Deity Bindrunes

I received a question on how I made my Nehalennia bindrune, so I figured I’d make a quick post about my process.

Nehalennia Candle Shrine side view with Nehalennia bindrune

First really quick: a bindrune is a symbol which combines different runes, in this case using the elder futhark. They can be used for magical purposes, combining their different properties towards a certain outcome. In this case, I use them as a symbol for a specific deity, combining their different areas of rule into one powerful symbol.

So step one is brainstorming. I usually sit with a crappy notebook and just jot down all the things I want to incorporate into the bindrune, or the domains of the deity I wish to make this bindrune for. This is a messy process and can take several days or weeks, depending on how smoothly this goes. Cernunnos’ bindrune came together super quick, only a few days, for example, while Baduhenna was a lot more nebulous, taking several weeks to get right.

Burnable Spellboxes with deity bindrunes. Left: Baduhenna. Middle: Nehalennia. Right: Cernunnos.

For the Nehalennia I settled on four runes of the elder futhark. Raidho: for travel, in this case across the North Sea. Laguz: for water, since Nehalennia is the Goddess of the North Sea. Fehu: for material wealth, most of her followers were hardworking merchants, and Nehalennia is a Goddess of prosperity as well, so I associate Her with reaping the fruits of your (hard) labour. Gebo: for gifts, relationships, and exchange. She is the Goddess of the harvest, and keeps the ships safe on their travels, but it comes with a price – and exchange – in the shape of an altar stone commissioned for Her. She gives, so much, but she does expect things in return. A relationship of equals.

After I made my choice it’s as simple, and as complicated, of trying out different combinations until one feels and looks right. For some runes this is very quick and can happen in one doodling session, like the Cernunnos rune or the Nehalennia rune. For others it takes multiple sessions to figure out something that works, like with Baduhenna.

Deity Bindrune concept page in my bullet journal. The top two-thirds are for Baduhenna, which eventually became something different entirely. The bottom one-third is for Nehalennia, the circled bindrune being the final one.

A parting note: for some it is important to not include the reverse or mirrored versions of the rune, since their meaning is different and often opposite of the upright one. For bindrunes, I do not have this belief, because I am using the meaning of the upright runes to built something new, while still holding the original meanings. They lose their individuality (a bit) to join into a conjoined and new symbol, with new meaning. But, this is for every individual practitioner to decide.

BuJo: Cards Sent

This year I picked up my habit of bullet journaling again! I don’t use it as a planner, but more as a daily-, weekly-, and monthly tracker for a bunch of things. My health, my symptoms, line a day diary, daily good things, books I plan to read this year, what witchy things I do during the month, etc. etc. I’m keeping it a bit lighter this time, not putting too much pressure on myself to keep it going. So here is the first page I want to share with you! A page to keep track of which handmade cards I sent out during the year. The adorable little mailbox I drew using LawnFawn’s You’ve Got Mail as a base. I think it turned out super cute and I can’t wait to see it fill up more and more during the year.

To my BuJo’ers out there, what is your favourite tracker?

a Card for Imbolc

Last monday was Imbolc, the pagan holiday which celebrates the start of spring. A symbol for Imbolc are snowdrops, which are also my favourite flowers! So, because I finally wanted an excuse to use this stamp, and I wanted some freedom in playing around, I made this Imbolc card. A soft lilac cardstock base with layers of white plain card stock, green mulberry paper, and plain card stock again. I used distress oxides to create the background and stamped my snowdrop over it. With white pencil I coloured the “drop” part of the snowdrop. I cut out the letters and added a layer of nuvo aqua shimmer to both the letters and my snowdrop.

I love how soft this card turned out. This is the first time I made a greeting card for a pagan holiday, but I quite enjoyed it, so it might just have to become a new tradition!

Pastel Birthday Card

For Christmas my mother gave me these adorable stamps! I love them so much. So when her birthday came around, I wanted to do something with her stamps, of course. I really love the stitched hearts in the background, it was my first time working with them. The soft and pastel pink is a bit different than my normal style, but it was fun to play around with. And, more importantly, my mom loved it!

I loved the colour combo’s so much that I stamped the images on label paper, coloured them, and then used the matching dies to cut them out. So now I have adorable pastel stickers for my bullet journal!

Baduhenna: Valkyrie, or Dutch Morrigan?

Photo by Martin Lopez via Pexels

Baduhenna, the Dutch Goddess of battle and the forest. I already knew of a possible connection with Badb, one of the Morrígna, due to the etymology of both their names. The root badw- or badv-, meaning battle, that they both share.

Donahue, in his article “the Valkyries and the Irish War-Goddesses”[1] exposes perhaps a deeper link. He states that it is likely that the Scandinavian and Germanic Valkyrie and the Irish Wargoddesses evolved together. That is to say that because of the close relations between the Celts, the Gauls and the Germanic people it is likely that these cultures intermingled, and through that their mythology and beliefs were influenced. The Valkyrie for example, went from demons, “those who bring fear”, to beautiful, almost Goddess-like, women who chose the slain and poured mead in the Halls of Valhalla.

De Vries, in his article “studiën over Germaanse mythologie”[2] also speaks of the links between Valkyrie, the matronae (triads of Goddesses commonly worshipped by the Germanic tribes), the Norns, the dísir, and the Goddess triad that is the Morrigan.

Next to Badb and the Valkyries, there is another Goddess to consider. The Gaulic Goddess Cathubodua, whose name means “battle-crow”. Perhaps Her link with Badh is even a stronger one, with the crow aspect being right there in the name. All we have of Cathubodua is the inscription of the name upon a shield, unfortunately not a lot to go on.

Baduhenna might not have the crow in Her name, but she does have something else. Her “mythology”. I’m putting “mythology” in quotation marks here, because it is not myth, it is history. However the history only tells us that there was a battle, that the Frisians against all odds attempted to overthrow the tyrannical Roman leader, that they won that battle and killed 900 Romans, and that the retreating Romans were so paranoid, that they slayed 400 of their own men. Those are the facts. But if we look at it in another way, a different story can perhaps be told: a small group of people won a battle against a far greater and better trained army. This battle was fought in a sacred forest, dedicated to their Goddess; a Goddess of war. Divine intervention perhaps, the Goddess choosing which side of the conflict will be the victor, and which will be slain. Much like both the Valkyrie and the Morrigan. The remaining soldiers fleeing, but being so overcome with confusion and madness that they turn on their own battle-brothers. Just like the madness that Badb spreads when she flies over the battlefields in her form as a crow. Which is why Braakman is his article “Baduhenna. Godin van het Slagveld.”[3] states that Baduhenna and Badb are one and the same, and says: “Baduhenna had struck again.”

So we have a Gaulish Battlegoddess, the Valkyries, and the Morrigan. So where does Baduhenna fit into this? Perhaps nowhere, for as far as we know She is not part of a triad or group, like the Morrigan and the Valkyrie. But to me, they do have a connection. To me, the theory that the Valkyrie and the Irish-, Gaulic-, and Germanic Goddesses of War and Battle influenced each other, and therefore, grew together, seems very logical. I tend to see them as sisters, or cousins. Not the same, but part of the same family.

For me personally, the link with the Morrigan is stronger, simply because of Baduhenna’s “mythology”. This is also the reason I relate crows with Baduhenna, without there being evidence for it. And perhaps also because Morrigan was already a known Goddess to me, through my partner who considered Her his patron for a while. I always felt drawn to the Morrigan as well, but it never felt right, not completely. And who knows, perhaps this was because She was trying to point me towards Her Dutch sister all along.

[1] Donahue, C. (1941). The Valkyries and the Irish War-Goddesses. PMLA,56(1), 1-12. doi:10.2307/458935
[2] de Vries, Jan P.M.L. (1931). Studiën over Germaanse mythologie. Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse Taal en Letterkunde, 50, 85-125. Link.
[3] Braakman, W.A. (2001). Baduhenna. Godin van het Slagveld. Westerheem. Tijdschrift voor de Nederlandse Archeologie, 50(1), 2-12.

Story: Wolf Queen

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

A princess is a creature of grace, poise, decorum. They are soft, gentle, patient. I, however, was none of those things, much to my parents’ despair.

  They only brought that upon themselves, of course. A firstborn daughter, a royal invitation to greet the new monarch not sent, and therefore an insult perceived by a powerful magical being. You know how the story goes. I was cursed and, in my story, there were no blessings to gentle it. No other wishes for my future, or what little she left of it. Just a creature of shadow and talon which appeared, damned the bright vision my parents had of my life, and vanished.

   My childhood was a moderately happy one, even with the dark cloud of the curse hanging forever in my periphery. My parents loved me. My sisters, when they were born, did the same. And I of course love them with all that I am. My parents hired tutors, made sure I learned what it meant to be a monarch, made sure I was prepared for a future of rule. They simply made sure my sister learned as well.

   “Just in case.” My father would say, his gaze flitting across the empty hallways as if something unseen was always listening, always watching.

   And when I got too restless, when the green of the forest and the blue of the lake called to me and I couldn’t help but give in to the need to run, to chase, they took me riding. We’d make trips, have picnics, run around on the heather-filled fields and watch the sky change her colour with the setting sun. For the longest time, we were as happy as we could be.

   My eighteenth birthday was a beautiful and clear full moon night. The air rife with the scents of fresh bread and roasted meats of the feast held in honour of my coming of age. Gentle and joyful music filled the ballroom as people danced and laughed all night.

In an empty hallway, as far away from people as I could get, I screamed and cried as my body tore itself apart. As the wildness that had always lived inside of me wanted out. The howl that tore from my newly changed throat was loud enough to wake the entire city.

   I should have been terrified. I should be lamenting the turn my life had taken, all the things I now no longer could do. I should have felt all of those things. But when I made my way out of the castle and into the forest, the ground soft underneath my paws, the silver moonlight a gentle caress on my fur, I couldn’t help but think that his curse tasted a lot like freedom.

   The wildness that had always lived inside of me, the parts that longed to shed the tight clothing and even tighter responsibilities of nobility, were torn from the inner shadow where I had hidden them and shoved into the light. The parts of me that wished to run, to hunt, to feast, finally had a chance to be free.

   Things changed after that.

   Now, people are wary, afraid. My parents try, they really do. To teach me to act normal, ladylike, human. It’s of no use. The wolf lurks under my skin, peering out of my eyes.

People whisper about how much of a waste it is, such a shame, that a curse has changed me so. They don’t see, they don’t understand. The wolf, the wildness, the hunger, has always been there. It is me, the deepest parts of my soul given physical form.

   Life goes on. My sister, perfect, composed, kind, steps into the limelight. Or is pushed, I should say. To placate those who question my place at Court. Meanwhile I am forced into the background. An animal in the shadows meant to be forgotten.

   My wolf balks at the idea of corsets, of rules, of restriction. Doesn’t understand the need for playing nice with nobles it doesn’t like. She’s a creature of instinct, simplicity, and therefore, so am I.

   I spend my days roaming the grounds, protecting what is mine. The people of the city avert their eyes as I go past. Whisper about curses and how they spread, about what it means for the Kingdom that their princess is now a different creature altogether.

My wolf claims the entirety kingdom as her territory and as I get older, I travel further. Checking in daily with the people on the far edges of the lands. The misfits and the outcasts. The ones with wisdom and magic who have been pushed towards the edges of the kingdom long before I was born. Hatred and fear pushed us all here, to the lands where the briar grows three men tall. Where the trees and the shadows move on their own and where the water of the lake is always smooth, no matter how fierce the storm.

I help where I can, chasing off the foxes for the farmers, climbing trees to hang fetches and talismans for protection, bringing food to those who need it most. Most time is spent drinking tea and discussing life with the old lady whom everyone calls ‘witch’. She teaches me all she knows. Things the tutors at the castle never knew to teach me. About the plants and trees that grow, the animals that roam deep within the forest. About life here, on the outskirts of society, and all the peoples and creatures that are part of it. Here, the people look me in the eye. They bow their heads in respect but never in fear. The bravest of the children ask to card their hands through my fur. The old woman laughingly gifts me a crown of twigs and burrs and rowanberries the colour of blood. Every time I’m in my human skin I wear that crown with pride.

   One day, deep within the forest at the edge of my territory, I meet her. The being who has brought all that was hidden within me to the front and then illuminated it. I shift back to human, standing before her, naked and open, but never vulnerable, thanks to her. I thank her for the gifts she has given me. For the freedom and power and strength. The look on her face when I name her fairy godmother is priceless.

   She smiles at me then, a flash of razor-sharp teeth. I bare my own fangs back at her. She asks me then, if I understand. How they are being treated. Those who do not fit in, those who are made of wildness and shadow and blood. How they are shunned because of what they are.

   She tells me this will change, once I am queen. When I tell her that I never will be, that my parents will never find a match for me, she simply laughs and tells me not to worry. After all, I have a fairy godmother now.

   She keeps close after that. Always watching, always near, but never interfering. Not unless I ask her to. So when war, inevitably, finds itself at our borders, I ask for her aid. I stand in the middle of the bloodied battlefield, staring at the incoming forces. The wolf in me is itching underneath my skin. She wishes to hunt, to kill, to feel flesh rip underneath her claws, blood filling her mouth as she tears them apart. So I call out to my fairy godmother, asking if she would join me for a hunt, before I shed my skin along with my humanity and charge forward.

   The battle is brutal and short. The enemy army is better trained, but not against the army of outcasts led by myself and my fairy godmother. Their swords and shields quickly fall against our teeth, claws and magic.

Afterwards, I greet my father on the battlefield. Bare and covered in blood. There is fear in his eyes, yes, but also respect. And, for the first time, trust.

   Things change once again. I am brought back into the castle, but nothing is the same. I spend most of my time in the forests, still, but I also find myself fighting. Training with weapons other than tooth and claw. Weathered old men, tutors, hired by my father to teach me all they know. I learn how much I don’t know, how much there is still to learn. I earn my scars, even if they never stay for long. I earn their respect, even if it is hard won. I am no longer alone, some of my people from the outskirts join me and never leave their princess’ side.

   It doesn’t take long before suitors come from all over the world, wishing to marry one of my sisters. Singing praises about the small kingdom that could so quickly put an end to war. That could tame monsters and wild things. Silly men, none of us were tamed, we simply chose to fight.

   My parents and sisters work hard to get the most advantageous matches. To make sure that both the kingdom and my sisters will continue to grow and prosper. Bargains are struck, feasts are had. One by one my sisters move away, happy with their chosen husbands. All of them are visited by a giant wolf at least once. They know to treat my sisters well, or one night feel the sharp tips of my fangs against their throat.

   Years later I am gifted another crown. It is a beautiful thing. Delicate golden flowers and bright shining gems. It feels uncomfortable to me the way all pretty things do. “It might not suit you,” my father tells me, “but you have earned it.”

“As you have earned your rest.” I tell him.

“You will be wonderful, my Queen.”

   Rumors start spreading, about the Wolfqueen, the Wild One, sitting upon a blood-red throne. About the Kingdom of monsters where beasts, fae and man live free. About the Queen with the Iron Heart, who turns away all who wish to court her, and kills all who dare more.

   It’s not that I do not want someone at my side. I do. I wish for the love that my parents share. That my sisters eventually found with their husbands. But all those who come for my hand, those who finally dare when I have no more free sisters left, come for just that. My hand but not my heart. They are all poised and polished. Perfect little princes who look towards the wealth of the castle but away from the wildness within me. They are afraid to meet my wolf’s cold, assessing gaze.

   Some even try to change me, to find the human underneath the wolf. They only try once.

   For years, I rule alone. Through another war, through a plague born of magic, through prosperity and abundance. My people always by my side but no one to claim my heart.

   But then, a commotion. A man, dressed in furs. No scars on his body, but plenty on his soul. His eyes glowing the same gold as mine in the gentle torchlight. A wildness in them that my wolf recognizes. A challenge that my wolf is eager to take, to rise up to.

   “Your Oracle told me to come here.” He tells me, “I asked for guidance, to find what my heart truly desires, and she sent me to you.”

   My fairy godmother steps up behind me, laying a hand on my shoulder. I can’t see her, but I know she is smiling a smile of sharp pointed teeth. No doubt the oracle he speaks of.

   “My Queen,” he continues, bowing deep, his eyes never leaving mine, “I came looking for connection, for freedom. I believe I will find it with your time and your company. Will you grant me it?”

   “And what, my prince,” for if my fairy godmother sent him, he can only be that, “will you grant me in return?” I lean forward, eager, hungry.

   “Loyalty,” he steps forward, onto the dais, “companionship and understanding.” He leans over me for a single, challenging moment, before kneeling before me, baring his throat. “Perhaps in time even love. But for now, the thrill of a hunt. Of a chase.” He grins, baring sharp fangs. A breath, and a beautiful black-furred wolf sits in front of me.

Oh – the hunt is on. A thrill goes through me as I shift, ready to run, to chase him down and claim him for my own. For if one thing is certain, it is that I am a wild thing, a Queen, a hunter, but never, ever, prey.

Finding Nehalennia

Atefwepwawet’s post inspired me to write about my own journey to Nehalennia. What made me search for this “forgotten Goddess”, and what drew me to her when I finally found her? This particular journey starts about eight to ten year ago. I’d been a witch for about thirteen years, I was part of a coven, had been granted my third degree initiation, together with the title High Priestess. In our coven many Goddesses (but no Gods) were represented and honoured during ritual. Within our tradition (heavily Wiccan influenced, but not Wiccan) people were encouraged to search for “their” Goddess, what is now mostly known as a Matron. One Goddess (and God, though no one except me and my partner had a Patron) that would guide you and that you would worship and honour. In my coven at the time we had Lilith, Isis, Pele, Aradia (not a Goddess, we know), the Morrigan, and Danu. We were also part of a bigger organization of covens, where the Egyptian Gods were very popular. I myself was a dedicated priestess of the Sumerian Goddess Inanna. In 2006 I had done a dedication ritual to her, and her sister Erishkigal a few years later, both “as long as the Goddess walks with me”. I know that people change, that paths wind and twist and can lead you to where you never thought you’d be. So I made room for that change. And, in 2012, I had found Inanna’s connection waning, making room for something new.

I remember standing in the circle during ritual, listening to everyone call upon their Goddesses and thinking “aren’t these all so far from home?”. I remember wondering if there shouldn’t be something or someone closer. From here. From the land upon which we stood. And then I wondered why I didn’t know this already? Why this wasn’t something I had looked into before? I knew we had worshipped the Norse Gods in these parts, but knew almost nothing of them. And what about more local? Were there even Dutch Gods and Goddesses: deities tied to our own lands and traditions? I made a vow, that same night, to, in the very least, start searching.

Photo by Dominik Lückmann on Unsplash

When you type in “Dutch Goddess” in any search bar Nehalennia is going to be one of the first names to come up. Information that is readily available all say the same things; Goddess of the Sea, guardian of sailors, goddess of prosperity and the harvest. Worshipped in what is now Nieuw Zeeland and she may have been Roman, or Celtic, or Germanic. I did some research and while I was intrigued (and found out that I had read about her before) there was no connection there. This was a Goddess we already knew (I thought), I wanted to find the ones we had really forgotten (hubris, anyone?). I delved deeper, found old books and articles, started reading history journals and archeology magazines as old as 1865. I found twenty six unique Dutch deities, one of which specifically piqued my interest: Baduhenna. I wrote down all I could find in a word document, without citing sources — what was past-me thinking? I was hoping to write one article about them. Eventually I wrote several for a few of them.

Around that same time my world view was changing. I was doubting if the Gods where even real or if they were thoughtforms, or archetypes. The research was now purely one of interest, to connect to the past, but nothing spiritual. I became an atheist witch for a while, but that also didn’t feel right.

March 2017. Nehalennia has been on my mind again and this time, I took the time to look deeper. To study her like I studied the others. And I found a treasuretrove of information. What I also found was that there were two temples dedicated to her in the Netherlands. One in the historical reenactment park Archeon, where me and my coven sisters witnessed and participated in a “ritual”, and one which was rebuilt near where the original had been found: on Colijnsplaat in Nieuw Zeeland. During my search I found that his temple is also used. That there is a small group of people dedicated to Nehalennia, today. A group of pagans that use this temple to perform their public rituals. The next one: Ostara 2017. Me and my coven sisters go, and I’m immediately enchanted.

It wasn’t enough of a pull, however. I had absolutely loved the ritual, but was it because of Nehalennia, or was it because of the people and the style? A lot more loose and free and ancient than our tradition. I wasn’t convinced. Luckily that same year there was another ritual, bigger, with a festival and everything. So, on Mabon of that same year, we made the trek again. This time it was clear. I could feel the pull of the sea, connect to the land and the past in a way I never could before. Had experiences with other pagans and witches that I felt deeper within me than many before that. There was a feeling of ancientness, of primal and wildness, that I had been seeking my entire path, but hadn’t been able to find. I found it there. I found it with Nehalennia.

Nehalennia statue at the harvest festival

Word of the Year

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. They never work for me, and I’d rather start working towards a goal when I am well prepared and truly ready, than waiting for a specific date. Something else that I have seen pop up more and more over the years, however, is the Word of the Year.

A tradition which started in the scrapbooking world, coined by Ali Edwards. You choose One Little Word (the name of her project) on which to focus for a year. It will be your guide, something to work on and something to inspire you throughout the year. I was thinking about a word of the year, not even necessarily because I wanted to choose one. But one came up anyway, and in such a clear and strong way that I knew I needed to do something with it.

Trust. I’m probably not the only one whose trust has taken a beating by everything that has happened in 2020. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had moments where I’ve felt betrayed by our governments, by society, family, friends, my own mind, and my body. It was a difficult year. I honestly don’t know if I can find it within myself to trust certain people again. Or even if I should. I even stopped trusting my own instincts and my own body when I got sick with covid. Now I’m nine months into what they are now calling long-covid, and some things might never get better. Times are still very uncertain, in a lot of different ways.

And therefore trust is a word I want to dive deep into in the coming year. What does it mean, what does it mean to me? How can I rebuilt the trust that has been broken? Do I even want to, or is it in some cases better to move on? I want to trust my body again. I want to trust life again.

There are themes that I’ve already started working on earlier, that I of course also will keep working on in the coming year. So, perhaps it is not one word of the year, but more like three. Acceptance, amongst other things because of my health. And self-love is an ongoing journey that I will still set aside my new moons for. So:

Trust
Acceptance
Self-love

Do you have a word of the year? Or any themes you wish to explore in the coming year? Share them with me in the comments!

What 2020 brought me

Of course this has been a terrible year. A year which was filled with trauma, and anxiety for a lot of people. Lots of social upheaval, next to a global pandemic. It’s been tough and it has been hell. But today, on Yule, I also wanted to focus on the good things 2020 has brought me, no matter how small.

  • Ate wild blackberries and walnuts
  • Deepened and rekindled friendships
  • Found a new favourite cookie recipe – peanut butter and chocolate cookie from the book Home Sweet Home by Hummingbird’s Bakery
  • Was asked to write an endorsement for a book about Dutch mythology and magic!
  • Discovered new series – the Witcher, Queer Eye more than a makeover, Crazy Delicious, Zumbo’s Just Desserts, Community, Sugar Rush
  • New books – Minimum Wage Magic, a Court of Thorns and Roses, the Witch’s Altar, the House Witch, Folklore, Maar waar kom je écht vandaan?
  • New music – Victory, Halestorm, Ruelle, Twigs and Twine, Árstíðir, Emian, Andra Day, the Greatest Showman: Reimagined, Martine Kraft
  • New movies – Pride and Prejudice, the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  • New artists – Sylvia Strijk, Maartje van Dokkum, Sara Tisdale (Sergle), Michalina Grzegorz
  • Cultivated art for my temple room
  • Made some powerful art myself
  • Found a painted stone in the wild!
  • Discovered Pumpkin Spice- and London Fog lattes
  • Cultivated (not found, cultivated!) my inner strength to stand up for myself and protect my boundaries
  • Spent a lot of time with my husband
  • Opened myself up and discovered a lot of ingrained prejudice and started working through it
  • Got a gorgeous, new, custom made coat
  • Saw the Hu in concert
  • Celebrated Castlefest online
  • Had a gorgeous and misty Mabon
  • Acceptance of my sexual-, romantic-, and gender identity
  • Clarity about my career
  • Reconnected with my tarot and oracle decks
  • Stardew Valley
  • So much D&D!

Let me know: despite everything, what has this year brought you?