Winternights (Vetrnætr) is one of the three major festivals celebrated in pre-Christian Scandinavia, the others being midwinter (Yule, Jól/Jólablót, Hökunótt) and the beginning of the summer raiding season (Sigrblót “Victory Blot” or Sumarmál). Snorri Sturluson wrote of these festivals in the Ynglinga saga of the Heimskringla: “There should be a sacrifice at the beginning of winter for a good year, and in the middle of winter for a good crop, the third in summer day, that was the sacrifice for victory.”
Skadi, Skade, Skathi (Norse), Sceadu (Anglo-Saxon)
Skadi (Skaði) is a female jötunn (giant) and goddess of winter, snow, mountains and the hunt. She is also associated with independence, wilderness and wisdom. Skadi lived in the highest reaches of the snow-covered mountains. She was described as being tall and beautiful with long black hair, silver armour, showshoes, skiis and a bow and arrow. Continue reading
The Underworld, also known as the Otherworld or Netherworld, is featured in most mythologies around the world. It is a realm of the dead, where the souls of the recently departed go in their afterlife. Many versions of the Underworld are seen as places of abundance and joy, and reward for good work during their mortal life.
World mythologies call the Underworld by several names:
Celtic – Annwn, Mag Mell, Tír na nÓg, Hy-Brasil, Ablach, Sídhe mounds
Norse – Hel, Niflheim, Valhalla, Gimlé, Vingólf
Greek – Hades, Elysium, Tartarus, Asphodel
Roman – Inferno, Avernus, Orcus/Hades, Pluto
Egyptian – Aaru, Duat, Neter-khertet, Amenti
Christian – Heaven, Hell
Wyrd is an Anglo-Saxon term for fate or personal destiny. Heathens believe that wyrd is a force that connects everything in the universe, therefore all their actions could have far-reaching consequences (similar to the concept of karma).
Wyrd is an Old English noun from the verb weorþan, meaning “to come to pass, to become”. Wyrd has cognates in Old Saxon wurd, Old High German wurt, Old Norse urðr, Dutch worden (to become) and German werden.
Frigg (Frigga) was the Norse goddess of marriage, chastity, fertility and motherhood. She was married to the chief Aesir god Odin, and together they ruled Asgard. She was seen mostly as wife and mother, and also an earth goddess.
Freyja, ‘The Lady’, was the Norse goddess of love, war, and beauty. She had a twin brother Freyr and together they were the chief gods of the Vanir. She was a master of Seidr (magic), and is the wife of Ód. Freyja was the leader of the Valkyries, who would ride over battlefields to choose slain warriors to rest in Freyja’s hall Sessrumnir (the rest going to Odin’s hall Valhalla).
Heathenry, or Germanic Neopaganism, centres on Scandinavian, Germanic and Anglo-Saxon deities and mythology. Heathens are largely polytheistic and follow a reconstructionist viewpoint, which aims to recreate the religion of ancient people through study of archaeological and historical records. These records include Old Norse texts (such as the Prose and Poetic Eddas, and the Icelandic Sagas), Germanic folklore, and archaeological evidence.
Freya, Frejya, Freyia, Frøya, Frøjya, Freia
Freyja is a Norse goddess of love, beauty, fertility, crops, war, wealth, divination and magic. Famed for her great beauty, with blue eyes and golden hair, she has been referred to as ‘The Fair One’. She was the symbol of sensuality and was called upon in matters of love. Freyja was also known as The Lady (Frau), The Seer, Great Goddess, The Sage, Freyja of the Black Swordhand, Queen of the Valkyries and Mistress of the Slain.