Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Heathen Daily

Today’s subject started out being runes and Heathen Android apps (no experience with iPhone here, sorry), but it quickly mutated into being an essay about daily religious practice.

I’ve always been a firm believer in performing some religious action daily.  When I was Catholic it was easy; there is a veritable feast of such practices from short, one-sentence prayers to be chanted like mantras to the massive amounts of text in the breviary.  The Aesir and Vanir deserve no less than the deities (yes, I said deities) of Catholicism, especially since they are friends and ancestors, with us in reality and not outside it. 

To have daily religious practices and what they will be is an intensely personal decision.  Religious actions that don’t nourish your spirituality will do nothing but cause a believer to feel emptier than they would if they were to do nothing.  In fact, doing nothing under the right circumstances may be very helpful! 

This is one of the problems with being in a reconstructionist religion.  Religions that have continued uninterrupted for millennia tend to be rich in daily rituals, from starting one’s morning bathing in the Ganges to reciting prescribed morning and evening prayers to making offerings to various gods and spirits.  Since most of what pagan Scandinavia did religiously on a daily basis is lost or filtered through a Christian lens, modern believers must take what they can from the existing lore or treat bits of knowledge like seeds for growing a practice.

One invaluable piece of lore comes from Odin himself and makes for an inviting, simple and informative daily ritual.  Drawing a single rune in the morning gives a person something to think about during the day and apply to the way he or she will interact with the world.  My rune for today was “jera”, which I take to mean that I will reap what I sow.  I work on a contract basis, so presenting myself well and as someone it’s pleasant to work with is more in my best interest than has been in some jobs. 

Heathen phone apps make having a small ritual easy and instinctive.  When I sit down at my desk in the morning, one of the first things I do is plug in my smartphone.  Once that’s done, I call up the app “Daily Asatru”.  It presents the user with a rune, a verse from the Havamal and a verse from the Voluspa.  The runes can be in order, or random.  I have my runes appear randomly, then apply it to what goes on during my day.  The verses are meant as a mnemonic device to encourage memorization.  “Daily Asatru” is an app that costs a few dollars, but I find it very worth it.

Another app I read about on the blog “Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom” is “Galaxy Runes”.  This one is available in a free and paid version.  You can draw a single rune with a paragraph of explanation that I can take or leave and one of the rune poems.  The paid version does spreads.  There are options for the blank rune and reversed runes, but I don’t use them.

Since the gods, land and building spirits and ancestors are actors in a Heathen world just as other humans are, acknowledging them daily isn’t just a religious act, it’s common courtesy.  I have a copy of Paul Borda’s beautiful statue of Frigga in a corner of my kitchen between the microwave and the greenhouse window.  Beside that is a candle holder in the form of a woman-shaped tree that I identify with Yggdrasil.  Every morning and whenever I’m working in the kitchen I can’t help but greet and talk to Frigga a little.  We’re both very busy, middle-aged, married ladies and I’m happy to have her in my corner.  If I exclaim, “Oh Frigga, look at all these dishes in the sink!” I feel heard and understood.  She also receives little cups of mead and coffee from time to time.

Our hjemnisse gets his weekly cup of gourmet coffee on Sunday mornings when I’m at home.  Sven likes to pour him glasses of vodka and akvavit when he’s having some himself.  As I have written elsewhere, maintaining good relations with one’s hjemnisse (or tomte, or housewight) is an important part of living in a Heathen home.  Neglect your nisse and you may find items going missing, breaking spontaneously, or other signs of his or her displeasure.  A happy nisse, on the other hand, will look after the home, garden, and pets.

A final daily ritual that anyone can do is a salutation of the gods and the ancestors in the morning.  We have two friends who perform this every day.  They are very disir-oriented (disir = female ancestors or foremothers) and have a small collection of little figurines in their kitchen to represent them.  They recite Sigdrifa’s prayer and offer them some coffee.  While my usual morning ritual is to stagger into the kitchen for my coffee and mutter, “Oh, Frigga, give me strength!” or something like that, their ritual is probably far more uplifting.

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