Blog Image

Angerboda - English

What is this blog about?

I usually blog in Swedish and the topic are Norse mythology and spirituality, mainly from a Stav perspective. But since there is not that much information available in English that covers deeper layers of Stav; I decided to write a few articles in English.

My English blog is mainly driven by demand; if you want more posts, please ask me questions.

Stavs health practices

Stav Posted on Sun, February 21, 2016 22:27:36

Recently I have had several request from my English speaking readers to write about the healing aspects of stav. I found that to be a very interesting challenge, it is hard to describe things in text; that as much as the martial arts needs to be shown and taught hands on. I decided to use the healing aspects of stav as a way to show the wonderful and coherent structure of stav. Stav has a very strong core, which I will describe in relation to the specific aspects of the healing techniques within the system. I will also mention a little about the philosophy within stav.

This is a massive text, but I am sure you will find it worthwhile; no matter if you have a specific interest in stav, or a more general interest of Norse mythology.

There are mainly six healing practices within stav; mått, ljosgalder, lokksejd, megin, myrkgalder and teinsejd. These aspects of stav has as far as I know never been described as thoroughly in a publicly available text before. This text is more or less source material to a Norse tradition. Personally I have mixed feelings about publishing this text, perhaps I give away too much?

To be able to help the reader to gain an understanding of this text I need to shortly describe the fundamentals of stav.

There are five classes within stav; tral, karl, herse, jarl and konge. In English they would be translated something along the lines of; the serf, the freemen, the warrior, the earl and the king. These classes are not seen as socio-economical, rather as different personalities that has different perspectives and ways to function in society. I will not go into details, but the tral is someone that is unsorted. The karl is a person who is able to support himself and supply for his family, a working man or a self-employed person. The herse is the type of person that would be suitable to be a policeman, military or working in the judicial system. The jarl is the philosopher, priest, or the healer- someone who is dependent on their mind. Easy described the karl is the hands and legs, the herse is the heart and the jarl is the head. We need a good balance between these classes to enable society to function at its best.

The tral and the king is somewhat extremes, the three main classes are dependent of each other while the king and the tral kind of operates independently. The difference is that the tral is dominated by society and is under its power- while the king is in control of his destiny. These two personalities are in one way the opposite sides of the same coin, and they can flip into each other occasionally.

These classes also correspond with the five elements of stav; fire, ice, air, earth and water. These elements are very important both when we work with understanding mythology or working with the esoteric perspective. It is essential to understand the classes and the elements to be able to understand the philosophy around the healing aspects of stav.

Stav is systematized around the 16 runes of the so called Scandinavian futhark, the letters used in pre Christian Scandinavia. Within stav the runes are more than just a method of writing text; all the runes are associated with the Norse deities, herbs, trees, classes, elements and much more. In practicality this means that no matter if it is about martial arts or healing; the runes will serve as memory aid to supply us with the knowledge needed.

One way to structure knowledge or information is to create a bind rune, all the bind runes within the stav tradition is created around the Hagl rune; the rune associated with the god Heimdall, who is an essential deity within in the stav tradition. Heimdall is seen as the deity of logic and education and intelligence, and he obviously represents the jarl class.

There are four traditional bind runes preserved within the stav tradition; one for each class except the tral. The bind rune associated with the jarl class is sometimes referred to as the healing bind rune, since healing is one of the aspects of the jarl personality.

Stav bind runes will have six runes, or in essence deities, constructed around the Hagl rune that carries the structure, all together there are seven runes in these bind runes if we count the carrying rune. Seven is a very important number within the stav lore- as important as number nine within mainstream Norse mythology.

I will describe the healing bind rune by explaining it clockwise, starting at the top.

The first rune is the rune called Thor, it is the rune associated with the deity by the same name. Within stav Thor is associated with the herse or warrior class. This is a very physical type of personality and they rely on their strength. The healing practices related to Thor is called “mått” which would be pronounced something like “mott” in English. Mått refer to the physical structure of the body, our joints and ligaments, bones and muscles. If you are familiar with the Norse myths, you will notice that the stories about Thor in most cases revolve around his physical capabilities and his strength.

When we work with mått we use massage to loosen up the muscles, and to relieve tension. We also use techniques to manipulate the spine and realign it if needed. The techniques within stav is quite easy to learn and would be very useful in an area where no modern doctors were available. To an extent stav is about being able to care for our family´s needs even when there is no outside assistance available.

The herse, or warrior, needs to be able to walk longer distances which is tough on the feet. Within the mått work there is a very practical foot massage which help to soften up the feet and to make the muscles loosen up and transport the blood easier. The feet are very essential for the whole body, within many homeopathic schools they work the feet to address health issues in other parts of the body. If one is physically fit enough, long walks are also a very good way to heal both the body and the mind.

The next rune is the Hagl rune, as I already mentioned it is the rune of Heimdall, who is a jarl deity. This rune represents the healing method of ljosgalder; light-galder.

Within stav the word galder has several layers of meaning, the general conception from Norse mythology is that galder refers to using the voice or to sing, and that it a sort of traditional way to perform magic. This is one of implementations of galder within stav; when we use our voice in the class varieties of the rune stances we refer to them the galder stances. But in the broader, and more stav specific meaning, galder also refers to the masculine teachings. In this case masculine does not necessary describe someone’s gender, we simply mean that it is a structured way to teach or learn. The feminine teachings are more intuitive; which I will come back to later on in this text. But generally speaking; runes, rune stances and bind runes are regarded as galder. These things can be taught from one person to another person, and it can be mastered through practice. The feminine practices can perhaps never be taught, or fully understood, if one does not have the appropriate personality to learn it.

Light refers to that it is performed in daylight, or in the open to be more specific. It is nothing secret and the subject of this sort of healing is fully aware of what is going on. It can be compared with modern psychotherapy in many ways.

One of the methods within light galder can be described as a sort of hypnosis or assisted meditation. The aim is to help the “subject” to connect with their unconscious levels and connect them with the conscious levels. It is a very efficient tool to help people to learn to know themselves better, I am fascinated of how well it works. As always within stav, this method flows between the psychological and intellectual and spiritual level.

Within stav there is also a tradition of laying runes, which can perhaps be compared with laying tarot cards. Any experienced stav practitioner should have their own set of wooden rune chips. There are other modern practices of laying runes, but stav has its own unique variety which I will not go into details about. Described in its simplest form we ask the person we are assisting to draw three runes out of a pouch; one rune for the past, one for the present and one for the future. Then we analyze the mythological associations of these runes and explain to the subject what we see; this is a good way to get someone to open up and starting to analyze their own situation.

During periods I have very actively worked with drawing runes by myself and it is very efficient, it helped me to clearly analyze the situation and work forward towards a goal. It is up to each one working with the runes to define for themselves if it is psychology or spiritual work; out of a stav perspective it is not important how you define it.

The rune stances are also connected to Heimdall according to stavs mythology; in essence the stances are multidimensional and contains many layers of knowledge and education. Amongst other things the stances teach us to align our body and find our outer and inner balance. The stances are meditative and teach deep breathing which helps the mind to let go of stress and anxiety. The stances are also helpful if someone needs to balance manic behavior or depression.

The next aspect of healing within stav is called lokksejd, sejd is known from the written sources about Norse mythology, and it is a shamanistic practice with the aim to go into a trance. As with galder, stav takes the understanding a bit further, the sejd perspective is a bit broader within stav, it is also regarded as a feminine approach to healing or magic. There are two aspects of sejd within stav; lokksejd and teinsejd.

The rune in this part of the bind rune is the rune mann, it is associated with Freya, she represents the feminine and the karl klass. Freya is the goddess of lokksejd, and according to the written sources she was the one who taught the highest god Oden how to do sejd.

When doing lokksejd one uses a vardlokk to be able to go into trance, this can be described as a very strange type of song that affects the mind. The meaning of the word lokk is multi-dimensional; it is to pull, or to lure, to attract or to tempt. The vard can be described as an entity or spirit, so one calls the helping spirits with the vardlokk. As always in stav and Norse mythology it is an interaction between feminine and masculine energies. Men usually do not as easy go into trance as females, therefor they are suitable to sing the vardlokk; the powerful masculine energy created will make it easier for a female to enter the trance.

Freya represents the unmarried young lady which has not carried any children yet, at this stage of life a female is suitable to work with lokksejd. Since lokksejd has strong effects on the mind, a woman that has a family to provide and care for is advised not to work with this method. Once the children have grown up and left the house she could actively pursue this path again.

The Lokksejd and vardlokk within stav has been transferred down through the generations from mother in law to daughter in law; the daughters of the family were not taught. The reasons for this is that the daughters left the family when they got married, stav was originally a closed family tradition and they did not want the knowledge to end up in other families.

Traditionally in Scandinavia, sejd was done by ladies referred to as Völvas, the Icelandic poem Völuspá is about a Völva seeing into the future. The Völvas traveled around the countryside and offered their services. The Völva was according to the sources able to predict the future or to be able to solve specific problems with the help of the spirit world. The Völva were highly regarded and seen as female priests, it is understood that most Völvas were older females. There have been many graves of Völvas found in Scandinavia, and they are usually quite easily identified since they contain objects associated with the Völva and sejd. Their graves usually contain a so called Völva stave, which is an iron rod that helped them in their work. Often the archeologists find herbs and plants amongst the grave goods that would help the Vövla in her shamanistic work.

There are modern neo pagans who do sejd, but they usually do sejd with the aid of a drum, which is something that is borrowed from the Saamis; the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia. There are not all that much specific information about sejd in the source material, but the sources tell us that sejd was performed with vardlokk. Stav is unique in the sense that we solely work with vardlokk and never use any drums. Stav-sejd is also unique since it is the only known version of sejd that claims being part of a living tradition.

I personally have great respect for lokksejd, I have seen what a deep impact it has on people. Personally I would advise people to be very careful with sejd, an experienced sejd practitioner told me that strange things start to happen after a while, things you cannot really explain nor control. I have noticed that some people do have a “happy-go-lucky” attitude towards sejd, and I do not really feel that it is appropriate.

The next rune in the bindrune is the ur rune, a rune connected with the god Vidar of the herse class. The health practice associated with Vidar is to work with megin.

The old Norse word megin means something like strength, power or might. The god Thor has his belt Megingjörð, when Thor wears the belt his already enormous strength is doubled. Within stav there is again a meaning that is not as clear in the written sources; megin is seen as the life force, comparable with the Asian concepts of Chi or Prana.

I have spoken with people initiated in magical traditions who see megin partly as our life force, but also as our magical potential. These people have the understanding that they have to build up their megin to be able to do magical work. They have the understanding that they can use other people’s megin if necessary, with other words; barrow or steal it from other people when they have the need. This would surely not be a very nice thing to do if the person was not aware of what was happening.

Out of a stav perspective we need to increase our own megin flow, and to rejuvenate our megin sources to stay healthy and strengthen our spiritual connections. The way to do this is amongst other things to do the rune stances, which according to the stav philosophy is the best way to accumulate megin. The megin concept within stav is very interesting, and one can say that the origin and flow of megin comes from the essence of the universe; to fully describe this philosophy in detail would really demand a long text of its own.

But the basic philosophy within stav is quite simple, when you learn to work with your own megin trough the practices of the system; you will also learn to direct your megin towards others. This can be done both with good intentions or with ill intentions.

If someone in our own proximity is wounded our ill, it is according to the philosophy within stav, possible to give from one´s own megin to the receiver. This is called “handpåläggning” in Swedish and “håndspåleggelse” in Norwegian. The English description seems to be “laying on of hands”. The wording is a bit problematic, because we do not actually touch the receiver. This type of healing has been practiced in the folk medicine throughout Scandinavia. Most of Scandinavia is quite rural and desolate, so up until fairly recently people in a lot of areas depended on wise elders when they became ill.

According to the stav philosophy we drain our own resources when giving megin to someone else, and therefore we must be able to regenerate our own megin. We may also exchange poor megin with the receiver, which simply means that if we are not able to regenerate our own megin and clear the negative energies out; we risk to become ill ourselves.

Megin flows through our body, and if the megin flow is blocked we are at the risk of getting ill, a good example is our backs. A lot of people sit too much these days, which weakens our backs and strengthens the wrong muscles in the body; as a result the megin flow is blocked. If we are not cautious we are at the risk of getting permanent problems over time.

I would advise the reader to go back to the initial bind rune and look again, notice how the rune of Thor and the ur rune shares the main stave of the bind rune; mått and megin feeds each other, when we gain physical strength it will increase our megin. When we increase our megin it will benefit our mått. Both deities associated with these runes are herse gods, and the herse is the type of personality that both needs physical and inner strength. Personally I would instinctively connect megin with Thor and mått with Vidar, which is the opposite from the idea within stav; but these two gods are very closely related so I suspect that they both to an extent cover both mått and megin. The healing bind rune are very thought through, which will become very apparent later in this text.

Modern science is for good reasons very skeptical about concepts like megin and practices like “laying on of hands”. But personally I really like the philosophical approach towards life that comes with the idea of megin; we are not separated from universe and our life force stems from outside our own bodies. It is also a very emphatic philosophy that we can share our own life force with other people who are in the need for it; if there is anything this world needs it is empathy.

The next rune is the rune ås, the rune of Oden. Oden is the king of the gods and the god of the kings. But the idea of the king is not comparable with the modern concept of inheritance. Pre Christian Scandinavia was a meritocracy in many ways, the king was elected and was thought to carry good spiritual capabilities. He was seen as the link between the gods and the people and he was also a spiritual leader who actively engaged in religious practices. The king was expected to hold knowledge and insights that other people lacked, and the king was supposed to be able to interact with the gods and to be able to understand and interpret their will. According to some scholars the abilities of the king may have been put to the test before he was elected.

The healing practices of the ås rune and Oden refers to “myrkgalder”, or dark galder. Myrkgalder is performed in the cover of darkness, those who work with dark galder will not reveal what they are doing or the intentions, perhaps they will not even disclose that something actually has been done.

To a degree this is the flip side of ljosgalder; ljosgalder and myrkgalder shares the same stave in the healing bind rune. Someone that is experienced in myrkgalder and that has bad intentions may be very dangerous for other people. But using things like this with ill intent towards others tend to rub off at the sender. If one reads the Norse myths one will notice that the gods who engage in aggressive magic quite often pays a high price for it.

I recently read an academic paper were the author noticed that Heimdall, just as Oden, were able to predict the future; but this did not seem to backlash on Heimdall as it does to Oden. The scholar couldn’t quite understand why it did not affect Heimdall. The difference is that Heimdall does not interfere, he just analyzes and explains what will happen if the gods peruse a specific path. Oden on the other hand interferes and manipulates how things unfold. This is also one of the differences between dark and light galder, when using light galder we only analyze the situation, but we do not manipulate it.

Even though myrkgalder sounds a bit unpleasant it can be used with good intentions, sometimes people are not in a mental stage where you can reason with them at the level needed to work with ljosgalder. Initially we can instead work with myrkgalder to get them back on track, once they are getting a bit reasonable again we can start to help them with ljosgalder.

Since this text works with a bind rune I would like to clarify that bind runes in essence are galder, but it depends on how we use them if it will be categorized as light- or dark galder. There are parallels to the stav bind runes, the most striking ones are the galdrastafir of Iceland. These magical staves were used up to modern times and there were many varieties; some helped to win in court, some helped in matters of love and some helped in battle. The Icelandic glima wrestlers kept staves in their shoes to help them win their bouts. Anyone that studies stav deeply would be able to construct their own bind runes for specific purposes.

As I previously mentioned; galder is also a way to use our voice, partly it is taught trough the stances. But there are also galder in form of verse that have been used in Scandinavia up until modern times. This form of galder are not really used within the stav practice of today. But I still find it relevant to mention it, because it gives a broader understanding of the concept of galder. These galders consisted of short magical poems with the aim to heal broken bones or stop bleedings, or perhaps to get back at an enemy.

The oldest galders that I am aware of are the two Merseburg galders, they stem from 800 AD in Germany. The first one seems to be battle oriented with the aim to free men that has mentally frozen on the battlefield. The second one calls for Wotan (Oden) and other deities to heal a broken leg of a horse. Versions of this galder has been passed down in Scandinavia.

Out of stavs definition these types of galders would be regarded as myrkgalder- they were secret and transferred from one generation to another. They were not disclosed until they were no longer seen as useful and younger generations could tell researchers what their elders did.

The following galder was written down in Sörmland, the Swedish province where I am located, sometime around 1860-1870; the aim is to heal an injured horse. Even though they are a thousand years apart, this galder is almost identical with the second Merseburg galder.

The galder in Swedish:

Dåve red över vattubro, så kom han in i Tive skog; Hästen snava mot en rot och vrickade sin ena fot. Gångande kom Oden:

-Jag skall bota dig för vred, kött i kött, ben i ben, jag skall sätta led mot led, och din fot skall aldrig sveda eller värka mer!

Loosely translated by myself:

Dove rode on a bridge over water, and entered the forest of Tive. The horse trampled over a root and sprained a foot. Oden came walking:

-I will heal your sprain, flesh to flesh, bone to bone, I will put joint to joint; your foot shall never cause you pain nor suffering again.

The above galder is actually a good example of old Norse metric verse, and an example of the longevity of the Norse deities in Scandinavia. The forest of Tive could perhaps refer to Tiveden. Tiveden is regarded as a sacred forest, and the name has been interpreted either as the forest of Tyr or the forest of the gods.

Within stav; myrkgalder comes with an unwritten etic code, we do not mess with people without reason. The spiritual and psychological sides of stav provides the stavgode with powerful tools, which comes with a great responsibility.

The next rune in the bindrune is the björk rune- which belongs to the goddess Frigg. Frigg is the wife of Oden and she represents the matron of the house. The specific form of healing related to Frigg is Teinsejd, which refers to healing through herbs and remedies.

Tein means spruce or twig in Norwegian, the word occurs in other aspects of stav too. The word tein is quite interesting in relation to Frigg. Before the spinning wheel were introduced in Scandinavia the tool used was called a håndtein in Norwegian; a spindle in English. The spindle is associated with Frigg in the sources too, and a maternal family line in Scandinavia is referred to as the “spindle side” of the family.

In the stav tradition the mother of the family was responsible to collect and refine the herbs. She was the one that should be educated and have knowledge about herbs and remedies. First of all, the herbs are used proactively, if one eats a balanced and nutritious diet one is more likely to stay healthy, especially during the winter months. Scandinavian winter is not forgiving unless you have a super market close by, which people generally did not have seventy years ago. Ivar Hafskjold has told that his mother spent most of the year collecting berries and herbs and other things to provide the family with a nutritious diet during the winter.

The herbal cycle of stav follow the year cycle, simply put, things that are rich of vitamins are collected early in the year and eaten fresh when the winter supplies are emptied. During the summer and autumn plants and berries are collected that can be processed and stored for the coming winter. There are also special remedies and tinctures to address specific health issues as a cold or cough etc.

I have already mentioned a few times that all the runes within stav are associated with deities, elements, classes, herbs and trees, amongst other things. The herbs and tree associations give a good core for working with the herbal lore of stav. Those who are interested in magic would also benefit from knowing these associations. It is known that trees played a very important role in the pre Christian Scandinavian cult. Many of the places of worship were concentrated around a “vard tree”, and many of the places of cult were enclosed by specific types of trees.

The problematic thing is that these herbs are Scandinavian and a lot of them are not found in other climates. But notice how this bind rune is constructed- sejd and tein sejd shares the same stave. Partly this is because they are both feminine practices, and Frigg and Freya is closely connected in Norse mythology. But as with mått and megin and galder; lokksejd and teinsejd feed each other! The specific knowledge about the different plants is regarded to stem from sejd. If they traditionally encountered an illness that they did not know how to heal; lokksejd would have been the way to try to find knowledge about what to do, or which plants to use. But it also goes the other way; knowledge about teinsejd can be very beneficial if one wants to explore lokksejd.

It has taken me more than five thousand words to describe the knowledge encoded and concentrated within one single bind rune; that consists of seven runes! Still this text is just an introduction, and there is so much more I could write about this topic. Written text is very crude compared to illustrating knowledge with runes, the geniality of stav is that a lot of information can be condensed into a single graphical image.

It would take a weekend to introduce a student to the methods described within this text, then it would take a few years to become comfortable working with these methods. But it would take a lifetime for someone to really master all of these techniques. Once one is fairly comfortable with the stav perspective the next step is to investigate other traditions, and to compare the knowledge of stav with the knowledge of similar Scandinavian practices. Stav is firmly rooted in the Norse tradition and I have personally found a deeper understanding of stav by studying Norse mythology and tradition.

As a byproduct of this text I hope that the reader gets an understanding of the systematic approach of stav. I also hope the reader get a feeling of the nature of the bind runes; how they flow clockwise- like the year cycle. But also how the bind rune pair runes together and groups the runes in triples, each rune will stand next to two other runes. All these aspects encoded within the bind runes; circular movement, pairs, opposites, and triples are essential within Norse mythology. Someone who really are able to apply this on the runes and mythology have understood a great deal of Norse mysticism.



The winter thing

Stav Posted on Sun, January 31, 2016 17:28:58

This weekend, at the
start of the month February, we celebrate one of the six festivals of the stav
calendar; the winter thing. I will try to describe what we celebrate both out
of a historical context and the specific way the festival is regarded within
the stav tradition. In the stav calendar there are two things, labelled as the
winter- and the summer thing. They are held during the coldest part of the
winter, and the hottest part of the summer.

The historical things
can be described as democratic gatherings where the freemen of the society could
settle disputes over land or in dealings. Either the disputing parties came to
a settlement or the thing could make a ruling. Any free man could raise their
voice no matter of their social status, and the ruling was binding. The winter
thing was also the place where the coming year was planned, for instance the
dates of the festivals of the coming year was announced at the thing. In the
pre Christian Scandinavian society they did not have a fixed calendar as we do
today. I would suspect that the winter thing also were the place where they
planned the coming Viking voyages of the year.

When the thing was
initiated they would declare “tingsfrid”- witch simply means “peace of the
thing”. Any crime or act of violence would be punished harder if committed
during the peace of the thing, those who attended the thing should feel secure;
the peace included the travel to and from the thing.

No one was above the
thing- kings were elected and denoted at the thing. Some scholars argue that
the ancient things make up the roots of the modern Scandinavian democracy and
peoples trust and respect for the judicial system. The thing created a sense of
justice; people could bring their case to the thing and the society would
protect their rights as freemen. Due to the current developments in Scandinavia,
this ancient respect for the law has started to erode.

Those who committed
atrocities could be deemed as outlaws and lawless at the thing; they were not
protected by the law and anyone that supplied them with food or shelter would
face hard penalties. Anyone was free to kill them whenever they were found. These
criminals would often be doomed to live outside society for a set number of
years- and in the Viking age society that was a very hard penalty. People were
dependent on the protection of society to be able to live in the harsh
conditions of Scandinavia. For people that were not well situated or that
lacked contacts in the other Scandinavian kingdoms; being doomed lawless could in
effect be the same thing as a death sentence.

But the thing was not
only a judicial institution; at the things there were also religious rituals
and practices. The famous account by Adam of Bremen about the sacrifices of
Uppsala, so called blots, took place at the Disting. The Disting is the
specific name used in Uppsala; but the festival corresponds with the winter
thing of stav. The Disir are female entities of the Norse mythology and Freya
is often referred to as Vanadis, the “dis of the Vanir”. Uppsala was the
cultural and religious centre of Viking age Sweden, and perhaps of the entire
pre Christian Scandinavia. Every ninth year they held an extra spectacular
festival at the Disting; this festival is spectacularly described in the book “Deeds
of the Bishops of Hamburg”, that Adam of Bremen wrote between 1073 and 1076.

There were also an
annual market arranged in conjunction with the Disting, to this day the first
Monday and Tuesday of February the Disting market is still arranged in Uppsala.
There is not much of the old grandeur left; but there are an unbroken line between
the market of today and the one arranged during the Viking age. This is one of
many small examples of the unnoticed continuity of the pagan customs of
Scandinavia.

There have been some
debates on the issue of how many days the big ninth year Disting festivals were
held- Snorri Sturlason says it was held over one week, while Adam of Bremen
says it was held for nine days. The scholar Andreas Nordberg argues very
convincingly that the actual market was held for seven days- with the blots and
religious ceremonies facilitated during the evenings.

In addition the festivities
were opened with a day of a thing- and the first sacrifices were held later
that evening. After the seven days of market and evenings with sacrifices the
festivities were closed by an ending day with a thing; but no religious
ceremony during the last evening.

Nordberg has very
solid arguments: the medieval Christian distings where still held for two consecutive
days; they had simply removed the religious part in between.

-By opening and ending
the festivities with the thing, they were able to expand the peace of the thing
to include all festivities.

-The seven days of
market and ceremonies and two days of things are also the only way to
mathematically add up the amount of animals that according to the sources were
sacrificed during the rituals.

The theory of Andreas
Nordberg is that the religious sacrifices started the first evening after the
first thing- and then continued to the last evening of the market and blots.
There were no sacrifices conducted after the ending day of the thing; the ninth
night was the night were all the magical rituals of the previous eight evenings
would come into effect. If the festival was celebrated in this 1+7+1 order it
becomes very interesting out of a stav perspective. Within the stav lore both 7
and 9 are very significant numbers, which differentiate from mainstream Norse paganism
were most people just regard number 9 as a significant magical number.

The incorporation of
both the key numbers of seven and nine into the festivals of the Disting- reminds
of the way that the runes of the futhark are viewed within the stav lore. The
sixteen runes can be separated into 9+7 to add up the mythological associations
of the runes. This also corresponds with how the traditional opening and
closing ritual of the rune stances were conducted; 1+7+1 equals 9. The modern
variation of the ritual is performed 1+9+1. I am deliberately a bit vague about
this; but I hope the senior practitioners of stav will get something to think
about.

Since the stav
tradition was kept and maintained within a family of a small community; the
judicial aspects of the festival became less important- and the winter thing
evolved into more of a family oriented feast. Ivar Hafskjold has told that
there was still a market arranged in his home village at the time of the winter
thing. A respected Swedish scholar has stated that throughout Scandinavia
traditional markets were amongst the longest living reminiscence of the old
pagan feasts.

The deities associated
with the winter thing of stav are Frigg and Thor; and the winter thing is
regarded as a feminine festival. Frigg symbolises the feminine and the matron
of the household. In the stav tradition the women were responsible for
arranging the winter thing. The wives baked a traditional Norwegian honey cake
and there were apparently some rivalry about who were able to bake the most
delicious cake. Honey cakes are not stav specific for this festival- they are
commonly eaten in Norway at this time of the year. Honey cake is a very old
Scandinavian pastry; they were supposedly eaten as far back as during the Viking
age.

Thors relation with
the winter thing is partly because he is regarded as a herse deity within stav;
the herse is the class of law and justice. Thor is also the god associated with
strength and power- at the market in the home village of Ivar Hafskjold the men
competed in trials to see who the strongest one was. These types of
competitions are very old in Scandinavia, and they are still held at festivals;
most notably around the midsummer parties in Sweden. These competions are
usually undertaken in a friendly manor, but still with a degree of seriousness
associated with them.

In old Swedish tongue the
month around January was labelled as thorsmanadher, the month of Thor. In
Iceland they celebrate Þorrablót around this time- a festival around the month
of Þorri. During the modern celebration they eat and recite poems dedicated to
Thor. As a side note: The Icelandic letter Þ is pronounced Th- as in the
English pronunciation of thing- or Thor. This Icelandic letter is actually the

only rune that made it into a modern alphabet; and the letter Þ is in essence
the same as the rune labelled Thor within the stav futhark.

The stav calendar is
woven in a very intriguing way, during the counterpart of this festival- the
summer thing; we will find deities relating to the deities associated with the
winter thing. This pretty much goes for all the festivals during the year-
there is nothing random about the stav calendar. The stav calendar is very
helpful for those who are interested to understand how the Norse deities relate
to the year cycle- and as everything in stav it is created around the Hagl
rune. The stav calendar also corresponds very well with the preserved knowledge
about the pre Christian year cycle. The calendar is a topic of its own- and I
hope to address it in due time.


The Christians tried
to wipe out all the pagan festivals celebrated in Scandinavia, but they were
not that successful; in most of the cases they had to settle with disguising
the pagan fests in Christian clothing, or trying to merge the Christian and
pagan celebrations. Today most people on the Scandinavian Peninsula do not take
too much notice of the winter thing; most people recognize this feast as the
starting point of the obsolete Christian lent. In Norway people eat their honey
cake, and here in Sweden we eat our Semla; a traditional sweet roll that have was introduced sometime during
early medieval times. Most of us have no idea that this is an ancient festival
that were significant to our ancestors- but that is of less importance! The
thread may be thin but it is a long thread that goes back through our oldest
ancestors all the way back to the gods.

Do you want to
commemorate the winter thing? Bake a honey cake! Don’t forget to light up a bee
wax candle on your altar.



The authenticity of Norse mythology and the stav tradition

Stav Posted on Tue, December 29, 2015 16:42:26

There are actually scholars who claim that we know absolutely nothing about the pre-Christian beliefs of Northern Europe. The poems and stories of the Eddas were written down by Christians in early medieval times, and according to these scholars we do not have any reliable sources of how the Norse viewed the world and the universe. There are undeniably some Christian influences within the written sources of the Norse mythology; but these scholars take this way too far and claim that the myths completely were made up by Christians. According to these people we do not even know for certain which gods the Scandinavians worshiped before they became Christians.

This could perhaps be plausible for those who know absolutely nothing about the subject, but the Eddas are supported by many other sources. There are illustrations on rune stones that show the same stories as within the Eddas. There are the famous pictures stones found on the island of Gotland that portray Oden and his eight legged horse exactly the same way as they are portrayed in the Eddas.

(Above- wooden figure of Odin- the picture was
taken at the historical museum of Oslo.)

There are place names found all around Scandinavia with the ending of hov, ve or lund, these endings indicates that these were places of worship. Often the first part of these place names is the names of the deities found in the Eddas. I just need to take the car around my area for an hour or so to pass by numerous places dedicated to gods such as Oden, Thor, Ull, Frej and others. One common name is Fröslunda- which means the grove of Frö/Frej, there are also places called Torslunda, Ullunda, Skadevi, Odensala etc.

The Scandinavian folklore supports the Eddas, through the folklore people had a living understanding of the gods up until modern times, and there were both stories and songs passed down from one generation to the next. One example is the song called “Hammarhämtningen”, the fetching of the hammer, variations of this song has been handed down throughout Scandinavia since pre-Christian times. The fetching of the hammer is merely a variation of the poem Þrymskviða that is found in the poetic Edda.

(Above- a rune stone in Södermanland, Sweden; with
an illustration of Mjölnir, the hammer of Thor.)

There are also stories written down by people who visited Scandinavia, or people who got in contact with the Norse outside of Scandinavia, there is also archaeological remains that support the information in the Eddas.

If we keep the above in mind, those who claim that “we have absolutely no knowledge about the pre-Christian beliefs of Scandinavia because everything was made up by Christians”- come across as uneducated and ignorant. Without taking it too far, we can claim that these people are intellectually dishonest, and in many cases it is quite obvious that these people have an agenda, for one reason or another. These people are not qualified to make any statements at all about Norse mythology.

(Above a picture of “Odens
flisor” located at the island of Öland in the Baltic sea. The folklore around
this monument supports the Eddas. There are several similar monuments called
“Odens flisor” in different parts of southern Sweden.)


There are also people that claim that stav is a modern invented martial art, and that stav is just copied from Japanese styles. One prominent member of the neo pagan community publicly stated that “stav is just people doing Aikido in Norwegian clothing”. This could perhaps be plausible for anyone that knows nothing of the subject. If this person knew anything at all about stav or Aikido he would quickly notice the differences. Stav is not a martial art in essence; it is a philosophical and educational system, the martial arts are just one of many practical expressions based on the philosophy within the stav tradition. Stavs philosophy is based on Norse mythology and the runes; therefor stav has a very different structure compared to Japanese martial arts.

The pre-Christian beliefs of northern Europe shared the same fundamental principles and the same pantheon, but the specific perspectives varied between regions, clans, or between different layers of the society. Myths with different perspectives are collected within the Eddas and therefor they differentiate a bit and put emphasis of different deities. A lot of scholars and neo pagans really have a hard time getting their head around the subject due to this. The version of the mythology described within stav is unique, since it is coherent and all the layers fit tightly together. The stav mythology has a different motor and driving factor compared to the Edda of Snorre Sturlasson, some of the deities are also described a bit differently. Some events within the stav mythology are also different compared with the medieval influenced descriptions of Snorre Sturlasson, and the mythology of stav is clearer about many specific details.

Within stav there is also a coherent description of the Norse cosmology, which is something that the Eddas completely lack. Once again, the cosmology within stav follows the written sources but takes the knowledge further and makes it meaningful. Most of the modern interpretations and illustrations I have seen of the cosmology do not follow the written sources even slightly.

The mythology and martial art of stav is systemized around the sixteen younger runes, the runes were the ancient letters used in Scandinavia before the church introduced the Latin alphabet. The runes served as a parallel writing language in parts of Sweden up until modern times. Within Stav the runes are primarily not used for writing, they are used as a memory aid to remember and internalize mythological associations. All of the runes are associated with deities, elements, classes and a lot of other things.

(Above – a rune stone in the town of Eskilstuna,
Sweden.)

There are no contradiction between the understanding of the runes within stav and the perspective given by serious scholars, but stav takes the understanding further than the scholars. Stav connects and systemizes the knowledge in a way that it is not possible for scholars to do with the information they have at hand. But for us who comes out of a stav perspective, it is possible to reverse engineer a lot of the information by using linguistics and information found in medieval rune poems. The runes have names that imply certain associations, a couple of runes will be associated with deities through their names, and a couple of runes will be associated with trees. Some names of the runes associate them with elements, and so on. When modern neo pagans or scholars investigate these associations it gives a really fractured understanding of the runes and their associations. Within stav every single rune is associated with deities, trees, herbs, elements, animals and classes and more! All together this gives the sixteen runes hundreds of associations. The system fits very well with what is known from the sources, but it takes the understanding so much further.

Trough literary sources and folklore it is known that some of the deities are associated with trees and herbs- in stav all the deities have these connections. Through the sources some of the deities are associated with animals, or so called familiars, in stav all the deities have these associations. There are more familiars within stav than known from all the literary sources together- but even more importantly, within stav the knowledge of why these familiars are important is preserved.

The really unique thing with stav is that it connects the runes, the mythology and the cosmology into a coherent structure. You can follow a logical path from the runes, to the cosmology to the deities and back. This is not possible to do in any other contemporary system of Norse mythology or within the modern interpretations of the runes. Stav provides a graphic structure that helps the student to understand and analyse the mythology- again a very different perspective compared with the Eddas, but no contradiction. The poems of the Eddas and stavs visualisation of the mythology trough the runes completes each other.

(Above- the famous rune stone at Rök in
Östergötland, Sweden.)

Stav also incorporates the classes of the Eddic poem of Rigstula into the structure. The understanding of the classes described within Rigstula is basically socio-economic and describes the levels of the society. Stavs perspective is more philosophical and spiritual- and very personal; again there are no contradictions, only a different perspective. My personal impression is that Rigstula and stav are parallel traditions. A lot of people studying stav have tried to understand the classes through Rigstula, which is fine; as long as you are aware of that they have a different perspective. In a modern context stav is the only Norse form of paganisms in which the classes are meaningful in a spiritual and practical aspect. Here in Scandinavia most neo pagans do not even bother trying to interpret the Rigstula, they do not find the poem relevant and meaningful.

Compared to modern neo-paganism; stavs structure enables the stav practitioner to focus on the deeper and important levels, instead of spending time trying puzzle it together. I have spent a lot of time studying stav in depth, and I have compered stav with the literary sources. I have also read a lot of academic papers covering norse mythology, specifically researching the areas were stavs mythology at first glance differentiate from the literature sources. Those who claim that stav is a modern creation simply come across as uneducated and ignorant. Often enough, it is quite obvious that many of the critics of stav have a personal agenda, for one reason or another. Over the eighteen years I have been involved in stav; I have heard a lot of negative opinions about stav, but so far I have not heard any qualified criticism.

Stavs authenticity or age has no real relevance for the practitioner- the only thing that is relevant is our personal gain. No matter if you are drawn towards stav from a martial arts perspective or out of a spiritual need; there is only one way evaluate stav- and that is by investing some time in researching the system. Perhaps you will find that it is nothing for you, or perhaps you will come to the same conclusion I did; that stav is something very valuable to you. Either way, do not let the self-proclaimed experts of the internet make the choice for you.

The first step to learning to know yourself through stav- is to quit being a “trell”! Trell is often translated as slave, but this is not really a correct translation. A trell is basically someone who is not free and who is not a master over his own destiny. In the pre Christian society a trell was someone who had to work for someone else, with little financial gains in return- but there were also trells that worked for the king and that were very wealthy. Historically a trell could be able to win their freedom. In the psychological perspective of stav- a trell is simply someone that is not capable of taking control of their own destiny, people who need others to tell them what to do and what is worth pursuing. Out of stavs psychological perspective; most trells would be able to win their own mental freedom.

(All pictures found in
this blog post were taken by the author- please feel free to use them as long
as you specify the source.)

(Above – old Uppsala, probably
the most prominent cultural and religious centre of pre Christian Scandinavia.)



The sword of Heimdall

Stav Posted on Wed, July 08, 2015 01:25:07

The ambition with this
post is to try to show the core of stav, through layers that most Stav
practitioners are not aware of. This has not been covered as extensively in
English before.

Stav has been labelled
as a martial art, but martial art is just one of the components within Stav,
and the martial aspect is not the essence of what Stav really is. Sometimes
Stav is described as a holistic system that covers body, mind and spirit. Stav
contains herbal lore, mythology and psychology and philosophy. All the
knowledge within the system is structured around the sixteen runes of the
younger futhark.

The foundation of the
system is the rune stances- which is a daily ritual performed by the Stav
practitioners. It can simplified be described as forming the shapes of runes
with one’s own body. The stances has a meditative and spiritual dimension,
the stances also teaches the student correct breathing and aligns the body. The stances are the key to understanding the martial art
of the system, the stances teach the correct positions and movements. The
meditative state of the stances also develops the correct mind-set for the
martial arts. There are five different versions of the stances within the
system, one for each class. In their simplest form the stances is a convenient
way to teach someone the shapes and forms of the runes when there is no pen or
paper available. The more advanced forms, called galder stances, teach the
student the names and sounds and associations of the runes. The stances are essentially a way to transfer many
layers of knowledge in a systemised and structured way.

Stav is extremely
systemised; there is no other tradition of Norse paganism known today that
is as structured as Stav. Everything within the system follows the same
principles and the same logical path. There is one deity within the Stav
pantheon that represents logic, intellect and learning; Heimdall. Heimdall is
also regarded as the connection point between gods and humans- no interaction
between them is possible without Heimdall. Heimdall functions as a mediator
that helps the humans relate to the gods- but he also helps the gods to
understand the humans.

All the runes within
the system are important to make the system holistic, and all the runes within Stav
have connections to deities, animals, plants, trees, classes and colours amongst
other things. But there is one rune that is essential, the Hagl rune, which
also happens to be the rune connected with Heimdall.

Within the traditional
Stav lore the Hagl rune is stacked seven times to create an illustration that
visualises the web of Urd. All the individual runes are regarded to stem from
this illustration. According to the Stav mythology the web of Urd connects the
humans with the universe.

Within stav there is
also an illustration that is used to visualise the seven worlds of the
cosmology. The Hagl rune is the only rune within the younger futhark that could
be used for this purpose. It is only logical that the rune is the rune of
Heimdall, since Heimdall is seen as the connection point and guardian between
the worlds. Heimdall is not an active defender such as Thor though. Heimdall
stands watch and warns the other gods when danger is coming. Heimdall awaits
Ragnarok, but it is not his task to try to prevent what is unavoidable.

There are several
traditional bind runes preserved within the tradition. These are constructed
with the Hagl rune as the carrier; again, the Hagl rune is the most suitable of
all the younger runes. The purpose with the bind runes is to learn and memorize
important knowledge. All the mythological knowledge that is associated with the
runes is utilized when constructing or decoding the bind runes. The bind runes
are read clockwise, but one also needs to consider the pairs and the triplets
that naturally occur around the Hagl rune.

The bind runes can
contain everything from mythological knowledge to practical information. The
bind runes help the student to evolve the thought pattern one tries to learn
when studying stav. It is appropriate that the bind runes are created around
the rune that is associated with the deity that represents logic, learning and
teaching.

There is a traditional
calendar within the Stav tradition, it is constructed around a Hagl rune; all
the other runes of the younger futhark has been placed in a specific way around
the staves of the Hagl rune. The calendar shows the festivals over the year,
and how all the deities relate to the year cycle. No other rune within the
younger futhark could be utilized for this task either. I would recommend those
who study Stav to really take time to understand the calendar. Apart from Easter,
which is the only genuine Christian infusion to the Scandinavian festivals, the
Stav calendar shows the traditional celebrations of Scandinavia.

The Hagl rune is also
used to illustrate attack angles within the martial art of stav, it can also
show the movements and directions that the five classes prefers during a
conflict.

Within stav the five
classes of the Norse mythology are essential, they are regarded as five
archetypical personalities that are necessary within a community for it to be
able to exist and prosper. The Edda poem Rigstula describes in detail how the
god Heimdall created the classes. Heimdall is reincarnated as human under the
name of Rig. Heimdall then forms and educates the classes in the different
areas they need to have knowledge about. The only class he does not educate is
the Herse class, I.E the warrior class. Heimdall also teaches the humans how to
interact with the gods. Within Rigstula the classes are described out of a
social- economic perspective, within Stav the classes are regarded more out of a
psychological and spiritual perspective. My impression is that the Stav
perspective shares roots with the views described within the Rigstula, but the
perspective within Stav makes up a parallel tradition.

Since the five classes
hold such a vital role within Stav, the Stav practitioner will have the
opportunity to study Stav based on his own needs and ability. When one has
reached a deeper understanding of Stav, one will have a personal version of the
system based on one’s own personality.

Stav has been passed
down through a family that has a very strong mythological connection to
Heimdall, Heimdall can be seen as their patron god. The theoretical frame work within
stav comes out of a jarl class perspective. Within the tradition Heimdall is
seen as the protector of the jarl class, in the same way as Thor is the
protector of the common people. The jarl is the type of person that tries to
gain an intellectual and structured overall perspective. Stav is unique in the
sense of how it connects folk lore, mythology,
runes and martial arts into a coherent system. In principle one will never leave the archetypical personality one belongs to,
but if one studies Stav for a longer period of time one will evolve a type of
jarl perspective since that is the perspective of the whole system. When
studying Stav one will also come to understand that all the classes are essential
in a society.

Heimdall really must
have been a much more important deity in the pre Christian Scandinavian society
than one can interpret from preserved sources and archaeology. Most of the
deities have lots of place names connected to them here in Sweden, Heimdall
stands out, there are hardly any names at all connected to him. There are no
signs at all that there been any cult directed towards Heimdall, even though he
gave humans invaluable knowledge. But considering how we view him within stav-
he is perhaps not the sort of deity that is honoured with gifts and offerings.

In the younger Edda of
Snorre Sturlasson there is an interesting reference out of a Stav perspective;
Snorre tells us that a kenning (euphemism) for Heimdall is the enemy of Loke. According
to the Eddas the animosity started when Loke
killed Heimdalls friend Ottar. Heimdall and Loke will eventually kill each
other when this world ends during Ragnarok. Too often these depictions are
regarded as trivia and left without any deeper conclusions. Within the stav
mythology Heimdall symbolises rational thinking and analytic capabilities and a
long term perspective. Loke is erratic and spontaneous and lives for the
moment.

Snorre also mentions a
kenning for head; Heimdalls sword. This kenning stem from the now lost galder
of Heimdall, so it is hard to really analyse the deeper meaning of it. But from
the perspective described within this text, it would be reasonable that
Heimdalls main weapon is his intellectual capacity.

Stav is a logical and
structured form of Norse paganism that is constructed around Heimdall and woven
around the Hagl rune. In essence Stav is a cult devoted to Heimdall, but
Heimdall is not honoured with offerings or worship. Heimdall is honoured with
the properties that represents his character; education and knowledge, logic
and structure. The gods needs to be honoured in an appropriate way to their
character.



« Previous