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
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Winternights

Winternights marks the end of the harvest and the beginning of Winter for the British Columbia Heathen Freehold. It is timed to coincide with Canadian Thanksgiving as it also originates as a celebration of the year’s harvest bounty. Historically, Winternights or Winterfinding was celebrated in October or November depending on local climate, an important part of Heathenry is the localisation of the calendar and practices. It may also have been called the Álfarblót or Dísablót depending on time and place in history.

Picture of an altar to the Elves prepared for Winternights beside the BCHF Banner

Typical deities to honour for Winternights include Ingui-Frey, Gerd, Skadhi, Hel, Odin, or the elves. As the end of the Harvest, and the beginning of the Wild Hunt these deities and the elves have ties to this time of year. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, it is appropriate to thank Ingui-Frey and Gerd for the crops and herds that will sustain the community. In preparation for Winter it is appropriate to ask Skadhi to guide hunters to large herds of wildlife to hunt, and to bring light snows that will protect the foliage without trapping us indefinitely. As the Wild Hunt begins it is appropriate to ask Hel and Odin to collect lost souls quickly and continue on without accidentally taking a living person along. The elves have helped to bring the crops to feed humans and animals through the soil to nourish and sustain us, this is also worthy of thanks as the winter draws in and so we draw inside.

Hel with her hound Garm sitting beneath the roots of Yggdrasil

Custom in the BCHF is to have a feast with your local community made from local food, with locally made ale or mead if possible. This connection between the land and it’s inhabitants is paramount to honouring the elves who make our lives there possible. At this time of year it is good to take extra time to appreciate the beauty and blessings of the natural world all around us.

In Frith and Service,
Aaron Brookes
Freyr of the BCHF

2019 Althing Awards

This last Labour Day long weekend when the Freehold was gathered at the Althing, we continued an important tradition of the Freehold. By consensus of the community we made awards to recognise those who deserved them. There were four recipients of three awards that the Freehold has created.

Certificate acknowledging Freydis Egilsdottir as the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

Freydis Egilsdottir is this years recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. This is to acknowledge her numerous contributions to the Freehold ranging from being a founding member of the Freehold, to sewing the Freehold’s banner, to leading almost every guild that has existed at some point in the history of the Freehold, to many years of honoured service as Ombudsman of the Freehold, to editing and illuminating Kindertales Volumes 1 & 2, writing stories for Kindertales volumes 1 & 2, and many many more contributions. The Althing could think of no Heathen who deserved this acclaim more than Freydis.

Certificate acknowledging Garth Spencer as a co-recipient of the 2019 Freeholder of the Year award.
Certificate acknowledging Kristy Williams as a co-recipient of the 2019 Freeholder of the Year award.

We had an uncommon result in this year’s vote for who was most deserving of the Freeholder of the Year award, it was decided that both were deserving and that we would have co-recipients of this year’s award. The Freeholder of the Year award is given to the member of the Freehold who has made the most significant contribution to our community each year.

Garth Spencer is one of this years co-recipients of the Freeholder of the Year award. This was to acknowledge his valuable contributions to the administration of the Freehold. These contributions were even more astounding as he jumped straight into the role of Clerk when he became a Probationary Member of the Freehold.

Kristy Williams is one of this years co-recipients of the Freeholder of the Year award. This was to acknowledge their valuable contributions to creating, editing, and publishing content on behalf of the Freehold in the form of our Newsletter, Kindertales Volume III, and several other actions. These contributions were especially valuable as Kristy applied for the role of Editor as they applied to join the Freehold as a Probationary Member.

Certificate acknowledging Venesa Vallese as recipient of the 2019 Frigga’s Loom award.

Venessa Vallese is this years recipient of Frigga’s Loom. Frigga’s Loom is an award granted by the Althing of the BCHF to recognise an individual who has rendered exceptional service to the creation or maintenance of Frithful environments. Venesa received unanimous support from the Althing to recognise her accomplishments in building a multi-tradition pagan community in Nanaimo BC.

It is my profound honour as the Freyr of the Freehold to announce our award winners this year. All are good and worthy individuals who have brought honour and prestige to the Freehold by their actions and accomplishments. It is not every year that such accomplishments are acknowledged by our community, these were truly exceptional people to receive these awards.

Hail the awards recipients!
Hail the Freehold!
Hail the gods and goddesses!



In Frith and Service,
Aaron Brookes
Freyr of the BCHF