You know, it really bums me out when I have to go a whole month without a high holiday. January…April…July…November…ugh. I just like celebrating! So I’m very happy that we’ve finally arrived here, February 1st: Dísablót. Some of you know this holiday better as Imbolc, however, since you’re here with me, I’d like to invite you into my longhouse to teach you about the Norse Imbolc celebration.
In Northwest Indiana where I currently reside, we just got hit with about 10″ of snow. Looking out the window, it’s hard to think that spring is coming, but it really is. This is the time of the year where energies beneath the soil begin to stir. Things are turning over. The seeds underneath the snow and dirt feel the return of the light and warmth. The main theme of Imbolc as a general pagan holiday is the return of the sunlight and its longer duration. In the far north, the winters are dark. The sun only shone for a few precious hours before disappearing again, blanketing the land in bitter cold. So when the sun began to stick around longer, it was certainly a reason to celebrate!
Dísablót celebrates the return of the sun as well, but the main focus is on something different – the dísir. Dísir is the general term applied to the female spirits of Norse mythology who are not Valkyries. It is nearly impossible to cleanly separate the two into different categories, but there are noted differences between them in the collected writings and inherited lore. While the Valkyries seem to have a clear set of responsibilities and roles, it appears that the dísir work as guardian spirits for individuals, groups, or locations, which makes them entirely comparable and perhaps indistinguishable from the fylgjur, hamingjur, and other spirits of the land.
We make time to honor the female spirits of the land at this time because it is through and into them that we plant our seeds for our harvests over the coming year. We want to honor and respect these powerful spirits because without their aid, it is not likely for the crops to do well. I of course speak of actual plants, if you’re a gardener, but I also speak of those intentional, energetic seeds that we plant at the beginning of the year. What intentions did you set at the new year? We’ve been planning and plotting right up until this point. Now is the time to do the planting. Just as gardeners start their seedlings indoors, we too can plant the seeds of intention that we have been considering into our lives.
In the time of the ancients, they would actually be preparing their fields now by identifying where they would be planting and begin to dig the first furrows. This is where the charming of the plough comes in. Saying prayers and blessing and holding ritual with the plough along with the dísir was a very powerful way to head into the farming season on a positive note.
In my personal practice, I have always worked with candle magic and offerings to the dísir to mark this turn of the wheel. As I have stated before, I do not strictly follow either the Ásatrú or Heathenry traditions because I prefer the freedom of being able to discover my own way of practicing and keeping relationships with the gods based simply on my strong ties to Norway and Sweden through ancestry. The entire reason I state this again is because I want to make clear my separation from these paths, and not in a negative light whatsoever. Everyone is free to practice as they will, without judgment. I just do not want to be regarded as a practitioner or expert on these paths, mainly due to the historical fact that the ancients’ (my ancestors’) offerings to the spirits were often sacrifices of animal life. I will not do this. Animals cannot freely consent to ‘volunteer’ as offerings, and therefore I feel the act is committed in bad blood. I have spoken to the gods about the way I feel about it. Not once have any of my alternate offerings been rejected, nor have I ever felt ‘out of favor’ with my family (the gods). So it is.
Putting all that behind us, here is what I generally tend to offer to the spirits of the land, the dísir, and my female ancestors:
Homemade bread, baked with rosemary for protection. I will go out and dig into my garden or raised boxes (after getting through the layer of snow of course) and call upon them, asking that they accept this energetic food as an offering from my family and I for a bountiful harvest season.
Beer, mead, or tea with honey, poured atop the bread.
I will also write down my intentions, my energetic seeds that I intend to grow into my life this year and place it into the soil along with the offering of bread.
I mentioned candle magic in the beginning of this post. If I’m not too cold outside yet, I will stick a white candle in the snow atop my now buried offerings, light it, and say another small prayer and blessing (usually to Baldur and Sol) for the return of the light and warmth to the world. If I’m too chilled by this time, I will do this practice indoors by placing a white candle in a bowl of salt and bay leaves.
To craft your own practice to celebrate the coming of spring, the return of the light, and the stirring of the Earth, here’s a graphic of some correspondences to get you started:
I will be writing a master post on candle magic shortly, as I believe it is one of the easiest and simplest ways to raise energy for intentions while using just three tools: a small candle, a lighter, and your concentration. Stay tuned! And a powerful Dísablót to you!
Most of this site is dedicated to teaching general magical and wellness practices that can be adapted into any practice or belief system, as I want to make these things accessible to all, but I would be entirely remiss if I did not dedicate a part of this virtual energetic container to my family and my ancestors. And I am entirely happy to do so!
I want to briefly state before I continue that I believe all religions and belief systems exist. I just do not subscribe to all of them. When you start to work intimately with the Universe and understand that anything, anything is possible, and the amount of planes and realities that exist are limitless…you start to soften to the idea of other. There are others out there. Many. They all exist somewhere in the Universe, which is why it has never been my aim to convert or to preach. Everyone has their own authentic path that, yes, exists. Even if you take the right fork in the road instead of the left, the left one is still there. My path is with the Norse, and it has been even before I was born. Encoded in my DNA. My family did not leave Scandinavia until the 1850s to come to the United States. That’s really not very long ago in terms of immigration! If you are searching for your path, I urge you to look back into your family, if for nothing else but inspiration for the paths you could take. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
The gods of the Norse are very different than most other deities in other belief systems. They are gods, but they are not immortal. At Ragnarok, the end of times, they know that most of them will die. They also frequent Earth far more than other deities seem to, as there are many, many stories of the gods walking the lands of Scandinavia in human disguise to learn more about their people, and at times, to test their responses to situations. Due to all of this, the Norse people feel a more familial bond to our gods. We do not bow to our gods, or kneel at their feet. In a sense, it feels awkward, and at the most, just wrong. It would be like bowing and groveling to your mother, father, aunts, uncles, siblings, and so forth. We stand to face our gods, who triumph in our achievements and who often grieve with us in our losses. I want to assure you that this is not born from lack of respect, as I feel that we all deeply respect and admire our gods. We realize that they have access to powers and energies far beyond our limited human scope, and we ask for their aid when we really feel as though we need it. Working with the Universe is a two-way street, and it is just the same with the gods. You must put in your effort, motivation, and strength as well, and sometimes first, to prove to them that you’re willing to work for it. Our gods love a warrior spirit, and are happy to assist anyone whom they believe will achieve great things.
The Norse gods are split into two tribes: the Aesir, who reside in the celestial fortress of Asgard at the top of the world tree Yggdrasil, and the Vanir, who reside in Vanaheim, in one of the lower/middle planes of the tree.
The Aesir are the chief tribe responsible for keeping order in the cosmos, and they include:
Odin, the Allfather. In modern times, I often see Odin depicted as a god of war, the chief commander, and at times, a vengeful god. Even if he has assumed these roles at times, this is not who Odin really is. Odin is far more complex than that. I connect and speak with him very often, and for me, Odin is a father who wants to test your limits, a lot like Saturn. When you’re caught in a tough situation, he sits back and quietly watches. He wants to see what you will do. And for most of us, our goal is to make him proud. This is not to say he will never help you out of a tricky situation, however. Odin, within his spirit, is full of knowledge. He never stops seeking it, and has never shied away from making a sacrifice for it. He gave up one of his eyes to drink from the well of Mimir, a shadowy being with practically all the knowledge of the Universe. He hung himself from a branch of Yggdrasil for nine days and nights to finally see and receive the wisdom of the Elder Futhark runes. This is what knowledge and wisdom is worth to Odin – more than any gold, silver, and trophies. You can always ask for guidance, however, don’t be surprised if it comes in the form of a riddle or conundrum. Odin is the wise, old wanderer, much like The Hermit in the major arcana of the Tarot. Mysterious, magical, and wise.
Thor, the son of Odin and the Earth Mother, Jord. Because Thor was born of the Earth (Midgard), he feels a special affinity for it as well as the people who inhabit it. Therefore, he has assumed the role of protector of Earth, and in the Viking age was nearly just as popular, if not more than, Odin. Thor is a brother to me, and I connect with him nearly every day. Let me tell you that his sense of courage and duty are unshakeable, and his physical prowess is clear. Thor’s power piece is Mjollnir, a magical hammer imbued with lightning, forged by the finest Dwarven craftsmen. It is said during thunderstorms, when lightning flashes and thunder booms, it is Thor throwing his hammer against his anvil, or fighting against dark forces concealed by the storm clouds to protect Earth. Thor was revered by the warrior class of Vikings and was always called upon to hallow and sanctify the grounds of temples as well as new structures and homes.
Frigga (sometimes Frigg), Odin’s wife, and my mother. Frigg embodies the sweetness, care, magic and diplomacy of mother energy. For me, she is always there, whenever I call. A few years back, I was having an awful day. Nothing was going right, I physically did not feel well, and ended up parking my car to just let out some tears in an effort to release the pressure. While I cried, I asked for Frigga. I asked for my mother, to give me a sign that she was there, that I was not alone. After wiping away my tears, I got out of my car to walk to my next destination, and something caught my eye in the grass in front of my car, between two trees. I walked over to investigate, and there, with its pin stuck perfectly in the ground, was the feather of a Great Horned Owl. There is only one animal that Frigga is associated with – and here she was. I have never been anywhere since where I felt I could not call on her, and I use this feather every single day to sweep off unwanted energy. Frigga is a sorceress and her specialty is hearthcraft – I always ask her to bless the food I cook and for it to turn out perfectly (and no, I’ve never burned or ruined a dish either). Odin is known as All-Knowing, as he can sit on his throne and see everything in the world, and this knowledge is expanded upon with a daily report from his two ravens, Hugin and Munin. However, Frigga is allowed to sit this throne as well – the only difference is that she knows all, but does not disclose what she sees.
Heimdall, the protector of Asgard and the Bifrost bridge. Heimdall was born of nine mothers, assumed to be the nine daughters of the sea god, Aegir, and his father is likely Odin. Heimdall spent a brief stint on Midgard (Earth) to teach the first Norse settlers how to establish society and hierarchy. For this reason he is often referred to as the father of mankind. Nowadays, Heimdall watches from Asgard over the rainbow bridge of energy that acts as a connecting path between all of the realms. Heimdall was given this duty due to his impeccably keen senses – he can see by hundreds of miles, day or night, and his hearing so sensitive that he can hear the wool growing on a sheep or a blade of grass in a field. When Heimdall sees the beginning of Ragnarok, the end of times, he will blow into his horn, the Gjallarhorn, three times to warn the gods.
Tyr, the chief justice of the Aesir. Tyr is one of the principal gods of war (Thor being the other), but carries a different role than Thor, who usually plays the part of the warrior. Tyr is a prestigious strategist, but more than that, he is concerned with upholding justice and Norse cultural laws. As I often say (and maintain for myself), when you feel you have been deeply wronged or the victim of unfairness or injustice, put it into Tyr’s hands. Tyr is fair-minded and will pass down a sentence that fits the situation. Not too harsh, and not too lenient. Even if you end up ‘winning’ your case, Tyr will often still pass down something to you as well – an assignment on how to deal with this situation should it rise again, usually coming in the form of internal work, addressing your own shadow, or some sort of self-improvement, which will be a benefit to you in any case. I have seen Tyr’s rulings in my own life and I cannot deny they have been swift and fair.
Baldr (or Baldur), the son of Odin and Frigga. Baldr currently does not reside in Asgard – he is trapped in Helheim, thanks to Loki (I will link to this story later). Baldr is a golden gold, sweet and strong, the favorite son of Frigga. Everyone loved Baldr for his cheerfulness, good nature, and overall pleasant presence. He will return at Ragnarok, breaking free from Helheim to lead the new generation with his wife and the other goddesses.
Eir, one of Frigga’s most prominent handmaidens and Valkyries, the goddess of medicine, and the Norse family physician. I work with Eir often as I learn her ways of healing and running energy. She maintains a quiet focus as she works, and asks for those seeking her counsel to explain what they need with as little emotion as possible so the core of the issue can be identified and dealt with quickly and efficiently.
Bragi, the god of music and poetry, who sings of the exploits of the warriors in Valhalla.
Idunna (or Idun), the goddess of youth, Keeper of the sacred apples, and wife of Bragi. As I mentioned before, the gods are not immortal, but they are able to maintain a youthful appearance by eating or drinking beverages made from the golden apples that grow in Asgard. Idunna tends the trees and harvests the apples when ready. She is a sweet, young, gentle soul.
And, some of the more minor members of the Aesir family:
Forseti, son of Baldr, god of upholding common law.
Gefjun, the goddess of agriculture and farming.
Sif, Thor’s wife, goddess of the Earth’s fertility in the form of grain, as represented by her long, golden hair.
Sol, goddess of the Sun, who pulls the Sun through the sky with her chariot. She is relentlessly pursued by two dark forces in the forms of wolves, Hati (hate) and Skoll (mockery) who will devour the Sun at the time of Ragnarok.
Mani, the god of the Moon. You may have noticed at this point that the Norse pantheon is unique in that the Sun is female-driven and the Moon is male-driven when in nearly all other belief systems it is the opposite. Sol and Mani are siblings, and their father was inspired to name them after the Sun and the Moon. After the gods realized they had no one to care for these planetary bodies or move them, creating day and night, they told Sol she would have to step up to the task and embody her masculine qualities due to her namesake. She accepted. Mani was asked to find his more feminine qualities to care for the Moon. He agreed. I think this is a very important story in the Norse realm, showing that there are benefits to balancing our inner masculine and feminine.
Vali and Vidar, Odin’s sons, who both play major roles in Ragnarok. After Odin meets his end to Fenrir, the wolf, Vidar slays him. Vali, The Valiant, avenged Baldr’s death by slaying his murderer. Vali goes on to survive Ragnarok and join Baldr to lead the new generation.
Magni (Mighty) and Modi (Wrath), Thor’s sons.
Frigga’s Handmaidens: Saga (keeper of stories), Eir (the physician), Gefjun (agriculture), Fulla (Frigga’s secret keeper), Sjofn (peace and love), Lofn (marriages), Var (commitments and vows), Vor (the seer), Syn (boundary keeper), Hlin (protector of Frigga’s chosen), Snotra (the moderator), Gna (the earth-walker, on Frigga’s errands). Frigga’s handmaidens are powerful goddesses on their own – they choose to serve Frigga, and they are maidens because they choose to remain unmarried – more often enjoying each other’s company.
The Aesir and the Vanir were at war with each other for a very long time. They finally agreed to a truce after Odin met Freyja, from whom he wished to learn the art of seidr (magic). To keep good faith, half of the Vanir gods came to live in Asgard and vice versa. Whereas the Aesir are more concerned with keeping order in the Universe, the Vanir are more associated with magic, wisdom, and the ‘natural’ world.
Freyja (also Freya), the daughter of Njord and twin sister of Freyr. Freyja, like Odin, is more complex than most descriptions let on. She is a goddess of love, sex, fertility, beauty, magic, and war. I also work with Freyja quite often, and though she can be motherly, she is more often a mentor. She knows what she wants and is unafraid to pursue it – she is equally proficient with a sharp blade as much as a sensual touch. Freyja is very much the archtype of the volva, a Norse priestess, who is an expert in magic. It is only through she that Odin learned the art of seidr, and in turn, brought magic down to humanity. Due to her sheer power and ability to work with Universal forces to manipulate the health, desires, and prosperity of others, she is a goddess whose knowledge and power are without equal in this plane of existence, even compared to Odin. It is well known that while teaching Odin the art of seidr, the two entered a passionate affair, and one that has likely not ended. Freyja has many partners, as it is her way of life. Her hall is called Folkvangr, located in Asgard near Valhalla, and she is allowed to choose half of the fallen warriors each day to stay in her hall. She has a clear preference for shieldmaidens, but does choose men as well.
Freyr, son of Njord and twin brother of Freyja. Freyr is an incredibly popular god with humanity, on the same level as Thor, Odin, and Freyja. Freyr is the god of fertility and prosperity, bringing abundance, peace, bountiful harvests, and healthy babies. Freyr does not reside in Asgard, but in Alfheim, the realm of the elves.
Njord, father of Freyja and Freyr, is also a god of prosperity but is more associated with sea travel and sailors. This is likely due to Viking-age trading being almost exclusively sea-based as they sailed up and down their trading routes – the more you traveled, the richer you were, which is why it was usually a benefit to be in good standing with Njord. His home is in a coastal region of Asgard, near a port, of course.
And…voila. The main members of my family. I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting them and reading a bit about them! Looking for Loki? I’ll have a post on that later.