Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Sisters of the Valkyrie? (part x) Pleiades

There are Valkyrie-like goddesses and demi goddesses in other belief systems, who resemble the characteristics of the Northern Valkyries. It makes you wonder if they belong to the same species or come from the same root legend. I've written entries about the subject, starting with individuals and then perhaps go onto research different aspects of the Valkyrie. The tenth entry on the "Sisters of the Valkyrie" is about the Pleiades.

The Peiades are known as a star cluster but named after the stellar group of celestial nymphs, the Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters. Pleiades the stars and nymphs are associated with the cold season as they appear as frosted lights in the northern hemisphere. They appear in the sky strongest and brightest during late autumn and over the winter season.The stars Pleiades is commonly associated with late October and November, corresponding with Winter Nights harvest festivities.

The Winter Nights holidays include sacrifical rites as the most favourite Disablot, to honour the female spirits, disir and the Valkyries. It was very important to ancient Germanic peoples that the rite was performed by women, priestesses and elder mothers. Most people in modern times are sickened by the term of sacrifices but this doesn't always mean butchering people against their will. For instance, the death of a king who fell off his horse and was killed was considered a form of sacrifice so that his own passing meant a better harvest. The sacrifice of a healthy animal was a sacrifice in itself to feed a starving village and provde warm clothes and medicine. Various Scandinavian countries celebrated disblot in late winter and early spring, although the Anglo Saxons celebrated it during autumn. This was called Mothers Night or "blot monath".

But mostly during Winter Nights season is Alfablot, blood sacrifice to the elves. This is linked with the home and paranormal realms, and the dark elves who were spirits of the departed. Light elves were also considered a higher form of spirit that were almost godlike and immortal. Read up on the Old Norse Samhain here.

The term Pleiades means "sailing" and the most highest point of the star cluster visible in the sky is during the time when the veil is the most thinnest, that spirits walk the earth. Celebrations like Disablot and Alfablot honouring the dead, spirits and feminine including valkyries occur around this time but most of all so does the famous Samhain, or better called Halloween. The mysterious opening of the dead, highlighted when the star nymphs fly through the night sky on horseback with glittering armour goes to show that the Plaeides and valkyries are somewhat similar. The valkyries enter bettlefields to take the souls of dead warriors across the bridge to Valhalla. The Pleiades shine at the highest point in the sky during the seasons and celebrations of the dead. The Celts considered the star cluster a vision of the dead and mourning.

The Pleiades were recognised throughout the world. In Greek mythology, they resemble seven beautiful maidens who were daughters of the titan Atlas. These celestial girls include Electra, Sterope, Merope, Maia, Taygete, Alcyone and Celaeno. It was a sad legend that their father was punished to carry the world on his back, and Orion transformed the girls into birds, who then turned to stars. However, some believe that the Pleiades represent Freyja's hens. These hens were once supposedly princesses who died and returned as bright feathered hens or golden chicks. Saying this, the hens were not really birds. They were nicknames of the smaller winged ladybirds and butterflies, because it was believed that the seven maidens had such fantastic wings as these critters. Identical to the fae, these seven spirits granted peoples wishes and protected children from the dead. They were considered shining inhabitants of the night sky.     

Art "Pleiades" by Kagaya

Friday, 16 October 2015

Ash Maidens

There are many obscure elementals, beings, giants, gods and heroes that don't get a wide enough recognition. It depends on the audience. Some of these include the Ash Maidens of Norse and other Germanic mythology. Ash Maidens, also named Askafroer, are a type of northern dryad.

They're female spirits who resemble women but they can make themselves invisible and transparent, sometimes visualised as coloured lights. They dwell in woodlands and forests, disappearing inside trees and giving the energy of trees supernatura; strength for regrowth and immortality. They're very similar to the Yakshi nymphs and the hamadryads of Hindu and Greek mythologies.

The Ash Maidens got their name because it's believed they are the main guardians of Ygdrasil the World Tree of life, a gigantic ash tree containing worlds including the earth.

Some people feared the Ash Maidens, as they believed that the spirits of the trees were spiteful and caused much famine, forest fires and disease. So there were sacrifices to the Ash Maidens done on Ash Wednesday. Originally this was a day of fasting, in respect of the Ash Maidens. On the early frost morning of Ash Wednesday, the elders covered the roots of an ash tree in water and said:

"Now I sacrifice to you so you do us no harm".

Ash trees have always been considered one of the most sacred trees and if anyone cut it or broke it, they would be punished by the Ash Maidens. Little else is known about them as the stories have been lost in time.

The Ash Tree in Norse myth

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Divine Canines: Fenrir

This is the fifth of a series of posts about divine canines, gods and goddesses who are dogs, spirits in dog form and other magical canines. Years ago I did a few posts about wolf goddesses but found in my research too many male canine gods and beasts, or non-wolf canid goddesses that I couldn't include. So I promised to do something on the wider subject of myth and canid species linked to ancient legends, spirits, deities and folklore.

The last time I posted about Divine Canines was to do with Geri and Freki. This one is from Norse and Germanic mythology but of a different nature. Fenrir, knowned as a huge monstrous wolf that was bound by chains and would break free at Ragnarok (apocalypse or the end of the world) and this huge wolf would ultimately destroy everything. Fenrir is also said to eat the sun at ragnarok. Also other versions claim that the two sons of Fenrir, Hati and Skoll would both destroy the sun and the moon as Fenrir rampages over the earth killing everything. The purpose of Fenrir and his evil sons are believed by many to wipe out humanity and destroy worlds. So for this they both remain chained until that dreaded time comes.

So why is this monster on my subject of "divine" canines? Fenrir, Hati and Skoll are the opposite of divinity and so you're wondering why discuss them, right? Maybe Fenrir is NOT an evil wolf but had been misinterprated that way. I've got a different view.  

The wolf
First of all much of these legends come from Snorri Sturluson, a medieval monk and an academic writer. He got his research from folktales and other legends gained from the Eddas. An ancient poem "Grimnismal" is composed of 54 stanzas and dates from around the 10th Century CE. In it one stanza includes this:

"Skoll is the name of the wolf
Who follows the shining priest
Into the desolate forest,
And the other is Hati
Hrodvitnir's son
Who chases the bright bride of the sky."

Hati's father here is said to be Hrodvitnir the "Famous Wolf", a nickname of Fenrir. Fenrir is the child of Loki, a trickster god with changing forms in myth. Ultimately bound to the earth to stop his chaos, it's interesting to mention that this father of Fenrir and other monstrous children might've been misrepresented and altered since the establishment of Christianity in Europe. In pre-Christian Scandinavia and Iceland and Germanic countries, there was no recorded evidence of worship of Loki. It might be better understood if Loki used to be a different type of character in mythology with traits that Odin has, or what everyday mortal humans have. It could also explain that Loki's name sounds like "Luke" or "Luc" the Latin for light. I believe that in mythology are different types of gods. The giants (planets, earth, moon, sun) and the humanlike gods (Aesir and Vanir). What of Fenrir? He was a giant wolf that bit off the war god's arm and will consume the earth with life inside it. Really?

Fenrir is a divine wolf god it's a vital part of nature. All of Loki's offspring are in another way a significant guardians of the earth. The siblings of Fenrir include Jormungand, Hella and Sleipnir. All of them are considered "dark", "evil", "monsters", "frightening" and "enemy of the gods". But they play an important function in stabilising the world. In popular myth:
1. Jormungand is the world serpent.
2. Hella is goddess of the underworld.
3. Sleipnir is a freakish horse.
However, consider that Jormungand sustains the spin of the world, keeping the earth alive and moving and changing. He controls the flow of tides and movements of the tectonic plates. His hot breath blows across Ireland, Britain, Scandinavia and the rest of Europe to stop bleak mini ice ages. This breath of Jormungand is also called the Gulf Stream. In "Irminsul" by Varg Vikernes, Jormangund is considered to be the equator. Jormungand is a type of comic serpent, healer and a guardian of the sea.
Hella is the goddess of the dead, and mother of the inner earth. She was considered a gentle goddess who embraced those who died.
Sleipnir is an 8 legged horse that Odin rides upon. It travels across worlds, across the earth, sea, sky and other worlds! (This reminds me that I intend to do a subject on ancient astronauts in the near future!).

Fenrir was turned bad in myths because people considered wolves as a predator but earlier in pre-Christian Europe, wolves were the symbol of warriors. The warrior caste was "wolf". In other cultures, people believe that their ancestors were wolves. The warrior trait was ceased to be viewed a noble lineage as times changed, and warriors practising ancient martial art were seen as outlaws. And so was wolves. Strange that one of the most popular household pet today is a cousin of the wolf.

Fenrir is linked in a way to the cosmos, especially with wolf star or dogstar Sirius. Sirius is part of the Canis Major constellation, also called the "Great Dog". In hindu texts, Sirius is "he who awakens the gods of the air and summons them to their office of bringing the rain." As the arrival of Sirius in the sky brought about new waters and created the Nile. The ancient Eguptians considered Sirius to be the doorway to the afterlife so they refused to bury the dead with Sirius visible. Sirius was called "Orion's Dog" by the Greeks and Romans. Some suggest Tyr and Fenris mirror the constellation Orion and Sirius. The Chinese call it "celestial wolf". The world's peoples from Europe, the Far East, Africa, Middle and Near East and the Americas believe Sirius the Canis constellations are divine wolves guarding the sky. Another aspect of the cross cultural wolf star myths is that Sirius brings climate change. Fenrir is regarded as a destroyer but also could account for his powers over weather and geology. The ancient poples studied the stars intensely and included that in mythologies.  

How myths alter
Far back in time, when a lost wisdom told stories about nature and space, they symbolised everything with animals, people and adventures. Later, a breakdown in society around the time of the Bronze Age suggests a shift in people's mindsets. They changed the myths to suit their circumstances. Not interested in space anymore, they were concerned only with survival. So the characters that may have been revered once before were looming and terrifying figures of later periods.

The sagas about Fenrir being super bad and totally destructive can explain people's tension over the forces of nature. Peoples attitudes to wolves and wildlife, people's feelings about nature and the old religion, and a combination of oral myths. From the Eddas, to Snorri, to Brothers Grimm and Jung. Now Marvel have twisted Norse mythology to suit popstar loving kids. And that modern idea of the big bad wolf is still a favourite fairytale.