Religion is often a force that gets people to accept what is, to acquiesce to some premodelled form or vision of reality that calms them down and pacifies them. And we can spell that word in two ways : it pacifies them as it passifies them, turning them into passive people who have lost their dynamic power of activity in the world.
Heathenism could become just another sad religion along these lines if it forgot what wod is, and forgot that it is centered entirely around responsiveness to wod. Wod is riotous, dynamic turbulence, it is the stirring-up that makes us discontent with current models of reality, and drives us on to quest for something freer, stronger, more manly, more noble. It is a force to update social reality to come more in tune with wyrd, with actual existential shifts that have occurred, and thus to stay dynamic and in motion. It is a kind of creative turmoil that refuses to allow us to acquiesce to a passive notion of fitting into reality, because it views wyrd in the active sense, as something participative and co-creative and which hangs and hinges upon the doing or undoing of our deeds.
Now I'm not trying to exaggerate our self-importance here. The doing of any deed whatsoever is tremendously difficult. To have any kind of impact whatsoever on inertia is dauntingly problematic. But the very issue at hand here is that when most people talk about "reality" or "pragmatism", what they actually mean is obeisance to inertia, a complete submission to external forces, without any assertion of internal forces whatsoever. A deed requires that we listen intently and strongly to the internal forces welling up within us, to ween and glean what wisdom they would bring us, and then not only to "assert" the force and power of those forces, but to give far more devotion to them by backing them up, taking the time to strategize them in relation to external forces, and to campaign and organize on their behalf, in the audacious belief that a strong, unreckoned internal force within one in fact does not and will not stand alone, but secretly finds resonance, but buried and sad, in the hearts of many. Can a deed be a deed if it is not audacious in some way?
In his deservedly renowned essay "Self-Reliance", Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost ... A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty."
This articulates with striking clarity the wod-urthanc of the Teutonic people when it comes to deeds. We are not to remain passive in the face of inertia, and certainly not in the face of tradition. Tradition amongst Teutons is a taunting, a goading, a placing of a chip on the shoulder and saying, "I dare you!" See if you can be as audacious as the ancestors, test your level of defiance to the inertia the giants have implanted this world with through their obsconding of the treasures that were meant to bless it. Recognize the giants as the gods of this world and stand up tall and proud and say, "I refuse to believe in you," and then know in your heart of hearts that you have stronger Gods, more powerful Gods, whose every wish and will is to give you the will to fight and defy the powers that lock down potential.
This is crucial. We'll never be able to understand the difference between an imperial soldier and a tribal raider/warrior if we don't get this. We'll continue to float within the orbit of the Roman Mars who nurtures his patriarchs at the teats of the Wolf. The "will to fight" here is not just rage-on-tap that obediently directs itself towards whatever target pre-selected leaders have chosen. The "will to fight" here is equivalent to "defiance". The ancient tribal society was a delicate, dynamic balance of this strong, independent spirit, and leaders were not those who quelled this spirit, but who were able to ride it, lift it up, and from there, having inspired confidence, firmly direct it. A leader does not violate the will of his or her followers. Caesar says of the Germani, ...quae res ...libertate vitae ... a pueris nullo officio aut disciplina adsuefacti nihil omnino contra voluntatem faciant... "Because of the great freedom of their way of life ... from childhood they become accustomed to no obligation of discipline, doing nothing at all against their will." A leader, rather, celebrates their defiance, participating in it, and leads its charge where it will. Obedience emasculates the will to fight, and turns the raider into a soldier who "despite all his rage is still just a rat in a cage". A good description of the Roman soldier, who always follows orders, who is boot-camp trained to obey no matter how nonsensical it seems. A Teutonic military leader had to inspire confidence. What he was saying had to make sense. And when he was "on the jazz" surfing the unorthodox tactics of a Hannibal, it was his record of audacious luck, loyalty to the crew, and ability to succeed which inspired confidence.
Do you understand that there are deeds within you that are crying out to be done? That if you don't do, it is as if the entire world stands on a hinge, and wyrd will go this way or that? As Galadriel says to Frodo, "This task was appointed to you, and if you do not find a way, no one will." We stand in dread as Frodo is shown a vision of horror in Galadriel's well of wyrd, but do we realize the fortune of this vision? Do we realize that its intent is not to cause dread or foreboding, but to underline how crucial it is to do those deeds which only we can do? "It is what will come to pass if you should fail." Most of us are never gifted with the opportunity to see what will die and wilt in the world if we do not bring our own wyrd to the foremost.
Bring your own wyrd to the foremost. This is what the ancestors cry out. Do you hear the tears of those ancestors who failed? One does not fight just for the sake of fighting, and certainly not just to fulfill some petty macho bombastics. What is the reason for fighting? It is to defy all that would suppress and squash the bringing of our own wyrd to the foremost. The world will be impoverished without it.
Wod is like the rider's crop that drives the horse onward. It is a spur that reminds the beast drugged by the world's inertia to bring your own wyrd to the foremost.
Emerson speaks of this as genius. We forget that for the Romans, genius was akin to what we call the fylgia, that norn assigned to us as a kind of guardian angel of luck, a norn who speaks for us at that final court of doom. What will she say of someone who refuses entirely to hear her speak? What will she say of someone who has suppressed her voice? What will she say of someone who allowed the ill, confusion, and inertia of the world to drown out those deeds which needed to be done? The Helgi lays give us a vision of the fylgia interacting with the hero and confronting his inertia. "Síð muntu Helgi hringum ráða, ríkr rógapaldr, né Röðulsvöllum, - örn gól árla, - ef þú æ þegir, þótt þú harðan hug hilmir, gjaldir." (Helgi Hiorvardsson 7) "Late will you, Helgi, powerful warrior, rule rings, nor the Fields of the Sun, if thou remain silent forever, even though you show a hard mind, prince, for the eagle shrieks early." Ef þú æ þegir, "if thou forever remain silent". Precisely what we're talking about here. The fylgia, the genius, goads us on to speak, to do those deeds we were fated, and to win the rewards that go with them. Sigrlinn, Helgi's fylgia, goads, advises, and lays out the rewards to be won. But you've got to yield up more than a hard mind if you want them ; you've got to speak up. "The eagle shrieks early" : what are you waiting for?
Raoul Vaneigem puts it well in The Revolution of Everyday Life : "Animals adapt to their environment. Human beings transform theirs. ...Where man fails to change his surroundings, he too is in the situation of an animal....Man rejects adaptation and attempts to transform the world. Every time he slips up in his desire to be demiurge, he suffers the agony of having to adapt, the wrenching pain when he feels reduced to the animal's passivity." Such passivity is the complete opposite of the dynamic spirit carried onward by wod, for his or her deeds contrast mightily with what Vaneigem calls "the scandal of actions drained of their substance to the profit of an illusion which the failure of its enchantment renders more odious every day. Actions weak and pale..."
Wod partakes of the nomadic, pastoral spirit. ""In the eyes of nomads," writes Khazanov, "an agriculturalist is a slave because he is tied to one place and is enslaved by his own arduous labour." Their deepest value is freedom, which is underwritten by movement ... As for sedentists, they have been peculiarly obsessed with getting nomads to stop moving ... Nomads are elusive, and it is precisely this quality of not being pin-down-able that, says I.M. Lewis, many nomads like to flaunt. Lewis notes that they "regularly make a defiant parade of all those attributes which they know are most calculated to annoy their sedentary neighbours and rulers."" (Morris Berman, Wandering God: A Study in Nomadic Spirituality, State University of New York Press, Albany, 2000, p. 165.)
"In contrast, nomads maintain a haughty bearing, flaunt their martial tendencies, prefer the freedom their mobility affords and feel that milk is a preferred and necessary beverage" (Lawrence A. Kuznar, Robert Sedlmeyer, "Collective Violence in Darfur : An Agent-Based Model of Pastoral Nomad / Sedentary Peasant Interaction", in Mathematical Anthropology and Cultural Theory: An International Journal, Volume 1, No. 4, October 2005.)
Lest anyone think this theory of pastoralism and semi-nomadism has nothing to do with the Germani, let us remember what Caesar says of them : Vita omnis in venationibus atque in studiis rei militaris consistit ... Agriculturae non student, maiorque pars eorum victus in lacte, caseo, carne consistit. ... ne adsidua consuetudine capti studium belli gerendi agricultura commutent...Neque multum frumento, sed maximam partem lacte atque pecore vivunt multumque sunt in venationibus... "Their whole life consists of hunting and the enthusiastic pursuit of warlike affairs. ... They have no zeal for agriculture, and the larger part of their nourishment/diet consists of milk, cheese, and meat ... nor would they exchange their incessant habit of occupying themselves with the spirited pursuit of war to carry on husbandry...Nor is there much grain, but for the most part milk and living herds and the common people engage in hunting..."
Berman discusses in his book that pastoralism was actually a reaction or revolt to sedentary agriculture from within, with people lifting up and out from the confinement of being totally settled. "As Dan Aronson puts it, "Nomads have been settling and desettling themselves repeatedly throughout history." ... we know that nomads become peasants and peasants become nomads..." (Ibid, p. 162.) Let us take this term "desettling", and giving it a creative, evolutionary twist, define it as wod.
Flaunting, freedom, defiance ... it is amazing how often we encounter these words when the anthropologist tries to describe the wod of the pastoralist. "Defiance" comes from Latin disfidare, to renounce one's faith. To renounce one's faith to what? To everything which weighs down the noble, independent, dynamic spirit of life. With one's defiance, one declares one's troth to the Aesir. Wear it, and flaunt it proudly, in defiance of all the giant powers who would lock life down in a dead and passive, settled inertia. Heill the Aesir! Heill the Master of Wod!
all translations copyright 2009 by Siegfried Goodfellow