Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review of "Wyrd Megin Thew"

I wrote Wyrd Megin Thew in my second year of heathenry. It represents two years of deep engagement with the tradition, after having mastered its contents, but going further into profound, intuitive meditation of the material. I filled up at least three very hefty notebooks with the contents of these meditations, in which I would lie down (akin to “going under the cloak”), meditate upon an aspect of the lore, and go into a kind of hypnagogic state. I would then write down what came to me. It was a kind of meditative half-nap, in which I observed how my unconscious engaged the material. This explains some of the richness and deep soulfulness of the material in the book.

It began simple enough. I made a boast at sumble, in the kindred with which I was practicing, that within a year I would publish a book on heathenism. It so happened that I had already almost finished the said book when I made the beot, so it wouldn’t be that difficult to fulfill. As it stood then, the book was very slim, perhaps about 80 pages, and mainly covered some insights I had had about the Gods.

As the year progressed however, so did my ambition, slowly at first, but in an accelerated fashion as the year came towards a close. At first I wanted to add a few things to what I had written. As time went on, I knew I needed to include all of the intuitive, meditative work I had been doing. But that material filled up three large notebooks! I typed all of that work up, and began organizing it into categories. I had a tremendous amount of paper around me at that point, and putting it all together into categories was an immense organizing task.

Two weeks before the due-date of sending the book off to the printer, as I had boasted, I had the idea that I wanted to summarize all the mythological poems in the Poetic Edda, all nine mythological books of Saxo’s History of the Danes, and the composite mythic saga as compiled by Viktor Rydberg. I crammed and spent day and night creating detailed summaries of the poems. I wanted someone who had no familiarity with the lore to be able to have access to quick prose summations.

By the time it was finished, a book that was 80 pages had now burgeoned into something near-monstrous. Double-spaced, and in a readable 12 point font, it was almost 1200 pages, and that was in an eight by eleven size format! I reduced the spacing to single-space, and the font to 10 point font, and thereby reduced the book down to just under 400 pages, but the result was still colossal.

I now have seven additional years of heathenry under my belt, including not only daily research, but in-depth and meticulous research translating directly from the original sources, and consulting important secondary sources written by established scholars in the field. What impresses me now is how accurate my intuition was within the first year and a half of being a heathen.

There are certainly changes I would now make. There are corrections to be made. I had decided to include an old piece, “What Do Our Stories Tell Us?”, because it had a certain charm. Even when I decided to include it, I had already superceded much of it, but still felt there was value to the piece. The piece has potential, but in retrospect, I was far too uncritical of the Grimm Fairytales as a source, and perhaps read too much into them, playing too loosely and creatively with them, stretching them beyond what they may have said. My interpretations were interesting, but I think I would be more conservative with them now. What is of interest was my desire to look into traditional fairy tales to see what they might say about the folk and our history. In the same piece, I also included traditional local customs, stories from the Eddas, and implications of Tacitus’ work. The thrust of all this is still valid, even if some of the conclusions may have overstretched their mark.

The chapter treating the Gods --- ironically, the original core of the book --- may be the weakest part of the text, despite the fact that it contains some highly original and important conclusions, primarily because the treatment of the Gods is so uneven. At that time, I was not intimate with the entire pantheon, and so treat the Gods selectively, according to how much I had acquainted myself with them. Consequently, many important Gods get very cursory treatment, while others have a great deal of material dedicated to them.

There is a particularly large section on Loki, and my evolution in this regard has diverged a great deal, although it is by no means over. Loki is a very complex character. At that time, I had a great deal more faith in Loki, and this shows in the book. Two things changed in the meantime that are worthy of note and perhaps further examination. The first of which is, I gave further and more detailed attention to the pattern in the stories, and gradually, that pattern did not match entirely what I had hoped Loki might represent. The traditional stories seemed to be saying something different from what I had wanted them to say. On that point, there is still some possibility of reconciliation with what I wrote about Loki in Wyrd Megin Thew, because at all times, I was engaged in complex, and certainly not simplistic, encounters. But what was decisive was actually examining the behavior of people around me, and realizing how pervasive cheating, lying, slandering, double-crossing, and so forth are, and moreover, how devastating such behavior can be interpersonally. Moreover, this kind of behavior is pervasive amongst people who claim values quite crosswise to these mischiefs. I began to see how much of an influence Loki had upon people at an archetypal level, and came to appreciate just how undisciplined most people are.

For myself, in many arenas (though not in others, which is a task for my continued rounding-out), I have been a very disciplined person, able to play with temptation, and engage salacious impulses without much danger of being pulled in by them. Yet such discipline, I think, is rare, and so I realized that I could not simply advise a naïve engagement with Loki, because such would be disastrous, pulling people into all kinds of compromising situations, when people already are making havoc of their lives! Now, from a certain perspective, archetypally oriented, an intelligent and prudent handling of Loki could in fact awaken a person to their own mischief, and thus serve their evolution towards greater consciousness, and loyalty towards the Aesir. But such is a tricky alchemy requiring a great deal of caution, foresight, and guidance, qualities I took for granted in myself, but was expecting of others. As it turns out, I have seen nonsense coming even from those who were more positive about Loki, which, while that might not come as a surprise to some, was certainly a surprise to me, because I thought attention to Loki would grant, if anything, an immunity to gullibility. Yet skillfulness in handling shadow is poorly underdeveloped in our culture. It may turn out yet that there are some redeeming possibilities for Loki, but of such, I must remain extremely taciturn, because that is, as the Apostle Paul might put it, tough and sinewy meat, where most heathens have still yet to be weaned, and rightfully so, off their milk.

When I look back over this book, I have to laugh at my naivete that anyone would really plunge into a book of its monstrous size and density, and yet there are such beautiful phrases and insights liberally and even copiously sprinkled throughout the book, that I am awed that such things were able to come through me. There are really some profound and amazingly soulful things said in this book. I was striving for a deeply soulful heathenism, and this book expresses that.

From my more knowledgeable perspective today, could I get behind everything I said in Wyrd Megin Thew? Probably not ; I have matured in some areas, and in other areas, I have learned a great deal more which rounds out the material I explored. However, I would say that at the very least, I could still get behind 80% of what I say in the book, and probably a great deal more. What it lacks in footnoted rigor, it makes up for with sheer soulfulness.

Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the book, and from which the book received its title, was a poem that represented my early attempt to engage and transliterate the Tao Te Ching into the Germanic idiom. The title Tao Te Ching means, “The Way of Ancient Virtue”, or “The Classic Virtue of the Way”. “Wyrd Megin Thew” means “Wandering Way, Strength of Old Customs”. It represents an idiomatic translation. My poem was a result of going through the Tao Te Ching page by page, contemplating each section, and then formulating a response from what I knew of heathen culture at that time. Some examples, for charm’s sake :

“The wyrd that can be worded is not so weird.

The word that can be weirded speaks wyrdly.”

“Wyrd dreams in grains of wood rippling through trees.”

“Everywhere wyrd flows, it ‘weirds’ –

Teases out, twists, warps, curves...”

“Violently men untangle to make sense

Of world

While Wyrd weaves on

Tangling its twistings.

Reason loses sight of the river.”

“The kings hand down

No commands

But speak the words of Folk

Before they have arrived,

And they think, “Yes.

He speaks truly.””

“Tranquility is a goddess of healing.” [“Eir”, the Healer of the Gods, means “tranquility” or “peace”.]

“Wizards will wilderness.

Because they wish what wanders,

Their wonderings have effect.

Seducers of world, they woo

Phenomenon back to source

And see fruitful blossomings

While winking an eye.”

“Events are alive, and grow

In their own way,

Weaving and twisting


The accountant weeps

At the tangles of wyrd.

But what berries to be found

In this briar patch! Dance nimbly.”

“When a country loses heart,

Disarray is everywhere.

It is silly to focus on the disarray.

The heart must be returned.”

I was convinced that Wyrd was an idiomatic counterpart to Tao, and that therefore there was a kind of weird Taoism implicit in heathenism. I still think this is an enchanting possibility, and moreover, I agree with the thrust of the poem that this is precisely what wizards practiced, and substantially how they accomplished their magicks. Moreover, some fascinating ideas were suggested in the poem, one of which is the idea that a vow at sumble unites those participating in the sumble into a kind of pact against the static, a conspiracy against the world of rigidity and stillbirth, and a commitment to blossoming. This is a powerful concept. To commit to Wyrd is no small thing, because it is to commit to ecstatic becoming against any status quo which would try to block the emergence of creativity. Rather, it is to align creativity with the rhythms of Wyrd itself. When we have begun to fully realize this Taoism of Wyrd, I believe that we will finally be on our way towards maturing heathenism towards its Old Growth potential, and that I stand by.

Wyrd Megin Thew is a difficult book because its format does not match that of other books about heathenism. It is a weird text that follows its own flows. That can be something to be proud of. It is like entering into a thick forest, and having to follow the streams and creeks through.

In my Introduction, I outline my approach of reindigenization, reclaiming the original, primal, tribal parts of our being. As I say later in the book, we utilize our Iron Age ancestors, who passed the lore down to us, as conduits through which to access, however obliquely, the Deep Paleolithic. The material, therefore, must be purged of what dross the Iron Age imposed upon it. The book thus represents a quest to penetrate beneath the level of the Iron Age to that which lies beneath it. I make clear that it is pre-Roman Germanic and Scandinavian culture I am aiming at, and therefore all elements of imperialism, picked up in the encounter with Rome, must be dropped. In order to do this, I advise that we must work through the alienation that the centuries of imperialization, and its consequent militarism, have imposed upon us. Without working through that alienation, we will alienate the ancestral material, and become subject to distortion. Particularly, I suggest that the ghosts of WWII are still with us, and must be worked through before we can hope to be free of them. I still stand by that statement. Nazi racial and state-enforced Volkism may have been only one possible culmination of many of earlier romantic nationalism, but a culmination it was, and this must be squarely faced, so that we can free ourselves from this standpoint. If there is one thing I regret about Wyrd Megin Thew, it is the fact that being new to heathenism, I gave far too much heed to folkish perspectives, in a desire to not alienate anyone. Now I do not care about alienating people who approach things from a wrongheaded angle. I am bolder. But then, I actually used the word “universalist” as if it were something to be avoided, which is ridiculous. Where universalizing results from mere imperialization, then it is something to be critiqued, but universalisation can also emerge authentically out of full development of particulars and their interaction in ecumenical dialogue. At some point I will try to take volkism back to its godfather Johann Herder in order to renew it and find new directions, but that is a task for another time.

The Introduction also begins by defining a heathen as someone from the heath. The relationship to Mother Earth and wild country in particular is zeroed in from the get-go, and this is a position from which I have never retreated. I then examine the nature of a true warrior, who resists imperialization and takes on giant powers. I make it clear that in this world, this refers as well to giantish organizations, like giant corporations, aggressive nation-states, and so forth.

The chapter on Wyrd is one of the most significant in the book. I underline the responsibility of prophets and prophetesses to tend to Wyrd, and to tend to the folk in such a way that they in no way abuse their spiritual authority. Utilizing fear-tactics or encouraging morbid superstition is abuse and frankly, sinful.

After an in-depth chapter about the Gods (although somewhat uneven), I explore a number of heathen values, beginning with “worthship”, where worthship, valueing that which is worthy in life, sums up the rest of the values. The second half of the chapter is a cutting-edge essay exploring the idea that “baed” represented an ambiguous middle ground between good and evil, and did not represent evil, but rather, something more akin to the “perilous”.

I then explore aspects of the soul within heathenism, with particular focus on the fylgia, and its relationship to the wild, emphasizing that our overenculturation is often what holds us back from full connection to our soul. Enculturation is a necessary part of maturation, but we lose something in the process that must be regained. The fylgia as wild animal reconnects us to that primal which was set aside to allow us to live politely amongst each other.

In “Forms of Worship”, I cover the basics of blot and sumble, and add the importance of festival as a worship-form. I cover holidays as well, suggesting that we find a synthesis between our modern holidays and those celebrated by our ancestors.

A particularly interesting chapter is “The Archaic Order of Northern Europe”, where I try to explore the tribal sociology of theods or kingdoms, with particular emphasis on common law, odalism (the economics of allodial property holding versus feudalism), and the responsibilities of true nobility, along with the place of thralls. In other words, this is a chapter about law and order, with some fascinating implications, some of which are not entirely irrelevant to modern day issues of taxation and freedom.

There follows a chapter about the centrality of the Viking as an outgoing expedition of adventure akin to the fairy-tale notion of “going out into the world to discover one’s fortune”, a chapter reflecting on magic as a kind of pantheistic prayer, and a chapter on the runes, which includes not only reflections on the meanings of the runes, but something I found particularly helpful, a “rune contraries” section, which outlines what the world would look like without the application of each of the runes, each of which demonstrates a problem we have in the world today, and thus proving how the runes are needed, together, in tandem, to create healthy culture.

The crowning chapter is the chapter on Lore, which includes all my summaries of the lore, but begins with an essay reflecting on the nature of Lore, and how we must engage it symbolically and intuitively, and must never fall into either literalism, or an intellectualism which would banish our dream-associations. In short, I endorse surrealism as a valid way of approaching lore and allowing it to live within our lives.

Overall, this is a fantastic accomplishment, however rough it might be in form, and contains insights which I believe could nourish people over a lifetime. It includes some amazing artwork created by Eve Ghost (from the band Scarlet's Remains and Purnama), including the cover picture of Yggdrasil, as well as some other artists. I have had a few requests for the book, but it is presently out of print. When I have the time, if people think they might be interested, I can scan in the images of the pages, put that into a PDF, along with perhaps a 2011 reflection and correction page, and get it up on Lulu.

The work, after all, is the basis of everything you see reflected in Heathen Ranter.

I’m glad I wrote it.


Blogger MossCloud said...

I believe this book would be a treasure of inspiration and sense amongst the rampant ungrounded "New Age" works, whether a person considers themselves Heathen or not. The Controllers' prevalent thought that mankind is to have dominion over Nature is insidious and must be illuminated for what it is. This will take Boldness from those amongst the spellbound sheeples. I so appreciate your work as it has awakened the ancestral memory in my bones. We must take care of our Mother Earth if we wish to remain, and this means more than just wishful thinking in these days of darkness and opportunity. Life on this planet is truly a magical gift. May we return to sustainability and reverence for our Earth Mother. Thank you Heathen Ranter! Blessings~

11:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would very much like to see this offered on Lulu. Though not a Heathen, I find your writings inspiring and educated. Congratulations on the magnum opus!

4:45 AM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Snaegl, thank you! I will let everyone know when it is available again. In the meantime I must also collect the essays from this blog into a book, for many are like me, and cannot fully absorb long pieces unless they are in print. It allows one to chew on them more.

MossCloud, life on this planet truly is a magical gift! Thank you for your passion for Our Beloved, Jord. It is an honor to have participated in any way in the awakening of your ancestral memory. I would like to hear more specifics of what aspects of New Age subculture with which you have struggled : what there was originally (if at all) nourishing for you, and what held you back from where you wanted to go?

The need for both inspiration and sense is important. We all need balance, what our ancestors called "evenness", a concept that also embraces equality and equity. In a heathen context, it means to give an even hand to all we encounter, distributing to each that fair weight it actually carries, relative to the larger balance in the Great Dance that is Wyrd. Such a dance is never a static equilibrium, but it can be a dynamic equilibrium, achieving a rough reciprocity over larger periods of time ; a gift does call for a gift, after all. Evenness has this rough and dynamic, but heartfully fair, quality to it.

I like your words, "whether a person considers themselves heathen or not". I believe heathenism has something to contribute to the larger multicultural matrix as well, and while heathens must continue to work towards internal coherency (through a hashing out and not a suppressive or authoritarian process), I also think we cannot afford to become too ghettoized when part of the message we carry is so important. How to communicate that across sectarian lines without alienating either others or the integrity of our own tradition is part of the challenge that awaits us.

7:46 AM  
Blogger MossCloud said...

The popular "The Secret" boom...Thoughts become things, focus on lack and you will get more lack, meditate on that new car and it can be yours! Yes, it is important to be aware of the power of our thoughts, words, and deeds. Will consuming more bring happiness? Is this the Knowledge of how to manipulate the universe to our will? Where's the Wisdom to go along with it? We always hear about mind, body, and spirit but what about the other triad- Land, Ancestors, and Tribe? Thanks to the Barefoot Sensay, a Celtic Barefoot Bard for this insight. There are many apparently uplifting messages that it is all Light and Love, we're coming into another Golden Age... Possibly, but who will make the changes necessary to bring the balance? Our President? The tyrant government(banksters, corporations)? Or Nature in a wrathful fury? But aren't we part of Nature? Isn't it the highest honor imaginable to be Caretakers and Stewards of the Green Jewel that nourishes us? Can we escape the social engineering to be our own Noble Kings? My mentor, the peaceful viking king Jim Henson toiled endlessly to bring forward the ideas of communication, cooperation and sustainability. It will take Creative solutions to heal our ails, not more mindless destruction. Our warriors have been taken for a ride in the name of protecting America's freedom. Bless their hearts. May they remember how to wield the sword wisely. It seems to me that all peoples come from earth honoring ways if traced back far enough. So really there's some heathen in all of us. It just makes sense! Thanks again for teaching me the importance of Language. I am more inspired to clean up my own sloppiness.

11:50 AM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Hail Moss Cloud! Thank you for your clarification. Your critique of the Secret is understandable ; you inspired me to write up another one of my own, new post. I like your questioning of consuming as the ultimate reality (consider that jotunn probably comes from Etin which means "Eater", ie., Consumer)

Love your phrase "Isn't it the highest honor imaginable to be Caretakers and Stewards of the Green Jewel that nourishes us?" Beautiful. Did you coin that phrase "the Green Jewel"? It's a wonderful heiti for Mother Earth.

"It seems to me that all peoples come from earth honoring ways if traced back far enough. So really there's some heathen in all of us."

True enough. It is this sentiment that originally inspired me to trace back the history of the ancestors of our Mother Tongue. And this is what I found. Anyone who speaks the tongue and feels resonance and loyalty with our Alma Mater may lay claim to this wondrous heritage. And if not, there are other wondrous heritages out there ready to be reclaimed and revisioned as well!

1:54 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

I would LOVE to read it!

Your creative powers are truly staggering, incidentally...

7:53 AM  
Blogger SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Henry, thank you! I think you would enjoy it.

8:24 AM  
Blogger MossCloud said...

I can't take credit for the "Green Jewel." I got that one from Eckhart Tolle who at least spoke of the importance of a deep connection to Nature.

12:41 PM  

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