Lesson Four: Wights and Ancestors

 

Readings:

  • The Prose Edda “Skáldskaparmál”
  • The Poetic Edda:
    • Alvíssmál (“All-Wise's Sayings”)
    • Reginsmál (“The Lay of Regin”)
    • Fáfnismál (“The Lay of Fáfnir”)
    • Rígsþula (“The List of Ríg”)
    • Sigrdrífumál (“The Lay of Sigrdrífa”)
    • Helgakviða Hundingsbana II (“Helgi Hundingsbani”)

Select one of the following introductory guides:

  • A Practical Heathen’s Guide to Ásatrú
    • Four: Ancestor Worship in Heathenry
    • Five: The Landvaettir and Other Wights
  •  
  • Essential Ásatrú
    • No reading

 

Questions and Exercises:

  1. Write down as complete a geneaology of your family line as possible, including the living and the dead. If possible, include not just dates of death and birth but also locations, countries, and professions. Consider your own life, and how the lives of your family impacted you. Do you come from a line of teachers, or craftsmen? How does what you do now reflect what your family has always done?
  2. If possible, start collecting small mementos, photographs, or other treasures owned by or reflecting your family. If you are in a committed partnership, do this for both families as a way of bringing together both of your families under one roof. Create an altar, shrine, or other sacred part of your home for your ancestors to "live in" now. Use this as a focal point when you make offerings to your ancestors and ask them for their guidance.
  3. Consider researching a body of water (lake or river) near you. Using topographical maps, follow the line of a river upstream until you can discover its source - for a lake this might be a river that spills into the body, or it might come up directly from the ground. Prepare yourself and those who wish to join you for a hike, and go find the spring or headwaters from which the water flows. Once there, meditate on the importance of the local wight who lives in the spring and, when you can sense its presence, leave offerings of grain, milk, mead, or other gifts.
  4. Go outside near your home or on your property. Sit still and listen to the wights around you. Try to remember which birds called when, what insect noises there were, any animals calling or crossing the land, the sound of the wind through branches or across the grasses, etc. Recognize that we are surrounded by our fellow wights! Do this at the same time of day for several days. Then change the time of day (ie from morning to early evening) and do it again. Notice the differences, and the similarities, in the wights all around you. Write down your thoughts, responses, and any changes you notice over time.
  5. Working through the Eddas, list all the various halls of the dead. Who is "in charge" of each hall, and what kind of dead people go where? What does this say about the ways in which our ancestors viewed the afterlife/afterlives?
  6. Consider your family's hamingja. Meditate on what it is to have that legacy within you, and write down your thoughts, inspirations, or findings. Later, meditate on how your life contributes to your family's hamingja. Write down your thoughts, inspirations, or findings. If you have children, what parts of the family hamingja do you think will be passed down to them? If you do not have children, but have nieces/nephews/cousins, how does that change the family hamingja (or does it?)?
  7. Which gods and goddesses seem to have no connection to the afterlife/afterlives as seen in our Lore? What does that say about how our heathen ancestors viewed their soul-parts? Discuss this with a group or consider it on your own, and write down your thoughts.
  8. Consider the disposal of your body. Write down what you would like to be buried or burned with, and why.
  9. After reading Rígsthula (the Lay of Rig), consider Heimdal’s role in human society. Why is this such an important poem, and what does it say about the lives of our ancestors? Does Rígsthula have relevance for modern heathens? Why, or why not?

Heathen Essentials Index