PBP Weeks 16-17: H – Haminjga

Yes, I’m all out of order. I know.

I have a few students who like RPGs. It’s funny coz when I bring up a new topic concerning mythological creatures, they often know it from the mystical realms of gaming.

Even funnier, often they are not far off. I mean, I thought that Full Metal Alchemist was something when my kids were in first and second grade. Then I was tickled by the bits of truth buried in Supernatural’s later seasons: it is, indeed, funnier in Enochian. I admit to being intrigued by Skyrim. But now, due to the inundation of Viking-esque games, I’m finding it hard to keep the nuances between draugur and deildegast straight during class conversations.[1]

Don’t get me wrong, I adore my nerds. I actually envy my nerds. I grew up in a world where D&D was brand-spanking-new and in a church where the Tom Hanks film Mazes and Monsters (directed by Steven Hilliard Stern; novel by Rona Jaffe) was really just Revelations, Chapter 23.


Also, the hand-stamp to get in and out of the amusement park was a primer for the Mark of the Beast and the Proctor & Gamble logo was Satanic. Oh, and backward masking! We all wore the shite out of our record players listening for Satanic messages in KISS songs. Kiss, as we all know, stands for “Kids In Satan’s Service”—don’t ask me to tell you what we were taught Adidas stood for.

Anyone else need therapy after visiting a Hell House? I tell ya, those Kurt Cameron films ain’t got nothing on the Rapture and Tribulation “Sagas” of the 70s and early-80s like Years of the Beast and A Thief in the Night http://youtu.be/K96BR5EisOk –that fricking-song gave me nightmares: “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” And The Cross and the Switchblade? Damn, the 70s were a scary time to grow up in Church.

One day I’ll have to tell you about my experience with Jim Jones.[2]

Back on topic. Mostly.

There is this website called “Creepy Hollows” that is a bit of a paranormal eBay.  One can purchase djinn, faeries, elves, dragons, and angels as well as “haunted artifacts”[3] and “vessels” that apparently contain “spirits” for “Spirit Keepers” and “collectors.” No shite. On this site, one can purchase, that’s right, *purchase* a fylgia.

Fylgia Listing

When I mapped out the words I intended to use for PBP2013, I knew I wanted to look at fylgia and haminjga for F and H. I even drafted out a few paragraphs on each. But I ended up dropping the ball until now.[4] What has me back on track is that I taught a lesson that contained a bit about fylgia and haminjga a little while ago and then last week “Blau Stern Schwarz Schlonge,” a fellow Appalachian witch, made a comment about “fetches” and the variety with which the term is used. So, in the spirit of dialogue, I thought I’d spend a little bit of time parsing out how I understand[5] fylgia and haminjga and how they relate to fetch.

Fylgia is a Norse word, not an Anglo-Saxon word. The Anglo-Saxon translation is “fetch.” This is a little strange to students when they first encounter the word. Fylgia, literally translates as “follower.” But we think of a fetch as having to do with retrieval.

Simek tells us that the fylgia is the soul of folks as it is separate from their bodies; they are analogous to HGAs. They are a part of us, yet have independent consciousness; the fylgia is a part of the self yet a separate entity at the same time. But there’s more; “they are more than these, as they are bound by a belief in destiny, and they stand in association with the personified luck of a person, the hamingja” (As ever: Simek, Rudolf. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1993. 96-97). You see, the dis or idesa are often intertwined with the fylgia implying an “inherent, inborn force.”

In short, your fylgia is *your* guardian spirit. It was born with you and it will be yours until you die. Unlike “totum” spirits who may follow you for a time or may serve a particular purpose, your fylgia is yours for life. And—it is no one else’s. I know many folk who are guarded by “raven” or “bear” or “wolf” or “dragon.” Some of these are general guides, even shared guides. But your fylgia is yours and yours alone. And she (yes, she) is the most powerful ally you can have on this realm.

One problem. Many fylgia remain “sleeping” until they are awoken by the individual to whom they belong. And if you don’t know how to wake your fylgia, you may remain your lifetime without its guidance and protection. This accounts for some of those who feel poor luck, those who are not “charmed.” It is part of their wyrd that their fylgia remain sleeping.

Now consider this analogy fylgia : wyrd :: hamingja : oorlog. Sort of.

While the hamingja is also a powerful guardian spirit, it is one that is connected to ancestry. Rather than going into the difference between wyrd and oorlog. I’ll just redirect you to this old post.

And, as a side note, just because I found it fascinating to look at from several angles, here is a Tumblr thread (with links) about Heathen ethics, oorlog, and abortion. [6] This actually matters when you consider that the concept of haminjga encompassed both personal and ancestral luck.

So lineage is important to Heathens—particularly maternal lineage. The concept of hamingja located kindred in a space of priority. According to Cena at Wane Wyrds:

When our actions have repercussions not just for ourselves, but our ancestors, and our children and grandchildren, of course the moral individual would feel a duty to the family. This in turn determined action and behavior outside of pure selfishness. It also gives the community itself a sort of structured morality, those who behaved in an utterly selfish and unthinking way obviously did not serve the community. Therefore, they could be termed outcasts, or niðings. All this was necessary to the survival of the folk in a harsh and often dangerous environment.

According to Swain Wodening, “Hamingja is perhaps most known as also referring to a female spirit that attaches to an individual and is passed down families. At death, the hamingja was passed on to another family member.” Go read this one too if you are unfamiliar with the Anglo-Saxon concept of Luck—which is not that short-term-right-place-at-the-right-time sort of thing, but a cosmic generational “rightness” that has to do with ancestors, worth (also not as simple as it seems in contemporary English), and gefrain.  The independent nature of hamingja as a spirit entity in later times was viewed as something that could be manipulated by outside forces, such as magicians.

So, I hope you can get your mind wrapped around these two concepts a little better based on the resources I’ve provided. There are a lot more resources from a Norse perspective if you look in the Sagas. It’s a little blurrier from an Anglo-Saxon perspective—but this is a linguistic issue not a religious one. Basically, in my understanding, your fylgia is alike to your HGA and your hamingja is alike to your family spirit—but not to be confused with your cofgod, or household god/dess.[7]

dragon_and_direwolf_by_isolde-d4moiccI’m off to watch Game of Thrones—where I think I have the final punch-line figured out—speaking of family guardians: Ice and Fire indeed!

Until next time,


[1] Not that we talk about it much, just that whenever it comes up, I have to know what WoW and D&D has to say about it so I can explain what’s right and what’s, um, less right.

[2] OK—I’ll sort-of tell you now.

Some of my earliest memories are of watching the news unattended (which is prolly why I have such guilt about being in the other room making curtains on 9/11/01 while my son played with blocks in front of CNN). The Humboldt Park Riots, replays of the Democratic National Convention Riots (this was 2.25 years before I was born—I assume it was replays!), Black Panthers, Hanoi Jane and The “Fall” of Saigon, Squeaky Fromme and Ford (which called back to news the Manson Family trials), and Jonestown. I was old enough to understand the news as much as the images by November 1978 and I’m often haunted by Jonestown more than anything else—Jonestown and Manson. I saw it all over and over again when I watched the footage of Rwanda 16 years later. I was suddenly seven-years-old and alone in my aunt’s “front room” while the grown-ups played cards in the kitchen. *shudder*

[3] Went to the “Celebrity Haunted Artifacts” section where they had several sweater-vests haunted by Julie Andrews—who, last I checked, is still kicking it.

[4] Lord’a’mercy I had such a cool couple of weeks, but they have left me without time to blog. I’ll tell you all about my Ollivander-esque wandmaker friend, Gypsey, and all of the fun we had here on Friday in a day or two. After I post this blog, I have to prep for a weddin’ on Sunday. Pagan girl marries vaguely Christian boy; both want to have it all hang out, but in a way that leaves the Baptists still saying “Amen.” It ain’t as tall an order as they think. 😉

[5] There are many different cultural understandings of these terms. I am not the be-all-end-all authority on the definition.

[6] Now, I’m not about to judge anyone’s choices—I am PRO-CHOICE so please do not razz me. Holy Hela, no. (I mean, I think that if you can afford the china, let your bulls run. But if you can’t afford the china . . . I have paid for my own china where abortion is concerned. Just like 2.4% of women aged 15-44 (at the time)—not to mention their male counterparts.) I think we live in a culture that does not care for women and children the way that the old cultures did; therefore abortion is a necessity that we should not need—yet we do.

[7] Perhaps TMI—our cofgoda are Gefjon and—of course—Frigg. The guardians of our Ve are Hela, Angrboða—her other face, Iárnvidia, and Skadi. But none of these are our individual fylgia or hamingja. My fylgia is my fylgia, assigned to me on the day I was born into this life, this realm; Husband’s fygia is his fylgia assigned to him on his birthday.

My hamingja is that which I’ve inherited from generations of Hands, Hornbuckles, Willises, MacDougalls, Fishers, Paces, Kennemers, Farmers, and Atchleys; Husband’s are that which he has inherited from generations of Bahrs, Alroths, Hoffmans, Dalys, Shmidts, Shelzocks, Curtises, McMullens, Sullivans, and McGillicuddys—you get the picture.


3 thoughts on “PBP Weeks 16-17: H – Haminjga

  1. Interesting article explaining the fylgia and haminjga, which i know Nothing about, so thanks. Ah the “satanic panic” 70s, how i miss them, a satanist under every graffiti drawn on a sidewalk in front of a church, lol. But i Have to ask you – what does Adidas mean???

    • I meant to get more into the gradations of “fetch” but time slipped away from me.

      Adidas doesn’t really represent a willingness to engage in coitus 24/7, but we were told that it did: “all day I dream about sex.” The brand was supposed to be a signal of availability.

      I spent six solid months trying to figure out how prostitution worked in cross trainers.

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