Winter Solstice and Ancestral Voices in the Wind

P1010980The Wild Hunt has been riding most evenings here around my home by the North Sea. The wind whips around the house and the rain pelts against the window panes. One night it comes from the north, the next from the south, then the east followed by the west. Each wind brings different scents and different temperatures but all are certainly wild at this time of year. You don’t want to go out in it, that’s for sure.

It’s at this time of year that I feel closest to my ancestors, my blood ancestors from Western Europe and Scandinavia. Their voices and stories are whispered in the dark mornings and early evenings, sometimes howled down my chimney in the evenings and every morning as I sit by my hearth altar, lighting a candle and praying to the gods, the land spirits and the ancestors. They call me to honour them, to know them once again, to say their names. And so each year I do, though this year feels different.

Winter 2This winter I feel called to explore the spiritual traditions of my ancestors in greater depth. Though I’ve lived here in Britain for twenty years, all of my blood relatives come from Western Europe and Scandinavia. DNA testing has revealed some fascinating stories, and the picture is growing of my blood ancestors, changing as more information and DNA is submitted. I’m finding family from all walks of life, from all over Europe, gradually adding to my own family tree as records become electronically available and I am able to fill in the gaps where personal records have gone missing. It’s been a great exploration this year and looks to continue for many years to come.

So for these winter months I shall be exploring fully the pre-Christian religious and spiritual traditions of my ancestors. These are Germanic, Danish, Frisian, Belgian, Norwegian and more, which fall under the modern category of “Heathenry”.  I’ve studied Heathenry for many years, but never developed a full practice; it’s always been more of an academic exercise. And so, this winter I shall bring it to life within my life, honouring the land wights and house wights, the ancestors, the gods and the goddesses. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the goddess Frigge, the lady of right order, whose nature I feel is close to my own. As well, Skadhi and Ullr I have honoured many times while out snowshoeing and skiing in Canada and Norway. Tyr’s justice and compassion hold great meaning for me, and Freya’s seidr magic speaks of mystery, beckoning me further. It is with these gods that I shall be working over the winter, as well as the tomte and nisse of the household, and the land wights of the heathland and forest where I live. (I have already, obviously, done so in a Druid sense, so I will see if this changes slightly).

Already, I have found many similarities between Druidry and Heathenry. They almost seem to be talking and doing the same thing, just in different languages. The groves they worshipped in, the poetry and art, the warrior and the wise cunning folk, all of these seem to have resonance with each other, but expressed slightly differently. As well, much of the magical lore and tradition found in East Anglia I have found stems from Northern European magic, such as seidr.

It will be exciting to explore these traditions and heritage in practice. It will be interesting to connect to my blood ancestors more fully, exploring and expanding upon my family tree and widening my practice even more. And so, here on the coast of the North Sea, I will call to my ancestors, to the gods and goddesses of the North, to the land wights and house wights and see who answers.

I wish you all a very blessed Yuletide! May the longest night bring you peace, may you find strength and courage in the darkness, and hope in the growing light of the sun.

Winter 1

 

Reblog from SageWoman: The Darkness Within

shadowself

Reblogged from my channel at SageWoman:http://www.witchesandpagans.com/Druid-Heart

The winter solstice is fast upon us, even though technically the shortest night has already been upon us (for a brain-thumping explanation, see http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/12/the-astronomical-hijinks-of-the-shortest-day-of-the-year/282109/).  Thoughts turn inwards at this time of year, when in the darkness we are confronted with our shadow selves, should we choose to face them.  We have the opportunity to learn more of ourselves, and in doing so, better serve not only ourselves but the world.

Performing a meditative journey, I met with my shadow self – that part of your self that you fear, that you loathe, that you don’t understand as well as those things that cause you pain, grief, rage, etc.  This confrontation was very interesting – my shadow self described to me all the things that she thought I was, as well as all the emotions that crippled me. She delighted in telling me them, it seemed – with each utterance she thought she had gained power over me.  The words hit me and reverberated throughout my body – I literally felt them, each and every one.  When she was done I was still standing, though shaky.

I knew that in order to gain some semblance of control, I needed to know her name and so I asked. She refused to tell me, delighting instead in playing games. I finally had enough of it all, and named her myself in words strong and full of intention – “You will not give me your name, and therefore I will name you myself. You are Joanna Alida van der Hoeven.”

She deflated, knowing that I had named her correctly.  “I know who you are,” I said.  “You are all that I fear to be, all that I have been in the past for good or ill and all that I might be in the future.  But you are merely a potential.  The past is gone, and I am not the same person I was then. The future has not happened yet, and so no one dictates that for me. In the present moment, I simply am who I am, free to be who I wish, decried by my words and deeds and actions.” I remembered the words to my favourite film, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, and faced my shadow self, stating “You have no power over me”.

The encounter was over, and I had emerged tired but triumphant.  Haunted by some aspects of the past, I have realised that they do not dictate who I am now. The past is there to inform us so that we do not make the same mistakes again.  The past informs the present and the future.  We are not our past, just as we are not our future – we can only be who we are in this present moment.  Our lives are filled with potential for good and bad and we can either let fear dictate our actions and allow past mistakes to re-emerge, or we can accept it; we can own our mistakes and become simply the best people we can be at this moment in time.

I have had a mantra over the last few months, that when I question my motives, or feel fear or grief or rage, happiness or unhappiness, I ask myself this – “Whom does this serve?” Taken straight out of Grail mythology, this question is the one that must be asked upon directly viewing the Grail in order to heal the wounded Fisher King.  These four words contain so much power, and have so many different meanings.  It questions us to look deep within ourselves, but also to the greater world at large.  It deeply explores our intention, which to me is one of the greatest powers one can have both within Druidry and the world.  Intention is at the core of every action we make – but we must look deeply at the intention before we act, if possible, in order to ensure that our actions are honourable.

In the darkness, the shadow self has power.  What we are unaware of deep within our selves can control us in so many ways. We must learn to confront our shadow selves, to acknowledge them, to own our past and our mistakes, our fears and our grief, in order to tumble out towards the light once again, ever repeating this cycle even as the seasons change and the tides turn. The awen lies all around us within nature – all we have to do is open our eyes to see it.

(The journey meditation that I performed was part of a series contained in Jenah Telhyndru’s Avalon Within: A Sacred Journey of Myth, Mystery and Inner Wisdom.)

Blog image is from a quilt taken from The Free Motion Quilting Project: http://freemotionquilting.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/shadow-self-part-2.html