Thank you all for supporting this blog over the year, and I look forward to connecting with you in 2018. xoxo
Tonight I honour my European ancestry, and the female lineage from which I am descended. I honour the disir, all the women, past and present, and am thankful for their presence in my life.
There is a favourite saying of mine, “You do not have to blow out someone else’s candle for yours to burn more brightly”. Sadly, it seems that in our modern society, this is the way things “work”.
Watch a political debate. It’s just tossing around attempts to besmirch the other party, rather than actually getting things done. It’s infuriating. Sound bites on the news are all about how another party is crap, and theirs is better, without actually talking about the issue at hand.
See what happens on a school playground. Those who are different, who don’t fit in with the popular kids, are usually pushed around or gossiped/rumour mongered by those who are a part of the elite popular gang. I have no idea why it happens, but it happened over thirty years ago when I was in elementary and high school, it happens now and it will happen in the future, most likely. I don’t know if kids learn this from their parents, or television, or society – all I know is that kids can be cruel.
Even in Pagan circles, people put down or condemn others for various reasons: the “newbie”, the “fluffy bunny”, the rival coven, hearth or Order. All it comes down to, basically, is this playground mentality. Some people never got out of it. Even the most intelligent, articulate person can fall back into this frame of mind, to make themselves feel better.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t look critically at others’ behaviour, and especially our own. What I am trying to say is that we do not need to belittle anyone whose path may be different from our own.
I have known some popular Pagan leaders to put down other Pagans in front of their own group. This always leaves me with a bad feeling in my mouth – it is utterly distasteful. It does a disservice to everyone involved. Even the most militant, ethically-minded person I know has failed in this regard on at least one occasion, shuddering at the thought of once belonging to another group and verbally putting them down in front of a gathering of about a dozen individuals. This shocked me, but then I realised that we are all human, and we all have failings. We can all regress to the playground.
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Yes, this is troll country. I am currently in Norway, having a cross-country ski holiday – a week of skiing the forests and fells around Sjusjoen. Today, we got halfway up the fells before the blizzard kicked in – there was such a wildness in the air, nothing like the softness of the habitated places of the UK. Here in Norway, there is such a difference between the “human” places and the “wild” places. You can distinctly feel when you step from one into the other.
We were skiing out from the village, through the woods until suddenly we came across the open, frozen marshland of the lower fells. The wind howled – nothing to break it. You couldn’t see the mountains, for the snow was coming down too heavily. Leaving the wooded area around the town, and out onto the fells – you could feel that shift. This was the place of the wild things. This was troll country.
There is actually a place for these giants here in Norway, not too far away – Jotunheim (National Park). In the Northern Tradition (Heathenry) Jotunheim is the realm of the giants – and when you see landscape like this, you can believe it. This is not a place for human habitation – the wind howls too fiercely, there is no cover. The mountains loom high, and the marshlands can be treacherous. This is a place for those who are not so soft – this is a place for ettins, jotuns and giants.
One of my favourite goddesses is Skadhi, an ettin who married into the Northern God clan. She is wild and she is free – there is no bossing her about. She is the snowshoe goddess, the hunter, the goddess of skiing. She walks into the hall of the gods and demands reparation for the death of her father. She means business. She lives high in the mountains, listening to the howl of wolves and wind. I say a prayer to her each time before we embark on our ski journey for the day:
Skadhi, Lady of Winter, know that you are honoured.
May my skis never break,
May my poles never bend,
May my eyes always remain on the beauty that is you.
This wild country tests you – with the wind stinging your face, tiny shards of snow and ice in your eyes, your eyelashes frozen and the howling all around you – you soon learn what you are made of. I kept looking ahead, peering through the blizzard, almost expecting to see an enormous rock coloured ettin strolling through the snowy fells, enjoying the blizzard and not even noticing the tiny, insect-like creatures on the ground with their snowpants and ski jackets.
Sometimes you win – sometimes you make it through the storm and reach your destination. Sometimes, like today, you accept defeat at the hands of the ettins, and turn back before you lose your way. We couldn’t see the tracks, we could barely make out the trail markers – it was time to turn back. So, with a smile and a bow of defeat and in reverence, we turned back.
Once back in the treeline, the snow that had stung so much fell softly, almost like a blessing. The quiet that only a heavily snow-shrouded landscape can bring was all around us – like the sanctity of a cathedral. We were back in a human place, and behind us the trolls and ettins laughed in the winter’s rages, throwing snowballs and doing whatever is it that the jotuns do.
Coming back to the hotel, with a sauna and a fireplace, was such a relief. However, we’re still going out again tomorrow, whatever the weather, to see what we can face. This is what this beautiful country is all about. This is troll country.