Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Heathenism and New Thought : Not Compatible

Heathenism by its very nature must be strongly against the mainline of the New Thought movement, which suggests that reality is what we think, as if there were no real world, independent and sovereign, as Dave Foreman so aptly puts it, into which we must adjust ourselves. If the world is thought, it is not our thought. It is the thought of millions of spirits who dream it together. Heathenism always acknowledged those millions of spirits, those others with whom we share the world. So see this as dream or firm reality, it is the thought of all of us together in tandem. While New Thought erases those spirits and reduces things down to a two which is really a one : there is you, and there is God or the Universe, really in the form of a giant teat there to supply all of your infantile needs. To this, heathenism says : grow up. Grow up and acknowledge that the world exists outside of you and your thoughts. Grow up and realize that negative thoughts may affect your own morale and the morale of those around but do not in and of themselves change the reality of forests and deserts and mountains.

Yes, there was an acknowledgement of magic in the old tradition, but significantly, it was always envisioned as a singing with the spirits, a joining the chorus, as it were, and not a solo act before which the world bows down in applause. No, the world is real, even be it a co-dreaming. It is real and solid and soulful. In its hardness and opaqueness and sometimes impenetrability, its roughness and its sharpness, its variable coefficient of adversity, as Sartre puts it, are parts of its soul. We may be drawn by spirits along currents of wyrd that are the way the world works, and in that gushing flow of might, we may be drawn to that which we most need, and be blessed by its magic, but it is the magic of the world, and our nimble, skillful, humble return to the chorus.

Heathenism : Deep Populism, Deep Ecology

The Earth knows her own, those close to her, those who work her, those who sleep next to her, those who stay humble. She knows her salt, she knows those who pick her fruits. She knows the plight of those nestled within her nooks and who work within her crannies, and her love is upon them, for they are her creatures. All who stay that close to the land are hers, and she remembers. The mountaineers, the hillbillies, the okies of the world, the sharecroppers and migrant workers, who ought in marriage by law be joined to her, and who stay close to her, she knows. Place your belly right upon the ground if you would know her, and be good to those children close to her, no matter what your height. Even if you deem the high mountains and sky your domain, take heed for the lowly, for they are of Frigga, and she knows them. When Frigga and Odin were joined, the high and low touched, and pact was made to preserve the peace throughout all time, that high and low together joined might help each other, as in the bonds of marriage between All Father and Earth Mother.

The coming together of the Aesir and Vanir is really a quite powerful event. It represents those who are of the land making a pact with those with special skills to protect and to ward, and coming together. When the Vanir break from the Aesir, they are stating : we have the power to oust you. That which is below may uproot that which is above if that which is above fails to meet its mandate of honor and protection, and indeed, they did have the power, and they did oust them. In time, they found that they needed them, and Odin reproved his usefulness to the world. Such it always is on the level of the Gods : those who wish to have high positions must prove their merits, and although Odin's ousting was the result of slander on the part of Gullveig, the principles remain the same : those who would be high must prove their honor to those below.

A heathen looks up to the skies and takes guidance from the heavens, but begins with the Earth, the feet on the ground. Begins with the All-Mother, she whom through marriage was raised to the heavens yet is of the earth itself.

O downtrodden, call upon your Mother, the sweet loamy substance, Queen of soils and silent wights of wood and field ; she hears you, she knows your story, she knows all stories through the long ages.

Heathenism is a kind of populism, a populism of field and country. You see, we've barely heard paganism from the mouths of most of those who practised it. Sure, we can get the general outlines from Roman aristocrats, and the broad textures of the mythic stories from the court poets, but to know how the powers were called upon by those of field and woodland, we must go to those who still are of field and woodland, and let their soul enrich our soul, and through that mixing of minds that Odin talks about in Havamal, to come again and look at the myths anew, and know them from the ground up.

As deep populism, heathenism calls out for the voices of the people to be heard again : the folk on the street, the folk on the back paths, the folk on this and that side of the tracks. The resurgence of the people and their voice to once again be heard.

Deep populism and deep ecology : there is no contradiction in true heathenism. We listen to the voices of the folk, we listen to the voices of the Earth. It is Garrison Keillor and Dave Foreman. It is Pete Seeger and Johnny Rotten. It is Walt Whitman and Ovid, Carl Sandburg and the Georgics. It is Studs Terkel and it is Rachel Carlson. It is Robert Coles and Aldo Leopold. When the folk return to the autochthonic, they become scions, expressions, of the earth itself.

The Law of the Land

We will be judged by the laws with which the land is governed, for they are either the outcome of our own sovereign folkmoots, or we have treasonously abandoned those local forms through which we would govern the use of the land, and what could be more important than how we treat Beloved Mother Earth? That something is perfectly legal does not make it lawful, for law arises up from the deep morality of the folk in tune with the land, who seek benefit, yes, but benefit with balance. It is gain unbalanced by wholeness which is condemned ; gain balanced within the whole all creatures seek.

The kind of buildings we build, the kind of buildings we are allowed or not allowed to build ; the way we farm or are allowed or not allowed to farm ; the way we hold land or are not allowed to hold land ; the land we treat other species with regard or disregard as a whole, by fair or unfair harvest ; they way we loan as brothers or loan as usurers, the way we trade fairly or unfairly ; the way the settlements grow or are imposed upon the land, and the justice or injustice with which they do so --- we will be asked whether we gave our hand and pledge to these laws. We will be asked whether we bowed down under a yoke not given by our ancestral Gods of the Earth and Sky.

The valleys and mountains shall be examined for their wholeness, and all the spirits of the land shall give testimony, and the voices of the Earth shall not be silent. The opportunities we have laid out, their character and integrity ; the benefits we have granted and received ; the allotments we have yielded for people to live their lives --- all shall be examined according to right. It is never enjoyment or gain which are condemned, but rather the Gods, loving pleasures, closely scrutinize them for their wholeness and richness, and poorly-grown pleasures dessicated by bitterness, gutted by ungainly greed, and unbalanced with the whole of the good life spoil the flavor and make poor and miserly the offerings given.

We are not judged by perfection, though we ought reach to better ourselves, but by the standard of the good life, which differs by time and clime, and yet which is also all too easy to fall from. If we fall and get back up, not too much is lost, and much may be regained, but some falls are difficult to climb up from, and some may be disastrous. There is weight to our choices ; there is gravity to the laws to which we give our pledge. If the rede by which the land of the land is allotted is faulty, if the design and purposes and principles are out of alignment with the good life of wholeness upon the Earth, there will be injustice and misery unexplained throughout the land, as would-be pleasures are lost, never known, and fruits that would have been, rot unseen, with taste buds languishing in blandness that might have been flavor and color. Right, rights, the justice of the land is no abstraction. It is good lives or the absence thereof. It is benefit for all, or benefit for few with misery for many. It is good feasts and conviviality, or walls and separation. It is roots reaching the soil's aquifers, or shrivelled dessication just barely hanging on, knowing not why nor wherefore.

Look on your town and its layout, the way human hands caress or slash the Earth, and see before your eyes the hymns or curses that are cast before the Gods. The prophets do not condemn the rich for their parties, but for absconding them from the folk, who ought share in the feasts. The feasts are for all, and those who have stolen them, ought give them back, if the Gods would be pleased.

Bad law separates us from our powers, it severs us from our fruits, it divides us from our brothers, it removes us from our cousins, it cleaves wyrds that might have blessed generations with kindreds convivial coming together in grape and barley, loaf and loving, song and dance, so that rather, in poverty of full enjoyment, looking up at skies seeming barren, hearts ask emptiness of the Gods, and why.

The law is a lake, a river flowing over the land, distributing blessings, layering up soils alluvial and fresh, yielding crop and succour, or dearth. Why the leader of the law assembly was linked to fertility? From the law flows blessings or curses. From the law the folk speak or are silenced. From the law are long tenures or early graveyards, perennial parties or too-soon partings. Friends who would have come together, wives who would have met husbands, children who could have been, lovers lost in the shuffle, magic made in meetings and matings and marvellous concord and discourse. Look out upon the lay of the land and see where the law has flowed or obstructed the hills and the valleys, caressed or cut the Earth's contours, blended or broken the lush scenery, honored or outlawed the movement of creatures and peoples upon her face. Look and see whether walls or welcomes have been erected, and there see, not but with eyes, but with Odin's eye of vision deep within the well, the worship your folk do offer.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Get Tough Like the Trees

Get tough!
Get tough like the trees!
Fibrous, thick, barked, and covered!
Get tough like the trees!
Full of thick sinews and veins of sap!
Get tough like the trees!
Firm roots holding fast the deep soil!
Get tough like the trees!
Blow in the wind and hold your ground!
Get tough like the trees!
Let go when the cold comes ; grow back when the Spring arrives!
Get tough like the trees!
Green boughs strong that weather the shifting climes and circumstance.
Get tough like the trees!
Proud and tall, monument to hard ages endured, and still growing strong!
Get tough like the trees!
Come into your fullness, acorn!
Grow barrel-bellied, shoot and sprout!
Be venerable, hoary-dandered elders!
The Earth will ask much of you ; the weather asks, too.
Times will be tough and yet still you must find your green,
and reach up towards the sun, or stretch down,
and feel the sugars locked in your ground-sieving roots.
It would be bad if you withered,
It would be bad if you lost your sap,
It would be bad if green leaves no longer grew.
Get tough like the trees!
There's fruits you're here to grow, to give.
You'll want to know the joy of sharing
with those who gather beneath your boughs.
You'll want to know the pride of giving
by having come into your own
through thick and thin, and still having rendered something juicy.
Get tough like the trees!
Yield not to axe nor fire,
and do your part to regrow the Old Growth woods of old.
Get tough like the trees!
Your fruit is needed,
Your shelter is needed,
Your proud example for the shoots is needed.

Pismo Beach, Dominator Culture, & Protected Sanctuaries

I'm at Pismo Beach. This is America at its worst. Because there is some sort of camp site down at the beach, cars are allowed to drive right along the beach by the water! If you look, you will notice that there is absolutely no one out here on the beach enjoying themselves, the waves or the water, because there are cars, mainly trucks, four-wheeling it across the beach, basically monopolizing the area in that obnoxiously aggressive American way that the entire world hates, with no respect for nature.

There is a bird sanctuary right behind the beach, and these cars are driving back and forth all the time. So, you come down here to the beach to enjoy the water and to enjoy the fresh air? No. The fresh air is completely destroyed by the exhaust fumes constantly being belched out by the continuous line of vehicles. We're not talking about a small space or little drive-through. We're talking the entire length of a beach from the edge of vision to the other edge of vision! And by the way, they come right down to about the edge of the water, so if you want to take a walk right by the edge of the water, you're constantly having to watch for some car which may be driving by.

If you think it's obnoxious to have to be breathing in toxic exhaust fumes while trying to enjoy your walk on the beach, imagine being a mother bird trying to nurse her eggs or children. These mothers trying to lay their eggs are being poisoned by this exhaust.

This is just one example of those dominator values I hate in this culture so fucking much . It quintessentializes things. Many philosophers have stated, Sartre amongst them, that there are certain situations or examples that quintessentialize the essence of something. Besides prison, bootcamp, and of course the corporation, something like this is really revealing of core values : obnoxious Americans wanting to truck in their trash whereever they want to go with absolutely no respect for their footprint, or in this case, their tire-tracks, upon nature. It is disgusting, and from a heathen standpoint, it is a total thumbs-down. This is total disrespect for Njord. This is like spitting and shitting on an altar of Njord.

It's a symbol of what too often makes America simply a repeat of the Roman Empire, just with greater technology, and therefore more ability to ravage. Too often America exists in the image of Rome and not in the image of the Germanic and Celtic tribes that tried to free themselves from Rome. It's an attitude of domination over others, over nature, and an arrogance that our needs come before those of anyone else. It's an attitude of fundamental irreverence towards the world and its many inhabitants, and it makes me so angry that I don't even know what to do with all that anger.

It's an anger for which my barbarian ancestors were well known. It was an anger which caused them to pick up wicker shields, wooden pikes, rakes, pitchforks, whatever was at hand, to attack those Romans who dared to desecrate the beautiful world around them, and try to turn it into a degradation and enslavement.

I am a human being standing with other human beings enraged, disgusted, riled, saddened, and wanting to take a meaningful stand against domination in the world : domination of human beings by human beings, domination of nature by human beings. The more domination comes to characterize the world, the more irreverence there is : basic, fundamental contempt. The more contempt there is in the world, the more the soul feels outraged and violated. The more one's soul feels outraged and violated, the more one is alienated and living more and more on alien territory. There are so many areas of modern life where domination and disrespect are just taken for granted, and the repression of the resulting anger again is just taken as a matter of course! And when it comes to violence, we do not distinguish between domination and resistance to domination.

It seems the overwhelming message is just "Sit down and shut up." Well, a heathen is someone who does not sit down and who does not just shut up, and seeks fellows willing to stand and make their words known.

It poisons a person to have so many things daily that incite one's outrage, and with so little justice available for that outrage, and where the expression of a passionate matter that concerns one's very soul is taken, if free speech is allowed at all, as just one more opinion in the marketplace, and people don't understand why you're getting so upset.

I'm upset because Rome has taken over! Maybe they have a different name, but it doesn't matter. Rome is a relationship. Rome is the name we give to a kind of relationship to the world, and that relationship is taking over more and more everywhere. Whatever name Rome may go under in a given area of the world, whenever we simply acquiesce to it, we're dishonoring those people who gave their lives to resist Rome.

Before battle, Germanic tribes would line up before the Roman legions, and they would clang their swords against their shields in unison as an expression of defiance, and they would make a low, amazingly powerful, threatening growl, an animalistic sound, and I would be very pleased to see heathens who get together in groups and do this in front of the present representatives of the Roman Empire.

I understand it could create a problem to show up with actual swords in a public place, but certainly there should be no problem with showing up with painted shields, and one could bring wooden swords or batons to clash against the shields. One could get into formation and really give a strong, intimidating show of protest that could be quite powerful, and there are plenty of sites and occasions where this sort of thing would be not only perfect, but genius.

That's one of the core reasons why I became a heathen : because I wanted others who hated domination and irreverence of each other and of the Earth who would stand by my side and shout against the Empire, and who would have the courage to support each other to regain essential freedoms that have in large part become empty buzzwords. Now you might say, Ziggy, it sounds like you were looking for a protest group, not for a religion. Don't you understand? The Germanic tribespeople were a protest group, relative to the encroachment of Rome, and they were a protest group with teeth! It's not that they didn't have their own life and their own essence, but part of that essence was protest with teeth against that which violated that which is of fundamental importance and reverence in the world.

The protest groups of the last fourty years have created a very meaningful slogan that is also Teutonic at its heart, and that is, "Without justice, no peace." It draws the line at what kind of peace we're talking about, because without justice, the only kind of peace that there is is pacification, and the Germanic tribes always stood against pacification. Pacification is the stance of "Sit down, shut up, and let us enjoy our luxury founded on domination and disrespect for the world." Too many new religious movements are about helping people to find peace without also helping them to find justice. To tell someone experiencing domination and fundamental disrespect and irreverence to "find peace" is insulting and humiliating, actually. It is true that holding in such anger can poison a person. That's one of the many things that makes domination so deadly, but when you tell someone to make peace with that which destroys them, you have become a collaborator with that which destroys them. That is not love, and I certainly can't see how it is religion.

After my walk along the truck-polluted beach, I walked up the sand dunes looking over the bird estuary, which is surrounded by posts and cables, with signs indicating that it is a sensitive ecological area where birds are trying to lay their eggs, and saw two men in their early 20's playing golf, and hitting golf balls right into the pond where the birds were gathered! I was furious. I said, "Are you allowed to be in there?". One young man said, almost defiantly, "Yah." I said, "Y'know, that sounds like bullshit to me, but whatever you say. Just doesn't seem like throwing golfballs around is really going to be conducive to those birds laying their eggs." "We're just having fun," he said. I said, "But hey, since you're so confident that you're allowed to be in there, then you're going to have no problem with the fact that I'm calling the authorities and letting them know what you're doing." Once they heard that, within two minutes, they were gone.

That was a victory of sorts, and a demonstration that there are times that simply asserting yourself and holding your ground against violators can have its effects, and I'll thank Tyr for some sense of victory! That was excellent. It'd be nice for a group of people to rattle their shields and growl-scream at the campout where the trucks travel back and forth, too.

"We're just having fun." Look, I love Freyr. I love fun and pleasure and human gatherings of games to enjoy each other's company, and sit back and relax. But the key is fun that does no harm.

This is a serious heathen issue. Those stakes and cables surrounding the estuary are the closest thing our society has to ve-bonds that consecrate a sacred space, and that estuary where the birds are allowed to be free from molestation so they can continue to propagate their families is one of the closest things our society comes to a sacred grove, and therefore, those who violate those ve-bonds and the sacred grove within ought to receive very gruff, very firm rebuffs. In the old days, they would have received much worse than that. In the old days, when it came to the sacred groves, people knew what "keep out" meant, and knew the consequences, often dire and even deadly, for violating those rules.

There are plenty of places for people to have fun, and I have no problem with those two young men going and having a fun game of golf --- somewhere else, where birds aren't being protected. But the line must be drawn somewhere, and there is nothing more important than restoring the sense of Algiz, the protected sanctuary.

Let's challenge those areas of our culture that make us ashamed. Let's assert values that will restore this culture to a well-earned sense of pride. Dismissing fundamental ecological relationships is a legacy of a Christian culture which cut down our sacred groves. Let's evolve into a new culture of respect for life and zero tolerance for domination. I'm sure there's plenty of Native Americans who will be happy to join. Did I say join? I meant to say they'll be happy that we're finally beginning to wake up and join the struggles they've been carrying on for dozens of generations.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Heathenism : A Tradition of Freedom

Arminius, hailed as the "Liberator" of Germania, repeatedly calls upon the ancestral freedom of the Germanic peoples, granted and preserved by the ancestors, and explicitly states that the Roman rod, axe, and toga will never be accepted within German territory. The rod symbolizes Rome's imperial power of authority as well as their tendency to punish. Romans whipped slaves and prisoners with the rod. The axe not only symbolizes their power of capital punishment, but also the axes which would fell their great forests, and the toga the sign of Roman citizenship and colonialism. These are very clear statements. Arminius and other Germans continually becry how everywhere the Romans went, they laid waste and devastated the soil of the earth, clearing forests out of their greed, and that the Gods of the Germanic people did not support such imperious tyranny.

The people themselves made it clear that they would not accept anyone trying to rule it over them, but rather that leaders rule by example and by boldness, and indeed, the people drove out and ejected any leader who fell into arrogance. The qualities they admired in a leader was someone was a good host, who welcomed all the people regardless of any factions, to come to the sacred banquets where the Gods were toasted and meals were shared, and all discourse was put aside, and the leader would meet with all people regardless of who they were, demonstrating that he could not show preference to the nobility, but had to show a general sociability, and that the three qualities desired above all in a leader were generosity, kindness, and moderation, as positive qualities. In addition, a leader was to reject envy. This is very important given the corruption that Heid had mythologically propagated. A leader gathers the folk together so that they may go beyond any internal divisions, and discover their internal concord. The leader is thus a bold servant of the people who defends their freedom and rights.

Neither rod nor axe nor participation in empire, submitting not to rule by force, nor threat of violence and environmental degradation, nor by the toga trying to derive benefits through a rapacious empire. Again and again it is made clear that these are the values that the tribes of Germania were fighting for. They were fighting for their freedom and the integrity of their homelands, their odal lands, whose heaths and sacred groves they were to steward. They distrusted those who were used to being waited upon by slaves, and corrupted by foreign ideas of power. They hated people who thought the whole world was their jurisdiction and that there should be no other judges but them.

Literally, historically, were it not for their brave struggles and victories, the English language would not be being spoken today, nor would juries exist, nor the idea of limited governments meant to protect the rights of the people and the law of the land. Now, these customary practices may have become very watered-down in days of late, but they still contain the kernal of a great deal of popular sovereignty. Thomas Jefferson himself acknowledged that the fundamental ideals of the American Revolution --- the ideals of liberty and popular sovereignty --- stemmed in large part from the values and practices of the Germanic tribespeople, who managed to resist and ward off Rome's imperium from their homelands.

So the traditions of these folk hold a place of prominence in their particular hatred of tyrannical power, celebration of freedom, and, most pointedly, their insight that bribery and benefits taken from those in power is often more destructive to liberty than conquest by warfare itself. The tradition thus has an essential relationship to both the celebration of liberty and the defiance of arrogant authority. Leaders were chosen out of families renowned for their education, knowledge of law, keeping of the sacred songs, and proven valor in protecting the land-rights, but they were chosen nonetheless by the popular assemblies, which were not arbitrary legislatures constantly creating new laws to impose upon the people, but the gatherings of the families and clans themselves in tribal council to protect their rights from such arbitrary interventionism.

This is not to say that there have been no other tribes or traditions in history that have championed liberty and pushed off invaders. Far from it. We can find examples of this all over the world, from ancient Britons to Native Americans, and so forth. It is simply to emphasize that the tradition embodied within the English language as a mother-tongue, by all those who speak it, holds a history of dogged determination to retain rights and fiercely fight for freedom, which, while not unique, is therefore exceptional amongst many other traditions, many of which unfortunately accomodated to a much greater degree arbitrary power and class division.

The central institution or right that helped the folk to avoid such a fate was the before amentioned land redistribution customs, which as a kind of sacred lottery constitutes not only a reflection of Wyrd in all its aleatory fecundity, but also that game of chess-and-dice once played by the Gods in the beginning of time. So long as they played that game of dice, they were happy, and the world was happy, but when the three Giant maidens come and stir up a greed for gold, the downfall is set into motion, and the game-pieces are lost until the restoration. Similarly, once the Germanic people had put aside their sacred lottery that regularly redistributed the land, giving over to the love of riches and individual Roman-style private property, that gave way to severe class divisions, they lost their happiness as well. Yet even when they shed practices, they remembered, and they kept the memories alive, even if at times in fragments, for us, their descendants, to piece back together, and restore.

This is not just a spirituality, although it is that in full. It is a heritage of freedom and how to stay free. It thus holds all the veneration for nature which we so understandably admire in ancient pagan societies, but without the fall into empire that unfortunately came to characterize many of them. Notable in this regard is the fact that the taking of interest was unknown amongst the ancient Germans.

Their myths demonstrate a continual disdain for, and resistance to, imposition by brutal force, cruelty, stupidity, and avarice ; and favor wisdom, enlightenment, and the pleasures of conviviality, with the gathering of folk in consensus, be that in the festive and sacred gatherings themselves, or the popular assemblies, being the key institution of popular sovereignty and individual and tribal freedom. Since the Germanic Gods are explicitly portrayed by the prophetic sages as warning against slavery and reminding that the practices which they have taught are guardians against such servitude, and keeping in mind that the Germanic people themselves did not tolerate arbitrary leaders, it follows that the nature of their worship is not a submission to Gods seen as arbitrary authorities, but again, admiration and loyalty to those who granted estates and rights to the people through their creative powers of sharing and bold example. Our modern society has for too long faltered between a theism in subjection to divinity envisioned as a tyrant before whom one must submit, and an atheism which understandably wanting to push away such submission, throws the baby of spirituality out with the bathwater.

This is a different way of worship : a celebration of blossoming, of coming into one's own, so that one may oneself fructify one's native land and people, rounds of toasts and voluntary gifts of showing loyalty and worship to the creative powers of the cosmos. It consists neither in an anonymous, bewildering, and overwhelming mass of conflicting and often amoral deities, nor a unity which banishes diversity, but a wholeness that represents a balance of land and sky, male and female. It is neither ethically relativist, equalizing all values and abolishing the distinction between right and wrong, nor imposing a monopolistic, rigid, and monolithic set of values that does not allow for the diversity of nuances, conditions,and preferences amongst people. Divinity is neither conceived of as a quarrel of divisive powers who competitively pull us into conflict and division, nor as a monarch who holds sole and arbitrary power. It is not the institutions of civil war nor monarchy that represent divinity in this tradition, but rather the central institution of the family, of home and of elders of that beloved ancestry and circle of love stretching back into the generations to the beginning of time itself. Divinity is a family which comes together to ward off the monstrous potentials in the world, and to lead us by example. They are not tyrants who force us to do anything. There are consequences to every action, but those are natural consequences that unfold out of the nature of Wyrd or the universe itself.

They lead by example, and they tell us that if we will take their advice, it would be good for us. The telling of the stories, and the gatherings remind us of that good advice that helps us preserve our freedom and the plentiful abundance of the world. We have lost sight of those examples, and the world has to a large degree fallen into decay and tyranny, where it might, with all the creative powers which we have managed to develop and harness, be a strong circle of fellows in mutual aid. One might ask why do the Gods allow all this, and that is in a sense to ask a question of an arbitrary ruler towards his subjects, a relationship which does not apply in this tradition. Rather, all along, the Gods have been there, setting the example for us, but we have lost the poets, who, enlightened through their inspiration, had chanted and taught the stories of that bold example. This is the heritage we have to recover and with which increasingly and collectively practiced can begin to restore the world place by place, gathering by gathering, deed by deed, life by life. Such a task may seem hopeless. We may indeed seem to be surrounded by giants before whom our influence and power is dwarfed, but it must always be remembered that in this tradition, the Gods, and their example of enlightenment and freedom, is always on the side of those against the giants.

Religion is, in the end, a very serious matter, not to be taken flippantly, for going beyond theatre, fiction, and liturgy, it is a basic declaration of allegiance to the powers and values which one testifies have worth in life. When you think about it in that way, that is something not to take lightly, and the character of those candidates placed before us by the world's religions and imagination as representatives of deity ought to be scrutinized quite carefully for the values they represent and the traditions they carry. In a very significant sense, when one chooses one's deity or deities, one is choosing those one will be judged by. There is a spectrum, of course, but at the end-points along that spectrum, we must ask ourselves : do we choose tyrants and ill-mongerers, or elders who treat us as younger peers and wish both our benefit and our blossoming?

There are many, many good traditions in the world, many beautiful ways of envisioning the cosmos and deity, just as there are many who, through human error, have fallen into servitude and unwholeness. But within the diversity of good and beautiful options which as a tradition of tolerance the Scandinavian heathen tradition always celebrates, I believe that it remains competitive in its appeal, in its breadth and reach, in its poetic profundity, in its ability to accomodate diversity, and in its no-nonsense approach to right and wrong that still allows us to be wonderfully human and celebrate our good lusts and longings in life. It is a tradition to be proud of because it supports freedom.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Gnostic Themes in Heathen Myths

Thomas Taylor, the famous English Platonist who was contemporaneous with William Blake, was one of the first in the English world to reintroduce the idea in his work on Bacchus that the descent of Persephone into Hades was in fact the descent of the Godhead into this world, which is in fact a kind of death-camp, a prison or hell, which transforms the familiar Catholic idea of the harrowing of hell whereby Jesus descends to free the good souls into a Gnostic myth, which can be paralleled by Hercules' descent into the underworld and tassling with the dog of death, Cerebus ; Odin descending into the mountain to retrieve the mead from the giants, and so forth.

The idea is one of a divine or heroic spirit descending into a world of monsters and of death to either liberate it or to retrieve something of value hidden within it. One finds a Neoplatonic and quasi-Gnostic flavor in many tribal mythologies. Indeed, a recent study of Chumash mythology, originated by the tribes along the Ventura and Santa Barbara coastlines of California, written by one of the Santa Barbara Museum's foremost experts on Chumash culture, has seen it as a largely Neoplatonic structure, and there is no inroads for even the wildest of conspiracy theories to suggest that any form of Mediterranean Neoplatonism could even potentially have ended up affecting old Chumash mythology. It is likely that a study of other tribal mythologies around the world would yield a similar Neoplatonic and quasi-Gnostic flavor as well.

We can find several examples of Gnostic-style myths in the Norse lore, the most obvious of which is Odin descending into the mountain to retrieve the mead of wisdom, but there is also prominently the descent of Freyr as Frodi into this world to help overcome the slave-system the giants had set up, and Saxo, defensively calling upon Jesus, makes reference to a narrative whereby at that time God descended into human flesh with which he clothed himself in order to bring about blessings.

We can find traces of a Gnostic-style myth when Freya's husband Odr goes astray and being led by things of this world, comes back into the strife of this world after peace has been declared by the Gods. After he has been exiled, and transformed into a beast, Freya descends into the world as she wanders about diverse lands taking on many names, searching for her lover. Since Odr is equivalent to the poetic capacity of imagination and soul in human beings, the ascent of Odr into the heavenly realm and then being dragged back down by issues of generation and strife in this world (his mortal son being endangered) definitely has a Gnostic flavor to it. There is a fall of the soul depicted there, with Freya, Love, going out to search for Soul in this world, wandering in many forms, finally discovering him in bestial form, and then bringing him back up into the heavens, after he has found his true genealogy, for he has lost knowledge of who he actually is. I don't know how we could get a more Gnostic myth than this! To find his hidden genealogy, of which he was unaware, Freya must take him down into the underworld itself, into the cavern of monsters, where She who Deludes and Hides Information will share with him the knowledge that he is related to all beings in the cosmos! The incredible genealogy reproduced in Hyndluljod shows him to be related to giants, elves, Vanir, men, and the Aesir! I don't believe there is any mention of dwarves but they may be included as well. The point is, he is related to every being in the cosmos, and when he gains this information he is able to ascend into Valhall to spend his days in Folkvang, the Meadow of the Folk in Sessrumnir, the Roomy Benches of Freya's Hall, with her.

The Gnostic themes don't end with these three very prominent examples. There is a famous story of Thor's hammer, that which gives him his might and power to fight off the monsters, being stolen, and ending up deep in the earth in the land of the monsters, and he having to feminize himself, go into the world of the monsters, and there, in a sort of comedic parody of the hieros gamos or sacred marriage, reclaim the hammer through which he has his might. There is also the story of Thor descending down into the Lair of Illusion, and having to tassle with illusions. This, again, is a very Gnostic theme. And so we have many deities of the pantheon, and major ones at that --- Odin, Thor, Freya, Frey --- participating in what the Gnostics of the Mediterranean would have found to be stunningly Gnostic myths.

Now Gnostic myths always admit of creativity, and Gnostic themselves often encouraged people to write their own variations of the Gnostic myth, but the basic essence of the Gnostic myth is that there is something corrupt about this world, a corrupt element has woven its way into its world, or that this particular world itself in fact began with corruption, and that there is an attempt on the part of the beneficent beings to themselves infiltrate this world with elements of good that can help redeem nature from its monstrous qualities. This features prominently in Norse cosmology, where in the beginning of time we find the emergence of matter as a giant, roaring monster, out of which the Gods try to make lemonade out of some lemons by killing this monster and reshaping its forms to create a living world. Now it's fairly clear that there were worlds outside of this, because both Niflheim and Muspelheim are mentioned, with a gap between them, and of course, the World-Tree has ever existed, and thus it would appear that the emergence of Ymir marks the possibility of a new world emerging on the World Tree, one quite monstrous in form, an alchemical discard of poison, fire, and ice, and that the Gods reform this monstrosity into Midgard, a realm with good chances for its beings to make good and refind the circle of life. It is by no means perfect, and full of pitfalls, its very substance being "monster corpse", as it were, but it has its possibilities. The world is fallen, but not entirely so. It is in the process of being repaired. The Gods are a part of that long repair project, and they have placed essences or gifts within us as human beings that allow us to participate in that renewal process.

Unfortunately this is a process of repeated trial and error, there having been continual falls that have followed the original fall. When many of the elves left the divine order and fell into darkness, a great deal of the forces that tend to the world of nature and allow divine essence to be infused into the monstrous matrix disappeared, allowing for darker and more monstrous forces to remain intact in this world, leaving a gap that perhaps might be filled by enlightened human beings, although we have yet, at least most of us, to find the elvish powers that would allow us to actually penetrate into the heart of nature itself with our will and song as elves do (although perhaps this is the very science after which the alchemists sought). In this find I find an intriguing parallel to the Christian myth in Revelations of the 144,000 souls of the elect who will be able to take positions of divine governance as saints over the renewed world, presumably in place of a similar number of angelic souls that fell ; the common idea here being of a split in the process of creation that can be filled by people enlightening themselves and joining the Gods in their work of repair and mending.

The struggle of the Gods against the monstrous elements of this world were often visualized in terms of battle, which is a kind of natural image of such struggle, as well as a creative coopting for the good of those unfortunate elements of strife that often appear in human society as well as the world, and the old societies were not naive about the presence of evil in this world, and therefore the necessity to defend oneself from those ills. In fact, in the Teutonic lore, one of the foremost patriarchs, the first Judge and Jarl of the folk, and Lawgiver, was named Scyld, as well as "Borgar", which can also mean "protector" or "saviour", both concepts of protection being necessary in a world where large numbers of people have fallen into corruption and greed. This necessity to be ready for attack, and the images of warfare against powers of ill were ready at hand when Germania had to confront Rome as a "civilized" empire, but as Tacitus indicates, they had already had several tassles with the Celts in Gaul, who themselves had begun their if not ascent, at least assimilation of several aspects of empire. Caesar makes it very clear that for all the enlightenment of the Druids, the common people were treated almost as mere serfs in Gaulish society, which demonstrates at least the emergence of terrifically unfree forms of hierarchy. These were formidable enemies against which the German peoples had to defend themselves, and eventually became proud of their ability to preserve their freedom with arms. The problem is, of course, as Teutonic society became more and more militarized in its intergenerational wars with the Roman Empire, and then later, as its northern Scandinavian branches tassled with the Roman Catholic Empire, these images of warfare originally intended to invoke the Gnostic struggle were more and more transformed into vulgar glorifications of war by those who had become rigidly armored in Reichian terms. This is no surprise. Whenever there are good runes, Gullveig is quick to come up with corruptions of those into bad runes. That process seems very clear in the myths. The Hindus for their part understand very well that in the Kali Yuga, tools originally channeled by loving shamanic priests to help human beings love each other and learn their good nature themselves can become tools of domination and enslavement, and thus innovative approaches become necessary.

Now some might fear that this Gnostic approach veers heathenism dangerously close to a Christianity which they had longed to leave, but many people having come under the spell of Christianity's attempted monopoly of perennial themes do not realize that Christianity took up many, many themes of prior pagan and paganesque societies, but, like Yaldabaoth, the evil creator-god in the Mediterranean Gnostic mythos, Christianity has thought itself to be the only revelation, the one and only, and is not aware of all of its fellow divine possibilities. This exposition of heathen myth indeed enables to have interesting dialogues with Christian mythologists, and I'll put an emphasis on that last term, as that would enable them to have rational discussions with us, rather than hysterical discussions ; but in fact, it is more akin to Zoroastrianism, a clearly Gnosticized Iranian heathenism, as well as Orphism, which having a Dionysian emphasis, still clearly invokes the Greek pantheon. Zoroastrianism itself, of course, produces an offshoot, Mithraism, which again, had a very Gnostic or Mystery Religion flavor to it, was a competitor with Christianity, and indeed from which Catholicism derived many of its rituals. It would not be too farfetched to suggest that Jews at the turn of the millenium between B.C. and A.D., having been exposed to Zoroastrian ideas during their stay in Babylon and their liberation by Cyrus, the Persian hailed as a messiah in Isaiah, and then more proximately during the time of the Maccabees and thenon, being familiarized with the Dionysian mysteries, saw an opportunity to do Philo-in-reverse, as it were. Philo was the great Jewish mystic who translated Old Testament stories in terms of the Mysteries, while instead, this Jewish community sought to translate the Mysteries into a kind of Old Testament language, which was easily done by drawing on the great prophetic literature. The Jews were no strangers to perception of evil in this world, as well as hopes for redemption from that evil, and they were able to take the themes of Osiris, available to them from Egypt, and Dionysus, available in the Greek culture which surrounded them, midrash these clearly pagan and slightly Gnosticized models through Old Testament prophecies and create the Christian literature which has since become literalized. Now, we aren't prevented by any of this, by any means, in postulating a Jewish rabbi familiar with Hillel, familiar with the Essenes, familiar with Greek Mysteries, from having incorporated all of these into his teachings, although I find Earl Doherty's suggestion that there was an entire Christian community that came up with these teachings and blended pagan themes into Jewish prophetic language to be a little more exciting. The point here is that we are discussing a common language that became literalized, then monopolized, then hystericized, then shoved down everyone's throat until no variations were allowed. Heathenism always pushes off such arrogant domination.

The problem is, of course, a misperception that paganism is simply a simplistic affirmation of nature, as well as the fact that our invocation of that concept of nature is a confused and muddled idea that doesn't allow us to confront the nuances of existence or its contradictions. This can degenerate into a vulgar "what exists is good, simply because it exists" stance, which is a stance that every status quo loves to reinforce. "Nature" is one of the most pernicious, and indeed, regressive concepts, utilized by tyrants all over the world to reinforce their status quo, and those possessed by empire love to see empire reflected in nature. Now, I don't doubt that there are such corrupted elements to be found in nature, but the extent of this may be rightfully doubted. Indeed, even the idea of a "pecking order" as such has only been around for a hundred years or so, and recent studies both of wolves and of dogs, which for a long time had presumed the existence of dominance hierarchies, have now been demonstrated to be false, and to be results of captivity. It would appear in both wolf and dog societies it is the elders who are given deference, and these elders have been given the name of "alphas" by human researchers, where what we find is a simple family structure. However, we are told a hundred times daily in myriad forms in our hierarchical society that such hierarchies are natural and therefore, of course, we ought to accept them. There are those who would invoke the Lay of Rig to justify this through calling up the "three classes" of Teutonic society, but let us make this clear : the Lay of Rig makes it painfully obvious to those who read it carefully that if there is a hierarchy, it is of those who are enlightened, who have opened themselves to the mysteries of existence, and since those mysteries are primarily revealed in myths which we have already demonstrated to be Gnostic in flavor, presenting the drama of a monstrous world being struggled against by divine powers which are in process of mending it by interweaving divine elements, but which struggle against human beings who become subject to the sorceries of negative powers, we can see that this is a very different kind of hierarchy than is usually propagated.

The naive "paganism = veneration of nature" equation becomes further corrupted in modern times into a "Social Darwinist Paganism", that, seeing nature solely through Social Darwinist eyes, meaning projecting empire and tyranny's worst characteristics onto nature, then seeks to worship that sociological model that has been projected into nature, a kind of vile heresy if I may so call it.

Nature as Zoroastrians have seen it has become a battleground between Angra Mainyu and Ahura Mazda, and thus from a Zoroastrian perspective, we would expect to see a mixture of tendencies in nature, with both hierarchical and anti-hierarchical, good and evil, natures in struggle. Imperialists glorify when they find hierarchical tendencies and hypostatize them to the detriment of perceiving anti-hierarchical tendencies. The point in all this being that as pagans or heathens, we are not required to uncritically affirm everything in nature, and especially not that which our scientists, engaged in a cultural practice called "science", tell us is "nature", a highly mediated, academically sealed and approved, nature, since they are often, and I am sorry to say this, feeding back to us their own preconceptions projected into nature. Many scientists will take umbrage to this, but it has been demonstrated time and again.

But that there is an experience of sacred nature that is essential to heathenism is without question. There is a numinosity found in the deepest forests that teaches us the nature of the Gods. Here the Gods have hidden themselves, as it were, providing opportunities for revelation through epiphany. The reality of epiphanous nature does not, however, mean, that everything in the world is sacred, and that there has been nothing touched by the giants. There is in fact a great drama going on, and a drama which it is important to perceive because the true function of warriors is to defend that realm which has been reclaimed from the giants and allows the world to be an epiphany of the good Gods, and keep it from being seized back by the monstrous forces. Thus when it comes to nature, heathenism is both neither-nor and both-and. It is a very complex and subtle doctrine not easily sloganized nor understood in simplistic binary terms.

My love of heathenism stems in large part, in fact, from its ability to embrace such complexity and enfold within itself sophisticated dialectics that can encompass many other spiritual movements, such as the Gnostic tendencies I've explored here ; when we consider that it was the spirituality of an entire "civilization" as it were, if we use that word to mean the accumulated culture of a nation of interrelated tribes, this complexity should come as no surprise.

Moonlight on the 4th of July

I spent my 4th of July at a beach in Ventura with my dad and sister. Supposedly there were going to be fireworks there, but apparently they were being held in Oxnard, many miles down the coast, and so while we could see fireworks, they were very small : little tiny bursts of color.

There was a dogshow at the Ventura Fairgrounds, and thus people in RVs and tents, and families had assembled by the hundreds down by the beach to watch the fireworks.

Since they didn't actually hold fireworks at the beach anywhere in Ventura, it was needless to say anticlimactic if you like fireworks.

Since I generally am not too fond of fireworks myself, this wasn't really a problem, and actually quite a bonus, for me. I got to enjoy some of the color, but without all the loud sounds of explosions. (I know, you're saying, hey, Ziggy, for someone who doesn't like explosions, you chose a strange religion, it being a "warrior" religion and all. You must be weird. First of all, yes, I am weird ; secondly, it's not a "warrior" religion ; thirdly, I chose it because it was the only religion on the planet that specifically talks about Wyrd as something Good!)

On the other hand, the moon was almost full, and its light was shimmering on the waves iridescent like dancing nymphs in white linen negligees, or like Odin writing runes in wavering Arabic script with Mani's light upon the waters. It was just gorgeous and awe-inspiring.

The appearance it gave, with the anticlimactic, diminutive, and only occasional fireworks in the distance, was of flocks of families converging on the shores to watch the moonlight on the water.


That was a powerful impression.

I thought to myself, wouldn't it be awesome to live in a culture where without the pretext of fireworks, families would assemble to come and watch the moonlight?

Really no ritual is necessary at all. There is something about having that gathering of families to witness a natural epiphany of beauty and wonder that is itself religious. Liturgy would almost make the cake too sweet. If I were to add any liturgy, it would be only as window dressing, only as merest framework to set the tone and then leave it alone. (Perhaps the problem with much of organized religion is that it does not know when to leave well enough alone.) Both Saxo's tale of Odin's undoing of ritual complications, as well as Havamal's invocation of not overgiving or oversacrificing suggest that in heathenism there has always been a sense of sacred simplicity.

The fact of the matter is you don't have to do much. When you've got moonlight on the water, and families gathered, it's an event, and it speaks.

Visions of a heathen revival flooded my imagination. Simple. Beautiful. Elegant. Powerful.

Best 4th of July I've had in years.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

An Epiphany of Frigga

It's about 6 in the morning. I'm standing in front of a tree on my walk in someone's front yard. It's filled with blossoms, and the first thing you hear when approaching the tree is the buzzing of bees. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of bees in this tree, buzzing about. It is as if the entire tree is a hive. I approach very gingerly and carefully this tree. It is an awe, it is a wonder, it is as if you can hear the tree itself singing through its bee organs. There is a reality where tree and blossom and bee are not separate, but connected.

You can hear the song of the Earth coming up through the tree and expressing itself in the buzzing of these very busy and delightfully dancing bees. It is a wonder one approaches with caution ; with that many bees, one doesn't want to disturb them. There is a certain mild kind of danger that requires a form of respect. It is thus that I would consider this to be a religious epiphany, right here in the middle of suburbia. A religious epiphany, because there is an awe that has a certain danger connected with it that brings a requisite level of respect, and a feeling of reverence that speaks beyond itself to a real felt connection with the Earth and with life, and that is religious!

It is as if I am at an altar of Frigga set up by the Earth itself, merely allowed by the suburban residence. I can stand in front of this and hear that droning, that buzzing, and can feel the living connection to the Earth.

There are certain creatures that sing that song even better than our own song-smiths : bees, cicadas, crickets, even locusts. These beings enable you to hear the landscape, and are therefore very sacred. Poets ought listen to their song and see if their rhythms might grant that awe that is magic itself to our hymns, for here the Earth speaks, through its crawling creatures.

Athelings and Odal

The atheling was the champion of the odal. That's clear in the etymological relationship of the words. In other words, a person who is part of the jarl class, of the noble class, gains their nobility via the fact that they champion odal rights. To simply call them an "upper class" or a "noble class" as if they were equivalent to any aristocracy is not only a misunderstanding but a turning of things upside-down. Their value and excellence lies in what they are championing, and it is through what they are championing that they achieve their status of nobility. When we examine the behavior of aristocracies historically, we realize that what is being gotten at here in the ancient lore is something quite different. Aristocracies rarely champion odal rights.

Kropotkin makes it clear that the foundation of the nobility in terms of their legitimacy was their original holding of the knowledge of the law. They were the educated class, the ones who memorized the laws and the stories, and therefore, their preservation of the rights, both in memory, to preserve them from amnesia, misunderstanding, and disinformation, as well as in the real world, to shield them from invading tyrants that would try to take them away, was what made people give the nobility such worth. These were people and families who took on responsibilities above and beyond the average living of a life. They educated themselves to levels of excellence in the interests of the common folk. Because of their willingness to take on extraordinary responsibilities above and beyond that which most people would want to attempt to, there were certain privileges that accrued to them, as recognition and reward for their fulfillment of responsibility in the defense of rights, reward and recognition granted by the people. A so-called nobility that is not championing the odal rights of the common people is no nobility at all in the eyes of Teutonic lore.

The athelings are the jarls, a word which I have demonstrated was used synonymously with gothi, the poetic priesthood, the shamanic song-smiths who sang the songs of the land. Now why this should be is connected with the fact that the odal rights had a spirituality of their own that underlay them. There is no legitimate land-holding without connection to the land-spirits who nourish that land, and the Gods who rule over them, and so a connection to the land-spirits and to the Gods who themselves govern those land-spirits is a necessary part of holding land.

Now whoever heard of that in the modern world, where property is an abstraction guaranteed solely through possession of money? To our modern ears, the idea of religious requirements for the holding of land sounds theocratic. But a slight twist of the ears allows us to see that what's being talked about is the necessity for ecological spirituality and responsibility as requisites for land-holding ; in other words, sacred stewardship.

The jarls as the living libraries of the songs that sing the spirits of the land are necessary parts of protecting the rights of that land.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Religion, Abstraction, and True Worthship

Religion is the trickiest, most treacherous, most perilous adventure, because of the ability to get caught up in the symbols rather than what the symbols are speaking, worshipping the words we speak rather than utilizing it as a language to express that which is most important in life. The peril of religion is leading people into subordinating themselves before abstractions.I don't want to worship an abstraction. I don't want to bow down before some statue, of, for example, a character named "Frey". That has no interest to me, and I am 100% in alignment with critiques of idolatry in that form. I want to experience genuine liberty, which itself is a "God", worthy of worth-ship, and which is itself fertile and productive of genuine festivity.

I have no interest in bowing down before human concepts. No, and ancient tribes of Germania didn't either! Tacitus states that very clearly. They knew that the numinous forces of life, which they worshipped, could not be contained in an image or a character, even within a myth, which is useful and wonderful, wonderful for storytelling, but it is not the all of things.

So, in a sense, "Frey" is a social contract, a set of symbols in a social contract whereby we can communicate about something existential that really matters to us : a source of passion, a sense of freedom in love, a feeling of fertility in lust.

And let us stop trying to literalize fertility all the time as simply meaning the increase of herds or human babies. Yes, that power is in the fertility that Frey and Freya represent. There's no doubt about that. But it's more fundamental than that! If you focus on that, you're focusing on a surface expression of a deeper sense of fertility, of life resplendant, and things being able to grow through joy. My Gods, if we forget that in this world, what have we come to? What kind of shallow lives are we living if we aren't from time to time able to come together and affirm that?

Now how do you do that without a set of symbols? There has to be a way of coordinating a human gathering to reaffirm that which is of value in life. The last thing I want to get involved in is a fight over the symbols, over names that are being used. These are a set of conventions that allow us to speak to and affirm very real, important feelings in life that hardly can be expressed at all in language! That's not my way of saying that "Frey" does not exist. It's my way of saying, Look at the moon, not at the finger pointing at it.

When you eat the menu rather than utilizing it to get the meal, you have come under the power of alienation. Your enslavement to abstractions has alienated you from your own life and your own power. Our myths tell us of Giant powers capable of the most convincing illusions, illusions capable of fooling not only Thor, but even Loki, the fooler himself! Chew on this for a while and digest it. The myths suggest that Giant powers are capable of illusion that can fool us so deeply we are drawn into thinking that something is something else, and where else would they exploit this the most but in human activity aimed at aligning itself with that which is good and vibrant in life, and therefore feeds the Gods and the world they tend? You'll know if your worship is illusory or authentic by its yield of either alienation or deep connection. If it hands your life back to you in ways that empower you, your fellows, and the planet, you've tapped into the real McCoy. But if you find yourself getting more and more confused, separated from your real self, asked to do things that make no sense for you, and more and more alienated from everything that is truly good in life, consider whether Utgard-Loki has enchanted you into a set of Giant illusions.

In the Golden Age of Rig and the Silver Age of Scyld, religious ritual effectively connected people to the Gods, but for that very reason, is certainly not something that would be left untouched by forces of degeneration. We have every reason to suspect that in the Axe Age, we must be very careful with religion, making sure to stay as close to our real and primal experience as possible. In Hinduism, this degeneration of religious ritual into alienation by those who themselves have become corrupted is expressed in the idea that tantra, a spiritual form that stays close to bodily experience, is necessary in the Kali Yuga, their cognate form of our Axe Age. "Lastly Tantra was specially allotted for Kaliyug. They say in Kali Yuga, it is not possible to adhere to the elaborate rituals and austerities prescribed by the Vedas, but it is possible to practice Tantra which leads to the same goal and at the same time contributes to man's physical needs." (L.R. Chawdri, Secrets of Yantra, Mantra, and Tantra, New Dawn Press Group, Elgin, IL, 1992/2005/2006, p. 137.) "Eliade (1969) says : ["] The syndrome of Kali Yuga is marked by the fact that it is the only age in which property alone confers social rank, wealth becomes the only motive of the virtues, passion and lust the only bonds between the married, falsehood and deception the first condition of success in life, sexuality the sole means of enjoyment, while external, merely ritualistic religion is confused with spirituality. For several thousand years, be it understood, we have been living in Kali Yuga. ["] The appropriate methodology for persons suffering in these ways begins directly with their bodily experience of life, utilizing the passions of sexuality in a yogic discipline, like tantric yoga. The materialism of the age, that "degeneration of symbolism" (Eliade, 1962) once expressed in the maxim, "If you can't eat it, screw it, or sell it, what is it?" is also met by special forms of yoga." (Eric Greenleaf, The Problem of Evil, Zeig, Tucker & Theisen, Inc., Phoenix, Arizona, 2000, p. 245.) "Tantric thought assumes that we live in a dark age (kali yuga) and, therefore, must use every method possible to boost our spirituality." (Joan Budilovsky, Eve Adamson, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Yoga, Penguin Putnam Inc., New York / Indianapolis, 2003, p. 56.) So we have to be very careful with symbolism in an age of alienation and degeneration, lest our symbols turn back against us, rather than leading us into the deepest and most primal parts of our own experience.

I am not going to bow down before some cosmic comic-book bureaucrat that the rational mind sets up, literalizing its own symbols, making them hypostatic and reifying them. "This comic book character who exists in the myths had this domain, and this is what he rules, and this is what he's like, and so we have to conform ourselves to this."

What are you talking about?! That's not what we're supposed to be doing here! We're supposed to be connecting to deep sources of Life! In the planet! In the skies above us! In our loins! In our deepest impulses and our strongest longings! And finding a way to connect those deepest impulses and strongest longings to other people so that we can come together as a community to affirm what is important, and to do some healing, because every community has backslidings and makes mistakes. We're imperfect animals! We're animals on this earth. We're imperfect. We make mistakes, so we need to heal those mistakes. How do we heal those mistakes but through the reaffirmation of what has value in life, not through bowing down to some symbols. No, through coming together to say, these powerful expressions of life have value to us!

They have worth.

That is true worthship.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

I Am A Heathen

Someone remembers the fields of pumpkin and corn beneath the paved streets and houses.

I am a heathen.

Someone remembers the wild grass meadows and oaks along the creeksides beneath the fields of pumpkin and corn.

I am a heathen.

Someone remembers the mammoths that once walked, and the tides that once claimed beneath the wild grass meadows and oaks along creeksides.

I am a heathen.

Someone remembers the mountains that moved and the foundations of bedrock forged in the fires of ancient creation, beneath the mammoths that walked and the tides that once claimed.

I am a heathen.

Someone remembers the dark matter roaring and floating midst fire and ice, its body of chaos slaughtered and shaped by ancient Gods, far beneath the mountains that moved and the foundations of bedrock forged in the fires of ancient creation.

I am a heathen.

Memory goes that far back, beneath the cities, beyond all colonization, even to the foundings of the very planet, and all the gifts of benefaction, fathers and mothers of flowers, meadows, forests and flocks of every wild fish and fowl and beast upon the roaming plains spilling out tumble-bumble from the rent body of Ymir as Frigga spread her emerald garment rippling around the spinning globe.

For I am a heathen.

Soul's Geography and Journeys

The geography of the soul is immense. The unbelievably wide expanses we will traverse in a lifetime can only be described through the medium of painstaking and adventurous travelogues, like Dante's Divine Comedy, or The Odyssey, or like ... the Travels of Odr.

Let's take Dante for beginners. Dante travels down into the pit, gradually spiralling down from worse to worst, and then ascends back up, hiking up Mount Purgatory, and then finally gets to go up into the highest, celestial realms. He sees the lowest and the highest, and in order to get to the highest, he must first plumb the depths. This is an archetypal journey, and we will see it in Odr's journey as well, where he must first go down into the Underworld and navigate its perils and wonders before he will be able to ascend into Asgard to finally wed Freya. Odysseus never ascends Mount Olympus, but his return to his homeland represents for him the attainment of bliss, and he, too, in order to get back must first descend into the Underworld.

The thing about the soul's journey is that no one else can tell us what course we will chart (not unless they are capable of seeing into such things, and even then can only give us helpful hints). Each of us will chart a different course through at times treacherously perilous, often densely intricate, and vastly extensive territory.

It may sound somewhat of a cliche these days to speak of the soul's journey, and once something has become cliche, we often are dulled to the power of the metaphor and fail to be affected by it in its fullness and power. When I speak of the "geography" of the soul, I am not speaking in cliches, but suggesting that only the vastness and tremendous contrasts of the world's geography can supply imagery that even begins to do justice to the kinds of inner journeys we will be called upon to trek in this life time.

Similarly, only those who can peer into the inner geography of another soul's journeys can possibly evaluate their worth and work, because we don't know the kinds of ells and leagues they have had to travel to get where they are. One can begin at a height early in life only to take a fall which one spends the next twenty years painstakingly trying to re-ascend. I would recommend accompanying the reading of that sentence without abstractions and with the intense imagery of actual geographic places, because, I suggest, the soul actually experiences them that way.

This is why Odr, who represents the soul in all of us, is called Vidforli in Icelandic and Widsith in Anglo-Saxon, "Widely-Travelled", because for the soul, our experiences and trials are experienced as wide, wide travels, even if we are not moving at all for some periods. The proverbial Norse caution against the heimsk, the homebody, is that without actually experiencing some of that larger geography, our poetic imagination will lack the raw material of soul meeting world to obtain the imagery necessary to encompass the actual soul-travels we are trekking. Travel and terrain give us those resources.

But this is not a matter of "resource extraction" in a one-way, colonial flow, but rather a sensuous exchange of love where soul meets world, and is meant to inspire our love and loyalty towards world itself. Earth, after all, is the Mother of Love.

We may have to travel through thick and tangled jungles that no one else can see, or across deserts where we are parched and challenged but also awed by the Zion-like beauty of the stone monuments, or across salty oceans into ports few at home can understand. The Gods see these journeys, which is why they, and only they, are qualified to judge and evaluate the soul in that doomstead near the Well of Wyrd. If we seek to evaluate another, understanding that it will always be only partial and imperfect given our imperfect mortal understanding, we must try to sense and grasp the kinds of inner geographies they have had to traverse in their travels and trials. We must attempt to visualize the terrain they've had to climb, walk, hike, schlep, and drag themselves across.

Soul has vast vistas it must cross.

I Know Not What I Become

I know not what I become, laying gifts of faith upon Wyrd's altars. Where she leads, I do not know, yet every one has a special task found only in the following of the unfolding inward, outward led into fullest blossom, and so I go, though the path is strange and the road unfamiliar, for Wyrd's bonds hold me snug and safe. Uncharted can be best, for unknown lands still speak the ancient mysteries. Off the roads I go, paths deer go and bush grow, for many feral flowers flourish in these unknown forests.

Out From Walls and Into Woodlands, Come

And nations said, we shall live in iron woodlands as our queen doth live, and there to hoard and stack and pile the gold stories high. And they tore apart mountains, and they ripped up forests, and they crowded out nations, and made mothers weep. And they plundered kingdoms, and clawed open animals, and they wrenched apart meadows, and walled up rivers, all to gild the precious walls of their tomb-like cities. They colonized the heaths, they seized inheritances, and laid tribes in chains, beating down fowls and fauna, all to do homage to what the eye can see. Bleeding lands and clans and shoals and flocks of spirit. Wherefore many cried out, Plunder the city, and freely share out its riches to those who are free, whilst others cried, burn it down, burn it down, burn it to the ground.

For it is not a shame that folk might dress in fancy, but that world should be stooped and prostate with a boot at its head and a sword at its womb for trifles, while the best things in life are bled, and left to rot in the wastelands. Indeed, the beloved ocean-foam's flower-clad daughter delights in well-crafted ornamentation, and gifts were meant to be sent across tribes, but that all should bow down before the monuments of commerce is an abomination. Ruins and outlying lands judge the precincts of the towns, and ask, are you eternal, or shall ye too crumble and fall? Asking, which has greater worth, that which falls, or that which twists and turns throughout?

So the Spirit of the Wilderness cries out and judges the cities, calling the city into judgement, invokes memories from the tombs beneath the pavement, ancestral voices paved over, long roaming and bounding spirits' descendants led in chains to serve the great temples of commerce. For the land beneath the pavement wills a deeper memory, and earth underneath foundations longs to return to weeded, flowered lushness. They say Lord of Nymph's Widely-Wanted Sister of Wildflowers cries out for songs of love, spells of night and wild wight to push back the reign of stealer-of-sense and caster-of-trance upon gold-entranced masses, back to simple things like flesh and soil's delight which steals from no one, but bounty brings from bosoms full of love. So shall curses come to naught if love shall cleave to heart, for Love's Puma-Pulled Beauty of Grace and Wildness evening sings songs of liberation, out from walls and into woodlands, come.