Ants on a Small Speck of Dust
Close the eyes. Is that not the root meaning of the word "mystic"? Close the eyes. "Your eyes can deceive you ; don't trust them." So ... I should stretch out with my feelings, eh? The old wizard seems to say so. Oh, then, you are part of that Tree our eyes cannot see but which surrounds us, binding and supporting life in all its limbs, I know. Then I am wasting these tears when I should be turning them into art, and there is no excuse, because I should be bundling the treasures to build a monument. Yet who am I to speak the soul of another?
But my friend's fair fame I should speak! It is the fair fame which is to be spoken, but my lips are tied as if thongs of leather bound ; bound by tears, silenced by shock.
The fame-telling, though, takes time to gather. It takes time to gather through and after the mourning. But that he shall be honored, do not doubt. He must be. It just takes time to speak. We know the speech-runes are for the dead, but perhaps they are also for the living, whose tongues are tied by grief.
Woven. Woven he shall be, through and throughout this history of life, of speech, his name, those memories, shining, glimmering like runed ribbons of elven silver, glimpses, reminisces, wonders. Wonder that he was here at all. Wonder that he brought such joy and strength and greatest gift of all, friendship. And friendship shall not be severed by the long years, years faerie tales tell us may be days, where hours are centuries, and centuries hours. Not a perfect man. He had his share of sins. But it is not I who will do the weighing on those scales, but beings far more perfect than I, the beloved and wise Gods. Odin who has runes to see right into the heart of every man. Odin says in Havamal 157 : ef ek sé á tré uppi váfa virgilná, svá ek ríst ok í rúnum fák at sá gengr gumi ok mælir við mik. "If I see the ghost of a corpse swinging to and fro on the gallows, I can carve and stain runes so that the man shall come and speak with me." Speak with me : mælir, formal law-speech, declaration, proclamation. The High One further declares, Havamal 159 : ef ek skal fyrða liði telja tíva fyrir, ása ok alfa ek kann allra skil; fár kann ósnotr svá, "If must reckon up the men of a folk before the gods, both Aesir and Alfar, I can discern, distinguish, understand, explain, and set apart them all ; few of the unsophisticated have such powers of recognition and savvy." Such discernment is needed to pronounce dómr um dauðan hvern (Havamal 77), "the judgement of every one of the dead".
Telja tíva fyrir, ása ok alfa, "Tally before the Gods, Aesir and Alfar." The profundity of this doomstead declares itself here, its judges laid out before the prime judge, the All-Father himself. All of the Gods, all of the Elves. Odin knows how to cast runes so that the soul shall speak and declare its truth before the shining, strong and merciful holy powers, and Odin can distinguish every soul for its very qualities, discerning in ways the unsophisticated cannot even imagine.
How they come to their decisions we do not know. We only know it is done with wisdom, it is done by the Well of Wyrd, that the Norns are there, that the hamingja of the family is present (and thus fyrða liði, "men from their flocks" and families, must be distinguished and placed in the light), and that it is this orðstírr, this word-of-fame, formal declaration and verdict of renown, that matters, that lasts, that shall not die. Not what petty men amongst mortals may say, though we hope, of course, that honor won here might win the words it ought, yet we know well the fickleness of mortals' hearts, and how they are swayed by the worse and tempted by the rægjandi, the slanderer, the strife-bringer, inn slægi áss, the sly, enticing one who seduces men to slander.
Such words of slander cannot touch the orðstírr, a declaration one can imagine Odin etching right into the Tree itself where it stands forever on that glassy beam neither iron nor fire can fell.
When the fair fame was spoken of in days of old, surely this was something seen by a spá-maðr or spá-kona, a prophet or prophetess who was able to discern those runes etched on the lower roots by that goðin dómstað, doomstead of the Gods attended by ása ok alfa, both Aesir and Elves, when they had come to their verdict. There each man would stand amongst his liði, his family, his household, the hamingja-root, the ur-stock of the family's luck with all its long lines of ancestors. Do you remember how intimidated you felt at your graduation, with all your uncles and aunts, cousins and grandparents there watching you, proud but expectant? Imagine : the hall lined, front to back, with your entire liði, the stock going back and back and back, all coming to see what orðstírr shall be proclaimed, what fame you will finally have won for yourself and your kin, discerned, skilja, by Odin himself amongst the host of holy Gods.
So it is not I who will speak the fair fame that matters most, yet still these mortal words ought reflect if dimly and through fog, the strengths this man brought good folk in this world. For those have all been weighed out against the ill, and received their proper weight. Surely Wyrd's loom stands there in that open, white-bark tree-lined hall where the stone seats lay, beneath that mountainous, southern-most root. Surely the weights on that great loom upon which She weaves weigh in the balance the deeds declared, and find their final worth. Are there any here who would declare themselves as snotr, as savvy, sophisticated, and wise as the All-Father, who think they can discern better than he, and give a judgement more final and authoritative? The Eddas do not say "judge not". They do not need to.
Still we raise our horns here on earth and feed the beloved dead with the libations of our love, the rich, sweet mead speaking truths of devotion, of remembrance, along with the words which have been stirred into them, words of honor, words of fair fame.
Though we be ants on specks of dust swirling in Night's great sea, the giants shall not dwarf us, for we have Gods more powerful than the large and immense, who care so much that every day they descend to speak truths and discern the soul's worth in this world. That we would be honored so! That such high beings might stoop to show us honor! And finally to find place, a home that suits our very essence, our nature, our soul. Thus in the midst of mundane we are surrounded by eternity, whose leaves are evergreen, though transparent to mortal eyes. The fair fame shall be spoken. The leaves shall flutter in our midst, invisible, but the sound of them blowing in All-Father's eight-legged winds sings galdur, as elves hymning, sometimes ears of our imagination can hear, and hear truly. Be in peace.
all translations copyright 2009 by Siegfried Goodfellow