Pray to the Moon when She is round,
Luck with you will then abound,
What you seek for shall be found
On the sea or solid ground.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Thoughts While Nursing: With Apologies to Freya

"Measure your oath carefully before you make it, or don't make it at all."
~ Steven Thor Abell, Letters from Midgard

It's pretty natural as we get older to look back on the follies & foibles of our youth with feelings ranging from embarrassed amusement to poignant regret. Maybe it is because this Samhain I will be turning forty, or perhaps it is because I have been missing some old friends, (more likely it is  a little of both), that I have been doing a great deal of looking back lately. When it comes to the regretful end of the spectrum, I try to avoid keeping memories there. Regret is such a wasteful emotion. However, there still linger a few moments when I exhibited truly poor form, egregiously wronged someone or failed to follow through on a promise. These I cannot help but regret.

This past week's reading material put a magnifying glass to one of my more regrettable blunders, giving me the sense that the authors(?) were addressing me directly. I started reading Jason Miller's Protection and Reversal Magick (for reasons entirely unrelated to this post) and found a section that was uncomfortably familiar and not really what I expected to come upon in that particular book. Discussing broken vows he recalls, "I vowed to do several things… In my youthful exuberance I made these promises in the presence of gods and spirits, and then promptly broke them." He continues from there, but what was most important about that section of the book was that it was a reminder for me, a very specific reminder. Then, yesterday I was reading Steven Thor Abell's blog, Letters from Midgard. In his post "Minding Your Manners," he writes:
"Oaths are taken seriously by Ásatruar. Before you swear to do something, first be sure it is an honorable thing to do, then be sure it is something you can do, and furthermore something you will do. That doesn't mean it has to be easy. In fact, if you go to the trouble to make an oath, it's better that it not be easy, as many of us will tell you that insignificant oaths are made by insignificant people."

Ok. I got the message.

Back in 1992 or 1993 I attended a blót
during which I made an oath I did not keep. In my "youthful exuberance" & utter foolishness, I made a vow to Freya that I would gift her with a necklace; a necklace lovingly & painstakingly created by collecting & stringing apple seeds. I vowed that when I completed it, I would ceremoniously take it into the forest & hang it upon a tree in her honor. This unfulfilled promise still haunts me. I recollect it with a creeping dread. For years I toted around a baby food jar filled with seeds, only to throw it away after it had sealed closed from age, rendering the seeds inaccessible. I started collecting seeds anew several more times, only to give up on the project again & again. Then, I found a vintage appleseed necklace at a charity thrift store. Ah ha! My appleseed necklace troubles are over! Oh, wait, that wasn't the vow…

Why was this so stinking hard? Why the Helen didn't I just make the necklace? I genuinely do not know, but I think there should be a moratorium on vows made by flaky college students -- to protect them from themselves & moldy, 20-year-old regrets.

Repercussions? Sure. Sometimes I am asked why I never followed the path of the Ásatruar (despite my obvious fondness for their faith, culture & folk). My pat answer has always been that despite my strong sympathies, the Norse gods do not speak to me. Well duh. Why I never made this connection before is beyond me.

So, what to do now? Jason Miller solved his situation by renouncing his former vow & creating a "rite of apology & offering." Now, I don't know Freya all that well & although his solution sounds reasonable, my instincts tell me that this won't be a satisfactory set of reparations. I think she still wants the necklace. I think she will still want it when I am sixty, because without foresight or self awareness, my procrastinatory collegiate self made a vow without a deadline. That means it still remains in effect today, right now, as I am turning the corner on my fortieth birthday. Besides, it is dishonorable to renounce a vow that you are entirely capable of fulfilling. No, I must carry out my promise... with apologies.

I have every intention of correcting this mistake. However, outside of making sure I honor my promise, I am not sure how to proceed. What makes a proper & suitable apology? What doesn't? I am out of my element here, never having (knowingly, al least) offended any god, spirit or other entity. In fact, I am not sure I have offended the goddess in question, but it seems safest to assume that I may have. Regardless, I have no experience with this sort of thing; I am out of my element -- I am asking for advice. If you can offer counsel or guidance, or even ideas, please do. Perhaps you are close with Freya, or Norse Heathen/Ásatru or maybe you have made a similar mistake. How would you make your reparations? I await comments or messages with warm & grateful welcome. 

Today, I begin anew with a babyfood jar on the altar, making public my intent... six seeds so far.



Carol said...

I don't know if this would be helpful counsel, but I will give you my two-cents :)
You could research Freya, delve into her myths and symbols, and offer her something personal that reflects what you have learned.
Meditation is always good....either to speak with Her and offer your apologies or to find out what she requests.
I think an 'apology ritual' would be a good idea.
Since you originally made the promise during a blot...maybe have another blot, offering something to her.
I know its not much, and hopefully this sparks some ideas. It is how I would go about establishing reparations and/or figuring out what to do.

Moma Fauna said...

Response sent via email from a friend:

I am sorry I am only now getting back to you. This was an email I
thought should be answered with care and I kept thinking I would have
the time to sit and give your question the thought it deserves instead
of just answering right away-now two weeks have gone by, the Autumn
ritual is upon us, and I have no good excuse for not answering before
I must confess I am still something of a baby heathen/pagan (I think
the difference is redundant) and I have to say the past summer has
taken my path more towards panthiesm rather than strict polythiesm
after discovering a pagan historian specializing in old norse religion
named Maria Kvilhaug. Her lectures have revealed a great deal more
depth in the Eddas than I ever would have found on her own. However,
her ideas about Freya, translating the names of the gods and heros in
the stories to reveal hidden meaning as parables, and of course her
belief that the old norse and germans were panthiests are not
consistent with what I have read in contemporary Asatru thought. I do
feel strongly drawn to the Norse/Germanic pantheon, but not to them
exclusevly. This opens up a host of new problems and questions that I
am still attempting to reconsile, which I will not go into here.
Here is a link to one of her lectures. She has quite a few lectures
posted and the quality is quite high. These have helped me to better
understand Freya and the German Gods and Goddesses-you might find them
helpful and you might not. To me she provides some background and
context that do make them more approachable.

On the necklace I would just encourage you to fulfil your vow. That it
troubles you and that you feel that it must be done seems to me a sign
that it must be done. In your blog you mentioned you have started
another seed jar and I would think that because you are progressing
toward the fulfillment of your promise, this might put you back in her
good graces. You didn't say when you would do this, only that you
would. My opinion would be as long as you are in the process of doing
this you keep your honor and favor with her.
I would be happy to talk more about this or other matters of
religeon/spirituality-I must get back to work now as my lunch break is
over. I hope you and your family are well and I will see you at the

Moma Fauna said...

Sent via Facebook from a very dear Asatru friend:

Hey, finally getting back to you. If you didn't catch it, we were in the middle of buying a house and it fell through...and then N. went on a napping strike and that ate any free time longer than a few minutes and generally not a good environment for thoughtful response.

It is my feeling that while broken promises aren't ideal, the "might" involved fades over time. Maybe it's always there, but other things crowd it out and put it to the back burner and it becomes less strong, especially if other things become more important. Does that make sense? I like the idea of statue of limitations for youthful oaths.

I LOVED your article on slime molds BTW and found it very inspiring. I am doing much more of letting places speak to me and "listening" to them, certain woods around here are just so special, there's so much spirit to them that you can practically feel your hair stand on end as you walk through them.

Also, your way back question about the plate your husband found. Could they be Sirens? It has a sort of Greco-Roman look about it, if I remember correctly.

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