31 Days of Lunasa: Days 14-16 — Nine Ways to Nerigung



Sometimes it takes a new word to see an old thing. Or maybe in this case an old word to see a new thing.

The Old English noun nerigung ‘rescue, preservation, saving’ has been on my mind, and numbers, since I’m keeping track of days. So Nine Ways to Nerigung or Preservation. (The alliteration of Nine and Nerigung is almost as important as their meanings. Not really, but yes.)

Interestingly, the thing that Old English speakers were often trying to preserve wasn’t līf “life” directly, but feorh — the “vital spirit” that animates us, the things that make life possible. Druidry often points us behind the scenes, to what underlies a situation or circumstance or flow of energy. And so I look at feorh-ner — another good Old English word, the things that provide ner(igung) “preservation, rescue, saving” for the feorh — the vital or animal spirits with in us.

I write “nine ways” (or feorhneru, the Old English plural) and at this point don’t know what they are. I can feel the activity or motion or movement that often presages words and helps them to manifest, but so far no specifics. So I list the nine headings and start to write, know the words will come.

1st Feorhner — Presence

Just being here, alive, in the world, is a kind of collector or gathering or assembly point for what we need. We are each a complex network of many lives — all our cells, the bacteria in our gut that make digestion possible, and so on. Often the whatever-it-is we need can seem in short supply — usually because we’re not merely sitting still, but actively trying to accomplish something. (There’s a law of economy at work — we often receive only as much as we actually use — no surplus accumulates.) But practicing being present is often what others need from us. Our pets ask us for it, our gardens ask, our jobs, our families. Everyone’s hungry for it (including of course us!), so providing it consciously is a great gift we can give to others. I start small. Five minutes of my conscious attention, a kind of spotlight of my caring, enlivens beings around me. Trees respond, pets respond, dear ones respond. And so do I.

2nd Feorhner — Personal Access Points of Feorhner

Connecting with my own sources of feorhner helps me continue to practice the first feorhner above. I need recharging along with everyone else. My “five minutes” may come spontaneously, because another gifts me with their attention. We build in, or delete, opportunities for it every day. Even listing my fonts, my wells and holy rivers of feorhner, is by itself an act of recharging, because my heart starts to (re)open when I bring them to mind. Recollection — because what is it that I am collecting again?

My Ovate stone sits on my nightstand. I often hold it because it helps ground me. It’s a focus point. A focus, after all, was originally a fireplace — where the domestic fire burns, the hearth. By focus I can keep my home fires burning.

3rd Feorhner — Blessing

Similar to the 2nd feorhner above is the blessing. This may be a gesture, words spoken, a focus of the attention, and so on. Consider that we’ve left many blessings behind in our modern world, though they were often within the lived experience of our grandparents. In many cases they may have been associated with the practice of a religion we no longer experience as a part of our lives.

Are we feeling less blessed because we haven’t taken advantage of opportunities for blessing, for both receiving and giving them? Could we bring them back? Certainly. Druid triads, for example, can serve as excellent forms of blessing, short enough we can easily incorporate them into our actions. (“Three blessings on your waking, clear eyes, clear mind, clear speech …”.)

4th Feorhner — Food

One obvious sustainer of feorh is food. And one sign of the struggle many face to reclaim balance among feorhner is the prevalence of eating disorders. On top of that is our planet-wide increasing struggle to grow and eat safe healthy food.

5th Feorhner — Sound

Another feorhner — once you start naming them, you realize there are so many more than just 9, or 13, or some other magical number — is sound. I’ve posted about the awen in several forms, Kristoffer Hughes offers wise words to his readers, and many spiritual traditions have rich teachings and practices around sound, sacred chant, the human voice, etc. We naturally hum and sing to ourselves when we’re in balance, unless we’ve lost this childhood gift. We can bring it back.

6th Feorhner — Other Beings

We often look at the human world for so long that we think it’s the primary focus of the cosmos existence, when it’s a small segment of a much larger world. Other beings remind us of this, of course — a useful thing in and of itself. But more potent are exchanges between whole realms of beings.

Hwīlum him to honda, hungre geþrēatad, flēag fugla cyn, ðǣr hīe feorhnere fundon. ‘Sometimes the race of birds driven by hunger flew to his hands, where they found sustenance’. We can find in all cultures those stories of people with a strong connection to the realms of other creatures around us. Sometimes they feed us, and sometimes we feed them. The “feeding” may well be physical, but it is just as often on subtler levels, so that we forget how potent it can be.

rhododendron bud

7th Feorhner — The Elements

Bathing is often another recharge for people. If you’re a “morning shower” person, your shower often serves much the same purpose as a cup of coffee. (The “evening shower” person may use it for relaxation, washing off the cares of the day, an excellent preparation for sleep.) Combining such seemingly mundane activities as showing or bathing with a ritual prayer or meditation takes no additional time, and enlarges the value of the activity. (When in doubt, try it out.)

Along with the west and water are the other three elements, of course. We vary in how we relate to them, how they touch us each day.

We can choose to change that, too, if we wish.

8th FeorhnerSun, Moon and Stars

So important are these three that many wise cultures made them deities. We don’t need to go that far (unless we opt to do so) to gain from careful observance and attention and interaction. St. Francis knew his Brother Sun and Sister Moon. Think how very many charms and songs and rhymes remind us of these feorhneru in our lives: Twinkle, twinkle, little star … When you wish upon a star … Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight … Fly me to the moon … When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore … Here comes the sun … Here comes the sun, and I say it’s all right … Sundown, you better take care, if I find you been creepin’ down my back stair … Sunshine, you are my sunshine … Sun is shining, weather is sweet, Make you want to move your dancing feet … You can expand my short and arbitrary list almost indefinitely.

9th Feorhner — Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Symbols and numbers constantly interact with us each day, wisdom and guidance for the taking. Here we are at 9, a number rich in millennia of symbolism, of real power for transformation. If you haven’t yet taken a look at A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe by Michael Schneider, it deserves an hour of your time. (If it resonates, you’ll certainly know within 60 minutes of the pleasure and power of number.)

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Posted 16 August 2021 by adruidway in Druidry

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