Det bästa till andar föräras [The best part is gifted to spirits]

There’s an interesting poem which folklorist B.G. Carshult published in his monograph Undenäsbygden genom tiderna concerning rites carried out at the Trollkyrka or “Troll’s church” in Tiveden, Sweden:

Kärken smyger på slingrande stig [The procession creeps on a meandering path]
helst osedd till Trollebergen. [preferably unseen to the Troll mountains/hills.]
Mässa skall hållas i dagarna tre, [A mass shall be held for three days,]
det varde början på helgen. [this will be the beginning of the holiday.]
Kolten är sid, så den nåder vid marken, [The frock is long, so it reaches down to the ground,]
håsorna äro i topparna vassa, [the socks are sharply pointed,]
hättan dras ned, så hålen för ögonen passa. [the hood is pulled down so that the holes fit for the eyes.]
Alla är lika förutom på längda, [Everybody looks alike except for the height,]
prelatus han räknar på mängda. [the prelate counts their number.]
Lösen den gives i lågmälder ton, [The password is given in a low voice,]
prelatus han bjuder tre stötar i horn. [the prelate blows three times in a horn.]
Elden den “köllas” av nio slags ved, [The fire is kindled with nine kinds of wood,]
det är gammal sed. [that is old custom.]
Offer till andarna skänkes, [A sacrifice is offered to the spirits,]
med blodet sig allom bestänkes. [everyone is sprinkled with the blood.]
Det bästa till andar föräras, [The best part is gifted to spirits,]
det som blir över skall av männerna täras. [what remains is to be consumed by the men.]
Uti midnattens timma [In the midnight hour]
då sjärnor beglimma, [when stars glitter,]
prelatus han tystnaden bjuder [the prelate asks for silence]
och männerna alla det lyder. [and this is obeyed by all the men.]
De falla till markone ner, [They fall down onto the ground,]
prelatus han bistert mot rymderna ser. [the prelate looks grimly at the heavens.]
Och svärjan och formlar i dälderna skallar [And incantations and summons echo in the dells]
prelatus han kallar på andar. [the prelate is summoning spirits.]
Allom de fick på sitt spörje ett svar, [Everyone received an answer to their question,]
ingen av androm fick då höra varom det var. [nobody got to hear from the other what that question regarded.]

That sure sounds Starry Bear as fuck.

But wait, it gets better!

Trollkyrka (“Troll’s church”) is a secluded butte-like rock in the heart of the National Park of Tiveden, Sweden, which served as a pagan sacrificial ground (horgr, see also blót) for centuries after Christianity became the dominant religion in Scandinavia. It may have been used as late as the 19th century, when popular tradition still held the mountain to be off-limits for Christians. According to H. Lidman (Gudanatt, dagar och nätter i Tiveden, Askild & Kärnekull, Stockholm. 1972:52) old people used to say: “No Christian can go there. The mountains of the troll church belong to the heathen trolls. If a Christian ventures there, he will come to grief.” In fact, local tradition relates that the mountain was used not long ago for heathen rites and that anyone who was not initiated and saw it risked either to be buried in a bog in the forest or sworn into the brotherhood. These precautions clearly indicate that the rites took place as late as the period 1604–1735, which was a time when there was a penalty of death on practising such rituals. (Wikipedia s.v. Trollkyrka)

[Respect my restraint in not titling this “Take me to Trollkyrka.”]

To Abaris

Hail holy Abaris, son of Seuthes the sage ruler
of the long-lived Hyperboreans who have their
dwelling at the headwaters of starry Eridanos,
and one of the Swan Maidens, priestesses who serve
the Archer God in his circular temple while Parnassos
is covered in snow and Pytho’s oracular tripod has fallen silent;
that temple where the arrow of Apollon was stored,
double of the constellation Oistos which was put in the sky
to commemorate the time when Leto’s son slew the Kyklopes,
fashioners of Zeus’ fiery bolts, and was exiled from heaven for it.
Apollon wandered far and wide until he had left behind
even the mighty sons of the North Wind, and arrived
in the land of Gryphons and birch forests and the Midnight Sun.
Covered in dust from the road, blood of the One-Eyed smiths,
ash that was all that remained of his son Asklepios,
and the tears he’d shed for him, Apollon waded into
Eridanos’ swiftly-rushing current and cleansed himself,
reducing everything to nothing in the white-capped waves
except his tears which became lovely honey-gold amber,
most prized among men. On the spot where Apollon’s
sandaled feet first stepped ashore after his cleansing,
your tribe built for him the great circular temple,
and he left his arrow in the custody of those who were chosen
as Neokoroi. Though Seuthes desired for you to follow
in his footsteps it was clear to see, Abaris, that even as a child
your religious vocation was deep and true, and so with his blessing
you began your studies with the Neokoroi, becoming
expert in the sacred lore, healing songs, divination
by weather and the entrails of sacrificial animals,
dream interpretation, purifications and all manner of cures.
You became a confidant of Apollon, a Nympholept,
a prophet, a philosopher, and an ascetic with unshorn hair
who could spend days in meditation without breaking
and shunned all mortal food, including alcohol, dairy,
and produce of the fields and wilds. Never had the Neokoroi
and Swan Maidens seen your like before, nor had anyone else
among your tribe – and you Hyperboreans are famed
throughout the world for your exceptional piety.
In such labor would you have gladly spent the remainder
of your days if the Archineokoros had not dreamed
that Apollon visited him and handed him the arrow from the temple,
saying that a great plague was about to befall mankind,
and he was sending you forth as his representative
to bring healing and cleansing to the world.
Humbly did you refuse at first, O Abaris, for you
did not think yourself deserving of such attention, but then
the Archineokoros bid you enter the adyton of the temple
and take up the arrow as a token of your office.
Obediently you did as he requested of you
and no sooner had your hand touched the shaft
then you were lifted up into the clouds. Hanging on
for dear life you were speedily conveyed over mountains
and steppes, across lakes and rivers, on through the territory
of the Kimmerians, Skythians, Thrakians and Keltoi
until you reached the borders of the Greek lands.
You drove out the plague, performed city-wide purifications,
discovered previously unknown Gods and Heroes
and instituted cults for them, reformed laws and customs,
conversed with wise men such as Pythagoras and Phalaris,
and after constructing the temple of Persephone at Sparta,
you straddled the arrow and rode off to share your teachings
and wonders with the Barbarian races, never to be seen
by a Greek again. Hail to you Abaris, best of the Hyperboreans,
and may you come visit our country too, for never has a people
been more in need of moral correction, pious instruction,
cures for countless ailments, and the blessings of Apollon
the Archer which you administer, than we are
in this time and place, O Abaris, the man of holiness.

The fun of practical polytheism

A couple of explanatory notes are in order. First, the Hymn to Haides I posted is an older piece I’ll be including in the Polytheist Hymnal, not the hymn that Aidonian (who has been incredibly patient) commissioned, which I’m still trying to get to coalesce. Currently I’ve just got fleeting images and associations of a more localized expression of the God floating about.

I took some poetic license with the Hymn to Herkyna. Persephone’s goose is an iconographic motif found predominantly in Magna Graecian art; the only other place I’ve seen it is in connection with an obscure figure associated with the cult of Trophonios in Lebadeia, and that’s assuming that the two geese are the same. Which we have little reason for doing since the one is found in Boiotia, Central Greece and the other in Southern Italy, regions that had few cultural and other contacts; furthermore this local version of the Rape of Kore has her carried off by the river rather than being abducted while out picking flowers, which generally isn’t found in the Persephone traditions of Greater Greece (except possibly in the Grotta Caruso at Lokroi Epizephyrii.) Despoina, Demeter’s other daughter, who helps in the search is borrowed from the Lykosura Mystery cult in Arkadia, which has no connection to either locale as far as I’m aware. Demeter placing the soul of Herkyna in the body of a goose is a bit of an inside joke. The Trophonios cult bears a strong Pythagorean Orphic influence, as opposed to the more Bacchic strain of Orphism which the Starry Bull tradition is an expression of. The Pythagorean Orphikoi believed in reincarnation as well as the more general metempsychosis i.e. the transmigration or movement of a soul into different bodies – including those of animals, hence their putative vegetarianism. The distinction between the two is significant, though often elided among contemporary scholars and practitioners. (But not in the Starry Bull tradition where we believe in metempsychosis but not necessarily reincarnation; likewise, our tradition most assuredly is not vegetarian – especially considering the central role that thusia or animal sacrifice plays in it – though individual members are free to abstain, or to have a personal belief in reincarnation as they see fit.)

The Hymn to Váli contains some inside jokes as well – for instance the comparison of the Jötunn Rindr to a Ruthenian, which is a tweak on Saxo Grammaticus’ euhemerist account in the Gesta Danorum. Likewise in Saxo Óðinn consults three seers to learn what to do about the matter of Baldr; as an animist I don’t see why those three seers have to be human(oid) and so had the Sorcerer God ingest some amanita muscaria for the purpose instead. I also depart from Snorri who claims that Váli’s sole function was to avenge Baldr. Why would Óðinn have had to go to the extraordinary lengths of using seiðr to rape him into existence on Rindr when the Bölverkr could have simply slain Höðr himself or gotten some other Æsir, Vanir, Jötnar, Álfar, etc. to do it for him if he needed to avoid shedding the blood of kinfolk, or Höðr in particular, for some reason. Clearly, then, there had to be a dire need for him to take such drastic action, especially since the charming fellow is usually more patient and let’s say suave when he goes awooing. (Action that could have had undesired consequences such as provoking a war with the Jötnar.) Plus the other important detail that Snorri provides us about Váli is that he makes it through Ragnarök, when Gods such as Óðinn and Þórr do not. That certainly suggests to me that something more than simple vengeance is going on. Also I wanted to reflect Váli’s mixed Ás and Jötunn ancestry (though many forget that Óðinn is part-Jötunn himself) hence the allusions to ice, stone and avalanche in my description of him. As much as I respect Váli and enjoyed writing this hymn (part of my series on the sons of Óðinn) particularly since he is not among the popular Gods of contemporary Heathenry – it was also difficult as I have an immense fondness for Loki and have sworn to honor his family on account of the close bond between him and my God Dionysos. So you can be certain that there’ll be a hymn honoring Loki’s kin collectively, in addition to the individual pieces for Sigyn, Hel, etc. Ah, the fun (and at times conflicting interests) of practical polytheism.

There is more I wanted to say but that will have to suffice for now. 

To Váli

Hail Váli, whose eyes are cold as ice,
whose heart is hard as stone,
and whose hands can be destructive
as an avalanche, except when you’re angry –
then it’s much, much worse.
Oh Váli who bears the magical sword
that once belonged to Höðr the Blind,
you who were born of a loveless union
between Óðinn the Binder and Rindr the Giantess
beautiful as a Ruthenian princess,
for a singular purpose your father foresaw
after eating a bunch of amanitas.
Oh Váli, daring in battle and excellent marksman,
it is said that your first kill occurred
on your first night after birth,
before your hair was combed,
before you were even bathed in fact,
you had sent Baldr’s adversary to the funeral fire.
Oh Váli who wanders the wintry wastes alone,
on your second day of life they say you held Loki tight
and made him watch as his son Nari was torn asunder
by his other son, your namesake, who had been
transformed into a wolf. Then you took his son’s entrails
and bound the lie-smith to three large stones with them,
the gut-threads becoming iron so that he could not escape
until the going dark of the Gods is upon us.
Oh Váli whose back and shoulders are strong enough
to carry the burden of the destiny you were cruelly conceived
to fulfill, you have spent every day since training
and preparing for the battle that is to come,
during which your reason for being will be manifest.
Until that fateful day and after I shall say
hail to the son whose father couldn’t be prouder,
Váli the valiant defender of Ásgarðr!

To Herkyna

Hail Goddess Herkyna, you who loaned your name
to the river in Lebadeia where those who wish to consult
the oracle of your father Trophonios first must bathe.
They say that the river came to be in the following manner;
before she was the wife of Haides and the Chthonic Queen
Kore who delights in flowers was your girlhood friend,
and often the two of you would play among the vales
and caverns near your home. As a token of affection you gave
her a goose from your father’s pen as a pet, and for weeks
thereafter she was never seen without it. But then one day
as she was plaiting crowns in a meadow and you were dancing
to entertain the daughter of Demeter the goose jumped from her
lap and ran away, with you girls giving chase. It found its way
into a cave and hid under a rock until Kore came and lifted up
the rock. Then a great gush of water sprang from where the rock
had been, carrying her far away to another land. As day
turned into night and then back into day you searched all
along the muddy banks of the river with Despoina and her
grieving mother but found no sign of where dear Kore had gone.
Driven mad from despair and fear that she would never be found,
you flung yourself from the heights and into the rushing water
where you drowned, and thereafter the river came to be known
by your name. Because you had loved her daughter so
Demeter placed your soul in the body of the goose
she loved above all things, and gave you to Persephone
at her marriage feast, so that you could remain by her side
even when she was down below with Haides.
So hail to you Herkyna, companion and trusted confidant,
and I pray, please say a kind word concerning me
when it is my time to come before the infernal tribunal.

To Haides

Hail to you Haides,
somber Lord of the silent lands,
where the chthonic Nymphs dance
on the shores of the Stygian river,
and the souls of great men dwell in gloom,
dreaming of their days upon the earth
when the Sun shone warmly on their faces.
You see all that transpires in your shadowy realm,
as you sit on your basalt throne
and stroke the shaggy heads of the fearsome hound.
The only light that you tolerate
are the gleaming cheeks of your bride,
pale like the moon on a clear summer’s night.
And her sweet smile is the only thing
capable of warming your heart:
otherwise you are cold and still
like the murky depths of the Styx.
But you are not a cruel God:
not once has Haides closed his doors to a suppliant soul.
You give shelter to all, regardless of their fame or fortune in life.
And to many, death’s oblivion comes as a welcome balm,
soothing their suffering and making an end to heartache.
Though you surround yourself with sterility,
you are in truth the Fertile One,
your black head crowned with myrtle
and holding plump grapes in your palm.
You nourish the seed that is planted in the earth,
and send forth ripe fruit in due season.
Without the first burial there could be no life –
and the second burial ensures the promise of future wealth.
So hail to you Haides, elder brother of Zeus,
worthy of equal honors to those of the Heavenly King.
Regardless of how much you’re worshiped here and now,
in time all men come to make offerings at your altar
and hail you as Lord and unrivaled Master.

To Bragi

Hail to you long-bearded Bragi, quick to the feast
and life of the party, who can keep your head
no matter how deep in your cups you get,
witness of oaths and boasts, always ready
with a joke, a story, or a song, you whose father
drank from the mead of poesy, you who have
Runes graven on your tongue, you who were able
to woo Iðunn, wordsmith, even after you slew her brother
and feuded with the remaining sons of Ivaldi.
You, Bragi, greet great warriors as they arrive in Valhöll
and ensure that the names and deeds of brave kings endure
forever, if only as kennings which the poets of today
have forgotten the meanings of so many centuries later.
When conflict arises, O Bragi, between Ásgarðr
and one of the other of the Nine Realms, it is to you
and your half-brother clever Hermóðr that Óðinn looks,
sending you out as emissaries, spies, or assassins as needed.
Such an important role would not have been given you
had you not proven yourself worthy of it; something Loki
should have considered before getting on your bad side.
Once it got going no Ás, Álf or Jötunn could pry you two apart,
and before it was done he claimed you owed him weregild
for the maiming you gave him, and so, Bragi, you offered Laufey’s
son your swiftest horse, your finest sword, and an arm-ring
forged for you by Ivaldi himself, all of which Loki refused.
Instead he demanded as recompense that you compose
a praise-song for Sigyn, his beloved and steadfast wife,
and when you finished singing it before the entire divine assembly
there wasn’t a single dry eye in that hall and Loki, satisfied,
could not recall why you Gods, closest of comrades,
had started fighting at all. So hail to you Bragi,
and may many more songs flow forth from you.

To Forseti

For Karl.

To Forseti

Hail to you clear-eyed Forseti, wise son of Baldr
the beloved and faithful Nanna, with a voice
that puts to sleep quarrels and a mind like a whirling stream,
able to solve the hardest of puzzles and settle any dispute
brought before you, no matter how tangled,
O you who preside over the law-court of the Æsir,
impartial, balanced, unbribable, justice-loving one
who leaves all parties feeling heard,
who stills strife and ends bloody feuds,
who can tell false from the true, Forseti,
Lord of the silver-roofed hall Glitnir with golden pillars,
where the aggrieved gather to hear you pass sound judgments
and give sage counsel to all, hear my prayer O gracious God,
and bring stillness, clarity, understanding and resolution
to a mind that is a jangle of contradictions,
wrong in its convictions, fearful, puffed up with pride
or whatever else is keeping me from seeing,
knowing, and doing what I should.

To Taras

Hail to you O dolphin-riding Taras,
bearer of the torch of the Mysteries
like Iakchos whom you resemble,
and a spindle full of the best Apulian
wool dyed purple, as if you were
Kloster, the child of dance-loving Arachne;
but, as everyone knows, you are the son
of Poseidon of Tainaron whose temple
lies near the cave where Orpheus emerged
from the underworld and Satyria, beautiful
as a marsh flower, the daughter of Minos,
proud ruler of Knossos, the Troy of the West.
You, Lord, are a bane to pirates, kidnappers
and cheats, those honorless wolves of the sea,
and a blessing to honest folk who just want
to fish and sail off the coasts of lovely Italy,
for you Taras, have been given the power
to summon winds and send forth the wave-horses
of your father, as well as the ability to calm them.
Though you show yourself as a plump, naked boy
like you were when your ship was smashed to pieces
and you were cast ashore on the spot where,
years later, Phalanthos would lead his virgin-born men to,
after many adventures and many losses, founding
a Lakedaimonian colony named Taras after you,
that would, with your assistance, grow into
one of the greatest cities of Greater Greece –
but that is merely how you seem, for you, Taras,
are mighty indeed, and quick to hear and quick to respond
to the prayers of those in need, master of the gymnasium
and one who marches at the head of the Tarantine army,
fighting hard to bring them victory and safely home to their families,
protector of the lands around your city, and all the sheep, bees,
and vineyards that they contain, Taras the friend of Bakcheios
who cures destructive madness with secret dances and strange
nocturnal rites that will bring your fine city fame for centuries
to come. Hail Taras, tireless hero, may you thrive
as you make your people to thrive.

To Óttar

I call to you Óttar, Instein’s son, forever young, vanquisher
of Angantyr, ferocious warrior who knows the frenzy of the boar,
you who won your kingdom through cleverness and valor,
and governed your people with equanimity and just laws,
maintaining the peace of the Gods which causes the flocks
and fields to flourish. Óttar, favorite of Freyja the Vanadís,
though you performed many glorious deeds and your ancestry
is truly illustrious, filled with men such as Halfdan foremost
of the Skjöldungar, Isolf and Osolf the sons of mighty Ólmóðr,
Gunnar the Bulwark, Hrörek Ring-giver, and Sigurðr the slayer of Fafnir –
these and so many other heroes of yore that it proved difficult labor
for even the Etin Völva Hyndla to give an account of your line
going all the way back to Embla and Askr – and yet all of that
is overshadowed by your exemplary piety, Óttar the blessed,
you who built a shrine of stones for the Ásynjur that turned to glass
from the frequent altar-fires you lit to send the choicest portion
of the sacrifice wafting up to heaven as fragrant smoke,
and the hörgr was stained red from all the blood you spilled there
for the Ladies of Ásgarðr, the Álfar, and the Landvættir –
and that’s how you caught the eye of Freyja,
Blótgyðja and Mistress of the arts of Seiðr and Spá.
Óttar, while still a mortal lad utterly ignorant of who you were
and where you came from, you became her protégé
and shared the empty bed of the immortal Goddess of love and war
because what you did know well was all the ways of worship
and how to compose beautiful praise-songs for the whole host
of Holy Powers, and Freyja has always had a thing for poets,
which is why she married the God of inspired verse.
Óttar, I pray, help me to find the right words and ceremonies
to express how much I love my Gods and Spirits,
and how thankful I am for the multitude of blessings
they daily pour into our lives. Help strengthen my devotion
and make it constant as stone, so that I may walk true in their ways
and my thoughts and deeds always reflect the virtues and values
that are dear to their hearts. May I cherish and take great care
with the traditions that have been handed down to me
so that I have something of worth to pass on to those who come after.
Óttar I thank you, and will etch the memory of you in my heart
so that I may carry it with me as a reminder of how to be
for the remainder of my days, O guide and helper of polytheists.

Dua Bast!

Although our cat is clearly a Heathen (with a fondness for Thor and Frigga,) she maintains cultus for Bast and even tends her own shrine for the Goddess. Dua Bast, and may you continue to bless and keep our dear one healthy and safe!

To Bast

For Teka Lynn

To Bast

Hail Bast who bears the was-scepter
and the precious alabaster jar
with which you anointed the body of Horus
after he bathed in your sacred lake at Boubastis,
you who wear the aegis that puts to flight
all manner of demons, on which the terrifying
visage of your son Maahes the Render
can be seen, O Bast, alluring consort
of Ptah, the maker of many splendid things,
Daughter of Rē, Protector of Lower Egypt,
Sekhmet’s companion in the hunt. wanderer
in the land of Punt, soothed by the sistrum
of Hathor, O Bast of many names and many roles.
For in Memphis you are known as Mistress of Ointments
and the one who delights in fragrant perfumes.
When the women of Thebes are getting married
they ask that you bless them with fertility and good luck
so they may bear a litter’s worth of fine offspring,
and later they call to you in the midst of their labor,
and afterwards beg you to watch over their young
so that they may grow healthy and strong.
To the Heliopolitans you are the Slasher, the avenger of Rē.
The learned scribes of Hermopolis have deduced
that you are the soul of Isis through clever wordplay.
And the Greek inhabitants of Alexandria name you
Aílouros in their tongue, she who wags her tail
and the Egyptian Artemis who adores the chase
and the light of the moon. O Bast, you are all of these things
and so much more, and I pray always that I am worthy
in your eyes to be a caretaker for one (or more!) of your children.

Year 5 of the Bakcheion

Although I’ve had wall calendars printed every year since the opening of the Bakcheion (and for several before that) this time around I’ve opted not to. We’ll still be marking the passage of the seasons and doing stuff to celebrate Dionysos’ festivals here in the temple and through the House of Vines – I’ll just be keeping track of things electronically. For those who like to plan ahead this is what Year 5 of the Bakcheion (2023 e.v.) is going to look like. Note that since we had to add the intercalanary month Eriaphioteion everything has slid forward a couple weeks. (The fun of keeping a lunisolar calendar.) Not included are the feast days of our Heroes and Heroines, which remain the same from year to year. 

White Season begins (Jan 1)
Noumenia of Kissos (Jan 22)
Lenaia (Feb 2)
Noumenia of Stephanos (Feb 21)
Anthesteria: Pithoigia (Mar 3)
Anthesteria: Choes (Mar 4)
Anthesteria: Chytroi (Mar 5)
Noumenia of Thyrsos (Mar 22)
Dionysia begins (Mar 31)
Gold Season begins (Apr 1)
Dionysia ends (Apr 7)
Noumenia of Nebris (Apr 21)
Noumenia of Kantharos (May 20)
Agrionia (Jun 16)
Noumenia of Prosopon (Jun 19)
Red Season begins (Jul 1)
Aletideia (Jul 17)
Noumenia of Kothornos (Jul 18)
Noumenia of Diktya (Aug 17)
Pannychia begins (Aug 18)
Pannychia ends (Aug 19)
Noumenia of Pelekus (Sep 15)
Black Season begins (Oct 1)
Noumenia of Botrys (Oct 15)
Oschophoria (Oct 21)
Noumenia of Boukranion (Nov 14)
Lampteria (Nov 24)
Noumenia of Athyrmata (Dec 13)
Foundation Day (Dec 31)

This book is gonna be fucking insane.

I’m putting a temporary hold on the hymns for the Gods of the Week. A couple things contributed to this decision. Firstly, I wanted to include a set for the Egyptian as well as Greek and Norse Gods, and that still requires some tweaking. Secondly, I’m feeling guilty and want to get the commissioned hymns out before I start this next phase of the project. And thirdly, since I’m already delaying there’s about sixteen others I want to finish first, those being: 

Commissioned:
al-Lāt
Asklepios’ family
Bast
Haides
Hekate (x4)
Persephone

The Others:
Euthymos
Freyr
Herkyna
Hybla
Jöfurr
Mousaios
Nehalennia
Phalanthos and Aithra
Phryne
Semele
The Sirens
Skírnir
Stuffo
Taras
Thoth
Thyia

And as for the informal poll, it looks like you guys are pretty decisively on the side of adding the Skythian, Slavic, Baltic and related Gods, so I’m taking it to the mat during our next divination session as there are a couple matters I need clarification on first. 

You don’t want to know how big my to-do list has grown. This book is gonna be fucking insane.

I was talking with a friend about the Polytheist Hymnal and she asked:

How long does it take for you to craft one of these?

To which I replied:

That’s a really good question, and the answer depends on where certain boundaries are drawn. I begin the writing process by getting into a particular altered state through a combination of prayer, meditation and the consumption of marijuana (and less frequently alcohol or other entheogens.) Then I go through my list and see if I can connect with any of the names on it. If things click then I start writing, which can take anywhere from 30 mins to 4 hours depending on how clearly things are coming through, how well I know them, if I need to do supplementary research, etc. (Though the research – if they aren’t a deity I have prior history with – is usually done before the writing process itself starts, and consists of familiarizing myself with their history and myths, epithets and symbolism, cult practices and regional expressions, as well as their relationships with other divinities and similar details that help me flesh things out.) If I can’t get into the right state, or don’t click with the deity I don’t write because I don’t think things like hymns should be forced, and because the writing itself often has a collaborative element, where I check in and see if what I’ve got works for them or if I need to include different epithets, allusions or even if the structure of the hymn itself needs to be changed. If I can’t feel these things out I either resort to divination or set the piece aside for another time when I can.

Insane. 

To Höðr

Hail brave Höðr stout in war, slayer of multitudes,
driver of Óðinn’s battle-chariot, excellent archer
who always strikes true, strong enough to drag
a many-oared ship ashore by yourself, savior
to those who fight under your banner and a terror
to your luckless enemies, you who have never seen
a foe capable of placing fear in your own heroic heart;
Höðr whose mind is sharp as the sword of Miming the Satyr,
good at solving riddles and devising battle strategy,
and better at coming up with persuasive speech
to sway those in the assembly hall to your side
or for goading your troops on to undying glory;
Höðr, your deeds of valor are beyond counting,
more than earning you a seat beside your father
in Valhöll where the Einherjar fight and feast –
and yet you dwell in the gloomy realm of Hel
with Baldr and Nanna instead, the perilous
shaft of anguish all that Gods and men remember of you.
But how many of them know why you were blind
when Loki held your hand, and why you flinched
away when he whispered into your ear? I will tell it –
years before you were out riding through a region
of extraordinary cold in a carriage drawn by reindeer
when you became lost and eventually found yourself
in a misty forest, where lived three sisters, wood-maidens
who could foresee the future and control the fortunes of war.
You beat them in a contest of wits, and since you already
possessed the luck of Geirvaldr himself, Höðr, you chose
their other gift. And they showed you everything,
including the crushing grief that you would bring
your mother Frigga. And so it was, Höðr, that you
sought to avert the fate that the wood-maidens had
revealed to you by plucking out your very own eyes
so that you could not possibly strike the Gleaming One,
the favorite of the Æsir. You chose darkness and pain
rather than to be a cause of suffering for those you loved,
and so I pray, Höðr, that your sacrifice never be forgotten,
and that you are with me when I am faced with impossible choices
and after, when I must endure their consequences. Hail Höðr,
son of Óðinn and Frigga who lost two sons that day.

To Þrúðr

Hail to you Þrúðr, who has the grace and rare
beauty of Sif your gold-haired mother,
and the strength and daring of your father
lightning-hurling Þórr. You alone of the Ásynjur
can lift the mighty hammer Mjölnir,
as you did that time Hrungnir Gullfaxi’s master
carried you kicking and screaming to Jötunheimr
and many a skull, knee and hand you crushed, Þrúðr,
before they had Þjazi bring you back home. Your
vengeance may have been thwarted that day by Hrungnir
the swiftly fleeing, but it sure caught up with him when Þórr
came knocking, wielding his returned Mjölnir.
You, Goddess, were much kinder when the confused Dvergr
Alvíss showed up on your doorstep, come to claim your
hand in marriage, a betrothal negotiated by the ever
helpful Loki Laufey’s son, the lawyer.
This time it didn’t take your loving and protective father Þórr,
nor the assistance of Móði and Magni, your heroic brothers, for
you got vengeance all on your own, and somehow, despite how Thorr
dawn-greeter treated him, managed to forge friendship bonds that endure
still with much-skilled Alvíss of the underhill folk, Þrúðr
sun-bright, of gentle disposition, pole-star and frith-upholder,
Þrúðr true-of-aim. And may we ever remember
you who give ale to the Einherjar of Óðinn Allfather,
Þrúðr, and we thank you for every kindness you show to our ancestors.

To Miletos

I will sing of the great hero Miletos,
slayer of monsters and founder of glorious cities
far from the red earth of Crete that nursed him.
He was born of golden Apollon the archer God
who sends and drives away plague, and Akakallis the dancer,
who wears daffodil crowns on her lovely head
with hair like the tamarisk tree, daughter of Minos
whose naval fleet made him undisputed ruler of the seas,
and cow-eyed Pasiphaë the Queen, and daughter of the Sun.
Zeus’ offspring visited her one night while Akakallis was sleeping
in the temple of Paiëon the Physician of the Gods, desperate to see
if she could dream up a cure to the scorpion curse
laid upon her father for his unfortunate infidelities;
but instead all that she saw was the Lord of the Tripod disrobing
and all resistance melted away. Nine months later she fled
through the woods carrying Apollon’s newborn son,
terrified of the baying hounds of Minos who pursued her,
when Akakallis spotted some rugged oak beneath which
she could stash the threshing-basket in which her precious child slept,
and then flee in the other direction to draw the murderous hounds away
from her miraculous boy. He might have died of hunger there,
or succumbed to a chill breeze had not a pair of wolves happened by
and taken him in as if he were one of their pups, even going so far
as to nurse the half human, half God with their own milk.
Though he grew up swift and strong among the wolves,
one day he was discovered by some herdsmen
who stole him away, fed him on milk of their cows
and raised Miletos according to the ways of their people.
With manhood came discontent, and a desire to see
what existed off this island he’d spent his whole life on.
Just when it was becoming unbearable Miletos was attacked
as he led his herd to a watering hole by a band of cattle-thieves,
unlucky brigands. Armed only with his walking stick
and a prayer to Apollon Alexikakos upon his lips
(though he did not yet know that it was his own father he petitioned)
Miletos charged his would-be attackers
like some wild, roaring bull causing them to scatter.
But they did not escape him, or his murderous frenzy.
Later, when he showed the pious herdsmen what remained
of the bandits’ corpses they were horrified,
and banished him from their community; self-defense was one thing,
but that level of brutality was utterly inhuman
and had no place among this peaceful, forest-dwelling people.
Miletos left his home in the shade of Mount Dikte
and made the journey to the Pythian oracle on the slopes
of Mount Parnassos, where the Korykian Nymphs hold their dances
and the Thyiades carry torches during their nocturnal revels
in winter when Bakcheios rules Delphoi and Apollon is off
visiting the mysterious people who live beyond the North Wind.
But when Miletos came to see the prophetic maiden
(for this was before the sacred law was changed,
and only venerable matrons were permitted to serve the God
in that capacity) the voice of Apollon sounded from her dove-like throat,
causing the underground chamber to shake and the Holy Ones
who normally interpreted the mantic utterances of the girl
began to shriek and run for cover. Clearly Loxias spoke,
first acknowledging Miletos as his son, and revealing
the man’s true name, for up until that point he’d simply
gone by what the herdsmen called him, Tauros,
on account of his superhuman strength.
Next far-seeing Apollon who expounds the will of Zeus
to mankind told Miletos to go beyond the bounds
of the Greek world, into the country inhabited by
fair-haired Lydians, savage Lykians, numerous tribes
of Thracian and Kimmerian and Persian horsemen, Skythians
who love gold and walk in smoke, and the descendents
of those Amazon women who were chased here from the steppes
by mad-making Dionysos, Savage and Carnivorous,
who would have annihilated them utterly had Artemis
of the crossroads, Mistress of the Ephesian Letters, not intervened.
Go! The God who shows the way proclaimed. Go to this distant country
where you can create a home for your wives and many fine children,
after overcoming numerous obstacles and hardships that would
grind down lesser men. The city you establish will become
the greatest city among the Greeks of Asia, itself going on to found
many far-famed cities and colonies of its own, all of which
will honor you foremost among their civic heroes,
and me for guiding and protecting you during your travels.
Three women will you marry, son of mine, and the last will be
the dark-eyed daughter of the river Maíandros that twists and turns
like Minos’ own labyrinth, and she will bear you a son, Kaunos,
who will lead a massive army uniting the disparate Lykian peoples
into a mighty and terrifying nation, and Byblis a daughter whose beauty
will be beyond compare, but who will shun every suitor that comes her way,
loving only her long-haired brother, who will flee your city
to escape the madness and destruction that lies in her fair arms.
The Moirai have spun this fate out for you already; would that I
could tell you different events will befall your family line
but when I am seated upon the tripod I am incapable of lying,
even to one whom I love dearly, such as yourself. So spoke Apollon,
and so the hero Miletos accepted what his father told him,
and gathered to him a troop of Cretans dissatisfied with the rule of Minos,
and they sailed off into the unknown, eager to make their fortunes
in that strange, far-off place – and Miletos never spoke of the tragic events
which Apollon foretold that day, even as he watched each one come to pass.

To Baldr

Hail brave Baldr, Prince of Ásgarðr
and Lord of the glorious hall Breidablik
which was always full of the sounds
of feasting, drinking and fighting
until you were sent on your long journey
from which you have not returned,
and now the place sits empty
and quiet as a sepulcher, O Baldr,
awaiting your return. Delight of the Ásynjur,
Ás bright as the treasure of the Dvergr,
greatly feared by the Jötnar, mighty hunter
among the Álfar, friend of Rán and Ægir
and their many daughters who ensured
you had fine conditions whenever
you went to sea in your finely-wrought
vessel Hringhorni, eager to see
what exotic wonders distant lands might hold.
O beloved of Nanna, noble son of Frigga
who hates the mistletoe, they say that once
you rode through the woods with Óðinn
the seiðmaðr, Mundilfari’s daughter Sinthgunt
whom the night-walkers cry out to,
Volla and her sister the incantation-weaver,
when your mount took a terrible strain
and threw you to the ground.
Not for your own pain, Baldr whose heart
is kind, but that of your steed
were you concerned with,
and so the group encanted a mighty healing charm,
voices entwining to magnify the power
and Phol’s foal was restored, and made better than ever.
And so it is when we humans come together
to pray in your beautiful name, O shining Baldr
of the battlefield, brother of Váli the avenger.

To Erinys

Hail to you Erinys, O beautiful
and dangerous denizen of Dis,
dispenser of justice and exacter
of divine retribution. O Erinys,
you who hate those who shed
the blood of kinfolk almost as much
as those who defile and despoil
sacred places, and especially
the sacred abodes of the Gods. O Erinys,
defender of the innocent
and protector of those who long for justice,
you who bear the torch and noose
as you walk among the tombstones
and along the lonely roads by night,
crocus-loving Goddess. O Erinys,
you who often appear to those below
as a Black woman blacker than the Midnight Sun,
with hair the color of a corpse-eating blue bottle fly,
holding a silver sword sharp like desire
and shaped like the Moon’s crescent,
and in your other elegant hand, Lady,
you hold a perfectly balanced scale
made of a man’s rib-cage and tendons,
wearing a gown of fingernails
and a blindfold soaked in blood.
But to the initiate, O Erinys,
you show yourself as a shapely woman
in a gown as radiant as the Noontime Sun,
with the head of a horse, holding out
a crown of ivy and a chalice of wine
for the soul that is parched from its long
and arduous journey through the Western lands.
And then you guide them safely the rest of the way
to the abode of the Blessed, the House of Vines
at the heart of the Labyrinth
where the eternal nuptials of the son of Kore
and the sister of the Starry Bull are celebrated.
Hail Erinys, Mistress of a host of airy phantoms,
wielder of the scorpion-whip, who took the side of Zeus
and slew a dozen of the enemy during the Gigantomachia –
you of many forms and many names and many functions,
but always dear to us who know you best, hail!