PBP Weeks 18-19: I – Idesa

Gaulish Relief of Triple Goddess

Gaulish Relief of Triple Goddess

Idesa” is the Anglo-Saxon term for the Norse dísir, or ancestral/tribal mothers. And the tribe to which I belong hails itself as “Dísrtroth,” faithful to the female ancestors. If you’ve read much of my blog, you know where I stand on issues regarding the divine female and how it’s been hijacked by Abrahamic patristic order and Enlightenment fecktasticness. I have tried to discuss female divinity with a few Pagans (although most “get it”) who just can’t get past the idea that I don’t mean “goddess worship” a la Gardner or even Budapest.

Worship of the idesa is about as “new-age” as wode.

Two things strike me as funny.

1.         As a heathen, we have the term “Forn Siðr[1]—in Anglo-Saxon Fyrnsidu—which refers to our ways as “the old custom.” However, I find that many (not all) “forn” customs tend to be very masculine-centered customs. All of my studies have shown that true forn siðr were matristic[2] and egalitarian.

2.         I have trouble—real trouble—with the terms “the old ways” and “the old religion” given that folks often use these phrases to refer to imagined reconstructions of pre-Christian religions using post-Christian texts. For this reason, we typically call what we do in our tribe “inn nýi siðr,” the new custom. The real irony is that what I end up calling “nýi” is more forn than what others refer to as “forn.” (Translation: our idea of “new” is the really old version of “old” rather than the new version of “old.”)

Worshiping the idesa was common all the way through to the Roman period. Know how we know? We have evidence that heathen mercenaries built um, Matronae-harrow (altars to Dea Matrona (Celtic and Gaulish “divine mother goddess”)) along Hadrian’s Wall.[3] Must’a been important to them; I can’t imagine that builders would stop construction for that monolith to do something trivial.

HadriansWall xtrawide

There are two celebrations for the idesea. There is Mōdraniht (“Mothers’ Night”) celebrated at Yule-eve, which according Bede’s Historia was a clear celebration of the Matronae (triple goddess), and the dísablót celebration of the female ancestors, which traditionally took place at Winternights (October 31).[4]

Want an inside look at Mother’s Night? Here’s Sarah Lyn’s post from Walking With the Ancestors.

Here at our wēoh (sacred enclosure), we have a special place for the idesa, or dísr. Or, you know, we have one planned. Right now we have an area that we dedicated to the primordial forces, The Rökkr,[5] on Walpurgisnacht. But we hold regular dísablót and we are hosting one at a local festival at the end of the month.

Hey, I’m having a thought.

Given that there will be so many “kinds” of Pagans at this festival, I’m kinda getting the inking that it should be a blót to Dea Matrona, a “Mōdrablót.” You know, that might be more specific than dísr and yet more accessible. A blót to the specific deified being “triple goddess.” That’s a little pan-Pagan friendly at that, i’n’t it? Those who see her as the Fates, the Norns, the Erinnyes, and those who call her Hecate or Mór-ríoghain can all identify with the rite—and yet we don’t lose the substance of the blót by negotiating away any meaning.

Yeah. I think I’m digging it.

As ever, I’ll let you know.


[1] I’m not making comment about the Danish Forn Siðr tradition, mind you. Just the term.

[2] Not to be confused with “matriarchal.”

[3] Wanna know more? Go read Winifred Hodge Rose’s “Matrons and Disir: The Heathen Tribal Mothers” (http://www.friggasweb.org/matrons.html).

[4] According to Víga-Glúms Saga; the Heimskringla places it closer to spring.

[5] Don’t get freaked out. The Rökkr are “shadow” deities not Christianized demons—they can be chthonic and tricksters, to be sure, but not “devils.” We don’t really have those.


This post is part of a year-long project, The Pagan Blog Project, “a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing your spiritual and magickal path. . . . Each week there is a specific prompt for you to work with in writing your post, a prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet . . . .” (http://paganblogproject/)



3 thoughts on “PBP Weeks 18-19: I – Idesa

  1. Pingback: PBP Weeks 16-17: H – Haminjga | Ehsha Apple

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