Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Idunn, Keeper of the Apples of the Fountain of Youth

Idunn brews cider from the fruits at the top of the World-Tree. This brew is very similar to the dyrar veigar, which takes away the pain of all losses, defeats, disappointments, and wounds. Of the dyrar veigar, Helgi Hundingsbani says, Vel skulum drekka dýrar veigar, þótt misst hafim munar ok landa; skal engi maðr angrljóð kveða þótt mér á brjósti benjar líti, nú eru brúðir byrgðar í haugi,lofða dísir hjá oss liðnum, "Deeply shall we drink the precious, noble drinks, and though we have lost pleasure, happiness, and land, no man shall sing songs of grief or anguish, nay, even though one's breast appears mortally wounded ; for now are precious brides enclosed in the grave, the disir of men, coming close to us dearly departed." In other words, it is a drink given to the dead to take away all sorrows, all disappointments, all wounds, and it is administered by the disir of the dead, who approach with a cup of the prepared fluids.

Idunn is precisely akin to these disir, except instead of administering her drinks to the dead, she brews her cider for the Gods, but the effect is exactly the same. By sakar deyfði (Guðrúnarkviða in Forna 23) "deafening, soothing, and allying injuries" and né ... sakar munðak (Guðrúnarkviða in Forna 21) "negating the memory of sorrow, blame, guilt, and quarrels", it is in-itself rejuvenating. Why? It is these things that make us old. The dyrar veigar releases the emotional chains to the past, which age us.

Gylfaginning 26 tells us Iðunn...varðveitir í eski sínu epli þau, er goðin skulu á bíta þá er þau eldast, ok verða þá allir ungir, ok svá mun vera allt til ragnarökrs, “She keeps in her ashen box those apples that the gods shall bite when they grow old, and will all then become young, and so it will be until Ragnarok.” The apples are clearly rejuvenating. Skaldskaparmal 22 specifically calls them ellilyf asana, literally the “old-age herbs of the Aesir”, with lyf or lyb meaning a medicine, drug, or herb, and thus the remedy for old-age. This implies that she is a lybbestre, a sorceress or witch-brewer. This old-age remedy is so important that Gylfaginning 26 says, Allmikit þykkir mér goðin eiga undir gæzlu eða trúnaði Iðunnar, “I think the Gods owe a great deal to the watchful-gaze and good-faith of Idunn.” The time she was abducted from the Gods was called ófæru, a “disastrous situation”, the “horrible departure”.

Idunn was associated with mead since she was a child, and is called Byrgis ár-Gefn, the “Harvest-Giver of Byrgir”, Byrgir being the fountain of mead which Bil and Hjuki were fetching with their pail as they went up the hill, the mead that subsequently ended up in Mani’s moonship. Her name, the Fruitfulness-Giver of the Mead-Spring speaks well her function of brewing the cider from the meadsap that collects and concentrates in the World-Tree’s fruits. “Gefn” is also a byname of Freya, so she may be called “Fruitful-Freya of the Mead-Fountain”. Perhaps this Mead-Fountain ought to be called a Jungbrunnen, a “Fountain of Youth”, yielding, “The Fruitful Freya of the Fountain of Youth”.

In the story of Huon de Bordeaux, we find a fountain that “resuscitates” from toil and weariness, and which “recovers…pristine vigor”, near to which “grew a tree, of which the apples partook of the resuscitating properties of the water by which its roots were nourished.” (Cited in E.W. Hopkins, "The Fountain of Youth", in E. Washburns Hopkins, Charles C. Torrey, eds., Journal of the American Oriental Society, Twenty-Sixth Volume, First Half, The American Oriental Society, New Haven, Connecticut, 1905, p.8.) The fluid, mead, or sap concentrated in these apples or the cider brewed therefrom is so rejuvenating that they are said in the French romance, Le Livre du preux et vaillant Jason et de la belle Medee, to make the imbiber “enclin a chanter, danser, et faire toutes choses joyeuses”, “inclined to sing, dance, and make all things merry” (Ibid, p. 7.) It heals weariness and restores the connection to vigor and joy.

This same rejuvenating power is alluded to in the legendary letter of Prester John where it is said (Ibid, p. 12), de quo fonte si quis ... gustaverit, ante CCC annos tres menses tres hebdomadas tres dies et tres horas non morietur et erit semper in aetate extremae juventutis, “of this fountain whomever tastes for three hundred years, three months, three weeks, three days, and three hours shall not die and will always be in a period of extreme youth”. An Old Norse story (Ibid, pp. 13 – 14) mentions a spring and apple-tree such that "whoever drinks of the water and eats of those apples will become young again,” and which is found thousands of miles across the ocean in a high castle. Gervasius of Tilbury mentions a spring (Ibid, p. 17) in his Otia Imperialia of which quae tantam habet in resumendis corporum viribus efficaciam, “whoever partakes of its greatness recovers their bodily strength effectively".

An excellent description of the effects of Idunn’s apple-cider brewed from the Jungbrunnen’s fruits is in the 20th Rune or Song from John Martin Crawford’s translation of the Kalevala, which speaks of the effects of a magical beer, “Said to make the feeble hardy, Famed to dry the tears of women, Famed to cheer the broken-hearted, Make the aged young and supple, Make the timid brave and mighty, Make the brave men ever braver, Fill the heart with joy and gladness,Fill the mind with wisdom-sayings, Fill the tongue with ancient legends…”

A potent brew indeed.

Idunn’s ófaeru, her disastrous departure and abduction, took place during a great winter that had threatened to take over all time, a Fimbulwinter that promised no spring, and in which the Gods grew old and wearied. Her return marked the end of that winter, and the beginning of a new Spring. She had been abducted into the Eastern lands of Jotunheim, and came from the East when she returned. Thus, her spring festival of renewal was known as “Eostre”, “She Who Came From the East”, and indeed, like the Dawn, she shines with her native elf-sheen. A daughter of Ivaldi and Sunna Swanfeather, daughter of Sol, the sun-goddess, she is both a shining dis of Eastern Dawn and a potent brewstress, as her father Ivaldi was, and as her sister Sif is renowned. In the cognate Greek mythos, the Hesperides or Ladies of Sunset guard the golden apples, and Idunn is the daughter of Sunna-Rind, who lives in the Varns, the Guarded Woodlands of Sunset.

As sister to the Sons of Ivaldi, she has a direct connection to the power spoken of by the Rig-Veda about the Ribhus, who are the cognates of the Sons of Ivaldi: “with surpassing skill ye made your aged Parents youthful as before.” (Rig Veda I.CX.8, Ralph Griffith translation), and again, “made life young again” (Ibid, CXI.1). This power is mentioned multiple times, and is obviously a skill that Idunn especially shares.

Idunn is therefore a Goddess of Youth and Rejuvenation. Volundarkvida calls her Alvitr unga, “All-White the Young”.

In Volundarkvida, she is also called Hervör-Alvit, “The All-White Refuge of the [Gods’] Host”, and is explicitly called a swan-maiden who spins flax with her swan-maiden sisters. They have been sent in this poem to the Wolfdales to örlög drýgja, to carry out the commands of the Fate-Goddess, even though they yearn to be back home. Here they stay with the Sons of Ivaldi, attempting to be peace-weavers. Forspjallsljod 8 says that syrgja Naumu viggjar að véum, “Nauma (Idunn) sorrowed in the wolf’s home” and that vargsbelg seldu, she was forced into a wolfskin which changed her temper, and kunni…haldan, felt angry being held there. Eventually she and her sisters left in frustration, having consorted with their brothers but having failed to turn them from ill back to good. Volund awaited her return and sorely missed her, later coercing Loki to abduct her and bring her to him. This was the ófaeru when she was missing from the Gods.

That she is so fiercely coveted by the jotnar is no accident ; the barren and monstrous often exhibit an inordinate and unnatural paedophilia (“fondness for the young”) due to their own inability to draw upon reserves of youth within themselves, and thus behave like vampires robbing it from others. Idunn obviously has such reserves of youth, with her epithet of Unga, “The Young”, and is able to teach others how to draw upon these reserves. This energy vampires seek to suck from children, because they have nothing within themselves. This same energy, pure and awesomely powerful, Idunn has within her. She draws upon her little girl energy to rejuvenate the apple-cider brew, and must, given her epithet, indeed maintain an extremely youthful appearance and shape which helps her bring out the youthful juice and sap in the apples. Perhaps one of the reasons she was so angry and was said to wear a wolf’s coat was because of her abduction by wolfish and cold folk living in barren wastelands. Youth is to remain shining, on the mountaintops, and not abducted into cold underworlds. Idunn no doubt demonstrates a fierce wolfishness towards any who would try to rob youth from the young, which is an abomination stemming from religiouslessness, for she shares with her worshippers the secrets of tapping that openness, newness, and freshness we all admire in the young. It is not for nothing that she is the Goddess of Easter!

Bede in his eight-century De Temporum Ratione said, Veteres Anglicani populi vocant Estormonath paschalem mensem, idque a dea quadem cui Teutonici populi in paganismo sacrificia fecerunt tempore mensis Aprilis, quae Eostra est appellate, "The ancient English people called the month of Passover Easter-Month, and she was the goddess to whom the Teutonic people in the pagan world made offerings and sacrifice in the season of the month of April, which Easter is called." It is traditional in European countries, especially Teutonic and Scandinavian ones, to construct an “Egg-Tree” on Easter, in which eggs are hung from branches. These are clearly the fruits of the World-Tree, and medieval clergymen, in an attempt to co-opt these into the faith, compared Easter eggs to the Eucharist, the bread and wine with which one shared in the immortality of Christ. Idunn’s “eggs” or fruit similarly brought eternal youth. As far as eggs go, the fruit of the world-tree contained a life- or soul- essence which became the embryos of babies, and thus could easily be called “eggs”, and we must not forget that Idunn was specifically called a “Swan-Maiden”. “Eggs of the Swan-Maiden” would be an excellent poetic reference to Idunn’s apples. Eggs are on their face symbols of youth. The Easter associations of rabbits, birds, and their eggs are all symbols of Spring and the rejuvenation it brings to the land after the old-age barrenness of Winter.

Idunn urges us to pay attention to youth, not in their childishness, but in the idealism that they especially are capable of, so that we might be awakened out of our cynicism. We need idealism to keep our souls young, and those who carry it, despite their chronological age, remain young at heart. The cynical and disheartened, on the other hand, when they have not become outright wolfish (with schadenfreude and resentment) are often unnaturally old. Youthfulness here is a quality of soul which imbues the whole being with vitality.

Idunn is the archetype of youthfulness within a strong, mature being. Rather than remaining a child, she is the image of a strong adult who has kept the child within her alive, nourished, and powerful, a prophetic voice that is capable of calling out the resignation, despair, and hopelessness that creeps into those worn down by the battle with evil, when evil so often seems to win the day. She is able to keep her eye on the future possibilities and keep her inner direction clear. She knows how to keep the direction clear, because she was once misled herself, and so teaches how to avoid such gullibility and pitfalls, and also how to recover when one has walked down a fraudulent path and fallen into trouble. Again, she keeps her youth within a powerful and shining, sinewy matrix of maturity.

In short, Idunn, elf, swan-maiden, Goddess, is indispensable to the Gods and to all who wish to learn the secrets of rejuvenation, secrets which are not only external elements of herbs and so forth, but re-youthing that comes through undoing the pain of toil, weariness, disappointment, and sorrow. Idunn is truly a Goddess to pray to for boons and blessings! Hail Idunn!

all translations copyright 2008 by Siegfried Goodfellow

Hymn to Idunn

Granddaughter of the Sun
Goddess and Elf
Daughter of the Great Brewer
Keeper of the Secrets of Youth,
Teach us to tap that inner child as you do,
Shining one, elixir-brewing your ambrosia-cider
of Rejuvenation.

Sister of the Dawns,
Daughters of Sunna Swanfeather,
Let us find the fruits within us,
O Genius of Freshness,
O Ever Bright Mistress of Dawn,
Eastern One, Bringer-Back to Life.

Spring mourned you through the long winter.
Spring welcomed you when you came back.
Your multicolored fruit are eggs of Eastre,
O Easter Goddess, Keeper of the Apples
at the top of the Tree.

Rejuvenate us! Release us from sorrows and cares.
Wash away the pain and guilt
that chains us to hopelessness and weariness.
Wash away the anguish with your potent draughts,
For every day is Dawn when you walk through our lives.
Walk through our lives this day.
Open white gauze armlets and
cast away haze before eyes!

You married the bold teller of stories,
The tall-tale master of yarns,
He whose brags are true.
He heralds deeds,
You herald dawn, and spring's refreshment.

O Dryad of the highest limbs
O Priestess of the Tree's own sap
O Sitter in the boughs on highest,
You watch all, none escapes your sight,
O canopy's Surveyor, O glistening
dis in the Glasir Groves.
Tree-top's tender, pluckstress
of the potent fruits,
Sif's sister brewing high above.

Save us a sip, O sibling of Vali.
Let us lay weariness down
like an unworthy coat,
and strip, refulgent, nubile, bright
as your youth, ever-shining,
Most gracious Goddess of the Easter Morning!

Trust What Turmoil Can Teach

Turmoil is to be trusted at times. There's wod in it, and wod has intelligence. There is a stirring-up power that can manifest in dissatisfaction and turmoil that broils and boils one up from complacency, that if listened to can lead to evolution.

What am I upset about? Dream about the upset. Dream about the turmoil. Go under the cloak. Odin will whisper to you through wod, if you will listen.

Be proud that you have a Chief God who is not about contentment, not about pacification, not about accepting things "as they are", but whose magic stems from his fury, from his turbulence, from his continual self-overcoming that allows the cosmos as a whole to evolve ; in short, that affirms Becoming.

Widespread Disrespect for Tyr

I've come to believe that we live in a culture that has a profound lack of respect for Tyr. First of all, it is incapable of distinguishing Tyr, a God, from a completely out-of-control jotunn force of rage and violence. It confuses Tyr and Fenris! Easy to do in a culture so shaped by Rome ; after all, Romulus, from whom Rome was named, was a son of Mars and fostered by a Wolf.

We are a strange culture, based on a widespread suppression of anger, and yet full of violence and rage. It's no wonder. Tyr is a civilizing force, in the best sense of the term. He makes anger into an art, an art of expression, of bringing conflict out into the open where it can be dealt with, and allowing anger to articulate where rights are being stepped on, even when the official "law" does not recognize such rights. Law as layers, as sedimentation in an ever-circulating well, is always evolving, and anger gives us the opportunity to reflect where things are not right, and to speak up about them. A society unwilling to listen to assertions of right is a society worth fighting.

Brutality is not of Tyr. Brutality is jotunn, through and through. And the world is full of it, because the world has not yet been completed. It requires our challenge. Yes, we deprive the world of good when we deprive it of our challenge!

Yet how often do we really encourage someone who is standing up, and how often do we say, sit down and shut up? We don't really admire deeds of daring anymore, deeds that come from the heart, deeds that come from inner initiative, deeds that do not ask permission, deeds that challenge the status quo, deeds that follow the inner sense of rights and refuse to have them stepped upon.

Can I go so far as to say that we have effectively exiled Tyr? Why not? Isn't war our greatest export business? In other words, anywhere but here? I'm not suggesting we bring "war" here. But "fight" at all is forbidden, and completely channelized into export, where it overwhelmingly serves manipulators who laugh at the heroes they are exploiting, and don't care at all what their fate is once they've won the fatcats whatever "strategic advantage" they needed for their profits. And it's easy for the impulses to get exported, because fights certainly have no advantage here. "Resistance is futile" is the message overwhelmingly broadcast here. The court-system no longer serves us and is infested with lawyers and bureaucrats who twist justice into a parody of itself. Where are Tyr's courts? Anywhere?

Are we listening to our anger? Our anger that says, something is wrong? Our anger that says, something needs to be righted? Our anger that says, if we don't do something about this, we will be taken over by jotunnish impulses which will degrade and destroy everything we find holy? Without righting wrongs, we will become rageful, violent, resentful, spastic, and cowardly. We will become brutal.

And never mistake brutality for anything that has to do with Tyr. Are you worshipping a God or a jotunn? It's a beautiful question.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Words of Wisdom For Trying Economic Times

Angrboda is but another incarnation of Gullveig. The Power of Gold reappears as the Foretelling of Angst. Predictions of doom and gloom surround the might of gold-greed.

From house to house she went, spreading prophecies of doom, encouraging stinginess, hoarding, every man for himself.

She works her sorcery by playing with minds (seið hon hugleikin, Voluspa 22). Those who are ill always savor her stench (æ var hon angan illrar, Voluspa 22). If she can attune the mind to belief in fear, she's got them ; she will be able to work her sorcery.

Fear : she sees fires burning, the earth blazing. Hyr sé ek brenna, en hauðr loga, Hyndluljod 49. She taps into that apocalypse-archetype, that deep fear within us all. What if everything goes wrong? What if it all falls apart?

It is not for nothing that she is said to fœddi ... Fenris kindir (Voluspa 40), "breed Fenris' kind". This is done through her hugleikin, toying with minds. For if enough people believe a prophecy, it becomes self-fulfilling. To believe in Muspel is to become one of Muspells lýðir (Voluspa 51), "Muspel's people", "folk led by Muspel". And we know who steers that ship : Loki. And a hint : these doom-frightened folk are not sailing out to help the Gods.

Who or what is "Muspel"? Its uses suggest fire or fiery judgement, precisely the apocalyptic mindstate we've been referring to. Grimm lets us know that the suffix is from spiöll, spilla, spillan, to destroy, kill, break, or lose. The term "Muspel" in Old Saxon is Mut-spel, and "mut" means "courage". Muspel is that which destroys courage. When courage loses out to fear, the flames call out to men and make them his own.

...Fara fíflmegir með freka allir (Voluspa 51), "All of the fool's sons travel with the Wolf". Fífl means "fool", "clown", or even "whore". It is an excellent heiti for Loki, and even for his mistress Angrboda. It's a Ship of Fools led by a Liar and his Wolfish son.

All of this is connected ... the fear of the flames, the predictions of doom, the consequent stingy shrinking and shrivelling up against frith and mutual aid, the drunken power of gold that completely smashed and out of its wits seems to have no fear of the fire, from which it emerges again and again and again, while leading those quite susceptible to the flames right into the firepit.

This doesn't mean bad times don't come. This doesn't mean polyanna and denial and pretending like everything's ok. It means not believing in fear, not trusting in fear, but putting one's trust and faith in the Gods, even when things look grim. Sometimes we must stretch our mind beyond appearances to hidden possibililities. Sometimes we must believe beyond destruction and beyond the struggles at hand. Otherwise, we become narrow, we become molded by the fear, we become those led by the spoiling of courage...

We have failed to have faith in Frey and Freya. We have put our faith collectively in Loki and Gullveig. Faith is evident in our deeds. It is evident in where we really invest our energy, our time, and our labor, despite what our words may say. We have tolerated the antics of jugglers and tricksters, liars and con-men placing bet upon bet upon sleight-of-hand fraud (can you say "derivatives"?), who laugh their gold-greedy selves all the way to the bank, while they are bailed out on the backs of the common folk.

That times are bad? Of course! The jugglers are in charge. Saxo tells of a time when Odin was exiled. Let's look at this deeply. To exile Odin has a deeper meaning. Where is one's courage, one's fury, one's mod and wod when Odin is exiled? His place is taken for a while by Mid-Odin, a heiti to which we can compare the phrase miðlungar snotr, "middlingly wise", ie., foolish. This Mid-Odin is praestigiis celeber, "notorious for his deception/illusions/tricks/juggling", and he leads a magorum coetus, "gang of sorcerors" who had dared to caelestium honorum titulos gesserant, "carry the title and honor of heavenly gods". He himself occasionem et ipse fingendae divinitatis arripuit, "seized the opportunity to pretend to highest divinity", and barbarasque mentes novis erroris tenebris circumfusas, "surrounded the minds of the barbarians with the darkness and obscurity of new and extraordinary errors". Ignorance, deception, concealment, illusion. Prior to this time, all the Gods would be sacrificed to collectively, but Mit-Othyn multiplied sacrifices and obligations, threatening folk with the iram, the ire or wrath of the Gods, if they did not render up separate sacrifices for every single God. Threatening and terrorizing people to multiply their obligations. When Odin returned, he said, Give, but do not overgive. Do we overgive? Have we bowed down before bands of sorcerors and so-called wise men (middlingly wise) who are notorious for their deceptions, tricks, and illusions? Have we allowed them to live like gods and arrogate themselves to some untouchable position of divinity or near-divinity? Do we hold them as holy? Because we have exiled Odin in our hearts.

What would Odin say to trying times? He would say, Sútum görvöllum (Havamal 146), "prepare yourself against grief and sickness". Görvöllum, "gear yourself up", "make yourself ready", put into effect preparations. It's from gørva, which can mean to make, construct, build, set in order, prepare, perform, contract, render, do, judge, plan, and distinguish. Set your things in order. Plan for bad times, judge accordingly, and prepare. Þurra skíða ok þakinna næfra,þess kann maðr mjöt ok þess viðar er vinnask megi mál ok misseri. (Havamal 60.) “Of dry firewood and bundles of thatch a man knows the right measure, and enough wood that may last throughout the winter". Make sure your roof is thatched, your goats in order, your seed planted and tended. And don't think it's all about self-reliance. That's a healthy part of preparation, but preparation is itself a part of that wondrous, magical song or spell called "help". Hjalp ... en þat þér hjalpa mun við sökum ok sorgu, "Help is what will help you against harm and sorrow."

In other words, self-reliance and mutual-aid. That's Odin's answer to Angrboda's fear-mongering.

What about Freya's? How does Freya answer to the threatened fires of Mutspell?

Orðheill þín skal engu ráða, þóttú, brúðr jötuns bölvi heitir! "Your omens shall have no authority, Jotunn's Bride, though you threaten bale!" Bölvi: bale, trouble, misfortune, sorrow, but also curses. "Your curses shall never be good counsel!" Your baleful omens shall have no authority, Jotunn's Bride!

Good words. Words to know, words to spread around, in times of trouble. Do not let her til húsa kom, come to your house or the houses of your neighborhood and seið hugleikin, bewitch you by toying with your mind. Gear up, ask for help when you need it, give help when it is needed, and don't let your courage be destroyed. A word to the wise is sufficient.

Upon What Foundation?

Heathenism favors the middle zones. It is what is hashed out in the middle between extremes which is to be valued. This follows the value of hof, or moderation. This means every one of us is called out into that confrontation zone or arena in the midst of Pragmatism and Principles to hash out and wrestle with their balance. If we are untrue to either side, we may be straying from the balance that our heathenism advises.

It may be true that the purely pragmatic have the advantage in this world built largely now upon Loki's trickery and Gullveig's greed (and thus hardly resembling Midgard at all), but if we capitulate to this pure pragmatism, we build a world of Machiavellian realpolitik where cynical realism rules the day, and such capitulation is neither honorable nor warrior-like, and ill befits a freeman. The struggle of a heathen warrior is to demonstrate that principles can have their place in pragmatism, no?

This impinges upon the question of Wealth versus Illth. If we build prosperity upon the wrong foundations, what stability can it hold? And will the structure be able to hold our soul even if it can feed our body? Will a soulless home hold?

Of course we want prosperity! Heathenism would never deny us this. But at what cost and with what methods? It seems sometimes we approach things all the wrong way, building upon foundations of ill, and then do not understand when things come tumbling down.

While such a statement has a particularly unfortunate resonance with the present state of the economy, we can also counter by arguing that in a society dominated by giants, we, the common people, are often tied between a rock and a hard place. As individuals, we have no control over how wealth is generated as a whole, and we're just trying to make our way and do our best, and we can't be naive goody-goods refusing to accept advantage because our hands might be dirty ... We're heathens, after all, we worship a God of Fertility (amongst others), and there's something holy about hands covered with Earth! You have to get your hands dirty to farm, and in a world of scoundrels, sometimes the choice of being entirely pure is not a viable option, but one has to choose what level of compromise one wants to make with scoundrelry. But then, our Principles re-emerge from the midst of this Pragmatism, and we have to ask, what level of compromise can one make and still maintain one's integrity? We may not be able to get through life pristine and pure, but how far into the muck and mire do we go?

Yet then again, round and round in our little debate, our series of holy questions, we may rejoind that purity is only an option for the privileged in an imperfect world that we didn't make, and where the games are played by rules we had no part in making. What other choice do we, the common people, have in this mess but to get messy?


Isn't that what distinguishes a freeman from a thrall? The willingness to fight? I don't mean to put it so bluntly, but the total unwillingness to consider a martial option is hardly befitting a freeman. Oh, we'll consider the martial option so long as it is an imperially-authorized venture into some country across the ocean whose people have skins that aren't white, all the time trying to justify it as somehow related to "fighting for our freedoms", but when it comes back down to the streets, to the workplaces, to the rules invoked in courtrooms, to the mis/representatives passing law that has no connection to our consent, what fight is there? And no, I'm not suggesting that the only degree of the martial option open is violence or open warfare, but some kind of challenge, some willingness to look reality in the eye and say, I'm going to fight you if you step over my rights. I know, I know, we're all supposed to "accept reality", and some might try to smuggle this in as somehow compatible with our heathenish pragmatism, but I don't think so. When we plan to campaign, we must realistically assess all of the obstacles and options, and know when and where it is wise and when it is foolhardy to engage, but at least we are then campaigning and engaging!! I'm not talking illegalism and vigilanteism. I'm talking a little jealousy of our rights and a little bite in the defense of them!

I don't think what I'm saying here is particularly controversial either from the perspective of the ancient Germani, nor from the patriotic perspective of our American founding-fathers.

So ... we'll get to the Wealth versus Illth question, but before we do, it has been necessary to address whether it is reasonable to critique the foundation of wealth, and ask whether it strikes a fair balance between Pragmatism and Principles. If it is not reasonable, we will not be able to proceed far at all. I hope I have demonstrated that it is indeed reasonable and necessary, and if we can begin from those premises, then we can go on to ask some penetrating questions about the foundations of our prosperity, and how we might build a structure that will support our wealth and not our illth, in a way good for us, our families, and the earth around us. Not a perfect structure, but a good one.

A Heathen Reads Contracts

I was speaking with a friend and colleague of mine, someone who is definitely well within the mainstream, and even at times conservatively so, representing a good "slice" of the average American mainstream.

We were speaking about contracts. I said, "Well, you can't sign a contract in which you haven't read all the stipulations."

She said, "What are you talking about? No one reads their contracts. Do you think I read all the stipulations in the 42 pages of my mortgage? Do you think I read all the fine print when I signed up for my credit card? No one does that."

Now I think she's wrong that "no one" does that, but I think she is substantially correct that almost no one does, and that ignoring such legal gobbledy-gook is pretty much the norm. So when I contend with her statements here, I want to make it clear that I am not contending with her nor exposing her to ridicule. In fact, I thank her for so clearly articulating what I think is very much common practice.

It's a practice I've struggled with since I was a young man. Ever since I was beginning my emancipation into this morass we call adulthood, I have been being urged to sign things, and "not to worry" about what the contract said or what it meant. Well, I was in Speech and Debate in high school, and this position didn't make a lot of sense to me. Yet I was continually hounded with it, and ridiculed myself for wanting to know what contracts said.

From a heathen standpoint, this modern attitude --- one often forced upon children, one almost encouraged in the educational systems --- is completely contrary to heathen values.

In heathenism, you never take an oath unless you : a) agree with it in full, and b) are ready to carry it out and be bound by it. A heathen's approach to oaths and contracts is that we get to write our own law, and we do it with the agreements we agree to. It so happens that to a large degree, the legal system agrees with this, and will hold people obligated to what they have signed. In the old days, oaths were filled with stipulations, escape clauses, and qualifications, because a good heathen did not swear to an oath he could not in good faith and conscience agree to and hope to carry out.

But we don't do that, because truly speaking, most of the contracts we are handed are not negotiated in a bilateral manner, but handed down in a unilateral, "take it or leave it" approach where in fact there are few either viable or obvious alternatives.

The result is that we bind ourselves to all kinds of things, things we have no idea about, and end up being bound to jurisdictions that severely infringe upon our full freedom. Since this seems to be the "only" way to "get by" in this world, we all accept this infringement of freedom as a matter of course, and just hope that we're never called on all those obligations, trusting in chance and statistics that we won't, and can just enjoy most of the benefits without incurring the negative side of the obligations. And perhaps this simply does work a lot of the time, and therefore represents a good bet. And a heathen is looking for a good bet and a good bargain in this world, and is not above making a good bet in a world that is often a gamble.

But even here we have to be careful. Heathens may be gamblers, but even gambling can go too far. Tacitus pointed out in Germania 24 that "so great is their love of winning that they ruin themselves through rashness and thoughtlessness and bankrupt themselves, and are at last thrown down from bodily liberty and freedom into voluntary servitude". (My translation.) In other words, people can gamble and become thralls. In the modern world, we can easily be well-fed, well-privileged thralls. A heathen gambles, but his or her freedom is also precious and to be preserved.

In a certain sense, though, the willful ignorance of contractual terms does follow a certain logic, a logic based in pragmatism, and an unspoken cynicism about the system. That is the perception that most "contracts" are in fact adhesion contracts, in which there is unequal bargaining position between the parties to the contract which severely limits the viability of the argument of free consent and ability to negotiate. Almost by definition, a "take it or leave it" contract that has been predetermined and predesigned, in which there is not even an option for negotiation, is an adhesion contract, and adhesion contracts understandably violate our sense of justice. And people have a sense that "what ain't just can't reasonably be bound to hurt you."

Unfortunately, when you give an oath or you sign a contract, you are binding yourself to its conditions, fair or not. If we were raised in a heathen culture, this would be rigorously and uncompromisingly taught from the day one, despite heathenism's common-sense and pragmatic approach to life. You don't give your enemy power over you by signing over your rights, and here, we must differ from a smiley-face kindergarden civics stance of "policemen are your friends" and so forth, and come down to earth with a pragmatic attitude that most of the people wanting you to sign contracts, especially unilateral adhesion contracts, are not your friends, and that in fact, when push comes to shove, they will end up in court as your enemy. (My point here is not to disparage the friendliness of police officers per se, but the namby-pamby idea that societal organizations out there in the real world are all working in one's best interests. A pragmatic viewpoint acknowledges that self-interest, and seldom "enlightened" self-interest, but competitive, cold, and uncaring self-interest barely bounded by the bare minimum of care the law sets down is often the real practice.)

An old-time heathen would almost never agree to a vow or contract in which stipulations, escape clauses, and qualifications were not simply expected and par for the course part of the negotiation-process. That's one of the problems we had with Christianity : its official representatives approached the "conversion" process in a unilateral way, and wanted to force adhesion contracts on us, and we didn't like that very much. We saw that, understandably, as an attempt to enslave us, to subordinate us, to insult us. The reflex was to reach for one's sword. Not necessarily to pull it out, mind you, but to reach for it all the same, as a reminder of the equality of powers. Perhaps that is why Tacitus said that Nihil autem neque publicae neque privatae rei nisi armati agunt, "they conduct neither public nor private business unless they are armed." (my translation.) There's some real gems in Germania that we often pass by and overlook without examining their deeper meaning. What does it mean for a community to never conduct business unless they are armed? Think about it : it says something. It is a reminder. It reminds the other party that they are not dealing with a thrall, but with someone ready at all times to defend their rights, and that their hand will be upon their hilt if they see an attempt to dominate or subordinate them in a way demeaning to their free status. Try bringing a sword into a credit card agreement and see what happens! (No, no, not unless you really wish to go to prison, but you see my point!) I've said before that the spears were there in the public assemblies to remind their leaders that they were not pushovers and would not stand to have their rights taken away. We see many instances in Heimskringla where the odallers show up to the Thing with their arms and make it very clear they're willing to use them in defense of their rights.

No, I'm not suggesting that we show up to contract negotiations with weapons. To a large degree, this quality of Germani culture was symbolic. It reminded everyone of their free and independent status. But it wasn't entirely symbolic. The threat was still there, and ancient Germani wanted to maintain the element of threat, at least enough to be taken seriously, at least enough to never be taken as a thrall.

With so many giants offering us adhesion contracts, aren't we taken as thralls on a regular basis? Nevertheless, a heathen reads contracts, and is careful with his or her gambles. If you make the gamble to agree to an agreement whose terms you rationally cannot agree with, simply because that is what "everyone does" and you will be denied benefits and opportunities widely available, you may lose something precious in the gamble even for all the benefits. You might win. You may gain both security and opportunity through the bargain, even though some essential liberty has been lost. But we know what Benjamin Franklin said about those willing to give up essential liberty for a little security ... Does one contract with a giant in order to receive benefits? Isn't that, in part, how some of the folk of Midgard in the myths became beholden to the giants when Frodi discovered their miserable condition and helped to free them?

Where does Pragmatism meet Principles? This is the real question of heathenism, and in fact, any tradition. Does heathenism's pragmatism go so far that one can run roughshod over principles, or is there a place where the line must be drawn? If the line cannot be drawn in advance for any individual heathen, then perhaps one of the genuinely spiritual questions of being a heathen is, Where will you draw the line?, and having to answer to the Gods, your ancestors, and your own dignity for the answer you give.

The Pragmatism versus Principles struggle is very poignant here. Under a societal condition of widespread, systematic adhesion, from a pragmatic point of view, it can be near crippling to stick to one's guns about free and independent negotiation of contracts, because the benefits and opportunities widely available to those who will sign (away their rights) are so substantial and so prevalent that who wants to be a poor man sticking to his rights? Yet Bú er betra, þótt lítit sé, halr er heima hverr; þótt tvær geitr eigi ok taugreftan sal, þat er þó betra en bæn.Bú er betra, þótt lítit sé, halr er heima hverr; blóðugt er hjarta þeim er biðja skal sér í mál hvert matar, "Home is better, though small, for a man is his own in his own house ; though he owns two goats and a shabby cottage, that is better still than begging. Home is better, though small, for a man is his own in his own house ; the heart bleeds for one who must beg for food at every meal." (My translation.)

Yet if one is a small cottager who maintains one's rights and retains one's arms, won't further benefits come in time if one organizes with others like oneself? Where should our benefits come from? From giants or from mutual aid? We're straying into the very important question that impinges further on our dilemma of Pragmatism vs. Principles of the heathen principles of Prosperity, and what is the difference of wealth and illth. But that is a topic for another time. For the time being, let me say, I know it can be lonely holding to your guns, but a heathen reads contracts...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Deeds Tend On The Interrupted-Shaping of the World

A realistic heathenism must begin with the soul. We must apply a soulful approach to heathenism. The Gods are Masters of the Soul, and it is our soul we must follow to find them and reach them, and it is through the Soul that our Gods are able to reach us and heal us. The Gods are the archetypes of the soul, and guides to its truth, with which we so often fall out of alignment.

This may seem a counter-intuitive approach, because we are far more likely to begin with a naive and naturalistic position, of expecting intervention in the realm of nature and the physical world. The relationship between the soul and nature is a far more complex problem, especially in an age of science, which sees impersonal laws of chance and habit (chains of cause and effect) ruling the physical world. While the Gods readily correspond to our soul, we are all tempted to ask proof for their rulership over the physical world, where, let's face it, it's easy to believe that prayers are seldom answered and luck only middlingly inspired through worship. Often the physical world seems controlled by jotnar, whose chaos, mayhem, lack of order, and unchanging brutal force seems to rule the day.

Other times the physical world goes on with its cycles, cycles, cycles, in a dance of regularity that can seem indifferent to our needs and aspirations. The Vanir tend to speak to the regularity of nature's cycles, and how to satiate appetite through working with those cycles, but it is the Aesir who speak to aspirations and ambition, and we seldom know how to keep peace between these two dynasties, even in our own souls. We are tempted to cry out, Where are the Gods? Why are they not intervening in behalf of their worshippers?

In the Old Indo-European mindstate, the Gods ruled Creation, which was still in formation, through their agents, the nature-spirits, but then there was a great sundering of the frith of the nature-spirits, elves dividing from dwarves, and many joined the service of the trolls. What's worse, in despair, many of the creative nature-powers went to sleep, going dormant in an age of increasing cynicism and corruption. The elves who ruled technology once served the Gods exclusively, warding off the trolls, but then in the sundering, whent off on their own, made alliance with trolls, and began forging tools of destruction rather than creation, benevolence, and mastery.

These myths weren't just told for delight and entertainment. They speak to a profound spiritual crisis in nature, where soul and nature have become alienated.

It points to the Gods as Rulers of the Soul who, through their agents the spirits of nature, originally also ruled the physical world by soulfully shaping a physical matter that was originally monstrous. This process of shaping was interrupted at a certain point, so that the taming of the monstrous was not complete. We certainly aren't (at least yet) living in an age of total disaster and mayhem-style chaos, like the planet earth in its primordial, fiery beginnings, and some regularity has been brought to the world, and yet, the world does not yet completely respond to soul, either. It both resists and is indifferent.

A state of complete correspondence between world and soul, soul and nature, would be the state we call "magic". The becoming-magic of the world was interrupted by a tremendous strife provoked amongst the nature-spirits whose job it is to respond to the Gods' directives of shaping and making-good. The work-in-progress of the world was interrupted, allowing jotnar forces a greater vestigial hold on things.

Because they were not completely arrested, and still exert influence, the monstrous forces can grow as time goes on, especially if true warriors do not fight for soul to have a place in the world. The jotnar (and their jotunnish thralls) will keep pushing and pushing out soulfulness, towards their ultimate goal of soullessness, with the soul completely exiled from the world. Some of them apparently hope their strivings will bring about the elimination of men from the planet through mass suicides, because no man wishes to stay alive when his soul feels unwelcome, and longs to flee. In this situation, the only true warriors are those who hold the line against this invasion and encroachment.

Ragnarok then must be seen as the time when the Gods will finally undo the might of the monsters, heal the ill that has been done, and finish their shaping-job without opposition, so the world can finally become magical, where soul and nature are corresponsive. That is the vision, at least, the prophetic hope upon which our ancestors staked much of their faith.

It explains a few things. First, it explains the inner sense we have that the world ought to respond to soul more. I am not discussing hte childish idea that the world ought to fulfill the narcissism of our egos, but the feeling even mature adults have that there should be more correspondence between soul and world. It's an inner sense that says it once was, and might be, and ought to be now, yet isn't. One can't go too far with such a subtle sense, yet it is a soulful one. It speaks perhaps to a lost birthright, a promise from long ago that things might be more in tune with the best in our souls : beauty, love, honor, truth.

It also explains why this isn't so, at least during this earth-age. Sartre called the degree to which the world resists us the "coefficient of adversity". Now the world was never meant to be putty in our hands, effortlessly conforming to our every thought ; that would be not only a narcissistic world, but a lawless one as well. The Gods love us, but they are not coddlers. They wish for us a good world, a challenging world, a world where it does take effort and dedication to make one's way int he world. They do intend the world as a kind of crucible to test the soul's potential, but they want this coefficient of adversity to be such that, however difficult, the world is soul-making and not soul-breaking. The warrior and poet test their mettle agaisnt the world's friction and adversity, and if they are skillful, graceful, and lucky, they have a chance of succeeding, in bringing more soul into the world. The battle is winnable. A winnable situation the Gods out of love desire for us. But a world that seems perennially unwinnable is not their intention.

There is a secret harmony in the world that is being suppressed. We can all feel it. Our souls tell us it is there to be tapped, but something often prevents us from reaching it. This harmony requires intelligence, heart, and effort, but our souls tell us it is achievable. But in a world whose completion has been sundered and suspended, this harmonic potential often seems out of reach.

The teleology of the world, as our ancestors' prophets saw it, was the restoration of that harmonic potential to winnable actualization. That was seen to occur after the last battle of this age, which acts as a cleanser and purifier.

But in the meantime, what of the meantime? In the meantime, we live in the meantime, and how do we live in the meantime? It is a mean time in the sense that it is in the mean or middle between two end points, and it is also, unfortunately, in many ways, a mean time, an age of disappointment and cynicism where often the worse seems to get the better of the better. In the meantime, obviously, we are in a bind, and so, unfortunately, are the more patient Gods, who do suffer along with us.

However, there are tales of cumulative deeds adding up to make a difference, in the tales of the ship of Naglfari, and Vidar's shoe --- will uncaring or caring be bigger at the time of the final battle? Do our deeds do assistance to the Gods or the Giants?

We do live in the iron age, the war age, the age seen as most corrupted, where it is difficult at times to even envision the good let alone achieve it. how do we make a difference in this mess? How do we have faith in an interim where the Gods' very ability to help us is limited by the fact that an uncompleted nature does not fully respond to them, but still exhibits monstrous features?

First, as with all things heathen, we must start with common sense, which means beginning with facing the facts and not staying in either despair or denial. In this time period, the Gods help us more through soul than through nature. The world does not magically respond to us, and yet, our souls are still forces in this world to be reckoned with, for soul can motivate deeds, and deeds can have effect.

Which brings us to the realm of deeds. The Sumerians had their own story of creation. There were two orders of Gods, one higher, and one lower, and the higher order set the lower order to complete the creation. These lower Gods found the task too burdensome, and rebelled, creating the first union strike. The higher Gods contemplated going to war, but finally someone came up with another idea, to create human beings to complete the task of creation. It would be humans who would labor for the Gods to finish the shaping of the world. Now this does not completely correspond to the Indo-European, Norse creation epic, but with a little blurring of the eyes, it comes quite close. The higher Gods are the Aesir and Vanir, while the lower Gods are the Elves and Dwarves. The Elves and Dwarves are set the task of completing the creation-process of the world, and taming its monstrousness to a world of luck and fertility that corresponds with wit and deed to the soul. But these lower Gods rebel against this task. In the case of our mythology, they rebel because of the instigation of a spy amongst the Gods who comes from the realm of the monsters, who continually sabotages their plans for good, while disguising his deeds as bringing some residual good. By dividing the Elves and Dwarves from each other and causing them to rebel against the creation-process, this saboteur succeeds in arresting the becoming-magical of the world so that it will correspond to the Masters of Soul, the Gods, and maintain some of its original soullessness.

There is no explicit suggestion in our myths that humans, as in the Sumerian mythos, are the ones who take over the task of shaping the world, and yet in a more subtle sense, it is there implicitly in the idea of heroism. Through our actions, and especially our deeds, we are able to shape this world a little more towards the soulful.

We often confuse "actions" with "deeds". A deed is a very powerful kind of action, the kind that wins back some of the monstrous world for soul. A deed, therefore, is like a deed to title, and does entitle. A deed is braggable that wins back even a little territory of soulfulness from the meaningless, indifferent, entropic, and monstrous.

As heathens, we face facts. Facts suggest that in this age of corruption, the primary physical forces for good are human beings acting soulfully, and resisting other human beings acting soullessly. The more we allow our lives to actively correspond to the soul-guidance of the Gods, the more the Gods, in this age, will be able to affect this world for good. Miracles are few and far between, and even when we do palpably feel that our luck has been enhanced, we must act upon it and with a spirit of benevolence and bettering, on the one hand, or in active combat against forces which try to tear down the good, on the other.

Luck comes in this age mainly through Raed, not through magic. The Gods give guidance to our souls, through our blots which are morale-strengthening rituals. Blots bring hearts together. When our hearts are together, we are strong, and thus we are strengthened by the blots. The Gods are pleased by having their own morale lifted by being haled by humans of worth living an honorable life. When we live with honor, we hold the line against corruption. When we go further and do deeds of worth, we actually advance the shaping of the world towards the good. This pleases the Gods well, who in recognition of our deeds of honor and worth give us Raed, counsel that reveals harmonic pathways and hidden potentials. If, like Chuang Tzu's butcher who discovered the precise breaks in the bone to make a smooth slice, we will learn the grain in the wood, we may be able to uncover some of the hidden lines of luck or pathways of harmonic potential that the elves were supposed to have fully established. Their failure to fully lay out the ways means that we often don't know how to follow luck, for the beginnings of their full elucidation were paved over with war and strife.

Let us not underestimate the power of the soul. Even when conditions have us down, our hearts, in counsel with each other and with the Gods can help us find the untapped potential and energy we need to go on. The Gods know the power of morale on the battle field, and in this interim age, where glorious Midgard has received the nickname "Valland", the Fallen Land of Slaughter, life itself can be like a battle. The Gods are there to provide Morale for our Souls, if we will listen, if we will open ourselves. Waiting for miracles will only stunt our powers. In the meantime, we had best train our own might and main to respond to their wise and worthy counsel.

For those who think there is no "soul" in heathenism, I will refer them to Hoenir's gift, odr ; as for spirit, that is Odin's gift, ond ; and Lodur vivified the lich or physical body whose likeness is of the hamr-reflection of the soul itself. Since Lodur's fall, it is Thor who blesses and funds the might and main of the lichness.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Wolf of War

Ghoulish, chops licking at carnage, circling around battlefields giddy at the sight of blood, glorying in cruelty and savagery and pain, celebrating war as a tool for easy gain, delighting in brutality, howling sociopathic at supersteroid animal impulses exaggerated beyond all natural extent, considering trauma to be business-as-usual ... This is the "Dog of War", the Fenris-Wolf, the sadistic beast that the more you feed it, the bigger it gets, until it threatens to swallow everything, including yourself.

To "chain" or "tame" the Dog of War is an old expression acknowledging that this beast must be kept under control or it will devour everything. Who would think one could claim that Viking mythology has anti-war themes in it, yet here it is beyond any dispute that when fed, the dog of war gets completely out of hand and threatens to destroy everything? Would Tyr have given up his hand if the stakes had not been that high? It had to be bound.

And if Tyr was the one who was willing to give his right hand so that the Wolf of War could be bound, then we know that he was something a little bit different than the "God of War", although the Romans tried to identify him with their bloodthirsty and even ghoulish Mars. A fighting man he was, well-trained, seasoned, skillful, but a carnage-god glorying in carnage? If he was ever, he certainly learned his lesson in time, didn't he?

Fenris is the child of Loki and Gullveig-Angrboda, of lies, treachery, deceit, arrogant mocking, adultery, greed, angst, resentment, ill-boding, fear-mongering, and his savagery serves his parents well. And they are happy to induct tribes of men into their active worship, who so readily hear their call of doubletalk and massacres for gain, listening to the fear in their hearts rather than the voices of the Gods. And Loki and Gullveig, who infiltrated the ranks of the Gods and made themselves as if one with them, are also more than happy for tribes to worship them under the seeming semblance of worshipping the Gods, all the while laughing at the Gods, laughing at men mistaking Gullveig for Freya, Fenris for Tyr, Loki for Odin, on and on down the line.

This is the terrible realization Zarathustra had about his own cognate Indo-European tradition. He saw that many of his people were not worshipping the Gods they claimed to worship, but the demons themselves, who had disguised themselves as gods. While claiming to support powers whose good work in the world was to hold back the bloodthirsty monsters, they themselves were engaging in blood drinking fests that would make Colonel Kurtz of Apocalypse Now proud, drinking out of skulls, carrying banners made of the flayed skins of their victims, strangling attendants of chieftains by the dozens at their funerals, behaviours no man could engage in and possibly be called "honorable" by anyone, but rather testaments of men having been turned into monsters, orcs. As the generals say of Colonel Kurtz, "He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct." When our ancestors wanted to show that Weland the Elf-Smith had become ghoulish and joined the powers of the orcs, they had no better way of doing so than demonstrating his making cups out of skulls, an actual practice amongst some of the Scythian folk. In so doing, the poet made it quite clear that while the elf may once have served the Gods with his marvelous gifts, he was now a twisted, deformed being.

Zarathustra saw that something had gotten out of hand, that human beings had, in their indelible way, corrupted something once beautiful and noble which had inspired people to bravely take back territory from the monsters into something worthy of worshipping those monsters themselves. Some have compared the Ulf-Hednar to special forces ... if so, did some slide down the slippery slope into worship of Fenris himself? One doesn't have to know one is worshipping demons to be worshipping demons, if one's deeds honor demons more than they do Gods.

Let us not let wolf-worshippers infiltrate our midst. Saxo tells a story of howling wolf-berzerks taking over Denmark and subjecting it to torture, rape, mutilation, brutality, and robbery, and it is clear that these are either jotnar themselves or serving the jotnar. King Frodi, which is an epithet of Freyr, dedicates his kingship to ridding the kingdom of these nidings, so that the people can live in peace and prosperity. May we follow Frodi's bold example and bind up the wolves of war!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sigrdrífa's Prayer

Sigdrifumál 4 & 5 :

"Heill dagr.
Heilir dags synir.
Heil nótt ok nift.
Óreiðum augum
lítið okkr þinig
ok gefið sitjöndum sigr.

Heilir æsir.
Heilar ásynjur.
Heil sjá in fjölnýta fold.
Mál ok mannvit
gefið okkr mærum tveim
ok læknishendr, meðan lifum."

(My translation:)

Hail Day
Hail the Elves, Sons of Day.
Hail Night and Wyrd her mother.
With eyes slow to wrath
gaze upon us and give those living here victory.

Hail the Gods
Hail the Goddesses
Hail the Full-Breasted Earth Flowing With Milk.
Give to us, both man and woman,
soulful speech and human wisdom
and healing hands, while we live.

This beautiful prayer, uttered by Sol under her heiti She-Who-Sprinkles-Victory, is a traditional blessing to be uttered every day. The implication is that this is the prayer Sol herself utters everyday as she is about to commence her journeys across the heavens.

The Poetic and the Practical

I think one of the beauties of this tradition is its combination of poetry and practicality. For example, when you think of Freyr, you can think about the beauty of sexuality and freedom, and the poetry of the grain growing beautiful and fertile in the field. Poet's lenses on.

Then, you can think, (summoning a pre-birth-control mindstate), Wow, the same God I pray to for Sexual Gratification had better be able to help me put Food on the Table, because there's gonna be more mouths to feed soon! No wonder Freyr rules both Sexuality and the Harvest!

One may sound more idealistic and the other more bottom-line reductionistic, but both the poetic and the practical are important parts of the tradition. There's a groundedness to this balance that I think is just beautiful.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Injustice of the Thrall System

Vilhelm Moberg's A History of the Swedish People (Volume I : From Prehistory to the Renaissance, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1970, Chapter 1) is invaluable and enlightening. In particular, it exposes the injustice of the thralls, as they actually existed in Viking Days. Every society has contradictions. Moberg exposes some of the glaring class contradictions of Iron Age heathen society.

It is certainly easy to imagine a position for Thralls that is not unjust --- for example, temporarily creating indentured servants out of those who cannot pay their wergild-debts for crimes against others --- and indeed, the institution perhaps began in this kind of way, but Moberg illustrates that it was a hereditary class in which slaves were bred and kept as slaves. It was brutal, unjust, and a reduction of human beings to chattel.

Absolutely, totally incompatible with the freedom that our ancestors claimed to cherish. A glaring, bloody contradiction in their societies that is irredeemable, and tremendously under-addressed in modern heathenism.

Moberg argues that texts like Rigsthula were utilized by the Jarls to claim that this unjust social system was Divinely Ordained so that the thralls would keep their place. This kind of nonsense is not religion ; it is ideology, plain and simple. Rigsthula doesn't have to be interpreted in that way, but it does take a lot of twisting to get any liberatory interpretation out of it.

How does one excuse the ancestors for disgracing Freyr in this way? Freyr whose very name means freedom, who sets all bonds free?

This is deeply troubling, and it should be deeply troubling. It is proof that the religion of our ancestors was not yet fully developed, for they had not yet been able to fully realize, articulate, and put into effect the reality of the Gods they worshipped. It is a contradiction to worship Freyr and to hold slaves.

This level of class contradiction and division cannot but help poison a society. Moberg makes it very clear that it was Christianity that brought a new ideology that allowed bondsmen to be freed because they were now seen as fellow human beings rather than property. Moberg does not romanticize Christianity, because he shows that the freedman did not become an equal of the carl, but was still maintained in a servile laborer class ; nevertheless, he makes a strong argument that it was the Asa-religion as wielded by the jarls of the time that forged the ideological manacles of the thralls, and that it was the change to Christianity that allowed the thralls to be freed in a recognition of common humanity. This was undoubtedly a tremendous gain on all levels, a positive step towards human liberty.

The average heathen likes to imagine themselves in the light of the nobles, but pure numbers suggests that most of us would have been in the lower carl and thrall classes. What their take on heathenism was is not recorded. There is no necessity for such class division in the religion as even Rigsthula suggests that all human beings, thrall, carl, and jarl, are Sons of Heimdall, but in actual practice as reflected in the laws there was absolutely no sense of human brotherhood.

People were bought and sold in open markets, slave women were purchased from abroad in order to breed more offspring who would not be free, who had committed no crimes, but would be enslaved themselves. Thralls could be killed or maimed at the owner's discretion, and any sign of disobedience would be met with corporal punishment.

We want to remember these things when fellow heathens idealize the old days. I don't think any of us would have wanted to live in those dark and corrupt Iron Age societies, however much we may have the freedom in a far freer age to romanticize them.

Our ancestors who created this religion only planted the seeds, but they did not yet bring their vision and realization of the Gods to fruition. No society can do so perfectly, but at least a society can try to do so in good faith. There is no way that bond slavery of the proportions of those times was in good faith. Truly, it was not Asatru. It did not hold True Faith to the Gods in their best of capacities.

If we do not admit this, if we do not admit that the ancestors fell short in their ability to realize the mandates of the Gods, and instead maintain that the religion was perfect as is, then we open ourselves to the quite legitimate charges that the religion itself was corrupt as such, and needed to be replaced by a more liberatory one. I, for one, do not accept that conclusion, but it is at times a difficult one to resist, even with my disdain for Official and Organized Christianity.

Often it is the most militaristic of folks who will whine the loudest about how Christianity was imposed by force, not realizing the utter hypocrisy of their statements. By their own logic of the strong against the weak, we should be celebrating Christianity for winning military victories. Obviously Odin and Tyr were on their side! And perhaps they were. It is not foreign to religious traditions to suggest that the God(s) utilize foreign enemies to punish impiety amongst a native population.

Could slavery have been the sin that cast the Gods' aspersion?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What Did A Shield Mean?

This has been a question I have been pondering for some time now, and I have yet to come up with a satisfactory answer. Tacitus tells us, in Germania 6, that those who abandoned their shields on the battlefield were considered objects of shame and derision.

Now this should make us pause for thought. Why was it so important? Why the shield, and not the spear or the sword?

There are some very special things about the shield in Germanic society that are worth noting. First of all, it was one of the first things given to a young man upon achieving manhood. Along with the spear, it was the sign of enfranchisement, of being able to vote in the Thing. Tacitus compares it to the toga. It was therefore one of two signs of being a fully grown adult with full responsibilities and freedoms. One was no longer under the mund or protection of one's father and his house, but under one's own protection. No doubt this meaning of protection was deeply implied in the shield.

Indeed, one of the most famous of ancestors, the patriarch whom Heimdall himself had raised up into nobility, was called Scyld, and of him, one of the saga writers says he was so called because he provided such good protection to his country. Saxo says he restored all the ancient rights of the folk that had been threatened by robbers and brigands. He also instituted trials to dispense justice and correct violations. This feature of law connects Scyld to the law-courts which the young man upon receiving his shield was allowed now to attend and participate as a fully empowered, voting adult.

In Germania 18, the groom delivers to the bride a number of gifts, including arms and a shield. Since one of the transactions of a wedding was a bride-price which did not purchase the bride, but purchased the privilege of protecting the woman which had belonged to the father, no doubt the shield also signified a man's protection of his wife and family. Tacitus tells us the arms also signified that the wife would share the man's battles, and vice-versa. Thus, the shield may have represented the protection of home and family.

In Germania 7, we are told that images, statues, and battle-standards were brought out of the sacred grove during battle, and in Book Four of Tacitus' Histories, he gives us the further information that these were images of wild beasts, which each clan was in the custom of carrying into battle. It is thus obvious that these images brought out in war-time were totemic, and represented the spirit of the clan. They were, therefore, symbols of the hamingja, the Matron who warded over the clan and its luck, who often appeared in animal form. Tacitus tells us that in all other areas, the Germani were indifferent to glamorous appearance, but that when it came to their shields, all was different. There was a special pride put into them, demonstrated by their vivid colors (Germania 6). It is possible that there were special designs put on the shield.

We also know that the entire clan went to battle, and that the women and children stood on the sidelines and cheered or jeered as the case might be, and that this was a special incentive for the men to fight well (Germania 7). If the shield indeed represented a man's mund, or sacred obligation and privilege to watch over and protect his wife, children, and home, the presence of his loved ones would certainly be a strong impetus to his courage.

So the shield may very well have represented the family as a whole, but it must have been more than this, for there would have been many men from the same family lined up in the battle array, and so it must also have had a more personal meaning in addition to whatever family meaning it also most certainly had.

We know that valkyries, who were, in a sense, the fylgias or guardian-angels of the warriors, were sometimes called "shield-maidens", which may imply (amongst other meanings) that they too had a special connection to the shield. Did a man paint a design or rune representing his valkyrie or fylgia upon the shield? If so, there may have been supernatural connotations to the shield which could have afterlife ramifications ; more on this in a moment.

Additionally, shields were used to amplify and project the intense roars and murmurs of the war-chants with which the warriors raised their courage and attempted to intimidate the enemy. The strength of these incantations was thought to give prophetic information about the success of the battle. Odin, who certainly was a commander of valkyries or shield-maidens, speaks about this barritus (or barditus) in Havamal. In the eleventh rune-song he lists, he says ef ek skal til orrustu leiða langvini, und randir ek gel, en þeir með ríki fara heilir hildar til, heilir hildi frá, koma þeir heilir hvaðan,"If I must lead my loyal friends into battle, under the rim of their shields I sing, and there with might and dominion they fare whole, hale, blessed, and lucky to battle, hale from the battle, come from there hale and whole." So the song was a luck-summoning, and here, surely, we must be in the presence of the fylgia who carried so much of the man's luck. Was Odin as a leader of valkyries singing under their shields to summon the shield-maidens? Did the shield-maidens need to be roused by the furor of their roars in order to know they were needed, and come to the appointed battle-grounds?

If our investigation here is correct, and following the trail of our hints in the right direction, it is clear the shield held great significance. Still, though, as modern folks, we have to stop puzzled before the gravity of its importance to our ancestors, because to abandon one's shield was such a disgrace that not only was one barred from attending the Thing, but also the blots, and this was so shameful that many men who had abandoned their shields took their own lives! To us this seems extreme, but only underlines the immense significance a shield had. What could give it so much weight that a man might take his own life?

If we are following truth in connecting the shield and the shield-maiden, the shield may very well have represented the man's fylgia or guardian angel. Was abandoning his shield tantamount to abandoning her? If there was such a connection between a man's shield and his fylgia, we may ask whether during the manhood rites there was some ritual that bonded a man to his fylgia, perhaps even some test or ordeal he had to undergo to win her favor. This is not unprecedented, as Svipdagsmal shows young Odr having to go upon a great quest in order to win the hand of Menglad, who is none other than Freya, and Freya was clearly a commander of valkyries as well, as she won half the slain for herself. Svipdagsmal reads like the ordeal of an initiate, and may demonstrate how the mind and emotions (the poetic soul, or odr) of each young man had to quest for his guardian angel, with whom, as the Helgi lays intimate, he was often visualized having a quasi-romantic and affectionate connection. If the shield was then they physical point of contact with, or indeed the material evidence of the very compact with the fylgia, then abandoning it may indeed have been tantamount to abandoning her. But if he abandoned her, would she abandon him?

If his fylgia abandoned a man, he was supernaturally forlorn, for at his afterlife trial, she acted as his spokesman and lawyer, she who had witnessed his every thought and deed, and there was little hope for a man whose fylgia had abandoned him. His chances of defending himself against a charge of cowardly nidinghood were slim indeed, which could at worst portend a long stay in Niflhel.

All this for a shield? Did the shield represent the soul of one's family, and even one's own very soul? Did it encompass the pride and the privilege to protect those one loved? Did it signify, as a sign of the voting man enfranchised with full rights in the assembly, the duty to stand up for oneself and protect one's own rights? Did abandoning it therefore declare that one contemptuously had no care atall for the protection of everything one found sacred, and indeed, thus, that there was nothing sacred? Is this the reason that those who abandoned their shields were not even allowed at the blots?

We may never know. These remain speculations and questions. They seem to converge upon an answer whose significance still eludes us no matter how hard we try. Whatever it was, it is no exaggeration to say that for our ancestors, a shield, which we are prone to interpret in purely pragmatic terms, was a holy thing. Perhaps it signified that despite the fact that both arms and a shield were given to a boy upon becoming a man, it was the shield that mattered because warfare was still primarily seen as something defensive and not offensive, for what mattered was the defense of family, grove, and hearth. A shield was therefore something special and an object of especial pride. To hold another man's shield was to feel the resonance of his voice, his very soul that had sung into its curves, and thus, perhaps, to caress for a moment the guardian angel with whom he had been joined in sacred ceremony, and whom he may have wooed through quest and demonstration of both courage and eloquence. It was a reminder of everything that he was fighting for.

These questions and speculations can only raise calls of resonance within the individual soul. Perhaps the question of the shield still does remain with the fylgia who connects us to the luck of our ancestors. In the modern world, if we design shields, we ought remember that they are far more than pragmatic means to ward off blows, but emblems of everything for which we are standing. To inscribe or paint a shield, therefore, is to encapsulate everything that is personally of importance to us. Shields, therefore, ought be the greatest works of art, our masterpiece which says something tangibly about our very soul.

Does that sound like exaggeration? Tell that to the men who hanged themselves for losing their shield, and tell me it doesn't sound like they felt they had lost their very soul.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

McCain Nominates Religious Nutcake

What does this have to do with heathenism? Simple. A Christian fanatic like Palin has absolutely no place in government whatsoever, and every heathen should by frightened by a woman unafraid to stand up and say that a natural gas pipeline is "God's will" or that the "war" in Iraq (placed in quotations because in order to really have a war constitutionally, it has to actually be declared) is "God's plan".

How is it that we live in a country where such lunatics are not instantly laughed out of town to the tune of lots of thrown tomatoes? You would think that Christians themselves would respond more vehemently, because Palin is either an extremist who believes she is a prophet channeling the "word of God" or she is a cynical blasphemer connecting God to her own political agenda.

No heathen should vote for McCain on this basis alone. Palin has dominionist ties, and to anyone who is ignorant of what that means, these are fundamentalist fascists who wish to replace all secular law with the literal 613 Laws of Moses --- that's right, folks, replete with the stoning rebellious teenagers to death and so forth. Should these dominionists ever succeed in imposing their theocracy upon America, they would no doubt have to be, despite their desires, selective in the imposition of Mosaic Law, because I can't see any set of politicians, no matter how fanatic or dictatorial, ever getting the South to give up pork!

There are some people with whom it is productive to engage in debate, and there are other people who are mentally ill. Politicians who can claim that a pipeline is "God's will" are mentally ill, as are Christians who want to impose outdated tribal laws that themselves may never have been enforced anywhere, and certainly not by Talmudic Jews. These are the kinds of folks who drool over Sharia Law and wish, "Wow, now if only we could do that with the Old Testament!"

Fanatics like this do not exercise hof, moderation ; they do not exhibit tolerance ; they do not demonstrate wisdom ; and they seek to impose their exclusivist perspective on everyone.

As heathens, we don't like folks trying to impose stuff on us, and traditionally, such imposition was considered not only arrogance, but akin to an act of war. While we may have been blessed the last hundred years with an increasingly liberal and humane branch of Christianity --- more due to advances in science and democracy than to any internal Christian motive force --- Christianity nevertheless continues to breed, as it always has, such violent intolerance. We could leave this alone and consider it a Christian internal affair if sane Christians would ever police their own ranks, but this is as unlikely on the effective scale as it is infrequent on the personal scale.

Liberal Christians, full of unprecedented Christian tolerance, humanity, love for freedom, and genuine love, can be our ecumenical allies from time to time, but the exclusivist fundamentalists without a trace of tolerance in their bodies --- these are the very same type of folks who tried and succeeded in destroying the beautiful religion of our ancestors. I won't say it was perfect ; it was most certainly not. I will say it was one of the great monuments of the ancient world, alongside other beautiful religions, and that most of its glory is unavailable for viewing because of these people's censorious annihilation of the faith. We're damn lucky to have the scraps that we do have. Do we want these kinds of folks in positions of power? Do we want to encourage them?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Odin "Hannibal" Smith

Heroes are Heroes, Even With Flaws

I had the misfortune the other day of accidentally running into a racist website whose entire purpose was to "spill the dirt" as it were on Martin Luther King, Jr., as if we are all supposed to turnabout and tear the hero down when we find out that he was human after all. I suppose that's one of the wonderful things about the story of Hodur. Here we have a hero of great idealism but immense impetuosity, who rescued Sol from a terrible fate in the beginning of time, fought and killed the first Dragon when Thor was still in diapers as it were, who protected Sol and Mani from wolves, yet who himself became subject to seduction by Gullveig, was turned against his brother for a time on behalf of lusting after his wife, and finally was framed for a killing he had no direction over --- and yet, in the end, he will rule over the Golden Age with his brother Baldur! Heathens don't tear down their heroes just because they turn out to be human.

First we are treated to the supposedly scandalous news that Martin Luther King, Jr. had connections with the Communist Party --- as if we are now prescripted to say, "I knew he was a scoundrel!". Well, sorry to burst anyone's bubble, but back in those days, if you were doing anything progressive, you probably had something to do with the Communist Party, because that is where all the idealists working for progress and liberation were hanging out. Yes, of course, they were terribly deluded by Stalinist Russia and its cynical parody of Marx's dreams, but nevertheless, this is really where all the talent was hanging out for a great deal of the 20th century. So, sorry, racists, no scandal there. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man who was willing to work with many different people to bring about progress.

Secondly, we are to be scandalized by the fact that behind the scenes, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a pragmatist who was not rigidly attached to an ideological and uncontextual nonviolence, but was willing to dialogue with folks who were more militant, the likes of Malcolm X and so forth. So? From a heathen standpoint we understand peace that has a few warriors standing by. It is honorable to work for peace first and foremost, but there's nothing wrong with a little pragmatism as well.

Finally, and what is supposed to be the kicker in "moral majority" America, is the news that Martin Luther King, Jr. apparently engaged in extramarital affairs with several of his parishioners. Now we're just supposed to grab the statue of King and pull it down like Saddam in Baghdad out of disgust and revulsion, I suppose. This is just the result of Christian hypocrisy and inability to come to terms with certain pragmatic ramifications of fame and power, and our heathen ancestors had a very pragmatic approach to this. Look, I'm not approving of adultery ; I've been cheated on and it feels miserable. But there's a different pressure of libido when you are renowned that you have to know in order to understand. Tacitus speaks to this in Germania 18 : ...singulis uxoribus contenti sunt, exceptis admodum paucis, qui non libidine, sed ob nobilitatem plurimis nuptiis ambiuntur, "...They are content with a single wife, except a very few, who not from fancy, but out of the nobles/famous soliciting/embracing many marriages." It's not just anyone, out of fancy, who takes more than one wife, but the noble and famous who embrace polygamy. Why? Because of their position, because of their fame. Let's face it : someone who marries someone famous or powerful has got to know that temptations are going to be all around them, especially when the pressure is on, and it's probably best for such couples to have an "arrangement" or "understanding" of some kind that is going to be different than that of the masses. Not out of elitism, but because rock stars get more, and that's how it works ... better to accomodate it and give it shape and decorum than let it breed scandal. That would be a heathen take on the issue.

No, guys, I'm sorry, but you failed to knock down my idol, because not only was Martin Luther King, Jr. a great man despite his human frailties and flaws, but he was but the mouthpiece of a larger movement that anyone who is sane would want to be a part of, and for the articulation of that movement, we should all be greatful. "I have a dream..." ; yes! A dream of pluralism and unity, a dream of different peoples living and working side by side and gaining from the exchange.

I know, there may be a few ethnic nationalists and separatists groaning out there, but sorry, guys, when Odin was exiled on earth for ten years and lived in Maeringaborg, it was a city known for its mixing and mingling of tribes, as the best of champions assembled for the chance to be in Atli -- the "Great Sage" --'s army.

"I have a dream..."? Yes, Martin Luther King, so did Odin. I think we're on the same page here.

Progress, Friendship, and Reason are Heathen Values

If I were to describe my mood lately, I would say that I have been incredibly lonely, hopeless, and feeling like neither reason nor poetry has any sway in this materialistic world. I do believe in the idea of progress, and despite regressions which may naturally occur as part of the forwards-backwards dance of progression, believe that life is meaningless without it. I believe the giants have stolen much from us, and there is much to steal back. Indo-European studies suggests that Indo-European religions embraced a theme describing a time when after primeval creation, the giants seized much that was of value, and that the wondrous deeds of the Gods include the winning-back from the giants of what was stolen. We can see this in the story of Odin stealing back the mead from the giants, but also in Thor's fight with the wyrm Jormungand, which parallels Indra's slaying of Vrtra, of which a prominent scholar points out that Vrtra/Jormungand had stolen away the fertile waters of the world and was blocking their entrance into the world. Thor/Indra's defeat of the wyrm restores to the world what had gotten locked into chaos and entropy. Thus, there is a basis for the idea of progress in Indo-European heathen religion, which suggests that we haven't finished winning back all the good the Jotnar have absconded, and that progress involves continuing this restoration work which the Gods have commenced and inaugurated with their great heroic acts in the morning of time.

Wrapped up with my feeling of loneliness, I do not understand the drifting-away of friends, and the way everyone literally moves away so that even those once close now live hundreds or thousands of miles away. Heathens put a much greater weight upon friendship, and continuing friendships throughout life.

Fellowship is so infrequent, discussions so seldom challenging, enlightening, and exciting, the idealism of youth so rarely tapped, expanded, developed, and capitalized upon. Strengths that ought to be developed are neglected, while resources, energies, and commitments are poured and thrusted into poor priorities. We haven't learned how to worth-ship until we have begun the search for what really has value in life, and then demonstrating that worth through our actions. How many of us resign ourselves to a life of defeat, where what we most want we don't even bother to dream because we've assigned it to the "impossible", and then simply compensate ourselves with the latest goodies? Of course, why should the defeated not console themselves? Whole industries and entertainments base themselves on such consolations. But for a heathen, to acquiesce to defeat, unless it is a temporary move while one regroups or takes a sabbatical to regain strength, is a sign of cowardice. Are we courageous enough to say this, not only in heathen circles, but in the wider worlds that we all inhabit every day?

"Tradition" simply cannot mean the same thing within heathenism as it means in other circles, because much of what is called "tradition" is simply slavishness and the thrallish stupidity of stubbornly clinging to the past out of fear of the unknown, or fear of freedom, or fear of thinking big. Again, these are traits of cowardice. No, we are counseled as heathens to be bold, to be daring, to use the mind that the Gods placed in us to challenge that which thralls take for granted. There are Vikings of the Mind that few have conceived of! Reason may be understood as a raid upon the unknown, or the taboo, or the slavish, and a raiding with the same intentions the Gods had in the beginnings when they worked to win back what the forces of entropy had locked up : to progress, to evolve, to restore the universe to some semblance of sanity, and be faithful to the goodness that is still in the world despite all the losses and defeats. If we come to believe in defeat, we cannot call ourselves heathen. To be heathen means to fight against the sense of defeat, to refuse to acquiesce and affirm it, and instead to regroup and figure out a way to progress. In reasoning, we should be bold ; we should not fear to question anything, but in our freedom, we should not demonstrate the wolfishness of Jotnar whose only interest in knocking down a taboo is to further imprison and obscure the good.

How do we liberate the good from the obscurities and defeats of evil and entropy? Through fellowships of friends engaged in bold reason, who dare to advance ideas beyond the pale, and are willing to follow reason as their dryhten on their viking raids . Let us quote that grand advancer of Frodi's ways, and admirer of Anglo-Saxon heathenism, Thomas Jefferson : "I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led, and bearding every authority which stood in their way," and "Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear." There is a strong heathen flavor to this quote. Reason is not the all of wisdom, of course, and must be guided by a higher, more holistic wisdom, but wisdom is certainly not attainable if one abandons reason altogether.

Do I believe that the world would be a better place if people listened to reason rather than prejudice? Poetry rather than statistics or advertising? Yes. A free mind is a way to a free world, and a free world is the only world worth living in. I did not begin my path with any intention to be radical, only to question and pursue ideas according to reason, with the intent of liberating the good from the forces of tyranny and entropy. The rest followed logically.

I remember the incredible conversations with friends I had as a teenager and young man. I don't know if every young man or woman has such conversations, but these were not mere foolishness or idle talk, but the real brainstorming of real solutions, requiring adult recognition, maturation, and implementation, but a nation of seniles doesn't listen to the brilliance of its youth, and a nation of self-congratulatory defeated folks, reveling in their own jaded cynicism and celebrating their alienation, won't heed the wisdom of courageous and bold thought.

We called them "astronomy sessions". We didn't discuss anything within the academic discipline of astronomy at all. We lay out under the stars and wondered about the universe. And I'll tell you, Odin delights in such wonderings, for they lead on to wisdom. Odin is far more present in that kind of moment than in any blind or rote invocation by dead letter --- and a lot of people, including would-be heathens, worship dead letters. You should feel the power of a blot. It should be like connecting to a live wire crackling with voltage, and that happens when the people invoking are really existentially in touch with the energy of the Gods. No, I don't care if they can "name" the Gods, or if they can recite the relevant lore. Odin doesn't want idolaters! He's there teaching the young folks through the immanence of their astronomy sessions so much more than some un-wod-ened stiff reciting ritual poetry as if it were a high school monotone massacre of Shakespeare, or even ancient fools cursing Odin because he didn't grant victory when they sacrificed something to his wooden idol, as if Odin were a traitor because he didn't blindly follow every fool who saw fit to sacrifice something to him. Odin would much rather hang out with the philosophers and poets anyday than rigid idolaters. He wants folks "on the jazz", and will stir them up to experiment with their ideas, and enact them. Yes, there is much to liberate from ignorance, greed, and entropy, and it can begin, though I may sound like Socrates, with simple talks amongst friends, willing to question all in order to foster all the hidden good in the universe. Cynical minds colonize the occult with the bad faith defeatism that all that is hidden is evil, and try to titillate with the latest varieties of chic evil. Such jaded souls, thoroughly immersed in their own defeatism, will not understand that idealism is absolutely the starting point of the Gods, and nothing naive at all, but part of a long, studied, in-depth battle strategy that adapts itself to the circumstances as they come, but will not ultimately sacrifice its idealism on the altar of pragmatism. Odin's occult is a world of hidden good we can't even fathom --- yet.