Faith in Europe
With “Faith in Europe”, I want to show the spirituality within our societies. The work follows the different and colourful European communities who sustain and practice these old beliefs.
After a documentary I made in West Africa on the influence of secret societies and spirituality, I wanted to see and discover how this was present within my own culture and society. This is how I started the project. The work is not only focusing to the historic places and it’s people but I’m trying to capture that invisible feeling and atmosphere. The work “Faith in Europe - between Belief and Reality” is about our desire for belief and identity. A connection to the earth we live on and the human search for spirituality.
Faith in Iceland - Viking religion Ásatrú
The Witch-Ride Stave — Belief in elfs and the hidden people are normal amongst Icelandic culture. Many people stay connected to these stories. Also the many sorcery spells, made with complex symbols are reviving in todays society. Like this tattoo stave, called the witch-ride stave. According to the written inscriptions, he who wishes to ride through the air like a witch shall inscribe this stave on a bleached horse skull with two types of blood. These old symbols are becoming more and more popular and are also actively used throughout the country.
Summer solstice in Iceland — These Icelanders perform a pagan ceremony during the summer solstice. This night is celebrated in many countries and cultures with similar ceremonies and rituals. Both summer solstice and winter soltice are surrounded with different celebrations and ceremonies.
Blót at Pingvellir — The Ásatrú high priest performs a 'blót' ceremony at Pingvellir. A blót starts with a certain formula and declaring a truce between all present. This is followed by the reciting or chanting of verses from the Poetic Edda. Next, a drinking horn is passed around and participants drink to the gods, the wights and the ancestors. Libations are offered. The Ásatrú belief in the Icelandic - Nordic mythology and what they represents. There are 3500 registered Ásatrú followers in Iceland.
Huldufólk or the hidden people — Huldufólk or also known as hidden people: Icelandic hidden people and elf rocks or stories of encounters are still very present in Icelandic society. Building projects in Iceland are sometimes altered to prevent damaging the rocks where the hidden people are believed to live. Also according to Icelandic folk beliefs, one should never throw stones because of the possibility of hitting the huldufólk. They believed to live in a parallel universe but can show themselves sometimes into our world.
Enter the sweat lodge — Entrance to an Icelandic sweat lodge. The sweat lodge is also known as a purification ceremony used by the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. It is a low profile hut, typically dome-shaped to keep the heat inside. Stones are heated in a open fire in front of the door then brought in. Then water is poured over them accompanied by traditional prayers and songs.
Sweat logde spirit — Inside a sweat logde heated stones are the only thing you can see. In extreme heat and without any light the temperature is being raised by throwing water on the fired-red stones, accompanied by repetitive traditional prayers and songs. Other European cultures have historically used sweating for cleansing too and older traditions acknowledge a spirit-being who lives in these saunas.
Jónsmessa — Jónsmessa, also known as Midsummer Night, is an Icelandic ritual celebrated on June 24. According to Icelandic belief, cows gain the powers of speak human language, seals become human and you can find special Magical Stones. Also a common rituals is to roll naked on the dewy grass to receive unbelievable healing and your wishes are granted on this special night. Icelandic folklore also states that if you sit at a crossroads where all four roads lead to separate churches all night, elves will attempt to seduce you with food and gifts.
Midsummer night — On the night of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, a fire ritual is taking place on the volcanic black beaches. For many cultures and civilizations, the summer solstice was endowed with great significance celebrated in many cultures and beliefs. Midsummer was a crucial time of year for the Icelanders, who would meet to discuss matters and resolve disputes. They would also visit wells thought to have healing powers and would build bonfires.
Faith in Ireland - modern druids
Imbolc ceremony — An Imbolc ceremony in the Irish Ravenwoods. Imbolc is a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring. Fire and purification were an important part of the festival. The lighting of candles and fires represented the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. Imbolc is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and there is evidence it has been an important date since ancient times. It is believed that it was originally a Celtic festival associated with the goddess Brigid. Today it's followed by neo pagans with special fire ceremonies in woods and around holy wells.
Night of Samhain — A modern druid meditating at the night of Samhain in front of the moon at Tlachta, also known as Hill of Ward. According to Irish mythology, Samhain is a time when the 'doorways' to the Otherworld open, allowing supernatural beings and the souls of the dead to come into our world; but while Beltane is a summer festival for the living, Samhain "is essentially a festival for the dead". Several sites in Ireland are especially linked to Samhain. The Hill of Ward (or Tlachta) in County Meath is thought to have been the site of a great Samhain gatherings and bonfire. Today still large groups gather at the night of Samhain.
Fullmoon Ceremony — A contemporary druid full-moon ceremony at the Hill of Tara. The group comes together each full moon and performs a 'Ritual of Protection' on the hill itself, the continuation of the druid traditions. During this ritual based around a fire they call the spirits from all wind directions to join their circle. Other Celtic ceremonies are also taking place at the Hill of Tara like the Summer Solstice, Samhain and Imbolc.
Stone Talisman — In many places in Ireland you find megalith stones and stone circles. They are special places and raise many questions. Their exact purpose and role is still not understand but they still are visited by modern druids and used for ceremonies. An alternative hypothesis is that they were a form of amulet or talisman, i.e., an entity acknowledging and appeasing supposed spirits dwelling in nature, meaning that their ceremonial use was secondary to their talismanic value, or equal to it.
Samhains Dark Souls — During the night of Samhain, modern druids where performing rituals and ceremonies, when this man joint them during the rituals. Samhain is the time when the 'doorways' to the Otherworld open, allowing supernatural beings and the souls of the dead to come into our world. Very soon they understood this mans intentions where not positive as his symbols, and attributes where all linked to dark evil magic. Druids and Neo Shamans started a cleansing ritual and burned his attributes he had hidden on the sacred hill. After that they, together performed a series of reverse spells and protection spells to themselves and the hill.
Wicklow Rivers Ghost — According to the legend their is a ghost entity in the wicklow river. Many stones and rivers in Ireland have similar stories or sagas. From living nature creatures in the woods to misty entities in the lakes or around old houses, they all are part of the mystical landscapes and kept alive through vivid stories.
Holy Water — In Ireland the beautiful and tree-shadowed wells of the country are held sacred by the Druid priests, as is evident from the many remarkable Druidical remains that have been found in their vicinity. Much of the ancient Druidic ceremonials are being reintroduced by modern druids like Elena, who performs a ritual near Dingle. Ceremonies such as the symbolic dances, the traditions of worshipping the sun and lunar dates and other pagan rites are still happening around holy wells. These ceremonies are now partly practiced as ancient customs but also as a part of modern druidism. In this ritual Elena baths her forehead and hands in the holy water and thanks the spirits of nature for their healing power.
Imbolc in Ravenwoods — An Imbolc ceremony in the Irish Ravenwoods. Imbolc is a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring. Fire and purification were an important part of the festival. The lighting of candles and fires represented the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. Imbolc is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and there is evidence it has been an important date since ancient times. It is believed that it was originally a Celtic festival associated with the goddess Brigid. Today it's followed by neo pagans with special fire ceremonies in woods and around holy wells.
Megalith Druid Stone — A megalith stone laying in the mist near molls gap and lake Brinn. The stone positioned somewhere halfway a mountain hill is only to be reached by foot and difficult to find. The precise meaning of the stone is unknown. The stone is covered in precise druid circles that seems to appear under precise lightning that fall together with the equinoxes. These stones can be found at different locations throughout Ireland and are considered important not only for the archeologist but also for the pagans.
Holy well of the Dark Eye — The holy well of the Dark Eye. People visited holy wells for their traditional virtues of healing and divination. If a physical cure was sought, the believer would drink from the water. And in fact, the water of some holy wells have indeed been found to contain curative properties, mostly due to the presence of certain minerals. The holy well itself was viewed upon as a shrine dedicated to the miraculous emergence of living water, in all cultures a symbol of generation, purification, and the matrix of life itself. The holy well of the Dark Eye is one of the six sacred wells and would have energetic healing powers. People come and visit these waterspring for different reasons and with different believes but they remain holy.
Faith in Germany - culture of witches
The Witches Forrest — Modern witches meet in the German forests like in the Hartz mountain, but also around Berlin. In these forest you find devils stones, hexentreppe (witches stairs) and witches dance circles. These circles are meeting points for the Witches’ Sabbath. A Sabbat is a meeting of those who practice witchcraft and other rites. They talk, eat and dance combined with bonfire and rituals. Witchcraft plays an important role in many European stories and beliefs. The witches covens vary in size and region but the numbers of followers are rising, specially amongst younger people.
Beltane Ceremony — A Beltane ceremony inside the Hartz mountains in Germany. Beltane celebrations had largely died out by the mid-20th century, although some of its customs continued and in some places it has been revived as a cultural event. Since the late 20th century, Celtic neopagans and Wiccans and have observed Beltane as a important ceremonial day. Special bonfires were kindled, and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. The people and their cattle would walk around the bonfire or between two bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers. These gatherings with big bonfires would be accompanied by a feast, and some of the food and drink would be offered in rituals.
The Wolfman — One of the people during the Beltane / Walpurgis ceremony in the Hartz region, near Brocken mountains in Germany. The wolf is a common motif in the foundational mythologies and cosmologies of peoples throughout Eurasia and North America.The wolf is a symbol of the warrior on one hand, and that of the devil on the other. In many cultures, the identification of the warrior with the wolf (totemism) gave rise to the notion of Lycanthropy, the mythical or ritual identification of man and wolf. Wolves are associated with witchcraft in both northern European and some Native American cultures: in Norse folklore, the völva (witch) Hyndla and the giantess Hyrrokin are both portrayed as using wolves as mounts, while in Navajo culture, wolves were feared as witches in wolf's clothing.
Hexenaltar in Brocken — The Brocken, inside the Harz mountains, has always played a role in legends and has been connected with witches and devils. There are many witches-circles in the surrounding woods, devils stones and many special sites connected to witchcraft and ceremonies. The mountainous area is famous through history as a witches gathering-places and has many name references like the 100 km long Harz Witches’ Path, the ‘Bad Harzburg Devil’s Path’, the Teufelskanzel (Devil’s Pulpit) and the Hexenaltar (Witches’ Altar) among many less known locations. The witches mountain is also named in Gothe's Faust. Then there is the Brocken spectre, a common phenomenon on this misty mountain, where a shadow casts upon fog and creates a series of optical effects.
Walpurgis Ceremony — A large group of people are dancing half naked at the Walpurgis ceremony in the German mountains, know as the night of the witches. These witchcraft related groups meet at special nights in this famous witches mountain area. On this night the witches covens or groups perform rituals and celebrations around big bonfires. The 17th-century German tradition of a meeting of sorcerers and witches on Walpurgis is influenced by the descriptions of Witches’ Sabbaths in 15th- and 16th-century literature. There are also references to this witches event in a scene in Goethe’s Faust Part One, called ‘Walpurgisnacht’, and one in Faust Part Two that is called ‘Classical Walpurgisnacht’.
Dancing witch at Walpurgis — Sparkels from a Walpurgis witches fire fly up in the sky and take the form of a dancing witch. The night of Walpurgis is known as the night of the witches and still celebrated in Germany and many other northern European countries with a fire ritual and other ceremonies.
On Walpurgis night the modern witches and related pagan covens or groups perform rituals around big bonfires, hidden in dark forests and on mountain tops. The 17th-century German tradition of a meeting of sorcerers and witches on Walpurgis is influenced by the descriptions of Witches’ Sabbaths in 15th- and 16th-century literature.
Witches Sabbat Circle — Modern witches, Wiccans and related pagans meet in these German forests to perform witchcraft ceremonies. Like in the Brocken in Hartz mountains who has many old witches sites scattered around the forests and mountaintops. These small witches circles are used for meetings (Witches Sabbats), rituals and more. A Witches Sabbat is a meeting of those who practice witchcraft and other rites. They talk, eat and dance often combined with bonfires and offers. Witchcraft plays an important role in many European stories and beliefs. In these forest of Brocken you can find many devils stones, hexentreppe (witches stairs) and witches altars or circles. Witchcraft is gaining popularity and historic places get reused, specially amongst the younger people.