A Guide to the Gods, Lore, Rites and Celebrations from the Norse, German and Anglo-Saxon Traditions
by Galina Krasskova
When Galina Krasskova decided to become Heathen in 1996, she found that “warm and fuzzy” were not typical words to describe this community of about 40,000 that adhere to the modern reconstruction of the ancient religion of the Germanic and Scandinavian peoples. Her book, Exploring the Northern Tradition: A Guide to the Gods, Lore, Rites and Celebrations from the Norse, German and Anglo-Saxon Traditions, was written to provide a warm welcome to exploring this belief system, and it does just that.
In Krasskova’s section on “Gods and Goddesses,” she provides several lovely meditations which aim for experiential knowledge of the attributes of the deities. For healing, there is a focus on the goddess Eir:
I will hail Eir, the Divine Physician,
Fortunate are those commended to Her care.
She is wise and mighty, and the weal of Her hands
strengthens the wounded.
Her works are filled with a ruthless compassion,
and to all things She brings the gift of fierce contemplation.
I will praise the Mighty Goddess,
Whose touch upon our beings is like the fingers of a master gardener
closing around a tiny seed and plunging it into the rich, waiting earth.
This is followed by a meditation and a pathworking, as are most of the descriptions of the gods and goddesses of the Northern tradition.
I enjoyed Krasskova’s discussion of the concept of “wyrd,” a difficult-to-explain facet of Heathen theology. It is a lot like fate, only while some of it is predetermined, some of it can be shaped by your own actions. Heathens are nothing if not responsible! The author explains the Nine Noble Virtues that are “constantly evolving goals which we must always strive.” These include discipline, honor, industriousness, perseverance and truth.
The author mentions several times throughout the book that we stand upon the shoulders of our ancestors, and acknowledging the folks who came before us is an important concept in the Norse customs. Some of the traditions are quite charming, as in inviting a departed relative into one’s space by offering a hot beverage and coffee cake that one has put aside for them. She encourages one to have conversations with the departed, but with the warning that just as in the physical plane, it may take some time before a relationship warms up!
Finally, Krasskova describes a sample Heathen ritual, called a blót and discusses the major holidays of the year. Some of the holidays do fall on the same day as Wiccan holidays but the author steadfastly describes the difference between the two belief-systems. An interesting, highly-researched and heavily-footnoted book, this serves as a wonderful introduction to a religion that many simply do not know about.
Review by Diane Saarinen
Exploring the Northern Tradition
By Galina Krasskova
New Page Books, 2005
220 pp., $14.99