[This month, we sit down for a quick interview with children’s author and educational blogger, Jennifer Hartman. Here, she discusses her new book, Old Mother Frost; her work on Pagan Kids; and her upcoming projects.]
ev0ke: How do you define your personal spiritual practice? Does it have a name, or is it more intuitive and eclectic?
Jennifer Hartman: Honestly I just call myself spiritual and traditional, but many Norse pagans relate to my messages so I feel like I fall under that umbrella. It is definitely intuitive and if I try to break it down it does sound eclectic; but the same can be said about everything if you hold a microscope to it.
ev0ke: Which Deities, spirits, or other powers are honored in your tradition?
JH: Although I honor the Norse deities through the work I do, I don’t really call on them for help. I don’t believe that’s what they are meant for; however, their legends have laid the foundation for a culture I hold dear to my heart, and I will honor them through my research and writing. As a regular lifestyle practice, I actively honor the Disir (ancestor spirits). The foundation of my life revolves around honoring the memory and traditions of the ancestors that came before me. They have paved the way for the life I live now, and I really believe their spirits are looking out for their descendants – like a fairy godmother, but less fairy-like.
ev0ke: How has Covid-19 affected your practices? Do you see things going back to “normal” after the pandemic?
JH: Before Covid-19 I was pretty private in my beliefs and practice, so nothing has really changed for me. I am really excited to get to know the community in-person though. Since starting my social media accounts a year ago, I have felt like there is an entire family out there I have never met.
ev0ke: You recently released Old Mother Frost: A Children’s Yuletide Story. First, congratulations! Second, what inspired the book’s creation? Why did you write it?
JH: Thank you 🙂 Old Mother Frost is a Yuletide book based on pre-Christian origin stories of Yule/Christmas. It was released in late-October 2020. I started writing it a year before that when my son’s first Yule was approaching.
The story was inspired from my own upbringing, but writing the book was inspired by my son. Yule was always a special, cosy month for me. It was filled with age-old Swedish traditions. I grew up with my mom telling me fragments of origin stories of the holiday while we enjoyed a month of festivities. I wanted to instill the same feeling in my son.
Growing up with Christmas everywhere, I felt it was important to have a story that nurtured my son’s Swedish/German roots so he could feel like he has something that justifies our traditions outside of oral tradition. In my mind, books are the best way to nurture family time and holiday traditions. I was so desperate for this book. When I couldn’t find it, I created it!
ev0ke: What sort of research went into Old Mother Frost?
JH: So much research went into Old Mother Frost …. I am pretty sure I spent three months finding and reading academic resources before writing the first draft. It all started during my search for a Yule book for my son that included all the folktales I grew up with. I got so discouraged I began wondering if my rendition of these tales were skewed, so I started fact-checking traditions, people, and stories.
I started off researching the Swedish origins of Yule, the Christmas tree, Santa Claus, Santa Lucia, and the Yule candles; which is everything I grew up with. This search began on Wikipedia so I could find out what their academic source was so I could read that. Almost everything is tied into an ancient goddess named Frau Holle. Soon enough all my searches turned to Academia papers.
My notes were exuberant. I spend more time categorizing my research so I could summarize them into a character, folklore, tradition, meaning and plot. What I didn’t include in the manuscript, I made sure my illustrator included in the pictures; such as Frau Holle’s tie to nature, the Yule tree and Yule candles.
There are also elements I did without, such as: Frau Holle is said to ride through the sky with the Wild Hunt during the longest and coldest time of the year (Yuletide). If children weren’t healthy enough to survive the winter, she collects and cares for their souls like a caring, maternal figure. The children who survive are left with her blessings or a gift. Instead of making it grimm, I decided to focus on the happier side of this: “If children are happy, healthy and festive, Old Mother Frost leaves a gift at their front door.”
A lot of this research is available on Pagan Kids as my earlier blog posts.
ev0ke: Old Mother Frost is illustrated by Mousam Banerjee. What was it like collaborating with someone else to create the book? Was there a lot of back and forth via email or video conferencing?
JH: Mousam was amazing! My process includes the manuscript with detailed illustration notes including picture examples of less common elements. We worked two pages at a time, and communicated through emails regularly to make small changes. The process took us six months. I am beyond happy with him. We are actually working together again for a second book in the celebration series called Midsommar Sól. Hopefully this will be followed with two other books for other traditional Norse celebrations.
ev0ke: You also run Pagan Kids. What is the purpose of that site? Is the target audience kids, parents, or both?
JH: The target audience for Pagan Kids is parents and children. It did start off as a Norse pagan resource for kids. It was meant to only include information about my books, which eventually expanded to educational printables on Norse celebrations, music, ancient lifestyle, and mythology; but it has since become an educational resource for parents and beginners as well.
ev0ke: What can people find on Pagan Kids?
JH: Pagan Kids offers free educational and fun activities for kids, information about my books, research articles for adults, book recommendations (written by myself and others), a small clothing shop for families to help fund my projects, and links to my social media pages.
My social media pages include bite-sized information parents enjoy sharing with their kids, as well as blog and interview updates. I include small facts people have an easy time memorizing, and informational glimpses at celebration facts you can read more about on my website.
Pagan Kids is ever-evolving. At the start (when I was getting carried away with my research) I was posting interesting fun facts to my social media pages. It’s through those that a lot of parents and beginners in the Norse pagan path began asking for more information about Norse mythology and celebrations, so the website’s blog section started transforming into a resource for adults based on research articles; however, you can still find updates and recommendations about Norse pagan children’s books there too (mine and others).
As time progressed I found more information needed, like clarifying which path celebrates what traditions and why. The research is always expanding, and my studies are never-ceasing. I actually had to take a couple week break recently because the information was getting out of hand. With a fresh brain I am understanding an entire new approach, so you will be finding a lot more ‘clarifications’ being added to my existing articles throughout the year.
ev0ke: Where can readers find your work?
JH: The best place to look is Pagan Kids. It includes links and updates to everything; but I highly suggest following my Instagram and Facebook accounts (@PaganKids) for all the fun, regular updates.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
JH: Currently I am prioritizing a toddler board-book based on Norse Mythology. It’s called Who’s That in the Sky? It’s about the Norse deities who travel through our skies to bring the different phases of the day so we can tell time. It should be ready by the end of summer/early autumn.
Another project currently in progress is a book to follow Old Mother Frost. It is called Midsommar Sól. It is set to be released in spring 2022.
Other than my books, I am working on bringing more historical and ancient elements to my blog section. There is massive information I am working on researching, categorizing, and fact-checking to split up and clarify in easy-to-grasp reads. I try to keep each lesson between 3-5 minutes so attention remains sharp throughout. Unfortunately it takes a lot of time and understanding to accomplish this.
Make sure you subscribe to pagankids.org and follow me on social media to stay up-to-date on everything I am working on 🙂 Thank you!