Lexeme Engine

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pronunciations, Abbreviations, Etc.

The parenthetical abbreviation, ON = Old Norse
                                                   OE = Old English
                                                   pIE = proto-Indo-European
                                                      L = Latin (used only once, when quoting a                                                                            phrase)

There is a particular character called an eth (ð) that appears in many Old Norse and Old English words that makes the voiced “th” sound (as in “this”). Because I have not, until very recently, found this character or been able to apply it to this project, I have almost always used a “dh” combination in words to signify ð. There are a few circumstances where ð should appear at the end of words, where I simply make it a “d”. My apologies for this error, eventually I hope to correct the posts.

There are several circumstances where I do not to include proper emphases over letters (like failing to make “u” into “ú”), this does effect how a word may be properly pronounced. Again, my apologies and I hope to remedy this down the road. For now, let it be known that
  • Asatru is pronouced OW-sah-troo
  • blot is pronounced bloat
  • all Norse words containing the letter “j” are pronounced “y” (as in “yes”)
  • all Old English “sc” clusters are pronounced “sh”
Some Old Norse words end in a final r. At one time, this was properly pronounced as a sort of guttaral “r/z” combination, but has become more and more difficult for contemporary people to pronounce, has become generally obsolete, and often has become a “silent r”.


Originally this section was going to be much larger than it currently is. However, with the project's due date nearing I must publish this with the contributions in-hand. I hope that his, more than any other section of this project, will grow and evolve beyond what it is now. The following is a list of words/phrases used by tribes/families that are Heathen related.

bumble (n.) “mixing blot and sumbl”, often a pejorative term used from one group toward the ritual practice of another, implying a failure to understand or appreciate proper ritual methods. – Submitted by Phyllis Steinhauser (unnamed tribe/kindred), via e-mail, March 31, 2011.

Chuck Harter (n.) “the ancestor of us all.” A very bad joke at the Whitewolf Midsummer Celebration, 2010. --Submitted by Thomas McGuire (Whitewolf), via e-mail, April 7, 2011.

hammer time (n.) “preparing for a blot or sumbl”, implying the use of the hammer rite as an act of hallowing, blended into a very cheesy joke involving the 1980s hip-hop star, M.C. Hammer. --Submitted by Thomas McGuire (Whitewolf), via e-mail, April 7, 2011.

Divisions, Intensified

       Unlike the monotheistic religions, Heathenry does not claim to be the “One True Way”. It views evangelism as a flagrant and annoying display of arrogance; and threats of damnation or promises of salvation as petty scare tactics and the empty guarantees of cheap salesmen. Since Heathenry doesn't view any man-made, culturally-born faith system as perfect or universally acceptable, the Heathen understands that the Folkway isn't for everyone. Within this viewpoint, however, a huge rift occurs. For decades a debate has raged as to whether or not individuals outside the European ethnic groups should be welcomed inside the Folkway. For some, the concept of ancestry is sacred and they believe that blood and spirit are integrally linked. This more exclusive outlook is called Folkism (n.) and grounds itself in the idea that all people have a spiritual inheritence linked to their specific ethnic identity. On the other side of the tumultuous fence are those who say that biological ancestry has absolutely no bearing on spirituality. This second ideology is called Universalism (n.) a pejorative label, given by Folkish practitioners implying that such thinking leads to a universal, “we are the world”, assimilationist mentality. Some Universalists, however, prefer the term Adoptivists (n.), capitializing on the Germanic concept that adoption is spiritually binding, like marriage or blood, and that blood is therefor unnecessary. Harsh words are often hurled over this ideological fence that detract from the complexities of the issue and create straw-man arguments. For example, Universalist/Adoptivists will often call Folkish people “racist” (n., adj.) a word that should imply true bigotry and fantasies of biological supremecy but has ome to be the assumption that if people have love and loyalty for their own heritage then they must somehow hate others'. Likewise, not only is the label “Universalist” something of a pejorative misnomer in itself, Folkish Heathens often look at Universalist/Adoptivists as imposters who are not really Heathen at all, and who encourage the slow demise of Germanic folk and therefore the Germanic folkway.
       The Folkish principles are based in a holistic way of thinking, in which mind, body, and spirit are integrally linked. We inherit our physical appearances from our ancestors; we inherit our intelligence, psychological abnormalities, and even predispositions toward/against happiness from our ancestors; the Folkish would say that our spirits are also deeply connected with our ancestors. Many Folkish even refer to the Elder Path as a “spiritual birthright/inheritance” and describe it as “coming home”. There are numerous similarities with Heathenry and the tribal folkway of the Native Americans, and Folkish do not hesitate to point out that N. American tribes often demand proof of genetic authenticity for participation. Does this mean N. Americans are all bigots who perceive themselves as biologically superior to others? Not remotely; yet if a European-based Folkish Heathen group wishes for the same autonomy, the accusations fly.
       The Universalist/Adoptivist ideals are focused on the principle that “we are our deeds” and that the merit of an individual's actions should outweigh any ancestral and ethnic identity. Many would go as far as to say that blood ancestry means nothing at all, and point to the concept that the Gods are often considered spiritual ancestors (n.) making the distinction between this and biological ancestors. They are quick to point out that the revival of Heathenry is occuring roughly 1000 years after most Germanic peoples had been wholesale converted to Christianity, making the case that Christianity could lay claim to European ancestral spirituality as well.
       The issue is truly complex and the opinions of the actual people on either side of the debate are even more so, as few opinions really fit into the neat dichotomy of Folkish vs. Universalist but usually range throughout it. It is for this reason that a Heathen woman named Kriselda Jarnsaxa devised something that has come to be known as the J-Scale (n., “Jarnsaxa Scale”) in which she mapped out a numerical scale ranging from 1, representing “Extreme Universalist”, to 6, representing “Extreme Folkish”
       The scale is not perfect and could be debated further. For example, “Extreme Folkish” (6) is not Folkish at all but simply “White Supremecist”, and perhaps should not be on the scale as it could perpetuate the false idea that Folkism taken to its limits is Supremecism. Also, many people (including the scale's creator) find that they fit somewhere in between numbers on the scale, showing further how complex the issue really is. However, in general the scale is a fairly balanced way of gauging where a person fits in the endless discussion of ancestry.
       As tribalism emerges more and more a new form of tolerance emerges with it. Humanity is complex and one cannot know every facet of every life or why certain people feel drawn to particular paths. Many have taken on a mentality that each tribe should decide for itself who is and is not welcome in their halls, and if other tribes take issue with a tribe's acceptance/lack thereof they have every right to cut ties with said tribe. The prevailing view here is that tribes do not have the power to tell other tribes who are worthy Heathens and who are not.
[Further discussions will be written in the future concerning Traditionalism (n.); Reconstructionism (n.); Organicism (n.); UPG (n.); dual trad (n.); etc.]

(Karn-sarn-digit... Citations...)

Gamlinginn. The Orðasafn of Gamlinginn. Albuquerque: Hrafnahús, 1991. Print.
Again, rather than finding fruit for the lexicon itself, Gamlinginn has provided a strong opinion, this time for the case of Universalism in his concluding essays following his ordhasafn. In fact, in three separate essays Gamlinginn repeats the mantra: “Asatru is freely open to anyone who wants to accept it – regardless of gender, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, language, sexual orientation, or other divisive criteria.” Which, one may note, sounds more like a disclaimer on a job application than a proclamation of a spiritual belief system.

Gundarsson, Kveldulf et al. Our Troth. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. North Charleston: Booksurge, 2006. Print.
As a point of reference: there is an excellent section of this volume in which great detail is paid to mapping out various Heathen organizations, their history, and whether they are ideologically “Folkish or Universalist”.

Jarnsaxa, Kriselda. "The 'Jarnsaxa' Scale." Thorswitch's Journal. LiveJournal, 29 Sept. 2006. Web. 24 Apr. 2011. <http://thorswitch.livejournal.com/313325.html>.
The linked website will display both the scale itself and a commentary by Kriselda Jarnsaxa, the creator of the scale.

McNallen, Stephen A. The Philosophy of Metagenetics, Folkism and Beyond.Nevada City: Asatru Folk              Assembly. 2006. Print.
Another point of reference: McNallen (one of the “forefathers” of modern Asatru in America) gives a valuable look at the non-racist concept of Folkism in this collection of short essays.

Tribal Positions/Hierarchy

[Currently Under Heavy Construction = godhi; chieftain/hersir; thul; skald; valkyrie; huskarl; thrall; etc.]

Holy Tides

[Currently Under Heavy Construction = Yule; Easter/Ostara; Midsummer; Winternights; etc.]


       With the revival of the old beliefs comes a natural revival of the old traditions as well; among these are rituals (n.) that outwardly signify devotion and honor to the Gods/ancestors, and work with the reciprocal nature of things through the concept of gift for a gift (n.). Simply put, the Heathen does not give the Gods gifts in supplication and repentence, but instead as a praise for past blessings or request for future blessings. In fact, an ancient rite practiced by the ancestors was blot (n., ON pl. blotar) which translates as “blessing”. Much controversy surrounds the blot rite within the contemporary Heathen community. Some say that any ceremonial gift to the spirits can be called a blot, whereas others believe that the term should be reserved for blood sacrifice. The argument for using it as an all-encompassing term is that the word “blot” implies no such condition within its literal translation and that confusion has arisen from the Old Norse word blod, meaning “blood”. The argument for using the term specifically for blood sacrifice is that blood is the most powerful spiritual gift that can be given, necessitates a category of its own, and that there are exactly zero historical examples of blotar that didn't involve blood. For those who choose not to use the term for anything other than blood sacrifice, and with actual blood sacrifice being so rare in modern society, terms such as faining (n. from an obsolete Modern English word that means “celebration”) or offrung (n. OE “offering”) are often used. The vessel used to transport the gift from man to god is called a bolli (n. ON “bowl”) and is often made sacred with some form of gandr (n. ON “wand). A husel (n. OE) is the ceremonial feast that follows a blot (and has come to mean a feast that follows faining/offrung as well) and is considered a rite in itself.
       Probably the favorite ritual performed by Heathens today is sumbl (n.) which is a toasting ritual. The participants pass around a horn (n., an organic drinking vessel usually crafted from a bovine horn) filled with mead (n., an ancient European wine fermented with honey rather than sugar cane). There will often be apple juice or some other non-alcoholic beverage on hand for those who wish to participate but abstain from alcohol. The horn in sumbl is concidered symbolic of a “well of deeds”, and as the participants drink the liquid within they replace it with toasts to great beings who have accomplished worthy deeds. Sumbl generally consists of three rounds. The first round is often done to the Gods – either a particular member of the Aesir and Vanir or to the collective tribes. The second round is often dedicated to the ancestors – either a particular one or an entire family line. The concluding round is usually for toasting friends, making boasts, or making oaths (n.). An oath, to Heathens, is a serious, spiritual matter. It is an act of prophesy with personal honor at stake. It is saying, “I will change the future course of events in this specific way”. Oathing at sumbl is particularly serious as it binds those witnessing the oath to help in any way they can. An oath ring (n., usually a wooden ring inscribed with runes) is often used at this time and scyld is set in case the oath is broken.
       A hallowing rite (n.) usually precedes most Heathen rituals and involves carrying fire around a circle to purify and create a frithstead (n., a secure and peaceful inner sanctum). If a torch/fire is not available or impracticle, Heathens will often perform the hammer rite (n.) in which the four cardinal directions will be called using the sign of Mjolnir (n., Thor's hammer). Although Mjolnir has always been known for its hallowing powers, the use of its symbol for creating a frithstead or opening a rite is a very modern development.
       There are other rituals important to the Heathen and often concern rites of passage (n.) such as naming rites for infants, coming into womanhood/manhood, and handfasting (n., marriage).
[Further discussion of rites like seidr (n.) should be added in the future.]

(Oblique Citations. Computers are an abhorrent abomination from the depths of Niflheim...)

DuBois, Thomas A. Nordic Religions in the Viking Age. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1999. Print.
A scholar, professor, and trained folklorist of ancient Nordic cultures (encompassing the Scandinavians, Sami, and Finnish), Thomas Dubois discusses the Scandinavian people, both their native practices and practices they adopted from neighboring cultures, during the Viking Age in this scholarly work. It is particularly useful to this project in its description of blot as clearly a blood sacrifice on numerous occasions in the book.

Gamlinginn. The Orðasafn of Gamlinginn. Albuquerque: Hrafnahús, 1991. Print.
Gamlinginn has been a member of the Heathen community for well over two decades and has published a book very similar in nature to this project. “Ordhasafn” means “word list” and that is precisely what the aforementioned book is: a pocket-sized disctionary of commonly used words in Heathenry. However, Gamlinginn has not been as much help concerning the development of this lexical project as he has in contributing to the opposing side to the opinion of blot, claiming that the rite has nothing to do with blood sacrifice – however, he gives no basis for this opinion beyond that it is, in fact, his opinion.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011