elves

ÁLFABLÓT (The Sacrifice to the Elves)

November, 2018

Brief description

International teacher of sacred art and Northern European Tradition shamanism Imelda Almqvist describes the small Álfablót (Sacrifice to the Elves) Ceremony she performed on her land in Sweden on October 31st in 2018. This is the indigenous Scandinavian version of (or closest thing to) Samhain/Halloween.

 

ÁLFABLÓT (THE SACRIFICE TO THE ELVES)

One day even our children (and their children) will be ancestors…

Today Halloween is celebrated in many English-speaking countries. It originated with the Celtic festival of Samhain.

I was in a large supermarket, here in Sweden, yesterday and the first thing I saw upon entering the shop, was an abundance of shelves stacked with Halloween decorations and sweets. That is a relatively new development!  Halloween is not indigenous to Sweden and the phenomenon only arrived in the 1990s. For good for bad, we live in a global village…

In the car on the way home there was a story on Swedish radio titled “Bus eller frukt” (meaning “trick-or-fruit”) Apparently some children had gone trick-or-treating over the weekend (a bit early by British standards!) and received mandarins for their efforts – they were not at all pleased and they had responded with trickery!

As a mother of three I understand that children yearn for scary costumes and collecting candy but, actually, Scandinavia has a perfect valid tradition of its own, for this period. It is shame that this has (largely) dropped into collective oblivion – though Heathen people have always kept the tradition alive and many Pagan people have rediscovered it today).

My students of Norse Shamanism often ask: “Did the Old Norse people have a festival or ritual comparable to the Day of the Dead, at this time of year?” The answer is yes, the Álfablót, The name literally means “The Sacrifice (or offerings) to the Elves”. This requires a bit of explanation.

The Elves (or Alfar) in the Northern European Tradition are not “fairies” but the souls of male dead ancestors who live on as nature spirits. They often live in burial mounds, though we also find them under big rocks, in caves or in the mountains. We can still communicate with them and making offerings is a respectful way of doing so.

By making offerings we acknowledge that they too once walked the land and that they have now become part of the spiritual Weave of the land. They do not (necessarily or automatically) fit a term often heard in core shamanism: “helping spirits”, though they can choose to be helpful. By honouring them we ensure that they are “on our side” and that we have their cooperation and protection during the harsh winter months (remember that Scandinavian winters are harsh and severe).

In the Old Norse way of thinking every gift (gåva) required a return gift (gengåva). There is nothing cynical about this, it follows the spiritual law of keeping all exchanges balanced. (Today we often speak of the principle of fair energy exchange).

In the past on farms animals would have been sacrificed and their blood poured out as a sacred offering (the word blót is the old Old Norse word for blood) but today many practitioners feel that alternative offerings are acceptable (seasonal foods, drink, the favourite food or drink of ancestors we used to know in real life, or other – as guided by the gods and spirits).

Let me also explain that the Alfar are the male ancestors. The female ancestors (Disir) have their own special day in the Yule period (Modranatt or Ancestral Mothers’ Night) as well as a Disablott (Offering ritual to the female ancestors) in the Spring.

The fertility god Freyr (twin brother of the goddess Freyja) is known as the Lord of the Elves and his otherworld domain is called Alfheimr (the Realm of the Elves)

When we bought our house in Sweden I promised the landvaettir (spirits of the land) and the “tomte of our tomt ” (the spirit of our property, not to be confused with Father Christmas – who also goes by the name of Tomte in Sweden!) that I would observe the ancient festivals and traditions as faithfully as my own understanding allows.

Over the summer I was guided to build a small cairn on our property. I carved a Bone Woman from antler bone and dedicated the cairn to her. (This was inspired by the Icelandic phenomenon of the Beinakerling

https://guidetoiceland.is/connect-with-locals/regina/laufskalavarda-add-a-stone-for-good-luck-before-entering-the-skeidararsandur-glacial-outwash

Today I waited for nightfall (which came at 4 p.m.) and made a small pilgrimage to this cairn. I brought my Rune Drum, a candle and offerings of ale and meat (the traditional offerings for an Alfablót).

I drummed and called in the Deep Ancestors (whose names we do not remember), the Ancestors of Place, the Landvaettir, the animals ancestors of all local animal species and the ancestors that live on in local memory and stories.

As a teacher (and lifelong student) of Norse Cosmology I also called in the great skalds and the writers of the Eddic poetry (including Snorri Sturlason, who gave us the Prose Edda!)

I drummed and chanted. I poured ale over the cairn and offered the food.

Odinn’s name literally means “The Spirit” (Odr + the definite article “inn”) and he is associated with the wind, sacred breath and The Wild Hunt.

The most powerful thing about my small blót was that every time I called in a round of ancestors – the wind responded by making a howling noise and curling around me.

I felt that my Álfablót was well-received!

Imelda Almqvist, Kärrshagen, Sweden 31 October 2018

***

About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon in 2016 and her second book Sacred art: A Hollow Bone for Spirit (Where art Meets Shamanism) will be published in March 2019.  She was a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit in both 2016 and 2017 and is a presenter on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. She is currently in the editing stages of her third book “Medicine of the Imagination” and has started her fourth book “Evolving Gods: The Sacred Marriage of Tradition and Innovation”

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk  (website)

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/  (blog)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=imelda+almqvist (YouTube Channel with art videos and Rune Drum videos)

Natural Born Shamans – A Spiritual Toolkit for Life: Using Shamanism Creatively with Young People of All Ages on Amazon

 

 

Finding the Pagan Way

June, 2016

Finding

 

Elves, Pixies, Leprechauns and Faeries
How many readers truly believe in their existence?
Be honest with yourself. Have you ever seen one? Felt one around you? – Heard one? – Spoken to them and had you query or request answered?.
I have. I do not believe in the Faeries. – I am forced to accept their existence because of their interaction and influence on my life in this past 8 years.
I have been to many “Pagan” rituals and events. Some, – such as my Hand-Fasting ceremony, were so powerful that even family and friends were aware of the spiritual energies which were present.
My wife, Tina is a powerful medium and healer, who follows a shamanistic path.
I have witnessed many demonstrations which proved the existence of spirit and the continuation of life beyond that which we call death. Since childhood, I have been privileged to see the power of the Tarot in action and I no longer have the slightest doubt of the accuracy of my readings, – even when, sometimes, it takes many months for a client to receive verification of the advice/information given through me.

I am not in the least bit gullible. As a member of the “Society for Psychic and Spiritual Studies” I spent a lot of time in trying to ‘debunk’ mediums. I did not even accept Tina’s obvious talents very quickly or easily. However, when a spirit guide knocks the Tarot cards from your hands, or forces you to give a message in a supermarket, then you have to begin to accept the existence of the Supernatural in your life.
These past eight years have been an incredible journey for me, and Paganism has allowed me to meet and greet with many spiritual people who share my joy in the unknown,- despite some quite stark differences in our beliefs and outlooks.

It has been a journey that teased and puzzled me. It has challenged every presumption I ever had and forced me to change in many ways. It started with a simple prayer about 9 years ago.
The interesting thing about this was that I prayed to the Goddess, which I believe led to the writing of my poetry under her guidance. Then I was re-introduced to the Fae(ries) and my life spun into over-drive.
The Fae shattered many of the limiting factors in my life. I had much sorrow and grief holding me back. They came back into my life and awareness when I went to a drumming workshop which was being held by a local druid at Cabourne Parva in Caistor, Lincolnshire. On the same day, I was re-introduced to shamanism, mediumship and the faeries. The workshop was simply about drumming, but during that day, I met one of Tina’s guides, Lucy and I watched in fascination as she skipped about and played in the barn where we were working. I did not know who she was. Indeed, it was almost a year before I had confirmation of her name from a medium/reader at the Pagan pride festival. This was later confirmed by quite a few other mediums.

This was the day I was given the gift of laughter. I heard the Fae speaking to me. Well, – it was only one word, but as clear as a bell. “Laughter” For about six weeks, everything that happened to me just led to tears of laughter. All my anger and grief at the passing of my late wife, finally began the slow process of healing and dissolving. I had lived in a bubble of contentment for many years, until the universe has torn it all away from me to prepare me for a new life, and the work which I needed to do. Finally, my prayer was being answered…

Babes in the Wood

We never realised that we were merely babes lost in the woods;
Playing hide and seek, – while silently the world moved on.
We wished and dreamed, that always, was a faithful world;
But while we dreamed our dreams, forever slipped away
And I woke up to find my world was gone.

I love another now, but that will never change my love for you.
She healed my heart and brought back from summer’s open door.
I learned to live somehow, and carried on; – as lovers sometimes do.
And now we live a life that I had never dreamed of, when we wandered in the woods,
And I can never change back to that person, whom I was before.

Springtime aches, – where once it brought a joyfulness to every step.
And yet there is gratitude within my heart for all of Spirits gifts.
I know that you are watching over me; – I know that you still care.
I looked into your eyes the other week, and saw the love still there.
Although they graced another’s face, my heart still knew that it was truly you.

I want to tell you all about the love whom I have found,
But, I guess you know already, as you often hang around.
She has the bluest, deepest eyes that I have ever seen.
She’s pretty as a picture, – with the kindest heart that there has ever been.
Without her love and strength, – I do not know how life could possibly have been.

I’ll say goodbye, – although I know that you are never very far away.
I listened carefully to every word you said last week, – I promise I will cherish every day.
I know that life is much too short to waste in misery and in despair,
And I will try to wake up every day and look at life for all the blessings there.
I will go and live my life and leave regret behind,
But please forgive me if, I sometimes shed a tear,
When life’s lost blessings slip into my mind.

Patrick W Kavanagh
13/03/2016
It was a hard journey, but, both the Fae, and my lovely Tina, have guided and protected me on every step of the way. I do not know how much longer my journey will last, But I am determined to keep on with my development and writing. We are here for a purpose. I believe that this purpose is to help and heal each other, as we evolve into the divine beings which we truly are. For me, – my relationship with the faeries has been a very important part of the journey so far, as has my Goddess and my Muse.


Angels of the Forest

Angels of the forest and the fields,

Tiny wings that glow and shimmer underneath the moon.

Stay a little while and share your wisdom and your joy.

I beg you, please don’t fly away so soon.

For I have dreamed of meeting you again, since I was just a boy.

I have spent a lifetime searching underneath the star filled skies.

Hoping that I’d live to see you once again.

Just the very sight of you brings tears to these old eyes.

Please don’t go away and leave me all alone.

Ever since I saw you as a child, this world has never felt like home.

Would that I could fly away with you.

Oh what gladness, just to see the land of Fae once more.

If you would only let me go with you and stay a little while

I would happily forsake all that I have, and travel with you, to that other shore.

Then, when they find me cold and still, my parting speech will simply be a smile.

Patrick W Kavanagh

10/04/2014

Faeries, Elves, & Other Kin

August, 2009

A Faery Myth


The Wonderful  Tune

Maurice Connor  was the king, and that’s no small word, of all the pipers in Munster. He could play jig and planxty without end, and Ollistrum’s March, and the Eagle’s Whistle, and the Hen’s Concert, and odd tunes of every sort and kind. But he knew one, far more surprising than the rest, which had in it the power to set every thing dead or alive dancing.

In what way he learned it is beyond my knowledge, for he was mighty cautious about telling how he came by so wonderful a tune. At the very first note of that tune, the brogues began shaking upon the feet of all who heard it – old or young it mattered not -just as if their brogues had the ague; then the feet began going – going – going from under them, and at last up and away with them, dancing like mad ! – whisking here, there, and everywhere, like a straw in a storm – there was no halting while the music lasted !

Not a fair, nor a wedding, nor a patron in the seven parishes round, was counted worth the speaking of with out “blind Maurice and his pipes.” His mother, poor woman, used to lead him about from one place to another, just like a dog.

Down through Iveragh – a place that ought to be proud of itself for ‘t is Daniel O’Connell’s country – Maurice Connor and his mother were taking their rounds. Beyond all other places Iveragh is the place for stormy coast and steep mountains : as proper a spot it is as an in Ireland to get yourself drowned, or your neck broken on the land, should you prefer that. But, notwithstanding, in Ballinskellig bay there is a neat bit of ground, well fitted for diversion, and down from it, towards the water, is a clean smooth piece of strand – the dead image of a calm summer’s sea on a moonlight night, with just the curl of the small waves upon it.

Here it was that Maurice’s music had brought from all parts a great gathering of the young men and the young women – O the darlints ! – for ’twas not every day the strand of Trafraska was stirred up by the voice of a bagpipe. The dance began; and as pretty a rinkafadda it was as ever was danced. “Brave music,” said every body, “and well done,” when Maurice stopped.

“More power to your elbow, Maurice, and a fair wind in the bellows,” cried Paddy Dorman, a hump-backed dancing-master, who was there to keep order. ” ‘Tis a pity,” said he, ” if we ‘d let the piper run dry after such music; ‘t would be a disgrace to Iveragh, that didn’t come on it since the week of the three Sundays.” So, as well became him, for he was always a decent man, says he: “Did you drink, piper ?”

” I will, sir,” says Maurice, answering the question on the safe side, for you never yet knew piper or schoolmaster who refused his drink.

“What will you drink, Maurice?” says Paddy.

” I’m no ways particular,” says Maurice; “I drink any thing, and give God thanks, barring raw water: but if ’tis all the same to you, mister Dorman, may be you wouldn’t lend me the loan of a glass of whiskey.”

“I’ve no glass, Maurice,” said Paddy; ” I’ve only the bottle.”

“Let that be no hindrance,” answered Maurice; my mouth just holds a glass to the drop; often I’ve tried it, sure.”

So Paddy Dorman trusted him with the bottle – more fool was he; and, to his cost, he found that though Maurice’s mouth might not hold more than the glass at one time, yet, owing to the hole in his throat, it took many a filling.

“That was no bad whiskey neither,” says Maurice, handing back the empty bottle.

“By the holy frost, then !” says Paddy, ” ’tis but could comfort there’s in that bottle now; and ’tis your word we must take for the strength of the whiskey, for you’ve left us no sample to judge by :” and to be sure Maurice had not.

Now I need not tell any gentleman or lady with common understanding, that if he or she was to drink an honest bottle of whiskey at one pull, it is not at all the same thing as drinking a bottle of water; and in the whole course of my life, I never knew more than five men who could do so without being overtaken by the liquor. Of these Maurice Connor was not one, though he had a stiff head enough of his own – he was fairly tipsy.

Don’t think I blame him for it; ’tis often a good man’s case; but true is the word that says, “when liquor’s in sense is out;” and puff, at a breath, before you could say ” Lord, save us!” out he blasted his wonderful tune.

‘Twas really then beyond all belief or telling the dancing. Maurice himself could not keep quiet; staggering now on one leg, now on the other, and rolling about like a ship in a cross sea, trying to humour the tune. There was his mother too, moving her old bones as light as the youngest girl of them all: but her dancing, no, nor the dancing of all the rest, is not worthy the speaking about to the work that was going on down upon the strand.

Every inch of it covered with all manner of fish jumping and plunging about to the music, and every moment more and more would tumble in out of the water, charmed by the wonderful tune. Crabs of monstrous size spun round and round on one claw with the nimbleness of a dancing-master, and twirled and tossed their other claws about like limbs that did not belong to them. It was a sight surprising to behold.

But perhaps you may have heard of father Florence Conry, a Franciscan friar, and a great Irish poet; bolg an dana, as they used to call him – a wallet of poems. If you have not, he was as pleasant a man as one would wish to drink with of a hot summer’s day; and he has rhymed out all about the dancing fishes so neatly, that it would be a thousand pities not to give you his verses ; so here’s my hand at an upset of them into English:

The big seals in motion,
Like waves of the ocean
Or gouty feet prancing,
Came heading the gay fish,
Crabs, lobsters, and cray fish,
Determined on dancing.

The sweet sounds they follow’d,
The gasping cod swallow’d;
‘T was wonderful, really !
And turbot and flounder,
‘Mid fish that were rounder,
Just caper’d as gaily.

John-dories came tripping;
Dull hake by their skipping
To frisk it seem’d given;
Bright mackrel went springing,
like small rainbows winging
Their flight up to heaven.

The whiting and haddock
Left salt water paddock
This dance to be put in:
Where skate with flat faces
Edged out some odd plaices;
But soles kept their footing.

Sprats and herrings in powers
Of silvery showers
All number out-number’d.
And great ling so lengthy
Were there in such plenty
The shore was encumber’d.

The scollop and oyster
Their two shells did roister,
Like castanets fitting;
While limpets moved clearly,
And rocks very nearly
With laughter were splitting.

Never was such an ullabulloo in this world, before or since; ’twas as if heaven and earth were coming together; and all out of Maurice Connor’s wonderful tune !

In the height of all these doings, what should there be dancing among the outlandish set of fishes but a beautiful young woman – as beautiful as the dawn of day.  She had a cocked hat upon her head; from under it her long green hair – just the colour of the sea – fell down behind, without hinderance to her dancing. Her teeth were like rows of pearl; her lips for all the world looked like red coral; and she had an elegant gown, as white as the foam of the wave, with little rows of purple and red sea weeds settled out upon it: for you never yet saw a lady, under the water or over the water, who had not a good notion of dressing herself out.

Up she danced at last to Maurice, who was flinging his feet from under him as fast as hops – for nothing in this world could keep still while that tune of his was going on – and says she to him, chaunting it out with a voice as sweet as honey –

” I’m a Iady of honour
Who live in the sea;
Come down, Maurice Connor,
And be married to me.

“Sliver plates and gold dishes
You shall have, and shall be
The king of the fishes,
When you ‘re married to me.”

Drink was strong in Maurice’s head, and out he chaunted in return for her great civility. It is not every lady, may be, that would be after making such an offer to a blind piper; therefore ’twas only right in him to give her as good as she gave herself – so says Maurice,

I’m obliged to you, madam :
Off a gold dish or plate,
If a king, and I had ’em,
I could dine in great state.

With your own father’s daughter
I’d be sure to agree;
But to drink the salt water
Wouldn’t do so with me ! ”

The lady looked at him quite amazed, and swinging her head from side to side like a great scholar, “Well,” says she, ” Maurice, if you’re not a poet, where is poetry to be found?”

In this way they kept on at it, framing high compliments; one answering the other, and their feet going with the music as fast as their tongues. All the fish kept dancing too: Maurice heard the clatter, and was afraid to stop playing lest it might be displeasing to the fish, and not knowing what so many of them may take it into their heads to do to him if they got vexed.

Well, the lady with the green hair kept on coaxing of Maurice with soft speeches, till at last she overpersuaded him to promise to marry her, and be king over the fishes, great and small. Maurice was well fitted to be their king, if they wanted one that could make them dance; and he surely would drink, barring the salt water, with any fish of them all.

When Maurice’s mother saw him, with that unnatural thing in the form of a green-haired lady as his guide, and he and she dancing down together so lovingly: to the water’s edge, through the thick of the fishes, she called out after him to stop and come back. “Oh then,” says she, “as if I was not widow enough before, there he is going away from me to be married to that scaly woman. And who knows but ’tis grandmother I may be to a hake or a cod – Lord help and pity me, but ’tis a mighty unnatural thing! – and may be ’tis boiling and eating my own grandchild I’ll be, with a bit of salt butter, and I not knowing it ! – Oh Maurice, Maurice, if there’s any love or nature left in you, come back to your own ould mother, who reared you like a decent Christian ! ”

Then the poor woman began to cry and ullagoane so finely that it would do any one good to hear her.

Maurice was not long getting to the rim of the water; there he kept playing and dancing on as if nothing was the matter, and a great thundering wave coming in towards him’ ready to swallow him up alive; but as he could not see it, he did not fear it. His mother it was who saw it plainly through the big tears that were rolling down her cheeks; and though she saw it, and her heart was aching as much as ever mother’s heart ached for a son, she kept dancing, dancing, all the time for the bare life of her. Certain it was she could not help it, for Maurice never stopped playing that wonderful tune of his.

He only turned the bothered ear to the sound of his mother’s voice, fearing it might put him out in his steps, and all the answer be made back was – “Whisht with you, mother – sure I’m going to be king over the fishes down in the sea, and for a token of luck, and a sign that I’m alive and well, I’ll send you in, every twelvemonth on this day, a piece of burned wood to Trafraska.”

Maurice had not the power to say a word more, for the strange lady with the green hair seeing the wave just upon them, covered him up with herself in a thing like a cloak with a big hood to it, and the wave curling over twice as high as their heads, burst upon the strand, with a rush and a roar that might be heard as far as Cape Clear.

That day twelvemonth the piece of burned wood came ashore in Trafraska., It was a queer thing for Maurice to think of sending all the way from the bottom of the sea. A gown or a pair of shoes would have been something like a present for his poor mother; but he had said it, and he kept his word. The bit of burned wood regularly came ashore on the appointed day for as good, ay, and better than a hundred years. The day is now forgotten, and may be that is the reason why people say how Maurice Connor has stopped sending the luck-token to his mother.

Poor woman, she did not live to get as much as one of them; for what through the loss of Maurice, and the fear of eating her own grandchildren, she died in three weeks after the dance – some say it was the fatigue that killed her, but whichever it was, Mrs. Connor was decently buried with her own people.

Seafaring men have often heard, off the coast of Kerry, on a still night, the sound of music coming up from the water; and some, who have had good ears, could plainly distinguish Maurice Connor’s voice singing these words to his pipes: –

Beautiful shore, with thy spreading strand,
Thy crystal water, and diamond sand;
Never would I have parted from thee
But for the sake of my fair lady. [a]

[a] This is almost a literal translation of a Rann in the well-known song of Deardra.

Source: Thomas Crofton Croker – Fairy Legends and Traditions, first published 1825

republished by: Collins Press, Cork, 1998.

Faeries, Elves and Other kin

January, 2009

Normally I would have written something about the Fae and had fully intended on writing an article based on the Water faeries but when I got up this morning and turned on my computer I received a bit of extremely sad news; a very good friend of mine’s mother had just passed away. As I tried to get my mind on the work at hand I just could not get my friend off my mind. What do you say when someone has lost a loved one, let alone their mother? Do I call or perhaps send some flowers? These things all fade away. So in dedication of a life taken to soon I wrote this little verse.

Time stands still in Tir na nÓg (In Memory of Patrick’s Mom, you will be missed)

Come with me to the land hidden amidst the sea

No sorrow, no pain. Never more to age again

Houses are made from jewels and gold. Shinning like castles in the sun

Birds singing, whilst blossoming flowers grow all around

Ocean breezes soft and warm

Awakening the soul to the sounds of celestial song

So come with me to Tir na nÓg

For time stands still

In the land of the forever young

~ M. Burke (2008)

In times of sorrow when you feel as if you just cannot carryon, keep your head held high and remember the land of Tir na nÓg where time stands still.