Hiraeth: Finding my Home

This post will have a lot of UPG. Take it for what you will. 

Hiraeth, a Welsh word with no exact English definition. There are a few variations of the meaning scattered on the internet. But there are two definitions that really make sense to me. The first one is from Wikipedia, “It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past[1],” and the second from a Welshwoman studying abroad, “A longing to be where your spirit lives[2].”

Ever since discovering this word and the multiple layers behind it, it has stuck with me. But it is not until today that I truly understood the word. To be able to feel what the word means, not just to know the definition. It was a very surreal and fundamental moment for me.

I spent the afternoon with my Great-Uncle Ian at a small garden shop and tea room. It’s called The Secret Garden and it is truly a fitting name. A 400 year old building Just off of the A4042 you can easily blink and drive past it. We perused the grounds and looking at flora that he knew of far better than I. But even though I don’t know the specifics of each flower, I could still appreciate the place.

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After a while we do what any self-respecting Brit does when possible, we drink some tea. Their tearoom overlooks the stereotypical Welsh countryside. A field of sheep with accompanying donkeys, and striking green hills. The best part of the entire view was that in the distance nestled in the valleys was my childhood hometown and Folly Tower, a local landmark that was originally built around 1765 or so.

We sat there until closing time and talked about life and nature, with him sharing his countless tales of past experiences I will never forget. But towards the end of the conversation right before we had to leave, I experienced hiraeth for the first time in a moment similar to the Eureka Effect.

The cold wind nipped at my face, laughter was tangible in the air, and Sól ignited the sky in an amber blaze before He ended His journey. At this moment I saw Cymru in all of its primal beauty. I saw my home. Not just the place I currently reside, but the place where my spirit lives. I saw the Green, Green Grass of Home. The fields and valleys that have sustained my People and ancestors for centuries. I saw the pride of Y Ddraig Goch that all Welshmen and Welshwoman share. But even then, there was something deeper still.

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My spirit dwells not only with the people and lands of Wales, and all of Britain, but with the Gods and wihta of this island as well. While I was once content with refusing religion or believing in some form of Other, there was always something missing. A subtle void that always kept me pondering the possibilities. This island has worshipped many gods and goddesses; from Brigid to Vesta to Þunor, they are all a part of my past and they all influence my future.

I would at a time attempt to limit myself to only one Way. Though I have come to find that the Old Ways are not as simple as a solitary road leading from one place to the next. The Ways are more akin to a complex system of roads that may combine in places, diverge in others, or even run parallel within view of each other. And yet, all of these various roads have the possibility to find themselves at the same destination: To reach the Other, in whatever variety it may be in.

Where I used to be worried about only taking a specific road, to never diverge for the fear of finding myself lost. Now I have no such trepidation. I am content with weaving through the various roads, albeit with healthy caution. For to travel many is to have a far more complete and authentic view of the world; and in this instance, a more authentic view of the Old Ways my spirit has chosen to reside with.

Hiraeth is now a constant low ache in my heart. An addiction not dissimilar to that of an addict. For I experienced if only for a moment, the world that my ancestors lived. Where there was nothing but your inner-yard, the land to support you, and the Gods to watch over it all. A simpler time but perhaps a more fulfilling one. To have some semblance of that again is something to crave. The closest place I experience anything close to it when I’m with the Other. When life becomes an ephemerally simple matter of honouring the Other. Something that has happened since the beginning of time and will continue to do until the very end.

But I allow myself to divert on tangents. It is a habit that leads to attempting many conversations at once which often becomes a veritable mess of things. So I will return to the story at hand. Once the moment had passed and Sól escaped behind the mountains, we had to leave. But now the Garden was possessed by a new feeling entirely. The air was heavier and our movement sluggish. We sauntered around the premises once more but all the while followed by a white Labrador. He has lived in the Gardens for years, dutifully guarding the place. I believe he protected the place in more ways than one. For my family has said multiple times that they believe dogs live in two places at once. I see no reason to disagree with that opinion. There were many statues of gnomes scattered around. Whether this means that hobs lived around or not I do not know for sure, but the dog made sure to sniff each and every statue. I took that as a sign, for all we can do when it comes to Others is look for signs and omens.

With the experiences in both the tearoom and leaving the Gardens, I left that day with a certainty that I was home in every sense of the word. I am in the land of my ancestors once more, and following gods that once had power in the people’s hearts. And this, in all of its simplicity, is enough for me.

 


 

Most of these pictures were taken from The Secret Garden website. I did intend for this post to have a more direct intent when first writing it, as I had every intention of finishing it when I got back from the Gardens. However, life happens and it has been almost a month since the visit so the post has lost some of its intended meaning through the delay of my writing. But I had far too much written down already to just abandon the writing and seeing a draft every time I opened WordPress was slowly destroying my sanity.

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An Example of my Daily Hearth-Cult Ritual

Hearth-cult ritual is not something often spoken about. The general consensus of what I see online is that it is too personal to talk about. I have seen threads and dialogue that is immediately shot down when hearth practices come up. This is something I very much disagree with. Yes, hearth cult is personal; but to new or prospective Heathens it is the most logical place to start. How can they do that when no one is willing to speak about it? Thankfully, there has been an increase in these discussions, especially among Freehold Heathens. For a more articulated writing about this topic, and the inspiration for this post in general go and read this article by Of Axe and Plough of Eofores Holt Heorþ.

This article is intended to briefly showcase my first foray into hearth-cult ritual before I moved continents. My rituals have adapted as my belief system itself has adapted. Through Ásatrú to Anglo-Saxon Heathenry to a mix of ASH and Religio Romana. This is the most recent “edition” before I moved. I will endeavour to make updated posts once I have re-established my practice in a new home.

I split my day-to-day rituals into two segments. Around when I wake up in the morning and then soon before I go to bed at night. This is more preference than anything else. Starting and ending the day in ritual and with my ancestors provides some welcome comfort and order to even the most chaotic of days. My morning and nightly rituals are very similar, with the morning segment on a smaller scale. For that reason, I will only focus on the nightly ritual for this post.

I generally follow Lārhūs Fyrnsida’s ritual format, either highlow, or somewhere in between. It has worked for me more than anything I have done before, and far more consistently as well. So now, I’ll finally get to the meat of this post and say more about the actual ritual.

I begin with purification. At the very least I will wash my face and hands. Usually with some steadying breaths to put me in the correct mindset for the ritual. If I intend to be more detailed that night, I’ll say a prayer asking for my soul to be cleansed alongside my body. I don’t have a proper recipient of my prayer, but I will find one once I re-establish my practice. So I default to my ancestors, to begin with.

After this, I petition my liminal or gateway deity the Roman Vesta. During this, I will call upon Her with various epithets, light a candle as an offering, and ask Her to deliver the offerings to the appropriate recipients. Then I will thank her, for her role in the ritual and for what she does for my hearth in general. Currently, I see her as the tutelary deity of my hearth.

An example of this petition:

Salvete, Vesta.

Hearth-mother, goddess of holy fire,

FriÞweaver, Lady of the home and the bonds within it.

To you, I offer this flame as I have many nights before. I offer this in gratitude and so that you may smile upon my hearth.

I ask of you, as deity of domesticity and liminality, may you grant me communion with the Other. Allow my words and my offerings to reach the intended.

Thank you, Lady Vesta. For all that you do, whether it is noticed or unseen. I am grateful for you regardless.

Ave.

Now that I have effectively opened a line, I begin the invocation to the intended party of the ritual, which is usually my ancestors. Though occasionally it is to other powers depending on the need or occasion. For the sake of this article, I will use my ancestors. However, I will not use the exact words that I use during the ritual. I believe that words hold power, and I wish to maintain the sacredness of these words. So I will use a modified script that will do the job just as well.

After the invocation of my ancestors, whether it be general or specific, I will offer to them. Both because I am grateful and in the spirit of do ut des. Usually, I will offer another candle and some incense. Because of my limited resources at the time, I was never picky about the scents I would use. Though if I could ever get my hands on it I would use sandalwood. I would leave these to burn until the very end of the ritual. After this, I thank Them for all that they have done and continue to do.

An example of this invocation:

I call upon my Family.

My ancestors who came before, from the recent dead to the First Ancestor.

From every faith, every bloodline, to my ancestors of blood and oath.

Hear my words, if you wish it.

To you, Ancestors, I offer this flame and this incense. In gratitude, for without you I would not exist. Without every action you have made, grand or small, I would not be here in turn offering to you. I thank you for all that you have one and continue to do. Not just for me, but for this hearth and tribe.

I also give so that you may give. So that when the time ever comes that difficuly arises, or friÞbonds are tested you are there. That you may aid our family.

To you, my ancestors, my family.

Hail!

After this, I speak to my ancestors on a more personal basis. It changes night by night with whatever happened in the day or whatever may be weighing on my mind. I speak to my ancestors like I would a grandparent. With the utmost respect but comfortably and with easiness.

Once I am done speaking, I will meditate on the flames and smoke for a while. This can last a couple minutes but has lasted around an hour before. Again, this is more preference. Finally, once I am done with everything I thank all parties involved and extinguish the incense and candles.

I hope this example of my hearth-ritual has provided some insight and perhaps an inspiration for anyone reading. As with all my posts, feel free to comment, criticise, or ask questions. I am fallible and am always grateful for advice. I will gladly go into more detail about any of it. Thank you for reading.

My Wīgbed and the Practice Surrounding It

Fair warning, this is a very picture heavy post. 

The altar, wīgbed, whatever regional variant you wish to use. The meeting point between the mundane and the Other. A port of sacredness in the ocean of profane. Insert more poetic figures of speech here. To me, it is the most important part of my home. It is where I begin my day and where I end it.

This post will be an overview of my wīgbed and my practice. This is the first wīgbed I have ever created and has been adapting and amalgamating alongside my practice as I find my footing in what I believe. Due to my living situation, finances and space, it is not exactly how I wish it to be, but I make it work. It will also remain this way for a little under two weeks due to the move.

I have discovered Heathenry, Fyrnsidu, and Religio Romana all within the past year and a half or so. It has been quite the adventure. I believe my altar portrays this in its makeshift ways. I am new to all of these practices. But at the end of the day, all I wish to do is honour the gods and my ancestors. For now, this will have to do.

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The entirety of my wīgbed

Here is a photo of my wīgbed, so you can see what I am describing. I will go over it all in greater detail. This is the only altar I have, due to space restrictions. It is mostly an ancestral altar, with only two icons of different deities. When I move I plan on having three shrines, for the three different sides of my practice: Heathen, Roman, and Ancestral. But that will be a post for another day when it actually happens. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

It is located on a nightstand table just under a window. It’s one of the first things you see when you walk into the room and it’s almost always within eyesight, which is something I enjoy. Even just looking at it every once in a while is a calming experience. It is also at a good height to where I can access everything on it while kneeling. Whatever your opinions on kneeling for the Other, it is something I very much prefer to do. It shows respect at the very least. It has some useful storage underneath, where I keep all of the incense I own as well as some alcohol that I will use for libation every once in a while. But now onto the actual contents of the wīgbed. The wooden plate or slab that the majority of the contents are on is about an inch thick slice of what I believe is cedar. I carved a phrase into the wood in Elder Futhark when I first bought the piece of wood. I now know it would’ve been better to use Younger Futhark, but I was new and mistakes were made.

 

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The foreground of the altar is for my Ancestors, who are the primary focus of my hearth cult. Without them, I wouldn’t be here at all. The first image represents my ancestors in general, by their names. My last name is James, my first name and my mother’s maiden name is Ryan, and my step-father and his family hold the name of Stone. The paperweight was a gift from my grandmother and is something I hold very dear to me. It’s not my family’s official coat of arms because that is something that takes a lot of time and money, but it was a wonderful gesture nonetheless. The keychain is something I’ve had for years, but I cannot remember where I got it. And I have never found anything similar to use for Stone. So I used an actual stone found in one of the waterfalls I’ve hiked to many times before.

Below the symbols of my family on the convenient small slide out table are for the most recent dead of my family. They are the pamphlets from the funerals since I haven’t been able to get pictures printed of them both yet. They are both from my step-fathers side, but that doesn’t make a difference to me. His family are my family. On the left is Courtney. She was twenty years old when she died, too bloody soon. On the right is Elizabeth Baugh, to me, she was just Great-Nanny. Though in reality, she was my Great-Great-Great-Grandmother. She was 98 when she died of her age, after a long and good life. They are the only two ancestors who I knew in life, so I speak to them the most.

 

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My step-father’s family has a lot of Native American within it. This is something I added with some trepidation. I am very aware how many pagans appropriate this culture and turn it into nothing more than a fashion. But with my father’s family being Native American and using this with his permission, I felt like it needed to be added. It is a symbol and a focus I use to honour that side of his family.

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The first image is the first carving I have ever made. It is an icon of Wōden, though when I carved it was before I transitioned into Fyrnsidu, so it was Óðinn at the time. When I placed the icon on the altar, my thinking was that he was the Allfather. That if any of the gods deserved praise and offerings, he should be the first. Even though my practices have shifted and adapted, this still holds fairly true. The offerings to him have become more sparse, but I still aim for at the very least once a month. I will keep this statue until I can either make or purchase a better one. I would like to clean it up and make the carving lines more defined, but the Dremel tool I used to carve him in the first place broke.

I don’t understand the reluctance of some to not have icons of the gods or honour them in some way. While, yes, they may not tend to each and every individual that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t offer to them outright. In a Reddit post last night[1] on the religion subreddit, I mentioned my mindset when it comes to approaching the Other, whether it be the gods, ancestors, or the local wihta is that they will either hear me or they won’t. But I know for sure that they will never hear me if I don’t speak. But this is only the opinion of my hearth, everyone is free to believe how they wish.

In the second image, the ring on the left has some UPG attached to it. You can skip this story if you wish. It was a ring my mother found in one of her many trips to pawn shops to buy and sell jewellery and she immediately thought I would like it. It was at the beginning of my path into Ásatrú and I was looking for validation as many do. She gave this ring to me around the same time as I was learning of Yggdrasil and the nine realms. To me at least, the ring looks like a tree with nine points if you count the middle intersections. It could be coincidence or it could be something else. I know not everything that happens in this world is a sign from some being or another. But still, that experience held meaning for me. /UPG

The second ring doesn’t have some cool story behind it, but it is still meaningful. My parents bought this ring, which is around 50-60 years old, for me with the intention of it becoming an heirloom to pass down the generations. It’s something I will do, but I also want my ancestors to know the intention of this ring. To perhaps imbue part of them within the ring. My grandmothers on both sides of my family, mother, and sister have all told tales of feeling the presence of a certain loved one while in contact with an object that the dead held dear to them. This has become thew of the tribe and something I readily accept.

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Now for the final image of the post. The clay bottle is used to hold the liquid I use for libations. Since where I live it is very easy to attract ants and various insects, I stick to libations rather than food offerings. Most of the time I will use purified water, though I have used various alcohols like vodka, whisky, and mead before. The bottle is acutally a bottle of Viking Blod from Dansk Mjød. For the longest time, it was the only mead I could find around where I live. And even then I had to drive an hour to the next city to buy it at a Whole Foods. Since then there has been an increase in the sale of mead around where I live.

In the front of the picture is just an incesne holder that I picked up from a yardsale. I offer incense every night but only a small amount at a time. I’m in a small room and if I burn too much, especially of certain scents, it makes it hard to breathe. The most common kind I use is sandalwood, but that is more personal preference than anything. Somehow a lot of the incense I have smells like my grandmother’s perfume. So while it smells good from a nostalgia aspect, it is still kind of weird for me to burn that as an offering since she isn’t dead.

Finally to the biggest piece of my wīgbed, and the most recent purchase is a statue of the Roman Vesta. I will link where I purchased the statue below[2]. I see many hearths have a gateway deity, a patron, tutelary deity, or something along those lines. For me, Vesta fills this role. I found Her through some UPG events that I won’t bore you with. But she was my introduction into Religio Romana, and it is something I am very grateful for. She is a goddess of liminality, but also the Mother of the Hearth. I title I use for Her often. Since the hearth is traditionally a place where family comes together, to strengthen their bonds to one another, I also give her the title of friþweaver. Just because it is a Germanic term doesn’t mean that the act behind the term ceases to exist anywhere else. Once I am able to, I plan on offering more elaborately to her at least once a month, and even more so during Vestalia.

So for now, this is the extent of my wīgbed and the practice behind it. This is the longest post I have created and the most I have ever gone into depth behind my hearthcult. Soon it shall all change, so this article serves a dual purpose. To inform others on how I practice day to day, but also as a snapshot on how I used to do things later on in my practice. If anyone has any questions or comments, feel free to leave them.


 

And once again, thank you to Grennung Hund Heorþ for the inspiration behind this post.

 


  1. https://www.reddit.com/r/religion/comments/6p32zm/what_do_you_do_differently/
  2. http://www.sacredsource.com/Hestia-Enthroned-statue-8-1_4/productinfo/HES/#.WXY7ymLyuM8

My Thoughts of My Imminent Move

In two short weeks, I shall be moving alone for the first time in my life. I shall be leaving the comfortable nest of my parents, something every new adult must come to do. I am also leaving my fiance for a long period of time. I will be moving back to my homeland; to Wales.

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Brecon Beacons, Wales

I discovered Heathenry from my father in this home. A home full of frith before I even knew what frith was. This is where I first developed my hearth in a Heathen way, and also my hearthcult.  Leaving this home has forced me to think of these matters a lot more. For times are changing, and so must my practice.

My father and I found and converted, though I loathe using that word, to Heathenry about a year apart. And through certain circumstances, I have had more free time to study and learn while he provided for the household. So for the intent of ritual, both high and low, he entrusted me to offer for the hearth, once he was confident that I had learned a sufficient amount. Whether he intended to or not, he granted me an honour I have taken very seriously. Like a lot of my life, it was a trial by fire.

Through the past year of being my family’s Þingere, intercessor, I would like to think I have grown as a Heathen. I have seen the Luck of my family grow. I have seen frith-bonds be tested by not only me and my hearth, but my tribe as a whole, and be strengthened by these trials. I have seen my entire worldview shift. The good of my hearth and the bonds that entail now dictate every action, a good amount of that time without hesitation. My ancestors have become a major part of my life, rather than just the dead people of my family. Others have seen a noticeable change in me because of this. I am not just a Heathen in my religion, I am a Heathen in all things. But now, I must relinquish the role of Þingere back to my father. I cannot meaningfully offer for a hearth I live 3,000 miles away from.  And I have to say I am better for it.

So in a fortnight tomorrow, I become a solitary practitioner. Something I have yet to experience. This causes some new confusion, though I’m sure I shall move past it. Hearth, and therefore hearthcult, dynamics will shift into unfamiliarity. I will offer for myself alone rather than for my family. What this means for my practice remains to be seen. Again, this will be a trial by fire in the months and years to come. I am excited about this journey.

 


 

Speaking of my practice, I am working on a short post based around my wīgbed, inspired by the posts made by Hrafnblod of Grenning Hund Heorþ, and my muddled hearth practice that no one really cares about. But I will post it nevertheless. It is at least something I can post that will have some sort of length to it.

I post more infrequently than I would like. Part of the reasoning is because of the people I follow; whether that be on here, Reddit, or the couple good Facebook groups. I see no reason to post arbitrary articles on subjects that other hearths have covered before in a far more eloquent light. Perhaps this is insecurity about the knowledge gap. Knowing that the only people who follow this blog are the people I aspire to be like. Perhaps that will fade once I truly develop a concrete practice once settled in my own home in Wales.

[Edit: I hit the publish button rather than the preview. I am not as good at this as I wish I was.]

 

A Liminal Period: Physically and Spiritually

When I first created this blog, I had the intent of writing semi-informed information of Heathenry from a newbie’s perspective. I told myself that I would ideally post once every two weeks. As you can see this didn’t happen.

Almost immediately after creating this blog, plans of change began to form in my future. I won’t bore you with the minutiae of it all, but I’ll give you a quick summary. I was born in Wales, moved to the US when I was 12, and now at 20 years old I’m moving back to Wales. It is not a decision I make gladly, but I know in the long run it is the best thing for me and my fiance. So as of writing this, I depart in around four months.

I would call myself a fairly optimistic person, so even though there is plenty of negatives to the situation there are also plenty of positives. I choose to focus on the later. I will see family I haven’t seen in almost a decade, I will experience living in a major city. A capital no less! I shall also be in the land where my faith originated, where my Gods came from. I plan on writing a separate post on that subject though. Hopefully it won’t be months before I write that one.

So that accounts for my physical change, but my spiritual change has occurred far more recently. I’ve been comfortable calling myself a Heathen for somewhere around a year. Anglo-Saxon Heathen for a couple months. But even though Anglo-Saxon Heathenry originated from one part of the island I am from, it didn’t feel complete. I still wanted something that took hold within Wales at some point in time.

This led me to consider Roman polytheism. It’s something I’ve never been sure about. But after a day full of UPG, I’ve began to slowly add it to my practice. I’m very new to all of it, and I am hesitant to add too much at once without the proper resources. Resources that are pointless to acquire until after I move.

So this is where I am right now. In a period of simultaneous liminality and stagnation awaiting a time to where I can devote time and effort into worshiping the Gods in authentic and correct fashion. So here’s yet another post all about me that no one has asked for. I promise that at some point I will write upon topics that do not include me. But for now, look to others who are far more knowledgeable than I.

My Main Focus as a Heathen

I said briefly in my “About Me” page that above all that, to me, tending my Hearth is the most important part of my practice. This is something I wanted to expand upon today. More so to get my own thoughts onto digital paper than anything else.

I often see throughout the Heathen circles of the internet that people’s main priority is their Gods, above all else. Before the wights of the land around them, and even their Ancestors.  From the very get-go of my Heathen journey this never sat quite right with me. I could never get behind an omnipotent or omniscient god or gods. This is a reason why Heathenry felt so right within me.

So while my gods are not all-powerful, they still have tremendous and unfathomable power. They are gods after all. But “with great power comes great responsibility,” thank you Uncle Ben for that quote. This means that the Gods have their own duties and things that they have to do every day. They do not have time to cater and interact with every single Heathen at our beck and call. This doesn’t mean that they do not care, but I will elaborate on that subject in another post.

Now since the Gods are doing their Godly things, that leaves us with our Ancestors and the wights around us. And this, to me at least, is where the majority of a Heathen praxis should lie. Our Ancestors and Wights are closest to us in proximity. They are the beings that we can and should interact with on a frequent basis.

This is where I spend most of my time, tending to my Ancestors. I wish I could say the same of the local wights, but currently I live in a second-story apartment. As of this moment I’m not sure how I feel about wights inhabiting apartments. I suppose time will tell on this occasion.

My Ancestors are the most important part of my practice. I begin my day with them, and end it similarly. Oftentimes when speaking to them I don’t call them my Ancestors, I simply refer to them as my Family. They are just as important to me as any living relative.

Without my Ancestors I would not be here today. I am a direct culmination of every minute decision they have ever made. Thousands of generations of men and women have led to me. I am made from Them. Small fragments of their soul, including their Luck or Hamingja, or whatever regional term you would like to use, are passed down generation to generation. A quote from Culture of the Teutons by Vilhelm Grønbech describes what I mean far more aptly than I:

The soul is not a thing born with each generation and renewed with each brood of kinsman that steps in. It reaches forward; it will, as surely as anything is sure, flow through those sons’ sons which all good kinsmen hope and expect will follow one another. And it reaches back over the known part of the past, embracing all former kin, and extends behind them into the primeval darkness whence their fathers came.

This one paragraph rings true to me more than most things that I have read and plays a major part in my practice. My Family have given me pieces of them that I will carry with me eternally until I can pass it on, with a little extra, to my successor(s). So it is not only my responsibility, but my duty, to act in a manner that would make my Family, both living and dead, proud. To build the familial Luck so that not only I can profit, but my family generations from now. Nothing would make me happier, as a man who wants his family to succeed, but also as a Heathen. That is my focus, and also my goal.

 

My Inspiration For This Blog

I suppose before I start heavily writing I should preface with my inspiration for creating this blog, and going through the dreadful customization to make it look halfway decent, in the first place.

I’ve considered myself a Heathen for little under a year now, and during that time I have tried to no avail to write these ramblings (I know I’m overusing that word,) physically and it hasn’t worked well. My mind works too fast for a pen, but I can write 50-70 words per minute on a computer. So using a computer makes logical sense. I’ve tried Tumblr, and while I like it, I would like something a bit more serious also. So here I am on Word Press.

By looking at the group  that has proven to be most similar to my way of desired Heathening, Lārhūs Fyrnsida and its members, I want to endeavor to create something similar to the blogs they have. So without further ado, here it goes.