Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Spirit or the Letter of the North?

Should "heathenism" be considered a "religion", or even the specific traditions of Iron Age Germania and Scandinavia --- although wide in its own genre, a rather narrow limiting of the term --- or should it embrace all who feel the spiritual call of the heath and seek in their own way to restore the old ways? Is it confined to those who follow the Letter of the North, or the Spirit of the North?

Sometimes we restore the old ways not through attention to old records and laws, but through sheer invention.

Did I just say that? Through sheer invention?

Yes, but let's qualify this.

By "sheer invention" I mean creativity that emerges from original nature. In other words, you are drawing up straight from the Well of Wyrd, and therefore what you "create" in this process is as ancient, if not more ancient, than some fossil dug up from 2000 years ago.

We face a serious crisis if we allow fossils to rule us, and if all that constitutes heathenism is an intellectual reconstruction of fossils.

Some people think that the only way to read carefully is to read literally. But we must return to the original meaning of the word "read", raed, to interpret a dream. We read with our whole selves, and our intuition reads just as much as our intellect does. When our intuition is allowed to read along with our intellect, something is allowed to come alive inside of us. This something alive, spawned in the encounter with the letters, with the runestaves, is read "between the lines". What is read between the lines is the lore itself. The lore is not the letters on the page. The lore is what happens in the encounter between you and the letters.

We read the old rules not to be bound by the old rules, but to discern their principles and essences. Once we have got the essence, we have grasped the roots, and we need not follow rules appropriate for Iron Age people, but can freely inflect from those roots ourselves and still in this process, in a living way, be 100% traditional.

We may demand careful and not flippant readings. We may demand visions that are the outcome of struggles with the depths and not shallow, first-draft associations.

But our goal should not be to transform ourselves into Iron Age people. Rather, we should be studying our Iron Age ancestors who left the last of their words to us to discover where they kept alive their Paleolithic selves, and how they did this in the midst of difficult times, because in so doing, we may discover how to transform ourselves into primordial peoples even in the midst of difficult times.

I would be very, very concerned if heathenism became an arcane, exclusive Snorri-only club that did not count in its ranks greats like Edward Abbey, Jesse Wolf Hardin, John Muir, Thoreau, Whitman, Steven Harrod Buhner, and other rough, creative folks whom the heath lives in, and yet may never have touched a bit of Eddic lore.

One question of modern heathenism might be, How do we make the eddic lore so relevant that it may be lived by people who don't even know it? And then to recognize those who are already living it without knowing it.

Do we remain in the cage of literalism? Do we view worship entirely nominalistically? If someone does not call upon the name of "Odin", does that mean they are not or cannot worship Odin? Just what precisely do we mean by worship? I have said elsewhere that an eagle worships with its wings, worshipping the air. It does not call out the wind's name in so many words. It lives its worship.

At some point we can imagine a process and a literature so developed, and so finessed, that we can say No Conversion Necessary. We merely find the ones who are living this worship already, and just, like poets, put some names to it. You may already be a heathen and not know it. We don't want to induct you into some arcane club. All we wish to do is provide a language that will allow you to speak the law that governs your being.

For it is this law that has remained submerged and silenced. When Christianity tried to convert the North, again and again, the people speak about not having their "law" taken away. They did not separate their "law" and their "religion" as we do, not because they were tyrannical theocrats, but because they were spiritually integrated as a culture. The ceremonies were expressions of a law that was recognized in the juries of the assemblies and grasped by the prophets deep in wilderness meditation, by waterfall and by well.

But that law is no longer legally recognized. It has no name. It is deeply, intuitively felt by many, and its violation is painful daily for those who feel it stirring in their heart. They see and feel the violation of right all around them, but there is no way to seek recourse, remedy, or hardly even expression.

If you do not fight for that law, you are not a heathen warrior, period, end of discussion. Heathenism is not about war or war-gods, and anyone who thinks it is is a dangerous, misguided sociopath governed by anomie and mayhem. Heathenism is about standing up for that law of the heath that lives in one's heart, on whatever fronts one is most skilled as a warrior, and there are many different kinds of warriors. The law of the heath is rough, it is wholesome, it is wild in the way a deer or a redwood is wild, and it is holy.

All the lore could be lost and if this law still lived in your heart, you could rebuild it all from scratch.

But that could take a long time, with a lot of mistakes. Tradition is what allows us to not have to reinvent the wheel. Who wants to build everything from scratch? Tradition provides us with pre-tested material that has filtered out many of the mistakes to be found in the trial-and-error process. So we come to tradition and we Listen. We do not let it be the blueprint of our lives. We live our lives, by that law that lives in us, but we Listen, because we know that tradition will have many things to teach us.

I still struggle with the question of whether heathenism is even theistic or not. How can I say that? Are there not "Gods"? Do they not have names? Are they not visualized in a certain way, and do they not have recognizable qualities? Do they not receive sacrifices? Is this not theistic?

But do we know what "Gods" are? Isn't this a mystery too easily passed over for caricature? Too many self-sure heathens make fun of Jung's notion of archetypes, but at least Jung's conception has the advantage of having a living quality of emerging-from-within, and maintaining some uncertainty which maintains the mystery. Maybe we don't know what "Gods" are. Jung's concept of archetypes at least suggests the possibility that they can function even when they are not recognized, although they wreak less havoc when they are recognized. Even though I see some limitations to the archetypal approach, I think that it may come closer to the indigenous perspective in many ways, and may provide an angle for us to transcend the theistic lens with which we have been viewing the Gods, and come to a more profound understanding.

Heathenism is on an evolutionary course, and ultimately should welcome in, in my opinion, all those who are of the heath. It should, in other words, come alive.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful post!

I am a regular reader by RSS feed, but have never commented yet. After this post and the one immediately previous, I just wanted to express my appreciation. I am a member of the Baha'i Faith, but I am affected quite a bit by Heathenry/Asatru, and almost every post of yours leaves me with some nugget I can bring back to my own religious practice. Thanks :)

I have been sharing quite a few posts from your blog on my blog's sidebar these past few days. Hopefully some others have read this great blog.

God Bless,

7:34 AM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Welcome, Gerald! May the divine as you experience it infuse your life with hael and with thanksgiving! I have a few friends who are Baha'i. If my words have been of value to you, I am honored. I am even more honored that you are sharing these seeds with others, which are meant to be cast out onto the wind where they may bring fertility to those who may find nourishment in them.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Morning Angel said...

Excellent thoughts as always, SG.

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

YOU, Siegfried, are a heathen theological/philosophical HOTTIE.

The phrase "I want to have your babies" comes to mind, but erm, don't take that too literally. It's just another way we wimmin say "holy crap, this guy is amazing!"


8:32 AM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Wow, thank you! I really appreciate your enthusiasm. I put a lot of passion and devotion into these posts, so it is very gratifying to see them enjoyed. Thank you again.

7:04 PM  

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