Do Not Be Parochial In Your Patriotism
"Main Entry: pa·ro·chi·al
....Confined or restricted as if within the borders of a parish : limited in range or scope (as to a narrow area or region)"
Many look to their ancestors and try to place bounds around them. A nation, a separated tradition. They wish to separate themselves.
I am not interested in separating myself.
To me, getting back to the roots of indigeneity through my ancestors is a way to connect to all of humankind. It is about deep connection with all other peoples trying to live the Ways of Mother Earth, and not some excuse for nationalisms and separatisms. In fact, to be perfectly honest, separatisms disgust me.
To me, tribe is about community and human-scale living within a localism that makes sense. It is not about my tribe versus your tribe versus his tribe versus her tribe. That is nauseating and boring.
To me, exploring my roots is not about finding out what is totally unique about the Teutonic tradition so I can hold it against every other tradition, and separate myself on that basis. It is, rather, to find a way to enter into the universal song through the specific harmonies and poems of my ancestors. In the process, yes, that universal song sung through Teutonic tongue has a flavor all its own, zesty, lively, filled with gusto and inspiration, but it is one inflection of a much larger story.
I hope that as all the bad scholarship of the past gets updated by those in the present, and revisioned, we can stop focusing on our differences, and begin looking through the stained-glass windows of each of our tribes at the play of light that shines through them, and remember that we are all children of Mother Earth.
Sometimes a tradition doesn't have to name something explicitly in order for it to be present implicitly. Sometimes an explicit mention is a sign of forgetting rather than integration, and a mention is a battle against amnesia. But those who have not forgotten may not need to mention at all.
The Brotherhood of Humanity is not something explicitly mentioned in Teutonic lore. Nor is the statement that the rest of Nature constitutes, as the Lakota say, "All My Relations". But it is there.
Tacitus tells us in Germania 45, Matrem deum venerantur. Insigne superstitionis formas aprorum gestant, "They worship the Mother of the Gods. They bear the emblem or mark of this superstition in the form of a wild boar." In Germania 40, he says, quod in commune Nerthum, id est Terram matrem, colunt, "They worship in common Nerthus, who is Mother Earth".
Since the Mother of the Gods has the emblem of a boar, and the boar is the emblem of Freya, who is Frigga/Nerthus/Jord's daughter, we can assume that the Mother of the Gods is Frigg, who is the wife of the All-Father and thus the All-Mother. As Odin is the Father of the the Gods, Frigg is the Mother of the Gods.
Tacitus' readers would have known the reference he was making when he said that they worshiped Matrem deum. They would have known that these tribes worshipped a Goddess very similar to Cybele, an earth mother who was worshipped with ecstatic, korybantic pageants.
Frigg calls all living things of the earth to herself, and they obey, for she is the Earth Mother. In folktales, the Earth Mother is considered the Mother of the Elves as well. Frigg is the Mother of the Aesir and Vanir.
If we have one mother, we are all brothers. All of us. All of life. All of life. We might call our fellow creatures eardsibb, "earth-siblings".
Heimdall came and taught our leaders and wise-men runes. This refers to language, and it also refers to mysteries. Through particular tongues, we learn mysteries. But this does not exhaust their mystery. These are not the only tongues through which they can be gleaned. We know the runes have traveled long roads amongst all of mankind, as Sigrdrifumal explains. They were scattered along with the mead everywhere.
A þeód, a tribe, nation, or people, is defined by its ge-þeóde, its language, its idiom. This is clear in the very language. It is language and not blood that defines a people. Within a people or nation there will be many clans, each clan or kindred related by blood, but the nation as a whole is not defined by kinship but by a shared language and idiom, a way of speaking about things.
The word ge-þeódan means "to translate", to express the language of one people in terms of the language of another people. What is interesting here is that the word derivatively also means to "join", "connect", "associate", "adjust", and "unite". There is unity that comes in translating concepts and expressions from one people to another. And in order to translate, you must connect yourself, associate with the new mindstate, thought-travel outside the parochial, adjusting yourself to the new idiom.
Since our tribal experiences are at least partially translatable, it is not our different tribes that separate us. We become separate when you war upon my loved ones, when you aggress upon us, when you try to impose your ways upon us. Everyone gets to have their own ways. An Old English poem says, "As many customs as there are peoples".
Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the story of Freya's husband. In the poem Widsith are described some of the many voyages of Odr, the mythic and heroic representation of the poetic aspirant in each of us. From this poem, we know that Odr was se þe monna mæst mægþa ofer eorþan, folca geondferde, "the man who had most traveled over the earth, faring throughout the folk".
Swa ic geondferde fela fremdra londa geond ginne grund. Godes ond yfles þær ic cunnade cnosle bidæled, freomægum feor folgade wide, "So I fared through many foreign lands, throughout the wide and spacious earth. Good and evil there I experienced free from kinsmen, far from my dear ones, offering my services far and wide."
Mid Scottum ic wæs ond mid Peohtum ond mid Scridefinnum ... Mid Israhelum ic wæs ond mid Exsyringum, mid Ebreum ond mid Indeum ond mid Egyptum. Mid Moidum ic wæs ond mid Persum ond mid Myrgingum, "I was amongst the Irish and amongst the Picts and amongst the Finns. I was amongst the Israelites and amongst the Assyrians and amongst the Hebrews and amongst the Indians and amongst the Egyptians. I was amongst the Medes and amongst the Persians and amongst the Myrgings." Ic wæs mid Hunum ond mid Hreðgotum, mid Sweom ond mid Geatum ond mid Suþdenum, "I was amongst the Huns and amongst the Glorious Goths, amongst the Swedes and the Geats and the South-Danes." Mid Froncum ic wæs ond mid Frysum ond mid Frumtingum, "I was amongst the Franks and amongst the Frisians and amongst the Frumtings." There is not, in fact, a single tribe in the world known at that time that is not listed.
Wherever he went, sohte ic a gesiþa þa selestan, "I sought the most excellent and generous fellow-travellers."
Swa scriþende gesceapum hweorfað gleomen gumena geond grunda fela, þearfe secgað, þoncword sprecaþ, simle suð oþþe norð sumne gemetað gydda gleawne, geofum unhneawne, se þe fore duguþe wile dom aræran, eorlscipe æfnan, "Thus, wandering, glee-men (poets and song-smiths) roam about as they are destined throughout many lands of men, speaking up for the needy and declaring what is useful, speaking words of thanks, forever south or north meeting some common sense and wisdom recited in song, not stingy with gifts, who for the sake of honor and excellence wants to raise up the lawful judgement of the people, to demonstrate earl-ship (nobility)." He says, Sceal þeodna gehwylc þeawum lifgan, "Every leader of a people must live in adherence to the rules of right conduct (or the custom of good manners, or the traditional morals of service)." The leader sets the example with his or her good habits, setting the bar for others at a high level to reach for in their customs. Leaders should live exemplary lives.
Wherever you go throughout the whole, wide earth, you're going to find both good and evil, and you'll be able to find excellent and generous companions if you seek them out. Those with a poetic spirit are wyrded to wander throughout the many lands of humankind. They should give thanks where it is warranted, and speak up for those who are in dire straits. No matter where you go, you're always going to find some who know verses and tales filled with wisdom and common sense. You'll also find some who are generous, who demonstrate nobility, and who wish to establish righteous judgement for the people for the sake of both honor and excellence. No matter where you go, north or south.
These are the lessons Odr learned when he traveled throughout all the lands and nations of humankind. That he did so is in itself a powerful message and legacy : the poetic soul may be found in all nations, and where you can find it, you will find it singing songs of wisdom, thanksgiving, and common sense, speaking up for the poor, and establishing fair and honorable judgements for the folk. oþþæt eal scæceð,leoht ond lif somod; lof se gewyrceð,hafað under heofonum heahfæstne dom, "Until (or "even when") all departs, light and life together, he who has earned praise (from these merits) has under the heavens the most lofty and lasting of judgements." Heahfæstne, "the most enduring" of judgements is the one passed on the dead ; those, of whatever nation, who achieve praise through acts of nobility and excellence, shall have that praise endure forever. A noble and generous, broad and tolerant sentiment. No mention of special religious or ethnic qualifications. Whomever carries out these good deeds of excellence, to such a person is guaranteed everlasting confirmation of the praise they have or should have received in life.
If this is so, without need for religious or ethnic qualification, then how much we each have to learn from all peoples. Every human has the gift of odr. The imaginative, poetic soul unites us all, even though it expresses itself in different forms of song the world over. Humanity is humanity no matter where you are. You will always find a mixture of good and evil, but if you look, you should always be able to find good and generous companions. You should be able to find, peering into the many exotic imaginative forms of folk literature throughout the world, songs of wisdom to bring you inspiration, provoke thought, and set you out on your own quests. The wisdom you glean you can bring back home to benefit your own folk.
My nation or tribe consists of my tunge-sibb, my speech-brothers who speak my language and know my idiom, but there is no human being, nor any living wight, who is not my eard-sibb, earth-brother, for we are all descendants of Ask and Embla, no matter what names are given to that primordial couple, and that we are meant to remember our common ancestry and primal unity is assured by the fact that Mannaz, "humanity", is one of the runes, the primal mysteries. The Icelandic Rune Poem says that Maðr es moldar auki, "Men are the offspring of the earth." That makes us all brothers. Our very word game comes from the word gaman, and means joy, pleasure, mirth, and sport. Geman means "to care for" and "give regard to", while ge-man or ge-mana itself literally is the intensive form of "man" and means "fellowship", "intercourse", "exchange".
The brothers of the earth are meant to care for each other, respect each other, find mirth and joy in each other, play together, and exchange fellowship. How do we know this? Because of what Voluspa 45 has to say about the most terrible state of affairs in the Axe-Age that presages the coming of Ragnarok : man engi maðr öðrum þyrma, "No man shows respect or mercy to other men." Þyrma is a strong legal and religious term that has the connotation of dealing reverently with another. Why deal reverently with another? Because all people contain the gifts of the Gods within them : ond, spirit, odr, soulful imagination, and la and litr, blood and the shape of the Gods. Divine gifts, and those carrying them, ought to be treated reverently. This does not mean, obviously, bowing down and worshipping others. It means not taking their life flippantly.
Ethnic separatism and ethnic division are products of Loki and Gullveig, not the Gods. Atta ek jöfrum, en aldri sættak, "I set leaders of nations at each other's throats, and never helped them find peace", Loki brags. Heid seið hon hugleikin, "bewitches by deluding and confusing the hearts" of illrar þeódar, "nations gone bad". Since she was the cause of fólkvíg fyrst í heimi, "the first war between peoples in the world", she must have confused the hearts of nations gone bad in the same way Loki brags, by emphasizing factions and divisions. That is not the wish of the Gods. Odin says, Maðr er manns gaman, "Man is the joy of men", in other words : Humans were meant to share the joys of fellowship with each other.
The Teutonic rite of passage into adulthood is the going out into the world to seek one's fortune. Havamal is the guide to that ritual outgoing, where one invokes the laws of hospitality to lodge and learn about others. Here it is not one's wealth or class which makes the biggest difference, but one's ability to relate to others as fellow human beings. The viking levels the playing field between the poor and the rich. Havamal 10, Byrði betri berr-at maðr brautu at en sé mannvit mikit;
auði betra þykkir þat í ókunnum stað; slíkt er válaðs vera, "A better burden a man cannot carry on the road than mighty street-smarts about human nature ; better than riches is thought that in unknown steads ; such is the comfort of the destitute in his sojourns." (Vera can mean "comfort" or "sojourn", and probably means both in this context.) Mannvit, "understanding of humanity". That these sojourns were meant to expose one to the fellowship of more than one's tribe is guaranteed not only by the fact that Odr himself travelled widely, but more importantly, that the law of hospitality which governs the going out into the world is said by Tacitus to apply to all mortalium, "mortal men", and Notum ignotumque quantum ad ius hospitis nemo discernit, "Nobody distinguishes between acquaintances and strangers when it comes to this law of hospitality." (Germania 21).
We become mature by shedding our parochiality. This does not mean that we lose our affection for our homeland, or our patriotism towards our own language-fellows and kinsmen. It means there's a lot to learn in connecting with different peoples, and it helps us grow up.
After all, doesn't he who limits his intercourse to those solely of his own tribe prove himself to be a heimsk, which is to say, "a foolish homebody"? Brethren of the Earth, awaken.
All translations copyright 2009 by Siegfried Goodfellow