Fleshing Out the Concept of Defiance
The word "defiance" has a great range of meaning with which one can work, all the way from hooligans kicking over trash cans and thumbing one's nose in a kind of knee-jerk gesture, to assertions of will whose very purpose is to flourish the existential ecosystem with color, vibrancy, and shimmering difference.
It is important to place at least some emphasis on defiance, as well, in my opinion, because of the long-developed habit of authoritarianism in religion, which often imposes cynical primate politics and mind control onto spirituality itself. These wyrds are still with us, unfortunately (actually they are unwyrds), and call for correction. (The problem with any correction, of course, is that a corrective statement, meant to re-balance something that was tipped into unbalance, may be taken as an authoritative statement of wholeness, which is worked out over the larger process rather than in the corrective stage itself.) I'd like to accustom folks to the idea that there is a kind of free thinking, a kind of assertion of will, a kind of bold standing in difference that can actually be holy and even prayerful, in which holy powers join in the affirmation. I think this is important because in the unGnostic forms of religious tradition dominant in the West over the past two thousand years, independence, rebellion, and defiance have been associated with unholy powers.
Obviously from a tribal perspective, it's important for independence to exist within a context of interdependence. But love that would erase the difference of the other is hardly love ; there is a wyrd within us the world needs, and the giant powers that demand or seem to call for submission must be defied, however we might wish to construe the concept. I counterpose defiance to the concept of submission. I need not submit as honor and heart provide the free guidelines needed for a life of wonder and liberty. I do not think that chains are necessary for spirituality, unless we are speaking of chaining down the Wolf and his family.
When I invoke defiance here, the feeling that wells within me is a defiance that could be inspired by Baldur. It is the defiance of one looking out on a world that has become too accustomed to cynicism, to corruption, to bowing down to the unworthy, to schadenfreude, to beauty and innocence and value being trampled upon, and to all this, raising one's fist in the air and declaring, Non serviam, I Shall Not Submit. Why? From the good within me. One need not be a Gnostic to acknowledge how intricately jotnar and thursar powers wrap themselves like netted snares throughout and around the world that surrounds us. Perhaps even the old tangled motifs of runestones and such are more nuanced than we have previously anticipated ; where we find serpents and dragons weaving throughout the world depicted, could this be a different message than one where merely vines depict life resurgent surging and tangling itself everywhere? Could this be a sign of that which religion is meant to resist? A reminder of why the Gods are necessary, for sinister forces of corruption seek to weave themselves and encroach in upon holy Midgard day after day? I'm not asserting it, but I am suggesting it, at the very least as a thought experiment.
If we think of defiance as a rigid, armored stance, hollow and merely adolescent, a resistance to fully feeling life and being able to leap with abandon into its dionysian rapture, well, then, my invocation of defiance as faith will indeed ring hollow and incomplete. But is there a defiance matured, a defiance fully ripened that becomes faith beyond reckoning? For too long, perhaps, the Lokis and Prometheoi (sic?) and Satans have been over-honored with a monopoly upon the notion of defiance and rebellion, when closer examination would suggest that in many ways they are nothing but conformists giving in to the tide of corruption in which "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em". The defiance of a Laufeysson who had no faith in the goodness of the Gods is indeed a sad and petty kind of defiance. But what of the defiance of Odin, strong, tall, bearded and (hu)manly, looking Laufeysson right in the eye and saying, "I welcomed you into my house, I shared my blessings with you, I showed you glimpses of what was possible, and the only faith you knew was betrayal, and slim, materialistic clinging to the ways of the jotnar. To such faith or faithlessness my strong defiance shall bear issue in world's renewal!" The Gnostics, at least, had the faith to envision Jesus as the true rebel, against an oversatanized world.
The subtlety of the heathen faith defies monofocal reckoning in its polychromatic richness. Long overmonopolized in the present by militaristic visions, its complexity is both deeply satisfying and capable of nesting several different visions explored monofocally in other traditions. Gnostics indeed would find deep wellsprings here, although they too will find twists that assert the remaining holiness of the world and the good still to be found within it (and therefore to be nurtured and protected), a fundamentally pagan stance that defies any world-hating that would turn critique of empire into loathing of nature itself. Nature is ambivalent, itself tendrilled throughout by the encroachments of ill powers (although nowhere as prevalent nor prominent as in the corruptible minds and actions of humans), but they encroach because nature has been made fundamentally holy by the Gods, who daily infuse the world with their lush powers and blessings of divinity.
Defiance does not here mean reactive anti-conformity that conforms by trying to not conform, that leaps to the opposite merely to leap to the opposite, that refuses to cooperate for the sake of refusing to cooperate. Defiance here means intelligent, mature infusions of will given as a gift to community and world, challenges given as opportunities for those who would take them, rich visions of interdependence not as a net of dependence, but the mutual aid of those seeking both self-reliance and the joyful conviviality that gives life its power and spice.