4/30/2013

May Day / Walpurgis Night / Valborgsmässoafton

May Day on May 1 is an ancient Northern Hemisphere spring festival and usually a public holiday; it is also a traditional spring holiday in many cultures.

Traditional May Day celebrations

May Day is related to the Celtic festival of Beltane and the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night. May Day falls exactly half a year from November 1, another cross-quarter day which is also associated with various northern European pagan and the year in the Northern hemisphere, and it has traditionally been an occasion for popular and often raucous celebrations.
As Europe became Christianized, the pagan holidays lost their religious character and either changed into popular secular celebrations, as with May Day, or were merged with or replaced by new Christian holidays as with Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and All Saint's Day. In the twentieth and continuing into the twenty-first century, many neopagans began reconstructing the old traditions and celebrating May Day as a pagan religious festival again.

Origins

The earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times, with the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, and the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. It is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane. Many pagan celebrations were abandoned or Christianized during the process of conversion in Europe. A more secular version of May Day continues to be observed in Europe and America. In this form, May Day may be best known for its tradition of dancing the maypole dance and crowning of the Queen of the May. Various Neopagan groups celebrate reconstructed (to varying degrees) versions of these customs on May 1st.
The day was a traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian European pagan cultures. While February 1 was the first day of Spring, May 1 was the first day of summer; hence, the summer solstice on June 25 (now June 21) was Midsummer. Fading in popularity since the late 20th century is the giving of "May baskets," small baskets of sweets and/or flowers, usually left anonymously on neighbours' doorsteps.

Germany

In rural regions of Germany, especially the Harz Mountains, Walpurgisnacht celebrations of pagan origin are traditionally held on the night before May Day, including bonfires and the wrapping of a Maibaum (maypole). Young people use this opportunity to party, while the day itself is used by many families to get some fresh air. Motto: "Tanz in den Mai!" ("Dance into May!"). In the Rhineland, May 1 is also celebrated by the delivery of a maypole, a tree covered in streamers to the house of a girl the night before. The tree is typically from a love interest, though a tree wrapped only in white streamers is a sign of dislike. Females usually place roses or rice in form of a heart at the house of their beloved one. It is common to stick the heart to a window or place it in front of the doormat. On leap years, it is the responsibility of the females to place the maypole. All the action is usually done secretly and it is an individual's choice whether to give a hint of their identity or stay anonymous. May Day was not established as a public holiday until 1933. As Labour Day, many political parties and unions host activities related to work and employment.

Finland

Celebrations among the younger generations take place on May Day Eve, see Walpurgis Night in Finland, most prominent being the afternoon 'crowning' of statues in towns around the country with a student cap.
May Day is known as Vappu, from the Swedish term. This is a public holiday that is the only carnival-style street festivity in the country. People young and old, particularly students, party outside, picnic and wear caps or other decorative clothing.
Some Finns make a special lemonade from lemons, brown sugar, and yeast called "sima". It contains very little alcohol, so even children can drink it. You can also buy a similar product in all stores. Some Finns also make doughnuts and a crisp pastry fried in oil made from a similar, more liquid dough.
Balloons and other decorations like paper streamers are seen everywhere.

Sweden

The more traditional festivities have moved to the day before, Walpurgis night ("Valborgsmässoafton"), known in some locales as simply "Last of April".
The first of May is instead celebrated as International Workers' Day.

Walpurgis Night 


Walpurgis Night (Walpurgisnacht) is a traditional spring festival on 30 April or 1 May in large parts of Central and Northern Europe. It is often celebrated with dancing and with bonfires. It is exactly six months from All Hallows' Eve.

Name


The current festival is, in most countries that celebrate it, named after the English missionary Saint Walpurga (ca. 710–777/9). As Walpurga was canonized on 1 May (ca. 870), she became associated with May Day, especially in the Finnish and Swedish calendars. The eve of May Day, traditionally celebrated with dancing, came to be known as Walpurgisnacht ("Walpurga's night"). The name of the holiday is Walpurgisnacht in German and Dutch, Valborgsmässoafton in Swedish, Vappu in Finnish, Volbriöö, (Walpurgi öö) in Estonian.
The German term is recorded in 1668 by Johannes Praetorius (writer) (de) as S. Walpurgis Nacht or S. Walpurgis Abend. An earlier mention of Walpurgis and S. Walpurgis Abend is in the 1603 edition of the Calendarium perpetuum of Johann Coler, who also refers to the following day, 1 May, as Jacobi Philippi, feast day of the apostles James the Less and Philip in the Catholic calendar.
The 17th century German tradition of a meeting of sorcerers and witches on May Day is influenced by the descriptions of Witches' Sabbaths in 15th and 16th century literature.


Finland


In Finland, Walpurgis day (Vappu) is one of the four biggest holidays along with Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, and Midsummer (Juhannus). Walpurgis witnesses the biggest carnival-style festival held in the streets of Finland's towns and cities. The celebration, which begins on the evening of 30 April and continues to 1 May, typically centres on copious consumption of sima, sparkling wine and other alcoholic beverages. Student traditions, particularly those of the engineering students, are one of the main characteristics of Vappu. Since the end of the 19th century, this traditional upper-class feast has been appropriated by university students. Many lukio (university-preparatory high school) alumni (who are thus traditionally assumed to be university bound), wear a cap. One tradition is to drink sima, a home-made low-alcohol mead, along with freshly cooked funnel cakes.
In the capital Helsinki and its surrounding region, fixtures include the capping (on 30 April at 6 pm) of the Havis Amanda, a nude female statue in Helsinki, and the biennially alternating publications of ribald matter called Äpy and Julkku, by engineering students of Aalto University. Both are sophomoric; but while Julkku is a standard magazine, Äpy is always a gimmick. Classic forms have included an Äpy printed on toilet paper and a bedsheet. Often, the magazine has been stuffed inside standard industrial packages, such as sardine cans and milk cartons. For most university students, Vappu starts a week before the day of celebration. The festivities also include a picnic on 1 May, which is sometimes prepared in a lavish manner, particularly in Ullanlinnanmäki—and Kaisaniemi for the Swedish-speaking population—in Helsinki city.
The Finnish tradition is also a shadowing of the Socialist May Day parade. Expanding from the parties of the left, the whole of the Finnish political scene has adopted Vappu as the day to go out on stumps and agitate. This includes not only political activists. Other institutions, such as the state Lutheran church, have followed suit, marching and making speeches. Left-wing activists of the 1970s still party on May Day. They arrange carnivals. And radio stations play leftist songs from the 1970s.
Traditionally, 1 May is celebrated by a picnic in a park (Kaivopuisto or Kaisaniemi in the case of Helsinki). For most, the picnic is enjoyed with friends on a blanket with good food and sparkling wine. Some people, however, arrange extremely lavish picnics with pavilions, white tablecloths, silver candelabras, classical music and extravagant food. The picnic usually starts early in the morning, where some of the previous night's party-goers continue their celebrations undaunted by lack of sleep.
Some student organisations reserve areas where they traditionally camp every year. Student caps, mead, streamers and balloons have their role in the picnic, as well as in the celebration as a whole.

Germany


In Germany, Walpurgisnacht, the night from 30 April to 1 May, is the night when witches are reputed to hold a large celebration on the Brocken and await the arrival of spring.
Walpurgis Night (in German folklore) the night of 30 April (May Day's eve), when witches meet on the Brocken mountain and hold revels with their gods..."
Brocken is the highest of the Harz Mountains of north central Germany. It is noted for the phenomenon of the Brocken spectre and for witches' revels which reputedly took place there on Walpurgis night.
The Brocken Spectre is a magnified shadow of an observer, typically surrounded by rainbow-like bands, thrown onto a bank of cloud in high mountain areas when the sun is low. The phenomenon was first reported on the Brocken.
—Oxford Phrase & Fable.
A scene in Goethe's Faust Part One is called "Walpurgisnacht," and one in Faust Part Two is called "Classical Walpurgisnacht." The last chapter of book five in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain is also called "Walpurgisnacht." In Edward Albee's 1962 play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Act Two is entitled "Walpurgisnacht."
From Bram Stoker's short story, "Dracula's Guest," an Englishman is on a visit to Munich before leaving for Transylvania. It is Walpurgis Night, and in spite of the hotelier's warning not to be late coming back, the young man later leaves his carriage and wanders toward the direction of an abandoned "unholy" village. As the carriage departs with the frightened and superstitious driver, a tall and thin stranger scares the horses at the crest of a hill.
In some parts of northern coastal regions of Germany, the custom of lighting huge fires is still kept alive to celebrate the coming of May.
In rural parts of southern Germany, it is part of popular youth culture to play pranks such as tampering with neighbours' gardens, hiding possessions, or spraying graffiti on private property.
In Berlin, traditional leftist May Day riots usually start at Walpurgis Night in the Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg. There is a similar tradition in the Schanzenviertel district of Hamburg, though in both cases, the situation has significantly calmed down in the past few years.

Sweden


Walpurgis Night bonfire in Sweden

A large crowd, mostly students in typical Swedish white student caps, participating in the traditional Walpurgis Night celebration with song outside the Castle in Uppsala. Image from c. 1920.
In Sweden, Walpurgis Night (Swedish: Valborgsmässoafton or simply Valborg, Vappu in Finland) has more or less become a de facto half holiday. The forms of celebration in Sweden vary in different parts of the country and between different cities. Sir James George Frazer in The Golden Bough writes, "The first of May is a great popular festival in the more midland and southern parts of Sweden. On the eve of the festival, huge bonfires, which should be lighted by striking two flints together, blaze on all the hills and knolls." One of the main traditions in Sweden is to light large bonfires, a custom that is most firmly established in Svealand and may have begun in Uppland during the 18th century: "At Walpurgis (Valborg), farm animals were let out to graze, and ever since the early 18th century bonfires (majbrasor, kasar) have been lit to scare away predators." In Southern Sweden, an older tradition, no longer practised, was for the younger people to collect greenery and branches from the woods at twilight, these were used to adorn the houses of the village. The expected reward for this task was to be paid in eggs.
Singing traditional songs of spring is widespread throughout the country. The songs are mostly from the 19th century and were spread by students' spring festivities. The strongest and most traditional spring festivities are also found in the old university cities, such as Uppsala and Lund, where undergraduates, graduates and alumni gather at events that last most of the day from early morning to late night on 30 April, or sista april ("The Last Day Of April") as it is called in Lund and often Uppsala. More modern Valborg celebrations, particularly among Uppsala students, oftentimes consist of enjoying a breakfast including champagne and strawberries. During the day, people gather in parks, drink considerable amounts of alcoholic beverages, barbecue and generally enjoy the weather, if it happens to be favourable.
In Uppsala, since the mid-1970s, students also go rafting on Fyrisån through the centre of town with home-made, in fact quite easily wreckable, and often humorously decorated rafts. Several nations also hold "Champagne Races", where students go to drink and spray champagne or somewhat more modestly priced sparkling wine on each other. The walls and floors of the old nation buildings are covered in plastic for this occasion, as the champagne is poured around recklessly and sometimes spilled enough to wade in. Spraying champagne is, however, a fairly recent addition to the Champagne Race. The name derives from the students running down the downhill slope from the Carolina Rediviva library, toward the Student Nations, to drink champagne.
In Linköping, the students and public gather at the courtyard of Linköping Castle. Spring songs are sung by the Linköping University Male Voice Choir, and speeches are made by representatives of the students and the university teachers.
In Gothenburg, the carnival parade, The Cortège, which has been held since 1909 by the students at Chalmers University of Technology, is an important part of the celebration. It is seen by around 250,000 people each year. Another major event is the gathering of students in Trädgårdsföreningen to listen to student choirs, orchestras and speeches. An important part of the gathering is the ceremonial donning of the student cap, which stems from the time when students wore their caps daily and switched from black winter cap to white summer cap.
In Umeå, there is a tradition of having local bonfires. During the last years, however, there have been a tradition of celebrating Walpurgis at the Umeå University campus. The university organizes student choir song, there are different type of entertainments and also a speech by the president of the university. Different stalls sell hot dogs, candies, soft drinks etc.

The Netherlands

While Walpurgis is not celebrated in The Netherlands due to their national Koninginnedag falling on the same date, the small island of Texel celebrates a festival known as the 'Meierblis (nl)' (roughly translated as 'May-Blaze') on that same day, when bonfires are lit near nightfall, just as on Walpurgis. Though the local folklore may have tainted its true meaning over the years there is still a possibility that this was once a Walpurgis night. These days it is seen as a symbolic start for the upcoming warm weather. Winters in the Netherlands tend to be strongest in January and February; the May-blaze is a symbolic festival to drive away the last bits of winter with bonfires which are lit all over the island.

Conclusion

So would our heathen ancestors have celebrated Walpurgis Night? Yes and No. I have already
mentioned the holiday of Sigrblot. It is said that Walpurgis Night is the beginning of summer and we know that Sigrblot is the Summer finding Holiday. The end of the month of Einmanudur and the begining of Harpa (The Norse equivalent of May), which in the modern calendar would fall on about April 14th. Now I know I already recommended substituting Ostara with Sigrblot for those who wish to follow Norse Paganism instead of the general neopagan structure laid down by Wiccan tradition. But I will also say the same for Beltane/May Day. Those two holidays seem to be combined into Sigrblot. Though since Walpurgis Night is celebrated in Germany and Valborg is celebrated in Sweden, especially Upsala,  I would suggest those holidays are what Sigrblot turned into. It is quite possible that the traditions of large bonfires, the drinking of sparkling alcohols, the feasting, and the praising of those of higher education are ancestral memories of the peoples. Those were probably common festivities our ancestors would have done at Sigrblot. It has been mentioned again and again that Walpurgisnacht is the Witches Sabbath. The night where the pagan people go out into mountains and do working of magic. This is simply the small cults still practicing the summer finding. Though it is possible this is quite a powerful day for magical working. Sigrblot has been attested as a celebration which Odin is honored above all. Odin in known for his power in magical working and also for his quest for knowledge. This would have been a festival to honor those of high status in the community especially in academic achievement.

4/26/2013

Asatru Children’s ABC’s

Alright here is some ABC's to teach your children and help them learn about the gods. This has not historical founding but it reminded me of the the rune poems. It seemed like a good idea for heathens living in the modern world.

 A is for Asgard, where the Gods spend their day. 
B is for Bifrost, between the worlds it lay. 
C is for Courage, the strength to overcome fear. 
D is for Day, she follows Night throughout the year. 
E is for Embla, the mother of us all. 
F is for Freyja, chooser of those who fall. 
G is for Gungnir, from its course it never strays. 
H is for Heimdall, his horn, Gjallar, he plays. 
I is for Iduna, keeper of the apples of gold. 
J is for Jormungand, around the earth, his tail he holds. 
K is for Kvasir, from his blood came inspiration. 
L is for Lore, the stories for our edification. 
M is for Mjollnir, Jotuns it smites. 
N is for the Norns, the Wyrd they write. 
O is for Odin, he, who Fenrir shall fight. 
P is for Protection, given by Thor’s great might. 
Q is for Question, for knowledge to gain. 
R is for Ragnarok, when all begins again. 
 S is for Sigurd, the slayer of the dragon. 
T is for Thor, thundering in his wagon. 
 U is for Ullr, by whom the hunt is blessed. 
V is for the Vanir, by whom nature is dressed. 
W is for Wyrd, the web that connects all things. 
X is for Xenodochy and the Luck it brings.  
*(xenodochy = hospitality… you try thinking of an Asatru related word that begins with ‘X’ 
 Y is for Yggdrasil, where Odinn hung alone. 
Z is for Zisa, by whom peace is sown.

4/17/2013

The Nine Noble Virtues


In Asatru there are Nine Noble Virtues. These Nine Noble Virtues were first written down by John Yeowell (a.k.a. Stubba) and John Gibbs-Bailey (a.k.a. Hoskuld) of the Odinic Rite in the 1970s.

They are based on virtues found in historical Norse paganism, gleaned from various sources including the Poetic Edda (particularly the Hávamál and the Sigrdrífumál), and as evident in the Icelandic Sagas).

To Understand what the Nine Noble Virtues are for I think it is best to start by describing the word Virtue

Virtue:
Behavior showing high moral standards
    • a quality considered morally good or desirable in a person
    • a good or useful quality of a thing

So the nine noble virtues are a list of qualities that society should strive to obtain. Qualities that are considered morally good behavior.

So what are the Nine Noble Virtues? Well they are as follows:

Courage
Truth
Honor
Fidelity
Discipline
Hospitality
Industriousness
Self-Reliance
Perseverance


Now for these morals to have any meaning we have to have a universally accepted definition for each of these. Otherwise we would not be able to judge if person or action was actually sticking to the virtues. So I have pulled the dictionary definition for each of the virtues.


Courage:

The ability to do something that frightens one
    • Strength in the face of pain or grief

Courage is what makes someone capable of facing extreme danger and difficulty without retreating. It implies not only bravery and a dauntless spirit but the ability to endure in times of adversity.
Someone who has guts, a slang word indicating an admirable display of courage when it really counts, might also be described as having “intestinal fortitude,” a cliché that is more formal and means the same thing.
Fortitude is the most formal of any of these words; it suggests firmness or strength of mind rather than physical bravery.
Resolution also implies firmness of mind rather than fearlessness, but the emphasis is on the determination to achieve a goal in spite of opposition or interference.
Tenacity goes one step beyond resolution, adding stubborn persistence and unwillingness to acknowledge defeat. (Now here is a concept I know to be true to the norse people as a virtue)
Nerve and pluck are informal words. Pluck connotes high spirits, conviction, and eagerness, while nerve is the cool, unflappable daring with which someone takes a calculated risk.

It was Nietzsche (a German philosopher) that stated that a quality life is about the progression of that life. And we achieve that by taking calculated risks. Without risk, we are hardly living at all.

Truth:

The quality or state of being true
    • That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality
    • A fact or belief that is accepted as true
Truth comes from the the word Trú in old norse with means "Faith" or fidelity to beliefs. The norse concept of truth seemed to be not absolute but more "what was practical". If something worked and survived testing then it was truthful. And in the legal system truth was a consensus. To where whatever the majority agreed upon, was the truth of the matter. The foundations to our modern jury system. It seemed the norse understood that truth was a relative thing (what was true for one person, may not bet for another), or at the very least if there was an absolute truth that it was unknowable.

Honesty might be the more accurate word here, as far as virtues are concerned. Where one has the quality of being honest

Honest:
    • Free of deceit and untruthfulness; sincere.
    • Fairly earned, esp. through hard work
    • Blameless of well intentioned even if unsuccessful or misguided
    • Simple, unpretentious, and unsophisticated

Being honest is a huge part of being a part of the norse community. If you are not honest in your dealings then you are not trustworthy. And you are never really part of the community if no one can trust you. Deceit is just a burden that causes problems in the community. Honesty also implies that you maintain the best of intentions for other, so that no matter your faults you are still blameless. And lastly Honesty also initials simplicity. The norse were known for being plainspoken people. It takes courage to no hide behind layers of pretentiousness. This is respected amongst the community.

 

Honor:

High Respect; esteem
    • a person or thing that brings credit
    • adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct
A Privilege
    • an exalted position
    • a thing conferred as a distinction, esp. an official award for bravery or achievement

Honor is being a person who is a credit. Who is the best a person can be. And who is also considered of high value to the community.
Honor is also an adherence to what is right. It is honorable to do the right thing, simply because it is the right thing to do.

 

 Fidelity:

Faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support.
While commonly associated to sexual faithfulness to a spouse or partner. Fidelity also incorporates loyalty and support to ones community, family, and to ones belief system.

 

Discipline:

The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience
    • the controlled behavior resulting from such training
    • activity or experience that provides mental or physical training
    • a system of rules of conduct
a branch of knowledge, typically one studied in higher education.
Discipline as a virtue would seem to be an ability to control oneself. And to take on and grow in skill on mental or physical training. Also an adherence to the rules of society, following the laws and training your children to do the same.

 

Hospitality:

The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.
To better understand this concept we should probably also define generous.
Generous:
showing a readiness to give more of something than is strictly necessary or expected.
    • Showing kindness towards others
This virtues is one that is repeated over and over again in all sources. It is a constant and common knowledge and expectation of the norse people. Enforced by even the gods testing the hospitality of the people.

 

Industriousness:

A state of being diligent and hard-working.
For more clarification we shall also define diligent.
Diligent:
having or showing care and conscientiousness in one's work or duties.

Having industriousness as a virtue would imply a sense of high importance in identifying with one's actions/work. What you do determines your worth as a person. Especially coupled with a virtue of honor. Your value is determined by how much of a credit you are to your community.

 

Self-Reliance:

Reliance on one's own powers and resources rather than those of others.

As a virtue it seems that this is a big part of honor. It would be honorable to self-reliant because you are supporting your community and not being a burden to it at all. Making you a person of value and worth.

 

Perseverance:

steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success

This goes with tenacity under the virtue of courage. There are many stories in the lore of Vikings fighting till the bitter end. When faced with insurmountable odds they still fought like men possessed. Never acknowledging defeat was considered highly honorable. Perseverance also goes with doing the right thing, just because it is the right thing to do. Regardless of success.

Norse Pagan Basics Desktop Wallpaper

I don't own any of the images. But I did think this desktop wallpaper I put together would be a great resource for anyone new to Norse paganism and is trying to learn the most important stuff. The drawing of Odin obviously belongs to Wayne Nichols. I could not find the artist for the Yggdrasil painting. This is for non-profit use only. Intended as a learning tool, diagram for scholarly use. It is free to download and is not to be used anywhere for hate or racist causes. It is not to be sold or altered in anyway. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to send me a message.

Here are some other great Yggdrasil Resources