Friday, December 9, 2011

Give a Priceless Yule Gift This Year Even if You Are Broke

A little while ago, I was reading a status update on Facebook written by someone that is broke this year.  She doesn't have the money to buy gifts for her family and friends, and you could read the sadness in what she wrote.  I've been in that position before, and I've had past Yules that were really financially difficult.  Yule (or whatever Holiday you observe this time of year) can be an expensive proposition.  And these past couple years have been some difficult years for many people.

I sent the author of that status update a suggestion, and I thought I would share that suggestion with some additional information in an essay here on Facebook for others that may be struggling this year. 

A gift can be many things.  It does not have to be a somewhat impersonal commercial product that you have spent money on.  The old cliche of "it is the thought that counts," is one of those cliches that are absolutely true.  Showing your friendship or love for another person is a gift.  Doing a favor for someone without them having to ask can be a gift.  Something handmade can be a gift.  And expressing how important someone is to you can be a gift.


I'm not talking about "regifting" here.  I'm also not talking about taking some random item off a shelf and giving it to someone.  And I am definitely not talking about gving away something you don't like, and never wanted.

It is important when you give someone something you already own, that it is something they will truly enjoy.  Sometimes you own something that one of your family members or friends seems to like even more than you do.  Perhaps you noticed their excitement when they saw you owned this item.  Perhaps they even expressed some envy regarding the item.  That is the perfect sort of thing to give to them from among your possessions.

Perhaps it is an old rare book you own.  Or a specific Thor's hammer necklace.  Maybe its is an axe, a knife, a statue of one of our Gods, a tool, a banner, a framed picture...whatever the item is, you are giving it because you know they will appreciate the item more than you do.  You may like the item quite a bit, but you know that they will cherish it more than you, and so you give it freely.

This sort of gift takes some thought, but the right gift from among your possessions will express your generosity and love toward your friend or loved one.


Giving of your time and effort to perform a favor for a friend shows them how you feel about them.  When this favor is unexpected the gift is even more meaningful.  Everyone you know could use some help now and again.

Perhaps they have a room that needs painting, but they've been procratinating it.  Or their backyard or garage is an absolute mess, and they haven't had time to tackle the clean-up effort.  Maybe they have a number of children, but can never find babysitters so they can have some time alone with their spouse.  The possibilities are endless, but it takes some insight and thought to choose the correct favor to do for a friend or loved one.

When you've decided on a favor, you can offer it verbally or with some sort of home-made certificate.  People are not used to receiving favors in this way, so be ready for the receiver of the gift to say, "Oh, you don't need to do that...that's too much."  If they say this, insist that not only are you willing to do the favor, but you want to do the favor for them and it is important to you.

Some favors you can just a surprise. There is nothing like having something completely done for you and it only being revealed to you after the fact.  Of course, you need to be sure that whatever you do for the person is something they actually want done!  


Handmade gifts are filled with your time, your effort, and your skill.  You can put more meaning into a handmade gift by making it something specifically aimed at the interests or needs of the person to whom you are giving the handmade gift.

A drawing, a poem, a painting, something knitted, beaded jewelry, a carving, wood-burning, and leather-working are all wonderful gifts when made with your own hands.  But, you can also give cookies, candy, special breads, or other foods made in your own kitchen.  Some of the best gifts I've been given have been simple handmade gifts. 


A true exression of how you feel can be an enormously meaningful gift.  Basically, sit down and take the time to write individual letters to each of your family, your friends, and your loved-ones. Tell them exactly how you feel about them. Tell them what you love about them. Tell them their strengths. Tell them moments you always think about from your past with them. 

Don't blow smoke. Write TRUE words, and heartfelt words, and give that as your gift to each of them. You can write this on a piece of notebook paper, stationary, or even handmade paper.  Once it is written you can do something as simple as folding it up to give it to them, or you can package it up in a hand-decorated envelope.

This is a gift that will floor each and every one of them, and if you pour your heart and soul into those letters, you won't feel any shame or guilt for not having the money to buy them something.


Money's been tight the past couple years, but the giving of gifts during Yule is not about Money.  It is about puting into action the fondness and frith we share with our friends and loved ones.  It is about expressing their importance to us, by giving them a heartfelt and thoughtful gift.  So, if you are short of money this year...don't get down about not being able to buy a commercial gift.  Just get to work, and give something even better than a commercial gift.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temole of Our Heathen Gods

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

JBK's Open Events in 2012

Jotun's Bane Kindred has planned our kindred event schedule for 2012. Part of the mission of our kindred is providing opportunities for new heathens and those curious about heathenry and our come and gather with us. Below are our Open Events in 2012.

Jan 29, 2012 - 6 PM @ Paddy O'Quigley's - Open Pubmoot

Feb 26, 2012 - 3 PM @ (meeting at Target) - First Highway Cleanup

Mar 10-11, 2012 - Noon @ Gaea - Open Ostara Event

Mar 25, 2012 - 3 PM @ (meeting at Target) - Second Highway Cleanup

May 20, 2012 - Open Pubmoot - 6 PM @ Paddy O'Quigley's

July 29, 2012 @ 6PM @ Open Pubmoot - Paddy O'Quigley's

Sept 20-23, 2012 - Lightning Across the Plains - regional heathen gathering @ Camp Gaea

Oct 7, 2012 - 3 PM - (meeting at Target) - Third Highway Cleanup - Followed by Games

Nov 4, 2012 - 3 PM - (meeting at Target) - Fourth Highway Cleanup

Nov 18, 2012 @ 6 PM @ Paddy O'Quigley's - Open Pubmoot, dedicated to the Einherjar

We'll be posting additional information, links, etc.. But, we wanted to make these dates available as early as possible.

We hope to see you at one or more of our Open Events!

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Monday, December 5, 2011

How Hard Would You Work?

In our Lore, Thor is a tireless defender against the chaos and harm that destructive Jotuns threaten to bring about.

Just how hard are you willing to work in defense of our Folkway and our way of life? Does your family, your kindred, and your friends count on you for their protection, and do they see you as a stalwart defender? Just something to consider now and again.

The hammer pictured in the graphic image was made by Jan Fibiger, and is used here with his permission. He is an amazing artist. His Deviant Art page is here:

Click the image above to see a full-size version of it.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Frigga's Sorrow

The beginning of this story is that Baldr the Good had some terrible dreams that threatened his life. When he told the Æsir these dreams, they took counsel together and it was decided to seek protection for Baldr from every kind of peril. Frigg exacted an oath from fire and water, iron and all kinds of metals, stones, earth, trees, ailments, beasts, birds, poison and serpents, that they would not harm Baldr. And when this had been done and put to the test, Baldr and the Æsir used to amuse themselves by making him stand up at their assemblies for some of them to throw darts at, others to strike and the rest to throw stones at. No matter what was done he was never hurt, and everyone thought that a fine thing. When Loki, Laufey's son, saw that, however, he was annoyed that Baldr was not hurt and he went disguised as a woman to Fensalir to visit Frigg. Frigg asked this woman if she knew what the Æsir were doing at the assembly. She answered that they were all throwing things at Baldr, moreover that he was not being hurt.

Frigg remarked: "Neither weapons nor trees will injure Baldr; I have taken an oath from them all."

The woman asked: "Has everything sworn you an oath to spare Baldr?"

Frigg replied: "West of Valhalla grows a little bush called mistletoe, I did not exact an oath from it; I thought it too young." Thereupon the woman disappeared.

Loki took hold of the mistletoe, pulled it up and went to the assembly. Now Höð was standing on the outer edge of the circle of men because he was blind. Loki asked him: "Why aren't you throwing darts at Baldr?"

He replied: "Because I can't see where Baldr is, and, another thing, I have no weapon."

Then Loki said: "You go and do as the others are doing and show Baldr honour like other men. I will show you where he is standing: throw this twig at him." Höð took the mistletoe and aimed at Baldr as directed by Loki.

The dart went right through him and he fell dead to the ground. This was the greatest misfortune ever to befall gods and men.


So worried was Frigg for her son's life, that she elicited oaths from everything not to harm her son, but tragically underestimated Mistletoe. This story underlines the lengths to which parents will go to safeguard their children, and the lengths to which we all go to safeguard our loved ones (among other lessons).

Click on the image above to see a full-sized version of it.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Love of Your LIfe

Frey is an exceedingly famous god; he decides when the sun shall shine or the rain come down, and along with that the fruitfulness of the earth, and he is good to invoke for peace and plenty. He also brings about the prosperity of men.


'There was a man called Gymir whose wife Aurboða was of the family of cliff giants. Their daughter is Gerð, who is an exceedingly beautiful woman. One day when Frey had gone to Hliðskjálf and was looking out over the whole world, he looked towards the north and saw in one place a large and beautiful dwelling. To this house went a woman; and, when she raised her arms to open the door, they illuminated the sky and sea, and the whole world grew bright from her. So, for the presumption he had shown in seating himself on that holy seat, he paid by going away full of sorrow. When he came home, he neither spoke nor slept, nor did he drink anything, and no one dared to address him.

Njörð summoned Frey's chamberlain, Skirnir, and bade him go to Frey and ask him on whose account he was so angry that he would speak to no one. Skirnir said that he would go, but he was not eager and he said he expected an unpleasant answer from him. When he came to Frey, he asked him why he was so downcast that he would not speak with anyone. Then Frey replied, saying that he had seen a beautiful woman and on her account was so distressed that he would not live long if he could not obtain her. "And now you are to go" (he said), "and woo her for me and bring her here whether her father wishes it or not. I will reward you well for it." Skírnir answered saying that he would go on that errand but Frey was to lend him his sword, which was such a good one that it fought by itself Frey agreed to that and gave him the sword. Then Skírnir went and wooed the woman for him and obtained her promise that, nine nights later, she would come to a place called Barrey and there marry Frey. When, however, Skírnir told Frey the result of his mission, Frey said:

"One night is long, long is a second, how shall I three endure? shorter to me has a month often seemed than this half bridal-eve."

This was the reason why Frey had no weapon when he fought with Beli but killed him with a hart's horn.'

Then Gangleri said:
'It is very strange that a chieftain like Frey should give away a sword and leave himself without as good a one. It was a very great drawback to him when he fought with the man called Beli. Upon my word, he would regret his gift on that occasion.'

Then High One answered:
'It was a small affair when he and Beli met. Frey could have killed him with his bare hands. The time will come when Frey will find it worse to be with out a sword -- when the sons of Muspell ride out to harry.'

-Prose Edda

Click on the image above to see it at full-size.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How Brave Could you Be?

Tyr is a one-handed god,
and leavings of the wolf
and prince of temples.

According to the Lore, the gods decided to shackle the Fenrir the wolf because he threatened to eat all the worlds. The beast broke every chain they put upon him. Eventually the Gods had the dwarves make them a magical ribbon called Gleipnir. It appeared to be only a silken ribbon but was made of six wondrous ingredients: the sound of a cat's footfall, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain, bear's sinews, fish's breath and bird's spittle. Fenrir sensed the gods' deceit and refused to be bound with it unless one of them put his hand in the wolf's mouth. Tyr, known for his great wisdom and courage, agreed, and the other gods bound the wolf. After Fenrir had been bound by the gods, he struggled to try to break the rope. When the gods saw that Fenrir was bound they all rejoiced, except Tyr, who had his right hand bitten off by the wolf. Fenrir will remain bound until the day of Ragnarök. As a result of this deed, Tyr is called the "Leavings of the Wolf"; which is to be understood as a poetic kenning for glory.

It begs the question as to how brave are you on behalf of your Folkway. Do you live openly as a heathen? What are you willing to risk in order to safeguard your family, your kindred, and your close friends? Do you stand up for yourself and your Folk against all threats, including those that would harm emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually?

Click on the image above to see it in all its glory. :-)

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Banner Regarding Sacrifice

I know where Othin's eye is hidden,
Deep in the wide-famed well of Mimir;
Mead from the pledge of Othin each morn
Does Mimir drink: would you know yet more?

It is said that Odin's eye rests in the well of Mimir...and that Odin traded his eye for just one drink from the wisdom-rich waters of that well. What work will you do for wisdom? How hard will you work and what will you sacrifice of yourself to attain it?

Click on the image to see it in all its glory.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

New Heathen Gods Banner

A free resource website for all asatruars and heathens. 

Click on the image to see it in all its glory.
Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Monday, November 28, 2011

Apologies Have a Time and a Place

Do apologies have any value to modern heathens?  In the simplest of terms, the vast majority of heathens believe that a meaningful apology that includes heartfelt regret, dedicated action to fix or mitigate the harm that was done, and a commitment not to cause the same harm again is a worthy approach to correcting harm you have done to another.  The majority of heathens also believe very strongly that just saying "sorry" or expressing other regretful words without actually fixing a serious harm you have caused is an empty approach, and has little worth.  Often, those that offer hollow apologies are likely to cause the same harm over and over again, because they have invested nothing in actually correcting their past harmful actions.

In transitioning from the modern majority culture in which we were raised to cultural values and a way of life based on the beliefs of our heathen Ancestors, there is always the risk of going too far. An area where heathens sometimes miss the mark, is in the area of apologies and correcting harm they have done to another.  There are heathens that simply refuse to ever say the word "sorry" or offer what most people would regard an apology, regardless of the context.  These heathens will offer to correct wrongs they have caused, but almost as a matter of principle they will very pointedly say, "But I'm not going to apologize for what I did."


Our heathen ancestors and most modern heathens believe that if you cause harm to another person, simply stating a verbal apology does not truly make up for the harm you have done.  To truly make up for harm you have done either intentionally or accidently, you must seek to reverse or mitigate the harm you have done.  In order to preserve the honor of everyone involved, it is appropriate for the one who did harm to approach the harmed party, and offer Shyld (obligation) for the harm you have done.  When the harmed party agrees to an appropriate Shyld and the harming party has paid the Shyld, then the matter is settled.  Honor is restored.  Both parties can move beyond it.

Shyld can take many forms.  If you have said something harmful and false about a person in public, Shyld might consist of publicly denouncing what you previously said, admitting you were wrong, and publicly declaring the truth.  If you have caused a problem between two people, Shyld might consist of bringing those two people together and making things right.  If you have damaged something belonging to someone else, Shyld might consist of paying for that item or replacing it.  There are times when Shyld might consist of a monetary payment or gift of value given to the harmed party in order to fulfill the obligation that is owed in return for the harm that was done. 

Often, you can tell when someone is a new heathen or when someone does not quite understand the concept of Honor and Shyld, when they expect a simple apology to make up for a serious harm they have caused.  These new heathens will often be completely shocked that a simple "I'm sorry" doesn't make up for what they have done.  This most likely occurs because the modern majority culture teaches the importance of both seeking and giving forgiveness.  "Repent and you shall be forgiven."  As a reaction against these often worthless verbal apologies and the beliefs of the majority culture, you will sometimes hear heathens espousing the point of view that one should never apologize.  You'll sometimes hear them brag about "never saying the word sorry."  But this reaction against apologizing in any form misses the point of apologizing, and what it means when you apologize properly and with meaning and action to back your words.

An apology is an acknowledgement that you have caused harm, and that you feel regret as to the harm you have caused.  Apologies have their time and place.


You bump into someone.  You sit in someone else's chair on accident.  You say something mildly insensitive to someone.  You get in someone's way going through a doorway.  You reveal something minor about someone in front of the wrong person.  You arrive 10 minutes late for an appointment.  You make any small mistake.

These errors, slips-of-mind, or accidents are fairly inconsequential.  In most cases, there is very little harm to fix and it is hardly worth negotiating a Shyld to settle the matter.  But, there is still a value to acknowledging the error, the slip-of-mind, or the accident and expressing regret that it occurred.  A failure to acknowledge the minor harm you caused and your regret that it happened, is likely to cause a bigger problem with the harmed party than the original minor harm initially caused.   In these cases, saying sorry serves to move both the harmed party and the harming party beyond the small harm that was done without making a mountain out of a molehill.


Friends, relatives, and other loved ones share bonds of trust and understanding that make them part of an inner circle or "Innangarth."  These understandings play a role in resolving situations where harm has been caused between loved ones.  Depending on the context of the harm done, this can work in two ways.

First, we give friends and loved ones a certain amount of latitude or the benefit of the doubt. For this reason, harm that might require Shyld from a stranger may sometimes be resolved between loved ones with a simple apology.  Especially if the harm done was the first incident of that type between the harmed party and the harming party.

On the other hand, the relationships between friends, relatives, and other loved ones are immensely important and worth going the extra-mile to preserve.  So even if a simple apology might resolve a matter between loved ones, there are times when it is advisable to both apologize and perform Shyld to correct the harm you've done.


We live in a majority culture that does not always understand our heavy emphasis on "correcting the harm we've done" rather than just saying "sorry."  Many of our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and even family that are not heathen would rather hear the word "sorry," than have the harm fixed by you.  This is a cultural, and in some cases, religious belief on their party.  So, while it may be worth it for you to attempt to educate them about your own views on the subject, there are times where a verbal apology really is the only Shyld (obligation) that the harmed party will accept.

As a heathen, your personal honor may require that once you have offered this sought-after verbal apology, you then voluntarily take actions to fix or mitigate the harm you have caused, even though the harmed party does not require it of you.  In this way you preserve your own beliefs and way of life, while still functioning effectively within a majority culture that does not entirely understand your point-of-view.  On the other hand, if you take the overly rigid position that "I never say the word sorry," you are likely to unnecessarily lose friends, jobs, and other important things in your life.


I think this is the area where a verbal apology plays its most valuable role.  There is no harm at all in acknowledging the harm you have done and expressing regret that it occured by saying "sorry" or "I apologize," just prior to offering Shyld to mitigate the harm you have done.  Actually, your expression of verbal regret is helpful in putting the Shyld you are offering into context for the harmed party.  If your expression of regret is heartfelt, meaningful, and respectful then the negotiation of Shyld and the chances of putting the matter completely behind you is greatly increased.  It goes without saying though, that this verbal apology is simply an introduction to your offer of Shyld and not a replacement for the Shyld you owe for the harm you have done.


Empty verbal apologies are almost always hollow and worthless.  A verbal apology for a serious harm you have caused is rarely, if ever, sufficient.  But there is a time and a place for verbal apologies, and a rigid, "I never say the word sorry" approach removes an important and meaningful tool in human interaction.  Minor matters, harms caused between loved ones and friends, and situations involving people still fully immersed in the majority culture are sometimes best resolved with a simply offer of regret over what happened.  And a verbal expresion of regret offered as a prelude to offering Shyld is an effective way of connecting with the person with which you wish to reconcile.  As it is with so many other topics, the issue of whether or not a heathen should verbally apologize is much more complicated than some would make it, and is heavily dependent on the context of the situation and the seriousness of the harm that was done.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Want to Hold Your Own Milk Challenge?

There are things you do purely for the fun of it.  Other things you do because you are competative.  Some things you do out of utter boredom.  Our kindred's tradition of holding an annual milk challenge is motivated by all three.

It is nice having the day after Thanksgiving off from work, but it is one of those days where there is just nothing really to do.  I know, I is Black Friday and there is all that shopping...but who the heck wants to be out in that mess, elbowing their way through crowds and crowds of moron sheep-like consumers?

So, in 2009...Craig Winkler and I challenged the rest of Jotun's Bane Kindred to a milk challenge the day after Thanksgiving.  The rules established were fairly simple, and remain the rules today.  The winner is whomever can drink an entire gallon of milk in one hour's time, and hold it down for 5 minutes.  In the event that no one is able to drink and hold down a full gallon of milk in an hour, then whomever pukes the farthest is declared the ultimate champion...

I know, it sounds ridiculous.  It sounds like something some fraternity somewhere would do;  and perhaps it lacks the seriousness and dignity that we normally reserve for ourselves as responsible adults.  But, despite all is enormously fun, competative, and everyone's sides hurt from laughing when it is all over.  And, knowing our can imagine the odd challenges and contests they would have engaged in during the long winters...just to stave off the boredom.

Organizing your own milk challenge with your kindred or among your friends is fairly easy, and this little essay will give you some pointers if you are interested.


Choose a day that your kindred or friends can be there.  The Friday after Thanksgiving is perfect, but any old day will work.  This is definitely an outdoor event, and not something you do in you home.  LOL.  Now it is time to recruit the participants.  If you, as the organizer, aren't going to probably won't have much luck recruiting participants.  As long as you are participating, you only have to convince, challenge, or goad one other person into joining in to make this work.  Of course, the more folks that participate, the bigger the spectacle and the more fun you'll have.  But, as long as two of you are doing are in business.

You know your fellow kindred members and friends better than me, so you'll have to use your best judgement on how to get some of them to participate.  Some will participate, just because you are doing it.  Some will participate in response to a challenge from you.  And some of your kindred members and friends will have absolutely no interest in participate...but they'll be all fired up to show up and watch!  The more folks that show up to watch and laugh along with you during the event, the more fun you'll have.


Part of the fun of the milk challenge is putting way too much work into the field of battle.  For ours, we line up enough chairs for everyone that will be participating.  Take into consideration the direction of the wind, and put the wind to the back of the participants.  It is just common sense to put the wind at their back, but it is worth mentioning.

Using a tape to measure distance and a board to ensure the lines are straight, we use spray paint to paint on the lawn the sporting field.  There is a line every foot of distance from the front legs of the row of chairs.  We usually paint 9 lines out from the front legs of the row of chairs, just in case someone manages to vomit 9 feet in distance during the challenge.

The painted distance lines make measuring the puking distance much much easier.  Plus, it just look cool and increases the spectacle of it all.  We assign a spotter or two, to judge the distance each participant hits.  The spotters should be off to the side of course. 

We've done the milk challenge with whole milk, egg-nog, and this year we used chocolate milk.  Whatever you end up drinking for the challenge, it is important it is a dairy product...and don't use some watery dairy product like skim milk.  That would just violate the whole spirit of the event.  Don't involve alcohol in any way, shape, or form.  And agree to all drink the same exact thing.  As the organizer, you can provide the milk for the challenge, or you can have everyone BYOM (bring your own milk).  We've always gone with the BYOM option because its just easier.


The milk challenge lasts for an hour at most.  And I'm fairly sure that none of our milk challenges have lasted more than a half-hour.  And despite all the puking, most of the participants feel fine just 10 or 20 minutes after the end of the challenge.  So, plan something for after the milk challenge.  Make some food or order pizza for your guests.  Have a movie night, a game night, or some other fun thing your kindred or friends typically do when they get together. 

Don't plan anything serious after the milk challenge.  The event is so full of laughter, that attempting to calm everyone down for an intellectual exercise like a study group session after the milk challenge would be pretty counter-productive.  Just plan something fun afterward.


We've had three annual milk challenges so far, and we'll have our 4th next year, the day after Thanksgiving as usual.  We'll invite some heathens that are friends with our kindred.  And I suspect we'll have more participants next year than ever before.

If you schedule your own milk challenge, let us know how it goes.  Send me a message or an email with a link to the photos or the video.  Here are links to photos and videos from our past milk challenges:

2009 Milk Challenge Photos:
2009 Milk Challenge Video:
2010 Milk Challenge Photos:
2011 Milk Challenge Photos:
2011 Milk Challenge Video:  Coming Soon...

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lightning Across the Plains 2012

I'm working on the poster, website, and information packet for LATP 2012.  Here's the poster or handout image, with a summary of information about the event...

The event this year is September 20-23, and there is a 4-day registration and a 3-day registration available.  Our prices this year, are exactly the same as they have been for the past 3 years.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Sunday, November 13, 2011

In Gods We Trust

The vast majority of people just take for granted a monotheistic point-of-view...a Christian point-of-view.  Despite the separation of church and state and the prohibition against the establishment of a state religion, the phrase "In God We Trust" has been on our coins since 1864...and has been required by law on our coins since 1908.  
I create these images to make a small point about the separation of church and state.  How would Christians react to the phase "In Gods We Trust" being put on our coins and paper money?  They feel it is perfectly reasonable to represent their religious point-of-view on our nation's money...but it is highly unlikely they would tolerate our religious point-of-view being stamped or printed there.

This one-sided approach of the vast majority extends to other areas of our lives.  In Missouri, teachers in public schools can teach Christian church hymns to our children for their "educational value."  But, you can imagine the reaction to anyone teaching religious songs about Odin or Thor in the public school classroom.  In rural Kansas, churches are allowed to hand out Bibles to students as they exit their public schools.  But you can imagine the reaction if Heathens were to hand out religious materials to children leaving their public schools.

Plus the images above just sort of bring a smile to my face.  :-)

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lightning Across the Plains 17 Days Away!

On Sept 23-25, 2011 heathen kindreds, families, and individuals from across the Midwest, Minnesota to Texas, Utah to Indiana, will gather near Kansas City for one of the largest heathen gatherings in the world this year. You are invited...and it is less than a month away!  We're asking as many people as possible to register by September 15th, so that we can buy the correct amount of food and supplies for the event.

Heathenry is about community, gathering as a people, shaking a man or woman's hand, looking them in the eye, hearing their voice, telling stories, getting to know each other. It is letting your kids play together. Letting your spouses get to know each other. Its about laughing at dumb jokes, and telling stories from your life. Its about mingling Wyrd...and taking the measure of another person, and finding them of worth.

There were 240 heathens at 2010's LATP, 70 of which were children. Our registration packet contains a schedule for the 2011 event, and details on food, workshops, Symbels, the Blot, what you'll need to bring, and everything else you could possibly want to know about the event...

Your registration fee includes all camping fees and dinner on Friday and Saturday night. Individual Registrations are $40 and Family Registrations are $60. There's an "Early Option" where you can arrive a day early on September 22nd. The "Early Option" is an additional $10 for Indivduals and $20 for Families. You can register with PayPal, a credit card, or by check. All of the information about how to register is here...

Kari Tauring will be performing at the event, and presenting several workshops. Hauk Heimsdallsman will also be performing. There will be workshops on heathen topics, traditional crafts, and even a singles meet-and-greet. There are religious events throughout the event, several fainings, a Folk Symbel on Friday night, and a High Symbel on Saturday night. We'll also have Viking Games for the adults, such as a hammer-toss, a tug-of-war, and steal-the-wench.

We have events, classes, and fun scheduled for your children throughout the event, including hikes, sword and hammer fighting lessons, storytelling, a class on the runes, craft projects, and a huge foam-weapon battle, complete with a Valkyrie that will remove "the fallen" from the field, and take them to either Vahalla or Freyja's Hall, where they will encounter refreshments befitting brave (kid) warriors. We will also play the very popular game, "Kill the Troll," which the kids just seem to absolutely love. Every child in attendance receives a free foam-covered weapon as part of their registration.

At Lightning Across the Plains 2011, we will also hold the 2nd Regional Midwest Thing. Chieftain, Gothar, and Elders from tribes across the region will gather to discuss on-going and future efforts to advance and support the growth of our Folkway here in the Midwest. All kindreds in attendance are invited to participate in the Chieftain, Gothar, and Elders meeting...and every heathen in attendance is welcome to attend the public meeting at Thing.

Volkshof Kindred, the Franks, Tyr's Helm Tribe, Winterhof Kindred, Hammer-Tree Hearth, Mjolnir Kindred, Fimbul Winter Kindred, Hridgar Kindred, Bifrost Way Kindred, Golden Shield Kindred, Sigruna Kindred, Bifrost Bridge Kindred, Frith Home, Wolf Tree Kindred, Wolves' Wod Kindred, Third Raven Kindred, Sacred Oak, and Jotun's Bane Kindred were some of the kindreds, hearths, and families represented at LATP 2010. There were heathens there from across the Heartland. Minnesota to Texas. Utah to Indiana. While this is a regional event focused on the Midwest, all good heathens are welcome to attend.

Help us spread the word. Tell other heathens about the event. Drag them with you if you need to. Let's make this gathering something our children talk about in their old age.  

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"Gather the Folk" by Johnny Whitebread

Gather the Folk beneath Sol’s warm smile,
Merry the sound of our kin,
The glade’s open arms a welcome embrace
As the travelers trickle in,
Mothers and Fathers with children in tow,
The tents raise their hues to the sky,
The fire’s warm smell welcomes and beckons
And the sense of belonging runs high…

Gather the Folk on first day of the Thing,
Fellowship running throughout,
Faces not seen for nigh on a year
And newcomers welcomed with shout,
In Frith gather folk, free from all fear,
No weapons intrude in this glade,
Mute now they lay outside the Ve,
Battle axe, bludgeon and blade…

Gather the Folk in colourful garb,
This sea of hue leaps to the eye,
All eager to show the prize of the loom
And illustrious usage of dye,
Mead flows aplenty and toasts fill the air,
Gather the Folk in good cheer,
Spirits run high, horns hoisted to sky
All Folkishness culminates here…

Gather the Folk on day two of this Thing,
The morning horn rouses from bed,
The Folk all greet Sol, as he stands proud and tall,
Then engage in the breaking of bread,
Comes then a Blot to the one-handed God,
The fearless, the valiant, Hail Tyr,
Then our Chieftain speaks words which welcome us all
And oath-swearing time is now here…

Gather the Folk on the field of play,
Physical prowess is put to the test,
Warriors wrestle and show off their strength,
Each striving to prove they’re the best,
Board games are played in this lush, verdant glade,
Testing the skills of their minds,
Kinship abounds as the horn makes the rounds
In this, the greatest of times…

Gather the Folk after midday repast
To honour those death kept away,
Somber and strong the words to the dead
As their memory is honoured today,
But all is not gloom, despair and loss,
These feelings are swift in their passing,
Now gather the Folk ‘neath the largest of oaks
To witness two lovers hand-fasting…

Gather the Folk to throw a huge feast,
To honour the two now as one,
A sumbel, with boasting and bragging of course
And many a song being sung,
The spirit of Gebo flows through the air,
The couple are showered with goods,
And the sound of this night floats to starlight
And rolls like a wave through the woods…

Gather the Folk on day three of the Thing,
Again with a tribute to Sol,
Then we honour the Folk Mother, gone to the Gods,
Whose memory touches us all,
The rest of the day is whiled away
With contests of saga and song,
Gather the Folk to hear these words spoke
As oral tradition lives on…

Gather the Folk as Sol slips away,
The close of the Thing drawing nigh,
Invoking their Gods to bless the next year
As the Gothi lifts Hammer on high,
The energy fills the breadth of the glade,
It spills out into the night
Filling each man, each woman, each child
With a sense of ancestry and might…

Gather the Folk to feast one more time,
Slow-roasted pork fills their plates,
The sumbel ensues and promises fly,
Some humble, some daring, all great,
The night slips away towards the new day,
All eventually slip to their tents,
Glowing inside and filled with a pride
For time Holy and very well spent…

Gather the Folk on the fourth day of the Thing
Reluctant to wend their own ways,
The fires are doused and down come the tents,
The coloured garb all packed away,
Handshakes, embraces, tearful farewells,
At last the glade stands clear
Save for the trees that majestically wait
When Folk gather once more next year…

-Written by Johnny Whitebread


Lightning Across the Plains
September 23-25, 2011

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Heathen Families" Paperback Now Available

"Heathen Families" is a 92 page book featuring 9 modern heathen fables rooted in our Lore.  They are written specifically for Heathen children.  The book also features every essay I've written that has to do with Heathen children and families.  The hardcover of "Heathen Families" is available for $7.95 by clicking here.
Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred 
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

"Heathen Families" Hardcover is Available

"Heathen Families" is a 92 page book featuring 9 modern heathen fables rooted in our Lore.  They are written specifically for Heathen children.  The book also features every essay I've written that has to do with Heathen children and families.  The hardcover of "Heathen Families" is available for $16.95 by clicking here.
A digital download of the book is also available for $3.95 by clicking here.  I'll post another blog note when the $7.95 paperback version become available.  The following is the information on the book:
Asatru, or Heathenry, is based on the pre-Christian religion and way-of-life of our Northern European Ancestors. Modern Heathen honor the true Gods of their ancestors, and we honor them in the ways that they did. We also honor our ancestors and the spirits of the land. Heathenry is very family oriented, and encourages us to live responsible lives of honor. Nothing is more important than our families and the children that we bring into this world.  
The modern heathen fables within are just one part of a larger puzzle of finding better ways of sharing our way-of-life with our children. This book brings together all of the essays written by the author to-date on the topic of Heathen children and families. 
Love your children, give gifts to your Gods, honor your ancestors, and respect the Vaettir of the land. Hail our Folk!
Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Heathen Fable #9 - The Greedy Fat Ram

The flock of sheep left the relative safety of the area around the herder's house and spent the morning walking to a wide round hill where they often grazed on the thick tender grasses that grew there.  One fat ram barely kept up with the flock, waddling as he did, with his great belly swinging to and fro.  

When they arrived at the grassy hill, the ewes, rams, and little lambs grazed in relative silence, carefully choosing the plants they knew tasted the best.  The fat ram was so greedy, that he would often push other sheep out of the way to get to an especially tender clump of green grass.  While other sheep would occasionally stop to chew their cud and properly digest their food, the fat ram gorged and gorged never stopping for anything.

As the sun began go behind the hills and dusk approached, the flock of sheep turned toward home and began their trip back to the fields surrounding the herder's house.  But the fat ram was so busy grazing, that he hardly noticed they were gone.  

Alone on the grassy hill, the fat ram continued to eat and eat.  He never even heard the wolves approaching.  While all the ewes, and rams, and little lambs rested safely near the herder's house, nine wolves gobbled up the greedy fat lamb for their evening meal.

As it is with sheep, it is also with men...the foolish man never knows how much to eat.

(Hávamál Stanza 21)

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Heathen Fable #8 - The Hawk that Fought the Wind

All the worlds, including our own, rest in the branches of the world-tree, Yggdrasil. A very old Jotun named Hræsvelgr, or Corpse-Gulper, sits at the top of the world-tree in the form of an eagle, and the flapping of his tremendous wings cause all the winds that blow across the land and seas of our world, Midgard. When our world was young, Corpse-Gulper was already old. There were bare-patches on his body where his feathers had worn thin with age. His body was bent and gnarled and he squinted to see where he was directing the wind from his wings.

It came to be that Corpse-Gulper's eyes were so damaged by age, that ships with sails received no wind at all. The boats of fishermen were blown onto the rocks and broken to pieces. Precious farm animals were scattered by random gusts and lost. Homes were blown down, good soil blown away, and no one could say what the winds might do next to hurt the lives of men.

Hawks depend on the wind more than most. They follow the air currents, using them when they hunt, and they depend on their knowledge of the winds for their lives. But Corpse-Gulper's bad eyes and horrible aim caused wild and unpredictable winds and the hawks suffered even more than men. Many hawks were carried far from where they wanted to be, hunting became impossible, and many hawks starved to death or were blown to the ground and to their deaths. For this reason, all the hawks became fearful and would not take to the sky.

But there was one Brave Hawk who was not afraid. He cared not if the winds were uncontrolled and wild. He scolded his cowardly kin, and told them that he would soar, and hunt, and fly despite the danger. The other hawks tried to talk him out of it and said to the brave hawk, "See...even the men hide from these wild winds. They know that death awaits any that defy the furious blasts from Corpse-Gulper's wings, and they no longer travel in their boats or fish upon the sea, for fear of what will happen to them. They've stopped building homes, planting their crops, or putting their animals in the field for fear of losing everything they have."

The Brave Hawk refused to bow to fear and told the other hawks, "Am I not a hawk? I am young, and strong, and I am meant to fly. I will not cower from these winds." He took flight and began to hunt. But the Brave Hawk was buffetted by the winds, and the air churned and whipped all around him. He fought with every bit of his strength against the deadly gusts, diving and catching new currents when the old ones failed him or threatened to drive him toward the ground. With all his skill and his might he strove courageously against the poorly aimed gusts from Corpse Gulper's wings. But after hours of struggle, a mighty wind drove the Brave Hawk downward onto the rocks and there he lay, broken and dead.

The Goddess Freyja, beautiful Freyja, had seen the Brave Hawk's fearless battle against the wild winds. She gently lifted his broken body from the ground and held it in both her hands. "So great was your might and your main, young hawk, that you should be rewarded with a victory of sorts." It was a simple thing for Freyja to repair the Brave Hawk's body and restore him to life. She set him on Corpse-Gulper's great beak, right between his old squinted eyes.

Freyja told the Brave Hawk, "The winds are not always kind, but neither should they always cause harm. Stay here with Corpse-Gulper, and lend him your eyes. Help him to properly aim the wind from his great wings. Men will call you Veðrfölnir, or Wind-Witherer, for you will calm the wild winds. Give men enough wind to travel to far off places and let them return to fishing, and harvesting, and building their homes without the constant threat of death. As for hawks and the other birds, give them winds to take them where they wish to go and to bring them safely to their prey."

This was long ago. All these years later, the gnarled and ancient eagle named Corpse-Gulper still sits in the uppermost branches of the world-tree, flapping his great wings and sending winds across our world. Some men know that a hawk named the Wind-Whitherer sits upon Corpse-Gulper's beak, though all but a few have forgotten why...

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods


END NOTE  - The fable “The Hawk that Fought the Wind” is not based directly on the Lore, for the Lore does not give a reason why there is a hawk sitting on the beak of the Eagle at the top of Yggdrasil, the world-tree. Whatever story or myth that once existed among our ancestors regarding the hawk's purpose in sitting there has been lost.

While attempting to give a modern explanation to this question, the fable is also crafted to teach a lesson about bravery and perseverance and to explain the hawk's name in the Lore, which can be translated as “wind-whitherer.”

For the purpose of this story, we have brought together into one character the nameless jotun in the form of an eagle at the “top of Yggdrasil” and Hræsvelgr, the jotun in the form of an eagle at the “top of the sky” who forms all the wind with his wings. Despite some strong parallels between these two jotuns, there is no conclusive evidence in the Lore that they were one and the same.