Thursday, November 24, 2005

On Jotunn Forces

On Jotunn Forces

There are real jotunn forces alive and well in the world today. You know that a jotunn is active whenever there are giant, out-of-control forces that cannot be tamed with any human effort, no matter how colossal or collective. A jotunn force is unforgiving, destructive, humiliating, cruel, immense in its strength and power, and either stupid, or conniving, but never wise. A jotunn force cannot be reasoned with. It is pure appetite or inertia happening in ways beyond reason, beyond control, beyond negotiation of any kind except for pure subordination.

Now, it might sound strange to assert that there are jotunn forces alive in the world today, since in the ancient Norse-Germanic mythology, jotunns were giants. Where are these giants? Well, in the past, apparently, one could see them with one’s eyes, or at least so the mythology indicates, although it is always possible that even then they could only be seen by special people with the “second sight” or elven eyes. Yet there are accounts in the myth that allow for their invisibility. When giants are killed, they cross into Niflhel, where they await in dungeons to be disassembled. What waits there is not their physical bodies – which were killed – but their spirits. There was an ancient war where the gods killed an immense army of giants, which means that there was a large number of angry jotunn souls. These souls can sometimes escape Niflhel, which is why the gods placed a citadel fortress at the banks of the lower Elivagar in Hel, and why the elves, who have special spirit elf-shot which can penetrate jotunn spirit-stuff, were assigned to that boundary. What this all means is that one does not need to see a jotunn force in order for it to be present. Someone with “second sight”, who was able to intuitively see into a situation, however, could see the giant, and they would see it as an immense, raging being wreaking havoc on people’s lives through the infliction of destructive chaos.

Let us give an example to make this more concrete. When you watch a campfire, you are dealing with a natural force, one that is warded over by the gods. When you watch a forest fire blazing out of control, you are seeing a very good image of a fire-jotunn. The same thing could be said for a blizzard, a hurricane, or an earthquake. But these forces are not limited to what in the modern world we would consider to be merely natural phenomena. They can infiltrate social phenomena. The key to understanding this is that the social behavior of animals is itself a natural phenomena, and human beings are animals. Just as a natural system like a wind front or a phenomena of fire can be lifted up by a jotunn spirit into an out-of-control situation, so can a social situation.

The myth of Frodi tells of such a time in mythic terms, when; people lived in fear of the giants, and the giants had tyrants running the social system for them. Of course, the giants felt the tyrants were working for them, while the tyrants thought the giants were their henchmen, but in any case, from the perspective of the folk, it amounted to the same thing. Frodi taught people how to clear out these jotunn forces through banding together in a spirit of strong joy and mirth, for this jotunn-perverted social system had broken people’s spirits and destroyed their freedom. The first thing they needed back was a sense of their freedom, and Frodi-Freyr was the one to teach it to them.

We must expect in a society that is out of alignment with the holy powers that there will exist jotunn forces practically running the show. Even under the best of circumstances, a hurricane can enter into a natural system like a forest or a social system from time to time, but in a society that is not invoking the runes, the special powers that the holy ones gave to us to regulate ourselves, jotunn forces are rampant.

The characteristics of a jotunn force are that it is unmanageable. It is not the equivalent of a difficult challenge. Challenges the gods set for us, even ones that only with difficulty we can resolve. A jotunn is so huge by definition that it is not challenging, but crushing, where one hopes to get out of the situation not victorious, but merely intact at all. One should remember that even Thor – the power of thunder, the mighty electrical ionosphere itself – sometimes is challenged to overcome giants, and Thor far dwarfs any powers we might have.

You will know when a jotunn is moving through your life. When you trust your feelings, your imagination will be able to feel the roaring, rampaging form pillaging through your life and wreaking havoc. You will feel the crushing weight of forces demanding submission instead of negotiation. And you will feel the frustration of intelligence being dwarfed and bullied by ignorance and the herd-mentality. Jotunns follow the jotunn-herd – that is, when they are not engaged in the war of all against all.

Jotunns are not evil per se, but their effects are. They are untamed, unregulated, out of control forces entirely centered around unmanageable appetite, and such forces, unless tamed, wreak havoc in our lives. The gods know that such forces can, in time, be tamed, as many giants have joined the gods in peace. One giant even has “peace-truce” as her name – Grith. From forces such as herself, who have come into the taming process, come heroes such as Vidar, who shall avenge and possibly save Odin at the end of time.

The tools we have been given to ward off the giants and tame them within our sphere of Midgard are several. They are the runes, Rig’s social scheme, dedication to the pantheon, and the law. Each rune represents a principle of living and relating that have magical effects. I place that emphasis, because some think of them as magical glyphs that on their own have secret effects. That may be true, but even more true is the reverse. When the principles behind the runes are lived in one’s life and one’s relationships, there are magical effects, and when a whole collective of people live these principles, the effects are even more magical. Collectively, the runes work together to create the kind of magic that allows for a challenging, exciting, adventuresome, prosperous, and festive way of life in which one is always learning. Without these “magic powers”, however, life begins to degrade, and degradations of the quality of our innangards, our settlements, our places of habitation and living create holes that allow jotunn forces to move in.

Rig’s social scheme is very simple, and often inverted by those possessed by jotunnish forces. It simply states that those who incur debt through causing palpable harm to the community should be made to pay off that debt through community service. Because they make life hard, they should be the ones to do the hard work. These debts may be paid off in a short or longer period of time. Under no circumstances should people in this condition be allowed to influence the policy of the community and thus for this period of time are effectively disenfranchised and not allowed to sit on juries. The name for this condition of debt-servitude is thralldom. A thrall is one who is being made to compensate for damages. When those who have recklessly damaged are not made to compensate, the community is full of injury, and in this wounded state is subject to entry by jotunn forces. And when those who should be thralls are allowed to rule, by definition criminals are running the show, and this is nothing less than an open invitation for jotunn exploitation. The second principle of Rig’s social scheme is that the bulk of a good society should consist of free commoners. A free commoner lives on odal land, also called allodial property that is free and clear of tribute, taxation, rent, or any other political or economic subjugation. This odal land is big enough to provide a support base for feeding, clothing, and sheltering oneself. It should be very clear that by this definition of “carl” or free-commoner, that very, very few of us in the modern world approach this position, and are being treated as if we are thralls. (If we are thralls, what is the debt we are paying, who incurred it, and why are we being held responsible for it?) A condition of sanity is a condition where debts are payable. One knows that jotunns are running the show when debts are so enormous as to be made perpetually unpayable. The third principle of Rig’s social scheme is that those folks who are not only free, but in addition have devoted themselves to fully developing their gifts and talents, exercising their passion for learning and for wisdom, preserving, keeping, and transmitting the ancient traditions, and who are ready to not only protect the rights of the free commoners, but put themselves on the line to defend the defenseless and protect the weak should be the ones ennobled to be the guiders of that society. In other words, Rig’s social scheme is one of philosopher-kings who rule through wisdom, and whose rule is not autocratic but through bold example, more of a shepherding than a dictating. Even the king’s rede is subject to approval by the thing, the sovereign law-assembly of the free commoners.

The principle of a pantheon is a collective of holy powers that works together as a concerted and indivisible whole, which may be imagined variously as either an integrated tribe of interrelated holy powers, or a kind of divine republic. In any case, the togetherness of the holy powers creates a balance of powers that provides checks and balances that would be missing if one observed only one or a few of the holy powers. Ancient worship was collective, showing honor to the entire pantheon, regardless of whether one gave special attention to those one felt greater affinity with. In this way, the balance of the holy powers tended to produce a corresponding balance within the human soul, whereas if imbalanced souls were encouraged to only worship those powers their exaggerated affinities already emphasized, they would merely spiral into greater and greater imbalance. The gods together form a kind of mandala or circle that in turn is a kind of strong shield when every link is intact and strong. Pantheonic worship allows for those parts of ourselves that are recessive to come into balance with those parts of ourselves that are dominant, so that we are not just a bunch of idiot-savants, but actual whole people in touch with all the different sides of ourselves. Whole people are much more empowered to face the challenges of life, and not let them slip so out of control that jotunns are essentially invited in. What must be remembered is that Thor and Tyr can do nothing for a people who through their own deeds allow and indeed invite jotunns to come in and rule their collective lives. If one’s deeds were an oath, is one oathing to the pantheon of holy powers, or to jotunns? If one invites jotunns into one’s life, one cannot then complain to the gods that they are doing nothing about it. They in turn will invite you to do your deeds so they will know you are serious about your life. When you have shown yourself to be serious, the gods will respond with appropriate support to assist you in your challenges. And part of that seriousness is honoring every god. Someone who is already warlike who only honors Tyr is going to get out of balance. They’re going to need to adapt some Njord and Freyr into their lives. Someone entirely dominated by love might want to honor Odin as well as Freya, bringing some wisdom into their lives. Balance helps keep us strong against the giants.

Finally, Tyr has given us the law, a tool to play out our conflicts in regulated ways. In the courts intended by the ancient system, we can test our claims against the thews of the community, and settle our rights. But this court-system is very, very different from the modern court-system. In the original jury-system, as Lysander Spooner has elaborated in great detail in his famous essay on the jury sytem, the jury judged both fact and law, and used their conscience to decide the case. Statute law was entirely subject to ratification by the people in their local counties, as juries would decide what was law and what was not through the use of their conscience and wisdom. This was a solid, powerful way to resist autocracy and tyranny. Since juries are randomly selected, they constitute a representative sampling of the local population, and thus cannot be manipulated in the same way that legislative representatives can be. No matter how much collusion there is between private interests, executive tyranny, and legislative treason (and when representatives act against the interests of their constituencies they commit treason), if local juries are intact and sovereign, the pronouncements of the powerful constitute nothing more than strong suggestions subject to the will of the people. When a community is strong in its affirmation of basic rights and liberties, statute laws that infringe upon basic rights and liberties will be nullified by juries again and again. On the other hand, when this simple, elegant, but powerful rampart against tyranny is dismantled or adulterated, and replaced by an abstract, legalistic system with no connection to the grassroots common folk, it becomes a reinforcer of tyranny. Such a situation is ripe for exploitation by rampant jotunn forces.

The heathen tradition emphasizes that we are our deeds. This is another way of saying that our choices constitute a kind of soul-making, and collectively, a kind of world-making. When a society is collectively enthralled to jotunnish tyranny, there is not much that free commoners can do, except try to sidestep the thundering weight of the giants while trying to not become enthralled oneself, but one can do one’s deeds, however small, to inspire others to live a free life rather than an enthralled one. This means every conversation we have, every action we take, moves us more in the direction of tyranny or liberty. We live in the midst of a society enthralled to giants, and thus have to put up with contradictions and compromises no free commoner of the past would tolerate, but with the way we live our life we can at least inspire others to begin to stand up for themselves and take on the dignity and honor of a free carl. For honor or dishonor is less about how others are insulting you than how you are insulting yourself with your own actions. A hero is one who lives their life in such a way that they are asserting that living life with dignity, uprightness, and even cheer is not only possible, but desirable, and that the life of good pride is a life worth fighting for. And indeed there are many battles to be fought. In a system of tyranny, those battles may not be as obvious as one might think, for tyrants pervert battles into slaughters for tyranny, and a battleground can become possessed by a jotunn spirit just as easily if not more easily than any other force. What this means is that the battle against conformity, against manipulation, against ingrained ignorance and prejudice may in some cases be more important than actual physical battles, and more may ride on these “wars for wisdom”, or cultural wars as some have called them. These battles are fought with words, with reason, with strong arguments, with debate, with discussion, with diplomacy and negotiation, and what we win through these struggles (if we attempt them at all) can be more fruitful than the application of brute force, although those of us who are brave in this direction can direct our physical strength towards the protection of those fighting the wisdom wars. Without discernment, a warrior is but a brute or a jotunn. Discernment asks, which battles need to be fought? Which battles are unnecessary? Which battles are counterproductive?

There are indeed battles to be fought, for the forces of tyranny never sleep. Where is vital cultural enlightenment getting slammed and in need of defense? Where are the innocent needing protection? Where are rights being trampled and in need of bold protectors? These are the questions we need to ask with our minds and our deeds in order to keep Midgard a place as free as is possible (not perfect, but good) from jotunn forces.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Redbeard said...

Thank you for that amazing article. Reading your past blogs has been very enlightening, and I'll definitely be coming back frequently.

12:19 PM  
Anonymous SurtrSvarđen said...

this post reminds me of a song by In Flames, my favorite band, called Jotun. it, however, compares the Jotunns of the past, or even the present, as your post demonstrates, to basically Nuclear armaments...or bombs or the like. they are a very great band with very meaningful lyrics, and really excellent instrument work, especially guitar. they even incorperate alot of nordic folk music into their Melodic Death Metal style. great band, at any rate

6:53 PM  
Blogger Bernulf said...

An interesting perspective. I am curious how one of your examples, forest fires, resolves as an out-of-control force when they often benefit the forest...and are often sparked by lightning. I would argue that if it is a benefit of Nature, and started by Nature, then it is at least within Nature's control. Your perspective, though, is a very interesting one - and it is something that I will give some consideration to over the next days :-)

Bjorngrímnir.

10:25 AM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Bernulf said, "An interesting perspective. I am curious how one of your examples, forest fires, resolves as an out-of-control force when they often benefit the forest...and are often sparked by lightning. I would argue that if it is a benefit of Nature, and started by Nature, then it is at least within Nature's control. Your perspective, though, is a very interesting one - and it is something that I will give some consideration to over the next days :-)"

Well, it's certainly true that there are forest fires that are beneficial to the forest, and ones which can devastate a forest, no? If too much tinder has built up, etc. The fire is a kind of living creature but the question is one of its devastation. One might relativize this by pointing out that the Hagalaz rune, which points to a destructive kind of hail-blizzard, is also referred to in rune-poems as a kind of "seed", just as the "Tower" card in the Tarot is followed by the "Star" of hope. Nevertheless, I don't think our ancestors were trying to be objective, but to speak their human experience. From a particular perspective, the hurricane in New Orleans was merely reclaiming land overdeveloped in reaction to nature, but tell that to all the people who had to suffer the effects of the hurricanes. Would they consider it a kind of jotunn that came into their lives and wrecked it? Quite possibly.

Nevertheless, the questions you ask are both interesting and difficult, and since I don't have an instant answer to them, I will have to continue to ponder this.

7:21 AM  

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