What Is Waincraft?

Waincraft (from the Old English words wægn, “wagon, cart”, and cræft, “way, skill, craft”), is a Neo-pagan tradition that honors and works with the Powers of the Land, and is heavily invested and based in the areas and concepts of bioregionalism, animism, and ecopsychology.

The founders of Waincraft originally hailed from the Vanatru movement, a denomination of Heathenry (Germanic Reconstructionism, sometimes referred to broadly as Asatru) that has been picking up steam in recent years. The term Vanatru itself is modeled after Asatru, which means “True to the Æsir (Gods)”; thus, Vanatru: “True to the Vanir.” However, Vanatru as a movement is limited by the mainstream American Heathen attitudes that surround it, and, in many Heathen circles, is usually considered the equivalent of a bastard cousin that few people like to talk about.

In 2008 and 2009, a couple of members of the Vanatru movement began to work deeper with the Vanir, and discovered a rich mythic world far beyond the expectations and norms of American Heathenry, and most modern paganism in general. There is a theory in various circles, both academic and religious, that the Vanir are an earlier race of Gods than the Indo-European Æsir. This would make them indigenous Deities of Europe, subsumed and assimilated by the incoming Indo-Europeans and their war-cults. This assimilation sometimes led to the exaltation of one or two Vanir (i.e., Frey’s importance in Denmark and Sweden, Freya’s second-highest role next to Frigg), but often led instead to the destruction and oppression of the original systems and beliefs.

But there are survivals which can be gleaned through researching the Eurasian mythologies from Ireland to the Urals, and these survivals, combined with a shockingly homogenous mytho-archaeological record, form a loose picture of what European religion and practice may have entailed before the coming of the IE cultures. Some of the survivals include the practice of a powerful magical system akin to some styles of Finno-Ugric and Siberian shamanism; the importance of elves and other nature beings, often above and beyond that of the gods themselves; explicitly sexual deity imagery; ritual sacrifices tied to the fertility of the land; and a strong association with trees and other natural objects. There are also many stories and descriptions of similar deities across both cultural and geographic distances.

The mythology and cosmology of Waincraft draws from several sources, in an attempt to capture the essence of this underlying paradigm. Much of its mythological work is drawn from reconstructionist movements such as Heathenry, Celtic Reconstructionism and Romuva, with healthy injections of Feri Witchcraft’s “fey current” and modern myth; the cosmology draws more from traditional Eurasian shamanism, animism, and experiential knowledge, though it may use terms from Heathenry and other reconstructionist movements. In terms of theology, Waincraft seems to mostly fall under the heading of soft or “squishy” polytheism – i.e., the idea that the same gods may appear across cultural lines.

Thus, Waincraft could be considered a form of distillation reconstructionism, somewhat similar in nature if not spirit to the work done with the Proto-Indo-Europeans. It is a movement greatly driven by direct experience, though it draws from strong historical, anthropological and mythological sources. Waincraft is a wholly modern religion, made and taught for the post-industrial world to which we are fast approaching, and seeks to help ease the transition by reconnecting us with the Powers that dwell with us and among us.

© 2010, 2012 Nicanthiel Hrafnhild

Update 2014:

Waincraft is a New Religious Movement (NRM) derived from the melding between neopaganism, animism, bioregionalism and depth psychology, focusing on a portable, adaptable cosmology that still carries meaning and relevance across multiple landscapes and biomes, as well as helping create an ecocentric worldview (à la Plotkin) for the future by encouraging people to find and manifest their unique gifts and deepest calling – the power, identity and actions that make their soul sing, which I have termed orthopsychy as a counter to the typical religious foci on orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

The cosmology features 6 distinct-ish (there’s a great deal of overlap in practice) categories of other-than-human beings that inhabit existence with us – the Powers, the Tribes, the Fair Folk, the Relations, the Elemental or Nature Spirits, and the Dead.

The Powers is a pantheon of variably 24 personified natural and/or conceptual phenomena (variable because some biomes do not contain certain elements/forces, others may need more or different than the “standard” 24) that, by and large, can also be found in most or all European/IE mythologies and occasionally in neighboring non-IE ones (Finno-Ugric, Magyar, Basque, Kartvelian, frex), mostly because they’re common across the world (i.e., the sun shines everywhere, night comes everywhere, etc., not counting the polar extremes during the solstices).

The Tribes are denizens of the Otherworld that represent and embody specific mysteries of life and development – e.g., Birth, Memory, Initiation, Magic, etc. Waincraft works with 23 of these Tribes, each associated with a particular animal or animal type. (For those interested, yes, these are the same Tribes as those of the Vanir/Eshnahai as elicudated here.*). Their main focus as far as the [Waincraft Training Program] goes, to which I’ve gotten agreements for, is “adopting” participants during phase 2 to help them with finding and embodying their orthopsychy; however, for general practitioners, they are still approachable and well worth the time of cultivating a relationship with even outside of the program.

The Fair Folk are the fairies, pixies, tomte/nissen, brownies, domovoi, elves, dwarves, daoine sidhe, dusii, leszi, vilas, nymphs, satyrs, etc. – those non-corporeal beings that primarily or exclusively reside in the “physical” world but aren’t the spirits of animals, plants, or elemental forces. This category is one of the blurriest, as some of the fair folk are actually Tribes-people, others are larger elementals, and some are active Dead.

The Relations are the bodies and spirits of all the animals, plants, fungi, protozoans, etc., that inhabit or have inhabited the physical world. Basically, if it’s on the Eukaryote family tree, it’s a Relation.

The Elemental or Nature spirits are the personification of actual individual elemental/non-“living” objects – raindrops and swamps and oceans, flames and lightning and volcanoes, breezes and winds and tornadoes, stones and metals and mountains, etc.

The Dead are, of course, those in the Homo family tree that are no longer corporeal, from H. habilis to the approximately 14k who died today and every day.

There is a cosmological orientation of 14 – 7 physical directions and their corresponding mirrors in the Otherworld. Above, Below, North, South, East, West and Center. Each of the cosmological beings is associated with one of the directions – Above is the sky, clouds and mountains, while the Upperworld is associated with the Powers, who represent and embody knowledge, archetype and unities; East is the closest to Above, and is the realm of the Elemental Spirits; South follows the descending spiral and is the realm of the Relations; Below is under the ground, caves, tunnels, all existence that cannot be seen from the surface, and the Underworld is the realm of the Dead; West is the closest to Below, and is the realm of the Tribes, who represent and embody mysteries, wisdom and diversity; North continues the ascent as a double helix, and is the realm of the Fair Folk, intermediaries between Spirit and Soul. And Center, between and touching all, is humanity, because this is a model and cosmology created by humans for humans and human development.

There are only two “worlds” to speak of, this world and the Otherworld. Both are divided into three realms of Under, Upper, Middle or Sea, Sky, and Soil Land (see what I did there? :P)

Religious observances will vary based on both the needs of the practitioner and the cycle of the local bioregion, but the basic solar and lunar events are encouraged (solstices, equinoctes, and dark and full moons). Following common myths, Waincraft typically places the year-shift at the winter solstice, but it could equally be at the vernal or autumnal equinox, summer solstice, or one of the cross-quarter days should those be included (Feast of the Dead is a good candidate). The book included all of the “standard” Wheel of the Year observances with non-culture-specific names, as well as a twelve-day observance for the winter solstice, a Feast of the Dead mirror on May Eve/Walpurgisnacht, and an observance for the Fair Folk which can take place at any point throughout the year (the book places it in late autumn based off the Heathen Álfablót)

The primary focus in regular practice should be on integrating physical and spiritual realities, re-enchanting and re-animating the world. Learn the name and personality of your local mountain, forest, rivers, desert, cliffs, etc. Leave out offerings for the spirits who take the form of ants. Know the signs of the seasons. Be able to converse with the tree in your backyard. Pay reverence to the sun as zie goes through the dance of the year. Do the same for the moon in zir dance. Make new myths about the rain and the sun and the mountains and the birds and the rabbits, based on how they actually act in your bioregion. Praise the light of dawn and embrace the comfort of night. The passage of time is a god, the same god who dances with the bears and has an overflowing cornucopia – time is wealth and abundance. Learn where your food comes from, your water, your air. From what direction the storm? What stars dance solemnly above, and what is the pattern of their dance? How is Hare’s mystery of Renewal echoed in the rabbits in springtime? How is Serpent’s wisdom and magic echoed in a garter snake, or a cobra, or an iguana? How is the Otherworld mirrored in the one that surrounds you, and how does it mirror in turn? What role do you have to play in the dance that goes on around you? Everything is connected, but how have you removed yourself or been removed from the wider pattern?

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*Note: Waincraft is not currently associated or affiliated with Vanatru or Heathenry, but it does share this particular group of spirits with certain strains of Vanatru and Vanic practice.

© 2014 Nicanthiel Hrafnhild

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