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Yasmine Galenorn


The Einherjar: Celebrating the Norse Feast of the Fallen Warriors
As an Honoring of Modern Heroes

By Yasmine Galenorn
(parts of this article reprinted from Dancing With The Sun by Yasmine Galenorn 
Llewellyn Worldwide-copyright 1999)

When I first wrote about the festival of the Einherjar for my book, Dancing With The Sun, for all the personal tragedy and pain I'd been through, I had never experienced anything on such a national scale as the recent attacks in New York and Washington DC.  I had never looked at my country and really acknowledged the heroism and courage that our people-human beings, ultimately-can show in the face of disaster.  I wasn't born during WWII, what I consider our last "necessary" war.  I wasn't alive during the Korean conflict.  Vietnam, well, that was a war that will forever remain shrouded in controversy and I was just a young girl, insulated from the public opinion by a family who never got involved in politics.

Today, I am far from a child, and in the past two weeks, we have been attacked on home soil to an extent we have not seen in the modern era.  Unlike Pearl Harbor, the targets weren't military-they were ordinary citizens, people like you and me who were just going about their daily business and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  And now, close to five thousand lay beneath the rubble of two of our most noted landmarks-the landmarks of free commerce and the seat of our nation's military preparedness. 

We have been raped of our security, torn inside-out with tragedy.  Thousands of innocent victims have died, hundreds of them were used as weapons-the terrorists used the planes and their occupants as surely as if they were guns loaded with bullets.  People are losing their jobs, they are afraid to fly now, we are alert-worrying that perhaps there will be more attacks, these sneak attacks.  Arab-Americans are getting hurt in a series of hate crimes.  We no longer go about our daily lives as we did-secure in the feeling that our nation is a safe haven in which to live.

However, out of this tragedy a resilience and strength are being born.  No matter what our separate beliefs are concerning what our response as a nation should be, one inescapable, wonderful fact remains clear: heroes have emerged from the ashes and dust.  Modern heroes-and many of them have paid for their courage with their lives. 

*Those firefighters, police, rescue workers who raced into open arms of danger in order to save others and lost their own lives-they were heroes. 

*Those firefighters, police and rescue workers who still, on a daily basis, sift through the rubble, hoping that somewhere, someone will have survived-they are heroes. 

*The passengers aboard the plane in Pennsylvania who found out what the hijackers were up to and who decided that it was better to die thwarting the attack plans rather than let the hijackers use them and their plane to kill others-they were heroes. 

*The people who, worldwide, responded by rolling up their sleeves and heading out to the blood banks; who offered to take into their homes those strangers who were stranded when the airlines were shut down-they are heroes.

*The people who stand up against unfounded racism during this time of fear, who speak out against hate crimes and who work together regardless of faith in order to help renew the spirit of this country-they are heroes.

*The people who, worldwide, have poured out their love, support, and tears-who have made the choice to stand by our nation-they are heroes.

Now, more than ever, we need our rituals and celebrations and traditions.  This November, for the first time in several years, I will be celebrating the Einherjar-the Feast of the Fallen Warriors.  I will honor those heroes who gave their lives in this tragedy.  I will also honor those heroes still working among dangerous conditions that could so easily topple into more tragedy.  I will express my gratitude to those who offer their support.  I will be grateful that I live in a country with so many freedoms-freedoms that are hard-won and, if we are not vigilant, that may be hard to keep.  And I will vow to do my part to keep these freedoms part of our national heritage. 

While I've never before considered myself terribly "patriotic", I found that I really am.  I'm Cherokee and I admit, I've always had a grudge against the government for how it treats the native population.  However, I'm also Irish and those members of my family came here for a better chance than they had in their home country.  I feel that I, along with other members of my family, have managed to achieve what we might never had, if we'd stayed in Ireland.  So I am a part of the melting pot that is America.  And I am proud of my heritages, my lineage, and the fact that both ethnicities could meet and unite.  For that really is what our country is about-a haven for many faiths, many races, many nationalities.  We are all different, and yet we are all American.

I certainly don't condone everything our government does and I don't stand behind all of the decisions made-this is one cornerstone of democracy-the right to disagree with my government's choices.  However, I do believe that we have enormous potential, that we have helped people on a worldwide basis over the years and now we are seeing the world come to our aid-with words and actions that have left me in tears of gratitude more than once over the past couple of weeks.

Two nights after the attacks, I was sitting in my living room, staring at the television, when I noticed a flicker out of the corner of my eye.  I looked into the hallway and saw, glowing in a bluish-silver light, a Valkyrie.  Startled, but not totally surprised-after all, I have many spirit-forms walking through my home-I first thought of my dear friend who recently moved back to Berlin.  She is a Priestess of Frejya and I wondered if the Valkyrie was here for some reason connected to her.  However, as I probed the energy a little more, I found no connection to my friend.  I watched as the Valkyrie walked over to our futon in the living room and sat down, an exhausted glaze washing over her face.  She sat there, elbows propped on knees, as if the weight of the world rested on her shoulders.  And then it hit me-the Valkyries ferry souls to Valhalla, they retrieve the souls of the heroes who died during battle-and I knew that the guides and guardians in the *spirit world* have been working overtime.  After a little while, she got up and vanished through the wall.  I felt honored that she would choose my home in which to rest for a moment.

The Einherjar are the fallen warriors who die in battle and are swept up by the Valkyries to be taken to Valhalla.  They are the heroes, the brave-hearted ones.  I've come across references that place the celebration as corresponding to both our modern Memorial Day and our modern Veterans Day.  It makes sense either way, but I learned to celebrate it on November 11th, so will continue to do so.  And this year, on November 11th, I will celebrate the ritual of the Einherjar with a decidedly current flavor.  I invite you to adjust this ritual as you need to for your own use.  Remember: it is good to remember those ancestors who preceded us in death, but we must not forget the new harvest of the dead, and we must honor them with as much care and love as we honor our ancestors.

Einherjar Ritual

Since celebrating the Einherjar is a Norse festival, I designed these rites to have a Norse flavor while still retaining familiar elements out of modern Pagan rituals.  Instead of invoking the directions/elements per se, we will invoke the four dwarfs who hold up the sky.  Instead of an athame, we will use a hammer (a small sledgehammer that can stand upright is perfect), and a drinking horn instead of a chalice. 

We will also need mead or wine (if you cannot drink alcohol, you might want to substitute a honey-lemon tea or sparkling grape juice; but if you have no problem with alcohol, use it for this ceremony because it is traditional and there are times to respect tradition).

Decorate your altar with pictures and symbols of those you wish to remember.  

The Priest and Priestess lead the ceremony.

PT:  (using hammer, casts circle) I cast a ring of power and protection, let it encircle this sacred space, allowing nothing unwelcome to enter in.

PST: (facing east) Austri, mighty dwarf who holds up the eastern quarter of the sky, I call to you-come to this place and join us, you who bring clarity and illumination to the world in a time during which we so desperately need it.

PT: (facing south)  Sudhri, mighty dwarf who holds up the southern quarter of the sky, I call to you-come to this place and join us, you who bring creation and transformation to the world.  Help us to transform tragedy into triumph, horror into victory, and hatred into cooperation.

PST: (facing west) Vestri, mighty dwarf who holds up the western quarter of the sky, I call to you-come to this place and join us, you who bring emotion and purification to the world.  Help us to wash away the pain of loss, help us to find solace and peace within ourselves and intuition's guidance.

PT: (facing north) Nordhri, mighty dwarf who holds up the northern quarter of the sky, I call to you-come to this place and join us, you who bring stability and manifestation to the world.  Help us to guide the souls of the dead who are lost and confused to their new lives.  Help us to stabilize the energy in this world and bring order out of chaos.

(Priest and Priestess come to the center of the circle) 

PT: Odhinn, All-Father, we ask that you join our rites as we remember the souls of those who recently died in a battle unlike any other we have fought this century.  We gather to honor the heroes who sacrificed their own lives in order to save and help others, to recognize and give honor to the heroes who daily put themselves in jeopardy for others.  Be with us, Wise One, Rune-Bringer, and guide us in our rites tonight.

PST:  Freyja, Queen of Valkyries, we ask that you join our rites as we remember those slain in battle.  Guide your maidens in gathering the souls of those dead heroes who might be ascending to Valhalla.  Be with us, Great Dis, Lady of Magick, and help ease our sorrow as we lift our glasses in our rites tonight.

PT: Tyr the One-Handed, we ask that you join our rites as we remember those honorably slain in battle.  Our heroes are our firefighters, our police, our rescue workers-volunteers who plunged into the smoke and ash without hesitation.  Be with us, Bravest of Gods, and help to guide us in our rites tonight. 

PST: We come together to remember all of the fallen.  We come together to honor those who died in service.  We drink to their memory and toast them with the golden nectar of the Gods.

(As the Priestess holds up the drinking horn, the Priest first pours a little mead outside in honor of Odhinn, then fills the horn and offers it to the Priestess)

PST: To the warriors and heroes who died in battle.

(The horn is passed to the Priest, then around the circle, being refilled as necessary).

PT:    To the heroes who battle still.

(The horn is passed to the Priestess, then around the circle, being refilled as necessary).

PST: To those innocent victims who were killed without cause.

(The horn is passed to the Priest, then around the circle, being refilled as necessary).

PT:  To those who opened their arms to us in our time of need.

(The horn is passed to the Priestess, then around the circle, being refilled as necessary).

PST:  To the guardians and guides on the Other Side who are there to guide the dead through their transitions.

(The horn is passed to the Priest, then around the circle, being refilled as necessary).

PT: If anyone has a personal toast to make, let now be the time.

(He should start-if he has a personal toast to make, then he should make it and drink.  The horn is passed to the Priestess, who should make her personal toasts, drink, and then pass to the next person and so on-around the circle, being refilled as necessary.  Any mead remaining in the horn should be poured outside and then the Gods should be thanked and the circle opened.  Feasting should follow--this is not a time for sparsity-good, solid food and drink are called for.)