Icelandic sagas and secrets of the runes

As you already know, from time to time I try to write here on Heathen Altar articles about european history, traditions, mythologies etc. Today I will use something which is not written by me, but what you should find interesting. Here are some links to the useful sites – take a look:
Icelandic Saga Database – if you can’t find some icelandic saga in physical copy, here you have it online.
Runes, alphabet of mystery – a great site containing information about meaning of the runes, their history etc. as well as some sagas and source texts.

Runy – something for polish-speaking users. It’s not as good as the upper site, but it can turn out that it’s also useful.


Report: XIX Festival of Slavs and Vikings in Wolin (Poland 2013)

It’s a 19th edition of polish restorer’s festival in a small town of Wolin (near Baltic sea and a german border). Yet it was my first visit there. It took place on 26-28 July. I decided to check by myself how looks the biggest polish event of that type, bounded with history of early middle ages.
When I reached the goal and got off the train I started my trip around the town. The first thing that came to my eyes were hundred of people dreesed up in historical costumes. This place for three days litteraly lives with the atmosphere of this event! In a flyer that I’ve received while I was waiting in line to get a ticket, organizers boast that in this year Wolin was visited by 1500 participants from 24 countries. That makes a big impression, even though in the final battle partcipated “only” around 400 warriors.
On the road to historical castle I passed by many stalls, offering gadgets bounded with history (like t-shirts, books) and some historical jewelry. Everythink was looking very good. Wolin is a small, yet very charming place. There was always something to do – there are a musem, some monuments and a beach near the town. And of course a stalls with a great polish bear (hehe). The festival was divided from Wolin by a river Dziwna, so you could simply buy a bear and observe it from a harbor. It was a good idea, because on the river there were sailing a true slavic boats, created by archeologist and based on historical sources. There was even an possibility of sailing on it by yourself! Also for a whole day there were playing folk bands from several countries (like e.g. Percival (Poland), Birka Boys (Sweden) and Lutaś (Belarus)). 
After spending some time in the town we decided to visit a castle. A tickets are really cheap – it costs 8 zlotys, so about 2 euros. In offer we got a possibilty to see a reconstruction of Jomsborg. It makes a really big impression, and not only beacuse of it’s size (which is really huge) but also of an architeture. It’s hard to desribe emotions when you are walking among all those buildings (there are 27 historical cottages, 4 gates with ramparts and a harbor!). You can really imagine how looked the life of all those people, who had to defend themselves against aggression of christian rulers. (Wolin was in that times one of the biggest cities in Europe, and it stay independent and pagan ’till around XII century). 
In castle the number of stalls was even bigger. Beside equipment for warriors and restorers, there was also numerous goods for “regular” visitors like beautiful jewelry and food (of course traditional). You could also taste a cup of mead, and learn something about a history of that place. The people from many countries (but mainly from Poland) were walking around with a very good mood, even if a weather was extremely hot. 
When me and my companion got bored, there was still many things to do. Every hour there were a staging, showing a reality of living in such a place like Jomsborg.There were e.g. staging showing the slave’s market, return of warriors from a victorious battle to the temple and such.
But the most important thing took place on 16.00 p.m. – a great battle of slavs and vikings. Like I said, there were 400 warriors from several countries. The battle of Wolin is a bit different than other events like this – because there is no plan of fighting! Nothing is directed here, there are simply two teams who fights untill one of sides defeat all of their’s enemies. It is an amazing experience, to see all those people exchanging blows into each other in a cloud of dust. Everybody’s screaming, you can hear groans of those who got a hit and fell down. Great example of how people were resolving their conflicts in the past ;]
The rest of a day we spend on the harbour. On the next day we visited a beach (not very big, but quite nice), drank some beers, buy some stuff as souvenirs and returned to home. 
Festival on Wolin is a truly great experience, even if it’s propably more fun for people who are participating in staging or battles. Yet still if you can afford a trip to this place, I fully recommend you to simply do it. It really doesn’t matter if you are a lover of history or not – this is a place where everybody will get wonderful memories. And learn something about beautiful region of Western Pomerania. 
More of my photos, presenting the battle:
by Vladyka

Pagan society – part III – women

Note: this article describes only women’s position in pagan societies, mainly in the context of local laws. I skip here the situation of roman and greek women (’cause everybody learns about it in school. At least here in Poland…) and will focus on germanic, slavic and baltic people. Their laws were very similar, so there is no point in dividing this topic unto three different parts. 
About celtic women you will read in an article describing the role of female element in celtic myths.
Mund (old germanic mundo, or latinized mundium) was a privilage of the head of the family. It litteraly means “protection”, and it belonged to the oldest male member of the family (understood as all persons related by blood). The men who had mund over the other person (children, wife etc.) had a right to decide for him about marriage, his political actions etc. This power wasn’t absolute (as many people think), but was of course limited by the law. Moreover, this privilige was also a kind of duty – to protect the family against all problems and dangers. It was indeed a matter of honor, but also the law. 
The institution of munduol was inherited. So for example when a father of the family dies, his oldest son take care of it. When he also dies, and there is no adult heir, the brother of the father take care over the family. Et cetera. 
There was also many kinds of mund. Other was mund under your own child, other under a wife and other under your mother-widow. 
Now, when this typically barbarian law is known to you, let me describe the situation of women. 
Their situation
Woman of those times (and I mean something around VIII-XII century) was always under protection of man, whether they wanted it or not. The society was than very patrarcharne, which means that it was dominated by man. It was beginning since the girl’s birth day. The father were deciding if he accepts her as his daughter or not. And sometimes he actually didn’t – if he suspected that his wife was cheating him with another man. In such case the girl was left in a forest, and a wife was sent back to her father (or oldest brother/son). 
The girl was raised only by mother (even with in those times father could spent quite many time with his children). Under her protection she was learning farm management, weaving, cooking. singing and of course how to influence men ;] Sometimes she was also learning how to fight, due to the fact that man (as a warrior) quite often was leaving his farm to raid some lands, or protect the tribal land. Eventually she could even became a shieldamaiden – a woman who decided to be a warrior (of course by a permission of her munduol). Altought it wasn’t very popular (as pagan men weren’t very happy to see women taking care of their traditional male activities) sometimes it happened – but only in the land of norse and russian people.
Most of the women became wifes. Icelandic family sagas show us clearly that very often a women were choosing husbands for their own. However sometimes father were urging them to get married with particular men. Just remember – the woman could refuse it. Forcing women to marriage was recognized as a big stain on the honor.
A marriage was a happy moment especially for the slavic fathers – because they were getting a big amount of wealth (or money, or land) for mund of his daughter. It is also important – a new husband was buying a mund from his wife’s father, and not a wife as a person! It means that he was becoming a new protector of a woman. And by the way – a woman was also receiving her bride price just for her, as her own property. It wasn’t a small thing – norsemen were able to give for example equivalent of annual profit of local forges. I don’t have to mention that blacksmiths were one of the richest persons in such societies?
The women hadn’t – of course – any political rights, but quite often they had a big influence on their husbands. Norse sagas describe many situations when men (like Sigurd) were taking advice of their wifes, or when woman had quite a big power and prestige in a whole scandinavian world (like Sigrid, a sister of polish prince Mieszko I).
But what happened when woman was abused in her home, she got raped by her husband or her spouse was insolvent? Well, she could ask her relatives to prosecute prepetrator of her misey on a local thing. She couldn’t do it for herself, but a family was supposed to defend her in such situations. If he won a trial, she was free to go under a mund of her father/brother/oldest son. As a widow/divorcee she was receiving a right of re-marriage – from this time she could got married with whoever she wanted to. SHE was a side who was negotiating marriage, and not her munduol.
So to conclude – the position of women in pagan societies was different than most of people think nowadays.  In his work “Germania” Tacitus, a roman historian (56-117) was astonished how much freedom had germanic women (comaring to the situation of roman ones). The rights of pagan women were old, and well preserved through ages. Because pagan men, even if they were dominating in the society, understood very well how important to them were their daughters, wifes and lovers. 
K. Modzelewski – “Barbaric Europe” (“Barbarzyńska Europa”)
Icelandic family sagas (click!)
Germania by Tacitus
Vladyka, written in the year 2013

Pagan society – part II – social layers

King (a ruler)
The position of the ruler (king, jarl, konung, knjaz, vladyka etc.) was very different. It depends of time and concrete tribe(s). There were even societies where there was no ruler (like for example the confederation of slavic Lutici tribes). In the contrast there were also very powerful kings, who ruled vast lands (e.g. russian Kjaz). So I will focus here only on those smaller, local chieftains – as in pagan reality it was more natural to have such rulers than some great kings.
Depends on times, once ruler was more powerful and once common gathering was the mightest power center. The only thing is known for sure  – there was never pure democracy in such societies. The thing was a tool in the hands of an elite (including chieftain). The free people could only accept or reject proposals of nobles. Of course people could influence noblemen to take care of some things, but still the noble ones were those who presented the case on the thing.
In ancient times the king was someone who represented tribe in the outside. That means that he had to be as perfect as possible – because in some way if the king had flaws also society had them. The most rigorous were celtic people. In those societies if the king was hurted in the battle he automatically looses his title. It was a kind of magic, as king was also becoming an half-god after his death. He was worshipped as a hero – a personification of tribe’s might.
OK, but let’s say that you live in a pagan society and you desire to be a king? First of all, you have to be chosen by a thing or in a divination. The latter way is more charachteristic for celtic tribes, were the layer of druids had been very influencial in politics. But both methods had a common goal – to choose somebody who is a give warrior. The main function of rulers was to lead an army to the battles. The rest of the power was supposed to be in the hands of the thing. And that’s why the personal skills of the king were important. If he wanted to be powerful – he had to gain a favor of his army. Because army was constructed from free people – the same free people who were voting on common and local gatherings.
OK, you’re a king now. You have won many battles, and you have a big authority amongs people. What’s our next step? Of course you want to convince people that your son should take a reign after you. Because after a death of one king the new one was always chosen by a thing. But if you change it, your dynasty can gradually gain more and more power. Eventually a thing could become only an representative gathering – without any real power. It was not easy though, because the dynasty had to be not only skilled warriors, but also they were supposed to be in good relationships with the noblemen. It was difficult especially when those both social layers were divided by fighting for their own buisness and rights.


Nobility and free people
To see what a difference was between ordinary free people and the nobility we need to study the roots of those division. At the beginning the elite was built up from people who were brave enough. The people who were a good leaders or tradesmen eventually got big assets, and what’s important a land. Many between peasents (“ordinary” free people) also had a land, or even servants – yet their property or status hadn’t been big enough to count in the society. So as we can see those two layers were very unstable – if you was good enough and had some luck, you could become one of those mighties ones. It may be strange for people who associate only knights with the military, but we must remember that in fact every free man was supposed to fight in defence of his land. Moreover – because noblemen were expected to give much harder effort during a war sometimes it was more profitable to be an “ordinary” freeman! (e.g. in the times of Charlemagne, in purely frankish areas, when the nobility had to serve in wars for many years unlike the rest of the society).
About mentioned luck – pagan people (and people in general, even very long time after a “baptism” of a tribe) believed that if you are wealthy and you are good in the battle – than the gods are on your side. That’s why very often “lower” situated people were agreeing with ideas presented on the things with no objection – because they believed that talented elite, who are supported by gods will make best decision for the whole society.
Nobility, beside their obedience in society, had also another privileges bounded with a law. E.g. they were taking bigger compensation for killed relatives, grievances etc. Usually they were taking two or three times more “money” (or wealther) than a usual person. Later it changed – the christian kings, who wanted to protect their officials or gain a hearing from the nobility where raising these amounts. Also during a trial their vote was two or three times more important than a voice of “regular” men.
With noble blood were bounded also noble duties. The most important was to defend a tribe, but not only. Keeping a peace in society and such things were also important. If a noble men failed, than he was the only person who got punished. Also if he broke a law, he was paying more – because he was expected to be more ideal than other free people. The nobility was expected to be an example and inspiracy for the other tribesmen – and not a tool of tyranny in the hand of the king, like it became often in the christian times.

Here I make it short – a slaves weren’t treated like a human beings according to law. If you read any agreement between two persons about inventory etc. you will see that very often a slave costed less than a cow – because cow is more useful. Even if icelandic family sagas present us that enslaved people weren’t very often treated badly, in fact they had no rights. When you become a slave you loose everything – including your kin. And a man without a kin was nobody – because no one would take his side in a trial, no one would give you a shelter etc. Doing this was highly comdemned by ancient societies. The master of such slave could kill him, rape him/her or make him hurt without any consequences. The only situation when somebody was supposed to pay for a slave’s death was when he killed someone’s enslaved person. It was treated similar to killing a horse or a cow.
In the eyes of people from that times when somebody gave a slave personal freedom – than in some way he was creating him a human again, and becoming some kind of father for him. 
In germanic societies there was also a layer of lits, but I will write about it after an article devoted to women. Also there will be article about the priests – as they were something more special than other free people.
Learn more:
Karol Modzelewski – Barbaric Europe (“Barbarzyńska Europa”)
Icelandic family sagas, (like Laxdoeala) codex of germano-roman rulers (like longobard Liutprand, Charlemagne and others)
Unfortunetely other books you have to find for yourself – as most of the literature about this subject I’ve learnt from mentioned book and some articles on the internet written only in polish. Yet those two sites should be helpful:

Icelandic Saga Database
Intenet Archive

Written by Vladyka in the year 2013.

Pagan society – part I – ancient democracy


First of all a note: by the term “ancient democracy” I understand assemblies that were taking places in Europe beside greek and roman cultures. Here I will focus only on slavic veches and germanic things.

But firstly imagine this situation: you’re living in early middle-age village. A local community has a full independence, and is only combined with other ones with tribal ties. A social stratification is still very low, and a central authority has very limited control under lieges. There are no permament officials that could enforce decisions of central authority. So in what way worked a local law?
This phenomenon can be strange for a modern man, but people were enforcing a law by their own. Where an assembly decided to e.g. banish somebody and burn down his house, the whole community were taking part in it. If anybody hadn’t do that, he could be judged himself on another assembly. That’s how things worked. Of course the only ones who were taking part in assemblies were men.
Somebody can ask why people were so lawful back then, but it’s not a matter of being lawful or not. This is a matter of surviving – if community couldn’t enforce a law, it was divided. If it was divided – it was weak. If it was weak it was quickly dominated by the other community. So people had to cooperate for their own good.
A good example of how much those assemblies were strong can be shown by a concrete situation. There is a year 804, when frankish king Charlemagne eventually crushed the saxon tribes and forced them to convert into christianity (under his reign). One of his firsts orders were enforcing of his jurisdiction. It means that a local communities were supposed to be judged by his officials, and not by local assemblies. After a couple of years he surprisingly discovered that it wasn’t the best decision. His officials weren’t able to enforce royal law in every small community, due to the fact that their military capabilities weren’t sufficient (and they were already very expensive). Charlemagne was forced to abandon this activity. He decided that his officials will represent him only on bigger popular assemblies (where they were effective).


Althought I call this assemblies “ancient democracy” it’s very far from what modern democracy is, or even was in ancient Athenes. There were two kinds of assemblies – local (called in old scandinavian “thing”, and in old slavic “veche”) where different cases of single or few communities were being judged – and popular (“althing”), on which were being judged cases of a whole tribe, or even tribal federation.
Everyone who was a free man and were living in particular community could take a part in thing. Such gatherings were organized in sacred places – in slavic case it was always a sacred grove. A slavic term of such place – “gai” – is derived from an old slavic verb “gaiti” (“to inclose”). So a meeting place was a fenced area. Moreover it was devoted to a concrete god of law – in Scandinavia it was e.g. Thor, in Sclavia propably Perun or Svarog. It wasn’t a sign that all the new resolutions were blessed by gods – it was a sign that everyone taking part in assembly was obligated before gods that he won’t break thing’s decision (or he will be punished by gods and humans for his disloyalty).
The assembly were always beggining by prayers to gods. Later the men who was a law-speaker – a person who was able to recite all the traditional laws – were supposed to do it. After that the thing were able to make new decisions – choose a new chief, declare war to somebody etc.
Unlike in greek democracy where everybody could make a public speech, in slavic and germanic assemblies the only ones who were speaking had been nobles (and later local rulers). They were discussing all the important things before the thing started, and later announcing them to other free people (peasants). Freeman could reject them, or accept by hitting with their spears (or less often other weapons) into their shields as a sign of appreciation. The decision had to be taken unanimously. If anybody was opposing it he was firstly convinced to change his mind. If even after this he didn’t want to appreciate the resolution he was beaten by sticks.
Later anybody who has some compliment could represent his case to thing. The decision was taken again by all of freeman, but it had to be consistent with local law. Both of sides – accused and accusing were supported by their relatives. That’s why a kin was so important back then – without influencial kinsman nobody was able to win a case.
Relatives weren’t saying that somebody is wrong or not – they were just making a guarantee that their akin men is not guilty. If a thing decided that he was, all people related with accused had to pay a part of his chastisement. If somebody were banished from a community their duty was to protect him.
Banishing from a community was the worst punishment for people back then. That meant that outlaw hadn’t any tribe – and so he hadn’t any laws. Anybody could kill him and take or destroy his property without any consequences. The tribe, who normally had to defend such a man, could simply don’t care about him. Without a tribe an outlaw was in eyes of people nobody.
That’s how things and veches worked.

Learn more:
First of all a genius work of polish historian – Karol Modzelewski’s ” Barbarian Europe” (pol. “Barbarzyńska Europa”). It’s a really perfect and complex book about this topic.

You can always read these and other related arts on Wikipedia (which are quite good):

Vladyka 2013

Introduction to paganism – part V – baltic tradition

This article contains only basic information about Balts’ pagan traditions. If you want to learn more – read some of books or visit websites that I recommend you at the end of this text.
Sources and historical background
Today exist only three baltic nations – Lithuanians, Latvians and Samogitians (living in Lithuania). But back in the Middle Ages they were much more numerous – there existed many bigger and lesser tribes, inter alia the nation of Old Prussians, the biggest and the most advanced from all of baltic people. All of those tribes had their own original culture and beliefs, closely related with slavic ones. Unfortunetely, they high skill of warfare was a big problem for christianized slavic and nordic rulers. There were organized many crusades against them, along with even more numerous peaceful missions, but most of them was a complete disaster. The Baltic people stood bravely against christians for many ages, but they were gradually forced to convert into new faith. Here you can read a bit about this topic; it’s a link to blog of Peter of Skyforger:
Since Baltic people were a last christianized Europeans, we have quite many information about their believes. The main source are of course christian chronicles (“history is written by victors”) like e.g. Chronicon Prussiae by Peter Dusburg. Many information is also hidden in the folklore, and auxiliary sciences like comparative mythology and linguistics. 


Main Deities
A baltic pantheon is really big, so here I will present only the most important gods and goddesses:
Dievas, Dievs – he is the supreme god of baltic pantheon, a ruler of the sky and shine, and also a king of all gods. His name means literally “God”. Worshipped as a god-creator, he’s a patron of sowing and a storm. Presenting with seed basket and a lightning in each hand. He’s bounded with beneficial, positive powers of the universe. In myths bounded with a storms he’s almost always relieved from the duties by Perkunas. Unlike other gods-creators, he have never became deus otiosus.
Perkunas, Perkuno – is a baltic god of thunder, lightning and rain. Closely related to slavic Perun, as well as nordic Thor. He is presented with many different weapons, mainly with axe. He is a creator of his weapons, sometimes with a helo of a god-blacksmith Televalis Representing positvive, active forces of the universe, Perkunas is a defender of the humanity. He’s sacred tree is oak.
Velnias, Velinas, Vels, Vielona – the opponent of Perkunas. God of the underworld, death and dead people. In some way he is bounded with destructive magic.
Saule – is a goddess of the sun, a wife of Menu and a lover of Perkunas. He is presented as a women with a ewer, pouring out the light and warm after a long, cold winter. She represents a positive solar force.
Menu, Menulis – a god of the moon, and a husband of Saule. A tale says that his chlidren are stars. 
Zemyna, Zeme Mate – is a Mother-Earth, responsible for the fertility and life of all beings. She is said to be a wife of Dievas (or sometimes Perkunas), with whom on spring solstice she inosculate again, and thanks to that gives another life to the earth (after a winter).
Laima – “a fate”, or “a luck”. She is the goddess of the human’s destiny, appearing in most important moments of life. A patron of births and childhood. Sometimes she is also presented as a goddess of love (instead of nowadays goddess of love Milda).
Gabija, Gabia, Gabeta – “a candle”, or “a light”. She’s a patron of the fire, linked with a sacred fire Aukuras. She’s also a patron of household and a family.
Regular Festivals
Prusiauzemis – celebrated in January, is a festival of change of cosmos in winter. 
On Ferburary there are celebrated several days: a day of Gabija, a day of Perkunas and the most important Uzgavenes. On this day is burnt down an effigy symbolising a bad, winter spirits.
Spring equinox – xelebrated on march.
Jore – a day of spring, devoted to Perkunas. On this day a thunder god awakes all nature to live.
The day of Milda – a day of lovers.
Rasos – a celebration of summer solstice in June.
Zoline – celebrated in August, is a festival of grass, cereal and a Mother-Earth Zemyna.
The day of Perkunas – celebrated on September, together with autumn equinox.
The day of all souls – festival lf the dead, celebrated in November.
Kucios, Kaledos and the day of Praamzius – the festivals bounded with winter and winter solstice.
Learn more:
M. Gambitas – “Balts. Ancient people and places”
V.R. Dzundzilla – “Balitc Lithuanian Religion and Romuva”
H. Biezais – “Baltic Religion”
For polish-speaking people:
J. Suchocki – “Mitologia Bałtyjska”
A. Zubiński – “Mitologia Bałtyjska”
J. Kierszka “Mity i Legendy Prusów”
O. Miłosz – “Legendy i podania litewskie”
Vladyka 2013

Introduction to paganism – part IV – celtic tradition


This article contains only basic information about celtic pagan traditions. If you want to learn more – read some books, or visit websites that I recommend you at the end of this text.

This topic is really long and hard to present. So if you have good knowledge about it, and you will see some mistakes – simply write to me.


Sources and historical background

The ancient Celts settled vast lands from Ireland and Britain on the north, to northern Italy, Spain and Balcans on the south. They were living in what is now called France on the west, and in part of Czech Republic on the east, and even in Minor Asia (being known there as “Galats”). They were great warriors and craftsman. But that was in VII-III B.C. In following years, they were slowly conquered by Romans, Germanic and Daco-Thracian tribes. The only free celtic lands were still lying in modern Scotland (settled by Picts), Wales and Ireland.

Celtic pagans haven’t written themselves about their beliefs. The tradition existed in word of mouth, being guarded and cultivated by druids – a rank of priests, medicals, historians, astronomers, philosophers and scientists. I will write about them in other article.

Our main sources are texts of celtic neighbors – Romans and Greeks. The second part of texts are manuscripts of Christian monks, who were recording old celtic tales. They were using a names of celtic deities and heroes, and were writing about old festivals, but in Christian vain.

Also our sources are archeology (especially useful for Gallia’s territory), linguistic, folklore and comparative mythology.

First of difficulties is that under roman occupation invaders tried to Romanize specific gods and goddesses. Also, when they were writing about celtic pantheon they were using Roman names (as an equivalent). Very often ancient classics weren’t writing about gods, that were popular on many monuments and in inscriptions.

In different part of Gallia, in Ireland and Britain names of deities were generally different. Also many deities don’t have their equivalent in other regions. Because of that, I will write only about most popular gods and goddesses. I will not write about fomoraig generation of Ireland – that is a topic for other text.


Main deities

First name is always gaulish:

Teutates (bryt. Totatis, Tutatis) – is a central character in celtic pantheon. His name means all people. He’s a patron and a guardian of a tribe. He is also a god of war. Romans were comparing him to Mercury and Mars.

Lugus (irl. Lugh, bryt. Llud Llaw Ereint or Llew, Lleu) – is a god-king, and his name means flashing light. Was worshipped in every region of celtic world. He is associated with sun and warm light.

A Lugnasad festival is especially bounded with this god.

His attribute is spear.


Taranis (bryt. Taran) – or Sucellos, a god of thunder and sky, worshipped in Gallia, Britain and Ireland. His attributes are hammer, an oak and a wheel, and his name means basically Thunder or Lord of Thunder.He is similar to other thunder gods of Europe – germanic Donar/Thor, roman Jupiter, greek Zeus, slavic Perun and Baltic Perkunas.


Belenos (bryt. Beli) –  a solar god, by Romans identified with Apollo. He is bounded with healing forces and life-giving power of sun.

Bounded with Beltaine and Lugnasad festivals.


Goibniu (irl. Goibniu, bryt. Govannon) – is a god-blacksmith, patron of crafts and work.


Ogmios (irl. Ogma) – is a god of eloquence and science. He was identified with Hercules, but his strength is a power of speech, not a muscle.

He is also bounded with underworld.

Cernunnos – a god with a horns of a deer, bounded with wild nature and magic.


Mothers – three goddesses, patron of wealth, fertility and maternity. Their attributes are basket of apples, baby and/or horn of plenty.


Epona – a goddess with features of mothers. She is also a goddess of death, fallen in battle and underworld.

Their attributes, beside Mothers’ ones, is also a horse.

She was known in ancient world under many names (e.g. Rosmerta).

She is quite similar to irish goddess Danu and british Riannon.


Brigantia (bryt. Brigantia, irl. Brigid) – is a goddess of poetry, healing, smith’s work. She is patron of higher dimension – as high hills, so as also high intelligence, perfection etc. By Romans she was described as Minerva.


Bodua/Catabodua (irl. Badb, also known as Morrigan) – goddess of war. She is taking fallen warriors souls to the Underworld. Her attribute is a crow.

The Irish goddess Morrigan is sometimes a name for a trio of other goddess (bounded with war) – Badb, Macha and Nemain).


Regular Festivals

31st October / 1st November – Samhain – the first day of celtic calendar. It is starting “darker” part of a year, ending a time of harvest and being a festival of spirits, forefathers and unborn children.

1st February – Imbolc – bounded mainly with goddess Brigid, it is a holyday of purification by fire and water.

30th April / 1st May – Beltaine – a holyday starting a part of “light”year. Devoted mainly to the god Belenos, and bounded with fire.

1st August – Lugnasad – a day of devoted mainly to god Lugh, and also Belenos. Bounded with a beginning of harvest, it is also a day of love and happiness.


Learn more:

Also, worth to check:


J. de Vries – Celtic Religion
p. MacCana – Celtic Mythology
Th. F. O’Rahilly – Early Irish History and Mythology
M.L. Sjeostedt – Gods and Heroes of the Celts
J. Wood – The Celts: Life, Myth and Art
And lots of more – english literature about Celts is huge.
Also try to read source text and legends – e.g. Mabinogion or De Bello Gallico by Ceaser.

Books for polish-speaking people:
J. Gąssowski – Mitologia Celtów
A. Bartnik – Zarys Wierzeń Plemion Celtyckich
Celtowie (z serii Mitologie Świata)
+ tłumaczenia zagranicznych książek (a sporo ich jest).

Vladyka 2013

Introduction to paganism – part III – germanic tradition

This text contains only basic information about germanic native traditions. If you want to learn more – read some books, or go to links that I recommend you at the end of this article.
Sources and historical background
Christianization of germanic tribes was a very long proces. First baptized gemans are those who were living near Roman Empire, circa about IV A.D. The last christianized were swedish tribes (XII A.D.). Very often christian germanic kings were trying to send missions to other pagan germans, to take new worshippers of Christ under their reign.
The problem with germanic paganism is that we don’t have many written texts about continental germanic tribes. Even if we have, these are things like Volsunga Saga, not saying much about Gods worshipped in the pagan era. We can get information from people who neighboured with germanic tribes (Germania by Tacitus) Our main sources are also scandinavian (nordic) sagas and Eddas – Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. Also we can learn much from archeology, linguistic, comparative mythology and folklore.
Remember also that what you find in Eddas and sagas are very often just a literature, written for fun of nobleman and other people.
In this article I will focus on scandinavian beliefs, which you can find in modern Asatru’s beliefs.
Main Deities
Gods and Godess are divided into two kins, Aesirs and Vanirs. In the beggining there was a conflict between those kins, but it ended peacefully.
Gods of germanic people are not immortal and not perfect – they have to eat apples of Idunn to stay young. Aesirs and Frey will also die in Ragnarok – a Dawn of Gods. From the ashes of old world will arise another, better, ruled by offspring of fallen gods.
Odin (germ. Wotan, eng. Woden) – he is a main God of the whole germanic pantheon (although at the beginning the main God was Tyr), being a patron of warfare, wisdom, poetry and magic. In the past he was favourite God of nobleman and chiefs (kings). He created the world, together with His brothers Vili and Ve. He hung him up on the tree of the World, Ygddrasil, to get knowledge about secrets of the world. Hero of many myths, Odin represents a perfect, noble man. He will die during the Ragnarok, defeated by a great wolf Fenrir.
His is the ruler of Asgaard, the world of Aesirs.
His atributes are:
  • Two ravens, Hugin and Mugin, who brings him news from all the worlds.
  • Wolfes Geri and Freki.
  • Gungnir, his spear
  • a horse Sleipnir
  • Hlidskjalf, jis throne.
Thor (germ. Donar, eng. Thunor) – a son of Odin, god of thunder, storm, vitality, harvest and simple warriors, very similar to slavic god Perun and celtic Taranis. Thor’s the strongest of all Aesirs, and is known for being a protector of Asgaard (the home of gods). Due to this fact, many people wear an amulet (Thor’s hammer) to protect them from evil. Thor’s hammer is also the most popular symbol of Asatru.
He is a hero of many myths, in which he mostly gives a proof of his strenght and honor. He is also much more “human” god than his father. Thor will die during the Ragnarok, after the killing of the Serpent of the World – Jormugand.
He’s atributes are:
  • Thunder hammer Mjollnir
  • a charriot with two goats
  • a belt of strenght Megingiard
  • iron gloves of power
Tyr (germ. Tiu / Ziu, eng. Tiw) – at the begginig he was a god of sky, main deity of the pantheon of germanic tribes. But later his atributes were “stolen” by Odin. So Tyr is know mainly as a god of war, justice and oath. He lost his hand, which was warmed by the great wolf Fenrir. Known of his great courage, he will die during the Ragnarok in the fight with the dog called Garm.
His atributes are:
  • Tiwaz rune
  • only one hand (left)
  • often presented with a sword.
Baldr (germ. ?, eng. Bældæg) – a son of Odin, killed by his brother Hod after a trick of Loki. Known as a most beautiful and good of all gods. He is now in the kingdom of goddess Hel, but he will return after a Ragnarok, to rule new, better world.
He is a god of shinig and goodness, the most perfect creature of all beings.
Heimdallr – is a god of righteousness and light, defender of the rainbow bridge leading to Asgaard – Bifrost. He will play on his horn, Gjallarhorn, when the Ragnarok starts. And he will die in the duel with Loki.
Loki – is a giant of fire, adopted to Aesir’s kin by Odin. An Allfather is also his bloodbound brother.
Known as a very chaotic god of cheat. He can take a form of any kind he’d like, and also change his sex. He is a hero of many myths, in which he once help Aesirs, and once do everything against them.
He tricked Hod to kill the most beloved of all gods – Baldr. As a punishment he was chainted onto a rock, whan a giant serpent spits on him a poison from time to time. His wife, Sigyn, holds a boal under Loki, so her husband didn’t get injured by it.
He will break his change in a day of Ragnarok, and lead an army of giants and beasts against gods.
Bragi – a skaldic god, patron of poetry and singing (without magical approach).
Frigg (germ. Frijo, eng. Frige) – she’s a wife of the highest god Odin, a patron of marriage, home, family, married women and births.
Very often she is identify with a Vanir Freya. It might be that in the beginning they were a one godess.
Idunn – a wife of Bragi, a keeper of apples giving gods their eternal youthfulness.
Ostara (eng. Ēostre)a goddes of spring, light, life fertility and a first sunrise (on the spring).
Njordr – is a god of seas and oceans, helpful to people. He lives in Asgaard, but after the Ragnarok he will return to his home-world (Vanaheim).
A father of Freyr and Freya.
Freyr – a god of fertility, vegetation, land, prosperity, and peace. He is one of the most important germanic gods, together with Odin and Thor. Even he’s a Vanir, his fate is bounded with Aesirs and he will die during the Ragnarok.
His atributes:
  • a boar Gullinbursti
  • flying ship Skidbladnir
  • a ring Draupnir, given him after a Baldr’s death
  • deer’s horn.
Freya – a sister of Freyr, sometimes identified with Frigg. She is a goddess of fertility, love,sex and female magic – seidhr. Mostly worshipped by a women, she’s most important goddess, together with Odin’s wife. She is also the most beautiful of all women.
Her atributes are:
  • golden necklace Brisingamen
  • a robe, made from hawks’ feathers
Other gods
Hel – she is a daughter of Loki. Odin has given her a kingdom of the dead – Helheim. It is a place where souls of those who has not fallen in battle will exist, until the day of Ragnarok.
Other creatures
Disir – a spirits bounded with a human kin, being defenders of specific family. They are identify as a forefathers, bounded with a goddess Freya. They help humans in everyday life.

Fylgia – a personal helping spirit of each man, often presented as a women or an animal. Similar to slavic Dola or christian guardian angel.
Valkyries – a women-spirit, servant of Odin. They are collecting a souls of fallen in battle, and guide them to Vallhala – a home of the Highest. They are sometimes associated with Fylgias.
Alfs (Elves) – they are living in a world of Alfheim, ruled by Freyr. They are a spirits of wild nature, sometims associated with a dead persons.
There are also Dark Alfs, living in the world of underground, called Dwarves.
Giants (Thurs’) – a creatures fighting with a gods, incarnation of chaos and wild forces of the universe.
Worlds of Ygdrassil
Ygdrassil, A tree of The World, is a place where lies all of the know worlds:
Asgaard – a world of Aesirs.
Alfheim – world of alfs, ruled by Freyr.
Muspelheim – southern world of fire, a home of fire giants.
Vanaheim – home of Vanirs.
Midgard – a wolrd of living humans.
Jotunheim – a world of mountain giants.
Nilfheim – a frosty home of ice giants.
Svartalfheimunderground world of dark alfs (dwarves).
Hel – underground world of dead.
Main festivals
1st week of Ferbuary – Disablot a festival dedicated to Freyr, Freya and disirs.
20th / 21st of March – Ostara – a festival of spring and fertility, rebirthing of the world.
30th of April – Walpurgia’s night – festival of goddesses bounded with magic and death (Frigg, Freya, Hel).
1st of May – day of Freyr and Freya, festival of fertility.
21st of June – Midsummer – a festival of summer. In this time ritual of Sunna’s (Sun) blot must be performed.
1st of August – Lammas – a festival of harvest, bounded with Freyr and Freya,
1st of September – Day of Odin – a blot being perform to hail Odin
21st of September – Autumn Equinox – a festival ending a harvest, bounded with Freyr and Freya, but also with all gods being associated with fertility and vegetation.
12th of October – Alfarblotfestival of fylgias, disirs and alfs.
20th / 21st of December – Yule – festival of passing winter. Blot is being performed mainly for Freyr, Freya and Thor.
Learn more:
And books:
John Lindow – Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs.
Gabriel Turville-Petre – Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia.
Kevin Crossley-HollandThe Norse Myths
H.R. Ellis Davidson –Gods and Myths of Northern Europe
And of course every source-text that you will find – Germania, Sagas and Eddas.
For polish-speaking people:
G. Dumezil – Bogowie germanów. Szkice o kształtowaniu się religii skandynawskiej (it can be difficult if you know nothing about a topic).
J. Ros – Heroje Północy (best translation of main scandinavian myths)
L.P. Słupecki – Mitologia Skandynawska w epoce Wikingów
L. Auerbach – Wikingowie i Germanie. Sagi ludów północy
Vladyka, June 2013

Introduction to paganism – part II – slavic tradition

This text contains only basic information about slavic native traditions. If you want to learn more – read some books, or go to links that I recommend you (look at the end of this article).

Historical Background
First of all, it must be written that slavic religion is not so well known as e.g. german (id est scandinavian) or celtic. It’s because of poor sources. There is no written texts like scandinavians sagas or celtic legends and poems – slavic christian elites had no interest in survival of their native traditions. They were going to erase it from history’s charts instead. I suppose it is bounded with resistance, which gave lower classes. In many slavonic countries (e.g. Poland in 1034, Czech Kingdom in the beggining of Xth century) there occured something called “the pagan reaction”. It was a revolt of lower, still pagan classes, against the oppresion of Church and nobleman. During this events, the paganism was again main religion for a short period of time. It must be obvious than victorious christian people wanted to erase momories about paganism – because it was a root of resistance against tyranny and feudalism (which was half-slavery system in reality).
Our sources than are: archeology, folklore, some fragments from foreigner’s texts, linguistics and of course comparitive mythology. By it, we can rebuilt slavic’s ancient traditions.

Main Gods
Perun – He was also called with other names, dependly of region, and was widely worshipped in whole slavonic land. For many, he is the most important god of the pantheon.
He is describing as a bearded, strong men with an axe or hammer in his hand.
His name means “he, who strikes”. As the god of sky and storm he represents an element of order. He is an active deity, in legends fighting with chaotic forces (e.g. he fights with a Dragon (Żmij), who represent a chaos in the universe). He is also responsible for the creation of the universe, along with Veles.
He is an incarnation of courage, honor and striving for perfection. He was worshipped especially by warriors.
He is similar with other thunder gods, like Thor and Taranis.
He’s holy tree is oak.
He’s holyday is 20 of July.
Veles – a chtonic, god of underworld (Navia), wealth, magic, poetry and knowledge.  A deity that represents a chaotic side of the universe. He’s the secend most important god in slavic pantheon, right behind Perun. He is his antagonist, (e.g. myth about creation of the universe). Together with Perun, he created a man.
Animals bounded with Veles are viper, bull and black horse.
He is similar to Hades and Pluto.
Svarog – a solar god, patron of celestial fire and of blacksmithing. He represents a more distant forces of light (deus otiosus), and by many he is called a demiurg. He is suppossed to be the main god of the pantheon, a king of all gods, not so interested in Earth’s affairs though.
Similar to Hephaestus.
Dažbog – a son of Svarog, god of fire and a cultural hero. He represents a home’s fireplace, and he gives people wealth and luck in life.
Similar to: Sol, Vesta and Hercules.
Mokosh – Mother Earth, goddes of fertility, abundance and love. Patron of women. One of the most important deities in slavic pantheon.
Similar to: Demeter, Aphrodite.
Rod –  He is a patron of all human gatherings e.g. families, kins, nations etc. He also assigns everyone’s fate with help of his three servants, Rožanicas. He is a distant god, but Rožanicas were often an object of worship, due to their power of changing people’s destiny.
Yarilo/Yarovit – a young, active god of spring, light and youth. He is incarnation of goodness, fertility and hapiness, especially worshipped at the first days of spring. He dies in the time of winter, and reborn on spring.
Described as a young, blond men dressing white drob. He rides a horse, and holds an ear of grain in his hand.
He’s main holyday is 20th of april.
Similar to: Baldur, Apollo.
Marena/Marzanna – a goddes of death and winter, connected with underworld (Navia). Her effigy is burned on the first day of spring.
Hors – a god of moon.

Other beings
Dola – personification of fate, similar to disir in scandinavian mythology or christian guardian angel. They protect people form all the evil.
Dziady (Forefathers)  – a spirit of forebears, which can help in everyday life.

Regular festivals
21st of March – Jare Gody* – a festival of spring’s equinox.
20th of April – Yarilo’s Holyday.
21st of June – Kupala’s Night – a festival of summer’s solstice.
20th of July – Perun’s Holyday.
23rd of September – Festival of yields – a festival of autamn’s equinox.
1st of November – Dziady – festival of forefathers.
21st of December – Szczodre Gody – festival of winter’s solstice.
*I’m using Polish names if there is no English one.

Learn more:

Marija Gimbutas The Slavs
P.M. Barford – The Early Slavs: Culture & Society in Early Medieval Eastern Europe
J. Mahal – Slavic Mythology
A. Szyjewski – Slavic Religion
B. Ribakov – Ancient Slavic Paganism

Books for polish-speaking people:
A. Gieysztor – Mitologia Słowian
A. Szyjewski – Religia Słowian
S. Urbańczyk – Dawni Słowianie – wiara i kult
H. Łowmiański – Religia Słowian i Jej Upadek (very critical work, but you can find here some useful infos)

Vladyka, May 2013

Introduction to paganism – part I

Original post: here.

I’m planning to put on this site things bounded with paganism. Yet, I believe that not every person who will be visiting Heathen Altar might have knowledge about our ancestor’s culture. That’s why “Introduction to paganism” starts to appear – to show those persons our european legacy, our prechristian believes, values, mythology and rituals. You will get basic information about that kind of stuff. I am going to present germanic, celtic, slavic and baltic traditions as the good beggining. There will also appear traditions of Greece and Rome (even they are quite well known), and also of people who have dissapeared in the darkness of the past.
As the first, you can expect slavic tradition. It will appear tommorow on this site, together with the first album’s review.