I really had to fight with myself not to write about Odin for this month. I figured however, that I have talked about Him in many of my other writings, and moreover there is a small, growing shrine to Him here so I could afford to focus on one of our other Deities for December. Still, it was a close thing! ^_^Instead, I decided to write about a Goddess Whom I find to be very mysterious and Whom I don’t know all that well: Fulla, whose name means ‘Fullness,” “Bounty” or “Plenty.” Fulla is most often described as a handmaiden, possibly sister of the Goddess Frigga. According to the Edda, as Frigga’s Handmaiden, Fulla is entrusted with carrying her casket, looking after Her shoes, and being privy to Her secrets. This is no small set of duties. Essentially, this means that Fulla is Frigga’s primary companion, retainer, counselor, and aide, one who looks after the resources and finances (i.e. the casket) of the Mistress of Asgard. Frigga is a Power Broker, a Queen, a very mighty Goddess equal to Odin in power (in fact, when the Two tangle, inevitably it is Frigga who emerges the victor, often by trickery). Moreover, the lady of the hall was, in many respects, the equivalent of a Fortune 500 executive: an incredibly focused and competent manager as well as a wielder of wealth and influence. It follows then that Her primary attendant would also have tremendous power and influence of Her own in the courts of Asgard.Scholar Rudolf Simek describes Fulla thusly: “Fulla is a virgin who has flowing hair and wears a golden band around her forehead. This allusion to the golden band refers to an old kenning for gold in which Fulla’s name occurs. Fulla is also used by the skalds in kennings for ‘woman.’” (Simek, p. 96).Simek (along with many other scholars) believes that Fulla is identical to the Goddess Volla who is mentioned in the Second Merseburg Charm (ibid). (Certainly Their names mean the same thing). In her book “Asyniur,” Sheena McGrath, drawing on Grimm’s “Teutonic Mythology,” notes that Fulla survived in folklore under the name “Abundia,” or “Habundia,” and as such, women would leave pots in their larders open so that She might eat and drink should She visit during the night. By doing so, they ensured prosperity for their homes. (McGrath, p. 62). This implies that Fulla might have been viewed as a Goddess of abundance, wealth, prosperity, harvest, and maybe even household management. We also know that when Hermod traveled to Hel in order to attempt to negotiate Baldur’s release (unsuccessfully), Baldur’s wife Nanna, also in Helheim, sent a ring to Fulla as a gift. This would indicate that a friendship exists between these two Goddesses. Furthermore, if Fulla is Frigga’s sister, that makes Her Baldur’s aunt. Alice Karlsdottir elaborates a bit on Fulla’s traditional imagery, explaining in her book “The Magic of the Norse Goddesses” that the gold band Fulla wears round her forehead symbolizes nobility and Her unbound hair indicates Her unmarried status. (Karlsdottir, p. 133). She also speculates that like Sif, Fulla’s long and flowing hair can be viewed as being symbolic of the ripening grain, which would tie nicely into Her role as Habondia, Goddess of the earth’s bounty. For contemporary Heathens who honor Fulla, it seems that Her primary mystery lies in Her guardianship of Frigga’s jewel casket. This is the repository of Frigga’s power, of the wealth and blessings that are Hers to bestow at will. It indicates a powerful degree of trust in Fulla that the latter Goddess would be entrusted with such a responsibility. I personally suspect that Fulla is also Frigga’s eyes and ears, Her spy if you will. The former would tie in nicely with Fulla’s connection to Earth’s fertility and fruitfulness, the latter with Her nightly visits to various households (how better to spy on how well or poorly resources were managed by individual ladies of the house, after all?).Many Goddesses of fertility and abundance also had strong connections to sexuality. Karlsdottir points out that the feet have connotations of fertility and often appear alongside other fertility symbols. Moreover in both Germanic and Celtic lore apparently, according to Karlsdottir, the word “foot” was often used as a euphemism, believe it or not, for ‘penis.’ (Karlsdottir, p. 134). This amuses me greatly, I might add. Fulla also functions as Frigga’s messenger several times in the lore. While there is a messenger Goddess amongst Frigga’s Handmaidens (the Goddess Gna), apparently some messages were important enough to warrant the induction of Her foremost aide. In two of the cases, Fulla employs trickery to help Frigga best Odin and Karlsdottir draws a thought-provoking comparison of Fulla being to Frigga what Loki is to Odin: a right hand man, or factotum, so to speak. (ibid). D. Kate Dooley, in her book “The Spindle Hearth,” approaches Fulla as a Goddess of hidden lore and suggests calling on Fulla to help strengthen one’s belief and faith and practice. Fulla may then be approached as a Goddess who guards sacred mysteries, opening the door to initiation and epiphany, to powerful personal gnosis when the time is right. This would make Her a knowledge keeper, with wisdom and knowledge Her wealth and the blessings She bestows. While not much is really known in the lore about Fulla, other than what I’ve already mentioned, from these sparse clues, we can infer that She is a Goddess of power and wealth, abundance, treasure, and maybe even sacred mysteries. I would go so far as to posit that, given Her relationship to Frigga, if one wanted to gain Frigga’s blessing, or wished to approach Her, but for some reason felt unable to do so directly, Fulla might be approached as intercessor. Hail to Fulla, regal, noble, Keeper of Secrets. Hail to the Retainerof the Lady of Asgard.
Hail to the Fulla, Shrewd and canny, cunning, and elegantin the acquisition of power.
Hail to Fulla, Frigga’s sister, Habondia, Volla,Mighty Maiden.Bless us this month, with a greater understandingof all that You hold as Your mysteries. Hail, Fulla. Sources:
- D. Kate Dooley, “The Spindle Hearth.” Asheville, NC: Yarrow Press, (2006).
- Alice Karlsdottir, “Magic of the Norse Goddesses.” Smithville, TX: RunaRaven Press, (2003).
- Galina Krasskova, “Exploring the Northern Tradition,” Franklin Lakes, NJ, (2005).
- Rudolf Simek, “Dictionary of Northern Mythology,” Cambridge, UK: D.S. Brewer, (1993).
We thank you, Bragi,
for Your many gifts:
for Your wisdom and Your secrets,
Your inspiration and instruction.
We thank you and hail You,
now and always,
gracious, glorious God.
Ways to Honor Bragi
Altar Suggestions: musical instruments of any kind; well-written, impassioned books, music scores; the words to good poetry and songs; bennet and purslane; the rune Os.
Food and drink: anything you’d give to an honored guest.
Service offerings: help starving musicians and writers, or other performers; take a young person to a concert, musical, play, or other type of performance; introduce a friend to a type of performance or art with which they’re unfamiliar; contribute to a charity designed to support the performing arts.
Contra-indicated: bad poetry or music. If you can’t write well and you want something special for Him, commission one of the aforementioned starving musicians and writers.
We’re coming to the end of our time with Bragi (and I can’t believe how quickly November flew by!). If you’ve any questions about Him, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’ll answer if I can or try to find the answer if I don’t know.
I was recently contacted by the chaplain’s office of the Idaho Correctional Institution. They are seeking supplies of any kind for their Heathen inmates and asked if I could help. Their inmates depend on outside donations for any books and materials they might have access too for their spiritual needs.
I asked if I could post this request publicly and their chaplain’s office agreed. That way, anyone interested in donating materials need not go through me.
The Address is Idaho Correctional Institution, 381West Hospital Drive, Orofino, ID 83544. c/o Chaplains Office.
My understanding is that any materials sent to the chaplains office will be available for use by all Heathen prisoners. Apparently they’re looking for books, but also for any other religious/spiritual materials that might be of help to their Heathen inmates. If anyone is interested in donating goods, please contact them directly. I’ve been in touch with a woman named Ruth Walker (ruthwalk at idoc.idaho.gov).
Feel free to pass this on to any interested parties.
Hi folks, I just received word from Neos Alexandria that a new Hellenic devotional has just been published. Here is the information I received: “From Cave to Sky: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Zeus
(Bibliotheca Alexandrina) is now available! Edited by Melia Suez,
this 198-page devotional includes scholarly essays, personal
reflections, short fiction and poetry in honor of the Hellenic King
of the Gods.
Please spread the word far and wide!”I’ve seen a pre-view of this devotional and it is beautifully done. I highly recommend it. Additionally, I had the pleasure of interview the editor Melia Suez here: http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Devoted-to-the-King-of-the-Gods.html –Galina
The following prayer was submitted by poet and gythia Elizabeth Vongvisith. Elizabeth is the author of several books on prayer and devotion including “Trickster, My Beloved” and “Be Thou My Hearth and Shield.” May Bragi be honored by the wonder of these well-woven words. In Praise of BragiBy Elizabeth VongvisithO road-rambling, wide-wandering traveler, youWho’ve dwelled in fell fortress and humblest byre,You who have climbed among the highest cragsOf the most forbidding, snow-choked mountains,Down to the sea’s turbulent edge; you who moveFrom mighty, ancient city to forest wilderness,With perfect confidence into the vast unknown,Teach me to go too wherever I must goWith courage and faith, and without fearOf those things which I must say when I arrive.O song-making skald whose magnificent voiceBrought down mountains and scattered armiesAnd has shattered a heart of stone; you whoSing sunlight and shadow into solid gold,Who commands the winds to abruptly ceaseAnd the birds to fall silent and breathless,Who tames the beast and stills the swinging sword,Teach me to raise my voice in speech and songFor joy’s sake and without any self-conscious shame,And to foster my own skald’s magic from thin air.O friend of friends, friend of all, who has been a guestIn Vanaheim’s verdant hills and the wild Iron Wood,Who is welcome in Alfheim, both light and dark,Nidavellir’s deep caverns and Midgard’s villages,The lands of primal ice and fire, and Death’s own hall,You who have spread your glorious tales and songsFrom world to world, giving freely to all hearers,Teach me to lay aside my mistrust and hatredAnd to go among others in peace and friendshipTo share the gifts with which I have been blessed.O Bragi, mighty tale-teller, song-spinner, best of poets,Share your great wisdom so that I may serve youWith whatever tools I possess, and with skill and grace. Elizabeth is the author of three books: “Trickster, My Beloved,” available here: http://www.asphodelpress.com/poetry.html“Love and Shadows,” also available here: http://www.asphodelpress.com/poetry.html“Be Thou My Hearth and Shield,” available here: http://www.asphodelpress.com/prayerbooks.htmlAdditionally her work may be found in my own book “Runes: Theory and Practice” (a lovely set of rune poems) and in Raven Kaldera’s “Northern Tradition Shamanism” series, both available at amazon.
Happy Thanksgiving, Folks.
I really hate conferences. I avoid them like the plague. I’m easily exhausted by crowds (even when I’m having a good time), and added to that so many Pagan and Heathen conferences are held in camping environs that for those of us with health issues, it can be problematic to find even a modicum of comfort. So even though I agreed to present several workshops at the Changing Times, Changing Worlds conference this past weekend, I was, to say the least, dubious. I needn’t have worried. I have never been to such an incredible, spirit-expanding, mind-blowing event. Changing Times, Changing Worlds was the first of what is hoped to be a yearly pan-Pagan and interfaith metaphysical conference organized by Virginia Taylor-Richards (aka Tchipakkan) and Jane Sibley. Its stated purpose is “to spread knowledge about healing, divination, energy work/magic, and spirituality and religion, bridge the gaps between groups studying these things on their own, share what we've learned, and build a larger community.”(1) I think I can safely state that it fulfilled those goals admirably.Firstly, thank the Gods it was held at the Clarion Hotel in Northampton, a lovely, welcoming, surprisingly diverse town not too far from Amherst, MA. The hotel staff was unfailingly pleasant and welcoming, and the rooms were more than sufficient to allow for an optimal learning experience. There was a tremendous variety of programming from workshops on runes and Northern Tradition shamanism, to Dagara ancestor workings, Polytheology, reiki, qi gong, ASL and Deaf Pagans, and everything in between. Heathen, Druid, Quaker, Episcopal, Dagara, Wiccan, and many other traditions were represented. Then there were the powerhouse presenters: Raven Kaldera, Ukumbwa Sauti, Laura Patsouris, Jane Sibley and more. I myself taught several classes and sat on a number of panels. The conference featured not only workshops but book signings and panels on ancestor work, divination, spirituality and money, working with the Fae and more. There was also a large vendors’ room. Programming ran from an ungodly 8:30am until 10 or 11pm at night. It was totally worth getting up that early too. With four workshops running at any given time, the only problem was deciding what to attend!For me personally, the most amazing aspect of the conference was the ongoing theme of honoring the ancestors. The honored dead were a constant presence from the ancestor panel the first night through the individual ancestor workshops run separately by Ukumbwa Sauti and Laura Patsouris, well past the end of the conference and I had the privilege and pleasure of watching many people make a connection to their beloved dead for the very first time and leave committed to honoring them on a regular basis. For many of us, we spent the entire conference standing between the worlds facilitating communication between the Gods, spirits and individual attendees. It was magnificent. Changing Times, Changing Worlds was a rare opportunity to engage with peers and colleagues across the boundaries of our individual traditions. It was a tremendous opportunity to network and build bridges of parity and respect between sometimes conflicting traditions and I will admit to having more than one of my preconceptions happily shattered. Moreover, this conference really emphasized that for all our differences we're all engaged in reconstructing, restoring, rebuilding broken and severed traditions and the place where we can meet and work together in that venture is through our willingness to engage in that process of growth, change, and transformation….and our willingness to engage respectfully with each other. To the organizers of the conference, I say ‘bravi’ for a job well and exceptionally done. To the attendees, I say thank you for sharing your knowledge and your time with us all. And to the presenters, I bow my head in respect for the knowledge you were all so gracefully willing to share. For those reading this, I highly recommend attending this conference next year. It’s well worth both your time and your money. Notes:
2. To see what you missed at weekend’s workshops, you can go here: http://www.changingtimeschangingworlds.org/workshops.html
I had never considered a connection between Bragi and honoring the ancestors until formatting Scott Mohnkern’s ritual for this page, as part of the Deity of the Month series. Upon reading through his ritual, however, I had a moment of enlightenment. While not a God of the dead per se, Bragi, as Skald of the Gods is perfectly positioned to teach us how to enhance our relationships with our ancestors. Skalds are, in their own way, liminal figures. They are truth speakers, tale weavers, and through the power of their gifts, they weave the threads of the past into a cohesive tapestry for the present. They navigate those often misty channels between the living and the dead, between all that has passed before, and all that will be given to the future. Part of a Skald or Bard’s job was to facilitate remembrance of the dead. Through the telling of their stories, the singing of songs, the speaking and sharing forth of their names and deeds, the dead, our honored ancestors, are able to draw near and live again and we are able to learn from their stories. The most sacred duty a Skald has is the duty of remembrance. He or she is able to teach the rest of us how to connect to our ancestors, how to honor them, how to maintain that most sacred connection. Moreover, Skalds are our tradition keepers, vessels of living memory.Our ancestors had predominantly oral traditions. While they may have possessed writing, the dominant means of cultural transmission was not through the written word. This means that remembrance, values, connections to the ancestors, to the past, to the Holy Powers, and to the future was all woven together and maintained through the sharing of stories and songs. This is how the tradition thrived. There is a saying in Lukumi: ‘when an elder dies, a whole world dies with him.’ This is all the more so of a Bard or Skald, who would have spent years and years studying the traditions of his or her people. They are, by the very nature of what they do and know, bridges between the world of the living and the world of the dead. The knowledge they bear and transform through the act of performing is a knowledge of culture told through the deeds of the dead, and that knowledge is transmitted through the creative synergy between listener and performer, just as the skills of a Bard would be transmitted from master to student through the process of training. When a master Skald passes on a song or intricate musical passage to a student, he or she is not just teaching technique; he is initiating that student into a world of tradition stretching back to the very beginnings of the craft itself, a craft that was born out of the deeds and longings, joys and sorrows of our ancestors. The teacher is the living conduit for a tradition that passed through him from his teacher, to his teacher from his teacher’s teacher, and so forth. It is transmission through the body of those actually performing the craft. Likewise, that collected tradition and all the knowledge that it holds is opened like a treasure box whenever a skilled bard or skald performs. In her cultural history of ballet, author Jennifer Homans discusses the tradition of classical ballet, which shares with ancient bards and skalds both intensive training and the physical as the vehicle of knowledge-transmission: “Ballet, then, is an art of memory, not history. … Memory is central to the art, and dancers are trained, as the ballerina Natalia Makarova once put it, to “eat” dances – to ingest them and make them part of who they are. These are physical memories; when dancers know a dance, they know it in their muscles and bones. Recall is sensual…and brings back not just the steps but also the gestures and feel of the movement. .. Thus ballet repertory is not recorded in books or libraries: it is held instead in the bodies of dancers.” (Homans, p. xix).It is much the same with the gifts of the Skald. Here, it is not only the physical and technical prowess of the ‘tradition-performer’ that comes into play, but also the willingness of the audience to listen and engage with and so become part of that process of cultural transmission. We who carry our ancestors in our bones: in our blood, marrow, skin, appearance, and dna celebrate them and carry their stories forward through the physical process of listening and interacting with those who hold one of the keys to opening the doorway between then and now. Telling our stories, honoring our dead, celebrating through song and tales and music and dance…these are important parts of rebuilding a tradition. That restoration does not occur through clinging to the written word. The written word provides history. It is a thing to be studied. Memory however is something quite different. It provides for the future and it is a thing to be lived. It’s important that we remember the dead. It’s important that we remember our ancestors, honor them, and call upon them regularly, helping them to remain part and parcel of our families and by extension communities. Honoring the dead benefits everyone. They provide strength, wisdom, guidance, and protection to their descendants. They lived, in many cases, the very traditions that we as Pagans and Heathens today are trying to restore. They can help root us in the origins of those traditions, origins that we have long forgotten. Their stories, their deeds – good and bad—formed us and the world we live in. Because of that latter, they too have an obligation to find, create, and maintain balance. They too share an obligation to restore right relationship between the living and the dead, between the living and the land, between the living and the Holy Powers, on all possible levels. Our world is hopelessly out of balance. So many indigenous traditions, including our own as Heathens and Pagans, have been sundered. It’s going to take both sides of that equation to return to some semblance of right relationship: it’s going to take the living and the dead working in tandem. Bragi can help teach us how to do this. Sometimes it can be very difficult to know where to start when it comes to honoring the ancestors. We don’t have a conscious cultural tradition today of doing so. Most of us (in American culture at least) did not grow up in homes with active ancestor shrines. I believe remembering the dead is almost a genetic impulse, but we live today in cultures that try to sanitize everything, and sometimes even to pretend that death doesn’t exist. Then there is so much abuse and damage so often perpetrated within families. It can be especially hard to move back past that to establish a working relationship with one’s own ancestors. Sometimes doing so can take an awful lot of hard work and a very long time. There’s no shame in that. When honoring the dead, it’s important, very important, to remember that we are not just the product of the past few generations of our line. We have a line of dead going back to the day the first primal critter pulled itself out of the primordial ooze to try a little land living. We have our tribal Mothers and Fathers, ancient ancestors and very strong who watch over and protect the integrity of the line. We have friends and teachers, mentors, and those who inspire who may or may not be related to us by blood. They are ancestors too. If one is adopted, then one has adopted ancestral lines as well as biological. There is a rich and complex web of connections just waiting to be acknowledged and accessed. That it is difficult doesn’t take away from its importance. One can call on the dead to help forge this connection, but if that is too hard, going to the Gods can also help. Being in right relationship with our dead is part of what it means to live a healthy, whole, spiritually balanced life. This isn’t something just for shamans or mystics, spiritworkers or priests to do, it’s part and parcel of maintaining a stable household, in other words: something every man, woman, and child should be doing. This is our portion as responsible, hopefully pious human beings and adults. That doesn’t mean one can’t call for a little help though. So if you are struggling in learning how to honor the dead, if you find it difficult to make or inhabit that connection, perhaps Bragi might be a good God to seek out for help. The very art and craft of which He is a God, rests on the shoulders of the dead after all. He too has a debt to them and what better way to discharge that debt than by helping us develop that ongoing contact? The skills of a Bard or Skald awaken dormant connections with our past, most especially with our ancestors. Call upon Bragi to help open those doors. Call upon Him joyously so that you might learn to sustain those ancestral threads. Call upon Him and maybe, just maybe, He can help. Hail Bragi, Skald of Asgard, Walking amongst the Worlds, Singer, Story teller, Tale-weaverSpeaker for the Dead.Memory-KeeperMemory’s Teacher. Hail, Bragi. Sources: Homans, Jennifer, Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet. NY: Random House Publishing, (2010). (When you go to Bragi, it is good, as with any Deity, to go with gifts. I have found that a good and honorable way to honor Bragi, an appropriate offering, is to make a donation in support of musicians or dancers, or to your own community Bard or Skald. I’ve listed some useful organizations below to which folks might want to donate).National Endowment for the Arts: http://www.nea.gov/support/index.htmlSphinx Organization: http://www.sphinxmusic.org/index.htmlTipitina’s Foundation: http://tipitinasfoundation.org/Music Therapy Charity: http://www.musictherapy.org.uk/The Actor’s Fund: http://www.actorsfund.org/American Guild of Performing Artists: http://www.musicalartists.org/AGMAReliefFund.htmlThe Musicians Benevolent Fund: http://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/Dancers’ Career Development: http://www.thedcd.org.uk/
I have a new article profiled at Patheos on Thanksgiving. Folks can read it here: http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Happy-Thanksgiving.html
I also have a weekly column there called 'Highway to Hel" that can be found here: http://www.patheos.com/About-Patheos/Galina-Krasskova.html