Loosening the Gods
"And loosens out of every bond." (Lokasenna 37, said of Freyr)
"Leysir" can mean "loosen, free, dissolve", while "höptum" are "bonds, chains, fetters."
But interestingly enough, the word "höptum" is also a word used to refer to the Gods.
Now what would it mean to say that Freyr "loosens every god"?
Freyr is a god of Freedom and Joy, a god of Laughter and Liberation, a god of Celebration and Merriment.
Would Freyr want us to be in bondage to anyone or anything, including the Gods?
If Freyr loosens the bonds, he does so to give us that slack we need to not be uptight about something that is supposed to be a joyous relationship. Our bonds are bonds of trust, bonds of faith, that make us strong and resilient. They are not meant to put us into bondage.
Freyr as Liberator reminds us to not relate to our Gods as if we were in bondage to them.
That means we can question "them", we can think about "them" in different ways. I put "them" in quotes, because often when we dare to do this, we discover that we have not been questioning them at all, but our own concepts about them, which get in the way. Really we are in bondage to our own limited conceptions.
Are the Gods cosmic cartoon-characters who fit in every way their mythical image? Of course not! Those are stories, told to make their very real forces in the world come alive in the imagination, and allow important lessons to pass on through narratives. I don't dismiss the importance of those narratives when I say that ; they have been precisely crafted. But does that mean that worship has something to do with merely conjuring an image of a mythical character, and pledging ourselves to this character? That sounds like silly idolatry to me.
It also reminds me of Christians, who always said to "take Jesus into your heart". I always got the impression that all you had to do was visualize this guy with a beard in the center of your chest, and send some good feelings his way, and that was all there was to it. I'm convinced that for a lot of Christians this is actually the extent of their devotion. It's very devout play-acting that doesn't get to the essence. (No, I'm not insulting all Christians here. There are many Christians who go beyond this.)
The gods as images, as characters, are vehicles to help us experience their real forces which are inexplicable in real terms, at least in earth terms. In fact, it's absurd, in a sense, to try to pin them down with earth language, so far better to cast them in terms of predictable, easily memorizable characters whom the playful side of the mind can easily imagine and relate to. But the relation is to the force, the archetype, and not the image per se. Now some are going to say that I am trying to reduce the gods by calling them "forces" or "archetypes". You can use whatever word you wish ; I'm merely trying to articulate that they are mysteries beyond any theological theory of forces, archetypes, gods, personalities, images, etc. One can clutter one's mind with charts of correspondences or relate to a mental heavenly bureaucracy hoping one's prayers will go to the right department, or one can step back, breathe, and discover the profundity within simplicity.
I call it being A/Gnostic. Gnostic meaning valuing one's real, spiritual experiences. Agnostic meaning capable of questioning the frameworks we utilize to express those experiences. "Are the Gods real?" Gnostic : "Of course, I experience them." Agnostic : "Do you mean the characters in Marvel Comics' Thor?" From an A/Gnostic perspective, if an atheist comes to us and says, "Do you really believe in these things?", we can respond by saying, "Tell me what you mean when you say "believe". Is there love in my being for these powerful beauties (and beautiful powers) beyond expression? If you can get the poetry, as poetry, you are experiencing everything that is necessary ; all that is then required is to join the poetry by making your own life significant through living a life of poetry, power, and values."
We aren't required to worship our gods the way Christian theology envisions worshipping their deity. I've actually discovered a paradoxical effect to our gods such that on days when I am in a mood to dismiss them, or question them, those are the days I experience them the most powerfully! And no, not with any feeling of retribution or "told you so". Almost as if they were saying, duh, we're in your blood, you don't have to believe in us. We're here whether you believe in us or not. You will feel us.
It's more scientific that way. We're allowed to test reality. We're allowed to test our experience. Veistu hvé freista skal? Do you know how to test? We're dealing with reality here, not beliefs. Beliefs are just a way to approach reality. We're allowed to test our experience. And it has been my experience that when I do, I feel them even more.
I think that is what it may mean to "loosen the Gods". Freyr doesn't want our mind fettered, or for us to be cowering before mental imageries. It's ok to have fun, and to enjoy, even a good laugh or two from time to time in a well-meaning spirit of camaraderie.
Heathenism is totally compatible with agnostics and atheists, because it goes beyond either theism or atheism. And I think one can find traces of that in the theology of the Rhineland mystic Meister Eckhart, who perhaps carried on vestiges of a heathen approach to the gods. Eckhart's theology is very unique, and it was threatening to the Catholic Church, who condemned him. Eckhart had the courage to say, "I pray God to rid me of God."
Bil Darlison (http://www.unitarianchurchdublin.org/sermons/Atheistic%20Mystics.htm) calls this the approach of the "Atheistic Mystic", which is a great term. Darlison interprets Eckhart's quotation as meaning "I pray to be freed from this anthropomorphic creation of my own imagination which is actually impeding my ability to reconnect with the source of my existence, a source which I can only encounter within myself and not in some fancied external entity." That seems right on, except I would add that for a heathen, the source is not solely within the self, but also within the world. The world is a revelation of godhood. Of multiple godhood. Of multiple mysteries.
Ultimately, there is Wyrd. That is another way of saying Mystery. It means, we can stand under the stars with atheist friends and agree that as humans living in the mortal Midgard world, we don't know what the ultimate truths are, and are unable to ultimately define the gods --- in words. But in our hearts --- and in the world of feeling and purpose and power our hearts reveal to us --- there we know.
A/Gnosticism. It's a heathen way to consider.