Liturgy at Black Stone Sanctuary
In Praise of Holy Darkness and the Nordic/Germanic Holy Powers
[Author’s note, 2022: This list of resources used at the Sanctuary to develop an experimental liturgy for animists and polytheists worshiping pre-Christian Nordic/Germanic Holy Powers was first posted in 2016 on my former Black Stone Hermitage blog. This newer version will be maintained, semi-regularly updated, and eventually used to compile a printable breviary/divine office suitable for offline use.]
The Sanctuary is developing frameworks for chapel worship, praise, and devotional services focused on the mysteries of the Nordic feminine (and non-gendered/multi-gendered) Powers, with emphasis on Holy Darkness — literal, metaphorical, symbolic, and divine.
Atmosphere: In Praise of Holy Darkness
Liturgy at the Sanctuary centers around paying respects to Holy Darkness in its myriad forms. In Sigdrifa’s Prayer, Night is the mother of Day. This is expressed in Old Norse as:
Heill Dagr! Heilir Dags synir!
Heill Nott og nift!
In modern English:
Hail the Day
Hail the Sons of Day
Hail Night and Her Daughter
To show our respect for sacred endarkenment and emphasize the need for balance in a culture obsessed with religious metaphors of light and ascension, services at the Sanctuary are conducted in vestments of black and purple. The worship space is dimly lit, contemplative, and subterranean-themed, honoring “lower Powers.” Music, art, dress, and decor are all dark in mood, symbolism, style, and atmosphere.
Basic Daily Structure
greet the Holy Powers
sing Sigdrifa’s Prayer
recite hails to the Holy Powers (counted with prayer beads)
prayer recitation: In Praise of Holy Darkness (to be published in print - details coming soon!)
administrative & care work
incubatory & hypnotic rest
service work & manual labor
hymn, chant, reading**
evening prayers & petitions
bid the Holy Powers good night
**Typically evening readings are from The Seed of Yggdrasil by Maria Kvilhaug (this is sometimes jokingly called “bible study time at the Sanctuary.”)
Alterations can be made to accommodate visitors, insights from monthly dark moon incubation retreats, and the mood of the moment.
In keeping with our monastic rule (“follow the ways of non-contrivance”), the liturgical structure is intended to serve as a container to nourish and support emergent contemplative practices, rather than an inflexible structure imposed from the top down.
Academic material and personal gnosis are both considered important to inform development of the Sanctuary’s liturgy.
While much of the Sanctuary’s public work focuses on Skaði, worship is also given to some of the more obscure of Those who dwell among the Ásynjur, Jötnar, Rökkr, Disir, Junos and Matronae (ancestral mothers), including:
Móðguðr (Who typically only visits in October-November)
Hails to the Holy Powers
Hail to Skaði, Our Lady of Winter.
Hail to Skaði, Our Lady of Shadow.
Hail to Skaði, Our Lady of the Sacred Hunt.
Hail to the Holy Powers of Yggdrasil.
Hail to Móðguðr, Our Lady of the Black Stone Tower.
Hail to Móðguðr, Guardian of Gjallarbrú.
Hail to Móðguðr, Guardian of the Way Down.
Hail to the Holy Powers of Yggdrasil.
Similar structure is used for all hails to each Power: three lines recognizing Their virtues and roles, followed by a closing line.
For Juno Moneta, Who guides the Sanctuary’s financial affairs, I adapted the wording from Gwynne Michele’s 54-day Novena of Abundance:
Hail Juno Moneta
Queen of Heaven, Mother of Gods
Hail Juno Moneta
Guardian of the Treasury, Protectress of the Home
Hail Juno Moneta
Whose name measures our abundance and flow
Hail Juno Moneta
I petition You to bestow Your wisdom
To optimize monetary flow and financial health
For Black Stone Sanctuary
And the networks that nourish its emergence.
Resources for building a monastic liturgy
Odin’s Gift – “Norse mytholgy & Asatru poetry and music.”
The Pagan Book of Hours – Breviary of the Asphodel Tradition, from the Order of the Horae at the First Kingdom Church of Asphodel. These folks have created a great deal of valuable material for Pagan and polytheist monastics to use – either as it is, or as a model for creating their own liturgy. Their books of devotional poetry, prayer, and ritual are available at Asphodel Press.
Hearth and Field: Prayers to Heathen Gods – many wonderful prayers.
Earth Psalms by Angela Magara – a book written by a Pagan in response to the Psalms in the Christian Bible.
From the introduction to the book:
“I heard a holiday reading of a Psalm. The nurturing words of love and support, of safety; suddenly turned to words of destruction and the wrath of a vengeful Father…I wondered what the Psalms would be if that overlay were skimmed off. I dedicated myself to that task…I set my intention to read each Psalm, let it flow through my body and into the Earth and then let new words come as a response to what I had read. I allowed the Psalm to speak uncluttered of patriarchal references and models….I discovered that much of the energy in the Psalms is about living within an unjust and dangerous society. I began to understand that this book has a message of encouragement for those of us living in the face of overwhelming global violence and destruction.”
The Pagan’s Muse: Words of Ritual, Invocation, and Inspiration edited by Jane Raeburn – a collection of prayers and poems designed for ritual writers.
Liturgical Music, Hymn, & Chant
Sigdrifa’s Prayer & Song - The Sanctuary uses the translation available on the Odin’s Gift website. (Tune and translation by K.C. Hulsman; voice by Michaela Macha. Sung with the same words and tune as in this MP3, but with slight variations in emphasis.)
Birka Skogsberg’s Pagan songs on Soundcloud. My English translation of the lyrics for Skade will be published in an upcoming issue of Of Hearth & Shadow: Notes From Black Stone Sanctuary.)
Birka & Räv Skogsberg singing Lussesång for Yule – a song inviting the goddess Freyja in Her role as the midwife of Sunna, the sun goddess.
(P.S. For years I’ve been trying to convince these two talented Swedish musicians from Samfundet Forn Sed Sverige to release a full album of their music online, perhaps on Bandcamp. The world needs it!)
Seiðlæti – Þagnarþulur - Songs for the Icelandic goddesses in Icelandic. The only album as far as I know that features tracks composed specifically for the goddesses of Frigg’s Court. Two favorites:
Ulf Söderberg (a.k.a. Sephiroth) – Gryning, Utfärd, Nordvinterögon, Vindarnas Hus, Morgonmåne, Now Night Her Course Began, and Tidvatten Part 1 are frequently used at the Sanctuary for meditation and votive offerings to the Holy Powers.
Hymn to Tyr – Heathen organ music! This one is also by The North Country, from their out-of-print album Verdandi. It’s the only song I’ve heard for Nordic deities that is performed as an actual devotional hymn that could be played on an organ and sung in a church. There’s plenty of Heathen metal and Pagan folk, but I’ve found nothing else out there that sounds like this. It’s great for monastic liturgy, as it sounds appropriate for a church processional…and it’s catchy with easy-to-learn lyrics.
(Has anyone else made music like this? Devotionals to the Holy Powers of Yggdrasil set to organ music, that could be used as hymns in a polytheistic church setting? If so, please point me to it! If not, well, there’s an increasing need for it among those of us in the fledgling monastic movement, so maybe nudge a musician you know who has the talent and interest to do it?)
Prayer of Frigg by Tjamtjala is a requiem for Baldr sung in Old Norse. The Sanctuary has used it for grief circles; it could also be suitable for funerary rites.
(Thanks to Rune Hjarnø Rasmussen of Nordic Animism for the pointer to this song!)
Völuspá - Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson, founder of Icelandic Ásatrú, recites the Völuspá in Old Norse in a singing poetic style called kvæði. For the Sanctuary this chant practice serves a similar monastic function as Gregorian or Sanskrit chants in other religions.
The video features Beinteinsson singing the Old Norse text along with a translation into English. (See the comments on YouTube for questions about the accuracy of the English translation.)
Stanzas 17-20 of the Völuspá (Völvans spådom) sung by Henrik Hallgren
Magna – Nordic Chants - ritual music in Swedish. Hard to find, but worth the effort.
Kulning (and other music to supplement liturgy)
Gjallarhorn - kulning
Wizard Women of the North – a little-known album from 1999 focused entirely on Nordic mystic women. Sanctuary favorites from the album:
Heiemo Og Nykkjen (Heiemo and the Water Sprite) by Kirsten Bråten Berg.
Huldrelokk (Wood Nymph Call) by Åsne Sunniva Søreide
Allseits – Hel - (full album - dark ambient)
Draugurinn - Hún kallar á Surt og syni hans and Urðarmáni (dark ambient)
Hedningarna – favorites at the Sanctuary:
Veli (complete with dark fusion dancers - inspiration for liturgical dance too!)
Feel free to suggest other resources for monastics focused on Nordic & Germanic mythology & folklore in the modern polytheist revival. If the Sanctuary adopts them, you’ll be credited and thanked in our breviary.