Thursday, February 25, 2010

Norse Reconstructionism for Beginners

1. Declare absolutely all literary evidence to be corrupt syncretism that has nothing to do with actual heathen practices. In essence : there is no heathen literature at all. (Wow, what a way to win an argument : we've a priori declared all of your sources to be invalid!)

2. Gather up all the folklore mishmash that managed to survive the long struggle with Christianity, and declare that to be the original heathenism. (Kind of like finding the charred remains of a village and declaring that the ashes and stray bits of wood and metal were all that the villagers ever made!)

3. Rely heavily on archaeology, which will naturally support your minimalist conclusions. (After all, you're only looking at bones, stones, pottery, and some grave-goods!)

And there it is, folks, in a nutshell!

I should add,

4. Pretend that you are not driving an agenda by aggressively arguing your point, ridiculing other viewpoints, acting superior, and citing all the scholars who support your viewpoint (but not the ones who do not). Claim that your agenda is in fact just the best reconstructable reality.

Some other necessary points to add in some circumstances :

5. Assume, from the get-go, a position of special pleading whereby the practices of the Germanic people are unlike in every way the practices of every other surrounding people, especially pagans, including their closest Indo-European cousins.

And, so as to especially accomodate the more agnostic :

6. Assert that there is no separate soul from the body, and that only the body continues to remain, in the grave, after death. (But contradict yourself by declaring that the body, which everyone knows corrodes within a few hundred to a thousand years, continues to be able to send out its hugr, yet then suggest that this does not amount to a body/soul dualism simply because the soul-concept here is anchored in the physical.)

It's kind of a ... spirituality of the nonspiritual?

Add in an exaggerated emphasis on the "importance of reputation", to the degree that all that matters is one's reputation (amongst the living!). As if our ancestors didn't know as well as we do how fickle a thing such as reputation is, how easily slander has its sway even for good people, and as if memory didn't fade. Quote the Havamal verse about cattle dying while ignoring the surrounding context that suggests it is the renown pronounced as a verdict by the Gods' doomcourt that is final and lasting.

Don't get me wrong --- there are a number of fantastic and very important ideas explored in Norse reconstructionism, and in time, I shall give them better air time than this, but nevertheless, this brief, satirical summary does gather up in outline a lot of the patterns one will find in their approach.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Review : The Asatru Edda

Norroena Society, The Asatru Edda : Sacred Lore of the North, iUniverse, Bloomington, IN, 2009.

This is a work of tremendous care, and labour of love. Its meticulous compilation of source-texts into a coherent epic form has been accomplished, for the most part, with grace and with dignity. There is a rhythm and a pulse to the work that slows down the mind and lends a meditative quality to the verses and rich language quoted and flowed in to the well-laid pathways and grooves. These pathways are evidently the result of many great summonings of rede.

There are positively beautiful moments, and interpretations. Take the stunning yet instantly evident interpretation that the Llosalfar are in fact that tribe of elves in Dagr's line who prepare and accompany the daily pageant of Sol across the skies. "At each horizon of Jormungrund there are horse-doors, which the Ljosalfar ride through on their journey to and from the sky. Near the eastern horse-door lies Dellingr's hall, in Alfheimr, where he gives aid to Natt and her kinsmen. Near the western horse-door is Billingr's domain, who does the same. Dellingr is the jarl of the Ljosalfar and lord of the dawn. Billingr rules over twilight." (p. 18) This explains Snorri's positioning of the Ljosalfar in the various heavens as Sol parades across the skies.

There are little gems like these sprinkled throughout the book, making it a treasure trove. It's important to emphasize that these interpretations are not the result of random "Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis", as it is sometimes called in the heathen community, in which individuals, often without much grounding in the lore at all, and without making the effort to piece together what remains in fragmentary form, simply pull out of their hat the first thing that sounds good to them, and assert it as some kind of truth. The UPGs, as they are often abbreviated, ought not only be called "unsubstantiated", but more importantly, undigested. Intuition was very important to our ancestors, and developing personal feelings and theories about the lore was certainly seen as valuable. When the gap between one's personal feelings, and the larger community was bridged, however, one was expected to present fully digested information that related to the experiences of others in a way that enhanced them.

Here we may receive edification at the toolshed of some Havamal verses. Havamal 26 : Ósnotr maðr þykkisk allt vita, ef hann á sér í vá veru; hittki hann veit, hvat hann skal við kveða, ef hans freista firar, "The unsophisticated man thinks he knows everything, if he stays to himself in a corner [or, in his cabin ; can mean both] ; he knows not that which he shall answer, if he is tested by the folk." Freista, "tested", here means "examined", "scrutinized", and even (although not a technical legal term) "cross-examined". It means being subjected to critical thinking from multiple points of view. Anyone can think themselves smart when they stay at home. But do their thoughts stand up to scrutiny when they are in the company of the sophisticated? Havamal 30 : margr þá fróðr þykkisk, ef hann freginn er-at, "many seem wise, if they are not asked questions." It's the answering of questions over time that deepens our insights. Havamal 5 : at augabragði verðr sá er ekki kann ok með snotrum sitr, "he who has nothing to teach becomes a twinkle of the eyes when he sits amongst the sophisticated." Ekki kann may also be translated as "knows nothing", or "does not search or explore". The latter suggests that a person has taken the time to search something out and really investigate it. That, after all, is the basis for teaching something. Someone who has nothing substantial to offer, or whose speech remains puerile, undeveloped, undigested, and unsophisticated, is going to be taken as insignificant, because truly what they have to offer is simply a flash in the dark or a twinkle of the eyes. It has developed no depth, no root, and thus is taken as the passing fancy of a child, rather than something which ought to be taken seriously. The Norroena Society, under the tutelage of Mark Puryear, has something substantial and sophisticated to teach, and it is the result of careful investigations.

What differentiates lore from unsubstantiated, undigested personal gnosis, as these Havamal strophes illustrate, is gnoses that have passed from hand to hand over time, and become refined. They are like gems that have become polished in the tumblers of time. Lore is the result of the folk. It may be brought together by those with special skill and poetic talent, but it is not "made up" by untested, unreflective flashes of momentary insight. Many times the brilliance of a moment becomes a flash in the pan. What perseveres?

Puryear's structure is based upon a careful and lengthy study of Viktor Rydberg, one of Sweden's most talented poets, and a gifted folk-scholar who devoted over ten years of in-depth study scrutinizing every surviving remnant of lore. Beginning with no preconceived notions, over time, Rydberg began to sort certain patterns that began to emerge in his studies. He noticed a rough story arc in the Poetic Edda that was greatly enhanced when it was filled in with a careful study of the mythological elements to be found in Saxo's Gesta Danorum. It is commonly, and quite erroneously assumed that Rydberg simply equated separate divine persona according to his personal whimsy. On the contrary, his analysis was quite akin to the practice of modern scholars who study types in folk stories, and gather together variations. Rydberg's in-depth studies brought together variants of the same story that commented upon each other in mutual ways, and when enough elements converged to constitute structural and functional identity, then, and only then, did he recognize the different names in the variants as polynyms for the same figure. Polynymity is a recognized feature of mythic traditions that stem in part from poets' love of devising new praise-titles for their beloved deities and heroes, and in part from name-divergence in communities as they differentiate geographically over time.

Like an immense jigsaw puzzle, Rydberg began collecting together the pieces and variants that obviously fit together, until he had discerned a basic structure that tied the various story-arcs together. Because of the fragmentary nature of some of the sources, and the corruption inherent in some of the texts due to distortion under Christian recording, there were gaps in the assembled jigsaw puzzle. But even with gaps, so long as they are not too large, one may get the entire picture of a jigsaw puzzle, and sometimes, it is even easy to fill in the blanks based on inference, and connecting the dots from known Point A to known Point C. Rydberg was always very deliberate in annotating his inferences and speculations regarding hypothetical Points B, and differentiated them from that which had solid grounding in the sources.

In the process, Rydberg came to some conclusions that startled him, yet which became confirmed again and again upon further investigation. Some of these conclusions have continued to startle or baffle modern heathens who haven't taken the time to really investigate Rydberg. Rydberg took over ten years to do his investigations, and they do represent really solid research based on meticulous examination and synthesis of the original sources in the lore, but I'd estimate that in order to fully examine and confirm their validity, an open-minded but reasonably skeptical mind would have to take several years to closely study his investigations and confirm his sources, which is precisely what Carla O'Harris and myself have been doing, along with the folk-scholar and translator William Reaves, for many years now. I can report that although Rydberg is not correct 100% of the time (who is?), his hit-rate definitely ranks in the 90th percentile, which is pretty damn impressive.

Puryear has taken the time to both understand this epic structure Rydberg uncovered, and to meditate upon it, and then he has allowed the ancestral voices themselves to tell the saga, through often seamless compilation and dexterous, light-handed editing of the ancient sources, to create a whole that is impressive, and functions as a veritable tome. My only suggestion in this regard is that it ought be available in a regular sized format --- Bible-sized would be excellent, actually --- and in hardcover, leather-bound, rather than its paperback 8 by 11 format, because a work of this sort truly merits a form that is as lasting as its content. Even if that substantially increased the cost of the book, given its value, it would still be worth the extra cost.

Some minor critiques : Puryear occasionally flows in elements from the Oera Linda Book, a book he feels contains some genuine elements of lore amongst its obvious corruptions and modernisms. I am not so convinced. Oera Linda seems far more convincingly a nationalist forgery of the 19th century than it does any genuine compilation of lore, and the consensus of scholars agree on that. (Such consensus, in and of itself, says little, because knowledge is hardly a democracy, but it matches my intuition when I read this book.) It is not impossible that in this work of fiction, seemingly composed by one man, there might have been integrated some folk-elements, but that is far from conclusive. Nevertheless, whether fiction or no, there are some beautiful passages that Puryear quotes to benefit, and certainly no harm, as for the most part they in no way impede, and occasionally enhance, the more well-founded surrouding structure. Indeed some have a charm of their own. My only complaint here is their flimsy (in my honest opinion) grounding in anything approaching genuine lore. But Puryear is quite conscientious about footnoting precisely which elements come from Oera Linda (as indeed he sources all of the material), thus allowing the reader to decide which elements of charm and meditation to take as authentic. They do not make up a substantial part of the book, which sticks to the more commonly acknowledged sources of genuine lore.

Nevertheless, this is not contradictory to Puryear's stated aim. I quote from the enjoyable, rede-filled introduction : "The purpose of such a massive undertaking, which is the culmination of over ten years of work, and thirty years of combined research between several scholars, is not to develop a strict authority on what Asatru lore should and should not be. Although it was put together to be a sacred text, rather than just another "mythology" book, the sanctity of the work is in re-establishing holy storytelling traditions in the form of the Teutonic epic. Like a great puzzle, the fragments of lore have been pieced together, cleansed of Christian elements, and presented as a source for Asatruar to enjoy as part of our legacy. Before the age of Bibles and Korans, tales of the worlds' religions were shared over hearths or near children's beds. The lore was not a concrete rule of divine law that had to be maintained, word for word, at all costs. Rather, it was a vibrant, fluid development that constantly changed and evolved, while keeping in life with what had come before. Although the stories themselves are sacred, what's more important are the lessons one walks away with, the true inspirations of the Gods and Goddesses. The inspiration is the holy experience in reading or hearing the lore, and remains so to this day." (p. xiv)

Indeed, so long as the skeletal structure and sinews which are founded in studious linkage and investigation of the original sources are adhered to, there is no reason why minor flourishes cannot be taken from artful, modern sources that stay true to the internal spirit of the lore. Puryear here selects from Oera Linda ; there are passages from Tolkien, for example, especially in The Silmarillion, that are so true to the Northern spirit, and so stunningly beautiful and lyrical, that they might well be flowed in to passages where they fit. As Puryear points out, the lore did not have "to be maintained, word for word, at all costs". Whatever the retelling, what matters is the way it keeps the integrity of the tradition alive through the generations. And it is certain that once a substantial segment of heathenry has assimilated the structural integrity of this work, lore will be regenerated from the heart and the living, poetic imagination (odr) into a new renaissance of lore that will be as old and as new as that which springs from the Well of Wyrd itself.

Another minor critique is his inclusion, although to his credit, he brackets it off as a separate appendix, of a text called here The Hugrunar, but originally entitled The Meditative Paradigms of Seidr, a bizarre, modern prose-poem written in chunky and clunky pseudo-archaic, hardly grammatical speech. I will not say that there are not some interesting insights in the piece, although the strange grammar often makes me feel that I am following the insights of Yoda. What makes it particularly odd is its fusion (one might say "con-fusion") of separate genres and diction into one piece, at times having the voice of some cryptic, Havamal-mimicking speech, while at other times, taking on a fairly self-conscious (and to my ears, even awkward-sounding) modern voice of meditation. I am not entirely familiar with the provenance of this piece, but there are some stains in here that definitely enshrine racist thought, in ways that are both disturbing and eccentric. To wit : "Once we were all of flax and heather ; that was in grandmother's days. Then came from the east in father's time, making the half-dark. Now dark with flax and either with half-dark till neither wood duck nor goose remain." First of all, what the hell does that mean? Secondly, this contrast of hues opposed between the native and the foreign most certainly smacks of racism, and if there were any doubts, a few more quotes ought to dispel them : "Dark was the storm in the east. Dark were the riders ... Where now they trade and farm, are heads like hares, short, swart like elves -- beware. Look only to the light of us, the fair browed, whose brows do not meet ... Though some be comely too, the dark with dark belong as geese by feathers nest else all is confused." Right. Certainly one may always find mead amidst dregs and drivel, as Odin had to go down into the mountain amongst the monsters to retrieve, and Puryear does admit that "The origins of this writing as an authentic, ancient tradition are questionable at best", but if it is going to be "offered" as "a brilliant modern addition" to the lore, perhaps its most obnoxious elements might be bracketed or edited, because while remaining embarassing, if they weren't so laughable they would be downright shameful. My advice would be to eliminate this from the next edition of the book and make it available in its own book, perhaps as a critical edition with commentary, and leave it out of what remains genuine lore, even as an appendix. Such a worthy tome is undeserving of such unnecessary stains, and after the corruptions of lore bred by nationalist romanticism, especially in its more virulent racialist strains, it behooves every heathen to be on extra guard against any smuggling of a racism that never belonged to our ancestors into the lore. On this point, of respect and curiosity for the traditions of others, Puryear is quite clear and illuminating. From his introduction : "Our people were great explorers and adventurers who tread upon almost every land on earth. Their admiration and desire to learn of other cultures was a staple of their way of life, exemplified by certain rites of passage where youths would set off to see the world. Long before such tolerance and acceptance of others became a trend of modern society, Northern sailors traveled from one end of the globe to the other, without leaving any trace of imposition or disrespect towards those they encountered. Archaeological evidence shows them to have been peaceful traders among the nations they fared, though their fierce defense of their homelands was legendary." (p. xiii) Given that, let's keep a worthy, well-made tome of lore in keeping with that spirit, and not allow in modern prejudices that are quite unworthy of our Gods.

One of the beauties of the book is the way Puryear flows in elements from other Indo-European traditions, such as Avesta and Rig-Veda, when their forms are cognate and amplify our tradition in ways that do not amount to invention, but reinforcement and supplementation. This is selectively and sparsely done, only when necessary, but adds to the gravitas of the work, and is an important stimulus to that great project of reaching out to our Iranian and Hindic brothers-and-sisters-in-faith, with whom we share a common mother heritage. Puryear also tastefully sprinkles in insights from marchen and popular traditions where relevant, and not in a haphazard or structural way, but as icing on an already scrumptuously-baked cake.

Asatru Edda includes fifty pages of annotation, for those who wish to check the sources, and a very nicely-put together glossary of over seventy pages that illuminates the meaning of various Icelandic names, a necessity in getting at the meaning of various passages in the lore. This alone is a noteworthy addition to modern heathenry.

"...[T]he idea is to take the reader on a journey into the hearts of our forefathers to find greater wisdom and understanding in the lore and poetry they passed down to their descendants. We study diligently the heritage of our past and take what we will from it, learning the inspirations of the divine." (p. xv) Asatru Edda has succeeded, in my opinion, in these goals, and will become a tool of meditation, picked up again and again for further study and insight, by every heathen who takes the time to make it his or her own.

all translations copyright 2010 by Siegfried Goodfellow

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Having People Who Really Know You

One of the most important values in life is having a group of people who really know you, who are familiar with your history, your struggles, and your accomplishments. These people create a holding environment for that which is best and also most real in you, giving you encouragement when you falter (based not on lip service but true acquaintance with your deeds), and critique where arrogance, oversight, or undersight threaten to block one's larger picture. Building such a small but tight-knit community is of primary worth in life.

That is one of the miracles and magic of a sumble-group. Through the process of boasting and bragging, people come to know each other over time. They can vouch for each other. They can vow for each other. They can be there through the tough times, and celebrate in the good times.

Havamal 50 : Hrörnar þöll sú er stendr þorpi á, hlýr-at henni börkr né barr; svá er maðr, sá er manngi ann. Hvat skal hann lengi lifa? "The young withered fir tree that stands in the isolated clearing, neither her bark nor needles sheltered ; so is the man whom no man loves. How shall he live long?" The Icelandic Rune Poem says, Maðr er manns gaman, "the company of men is the joy of a man."

One of the great dangers in a life, especially in the modern world, is that one may dissipate one's life experiences across endless scattered strangers who do not hold the wealth together. It's far too easy for it to happen. Sumble is not just a mystic ritual. It is that and more. It is a pragmatic way to bring a group of people together so their experiences interweave, and their lives generate the wealth of togetherness.

all translations copyright 2010 by Siegfried Goodfellow

Initiation and the Three Classes of Heimdall

The most noble of the ancients understood that initiation is the point of life. Initiation is the ongoing process, through ritual and ecstatic means, of gaining a glimpse of the true self beyond all our petty misidentifications, that self which participates in the larger breath of the cosmos. This spirit-self the ancients in the North called ond. True initiation points to something beyond common concerns such as income-gathering and raising a family, however worthy those are, and creates something for adults that points us to a purpose beyond. Everything in Plato, who sums up great swathes of the religious experience of the ancients, is oriented around initiation experiences, and developing them into a coherent intellectual philosophy. There must be a spiritual task, an ideal that pulls us onward and beyond. Anything which abuses that potential, and twists it in a cultish way, is wrong in the deepest sense, because it orients people away from that true self. One of the goals of life is to realize in everyday life as much as possible that self which we gain a glimpse of in initiatory experiences.

From that perspective, the immorality of the unethical goes beyond a puerile obsession with right and wrong or sin, and the trouble with sin becomes that it weighs down the mind and identifies it with that which is lesser than what it is, and has multiplier effects of spreading false self in the world. Anything which spreads false self in the world multiplies evil far beyond what a mere moralist can appreciate in their simplistic understandings of right and wrong. Of course we shouldn't do that which is wrong. That should be an axiom, but it is also puerile as it doesn't grasp the true meaning why. That which messes the initiatory process and creates in people a false sense of self goes against that which was described at the top of the temple of Delphi : Know Thyself.

Know thy true self, and orient everything in that direction. Evil actions orient the self in a false direction, towards that which hurts, towards that which brings more pain in the world, towards addiction, towards shame and expiation, that whole complex, all of which stain the mind, and load up layers of falseness between us and our true experience of ecstatic self in the world, and thus, there is a deeper, more soulful reason for morality. To merely avoid actions because they are technically wrong is to remain superficial. In the realm of ethics, we must understand morality as a science of self, and self-realization. Evil is the misuse or abuse of the initiatory potential in human beings, and the initiatory sciences to propagate disconfirming, manipulable images of self. Any practice, experience, or lifestyle which makes us identify with less than we truly are is perilous, and that doesn't mean that we need to be identified with our full cosmic self 100% of the time, but there is a point of trying to infuse everyday life as much as possible with that. So while everyday life might not be 100% transparent all the time, it's very important to orient life, to orient our actions, to orient our lifestyles, to orient our practices in such a way that experience does not tend to actually pile on filth on top of things. While experience may not be entirely transparent, filth and sin obscure the real experience of self, and we have to be very careful being in primate bodies to take care with our imprinting mechanisms that we do not expose or overexpose ourselves to experiences which deeply disconfirm and disfigure our sense of self. We need to be very careful around conditioning and imprinting mechanisms, insuring that patterns of addiction do not entrap us, which in our primate bodies it is all too easy to do, and again, crime or sin is that which does this. Thus evil attempts to multiply experiences of war and crime in the world, because war is a multiplier of trauma. However complex, we must make at least a subtle distinction between war as an aggressive act of multiplying trauma, and the desire to defend that which is of value, and to gather and reclaim victories which have been stolen. There is an uneasy tension there in the martial arts.

We can see how the three classes of Heimdall are oriented in Norse myth. The thralls are those who are caught up in the expiation drama (I hardly want to dignify this with the word "drama", but it captures the pathos). Having fallen into crime, they are now in the process of penance and working through that pathos in which they became involved. Of course, it terribly obscures their sense of self to be caught in that whole cycle. They are trying to reclaim their sense of self by working out, working through, and restituting that sense of self by disaligning themselves from the false self they propagated to others or to themselves through their crimes.

The carls are people who are concerned almost entirely with the common concerns of raising a family and trying to live good, responsible lives, all of which is very important. The species must be propagated, and society must go on, but it is not the highest purpose in human kind. Thus the carl or householder class of raising children and supporting a family and so on and so forth which has great importance is still not the highest class.

The highest class is the nobility, who tend to the mysteries. The mysteries are not some esoteric alphabet, nor are they merely the wondrous technology of writing. They include the arts of initiation, which open us up to the mysteries of self and the cosmos, and therefore are the ritual arts that go with them, and in that regard, the alphabet is a potent means of recording and reinforcing that which is most sacred by setting down where it may be preserved over the ages, and indeed, the technology of writing, as all writers know, has the ability to tap into that which is deepest within us. All of these arts must be tended and regulated by those who are very clear with themselves, those who are already free.

Thralls cannot handle this, because they are caught up in patterns of addiction and expiation. Only a carl can graduate into a jarl, only someone who has freed themselves into responsibilty. If a thrall tried to take charge of the science of mystery, they might be able to get one or two or even several aspects correct, but the entire picture would be distorted by their addictions, expiation, and guilt cycles. The honor that Heimdall gave to thralls is the opportunity to work through and repay and restitute their crimes, and regain a stronger sense of responsible self. Here the idea is that someone who has actually taken on the work of paying back their debts which they have accumulated through hurting others, someone who has actually turned around and is doing their penance, does gain a certain honor or potential honor. They at least now have potential honor. That potential honor may now be regained, as opposed to the complete worthlessnes of staying in sin, staying in crime, staying in shame without doing anything about it. At least the thrall has that potential worth, and they are working steadily if not rapidly to regain it, and thus Heimdall's blessing of the thrall class reminds us that those who are doing their expiatory work and penance are still human. They might be lowly, but they are still human. But those who have not yet embarked on paying for their crimes would stand outside the circle. So you are either repaying your crimes or you are living a responsible life or you are actually tending to the mysteries. The worst possible situation is for someone who is caught up in an expiatory cycle, or indeed, a criminal who is so caught up in false self that there is no remorse at all, and is utilizing the primate potentials that allow us to open up and out from this primate neural net into a cosmic net, and turning all that towards manipulation and addiction and profiteering off of the twisting of human potential.

The importance of good ritual practice, meditation, or any ecstatic experience, in the more literal sense of taking us outside a static sense of self, into that self which participates in the larger wyrd of the world, is not only that it confirms our true self, but that it disconfirms our disconfirming self. It says, "You are not that." Trauma falsely says, "You are this," and identifies the self with the trauma. Ritual practice reinforces, "you are not that". "Any that which you look upon, you are not that, because you are so much more."

Now there are all kinds of people in the world, and that's good, and there are some people who are going to be oriented towards the family and the raising of children primarily, but the noble soul is going to feel a pull for something more than that. That doesn't mean that the noble person can't be involved in raising a family, but there are some restrictions that must be overcome. If they are to do so, they must excel in such a way that the duties and the burdens of that family raising task do not take them away from the central tasks of attending to the mysteries and the arts. Some will be able to do this, but a person of noble strivings must do an assessment of their capacities to determine whether they will be able to take on the responsibilities of the carl class and surpass them, or whether they may make a choice to not participate as heavily or directly in the householder process, and tend to orient themselves more towards the highest. This, of course, is not to take away from the mystery of birth, nor is it to ignore the vital importance of rearing children in a proper way so that their full potential may blossom, protected, given the time that it needs to develop on its own from within, as well as teaching the duties that come with being human, and the ethics of living in community. All of that is tremendously important ; however, even that can become a trap if it becomes completely opaque and turned on itself, and becomes the end-all and be-all of existence. There must be a beyond. There must be transcendence. However small a place that may take in the life of a carl, it still must be there, and that is why typically, the class of the responsible householders do attend church, temple, the rituals, and so forth. All of these may or may not be understood at the level of profundity that those who really pursue the arts may experience, but at least it's given a place, so it's important for the carl class to know that that must have its place in the orientation of raising a family. The point of being alive is not just to eat, work, sleep, and reproduce. That is why we need our poets, to inspire us with tales of adventure, and our sumble, where we become encouraged by the bold deeds of our fellows, and our mead-sharing, in which the opportunity to contemplate the mysteries of existence lie.

Let's remember that what we call "mead" is the Teutonic equivalent of what our Vedic cousins called "soma" and our Avestan (Zoroastrian) cousins called "haoma". The main ingredients of this drink are no longer a mystery, as the Greek/Russian archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi has excavated an Indic-Iranian temple complex at Gonur in Turkmenistan which featured mixing bowls for soma. When these bowls were analysed, they contained poppy, cannibis, and ephedra. The ephedra acted as a stimulant to counteract the soporific effects of the poppy opiates so that the sages could stay up for hours beneath the stars by the fires contemplating truth. The poppies acted as a euphoric to lift the spirits from mundane cares into bliss. The cannabis acted as a psychoactive or psychedelic, and when all of these were combined in the right combinations with the right ritual environment and the proper evocative atmosphere, they tended to create experiences of initiation. The great poets of the Rig Veda wrote their hymns after drinking this entheogenic beverage. It is likely that as Indo-Europeans moved out from Afghanistan, the recipes shifted slightly, but that the above-named gruits (herbal ingredients) would have been tinctured in alcohol or mead seems highly likely, creating a kind of fermented bhang enhanced by a stimulant and softened by a euphoric. The hymns to the great being Soma are reflections of the praise given to Mimir, the keeper of the well of wisdom.

The end of all this is that mead-drinking was not about mere intoxication, but enhanced by various gruits, a shared initiation experience where the true mysteries of the cosmos could be opened up and enjoyed in a communal ritual environment. We know that brewers into the Middle Ages and even up to the early modern age utilized various stimulant and psychoactive gruits in their ale, until various ecclesiastical forces worked to monopolize hops, a soporific, as the sole gruit in beer.

This is not to say that entheogenic intoxication is necessary to having an initiatory experience, as poetry alone may carry such intoxication, or a beautiful mountain, or a wondrous sexual experience, or a sublime starry night ; but it is to say that the presence of entheogenic intoxicants indicates how serious ancient Europeans were about creating initiatory experiences that took people beyond their ordinary experiences of self.

Anything which is powerful carries the responsibility of being utilized to illuminate the truth of things. By the "truth of things", we do not mean the cynical reflection on how bad things have gotten through various processes of degeneration, but we mean the true self of being, the true self of self, the true self of cosmos, that the ancients called "sooth", which is not identified with all of the filth, which eventually filters down to the lowest levels and becomes compost so that the living process of being may be nourished. Because anything powerful carries with it a responsibility, therefore anything powerful can be perverted. Let me give an example here. There can be a wholeness to sex and pleasure. That should be affirmed. I think a lot of people in the carl class get that, and that's good. That should not be taken away. But there can also be something about sex that can be addictive if it is pursued entirely for its own sake, and I think what attracted me about sexuality in the first place was its initiatory potential, its ability to tap into wildness and an experience of freedom. That to me is very, very important and is very different than mere pleasure-seeking. Again, I neither want to disavow nor insult the great sense of pleasure, but the question always is whether pleasure is in the service of freedom, and is therefore a greater pleasure, or whether pleasure itself falls into bondage. For me, sex for the sake of sex, to participate in that primate, mammalian act has held much smaller interest than its liberatory potential. The primate act in and of itself is not necessarily liberatory, and does not necessarily confirm sooth, the real truth of me. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with a good, harmless romp in the hay from time to time, and indeed, that might be one's staple, but again the question is one of fundamental orientation, and trying to illuminate everyday practice so it becomes less opaque.

Another important point to make here is the worthiness of understanding and preserving the levels, so that the higher never serves the lower. By that I do not mean that the nobles step outside of responsibility to community. Indeed, it is their responsibility and privilege to protect the community and its ability to reach its highest potential, and therefore they are the protectors of the highest potential. So in that sense, service to the community is fundamental to that which is noble, but in order to carry out that function, it is vital that that which is higher does not subordinate to that which is lower. There is such a thing as a more advanced and a less advanced person on this path. A more advanced person is a person who has succeeded to a greater degree in integrating into their everyday life the truth of being. (It's important to keep contrasting "sooth", the truth of being, with the mere truths of muckraking and cynicism, because the filth, however much it may need to be dealt with, never reflects the light. Thus, the hard-headed so-called realists who would press our nose in the excrement of warfare, cruelty, and savagery, are not aligned with sooth. They are misusing the imprinting potentials of the human being, and imprinting us on that which is not our true essence.) Here the ideas of Nietzsche, however distorted his presentation at times may be, and more clearly of Ayn Rand, must be integrated as corrections to the excesses and deficiencies of Judaeo-Christianity. If the higher is made to serve the lower, in the sense of rights being made and claims being verified merely on the basis of having become a victim, then all of life is turned into a hospital, as Ayn Rand put it. There is not that there is anything wrong with healing the sick, but that hospitals should not become our only image of temples.

I have repeatedly in my life committed the sin, and I want to call it a sin, of subordinating the higher in me to the lower in someone else, who, because of their pain, because of their anguish, because of their need, because of their addiction or what have you, out of a false pity, out of a compassion which has become manipulated, has maneuvered me into placating them, and it's never really done that much good in the end. It's not that acts of compassion are bad. It's not even that an act of sacrifice here and there for a real good, a real effect of healing for another, is bad, but that on an everyday level, if you subordinate that which is higher in you to that which is lower in someone else or in yourself, it has a degrading effect on both parties, and it does not reflect sooth, and therefore will not be vindicated by the wyrd of the universe.

It seems worthy here to discuss the critique of that philosophical movement known as postmodernism, emerging as early as the 1970's, but coming into prominence in the 1990s -- particularly in its impact on pop-culture -- concerning the notion of "progress". While the name "postmodernism" has mainly faded, its effects, particularly in this regard, are still very much alive in our culture.

I would suggest that postmodernism confused the epistemology of progress with its ontology. By that I mean to say that it is legitimate to question our conceptions of progress so that we may greater clarify them. We may even acknowledge the difficulties involved in knowing precisely what progress implies. Such a task of critique is very important historically, because history shows that many of the ideas of progress of the Enlightenment era, but especially of the industrial and imperialist eras were in fact quite regressive, and often became not only forces of imposition, but of justification for imposition. But to erase the reality of progress through a simple critique of our inview on it is improper. (This is also the mistake that atheists, as opposed to agnostics, make : while they may wildly succeed in demonstrating the incoherencies in various conceptions of God, even the agnostic can acknowledge that that has little effect on the actual reality of God. Simply because one critiques an individual's conception of a tree does not mean that the tree is not there.)

Within the world's cycles, progress is orientation and movement towards advancement, in a struggle for supremacy with regressive forces, so that that which is most noble in reality and ourselves has the opportunity for realization. Postmodernism's relativism has done great damage to the very real and important distinctions between noble and base. Of course we must critique our notions of noble and base, but for the very reason that the base are always trying to appropriate the definitions.

Surely it is perverse for a jarl to serve a thrall, whether that is an external or internal relation, for then noble pursuits, poetic crafts, and initiatory arts become subordinated to patterns of addiction, shame, and expiation. The thrall's job is to restore their sense of self from a degraded, dissipated state. The carl's job is to foster a healthy sense of self in the world, one that is active and involved with life. The jarl's job is to offer experiences that confirm a deeper, larger, more cosmic sense of self that allows us to transcend the narrow categories in which we place ourselves, so the fundamental goodness of our being may be fostered by the Gods and take its rightful place as the ruler of our wholeness.

What Was In The Mead?

WARNING and DISCLAIMER : This article is produced for information purposes ONLY. The author has not tried this brew, and recommends extreme caution to anyone who would attempt this against his warning, as it includes some ingredients that can be not only toxic, but downright poisonous. Do NOT try this on your own, as only a skilled pharmacologist would be qualified to adjudge the proper dosages and balance of the ingredients. Those who knew the ancient ale-runes had long studied in apprenticeship to know the right proportions in the recipes. This article is the result of studied speculation on a possible recipe the most skilled of our ancestors may have utilized to prepare their sacral mead. It is not a modern recipe, but a philosophical contemplation. A word to the wise is sufficient.

For a long time, many have wondered what the secret ingredients mixed into the mead imbibed by our ancestors in a sacral context was, and up till now it has been thought that no recipe has survived. However, there may be an ancient recipe for the gruits (ale-herbs) of the mead in the Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm. There we read, Mugcwyrt, wegbrade þe eastan open sy, lombescyrse, attorlaðan, mageðan, netelan, wudusuræppel, fille and finul, ealde sapan. Gewyrc ða wyrta to duste, mængc wiþ þa sapan and wiþ þæs æpples gor. "Mugwort, waybread which has opened from the east, lamb's cress, attorlathe, maythe, nettle, wood sour-apple, chervil and fennel, old sap. Work the herbs to dust, mix them with the sap and with the apple's thickened juice (literally its "gore" or viscous blood)."

Mugwort was considered in an Old English context to drive off evil wights, and was used as a warming stimulant and to soothe the digestive system. It has also traditionally been used to stimulate vivid dreams, and has some of the chemical thujone which is found in the wormwood plant utilized to make absinthe. However, the name "mugwort" could also denote Artemisia Pontica, a wormwood used to make absinthe. "Waybread" is what we call plaintain, and besides being a digestive as well, is powerful against wounds and even venom, and thus may have been used to balance out some of the other ingredients. Lamb's cress either refers to the lettuce-like "corn salad" or to the nasturtium water cress, which has warming properties. Attorlathe is identified in a gloss from 1324 and another from 1507 as black nightshade or belladonna. Maythe is chamomile, which has soothing, nervine properties, acting as a calmative. Nettles were used to treat wounds and to help pain in the limbs, as well as women's menstrual cramps. Wood sour-apple is the crabapple, from which good hard cider is made, with an alcohol content comparable to beer. Chervil is a digestive that lowers blood pressure, cleanses the blood, and was considered effective in lifting the spirits and banishing nightmares. Fennel is also a digestive, and was used to ward off harmful witchcraft.

The main psychoactives in this mix of gruits, if indeed they were used as gruits, are the mugwort (or wormwood), the nightshade, the chamomile, the hard cider, and possibly the "old sap". If indeed wormwood was one of the ingredients, then this beverage might be considered a mild form of absinthe, which has narcotic, hallucinogenic, convulsant, stimulant, and aphrodisiac qualities, and has been related to the effects of cannabis by some. Dale Pendell, in his Pharmako/Poeia, describes the effects of imbibing absinthe : "I was just staring off into space. And the space was beautiful. The light was brighter ... The temperature was perfect. I could feel the air on my arms and face ... It was nice. Everything was nice. The light was different, softer and more intense at the same time. I felt great, actually. I gazed around my studio and spent a lot of time looking at my paintings." (Mercury House, San Francisco, 1995, p. 106.) The mood and sensory enhancement as well as the light euphoria would provide for a good blend of effects. If it was merely common mugwort, there still might be enhancement of visionary experiences, an invigorating feeling, and a feeling of warmth.

Belladonna was a major ingredient in the "flying ointment" of witches. Dale Pendell describes belladonna's effects in his 2005 PharmakoGnosis (Mercury House, p. 261) : "The characteristic signature of the intoxication is that there is no connection made between the general weirdness and that one has taken a drug. It's like a dream that is experienced as real. If you see a strange apparition, maybe a big telepathic sea lion creature with pustules all over its body you think "wow, I've never seen one of those before, and then go on doing whatever you were doing..." (Emphasis mine). He narrates the effects of taking eight drops of a belladonna tincture (belladonna steeped in an alcohol base). It had hallucinatory-enhancing effects on ordinary items. A small whale contraption made for Burning Man was experienced as a live, rippling, moving whale. This suggests that combined with any kind of ritual featuring costumes or re-enactments the effects could be quite powerful, and the earlier citation of the strange apparitions suggests they could be powerful without such re-enactments as well. Its usage in witch flying-ointments alone suggests how powerful this could be. Belladonna also has narcotic and sleep-inducing effects. The fact that Pendell used mere drops of a tincture suggests how low the dosage can be while still contributing powerful effects. (And again, as warning, his tincture was prepared by a very skilled psychopharmacologist, so do not try this at home.)

The chamomile would be an excellent ingredient to calm the effects of the belladonna and create a more relaxed body state, and thus is probably included as a balancing herb. It can create a slight sleepy feeling, which may have reinforced the sleepiness encouraged by the Belladonna.

That hard cider was intended by the inclusion of the crab-apples is made almost certain by the fact that one is to utilize the "gore" of the apple, literally its "coagulated blood". This sounds identical to the pomace or crushed pulp squeezed and pressed to strain the juice. Since hard cider has an alcohol content similar to ale, this would probably constitute the main ingredient, the alcohol in which all the other ingredients would constitute gruits. Moreover, it of course has mythological associations, as Idunn's apples were believed to bring rejuvenation.

Finally, there may be another fermented substance that at one time may have been considered a variety of mead, in the ingredient described as "old sap". Here we must call on Darl J. Dumont's "The Ash Tree in Indo-European Culture" (Mankind Quarterly, Volume XXXII, Number 4, Summer 1992, pp. 323 - 336). There we discover that ash trees exhude a sap that is known pharmaceutically as "manna", and produces a type of sugar known as "mannite". Dumont quotes from the 1878 edition of The Dispensatory of the United States of America (G. Wood and E. Bache, Lippincott, Philadelphia, 14th edition, pp. 572 - 575) : "MANNA... a concrete saccharine exudation of Fraxinus ornus and of Fraxinus rotundifolia... Besides the two species of Fraxinus indicated by the Pharmacopoeias, it is said to be obtained from several other trees belonging to the genera Ornus and Fraxinus among which F. excelsior and F. parvaflora have been particularly designated...It exudes spontaneously or by incisions during the hottest and driest weather in July and August...It is owing to the presence of true sugar and dextrin that manna is capable of fermenting... Manna, when long kept, acquires a deeper color, softens, and ultimately deliquesces into a liquid which on the addition of yeast, undergoes the vinous fermentation." (emphasis mine) The fact that manna must be "long kept" in order to become a darker liquid which may then ferment underlines why the sap described in this charm must be "old". First it must keep for a long time before it can ferment. In fact, manna will not ferment without aging to this state first. Dumont points out that the manna from ash trees was called méli by the Greeks, their same word for "honey", and both were considered to fall from the heavens. Since mead is often known as fermented honey, it originally may have been the fermented "honey" of the Ash tree, which would account for Yggdrasil, the Primal Ash, being known as a "mead-tree". Thus, the "old sap" may have generated an ash-mead, and thus the drink may have consisted of a blend of cider and manna-mead mixed with gruits. It might indeed be thought of as a belladonna-tinctured absinthe-mead.

This exhausts the main psychoactive ingredients. It should be noted how many of the other plants have properties which reinforce digestive health, protect from poisons and other toxins, and generally reinforce a sense of bodily healthiness. This goes along with the entire purpose of the mead, which was to be a strengthener of hale. Its psychoactive properties are not contradicted by its general effects as a tonic. These nine herbs were considered powerful medicines against diseases and poisons, and were supposed to have been created by Odin when he hung on the tree. þa wyrte gesceop witig drihten halig on heofonum, þa he hongode; sette and sænde on VII worulde earmum and eadigum eallum to bote. "These herbs the wise lord [Woden, previously named] shaped when he hung holy in the heavens ; he set and sent them into seven worlds, for rich and for poor, to better all." Stond heo wið wærce, stunað heo wið attre, seo mæg wið III and wið XXX, wið feondes hond and wið færbregde, wið malscrunge manra wihta. "It stands against pain, it stands against poison, it has power against three and against thirty, against the hand of foes and against far-changes, against bewitchment by harmful wights."

Of course, within the Lacnunga manuscript, this recipe is intended to be made into a paste or salve, but there is nothing in the mixture that is inedible, so long as proper pharmacological blends are made in the right dosage of the nightshade and mugwort, and a Christian monk would not have utilized the mead-form from a heathen holy context, but may have set down the ingredients of this remedy known to be good against poisons, as the charm that accompanies it attests. It is specifically said that the charm should be read during the preparation of the remedy, and the charm may indeed be Odin's song of the mead's gruits, shaped as he hung on the world-tree.

One can easily imagine the ale-brewers singing this galdur while grinding the herbs to dust, and mixing them with the cider and ash-mead brew. Imbibed in a sacred context, while praises were made to the Gods, to the holy ancestors, and to furthering one's purpose in life, one can imagine an extremely enhanced experience of holiness and significance that would have supported both social bonding and mystic philosophizing, and which in the best of cases may have heavily encouraged the experience of initiation, in which the sooth or true nature of reality and self, in its larger cosmic context, was experienced for brief, potent, and suggestive moments, moments which later reflected upon could become lessons for a lifetime. Here we may have caught, in a monkish book of herbal remedies, a Germanic variant of that great psychedelic soma bragged about all across Indo-Europe, and which was thought to create poetic communion with the Gods. This particular recipe may represent only one of many, as gruit mixtures in ale differed all over Europe, so those who wished to adapt this recipe might have substituted less toxic herbs for the belladonna atropines. Even without, this would probably have proven a potent brew. Big thoughts to ponder...

all translations copyright 2010 by Siegfried Goodfellow. Again, please don't try this yourself. I'm serious! I don't want anyone hurt! For information only!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Laid These Lays Down to Allay Misfortune

The songsmith's father of folded verse
laid these lays down to allay misfortunes
that in the turns of fate inevitable come
with melancholy and whist, yet tales
have transformings that turn fate's turnings
in mind so hearts find comforts, and thus
the poetic arts were given to console
so much as to inspire: grief at times
may be soothed and softened with song.
Well knew the Gods what grief
each birth brings with all its joys
yet in living the good strive, with bold,
cheer may the high heart of courage gain,
just as all brave Gods will. So they implanted
these seeds in the human heart for he
or she who would grow them. An active life,
a life rising to challenge, a life defies
inordinate fear that timid stills the will,
that life finds purpose, even through the pain.
Let a man live reverence, by walking in awe,
yielding each thing its true worth, whether
in work or at play, at home or abroad,
and the unspeakable holiness of wholeness
shall be upon each. Thus the Gods ordain.
Let she who would profit well water
those seeds given long ago to trees.
Or would you weep in poverty when life's
strikes come unexpected, your heart
untrained by song or deeds to meet
the might of strong bale on the road?
Then you would wish for a hoard
of songs and boasts that might mete
you meet the woe with courage
and resolve matured by long years' training.
That your brag might be you looked
with stout heart into eyes that come
uncertain from time's awesome fogs,
unflinching, or, flinched, as most men
might, up-gathered valor and forward
went despite, fireside tales of heroes
in desperate plight support your peril.
Let an earth's child drink potent mead
and ponder what knots bind debt in tangles
that trip the forward-going feet, and slowly,
with will and patience, undo each knot
and free oneself from unwilled legacies
of misfortune passed down in terrible
accident and misery. So a man might rise.
Redeem his kinfolk through valor and wit.
Let no man moan when he might roar instead.
The Gods do not hear whimpers. Let fade
whimpers once wounds licked, and mind's defiance
find again in rede to root out the unvictory,
together gathering arms to challenge odds ill
dealt out, and refind roaring. This they hear.
This they wish to hear, because they love.
One slanders holy givers to be weaker than
one's actual strength, so use the living muscle.
Your acres may be small, but they are
your acres, so choose garden or wasteland
what you will, they would have you treasure-
add to world in whatever small way you might.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Stardust Matron

Ducking down beneath low boughs where silver leaves rustled in the moonlit birch stand, they came into a passing, where stood an ancient, half-hollowed oak. There, embroidered in white linen shimmered a stardust matron whose body seemed made of lunar light, with awe that filled the clearing. Every move slow and graceful, she turned, and their eyes asked her who she was. Her own deer eyes blinked, and she said, "I was set here to watch this place by ones much more powerful than I. For ages I have, for ages I shall. This is where I make my mark. This is where I whisper blessings to root and to raindrop, to bough and to blossom, to bird and passing beast, to give this small place its peace and refreshment." Open-eyed they wondered, wonder-filled, who might surpass this graceful power in powers, and she answered their wonder with delicious hints. "Long lines of Eldar Alfar, who long ago each were set out to watch a place. Where good still has power to grow, we go, and stay, helping ward off those wights who tip the scales to woe. But sometimes we must depart..." Her voice drifted off in sad contemplation as her eyes spied the high moon-skiff sailing overhead, and she nodded, seeming to think he too nodded back as he passed so slow. The elves and Mani's kin seemed close.

"I am of a small tribe assigned to this region. Our elders were once in the long ago pages and handmaidens of the highest of high Eldar Kin, themselves in all regal pomp mere servants of the High Gods. We are but humble lovers of life, each watching over many spirits, different in each their own way. Those who in the balance net good we give bless, but ill earns our withdrawal. Sometimes misfortune strikes those who violate ; our arrows are swift in defense of the heartplace." She looked at them with new eyes. "You come a long way. Wolves have pursued you. For all your trials, benevolence lies yet in your hearts. Come, take sip." Then she led them to leaf, where pearled dew, one drop each, refreshed. Strange strength they drew from small droplets. Then thanking, they ducked out, beneath the dander-hanging oak. When they looked back, there was only moonlit fog yet the fading traces of the brightest smile. Thus was the world, for eyes lucky enough to see.

The Difference

"How it all comes to good in a life," chuckled Odin benevolently, "is often a matter of much meandering through briar and bush, round thorn and through uncertain fog." There is a certain chaos to life. What matters is not that we have been perfect, but that we do eventually find our way onto the path of good. That path where our good yields good. It's a rough and tumble galaxy. Only a fool uses that as an excuse, but only the forgetful neglect its truth. The Gods know we are scrambling through thorns in the dark to find that golden-gleam road that lights the way our angel whispers, while tempters call intriguing bait along the sides of the path. How easy it is to be ensnared in illusion ; how easy it is to lose much life enveloped in empty enticers. In peril we do not appreciate we give too much to jackals who easily eat yet give wound for worth. There are howls in the night. But the Gods have set lights in the sky, guardians over the provinces, who if we will visit, may yield up precious nuggets of wisdom, even luck if we are virtuous. So find that path of good. It will make a difference.

Rede or Revelation?

To have a developed body of authoritative discussion on important social matters is a blessing, so long as that body of discussion is divided into genres that give appropriate weight to its different aspects. A discussion on etiquette should not carry the same weight as a discussion on ethics or on criminal law. That which is a matter of custom and that which is a matter of moral obligation, similarly ought to receive different weight. A problem develops when these discussions become a matter of revelation rather than rede. Rede is deep, contemplative thought that is open to inspiration. It's the kind of attention you would bring to someone's dream if you were trying to help them interpret it. It is meditative and filled with both thought and feeling, and aspires to attain wisdom. In the sense that it is open to inspiration, it is in a sense, revelatory, but it neither has need to proclaim divine authority, being content with its own wisdom, nor will its strong and confident humility permit the arrogance of making such a claim. Anyone, of course, at any time, can enter into deep rede about a subject, and people's deep, inspiring contemplations derived in part by inspiration will differ according to time and place, and will develop as time goes on. Having "God" give a once and for all directive about matters of social dispute that are always subject to dialectic and evolution seems to simply be an institutional mistake. The Gods would be concerned with values, such as equity, mutual respect, and dignity of the human person, but the idea that they would intervene in social matters by dictating a particular and cultural and historically specific form of achieving equity or mutual respect or human dignity is absurd, to say the least, and is to confuse a form for achieving a value with the value itself. The Gods being well aware of evolution and the ability of the human mind to progress, know that human beings are going to move through many different forms of trying to achieve these values, and that it is a process over time of perfection. It might be very useful in order to win an argument to trump someone else's argument by pointing to a direct revelation from God, but this is really dishonest argumentation. Having a body of informed opinion, collected from wise men and women of various stripes, who took the time to deeply contemplate various social questions and dilemmas is of immense value, because it gives us some voices to consult when we have some question, so we can make up our own minds based on considering the wisest voices in the community. These are human questions, they ought remain human questions, explored through humanistic means and values, and stay separate from the divine realm, except inasmuch as they concern values which the Gods themselves stand for, but even then, the question of the application of those divine values to specific social circumstances is something that again must be delegated to the human realm. This is why religions of revelation that dictate human customs must always fall short from a heathen standpoint. Good rede provides the path its own rettarbot. Rights may be bettered, by deepening and understanding them more thoroughly and comprehensively. This comes through the capacity of wisdom that is given by the Gods (and for which they earn rightful gratitude), but the wisdom itself is human and ever-subject to renewal. We are willing to see your scriptures as rede. Do not insult our wisdom, however, by foolish claims of God wielding quill. We are not such fools.

Maxims from the Deep

As you grow older, you sip the delicious mead of sinking deeper into your roots, until eventually, your roots sink so deep that this bodyhome of yours becomes superfluous, and you join the deeper root-world where all finds refreshment and grounding. The more your sinews and pith permeate with the long-fermented sap of experience, the less time for nonsense, and the more regard for quiet being you will have. Troubles that once fretted you drop in the silliness of youth, and you gain the comfort of trusting the long customs of self, that habit-home your rhythms have built and laid down year after year. May each year bring you more comfort with self, and more enjoyment of this strange being you are in wide open world, for the comfortable give gifts of comfort to the anxious. There is a great deal of comfort in this world, for things are powerful in themselves, and the great rhythms have built and gained force such that their voices are now confident and clean, so long proud they are humble and patient. Let the young not rule, let the wisdom of experience rule, for the flurries of fretting are not fit for the gravitas and dignity of this old, deep place.

Each year you stay alive is another layer of being, a strong block set down on a solid foundation that gets firmer and firmer. You are allowed by the on-cycling of time to forge your relations with your history and bask in the deep thickness of the wyrd you have laid down. There you may find comfort, for you are what you are. There is no need to be else. What is unwhole may be healed, by attending further to what already is whole. We must sit at the feet of ancients who radiate enormous presence of being to learn how to live. Their authority in being self in the midst of flurry earns them our admiration and respect. To them we ought be oriented so that we too may attain their presence in time. Every being that is whole knows it must grow towards that which is greater, and we need elders who teach congruence with self and history. We may become deep resonators. We must be loyal to what resonates in the depths and thick hollows of time. We may be profound, and it befits us. We may listen to what calls from the soul, and be enriched. We may attend to everything that matters in the heart of our being, and act from that center. That is our birthright, We may feel sorrow for those who abandon it, but we are not obliged to follow them out into the folly of unwholeness.

You have the right to sit at leisure and discover the singing in your bones. There is song of waterfalls, of mountains and redwoods, deep forests and majestic deserts by the sunset. If you do not take this opportunity, you cannot blame anyone for your poverty. You have been given this opportunity. Only you can decide how important it is to you, and whether you hand your life over to world's demands without so much as even a fight or whimper. Be bold back to world which asks so much. Show some panache and heart.

Take time to recollect whatever in life brought joy, and drink its vintage. The ample cellar of time holds many oak barrels of brew coveyed and nooked down below to tap from time to time in honest awe. All those years, drink in, for where you have been, you may be. Moments of being are. They have permanent is-ness. It is prudence to recollect moments of strength and victory. Let those times resonate out in powerful ripples that nourish the edge of time's sword against the swill. You are every success you have been. Your failures are insubstantial, missed opportunities for being, successes that might have been. Bring more strengths into the world than when you came in. Fruition is gratitude for given credit. Pay your dues well.

A moment of earned rest is more precious than gold. Do not squander. Deep contemplation of what matters in life is the foundation of nobility, which in the sway of life's strife strikes sword in defense of true value, and not simply to swing it.

Health is not invulnerability. It is hard-earned and effort to maintain. Take time to enjoy it. Even the healthy may get sick if they lay with the sick. Unwholeness is as contagious as wholeness is healing. There is a responsibility to build one's whole-power. Any man who abandons it is a criminal to the law of life and deserves the due punishment. Rescue not the reckless who throw away fortunes and abandon birthrights. You may help those who falter but still strong-drive towards health. Net strength averaged over time should be the yield of relations.

Distant kinships may still be explored. Your primate cousins too have cousins mammalian whose cousins amphibious came up from waters. Each link in the chain of life you trace back is a precious runestone on the necklace of Beloved Mother Earth. You've got a very deep heritage to draw upon. Have respect for time's trials, and do your cousins rough justice in mind and in deed. Many wights know we are all in this together. Alliances with deep cycles of life last.

Don't go where you don't belong. Awesome avenues of exploration await, life's great whale-road is broad. Yet some places are meant for others and not you. Draw the dividing line and heed it ; you shall not win luck there in those pastures not yours, even if they sparkle. This is the hardest lesson. Stay where you belong, and follow it ruthlessly. You'll be stronger and more loving for it.

You're here. Practice humor, and taking life seriously. If you allow trivia to banish your sense of reverence, you have signed your name to thralldom. Learn to say no. It is an act of love. When you say yes, mean it, but be sparing. Your assent should always be a treat. Stubbornness can become a broad foundation if it is grounded in the good. Be grounded in the good, and brook no ill in your home.

Expect disadvantage if you willingly yield better for worse. That is no bargain. Allowing the lesser to rule builds a poor kingdom. Those who can knock you off your base deserve to. Be solid. The world tests your roots. If you save not but squander, it will steal. Your generosity must always be a blossom of your foundation. Do not give to the undeserving, and test the asking well. There is no home without foundation.

The Gods love a thoughtful soul. Be right in your actions when you can, and hone your abilities well. Opportunities abound for you to show worth. It is worthwhile doing it right. Stay exactly where you need to be, and guard your treasure good. What you value, show. What you love, love fiercely, but never take abuse from any, not even your own.

Be difficult when the time calls for it. Be easy whenever possible. Hold firm in time's waver and reap dividends. Many throw their lives away in vain. Only a fool burns down a house of gold. There is not a moment the divine is not with you. It is you who choose communion or dispersal. When you have a friend, visit them often ; you both need the strength that fellowship brings.

Be careful with your life. Scathe can cripple. The Gods wish you able and noble. It is easy to slip and fall into a lair of folly and venom. Allow no hero to hyenas. Each whole one fallen before his time is mourned by world ; be strong and wise, and brook no peril your conscience and courage do not demand. There is time to take a stand. The foolish fight with no cause. Be brusque with the reckless ; they ought not cross your threshold. A welcome is a privilege reserved for the whole.

When a wretch knocks, give little, and let them go on. When misfortune knocks the whole, give them hand and comfort. They may stay with you a short time. Every man needs a friend to get back on his feet. Make sure you give back in time what kindness has been shown you.

In silence ask if one deserves you. Will they work to keep things growing? Garden not with the careless. Buy no farm with the half-hearted. A gift should be long lasting. A blessing once squandered deserves no credit. Lend no coin to poor investors. Take heed of another's self-cultivation. Admire a well-earned success. Spend envy at ill-deserved victory in building your own.

Worms suck strength ; serpents bite venom ; wolves ravage and rob. A kind hand is not a weak hand ; let one hold flowers, and the other a sword. Those who writhe in the dark seek suck, and wallow in their weakness. You owe them no milk if they will not feed themselves. Effort to honor self is the price to stake an earth-claim. Mere misfortune earns no just contempt, but those who, offered strength, refuse it, can have no hand in the pantry. An ill manager of a penny ought not manage a dollar. The tribe gives to those who honor the tribe.

You can't win everything. Some things will be lost. Learn to let go where you cannot afford to save, and keep your stores well-balanced. Some are going to fall and that is a shame, but you win no honor by tumbling with them. Give succour to the self-willed and they will find a way. What is your responsibility, attend to ; what is not, do not touch, not even for pity. Every good deed well-given to the worthy is repaid in kind and in full, but pity earns its just contempt, for wretches know not value. Know yours, and let the world fall where it will. Your harvests in time refresh the living. That is the good you bring.

A wise saying is like a seed. Unplanted, unwatered, it yields no fruit. Every good harvest is worthwhile and needed. Bless all beings who bring you fruit.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

I thank the shining, unseen one

I thank the shining unseen one
of the meadow, who from kindness' sake
helped the sorrowed man, holding
holy the bottlebrush whose nectar
hummingbirds sip. This humble
scion of the harvest's master makes
that meadow an unsung graceland
where oatstraw maidens frolic
in the subtle breeze shimmy.
There for a dollar I found good heal.


For now the world was filled with secret seeds
of woe the Giantess had come to sow.
Thus they sat down, in solemn council,
those most ancient Gods, and asked
who amongst them might form and forge
between fire and ice manlike forms
those writhing souls worming in Ymir's flesh
to profit and world's weal, for every province
and corner of world needed now weal-warders,
and so, from limbs of ancient jotunn
ice bone stone standing on mountains
jut out cold and frozen earth from ocean,
marinated in mead's blood flowing,
the great Mead-Sipper power-brewed
his plans and rede, while Doorguard
of the Fire's Fields set aflame the smithies.
To work! Together Master-Smiths made
dwarfs of every shade and stature,
many small but to towering behemoth,
stolid and stout rock-beings of stone,
deep earth bedrock flesh
and lava of the blood in soma's
deep sober wisdom. Unmoved
by flicker or flash of the waver,
these makers stood ground
and made, with stone too solid for sin,
the great ages' unfolding forms
those mineral shell and shapes life
in habit, habitates, with helices
drawn from stars' fiery traces
woven mesh and framework soft
into flesh, for the slow pulsing
of deep, eternal runes speaking
cell-like and sprung from time's morn.
Thus orlog lodged deep beneath
all tarnishes' first forays of filth.
Crystal-vibrant granite-souls
sparkle in the deep, as time's
unwrapped gems bellow
in baritone furor their bass-drone
murmurs of the fathoms, mountain-root
hymnals to the hillbilly mother of earth.
Their joy is so deep in making, nethermost
roots of world-tree's writhings
rumble in that deepest of world's foundations
to their hillock-bones' hum as they work.
Work! and work their righteous worth.
Unshakable, intent, innermost crafters'
bold and manly wonder in making
homes of flesh and husk for life's flowering,
they would never be turned
to the ill barrens of the envious eaters,
for they looked any ill square in the eye
and brandished their axes and hammers
of righteous disgust at creation's rupture.
Thus, the Gods felt fortified
against even the might and power
of gold's greed. At least for a time.
Yet those spies early set
their eyes upon schemes to undo
these every province's weal-guardians,
and waited, abiding their time ...

Ah, by the shorelines!

Ah, by the shorelines!
The sounds of surf crashing
on the soft sands,
three Gods walked along contemplatively.
Taciturn, with eager footfall.
Thereupon their thoughts wandered
sinuous into the thicket
that by the water's edge proud stood.
There, two great, grasping forms,
branch-limbs tortuous in up-reaching
gasplessness, held in vain leaf-hands the sky.
All-Father's hand cupped his whiskered chin
as he paused, poised in thoughtful pose
before these trees who seemed
Godlings frozen in bark. From there,
great magicks, slow swirling wizardries
across epic eons breathed fast in a God's moment,
strong ash and elm boughs swayed
as vegetative strength gave way to animal delight
in motion, movement, slowly self-willed,
as fire awakened saps cooked ripe
to hot-flashing bloodrush. Then, as if swimming
through thick, viscous fluid, as babes
in the womb, they limb-swayed in slow
explorative dance, this wonder awaken
as will grew stronger than bark. Gods' delight!
Long rings of time's growth xylem morphed
into flesh up-percolating new thought and awe.
Poems from the deep! these first thoughts.
Hymns upswirling in bold, new colors
no tree in all its wisdom knew. As if
All-Father kissed, close his lips
to brush new flesh, he blew --
and blowing, blew sky's air,
aether of the deep stars' lair,
wind of cosmic mind writ large,
wafted gust into strong, nascent lungs
who breathed in the lust of wonder.
For from this lust, all learnings
would shoot, skybound, back
to the air from which the breath
had come, reverence and worship.
Nimbly, sky's coat-tails grasping,
he undonned his blue cloak of sky
and clothed their nakedness
in humble celestial grandeur.
They were proud. Gods smiled,
fervent. Then departed, vapour
in the hot air on the beach summer
shimmer. They knew skull's fruit
slowly ripened in the now-open
plains of fate. Time would tell
mysteries : mysteries of men!

Health is Good!

Health is good! Strength is good! Share a little of your strength, but maintain it! With all the ill there is in the world, never forget the value of feeling strong and healthy. That is a gift to a world often too weak. When we are weak, we pick ourselves back up, and ask for a little help if need be, and refind our footing. The Gods want us strong and vibrant, full and charged and powerful. We're human, of course, and have our flaws and failings, but that is not the essence of life. Those are the pitfalls we learn to avoid, and dusting ourselves off, after licking our wounds, get back up onto our feet. Thank the Gods for Strong Gods! Thank the Gods for Healthy Gods! Thank the Gods for Gods who want us Vibrant and Lusty and Wholesome! Heil!