This is another installment of my ADF Dedicant Program studies.
Preferred Ethnic Studies (Anglo-Saxon) Book Review:
“Travels Through Middle Earth: the Path of a Saxon Pagan”
by Alaric Albertsson
“Travels through Middle Earth” is a simple, practical guide book to practicing Anglo-Saxon Paganism/Heathenism, also known as Fyrn Sidu. There are less than a handful of books available on Fyrn Sidu at this time, and this is the first book I’ve read on the subject. Albertsson refers to himself as a Saxon Pagan, explaining that historically, no group of people ever called themselves the Anglo-Saxons. All the various German tribes that settled in England seemed to begin calling themselves Angles upon arrival. This would tell me that the name should be Angle Pagan, but I suppose this just doesn’t sound right. Albertsson has an easy style of writing that makes his works easily accessible to the lay person. When reading this book, I felt like I could be talking to a brother- I guess it helps that we are both from the Ozarks!
This book does not have a ton of information on the deities themselves (which mostly seem to be the same as many of the Norse deities, but with slightly different names). So one would have to look elsewhere for that kind of in-depth information. For those already familiar with the deities of the Norse, this isn’t much of a problem, for the two cultures share mostly the same gods. The deities Albertsson describes in Travels Through Middle Earth are Sunne, Mona, Tíw, Woden, Thunor, Fríge, Hama, Fréo, Ing Fréa, Eostre, and Hertha.
Especially significant to me, were the ways Albertsson explained how much the Saxon mindset is already built into our culture through language. Toward the end of page four he states; “If English is your primary language, you think in Anglo-Saxon.” As a person who seeks out those deeper connections in culture and ancestry, I tend to want to “bloom where I am planted” rather than seek out the exotic. There is comfort in what one already knows, and a truth one can know more deeply that is ingrained into one’s own culture. It may sound like a cliché, but in many ways, reading this has been like coming home.
Some examples he gives of how Saxon Paganism is built into our culture are; the days of the week contain the names of Saxon deities, the word “mood” is related to the word mód (the part of one’s soul that contains one’s personal identity), and the fact of our culture’s fairy tales contain codes of conduct for dealing with elves and other wights.
I really like that in the Holy Tides chapter, he called those Tides by some of their most simple names. For years I’ve been calling the fall equinox by the name “Harvest Home” and I was delighted by the serendipity of finding it called that here. There is no pretending in this book about “ancient origins” of things like the Yule tree or ribbons on the maypole. From Alaric, we get the straight answer that these things are not ancient, but yes, we can derive Pagan meanings from customs that are not-so-ancient. I can’t help but to conclude, however, that some of those old-but-new traditions were a result of a Saxon Pagan mindset still at work in our culture.
Other subjects explained in this book were the concepts of wyrd, of orlay, and of Saxon virtues. The author does a great job of explaining not only what these are, but why they are important. Especially compelling to me was his explanation of the importance of piety. This slim volume was easy to understand, and I’m sure I’ll be referring to it, especially the glossary, again and again.