Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sing the Secret Songs of Creation (A Gnostic Tale of Heathenism)

God hung out beneath the living tree and heard the whispering winds in its branches, speaking syllables of eternal form and spirit, and falling, he too spoke these precious mysteries hard won. Songs spun from these secret syllables were sent out on many ways, and as the wights galdered, singing hymns and praise, the forming world was filled with spirit. Elves were taught to sing the songs that kept the woods and pastures lively, lyrical, pulsing, vibrant.

But She Who Glittered, with jealousy in her heart for this world emerging beautiful and lovely from the remains of her forebears, who were bearers of chaos and dark matter, set strife into the still-forming world of nature, twisting mysteries meant to enrich life with spirit, and instead, said to strife : conquer and distribute, and make all things through your activity. And all was set at war with each other. Strife gave birth to rank as creatures drowned in the strife and scrambled on top of each other, and there was hardly any glory, even for those on top, who always feared those below might shake them off. Everywhere this spirit of contention wormed its way into the world, its poison attracted goblins and chased out the elves who sang the songs of creation, keeping spirit alive in the world, and there matter became corrupted, until the coils of that great serpent wrapped around a great deal of the earth itself.

And the Gods, taking pity, sent forth a pure soul, one taken from the purest fire, and given the drink of Mimir's blood, Earth's strength, and the Cold, cool sea. This soul travelled on the waves in a barque pulled by swans till it landed on the shores of Midgard, and inside were gifts of knowledge, tools and artifacts not understood by early men, yet taken in as curiosity. The spirit from the pure fire stayed amongst men, teaching them to cast the need-fire, and there find warmth and light, awakening dormant gifts, and redirecting the strife let loose in the world so that it might reach upwards towards Spirit through excellence. And so truth moved to counter the lie, and ever the flame of knowledge must battle against delusion which gained a strong foothold in those early days and still rules much of the earth.

The Pure Spirit from the Fire, who came with a Sheaf of grain and other tools in his barque, later toured the kingdom to see who had grown from the truth sent out to undo the lies. And he found to his sadness that many had given themselves over to the strife, and whole peoples were slaves to the darkness, and cast curses on others, extending the realm of hatred and spite, ill and illusion, and because they had made themselves slaves to the darkness, Sheaf, as he was called, made them do penance by being servants to the light and those who served it. Yet many had remained free of this illness, and kept the dignity of ancient promises, living honest lives, and remaining free. These he blessed as the bulk of the folk that through their assemblies and feasts they might nourish the spirit of truth and keep it alive, remaining free throughout time. Alas, the hordes given over to darkness were many, and surrounding the free folk, often did war upon them, and the light was at times in danger of giving forth to the lie of the darkness. So Sheaf, the great Teacher, called a King or Rig of Lore, knew the land would need protectors, those who might rise above a normal life, teaching and warding the folk, for both teachers and protectors were needed. And those who would be teachers he set up as jarls, and gave them power to train men in the arts of defense, and let them know, when ill nations attacked and they must go into war, any captives made must not be allowed to come into the folk until they too had done penance and purged the illness of strife from their being, and learned the ways of free folk.

This was not the best that could be, but alas, ill had already spread its tendrils far and wide, and so the best for now being no longer reachable, the Gods aimed for good, as good as might be had. Strife had already made many slaves, setting the worst over the best, and Rig aimed at tipping this over so the truly noble, taking on responsibilities and concerns beyond that of normal men, might teach the folk and keep them pure. But arts of battle sadly needed to be taught to the militias that served the teachers, for while Thor and Hodur fought hard to keep monsters out of Midgard, men, given immortal spirit and mind to speak, could call in spirits of ill by invitation, and curse their own kind by bringing bondage into the land.

Today these free ways barely linger, Angst's Power setting gold over virtue, with every man his price, and often the best serving the worst, with deep servitude of those who ought be free.

Who will return to the Ancient Law? Who will claim to be a Child of Heimdall, and not a Slave of Gullveig? Who will hear the call? Show forth with your deeds, for such faith is needed to keep hope alive in a world that ever strangles under the serpent, and those who love gasp for breath in the smoky air that more and more seems to turn this once-green land into a parody of Niflhel's City of the Damned. Who will stand up and be counted amongst the True? We need you. We need your voice, for many of the elves in ancient times joined themselves to the lies of darkness, and ceased singing the songs that keeps creation vibrant. Those places are waiting to be filled by people who will sing the ancient songs. Let me hear your harmonies.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Worthship as Practical Living in the World

The heathen principle of pragmatism impels us to look at worth-ship as a practical matter so that the idea of Gods do not become vain abstractions with no real meaning in the world, equal to any other set of abstractions and just as meaningless. To see Freyr's effect in the world, for example, all you need do is look at the fact that seeds are still fertile and still come to fruition in stalk and harvest of grain, and the flowers of the earth still bloom, and that there is greenery. If Freyr and his worthship were to be withdrawn from this world, those things would disappear. If those are things are important to you, then you show their importance by honoring that power that helps bring that about in the world. Similarly, Freya is no abstraction. The power of love to bring people together and bind them together, indeed to bind them together in unions that ultimately can produce families of lasting sustainability, is a real effect that, without her power of love, would wane, and would not be able to draw people together at all, nor to create lasting unions that could result potentially in offspring that allow the family to sustain the generations. If that is of importance to you in this world, then honor Freya. By the same token, Njord is not just an abstraction, but the bounty of the ocean and seas, of the fish in the waters. Without Njord, the oceans would have no living soul, would not produce its varied fish. There would be nothing to bring home in nets. And so on and so forth for each of the Gods or benefactors as we might call them.

Now that brings it down to earth, but to bring it even further down to earth, if it is our everyday practices of how we go about things in the world, and the rights through which we go about things in the world, that constitutes the major form of worthship, and not liturgical gatherings, then we can directly look at just precisely who we are worthshipping through their effects on those very functions which we have just outlined. So, if the way we go about doing things in the world with our economics and our politics tend towards a situation whereby the fish are lessening in the waters, and indeed fish are dying off in the oceans, then we are not worthshipping Njord, plain and simple. We are not acting as trustees for that domain which he watches over and has placed into our partial trusteeship. If our way of going about things in the world means that pollinators, who enable seeds to be fertile, are dying off, like the bees, then we are not engaged in worthship of Freyr, and in the trusteeship which he has placed partially into our hands as a trust. Indeed, if we are modifying genetics of crops which have been given into our hands as gifts, we are not engaged in the worthship of what Freyr has placed in our hands. If the way we have structured everyday life tears apart unions of love and tends to make them fleeting rather than sustainable, then we are not worthshipping Freya, and by definition we are worthshipping principles foreign to the Holy Gods.

We may indeed adapt Kant's law of the Categorical Imperative, replacing it with a Multiplicative or Iterative Imperative through which we may measure our worthship. The Multiplicative Imperative asks us this : if our actions were to be multiplied millions of times over, would those actions tend to advance or degrade the domains of those Gods we claim to worthship? It is a matter of examining and weighing our actions in terms of allegiance, of critically determining whether our deeds demonstrate loyalty to those powers we claim to find worthy. It is through such worthy deeds that we are enfranchised to participate in the liturgical ceremonies, which are merely symbolical affirmations of the principles governing those domains which are the benefactions of those powers we find holy, meaning wholesome to our lives. According to Teutonic principles, it is the federation of a thousand small kingdoms that brings about prosperity and might, not the huge top-down unitive organization that swallows up the small. Thus the Multiplicative or Iterative Imperative looks at the thousand actions of our lives to see what they add up to.

Worthship is not all or nothing. It is progressive. As we worthship, through slow, gradual immersion, our deeds increasingly align with those principles which we claim to honor. But we do no worthship at all, and therefore are incapable of gradual progression if we are not engaged in that dialectical process of aligning our deeds with those principles.

Those principles are not laid out a priori and deductively, in advance for us to merely step into line and follow with conformity, but rather to be determined inductively, experimentally, as we go along in life. The broad principles are there. Their application we must discover on our own. This is why in Teutonic law, law is always discovered, not determined in advance. Its inductive nature means it is open to empirical observation and confirmation and disconfirmation. If our practices tend to destroy the oceans, then we are clearly not following the principles that advance the domain of Njord, and we must induce the principles that are destructive in our actions (such as usury and fraudulent adhesion contracts), and thereby experiment with principles other than those destructive principles which will bring us back into alignment with that which we find of value.

A heathen following a traditional heathen pantheon must affirm the value of the oceans and their fertility, the integrity of seeds and harvest, the importance of love and the abolition of any sorts of institutional structures that might impede its bonding and sustainable power, the significance of the vitality of the air itself, and its ability to bring us through inspiration the wisdom of All-Father, and the inviolability of the Earth itself, except through limited ritual invocations of plowing and digging customs that are sustainable. This limits mining and tillage operations to ritual zones regulated by an awareness of ecological awareness. We must modify our conception of what a priest is. A priest of Jord, therefore, might look more like a game warden, who stays aware through empirical and intuitive observations of what the seasons require and what is sustainable and sets out rules for harvesting. A priest of Njord might do work akin to that of Greenpeace in its heyday, and so on and so forth. We tend to see priests as liturgical officers of separated ecclesiastical spaces, rather than administrators and ministers of a diverse quasi-State (but voluntary and non-coercive) apparatus. In general we tend to see ritual as a separated domain of irrelevance, having little more effectiveness than the theatre, and with all due respect for the theatre, the theatre tends to have little pragmatic effectiveness in the real world, but we would be closer to the mark if we began to see the ritual domain as akin to the legislative : the charting of domains and the laying out of differential fields of activity, each of which is vital to the functioning of a healthy and wholesome community.

If juridical and legislative action is the main way in which we perform religion, then the next step is a principle of separatism, separation from those juridical and legislative organizations that do not affirm primary heathen principles of law and rights. Of course, such separatism would have to be balanced on a case-by-case and local basis with the other important heathen principle of pragmatism, but while pragmatism may bend principles to meet the changing winds of circumstance, it cannot break them. It must stay true to heathen principles of organization, primary of which is the popular assembly.

The popular assemblies ("Things", "Folkmoots") do not "enact laws" : they affirm rights, they adjucate the expression of those rights in specific cases, and they better the expression of those rights, as they come to be better understood through time and through digestion of the accumulative case material. They thus do not come together to order anyone around, but to affirm and adjucate the rights of its standing members, those being households and clans, and establish forms of trusteeship whereby they may engage in mutual, free benefaction. The annual reallotment of factors of production, primarily land, is apportioned by the folkmoot, often through its Gothis and Kings.

Such organization is essential to heathen worthship, which is not the modern hypocrisy of giving liturgical lip-service to one set of principles while living according to an entirely different set of laws. The restoration of true heathen worthship involves at its very heart the restoration of those forms of polity which were essential and original to the Teutonic peoples, and through which they worthshipped their Gods. The organization of the Roman Empire, constituting a coercive, paternalistic form, was a foreign set of principles to the heathen worthship, and indeed was said by native seers and prophets to represent a foreign form of worthship which would bring about slavery, and which was contrary to the principles set down by the heathen Gods themselves. Thus organization which is Roman in form is contrary to heathen spirituality and religious ethical living. The heathen spiritual foundations began to crumble the moment that the Roman Empire began to set up and support client-kings who would exercise authoritarian rather than titular office, acting as coercive powers and in the image of giants, rather than as trustees of the popular assemblies, as they were natively meant to function. People would voluntarily give to their leaders who would redistribute that surplus wealth as needed, and thus became known as "gold haters" for the fact that they would not stingily hoard it, but act as charitable trustees of the tribal treasure-hoard.

The function of a kindred or heathen free-church, therefore, is the distribution of charity in variable forms throughout a community that is separated from the secular civil society, and forms its own polity. It thus operates as a fully functioning tribe ; or at least, its purpose is to build up to such fully functioning autonomy in free association with other such polities and tribes. Its purpose is to facilitate charity or mutual help through free, rather than coercive, association. Many apply to paternalistic slavemasters for benefits but thereby enthrall themselves. A free-church is an attempt to provide mutual benefit through free activity and free association, and a heathen free-church (or "kindred" commonly called, although it is more akin to a guild of thingmenn from various authentic kindreds) does this through heathen principles and worthshipping in very practical ways those powers we find Holy in the world.

Prosperity, not Exploitation

It must be emphasized again and again regarding diatribes against Gullveig that we are not lambasting prosperity or the desire for abundance. That's not the issue. The issue is exploitation, which is why Gullveig can be glossed as Usura, as a greed that goes beyond satiety, beyond enoughness, and that fails to take care of its own prosperity and therefore lusts after others' goods, and is even willing to go to war to do so, not to mention other mechanisms for exploitation of others. So prosperity and abundance are Vanir values, and very much a part of the good of the world. It is the going beyond enoughness into exploitation that is the problem to be avoided. There is no ill-will against wanting to be comfortable and have enough enough, but that is the very issue at heart : being able to have enough. The problem with the Western spirit of expansion is that there has never been a point of enoughness, of satiety, and so we are always reaching to exploit other people's kingdoms in order to enrich our own sense of inadequacy and not-enoughness. Vanir values would situate us in abundance, but also situate us in being able to enjoy that abundance so that we are so full that we do not need any more.

Mission : To Put A Stop to Torture and Atrocity in This World

If there are no solutions to the problems of atrocities and traumas, I see no reason to worship Gods at all, nor to do anything but declare that we live in a savage, Jotunn-dominated existence. There is, of course, the Gnostic way of approaching heathen theology, which I actually think is a genuine heathen theology, and that is to posit that in particular ages, the world is dominated by savage Jotnar forces. The Gods are there as forces to inspire our minds and our hearts to evolution so we may use our wits to outwit those forces which would set us in division, violence, atrocity, and trauma.

To me, there would seem to be no point in being alive at all if we cannot grapple with and come closer to solutions to the most basic problems of atrocities, rapes, tortures, abuse of children, preventable famine, the evil that human beings do to other human beings. I really can't see the point of enjoying anything or living in denial if we can't dedicate some portion of this time that we are alive to using the intelligence that we were given by the Gods to try to come up with some way of eliminating this from the planet. Without it, I hardly see the point of even being here at all, because otherwise all life amounts to is living in a torture camp and doing the best we can to look aside and get what pleasures we can get in that context, and that is the approach of a slavish mentality, not of a warrior who would fight against that which must be fought against.

Warriors that have become so grizzled by warfare that they conclude that these things are not possible to solve are like teachers who have become burnt-out : they need to retire, and lick their wounds, and receive whatever honor and compassion is due to them for their merits.

I should like most people to be deeply troubled by the prevalence of atrocity and the history of torture, rape, and abuse on this planet. I should like people to be less than despicably cowardly than to suggest that all of this is "natural" simply because it is so prevalent, and yes, I am calling those who lay out this contemptuously easy solution as despicably cowardly. I believe, and the sources support me, that there is a review of one's life by the Gods, and every single one of us is going to have to explain what we did or didn't do to address these most basic issues. It's not as if we have to take the troubles of the entire world on our shoulders, but then again, the question of "Why didn't you do anything with your intelligence or strength to address these issues?" might be a rather condemning statement in open court, and the excuse that "I just took all this as inevitable" might be seen as a rather laughable excuse worthy of ridicule.

The issue is not whether others in the past or others in the present take such things for granted. The issue is whether you, right now, with your intelligence, and with your empathy, can stand for a planet to have such characteristics, and if you cannot, then to use your intelligence, your empathy, your valor, and your strength, to strategize how one might push out the Jotnar forces. Let's not mince words : that's exactly the kinds of forces they are. In Book Five of Saxo Grammaticus' History of the Danes, the childhood of Freyr as King Frodi is described, as he sits on his throne in Alfheim, and giants, described there as berzerkers of immense stature, come in and torture, rape, and abuse men, women, and children. Those behaviors are explicitly connected with the Jotnar, brought in by them, and King Frodi, when he is triumphant over them, specifically enacts laws to prevent such things from happening. We here have an example from the God of Freedom himself of exactly what our imperatives must be, and we know therefore precisely where the Gods stand in this matter, and they stand against these atrocities, and any evidence to the contrary is the result of warped minds who have been degraded and perverted by Jotnar energies.

We cannot take such things for granted. We must challenge them with all of our might, wit, and will. The Gods do not condone these, for they cannot, as Gods cannot be good if they cannot even condemn what a good human being would! Other peoples may be content to worship Jotnar and call them their "gods", but as for us, Gods and Goods are connected. We worship those beings in the world who bring about collective good, not those who tend towards tearing up the world and the bringing about of mass pain and degradation. Even disruption and fighting must always be for a creative purpose, an evolutionary purpose. If we do not accept the good gifts the Gods have given us, such as law, such as the capacity for mercy, such as intelligence and planning, including family planning, such as inventory of resources relative to need, such as redistribution customs, and instead take up, exhibit, and multiply gifts given by Jotnar and their children, such as the charging of interest, such as greed, such as the spreading of fear and anxiety, such as deceit and fraud, such as coveting what other people have, such as wolfishness in war, such as trying to strangle out the life in others out of envy, such as allowing famine and the disease it brings to have sway in our kingdoms, then it is clear who we worship, in Gnostic terms : the Gods of Empire, the Jotnar forces. Indeed, we have invited in and contracted with, through acquiescence to terms that no free men would ever acquiesce to. Whenever we consent to immoderate, out-of-control destructiveness, we are sending the Gods a signed letter under penalty of perjury that we are worth-shipping their enemies, and that might very well be taken as a statement of treason.

It is true that the Christians have been too dualistic in emphasizing a black-and-white separation of good and evil, and that heathenism is much more moderate, opening up the grey areas, and recognizing that there are many ways of being good in the world, but heathenism has always been realistic about evil in the world. In accord with Voluspa, as the ages of degenerated, evil has grown considerably, and it must be faced square on. With great power comes great responsibility, and one might say, liability. The same is true of great privilege and progress. So again, while we are not responsible for the entirety of the world, it must be asked in this lifetime allotted to us, what are we doing to address it at all? Are we opening up the dialogue in how we may at least create even a small kingdom free of such ills, where such things are not "unthinkable", but rather quite thought out, and forbidden, and bound up in such a way that they cannot come back to haunt men until the end of days, when they shall be finally cleansed from the earth. What kind of legal and moral bonds are we putting on these things to control them, and keep them from raging out of control? These are the questions we must ask ourselves : the questions on which hinge a meaningful life.

War is outrage and unowned aggression externalized, oppression turned outward. Therefore, Tyr is the answer to lessening externalization of warfare, by acknowledging our anger in life by standing up for ourselves, refusing to be oppressed by anyone around us, by being true to our anger in the moment, rather than letting it store up. Because it is when we let it store up in savings accounts in banks with interest that it can be dislodged upon others with such ferocity and with such inhumanity, because it is the inhumane storing up of undischarged resentment and anger about life that gets transformed into the capacity to do hateful things to an enemy in wartime. Thus it is our duty to Tyr to stay close to our anger, to not allow it to be repressed, to stay with it and to moderate it, and to create arenas where it can be expressed without destroying the community, either external or internal. It means staying tough with those around us, not tolerating any arrogance or bullshit, and not giving way to any kind of disrespectful behavior or aggression upon us that violates us. Doing so consistently and firmly, with a sense of standing upon our rights that does not make us desperate and want to lash out, but rather strong and entrenched.

It also means not tolerating Lokis in our own midst, traitors who dress themselves up in patriotism and try to scare us with forebodings of terrorism, snarling in their constipated angst about the supposed "need" for torture camps to "protect" us. If we let such an enemy have sway even within our own borders, it shall surely eat us up alive, and our refusal to live up to our principles, because we have given in to someone else's cynical realism and machiavellian realpolitik, will be our own undoing. As a nation we have tolerated those Greps who have tortured and raped men, women, and children, making Frodi weep, and have refused to bring them to justice where they may be tried for high treason. When Frodi returns as Robin Hood, the folk shall have their justice, for atrocity is not to be tolerated in any form for any reason. Not while the Gods are on watch.

And they are always on watch.

See for example, http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/h_cat39.htm

Thursday, June 25, 2009

For All Those Assholes Who Glorify War : War Means Rape

Warning : Sensitive Reading Material

So many stupid idiots glorify war or assume that war is inevitable and ought to be accepted as a part of life that I am going to include some pretty graphic scholarship here on a fact that everyone colludes to ignore : that every war includes rape, at least incidentally, and often as an inextricable part of its operations.

To support war, therefore, is to support rape.

Chew on that one for a while, while you read these quotes, which speak for themselves :

"Mass rape in war. Rape in war is not a modern phenomenon. It has always occurred during warfare. ... Regardless of the reasons for its occurrence, the failure to punish the perpetrators has remained consistent over time. This lack of accountability is directly linked to the gender-specific nature of the crime. ... Rape is a sexual form of torture with the vast majority of victims being female ... Enemy males, also sometimes sodomied, often are more reluctant to reveal the abuse than females. ... There is a gendered imbalance of power in the world, especially in the upper echelons of government and military, the very people with the power to prosecute such wartime offenses. Raping a woman humiliates not only her but also her male guardian, exposing his inability to fulfill his duty to protect the women of his family. Thus, raping a woman in front of her parents or husband is common practice during war. ... Repeated brutalization in gang rapes sometimes results in the victim's death, often from vaginal bleeding. The likelihood of permanent physical damage, including infertility, increases with each assault. The chances of contracting a venereal disease also rise since military infection rates are higher than civilian (Machel 2001, 44) Rape is sometimes even employed as a means of spreading such infections." (Tonya M. Lambert, "Rape in War", in Bernard A. Cook, Women and War, ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, California, 2006, pp. 481 - 482.)

"One reason that rape was ignored in international criminal law was because it seemed to be merely an "ancillary crime" incident to war. Rape was not itself seen as a violation of international peace the way that genocide, apartheid, and slavery were. Rather, rape was seen as merely something that soldiers did on their own, thus making it no different from the countless rapes committed by non-soldiers in cities and villages across the globe. ... For centuries, rape has been considered one of the spoils of war, something that male soldiers expected as partial payment for their courage and bravery on the battlefield. The attempt to characterize rape as an international war crime, on the same level as the murder or torture of innocent civilians by enemy soldiers, is not new. In 1646, Hugo Grotius said that rape " should not go unpunished in war any more than in peace." Today, this seems uncontroversial, although it took 350 years before the international tribunals recognized the wisdom of Grotius's remarks." (Larry May, Crimes Against Humanity, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005, p. 98.)

"Rape has not only been perpetrated in an indiscriminate way by victorioius marauding troops who do not fear the rule of law, but it has also been used in quite a discrimiante way either as a means to terrorize civilian populations or to perpetrate some form of genocide or ethnic cleansing." (Ibid, p. 99.)

"Rape as a weapon of war is a recognized form of torture ... [M]ost torture is not prosecuted, and when it is, perpetrators seldom receive punishment commensurate with the crime. ... In war, soldiers learn that it is okay to use enemy women, since they are "only women" and "only the enemy," and they will likely soon be killed anyway (and so not aware for long). Thus, many reasons appear to explain why war rape has been relatively invisible to outsiders, engaged in shamelessly by perpetrators, and rarely prosecuted or even denounced throughout its history. Victims have been silenced by death, shame, and fear, and survivors have lacked the opportunity, freedom, and encouragement to publicize their experience." (Claudia Card, The Atrocity Paradigm, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002, p. 123.)

"The woman raped is often a throwaway or sacrificial victim, a secondary target used to send a message to the primary target, namely, other women ("this is what will happen to you if you are insufficiently deferential and obedient") or to men ("this is what we will do to your women"). In war and in peace, the role of women raped and murdered is often like that of bomb victims. They are used to manipulate others whose compliance the terrorist seeks." (Ibid, p. 125)

"When civilian women are raped in their homes or communities by enemy soldiers, the primary target is men --- husbands, fathers, brothers. These rapes are meant to demoralize the men, make them manipulable. ... If there is one set of fundamental functions of rape, civilian or martial, it is to display, communicate, and produce or maintain dominance, which is both enjoyed for its own sake and used for such ulterior ends as exploitation, expulsion, dispersion, and murder." (Ibid, p. 125)

"Male soldiers have always considered the raping of women to be part of the spoils of war to which they are entitled. ... In some wars the raping of the enemy women has been used by military commanders and civilian leaders as a systematic weapon of war. The purpose of systematically raping enemy women as a way of waging war seems to be twofold : first, to generally terrorize and demoralize the enemy through rape and sexualized torture, and second, to demoralize the combatants by harming, polluting, or possessing "their" women." (Ann E. Cudd, Analyzing Oppression, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006, p. 103.)

"The fact that rape does erupt and flourish during war --- Brownmiller's "open season of rape" --- far more than it does under any other conditions seems to support her idea that rape is merely a tool of power and control. Men everywhere seem more likely to rape women who have lost their defenders. "The opportunity for free play to sexual passion has been considered a perquisite of soldiers, especially in the taking of a besieged city," notes Quincy Wright in his classic A Study of War. Rome, for example, stood for eight hundred years before Alaric's two-year siege finally broached the city's defenses on August 24, 410. Alarci's Visigoths looted and killed the starving Roman citizens and raped the Roman women." (Michael Patrick Ghiglieri, Joshua Bilmes, The Dark Side of Man, De Capo Press, New York, 1999, p. 90.)

"Descriptively, rape in war ... aims to terrorize and degrade, hence demoralize, the vanquished, to symbolically and sexually reward and revenge the victors, and/or to interrupt reproductive continuity. It has been used as a ritual of degradation of the other side, a way of instilling terror, a tactic of demoralization, a plundering of booty, and a humiliation rite for the men on the other side who cannot (in masculinity's terms) protect "their" women ... It means supremacy : we are better than you. And possession : we own you." ... What further marks rape in war, which generally happens through cadre initiative, is its mostly out-of-control quality. It is what armed men do in groups when there is nothing to stop them." (Catharine A. MacKinnon, Are Women Human?, Harvard University Press, Harvard, 2006, pp. 222 - 223.)

General Patton, commanding an extremely well-disciplined army in light of world history, told the Grand Vizier of Spanish Morroco, "I then told him that, in spite of my most diligent efforts, there would unquestionably be some raping, and that I should like to have the details as early as possible so that the offenders could be properly hanged." (George Smith Patton, War As I Knew It, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 1947, pp. 23 - 24.)

Note that despite his discipline of the army, raping was seen as simply an inevitable result of warfare, even with drastic punishments.

"Wulfstan's (admittedly polemical) Sermo Lupi ad Anglos, from the eleventh century, describes how ten or twelve Vikings might rape a thegn's wife, daughter, or kinswoman, while he looks on, disgraced. In a context of warfare and unrest, in the medieval era as in our own, all social norms and ideals are cast aside." (Conor McCarthy, Marriage in Medieval England, Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 2004, p. 21.)

I could continue on and on ad nauseum. It is clear that war means rape, and thus support for war means support for rape.

Tacitus mentions that the wives and children of Germani warriors would stand on the sidelines and cheer them on. Perhaps an unintentional or intentional side effect of this was to reduce rape in warfare, as wives would be there to witness and scold behavior of their menfolk. This custom should be examined as a potential cultural means of reducing this most heinous war crime. Tacitus also mentions Germani military tribunals that could order the death penalty, and one of them involved shaming the body of another, and it is quite possible that this involved rape. In the case of this body-shaming of another, the punishment was to be drowned in a swamp like the scum they were.

Perhaps a fitting punishment to be revived.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Liberty, Class War, and the Wild Animal Spirit of the Heathen

To involve oneself in slave-trading poisons oneself as a society, and the Vikings had crossed that line, with slave-trading becoming commerce, as opposed to the old tribal methods whereby captives of war would be integrated into the society gradually through a process of working through their wergild, where they were able to be manumitted into the free status of the tribe. Instead, people became kept in captive status, and sold as items of commerce, and thus the procedure by which those who had committed crimes against the community, whether external or internal, were reintegrated and rehabilitated into the community, was handed over to Gullveig, who turns about everything she touches to venom.

When the tribes had ceased their jubilee-customs of redistribution, they sowed the seeds of class war. Coming under the influence of Roman notions of private property, in which the Roman government would plunder the common folk-lands, the ager publicus, and give them over to private profiteers, became just an accepted part of life as the Germanic peoples took over the Roman empire, and filtered even into the furthest regions of Germania and Scandinavia over a thousand years, forgetting what their ancestors had told Caesar, that the redistribution customs were necessary in order to prevent factions and divisions from arising, factions and divisions which would tear society apart. We can be certain that this is an authentic Germanic statement because it echoes Voluspa, which can be seen as the tale of the degradation of the world into factions of brother fighting against brother and cousin against cousin, under the influence of the power of gold continually corrupting people. So what Caesar states at the outset of our documentation of the Germanic peoples corresponds precisely to what the later poem Voluspa says about the entire eschatology of the world : it is forces of division which tear apart humanity and bring about atrocities. These forces of division themselves stem from the rich ruling over the poor, the strong ruling over the weak, the spread of the practice of taking interest, and greed for money and property, which result from the failure to engage in the redistribution-customs.

Since this is a most basic point of law, and since they are explicitly stated as intended to counter the forces of greed, we must assume the custom mythically originated with Scyld, the great law-giver and legendary patriarch, who had already seen the signs of such division in the spread of piracy and robbery amongst his folk, and who must have instituted the custom so that the poor might be protected from the ravages of the ill, and that the good might be protected against the ravages of those intent on violence.

We discover Germanic poetry in the full of the Axe Age, in which the memories of the Bronze Age, Scyld's Silver Age, and the previous Golden Age are like shadows, mere echoes, fragmented memories of a time when things made sense, the degradation of which was the very reason for fighting in the first place, and yet which was forgotten as division tore men apart and appropriated the warrior ideal to its own notions of greed and brutality. Chivalry was the last gasp of a spirit which had long gone out, amongst a folk Romanized, Christianized, and militarized, that attempted to rehabilitate a brutal military class back into the shadows of the light of the Golden Age, yet which could not, without the tribal sociological foundations which continually upseated any settlement of greed and dearth, prosper.

Voluspa gives us the key insight into prophesying, the core theme around which everything else arranges itself. In the beginning, the Gods were not concerned with gold. They had no want for gold itself. Then the three giant-maidens came : Gullveig's three incarnations. Gullveig is spoken of as being the cause of the first folk-wars, the wars of the people, of the peoples, the people divided. This theme of division is the core theme : whenever people become divided, especially where greed is the root, and it results in the loss of reverence of human being for human being. There is the core right there. It is the core with which men fight to maintain dignity and integrity, and yet which may also split them apart, and take their warrior energies and channel them into that very degradation itself. This is the key insight in which to view history, in which to understand the history of the past and of one's own time from a prophetic perspective.

There is a recitation made by an angel, if you would, sung to us in the beginning of time, a recitation in the womb itself, by the fairy who watches over us, that personal disir assigned by the family hamingja or kin-fylgia, that wild animal-spirit that has that animal integrity which still knows the language of animals, the language of creation, of life, and it is the song that sweet feral woman sings of the orlog, of the primordial laws of creation, of the Golden Age essence boiled down into that fruit of the World Tree itself which was brought to one's mother's womb and fructified one's soul. There was a song that was sung to each one of us, a song implanted deep to remind us of that which we might forget in this world, being born into this world and its potential corruptions, a song of the law of beginnings. The implanted conscience speaks. Germania's concept of conscience was a tribal one, not one abstracted from this earth, but of contact with one's own animal nature, and the animal nature itself bringing wholeness. In wildness there is redemption. In the ability to speak the language of birds and the language of animals -- the language of creation -- we are able to overcome the division within ourselves which cuts us off from who we truly are, and cuts us off from our fellow humanity as well as other fellow beings.

This wild animal nature needs contact with the wilderness, with wild areas of forest and heath, in order to be nourished. The tribes of Germania said that cities were like nets ensnaring one into tombs, tombs where one's vital essence, one's conscience, would become strangled and deprived of vital life. It's necessary to have contact with the holy groves in order to keep that vital spirit of conscience alive. In wilderness there is redemption, and so one needs to make contact with the wild places from time to time in order to rejuvenate one's connection to the original law that speaks to one in the quiet places of nature and storm. There one's purpose will speak to one. There the causes of unnatural division will fall away, and one will know where one's true loyalties and solidarities lie.

Cities as nets ensnaring one into tombs : places of captivity, which deprive the animal spirit of vitality. Captivity degrades the essence of the soul, and so those who have been captured must either be killed in quick sacrifice, or they must be rehabilitated through a process of manumission which allows them to become free members of the tribe over time : give me liberty or give me death!

Thus we discover the meaning of being heathen : it is in the heath that our fylgia, our wild animal-spirit, speaks to us, on the other side of the Rhine, across the river where the fortresses and ensnaring tombs of the Romans are not to be found, and there, our vital conscience will begin to speak, wooed out of sleep by the wind in the woods, the lush song of birds, the silence in the hills, the resilience and strength of vegetation, and the emblematic electricity of the spirits of animals. When that wild spirit begins to speak our original nature, we will begin to hear the voice of the Gods within us, and indeed, to see and hear them everywhere, for something will have come alive. Something that had remained dormant for so long will begin to awaken, and the magic of that textured, bristling innocence will begin to rejuvenate our life from within. There, touching the spirit of re-enchantment, the prophetic imperative will begin making demands upon our life, as we look across the Rhine at the lives we have built within the walls with new eyes, and we will begin demanding the down-taking of all walls of captivity. Being heathen means discovering freedom in the wild-places that nourishes the spirit of liberty, a liberty that will reveal the original law through which divisions are overcome.

Liberty is also the key to prosperity, for it is Frey who brings us harvests and abundance. Ironically, therefore, the lust for gold only brings dearth and division in the end, while liberty and the full enjoyments it brings ushers in ages of prosperity. There are great heathen lessons here to be contemplated, and integrated into our everyday lives. Give me liberty or give me death! is not just the slogan of a fiery radical, but a truth : without liberty there is only the slow wasting away of the human spirit, and with it, all that gives meaning and decency to life.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Warrior Defends the Last Bastions of Soul in this World

Soulfulness : fibred, threaded, textured, world woven-in irregular with grit and bone, tooth and ochre, quirk and turning verse, vibrant, full of color, wood's grain of one's unique experience sewn sinew by sinew into the texture of one's being, kneaded, worked in, threshed, strong-willed, animal, deep-hearted, deep-thinking, weather and landscape stitched in to dreaming-powers which give no ground to ancient work-of-giant's encroachment, warrior-energy of not just being shaped, but shaping back from deep within. One who is passively shaped, trained, inculcated in how to fight, and sent off to war is no warrior, and but a soldier, for a warrior fights, and the first to be fought are those who give orders, who would dare to tell a willful being what to do. Defiance is the first call of a healthy soul, for any living contract is conceived out of the negotiation of two beings with equal power asserted in encounter. Soulful being is willful being, willful and thoughtful and colorful, true to the earth-tones of one's own being, true to deep ecological, evolutionary impulses woven helix and spinning wind right up through the thread of one's cells, and not giving in, meeting world proudly, with defiance, liking the ground one stands upon, gaining respect through will meeting will, not passive submission. Soul talks back to world that has become too tame, reminds the old work of giants of earth, of oak, of root, of blood, of sap, of the hollow sounds of elves etherial breathy upon the wooden winds. Warrior at heart is Bear, come in to settlements to bash and break the beds of Procrustes, deliver us from wordloc, the manacles of square, return the winding rivers and squirming protoplasm of wyrd from lying right angles and the rulers of rulers who know not the deep loyalties soulful connection brings that has no need of codes and directives. A heathen does not press obedience upon the will, leaves the will intact and alone as holy. A heathen utters gutteral songs of being, earthen songs, songs of love, and lets love knit loyalties like vines intertwined, natural. A heathen attends to letting soul, bold, burst out into world, where grand, it never fails to impress, and strength being sexy, the hearty are hearkened to as naturally as one bows to the thousand year old oak whose majesty commands without commanding.

I have seen the battle of souls in this world. I have seen the terrible attrition of souls picked apart, torn asunder, refused love, deprived, starved, left in conditions of famine until capitulate, beings robbed of tribal hands and embrace until and unless they gave up soul and marched in goose-step. I have seen normality raised to an idol to which masses bowed down, soulless. Not bad people, yet such sinfulness to abandon what is most of heart, the pitiful, pathetic shame of it all, gestures inspiring contempt more than compassion even when it is sad. Look around and know truly, most people are terribly uninteresting, and I do not mean from the standards of thrill-seekers who are themselves the greatest of the uninteresting seeking to overcompensate for their utter lack of substance with artificial stimulations, zombies with defibrillators. Color has been drained, bleached, parched. Lockstep is rampant. Step in line, step in line, eventually you will step in line. One way or other, if you want love, if you want candy, you will give in, you will give in. This wicked galdur is sung and spun a thousand times weekly in ways wrapped around each other, and the sound is sick without redemption except to let loose of lockstep and reaffirm soul. Some prison camps you cannot see because they surround you. Some starvation regimes are imposed on those surrounded by ample meals. Let a fairy spirit dare to walk into a womb these days and the struggle is on not merely to tame it to the rigors of this hard and fibrous world, but to break it, and I know no other word for this than sin, deep, irredeemable wickedness.

I call on a coalition of the defiant who are fidelitous to the rippling rivers and wind in canyons, oak scrub on a full-moon summer night, and ice cooled by the bones in winter. Our symbols bubble up from these depths, for ancestors who knew how to transform into hares and falcons, mice and bears, foxes and wild puma bewilded words so landscape and time spoke poetry through human lips worshipping through glossolalia shaped by on-pressing sense. When you feel these things in your bones, when the sunlight and stars surge through your veins and passing meadows and snowflakes stir your lymph and spark your vital spark, then say, I am a heathen. I am a heathen, and I will take up the spear to ward this, wherever Beloved Mother Earth lies wild, landscapes inner and outer, for when I encounter soul, there is Earth landscaping herself through flesh and vein and nerve, briars and tangles of nerve, thickets of nerve in inner ecosystems as wild and beautiful as outer wildernesses, and all these deserve the warrior to stand guard with spear and shield. There must be a place in the world for this. If all becomes tamed and flattened, if the old work-of-giant is allowed to colonize everything, if every single being is forced to sleep in Procrustean beds, then this planet, barren, will soon become the ancient abode of giants, and already, look around, Jotunheim has reclaimed so much already, and have ye no loyalty towards Midgard? You cannot fight for the Earth without fighting for soul ; you cannot fight for the soul without fighting for Earth. They are intertwined and inextricable.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Jubilee and Redistribution

Our modern word "jubilee" captures the sense of rejoicing and celebration associated with redistribution customs. Caesar said the land was redistributed every year, and given its Indo-European closeness, it is likely that like the Roman Saturnalia, where the ancient Golden Age of Saturn was invoked, this occurred around the Winter Solstice, at Yule. This would be a traditional time to do so, as gifts were given at this time, and the Gods were said to be walking amongst people on earth. Lucian lets us know that Saturnalia often inspired the common people to clamor for redistribution, recalling the ancient days when this was done. Amongst the Romans, this is a mere distant memory, but amongst the pre-Roman Germani, such land reform was an annual custom.

Yule was also associated with Freyr, inn Frodi, "the Fruitful one", to whom a boar was sacrificed upon whose head everyone had taken sacred oaths, and we find an echo of this Yule custom in the Christmas ham. The connection with Frey inn Frodi is the clue that allows us to unlock many elements of this sacred holiday. Frodi found the folk in subjection to wolfish kings who had robbed them of their odal-rights with the intimidation of jotnar-bodyguards, and through organizing them into guilds and militias where they rediscovered their joys and dances, helped them regain their old rights.

We make a tremendous mistake if we think of the old allodial rights in terms of private property. Odal was the clan-land, and as such, designated the entire village manor as it were, the homestead upon which all of the families of the clan lived in hamlet. The odal was inalienable to the clan at large, who was warded over by a chieftain, the paterfamilias of the most prominent family of the clan, and each family had their own cottage and yard within the hamlet which was inviolable to them. The hamlet was surrounded by fertile agricultural lands, meadows and pastures, woodlots, and finally forests and heath, all of which constituted the odal. This was folcland, the land of the folk. Here people made their living, and the right of making a living was recognized in Magna Charta, where no one was to be deprived of their estovers (sustenance from gatherings out of the commons) and wainage (tools and equipment to work the land), not even for debts or taxes. It is true that in a Norway and Iceland with an entire millenium of Roman private property rights encroaching upon the older notions, odal takes on more trappings of private property, but it is never individual property as such, but that of the entire clan. Belonging to this heritage is what ennobles one (atheling literally means a child-of-the-odal, but is translated as "noble") to participate in the Folkmoot, where the sacred decisions of the community are made.

Participation in the community property of the clan entitled one to inalienable house and yard (with its kitchen garden), a lot in the agricultural fields, and sustainable use of the common meadows, pastures, and woodlots. Every year the fields, which were divided into strips, were assigned by lot to a different family, who would work them for the following year. In this way, the variability of terrain and fertility of the soil was distributed equitably so no one had place to complain of unfairness, for fairness and unfairness were equally shared out over time. Without such equitable distribution, jealousies and factions arise, as Caesar tells us these laws were meant to prevent. Ynglingasaga tells us that seidr, that Art perverted by Heid, was able to transfer unluck from one person to another, and it is this kind of "evil eye" politics, of jealously eyeing and coveting the possessions of others, which greed for privatization brings, which the old laws were meant to circumvent ; greed and contentious sorcery go hand in hand.

Every year one would receive one's lot of fertility for the year, which invokes the customs Carlo Ginzburg uncovered in his The Night Battles and Ecstasies, where sacred mummings, mock-battles, and shamanic night-farings were undertaken at critical changes of the seasons and holy days to secure good harvests. As I have pointed out before, it is in this context that Frodi's armies are most profitably to be understood. It is also here, perhaps, that we may understand the custom of the volva who comes in the winter-time to predict the season's prospects for the coming year. As people received their yearly lots, so would they receive their fates. Yuletime has traditionally been a time of trying to see one's future for the year through various divining customs, including explicit night-faring such as we find with the Saint Lucy's Stools, tripods with which women would sit on the crossroads, attempting to intercept elves about that night, to gain what wisdom they could, and fare with them to their sacred underworld sabbats. The sabbats of the elves were notorious : full of dancing, mirth, magic, and love-making, as befits the Lord of their Land, Freyr himself.

Just as in the Roman Saturnalia the Golden Age of the Kingdom of Saturn was re-enacted, so during Yule the spirit of the Frodifrith, the great Golden Age of Peace and Prosperity, was re-enacted. "Peace on earth and good will towards men" was readily appropriated as a phrase to describe this time. The redistribution-customs were attested by both Caesar and Tacitus as real practices, while Saxo evinces a mythic tradition that the great patriarch of old, Scyld, the great Earl of Rig, forgave all debts of the folk out of his own purse, and thus the land-redistribution converges upon a general debt-forgiveness, just as we find in the Biblical jubilee. While scholars may doubt, as they do, that the Biblical jubilee was ever widely practised, there is no doubt that the redistribution-allotment of the village-community was a widely and anciently practised custom of the Indo-European folk (amongst others).

Plutarch, invoking Sparta -- another Indo-European tribe --'s equivalent of the law-giving patriarch Scyld (or indeed, Rig, as this figure was clearly legendary), Lycurgus, describes in mythic terms another famous custom of redistribution. Plutarch describes the redistribution as if it were a onetime historical event, but it seems likely, given the legendary qualities of Lycurgus, that this was a mythic event which at one point in time provided the eponymous mythic background to the annual allotment custom of the Indo-European village community. Plutarch says, in Greek Lives (Robin Waterfield translation, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998),

"Lycurgus persuaded them to pool all the land and then redistribute it all over again, so that everyone would live on equal terms and with the same amount of property to provide an income. In the future the only ascendancy they would seek would be assessed by the criterion of excellence on the basis that there was to be no difference or inequality between any of them and another except as determined by criticism of shameful deeds and praise of noble ones." (p. 16)

This is phrased in terms of a discrete event in the epic cycle :

"There was terrible inequality, crowds of paupers without property and without any means of support were accumulating in the city, and wealth was entirely concentrated in the hands of a few people." (Ibid.)

Lycurgus' motive for introducing "the most revolutionary" of "constitutional reforms"?

"In order to banish arrogance, envy, crime, luxury, and those more chronic and serious political afflictions, wealth and poverty ..." (Ibid.)

Caesar explicitly mentions that one of the reasons evinced by the Germani for their redistribution customs was to prevent greed, usury, oppression of the poor by the rich, and the rise of factions and strife, qualities which go hand in hand with the coming of Gullveig ("Power of Gold", "Drunk on Gold") as Heid ("Shiny, Glittering", but also "Money") amongst the people and setting them in competition. Scyld's legendary deed of debt-forgiveness, described by Saxo, fits into this setting as a corrective, as do the redistribution customs described by both Caesar and Tacitus.

Lycurgus' legendary character (rather than historical reality) is easily demonstrated. Plutarch begins his narrative by saying, "Even allowing for the fact that there is nothing indisputable to be said about Lycurgus the legislator, since there are divergent accounts of his family, his travels abroad, his death, and above all precisely what he achieved with regard to the laws and the constitution, there is particularly little agreement about when the man lived." (p. 9) In other words, there is almost no agreement about anything important about the man's life at all, which always hints at a purely legendary character ; in any case, had such a man existed at all historically, these remarks point to the fact that by this time he had passed entirely into the realm of legend. But further remarks of Plutarch make it probable that Lycurgus was never historical and always a part of legend : "...the Pythia called him 'beloved of the gods' and 'a god rather than a man'." (p. 13). "...[H]e has had the highest honours conferred upon him, since he has a sanctuary there, and they offer him sacrifices once a year as if he were a god." (pp. 40 - 41.) These are customs that honor a traditional legendary patriarch.

The customs associated with Lycurgus are given sanction of divine inspiration, the result of deep meditation and prayer : "He claimed that when he had asked for lawfulness the god had granted and promised him a political system of such quality that it would leave all the rest far behind." This is a similar and cognate spirit to the actual customs Caesar inquired about.

The most evident thing about the Yule season now called "Christmas time" is the free exchange of gifts, a practice which goes all the way back to pre-Christian Yule time, as is readily demonstrated in the Icelandic Sagas. This gift-giving is the Spirit of Yule, the "reason for the season", and demonstrates how things function on Earth when they are in tune with the Heavens, when the Gods travel amongst the folk in that special time of year. It is a temporary suspension of the iron age and restoration of golden age customs. Given Holda's function as an Earth Goddess, and her frequent association with the Wild Hunt, that especially features in the Yule season, it is strongly plausible that Tacitus' description of the pageant and procession of Nerthus amongst the Langobardian and surrounding tribes also describes the Yule season :

Laeti tunc dies, festa loca, quaecumque adventu hospitioque dignatur. Non bella ineunt, non arma sumunt; clausum omne ferrum; pax et quies tunc tantum nota, tunc tantum amata, "Joyful, fertile, lush, and happy days then, in the holiday places of festivity, when anyone who arrives is deemed worthy of hospitality, lodging, and entertainment. They do not enter into war, nor take up arms ; they shut up all tools of iron and weapons ; one discovers peace, harmony, and calmness of an incredible extent, at that time, as well as tremendous amounts of love." (translation mine, copyright 2009 Siegfried Goodfellow)

Peace on Earth, Goodwill Towards Men, Merry Yuletide!

This is the time when lots are redistributed, gifts are given, fates are shifting for the next year, sharing is abundant, truly a time of joyfulness, peace, and happy days! Days to remember, days to learn from. Tacitus says pax et quies tunc tantum nota, tunc, which can also mean, "At this time, one learns peace and calm of magnificent extent". One learns. Meaning, there are lessons for everyday life here.

During times of redistribution, the Gods walk amongst us, for the Gift-Economy matches their free and wondrous giving, as is evident from all our blessings. A gift calls for a gift, so freely give, and do not stop giving! There is much to learn from times of giving, including joy that can last throughout the year.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gullveig's Boast : Exeter Riddle 83

Frod wæs min fromcynn biden in burgum, siþþan bæles weard ...... wera life bewunden, fyre gefælsad. Nu me fah warað eorþan broþor,se me ærest wearð gumena to gyrne. Ic ful gearwe gemon hwa min fromcynn fruman agette eall of earde; ic him yfle ne mot, ac ic hæftnyd hwilum arære wide geond wongas. Hæbbe ic wundra fela, middangeardes mægen unlytel, ac ic miþan sceal monna gehwylcum degolfulne dom dyran cræftes, siðfæt minne. Saga hwæt ic hatte (Riddle 83, Exeter Book), "Ancient were my ancestors. I have abided in cities since the fire's ward turned me out amongst men, and I was purified by fire, when the earth's brother continued to be my foe, and became the first amongst men to afflict me. I fully remember, and well, who in the beginning of time seized all the earth from my fore-kin ; I am forbidden to cause him evil, yet I have many a time established terrible slavery around the wide earth. I have tremendous magic, not a small amount of the power of Middle Earth, but I shall conceal the secret doom from every man with my precious powers and skills, and extensive golden ornamentation. Say what I am called."

The Giant-Race is known to be extremely ancient, and cities especially are referred to as their work (entas geweorc). This suggests the protagonist of this riddle is of Giant-Kin. She speaks of being swaddled (gewunden) by the Fire's Ward, which must refer to Lodur-Surt. (But could also refer to being bound by Heimdall, or even swaddled up with Loki as a child), and purified by fire. There is one being in the mythology who was subjected to fire and three times emerged from the flames, and that is Gullveig. She speaks especially of Njord and his kin as her foes who foiled many of her plans, and then recalls with great resentment how the giants in the beginning of time were ousted from the earth by the Gods, whom she is now exiled from and forbidden to cause evil. Nevertheless, she boasts and gloats over the fact that she has reared up great distress for men in the form of slavery, which has established itself around the entire world, due to her great, magical power, which she claims holds captive a great deal of the power in Midgard. She has no intentions of revealing to people their true fates, but conceals it, obscuring their true futures with her powers and skills that are so dear to her, and by distracting men with her "abundant golden ornamentation". Seduced and dazzled, they do not see her for what she is, nor do they find their own wondrous potential. What are you called? You are called the Power of Gold, Avaricia, Usura, Invidia, Greed.

It is generally agreed by the scholars that the answer to this riddle is money, gold, metal, or ore, and they are correct, but they have not correctly discerned the mythic references concealed herein. It is impossible to refer to be encircled with fire and purified by the flames without thinking of Gullveig, who was of Giant-kin and caused terrible distress amongst mankind by fomenting folk-wars, and who is also said to have travelled amongst people deceiving their minds with great sorcery, as she brags here, casting (mis) fortunes that brought illness to many nations.

We may also read biden in burgum, siþþan bæles weard ...... wera life bewunden, fyre gefælsad as "I have abided in cities since the Fire's Ward (Heimdall) wound up amongst living men." Yes, when Heimdall came upon the waves to help men, Heid was there to corrupt them, lurking in the cities. She lay in wait for Borgar (biden in burgum). She brags that she was the cause of thralldom. She links this to her powers of magic and her ability to obscure people's true fates, by distracting them with the glitter of gold.

This poem wrapped in a riddle is a tremendous confirmation of many investigations we have pursued about Heid's character, and here we find her openly gloating about her conquests, as well as revealing some of her motivations : resentful about the replacement of giants by men as holders of the earth, she intends to weaken them so they may be more easily conquered, or to turn them into monsters themselves, who will welcome in the monsters.

ic him yfle ne mot, "I am not able to do evil to him," to Odin, who orchestrated the exile of her kin, because she herself has been exiled, for when Odin returned from his exile, he cast out all the sorcerors who had tried to take over. Thus, she is confined to the Iron Woods, but she is confident that her power over Midgard is extensive, and she is happy to have been the cause of so much poverty, brigandage, and captivity.

We know what you're called : Hyndla, which means a female-dog. I'll let my audience connect the dots.

All translations copyright 2009 by Siegfried Goodfellow

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

God's Dreaming Song of Shaping

God dreams himself into the creatures of the world, called into being through riddles chanted on the World Tree, enigmas asking, "What am I?". God dreams into the beings, grasps their mysteries, knows the secrets of shedding skins, wanderings along the voluptuous body of his bride feeling her secret grottoes and fescinnine outcroppings, meanders as a husband does amongst the beloved.

Óðinn skipti hömum. Lá þá búkurinn sem sofinn eða dauður en hann var þá fugl eða dýr, fiskur eða ormur og fór á einni svipstund á fjarlæg lönd að sínum erindum eða annarra manna (Ynglingasaga 7), "Odin shifted skins. His body would lay there as if asleep or dead, and he was then bird or beast, fish or wyrm and fared in the twinkling of an eye to far-off lands, on his own errands or those of other men."

In Gestumblindi's Riddles, Odin sings of spiders, grass growing up from the earth, swans in their nests laying eggs, herbs and hearth-fire, fog and flocks of birds, waves, clouds and cows, ravens, fish, and waterfalls, hail and rain, beetles, hawks, the sun, pigs and eagles. Each told in wondrous enigmas, a song of the mysteries of creation, hymns wrapped in riddles and secrets, setting forth precedent that men ought ponder every wight beneath the World-Tree, that hangs in its limbs as surely as the seeker after secrets. Thus weaving tangles of luscious praises, we all may invoke the woven fabric of creation, and sing the earth's song as the High Heavenly One does every day.

All translations copyright 2009 by Siegfried Goodfellow

Religion Is An Affair of the Heart

Religion is an affair of the heart, just like falling in love. It is neither pure reason nor blind faith, but something that touches the heart. It is a natural bliss and strength that comes with watching the sunset, feeling the field-grass crunch beneath your feet, grasping the wind as it rushes by. Yes, I see Odin's one-eyed face in the sky, feel his Beloved beneath my toes, and Sol rolling o'er the mountain-tops.

To Love Rusty, Tawny Things

I love rusty, tawny things, burnt and dry, kissed by Sun, caressed by water and wind, glowing in the sunset golden, brown, and red. Things of the Earth.

Wyrd Spins, and Ruins Become Temples

The army of trees creeps close to the edge of abandoned towns. The dark ages of human beings are the slow reweaving of organic life on the planet. Settlements fall to ruins, there is hope in collapse, ghosts dance in the broken monuments, and the roll of but a few generations, and no one can imagine anyone human living in such monstrosities built by crippled, limping ogres. Hymns are sung to reclaiming-nature for whom desolation is salvation for crickets and moonlight, fir trees and birch, song birds and humus-churning worms. Wyrd turns and old hopes become compost, treasures reclaimed by the soil and left for spinners of tales to wonder. Boondocks swallow and replenish, all becomes hick, return of the frontier, fallen ancestors' impossibilities find new return, ruins become temples, reminding of old but not so good times. There's a strange freedom in the forest. Weeds exploit cracks and colonize roads, milled by turning of years into rubble dotting rural landscapes. Wyrd spins and ruins become temples, crescendos are woven into descendos, with denoument the downhand stitch in her elusive integration. Dreams you can't identify, having rotten into the soil ages ago, haunt the unconscious, and life becomes an unacknowledged seance, given form from time to time by small bands of luscious crazies yeasting abandoned bakeries and forgotten social loaves sprinkled into the raised cups and horns of frothing mead. The age turns. Corrosion is a form of writing, grasping thick leaves bound with leather and making marks of creeping Gaian mind slowly remaking hubris into humus. Rustbelts lay deposits of iron ore for future ages, while ancient curses against the age of iron find silent glee and justice. It's better than you think. On the other side of the Rhine there are grand feasts and dances the likes of which have not been seen in generations, and some cross the Nibelung's watery stash to welcome brothers out of the shattered Roman tombs back into the tribal arms of solidarity, and settlements become islands in waves and waves of woodland seas. The army of trees creeps close to the edge of abandoned towns. Boondocks swallow and replenish, weeds exploit cracks, and marks are written on bark again. The age turns.

See, for example, http://www.wwmt.com/articles/roads-1363526-mich-counties.html , http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/financialcrisis/5516536/US-cities-may-have-to-be-bulldozed-in-order-to-survive.html . http://www.hcn.org/issues/194/10194 , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Commons , http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/19679

Getting Real With Religion

Religion should not be a reward-system for those who can fit themselves into a narrow structure of beliefs. It should really be a support system for doing the hard work of doing good in the world, of contributing some deeds to the world, to one's family, to one's friends, to one's self. That's hard work. Anyone can participate in a ritual and go through the motions. A ritual is just there as a symbolic form to remind you what has real value in life. If it's not doing that, it's not serving its function.

We've all become accustomed to thinking of religion as a stubborn clinging to sectarian differences, instead of fellowship that encourages worth-ship through traditional, symbolic theatre. Now some may say that it is disrespectful to refer to religious ritual as symbolic theatre, but that is what liturgy is, and it is intolerant and rigid to attempt to enforce how people will experience symbols. That will always be variable. Some people will experience them in a nice, light, somewhat superficial way, while other people will have deep experiences. That's up to the beholder.

Referring to them as symbols makes no atheistic or theistic assertion about what the symbols refer to. It's a strictly agnostic statement that allows for a wide range of experiences and opinions along that atheistic-theistic spectrum, and therefore allows for the greatest range of community and gathering, as community will include people all along that spectrum. For some people, the symbols will refer to very real, very literal spiritual realities. For others, they will refer to inner psychological transformation, and for others, a kind of festive traditionality.

This variation along the spectrum, it is worth pointing out, not only happens within a community but within an individual. I myself fluctuate from moment to moment, mood to mood, as to where I am along that spectrum. What really matters is the back-to-basics approach of values: as to whether the symbols are helping us focus on values that are important in life, whether we are giving true worth to that which is worthy. That is true religion : to give worth to that which is truly worthy.

And that means getting concrete, not abstract. Do you treat your fellow human beings with regard, with respect, with the reverence of knowing that something divine lives within them? Do you treat your world with respect, knowing that something divine lives within it? Concrete : does it bother you that developers and contractors are constantly tearing up the land just to build new homes? Knowing humans need new homes, but are we the only beings that matter? Is there no value to having open space? Are you a heathen? Do you support the heath, the open spaces? These are real questions.

If the rituals are not heading you in this direction, they aren't fulfilling their function. It shouldn't be about hocus-pocus before some high-and-mighty shibboleth with a lot of superstitious awe and fear thrown in. That, frankly, is charlatanry, no matter what religion we're talking about. Let's get real.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Holy Folkmoot

"The United States of America". What a powerful phrase, of unity in diversity,and in its original conception (unimpeded by a national government imposing itself upon all, but a truly federalist idea) one of diverse states, each self-determining, in union, strong-armed, with good will, come together for the general welfare and commonwealth. One hears one nation here in this phrase, and yet a nation that is various : many wills united for greater good. Neither a unity which imposes itself upon all imperialistically and wishes to wipe out variousness, nor a process of endless competitive division, but a harmony of strong powers intending good law and coordination of mutual good.

This is the sense in which the ancients uttered the phrase "The Gods". We who have heard polytheism only in the distant echoes of the Iliad no longer know how to hear the phrase. The Iliad itself is a late remembrance and reworking of an ancient Indo-European theme brought into focus in the Teutonic mythos as the War Between the Aesir and Vanir and Odin's Exile. In this period of strife, the world of men is torn apart by folk wars, as the Gods ally themselves on different sides of the fighting lines. If "The United States" ordinarily describes the Gods, in this phase of the mythology, directly fomented and painstakingly devised by Loki and Gullveig, we are in the passage of "The Civil War". The Iliad reworks this Civil War of the Gods, and gives us a picture of The Gods not united, but in conflict and at odds with each other, rendering a fragmented image of polytheism that the Judaeo-Christians were quick to exploit to their advantage. This fragmentation was the great fruit of Gullveig's work, and not their ordinary condition.

During this time, Loki set himself as a God amongst men (and what a potent phrase that is, full of implication!) and declared that no longer would the Gods be worshipped in unison, but must be worshipped in a scattered way, separately, reflecting the "Civil War" conditions. When Odin returns, he overcomes this fragmentation and restores the ancient worship-in-unison. For previously, they had, according to Saxo, vota communiter nuncupari, "cast their votes in common", "called (on the Gods) and made their religious vows and pledges in joint action".

This is significant, because it underlines a singularly important characteristic of The Gods. The first time we hear of the Gods in Voluspa, the first and foremost of the old heathen poems in the Poetic Edda, and that great prophetic vision of the long degradation of the ages since the great days of creation, we find them coming together to their seats of judgement : Þá gengu regin öll á rökstóla, ginnheilug goð (Voluspa 6), "Then went all of the powers to the stools of judgement, the awe-inspiringly holy Gods". They are gathered together in council to deliberate, to name and allot powers, to shape tools and create places of worship.

In the ancient world, any place of judgement and sovereign power was explicitly compared to the power of the Gods, and this is why judges were often glossed, sometimes quite literally, as "gods". This is The Gods In Sovereignty and Convened in Council, which was the most sacred and holy of institutions amongst the ancient-folk. Here is the heavenly echo of the inviolable sanctity of the Folkmoot, the Assembly of the People, who gathered, as juries still do, to deliberate on the most important questions of existence. As did the Folk, so did the Gods ; as did the Gods, so did the Folk. Note that it is in this context that the Gods are referred to as ginnheilug, "awe-inspiringly holy". Ginning can mean "to trick", as in the famous Gylfaginning, the "Tricking of Gylfi", but "trick" doesn't properly translate the meaning of the word. Ginn is often translated as "great", and thus Ginnungagap is called "The Great Chasm", but that very chasm gives us a clue as to the full meaning of ginn, which is that giddy vertigo and awe that comes over one at the edge of a precipice, with its sense of peril and mystery that wipes out whatever before was in the mind, as one is face-to-face with something awe-inspiring that dwarfs one's other concerns in comparison. Imagine standing out on the edge of the Grand Canyon, with its majesty and greatness. As in the presence of a great falling-in-love, one's previous thoughts are dashed to silence in the approach of something greater than oneself. The proper translation of Gylfaginning, then, would be, "The Utter Bafflement of Gylfi", or even, "Gylfi's Conquering by Awe". Underline here, therefore, the tremendous holiness of the Gods gathered in council, a power so great as to wipe the mind of all small concerns in the face of terrific responsibility, and great, creative, nourishing power.

For Coming Together in Council was indeed seen as a great, creative, nourishing power, and the judgements given were as the judgements of Gods, requiring great rede, great penetration and insight into the mysteries of existence and the matter at hand, found only in a deeply contemplative and meditative stance pursued in mutual deliberation : here is Homo Sapiens, "Man Thinking", in session.

Our appreciation of the gravitas of the Folkmoot has been overshadowed by Rome's propping of client-kings who usurped the place of the old folk-kings, and diminished the power of the Moot itself, which was the central institution of the people. Speaking of the power of the Basque folkmoot, Wordsworth spoke words that speak to the heart of the majesty of this most central of institutions, meeting by a sacred tree, as the Gods met by Yggdrasil : "Tree of holier power" which "did enshrine" "a voice divine / Heard from the depths of its aerial bower" ... "These lofty-minded Lawgivers shall meet, / Peasant and lord, in their appointed seat, / Guardians of ... ancient Liberty." ("The Oak of Guernica" (1810)). To understand this poem, we must not read the phrase "Peasant and lord" as denoting two different classes of people, but rather the same class, understood in their proper light and power : Peasants as Lords, convened as solemn Lawgivers and Guardians of Liberty.

We find Wordsworth quoted in Charles Sumner Lobingier's magnificent The People's Law (http://books.google.com/books?id=vYpCAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA11&dq=the+Folkmoot#PPR1,M1), a work too long neglected, and overshadowed by schools of scholars too enamored with kings. The People's Law restores the Folkmoot to its proper importance. As Bridget T. Hayes put it, this was a "grave and dignified body" which "had what we commonly call legislative, executive, and judicial functions ; that is it made laws, carried them out, and passed judgments." (Bridget T. Hayes, American Democracy : Its History and Problems, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1921, pp. 13 - 14.) Hayes emphasizes, as is only proper, that decision was not by voting but by consensus. Tacitus speaks of the decisions of the Folkmoot as penes plebem arbitrium, "that which is in the power of the people to judge", or "that which is in the power of the mastery and will of the folk", where de maioribus omnes ... consultant, "everyone deliberates on matters of great importance". Nec ut iussi conveniunt, sed... ex libertate, "They convene not by command or being ordered, but ... out of liberty." He says, Si displicuit sententia, fremitu aspernantur; sin placuit, frameas concutiunt. Honoratissimum adsensus genus est armis laudare. (All Germania 11). "If a proposal displeases them, they reject it with an uproar of loud growls, shouting, and roaring murmurs ; if it pleases them, they strike their spears together. The manner in which they confer the honor of their agreement and assent is to praise it with their arms."

Voluspa has never forgotten this power of the folk-in-council, and speaks of the Gods as tremendously holy in this most important of functions. Moreover, it must be remembered that Voluspa itself begins with an invocation of the Folkmoot. Tacitus says Silentium per sacerdotes, quibus tum et coercendi ius est, imperatur, "They are enjoined to silence by the priests, who moreover rule and preserve the court", or "who moreover command and enforce the law", or "who moreover preside and ward over the court". Coercendi has an aspect of curbing, restraining, and checking excesses or violations. They keep, in other words, the court in order. That it is the priests doing this underlines everything we have been saying here about the earthly court reflecting the heavenly court of the Gods in Council : every attempt is made to underline its solemnity, gravity, and holiness. Through this process the folk commune with their Gods, and it is here moreso than any liturgical rites where religion is performed.

The ljóðasmiðir, the "song-smiths", the poet-priests called Gothis for their inspired connection to the Gods, have always been the chieftain-class of the Teutonic folk, as reflected in the fact that the word Gothi in later Christian Iceland became a mere synonym for "chieftain". James E. Knirk points out that the word erilaR, found in ten older runic inscriptions, and which means "rune-carver" is related linguistically to ON. jarl, 'earl', and that there are other similar inscriptions where erilaR is replaced functionally by gudija 'priest'. (James E. Knirk, "Runes : Origin, development of the futhark, functions, applications, and methodological considerations", in Oskar Bandle, Kurt Braunmuller, Lennart Elmevik, The Nordic Languages : An International Handbook of the History of the North Germanic Languages, Volume 1, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, 2002, p. 642.) This demonstrates that the jarls were originally chieftains by virtue of being gothis.

Those who commune with the Gods through sacred poetic prophecy convene the rökstóla, "seats of judgement" where all meet in sacred council. Thus Voluspa begins with, Hljóðs bið ek allar helgar kindir, meiri ok minni mögu Heimdallar, "Silence I bid all the holy kindreds, major and minor sons of Heimdall," which Tacitus' Silentium per sacerdotes, "The priests enjoin silence (at the assemblies)", is an echo, calling all high and low, in unison to come together in council.

Later on in Iceland we still find the temple-priests, the Gothis, leading their thingmenn, the folk of their temple-district, to the Thing, the Folkmoot, to deliberate and find the law. It is the prophets who lead the people into the law and call down the ambience of the Gods-in-Judgement, and not, it must be emphasized, as theocracy, which would be subjection of law to liturgical creed, but recognition of the deed of law as theological in and of itself, which is an entirely different matter. I will repeat here what I said earlier, with emphasis : Through this process the folk commune with their Gods, and it is here moreso than any liturgical rites where religion is performed. It is here, in the sovereignty of the popular assembly, met as a jury with all the full-jury rights elucidated in Lysander Spooner's magnificent Essay on the Trial by Jury (and not its modern, pale, emasculated version) that we act as if we were Gods. No wonder the Priests ward the sacred-space to underline the gravity of our actions. Who makes the law acts as Gods for that kingdom, and thus are answerable to higher Gods. Of course, in Teutonic culture, the law is not so much made as it is discovered and found, which implies a kind of scrying process, in which the folk gather to take rede and deeply contemplate the mysteries of life that apply to the case, guided by the presence of the prophetic song-smiths who tend the temples and who have warded the assembly's stead as a consecrated and holy ground.

Just as the Gods here afla lögðu (Voluspa 7), "lay out strengths", "allot and appoint resources and increase of herds", so the folk, gathered together under their nobility of shamanic song-smiths, yearly convoke the sacred jubilee-custom of redistributing the fertile lands of the clan-odal, as Caesar describes in Gallic Wars Book 6.22, magistratus ac principes in annos singulos gentibus cognationibusque hominum, qui una coierunt, "the magistrates and chieftains every year allot fields and farmlands to the clans and families of people who assemble together". This is precisely analogous to the Gods' afla lögðu, "laying out of resources and productive abundance".

As context to this laying out of herds and productive abundance, it should be noted that one of the first things the Gods do is create places of worship (hörg ok hof, Voluspa 7). Since this is the time of their great Forging of the World, we are to understand with our poetic insight that the world itself is a place of worship. This Beloved Earth is worshipful. Snorri, in Skaldskaparmal 2, quotes a strophe by the poet Hallfreðr, Sannyrðum spenr sverða snarr þiggjandi viggjar barrhaddaða byrjar biðkván und sik Þriðja, "With truthful words the gallant clasper-of-the-sword receives on his steed the gentle support of the barley-haired waiting-wife of Thridi (Odin) himself," or, "With decrees of justice, truth, and equity the gallant clasper-of-the-sword on his steed receives the hospitality of the gentle, barley-haired, prayed-for-wife of Thridi himself," and then comments, Hér er þess dæmi, at jörð er kölluð kona Óðins í skáldskap, "Here it is deemed that Earth is called the Wife of Odin in poetry." In other words, the warrior (clasper of swords upon a horse) who wishes to possess Odin's wife, the Earth, must woo her with words of truth, justice, and equity. Here gaining land is seen as the equivalent of "praying for the wife of Odin", or "receiving the hospitality of Odin's wife". Land-deeming is a sacred act, and was so seen by the ancients, sharing in the hospitality of Beloved Mother Earth, who is Odin's wife.

Tacitus says that Agri...ab universis in vices occupantur, quos mox inter se secundum dignationem partiuntur (Germania 26), "The fertile land is occupied by everyone in turn, succeeding by lots, who next distribute it between themselves out of respect." They pay heed and regard to each other through this practice. Caesar explicitly states that they justify this custom as ne qua oriatur pecuniae cupiditas, "preventing usury and greed for property from arising", ut animi aequitate plebem contineant, "to secure to the common people a spirit of justice and equity", and ne latos fines parare studeant, potentioresque humiliores possessionibus expellant, “to prevent the strong and powerful from expelling the weak and poor from their property and possessions". In other words, the þiggjandi...barrhaddaða ...biðkván und sik Þriðja, "the hospitality of the barley-haired, patient-wife of Odin himself is received" through Sannyrðum, "just verdicts", "reports of fairness", "decrees of equity". In the ancient tribal society encountered by Caesar, the þiggjandi of jörð, "the hospitable reception of the earth" is made with Sannyrðum, just words that secure the common people equity, protect the weak from the strong and the poor from the rich, and prevent usury from spoiling the land.

And it is the people, coming together as one, to find their one pulsing heartbeat called the law, that secures the justice of the earth, through which Beloved Mother Earth herself is wooed. What could be more weighty than that? The Gothis, calling on the Gods as they consecrated the holy grounds of the Folkmoot, uttered the Teutonic equivalent of "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," recognizing the sanctity of the rede they would pronounce, performing religion at its most essential, by coming together in council, as the Gods did, as one, with one heart, and one will. This is accentuated by the fact that often when the folk spoke to Christian missionaries about their unwillingness to give up their religion, they referred to it as their "law", for law and holiness were one. This again does not designate some sort of legal idolatry or theocracy, but quite the contrary, a prophetic sense of the peril and importance of law, through which the will of the Gods' justice would be done or denied on earth.

That is a sense of holiness we have lost as juries have been bled and their powers given over to Congresses and (un)representatives, but it is something that we, as retribalizing heathens, can remember in our kindreds, realizing that when we come together in rede to contemplate and discover what is right, we are enacting religion even moreso than at our liturgical services which should only serve to remind us of the awesome holiness and righteousness of the Gods. Truly, as the Hebrew prophets told their own people, when justice is not done in the land, the ceremonies are empty.

May Right be Done ; May Our Actions be Trustworthy and Truthful. This is True Religion, and No Else.

All translations copyright 2009 by Siegfried Goodfellow