“The burden of Sigyn’s arms”

She sits on a rock while a cold wind blows her knotted hair
and the tattered, filthy remnants of her once lovely gown.
Before she was the fairest of all the Ásynjur;
now hardly anyone would recognize her for the lines of sorrow
and ache that etch her pale face like cracks in stone,
like threads of a spider’s web.
Before there was feasting and song and gay laughter
while her flame-haired husband poked fun at the gods
and said the things they most needed but least wanted to hear
– now all she knows is the cup of bone she holds in her strong hands,
a cup carved from the skull of her son Nari.
She hasn’t had time to mourn him properly,
he who was mauled by his brother,
he whose heart was devoured by wolfish Váli,

he whose guts bind the son of Laufey beneath the venom-dripping serpent.
All she does is hold that heavy cup in place to relieve the agony of Loki
until it fills and spills over, burning his face.
Every time he wails it’s like a knife through her heart
but it’s unavoidable — the cup must be poured out
so that she can hold it over him
and collect the deadly dew of of the wyrm of Skaði once more.

In his raging pain-fueled madness he curses her,
blindly lashing out at what’s nearest.

His words strike like fists, wound where none can see
but she does not waver in her task, remains ever by his side,
his steadfast shield in time of greatest need.

Hymn to Freyr

Many are the great heroes of old,
mighty kings who sailed the far seas,
men of courage who spilt the blood of terrible beasts,
and those brave souls who gave up their lives to make our land free;
but none are as deserving of honor as Freyr,
long-handed and lovely faced Lord of the Fair Ones,
whose valorous deeds are the favorite subject
of divinely inspired poets and old women with babes upon the knee.
His eyes, they say, are fierce like the fire that burns
an enemy’s strong walls down to the ground,
and his hair is the color of the brown food of bees
or the radiant Sun at midday.
None could stand for long
against the antler-bearer in a fight,
so skilled in war-making is he,
and the broad-bosomed earth has never seen the man
who could match wits with this cunning fellow.
Elf-knowledge is his, and the working of binding charms.
He knows the language of wild beasts,
when to plough, sow and reap the fields,
and how to woo a beautiful maiden,
chaste and pure as the new-fallen snow.
So when the days are stretched out,
the heat bears down upon us,
and the golden corn is ready to harvest,
remember this God among men
and keep his ancient festival in the ancestral fashion,
with songs and foot-races and blazing bonfires
so that Freyr’s good-will will be ours for another year to come.

A wandering soul

I am often asked what the position of the Starry Bull tradition is with regard to metempsychosis or reincarnation.

We don’t have one.

This may strike some as peculiar since we place such a strong emphasis on eschatology but there is nothing within our system of belief which depends on or is refuted by reincarnation, therefore it remains a matter which each member must make their own decisions about. (An approach which, incidentally, reflects the custom of our ancient Bacchic Orphic predecessors who were in universal agreement on almost nothing.) For every quote you dig up that’s pro you can find another that’s con. Most, in fact, are so ambiguous that they can be read in any number of ways depending on the preferences of the interpreter.

I tend, for instance, to interpret many of these quotes as referring to metempsychosis but not reincarnation.

Originally this word meant the transfer of a soul from one body to another. Obviously reincarnation (wherein a person dies and their soul gets reborn in a different body) is a type of metempsychosis but it is not the only type. For instance it could also refer to things like sending one’s soul out to take possession of another person’s body, the transformation of an individual (whether here or in another realm) into an animal or bird, the generation of some kind of spiritual body or it could be a metaphor for the start of a new life and identity post initiation. None of these require the catalyst of a physical death.

Indeed, there are plenty of reasons to reject the notion of reincarnation, particularly as it is understood in the West so often with a radically reductionist view of the soul. The majority of ancient Greeks, whether they held to a more traditional Homeric view or aligned with marginal folks like Empedokles, Aristeas, Parmenides and Pythagoras, did not conceive of man as just a ghost in a fleshy machine. Man is made up of many parts, including various spiritual bodies and non-localized organs of intelligence, perception and emotion. Some of these are bound to the body until death and after; some may separate and roam free even in life; some only come into being once the person has crossed over to the other side. Which, of course, begs the question – if all of these different parts have different destinations how much of “you” gets recycled into a new body? And if everyone automatically gets reincarnated why do we make offerings to ancestors, heroes, daimones and restless spirits? For that matter, how can the dead walk the earth once more on Anthesteria, Lemuria, Samain, Día de Muertos or Yule? (Depending on your tradition and locale.)

Now, of course, none of these preclude at least some type of reincarnation from taking place (part of what we are going to simplistically refer to as the soul may go on to abide with the ancestors while a different part gets implanted into a gestating fetus) but that is largely irrelevant for the Bacchic Orphic who intends to spend at least some portion of eternity in drunken carousel with Dionysos and his Retinue. The whole point of initiation is to prepare us for that underworld journey and the dangers and obstacles we shall encounter upon the way. (It also keeps us whole so we can remember who we are.) There’s no lock on the door, however. You can wander off any time. Explore other parts of the underworld, or the endless corridors of the Labyrinth and all the places they lead; if you wanted, you could even put on another meatsuit and see again what exquisite pleasures and suffering the world of the living contains. Sometimes birth is a punishment for wicked deeds; sometimes an accident. And sometimes you enter at different points in the stream of time. (Like, what if past lives are actually future lives, man? *bong hit*)

Maybe. Maybe not.

I’d never pretend I have it all figured out. Hell, I wouldn’t want to know all the secret mechanics of life and shit even if I could.

That’d be boring.

So what do you think will happen when you die?

Daily Hymns: Freyja

Here is the complete set of Daily Hymns for Freyja.

Day I. To the Mistress of the Silver Distaff

I call upon Freyja who tends the graves of the ancestors
and joins her deep, rich voice to theirs
in the ancient songs that stir life’s currents
and cause brightly hued flowers to unfurl,
branches to bend under the weight of swollen fruit,
animals to fatten and beget plentiful offspring
and fields of golden wheat to rise high
as the thigh of a thickly-muscled thrall;
Freyja who dances in darkest night
as bear-stars and waggon-stars
and stars of the hunt circle and shine overhead
and fey figures leap and laugh
in the leafy trees that surround her;
Freyja, whose delicate, knowing fingers tease
and twine, twist and untangle the fateful thread.
Oh gracious Goddess, hear our prayers
and bless the dead who are dear to us
that our entire line together may honor and serve
you and the other holy Immortal Ones too.

Day II. To the Boar-Rider

Hail victory-bringing Goddess
with braids of electrum, eyes like ice
and a countenance even colder,
clever Freyja of snaring schemes
and snaky stratagems
whose beauty is stern,
severe, indomitable
and utterly Hyperborean
when you stand firm
in the war-council of the Gods
with your Giant-dispatching ash-spear,
your handsome boartusk helm,
and your gleaming sunwheel-bedecked
linden shield as well.
You speak far-seeing words,
hard words and brutal,
which the Gallow’s God, Borr’s son,
the High One approves of.
Oft have you sparred and oft fought as allies;
of the two, Óðinn much prefers the latter.
You won his respect, O Freyja;
he knows your worth,
and will never again underestimate
the one who is mighty with mead.
For once you roared out onto the field
astride your gold-bristled charger
and there appeared nothing cool,
calm or collected about you.
No, your eyes rolled back
and your body seethed and shuddered
as violent cantraps tore themselves
from your lovely throat
like the call of crows or wolf’s howl,
and fearful frenzies lashed your foes,
driving them shrieking
before you and your violent kin.
Glad is Sigþrór and Glapsviðr
to have one so heiðr to fight beside
with the dire day of doom,
darkness, damnation and desolation
drawing ever nearer.
Help me to meet my own
trials, obstacles and antagonists
with will unwavering and mind unfettered as your own,
O Mistress of the Battle Din and Delight of Soldiers.

Day III. To the Charming One

O Goddess of Witches and Seers
pay heed to my prayers, and I plead
guide my studies and help me hunt power,
you who know the secret language of trees
and the properties of every plant,
runecarver, worldwalker, threadspinner,
limbloosener, shapechanger, farstriker,
corpseraiser, cursecaster and clamorstirrer;
skillful Freyja of the many wiles,
you who pour libations,
and delight in the drum,
you who walk in smoke,
and soar on falcon wing,
you who veil the mysteries,
and reveal what is hidden in the heart,
you who are expert in every sacrifice,
and mistress of the techniques of archaic ecstasy,
you who are found in the wild places,
and mindfully tending the hearth
– hail greatest Völva! Most potent
and most ruthless of the Ásynjur
who bent even Alföðr to her womanly will
in trade for weaving wisdom
and other secrets still;
further I beseech you,
keep every wicked, wrathful and ruinous thing
from me and from mine,
and Lady, I will sing your praises
the next day and every day after.

Day IV. To the Lady of the House

To the home that ever honors you, O Glad-of-heart,
bestow health, wealth and overflowing good luck
that our neighbors may look upon us
and envy our pious and well-ordered existence,
especially the diligence and delight
with which we conduct your venerable domestic rites.
For you, Freyja, Keeper of the Keys,
are the model we imitate; the loving manner
in which you looked after your kin when but a tender girl,
especially your handsome brother
and dear old father Njörðr.
They wanted for nothing,
and back then you busied yourself always
with keeping your abode in Vanakvisl
gleaming clean, everything in its proper place
and the cupboards and pantry ever fully stocked.
Like a ferocious feral feline
you chase off all that does not belong,
especially the corrupt, unharmonious and malign,
and Freyja, Receiver of Many, it is you
who preside over guest-friendship and feasting,
you who banish cares
and bring refreshment with the mead-cup,
you who fill hearts
with precious love of their own,
an appreciation for what we have,
and what it took to get it,
respect for the labor of all
who keep a household running properly,
honor to the aged and responsibility
for the young and the vulnerable,
and above all the value
of distinct but complementary virtues.
Freyja, O Mistress of the Winding Way,
help us to be patient, understanding and kind
with those whose lives have been entwined with ours,
and always to cherish them and to see
the beauty and uniqueness in them.
This we pray Goddess
of daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, widows
and the good men who love and care for them.

Day V. To She Who Smiles

Hear my prayers Freyja,
as once you heard the cries of little Gersemi
when she was cutting her first teeth;
you held her close to your heart,
rocked her and kissed her treasured forehead,
but she was inconsolable;
even her precious sister Hnoss,
who never left your side back then,
shed pearlescent tears in sympathy
and you too suffered their sufferings
until that man, your husband, walked through the door
bearing a sack of toys he’d picked up in his wanderings
for your daughter’s tooth-gift.
He joked, made funny faces,
and his laughter was like the bellow of an aurochs
when his apple-cheeked Gersemi
stuck her tiny pink tongue out at him
and she forgot all her pain.
You smiled then;
all was right in Sessrúmnir.
Goddess, such potent love I feel
for all who are here with me,
and the members of my family and tribe
who live far from me
– watch over every one of them, I ask you,
bless and protect us all
and should your journey-loving daughters
ever set foot at our doorstep,
know that they will be well-received.

Day VI. To the Inamorata

On this day of mirth and reversals I pray
to you who delights in the gambol,
golden-mouthed Domina
whose lovely eyes are full of honey-sweet laughter,
little dove who takes the stage
with slender dancing feet
and billowy cornflower blue skirts,
you who steal the hearts
– and later the purses! –
of the awe-struck Venetian audience
by reminding each one of the springtime of their lives,
before the world’s weight bore them down;
plaited crowns of wildflowers,
river’s rush, birdsong, village girls
sneaking off to the birch grove,
kisses that taste of sunshine and wine,
fumbling with clasps and ties,
damp grass against skin.
All this you stir up in them,
O Gleam upon the Waves,
so that when intermission comes
Il Dottore can hawk his aphrodisial tonics
and fetid philtres to cure the limp.
You smile, a little sadly,
O Mistress of Many Masks,
Mother of wine-eyed Komos,
and wonder why
these mortals would choose illusion
when they could have the true,
but then remember that like you
time has not been kind to them,
and one lives as one must,
not always as one wants.
Look upon us, your tatterdemalion faithful,
with benevolent heart and kindly disposition,
and help us to live fully, freely, and without falsehood,
feasting famishedly on all that life brings us,
whether sweet or bitter, with equal gusto!

Day VII. To Óðr’s girl

I begin to sing of the bearer of the shining torc Brísingamen,
she with cruel and cunning cat’s eyes, a cloak of falcon feathers,
bones, amber beads and dead bees braided into her honey-gold hair,
tongue pendants, ladle pendants, and jangling keys suspended from her girdle,
a pouch of knucklebones and hempseeds hanging from one side
and a sacrificer’s knife at the other; this one wears a dress of white linen
‘broidered with geometric designs in black and in red thread,
with boots of soft deerskin and a seer’s staff
covered in properly blooded bindrunes,
like tendrils of pillar-climbing ivy or snowflake fractals,
topped with ochre-stained antlers
and ribbons in the cardinal Orphic colors.
Hail to you Freyja, wife of the wide-traveling Bear King,
the Mad One, the silver-voiced Poet
and Wielder of the Dwarf-crafted Double Axe
who delights to have you attend his drunken revels
and ride with his Furious Host in the Hunt
like Kleopatra and Marc Antony.
Together you have had adventures so grand
that they would strain the skill
of the scop Deor or even Bragi Boddason;
but those are nothing
compared to the wonders that await you
after the rising of the Black Sun.
As you will smile then, Freyja,
smile upon us now
and share your living mysteries
with those who hold true to you.