I’ve previously been a subscriber to a number of BBI‘s other pagan-themed magazines, including a four-year stint of SageWoman and two years’ of PanGaia (just before it stopped publishing), but I had yet to read any issues of witches&pagans. Issue #24 was a tradition-themed issue, focusing specifically on Heathen and Northern Traditions; I identify as multi-trad, and as one of the traditions I follow is Asatru, I looked forward to reading the issue and seeing if it had more to say about Northern Traditions than the usual Heathenry 101 sites on the web.
The cover was a beautiful illustration of a sweetly contemplative Idunna and her golden apples of youth in brilliant blues and golds, a digital painting by the artist Echo Chernik, whose Art Nouveau work has graced many a pagan’s wall and won a not-inconsiderable number of awards. The other artwork in this issue (ads notwithstanding) is in black and white, and though they differ in style, most fit with the theme of the issue very well, especially the graceful work of Mark Roland and the bold, vibrant work of Sarah Lawless (so fitting for the bold gods and goddesses of the North!)
There were a number of interviews in this issue with members and leaders of various Asatru and heathen groups, including Hex magazine publisher Arrowyn Craban Lauer; former Steerswoman and former High Steward for the Troth, Patricia Lafayllve; Saxon sorcerer and author Alaric Albertsson; and blogger, diviner, and shaman Galina Krasskova. [Disclaimer: I am a member of the Troth, and have met Patricia at a prior Trothmoot (2008, if I remember correctly), and have corresponded on numerous occasions with Galina.] Each of the interviews does an excellent job of sharing the point of view of its subject, with a number of insights I hadn’t come across before.
The poetry found in Clio’s Corner this issue is all, in one way or another, relevant to the heathen theme. I found “Three Wyrd Verses” by Literata, “Riding Nerthus’ Wagon” by Sara Amis, “The Price” by N. Michael Hawe particularly compelling, but “Consumed” by Morgan Daimler, describing her relationship with Odin, closest to home, as He is the Northern god I first interacted with, and I can hear the implacable truth in every line.
Aside from the interviews, there were a number of fine articles on heathenry in this issue. Diana L. Paxson, one of the original members of the Troth, editor of their magazine Idunna, and former Steerswoman for that group, contributed an article titled “In Search of Modern Heathenism”, discussing the history of heathenism in ancient times, its modern reconstruction, heathen deities, spirits, beliefs, practices, ethics, symbols, specific groups and some of the individuals associated with them, and resources (both off- and online) for the modern heathen (including an excellent book list). A more in-depth look at the Northern deities is covered in the article “Holy Powers: Who’s Who Among the Gods & Goddesses of the North” by Lorrie Wood, another member of the Troth (and a former member of the High Rede for that group). K.C. Hulsman offers up a good view of the Northern holy days (and which, if any, neopagan holidays they contribute to); the article contains a more detailed discussion of the holiday of Freyfaxi, held at the beginning of August, and the historical lore behind it. “Herr Saetyrblade” (better known as Satyros Phil Brucato) provides an intriguing article on “Viking Chick Kaboom”, aka Symphonic Valkyrie Metal — intriguing to me because it’s not a style of music I follow (and have heard of only two of the bands he references, out of over two dozen). The descriptions and obvious enthusiasm in his article make me want to rectify that error immediately.
Regular columns in the magazine also reference the Heathen theme. Ashleen O’Gaia, in her column “Beyond the Circle”, talks about the need for non-Heathen pagans to try to connect more with Heathens; Galina Krasskova talks about removing monotheistic influences from Heathen practices and beliefs in her column “Wyrd Ways”, and Kenaz Filan discusses how the archetype of the noble Viking warrior is a myth that stretches all the way back to Roman ideas during the Classical age.
All in all, this is an excellent issue that does a fine job of both providing accurate information on the stated theme, and entertaining its readers, as well. I hope future issues that center around the themes of different traditions (already announced: issues on Wiccan traditions, Druidic and Celtic paths, and Greek, Roman, and Kemetic traditions) do as fine a job at the task at hand.
[Jennifer Lawrence likes the fey and the strange, which explains most of her friends. Her interests include gardening, herbalism, mythology and fairy tales, theology, Celtic music, role-playing games, horror movies, and the martial arts. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Aphelion, Jabberwocky 4, Cabinet Des Fees, Goblin Fruit, and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina anthology Unbound: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Artemis. She lives with her husband, her younger daughter, five cats, a dog, and a houseful of gargoyles somewhere near Chicago.]