Sunday, September 16, 2007

New Explorations in Urd, Verdandi, Skuld

Let's explore another model of Wyrd, in order to draw out important nuances left out in the present dominant models. In some ways, we are still locked into Urd = Past, Verdandi= Present, and Skuld = Future. Brian Bates, on the other hand, has explored a concept of Wyrd as the Web of interconnections and simultaneity that makes up the fabric of the cosmos.

From this standpoint, Wyrd is Existence, existence as all that has been and has become. It is all the connections that have been made. Verdandi represents the present becoming of all of those interconnections, how they are morphing and changing. Skuld is a weight, a debt, that pulls all of those connections towards where they may be.

Too much emphasis upon the past takes away the sense of daring and adventure that were a part of the barbarian ethos, an ethos that on the move was not concerned with the domesticity of standing still and resting on the laurels of the past, but seeing what could be proved with deeds in the present. Ariovistus bragged to Caesar that his men had not been "beneath a roof" for fourteen years! This was part of their training --- to occupy the field, to remain in camp, and not under the comfort of a home, but to engage the ever-turbulent flows of wod.

Now, from this standpoint, Skuld represents but ever-thin whisps of threads --- but golden, gleaming threads. She offers the threads of possibility. Verdandi is a force of synergistic synthesis and creation---drawing in the existing, historical connections, and juxtaposing them in novel, fertile ways, but Skuld draws out the potential of these new Becomings. Skuld explores out at the edge of her valkyrie-sword how far the synergistic possibilities may go, and places a dual weight and enticement upon those attuned to her : the enticement of what may be, of what very well could be, if the deeds of all continue to tend in the way Verdandi is tending, and the best may be had with bold deeds, rich, and unforeseen, possibilities ; the weight of how the world may be if one does not live up to all one could be. Not just how one "could" be. Let's remember Skuld as "should". This is how things "should" be. Such thin, gossamer, but golden and strong threads are always in the making. "The future" does not exist as an in-advance predestination we like automatons automatically must fulfill. Rather, Skuld, like her sisters, is ever-active, tending on the possibilities of the present. She counts all of the Debts. These are weights put upon the process of Becoming by deeds, good and ill. Good deeds are good in part because of their fecundity, their ability to multiply good in the world, opening up novel opportunities for marvel. A good deed is like a potato : once laid down and planted, many more may sprout up with profit. A good deed breeds opportunity pregnant with litters of opportunity. Skuld is able to project the synergistic totality of these good deeds and see where they may lead. She therefore has a connection to Glory, to the full, inspired pull of the rich possibilities. On the other hand, ill goods are like a sickness that reduce opportunities and impoverish the realm of possibility. These pull down and drag the process of emergence and becoming. These are debts which may be repaid with deeds of daring that enrich what has been impoverished with a plenitude of good opportunities.

What would a Skuld-driven heathenism look like? A heathenism pulled towards what it could be, who feels the obligation and the seriousness of those possibilities, who knows that developing the full potential of each of us, beyond what we have been, beyond what we know of ourselves, in the full self-surpassing that allows us to overspill our limitations, transcend the wordloc and normality in which our full wyrd and turbulent wod have been festering, rotting, and stagnating, is a sacred duty, a debt so large that we'd better get to our work : our wyrd-weorce.

This is not a heathenism that is about "coming home". One hears a great deal of rhetoric about heathenism as "coming home". No, this is a heathenism that hears in part Ariovistus' call out into the field, to leave the comfort of roofs, to go beyond domesticity, perhaps, even, to find home in the wod-flows themselves. This is heathenism "on the jazz", in the roiling and boiling of Weorthandi, the ever-bubbling present moment of possibility, actively stretching its hands out into the Skuld, all of the possibilities that the present moment's tendencies, and the blossoming within each of our potentials, promises, and making that promise tangible. It is a heathenism that transforms the paying of Skuld's debts from an obligation into an adventure. It is bold, rigorous, more like a drill sergeant or tough coach than a host welcoming home.

There is a warrior-aspect to those who tend Skuld, who feel Skuld's connections. There's a reason Skuld is presented as a valkyrie. Skuld is, in a sense, warring against status quo tendencies of stagnation which weigh down the entire process of possibility with the "sin" of inactivity and failure-to-develop. Anyone who has ever walked the edge knows that one must battle against inertia in order to open out new ways of thinking and living. Risks must be taken. Normalizing, domesticating influences must be forcefully held back from making stillborn the process of development.

This is not militaristic war. This is guerilla, in-the-field, hyper-Taoist, nomadic, ever-shifting, small-but-tight pack, dynamic intensity engagement that knows when to throw against the wall and when to disappear completely from the clearing into forests and marshes, as if some ghostly force emerged and assaulted like a wild hunt of the winds, and then vanished into the woodworks. And it's not -- at least most of the time -- literal war. This is the struggle of creativity, the battle to keep life active and dynamic, and to ruthlessly and intelligently counter the forces of inertia keeping Skuld's full debts and promises from being paid with deeds that blossom our powers. This is "keeping ourselves in the field", tending Ariovistus' brag, keeping the "roofs" of domesticity far enough from us that our own riotous forces of becoming are not squelched.

This is that mira diversitate naturae, "extraordinary and marvelous diversity within the nature and character", of the Germanic people, that Tacitus speaks of in Germania 15, cum idem homines sic ament inertiam et oderint quietem, "such that in the same person is found a love of repose and a hatred of quiet". (My translation). Tacitus speaks of this same nature elsewhere in Germania 14, Si civitas, in qua orti sunt, longa pace et otio torpeat, plerique nobilium adulescentium petunt ultro eas nationes, quae tum bellum aliquod gerunt, quia et ingrata genti quies et facilius inter ancipitia clarescunt magnum... "If the community in which they are born stagnates for long in peace and inactivity, the young nobles desire to pass into other nations, who at that time are engaged in combat, because ease and quiet are unpleasant to these people, but by risky and great (deeds) they glorify and ennoble themselves." (My translation). The key word here is torpeat, to "stagnate". It is the Latin root of our modern word "torpor", a numbness, a sluggishness, a kind of inactivity characterized by dullness, apathy, and the active forces of potential going dormant. It is torpor that the turbulence of the heathen spirit can never brook for too long, because torpor is the very opposite of wod, the mad, rushing, circulating forces of this dynamic cosmos of Becoming.

We ought not translate Tacitus' pace as "peace", but rather "pacified, repressed, held back". The quietem and pace Tacitus is struggling to articulate in his Latin language, is not frith. Frith does not represent the repression and domestication of active forces within the soul, but their dynamic harmonization. It's a completely different concept. Tacitus is telling us that when it comes to the kind of quietem and pace the Romans like to impose, the Germani are continually "disturbing the peace", a peace in name only, a kind of peace the Germani find to be a kind of living death, because a suppression of forces seeking to blossom themselves out in engagement with the world. We may borrow a Situationist slogan to speak to this juxtaposition Tacitus tries to express : "In a society that abolishes adventure, the only adventure is to abolish that society." These are a people who love and relish challenges, the kinds of challenges in which one can "prove one's mettle" and test one's worth, "worth" in the fullest sense of becoming all that one can be. There are battles that are so tough that they wear down on a person, and squash their worthing-process ; these are not the challenges looked forward to. On the other hand, on the other side of the spectrum, there are dormancies that allow no worth to emerge. Life, as always in heathenism, is lived in that dynamic middle.

These are a people who ancipitia clarescunt magnum, come into the light through boldness and peril, through risk and daring. They distinguish themselves in the light of adventure. They find enlightenment and illumination through a gamble which allows them to clarify themselves. All of these nuances are found in those three Latin words, and they are apropo. This is "glory". Glory follows Skuld. Skuld paves the way and lights the path towards glory.

The battle Skuld calls us into is the battle against torpor and inertia, against a status-quo --- any status-quo --- that pacifies and suppresses our own potential and blossoming. This is not a war of machismo, of hardened, militarist stances and poses. Have our people forgotten completely the rigor mortis Roman-style militarism inculcates and breeds? Roman-style militaries (and we all know on what model the modern standing-armies are based) are the death of a harrier, the old-style raider and guerilla warrior, the one who literally harasses the forces of stagnation. "Torpor" comes from a PIE root meaning "to stiffen" and "rigidify" ; that this refers to rigor mortis is made certain by the Anglo-Saxon inflection, "steorfan", to die. The root also branches out into the word "sterile", barren, deprived, from stereos "firm, solid, stiff, hard" ( It is stagnation, rigidity, inflexibility, sterility, barrenness that the old harrier fights against. The host of harriers are supple, agile, limber, resilient, springy, and spry. Their strength is the turbulent suppleness of a wild and natural system, not the battering ram of the Roman Legionary machinery. It is not a standing army, but a nomadic whirlwind. The characteristic of such a guerilla warrior is mercuriality, not machismo, and let us remember that the Romans glossed Woden as Mercury, which tells us something important about his nature. (Well, further --- the days of the week as translated attest to a native assimilation of Mercury to Woden.) We approach this mercurial fury with inadequate but suggestive words like "stealth", "guerilla warrior", "ninja", and so forth. These are parodies, but they help to complement and fill in the gaps in our conceptions of the barbarian harrier.

Mercuriality, wits, turbulent forces of rushing, ability to ebb and flow at will according to the situation. Here we find strength in the turbulence itself, just as a river rushing in its spring floods has an unsurpassable strength. Here one needs to open one's mind to "madness", which is simply to say to the coalescing force-streams of inspiration that transcend normal, habitual, domesticated approaches; this "on the jazz", in-the-moment, in-touch reaching of the mind beyond the apparent is the strategy that gives genius to the heathen commander. This kind of strategizing, far different than the cold, Roman, machiavellian method, is actually a kind of spá, prophesying, peering into wyrd to ween the beyond-normal possibilities. Again and again, I entreat us not to banish the uncanny connotations of a word like "wyrd" which is evident in our modern inflection "weird", an inflection that brings out extremely important nuances and subtleties of meaning. As I have emphasized repeatedly, wyrd is weird ; it is appropriately named, and it means that in order to grasp the reality of a complex becoming, we must transcend normality, go beyond our habitual frameworks, find registers that surpass our superstitions and fears, peer into the un-inertia-d reality of Becoming which any one model or lens is inadequate to capture.

Bergson called the totality of becoming "duration" ; I find this too passive a concept to encompass what we're discussing. Rather, the totality of becoming is momentum. Momentum is the moment, our present, Verdandi ; it is the entire past history of the wave that has built and is falling behind the moment, with all of its force, power, and grandeur, which is the realm of Urd ; and it is simultaneously the possibilities and potencies of that force and momentum which drive it onwards beyond what it has been to what it may be. I would like to assert that Skuld's realm, the "may be", the maybe, is a sacred heathen realm. The skillful harrier or commander finds the moment of worth in Verdandi's open space of deeds, where the momentum-history of the wave may be turned with an eye towards Skuld, towards the glory of what may-be --- always, of course, with a gamble, with uncertainty, and with a sense of adventure.

So I would say, do not ask heathenism to make you comfortable with that which you have known, which that which your culture has trained you to think of as second nature and self-evident, but surpass towards the potential that transcends your own stagnation.

Next blog we will ask, how may this be done with masculinity?

For the moment, we will note that Wyrd is the uncanny, beyond-normal, dynamic momentum of Becoming, characterized by surges of wod, in which the teleological pull of the may be is an obligation every bit as powerful as the deeds of the past which comprise the history of the momentum's wave. Be attuned to what you may be ; be alert to the magic of what may happen.


Post a Comment

<< Home