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.

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

A misty autumn equinox

Mabon or the autumn equinox usually isn’t really my festival. Which is weird, because I adore fall and everything that has to do with it, but I never really connected. Wow is this year different!
The weekend before the equinox is usually reserved for the Nehalennia festival here in Zeeland. A day filled with workshops and ritual. This year, because of the pandemic, this is one of the things that is, unfortunately but understandably, cancelled. So I wanted to do something in my own way. Last weekend that was a picnic at the water front, a picnic in the park, and making devotional ritual oils for my deities. And then today, the autumn equinox itself.

Since I had the day off and I wanted to take that day for myself, the plan was to sleep in. However, since my partner had to work early and I am a morning person, sleeping in meant seven o’clock in the morning. *sigh* Then partner came back into the bedroom saying the world had dissapeared, and indeed, there was so much mist, we couldn’t even see the parked cars. I thought to myself “man, I would love to take a walk in this.” Then I remembered that I had the day off and no-one was stopping me! So I made breakfast and took it to the tiny park in front of our house!

After breakfast and meandering for a while I even found that the park was a bit bigger than I thought it was, and I discovered this amazing tunnel of hazels. Beautiful. I also discovered that we have walnut trees, and I ate a freshly foraged walnut for the first time in my life!

By then the sun had risen more and the mist was slowly fading, creating this beautiful light in the trees. In Dutch we call this a Zonneharp, which means Sun-harp.
Back home I took a nice, cleansing shower and had lunch with a bowl of delicious, harvest-y pumpkin and carrot soup. I’d had the plan to do a ritual indoors, but the weather was so nice, I decided to instead grab my witchy journal and head back outside.

I journaled about what I am harvesting this year, and what I would like to “seed” for next year’s harvest. For the first time I also drew oracle cards in public, not really caring what others thought of me (growth!). I made contact with the land spirits and foraged some sweet chestnuts which I am hoping to turn into a rune set! I also ate my first freshly harvested blackberry ever. It was also delicious.
Another nice surprise was waiting for me when I came home, a home-made card by my lovely friend Chantal, to wish me a happy fall!

I adore it, and it was such a nice suprise on this already surprising Mabon day! And as such, a festival that I normally don’t really recognize, just became an entire day of witchiness and festivities. Next year, I’ll know better and hopefully have another amazing autumn equinox.

Ode to Nehalennia

Nehalennia statue, Nehalennia festival 2019

A poem or prayer that I’ve written to my Goddess, Nehalennia. She is the Goddess of the North Sea, of seafaring, commerce, the harvest and the dead. I’ve originally written it in Dutch, but I’ve translated it in English as well. Find both versions below.

In de kolkende golven hoor ik Haar stem.
Nehalennia.
Haar wind speelt door mijn lokken,
Haar zilte zegening raakt mijn lippen.

Deae Nehalennia.
Zij die de storm trotseert, en sterker er uit voortvloeit
Zij die de weg laat zien en onze reis bewaakt
Zij wiens woede schepen ten onder doet gaan
Zij wiens tedere omhelzing rust en vreugde brengt

Vrouwe Nehalennia,
Kracht van de Noordzee
Hoor mij aan!
Want ik ben Uw dochter,
Uw gezouten water stroomt door mijn aderen
Uw storm raast door mijn lijf
Uw kracht en diepte heb ik geërfd

Moeder Nehalennia
Hart van de Noordzee
Wees met mij!

Noordzee by Marjolijn Ashara

English version

In the churning waves I hear Her voice.
Nehalennia.
Her wind plays with my locks,
Her silten blessing touches my lips.

Daea Nehalennia.
She who faces the storm and flows from it, stronger
She who shows us the way and guards our journey
She whose rage causes ships to perish
She whose tender embrace brings us peace and joy

Lady Nehalennia,
Power of the North Sea
Hear me!
For I am your daughter
Your salted water flows through my veins
Your storm rages through my body
Your strength and dept I inherited

Mother Nehalennia
Heart of the North Sea
Be with me!

(First published on my witchy Tumblr)