Althing 2020

Hail Members of the Freehold!

The Witangemot is proud to announce the dates and format for our 2020 Althing. We will be using a private Facebook group that is invitation only to ensure that all members have the opportunity to voice their opinions and cast their votes on the important items on our agenda. Members of the Freehold should ensure they have been added to the Althing group by the 1st of August so as to prevent delays. Members who do not wish to join the Facebook group may ask for an absentee ballot to vote on matters that are on the agenda, or they may designate a proxy to cast a vote on their behalf.

The dates and schedule for the Althing is as follows:

  • August 4th
    • reports submitted by the guilds, councils, kindreds, and officers of the Freehold
  • August 5th
    • motion to accept reports
    • Discussion of item 2.1 Proposal to adopt the new constitution, last chance to recommend amendments be made
  • August 6th
    • Vote to accept or reject item 2.1 the proposed Constitution
    • Discussion of item 2.2 by-law amendments to reflect the new constitution, other amendments may be suggested
  • August 7th
    • Vote to accept or reject item 2.2 amendments to the by-laws
    • Discussion of item 2.3 grant a two year grace period for current Goðar to meet new requirements
    • Discussion of item 2.4 budget for 2020/2021
  • August 8th
    • Vote on item 2.3 Goðar grace period, if item 2.2 by-law amendments was passed
    • Vote on item 2.4 budget
    • Discuss any new business brought forth by members
  • August 9th
    • Vote on any business brought by the members
    • Nominations for awards
    • Discussion of probationary members eligible for acceptance as full members
    • Nominations for Ombudsman, up to three Thanes, and the Freyr (if necessary)
  • August 10th
    • Vote on award candidates
    • Vote for acceptance of probationary members
    • Vote for Freehold Officer elections
    • Confirmation of Jarl, if necessary
    • Instruct guilds, council, and Kindreds to conduct elections, and report the results
    • Motion to close the Althing

This format was chosen so as to enable maximum participation by our members. We desire your input on how our community should be run, what our goals should be, and how to implement them. If you don’t speak up, you can’t be heard. All members of the Freehold are entitled to be heard at the Althing, so do not hesitate to let us know. You are encouraged to read the Agenda, draft Constitution, and draft by-laws before we begin so that you are prepared to discuss, ask questions of clarification, and make any suggestions you might have.

If you do not receive an invite to the Althing group, and you are a member, please contact us at contact@bcheathenfreehold.org

In Frith and Service,
Aaron Brookes
Freyr of the BCHF

Midsummer 2020

Midsummer is a common folk celebration throughout Germanic countries to this day. It is a time to mark the pleasantries of summer and the recreational activities it affords us. While there are no surviving attestations of the ancient Germanic peoples celebrating Midsummer, the Freehold has chosen to include it as a modern celebration, due to it’s prevalence in Modern and Mediaeval Germanic Countries. The likely reason there was no major Faining during Summer in ancient times is that most of those who could vote in a Thing/Moot would have been away, raiding, trading, or exploring during the season of war and commerce.

Our modern Freehold practice has designated Midsummer as the fourth major faining. Midsummer is usually a great time to gather in the sun and commune with the gods, goddesses, and wights outside of the home. Sunna is a frequent choice for the deity to honour at Midsummer, this is the time when she is most felt in our world. We will be offering Sunna our worship as we gather online this June 21st at 4:00pm PDT.

We invite all to join us in reverence and worship of the goddess of sun and summer.

In frith and service,
Aaron Brookes
Freyr of the BCHF

Freeholder Newsletter Yule 2019 – Eastertide 2020

Hail!

Friends and Members of the Freehold it is my great pleasure to announce that our Editor Kristy Williams has released the newest edition of the Freeholder (a few weeks ago, it’s my fault for the delay). It covers a wide variety of Heathen topics. I hope you enjoy reading the articles and art submitted by our membership.

Eastertide

Eastertide is a celebration of the goddess Easter, and the spring and new life she heralds into the world. This year this may be harder for us to get excited about, as we face a pandemic that may not run its course for a long time. I am here to try and remind you that not all is lost, we are keeping as separate as possible that we might all make it to the other side of this. Just as the plants and animals hide and sleep through winter that they may burst forth full of life when Easter calls them forth. Like the animals in winter, we can and should get out for exercise (even a walk around the block while maintaining 2m of spacing).

An alternative name for Eastertide is Sigrblot, meaning Victory blot, was practised historically in Scandinavia. This year, I find myself more drawn to this alternative than usual. For at Eastertide we will indeed be making offerings to ensure our society’s victory over Covid-19. This poetic battle has the potential to be a major threat to our society.

In Anglo-Saxon England, Eastertide was a celebration of the coming of spring, known as Eostre, for the goddess of the same name. The month in which this festival occurred was named for her as well, according to Bede’s De Ratione Temporum (On the Reckoning of Time). Beyond a name, and the date of her festival, we know little of the historic Easter. Her name is cognate with many Indo-European “Dawn Goddesses” the UPG of many Freeholders has placed her as a goddess of new beginnings, and renewal in addition to the assumed roles of dawn and spring goddess. She has been called upon to witness marriages as the beginning of a new cycle of a couple’s life, and to receive offerings on behalf of our community that we might be renewed each Althing.

I hope you all are able to find the peace and magic of Easter as we do our best to preserve life for when this quarantine ends. Easter will call us forth to the world, just as she calls her bunnies and flowers now, when it is safe for us to do so.

May Easter bless us all with renewal when our hibernation has passed!

In Frith and Service,
Aaron Brookes
Freyr of the BCHF

Althing 2020

Hail members and friends of the Freehold!

As many of you are no doubt aware Novel Coronavirus is currently spreading among the population, and everyone is now being required to take every possible step to limit infection vectors. It is for this reason that we will not be hosting a physical Althing this year. We will instead hold an online forum to handle the business of the Freehold. Details will be forthcoming as the Witan decide on a specific method and dates for the Althing.

It is our hope that this decision will appear to be an overreaction in years to come, but we are not willing to gamble with the lives of our community when a safer option is available. I for one will miss seeing you all in person this year, but I am glad to know that you will be safer for it.

May the gods keep you all safe and healthy. Remember to make frequent ablutions as a devotional act to Eir in these times.

In Frith and Service,
Aaron Brookes,
Freyr of the BCHF

Governing Documentation

As a fairly young religious body, the Freehold is nearing 18 years since our founding, it is understandable that we need to review our governing documentation as our definitions of terms and concepts is refined. Such it has come to pass that after twelve years with our current constitution needs review. There are many passages in it that are troubling, and quite ambitious. We are never going to be able to establish completely separate Heathen communities in BC, with our own economies and minimal interaction with the outside world (never-mind how that is not really desirable). There are some passages in our statements of belief that are troubling, especially regarding the kinship between Heathens and the gods. It does not fit well with our belief that all who feel the call of our gods are welcome to join us as full members and equals in our halls.

5.6: Divine Ancestry of the Folk
The gods themselves are among the earliest ancestors of our tribes, or the gods have intervened at various points in our development.
The Germanic tribes are regarded as family by the gods.

2008 Constitution of the Heathen Freehold Society of British Columbia

There is also the redundancy of separating administrative and theological oversight onto the Witangemot and the Ritual and Lore Council (known as the Weoh Guild in the 2008 Constitution). The mandatory members of the two bodies have always had significant overlap, the Freyr and Leaders of any Kindreds of the Freehold must belong to both bodies. In practice if not in Freehold Law the two bodies have had almost perfect overlap for over a decade. When compared to most long lasting religious communities in Canada and around the world, separating the oversight in this way is rare. The proposal made by the Witangemot of the Freehold is that the Ritual and Lore Council’s duties be absorbed by the Witangemot and the Ritual and Lore Council be disbanded. By combining the administrative and theological oversight functions it is hoped that the Freehold can become a more efficient organisation.

With the proposed adoption of a new constitution for our community, we will need to make amendments to our by-laws, as they rely on our constitution and were tailored to fit it. The dissolution of the Ritual and Lore Council in particular has great effect upon our by-laws. Not only does it render a whole Article moot, it also means we must make new arrangements for emergency succession. This prompted discussion among the Witan of the title such a position would have, the eventual consensus was that Jarl would be the ideal title for the Freyr’s deputy. Unfortunately, Jarl is already in use as the leaders of the Kindreds of the Freehold. Further discussion resolved that we should be aligned with other Heathen communities and call our Kindred Leaders Goði/Gyðia/Goðar, this would free up the term Jarl.

Discussions about the Goðar eventually lead us to the recommendation that they should be required to complete the Freehold Liturgist Program, so that we can assure those leading our Kindreds are knowledgeable and competent to provide religious services to the members of their Kindreds. This requirement is not intended to discriminate in any way, and we remain committed to working with any who wish to build Heathen communities in BC. It is simply acknowledgement that we cannot continue to rely on individual’s self-assessments of their knowledge. As we seek to be recognised to consecrate marriages in British Columbia, we must ensure that those we will empower as clergy be trained as clergy before assuming those duties.

For those who have not yet reviewed the draft constitution, the highest power in the Freehold will remain the Althing, at which each and every member has one vote and the right to speak for or against any motion brought before the Althing. The Witangemot will be elected as determined in the by-laws, as approved by the Althing, to oversee the administrative and ritual functions of the Freehold. Any decision of the Witangemot can be overridden by the Althing. The Freyr shall be elected by the Witan from among themselves to exercise those powers assigned to the Freyr by the Constitution and by-laws, summarised as control routine and emergency matters on behalf of the Freehold.

This review of our Governing Documentation is important, though it may feel tedious to do it right. It is important that we be clear and firm in our community’s thew, all are welcome to honour the gods with us, except those who would try to prevent others from honouring our gods. Our constitution should not be ambiguous on that while firm on theological points that are still the source of debate and contention in our community.

I hope this helps to explain the reasons why the Witan of the Freehold have joined me in suggesting these revised governing documents for our community.

In Frith and Service,
Aaron Brookes
Freyr of the BCHF

Dísablót

Dísablót originates as a Scandinavian festival honouring the Dísir. Depending on where you were within the Norse world the timing of the Dísablót varied, either at the beginning or towards the end of Winter. The Freehold has opted to place our Dísablót on the Family Day weekend. The comparable festival amongst the Anglo-Saxons was a charming of the fields by burying cakes during the month of Solmonath, roughly February.

The Dísir are also known as the Idise, Matronae, or Mothers. They are a diverse class of spirits ranging from Frigge and Freya to human women that made important contributions to their tribes in life. Today the Freehold encourages the honouring of the Mothers as some of the holy powers that are most invested in the survival and prosperity of individual members of our community.

We wish you a happy Dísablót, where you begin your fresh start for the year. May the Mothers bless you and your household.

The Call

Rán and her daughters in a storm at sea.

Reeling from the ice
Snarling from the blows
Grinning through the cold
Tired from the work
To hearth and home I fared
The ice and the night
The cold and the storm
I slammed behind stout doors
For fire and warmth

Yet my way I lost
In dreams
Into the sea I fell
From wind whipped rock

Spear straight I knifed
Through black waves
Cold that bit the skin
Venom making dead iron
Of muscles numb and stilled

Nine daughters of She Who Waits
Cast me in the depths
Far from light
Far from sound
Until the shore and surface forgotten

Bubbles from my mouth escape
Follow them I surge
The hammer of my blood
The thunder of the waves
Clawing through jade dark depths

Hunger rules all
For air, for light for life
Laughter sounds
Cold and cruel as Her whim

Shining in the depths
Naked in her glory
For the sea is her only garment
Glory and death her jewels
Black eyed and white skinned
Hair dancing in the waves
Dancing to the siren song

Black Ran
Lady of the depths
Death hunger of the deep
Cold mistress of the silence

I dove like a seal
Arrow straight to her side
Down from the light
My every muscle drove
In balanced perfection
Like killing, like loving
Like nothing else

Last of my air escapes
Bubbles rising
I had turned from them
Not the surface sought
Not the light
Not survival

Ran danced in the depths
Uncaring in her glory
Hunger beyond hunger
Deeper in me than life
Her song
Her call

A flick of her hand
From the depths I fly
Cast upon the shore
Shaking and cold
Weeping and empty

Muscles too weak to rise
Rage too strong to die
I claw back to my home
To fire
To life

This time she did not call
This time I returned
Black Ran
Who casts her nets for men
I am bound to you
One day to know your arms
Drown myself in your hunger
Lose myself in your need

—There is a god we offer to, bright Njord of the waves. He we remember in fair winds and calm seas. It is black Ran who rules the depths, she whose rage is the storm, whose casts her nets for men as we cast our nets for her bounty.

The seas will not give up their dead, not even at the end times, for Ran’s love like her hunger knows no limits. What is hers she will not give up.

By John T Mainer

Yuletide

Glad Yule! The British Columbia Heathen Freehold celebrates a twelve day Yuletide, running from sunset on the 20th of December each year until sunset on the 1st of January.

Yule begins with Mothers’ Night or Modranecht as it was called in Old English. This evening is spent honouring the Ancestral Mothers of the Freehold, your Kindred, and your personal family. This is a very private affair, with great variance in how it can be done locally and between households. As one of the few fainings that is not public, it is a great honour to be invited to one by your local Kindred.

The following morning we begin the festive joy of Yule. Over the next 12 days no work should be done that is not necessary to survival and cleanliness (shifts at work are allowed, as missing a paycheck could endanger your family). In modern times this mostly applies to hobbies. Historically this taboo on unnecessary work gave people a break from the weaving, carving, and knitting that filled most families winter lives. These days it serves another purpose, spend your time with friends and family, preferably giving them gifts that you have made using one of your hobbies.

Image of John Mainer, 2nd Freyr of the Freehold, wearing a costume to look like the Yule Father.

The Yule Father, a modern Heathen custom analogous to the mainstream Santa Claus, visits Heathen children and leaves them gifts to reward their good deeds through the year. He can visit at any point in the Yuletide as fits the family’s schedule. The two most common dates for him to leave gifts are the 21st and 25th of December, either the first morning of the Yuletide or when he visits the Christian and atheist children’s homes.

Some communities choose to focus each day of the Yuletide on a specific deity or group of Wights. While the Freehold does not endorse any such specific list, it is a custom that blends well with our own. One example of such a practice is listed here and summarised below.

  1. Dec 20th – Frigga as the Chieftess of the Disir.
  2. Dec 21st – Mani and Sunna, the god of the Moon and the goddess of the Sun.
  3. Dec 22nd – Ingui-Freyr and the Elves.
  4. Dec 23rd – Loki and Sigyn.
  5. Dec 24th – Odin and Frau Holda.
  6. Dec 25th – Balder and Nanna.
  7. Dec 26th – Kari and his kin, Kari is a powerful wind spirit and brother of Aegir.
  8. Dec 27th – Skadhi and Ullr.
  9. Dec 28th – Njord and Nerthus.
  10. Dec 29th – Freya.
  11. Dec 30th – Idunn and Bragi.
  12. Dec 31st – Thor and Sif.

One other aspect of the Yuletide is that in the Freehold we treat the whole world as a Frithyard, and no violence or acts of aggression are permitted, even an enemy should be given food and shelter if they arrive at your door. Leave your feuds aside while the Yuletide reigns, you can always pick them up again when the time of Frith is past.

However you choose to celebrate the Yuletide, we sincerely hope that it is a time of joy and relaxation for you.

In Frith and Service,
Aaron Brookes
Freyr of the BCHF

Einherjar Blót

Einherjar Blót is a modern Heathen celebration in honour of those who have fallen in battle, it coincides with the Commonwealth Remembrance Day that commemorates the end of the First World War. While this Faining has no historical equivalent, the members of the BC Heathen Freehold wish to give honour and remembrance in our own custom to those who made the greatest sacrifice for us.

At this time we host a faining to honour those who gave their lives in service to Canada, and our allies. Typical offerings are of food and drink to the Einherjar, to thank them for their sacrifices for our country. Odin, Freya, and the Valkyries may be honoured as well, for it is they who collect and lead the Einherjar in the afterlife.

This is also an occasion to point out to those that are new to Heathenry, Valhalla is a consolation prize. Most ancient Heathens regardless of tribe would have preferred to join their families with the ancestral grave mounds, the Valkyries chosen warriors from the field of battle miss out on that comforting reunion with their ancestors. On top of that Freya gets first pick of those chosen by the Valkyries, and takes her half to Folkvangr to serve her. Valhalla is the consolation prize for warriors who died far from home and were unable to join their kin within their ancestral grave mounds. While we honour their sacrifice, it is important to remember that Valhalla and Folkvangr are places of warriors, and most warriors are grateful to have survived to the horrors of war and have a chance to be buried among their kin when the time comes.

The Einherjar are warriors plucked from the field of battle in their prime, to train and prepare for the final battle at Ragnarok. Whether they reside in Folkvangr or Valhalla, they are dangerous men and women skilled in violence as a solution. Constant battle drills until the end of this world is not an appealing afterlife to most. Before you claim that you are destined for Valhalla, think on these things long and hard. Few meet the requirements of the Battle-Glad and the Lady-of-the-Slain, think on a more pleasant afterlife for yourself.

As we thank the Einherjar (glorious battle-dead) for their sacrifices, both while they lived and in giving up the peace of the grave to prepare for Ragnarok, keep in mind the old refrain we recite each Remembrance Day.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them “

4th stanza of For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon
Image of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial
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