Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A is for Ancestors

I've decided to participate in the Pagan Blog Project.  The 26 letters of the alphabet are the prompts, one for every two weeks.  I have until Friday to get this in.

The subject of ancestors is going to receive terribly short shrift in one measly column.  Ancestors, exchange of gifts and land-spirits are at the heart of Asatru, and all of which will be discussed in the next year.

Family ancestors are recalled in Asatru as the alfar (males) and disir (females).  We can also have ancestors by choice, as with friends or heroes who have gone before us.  The gods are honoured as our eldest kin, and   the royal families of Sweden and Denmark claim lineage back to them.

Ancestry is one of the things that draws people into heathenry.  I've heard more than one heathen or druid tell their spiritual journey as beginning when they realized that Christianity was foreign to them, imposed on their people by kings or invaders.  I think this is an excellent realization; cultural roots run deep, and for Scandinavians, Christianity has only been around for a millenia or less.  Before that, lines can be traced from there, to central Europe, to the Baltic and all the way east to India.  When you realize that the traditional gods of your people have a lineage stretching back to time immemorial, it's a powerful thing.

For my husband Sven, religious ancestry is very immediate.  He heard stories of the Norse gods at his grandpa's knee and watched him set bowls of milk out "for the cats" when they didn't have any cats.

For me, it was a harder reach.  I consider King Arthur, Gawain and Guenevere as ancestors of a sort, because it was through their stories that I first started feeling the existence of what I would later realize was paganism.   I first went to England in 1987 and going to Glastonbury was absolutely life-changing in that Avalon, the Chalice Well and the thorn tree planted by Joseph of Arimathea were real.  I could walk there, drink the water, and touch the tree.  It made me feel as if an unseen, spiritual world were only just barely out of reach, and I never saw reality or spirituality quite the same way again.

In our home practice, ancestors are quite important.  Sven has photos of his grandpa, a statue to house his family's hjemnisse and a cabinet that recalls his mom on or around our hearth.  I have a separate shrine to my family with small items belonging to my grandparents.  I don't know what my own family would think of what I do now religiously.  They were very Catholic, but at least they were on the liberal side.  I like to think that with all the shenanigans going on in the Church right now, they might not blame me, or actively approve.  If nothing else, heathenry has a lot of drinking and feasting going on, and most of us have had family gatherings that are all about that!

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