We’ve already explored the central roles that physical strength and war play in Viking mythology. But the Vikings were a multi-faceted people; they also told stories that celebrated peace, diplomacy and the courage to give up your arms and embrace those who had once been your enemies.
Again, the Vikings’ mythology reflected the conditions of their actual lives. No people, no matter how fierce, could continuously be at war. Many of the conflicts the Vikings experienced were no doubt internal conflicts, fights between various Viking families and clans. They needed inspiration and guidance on how to restore peaceful relations after violent disagreements.
Who is Freyr?
Several of the most potent Viking stories of peace feature the God Freyr. Freyr is a God of sunshine and plenty, pleasure and generosity. He is said to bring blessings of peace and prosperity to humans who honour him. Freyr has a close relationship with humanity; legends claim him as the Father of the Royal House of Sweden.
The story of how Freyr came to live in Asgard, home of the Norse Gods, is a tale of reconciliation going back to the very roots of Viking mythology. The Gods themselves were once split into warring clans: the Aesir and the Vanir. The Aesir, led by Odin, invaded the homeland of the Vanir, where Freyr lived with his fellow Vanir Gods and Goddesses.
The two clans fought each other bitterly. As you might expect from beings of vast supernatural power, the war between the two families of Gods went on for a long time, causing vast damage and loss to both sides.
Eventually, both the Aesir and the Vanir were ready for a peace treaty. In order to ensure that both sides honored the peace, the two families exchanged hostages; several Aesir Gods went to live with the Vanir in their homeland, and Freyr (as well as his sister Freya) went to live with the Aesir in Asgard.
Though he comes from an enemy clan, Freyr’s charm and contagious optimism soon won him the trust of the Aesir. As a token of their respect, the Gods gave Freyr Alfheim, the world of the elves, to rule over. In time, Freyr became one of the most prominent and powerful Gods in the Norse pantheon. He is the God of Sacred Kingship and masculine fertility, the bright sun who brings growth and plenty to all the land.
The Blessings of Freyr
The gifts that Freyr brings are those that come from a long peace; abundant harvests, stockhouses full of meat and cheese, celebratory feasts where neighbouring clans come together and dancing might lead to strangers becoming spouses.
Freyr himself fell in love with a stranger, in another old tale about the power of peace. He became infatuated by Gerd, a giantess. The giants were a race at war with the Gods. In order to win the trust and affection of his beloved, Freyr agreed to cast aside his magic sword. He won the hand of Gerd and the two were happily married. But Freyr’s sacrifice of his weapon came with a price; he was destined to be slain in the final war, Ragnarok.
Freyr, Lord of the Sun, can teach us how to move from strife and distrust towards peace and prosperity.
Working With Freyr
* Is there a way I can turn the forces I see as my enemies into my allies instead?
* Where do I need the life-giving abundance of the sun?
* What am I willing to sacrifice in order to find love and trust?
Freyr teaches us that peace and prosperity are bound up together. In the world of the Vikings, freedom from war meant more hands to work the fields and gather the harvests. For any society, it’s much easier to get along with your neighbours when you know there is plenty of food and sunshine to go around.
In the end, Freyr’s most powerful blessing seems to be the realisation that the well being and prosperity of our neighbours -even those we might sometimes deem enemies–brings good to us as well.
Recently I wrote about my experience with what could be called religious discrimination. This post was first published on WitchVox.com and I’ve had lots of people emailing me with their experiences. One fellow Pagan told me a rather shocking tale of his experiences in NYC and asked me to publish it to make other Wiccans and Pagans aware and so this is his story.
“Hi Louisa! Wonderful to get a response from a Witchvox user. I hope all is well with you.
Since I have found out about the situation at the Waterford Connecticut mall [ED: Pete is referring to the fact that a Christian minister took over the shopping mall and removed all Wiccan pendants that were on sale These pendants are now being sold there again Pete has since told me] I have appointed myself unofficial “Investigator of Religious Intolerance” (sort of) I regularly go to Barnes & Nobles in Manhattan at Union Square. I like to talk to New Age people and see what new ideas are emerging as well as help an occasional young wiccan to choose the right book for them. I have worked at a Wiccan book store in the past, so I pretty much know all the books.
I have spoken to several wiccans about discrimination against members of the craft and unfortunately it seems to be increasing. I have had wiccans tell me that they are fearful to wear their pentagram in public, afraid that some crazy person will target them. Several people have told me that individuals have approached them and made hateful comments and in one case a young woman was spat upon. I didn’t want believe this was happening at first, so I decided I would look into this.
I began to “lecture” about wicca in Barnes and Nobles to any who would listen to me. I would talk about the principles and values of wicca. If anyone asked me about what books were good I would give them a “talk” about how wicca is an awesome religion. Well, let me tell you, I have had many bizarre and frightening incidents occur to me since I began this. One day, I was speaking to an older gentleman in his 60’s who seemed to be appreciating my Goddess-centered spin on history when he suddenly stopped talking and stared at me strangely. He said “If we find out you know anything specific we will kill you.” I was stunned, I wanted to say: “Who’s we?” Instead I said “You have a good night Sir.” I thought that he was just an isolated case of a lunatic, so I waited a month and went back. I was not there fifteen minutes when a group of people approached me and crowded around me too closely.
They were asking me: What books do you recommend?’ and “What practises do you do?” Their manner was threatening. I realized what they were doing and I began to turn it around on them. I asked one of them, a woman in her twenties, “What do YOU do?” and “Why not share with me some of YOUR practises?” They looked at me with silent contempt and left. This type of incident happened a number of times. It did not stop me however. I needed to know who is harassing wiccans. Since those incidents, I have been followed by these same people around the city. These are just a small sample of what I have encountered. Some of the events are too frightening and it would be inappropriate to relate.
In one instance, I met a young woman whom I had spoken to a few times before that was interested in wicca. She has a pure heart and is a good person. I began to talk to her about wiccan spellcrafting. There were some old guys in the New Age section browsing and one younger guy that I know to be well, evil. I had spoken to this guy before and I know that he is completely amoral. He hates witches. He thinks that witches are in his words “stupid.” He interrupted our conversation and asked her why she would ever want to be wiccan. She asked him what he meant. He said to her that she should study something with more “strength”. She asked “Like what?” He deliberately tried to be vague and wouldn’t answer. She tried to talk to me but he kept on interrupting. I got the impression that he was deliberately trying to interfere. The young woman got agitated and left. He looked at me with a pleased expression.
I spoke to a magician friend of mine about all this and he said that you have to be careful because there are christian and other types of occult groups here in NYC that are “going after” wiccans and other magical folk. I asked him what he meant and he told me that several of his longtime friends have had to move out of NYC because of the harassment. I know that he is telling me the truth. I can only hope that this is a temporary development and that these are just foolish people doing stupid things.
I also dearly hope that this isn’t the beginning of a fascist culture!!! I’ll keep trying to protect those of the craft. Please remember, Witches heal, protect and serve. Please feel free to post this in your blog and on witchvox. The people of the craft should know. Blessed Be Pete.”
Thanks for sharing that with us Pete. This is a very shocking story but at least by spreading awareness we may be able to improve the situation.
If anyone has any stories (good or bad!) that they would like to share please do so!
In order to try keep the planet healthy and sustainable, it’s important that we consider being environmentally friendly in as many aspects of our life as is possible.
While Paganism is known as an earth religion, something I noticed when studying the Pagan community is that this love for the earth frequently does not translate into a green approach to living our lives, which when you think about it seems kind of odd, given the condition of the earth at the moment.
So with that in mind I plan to write more about environmental concerns (in a non preachy way!) and here to kick this off is Phill from Late Late Gifts who has written an excellent guest post on how you can integrate this way of thinking and doing into your gift giving.
Top Tips to Stay ‘Green’ When Gift-Giving
Guest Post by Phill from Late Late Gifts US.
When it comes to gift giving, incorporating your green living practices can be a little confusing. There are many ways however, to give your loved ones beautiful gifts while still remaining environmentally friendly. There is no need to break the bank or go out of your way- many of the best holiday ideas can be found right in your own home! Here are some of the top tips for green gifts for your winter festivities!
Have you received a gift that you didn’t much enjoy, or couldn’t find a use for? We all have, and for some strange reason seem to hang onto these unused items. These make perfect gifts for friends and family! You may know someone who could really use that present you didn’t have need for, it doesn’t cost a thing, and it’s a great way to recycle a great gift. Just make sure you don’t re-gift it to the original sender!
Make it at Home
There is nothing more heart felt than a gift made by your own hands. Homemade presents are especially suitable for Winter Solstice. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, and crafting something yourself gives you the opportunity to put loads of loving energy into the item!
Think simple, and it’ll be even easier. When doing homemade, you even have the option to combine recycling! For example, mittens can easily be made from an old sweater, or a dream pillow from an old sheet or t-shirt you no longer use. The ideas are endless! This is a perfect creative outlet that guarantees you have a unique gift to give someone, all while remaining green!
Mind the Paper
Possibly one of the biggest negative environmental impacts during the holiday season is the massive amount of paper used in wrapping. Tons of paper are used to wrap gifts, and then promptly thrown away. This year, save a few trees by avoiding wrapping paper altogether.
Other options for pretty presentations include using newspaper. Recycle that news you were throwing away. If you want it to be more festive, it’s very easy to paint the paper in any kind of color or design you want.
An even better alternative is to use something less disposable. Consider decorating a wooden box that not only houses the present, but will be usable later too. You can also incorporate the wrapping material into the present itself. For example, you give DIY sachet or dream pillow kits with instructions on how to put them together. Use the fabric that makes up the sachet or pillow as the wrapping paper.
The options for green gift giving during the Solstice and other holidays are endless. All it takes is a little imagination and creativity!
About the Author
This article was written by Phill from Late Late Gifts US.
Recently I was looking for an SEO (search engine optimization) service to help promote a blog post I had written about Wiccan tools and supplies. I found a freelancer, who advertised the service I was looking for and submitted my article to him.
Shortly afterwards, I got a very polite message back from him explaining that he couldn’t help me, because he was a Christian and his faith did not allow him to recognize or promote anything to do with Wicca or the occult. Here is the message:
“My dear friend , i am really sorry …but i cannot market your site.
Please do not be offended. But my faith refuses for me to promote or recognize anything that is related or has to do with the occult, witchcraft or wicca.
I myself am a studying theologian and Christian Minister in training.
Please accept my apology and consider a submission to this link below link that offers the exact same service as mine.
I will request you a refund ASAP
(name removed – let’s just call him ‘B’)
Was I offended? Not really, the email was so polite and apologetic that it would have been hard for me to be offended. ‘B’ wasn’t censuring me as such, since he was even recommending someone else to help me, he was simply stating that he felt bound by his religion not to work with me.
So what did I feel? Saddened a bit, but not surprised at this Christian take on Wicca and the occult, but mainly thoughtful. His email raised several questions for me.
I found it an interesting concept that an SEO person would refuse to promote various sites on what could be called moral grounds – given the variety of subjects and products on the Internet, and this led me to my first question:
1. What other topics would ‘B’ refuse to promote and how far does he go to ensure that sites do not conflict with his beliefs or personal morals? Would he promote a Jewish website, or a Muslim one? What about a gay site, or even, say, a celebrity one that talked about sex before marriage and perhaps promoted behavior that goes against what the church proscribes. I posted a brief note about this on twitter and a Pagan tweeter told me that a friend of theirs worked for a Christian company and said that they regularly turned away the ‘wrong’ sort of people.
This line of questioning brought me to my second question:
2. What did ‘B’ mean by saying that his faith disallowed him from ‘recognizing anything that is related with the occult, Witchcraft or Wicca.’ By refusing to recognize Wicca – does this mean he is saying that he does not believe in it, and therefore won’t promote it because he believes it to be misleading? Would he feel the same about other religions – i.e. that they are simply misguided versions of the truth.
Or does he/Christianity in fact think (as many Christians do) that Wicca is related to devil worship? (We know, of course, that it isn’t – and the irony is that not only do we not we believe in the devil but in fact this figure actually comes from Christianity not Paganism) … And if B’s religion tells him that it is unethical to promote my site – either because in Christianity’s view it is ‘bad’ or simply because it is ‘incorrect’ – does he apply this same system of judgment to other sites?
I wondered if ‘B’ looked into sites that promote a certain product and if he looked to see if the product was ethical, something he believed in, and something that his faith allowed him to promote. What if someone was promoting a health cure that was in fact a scam? How would he know without researching it, and if he did research it, did he really have time to do this for all the sites he promoted? What if someone was promoting say, a book, that was not a scam but perhaps badly written and a waste of money?
And this made me ask…
3. If I were offering SEO services – what, if anything, would I refuse to promote? After thinking about it I decided that in his position I would refuse to promote any site that was designed to incite hatred or violence of any kind. I would promote a Christian site, as long as it didn’t fall under those categories. On the other hand I wouldn’t promote something like scientology. Why? Because it seems to me to be a cult, that uses pseudo science and other techniques to con people into handing over their money.
At this point I had to recognize that I too would make judgments on the validity of other’s beliefs, and link that into my business practices. I know there is a big difference between Wicca and scientology, but perhaps ‘B’ doesn’t. On the other hand I have had some personal experience with scientology and Christianity, but I suspect that ‘B’ does not have knowledge or experience of Paganism.
(Scientology – I got roped into watching a ridiculous video about ‘dianetics’ – the theory that science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard came up with before scientology. They then gave me a totally inaccurate personality test designed to ensnare the sad and lonely, telling me I was depressed, angry and violent when I actually felt really happy and am rarely angry and never ever violent – then tried to sell me books at £30 a go.)
(Christianity – I was brought up a Catholic, went to a Catholic School and felt devoutly Catholic till about the age of 12 when I began to question many of what I see as the hypocrisies of Christianity, becoming atheist until I discovered Paganism at 14.)
Furthermore, unlike ‘B’, my judgment about Scientology was made based on my personal moral code, rather than dictated to me by my religion and this led me to my final question:
4. Should we blindly follow a religious code, or any other code that doesn’t come from our own sense of right and wrong? This is an ethical and philosophical question that has baffled people throughout the ages. Many have felt that if we all obey our own moral codes then people will end up doing what they like, and that a religious code can keep us all on the same path. But thinkers like philosopher Jean Paul Sartre rebelled against this, proposing existentialism, part of which explains that since every situation and person is unique, there is no ‘one size fits all’ morality, and that we need to use our minds and hearts to make the best decision for each case.
For me, this is clearly the best answer, and the one that I live my life by, and I would say that the majority of Pagans would do the same. Being an unorthodox religion (i.e. there is no formal written doctrine) there aren’t really any rules, although I think that most if not all Pagans would agree that there is an implicit understanding that you should try to be a good person, expressed by one of few written down ethical codes in Paganism ‘an’ it harm none, do what ye will’.
Wikipedia paraphrases Judy Harrow nicely ‘This is usually interpreted as a declaration of the freedom to act, along with the necessity of taking responsibility for what follows from one’s actions and minimizing harm to oneself and others.’
While this lack of formal ethics may worry some non Pagans, I would respond that Pagans do not need a religious prescription of ethics to make them be a good person, nor do they need the fear of going to hell or the hanging carrot of heaven to make them act conscionably. We all know what is right and wrong (even if at times we have differing opinions) and it is our responsibility to live as good people, regardless of what our religion tells us. If we fail to think for ourselves, and simply do what we are told, there is a danger that a great many wrongs will be committed – a scenario has that has played itself out over millennia through the many wars started in ‘God’s’ name.
Sticking to principles or religious discrimination? – Conclusion: After consideration, I don’t feel that B’s act was religious discrimination, perhaps due to the polite and apologetic way that he expressed his inability to work with me. I think that he was sticking to his principles – i.e. that of following his religious code, but I do feel that acting in this way is a worrying and potentially dangerous thing – particularly for a religious minister, and that ethically whilst we can use the principles of our religions and beliefs for guiding us, ultimately we should all think for ourselves, and act in a way that satisfies our conscience.
This article was first published by me on Witchvox.com and I’ve had loads of you email me to tell me your thoughts and experiences with discrimination. Interestingly many people who mailed me practice a kind of syncretic religion including both Christianity and Paganism. I’ve also had some worrying stories of discrimination in NYC and will be posting another post shortly at the request of a fellow Pagan.
Was religious discrimination or not? Comment and let me know your thoughts, and please do share your experiences of discrimination, whatever the cause so that we can fight it by raising awareness and (by hopefully) helping to create solidarity!