The Germanic Studies program focuses on principles and practices of ancient Scandinavian, German, and Anglo-Saxon peoples. While there were many regional and local variations in what these peoples believed and how they lived their lives, there were also many principles they held in common.
All hail to the givers! A guest hath come
Say where shall he sit?
In haste is he to the hall who cometh,
To find a place by the fire.
With a friend man should be friends ever,
And pay back gift for gift
Laughter for laughter he learn to give
And eke lesing for lies.
Hávámal 2 and 42
Hospitality and Mutual Assistance
The principle of “gift for a gift” illustrates the reciprocity of our relationships with other people in our community, our ancestors, the Gods, and spirits (or wights) of the land and of our home. It is put into practice within our ritual life, as well as through the ways we interact with each other as a community.
One of the two major rituals in Heathenry, or the contemporary practice of pre-Christian Germanic spirituality, is called a blot. It is a ritual of offering to the Gods and Goddesses, to our ancestors, or to the wights of land or home. Like gift-giving between people, a blot acts to strengthen the relationships between us and the Gods.
The Hávámal (quoted above) is a poem, probably of Norwegian origin, dating around the 10th century. Much of the poem focuses on practices of hospitality, which express this principle of gift for a gift.
Frith is the web of social bonds and obligations that promote the well-being of a community. Frith requires a shared commitment to common principles and ideals. Frith compels us to protect and stand up for others in our community, and to resolve conflict in ways that benefit the whole community. Ancient Germanic peoples had frith within their families and kinship networks, with their leaders, and with the Gods and Goddesses. Some of the best contemporary scholarship on the concept of frith has been produced by scholars from the former Angelseaxisce Ealdriht and is currently available on the web site for Miercinga Ríce.
Wyrd is perhaps the most important aspect of ancient Germanic systems of thought. It describes the relationship between the past and the present, and the web of interconnections between all events in the cosmos. For those of us living today, especially those of us who have grown up with the extreme form of individualism that has taken root within the United States, the idea that our actions grow out of or depend upon our own past actions and the past actions of our family or clan may be a strange one.
A study of Wyrd can help us to understand our obligations to our ancestors, and our responsibilities to finish work that was begun long ago, as well as to resolve obligations incurred perhaps many generations past. This understanding is vital to our cultural and spiritual health as a people, and especially important if we are going to pursue the kind of racial reconciliation that will be enable us to move toward a more sustainable way of life. The classic study of wyrd was published by Paul Bauschatz
in 1982 in his book The Well and the Tree.
Holy Days and Festivals
Festival days varied from region to region, depending in part on the natural rhythm of the agricultural year in each region. Likewise, today festivals and practices may vary regionally, or even kindred by kindred. (A kindred is a group of families and individuals that practice together and care for each other, often bound by oaths and family ties). However, some have suggested that Jul, Ostara, and WinterNights are nearly universally celebrated.
Jul/Yule (around Dec. 21 to around Jan. 1) Begins with Mother Night, the eve of the winter solstice, on which we celebrate and give offerings to the Disir, or ancestral mothers. It lasts for some number of days, and may involve many nights of blot (offerings) and sumbel (toasting and oath making).
Ostara (around the spring equinox) or End of Winter. Many Ostara customs are the basis of customs practiced at the Christian festival of Easter.
Winter Nights (sometime after the fall equinox). A night to honor and give offering to our ancestors, especially the Disir, or the tribal mothers. It also is a final harvest festival, when people are preparing for winter.
Other festivals commonly celebrated include:
℘ Disting (in early February)
℘ Loaf Feast (in early August)
℘ Walpurgisnacht (May Eve)
℘ May Day (May 1st)
℘ Midsummer (around summer solstice)