Koselig: How to Defeat the Winter Blues

koselig

The Norwegians have a word to discuss the comfort one seeks in the cold, dark winter months, koselig. It roughly translates to coziness, the kind one seeks out in the Christmas season without all the stress.  Achieving this sense of coziness can be as simple as enjoying the company of friends and family, sharing a warm beverage by a roaring fire, reading a good book under a soft fuzzy blanket by the fireside. Candlelight  is a wonderful way to convey this sense of koselig.

Getting outside, enjoying the fresh, crisp air and the sun, when it’s there is a mood booster, so get outside, no matter what the weather brings and you’ll feel better. I’ve been told that there is a saying in Norway, ‘There is no bad weather, only bad clothes’.  I am a firm believer of this. If you are wearing outer clothing that suits the weather of the day, then you will be more comfortable. This could result in more than one article of outer clothing being needed for a single season. But during a season that can vary in temperature from -20 C to 5 C, snow, sleet, sunshine, wind, calm and blizzards, all of them require different types of gear. If a person is prepared for these types of weather, they should be comfortable, no matter what Mother Nature throws at them.
If you under dress for the weather, misery will be your companion.

Norwegians live in a land where the sun doesn’t really come up much higher than the horizon, so they live with soft, indirect light and sunset and sunrise last for ever. During the nights there are the Northern lights, which are breath-taking. All of these things make for a beautiful atmosphere, but if a person looks for the beauty in their day-to-day lives, marvel in a falling snowflake or a tree covered in ice or a cedar covered in a dusting of snow, the beauty will fill one with a sense of wonder and of course happiness.

The winter months are long and hard, it’s easy to survive through them, but to have a good life, surviving isn’t enough. You need to find the way to enjoy your days and nights, to enjoy winter. In Norway the restaurants and houses have fireplaces and candles lit to promote that cheerful, comfortable feeling of warmth and coziness, and here in the Great White North we all tend to bond by commiserating over the misery of the winter. We long to ‘get away’ to warmer climates, even if for a short period of time. We long for sun and warmth and the end of the snow. This mindset leads us into a negative spiral, they say how miserable they are and you respond that you are just as miserable, if not more. You dwell upon the negative instead of enjoying the blue skies when they peek out from the grey clouds. Enjoy the post card scenes of a winter wonderland.
If we reboot our brains to stop thinking of suffering through the winter but instead glory in the weather, our minds will climb out of that negativity trap and begin to be positive.

I am so guilty of this negative way of thinking about winter, and I hated it. I never dressed for the weather but dressed for fashion. Hats would mess up my hair, gloves were chosen for their beauty instead of their functionality. Lined boots were worn only if I couldn’t wear my fashionable non-lined boots.
I walked around frozen and engulfed in a bubble of misery. Whose fault was it? Mine.
I hated the snow, it was a nuisance that was only good for shoveling and stealing time from my day and causing discomfort when I had to clear it. Icy roads and sidewalks were just things that made me fall.
I spent all my time during the winter longing for a plane to take me to some tropical destination where I could sit on a sandy beach, sipping fruity drinks and basking in the warm sun.

Then a few years ago I sat down and had a severe talk with myself. I’m not going to be able to run away from winter. It comes to Canada in October or November and it lasts until March or April. If you’ve got the cash to afford a week in a tropical paradise that gives you a week away from the cold and snow, but otherwise Winter was here to stay, so better to learn to love it than to waste the time and energy wishing for something that would never come, a winter-less winter.
That winter was one of the coldest that we experienced in decades, and I dressed for the weather. Warm, water-repellent jackets, hats, mitts, scarves and lined boots were what I bought for the winter months. Sure I looked for cute ones, I’m trying to be sensible, not hideous.
That winter I stopped being miserable. Others ran around, crying about the weather and i just shrugged and tried to always find a positive point about the day. I enjoyed myself more. Now, I no longer dread the coming winter so much.
Now, last year I was sitting back at this time of year, waiting out the first coming of winter. I was not waiting with glee, but with calm indifferent acceptance.
The same can not be said about this year. I’m looking forward to playing in the snow with my dogs, snowball fights with my husband and adult children, skating on a cold winter evening that ends with a full mug of hot chocolate, marshmallows and whip cream.
I haven’t awaited a winter with this much enthusiasm since I was a child, and my heart is full of warmth and interestingly enough, excitement for spending these upcoming day of snow and cold with friends and family.

Soliciting for Funds instead of Engaging Others

I have not been an active online Heathen, and I make no apologies.
Firstly I have been dealing with some health issues and also a change in my family dynamic has occurred, but to be honest, those things wouldn’t have made me keep my distance from online Heathenry. So, I had to ask myself, what really happened to make me turn away from the online community and turn more inwards and towards my family?

I have only been a Heathen for a few years, so I am still learning, a lot. As a Heathen with very limited financial resources, I turned to the online community to assist with my education, in the form of recommending the best ways to invest my money and discussing the particulars of our faith and how we approach it.
At first I found a lot of male dominated, chest thumping, going to Valhalla, keyboard warrior types. This approach to Asatru kind of put me off, but I pushed on, convinced that I had finally, after 40 years, found the path for me. My struggle in trying to find a religious path that fit was over. I knew that this path was going to be hard, nothing worth having comes easy.

Throughout my time online I came across some various groups, some were a good fit, others were a little soft and mushy around the edges, others had too much of a Christian element to it. The worst were the groups that sent out regular pleas for money, telling me that they can help me learn the ins and outs of Heathenry in their online courses, I just have to pay them a crap load of money.
Which I get, they want some kind of recompense for their effort and time they invested in putting their lessons together, but then I heard through the grapevine that these groups don’t actually deliver on their promise to educate. Instead it’s just some more keyboard warrior types planning on their afterlife in Valhalla, or some fluffy sort of touchy feely kind of emo type Asatru that they pieced together from their own divine experiences.
So, I began to avoid those groups, disappointed that I hadn’t been able to find a place online that felt like a fit.

And then about a year ago I discovered this group on Facebook and it felt like a good fit. They had these great conversations about the sagas and the lessons that we can take from them and how to try to incorporate those values into our modern lives instead of trying to force outdated concepts from history into a modern world. I was comfortable with this group that shall remain nameless, why?
Because just around Christmas the dynamic of the group changed. Suddenly they switched from spreading the word of Asatru and trying to engage Asatruar in these inspiring conversations, they became a charity, trying to raise funds. They never say what the funds are being used for. They have grandiose plans for the future, to build a hof and such, but they never say in the meantime what the money is actually going towards. They are selling merchandise now and each post always seems to scream ‘buy this’ or donate to us.
I can’t remember the last time they introduced a conversation that didn’t involve them having their hands out in search of some form of cash grab.

At first I thought it was a new thing and that after a while they’d be less about selling their merchandise and begging for donations and return back to the conversations that drew me to them in the first place, but no. Four months later and the closest I got to a conversation about lore was a baited topic that was slanted towards gender bashing. It broke out in child like arguments over whether boys were better than girls or vice versa. Disappointing indeed!

So, I’ve decided that it’s time to leave the group that shall remain nameless because I don’t want to turn this into a debate over whether this group has become all about the money or whether I’m just being unfair. There are others that are part of the group and they are happy, and I don’t want to draw away from that.
But  I am going to return to my own path, and forge forward. I’ll return to my theories and interpretations and if anyone wishes to discuss it with me, great. I look forward to engaging minds and exchanging of opinions and belief structures with other Asatruar again

Speaking to the Gods of Winter and Snow

I went outside tonight in my shorts, short sleeves, no sweater or shoes and I stood on my deck with my face turned up to the night sky and I spoke to Hodr, Ullr, Skadi and SnærI thanked them for this wonderfully mild winter that we’ve had, I’m so grateful, I never wanted them to think that I wasn’t. But I did tell them that I was worried about the farmers.
The ground in the spring needs to be saturated with the winters thaw, the ground so soaked that when walking across a field your foot sinks deep into the mud and when you lift it back up again the footprint left behind floods with water.
But we have had very little snow, and this means that come the spring the ground will not be saturated and I fear that it might hinder the growing season.

I worry for the farmers. I worry that we won’t have a good growing season and the prices for food will be driven higher than they are even now. There are only a few gods that can rectify this, and I hope that they will finally step up and show the world that they aren’t asleep and that winter will finally become all that it is supposed to be.

Offerings were left, and I returned inside to write this and go to bed.

 

12 Days of Yule

I meant to post something about Yule before it was actually upon us, but time got away from me and I admit I was rather busy merry-making with my family and friends.
Now that Yule is just about finished, and I have some time to myself I thought I write down a bit about my Yule and how it was celebrated in my home as well as how we shall bid farewell to the old year and welcome in the new one.

Yule, firstly, is the pre-Christian tradition that we celebrated, as I understand it,  outside of the calendar year of our ancestors and as such it was a particularly dangerous and difficult time that our ancestors managed to fill with mirth and merry-making. No small feat.
It is at this time of the year when the weather has turned nasty  with winter storms, driving snow and freezing temperatures that certain evil walks the earth. The Wild Hunt is upon us, and if you are caught out in a terrible storm unawares then you’ll become familiar with the fear and concern our forebears must have felt at the awesome power of such weather. It would be a frightening time for someone with no roads to guide them, and no street lights to show them the way home. Not to mention not having some of our high-tech winter garments that are sure to keep the nip of winter chill away.
The Druagar are evil beings that dwell in grave mounds and walk earth during the winter months, perhaps to pray on unwary strangers or worse to plague and pray upon those that knew them, and had unfinished business with the malevolent spirit.

And yet amongst these worries and concerns, the celebration of Mother’s Night on the 21st of December is celebrated, and it’s not like a mother’s Day celebration in the spring but a celebration of all the mothers of your line. The ancestral Disir that are with us and will give us protection and guidance when needed or asked for.
For my Mother’s night, we had a quiet meal, a traditional meat pie that my own Scottish and Irish ancestors may have enjoyed. We left offerings for the Disir and any of my maternal ancestors that may have been hovering around.  We sang songs and shared tales of the women of my line, the tales that are known that is.

The 22nd of December was the Winter Solstice this year, and so I made my way to the lake on the evening and bid farewell to Sunna as she dipped below the horizon at Sunset on the eve of the solstice. I lit many candles and a fire in my pit in my backyard, to show that while Sunna was struggling to escape the clutches of Skoll, the wolf that is always chasing and snapping at her heels, and is destined to devour the sun at Ragnarok. Offerings of preserved oranges, lemons and other summer fruit were made in an attempt to welcome Sunna and the warmer days of summer back.
Come the morning, I was up, with candles lit at sunrise to welcome Sunna’s return from the darkness of the longest night.

Each day we left offerings for different gods and goddesses. Odin, Frigga, Freya, Freyr, Ullr, Skadi, Snaer, Hodr are all gods that have been honored in my home during Yule.
Come the 25th of December this year was a Full Moon, and so I made offerings to Mani on the night of his greatest strength and beauty. I thanked him for the light that he sheds on our world in the darkest of night.

On the 26th of December I honored the Vaettir of my land. I had meant to make these offerings on the day after the solstice, but things happened and I just didn’t have the time. These offerings of honey and milk were given to the land, to thank the Vaettir for caring for our land, and in hopes of having a continued  good winter and a good growing season in the spring.

Coming up is Wight Night, the 31st of December. On this night we will be honoring the wights of our home. The little fellow that loves to help us find hidden items that we’ve lost and sometimes those items are things that he’s moved to teach us to not be disrespectful of our home and him.
My daughter has a very good relationship with our wight, she leaves shiny coins, chocolate and popcorn for him because it seems to keep him happy.

Yule ends with Oath Day, and my family takes this day very seriously, as they should. Our oaths are written down, twice. One copy is for the individual to keep and reflect upon throughout the year, to remind them that these are the things that they have sworn to wither do, complete or work upon for the coming year.
The other copy is stored away, and brought out on oath day to be shared with everyone and reflected upon the success the individual had in keeping them. Then the oaths are tossed in the fire, symbolic of letting the past go and moving on to the future.

I hope that as you read this you are having a very happy Yule yourself and I wish you a very successful New Year. May 2016 bring you good health, happiness and success.

Winter Nights

Hail the Ancestors and the Disir.
Hail the Alfar, the Wights and the Vaetir.
Beware the Wild Hunt, and the wild winds that blow with its arrival.
Beware the Druagr and their wicked ways.
Honor Skadi, Ullr, Hodr and Snaer, the gods of cold, snow and winter.
As the winter now is upon us, we must take care to strengthen our ties to kin and kindred, to our aette and community.
We must help out neighbours through these months of hardship and keep the warmth of friendship close to our hearts.

The Wild Hunt

I woke the other day to notices about the Wild Hunt becoming active and responses about ‘it’s too early‘ or ‘you’ve got your sources mixed up‘.
I guess to some folks the Wild Hunt is something that’s not rooted in proven lore and therefore its actual existence is questionable.
That being said, this is about my experience and how I practice my Asatru, and for my family and myself the Wild Hunt is real and as of this weekend it is upon us.

The Wild Hunt swept through the lands throughout the winter,  during the coldest and harshest parts of the year. Anyone who might find themselves out on such a night might be witness to the ghastly procession, or they could be spotted by the hunt themselves and carried up and dropped far from where they were taken up, if they were lucky, some suffered a far worse fate.
It is said that sometimes the souls of some might be able to leave their bodies and join the hunt as it wreaked havoc upon the land, and these were said to be very powerful beings indeed. Sometimes a hunt might enter a town to steal food and drink.
Odin usually was the leader of the hunt, but it is said that Frigga is also able to lead the hunt in Odin’s place.

The theme of the hunt is the same, not matter the culture, the dead and the underworld and their ghastly dogs and horses. It is sometimes said that the hunters were almost indistinguishable from the spirits of the land themselves, who were sometimes associated with death. The ancestors believed that the barrier between the worlds of the living and the dead was very thin and permeable during the winter months. It was as if the elements of the winter months the unrelenting darkness, the menacing cold, the silence that is only broken by the howl of the frozen winds and the bleak loneliness that comes with the winter months seem to conjure up the terrifying imagery that is the Wild Hunt.

So, when locked into the dead of winter, and the crippling, frigid winds drive the blinding snow, remember that the Hunt is upon you, and beware of where you go.

Pet Peeve

When I’m asked what my biggest pet peeve about Asatru is, I have one answer that pops into my mind before anything else.
How intolerant and disapproving Asatruar are of their fellow Asatruar.
One person will explain what Asatru is to them, and another will jump down their throat in the most insulting manner possible and tell them that they are so off base.  How do I worship the gods? The answer to that question will, again get fellow Asatruar telling each other that they are stupid or idiotic and accuse them of making stuff up.

I think the problem with Asatru is that this is a religion where folks are trying to recreate the beliefs of our ancestors, and there is a combination of archaeological fact, lore and then stuff that has come to them, known as Unverified Personal Gnosis, or UPG or the more insulting term MUS (Making Shit Up). Each Asatruar is of the firm belief that their path is the correct one because they researched it, or felt it or read it, while another Asatruar might not have read it, found it in their own research and they most certainly did not feel it. That doesn’t make it wrong, it makes it a different branch on a very big tree.

I look at religion as a tree with strong, deep and expansive root system, a strong  thick trunk and branches so strong that are filled with leaves that are beautiful and plentiful.
Christianity, Judaism, Islam, they all have different branches, all approach their religion from a different perspective but they don’t have the same problems of everyone getting insulting and hostile when they come together. They accept that Evangelical, Catholic and Anglican faiths are similar enough that they worship the same gods, but the approach is different, that is all.
Now, you sometimes get a little bit of rot, in the form of extremism and that’s not good for anybody. But you’ll never convince an extremest that they are wrong. You just have to distance yourself from them and make sure that all the others around you know that you are not of the same beliefs as the extremists and hope that those misguided individuals will one day realize the disease they carry and correct it. You can attempt to guide them to that realization, but you have to understand that it’s going to be confrontational and most likely you will be wasting your time, because you really can’t change their mind, not when they think that you are the one that is in the wrong.

But when you encounter someone who respects the same beliefs, worships the same gods and while their fruit may taste different, you should respect that they are coming from a good place and accept that it’s the differences that make the world a beautiful place.
If every flower looked like a rose, you wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate the beauty of a rose, would you.