So, this is a review of Skalded Apples, Asphodel Press’s devotional to Idunna and Bragi, complied by Galina Krasskova, available here. It’s filled with excellent articles and beautiful poetry for this Divine couple. There are also a lot of apple-based recipes for Idunna in here, and a ritual or two. I love the devotionals that are broken up with artwork as well as written works.
Before I read this devotional, I might have related Idunna to the Roman Goddess Pomona, since both of Them are hailed as Lady of the Apples. But as I read, it stuck me that some of the things that Idunna’s devotees see Her as being concerned with, I’d pray to Demeter for. Purity of body and purity of food, reclaiming the preparation of nourishment from destructive agribusiness and caring for the stewardship of the natural world. Of course, this is not surprising; the spheres of many Gods can overlap significantly. And in this age of environmental destruction, we could use as many Divine allies in this realm as we can get!
Like Demeter, Idunna is a Goddess Who is not afraid of hard work, and many of the submissions to this devotional described Her as having “dirt under her fingernails”. As Raven Kaldera says in the introduction:
She is a Goddess who works, not just one who stands around radiating certain lovely kinds of energy.
And, considering her half-Duergar origins, that is not surprising. She values sweat and sore muscles, toiling and trying again and again. Her fruits and vegetables are her art and craft, just like the work of any smith or weaver, and she puts that love of work and detail into every one (page i).
I particularly enjoyed Galina Krasskova’s essay on the spirit of the Apple tree (page 19, but it was also available on the Idunna online shrine that I linked into in Her GMC post), Joshua Tenpenny’s essay on work as prayer and sacred service (page 26) , and K. C. Hulsman’s work on the tradition of wassailing (page 55).
Although Idunna was one of the Deities that we were studying in this month’s GMC, Skalded Apples is, of course, dedicated also to Her husband Bragi. Instead of the Idunna and Bragi submissions being mixed throughout, the first half is for Idunna and the second half for Her husband. I have not yet written an entire post about Bragi. He hasn’t come up yet in the God of the Month Club. At this point I know very little about Him, so this book is really like my introduction to Him and His modern worship.
Galina Krasskova describes Him as such:
Bragi is first and foremost a God of poetry, of inspiration and creative fire. He is a God of skalds and bards, those who weave worlds and work magic with the power of their words; the patron of singers and musicians and all those who wield the fire that burns not the flesh, but the heart, and mind, and spirit. He is the son of Gunnlod and Odin, and His birth arises out of the bartered theft of Odhroerir, the mead of terror, inspiration, and poetic fire. While He is numbered amongst the Aesir by virtue of His father, He carries the blood of powerful mountain giants by virtue of His mother. The blood of high mountain peaks and the slow-moving fire running deep within them, the raging storm-wind, the siren song of ancient conjure, of sacrifice, terror, ecstasy, and power all runs through His veins, fueling the magic that leaps in terrible joy shaped by the words of His lips and the steel strong resiliency of His will. In the beginning was the Word indeed…. (page 63)
There are a lot of fascinating tidbits in Bragi’s half of the book as well, including a genius type of bardic divination system, where the diviner actually sings pre-chosen songs to the client for the Tarot card or rune (or whatever – it worked with various systems) picked. There are also a few songs written for Bragi, with the music notes included.
One of the interpretations for Bragi that surprised me was that a connection to ancestor worship. At first this may seem random, but after some thought it begins to make sense. Basically, if you are having a hard time connecting to the ancestors, you can pray to Bragi to help you with this. Ancestor worship, despite being not only common but vitally important to Pagan religions, can be a bit of an adjustment to modern people. So why is Bragi the One to help you connect with the Ancestors?
Below is a quote explaining why the God of Poetry could be seen in this role:
Part of a Skald or Bard’s job was to facilitate remembrance of the dead. Through the telling of their stories, the singing of songs, the speaking and sharing forth of their names and deeds, our honored ancestors are able to draw near and live again and we are able to learn from their stories. The most sacred duty a Skald has is the duty of remembrance. He or she is able to teach the rest of us how to connect to our ancestors, how to honor them, and how to maintain that most sacred connection. Moreover, Skalds are our tradition keepers, our vessels of living memory.
Our ancestors had predominantly oral traditions. While they may have possessed writing, the dominant means of cultural transmission was not through the written word. This means that remembrance, values, and connections to the ancestors, the past, the Holy Powers, and to the future were all woven together and maintained through the sharing of stories and songs. This is how the tradition thrived. There is a saying in the Lukumi religion: “When an elder dies, a whole world dies with him.” (page 87)
Excellent devotional. A lot of fun to read. Go check it out!