No Prayers For What Lies Outside The Battle
...Upp líta skalattu í orrostu ; gjalti glíkir verða gumna synir ;síðr þitt um heilli halir (Havamal 129), "Thou shalt not look up in battle --- the sons of men become like terrified swine --- lest you, hero, become bewitched." In the first Merseburg Charm, the idisi or disir of those in battle (who would be valkyries) are said, suma hapt heptidun, suma heri lezidun, "some fasten fetters, some hamper the army". This was a form of bewitching. If they looked up in battle, then their concentration would be broken, and they could become subject to the disir of the opposing side, who floated over the battle field.
This is a supernatural explanation for a set of proverbial truths : Keep your eye on the ball. Focus on what you are doing. It is when you take your focus off what should be holding your attention that you may be bewitched.
When you're in a battle, fight the battle. Keep your eyes ahead of you and about you, but don't look up and into the distance. If you don't remain focused, the anxiety may get the best of you and you may panic. Stay with the task at hand.
Which brings us to the following meditation : No prayers for what lies outside the battle.
What is the battle in your life right now? There will be a greater battle, which is the larger strategic realm you are trying to conquer, but there will be a smaller battle, which is the tactical terrain that right now you need to get through and overcome in order to be able to address the larger realm. We will call the first your war, and the second your battle.
Identify your battle, and direct all your prayers towards the completion of that battle. If you have correctly identified your battle, that struggle which is of greatest concern for you to overcome in your life right now, you should be offering up no other prayers but to accomplish this task.
Any "looking up" from this battle, any prayers directed to the heavens and to the Gods that are irrelevant to this struggle, will only serve to distract you, and quite likely to disorient you, and possibly to such a degree that you may lose your bearings and begin to panic.
It is when you lose sight of your primary goals that you may become bewitched or spell-bound, panicked but unable to move. You may find yourself paralyzed, stuck in position, because you're no longer focused on what you actually need to get done.
The Gods know what your battles are, and what your war is. They particularly know this because you have declared as such in sumble. In so doing, you have as good as asked them to further you in this task. And in doing this, you have as good as asked them to consider any other requests to be irrelevant, and they will follow suit. In other words, as a general guideline (which the Gods may set aside at will as they will), the Gods will neither hear nor heed those prayers which ask for things that lie outside the scope of the field of battle.
That's really something to contemplate, because it answers, or at least addresses and begins to answer, the question of why all prayers are not answered. If you haven't unlocked the power that belongs to you yet is locked down within that challenge you have yet to overcome, then you are approaching your life from a more helpless place than you need to be, and the Gods want to encourage your empowerment. Therefore, stop running around like a pig run scared, face your fears, and charge back into that battle which is calling you, the one where you stand some chance of success, and where winning will bring you greater power. If you aren't doing that, what are you asking for from the Gods? Trinkets? Amusements? Trivia? Let alone that which, beknownst or unbeknownst to you, out and out contradicts the goals of one's chosen battle? Will even prayers brook contradiction? Think deeply on this. If you ask for that which negates that for which you more strongly ask, what in fact are you asking? If your battle is to find health in your life, for example, and yet you ask for someone unhealthy for whom you pine, how will that affect your battle? Is that a prayer it would even be compassionate for the Gods to grant?
On the other hand, if there was indeed something small which you needed which would actually further you in the struggle, that could be a rational prayer, and one which might be answered. A man pausing in the heat of battle might just need a cold can of Coke, no matter how trivial that might sound, to get back into the thick of it. It's likely the Gods would not begrudge that one. And, once the battle was fought, the Gods certainly wouldn't begrudge a genuine request for shore-leave. But where would you be running off to before the fight is won? First things first.
Of course, if you don't know what your battle is, then your battle is to find your battle. Meditation, counsel, rune-casting, as well as a rational examination of one's greatest goals and obstacles in life ought to begin to make this clear. This battle to find one's battle may well be called a battle, because it is often not easy figuring out just what the struggle is. Once you've assembled the strategic picture, you want to ask yourself, "What struggle is winnable if I really apply myself to it, and which will bring me greater strength to fight the further battles I will need to win to reach my larger strategic goals?". Don't start with what's untackleable. Don't start with a battle which you could win, but which will leave you so weakened or disheartened that it will sap your strength for the battles ahead. Start small and choose appropriate battles which will slowly but steadily build your morale. Once you've done this, and identified the proper tactical field, apply yourself to it full steam ahead, and don't stop, appropriate rest periods aside, until you've reached your goal. And don't be surprised if lots of little things your easily-distracted mind thinks you want are denied you by the Gods if they are not related to the attainment of your goal, and the overcoming of your frustration. If you want to get an idea of what your needs rather than your greeds are, tally up what is absolutely necessary to tackle the issue ; anything beyond that is greed. Keep tackling the issue. You know what the issue is that you need to be tackling. It's most likely the one that you've been avoiding.
The Gods aren't there to collude in your avoidance. They're there to encourage you to step up to the plate. And if that plate is too intimidating as yet, then get yourself into some kind of training program which will prepare you baby-step by baby-step to get to that plate, because even such pre-plate training is a way of stepping up to the plate. Just do it.
You're welcome to stay in frustration as long as you wish. If you want to stay spell-bound, and therefore in the power of ill, that is your choice. Don't blame the Gods when things aren't going the way you like. The enchantments people most often fall into are those of Gullveig -- greed, angst, envy -- and Loki -- fraud, forswearing, slander, and strife-provoking. These are the ills to which we humans -- all-too-human as Nietzsche said -- are most often subject. Envy is one in particular that assails us when we are trying to be successful and fighting our battle, and it is particularly indicated by the Havamal verse in conjunction with its matching Merseburg Charm, because it is when we look up and behold the dis of another that we may become bewitched. The dis of another is the one guiding their fate (not yours), whether it is their personal or their family fate. It belongs to them. It is a property of their individual self or family. How often do we look up from the struggle that faces us and wish we were someone else, wish we had someone else's luck, wish we had the rewards or talents someone else had? Such vain wishes and empty fantasizings do not gain us one iota of strength to carry on the battle, and in fact, just drain and diminish our morale. It is therefore a vicious cycle which keeps us in frustration. An entire army may be hampered with such petty attempts to escape the matter at hand. A true prayer is about getting out of this rut.
A prayer for luck, therefore, ought to center on, "Give me the strength and opportunity to overcome the challenges I face at this stage in my development," because in actuality, it is often the blockages and knots we are tied in, and the ways we avoid challenges, that get in the way of our success. Human beings have multiple ways of avoiding their problems and refusing to face them head-on. Wishing for luck under these circumstances is asking for the problem to be solved without solving the problem. It is a logical contradiction. It is asking, "Exempt me from having to do the difficult and psychologically troubling work of working through this difficulty, and just give me the rewards." But rewards are the natural consequences of successfully working through the challenges unfolding out of one's unique developmental stage in life. Our "prayer", such as it is, is asking the Gods to do something that is inherently unhealthy (not to mention going against nature). It is asking them to collude in our disempowerment, and to enable us to remain stunted in our growth. It is asking them to foster dependence rather than healthy independence. And because they are strong, loving, health-and-whole-wishing Gods, they're not going to do that.
The Gods have made us free. We are therefore free to fuck up. We are free to stay locked in an unresolved situation as long we choose. We can remain in perpetual misery so long as we refuse to face up to our challenges. (But this is, as the Havamal verse implies, viewed as a form of ill enchantment.) Or we can get really honest and say, "I'm having a really hard time overcoming this difficulty, and I don't even know how to go about it. Can you send me some help, or direct me in the right way, that will increase my resources, and give me more effective tools for tackling this situation independently and successfully?". That's a prayer to which the ears of the Gods are especially attuned.
all translations copyright 2010 Siegfried Goodfellow