Thursday, May 27, 2010


Heathenry can be a world full of jargon, an arcane ghetto full of little catchphrases and special code words straight from the Old Norse or Old English. Is the jargon necessary? Not really. It may be good to cut one's teeth upon, for knowing one's history and etymology is never a bad thing, but it is not essential.

Getting down to essences, one need not say orlog if one can say "original nature" or "original law", and the latter is far more understandable to most people. One need not say wyrd if one can say "destiny", and qualify it by saying that "life is weird", which gets more at the essence of wyrd than a dozen treatises. If one wants to add that destiny flows like water, twisting and turning, excellent. All of this is doable and transferable to the understanding of ordinary folk without jargon. One need not say fylgia if one can say "guardian angel" or "power animal", which whether it ruffles the feathers of purists or not, gets at the essence of the term. It's perfectly fine to call Yggdrasil the "Tree of Life", not to mention the "World-Tree". You may call the runes the "mysteries", which accurately hints at the depths of the term.

This even applies when it comes to the Gods. The divine order is concerned with essences, not human names, which are always subject to change and flow. The Gods themselves were used to enormous numbers of heiti (which you may more commonly call "bynames") and kennings (or "poetic paraphrases" or "allusions"). In other words, not only is it ok, but it is actually preferable and powerful to hint at the Gods. Calling Odin "All-Father", "Heavenly Father", "God", or even more mysteriously, "The Old Man", is fine. He could be called "The Wandering Wizard". Most people, I suspect, will respond to "All-Father". Odin had dozens of names and would certainly not mind more that hint at his nature. Since the word Frigga means "beloved", why not refer to "Beloved Mother Earth"? This is certainly far more resonant for most people. Most of the Gods are the children, natural or adopted, of All Father and Mother Earth, and again, regardless of their dogma, this is something that will sit with the hearts of most people. The fact that the earth is populated by their helpers, the alfar or "elves" (a perfectly fine word, although "fairies" will also do) and dvergar or "dwarves", also makes sense. The world needs its own watchers who guard and report back to God and His Holy Family.

Getting caught up in the words is a way to turn something powerful into idolatry. As Korzybski said, "The map is not the territory", and to paraphrase Robert Anton Wilson's paraphrase of Korzybski, you don't eat the menu when you go into a restaurant. You eat the meal. Nor do you grasp a meal outside of a restaurant context and mystically call upon the names listed there in hopes the meal will come. You don't need the vocabulary to live the essence.

The myths and stories are wonderful. They reveal patterns of wyrd. They lay out a mythic sequence of creation and fall that leads to the historical world, and the patterns laid down in that dream-time repeat in kaleidoscopic forms those with prophetic eyes recognize. They were the sequences with which our present world, for good or for ill, were created, and so in a certain sense, events are always repeating in some form or another these ancient archetypes, and prophecy becomes a matter of discerning which pattern of wyrd is replicating itself in unique form in the present. But beware the temptation to literalize. When properly used, these are poetic means of grasping real archetypal patterns. Don't lose the poetry, for it is the primary means with which we are equipped to deal with reality.

Worship is at heart becoming worthy of the Gods we recognize. Everyone must begin somewhere, and sometimes people must take their time in their beginning primers, but it's important to not bow before the primers and etch in stone abstract symbols that are meant to point at something else. The finger points at the moon. Don't look at the finger.

To become worthy of the Gods, we must look at what we value in life, and whether we are giving worth to what is truly worthy. We must examine whether what we claim to be worthy really has worth in our life. And we must quest and stretch ourselves in order to truly embody the spiritual powers we hold true.

It would indeed be a shame for heathenry to turn into a kind of cargo-cult where people would raise a horn of mead to Njord, and yet not care about the condition of the oceans, nor cry in outrage when the seas are desecrated. It would absolutely be a travesty for people to call upon Frigga and Jord and yet have no real connection at all to the land and the power that emerges forth from it. These examples could be multiplied. It is not that there is anything wrong with the symbols themselves. The difficulty lies in the proper usage of the symbols so that they are experientially embodying the actual spiritual principles behind them. When they do that, we are connected, and we no longer need to use any jargon, because we are connected with real experience, and we can speak from that real experience to people.

To some, saying "I worship the divine in the ocean", or "I experience the earth as a spiritual power", or "I believe God lives on the winds, ever questing for new truths" sounds watered-down, maybe even New Age. They think that if they replace these from-the-heart descriptions with jargon pulled out of an old book, they are more authentic. Well, they are wrong. I don't want to tell you how to speak. You speak however you like. Just be certain that communication is an art that is meant to reach a listener and effect some real kind of change within them. If all they hear is gobblydgook, the message is dead on arrival, and an opportunity has been missed.

A Christian who believed as well in Mother Earth and worked with the fairies, if these concepts were lived experiential realities, might be a better ally than a jargon-blinded fool with no real connection to the earth, because it is the essence that matters.

There are real spiritual powers in this world. They are immense potentials for good. If we know this, and if we live this, and if we will take the risk to step outside of our comfortable ruts and stretch ourselves to learn and reach their spiritual power, we will be immensely enriched, and we will become agents for transforming their potentials for good into realities in our world. And that is where the real "battles" begin, struggles truly worthy of our souls.

Let words follow essences, and speak true.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the essence of your message, but not with the mechanics. It might be good to start out explaining these terms in very modern English and even New Agey ways, but they can't stagnate there. We would run the risk of not only watering down our faith, but also what is left and what is revived of the culture. Language is key to our cultural heritage and without it and without those special words, we are yet again lost. Think about all the Irish forced to speak English, think about how much they've lost and certain concepts in Irish just can't be understood in English. Same goes for Old Norse.

10:18 AM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Um, English IS my native language. As I said, let anyone speak the way they wish, but it is the CONCEPTS not the words that really make a difference. Utilizing arcane language that no one in the world really understands does two things : 1) It isolates one, and 2) It reinforces national separation. In other words, the entire point is separation. Don't get me wrong : I support Scandinavian people speaking Scandinavian. That's not the issue. I'm addressing the English world. The Irish were forced to speak English, but who's forcing the Scandinavians to give up their language?

The idea that "certain concepts" in one language "just can't be understood in English", is, I'm sorry, just complete hogwash. Total, complete hogwash. If this were true, there's be no such thing as translation. I know translation is often considered butchery. I know it's important to go into the language to try to understand it. But that's merely the prerequisites of good translation.

Speaking in ordinary language does not make things stagnate. It allows them to LIVE.

We run no risk of watering down the "faith". We might run the risk of watering down the NATIONALISM, but I could care less about that. Nationalism is a dead-end and should have been so concluded a hundred years ago. I'm not trying to conserve a "cultural heritage". I'm engaged in SPIRITUALITY. I'm concerned with ACTUAL SPIRITUAL REALITIES. I'm not a Museum Curator trying to freeze a particular cultural take on those actual spiritual realities. I'm interested in the realities themselves.

2:39 PM  

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