Thursday, August 27, 2009

Old Growth Self

Óðal was the old Germanic word for homeland, the kindred lands kept in the kindred. Few people grasp or get the concept of óðal. And why would they? In the modern world, no one is geared towards that relationship to land. Even houses that are owned are kept in order to be sold, and exist as temporary stopping points on the market-place. Odal has been reduced to Feoh (cash) and Raidho (the open road, the commerce back-and-forth). Modern people occupy territory ; they do not sink into it and blend their nature with its, until they are inseparable.

Bil Linzie has written some amazing material about the afterlife in the ground, about the souls continuing to live in the grave, in the burial zones. His interpretation is that this replaces the poetic notion of the underworld, but I would contend that these two are folded onto each other. People used to bury their dead on their own land, in the howes, the mounds. These burial grounds on the family land kept the dead within the family circle. They would be in holy hel, but on their odal lands. Their territory "in" hel was simply the deeper (and deepest) levels of the odal lands here on earth. They are continuous and connected. We walk but upon the surface of a much deeper territory, which most people neither sense nor see.

Most, however, aren't even joined at all to the territory upon which they occupy like astronauts holding foreign tertitory but never knowing it, never naturalizing to it, remaining forever alien, distant, and in a colonial relationship to the land. To "occupy" means literally to over-seize, to over-lord, rather than knowing from within ("indi-genous") and holding from that place of strength.

Odli meant one's "nature", one's "origin", one's "extraction". To come into your odal was to come into your own, to mature into who and what you really are, and this was inconceivable without a relationship to the land, a relationship of love and husbandry and reciprocity. When you managed to do that, you had become an atheling, a child or descendant of the odal lands themselves, and therefore noble by origin. One ought to think here of a regal old elder, proud, strong, and impressive in bearing, who over a lifetime has managed to become everything they can be, and despite the losses a lifetime brings, has been able to gather up and bring their worth to full fruition, so that it overflows with abundance for those who are themselves a part of the land. (The blessings do not flow out as free gifts for anyone who happens to come along no matter what their worth, but for those who have staked a claim in the kingdom, in the land, in the godord, in the kindred, and thus become part of that special club of folks who have earned a patrimony through marriage to the land itself.)

The conquest of odal by fehu came, yes, you guessed it, in fehu-odal or feudal times, from about 1000 A.D. onwards. The Crusades had exposed European noblemen to Mediterranean notions of commerce, which they brought back to Europe where they began to transform Europe into a monetary economy. At the moment that authentic tenure turned into exchangeable title, with a mere piece of paper a token of holdship, odal, deep relationship to the land itself, was transformed into fehu, chattel. Warriors on raids (raidho, raids, the open road, commerce back-and-forth) would steal chattel and cattle, but not the land itself. Now that the land became identified with the title, an abstraction in writing reduced to a piece of paper, with that paper sellable, rights to the land became sold on the open market, and property, formerly territorial, became deterritorialized and passed out onto the flows of the open road. In a sense, earth was transformed into water, land into rivers!

But the replacement of tenure by title did not ultimately transform the original notions but merely covered over them, so that title in fact transferred far more superficial rights. We can think of odal as the strata of rights that literally goes down into the underworld itself, while fehu only describes that which runs upon the surface of the land and pastures there, thus measuring out only the surfacemost layers of that deep edifice of landrights. There is no way to transfer the luck of the land with title, and a titled or "entitled" connection to land may in fact greatly hamper that luck. The fairies are not happy with those who abuse the land. The old rites were in large part ways of establishing, confirming, renewing, and replenishing relationships with the wights (the spirits) of the land, who were directly acknowledged as here and present, and were also acknowledged indirectly through the invocation of the Gods who ward over them and with whom they have more direct connection. When these relationships were properly sealed and commemorated, the land gave forth its luck with blessings. This is why the old blots were so connected with peace and prosperity in the minds of the ancients.

It took a long time to establish this kind of relationship to the land. Icelanders spoke of "dying into" the land, of joining their essence with the land when they passed on. It took five to six full generations of this in order for the land to become odal, and one demonstrated one's odal status by counting back those generations "to the barrows", to the burial mounds on the property that evidenced one's intergenerational tenure. The intergenerational nature of the tenure proved that one intended to hold to place, and wasn't merely wandering through. It demonstrated that the land wasn't going to be sold one generation to the next to newcomers, but was going to be "kept in the family" as they used to say. This was proof that the relationship was not a commodified relationship. The land was not seen as commodity, as chattel, to be transferred from hand to hand, but to be held as homeland.

Modern hypnotherapists often encourage their clients to go to their "safe place". In the old world, this was an actual place. The odal was a source of strength, where one could draw upon ancestral might and main, where one was most at home in the world. And after a full and rich life, when one passed on, one could expect to live in the odal, which would look very much like one's homeland, just richer, greener, and more marvelous. Cultivating odal relationship, then, in a sense, is about touching the eternal in the land. The land has deep eternities stirring within it, of which we can only grasp the more elevated levels, yet the relationships on the surface are expressions of that eternity and give clues to the wyrd of the land itself.

Touch the eternal in the land. Sounds pretty materialistic, no? Not "materialistic" in our modern sense, though, which implies matter separated from spirit. This was wholeness, the interwoven nature of matter and spirit in this world of ours that had blessed properties and potentials. It's grounded spirituality, the spirituality of the ground, a relationship to place that is local and yet since it is found amongst indigenous peoples everywhere, has its universal resonance.

It's a choice to relate to the earth in this way. There's opportunity for anyone to cultivate it, although the modern world covers over this opportunity and makes it very hard. One doesn't have to relate this way. One can relate to the earth as an occupier, as an astronaut, in a spirit of carelessness, flippancy, entitlement, mayhem or even abuse, but one must remember that every choice has consequences. Luck is about cultivating good relationship to the nature of the world, of fidelity to flow, of working with reality. Misfortune, on the other hand, results from a legacy of ignoring consequence in relation, and behaving with lawlessness whose violation of rights however silent silently ticks up wergild, until the debt is overwhelming. It may take time for misfortune to build, and one may seem to accumulate much in the meantime, but it manifests in time, and takes time to work out and work through.

Odal takes time, but it grounds prosperity in good relation. And it allows us to come into our true nature. It's about discovering Old Growth Self.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was very eloquent, thank you for sharing. We are freer and untethered in today's world, but sadly as a result we may also be unmoored.

7:41 PM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Yes. Full freedom is freedom to be connected just as much as it is freedom to be disconnected.

11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You so need to compile these into a book. It could be like 'Satan Speaks' but only for Heathens and more positive...;-)

8:48 AM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Thank you! That is pending, actually. Stay tuned!

1:45 AM  

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