Element pages

Another peak into my Art Grimoire! Today I wanted to share my pages for the four elements with you. I wanted this one to be quite simple, the triangles with representations of the elements inside, and then have keywords which are my personal associations with each element.

What I love about this method is that I can keep adding correspondences and associations as they come to me, right up until the box is full!

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.

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!

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.

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

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?

Yule Spell Ornament

I think I’m not the only for who December and the holidays are a strange and sometimes difficult time. So this year I decided to try and bring some light and warmth, joy and love into our home with this Yule spell ornament!

Disclaimer: I used whatever I had in my house which spoke to me of warmth, homeliness, joy and comfort. You don’t need all these ingredients, and some of the things that I have these associations with might not speak to you. Use whatever feels right!

What you need:

  • Glass ornament
  • Wool or twine in the colours of the hearth or Sun
  • Charm that represents warmth and home, in my case the bonfire
  • Salt (cleansing, snow)
  • Cinnamon stick (warmth, comfort)
  • Different types of tree bark and twigs (yule log, hearth)
  • Chios Mastic or a different yellow coloured resin (Sun, warmth, energy)
  • Juniper berry (ancestors, ancient)
  • Sun charm (Sun, warmth, joy)
  • Citrine (happiness, joy, creativity)
  • Yellow Aventurine (happiness, warmth, joy)
  • Rose quartz (love, self love, comfort)
  • Chamomile (Sun, comfort, joy)

What you do:

  • Create your space in the way that feels right for you
  • Cleanse your ornament
  • Add your salt, charging it with intent
  • Add your small herbs and crystals, charging each with intent while you add them
  • Add your big pieces, placing them in a way that looks good to you, charging them with your intent
  • Put the cap back onto your ornament
  • Wrap the top with the wool and add the charm to the outside, charging it with intent

Things I thought about adding: glitter (fun, joy, sparkly lights), cocoa powder (comfort, warmth), holly (winter, everlasting, yule), red apple (comfort, homeliness, yule), sugar (sweetness, love), fake snow (winter, joy, snow)

What would you add to your ornament of love, joy, and warmth.

Pagan festival pages

You might have noticed that I added a subject “witchcraft” on top of this blog. And if you’ve looked you might have noticed that I like sharing some of my art grimoire pages! Besides a bunch of information that I keep digitally, or printed out in a binder, I wanted to make a book of shadows that was part artbook, part reference book, part whatever else I wanted it to be. Today I wanted to share my Wheel of the Year pages with you!

All these pages where inspired by Dominee from BlessingManifesting. I loved the watercolour effect and tried to copy that with coloured pencil.

Below the name of the festival I added some other common, or less common, names the festival is known by. Or festivals that were inspired by the pagan feast, like easter.

I really wanted the pages to make sense for me and what I’m most likely to use it for. For me that’s planning celebrations for our Circle, decorating the altar and the potluck that has become festival tradition. So for me that meant: decoration and symbols (correspondences), inspirtion for the types of spells and rituals associated with the festival (spellwork), creative ideas and the spirit of the feast (activities), and foods for the potluck (or on my own!).

Before I started on these pages, I really took the time to think about my associations with the different festivals. The things that were important to me, and that fit my path and practice. With this book it’s so important that it’s personal, so I really took my time to gather resources, look at old spells and rituals, and use a lot of intuition.

I really love how they turned out. Even with a few flaws here and there ;). Join me next time when I share my pages on the elements!

Cernuna?

I got a question on Twitter by a follower who wondered if I have any information about the Goddess Cernuna. I must admit, I’d read the name once in passing, while reading about Cernunnos, but I never really dove further into it, thinking that it was simply a modern pagan’s wishful thinking. After the question, however, I got curious. Is there a female counterpart to Cernunnos? Do we have evidence of a Gaulish female antlered Goddess?

Short answer: sort of.

Above is a bronze statue of an antlered woman, sitting crosslegged, holding a cornucopia and a patera: a gallo-roman offering dish. The statue is currently in the British Museum, but was found at Broye in the Haute-Saône (Franche-Comté). Interesting is of course that she had antlers, and the fact that she is sitting crosslegged, something that most Cernunnos depictions have as well.

Another antlered goddess, sitting crosslegged, holding a cornucopia was discovered in Puy-de-Dôme. Her other hand is empty but was likely holding another patera. She can be seen in the Musée de Clermont-Ferrand.

The cornucopia is a symbol of abundance and prosperity. The patera is one of worship, of leaving offerings for a deity. However, often the figures holding the patera would not be the deity themself, but those who would bring offerings to them. So are we looking at statues of Goddesses, or of priestesses? Horns (or antlers) indicate a link to nature and the hunt. Which would make these potential Goddesses a Goddess of nature, the hunt, and abundance (and perhaps the harvest).

There is also mention of a relief of a horned (not antlered) Goddess found on a piece of pottery in Richborough, Kent, but I wasn’t able to find an image of this.

Of course we know next to nothing about these figures. Their name, or what their attributes entailed. Cernuna or Cernunna would be a suitable name, meaning “horned” but whether or not She would have a link to Cernunnos is impossible to know. And if She did have a link to Cernunnos, what would it be? Is She His consort, His wife, His sister, His female form? An interesting concept to think about.

Sources:
We Are Star Stuff – Cernunnos
We Are Star Stuff – Horned Goddesses
DeoMercurio – Cernunnos
Noémie Beck – Goddesses in Celtic Religion
Ceisiwr Serith – Cernunnos: Looking a Different Way
Sharon Paice MacLeod – Celtic Cosmology and the Otherworld: Mythic Origins, Sovereignty and Liminality pg. 152-154
Miranda Green – Symbol and Image in Celtic Religious Art pg. 26-27
Miranda Green – Animals in Celtic Life and Myth pg. 237
Georgia Irby-Massie – Military Religion in Roman Britain pg. 100