered in the water till it reaches Svartalfheim. There are a lot of icebergs floating as you might imagine.
This is the only realm with no structures whatsoever, there are no buildings, exept in the border between Niflheim and Helheim. However, there are inhabitants in this frozen realm, the famous Frost-Etins, living underground in elaborated cave tunnels.
The great well called Hvergelmir lies here in Niflheim and it isn't like the other two sacred wells. Hvergelmir is an enormous hot spring with white waters, with very turbulent waters, from which many rivers flow. This great well is the source of most rivers in the Nine worlds, unlike the regular physics of how a river flows (southwards) these rivers flow upwards, it is natural, we do have some rivers in our own world that do this, flowing through the mountainous terrain and their only escape is due north. However, here in Niflheim, it is uncertain whythe rivers flow upwards, it is an high realm indeed, the very mountains are beneath the snow and ice.
The major rivers that flow from Hvergelmir are so named: Svol, Gunnthra, Fiorm, Fimbulthul, Hrid, Sylg and Ylg, Vid, Leiptr, Sid, Vid, Sekin, Ekin, Gipul, Gopul, Gomul, Geirvimul, Thyn, Vin, Tholl, Boll, Grad, Gunnthrain, Nyt, Not, Nonn, Hronn, Vina, Veg, Svinn, Thiodnuma, Slidr and the great river Gjöll that flows into Helheim.
The watery area of Niflheim is filled with many small islands, like small mountaintops protruding up from the waters. Sometimes they are almost indistinguishable from the icebergs that also float around, sometimes the icebergs collide with them. In this area, as it is closed to Svartalfheim, osome duergar, who have wandered from their native land made their home here and the islands they inhabit actually have the names of the duergar who own them. The most famous is Lyngvi Island, which is claimed by a dwarf named Lyngvi (as it might be expected), in the middle of a small lake called Amsvartnir. This island is used by the Aesir, with Lyngvi's permission, to house the most famous current prisoner in the Nine Worlds, Fenris the Great Wolf, son of Loki. The water on the eastern side of the island is red colored.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 12:03 AM /
One of my last posts was focused on the basics of how to blót, for the beginners who have just started to practice the rituals of the Norse/Germanic faith. Today this post is targeted to the beginners who prefer to have a central focus of worship for whatever pagan religon you are into. The basics of of to make your own altar or shrine.
Setting up your own altar is easy, there are only a couple of options to consider.
The first thing that you have to ponder, is if you want an outside altar or an inside one (maybe both?). If you are going to make an outside altar, you have to consider what kind of altar do you want to make, either a single large stone or piled rocks on which you can make offerings and leave them there, and pour libations. This is a great option if you own a yard, or a property cleared of all kinds of vegetation. Of course you can do it in your own apartment if the ground is strong, but that doesn't make it private, nor is it pratical, and it takes away your own space.
The second type of altar that you may want to think about if you live in a place where you can't have an antar outside, is one that you can have it in a private room, safe from children, pets and any one who might interfere with it.
Our Norse ancestors in some houses had their own shrine/altar, on a division of the house, just like a little house inside the bigger one. Making an house of the gods, spirits and ancestors. Inside that division, oaths were also made. Inside the room, in the altar, there would be a bowl, a blood-bowl to be more precise, it was called the hlaut, the blood of the sacrificed animals to the gods, sprinkled during the rituals.
You can make your own private shrine, it isn't complicated, nor does it need to be overly ornate. However, with time, you will notice that your altar will become full of your offerings and other things that you consider to be appropriated for the altar. All you need to make your own altar or shrine, is a flat surface in a safe part of the house, or even a room just for it. You can place in it the bowl with which you will make your offerings, other icons of your religion, and even the images of the deities, personally I do not worship images nor figures, nor did my ancestors from my mother side, we believe that the power of the gods ins't in their images, nor our faith should be places on those images because that is all those are, objects, our faith is within us and so are the gods. Anyway, going back to the subject, you can use a table, or any other type of flat surface to place your altar.
You know now my opinion on the images of the deities, but if you are into it, god-images don't need to be very complex, at least on your case if you are starting just now. Nowadays, it is easy to find the images of the deities, even replicas of the historical ones, but you can also use anything that resembles the deity, anything you think somehow is connected to the deity. The altar and the place where you build it, must be of your liking, you must decorate it in a way that makes you feel comfortable, and let me put it in these words, put you in the mood.
Fire is also needed in the pagan altars, some people build their own altars on top of their hearth. You can add to your altar candles, it is a good way to have light on your altar and at the same time fire. Keep in mind, that you must be prepared to clean your altar often, a lot of wax, drink, food, etc will be spilled there, so make your altar in a way that will be easily washed, that includes any kind of cloth you place on it.
Many gods have their own favorite color, so you might want to add a cloth of the color that reminds you of the deity or deities.
As you can see, setting up your own altar is one of the easiest things you can do, with time it will evolve and become more complex, but for beginners, these steps are what you need to place in your mind, the basics. Personally, I don't have an altar, I don't need one, but I know that many people need to have a shrine in order to concentrate their faith in one place, its just a matter of personal mind organization.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 6:33 PM /
There are many processes that lead to spiritual work or just relaxation of the mind. This one is such a process, and I would like to share it with you, for it is very simple, but requires a lot of mind control. It is easier if you already know the basic steps of meditation.
As the title suggests, this is literally going under the cloak or a blanket, basically any piece of cloth that you can use to cover you whole. This process of relaxation can be done in short periods of time or long ones, depending on how further you want your mind to go, to delve into a different state of mind.
Do this exercise, get yourself a blanket, lie underneath it and you may or may not use an heavy object such as a rock, to help you in the process of freeing your mind. I'm speaking of rocks because the Druids used to do such things, placing a rock on the chest in order to depress the breathing to alter the state of mind. The heavy object can't be too heavy, or it will end up hurting you, o you will be very uncomfortable, but nether can it be too soft, or you will end up sleeping.
Pay attention, this process must not be performed by people inexperienced, even those used to alter their state of mind with such processes, must be accompanied by a crew able to monitor the pulse and breathing of the person.
The objective of being under a cloak, is to experience a different type of being all by yourself, as if in a cocoon or the "return" to the womb. Peaceful and quiet. Even if you choose to be by yourself in a room, with windows closed, in total darkness, there is always light in the room, light always finds a way to get in, so if you do this process, but under a cloak, you will experience a new kind of darkness, after a while, you will not even realize where you are.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 11:36 PM /
In the past few years, I've been writing about the Norse Pagan Traditions, feasts, Blóts etc. and I realised that I have never wrote a post to help people starting their blóts or at least giving a brief notion of how it is done. Some people have already asked me how to make sacrifices and offerings and I have always helped them, giving to them the knowledge that I have about that subject, but never occur to me that I could actually write a post about it and maintain even more people informed.
In the Hávamál there are at least two lines that ask if one knows how to bid (pray) and how to sacrifice.
I understand that so many have still a lot of difficulty with this kind of practice, no one has ever born with all the knowledge about these things. It takes time. We live in a world (nowadays) where these things are seldom taught, and there is still only a few who are willing to "waste" a bit of their time, to teach the eager ones.
Our society is so used to sit in some place, listen someone babbling about the subject, speak some words so often that starts to sound like a song, so well memorized that has no meaning whatsoever in our minds, toss money and that's it, that we completely forgot how to actually worship the gods in our own way. The key to know how to Blót, is to know the way of personal worship. Worship the deities on our own isn't easy and most of the time we don't know were to start. However, there are several different "steps" one can take in order to build a structure that leads to the worship of the deities in a personal matter. I will write a brief "guide" for group worshiping, but you, whoever you are, will easily be able to modify that for individual practice.
Note that these are not instructions on how you must perform, just a general outline. You are completely free to perform accordingly with your community, your own group or your own customs. With time and practice, your knowledge and skills will grow and you will start to perform in your own way.
1- Consecrate, Sanctify (hallowing) the place, to make it sacred. This can be done in many different ways. Some people often carry fire around the ritual area accompanying it with the singing of a holy song or reciting a poem or a prose work. Some consecrate the area with ale or mead, invoking the land spirits to guard the place and help during the rituals. This is made when you haven't been in the place before, or if you think that you will never come back there. It is actually to "mark" the area with what you will about to do. If you have your own place and if you have done it before in it, it is seldom needed to do it again in that specific place, at least by you. If a new member enters the community, this has to be done again to welcome the person into the area and into the group.
2- The next step is the "Calling", the invocation of the gods, spirits or ancestors. Usually asking them with a prayer, to be present among you and your folk, to be present during the rituals. Invoking the gods by calling their names. You can write your own invocation, be that for the gods or for the specific Blót, or both of course. Whatever you might use to invoke the gods, or even if the group sings a song, none of these methods are a command, it is a mere invitation, they might come or not.
3- "Advice" and/or "Council", is when the purpose of the gathering and the blót is explained and why the people are there and for what purpose the specific deities, spirits or ancestors have been previously called. It can ether be explained with ordinary speech or reciting a specific part of the lore. Reciting a myth, a story. The important thing is to explain the why of making the offerings and to whom they are being held.
4- Making the Offering. The blót is the worshiping of the holy powers and to make an offer to them. Now is the time to present the offerings and make them holy. It is the simple act of offering something to the gods, spirits and/or ancestors, and those become holy because they cross the veil between our world and theirs. Offerings can be anything of worth.
If you are making an offering of food, you might leave it out there to be eaten by animals, bury it or sink it into water like you would with physical goods. If you are using a libation as the main offering, you will likely want to pour it out on the ground or be poured into an offering bowl to be used in the Blessing later. It is very common to pass around a communal drink for ritual toasting and praise prior to pouring it out, like the horn filled with mead for example.
5- Blessings. Time to bless the people involved in the ritual, sprinkling each person with the previous blessed offering and speaking a simple prayer to impart divine favor and protection. Part of the offering, should be given to the land itself where the blót is taking place, to bless the area and strengthen what links each people involved in the ritual, with the spirits of the land and to mark that place for future sacrifices.
6- Ending. Since every blót has a clear start, it should also have an end. Something to make clear that the rite came to and end and that it is all over. Recite a farewell poem or any words to show the gratitude for the presence of the community and the ones that have been called upon.
Note: If you have any questions for me or if you want to see my artistic works, check out my Facebook page and make a Like if you can by following this link --> http://www.facebook.com/ArithHarger
Publicada por Arith Härger / 11:47 PM /
The Hall of Durin - Those it sound familiar? Tolkien did not choose this name for a very important Dwarf, from whom the great dwarvish kingdoms came, for no reason.
In the Norse mythology, Durin is one of the oldest fathers of the Duergar (dwarves). Many were the deeds of this great dwarf along with his friend Dvalin. Durin was chosen as the first chieftain of the Duergar, and his memory is still loved and revered. His hall is one of the grandest cavern-mazes in Nidavellir, but rather than keeping it as a private hall or passing it along to the next chieftain, his relatives decided instead to open it to the public as a place of respite and peace. His hall is one of the few places were one might find peace of mind and spirit in Nidavellir.
As I have already mentioned it, Durin had a powerful companion, Dvalin, one of the most powerful Duergar there is. His father was the famous Mimir and his mother Lovar. Both had four children, Dvalin, Alfrik, Berling and Grer. These are the brothers who made the famous necklace Brisingamen, the same that Freyja wears.
It is said that he (Dvalin) is one of the four deers that guard Yggdrasil and the way to the spirit world, shapeshifted along with the other three, a Jotun, and Alf and a Man.
One of the few surface areas of Svartalfheim where Duergar can be found, is in Joruvellir, in a particular area called Aurvangar, where a great grave mound was built and where Lovar and her Duergar lover, Svarin, rest in peace. This place also has underground areas of course, but it is unique because of the grave mound that towers above the flat plain. This place isn't hard to find, for it lies near the only wetlands in Svartalfheim.
The mountains in Svartalfheim hide many secrets, one of those is Byrgir, an empty well standing on a mountaintop. It is said that from this well at one time it poured forth magical waters that gave the gift of poetic power and ecstasy, but Ivaldi magically emptied it, which stopped its flow and ensured that it was in limited supply, and thus more valuable. Ivaldi's brothers, Fjalar and Galar, came to him with Kvasir's blood, Ivaldi lent them enough water to mix the blood and thus creating the Mead of Poetry, intending on a share of it. However,they fled with the Mead of Poetry and Ivaldi's cursed them, that they would not live another six turns of the Moon. It would be true, as Sutting hunted them down and killed them soon after for the murder of his parents.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 11:09 PM /
As I have written in the first part of this post about Svartalfheim, Nidavellir isn't a location nor the name of the entire realm of the Duergar (Dwarves) and Dokkalfar (Dark Elves), nor is it a city. Nidavellir is in fact a labyrinthic complex of underground territores. There are thousands of corridors that lead somewhere, into houses, villages, halls, etc from Duergar that may or may not belong to a specific group.
It isn't hard to find and visit Nidavellir, there is a huge trading area where one will certainly find members of each race of the Nine realms of the Norse cosmology, doing trading with the Duergar. However, one should not venture further than that, the trading area is easily memorized after a few times there in the company of a guide, but beyond it, as I have written, Nidavellir is a labyrinthic complex and it is easy to be lost there and even harder to find the way back.
Most come to Nidavellir to shop the many things that other races may also have and make them, but the Duergar make them even better. The underground territories of the Duergar is filled with the shops of all tpe of crafts and the Duergar are masters of whatever craft in existence.
They are a very skillful and talented race, and the thought of them making poor work, less skilled and cheaper, or trying to cheat someone, will be easily vanished as soon as one is able to see this race working and competing with each other to see who makes the best piece of a specific order. You may be certain that whatever you see being sold at their shops, is of high quality.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 10:38 PM /
Little is known about the conflicts and the great war between the elven kind, but it is certain that a group of elves were exiled and came to Svartalfheim when they were expelled from their homeland in Ljossalfheim. It appears that this race of elves weren't welcomed anywhere else, only in the dark lands of the Duergar (Dwarves).
The Duergar granted shelter to these elves and since today, a tenuous peace and reasonable harmony lingers. The dark elves, or Dokkalfar as I have written on the previous post, couldn't live any other way, the Duergar outnumber them and control most of their homeland. There are many terms and conditions for both races to live in the same realm, however, none knows for sure which of those are.
As it would be expected, there is trade between the two races, but not as much as anyone might think.
Few are the deities that live in this dark land, one of those deities is the goddess Niorun, the goddess of dreams. Despite from being a goddess little-known to many, both the Duergar and the Darkelves honor her a great deal. As I have written on the previous post, Svartalfheim is a dangerous place to travel into or dwell during the day, and at night its impossible to be safe. However, the hall of this goddess, Niorun, is one of the few places (if not the only one) that a travel might take shelter, be safe and not being bothered by any of the outside realm. Apart from being a relatively safe place, it isn't beautiful, the very sight of it often makes people uncomfortable and the sense that it isn't safe at all.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 10:59 PM /
Svartalfheim or Svartheim is a dark, inhospitable and cold land, the atmosphere itself is grey and gloomy. The Duergar are the inhabitants of this realm. Most of them live far below under the mountains, underground caves and rocky grounds. They claim ownership over this realm. Above live the dark elves, dark Alfar so called Dokkalfar or Svartalfar. Their origins are not from this realm, as such, they are considered immigrants.
There was a great deluge that broke many lands apart. This was the realm where the Duergar made their home and excavated their realms below.
This mountainous, dark and windy realm has woodlands, but the Duergar care little for them. Instead, they made amazing and great halls under the earth, carved on rock. The Svartalfar invaded their homeland, but these two races made a truce deal and both live in this realm to this day, in separate territories of course.
Some times people get confused and call this realm Nidavellir. That is a very common mistake, because the territories of the Duergar are so vast, that it looks like a different realm. Nidavellir is in fact the name given to the territories of the Duergar, but the realm is Svartalfheim. Most of Svartalfheim is Nidavellir, the rest is just territories controled by the dark elves.
As I have written, this is a very dark world and there is little variation between summer and winter, and there isn't spring or autumn at all. It rains as much as it snows during winter. That kind of weather lessens with the coming of summer, which is more windy at that time. Days are slow, slower than any other realm of the Nine Worlds. However, the sun is barely seen in Svartalfheim, even during Summer. The inhabitants of this realm have a nocturnal existence, such as the fauna. Although, the Duergar venture out of their tunnels during the daylight only, it is safer. But their lives are spent underground in their cavernous cities.
Svartalfheim unlike the other realms, is very easy to enter. The Duergar care little about the business of wanderers and travelers, and it is likewise with the Svartalfar, however, the latter, are more difficult to persuade (but still, easier than the elves of Ljosalfheim). Once you are in Svartalfheim, few are those who will bother you, perhaps it is because they might think in isn't worth to bother with adventurers, if they entered Svartalfheim, they must know what they are doing (or not) it is a very dangerous place to wander about, there are few shelters and it gets dark too fast, so people are on their own.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 1:59 PM /
The Sauna is a very old spiritual tradition, especially for the European peoples. Throughout history we find that the Northern European cultures have an important connection with the sauna. Archaeology in northern Portugal and Spain also found that the Celts and the Lusitanians used to have buildings similar to their houses only for the purpose of cleansing the body through heat and vapours. Nowadays it isn't hard to get into a sauna, but unfortunatelly modern saunas are very different from the old saunas that were used for religious purposes.
The first purpose of the sauna is to honor the powers of the elements, fire, water and stone (earth) and how the spirits of such elements together make "magic", creating steam, thought to be the very breath of the earth and the ancestors. Without these elements, the spirits will not come to you.
For religious purposes, the sauna must have a good source of heat from wood with real flame (nowadays modern saunas have the source of heat through an electric sistem). Also, there is the need of adding stones, most modern saunas have them, as long as there is wood and real flame, it is fine. Now, something very important that isn't taken to account by the people who build modern saunas. Ventilation. Many modern saunas make people sick because the oxygen levels fall too low. Any type of opening will do, the fire needs oxygen to "breath". The best way is having an adjustable vent near the floor, to vent the cooling sinking air, and another higher up to vent the excess heat that follows later.
Also, like I've written, having stones, to throw water on them. Don't pick up river stones, usualy blow apart during temperature changes. You will also need water of course. Our ancestors used to collect the rainwater for these purpose, coming from the sky, it was a direct blessing from the deities. The type of wood used to come from the birch trees, I believe that I have already written about the birch tree in another post, those were consider to be very magical in many cultures, especially the ones ruled by a druidic order.
Do whatever you want in the sauna, but know that the real purpose of it, wasn't to party, so if you really want to do any type of spiritual work, you must behave of course. Being in a sauna, one must be quiet, meditative, peaceful, solemn. This is an opportunity to be in touch with the spirits of the elements, a rebirth ritual, so our ancestors used to go into the sauna, completly naked, the way they came into the world, deprived of any clothing.
Of course people may feel shy for being naked in a community sauna, that is understandable, but modern community saunas don't have the ancestral spiritual purposes. Community saunas used to be mixed gender, however, some rituals during the year only for men or for women, were held inside the sauna (at least part of the rituals) so in that case, the sauna was occupied by only one gender.
The first saunas were made out of stone, but during the later 5th - 6th centuries, these were being built our of timber. The hearth was considered to be the altar of the sauna (the sauna being the temple/house of the ancestors).
The door to a traditional sauna used to be shorter than a an average door, people had to stoop to get into it, showing reverence for the ancestors.
The very first saunas were smoke saunas, the Finns refer to them as savusauna. The fire was lit under stones, and the smoke went out through a hole in the wall or ceiling. The smoke heated the entire room and then the hole was shut and the window opened to let in fresh air come in. There are different claims on the health risks of these smoke saunas, or savusauna. Some say that the smoke is bad for your lungs, others that the smoke creates a bacteria-free and oxygen-rich environment. Don't try these in any circumstances if you are new at this or alone, these might be better in community and with someone outside the door.
The traditional ways of making fire for the sauna, would take long (compared to modern ways of course, it wasn't that long) but it would take longer to get the sauna ready for the spiritual purpose, so people used to sit outside and play the shamanic instruments to call upon a spirit to enter the sauna. In some cases, people would also wait for a family member to die in or near the sauna, so they would be able to call upon them during the sauna rituals.
Our ancestors would call upon guardian spirits to protect them. There was/is one very popular in Finland, named Saunatonttu, a little gnome or sort of faery. It was customary to warm up the sauna just for the gnome every now and then, or to leave some food outside for him. It is said that he warned the people if a fire was threatening the sauna, or punished people who behaved improperly while inside it. The Saunatonttu doesn't seem to be an Alfar (Elf) but more like a being that belongs to the "little people" race. In Russia there was the Bannik or banyanka, also a spirit that protected people from evil spirits. Our ancestors would take refuge in the bath houses and saunas to pray to these spirits for protection.
The purpose of the sauna was to honor the ancestors, to call upon the spirits for protection and to be connected with them and the elements of nature, creating the very breath of the earth, ancestors and gods. Through this "breath" one would cleanse the body and soul.