What are Wights?
Wights are spirits usually associated with nature; “entities” or “beings” are suitable to understand them in modern English. Technically, the gods and even humans are also considered wights, but in modern times we generally reserve “wight” for nature spirits. For our purposes, we will sometimes use wight in the classical sense of any being (humans, nature spirits, gods, etc.). You could also apply the word “person” to nonhumans in this way, extending personhood beyond human beings. This definition is shared among many modern animists.
Animism is not a religion. Instead, it is a way of viewing and framing one’s interactions with the world around them in a respectful, reciprocal way. One may practice animism without “being an animist,” and one may incorporate animist principles into one’s life without adhering to a specific or particular religion. The aims and goals of an animist are to form respectful bonds and relationships with the beings, wights, and persons around them, only some of which may be human. Animism applies the idea of even “inanimate” objects possess spirits, agency, and in some cases even sentience. For example, a tree or rock or waterfall might have a particular spirit and nature associated with it. Houses may also contain wights of their own, known as cofgodas in Old English.
Heathenry is animistic, meaning that within our religion the principles of animism apply. We can, therefore, frame our heathen worldview within this animistic framework .
Wights in Fyrnsidu
Most Fyrnsidere worship land-wights or house-wights alongside the gods. It is common to find fyrnsidere who offer regularly to the wights of their land or to those of their home. The practice is similar or even identical to the practice of worshiping the gods or ancestors. By speaking a short prayer and giving a small offering to the wights, you may strengthen your relationship with them.
Heathens and fyrnsidere hold to the highest regard our relationships with the persons that we regularly engage with, be they human or nonhuman. Reciprocity, a key heathen trait, is projected animistically to any being of relevance in our lives. This may be our friends and family, but it also extends to the rocks in our yard, the river whose water fills our taps, and the bees that pollinate our gardens. Animists, and therefore heathens, see agency in most things, and strive not to take the actions of nonhuman persons for granted.
Types of Wights
Spirits inhabiting trees, rocks, water features, and other parts of the natural world are typically called land-wights. These entities are capable of forming reciprocal relationships with humans, and many Fyrnsidere have many such fulfilling relationships.
These are spirits of the home, similar to the Slavic concept of the Domovoi or the Roman Lares; they are the personification of the spirit of the house itself, or perhaps one of several spirits to inhabit the domestic area. These are attested linguistically within Old English in the term “cofgodas.”
Dwarves and Elves:
Elves and dwarves, or Ælf and Dweorg in Old English, are categories of wights that appear in Anglo-Saxon culture. They are not gods in the same sense as the gods we worship, but neither are they exactly like the other wights. Our knowledge of them comes from folklore, history, and linguistics. Some may be good, some may be bad, but they are in possession of free will, agency, and intelligence.
Modern Accessible Animism: How Marie Kondo can help you be a better heathen
There is a television program called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, designed to help participants de-clutter their lives by downsizing their material possessions. In this show, every time Marie Kondo enters a home she greets the home, kneeling down to get a feel for the space and has her participants do the same. They are also encouraged to feel their items and decide if they spark joy in their life. If they do spark joy, the person thanks the item and keeps it. If the item does not spark joy, the person thanks the item for its usefulness and they donate it to a good charity. Participants are also encouraged to mindfully fold their clothes as it allows them to build a bond with their clothing via regular maintenance. This is an example of accessible animism, with its roots in the Shinto tradition of Japan.
This is among the most down-to-earth and practical representations of animism available to the average western viewer. Kondo helps to normalize everyday animism, and shows us how to build a feeling of appreciation for the things and places in our lives and in our surrounding environment. It helps us build mindfulness in our actions and in our surroundings.
Marie Kondo isn’t intending to teach us how to be better heathens, she is merely expressing the everyday sort of animism that can be found in Shintoism. However, if we apply these same principles within our lives as heathens and as fyrnsidere, we can improve our relationships to the spirits around us.