Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Psalm of Blessing

Cling ye therefore to the ways of your forefathers, and your grandmothers, and grandmothers' grandmothers, that you might be fortified in the ways of the Holy Powers. For behold, each generation is a link in the chain, that stretches back to the ancient forests, when men first stepped out of the trees, praise be the Gods! And if ye would drink at that well where souls are gathered that have fallen as fruits from the Tree of Life itself, listen to the call of the Old Ones pulsing in the blood, for, yea, within you is the path and the way, if ye would but listen, for, lo, it is said, the Gods speak within the blood, and the bones, and every sinew, and every cell of flesh in the holy body, yea, even the loins if the ear will hear their runes. Hear the call back to ancient beginnings. Feel the circle of ancestors' arms embrace you in their welcome, for they would have ye learn the ways of wisdom. Praise be to the Gods! There is something holy inside you. It shines at night beneath the moonlight. It shimmers on the waves of the sea. It sparkles on the beams of the sun at mid-day. It calms and whispers at the sight of ancient oaks. Be ye edified by the brooks and beeches, the birch and sun-laden meadows, for truly the wise woman hears secrets in the waters' waves and wind.

For all your days shall be held in the arms of the ancestors, whose embrace never leaves thy side, for they are in the woodworks, and the soil beneath, the air above, the crackling of the fire, and the gurgling creek. And though ye may walk alone, the Gods will always be by your side, on the cool river-sand at the bottom of the canyon, in the alpine cliffs before midnight, in the first cracks of dawn and Delling's red-golden fingers shining through the night's passing fog. Stand tall, for the pride of a million years speaks up within and offers the opportunity to make this life a full and true stand, a set of strong deeds to bless the generations to come. Be encouraged, for the significance of thy deeds stretches far beyond your reckoning, and many count, though unseen, on what you do or do not. Deed boldly, then, and follow the counsels of thy heart, for the wild, lively chaos of river rapids and windstorms on cliffs runs through ye, too, carving out the path thy wild soul longs to walk.

May the fire in your hearth never fade. May the bonds of love deepen, and take holy root. May the care of kith and kin shield you from the wolves of the outer yards. May all your luck help your deeds reach your worth, and may you be a blessing unto the earth and all her blessed creatures who have sworn the sacred vows in days of yore. These blessings shall come to pass. These blessings I drop into the well of wyrd to cleanse your path of all unwyrd. Be booned by the Gods.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Reclaiming the Faithkeepers

“As long-term participants in the national liberation struggle of American Indians, we have been forced into knowing the nature of colonialism very well. Along with you, we understand that the colonization we experience finds its origin in the matrix of European culture. But, apparently unlike you, we also understand that in order for Europe to do what it has done to us -- in fact for Europe to become “Europe” at all -- it first had to do the same thing to all of you. In other words, to become a colonizing culture, Europe had first to colonize itself. To the extent that this is true, I find it fair to say that if our struggle must be explicitly anticolonial in its form, content, and aspirations, yours must be even more so. You have, after all, been colonized far longer than we, and therefore much more completely. In fact, your colonization has by now been consolidated to such an extent that --with certain notable exceptions, like the Irish and Euskadi (Basque) nationalists -- you no longer even see yourselves as having been colonized ... You seem to feel that you are either completely disconnected from your own heritage of having been conquered or colonized, or that you can or should disconnect yourselves from it as a means of destroying that which oppresses you. I believe, on the other hand, that your internalization of this self-hating outlook is exactly what your oppressors want most to see you do ... You must set yourselves to reclaiming your own indigenous past. You must come to know it in its own terms -- the terms of its internal values and understandings, and the way these were applied to living in this world -- not the terms imposed upon it by the order which set out to destroy it. You must learn to put your knowledge of this heritage to use as a lens through which you can clarify your present circumstance, to “know where you are”, so to speak ... Orient your struggle toward regaining what it is that has been taken from you rather than presuming a unique ability to invent it all anew ... [Restore] your understanding of who you are, where you come from, what it is that has been done to you to take you to the place in which you now find yourselves ... You, no less than we, have models in your own traditions upon which to base your alternatives to the social, political, and economic structures now imposed upon you. It is your responsibility to put yourselves in direct communication with these traditions, just as it is our responsibility to remain in contact with ours ... You say that the knowledge we speak of was taken from you too long ago, at the time of Charlemagne, more than a thousand years ago. Because of this, you say, the gulf of time separating then from now is too great ; that what was taken then is now lost and gone. We know better. We know, and so do you, that right into the 1700s your ‘European’ colonizers were still busily burning ‘witches’ at the stake. We know, and you know too, that these women were the leaders of your own indigenous cultures. The span of time separating you from a still-flourishing practice of your native ways is thus not so great as you would have us--and yourselves---believe. It’s been 200 years, no more. And we also know that there are still those among your people who retain the knowledge of your past, knowledge handed down from one generation to the next, century after century. We can give you directions to some of them if you like, but we think you know they are there. You can begin to draw appropriate lessons and instruction from these faithkeepers, if you want to.” --- Ward Churchill, From A Native Son

Guestliness and Gemutlichkeit

In my last post, I pointed out that Havamal recommends, as a matter of course, habits of hospitality that meet Jesus' most basic and stringent standards for what constitutes a true, rather than a hypocritical, Christian. It should be noted, however, that in heathenism there are few absolutes. Being a contextual religion, everything depends on context and relation. In other words, wisdom is required in each situation to assess the complex variables and come up with the best decision, rather than following rules of moral absolutism. This is because heathenism is a wisdom tradition rather than a moralistic tradition.

So while good hospitality is the norm, there are exceptions where it would not be practiced --- say if a guest might prove a hazard to the home itself ; for example, if they were severely ill, either with a communicable disease, or a mental illness. (At the very least, they would be put into the barn or an outer house.) A tradition based on common sense does not require martyrdom. Martyrdom and heroism are not the same things, except in the most extreme of cases. Rather, a religion of common sense just asks you to do your best, which means optimizing variables and values in an imperfect world. Protecting your family is a value that must be balanced against hospitality. And so forth.

But it must be mentioned that hospitality is only one side of the coin. A culture of hospitality also cultivates and expects the quality of guestliness. When you are a guest, you honor, with the appropriate reverence, the genius loci, the spirit of the home. You behave in such a way as to enhance its spirit of gemutlichkeit, its heartiness, not to diminish it. You make your presence, to the best of your ability, a pleasant one, that cheers the spirit of the home. This doesn't require being fake ; in fact, it involves opening one's heart and sharing its joys and even, in a measured way, some of its challenges. These things hold true, although to a more diminished extent, obviously, even if one comes as a more convalescent guest. Gratitude for help is obviously appropriate. A good guest even offers to help out a bit, if there is some work, however minor, that needs to be done. Often the offer is enough, as good hosts may refuse the help as a matter of course, and simply appreciate the offer. But others may take you up on it, because they may need the help. After all, they are helping you out by providing hospitality. A gift calls for a gift.

This, by the way, is not the same thing as equating the gift relation with a commercial transaction requiring immediate tit-for-tat payment. To treat a gift like a buying transaction is to cheapen its profundity. A gift comes from the heart, and therefore it warrants a gift in return, at some point in time, to honor the giving heart of the other, and to not insult their honor, which in this case is merely a guised way of saying to not hurt their feelings. A gift, being a gift of the heart, always involves feelings, and it is these you want to treat with care. Needless to say, given the unfortunate proliferation of clinical narcissism in the modern world, you generally don't want to enter into gift relationships with those who are easily narcissistically wounded, because they perceive insult at the drop of a hat where no insult was intended, but rather you ought to gift with those of strong, understanding heart. A good guest doesn't test the limits of that understanding, however. Our ancestors put strong emphasis on manners.

When I say our ancestors put strong emphasis on manners, I don't mean Emily Post. I mean manners of gemutlichkeit : sit down, enjoy yourself, show some gusto, feel free to enjoy, in the rough -- but, in the midst of the fun, maintain your respect for others. In some places, a good belch after a good meal might be an accepted sign of having enjoyed the meal, so we're not discussing prissiness here. We are talking about consideration for others. Freedom within the context of consideration ; consideration within the context of freedom, but consideration throughout. Unprovoked, it is never proper to demonstrate disrespect or contempt for others. You show with your actions, at all times, however relaxed, however comfortable, that you are making an effort to respect the other.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Hjalp heitir eitt, en þat þér hjalpa mun við sökum ok sorgum ok sútum görvöllum. (Havamal 146) “Help is the name of the first, for that will help thee against harm and sorrow and prepare you against grief and sickness.”

Sometimes all we need in a trouble spot is to find the tread of the pavement, to re-establish our footing, to re-gain our bearings. "Help" is not someone else doing it for us. It's not the Gods waving a magic wand and all our troubles evaporating. Sometimes it is simply giving just the right advantage, however small (but strategic), that allows our self-reliance to pull itself up out of shock and misery.

Odin speaks of it as "preparation", in the Icelandic a term related to the word "gear". Help gears you up. It adds another tool to your toolkit. Remember that your toolkit is not going to get up and do the job all on its own. But to be prepared with a good toolkit is the difference between helplessness and the ability to meet a difficult situation with skill. Again, help may be very simple : just the right tool, just one tool, at the right time. Sometimes that tool is as simple as a good word, a word that reaches into the heart and gives comfort.

The word "help" has always had that connotation as well : giving aid and comfort. It also has a military connotation of providing reinforcements and backup support. No one is going to fight your battles for you. No one is going to do your work for you. But to know that there are resources that can be called upon in times of trouble gives a source of support that is invaluable.

We see this in fairy tales. The protagonist finds him or her self in all kinds of difficulties, but an animal treated kindly, or an old man or woman, provides some small item that ends up making a difference. A tool or two is given that has magical results --- when used correctly. The protagonist still has to use their wits and wisdom to properly apply the magical gifts that have been given.

Sometimes life seems out of control. We are faced with a true jotunn spirit : something bigger than ourselves, and we don't know how to get out of the situation. This is when help helps. Sometimes the help is not even something that helps us tackle the problem directly, but something that reminds us that we have some control over some things in this world, and that sense of control strengthens us to be able to put on our thinking caps and strategically tackle the jotunn afresh. For when grappling with giants, we often have the breath knocked out of us, and lose our wits in the process. It is very easy. We lose our footing, and everything is dizzying. Regaining our orientation is half of the difficulty. We need to shake our head and get back up on our feet. We always need to remember that as long as we are still kicking, any difficulty is only one round, and we've got other rounds to either tackle the problem, or, if it truly is too big, to get out of the situation and into a better situation.

Odin identifies the four obstacles to success in a difficult situation : injury, sorrow, grief, and sickness. All of these are connected and can lead to the others. We need help when we're hurt, we need help when we're down, we need help when we're grieving, and we need help when we're sick. These are wise words, reminding us there is no shame in asking for help when help is truly needed. But the help comes not in solving our problems, but in helping us to overcome the obstacles (injury, sorrow, grief, and sickness) that impede our own strength and self-reliance, which are the true powers that get one through difficulties.

Here help is giving comfort. Odin speaks directly to this need. Elds er þörf þeims inn er kominn ok á kné kalinn. Matar ok váða er manni þörf, þeim er hefr um fjall farit. Vatns er þörf þeim er til verðar kemr, þerru ok þjóðlaðar, góðs of æðis ef sér geta mætti (,) orðs ok endrþögu. (Havamal 3, 4.) “Fire is necessary for those who come in and whose knees are frozen. Food and clothing a man needs, for those who has fared over the mountains. Water is needed for those who come for a meal, towel and hearty-welcome from the folk, good manners if he can appreciate good things, conversation and deep silence (literally, the “silence of old”, implying a deep, rich silence).” Heat, food, clothing, water, a quick shower and a towel, a good welcome from those present, good treatment for those who know how to appreciate good things and who themselves know how to speak well, good conversation with the appropriate balance between the right words and the silence of the old. These speak to basic needs. These two stanzas are far more profound than most people give them credit. They are answers to need. They are the heathen customs of comfort and hospitality that parallels Matthew 25 : "35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'". For Jesus, this is the sine qua non of what it means to be a Christian ; here in Havamal we discover that this is behavior considered to be customary for a heathen : we help each other out in times of need and trouble. When we are cold, we need heat. When we are hungry, we need some food. When we're thirsty, we need something to drink. It doesn't have to be a lot. Mikit eitt skal-a manni gefa; oft kaupir sér í litlu lof, með halfum hleif ok með höllu keri fékk ek mér félaga. (Havamal 52.) “A man does not have to give much ; often praise is bought for a little, with a half a loaf and with a tipped horn I have gotten me fellowship.”

All of these things are helpful. They are help on long and difficult journeys, creature comforts that recharge one's batteries, providing refreshment. Notice that Odin speaks to both material and spiritual needs. Water and a towel, fire, food, and fresh clothes for the body, but good words and good treatment for the soul. The right words at the right time, but also the ability to just sit in silence. Both are healing. And there is the concept of what I call "Embrace" : the community extending its welcome and wrapping its arms of worthing around you, the þjóðlaðar or folk-welcome. When you're having difficulties in life, to receive a warm welcome like this provides the moral support that allows us to get back up on our feet.

Sometimes we need something to wake us up out of our sorrow, because we can have a tendency to dwell on our sorrow, and even drown in it, which doesn't help us at all. Ósviðr maðr vakir um allar nætr ok hyggr at hvívetna; þá er móðr er at morgni kemr, allt er víl sem var. (Havamal 23.) “The unwise man is awake all night and thinks on why and wherefore ; when the morning comes, all is woeful as before.” The man described here is spoken of literally as "un-smart", with "smart" retaining its original meaning of something that stings. When we are stung, we stay sharp. A "smart" man is one who retains this sharpness that comes with getting stung. Putting your hand in a fire smarts. If you are smart, you don't put your hand back in the fire. We need at times to be "smarted" out of our sorrow, which is why Odin says that the "unsmart" man stays up all night dwelling on woes that remain woeful in the morning. "Unsmart" is to say "dull". Sometimes people need a quick wakeup call to smart them back into action.

There is a Faroese proverb that speaks to another level of this preparation, and it is Betri er at vera fyrivarin, enn eftirsnarur, "Better to be forewarned than quick after the fact." Fyrivarin means "forewarned, taking precautions, being prepared". The best help, in other words, is to be "geared up" for trouble, to take precautions, and have one's toolkit prepared for what may come. Carelessness and lack of foresight catches up with us.

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 (literally, the “three-months and season”).” Be prepared. Winter lasts a long time. Make sure you have enough firewood to last throughout the season. Make sure your roof is intact, and that you have enough shingles or thatch to replace them in a storm. Gear up. Have your snowshoes ready. Have a thick coat and jacket. Make sure your mittens are knitted. Have enough firewood to warm you through the cold nights. This is the best kind of help.

Gáttir allar áðr gangi fram um skoðask skyli, um skyggnast skyli, því at óvíst er at vita hvar óvinir sitja á fleti fyrir. (Havamal 1.) "All doorways, before going forward, you should look about, spy with sharp eyes, because it is not easy to know where an enemy sits amongst the benches." Just be prepared. Keep your eyes about you. Wits, wisdom, and gear-readiness are very helpful forms of help. Byrði betri berr-at maðr brautu at en sé mannvit mikit (Havamal 10); "A man cannot bear a better burden out on the open road than a mighty dose of street-smarts (literally, man-wits)." Anticipate contingencies ; build the potential of adversity into your game plan and prepare appropriately. This is self-help.

But self-help also includes making sure you have a solid network of friends. Havamal is filled with advice on how to keep friends : keeping the lines of communication open, visiting often, giving gifts, because besides the incomparable pleasures friendship brings, you never know when you may need to call on a friend for help, and you don't want to have to dust off the cobwebs when you are in need. Keep your self in relation, in good relation, and you may have more help than you thought when a crisis arises. And just remember, a gift calls for a gift. Never take for granted the help that is offered. That is a way to spit on your luck. And you never want to spit on your luck.

We need all the help we can get.

all translations copyright 2008 by Siegfried Goodfellow

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Weaving Heathenism into the Larger Tribal Community

I went to a Pow-wow today, and was struck by several things. First, the total lack of any presence of the heathen community. We should be at pow-wows and other native events to begin weaving connections with the Native people of this land, and let them know that another folk have begun walking the road and tapping the indigenous roots. Dan Miller, Lawspeaker for the Heathen Freehold Society of British Columbia (, has begun the invitation :, and this must be just the beginning of a long and productive interrelationship.

Secondly, the pride of these folks, as they appeared in their traditional, shamanic, flamboyant regalia, as they danced around the circle to the drums and the singing. This was out in the open, celebratory, proud, public demonstration of native values and pride. All of us should be equally as proud of the beat of the earth moving through us, and speak that pulse, without fear or shame. It is important that the Native peoples know that the thunder, the earth, the sun, the sky are beginning to speak through us, and that we are ready to come to the table as equals who have reclaimed all that the imperialists and colonialists threw out in their drive for superiority. They need to know that this is something deep, authentic, and real : this ain't no "popcorn medicine men" or soft-focus, dazzled imitators. (I will not engage in schadenfreude towards seekers, however naive or novice, but it is still important to emphasize the value of root.) This is something we feel in our bones and our blood, our flesh and our loins, and a reawakening has begun. We should be courteous but not shy, proud but not arrogant, eager to share and eager to listen, ready to acknowledge mistakes and areas where there is room for improvement, and exercise honesty about the deeds laid down which we have a right to be proud of because they are the beginnings of a new era that restores all that was good about the old.

Thirdly, but connected to this second point, it made me think about traditional Viking and Germanic - era costume. I've never really felt the need to dress up in such gear, but it made me think that perhaps I'd like to invest in such an outfit, not because I need such to appear before the Gods, but rather, to have the regalia that lets other tribal people know that I am one of the re-indigenizing, because this could start conversations. I'm afraid in the non-descript outfit I was wearing I didn't attract much attention, certainly not in comparison to the traditional outfits some were wearing, but with a traditional costume (say, like the one Raven Kaldera is wearing here :) , attention and conversation are sure to start up.

Fourthly, there was a woman of European descent there who spoke so sadly about the fact that she was not Native American, and despite the fact that all people were once tribal, that she was separated by thousands of years from her tribal ancestors, and so little had survived. I spoke up and said, "Actually, that's not true, there really is a lot." This underlined for me the hunger there is for authentic heathenism out there. There is really a niche out there for something powerful which we have to offer if we will get our heads out of our asses and stop being dickwads. We've got powerful goods to offer people with tremendous needs. We really need to find a way to present this to people as the Old Ways, the Tribal Ways. Yes, this is a "religion", but sometimes that word puts people into a particular state of mind that can bring up resistance. It is better to say this is a folkways, an old, indigenous path, a sacred tribal spirituality that offers a base and root from which to relate to indigenous people everywhere as equals trying to repave the native road.

Finally, we need to be reconstructing the ancient dance, music, and storytelling that always used to accompany a feast! The Christian clerics were in a frenzy about how much dance was a part of the traditional culture of European societies, so we know it featured largely. We need to be able to show up to a pow-wow, and not just blot or sumble, but to show our own dances and music. This is a really neglected part of modern heathenism that we need to revive, with a vengeance! Native peoples know that dancing is a form of praying with one's feet, and we need to rediscover this vital part of our ancestral path, because it will bring vibrancy and power to our reawakening and revival.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Polite, Kind, Fair, and Loving Gods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, they love us.

Tradition Provides a Variety of Choices

A mature tradition, like an ecosystem, provides a variety of choices for a diversity of lifestyles, and to clarify the depth of this diversity, that does not mean merely 99 different flavors of the same set of choices! It does not, on the other hand, mean "anything goes" either, because tradition is a response to real instinctual and developmental needs, and the need to harmonize conflicting claims, rights, and responsibilities. But even within the parameters of these complex, converging vectors, one size does not fit all --- not, at least, if it is a fully matured tradition.

A tradition should be like Wyrd, providing a variety of different options depending upon how conventional or unconventional one is willing to be. It has different schedules for different itineraries.

Your Fate Depends on Your Weird

Fate depends on the level with which one engages Wyrd.

Wyrd begins at the lowest level with an economy package called conventionality that provides what might be called "herd fate", consisting of a set of fairly convenient, pre-made choices and parameters that come with the security of "it's always been done this way" and "everybody's doing it", providing a sense (or illusion, depending on one's perspective) of both continuity and bandwagon security. Most people choose this economy package. It doesn't require a lot of thought, decision-making is minimized to pre-selected parameters and standard crises, and one has a large pool of fellow travellers, as most people tend to choose the economy package. On the other hand, it tends to be more fatalistic, in the sense that people in this package have a hard time thinking outside the box (and indeed do not want to), and thus are confined to the standard options. Life outside the economy package can be lonelier, and the economy package provides greater definition.

On the other hand, unbeknownst to most in the economy package, Wyrd offers a variety of deluxe or "wizard" packages for the more adventurous. The more adventurous and unconventional one is willing to be (and no, we are not discussing anti-conformists who enslave themselves to conformity by reacting against it, but true nonconformists with the freedom to think outside the box), the more options there are. The greater the risk (physically, socially, or otherwise), the greater the opportunity. If I'm making Wyrd sound like an insurance broker or like a stock market, there are actually some apropo commonalities, so long as we expand our scope towards the profound. There are also elements of a divine casino in there as well -- let's remember how important gambling was to the ancient Germani, who formulated the concept of "wyrd". The "deluxe", "wizard", or "adventurer" categories do not come with the same levels of security the economy package promises, but then again, allow for much greater creativity, and the potential rewards can be higher. Life outside the blinders mean opportunities for increased perception and thus the ability to avoid obstacles and even calamities unseen or unthought by the herd. These packages are much more of what Socrates called the "examined" life (but in contradistinction to mere armchair contemplation, it is also a life that requires intelligent activity). Wyrd requires those in these packages to practice what de Bono calls "later thinking". Such creativity in thought and action does not come with warranties or guarantees, and those on these paths who fall quickly become the cited examples within the economy package of the dangers of stepping out of line.

An interesting phenomenon can develop within the economy package whereby the herd no longer finds it fashionable (herds and fashions go together) to think of itself as a herd, and thus develops a herd-style it decorates with superficial elements of the deluxe package, so everyone can feel special, without having to change their fundamental thoughts and choices. Wyrd tends to throw these folks the same sets of parameters --- for the economy package is essentially an insurance policy designed by the herd to minimize and domesticate chance. Chance and change are here seen largely in terms of danger rather than opportunity.

Those outside the economy package, on the other hand, tend to thrive on chance, teasing out its creative possibilities, and enjoy the wilder terroritories of chance (which can at times include wilder rides, but let us remember that the term "wild" refers not only to a bucking bronco (and indeed it is natural for a bronco to try to buck off the unnatural imposition of a riding human --- and thus the intensity of hte bucking is proportional to the unnatural control and domination being imposed), but also to a field of wildflowers). But the risks are greater, of injury and loneliness. Most people in these packages are hedgewalkers, occupying the fertile but wilder transition zones between inside and outside. They are not quite part of the herd, but generally not quite part of the foreign world either, but with a foot in both worlds.

Life for those in the deluxe packages is, in short, weird. The more weird becomes your home, the greater benefits you may be able to reap from Wyrd, because thinking outside the box allows for greater options ; but this does not mean that mere unconventionality -- especially as a stance -- guarantees anything. A wizard will meet all kinds of marginalized folks who have been marginalized for a number of different reasons, many of which include deficiencies, especially in social skills. Supporting the romanticization of their marginalization does not necessarily empower them ; better for some of them to gain in skill than falter in a low-esteem place that feebly thumbs its nose at convention out of sour grapes, while clinging to an idea of being "special". Many people in these places secretly crave to be more in the social center. They may make for temporary allies to a wizard, but the wizard ought to remember the dynamics that motivate them --- and therefore their ultimate loyalties. However, people in this class can strive towards and graduate into wizardry, and many times do. Their position in the margins gives them a unique vantage point.

Wyrd is uncanny. The wizard knows the bet of the herd to hedge chance often fails, for Wyrd happens regardless of one's illusions of security. Many times the security of the economy package is the security of the illusion of security, which in normal times can provide an amazingly robust sense of security! But the wizard knows that nothing is certain, and therefore possibilities abound! The wizard masters weird so as to master Wyrd (1).


1 One can never truly "master" Wyrd, which is stronger than all. This is not a matter of control, but rather a kind of devotion to Wyrd which Urd, apparently, finds charming, and thus grants blessings, thus providing these advanced packages for those who can achieve them.

Be Not Conformed To The World

And be not conformed to this world. (Romans 12 : 2.)

This is good heathen advice. It could well have been said by volvas and wizards to the folk.

What?!? you may ask.

Be ye not conformed unto Rome, unto the culture of empire, but cleave to the ways of your ancient folk.

The author of Romans was not saying to not be conformed to the earth. The earth itself is often spoken of in the Bible, and hardly ever in any negative sense. But the world, the culture of empire, the de-indigenized city-culture is what is targeted.

If anything, we heathens can give the same warnings, but even more pointedly. Our Germani ancestors would have had grave reservations about any assimilation of Roman values. The Romans, despite being pagan, were no longer indigenous. They had become an empire, a culture of the city subordinating the countryside, while the Germani abhorred cities, stuck to the rural countryside, and clung to their indigeneity. Their stories warned them about the ills that could result if Gold-Greed and Fraud got together : wolves would be bred in Iron Woods, war and rapine would go rampant, and tribe would be turned against tribe.

Our ancestors wouldn't have phrased it as "the world". Midgard, the middle realm of tribes of men, was a good place, an indigenous place. But Midgard could become invaded by Giants. The Germanic tribes, who well knew that the Romans had built many of the large structures they found, nevertheless said that they had been built by Giants. They knew precisely what they were saying. Some of the Roman cities seemed more like the Ironwoods than any good green pastures they knew. And in these places, gold was hoarded, not given away, not shared amongst kinsmen and comrades.

Every theod its thew, was the old saying. The ways and opinions that mattered were those of one's family, one's sibbe, one's theod : one's loved ones and comrades. These were ways that developed out of the Forests and Heath, always being renewed by wyrd through direct prophetic contact with the Well. To abandon these for the way of empire, for the ways of folk who have forgotten their old ways, from de-indigenized, de-tribalized folk would have been seen as the greatest foolishness. When the Germanic tribes took over the Roman empire, they administered separate law for separate peoples. This had nothing to do with ethnic separatism, and everything to do with respect for decentralization and affirmation of tribal law. It would be unthinkable to abandon the ways of one's ancestors or even one's own family!

Consider the values of the sibbe: generosity, care for all in the clan, including widows and orphans, mutual aid, worthscipe, frith ... thew of which any Christian group in the Roman Empire could have been envious. This is not to say the old sibbe-ways were perfect, but they were the mainstay of practice, at least until Rome began to divide-and-conquer the old ways.

That division-and-conquest took place long ago. It is true that Arminius was successful in organizing the tribes to fend off complete Roman conquest, preserving the core of Teutonic culture, but there is no doubt that Roman ways had seeped in and began to poison the social structure. Moreover, old tribal skirmish-bands were transformed into fully militarized units. Much changed. Much needed renewal.

We are the ones who can renew. By abandoning our Roman Citizenship, by refusing to be subjects of empire, by reclaiming our heathen, tribal roots. Be ye not conformed unto Rome, unto the culture of empire, but cleave to the ways of your ancient folk.

Monday, April 14, 2008

What Makes A Heathen?

The Eddas are beautiful fossils, but they alone do not make a heathen. Cognitive familiarity with the nature of the gods is edifying, but it alone does not make a heathen. Experience with blot and sumble is a good thing, but it alone does not make a heathen.

All of these are necessary, but far, far from sufficient, and only take on significance and meaning when the sufficiency has been supplied : then they blossom and bloom, full of perfume and color and vibrancy.

There is a living quality that cannot be created through mechanistic application of eddic or ritual formulas. One will remain a Roman Citizen with a thin veneer of heathen dressup on top. You have to become aboriginal. You have to become indigenous.

This is going to take time. It is going to take effort. Effort to deepen. Effort to let go, to unlearn. Effort to question. Effort to open the heart to the pulsation of the world's heart. Unless this can be achieved, all the rest is superficial nonsense. This is not a mind game. The only way to make it real is to open the heart and live from the heart.

If you keep it all in your head, if you maintain your detachment, if you try to hold on to your need to control, my Gods, if you are concerned with being normal, you will remain a Roman Citizen in a very strange and archaic costume.

You have to develop a feeling for wild nature. You have to allow yourself to feel, to be deeply affected by the natural world in order to feel the power pulsating within it. This is the heart from which all of the religious superstructure was originally generated. It is this heart-connection to the world that has been cut off by the Roman Empire, and all the externals in the world won't do a bit of good for humpty-dumpty unless you begin at the beginning, and tap into source.

We jump into teaching people the Gods -- the Ultimates! -- first, and then wonder when they retain a stale, cardboard comic-book feel. We should begin with plants, and stones, and trees. We should begin with water and soil, and fire. Elementary before advanced. Elementary means forming connections to the elements. Then one can graduate to connection with the fair-folk, the alfar, the landvaettir. Finally, one moves upward (and downward) to Ultimates, relations with the Gods themselves. How to do so unless one has developed a heart-connection with the living world first?

Our guides here are not the Eddas. They are not ritual scripts. They are not history books. They are not even folklore. Begin with the humble. It is in woodcraft one finds one's beginnings : a feel for the land, the woods, herbs, observations of animals and birds, and finding a place in nature, perhaps through camping or hiking or even fishing. We as heathens are doing something wrong if the Boy Scouts are able to provide more primal experiences than we are. We should be making the Boy Scouts seem like --- well, Boy Scouts!!

We train the mind in modern reconstructionism and forget that the mind is only part of wisdom. It is the heart that must be developed. Our ancestors were full-feeling fellows, and it is that capacity we must develop, proudly, without shame, learning to trust ourselves and the living world.

If all you do is shove your mind full of words and concepts, you will get trapped in wordloc, the prison of abstract Roman logic. This is not anti-intellectualism. (No one who knows me will accuse me of being anti-intellectual!! My rigor is impeccable.) It is anti-intellectual-supremacy. The intellect is important, but so is intuition, emotion, heart. This is an integrated path. First
discover yourself as a force of nature, and then blossom from there. If you stay in rules and regulations, and how to behave properly, and strictly within the approved maps, you will never discover authentic, deep heathenism. Find where you are uncontrollable, and uncontrolling, and discover the gentle, subtle, strong, unstoppable power of that wildness.

This isn't about caricature. It's not about acting like a barbarian, or purposely being rude, or play-acting some wildness you see in your head. It's about having the guts to explore your authentic wildness, the uncontrolled / uncontrolling will that animates your being. Worry about finding that first. The courtesy that flows out of that wild gentleness will develop from that in its own good time. First things first.

As a colonized person, as a Citizen of Rome, this prospect of exploring your authentic wildness should terrify you. It should frighten you so much you become embarassed by it and ridicule it. You dismiss it flippantly to push it away. You declare it absurd or nonsensical. You project onto it mayhem, chaos, violence, destruction. All your old superstitions and bugbears rear their ugly heads to see if they can distract you with fear and nightmares, spook you to push you back into defensive rationality and the fear-based obsession to control. All of these indicate just how terrifying this is for a colonized, de-indigenized being. And you don't re-indigenize by play-acting the mythology and rituals of your ancestors, because that simply allows you to continue, underneath it all, to be the scared, controlling/controlled Roman colonized subject that you are
until you release control.

You can't simply collect de-indigenized people, throw together some rituals and formulas, and expect it to all come together. There is a great deal of prerequisite catharsis necessary. Ecdysis -- peeling off the skin of Roman subjection -- is needed. You have to get naked, hairy, and vulnerable before you can experience as well your natural fierceness. Militaristic stances, rules-and-regulations mindsets, preoccupation with weapons, concern with conformity to ancient archaeology and sociology --- these are all distractions meant to keep the soul within the well-controlled mind of empire.

You have to feel free to be your wild self, and respond to the world from that wild heart, building a culture where no one is ashamed to speak and affirm the realities that emerge out of these connections.

All of this will take a while to mature. We all begin awkward, silly, superficial, our intuitive channels clogged with unfinished business, old resentments, unclaimed personal concerns, and undigested insights. Beginners take their first babysteps of intuition as fully-cooked visions and Gods-stamped truth. Over time, some of these initial feelings stay the same and confirm themselves, and some of them develop and succeed each other, as a burned-down forest first grows pioneering fire plants, then larger weeds, then small shrubs, then larger shrubs, then small trees, larger trees, and eventually, over time, Old Growth forest. That's the maturity we're aiming at. But to activate the growth process that makes development towards that goal possible, we have to discover the wild self underneath the clear-cutting self, and release the control that chops down every new growth.

From this wild place, begin developing a feel for wild nature. Cultivate woodcraft. (Not woodworking but woodcraft : woodland skills.) Engage in naturalistic observation. Less mythology, more naturalism. Take time to watch birds, to feel the grass, to gaze at the sensuous bark on tree limbs, to smell the earth, to chew grass in your mouth.

From infancy we have been placed into boxes, channeled in directions that would make us good Roman Citizens. This means to recover the lost capacities of our soul, we may have to go backwards and begin as babies. Babies' first lessons are "sensorimotor". They feel the world, touch the world, taste the world, roll around in the world, cover themselves with world, crawl then walk then bound through world. This kind of sensorimotor experience with nature is necessary to become a heathen. There's no two ways around it.

Intellectual reconstructionism forces the experiential into propriety. What is the proper way of doing this, according to historical accuracy, it asks. This creates nothing but external conformity, an empty shell. One becomes a heathen fundamentally from within. (The actual presence of a real heathen, however, can awaken impulses from within.) This is not antiquarianism. That doesn't mean there isn't an important place for our antiquarian scholars, but they serve the living heart and not vice-versa.

Some may get angry at this. They may say, "I'm a heathen and I haven't done this stuff." I don't care. I don't care whether it angers you, or whether you pull out your 25-year membership card, or recite how many rituals you've been to, or who you know or what you've written (1). If you haven't gone through a process analogous to what I'm describing here, you are still a heathen-in-training.

But that's ok. We all are. Re-indigenizing takes a long time. It is a slow growth. But it is important that we take the first steps on that long and worthy road. In this way, we can make ourselves heathens, make ourselves worthy of our ancient ancestors and the Gods. They will appreciate the effort --- and so will we.


1 This may offend pussyfoot pagans, who are committed conformists to the culture of empire, with a thin aesthetic dressing of paganism on top, too timid to challenge the status quo or rock the boat. I won't cater to such timidity be cause heathenism is a bold folkway, and I won't worry about burning bridges either because those who get offended can retain their right to disagree and meet me in other places where we can still authentically meet. This is a Path of Transformation, not Conformation.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Broad Mindedness

What is really needed is broad-mindedness. As time wears on, and people have to find their niche, they begin to project the nature of their niche onto the entire universe. But the nature of the universe is that it is niched, which means that there exist all kinds of differing conditions. To get life, you have to go beyond one niche, and develop broad-mindedness.

As human beings, we have a tendency to believe only that which we can see, or hear, or touch, or taste. Even our hugr or odr tends to develop that which our senses present to us, elaborating, extending, inferring ... But the ond that Odin gave is the broad-mind, the mind that has the ability to stretch beyond our present capacities and perceptions. It is, in a sense, very much related to that capacity the Christians call "faith", and on the other hand, to what our ancestors called spa. It is an ability to leap beyond the given, and stretch our mind out towards other possibilities.

As people grow older, they tend to believe less and less in possibilities, believing only in those possibilities that have come their way, and even then, only those they were able to turn to their benefit. As people grow older, they have a tendency to become jaded, giving more weight to betrayals than to opportunities, and trusting their distrust, so that they become more narrow. In a sense, they focus on what works, which is practical, but without, at the same time, working to extend what works. In order to extend what works, we must be able to go beyond our conditioned narrowness. The jaded often see this as hopeless idealism, but really it is an ability to engage in flight, which does not disclude an ability to ground. One can be broad-minded and quite practical at the same time.

There is no problem with building a home, so long as that does not make you a homebody (heimsk). Odin expects us, at the very least, to travel broadly with our minds. What this means is that getting established, in that nest of possibilities, opportunities, disappointments, and successes that wyrd has thrown your way is ok, so long as you don't go on to presume that everyone else is facing the same wyrd-nest. Wyrd's web is vast and niched, full of all kinds of different weaves. You can most certainly know really well and from a very grounded perspective your own nest of the web. But you must exercise extreme caution in generalizing to what "life" in general is "really" all about.

I have seen this tone even in heathen writers I admire who have a lot of wisdom. They begin to think that there is one way of doing things, one right way of living life, and the fact of the matter is, there are nine different worlds, and all kinds of different ways of living life successfully. In fact, that's one of the wonderful things about a "world" is that it is not a totalitarian-unified system, but a "togatherness" of niches and nests that makes for a whole. A world is a wonderful place because it allows so many diverse niches to co-exist. This doesn't mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that "anything goes". It is true that in any environment, there are practical challenges that simply must be met and overcome if one is to thrive. But the particulars of these challenges (as well as the opportunities) are nuanced and rich.

This is why our gods give us rede, not rules. All that can be given are rules of thumb, maxims, generalizations which must be applied to specific, differing circumstances. One size does not fit all. The cosmos is a web of all kinds of different sizes. Don't believe anyone who says you must conform to a particular niche. Your wyrd is your wyrd. Find your own niche. Broad-mindedness teaches that there are many.