The nature spirits are associated with the midrealm, or earth, and they are represented by the Tree. There are many places that are associated with the spirits. Hills might be particularly sacred to beings like the Sidhe or Fairies. And theoretically any rock or lake could be sacred to a particular spirit. The spirits also inhabit cities, just like squirrels and birds do. The fairies like shiny things, or sweet foods. I generally think wilder spirits like wild things, like fallen acorns, or a drawing in the dirt. The spirits are separate from humans and they are particularly interested in the balance of nature. However, they also work with the gods and goddesses.
Before this year, I had very little interaction with the Nature Spirits. And only in the last few months I have gained any concrete understanding of them. Mainly the feeling I get from the Spirits is a sort of mysteriousness or even aloofness. I think I have yet to communicate with them properly. For any animal, you must know how they communicate to really form a bond. I don’t think the spirits are very different in that regard. The spirit of the night that I work with once a month is very mysterious and I’m not sure it trusts me or if it keeps to itself. I can’t even get a fixed shape in my mind. Nevertheless, it seems to consent to my requests and seems satisfied with my offerings.
And the bear spirit that I’ve recently started working with only communicates through body language, much like an actual bear. It’s there to help me open the gates. I have yet to really figure out what it wants from me. I give it my basic offering and my thanks, and it opens and closes the gates.
Before having any relationship to any spirit, I had almost no idea how to think if them. It’s one thing to read in the handbook that the spirits live in nature, and it’s one thing to read some fairy stories. It’s another to interact with spirits. And frankly, I would have never guessed I would work with a very small, very specific spirit as the shadow spirit on moonlit nights or with an animal spirit, since I considered animal ‘totems’ or animal ‘spirit guides’ to be a strictly Native American thing and something I should not interfere with. So while my bond and interaction with the Nature Spirits is limited, I have certainly learned a great deal.
I have also learned a lot from reading my hearth culture book. The Landvaettir and the trolls are probably the most well-recorded spirits from Norse myth. The Landvaettir could inhabit any natural place, but they especially liked interesting or beautiful natural places to reside. For instance, when the Scandinavian settlers traveled to Iceland and set up their new settlement, they had to pick a place for the Thing to be held. They chose a central area, but this spot featured a very large cliff with an impressive rock outcropping. This place was made sacred even before the Thing was held there, and that sacredness made it ideal for the most important annual meeting in the land.
The ancestors are associated with the Underworld and are represented with water. This includes the water from the Underworld Power of the 2P and the Well. The Underworld would be a sacred place for the Mighty Dead. But caves and bodies of water are also sacred to them. Many cultures have believed that these kinds of features were gateways to the Underworld. Now the Ancestors have a close relationship to their descendants, and can be called upon by those descendants, perhaps with a certain food they liked. But the Mighty Dead in general have a relationship to mortals and can still assist or punish. I think they can also be in the Heavens when the gods welcome them for their great deeds.
I had a hard time connecting with the Ancestors as well. Although I’ve been pagan for a while, I never had a strong connection to the ancestors on Samhain. And the Samhain before I started ADF (2 years ago), I thought it might be interesting to do a Dias de los Muertos themed personal Samhain rite. My thought was that I could learn about other forms of paganism and make use of the symbolism of that holiday. I got my altar all decked out to represent my grandmother. But nothing happened on Samhain. Nothing at all. Perhaps in my ignorance, I angered the Dead.
One thing I have really like about ADF is the focus on the Ancestors. As my grandmother was Irish, and as all my ancestors (as far as I know) were of European descent, ADF made a lot of sense. This year, I visited my grandmother’s (and grandfather’s) grave in Ohio. I brought apple cider, said some words, made an offering, and ‘drank with them’ too. That alone was more fulfilling than any Samhain rite I have done.
Another time, at the grove’s Fall Equinox rite, we went to the (Greek) Underworld during meditation. The speaker told us to pass the area where much of the dead reside, the Asphodel Meadows, and if we felt the ancestors, acknowledge them, but keep moving forward (they weren’t a direct part of our meditation. And without even trying, I could feel the presence of my grandmother and grandfather and of my uncle as well.
Unfortunately, the Norse afterlife is dramatized and not very well understood. There is so much about Valhalla in particular, but very little about the other halls of the gods. And I still don’t know exactly what gets you into a hall (like Odin’s or Thor’s) versus Hel’s hall, which does not lie in Asgard. Furthermore, there are awful depictions of Hel’s hall and lands, but there is debate about how much Snorri changed the actual stories so that Hel’s hall was like the Christian Hell. So I certainly need to learn more about these scruples. But I like the idea that those dedicated to a certain god, and who lived their life and/or died in a way that would suite that god, is welcomed to that god’s hall (if the god is pleased with them).
The deities are associated with the Heavens, the gate of Fire, and the fire/light in the 2P. The gods are multifaceted, but in general the things they are associated with are the things that are sacred to them. I would not go to Brigid to ask for the strength of a warrior. (I would go to her for healing and leave a gift of milk or bread.) And I would not go to Idunn to help me understand something new. (I would go to her to give new life to a personal project, perhaps leaving apples or flowers.) Many of the gods reside in what ADF calls the Heavens or Upperworld. However, I feel that some gods spend a lot of time in the Midworld and the Underworld. The gods care about and guide humans. They are also fairly powerful beings and have connections to certain spirits and the Dead. Also, certain gods have relationships to certain spirits, while other gods have relationships with different spirits.
Early in the year, I spent several evenings meditating on pictures of a couple different deities, Cernunnos and Odin among them. I was at first surprised that it worked. And then I was surprised by the difference in presence and voice that they each had. Cernunnos was calm, with a high man’s voice. Odin was irascible and far away (I had mistakenly addressed him as Mercury at the time). Later on, when Odin started bothering me, I was completely caught off guard and was almost fully in trance without realizing it. So that was both scary and amazing. Meditation and trance have worked thus far to interact with the gods.
The deity with whom my relationship has grown during the year is Odin. He predicted my health issues and surgery early in the year, then when I rejected him, he mostly left me alone, despite my still looking for him. And now that I’m repairing this relationship, I’ve been working more with Odin as the Wanderer, but occasionally with him as the All-Father. I’m not sure if it matters much that I see him in multiple ways.
I think Odin predicting my health issues was the most help I’ve been given spiritually this year. I had a vision of a wolf falling, but an understanding that this was not the end. Almost like a ‘this too shall pass’ feeling. That literally got me through the weeks of not knowing what was wrong with my brain and the many doctors I visited and the eventual surgery and recovery over a 4-month period.
The Norse myths portray the Aesir and the Vanir as human, but also as very powerful and overall protective of humans. Thor fights off giants during thunderstorms. Odin’s hall has many doors that can each fit 80 men abreast. Freya has elegant gold jewelry and a gold belt. The gods are full of strength and splendor. Odin of course is the god of many names who has many associations and is found throughout the sagas. All of the gods but Loki cry for Baldur when he dies. Tyr is noble enough to give his word to Fenrir despite the pain and loss of his hand. I would say emotions and strength are probably at the heart of Norse myth. These myths are very dramatic and dynamic, and the gods are portrayed similarly.