Where did we come from?
Hrafnar, a word in Old Norse meaning “The Ravens”, grew out of a rune class of around fifteen people started by Diana L. Paxson in January 1988. Working our way through the runes gave us a shared background in Germanic beliefs and culture (the material from this first class eventually became the book, Taking up the Runes. With this as our foundation, we began to work on recovering the Old Norse oracular tradition of spá, also referred to as oracular seidh (for more information on this, see The Way of the Oracle) . From there, the group evolved into a kindred, celebrating a round of feasts and other rituals based on Germanic traditions. Today, our members, old and new, come from all over the larger San Francisco Bay area.
What is our purpose?
Hrafnar’s mission is
- To honor the Germanic gods and goddesses, ancestors and wights;
- To create a religious community for those who feel a spiritual affinity for the religious tradition of Northern Europe, regardless of gender, ethnic origin, sexual identity or orientation;
- To foster the personal growth and meet the spiritual needs of our members;
- As children of Midgard and allies of the gods, to work through sustainable practices to maintain the balance of nature, and thus preserve the current age of the world. (See the Gjallarhorn Alliance, below)
Who are we?
Hrafnar’s core group consists of around a dozen members, but over the years we have developed a surrounding community of about a hundred people, many of whom have been associated with Hrafnar for years and consider us their primary spiritual home. Some of them come to most of our activities while others join us when they can. Although we are centered in Berkeley, some members drive considerable distances to participate in our activities. We welcome visitors and newcomers to heathenry.
Our belief and our experience has been that our gods call whom they will, and we are not about to argue with them. Therefore, although many of our members are attracted to a heathenry as a way to explore their own Germanic or Scandinavian heritage, we have and have had members of every ethnic background. And despite a common perception of Asatru as a masculine religion, a majority of our leaders are women, and our membership has always included the whole spectrum of gender orientations.
Hrafnar is governed by the Gythja, Diana L. Paxson, and the Thul, Lorrie Wood, advised by a 5 person Witan. Communication between meetings is carried on via an active e-list and a group on Facebook.
Participation in most of our activities and events does not require formal membership, and none of our activities, events, or groups exclude involvement in other organizations. Locally, Hrafnar is affiliated with the Fellowship of the Spiral Path (a local pagan umbrella organization) and nationally, we are affiliated with the Troth, an international Ásatrú organization that seeks to be a resource to all who hear the call of the North.
What do we do?
In addition to the regular meetings of the kindred, community activities include: Hrafnagaldr, our chorus, a rotating cycle of classes, lore study, devotional rituals, and occasional weekend activities. The kindred also does presentations at San Francisco Bay Area conferences such as PantheaCon, and has a booth at the Pagan Alliance Festival in Berkeley each year.
Hrafnar is the “parent” religious community, open to both men and women. Its meetings focus on worship of the Aesir and Vanir, the ancestors (alfar and disir) and the landspirits, but may include workshops and celebrations as well. Most meetings focus on a specific god or goddess.
The monthly meetings of the kindred begin promptly at 7:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month (except for rare special occasions, such as the opening of The Hobbit, when the meeting will be on the third Wednesday instead), and are held at Diana Paxson’s home in Berkeley (for contact information, see the Home page). The schedule for meeting topics is:
Many of our events are pot-luck, and contributions of food and drink are welcome. Most meetings are open, but newcomers should contact us first to confirm the topic and location. An “open” event may be on any of several themes as deemed appropriate by Diana and other Hrafnar members. Longtime Hrafnar attendees may ask to lead the celebrations at these events.
Hrafnar’s Regular Meeting Calendar:
- January: Banishing the trolls, Divination for the Coming Year, and formal sumble
- February: Disirblot — a feast for the goddesses and our female ancestors
- March: Organizational meeting and reception of new members
- April: Ostara — a feast which honors the principal gods and goddesses
- May: a ritual for the Vanir
- June: Midsummer Sunna Blót (in Tilden Park)
- July: Picnic with the Landspirits (in Tilden Park)
- August: Open
- September: Harvest, Freyr-blot, building the Harvest Mare
- October: Winternights/Alfarblot — a feast for the gods and our male ancestors
- November: Open
- December: Yule — a feast for Thor, Freyr, and Odin and the Mothers
Our “Feasts” are an adaptation of the usual Asatru sumbel, in which we honor the god/desses with food as well as drink. After each deity has been invoked we sing while the drinking horn goes around. (see Auntie Audhumla’s Guide to Norse Feasting). “Blót” is the Old Norse word for a ceremony in honor of one or more deities. “Sumble” is a ceremony in which a horn of mead is passed and participants make toasts, boasts, and oaths.
The third Wednesday of each month is reserved for classes on topics such as the Runes, Trance Work, and Germanic Folk Magic. Starting in May, we will begin a new round of the Trance Class, based on the book, Trance-Portation. This class, which begins promptly at 7:30 pm, will also be held at Diana’s home in Berkeley. It is expected to take a little over a year.
The Trance Class begins with basic skills for grounding, relaxing, and focusing which provide the groundwork for developing personal cues for moving into specific states of consciousness in a disciplined way. Those with trance experience often find the class useful as a review. Although many of the examples are drawn from heathen lore, the techniques are not dependent on or limited to any specific religious tradition. These basic techniques create a foundation from which one can move into more advanced practices such as shamanic journeying, oracle work, and deity possession. This class will close after the first three meetings.
The fourth Wednesday of the month is devoted to the study of the basic texts that provide our information about Norse/Germanic religion. Beginning in March, at each meeting we will read and discuss a section from the Elder Edda (in the translation by Andy Orchard). This class, led by Lorrie Wood, will also begin at 7:30 pm and take place in Berkeley.
Hrafnagaldr (“Ravensongs”) is the kindred’s chorus. It meets on the first Wednesday of the month at Lorrie’s house in Oakland. We practice songs for upcoming meetings. Our eventual goal is to record a CD of our music. It is open to frequent Hrafnar attendees.
Seidhjallr is the working group that presents the oracular seidh rituals, and meets on the first Monday of the month. Its members are drawn from long term members of the Hrafnar community who are trained in trancework. Currently it has two branches, one based in the East Bay and the other in the South Bay areas.
Hrafnar’s goal is to plan at least one outdoor weekend activity each season. We host a party for Odin in January and for the Vanir in May. We also participate in events such as PantheaCon in San Jose and the Berkeley Pagan Alliance festival. Members also organize sporadic and spontaneous activities such as hikes and expeditions. For upcoming events, see “News” on the Home Page, and our Calendar.
The Gjallarhorn Alliance/The Teal Party
In Völuspá, we learn that when Ragnarök is imminent, Heimdall will blow his horn. The goal of the Alliance is to put off the day when he will have to blow it as long as possible. As part of our commitment to environmental awareness, Hrafnar serves environmentally sustainable meat at its feasts and reusable dishes rather than paper plates. For more on this concept, see [link]