Travels Through Middle Earth
By Alaric Albertsson
Foreword by Christopher Penczak
Publisher: Crossed Crow Book
Publication: June 8, 2009
From the publisher:
“Alaric Albertsson’s Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan is a beautifully written book that tells the reader how to incorporate these old pagan beliefs into modern magical practice. The book itself serves as a bridge to the past – connecting the reader to folklore, traditions, and rituals of the Anglo-Saxons in a way that is both comforting and familiar, while still engaging enough to help the reader add depth to their practice.
Contained herein are instructions for performing the húsel, which is a ritual designed to honor one’s ancestors, the Gods, and the elves and dwarves. Also included are observations on Anglo-Saxon cosmology, the wyrd and it’s connection to fate, seasonal tides and ways to celebrate them, rites of passage, worship, and magic. This book is truly a must have for anyone seeking alignment with the old ways of the Anglo-Saxons.
This book measures 5.5?by 8.5? and is approx 185 pages. The book is bound in parchment-color fabric with forest green end sheets, a forest green ribbon bookmark, and black foil stamping. This special edition is limited to 200 copies and includes a signed bookplate.
A special thank you to Witch & author Christopher Penczak for writing the foreword for this lovely book.
Please note: We are currently accepting pre-orders for this title and expect the special edition to start shipping in late October or early November.”
There will be a paperback version of this title released later.
As a reviewer, I set myself a task to view this book on its own merits – to forgetting about Alaric Albertsson’s books that have been on my bookshelves and loved and referenced for years; to see it as a stand-alone from an unknown author and to review it as such. It was not an easy task. To look at it impartially, this was necessary. This is a revised edition. I have not seen the previous version of this book so I cannot compare them. Therefore, it was easier to see it as a new book.
The foreword is written by Christopher Penczak, whom I have long admired. I first discovered Christopher’s work in 2000 or thereabouts and took a year-long class with one of his book/CD sets. I have followed his work ever since. He has a lot of wisdom so I usually listen when he speaks.
“Although we don’t always agree on how the gods should be approached and worshiped, the surprising thing is how much we have in common.”
These commonalities are what he hopes to convey to you, the reader.
The first chapter begins by looking at the Anglo-Saxon people, who they were, and how they perceived the cosmos. The second and third chapters continue on by introducing Anglo-Saxon Gods and, perhaps more importantly, how to approach them with reverence and respect. You will learn how to establish an altar and how to select and present offering that will be pleasing to the old gods. He explores other spirits (elves, dwarves, and ancestral spirits) and concepts such as honor and wyrd. There will be a chapter on magic, though magic is not essential to the old ways as described in this book. It is primarily about Saxon spirituality, acknowledging and developing a relationship with the old gods. He looks at how the Anglo-Saxons saw magic, then returns to focus on how to live and worship as a Saxon pagan. There is a chapter on making mead. The final chapters describe how to establish your own Saxon household, celebrate the holy tides, and observe the life passages we all go through. It is best to speak from the heart so he gives you a minimum of ritual words, not a formula but a guideline.
Concerning an altar, he says that if you live in a multi-faith household, you would have two separate altars even if they are in the same room. You would not toss everything on the same altar – Zeus, Kuan-Yin, Brighid, Woden, and Frige – and hold one rite to honor them all. Why? Because it would be disrespectful! They are all gods but they don’t all necessarily want to be acknowledged in the same way. Saxon pagans acknowledge the reality of Other Powers but they remember that they are ‘Other’.
He tells of Seven Worlds and how they came into being. They are extra-dimensional – above, below, and around our own Middle Earth and of their inhabitants. Three of the worlds are home to the gods and goddesses. The dark realm of the dwarves isn’t speaking negatively but rather of the darkness of the womb or cauldron where new things are brought into existence. The inhabitants of these realms can be friendly or hostile, just like here. If you approach them with respect, they can be allies. Below that is the world where the dead dwell. How you are received there depend on how you treated those who passed on before you. It is not necessarily a bad place.
“In polytheist religions, there is no ‘one true way’ that every must follow.”
There are probably as many manifestations of Saxon spirituality as there are people who follow this path. The common denominator is love and reverence for the Saxon gods.
In speaking of the old gods, he gives some very good advice that those of every tradition would do good to read. I have often thought the same – that you should get the know a chosen deity rather than choose one at random and expect said deity to do perform this or that for you just because you ask. As Alaric says, the gods are not divine vending machines! Develop a personal relationship with the god/goddess that you choose (or that calls you). They don’t owe you anything! Learn to recognize him/her. The gods are as multifaceted as we are! Your personal relationship will hold true even if it doesn’t match someone else’s experience. You always have a choice. A relationship with a god or goddess is never forced on you!
The altar (wèofod) can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish and should be where you will pass be it several times a day. He tells you what is usually kept on an altar. If you have a strong affinity for a particular deity, you can set up a separate altar for that deity. That is better than crowding your main altar with unnecessary clutter but don’t let the sacred become commonplace! Make an offering because the act of worship always includes a gift. He gives examples.
Honor and morality are not the same thing. Morals are situational and honor is a way of living. ‘Don’t tell lies’ is a moral but sometimes little white lies are necessary. These are my words, not Alaric’s but I’d say that sometimes a white lie is the difference in whether or not you’ll sleep in the doghouse tonight – “Honey, what do you think of this dress?” Simply not telling someone that you really don’t like what they are wearing can be the best thing to do. However, honor is your most valuable asset and this is what shapes your wyrd, your destiny. You must take responsibility for your words and your actions. This transforms the grain of sand in the oyster into a pearl. He gives us examples of honorable and dishonorable acts and reminds us that there is always a price for breaking our word. It is better to not say anything than to openly lie.
The nine noble virtues are good virtues to go by and he defines these. There is a rich chapter on elves, about the different kind of elves and how to learn about the elves in your locale. Elves are as varied and unique as humans are. Approach them with respect and courtesy.
Those who have gone before: an ancestor doesn’t have to be a blood relation. He or she can be anyone who helped to bring you to where you are today. One point he makes concerning our blood ancestors is that no matter how awful your childhood was, you would not exist at all if not for them. If you are adopted, you need to honor your ancestors of blood, of adoption and of spirit (heart). You have quite a lineage. Whether you have your natural parents or are adopted, you can honor anyone who helped shape your life.
Personally speaking, there are generations of my kin buried in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains where I was born and raised. As I walk across the land, I walk across the bones of my ancestors, of my father’s people and my mother’s people who came here in the 1800s from the old countries and settled high in the Appalachian hills. So I can identify with what Alaric says that the ancestors of the land are my ancestors. If they were not, I would have a separate class of ancestors to honor.
The Magic of Middle Earth
“No matter how many offerings you have made to the gods and your ancestors, sometimes things go wrong. Or sometimes, when things still have the potential to go right, you just do not want to leave it up to pure chance. At times like these, the Saxon Pagan will very likely turn to what people today commonly refer to as magic.”
The Anglo-Saxons had around two dozen words that translated as ‘magic’ but the skills that we would describe as magic were not considered occult or extraordinary. Magic was so commonplace that it didn’t warrant a special name. It was an integral part of their culture.
Words are important. Don’t give power to negative influences through your words! Don’t label yourself negatively! Then he gives us time-proven techniques for using words with power.
There is an exercise in faring forth – walking between the worlds – a method of divination – which is done with an assistant.
Wortcunning – the knowledge and lore of plants – this is a valuable section although it is not of great length. He gives a bit of history concerning various traditions of wortcunning. Wortcunning does not treat food and medicine as two separate things. Alliums, leeks, garlic, rosemary, comfrey, chamomile – he tells us a bit about how they are used and cautions that herbs are not to be used in the place of proper medical care but rather as a complement to it.
Runes – he goes into greater detail on runes in his book A Handbook of Saxon Sorcery and Magic, but he has an excellent partial chapter with graphics in this book.
Mead is a honey wine called the nectar of the gods. There are a ton of recipes out there but if you would like to try his ‘Hillbilly Mead’ (and if it is legal for you to do so), he supplies the recipe with you in chapter 8. He also shares a recipe for Mead Pot Roast.
Gathering at the Hearth – group worship – household or family – explains how an inhíred (Saxon household) traditionally works.
Holy Tides – almost everything about the pagan religion is a reconstruction. The traditions don’t go back as far into history as we’ve been told. There isn’t any one ‘right’ way to celebrate or even an incontestable agreement as to what those days are. Usually eight holidays spread equidistant from each other are celebrated throughout the calendar year. If you are familiar with Wicca, you will be familiar with these holidays. Gerald Gardner’s holidays are believed to be Celtic but are in fact English. None of the equinox or solstice celebrations are Celtic. The Celts borrowed them from their Germanic neighbors. Yet neither are they all Anglo-Saxon. Alaric then discusses the eight holidays in detail. This chapter is basically a wheel of the year.
Rites of Passage – sometimes the rite is confused with the event. The ceremony is an acknowledgment of something that has already taken place in a person’s heart. The rites of passage discussed are naming, adulthood, marriage, and the final journey. He gives examples for a couple of them.
The book concludes with a glossary and a bibliography.
I highly recommend this book. I will be buying a copy of the paperback.
Alaric Albertsson (Iowa) is a member of the Troth, and a founding member of the Key City Kindred. In the past he has served on the Board of Directors of the Heartland Spiritual Alliance, and as the Anglo-Saxon Vice Chieftain for the Norse kin of the Druidic organization Ár nDraíocht Féin.
Albertsson first embraced polytheism in the summer of 1971. At this time he had the opportunity to talk with rural people in the Ozark Mountains about traditional moon lore, weather lore and folk beliefs, and was strongly influenced by spiritist traditions. Over the past five decades, Albertsson’s personal spiritual practice has developed as a synthesis of Anglo-Saxon tradition, country folklore, herbal studies and rune lore.
About the Author:
Katy Ravensong is a practicing green witch in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. She was raised here where she ran barefoot & free. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, voracious reader, crocheter, and amateur herbalist. She glories in the freedom that comes with being a Crone ~ when she is gone, she will not be known as a woman who could keep her mouth shut! She is disabled, yet tries to make disability work for her. She is an advocate for human rights. She is Dean of Wortcunning and Assistant Dean of Natural Philosophy at The Grey School of Wizardry. She has studied with various herbal teachers, with Witch School International, with Avalonian Institute of Metaphysical Arts, and is a priestess with the Sisters of Earthsong, Order of the White Moon. Her poetry has been featured in several publications including ‘Pagan Poetry for the Festivals and Seasons’ by Wyrdwood Publications edited by Edain Duguay, 2008. Her favorite quote is from Emily Dickinson “If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain. If I can ease one life the aching or cool one pain or help one fainting robin unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain.”