Rejoin the Circle of Life
The brave warriors who fought so that even a little of this lore could be passed down now find that it is mainly the tales of the axe-age that have survived and are celebrated, despite the fact that the lore is replete with allusions to the previous golden age, and must shake their heads in pity at an age that would try to turn axe-age lore into an entire religion, when the only people in history who have done so have been terribly degenerate and Loki-loving folk. Worldwide, people remember the golden age, long for it, and wish with all their might for it to return, and of course, our folk were no different.
So really, all of this --- all of the nationalism, the militarism, the celebration of social darwinism --- is very much to be expected. The age gets more degenerate as it progresses. The more degenerate people get, the more gullible they become to Laufeysson, whose cynicism seems like refreshing truth, and the more the mother of the wolfish, who is drunk on the power of gold, inspires and misdirects the love of war.
The unhealed outcasts from the degenerate age gather and look at superficial signs : weapons, battles, warcries --- and say, ah, yes, we have come home. And then they will go into the barrows and adorn themselves with the ornaments and artifacts they find there, and say, ahhh, our folk were like us.
They will not say these things because they are really strong, but because they are brittle and hollow and know it deeply but fear they will fall apart. They will somehow see Voluspa as glorious rather than the saddest tale of the world's degeneration. They will not notice how upset Helgi Hundingsbani's parents were that the ravens and wolves were now celebrating the advent of their age. Eitt var at angri Ylfinga nið ok þeiri meyju, er munúgð fœddi; hrafn kvað at hrafni ... "nú er dagr kominn;... sá er varga vinr, vit skulum teitir." (Helgakviða Hundingsbana in Fyrri 5, 6) : "One thing anguished the Ylfing's descendant and the women who had given birth to the beloved-one ; raven said to raven ... "Now our day is come ... he is wolf's friend, we shall rejoice." Angri, it caused them "great sorrow", "worry and anxiety", "grief", "angst", "misery and distress". The use of the word is very pointed and underlines the level of terror and concern over the issue. In all other ways, the boy is a blessing, but that the ravens should say that their day, and the day of the wolves, has come, is to them the signs of great ill.
How they will not see that to our ancestors an age of cloven shields, axes and swords, wolves and ravens were the signs of the advent of the worst of all ages indicates a fundamental will to completely ignore Voluspa's most impassioned statements. How assailed by such madness, having seen villages go down, people burned alive in their own homes, empires march upon their doorsteps that yes, they called upon Odin, Tyr, and Thor to help them in this madness, and help them learn these arts that they might push back this iron tooth-and-clawed menace, but not so they could join the ranks. Merely so they could remain proud to be free, and protect what was still nourished at the core. But if there is no beauty and bounty and wonder and frith at the core, what are you fighting for? Why do you dream of fighting as your salvation?
When Baldr inn góða, Baldur the Good, was killed, Allir hlutir í heiminum, kykvir ok dauðir, gráta hann ... en allir gerðu þat, mennirnir ok kykvendin ok jörðin ok steinarnir ok tré ok allr málmr (Gylfaginning 49), "all things in the world, alive and dead, wept and wailed for him ... and all did that, men and living things and earth and stones and tree and all metals..." The whole world wept and wailed.
þat mest óhapp verit unnit með goðum ok mönnum, "that was the greatest misfortune that has ever occurred amongst gods and men". En Óðinn bar þeim mun verst þenna skaða sem hann kunni mesta skyn, hversu mikil aftaka ok missa ásunum var í fráfalli Baldrs (Gylfaginning 49), "But Odin bore that scathe the worst as he knew with greater understanding than any how mighty a taking-away and loss Baldur's death was to the Aesir." Why? What was so special about him? Líknsamastr, en sú náttúra fylgir honum, at enginn má haldast dómr hans (Gylfaginning 22), "He is so merciful, healing, soothing, benevolent, comforting, tender, and forgiving that it follows from his nature that no one may hold against his judgements." He speaks right to the heart, and the judgements are so loving and come from such deep kindness that no one may gainsay them. His spirit is so healing that no one would think to contradict such wisdom.
Yet you shall join the ranks of Þökk, proclaiming, mun gráta þurrum tárum Baldrs bálfarar; kyks né dauðs nautk-a ek Karls sonar (Gylfaginning 49), I "shall weep dry tears for Baldur's funeral ; alive nor dead the common man's son I have no use for"? Nautk-a ek, "he's no good to me", "he brings me no profit." Will you say such awful things, if not with words, then with deeds? For your deeds declare, your actions speak. Odin himself, who is Fjölsvid, "Extremely Wise", "Full of Good Sense and Quick Reasoning", knows what a terrible loss this is to the Gods. Yet will your deeds declare against him, and say, "No, I'd rather not follow the path of benevolence, mercy, kindness, and healing, for that has no use for me"? There is a word that comes to mind : niðing, a "cruel coward".
Frodi had lagði frið of heim allan (Gróttasöngr), "established peace over all the world". Will you mólu ... her at Fróða, "mill out an army against Frodi" to lagðist Fróðafriðr, "attack and relinquish the great Peace of Frodi", that time of great Auð, alsælan, vilja (Gróttasöngr 5), "wealth, all-blessings, desire fulfilled" when Hér skyli engi öðrum granda, til böls búa né til bana orka, né höggva því hvössu sverði (Gróttasöngr 6), "Here no one shall harm another, or prepare and plot misfortune and malice, nor work death, nor strike with sharp sword"? Waitaminute ... not even in revenge? þó at bana bróður bundinn finni, "even if one finds one's own brother's killer bound"! Wait, this doesn't sound like the Viking religion I thought existed! Weep if you must, but this was vilja, "desire fulfilled". Do you get the intense kind of frith and mercy this state involved?
But what do the jotunn-maids Fenja and Menja celebrate? Eld sé ek brenna fyr austan borg, vígspjöll vaka, þat mun viti kallaðr, mun herr koma hinig af bragði ok brenna bœ fyr buðlungi (Gróttasöngr19), "Fire I see burning over the eastern city, waking the spell of war, that should be called a signal, an army shall come hither shortly and burn the town over the king". It's a viti, a mark, a watershed in the tale of time, a turning-point whence the vígspjöll, "spell of war" is cast such that vígspjöll vaka, the "tales of war shall now awaken". Yet they complain, tökum á möndli ... skarpara, erum-a varmar í valdreyra (Gróttasöngr 20), "pull the mill-handle more tightly, for we are not warm in the blood of the slaughtered!" We are not yet warm in the blood of slaughter. How horrible for them! Mól ...rammliga, því at hon feigð fira fjölmargra sá (Gróttasöngr 21), "They milled mightily, because they could see the foreboding signs of death for great multitudes of men." They váru ... í jötunmóði (Gróttasöngr 23), "were in jotunn-wrath and jotunn-heart." Is your heart jotunn too? Do you crave and yearn for the warmth of slaughtered blood, celebrating the deaths of great multitudes of men, glorying in the tales of war that cast their terrible spells over men?
Come here, you blockhead, says Groa, come and let me galdur this block of jagged stone out of your forehead and heal your wound. Let the volva and galdur-mistress who sings vegetation back into growth and greenness in the springtime heal the winter of your soul. Leave the ranks of the dead and rejoin the circle of life.
Rejoin the circle of life.
all translations copyright 2009 by Siegfried Goodfellow