Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Polite, Kind, Fair, and Loving Gods

Our gods are polite gods. That may sound strange, but what I mean by that is that they are not meddling gods. They know we have our disputes, and our conflicts, and our squabbles, and they try to stay out of them as much as possible, letting us have our business. In general, they stay out of things that are not their business. They are polite gods.

Now we can voluntarily make our business their business through blot and bidding, but they aren't thought police rummaging through our mental closets looking for porn or drugs. We're free beings ; they really don't care if we're looking at porn or doing drugs! (That is not to say they approve of addiction. All things in moderation.)

They know how tough it is for beings like ourselves, so confused yet so intelligent, full of such yearnings and yet in so many ways so powerless. They know. That is why they encourage us to develop our powers as much as we can, so that we can meet the challenges with just a little more ease. They are kind gods, compassionate gods. They know what it's like for the going to get rough. They've faced challenges themselves.

Tacitus said (in Germania 40) that Mother Earth got involved in the affairs of men, and it is clear from the context of her festival that that was to bring peace amongst men. Tacitus says the festival was characterized by laeti, a rich, Latin word meaning joy, happiness, prosperity, fertility, pleasure, wealth, pax et quies, peace, harmony, and calm, and amata, love. Amata can also mean "beloved", which interestingly enough, is the meaning of Frigg. So even when they intervene, it is with love in their hearts and a desire to bring peace to all of our quarrels.

(Sometimes there are things to really fight about, important matters that make a difference in life, and there we call upon Tyr to bring us victory about defending our rights and advancing our critical cause, but the gods well distinguish these crucial matters from our all-too-human tendency to quarrel over things that don't matter at all, not in the big scheme of things. And maybe that's a distinction the people of the world ought to consider more when they call upon God or the Gods to bless their wars --- is it a conflict that the Gods even care about at all? Would they consider it a conflict worthy of any bloodshed? Could they possibly find any justice in the cause whatsoever? I think an honest look at many wars would reveal that the gods would find such ventures foolish at best. But that is not to say there are not fights and causes worth fighting for. Choose your battles very carefully...)

Our Gods have expectations for us. They expect us to use the gifts we've been given, and develop the powers within us. They know life can be very trying for us, but they do expect us to not act beneath ourselves, nor continue in behavior that is unworthy of us. A mistake or two is ok, but we are expected to make the effort to learn from our mistakes. Stubborn, willful foolishness is another matter. It is not per se strictly punished, but definitely not smiled upon. The Gods can say to us, "Come on, you know you can do better." And they want us to do better. Because they want us to thrive. They have little patience for learned helplessness, which Gods know, all of us suffer from.

Midgard is, in a way, a little cosmic nursery. We're allowed to play our games, get to know the neighborhood, and engage in our little playground fights, but we're supposed to be learning and growing as we do so. I hate to disappoint the would-be or wannabe gung-ho warriors, but they are really rather inclined to stay out of those little playground fights, and let us settle things on our own if we can. They'll help us hone our skills, but only so far as to learn the lessons that we need to learn. These will differ from individual to individual. But the skills-support comes with an expectation to wise up to whatever we have to learn in the situation. Good and bad are always mixed in the affairs of men, and most of the time there is plenty of blame to go around.

They don't want to rub that in our faces. They're fair gods, polite gods, kind gods. That may not be the image they have in the media or general consciousness, which sees them as "don't-want-to-fuck-with-them" gods, and that is true, so far as that goes : you don't! But that fierce face is emphasized to the detriment of the heathen value behind it. Ynglingasaga 7 says of Odin, Óvinir hans óttuðust hann en vinir hans treystust honum, "His enemies (literally, "un-friends", an interesting word, implying some kind of betrayal of a trust or treaty which once existed) feared him and his friends put their trust in him." This is a phrase one finds all over heathen documents. It was a widely shared value. In the Saga of Yngvar the Traveller, Chapter 3, we are told, "Yngvar was a man great in stature, handsome and strong and fair-faced, wise and well-spoken, kind and generous with his friends, but grim with his enemies, courteous and quick and alert..." (emphasis mine.) Walther advises sît gegen friunden senfte, tragt gein vînden hôhgemüete, "Go softly on your friends, but show defiance towards your foes." In Brennu-Njálssaga, Chapter 114 section 4, we read of one Snorri that hann var gôdr vinum sínum en grimmr óvinum, "he was good with his friends and grim with his enemies". And so forth. The important point here is that the general consciousness focuses upon the grimness of our gods and underemphasizes their goodness. They are good, and soft, kind and generous, and trustworthy with those who are their friends. And they would like us mortals to be their friends. Because they have so much to offer us. They love us.

Yes, they love us.


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