Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Some Heathens are Confused

Some heathens think our religion is about giving a rubber stamp to norms or customs. Yea, our heathenism is about pragmatism, so let's just find some gods who will place their stamp of approval on the way we like to do things anyway.



What are you saying, Ziggy, that thew has no place in heathenism? That customs don't matter?

No, customs can be good, but they ain't necessarily good, either. It depends on the custom, wouldn't you say?

There's a confusion in heathenism between thew and wyrd. They're not the same thing. Thew is for carls, wyrd for jarls and wizards. People talk about "laying down wyrd". There ain't no weird in there! They're laying down thew. They're trying to establish norms. Ok, that's what carls do, go at it.

Religion is about aligning thew with wyrd.

There. It's that simple.

It means thew and wyrd are not always aligned. It means there has to be a continual realignment. It means the job of the Gothi is to provide an Outside to the culture from within that cannot be domesticated.

That means the nationalists, I'm sorry to say again for the umpteenth time, have got it all wrong. Yep, that's right, I'm talking about the "folkish". You can't have it both ways. The folkish are wrong. Well, that's kind of bold to say, isn't it? I worship bold Gods. We get to say bold things. That's one of the nice things about worshipping bold Gods.

Now why do I say the folkish are out-and-out wrong? If I'm going to say something that daring, I might as well back it up.

I say it because the folkish confuse culture and spirituality. They are not, not, not the same thing, not now, not ever.

Spirituality is about transcending culture. It's about correcting culture. It's about taking the folk -- and that means the "people", folks, not ethnic nationalists -- who are thick with thew, cantankerous with their customs, their strivings, their desire to domesticate everything according to their norms --- and introducing them to WEIRD.

Don't give me no fancy-shmancy nonsense about what Wyrd means. It means WEIRD. It means Reality That Cannot Be Domesticated. It means Becoming Beyond Norms. That means that norms, "thew" if you will, must be adjusted to Wyrd.

This doesn't mean the Gods hate thew. Heimdall above all understands the need for social order, which is why he tried to inaugurate a system that could make some sense of this imperfect world for us. The fact that we don't follow it is not his fault, but we can divide the social system into three classes : the Thewless, the thralls ; the Thewful, the carls ; and the Wyrd-tenders, the jarls. People need norms, customs they can count on. They also need judges and wizards who act as adjustors who recommend corrections and exceptions to customs where customs have fallen out of alignment with Wyrd.

When you come to a blot, you're coming to the table to make or renew a treaty. A treaty with Gods who are not here to rubber-stamp your desires or even your customs. Gods who have their own agenda as Trustees and Agents of Wyrd. Wyrd the Powerful, wyrd before whom all thew must bow and adjust, lest it be washed away.

We come to the blot to say, ok, we are the folk, we have thew, and we love it. It is our treasure, it keeps us warm, it gives us our rights, and it keeps the village safe. But we know we stand before Gods so wild and wondrous, so untameable and mysterious, that we will have to put aside for a moment our desire to tame the whole world, and realize that the world is not going to be tamed by us. The Gods give us our villages so that we might have our own gards, our places of safety, where we make the world a little bit more like us in the process. But meanwhile the Great Flow of Becoming rolls onward, and it is impossible to tame. No one will ever tame Wyrd. So we bow ourselves before this process, and we relinquish our domestication upon the altar. We give up the fruits of our domesticated lives upon the horg. In so doing, we say to the Gods, we know that our village is not the end-all and be-all of existence, but we exist to serve larger powers. The fruits of our domestication are to feed wilder powers and flows.

Not jotnar. I'm not making the Gods big and scary here. They're our Friends, but they are also our Teachers, and as such, they'd like us to pay attention to where we need to adjust our norms to wyrd.

So a ritual, a blot, is a really profound thing. The laying of the meat or the fruits upon the stones is not simply about having a church barbecue where we feast each other with the Gods. It is that, but it is more. It's about bringing our families and friends, with all of our customs, desires, strivings, norms, bickerings, and taming impulses, into a holy space, a space set aside from all that strife, in order to reattune. A space where we are asked to give up, to relinquish, to surrender something precious to us. To acknowledge that our little empires exist on the crest of waves far bigger than ourselves.

That is the inner transformation the blot is meant to effect.

And we get to have our customs and our common law. And we also get to figure out that, hey, there are exceptions. There are some people who are following a holy path who are going to live a little bit different than us, who are going to have customs of their own. And they are not evil. We don't get to domesticate everyone. We know that our most noble folks are creative folks, are folks who think outside the box. Hell, our Chief God is renowned for thinking outside the box! So our most noble folks are, in a sense, Outsiders on the Inside.

They don't get to abrogate our thew. They don't get to wash it away. We get to live the way we like to live, for the most part. But we, at the same time, do not get to judge them by the standards of our mainstream expectations. It works both ways. If we the tame want respect, we must give respect to the wild.

The blot is where the wild and tame meet, and make a treaty. That treaty is at first mere grith. It's not based on deep trust. We distrust that which is outside our own cultural norms. Grandpa and the Bible say that there's no gay marriage, so there shouldn't be gay marriage. Yet the Gods speak of exceptions, and the Gothis speak of Wyrd having its own ways, and sometimes these ways outstretch our thew. So reluctantly, grumbling, we listen, and make our treaty. Ok, we're willing to give up that much. But we also want this much.

Yet if we will attend to the terms of the treaty, over time, what was mere Grith will become full Frith. Frith with the world, Frith with Wyrd.

That's the magic that's possible through the blots. If we will take them where they wish to lead us.


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