Down in the Valley of the Not-So-Jolly Jotuns

Given this morning’s -30 F temperature and the omnipresent mounds of snow, it’s very easy to confuse the Chicago slice of Miðrgarðr for Jotunheim. Whizzing along on the northbound Tri-State, making my morning transition from Cook to Lake County during my drive to work, it was difficult to not find the landscape tinged with thurz-friendly phantasmagoria—look, there’s Fenris loping amidst the snow-laden oaks, sycamores, and aspens in Busse Woods; Skadi loves stomping about with her snowshoes in a childlike spirit of abandon in the gravelly pit of the major construction site at Willow Road.

I was listening to the sweet strains of Loreena McKennit’s liltingly lovely musical interpretation of Tennyson’s masterpiece, “The Lady of Shallot,” when it dawned on me—just as Sunna’s orange and scarlet robes blinded me in the rear-view mirror—that this day is absolutely, wholly, and unequivocally laced with death. The very air, reminiscent of that primal giant from whom the whole world was crafted, is tinged with it. Try inhaling without a scarf or other covering to shield your mouth while, say, walking a dog for 20 minutes and you’ll feel it, death like a form of anti-pneuma seeping into your lungs. A cold caress that makes your flesh and bones revolt to the touch. Continue reading

North Sea Nostrum

By way of editorial comment: For the love of “Beowulf,” “The Wanderer,” “The Seafarer,” and “The Dream of the Rood”! I loved my undergraduate studies of Old English poetry so much that I wanted to study, in graduate school, linguistics courses on Old English grammar and the History of the English language (welcome to HEL…who, incidentally is one of my favorite Old Norse goddesses, as I explain in this series of posts). This poem is my homage to the Anglo-Saxon forebears of the language we all speak and take for granted every day and their wonderfully elegaic sensibilities and warrior ethos. One of my favorite Old English poetic devices is the use of the kenning–see how many you can spot in my poem,

North Sea Nostrum

The spray of salt tinges the air along this whale-road

Limpets and lichens cling to bleak black rocks

Protruding like the teeth of giants

Now that the tide is low Continue reading

Go to Hel, Part 3: Bound by Bone—Deepening My Devotion to Loki’s Daughter

The wallpaper on my work PC is a stunning 1905 painting by the German artist Emil Doepler. Entitled “Loki’s Brood,” I find throughout the course of any given workday that I completely lose myself in reverie as I look at Hel. It’s almost as if Her distant gaze, surely focused as it is on Other/Inner Worlds, mirrors my own as I gaze at Her and think on Her glorious Being. Is it possible to truly love—with all the inner reserves of affection and devotion that your heart is capable of squeezing out—a Goddess of Death? Continue reading

Go to Hel, Part 2: “Please, Don’t Squeeze the Shaman”: Journeying Deep into Helheim

It all began in August of 2013, when I moved into my first-ever purchased home: a cozy condo in Chicago’s far northwest corner—a neighborhood, unbeknownst to me at the time, notoriously known for its ghastly history and stupendously huge mass paupers’ graves lurking beneath my very subdivision and a large swath of the surrounding area! Continue reading

Go to Hel, Part 1: How My Polytheistic “Dark” Goddess Proclivities and Seriously Weird Wyrd Opened Wide the Gates to Hel

Theologically speaking, as a hard polytheist, I believe that the Deities I love and serve objectively exist and have distinct, independent personalities with likes and dislikes, preferred/time-honored ritual offerings, and unique bodies of lore surrounding Them. They are not mental constructs/Jungian archetypes drawn from some collective Unconscious well. Continue reading