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Indigenous

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 Books 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

 

 

Warrior Women

May, 2016

Queen Liliuokalani

Warrior

This is the very sad story of the last monarch of Hawaii, Queen Liliuokalani, the trials and tribulations of the indigenous Hawaiians and her extended battle with the rich American plantation owners who eventually coerced her to give up her throne.

Liliuokalani was born in Honolulu on September 2, 1838, and, in keeping with a very interesting Hawaiian custom, she was adopted by another family, Abner Paki, his wife, Konia, and their daughter, Bernice Pauahi.

As I write this I wonder why Bernice wasn’t adopted by another family. My first thought was perhaps it was tradition only in royal families, but Konia was the granddaughter of King Kamehameha l, so that theory went right out the window. (More research would solve the mystery, I think.) If you want to learn more about the custom of adopting newborns from other families, go here: http://www.hawaiian-roots.com/researchproblems2.htm )

Liliuokalani, and her brother, Kalakaua, were educated “in the ways of the foreigners.” It was standard practice, beginning in the 1830s, for the children of royal families to be taught to speak, as well as read, English. Consequently, Liliuokalani was able to negotiate with the American plantation owners who wanted to acquire the islands as a protectorate of the U.S.

Liliuokalani Kalakaua, were clever, well-read and cultured. They both understood the formalities and protocol of court life. However, they also felt comfortable with ordinary Hawaiians and, as a matter of fact, were apprehensive about their future happiness.

In 1874, Kalakaua became King Kalakaua, ruling monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and, upon his death in 1891, Liliuokalani became Queen. Her reign was one of treason, treachery and turmoil. Less than two years after ascending the throne, Sanford Ballard Dole, with other American plantation owners, removed Queen Liliukalani from the throne in a bloodless coup. She stepped down, against her will and under protest. Dole appointed himself president of the new republic. That was the end of the Hawaiian monarchy. This is what Queen Liliukalani had to say:

“I, Liliuokalani, by the grace of God and under the constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen, do hereby solemnly protest against any and all acts done against myself and the constitutional government of the Hawaiian Kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established a Provisional Government of and for this Kingdom.”

In a desperate, but ill-fated attempt to regain her throne, Liliukalani had hidden guns in her garden, or had knowledge of their existence. (Two stories exist concerning this issue.) She was found out, arrested and sentenced to five years of hard labour. The sentence was not enforced. Instead, she was placed under house-arrest for less than a year, then was pardoned.

Queen Liliukalani fought hard to keep her beloved home an independent and sovereign nation, but she was no match for the rich plantation owners and the American government. On Aug 12, 1898, Hawaii became an American territory. The Incorporated Territory of Hawaii was born.

I have great admiration for this woman. She was intelligent, resilient, strong-willed, and discerning when it came to the future of her citizens.

She held on to her beloved Hawaii as long as she could.

Queen Liluokalani, last monarch of the sovereign nation of Hawaii, died on November 11, 1917. She was mourned deeply by all who knew her, native Hawaiians and Americans alike.

(PS: Queen Liliuokalani had quite an artistic talent. She wrote 165 songs, one of which is the popular Aloha ‘Oe. You can listen to it here:

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1bIxMYPlas[/embedyt]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1bIxMYPlas )

Finding the Pagan Way

September, 2015

Shamanism

In many ways, my spiritual journey has brought me beyond the more publicised aspects of paganism and deeper into a rediscovery of shamanism. Whereas much of what is practised in the names of many long lost systems of belief is, largely, a modern reconstruction,- there is still a strong shamanistic tradition in many of the surviving indigenous peoples around the world.

At a time when the western societies are floundering under the unsupportable system of capitalism, we have much to learn from societies which have lived in a sustainable fashion for most of mankind’s history. But ironically, at a time when we need their wisdom the most, the attack on indigenous peoples has been renewed as the corporate world eyes their lands with its habitual greedy stare.

The hunger for timber, minerals and new sites for hydroelectric dams has forced many peoples from their ancestral lands. We have seen the same crimes repeated over and over again as, what we foolishly call, civilisation spread across the globe. Forests are cut down and overworked until nothing but deserts or dust bowls remain. Rivers become polluted and the native flora and fauna became extinct. Respect for the land and for other life becomes replaced with arrogance and a total absence of compassion. Prejudice and hatred become the norm as the native inhabitants are forced out and the “settlers” attempt to justify their actions.

The time has come for those who claim to believe in a better world to stand up and tell their governments to act now. We have a duty to save what is left of this planets natural reserves and to protect the rights of those groups who are still living in a sustainable way. They are the teachers of the future who can show us how to regain our sense of balance and humility before we destroy this planet on which we depend.

A Warriors Tears.

What will we make of our new world, where all the roses died,

When all alone we stand upon the naked earth, where once the weeping willow cried.

Once the cheerful sparrow chirped upon the leafy bough,

And now, across the Barren wastes, the wind blows soft and low

And when our world has gone,

Where will we go?

Where once a mighty river flowed, now runs a ragged little stream.

No fish still swim within it’s dark and murky flow,- no lovers float and dream.

No dragonflies above the bare, baked clay that guides its weary way.

No butterflies delight our eyes with colourful display.

And when our world has gone,

Where will we go?

Take the seeds of mother earth and scatter them wherever you may go.

Plant ten trees for every tree that dies.

Cut the fences, chop the posts and let the buffalo run free.

Take the earth back from the greedy, let us share it as we did in days of old.

For when our Mother dies,

Where will we go?

Patrick W Kavanagh 21/07/2013

Art by Bill Oliver boysoblue.com

shamanism

 

 

My ancient friend

I lay beside you on the cold damp earth,
My tears where mingling with the early dew.
I ran my fingers down your cold coarse skin,
Your wisdom torn from me,- what shall I do?

Your silent counsel,- from me gone…
The quiet dreams you gave me through the years
Your towering strength that sheltered from the storm,
Where once was calm, I now find only tears.

I must stay centred,- must keep anger from my breast,
They tore you from our mother earth,-still in your prime.
No more your shelter for the birds to rest,
You lie,uprooted, long before your time.

I wish that I could set your spirit free,
Release your ancient heart to ash with sacred fire,
And when you go before me to the source,
Please tell,- at least one human loved a tree.

Our Mother now lies stricken, Bones bare, Her Beauty laid to waste
Despoilers!..Stop!..you must learn how to listen,
The source of all will not much longer bear this foul disgrace!
Learn your purpose,-Learn your place,
Our time grows shorter in this sacred place.

Patrick Kavanagh
16/04/12

Spirits In The Material World: Native Americans Today

August, 2006

The Silence of Indigenous Peoples

Pagan Pages has been seeking to include a column dealing with Native Americans for some time. There are a few likely reasons it has taken some time to find an author willing to share appropriate information with the readership. In this first piece of what will be a monthly column devoted to understanding the indigenous peoples of the Americas, I wanted to address why Indian people often fall silent in a venue such as this.

I also want to tell you a little bit about myself. I was not born on a reservation. I was not raised by wolves. My first and most life-altering spiritual awakening happened in a store. Some of the first native people I attracted into my life were definitely not on a spiritual path, regardless of what they said or did. The sweat lodge ceremony is not for wimps. There were no Cherokee princesses in the days of your great grandmother.

My heritage, in this order, is German/Russian/Scottish/Welsh/Cherokee and probably Osage. Tribal people will understand why it’s important to make that clear within the first three paragraphs; everyone else will hopefully understand by the end of the column. There are no enrolled tribal members that I know of in my genealogical records, which stretch back to the late 1700’s.

Because I have been taught to respect cultural ways, I will not be writing about things that I shouldn’t. While it makes for great story-telling to relate certain spiritual experiences or embellish the details of ceremonies, what you really learn from these is very little. What I wish to accomplish in the first few segments of this column is to orient you to the reality of the native experience. Then, armed with practical knowledge, we can explore spiritual issues from a grounded, solid place.

When you understand the relationship of living things to each other, when you comprehend your own place in the complex web of life, then you can enjoy and understand your own spiritual experiences, and have a deeper appreciation for the experiences of others.

Many times I’ve heard people say they want to learn more about Native American people, but they can’t find anyone to teach them. Odd, it seems, that native people wouldn’t want to be more forthcoming in sharing their cultures with others. Wouldn’t that seem the best way to preserve them?

There are some very good reasons that American Indians are selective with whom they share their cultural truths. One of the primary reasons for this silence is little known and even less understood to the rest of the world. In native societies, a person earns the right and the approval of their elders and tribal leaders to be a spokesperson for their people.

It’s a rather foreign concept to those of us who were raised with the right to free speech. Shouldn’t everyone, regardless of their station in life, be able to say what they feel? Isn’t it rather backward to be so selective about who can say what?

At first glance, it might seem so. But on further investigation, the reasoning becomes more obvious. Many tribal people’s history goes back well beyond recorded history, and indigenous cultures are, by and large, oral cultures.

Origin stories as well as the rituals of daily life are passed down from elders to the young; they are kept alive and pure by the learning of the student from the teacher. Therefore, before a tribal person is ready to be a speaker on behalf of their people, they must first be a student. A student who can learn, memorize and retell the stories of their people.

To be a student, one must have teachers, and to have tribal teachers, one must be raised in and around their tribal community. This dramatically narrows the number of eligible spokespersons in today’s world. Several hundred years of brutal and dedicated oppression by dominant societies have reduced the size of tribal communities, and have obliterated much of the knowledge that was an integral part of those tribal systems.

There are other factors to consider as well. There were well over five hundred different tribes in the United States alone. Some were completely obliterated and exist now only in obscure historical accounts, mostly written by anthropologists. The knowledge those people maintained has effectively been lost. Of the nations that remain intact, they have done so by carefully protecting and preserving what is most sacred and vital to their cultures.

These cultures may be grouped as one category – American Indians, Native Americans, Indigenous peoples of the western Hemisphere; but this is a superficial grouping which gives us no more than a general geographic location in which to place those cultures. There are some similarities that all indigenous cultures share, like respect for Mother Earth, but the more one learns, the more they will realize that each nation is different from the next in important ways.

This lends another layer of difficulty to the task of finding someone to teach you about native cultures. Most Indian people will not pose as an authority on any culture but their own, not for lack of knowledge, but out of respect. They, after all, probably don’t have the right to speak on behalf of any culture other than, perhaps, their own, and if they have been raised with some traditional sensibility, will not be willing to divulge too much of what they do know.

One of the most important reasons native people are often silent has to do with the abuse of the knowledge they have shared. In their hunger to gain some level of spiritual accomplishment, and in pursuit of financial gain, many non-native people have adopted portions of native ceremonies for their own personal benefit.

You can buy a kit to make your own sweat lodge on the internet. You can read any number of books written by non-Indians about the spiritual paths of natives. A whole host of “adopted” non-Indian people have successfully published book after book about their spiritual adventures with native elders. Some purport that they have become shamans and medicine people themselves.

Some Indian and part-Indian people have cashed in on this open market as well. In urban areas they will, for a price, give you the “authentic” experience of a sweat lodge ceremony, or take your money for a seminar in which you will learn about animal spirit helpers. Using elements of native cultures in a new age setting, they prey upon those seeking spiritual enlightenment.

What native people have always been willing to share is their understanding of balance with nature and of responsibility for our actions. And this, perhaps the most important thing any of us can learn, has been largely tossed aside. How to live in right relation to all other things…the one thing that will bring us peace, comfort and a sustainable future…this knowledge has very nearly been lost for lack of use. Even native people themselves have had to re-learn the balance that their ancestors were taught from birth.

Several waves of “new age” religion have swept across Indian territory, bringing mixed results. The admiration of native peoples is usually one cloaked in a veil of pre-contact bliss and nostalgia that bears little resemblance to the reality of native life. The adaptation of ceremonial ways for personal profit has outraged some elders to the point that they have shut their doors to outsiders, Indian or non-Indian, in order to protect the sacred ways which they are the keepers of.

Newcomers usually don’t stick around long. After a few months or years, the glory of the stoic Indian seems to wear off. The day to day reality of native life is often harsh enough to send most spiritual seekers packing in short order. If they were expecting to be struck with enlightenment like a bolt of lightning from the heavens, they might do better standing on a hill in a thunderstorm.

For those who truly want to learn, however, there is still hope. There is one thing that can be said about most native peoples, regardless of their tribal identity. If they like you, they will set aside your ethnicity, appearance and socio-economic status, and whatever else makes you feel different, separate, fearful or unworthy, and accept you as you are.

There are no shortcuts to making friends; no gift that will insure this right of passage, no given name or secret handshake to get you into the club. Perhaps that’s why some people go to gatherings for years and years before they make lasting friendships with native people. There are no secrets, no tricks. There’s just you…who you really are, what you really came for, what you have to offer and what you hope to go away with.

And then, perhaps, slowly at first, your new-found friends will begin to break the indigenous code of silence, and show you the small, simple pieces of life that make up their vast and complex world.

***
author bio:

Corina Roberts, Founder

Redbird

Promoting the Awareness and Celebration of Indigenous Cultures and People and Creating a Sustainable Future

www.RedbirdsVision.org

Author, The Wisdom Walkers

www.lulu.com/corinaroberts

Corina Roberts was born in Wurzburg, Germany in 1964, the daughter of a German/Russian mother and Scottish/Welsh/Cherokee father enlisted in the United States Army. Writing, photography, art and poetry are both a professional and a personal passion. Redbird, founded in 1990 and receiving federal recognition as a 501(c)(3) non profit association in 1994, is a Native American cultural awareness and environmental organization created by Corina some 14 years ago. Writing skill came early, with the first recognition at the age of nine and a novel called Red Rover, which won an all-school first place award against many older students.

Most of Roberts’ work today focuses on cultural preservation and environmental education. She has written for a number of non-profit groups as well as doing freelance work. Her new novel, The Wisdom Walkers, available online at www.Lulu.com on October 1, will be the subject of a presentation titled “Telling Our Own Stories” on November 10-12, 2005 at the Southeastern University of Oklahoma’s Sixth Annual Native Writer’s Symposium in Durant, Oklahoma.

Recent poetry includes “Waking Up Screaming” in the July 2005 online edition of Autumn Leaves, collaboration with Virginia Morell on the National Geographic upcoming article “Sea Monsters” slated for publication in December 2005, and inclusion in the International Poetry Society’s 2005 Anthology with “The Honesty of Dogs”. Other current online credits include “Jump – Getting Started” an article about writers on writing at www.RedCedarPublishing.com. Visit Redbird’s new website, available October 1 2005 at www.RedbirdsVision.org and attend the Children Of Many Colors Intertribal Powwow, June 16, 17 and 18 2006 at Moorpark College in Moorpark, California.

Corina has several other projects in the works as well. Fairy Island, Inc. is a wedding location operation in its early development, with some very innovative goals and ideas, and for which serious partner/investors are being sought. Through her non-profit, she is also working on a project called “Redbird Ranch”, an elder and transitional housing facility focusing on the Native American community, and providing peace and dignity in a culturally appropriate setting for families whose elderly are nearing their end of life.

Contact Corina Roberts at: (805) 217-0364

Or via email at:

[email protected]

[email protected]

Mailing Address:

Corina Roberts, Founder

Redbird

P.O. Box 702

Simi Valley, CA 93062