Hello folks – I’m sorry I’m so late posting today, and I promise, I will get back on track for this project and write about humanity later this week – sadly the last two weeks of I’ve been rather ill. I’d been feeling sad the end of January, than physically wonky, and then had a flare up of a chronic health condition I get that kicked my ass. I’m thankful I have a job that lets me take the time off with pay! Anyway, on to Earth!
As a Heathen, and Northern Tradition Pagan, the earth is actually manifested for us in a variety of ways.
Unlike some of the other pagan religions, Heathenry is not a tradition that is generally ‘earth-centric’. With the exception of a few sects, the wheel of the year is not celebrated, nor is the holiday calendar cyclical, but rather the focus is more towards honoring the Gods rather than on seasonal festivals/turning the wheel. (The exceptions would be traditions such as Norse Wicca, Vanatru (which is focused on the Vanir, who are agricultural Gods) and Northern Tradition Paganism) Though personal practice may vary. As a Northern Tradition Pagan, my Kindred and I come together to honor our Gods on or near the 8 Wheel Holidays, but not quite the way a Wiccan Coven (or even a Norse Wiccan coven!) would do so.)
This does not mean, however, that we have no love for the Earth! Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, my religion and spiritually have definitely change, improved and deepened my relationship with the earth around me!
I understand that everything in Midgard has a spirit of its own, has sentience, and has a will, and nothing here exists in a vacuum. This world is delicate ecosystem, an interdependent web. You pluck one thread here, two vibrate over there, and another thread breaks. You know the deal – a butterfly flaps its wings in China, and now its raining in New York.
This is why it is important to get to know the spirits in the world around us – the better we know them, the better we know how to work with them, rather than simply use and consume them. It allows us to be in right relationship with them, to be respectful, and shows us how to maintain balance. Asking a tree permission and giving it a gift when you cut a branch from it; taking what you need rather than clear cutting, and making it an equitable exchange as best you can. Gebo is everything.
In my day-to-day life, this means I’m more likely to take a picture than pick a flower, and either way, I usually tell the flower itself how beautiful it is. I talk to my car. I don’t kick rocks. I pick up litter.
As well as the animistic spirits in the world, in my practice I recognize and honor a variety of Spirits (Wights) that live in and around me as part of this world as well. My house has its own spirit He’s got a nice little pot of coins that he really likes, a funny little toy, a candle and he gets honey and I do my best to keep things nice in here. He really did not like people when I first moved in, as some of the tenants in the house in the apartment below us weren’t so nice to it, and the guy who lived in my place was disgusting. Once he realized my house mate and I were going to be awesome to him, he warmed up to us. I rarely lose things now, unless I’ve been lax in offerings, and I’ve seen the wight be a dick to the fellow downstairs who he dislikes.
The land I live on in Philadelphia has a spirit – several, actually. I get the idea there is an over arching ‘Philadelphia’ spirit, but there are also smaller local spirits. West Philly definitely has its own (It lives in Clark Park.).
Some natural features will have their own spirits – be they called wights or etins or just spirits. Mountains, rivers.
The Earth itself has a spirit, personified as the Jotun woman, Jord; (also known as Hlóðyn, Fjörgyn and Fjörgynn). She is related to many other natural spirits, and was a lover of Odin. To him, She bore His son Thor, who is probably the most well-known, and to this day most widely worshiped of all the Norse gods. (Tacitus identified Thor with Hercules, and writes of His widespread worship among the Germanic people back in the Roman period!)
While Jord is the very personification of the earth herself, and literally a mother (of Thor!), there is another Goddess in the Northern Tradition who is also identified as an Earth Mother.
Nerthus, called ‘Terra Mater’ by Tacitus in his accounts of her worship, is a mysterious, Vanic Goddess associated with Njord linguistically. Much like accounts of Frey’s worship, a statue of Nerthus would be carried around the countryside in a wagon as part of a procession with Her priests, to visit and bless the people. No one was permitted to see Her statue’s face except Her priests – after the procession, the slaves who helped bath Her in a sacred spring were then drowned in said spring.
Nerthus is identified with Njord, as her name is linguistically connected to his as the feminine form. Some scholars have theorized they were perhaps once a hermaphroditic deity, but those who honor Nerthus generally identify her as a sister-wife to Njord, in a dynamic not unlike that of Freya and Frey.
Clearly, the earth is a complex ecosystem, with a nearly unimaginable web of spirits!
Often you hear people talk about ‘right relationship’ in regards to different aspects of polytheism (and paganism). It’s a broad idea, and unique to each area of focus. But I’d like to at least try to put my idea of right relationship with the earth into words:
Right relationship with the earth is first recognizing the other spirits which we share this space with. Once we recognize these spirits exist and have, to some extent, their own sentience, right relationship is respecting the power of these spirits and learning to treat them with respect. Right relationship is the offering given when you cut a branch; it is using respectfully, and with awareness of the sacrifice of the spirit. Its taking what you need, and not more, and not wasting what you do take. It’s the reciprocal relationship, a give and take, and ultimately, our bodies return back to the earth itself, thus engaging us anyway.