About a year ago, I had a dream about a ceremony in my future where I was given a key. The dream was sweet and full of hope, something I needed right then, but I was fascinated with the symbolism of the key as it was slipped around my neck on a fine golden chain and laid gently between my breasts. The key was symbolic of home and hearth, of responsibility to those living in the household, and commitment.
Norse and Heathen culture have vague, passing references to the KeyHolder in lore. She was the woman who literally ran the household – in tarot decks, one might associate her with the Empress, full of knowledge and the weight of knowing what was in their larder and how to judiciously use all things and be hospitable to the home, the host, the guests and not least importantly, the Gods. In runes, Othala would make the most sense being the rune of homeland, hold and ancestral knowledge - all the things that are passed down in knowledge and physical wealth. The French had their Chatelaine, the northern tribes had Fulla, Frigga's handmaiden who cared for the household casket, and on and on. It seems that the stories of these people and gods are written quietly into the fabric of larger stories.
Long before coming to Heathenry, I balked at the idea that ‘my place’ was in the home. I bristled at the thought of learning to cook or cleaning or chores and preferred instead to think of myself as a liberated female who was (eventually) going to get herself a very professional job. Cleaning was a chore. Laundry was a trial. Making dinner was something that could be done well, sometimes, but really only for company. I married and moved to Fort Drum NY, the stay-at-home-because-there-were-no-jobs-to-be-had-wife of an Army combat medic, and discovered that my sudden (and very depressing) lack of anything to do (or any money to do it with) could be channeled into making our spacious apartment a home. My inability to do anything suddenly became a testing ground for baking and cooking, for budgeting, for making do with very, very little.
It was an eye opening experience.
And yet, even though that marriage didn't last the decade, the many lessons I learned at the hands of opportunity did. It is only in the last year that I’ve started to discover how much this idea of Home and The Sacred complement each other and build on the basic blocks that came from my poor proving ground. All the things I do that give rise to song and power and sustaining of me and mine, are done with a sense of the Sacred. To take care of one’s home is to not just respect the space and spirit of the place, but to honor those who are nurtured by that space. It has become less about proving myself better than those women who stayed in the home as I believed in my younger years, and more about proving myself worthy of my ancestors many sacrifices to make me a Whole and Hale woman.
This next year then, I’ll be building on that idea of the Sacred and Home and documenting the journey. This will end up involving more than just my household as at the end of the year, myself and a dear friend will be hosting a Very Heathen Jul/Yule for a local community. The building of a Hearth is a long process that can be very intense and likely very humbling. I am still learning and building on the lessons of before, but I feel very strongly that I am set on a path of strength and for the better, I will be able to take the things I've learned and use them to the advantage of my Hearth. I have not yet earned that key I dreamt of, but I am a willing apprentice to these lessons.
Through the hands of my Mothers I will learn and unlock the larder of their wealth.