Vanir of Autumn

Looking back over the posts on this blog, I realize that I haven’t talked much about the Gods.  I think part of this is because my devotional practices end up placing as much emphasis on the Ancestors and Wights as the Cosmic Big Cheeses.  Still, the fact remains that as the seasons turn, I do have an acute awareness of which deities are more active, and which have taken a well-deserved vacation.

As I mentioned in the practical patronlessness post, I’ve finally settled into the gods of the Vanir (or Wenan, as it’s been reconstructed in Old English) and my sole pantheon, with the caveat that I subscribe to the Vanacelt theory.  The Vanir are undeniably Gods of this world, inextricably woven into the fabric and rhythms of life on this little ball of rock, water, and wind.  And it makes sense that being to tied to the world, these Gods mimic the changes that occur as we all spin around the sun.

Here in New England, we’re moving into the Autumn.  The first acorn dropped a couple of weeks ago, and The Hunter has begun his ascent up the dome of the night sky.  The slight chill in the air sharpens my senses and fills me with a wondrous anticipation for the coming harvest.  This is a time of bounty and magic, when gifts may flow freely between our world and those of the Other-realms.

Habondia, the Lady of Plenty, strews her gifts of harvest across our tables in an ecstatic display of generosity.  Hers is the magic of fruition, of the selection of the finest crops to be given as gifts to our neighbors, human, wight-kin, and God.  Plunging your hands into the earth as you dig potatoes; gathering the bounty of apples that have swollen to ripe, red girth; shucking the last ears of corn from their papery husks and spider-wraps of silk—these are her rites.  They are humble and they are holy.

Gullveig burns brightly in the red and gold leaves of the autumn.  Her lessons stretch thin the membrane between the worlds, allowing glimpses of knowledge otherwise beyond reach.  Her song can be heard in the bonfires that dot the land, Her arousal is evident in every spark soaring skywards.  She, too, is a goddess of bounty, but Hers is victory and spoils wrenched from her enemies in the blaze of battle.  As She dances, the hills turn to flame as they behold Her passion and joy.

Nerthus, the Great Lady, also now gives Her gifts to mankind, though we balk at what She demands in return.  We try to avoid our end of the bargain, dodging responsibility by engaging in a year-round orgy of excess.  But She is as patient as She is immovable.  As autumn is a time of plenty, it is also a time of decay—the beginning of the cycle of renewal.  Leaves blanket the ground in a rich layer of death, that they may foster the seedlings of next spring.  Annual and perennials alike whither while releasing the last of their seeds to the wind.  No new life may come without sacrifice of the old, and Nerthus welcomes the fallen into Her arms before the deep rest of winter.

Gwyn ap Nudd, the Hunter, begins to stir under the hills of the land.  He will not ride until Samhain, but the first notes of His horn can be heard on the wind.  His song is the exhilaration of a cool, sharp wind, and the rise of a Blood Moon on the horizon.  He, too, is immovable in His task, and will not waver in His pursuit of prey.  Soon, the time of the final culling will begin and the choice is to either ride the madness at His side, or get out of the way.

Autumn has always brought out my “witchy” side, the part of me that enjoys lacing hot cider with spices and spells against the coming winter—the part that will wander for hours in the woods, reveling in the final release of energy and color of this year.  It is time for setting our affairs in order, taking care of the details of the last harvests and choosing which of the herd to slaughter, and which will survive the winter.  The Vanir are said to be Gods of fertility, but they are also Gods of death, for one would not exist without the other.  One cannot know Them fully without accepting Their whole nature.

May you also enjoy the final fruits of the land and dance before the long shadows of a dying sun.

—A.V.

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