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Interview With Jenny Blain


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Dr Jenny Blain needs no introduction to Heathens. Recently retired from her Senior Lecturer post at Sheffield Hallam Uni. she is now planning to teach an online course for Cherry Hill Seminary, starting this month. This will be on landscape, Animism, Heathenry, delving a bit into the Eddas and into seidr. Cherry Hill is a teaching organisation for Pagan and Nature-Based spiritualities based in South Carolina.



Interview with Jenny Blain: Sacred Landscapes and Seidr




Landscape, Animism, Heathenry - course details.



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Jenny is an excellent teacher and giver of talks. She and I have been close friends for years, and we ran an organisation together, for a while, that organised lectures once a year. When we are out on the moors together, we listen to the same wights and gods, and compare notes. Her books are easy to read and she presents information in an accessible manner. I'd recommend any course she does. :)

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A member of Troth has an email from Jenny setting out the syllabus of her course and has put it on the Troth list. I'm not sure of the ethics of posting it here third hand.

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Do you want me to get it from Jenny? Because I'm sure she would be delighted to have it posted here. It would be much easier for you to repost it, davkin. :)

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Jenny Blain to "hralganarg" posted to the Troth list 4JAN14


Hi Tom,

I have pasted in, below, a slightly shortened version of the current weekly schedule from the draft syllabus, to give you a sense of what's planned. How it works out in practice will depend on who's in the class and how much they already know about. The focus is on Heathenry as 'Animist' spirituality and ideas of landscape and other-than-human people, so it won't be Norse studies. Throughout, I'll be asking people to post their reflections online, and also to post the assignments so that these can be discussed by the other class members.


I hope this is useful.





Week schedule:


1. Introduction to the course, and its objectives.

Basic introduction to the course, assignments, and so forth.

What is Heathenry? A short introduction to cosmology, Wyrd and deities. Please read articles on Heathenry from Strmiska or other writers. Think also about the diversity of Paganisms and how people make sense of these.


2. What is Animism?

Harvey, Animism, and if you can, see The Handbook of Contemporary Animism. The latter is an ‘academic’ book but is helpful in many ways. My chapter from it will be posted online.

Briefing for the first assignment (which will be submitted next week).


3. How do these come together in the landscape?

MacLellan and Cross, The Wanton Green. Again, my chapter from this will be posted.

The main focus in this week is on your own reflections and discussion of your posted assignment.

Assignment: write about where you are, what is going on in your landscape and your relationships with the other beings there: this will be a personal and reflexive account.


4. An introduction to the literature of Heathenry

Poetic Edda, Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson. You may find it useful to look for books of Norse mythology – the best of these is by Kevin Crossley-Holland, but there are many others, usually available in public libraries. Be warned, though, that they are often designed for small children and so may be quite bowdlerised! You will also find pieces from the literature online.

I have recommended Carolyne Larrington’s translation of the Poetic Edda, because this is recent, inexpensive, and by a leading scholar in the field.


5. Wights and ancestors in Heathen practice (reading to be provided)

how does this relate to your own understanding of place, and your concepts of ‘ancestors’?

What does archaeology show about the ways in which ‘ancestors’ or the dead were thought about in pre-Christian times in North Europe?


6. An introduction to magic in the Sagas

In particular, see Egils Saga, Laxdaela saga. These are in the Penguin edition ‘The Sagas of Icelanders’ but you may use whichever translation you have access to. We will continue the discussion of these sagas in the following week.

Briefing for the ‘Ancestors’ assignment, to be submitted for week 9.


7. Continuing discussion of magic in the Sagas. What are the differing roles of magical practitioners? How do these become part of the stories told? What might these tales have meant for the descendants of the key figures in the sagas?


8. Seidr and its relationship to other ‘shamanic’ practices / cultures. Please focus here on the circumpolar cultures and particularly Sámi and Siberian cultures. You should refer to Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic and also to other readings you have come across. Please read the description of Seidr in Eirik the Red’s Saga.


9. Discussion of your ‘ancestor’ papers – I hope that we will all have comments and insights on these.

Assignment: your ancestors and who they are to you. You should look at least three generations back – the importance, though, is not as much about datelines and trees as about what you know about these people and what they tell you about the cultural history from which you come. Remember that what you write here will be available to all students in this course. This will be presented online for the start of week 9.

Briefing for interview assignment.


10. Seidr and gender. Again, please refer to Nine Worlds. Focus here on both women and men, and the concept of ‘ergi’. What does this mean in today’s context?


11. Seidr and Heathen practices today. What have you found about practice where you are, or more generally? There are many different ways in which people express their Heathenry and many ways of interacting with other Paganisms.


12. Presentation of interview assignment

Assignment: write a short essay based on interviews on how people ‘do Heathenry’ as you have found it, discussing this in light of the readings, and comparing the description to your own practice or experience.


13. Briefing for final papers.


14. Final assignment to be submitted: This will be a discussion of Heathen ‘shamanic’ practice and how this may be seen or done today, and how your own ministry might engage with or support this practice.

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