1. First, clarify for my readers, you follow the path of a Saxon Pagan. What are the Saxons? Does this differ from Celtic or Nordic paths?
Both “Saxon” and “Anglo-Saxon” are collective terms for the Germanic tribes that immigrated to Britain from the 3rd to 6th centuries. Their language and culture were similar to those of the Norse, although there are distinct differences. As Brian Branston points out in The Lost Gods of England (Thames and Hudson, 1957), the Saxon god Woden appears vastly different than the warrior-god described in the Norse Eddas. The Saxons were unrelated to the British Celts, although both cultures almost surely adopted some customs from each other.
2. What drew you to the spirituality of the Saxons?
This has been a long, spiraling journey for me. The first Pagans I met invoked Saxon gods and goddesses in their rituals. That was back in 1971. Over the years I explored and experimented with many expressions of Paganism, but I kept circling back like a moth around a flame. Buckland’s The Tree, a Saxon variation of Wicca, came out in 1974 and drew me back to the Anglo-Saxon gods, but it wasn’t what I was searching for. I believe that my gods – Ing Fréa in particular – have guided me over the years in my quest to reclaim Saxon spirituality.
3. What made you decide to write a book?
You’ll have to blame Christopher Penczak for that. Several years ago, while we were both at the Between the Worlds gathering, Christopher encouraged me to write a book about Saxon spirituality. At first I was hesitant, but after I played around with the idea for a while I realized that I wanted to write a book for people like myself – for that boy who was looking for guidance in the early 1970’s, and for those like him who are looking for guidance now. That’s when I began to seriously write Travels Through Middle Earth. And Christopher has been supportive and encouraging throughout this entire epic adventure. He has become a dear friend.
4. Your book is called “Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan”. What is the connection between Saxon spirituality and Tolkien?
Professor Tolkien’s stories were inspired by Saxon spirituality. His fictional wizard Gandalf was modeled after the god Woden, so if you’ve seen the movies you have a pretty good idea of Woden’s personality and nature. His elves and dwarves and orcs are incarnate personifications of Saxon spirits. The names and entire language used by the Rohirrim is Old English. And “Middle Earth” itself is simply the Saxon term (middangeard) for the physical world we live in.
I do think it’s important, though, to distinguish between Tolkien’s novels and true Saxon spirituality. Gandalf is a powerful being in The Lord of the Rings, but he is not a god. Woden, who inspired the character of Gandalf, is the leader of the Saxon gods.
5. Geek question! Who’s your favorite character from the Lord of the Rings books?
I would have to say the hobbits of the Fellowship, all four of them: Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin. They weren’t grand and flashy, and they had a hard time fully comprehending the events unfolding around them, but through it all they remained loyal to one another. Characters like Aragorn and Legolas were noble heirs, but the hobbits were plain folk, loyalty to each other with no thought of glory or reward.
6. I know it’s a waste of question, but I just want to say I’ve never consumed or even considered mead, but now that I’ve read a whole chapter of your book dedicated to it I totally want to try some.
Be sure to try a few varieties. “Mead” is as broad a term as “wine” and can vary as much as Dom Perignon does from Mogan David.
7. What challenges do you see facing the Pagan community? How can the community resolve those issues?
I think the biggest challenge we face – and we have been challenged by this for as long as I’ve been Pagan – is a tendency to believe in One True Path. Face it, most of us are still first-generation Pagans, and part of our baggage is the One Way Syndrome. I believe the central defining quality of Paganism is, or should be, an acceptance that there are many gods and many paths. My way is the best way for me. It may not be the best way for you. Superficially we all seem to agree with this, but on other levels I constantly see people behaving towards others in ugly, judgmental ways.
8. Where can someone learn more about Saxon spirituality? (After they’ve read your book, of course.)
For an enjoyable read I highly recommend Brian Bates’ The Real Middle Earth (Palgrave MacMillan, 2002). And although it’s a bit dry, the classic is Branston’s The Lost Gods of England. You might also want to check out Galina Krasskova’s Exploring the Northern Tradition (New Page, 2005).
9. What’s next?
You probably noticed the topic of magic was limited to one brief chapter in Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan. That was intentional. I believe too many Pagan books today place an inordinate emphasis on magic. I believe there is a hunger for alternative spirituality that doesn’t necessarily involve casting spells or raising power. So my first book focused on developing a personal spirituality, with only a cursory look at magic.
My current project is tentatively titled Wyrdworking: The Path of a Saxon Sorcerer. This is the magic book. But I sincerely hope readers who want to explore runes and worts and galdor will first build a solid spiritual foundation with what I’ve presented in Travels Through Middle Earth.
Initially I’d planned to write a separate rune book that would be sold with a deck of Anglo-Saxon rune cards. But Llewellyn turned down the card deck, and I don’t think I can sell a book about runes when the runes themselves aren’t available (the Anglo-Saxon runes have nine more characters than the commonly sold Elder Futhark runes). So I’m mashing the rune book together with the magic book. I’m pretty excited about it. Wyrdworking will be packed full of useful material for the aspiring Saxon sorcerer.
10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.
Where can I find a publisher for a very nice deck of Anglo-Saxon rune cards? The man who did the art work for the deck has put in countless hours to ensure that each card illustrated the meaning of the relevant passage in the Anglo Saxon Rune Poem. I really want to see this deck eventually reach its intended audience. Maybe one of your subscribers has the answer?
One place you might want to contact is US Games, they publish loads of awesome decks (many of which get reviewed here on the website). Also, you could always save up some cash, maybe find a few investors, and publish the deck yourself. Thanks to the wonders of the world wide web, you can reach an international market fairly easily.
About the Alaric:
Alaric Albertsson is the author of “Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagon”. To learn more about Alaric visit his website.