AUTUMN EQUINOX AND RETURNING HOME
After a month-long pilgrimage of Europa, wandering and visiting sacred sites, me and my partner are back home in our northern land, in the forest by the sea.
Our longing to find ways to connect to the forgotten gods, ancestors and spirits of these lands led us to many sacred sites, crossing-over places and places of power. We visited many sites well-known and more obscure, ancient and modern, our travels leading us through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden.
We partook in the folk-festival Mėnuo Juodaragis ("Black Horned Moon"). Exploring sites connected to the Romuva (native Baltic faith) movement in Lithuania and Latvia, we also participated in some of their ceremonies by a great oak and sacred fire.
We visited sites such as the grave-hill of pagan king Gediminas overlooking Vilnius, the ancient mounds at Kernave, as well as the Žemaičių Alka near Sventoji, a "paleoastronomic observatory" on a hill by the sea, featuring wooden columns connected to the various names of the gods and goddesses of the Baltic peoples.
On the Curonian Spit we immersed ourselves in the magic of Raganų Kalnas, the "Hill of Witches" in a forest full of numerous wooden statues with motifs from Lithuanian folklore and pagan tradition, dominantly of old gods, forest-devils, mermaids and other such creatures.
Realizing that sensual delight is an approach to the divine, we made oblations at the temples of Eros.
In Germany we visited the ancient rocks of the sun, the Externsteine, with its pagan altar on top of the peak, funerary crypt, meditation chambers and statue featuring the cross over a bent Irminsul, the ancient anglo-saxon world pillar (signifying the coming of christianity and the receding paganism).
Around Wewelsburg village, we found runes and secret signs everywhere, on the tudor-style houses, buildings and furniture. We explored the darker esoteric undercurrents of history that still haunt Germany and the world beyond today, namely the North Tower of the Wewelsburg castle including the hall and vault ritual chamber with utterly strange acoustics.
In the same vein, we visited the grave of a misguided runic mystic, Karl-Maria Wiligut, as if purposefully hidden in shrouds of greenery in an otherwise pristinely maintained graveyard. His grave said Unser Leben geht dahin wie ein geschwäts, "Our Life passes away like idle chatter".
These undercurrents of history also relate to a project I am involved in about a little-known Finnish figure called Yrjö von Grönhagen, who happened to literally walk into the esoteric circles of the Ahnenerbe, Himmler and Wiligut. They also tell about where pilgrimages can lead a naive, idealistic wanderer if he looses his sense of balance and clarity.
In Bremen we visited the architecturally surreal Haus Atlantis, with is futuristic staircase and hall. The outside of Haus Atlantis used to hold a massive statue called Lebensbaum (Tree of Life) by Bernhard Hoetger, which featured Odin hanging on a world-tree surrounded by sun disks and runes; the statue was unfortunately destroyed by bombings in 1944 (a picture of the statue appears on the cover of the Allerseelen album Sturmlieder). However, this act of self-sacrifice and initiation undertaken by Odin in order to receive the wisdom of the secrets (runes), hanging wounded by a spear on a wind-swept world-tree "of which no man knows from where its roots run", is still very much alive.
In the countryside of Roskilde, we walked with our friends, rare western Naga Sannyasis, on top of grave mounds for pagan kings and ancient rows of stones made in the form of a boat, to possibly function as some sort of gate between this world and the other worlds. As we did so, we wandered what is left with us of the ancient world of those who were here before us. We kneeled at the holy spring of Sanct Hans, the water of which traditionally has healing properties. We lifted our gaze, and saw an impressive statue of triumphant Thor riding his chariot above Copenhagen.
On our last leg of the journey, we visited the pagan mounds at Old Uppsala, dedicated to Odin, Tor and Frey. We ascended to the top of each mound in succession, as the wind and rain roared with increasing might. And there, on the mound of Frey, Lord of weather and rain, we lifted our final horn-libations and shouted our last invocations to the winds with water running down our faces. And as we descended down from the mound, the rain ended, and all was still.
During our journeys, we kept seeing recurring signs and symbols, runes, tridents, sun-corsses and sigils like landmarks of a sacred terrain or sunrays shining forth from the heart of Europa. In old places of power, that are perhaps obscure but still not beyond reach, we kept coming in contact with something strong and sacred. Pilgrimage does not necessarily imply going to far-off lands; more importantly, one should seek the soil one is rooted in.
We also kept seeing the signs of Ragnarök, the twilight of the gods, "an axe-age, a sword age, when no man will have mercy on another." In Indian tradition, this is called the Kali Yuga, a time of degeneration and disintegration of human civilization. The men of Kali Yuga seek only money, and everything is for sale, including water, pre-made food, and even the teachings and sacraments. Religiously, the Kali Yuga is defined by mutually exclusive monotheistic religions, and the intolerance, oppression, and terrorism they unleash upon the world.
In all our travels, we tried to connect and communicate with the spirit of the places in a way that would be beyond mere "looking". We approached them as one approaches the holy: we raised horns, poured libations, lit incense, offered flowers and spoke sincere words of intent.
We learned that the gods may not be dead after all, although their statues are few and far between, their names mostly forgotten and even more rarely invoked, and their places of power -mountains, hilltops, caves, forests, riverbanks- now house churches or monuments of a monotheist, totalitarian faith or otherwise lie in obscurity. The gods live on, in us. They lie in a slumber and whisper to us if we dare to listen. And when we call upon them, they awaken.
According to the Indian tradition of pilgrimage, wanderers are beloved by Shiva, and the feeding of wanderers is considered a duty and a merit. Our horn was shared by many mouths. A sincere Thank You is in order to all who we crossed paths with under good signs, and especially those who housed, honored and fed us during our travels. “One never reaches home, but where paths that have an affinity for each other intersect, the whole world looks like home, for a time.” - H.H.
And so it is on this Autumnal Equinox that we return to the seashore on which we began our journey. We reflect over all that we have experienced and been gifted with, and it is these lights and seeds growing inside us that will carry us through the dark.
We wish bright Autumnal Equinox to all!
Note: more in-depth travelogues will be posted in the future. A book is also in the works, featuring writings and photography relating to these and other journeys.