There are not many details regarding the Twelve Days of Yule. I don’t think there were specific days for specific things, probably just the many activities in the twelve days allotted. Today, some have questioned the number of twelve days, but even today I see this in Europe, where many will go on vacation for 12-14 days, seemingly all at once. For example, I’ve seen German towns virtually close for ‘vacation season’. Whatever the case, if we are wondering and searching for things to do – for Yule Traditions – then these twelve days becomes an opportunity to explore the many ways our Altmag found wunjo.
For this Third Night then, I would like to focus on the Six Fehus; namely, Ƒlag, Ƒolk and Ƒamily, Ƒlax, Ƒodder and Ƒrith. (Last year’s Third Night post)
–Flag is short for ‘flagstone’. The oldest form of this word is from Indo-European (f)plak-, meaning ‘flat piece, stone layer, flat sea’. Not used today, a flag was the flat stone used as the frontal portion of a fireplace. Later still in Middle English, the word became hearth, as in hearthstone, or the floor of a that extended into a room. This same word is rooted in heathen, for Heathen means, ‘folk of the hearth; folk of the heath’. Yet another meaning of flag is ‘cut piece of sod’, which was a portion of earth that was removed to build an outdoor fire, or to swear an oath under. The ancient Heathens routinely swore oaths standing beneath a flag.
When considering forn sidr, the Old Ways, there is nothing more important than the flag, for this is where folk and family gather – to warm themselves, to tell stories or relate the events of their day, to learn of the Old Ways, to cook and eat hearty and healthy food. Flag is the heart-space of every home, the ‘domestic sun’ of vibrancy and vitality. In Heathenry this is the Lady, the inner sun of every family, for in Heathenry, the sun is female – the primal warmth of transformation and purification.
–Folk means ‘people or tribe’, specifically, the Old European tribes. From Indo-European pele- meaning, ‘plenty, accomplish, full’, and is even related to the Hindu word poori, which is a flat bread made at the hearth. Folk are the originators and carriers of custom and law, tradition and belief, from the household to the ruling court. We see these words today in: folk lore, folk wisdom, folk music, folk tale, folk life and folk art – all things that Heathens draw upon to further their Folkway.
–Family is an Anglo-Saxon word and means, ‘related by blood’. Likewise, the maxim ‘blood is thicker than water’ is Anglo-Saxon, and means ‘it is better to seek kindness from a kinsman than from a stranger’; or, where water soon evaporates and leaves no mark, not so blood. Within Heathenry family is the smallest unit of measurement, for ‘no man is an island’.
–Flax too has Indo-European roots – (f)plek- means ‘flax, pliant, braid, weave, entwine’. Native to Old Europe, flax is a slender plant with beautiful blue flowers and has been used for countless generations as a fiber and food seed (yielding linseed oil). It was the primary cloth among the ancient Heathen tribes, used in the making of linen. In my book, Völuspá: Seiðr as Wyrd Consciousness, I describe the primal grandmother, Bestla, who is the ‘woody fiber’, the “food-conducting fiber, used in the weaving of rope, baskets, and hair” and fetters. Flax is a tool of prosperity, lineage and the Summer Solstice. It is health, beauty, spiritual viability and the comprehension of morality. Finally, flax is the bringing together of a man and woman – the binding thread of a Handfasting – for where Frey is the spear, Freyja the spindle, where Frey is the leek, Freyja is the linen.
–Fodder has an Indo-European root and means ‘to protect, feed, protector’; which includes Forn Threifa (‘ancient healing touch’). It is also seen in the Anglo-Saxon word foster which was a common practice among the Old European tribes. To foster someone meant to feed and clothe them (in flax / linen), to teach them, to protect them, to care for them as your own. Being or becoming a foster in Heathenry – as of old, so today – means to be trothed to someone, something that, historically, was considered just as reliable as family, or ‘related by blood’.
–Frith means ‘free from conflict’ and is from the Indo-European root pri-, meaning ‘free, not in bondage’; in Old English fraien means ‘free from disturbance’; and Old High German fridu means ‘safety, compound’. Other definitions of frith include:
-Free from being subjected to others, not restrained;
-Free to determine one’s own actions, at liberty;
-Not confined or imprisoned;
-Clear of offense or crime, without guilt.
The closest ideas we have to this word are: familiar, sincere, faithful, certain and honorable, and a word commonly heard in Heathenry today: troth. Most scholars today believe the staff or wand to be a symbol of frith. In Heathenry the word Völva means ‘staff bearer’, and certainly we have all seen pictures of witches on broomsticks. The staff is a medium of freedom – free from the constraints of establish society, not subjected to another via the might provided by the Lord and Lady, free to determine one’s own actions, to bend and shape will to one’s own measure.
Clearly, these are more than ancient ideas; these six are so important that most of us are familiar with them even today, in any number of combinations:
-Faith, Folk and Family;
-Flags, Flax and Fodder; and
-Flax, Fodder and Frig. (Frig is tha Germanic goddess; also known as Freyja);
In all, these six create a powerful Bindrune, one that captures the very essence of Heathenry and the Old Ways.