Wednesday, November 25, 2015

In Scandinavia, as well as in many other cultures, the burial mound was an important aspect of death. Used since the Stone Age, they continue to show up well into the Viking Age, along with the better-known cremation rituals. Many sagas and other lore depict scenes where a person would lie or sit on a grave mound and there commune with the dead and sometimes receive gifts from them. Drink offerings were sometimes poured on the clan's mound to honor the ancestors at certain times of year.

In these modern times, not many of us have a family grave mound on our property where we can make such observances. My mother's family is buried in a Lutheran cemetery which is on land originally given to the local church by my great-grandfather--since about 2/3 of the people there are related to me, it's about as close as I can get to a real mound. However, sitting out overnight on one of the graves would probably be frowned on (especially since some teenaged vandals tried doing some weird stuff a few years back--it's now illegal to be there after dark, and if I got caught, it would get back to great-great Aunt Someone once removed and third cousin What's-His-Name, and I just don't want to go there...)

So, my alternative for the mobile 21st century--I have a a little earth from each of the graves of my significant relatives on both sides of the family--parents, grandparents, great-grandparents--as well as small rocks from Norway and from Yorkshire, England--in a small antique glass medicine bottle that belonged to my father. I have it on a dresser where I keep pictures of my departed relatives and the rocks I make drink offerings to the álfar and dísir. 

That is my portable "mound." I can't lie down on it, but it functions pretty well for family rites and for magical workings. It also makes me feel connected to my family when I look at it. And some days, when things are getting me down, it makes me happy and comforted to see it while getting ready for bed.