Thursday, April 30, 2009

Poets and Priests

The poets penetrate to the heart of things, then along come the priests and turn these penetrations into chains that bind, rigid dogmas and ritual particulars.

The poets use the ceremonies to reach the heart of things, and then see clearly. The priests use the ceremonies to bind people to parochial particularities.

The poet uses the lore as symbol to go beyond into essence ; the priest literalizes and fashions idolatry.

But were our Gothis these kinds of priests? Or were they poets?

Germani ... neque druides habent, qui rebus divinis praesint, neque sacrificiis student. (Caesar, de Bello Gallico, VI, 21.) "The Germani ... have neither druids, who are in charge of divine affairs, nor are they fanatical about sacrifices." Caesar has just spent several pages in exposition about the powers of the druids in Gallic culture. Nam plebes paene servorum habetur loco, quae nihil audet per se, nullo adhibetur consilio ... [D]ruidum ... rebus divinis intersunt, sacrificia publica ac privata procurant, religiones interpretantur ... Natio est omnis Gallorum admodum dedita religionibus ... que ad ea sacrificia druidibus utuntur... "For the common folk have almost the position of slaves, who no one risks anything for, nor are they summoned to the assembly ... Druids ... attend to divine affairs, taking care of public and private sacrifices, interpretations of religious scruples ... All of the Gallic nation are extremely devoted to religious matters ... and they use Druids for these sacrifices..."

It is not that the Germani have no priests per se, for Tacitus speaks of sacerdoti, and we know there were Gothis. But what Caesar is here saying is that they had no druids, no priests of fanatical religion excessively attended to in minutely scrupulous ritual detail. Havamal 145 : Betra er óbeðit en sé ofblótit, "Better not to offer at all than to over-sacrifice". Keep it simple and profound. The priests are not to treat the common folk like slaves. Þveginn ok mettr ríði maðr þingi at, þótt hann sé-t væddr til vel; Skúa ok bróka skammisk engi maðr né hests in heldr, þátt hann hafi-t góðan (Havamal 61), "Washed and well-fed shall a man ride to the assembly, even though his clothes may not be too good ; of shoes and breeches no man shall be ashamed, nor the horse he has, even if he hasn't a good one." It is one's wisdom and not one's station that are tested at the assembly.

So what does the lore say about the Germanic Gothis?

Þá er Ása-Óðinn kom á Norðurlönd og með honum díar er það sagt með sannindum að þeir hófu og kenndu íþróttir þær er menn hafa lengi síðan með farið. Óðinn var göfgastur af öllum og af honum námu þeir allar íþróttirnar því að hann kunni fyrst allar og þó flestar. ...Óðinn... talaði svo snjallt og slétt að öllum er á heyrðu þótti það eina satt. Mælti hann allt hendingum svo sem nú er það kveðið er skáldskapur heitir. Hann og hofgoðar hans heita ljóðasmiðir því að sú íþrótt hófst af þeim í Norðurlöndum. ...Allar þessar íþróttir kenndi hann með rúnum og ljóðum þeim er galdrar heita. Fyrir því eru Æsir kallaðir galdrasmiðir. ...En hann kenndi flestar íþróttir sínar blótgoðunum. Voru þeir næst honum um allan fróðleik og fjölkynngi. Margir aðrir námu þó mikið af og hefir þaðan af dreifst fjölkynngin víða og haldist lengi. (Ynglingasaga 6 - 7.)

"When Odin of the Aesir came into the Northern lands and with him the priests who after that, to tell the truth, carried there and taught those skills that men have long since practised. Odin was the most worshipful and noble of all, and from him they learned all those skills because he learned all of them first and best. ...Odin... spoke with such sophistication and smoothness that all who heard him thought that alone was sooth. He spoke formally all in rhyme and assonance such as that poetry we now call skaldship. He and his temple-gothis were called song-smiths, because from them that accomplished art was carried into Northern lands. ...All these skills he taught with runes and songs that were called galdur. Because of this the Aesir are called galdur-smiths. ... And he taught most of his arts to the blot-gothis. They were nearest to him in all ripened wisdom and full-cunning [magic]. Many others studied it extensively, however, and from thence full-cunning has spread out wide and held for a long time."

Odin taught his arts to the Gothis, and these were arts of kveðið, of poetry, verse, rhythmic chanting. The temple-gothis were called ljóðasmiðir, verse-smiths, crafters of poetry, shapers of song. Through this song, the Gothis became næst honum um allan fróðleik og fjölkynngi, nearest to Odin in all wisdom and magic.

Neque sacrificiis student, "Nor are they fanatical about priestly functions."

Saxo tells a story of a time when Odin was exiled, and Loki, who receives a kenning here of Mith-Othin ("Companion of Odin"), deceived people by tricking them into thinking he had seized divine power, and taught them that the prior custom of offering to all the Gods was insufficient, but they must multiply their ritual obligations. When Odin returned, this was over-turned.

Mitothyn ... ipse fingendae divinitatis arripuit barbarasque mentes novis erroris tenebris circumfusas praestigiarum fama ad caerimonias suo nomini persolvendas adduxit. [2] Hic deorum iram aut numinum violationem confusis permixtisque sacrificiis expiari negabat ideoque iis vota communiter nuncupari prohibebat, discreta superum cuique libamenta constituens.

"Mitothyn... himself made out to the barbarians that he had seized divine status, and surrounded their minds with dark ignorance, and new, extraordinary errors, persuading them through his infamous tricks to pay for ceremonies in his name, and taught that they must expiate these gods who were angry at the violation of their divine will through the blending and mixing of sacrifices, and therefore he prohibited and forbade them to call on them in common, establishing separate offerings to each of the Gods."

But Qui cum Othino redeunte, relicta praestigiarum ope, "when Odin returned, he forsook the power of these deceptions." He relinquished them. They were left behind. Had Loki been successful, the religion of the Germani may well have ended up much like the Gauls, requiring the scrupulous attention of druids to take care of all that sacrifice, but Odin veluti tenebras quasdam superveniente numinis sui fulgore discussit, "struck that down through his divine will just as the darkness is dissipated by the arrival of light". Betra er ósent en sé ofsóit (Havamal 145), "Better to not give than to over-sacrifice and squander." Svá Þundr of reist fyr þjóða rök, þar hann upp of reis, er hann aftr of kom, "So the Thundering One (Odin) carved this judgement for the nations, where he rose up, after he had returned." That Odin is here called a "Thundering One" indicates how angry he was ; anyone connected with this defrauding of the folk through tactics of fear and extortion he tamquam alienos deponere coegit, "gathered up and deported like foreigners".

Odin doesn't want priests who multiply obligations and religious tributes through the threat of divine wrath, nor needlessly complicate sacred rites with overmeticulous and redundant priestcraft, and he certainly doesn't want priests who behave like a magorum coetus, "gang of sorcerers" who confundo, "confuse and upset" people with the praestigiarum, "fraudulent claim" of the deus ira, "wrath of the Gods". He wants galdrasmiðir, crafters of magical and enchanting verse. En hann kenndi flestar íþróttir sínar blótgoðunum, "And he taught most of these arts to his ceremonial priests." Which were the arts he therefore taught? Since hofgoðar hans heita ljóðasmiðir , "his temple priests were called song-smiths", he must therefore have taught them those eighteen fimbulljóð, mighty songs, in the Rúnatal. These songs are allþörf ýta sonum, óþörf jötna sonum (Havamal 164), "all useful for the sons of men, but useless for the sons of giants". In other words, they will not work for ill wights who act like a magorum coetus, gang of sorcerors who follow in the footsteps of Loki and Heid, and for such, they are not intended. They are intended to meet all the needs of humanity, and of these mighty songs, the very first and foremost is called "Help", þér hjalpa mun við sökum ok sorgum ok sútum görvöllum (Havamal 146), "whose function is to help against harm and sorrow, and to prepare you against grief and sickness".

Odin's poet-priests are to use their songs to help people in their sorrows and troubles, and prepare them to deal with the inevitable griefs that come in life. When one listens to the songs that poets speak, Heill sá, er kvað, heill sá, er kann, njóti sá, er nam, heilir, þeirs hlýddu (Havamal 164), "Blessed are those who recite them, blessed are those who know them, of benefit to those who learn them, blessed are those who hearken."

The true priests of the Northern path are not those who frighten with their sorcery, but poets whose deep songs bring them closest to Odin's wisdom and magic, which blesses all of the folk with luck, wholeness, and health.

all translations copyright 2009 by Siegfried Goodfellow

Because I Am A Coward

Because I am a coward, I whisper minnesong into the willow's branches, and hope the winds will carry that song to your sleeping ears. Because I am a coward who cannot bear to see you with another man, and your belly full of child, I cast these forlorn leaves etched with runes of blood onto the waters, and hope they may sail drifting down to you, in dreams where the heart always remembers, even if the mask tired of tears makes the mind forget. Is it cowardice? I am not sure. A man must know his limitations. A foolhardy man runs rash into danger, but giants have no mercy. They will rip your arms off and spit your head out reeling upon the ground without a second thought. Some sights hold terrible power, and to see you given to someone else, much as I ought rejoice, in that deep love I have for you, I fear I might be broken. And I have spent this last year duct-taping and gluing the broken bones back together, in hopes that wrapped in skin, Mjollnir waved over might bring them back to life. But I do not hold Mjollnir, love. That is a power beyond me. So my love must remain hidden, and sent out onto night aethers like spells wishing well, visiting you with forbidden kisses in dreams that bring blessings.

Danish Town Nestled In Chumash Lands

There in that Danish town nestled in Chumash lands where dander hangs like green beards on Santa Ynez oaks, there in that dream-cocoon of Viking heritage where old genes begin to rumble and mutter, if the poet could hear and translate those muffled crowd-sounds into language. There along those roads where deer dance, in sweet wine brought in from the vineyards fresh for the tasting, in steaming hot tubs and Danish rolls, oh there my heart calls me, oh there perhaps my love lies still, concealed, buried like some winter seed of grain in the snow, and might I perhaps someday sink teeth into earthy loaves baked from its hidden harvest?

The land is faithful, loyal even when hearts forget, for the earth holds moments. Memories percolate into the soil and are never lost. They gather and collect, forming the deep, compressed poems of the subsoil. The land welcomes eternity, is open to depths only deep hearts may reach, and the love they leave stays there nourishing the ground. Nourishing.

Those were eternities we spent, my love. How shall I go to that place my heart calls me to without you? Without you? How shall I be brave enough? Shall I stare ancestors' courage in the face and declare that home was crushed by an unknown jotunn, and find the strength to go on, forlorn and full of proud tears, into that unwritten scroll called future rolling out like fog o'er hills and plains? And find a home again? The ancestors know love, they know how the heart longs for home, and terrible is a homebreaking, terrible and mysterious. We must be brave in our own way. We must walk on through the smoking wreckage and find the wyrd that wends towards greater fortune, and trust that the Lady has her ways, ways we cannot fathom, and beyond, she brings flowers and smiles, kisses and deep embraces tossed out almost carelessly in their abundance, if we will only have faith and tend on our wyrd against the doubts and fears and obstacles.

The hands hold each other. The strength of those hands together, walking down Danish streets, strolling into shops, pretzels and cheese for you, the way you savored those pastries. I could buy you thousands, though your beautiful paunch would blame me later. Your love of eclairs, and do you remember, beloved, blowing lightly on your aebleskivers, and how the powder puffed up into your face, as we laughed at Loki's tricks? What I would give for just one more of those days. If I could save my whole life, I would buy you the whole Mortensen's Bakery. If like Freya I could turn these tears into gold, I would be a wealthy man, but not so wealthy were I to be able to hold you in my arms again, and be able to find home in your soft and strong embraces.

But I must go back, even if you do not come back. Do you know there, in that strange Danish town, I first dreamed as a young man of marriage and home, a career of counseling, while my family drove up and down hills surrounded by green meadows touched with the brush of tawny brown? And in the green picnic fields of that park by the waterfalls, my eyes saw bikers but my mind saw Vikings, and something deeper happened, some transformation. You could feel the elves by those falls, do you remember? We spoke of the dripping crack covered with moss as the Lady's Vulva, and those words we spoke were deeply reverent.

You must remember how by the ocean, beneath the stars, under countless oaks, and in the open air, I declared my love to you again and again, holding hands, eyes peering deeply, reciting that litany --- I give myself freely to you, now and into the unforeseen future, and you would repeat those words back to me. For once the world was solid, there was a future that stretched out so far. For once I had someone who adored me as much as I adored her, and she was loyal, and she was mine. But that has evaporated like a dream, like a slap in the face that still cries out, I love you. And would you abandon it? Would you leave it abandoned? Would you ask me to?

I juggle impossibilities. It is human, and I know Odr and Freya went back and forth many times, coming and going, leaving and longing, moving and missing. Grant me the dignity of dreams, for the soul longs for love, even for love lost. Beloved, those hips and belly you would stare in the mirror and berate, I cherished and savored, for they were yours, and you were the woman I loved, loved so much beyond compare.

Look at me. A heathen who's never touched a drop of mead (save as holy anointing for hair and forehead) singing a drunken song of love staring deep into the horn. But I am also singing of place, place that grounds memories, place that holds possibilities, place I must brave even if you are not there, for it holds a connection the rest of the domesticated landscape does not. And eventually I shall bring other women there, I must. But only because you will not come, for you have moved on, for I would rather, a hundred times over it be you. I must salute that ship as it sails into the fog, sailing it would seem on this briny sea eyes shed, and hope the Fields of the Sun hold further treasure waiting ripe beneath the surface. But my horn shall be raised to you, for you are woven in there, the memories cannot and shall not be banished, even as new ones are woven. I suppose that is what it means to be a man. To have the strength to move from a hearth that has grown cold, out into the cold, to find another home. And it is a terrible thing.

Hear the Swish of the Prow

Hear the swish of the prow moving against the dark foam of the icy waves, as the ship heads into the fog, icebergs floating by, the wind blowing through the braided hair and rime-coated beards of the sailors. See their looks of wonder as they move slowly but steadily into the unknown, across those waters where maps say there be monsters. Feel the religious wonder and awe they feel in the discovery, in that perilous process of penetrating the never seen waves that lead on to mystery. Watch them pass shoals of fish, and the curved fins of dolphins cutting the waves, as the sailors feel the floor boards of the ship rumble and undulate across the waves, their feet bringing up unspoken knowledge that beneath these waves lie behemoths larger than dolphins, for this is the whale-road, a path where humans are guests and the creatures of the deep have their sport and cold untold travels. Feel that strange mixture of marvel and fear they feel as they shiver with the thoughts of those whales beneath, their gallop on the wave-horse their worship of Njord.

For some, their eyes wander in the daze, trance-lulled by the great bobbing of the briny mead, thinking thoughts of home, thoughts of destination, letting the cold tell their bones they're real, and relishing in almost nonchalance their slow gradual growth into the strength of a maturity hardened against the weather, ample enough to swallow a little bit of the storm the world throws their way and digest its rough edges without flinching. These are big men, not big in girth, though some are, but able to embrace dissonance, journeymen stretching their talents towards the masterpiece of mastering difficulty, and drawing joy from the clash. Going out to meet the stone of the cliff crags, the roughness of reefs, the ice of the bergs, the relentless salty sleet and sharpened brisk breeze that stings into aliveness, in order to find what's real, to know the edges of the world, the shapes of the basins, chasing the fleeting horizon where sky touches water, to know the forms Gods shaped with terrible, loving hands in the dawn of time.

And the Captain gazes out, his eyes searching through the fog for lunar beams in the night, as that moon-ship sails the higher oceans and beams forth ivory rays gently silvering fluorescent through the cloudy mist, a guiding light. His figure upright and strong, straight with sternness, eyes that have known a dozen battles, yet soft in their curiosity, and the heart thumping, onwards, onwards the call pulls him out towards his uncanny destiny, and he carries the hopes of the crew on those strong shoulders. They hold cargo, they seek adventures.

The first mate dreams of encounters, strange ones in strange ports, herbs and spices from unknown lands, foreign feel of eyelashes against his cheeks and skin different than his own, the way only sailors can know strangers, and the crew's strong arms will grasp and love strange flesh with the desperation only the sea can breed, for the sea has no arms, no legs, no torso to grab and stroke, no lips to kiss, and they would love the sea, so any stranger is a stand-in, and this is a kind of worship. Then his thoughts shift as he thinks of the clash of swords, the clang of iron in a brisk fight, the way melees can turn and spin the whole tenor of a mission. The possibilities of booty, great treasures, each with a name and destiny and past, a heritage to be adopted into the family like a foster son to add its luck to theirs, and they will bring this back, if they can, for loved ones. And they will etch the name of their bride upon the rings. And the loneliness carries the love as the ocean holds the ship, medium and vessel, and in the emptiness there is vast fullness, a fullness so vast many cannot fathom. That fullness, found in eerie emptiness, the chilling lull of wide-open spaces far from home between encounters, calls them like some siren song.

And the fog rises up like steam in Aegir's cauldron, as if the sea were raining upwards into the skies through cloud. This fog defines them, speaking so much of their Northern soul, and in the fog they feel the future, feel it with fingers that stretch out, although they cannot define it nor see it with their eyes. It lies just beyond. For the future is unwritten, or rather it is written and etched on the autumn leaves of surprise falling unbeknownst and hither-thither from the Great Tree. The great-grandchildren's grandchildren will live in a world much like this one, yet changed in all ways, changed. Wyrd keeps turning. In slow ineluctable turns pulling in more into the weave, and the weft gets more complex, and the patterns of surprise turn kaleidoscopic on that terrible, immense loom nine leagues below, beneath musty roots, in the land where ancestors walk. The mystery will go on, for those who dare the swish of the prow. No matter how much time has passed. This is religion, feeling out the future with shadowed eyes through fog, and longing to touch that never-reached horizon. The mystery will go on, for those who dare the swish of the prow. Even if days come when most have forgotten, when axe- and wolf- age have spread ruins across barren plains, there will be eyes that wonder, that wish to know Odin's workings in the world. And they will find it here, out on the sea. The mystery will go on, for those who dare the swish of the prow.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Towards a Heathen Theory of Perception

Let's introduce the idea of a heathen conception of perception. In the Cartesian theory of perception that has ruled the Western world since Descartes, there is the classic separation of subject and object, so that when I perceive a tree, the Cartesian idea is that there is an external object, the tree, and then there is an external subject, who is me, and there is a visual gloss whereby all that I am doing, in a very surface manner, is taking in that surface gloss. It's merely a visual trace.

But if we look at things from a heathen perspective what we have instead is that each object, each wight in the world, is like a fountain, and it is pouring out its megin, its particular frequency, its particular flavor, its particular type of megin, of energy, and that therefore when I am beneath a tree, say, and I am beholding it, I am taking it in. I am not just engaged in a subject-object separation, but the megin or the energy of the tree is actually pouring into me and through me. In order to perceive anything, there must be that continual pouring-forth of its megin, of its energy, of its power.

With that in mind, the basic heathen principle of Drink Deeply comes into effect, and we turn the ordinary, mainstream ideas of perception on their head, wherein subject-object separation is normal, and the participation-style of perception is seen as quaint, something childish, something primitive. From this perspective, when we turn it around, people who engage in that subject-object separation are impoverishing themselves, because there are literally sources of strength surrounding us. In the great strength of the Ash tree, and in the beautiful green of the grass, and in the lovely fluttering leaves of the shrubs, and in the bird-songs, there are draughts of intoxicating and strengthening fluids. This isn't just a surface aesthetics. It's far deeper. There are strata that go far beneath the surface. Perception is the act of opening oneself up and taking in all of that deep strata.

We don't often do that. We're in the midst of life and in the midst of business. We can't be perusing the depths of the world at all times, but the heathen philosophy is that perception has that depth capacity, and that it is worthwhile and enriching and strengthening to regularly open oneself up to the depths of those strata that can be found radiating forth flavors and qualities of strengths and energies from the wights of the world, through the simple but profound act of perception.

If we look at perception, the word literally means, looking at its Latin root, to "capture through". There is an element of capturing ("ception"). But there is an element of capturing and letting it go through us. There is a throughness of opening ourselves up to the being. Opening ourselves up to be captured, to be entranced by it for a moment, and letting its energy pass through it. There is a moment there of participation, where our being, and the being of the wight are in alignment for a moment, and even communion. Other traditions may speak of this as a moment of meditation, but here it is a beholding, an openness to being, in which the megin of that wight pours out, and we drink deeply of it, strengthening ourselves, without ever diminishing the being at all, because to be alive is to constantly be radiating and sharing the essence of one's being, like an overflowing fountain. Since we ourselves are so giving ourselves to the world, which gets to drink of us, we in turn have place to drink deeply of the world.

Drink deeply!

Gullveig and the Loss of Innocence

With the coming of Gullveig, there was a loss of innocence. And yet her very coming had proven that that innocence constituted a vulnerability to corruption. Indeed, men had never been perfect. They were part of the organic world growing and struggling to grow, given dormant powers of insight, imagination, and even deeper, spirituality, that the Gods hoped the world would eventually awaken. But like all creatures they faced perils and experienced loss, and these had their toll. For the most part, before the time of Gullveig, these microdramas of the human spirit would resolve themselves within a generation or two, and sometimes in lesser time, but the fear that Gullveig had aroused was there, too, in the human makeup.

In the times of innocence, it is as if the elves spoke directly to these developing creatures, and that is how communion took place. But after the arrival of Gullveig, formal worship became necessary to retune what had been lost. And through the rites of worship, the Gods took it upon themselves to intentionally strengthen and cultivate the morale, virtues, and character of the folk, so long as the folk met them halfway by remembering to hold the ceremonies.

This was not a total loss from the perspective of the Gods, who over time have become very good at making lemon out of lemonade, and omelettes out of broken eggs, because it allowed them a conduit through which to bolster and fortify the human spirit and begin slowly accelerating its long, evolutionary journey. Whenever we meet up with a people who have formal rites, we know that they, too, in some way, experienced the winding thread of corruption that required periodic, formal, and communal correction. These tales are told in different ways but they speak to common roots. That doesn't mean, of course, that every folk experiences exactly the same things. There are many differences, but there are also common roots that unite and define us as mortals and as human beings.

Heid's spoiling magic was the arousal of fear and envy to controlling forces, the raising of petty squabbles to outright division, and the replacement of respectful difference and mutual regard to scorn, mockery, and the Art Freya developed to help beings commune with the rest of the nine worlds through love perverted into an endless Hatfield-McCoy witch-war frenzy of curses and malifice.

Thus, the rites are meant to bring us together where we have torn ourselves apart, to strengthen our courage and morale where we have fallen into fear, to replenish cycles of giving where both envy and stinginess had begun to split us apart, and to create an atmosphere both friendly and formal that allows for mutual regard to regain its footing and find its root.

And if religion doesn't do that, it's not doing its job. At the very least it should be on its way towards that goal. Is yours?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Alfar at the Doomstead

Havamal 159 : ef ek skal fyrða liði telja tíva fyrir, ása ok alfa ek kann allra skil... "If I must reckon up the men of a folk before the gods, both Aesir and Alfar, I can discern and explain them all..."

Why are the Alfar there? The Alfar, as we know from traditional European folklore, ward the wild places of the world, and the fertility and integrity of the land.

No one has yet mentioned the fact the Alfar are there in that court. What will they speak? What will they testify of your life, from their position as guardians of the hills and plains?

Do the Alfar tally up the sins of the folk against the land and wild wights? Is it here the rights of animals and of the environment will have their strong say? Will they speak the kindness you showed to smaller beings and trees so rooted they could not run?

The verse is so terse, but the statement so strong. How do people behave when they know on their judgement day the fair-folk shall give honest testimony? How do you act in the world when you know that not only do the elves affect your luck in this world, but in the next as well?

What is said there shall become part of your fair fame etched into the tree's bark, shaping how your name shall be said, for the doom of your deeds cannot be undone. The deeds stick to the name as if the name catalogued the deeds themselves. How shall you like that name to be spoken?

Now the Alfar are not the only judges, but that they are there, Havamal 159 avers.

It does not matter whether you take the symbolic image handed down by our poets literally or not. What matters is your understanding that the way you treat the world becomes part of your legacy. And whether anyone remembers or not, that legacy is remembered by the world itself, and lives on in effects which shape how things shall come. Knowing that, live as if you walked through eternity, for as Blake said, eternity is in love with the productions of time.

translation copyright 2009 by Siegfried Goodfellow

Mixing Time

This is a time of cross-pollinization, a time of mixing, a blending-time, a clashing time, a time when wind lifts up blossoms and semen and casts it headlong across the great atmospheres of the world's skies down into fertile, disturbed plains. This is one of those times when folk mix, when exotic plants travel thousands of miles in gulf streams, when birds drop droppings full of seed, when new landscapes emerge, when mountains fall and valleys raise. This is a time when mad monks pack books on donkeys' rumps and backpath into the winding mountains of mist, bringing strange collections to odd tribes. Coca-cola lives in the Himalayas, Dickens' slum armies march to black and white television sets in Mongolia and Zaire and Guatemala and Serbia, and Spengler's eddies of tribes swirling and spiralling in the foam of people, bubbling and bursting out new wyrds that grow into great new stocks of juxtaposed folk breeding unknown, multiple nations of future's dreamings. This is a time of chaos, a perilous time of great contingencies and opportunities, a postmodern time of collage and dada whose strong loins pump out surreal babies of beauty and surprise. This is a time when armies march and no one knows why. The globe spins, and the dice roll out like no one's tomorrow. Where the roulette stops, no one is certain, but nations will be changed, and the landscape reconfigured, scrambled eggs, and new folk for all to see rising up out of the waters after yesterday's burnings.

Volkism is a Fucking Insult to Mutts

Volkism is a fucking insult to mutts, let the hybrids rise, and vine and twine. We are all mutts, and purebreds are inbreds, dumb dogs diseased for Beverly Hills cracker-barbies. Let the full rich ancestries sing their coiled DNA songs from wide the earth within. Let silenced masses deep in the bone drone their bone-hum masterpieces flattened by bulldozer nationalisms. Let all the folk of my kith and kin galdur pow-wows with deep drums in the seidr of my soul. Let gagged tribes break free from the hushed moments great-grandmother got a seven-year itch when some husky stranger from abroad sauntered into town, and left divine currents rushing through the genes. Let the earth's joined hands spin race in the mill and grind out gold, golden age, peace and prosperity, salt of the earth. My Yiddish, Slavic, Irish forebears take their place in the blot next to my Rhineland and Langobard ancestors. The Gods know my worship is complex, and always loved knotted artwork runing in the world's floral and thorned blends. Ancestors drafted into the armies of Christ plundering Powhatan and Algonquin shores, some kidnapped and indentured, found fellows often in Africans thralled across the shores by masters no one identified with, and new musics arose. And traitor-nobles Roman-fancying tried to divide us, setting up boundaries, tried to say who could love whom could love whom, and we defied them, and sometimes obeyed them, and created a real shithouse mess in which new seeds of fantastic flowers could sprout. Volkism is a fucking insult to mutts. The mutt shall inherit the earth, we've no problems with polyphonic, multiphasic chromosomal harmonics : it makes the galdur more mystic, more holy. The mud is always holy and there roots twine and rhizome. The Gods are glad with mutts and know the folk souls grow through mixing, for ingwaz winds its winding way upwards through the evolutionary symphony phase after new and glorious phase, and the future is unwritten, though hidden and hinted in today's blossomings fountaining out from yesterday's unvoidable foundations. So find yourself in this rich, thorny thicket of reality called history, tending on towards who knows what, and not in shadows where you dream puerile thoughts of adolescent purity. The folk are rich! The folk are woven day by day, craft by craft, arm in arm, across chasms you can't fathom. Njord loves ports where sailors gather.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Essence

If I were to boil the essence of heathenism down to one phrase, putting aside all of the symbols and the rites and the lore, it would be :

"Give weight to what has value, and never allow anyone to disrespect you."

Easier said than done.

Learning how to discern value, to differentiate it from the trivial, is hard work.

Then not taking it for granted, and giving it the honor it truly deserves? A lifetime of work.

But one must also not allow others to step on what is of value, whether they find it of value or not. Let them find your strong fist grounded in rooted stance of value.

Do not brook disrespect.

Give value where it is merited.

Everything leads to and from these two simple but difficult points.

Call On The Thunder

Call on the thunder
to take down the beast
whose raging maw consumes
torn nations in bits
and wails oe'r the blasted plains.
Men will have to do the work
but the thunder will guide.
The thunder will guide.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Gullveig and Negative Thinking

There are many lessons in the mythic narratives. Take one : Gullveig cannot be killed. Every time she is burned, she comes to life again. Kill her and she rises again. The Gods finally learn to accept her but to exile her.

Gullveig represents many different things : avarice, envy, the evil eye, curses, and most of all, fear. These are, in a sense, a natural part of life and must be accepted. Fear arises again and again. If we try to kill fear, it will find a way through the back door. But if we accept our fear and our envy, but do not allow them into the halls of power, and give them their place, a place that fits their nature : a wide, barren, swampy place at the edge of the world, then things can be in balance.

This should be a lesson to those who think they are into "positive thinking", but in fact reinforce negative thinking again and again by refusing to accept their negative sides as important parts of the whole. Healing always comes through wholeness, not through division. Negative thoughts and feelings have their place, but not as rulers who get to dominate the whole.

The Aesir always meet in council to hash things out. It is a very democratic process. Domination is foreign to their very governance. And there is a place for everything in the universe. The Giants even are given a domain where they may continue their regressive tendencies or find the long route to evolution, but they are not allowed to dominate, because given their vast negativity and stupidity, they would crush what was good. The Gods experimented with taking the best from the Giant world in and seeing if they could evolve and improve them, but these brought their regressive and domineering impulses in and tried to take over and ruin the whole thing.

Everything has a place, and thus has its proper sphere of freedom. What is evil is usurpation, when a being usurps the place that is proper for it and begins to domineer over others of another domain, imposing its own conditions on a venue which has been set aside for beings of a different climate. Pluralistic co-existence is part of the Gods' plan for the world ; imperialism is not.

So instead of trying to destroy negative thoughts, send them home. They have a home where they belong, and it is good for them to be there. Accept them as a part of the whole, but do not allow them to usurp their place and destroy the good that is in you : your openness to opportunity, your ability to accept possibilities outside your ruts, your capacity to experience hope, your power to bolster a faltering morale by gathering up your strengths, and more.

Ragnarok, in a sense, is nothing new or out of the ordinary. It represents a time when all of the domineering impulses break free from their assigned homes and attempt to usurp their place once and for all. *Yawn. They've been trying to do that since the beginning of time. So in a sense, Ragnarok simply represents the time when finally the wonderful and long patience of the Gods reaches its end, and the Giants reap the fruits not of their mere existence, but rather of their long, recidivist will-to-usurpation. There have to be good limits in the world. Ragnarok demonstrates will-to-vengeance growing out of proportion, and bursting forth to destroy the world. This is not a good thing, and a stop must be put to it. So while the Gods understand that it is human to wish vengeance, and that therefore it has its place within proper limits, the narratives tell us again and again in many different forms that letting that urge go too far is disastrous.

Psychologically, we need the monsters. They are a part of us, and they express and contain forces that are a genuine part of the difficult and often-struggling human experience. They therefore have their place, where they are allowed to romp, to gnash, to smash, to have their monster temper tantrums and to do their great sulkings and plannings, but we must follow the Gods' examples and not allow them to usurp our place. That's the time for Thor to step in and with gusto, laughter, but also strong, no-nonsense power, say, "That's enough!". We were not meant to be ruled by the Giants, but guided by the Gods.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Not Too Sophisticated

Meðalsnotr skyli manna hverr, æva til snotr sé (Havamal 54) : "Moderately sophisticated shall each man be, never too sophisticated."

Good advice.

Never be embarassed by your unsophisticated pleasures.

því at snotrs manns hjarta verðr sjaldan glatt, ef sá er alsnotr, er á. (Havamal 55) : "Because the sophisticated man's heart seldom becomes glad if he who has it is too sophisticated."

For me, it's the Dukes of Hazard. No redeeming social value. Almost no substance. Pure fluff, and absolutely fun. And kinda stupid. But I've loved it since I was a child. It's something that were it not for the wisdom of these words of Woden, I might be embarassed to admit.

Sometimes we need to be carefree and let down our hair, get comfortable. Acting like the world is on our shoulders all the time is a little foolish, not to say somewhat impious in a vague kind of way, because it isn't. Leave what is the Gods' to the Gods.

Ever heard the expression, "Anything for a laugh"? Well, why do you think the Gods ever let someone like Loki into their midst? Because at first, he made them laugh, and that was good enough (at first) to overlook some of the other qualities. Now, they may have made a mistake here, but the point is to emphasize how important laughter was to them. That point cannot be underlined enough.

The Gods didn't make us to be monks, our heads always in books. Sure, we should seek out knowledge, as Odin does, but the Gods also want us to laugh -- indeed, know that we need to! -- and to enjoy ourselves.

That's why Odin says to be sophisticated, but not too sophisticated, because it's not healthy. Or to use a more modern term, Subgenius not Genius. There's a time to get down to business, and there's a time to kick back and enjoy yourself. A hint : Beowulf was not fighting so people could get back down to business, but so that the Meadhall could return to its games and hall joys.

all translations copyright 2009 by Siegfried Goodfellow

The Serpent and the Maypole

The wyrm has wormed its way throughout the world, strangling, constricting, and squeezing out. Every last patch of earth now has its warlords and bands of bullies, and no longer swords and spears, but guns, automatic weapons, grenades, launchers, torture-apparati. Misery shrinks the territory of free, peaceful men, and the world is crawling with the cold-blooded reptilian tribes intent on territory and meat, each lizard clan one scale on the scaled leviathan's continents-long wyrmbody, with dark black explosion smoke laughter-billowing and strange mind-twisted justifications, as it squirms and writhes throughout the thorned thickets of the world's blessed body, leaving barbed wire bone trails wherever it slithers. Darkness in the minds of men, this side against that side against that side chopping, hacking, noosing, lassoing, snagging, enslaving, insectoid labor armies marching every which way, and wherever it worms, its fangs drip spewed venom slobber corroding, distorting, perverting creatures, nature's laws, sad famine adaptations and thick-skinned adrenal bedlam as forked-tongue lisps cold serpentine intrusions and encroachments along coastlines and riverbeds : orcification, wolfification, gleaming strangulation of Midgard's frith and freedom. So many shells of inangards pitted, plundered, lairs and dens of blood and bite and venom as new breeds hatch, infest, and reclaim Midgard's plains for monstrous, senseless pandemonium and shell-shocked, everyday-blase horror.

Once bold protectors sailed in sleet craft along blue, cloud-foamed oceans of atmospheric air seeking out trouble and saving. Blessed Hodur, hunting out dragons and monsters encroaching on world, seeking, taking on, vanquishing, warding world's holiness with strong-arm salvation and righteousness. The serpent's father insured the Alcis were sent helward so his sons might have a feast and field day for ages on end. Who will do the Dioscuri's work now that they lay in the underworld 'till this age's end? Which heroes stand and say, I will not stand to see beloved Jord invaded, infested, filth-and-slime infiltrated? Who shall cleanse?

In days of Ermanerich monsters moved in, began their barbed-wire encampments and empires while the Gods, Aurboda-caused, lay feuding, and the coiling venom foe-of-Thor sinuous-ventured inward, to take Ironwood genetics and breed poison-deformations throughout world, with strangulations and evil thorn-following the holy vine's bramble-meanderings.

Then Frodi vine-strangled stranglers, weaving green-tendril'd nets of life resurgent in dancing pulsation, through and through and thick and through, to chase out winter's barren dustbowl minions, and there, Robin Hood upon the plains, meadows rolled out and unfolding district by district with the battle of the trees against the orcs, Robin surveying. And when he first stepped onto the fresh earth, what nightmare quick flashed across his ever-smiling lips as he took in the territory taken by the wyrm's slimy tanglings, and wondered how world could be so tainted. Then merry-men envoys emissaried into every town and hamlet, known world-wide to sing and make spring motions of dance laugh and live amongst the shell-shocked folk, and dream of revolutions. Freedom won't stay put, looks on venom-drugged zombies and imagines awakenings, pulls out the pipe and leads out the children from cities of the dead. We are the humble missionaries of Freyr with wild-eyed visions of dionysian evangelism spreading wildfire revolution against the serpent-riding wolf-ogres, and raise the banner of Frodi's Frith, a world-wide celebration, a freols, the ongoing victory-dance that stirs up men again to stand on two feet and sing their rights with bold voice, and gather fruits together for communion feasts proclaiming, peace on earth! good will towards men! Vanaheim's Father Christmas declaring Yule a permanent kingdom on this earth.

Serpent's father taunts Freyr with Muspel's Men bringing fire, doom-spells, and king-counseling of better safe with brutal bodyguards and Volund-salvaged golems smashing laughter sex uprisings, but the song of freedom sings along, scattering and reassembling. With merriment, with acts of kindness and courage, strong men settling feuds and petty nonsense (whose flames Heid's curses would fan), gardeners and gatherers retake their place restoring Eden to venom-scarred Mother Earth's jungles and plains. Every desert shall be greened, even ants shall cease their warfare. Not today. Not tomorrow. We plant tiny seeds of viridian chaparral that germinate when fires come. And when the fires come, our fruits shall have their bounty, but before, freedom's strong arms muscle out encroachers to plant industrious gards of frith. Jormungand, we strike your wand to make a Maypole!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Utopian or Myopian

People often use the word "utopian" in the accusative, to mean "that which is impossible", when in fact their own condition may be called "myopian", "of limited vision". Folks living in cynical ages take cynical conditions for granted, and anything outside those bounds seems impossible, while to sensible people living under sensible laws, chaotic conditions seem precisely what they are, and sensible conditions seem sensible, not impossible.

Cynical people take it for granted that tobacco companies, originally formed and enriched by slave labor, should have virtually unchallenged sway over society, and that the attempt to limit their influence legally is impossible, even though there have been countries and states which have successfully done so. Cynical people take it for granted that judges in the 1800s would completely subvert the common law which protected everyone from neighbor's pollution, be it by air or by water, in favor of industrial lobbyists whose pollution has continued to poison the air and water, when the common law had been used successfully in many cases for hundreds and hundreds of years to protect people's rights.

Those who are surrounded by a sense of impossibility that limits their natural feelings for justice should not ridicule those who are able to see clearly and wish to transform situations for the better. To just accept things as they are is a thrallish attitude.

Ants on a Small Speck of Dust

I am just an ant on a small speck of dust in a sea of darkness studded by small candles. Ultimates stare back dumb to my deaf ears, and I knock them but only vertigo meets me, and silence. I do not know. It's something I'm learning. I won't know immediately. With all things we humans learn slowly, like children. Sometimes my heart can feel him, and does not doubt he is there somehow. Other times I do not know. These are arts with which I am not familiar. Words : words I know well. But how to see in the darkness with no candles at all I do not know.

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

Because We Are Blind We Cannot See The Color

Because we are blind we cannot see the color. How the spirits must be baffled at us, crying, carrying on, mourning, when they're right there. We can't see, doubt clouds our minds and sometimes illuminates, we don't know which. Loved ones pass on, and the animal part wonders, is the end of breath the end of it all, a simple cease? And it's natural to wonder that. Yet our beloved's must shake their heads, smiling, if only we knew, if only we knew how close they were.

Along comes religion. Its poetry tells us the dead are not dead but fully woven now into existence and never-to-be-banished, and this poetry comes from the lips of shamans with second sight who should know what they're talking about, when they're not crazy. So we hold this poetry. It's comforting. It's beautiful. It's rich, and it makes sense. But most of us, we have a split consciousness. We hold that poetry, and we still hold the natural, animal agnosticism that wonders.

Isn't it true everyone who's lost a loved one begins to talk to the air? And it seems meaningful. In your imagination, you can hear the voice of the loved one talking back, saying things plausible for him or her to say. You cry. You wish it were real. It may be real. Is it just your mind talking back to your mind? What is real? Everything profound seems to come through the imagination. The la and leiti wonder with animal agnosticism. The odr* knows, even when it does not know how. The la* and leiti *and odr quarrel back and forth, brothers Lodur and Hoenir have a few words. Lodur asks, "How do we solve these real problems? How do we satisfy the blood and the senses?", and Hoenir answers, "Let us consult Mimir. Let us listen to the wisdom that lies deep in the Well." Lodur is not satisfied with that answer. Give us a straight answer, stop suggesting we consult others for advice. Where does the buck stop? Hoenir says, let the imagination tend hel-ward, and find answers in the depths.

They are gone, they are gone, gone, gone, gone, we cry. Their silhouettes perhaps inform in glittering crystalline shimmerings feet from us wondering, why do they not see? Because they see with the eyes of the la and leiti, and will not see with the odr. Because the odr is held captive by the senses and not ruled by the spirit, the breath of the wind that Odin gives.

The ancients might bemoan an age when triplicities are turned topsy-turvy, spirit held thrall by la and leiti which rule above and subject the odr to themselves. An age when triplicities are turned topsy-turvy, thralls in positions of power, and philosopher-kings at the bottom, barely able to scratch out a living, let alone any glory.

Can I see you, my friend? Is it really you I imagine in my mind's eye speaking with me here? Oh, the days we debated ... would you begrudge me the simple skepticism of still wondering while you may scold me for doubting when you speak right into the ear of my odr? Do you expect more of me? Do you ask me, what faith does this heathen religion give you if you cannot know? But forgive me, my friend, I am still young, and not gifted with the second sight. I cannot see you except in my mind's eye. I know I should know better. I am a wise man acting like a fool. Or am I fool just pretending to be a wise man?

Yet you come to our friend who has second sight, and tell her I should spread the wisdom I have to the world without fear, and friend, how could I not listen, even if it were just the fancy of a dreamy mind? For you, my friend, I should hear you when you speak. I should hear you beyond my doubts. Because we are blind we cannot see the color.

And I wonder what color you see now. How you must be drinking the ur-thanc* by the Well of Mimir, old friend. How the further adventures must call you and thrill you. And I know you are looking up the Tree and saying, Ziggy, why do you not see? why weep? Weep when I am in wonder? But my friend, we have lost you here, and this world is the more cold for it!

I know. Faith. I should have faith. That you are there. That you are unerasable. That our friendship does not end with that gunshot two months ago. That of course you are there, exploring mysteries, as always. Asking questions, as always. If you are eternal, I love you. And if you are ephemeral, as all flesh fears, still, I love you, my friend, my comrade since youth. You drink from wells of wisdom ; my eyes are inundated with wells of salt water even thinking that I can be writing this to you, when all I wish is that you could be here now exploring the world. Astronomy-sessions, we called those old philosophy talks beneath the stars, do you remember, old friend? Of course you do. You will never forget. Too often it is we the living who forget. But not me. Not me.

I hope you know how much you are loved and missed. And may that add some color to the already colorful world you now stand before, worlds upon worlds in the boughs and roots of the tree, and it all was a dream, all of it, even when it was a nightmare. And do you see Gandalf at times coming through to visit? You know, my friend, that that is Odin, wandering in to speak with Mimir. Of course you know that. Far better than I. Because we are blind we cannot see the color.

I may be a dog, only seeing with black and white eyes, but like a dog, color-blind I may be, but loyal, and knowing the members of my pack. Though a dog be lowly, a dog be loyal, and no wolf ; simple, perhaps, but seeing through that place where Freya speaks to her beloved Odr, where love lies in the heart. Because we are blind we cannot see the color, but this color-blind dog howls at the moon, and hopes you hear. I'm sure you do.

* odr : the poetic mind-heart, the imagination

* la : the blood

*laeti : voice and mannerisms, the senses

* ur-thanc : primal-think, philosophy

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Eostre Morning

Heil, the Sun's granddaughter returns from eastern glaciers to bring her magic touch to Yggdrasil's fruits!

Praise be the Asyniur of this Holy Month of Eostre.

Heil, the decrepit withering of the world's mighty powers suck juice and crisp crunch living lively again!

Praise be the Asyniur of this Holy Month of Eostre.

Heil, Bragi's mouth be full of praise, for wife returned, now his heart is gladdened ripe!

Praise be the Asyniur of this Holy Month of Eostre.

Heil, all blessings flow, for Odr's wife has also come back, hair untied and full of love!

Praise be the Asyniur of this Holy Month of Eostre.

Heil, Odr rescued her from the clutch of giants, and now the spring has come!

Praise be the Asyniur of this Holy Month of Eostre.

Heil, the rabbit mates and bunnies soon emerge!

Praise be the Asyniur of this Holy Month of Eostre.

Heil, the eggs that hang like fruit upon the Holy World-Tree's boughs!

Praise be the Asyniur of this Holy Month of Eostre.

Heil, the winter snows a'melting, rivers run, and kine increase!

Praise be the Asyniur of this Holy Month of Eostre.

Heil, what faltered now shall spring, bud on branches, life in limbs!

Praise be the Asyniur of this Holy Month of Eostre.

Heil, what passed away sunk into roots, and now rises as fruits again!

Praise be the Asyniur of this Holy Month of Eostre.

Heil, birds sing, grass grows, all life's smiles and embraces defy the winter's pride!

Praise be the Asyniur of this Holy Month of Eostre.

Heil, Sun's Great and Bold Protector one day shall live amongst us all!

Praise be the Asyniur of this Holy Month of Eostre.

For Odr's aunt and Odr's bride once more reside amongst the living!

Heil! Praise be the Asyniur of this Holy Month of Eostre.

The Evil That Men Do

The evil that men do to each other brings collective shame, even when they think it a private manner. We say "honor the ancestors". How far does that go? Honor the dishonorable ancestors? Crimes upon crimes have been committed, and those of us committed to defy denial have to live with the shames of those crimes. How many millions of Africans were uprooted from their homelands, subjected to torture, humiliation, death, enslavement? How many Native Americans forced off their homes, their cultures demolished, their countless millions killed? How many people did the Roman Empire uproot, enslave, massacre? How many Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals did the Nazis exterminate and intimidate? Crime upon crime upon crime, and we the living have to live with the shame of that history, have to grapple with that shame, with a wergild so high we'd all have to be thralls for generations to even begin making a dent on the principal.

No freedom from guilt until the gild is payed. The criminals amongst our ancestors and ourselves seek to enslave us through racking up the reparations, unpaid and unpaid and unpaid, until Skuld has such a hold upon us all we're all tied in knots and wonder why that wondrous potential we all feel within us cannot be set free. Crime binds us all in shame, and we the living have to live with the shame of that history.

What a cruel inheritance to pass on, this debt unpaid, the blood that cries up from the land, these lives unlived. My honor tells me I shall not shirk from that shame. Tears flow at this history that men have created. There is much woe in the world even without us : famines, storms, even diseases. But that this creature so full of love, so full of the ability to care for one another, so capable of enlightenment should bring more woe into the world and multiply those woes, doing evil unto our own brothers, this shall never cease to make tears flow, and without any necessity at all.

When will we learn? How many wars have been fought to free us? How many men gave their blood that we might live free? How many struggled to raise the standard of living for all? Yet we have, so many of us, lurched over good proportion, and fallen into ill, and ill, ill, ill cries the land, cry the ghosts, cry the sad salt water odes in every child's eye that sees the world where Hitler reigned. The world where Hitler reigned! What an abomination to even be able to say it! The Earth screams, Saga weeps with us : was this allowed to be? Has the Midgard Serpent wrapped its venomous coils that tightly throughout the weave of the living world? Strangling ... strangling ... strangling. Would Mother Earth say the true warrior is the one who fights so that soul has some ground to stand on upon the blessed planet? That the true war is the one against the serpent, to encroach upon the encroacher, push him back, make him feel uncomfortable and crowded where now he is bloated and splayed out and roomy and cozy and damned near everywhere?

The evil that men do feeds the serpent. It feeds the wolf. And think not that wolf fed and serpent fed that Laufeysson's daughter will not remain unfed as well, as disease and hunger, lives cut short before their time, have their sway as the products of poisonous deeds and cut-throat slaughter. We have not yet begun to face our collective ill. That we would cry in the night and make great sounds of rhythmic beating, fists raising dust in the soil, mourning and moaning, and finally, exhausted, release the cynicism that feeds the monster by supporting the delusion of inevitability, and pay our good deeds forth penny by penny in the faith of a dripping faucet unnoticed gathering wells in time.

History sees Cumberland children kidnapped off the streets, indentured and sent by thousands to slave for seven years, or die before. History sees Irishmen fighting for their land shipped off to Caribbean isles, there to make rum for slavemasters. History sees Mexican tribes Aztec-slaughtered, Viking merchants selling Slavs, Roman troops choosing gladiators, failures and failures and failures in the shit-heap graveyard called history whose only hopes are long composting over the years that new life might green and sprout.

Would we pass on a curse or a blessing? Do men never give this thought? Is inheritance enough regardless of the heritage being passed on? Some men say, we are tired of being made to feel guilty. If you are tired of being made to feel guilty, throw down the gauntlet of your good deeds, and never silence the scolders. You should know better. Those who scold do Skuld's work. Scolding reminds of debts unpaid.

Wyrd knows the cloth that we've been given, and the threads with which we have to work. We aren't giants. We can't remake the world with the weight of our own muscles alone. We're small things, small in a sea of small where the large rule. Often we are handed black, moldy cards in a deck gone bad, and never think to take the time to clean the tarnish from the deal we've been dealt. Sometimes humble acts as these make a difference.

Once upon a time, life was but a game. Voluspa tells us that. But the game-pieces were lost, as the want for gold took over more and more, mother of the monsters reborn three times coming. That we would remember the game through the smoke and burning embers! Do not say we do not wail! Our folk wail! 9/10ths of Voluspa is wailing the world's woe that needless and careless has methodically wrapped itself around, through cunning and envy and angst! That this world would be this way! This beautiful, stunning, enchanting world! If you do not feel the tears dripping from Voluspa, you have not read the poem. It could be called, How the World Became Nightmare ; How It Might Become Dream Again. It's the legacy we carry. It's one of the single most important poems of the heathen tradition.

When the oaths fell apart ... when the want of gold appeared ... when families welcomed the curse-bringer and fear-monger into their homes ... when the folk first warred against folk ... when love was given up to the howling dogs ... when the forces of famine were given their sway ... when the valkyries began to have their day ... when the shaft of the brother brought down the brother, and the world's bright hope sunk down into hel ... when werewolves began to grow and be fed ... when even kin shall sell out kin, and hard times become the norm ...

These moments ... do you not hear the moans? Cry, in this great seance of time, laments of the ghosts, fathers and mothers calling out with great gnashing of teeth and ripping of hair! "You asked, Father of the Fallen Ones, that I tally up all the old tales I know, to reckon all the Woe-Father's ill deeds." Let Voluspa be rasped out, operatic wails and cries! Yes! Voluspa is opera, opera long before there was opera! Say not that we do not mourn!

But lest it seem all a Wagnerian gloom, there is a reason we mourn, a reason found in the small one-tenth of the song, where we are promised a day, a day when all bale will be bettered, and Baldur will live amongst men again. Green will grow the fields alone, without tending. Life will lush grow natural again, no serpent coiling and crushing out its full breath. If you miss this, if you miss the last tenth of this poem, you miss everything, the whole reason for any man to fight at all. For it is good the heart yearns for.

Do not let people call this poem Christian, or Christian-influenced. Do not let them claim all love of good for themselves. Do not allow them to make people believe that only they can envision a hope-to-come, a rebirth that makes life worth living, realized even in small every spring in the coming of Eostre, Idunna and Freya's return from the cold and hostile East, the buds upon the winter-barren trees greening and reminding of life's still-yet unsuppressed magic, however buried or tarnished.

The evil that men do has become the norm. Wouldst thou stand out? Wouldst thou step forward into uniqueness? Walk with the humble pride of a heathen, through history's nightmare, towards that now-foggy future when the sun's daughter shall ride across the heavens, and all the earth shall be greened again. Speak poems that remind men of dreams lost in nightmares, for a spirit once emboldened by life shall not falter even in the dark times, if we also remember to come together on these festive days and remember the green, and say, even if now the world's magic is held bound by the serpent and the long knots of men's ill deeds, still we hear its call, for magic is not the sorcery of Gullveig's curses, but the holiness of the Gods' runes pulsing through even this very damaged world. That holiness lives in the land, and in the wild things, and even now may be raised, however subtle. Religion is that which allows that subtle song the Gods sung into this world in days far gone to be heard above the din of battle. Then men's hearts are regenerated. Do we stand a chance through this of helping the world regain itself? Heathens would be haughty enough to dare, so boast. Boast against the evil that men do. Boast a world renewed again, even as this Eostre month we see the winter melting into spring.

Called Out Into Praise

Sometimes I wonder how the Gods can tolerate us at all. We can be such ungrateful little snits, even the best of us. From Asgard at times it must sound like one howling cat-music cacophony of whining and moaning and kvetching, no matter how many blessings are sent our way.

The Gods must be like good parents in many ways. They know how tough it is for us. Many times a good parent must work hard to provide blessings for a child knowing that child is having such a rough time growing that they may prove a little ungrateful at times.

Did someone once define religion as "Count Your Blessings, With Gratitude"? They should have. While it's undoubtedly true that our lives are filled with difficulties, and often our ability to meet challenges is severely strained, it's also true that there come these moments of true blessing and relief, unexpected things. These things don't always lickety-split panacea our pain or automatically bring us the success we need. Sometimes they just lift our morale in unexpected ways. They help us get through the day. And sometimes they make us realize that our lives have meaning.

How often in the thick and flurry, the heck and the hassle we simply ride over these moments without truly taking a moment to pause and say "thank you". To raise the horn and give something back of something we like, sharing and saying, "That was good."

We are called out into praise.

Now don't get me wrong. Despite my slyly humorous invocation of human prayer as bitchy pandemonium catcalls, I'm not saying we don't have the right to complain. We always have the right to complain! Complaining has its own goodness, when the griping lets us let go of some of the burdens. Part of being human is the prerogative to be grumpy at times. But if we're going to offer it up to the Gods, we ought to be a little Artful in our complaints! We ought to turn those complaints into something resembling poetry! There might be a thousand ways of saying "Goddamnit", and if we heathens can't find a way to make that beautiful, how have we neglected that archetypally poetic soul we are known for, poetry that could meet the ice, and the cold waves, and the arm lost in battle. We don't just write poems about roses, worthy as such poems can be. I'm not talking about a flyting either. I'm suggesting grumbling that raises itself to praise.

Listen. I'm not calling other people out. I'm as guilty of this as any, maybe more so. I discover myself laughing at myself, locked in the difficulty of the moment, focusing on misfortune, and then suddenly wondering how it was that I could miss some of the blessings that have come to me, and shaking my head at what a nitwit I must seem to very patient, loving, and giving Gods, Gods who definitely admire strength, not whining. But they just might get a kick out of a gripe made so grand it reaches the poetic. One could give back by tickling the Gods. Again, just as a child makes parents just on the edge of losing patience laugh.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dance in Dreams

A heathen does not remain a slave to sources. A heathen learns and knows the sources, for therein, glimpses of the ancestors may be found. These glimpses enter through the eyes, through the runes on the leaves of paper, but once inside, those glyphs dance in dreams, and it is in those dreams, and not the stripped sheets of tree's flesh, that the ancestors' truths will be found.

A heathen should be able to arm-wrestle with any scholar, throw the arm down on the table with force, and reach up for another mug of ale, all while singing, but a heathen knows these little matches are not the way to truly commune. A heathen will learn the way of the monks, so that the frozen glyphs may dance once again in dreams.

Much has been forgotten, but all lies in the Well of Mimir. A heathen knows from his tales that Odr managed to move down into the Underworld and see Mimir's great Well, Thus it is only through the imagination that we may gain a peek. We are spying. We are spies upon the mysterious.

Spying is the way of our ancestors. They called it "spa". It is a kind of imagination that penetrates the veil. It does not give us whole cloth, but it yields precious patches from the larger quilt-work. Spa turns sources into magic mirrors.

Spies do not act boldly. They act carefully, trepidatiously, fleet-footed and tip-toeing through the woods. Spies do not make bold shouts. They sneak and are silent. Only when they return with information do they announce far and wide in hall. And even there they will be questioned by wise men, who shall weigh the worth of their report.

We know enough to know that men of Northern forests lived once in an age where the forest was more important than endless wars, where wars were nothing but summer raids upon neighboring cattle, a time before kings were bought and bribed by Roman officers, and folk turned thereby against folk to raid for slaves. Those were not the golden age.

We know enough to know that most of the songs on the lips of men had to pass through the horrors of endless, inhuman war with the monsters on the other side of the Rhine, whose monuments our ancestors could only see as built by giants, in whose spiritual grip those legions moved.

Thus our songs come to us, but they come tainted, through blood, sweat, defeat, despair unimaginable, and if you listen closely, you can hear the wind whisper the old melancholy spiritual of the ancestors who never made it past those first wars beyond which men began to become inhuman just to survive, hearing them beneath the celebrations of slaughter, hear men who thought of themselves as men first and warriors only upon times of trouble or summer raids, men for whom holding babies and herding cows was far more prominent, for whom the grass growing springtime in the pastures was divine and satisfying, for whom loving their wife was the only reason they took up a spear, that she might always remain free.

You have to listen hard. They knew that not only was the Wolf in the world now, tearing and rending and gulping as much as it might, but that some men became like the wolf, more wolves than men, and these collected in the Ironwoods. Their hearts became savage, frenzied with blood, others just as prey, driven by greed and fear and destructive rage.

The sad fact is, these wolfish men still live, and these days look upon the songs that have come down to us as if they were singing their anthem, their song, a glory-fest for Muspel's Sons finally found a religion for their battle-lust. These men howl, and will hold the songs in their grip, wishing they could squeeze out the sounds of the ancestors whose ghosts sing out from the page for those with ears to hear.

We can easily ween men's attitudes who remained men, for battle was Tyr's special art, and Tyr aimed to bind the Wolf through valor and sacrifice. Those who fought hoped to bind the Wolf of the South who had encroached upon the land of the living. Be bold now, and strangle it before it is too late, not by becoming like the wolves themselves, but by being willing to give all that some few hints of the ancient culture of wild freedom might still pulse in the blood of descendants.

The puzzle-pieces handed down are fragmentary. The scholars will say, there's too much missing. We cannot say anything except recount the pieces. The reconstructionists will say, There are no missing pieces! Simply fit the existing pieces together and they will show the whole picture, and then force a procrustean bed onto the pieces so they make one jumbled contrivance. But we with eyes to see shall read between the lines and see the ones who fell in the holes, and find the larger pattern.

Do not listen with wolfish ears for the sounds of battle or slaughter. Men remembered Frodi's Frith, when all men were united in peace and freedom. They remembered that Baldur had once lived in the world of life. And once a year all men might put aside their arms to remember their common brotherhood through Beloved Mother Earth. Hear rather the hoe against the soil, tending earth's fruits. Hear rather the sounds of lovers kissing. Hear rather the sounds of families in the groves, offering silent prayers to springs, enjoying fresh barbecues on the holy grounds. Here in the humble and quiet you will learn just precisely what men were fighting for, and that is what must be regained. Do not put the cart before the horse. Only fools fight just for the sake of fighting.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Importance of Saga

Saga. It is Saga that creates literature. And Saga is the weaving together of stories. It is not just my story, but how my story intertwines with your story, and her story, and his story, and the story of all the objects aorund us, and the stories of the animals. It is, in a sense, integrated imaginative knowledge. Everything has a story, and it is the collective intertwining of these stories that makes for richness and understanding.

Once again, the La Tene style of design, with its so-called "Celtic" knots, is very revealing of the Indigenous European mindstate. We find these intertwining designs on runestones as well. It is the weave that gives richness.

Here we both draw upon and deviate from Joseph Campbell, whose brilliant Creative Mythology demonstrates that mythology is not a relic of the past, but continues to dream itself on in the present through literature. This is indeed the case. In large part the growth and development of soul is the continued working-out of struggle through the growth and development of literature, for it is through the struggle of the imagination to come to terms with our earthly wyrd, our experiences, that soul is formed. Where we differ from Campbell is in his vision of extreme individualism, his atomistic vision that everyone must design their own individual, separated mythology, and that there can never be a collective mythology ever again.

Perhaps not a collectivized mythology in the sense of one class of people writing the stories for everyone else. That kind of historiography, indeed, has been superceded. We are no longer interested in such flat, priestly history writing that is as much suppression as it is expression. Here Freud is a great ally in distinguishing between manifest and latent content found in screen memories. Although considered embarassing by modern scholars, Freud's Moses and Monotheism and Totem and Taboo demonstrate bold, pioneering methodologies for allowing the imagination to penetrate the screen memories of priestly histories, and uncover the multiple stories hidden beneath. Now that we have, since Howard Zinn, "people's histories", the idea of priestly histories written by victors and their intelligentsia is no longer acceptable, and we want to expand the narrative to include all of the stories of the folk. The animist or pagan perspective allows us to expand this narrative vision from a more broadly humanistic but anthropomorphic scope to include the stories of the trees, the grass, the herbs, the animals, the insects, and even the objects we craft with our own hands.

Within this larger weave each of us crafts our own individual story. Thus it has always been and thus it must always be. It is this interweaving of individuality and the collectivity of others doing their own imaginative creating that Campbell misses. His struggle is, of course, with lazy imaginations that merely suck up passively whatever narratives come their way, and he feels that the modern crisis calls for tapping an even greater wellspring of creativity in order for us to be able to come to terms with the reality we are creating. Here we come upon the now classic formulation of the 20th century as we came into the nuclear age that the moral capacities of human beings have yet to come up to par with our technological capacities, and this is certainly true. Part of Campbell's genius was to see that the development of this moral capacity would require tapping into the latent creativity hiding within everyman but kept dormant by passivication (pacification : to make passive) that turns people into subjects or consumers rather than active creators. In this, Campbell draws upon a Nietzscheian current that has much to speak for it, but whose perilous contours are such that it is easy to slip into an atomism that fails to speak to our tribal natures. The startling and wonderful truth, yet to be realized by many, is that we can individuate and interweave all at the same time! Indeed, the ongoing process of creation might be considered this process of individuation and interweaving.

Our story takes place in the context of other people making their story. The intertwining of stories makes for richer understanding. In other words, seen in the right light, our lives are akin to a James Michener novel, or an Alex Haley novel, or, to draw upon our ancestral lode, an Icelandic Saga.

Saga was a Goddess, a Goddess with whom Odin drank draughts every day. It is widely believed by modern heathens that Saga is a byname of Frigg, and that the Queen of Heaven and Earth, the great Beloved Mother Earth, should be the Holder of Stories, makes eminent sense. Frigg's major myth, then, speaks to how stories are made, for Frigg calls to her all the spirits of the world and has them take vows.

She calls all the wights of the world and has them speak holy oaths. Spirits of fire, trees, iron, earth, water, so on and so forth, on and on, she calls upon them to speak their stories. For it is with these stories that she will be able to weave a rich tapestry. Isn't it interesting that it is through that tapestry that she anticipates being able to protect her beloved son? Yet one being, (the mistletoe), considered too young or too small, is left out, and this is the Achilles' heel that undoes the rest, and thus our ancestors tell us through narrative that no being is too small or too young to be integrated into the tapestry of the narratives we weave. We rise and fall together. All for one and one for all.

Here we get to take seidr out of the realm of psychic performance and grandiose, over-literalized practitioners for a moment, and imagine it as a fundamentally imaginative activity, a method of creating literature, and as such, something we can all engage in. From this perspective, novelists and poets are working magic all the time, through what seems to be a quite unspectacular practice of imagination. Of course our ancestors knew that poetry was a highly magical art. But here we correct priestly assumptions of magical specialists with a more Whitmanian vision of the nation dreaming itself ; indeed, the world dreaming itself through all its dreamers, and "dreaming" here not as a passive activity fo receiving dreams, but of active, imaginal working through of our struggles in the world. Suddenly Whitman's long lists of activities of diverse craftsmen makes sense, and we see that he predated Howard Zinn by over a hundred years, having tapped into the insight that America was telling its own stories through all of its participants, and Whitman saw that no person and no nation are too young or too small to be included in the tale. How marvelous that we find Frigg's story of taking testimony from all the wights of the world interweaving with Whitman's grand Leaves of Grass! Something real is percolating here, and promises much.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Dialogue on Tribal Contradictions

Dialogue on the Sacredness of Land

Dialogue on Germanic Kingship

Monday, April 06, 2009

How Kings Came To Be

It baffled me how these rude tribes living in the bristling woodlands could come to have kings, if one could call those bear-skin clad barbarian chieftains "kings", and so as I sat around the fire with my host, I asked the old man about their kings, and how they came to be. This became an occasion for a great story, for these people seem to love nothing more than song and story, and so we whiled away the long evening. Standing up straight and proud, his one arm raised high, the old man began.

"Do you want to know how kings came to be amongst us? Kings are terrible and wonderful. They only come in bad times, and demand much of men, who would rather stay amongst their own kin and clan in the freedom of the forest. A king amongst us, a folk so free and wild? Such a man would have to be so free and wild himself, full of Gods-Spirit, whose generosity is a well-spring of great luck. We have a story that tells of how such men began to dwell over the tribes.

"We remember the first great king, who came amongst us in the times of trouble. The wolves and ravens had surrounded the world, and prepared for the great feast in the days of famine. Strife encircled us, and already the world had been seeded with terrible corruption which as yet grew as sprouts, yet which every day grew larger.

"Tribe fought against tribe to secure just some fertile land on which to grow some barley, or unfrozen pasture to feed their cows. Only a strong man, full of luck and power, could unite the tribes, and stop the in-fighting between the different clans.

"Halfdan the Great had come from the stock of Scyld, the first earl of the folk, and our great judge, who had kept the peace with law, and corralled up all those who had chosen to serve Gullveig, and made them serve the free-folk. For a time, the world was kept in order by Scyld's hand, but events were brewing in the world of the Gods that no one could have foreseen.

"For the Gods' helpers who clothed the earth in flowers, and fed the streams, who accompanied Thor in his train of goats and let loose the rains from the clouds, who awakened the green in the budding leaves in spring, and who guarded the river that bordered the unworld of the terrible giants from the realm of men, had been angered and insulted by the spirit of mischief who lingered amongst the Gods' citadel, and they scattered from their posts.

"Oh, then, terrible winters that never ended, as the blizzard-trolls moved amongst the realm of men. No longer merely throwing their ice-cold daggers across the watery realm in the few months of winter, they came across and into the land of people and began to dry up the springs, freeze the trees, and destroy the frost.

"But worse, the God of Harvests had fled. Some wondered if in anger at the evil of men, and the spark which brought joy between male and female, that bred babies and kine, that burst sunshine within the heart of vegetation, waned, and gloom greyed the hearts of men. His great spirits of the earth seemed to welcome the trolls in, and the great land of Midgard became cold and hungry.

"The frost descended southward, the horrible ur-cold that none could withstand, pushing tribe against desperate tribe, as all tried to flee the icy hand of Dain whose darts and armies kept pushing south, claiming more land for glaciers and barren tundra.

"To see brother fighting brother, just for a bite of bread to eat, was a terrible thing. Chaos seemed to unfold in the world as cousins and brothers fought over scraps to eat, and land to hold to dredge up what little the earth would yield, as if the Mother herself cried, weeping as her great daughter of Love was whisked from her hands by betraying hands in whom she had trusted. Indeed, love was little known amongst men in these times.

"In this time, when none knew unity, when families were scattered, and men's minds grew cold, the great son of Scyld was like a Thunderer amongst men. Taller than most, bigger than most, gifted with great strength that he wielded in his immense oaken club, he dared to roar into the tundra and across the glaciers to take on the giants themselves.

"You may wonder how this is so, for a man to take on monsters and spirits no eye can see, but Scyld's son was gifted in runes, more so even than his father before him, whom the Gods had taught as he peered into the great hearth-fire that brings all men wisdom. With his hands he could calm fires, heal wounds, soothe sorrow, and bring peace where there had been strife. He knew holy words that could make eyes see what is now invisible, and the tribes all united under his banner.

"He taught that brothers were not each other's enemy, but the elements themselves, and so he taught them, blessing their weapons with holy luck, to fight against the elements themselves, and men, armed with the fire that the God of the Hearth had given them, went with brazen torches up against the trolls, and managed to chase them back.

"Do you know he took a bride from amongst the Gods' fallen helpers, and took her back with him to men's lands to green out the glaciers with growth of leaves and fruit? His hall is remembered as the greatest hall of kings, and all about it, in the midst of unending winter, his yards were green and full of gardens.

"Refugees poured in, and King Halfdan never refused a one. All about the great garth the tents of the homeless camped amongst the gardens, and every man, woman, and child gave care with hoe and stick to the great fields of corn and cabbage they eked out of the still-cold, but not freezing, ground. All feasted within the great hall of warmth, its fires providing heat where none was to be had outside the garth, and every clan brought its banners to hang in the hall of the king who had gathered them all together. Huddled there, they regained strength and hope.

"His name shall be remembered amongst us as long as men shall live. None shall forget his generosity, his striking handsomeness, his spirit in the face of disappointment, disillusionment, and scattering, and his unending bravery which took him out by horseback from his warm halls out to scare off the incoming hoards of trolls in their train of ice-storms.

"There was no braver warrior, there was no man who with a look could turn despair into strength and hope as he did, there was no leader who could take tribes who may have cannibalized each other in the desperate scarcity of the time, and make them work together to regain land, food, and even sunshine.

"Kings have never been as great since then, yet always come, as he did, in times of trouble. They are therefore to be feared, for their coming means the advent of troubles which themselves threaten to turn tribe against tribe. Tribes would prefer to be left alone, in peace, but sometimes we have found, when danger threatens, the necessity of joining together again, as we once did against the elements, and only a king with strong luck and spirit can unite folk as strong-willed and independent as our tribes.

"Yet kings of latter days must ever be reminded of Halfdan's virtues, for too often love of gold overwhelms leaders who ought to hate gold as he did. Kings of latter days seldom worship so simply, and so sincerely, as he did, who seemed to commune with the very Thunderer himself as he called men into feast and communion.

"Kings now seem to seek power, more than they ought, when Halfdan sought only the good of his folk. His power came from great love, his warrior spirit from his loyalty to each clan who had come together under his banner, and he never forgot what that banner stood for. He claimed privileges, it is true, but only ones that sweetened the hard and often bitter responsibilities he had willingly embraced.

"There are good kings from time to time, but none so good as he. And yet for all that, the folk would still wish that kings had never come amongst us, for life was better in the simple days of golden ages, when men lived humbly amongst their clan ruled only by judges who arbitrated any quarrels which might arise, living in their own odal homelands, gathered for worship, and even brought war captives into their own families so to teach them over a generation or two how to be free men of the tribe. Yes, that kings had never come amongst us would mean the days of wolf and raven, the axe-age and sword-age had yet to come. And that would be much better. Much better indeed."

The old man got up and stirred the pot in the fire. "But we can't go backwards, can we? Wyrd tends on, unending, twisting and turning in ways we cannot know entire." Then he bent and whispered, watching to see that no one listened. "But I will tell you something, stranger. Wyrd tends on, unknown, except in flashes and glimpses, like sparks from this fire, to those who spy the second sight. Yet ... someday ... this axe-age and sword-age shall come to its pitch, and then be over. When the fires have cleared, a new age shall begin, an age of green and gold, an age where strife has finally burned itself out, and children shall dance in the meadows between villages without fear. When those days come, stranger, days we may never see, nor our great-great grandchildren, there will be no need for kings. Do you know why? For the Gods themselves will live amongst us then. And all this age, this long age of wolves and swords that seemed the forever of the earth, will be but the twinkling of a soon-forgotten nightmare. That gives me hope in this age of strife."

copyright 2009 by Siegfried Goodfellow, based entirely on careful and accurate synthesis of the old, documented lore