The Pagan Experience: “I” is for “Idis”

Idise

A Germanic-Roman depiction of the Matronae, a survival of the Disir or Idise.

This post was inspired by a prompt atThe Pagan Experience suggesting writing for the letters “I” or “J”.

Idise, or an Idis when we’re talking about them in the singular, are ancestral mothers who have chosen to aid their descendants from the spirit world. In Icelandic tradition, they come down to us as Disir. The term “Idis” is actually reconstructed, but we can come to understand their function better by looking at folktales of fairy godmothers. (Schreiwer/Eckhart 41)  Fairy godmothers show up to protect us, advise us, give us good fortune, and grant our wishes whenever we are in trouble or have nowhere else to turn. If you check out stories such as some of the oldest versions of the “Cinderella” tale, you’ll see this role even more clearly. Cinderella’s “fairy godmother” was actually originally the spirit of her deceased mother, who constantly performed magic on her living child’s behalf. Those who are familiar with Heathen and Urglaawe practice will recognize this cornerstone belief that our Ancestors take a vested interest in our lives and do what They can to aid us.

Idise are frequently interested in anything related to their family or to the continuation of the line, especially including children and their well-being. They can be called upon in instances where parents are not living up to their obligations too. Even if you are the adult child of someone who never fulfilled their parental duties to you, you can call upon the Idise for healing and to help make things right in your own life. In my experience, Idise are especially excellent to call upon in cases where protection or healing are needed.

I personally like to call upon the Idise in situations where I am not sure what would be best for the person or when consent is uncertain, such as in the case of severe illness or injury, where the person involved cannot express consent. Another instance that comes up frequently for me is when a friend or family member has requested prayers and assistance for someone I don’t know personally. While I don’t believe it’s wrong to pray for someone who hasn’t explicitly asked for it–I don’t think the Gods would be complicit in attempts to manipulate another, and I believe such attempts would simply fail–I don’t generally like to waste my time and energy helping someone who doesn’t want helped either, so I prefer to ask permission before praying or working magic for someone. However, if I am personally worried about someone, I won’t miss the opportunity to talk with my Gods about it, if only for my own comfort and not to any intention for that person’s life.

When I call upon the Idise for another, I connect to my Idise first. Then I ask Them to reach out and support the Idise of the person of concern, giving Them strength to do whatever is needed for that individual. In this way, the Idise of that person can decide what is best for Their family. When the person in question has come to me directly for aid, I frequently advise them to reach out to their own Idise as well, with prayer and offerings, so that they can benefit directly from the advice of these powerful and caring matriarchs.

I have a separate Ancestor shrine that is my special place to honor all my forebears, whether related to me by blood or spirit. This is the place where I honor the Idise. Milk, honey, bread, and flowers are very traditional offerings to Them. You can also offer mead or other alcohol, as you would to other spirits, and even a simple glass of water. I have found the Idise to be especially fond of food offerings that have special significance, such as family recipes, or foods from cultures They were from in life. For shrine decorations, anything that reminds you of your family, motherhood, or the love and caring that mothers and grandmothers have for their descendants would be appropriate. On my own shrine, I have pictures of my grandmothers along with objects that once belonged to some of them, such as jewelry and handkerchiefs. The Idise are particularly honored on Mothernight, which is one of the days of Yuul.

Cited:

A Dictionary of Urglaawe Terminology” by Robert L. Schreiwer and Ammerili Eckhart. This is the essential sourcebook for Urglaawe, and it should be your second read, after the materials you find online, if you’re interested in the Urglaawe path. It’s not a traditional dictionary, but more like an encyclopedia of Urglaawe concepts and traditions.

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