Winter Nights 1997 Issue No. 2
A journal dedicated to the Vanir
Contents :- ‘Fro of the Dance’ * The Most Glorious of the Æsir and Ásyniur
*Freyja – the Spinner * The Origin of the Elves * Ritual Costume * *
Forthcoming Events * Competition *
to the Winter Nights issue of The Wain. The season is turning dark
again and becoming cooler (and hopefully full of the right amount of rain) – it
is the time of the Freysblót, the álfablót and the disablót
There has still been no submissions or items prepared on the god Njörðr
but I couldn’t leave him out of this Vanic journal yet again so the Victorian
print of him with the ski- goddess on the front cover is to remedy this. I know
it’s a little misleading in that it was Skaðhi who was the jotun (giantess)
but I’m grateful for anything I can get on him at the moment.
For those who may have been expecting ‘The Lay of Beli’, this has now been
rescheduled for the Yule edition.
All uncredited articles and reviews are by the editor.
The opinions expressed in contributors to ‘The Wain’ are not necessarily
those shared by the editor.
All rights reserved. (c) 1997 All articles, poetry and illustrations are
the joint copyright of the author/artist and the editor. No part of this
publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in
writing from the editor.
P. Deegan : Editor
Submissions and Subscriptions
Subscription is £2 for four issues.
Submissions of articles, poetry, artwork, etc. on the Vanir would be warmly
welcomed (but not any item which promotes hatred or division due to racial,
gender or sexual orientation differences).
Subscriptions to the journal and/or submissions for publication should be
PO Box 16071
Fro of the Dance
Set to the tune “Lord of the Dance”
“Dance, then, wherever you may be.
I am the Fro of the dance,” says He.
“And I’ll lead you on, wherever you may be
And I’ll lead you all in the dance,” says He.
I dance on the barley and I dance on the corn.
I dance in the laugh of every child that is born.
I dance with my sister when I dance with my wife,
For I am the Dance and the dance is Life.
I danced into Ælfheim when my first tooth had come.
I danced into Asgard, when the fighting was done.
I danced into Hlidskjalf, Odin’s high seat above,
I danced into Barri when I won my love.
I dance on your helmets and I dance on your shields.
I dance on my wain as she moves through the fields.
I dance with the Moon and the stars in the sky.
I dance with the Sun as my ship sails high.
I danced with the Ynglings and I danced with the Danes
I danced with Scyld Scefing, holy child of the Wanes.
I danced with the English, when they came from the seas:
When Hengest and Horse danced on new lands with me.
Though all things must wane and nothing stays at its height,
Though Odin and Asgard must fall in the fight,
The World-Ash will stand, the greatest of trees,
and the dance of life will still dance through the leaves
“Dance, then, wherever you may be.
I am the Fro of the dance,” says He.
“And I’ll lead you on, wherever you may be
And I’ll lead you all in the dance,” says He.
1. Originally written for Oak Harrow Garth Midsummer celebrations – as the
Christians took a lot of our heritage originally they can’t complain about this
2. ‘Fro’ is a Germanic form of the title “Lord” and ‘Wane’ is a
proposed Germanic form of “Vanir”.
3. A more earthy version was also written, honouring the sexuality the
Vanir rule – adults only though.)
The Most Glorious of the Æsir and Ásyniur
You may ask why an article on the Æsir and Ásyniur is in a
journal dedicated to the Vanir. Surely tradition tells us that the Æsir
were a different tribe of gods to the Vanir – that the Æsir and Vanir
actually fought each other in the beginning ?
Yet despite first appearances this is an introduction to the Vanic deities
Frey and Freyja. For to quote from the best earliest source of our northern
lore – the thirteenth century Icelandic writer Snorri Sturluson – as he wrote in
his ‘Edda’ (the Prose Edda):
“Freyr is the most glorious of the Æsir ….. And Freyja is the
most glorious of the Ásyniur”
Gylfaginning [23-5] (2)
It can be seen that Snorri was here using Ás meaning a deity in the
general sense, rather than as specifically a deity of the Æsir, though the
eddic tales tell of Njörðr, Frey and Freyja living amongst the Æsir
Frey and Freyja are brother and sister, the children of the god Njörðr
and his sister. Frey is actually the Old Norse word for ‘Lord’ with Freyja
being the Old Norse word for ‘Lady’ or ‘Woman’. They are often described today
as fertility deities, which is true, yet they are also much more.
The fertility aspect of Frey is confirmed in an eleventh century account by
Adam of Bremen who described (as well as Thor and Odin) a figure whom he called
‘Fricco’, in the pagan temple at Uppsala in Sweden, and whom was endowed with a
large phallus. Historians identify this ‘Fricco’ as a Germanic form of the name
Frey. Adam of Bremen’s account goes onto say that ‘Fricco’ ‘grants to mortals
peace and sensual pleasure'(3) and that, when weddings were celebrated, the
special priest for ‘Fricco’ would sacrifice to him.
Yet it is not merely in the area of the fertility of the earth that Frey
rules for he is also ‘ruler of rain and sunshine'(4) and this is an aspect
of Frey which is often overlooked by those whose patron deity is a more
Frey is also a ‘wealth-giver'(1) and, paradoxically in one who gave up his
sword for love, ‘battle-skilled’ with his name being used in Norse
kennings for warriors. In Gylfaginning ‘High’ implies that Frey is very
capable in battle because he says that Frey could have killed the giant Beli
just with his fist (as opposed to the stags antler which he used).
He is associated with kingship, for the Swedish kings traced their descent
from Yngvi- Freyr, and also with wisdom. Frey is called ‘the wise youth’ in Skírnismál
by the wise goddess Skaðhi(5) and in the tale of Gestumblindi’s riddles
(discussed in issue one of ‘The Wain’) the very wise king Heithrek was a
worshipper of Frey – as Thorskegga Thorn suggested, Heithrek’s patron could be
no less wise than he.
There is also an unexplored magical or far-seeing side to Frey for in
Flateyjarbók the worshippers of Frey in Thrandheim told Olaf Tryggvason
that he not only brought peace and plenty but also that he ‘told us future
Frey is also a god of the dead, being particularly associated with the
burial mound. In an euhemerised (i.e. the myths of the gods retold as human
history) account in Ynglinga Saga it says ‘The first age is called the Age of
Burning … But after Frey had been placed in a burial mound in Uppsala, many
cheiftains raised burial mounds …'(7) and in Gísla Saga it says Frey
would not permit frost on the burial mound of his favourite. The final word on
Frey, I shall leave to the god Týr :
‘Frey is the best among the blessed hosts
here in the garth of the gods:
aggrieves not maids nor men’s spouses,
and frees all bondsmen from fetters.’ Lokasenna 8
Of Freyja, golden and compelling, Snorri Sturluson said ‘she is the most
approachable one [i.e. of the gods and goddesses] for people to pray to'(9).
Apart from a role in fertility, this great goddess was the goddess of love,
sexuality and lovers and also of magic, especially the art of seiðr which
she taught to Odin(10). Freyja is also strongly linked with the
traditional female craft and mystery of Spinning. Another very important
aspect of this goddess is her guardianship of the dead. Her large and beautiful
hall is called Sessrumnir (“many-seated”) in Fólkvangr (“army
plain”) and in the Prose Edda it says ‘… half the slain she chooses each
day, and half has Odin’. One woman in Egil’s Saga refused to eat until she
would ‘sup with Freyja’, i.e. she died.
There are hints she may have been a battle goddess in that she has a sacred
swine called Hildissvin or ‘battle-boar’ and she would ride out to battle to
collect her dead. There is also a late tale of how Odin stole Brisingamen and
ransomed it by demanding Freyja stir up perpetual war between two kings.
She is described as very beautiful and desirable and certain myths describe
the lengths to which the giants would go to win her. In Þrymskviða
the giant Thrym manages to steal Thor’s hammer, Mjollnir, and uses this fact to
demand that Freyja be his bride. When it is suggested to the goddess that
she will therefore have to go and be his bride so the hammer can be recovered,
she gets so angry that they go away and consider the other options – even though
it means that the god Thor ends up cross-dressing and a funny episode ensues.
The goddess Freyja is a strong, independent goddess who is not to be ordered
around by other deities.
Her best known attribute is Brisingamen (‘the necklace of the Brisings’).
She was also known for her falcon form or cloak with which she was said to
travel through the worlds and for travelling in her chariot pulled by two cats.
Like her brother, she is also a source of wealth, for her daughters are
Hnossa and Gersemi (meaning treasure or jewels). Freyja herself was said to
weep tears of gold on her journeys to find her wandering husband Oðr in the
Oðr, usually identified as Odin, may be a slightly later introduction
with the merging of the Æsir and Vanir. For the divine family pairing,
which was customary amongst the Vanir, was disapproved of later and Oðr
would have been introduced to replace her original consort which would have been
her brother Frey. In the same way Njörðr fathered Frey and Freyja with
his sister and the Egyptian Isis and Osiris, another well-known divine brother
and sister pairing, show this motif is a global phenomenon for a special class
or godly tribe.
1 Snorri Sturluson (Anthony Faulkes – trans)., Edda, (Everyman 1987), p. 75
2 Snorri Sturluson (Anthony Faulkes – trans).,ibid., p. 24
3 James Allen Chisholm, ‘The Grove and the Gallows: Heathenism in the Greek
and Latin Sources’, Idunna (Issue 17), p. 40
4 Snorri Sturluson (Anthony Faulkes – trans)., ibid, p. 24
5 Lee Hollander (trans.), The Poetic Edda, (University of Texas Press (c)
1962 – 1994 print), p. 65
6 H.R. Ellis Davidson, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, (Penguin (c)
1964), p. 103
7 Andy Orchard, Cassell Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend, (Cassell (c)
1997), p. 28
8 Lee Hollander (trans.), The Poetic Edda, (University of Texas Press (c)
1962 – 1994 print), p. 98
9 Snorri Sturluson (Anthony Faulkes – trans)., Edda, (Everyman 1987), p. 24
10 Britt-Mari Näström, Freyja – the Great Goddess of the North,
(Almqvist & Wiksell – Lund Studies (c) 1995), p. 66
James Allen Chisholm, ‘The Grove and the Gallows: Heathenism in the Greek
and Latin Sources’, Idunna (Issue 17)
H.R. Ellis Davidson, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, (Penguin (c) 1964)
Lee Hollander (trans.), The Poetic Edda, (University of Texas Press (c) 1962
– 1994 print)
Britt-Mari Näström, Freyja – the Great Goddess of the North,
(Almqvist & Wiksell – Lund Studies (c) 1995)
Andy Orchard, Cassell Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend, (Cassell (c)
Rudolf Simek, Dictionary of Northern Mythology, (D.S. Brewer 1993)
Snorri Sturluson (Anthony Faulkes – trans)., Edda, (Everyman 1987)
Eric Wódening, Gods of the World: The Vanir in Ancient Heathenry,
Freyja – The Spinner
There are two sources in the myths and folklore of Northern Europe that link
the goddess Freyja to the art of spinning. Firstly one of the Norse names for
the star constellation Orion is ‘Freyja’s Spindle’ (more commonly referred to in
Asatru research by its alternative name ‘Frigga’s Spindle’), secondly one of the
titles for the goddess given by Snorri Sturluson in the Edda, is ‘Horn’.
Horn is probably derived from the Norse word for flax, the plant from which
linen cloth is made. Turville-Petre suggests that Horn was once a separate
goddess whose name was adopted into the cult of Freyja in the late heathen
period, or even confused by Snorri. He points to a number of local place names
in Sweden dedicated to Horn which would suggest a local goddess cult. However
it is impossible to be certain, it could simply mean that Freyja was often
invoked in that name in that particular area.
However tenuous the information, Freyja was certainly imagined as a spinner.
This ancient craft has lost its relevance in modern society and it is not
surprising that this aspect of Freyja tends to get ignored by today’s heathens.
But such an important symbol for our ancestors should not be simply cast aside
as out of date and redundant. No heathen would scorn Mjolnir for being a ‘low
technology missile’ !
I will therefore endeavour to explain the importance of spinning for the
Anglo-Saxons and Norse folk and provide modern parallels for its symbolism.
The spindle was a wooden or bone shaft of about eight inches long weighted
at one end with a doughnut shaped stone called a ‘whorl’. Fibres of wool or
flax were attached to the spindle which was spun rapidly while the spinner drew
out the fibres to the required width. The weight and momentum of the spindle
drew out and twisted the fibres to turn them into thread. The spindle was a
very simple machine (it can be duplicated with a pencil stabbed through a small
apple) but it was very effective. All thread and yarn for sewing and weaving
was produced on a spindle from Neolithic times to the fourteenth century. In
the North all fabric from muslin to sailcloth started its life on the spindle.
The Symbol of Comfort
The most obvious result of spinning is the production of clothes for warmth,
comfort and survival, emphasising the protective and generous qualities of the
housewife. Home produced cloth would have also produced blankets, table linen
and wall hangings, all adding to the comfort of the home. In the dark ages the
weavers work was as important as central heating is today, a vital weapon
against the cold.
The Symbol of Wealth
While cloth was completely hand made it was a very valuable commodity. To
give you an idea of the work involved, the manufacture of a simple gown would
involve the following tasks ….
The woman would go out to the fields and catch a sheep and shear it. The
wool would be muddy and soiled and would need to be washed, so soap had to be
made and water heated over an open fire. The wool would then be dried and
teased by hand to work out the tangles (this task alone would take several
hours) then the wool would be combed to prepare it for spinning.
It would take several days solid work to spin the fleece into thread, most
women’s spinning would have been constantly interrupted by cooking, cleaning and
caring for children so the spinning would take several weeks. At this stage the
thread would be dyed, the woman would have to go and search the hedgerows for
suitable plants and brew up the dye. The thread would then be dried again.
Next the weaver wove a starting braid (i.e. tablet wove the warp threads
into a selvage) and tied the braid to the top of the loom and tied the
individual threads into the heddles. The cloth would then be woven and
All together the cloth would take over a week to produce and a busy
housewife would need nearer a month with all her other commitments. As a
result it is not surprising that cloth had a high value. In early Iceland it
was the women who were the main earners because the skilled and resourceful
housewife could weave a surplus of cloth which could be sold. The spindle can
therefore represent a woman’s financial independence. In the wealthy household
with a small army of female slaves and servants the housewife commanded a
profitable textile business. This could be compared today to a woman running a
business from home.
A Symbol of Virtue
Not all women had the domestic skills or the motivation to keep abreast of
their everyday duties and keep the family supplied in cloth, let alone sell
surplus cloth to provide an income. As a result the proficient spinner was
highly prized as a bride. The fairy stories of Northern Europe stress the
importance of marrying a practical woman rather than an attractive but lazy
maiden who will be a burden to her husband.
The image of the spinning woman was a symbol of female virtue. This image
was very heavily ingrained in Christian imagery of the early Middle Ages, Eve is
always depicted as a spinner and the Virgin Mary was always shown spinning as an
example of the perfect maiden (the spindle was later replaced by a prayer book
to show piety, but in the very early days no common woman would own a book !).
However downtrodden women were in Christian society the spindle still represents
skill and independence.
A Symbol of Female Power
The traditional weapon the enraged housewife would use against her husband
was the distaff. Obvious modern equivalents would be the rolling pin or the
frying pan. The distaff was a long staff to which the wool or flax fibres were
secured to keep them tidy while spinning. The distaff had a great advantage
over the modern woman’s arsenal, being swathed in a thick layer of soft fibres,
blows would cause pain but not endanger the life of the victim.
Medieval manuscripts often used the comical scene of the husband being
beaten by his wife, to Christian thinking at the time these represented the
world turned upside down. One such picture shows the devil encouraging the
woman to be dominant.
The distaff is a very appropriate weapon for the housewife as it has
served to represent the female sex for hundreds of years. Thus we have the
expressions distaff side, spinster, wife (weaver) and from the Anglo-Saxon
sources peaceweaver. The distaff was the woman’s equivalent of the sword in a
hostile world, its image portrays her independence and her power over the
home. One medieval illustration even shows a housewife beating off a wolf
with her distaff.
Symbol of Fate
All across Europe the spindle is the tool that the fates use to create the
destiny of mankind. The classical parcae spin wool to create fate: one spins,
one measures and one cuts the thread to end each mortal life. Closer to home
the Lithuanian fates spin and weave the fate of each individual and the cloth
they produce becomes the mortal’s winding sheet. European fairy tales often
imply the spinning fates, especially the French tale ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and
England’s ‘The Three Old Spinners’.
The Norns are not often described as spinners but in The First Lay of Helgi
(1) they mark the future territory of a new born prince with a celestial
At night in Hall, the norns did come,
to the lord they allotted, his life and fate:
to him awarded, under welkin most fame
under heaven to be, among heroes first.
His fate-thread span they, to o’erspread the world
(for Borghild’s bairn), in Bralund castle;
they gathered together, the golden threads,
and in the moon-hall’s middle, they made them fast.
In East and West, the ends they hid:
the liege’s land, lay there between;
on the Northern side, Neri’s sister
did hang one end, to hold forever.
It is tempting to link the thread of the Norns with the goddess’s sky
spindle. Frigg is certainly connected with fate and for her the sky spindle is
probably linked to her knowledge of destiny declared by Freyja in Lokasenna.( It
is also possible that Freyja was acknowledged as a fate spinner, but she is far
more connected to the realm of magic.
The Symbol of Magic
The strongest link between the spinner and magic in the Norse sources is the
description of the Valkyries in Njals Saga (2). The battle maidens work at a
loom threaded with human intestines and weighted with human heads, arrows and
spears are their weaving tools. When the cloth is woven they tear it into
pieces and ride over the battlefield. The woven cloth is a magic spell which
gives the Valkyries control over the battle as they choose warriors to die.
Most magical skills were considered strongest in women so it is not surprising
that their monopoly over cloth production was often connected to magical skills.
This connection is also found in Orkneyinga Saga where a sorceress makes a
magic battle flag for her son, the army that follows this banner will be
victorious but the man who carries it will die. The mother has clearly made the
material herself and sung charms over her spinning and weaving. The link
between spinning and weaving is also seen in Eyrbyggja Saga (3) where Katla
transforms her son into a spindle to save him from his pursuers.
However the strongest evidence for a link between spinning and magic comes
from our fairy tales, particularly the story ‘Frau Holda’ collected by the
brothers Grimm. Here a spindle wetted with the spinners blood becomes a
talisman that transports the spinner to Holda’s land. As Holda has obvious
connections with Freyja and Frigg in her roles as goddess of fertility,
childbirth and spinning, it is possible that this story was also once told of
In our ancestors eyes the spindle was a sophisticated machine, rotating
rapidly in blurring motion as the spinner worked in a time when very few tasks
were mechanised. As a result it is hardly surprising that the spindle was
considered a tool of magic. Even today people are fascinated by seeing a
spindle in use and marvel at the effectiveness of such a simple tool. The
spinning brings to mind the use of a fire drill or the whirling of a strong
wind, and in a twentieth century context, an electric generator.
With this information we can see the Freyja of old, cloaked in her falcon
wings that enable her to traverse the worlds, working the heavenly spindle and
singing charms of great power. The sky spindle implies a control over fate and
an authority over the Norns. There is no suggestion anywhere in the Norse myths
that the Vanir are subject to the Norn’s decrees, emphasised by Freyja’s absence
in the prophecy of Ragnarok. The Vanir are in control of all magic power and
can shape the worlds to their will.
As a goddess of wealth Freyja would obviously show an interest in the
lucrative aspects of spinning, and was probably seen as a teacher of
textile skills like Holda. And if she spun and wove for her own pleasure she
would not have been the first warrior maiden to do so. Even Brynhild was a
weaver of tapestries.(4)
Suggestions for Modern Heathens
It is almost impossible to produce a modern alternative for the spindle,
even the spinning wheel is now archaic, and to my mind the spindle is best left
as it is. The traditional approach allows the goddess’s symbol to be retained
and the star constellation Orion shows it clearly in the winter sky. Die
hard up to date heathens could consider the spindle as a whirling ball of magic
energy, but this steals us of the mundane presence of the goddesses’ tool of
I would recommend that all heathens with close links with Freyja (or
Frigg and Holda) become familiar with the spindle and watch it being used. If
nothing else it is a powerful image for meditation. The spindle itself can be
used in rituals to invoke the power of the goddesses, ask the blessing of the
Norns at a child naming ceremony or to honour the ancestral mothers at Mothers’
Night. As a symbol it has much more potency if it is used to spin thread during
the ceremony. It is easy to learn to use a spindle but it is better to learn
from an experienced spinner than try to pick it up from a book. Some tasks are
very difficult to describe on paper !
(1) The Poetic Edda. Trans. LM Hollander. Texas Univ Press. 1962.
(2) Njal’s Saga. Trans. M. Magnuson & H Palsson. Penguin Classics.
(3) Eyrbyggja Saga. Trans. H Palson & P Edwards. 1989.
(4) The Saga of the Volsungs. Trans. J.L. Byock. Univ of California
(5) Orkneyinga Saga. Trans. H. Palsson & P. Edwards. Penguin Classics.
This article is based on Thorskegga’s previous research into spinning myths
The Goddess of the Viking Age, Unpublished.
Spin Me A Yarn, Privately Published.
Spinning in Myths & Folk Tales, At the Edge, No. 6 June 1997.
This is the start of what I hope will be a regular feature. The myths
tell us that the god Freyr was given Alfheim (Elf-Home) as a tooth-gift so
elf-lore is extremely pertinent to a Vanic journal. We start with a most
The Origin of The Elves
There are three stories that explain the origin of the elvish race in
Scandinavia. They all show a blending between heathen and Christian tradition.
As they are all of interest they are given here in full:
THE BATTLE IN HEAVEN:
Once a traveller lost his way in Iceland and was greatly relieved to find a
farmhouse. The farmhouse was occupied by a mature woman and her two daughters.
The traveller was given good hospitality and when evening fell he asked if he
could share a bed with one of the girls. The mother consented and the traveller
went to the girl’s bed in happy anticipation.
However when he tried to embrace the girl his arms passed straight through
her body. He could see her lying quietly beside him but try as he might he
couldn’t touch her. The traveller questioned the girl on this strange
phenomenon. She replied that when the great war had been fought in heaven, all
who had fought with the devil had been sent into eternal darkness, while those
who had supported neither side were sent down to earth to dwell in rocks and
under hills. As a consequence the elvish race was capable of both the greatest
good and the greatest evil. They were unable to live with mortals but were able
to show themselves to mortals when they chose.
This tale is in contradiction with the usual Scandinavian folk belief that
elves of both sexes seduce mortals and half-elvish children abound.
EVE’S HIDDEN CHILDREN :
One day God decided to call on Adam and Eve. They greeted him and showed
him around their house and Eve proudly showed him her children. She had been
washing the children when God arrived and was now ashamed that some were
dirty, so she hid the unwashed children. God was aware of the deception and
asked Eve if she had any other children. Eve replied no. Then God decreed that
the children that had been hidden from him should be hidden from all men. They
became the first elves, the hidden folk (huldufolk).
It is typical of Christianity to blame all the World’s ills on Eve, the
first woman. But this next tale shows a very different interpretation of the
goings on in Eden.
THE HULDRE MINISTER:
There was once a farm in the highland of Norway which was frequented by a
tusse (goblin or elf) who came to borrow things from the farmer from time to
time. The local parson got to hear about this and went to the farm
to investigate. While the minister was speaking to the farmer the tusse
arrived, he put the ale pot he had borrowed on the table, bowed to the parson
and made to leave the room. The parson got to the door first and preached a
sermon at the tusse determined to convert the creature. The tusse struggled but
could not escape, eventually he said ‘I am not clever enough to discuss such
things with you but I will go and fetch my brother, he is a minister just like
you’. The farmer spoke up for the tusse as he had always been honest and
reliable and the parson let him go.
Shortly after the tusse minister arrived in his black robes with a bible
in his hand. The tusse minister asked if the parson knew the book of
Genesis. The parson replied that he did. ‘And that God created a woman out of
Adams rib bone ?’, yes the parson knew that too. ‘Then do you know why Adam
said ‘this time” the tusse minister asked and the parson admitted that he did
not. The tusse minister explained that God had first created a man and a woman
and the woman was equal to Adam in all things. This first woman was called
Lilli or Lillo. God decided that it was not right that a woman should be equal
to man and he sent the first woman away. Lilli and her children went to live
under the hills. The children of this first woman were without sin and could
only be seen by mortals if they wished it. God then created a second woman from
Adam’s rib bone and that is why Adam said ‘this time’. As the children of Lillo
had no sin they had no need for the New Testament that was meant for sinful men
alone. The parson believed these words and utterly humbled he never preached
There is a slight contradiction in Genesis around which this story has been
formed. God creates both man and woman in Ch1 v27 but apparently creates woman
again in ch2 v22. When God presents the woman to Adam, Adam says ‘ This is
now bone of my bones…..’ which must be the sentence the tusse minister
refers to (quote from Kings James translation).
This tale shows an unwillingness to accept the low position of woman in the
Christian faith and Eve’s blame for original sin, which is in keeping with the
relatively high spiritual position of women in heathen times. Lillo, the
fiercely independent woman brings to mind the Norse goddesses and Disir – and
possibly points to an older tradition where the elven race are descended from a
goddess. It is very tempting to connect strong willed and sexually unashamed
Lillo with Freyja.
Ashliman, D.L. – The Origin of Underground People WWW
http://www.pitt.edu/~dash Tales 1 & 2 + regional variations on both stories
Boucher, A. Trans – Elves, Trolls & Elemental Beings. (Icelandic
Review Library 1977) Tale 2
Christiansen, Reidar – Folktales of Norway (University of Chicago Press
1964) Tales 2 & 3
Simpson, Jacqueline – Icelandic Folktales and Legends. (Univ. Of Calif.
Press 1972) Tales 1 & 2
Informal and friendly discussions were held at Thorshof in July to discuss
possible appropriate modern dress for modern heathens. Those present worshipped
different deities but all were bright and sincere heathens. The following
notes, for those worshipping the Vanir, are from (or inspired by) the ideas that
came out during the brainstorming at that meeting.
We have no pretensions to be any form of authorities but lay them out for
your consideration – feedback would be welcomed on this subject. It could be
argued that, as a faith of today as much of the Viking or Bronze ages, it is
appropriate to simply make yourself clean and dress in good modern clothing with
simply a token of your favourite god or goddess:
For Freyr, this could be simply be a Viking ship pendant or
boar/stag brooch, even the ‘horn of plenty’ which may not historically be linked
specifically to Freyr but which is most appropriate for him. This
could be threaded into the middle of a little string of amber beads (even
attaching tiny bells as suggested by “the unmanly clatter of bells”
mentioned by Saxo Grammaticus – cat bells or those used by Morris dancers are
the right size) or just by itself with a thin leather tie. Possibly with a
green man T-shirt or top – again while not historically linked to him, would be
For Freyja having a beautiful necklace (amber, mother-of-pearl,
pearls or rose quartz are stones I personally think are appropriate) or a little
amber heart would be nice. Gold and copper are good materials. A boar brooch
again or falcon token would also be appropriate.
For Njörðr a Viking ship pendant or seagull token seem
For any of the Vanir, the Ring of Troth suggest the use of the
For people who are priests or priestesses of the Vanir, wearing the oath
ring on special occasions is good. Yet it is nice, and symbolically takes you
away from mundane worries, to dress with care in special clothing to perform a
ritual to the gods and goddesses. Also, as an ethnic faith, it could be argued
that it just as much appropriate to look at our traditions and produce a ritual
garment based on our native traditions to celebrate our high holy days. Before
getting onto the main clothing suggestions, I’d like to cover some related
The Vanir do not have colours traditionally associated with them in the way
that ‘Red’ Thor or blue for Odin were associated with those gods but certain
colours do suggest themselves when looking at the deities. As gods of the
world, undyed (i.e. natural) or earthy colours and the greens of various foliage
seem good and for Njörðr, shades of blue (greeny-blue or grey-blue)
would be nice. However it could be argued, from the figure identified as Freyr
on the Oseberg tapestry, that you could make a case for wearing predominantly
red (with yellow, blue and green decoration) to honour Freyr. As the Vanadis was
said to shed tears of red-gold, so gold (or more practically bright yellow)
would be a good colour or decorative trim for Freyja robes.
Footwear, it was agreed, could range from literal reproductions (if going
for a near authentic dark age costume) to discreet modern styles in
natural colours (but no trainers) for a look inspired by the folk traditions.
For Vanic followers it would also be appropriate, providing it was practical in
the circumstances, to go around in bare feet.
There is also the question of whether it is appropriate to wear leather and
fur or whether you should wear alternatives, including plastic. There are folk,
such as Freyslunda Worldhouse in Sweden, who “reject every kind of
unnecessary violence against all forms of life” and encourage
vegetarianism. Such a stance often goes with a refusal to use leather
or fur as if to take the life for sustenance is not acceptable then to
take it for covering the body is not acceptable either. Personally I have to
say that I am not a vegetarian and feel quite comfortable eating meat and
wearing leather (at least) for two reasons: 1. I feel that while certainly
animals appear to be a higher form of life than plant or cereal crops, it should
be accepted that we basically only survive by taking in other life – try and
live on plants that died before being harvested and you would perish very
quickly. 2. In the use of leather, apart from its sturdy qualities and the
fact it ‘breathes’ in a way that plastic cannot, it is the ecological aspect
that is a consideration. Leather, coming from a living creature, is ‘renewable’
and does not remove the non-renewable sources of the earth in the way that the
manufacture of plastic does. But, allowing for personal belief differences,
various suggestions arose – ranging from a nearly authentic look to a modernised
folk costume – and a few are detailed below for ‘The Wain’:
1. NEAR AUTHENTIC –
1.1 FOR BOTH * Woollen cloak, with optional hood, which could be edged with
fur or braid. A very strong cloak pin is required to hold this – most
appropriate forms are from re-enactment markets.
1.2 MALE * Plain linen undershirt with drawstring and neck slit and a hem
that reaches to between the hip and just above the knee. The hem could be
decorated with embroidery in a traditional motif or braid (such as the tablet
woven type). * A collarless overtunic, longer but still above the knee, of a
plain colour wood. This tunic should be edged with embroidery or braid. If the
weather gets hot this could be left off. * Close fitting woollen trousers (like
ski-trousers). Substitute leather if wool irritates your skin. * A heavy
1.3 FEMALE * A long natural or white linen underdress – a rectangle sewn up
one side with a gathered neck and short sleeves set in. A ‘hanging gown’ made
from a large rectangle of plain colour wool with braid (possibly tablet woven)
or embroidery of traditional motifs around the base. It goes under the arms but
over the bust . * The straps over the shoulders originally were fixed by two
matching brooches but brooches today are not made strong enough for that
purpose. I suggest putting a small loop on the front end of the straps and
buttons on the back of the gown which will rest on the body. Then a couple of
inches of velcro to secure the top edge. * Two matching brooches in the
traditional places. * A couple of rows (on wire or strong plastic) of beads,
amber, bracteates, charms, etc can be strung between the beads like a necklace.
2. MODERNISED –
2.1 MALE * Trousers in dark plain colour – but not jeans * Plain white shirt
* Waistcoat with motifs in bright fabric paints * Deep belt with items such as a
money pouch, swiss army knife, small drinking horn * Hip length cape with
traditional brooch or leather jacket with motifs painted onto it * Plain style
boots or shoes in black or natural * Appropriate jewellery
2.2 FEMALE * An ‘apron style’ dress in a dark fabric over a white blouse (à
la Þórskegga) * Two matching brooches where the straps meet the
bodice * Two or three ‘necklaces’ (wire strung traditional stones with loops at
the end of each piece to hook through the brooch clasp) A belt for money pouch
and a traditional element (such as keys or a tiny crystal ball). Even a swiss
army knife for practical women.
*Forthcoming Pagan Events *
Saturday October 4th : Fellowship of Isis Gathering Charlton House,
Charlton Lane, London SE7. Presentations, stalls and refreshments Entrance Fee
approximately £6 Saturday & Sunday October 11-12th:
The Halloween Festival University of London Union, Malet St, London WC1
Lectures, workshops, crafts, refreshments Saturday 12 noon to 10.30 -£6
Sunday 12 noon to 8.000 – £5 or two day ticket for £10 Saturday
November 22nd :
DETAILS NOT CONFIRMED Pagan Federation Conference Fairfield Hall, Croydon.
There was a tradition of writing love songs to Freyja and Fealcen Stow is
holding a competition of devotional pieces for Freyja. Just songs or poems may
represent the original tradition but I would like to open it out for people to
be able to express love for the goddess with whatever talent they have been
In England March 25th was ‘Lady Day’ so, if I can get sufficient material
(couple of articles/devotional works) I’d like to make this forthcoming Spring
’98 edition a Special one dedicated to Freyja. There are three A4 full colour
prints of Jim Kirkwood’s beautiful Vanadis picture (featured in issue one) – one
for each of the best three entries and an additional T-shirt for the very best.
ENTRIES : A work done in honour of Freyja – such as a song, a poem, artwork,
design of a modern costume based on Freyja folk tradition, create a recipe, a
modern kenning …………………
SEND TO : PO Box 16071 (as on page 2)
CLOSING DATE : 1st February 1998
PRIZES : 3 Vanadis prints and 1 T-shirt
Fealcen Stow reserves the right to publish any entries submitted in ‘The