Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Tales All Sailors Tell

We dialogue across the great wildernesses.
I hear the wisdom on the wind, and know Woden calls.
Whatever has emerged from a forest is true.
It is in the middle we find our mating.
Mimir's Well is most central.
Laughter is the best sort of inquiry
when conducted with agility and limberness.
Do not fear to mix traditions
if you find laughter in the dreaming.
True ones speak across the walls of idiom
and find vital exchanges only Njord well knows
who never fears the commerce of salted fish,
brawny arms, ports o'call, and the tales
all sailors tell.

Wyrd Megin Thew
is Teutonic
for Tao Te Ching.
I will speak heresies
that enlighten.
I shall not shirk
from controversy
when brilliance
comes from the flame.
I shall regather the lost
from all eight directions
of hoofed wind, Odin's splendid

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mead as Sacrament

What is the mead? It is not the literal alcoholic beverage that we know. Our alcoholic beverage is a metaphor, or metaform as Judy Grahn puts it, for a process of squeezing and concentrating the fruits of experience, and then allowing them to be slowly digested and matured over long periods of time.

When one drinks the mead, one is literally imbibing the rich, soulful experiences of ourselves, others, of the ancestors, of the Gods, yeasted and fermented into their most concentrated and dense form of wisdom, insight, and inspiration. It is, in a certain sense, although this would be taking it too far, as if one were drinking souls, and then allowing those souls not only to rejuvenate, but to live through oneself, and it is that process of those souls drunk that generates the experience of intoxication. A compact of sorts is formed in the drinking, whereby the souls in the mead are allowed to live through one's own experience in exchange for greater awareness and contact with the soulful part of the world. This exaggeration gets close to what the mead is.

From this perspective, the ancestors live as deeply digested experiences within the well of wisdom itself, which collects souls into an ancestral brew where all is experienced on the soul-level. If one saw with true eyes, as it were, all one would see would be the underworld wells, and the fermenting and boiling within them. From our material standpoint, living in the manifest world of extension rather than intensity (as Spinoza might put it), the vision of that activity going on within the wells becomes translated to our imaginations in the familiar shapes of people in human form living their lives within the ancestral lands of hel.

As the folk come to the Well of Wyrd, there is a Court of Doom whereby they receive, as the New Agers put it, their "life evaluation", a full and fair inquiry and review that determines where, within the broad lands and kingdoms of the ancestral lands of bliss, one shall receive one's home. In a sense, it is a question of jurisdiction ; in another sense, it is a question of belonging. Once this is determined, and it is determined that one's jurisdiction is not within Niflhel, a fairly easy determination for most, since the Gods are lenient except in heinous cases (although lessons, tasks, and gilds may be assigned for lesser offenses. These gilds can be paid off through community service as disir, although others may volunteer for disir-service as well), then one is given the dyrar veigar, the drink that transforms one from a speechless shade, a mere shadow of a spirit, into a strong, fully embodied being whose soul and body are no longer separated, and in fact these two terms as differentiators become irrelevant. It is, as it were, a final sealing into one's essential self and being.

From there, solidified in soul as never before, the soul finds its home and goes there, to learn from the ancestors. This takes place over great periods of time, with no sense of rush, and a great sense of rest, leisure, and the decorum of what one might call a royal prerogative. There is much to learn, stories to tell, and great histories to digest that cannot all be assimilated at once. It is a progressive process of growing into the earth, a kind of weaving into the very heart of things. As one assimilates all of this over eons, one goes about one's business much as one would on earth, for one is, as it were, digesting the harvest one cultivated in one's lifetime, that field of experience cleared, marked out, delineated, and allotted by one's passions, talents, investments, and great loves. One grows into the great habit of oneself, and through this slow, grinding process refines and perfects all that is wonderful and imperfect in oneself. This perfection does not destroy the imperfections, but perfects them, completes them, makes them full and whole and awesome.

One goes out to one's farmlands, one's homestead, where the heart is, and cultivates those lands out in the countryside, for there are great, vast swathes of countryside out in the underworld, and the ancestors called it as a whole jormungrund, or "the great ground", because it was imagined as a much more immense territory, to accomodate all the souls who had ever been upon the face of the earth. There, out in one's personal and/or family boons, one is allowed to fully grow into the nut one is, lending one's own personal flavor to the estate, bringing spice and panache and the salt of the earth. Time passes in a completely different way, so that one day is as many, many days amongst the living, until one day, as one is in the midst of one's work (and there one relishes one's work, the masterpiece of one's soul, the good, honest, hearty work of one's loves and passions), suddenly on the outskirts of one's farm, at the edge of the fields by the pathways that abut up against neighboring farms, you see a visitor arrive, and you realize it is an old friend come from the land of the living. You are so grateful to see this old friend, with great warmth and affection, but it is as if just a number of days have passed although it may have been decades upon decades in the land of mortals. And you get the opportunity to help orient them and welcome them to their final home. And one might think of jormungrund that way, a vast kingdom of homelands within which everyone finds their final home. And in such a vast space, many different countrysides, many different customs, as many customs as nations ; and there, as here, one is free to traverse and travel at will to visit these other nations if the fancy strikes.

All of this is administered and serviced by a vast diversity of spirits and powers who ensure that everyone gets to have their own place, and find their own peace through the process that is fitting for them. Those who are very concerned about their own family members amongst the land of mortals may volunteer for disir-service, in which they get to act as guardian angels bringing luck to their particular tribe and clan.

All of this is quite delightful, and picturesque, and deeply true in its own way. Its very beauty and soulfulness proves that it is true. But in another sense, on the other hand, it is just our mortal way of translating a process that does not take place in our dimensions of external extension and bodies, and the images are translators into extension of experiential dimensions occuring as intensities rather than bodies, streams and flows of soul that have no correspondence to bodies on the one hand, and yet which form the very heart of the world itself.

From this perspective, the "under"world is not "under" at all. It is, rather, an infra-world, absolutely right here with us, within us, within everything that our mortal eyes can only see as material. Even what our instruments measure as "energy" is but the extreme outer layers of processes taking place on a soul level.

The image of these flows and streams of experience swirling, coalescing, circulating, and bubbling within the underworld wells, then, expresses even somewhat more accurately what is going on within the heart of our world for those who are no longer tied to bodies.

The "under"world image does have the advantage, however, of emphasizing the old principle of "as above, so below", albeit in a somewhat topsy-turvy way. A topsy-turvy way, because it is difficult to say who has the worse lot, as it were, and, which is "on top" as it were. From the perspective of those who have found their final home, it may be as if they have reached the pinnacle of existence, although here "below" may very much have a valence of pinnacle rather than the peak. The very depths of soul are the best place to be, compared to the chaotic, uncertain flux of the mortal world. It is not that there is no becoming in the underworld, but that it takes place at a far more stable and slow level, while the external world of mortality is a flurry ; full of excitement, but also great risk and peril. A gnat and a redwood tree both become, but at very different rates of speed and experience. Even the perspective on holy powers may be topsy-turvy down there, as the Gods who administer heaven and earth may be seen as necessary but distant figures governing what may be seen at times as a relatively unimportant domain of the larger picture, and the local spirits and administrative power and personality structure having much more importance. One is grateful, of course, for the oversight, protection, and guidance of the so-called "upperworlds" by those holy powers assigned to such districts, but they may have very little concern for those finding and affirming their own soul.

"Hell" or "heaven" in the modern, Christian-influenced senses, may very much depend on perspective. It is not usual to topsy-turvy the perspective on Valhall, but from the perspective of the majority who aim for the Land of the Ancestors, those who end up on the other side, as it were, may seem to have gotten the lot of "hell" in our modern sense. After all, they are constantly in battle, constantly getting wounded, constantly having to be on the alert and go through training exercises, having to experience death and rebirth all the time, and while they may receive some good fare, from the perspective of a non-hero or non-soldier these may seem like mere soldier rations and hardly worth all the trouble. For those who have this perspective, the bright "heaven" of the Valhall destiny may seem hellish indeed, at least for themselves, although, of course, the overwhelming perspective for even those of this type is one of gratitude for those who take the time to protect the nine worlds. Still, many times it may be more on the order of the general, vague gratitude one has for those military personnel one rarely or never sees, but who one knows is protecting one's country. On the other hand, for those destined for Valhall, they cannot imagine any other destiny that would be worthwhile. Here there is exhilaration, and adventure, constant new training and learning, under the very best and sharpest of the Gods, and for a purpose, all in preparation to make the greatest difference one could imagine, to which one's brief martial life was but a taste.

This image is so striking and so vibrant, tasting so much of the life of action, that it seared itself in the consciousness of Northern men, and was sufficiently distinct to survive the conversion to Christianity, even after several hundred years. Unfortunately, the other afterlife locales or imaginations did not fare as well. Since the Ancestral Lands were in many way for most folk their own personal idea of "heaven", where they got to be with their families in bliss, the new meme of "heaven" took over and blended with this, and thus the idea of Hel as a blessed place was lost. On the other hand, there was propaganda value in the priests converting that great underworld place into their Gehenna and fiery land of torture. Through these two processes, Hel and Niflhel became completely confused, and Snorri does us no favors by continuing to confuse these, for by his time, the older conceptions, which can still be found strongly in the poems, the fornaldasagas, and especially in Saxo, had faded from explicit if autochtonous doctrine.

We began with mead. Mead, is, as it were, the natural currency of exchange between the worlds. It is the sap that runs through the World-Tree. It is the way experiences circulate between folk. And when we drink alcoholic beverages, especially those, as in ancient times, mixed with special potions of potent gruits, we experience just a little taste, in symbolic form, of what is going on around us all the time, the great flows of soul that circulate within, through, and about the world(s). The mead, in other words, is a sacrament ; a sacrament that is not fully experienced without the rippling resonance of all of these (and more) above-explored layers of significance. With the sacrament of mead, one drinks in the great richness of life.

The alcohol is the metaphor, the intoxication the sacrament, the meaning the digestion of experience into the great soulfulness of the world.

And some say that sumble is not true religion!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Odr's Voyage

I traveled through the dark night
where stars blacked out
through the lands of fog
through the blue winter blizzards
Down through the maelstrom
Down through the caverns
Travelling down to the center of the earth.
I went down there
where the ghouls go
where no living man treads
past the screaming dungeons
past the icy sloes
past Night's citadel
beyond Sindri's golden hall
beneath the mountains where
dwarves mine the rocky deeps.
past the holy lair of the dreaded giant
whose head guards the spring of ancestral truth.
right to the midst of the middle root
of that largest of all trees.
I saw walls sheltering undying lands
filled with animals of every kind
from all four corners of the earth ;
a castle was being built there, with full halls
and tables set for a bright master soon to come
who they said would rule in peace
when the age was regenerated.
All the way, the Moon guided me
I remembered his song.
The pathways his milky beams cast.
At a root larger than any mountain
dwarfing the most massive of jotnar
near the mouth of a frosty cave
I met a satyr son of Mimir
antler-crowned dwarf-lord
guarding the holiest of lands
arms crossed and axe by his side.
That dwarf was stocky
and larger than a ten-foot oak,
but small for a giant, I suppose.
If I were to grasp what I came for,
I must get past this most formidable
of guards. I slipped into shadows
staying absolutely still until
the underworld sun began to set.
Then with intrepid footsteps
I leapt upon his eyes with cloth
binding him blind from behind
and transfixing him to the cave wall with a spear.
Do you want your life? I asked him.
Surely he nodded, as any might.
For a faithful vow to deliver me safe
to the Mysterious Mother of Night
who wove starry riddles on a loom
stretched across the roots of the immense tree,
I released him from his bonds,
for well I knew how. Then, kneeling
before Her Holy Majesty, trembling,
my elvish head bowed in fright and awe,
I yielded the silver-ivory sickle
the Moon had given to me, and waited
full many hours before the Crone noticed at all,
or so it seemed, to deign to turn and meet my eyes.
In terror it seemed that death looked me still through,
and then I saw beyond in that face, some mystery
I cannot tell, whence the most gentle and wise
of grandmotherly faces, and she smiled,
but her eyes were stern, cold and starry jotunn eyes.
Surely the grandam towered a full fifteen feet
o'er my already tall, slender height.
When she saw the sickle, those stone-cold eyes
hinted the trace of a smile, as the crescent moon
shimmering on the surface of a foggy lake, then left
her corded, gauze root-tangled loom, and walked
so regal, with such dignity as she ruled the entire realm
beneath, and so it seemed, she did, and at
the dwarf-lord's nudge of axe, I followed
through thickets of leaf-shrouded corridors
leading up and down paths that seemed
to follow the undulations of the root itself.
Before us, an immense circular wall of marble
engraved with silver snakes and dragons, runes of gold,
upon granite foundations thicker than a fortress' walls
sheltered the subtle sound of splashing, and then I knew --
as I saw towering down within the chasm
the terrifying beheaded head of the Giant-lord
at least six feet across, with moss for beard, and hair
like tangles of root-threads and loamy rhizomes,
if he had sprouted from the tree itself it would have seemed fit --
I knew this was the very well, the deepest of all wisdom ever spoken.
Up she strode and stroked his root-tangled hair hanging o'er
the chasm as to let his dangling mouth drink
what deep, rich mead swelled within that marble cistern.
I followed, and a golden axe strewn with pattern-forged checkers
slammed down in front of me. "None," stormed Miming,
the Giant's dwarvish son,
"shall go further than this, unless a sacrifice you'd give."
The Mysterious Mother of Night whispered
into the hanging Giant's head, whose severed throat
uttered gutteral roars like elephants thundering upon
gravel pathways, in an old dwarvish language I could not
ken, and it seemed they argued, if the sound of the earth
rumbling, and the echoes of the wind that seemed
to whisp from her lips could argue. Then those terrible
eyes of ancient, giant wisdom turned
towards me, and earthquakes quivering spoke out
the mouth of that mighty well-master of old.
"Speak now, archer's son of the shining bow,
kin of witches and eldar, whose grandfather wed
jotnar. A riddle will answer your gleaming head, or
your head shall adorn this grove forevermore."
I am forbidden to speak that arcane, trying puzzle
the largest and most intimidating of riddlers put
to the test of my maternal-learned spells, but with luck
and the strength of deep-summoning, closing eyes
and sinking vastly towards my lower power, chanting
the most ancient of elvish tongues, the maternal lore
did not fail me. I have my head to prove it!
The sickle I surrendered. "With great peril
this curse is yielded to the nephew of its maker.
Bring it forthwith to the Gods, and do not tarry,
do not dawdle, for the wretched blade's fury
surpasses even the power of the thunder, and could bring
down the heaven's might in fire. Trusted you are
with a great and mighty task, do not fail, or all
the worlds might tumble." The words thoomed
out of his older-than-worlds mouth like behemoths
upon the dusty bosom of moaning mother earth, and
Miming handed me the mighty sword, scabbard locked
in nine most awesome tangles and binds, and bowing,
I wound my way out, back
towards the realm of night
past the gates of frost
up the dripping, sightless caves that wound
forever so it seemed before the dimmest light
of moon shimmered once more upon Midgard's plains,
and there I was, back where I began.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

What Is Religion?

What is religion?

Religion is a good meal, and everything it took to get to your plate, from soil to seed to harvest.

Religion is listening to the wisdom of animals, through whose movements and sounds we gain glimpses of the Gods.

Religion is drawing strength and nourishment from loved ones, and giving it in return.

Religion is honoring the experience of passion in love.

Religion is standing upon the earth, surveying the skies and the treescapes, taking in a deep breath, and knowing this planet is good.

Religion is knowing your world, through every nook and cranny, with every grainy and varied texture, and feeling its sacredness through and through.

Religion is gathering up all of this varied experience and translating it through the imagination into tales the folk love, so that the reality of the world and its imaginative context interpenetrate to give rich, poetic meaning to things.

Religion is calling together the folk for periodic feasts to remember what is valuable in life and toast that which is honorable.

Religion is learning how to be a human being in the ongoing wave of human generations upon this beloved earth.

Religion is walking upon the grass and knowing that ancestors' bones sing here, and feeling their presence, however subtle, in the breeze and on the edge of dream.

Religion is having a tradition based on generations and generations of spiritual insights filtered through the enlightened pragmatism of the ages, which over time filters out what doesn't work from what is truly wise, so that the finest ancestral heirlooms of wit, beauty, and meaning may touch us in their simplicity and profundity whenever we stoop to kiss the earth or outstretch our arms to the heavens in praise.

Religion is that which binds together what might otherwise be scattered, what makes whole that which falls apart, and which picks up the pieces after disasters and gives heart and strength back to the broken-hearted, mitigating whereever it cannot completely heal.

Religion is not just the spiritual impulse of a moment, but the distilled essence of visionaries and prophetic commonfolk over generations and generations of time, that allows the many, many voices of the community both living and dead to speak, and if we are wise, to be heard.

Religion is living a normal, extraordinary, wyrd human life on a planet full of marvelous creatures created by mysteries we can barely understand and yet who come to us through comforting forms shaped by loving and kind grandmothers and grandfathers, and through whose cherished forms we come to love and honor the mysteries.

Religion is about staying close to reality, infusing it with spirit, strength, imagination, gumption, endurance, love, and lust for life.

If your religion does not provide you with these things, perhaps it is time to try religion shaped by the Old Ones, the path of the Old Ways.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Luck and Intelligence

Luck is not a passive handout, a welfare check from the government of fate. It's a partnership in which you receive matching funds for demonstration of innovative, intelligent, and bold initiative. Luck is effectiveness awarded for intelligent observation and design that piggybacks existing flows to turn them to new ends.

It's directly related to potentials that exist within the family line, and within one's own self, warded respectively by the hamingja or kyn-fylgia, and the fylgia. The disir are the clearing-house for the sculd of the family, which consist in both debts and potential powers. Potential is itself a kind of debt which must be paid off through investment and development in order to come to fruition. Failure to develop potential inhibits flows of luck just as much as committing violations of others' rights, which throw debt into the pool.

The disir give you the matching funds for your demonstrations of intelligence and initiative. As you earn, you receive. But earning involves passing the learning-curve, not banging your head against the wall until it bleeds and calling that effort. Inertia is the way of giants ; intelligence is the way of the Gods.

Once you get that, you'll get the essence of what belongs in Midgard and what doesn't, what allows it to be Midgard, and what transforms it into Jotunheim. Even customs can become giantish when they stand in the way of intelligence. And no, intelligence is not something that comes from a distant and far-away elite, ivory tower, but listening to the intelligence from within, which is sometimes nothing but the disir whispering into our ears as they dialogue with the local landvaettir.

Stupidity, inertia, brute force, custom that steps outside of sustainable and enlightened pragmatism : these are not the ways of the Gods, but the ways of Giants. We are awarded by our disir according to our evolutionary advances.

The ways of Fire and Ice may seem stronger. The glaciers seem to have more holding-power due to their incessant inertia. The flames seem to have more quickening due to their rapid leaps. But it is in the Middle where a sustainable world is created. Fire is too quick, too instantaneous, burning and consuming in its path. It quickens, but will not hold. Ice is too slow, too unmoving, hedging in and freezing growth. It is in Mimir's Well, there in the middle, where the Good grows, slowly, slowly, layer upon layer, not too fast and not too slow. Goldilocks and the Three Bears holds the secret to the entire Teutonic philosophy.