Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Our Folkrunes

Like many elder tongues, Anglo-Saxon is beautiful in its simplicity of vocabulary and rich in its oftentimes complex meanings of the words. Take the word fréo, for example, which means “free”, but also means “lady”, “woman”, from which we get the name of our Goddess Fréo. Fréo also means “glad”, “joyful”, “illustrious”, qualities we might attribute to a noblewoman. So, one Anglo-Saxon word might mean many related things. What it means specifically when expressed has much to do with its use and how it is inflected when spoken.

So it is with our Folkrunes. 

The Free Folk have two Folkrunes: the Knot and the Tree. The Knot consists of the Triquetra with a Circle woven through It. The Tree consists of two feoh runes stood back-to-back or (if looked at from a different perspective) two eolh runes stacked one on top of the other. Let us examine the meanings of these Runes:

The Knot

The Knot can be seen to represent the mystery of wyrd (fate) to our collective Germanic unconscious, what C. G. Jung called “the folk-soul”. It is a feminine symbol, comprised of a Triquetra with a Circle woven through it. The three visicae piscis of the Triquetra can be seen to represent the three Wells tended by the Giant-Maidens known as the Wyrdae (Fates), whose names translate to mean: “That Which Has Become” (Past Influence), “That Which Is Turning” (Present Influence), and “That Which Should Be” (Debt or Consequence). The Circle can be seen to represent the eternal progress of deeds through the Wells, in Time and in accordance with the Law of Causality.

The Knot is also representative of The Three Wynns referred to in our last post Thews & Joys and the hālnes (wholeness) created by their cultivation and application, with the Triquetra representing the Joys, and the Circle representing the Wholeness their cultivation and application by the Tribesman attains.

Finally, the Knot is a reference to the origins of the Free Folk, with the Circle representing the Magic Circle of the English Witchcraft tradition practiced by the group’s three Founders, and the visicae piscis of the Triquetra representing the Founders themselves and their kinship.

The Tree

The Tree can be seen to represent the Sacral Kingship and Sacred Marriage of Fréo and Fréa. It is from Fréo and Fréa that wealth (feoh) and aristocracy descend. The Rune also signifies the warding of that wealth by the double eolh (elk-sedge), Fréa’s “antlers”—bodlily weapons that some say are a reference to Fréa’s skill at martial arts. In fact, one might attribute the “wealth” quality of the Rune to Fréo and the “warding” quality of it to Fréa. After all, Fréo means “Lady”, for which the Anglo-Saxon word is hlāfdige, meaning “rich (blessed) wth bread”; and Fréa means “Lord”, for which the Anglo-Saxon is hlāford, which means “warder of bread”. Of course, this is but a two-dimensional representation of the Tree. The actual Tree has an infinite number of staves branching off from it, suggesting the limitless abundance of the Goddess and the supreme protective quality of the God. 

The Tree is also representative of the Tribe itself, which has its roots in the three Wells of the Knot. From these Wells, the Tree draws nourishment from the numinous “mead” contained within the Wells, “mead” formed by the very dew (memory) which drips from the Tree. The Tree represents the quality, ancestry, tradition, and lore of the Tribe and also of the Tribesman, who is both a “leaf” on the “great tree” of the Tribe and a “tree” himself. Examine the “leaf”, and you will find the Tree Rune there in the “veins” of the “leaf”. It is a reminder to the Tribesman of all that has contributed to this wyrd and of the Tribesman’s personal responsibility to contribute to wyrd in ways that nourish the Tree and encourage its brilliance and healthy growth for all time.

Finally, the Tree is a reference to the feoh runes in “Free” and “Folk”.

Where the Knot signifies “That Which Is Hidden” in the mystery of magic and the progress of fate, the Tree signifies “That Which Is Revealed” in the evidence of causes and consequences.

Together the Knot and the Tree form the Free Folk identity. Though we do not combine the two images in the form of a logo, the Two are a pair in that the relationships between what they represent are interdependent, much like the relationships within a family, fellowship, kindred, tribe, nation, and the natural world itself are interdependent. The Tribesman who meditates on these truths will find Wisdom, that greatest of Joys that is the culmination of all Joys and Thews.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Thews & Joys

The Free Folk is a lawless society. In place of law we observe something called þéaw (thew). Roughly translated from Anglo-Saxon, þéaw means “custom”, “conduct”—a sort of observed manner and behavior when among one’s own. An example of þéaw would be that of the humility and obedience observed by a learning Fosterman. Another example would be the hospitality and generosity displayed by a symbelgifa (symbel-giver) towards his guests. A third would be the observation by a guest of moderation when at the feast-table and of temperance when sitting at symbel. Returning gift for gift is another example, and there are many more that are afforded us in the lore, our myths, and modeling by our elders and wisefolk. It is our belief that observance of these þéaws leads to a joyful life for the Tribesman.

There are twelve þéaws, in specific, that the Free Folk recognizes as embodying more or less “the whole” of its ethic: 

  1. Bisignes (industriousness)
  2. Efennes (equity, justice)
  3. Ellen (courage)
  4. Geférscipe (community, fellowship)
  5. Giefu (generosity)
  6. Giestliðnes (hospitality)
  7. Metgung (moderation)
  8. Selfdóm (independence, individuality)
  9. Sóð (sooth, truth, honesty)
  10. Stedefæstnes (steadfastness, perseverance)
  11. Tréowð (troth, loyalty)
  12. Wísdóm (wisdom) 

These are taken from the excellent work We Are Our Deeds: The Elder Heathenry Its Ethic And Thew by Eric Wódening. The book is required reading for all Tribesmen and is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the moral and ethical system of our Germanic ancestors. The þéaws might be likened to “rays” of excellence that “shine out” from the noble Germanic heart and together form a radiant “sun”.

Wódening cites in his book that these and all other þéaws stem from what he calls The Three Wynns, which “offer the path to true happiness” or wynn (joy). These are: Wisdom, Worthmind (personal honor), and Wealthdeal (generosity). These three Wynns are represented by the three visicae piscis of the Free Folk Triquetra, and the Circle which is woven through them represents the hālnes (wholeness) attained by the Tribesman through their cultivation and application. The Knot (Triquetra and Circle together) is a simple reminder of this wisdom and an encouragement to cultivate it within himself and apply it in his daily life.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Of Horns & Leaves

Tonight is Mother Night, the first night of Yule. When the sun sets, I will begin my Yuletide tradition of baking what I call béobread (beebread). Named after the miracluous bee product honey, béobread has become a staple of my food-gift at Yuletide.

I began baking béobread 25 years ago when I was the very young High Priestess of a Wiccan coven. The coven, which my two co-founders and I called simply “the Circle”, was founded in a spirit of mutual love, kinship, and an interest in magic and the elder European tradition. As High Priestess, I served béobread to my fellow coven members and offered it to the Gods as a sacrifice. When making it, I would use the mouth of a glass to cut the dough into crescent-shaped horns and broad-bladed leaves. On the leaves I would incise veins in the shape of two feoh runes back-to-back. Little did I know then that what I had shaped out of dough would have significance for the Folk that would later be birthed from this primeval fellowship.

When I came to Heathenry many years later, I brought my béobread tradition with me. When I was inspired to found the Free Folk in 2006, I took the bindrune I had incised on the leaves of dough as our Folkrune after the two feoh runes in “Free” and “Folk”. The bindrune also represented the Sacral Kingship and Sacred Marriage that blessed and warded the Folk: that of Fréo and Fréa, the Lady and the Lord. The words “lady” and “lord” originate from the Anglo-Saxon hlāfdige and hlāford, meaning (curiously enough) “rich (blessed) with bread” and “warder of bread”, respectively.

Some years after that I came to Idesheall, my home. Now in a space that would support hosting the seasonal feasts and symbels in a manner after that of my Germanic ancestors, I began to do so at the festivals of Summerfinding, Winter Nights, and Yule. The gifting, serving, and sacrificing of béobread continued to be a Yuletide tradition, as was the baking of it on Mother Night.

Over those first years of hosting at Idesheall, many different types of folk attended the celebrations, but one group of regulars could be counted upon to show for nearly every assembly. These came to be what I would ultimately call “hearth-friends”—good and kind-hearted folk, whose generosity and support helped to maintain the Hall and support its function as what Garman Lord refers to in his excellent work The Way Of The Heathen as a “Great Good Place”.

Here again the mystery of the Horns and Leaves began to reveal itself. The quality of these hearth-friends was not unlike that of the Wanic deities themselves, and each seemed like a “leaf” sprung from the otherworldly “tree” that wound through my Hall, and some were like unto the old aristocracy I knew from the old coven—more like the Éses, wise in magic, philosophy, priestcraft, and the noble arts—like “horns”. Indeed, when one of my co-founders of the old coven first visited Idesheall, he remarked on the energy of the place and inquired as to its source. That, of course, is a secret I cannot tell here.

This summer I was again inspired to undertake an enterprise on behalf of the Folk. I was to bring forth a tribe. It was a tribe of which I was not to be a member, but mother and warder. As the groundwork was laid and the work began, again the mystery of the Horns and Leaves presented. The Tribe needed an identity. It had to be something simple, with both universal significance that would speak to the European folk soul and personal significance for the Tribe. And, then it came to me: the first three “leaves” and “horns” joined together in that primeval love and kinship we had known in the beginning: a triquetra, and woven through this “seed” of sorts a circle: for the first “Circle” and for each “circle” since that has formed and may yet form. The symbol would serve as a memorial to the Founders and the First Fellowship that sprang from their kinship.

And, that is the story of the Horns and the Leaves.

Wæs hāl and Glad Géola!